In the meantime, I listened to a sermon this morning that was based on the pastor taking various questions his congregation had had for him, and the topic du jour was, "Why should I trust the Bible?" Within his handling of the topic were several trails to go down, but the one that interested me was his discussion of when people come to him with the question, "What about the inconsistencies in the Bible?" Now for him, he said he always would ask in response, "Well, give me an inconsistency you wish to discuss," and he said in every case the person had no specifics in mind, but had "heard" that there were inconsistencies.
As he went on, I thought to myself, "He hasn't gotten into arguments with many atheists", because they ALWAYS have some inconsistency to bring up- and nearly every one is a nit picky timeline thing, or a total misreading of what was before them. Which is not surprising- there is a HUGE difference between reading the Bible in faith and seeking God's knowledge, or reading without faith and just looking for places to say, "A-HA!" Or, and this is a sin that even Christians commit, looking for something that fits the reader's agenda- and going no farther.
I want to give you an example of each of these to chew on. First the nit-ricky timeline. This commonly comes up in studying the endlessly confusing genealogies, where one chapter might have this guy followed by this guy, and another passage connects this guy to another guy, and still another might completely jump the first two guys. These lists were written with purposes specific to each one, using differing rules about accepting brother's children reared to their dead sibling etc etc, and some- like the one in Matthew's Gospel- were "modified" to give a certain distance between one genealogy and another. These things were never meant to be "family trees" in the sense that WE know them, and it is not worth getting hung up on. Another example is the "Controversy" over Luke's timeline at the beginning of his Gospel. If you want to explore that whole ball of twine, I will suggest to you that it is a great demonstration of the difference between an "expert" wanting to take something literally 2,000 years after the fact or trying to see what the guy who lived it back then saw and explained as best he could.
The second one is best exemplified by those who what to bash the Bible as a tome on genocide and "God" as a butcher on a par with Allah because the Israelites were supposed to put this people and that people to death. In fact, I have also fought the OTHER side of this battle recently, where a misguided soul attacked the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15 and Mark 7) who asked for healing for her daughter because "even the little dogs get to eat the crumbs from the master's table."
As to the first part, you have to read the Bible as a whole, organic thing. Step one: God has a people peculiar to Him, under His direct rule, and He uses them to bring judgment onto people He has already judged for their wickedness. Step two: Time goes on, and the people peculiar to Him cease to obey Him; gradually, ,He ceases to use them as His tool. Step three: they reject the rule of God and demand a King. They are, at this point, no longer His particular tool. By Jesus' time, the believer is not necessarily even one of the "peculiar people," and thus they are given a new command- love one another, including your enemy. Unfortunately, man tends to read what he wants, and you get things like the Crusades or the conquest of the new world, where pagans are to be slaughtered and souls converted by knifepoint. In other words, fallen man trying to live by rules that no longer apply to him.
As to the second, this person I debated claimed that as a Canaanite, she was still "under the curse" and Jesus' acceptance of her faith did NOT mean that she was any less cursed. Again, trying to put Step one rules in a "Step four" dispensation. It wasn't the rules that changed, but the people under them. Do you treat your adult children with the same rules they had as toddlers? Failed parents in this society notwithstanding, of course not.
Finally, the agendists. Two of the stupidest readings of the Bible currently taught in our society are that,a) because Jesus taught to love everyone, and b) because HE never said anything about fill-in-the-blank-sin, it must be okay. DESPITE the fact that everyone else from Moses to Paul taught against it, and DESPITE the fact that Jesus Himself said He had NOT come to change the Law, but to fulfill it. We use that to excuse alcoholism, homosexuality, drug use, and any other kind of perversion we can come up with, and accept unrepentant sinners into the "Family of God". Guess what? The admittance program doesn't depend on what some liberal pastor says, or the Pope says, or what I say. It depends on whether YOU, as an individual, have sought forgiveness from Jesus for your sin, and REPENTED of it. And by that, I don't mean "I never sin again", because we all mess up. What I mean is, you have to recognize what GOD says is sin, and reject it in your life. You cannot say, "God loves me even if I'm gay, He'll give me a pass on that", and continue in the sin.
Point being: don't stop with what you WANT to hear. Get to what God WANTS you to hear.
So anyway, what was that verse that hung me up? Well, that would be Proverbs 20;24:
Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
And this verse comes from the KJV translation, which I think does best justice to the meaning. You see, the first "Man" here is the Hebrew word geber, meaning a valiant or righteous man; where the second "man" is the word "adam"- yes, THAT Adam, in other words the rank and file of humanity. Then, the word translated as "goings" here- and "ways" and "paths" elsewhere- has a literal meaning of "a step", but a FIGURATIVE meaning of companionship. Where the word "way" at the end is literally a "road", but figuratively a way of life, a mode of action.
Thus, what it is actually saying is, a righteous man travels with God as a companion; without Him, men have no idea where their lives will end up. And that translation answers every question brought up in this post. And just think I myself had to come to the end of this post to figure that out....