In Defense of Craig Blomberg

Is Craig Blomberg a scholar that should be avoided? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Craig Blomberg’s excellent book “Can We Still Believe The Bible?”. I found it to be an excellent book that I highly recommend.

Apparently, some others didn’t think so.

Specifically, Norman Geisler, ever on the hunt for people who are going after his version of inerrancy.

There is no need to guess what Geisler’s stance is. He outright tells us.

“Denver Seminary Prof Denies Inerrancy

Link: http://tinyurl.com/k5nnjw2

Dr. Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary attacks inerrancy in a recent book titled “Can We Still Believe in the Bible?” While he believes the Bible is reliable, he denies it is inerrant in the same sense that the 300 scholars of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy meant when they produced and signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (the same statement adopted by the Evangelical Theological Society’s ~3,000 members) and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics.”

Well let’s look at this part alone.

Does Blomberg deny inerrancy? No. He doesn’t. In fact, as a member of ETS, he would have to hold to inerrancy in some sense. Therefore, right at the start, the well is poisoned as the reader will think that Blomberg does deny inerrancy.

Looking in the article itself, we see the following:

“The real answer to the question posed by Craig Blomberg’s book title is: Yes, we can believe in the general reliability of the Bible, but No we do not believe in its inerrancy, at least not in the sense meant by the framers of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). Blomberg mistakenly attributes his own version of inerrancy to the ICBI.”

I find this incredible. The Bible is reliable, yes, but this work is going against ICBI and therefore it cannot be accepted?

Frankly, as an apologist who debates much more online and elsewhere than I’m sure Geisler is nowadays, I would be ecstatic just having people realize that the Bible is reliable. I really don’t care for this all-or-nothing game where we either have to go with all-out inerrancy or else we must remain skeptical.

And I do say that as an Inerrantist.

Yet Geisler goes on to say that Blomberg does not believe in its inerrancy, at least not according to the standards of ICBI. So this raises a question.

Can someone disagree with ICBI and still believe in inerrancy?

It’s kind of the same situation Blomberg addresses in his book about KJV-onlyists. If the KJV is the only true form of Scripture, does that mean mankind was without Scripture until 1611? Does that mean someone must learn King James English to know what Scripture says?

In the same way, does this mean that until ICBI came along that no one knew what inerrancy was or no one truly held to a view of Scripture that could be called inerrancy? If ICBI does equal inerrancy, then it would mean that inerrancy would not be a historical doctrine of the Christian church. If ICBI does not equal inerrancy, then one could believe in inerrancy without holding to ICBI as inerrancy is a doctrine that can exist independently of ICBI.

Geisler says Blomberg attributes his own version of inerrancy to ICBI. Is that really what’s happening? Why not just go with Blomberg’s own view of his view? If Geisler considers himself authoritative to interpret the ICBI statements, shouldn’t Blomberg’s view of his own position be authoritative? Shouldn’t he be the best one to say what he really believes?

And if he says then that he believes in inerrancy, should we not accept that?

The Geislers of this world will have nothing of it. It’s either their way or the highway.

And this is why so many people today are really starting to say that they don’t want to identify with inerrancy like this any more. If Geisler wants to blame someone for his legacy of ICBI going to waste, nay, for his entire life’s work being tarnished entirely, then all he needs to do is look in the mirror. There are several looking at Geisler’s approach in all of this and saying “If this is what is meant by believing in ICBI, I want no part of it.”

Count me as one of those.

Keep in mind some didn’t sign the ICBI document because they thought it gave too much leeway. It’s my understanding that Henry Morris would not sign it because it would allow for old-earth creationism. Does that mean that Henry Morris denies inerrancy? While I would disagree with Morris’s interpretations, I would hardly say that not signing ICBI meant a denial of inerrancy.

Let’s also deal with a misnomer. These were not 300 scholars who signed this. No doubt, some were scholars. No doubt, some are not. Hal Lindsey, for instance, would not be counted as a scholar. You do not get to call someone a scholar because they know a lot of stuff about the Bible (Supposedly) or some other field. I would consider myself quite well-read on Scripture, but in no way would I consider myself a scholar at this point. That’s a goal to aim for, but it has not been reached.

So anyway, let’s move on.

“However, our response here is not with persons but with principles. So, our critique is not against any person but only the ideas expressed. Our evaluation is focused on what they teach, not on their character or motives. We respect the individuals as scholars who disagree with inerrancy and love them as brothers in Christ. Our concern is with one thing and one thing only: Is their teaching in accord with the doctrine of inerrancy as defined by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI)? So, when we use of the word “inerrancy” in this article we mean the ICBI view of inerrancy as expressed in the following documents.”

Well it’s nice to know that there’s nothing personal in all of this. If this were true however, it would certainly be quite different from the hounding that went on after Mike Licona. Yet I am sure I am not the only one concerned about this last statement. The only concern is if the teaching is in according with ICBI inerrancy.

