Archive for the ‘Inerrancy’ Category

Evangelical Jenga

February 27, 2013

Will the whole building collapse? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, I’ve been communicating with a friend of mine who is coming out of a period of doubt and has said that part of the problem is what Dan Wallace, noted NT textual critic and conservative Christian, calls “Bibliolatry.” This is where we have put the Bible on a high pedestal so high that we must isolate it from anything that would seem to go against it.

Let’s state something right at the start. I have a great love for the Bible. It is the most important book out there. It is the book that I have spent the past decade defending and showing the reliability of. Yet at the same time, I do not wish to put the Bible in an isolation chamber. I also don’t want to put it on the throne of God. (And I have seen some Christians say the Word in John 1:1 is the Bible. That’s scary.)

The end result of all of this has been a sort of evangelical Jenga.

Most of us have seen or played the game Jenga. You get a tower of small wooden sticks and you have to take one stick out and put it on top without having the whole thing collapse. If you make a mistake and it collapses, then you are the one who loses that game.

There are some beliefs in Christianity that are absolutely 100% non-negotiable such that if they are not true, then Christianity is not true. For instance, if there is no God, there can obviously be no God revealing Himself in Christ. If Jesus is not deity, then we cannot have God among us and if there is no Trinity, then we have a huge problem with who Jesus is. If there is no physical resurrection, then death is not conquered.

Now here are some other areas to consider.

Let’s suppose you hold to a pre-trib dispensational view of Scripture. An honest question to ask yourself. If it turns out that this view is wrong, does that mean Christianity is wrong? If it turns out that orthodox Preterism is wrong, does that mean I have to reject Christianity?

People like Ken Ham have stated that the reason youth are falling away is because they do not understand young-earth creationism. I would contend it’s the opposite. If YEC becomes synonymous with Christianity and that is called into question, then that means that Christianity must fall since the two have to stand.

Question again. If you are a YEC and you find out that it turns out the Earth is really not young but is rather old, does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

In fact, let’s make the question even more pointed than that. Let’s suppose that it turns out that there really was a process of natural selection that took place in an evolutionary history that shows that life is here through a process of evolution. Does that convince you that Jesus did not rise from the dead?

Let’s suppose that it is found that there is a bona fide contradiction within the text of Scripture. Question. Does that convince you that there is no reliable evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?

For an example of this kind of thinking, take a look at a post by James White with a link below. He is responding to someone on a message board and he is answering about William Lane Craig.

“First, William Lane Craig was not jesting with his atheist opponent. He was being perfectly serious in suggesting that his opponent become a Christian “who simply doesn’t believe in inerrancy.” Can you make heads or tails out of such a suggestion, sir? What was Craig asking him to do? Believe Jesus died and rose from the dead solely on the basis of the “greater probability” of the event from a historical perspective? What if his opponent then asked, “But, even if I believe that, what does it have to do with me…and don’t answer by reference to the Bible, since, of course, I don’t believe it is a divine revelation to begin with.” What then? Given the context of the debate, was it not obvious that having this as the final statement made by Craig that night communicated very clearly that the authority, accuracy, and consistency of the Bible is very low on his list of apologetic priorities? Do you think this was a wise way to end the debate? Do you think it is wrong to point this out and discuss it and point to a better way? Why is it “harsh” of me to do so?”

Actually, I can make heads or tails of becoming a Christian that does not believe in Inerrancy. It simply means someone believes Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but they are not convinced that the Bible is 100% reliable in all that it teaches. Is this a position I agree with? No. Yet I can tell you I would rather have someone come to the resurrected savior with a less than perfect view of Scripture rather than be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who would say they believe in Inerrancy but do not have the Jesus of the Bible.

The reliability of the Bible is important to Craig, but apparently more important is getting people to recognize Jesus as Lord. White seems stunned someone would base this belief on a greater probability argument. Well what does he think the early church did that didn’t have a Bible? They had to actually give evidence that Jesus was risen and let the people examine it.

White’s approach is that of bibliolatry. In fact, it is an excellent example since it includes in there the notion of 100% certainty. If you do not have 100% certainty, then you do not have a good foundation. Before moving on to explain this further, let’s ask a couple more questions.

Suppose you become convinced that Luke is actually not the author of Luke. Does this mean that you no longer hold that the gospel of Luke is a reliable source? Let’s suppose you hold that Peter did not write 2 Peter or Paul did not write Colossians. Does this mean you have no reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead?

If having your beliefs above be proven wrong was enough to get you to think Jesus did not rise from the dead, you have a problem.

Let’s go back to White and consider his idea. Most of us make numerous life decisions every day on less than 100% certainty. I don’t have 100% certainty when I go to the store to buy groceries that I will be coming home. I could get in a car accident on the way. I still act and I in fact act with great certainty. I act as if nothing will happen and don’t really take the possibility of the contrary seriously.

Let’s suppose you were someone like White with Inerrancy being such a major factor and then add in the other beliefs. You have to hold to the authorship of this book, have to hold that there are no contradictions, have to hold to a certain doctrine of the end times, and have to hold to a certain view of the age of the Earth.

Do tell me this. How is it going to be possible that you will always have in your memory all the information that you need to deal with every objection?

You won’t.

In fact, you will come to every objection on edge ultimately since if one part of the tower falls, then the whole thing will collapse. Is it any wonder so many people have their faith in shambles? They are walking on a tight rope and are afraid to breathe. They are unable to have their positions examined because if one goes down, the whole edifice will collapse.

Realize this. If you hold any position that is true, research will not change that if it is done properly. There is nothing wrong with your having your presuppositions. We all have them. Just be aware that they are there and don’t let them dominate. You don’t want it to be that the case is decided before you examine the evidence, especially while telling unbelievers to not do the same thing.

What would be a better technique? How about majoring on the essentials instead? Perhaps you cannot give a great answer to an evolutionist if you don’t study science, like I don’t. Still, what if you can demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead? Isn’t your case made either way? Perhaps you have to change your view of Genesis. That’s a whole lot better than having to find a new worldview entirely isn’t it?

Maybe you don’t know enough to answer that one potential contradiction in the Bible. Okay. Does that mean the testimony in 1 Cor. 15 of the resurrection of Jesus is automatically wrong then? It sounds like a strange view of Scripture doesn’t it? Either everything is right or everything is wrong? Does that mean if there is one contradiction you have to believe Jesus never existed since the Bible says He does?

Our game of evangelical Jenga is unfortunately burdening us all and making us retreat into nice little bubbles of isolation where we cannot really let our beliefs be challenged and let true investigation take place. I find it ironic that those who seem to want to shout the loudest about how trustworthy the Bible is live in dread of a mistake. I am quite sure of how trustworthy it is which leads me to say to skeptics “Go ahead. Examine my book. Test it. Let’s talk about your findings.”

Let us hope the game of Jenga ends soon, because unfortunately, our youth who apostasize are being the losers.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

James White’s entry can be found here

Misquoting Licona

February 27, 2013

Should we represent opponents honestly? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Many of my readers may very well be familiar with Bart Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus.” In this book, Bart discusses his belief that the words of Jesus are not accurately reproduced in the New Testament. Of course, Ehrman is well-known for his quarrel with the idea of an inerrant Bible; his downhill slide away from Christianity beginning with his rejection of the doctrine. Though Ehrman insists his ultimate reason for abandoning Christianity was the problem of evil, I believe he may not have come to this point had the issue of inerrancy not also been an issue. It clearly made an impact on him when one considers the number of times Ehrman has told the story about the genesis of his doubt in the doctrine of inerrancy.

Of course, I am open to being wrong.

One would think then that the one who is making the most out of a reputation of defending Inerrancy, namely Norman Geisler, would want to make sure he does not make the same mistake as the book title of Ehrman and be sure that he is quoting his opponent, Mike Licona, in this case, accurately. I find it ironic that one who is making the most out of a reputation of defending inerrancy, namely Norman Geisler, would be guilty of doing the very thing Ehrman asserts regarding the words of Jesus in the New Testament.

As it stands, he is not. Case in point is his recent article taking to task Dr. Robert Sloan, President of Houston Baptist University and Dr. Mike Licona.

“(9)Licona believes that the Gospel of Matthew does not come from the apostle Matthew or from another apostolic source, but it has been redacted by a later writer. For he affirmed that “This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances. However, “the magnificent harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction” (RJ, 530).”

In order to give full disclosure, I need to acknowledge that Mike Licona is my father-in-law. This also has the added advantage of being able to ask him point blank any question that comes up that would be of concern. I found this particular assertion regarding the authorship of Matthew particularly amusing because Mike and I had recently talked about Bart Ehrman and his disregard for the arguments on the authorship of the gospels from conservative scholars. After reading Geisler’s most recent attack, I called Mike and told him I was surprised to hear that he does not believe Matthew wrote Matthew. He responded that he, too, was surprised to hear that!

I then emailed Mike, referencing point nine of Geisler’s article, in particular. Mike urged me to check the reference in his book, something that I should have done from the start. However, hindsight is always 20/20. If you have a copy of Mike’s book, “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach,” I urge you to turn to page 530.

At the start of the first paragraph indentation, you will read “Crossan thinks that a trace of the harrowing of hell appears in Matthew 27:52-53, which may have been an attempt to solve this fourth problem.” In other words, we are dealing with Crossan’s view, not Licona’s view.

Following are the verses in Greek as well as an English translation. The next paragraph goes as follows, and keep in mind this is still Crossan’s view being stated:

“This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances. However, ‘the magnificient harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction.(257)’ A later attempt has the apostles and teachers leading the harrowing of hell after their deaths.(258) For Crossan the marginalization of the harrowing of hell is ‘one of the most serious losses from earliest Christian theology.(259)”

(Parentheses indicate the number of a footnote.)

All of this is the view of Crossan which is summarized in part here. (Pages 519-532 explain in depth Crossan’s hypothesis on the resurrection).

Now let’s look again at the manner in which Geisler portrays Licona’s view.

According to Geisler, “Licona believes that the Gospel of Matthew does not come from the apostle Matthew or from another apostolic source, but it has been redacted by a later writer.”

The first part is Geisler’s portrayal of Licona’s belief that the gospel of Mathew does not come from Matthew but from another source and was, in fact, redacted.

“For he (supposedly Licona) affirmed that “This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances.”

According to Geisler, this is the belief that Licona affirms.

And here is the last part with a quote from the book to seal the deal:

“However, “the magnificent harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction’ ” (Again, Geisler asserting that these are the words of Licona and a belief that he affirms).

The problem is right after the word “redaction” there is is, as shown earlier, a number indicating a footnote. Going to the bottom of the page, we find the corresponding footnote and read “Crossan in Stewart,ed. (2006), 181.”

If we go to page 689, we see that the footnote refers to a work by Dr. Robert Stewart, “The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan and N.T. Wright in Dialogue,” Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006.

Thus, Geisler has attributed to Licona a view that he does not actually hold. In his book, Licona was merely quoting Crossan, not his own view, in a chapter entitled “Weighing Hypotheses” with the look at Crossan beginning on page 519. This portion ends on page 532 and Licona then begins to outline his personal view and critiques Crossan’s view.

Logically, this means that one of two things has happened. Either Geisler has used sloppy scholarship and has misrepresented his opponent. Or, even worse, he is just outright being dishonest. We cannot know, but let us hope that it is the former.

One may object, “But maybe Geisler did not write that. Maybe someone under him wrote it and he just gave his stamp of approval.”

However, even if this were the case problems remain. Even if it is true, It defies reason that someone reading the book would not know this is a footnote. Second, even if Geisler didn’t actually write the article, he did give it his stamp of approval not bothering to check it for accuracy. He proceeded to put it up on his website and Facebook page so this is where the buck ultimately stops.

Either way, his name is on the article which means he is claiming authorship. If that’s ethical, he can have no complaint with those who hold to the pseudonymous authorship of a work. How could this be since he holds that to deny Matthew wrote Matthew is to deny inerrancy? Since the gospel of Matthew nowhere makes the claim that it is written by Matthew, how does he know? Is he relying on the early Church Fathers? Is this any more than an Evangelical Pope at work?

Licona holds that the traditional authorship is probable. Can this be demonstrated with 100% satisfaction? No. Few, if any, conservative scholars would argue otherwise. But the evidence is largely in favor of this view while the evidence to the contrary is quite weak.

Moving on, in the first open letter, Geisler regularly refers to events on pages 546-553 of Licona’s book. That letter can be found here. Why is it important to mention those pages?
Because those are the very pages where Licona responds to the harrowing of hell. Geisler should be especially familiar with them since those are the pages that contain the theory of of the rising of the dead saints in Matthew 27 that first got Geisler started. This being the case, one would think Geisler would be well aware that the view outlined in those pages does not reflect Licona’s personal view.

Geisler has the freedom to think Licona is wrong. That’s fine. He does not have the freedom to misrepresent Licona. This kind of misrepresentation should not be accepted in the evangelical community. If we are quoting our friends or our foes, we need to do our best to make sure we get their views right. Mistakes can happen, but it is difficult to see how it could have been made in this case. Let me repeat it. There is a footnote IMMEDIATELY AFTER the quote.

This is also why it is so important for people to check references. The sad reality is most people are not going to bother to read Licona’s book but only read what Geisler says about it and go accept that as the gospel truth. They will not hesitate to tell others that Licona does not believe that Matthew wrote Matthew, which is false, and attribute to Licona a view actually held not by him, but by Crossan, a member of the Jesus Seminar. Thus, the greatest work we have today defending the resurrection will be disregarded by those not doing their homework, because of a misrepresentation.

