Posts Tagged ‘Al Mohler’

On Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty

December 21, 2013

What do I think about the Phil Robertson issue? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Normally, I don’t post on Saturday, but next week is Christmas and I will be busy and I have other reviews going on and this topic is important to cover right now so with a few hours before the podcast today airs, I’m going to give some thoughts on this one.

I can also say that I have never actually seen an entire episode of Duck Dynasty. My wife and I do not get A&E. I’ve only seen the tail end of one episode when we went to visit my parents and I remember seeing a truck get blown up (Which I thought was awesome) and having the family gather together for prayer and a meal. I liked what I saw, but never watched more.

Yet I have been watching what has been going on and quite enjoying what I see.

Phil Robertson as we know was asked by GQ his stance on various issues. This would include sinful behavior. It’s hardly a shock to anyone that Robertson, a conservative Christian, gave an answer that a conservative Christian would do. What should he do instead? Lie? (For those wanting to talk about how a true Christian behaves and believes, a true Christian does not lie.) No. He gave an honest answer. Some say he was crude. It’s amusing that these same people quite likely have no hesitancy using profanity and probably don’t complain about a number of jokes their favorite comedians make or can show up on television elsewhere.

What did A&E do in response? They cut him out of the show for going against what they believe. A key point in this has also been that Robertson included bestiality in the list of sexual sins.

Maybe he did that because it is included in the Christian list of sexual sins? Notice also he included men and women sleeping around. If anything, since that was listed afterwards, it could be implied that he’s saying that was worse. I don’t think he was saying that. He was just listing sexual sins.

And to top it off, he gives a passage from Scripture.

Now going back to A&E’s response, a lot of people see this as a free speech issue. Upfront, I will say that this is not an issue about free speech. I will assume for the sake of argument that A&E has all right to fire Phil Robertson if they so choose. The right to speak does not entail the right to be heard or agreed with.

Of course, in turn, families all across America have a right to boycott A&E and to cancel their cable.

And before going on, I just want to ask this question. A&E, what the heck were you thinking? Duck Dynasty is your cash cow. It is the number one show in the nation. It is the reason people are watching your network. Why on Earth would you want to risk the equilibrium of that show? People who watch it already know how Phil thinks whether they agree with him or not.

That having been said then, what is the real issue here?

The real issue I think is hypocrisy.

There are many homosexuals out there who are practicing homosexuals who see no wrong with the behavior, but at the same time, they’re also not dogmatic about wanting to redefine marriage. Many of them even oppose redefining marriage. They don’t want to be the center of attention. They don’t want to make their sexual behavior the focus of their life or stake their identity in it. Of course, they don’t want to be discriminated against in other areas of life, but they’d prefer to really just be left alone.

Most Christians will have no problem with these people. Now we’ll disagree with their lifestyle, but we suspect that we can have good and honest conversation with these people about the issues. These people will also disagree with orthodox Christians. Some will claim to be Christians themselves, but I don’t see any way around 1 Cor. 6 for a Christian. Those interested in more on this are invited to read Robert Gagnon’s “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” and listen to his interview on my show here.

What do we Christians mind?

We mind the ones that are very much in our face with their lifestyle and not only wanting us to listen to them, but demanding that we accept them.

“Oh you are huh? Well what about those Bible thumpers who go around telling everyone that they’re going to Hell? What about them?”

By and large, I think they’re generally an embarrassment to the kingdom. I do. The ones that I see are generally high on passion and low on knowledge on the topic. All they know how to do is quote the Bible. Get them in a discussion where they actually have to defend the Bible and they’re toast. Of course, I am not condemning evangelism, but I do think we are in a world where the Bible no longer has the authority it had before in the eyes of the world. We need to do pre-evangelism as well.

So was Robertson doing that? No. He was just answering a question and yes, he did quote Scripture, but he didn’t just say a Scripture. He also made an argument about the nature of the body and how it works. I have no problem with that. He gave the Christian view and then said “And here’s why I think this view is true.”

GLAAD of course would have none of it and immediately made a protest. Unfortunately, this has come back to bite them. GLAAD has been receiving complaints from people everywhere and if you go to their Facebook page, the people are livid. What do they point at? The hypocrisy.

All this time, the homosexual movement has been saying we should tolerate them. We should have a live and let live attitude. We should be willing to accept that they are different. Classically understood, Christians will have no problem tolerating homosexuals. True tolerance means “I disagree with your view, but I will give you all right to hold that view and live your life the way you want.” (Of course, this excludes actions that are illegal.)

The government with behavior can do three things after all. It can promote a behavior and say this is what we want society to do. It can prohibit a behavior and say this is what it doesn’t want society to do. It can also permit a behavior as a way of saying they’re not saying yes or no either way but leaving it up to people to decide.

Right now, the government permits homosexual behavior. There’s nothing illegal about it. That’s not saying anything about it being right or wrong. After all, the government permits adultery and Christians should condemn adultery. The government permits some forms of pornography (Excepting child pornography of course) despite that Christians consider (or they should!) that to be immoral as well.

Knowing that, most Christians will do the same. We’re up for having honest and frank discussions with people in the homosexual community who disagree with us. I have friends who are part of that community. I have friends who I disagree with on many issues and we know we disagree, but we can maturely discuss the issues.

GLAAD is not pleased with that. They don’t want discussion. They have shut down discussion immediately instead. When it comes to what Robertson has said, the question has not been asked “Is he right?” Personally, I think that would be a good question for us to discuss. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Christianity is true. Let’s suppose God does have a Kingdom. Let’s suppose this really is a behavior that excludes you from the Kingdom.

Isn’t that the kind of thing people should know about?

Let’s even suppose for the sake of argument that Christianity is false. However, Phil Robertson still believes that it is true. He honestly believes that people who are participating in homosexual behavior without repentance and not seeking to repent are going to be excluded from the Kingdom of God?

Isn’t it consistent for him to want to warn people about that?

GLAAD has decided to skip the step of if what is said is true or not. Now they could say “Well we’ve studied the claim and we’ve found that it’s not true.” Okay. Perhaps you think you have. Has your audience? What about people out there who think otherwise? What about people like myself who say we’ve studied the Bible and found it to be true and we agree with it here? We need to hear more than your indignation.

All this time GLAAD has been telling us to be tolerant of people who are different, but apparently, when someone shows up who is different from them, then that tolerance goes out the window. They no longer have a desire to be tolerant. They not only refuse dissenting arguments. They refuse dissenting opinions. If you speak out and say something that offends them, then they will come after you.

