EDIT: I hold to inerrancy. I have seen where denying it kills denominations and churches. That said, a hyper-focus on inerrancy, instead of the person to whom it witnesses, also kills denominations.
In college I would have defended inerrancy to the death. Literally. I am not being dramatic. In college I was physically assaulted by charismatics and theological liberals for my take on Scripture. If you did not accept the doctrine of inerrancy, you were a liberal. If you took the easy route and accepted only the infallibility of Scripture, then you were afraid of the hard reality of God’s revelation, and you were probably a liberal anyway.
To be fair to us Evangelicals in college, given our situation we really did not have a choice. The liberalism in the Baptist world was rank and raw. At Southern Seminary in the late 1970s (yes that was before my time), so the documentation goes, prayers were began with, “Our Mother, who art in heaven…”* A hard, if wrong-headed, defense of inerrancy is certainly understandable.
Unfortunately, inerrancy is a dead-end. The only way it can be salvaged is to immediately water-down its claims. The prima facie problems with inerrancy are the discrepancies between different gospel accounts and different historical reconstructions in Kings/Chronicles. I know many apologists have “harmonized” these accounts, but there are some problems with “harmonizations”:
- harmonizations, especially in the gospels, take away the rough edges from the text and ultimately make the two (or three) texts say the same thing. There are two problems with this: the text you have “harmonized” originally wasn’t saying what you wanted it to say. You’ve changed the text (so much for the inerrancy of Scripture). Secondly, the “difference” in the text might be pointing to a theological or narratival truth. Harmonizing that eliminates that truth.
- Many harmonizations are quite strained.
- In order to be successful at this, you have to read a whole lot, have an agile mind for smoothing over these problems, and have the necessary rhetorical skills for interpreting these problems. Few people have this, which means few people can really defend inerrancy.
*Given the doctrine of absolute simplicity, which Tillich says is the abyss of everything specific, one should not be surprised.