Are people who use genre criticism truly opening Pandora’s Box? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Joseph Holden of Veritas Evangelical Seminary has written a long piece about genre criticism. Well, supposedly, it’s about genre criticism. Most of the post actually consists of just saying “We don’t like the way that our opponents speak about us and they should act better!” This is included in what has to be one of the longest paragraphs ever in the English language.
Noteworthy also is that Holden takes notice of a piece I wrote on another blog. This means Holden has made the mistake that Geisler didn’t, which is linking to my own work on this topic. Well for those who are here because they found that thanks to Holden, I’d like to introduce you to everything I’ve written on the topic which can be found here.
Holden begins his piece with this.
“Those within the critically-trained evangelical NT scholarly guild, I would assume, consider their ability to handle, teach, write, research, and discuss Scripture, a blessing given to them by God. Most, if not all, would agree they are also responsible to God and to those they interact with to imitate the character of Christ in love, especially to our own Christian brothers and sisters no matter what disagreements they have.”
Which got me suspicious right from the start. It’s a buttering up in order to knock someone down. Of course the ability to study the Scriptures and examine them is a gift from God, but let us remember, that we are to act in love no matter what disagreements we have. Let’s all remember those acts of love that are to be done.
What are they?
Giving pressure to someone so that they will lose their livelihood at their job.
Calling people behind the scenes to get them uninvited at conferences.
Passing petitions around behind their back in order to have them lose their reputation.
Ban and delete any challenges that come your way to said authority.
We could go on, but apparently, all of these things are okay to do in Christian love! These are just fine! What is not fine?
Actually writing a defense when these actions are done.
Writing satires that show the absurdity of a position.
Making YouTube videos that show the absurdity of a position.
Dang it! If only we’d all just put pressure on people to fire others and have them banned from conferences, we’d still be acting in Christian love!
Or is this one of the greatest examples of the pot calling the kettle black?
“One does not have to be a scholar to be aware of the susceptibility within the academy to be puffed up with pride and forget that the Word of God must guide our reason and interactions with others. To fall short of these standards is both unscholarly, unnecessary, and reveals little respect for the crucial issues pertaining to God’s Word. There is no place for a lack of respect, mockery, or the cavalier handling of various topics discussed within inerrancy despite what we think about views we deem as unpersuasive.”
Now there is a note after this and what does it link to? The dangerous heresy of Michael Bird! One wonders what Holden would have said to Isaiah when he joked about a man building an idol and making sure it doesn’t topple over. What would he said to Elijah about what he said about the prophets on Mt. Carmel? What would he have said to Jesus in Matthew 23? What would he say to Paul about wanting the circumcision crowd to go the whole way and emasculate themselves in Galatians 5?
It looks like Holden has bought into an idea of love as sentiment, when it is not. He has actually bought into an idea that is foreign to the text and imposed it on the text. This is the danger of removing it from the mind of the author. After all, the words can mean most anything then and you can superimpose your culture on the culture of the text and totally miss the meaning of what is said.
And if Holden wants to say there is a lack of respect, he needs to remember that people have indeed lost respect for Geisler and company and why is that? Because Mike Licona and Craig Blomberg are just awesome? No. That’s irrelevant to the fact. They’ve lost it because they’ve seen the way Geisler has handled himself and they don’t want any part of it.
There is also no reply to what Bird said. I happen to agree with Bird in fact. Bird made an honest assessment of the information contained in Blomberg’s book and it’s just not liked. This is like a bully on the playground who steals the toys from all the other children and doesn’t like it when someone comes and outsmarts him and takes away the toys that he stole.
“The Scriptures deserve our best. But what should we expect from critical evangelicals that deny historical affirmations presented in Scripture and/or view historical narrative in the Gospels as candidates for fiction? Perhaps I should adjust my expectations and not expect critics to handle issues pertaining to the Scriptures in a manner likened to those who actually believe the biblical author’s expressed intentions. Though this adjustment may be necessary when dealing with unbelieving critics, it should not dominate the landscape in this case since believers are involved.”
Ah. This has just got rich. Since there are people who apparently deny the historicity of the Bible, then we should not be surprised that their character is not in accordance with the Bible. Once again, getting someone disinvited to speak at conferences and having petitions going on behind one’s back? This is all well and good! This is within the bounds of how people who disagree should act! Making jokes and writing comedy pieces? Hideous villains! How unchristlike you are!
