Archive for the ‘Inerrancy’ Category

Book Plunge: Did God Really Command Genocide?

December 15, 2014

What do I think of Copan and Flannagan’s newest book? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

godcommandgenocide

First off, I wish to thank Dr. Copan for sending me a copy of this Baker book for review purposes. I will state up front that I see Flannagan and Copan both as good friends, but I earnestly desire to avoid allowing any bias to cover my review. It will be up to the reader of this review to determine if I have done so.

The book starts with a question of what atheist Raymond Bradley calls the Crucial Moral Principle. This principle goes as follows:

It is morally wrong to deliberately and mercilessly slaughter men, women, and children who are innocent of any serious wrongdoing.

Most of us would in principle have no problem with that statement. In fact, in principle, neither would Copan and Flannagan. Yet that is the statement that must be dealt with as it looks like the text does have commands from God to do just that. Now of course it could be that some might say those events are just a made-up history, but in the book, Copan and Flannagan do take the task of assuming for the sake of argument that this is a real historical narrative. In fact, so do the atheists they interact with in the book. It is a way of saying “Let’s assume that there was a conquest of the Promised Land as the Bible declares. How do we reconcile that with the idea that God is a God of love?”

Some people reading the start will be wondering about the beginning. Why are we having a discussion on inerrancy? Why a discussion on what it means for the Bible to be the Word of God? All of this is important, because it is about how we are to process the information in a text and too many people have an idea that if the Bible is the “Word of God” then somehow the ordinary rules of language don’t apply and everything must be applied in a “literalistic” reading.

From there, we get into the conquest itself. Is the text using hyperbolic language? Copan and Flannagan argue that it is simply because if you take in a literalistic sense, the accounts immediately contradict. For the sake of argument, one could say there are contradictions in the text, but let us not say the writers were fools who would notice a blatant contradiction right in their midst. Many of the commands also involve not destroying, but rather driving out. The commands were also limited to war within the holy land itself.

Naturally, the authors argue against those who want to use the Bible to argue against the hyperbolic interpretation. They conclude this section by looking at legal and theological questions concerning genocide and show that by legal definitions used of genocide today, the events that took place in the Conquest really don’t work.

The third part of the book starts with Divine Command Theory. I will state that while I believe everything God commands is necessarily good and we are obligated to do it, I do not hold to DCT. I think this section does deal with several bad arguments against it and that makes it worthwhile in itself. It’s also important that you can be someone who does not hold to DCT and it will not detract from the overall position of the book.

For instance, let’s suppose you take my position and yet think that if God commands something, it is good. Then the rest of the part will still work for you. It asks if God could command events like the deaths of innocent human beings. The authors use some excellent examples about how in even our time we could picture a president commanding such an order and not condemn them. For instance, suppose on 9/11 three of the planes have hit and we know the fourth is on its way to the target. This plane no doubt commands innocent human beings, but would we understand a command from the president to have it shot down knowing innocents will die? Note that is not saying it is necessarily the right decision, but that it is an understandable decision.

The authors also deal with what if someone claimed this today. For the authors, the principle known earlier as the crucial moral principle holds if all things are equal, but if you think God is telling you otherwise, you’d better have some excellent evidence. Most Christians today would say you do not because even if you hold to God guiding people personally today and even personal communication today, most would not hold to prophecy on the level of Scripture being given today and if God commanded you to kill someone, that is not a position to hold to.

So what makes Moses and the conquest different? One is the preponderance of what are called G2 miracles. These are miracles that you could not just explain away as sleight of hand if true. For instance, when the water of the Nile turns to blood, the magicians can repeat that so yeah, no big deal. When the Red Sea parts and the whole of the Israelites pass through on dry land and the waters drown the following Egyptians, yeah. That’s not so easily explainable. The same for manna falling from the sky every day for forty years and the wonders that took place around Mount Sinai. The average Joe Israelite soldier had good reason to think Moses had some divine communication going on.

I personally found the last section to be the most fascinating and this is about violence in history and its link to Christianity. The authors cover the Crusades particularly and show some contrasts between Islam and Christianity and also point out that the Crusades have not been hanging over our heads for centuries. If anything, the usage of them is a more recent argument.

They also deal with the idea of religious violence and show that much of the violence we have seen is in fact political though often hidden under a religious veneer. Included also in this section is a piece on the question of pacifism and if there can be such a thing as a just war.

Copan and Flannagan have provided an excellent gift to the church in this book. Anyone interested in studying the conquest of the holy land and wanting to deal with the question of religious violence in general will be greatly benefited by reading this book and keeping it in their library.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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Deeper Waters Podcast 9/27/2014: Truth In A Culture of Doubt

September 25, 2014

What’s coming up on this week’s episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Bart Ehrman is becoming a much more common name around the world and this includes even in Christian households. Unfortunately, there are still several in the church who don’t know about who he is and the reality is that if they do not know now, they will surely be knowing in the future, most likely when their children come home from college and announce that they’re no longer Christians because they don’t believe in the Bible.

To those who haven’t read the other side, Ehrman’s case can seem to be a strong presentation, but is it really? The authors of “Truth In A Culture Of Doubt” say it isn’t, and one of them will be my guest to talk about it. He’s been on here before and it’s a pleasure to welcome back to the Deeper Waters Podcast, Dr. Darrell Bock.

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“Darrell L. Bock is Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He also serves as Executive Director of Cultural Engagement for the Seminary’s Center for Christian Leadership. His special fields of study involve hermeneutics, the use of the Old Testament in the New, Luke-Acts, the historical Jesus, gospel studies and the integration of theology and culture. He has served on the board of Chosen People Ministries for over a decade and also serves on the board at Wheaton College. He is a graduate of the University of Texas (B.A.), Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.), and the University of Aberdeen (Ph.D.). He has had four annual stints of post–doctoral study at the University of Tübingen, the second through fourth as an Alexander von Humboldt scholar (1989-90, 1995-96, 2004-05, 2010-2011). He also serves as elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Richardson, Texas, is editor at large for Christianity Today, served as President of the Evangelical Theological Society for the year 2000-2001, and has authored over thirty books, including a New York Times Best Seller in non-fiction and the most recent release, Truth Matters, a response to many issues skeptics raise about Christianity in the public square. He is married to Sally and has two daughters (both married), a son, two grandsons and a granddaughter.”

We’ll be discussing many of the works of Ehrman and the problems in them. This will include works such as “God’s Problem”, “Misquoting Jesus”, “How Jesus Became God”, “Lost Christianities”, “Jesus Interrupted”, and “Forged.” We’ll be talking about how Ehrman is quite a skilled communicator but he unfortunately only gives one side of the argument on a regular basis and does not interact with the best opposition against his viewpoint.

If you have a child you plan to send to college one day, you owe it to yourself to listen to this program to learn about the work of Ehrman and how best you can answer it. Ehrman will only give one side of the argument. Make sure you know the other side of the argument just as well. Please be looking for the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast to show up in your ITunes feed.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Civil War As A Theological Crisis

September 2, 2014

What do I think about Mark Noll’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters. 

The Civil War was an awful time in our nation’s history. There can be much debate about what went into it and why it happened. I personally don’t think the war was about slavery at the root, but I think slavery did play a part in it. I would say it was about the decision of the states to secede the union. It did end in freedom for the slaves and the abolition of slavery, but there was more to it than that. Still, that’s just a theory and I leave it to Civil War historians to say more about that.

