A friend from bygone days tells me why she is put out with most of the churches of her denomination. "There is this male/female thing. You cannot tell me that God in Heaven would rather have a fat, bloated, smug, egotistical know-it-all man as pastor of a church instead of a sharp Godly woman."

I did not argue with that, and in fact, find that hard to argue with, if those are the choices.

If we asked, she has scripture to back up her position, too. The Apostle Paul put it like this: "For as many of you as are baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:27-28)

Open and shut case, right? Not hardly.

It's true Paul said those things. The problem is he said a lot of other things too. He told how he does not allow women to speak in church (I Corinthians 14:34), cautions women who are prophesying (without ever telling precisely what that means) to cover their heads (I Corinthians 11:5), and then he really does it. The reason the man does not have to cover his head is "he is the image and glory of God," whereas the woman "is the glory of man" (I Corinthians 11:7).

He said it and left it that way for us to deal with it the best we could.

The next time you hear someone panning the Bible as the result of some council that got together and made all this up, ask why they didn't take the hard places out, but left them in to befuddle us for the rest of time.

This, I say, is a huge reason we have theologians: to figure out what to do with scriptures that seem to be very clear on their face but which seem to say opposite things.

A book of theology, a professor of theology, a class on the subject, should do two critical things: give us the big picture so we can see what God is doing and why, and then deal with the details sufficiently to assure us they all fit together in some kind of pre-conceived whole.

Question for discussion this morning: Are there contradictions in the Bible?

And I don't mean clerical stuff, where two scribes copied texts referring to a biblical battle and wrote down contradictory numbers of warriors on the field or fatalities in the morgue.

By contradictions, I mean those places where the Bible appears to be teaching opposite truths.

A few examples, none of which I will try to resolve, to guide our thinking...

  • Are we saved by faith only? Ephesians 2:8-9 says so. Are we saved by works? James 2:14-26 seems to say that is the case.
  • Is water baptism essential to salvation? John 3:16 leaves it out. But Acts 2:38 puts it in.
  • Are musical instruments a part of healthy worship? A hundred references in Psalms would say so. But Ephesians 5:19, one of the few New Testament references to worship music, makes no mention of them.
  • Is the Bible itself the Word of God? 2 Timothy 3:15-17 seems to leave no question. But 2 Peter 1:21 says God used "holy men of old" to pen it.
  • We should do good works and keep them to ourselves (Matthew 6:1). But in the preceding chapter, Jesus tells us to so work that "others may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

Entire books have been written listing all the seeming contradictions that people have found in the Bible.