I have made a statement before that I think Geisler has ICBI in the back of his Bible.

I am now convinced I was wrong.

It is in the very front.

” Blomberg is aware of all these ICBI statements on inerrancy and even cites some of them (Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible? [hereafter B], 136, 149, 170, 178, 222, 262). He even goes so far as to claim agreement with everything in the “Chicago Statement’ (CSBI) on inerrancy except one implied word (B, 273), the word always in the last line. He believes that ICBI is claiming that a denial of inerrancy always has grave consequences. Otherwise, Blomberg even calls the “Chicago Statement” on Biblical inerrancy (CSBI) “a carefully crafted document” (B, 149). Further, he praises Article 18 of CSBI, saying, “this affirmation reinforces everything we have been discussing” (B, 170). In addition, he commends the “reasonably well highlighted” statement on genre criticism in CSBI (B, 178). Strangely, Blomberg even commends one Chicago statement more than the other, declaring: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics CSBH) has not had nearly the lasting effect that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy did, which is a shame, because in many ways it is the superior of the two documents” (B, 261, n. 98).”

Looking at the references here, it’s noteworthy that on page 178, Blomberg does say it could have been highlighted more. He goes on to say “Institutions or organizations that claim to abide by it must allow their inerrantist scholars the freedom to explore the various literary options without reprisal.”

If only these words could be written in gold.

This is indeed the situation. If a scholar says he believes in inerrancy, let him make his case. Let him use the best scholarly tools for examination. If his case is false, it will not hold up. If it does not have the support from the data, others will not follow it. On the other hand, if it is true and if it is supportable, then we should seek to go with it. Are we not to be people of truth?

If Christians are called before an inquisition of sorts because they are wanting to explore an option, then we have reached a dangerous day for Christianity. We can no longer then say we are people of truth if we fear to look at where we think the evidence could lead.

Consider the case for the resurrection. If we assume inerrancy at the start, it would be easy to write a book defending the resurrection. Here’s how it goes.

The Bible is Inerrant.

The Bible says Jesus bodily rose from the dead.

Jesus bodily rose from the dead.

And then we can all sleep well tonight as the case has been proved.

Or you could actually have to do the real scholarly work of examining the texts, not assuming inerrancy, coming at it from the grounds that a skeptic would, and still being able to demonstrate the Bible is right on the question of the resurrection.

I would even suggest that a minister wanting to get up and teach on the resurrection on Easter Sunday while he will likely hold to inerrancy in a conservative church, he should still give reasons from a scholarly perspective about why the resurrection is true. (In fact, I did this when I spoke at my grandmother’s funeral. I had ten minutes to speak. The first five was building a case for the resurrection as briefly as I could. The last five were explaining what a difference it made.)

Geisler says there are some points that according to Blomberg one can believe without denying inerrancy. What are these?

“1. He denied the historicity of Jesus’ command about getting the coin from the mouth of the fish (in Matthew 17:27), saying, “Yet even the most superficial application of form criticism reveals that this is not a miracle story, because it is not even a story” (“NT Miracles and Higher Criticism” in JETS 27/4 [December 1984] 433). But this is a futile attempt to defend his disbelief by diverting attention from his denial of the historicity of this text on the grounds that it was not a story but a command (B, 263, n 113). By focusing on these factors, attention is deflected from a crucial point, namely, that Blomberg does not believe this event ever happened, as the Bible says it did. Blomberg added, “Further problems increase the likelihood of Jesus’ command being metaphorical” (B, “NT Miracles,” 433).”

Unfortunately, Geisler has not paid attention to the story, strange for someone who wants to go by what the text “literally” says. Nowhere in this account do you hear of Simon Peter going and catching a fish and getting a coin out of its mouth. Blomberg would not deny that it could happen, but the text does not say that it did. This would be strange as with many miracles, even where Jesus is not directly present, there is a record that the event took place. Here, there is not.

So could there be a metaphor? Let’s consider something. I know it’s a bizarre idea, but how about we examine Blomberg’s case and critique it from a scholarly perspective? Otherwise it becomes this.

The Bible is Inerrant.

Geisler’s interpretation is what the text says.

Therefore, Geisler’s interpretation is Inerrant.

Blomberg’s interpretation disagrees with Geisler.

Therefore, Blomberg denies inerrancy.

It’s at this point that one wonders if Geisler has become his own pope.

“2. According to Blomberg, “The author’s intention [in Genesis] is almost entirely to narrate the “who” rather than the “how” of creation” (B, 151). So, almost nothing informs us about how origins occurred, whether by creation or by evolution.”

In fact, I would agree with this. This is in fact why I interviewed John Walton on The Lost World of Genesis One</a. I agree with his view that Genesis is meant to tell us about the nature of God and His purpose in creating rather than how He did it or if He used evolution or not.

