ICBI Article 2

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Lately, we’ve been looking at Inerrancy and especially at the statement from the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Tonight, I’m going to be looking at the second article.

It reads as follows:

We affirm that the Scriptures are the supreme written norm by which God binds the conscience, and that the authority of the Church is subordinate to that of Scripture.

We deny that Church creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible.

Once again, there is not much problem with this. I will list some brief concerns but overall, I don’t think I would have no problem signing this.

I don’t see the conscience as a phenomena that would have been understood in biblical times however seeing as their idea of shame and honor meant that the behavior one would have known was right and wrong would have come from external sources rather than internal. However, if all the statement is saying is that the Bible is the one that gives us ethical principles that we are to follow, well and good. I have no problem with that.

I would also not like to see the emphasis being on morality. A concern of mine is that for many of our youth, including myself when I was growing up in the church, is that Christianity is seen as only a system of ethics rather than a whole worldview. Being a Christian means that you are a good person. It does not include aspects such as having a belief system about reality as a whole and even with that ethical system, you don’t really know why you do something except that the Bible says so.

Of course, this could be cleared up later on, but the Bible is our guide not just in orthopraxy but orthodoxy, and even when it comes to right living, I would add that we do not need to be giving the idea that the Bible is the source of morality and that a person cannot know moral truths outside of the Bible. Even the Bible itself I believe disagrees with this.

I do however definitely agree that nothing has greater authority from the church save God Himself than the Bible. This includes councils and yes, that would also include the council of ICBI. As I had said earlier, ICBI does not equal Inerrancy. One could disagree with some points of ICBI and still uphold Inerrancy. I am of the understanding that Henry Morris would not sign the ICBI statement due to its allowing old-earth creation to be accepted, but would anyone really doubt that Morris did not believe in Inerrancy?

So when it comes to the second article, our conclusion is positive. The Bible is valid in all that it teaches for the practice of faith. Its power comes from that of God Himself and is thus greater than all the works of man including councils and churches.

We shall continue next time.

ICBI Article 1

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I am sorry I have not written in awhile, but our household has been busy. I will also be out of town Friday night speaking at a conference in Cherokee, NC. If you are interested in going there, I’d love to see you. I will be speaking on an apologetic of love. I also wish to think SBC Today for choosing my blog on if ICBI = Inerrancy for a top blog post of the week. It is a great honor.

I have been discussing Inerrancy and my plan has been to go through the articles of ICBI and examine them. Today, I will be looking at the first article.

The first states as follows:

We affirm that the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God.
We deny that the Scriptures receive their authority from the church, tradition, or any human source.

This is a statement I do not have a problem with and I see why it is at the start. The first point to appreciating the Inerrancy of the text is to recognize the source of the text. Of course, to say it is not the same as to demonstrate it, but that was not the purpose of ICBI. I simply say that to counter the rejoinder from someone who will think I am begging the question and assuming the Bible is inerrant.

No. I believe it is because after studying Bible contradictions, I have found that they are most often resolvable. I cannot really think of any glaring contradiction right now that I have not seen a valid answer to. This does not mean I consider myself a master of all of them, but I do trust in those who do know the Bible better than I.

I also have seen independent confirmation of the text such as other sources outside of the Bible that speak of events that the Bible records. There are also archaeological findings that have been made that have established the truthfulness of a biblical account when it had been doubted.

As for the denial, I agree with the denial as well. I think the Inerrancy of the Scriptures would be true regardless of if they were recognized or not. I also believe the texts are recognized as Scripture not based on what people say but based on that which is inherent to the text. I hold that men did not define the Scriptures but rather they discovered the Scriptures.

So at the end of the day on the first article, I do agree that the Bible alone stands in the unique position of all the books on the Earth. Of course, it bears many similarities to other books, but only in the Bible alone am I ready to grant sole trust. I will not give such trust to a favorite pastor, teacher, apologist, etc. Of course readers, do not ever give such trust here. If I am wrong about something, feel free to try to convince me. If any of us are wrong, we should want to know.

