I pondered this quite some time ago and have no shame is presenting my own uncertainties to an audience. Inerrancy as I understand it can be summed up as: everything the Bible asserts to be true, is true. Of course this gets to the heart of the post. Inerrancy, at least on the surface, appears to have been derived from circular reasoning based on a set of presumptions. Even if true this does not mean the Bible is not inerrant or the Word of God, only that its defense as such is based on loose tautologies.
When I think of what might be considered a conflict I don’t include discrepancies in numbers, quantities, ages, years, etc. Given the nature of the Hebrew language and the characters used to represent numbers are often very similar to the point where they are nearly identical. Also what appear to be discrepancies in accounts of events can be explained by matters of perspective and intended emphasis. No, the discrepancies which are of any real concern are those with theological consequences.
The Trinity, in my opinion, is the most significant Christian doctrine which requires some discrepancy reconciliation. God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are all referred to as God yet the most common theme through out the Old and New Testaments is that there is only one God.
So here’s the (apparent) circularity.
- The Bible identifies three different entities/persons/beings as God.
- The Bible is clear that there is only one God.
- The Bible’s authors were superintended by God.
- God cannot err, therefore the Bible is inerrant.
- Therefore, any discrepancy is only apparent.
- So when the Bible lists three separate entities/persons/beings as God, it cannot be that there are three separate Gods.
- Since there can be no real discrepancies, we need to devise an understanding in which all three are God but there is still only one God.
The mere idea that verses need to be reconciled is an admission that there are seeming conflicts in ideas within the text but presupposes inerrancy from the outset. The doctrine of inerrancy isn’t arrived at because there are no conflicts in the text and the accounts are seamless. Have my fellow Christians ever thought about this?
So while I myself am comfortable with the explanations, it should be easy enough to see why skeptics may be reticent to accept them.