Posts Tagged ‘Norman Geisler’

Here Comes Inerrancy Again

December 31, 2013

Has the focus on Inerrancy died out yet? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I am someone who does hold to Inerrancy, yet I do not think I can say I hold to ICBI Inerrancy. I think in light of new information in historical studies, we need to reconvene and have another meeting to determine what we mean by Inerrancy. This is not because of a lack of trust in the Scriptures, but because of the new information. If Inerrancy is true, it will survive any new information that comes our way. If it is not, it won’t. If it is not true, let us abandon it. If it is true, let us find a way to defend it.

Yet I do not really fight the Inerrancy battle any more. It’s not because I think it’s a losing battle. It’s not because I don’t think it can be defended. It’s not even because I do not think the doctrine is worthwhile. It is because it becomes a central point of the faith and that if it is seen as fallen, then it takes everything else with it.

An example of this is young-earth creationism. Now I know several people who are YECs. There are biblical scholars I respect who are YECs. My own wife is a YEC. My ministry partner is a YEC. I am not. I hold more to John Walton’s view on Genesis 1.

Yet here’s an important difference. The people who I respect who hold this view also do not make it an essential. Too many people who are YECs have it as a fundamental of the faith. If you deny YEC, you’re denying Christianity. You’re denying Inerrancy. You are an enemy of the faith trying to destroy it. You are liberal in your approach. You are making compromises with modern science.

What will happen when this is the focus? Young students will go off to school and get information for the first time that contradicts their YEC view. Do they simply dispense with that and go off and study the works of leading scholars and come to a different view? No. They decide that Christianity itself can’t be true.

What of Inerrancy? It’s the same way. Young people are often told that this is an essential of the faith. Then off they go to college unprepared. What happens? They get presented with 1,001 Bible contradictions and they have no idea what to do. In the end, they abandon their faith. It’s not just young people. I’ve had mature adults tell me that if there is one contradiction in the Bible, then it’s not true and Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. I’ve heard atheists say that if this one part in a Gospel contradicts another, then can we trust anything historically in the Gospels?

What happens for the apologist is this becomes what I call a game of “Stump The Bible Scholar.” The critic thinks if they find one contradiction that you can’t answer, then they can just dismiss all of Christianity. How many such alleged contradictions are there? Hundreds of them. Is it fair to expect any of us to have to carry around an answer in our heads to every single contradiction? No.

Yet some in the field still have not got the memo. Case in point, though he has been quiet for a long time, Geisler has written a long piece again with Inerrancy coming under attack once more! Once again, my focus will be on his attack on my father-in-law, Mike Licona.

As Geisler writes “He redefines “error” to include genre that contains factual errors. He claims that “intentionally altering an account” is not an error but is allowed by the Greco-Roman genre into which he categorizes the Gospels, insisting that an CSBI view cannot account for all the data (MP3 recording of his ETS lecture 2013).”

Simple fact. Licona is right. Let’s consider one example. Can Geisler tell me what order the temptations of Jesus happened in? Is it the case that Jesus was tempted to jump from the temple pinnacle first, or was he tempted to worship the devil first? Luke says he was tempted to worship the devil first. Matthew says he was tempted to jump from the pinnacle of the temple first. (To be sure, all of them agree that the absolute first was the turning of stones to bread)

Does Geisler want to actually suggest that Jesus went into the wilderness twice and fasted 40 days and 40 nights twice and then the devil came and tempted him twice and used the exact same temptations but switched things around? Doubtful.

Does this affect Inerrancy? Hardly. The ancients were not as interested in chronology as we were. They could have a thematic account and that works fine. In fact, if it’s said someone wants to alter an account and therefore it’s not false, well everyone of us knows that this is false.

To use an example, suppose some Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door. I have a good dialogue with them and they leave. Well my folks love me and they want to hear about my apologetic endeavors so I call and tell them the story. I don’t remember everything, but I tell them a basic account.

Then I call Licona to tell him how it went. Am I going to tell the story differently? You bet! Why? Because Licona knows the apologetics language so something that would make no sense to my parents makes perfect sense to Licona. That is altering. One account will have details the other did not have. This is also considering the fact that I am the author of both accounts.

Geisler’s greatest problem I think is his absolute inability to interact with genre criticism. He states

“Another aspect of non-inerrantist’s thinking is Genre Criticism.”

No. This is a genre of historical thinking in fact. To say the Gospels are in fact sui generis, that is, in their own category, yet this in fact practically becomes a category. The question we have to ask is can Geisler produce any NT scholarship that indicates that the Gospels are in fact sui generis or at least that they are not Greco-Roman biographies?

What Geisler is doing is in fact arguing they are not Greco-Roman biographies based not on reading Burridge and giving a sustained argument against his view, but by saying that it leads supposedly to a false conclusion, denying Inerrancy. (Which it doesn’t. You can affirm the Gospels as Greco-Roman Biographies and believe the Bible is Inerrant.)

Let us suppose I held this argument.

If evolution is true, Genesis is false.
But Genesis cannot be false.
Therefore, evolution cannot be true.

Now to be entirely clear, I do not hold to such a position at all. My view of Genesis would not change whether or not evolution is true or false. If I wanted to show that evolution is false, what would I do? Well I’d go out and I’d study the sciences and I’d read all that I could on both sides and then when I had informed myself of the position, I’d make a logical argument based on the evidences.

My argument would not convince anyone who held to evolutionary theory as it is, and indeed, it shouldn’t. The case against evolution must be made on a scientific basis if it is to be made. The case against the Gospels being Greco-Roman biographies must be made on a historical and linguistic basis.

Geisler goes on

“Although he claims to be an inerrantist, Mike Licona clearly does not follow the ETS or ICBI view on the topic.”

Are we to believe that Inerrancy did not exist until ETS or ICBI came? Are we to believe that it is only in light of modern information from ETS or ICBI that one can truly hold to a position called Inerrancy? This is quite interesting. One must reject modern information that has come to light to understand the Gospels, but one must accept modern distinctions that have arisen to define what Inerrancy is and if you do not hold to ETS or ICBI, you do not hold to Inerrancy.

