True Doctrines ≠ Contradictions
How can we easily recognize true biblical doctrines? What is a simple way for us to see the errors that are always found within false teaching, so that we can more quickly reject them? The most powerful method is so fundamental and uncomplicated that many people overlook it.
Simply stated, pure Christian doctrine does not contain any contradictions. (Note: The “≠” symbol that I am using in this article means “does not equal.”) Whenever a given doctrine is contradictory, we can know that the doctrine in question is not accurately representing the mind of God on those subjects. Therefore, the easiest way to discern true biblical teaching from the traditions of men and doctrines of demons, is to check the teaching in question for contradictions.
I will now break this simple truth down for you in this article of mine, and thereby empower you to more easily discern truth from error.
God Does Not Self-Contradict
Professing Christians need to consider carefully the implications of the fact that God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2; etc.), and that He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). These characteristics of God mean that He is completely incapable of contradicting Himself.
After all, what is a lie? It is a contradiction against the truth. If we let “T” represent truth, then anything else is necessarily ~T (pronounced, “not-T”). Anything that is “not the truth” must necessarily be something other than the truth, for this is self-evident. Thus, the act of lying occurs whenever the liar asserts that a particular falsity (~T) is the truth (T). Stated symbolically, the liar is saying:
~T = T
Again, this is a contradiction. A lie cannot possibly be the same thing as the truth. The two are mutually exclusive of one another, which stated symbolically looks like this:
~T ≠ T and T ≠ ~T
So what is self-denial? In order for God to deny Himself, He would have to deny the truth about His Own Identity. So this means that He would have to lie, which He is unable to do. (Note: This characteristic of the Creator in no way contradicts the fact of His omnipotence. It does not take “power” in order to speak falsities, for that is the very language of devils. See John 8:44, and consider also my article, Of God, Rocks, and Infinity.) Consequently, it would be a contradiction for God to deny Himself also.
Therefore, one of the inherent characteristics of God is that He cannot self-contradict. Some key implications for this absolute truth are as follows:
(1) God and His Word are the same (see John 1) because His non-contradictory Word is an expression of His Own omniscient mind. Therefore, God’s Word (i.e., the contents of the Bible) never contradicts itself. That is one reason why Jesus said that God’s Word is “Truth” itself (John 17:17).
(2) Any doctrines pushed upon Christians that are not based upon God’s Word, must be examined in the light of God’s Word to see if the teachings in question contradict what God said about the same subjects. Please note that this is exactly what Paul told the Thessalonians to do:
Test all things; hold fast what is good.
(1 Thessalonians 5:21, NKJV)
(3) Any allegedly “Christian” doctrine that contradicts God’s Word is — by logical necessity — untrue (i.e., false). Thus, unbiblical doctrines are nothing more than lies. Their authors claim to represent the mind of God on certain matters, but instead they are contradicting Him. (Compare Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7; Colossians 2:22; and 1 Timothy 4:1, with 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5.)
With the above points in mind, we can easily understand that any doctrine that contains either internal contradictions (i.e., the proponent is contradicting themselves while explaining what they believe) or external contradictions (i.e., the person has not taken into account passages of Scripture that seem to refute their thesis), must be considered FALSE.
Stated another way: Since God cannot self-contradict, then any doctrine that alleges to represent His views on a given subject must not contain contradictions. Therefore, if any contradictions are found to be present therein, then the doctrine must be rejected as false.
The points that I just made above are irrefutable. Stated another way, they are expressions of absolute truth. (Feel free to test them out and see that is the case.) Nevertheless, they have to be understood within the context of the sorts of things that we run into throughout our daily lives. So there are four balancing points that I need to make in order to put the above truths into their proper perspective:
- It is sometimes the case that apparent contradictions are a matter of sloppy scholarship, which is typically resolvable through corrective study and sound instruction (e.g., see Ephesians 4:11-16). Paraphrasing what one Christian lawyer friend of mine remarked to me, “Going to law school ruined me with respect to my ability to read Christian books. In my legal studies, I learned how to dissect arguments and analyze things from all angles. However, most Christian books are so poorly argued that I cannot stand to read even the ones with which I wholeheartedly agree.” Stated another way, someone might be correct with respect to the doctrine that they assert as being true (e.g., the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, etc.), but then explain it so poorly that they contradict themselves and/or the Scripture and end up bringing reproach to a genuine Christian doctrine. So the mere fact that a doctrine is poorly argued is not proof that it is wrong. The person in question may simply be lacking in reasoning skills and/or somewhat ignorant.