There can be no doubt however that slavery is a dark mark on our nation’s history as well. What is even sadder about it is that so many people were using the Bible to defend the practice. This has led many of us to forget that the Civil War was not just a crisis of politics, but in fact it was a crisis about theology, since both sides would be able to say the exact same statements about the Bible. They’d just disagree on hermeneutics.

Knowing my interest in inerrancy, it was suggested to me that I should read this book. I’m glad I did. I found in it many of the problems that are still going on today.

Here in America, we believe greatly in the individual power of each person. To some extent, this is not problematic. However, the problem is we often carry this over to every area. We say that the average man is capable of electing his leaders for government. (Note that unique aspect of us. We are a self-governing people instead of people who have a king ruling over us.) We believe in the American Dream where with hard work and ability, you can reach the goals you have. You are to have the freedom to pursue happiness.

If all of this is true, then surely we can also do what every other man should surely be able to do! We can read the Bible and interpret it correctly! This is especially so since if this is the Word of God, then it must be that information which God would want us to know and if He wants us to know it, it should be simply to understand shouldn’t it?

Now I do think the common man to an extent can understand the Bible. You can get the main message of the Bible, such as that of salvation found in Jesus Christ, out of the Bible by a casual reading. Yet you will not get the inner intricacies of the Bible without doing real deep study and it could be the “common sense” interpretation, might be what many Americans think it is, but not what it really is. 

Of course, the fact that we were materialist did not help with this. By materialist, I do not mean philosophical materialism, but rather that we had a great love for our wealth. Slavery was a great way to increase your wealth. Invest a little bit in some slaves who you don’t have to particularly treat well and have them do all the work for you. 

Still, we’re going to be sticking with the problem of Scripture. America had been largely built on the Bible and it held a high place in American society. So what happens when there is a fundamental disagreement among the common man on how it is to interpret the most important book that exists in the American culture?

And you thought your church scuffle was bad….

As Noll also says on Location 2089 of the Kindle, foreign observers could see much clearer what was going on. If the highest authority that they had was every man’s private interpretation of Scripture, then what happens when there is a clash and there is nothing beyond that to point to? Naturally, the Catholics were willing to point out there was a problem with such a view. I, as a Protestant, would point out the need for much study and reflection in reading the leading works of scholarship. Unfortunately, too often, we’ve degenerated further into a strange idea of “That’s just your interpretation!” (Postmodernism I see as the end result of this kind of thinking.)

The great danger is that so many Protestants were saying the Bible was clear on the issue. Unfortunately, that clarity existed on both sides. One side said the Bible was clearly pro-slavery. One side says the Bible was clearly anti-slavery. Once again, we have the same problem today with people going by what is “clear.” What is clear to a modern American however is not necessarily what would be clear to an ancient Jew.

Also add in the view of providence and this makes it more difficult. Every event was interpreted as a specific “sign” from God. (I always get wary when people talk about receiving what they are sure has to be signs from God. These are even more difficult to interpret and while God allows all things to happen, there is no clear indication that any one of them is a direct message from God to the people involved.) This could in fact be something that’s a precursor to another situation today in America, interpreting events in the Middle East as signs from God and seeing Scriptural fulfillment in everything that happens.

A lot of this also came from Christianity blending itself with the Enlightenment. If the power of reason by its own is so great, then surely we can understand a book like Scripture and it must be simple. After all, if God is going to speak a message, won’t He make that message simple? Note that this is an assumption that is not defended. If anything, reading the Bible should show that the message will not be simple as even Jesus says this specifically about His parables.

It’s important to point out that the side that would have often been going the most for the clear reading of the Scripture and seen as conservative, even including the SBC, would have been the side that was pro-slavery. The other side would have been the side that brought forward the textual evidence such as looking at what slavery consisted of in the OT and the NT and what was going on at the time in the world and the marked ways slavery was different in America. Why were these arguments not given the attention they deserved? On Loc. 519, Noll says

But because those arguments did not feature intuition, republican instinct, and common sense readings of individual texts, they were much less effective in a public arena that had been so strongly shaped by intuitive, republican, and commonsensical intellectual principles.

 

Today, we would be told these arguments involved rationalization or “trying to deny the clear meaning of the text” and no doubt several wicked ulterior motives would be involved. Those who were opposed were the ones doing some of the hardest research and analyzing the Scriptures piece by piece instead of going with the “simple” interpretation. (Note: This simple interpretation is also preferred by too many internet atheists today.)

In fact, notice this contrast shown in Location 612.

James M. Pendleton was a hard-nosed defender of the Bible’s inerrancy as well as of Baptist distinctives, but that cast of mind did not prevent him from mounting a strong case against slavery as practiced in Kentucky at a time when possible legislation concerning slavery was being considered by a state constitutional convention.

Note this. Pendleton is seen as a strong defender of inerrancy and the Baptist faith, and yet marked out because he opposed slavery. Now none of this is said to slam Baptists as a large number of Northern Baptists did oppose slavery. Many Baptists today from the South have acknowledged this dark mark on their past and it does no good to deny it. It must be owned up to just like Crusades that went wrong or the fact that even one death in the Inquisition was too many. (Although the number of hundreds of thousands or millions is not accurate at all)

Pendleton also dealt with what was called “the Negro problem.” This meant that even if you freed the slaves, how are you to treat the black population? Are you to view them as Christian brothers and sisters? To the shame of the North, even up there that was not done that often. It would still be difficult to accept them not just as free, but as fully human. In fact, the problem of race was one that could not be answered from within the Biblical text, like many others. (Geez. Maybe extra-Biblical resources aren’t always so bad.)

What this gets down to was that too often, an attack on slavery was seen by those with the persuasion that the text was simple and clear, that this was an attack on Scripture itself and an undermining of its authority. After all, if this is what Scripture clearly teaches, then if you are going against it and bringing in ideas outside of the text, then you are going against the text of Scripture and undermining it as the final authority.

As Noll regularly points out, this was an American problem. It wasn’t that much of a problem to those who were outside of America. In America, to go against this viewpoint would make you be seen as heterodox. In the other nations, it would not. The problem then was not the Bible, but rather how Americans viewed themselves and ultimately, that came from how they viewed God should present His message. Our individualism made it possible.

Reading this book for me was a quite eye-opening event and I made several several more highlights in my Kindle that could not be recorded. What are some lessons to get?

First, we should all seek to go beyond the common sense interpretation of Scripture. We must really wrestle with Scripture and while I am not a presuppositionalist, that does not mean I do not recognize the importance of presuppositions. The assumptions that we bring to the text can affect the way that we read the text.

Second, we must also get over ourselves majorly. All of us who want to learn the Scriptures need to realize that there is no shortcut to understanding. By all means pray before Bible study, but don’t pray expecting God to just beam the answers into your head. You’re going to have to do your part to learn the answers.

Third, be extremely careful about signs. Some signs read would have pointed to the favor of slavery. Some would have pointed to the condemnation of it. It’s very difficult to judge God by current events, especially since you don’t know which ones are specifically from Him and which ones aren’t. We tend to view ourselves as really really special and therefore, God will treat us differently.

Fourth, even opponents of Scripture need to learn to not be so simplistic. When we go by what the clear meaning is, we have to ask who that is clear to. Is what is clear to a modern Westerner the same as what is clear to an ancient Jew? The Bible was written for us, but we must not think that it was written to us. It is not all about us.