If Licona says he is an inerrantist, let’s do something interesting. Let’s believe him. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Does Geisler suspect Licona has some hidden ulterior motive that he wants to destroy the faith of some? If anyone thinks that, then the view is simply laughable. Yet the term “non-inerrantist” is a sort of code word that is thrown around in order to tell someone “Do not trust this person! This person is the villain!”

No. Let’s listen to their case instead. That works much better. Unfortunately for Geisler, the more he does this,the more he will drive people away from ICBI and from ETS. If anyone wants to know an excellent reason why I’m skeptical of ICBI and even joining ETS, it’s because I’ve seen Geisler’s usage of ICBI and the way he wants ETS to be ran. In fact, I know of other up and coming minds in the field who think the same way.

“Licona argues that “the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (bios)” and that “Bioi offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…, and the often include legend.” But, he adds “because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 34).”

Note also that Licona says this at the beginning of his book. He’s not writing this book for evangelicals. He’s writing this book for scholars who may or may not be evangelicals. He’s making a case from a historiographical standpoint. At the end, he does admit the honest truth about historical genres and bioi. This is entirely true. If one reads a bioi, it can be difficult to know.

What needs to be present is in fact historical argumentation against this claim instead of just presenting it as problematic in itself. The argument cannot be dismissed because it supposedly leads (And it doesn’t) to a conclusion that we don’t like. It must stand or fall on its own terms. Let’s consider again another example of this. Let’s consider an atheist.

If Jesus really rose from the dead, my father who died as an atheist is in Hell.
I do not like the thought of my father being in Hell.
Therefore, Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Now let’s consider an opposite perspective that a Christian could make.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then I am without hope in this world.
I do not want to be without hope.
Therefore, Jesus did rise from the dead.

Now either Jesus rose or he didn’t. Neither of these arguments however are persuasive.

Geisler goes on to say

“This led him to deny the historicity of the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:51-53 (ibid.,527-528; 548; 552-553), and to call the story of the crowd falling backward when Jesus claimed “I am he” (John 14:5-6) “a possible candidate for embellishment” (ibid., 306) and the presence of angels at the tomb in all four Gospels may be “poetic language or legend” (ibid., 185-186).”

For the first one, this is an assumption. Geisler is presupposing the account is historical, when that is in fact the very fact that is under the topic of debate. It will not work to say that if you cannot take this literally (A concept Geisler does not understand), then nothing in the Bible can be taken that way. (A mistake Al Mohler also makes.) If Geisler wants to show the case wrong, he needs to make a historical and literary argument. He does not need to wave around Inerrancy. Frankly, the whole concept of Inerrancy should never have been brought up. As for the charge of embellishment, Licona is presenting an argument for possibility in a scholarly situation, which is what he’s supposed to do. He himself does not hold to any embellishments in the text. This has been pointed out repeatedly and one can hear it for themselves on Chris Date’s podcast here. The same can be said for the angels at the tomb. Licona is not denying that there were angels. He’s presenting an argument in a scholarly venue and to show he is not begging the question at the start, he cannot just assume there are no legends or embellishments in the text.

Of course, we also have the changed date in John, but again, I wish to ask Geisler, who changed the order of the temptations? If this is being done for thematic purposes, the audience knows this. Now I do not agree with Licona on this one, but Geisler needs a stronger case. Licona also informs me that Geisler in “When Critics Ask” does not even mention this problem. Does Geisler have a solution?

Geisler goes on to say quote Licona saying

So um this didn’t really bother me in terms of if there were contradictions in the Gospels. I mean I believe in biblical inerrancy but I also realized that biblical inerrancy is not one fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The resurrection is. So if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is still true even if it turned out that some things in the Bible weren’t. So um it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed” (emphasis Geisler’s)

It is interesting to see that the resurrection being a fundamental is not worth highlighting, but saying that Inerrancy isn’t a fundamental is. Does Geisler think one can be a Christian and not believe in Inerrancy? Does he think one can be a Christian and not believe in the resurrection? I would hope he would answer yes for the former and no for the latter. Yet here, Geisler is putting a secondary doctrine before a primary doctrine. This is exactly the problem with his critique of Licona in the first place.

And for the record, it wouldn’t bother me if there were contradictions. I’d have to change my views on inspiration and Scripture, but my Christianity would not fall apart if the Bible had contradictions in it.

Geisler goes on to say

“This popular Greco-Roman genre theory adopted by Licona and others is directly contrary to the CSBI view of inerrancy as clearly spelled out in many articles. First, Article 18 speaks to it directly: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (emphasis added). But Lincona rejects the strict “grammatico-historical exegesis” where “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” for an extra-biblical system where Greco-Roman genre is used to interpret Scripture. Of course, “Taking account” of different genres within Scripture, like poetry, history, parables, and even allegory (Gal 4:24), is legitimate, but this is not what the use of extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre does. Rather, it uses extra-biblical stories to determine what the Bible means, even if using this extra-biblical literature means denying the historicity of the biblical text.” (Emphasis Geisler’s)

Note again that there is no argument to a position like Burridge’s. As for Scripture interpreting Scripture, how? The Bible cannot interpret something. One can explain something by looking at another passage, but interpretation is done by minds. Geisler also says that there are genres within Scripture, but has this strange idea that there can be no genre of a whole book within Scripture? Does he think a prophecy book, like Nahum, is the same genre as a historical book, like Joshua?

Geisler also says it the problem is that it uses extra-biblical stories to determine what the Bible means.

Geisler, I suspect some Christians who are strong YECs want to talk to you about this. After all, you use extra-biblical science, something the ancients had ZERO access to, to interpret Genesis 1 and argue that it cannot be talking about a young Earth in that text. Why is it you can use extra-biblical sources that the ancients could not access to interpret an ancient document, but Licona cannot use extra-biblical sources that were contemporary with the literature to interpret the text?

Please note also these YECs would say that you are denying the historicity of Genesis 1 by using extra-biblical science and compromising with unbelief. They would also say that you are denying Inerrancy by having an interpretation that denies the literal reading of Genesis 1. Now I think that they are wrong, but they are accusing you of something similar to what you are accusing Licona of, except Licona actually uses information that is relevant to the time.

It won’t work to say you don’t do this. After all, in this very entry you say

“Of course, as shown above, general revelation can help modify our understanding of a biblical text, for the scientific evidence based on general revelation demonstrates that the earth is round and can be used to modify one’s understanding of the biblical phrase “for corners of the earth.” However, no Hebrew or Greco-Roman literature genre should be used to determine what a biblical text means since it is not part of any general revelation from God, and it has no hermeneutical authority.”