Since the misrepresentation was public, it only follows that the apology be public as well. It cannot be covered over like it never happened. This is… Just a removal will not work. It cannot be covered over like this never happened. This is a serious offense.

It has been asserted that the enemies of Christ have been handed a powerful weapon by Licona’s book. Personally, I have not once seen it used as such and am on the internet engaging skeptics enough to know if it were indeed the case. The fact that there is such disagreement in the evangelical community. If you want to know who has handed the enemies of Christ a powerful weapon, it is Geisler with his personal vendetta.

Though we hope there will be public repentance in this case, we are not holding our breath. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call to the evangelical community to stand against such behavior. We must first deal with troubles such as this within our own household. We also hope this will be a wake-up call to Geisler. The time he has spent attacking Licona could be much better spent refuting real enemies of the faith.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Stone At Sloan

February 24, 2013

Is the attack aimed at Robert Sloan hitting the mark? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’d like to begin this post by asking everyone to open their Bibles and please turn to the book of ICBI.

“There is no such book as ICBI.”

Now I find this surprising because lately, I’m finding it quoted so much by “true defenders of Inerrancy” that I would think it’s right up there with Scripture. The club of ICBI has lately found a new target and that’s in Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University (HBU) that hired Dr. Mike Licona as a professor there. HBU has been putting together a crack apologetics team and I suspect will soon be an apologetics hub in the world.

Yet for some people, it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t play their song and dance.

So what is being said in the latest rant?

“Despite the fact that Mike Licona lost his positions at the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and at Liberty University subsequent to the public criticism of his views on inerrancy by Southern Baptist leaders like Al Mohler and Page Patterson and others, Houston Baptist hired Licona and placed its blessing on his views.”

By the way, right at the start, that’s “Paige Patterson.” One might think I’m nitpicking, but it isn’t the first time that this mistake is made in this writing. Unfortunately, none of these people are NT scholars and there’s no reason why I should give Mohler or Patterson that level of confidence. One would hope Geisler would be above fallacious appeals to authority, but alas, he is not. If the goal is to ruin Licona, then all is justified, including bad logic.

The article goes on with Sloan’s words.

“Dr. Michael Licona is a very fine Christian. We trust completely his commitment to Scripture. There are those who disagree with his comments on what is a very difficult passage (Matthew 27:45-53, especially verses 52-53), but Mike Licona’s devotion to the Lord Jesus, his magisterial defense of the resurrection, his publicly and solemnly declared affirmation of the complete trustworthiness of Scripture and his worldwide efforts to win others to Christ give us full confidence in his work as a teacher, colleague and faculty member of Houston Baptist University (reported in the Baptist Press [BP] 2/6/2013).”

To which, we salute Sloan for this and the evangelical world ought to. One hopes that Sloan is not the type to respond to bullying from people like Geisler and Mohler. It will not be a surprise to see HBU moving fowards while Geisler’s own VES gets nothing. By the way, I also suspect that within a few years, provided Geisler is still around, there will be a controversy at VES and Geisler will be at the heart of it doing the same thing to someone else.

We continue:

“Besides the fact that Sloan notably makes no claim that Licona believes in inerrancy, there are several serious problems with this approval of Licona’s aberrant views on Scripture:…”

Yes. Sloan said that Licona believes in the completely trustworthiness of Scripture, yet somehow that’s supposed to mean he thinks the Bible has errors. If Sloan had said “Licona affirms Inerrancy” would it have even mattered? Licona put together the list of scholars who said his views did not go against Inerrancy. Licona himself has said he believes in Inerrancy. Still, it is not enough. Instead, we are given the impression that this is lip service. So, if Sloan does not say it, it’s suspect. If he did say it, we would be told why it’s wrong. You can’t win if the opponent keeps changing the evidence to fit their claims.

“First, Licona has not repudiated his claim that there is a contradiction in the Gospels about which day Jesus was crucified on. In a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (Spring, 2009) Licona declared, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point there. But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified” (emphasis added). In short, John contradicts the other Gospels on which day Jesus was crucified. This is a flat denial of inerrancy for at least one of them has to be an error. But if the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then how can it err on this matter?”

Okay. I don’t really agree with Licona’s thinking on this, but here’s the question I have in return.

Which temptation came first? Was it the temptation to worship the devil or the temptation to jump from the temple mount? Matthew has one order. Luke has another. Which is it?

Or do we go with something like “The Jesus Crisis” and maybe say the devil tempted Jesus six times and just used the same temptation twice? If not, then either Matthew changed the order or Luke did. If so, then wouldn’t this be by Geisler’s standard a denial of Inerrancy since one of them would have to be in error?

Or could it be it is an error by a modern post-enlightenment standard, but not by an ancient Jewish standard. To say the Bible must be read according to our standard is to get us into reader-response criticism, part of postmodernism. I’m sure Geisler doesn’t want to do that, but if the meaning of error-free in the text is determined by the culture of the reader, it looks like that’s where we’re going.

Onward.

“Second, believing there are contradictions in the Bible is emphatically rejected by the Statements of International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). Licona has claimed to agree with the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) which accepted the ICBI statements as a guide to understanding its view on inerrancy (in 2003). But the ICBI Statements contradict his claim, saying: ‘We affirm the unity and internal consistency of scripture” (Article XIV). And “We deny that later revelations…ever correct or contradict” other revelations (Article V). As for the alleged compatibility of Licona’s view with the ICBI statements, the co-founder of ICBI and the original framer of its inerrancy Statements, R. C. Sproul said flatly, “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 united Statements of ICBI’ (Letter May 22, 2012).”

Ah yes. ICBI has spoken. The case is closed. All hail the papacy of evangelicalism. Here’s the reality. Licona does not believe there are contradictions in Scripture. When Licona says that clearly, it is disregarded. Who cares what he says? And this from the same group that says we can’t know authorial intent. R.C. Sproul might have said this, but what jurisdiction does he have to comment on Licona’s work since he is not a NT scholar?

By the way, what is happening is really not good for Geisler because when a new authority comes up like Sproul the response is “Wow. I guess I can’t respect Sproul any more.”

“President Al Mohler of Southern Seminary adds correctly, ‘The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with inerrancy.’ An actual contradiction is an error’ (BP article 2/6/2013, emphasis added).”

Yep. So does Licona. Still, it is not what he says that matters. It is what is perceived by his opponents. It is certainly for them to try to stand up on Sinai and pass down a new tradition and put it on par with what has been revealed.

As I say this, I am thinking about a comic strip from Peanuts I put on my Facebook recently with Charlie Brown telling Snoopy he hears he’s writing a book on theology and hopes he has a good title. Snoopy says he has the perfect title and as we see him typing, we see the title is “Has It Ever Occurred To You That You Might Be Wrong?”

If we get a copy of that, can we please pass it on to Geisler and Mohler?

“Third, Licona still embraces the view that it is compatible with inerrancy to accept the Greco-Roman view that there are legends in the Gospels. Licona claims this Greco-Roman view is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus, 34). Indeed, he adds, “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…and they often included legends” (ibid., emphasis added).”

Did Licona say there are legends in the Bible? Nope. He was first determining what the genre was of the gospels. The best work to read on this would be Burridge’s book “What Are The Gospels?” Licona is writing a scholarly book for other scholars and stating at the start what the genre is and the rules of it. He is not stating that since many contain legends, therefore the gospels do. Geisler is taking out of context a saying of Licona’s and making it mean something it doesn’t.

Be careful. In some places, that’s called “false witness.” I would think if someone wants to take the text seriously, they should consider what the text says about that.

“In a YouTube video (11/23/2012) taken at the 2012 Evangelical Theological Society meeting (http://youtu.be/TJ8rZukh_Bc), Licona affirmed the following: “So um this didn’t really bother me in terms of if there were contradictions in the Gospels…. So um it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed. But it did bother a lot of Christians.” However, Licona consoles himself, saying, “I mean there are only maybe a handful of things between Gospels that are potential contradictions and only one or two that I found that are really stubborn for me at this point and they are all in the peripherals again.” However, this is no consolation for an inerrantist since even one error in the Bible would mean it is not the Word of God because God cannot error in even one thing that He affirms. After all, how many mistakes can an omniscient Being make? Zip , zero, zilch! None!”

Reply: Here’s why this doesn’t bother Licona? The case can be made that Jesus rose from the dead still. Is Geisler really going to tell us that if the Bible is not Inerrant, then we cannot make the case that Jesus rose from the dead? Has it come to that? Is it the case for Geisler that if the Bible is not Inerrant, then that means that Christianity is false? If so, then I really feel sorry for his faith position.

One would be hard-pressed to memorize every detail to deal with what look like contradictions in the Bible. Even for those who affirm Inerrancy, they can still understand that some places in the Bible do look like they contradict. If not, why would a whole book be written like “When Critics Ask”? If your whole faith depended on giving a defense for everyone of those consistently, what a burden it would be!

Geisler may not think Licona’s view is a great consolation for an Inerrantist. Who is it a great consolation for though? A Christian. Why? Because a Christian can know that you can take a Bible that could be less than perfect and still get the truth that Jesus rose from the dead and thus Christianity is still true.

Besides, how far will Geisler’s idea of an omniscient being making no mistakes go? Now I agree that God does not make mistakes, but does Geisler not know about internet atheists? Does he not know about people who will say that an omniscient and omnipotent God could do a better job of preserving His Word? Would Geisler maybe like to side with the KJV onlyists who say that He did, but only in the KJV? Could one not ask Geisler “If God can write a perfect book, why can He not preserve one?”

Many of us think God did preserve His Word. We just realize it requires work on our part. It is not a fax from Heaven or something like golden tablets. The writing and copying was still a very much human process. Errors in copying, which no one should deny exist, do not equal errors on God’s part. They equal errors on our part. A view like Geisler’s will instead set up Christians to have their faith shattered by having to have everything perfect.

“Fourth, Licona believes the Greco-Roman Genre used by the Gospels allows for errors. He claims this is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus [RJ], 34). So, “as I started to note some of these liberties that he took I immediately started to recognize that these are the same liberties that I noticed the Evangelists did, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” (ibid., emphasis added). So, “these most commonly cited differences in the Gospels that skeptics like Ehrman like to refer to as contractions aren’t contradictions after all. They are just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”

Yes. The quote on page 34 just in case you missed the fact that it was quoted not too long ago.

Oh, by the way, that part about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? That’s not on page 34 of the book. It comes from the Baptist Press article. Geisler doesn’t even tell you who the “he” is in the passage. It’s Plutarch and this was a project begun after the book was released. In fact, note what Licona has done. He’s done this to show that what Ehrman says are contradictions aren’t. You can argue that Licona is wrong, but the reason he’s doing this is to show there aren’t contradictions. These are just liberties, and having liberty in writing does not mean that one will necessarily have contradictions.

You’d think someone who cares about Inerrancy so much would welcome this.

“However, the ICBI statements clearly reject this conclusion, insisting that: “WE DENY that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (ICBI Hermeneutics Article XX). The Bible does use different genres of literature (history, poetry, parable, etc.). But these are known from inside the Bible by use of the traditional “grammatico-historical exegesis” which the ICBI framers embraced (Inerrancy Article XVIII). Indeed, the framers said emphatically, “WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual. WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact. WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (Hermeneutics Article XIII).”

Alas. It does not matter. ICBI has spoken. The case is closed. I wonder at this point if I opened up Geisler’s Bible if I’d find ICBI in the back of it. Geisler is still getting it wrong in that you can’t dehistoricize an account that is not historical to begin with. Note also that Licona does not say Matthew is “inventing” an event.

“Unlike Licona, the genre categories into which the Bible is said to fit are not determined by data outside the Bible. The Gospels, for example, may be their own unique genre, as many biblical scholars believe. As the ICBI statement puts it, “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (Chicago Statement, Article XVIII). Indeed, the ICBI Commentary on Hermeneutics Article XVIII declares: “The second principle of the affirmation is that we are to take account of the literary forms and devices that are found within the Scriptures themselves” (emphasis added). The Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible, not Greek legends.”

Really? Which biblical scholars are these? The article doesn’t tell us. We also need to know why they think this. Even if that is given, the other side needs to be shown to be wrong. Without that, it just becomes “We have people who take our side, therefore we are right” and truth can come to just a head count.

Also, if Geisler is so scared of extra-biblical information, then what is he doing with Genesis 1, which he thinks ought to be seen as teaching an old Earth in light of modern science. Note that that modern science is NOT something the ancients had access to. They did have access to the kind of material Licona uses. Could not someone come to Geisler and say “You deny Inerrancy for you use extrabiblical material to make the Bible say the Earth is old when the text itself says it isn’t, and the Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible.”

Geisler could come up with a defense, but his opponents can just say “Oh sure. You affirm Inerrancy, but you’re changing the meaning of the text with extra-biblical material.” The sword cuts both ways.

If Geisler wants to dispute the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies, no scholars will have a problem with it, provided he makes an actual argument. He can read Burridge’s book. An actual response will deal with Burridge’s data and show why it’s wrong. An actual response will not be “ICBI says otherwise!”

As for the “Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible” this is just a cliche saying. The Bible cannot interpret itself. It does not have a mind like that. It is the great holy book of our faith, but it is still a book. I’d like to use an example of why this is problematic. I read 2 Timothy last night. Can Geisler tell me who Jannes and Jambres were?

Remember. No extra-biblical literature is allowed.