Fifth, different interpretations does not mean that one is calling Scripture or inerrancy or anything like that into question. In fact, the ones who were opposed to slavery certainly did have a high view of Scripture. The fact that they weren’t using simple arguments was often seen as if it was a point to be used against them.

Anyone interested in learning the importance of good interpretation in history and the problems with a rampant individualism need to take this book and see what it has to say.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Is Inerrancy An Essential?

August 1, 2014

Is Inerrancy the litmus test for orthodoxy? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We would have liked to have hoped that Geisler had ended his obsession, but alas, this is not the case. Of course, this has been also because of his web site where he has a petition for people to sign to stand up for the Bible before it’s too late!

Because we all know that Mike Licona, one of the strongest defenders of the resurrection of Jesus today, is just going full throttle in an attack on the Bible. Reading Geisler and seeing his obsession, you’d think Mike Licona is some master villain making it his goal in life to destroy the faith of Christians.

Of course, as has been pointed out with regard to this petition is that Geisler is the one who determines who is the true upholder of Inerrancy and who isn’t. I have in fact demonstrated this pointing out how Geisler has deleted my signature from the petition, even though I agree with what it says. See here. This also has happened to Craig Blomberg.

If you think I sound extreme in this, keep in mind that there is even a question asking if Mike Licona is the next Bart Ehrman. Think I'm kidding? Think again. It’s my understanding that this was from a paper at Veritas Evangelical Seminary. If that’s right, I’m pretty sure that if Geisler graded it I know what the reaction was.

Of course, it’s bizarre to say Mike is the next Bart Ehrman. In fact, the more likely scenario is someone in Geisler’s camp would be the next Bart Ehrman since Ehrman was one who put too many eggs in the Inerrancy basket and not just Inerrancy, but a literalist Inerrancy. If Geisler thinks that that is not a problem, I’d like him to meet the several ex-Christian atheists that I’ve met online who in large part left Christianity because they had the Inerrancy doctrine called into question when they in reality held to a modern view of Inerrancy, like Geisler’s.

So now, let’s see what Christopher Haun has to say on his article on Inerrancy and if it’s a litmus test for orthodoxy.

It’s worth pointing out that this starts with a quotation from Daniel Wallace in his review of Defining Inerrancy, the Ebook that J.P. Holding and I co-wrote together with a review by Craig Blomberg. You can find a description here:

If you want to, you can go here and buy a copy and help support Deeper Waters at the same time! Please leave a positive review!

Keep in mind also, that this is a book that a response has not been written to. We are sure Geisler will just be thrilled when the print version comes out expanded to include the works of scholars in the field as well.

At least we can be sure that it has been noticed as is indicated by Haun’s review.

What’s the relationship between biblical inerrancy and orthodoxy? Recently Daniel Wallace suggested that Carl Henry opposed the importance of inerrancy, claiming it was not a litmus test for orthodoxy. Wallace wrote:
And it is this very problem that one of the architects of modern evangelicalism, Carl Henry (who could hardly be condemned as being soft on inerrancy!), addressed in his book, Evangelicals in Search of Identity. It seems that many evangelicals are still not listening. And yet Henry saw, forty years ago, that the evangelical church was making inerrancy the litmus test of orthodoxy to its discredit.

That is of course Wallace being quoted but note what is said at the start. Wallace said nothing about Henry opposing the importance of Inerrancy. He said the opposed it being used as a litmus test for orthodoxy. If that is the case, then there should be no disagreement.

In fact, Wallace himself says that Henry was not soft on Inerrancy. Wallace’s point then is that Henry did see Inerrancy as highly important, but he did not see it as an essential for orthodoxy. Those interested can see the whole quote here:

In Defining Inerrancy, the authors note that they have known many evangelicals who have abandoned the faith precisely because they started out with such a hardening of the categories. This rings true: I get countless emails from people who have either jettisoned their beliefs (or have friends or family members who have) because their starting presupposition was that it’s inerrancy or nothing. Such people would throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater! And it is this very problem that one of the architects of modern evangelicalism, Carl Henry (who could hardly be condemned as being soft on inerrancy!), addressed in his book, Evangelicals in Search of Identity. It seems that many evangelicals are still not listening. And yet Henry saw, forty years ago, that the evangelical church was making inerrancy the litmus test of orthodoxy to its discredit. Yet again, I digress. Holding and Peters are not in the least denying inerrancy; they are simply rejecting a rigid form of it that they see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church.

If you’re wanting to make sure I’m quoting it right, just go here.

Interestingly, Haun leaves out the problem that is noted here. Also left out is the point that Inerrancy is not being denied but a rigid form that Holding and I see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church, something I take Wallace to agree with since he speaks about getting numerous emails from people who abandoned Christianity because they have the impression that it’s all-or-nothing with Inerrancy.

Wonder where they got that idea from….

Once again also, we must stress that no one in this is attacking Inerrancy. Wallace believes in Inerrancy. Holding believes in it. Licona believes in it. Blomberg believes in it. I believe in it. It is in Geisler’s world and that of his followers that if you disagree with a more literalist interpretation, a style that is foreign to the text, then you disagree with Inerrancy. It doesn’t matter if you say you believe in Inerrancy, as long as you disagree with the interpretation of Geisler, you deny Inerrancy.

If writers are interested in why so many are saying they are moving away from Inerrancy and moving to authority, it is not because we have found a problem with the Bible. Not at all! It is because we are looking at this modernistic view and saying “If what it means to believe in Inerrancy is to believe in what Geisler says, then we need to find something else to believe in.”

But let’s look at some of what else Henry said.

Inerrancy is the evangelical heritage, the historic commitment of the Christian church.

A quote like this I find concerning. It shows me that our emphasis moved from Jesus to the Bible. Now to be sure, the Bible is the best witness we have of Jesus today. Still, the Bible is not Jesus. The church did not start with people proclaiming the Scripture, but it started with people proclaiming the resurrection and the Scripture in part was a testimony to that.

If the strength of American evangelicalism rests in its high view of Scripture, its weakness lies in a tendency to neglect the frontiers of formative discussion in contemporary theology

This one is worth noting because that is exactly what is being avoided. Keep in mind Geisler did not show up at the round table discussion about Licona’s view on Matthew 27 but decided afterwards that this was a good time to go after Blomberg for the great crime of standing up for Licona. (And noteworthy that he had to go back thirty years and find a paper that no one batted an eye at and try to find a way Blomberg supposedly denied Inerrancy in it.)

Geisler has this idea apparently that the way to respond to Licona’s interpretation of the passage in question is to wave a flag that says “Inerrancy” and say “Since the passage is Inerrant, therefore Licona is refuted.

This might sound like an odd notion, but to refute someone’s interpretation, you have to show the text does not mean what they take it to mean. It would not work to have the Jehovah’s Witnesses come by and when they say Jesus is not fully God to say “Inerrancy!” and act like they’re answered.

To be fair, Geisler has tried to do this some, but his arguments have been highly lacking and have not shown an interaction with New Testament scholarship. The proper attitude at that point would have been to just back away from the discussion until further research had been done. Waving the flag that says “Inerrancy” does not give Licona any reason to think his view is wrong. Now if Geisler does make an exegetical argument one day that Licona sees and makes him say “I am convinced now that Matthew is treating this as a historical event, but I think he was wrong” then I and Holding and others will certainly say that that is a denial of Inerrancy. That has not happened yet.

Those who reject inerrancy have never adduced any objective principle, either biblical, philosophical, or theological, that enables them to distinguish between those elements which are supposedly errant in Scripture and those that are not.