However, I do not have a problem with article 1. It is a good and basic start.

ICBI’s Statement

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Lately, we’ve been looking at the topic of Inerrancy and right now, I’m taking a closer look at what ICBI concluded. We fortunately saw last time that they admitted they were a brief meeting and thus, some work would be left to do in the future. Hopefully what is going on here is a start of that work. Even if there is disagreement later on, there is no need to start all over again. There can be no doubt some good work was done concerning ICBI, but there is still much to do.

There’s not too much here and I will put up a link at the end. To begin with, there can be no doubt ICBI wanted to give the highest view they could to Scripture. I agree with that, but we should be careful we don’t worship the Bible, which I think ICBI would also agree. The Bible is a revelation, yet I have met Christians who actually seem to think John 1:1 is talking about the Bible.

The first point wishes to stress that the Bible is from the God of all truth who speaks the truth. That is then the purpose of hermeneutics. The reason for interpretation is to try to find the truth. In any case, if not the Bible, we seek to find the message the author wished to convey. In the case of Scripture, we know the message that was wished to be conveyed was true. (Excepting of course statements like the lies of the devil being recorded. In this case, we have a true report of someone making an untrue claim.)

The next point teaches that the Bible is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it commands, and embraced in all that it promises. We agree. In fact, this is a great fault in us in that often we have made it a point to know doctrine without knowing the Lord of doctrine. We can get so caught up in the apologetics community in knowing the fine points that we forget to really learn the impact of what we believe. We can spend so much time defending the Trinity against Jehovah’s Witnesses that we forget what difference it makes.

The third point is the only one thus far I think I’d raise some qualms over. For one thing, I do not see any testament in Scripture to the Holy Spirit authenticating that the text is true. I am cautious of this seeing as I think there are other means and I think this one can be badly misused by Mormons. Second, I also do not think the Holy Spirit tells us the meaning of a text. I believe it is the Spirit that convicts us ON the meaning of the text. When we realize a promise of God, the Holy Spirit can use that to help us celebrate and praise him. When we are convicted of a sin from the text, the Holy Spirit can bring that home to us.

The fourth point stresses again the truth in all that Scripture teaches in all areas including our own lives. Again, I do not have a problem with this. As we have discussed however, the problem more often than not can be asking what it is that Scripture is really teaching and before we do that, we often need to see what lies within orthodoxy. Do young-earth and old-earth creation both lie there? Does theistic evolution lie there?

The final point is a reminder to not lessen Inerrancy. With this, we do not have disagreement. However, the danger as has been shown is to move Inerrancy from the Scriptures to our interpretation. We do not wish to lessen the Scriptures or Inerrancy in this look. I have no problem saying I believe the Bible to be true in all that it teaches. The question to ask is “What is it teaching?”

That is not the subject matter really of our discussion. It might show up some, but that is the work of the student to figure out, to which we should all be in a sense.

The link to the statement can be found here:

http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf

We shall continue next time.

ICBI Preface

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve started us looking at the ICBI statement and going through and seeing what I think about each portion of it and what the ramifications are concerning the Geisler/Licona debate. Tonight, we look at the preface.

I do agree with the start definitely that Scripture is the authority and that has always been an issue. What Scripture says for the Christian should be taken with the utmost seriousness, which is something that makes this debate so serious. We want to know the message God wishes to convey to us through the original authors.

I do agree that the affirmation of Inerrancy is important. Note that the start says that it is being affirmed afresh, but each generation needs to make its own affirmation if need be. For instance, with Christology, Nicea was not enough. We also needed the council of Constantinople. Then, a new belief arose and we needed the Council of Ephesus. Finally, another heresy arose and we needed the Council of Chalcedon.

