A Further Response To John Tors

Has the Bible been betrayed? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Tors isn’t happy. He just doesn’t like my last response to him. Not too much of a shock, but yet he has written a long diatribe in response. I don’t really plan at this point in addressing everything since Tors has spent so much time on this that one wonders if he’ll be publishing an Ebook on the topic soon. At this point, I also plan on this being my final response. Tors is too much of a time drainer and honestly, not worth it, but I figured it could be fun to go after this one.

Tors gives off the impression of one saying that if anyone doesn’t interpret the Bible the way he does, they are a liberal bent on betraying evangelicalism. As much as I have a problem with Geisler, it could be said Tors goes even further than Geisler and if Tors was in Geisler’s position, one can picture the nightmare that would be hanging over the Evangelical world. Tors has not only a fear of everything else being “liberal” but is also convinced he knows better than the experts in the field and I mean the ones who are working out of their specialty.

It’s amazing that right off, Tors, like Geisler, acts like anyone who disagrees does not hold to the Correspondence Theory of Truth, which I do hold to. Tors says that:

First, truth is what corresponds to reality.  Something that does not correspond to reality is not true.  It is not true, for example, to say that George Washington issued the Emancipation Proclamation or that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Tarzan of the Apes.  It is true to say that Donald Trump is currently the President of the United States of America.

Why is this important? Because if you suggest anything different in the accounts, then you’re going against the truth! Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to look hard at the Gospels to know that they are quite different. If you mean every story has to be exactly the same in every detail, then no, the stories cannot all be true. Consider the story of the centurion’s servant. Who came? Matthew says the centurion was the one who engaged Jesus and spoke the whole time. Luke says elders of the town came to Jesus and then says the centurion sent others to talk to Jesus on his behalf. Which is right? The stories are obviously the same story, but they are obviously not identical.

Most of us realize that the centurion sending servants to act on him would be seen as if he himself came since they were acting on his behalf. When the Press Secretary makes an announcement, no one shouts “error” when it’s said later “The President today said that….” Of course, I have picked a minor example. Others could be found. What did Peter say at the Great Confession of faith? Did the voice at the baptism of Jesus speak to Jesus or to the crowd? How many times did the rooster crow at Peter’s denial? If you want more, just go look up your favorite skeptical website and see all the “Bible contradictions.”

Most of these are of course minor deals. They rely on ancient practice and such. Was it an error that Jesus said three days and three nights He would be in the belly of the Earth? After all, if Jesus died on Friday and He rose on Sunday, then that’s two nights and just one day. It’s when you realize that for the ancient Jews that a part of the day would be sufficient that you realize that Jesus did speak accurately by their standards. That is what is often missed. Why should we judge an ancient work by modern 21st century standards?

Second, an error is “a mistaken opinion or belief” (OED, p. 847), “mistaken” being “having a wrong opinion or judgment, being under a misapprehension” (OED, p.1795), and “wrong” being “incorrect, false, mistaken” (OED, P.3732).  If this is still not clear, “incorrect” is “of a state, description etc.: erroneous, inaccurate” (OED, p.1342) and “false” is “of an opinion, proposition, etc.: not in accordance with the truth or the facts; erroneous, untrue” (OED, p.912).

Again, no objection, but we have to wonder how far will this go? Did Jesus give the Sermon on the Mount twice and just use second person and third person both? Again, for many of us, it’s not a problem to say that one writer could have adapted what was said to apply it better to the audience. It’s also not unlikely that Jesus would have given this talk more than once. I am a speaker. This Monday night, I’m giving a talk for the third time on life with Aspergers and raising awareness at Why Should I Believe? I have given this talk before, so I know what I will say, but it will also be different. One highly doubts that Jesus was the only speaker in history who only gave every sermon or parable one time.

“Inerrant,” then, means “in accordance with the truth and the facts, not untrue, true.” It is regrettable that we have had to go to such lengths to establish the meaning of “inerrant,” which should be axiomatic, but, as we will see, it is necessary to do so, lest anyone attempt to pass off as inerrant that which manifestly does not meet this definition.

I don’t think anyone is disputing any of this. What is being disputed is what standards will we use? For instance, when I encounter someone who says we need to go by the plain meaning of the text, I ask plain to who? To a 21st century American? A 19th century Japanese man? A 17th century Chinese man? A 13th century Frenchman? An 11th century Englishman? An 8th century German? A 5th century Italian? A 3rd century Greek or Roman? A 1st century Jew?

Who determines what is the plain meaning? It would be the author ultimately and that author wrote according to 1st century standards. Will those standards be different from ours? Absolutely. It’s not right of us to force him to follow our rules. We must look at his and see how closely he followed them. I have regularly pointed out that we are following Western standards way too often and those cause us to badly misread the text.

Tors starts in on Wallace here with:

New Testament scholars who work on determining the wording of the original Greek New Testament are functioning at the level of the deepest integrity when they argue that the original read “in Isaiah the prophet.” This is because they are arguing for wording that seems to communicate a mistake. They argue this in spite of their own feelings about the biblical author’s accuracy …. the vast majority do have sufficient respect for a biblical author that they will not impute to him an ostensible inaccuracy unless the manuscript testimony compels them to do so. At all points, textual critics are historians who have to base their views on data, not mere theological convictions. The rule that almost all textual critics follow is: Choose the reading that best explains the rise of the others. This means looking at the external and internal evidence in an effort to trace out both history and psychology.

Wallace is right here. We want to get to what the original text said and not what is easier for us. The rule is all things being equal, if you have two readings, the more difficult one is to be preferred. It’s more likely that a scribe would try to smooth out a reading than to make it more difficult. Of course, Tors lunges in on “Wording that seems to communicate a mistake” and immediately, there you have it. Wallace does not concede a mistake. I pointed Tors to Ehorn’s work on composite quotations which includes Jewish sources to show that the practice that was done was a Jewish practice. We can be quite confident that Tors will likely never read it.

We should also point out that Tors refers to me next as good old Nick Peters and soon drops the “good.” It’s not escaped my notice that the Old Nick was a name given to the devil. As I have said, Tors has upped the ante of Geisler. Tors is unfortunately the kind of person an apologetics approach like Geisler produces. It’s one that says that if you stand up for inerrancy, then you cannot possibly be wrong. You’re not just correct in your conclusions, but in all of your actions.

In my look at what Wallace says about inerrancy, I point out that Wallace goes after a magic wand approach that treats the Bible like a science book. Tors won’t have any of that! Inerrant means the Bible is without error! That’s it! He writes that

Peters actually says, “He went after a view of what that is,” and already we can see that he is off the rails.  As we have pointed out, there is only one definition of “inerrancy”, and that is what the word actually means: without error, in accordance with the truth and the facts, not untrue, true.  Inerrancy is not a matter of opinion, such as which is the best sport or the most flavourful food.  It has a specific definition, so there is no other “view of what that is”; any other “view” of it is not inerrancy.

Nice to know we have the word from Sinai here. At any rate, the question becomes, what constitutes an error? Is it an error by our standards or by their standards? You see, it was treating the Bible like a science textbook that led to many of our problems. Does Tors think that the sun goes around the Earth? That was what some people argued and they did it based on the Bible. Does that mean the Bible was wrong or our interpretation was wrong because we treated it like a science textbook? (This is also why I disagree with a concordist approach and trying to do things like read the water cycle into Job.)

As an example, Norman Geisler looks at Martin Luther. I am a Protestant, but of course, Luther was not infallible. We did not replace one Pope with another one. Luther was wrong on some matters. Geisler at his website puts up some statements that he himself would not agree with.

D. Scientifically Authoritative

  • There was mention of a certain new astronomer who wanted to prove that the earth moves and not the sky, the sun, and the moon. This would be as if somebody were riding on a cart or in a ship and imagined that he was standing still while the earth and the trees were moving. [Luther remarked,] “So it goes now. Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Josh. 10:12].

  • Because we are not sufficiently able to understand how these days occurred nor why God wished to observe such distinctions of times, we shall rather admit our ignorance than attempt to twist the words unnecessarily into an unnatural meaning. As far, therefore, as St. Augustine’s opinion is concerned, we hold that Moses spoke literally not allegorically or figuratively, that is, the world and all its creatures was created within the six days as the words declare. Because we are not able to comprehend we shall remain disciples and leave the instructorship to the Holy Ghost..??

    Let’s give one caveat here. There are a number of Luther scholars who don’t hold to the accuracy of all in the Table Talk. Okay. for the sake of argument though, Geisler does. In fact, someone like Jason Lisle would argue that since Geisler denies a young Earth, that he denies inerrancy. It’s amazing to me that Mike Licona uses ancient writing techniques to interpret the Bible and that’s disallowed, but Geisler uses modern science to interpret that the ancients had no access to, and that’s okay! Still, the look at Luther gets worse.

E. Self-consistent

  • Though this Epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and regard it as a good book, because it sets up no doctrine of men and lays great stress upon God’s law. But to state my own opinion about it, though without injury to anyone, I consider that it is not the writing of any apostle. My reasons are as follows:

  • First: Flatly in contradiction to St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture it ascribes righteousness to works and says that Abraham was justified by his works in that he offered his son Isaac, though St. Paul, on the contrary, teaches, in Romans 4, that Abraham was justified without works, by faith alone, before he offered his son and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. . . . Second: Its purpose is to teach Christians, and in all its teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the Resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ (Ibid., p. 24).

    So apparently, in this paradigm, it’s okay to question the authority of James and even say that he disagrees with Paul on justification, and you’re not denying Inerrancy, but question the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 and you’re in trouble now.

If we read the Bible in the way the author did not intend us to read it, then we are going to misread the text. The author did not have 21st century Western Americans in mind. With the New Testament, the author had first century Jews and Gentiles in mind, varying of course on the book being read.

When we get to Daniel Wallace recommending we treat the Bible like any other work of history and study it according to that method, Tors has a lot to say. I will quote what he says about my looking at it here.

Old Nick Peters really gets his shorts into a knot on this one, carping, “Just say ‘It’s God-Breathed.’ Okay. How does that deal with the writing? Are we to think God just breathed one day and ‘Poof!’, here is the Gospel of Luke!”  Then, in response to Wallace’s view that the Bible should be held to the same standards as other ancient historians such as Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus, I pointed out that “Josephus, Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, and ‘any other ancient historian’ were not divinely enabled by the Holy Spirit. The Bible was, however, so it is in a completely different category from ‘any other ancient historian’s writings.’” Peters responds,

If you want to see what’s wrong with this kind of approach, just consider if Tors was saying the same about the Koran or the Book of Mormon. Is Wallace treating the Bible like any other book? In a sense, yes. That’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When you treat it like any other book, you see that it is not like any other book.

The mind certainly boggles at this.  Peters actually mocks the concept of Scripture being God-breathed (“Are we to think God just breathed one day and ‘Poof!’, here is the Gospel of Luke!”), griping, “How does that deal with the writing?”  He makes no effort to find the answer to this question, it should be noted; he just seems to use this as a pretext to ignore the issue.  Indeed, he intimates that saying that the Bible is God breathed carries no more weight than saying it for the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon.  (This shows, perhaps better than anything else, where the type of evangelical Peters is defending is coming from, and should really put paid to any credibility old Nick may ever have had.)

Yes. Because I asked a queston, I actually mocked the idea of the text being God-breathed. At this, we wonder what color the sky is in Tors’s world. Does he see an enemy behind every bush. I hold the text is God-breathed. What I deny is saying that “God-breathed” answers every objection. It doesn’t.

Tors also says I make no effort to find out the answer to the question, this one being the census in Luke. You see, if I’m writing a response, I’m meant to deal with every single objection. Well, no. I’m not. I was dealing with a dangerous view of inerrancy instead. I’d like to point out now that Tors says nothing here about the question of the feeding of the 5,000 or the synoptic problem or a multitude of other “contradictions” that are presented. Sauce for the goose after all…

However, if Tors wants to know about what I’ve done on the question, well this is the beauty of having a podcast. I have interviewed Ben Witherington on the birth narratives and if anyone wants more on Luke, I interviewed Darrell Bock on that as well. After all, these scholars are much more specialized than I, so why not listen to them?

Tors goes on to say that

Now, it should be obvious that the question “How does that [i.e. that Scripture is God breathed] deal with the writing” is not an excuse for ignoring the fact that Scripture is God breathed and if and when the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon can show ancient prophecies that were fulfilled or advanced knowledge that people at the time of writing could not know, and when either is endorsed by a man who claimed to be Deity and proved His claims by rising from the dead, then we can consider whether either is God breathed.  Until then, the Bible remains sui generis.  It is difficult to see how this would not be obvious to any Christian – unless he actually believed the Bible has no more evidence for being God breathed than does the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon.

