For example, the tension the church has long wrestled with between Paul's emphasis on grace and James' emphasis on works, one I had long before learned to understand in terms of different rhetorical situations, Paul addressing Christian identity (Romans and Galatians) and James addressing Christian ethics, were dealt with in one of my seminary classes as an actual contradiction that neither could nor should be harmonized. When asked the obvious question, "so which one is right?", the professor just shrugged his shoulders and said something like "we need to adjust our understanding of Scripture to make room for contradictory positions."
This is wrong, and not for the reasons a fundamentalist might claim like "the Bible cannot have contradictions." Its wrong because the professor thought he had come to an appropriate end of the conversation with this comment, like his task was merely to lay bare what each biblical author thought was true and then show, with profound post-modern hipness, how they didn't agree about what was true. It is wrong because the real task of biblical interpretation, though it certainly involves appreciating tensions in the biblical text, is to go beyond them, coming to understand what each biblical author is telling us about God and then to move on to a direct understanding of that reality within God, a movement we are enabled to make through the Self-revelation of God in Christ and the regeneration of the Spirit. Since there is only one God, we cannot be satisfied with the conclusion that the biblical authors disagree - we must penetrate into the cohesion of the biblical testimony to be found within the singular objective reality of God Himself.
T. F. Torrance writes,
A great deal has been made in modern biblical scholarship of what is called the 'pluralism' manifest in the New Testament writings, and that is understandable once they are subjected to critical analysis apart from the basic framework of the New Testament in which they are set. But a very different picture emerges when we attend to the actual scope within which they have arisen and taken shape. Then for all their rich diversity they are found to have a deep underlying unity in Jesus Christ the incarnate and risen Lord, who is the dynamic center and the objective focus of their creative integration. But that calls for a way of interpretation in which the images or patterns at the linguistic and theological levels are stereoscopically coordinated in our viewing, for it is through the scope of their conjoint reference that real meaning and coherence come to light (Divine Meaning, 106).Torrance offers exactly this kind of interpretive approach in his brilliant book, Divine Meaning. In it he speaks of coordinating the semantic function of biblical statements with their syntactic function (by which he means the intertextual organization and focus across the whole canon, pointing to the sovereign organization of the revelatory events in the whole history of Israel and Christ) so that a common exegetical framework emerges, which then becomes the controlling center of biblical interpretation - this framework he rightly takes to be the incarnation, life (teachings and deeds), death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ (113-118).
It is precisely this kind of exegetical framework (disparagingly spoken of as "creedal", which sounds like a compliment to me) which is enthusiastically rejected by so many biblical scholars, even those employed by educational institutions with an evangelical mission. It is rejected because it is perceived to be forcing the Bible into an agreement based on external theological decisions made by later church councils. It is rejected so that "the Bible can speak for itself." But the Bible can only speak for itself if it is listened to, which is exactly how those creedal frameworks emerged (particularly the Apostles and Nicene Creeds, to Torrance's mind and my own). Interpreting the Bible according to the analogy of Scripture and regula fidei (the rule of faith, i.e. the early catholic creeds) is not forcing the Bible to agree but discerning its objective internal agreement. Rejecting this will inevitably lead to focusing on peripheral and even exegetically forced disagreements. In this case the bible cannot be authoritative for Christian thinking. How could it? How can one submit his/her mind to the authority of contradictory thinking? One is then left wondering why these biblical scholars who have freed themselves from creedal thinking are given jobs in evangelical education institutions. How are they helping the church by teaching fractured interpretation techniques of a book that cannot wield any authority?