Question of the Week: Does 2 Thessalonians 2:11 contradict 1 Timothy 2:4?
Contradiction is a fun word thrown around the internet and is usually used when a difference in ideas is mentioned. People who aren’t familiar with formal logic will take this claim at face value and conclude that something has been discredited as false due to the fact that two conflicting ideas are presented alongside each other. There are three problems with this approach.
1. You’re assuming the ideas have been presented properly.
2. You’re misunderstanding what a contradiction is.
3. You’re taking the critic’s word for it in the conclusion that there’s no way to harmonize both ideas.
In order to reconcile these two ideas, that God will send a strong delusion and that God desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth, we will go through these three errors and establish a format that will equip you to deal with the overwhelming majority of “contradictions” in the Bible.
Have the “Contradictory” ideas been presented properly?
In order to deal effectively with an accusation against Scripture, the first and best thing to do is look the passage up and read it in its entirety. Too many of these “bible contradictions” come as a result of misrepresenting one or both passages in order to prove a point. Both passages cited are not complete sentences, therefore are a part of a discussion that goes beyond them. In order to understand what is actually being said, we should probably read what is said lest we end up believing something about the Bible it doesn’t actually say.
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 (NKJV)
This first passage is speaking of the coming of an individual in the future, whose actions, origins, and motives will all be centered around deception. Already, we’re talking about someone who isn’t God doing the deceiving. Second, the passage being quoted as in conflict with 1 Timothy 2:4 is sandwiched between two verses that clarify the people who will be on the receiving end of this lawless one’s deception have already failed to receive the truth. Before mentioning that God would send a delusion, it is clarified that they already did not receive or want the truth or salvation. After stating that God would send the delusion, it repeats the fact that they didn’t believe the truth. If we were to summarize the point this passage is making in one sentence, it would be, “People didn’t want the truth and refused it, so God allowed them to believe a lie.” A Historical example of this taking place can be found in 1 Kings 22 concerning Ahab and God allowing his false prophets to deceive him, but not before he spent his entire life hearing and ignoring true prophets of God. To say that this passage is characterizing God as a deceiver is ironically deceptive.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
1 Timothy 2:3-7 (NKJV)
This second passage is fairly straight-forward. However, since it can be established that the kind of people who would put forward passages to prove a point are either uninformed to the point of actually reading the passage, or are deliberately dishonest with the text in order to claim there is a contradiction. This requires us to double check everything that is said rather than assume they are being honest with the text. The passage is spoken by Paul the Apostle, who representing the God who wants all to come to the knowledge of the truth is himself also speaking the truth. That is consistent on his part. If you serve a God who wants people to know the truth, you’re not going to lie in His name. Likewise, the passage doesn’t say that all men will be saved. It says that God desires all men to be saved. There is a difference.
What is a contradiction?
The Law of Non-Contradiction is the first law of logic. In mathematical terms, it states that A does not equal non-A. In plain English, it states that two ideas can’t cancel themselves out and both be true at the same time. If 2 Thessalonians 2:11 stated that God desires all men to not be saved and not to come to a knowledge of the truth, it would contradict 1 Timothy 2:4. However, it actually presupposes the opposite. God wouldn’t send the delusion unless they had already rejected His desire for them, which is established in 1 Timothy 2:4.
Is it wise to take the Bible critic’s word for it when they claim there is a contradiction?
The answer is obviously no. In bringing up this objection, we can conclude they are either unwilling to actually read the passage or would be deliberately dishonest with the text in order to prove a point they have already decided is true before looking at the evidence. Either scenario does not put us in a good situation when hearing information about anything. However, this does not mean that you should take the Bible supporter’s word for it when they claim there isn’t a contradiction either. Whenever someone makes a claim about anything, you should always take the time to look into it for yourself. It may not take long to spot a lie or confirm the truth in someone’s words, but that doesn’t mean the effort isn’t worth taking the time to verify.
A Reason For Hope is a ministry of Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
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