At this point, it is clear that New Testament scholarship has not been interacted with. Now of course, I disagree with those New Testament scholars who say the Bible is in error, but at the same time, I do agree we need a historical methodology to show that the Bible is not in error. Inerrancy is not a presupposition, but rather a conclusion.

In fact, it’s ironic that there is a statement like this because it does indicate a more presuppositional approach.

Simple question. How would someone like Henry know that the message of the Bible is true rather than say, the message of the Koran or the message of the Book of Mormon? Both of those claim to be from God as well after all.

If he points to historical claims that are known about what happened in Scripture without the doctrine of Inerrancy, then our case is made. If he says that he knows that it is true because it is the Bible and the Bible is the Word of God, then we are getting into circular reasoning.

In fact, this is the approach of a minimal facts technique where the Bible is treated the way liberal scholars treat it and we STILL have the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. Once you establish the resurrection, Inerrancy becomes much easier to establish. It does not work however to try to establish Inerrancy first since you will inevitably need to show the resurrection to do that.

So do we have an approach to show some parts of the Bible are at least reliable? We do. We use historiography. Surely Geisler has been pleased to see archaeological findings that have corroborated the Bible and shown that the Bible was right about such and such a person or place existing. No doubt Henry was a great champion of Christianity, but he was simply wrong here.

If one asks what, in a word, eclipsed the biblical doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, what theological redefinition of inspiration in nonconceptual categories, and what encouraged neo-Protestant denial of inspiration as a decisive New Testament concept, the answer is modern biblical criticism.

There is some truth to this. There were liberals who wanted to take an approach to the Bible that would jettison the miracles and “supernatural” phenomena. (I do not like the word supernatural as I think it points to an Enlightenment dichotomy that I do not hold to.) Thus, they attempted to make arguments to show that the text was not reliable. There is nothing wrong with doing this as we make arguments to show Mormon texts are not reliable.

Picture yourself as an evangelical Christian if you’re not one and you have just got done presenting a host of problems with the text of the Book of Mormon such as contradictions and archaeological mistakes and matters of that sort to a Mormon who has come to the door and the Mormon responds by saying

“I have a testimony from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God, and the Mormon Church is the true church of God.” When you hear this, are you going to sit back and say “Well darn it. I guess I can’t refute that.

Instead, you are more likely to see it as a defense mechanism. When I have dialogued with Mormons and they have said that, I have interpreted it to mean “Ah. There is a point that they cannot answer.”

Now picture yourself as a modern Biblical critic who is agnostic or atheist. You go to Christians and present to them what you think are a number of mistakes in the Bible such as archaeological mistakes, disagreements with modern science, contradictions, etc. Now suppose you hear this back.

“The Bible is the Inerrant Word of God and if the Bible says it, then it is true and therefore, Jesus rose from the dead.”

You are not going to be convinced.

But what if that’s what Christians did in the face of criticism? What if in the face of charges that the Bible had errors, our response was to just make a statement saying that the Bible has no errors? That’s no more a response than the Mormons making a statement that the Book of Mormon is from God and that is known because of a testimony from the Holy Ghost.

Now I am not opposed to making statements on Inerrancy, but statements do not answer questions alone. Statements should be made after questions have been answered. Unfortunately, many Christians chose to retreat. When liberals came to colleges that had been set up to proclaim the Christian faith, Christians set up their own Seminaries instead of staying to fight the battle against the liberals. How are those colleges doing today?

The problem was not Biblical criticism. The problem was bad methodology and faulty premises and conclusions. The way to respond to this is to respond with good methodology and true premises and conclusions. The way to respond to bad historiography is with good historiography. The way to respond to bad science is with good science.

If we uphold Scripture as Inerrant, then we should not fear any methodology that seeks to call it into question. If it is Inerrant, then we should not be afraid of scientific research if we think the Bible is addressing scientific questions. If you truly think the Bible teaches a young Earth for instance, you should welcome the scientific research of the scientific community because that should establish it. If you think it teaches evolution, you should welcome that. If you think it teaches an old Earth without evolution, you should also welcome that.

If you think the Bible teaches that Jesus died and rose again, you should welcome the historical research and if you are convinced that historians who say otherwise are wrong, you should seek to point to problems in their methodology or the evidence that they present. Just making a statement of what you believe will not constitute an answer.

In other words, we should be able to meet our opponents at their own game and be able to face them and win. If the Bible is historically true, then if we do history right, we will find that the Bible stands up. Of course, we can’t prove EVERYTHING historically, but if we go through and find we can trust what we can test, then we have good reason to give the benefit of the doubt to the rest. If we think the Bible speaks on scientific matters, then we should welcome the science and if it is wrong, we should be able to show it scientifically.

This is why when it comes to evolution, I stay out of the debate. I am not a scientist and I do not speak the language. If you think evolution is false and want to argue it, here’s what you do and I don’t think even the staunchest evolutionist will disagree with me on this point. Go do your study and preferably a degree in a science that is related to the field, such as biology, and study the arguments for and against and make your own arguments and present a case from the sciences that refutes evolution. If evolution is bad science after all, the way to refute it is with good science. This is the same way that if denying Jesus rose from the dead is bad history, the way to refute it is good history.

If Geisler does not want to get involved in the field of New Testament scholarship and answer Licona on an exegetical level, that is fine. The best course of action then for him to take is frankly to stay out of the debate. Perhaps he can instead rely on others who he thinks are New Testament scholars who will address the problems that they see with Licona’s view and leave the Inerrancy question out of it.

As long as Geisler goes with the Inerrancy question, then he is simply chasing windmills. The sad tragedy is that he is not driving people to Inerrancy but rather driving them away from it as more and more are looking at what is happening and saying “If this is what Inerrancy entails, I want no part of it.”

It is ironic that people like myself and Holding are lifting up a view of Inerrancy that is defensible and this according to NT scholars like Wallace. Haven’t we seen someone say that those who defend Inerrancy are being attacked while those who attack Inerrancy are being defended?

Now if anyone wants to see if I am quoting Haun rightly, and to be fair I am not responding to everything as I don’t disagree with Henry who is cited profusely, then one can just look at the original article here.

It is still my contention that those who are defending a modern literalism based on a modern Western view of Scripture no doubt mean well and their intentions are good and noble, but they are simply doing more harm than they realize to the body. Again, I have interacted with several ex-Christian atheists that lead me to this conclusion.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response to James White On Defining Inerrancy

June 20, 2014

Has James White’s critique of my position in Defining Inerrancy been accurate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

By now, it should be no secret to readers of Deeper Waters that I am the co-author of the Ebook “Defining Inerrancy“. I thank everyone who has bought a copy and I hope many of you will write positive reviews on Amazon and your own blogs and web sites.

Some of you have also contacted me to tell me that James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries has apparently read our book and spoken about it on his latest podcast. I was not surprised to hear that the review was not a positive one, but at the same time, it is good to have press anyway.

So what is being said?

To start off, one line of White’s which I agree with is that of “If I’ve learned one thing from Norm Geisler it’s that I don’t want to be like him.” The more and more I have seen of this, the more and more I have been embarrassed by my former admiration.

In White’s review, he wanted to save most of what he had to say for the final chapter which happened to be written by me. When told about it I was told “Well he certainly got your viewpoint wrong.” Those who I shared it with who I consider mentors all were saying the same thing.

