Geisler’s Shark-Infested Waters

So are these waters safe to swim in or will you get chomped if you go in? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

On Deeper Waters, we’re going to be talking about the muddy waters of Chicago, as Mike Licona (Who as all know by now is my father-in-law) referred to them here. Geisler has responded now with his own article that can be found here.

What I see in Geisler’s article is a lot of complaining about certain statements, but not a lot of substance. As it stands, most of Licona’s most powerful arguments were not even addressed. For instance, Licona pointed out how J.I. Packer said

One of those who penned CSBI is J. I. Packer. Packer says Genesis 1 in its entirety is a “prose poem,” a “quasi-liturgical celebration of the fact of creation” and by no means describes what we would have seen had we been hovering above the chaos of creation. He goes on to say he does not know whether Eve actually spoke to a serpent or whether there actually was a Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. And he says it does not matter because poets of the period who wrote outside of the Bible used trees in a metaphorical sense in their literature.

Does Geisler have a response? Not a one. Nothing is said about that. Were we to have some consistency, something would be being said, but for some strange reason, we don’t have any. So what in fact is said?

Well let’s start with what has been said ad infinitum.

“We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship” (Articles XVIII, emphasis added in all these quotes).

This is followed with more of the same. Of course, Geisler still hasn’t got this part down. The question being asked is “Is the text to be read as historical?” If Geisler thinks he can enter the fray of NT scholarship and just say it’s historical, he’s going to be immediately engaged by numerous opponents and pointing to reliability in many other areas of the Gospels, which some of them would even grant, just won’t cut it. Even Bart Ehrman will tell you there are places where the Gospels are reliable.

What Geisler will be accused of by the opponents of Scripture is special pleading. You know what? I’ll agree with them there. If we say that our book is to be presumed to be historical and inerrant right at the start and the rules of normal scholarship don’t apply, but they do to every other book, then we are special pleading.

Now let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Licona’s argument is wrong. How will that be shown? Will it be wrong by just saying “The Bible says so”? No. If Licona’s argument is wrong, then on this area he’s doing bad scholarship and bad history. Note in no way am I saying my father-in-law is a bad historian or a bad scholar. Far from it. I am thinking of more how N.T. Wright has said that he is sure that 1/3rd of what he teaches is wrong. None of us bat 1,000 when it comes to the Biblical text. All it means is Licona’s thinking is in error.

So if Licona is wrong, how is this to be shown? Simple. It is to be shown by good scholarship and good history. This could in fact why he’s got me on the path for my Master’s in NT to research this pericope in the Gospels and see what my conclusion is. In fact, I can guarantee Geisler something on this. Let’s suppose that I get done with my investigation and write my Master’s thesis and I am absolutely convinced that Matthew is writing this to be a historical account in that these bodies did rise up from the dead. Let’s suppose that this thesis passes and I get my Master’s. I then show it to him. If he reads through it and is convinced, here’s what will happen.

He will change his mind.

It’s a really fascinating style to have. It’s called changing your mind based on evidence. Would Geisler really prefer it to be otherwise? Would he prefer it that Geisler just writes enough letters and calls enough seminaries and then Licona just responds to political pressure as it were? (Chicago style apologetics perhaps?) How about actually making a case from a scholarly perspective? If Licona responds to that case with his own argument that shows why the current one is lacking, then back to the drawing board.

This likely will not happen because simply put, Geisler is not familiar with NT scholarship on these issues. This in itself is not an insult. When Bill Maher interviewed Francis Collins for his “Religulous”, he asked him about the text of the NT and the reliability of the Gospels. Collins was not able to answer as well as no doubt, someone like Dan Wallace or Craig Blomberg or Mike Licona could have. Why? Because Collins is a scientist and the study of the authenticity of the NT is not his area. Is that an insult to Collins? Hardly. It’s just admitting a human limitation.

Geisler’s area is philosophy. It is not the study of the NT. If he wants to respond to Licona then, he needs to go to a seminary library, get the latest and best in NT scholarship from both sides, and read through it and then write a response. Pounding the fist on the pulpit and shouting “Inerrancy!” will not cut it.

Geisler says he has three original framers saying they do not agree with Licona, but let’s look at these. First, Sproul.

R.C. Sproul declared clearly and emphatically: “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 Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI” (Letter, May 22, 2012). He added, “You can use this comment by me however you wish” (emphasis added).

The problem I have with this quote is I want to ask “In what way?” Note also it says Licona’s views. It does not say his view on one passage, which would be Matthew 27. Has Sproul himself interacted with Licona’s work, or is he just going by what Geisler has said about it? I am thinking it is more likely the latter.

Some of us are still wondering if Geisler who is a strong dispensationalist will say anything about Sproul sharing a view that I hold to, that of orthodox Preterism, since Geisler tends to read the text in a literalistic way.

Of course, having said that, some critics would say Geisler does not hold to inerrancy due to his old-earth views. Now Geisler has responded, but I am quite sure AIG is unimpressed. They will instead say “Okay. Well why do you not accept the view of a young-earth? Interestingly, Geisler does say that there are gaps in the genealogies in his response. Now to a modern mind, this would be seen as an error. To an ancient mind, it wouldn’t. Why does this matter?

Because this is the exact same kind of argumentation Licona is using.

Licona gets his information by understanding the way genealogies were written at the time and in genealogies, it was allowable to have gaps. Therefore, he uses this information that does not come from the Bible itself in order to interpret the Bible. Apparently, Geisler does the same thing.

It gets even worse for Geisler. As has been noted, and it is a claim I have checked on just looking in a copy of the book that I have, Geisler says the following elsewhere:

Of course, there are many Creationists who argue for an old earth. Biblically, this position that the word for day is used for more than twenty-four hours even in Genesis 2:4, the events of the sixth day surely took more than twenty-four hours, and Hebrews 4:4-5 implies that God is still in His seventh-day rest. If the seventh day can be long, then the others could too. Scientifically, this view does not require any novel theories to explain the evidence. One of the biggest problems for the young earth view is in astronomy. We can see light from stars that took 15 billion years to get here. To say that God created them with the appearance of age does not satisfy the question of how their light reached us. We have watched star explosions that happened billions of years ago, but if the universe is not billions of years old, then we are seeing light from stars that never existed because they would have died before Creation. Why would God deceive us with the evidence? The old earth view seems to fit the evidence better and causes no problem with the Bible. When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Baker Books 1990), 230.

Remember the rules boys and girls.

Using evidence of the time such as literary types and such to interpret a text? Bad!

Using modern science that’s about 3,500 years removed from the text to interpret the text? Good!

So I am quite sure AIG is sure that Geisler is just compromising. For their stance, they might be saying something like

While Geisler would have us believe that he is fighting the barbarians at the gates of the city, in actuality he is escorting the Trojan horse of the barbarians through the gates and deep into the city.

But let’s move on to the next person.

J.I. Packer added plainly: that “As a framer of the ICBI statement on biblical inerrancy who once studied Greco-Roman literature at advanced level, I judge Mike Licona’s view that, because the Gospels are semi-biographical, details of their narratives may be regarded as legendary and factually erroneous, to be both academically and theologically unsound” (Letter, May 8, 2014, emphasis added).

This would be authoritative if in fact this was Licona’s view. It is not. What Geisler is not realizing, or perhaps worse not telling people, is that The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach” is actually Licona’s dissertation. He wrote this not as a book on apologetics per se, but he wrote it to convince other scholars in the field which means he had to start from ground zero. That meant realizing what actually does happen in Greco-Roman biographies.

Licona does say that when one reads Greco-Roman biographies, that does mean it can be hard to tell where narratives may be legendary and factually erroneous.

Geisler should be familiar with this. He says often that the Bible was written by humans and while humans may error, they do not error necessarily. If we applied the standards it looks like Packer is applying here, this is what we would say.

“Since the Bible is a work written by humans and humans error in what they say in so many other writings, it is difficult when reading the Bible to know when truth ends and error begins.”

That is not what is being said. Licona is talking about a common feature of Greco-Roman bioi, but he is not talking about a necessary feature. It is not as if Plutarch is sitting down one day to write a biography and saying “Okay. This is a bio! I have to find a spot in here somewhere where I can put an error!”

But we know that Geisler has gotten views wrong before and has in fact gotten Licona wrong before. Now to be sure, Geisler has removed the remark claiming that Licona does not think Matthew wrote Matthew, but there has been no public apology on his part, so that article will remain up there until there is such a public apology.

If Packer has not read Licona’s book and is instead going by what Geisler is saying, then it is no shock that there is such misunderstanding. If we cannot trust that Geisler has handed on the information accurately, since he has got claims wrong like this before, then why should 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 that conversation between Geisler and Packer, but we do not hear directly from Packer and get to interact with him. We only hear him through Geisler.

Color us skeptical.

Let this challenge go out. We want to hear directly from Sproul and Packer themselves. We don’t want to hear it through Geisler. We want to hear that they’ve read Licona’s book and can specifically say in what way Licona is denying nerrancy.

And finally of course, Geisler agrees with himself.

This is hardly impressive.

And it does not refute Licona’s position.

Geisler goes on

If any waters have been muddied, it is from the mud cast at the defenders of the Chicago Statement on inerrancy. They call the ICBI defenders “New Fundamentalist” eight times in Licona’s short article. They insist we are “rigid” and engage in “ferocious fratricide.” They are designated inerrancy “police” or “police officers” who have a “most wanted” list. They consider an inerrancy defender a “tar baby.” They “politicize” this issue. He even goes so far as to question our “motives,” rather than be content with evaluating our statements.

The sad reality is that Geisler has earned these kinds of comments. What Geisler needs to ask is why do so many people who used to be avid supporters of his just turn away and become opponents, including myself. Could it be that the problem might be him? Could it be that these claims are true. In fact, I find the description of police quite accurate and yes, this has been referred to as a tar baby issue and most people don’t want to interact because they just don’t want to get involved with Geisler. I know of scholars who have told me that as well.