I’ve debated Muslims before. These Muslims tell me that I’m an idolater and a blasphemer. I am guilty of the sin of shirk for since I hold to the deity of Christ and the Trinity, I am assigning partners to God. I deserve to go to Hell forever.

And you know what? If Islam is true, they’re exactly right! If Jesus is not who He claimed to be, I am guilty of a great blasphemy anyway and I deserve what I get.

Am I offended by this? Not a bit! I think the Muslims are being entirely consistent.

When the Muslim says that, what do I say? I don’t go off on a tirade about being offended and therefore it is wrong. What I do is give my reasons why I think the Bible is true and why I do not think that the Koran is true. My reasons could be wrong for the sake of argument, but I give a reason.

What has happened with GLAAD is instead of focusing on the question under discussion, we are instead focusing on the feelings of those involved. If GLAAD feels offended, we cannot help with that. We cannot change what we believe is the truth just to help them feel better. What this ultimately means if we keep going down the route of discussing the feelings involved is that we are held captive by GLAAD’s feelings.

And why should we be?

Should we submit the truth to our feelings or submit our feelings to the truth?

GLAAD’s problem is that they are not practicing the gospel that they preach. The tolerance is a one-way street. If you agree and accept them, they are fine with you, but if you dare raise disagreement, GLAAD isn’t so…well…glad.

An interesting example of the kind of tactics GLAAD is doing is in the interview discussion between Al Mohler and Wilson Cruz. Do you know who these people are? Well let me tell you a bit about them.

“Wilson Cruz currently serves as a full-time GLAAD staff member and national spokesperson, having spoken about LGBT issues on MSNBC, Huffington Post Live, NBC Latino and in USA Today, among many others. He will soon be guest hosting ‘Raising McCain,’ the new talk show on Pivot TV hosted by Meghan McCain. His involvement with LGBT advocacy began in 1995, when he accepted the GLAAD Media Award on behalf of the groundbreaking drama, My So-Called Life. Cruz’s role as gay high school student Rickie Vasquez was a groundbreaking moment in the history of LGBT images in the media. Since then he has gone on to appear in several memorable roles that have spanned television, film, and the Broadway stage. In 1997, Cruz joined GLAAD’s Board of Directors. In 2008, GLAAD honored Cruz with its Visibilidad Award. He recently served on the Board of Directors for The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and for the past two years he co-chaired their annual Respect Awards which raises money for the organization. Cruz also worked at The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force as a Field Organizer, advocating in cities around the United States to expand human rights ordinances to includes sexual orientation. He has been the Grand Marshal at Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, West Hollywood and San Diego Pride events, as well volunteering for the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center and APLA’s AIDS Walk. He is based in Los Angeles.”

And to let everyone know, this is not a description I have made on my own. This is a description that comes from GLAAD’s own web site and can be found here.

Now what about 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).

Dr. Mohler also serves as the Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary. His writings have been published throughout the United States and Europe. In addition to contributing to a number of collected volumes, he is the author of several books, including Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah); Desire & Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance (Multnomah); Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists (Crossway); He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody); The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness (Multnomah); and Words From the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the Ten Commandments (Moody). From 1985 to 1993, he served as associate editor of Preaching, a journal for evangelical preachers, and is currently editor-in-chief of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.”

This is just a snippet of what can be found here.

In fact, I’ll even say I’m not a big fan of Al Mohler, but let’s suppose I didn’t know these two men from Adam. All I had was these descriptions of them and I’m hearing them speak about what Christians believe. If I have not done any research on my own, which of these two men should I give more credibility? The one who has a Christian position at a Christian ministry earning degrees in the subject from a Christian seminary, or should I listen to the one who has been an actor and works at an organization that champions homosexuality and has based his whole life on that view?

If you answered “Al Mohler has more credibility” you’re spot on!

Yet what does Cruz say to Mohler?

“You know, it is not a Christian thing to compare or to include homosexuality in a list that includes bestiality or slanderers.”

You can see that here.

Upon what authority does Cruz make this statement? Could he biblically back it?

Amusingly, Cruz goes on to say this:

“And here’s the other thing. There was a time in our history when we couldn’t actually speak up and say something about how we were being characterized. That is no longer today. When someone speaks about us in these ways, we will rise up. We will speak out. And the problem with some of these people on the other side is that they don’t like that anymore. They want us to stay quiet. But we won’t stay quiet when someone makes misogynists statements, when they make racist statements the way that Mr. Robertson did. That’s not American. That’s not Christian. ”

Yes. The problem is people don’t like the way that homosexuals speak out and they want them to stay quiet. This is incredibly funny considering that Cruz and his colleagues want Robertson to be silenced and stay quiet. They don’t want him to speak up at all or say his opinion.

In fact, let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Robertson made misogynist and/or racist statements.

He has freedom to do that too! If he’s a racist, he has that freedom. If he’s a misogynist, he has that freedom. It doesn’t mean he’s right to do so, but he’s free to do so. If you want to silence him, do so with an argument as to why it’s wrong.

What we can hope is that this will instead show that the homosexual narrative is not playing the way it is. We are told that more and more people are coming over to the homosexual side, at least supporting them. This should show that they are not and GLAAD has now shown their hand and the people who support Phil Robertson are angry about it. The message has been given loud and clear. “Do not speak out against us or we will deal with you.”

What this demonstrates is something I have said for awhile. Tolerance has been a sham. It’s always been a one-way street. It was never meant to go both ways. As soon as the homosexuals have the power, they misuse it just as much as anyone else would. They have wanted us to live and let live, but they do not want us to do that, unless we’re just isolated to the private sphere. We dare not be public with our faith, though the homosexual can be public with his lifestyle.

My hope in this is that we will instead get the debate started again and maybe some Christians will wake up and realize what is going on in their world around them and come out of their enclosed societies where they never interact with the world. What we see here today is that Christians are still a force to be reckoned with.

And now, they are ready to show that they will not be bullied any longer.

Where we go from here is up to everyone else and to what you and I do, but this is not a free speech issue in my view. It is a hypocrisy issue and it is time we call the other side on it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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The Problem WIth Fundamentalism

February 28, 2013

Are we walking a fine line with our faith? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, I wrote about how we are playing Evangelical Jenga. I described this as bibliolatry. To be sure, this is not the same as idolatry, to deal with any misconceptions. The term is a figure of speech. It is a position that gives a high view of the Bible but at the same time, acts as if the Bible will not stand up to criticism.

