This article by Sean McDowell makes an interesting point about passages in the gospels that seem to contradict. Sean proposes that many things that seem like contradictions at first glance are meant to challenge us to reflect more deeply on the text. After this reflection, if Sean’s thoughts on John are correct, these passages actually show a deeper purpose of the author that is not contradictory at all.
Sean’s guidance, to reflect more deeply on passages to discern their deeper meaning before deciding whether or not the ideas are contradictory, is great advice that we can apply to many areas of life. In a fast-paced, information-rich culture, it can be very easy to hear a catchy headline, such as “The gospels are full of contradictions,” and take it at face value without investigating it any further.
Sound bites like this run rampant these days, especially on social media. “Science has proven that God doesn’t exist.” “The existence of God is inconsistent with evil.” “We shouldn’t force our beliefs on others.” “Women have the right to do what they want with their bodies.” These catchphrases that need further investigation show up on a daily basis.
We need to get in the habit of reflecting more carefully on important questions before we make up our minds. Strengthening this reflection will strengthen not only our own understanding, but also our ability to communicate effectively with others.
“Being prepared to thoughtfully address Gospel contradictions is important for Christians. Yet it is also important for critics to charitably understand the text on its own terms first. Otherwise, they risk missing the actual point the Gospel writers intend to make.”