Licona and his supporters believe we engaged in a personal “crusade” against Licona. In what seemed like a kind of doctrinal paranoia, Licona falsely claims Geisler is “criticizing me” or a “crusade against me” (twice, emphasis mine). He said, “I’ve been in the crosshairs of Norman Geisler,” as though he was a special target I wanted to kill. The truth is we have never attacked him as a person, but only his views. I have said many times that I like Mike as a person and love him as a brother in Christ. However, we try never to put fraternity over orthodoxy or cloud our love for God’s truth by how nice a guy is or how good a friend the person is. This cannot be said of Licona or his friends for their writings are toxic with personal attacks. One can look to Craig Blomberg’s recent book to illustrate the point.

It’s hardly paranoia when it’s true. Go to Geisler’s web site and you see a section called Licona articles. In just the articles alone there are twenty right there. Note that William Lane Craig was not gone after even though Craig has publicly stated the exact same view. (And Craig is presenting this view in public debates.)

Geisler can say he likes Licona as a person and loves him as a brother in Christ, but if this is the way a friend treats a friend, then we should all be thankful that Geisler does not consider himself an enemy. It would be horrible to think of what that could be like!

Once again, with the going after of Blomberg, we find the Nazi quote trotted out. Anyone who had actually read the book would see exactly what Blomberg was saying, but Geisler’s statement works great for shock appeal. Interestingly, Geisler seems to think it was Blomberg’s intention to say Geisler is like a Nazi. It’s a wonder how he knows the intention. It’s also quite amusing to hear this talk about the person of Blomberg without responding to his arguments when Geisler complains about how Licona has supposedly gone after him as a person.

Geisler simply says the charges Blomberg presents are untrue, but since we have seen Geisler misinterpret information before, well why should we think this is the case? The difference is there are several other people I talk to who are saying the same thing that Blomberg is saying. I am more prone to believe all of them are right than that all of them are wrong.

Geisler then asks “Someone has rightly asked why it is that those who defend inerrancy are attacked and those who attack inerrancy are defended.”

As if the people who are opposed to Geisler are opposed to inerrancy. No. It’s his behavior and methodology, the very same behavior Blomberg is talking about. Most of us don’t need any convincing from Blomberg to see that.

In fact, we’ve even produced hard evidence. Thanks especially goes out to the work of Max Andrews who here showed what Geisler had been doing behind the scenes in passing around a petition. Shades of Gundry? With evidence like this, those of us who weren’t there for Gundry can look and see “Well it looks like Blomberg has a good case.”

Geisler goes on to say

“When mud-slinging occurs one can be reasonably sure that the attackers have run out of reasons and evidence to use in a rational argument and, thus, have resorted to attacking the person instead of the argument.”

It never occurs to Geisler apparently that some of what his opponents say could be true. If we bring up an account that we believe to be factual and directly relevant to what is said, well that’s mud-slinging and that proves we have nothing left to say. The problem is, we have plenty to say and Geisler’s inability to answer with sound scholarship is a testimony to that. Most notably, he has ignored mine and JPH’s newest Ebook that is an answer to him here. (And might I say it seems to be selling rather well so perhaps Geisler should respond to it. It will be hard for him to keep referring to us in a response constantly as “Son-in-law and friend.”

Geisler then goes on to say

Of course there are, no one disputes this. However, that is not the question. The question is: Are there better ones? Do they correspond with the meaning expressed by the Framers of the ICBI statements? The answer is an emphatic “No.” the Framers have spoken in commentaries and letters (see above)

So what is the first way of knowing that the ICBI statement is better than the Lausanne one?

Why?

Because the framers have spoken!

Well geez. I should start promoting my blog as the best apologetics blog on the internet and my podcast as the best apologetics podcast on the net. Why? Well because I think it is! That ought to be enough to convince anyone? (And no, I am not making any of those claims. I know I have much work to do in learning more and more for the blog and podcast, but I hope readers and listeners like where it is now.)

What is more, I know of no other inerrancy statement ever made that was the work of some 300 interdenominational and international scholars that is more extensive and more complete and has been more widely accepted as that of the ICBI. Even the membership of the largest body of evangelical scholars who believe in inerrancy, the Evangelical theological Society (ETS), consisting of over 3000 members, adopted the ICBI statement as the definition of their brief inerrancy statement by an overwhelming 80% vote (in 2006). If Mr. Licona and his New Testament critical friends think they can improve upon it, let them try.

Question. Is that the Evangelical Theological Society or the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society?

You see, I found this interesting quote online:

In short, the ETS framers would not affirm any of these and Pinnock has not denied any of them. If he really wants to clear the record, then all he has to do is deny all 21 of these in clear and unequivocal terms. If he does not, then his unrecanted written views are contrary to what the ETS statement really means since the framers would not agree with any of them. And it is an evangelical tragedy of great magnitude that the Executive Committee of ETS and a majority of its members have retained Pinnock in what has now become the formerly Evangelical Theological Society.

Please note those last four words.

Formerly Evangelical Theological Society.

Oh wait. Some of you are wondering where this quote is. You want to make sure it’s accurate.

Okay. You can find it right here.

So this raises a question.

You see, this vote to approve ICBI according to Geisler took place in 2006. You can see it in the quote above.

But yet his statement about ETS being the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society took place before then.

Want evidence? Look here.

This is why Geisler resigned from ETS.

Please note this date.