But notice this! As soon as Tors brings up other points about the Bible, then saying “God-breathed” is no longer sufficient to make the case. The Bible is true because of XYZ. I fully agree that this cannot be done with the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon. Tors is actually arguing my point. With advanced knowledge though, Tors makes the mistake that I have pointed to earlier of concordism in this article.

Even if we granted the point, there are still other passages that we would not take literally, such as Proverbs saying the Earth sits on pillars. What of Joshua and the sun? Does Tors agree with Martin Luther or not? Tors is in fact reading the Bible as a science textbook. The problem is if you take Job’s saying and read it as a science statement, you’ll miss the real statement he wants to make. What that is I leave to the scholars of Job.

Consider that we do this with Genesis. We make the debate about the age of the Earth, as if that was the real concern in the author’s mind. He wanted us to know how old the Earth is. I agree with John Walton that the passage is about the creating of sacred space. Once you get that, it beautifully fits into the Gospel and bypasses the whole debate as the point of the text is not the age of the Earth but the why of the Earth then.

Tors goes on to say that

As to how does the fact that the Bible is God breathed “deal with the writing,” Peters might want to study 2 Peter 1:20-21; he might want to notice that what is written by men is explicitly stated to be spoken by God Himself (e.g. Acts 1:16, 4:25, Hebrews 3:7-11); and he might want to take Jesus’ promise seriously, wherein He said in John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  Note to Wallace: The Holy Spirit is better than a “tape recorder.”

Then if this is the case we have to ask why do the Gospels have different things being said? Sure, the content is virtually the same, but the wording is not identical. Note also that if we want to take John 14 literally, well it only says that what Jesus said would be brought to recall and says nothing about his deeds. How about events one was not a witness of? Luke and Mark used eyewitnesses but were not themselves eyewitnesses. (Mark could have seen some things possibly and could be the fleeing naked man in Mark 14, but there’s no hard proof of that.) Mark and Luke would never have received Jesus’s promise. Also, it’s hard to see how Tors can avoid a dictation theory.

As to Peters’ enthusiastic statement that “That’s the wonderful truth about the Bible. When you treat it like any other book, you see that it is not like any other book,” as we explained in the previous article, “logically it is lunacy, for if treating the Bible like any other book leads to the conclusion that it’s not like any other book, that means the initial working presupposition that it’s like any other book is wrong and inapplicable and therefore invalidates any conclusion reached when using that presupposition.”  That is simple and obvious enough that even a reasonably intelligent child can understand it; why Peters apparently cannot is hard to understand.

Except it doesn’t, and I argue that many people who deny this use a different standard. Just yesterday I was in a Twitter war involving mythicists saying we have no contemporary records of Jesus. Now of course we do, such as the epistles and Gospels, but I want to take their standard. My question to them is what about Hannibal, Queen Boudica, and Arminius? All of these were very well-known figures at their time who did amazing things and yet no contemporaries said a peep about them. I get told “Well they weren’t supposed to be the Son of God doing miracles and rising from the dead.” Do you see that?! The standard has changed!

One such standard is the inerrancy standard which means inerrancy according to modern Western ideas of inerrancy. These differences show up in different accounts of any ancient event. Mike Licona in his recent work shows that even the same author has different accounts of the same event.

Another problem is that many people come with a viewpoint that says miracles can’t happen. Of course, no evidence will be persuasive if you rule out any possibility of being wrong right at the start. For these people, saying that “magic” (And magic and miracles are not the same) is in the text rules it out ipso facto. The standard here being that the Bible must adhere to the rules of natural law. The problem is not the Bible, but false standards brought to it.

Now I approach this without fear. If the skeptic wants to say he will test the Bible like any other book, my reply is simple. “Do it.” I say that because I am convinced the Bible can stand up to scrutiny. I don’t just sit back and say “God-breathed!” and think that answers all the questions.

As for what is said about infallibility and inerrancy, I got my information from Derek James Brown, who did his dissertation on ICBI. He supports it, but thinks there needs to be changes. He pointed out that infallibility is the basis because if God cannot error, then he cannot produce a text that will have errors in it. In that sense, because God cannot error, a text that He is behind will not error. It is not the other way around. Hence, I said Tors has it backwards. Tors wants to point to what Wallace and others say. I’m quite sure that if Wallace read my assessment on this matter, he would have no problem with what I’m saying. Of course, we do have to ask if God did indeed do this with the Bible, which is another question, and one that I think the answer is yes, God did produce such a text, but it is not a hill I’m willing to die on either.

We move on:

“You obviously have a high view of scripture,” I observed. “Why?”

“Because Jesus did,” he said matter-of-factly.

 “How do you know?” I asked.

“One criterion that scholars use for determining authenticity is called ‘dissimilarity.’ If Jesus said or did something that’s dissimilar to the Jews of his day or earlier, then it’s considered authentic,” he said. “And he’s constantly ripping on the Pharisees for adding tradition to scripture and not treating it as ultimately and finally authoritative. When he says that scripture cannot be broken, he’s making a statement about the truth and reliability of scripture.”’

Peters then says, “Tors quotes multiple parts of this multiple times each time with incredulity, because, you know, incredulity makes a great argument.”  It is difficult to ascribe this comment to Peters’ general incompetence; it smacks of intellectual dishonesty.  Arguing from incredulity, which is a logical fallacy, by the way, is to say that something cannot be true because one personally finds it difficult to believe, and I did no such thing.

My argument against Wallace’s claim here was to point out that

How does the ridiculous criterion of “dissimilarity” show that Jesus had a high view of Scripture? Oh, that’s right; it doesn’t. This is a non sequitur. Wallace did not answer Strobel’s question but simply jumped to another topic ….

So according to these scholars, if a 1st-century Jew says something that sounds like what we’d expect a 1st-century Jew to say, that indicates it’s not authentic, and if the founder of Christianity said things that Christians believe, then that indicates it’s not authentic. Authenticity is determined by dissimilarity! Only a madman or a Biblical scholar could assert such arrant nonsense as this with a straight face, for it is more than obvious that Christians, as followers of Jesus, would base their beliefs on what He said, so of course it would sound similar, and that 1st-century Jews said things that sounded like what 1st-century Jews said – because they were 1st-century Jews.

No. By argument from incredulity, I simply mean that Tors takes a response that he will not accept it and then argues from there. Tors ignores Wallace’s point about how the criterion of dissimilarity shows the case. Jesus is different from the crowds of his day as he rips into the Pharisees for adding Scripture to tradition. Jesus argues that Scripture alone is sufficient and cannot be broken and if tradition contradicts Scripture, tradition is wrong. That is how it makes the case. Jesus was speaking outside of the cultural standards for rabbis of the time by lambasting the Pharisees and his argument against them depended on his having a high view of Scripture.

Peters continues to embarrass himself.  I quoted Wallace saying, “The Gospels contain a summary of what he said. And if it’s a summary, maybe Matthew used some of his own words to condense it.  That doesn’t trouble me in the slightest. It’s still trustworthy,”and I pointed out that “Actually, if the writers are making stuff up and mixing the historical with the non-historical, then it is not trustworthy, as there’s no way to know what in the Bible is true and what isn’t.”

Now, what I have said is axiomatic and so obvious that even a child could understand it.  But not old Nick Peters.  (Either that, or there is a whiff of intellectual dishonesty here also.)  He sniffs,

It is a mystery how one goes from ‘Saying something in one’s own words’ to ‘Making stuff up.’ Apparently, Tors can make these kinds of leaps. He then says there’s no way to know that something in the Bible is true or isn’t, but this is just ridiculous. We can know this by studying history.

Let us look at this point by point, and we will get a good understanding of where old Nick is coming from.

First, he said, “It is a mystery how one goes from ‘Saying something in one’s own words’ to ‘Making stuff up.’ Apparently, Tors can make these kinds of leaps.”

Let us clear up the mystery for him: I did not make a “leap” of any sort.  I said, Actually, if the writers are making stuff up and mixing the historical with the non-historical, then it is not trustworthy.”  “IF the writers are making stuff up.”  IF.  Perhaps Peters should open up a dictionary and perhaps a textbook of English grammar and learn the meaning of the word “if” and how it is used.  If he does that, he should come to understand that my statement is not a “leap”; it is axiomatically true.

By the way, it’s worth pointing out that Tors cries foul if anyone dares to insult him, but he has no problem with it. I’m not whining about this. I actually find it amusing. I quite loved the part about how I “sniffed” something. I easily picture Tors as a red-faced preacher pounding the pulpit and screaming out every line.

Tors’s point is highly false. There is nothing about making stuff up when you say things in your own words. It’s called paraphrasing. The writers of the Gospels had to do this to some extent anyway since Jesus for the most part was speaking Aramaic. That would be translated into Greek by them and they would have to put the saying in the words they thought best captured what Jesus said. Again, they weren’t interested in word-for-word. The gist is what was important.

It still boggles the mind how that means “Making stuff up.” Now if Jesus never told the parable of the prodigal son and Luke just made up the parable and put it in the words of Jesus, that would be making stuff up. If instead the parable was told in Aramaic and Luke put it in his own words in Greek, that would not be making stuff up. Besides, we can be sure that much of what Jesus said was a lot longer than what we have. The Sermon on the Mount can be read in about twenty minutes. I am sure Jesus spoke a lot longer. Matthew is just giving us the main points of the message.

Second, while condensing people’s words is not necessarily problematic when done by a reporter, nor is using one’s own words to describe the situation, claiming that someone said something when in fact he did not say it is an error.  And while other ancient writers may not have been able to avoid such errors, in the case of the Gospel writers, Jesus’ actual words were brought to their memory by the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), such errors were not unavoidable, nor did the writers make them.  Why so many evangelical scholars want to ignore John 14:26 is, as we have indicated, difficult to understand.

With this then, I contend that Tors’s view is unsustainable. As soon as we have different words taking place, then inerrancy will have to go. My version of inerrancy is just fine. I don’t go by errors by modern standards, but by ancients where the gist of what was said is sufficient. Again also, John 14:26 would not have anything to say to Mark and Luke and nothing to say about Jesus’s actions.

Third, and this is the most disturbing, Peters says, “He then says there’s no way to know that something in the Bible is true or isn’t, but this is just ridiculous. We can know this by studying history.”  And there you have it, folks.  According to Peters, you can’t know that the Bible is historical, unless you study external sources of history.  The fact that little of the Biblical narrative can be proven “by studying history” doesn’t seem to bother old Nick.  The problem of explaining why the Biblical narratives, unsupported, cannot be known to be historical, but secular historical sources can be is something he does not address (nor is there any indication he has even thought about it), though he is doing a good job of uncritically following Wallace into this morass.

Yes people. Let this keep you awake at night. If you want to know about the reliability of the Bible, you might actually have to *Gasp* study! Horror of horrors! Those who want to defend the Bible and show it to be true will need to study history! It might not be enough to just stand up and shout “God-breathed!” and let that be it.

As for the problem, once again, Tors expects me to address everything. Well let me explain it to you Tors. I give the Bible the benefit of the doubt largely because Jesus rose from the dead. I believe in the Bible because I believe in Jesus, not the other way around. Many areas I have found have been corroborated by study in archaeology and secular sources. Where there is no evidence either way, I am willing to grant the benefit of the doubt to the Bible. It’s proven reliable in areas I can check. I will trust it where I can’t. Tors naturally assumes that since not every post contains my every thought, I must not have thought about something. It’s amazing how arrogance and ignorance often go hand in hand.

It doesn’t even seem to occur to old Nick that the Gospel books are, even at a minimal view, historical documents that must be given the same prima facie credibility as any other historical documents.  And, given the fact that there are four Gospel books, that they are all based on eyewitness testimony (and two were written by apostles), that they were written close to the time of the events described therein, and that their manuscript attestation is considerably better than anything we have for any other ancient writing, the Gospel books are far better historical evidence for the life and career of Jesus than we have for any other ancient personage, including Augustus and Tiberius, the two Roman emperors contemporaneous with Jesus.  They are more than adequate to tell us about Jesus, and we have no need for inferior ancient documents to verify them; “Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better” (Hebrews 7:7), not the other way around.

Well considering that I’ve done podcasts on these topics interviewing scholars and written on them myself on my blog and debated them, yes, I do know about these. One wonders if Tors is just trying to flaunt some intellectual superiority or something here. He does seem quite obsessed with himself after all.

In fact, although Peters claims that “inerrantists do engage with history, and I speak as one of them,” neither he nor his fellow travelers do any such thing; indeed, old Nick shows no indication of even understanding how the application of historiography is to be done.  He seems to think that “apply[ing] historiography to the Bible” is opening a reference book or two written by the sort of people described in our original article and uncritically passing on whatever one finds there.  That is not “apply[ing] historiography to the Bible”; it is more in the nature of chanting a mantra.