Has Geisler made a sufficient case that the Genesis account must answer our apologetics questions about origins? That might be what the big debate is about today, but was it really the question that would have been on the mind of Moses's readers? Was it really the argument they would need? Would they be more interested in how the creation came about, or in dealing with the polytheistic accounts around them?

Since this is in fact my position, if I say Genesis is focused on God and His purposes, how is that a denial of inerrancy? It seems quite odd really as well. It's like saying "The problem with Blomberg's view is that He allows for an approach that focuses on the God of creation rather than how He created."

Hmmmm. Which position do we think is more important in Genesis? Is it the who or the how?

And keep in mind, a view that was very much framework in its approach was that of Henri Blocher in his work "In The Beginning", which was in fact endorsed by J.I. Packer. Packer, we must remember, is one of the framers of ICBI. Such a view could allow for theistic evolution and it would not be a problem.

Therefore when we come to point 3

"3. Blomberg claims that “Some [inerrantists] opt for forms of theistic evolution in which God creates the universe with all the mechanisms built in to give rise…to each new development in the creative ‘week’” (B, 151). This too is deemed compatible with inerrancy according to Blomberg."

We have it answered already then. Geisler wants us to rise up in defense with the code word of "evolution" as if to assume that this must be stomped out at all costs. Strange this comes from such a defender of Thomism since many Thomists really have no problem with theistic evolution.

#4 on the list is

"4. He adds, “Must there have been a historical Adam and Eve? . . . Many scholars, including a few evangelicals, think not” (B, 152). Blomberg adds, “Nothing in principle should prevent the persons who uphold inerrancy from adopting a view that sees adam (“man” or Adam) and hawwa (“life or Eve) as symbols for every man and woman…” (B, 152)."

And once again, we have a code situation. If Geisler wants to argue against this view, what he needs to do is to critique a position like that of Lamoureux in "Four Views on the Historical Adam" which I reviewed here. It won’t work to say “Inerrancy, therefore the position is false.” Geisler has to show that his interpretation is the right one. Now I do not find Lamoureux’s position persuasive, but I am not ready to go after him. I am happy to say it is not an area of expertise for me so I am indeed speaking as a layman on that matter.

“5. Further, Blomberg believes that “None of this theology [about Job’s view on suffering] requires Job to have ever existed any more than the teaching of the parable of the Good Samaritan requires the Samaritan to have been a real person” (B, 156). He added, “Almost nothing is at stake if Job never existed, whereas everything is at stake if Jesus never lived” (B, 223).”

Question then. Would the lesson of Job be true even if Job never lived? Answer. Yes. Would Christianity be true if Jesus never lived? Answer. No. Why? Because Christianity is entirely dependent on real actions taking place in space and time. The lesson of Job is not dependent in that way. Does that mean it is untrue? No. I have no problem accepting Job as a historical figure.

“6. Likewise, he asserts that “Surely, however, someone might argue, Jonah must be completely historical, because Jesus himself likens his death and resurrection to Jonah’s experience with the great fish (Matt. 12:40; Luke 11:30). Actually, this does not follow at all” (B, 157). ”

Unfortunately, here Geisler gives part of the argument and then ignores the rest. The last sentence would tell you there is more. Blomberg makes the point that one could talk about Frodo going to Mordor and make a lesson out of it without thinking Frodo is a historical figure. The amazing thing is Blomberg makes a case for the accuracy of Jonah right after that and this is completely ignored by Geisler. It will sadly be ignored by his readers as well who will refuse to read Blomberg’s book and get the treasure trove of knowledge he has for us.

“7. Further, “Ultimately, what one decides about its [the Book of Isaiah’s] composition or formation need not have anything to do with biblical inerrancy at all” (B, 162, 163), even though he admits Jesus mentioned “the prophet Isaiah” as being author of texts in both sections of Isaiah (B, 161).”

And in dealing with this, Geisler will need to deal with an approach such as that found in The Lost World of Scripture, which was co-authored by John Walton who I referred to above and by Brent Sandy, who I interviewed here.

“8. Isaiah may not have predicted “Cyrus” by name 150 years in advance (in Isaiah 45:1) of his reign because “Cyrus could in fact be a dynasty name (like “Pharaoh” in Egypt) rather than a personal name (B, 162). This too is deemed compatible with inerrancy.”

How could this be incompatible? If Cyrus is indeed a name of a dynasty, then this would be an accurate statement. Geisler can only assume that it is not. If the Bible is teaching about a dynasty that will free the Jews from exile, then he is speaking the truth. I in fact wonder if the same could be going on with the ruler Abimelech in Genesis. The name can be translated as “My Dad is King.” Could this not point to a dynasty as well?

“9. According to Blomberg, the prophet Daniel may not have predicted all the things his book indicates because “Perhaps two works associated with the prophet Daniel and is successor, written at two different times, were combined” (B, 164).”

