Up front, this is a bit of a screed from me, just to address one of my pet peeves I’ve noticed recently in various contexts. But would appreciate any constructive thoughts…
Firstly, for context, I am troubled when evangelicals resort to extremely labored, convoluted, or desperate attempts to solve every biblical difficulty or discrepancy. To me - evangelical and inerrancy-affirming believer that I am - this simply is not necessary. Take the text as it is, realizing that there may well be plenty of things we don’t know or understand. But more to my point, I am bothered by the opposite problem - how I continually find far too many critical scholars or skeptics resorting to convoluted, labored, unnatural, and I find utterly embarrassing contortions of biblical text in order to create contradictions or problems that simply aren’t there.
Perhaps the worst example I ever saw was Bart Ehrman’s “textbook case” of a contradiction, who ignored (or was ignorant of) the explicit explanation of the phrase “day of preparation” in the text of John (i.e., “so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath”) and spends pages arguing rather that the phrase refers to the day for preparing the Passover, in order for to get John to contradict the Synoptics regarding the day of the crucifixion.
Another significant contrived “error” was in Peter Enns’ descriptions of a “turning point” for him in rejecting inerrancy… where he ignored Paul’s explicit portrayal of the water-giving-rock in 1Cor10 as “spiritual”, so as to force an untenable literalistic interpretation onto an obviously allegorical text, so that he could claim that Paul believed in "stupid things like rocks follow people around in the desert to give them a drink.”
And one more example (of many I could list)… Professor Daniel Kirk managed to see an irreconcilable conflict between the synoptics describing Jesus eating the passover the day before the crucifixion, and how John’s gospel notes the Jewish leaders were planning to eat the passover the following day - the evening of Jesus’ trial & crucifixion… This New Testament PhD apparently unaware that Passover lasted for seven days.
I am baffled by this… It is one thing to claim a contradiction when there is at least some genuine prima facie discrepancy… such as the different genealogies in Matthew and Luke, the speed at which the fig tree withered, etc. But the kinds of supposed errors offered by these aforementioned scholars as their prime examples require some blatant glossing, glaring omission, or seriously creative reinterpretation of the texts before we can even see these supposed errors. These particular aforementioned errors or contradictions, I can confidently say, exist solely in the minds of these scholars.
Now these are not neophyte undergraduates, but otherwise highly qualified expert scholars, putting forward their premier examples of biblical errors. This belies a certain desperate need to find contradictions in Scripture, in pursuit of an agenda that seems happy to disregard the actual facts, uninterested in the basic pursuit of truth.
So my basic point regarding discussions or questions of Scripture’s inerrancy… Many evangelicals are criticized for allowing their belief in inerrancy to cloud their judgment when looking at the texts themselves, such that they would not see a bona fide contradiction even if it were unquestionably there. I submit that this danger does not only exist on that side. Clearly, many critical scholars or skeptics allow their commitment to believing in the errancy of Scripture to so cloud their vision that they will see errors or contradictions even when they clearly don’t exist. If so, how much more difficult it must be for them to acknowledge legitimate possible solutions in the face of recognized discrepancies, and recognize that a discrepancy is not automatically final proof of an error.
This is why the criticisms that evangelicals are grasping at straws to find solutions to discrepancies fall flat to me… particularly when made by those who would be utterly unable to recognize or acknowledge a genuinely legitimate proposal for harmonization or reconciliation.
So my basic observation… in discussions of inerrancy, it isn’t that on the one side, there are people who are desperately defending inerrancy due to their theological agenda, and then on the other side, are all those “objective” people who are simply fairly reading what is in the text. There are folks with obvious and deep agendas on both sides.