Tors seems to think he knows what I’m talking about here. My thinking on the matter is to critically study the books. Even the ones written by my father-in-law I question. When he told me about something Ehrman said once, I thought it was a powerful quote, but I asked where it was and looked it up myself to make sure the quote was right. I also do go and get out the primary sources often and see what they say. I have to do this with modern history with all manner of false quotes put up on the internet. The same applies to ancient history.

The intellectual gallimaufry of Peters becomes even more clear with his next statement: “He also asks how could readers of the Gospel assume any of it was historical? Answer. They wouldn’t. This would also be something that skeptics could look at. Want to know if it’s historical? Just send a servant or two to the area of Judea. Have them ask around. Do an investigation. This is what historians did.”

One wonders why eyewitnesses of events cannot be trusted in what they say, but “historians” can be trusted when they tell us whether these eyewitnesses should or should not be trusted; it should be obvious to anyone who thinks that eyewitness testimony is preferable to the testimony of one who is not an eyewitness.

Looking at this, it’s as if Tors rode into town to skeptical Gentiles who did not believe in resurrections and to Jews who had a zeal for their text and said “Jesus is risen!” and everyone converted. If a skeptic got his hands on a Gospel, he would not assume it was true. He would investigate it. You could say it was from eyewitnesses all day long and that it was God-breathed. That would not be enough. He would want to verify it, and who could blame him? Christianity by social standards was a shameful belief system and one would lose their honor by embracing it.

I also didn’t say historians could be trusted the same way. On mundane claims, one would have no problem, but when it came to claims that put one at an area of risk, one wants to double-check. This is what any wealthy high-honor person would do if they were skeptical.

Beyond that, I don’t think the Gospels were largely written to convince skeptics. It was more for the edification of the church in passing down the life of Jesus, especially as the apostles were getting older and dying. No doubt there was some persuasive effort to them, but that wasn’t the main point. A preacher in a church will often be speaking to the audience of Christians present, but could include enough for a skeptic with questions.

And, more important, while there should be little doubt that people around the mid-1st century AD did “send a servant or two to the area of Judea” (1 Corinthians 15:1-7) who could check personally with eyewitnesses, we live a good 1,900 years too late to use that method ourselves – and according to what old Nick just said, it is the only way we can believe the Bible is historical. So we cannot believe it.  Game over.  One wonders if old Nick is even listening to himself before he makes his assertions.

Sure. We live at a downside with that. Does that mean we’re lost entirely? No. We can study the sources that we do have and the more we study those, the more we see how incredible a book the Bible is. Tors seems to be like someone eager to make a point saying “Did you think of that? Did you? Huh?! Huh?! Huh?! I bet you didn’t!” No, Tors. I did. Sorry, not game over.

I also objected to Peters’ ludicrous assertion that Dr. Paige Patterson (Th.M, Ph.D) is not qualified to comment on issues of New Testament scholarship and exegesis, though Peters (B.Sc.) obviously believes himself qualified to make such comments.  It is strange that he does not realize that most reasonable people would not agree with him about this, but may well see Peters as a coxcomb.

Sorry Tors, but unless Paige Patterson has kept up with the latest in NT scholarship, then no. They shouldn’t speak on the matter. Mike Licona is fine on NT scholarship, but if he speaks on evolution, test that with a better source. I also do not claim that I am a better authority in my person alone. I claim that I am relying on the best scholars in the field. By all means, check everything I say.

Characterizing my objections as “go[ing] after[Peters] and Holding,” old Nick sets about trying to vitiate my claims.  He begins by averring that “I do not think the Bible does have historical or scientific errors. I guess Tors knows my view better than I do. I have no problem with the statement that the Bible is without error.”

Unfortunately, Peters’ avowal here seems at odds with his book’s insistence that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable.”  It seems possible to reconcile the two statements only if what old Nick means by “without error” here is actually different from inerrancy as believed by the “old guard.”

It’s quite easy to reconcile and the overwhelming majority of evangelical scholars would understand my view and be behind it. When I say the Bible is without error, I mean according to the rules and standards of writing at the time and not ours. Why should our time be so special that we get to determine what should and should not have been written? We are not that special.

This becomes much clearer, in fact, when Peters goes on to say, “I have a problem with a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism and 21st century ideas rather than writing styles of the ancients.” What he derides as “a more wooden inerrancy approach that is bent on literalism” (you know, the Bible means what it actually says) is actual inerrancy, and he has “a problem” with that.  So whatever old Nick may mean by believing the Bible is without error, it is not inerrancy.

The literalism is the problem and again we have to ask about the clear meaning of the text as I indicated above. For instance, I think when Jesus said “This generation will not pass away” in Matthew 24, He meant that generation. Much of the language He described is figurative. Dispensationalists would disagree and take those parts literally and read Jesus talking about a different generation or the Jewish people.

Everyone recognizes that the Bible has different usages of language. It has hyperbole, sarcasm, irony, metaphor, parable, simile, poetry, etc. A literalistic approach is not always the best approach to the text. When Jesus says that the high priest will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds and sitting on the right hand of God, are we to say that Jesus is literally going to ride a cloud while sitting at God’s side the whole time? Not at all. Tors is applying a Western hermeneutic of literalism.

Incredibly, old Nick tries to defend Licona’s drivel, saying, “This might sound like an odd notion, but to refute someone’s interpretation, you have to show the text does not mean what they take it to mean.” It is no surprise that Peters has it backwards yet again.  Since this is not Wonderland, an “interpretation” does not get an initial presumption of validity simply by being put forward; it is the one who says that a statement in the midst of a historical narrative and indistinguishable in style from the surrounding passages is not historical who has the onus probandi – and Licona has not come even remotely close to meeting it.  Had old Nick stayed with philosophy longer, he might have understood that.

Except he has. He spends a number of pages in his book and gave a talk later on at a conference on it. Has he proven it? No. That’s a far more difficult thing to do with history. Has he given a justification? Yes. Am I entirely convinced? No. My thinking is that we should still investigate the claim and see what the text says. When I first heard of the interpretation, I just marked it down as an interesting idea to consider. I hold to the opinion that it is better to debate a question and not settle it, than to settle it and not debate it.

Peters is still not done.  I mentioned in my original article that Peters “is married to Mike Licona’s daughter” – which full disclosure should require.  Old Nick objects, saying, “Why yes, I am married to Mike’s daughter. Apparently, this is being waved around to promote the ‘Bias’ charge.”  Yet again, Peters shows himself to be careless with facts, as I never accused him of bias.

Directly, no. Yet still I never said several things or argued several things and Tors has no problem making assumptions about those. Again, do as he says, not as he does. If not bias, then one wonders what the point of bringing this up is. Even if I am wrong in why it was brought up, can I be blamed for wanting to cut off a possible objection in advance? Apparently, I can be.

In fact, old Nick protests a little too loudly, saying, “All Tors needs to do is contact Mike and be assured from Mike that we have many disagreements, even on the New Testament, and I do not walk in lockstep with him.”  That does not, of course, prove that Licona does not influence Peters’ thinking, as in the selfsame article, Peters tells us that he changed his major from philosophy to New Testament – and he did it “when Mike Licona told me he thought my stuff on NT was really good.”

And this seems to prove my point about bias. To begin with, my point about my major is one that Tors could have seen by doing the research. Tors is talking about the Ebook I wrote that explicitly says what my major is in it. Did he not read it? This calls into question for me Tors’s ability to do research. Note also there’s nothing about “Oh sorry. I got that wrong.” Tors is practically incapable of admitting an error.

And yes, Mike influences me. I do take his words seriously, but I can also question them just as much. Would Tors prefer that I be the son-in-law of a great New Testament scholar and not heed his words? Sorry, but I prefer the path of humility, which I think Tors left long ago as we will see.

Old Nick does not seem to be at all aware how ludicrous his attack on Dr. Patterson is seen to be by any thinking person.  Dr. Patterson, who has done such great work defending the Bible, is being told by a small-time blogger with a “Bachelor of Science in Preaching and Bible from Johnson Bible College” that he is not qualified to comment on the issue of inerrancy, though the small-time blogger with the bachelor’s degree obviously feels that he himself is qualified to comment on this issue, for he freely does it.  Any thinking person would find the hubris of this small-time local blogger to be repugnant.

For those interested in hubris, wait till the end. For now, if anyone wants to know about my ability and such, just read my blogs and other written material and listen to the podcast I present. When I interview someone, see if I ask informed questions that show that I know the subject matter. Feel free to check the endorsements page of my website as well to see what scholars in the field say about my work.

But not to Peters, and it may be his hubris that prevents him from thinking straight.  He actually says, “Does Patterson publish regularly in journals of New Testament scholarship? Is he cited by New Testament scholars? If not, then he’s stepping out of his field” but then goes on to say, “I also am quite sure that the evangelical scholars will go with my work far more than Geisler’s, particularly since I’m the one who interviews them.”

Think about it, folks; according to old Nick, Dr. Patterson (Th.M, Ph.D) has no cachet on inerrancy because he does not “publish regularly in journals of New Testament”  and is not “cited by New Testament scholars,” but “evangelical scholars will go with [Peters’] work far more than Geisler’s,” even though he himself does not “publish regularly in journals of New Testament”  and is not “cited by New Testament scholars” – and holds only a Bachelor’s degree, and not in New Testament studies.

Yes. I am not cited by them. No problem. My claim is whose opinion they will think is more accurate. I interview the scholars. I know what they think. We have enjoyable conversations, much like Daniel Wallace and I had together one night after an ETS meeting where we went out with a bunch of guys. We talked some about New Testament scholarship, and then went on to talk about our wives.

I do not think any scholar who is not related to old Nick will “go with [his] work,” though they may appreciate having him as a cheerleader and for providing a platform through his podcasts.  Peters seems to be living in a fantasy world of his own.

Then Tors is simply wrong, as Dan Wallace says in his review of my Ebook co-written with James Patrick Holding, Defining Inerrnacy,

Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation, by J. P. Holding and Nick Peters, published by Tekton E-Bricks on 22 May 2014, is intended to be a response to Norm Geisler and Bill Roach’s Defending Inerrancy—and so much more. Both have a similar cover and similar title. Defining Inerrancy, however, is a gloves-off defense and affirmation of a version of inerrancy that many are not acquainted with. That is, many except those who are Old and New Testament scholars.

Translation: The material in the Ebook is not news to Old and New Testament scholars. Wallace knows them and knows them even better than I do. Tors can keep talking about the fantasy world, but he ignores that I do meet with these scholars and talk with them. I count Dan Wallace as a friend of mine as I do many other scholars through my work on my podcast.

In sum, old Nick can be safely ignored by all.  His approach is damaging to the church.  Fortunately, he is a small-time blogger and podcaster, and it is unlikely that he will have much influence, and certainly not on those who are not already inclined to follow the destructive path outlined in our original article.

Time will tell what will happen. As it is, I think my reach is getting better and better, but again, time will tell. As for Tors, I am confident that he will keep marginalizing himself more and more and staying in his insulated circle. As I told people I was responding to him, the response I got was “Who?”

Of course, it’s bizarre to say Mike is the next Bart Ehrman. In fact, the more likely scenario is someone in Geisler’s camp would be the next Bart Ehrman since Ehrman was one who put too many eggs in the Inerrancy basket and not just Inerrancy, but a literalist Inerrancy. If Geisler thinks that that is not a problem, I’d like him to meet the several ex-Christian atheists that I’ve met online who in large part left Christianity because they had the Inerrancy doctrine called into question when they in reality held to a modern view of Inerrancy, like Geisler’s.

It doesn’t seem to occur to Peters to wonder what would have happened to these “ex-Christian atheists” had they come across an apologist who accepted inerrancy and gave them solutions to their difficulties, instead of coming across the type who said, “Yeah, there are errors in the Bible, but don’t worry about it.  Yeah, the Bible is wrong about creation but, hey, trust it on the resurrection anyway.”

The problem is that this approach leads to more difficulties. When I meet an atheist who wants to argue creation, I take them to the resurrection. Why? Because you could argue until you’re blue in the face and you might convince them their objections don’t hold wait, but it won’t get them to the cross. I also don’t do the game that I call “Stump The Bible Scholar.” This is where a Christian is presented with a list of 100 contradictions in the Bible. Suppose this Christian goes and researches all of them and answers them all. Will the skeptic convert? Not a chance. He’ll just get 100 more contradictions. It also continues the idea of the all-or-nothing game. As Wallace says in his above review

In Defining Inerrancy, the authors note that they have known many evangelicals who have abandoned the faith precisely because they started out with such a hardening of the categories. This rings true: I get countless emails from people who have either jettisoned their beliefs (or have friends or family members who have) because their starting presupposition was that it’s inerrancy or nothing. Such people would throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater! And it is this very problem that one of the architects of modern evangelicalism, Carl Henry (who could hardly be condemned as being soft on inerrancy!), addressed in his book, Evangelicals in Search of Identity. It seems that many evangelicals are still not listening. And yet Henry saw, forty years ago, that the evangelical church was making inerrancy the litmus test of orthodoxy to its discredit. Yet again, I digress. Holding and Peters are not in the least denying inerrancy; they are simply rejecting a rigid form of it that they see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church.