In light of the actions of Geisler, I am seeing this as more and more of a problem. Before dealing with that, let’s state upfront what my view is not.

My view is NOT saying that believing in Inerrancy is being fundamentalist. Not at all. By and large, I have no problem with the ICBI statements. I do hold to Inerrancy, but the difference with me is I seek to hold to it the way an ancient Jewish person would. For instance, consider this statement of Al Mohler.

“The Bible claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the inspired words”

Okay. This sounds good and holy to so many people, and then along comes Bart Ehrman. “What if you don’t have the inspired words?” Indeed. What if you don’t? I do not know of a textual critic today, conservative or liberal, who would say we have 100% accuracy in what the text of Scripture says. There are some minor parts in question. In 1 John 1:4 is it “our joy” or “your joy”? We don’t know. Does any doctrine of Christianity hang on this? Nope. Not a one. Not having exact wordage does not trouble me because we have highly reliable wordage.

When we talk about the exact words, what about something like this as I blogged about in the future of Biblical scholarship. Let’s just use one example, the baptism of Jesus.

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.”

Okay. Mark and Luke agree, but Matthew is quite different. You can say the thrust is the same, but there is also the difference that Matthew is addressed to the crowds. Mark and Luke make it personal to Jesus. What was said?

If you want exact wordage, you won’t get it, but this wasn’t a problem for Jews. Consider in Exodus 20 when we get to the fourth commandment we read this:

“8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

When the Ten Commandments, and remember, these were said to be written by the finger of God, were repeated in Deuteronomy 5, what do we read for that commandment?

“12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”

Those two are different. Of course, the thrust of it is still the same. The Jews would do something like this even with the words of God. Now of course, they were copious in copying the manuscripts, but with retelling an event, there was no major problem with paraphrasing.

If we insist on having exact wordage every time, we will have problems when someone like Ehrman comes along. What happens when you’re a youth who has been taught that God gave us what we have down to the very words and then find out that some of those words are called into question?

To consider how problematic this is, look at what Geisler says in his article against Robert Sloan.

“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!”

While it is true that an omniscient being can make no mistakes, there is a problem here. It is something to talk about what a being like God can do. It is more important to talk about what He did do. Consider this statement I read this morning in Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus.”

“This became a problem for my view of inspiration, for I came to realize that it would have been no more difficult for God to preserve the words of scripture than it would have been for him to inspire them in the first place. If he wanted his people to have his words, surely he would have given them to them (and possibly even given them the words in a language they could understand, rather than Greek and Hebrew). The fact that we don’t have the words surely must show, I reasoned, that he did not preserve them for us. And if he didn’t perform that miracle, there seemed to be no reason to think he performed the earlier miracle of inspiring these words.” (Location 201 of 4258 on the Kindle)

As one who debates internet atheists regularly, I will attest that so many times we can hear the objection about “If God is so omnipotent and omniscient, then why are there textual variants?” If we base our arguments on “God can” then we have to defend so much that we need not defend. Let’s base our arguments on “What does the evidence say God did?”

Now I am not saying God did not inspire the words of Scripture. I hold to that. I just hold that that does not require perfection in the scribes. God is not a micromanager. By and large, I think the scribes have done an excellent job in preserving the text, far better than other ancient manuscripts that we have. My concern is statements like those of Geisler and Mohler are setting our youth up for failure when they meet an Ehrman.

Suppose you have a youth who grows up in a church where Inerrancy is hammered on, but in the modern sense of Geisler and Mohler. This student is taught to honor the very words of Scripture as being what God wanted for us. God is capable of preserving His word. We must be clear on the exact words used in every case.

Then they get to Bart Ehrman. What do they find out? They are told that there are several several variants. Does Ehrman overdo his case? Yes. Are most of those variants non-consequential, as he himself admits? Yes. Is Christianity really in danger? No.

Now suppose this student believes in passages like 1 John 5:7 or John 7:53-8:11 or Mark 16:9-20. None of these passages I hold to be authentic. Most conservative critics would agree. What happens when the student hears this from Ehrman and reads that even conservative scholars agree?

The same thing that happened to Ehrman. When he was told that “Maybe Mark made a mistake” on a paper he wrote, the floodgates were open. It’s called the snowball effect of thinking.

We’ve all had this happen before. It is where you think one bad thing and then speculate about all the awful things that will follow next. You can work yourself into a panic over things that will never happen because your negative thinking just spirals out of control. It’s emotional reasoning and it’s a great producer of fundamentalist atheists.

So what do we do?

For starters, do we ditch Inerrancy and inspiration? No. Now if someone is convinced by the evidence Inerrancy is not true nor inspiration, they should not believe it. However, they should also be willing to be open to being wrong. On the other hand, the reverse is true. If someone does believe in them, they should be open to being wrong. If we want people to examine the evidence for the resurrection and go where it leads, we have to put our cards on the table and do the same.

Second, we must not be afraid to ask the hard questions. If we are sure our view is correct, we will want to ask the questions. We will want to go as deep into our studies as we possibly can. We will want to examine everything instead of just starting with our conclusion and going from there.

Third, we are going to have to get out of our modern understandings. Modernity has many beliefs we can agree with, but we cannot impose modernity on an ancient text. The Bible was not written to us. It was written for us. It does not speak in our cultural nuances. Because we are people who tend to value literalism, that does not mean that the Bible does. Because we value strict chronology, that does not mean that the Bible does. Something that is wrong by our modern literary standards might not be by ancient Jewish standards.

Fourth, we have to keep going on the essentials. We have to make a historical case for the resurrection. I don’t bother addressing “biblical contradictions” much any more except for if it’s a Christian having an episode of doubt. Why? Because it becomes a game of “Stump the Bible Scholar.” You answer one objection from someone and they don’t acknowledge it. Instead, they just go get another one and you have to answer that and if you don’t answer it the way they think works, then they can reject any aspect of Scripture as historical. Today, with web sites like “Evil Bible” or “The Skeptics Annotated Bible”, the non-Christian can look up a plethora of “contradictions” without doing any research whatsoever. The Christian must spend their time doing research that will be a wasted effort on the audience. I don’t have a problem with research of course, but our time can better be invested in the most important areas. I would rather we prove the resurrection, the foundation of Christianity, rather than Inerrancy.

