I was reading Exodus chapter 33 this morning. And something really stood out for me. A major contradiction between verses 11 and 20-23.
Verse 11 states,
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another. And he would then return to the camp….”
Then in verse 20-23,
… He (God) said, “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and Live.” And the Lord said, “See there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock and, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”
Talk about a major contradiction. First we read that Moses regularly speaks FACE TO FACE with God, just like you and I would talk to each other, then we read that God says that no man may see him and live. This is exactly the kind of contradiction that Atheists throw out to prove that God does not exist. I read an interesting side note in the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of this text which stated that the two verses came from different sources. Basically the Talmud was hobbled together from multiple sources which explains the contradictions. But are these contradictions a reason to stop believing?
I got to thinking, Is it that God does not exist because of these different and conflicting versions of events; or is it possible that God exists in both sides of the contradiction? Maybe God is IN the contradiction. I think that in our “modern” age people have forgotten about the beauty of paradox, mystery and contradiction. But if God is the God of ALL then he is also the God of paradox, mystery AND contradiction. I’m very interested in mysticism and exploring other religions. It seems to me that even though the religions of men try to exclude others that God is actually present in ALL religions in one form or another revealing “Himself” to humanity in different ways according to each ones ability to understand and comprehend.
Could it be that God is bigger than the contradiction? Could it be that God is both sides of the contradiction – the unifying force of a contradictions two sides? An ultimate non-duality. Maybe another way to put it is to say that when we view these contradictions in our religions, politics and events of our lives we should not think they disprove the existence of God but that God is in each position and point-of-view.
So what do we do with this? I’m not sure we DO anything with it. I don’t think we should try to remove the contradiction from our “sacred” texts. Contradiction is a part of life. A part of human experience. Why shouldn’t it be a part of our spiritual experience? Let it be. Understand that it’s okay to try to do good but shit will still happen. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. That’s life! Contradiction is okay.
Here’s a great song that talks about contradiction.