- It is also sometimes the case that apparent contradictions are really paradoxes. These are truths that seem contradictory on the surface until further examination reveals that this is not the case at all. Paradoxes are not contradictions, even though they seem that way initially. Generally, these are revealed to be non-contradictory due to differences of definitions of the terms being used or in the context of the statements. In ancient times, “the words of the wise and their riddles” (Proverbs 1:6) often contained paradoxes, intended to force the other person to think hard in order to solve the mental puzzle. Compare the two verses of Proverbs 26:4-5 for an an excellent example in the Bible of a paradox.
- Because the two cases above exist, I have twice stated within the previous section that whenever contradictions seem to be present, then the doctrine in question must be rejected as false (i.e., considered to be false unless it is proven otherwise). However, this does not mean that the doctrine itself is fully false. Some people state true doctrine, but do so in a manner that is so poorly reasoned that it appears as if they are contradicting themselves. In other cases, the person is stating a paradox (although this is typically explained whenever a good teacher does so). Therefore, the rational choice is to reject ANY doctrine that seems contradictory (internally and/or externally) until any apparent contradictions can be resolved.
- Nevertheless, it is often the case that the apparent contradictions are mutually exclusive (i.e., the ~T = T sorts of claims). Whenever this is the case, then any attempt to resolve the contradictions is futile. The doctrine is simply untrue, and thus, a lie. Reject it, run from it, and don’t look back!
Now, with these balancing points having been made, I can now explain how to use this information in your daily life. My focus here is with respect to discerning biblical doctrines as opposed to falsities. However, these same principles can be applied in other contexts at home, school, and work. If you will approach life with the simple understanding that contradictions cannot be true, then you will find that you are much less susceptible to deception in every sphere of your life, to include your understanding of the Bible.
Regardless of who the teacher might be, all doctrines should be tested for truthfulness. This fact is particularly important when the instructor in question is your favorite minister (of times past or present). It is too easy to be lulled into accepting anything they say without critical reflection, and that would be a mistake because NOBODY is omniscient (i.e., we are all subject to error, because none of is is all-knowing). Yes, this principle applies to any and all people exposed to the teaching of Rev. Rich and Donna Vermillion too, whether in writing, live ministry, or on some form of media (e.g., Rich’s FREE audio MP3 series, The Fundamentals of the Real Gospel).
The easiest way to test the veracity (truthfulness) of a given doctrine is to check it for contractions like the Bereans were attempting to do when they heard Paul speak:
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.
(Acts 17:10-12, NKJV)
If none can be found after testing what was said (1 Thessalonians 5:21), and the doctrine is found to be squarely founded upon God’s Word, then it should be trusted (believed). 🙂
On the other hand, if apparent contradictions are present, it should be rejected until these are resolved. In other words, “sit it on the shelf” until there is a good reason to either throw it away or accept it.
However, if the contradictions are fundamental (i.e., the ~T = T types), then it should be permanently rejected. There is no sense wasting your time entertaining utter nonsense.
It is that simple, folks. If a teacher is contradicting themselves or the Bible, those points should be rejected. If they do this in a heretical way (i.e., they are in error with respect to major points of doctrine), or they do this continuously (i.e., they are sloppy in both their thinking and resulting teaching), then the individual should be avoided entirely.
Therefore, if you can grasp the concept of the Law of Non-Contradiction (a fundamental law of thought, which I have just explained briefly), then you can avoid false doctrines and teachers by applying this principle of analysis consistently. In fact, let me note also that it is particularly important to do this whenever people are teaching you what you really want to hear:
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber….
For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”
(2 Peter 2:1-3, 18-22, NKJV)
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
(2 Timothy 3:16-4:4, NKJV)
Whenever the “ear tickling preachers” are on the scene trying to sell their doctrines, you had better be a person who loves truth more than “fables.” If you are such a person, then you will be able to check out the doctrine using the method that I have just explained within this article. To further develop your skills for applying this principle, however, let me also recommend to you my complimentary article, Four Characteristics of Sound Doctrine. The principles you will read about in that article will perfectly match what I have written here (i.e., there are no contradictions 😉 ), but it will elaborate on related points even further. You may want to consider studying my Critical Thinking Exercise 1: Did Jesus Keep The Law? too, because it contains additional teaching on logic and fallacies.