And again, the historical narrative is not being called into question. What is being called into question is whether some parts should be read as narrative or not. You don’t make the case that they are by asserting that they are. You make it by giving an argument why from the same methodology.
For instance, I am going to be doing my Master’s research on the Matthew 27 account and the resurrection of the saints. Now if Mike Licona reads my work and finds it persuasive, and my view turns out to be that I think he’s wrong, here’s what will happen. Mike will change his mind. That’s what happens when you follow the evidence where it leads. That is how you change someone’s mind. You don’t change it by saying “If you don’t agree with me, I won’t let you play in my sandbox any more.”
“Yet despite identifying with evangelical traditions, stereotypes, impugning motives, demeaning comments, and personal attacks are offered without hesitation. For example, see Blomberg’s descriptions of ICBI inerrantists who are likened to the far right and far left of “Nazism,” “Communism,” describing them as “far right,” “extreme,” and should “avoid them like the plague,” they “hindered genuine scholarship among evangelicals,” “overly conservative,” “hyperconservative,” “ultraconservative,” and do “disservice” to the gospel in CWSBB, 7-8, 11, 120, 125, 141-45, 214, 217.”
Anyone who read Blomberg’s book would find this hysterical. Blomberg is using an analogical argument and for what its worth, I for the most part agree. Avoid extremes. Note also that Blomberg points out misrepresentations made by Geisler and Farnell that are not acknowledged in this piece. Note that he points out how Robert Thomas said that he was experiencing a “satanic blindness.” That’s apparently okay.
“Obviously, this is an attempt to standardize his own critical views as “mainstream” by radicalizing and polarizing the opposition.”
Why is it that Blomberg is the one guilty? We could just as well say Geisler and Holden are guilty of this. After all, the view that we can’t know the authorial intent of an author is not what has been seen as mainstream. Note also the well poisoning by saying that Blomberg’s views are critical.
Blomberg in fact has done much to defend the Inerrancy of Scripture including writing on the historical reliability of the Gospels and his belief in Inerrancy stems from the fact that he did the historical study on the Gospels, the kind that people like Holden seem to want to avoid.
” In addition, Blomberg offers an angry and bizarre satirical rant against those critical of his view, asserting that Geisler, a former ICBI framer and staunch defender of inerrancy, “Denies…ICBI Inerrancy!” and should be cancelled from speaking engagements.”
And here, Holden has made the mistake. He has shown that my work has been noticed by him. Well it was never linked to before, but now we can say it has been so thank you very much. We eagerly anticipate since it has been shown that we are in the orbit how a response will come to the open challenge, you know, the one that has been regularly denied by Geisler et al.
I also do not think Blomberg has any anger in this rant at all. What Holden and people like him do not realize is that by now, what he is defending has just come across for the most part as silly. Of course, Holden will see this as saying Inerrancy is silly. It is not. What is bizarre is this view that wants to avoid any real interaction with NT scholarship.
“Bird is not exempt from these personal attacks either, he says Geisler is the “villain,” and his views are “extreme” and “to the right of Attila the Hun,” “not a…pleasant chap,” and remarks Geisler “has never found an institution worthy of him.”
Keep in mind, this is not acceptable. All the other behaviors mentioned above? Entirely acceptable! Note to people like Holden, we’ll think you have a case here if we start seeing our opponents practice what they preach. Geisler went public first going all out against Mike Licona and then didn’t like it when he realized all the opposition he unleashed.
“Licona has his share of doozies as well (e.g., Geisler and company are theological bullies, satirical mockeries of Geisler in cartoon form, etc).”
Something seems to escape Holden here. Is Geisler being a bully? Well geez. Maybe that is the case. Maybe people have been looking at the behavior and saying “Geisler is being a bully.” Let’s suppose for the sake of argument even that that’s wrong. That it’s even being said should raise up some concern. Why is it so many people who used to respect Geisler now want nothing to do with him? Could it be because of actions in this whole crusade?
But apparently, making a satire about not having Geisler speak at your conferences for denying inerrancy is unacceptable. Actually doing that in reality as Geisler has done to his opponents is entirely acceptable.