Of course, there are always going to be heretics and denials and there will be those who have not learned from the teachers of the past, but when the current debate was not found to be adequately dealt with in the past, then it was time to look again. In this case, we have an issue and since three signers of ICBI have different views, we need to look again at what was intended. We cannot just say one person is right. We need to find out why they are or are not.

In the next part, the writers acknowledge that the statement was made briefly in three days and despite what certain parties think, the statement itself says that it is not to be taken as a Creedal statement. In other words, ICBI is not infallible. That is reason enough that we can take a closer look and revise if need be. It is also reason enough for not using ICBI as a club.

Note also that the document is not offered in the spirit of contention, but in humility and love, with the request that that keep going in any dialogues that come out of the document. Unfortunately, this is not happening. The ICBI statement is being used in a way directly opposed to the way it was meant to be used according to the statement itself.

Finally, the preface says that response is invited to see if it needs to be amended. Again, it has been said that there is no personal infallibility for what has been said.

At this point, my thinking is that this is fine and all, but I fear that much is being made out of the three days when further refinement is necessary, especially since my ministry partner, J.P. Holding, has pointed out that most signers were pastors and/or theologians and not biblical scholars. Now a pastor and a theologian needs to know the Bible well, but that is not the same as being a biblical scholar. The pastor and/or theologian instead relies on the data of the scholar. Now one can be a scholar and be a pastor and/or theologian, but that does not necessitate one being so.

We shall continue our look tomorrow.

Does ICBI = Inerrancy?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been looking lately at the Geisler/Licona debate and I begun pondering this point yesterday that I’m sure many have thought of but needs to be stated plainly for the sake of the discussion.

We need to realize that if one rejects or goes against ICBI, that does not mean that they are going against or rejecting Inerrancy.

For instance, there are some Christians out there who have a strange allergy to creeds. They don’t want to talk about the Nicene Creed and they would prefer to always use biblical language. They will not say they affirm the Trinity but will say they affirm the Godhead. Now if you ask them if Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are each God and if each of them are distinct persons but yet one God, they would say yes. In other words, they affirm the concept that is taught in the Trinity, but they would prefer to not use that term.

Okay. I think that’s a bit odd, but it’s not unorthodox. As long as they have the content, it’s fine.

Now I have spoken about concerns with the ICBI statement and I do plan on reviewing it greatly in the near future. We have also seen in this debate that Geisler accuses Licona of going against what the ICBI framer intended (Even though I highly question that) with the implication that that would mean denying Inerrancy.

Just a question. Could it be, for the sake of argument, that the framers had a bad definition?

Let’s suppose that they did. Can Licona say that and say “I fully believe Matthew intended this to be interpreted as an apocalyptic event and that there are valid reasons for doing so.” I do not think someone could be consistently an anti-Christian type like Mary Baker Eddy and study the Scriptures in a consistent manner. Inerrancy would entail that all of Scripture would cohere together. Coherency is not sufficient for truth, but it is necessary for it.

I answer then that Licona can say what he said and could hypothetically think the framers are wrong. I am not saying he is saying that, but he could, and he could still be an Inerrantist. Even though I am related to Licona, this is not a statement he has in any way made or endorsed. I will be upfront about that. I’m speaking on my own behalf.

My only point is to say that Licona can say this and believe that the Bible did not error in any of its teachings, but that what it is teaching has to be properly understood. I think we should all agree to that part. If the authors intended something and we can find that, then we should accept if we believe in Inerrancy that what they intended to say is true.

ICBI put forward an important statement, and it will always be one, but as shown throughout history, it will be up to the future leaders of the church to help clarify the statement in their own times. We can look at an interpretation like Licona’s and say “Whoa. Even if I don’t agree, I can’t say he’s denying Inerrancy. If according to ICBI he is, then we need to redefine Inerrancy.”

That’s also not to disrespect the framers. They got things started. We carry on the torch and we look at what they did as a sort of opening statement and say “That was good. What more can we do to clarify this?” It’s apparent right now at least that what the framers meant is unclear. After all, you have Geisler saying one thing, and Moreland and Yamauchi saying another.