The reality is we can deal with most of these problems by changing our approach. What about that student I used as an example earlier. Well I think Bart Ehrman is an example of just such a student who found out his view was wrong and everything snowballed after that. He started asking “Is it possible that X and Y really contradict?” One could say it’s possible, but one needs to show it. Imagine what difference it could make if Ehrman had truly followed in the footsteps of someone like Metzger instead of going the opposite way?

We claim to be people of evidence. Let’s live that way. Let’s go where it leads and really debate the issues instead of making pronouncements from Sinai.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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

SEBTS Denied

September 20, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’d like to take a look again at what has been going on in the controversy between Norman Geisler and my father-in-law, Mike Licona. (Yes. I am aware of a possible bias, hence I state it upfront) Though it has not been as widely discussed, Geisler has put up a letter stating why he is not meeting with SEBTS per Licona’s suggestion to have a round table discussion. A link will be at the end of the post.

To begin with, we are told that Geisler has interacted with Licona’s views, but how has this been done? Sure, there have been open letters, but would not face-to-face discussion before a panel of experts count as a better medium to discuss something? Furthermore, several of us have interacted with Geisler’s arguments and found them lacking, even though many of us disagree with Licona’s interpretation. As I have stated, I have no firm opinion on the matter. I am open, but I would want to examine the case closer.

The second is that the issue has been spoken of in two books that will turn out shortly. Now that’s fine to be releasing books on the issue, but if you’re going to do so, then surely one should be willing to face someone who you think disagrees with your view being presented in the book.

If the idea will stand up to scrutiny, then it will be fine and the books will further demonstrate that. If they do not stand up to scrutiny, then the books will only prove to be at best superfluous, at worst, monuments to an idea that could not stand up under scrutiny.

The third is that many Seminaries have spoken on this matter. Indeed they have, but what reasons have they stated? This is simply being an appeal to authority again which is what we have seen going on. We have seen ICBI and ETS pointed to again and again. Geisler has said that as a framer, he knows that Licona’s view was in mind. Well it looks like Moreland and Yamauchi who signed the document as well did not think Licona’s view was in mind. Geisler cannot speak as if he alone knows what was meant and Yamauchi and Moreland do not.

In fact, it seems that’s been something in all of this. Geisler knows what Matthew meant and Licona has it wrong. He knows what ETS and ICBI meant and thus Licona is wrong. What we are not seeing is the arguments that need to be there.

Keep in mind also that ICBI and ETS are not infallible groups. This is especially revealing since it seems ETS is not always as pleasing to Geisler as he’d like. ETS was right when they went against Gundry we are told. They were wrong when they went with Pinnock. They did not take as firm a stance on Inerrancy as they should. However, in this case, we are only to listen to the fact that they were supposedly right on Gundry. In other words, ignore those times they made a bad judgment. It just has the appearance that the reason they are used is because they could be seen as agreeing with Geisler.

As for ICBI, was it really composed of 300 scholars? Going through the list, as my ministry partner is doing at the moment, turns up a number of pastors and others who cannot really be found to have something substantial to them on Google. Very few have the qualifications to address Licona’s work.

Geisler says SEBTS should issue a statement on the matter. That would be fine. But what difference would it make? SEBTS comes out against Licona let’s suppose. Well what will that mean? It will mean they have, but it will not mean Licona is wrong. You can be sure it’d be sounded as a victory.

Let’s suppose however that SEBTS comes out in favor of Licona. What will that mean? Well they would be seen as suspect. Then would come the time to examine the reasons for why they are saying his view is not in conflict with Inerrancy.

Now there’s an idea. Examining the reasons. That’s the kind of thing that can be done at a round table discussion. Unfortunately, the option of meeting in discussion has been turned down. From this point on it would seem that nothing can be said against Licona for when Geisler speaks out it can be said “Well he offered to meet with you and discuss it and you said no.”

While at the start, I believe Geisler did what he did to further show the strength of ICBI, it has done the opposite. Its weakness has been shown. If someone like Licona can be said to be denying Inerrancy, then the statement needs to be amended. Note I am not saying we need to drop Inerrancy. Not at all. We need to have more there however concerning genre interpretation and the role of extra-biblical sources on interpretation.

That will be the work of this generation of scholarly apologists and will continue to be worked on by upcoming generations. We dare not throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

Geisler’s letter can be found on the front page of his website here:

http://normangeisler.net/index.htm

The Future of Inerrancy

September 17, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve spent a lot of time lately writing on the Geisler/Licona debate. I have stated I am Licona’s son-in-law, but I would like to make a few points clear.

To begin with, everything I say here, I say of my own free-will. Yet at the same time, I have made it a point to be objective. My father-in-law and I do disagree on some points and we have discussed them back and forth. Yet in this, while I am not ready to sign on the dotted line with his interpretation, I am open to it, as I am with it being both historical and having apocalyptic symbolism. Still, I am against the idea of him being labeled as denying Inerrancy.

I will also say that when I talk about the future, there are immediate ramifications of this. This has been quite difficult on my family, especially with my wife having her own stress over this. We’ve never had good finances in our marriage as I got laid off three months before our wedding. This puts us in a bind now even further. For new readers, if you do like what is going on, I do urge you to consider making a donation to what we do here at Deeper Waters to keep up a real defense of orthodoxy.

As for the future, I think we’ve all seen something in this debate. We’ve seen how to argue and we’ve seen how not to argue. Even if Geisler and Mohler were right in their points, the consensus across the net from what I see is that using ICBI and ETS like a club is not the right way to establish that. Nor is the right way to be found in the denial of scholarship.

Many on the net are now stating they do not want to join the ETS. Personally, I don’t blame them. I have no desire to join now either. However, let us be clear that we still need to be evangelicals in unity. We need to stand up for the great truths that have made the Christian faith what it is.

A lot of people now are asking “Well what is Inerrancy?” I think this is a good question and it is not a simple one. We know we believe the Bible is a book of truth, but at the same time, we don’t think inerrancy means you take everything necessarily literally. Of course, some passages you do take literally, but of course, there are some you don’t take literally. Has the simplistic idea of “Literally unless needed otherwise” done more harm than good?

While we do not want to defend what Geisler and Mohler are promoting, let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Let’s instead realize that Inerrancy needs to be even better explained. There have been changes in the scholarly world since ICBI. While we can respect what went on then, we realize some more study has been done. For instance, while we agree with what was said at Nicea, that does not mean Nicea was the pinnacle of study on the incarnation.