See my reply to #7 for this.

“10. Blomberg, argues that treating sections of “Matthew as Midrash” and not as history would have been taken by his audience “who would have understood exactly what he was doing, not imagining his embellishment to be making the same kinds of truth claims as his core material from Mark and Q” (B, 166).”

This was the position of Gundry which we will be getting to. I will save it for later.

“11. Likewise, Blomberg believes that the story of “Lazarus” (in Luke 16) is a “parabolic fiction” (B, 150).”

There are many fine evangelical scholars who see the story as a parable. I also see it as a parable and parables are fictional, unless Geisler suddenly thinks the fires of Hell are literal and that there is literally a great chasm between Heaven and Hell.

Well if that’s the case, why would there be someone named in this one?

Lazarus would be named so that he would be seen as honorable in comparison to the rich man. The only unnamed character in Ruth, for instance, is the one who refuses his duty to Ruth. This is a way of shaming him. Jesus’s parable is not meant to give the furniture of the afterlife, but rather to teach us that just because one has wealth in this life, that one is not necessarily living in the favor of God, and vice-versa for poverty. By not even giving the rich man a name, he is showing that the rich man is essentially not someone worth thinking about.

#12 deals with views based on Blomberg’s interaction with Mormonism. Not having read the book, I will not comment.

Moving on to some of Geisler’s responses, I wish to go to #6 straight away since it deals with an area I do consider myself knowledgeable on.

“Traditionally, many have considered the Gospels to be a genre of their own (sui generis) because of their unique nature as a revelation of God. However, Blomberg buys into the currently popular notion that the Gospels should be interpreted by extra-biblical genre. He wrote: “Once we determine, as best we can, what a passage affirms, according to the conventions of its style, and genre, a commitment to inerrancy implies acceptance of the truth of those affirmations. But a commitment to inerrancy does not exclude a priori any given literary style, form, or genre that is not inherently deceptive” (B, 164). In short, we must determine first what a passage means according to its genre. We cannot know in advance that it is going to be historical just because it is a narrative or is in a historical book. Further, the genre can be an extra-biblical like the Greco-Roman genre. Hence, an extra-biblical genre can determine the meaning of a biblical text. This is, of course, contrary to the ICBI statements on genre for several reasons.”

The notion is not the “Currently popular” one, but the currently scholarly one. Has Geisler critiqued yet the work of Burridge or that of Talbert and shown that their views are false?” If he has not, then he has not grounds for going against the scholarly consensus just because they go against his pet viewpoint.

Also, keep in mind Geisler was challenged on this by my friend Greg Masone, who was subsequently banned from Geisler’s page for pointing out the challenge. Geisler has NEVER accepted this challenge. It can be found here.

Because of this, it means Geisler is expecting his critics to answer his charges, but he is not willing to answer theirs.

Geisler considers these views extra-biblical, but what does this even mean? Is one only allowed to write Scriptures in a certain genre? Would it be that if Matthew began writing his Gospel that he’d hear a voice from Heaven say “Matthew! Do not write as the pagans do even though your work will be read on them! Write in a style completely unique that no one has ever done before!”?

Note also this usage of extra-biblical material is highly selective.

For instance, Geisler thinks that Genesis 1 teaches an old Earth. Why? Because modern science has shown us that it does.

So let’s bring in a YEC at this point. My hypothetical YEC at this point will say

“Geisler believes in an old Earth in Genesis 1, but this is based on the currently popular notion that modern science is right in its view of the age of the Earth. A true biblical interpretation however will not bring in extra-biblical science but will instead allow Scripture to be its own interpreter and show that the Earth is indeed young. Therefore, Geisler’s view is certainly incompatible with inerrancy and he is using extra-biblical science to deny the historicity of a young Earth and therefore the text.”

And yes, this is not my view at all. If this is said, what can Geisler say? If he points to his own authority, is he not making himself a pope of inerrancy?

In fact, none of Geisler’s defenses work here. Consider the first.

” First, ICBI Article XIII forbids the use of extra-biblical genre to determine the meaning of a biblical text. It reads “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (emphasis added). Further, CSBH Article XIV says: “We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical facts” (emphasis added). ”

So extra-biblical genre cannot be used, but extra-biblical science can be used. The Jews in the time of Jesus would know about Greco-Roman bioi. The Jews in the time of Moses would not know about modern science. Was the truth of Genesis 1 then lost until modern science came along? Why can Geisler use information the Jews did not have to interpret Genesis 1, but Licona and Blomberg cannot use information the Jews did have to interpret the Gospels?

“Second, ICBI demands interpreting “Scripture by Scripture” (CSBI Article 18), not the Bible by extra-biblical genre. That is, nothing external to the New Testament text should be hermeneutically determinative of the meaning in the text. In some cases, one can derive the meaning (use) of a term from contemporary use of the word. But the meaning of a text is discovered from studying the text in its grammatical and historical setting, as compared to related Scripture on that text.”