It’s important to point out that White does say he agrees with Geisler on the interpretation of Matthew 27. It should be pointed out that so does my co-author. Holding thinks that this is a real event that happened. What’s my position? The interpretation of Matthew 27 is actually the focus of the Master’s thesis I am working on so at this point, I am claiming agnosticism. It would be foolish to give a public viewpoint before really digging in and doing the research directly.

The final chapter that White wishes to comment on is the chapter I wrote called “Lordship over Scholarship?” In giving a sense of it he says that I am quoting Geisler and says “Geisler says further ‘As evangelicals we must beware of desiring a table at the seat of contemporary scholarship which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity.’ “(White agrees 1000%)

White then wants you to hear my response.

“On the contrary, I think we should eagerly be desiring that. How are we supposed to make an impact in the world of scholarship if we don’t want a seat at the table. Imagine what it could mean for Christianity if Christians were seen as trusted authorities in each field. Instead of fearing antagonistic presuppositions, what happened to correcting them with real scholarship?”

White says that paragraph really concerns him and is muddled in an amazing way.

Not a shock that White hones in on presuppositionalism.

Now I am not a presuppositionalist at all, but it does not mean that recognizing presuppositions play no role whatsoever in my thinking. White thinks that to sit at the table of scholarship is to compromise and give in to the presuppositions and to say there is a moral neutral ground. He also says that it is saying we should lay aside our commitment to the absolute Lordship of Christ and to the radical elements of that.

I think those of you who know me well are recognizing that I have no desire to do something like that. White tells us that Geisler recognizes that sitting at the table of scholarship is doing that and then adds “But I don’t know where Nick Peters is coming from.”

At this point, it would have been better off if he didn’t know where I was coming from to try to contact me. I’m not hard to find. My blog is there. My own podcast is there. All of them are ways to contact me. If he has no idea where I’m coming from, all that needed to be done was to ask.

Instead, White will proceed to talk about a position assuming that that is mine even though by his own words, he does not know where I am coming from.

White says he hopes I am saying that we should be seeking to challenge those presuppositions, but that that wasn’t what Geisler was talking about.

It’s a shame White didn’t go with his first inclination of what he hoped I was saying. What he hopes I am saying is in fact what I am really saying in that chapter.

White repeats my saying how are we supposed to have an impact if we don’t sit at the table? White suggests that we do so by showing that the presuppositions that they accept are in fact incoherent and by critiquing their worldview. Now I would not do it in a presuppositional way, but I would in fact challenge them.

White then thinks that my statement about having a Christian be a trusted authority in each field is problematic. Can that be given outside of the worldview?

Sometimes, yeah.

Who is it that heads the Human Genome Project? A Christian like Francis Collins. What I am saying is simply what C.S. Lewis said. Imagine what it would mean if the most learned authority in any particular field was a Christian and that in order to learn about a position, unbelievers HAD to go to Christians because Christians put the best material out there.

“I want to learn law!” “Well read this book by this Christian lawyer.”

“I want to learn botany! “Read this book by a Christian botanist.”

“I want to learn economics!” “Read this book by a Christian economist.”

The Christians should be seeking to dominate academia and be the most learned people that they can be.

White goes on to say that there are many people who are embarrassed by the open confession of the Lordship of Christ over every area of knowledge.

Again, this is the kind of accusation that it would have been good to make absolutely sure of before making a statement about it. This especially since he has no idea where it is that I’m coming from and yet seems to know exactly where I’m coming from.

White has said how Dan Wallace endorses the book. I am sure Wallace would have told him as well that White’s position on me is false. In fact, on the same blog where Wallace reviews our book, he also has a link up to where he was interviewed by me on my show.

What is my position? My position is this. That if Christianity is true, and I am convinced it is, good research will show that it is true. If we are doing our history right, it will line up with Christianity. If we are doing our ethics right, it will line up. If we are doing our philosophy right, it will line up. If we are doing our science right, it will line up. If we are doing our hermeneutics right, it will line up.

Chesterton once said something along the lines that if Christianity is not true, it is of no importance. If Christianity is true, it is of great importance to everything out there. I agree entirely. Since Christianity is true, it means Christ has something to say about every area of our lives.

Thus, I am not just a husband. I am a Christian husband. I am not just someone who studies history. I am a Christian who studies history. Every facet of my life is to be submitted to Christ entirely. When I study, Christ has something to say. When I take Allie out on a date, Christ has something to say. When I watch TV or a movie, Christ has something to say. When I play, Christ has something to say. When I drive, Christ has something to say. (Probably has a lot to say to me then especially)

What will I do when I approach a non-Christian? I have told people they are allowed to have their own interpretation. Everyone does, and sometimes we’re wrong. What they are not allowed to do is have their own data. You do not get to dismiss data because it goes against your worldview. You do not get to give it a place it should not have because it goes with your worldview.

So what do I do when I come to the table? I talk about the data. Joe Friday is my kind of approach. Just the facts. Then we discuss the facts. This is also why I think it’s important to have a philosophical background so you can properly interpret the data. Suppose someone brings up miracles not happening for instance. I point to research done by Craig Keener in this field and say it does not work to just dismiss them because they disagree with your worldview. I’m not allowed to do that. Why should you be?

And while I am not a presuppositionalist, I spend plenty of time questioning the worldviews of people who I encounter as to why I should take the stance. As an Aspie, I really can’t stand it when I spot something that is an inconsistency and when people treat Scripture by a different standard than they do other historical works, I don’t bend on that.

Now if someone does not come to Christ if the evidence is there, then naturally there is some other reason they are not, be it emotional or volitional, and it would be foolish of anyone to claim emotions play no role in their thinking. We are all whole human beings and unless we have some condition such as being a sociopath, we are all affected by our emotions, though some are more affected than others.

What happens if we retreat from the world of academia? That’s what we did when evolution showed up. We made a knee-jerk reaction and we’re still paying for it today. When liberal scholarship showed up at our Seminaries, instead of facing it head on, we retreated and set up our own new Seminaries. Colleges, Universities, and Seminaries once firmly held by the Christian worldview are now bastions of secular thought.

I wonder how many people have been lost because of that?

Christ told us the gates of Hell would not stand against the church. Gates are defensive measures. We should in fact be the ones on the offensive and putting those who are not Christians on the defensive. To do that, we will have to learn the best ways of doing history, science, literature, philosophy, and any other field. We will have to climb to the top more and more and present the data that if anyone denies it, it is clear that they are someone who refuses to see. (Think of the Christ-mythers who put up the most ridiculous standards of history.)

I’ve told my wife several times that we could reclaim America for Christ easily. What would it take? Christians waking up. Christians getting up and actually doing something instead of secluding themselves from the culture entirely and running into their little safety bubbles. I’ve written about this in this post. When Christians retreat, it’s no shock that the world gains a stronger voice.

And of course, we absolutely don’t surrender in our convictions. Of course, not every hill is worth dying on. If the hill you are willing to die on is pre-tribulationism or the age of the Earth or the usage of tongues in the church today, then you are fighting the wrong battle. Your position in fact is to be fought on the hill that says the triune God revealed Himself in Jesus of Nazareth and that when Jesus died, the Father raised Him from the dead. Jesus is now king of this world.

We are to follow the Pauline principle of defeating arguments and bringing them under the Lordship of Christ. It’s not a question of Lordship or scholarship. It’s both. Our Lord is not honored by poor scholarship. He is not honored by poor science. He is not honored by poor philosophy. We are to give him the best of our labors and that includes the best of our academic and intellectual endeavors.

