A Wheel within a Wheel
There is the mindless Christianity that ignores the contradictions in the Bible and spits out their theology on a bumper sticker, “God said it. I believe it and that settles it.” On the other side are those who find a few contradictions in the Bible and think they have God in checkmate. But most of us are in the middle wondering how to deal with the contradictions in the Bible. For years at Yale I heard the arguments of Barth, Bultmann and others saying not to worry—The Bible is not the word of God but contains the word of God. That wasn’t helpful. I felt I was arguing with my wife who says ignore what I say but understand what I mean.
So how do we deal with the God in the Old Testament who throws stones at the bad guys and the God of the New Testament who refused to hurl one at the lady caught in adultery? We teach our kids not to throw stones and we see God asking an angel to hand him another big one (Joshua 10:11). Teach that to the first graders!
How does Paul saying in Philippians 4:6 “Be not anxious about anything,” mesh with “I have the anxiety for the churches,” in 2 Corinthians 11:28? He tells me to rejoice always in I Thessalonians 5:16 and then to weep with those who weep in Romans 12:15. How do we handle the contradiction between free will and predestination? The Bible teaches both. The church has had some real bar fights over that. We are like a kid opening up an old watch and wondering how the little wheels can move in opposite directions but work together to give us the right time. Maybe that is what Ezekiel saw, a wheel within a wheel.
I am not adept to handle the scientific or historical questions but I have seen a trend.
When we wait, the truth starts coming around. For years some scorned the prophecies of the rebirth of Israel but not after 1948. The archeological discoveries confirm again and again the veracity of Biblical historicity. Quanta physics begins to explains the “Let there be light.” Several times I have wondered about seemingly contradictions, which later reveal a common root, a deeper unified truth.
When the soldiers were punching and spitting on Jesus, they screamed in his ears, “Why don’t you prophecy who just hit you?” At that very moment, a few hundred yards away, Peter was denying him for the third time, so fulfilling another prophecy to a tee. Often we doubt Biblical prophecy that quietly coming true all around us. We would do well to heed Paul’s words, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” (2 Timothy 2:7) God does not want us to commit intellectual suicide. He wants us to read the Bible, think and wait until He then gives us greater understanding to see the bigger picture.
My real problem with the Bible is not where it is confusing and contradicting, but where it is clear and it contradicts me. Like a ship arguing that the lighthouse is off course, each century has its critics disdaining Scriptures for being off the contemporary course. They shout at the Bible, “Hey, we are in the 21st Century you know,” as if that has anything to do with it. Imagine telling a friend snow is white and he responds, “No way. It’s 4 o’clock, you know”. What does time have to do with truth? Voltaire railed against Christ, “Curse the wretch!” He suggested, “Hey, we are in the 18th Century, you know.” He was sure his enlightening books would destroy the Bible, and so boasted, “In 20 years Christ will be no more. My single hand shall destroy the edifice it took twelve apostles to rear.” Soon after his death, the house where he published his writing became the depot of the Geneva Bible Society. I don’t remember seeing a copy his Dictionnaire philosophique on anyone’s coffee table lately.
The Bible is a like a great river whose eddies seem to turn in on themselves, wheels within wheels, but, the river glides ahead at his own sweet will. You can sit and worry about the eddies of the contradictions or you can launch out into the deep and experience the deeper currents.
In 1994, the McMillan family traveled to the kidnapping, murder, and drug capital of the western hemisphere to plant a church and a foundation. God thought Medellin, Colombia a good place to raise a family. And turns out He was right (as He usually is). It became a very large family: The church, Comunidad (Community), is now the largest church in Medellin with over 8,000 members, the Foundation, Viento Fresco, cares for over 150 high-risk children, and a non-profit coffee shop, New Hearts Cafe, serves cups of caffeine and the love of Jesus to thousands of college students.
God is doing so much in Medellin, and we write about here on the Teammcmillan.org blog!