As I have stated before, to my fellow young evangelicals, let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater. We can tend to think in extremes. It can be that when you reject part of one system, you end up rejecting all of it. Hence, some I identify as fundy atheists reject one part of Christianity while Christians and then end up just throwing out everything. Not a good idea.

Do we agree or disagree with ICBI? Well let’s be fair and study the doctrine and see what we can. Of course, there has been a lot written and it’s doubtful an exhaustive look can be done, but let us see what can be done. Let us try to see what Inerrancy does mean and doesn’t mean.

In many ways, I think Inerrancy could be like beauty for some evangelicals. We say we believe it, but it is just really difficult to define. (I do believe beauty is that which pleases when seen, but even that raises some questions.) Perhaps this is the time where we follow the path of Credo Ut Intelligum. To pluralize it, we believe that we may understand.

Let’s begin to understand.

SEBTS Denied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://normangeisler.net/index.htm

#31

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Today it’s been my day. That is, it’s a birthday for me, and #31. I wish things had been going better today, but I started developing something last week and now it’s reached the point where I’m not good enough to function as I normally would.

But as the Mrs. would tell you, that rarely keeps me down entirely. Some of you might have known some changes to the site. I am currently trying to categorize the blogs that I have done. I have been told to do this enough and thought last night was as good a time as any to start.

Anyway, a birthday is usually a good time to reflect. In the past, I saw birthdays as another time when you got gifts. Now I still enjoy the gifts today. It’s nice to know people are thinking about you and to see what they get that they think is a way of tuning into what you want.

Now however life is different. Last night I talked to a friend who is a widow and we were talking about a single friend of hers and how it does make a difference when you have someone you can come home to and know you’re not just coming home to an empty place where you wonder if anyone would even care if you were there or not.

This makes birthdays extra special for me. While I haven’t been doing my best today, my wife has been making sure that I’m taken care of in so many ways. Those ways help me to realize that I am a very blessed man in that I have a wife who is incredibly devoted to me.

Which brings us back to birthdays. It’s a reminder that our existence is something to celebrate. We exist, and we exist because He exists. Our very being from moment to moment is grounded in God. I do not think the full reality of that idea has hit me yet, but I hope it does someday soon.

The reason you are here is because of the grace of God on your life. The proper response to this gift is celebration and honoring. It is to give your life to that giver. He was under no obligation to give you that gift. He is also under no obligation to keep giving you that gift.

Most of us don’t even stop to think about how God could take our lives at any moment. We’re used to a fairly reliable system he’s set in place where we can usually tell if someone is about to die. Sometimes the evil of man or natural calamities or other events interfere, but by and large, we live with the assumption that the people we’re with will always be around.

For my marriage, I am reminded of the advice of a friend before I got married who told me that he prays that his wife will die one day before he does. It’s a good prayer to pray. If you want to know how much someone matters to you, take the time to consider what life would be like if that someone wasn’t there. You can do this with anything. Do you want to know what value something has in your life? Just try to imagine what it would be like if it wasn’t there.

This can work with God also. Of course, if God wasn’t there, nothing would be there, but if you want to know how your life would be different if you were an atheist, just think about you believe and how much you’d have to change. If you say “Well not too much” then it is likely God doesn’t really have that big of a place in your life. You could contrast that then with a favorite hobby of yours.

And all of us will find the God aspect of our lives lacking.

Today, I am thankful that I am here and so are so many people in my life. I told my wife last night that when I woke up in the morning I would have a massive amount of emails. These would be to tell me that X had posted on my wall on Facebook to have a Happy Birthday. (Do some of you people ever sleep?!) It’s been nice to see all of that going on.