Note also I do not say the Bible is wrong on creation, but when it comes to the science of the matter, I’m more than happy to tag another friend of mine who knows the science far better. It is a mistake to think one must be an expert in everything. I am happy to let someone more knowledgeable in that area than I deal with the question.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate the completely wrongheaded and dangerous approach adopted by old Nick Peters is to look at his handing of Genesis 1.   He says:

This is why when it comes to evolution, I stay out of the debate. I am not a scientist and I do not speak the language. If you think evolution is false and want to argue it, here’s what you do and I don’t think even the staunchest evolutionist will disagree with me on this point. Go do your study and preferably a degree in a science that is related to the field, such as biology, and study the arguments for and against and make your own arguments and present a case from the sciences that refutes evolution. If evolution is bad science after all, the way to refute it is with good science.

And there you have it, folks.  You are a Christian – you believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be, God the Son and Saviour; you follow Him and you know that He proclaimed Scripture to be the word of God (Matthew 4:4), that it cannot be broken (John 10:35), and that it must be fulfilled (passim) – but if you want to know about origins, don’t bother to study the word of God, to investigate it with your knowledge of Hebrew and exegesis, because none of that matters.  You need to get a degree in science so that you can assess the indirect inferences of secular men and decide about origins.  What is the authority here: the word of God or secular science?

Here’s the problem Tors. If you go to a skeptic who doesn’t accept Scripture and tell him evolution is false, he will discount what you say immediately. I follow the following advice:

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.

Who said that? A modern liberal? Nope. Augustine centuries ago. It’s still true today. If evolution is false, it will be false because it will be bad science and can be shown scientifically. If you want to argue evolution, you actually need to study science. Tors again falls for the idea of the Bible as a science textbook, as if God’s main concern in Genesis 1 was giving us science.

Now, Walton denies that God created the Earth in six 24-hour days, as the Bible clearly teaches; “The Genesis account , he claims, refers to a literal seven day period in history, sometime after the material creation, when God assigned the cosmos its real intended functions, prior to his taking up residence in it as his temple.”  But Walton does not have a degree in science, the prerequisite Peters demanded, so why does he accept his view over the plain meaning of the Biblical text?  Why is Walton qualified to proclaim on this issue without that all-important science degree?  By Peters’ own standards, he should not “hold more to John Walton’s view on Genesis 1.”

Because Walton’s approach is a hermeneutical one. I have argued you could hold to Walton’s approach and be a YEC, an OEC, and a theistic evolutionist. Tors also assumes the plain meaning of the text is one to a modern Western person. Perhaps he should read Walton’s book on the topic. Since Geisler is not a YEC, does he want to also argue that Geisler is denying inerrancy by going against the “plain meaning” of the text and using science to interpret the text? Walton does nothing like that. Walter Kaiser would also agree as he has said that Genesis tells you that it happened in the beginning. It’s the science that tells you how old the Earth is.

In his blog post,Nick Peters made various claims and charges that require responses, but some did not fit into the flow of our main article, so they are addressed herein.  Peters’ comments are prefaced with “Re:” and are italicized; my responses are in regular type.

Re:My ministry partner, J.P. Holding, has updated his page on Mark 1:2 in response to some of what Tors says. I will thus not be responding to criticisms of Holding unless they involve me directly.”

Holding’s update to his page utterly fails to rebut anything I said.  His update has been demolished, as can be seen at our article “Mark 1:2 Revisited: A Response to James Patrick Holding”, at http://www.truthinmydays.com/mark-12-revisited-a-response-to-james-patrick-holding/.

Demolished so well that Tors started stopping Holding’s comments because he didn’t want to embarrass him. Right. Of course, in Tors’s world, as soon as he says something, the opposition is demolished.

There are certainly differences in wording among the Gospel books, but that does not mean the words of Jesus were replaced by the Gospel writers who “recorded the gist of it.”

First, as Peters notes, Jesus spoke mostly in Aramaic, while the Gospel books were written in Greek.  But old Nick does not seem to realize that when translating from one language to another, it is possible in many cases to make different choices of wording so that they are different in the target language, but all of them accurately portray the original language.

Absolutely, but they won’t be word for word. They will be different. There is also a difference between “before the cock crows” and “before the cock crows twice.” The gist of the saying is what mattered.

Furthermore, there is no reason to think each conversation is recorded in full.  In conversations, questions may have been asked more than once, in different words, and answered more than once, in different words.  The different Gospel writers might have recorded different parts of the conversation.

So Tors can say that the writers condensed something and yet, that’s okay. Wallace says the same thing and he’s denying inerrancy. Gotta love it. We also have “might have”. Does Tors not know? The text is God-breathed! Does He want to cut out the words of God?!

The utter silliness of old Nick is shown in his apparently-meant-to-be-sarcastic question, “Are we to think Peter said radically different things when he made his great confession of faith to Jesus?

Here is Peter’s great confession in the various Gospel books:

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)

Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” (Luke 9:20)

These are all different, but a skeptic could point out the “evolution” in the text. Matthew takes Jesus from being the Christ to being the Son of God as well. I have no problem saying the content is the same, but the wording is different each time, but there’s no dispute at what is at the heart.

Re:“We have to wonder what Tors is thinking here. Does he think someone would come up to Matthew and say “Hey Matthew. What are you writing?” “I don’t know. It’s in Greek.” Is it just awful to think that Matthew told a story in his own words? Perish the thought!

It seems that this unutterable genius that is Nick Peters does not realize that Matthew, as a tax collector, had to know Greek and had to be good at it.   He really needs to do his homework.

Sarcasm is lost on this one. It’s something you notice about fundamentalists. They don’t really have a sense of humor. I have in fact spoken elsewhere saying that Matthew was one who was definitely literate in the apostles being a tax collector. Tors really needs to get a sense of humor.

Re: I seriously doubt Dan Wallace will want to spend much time with Tors so I will take them on for him.

“If so, then either of [Geisler and Patterson] are free to respond to the criticisms that I have made of their approach. Nothing has been said by them so far. Geisler ignored a challenge that was put on his wall by someone else from Holding and banned the person who put it up.”

Interesting; in old Nick’s fantasy world, scholars of course rightly ignore me but naturally should not ignore old Nick (or his friend Holding) but should respond.  The possibility that Geisler does not respond to Holding for the same reason that Wallace does not respond to me does not seem even to occur to him.

In fact, I have no reason to think that Wallace has any idea that I wrote about him; he is no doubt a very busy man.  But if he will not “want to spend much time with Tors,” he has been well advised; it is another maxim of strategic warfare not to enter into a battle one cannot possibly win.  And he cannot win this one.

Tors again misses the point. Does Geisler owe us a response? No. But, if someone puts up a challenge and that person is blocked and the post deleted, then it is clear that someone is ignoring counter-evidences. Also, with my defense of Mike Licona, I would easily be seen as the one most representative of Mike and speaking on his behalf. Geisler also has referred to my defense, but he has never addressed it. That’s a big difference.

By the way, with what I said earlier about hubris, consider Tors is confident that he could best Wallace on this one. Not counting on Wallace taking up the gauntlet, but it would be amusing. Apparently, the lesson on humility is for everyone else.

In closing, I plan on this being my last response unless something drastic happens. Tors is like a tar baby that will take up too much of my time, when I have speaking jobs to do, books to read for my show, and a beautiful Princess to treasure. Further responses I will leave to others.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

A Response to James White On Defining Inerrancy

Has James White’s critique of my position in Defining Inerrancy been accurate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

By now, it should be no secret to readers of Deeper Waters that I am the co-author of the Ebook “Defining Inerrancy“. I thank everyone who has bought a copy and I hope many of you will write positive reviews on Amazon and your own blogs and web sites.

Some of you have also contacted me to tell me that James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries has apparently read our book and spoken about it on his latest podcast. I was not surprised to hear that the review was not a positive one, but at the same time, it is good to have press anyway.

So what is being said?

To start off, one line of White’s which I agree with is that of “If I’ve learned one thing from Norm Geisler it’s that I don’t want to be like him.” The more and more I have seen of this, the more and more I have been embarrassed by my former admiration.

In White’s review, he wanted to save most of what he had to say for the final chapter which happened to be written by me. When told about it I was told “Well he certainly got your viewpoint wrong.” Those who I shared it with who I consider mentors all were saying the same thing.

It’s important to point out that White does say he agrees with Geisler on the interpretation of Matthew 27. It should be pointed out that so does my co-author. Holding thinks that this is a real event that happened. What’s my position? The interpretation of Matthew 27 is actually the focus of the Master’s thesis I am working on so at this point, I am claiming agnosticism. It would be foolish to give a public viewpoint before really digging in and doing the research directly.

The final chapter that White wishes to comment on is the chapter I wrote called “Lordship over Scholarship?” In giving a sense of it he says that I am quoting Geisler and says “Geisler says further ‘As evangelicals we must beware of desiring a table at the seat of contemporary scholarship which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity.’ “(White agrees 1000%)

White then wants you to hear my response.

“On the contrary, I think we should eagerly be desiring that. How are we supposed to make an impact in the world of scholarship if we don’t want a seat at the table. Imagine what it could mean for Christianity if Christians were seen as trusted authorities in each field. Instead of fearing antagonistic presuppositions, what happened to correcting them with real scholarship?”

White says that paragraph really concerns him and is muddled in an amazing way.

Not a shock that White hones in on presuppositionalism.

Now I am not a presuppositionalist at all, but it does not mean that recognizing presuppositions play no role whatsoever in my thinking. White thinks that to sit at the table of scholarship is to compromise and give in to the presuppositions and to say there is a moral neutral ground. He also says that it is saying we should lay aside our commitment to the absolute Lordship of Christ and to the radical elements of that.

I think those of you who know me well are recognizing that I have no desire to do something like that. White tells us that Geisler recognizes that sitting at the table of scholarship is doing that and then adds “But I don’t know where Nick Peters is coming from.”

At this point, it would have been better off if he didn’t know where I was coming from to try to contact me. I’m not hard to find. My blog is there. My own podcast is there. All of them are ways to contact me. If he has no idea where I’m coming from, all that needed to be done was to ask.

Instead, White will proceed to talk about a position assuming that that is mine even though by his own words, he does not know where I am coming from.

White says he hopes I am saying that we should be seeking to challenge those presuppositions, but that that wasn’t what Geisler was talking about.

It’s a shame White didn’t go with his first inclination of what he hoped I was saying. What he hopes I am saying is in fact what I am really saying in that chapter.

White repeats my saying how are we supposed to have an impact if we don’t sit at the table? White suggests that we do so by showing that the presuppositions that they accept are in fact incoherent and by critiquing their worldview. Now I would not do it in a presuppositional way, but I would in fact challenge them.

White then thinks that my statement about having a Christian be a trusted authority in each field is problematic. Can that be given outside of the worldview?

Sometimes, yeah.

Who is it that heads the Human Genome Project? A Christian like Francis Collins. What I am saying is simply what C.S. Lewis said. Imagine what it would mean if the most learned authority in any particular field was a Christian and that in order to learn about a position, unbelievers HAD to go to Christians because Christians put the best material out there.

“I want to learn law!” “Well read this book by this Christian lawyer.”

“I want to learn botany! “Read this book by a Christian botanist.”

“I want to learn economics!” “Read this book by a Christian economist.”

The Christians should be seeking to dominate academia and be the most learned people that they can be.

White goes on to say that there are many people who are embarrassed by the open confession of the Lordship of Christ over every area of knowledge.

Again, this is the kind of accusation that it would have been good to make absolutely sure of before making a statement about it. This especially since he has no idea where it is that I’m coming from and yet seems to know exactly where I’m coming from.

White has said how Dan Wallace endorses the book. I am sure Wallace would have told him as well that White’s position on me is false. In fact, on the same blog where Wallace reviews our book, he also has a link up to where he was interviewed by me on my show.

What is my position? My position is this. That if Christianity is true, and I am convinced it is, good research will show that it is true. If we are doing our history right, it will line up with Christianity. If we are doing our ethics right, it will line up. If we are doing our philosophy right, it will line up. If we are doing our science right, it will line up. If we are doing our hermeneutics right, it will line up.

