My Response To Foundation Of Sand, Part II

Posted in Bible, Criticism, Daylight Atheism, Logic, Responses on  | 7 minutes | 3 Comments →

Foundation of Sand is an essay that offers several examples of alleged contradictions in the Bible. Here’s three more that I think fail.

In Part I, I showed that zero contradictions exist in the Bible’s criteria for salvation. We used the following definition of contradiction: From Wikipedia, “[A] contradiction consists of a logical incompatibility between two or more propositions. It occurs when the propositions, taken together, yield two conclusions which form the logical inversions of each other.” I feel it’s reasonable to say a contradiction can be represented by the following formula:

(x) + (-x) = contradiction.

Even the most unyielding Fundamentalist cannot deny the incontrovertible fact of difficulties and contradictions in the Bible, but in all fairness, it must be pointed out that from the standpoint of logic and critical scholarly analysis, difficulties and contradictions are not synonymous with errors. Further problematic in these sorts of claims is the straight-forward fact that when they do actually exist, bona fide contradictions can exist without error. Any good and experienced criminal lawyer knows that perfectly true testimonies can and often do contain contradictions and difficulties.

Here’s an easy way to see how this works:

Let’s say you and your friend witness a robbery in which there were three robbers. You have a vantage point that obscures the door to the bank. Your friend has a vantage point that obscures his or her view of the getaway vehicle.

Your friend sees all three robbers run out of the bank with the loot and take off down the street, disappearing from his view. Then, after the robbers are beyond your friend’s vantage point, and before the robbers enter your vantage point, one of them gets a bad feeling that the getaway is going to fail, so he ditches his loot and takes off running down an alley. Next, you see two robbers turn the corner and dash for the waiting car. Incidentally, a third witness comes forth who states that a wino found the ditched loot and happily made his way to the liquor store.

During the police report, your friend states for certain that he or she saw three robbers on foot with no getaway vehicle, while you state for certain that you saw only two robbers and a getaway vehicle. When pressed further, your friend maintains never seeing any getaway vehicle, while you maintain there was. A third person comes up and reports that he saw a wino find a bag of money, something which neither yourself nor your friend can testify to.

Note that although we have several difficulties and contradictions here, all three witnesses are one hundred percent correct in their statements, and absolutely zero error exists in any of their statements. So we’ve successfully established that error is not an intrinsic feature of contradiction.

Let’s take a look at three more of the alleged contradictions offered in Foundation of Sand.

1) Citing an alleged contradiction between the Old and New Testaments, Ebonmuse asks,

Does God ever tempt anyone?

He offers Genesis 22:1 and James 1:13 as proof that (x) = (-x). I disagree.

Genesis 22:1 says, “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham….” James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” (emph. mine)

James is not saying God doesn’t test or prove people’s faith. James is saying that when testing or proving one’s faith, God won’t plant an evil thought in a human mind. Note the qualifier ‘with evil’ that Ebonmuse’s argument does not address at all. Did God tempt Abraham ‘with evil’ in Genesis 22:1? Is sacrifice tantamount to murder? The text itself uses different words, so I see no logical inverse here.

2) Citing an alleged contradiction between Matthew and Mark’s accounting of the withered fig tree, Ebonmuse says,

Matthew 21:19-20 reads, “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, ‘Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.’ And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, ‘How soon is the fig tree withered away!'”

I believe we are justified in interpreting this as an instant withering.

Mark 11:13-14 and 20-21 read, “And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, ‘No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever.’ And his disciples heard it… And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, ‘Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursed is withered away.'”

Does anything in Mark state that the tree withered at a different time than stated in Matthew? Absolutely not. The verses in Mark do not describe when the tree withered; rather, they describe that it was withered when the disciples saw it the next morning. Nothing in Mark’s account says the tree did not wither instantly. IOW, we’ve not shown that (x) = (-x).

3) Citing another alleged contradiction in the New Testament, Ebonmuse asks,

“Who is for and against Jesus?”

In Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23, Jesus says, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” In Mark 9:40 and Luke 9:50, Jesus says, “…he that is not against us is for us.” (paraphrased)

I’m not sure why Ebonmuse includes this one at all. It’s clear Boolean logic to me. One is either with or against Jesus. If we’re looking for a fallacy or invalidity to claim here, false dichotomy or the either/or fallacy might be slightly more sustainable than contradiction, but under no circumstance has (x) been showed to = (-x). Ebon asks,

What about people who lived and died before Jesus came to earth, or who lived in regions distant from the Middle East and never heard of him during their lives?

Nowhere in my view does the Bible permit the idea that those who’ve never heard of Jesus perish by default, and in fact it reasonably implies the converse. Acknowledgment or consciousness of Jesus and the disciples is prerequisite in the verses. You can’t be for or against that which you’ve not been made conscious of, so the statement obviously does not apply to those groups of people. However, the Bible also seems to state that all people will one day face Jesus, so the statement will apply to them eventually.

So far, of four alleged contradictions Ebonmuse offers in Foundation of Sand, all four fail to prove one instance of a logical inverse. But let’s say Ebonmuse had shown a bona fide logical inverse in any of these examples. Would such prove error? Would such undermine the alleged perfection of the Bible? For good reasons, many a lawyer is weary of the perfect story, and remember, along with too many legal precedents to list, our simple robbery example establishes that contradiction can exist without error.

In fact, not only can contradiction occur without error, contradiction in a story can also boost its credibility, and we’ll be discussing this idea as we enter into subsequent parts of the series.


3 comments

  1. mike

     says...

    I don’t have much to say about this article except:

    contradiction can exist without error.

    Maybe it’s more appropriate to say “apparent contradiction can exist without error” ?
    Your teaser has me sufficiently teased:

    contradiction in a story can also boost its credibility

    I don’t know where you plan on going with this, but Evangelical Realism has some posts addressing this idea that “contradictory details are evidence of eyewitness accounts”.

  2. cl

     says...

    Mike,
    I was at your site the other day. The photo that was there was a nice one. I took a color correction class this semester and it really re-piqued my interest in photography, and all the science that is going on behind the scenes.
    At any rate,

    I don’t have much to say about this article..

    Well, they say no news is good news. :) May I presume then that you feel Ebonmuse has not successfully presented a logical inverse in any of the three examples?
    BTW, I’ve not said, “contradictory details are evidence of eyewitness accounts.” I’ve said, “contradiction in a story can also boost its credibility.” In your wording, contradiction entails validity. In my wording, contradiction can entail validity, but leaves it open such that contradiction can also entail error. Real difference IYO, or me splitting hairs?

  3. mike

     says...

    BTW, I’ve not said, “contradictory details are evidence of eyewitness accounts.” I’ve said, “contradiction in a story can also boost its credibility.”

    Fair enough. I do not mean to misrepresent your claim!

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