You see, these two are mentioned in 2 Timothy 3. It does not tell who they are? Tradition says they were the magicians who opposed Moses, but all we know from the text is that they opposed Moses. The magicians certainly did, but many times so did the Israelites.

Can Geisler give me a definitive word on who these two are without referring to extra-biblical material? Answer. Nope.

If you want to know the layout of the land of Israel to know where Jesus walked, or the layout of the Roman Empire to know where Paul went on his journeys, you must use extra-biblical material. Does Geisler want to rip the maps out of the back of his Bible since they’re extra-biblical? (It could give him more room to include the ICBI statements in there after all.) Geisler makes the mistake of treating the Bible as if it was written in a vacuum. It wasn’t. It is in a high-context society that assumes you’re familiar with the background material. We’re not since we’re not part of that society. Hence, we need the scholarly work. Even knowing the society is knowing something “extra-biblical.”

Let’s deal with the next parts together.

“Fifth, in direct contradiction to the ICBI statements on inerrancy, Licona dehistoricizes part of the Gospels. Licona and even some reviewers tend to focus on only one issue in Licona’s writings, namely, the non-historical status of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27. But the ICBI statements on inerrancy condemn “dihistoricizing” the Gospel record. Article XVIII of the Chicago Statement on inerrancy reads: “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship” (emphasis added). The ICBI commentary on this reads: “To turn narrative history into poetry, or poetry into narrative history would be to violate the intended meaning of the text” (Commentary on Inerrancy Article XVIII). Again, “WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact. WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (Hermeneutics Article XIV). The official commentary adds, “While acknowledging the legitimacy of literary forms, this article insists that any record of events presented in Scripture must correspond to historical fact. That is, no reported event, discourse, or saying should be considered imaginary.”

“Licona’s claim that he is not “dehistoricizing” is bogus since it is based on the false assumption that the Gospels are not making a claim to be historical (cf. Lk. 1:1-4). But the ICBI fathers clearly reject this, insisting that: “WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (Hermeneutics Article VIII).”

Looking at the first part, note that it says that to turn narrative into poetry or anything of the like would deny the intended meaning of the text.

I thought we couldn’t know the intended meaning….

Next we have the same canard that Licona’s view is bogus since it assumes the gospels are not making a claim to be historical. This is just more question-begging on Geisler’s part. It is amusing that he refers to the ICBI fathers. Do we have a magisterium going on here?

“This is particularly true of the Matthew 27 text about the resurrection of the saints which presents itself as historical in many ways, including the following: (1) It occurs in a book that present itself as historical (cf. Mt. 1:1,18); (2) Numerous events in this book have been confirmed as historical (e.g., the birth, life, deeds, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ); (3) It is presented in the immediate context of other historical events, namely, the death and resurrection of Christ; (4) The resurrection of these saints is also presented as an event occurring as a result of the literal death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Mt. 27:52-53); (5) Its lineage with the preceding historical events is indicated by a series of conjunctions (and…and…and, etc.); (6) It is introduced by the attention getting “Behold” (v. 51) which focuses on its reality;[1] (7) It has all the same essential earmarks of the literal resurrection of Christ, including: (a) empty tombs, (b) dead bodies coming to life, and (c) these resurrected bodies appearing to many witnesses; (8) It lacks any literary embellishment common to myths, being a short, simple, and straightforward account; (9) It contains elements that are confirmed as historical by other Gospels, such as (a) the veil of the temple being split (Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45), and (b) the reaction of the Centurion (Mk. 15:39; Lk. 23:47). If these events are historical, then there is no reason to reject the other events, such as, the earthquake and the resurrection of the saints.”

Hate to tell you this Geisler, but apocalyptic and even fictional accounts have those too. In fact, by this argument, how can Geisler deny the copycat thesis to be false since it has the exact same characteristics often. Is Geisler going to say they are false because they are not biblical? If so, then again, he is begging the question. If he can say they can have these types of things in them and still not be historical, then he has refuted his own argument. He can’t have it both ways. Note also there has not been a response to Licona’s own arguments, such as what he said in “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

“Further, Both Licona and even some reviewers make the mistake of assuming that Matthew 27 is the only problem that Licona has on the inerrancy issue. In fact, there are numerous places where Licona deviates from the traditional ICBI view on inerrancy which even ETS adopted as a guide for understanding inerrancy. Consider the following:”

Just a side note. Geisler never deals with “these reviewers” which include myself, J.P. Holding, Max Andrews, and others. Those challenges are still floating out there. Holding has challenged Geisler to debate that the gospels are not Greco-Roman biographies. That challenge was deleted from Geisler’s Facebook page and the person who put it up banned. If Geisler is so sure of his view, then how about dealing with these reviewers and accepting the challenge, or is it Geisler knows he can’t win that debate and would prefer to rant and rave from where he is?

“(1) Licona denied the historicity of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27. He wrote in his book on The Resurrection of Jesus (RJ) that the resurrection of the saints narrative was “a weird residual fragment” (RJ, 527) and a “strange report” (RJ, 530, 548, 556, emphasis added in these citations).[2] He called it “poetical,” a “legend,” an “embellishment,” and literary “special effects” (see RJ, 306, 548, 552, 553, emphasis added in all these citations). He adds, “It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes (see RJ, 185-186, emphasis added in all these citations). While Licona later moderated his certainty of this denial, he never retracted it, nor has he retracted his belief that it is compatible with inerrancy, even the ICBI view, to hold that this section is a legend.”

Let’s see. Who else holds this view? William Lane Craig does. Do we hear about Geisler going after Craig? Nope. Someone else is Craig Evans who says in “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament” on pages 166-167 (I am unsure exactly as I read it on the Kindle) that the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is chronologically clumsy and does not reflect the literary skill of the Matthean evangelist and “Should we someday recover a second century Greek manuscript that preserves the latter part of Matthew 27, I shall not be surprised if vv. 52-53 are not present.”

Let loose the hounds of heresy!

Note also the way Licona says about the data with Jesus that “it could be mixed with legend.” Licona is writing to scholars and when you do that, you don’t assume Inerrancy, you state what could be at the start, but the rest of the work is to show that it is not. This is again fearmongering.

“(2) Licona also affirmed that one of the Gospels claims that Jesus was crucified on the wrong day. This he said in a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Spring, 2009 (which is cited above). This is a serious breach of inerrancy.

(3, 4, 5, 6) Licona also casts doubt on the existence of the angels at the tomb after the resurrection in all four Gospels). He declared: “We may also be reading poetic language of legend at certain points, such as …the angels at the tomb (Mk 16:5-7; Mt 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-13)” (RJ, 185-186).”

We had to have the changed date mentioned again. It’s kind of like the way it was the day Michael Jackson died. You have to have it repeated umpteen times just in case anyone missed it by now. As for the part about angels, this is just the same thing. Licona is trying to do a historical investigation without assuming Inerrancy. That’s how it’s done. You have to be open to being wrong.

Something Geisler is not.

“(7) He also suggested that the mob falling backward at Jesus claim in John 18:4-6 may not be historical but could be a legendary embellishment. He called it: “A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4-6” (RJ, 306, n. 114).”

Despite the fact that on the Theopologetics podcast, Licona said he does not believe there are embellishements. Why is he saying what is said above then? Again, this is the way scholars write. One piece some think is an embellishment is the one cited.

“Licona affirms that the Gospels sometimes embellished Jesus’ words. He wrote, “For this reason, we get a sense that the canonical Gospels are reading authentic reports of Jesus’ arrest and death…even if some embellishments are present” (RJ, 306). This is contrary to Luke 1:1-4 which affirms that the Gospels are based on the accounts of “eyewitness.”

No. There is no affirmation of that. It is saying even if there were embellishments, the accounts would still be accurate. Also, if there were, how does that contradict the account being based on eyewitness testimony. Is Geisler saying an eyewitness could never embellish anything at all? I’m sure some police officers and journalists would be fascinated to hear that one!

“(9) Licona believes that the Gospel of Matthew does not come from the apostle Matthew or from another apostolic source, but it has been redacted by a later writer. For he affirmed that “This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances. However, “the magnificent harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction” (RJ, 530). ”

Does anyone in there see any argument saying Matthew did not write Matthew? I don’t. By the way, I’ve talked to Licona personally about this, seeing as he is my father-in-law, concerning how Ehrman is too quick to dismiss church father testimony on who wrote the gospels. I think I know his view well enough. Geisler has it wrong. Also, perhaps we should address redaction criticism. Mark Goodacre at his blog on the topic defines it this way:

“Redaction Criticism is the study of the way in which the evangelists (= “redactors”) moulded their source material, with a view to discovering their literary and theological agendas”

What does this say about who wrote it? Zip. It just says what they did. To say the writer redacted his material is not to say that Matthew did not write it. I recently took my wife to see a dentist and met a Jehovah’s Witness there. When I told different family members and friends about it, I would regularly take the material I had from my own memory and change it some, not by adding, but by summarizing or leaving parts out or what have you. Within a few minutes of the event, I was redacting it, but that does not mean that I was giving errors in what I was saying.

Edited to add: The case gets worse. If you go to Licona’s book, and I urge anyone skeptical to do so, you will find the quote from Geisler is actually Licona quoting John Dominic Crossan. It has a footnote right after it. I would very much like to hear Geisler explain how it is he thinks that this is Licona’s view since it has a footnote right after it. Is this the kind of methodology that Geisler will employ or allow to go after Licona?

“(10, 11, 12, etc.) Licona also admits that there are an unnumbered “handful” of possible errors in the Gospels. He wrote: “I mean there are only maybe a handful of things between Gospels that are potential contradictions and only one or two that I found that are really stubborn for me at this point and they are all in the peripherals again.” However, he takes comfort that they are all in “peripheral” areas. But here again, how many errors can an omniscient Mind make in so-called peripheral areas? None! Further, some of the errors are not so “peripheral,” such as the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 after Jesus’ resurrection. After all, their resurrection was seen as a result of Jesus resurrection and was even taken to be a proof of it by the context and by many early Fathers of the Church (see “The Early Fathers and the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27,” http://tinyurl.com/bdu23gg), including an apostolic Father (Ignatius) who was a contemporary of the apostle John and Irenaeus who knew Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John.”

Licona is being an honest scholar here. He is looking at the material and dealing with it, something Geisler needs to do, especially with the material of his opponents. Licona is also not calling Matthew 27 an error. As for the article on the church fathers (By the way, the church fathers are extra-biblical. Why are we allowed to use them to interpret the text? I thought the Bible was its own interpreter), there is a reply in the works. Unlike Geisler, I’m seeking an expert in the church fathers to make sure I get my claims correct. I can say Geisler does not deal with Licona’s objections in “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

” Conclusion

Even Licona admits that “… You may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels, but you still have the truth of Christianity that Jesus rose from the dead, and I think that’s the most important point we can make” (BP, Feb 6, 2013, emphasis added). Indeed, one would lose some form of inerrancy, if Licona is right—the form that has been held by Christians down though the centuries (see John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church, 1984) including Southern Baptist (see Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, Baptist and the Bible, 1980), was confessed by the framers of the ETS, and was codified by the ICBI framers. In view of this, it is incredible to hear Licona say, as he did (BP Feb. 5, 2012), that “he has not claimed there are contradictions in the Gospels.” He clearly did say there was a contradiction in the Gospels in his debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (cited above). He also admitted in his YouTube interview (cited above) there were or could be contradictions in the Bible. In fact, if words still have meaning, one wonders what form of inerrancy can there be that admits the Bible is errant? As President Al Mohler said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy” (BP 2/6/2013). ”

Little problem. Licona never affirmed contradictions. This is just putting words in his mouth as part of fearmongering. Note that Geisler does not even say anything about the idea that Jesus rose from the dead is the most important point we can make. Geisler has often spoke about the fundamental of fundamentals. It is not the Bible or Inerrancy. It is what Licona defends instead, the resurrection.

I have a book here in my library that on page 63 in talking about the Bible says the following in discussing the significance of the internal harmony of Scripture:

“This is especially so in view of the fact that the books of the Bible were recorded by some 40 men as diverse as king, prophet, herdsman, tax collector, and physician. They did the writing over a period of 1,610 years; so there was no opportunity for collusion. Yet their writings agree, even in the smallest detail. To appreciate the extent to which the various portions of the Bible are harmoniously intertwined, you must read and study it personally.”

I do not doubt many people would agree with this. Do you want to know where it is?

It’s in a book called “Reasoning from the Scriptures.”

If you do not know, that is one of the main books of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Witnesses affirm Inerrancy, and they’re right! You know what they get wrong? What the Inerrant teaching is. That includes the resurrection. They do not see it as a physical resurrction.

You see, someone can be right about the Bible being Inerrant, and still not be a Christian. Yet could someone have the right view that Jesus rose from the dead and still think the Bible has errors (Which Licona and I don’t.)? Answer. Absolutely! I would rather someone come to the right Jesus and have the wrong view of the Bible, than come to the right view of the Bible and with the wrong Jesus.

Geisler goes on.

” Licona’s good friend Gary Habermas of Liberty University offers a lame excuse for his former pupil’s aberrant views when he claimed that people should remember that Licona’s approach is an apologetic strategy. “Thus, it is not a prescription for how a given text should be approached in the original languages and translated, or how a systematic theology is developed…. So it should never be concluded that the use of such methods in an apologetic context indicate a lack of trust in Scripture as a whole, or, say, the Gospels in particular” (cited in BP 2/13/2013). If this is taken to mean that Licona does not agree with his own words in his own book (RJ) and lectures when he denies the inerrancy of the Gospels, then it is ludicrous. For, as any reasonably intelligent reader can tell, Licona is making and defending the statements of his book as his own and not simply as an “apologetic strategy.” Nowhere in the 718 pages of his book (RJ) does he claim that it is merely an “apologetic strategy.” The only apologetic strategy is the one employed by Habermas to defend his wayward student.”

