Packer Heat

What does J.I. Packer say about Mike Licona? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

In point 22 of his long response to Mike Licona, Norman Geisler says the following:

Speaking of “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy [which] defines it most exhaustively,” Licona claims, “But even those who helped compose it aren’t in complete agreement about its meaning. I continue to be a biblical inerrantist and subscribe to both the Lausanne Covenant and the Chicago Statement.” However, this claim by Licona is flatly false. There are only three living framers of the ICBI statements (J. I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and myself), and we all agree that Licona’s views are not compatible with the ICBI statements (see # 3). What Licona does to the ICBI statements is typical of what many of his peers do with the New Testament, namely, they read their meaning into it (eisegesis) rather than reading the framer’s view out of it (exegesis). Indeed, Licona is so bold as to affirm that those of us who are living ICBI framers do not properly understand the statements we framed! No wonder they misinterpret the New Testament. If Washington, Madison, and Jefferson were here today, by this same logic they would no doubt say to them that they did not properly understand The Declaration of Independence!

We are quite pleased that Geisler has enlisted the support of J.I. Packer, who gives a fine recommendation by the way of Henri Blocher’s “In The Beginning”, a fine work that is very sympathetic to theistic evolution. For the Framework hypothesis of creation, it really wouldn’t matter if evolution is true or not. Genesis is meant to tell the who and why. It is not meant to tell the when and how.

If Packer understands the ICBI statement so well, then what are we to make of the post that was put on Mike Licona’s Facebook page?

Dr. Licona, I noticed that Dr. Geisler has written a reply to your recent interview by TheBestSchools. Geisler’s response is at

I noticed in his point 22 that he disagrees with your statement that the framers of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) don’t always agree on how to interpret ICBI. Dr. Geisler says there were only 3 framers of ICBI, R. C. Sproul, J. I. Packer, and himself. He then says “we all agree that Licona’s views are not compatible with the ICBI statements.” I just wanted you to know that I emailed J. I. Packer last fall and asked him what he thought of your view of Matthew’s raised saints. I received this reply from him on 24 February forwarded from David Horn, the Academic Secretary at Regent College:

Hello Johan,

Thank you for your email. I have just today received the following handwritten reply from Dr. Packer.

Dear Johan Erasmus,

I apologise for lateness in responding to your email.

What Dr. Licona offers is an interpretive hypothesis as to Matthew’s meaning. What biblical inerrancy means is that Scripture, rightly interpreted, is true and trustworthy. I don’t think Licona’s guess about Matthew’s meaning is plausible, but it is not an inerrancy question.

Sincerely in Christ,

J.I. Packer

With this email, Packer is saying that Licona’s stance is one entirely of hermeneutics. He doesn’t agree with Licona’s reasoning, and that is fine, but it is not an issue of Inerrancy. If this is the case, then it would seem that Packer obviously does not understand Inerrancy according to Geisler.

At this point, one of two things could be done.

Either Geisler could finally drop this whole thing and realize he’s fighting a battle that is not harming Mike at all but is rather harming himself every step of the way. He could seek to make restitution for the damage that has been done and move on and familiarize himself more with NT studies.

Or, Packer could be thrown under the bus somehow.

As for Sproul, from what I have seen, he has not spoken on this at all and being a Preterist, is not quite likely to be as literal as Geisler and could have even more sympathies. If this is the case, then two out of three framers have no problem whatsoever with Licona’s view. Again, it does not mean they agree, but they do not see it as an Inerrancy issue.

We all hope for the former, but as of this point, the ball is not in our court and we will wait to see what happens.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


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21 Responses to “Packer Heat”

  1. John Says:

    I think you are misguided on the J.I. Packer issue. Geisler clearly states:

    Third, there is no disagreement among the framers as to the meaningof the ICBI statements with regard to the Licona issues. I called J. I. Packer today about 12:00 noon EST (May 16, 2012), and he confirmed that it was a misinterpretation of his statement to construe it to mean that Licona had not denied inerrancy in fact. He affirmed that his statement was only referring to inerrancy in a formal sense, not in a material sense. He said both Robert Gundry and Mike Licona have denied inerrancy in a material (factual) sense. For while inerrancy and the historical-grammatical interpretation of the Gospels as actual history are formally distinct, yet they are actually inseparable on this matter.

    I think this statement is very clear, J.I. Packer considers Licona’s to be affirming inerrancy (formally) but denying it in method (materially). This has been the consistent appeal by all the living framers. Yes, ALL… Sproul has addressed it in dialogues with other theologians, but hasn’t put anything in print. How do I know? He personally said it to me.

  2. apologianick Says:

    Damage control is kicking in. Again, the issue was specifically asking about Inerrancy and we got a specific reply back in print. Sorry, but I’m going to take a statement in print over just word of mouth from sources whose identity I cannot even know any day.

  3. John Says:

    Damage control, really?

    If you are going to resort to a claim of false witness on the part of Geisler about this report, you have already lost before you started. First of all, that is a slap to the face of anyones integrity. If he lied, then shame on him! If not, shame on you!

    If we are going to follow that line of reasoning, how do you know the written source wasn’t false? Granted, if either source was false, then it is null and void and adds nothing to the discussion. But, if Geisler is right, it is a mute point and everyone knows that.

    If you take that line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, namely, the dismissal of any report of another persons statements, you cannot trust anything in print that “quotes” another person or summarizes their views since you do not have immediate access to verify the actual statement. This would almost de jure and de facto render anything besides a first person report, either in print or video, null and void.

  4. apologianick Says:

    The email has a time stamp that can be verified. Nor am I saying Geisler is lying but simply he is wrong. What I do see is Geisler has had a record of taking statements out of context from what I’ve seen on this side. Now do you have a reason to suggest that the email is a fake?

