Neander's Law
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Note:  This "law of revelation" (or more correctly, law of illumination of revelation already given) is quoted as the opening lines of John Wesley Haley's Alleged Discrepancies of the BibleSee below for some comments.

God reveals himself in his word,

as he does in his works.

In both we see a




who makes himself known

only to those who earnestly seek him;

in both we find

stimulants to faith and

occasions for unbelief;

in both we find [apparent]* contradictions,

whose higher harmony is hidden,

except from him who  . . . [perseveres] . . .

in reverence;

in both, in a word, it is a law of revelation

that the heart of man should be tested in receiving it;

and that in the spiritual life,

as well as in the bodily,

man must eat his bread in the sweat of his brow.


Adapted from Augustus Neander, Life of Christ, 1851


*Added by Bob Snyder

Quoted from Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, John Wesley Haley, 1874, page 1.


I took the possibly questionable liberty to insert the word "apparent" before "contradictions," because I do not wish it to appear that these discrepancies are true contradictions.  I believe Neander did not believe they were such.  So I qualified his word.  However, I suppose it could be said that Neander's calling them "contradictions" (without qualification) is a self-illustration of his law: What he meant by his word "contradictions" will only be revealed to those who earnestly seek it.  Perhaps Neander would object to my neutralizing this paradox.  I still think I did the right thing.  Your comments are welcome.

A further difficulty (and another possible self-illustration of the law) is Neander's assertion in his original wording that one must "give up [ones] whole mind in reverence" to discover the hidden higher harmony in the discrepancies.  I do not interpret this as "checking ones brains at the door," though Neander's phrase sounds like that.  I take it as stating that God has determined that to know the truth one must put even his mind in subjection to the God of the universe.  Jesus said it this way:  "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  John 8:31b-32 NIV

The mind is not autonomous if Jesus is Lord.  This is, of course, part of the scandal of biblical faith.  Not that faith and reason are incompatible, but that without faith reason goes astray: "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 NIV

Believers do not give up thinking, but subject their minds to God's rule.  Having done that they should be the best thinkers it is possible to be, thereby honoring God who made us in his image.   In order to avoid misunderstanding on the part of students whom I have required to memorize Neander's Law, I have substituted the word ". . . [perseveres] . . ." for the words "gives up his whole mind".

--Bob Snyder

Last revised 3-16-2010