Apologists Debate How to Respond to Claims That Biblical Passages Contradict Each Other

Dialogue and debate over the nature of biblical inerrancy at the Southern Evangelical Seminary’s 26th annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics, held Oct. 11-12 at Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. From left to right: Mike Licona, associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University and president of Risen Jesus, Inc.; Frank Turek writer and radio host; and Richard G. Howe, professor emeritus of Philosophy and Apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary. | Facebook/Southern Evangelical Seminary

Two academics who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible held a debate over how to respond to claims of contradiction in scriptural passages.

Mike Licona, associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University and president of Risen Jesus, and Richard G. Howe, Professor Emeritus of philosophy and apologetics at Southern Evangelical Seminary, held a dialogue last week at the SES’s 26th annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics.

Each gave a presentation followed by a debate moderated by writer and radio host Frank Turek before answering questions from the audience.

Licona went first, arguing that Christians should understand inerrancy “flexibly,” noting that certain passages in the Bible showcase literary devices of their time rather than being strictly literal.

“If you were a biographer in the first century, writing for readers living in the first century, about a person who had lived in the first century, would you use the literary conventions in play in the first century or those that did not come into play until more than fifteen hundred years later?” Licona posited

Licona gave examples, namely two passages from the Gospel of Matthew that appear to contradict other Gospel passages: the healing of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13) and the cursing of the fig tree (Matthew 21:19).

Licona noted that other Gospels indicate that Matthew’s account mistakenly has the centurion coming to Jesus in person rather than sending servants and that the cursed fig tree withered later on rather than at once, as implied in Matthew.

“In these two stories, Matthew has simplified, he’s streamlined by altering some minor details,” continued Licona. “He conflates two events into one. He compresses events to have occurred over a shorter period of time. And he narrates words spoken by one person as those spoken by another.”

“But Matthew is using compositional devices that were commonly used in ancient biography in that day. In fact, many of those we use today even in our present conversations.”

During the dialogue between the two scholars, Howe later responded that passages like those in Matthew can be explained by better understanding the context of the passages.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski