When addressing the subject of the inerrancy of Scripture in light of difficulties with which we are confronted in Scripture, E.J. Young would teach his students the following truth: "The believer," he said "will labor to reconcile seemingly contradictory details we encounter in various portions of Scripture. The unbeliever automatically insists that they are errors." Young suggested that we must labor to come to a settled position on attempts to reconcile apparent contradictions in Scripture; however, if while doing so, we find that we cannot come to an absolutely certain conclusion about how to reconcile those seeming contradictions, we should rest content in the fact that we know there is a solution though we have not been able to reach it. In short, we need to labor to know God's word as accurately as possible; but, in the end, we need to rest content that we will never know it exhaustively. Young developed this classroom advice in his important work on inerrancy, Thy Word is Truth, where he wrote:
"There are good Christian people who would like to believe in the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible, yet who hesitate because they are convinced that there are mistakes in the Scripture. With such people we have great sympathy. In serious Bible study one often encounters difficulties, and the solution of these difficulties is not always readily apparent. Foolish indeed is the man who thinks that he has the answer to every problem in the Bible...If, however, it is rash to profess to solve all of the problems which the study of the Bible brings upon us, it is yet more rash to make the dogmatic assertion that there are actual errors in the Bible."1
After considering a few of the more significant "alleged errors" in the Bible, Young concluded:
"The Bible is inerrant. The Word which the Holy God gave to man is a word that is to be trusted...He who dogmatically proclaims the presence of error in the Bible, has, as a matter of fact, arrogated to himself an amount of knowledge that he does not actually possess...as a result of further study and as a result of archeology much of what formerly was regarded as error has been demonstrated to be no error at all. There is no other document from antiquity which for accuracy can even begin to compare with the Bible. When therefore we meet difficulties in the Bible let us reserve judgment. If any explanation is not at hand, let us freely acknowledge that we do not know all things, that we do not know the solution. Rather than hastily to proclaim the presence of an error, is it not the part of wisdom to acknowledge our ignorance?" 2
It would do us a world of good to adopt this mindset when giving ourselves to a careful study of God's word. We will never err in undermining the faith of others if we are ready to say that we have sought out solutions to reconcile various passages while acknowledging that we may not have come to a completely settled conclusion. That is true humility that honors the trustworthiness of God's word, without proudly exalting ourselves to deny the divine superintendence of it or to act as though we have mastered everything in it.
1. E.J. Young Thy Word is Truth (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997) p. 163
2. Ibid., p. 182
*This first appeared at Reformation21.