Nothing external to the NT should be used to determine the meaning of the Gospels, but science that is external to Genesis one can be used to determine the meaning of Genesis. Why not have Scripture interpret Scripture? (Even though that is a nonsense statement. Interpretation is done by minds. Scripture comes from a mind but it does not have a mind itself.)

” Third, the alleged “purpose of the author” of which Blomberg speaks is not the determinative factor in understanding a text. For there is no way to know what the author had in his mind behind the text except by what he affirmed in the text. Hence, the appeal to the linguistic philosophy of John Austin to determine the illocutionary (purpose) act or the perlocutionarly act (results) is futile. Usually, all we have in Scripture is the locutionary act (What is affirmed). So, the locus of meaning has to be in what is affirmed, not why it is affirmed because often we are just guessing about that. Thus, the genre critic Blomberg is using extra-biblical ideas to determine the meaning of the biblical text.”

And if this is the case, then why does Geisler keep pointing to what the founders meant when they wrote X statement in ICBI? When Geisler has done that, he has just given us another text and we cannot understand his intent. Why do we keep hearing about what the founders intended and how that matters for ICBI, but we can’t try to know what the authors intended?

Keep in mind that this is not really a Thomistic stance. No less a Thomist than Mortimer Adler has written on how one should seek to understand the authorial intent of a text. Keep in mind that also because we do not know why a practice was affirmed, it does not mean the readers at the time did not know.

Yet this whole situation gets even more bizarre.

“Not only do the ICBI statements repeatedly contradict Blomberg’s view on inerrancy, but he repeatedly distorts the ICBI statements and demeans the character of those who defend the inerrancy of Scripture. We note first of all his unscholarly and unprofessional characterizations of those who defend the historical biblical view of inerrancy as represented in the ICBI statements.”

Yes. Because coming out and saying that people deny inerrancy and seeking to have their livelihood removed and passing around petitions behind their backs is perfectly acceptable behavior.

Geisler is like the schoolyard bully who goes after the other children who refuse to play the way he does, but when someone stands up to him, he then cries “Foul!”

“Blomberg often employs condemnation and exaggeration instead of refutation related to inerrantists claims. He labels inerrantists, for example, as “very conservative” (B, 7), “overly conservative” (B, 217), “ultra conservative” (B, 11, 214), “hyperconservative” (B, 13), “extremely conservative” (B, 7). Of course, this tends to make his views look more moderate by comparison, when, as we shall see, they are in direct opposition to those the mainstream evangelical view as reflected in the ICBI statements. He even likens ICBI defenders of inerrancy to Nazis and Communist (B, 8)! He quotes with approval the statement, “the far left and the far right—avoid them both, like the plague” (B, 8). At one point he stops just short of questioning the Christianity of ICBI supporters (B, 254). What is more, he sometimes makes it very clear about whom he is speaking by name (Robert Thomas, David Farnell, William Roach, and myself)–all Ph.D. in biblical related studies who have written critical reviews of Blomberg’s positions. He also addresses Dr. Al Mohler and Master’s Seminary in negative terms.
Such exaggerated language is not only unprofessional and unscholarly, it borders on being morally libelous, as the following statements reveal. Strangely and inconsistently, Blomberg responds strongly when other scholars use a negative term about his views (B, 254).”

It is amusing to see Geisler say Blomberg compares them to Nazis. What Blomberg does is refer to an English teacher in high school who lived through Nazism and Communism and gave the advice to avoid the far-right and far-left both like the plague. He referred to what she went through because that was relevant. It is bizarre to think that Blomberg was saying that people like Geisler are like Nazis. (Though it is obvious Geisler thinks he knows the authorial intent of Blomberg)

As for questioning the Christianity, Blomberg does not do this. What does he say? He points out how Robert Thomas referred to scholars who use form and redaction criticism as experiencing a “satanic blindness.” Blomberg in the note in the back says “I have no idea how a self-confessed evangelical Christian author dares to use such language in speaking of fellow evangelical Christians!”

Apparently, Blomberg should have just said Geisler had a satanic blindness about him and that would have been okay. So once again we see the double-standard. Thomas says someone has a satanic blindness. That’s okay! Blomberg raises his own charges going nowhere near that and that’s not okay!

Geisler can complain about this being unscholarly and even suggests it is libelous, but let him remember that he would not have been in this position if he had not thrown the first punch. Geisler goes after others saying they deny inerrancy and even goes after their professional positions, but woe befall anyone who dares to just suggest that he is misbehaving at all. It looks like Geisler thinks not only is his interpretation inerrant, but his behavior is inerrant as well.

Also Blomberg knows about his critiques, but are they all critiques in relevant fields? Being a Ph.D. in philosophy does not entail one to be an authority on Biblical matters. This is amusing since Paige Patterson has referred to Mike Licona as a philosopher, when he is not, and most of those in the Geisler crusade are in fact the philosophers.