I hope this sets the record straight. For those who wish to think I am compromising on Christian principles after listening to White, who has absolutely no idea where I’m coming from, I hope this sets the record straight. I also hope you’ll realize that while I seek to give the best, I will fail repeatedly at this as will all of us and this is where I depend on those inside and even outside the faith to correct me. As Benjamin Franklin said “Our critics are our friends. They show us our faults.” If an unbeliever can point to a legitimate error in a position I hold, I need to respond to that somehow just as much as if a Christian does it.

After all, if one sits at the table, one had better be prepared to make the case that needs to be made.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Fathers Know Best?

June 18, 2014

What do the church fathers say about Matthew 27? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Norman Geisler has come to picture obsession to the extreme. For years now, he’s been harping on Matthew 27 and really, not producing anything new. In all this time, he could have gone out and read Burridge on why the Gospels are Greco-Roman Bioi or gone to the best scholarly monographs he could find on the passage in Matthew 27, but instead, he just wants to repeat the same material.

So now he’s gone to the church fathers. Now I’m sure we’ll all agree that while the church fathers have authority, they are not the final authority. What matters most is what the Scripture says. Still, it would be foolish to just dismiss all the church fathers. Their views should be taken seriously.

But do they really agree with Geisler?

Let’s start with Geisler’s citation of Ignatius’s epistle to the Trallians.

What does the text supposedly say?

“For Says the Scripture, ‘Many bodies of the saints that slept arose,’ their graves being opened. He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a multitude” (chap.Ix, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, p. 70).

Why do I say supposedly?

Because there are two versions of the epistle. There is the shorter version and the longer version. Most scholars consider the longer version to be spurious.

So let’s go to chapter 9 of the shorter version. What do we see?

9:1 Be ye deaf, therefore, when any one speaketh unto you apart from Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David, who was born of Mary, who was truly born, ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died, in the sight of the things that are in heaven and on earth and under the earth;

9:2 and was truly raised from the dead, his Father having raised him up; according to the similitude of which also his Father shall raise up us who believe in him in Christ Jesus, apart from whom we have not the true life.

Why was the spurious version cited? Why is this not pointed out?

Either A) Geisler does not know and this is an error of ignorance that calls the research ability high into question

or B) It is known and is ignored, in which case facts are being ignored to suit an agenda.

I think it’s best to be generous and go with A.

Let’s now look at the epistle to the Magnesians.

According to Geisler.

“…[T]herefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master—how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher? And therefore He who they rightly waited for, being come, raised them from the dead”[Chap. IX] (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I (1885). Reprinted by Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, p. 62. Emphasis added in all these citations).

While some connect this to Matthew 27, nothing in the context demands it. Further, what does it mean, “When he came?” Nothing is said about the death of Jesus or about opening of the tombs. It could be referring to Matthew 27, but the text does not demand it.

The next statements are from the lost fragments of Irenaeus. The problem is many scholars consider these lost fragments to be spurious. Once again, the problem is the same as in the first citing of the epistle of Ignatius.

Next is Clement of Alexandria. What do we have from Geisler?

“‘But those who had fallen asleep descended dead, but ascended alive.’ Further, the Gospel says, ‘that many bodies of those that slept arose,’—plainly as having been translated to a better state”(Alexander Roberts, ed. Stromata, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. II, chap. VI, 491).

But what do we find earlier?

But how? Do not [the Scriptures] show that the Lord preached the Gospel to those that perished in the flood, or rather had been chained, and to those kept in ward and guard? And it has been shown also, in the second book of the Stromata, that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades. For it was requisite, in my opinion, that as here, so also there, the best of the disciples should be imitators of the Master; so that He should bring to repentance those belonging to the Hebrews, and they the Gentiles; that is, those who had lived in righteousness according to the Law and Philosophy, who had ended life not perfectly, but sinfully. For it was suitable to the divine administration, that those possessed of greater worth in righteousness, and whose life had been pre-eminent, on repenting of their transgressions, though found in another place, yet being confessedly of the number of the people of God Almighty, should be saved, each one according to his individual knowledge.

So a question.

Does Geisler think the apostles went and preached the Gospel to those in Hades? If not, why not? If so, on what grounds since this is a testimony centuries later?

Now of course, it could be that Clement really sees the resurrection of the saints as historical and that must be taken into consideration, but it is not the final authority.

Next comes Tertullian. What does Geisler quote?

“’And the sun grew dark at mid-day;’ (and when did it ‘shudder exceedingly’ except at the passion of Christ, when the earth trembled to her centre, and the veil of the temple was rent, and the tombs burst asunder?) ‘because these two evils hath My People done’” (Alexander Roberts, ed. An Answer to the Jews, Chap XIII, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, 170).

An obvious problem here is all it says is that the tombs burst open. That could easily happen in an earthquake. There is no mention of saints coming out. Now Geisler could say is that Tertullian did fully have in mind that scene, but that would be claiming to know authorial intent, which he says cannot be known.

Next he says this about Hippolytus

“And again he exclaims, ‘The dead shall start forth from the graves,’ that is, from the earthly bodies, being born again spiritual, not carnal. For this he says, is the Resurrection that takes place through the gate of heaven, through which, he says, all those that do not enter remain dead” (Alexander Roberts, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, The Refutation of All Heresy, BooK V, chap. 3, p. 54). The editor of the Ante-Nicene Fathers footnotes this as a reference to the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:52, 53 (in Note 6, p. 54.), as indeed it is.

But is it indeed? Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not. Could it not refer to the future resurrection, especially since it is also in the future tense? Of course, it could refer to Matthew 27, but must it do so necessarily?

What about Origen?

Now to this question, although we are able to show the striking and miraculous character of the events which befell Him, yet from what other source can we furnish an answer than the Gospel narratives, which state that ‘there was an earth quake, and that the rock were split asunder, and the tombs were opened, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, an the darkness prevailed in the day-time, the sun failing to give light’”

Once again, the tombs are open, but there’s no mention of saints getting out and walking around. Again, Geisler cannot appeal to anything else here because he says we can’t know authorial intent.

Geisler also goes to chapter 36. What does the chapter say in that work?

Celsus next says: What is the nature of the ichor in the body of the crucified Jesus? Is it ‘such as flows in the bodies of the immortal gods?’ He puts this question in a spirit of mockery; but we shall show from the serious narratives of the Gospels, although Celsus may not like it, that it was no mythic and Homeric ichor which flowed from the body of Jesus, but that, after His death, one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and there came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true, and he knows that he says the truth. Now, in other dead bodies the blood congeals, and pure water does not flow forth; but the miraculous feature in the case of the dead body of Jesus was, that around the dead body blood and water flowed forth from the side. But if this Celsus, who, in order to find matter of accusation against Jesus and the Christians, extracts from the Gospel even passages which are incorrectly interpreted, but passes over in silence the evidences of the divinity of Jesus, would listen to divine portents, let him read the Gospel, and see that even the centurion, and they who with him kept watch over Jesus, on seeing the earthquake, and the events that occurred, were greatly afraid, saying, This man was the Son of God.

Again, no mention here. Strange isn’t it?

For Cyril, I see no reason to doubt that this is referring to Matthew 27 and this must be taken seriously, but it is also about 300 years after the event.

Next is Gregory of Nazianzus.