Thus, while Geisler and Mohler are making a mistake, let us be sure that we do not make a mistake in the opposite direction. Let us make sure we have a definition of inerrancy that can allow for apocalyptic interpretation, but at the same time not a definition where anything goes.

Of course, in this definition, we will always be open to new eyes realizing that the younger generation just might have found something we’ve missed. As I told my friend last night, someday, we will be the older generation of apologists and we will want to make sure we deal with the younger generation in a way unlike what we see Geisler and Mohler doing.

When they come with ideas that seem contrary to the traditional ones we’ve grown up with, let us encourage them. If scholarship shows that those ideas are false, then they are false, but the student will be all the more benefited for having done the research. Biblical studies will also learn that which is not true. If the idea is true, then we can thank the student for bringing to our attention something we’d been seeing wrong and all will be blessed. If we dismiss them with a threat, we are saying that we do not care for scholarship and running from the academy will never serve the church well. It never has in the past after all and there is no need to repeat history.

Part of good scholarship is always being open to the possibility that you could be wrong about something. Now to be sure, the more you have studied an issue, the less likely it is that you will be wrong, but either way, it will be beneficial to you to be open to the idea.

Unfortunately today, it seems that if something is traditional, then we dare not mess with it. Many of us are thankful the Reformers did not take that stance, but yet at the same time we do with the Reformers what they did to the Catholic church. They were not infallible and would not wish to be. Let us be clear on this. No one human being is infallible save our Lord. We have an infallible text. We do not have infallible interpreters.

What will we need in the future then? Study. More of it. If new councils are to be formed to discuss Inerrancy, and I have no problem with that idea, they need to be blessed by having conservative Christians across all the fields. We need scholars in philosophy, theology, history, Greek, Hebrew, Science, Sociology, Archaeology, etc.

We also need them from all belief systems on the conservative spectrum. We need futurists. We need historicists. We need Preterists. We need Calvinists and Arminians. We need old-earthers and young-earthers. We need cessationists and we need those who think miraculous gifts are for today. Provided one holds to orthodoxy, we need them to all come together and say “We disagree on everything else, but on this we can unite.” Can’t be done? We’ve done it with the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the physical resurrection.

In saying that, I am not saying I believe that Inerrancy must be a test for orthodoxy. I don’t. I think it’s important, but at the same time, beliefs about Scripture are not salvific. We must be sure that we do not make the Bible an idol as we seek to study it. However, since it has long been said that the Bible is without error, the burden is on the one who thinks he knows better than the authors and that’s a heavy burden.

And speaking of heavy burdens, let us be willing to put them on the young scholar who does think he can show a long-held belief is false. If they really want to, by all means try. If we are believing something that is wrong, then please show us so that we can correct it. If it turns out we are right, the student has at least learned the effort of research and reaching a claim based on the evidence.

Will there always be disagreements among us? No doubt there will be. That’s inevitable. The question will be how are we as Christians going to handle those disagreements with one another? I believe the actions of Geisler and Mohler in using ICBI and ETS as a club only stiffen the divide. If you think I am wrong, then I simply ask that you browse the blogosphere and watch what is going on. Why are so many talking about leaving the ETS? Why are so many talking about being sick of seeing open letters? Could this all not have been handled better?

The future belongs to us and our forefathers worked hard to get us where we are and we dare not disregard them. We are not the only generation the Holy Spirit has worked through. Unless Christ returns, we will not be the last either. We are simply carrying on a work from those who came before us. We will seek to correct them when they are wrong, but so will those after us which to correct us when we are wrong.

This is also an awesome responsibility and we dare not take it lightly. Let us make sure Scripture never loses its high place. Those who came before us often willingly died so we, the ones they would never see with their own eyes until the after-death, could get to carry Bibles and study them. We do not treat that book with the awesomeness it demands. Yes. I include myself in that group as well. We do not appreciate enough the rich work that the prophets and apostles wrote for us.

While I believe Geisler raised his charge wanting to preserve Inerrancy, my thinking is that what it has led to is actually the reshaping of Inerrancy. Note that this is not the abandonment of Inerrancy. At least it isn’t on my part. It’s saying that if your idea of Inerrancy is not enough to include someone following what they believe the author really intended the text to mean based on research, and this to be a well-known orthodox author who takes his research very seriously, then your idea could bear some modification.

Peter Kreeft once said that apologetics is the closest we get to saving the world, and really that is what we do. If we believe the Christian faith is the only hope for the world, then those who are defending that faith are doing what they can not only for the faith, but for a dying world in need of that truth.

That could easily lead us to arrogance thinking we are the heroes of the story, but let us not forget it should lead us to humility. God allows us to do what we do. He does not need you. He does not need me. He does not need Geisler or Mohler or Mike Licona. Rest assured apologist. If God were to zap you from the Earth this moment, His message could still be defended just fine. Do what you can, do it well, and enjoy it, but remember that at the end of the day, you are a servant doing what you have been told. God does not exist for the glory of your name. You exist for the glory of His.

Let us not look down on those who are not apologists either. All play a part. I think all should have some basic sill in apologetics, but not all are meant to study it professionally. I believe we should be thankful for counselors, expositors, teachers, evangelists, preachers, etc. Of course, someone could be a combination of these, but let us keep in mind what Paul said about the body in 1 Cor. 12. One part is not better or worse than another and all should serve regardless of where they are.

If you, like me, are serving in apologetics, then serve to the best of your ability. Shine as much as you can. God didn’t place you on this Earth to live a mediocre life. Yes. You are to avoid pride, but the way to avoid pride is not to have nothing that you could be prideful about, but to have a holy and contrite heart.

We have a mission before us. We have a divine calling ahead of us. We have a purpose in the Plan. Let us make sure that when the torch is passed on to the next generation, that it is not only still burning, but that it is burning brighter than ever before.

James White on Mike Licona

September 16, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. A friend pointed me recently to a Dividing Line broadcast where James White talked about the whole Geisler/Licona debate going on. I have since listened to the podcast and wish to put up some thoughts on the matter.

To White’s credit, he never once does say that I recall that Licona is denying Inerrancy. Nor do we ever hear that ICBI or ETS is being used as a club. Instead, he wishes to focus on the issue of if the event described is historical or not. If only Geisler and Mohler had taken a similar approach.

Let’s look at some points that he does say.