Note this. A “lame” excuse. Wasn’t this from the side telling us we need a respectful dialogue? Apparently, this is like the people who cry out for tolerance but don’t think they need to show it. Sorry Geisler, but Habermas is right on this. It is an apologetic strategy. All he is wanting to affirm is that the minimal facts approach is not a sidestep of Scripture. It is not about Licona. Geisler is reading something into the text. For Geisler, it has to be spelled out specifically, except for when it disagrees with him. Licona specifically says he does not believe in embellishments in the Bible, but that is not enough. The rules keep changing.

Also, Licona does not deny Inerrancy. Do we really have to keep repeating this?

“Licona told the Baptist Press, “I suppose that if one were to claim that it’s unorthodox to read the Gospels and attempt to understand them according to the genre in which they were written rather than impose Dr. Geisler’s modern idea of precision upon them, then I’m guilty as charged” (emphasis added). However, this begs the whole question for it assumes, contrary to fact, that they are written in a Greco-Roman genre which Licona claims is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins. He added, “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…and they often included legends” (RJ, 34, emphasis added). The truth of the matter is that ICBI framers are not imposing a “modern idea” of precision on the Bible, certainly not in claiming Gospel record of the resurrection of the saints is historical. This is purely a “straw man” fallacy. The ICBI frames clearly said, “We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as lack of modern technical precision, … the use of hyperbole and round numbers” (Article XII, emphasis added). What is more, it is not inerrantists but Licona who is imposing a foreign, extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre on the Bible which leads to “dehistoricizing” the Scripture and undermining the doctrine of inerrancy.”

No. Licona does not “assume” that the gospels are Greco-Roman bios. He argues for it. Geisler says this is contrary to fact. Can he say so? Is he willing to step into the debate ring with Holding on this one? Until he does so, I say there is no reason to listen to him on this. If he thinks his case is correct, he can demonstrate it in a debate. If not, then it’s time to get off of Mount Sinai.

Finally, Geisler ends with this:

“Furthermore, it is not a question of “precision” that inerrantists insist upon when they disallow Licona’s allegations of contradictions in the Bible. As Dr. Page Patterson, President of Southwest Baptist theological Seminary, aptly put it: “Let’s be clear. A story, an affirmation, is either true or false, but not both true and false in the same way at the same time. That is a long accepted law of logic, and no amount of fudging can make it change. While I have no reason to question the sincerity of the author and while only God can judge his heart, Southern Baptists paid far too great a price to insist on the truthfulness of God’s Word to now be lured by a fresh emergence of the priesthood of the philosopher, especially when a philosopher raises a question about the truthfulness of Scripture” (1/9/2012).”

Note that Patterson’s name is spelled wrong again. Yet does Patterson really think Licona is denying the Law of non-contradiction? What is this of the priesthood of the philosopher as well? Licona is not a philosopher! If we want to talk about the priesthood of the philosopher, let’s do some checking.

Patterson – “After graduating from Hardin-Simmons University, Patterson completed the Master of Theology (Th.M.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”

http://www.paigepatterson.info/about.cfm

Al Mohler – “A native of Lakeland, Fla., Dr. Mohler was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University before receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He holds a master of divinity degree and the doctor of philosophy (in systematic and historical theology) from Southern Seminary. He has pursued additional study at the St. Meinrad School of Theology and has done research at University of Oxford (England).”

http://www.albertmohler.com/about/

Norman Geisler – ”

William Tyndale College, 1950-55 (diploma)
University of Detroit, 1956-57
Wheaton College, 1958 (B.A. in philosophy)
Wheaton Graduate School, 1960 (M.A. in theology)
William Tyndale College, 1964 (Th.B.)
Wayne State University Graduate School, 1964 (work in philosophy)
University of Detroit Graduate School, 1965-66 (work on M.A. in philosophy)
Northwestern University, Evanston, 1968 (work in philosophy)
Loyola University, Chicago, 1967-70 (Ph.D. in philosophy) ”

http://www.normgeisler.com/about/default.htm

Mark Hanna, Geisler supporter – “Mark M. Hanna is a full time writer and was for many years the Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and World Religions at Talbot School of Theology and California State University. He also taught at the University of Southern California, where he earned M.A. degrees in philosophy and world religions and a Ph.D. in philosophy.”

http://www.normgeisler.com/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/Licona/DrMarkMHannaAgainstTheologicalErosion.htm

Christopher Cone, Geisler supporter – “Ph.D. / Philosophy, University of North Texas, 2011

Dissertation: Redacted Dominionism: An Evangelical and Environmentally Sympathetic Reading of the Early Genesis Narrative

Ph.D. / Theology, Trinity School of Theology, Kerala, India 2008

Dissertation: Prolegomena: A Survey and Introduction to Method in Theology, Beginning with Presuppositional Epistemology and Resulting in Normative Dispensational Theology

M.Ed. / Leadership & Administration, Regent University, 2005

Th.D. / Theology, Scofield Graduate School, 2005

Dissertation: The Promises of God: A Synthetic Bible Survey

M.B.S / Biblical Studies, Scofield Graduate School, 1997

B.B.S. / Biblical Studies, Tyndale Biblical Institute, 1996

Undergraduate Studies, Moody Bible Institute, 1992-94”

J.I. Packer – “Born in Gloucester, England, Packer won a scholarship to Oxford University. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, obtaining the degrees of Bachelor of Arts (1948), Master of Arts (1952), and Doctor of Philosophy (1955). ”

http://christian-quotes.ochristian.com/J.I.-Packer-Quotes/

R.C. Sproul – ”

Education:
B.A. (PHILOSOPHY), WESTMINSTER COLLEGE, 1961; B.D. PITTSBURGH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, 1964; Drs. (DOCTORANDUS DOGMATIK), FREE UNIVERSITY OF AMSTERDAM, 1969; Litt D GENEVA COLLEGE, 1976; LHD GROVE CITY COLLEGE, 1993; Ph.D. WHITEFIELD THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, 2001 ”

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/bio/rcsproul.html

If we want to end the priesthood of the philosopher, then let us be consistent. Anyone with a Ph.D. in philosophy will no longer determine the path of the studies.

But alas, the rules will be different.

The sad reality is Geisler is not helping Inerrancy. If you read the blogosphere, and I do, people are being driven from it. Geisler is destroying the legacy, nay, has destroyed, the legacy he spent a lifetime building. If anyone is responsible for the decline in affirming Inerrancy today, it is not Licona. It is Geisler himself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler’s article can be found here: http://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/Licona/HoustonBaptistDefenseOfLicona.htm (Because we do believe in responding to critics and making sure we get their views correct.)

Mark Goodacare on Redaction Criticism can be found here: http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-is-redaction-mps-and-nt.html

The Future of Biblical Scholarship

February 15, 2013

What is in store for the future of biblical scholarship? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I do a lot of debating and the idea amongst atheists is that Christians don’t do real research. They want to defend their pet doctrines. They presuppose everything beforehand and never really examine the case. All that matters is “God said it” and then we’re done.

The controversy involving what happened with Mike Licona back in 2011 was a great example of this and a huge embarrassment to the Christian church and evangelicalism. Instead of going out and dealing with the interpretation of Licona, if it was found to be false, the bullets started firing immediately crying “Heretic!” with an Inquisition squad ready to come out.

So let’s get this straight. We have what has been the most in-depth defense of the resurrection of Jesus meant to silence skeptics and we’re going to go against it because it went against a secondary doctrine of Inerrancy supposedly? We are going to implicitly say that Inerrancy is more important than the resurrection? Are our priorities out of whack?

In fact, the book didn’t even call Inerrancy into question. By that standard, any time Licona said an event is “Highly probable” or something of that sort, we should have raised the alarm. After all, how could an event be “probable.”? It’s part of the “Word of God.”

What Licona did was he met the skeptics on their own turf and he fired a massive attack into their camp. What was the evangelical response? Ditch him. Leave him there. Of course, this isn’t true of all evangelicals. There were a number of scholars in the field who sided with Licona.

Friends. Let’s suppose a work came out like this that explicitly denied Inerrancy. I still say we should celebrate it. Why? Because this was a case of trying to prove the most important point of Christianity. As Michael Patton said, there should have been twenty letters of commendation before there was one of condemnation.

Historically, Gary Habermas has been the #1 name in the field of resurrection stories. Licona has been his main student. What are we to do now with him? Because he has not interpreted everything the way some people want it to be interpreted, do away with him. Licona does believe in Inerrancy, but keep in mind we are not trying to convert people to Inerrancy. We are trying to make them disciples of Jesus. I’m fine with someone coming to say “Jesus is risen!” if they’re not quite willing to sign the line on Inerrancy. If you’re not, you’ve got a serious problem.

Licona talks about teaching a seminary class in the article (Link below) and having a student with tears in her eyes crying about contradictions she thought existed. Let’s start with a simple question.

Let us suppose that beyond the shadow of a doubt a contradiction was proven in Scripture. This is purely hypothetical. I don’t think it has, but let’s suppose it was.

What would that do to your Christianity?

If you’re one of those Christians who says “My faith would be shattered immediately and Jesus would not have risen from the dead” you have a problem.

Many of us would say “Well I’d have to adjust my view of Scripture and of inspiration, but I’d still have the resurrection.”

You know why? Because we think the resurrection can be established historically if you treat the Bible just like any other ancient document. If you have to treat it with kid gloves, then you’re not really playing fair. You’re doing special pleading.

If you don’t think the resurrection can be shown to be a fact that way, then might I suggest that you could have a more fideistic approach?

It’s a shame this was happening in a Seminary class also.

Licona goes on in the article to describe how he went to the gospels and compared what he saw to Plutarch since the gospels are considered by NT scholars to be ancient biographies.

A lot of stink has been raised over this. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that it’s wrong that the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies. I think they are, but let’s suppose it’s wrong.

Here’s the reply. So what?

So what? What are you talking about?

What I mean is, you can take what your opponents will likely accept from critical scholarship, say Bart Ehrman for instance, and have it be that you can assume they are Greco-Roman biographies and then still say “Here’s how Greco-Roman biographies work. The gospels do the exact same thing. Why is that a problem?”

This is exactly what I do as a non-scientist. I am not qualified to discuss evolution, so I will grant it for the sake of argument. Why? My opponents do accept it by and large. Therefore, I can meet them on their own grounds and ask “How does this show that Jesus did not rise from the dead?”

Why do I do this? I do it because I want to convince my opponents of one thing. I want to convince them Jesus rose from the dead. They might disagree with me on Inerrancy. That’s fine. They might have different views on creation. That’s fine. They might have different hermeneutics than I do. That’s fine.

Getting them to know Jesus is risen is central.

Instead, we’ve had this whole tirade against the gospels being Greco-Roman biographies.

Consider what someone like Al Mohler said according to the article.

“First, we cannot reduce the Gospels to the status of nothing more than ancient biographies. The Bible claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the inspired words,”

When did Licona say the gospels were just ancient biographies? Nowhere that I know of. He said they were biographies. That’d be like saying we can’t say the Epistles of Paul are epistles because they cannot be “just epistles.” To say they are Greco-Roman biographies is not to say necessarily that they are just that.

Second, down to the inspired words?

In Matthew 3:17, we read these words at the baptism of Jesus.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:11 says this:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:22 also says this:

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke and Mark disagree, but Matthew is different. Matthew has the voice speaking for the crowd. Mark and Luke have the voice speaking to Jesus? Which is it? Let’s suppose it was even the crazy idea of a work like the Jesus Crisis which has such ideas as the sermon on the mount being said twice with different tenses. Let’s suppose the voice said the first to the crowd and then the second to Jesus. (Because apparently, one voice was not enough for everyone to grasp.) You still have the problem of why would someone just leave out some of the words of God speaking?

If there is paraphrasing going on, then are we saying the very words of God were paraphrased? They might not have been quoted word for word?

Let’s consider another example. How about Peter’s confession of faith?

Matthew 16:16

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Mark 8:29

“You are the Messiah.”

Luke 9:20

“God’s Messiah.”

Again, there are differences. Mark and Luke are closer. Matthew agrees with the Messianic motif, but adds in that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. Isn’t that something important to include?

One more example. At the Transfiguration, what did God say?

Matthew 17:5

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Mark 9:7

“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Luke 9:35

“This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

Each of these are different, and these are the words of God!

Now someone might say “Nick. Look. Each of these is pretty similar to each other. The wording may not be the same, but the thrust of the message is the same.”

Exactly.

Mohler is putting on the text a modern category of exact wordage. The ancients would not have cared about that. For a modern look, I had a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness today. I called some family members saying “I said X, she said Y, I replied with Z, etc.” Chances are, when I told that story, I did not get the exact wording right. That’s okay. I did not tell it the same way every time. That’s okay. I don’t know anyone who would say I was lying about the story or misrepresenting it. Even today, we know that the gist is what matters.

This would also be true for the Sermon on the Mount. Why assume Jesus gave a great sermon like that only once? If you’re a speaker, like I am, you know that you give the same talk many times in different places. You can also vary it some depending on your audience. In fact, it’s quite likely a lot was left out of this sermon. Why? The whole thing can be read in about fifteen minutes! Most speakers in the past spoke a lot longer than that! Heck. If that’s all it takes, Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 that leads to 3,000 conversions can be read in about a minute or two. How many of you would like to speak for that long and get that response?

