Monday, January 18, 2010

So Many Contradictions!

God is not the author of confusion....1 Corinthians 14:3

Over the years I have seen a wide variety of people come into the Oak Street Bible Shop. I’m speaking of customers, mainly. Most of these are people looking for Bibles and Christian books of a wide range. Some seek doctrinal help, and others seem to come for no other reason than to cause trouble.

The young man I have in mind now, was definitely of this latter category. He was of medium height, with dark blond hair and ice blue eyes. Our first impression was of his nervous disposition, he came through the door, said nothing, and paced along the shelves, carelessly glancing about, but not really reading the titles of the books he walked by.

Joy told me later, he looked like he was casing the place, not really looking to buy. “Can I help you with anything in particular?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m wondering if you have anything on Biblical contradictions?” he answered.

Joy slid from her stool by the doorway and walked to a shelf of books by M.R. De Haan. “A lot of people like this one, 508 Answers to Bible Questions With Answers to Seeming Contradictions.”

“Seeming contradictions?” said the young man, with scorn in his voice. Sue, at the window, began to furiously polish the already clean window. She sensed that the storm warnings were up and she hated conflict, especially of a doctrinal nature. She always wished Glen was here when things like this came up. She felt better when he talked to people like this, he never was ruffled by such encounters, maybe because he had come out on top of every one she had witnessed.

Gary, spoke up from behind the counter. “De Haan believed the Bible is infallible” he said, “so to him all claims of contradictions just seemed to be valid.” The young man turned to look at Gary, “Oh, thank you” he said, “that explains why he used the term seeming”. Gary, always courteous, felt the insult in this reply. The three of them tensed as they realized this man was not here to buy a book.

Once in awhile such persons came into the shop. Before Gary and Sue worked here, Joy and Dave had called the police to remove a man who became unruly. But this one was different. He had the calm of someone who believed himself infinitely superior to those around him He was not hostile, just toying with them.

The man reached out and lightly tapped the book spine. “Is this De Haan character some kind of preacher or something?”

“He was a physician who retired from medicine to pursue Bible studies and to write,” said Joy.

“Oh, I see, then he wasn’t really what you could call a Bible expert?” said the young skeptic.

“I could” said Gary, with deep conviction.

“And what are your qualifications for determining who is an expert?” said the man with rising inflection.

Joy felt things were getting out of hand. She knew that Gary could be pushed only so far before he felt his manhood challenged and might try something. But Gary was just not up to anything physical with a larger man, though he might be tempted to try.

Sue gripped her Windex bottle tightly with both hands. There was a loud thud from outside as Glen slammed his van door shut. We all knew that this was a sign that Glen was in a good mood. When he was upset, he closed it carefully. One of his contradictions, self-control, he called it. Soon he was bounding up the steps and swinging the door open, almost hitting the man who had his back turned. “Excuse me, sir!” said Glen cheerfully. “Didn’t see you there.”

“Obviously” said the skeptical young man.

Glen read the tone of the man’s voice and had a quick impression of who they were dealing with. He saw the pained expression on Joy’s face and Sue tensely gripping her Windex bottle. Gary was stiff with controlled rage.

“This man is interested in a book on Bible contradictions” said Joy. “I was just showing him this book by M.R. De Haan on answers to Bible questions.”

Glen pulled it off the shelf and viewed the cover. “I must have missed this one”, he said with enthusiasm. What a wonderful Christian writer he was.”

“I’m almost tempted to read this” said the skeptic, “It might be amusing.”

Glen looked at him in a friendly manner, “If you think De Haan’s book might be amusing you should read Madlyn O’Hare’s book on Biblical contradictions. It’s the pure stuff! All contradictions, but no answers, just like the lady herself.”

“Oh, really”, said the skeptic. “And how many contradictions did she find.”

Glen reflected, “You know, I’m not exactly sure! But I do know it wasn’t enough. I mean just from looking at it, it seems she wrote it on the run, very sloppy! A sincere student of the Bible can find more contradictions than you think. I keep finding them all the time and I’ve been at this for quite some time”

The skeptic appeared startled at this admission. Could this admirer of De Haan, be admitting the Bible was filled with contradictions? Glen continued while looking the young man in the eye. Gary once said that because of his intensity, ‘Glen always seemed to be standing closer to you than he really was’, a good description.

“Tell me, sir, are you a student of the Bible? I mean, have you really looked into it over a period of years?”

The skeptic drew himself up disdainfully. “Hardly!” he exclaimed.

Glen let his arms hang down. He seemed to wilt. “Oh gosh!” he said with feigned sorrow. “I am so sorry you are not a systematic student of the Bible! Because, sir, unless the Bible is different than every other field of knowledge, that means you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. Wouldn’t you agree? I mean, do you know of any other area where a person who has not really studied it has the ability to say it is filled with contradictions?”

The skeptic stared at Glen, trying to gauge just who he was dealing with.

“But since you, not knowing the Bible, are at a disadvantage, let me see if I can find one for you.”

Glen reached inside his field jacket for his little Bible. He found Job 40:2,

Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? He that reproveth God, let him answer it.

“Here’s a contradiction, for you, A man who thinks he can go one on one with the Almighty God and win. Because when you go up against this book”, Glen held up his Bible, “you are going up against Him. You can explain one thing to me, so I can better understand where you are coming from. Do you have a ‘daddy” problem.? If you do, it would explain a whole lot. Lots of guys resent their fathers, maybe they could never impress their dads, or were mistreated by them. They transfer this attitude to God himself. None of my business, of course. But one of these days you will face God, and all your hostile attitude will be gone. Then it will be his turn to question you. How do you think you will do then?”

The skeptic remained silent as Glen continued. “But let’s get away from the Bible for a moment. Here’s a contradiction for you from way back, around the time that Malachi was written. Zeno, or was it Heraclitis?, said you can never walk through a door. Have you heard this one? Glen turned the man’s shoulders so he faced the door. “I believe it was Heraclitis, the Riddler, they called him, who said the reason you can’t walk through a door is because before you get to the door, you have to go half way to the door.” Glen pushed him towards the door. “But now that you get to the halfway point, you still have to get to the next halfway point.” Glen moved him another half way. “You always have to get past this half way point before you can get to the door, so you can never go through the door.”

The young man reached for the doorknob and quickly exited.

Then suddenly Glen swung the door open again and caught up with him, grasping his arm. Sue put her Windex bottle on the window sill and clasped her hands in excitement. “I wonder if Glen is going to waste him!” she said.

The young man’s back was against the porch railing as Glen shook his hand vigorously. Then Glen turned away and re-entered the shop.

“What was that about?” Joy asked.

“Oh, I was just congratulating him for overcoming the contradiction of Heraclitus and making it through the door. I told him that other contradictions could be overcome too, if he applied himself.”

Glen’s patted his coat pocket. “I’ve got a grilled cheese sandwich . I hope it’s still warm.” He sat down at the coffee urn table and began to eat it. Then he returned, sandwich in hand, to look at the De Haan book. “I’ll bet this is good” he said, “I’d like to buy it.”

Joy turned to see Sue holding the paper Glen’s sandwich had been wrapped in. She held it taut between her hands and was licking the cheese that had stuck to it.

“Oh, Sue!” Joy said, “You nut!”

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