“There is no reason why critical NT interpreters cannot be cordial in fostering an atmosphere of discovery rather than elevating fraternity above orthodoxy. Though ad hominem can be an effective way to make an orthodox view look “radical,” it is actually Bird, Blomberg, and Licona’s view of Scripture that are alien to the church’s view of Scripture from its beginning and to the ICBI definition.”
I’ll give you a hint who the first person was who was not cordial in this and his initials are N and G. Yet with this last sentence, it makes one wonder if Holden and others think when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, that He also included all the statements in ICBI. ICBI has been lifted up as the standard definition of Inerrancy of the church historically. It is a wonder how this could be known without knowing authorial intent of the speakers of the past, but oh well. Could it be instead that a view that wants to divorce the text from its social context and culture is actually the one that is aberrant.
Now rather than go through all of this, let’s skip down to get to some real meat. Note that in all of this so far, not one thing has really been said about the subject matter of the title. From ICBI we get
“We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.”
And the question then is “What presents itself as factual?” For instance, the temptation narratives present themselves as factual accounts. How did they happen? Was Jesus first tempted to jump from the temple or was he first tempted to worship the devil? OT narrative accounts of the Israelites totally destroying the Amalekites then have just a few chapters later the Amalekites showing up again to fight. This has been the problem with interpreting the texts in a literalistic fashion. (Interestingly, according to Holly Ordway who is an expert on literature at HBU, the word literal really means “according to the intent of the author.”)
“What is more, Article XVIII rejects “the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching…” “
And once again, the mistake is made that you cannot dehistoricize a text that was never meant to be historical to begin with. If the case is made that it is not to be read as historical, one needs to make an argument why it is wrong by showing the flaws in the opponent’s argument. One does not do so by just saying “Well they’re wrong!”
“Any attempt to arrive at the biblical author’s unexpressed intentions to dehistoricize his expressed intentions through extra-biblical literature is guess work. The biblical author’s unexpressed intentions are lost to us at his death, so nothing short of a séance will suffice in securing unexpressed intent!”
And insofar as it goes, this is correct. We do have to guess. We often have to guess what is meant when we have the author of a piece right there. This includes all forms of language. How many guys out looking for a lady have asked their friends the question “Is that girl flirting with me?” just by body language? How many times has a husband or wife expected their spouse to “get the message” without saying something explicitly?
Could it be Holden’s problem is he wants absolute 100% security?
Well if that’s what he wants, he won’t get it.
What people do in this case is they make a strong case and seek to not grant 100% certainty, but seek to remove reasonable doubt. This is the standard in court cases in our country. You can still make a strong case and go with reasonable likelihood.
And what if we say that we are certain all these texts have to be taken literalistically? What happens then when something like Galileo happens? The text was often being interpreted in a literalistic way? What was most persuasive in showing us that was wrong? Extra-Biblical information. Would that be seen as dehistoricizing the text?
“Similarity in genre does not secure our knowledge of unexpressed authorial intent no matter how “similar” it is to the Gospels, since we would still be left without knowing whether the biblical author’s intent was the same as the pagan author’s intent. Anything else is pure speculation. This method elevates what the author intended to say over and above what he did actually say.”
But in fact, if Geisler and Holden say we have to take these as historical, then upon what grounds will they deny that other accounts are not to be taken as historical? Do they take the miracles of Apollonius in the same way? Do they take the events at the death of Caesar and others the same way? How do they get to the Biblical text being the right one without begging the question?
Also, it is not pure speculation. I suspect Holden thinks this because he has not really interacted with NT scholarship. It is reasonable assumptions made based on the evidence.
We could go on with this, but there would just be more of the same. What we see going on with Holden is just paranoia and panic. What is truly fearful to me is not that some would use historical criticism to argue against the text. That will happen regardless. What is fearful to me is evangelicals being frightened at that thought? Why? Will the Bible not stand up? For me, I can say throw at the text all the tests that you want to. If our scholarship is done rightly and honestly then in the end, if the text is inerrant, it will come out unscathed.
Now we’ll just sit back and wait to see if Geisler will respond to the challenges presented or just keep pushing the panic button.
Holden’s piece can be found here.