Bart Ehrmann's book "Misquoting Jesus" raises many good questions in the face of one of the main doctrines taught in some conservative Protestant churches. Growing up in one such church, I was brought up with a strong sense of the infallibility of the bible and that one should rely on the text alone (sola scriptura) in matters of the spirit.
Looking back at that period of my upbringing it amazes me that though while I was giving so much authority to the text itself, I knew very little about where it came from, who wrote it, how it was transmitted from generation to generation. I implicitly assumed it was to be taken at face value.
Misquoting Jesus shows a few contradictions in the text that we have today in a simple straight-forward manner and also indicates that most pastors who have been through a theological seminary are in fact aware of many of these contradictions, but choose not share them with their congregation. In my own personal experience of getting to know a pastor or two, this has held true.
So why keep silent about these discrepancies? A possible answer is that the doctrine of the "scriptures alone" has not been the principle observed by Christians throughout history, but rather is a relatively new doctrine developed in during the rise of Protestantism. If there are other sources of genuine spiritual authority (e.g. reason, tradition, church authority), it weakens the blade wielded by the Protestant Reformation. To give recognition to these other sources, is to give some legitimacy to the papal institutes, existing scholarship, church leadership etc, all of which were being directly attacked in the Reformation.
The Archimedean point fixed point outside of the system, the point from which the whole system could be attacked, is the scripture. But for the attack to be truthful, it must be a fixed, reliable point, without error. And so the scriptures must be (or become) infallible. Or the Reformation loses its potency.
Over the last few months it is becoming more and more apparent that the task at hand requires far more than simply sola scriptura. We are called to reflect on not only the scriptures, but also on what has gone before, to be guided by intellect, our own personal experiences, and hardest of all to listen to that part of our selves that cannot be expressed in words.