“Why I Resigned from The Evangelical Theological Society
Norman L. Geisler
November 20, 2003”

Now last I checked, 2003 came before 2006.

What are the reasons he gives?

1. ETS Has Lost Its Doctrinal Integrity

2. ETS Has Adopted a Revisionist Interpretation of Its Own Doctrine.

3. ETS is Now Operating Contrary to Its Own Historic Precedent

4. ETS is Logically Inconsistent with Its Own Doctrinal Basis

5. ETS Acted Inconsistently with Its Long-Standing Journal Policy

6. ETS Has Acted Contrary to Previously Approved Presidential Decisions

7. ETS Refused to Consider Pinnocks Major Work on the Topic

Now as to whether these claims are accurate or not, the important thing is Geisler thinks they are and he thought they were before ETS approved the ICBI statement.

So what suddenly changed in all of this that suddenly this group is worth mentioning again? Is it just that their say-so counts when Geisler wants it to, but it doesn’t when he doesn’t?

I wonder how many would think today that Licona deserves to be a member. If they say so, are they suddenly without integrity again? If they do say so, are they with integrity?

Either way, we couldn’t trust a vote because Geisler can make it go either way with the evidence. He can say ETS just isn’t Evangelical any more or he can say “Well they might have lost their credibility, but they’re still scholars!”

And as for those 300 scholars, how many of them are actually scholars? How many have PH.D’s in a relevant field to critique Licona’s work? Some names include Hal Lindsey who is not a scholar and Frank Schaeffer who has become an apostate. I wonder if the ones who are still alive would side with Licona or not on this. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

And as for making a better statement, I would have no problems with that. In fact, Geisler should welcome that. After all, wouldn’t that affirm inerrancy for a new generation?

When he responds to the charge that ICBI is not a creed, Geisler says

Of course it isn’t, and it does not claim to be. That does not keep it from being a very good statement, or even the best one produced by a broad group of scholars to date. Nor does it hinder it from being right when it condemns “dehistoricizing” the Gospels as many critical scholars are doing today (see citations above).

But again, who says it is the best? Why it’s Geisler and ICBI. Anyone see some question begging going on?

Geisler also responds to a statement that it ICBI is too conservative. Licona never said this however. Instead, he said that it was the most conservative statement that there is. Whether it is too conservative or not is not the question. I am quite sure that AIG has people there who would say Geisler is too liberal.

Now we get into something amusing and personal with Licona’s charge that many books defending ICBI are not published by standard publishers.

“Third, this charge is amusing and ironic since the recent book attacking ICBI inerrancy which was blessed by Licona and many of his New Testament critic friends was self published by Licona’s son-in-law and his friend!”

To begin with, Licona is referring to books by Geisler. Now there’s an important distinction. Academically, JPH and I are laymen. You might think of us as exceptionally learned ones, but we are still laymen. We do not have credentials that a publisher should look at us.

Geisler does. He has been published by several reputable publishers. He has credentials. He has a reason publishers should listen to him, but they have not been with these latest books of his. He has had to self-publish them. Why is that?

Of course, we can thank Geisler for making a reference to our book, which he does not seem to want to name (Perhaps he doesn’t want his fans to read it and see a good critique of his position), nor does he want to mention mine and JPH’s name, perhaps for the same reason. We encourage everyone to go out and read Defining Inerrancy.

Let’s look at some other charges Geisler raises

“(2) He believes there are or may be errors in the Gospels, for example: (a) on the report about when Jarius daughter died; (2) on whether the centurion made his request in person to Jesus; (c) whether the woman anointed Jesus two days before the Passover.”

This is just dishonest. Let’s look at what Licona really said.

Iconoclasts like Bart Ehrman are now responsible for the shipwrecked faith of many. For them, if the Bible is not absolutely true in every detail, we should reject it. (This is a good spot to remind ourselves that if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true even if it were the case that some things in the Bible are not.) Ehrman has a polished routine in which he articulates a list of Gospel differences. Was Jairus’ daughter dead or alive when Jairus asked Jesus to heal her? It depends which Gospel you read. Was Jesus crucified on the day after the Passover meal or the day before the Passover meal? It depends which Gospel you read. Did the temple veil split before or after Jesus’ death? It depends which Gospel you read. Was there one or were there two angels at the empty tomb? It depends which Gospel you read. How many women went to the tomb? It depends which Gospel you read. And so on. Ehrman says the Gospels disagree on more matters than those on which they agree. And by the time he’s through, many evangelicals are saying, “Say it ain’t so!” I know of several believers and even a pastor who have walked away from their faith as a result of Ehrman’s lectures and books. And they are rendered easy prey for Ehrman by the approach fostered by Geisler.

and

So, we must ask what constitutes an error? Is Matthew guilty of an error when redacting his genealogy of Jesus or for paraphrasing Jesus’ words by addition for clarification? Is one of the Gospels in error when Matthew (9:18) says Jairus’ daughter was dead when he approached Jesus while Mark (5:23) and Luke (8:42) say she was alive or when Matthew (8:5-13) portrays the centurion making his request in person while Luke (7:1-10) describes the event with the centurion never appearing before Jesus or when Matthew (26:2-16) and Mark (14:1-11) describe a woman who anointed Jesus two days before Passover whereas John (12:1-8) says it was six days before Passover or where Matthew, Mark and Luke report that Jesus was crucified on the day after the Passover meal whereas John says it was on the day of or after the Passover meal? When we read these stories in a sense requiring a wooden literalism, there are undeniable contradictions. But when we read them in light of their biographical nature and recognize the authors were employing literary devices at home in that genre, the tensions melt away.

