Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. C. Michael Patton of Credo House at the Parchment and Pen blog has been writing lately on the Geisler-Licona debate and recently wrote on sound bites that are being used. Since then, Mike Licona has also been on Chris Date’s program, the Theopologetics podcast, to which I will be providing a link to at the end of this blog.
Some such sound bites are about the topics of legend and embellishment. Let’s look at them.
“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. We may also be reading poetic language of legend at certain points, such as Matthew’s report of the raising of some dead saints at Jesus’ death (Mt 27:51-54) and the angels at the tomb (Mk 16:5-7; Mt. 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-14) [pp. 185-186]
Look at those terms. Could possibly be mixed with legend? We may be reading poetic language? Such talk can certainly scare some Christians. What about this?
“A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4-6″ [p. 306, note 114)
A possible candidate for embellishment? Is this saying that the text contains embellishments?
Fortunately, on the podcast that I have referred to above, Mike has taken a stance on whether he thinks there are legends and embellishments and has answered “No.”
So what about the above quotes?
Oh they’re in the book for sure. Much has been said about them. In reviewing one of Geisler’s statements, he says the text gives no indication that this is not historical. However, Mike also has not said that what happens is not historical. Which then again raises the question, what is going on exactly?
Something I try to do when I evangelize to a skeptic and when I teach others to do so is to grant as much as I possibly can to my opponent. I want to take the worst-case scenario and still demonstrate Christianity from that. Now of course, if some item in the list definitively contradicts Christianity, I cannot grant that. I cannot say to an atheist “I’ll grant you that God doesn’t exist and demonstrate Christianity.” After all, Christianity essentially teaches that God exists. If there is no God, there is no Christianity. Could Jesus have risen from the dead however if the NT contained some errors, for instance?
I don’t see why not and you should have no problem with it either. After all, the resurrection has to pre-date the NT and when the early churches were formed, they did not have a NT to read from. Let’s suppose the NT had never been written. Would it still be true Jesus rose from the dead? Yes. We’d just have a great lack of evidence. Let’s suppose Paul slipped up in some letters. Would Jesus have still risen from the dead? Yes. Let’s suppose the gospels have contradictions Would Jesus have still risen from the dead? Yes.
In essence then, Mike is writing an academic work to people in Academia and he’s playing by the rules of the game and saying “Okay. Let’s approach the text your way. We’ll approach the text and we’ll be open to legends. We’ll be open to the possibility that we could be reading poetic language. We’ll be open to the possibility of embellishment. Now let’s see what you have.”
This is exactly what I have done when some people have spoken to me. “Well what if macroevolution is true? What then?” Exactly. What then?
Let’s suppose macroevolution is true. Does that mean Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? Not at all.
Well what if the universe is eternal?
Yes. What if? Does that mean Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?
What if there’s a multi-verse?
Does that mean Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?
Unfortunately, people are just looking at the statements and thinking Mike is making a categorical statement that X is an embellishment and that the Bible contains legends. There’s also an idea that an event described must be historical or it is a legend or a myth. That does not follow either.
And the sad reality is in doing what they’re doing, they’re not availing themselves of a great work defending the resurrection. In fact, it seems that once one of these sound bites is quoted then it’s picked up on every other blog that’s of the same mindset.
Sound bites can be very dangerous. Authors can have their views completely misrepresented by just looking at one quote and disregarding everything else. This is especially true if there is no surrounding context to the quotation. Of course, we do have to quote at times, but on many of these matters, it is highly recommended that someone check the original context.
Are we against being open to legend and embellishment? I hope not. After all, how can we tell the atheist he needs to be open to being wrong if we’re not willing to do the same? Let the case be brought forward and follow the evidence where it leads.
We shall continue next time.
The link to Chris Date’s podcast can be found here.