To begin with, on a recent broadcast of Unbelievable?, Licona appeared on there with Ehrman discussing their different faith journeys and the conversation got to Inerrancy. My wife and I thought it was incredibly ironic how that happened as we were listening but the host, Justin Brierley, was discussing if abandoning Inerrancy meant abandoning Christianity. Many people seem to think that when Ehrman abandoned that doctrine, he ceased to be a Christian.

Licona’s position was that that is not the case. You do not have to be an Inerrantist to be a Christian. Does anyone really disagree with that? (I fear some do) Licona is an Inerrantist. So am I. However, it is not an essential to being a Christian as much as it is important. This does not make him a reluctant Inerrantist. This simply means that he is stating the facts.

The next issue is if it is a waste of time to argue with non-Christian scholarship. White later makes the point that Licona isn’t writing a dissertation here, but then says maybe it was his dissertation. That in fact is the case. Of course, he edited it some, but he mainly took the work he did in his dissertation and put it in book format for the audience. In that case, yes, it was essential to interact with non-Christian scholarship.

And to that I wish to say that we must not run in terror from something just because it comes from a liberal viewpoint. Liberals can be right in seeing an insight into the text. They just don’t believe that that is really a true insight. For instance, they can say something about what it means since Paul believes in a physical resurrection of Christ and how the conservative can see that without embracing that position themselves.

My wife and I disagree on some secondary doctrines of Christianity to which when she asks me about a position that I do not hold to, I honestly try to say “Well a person who does hold to position X would likely say.” I don’t try to make it sound bad or refute it. (Well sometimes, I might offer a counterpoint) I want her to just know what the other side believes. In fact, we plan on having lunch with my pastor sometime soon who does hold to a differing viewpoint on a secondary issue that my wife is asking about some because I do want her to get both sides.

This also gets us to the point of asking if we should filter theological sources as White thinks. Do we only want to get what conservatives say? White does mention going to Fuller and being glad he read what he disagreed with and that someone who wants to be educated should do that. That is an attitude to be commended. White’s concern is that the average layman gets a commentary on Matthew, doesn’t know the names in there, and reads a liberal view thinking it’s conservative.

This is a real concern to have, but the answer to this concern is not to dumb down the commentaries, but to beef up the laity. That the laity does not know the debate is in fact the problem. Of course, I don’t expect the layperson to be as proficient in the debate as the scholar is, but the layman should have at least a basic grasp of the issues and be able to tell who is coming from what position or be able to find out somehow.

White does speak of apocalyptic literature and uses terms of natural phenomena to describe it. He says that sure, there have been times where he’s seen the sun go dark. However, that is the very question at issue. Does a text like Acts 2 mean the sun will literally go dark or that the moon will literally be blood? White does say that the writer did not mean the moon would become a glob of plasma, but does he even mean that it will look like it has? This is the issue.

White does agree that apocalyptic literature is definitely used in the Bible and points to Matthew 24 as an example. The problem with what he’s said about the sun however is that he’s taking the apocalyptic literature literally which is exactly what one does not do with apocalyptic literature. The question is “If the sun going dark and the moon being blood does not refer to something happening literally to those bodies, it still means something. What is that?”

That’s not my issue right now, but it is a point to be raised for readers of the blog to come to their own conclusions with for now.

Also, the question at issue despite what White says is not “Is this imagery being used in Matthew 27?” That is a real question to ask, but that is not the question. The question is “Is Licona violating Inerrancy?” To demonstrate that it is historical will give reason for Licona to switch views, but it will not mean that based on his reading, his earlier reading was in violation of inerrancy.

However, as said, to White’s credit, he is using the text and interacting with it and with Licona’s view. He is not raising the challenge of Inerrancy. Once again, would it not have been well on Geisler’s part if he had taken the same approach? Note I do not say this as a fan of White. I’m just giving credit where credit is due.

White does make an issue that Crossan and Borg are sources, but does this mean that we should automatically throw out liberals as having any insight into a text? If one finds a good insight into a liberal do they have to say “Darn it! I need to find that in a conservative somewhere!” (Of course, there will be a problem if every conservative thinks the same thing.)

White also says that he’s just looking at the text and he doesn’t see what Licona sees. I have a problem with this. Let’s look at how it goes.

Geisler, Mohler, and White look at the text and do not see what Licona sees.

Obviously then, it’s not in there.

Licona looks at the text and sees something different.

Licona is out of line with inerrancy.

Licona however does see something and what’s the proper reply then? It should be “We don’t see it, but perhaps we need to read more of the literature and study it and see if we do see it.” The problem is when there is a problem with using extra-biblical material to deal with a text. Why not study the genre of the time to see how something was written. Is it really a reply to say “Well Licona, I know you believe this, but I just don’t see it.” Is Licona to immediately say then “You don’t?! I guess I have to change my view!”?

Wouldn’t it be great if instead we had all taken this as an opportunity to explore the text deeper. (It seems in the major arena, only Licona is interested in doing that.)

Finally, does Licona do this because this text is an embarrassment? No. Why would Licona who has stood before a public audience in a debate talking about modern-day miracles find this embarrassing and thus, well it has to be something different? Let’s even suppose for the sake of argument that he does. So what? That means his interpretation is automatically false? No. It would mean he holds a right view for bad reasons, which is entirely possible.

In conclusion, I honestly have to commend White for not using the same tactics as Geisler and Mohler and it would have been great if they had done otherwise. I think the approach taken is more along the lines of that which will enrich the evangelical community rather than tear it apart.

Al Mohler Chimes In

September 14, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I am going to be continuing our look at this Geisler/Licona debate as now Al Mohler has chimed in. As I have stated prior, I am the son-in-law of Mike Licona. I say this to admit possible bias upfront. However, I ask the reader to consider my arguments. Seeing as I am not sure I agree with Licona’s interpretation yet, that should be sufficient to show I do not follow blindly. I am certain, however, that the views of Mohler and Geisler are not only inaccurate, but harmful to the church and to inerrancy.

What is inerrancy? Well that’s a good question and right now, the debate going on is starting to get some people to wonder. In the blogosphere, there is talk from some evangelicals that they do not want to be a member of the ETS if this is the kind of reception they can expect to have. To turn off the upcoming generation of future scholars from evangelicalism cannot be good for evangelicalism.