Chesterton once said something along the lines that if Christianity is not true, it is of no importance. If Christianity is true, it is of great importance to everything out there. I agree entirely. Since Christianity is true, it means Christ has something to say about every area of our lives.

Thus, I am not just a husband. I am a Christian husband. I am not just someone who studies history. I am a Christian who studies history. Every facet of my life is to be submitted to Christ entirely. When I study, Christ has something to say. When I take Allie out on a date, Christ has something to say. When I watch TV or a movie, Christ has something to say. When I play, Christ has something to say. When I drive, Christ has something to say. (Probably has a lot to say to me then especially)

What will I do when I approach a non-Christian? I have told people they are allowed to have their own interpretation. Everyone does, and sometimes we’re wrong. What they are not allowed to do is have their own data. You do not get to dismiss data because it goes against your worldview. You do not get to give it a place it should not have because it goes with your worldview.

So what do I do when I come to the table? I talk about the data. Joe Friday is my kind of approach. Just the facts. Then we discuss the facts. This is also why I think it’s important to have a philosophical background so you can properly interpret the data. Suppose someone brings up miracles not happening for instance. I point to research done by Craig Keener in this field and say it does not work to just dismiss them because they disagree with your worldview. I’m not allowed to do that. Why should you be?

And while I am not a presuppositionalist, I spend plenty of time questioning the worldviews of people who I encounter as to why I should take the stance. As an Aspie, I really can’t stand it when I spot something that is an inconsistency and when people treat Scripture by a different standard than they do other historical works, I don’t bend on that.

Now if someone does not come to Christ if the evidence is there, then naturally there is some other reason they are not, be it emotional or volitional, and it would be foolish of anyone to claim emotions play no role in their thinking. We are all whole human beings and unless we have some condition such as being a sociopath, we are all affected by our emotions, though some are more affected than others.

What happens if we retreat from the world of academia? That’s what we did when evolution showed up. We made a knee-jerk reaction and we’re still paying for it today. When liberal scholarship showed up at our Seminaries, instead of facing it head on, we retreated and set up our own new Seminaries. Colleges, Universities, and Seminaries once firmly held by the Christian worldview are now bastions of secular thought.

I wonder how many people have been lost because of that?

Christ told us the gates of Hell would not stand against the church. Gates are defensive measures. We should in fact be the ones on the offensive and putting those who are not Christians on the defensive. To do that, we will have to learn the best ways of doing history, science, literature, philosophy, and any other field. We will have to climb to the top more and more and present the data that if anyone denies it, it is clear that they are someone who refuses to see. (Think of the Christ-mythers who put up the most ridiculous standards of history.)

I’ve told my wife several times that we could reclaim America for Christ easily. What would it take? Christians waking up. Christians getting up and actually doing something instead of secluding themselves from the culture entirely and running into their little safety bubbles. I’ve written about this in this post. When Christians retreat, it’s no shock that the world gains a stronger voice.

And of course, we absolutely don’t surrender in our convictions. Of course, not every hill is worth dying on. If the hill you are willing to die on is pre-tribulationism or the age of the Earth or the usage of tongues in the church today, then you are fighting the wrong battle. Your position in fact is to be fought on the hill that says the triune God revealed Himself in Jesus of Nazareth and that when Jesus died, the Father raised Him from the dead. Jesus is now king of this world.

We are to follow the Pauline principle of defeating arguments and bringing them under the Lordship of Christ. It’s not a question of Lordship or scholarship. It’s both. Our Lord is not honored by poor scholarship. He is not honored by poor science. He is not honored by poor philosophy. We are to give him the best of our labors and that includes the best of our academic and intellectual endeavors.

I hope this sets the record straight. For those who wish to think I am compromising on Christian principles after listening to White, who has absolutely no idea where I’m coming from, I hope this sets the record straight. I also hope you’ll realize that while I seek to give the best, I will fail repeatedly at this as will all of us and this is where I depend on those inside and even outside the faith to correct me. As Benjamin Franklin said “Our critics are our friends. They show us our faults.” If an unbeliever can point to a legitimate error in a position I hold, I need to respond to that somehow just as much as if a Christian does it.

After all, if one sits at the table, one had better be prepared to make the case that needs to be made.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Fathers Know Best?

What do the church fathers say about Matthew 27? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Norman Geisler has come to picture obsession to the extreme. For years now, he’s been harping on Matthew 27 and really, not producing anything new. In all this time, he could have gone out and read Burridge on why the Gospels are Greco-Roman Bioi or gone to the best scholarly monographs he could find on the passage in Matthew 27, but instead, he just wants to repeat the same material.

So now he’s gone to the church fathers. Now I’m sure we’ll all agree that while the church fathers have authority, they are not the final authority. What matters most is what the Scripture says. Still, it would be foolish to just dismiss all the church fathers. Their views should be taken seriously.

But do they really agree with Geisler?

Let’s start with Geisler’s citation of Ignatius’s epistle to the Trallians.

What does the text supposedly say?

“For Says the Scripture, ‘Many bodies of the saints that slept arose,’ their graves being opened. He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a multitude” (chap.Ix, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, p. 70).

Why do I say supposedly?

Because there are two versions of the epistle. There is the shorter version and the longer version. Most scholars consider the longer version to be spurious.

So let’s go to chapter 9 of the shorter version. What do we see?

9:1 Be ye deaf, therefore, when any one speaketh unto you apart from Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David, who was born of Mary, who was truly born, ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died, in the sight of the things that are in heaven and on earth and under the earth;

9:2 and was truly raised from the dead, his Father having raised him up; according to the similitude of which also his Father shall raise up us who believe in him in Christ Jesus, apart from whom we have not the true life.

Why was the spurious version cited? Why is this not pointed out?

Either A) Geisler does not know and this is an error of ignorance that calls the research ability high into question

or B) It is known and is ignored, in which case facts are being ignored to suit an agenda.

I think it’s best to be generous and go with A.

Let’s now look at the epistle to the Magnesians.

According to Geisler.

“…[T]herefore endure, that we may be found the disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Master—how shall we be able to live apart from Him, whose disciples the prophets themselves in the Spirit did wait for Him as their Teacher? And therefore He who they rightly waited for, being come, raised them from the dead”[Chap. IX] (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I (1885). Reprinted by Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, p. 62. Emphasis added in all these citations).

While some connect this to Matthew 27, nothing in the context demands it. Further, what does it mean, “When he came?” Nothing is said about the death of Jesus or about opening of the tombs. It could be referring to Matthew 27, but the text does not demand it.

The next statements are from the lost fragments of Irenaeus. The problem is many scholars consider these lost fragments to be spurious. Once again, the problem is the same as in the first citing of the epistle of Ignatius.

Next is Clement of Alexandria. What do we have from Geisler?

“‘But those who had fallen asleep descended dead, but ascended alive.’ Further, the Gospel says, ‘that many bodies of those that slept arose,’—plainly as having been translated to a better state”(Alexander Roberts, ed. Stromata, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. II, chap. VI, 491).

But what do we find earlier?

But how? Do not [the Scriptures] show that the Lord preached the Gospel to those that perished in the flood, or rather had been chained, and to those kept in ward and guard? And it has been shown also, in the second book of the Stromata, that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades. For it was requisite, in my opinion, that as here, so also there, the best of the disciples should be imitators of the Master; so that He should bring to repentance those belonging to the Hebrews, and they the Gentiles; that is, those who had lived in righteousness according to the Law and Philosophy, who had ended life not perfectly, but sinfully. For it was suitable to the divine administration, that those possessed of greater worth in righteousness, and whose life had been pre-eminent, on repenting of their transgressions, though found in another place, yet being confessedly of the number of the people of God Almighty, should be saved, each one according to his individual knowledge.

So a question.

Does Geisler think the apostles went and preached the Gospel to those in Hades? If not, why not? If so, on what grounds since this is a testimony centuries later?

Now of course, it could be that Clement really sees the resurrection of the saints as historical and that must be taken into consideration, but it is not the final authority.

Next comes Tertullian. What does Geisler quote?

“’And the sun grew dark at mid-day;’ (and when did it ‘shudder exceedingly’ except at the passion of Christ, when the earth trembled to her centre, and the veil of the temple was rent, and the tombs burst asunder?) ‘because these two evils hath My People done’” (Alexander Roberts, ed. An Answer to the Jews, Chap XIII, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, 170).

An obvious problem here is all it says is that the tombs burst open. That could easily happen in an earthquake. There is no mention of saints coming out. Now Geisler could say is that Tertullian did fully have in mind that scene, but that would be claiming to know authorial intent, which he says cannot be known.

Next he says this about Hippolytus

“And again he exclaims, ‘The dead shall start forth from the graves,’ that is, from the earthly bodies, being born again spiritual, not carnal. For this he says, is the Resurrection that takes place through the gate of heaven, through which, he says, all those that do not enter remain dead” (Alexander Roberts, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5, The Refutation of All Heresy, BooK V, chap. 3, p. 54). The editor of the Ante-Nicene Fathers footnotes this as a reference to the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:52, 53 (in Note 6, p. 54.), as indeed it is.

But is it indeed? Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not. Could it not refer to the future resurrection, especially since it is also in the future tense? Of course, it could refer to Matthew 27, but must it do so necessarily?

What about Origen?

Now to this question, although we are able to show the striking and miraculous character of the events which befell Him, yet from what other source can we furnish an answer than the Gospel narratives, which state that ‘there was an earth quake, and that the rock were split asunder, and the tombs were opened, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, an the darkness prevailed in the day-time, the sun failing to give light’”

Once again, the tombs are open, but there’s no mention of saints getting out and walking around. Again, Geisler cannot appeal to anything else here because he says we can’t know authorial intent.

Geisler also goes to chapter 36. What does the chapter say in that work?

Celsus next says: What is the nature of the ichor in the body of the crucified Jesus? Is it ‘such as flows in the bodies of the immortal gods?’ He puts this question in a spirit of mockery; but we shall show from the serious narratives of the Gospels, although Celsus may not like it, that it was no mythic and Homeric ichor which flowed from the body of Jesus, but that, after His death, one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and there came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true, and he knows that he says the truth. Now, in other dead bodies the blood congeals, and pure water does not flow forth; but the miraculous feature in the case of the dead body of Jesus was, that around the dead body blood and water flowed forth from the side. But if this Celsus, who, in order to find matter of accusation against Jesus and the Christians, extracts from the Gospel even passages which are incorrectly interpreted, but passes over in silence the evidences of the divinity of Jesus, would listen to divine portents, let him read the Gospel, and see that even the centurion, and they who with him kept watch over Jesus, on seeing the earthquake, and the events that occurred, were greatly afraid, saying, This man was the Son of God.

Again, no mention here. Strange isn’t it?

For Cyril, I see no reason to doubt that this is referring to Matthew 27 and this must be taken seriously, but it is also about 300 years after the event.

Next is Gregory of Nazianzus.

“He [Christ] lays down His life, but He has the power to take it again; and the veil rent, for the mysterious doors of Heaven are opened;5 the rocks are cleft, the dead arise. He dies but he gives life, and by His death destroys death. He is buried, but He rises again. He goes down to Hell, but He brings up the souls; He ascends to Heaven, and shall come again to judge the quick and the dead, and to put to the test such words are yours” (Schaff, ibid., vol. VII, Sect XX, p. 309).

This could indeed be a reference to Matthew 27, but it could also have in mind a passage like Ephesians 4. Mike Licona would want to know how this would work with Jesus being the firstfruits of the resurrection. If Jesus is the first to rise in a new and glorified body, how is it that these saints arise in such a body before Jesus? It is a question Geisler needs to take seriously.

We have no beef really with what is said later by the early fathers, but it’s worth noting that the earliest references possible to this do not mention it. In fact, this could be along the lines of what some scholars would say is legendary development. I’m not saying that it is, although we all do know legends did arise around Jesus. That does not mean that they are found in the Gospels of course. Gnostic Gospels and such contained stories about Jesus we would call legends. In fact, some of our Christmas tradition comes from the Proto-Evangelium of James. (Not really a Gnostic Gospel, but rather something that could have been seen as Christian fiction.) It is doubtful that Geisler thinks Jesus struck down bullies with death as a child or extended the length of planks of wood for his Dad or brought clay pigeons to life, but these are accounts found in other works and at times, even some Christians got confused.

We conclude that there is still much research to be done on this question but let it be known the difference. When a question like this is raised, it is better to debate the question without settling it, than it is to settle it without debating. We prefer the former. Geisler seems to prefer the latter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

No True Inerrantist!

Who exactly counts as an Inerrantist? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Over at his Facebook, Norman Geisler is making much about how he has a web site defending Inerrancy which is endorsed by Billy Graham and Ravi Zacharias and several prominent Seminary leaders. How many NT scholars endorse this is strangely absent. So any way, what do we find when we go to Geisler’s site?