Licona’s saying he has a response to these supposed contradictions. It involves the literary genre which dispels the idea that they go against inerrancy. Licona is simply presenting these asking Geisler how he will respond to them because these are real problems. It would be crazy to deny this. Geisler instead twists it saying these are things that could be considered errors. Geisler himself gives no answer in the article on how he would explain them.

(4) Licona affirmed that Joseph Holden, president of Veritas Evangelical Seminary dismissed Gary Habermas and Paul Copan as Adjunct faculty members because “they denied the inerrancy of the Bible on account of their failure to condemn the interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints” (Note 6). President Holden affirmed in a letter (June 2, 2014) that this is false. Holden wrote, “In the footnotes, it says I dismissed Habermas and Copan for their support of Licona and failure to condemn his interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints. When in fact, they were dismissed because of their own expressed view of inerrancy that became apparent in their defense of Licona.”

I look at this and wonder what the real difference is. This is for all intents and purposes a distinction without a difference. They were dismissed for defending Licona. I wonder what it could have been on….But they weren’t dismissed for denying inerrancy. Well isn’t that what this is all about? If Licona is denying inerrancy in Holden’s eyes, then to defend him is to deny inerrancy.

(6) Licona affirmed that I refused to attend a particular panel discussion. In any event, one cannot help but be impressed with the quasi-omniscient powers of critics who can read another’s mind. This leads to arrogant charges like the following: Licona asserted that “In Geisler’s mind, there is no need for discussion in an academic forum because he apparently thinks he already knows the correct answers; all of them.” I have participated in untold academic discussions and debates over the last fifty years, so I have learned to pick carefully the ones in which I participate.

Of course, it could be Geisler also did not attend because he knew he was not in charge and could not sway the debate the way he wanted. We also anticipate that this is why Geisler has avoided a challenge that has been made to him. Note also that when this challenge was posted on his defending inerrancy web site, it was deleted.

(9) ICBI view of Inerrancy actually undermines Inerrancy. By a strange twist of logic Licona argues that the ICBI view of inerrancy actually undermines the authority of the Bible because showing one error overthrows the Faith.

First, by this same logic people should not believe Christ rose from the dead since a sophisticated naturalist might convince them that miracles are not credible. Or, people should not believe God exists since a sharp atheism might convince them that He does not exist.
Further, this objection confuses reliability and inerrancy. If a critic could prove (and none have) one real error in the Bible it would overthrow the ICBI view of inerrancy, but it would not overthrow the Faith.

The problem is too often ICBI has been married to Christianity. If one goes down, the other does as well. The same happens with young-earth creationism. If the Earth is not young for some, well that settles it. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

Now of course someone could say a good argument could argue anyone out of any position. Indeed it could, which is why we want only the essentials for Christianity. If God does not exist, Christianity is false. If Christ did not rise, Christianity is false. If there is an error in Scripture, Christianity can still be true. Even Geisler admits this as shown above. It’s a wonder then why he’s attacking a book defending the resurrection when the resurrection is essential for faith and inerrancy isn’t.

Geisler says

This is what B.B.Warfied meant, and Licona misunderstands. For Warfield too believed that the Bible was divinely authoritative and inerrant and, as such, one error would destroy that divine authority/inerrancy. However, it would not overthrow the Faith since the Faith could be true apart from inerrancy.

But this is what Licona says that Warfield said

Let it not be said that thus we found the whole Christian system on the doctrine of plenary inspiration. . . . Were there no such thing as inspiration, Christianity would be true, and all its essential doctrines would be credibly witnessed to, as in the generally trustworthy reports of the teaching of our Lord and of His authoritative agents in founding the Church, preserved in the writings of the apostles and their first followers, and in the historical witness of the living Church. Inspiration is not the most fundamental of Christian doctrines, nor even the first thing we prove about the Scriptures. It is the last and crowning fact as to the Scriptures. These we first prove authentic, historically credible, generally trustworthy, before we prove them inspired. And the proof of their authenticity, credibility, and general trustworthiness would give us a firm basis for Christianity, prior to any knowledge on our part of their inspiration, and apart, indeed, from the existence of inspiration. The present writer, in order to prevent all misunderstanding, desires to repeat here what he has said on every proper occasion. . . . Without any inspiration we could have had Christianity; yea, and men could still have heard the truth, and through it been awakened, and justified, and sanctified, and glorified.

Licona has said nothing about consistency or the importance of inerrancy. He’s simply made the statement that the faith does not hang on inerrancy. If Geisler agrees and says Warfield says the same, then how is Licona getting Warfield wrong on that?