The Bible is only interested in the main gist of the message getting out. We today can do this. We can summarize a talk by talking about the main points without saying every word the speaker said.

Thus, Mohler in doing this is expecting the Bible to read like a modern document. It’s not going to. The Bible needs to be treated by the standards of its own time and not the standards of our time. This even includes the idea about interpreting it according to “plain” language. Plain to who? Why plain to a 21st century American? Maybe it’s different for a 16th century Chines man, or a 14th century Japanese man, or a 12th century Frenchman, or a 9th century Englishman, or a 1st century Jew.

Some might think it’s cultural prejudice to give the 1st century Jewish standard the main role in interpretation.

No. It’s not. It’s just smart thinking. It’s a 1st century Jewish document. Shouldn’t we expect it to read like one?

Mohler is not done. He goes on to say:

“The second problem is isolating the resurrection of Christ from all of the other truth claims revealed in the Bible. The resurrection is central, essential and non-negotiable, but the Christian faith rests on a comprehensive set of truth claims and doctrines,” Mohler said. “All of these are revealed in the Bible, and without the Bible we have no access to them.”

If the resurrection is central, essential, and non-negotiable, haven’t we already isolated it? It is in a category all itself. The reality is the resurrection is different from the other claims. Let’s demonstrate this.

We can have Mohler make a historical case for the turning of water into wine without just “The Bible says so.”

Then we can have him make one for Jesus rising from the dead the same way.

Which one will have more evidence. Which one will have more impact? Which one will change Christianity the most if it was found to be false?

It looks like Mohler is really afraid to put the Bible to historical investigation, but why should we think this? If someone is convinced Scripture is from God Himself, then one should say “Go ahead. Hit it with your best shot.” If we are not willing to do that, then we are not really treating it like a trustworthy text. It’s easy to say the Bible cannot be attacked if you remove it from all threats.

On top of this, Licona is doing his work to deal with supposed contradictions in the Bible and see if he can find some answers. How is it undermining the Bible if you seek to explain why the Bible is the way it is? If you’re going out to defend the idea that the Bible is without error, how can you be attacking it?

Next we have words from Jim Richards of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“Although the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has enjoyed a ministry relationship with Houston Baptist University for nearly 10 years, that relationship is not one whereby the convention participates in the governance of the university. Our relationship with HBU is based on a mutual affirmation of a high view of Scripture,” Richards said.

“The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was formed on a commitment to biblical inerrancy, that the Bible is true in all that it asserts. Certainly, our churches, board and convention messengers expect our ministry relationships to be compatible with this core value. We will be in conversation with President Sloan regarding HBU’s response to Mike Licona’s comments bearing on the reliability of Scriptures,” Richards said.”

Once again, Licona has a high view of Scripture. He only differs on an interpretation. Note that Licona has never once said “I think the Bible contains errors” or “I think the Bible is wrong” or anything like that. He has repeatedly denied it, but for his opponents, it is not enough. What matters is what they want to see. For them, if he is not interpreting it the same way, then cast him to the lions!

May God richly bless Robert Sloan, president of HBU, for the following:

“Dr. Michael Licona is a very fine Christian. We trust completely his commitment to Scripture. There are those who disagree with his comments on what is a very difficult passage (Matthew 27:45-53, especially verses 52-53), but Mike Licona’s devotion to the Lord Jesus, his magisterial defense of the resurrection, his publicly and solemnly declared affirmation of the complete trustworthiness of Scripture and his worldwide efforts to win others to Christ give us full confidence in his work as a teacher, colleague and faculty member of Houston Baptist University,” Sloan said.”

Sloan has it right. He is being a fine academic and looking at the character of Licona and the quality of his work. Would that other people would take the same approach!

What does this have to do with the future of scholarship?

It appears an impasse is here. What are we to do? I have a strange idea with this.

Let’s be people that say “We will follow the evidence where it leads!” When we meet a contrary idea to our own, let’s examine the evidence. By all means, we have our presuppositions. Let’s be aware of those. Let’s do our best to put them to aside and study. We want atheists who are studying the text to do the same. If our presuppositions were right, great! If they were not, great! Why is that great? It’s because we’ve learned something that we would not have known. We have gained truth, and that is always to be preferred.

If people like Al Mohler have the day, we can expect scholarship will decrease. Already, I have seen some people who will be our future scholars say they want no part of groups like ETS to avoid being criticized for their work. They want academic freedom. Already, I have seen people saying that they do not want to defend Inerrancy because it has become too much of a sacred cow. Already, this controversy has been used by atheists, Muslims, and others to demonstrate Christians cannot get along with themselves.

With Inerrancy, I have seen people have their faith fall apart when all is based on this doctrine. I’m not saying it’s unimportant. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying we don’t hang our hats on it. By all means, defend it. By all means, address contradictions. This is fine and good. Just remember the main point is Jesus is risen. There are times even I tell people that I don’t care if the gospels have some minor disagreements. Let’s deal with the central claim. We don’t get rid of other ancient sources because of minor disagreements. Why do so with Scripture?

It’s up to us to determine where we’ll go with scholarship in the future, but I hope we’ll hold to following the evidence where it leads realizing that if our beliefs are true, the evidence should show that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Baptist Press article can be found here

Can A Seminary Be Academic?

January 5, 2013

Is there freedom of thought? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend sent me an article by Peter Enns wanting to see what I thought of it. I will put a link to it at the end of this article, but basically, Enns is saying that there is a problem in many evangelical circles in that one cannot have freedom of thought since one must believe such and such about biblical interpretation to be included.

As I read this, I thought about how in the last election cycle, actor Jon Lovitz came out speaking against some policies of Obama and when he did so, he immediately became a target. He had gone against the party line. For some of us, that shows a groupthink mentality in Hollywood. Do we want to have the same here?

Of course, there is an important difference. In order to be an actor or some role in Hollywood, one does not need to have a certain set of political beliefs. In order to be a Christian, one does require a set of religious beliefs certainly. I do not doubt that Enns would say that someone who denies truths like the physical resurrection of Jesus, his deity, the Trinity, and salvation by grace through faith is not a Christian. If he does not, then I say he definitely has his own set of problems.

Yes. There are identifying beliefs of a Christian, but is Enns right that our academies are in danger of losing their effect on the world due to how they treat ideas that are contrary?

In many cases, I think we could be. The church has had a history of minoring in the majors and majoring in the minors. The minors are made a big issue because it’s suspected that they could lead to major errors. The irony is that it’s quite different from that. It’s the ideas that are treated like sacred cows that can often become the problem.

For instance, Ken Ham wrote a book on why young people were leaving the church. Why? We weren’t teaching young-earth creationism enough. Now this is a debate for those who are interested in that, but the reality is that Ham is completely off base. It is when a secondary issue is raised to a primary that the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. When students are convinced, rightly or wrongly, that the Earth is not young, they decide the whole thing is a sham. I cannot be more certain about this point. If your faith rests on the age of the Earth, young or old, instead of on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, your faith is misplaced.

In the same boat, Inerrancy is also an issue like this. Now keep in mind this is a position that I hold to. I do think the Bible is true in all that it teaches. However, I also know that there are a number of Christians who are sure that if there is one error in the Bible, then that means Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead and the Bible is in error.

An example of the problems this leads to can be found with one atheist who is not worth naming mentioning an email he received about someone who abandoned the faith.

“One day I was at a Barnes and Noble browsing around. I got to the Philosophy section, and picked up (this book by an atheist) . Part 2 of the book is titled “Why the Bible Is Not the Word of God.” After reading about some historical, scientific, and moral errors I went to the Christian Inspiration section of the store to get a Bible so I could read the context of each verse. Finally, hours later I renounced my faith.”

Yep. A whole hours later. That’s a real commitment right there. Never bothered to go to the Christian section and see if there were any responses to this, which would have been a fruitful endeavor. Now if after a long time of searching, he was convinced the Bible was wrong and untrustworthy, he should not be a Christian. I still think he’s wrong entirely and the contradictions can be resolved, but at least he did his due diligence then.

Do you see what happened? A non-essential was made an essential and because of that, someone fell away from the faith. In fact, it is for reasons like this that while I hold to Inerrancy, I no longer really argue for it. Why? I’m just out to demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead. If you say we need Inerrancy to do that, then it seems that you are saying we cannot make a historical case for the resurrection. We are left with fideism. We believe the Bible because it says so. We believe the Bible is separate from history and cannot be touched on history but speaks authoritatively in history. I consider this a highly dangerous position.

Enns mentions a number of beliefs like the historicity of Adam (Which I hold to), different ways of reading creation (I prefer John Walton’s idea), and the dating of the Pentateuch, Isaiah, and Daniel. (I hold to their traditional dates.) Note something in each of these cases. If I am wrong in any of them, I would prefer to be shown that I am wrong rather than holding to something that is false. To be fair, there are some issues I have not invested time in since I can’t study everything. With those, I trust the majority of scholars I have read, but if better arguments come forward, it behooves us as people who claim to be champions of truth and logic to believe those arguments.

When we act like an Inquisition in our own circles, it gives off the aura of doubt. Instead, when someone comes up with something like “I don’t hold to the historical Adam,” instead of reacting with panic, we need to say “Okay. Fair enough. Make your case. Give your evidence. We will look at your evidence and give a counter-response.” If we speak from Sinai, we instead become totalitarian and more like cult leaders instead of people who claim to be open-minded. It doesn’t help us when we tell skeptics to approach the Bible with an open-mind, when we don’t do the same when someone in our own midst says they question an interpretation of it that we hold to.

If we hold such debates, it can only help us. Why? If our position is false, we are blessed because we are no longer saying what the Bible doesn’t say, and instead saying what it does say. If our position is true, then we’ve been given further reason to believe it is not because of authoritarian statements, but because of evidence and reasoning.

To be open to truth, we must be open to being wrong.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

link

And Then They Came For Blomberg

August 20, 2012

Should we dispense with Craig Blomberg? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’s been awhile since we’ve talked about Geisler’s crusade, but I believe the time has come again. Geisler went after my father-in-law, Mike Licona, claiming that he has denied Inerrancy. This despite the fact that Licona has regularly said that he believes in Inerrancy. Could it be that Geisler really knows the “authorial intent” of Licona in what he says so that he knows that in reality, Licona does deny Inerrancy?

Of course, we have seen ICBI brought into it, which has become a case of saying “ICBI has spoken. The case is closed.” This is why more are starting to question ICBI. A number of bloggers out there are suggesting that we avoid debates on Inerrancy, and it’s not because of Licona’s position but because of Geisler.

For my position, yes. I think we should. We are not going out there trying to win people to Inerrancy. We are trying to win them to Jesus. Now I do think it is important to realize how central the Bible is, but we do not need an Inerrant Bible to show Jesus rose from the dead. I have met Christians who are of the mindset that if there is one contradiction in the Bible, the whole thing is false.

Now I do in saying that believe the Bible is true in all it teaches, but if someone showed me something that they could demonstrate beyond all doubt was untrue, I would not throw out Christianity because of that. If you could demonstrate beyond all doubt that Jesus did not rise from the dead, then I would throw out Christianity.

The problem with Inerrancy debates is they become a “Stump the believer” game. Instead of discussing the real substance of the Bible, one just gets caught up in a discussion of who was high priest when David took the bread and how many angels were at the tomb on Easter Sunday instead of discussing real substance. An atheist thinks he has justification to disbelieve in the resurrection if he finds one contradiction in the Bible. I personally believe in granting the atheist as much as I can and still keep Christianity.

Geisler believes his crusade is essential and has gone after Licona. Now he has added Blomberg to his list. Blomberg is a highly decorated evangelical scholar. In fact, he is also quite charitable to those in need around him. Still, he supports Licona so he must go. Even worse, he has said Geisler and Mohler need to apologize. (SHOCK!) He is also right in that.

To start, let’s see how this was introduced on Geisler’s page.

“Licona supporters Craig Blomberg denies miracle story in the Gospel. With friend like this, who needs enemies? The truth is that many evangelical NT Scholars trained in Europe have less than an evangelical view of the inerrancy of Scripture. Criag Blomberg of Denver Seminary is a case in point. Read about it an article on our web site (normangeisler.net). http://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/Blomberg/DenialOfMiracleStory.htm”

Does Geisler watch what’s on his wall? No. That is not being changed any. That is a direct cut and piece job. Of course, now we’re being told to be skeptical of anyone who has education in Europe. Would that include William Lane Craig who has degrees from England and Germany? The same Craig who holds to a view just like Licona’s but has not been the target of the Inquisition? The same Craig who would not be allowed to speak at ISCA because of that stance?

That’s a good view for scholarship to have.

So now, let’s get to the work itself. Let’s start with this gem.

“So far, so good. However, contained in this very same treatise was a very troubling section regarding Matthew 27:51-53 of the resurrection of the saints at Jesus’ resurrection Licona applies dubious genre hermeneutics to Matthew’s gospel known as “apocalyptic” or “eschatological Jewish texts” whereby he arbitrarily dismisses the historicity of Matthew 27:51-53 (and its recording of the resurrection of saints) which results effectively in the complete evisceration and total negation of His strong defense of Jesus’ resurrection”

So many problems here. First off, this is not a very troubling section. Several NT scholars read it without trouble. Only Geisler was troubled by it and then sounded the alarms of the Inquisition. He considers it dubious to consider Matthew an eschatological text.