“Blomberg goes further than extremist labeling of inerrancy defenders. He claims that we “simplistically” distorted the evidence in order to oust Robert Gundry from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) over his midrash denial of the historicity of certain sections of Matthew (B, 167). He charges that we engaged in a “political campaign” against Gundry (B, 167). Elsewhere, he alleges that we have utilized a “standard ploy throughout his [my] career” when “trying to get someone removed from an organization” (B, 262 n. 111). He adds the allegation that inerrancy is used as “a blunt tool to hammer into submission people whose interpretation of passages differs from ours…” (B, 125). These charges of an alleged sinister and continuous career of unjustified activity on my part are both untrue, unjustified, and unethical. Indeed, they are serious moral judgments of motives for which Blomberg should apologize. Someone has rightly asked why it is that those who defend inerrancy are attacked and those who attack inerrancy are defended.
Without attributing motives, one thing seems clear: “Blomberg is dead-set on broadening the acceptable borders of orthodoxy on inerrancy, the result of which would be a more inclusive statement that would embrace scholars (like Blomberg himself) who have moved well beyond inerrancy as traditionally understood and as expressed by the ICBI. This may explain the use of such passionate and uncalled for language in describing those who wish to retain a more traditional stand on inerrancy. Perhaps a lot of their passion and zeal arises from the fact that those who hold a more liberal view on inerrancy may fear their view may be deemed unorthodox too. This might explain their pejorative terms about inerrantists such as “watchdog.” But given the analogy, it is certainly better than being a “kitty cat” on these crucial issue. The truth is that evangelicalism needs more watchdogs to ward off the wolves in sheep’s clothing who are attacking inerrancy.”

Blomberg should apologize….

It’s hard to read that without having one’s eyes roll.

Note that no one is going after someone for defending inerrancy. What is going on is people are gone after because of how they are defending it and what they are defending. For the watchdogs, it seems Geisler has lost sight of what really matters. He goes after Licona for a masterful defense of the resurrection because it goes against his view of inerrancy, thus cutting people off from an excellent defense. He goes after Blomberg because while Blomberg shows the Bible is reliable, he does not agree with ICBI inerrancy as Geisler sees it.

The ICBI is driving everything else. It has practically become an idol.

It would be believable that Geisler does not go around seeking to remove people from organizations if we did not have evidence of this. Alas, we do. We saw it happen with Licona and I had immediate experience of this.

You can see a link to such a petition here. This comes from Max Andrews. The only change he has made is to remove the email of Geisler since this is personal information. The content otherwise is the same. Max Andrews has written about that here.

It is no doubt true that inerrancy has been used as a hammer and that hammer has been constantly wielded by Geisler himself.

Geisler then goes on to say the following are untrue.

“1. No one offered an “intelligent response” to Gundry (B, 167). Even Blomgberg acknowledged that D. A. Carson wrote a critique of it, as did Doug Moo. Not to mention the scholarly response given at ETS and articles published in the Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society (JETS, 2003).”

This would work if that had been what Blomberg said. It isn’t. Blomberg said “not a single critic of Gundry who believed his view was inherently contradicting inerrancy has offered what Carson defines as “intelligent response”–wrestling in detail with the exegetical and historical methods and their applications that Gundry utilized.”

It would have been nice had Geisler accurately represented what Blomberg said. Blomberg knows very well of the responses, but keep in mind Moo and Carson did not believe that it was a denial of inerrancy. They were arguing the proper way. They were arguing on exegetical grounds.

“2. A majority of speakers at ETS were in favor of retainng Gundry in its membership (B, 166). This is a misleading statement since, when given a chance to vote almost three-quarters of the membership voted to ask Gundry to resign.”

Blomberg says the majority that showed up showed up after Geisler went around politicizing the event and calling up people to come to the meeting. It’s noteworthy that Geisler in this never responds to how Blomberg shows Geisler after the Pinnock situation with ETS went around calling it the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society. (P. 143) Yes. When the society went against him, it was not evangelical. When he needed someone to go against Licona, it was evangelical.

Funny how that works.

This would deal with #3 as well

“3. The proceeding of the ETS which resulted in Gundry’s removal from membership was not fair or representative (B, 166-167). On the contrary, it was the result of a long (two year) process, during which papers and articles were presented pro and con. The meeting at which the vote took place was deliberate and orderly and the vote was taken properly. Even Gundry accepted its conclusion.”

and to go along with that, #4.

“4. The vote for Gundry’s removal was not a bare minimum “just over” what was necessary (167). The vote was 116 in favor of his removal and 41 opposed (as reported by Christianity Today 2/3/1984) which is almost 74% in favor of his removal. This is nearly three-quarters of the membership present and well over the two-thirds (67%) necessary. ”

Yes. This was the vote. Here’s the question. How many people abstained? How many people were still there period? Does this meant that the ETS at the time only had 157 members? This seems quite unlikely.

