A Response to AOMin.org

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’m going to respond to what was recently stated at AOMin.org on the question of Licona’s inerrancy. As I’ve stated, I am the son-in-law of Licona, but I try to be as objective as I can. The fact that at this point I cannot say with certainty that I agree with Licona’s position should show that some. I do not however in anyway agree with the contention of Geisler and others that Licona is violating inerrancy.

To his credit, looking at the source that Jamin Hubner points to to indicate James White’s thought, White does not attribute the argument directly to Licona of “Well this is just in one gospel.” Indeed, if that was Licona’s only reason for thinking the text is not historical, we would be having some issues.

Also, the reason that Licona is taking the position he has is not because he doubts the power of God. This is especially evident in his debate with Stephen Patterson where he talks about how he had a friend who was miraculously healed and he definitely attributes that to God. (It’s a fascinating story to read or hear about. I highly recommend you do so.)

The sad reality is that most people will not read Licona’s book to know his arguments. Again, to his credit, White does not use these arguments directly on Licona, but Hubner seems to think that they apply. Now it could be that Licona is entirely wrong in his position, but it is certainly the case that Hubner is entirely wrong on why Licona takes the position that he takes.

Licona’s reasons for thinking this come from his reading of Greco-Roman biographies. Keep in mind that this is someone taking the time to read the biographies that are of the same genre as that of the gospels in an attempt to better understand the gospels. This is someone who really wants to know the writing of the time.

This is in no way a concession to liberalism. Were it so, Licona would be giving the arguments such as one gospel recording it or the problems of miracles. He is not. Instead, he is saying that he has read numerous such accounts in the deaths of great kings in the Greco-Roman world.

At that is a question for his accusers. Were you to read such an account, would you conclude that the historian was ignorant? This was not just in secular historians as well. Josephus records a number of strange signs and wonders. Does he intend all of them to be literal? Did all such Roman historians?

Well if the account is not historical, why state it?

You know, isn’t it about time someone asked that question?

From my understanding, what Licona is saying is that these events not only were written as apocalyptic descriptions of the death of a great king, but also to show in such imagery what the effects were of the death of Christ. The temple being torn would show that the barrier that allowed entrance into the Holy of Holies had been torn and now all could freely enter the presence of YHWH. The darkness and earthquake would both be seen as a symbol of judgment. What about the resurrection?

It’s noteworthy that the text says the people entered the city after Christ’s resurrection. The idea would be that since Christ was raised, saints would be raised as well.

There are some people who do see that but think that in addition to that, God could have really done a game of one-upmanship on the leaders in Jerusalem by making what was just imagery for the deaths of those great kings be an actual historical event in this case.

Now the question can be “You know, this is a fascinating idea! Is there any way we can determine if this is the case?”

Why yes there is.

It’s called research.

We don’t just dismiss the idea. We study it and see the writing techniques of the time and decide what the case is based on the evidence. We don’t decide what we are to believe based on force. When Licona is told to just get in line and believe what we believe, it is hardly a convincing argument. (If someone wanted to impugn him further, they could just say that if he changed his mind that he really didn’t do that. He was just doing that to maintain his reputation.)

I don’t know about you all, but I’m certainly interested in seeing this researched. Put the finest minds in evangelicalism out there we can find and study it. If they come back and say “Licona. We did the research. Here’s why it looks like your hypothesis while interesting is wrong” and they list the reasons and Licona accepts them, then fair enough. He will do so knowing it was researched.

The question is what would his critics say to such research? Would they just dismiss it or not?

Do we want to be committed to our ideal of what the text should say or what it is that the author intended to say?

I hope that in response to this White will himself engage with Licona’s arguments. I know White has a large following as well. While I have not been impressed in the past, perhaps I might be pleasantly surprised this time.

4 Responses to “A Response to AOMin.org”

  1. Brooks R. Says:

    I’ve read Norman Geisler’s and Mike Licona’s statements on this. I’ve also seen various blogger/apologist responses to this situation, and I find it very disturbing. I’m really finding it difficult to remain “evangelical” with circles of heretic hunters who are self-imposed Vicar’s of Christ, able to draw tight and strict lines on minor doctrines, turning them into essentials. God be with your family!

  2. apologianick Says:

    A friend of mine and I have been discussing the exact same thing. Already some people are saying they don’t want to be a part of ETS if this is the kind of thing that’s going on. How many scholars are being turned away by this approach? What does it make those starting think of the world of apologetics when it’s tooth and claw like this?

  3. Brooks R. Says:

    Exactly, there are apologetic ministries that seem to have built their programs critiquing those who aren’t of their particular theological thread. They spend their time arguing that anything but their position of God’s sovereignty and view of apologetics is sub-Christian and God dishonoring. I have found these particular “ministries” to be anything but uplifting and useful as they focus the bulk of their work on labeling fellow Christian ministries as unedifying. The same can be said about certain individuals who lead large ministries/churches/academic positions and are given that sort of platform. Roger Olson’s writing (both his blog and books) have really become an insightful look into these internal heresy hunts.

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