After all, the coming of the Messiah and the start of the fulfillment of the promises of God to Israel could not be eschatological at all. As for apocalyptic, the whole book is not apocalyptic, but some parts certainly are. Matthew 24 is definitely apocalyptic.

Also, there are no dubious genre hermeneutics. That Matthew is a Greco-Roman biography is largely agreed upon. Of course there is some dissent from that, but it would not be a position just cast aside in NT scholarship.

One major problem in here is that this is a decision that Licona has arbitrarily made. I suppose if you ignored that there were six pages in his book on this and he wrote a whole paper (One I have heard personally read) for EPS called “When The Saints Go Marching In” explaining why he has the stance that he has, then yeah. I guess you could say it’s arbitrary. You have to ignore all the data, but hey. So what? Why let data get in the way of a good argument?

It is indeed false to say that this totally eviscerates the case for the resurrection of Jesus. This assumes that the two miracles are on equal epistemic terms. Which do we have more evidence for? The raising of the son of the widow of Nain or the raising of Jesus? I have never heard a minimal facts approach for the first one. I have for the second. I have not heard the large sociological impact for the first. I have for the second. That does not mean there was never any evidence for the first nor was there no impact, but it was not at the level of the resurrection of Jesus. This assumes that if one resurrection did not literally happen, then no resurrection ever happened.

The reason Jesus’s resurrection is different is because of the epistemic foundation for it in the evidence and the sociological impact that it had which was much greater. It could even be that all the other resurrection stories in the gospels are false and Jesus’s resurrection is true. I do not believe that, but if it was the case we would not see the end of Christianity.

Geisler uses Dunn as an example. It would be interesting to find out if Geisler himself has ever read Dunn. Now I just recently read Dunn and I don’t remember him saying anything explicitly yea or nay on the resurrection, but I do remember this quote from him on page 101 of Jesus Remembered, the very source Geisler uses.

“A faith which regards all critical scrutiny of its historical roots as inimical to faith can never hold up its head or lift its voice in any public forum.” (Page 101)

Yes. That includes criticism from that bastion of evil that is Europe apparently. We Christians should look at what is going on and say “Bring it on.” If Christianity is true, we have no need to fear higher criticism or any other criticism. If it is shown that Christianity is not true, let us be grateful. Who wants to believe what isn’t true? If we are sure it is true, why fear the challenge? We win either way.

For Dunn’s idea, we need to examine it on its own merits. How conscious was Jesus of His own identity? What did He know about what it is He would do? How was his destiny and identity shaped by His growing up years and His personal study of the Tanakh?

Note that we do this because while we emphasize rightly the full deity of Christ, we can not eviscerate His humanity. We can make Jesus a superman instead who did not need to study and did not need to think through His worldview in coming to His identity. It is the question often asked in these times. What did He know and when did He know it?

How will we examine Dunn’s case? By the data. We won’t look and say “This disagrees with our conclusions, therefore it is false.” If our conclusions are true and Dunn disagrees with them, we can show that he is wrong by the data. The data cannot say one thing and the truth be another after all.

Does Geisler really think also that Jesus was totally aloof to the ideas of His time? Did the ideas of Jewish eschatology around Him play no role in the shaping of the culture He lived in? Could Jesus only function by believing in what was in the Tanakh?

Dunn is also just one person. Did Geisler consider any other NT scholars? Apparently not. Instead, you find one person whose position you think is problematic and from there get the idea that all of NT scholarship is problematic.

Next comes Licona’s treatment of Matthew 27. Geisler’s appeal here is to ICBI. It gives the impression that ICBI is just as infallible as the Scripture itself. Would it be possible that Geisler would like to update the canon and put the Chicago Statement in there as the last inspired book of the Bible?

What is absent? That’s right. A response to the opposition that Geisler has brought up. There is no response to arguments that NT scholarship would just not take seriously that Geisler brings up. JPH, myself, and Max Andrews have all addressed them as have others. That is ignored. Geisler hears no voice but his and those who agree with him.

In moving on to Blomberg, Geisler considers it startling that Blomberg called for apologies on the part of Geisler and Mohler and to all those who worked behind the scenes against Licona and his supporters.

Those of us who have been watching this and seeing the damage it is doing have not found this startling at all but a great act of bravery on the part of Blomberg. It seems impossible to Geisler to think that in his crusade he could be in the wrong and be doing more damage than he realizes. If Inerrancy dies in America, I believe it will be because of the way Geisler has treated it.

Blomberg is right. Geisler and Mohler do not know what they are speaking of in this issue in that they are treating all resurrections as equal. They are saying all passages are to be interpreted the same way. For instance, there has been much said about Geisler not interpreting the creation days as six literal 24-hour days.

Could not one say “Well Geisler has given us reason to doubt all of the Bible. After all, if you can change the days so that they are not literal days, then surely you can change the resurrection of Jesus so that it is not a literal resurrection.”

I do not think this is the case, but if it was brought up, would the charge fit?

If there is one part of the Bible that is not be interpreted literally, does that mean that none of it is to be taken that way? If one part of the Bible is apocalyptic, does that mean all of it is? If one part is not apocalyptic does that mean none of it is?

This all-or-nothing game is common in fundamentalist circles and a great threat to Christianity that causes one to dispense with the whole of the Bible if just one part is not interpreted the way one thinks.

We are told that Blomberg advocates a historical-critical/grammatical method of reading the Bible. What does this consist of? We’re not really told. I personally think we should let Blomberg make that case instead of just dismissing him for not agreeing with the beliefs of ICBI. If ICBI is correct, it will not be protected by simply dismissing all that disagrees with it. We condemn the Watchtower for not allowing any thinking contrary to the Watchtower to come in. Dare we do the same?

Geisler says that Blomberg ignored The Jesus Crisis, referring to the book by Farnell and Thomas. If he did, good for him. It should be ignored. The crisis described is one that would set the church back in America even more if it was heeded.

Now what are the great dangers of this approach? Let’s see. First is that the author of Matthew, not Jesus, created the Sermon on the Mount.

This depends on what is meant. If we are saying that Jesus spoke several messages and the main themes were compiled and put in one message, then what is the problem? If we mean Jesus never said anything like this and Matthew made it all up, that would be more problematic. Geisler doesn’t say which. For the Sermon on the Mount, if it was just that, many modern listeners would appreciate it. The Sermon on the Mount could be read in about fifteen minutes. If Jesus was a traveling teacher, he would have spoken much longer than that for a sermon. Consider how Paul in Acts spoke so long one of the listeners fell asleep. Historians often gave abbreviated accounts. (How many of us would love to give a message like Peter’s in Acts 2 that would last just two minutes and get 3,000 converts?)

Next is that the commissioning of the twelve is a compilation of messages. Why not? Let’s look at the evidence for the case. It would help explain such passages as the one saying you will not finish going through all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. If this is the case and the ancients would have understood it, what’s the danger?

The same happens with the idea that Matthew 13 is a compilation of several different messages. Again, what’s the danger? Matthew likely arranged his message in a Mosaic format. He had action and then teaching in a fivefold format that would have been seen as fivefold like the Torah of Moses is. Jesus would be being presented to Matthew’s audience as one who was the new Moses and was in fact greater than Moses.

Jesus did not preach the Olivet Discourse in its entirety? This again depends. For instance, is it likely that Jesus in a talk to his apostles said “Let the reader understand.”? Would we lose out if Jesus had given a long talk and Matthew just gave a summation of it?

The scribes and Pharisees were good people who Matthew presented in a bad light.

By and large, it’s true, the scribes and Pharisees were good people. They were not evil masterminds plotting the destruction of Israel. They really believed they were doing something good. They were not actively seeking to undermine the worship of YHWH. The Pharisees were not condemned because they were Pharisees. Keep in mind that Paul was a Pharisee as well.

As for Matthew 2, J.P. Holding has dealt with that issue already.

Blomberg in the article states his problem with the Jesus Crisis. Geisler does not hear it. It is unbelievable to him that someone who loves God and embraces the Bible should go against The Jesus Crisis. Who needs the scholars? We have the Bible. If that’s the case, then we might as well say “Who needs PH.D.’s in philosophy to warn us about people who do not believe the Bible? We have the Bible. Who needs Geisler’s books on the Bible? We have the Bible itself. Who needs to attend some of Geisler’s Seminary courses? We have the Bible.”

We could go even further. If the Holy Spirit teaches us all things as Geisler has said, then we might as well say who needs Geisler’s philosophy courses even? Why if we are to know something, we will be taught it. We have the Holy Spirit! If the Holy Spirit thought it was important to study the laws of logic, he would have put the laws of logic in the Bible! If he thought we needed to know Plato or Aristotle, he would have put them in the Bible! He did not.

Blomberg’s criticism is correct. The church does not need to run from academia or seek to shut down academia. We need to be interacting with academia. Geisler says Blomberg is irenic and embracing with Mormons, but has great hostility to those who uphold the fundamentals of Scripture.

Well I for one did not read any great hostility in what Blomberg said, but rather the heart of someone concerned about the future of the church. Maybe Geisler thinks he knows the authorial intent of Blomberg. Oh wait. That can’t be known. As for what he said about Mormons, why not give people what they themselves give? I would have more respect for a well-informed Mormon than I would for an uninformed Christian.

Never mind it’s quite amusing to hear Geisler talking about someone having great hostility. I suppose it has been nothing but good-natured love that has caused someone to go after a scholar’s job and reputation, all the while conveniently ignoring the William Lane Craigs of the world that hold to the exact same position.

Geisler then talks about the dangers of people who hold to Blomberg’s hermeneutic starting with Griesbach and going all the way to Mike Licona. This assumes that these are dangerous positions. There would be no great danger to Christianity if Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source when they wrote their gospels. That does not mean that they did, but if they did, what is the great danger? If Geisler found out tomorrow that Mark was a source for Luke, and he could not deny it, would he be convinced Jesus did not rise from the dead? If so, then I have more concern for the faith of someone like Geisler than I think I ever could of Blomberg.

This is simply followed by more of the same. Instead of interacting with the points, we’re just told that the points are dangerous because of “liberalism.” It seems to be the reigning tactic that if you want to shut down the side of anyone in a biblical debate, you just accuse them of being liberal. Never mind whether the charge is true or not. It has a good way of sticking, even to those who hold to a conservative view of Scripture.

Of course, now we have Gundry brought up. Did 70% of ETS vote against Gundry? Well, not exactly. As Holding has said

“70% majority? Not quite. The vote was 116 to 41, with a far greater combined number abstaining. Geisler is not telling the whole truth here: It was only 70% of the voting group that he is referring to, not the whole membership of ETS.”

We are told that Blomberg denies the story of Peter catching a fish with a coin in his mouth. Well, no.

All he said was that it was not a miracle per se. It did not require divine intervention. Fish in that day regularly swallowed coins. It could be prophetic knowledge, but that itself is not a miracle. Also, Blomberg is right. We are not told that Peter went and did what Jesus said.

What about who wrote the epistles? Now I do believe that each epistle was written by its named author, but the way to respond to this is to show evidence for each case and not say “It disagrees with ICBI.” We are seeing more and more that for Geisler, ICBI is practically one of the early church councils!

And what about the idea of myths and legends being involved. I do not think there were, but what do we do again? It’s simple. We examine the claims on a case by case basis. It does not work to just retreat all the while stating that we are correct.

Blomberg is then gone after for demonizing his critics. (Oh the irony is so thick here!) Blomberg actually thinks the works of people like Lindsell and Thomas could be harmful to the faith. Well, yes. They could be. I happen to agree with him on Inerrancy and what he says. The way the case is made today makes it that if someone finds one contradiction in the Bible, then the whole thing is to be abandoned. Does Geisler really think there are no people out there like this?

I assure him that a basic internet search could find several people like this. Why is there such a quest by several to find contradictions in the Bible? How many people have given up Christianity because they’ve found a supposed contradiction in the Bible and figured from that that the whole thing was false? In fact, Bible contradictions are often a reason cited for why someone abandoned the Christian faith. Many people have a problem with literalism. This kind of thinking has done thorough damage to the church.

Geisler finds it scary that when Blomberg examines the gospels, he does not presuppose Inerrancy. I don’t. I find that good scholarship. If you are to approach the text seriously, you have to be willing to examine arguments against it seriously. Special Pleading will not help us in our battles against unbelief. If the gospels are true stories, then study will only reveal that. We do not need to presume Inerrancy in order to demonstrate the gospels are Inerrant.

In speaking about Bock also, Geisler says:

“In doing this, evangelicals of this approach, subject the Scripture to forms of historical criticism that will always place the Bible on the defensive in that it can never be shown to reflect historical trustworthiness.”

Is Geisler saying the Bible cannot be put on the defensive? If we examine the Bible critically, we can never determine that it is historically trustworthy?! What a crisis indeed the church is in if we think we have to run from historical examination of the Bible! I for one would be willing to say to the atheist “Bring your hard examination of our text. It will stand the test of time. You will find with an honest examination that Jesus rose from the dead! Go ahead and bring your toughest questions! We have answers!”

It is a shame that one who claims to defend the Bible like Geisler does not seem to believe the same about the Bible.

Geisler then tells us that Blomberg says we cannot demonstrate with certainty the truth of all of the Bible but we can demonstrate historical probability. He’s right. Historians do deal in probabilities. The idea of certainty is one that came from applying a view of history in that it should be treated like science. For science, you can do an experiment again and again. You cannot do that with history.