I’m very pleased to have the family that I do and now to have the new family that I do and I have seen how much they appreciate me. Some of you might be wondering about how recent events have affected us. It has been hard, but I think overall it has brought our family closer together. In the end, we’ll all be stronger because of what has happened. I remember talking to my mother-in-law recently about this and how she said “It can be used for good” and I just said “It has to be.” That’s the biblical promise to us. If it happens, it is going to be used for our good. (Now that should bring some comfort.)

So overall, it has been a good day. Things haven’t gone as I would have liked, but oh well. It happens. Deal with it. I hope you all appreciate the changes I am bringing to the blog. Keep in mind if you want to celebrate what Deeper Waters is doing, there is always the donate button that is located here on the blog. I know that would be a good gift today and something that would make the Mrs. and I both smile.

What Good Are Our Churches?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve been following closely the debate concerning my father-in-law, Mike Licona, and Norman Geisler. As I checked Mike’s facebook today, he wrote about being in South Africa and how after he gave a talk at a church on “Who Did Jesus Think He Was?” 37 came forward wanting to start an apologetics group.

Average church in America?

“Apologetics? Do I need to apologize for being a Christian?”

A lot of time and money is spent building new churches for people to go to. Many new churches can sadly start over reasons such as not being able to decide what color the carpet should have been in the old church. Of course, there are some that reach a specific group which is highly understandable, such as Korean churches. Many of us don’t speak Korean and we should be thankful for those who do starting churches provided they’re in line with orthodoxy.

But as I thought about that church in South Africa, I think about what’s going on in America I thought “Do we really need more churches?”

I just went to Google maps and had no trouble finding a church within a mile of where I live. If I expand the search, I can find many more churches very easily. Does anyone really think the problem that we have in America is that we just lack churches for people to go to?

Seriously. How many churches do you pass by on your average commute to and from the workplace? How many times are you saying “I really wish there was a church here in our area.”? Of course, what you could be saying is “I wish there was a good church in my area.” It’s like looking in the fridge and saying “There’s nothing to eat.” There usually is, but usually what you see in the fridge is not providing the desire that you have.

Could it be that the real problem is that we do not use the churches that we have? Too often in churches, we have pastors who are simply ignorant of the Bible and then produce a group of people who are also ignorant of the Bible. These churches are prey for groups like the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the New Atheists.

Study is a dirty word to the average person today. I was tempted to say the average layman, but even pastors can often pride themselves on their ignorance. They may not know what they’re talking about, but by golly, they have passion and they can count on the Holy Spirit to take that passion and override their ignorance.

How many people really think the Holy Spirit honors having to do the work for someone because they didn’t want to take the time to do it for themselves?

Something that we need to learn in the church is this. No matter how passionate you feel about a belief, that does not make that belief right. Of course, you could be entirely right, but do not think you are right just because you have a lot of passion.

I just got done recently reading Tim LaHaye’s “Rapture Under Attack” where he says that the reason the pre-trib position is spreading and growing is because it is just the teaching of the Bible and the Holy Spirit is blessing it!

Okay. Sure. That’s a possibility.

However, I also suspect I could read a post-trib author who would say “While this view has not been as popular, we do see it on the rise today because the Holy Spirit is showing people that it is in the Scriptures and giving it His blessing.”

Anyone can claim the Holy Spirit for their belief system. Anyone can say the success of the teaching spreading is because of the Holy Spirit. They could in turn say the reason a true teaching is not spreading is because of the hardness of the hearts of men. Whichever way you go, you can come up with a reason why a teaching is spreading or not spreading.

What needs to be done by everyone on every side of every debate is to focus on the reasons for why your view is true whether it is spreading or not. Let us keep in mind Mormonism has been on the rise throughout the world now and the Mormons would point to their message being true as the reason for that spread. They would say the Holy Spirit is confirming it by the burning in the bosom.

I do not doubt Mormonism is spreading. I do not doubt that Mormons feel something very strongly. I do doubt that it is the Holy Spirit. I am not a believer in Mormonism simply because I do not think the facts support Mormonism.

