Let’s say you and I met 30 minutes ago.
We met in a hotel lobby, and a passing comment about a sports car became a conversation.
I told you, “Hey, I just got a new Jaguar.”
You said, “Wow — that’s cool!”
Then we decided to share a ride somewhere.
We walked up to my car. It’s a Honda Accord.
You said, “Oh, I thought you had your Jaguar with you.”
I said, “No, I just have an Accord.”
You wondered if I’m crazy or a liar or what.
We got in the car, and I started driving.
We passed a convention center, and a sign for an upcoming concert turned the conversation to music.
You said, “I really love jazz.”
I said, “Awesome! I’ve got a massive collection of jazz in the back. We’ll get it out when we pull into a gas station.”
When we pulled into the gas station, I reached into the back and pulled out a small compact-disc holder. I handed it to you. You opened it. Inside, you found five CDs of 1980s pop.
“This doesn’t look like a jazz collection,” you said, a little exasperated.
“Oh, I don’t have a jazz collection with me — I have a few 1980s pop CDs,” I said.
You thought I was crazy or a liar or something.
Now, in the past 30 minutes, twice I’ve told you something, and then I changed my story.
Do you think I’m trustworthy?
Maybe, just maybe, some of the debates about Biblical discrepencies could be described this way:
The “liberal” text critics might say, “Look, in this passage, the Bible clearly says he had a Jaguar, and in this passage, the Bible clearly says he had an Accord. This is a problem.”
The “conservative” text critics might say, “Look, the important thing is that he had a car, just like he said.”
The “liberal” text critics might say, “How can you call this inerrant? He said he had a big jazz collection, and then he said he had a small 1980s pop collection! This is what you mean by inerrancy?”
The “conservative” text critics might reply, “He said he had music in his car, and he did, and that’s the importance of this passage. Ergo, inerrancy preserved!”
Of course, this analogy doesn’t work for every instance of factual discrepency, but it might just apply to some.
Could it be that the “conservatives” have a very broad, liberal view of what makes a text trustworthy?
(And why don’t we talk about this in church? It’s like the elephant in the room.)