Blomberg also gives the hideous statement that if there were a few genuine contradictions, the rest of the text would not be jeopardized and the entire case for belief would not be called into question. This is one of those dangerous views of Scripture that says that if the Bible is not Inerrant, then Jesus did not rise. How far would it go? Would we say Jesus did not exist like some mythicists do if we find there are mistakes in the Bible? (Note there are some former Christians who have this position and their questioning of all the Bible started with a position like Geisler’s, you know, that view that doesn’t really damage the faith.)

Geisler also says probability is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps, but many times so is certainty. Geisler finds it certain that macroevolution is false. Some Christians disagree. How does one know? One examines the case. Some things are more likely than others. Not all events in the Bible can be backed the same way. Geisler’s all or nothing approach will indeed lead to more harm for the church.

Geisler cites Blomberg as saying:

“the Gospels must be subjected to the same type of historical scrutiny given to any other writings of antiquity but that they can stand up to such scrutiny admirably.”

Indeed they can, but Geisler says

“The naiveté of this latter position is breath-taking, since historical criticism has been shown to be replete with hostile philosophical underpinnings that apparently Blomberg is either unaware of or choosing to ignore.”

It’s a naive position to believe the Bible can stand up to scrutiny? Maybe Geisler and I are not talking about the same Bible. For his talk about it being the Word of God, he must think that Word is quite weak and cannot survive in the face of opposition. Geisler goes on to say that presuppositions always control the outcome. Why could this not be the same for Geisler? Could we say that he finds the Bible Inerrant because he presupposes that it is?

The ultimate question is can the text survive scrutiny? I contend that it can. Geisler seems to contend that it does not.

Unbelievers are seeing it. Even in the thread on his facebook page, there are unbelievers commenting and seeing that for Geisler, the Bible cannot stand the test of scrutiny. Now of course there is dishonest scrutiny, but can it face honest scrutiny with someone really seeking truth? I have no doubt.

It seems Geisler does.

Geisler ends with saying that we need to expose people like Blomberg. In his words,

“Further, the time has come to expose people like Blomberg who enjoy wide acceptance in certain evangelical circles but who denies the historic evangelical doctrine of inerrancy. This is not to say, Blomberg’s views on other essential doctrines could not be orthodox. They have not been examined here. It is simply to note that neither his defense of Licona, nor his own views on the origin and nature of Scripture meet the evangelical test of orthodoxy. ”

No. The time has come to expose a view of the Bible that should have never come forward. Not the view that it is Inerrant. That has been a part of our history. What should be exposed it the view of biblical literalism that goes against scholarship believing that one without any understanding of the context of Scripture can fully grasp its message. A faith that runs from academia cannot stand up and survive in academia. To quote Dunn again from Jesus Remembered,

“A faith which regards all critical scrutiny of its historical roots as inimical to faith can never hold up its head or lift its voice in any public forum.” (Page 101)

My faith can. Let’s see whose will stand the test of time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

(Unlike Geisler also, I do provide a link to critics. Geisler’s article can be found here)

Packer Heat

May 16, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Licona, I noticed that Dr. Geisler has written a reply to your recent interview by TheBestSchools. Geisler’s response is at http://www.normgeisler.com/articles/Licona/BestSchoolsInterview2012.htm

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

Hello Johan,

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

Dear Johan Erasmus,

I apologise for lateness in responding to your email.

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

Sincerely in Christ,

J.I. Packer

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

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

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

Or, Packer could be thrown under the bus somehow.

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

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

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler Again Being Irrelevant

February 9, 2012

What’s the take on what Emir Caner has said? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, Geisler put up a response to an endorsement from Emir Caner of Geisler’s position. What difference does this make? In a word, none.

So far on the Facebook page of Geisler’s, only two comments have been made and that’s asking and answering if this is Ergun Caner’s brother. When I have done a websearch of posts on this issue in the past 24 hours, only myself and J.P. Holding come up as having new information. (A link to Holding’s response will be at the bottom)

In other words, this whole thing should be declared dead already and Geisler’s obsession with this need to prove himself right reveals much more about him than it does about the debate. Does Geisler just have an inability to let go and make amends and seek to have peace between himself and Licona?

Why do we do this then and answer? Someone should. Furthermore, unless Geisler says anything, I really don’t either. When I’m not debating the material that is put up, I have my own interests I am working on in the blogosphere. In all of this, I still do hope to sometime soon find a copy of “Defending Inerrancy” and review it.

At any rate, let’s get to what Emir Caner has said. (Link below)

The path to liberalism is paved by an incremental process that places a question mark over the theological and historical veracity of Scripture.

Absent in all of this is the notion of truth. It is not asking if Licona’s view is true or false. It is just saying that it automatically undermines Scripture. I remind the reader again that Licona has brought out that Henri Blocher in his book “In The Beginning” undermines much of a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3. He was a signer of ICBI and yet, Geisler is not sicking the heresy hounds on him. I find this interesting.

Could someone tell me why Blocher can do it but not Licona?

At any rate, what Licona is doing is not seeking to undermine the theological and historical veracity of Scripture any more than William Lane Craig has when he has stated the exact same interpretation in a debate. Licona has not once said “Scripture is in error” or “Matthew made a mistake” or “I don’t think this happened because I have a problem with the miraculous.” He has taken that route because based on literary clues he has found, he thinks that’s what Matthew is saying. He could be wrong. He’d be fine with that and if he can be shown he is wrong, he will change his view. He will not however change his view because of cries to recant. Licona has this strange view amongst evangelicals apparently. He just wants to go where the evidence leads. Would that Geisler had the same view!

And of all doctrines where liberals desire to interrogate Scripture under its dim light of naturalistic presuppositions, none is more coveted than the doctrine of the resurrection.

Note we have been told about the path to liberalism. Keep that in mind. We do agree that the doctrine of the resurrection is the central doctrine. Is it news to Emir Caner that Licona agrees? Perhaps that is why he has written a whole book on the topic.

Really. This is all that needs to be said. Imagine this dialogue between a skeptic and Licona.

Skeptic: I have read your book and I do not accept that Jesus rose from the dead.

Licona: Okay. How do you explain the evidence I presented?

Skeptic: It’s simple. You say the saints did not rise in Matthew 27 and therefore I conclude your evidence that Jesus rose is unreliable.

Licona: The evidence in both cases is different. We simply have one text in Matthew 27 and external sources are ambiguous. With the resurrection of Jesus, we have all four gospels, we have the Pauline epistles, we have the creed in 1 Cor. 15, we have the empty tomb, we have the claim of the apostles consistently that they saw the risen Christ, we have the change in social structure of the early church, we have the conversion of James, the brother of Jesus, and we have the conversion of Paul.

Skeptic: Oh I don’t care! I don’t have to explain any of that!

Licona: Until you do, you are making a false analogy and you have no case.

As I said in an earlier post, the miracles are different and the resurrections are different. Is the faith of Geisler and Emir Caner so weak that they think that if by chance one passage of Scripture was not literal or, horror of horrors, there was actually an error in the Bible, (Which I don’t think there is) then we have to throw out all of Christianity? In other words, if Jesus did not literally turn water into wine, for instance, then that means the case for the resurrection no longer exists?

Sure looks that way.

This is presenting Scripture as an all-or-nothing game, when even Geisler does not do this. Geisler holds to an old-earth interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Do you know how many evangelical Christian leaders would say at that point that Geisler is undermining the authority of Scripture and allowing the naturalistic presuppositions of science to come in and overrule what the literal account says?

Note that that information Geisler uses is also information the writer and readers of Genesis did not have. Once again, it is okay to use 20th century information, but you dare not use 1st century information and genres that Matthew’s authors would have been familiar with.

It is imperative, then, that Bible believers stand firm on the historicity and trustworthiness on this doctrine and warn those, like Dr. Licona, who are undermining the historicity of parts of the Gospel record, even some texts associated with the resurrection, thus placing the resurrection of Jesus itself in jeopardy.

Notice the parallel here. Bible believers must stand firm. They must stand firm against those like Licona. What does that mean? Licona and those like him obviously do not believe the Bible. Once again, there are several young-earth creationists who would say the exact same thing about Geisler. In fact, Henry Morris did not sign ICBI for this reason. Is Geisler going to say Morris is going against Inerrancy for that? I am quite sure what Morris would think of Geisler’s wanting to include old-earth under Inerrancy.

Here we have again simply the panic button pushing. It is not the question of if the account is true. It is the question of “What will it mean if we allow it to be considered as possible? We must not do that! People will become liberals!”

Could some? Yeah. Of course. On the other hand, the young-earth crowd will say the exact same thing about Geisler’s interpretation. Geisler gets a free pass however. In fact, Blocher gets a free pass as well when Blocher is also using genre consideration. Why is Licona outed?

What Geisler is forgetting is that people who are really interested in truth will come to Christianity if it is true, which I believe it is. If they want to know whether Jesus rose from the dead, they will not stop with simplistic objections. They will search for the truth and follow the evidence where it leads.

Emir Caner’s view is not based on evidence then but pragmatism. We are not told in this why Licona is wrong. We are just told of the consequences.

If that’s the case, then I have a new refutation of “The God Delusion.”

“If we accept this book, then we will have accepted the destruction of Christianity and of civilization with it. Therefore, there is no need to contend with the arguments. We know the consequences will be dire and therefore, this book is wrong.”

You don’t accept that? Good. Neither do I. Appeal to consequences is a fallacy for a reason.

As I think about what Emir Caner said, I imagined this earlier message that would have been heard centuries earlier.

“The authority of Scripture has always held a high position in our history and we must do all we can to stop those who will undermine it. Therefore, it is imperative that Bible believers take their stand against the investigations of Galileo. We cannot risk having what the Scriptures clearly teach on geocentrism being shown to be false. If Galileo is allowed to have his way, who knows what else in Scripture will be called into question? It is imperative that we who believe in the Bible stand with the Pope and all others against this for the sake of Scripture.”

Yet today, the majority of Christians in America believe the Earth goes around the sun, even if they read places in Scripture that on the face could seem to say otherwise. Does anyone see any serious undermining of Scripture that has gone on as a result of that? If there is any, it is not because of the interpretation, but because of the response to the interpretation.

Now I am not saying Galileo was entirely innocent. I don’t believe he was. I am also not saying that the evidence was on his side then. I don’t think that was the case either. I am also not saying the way the skeptics present the case today is an accurate portrayal. I don’t think it was.

But I am saying we still have egg on our faces today because we did not handle an opinion that went against the majority correctly.

Have we learned nothing from the past?

Believers through the centuries have fought with their very lives to defend the complete truthfulness of Scripture

Indeed they have, and indeed so is Licona. Once again, several young earthers would say that Geisler’s interpretation is doing the exact same thing. Note that the implication is that Licona is saying the Scripture is not true. This is a very serious charge and rather than being debated, the way it should have been, it has been assumed and the argument has gone from there.

we cannot, in the name of friendships or sincere motives, let our guards down when a generation of new believers are relying on present Christian soldiers to take their proper stand.

Ah yes! It is obvious the only reason someone would stand with Licona here is because of friendship or something of the sort. Well Emir Caner, I will tell you why I am standing with him.

I am standing with him because I do not believe he is denying Inerrancy and the attacks on his family, including myself then being married to his daughter, are unjust. I believe that this seriously undermines evangelicalism and leads to a hermeneutical method that cannot stand up to scrutiny.

If I thought Licona was denying Inerrancy, I would be telling him the same thing. I do not hesitate to tell my in-laws when I think they are wrong on something. In fact, we have areas of Christianity that we disagree on and they know well that we disagree on and that we’ve had back and forth on.

The consequences for this kind of behavior done towards Licona are undermining of the idea to follow the evidence where it leads. This is not following the evidence. It is refusing to look at the evidence. Having stated my argument, I will point out other consequences, as the fallacy is pointing to only consequences.

Tell me, is R.C. Sproul next on the list? He was a signer and he holds to a Preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse and Revelation. Is he thereby undermining Scripture and now a signer of ICBI will have to be held to account? Are all Preterists then automatically heretics?

What about the age of the Earth? Will we have to single out young-earthers or old-earthers? If we approach it this way, upon what grounds will Geisler say external evidence is allowable in one case but not in another? Should not an investigation of truth take into account all information?

What we have been shown we need is accountability in evangelicalism. Geisler is in this position today because we put him there. It is because too often Geisler has been held up as a paragon of apologetics and now whenever he speaks on any subject, even those outside of his expertise, we can hear the old cry changed to “Geisler has spoken. The case is closed.”

Thus, evangelicalism needs an accountability structure set up with people who hold to many different interpretations to make sure no one person has too much power in the church. As we do not have this now, then the question at this point is “Who can call Geisler to account?”

The answer is we can.

We might not be able to do something formal, but for the start, people can avoid buying his books and materials and not attending conferences he’s speaking at. It’s the pathway of speaking with you wallet.

We definitely need evangelical leaders to stand up now and say “Whether we agree with Licona or not, he has done a great service to Christianity and this kind of treatment of him is unacceptable.”

I understand several are concerned about losing reputation or losing jobs.

Yet I seem to recall someone long ago saying something about people who were seeking the honor of men rather than of God. I recall about how some would not stand up for Jesus because they sought the praise of men instead of the praise of God.

Of course, Licona is not Jesus, but are evangelicals willing to stand for the truth? We are told that we are to be ready to die for our faith in Jesus in an instant if need be. How can we have the ability to face real persecution when we cannot even stand up against one of our own and rein him in and say “No more!”