“5. ETS did not “expel” Gundry from membership (B, 167). The vote was to ask Gundry to resign, not to expel him. If he had refused to resign, then there could have been another vote to expel which was unnecessary because Gundry voluntarily resigned.”

Here, we see a distinction without a difference. Today, we would not see any difference between asking Eich to resign from Mozilla and expelling him.

“6. The process of Gundry’s removal was a “political campaign” in which “circulating advertisements” occurred (B, 167). This too is false. No “campaign” was held and no “advertisements” were circulated. Each ETS member was given a paper with quotations from Gundry’s book so that they could make an intelligent decision on how to vote.”

Since this process took years supposedly, how about this? How about each person voted being given Gundry’s book to read and decide based on that? If they were given portions of it to read, then who decided what portions?

In fact, that sounds eerily similar to the petition going around against Licona.

Who selected the portions of the book in that case? I seriously doubt it was Licona!

“7. “Gundry’s views were simplistically presented…” at the ETS meeting (B, 167). This too is false. Exact and complete quotations were given of Gundry’s views to each member. There was nothing simplistic about it.”

See above and see the petition against Geisler. Excuse me if I’m skeptical based on the evidence I have right before me.

“8. Geisler utilized a “standard ploy throughout his career…when he is trying to get someone removed from an organization,” namely, getting all the living framers to agree with him in order to oust a member (262 n. 111). I never did and such thing. In the Pinnock issue, Roger Nicole contacted all the founders of ETS, but I was not a founder of ETS and was not part of any such effort. I have argued Licona’s views are contrary to the ICBI framers, but I was never part of a “ploy” or effort to get him ousted from the ETS organization, nor any other group. Neither, have I done it “throughout my career” (which is now almost 60 years long because there was never another occasion in all those years where a group of framers were involved in getting someone removed from an organization in which I participated. These are serious, sinister, and slanderous charges that impugns the character of another brother in Christ and call for an apology from the one who made them.”

Once again, see the petition from above and I can tell people based on my personal experience that I have seen this happen. I was one of the first people to hear about Geisler going after Licona after all.

“9. Geisler resigned from ETS because they exonerated Clark Pinnock of the charges against him. This is partly true. After all, Pinnock claimed to believe in inerrancy, yet he has said in print that there were false predictions in the Bible (see Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover, 50), and he denied the Bible is the written Word of God (Scripture Principle, 128). I was also disappointed with the process by which Pinnock was retained because it was not completely fair and open. However, the main and underlying reason I left ETS was because I believed it has lost its integrity by allowing a scholars to join who did not have to believe the doctrinal statement on inerrancy as the founders meant it (see my article, “Why I resigned from the Evangelical Theological Socity,” at http://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/ETS/2003-WhyIResignedFromTheETS.htm.)”

I just want to point out that the page of Blomberg’s book where he talks about this also contains how Geisler spoke of the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society, something Geisler has not addressed in this article.

“10. Geisler has become increasingly more conservative over the years as indicted by the successive schools at which he has taught (B, 143-14). This is false. In each case my move to an established school was because I was offered what appeared to be a better opportunity for service. In the case of the two Seminaries I helped start, they were after I retired and was asked by others to help them start two seminaries (where I still teach) which stress apologetics which has been a passion of mine from the beginning. It had nothing to do with the degree of conservativeness of the Seminaries. They all have sound doctrinal statements. None of them was significantly more conservative than the others.”

I urge people to just read what Blomberg himself said, though it is amusing to hear that Geisler wants to avoid the charge that he has become more conservative.

“11. Only a “tiny minority” throughout history held that inerrancy is the only legitimate form of Christianity (B, 221). This is a purely “Straw Man” argument since almost no one holds this view. ICBI, the view we are representing, states clearly that “We deny that such a confession is necessary for salvation” (CSBI Article 19). It adds, “We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history” (CSBI, Article 16). ICBI also held that there are “grave consequence” (CBSI Article 19) for denying inerrancy. But it never affirmed that is the only legitimate form of Christianity. So, this criticism is an empty charge, applying to almost no one.”

One such person affected by this view as Blomberg points out is Bart Ehrman. I have in fact met many “ex-Christians” who would also qualify under this. While we are pleased to see Geisler say inerrancy is not necessary for salvation, it has been put on too high a pedestal by him. When one goes after a masterful work on the resurrection because it does not agree supposedly with a view of inerrancy, then we have a problem.