We’ve lost a growing number of scholars over the issue of inerrancy. This is a problem because pastors follow scholars. And ordinary people follow pastors. So it’s only a matter of time before we could see the full erosion of the Bible within our generation… unless we take action to alert the Christian community. And please sign this petition to tell your friends that you stand up for the Bible.

Yep. So here’s the deal. Mike Licona writes a huge book defending the resurrection of Jesus from the attack of opponents. Geisler finds one part that he disagrees with that most people would most likely gloss over and say “Well that’s interesting” and move on. Immediately, Geisler shifts to an attack mode pulling out all the guns he can find and firing as much as he can. Why? Because Mike Licona is attacking Inerrancy!

Because, you know, the best way to do that is to seriously work at exegeting the text and look at many readings of it and come to a conclusion on it all in a work that is built around defending the bodily resurrection of Jesus. It’s a wonder Licona was able to do this while wielding his pitchfork at the same time and cackling about how much damage would be done to the church.

No. It’s not that Licona simply made a mistake or is in error for Geisler. Licona is instead attacking inerrancy and is seeking to redefine it. Of course, it’s only Licona who’s doing this despite Licona pointing out that J.I. Packer, one of the framers of the ICBI statement has his own interesting views. As Licona says

One of those who penned CSBI is J. I. Packer. Packer says Genesis 1 in its entirety is a “prose poem,” a “quasi-liturgical celebration of the fact of creation” and by no means describes what we would have seen had we been hovering above the chaos of creation. He goes on to say he does not know whether Eve actually spoke to a serpent or whether there actually was a Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. And he says it does not matter because poets of the period who wrote outside of the Bible used trees in a metaphorical sense in their literature.

Where does Packer say this? Licona says

See http://sydneyanglicans.net/media/audio/creation_evolution_problems/. Packer’s relevant comments begin at 20:00 and go through 49:00.

This apparently is okay to say and be in line with inerrancy. To say that Matthew 27 contains something figurative is not. Unfortunately, we have no direct statement from Packer himself. We only get everything second hand from Geisler. We would like to see some interaction from Packer himself. We don’t want it to come from Geisler. To the sources!

But of course, we know that if people like Licona are not stopped, we will lose the Bible in a generation!

Someone please wake up and smell the coffee! People are falling aside from the faith left and right and you know what, it’s not because they deny inerrancy. While one of Geisler’s students wrote a paper asking if Mike Licona is the next Bart Ehrman, it’s more likely that someone following Geisler will be the next Bart Ehrman.

Why is this? Because Ehrman gave inerrancy a huge position in his Christian worldview. When it fell, that’s when the floodgates opened. It’s a Damascus Road experience that shows up constantly in his books. In fact, inerrancy, along with young-earth creationism, are two major reasons youth are falling away.

Why? Because if you have to take the Bible “literally” (Who came up with that rule anyway?) then they’re convinced that the Bible teaches young-earth creationism. (Which ignores the fact that the account is not written to be a scientific account.) If the Earth is old, then that also means inerrancy has to go, and if the Bible is not inerrant, then it’s not the Word of God, and it’s not the Word of God, then it’s just another book and you can’t trust it.

Now Geisler of course holds to an old Earth. (A view that he holds thanks to modern science, because we all know it’s okay to use 20th century science to exegete a Biblical text but it’s not okay to use 1st century genres that the authors had access to to interpret a Biblical text.) Geisler doesn’t see that as denying inerrancy. People at AIG and other places however do see it that way, but Geisler is allowed to hold that position because, well, he’s the one in charge after all and if he says its within the bounds, then its within the bounds.

Now getting back to this web site, Geisler has a petition up on the site. What does it say?

“I affirm that the Bible alone, and in its entirety, is the infallible written Word of God in the original text and is, therefore, inerrant in all that it affirms or denies on whatever topic it addresses.”

That can be found here.

I did a search on the page. There is no mention of ICBI. If this is all that is meant by inerrancy, I have no problem with it. I hold to that. If the Bible affirms something, then that is true. If it denies something, then that is also true. The question is “What does the Bible affirm or deny?” An inerrancy statement doesn’t tell you what that is. It just tells you that whatever it is, that that statement is either true or false.

So as I said, I have no problem with the statement.

So you know what? I did what Craig Blomberg did. I signed it.

signedstatement

There. See? I signed it.

“Yeah! Well I don’t see your name there or Craig Blomberg’s!

That’s right. They were removed.

signatureremoved

It would be good to know on what grounds it can be said that I do not affirm inerrancy. Is it because I disagree with Geisler? Has this become the grounds now for holding to inerrancy? If you do not agree with Geisler’s view, then you do not agree with inerrancy period? This even though the statement that I signed has absolutely nothing to say about ICBI? Now Geisler might say “Well I know that when I wrote the statement, I meant the ICBI view.”

Well sorry, but that won’t work. All I have there is the text and I cannot read Geisler’s “authorial intent” after all and so just going by the words that are right there on the page, I fully agree and I have zero problem.

More likely, we have a No True Scotsman fallacy. No True Inerrantist disagrees with inerrancy the way Geisler presents it after all and if you say you do but you disagree with him, then you are not a true inerrantist! And all true inerrantists in history would have agreed entirely with ICBI!

It’s almost as if someone really wants to be a Pope.

And that someone can determine who truly believes in inerrancy and who doesn’t.

It’s as if he knows their minds, you know, the authorial intent and all.

We’ll just have to ask how much more division must take place in the body before Geisler finally realizes the harm that he’s doing in trying to defend his legacy. If anything, by his own actions, he’s already destroyed it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler’s Shark-Infested Waters

So are these waters safe to swim in or will you get chomped if you go in? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

On Deeper Waters, we’re going to be talking about the muddy waters of Chicago, as Mike Licona (Who as all know by now is my father-in-law) referred to them here. Geisler has responded now with his own article that can be found here.

What I see in Geisler’s article is a lot of complaining about certain statements, but not a lot of substance. As it stands, most of Licona’s most powerful arguments were not even addressed. For instance, Licona pointed out how J.I. Packer said

One of those who penned CSBI is J. I. Packer. Packer says Genesis 1 in its entirety is a “prose poem,” a “quasi-liturgical celebration of the fact of creation” and by no means describes what we would have seen had we been hovering above the chaos of creation. He goes on to say he does not know whether Eve actually spoke to a serpent or whether there actually was a Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. And he says it does not matter because poets of the period who wrote outside of the Bible used trees in a metaphorical sense in their literature.

Does Geisler have a response? Not a one. Nothing is said about that. Were we to have some consistency, something would be being said, but for some strange reason, we don’t have any. So what in fact is said?

Well let’s start with what has been said ad infinitum.

“We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship” (Articles XVIII, emphasis added in all these quotes).

This is followed with more of the same. Of course, Geisler still hasn’t got this part down. The question being asked is “Is the text to be read as historical?” If Geisler thinks he can enter the fray of NT scholarship and just say it’s historical, he’s going to be immediately engaged by numerous opponents and pointing to reliability in many other areas of the Gospels, which some of them would even grant, just won’t cut it. Even Bart Ehrman will tell you there are places where the Gospels are reliable.

What Geisler will be accused of by the opponents of Scripture is special pleading. You know what? I’ll agree with them there. If we say that our book is to be presumed to be historical and inerrant right at the start and the rules of normal scholarship don’t apply, but they do to every other book, then we are special pleading.

Now let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Licona’s argument is wrong. How will that be shown? Will it be wrong by just saying “The Bible says so”? No. If Licona’s argument is wrong, then on this area he’s doing bad scholarship and bad history. Note in no way am I saying my father-in-law is a bad historian or a bad scholar. Far from it. I am thinking of more how N.T. Wright has said that he is sure that 1/3rd of what he teaches is wrong. None of us bat 1,000 when it comes to the Biblical text. All it means is Licona’s thinking is in error.

So if Licona is wrong, how is this to be shown? Simple. It is to be shown by good scholarship and good history. This could in fact why he’s got me on the path for my Master’s in NT to research this pericope in the Gospels and see what my conclusion is. In fact, I can guarantee Geisler something on this. Let’s suppose that I get done with my investigation and write my Master’s thesis and I am absolutely convinced that Matthew is writing this to be a historical account in that these bodies did rise up from the dead. Let’s suppose that this thesis passes and I get my Master’s. I then show it to him. If he reads through it and is convinced, here’s what will happen.

He will change his mind.

It’s a really fascinating style to have. It’s called changing your mind based on evidence. Would Geisler really prefer it to be otherwise? Would he prefer it that Geisler just writes enough letters and calls enough seminaries and then Licona just responds to political pressure as it were? (Chicago style apologetics perhaps?) How about actually making a case from a scholarly perspective? If Licona responds to that case with his own argument that shows why the current one is lacking, then back to the drawing board.

This likely will not happen because simply put, Geisler is not familiar with NT scholarship on these issues. This in itself is not an insult. When Bill Maher interviewed Francis Collins for his “Religulous”, he asked him about the text of the NT and the reliability of the Gospels. Collins was not able to answer as well as no doubt, someone like Dan Wallace or Craig Blomberg or Mike Licona could have. Why? Because Collins is a scientist and the study of the authenticity of the NT is not his area. Is that an insult to Collins? Hardly. It’s just admitting a human limitation.

Geisler’s area is philosophy. It is not the study of the NT. If he wants to respond to Licona then, he needs to go to a seminary library, get the latest and best in NT scholarship from both sides, and read through it and then write a response. Pounding the fist on the pulpit and shouting “Inerrancy!” will not cut it.

Geisler says he has three original framers saying they do not agree with Licona, but let’s look at these. First, Sproul.

R.C. Sproul declared clearly and emphatically: “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 unified Statement of ICBI” (Letter, May 22, 2012). He added, “You can use this comment by me however you wish” (emphasis added).

The problem I have with this quote is I want to ask “In what way?” Note also it says Licona’s views. It does not say his view on one passage, which would be Matthew 27. Has Sproul himself interacted with Licona’s work, or is he just going by what Geisler has said about it? I am thinking it is more likely the latter.

Some of us are still wondering if Geisler who is a strong dispensationalist will say anything about Sproul sharing a view that I hold to, that of orthodox Preterism, since Geisler tends to read the text in a literalistic way.

Of course, having said that, some critics would say Geisler does not hold to inerrancy due to his old-earth views. Now Geisler has responded, but I am quite sure AIG is unimpressed. They will instead say “Okay. Well why do you not accept the view of a young-earth? Interestingly, Geisler does say that there are gaps in the genealogies in his response. Now to a modern mind, this would be seen as an error. To an ancient mind, it wouldn’t. Why does this matter?

Because this is the exact same kind of argumentation Licona is using.

Licona gets his information by understanding the way genealogies were written at the time and in genealogies, it was allowable to have gaps. Therefore, he uses this information that does not come from the Bible itself in order to interpret the Bible. Apparently, Geisler does the same thing.

It gets even worse for Geisler. As has been noted, and it is a claim I have checked on just looking in a copy of the book that I have, Geisler says the following elsewhere:

Of course, there are many Creationists who argue for an old earth. Biblically, this position that the word for day is used for more than twenty-four hours even in Genesis 2:4, the events of the sixth day surely took more than twenty-four hours, and Hebrews 4:4-5 implies that God is still in His seventh-day rest. If the seventh day can be long, then the others could too. Scientifically, this view does not require any novel theories to explain the evidence. One of the biggest problems for the young earth view is in astronomy. We can see light from stars that took 15 billion years to get here. To say that God created them with the appearance of age does not satisfy the question of how their light reached us. We have watched star explosions that happened billions of years ago, but if the universe is not billions of years old, then we are seeing light from stars that never existed because they would have died before Creation. Why would God deceive us with the evidence? The old earth view seems to fit the evidence better and causes no problem with the Bible. When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Baker Books 1990), 230.

Remember the rules boys and girls.

Using evidence of the time such as literary types and such to interpret a text? Bad!

Using modern science that’s about 3,500 years removed from the text to interpret the text? Good!

So I am quite sure AIG is sure that Geisler is just compromising. For their stance, they might be saying something like

While Geisler would have us believe that he is fighting the barbarians at the gates of the city, in actuality he is escorting the Trojan horse of the barbarians through the gates and deep into the city.

But let’s move on to the next person.

J.I. Packer added plainly: that “As a framer of the ICBI statement on biblical inerrancy who once studied Greco-Roman literature at advanced level, I judge Mike Licona’s view that, because the Gospels are semi-biographical, details of their narratives may be regarded as legendary and factually erroneous, to be both academically and theologically unsound” (Letter, May 8, 2014, emphasis added).