(10) Licona also makes other statements that are seriously mistakes. One is that (a) “the doctrines of the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Gospels are faith doctrines that cannot be proven.” (b) Another is that a historian should be “making no theological assumptions pertaining to whether they [the Gospels] are divinely inspired or inerrant.” These are both based on Licona’s admission that he (c) “unashamedly confess[es] the historical critical method.” Given that Licona sees Genre criticism as part of this endeavor, no wonder he can believe in contradictions in the Gospels (see above) and say “Bioi offered the ancient biographers great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches,…and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus, 34, emphasis added).

But Licona does not believe in contradictions in the Gospels! In fact, he disavows them! He is also right in that when you work as a historian, you do not presuppose your conclusion. I also agree that inerrancy cannot be proven. It can be accepted, but one can always be open to being wrong.

Yet Geisler once again misrepresents Licona’s position and takes a little snippet of what he says and thinks that that means Licona applies that to the Gospels in that way and that they must necessarily error. He doesn’t.

(12) Licona criticized me for twisting the arms of other seminary presidents. This reckless charge misrepresents the facts. At the same time, he has attempted unsuccessfully to convince some of the orthodoxy of his view. He even made a yet unadmitted trip of some distance to try to convince one influential Christian leader of the orthodoxy of his unorthodox view—only to be unsuccessful. Another one even set up a forum for him to express his view, after which the Seminary president said he would not hire him on his faculty. Liconna tried to convince a third seminary to accept his view, after which they dropped him from their Adjunct Faculty. One faculty member who attended the meeting said, “It was worse than I thought.” Yet I did not contact a single seminary and ask them to reject Licona from their faculty. Nor did I “turn” to seminary presidents “to come out publicly” against him when I could no longer get enough high-caliber scholars to speak against his view.

Now I know who some of these leaders are and I know the circumstances behind them. I would like to see if Geisler can come forward and tell the whole story and then be fine with Licona telling the whole story as well and see how the accounts differ. Considering we have evidence of the petition above, then I am more prone to believe Licona in this regards that this has happened. The problem is Geisler is using unnamed sources again and expecting us to take them as authoritative. I don’t.

But we do thank Geisler for admitting he could not find enough high-caliber scholars to speak against Licona’s view. We would in fact like to know which high-caliber scholars he did find. Could those be named? How many publications do these have in SBL?

Licona’s son-in-law has a web site dedicated to attacking me regularly by name and even making an insulting video for YouTube with Licona’s blessing. Anyone who examines the two approaches can see the difference.

I do? I have this one, and while there is some humor on there, there is serious matter as well. Geisler simply has indignation that someone responds to him this way. The reason there is much laughter at Geisler’s approach is because we all see the inconsistency in it. Perhaps Geisler should not have made the first move by going after Licona’s livelihood. This is like the bully who beats up other kids on the playground and then cries when someone comes and stands up to him.

As for the church fathers, I have something on that, but I’m waiting for an expert on the patristics to examine it. We can at least say that is the more proper way to go about matters, but the final authority is Scripture and Geisler will need to make a case from strong scholarship for his position.

Geisler can call our view neoevangelical, but that will not bother us. We make our presentation based on sound scholarship and seeking to be more informed on the meaning of the text and that is being a blessing to many. We have seen the damage that a wooden and literalistic approach to Scripture has had on several and we will not repeat that.

We hope that Geisler will instead respond to specific charges and to Defining Inerrancy and keep in mind that the open challenge still stands and it will stand until it is met.

Yes. There is a problem. There is a shark in the waters who sees opposition constantly encroaching on his territory. Let’s hope before too long it will be safe to step into the waters of academia again before being attacked. After all, why should those who defend the resurrection of Jesus be attacked?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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29 Responses to “Geisler’s Shark-Infested Waters”

  1. alaskazimm Says:

    As regards the “errors” in the Gospels, there is a video on YouTube of Licona giving a presentation at HBU on that topic. It’s rather fascinating to see how he draws from the genre of bioi and disproves that these are errors thereby upholding inerrancy.
    Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgz-uPiVGc8

  2. Alex the Less Says:

    One thing I have come to realize is that Christians have teeth, and they are able to bite. The admonition: “but if you bite and devour each other, see that you are not consumed by one another.” Paul tells us this biting one another is counter-productive and even destructive to us. The previous verse tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Gal.5.14).
    I don’t know much about Mike or his ministry but he seems to be more of an evidentialist while I am more of an Van Tillian propositionalist. I don’t know much about the “popular-writer” and preacher Geisler either except I have seen these same types of politicizing efforts before and have suffered financially too (personal loyalties in my case).
    It is hard to understand why Mr. (ha,ha) Geisler thinks he needs to subscribe everyone to this statement he was so influential in crafting. Does he think the universal church needs a statement like this for orthodoxy? I would say “no.” While I am probably somewhat similar to Geisler in an overall doctrinal stance, I see danger in painting oneself in the corner by the Chicago Statement as Mike has pointed out. Most biblical commentators (even very conservative scholars) are much more flexible in dealing with the text than the strict application of the CSBI.

  3. labreuer Says:

    My favorite part about inerrancy is that humans are deciding how God must have created and fashioned the Bible, instead of letting God tell us. After all, God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our own… except when it comes to inerrancy, when we’ve somehow perfectly fathomed our unfathomable God (Rom 11:33). I’m strongly reminded of Rom 9:30-10:13, and of the “zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (v2).