Moving on, another point worth mentioning

“Of course, Blomberg laments that an overwhelming majority (nearly 74%) of the ETS voted to ask Gundry to resign from ETS because of his denial of the historicity of certain passages in Matthew. Blomberg remains proud that his is one of the small minority who voted to retain Gundry in ETS. Indeed, as even Blomberg admits (B, 168), the framers of the statement (of which I was one) “had Gundry in mind” when the CSBH statements were made which we certainly did. We wrote: “WE deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (CSBH Commentary on Article 13). No amount of re-interpretation can override the clarity of this statement or the testimony of living framers as to its meaning. And when the framers die, the written words of the framers (as here) will remain to vouch for the meaning of their words.”

This is not what Blomberg says on page 168. He says

“Geisler and Roach may well be correct that the framers of a later document known as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics ahd situations like Gundry’s in mind when they penned ‘We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.’ ”

Yet Blomberg continues to say

“But if so, the wording of this document failed to meet the challenge, because it cannot be applied until there is agreement on which narratives “present themselves as factual.” Approximately half of Jesus’s parables are presented without any contextual matter (like the use of the word “parable”) to indicate that they are not presenting themselves as factual. Internal evidence and formal similiarity to texts inside and outside the canon that are specifically labeled as parables allow us to intuit their nature. Similarly, it was internal evidence and formal similarity of Matthew to Jewish midrash, buttressed by the external evidence of divergent parallel accounts in Mark and Luke, that led Gundry to his position. However mistaken he may have been, if one admits there is a single parable in the Gospels not explicitly called a parable, then one cannot use the Chicago Statement on Hermeneutics ant more than the Chicago Statement on inerrancy, to exclude Gundry’s position.”

Blomberg is then saying even if Geisler is right in what he had in mind, then it still does not work. He is not at all saying that he knows what Geisler had in mind and he is saying that the wording that was used is not sufficient and if Geisler says all we have is the text, then Blomberg is following proper procedures. Why can Geisler point to his intent over and over while saying authorial intent cannot interpret a text?

Let’s move on.

“It is incredible that anyone, let alone a biblical scholar, would defend the orthodoxy (i.e., compatibility with inerrancy) of Mike Licona’s Greco-Roman genre views.”

No. It is not incredible. Those of us who do read the relevant scholarship are not at all shocked. (Should Geisler know that this will be my work on my Master’s in NT? I will be looking to see if the resurrection of the saints is historical or not. I seriously doubt I can turn in a paper that says “Inerrancy, therefore historical” and get my Master’s. If so, please let me know so I can start teaching now and working on my PH.D.)

Geisler then goes on to quote the 1,001 critiques he has of Licona. You know, the ones where he has ignored that myself, J.P. Holding, Max Andrews, and others have already answered him but alas, everyone else is supposed to answer Geisler and he is to answer to no one.

Geisler’s charges could be taken seriously if he would take the critiques of his position seriously.

In conclusion, Geisler has once again said something that will convince the few followers he has left, but the scholarly world as a whole will ignore it. This is probably why his latest book is published by Xulon, a self-publishing firm, since it is quite likely no academic publishing company would take it. Will there be buyers? Oh yes. I suspect most of these will be at the schools that Geisler and his followers teach at where it will be required reading. Will it prepare the readers to interact with real NT scholarship? No. If anything, it will set them back further and get them closer and closer to apostasy when their views cannot stand up and they have to run from scholarship.

As for Blomberg, I am pleased to keep reading his excellent works and even more pleased to call him a friend now. In fact, those who are interested in his latest book are invited to listen to my podcast, the Deeper Waters Podcast on April 26th this year. I will be having him on as my guest again to discuss it.

Also, for all interested, Geisler’s critique can be found here because as I have said, I care about letting people see critiques that I know about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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6 Responses to “In Defense of Craig Blomberg”

  1. Michel Says:

    I never read a book by Geisler. I don´t have the desire to change that though. From what I heard and read, he seems to have a fundamentalist mindset. I think fundamentalism is really a bad disease in modern christianity. It almost always leds to muddled thinking, besides the problematic way of reading and understanding the bible..

  2. J.W. Wartick Says:

    The one thing I would point out here–and I want to emphasize I think this is a good, needed post–is that the ETS officially recognized the ICBI as the standard for inerrancy in 2004 (unless I’m very misinformed–I’ve seen this from multiple sources). Thus, if Blomberg is staying in ETS, and ETS says ICBI is inerrancy, then if Blomberg denies ICBI, he’s in a bit of a bind. What are your thoughts on that?

  3. J.W. Wartick Says:

    I want to emphasize I’m not endorsing Geisler’s attack entirely or even at all. I’m just pointing out some of the context to this.

  4. Jeff Says:

    “This is probably why his latest book is published by Xulon, a self-publishing firm, since it is quite likely no academic publishing company would take it.”

    Ouch! Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

    • apologianick Says:

      Actually, not really. JPH in fact said this before I mentioned it to him. JPH does not have the reputation of an accomplished academic writer so it makes sense for him to use self-publishing. Geisler does and yet he was not able to publish this book that way. That reveals a lot.

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