This would be authoritative if in fact this was Licona’s view. It is not. What Geisler is not realizing, or perhaps worse not telling people, is that The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach” is actually Licona’s dissertation. He wrote this not as a book on apologetics per se, but he wrote it to convince other scholars in the field which means he had to start from ground zero. That meant realizing what actually does happen in Greco-Roman biographies.

Licona does say that when one reads Greco-Roman biographies, that does mean it can be hard to tell where narratives may be legendary and factually erroneous.

Geisler should be familiar with this. He says often that the Bible was written by humans and while humans may error, they do not error necessarily. If we applied the standards it looks like Packer is applying here, this is what we would say.

“Since the Bible is a work written by humans and humans error in what they say in so many other writings, it is difficult when reading the Bible to know when truth ends and error begins.”

That is not what is being said. Licona is talking about a common feature of Greco-Roman bioi, but he is not talking about a necessary feature. It is not as if Plutarch is sitting down one day to write a biography and saying “Okay. This is a bio! I have to find a spot in here somewhere where I can put an error!”

But we know that Geisler has gotten views wrong before and has in fact gotten Licona wrong before. Now to be sure, Geisler has removed the remark claiming that Licona does not think Matthew wrote Matthew, but there has been no public apology on his part, so that article will remain up there until there is such a public apology.

If Packer has not read Licona’s book and is instead going by what Geisler is saying, then it is no shock that there is such misunderstanding. If we cannot trust that Geisler has handed on the information accurately, since he has got claims wrong like this before, then why should we trust that Packer also knows what is really in Licona’s book? Especially since we have earlier evidence that Packer found no problem with Licona’s views. Most of us would love to know what was in that conversation between Geisler and Packer, but we do not hear directly from Packer and get to interact with him. We only hear him through Geisler.

Color us skeptical.

Let this challenge go out. We want to hear directly from Sproul and Packer themselves. We don’t want to hear it through Geisler. We want to hear that they’ve read Licona’s book and can specifically say in what way Licona is denying nerrancy.

And finally of course, Geisler agrees with himself.

This is hardly impressive.

And it does not refute Licona’s position.

Geisler goes on

If any waters have been muddied, it is from the mud cast at the defenders of the Chicago Statement on inerrancy. They call the ICBI defenders “New Fundamentalist” eight times in Licona’s short article. They insist we are “rigid” and engage in “ferocious fratricide.” They are designated inerrancy “police” or “police officers” who have a “most wanted” list. They consider an inerrancy defender a “tar baby.” They “politicize” this issue. He even goes so far as to question our “motives,” rather than be content with evaluating our statements.

The sad reality is that Geisler has earned these kinds of comments. What Geisler needs to ask is why do so many people who used to be avid supporters of his just turn away and become opponents, including myself. Could it be that the problem might be him? Could it be that these claims are true. In fact, I find the description of police quite accurate and yes, this has been referred to as a tar baby issue and most people don’t want to interact because they just don’t want to get involved with Geisler. I know of scholars who have told me that as well.

Licona and his supporters believe we engaged in a personal “crusade” against Licona. In what seemed like a kind of doctrinal paranoia, Licona falsely claims Geisler is “criticizing me” or a “crusade against me” (twice, emphasis mine). He said, “I’ve been in the crosshairs of Norman Geisler,” as though he was a special target I wanted to kill. The truth is we have never attacked him as a person, but only his views. I have said many times that I like Mike as a person and love him as a brother in Christ. However, we try never to put fraternity over orthodoxy or cloud our love for God’s truth by how nice a guy is or how good a friend the person is. This cannot be said of Licona or his friends for their writings are toxic with personal attacks. One can look to Craig Blomberg’s recent book to illustrate the point.

It’s hardly paranoia when it’s true. Go to Geisler’s web site and you see a section called Licona articles. In just the articles alone there are twenty right there. Note that William Lane Craig was not gone after even though Craig has publicly stated the exact same view. (And Craig is presenting this view in public debates.)

Geisler can say he likes Licona as a person and loves him as a brother in Christ, but if this is the way a friend treats a friend, then we should all be thankful that Geisler does not consider himself an enemy. It would be horrible to think of what that could be like!

Once again, with the going after of Blomberg, we find the Nazi quote trotted out. Anyone who had actually read the book would see exactly what Blomberg was saying, but Geisler’s statement works great for shock appeal. Interestingly, Geisler seems to think it was Blomberg’s intention to say Geisler is like a Nazi. It’s a wonder how he knows the intention. It’s also quite amusing to hear this talk about the person of Blomberg without responding to his arguments when Geisler complains about how Licona has supposedly gone after him as a person.

Geisler simply says the charges Blomberg presents are untrue, but since we have seen Geisler misinterpret information before, well why should we think this is the case? The difference is there are several other people I talk to who are saying the same thing that Blomberg is saying. I am more prone to believe all of them are right than that all of them are wrong.

Geisler then asks “Someone has rightly asked why it is that those who defend inerrancy are attacked and those who attack inerrancy are defended.”

As if the people who are opposed to Geisler are opposed to inerrancy. No. It’s his behavior and methodology, the very same behavior Blomberg is talking about. Most of us don’t need any convincing from Blomberg to see that.

In fact, we’ve even produced hard evidence. Thanks especially goes out to the work of Max Andrews who here showed what Geisler had been doing behind the scenes in passing around a petition. Shades of Gundry? With evidence like this, those of us who weren’t there for Gundry can look and see “Well it looks like Blomberg has a good case.”

Geisler goes on to say

“When mud-slinging occurs one can be reasonably sure that the attackers have run out of reasons and evidence to use in a rational argument and, thus, have resorted to attacking the person instead of the argument.”

It never occurs to Geisler apparently that some of what his opponents say could be true. If we bring up an account that we believe to be factual and directly relevant to what is said, well that’s mud-slinging and that proves we have nothing left to say. The problem is, we have plenty to say and Geisler’s inability to answer with sound scholarship is a testimony to that. Most notably, he has ignored mine and JPH’s newest Ebook that is an answer to him here. (And might I say it seems to be selling rather well so perhaps Geisler should respond to it. It will be hard for him to keep referring to us in a response constantly as “Son-in-law and friend.”

Geisler then goes on to say

Of course there are, no one disputes this. However, that is not the question. The question is: Are there better ones? Do they correspond with the meaning expressed by the Framers of the ICBI statements? The answer is an emphatic “No.” the Framers have spoken in commentaries and letters (see above)

So what is the first way of knowing that the ICBI statement is better than the Lausanne one?

Why?

Because the framers have spoken!

Well geez. I should start promoting my blog as the best apologetics blog on the internet and my podcast as the best apologetics podcast on the net. Why? Well because I think it is! That ought to be enough to convince anyone? (And no, I am not making any of those claims. I know I have much work to do in learning more and more for the blog and podcast, but I hope readers and listeners like where it is now.)

What is more, I know of no other inerrancy statement ever made that was the work of some 300 interdenominational and international scholars that is more extensive and more complete and has been more widely accepted as that of the ICBI. Even the membership of the largest body of evangelical scholars who believe in inerrancy, the Evangelical theological Society (ETS), consisting of over 3000 members, adopted the ICBI statement as the definition of their brief inerrancy statement by an overwhelming 80% vote (in 2006). If Mr. Licona and his New Testament critical friends think they can improve upon it, let them try.

Question. Is that the Evangelical Theological Society or the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society?

You see, I found this interesting quote online:

In short, the ETS framers would not affirm any of these and Pinnock has not denied any of them. If he really wants to clear the record, then all he has to do is deny all 21 of these in clear and unequivocal terms. If he does not, then his unrecanted written views are contrary to what the ETS statement really means since the framers would not agree with any of them. And it is an evangelical tragedy of great magnitude that the Executive Committee of ETS and a majority of its members have retained Pinnock in what has now become the formerly Evangelical Theological Society.

Please note those last four words.

Formerly Evangelical Theological Society.

Oh wait. Some of you are wondering where this quote is. You want to make sure it’s accurate.

Okay. You can find it right here.

So this raises a question.

You see, this vote to approve ICBI according to Geisler took place in 2006. You can see it in the quote above.

But yet his statement about ETS being the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society took place before then.

Want evidence? Look here.

This is why Geisler resigned from ETS.

Please note this date.

“Why I Resigned from The Evangelical Theological Society
Norman L. Geisler
November 20, 2003”

Now last I checked, 2003 came before 2006.

What are the reasons he gives?

1. ETS Has Lost Its Doctrinal Integrity

2. ETS Has Adopted a Revisionist Interpretation of Its Own Doctrine.

3. ETS is Now Operating Contrary to Its Own Historic Precedent

4. ETS is Logically Inconsistent with Its Own Doctrinal Basis

5. ETS Acted Inconsistently with Its Long-Standing Journal Policy

6. ETS Has Acted Contrary to Previously Approved Presidential Decisions

7. ETS Refused to Consider Pinnocks Major Work on the Topic

Now as to whether these claims are accurate or not, the important thing is Geisler thinks they are and he thought they were before ETS approved the ICBI statement.

So what suddenly changed in all of this that suddenly this group is worth mentioning again? Is it just that their say-so counts when Geisler wants it to, but it doesn’t when he doesn’t?

I wonder how many would think today that Licona deserves to be a member. If they say so, are they suddenly without integrity again? If they do say so, are they with integrity?

Either way, we couldn’t trust a vote because Geisler can make it go either way with the evidence. He can say ETS just isn’t Evangelical any more or he can say “Well they might have lost their credibility, but they’re still scholars!”

And as for those 300 scholars, how many of them are actually scholars? How many have PH.D’s in a relevant field to critique Licona’s work? Some names include Hal Lindsey who is not a scholar and Frank Schaeffer who has become an apostate. I wonder if the ones who are still alive would side with Licona or not on this. Wouldn’t that be interesting?

And as for making a better statement, I would have no problems with that. In fact, Geisler should welcome that. After all, wouldn’t that affirm inerrancy for a new generation?

When he responds to the charge that ICBI is not a creed, Geisler says

Of course it isn’t, and it does not claim to be. That does not keep it from being a very good statement, or even the best one produced by a broad group of scholars to date. Nor does it hinder it from being right when it condemns “dehistoricizing” the Gospels as many critical scholars are doing today (see citations above).

But again, who says it is the best? Why it’s Geisler and ICBI. Anyone see some question begging going on?

Geisler also responds to a statement that it ICBI is too conservative. Licona never said this however. Instead, he said that it was the most conservative statement that there is. Whether it is too conservative or not is not the question. I am quite sure that AIG has people there who would say Geisler is too liberal.

Now we get into something amusing and personal with Licona’s charge that many books defending ICBI are not published by standard publishers.

“Third, this charge is amusing and ironic since the recent book attacking ICBI inerrancy which was blessed by Licona and many of his New Testament critic friends was self published by Licona’s son-in-law and his friend!”

To begin with, Licona is referring to books by Geisler. Now there’s an important distinction. Academically, JPH and I are laymen. You might think of us as exceptionally learned ones, but we are still laymen. We do not have credentials that a publisher should look at us.

Geisler does. He has been published by several reputable publishers. He has credentials. He has a reason publishers should listen to him, but they have not been with these latest books of his. He has had to self-publish them. Why is that?

Of course, we can thank Geisler for making a reference to our book, which he does not seem to want to name (Perhaps he doesn’t want his fans to read it and see a good critique of his position), nor does he want to mention mine and JPH’s name, perhaps for the same reason. We encourage everyone to go out and read Defining Inerrancy.

Let’s look at some other charges Geisler raises

“(2) He believes there are or may be errors in the Gospels, for example: (a) on the report about when Jarius daughter died; (2) on whether the centurion made his request in person to Jesus; (c) whether the woman anointed Jesus two days before the Passover.”

This is just dishonest. Let’s look at what Licona really said.