So once again, Licona uses information that is contemporary and the people of the time would have recognized to interpret a passage? BAD! Geisler uses modern science that the ancients did not have in order to interpret a passage? GOOD!

There’s more also on dehistoricizing but as said, that’s the very question under debate. I was not aware that Geisler had become a presuppositionalist….

Geisler continues,

“Furthermore, similarity to any extra-biblical types of literature does not demonstrate identity with the biblical text, nor should it be used to determine what the biblical text means. For example, the fact that an extra-biblical piece of literature combines history and legend does not mean that the Bible also does this.”

Yes, which is also why Licona has not said that the Bible does in fact do this.

In new material, Geisler tries to defend himself.

“Some have objected to carrying on a scholarly discussion on the Internet, as opposed to using scholarly journals. My articles on Mike Licona’s denial of inerrancy (see http://www.normgeisler.com/articles) were subject to this kind of charge. However, given the electronic age in which we live, this is an archaic charge. Dialogue is facilitated by the Internet, and responses can be made much more quickly and by more people. Further, much of the same basic material posted on the Internet was later published in printed scholarly journals.”

Note also that Geisler did not meet with Licona willingly for a round table dialogue. All Licona asked for were witnesses to be present. Why would this be denied? Would not Geisler want to make sure the meeting was held in the most honorable method? Yet Geisler refused.

One can say this is an archaic charge, but in reality, it was entirely unprofessional. Scholarly disputes are to be handled in the scholarly community. Geisler immediately posted in attack mode putting Licona on the defensive and as I will say later on, did in fact go after his job. For someone wanting dialogue, Geisler has not interacted seriously with his critics, as we will see. My responses go unanswered. J.P. Holding’s responses go unanswered. Max Andrews’s responses go unanswered.

Geisler goes on to say

“In a November 18, 2012 paper for The Evangelical Philosophical Society, Mike Licona speaks of his critics saying “bizarre” things like “bullying” people around, of having “a cow” over his view, and of engaging in a “circus” on the Internet. Further, he claims that scholarly critics of his views were “targeting” him and “taking actions against” him. He speaks about those who have made scholarly criticisms of his view as “going on a rampage against a brother or sister in Christ.” And he compares it to the statement of Ammianus Marcellinus who wrote, “no wild beasts are such dangerous enemies to man as Christians are to one another.” Licona complained about critics of his view, saying, “I’ve been very disappointed to see the ungodly behavior of a few of my detractors. The theological bullying, the termination and internal intimidation put on a few professors in SBC…all this revealed the underbelly of fundamentalism.” He charged that I made contacts with seminary leaders in an attempt to get him kicked out of his positions on their staff. The truth is that I made no such contacts for no such purposes. To put it briefly, it is strange that we attack those who defend inerrancy and defend those who attack inerrancy.”

The reality is people looking at this on the internet saw what Geisler is pushing hard to deny. He was being a bully and to this day still is. Licona himself has told me about the presidents of Seminaries who got the calls Geisler never says happened, or the professors at those Seminaries who heard it from those presidents. These do not wish to give their names due to not wanting to be targeted. Why did Licona lose his job at NAMB but because of this Inerrancy debate? (Licona loved what he did at NAMB, but decided to resign because Geisler’s attack on him could make him a centerpiece of debate and he did not want NAMB dragged into that.)

Geisler’s behavior has been a major turn-off to people who once supported him, including myself, and now we want nothing to do with him any more. His legacy has been seriously damaged and there is no one he can blame besides himself. Geisler asks why we defend those who attack Inerrancy and attack those who deny Inerrancy.

Answer is, we don’t. We do not see Geisler defending Inerrancy. We see him attacking Licona for having a different interpretation and turning it into an Inerrancy debate. Licona has given a historical case. If Licona can be shown to be wrong in the case, then he will change it. If not, then he won’t. Licona is making a decision based on the evidence. Would Geisler prefer he not do that?

Geisler goes on to say

“While it is not unethical to use the Internet for scholarly articles, it wrong to make the kind of unethical response that was given to the scholarly articles such as that in the above citations. Such name-calling has no place in a scholarly dialogue. Calling the defense of inerrancy an act of “bullying” diminishes their critic, not them. Indeed, calling one’s critic a “tar baby” and labeling their actions as “ungodly behavior” is a classic example of how not to defend one’s view against its critics. ”

No. It’s not wrong. It’s accurate. This is what was going on. Yes. Geisler has been called a tar baby and perhaps what Geisler should do is take a good long look at himself and ask why that happened. Could it be the problem is really with him? Geisler is instead playing the victim here. He’s the one who went and pushed Licona down on the playground and doesn’t like it when other students come up and say he can’t do that and take a stand themselves. Geisler’s own actions are a classic example of how not to defend one’s self against one’s critics.

Finally we hear

“What is more, while Licona condemned the use of the Internet to present scholarly critiques of his view as a “circus,” he refused to condemn an offensive YouTube cartoon produced by his son-in-law and his friend that offensively caricatured my critique of his view as that of a theological “Scrooge.” Even Southern Evangelical Seminary (where Licona was once a faculty member before this issue arose) condemned this approach in a letter from “the office of the president,” saying, “We believe this video was totally unnecessary and is in extremely poor taste” (Letter, 12/9/2011). One influential alumnus wrote the school, saying, “It was immature, inappropriate and distasteful” and recommended that “whoever made this video needs to pull it down and apologize for doing it” (Letter, 12/21/2011). The former president of the SES student body declared: “I’ll be honest that video was outright slander and worthy of punishment. I was quite angry after watching it” (Letter, 12/17/2011). This kind of unapologetic use of the Internet by those who deny the CSBI view of inerrancy of the Bible is uncalled for and unethical. It does the perpetrators and their cause against inerrancy no good.”

Licona is right. The internet is not where scholars go to dispute their claims. Scholarly conclaves are the place for that. My ministry partner and I are not scholars however. Yet even with this video, Geisler STILL has it wrong. I DID NOT PRODUCE THE VIDEO! I do not know how many times I have to say this before it will sink in. Some people have noted that the date on this blog often comes out as 2007. I do not know how to fix it. That’s how technically inept I am. When art work is done for my podcast, it is done by my wife because I do not know how to do it well on my own. I cannot produce a picture like that easily and Geisler thinks I produced a video? Watch the video at the time and see how at the end, it says it’s a production of Tektonics ministries.