  5. John Says:

    I didn’t take it to be fake. Never said that. I don’t think it is, but I don’t think it is being interpreted correctly. In fact, neither does JI Packer!

    Do you have any specific reasons to think Geisler statement if fake? do you have any evidence that he fabricated the report?

    You might say he is wrong, which is fine, but to claim that the conversation between him and Packer didn’t happen or that he is creating a false report because ‘damage control’ is simply trying to make Geisler out to be a liar. From your above statement that he is falsifying a report or creating a conversation, I think that is your means of ‘damage control.’

  6. apologianick Says:

    I would want to see if Packer has actually read Geisler’s book. The question Packer was asked was point blank if it violated Inerrancy. I would want to know what the question was that Geisler asked Packer that got a different response. Someone has their facts straight and since I see one side has a tendency to alter details, as Max Andrews has shown, excuse me if I remain skeptical.

  7. John Says:

    Furthermore, based on J.I. Packers past statements in print for the past 50 years, it is clear that he would side with Geisler on this issue even if he made no formal declaration on the issue.

    I would also like to see the email from the man that contacted JI Packer. How did he frame the question? Did he even report the situation correctly?

    All that being said, I think that there are many reasons to suggest that Packer sides with Geisler, and has not endorsed Licona’s position.

  8. John Says:

    Has Packer read Geisler’s book? Yes, he wrote the Foreword! Now, since I don’t want to seem presumptious, I know you meant Licona’s book. Being skeptical is one thing, but allowing it to be turned into a claim of false testimony is another.

  9. apologianick Says:

    You mean the same Packer who endorsed Henri Blocher’s book that has sympathies to Theistic Evolution?

    You want to see the email? The guy is on Mike’s Facebook page. You’re free to question him yourself.

  10. John Says:

    That is irrelevant, because he also endorsed Geisler’s book on the ICBI and theistic evolution. So, if you want to use a ‘this for that’ then there you go! Kind of makes that issue mute and I won’t allow that line of reasoning to develop. The issue isn’t theistic evolution, but Licona’s view of inerrancy.

    And I’ve looked on Licona’s facebook. You only see a response to the email, not the actual question given to Packer.

  11. John Says:

    Furthermore, Geisler even shows you in his sixth point:

    Sixth, Packer not only disagreed with Licona’s interpretation of Matthew 27, calling it a “guess” that was not “plausible,” but he also affirmed (in the above stated phone call) that Licona’s claim that John contradicted the Synoptic Gospel on the question of which day Jesus was crucified (in a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Spring, 2009). But this is a clear denial of the inerrancy of Scripture (see articles on Licona on In view of all this, Packer clearly affirmed his belief that Licona’s views are in fact contrary to what the ICBI affirmed about inerrancy.

  12. apologianick Says:

    If you want to see it, then feel free to go there and ask him, unless that means you have to drop the mask of anonymity.

    Also, you’re not in charge of what line of reason develops. If theistic evolution is in violation of ICBI, then why did Packer endorse a book that is sympathetic to it?

    And furthermore, we’ve already got an example of quoting practice revealed by Max Andrews. Excuse me again if seeing something like that increases skepticism.

  13. apologianick Says:

    If Geisler wants to start a new crusade on John, he’s free to do that. He’d still need to show how it violates Inerrancy. Sorry. Just assertions don’t cut it in the world of NT scholarship.

  14. John Says:

    Well, I guess Sproul just went public today.

    “As the former and only President of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Dr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI.”

    R. C. Sproul

    May 22nd, 2012

  15. apologianick Says:

    And I should care why?

    How many NT scholars have come on board yet to speak out saying that Mike is in violation? What credentials in NT scholarship does Sproul have to speak authoritatively on Mike’s view?

    Or it’s just another “A great man has spoken. Be quiet and just submit.”

  16. John Says:

    I like how your comment again diverts the real issue.

    Your post fundamentally dealt with the concept of disunity amongst the living framers of the ICBI. This has been Licona’s argument from the beginning. Respond as you may, nevertheless, it remains clear that all three living framers of the Chicago Statement stand against Licona’s position.

  17. apologianick Says:

    And disunity is just an interesting point. It is not essential. Three non-authorities in the field disagree with the authorities. So what? What NT scholars have come forward?

    Furthermore, why should I believe that a fair representation of Mike’s view was given to Sproul?

    Do you have any real reasons or is it just that ICBI has become inerrant and infallible?

  18. John Says:

    You are just angry that Sproul came out against him. Again, another distration topic to your real issue. Iroically, when you they they would side with you, you loved them.

    • apologianick Says:

      No anger at all. Drop the pscyhoanalysis. I could care less even if Packer had agreed. I just found it interesting when he didn’t. (Interesting also that the ICBI statements I saw nowhere distinguished formal from material Inerrancy)

      Sorry. I just find Geisler embarrassing himself more and more and wanting to hold back NT scholarship. Again, what NT scholars have spoken on this issue?

      No anger here. I’ve been going about my day as normal. In fact, your reply just made me laugh.

    • J. P. Holding Says:

      Bill — er, John —

      I lost my respect for Sproul when I attended his church once and he seemed more concerned with looking at his watch that talking to an interested inquirer. This issuing of a blase’ summary statement with no arguments is just another example of that sort of condescension.

      Sproul is the closest thing to being a competent scholar the ICBI framers had — but he’s still nowhere near competent enough to judge Licona’s thesis.

  19. Geisler’s Shark-Infested Waters | Deeper Waters Says:

    […] we trust that Packer also knows what is really in Licona’s book? Especially since we have earlier evidence that Packer found no problem with Licona’s views. Most of us would love to know what was in […]

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