    • apologianick Says:

      I think that would lead to total agnosticism on the nature of God since we could say He told us, but His thoughts are not our thoughts. The real issue is that the “His thoughts are not our thoughts” is talking about something completely different and is in fact a real insight into the ways and thoughts of God.

      • labreuer Says:

        that would lead to total agnosticism on the nature of God

        Why? Science works quite well via successive approximation; why cannot we do this with understanding God? It just seems that e.g. the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy is not ‘successive approximation’; it is more like pretending that the picture of the thing is the thing, which is prohibited by Ex 20:3-6, especially note 2 of NET: Ex 20:4. Schaeffer used the phrase “true knowledge but not exhaustive knowledge”; I like it. F = ma is true, in certain domains. (Technically: if we cannot measure the difference between F = ma predictions and GR predictions in some domain, then neither is better than the other, in that domain. Actually, the simpler is better in that case.)

      • apologianick Says:

        If His thoughts are not our thoughts then our thoughts could never really be true since He has all the true thoughts. There would be a complete disjunction between what we say is true and what God says is true, which would even mean we could not make claims such as “Jesus is the truth” and have it be that God agrees.

      • labreuer Says:

        You appear to have completely and utterly glossed over my argument that F = ma and GR are equally true in certain regimes. And yet, we generally believe that GR is ultimately a better description of how reality works.

        Consider this: do you know precisely what the word agapē means, or is perhaps a big chunk of your life spent finding better and better approximations of it? That you don’t have a perfect conception of it doesn’t mean you don’t know true things about it.

      • apologianick Says:

        There’s nothing in the text about our getting closer to His thoughts. It’s instead saying His thoughts are not our thoughts. Exceptions are not given. Instead of going this route, the ideal thing to do is to look back and say “What is the text really saying?” It’s something quite different and when that is found out, to say we spend our lives getting closer and closer to the truth of God fits in perfectly.

      • labreuer Says:

        There’s nothing in the text about our getting closer to His thoughts.

        Isaiah 55:6a “Seek the Lord while he may be found;”. You can only seek what is findable. Kind of like how scientists seek, and the more they do, the more they find. Only as t → ∞ do we fully know God, which is why John 17:3 has: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Knowing God fully will take eternity. Good thing we’re promised it!

      • apologianick Says:

        As the passage goes on, it is the idea that forgiveness is not possible for the wicked. God says no. This is wrong. It might be your thought that it is not possible, but it is not His. It may be your way to not forgive, but it is not His. Saying “my thoughts are not your thoughts” then is not saying anything about not finding the mind of God, but saying that God’s thoughts are far more gracious and forgiving than ours are despite what we might think of our sins or the sins of others.

        Other than that, I agree with most everything else. My only contention was that I don’t think people use the “My thoughts are not your thoughts” text properly.

      • labreuer Says:

        Wait a second. Do you or do you not think that God wants our thoughts to become more like his thoughts, and our ways to become more like his ways? I think this is precisely what he wants: God desires to be known. What he desires, he makes possible. We’re just like horses & water, because God makes it so. 🙂 My contention is that we get to know God gradually, and that the Chicago Statement is antithetical to ‘gradually’. I can only affirm something like this: “However God does it, what he does is make it so that he can be known, by us. Somehow.” The Chicago Statement is like insisting that it’s a gasoline engine and not a diesel engine. No; it’s some sort of power source all right, but we ought not insist on precisely how that power source works, if we don’t actually know. And I don’t think we know.

      • apologianick Says:

        Of course God wants that, but the Isaiah 55 passage is not about that.

      • labreuer Says:

        How does “seek God” not mean (or at least include) “learn his thoughts and his ways”?

      • apologianick Says:

        It doesn’t. I never said otherwise.

      • labreuer Says:

        Heh, then I’m not sure where we disagree. :-p

      • apologianick Says:

        It was with the original usage of the Isaiah 55 “His thoughts are not our thoughts.” I think it means something different than most readers do and that is that God’s thoughts and ways are on forgiveness when we think they are on judgment.

      • labreuer Says:

        Ahh, but did you realize that I wasn’t using it in the way that “most readers do”? :-p Most people use it to put God on an infinitely high, unreachable pedestal, which is antithetical to the entire Bible.

      • apologianick Says:

        If it was sarcasm, no. I did not.

      • labreuer Says:

        I’m quite certain that passage is arguing, among other things, that God wants us to get closer and closer to his ways and thoughts. After all, “let the wicked forsake his way / and the righteous man his thoughts”; we know that just whitewashing a house is a recipe for seven more nastier demons. So God certainly has a replacement for what he wants removed—his ways and thoughts! Or, at least, better approximations of them. 🙂

        BTW, I don’t see your point (“God’s thoughts and ways are on forgiveness when we think they are on judgment”) as contradicted by anything I said. Perhaps I wasn’t explicit on v7? I can see how, without this comment here, you’d say what you said, actually… My apologies!

      • apologianick Says:

        It’s not contradictory. I’m just a stickler for clarification and repeat points often to make sure the intent is clear. I think in part your idea is right, but it does go further. We think God wants to condemn us. He doesn’t. In that sense, we should replace our thoughts with His.