Geisler wants his critics to listen to him, but it seems he does not want to listen to his critics.

Now let’s look at other charges about the video.

First, Geisler says it was offensive to list him as Scrooge.

Okay. I think it was offensive to go after Licona and have him lose his job at NAMB and pass around a petition behind his back. In fact, I suppose my ministry partner will agree to something. It would be just fine for the video to be taken down as soon as Geisler publicly apologizes to Licona for how he did that and does something to make restitution. Until then, the video stays.

Geisler lists several people who complained about the video. Unfortunately, these are also not named so we cannot say anything about them. Yet why should I take them seriously? I know several people who thought the video was in excellent taste and wonderfully represented what is going on in the situation. Why should I choose Geisler’s sources over mine?

The time has simply come to rethink Inerrancy, and Geisler’s behavior has been a large catalyst in this. This is largely also in light of recent scholarly works that have come out such as Sandy and Walton’s “The Lost World of Scripture.” My review of that can be found here and my interview with Sandy on this excellent book can be found here. As Sandy and Walton say on page 303 “The alternative
is to recognize that inerrancy needs to be redefined in light of the literary
culture of the Bible. Hopefully this book is a step in the right direction.” (I recommend the whole of the 20th and 21st chapter)

More critiques of Geisler can be found here at Deeper Waters and a search feature can find several titles. (Hopefully I can get them all linked together once I figure that out. Again, I’m the one who was supposed to have made a video…)

I interviewed Mike Licona on my own podcast with the first 20 minute segment talking about this discussion. That can be found here.

A link to all of Holding’s material can be found here.

Max Andrews’s can be found here.

For those wanting to make sure I represented Geisler honestly, his piece can be found here.

We might respond to more of this piece later on. We might move back to Carrier instead. Time will tell.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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

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

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)

Is Deeper Waters Mike Licona’s Mouthpiece?

January 16, 2012

So where does everything on Deeper Waters come from? Let’s find out as we dive into those Deeper Waters.

A lot of people have said that Mike Licona has been awfully quiet in his debate with Norman Geisler and I have been told by some that there is suspicion that what is really happening is that Mike is quiet in public but is instead using my blog as it were as a sort of mouthpiece. How far this goes I am not sure. Does Mike just give me the information? Does he write the posts wholesale? Does he just tell me what topics to write about?

Here’s the answer to those last three questions. No, no, and no.

There is no one in the family that I agree with entirely. That includes my own wife. We have disagreements. No doubt that some will think that Mike is a respected authority in the area, and I do not dispute that. Despite that, there are areas that I do disagree with him on.

When this whole controversy surrounded him erupted, my wife and I were getting ready to see the Liconas for her birthday and when I went down there, Mike and I spent a lot of time discussing the Bible and how to handle this. Mike has come to me to seek my opinion on some matters. There is a mutual respect there.

Why is he quiet in public? It is because this is not a debate he needs to waste his time with. He needs to be preparing for the more important debates and writing more books. This is something that I have said repeatedly that he just needs to leave to J.P. Holding, Max Andrews, and myself. Of course, there are some things he will share and in fact ask me to not share on my blog, and when it comes to that, I do respect his desire for privacy in that area. I often disagree, but I do respect.

If anyone knows me, they probably know that I am too much of a free agent to be one who will just allow someone else to do my thinking for me and to be used in such a way. I would hope that readers would realize that my own writing style come through the blog and when I write on a topic, I write on a topic because I want to write about it. Now that doesn’t mean that no one else has any impact on what I say, but the final decision comes from me.

What do the Liconas know in advance? Hardly anything. In fact, the time that they read the blog is usually about the same time anyone else has the option, and that is after it has been published. Even in this debate, I have not sent my blogs to the Liconas in advance to have them look over it and see if they approve or not. I’ve just written and published.

Now if I thought Mike was in violation of Inerrancy and Geisler was correct, I would be telling him so, but I have made it a point to be as impartial as possible and examine the evidence and when I do, I just conclude that Mike is not violating Inerrancy and I believe that while his view could be wrong, we need to find out if it is wrong, not by simply asserting by authority and pointing to Inerrancy, but by examining the evidence of the claim. I don’t know about you, but for me, if this is what the Bible is teaching I want to know. On this, Mike and I do agree. He wants to know what the Bible teaches as well.

When you read Deeper Waters, you are not reading the opinion necessarily of Mike Licona. It could be that he agrees with what I say here, but it is not because I have written it. He agrees with something because he believes it to be true and if it is true, then it can be said to be his opinion. It is an idea however that exists independently in my own mind and that I put to the text and share to the world. It is my doing my little part for the future of evangelicalism.

Have I realized the risks for me from the beginning of the debate? Yep. I sure have. Once again, I point to what people know about me. If something is going on that I don’t believe is right, I am not one to sit in the background and do nothing.

Also, for those who need more convincing, my in-laws have areas that they disagree with me on and they think I’m wrong on and they have talked to me about those areas. We’ve had some give and take exchanges and there are a number of areas that today, I still don’t agree with them on, and they know it.

Back when we were engaged, I remember my now mother-in-law being with my wife and I and talking about relationships with parents. My mother-in-law told my wife that she had no doubt that whenever push came to shove, I would not hesitate to stand up to parents in defense of my wife. That has happened a number of times. I have even stood up to her parents before if I thought they were in the wrong concerning her and let them know it.

I have no doubt to them that sometimes that’s annoying to have a son-in-law that can do that, but then at the same time, I think it makes them thankful they have a son-in-law who does not just cave in to pressure like that and at the same time is devoted to their daughter and will defend her at any time if I think someone is in the wrong concerning her.

They also know that if I thought that Mike was in the wrong on this, I would be letting him know entirely. That does not mean in the wrong on his interpretation, but it means in the wrong on Inerrancy. His interpretation could very well be wrong, but that does not mean that he is violating Inerrancy. Is his interpretation wrong? I honestly don’t know. I’m open I’ll say at least.

So for now, let this post stand as my statement that what I write is my own thinking. Now some people might think that this too could be a written post of Mike’s to deny the idea, but if they do, let them present their evidence other than a conspiracy theory. If someone wants to believe that, I probably won’t convince them, but for those who want to know for sure, I hope this settles the issue.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Paige Patterson is on the wrong page.

January 10, 2012

Does Paige Patterson’s opinion carry any weight in the Geisler controversy? Let’s find out as we plunge into Deeper Waters.

Looking at the latest from Geisler today, we see this:

“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)

Dr. Paige Patterson
President
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Alright. What does Geisler have to say about this?

Thank God for the courage, conviction, and character of the man of God to whom the SBC owes the most for its orthodoxy on inerrancy—Dr. Paige Patterson. I Hope there is a place reserved in Nashville for a bronze statue of him. It is time for other SBC leaders to close ranks on the Licona issue.

Dr. Norman Geisler
Professor of Apologetics
Veritas Evangelical Seminary

When I see this, I think of the scene in “My Fair Lady” when Eliza returns from her successful visit to the royal event and only has her two teachers sitting together congratulating themselves on how well they did. So Geisler has found someone else who agrees with him. Impressive?

Not really.

Let’s see what the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary web site has to say about Patterson.

“A graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, Patterson also completed Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees in theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was twice elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, serving Southern Baptists in that role from 1998-2000. During those years he appointed a committee to revise the Baptist Faith & Message, the confession most widely employed by Southern Baptists, and also presided over the historic session of the convention in which this revised confession was adopted.”

While these accomplishments can be all well and good, there is a striking omission from it. There is absolutely nothing here about being trained in NT scholarship and exegesis. Being a competent and even skilled theologian and/or philosopher does not make one an expert on NT scholarship and/or biblical exegesis.

For instance, I have had a number of people think that because I’m knowledgeable in an area and seem to be a nerd, I must know computers very well. Not a chance. I have to call someone whenever my computer is on the fritz. When I move somewhere, I have to call someone to hook up my gaming systems and anything else. I even have a problem getting the date on the blog to work. (Which made it all the more laughable when some people thought I produced the Christmas Carol video.)

Having knowledge in one area does not transfer knowledge to another. Nevertheless, let us look and see what Patterson says.

“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.”

Good. No problem. I agree 100% percent. I’m also wondering what this has to do with the price of tea in China. Can someone tell me where Mike has said that the account of the saints rising is both true and not true in the same time and in the same sense? Has he said the saints both rose and didn’t?

To point to the laws of logic to settle this then is useless. No one is contesting that point.

” While I have no reason to question the sincerity of the author and while only God can judge his heart,”

Please note this language. This is speaking of Mike’s spiritual well-being and I am remembering the line of Francis Beckwith on a technique some Christians use in debate. “If you can’t beat them with logic, trump them with spirituality. Could it be Patterson saw how weak his opening statement was and switched directly to spiritual onslaught mode?

Notice that right off, the idea is that Mike is the one who has a spiritual problem. Of course, in all of this, going after another person’s livelihood and smearing their reputation by calling their orthodoxy into question and using bullying tactics is not a spiritual problem. It’s actually presenting an interpretation of the text that’s different from what we grew up with that’s the problem!

Might I suggest a unique approach to this? How about we actually study Mike’s proposal itself back and forth in a scholarly manner and see how well it holds up.

Oh wait. That was offered and turned down.

And as you should know, it wasn’t Mike who turned down an offer from Geisler to speak at a scholarly conclave. It was the other way around.

This idea of sincerity and God knows his heart is taking the debate somewhere it doesn’t belong. Note also that to say this statement about God knowing the heart automatically I take to mean “Well I think he’s living in rebellion in someway, but God knows 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”

Two mistakes here. First off, the minor one. Mike is not a philosopher. He is a NT scholar. That does not mean he does not have interest in philosophical matters, but he is not a philosopher.

To speak then of the priesthood of the philosopher is getting it wrong and no doubt, pointing back to the priesthood of the believer, but why should every believer have equal authority on what a text means? Should I turn to Mike and say “Yeah. I know you know NT Greek and all that, but I obviously know the text just as well as you do because I’m a Christian.”

No. You know the text by studying the text. The priesthood of the believer does not say anything about the competency of the one exegeting the text. It also gets into this idea that the Holy Spirit is all we need, which in turn I see as an insult to the Holy Spirit. The idea of “I don’t need to study. The Holy Spirit will tell me all I need to know.”

How would that work elsewhere?

“I don’t need to pray. The Holy Spirit expresses Himself with groans and utterances on my behalf.” (Romans 8:26-27)

“I don’t need to confess my sins. Jesus is making intercession for them.”

“I don’t need to study for this test in Seminary. The Holy Spirit will give me the answers.”

“I don’t need to go to church and hear what the preacher has to say. The Holy Spirit will tell me what I need to know.” (Of course, if your pastor has the same mindset, it might serve you well to not go to that church)

“I don’t need to go to the grocery store. The Holy Spirit will provide my daily bread.”

“I don’t need to have a job. The Holy Spirit will make sure I’m provided for.”

Yet somehow, we think biblical exegesis is an exception.

Second part. No one is calling into question the truthfulness of God’s Word. All sides I know of in this debate are saying that they believe that the Bible is without error. Here’s an important difference. If Geisler says “I believe the Bible is without error” Mike says “I think you do believe that. I just think your interpretation of it is wrong.” If Mike says “I believe the Bible is without error” Geisler writes open letters saying his interpretation is a denial. Thus, interpretation is equaling Inerrancy.

“especially when a philosopher raises a question about the truthfulness of Scripture.”

And again, Mike is not doing that. Can someone tell me one time that Mike has said that Scripture is not truthful somewhere? Some of you are ready to jump up and down with the resurrected saints, but Mike is not saying the Bible is not truthful. He’s also not saying God cannot do that. He’s saying that he honestly believes Matthew did not intend for that to be taken in the sense of a straightforward report, but rather was to be read as an apocalyptic account.

So what of what Geisler says?

“Thank God for the courage, conviction, and character of the man of God to whom the SBC owes the most for its orthodoxy on inerrancy—Dr. Paige Patterson.”

Ah yes. What great courage and conviction and character. It takes great courage this day to stand with Norman Geisler after all. Geisler and Patterson both say this with comfortable teaching positions not under attack and while getting to speak at various locations. Meanwhile, Licona and company have job losses, being uninvited from conferences, and I myself being spoken of in a letter from SES on account of a YouTube video.

Let’s say this at least. At least Patterson put his name on it instead of being another “anonymous.”

Now that he has taken that step of courage, let us remember that his great threat that he could receive according to Geisler is “annoyance.”

One side causes the other side to lose income. One side causes the other side to be annoyed.

Which side takes more courage to stand on?

Note something also in all of this. Geisler speaks of this with pride, but what argument did Patterson put forward? None. All he said was that the Law of noncontradiction can’t be violated. Well I seriously doubt that he’s going to find any disagreement here with that! So what’s the point?

“I Hope there is a place reserved in Nashville for a bronze statue of him.”

Oh good grief. It’s not as if we don’t have enough hero worship going on in all of this. When I go to Geisler’s Facebook page, I see too many posters there that I am sure that if Geisler said that the sky is purple and the moon is made of green cheese, that they would immediately be shouting that from the rooftops.

“It is time for other SBC leaders to close ranks on the Licona issue.”

And to what end? What will be accomplished? Inerrancy will be saved? Inerrancy has not been under attack, but the end result of this would be that the sword of bullying is what will win the day rather than the sword of studying the text and doing exegesis.

Note also again, that there is no argument in all of this. This is getting tiring. Max, JPH, and myself all make it a point to write out arguments for why we believe what we believe on this. Do we get refutations? No. We get “Well so and so says Geisler is right!” So because X says Geisler is right, I’m supposed to drop all that I believe and jump on that bandwagon immediately? Sorry.

Also, remember what Geisler said in his third open letter where he responded to the scholars Mike listed?

“Sixth, listing some scholars who agree with him misses the point. First, as he admits, most of them do not agree with his unrecanted in-print view. Further, the fact that they say they are “in firm agreement that it is compatible with biblical inerrancy” misses the point entirely. For it does not answer the question of with whose view of inerrancy it is in agreement? As we all know, the term “inerrancy” can be twisted to mean many things to many people. In my “Open Letter” I affirmed only that Licona’s view was not in agreement with the ETS (of which Licona is a member) view of inerrancy as expressed in the Gundry case. Of course, one can always find a number of people with whose views on inerrancy it is in agreement. But that is not the point.”

The idea of whose view of Inerrancy is indeed the question. Interestingly, Geisler says “One can always find a number of people with whose views on inerrancy it is in agreement. But that is not the point.”

Licona lists thirteen scholars, two of whom are ICBI signers and many of whom are NT scholars. It doesn’t matter. The question is whose view of Inerrancy do they agree with?

Geisler lists Thomas Howe and Paige Patterson who are not NT scholars and we are immediately supposed to surrender.

Apparently, the idea is that the scholars that are mentioned don’t matter, unless those scholars agree with Geisler. It’s an interesting way to play the game. Simply rule out of court as wrong anyone who happens to take the position that is opposite yours and hold up all who agree with you as the real scholars.

Here at Deeper Waters, we don’t play that game. We want to see the arguments and we not only want to see them, we want to see myself, Max, and JPH answered on our counter-arguments.

But we’re not holding our breath for such to happen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

My Personal Confrontation

January 4, 2012

Geisler says someone personally confronted me on the video? Did they? Well let’s see today as we enter Deeper Waters.

Let’s look at the charge first:

“As a graduate of the seminary, and fellow brother in Christ, I want to inform you of a slanderous video by current SES student [name] on the internet against SES co-founder Dr, Geisler…. I am actually ashamed, saddened and embarrassed by this type of activity on [name] part. I know that I and numerous people have personally confronted [name] about such behavior and he refuses to listen.” —Southern Evangelical Seminary [SES] graduate

It would be nice to know when this happened. Unfortunately, the name has been taken down because someone might be “annoyed” so I cannot face my accuser. However, speaking as the one accused here, let’s see what happened.

First off, I did put up the link on my Facebook page. I figured the video would pop up sooner or later, so I might as well get it over with. A number of people were talking about it back and forth on my page and discussing the issues. Note this. I do not consider someone else posting on my Facebook as personally confronting me. I did not even participate in the thread at all after I got it started.

I did talk to one person on the phone and we had an agreeable conversation. He still does not like the video, but as far as I know, realizes the reasons why I do what I do and handle things the way that I handle them. Thus far on the count, we have one possible person who could have been said to have confronted me. As far as I know however, he is not a graduate of SES.

There is only one other person I can think of who called and he wished to express his concern for me in this activity and we talked back and forth about it some to which I said that I would be glad to set up an email chain between him, myself, and my ministry partner so we could discuss the issues. I do not see how it can be that a discussion of the issues means I am refusing to listen, unless the idea of refusing to listen means “I will not do what you say immediately!”

If that is what is meant, then no. I wouldn’t. I don’t believe in a knee-jerk reaction like that. We have seen in this debate what happens at times when that takes place.

However, this is also just one person then in that case and that is a highly skeptical case. This one is claiming that not only this person, but several others have confronted me on the issue. The reality is that this has not taken place.

What am I to conclude from that? Either Geisler put up information knowing to be false, or someone in support of Geisler knowingly said something untrue in order to further bring about their case. Either one of those is not a good option. Now do I understand that people have their concerns? Yes. I certainly do. I meanwhile have expressed my concerns about actions that have been done to Mike Licona and that I and others have felt the sting of as a result.

I also know that it seems several came out to condemn the video when it was made, but it seems there is no hint of repentance whatsoever from the other side on actions that endangered a man’s livelihood and ability to bring home a paycheck as well as his reputation in the Christian community. Even more concerning is the impact that this will have on Evangelicalism in America as a whole if this kind of mindset continues.

Thus, I conclude that this charge is just blowing smoke and if that is the case, then I wonder how many others could be blowing smoke as well?

But with just anonymous sources, who can say?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A further reply to Tim Rogers

December 2, 2011

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. As it stands, I didn’t do a blog yesterday due to my coming down with the flu and I’m still in recovery. As I’ve told my Mrs. before however, I am not one who is prone to just lie down and rest. I have to be doing something. Thus, today I am writing a blog once more. Today, I’d like to reply to Pastor Tim Rogers who wrote here. Note in this that he said the following:

As one examines the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy there is this understanding that a large group of highly intelligent men sat around in a room for three days and hammered out a statement they all could sign. Mike Licona’s son-in-law, Nick Peters alluded to this over at his blog–Deeper Waters as he was calling for an openness to anyone interpreting the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy in any way that suits their fancy;

“However, as I said at the start, this was put together in a 3-day period and should not be the final statement, just like Nicea was not the final statement on orthodox Christology.”

I am amazed that he would compare the statement in Chicago to the statement on orthodox Christology. It is this comparison that he concedes a major point of his argument. Why? Notice the comparison of the Chicago Statement to the one statement that every scholar begins when the debate of the Trinity is presented–The Council of Nicea. Does Peters really believe that all of the various writings that flow from the Nicene Council are hallmark statements on the doctrine of the Trinity? Even those who try to define the Trinity go back to the Nicene Creed using the intent of the council to define the doctrine.

Interesting to note that I did submit a reply to this on his blog that was not allowed to go up. Pastor Tim is free to post here. I’m free to respond here. Just letting that be known up front.

Anyway, so let’s look at what I said. In each case, I was taking a concept that I believe is biblical, such as Inerrancy and the deity of Christ. (Note, I did not say the Trinity. The Council of Nicea was not about the Trinity but about the nature of the Son. Of course, if the Son is not of the same substance, there is no Trinity, but that does not make the council about the Trinity.)

Do I believe that all the writings that flow from Nicea are hallmark statements on the doctrine of the Trinity?

Again, that was not about the Trinity, but to answer the question, no. I also see no way that Rogers got that from my post. My point which I stated was that neither were the final word. I don’t see that being disagreed with. It would have been nice had Rogers interacted with the point that I had made rather than a point I didn’t make.

Furthermore, would I go to Nicea to show the doctrine of the Trinity? Not at all. Creeds do not establish the belief that they support per se. They do not give an argument for it. They just make a simple statement of what the belief is that has called for that creed. The Chicago statement does not argue for Inerrancy. It simply tells you what the believers think Inerrancy is.

As one who has interacted with them, I can guarantee Rogers that were he to start with the Council of Nicea to establish the Trinity, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would quickly dispatch him. To be fair, I do not think Rogers would do this and I think that he would go exactly where I go first, to Scripture.

However, while that is what I believe he would do, these statements from him do get problematic.

Thus, when one speaks of the Trinity the first place one returns is the Nicene Creed.

And in the comments sections:

Whenever anyone debates the doctrine of the Trinity they go to the Nicene Creed. Certainly we can see the Scripture contains the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But instead of rehasing that entire debate was move to the Council of Nicea for the simple reason they have released the defining statement concerning the Trinity.

Once again, I wonder what reading Rogers is doing. The original Nicene Creed ended with saying “We believe in the Holy Spirit.” The Council was not about the Trinity but about the deity of Christ. I fear that Rogers is doing what commenter Darren said and placing the creed and thus ICBI on the level of Scripture. (Incidentally, if Rogers wants a creedal statement on the Trinity, he can go to the Athanasian Creed.)

Do I think Rogers is intentionally doing this? No. Do I think he really places those works on par with Scripture? No. However, his words seem to indicate otherwise and he needs to finely nuance those better. As I have said, when I debate the Trinity, I will go to Scripture first.

I do agree that ICBI was not written in a vacuum, but I do not believe it was the final word either. Even after Nicea, there were other councils on Christology. We had to really flesh out our doctrine. If someone showed a contrary idea, then that needed to be debated instead of just pointing to earlier statements. The great danger is that we can think our statements are infallible, when as Christians we should be looking to Scripture.

Rogers goes on to say however:

This is the problem with Dr. Licona’s affirming the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy but then denying the ICBI commentary of the statement. There are three living framers of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy and all three insist the ICBI Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics is the authorial intent of the Chicago Statement on Inerrency. Though we have multiple apologists trying to express their own views of the Chicago Statement it makes no difference.

At this point, one is reminded of Francis Beckwith’s comment that if he were Freudian, he would be thinking Geisler has a case of Pontiff Envy. Let’s ask some questions. How many of these are NT scholars? How many are qualified to judge Licona’s work? Why should the rest of the world submit to these for all time?

The only reason someone should believe something like Licona’s case is not because it is in accordance with ICBI, but because it is in accordance with the Bible. If it was the case that ICBI said one thing and the Bible said another, then as Darren rightly points out in the comments section, so much for ICBI.

When I see something like what is quoted above, I do think of the statement often attributed to Augustine, and whether it is historical or not and how it is to be interpreted I leave to the historians, but how he reportedly said “Rome has spoken. The case is closed.” Now we have “ICBI has spoken. The case is closed.”

To which Rogers has said “I am not open to debate! You can make all the arguments you want! It doesn’t matter!” Well I’m not like that. Frankly, if the Jehovah’s Witnesses have the better argument, I would want to believe it. If the Trinity was false, I would be thankful to them for pointing that out to me.

I am convinced it is true however, and that is not because of a study of the Nicene Creed, but because of a study of theology centered heavily in the Scriptures. I do not mind using extra-biblical material such as Jewish Wisdom Theology from Second Temple Judaism since the concept of the Trinity did not come out of a vacuum. (To be sure of course, the Trinity has already existed, but our understanding of it did develop.)

It is for that reason I do not hesitate to enter the debate. I love it when Jehovah’s Witnesses came around. My wife and I were once about to head out to see her parents when the doorbell rang and it was Jehovah’s Witnesses. We had no specific time to see my in-laws so I believe we did meet with them for a bit. If my memory is faulty there, we arranged for a later time, but I always love it when the Jehovah’s Witnesses come by and I do not bring up Nicea at all. If they do, I do what I can to bring us back to the Bible.

Rogers however is apparently saying that he’s not even going to examine the data. ICBI is right. Now keep in mind one can believe in Inerrancy without holding to ICBI. In fact, Inerrancy was around long before ICBI so unless Geisler and others wanted to say the ECF, the medievals, and the reformers were not inerrantists, they would have to agree. Note that Henry Morris would not sign the ICBI statement as well since it allowed for an old-earth, which he believed denied Inerrancy. Does Morris deny Inerrancy? Would he think Geisler does?