I also recommend that you take the “maturity tests” found in my article, Are You a Mature Christian? (Take the Tests and Find Out!). It will help you verify your maturity level once you feel that you have your analytical skills sharpened.
It is very probably that some of those reading this article are not Bible-believing Christians. So before I close, let me add a few points to two classes of people: Non-Christians, and those who profess to be Christians but who deny the Bible’s exclusive authority as the source of our doctrines:
To Non-Christians: I wrote this ponder point with Christians in mind. Therefore, I have not addressed the “circular reasoning argument” as to whether the Bible is actually the Word of God. I will note here only that this can be easily done with multiple transcendental arguments that demonstrate the warranted nature of such belief. However, I did not have time or space for doing that here. I am simply acknowledging (for your sake) that I am aware of the “circular reasoning” complaint, and noting that it does not apply to this Ponder Point because it was not my intent herein to prove that the Bible is God’s Word to Christians who already accept that idea as Truth.
To Non-Bible Believing Professing Christians: If you claim to be a Christian, but yet believe that you can base your theology on things other than the Bible, then you are self-contradicted. The term “Christian” is defined both historically and biblically as a follower of Christ. Jesus Christ explicitly stated that only those who live by God’s Word are His disciples:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
(John 8:31-32, NKJV)
“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”
(Luke 6:46, NKJV)
(In addition to these two quotes, please also compare also Matthew 7:13-23; John 15:1-8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter chapter 1, etc.).
So to summarize my point: When one claims to be a Christian, they are claiming to be a follower of Christ. However, Christ defined His “followers” (i.e., Christians, disciples, etc.) as being those who live their lives according to His Word. Therefore, for a person to claim to be a Christian while denouncing (or ignoring) His Word (the Bible) with respect to their lives, behavior, and doctrine, is to live one’s life in a perpetual self-contradiction. By logical necessity, such person is self-refuted — and lying to themselves and others. (Please review John 8:44 and 1 John chapter 3 in this light.)
To both parties above: Let me please also recommend my personal testimony and Gospel-presentation article, The Supreme Value of Righteousness. It is my hope that you will discover therein some things that will help you. 🙂
I do hope that this article has opened up your thinking with respect to how to discern the quality of the teaching that you hear. By simply looking for contradictions (if any are present), you can discern which points are valid, and which should be rejected.
Likewise, those of us who are TEACHING OTHERS (i.e., ministers and lay teachers) need to ensure that we have solid doctrine, and are using rational arguments within our instruction. This should have been an obvious “elephant in the room” point throughout this article, but I wanted to make it explicit. Only those people who are truly truly studying and laboring to ensure that they have correct doctrine (i.e., using logical exegesis to examine Scripture), have any business teaching anything to anybody:
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also…. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.
(2 Timothy 2:1-2, 15-16, NKJV)
For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.
(Titus 1:7-11, NKJV)
Of course, NOBODY is perfect in their understanding or how they express themselves. (After all, that would make a person omniscient, and only God Himself has that attribute.) Therefore, let me close by advising you to be gracious toward others in how you apply the principles that I have explained herein. Since we all can make mistakes, it is best to treat the contradictions of others with grace, whenever that is possible:
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12, NKJV)
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
(James 3:13-17, NKJV)
If we wish people to be gracious with us whenever we make a mistake, we need to do the same with them too. 🙂
Of course, there are times wherein the errors are not small, and the stakes are high. As noted within my two articles “Judging”: Hypocritical vs. Biblical and Casting Boomerang Stones, there are times wherein we need to get into people’s faces with the truth. Nevertheless, most people are not trying to be heretics or to deceive us. So as our daily habit, we can discern the veracity (truthfulness) of people’s statements and points without being harsh in our responses. Yes, we can and should be blunt (as I often am at times), because otherwise we may be misunderstood.
Nevertheless, whenever possible, we should all try to be tactful in most situations as best as we can while still being truthful ourselves. (And yes, I do admit that sometimes I fall short in this regard, so I am preaching to myself here too. 😉 )
We have more articles are on the horizon, as well as some new books. So consider joining our email list using the box near the top of the right column of this page (you can unsubscribe at any time). You can also find our new ministry page on Facebook at Facebook.com/revrichvermillion.
Now let me close with my favorite benediction of the Bible:
Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.
(Ephesians 6:23-24, NKJV)
Always in Jesus,
– Rich Vermillion