I ask evangelical leaders then to stand up with Licona, not in agreement of his interpretation necessarily, but in agreement that he is orthodox and not denying Inerrancy. If you are not a leader, like myself, I ask that you stand up with your wallet and also if you blog, with your blog.

As I watch the net, the main defense of Licona in all of this is being done by J.P. Holding, Max Andrews, and myself. There have been a few others who have written elsewhere, but the long-term has been the three of us. None of us are scholars. We are all educated, but we are not scholars. We are ordinary people who love truth and want to take a stand.

This show has gone on long enough and this whole thing should have been done by now. I pray the evangelical world will rise up and do something to stop this from happening now and from ever happening again.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Emir Caner’s post can be found here

Holding’s response can be found here

Geisler Resurrects The Zombie Argument

February 3, 2012

Will the Geisler controversy ever stay dead? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

It’d been a few weeks since we’d seen anything from Geisler on Mike Licona. For the rest of us, we’d moved on with our lives. Maybe Geisler’s got the hint already. Unfortunately, with the appearance of a new webmaster for Geisler also came new arguments from Geisler on a topic that the rest of the world no longer cares about.

Hence, I call it the Zombie argument. It should have stayed that way but Geisler seems to want to keep resurrecting it. Oh well. Let us look and see what the first proponent has to say.

Second, unfortunately, while Licona’s work defends Jesus’ bodily resurrection ably, the assumption of genre hermeneutic known as apocalyptic or eschatological Jewish texts whereby Licona dismisses the historicity of Matthew 27:51-53 (and its recording of the resurrection of saints) results effectively in the complete evisceration and total negation of His strong defense of Jesus’ resurrection.

Oh come on now! This is the same tired argument we saw from Mohler as well and the one Geisler fears. Let’s point out some differences.

First off, not all miracles are equal and not all resurrections are equally noteworthy. Which miracle do you think you could probably make a better case for? The parting of the Red Sea or Jesus turning water into wine? With the Red Sea, we could do archaeology and compare the records of Egypt and look at the events that happened at the time.

With the second one however, are we actually going to try to go to Cana and try to find some leftover wine and be able to see if it was water that was instantaneously turned into wine? We would be much more hard-pressed. This is a miracle that I believe happened but is not essential to our faith. I would defend the possibility of the miracle in this case, but if I had to give a historical case for this one in particular, I would be hard-pressed. I would simply point to the general reliability of John.

In 2 Kings, there is an account of a dead man thrown aside who touches the bones of Elisha and comes to life again. What historical evidence will be mounted to show that this resurrection happened? Again, I cannot think of any. We do not know what this man’s name was even.

Compare this to Jesus’s resurrection. We do have evidence outside of the gospels in the epistles and we have the rise of the Christian church, the role of an honor/shame motif in the event, the reality that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, and the claims of the apostles to see the risen Christ. Licona presents several articles of defense of this one resurrection.

Does someone who is a NT scholar really think the appropriate response would be “Yeah, but that doesn’t matter since you don’t accept this other claim in Matthew 27.”

No. I don’t even think a Bart Ehrman would use that line. The method is to deal with the evidence for the resurrection. Farnell assumes that the resurrection of Jesus would be defended like the resurrection of the saints and that the miracle of the saints if it happened would be as historically demonstrable as that of the resurrection of Christ. This is a huge assumption and a false one!

This conclusion is subjective, arbitrary, hermeneutically quite unnecessary. Nothing demands such a conclusion in the context or supports such a conclusion.

Farnell says the above about Licona’s conclusion that the text is apocalyptic. What he leaves out are the many arguments that Licona gives. Licona argues for a number of pages in the book with evidences and in his talk at EPS, he gave even more evidence for his position.

Farnell’s position is like someone sticking their head in the sand and saying “No! I don’t accept it!” Instead of dealing with the arguments Licona has given, he just asserts that there’s no need to have that conclusion. It doesn’t matter that Licona has given reasons. Those reasons must obviously be false! Why? Because they disagree with what I believe!

If the events in Matthew 27:51-53 are held that way, nothing—absolutely nothing— stops critics from applying a similar kind of logic to Jesus’ resurrection. Licona’s logic here is self-defeating and undermines his entire work on defending the resurrection.

Nothing stops critics from doing so except for Mike’s argument. No one I know of would take the creed in 1 Cor. 15 as simply apocalypse. No one I know of takes the crucifixion as simply apocalypse. For these people, it’s an all-or-nothing game. Either everything is literally historical or nothing is. For NT scholarship, it’s not that simple.

First, Licona appears to take other events in immediate context both BEFORE AND AFTER this passage as historical (Jesus crying out, veil of temple split, earthquake, the centurion crying out). Merely because he finds these events “strange” is rather subjective. His idea of “What were they [the resurrected saints] doing between Friday afternoon and early Sunday morning?” shows that an acute subjectivity reigns in Licona’s hermeneutical scheme.

Licona does not take that view simply because it is strange, but based on a historical argument that Farnell has not touched. It is easy to cry out about subjectivity when one does not want to deal with the arguments.

Second, no literary signals exist to the readers that Matthew has switched from historical narration of the events surrounding the crucifixion. The passage flows both before and after as a telling of the events with no abrupt disjuncture. How would Matthew’s readers have recognized that the events, before and after, were historical in time-space but not the immediate passage?

How would Matthew’s readers have been able to distinguish the genre change from historical narrative to what Licona term’s “symbolic” based in eschatological Jewish texts.

Matthew’s readers would have been the most educated as few people then were literate. The popular audience would have known based on oral clues rather than written ones. We do not live in that culture and it is a mistake to think our thinking would be just like theirs. What clues were there? There would be a number and some we don’t know of I’m sure.

For instance, I just got done reading Ken Bailey’s “Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes” and my eyes were opened to things in 1 Corinthians I hadn’t noticed in years of reading. Paul writes often in a ring composition with point A, point B, point C and then an emphasis in point D, followed by a restating of C, then of B, then of A. We Western readers miss this. A Jewish reader would have caught on immediately.

There is nothing in the text that has Paul saying “Oh Corinthians. I want you to know how I’m writing. Please understand this.” Paul wrote using clues internal to the culture that that culture would have recognized. The same could be going on here in Matthew 27 and Licona certainly thinks it is based on the study of genre.

It is highly dubious that Matthew 27:51-53 or Revelation should be associated with Jewish Apocalyptic literature. While Revelation may share some highly superficial characterstics, such as symbolism, it DOES NOT share the dualism, pessimism, determinism, pseudonymity or rewritten history transformed into prophecy that characterized such Jewish literature (see Leon Morris, Apocalyptic, 1972).

This man has a doctorate after saying Revelation should not be associated with Apocalyptic literature? The very first word of the book is the Greek word for apocalypse. If Revelation is not an apocalypse, pray tell what exactly should we define it as?

Does Revelation share all the characteristics? No. But what does. However, there are a number of similarities. I believe there is a dualism in the sense of good vs. evil with the good winning. I also think some of Revelation is historical and has been rewritten, such as the account in Revelation 12 which I believe to be a description of the birth of Christ. (Let’s wait now and see if Geisler sends the Heresy Hounds after me.)

I would lovingly ask Mike Licona to reconsider his position. All of us have had times when we have reconsidered positions and changed as we grow in the faith and wisdom as Christians and in the love of the Lord Jesus.

Instead, what we need is for Geisler to consider he could be wrong in the face of opposition. This reminds me some of when the Arizona Congresswoman was shot and P.Z. Myers was sure that the shooter was a Republican who listened to talk radio. Myers would jump on anything that supported his claim and ignore all that went against it.

If Geisler is so sure he’s right, then he should have agreed to the round table discussion. He should have also agreed to meet Licona with witnesses, but he has not done so.

Meanwhile, let’s look at just one piece from the other short letter.

Be encouraged that we all see through the childish attacks you have faced. In
our culture, personal attacks are often offered when the opposition cannot
answer the clarity of your position. Sadly it is apparent that sometimes Christians
do this as well. You do not stand alone. We have been there, and we stand
alongside of you in the truth! The Administration, Faculty, Staff and students of
the Arlington Baptist College pray for you and stand with you in this battle.

All the childish attacks. Oh come on!

If people cry out over this, I wonder what they would do in the face of real persecution in certain countries overseas.

To begin with, let us remember it was Geisler who threw the first punch here, and that punch has cost the Licona family income and loss of credibility. Note also Geisler has had a petition going around behind the scenes against Licona and Geisler has been getting Licona uninvited from conferences and doing the same to Copan and Habermas for supporting Licona.

Last I checked, none of us have done such to Geisler. Geisler has tried to control the evangelical world and make sure everyone sees things his way.

I agree that attacks can come when the clarity of a position cannot be answered, but in this case it has been. I’ve done it. Max Andrews has done it. J.P. Holding has done it. We have not seen replies to what we have said. Holding’s challenge to Geisler for open debate was even taken down from Geisler’s Facebook page and the person who posted it was banned from posting there.

Geisler has refused to listen then and has instead kept going on his Crusade. If he wants to play that game it is played as well. The response of Holding was to make a cartoon and now Geisler plays the victim card. It is like the bully who punches someone only to have another student who doesn’t like it come over and knock him down and then the bully cries out that he is a victim.

What is done is done because Geisler is going against unity in the body and damaging Evangelicalism as a whole. There was a day and age when many of us held Geisler’s name in great respect. Now we look at that name with shame. We see it as disgraceful and for us, it wasn’t because of anything that Mike Licona said about Geisler. It was seeing Geisler himself and how he handled disagreement and the hostility in his approach to Licona.

The cause of Geisler’s loss of respect in the evangelical world is Geisler alone.

We hope that Geisler will stop and see the damage he’s done to the body and give it a rest. There are far more important battles to be fought.

We also want to note the irony that Ergun Caner is listed as support. Geisler. Do you really want to use Caner’s name again? There are people that have been waiting for you to answer questions for years on this topic and now in a topic where your position is not accepted, you bring in an endorsement from someone who’s endorsement will not be accepted. Do you really want James White going after you again?

Now earlier, I would have and in fact did agree with you on Caner. I hadn’t looked at it, but I knew Caner and I had a high respect for you and none for White. It seemed like a grudge match. Now since I’ve seen the way you investigate these claims, I must say I would simply wish to look at this whole thing myself if I got the time, but even if you were entirely right on Caner, it still does not serve you to bring him in here.

Seriously, this whole thing is dead. The evangelical world does not care any more about it. Oh I’ll still comment whenever you say something like this, but I’m also aware you’re doing a fine job of destroying your own reputation. When someone takes a minor and makes a major issue out of it, there is something else going on.

It’s done. I pray soon you’ll meet Licona with witnesses as he has asked for and be able to make amends and put this all past us. Enough damage has been done. There is no need to keep beating a resurrected horse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

High Context and the Perspicuity of Scripture

January 18, 2012

What hath the Big Bang Theory to do with hermeneutics? Let’s find out as we dive into Deeper Waters.

Just recently on Facebook, I was in a dialogue with a skeptic who was saying that God should have made His novel clearer. This is the kind of thinking that I find I regularly seem to have to argue against. Why is it that God should have made it clearer, and clearer to who?

What 21st century American thinkers can think is clear might not be what a 12th century Japanese person thinks is clear. It might not be what a 17th century Chinese person thinks is clear. It might not be what a 3rd century Egyptian thinks is clear. Why should it be that our society is the one that gets precedence?

Note that this also implies that Scripture will be dispensed at the lowest level possible. Why think Scripture should be that way? I would think that God, if He is the most awesome being of all, would in fact NOT be simplistic in His writing. The reality is that he would write far better than any author could in having multiple levels of depth to what he writes.

Consider this in light of the Geisler controversy. The idea is that the text does not seem to create any clear indication of being apocalyptic in Matthew 27:52-53 and even if it was, it must still be literal somehow. (Never mind that hardly anyone stops to think about what that means.)

One aspect missed in this is that the Bible is written in a high context society. The Bible assumes that you knew the prerequisite background knowledge to understand what is being said. Take the book of Revelation for instance. Two thirds of Revelation alludes to Old Testament Scriptures. It assumes that you have a working knowledge of the Old Testament. If you don’t have that, you will misunderstand the book. You cannot open Revelation and have just the text and understand it without knowing the background of the Old Testament.

Consider for an example the Big Bang Theory.

Oh I don’t mean the scientific theory. I mean the TV show. If you don’t know about this sitcom, it’s one that some friends suggested my wife and I watch, not only because they suspect one character (Sheldon) has Asperger’s, but they thought I in particular would since these are really four intellectual geeks together. The show is filled with such humor.

Regularly throughout the series, one will find bits of humor that depend on having a high knowledge of the subject matter discussed. I have no doubt that if I was more of a scientist, I would understand much of the humor even more. There is enough in the text that one can get a basic understanding of what is being said, but the more knowledge you possess of the subject, the more you will understand the inner-depths of the text.

If I want to enjoy a joke more in the series, I can look up a name or a word in the joke and do some studying and then look back at that joke when I watch a rerun and say “Ah! Now I understand that. It makes a lot more sense now!” What do I do with the Bible? The same thing. I go back and understand the context that the text is in, and that includes its historical and social context. Could it be that the Bible is not written from the perspective and reading style of modern Americans, but rather Ancient Jews?

When asked then how we can know what the text means, the answer is the same as that which Paul gave to Timothy. It’s 2 Timothy 2:15. Study to show yourself approved.

If we want to understand the deepest things of God, we will have to study. There are no shortcuts to this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters