A MEMBER OF GOD'S CHURCH AND FREIND (NEVER MET IN PERSON ONLY WITH EMAILS) HAS GIVEN ME PERMISSION TO POST THIS ANSWER FROM HIM CONCERNING THE RECENT BLOGS FROM TARA CHAPMAN.
THERE COULD WELL BE MORE TO COME... SO STAY TUNED AS THEY SAY.
Recently, a co-worker of my friend and teacher, Keith Hunt, came to the conclusion that her life as a Christian has been a lie. This came as a shock to many people who knew her in their walks as Christians. Personally speaking, I had not known this individual very well. I had read articles she had posted on her web site (now defunct) and occasionally read her blog posts, but I had never communicated with her much outside of discussing recipes that conformed to God’s dietary laws and questions regarding Pastor Hunt’s site, on which she had worked. Therefore, I can only state what is my perception is on her within a very narrow scope.
Tara Chapman is a strong woman; perhaps too strong at times. She had no problems in expressing what she thought about certain dogmas and people, even to point where she would use words such as “idiots” in her descriptions. I was afraid that such language might cause some to discredit her views and to pass her off as a mudslinger. Granted, her material wasn’t saturated with such language, but it was noticeable. If people ever did decide to disregard her for this reason, it’s a shame. The truth is that Tara is an intelligent woman and a rational thinker. In fact, it is that aspect of her character to which I hope to appeal in my post.
Strength and intellect are two invaluable tools towards any endeavor in life. They can be used, as they once were, to proclaim the Gospel, or they can be used to denounce it. Certain influences in our lives may direct us towards either direction. While I can’t claim to know all the influences in Tara’s life, it is evident that her emotions are part of the reason she has returned to the world. She has been thrown around in different directions in her life with various people telling her what to believe. For instance, she would be kept up at night struggling with the notion of the Trinity. The concept of this dogma made no sense to her, but she continued to believe it for a long time because her loved ones told her that it was true.
More recently, Tara has left an organization, the UCG, which she (rightly) denounced as a cult. I have no reason to doubt that this event has hurt her in some ways as well. One of her priorities in life has been to seek truth. Naturally, when one is exposed to enough individuals or organizations claming to have the truth (the UCG claimed to be the only true church in the world) and can be proven wrong, that person may begin to lose faith in the idea that anybody can objectively understand the truth others also claim to have. This is understandable. I am not going to go through the reasons why I believe that she has left the true straight and narrow path, but I will state reasons for why she should reconsider her decision.
The post announcing her new beliefs is entitled My Exodus in Genesis: The Beginning of a Dogma-Free Life. In a way, this proclamation identifies her problem. Tara is a young woman at 31 years of age, and she is only beginning what she calls a “dogma-free life.” I have read her posts up until the most recent, and it is obvious that she has done a lot of research and introspection. I’m sure that she has also discussed things with her husband and others, but I still find the following story to be relevant. I am currently studying to be a programmer, and in the book I’m reading there’s some wise advice. He suggests that when debugging your code (meaning to remove all the errors or bugs) that somebody look at it to help you identify problems. Even though he has over 40 years of experience, a colleague can find an error in his code in a few seconds when he’s stared at it for over an hour.
The lesson of the story here is that people sometimes can’t see the problems they’ve created without help. Fortunately, Tara doesn’t seem to be the type of person who hates asking for directions while driving (or a type of person who hates asking for help debugging while programming!). She’s still searching for truth, so I wish to help her find it. Why? The beliefs that Tara currently has are ones that I used to have. It is because of this that I can see the faulty logic and shallow observations Tara has made in her recent posts. This is not meant to belittle her in any way. All of us sometimes are blinded to things and can use help from those who have experienced the same.
Years ago I had read a book from Bart D. Erhman entitled Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them). For a little while, this book had convinced me that Scripture was not infallible. I believed that the Bible was full of irreconcilable discrepancies that proved that it wasn’t an inspired text. It was only later that I came to realize how superficial the book’s claims I once held in high regard actually were. Tara has spent time presenting what she believes to be contradictions, stories with foreign parallels, and logical refutations to biblical accounts and dogmas. Part of my post will spend some time pointing out the problems with her opinions. I do not claim to know all of the answers to her questions, but I will present logical counter-arguments to her examples.
First, in her post entitled Nearly 500 Serious Contradictions in the Bible, Tara gives a few examples on contradictions from a web site. One of them is in regards to whether Abraham knew God by the name Jehovah. The texts under comparison are:
And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.
First, it is folly to be reading an English translation of a text without regard to the grammatical features and literary conventions from the language and culture from which it’s translated. This is unfortunately a mistake that far too many people commit in their criticism of the Bible. Quoting these two verses to point out a supposed contradiction in Scripture is not something that Tara is qualified to do. Let’s start with the sentence fragment “but by my name.” The word but is prefixed to the word name and is an instance of the consecutive waw. In addition to meaning but it can also mean and. Additionally, the entire sentence can be read in an interrogative manner, giving us, “and by my name Jehovah was I not known to them?” Considering the next sentence (not quoted by Tara) is in a positive sense, this alternative rendering makes sense.
This isn’t the only explanation that exists; I’ve found one that reads into a specific biblical convention known as the beth essentiae that also appears valid. However, it is not my purpose to give all the explanations for this alleged contradiction. I hope instead to show that explanations exist and have existed for many years. If Tara seeks the truth as she asserts, it seems strange that she would have neglected to perform adequate preliminary research on this matter. She commits this same error in comparing the Creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2. First of all, Genesis 1 could be categorized as either poetry or poetic prose and shouldn’t be regarded as a scientific account of how the animals were created. This might shock someone possessing only a modern literalist means of interpretation or who seeks to find a scientific basis on which to verify the authenticity of Scripture (something which Tara said she had planned to do).
Second, it is often thought that Genesis 1 presents a more general account of Creation while Genesis 2 focuses more on the creation of mankind. Could it be that the author wished to, though artistic convention, show that animals are brought forth from water in the sense that life is sustained (if not universally, then nearly universally) through it? I don’t have the data on chemical composition in my head on various creatures that Tara may have, but I was taught that the human body is composed of mostly water. Generally speaking, then, water is the form of matter that brought forth life on this planet because it is required. Genesis may be more specifically telling us that the animals were brought forth from the Earth as Adam was created from the dust of the Earth. Is it unreasonable to think that God used both water and the land elements in His formation of the animals? This brings me to an important point: Differences do not mean discrepancies.
Let’s take another account which seemingly conflicts with another. 2 Samuel 24:1 says that the Lord incited David to take a census while 1 Chronicles 21:1 says that it was Satan. Which is right? Is it not possible that both accounts are accurate but with differing degrees of agency between the two characters involved? Compare these two English sentences:
“John broke the vase.”
“John caused the vase to be broken.”
These two sentences are similar, but one stresses agency, while the other patiency. Could it be that God, as the Creator, caused David to be incited to take a census because He created Satan? This context was not alien to the Hebrew language of biblical times and is exemplified in its verbal forms. I hope by now that it’s clear that context plays a key implicitly within the context of a story and also explicitly through the grammatical features of a language. Furthermore, why not give the authors, or at least the compilers, credit that they weren’t incompetent in putting together stories that were so obviously divergent in their messages? People make mistakes, but to somehow miss contradictions that would slap a normal person in the face is difficult to imagine, especially given the fact that they wanted the texts to pass as inspired of God. We need to consider that these people did not recognize these differences as the contradictions many throughout different ages afterwards have suggested. I don’t mean to suggest that any alleged discrepancy should be resolved by conflating different accounts, but it should at least be considered when plausible.
In her next example, Tara once again fails to note the difference between exclusivity and inclusivity. She quotes Genesis chapter 11 which describes the world as having only one language, while Genesis 10:5-31 speaks of a world with many different languages. I made the point in the preceding paragraph that we should give the authors and compilers credit that they weren’t putting together a pile of gobbledygook when writing Scripture. Considering that the two sections of the Bible Tara presents are almost immediately connected – one verse separates the two – Moses (or whoever she believes wrote the Bible and compiled it) would have had a pretty short attention span and had been a very poor editor to miss this mistake. Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he was a sane person, this “discrepancy” may be easily explained by the fact that a world with many languages could have one common language with which different peoples could communicate with each other. I think that, considering the evidence, that this explanation makes a lot more sense than dismissing the two accounts as being contradictory.