Facts. You know, maybe that’s what we need to get back to. Maybe we need to get to truth. It seems too often in our churches we are trying to get people to a feeling rather than to a mindset. We want people to feel Christianity is true. We don’t want them to think about why it is. We want people to feel the love of God. We don’t want them to think about what the love of God means. (That is no simple doctrine!) We want people to feel good about themselves. We don’t want them to think about what it means that they carry the image of God and what it means when they are told that they are sinners.

Of course, I am not against feelings, but feelings are to be in response to something. We have our beliefs based on our feelings when our feelings are based on our beliefs. If one is given good reasons for believing Jesus rose from the dead and one realizes they can understand and articulate those reasons and feel great as a result, praise God! If they have the reasons and can articulate it and are just not a feely type and don’t feel what the first person feels, praise God just as much!

And wouldn’t it be great to have churches doing that more than just being support groups? Now again, don’t misunderstand. Churches do need to be providing support. Members do need to be caring for one another. However, the church is not meant to be your local branch of Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous. I have no problem with churches letting such groups use their buildings. That’s fine. The church is meant to be more however. The church can help you diet. The church can help you maintain sobriety. The church is meant to do more. The church alone is the only organization that can teach forgiveness of sins through the God-man Jesus Christ.

When the church becomes just a social club, we have lost the point of it. It has become all about us instead of being all about God. What we need is the foundation of good theology rooted in Scripture and Christian thought throughout the ages and then from that foundation we can draw support for one another.

Let us also remember worship is not meant to be something just to make us feel good about ourselves. I really wish the church would return more to the classic hymns of the past. When I was growing up, I remember they sounded slow and boring, but now that I am older, I realize the rich depth that is within those songs that I have missed.

There are some songs sung in churches today that I will sit down during. I think some are outright wrong. Many are just shallow. A good worship service is seen as one where we leave feeling good, but we are not the ones who are to judge if a worship service is good. The service is not for us. It is for God. We often forget that we are worshiping Him. We are not putting on a concert.

The church has all that it needs today to be a powerful force. In America, we should be a country having a massive influence on the world scene with Christian witness. What do we have? We have a media that celebrates sex outside of marriage, abortion as the law of the land, homosexual advocates pushing for marriage, the idea that we need to be tolerant of Islam, Joyce Meyer and Joel O’Steen being seen as great Christian literature, political correctness being a reigning ideology, a church afraid to “offend” anyone, and the greatest threat to a church often seen as being when a new Harry Potter book comes out. (Which by the way, I thoroughly love the series for all concerned)

We have the most access. The internet can be found in the majority of homes today and while there’s a lot of junk on it, there’s also a lot of good stuff for those who will take the time to look. We have a huge number of ministries here with numerous educational resources. We have television and radio shows dedicated to the spread of the gospel. We have libraries and bookstores where people can find books to study. We also have enough wealth here to finance several ministries. We should be on the forefront in evangelism and Christian witness.

We are not.

And the solution is not to build more churches.

The solution is to use the churches we have built by filling them with Christians who know the Scriptures and can teach them accurately. We need songs that will edify and enrich our theological lives. We need to be aware with the media of our age and how to use it and how to interact with it. We need to be involved in government activities instead of running from them using our power as Christians to limit abortion, same-sex marriage, and other such practices. We need to be educating our youth and teaching them how to think. We need to be again establishing real Universities and Seminaries where Christian thinking can be spread.

Can we do it? Well we can. There is no doubt about that. We have the means to do so. It is not a question of can. It is a question of will. Will we do so?

I pray we will, for if we do not, it might not just be the case that in America, the next generation does not know of Christianity. It could be that there might not even be a next generation due to an America that fell away from its heritage in faith and lost its identity altogether. There might not be a nation to pass on to our descendants.

The choice is yours and mine where we go from here.

The Future of Inerrancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James White on Mike Licona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously then, it’s not in there.

Licona looks at the text and sees something different.

Licona is out of line with inerrancy.

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

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

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

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