Fascinatingly wrong-headed stuff.
For many potential Bible readers, that expectation that the Bible is univocal is paralyzing. You notice what seem to be contradictions or tensions between different voices in the text. You can't find an obvious way to reconcile them. You figure that it must be your problem. You don't know how to read it correctly, or you're missing something. If the Bible is God's perfect, infallible Word, then any misunderstanding or ambiguity must be the result of our own depravity. So you either give up or let someone holier than thou tell you "what it really says." I think that's tragic. You're letting someone else impoverish it for you, when in fact you have just brushed up against the rich polyvocality of biblical literature.
The Bible is anything but univocal about anything. It is a cacophony of voices and perspectives, often in conflict with one another. In many ways, those dedicated to removing all potential biblical contradictions, to making the Bible entirely consistent with itself, are no different from irreligious debunkers of the Bible, Christianity, and religion in general. Many from both camps seem to believe that simply demonstrating that the Bible is full of inconsistencies and contradictions is enough to discredit any religious tradition that embraces it as Scripture.
Bible debunkers and Bible defenders are kindred spirits. They agree that the Bible is on trial. They agree on the terms of the debate, and what's at stake, namely the Bible's credibility as God's infallible book. They agree that Christianity stands or falls, triumphs or fails, depending on whether the Bible is found to be inconsistent, to contradict itself. The question for both sides is whether it fails to answer questions, from the most trivial to the ultimate, consistently and reliably.
But you can't fail at something you're not trying to do. To ask whether the Bible fails to give consistent answers or be of one voice with itself presumes that it was built to do so. That's a false presumption, rooted no doubt in thinking of it as the book that God wrote. On the contrary, biblical literature is constantly interpreting, interrogating, and disagreeing with itself. Virtually nothing is asserted someplace that is not called into question or undermined elsewhere. Ultimately it resists conclusion and explodes any desire we might have for univocality.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of doing an interview with National Public Radio's Michele Norris about my book Roadside Religion (Beacon Press, 2005). That book tells the story of my family's "blue highways" exploration of roadside religious attractions, from the World's Largest Ten Commandments and Holy Land U.S.A. to Precious Moments Chap el and Golgotha Fun Park. Norris knew that I had grown up in a conservative Christian environment, and wondered what kinds of thoughts and feelings those places evoked for me. Her final question was meant to bring our conversation around to this topic.
"As an avowed atheist ... ," Norris began.
"Um, wait. I'm sorry. I'm not an atheist. I'm actually Christian."
"Really!? Your publicity kit says you're an atheist at least twice."
Later, I asked my publicist why the kit described me as an atheist. She said that she got it from the book's introduction, in which I wrote that there were days when I could "atheist anyone under the table." That's true. But to say that is not to say that I am an atheist. In fact, what I'd written was, "Although I can atheist anyone under the table on some days, I remain a Christian, and I remain committed to the church."