Iconoclasts like Bart Ehrman are now responsible for the shipwrecked faith of many. For them, if the Bible is not absolutely true in every detail, we should reject it. (This is a good spot to remind ourselves that if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is true even if it were the case that some things in the Bible are not.) Ehrman has a polished routine in which he articulates a list of Gospel differences. Was Jairus’ daughter dead or alive when Jairus asked Jesus to heal her? It depends which Gospel you read. Was Jesus crucified on the day after the Passover meal or the day before the Passover meal? It depends which Gospel you read. Did the temple veil split before or after Jesus’ death? It depends which Gospel you read. Was there one or were there two angels at the empty tomb? It depends which Gospel you read. How many women went to the tomb? It depends which Gospel you read. And so on. Ehrman says the Gospels disagree on more matters than those on which they agree. And by the time he’s through, many evangelicals are saying, “Say it ain’t so!” I know of several believers and even a pastor who have walked away from their faith as a result of Ehrman’s lectures and books. And they are rendered easy prey for Ehrman by the approach fostered by Geisler.

and

So, we must ask what constitutes an error? Is Matthew guilty of an error when redacting his genealogy of Jesus or for paraphrasing Jesus’ words by addition for clarification? Is one of the Gospels in error when Matthew (9:18) says Jairus’ daughter was dead when he approached Jesus while Mark (5:23) and Luke (8:42) say she was alive or when Matthew (8:5-13) portrays the centurion making his request in person while Luke (7:1-10) describes the event with the centurion never appearing before Jesus or when Matthew (26:2-16) and Mark (14:1-11) describe a woman who anointed Jesus two days before Passover whereas John (12:1-8) says it was six days before Passover or where Matthew, Mark and Luke report that Jesus was crucified on the day after the Passover meal whereas John says it was on the day of or after the Passover meal? When we read these stories in a sense requiring a wooden literalism, there are undeniable contradictions. But when we read them in light of their biographical nature and recognize the authors were employing literary devices at home in that genre, the tensions melt away.

Licona’s saying he has a response to these supposed contradictions. It involves the literary genre which dispels the idea that they go against inerrancy. Licona is simply presenting these asking Geisler how he will respond to them because these are real problems. It would be crazy to deny this. Geisler instead twists it saying these are things that could be considered errors. Geisler himself gives no answer in the article on how he would explain them.

(4) Licona affirmed that Joseph Holden, president of Veritas Evangelical Seminary dismissed Gary Habermas and Paul Copan as Adjunct faculty members because “they denied the inerrancy of the Bible on account of their failure to condemn the interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints” (Note 6). President Holden affirmed in a letter (June 2, 2014) that this is false. Holden wrote, “In the footnotes, it says I dismissed Habermas and Copan for their support of Licona and failure to condemn his interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints. When in fact, they were dismissed because of their own expressed view of inerrancy that became apparent in their defense of Licona.”

I look at this and wonder what the real difference is. This is for all intents and purposes a distinction without a difference. They were dismissed for defending Licona. I wonder what it could have been on….But they weren’t dismissed for denying inerrancy. Well isn’t that what this is all about? If Licona is denying inerrancy in Holden’s eyes, then to defend him is to deny inerrancy.

(6) Licona affirmed that I refused to attend a particular panel discussion. In any event, one cannot help but be impressed with the quasi-omniscient powers of critics who can read another’s mind. This leads to arrogant charges like the following: Licona asserted that “In Geisler’s mind, there is no need for discussion in an academic forum because he apparently thinks he already knows the correct answers; all of them.” I have participated in untold academic discussions and debates over the last fifty years, so I have learned to pick carefully the ones in which I participate.

Of course, it could be Geisler also did not attend because he knew he was not in charge and could not sway the debate the way he wanted. We also anticipate that this is why Geisler has avoided a challenge that has been made to him. Note also that when this challenge was posted on his defending inerrancy web site, it was deleted.

(9) ICBI view of Inerrancy actually undermines Inerrancy. By a strange twist of logic Licona argues that the ICBI view of inerrancy actually undermines the authority of the Bible because showing one error overthrows the Faith.

First, by this same logic people should not believe Christ rose from the dead since a sophisticated naturalist might convince them that miracles are not credible. Or, people should not believe God exists since a sharp atheism might convince them that He does not exist.
Further, this objection confuses reliability and inerrancy. If a critic could prove (and none have) one real error in the Bible it would overthrow the ICBI view of inerrancy, but it would not overthrow the Faith.

The problem is too often ICBI has been married to Christianity. If one goes down, the other does as well. The same happens with young-earth creationism. If the Earth is not young for some, well that settles it. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.

Now of course someone could say a good argument could argue anyone out of any position. Indeed it could, which is why we want only the essentials for Christianity. If God does not exist, Christianity is false. If Christ did not rise, Christianity is false. If there is an error in Scripture, Christianity can still be true. Even Geisler admits this as shown above. It’s a wonder then why he’s attacking a book defending the resurrection when the resurrection is essential for faith and inerrancy isn’t.

Geisler says

This is what B.B.Warfied meant, and Licona misunderstands. For Warfield too believed that the Bible was divinely authoritative and inerrant and, as such, one error would destroy that divine authority/inerrancy. However, it would not overthrow the Faith since the Faith could be true apart from inerrancy.

But this is what Licona says that Warfield said

Let it not be said that thus we found the whole Christian system on the doctrine of plenary inspiration. . . . Were there no such thing as inspiration, Christianity would be true, and all its essential doctrines would be credibly witnessed to, as in the generally trustworthy reports of the teaching of our Lord and of His authoritative agents in founding the Church, preserved in the writings of the apostles and their first followers, and in the historical witness of the living Church. Inspiration is not the most fundamental of Christian doctrines, nor even the first thing we prove about the Scriptures. It is the last and crowning fact as to the Scriptures. These we first prove authentic, historically credible, generally trustworthy, before we prove them inspired. And the proof of their authenticity, credibility, and general trustworthiness would give us a firm basis for Christianity, prior to any knowledge on our part of their inspiration, and apart, indeed, from the existence of inspiration. The present writer, in order to prevent all misunderstanding, desires to repeat here what he has said on every proper occasion. . . . Without any inspiration we could have had Christianity; yea, and men could still have heard the truth, and through it been awakened, and justified, and sanctified, and glorified.

Licona has said nothing about consistency or the importance of inerrancy. He’s simply made the statement that the faith does not hang on inerrancy. If Geisler agrees and says Warfield says the same, then how is Licona getting Warfield wrong on that?

(10) Licona also makes other statements that are seriously mistakes. One is that (a) “the doctrines of the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Gospels are faith doctrines that cannot be proven.” (b) Another is that a historian should be “making no theological assumptions pertaining to whether they [the Gospels] are divinely inspired or inerrant.” These are both based on Licona’s admission that he (c) “unashamedly confess[es] the historical critical method.” Given that Licona sees Genre criticism as part of this endeavor, no wonder he can believe in contradictions in the Gospels (see above) and say “Bioi offered the ancient biographers great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches,…and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus, 34, emphasis added).

But Licona does not believe in contradictions in the Gospels! In fact, he disavows them! He is also right in that when you work as a historian, you do not presuppose your conclusion. I also agree that inerrancy cannot be proven. It can be accepted, but one can always be open to being wrong.

Yet Geisler once again misrepresents Licona’s position and takes a little snippet of what he says and thinks that that means Licona applies that to the Gospels in that way and that they must necessarily error. He doesn’t.

(12) Licona criticized me for twisting the arms of other seminary presidents. This reckless charge misrepresents the facts. At the same time, he has attempted unsuccessfully to convince some of the orthodoxy of his view. He even made a yet unadmitted trip of some distance to try to convince one influential Christian leader of the orthodoxy of his unorthodox view—only to be unsuccessful. Another one even set up a forum for him to express his view, after which the Seminary president said he would not hire him on his faculty. Liconna tried to convince a third seminary to accept his view, after which they dropped him from their Adjunct Faculty. One faculty member who attended the meeting said, “It was worse than I thought.” Yet I did not contact a single seminary and ask them to reject Licona from their faculty. Nor did I “turn” to seminary presidents “to come out publicly” against him when I could no longer get enough high-caliber scholars to speak against his view.

Now I know who some of these leaders are and I know the circumstances behind them. I would like to see if Geisler can come forward and tell the whole story and then be fine with Licona telling the whole story as well and see how the accounts differ. Considering we have evidence of the petition above, then I am more prone to believe Licona in this regards that this has happened. The problem is Geisler is using unnamed sources again and expecting us to take them as authoritative. I don’t.

But we do thank Geisler for admitting he could not find enough high-caliber scholars to speak against Licona’s view. We would in fact like to know which high-caliber scholars he did find. Could those be named? How many publications do these have in SBL?

Licona’s son-in-law has a web site dedicated to attacking me regularly by name and even making an insulting video for YouTube with Licona’s blessing. Anyone who examines the two approaches can see the difference.

I do? I have this one, and while there is some humor on there, there is serious matter as well. Geisler simply has indignation that someone responds to him this way. The reason there is much laughter at Geisler’s approach is because we all see the inconsistency in it. Perhaps Geisler should not have made the first move by going after Licona’s livelihood. This is like the bully who beats up other kids on the playground and then cries when someone comes and stands up to him.

As for the church fathers, I have something on that, but I’m waiting for an expert on the patristics to examine it. We can at least say that is the more proper way to go about matters, but the final authority is Scripture and Geisler will need to make a case from strong scholarship for his position.

Geisler can call our view neoevangelical, but that will not bother us. We make our presentation based on sound scholarship and seeking to be more informed on the meaning of the text and that is being a blessing to many. We have seen the damage that a wooden and literalistic approach to Scripture has had on several and we will not repeat that.

We hope that Geisler will instead respond to specific charges and to Defining Inerrancy and keep in mind that the open challenge still stands and it will stand until it is met.

Yes. There is a problem. There is a shark in the waters who sees opposition constantly encroaching on his territory. Let’s hope before too long it will be safe to step into the waters of academia again before being attacked. After all, why should those who defend the resurrection of Jesus be attacked?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

New Resource: Defining Inerrancy

What’s the latest resource available from Deeper Waters? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters!

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been on the forefront of Norman Geisler’s attacks on my father-in-law, Mike Licona. I’ve been constantly at work showing that the criticisms don’t work and that in fact, Geisler’s approach as well as that of his followers will severely cripple the ability of the church to engage the culture. If anything will produce more Bart Ehrmans, it is the approach of Geisler.

Today, my ministry partner, J.P. Holding, and I have unveiled our latest work in this area bringing this out beyond just the blogs and YouTube. Now you can hold much of the information we’ve written as well as some new content in your hands, well, provided those hands have a Kindle or a tool that can read a Kindle.

May I introduce to you Defining Inerrancy!

This book is equipped to help you realize that not only do we hold to inerrancy, but that it can be defended without it having to be the style that Geisler and his company insist on. There is inerrancy that can stand proud recognizing the truths discovered through years of work and scholarship in the Gospels rather than one that will shun the academy and lead to a rigid fundamentalism.

Not only do we have excellent content in here, but we have a great foreword by Craig Blomberg himself. Blomberg in his foreword lays out the importance of the Ebook that we’ve written and why it is that he thinks that this battle matters as well.

The question in all of this has never really been about inerrancy, though some want to make it about inerrancy. It’s been more about how it is that the Bible is to be handled in this time. Geisler’s approach leads to a rigid literalism and disregards the work of the academy on grounds that no serious NT scholar will take seriously. You can be sure that the students who are taking Geisler’s work and embracing it might be able to intellectually somehow convince themselves that Ehrman is wrong, but they will not be able to convince others.

For a Christian to be able to defend the NT today, he’s going to need to be able to interact with modern NT scholarship and show from the viewpoint of scholarship when a case is wrong. Is there such a thing as bad NT scholarship out there? Just as much as there is bad theology and bad philosophy! What’s the antidote to this? It’s not to eliminate all NT scholarship any more than it is to eliminate all philosophy and theology. The antidote is good and sound scholarship. If your case is true, there will be evidence for that case.

I urge everyone to please go out today and pick up a copy of Defining Inerrancy and tell your friends about it as well. I hope that this volume will equip you to be able to go out and defend the truth of Scripture to a new generation and for that new generation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

In Defense of Craig Blomberg

Is Craig Blomberg a scholar that should be avoided? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Craig Blomberg’s excellent book “Can We Still Believe The Bible?”. I found it to be an excellent book that I highly recommend.

Apparently, some others didn’t think so.

Specifically, Norman Geisler, ever on the hunt for people who are going after his version of inerrancy.

There is no need to guess what Geisler’s stance is. He outright tells us.

“Denver Seminary Prof Denies Inerrancy

Link: http://tinyurl.com/k5nnjw2

Dr. Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary attacks inerrancy in a recent book titled “Can We Still Believe in the Bible?” While he believes the Bible is reliable, he denies it is inerrant in the same sense that the 300 scholars of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy meant when they produced and signed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (the same statement adopted by the Evangelical Theological Society’s ~3,000 members) and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics.”

Well let’s look at this part alone.

Does Blomberg deny inerrancy? No. He doesn’t. In fact, as a member of ETS, he would have to hold to inerrancy in some sense. Therefore, right at the start, the well is poisoned as the reader will think that Blomberg does deny inerrancy.

Looking in the article itself, we see the following:

“The real answer to the question posed by Craig Blomberg’s book title is: Yes, we can believe in the general reliability of the Bible, but No we do not believe in its inerrancy, at least not in the sense meant by the framers of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). