The Law of Noncontradiction
Biblical contradictions are as scarce as hen’s teeth, but not if you ask most skeptics. That’s because contradictions are particular things and what is labeled as a contradiction is usually not.
The law of noncontradiction is an important concept. Actually, it’s more than a mere concept, it’s a law of logic that is necessary for all of life.
It’s as serious as this…
The conversation with an atheist that I had written about a week or so ago stemmed from an argument he had made to a young Christian in which his main point was that if the Bible had one contradiction, then it was not God’s Word. If you read the article, you know that I agree.
My concurrence is based upon an argument that BB Warfield made that basically says if the whole Bible is inspired then so must be all of its parts. Each part must be without error to be considered God’s infallible Word. Therefore, there is no such thing as partial inspiration.
If criticism has made such discoveries as to necessitate the abandonment of the doctrine of plenary inspiration (every word), it is not enough to say that we are compelled to abandon only a “particular theory of inspiration,” though that is true enough. We must go on to say that that “particular theory of inspiration” is the theory of the apostles and of the Lord, and that in abandoning it we are abandoning them as our doctrinal teachers and guides-BB Warfield
(This would not mean that the Bible is unreliable as an historical document only that it is not inspired)
So, if one error is found within the Scriptures, then the rest is tainted or conspicuous. A contradiction is an error or at least indicates that one part of a claim or account it is not true.
That’s the gravity of the law of noncontradiction.
Let’s get right to the definition to avoid confusion.
The simplest way to explain the law of noncontradiction looks like an algebra problem more than an explanation. It looks like this…
A=B and A≠B are mutually exclusive. Both cannot be true at the same time in the same sense. That would be a contradiction.
…the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject in the same respect-Aristotle
In other words, it would be a contradiction to say that a beagle is a dog and a beagle is not a dog at the same time. That’s all a contradiction is but it is specific.
When speaking expressly of the Bible, most of the time alleged contradictions come in the form of historical accounts. Historical accounts like the ones found in the Scriptures are usually full of details, often insignificant, that point to its reliability. These details are often picked out as targets for potential contradictions. One of the easiest to deal with and most common is the number of people who visited the tomb of Christ just after his resurrection.
“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” (Matthew 28:1, ESV)
“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.” (Mark 16:1–2, ESV)
One Gospel account lists only two women. One lists three.
While the Gospel accounts look different and give different details about this particular event, this does not point to a contradiction. Remember the definition of a contradiction? The claims must be mutually exclusive. One of the accounts must not be true at the same time and inthe same sense that the others are.
But, this is not the case with the Gospel accounts, is it? Could it be that one author merely left out the fact that another woman came to the tomb? Is it possible that one author merely left out the detail of the number of women that came? Maybe this is an issue of perspective rather than mutually exclusive claims?
I believe it is.
To be contradictory, one of the Gospel accounts would have to make their claim exclusive by saying that only two women came, not three. The other would’ve had to say there were three. Then there would be a contradiction. They do not make that kind of exclusive claim.
Matthew has two women visiting the tomb at daybreak. Mark has three. Is that a contradiction? No, it is just a difference, and differences are not necessarily contradictions. For example, suppose you arrived at church one Sunday to find a visiting minister filling the pulpit. You asked the person on your left, “Where’s Pastor Jones?” She replied, “He’s on vacation.” Then you asked the person on your right, “Where’s Pastor Jones?” He said, “He and his wife are on vacation.” Would you exclaim, “There’s a contradiction here! Someone’s telling a lie! Someone’s fabricating a myth”? Of course not. You would easily realize that the ones on your right and left were not making up false stories independent of one another. Neither, obviously, were they in collusion. They were just relating the same fact from two different but noncontradictory perspectives
In discussions with skeptics, one can use the law of noncontradiction to point out flaws in their beliefs. It’s important to be able to do this tactfully because the consequences of an argument that includes a contradiction is falsehood. Contradictions destroy an arguments credibility more quickly than any other defeater. Such is the power of this logical law.
No one likes the bank to say that they have no $ when at the same time their statement says you have $1000. No one wants the doctor to say you’re well while telling you that you have a fatal wound. It’s contradictory to believe that something cannot come from nothing and also believe that the Universe came from nothing, which is the faith of many atheists.
The first test that any truth claim must pass is that of consistency. This means that a system of belief must not lead to a contradiction. Any system of belief that is internally inconsistent is false. To show that a contradiction can be generated from a group of beliefs is the strongest type of disproof. It is called a reductio ad absurdum.
Once again, be careful though that you stick to the strict definition of contradiction. To accuse someone of contradicting themselves and then to be proven incorrect is damaging to your argument. It will look like you’re attacking the person. Make sure of yourself.
Most of the time spent applying the law of noncontradiction though, will be spent defending Biblical inspiration by defending inerrancy. You will have to be practiced and familiar with the law to do so. There are a number of books that deal with the alleged contradictions in Scripture that are a great help when trying to think through an accusation. Today’s Handbook for Solving Bible Difficulties by David O’Brien, The Handbook of Bible Difficulties by Josh and Sean McDowell, and Can I Trust the Bible by RC Sproul are three.
The truth is, Biblical contradictions are a scarce as hen’s teeth, but not if you ask most skeptics. So, be obedient to the command to be ready (1 Pet 3:15), become familiar with the law of noncontradiction, and your apologetics task will be much easier.
 Warfield, B. B. (2008). The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Revelation and Inspiration (Vol. 1, p. 180). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Aristotle. (1908). The Works of Aristotle. (W. D. Rose & J. A. Smith, Eds.) (Vol. 8, p. xv). Oxford: The Clarendon Press.
 Morgan, R. J. (2003). Evidence and truth: foundations for Christian truth (p. 12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Feinberg, P. D. (2000). Cumulative Case Apologetics. In S. N. Gundry & S. B. Cowan (Eds.), Five views on apologetics (pp. 153–154). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.