Unfortunately, Al Mohler has the same approach that will do just that in his review of the Geisler/Licona debate which I will put a link to at the end of this article. Mohler starts off praising Licona for the following:

The 700-page volume is nothing less than a masterful defense of the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Licona is a gifted scholar who has done what other evangelical scholars have not yet done — he has gone right into the arena of modern historiographical research to do comprehensive battle with those who reject the historical nature of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

Bravo Licona! Bravo! Keep up the good work! In fact, we know about Licona’s expertise with the following quote:

In making his case, Licona demonstrates his knowledge of modern historiography, the philosophy of history, and the work of modern historians. He confronts head-on the arguments against the historicity of the resurrection put forth by scholars ranging from Bart Ehrman and Gerd Ludemann to John Dominic Crossan.

Yes Licona. You are certainly well read in historiography and the philosophy of history. You confront the arguments against the historicity of the resurrection by leading deniers of the resurrection today. Not just leading deniers but deniers who happen to be scholars! Ah the pictures looks so good, until we get to this line.

But, even as Licona dissects arguments against the resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact, he then makes a shocking and disastrous argument of his own. Writing about Matthew 27:51-54, Licona suggests that he finds material that is not to be understood as historical fact.

Suddenly a dark cloud is on the horizon. Licona is “dehistoricizing” the text.

Or is he?

Once again, Mohler has made the same mistake that Geisler has. The idea is The text must ipso facto be accepted as historical. Licona does not take it as historical. Therefore, since the text is obviously historical, then we can be sure that Licona is not affirming inerrancy.

How did Geisler counter this? Well Geisler chose to counter it by giving the reasons why he believes it is historical. Since he has those reasons and those reasons are convincing and Licona disagrees, then obviously since the text must be historical, then Licona is denying inerrancy.

Let’s think about this a little bit. Do Geisler and Mohler really think that if a sound case was made to Licona that the event described is historical that he would say “Sorry guys. I just have to say it isn’t. I’m not trusting in the evidence.”? Does anyone really think this?

Then you have the opinion found at AOMin.org that Licona has made a concession to liberalism. Which concession would that be? Would it be the concession that miracles aren’t possible? That’s rather hard to believe considering he has a whole chapter in defense of miracles. Is it that resurrections can’t happen? That’s also hard to believe considering he’s written a whole book defending the resurrection. Could it be that the Bible is not reliable in matters of history? Also doubtful considering that he looks at the gospels and epistles to show how reliable they in fact are.

Let us consider how things might have begun if Geisler instead of choosing to attack Licona’s view as unorthodox had said the following:

To Mike Licona,

I have recently read your latest book and I do have a disagreement with you concerning your view on the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27. While it is certainly in the bounds of orthodoxy, I do not think it is accurate and I have a number of reasons for thinking it to be historical. I would like to get to discuss these reasons with you.

Instead, we got a message of threatening, which sadly Mohler is repeating. Let’s keep going through Mohler’s post. While Mohler is troubled by the word “legend”, I believe the Triablogue accurately interpreted what Licona means.

On 185-86 of his book, Licona uses the word “legend.” Needless to say, “Legend” is a hot-button word. But in context, I don’t think Licona was classifying the Matthean pericope as a legend. Rather, that’s part of his inference-to-the-best explanation methodology. He’s listing a range of logically possible options; then, by process of elimination, zeroing in on the most probable explanation. He mentions the “legendary” explanation to eliminate that alternative as a less likely explanation.

Note that this work is not a popular level work but a scholarly work, in fact based on Licona’s PH.D. In being a good scholar, you have to make room for all possible explanations and then show why the explanations of the opposition fail and yours does not. Licona is just being a good scholar in this. Could it be that Mohler and Geisler find scholarship troubling?

Mohler goes on to say:

Licona then refers to various classical parallels in ancient literature and to the Bible’s use of apocalyptic language and, after his historical survey, states: “it seems to me that an understanding of the language in Matthew 27:52-53 as ’special effects’ with eschatological Jewish texts and thought in mind is most plausible.”

Mohler does not like the term special effects, and I do think a better term could have been used, but Licona is simply saying that apocalyptic imagery was used at the time that was not to be seen as a literal description of events but as the way the event would have been seen from a “God’s-eye” perspective. It would have been a message of judgment through the earthquake, a message of shame through darkness, a message that the old way of the Law was done through the tearing of the temple curtain, and a message that resurrection can now be a reality, through the description of the resurrected saints.

Mohler has his great concern about what has happened, especially since the question can be raised “Well why can’t Jesus’s death be seen the same way?” Mohler says:

This is exactly the right question, and Licona’s proposed answers to his own question are disappointing in the extreme. In his treatment of this passage, Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon — the concession that some of the material reported by Matthew in the very chapter in which he reports the resurrection of Christ simply did not happen and should be understood as merely “poetic device” and “special effects.”

What are these answers? Well we’re not told. However, they are disappointing. Let it be noted something however that all of Licona’s critics are missing. One reason that we can be sure that Licona can show why Jesus’s death cannot be interpreted that way is that this debate over Matthew 27 takes place in nearly 650 pages of material telling us why the death and resurrection of Jesus is historical.

Seriously. Licona has built up the evidence and given a massive historical argument as even Mohler admits and yet based on his interpretation of this one passage, does Mohler really think that by saying that that everything Licona has said about the resurrection of Jesus is refuted?

Keep in mind Mohler has pointed to Licona’s knowledge of historiography. Is this the attitude that though Licona knows what he’s doing, he really needs to be called into question here? Perhaps his historiography isn’t as good as he thinks it is.

Now comes Mohler’s pointing to Geisler who says Licona is dehistoricizing the text. Note what that assumes.

First off, it assumes that the text is historical to begin with.
Second, it assumes that it can be demonstrated that Matthew meant that.
Third, it assumes that Licona knows this.
Fourth, it assumes that Licona is thus telling Matthew that he was wrong.

Those are some powerful assumptions. If anything, only the second one has had any arguments put forward in its favor. I have no problem with that. If someone believes that, they should put forward the argument. However, showing that the text is historical is not the same as showing that Licona is denying inerrancy. It must be shown that it is to be seen as historical to Licona’s satisfaction. If he still really believes that Matthew did not mean that, then he is not denying inerrancy.

After introducing Geisler, Mohler reminds us of Gundry seeing as Geisler’s viewpoint was “Affirm the historicity or follow the same path as Gundry.” This is the area where major concern begins. Could it be that back in that case, the ETS shot itself in the foot by such an action as dismissing Gundry?

What does inerrancy mean?

Does it mean literalism? Does it mean that we can never propose an alternate way of reading the text? If that is the case, many are wondering about whether they want to be involved. What do we do with Genesis 1 and 2? What do we do with Matthew 24? What about the book of Revelation? What about the long day in Joshua 10? What about statements in Exodus about God changing His mind?

If being an inerrantist means I have to interpret all of those passages X way, do I really want to consider myself one?

Don’t think that’s not happening? Surf the blogosphere yourself and see it happening, most vividly it is happening at NearEmmaus.com.

Note what Mohler goes on to tell us:

Scholars including D. A. Carson and Darrell Bock argued, in response, that Matthew was not writing midrash and that his first readers would never have assumed him to have done so. Scholars also noted that Gundry’s approach was doctrinally disastrous. Gundry had argued that Matthew “edited the story of Jesus’ baptism so as to emphasize the Trinity.” Thus, Matthew was not reporting truthfully what had happened in terms of historical fact, but what he wanted to report in order to serve his theological purpose. Gundry had suggested that Matthew changed Luke’s infancy narrative by changing shepherds into Magi and the manger into a house. As one evangelical scholar retorted: “For Gundry, then, the nonexistent house was where the nonpersons called Magi found Jesus on the occasion of their nonvisit to Bethlehem.”

Let’s look at some key words.

“Scholars or scholar” are said three times.

Bock and Carson are cited as scholars who disagreed. (Interestingly, Moo is left out.) Then we have a reference to one evangelical scholar. Thanks to a friend for tracking down as I wrote that it was Robert Thomas who said it. Let it be noted that this time, the danger was what the scholars were warning about. We need to listen to the scholars.

What about Licona? Well he had a list of scholars who had signed his statement. What came of that? Nothing. No attention was paid to them. At least, none by Geisler. The rest of the world paid attention. Note that Moo was one of those who signed the document and he was there at Gundry, knew the issues well, and says Licona is not a repeat of Gundry. Note that two of the others are signers of the ICBI statement, namely Moreland and Yamauchi.

But this time, well what the scholars say doesn’t matter.

In commenting on Licona’s response, minus the scholars, we have this incredible statement from Mohler:

That is not a retraction. Further, he says that his slight change of view on the issue came after research in the Greco-Roman literature. As the Chicago Statement would advise us to ask: What could one possibly find in the Greco-Roman literature that would either validate or invalidate the status of this report as historical fact?

The mind boggles that such a statement is made. What possible benefit can we get then from studying ancient creation narratives. Surely Moses would not write in a fashion creation narratives were written. What value could come from studying ancient Greco-Roman epistles? Surely Paul did not follow similar writing styles. Why? Well no reason is given, but it could be just because this is supposed to be the Bible that is readily accessible to everyone.

Which would again be an assertion.

Mohler seems to write-off without consideration the idea of studying ancient biographies to study the gospels, you know, those works that are ancient biographies. Does Mohler really think that studying the way the ancients wrote can tell us nothing about an ancient writing? Is this the position he really wants to advocate?

Mohler goes on to say:

In his book, he asked precisely the right question, but then he gave the wrong answer. We must all hope that he will ask himself that question again and answer in a way that affirms without reservation that all of Matthew’s report is historical. If not, Licona has not only violated the inerrancy of Scripture, but he has blown a massive hole into his own masterful defense of the resurrection.

No. Licona has not done that. However, I fear that in fact Geisler and Mohler have done that. Let us consider what can be said.

Christian witnessing to atheist friend: You should really read this great new book by Mike Licona defending the resurrection.

Atheist: Is that the book your own evangelical scholars have already said is unorthodox? If they don’t accept it, why should I?

Note in fact also the attitude that is being built up here. What is the message? Beware of scholarship. Geisler even said to not be an Athenian. Is this the message that we want to give? When Licona lists the scholars who side with him, we are told it doesn’t matter. Licona is violating the plain literal sense of Scripture.

Thus, the advice is to retreat from the academy and modern scholarship.

Let us consider how well this has helped us in other areas. When we make a retreat from evolution, does it really help us? Note that I am not saying I affirm macroevolution, but let us suppose we had this attitude instead.

“Well Darwin, you have an interesting theory here. We might have to change the way we interpret Genesis, but if the facts are with your theory, they’re with your theory.”

Would it not have been nice if we had been more open to the Galileo incident the same way?

Instead, we are going into a debate saying “The facts are this. Now we’ll look at your evidence otherwise.” Instead, we can say “We do believe the Bible to be fully true and if your scholarship is sound and the facts are there, it will not change the truth of Scripture.”

The retreat method instead gets us to the idea that we must avoid scholarship. The Bible has to be protected from these modern ideas and if you are espousing something contrary to what we believe Scripture says, well that will be unallowable. You’ll just have to forgo scholarship and sign on the dotted line. You’ll do that won’t you brother?

Thus, we have argument by force and guilt by association as Marc Cortez pointed out at Nearemmaus.com. What we do not have is argument by scholarship and this is an issue for the scholars.

While it might be Geisler’s belief that inerrancy is under attack and he can save inerrancy, what is really happening would lead more to the destruction of inerrancy in America. Already, the next generation of scholars is watching this and wondering if they really want to sign on the dotted line.

Do they really want to be evangelical scholars if this is the way debate is handled in the evangelical world?

Is the message to be sent out to be taken as “Don’t be a scholar. If you wish to be one, at least make sure you fall within the party lines.” Do we want the non-believing world to say “Well of course we know a Christian scholar will believe that. They have to affirm that. We know what happened to Licona. He wasn’t accepted in the evangelical world for his opinion and since you have to walk that line in the evangelical world, there’s obviously that bias so we disregard what is said.”

Or should we evangelicals have the opinion instead of “Bring us your ideas and your theories! Let us examine them! If they are with the truth, we will have no problem and will accept them. If our way of reading passage X has been wrong and can be shown to be wrong, we will accept it.”

Would that we had done this when Galileo came questioning interpretation, but at the time, the interpretation was seen to be inerrant. If one believes the Scriptures are inerrant, then they should surely be willing to test that and be open to a new way of reading the text. If scholarship comes out and shows that the way doesn’t work, oh well. If it shows that it does, then we are wise to be on the cutting edge accepting it.

What can we pray? Let us not pray for recanting and falling in line. That is not what is needed. Let us pray for real scholarly genuine debate rather than threats and guilt by association.

Mohler’s article can be found here: http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/09/14/the-devil-is-in-the-details-biblical-inerrancy-and-the-licona-controversy/

The website nearemmmaus with several updates on this can be found here: http://nearemmaus.com/