The problem with not being willing to examine the data is that your opponent just has to be wrong somehow! Now of course, if your position is true, your opponent is wrong somehow, but if you have to say a priori that he is wrong without examining the data, then you have a problem. I do not doubt that there is a flaw in the argument of the atheist, but it is still up to me as an apologist to examine the argument and the data that he presents and do my best to find that flaw.

Is Rogers willing to examine the data? That’s a good question to ask, but as I said, I fear there has already been an answer.

Even if those who signed the statement at the time agree that Dr. Licona affirms inerrancy they must deny the Chicago Statement on Hermeneutics in order to do so. Thus, those agreeing with Dr. Licona who were original signatories on the Statement of Inerrancy must either admit they are denying the Statement on Hermeneutics or they must provide evidence they disagreed with Summitt II, and if no evidence is provided, they must admit they originally signed the document under false pretense.

But we have repeatedly an idea that we must take the text literally, but what does that mean? If we go to 2 Samuel 22, we have a poem no doubt as Rogers recognizes, but it is a poem describing historical events. Is Rogers going to say that that poem is literal? Does Rogers think God hitched up an angel and came flying down shooting arrows at David’s enemies?

What about Exodus 33-34? A normal reading of this passage would tell us that God has a body and that no one can see His face, but Moses was privileged enough to see His back. There is nothing in the text that indicates that the passage is anything other than historical, but is Rogers going to accept that God literally has a body?

In fact, descriptions of John the Baptist start out with quoting Isaiah 40:3. However, what is the next verse?

“Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;

Does Rogers believe these happened literally? If someone decides that they do not think that the texts are that literal, are they outside of Inerrancy? Do Rogers and Geisler want to say that everyone that is not of a dispensationalist bent, for instance, denies Inerrancy? What of Preterists? Do they deny Inerrancy?

In fact, since Geisler is a dispensationalist, one could ask if it was the case that his eschatology was driving his framing. If so, then there could be reason to take such with a grain of salt. I am not saying that is the case, but it is something we have to be aware of.

The point is that literal is very difficult to understand. There are some Christians that do not take the resurrection in Daniel 12 as literal. There are some that do not see the first resurrection in Revelation 20 as literal. Are we to say that these are denying Inerrancy? If not in any case, where does denial end and affirming begin?

Furthermore, Scripture itself has interpreted Scripture as allegory. Paul sees an allegory between the Judaizers and the Christians in Galatians 4 in the relationship of the children of Hagar and Sarah. If we were to take the statement by the letter, would we have to say that Paul denies Inerrancy?

Perhaps we should instead say “We will seek to interpret Scripture the way that those who were its original audience would understand it.” Of course, this could lead to difficulties for some in the old-earth and young-earth debate as a lot of old-earthers go to the science first and then interpret Genesis in that light saying “Well we know from science that the world is old, so we must interpret these passages differently.” That would be using data however the original audience would not understand. I think the work of people like John Walton however is far more helpful in understanding Genesis as he seeks to use the ancient world to understand the ancient world, much the way Licona uses the first century world to understand the first century world.

And this brings us again to extra-biblical literature. It seems that Rogers has an allergy with the idea of something extra-biblical, but yet does not seem to hesitate to go to ICBI, which is also extra-biblical, and apparently as well Nicea, which is extra-biblical.

I can understand why someone would do that. I do not deny the Bible is above other works of literature and for the NT, it ranks par excellence above other 1st century works, but let us understand this about the NT. IT IS A FIRST CENTURY WORK! It was written in a culture that 1st century people lived in and understood. If not the 1st century Mediterranean culture, which culture should be the one who’s “normal” reading is seen as the best? Why 21st century America? Why not 12th century Japan or 5th century Germany? Why is it our time and place that seems to get priority?

It does seem to some to place the Bible on a higher place by saying it is to have no contact with the world outside of it and it can be understood without any other aids. Well in some ways yes. Someone can pick up the Bible and get the message of salvation. However, if one wants to be proficient in the book, then one needs to study the world of the NT. In fact, to say one need not study to really understand the Bible is a position of arrogance. It is making oneself a pope and saying “All I need is me and the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will tell me all I need to know.” That is not the role of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit does not encourage laziness. I do not say Pastor Rogers does this. I merely say I hope he doesn’t. If he doesn’t however, he should have no problem with what I’ve said in this paragraph. In fact, if he thinks all one needs is the Bible, then he’d best tell his congregation to go home. Why fill their minds with the ideas of what Rogers thinks the text means? They don’t need that. They have all they need in Scripture.

It is also a safeguard of the Bible that I don’t think works. I have no problem putting the Bible up against other pagan works since I believe it will win out in the end. In fact, the early church fathers did this. They agreed that Plato and Aristotle taught a lot of great wisdom on how to live, as they did. I agree with Lewis that losing what I have learned from those two would be equal to losing a limb. However, they also said “But those guys were grasping in the dark compared to Jesus.”

The person who believes the Bible should be open to letting the Bible be investigated with everything the skeptic has. Bring on your objections and let us answer them!

Note also what else Rogers says:

This was a well thought out doctrinal statement and the framers of the statement knew somewhere in the future these statements would be challenged. The framers were already dealing with moderates and liberals who were using, as Dr. Adrian Rogers said, “the same words but different dictionaries.”

Note that Rogers here is poisoning the well by using moderates and liberals as if Licona and his supporters are in that camp. The reality is we despise liberal approaches to Scripture. That does not mean we don’t learn anything from liberals, but it does mean that their system does not work. We stand for true and orthodox doctrine and we don’t discount something just because it’s miraculous. I’ve heard Licona publicly defend modern-day miracles. He has no problem with them. There is nothing moderate or liberal whatsoever in Licona. These are words that are tossed out however in order to automatically impugn the other side. (Note that this is done while referring to us as “brother” also.)

In closing, what Rogers needs to have again is actual dialogue, but it does not seem likely based on what I am seeing in the way he responds to comments and elsewhere on the blogosphere. As I have said earlier, I fear that Rogers’s idea of how to handle debate is simply the use of the big stick of authority. As an atheist once said “Better to debate a question without settling it, than to settle a question without debating it.”

We shall continue next time.