      • labreuer Says:

        Hey, you actually believe Ezekiel 18! Maybe the verses after John 3:16, too! Something tells me you’ll like George Herbert’s A Dialogue-Anthem, if you don’t know about it already. I came across it in a church bulletin a few months ago and fell in love with it before I had even finished it!

      • apologianick Says:

        Until this point, I never heard of it.

  4. JLAfan2001 Says:

    The bible has been proven to be archeologically, historically, textually, scientifically and philosophically bankrupt. How can any sane person claim the truth of christianity if this truth keeps changing. When it gets to a point where it can’t be reconciled properly, as in the case of genesis, then just emply the tactic of metaphor or literary genre and you’re safe. Absolutley ridiculous. I have walked away from my faith because I have seen all the mistakes in christianity. Religion does indeed make fools of otherwise smart people.

    • apologianick Says:

      So JLA, when was the last time you read a scholar who disagreed with you?

    • labreuer Says:

      The bible has been proven to be archeologically, historically, textually, scientifically and philosophically bankrupt.

      Let’s play this game. I’m going to quote from Milgram experiment § Results:

      Before conducting the experiment, Milgram polled fourteen Yale University senior-year psychology majors to predict the behavior of 100 hypothetical teachers. All of the poll respondents believed that only a very small fraction of teachers (the range was from zero to 3 out of 100, with an average of 1.2) would be prepared to inflict the maximum voltage. Milgram also informally polled his colleagues and found that they, too, believed very few subjects would progress beyond a very strong shock. Milgram also polled forty psychiatrists from a medical school, and they believed that by the tenth shock, when the victim demands to be free, most subjects would stop the experiment. They predicted that by the 300-volt shock, when the victim refuses to answer, only 3.73 percent of the subjects would still continue and, they believed that “only a little over one-tenth of one percent of the subjects would administer the highest shock on the board.”

      Read the page for what precisely the Milgram experiment is. What’s important is the predictions made prior to the experiment:

           senior-year psychology majors: 1.2% will apply 450V
           PhD colleagues: “very few” will apply 450V
           post-BS psychiatry med school: < 0.2% will apply 450V

      Now, check out the results:

      In Milgram’s first set of experiments, 65 percent (26 of 40) of experiment participants administered the experiment’s final massive 450-volt shock, though many were very uncomfortable doing so; at some point, every participant paused and questioned the experiment; some said they would refund the money they were paid for participating in the experiment. Throughout the experiment, subjects displayed varying degrees of tension and stress. Subjects were sweating, trembling, stuttering, biting their lips, groaning, digging their fingernails into their skin, and some were even having nervous laughing fits or seizures.

      What happened? Massive failure in understanding of human nature. And you want to know something? Anyone who believes that the OT is realistic would not make those terribly wrong guesses. You have people chopping up dead, raped prostitute bodies into twelve pieces and sending them far and wide. You have mothers eating their placentas and miscarriages. Human nature is inherently good or even neutral, you say? No, human nature inherently wants an authority which will take care of them, an authority they can blame if things go wrong. See Deut 5 and 1 Sam 8.

      Bankrupt? The empirical evidence argues otherwise, JLAfan2001.

  5. JLAfan2001 Says:

    I don’t care who agrees with me or not. It’s the truth. Christianity can’t be true if there are so many mistakes across so many disciplines in the bible to the point where so many evangelicals, scholars and scientists diagree with another.

    Was there an Adam?
    Did the Exodus occur?
    Did Jericho’s walls fall?
    Is Genesis historical?
    Global flood or local?
    Young earth or old?
    Always saved or loss of salvation?
    Calvinism or Armininism?
    Preterism or end times prophecy?
    Did the saints rise or was it fake?
    What are the dates of the gospels?
    Who are the authors?
    Did David, Jonah, Abraham, Job etc exist?
    Are there contradictions in the bible or not?
    Is the bible inerrant?
    And on and on and on and on.

    Here’s a tip for you, Nick (all you other christians pay attention). When you guys have it ALL figured out then you can claim that you have the truth. Until then, you are spitting in the dark just like any other worldview or religion. Nihilism is the only reality.

    • apologianick Says:

      Why should I think all of those questions need to be answered to show Christianity is true?

    • apologianick Says:

      Why should I think all of those questions need to be answered to show Christianity is true?

    • labreuer Says:

      Look at Hubble’s original data. His linear fit with y-intercept = 0 couldn’t possibly be correct, with so many data points seemingly so far off the fit! Oh wait, he was still right, even though his fit was about an order of magnitude too large. He was sufficiently not-wrong for ‘wrong’ → ‘less wrong’, which apparently is the only way we can increasingly understand reality.

      So tell me, JLAfan2001, why must all those questions be answered, first? Science doesn’t seem to require your demands; why are you making them, here?

      Here’s a tip for you, Nick (all you other christians pay attention). When you guys have it ALL figured out then you can claim that you have the truth. Until then, you are spitting in the dark just like any other worldview or religion.

      This criticism is not made of science. Why not? (Or perhaps I’ve misunderstood you?)

      P.S. It’d be neat if you responded to my response to you.

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