Drange Disses the Bible

It has, he says, contradictions! (375) What an original claim. No Biblical scholar though I am, his sole example of a contradiction is trivially disposed of. Drange complains that the law propounded in:

Lk 13:3, "if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did," is not mentioned as a condition of salvation in

(1) Jn 3:16, "everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life"; nor in

(2) Mt 25:46, "these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life"; nor in

(3) Jn 5:29, "all will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation." (376)

Well, shiver me timbers.

(1') Isn't it obvious that believing in Christ is not merely dead faith? And that live faith requires repentance of sins, such that this repentance is an essential component of the life of practically every human being at whatever stage of spiritual development?

"Belief" is hardly merely an intellectual assent to some propositions, however true and important; it is a commitment to a holy life, as well:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." (Mt 7:21)

(2') The righteous will go away to eternal life, but repentance is necessary precisely for an unrighteous person to become righteous and to stay that way.

(3') Those who have done good will rise to live, but repentance is a good done to oneself (and others, if we take repentance in a broader sense of atoning for past misdeeds rather than in a more narrow sense of rejecting evil and resolving to do or be good; see also Mt 5:23-24). Repentance is the first step toward turning one's life around to do good.

Now if one is presenting an example to illustrate a supposedly self-evident thesis, namely, the fact that the Bible contains contradictions, then one would presumably lead with the most powerful card he has under his sleeve. But if that's the best Drange can do, then the case for hopeless obscurity of the Bible, as Drange would have it, must be weak indeed.

Drange wishes that God had "listed the things you must do in order to be saved, followed by a clear list of actions." (376) Well, we do have the Ten Commandments.

Jesus gave us the most general rules, applicable to everybody: love God and your neighbor. (Lk 10:27) He even illustrated them with the beatitudes: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (Mt 5:9) He explained the meaning of the word "neighbor." (Lk 10:29-37) He warned about hypocrisy. (Mt 23:28) He taught us an important prayer. (Mt 6:9-13) He revealed that God is a Trinity.

In any case, life is too complex for God simply to smother society in rules and regulations. Everyone's life is different and requires different things. And many of those things we can indeed find out on our own, perhaps with the help of grace. If Drange wants "rules," he is free to consult the penal code. I'll bet that if God had done more, our professor would feel that his autonomy was in danger from the overabundance of rules he'd be supposed to follow.

In short, yes, a PhD in philosophy is useful in studying the Bible. But nobody was going to make Drange's life easy for him. Theology, whether natural, systematic, moral, or whatever, is an arcane and difficult discipline which requires rigorous training, no different in this regard from any other science. Unfortunately, our author is arguably a dilettante.

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