“He [Christ] lays down His life, but He has the power to take it again; and the veil rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened;5 the rocks are cleft, the dead arise. He dies but he gives life, and by His death destroys death. He is buried, but He rises again. He goes down to Hell, but He brings up the souls; He ascends to Heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead, and to put to the test such words are yours” (Schaff, ibid., vol. VII, Sect XX, p. 309).

This could indeed be a reference to Matthew 27, but it could also have in mind a passage like Ephesians 4. Mike Licona would want to know how this would work with Jesus being the firstfruits of the resurrection. If Jesus is the first to rise in a new and glorified body, how is it that these saints arise in such a body before Jesus? It is a question Geisler needs to take seriously.

We have no beef really with what is said later by the early fathers, but it’s worth noting that the earliest references possible to this do not mention it. In fact, this could be along the lines of what some scholars would say is legendary development. I’m not saying that it is, although we all do know legends did arise around Jesus. That does not mean that they are found in the Gospels of course. Gnostic Gospels and such contained stories about Jesus we would call legends. In fact, some of our Christmas tradition comes from the Proto-Evangelium of James. (Not really a Gnostic Gospel, but rather something that could have been seen as Christian fiction.) It is doubtful that Geisler thinks Jesus struck down bullies with death as a child or extended the length of planks of wood for his Dad or brought clay pigeons to life, but these are accounts found in other works and at times, even some Christians got confused.

We conclude that there is still much research to be done on this question but let it be known the difference. When a question like this is raised, it is better to debate the question without settling it, than it is to settle it without debating. We prefer the former. Geisler seems to prefer the latter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

No True Inerrantist!

June 17, 2014

Who exactly counts as an Inerrantist? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Over at his Facebook, Norman Geisler is making much about how he has a web site defending Inerrancy which is endorsed by Billy Graham and Ravi Zacharias and several prominent Seminary leaders. How many NT scholars endorse this is strangely absent. So any way, what do we find when we go to Geisler’s site?

We’ve lost a growing number of scholars over the issue of inerrancy. This is a problem because pastors follow scholars. And ordinary people follow pastors. So it’s only a matter of time before we could see the full erosion of the Bible within our generation… unless we take action to alert the Christian community. And please sign this petition to tell your friends that you stand up for the Bible.

Yep. So here’s the deal. Mike Licona writes a huge book defending the resurrection of Jesus from the attack of opponents. Geisler finds one part that he disagrees with that most people would most likely gloss over and say “Well that’s interesting” and move on. Immediately, Geisler shifts to an attack mode pulling out all the guns he can find and firing as much as he can. Why? Because Mike Licona is attacking Inerrancy!

Because, you know, the best way to do that is to seriously work at exegeting the text and look at many readings of it and come to a conclusion on it all in a work that is built around defending the bodily resurrection of Jesus. It’s a wonder Licona was able to do this while wielding his pitchfork at the same time and cackling about how much damage would be done to the church.

No. It’s not that Licona simply made a mistake or is in error for Geisler. Licona is instead attacking inerrancy and is seeking to redefine it. Of course, it’s only Licona who’s doing this despite Licona pointing out that J.I. Packer, one of the framers of the ICBI statement has his own interesting views. As Licona says

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.

Where does Packer say this? Licona says

See http://sydneyanglicans.net/media/audio/creation_evolution_problems/. Packer’s relevant comments begin at 20:00 and go through 49:00.

This apparently is okay to say and be in line with inerrancy. To say that Matthew 27 contains something figurative is not. Unfortunately, we have no direct statement from Packer himself. We only get everything second hand from Geisler. We would like to see some interaction from Packer himself. We don’t want it to come from Geisler. To the sources!

But of course, we know that if people like Licona are not stopped, we will lose the Bible in a generation!

Someone please wake up and smell the coffee! People are falling aside from the faith left and right and you know what, it’s not because they deny inerrancy. While one of Geisler’s students wrote a paper asking if Mike Licona is the next Bart Ehrman, it’s more likely that someone following Geisler will be the next Bart Ehrman.

Why is this? Because Ehrman gave inerrancy a huge position in his Christian worldview. When it fell, that’s when the floodgates opened. It’s a Damascus Road experience that shows up constantly in his books. In fact, inerrancy, along with young-earth creationism, are two major reasons youth are falling away.

Why? Because if you have to take the Bible “literally” (Who came up with that rule anyway?) then they’re convinced that the Bible teaches young-earth creationism. (Which ignores the fact that the account is not written to be a scientific account.) If the Earth is old, then that also means inerrancy has to go, and if the Bible is not inerrant, then it’s not the Word of God, and it’s not the Word of God, then it’s just another book and you can’t trust it.

Now Geisler of course holds to an old Earth. (A view that he holds thanks to modern science, because we all know it’s okay to use 20th century science to exegete a Biblical text but it’s not okay to use 1st century genres that the authors had access to to interpret a Biblical text.) Geisler doesn’t see that as denying inerrancy. People at AIG and other places however do see it that way, but Geisler is allowed to hold that position because, well, he’s the one in charge after all and if he says its within the bounds, then its within the bounds.

Now getting back to this web site, Geisler has a petition up on the site. What does it say?

“I affirm that the Bible alone, and in its entirety, is the infallible written Word of God in the original text and is, therefore, inerrant in all that it affirms or denies on whatever topic it addresses.”

That can be found here.

I did a search on the page. There is no mention of ICBI. If this is all that is meant by inerrancy, I have no problem with it. I hold to that. If the Bible affirms something, then that is true. If it denies something, then that is also true. The question is “What does the Bible affirm or deny?” An inerrancy statement doesn’t tell you what that is. It just tells you that whatever it is, that that statement is either true or false.

So as I said, I have no problem with the statement.

So you know what? I did what Craig Blomberg did. I signed it.

signedstatement

There. See? I signed it.

“Yeah! Well I don’t see your name there or Craig Blomberg’s!

That’s right. They were removed.

signatureremoved

It would be good to know on what grounds it can be said that I do not affirm inerrancy. Is it because I disagree with Geisler? Has this become the grounds now for holding to inerrancy? If you do not agree with Geisler’s view, then you do not agree with inerrancy period? This even though the statement that I signed has absolutely nothing to say about ICBI? Now Geisler might say “Well I know that when I wrote the statement, I meant the ICBI view.”

Well sorry, but that won’t work. All I have there is the text and I cannot read Geisler’s “authorial intent” after all and so just going by the words that are right there on the page, I fully agree and I have zero problem.

More likely, we have a No True Scotsman fallacy. No True Inerrantist disagrees with inerrancy the way Geisler presents it after all and if you say you do but you disagree with him, then you are not a true inerrantist! And all true inerrantists in history would have agreed entirely with ICBI!

It’s almost as if someone really wants to be a Pope.

And that someone can determine who truly believes in inerrancy and who doesn’t.

It’s as if he knows their minds, you know, the authorial intent and all.

We’ll just have to ask how much more division must take place in the body before Geisler finally realizes the harm that he’s doing in trying to defend his legacy. If anything, by his own actions, he’s already destroyed it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Reading The Bible As Literature

June 16, 2014

Is there a reason so many debates about the Bible just miss the point? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Okay. We get it in the atheism/theism debates. Some people believe the Bible is reliable. Some do not. That’s fine and until the return of Christ, that’s not going to change. Yet I have been pondering lately that the way we talk about the Bible is part of the problem, and this isn’t just how atheists talk about it, but also how theists talk about it.

It seems while we speak about if the claims of the Bible are true, which we should, there is a lack of the recognition that the Bible is a piece of literature. It speaks with allegory, hyperbole, metaphor, simile, etc. It uses poetry and narrative and proverbs and apocalypses to make its point. The Bible exists in one book, but it is itself a collection of many books, books written by different authors in different times and locations.

Considering all of this, the Bible is not going to be an easy book to understand! Add in that it comes from languages different from our own, a culture different from our own, a time different from our own, and a place different from our own.

I started pondering this the most recent time I saw someone describe the Bible as a book of fairy tales. This is a common claim, but quite frankly a strange one. Fairy tales are really wonderful works of literature that show a richness of imagination and insight into the human predicament. What kind of person would laugh at a fairy tale for being a fairy tale? Yet this kind of statement is not an insult to the Bible alone, but it is also a lowering of the kind of writing that is a fairy tale.

Now why do many atheists say this? I suspect it’s because our culture has been heavily influenced by scientism. We have this idea that all truth should be amenable to the sciences and that science is the highest way of knowing anything if not the only way of knowing anything. We expect then the Bible to speak in scientific language because we are a scientific people.

It doesn’t, and that’s not because the Bible is anti-science. Many of us are not anti-science and we don’t speak in scientific language. The Bible has a totally different purpose. Even if you don’t think it is from God, the authors at least were really trying to make a message about God and they did not have to do it in a way that is convenient to modern listeners. They would write in ways their immediate audience would understand.

Besides, how many of us would really like to have many events described in scientific language? Consider for instance the union of man and woman in the act of sex. Which account would you rather here to describe what happens in the event? Would you prefer a purely scientific account or would you prefer to get an account perhaps from the lovers themselves? (Naturally after they’re done. There won’t be much desire to explain in the midst of the act.)

If you choose the first one, I pity you. I really do.

What needs to be done is to wrestle with the literary forms of the Bible and see if maybe our modern ideas of what the text means are wrong. Perhaps the Bible is not interested in the questions we are interested in. Perhaps one really needs to wrestle with the text to understand it. Still want to disbelieve it? Fine. At least do your part to really try to understand it as a text.

I’ve spoken about the atheists, but frankly, I think the theists are just as guilty. In fact, in many ways, I think my fellow theists are more guilty than the atheists are because we’ve set the standard that the atheist will follow.

For us, it really boils down to one word.

Literal.

Immediately, some people reading this who are Christians are going into a defensive stance because I have just made a statement that is going to dare to suggest that we don’t take the Bible literally. Why I must just be a liberal Christian who rejects miracles and inerrancy and everything else.

On the contrary, I believe we should ALWAYS take the Bible literally.

Why?

Because literal really means “According to the intent of the author.” If the author meant the text to be taken straight forwardly, then do so. If he meant it to be a narrative, then do so. If he meant it to be a metaphor or an apocalypse or a generality, then take it that way as well.

Too often, we have taken literal to mean something more like a wooden reading of the text. That’s not what a literal meaning is. That’s why in today’s parlance if I was asked if the Bible is the Word of God to be interpreted literally, I would say no, because sometimes the Bible is not straight forward.

Why should this surprise us? Jesus told his own parables in a confusing manner. In fact, he did so purposely. Job in his book talked about the search for wisdom and compared it to mining and digging deep for great wealth. It would not be easy to understand and considering all we’ve said about the Bible, why should it be?

Thus, when we hear Christians talk about the literal interpretation, too often it sets up atheists who think that this is always the way the Bible should be read and when read in that sense, they reject most of it as nonsense, and who can blame them? In fact, none of us take it that way or else in reading the words of Jesus, we’d all be blind and have no hands. (Too many people heavy into inerrancy fall into this trap of literal interpretation.)

In fact, when I put a short form of this up on Facebook, what happened immediately but a debate started about Genesis 1, which shows the problem! It’s immediately jumped to that Genesis 1 must be read in scientific terms! Surely this is what the author of the text meant to convey!

But maybe it wasn’t! Could it be someone like John Walton is right with his interpretation of Genesis One. Of course he could be wrong, but isn’t it worth listening to to consider first instead of assuming our presupposition is correct?

The theist, you see, is often guilty of not treating the Bible as literature as well and not really being able to wrestle with the text and ask the hard questions of the text. Some of us have this idea that we should not question the Bible. I disagree entirely. We should question the Bible with every question we can bring to it. In doing so, we can best find out what it is the text is saying.

Ironically, the two sides mentioned both have similar mindsets. Both of them tend to view the Bible always in a straight forward sense and both assume the Bible was written in a way that is directly fitted for modern 20th and 21st century people in a Western civilization.

Maybe it isn’t.

That’s not the fault of the Bible then. That’s the fault of us for wrestling with the text.

If you are on a debate site and you are arguing about the Bible, then for this part, it doesn’t really matter what side you’re on. You owe it to yourself to wrestle with the text as literature and seek to find out what it means and why you think it means what it means. If someone questions that, then it’s up to you to defend your position and if you can’t, be open to changing your mind.

Will we still disagree about the truth claims of the Bible? Absolutely! Yet if we follow a procedure like this, hopefully some of us will have instead better informed disagreements as to the nature of the text and what it is saying rather than a quick dismissal of it all or a quick embrace of it all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler’s Shark-Infested Waters

June 6, 2014

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

New Resource: Defining Inerrancy

May 23, 2014

What’s the latest resource available from Deeper Waters? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters!

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been on the forefront of Norman Geisler’s attacks on my father-in-law, Mike Licona. I’ve been constantly at work showing that the criticisms don’t work and that in fact, Geisler’s approach as well as that of his followers will severely cripple the ability of the church to engage the culture. If anything will produce more Bart Ehrmans, it is the approach of Geisler.

Today, my ministry partner, J.P. Holding, and I have unveiled our latest work in this area bringing this out beyond just the blogs and YouTube. Now you can hold much of the information we’ve written as well as some new content in your hands, well, provided those hands have a Kindle or a tool that can read a Kindle.

May I introduce to you Defining Inerrancy!

This book is equipped to help you realize that not only do we hold to inerrancy, but that it can be defended without it having to be the style that Geisler and his company insist on. There is inerrancy that can stand proud recognizing the truths discovered through years of work and scholarship in the Gospels rather than one that will shun the academy and lead to a rigid fundamentalism.

Not only do we have excellent content in here, but we have a great foreword by Craig Blomberg himself. Blomberg in his foreword lays out the importance of the Ebook that we’ve written and why it is that he thinks that this battle matters as well.

The question in all of this has never really been about inerrancy, though some want to make it about inerrancy. It’s been more about how it is that the Bible is to be handled in this time. Geisler’s approach leads to a rigid literalism and disregards the work of the academy on grounds that no serious NT scholar will take seriously. You can be sure that the students who are taking Geisler’s work and embracing it might be able to intellectually somehow convince themselves that Ehrman is wrong, but they will not be able to convince others.

For a Christian to be able to defend the NT today, he’s going to need to be able to interact with modern NT scholarship and show from the viewpoint of scholarship when a case is wrong. Is there such a thing as bad NT scholarship out there? Just as much as there is bad theology and bad philosophy! What’s the antidote to this? It’s not to eliminate all NT scholarship any more than it is to eliminate all philosophy and theology. The antidote is good and sound scholarship. If your case is true, there will be evidence for that case.

I urge everyone to please go out today and pick up a copy of Defining Inerrancy and tell your friends about it as well. I hope that this volume will equip you to be able to go out and defend the truth of Scripture to a new generation and for that new generation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters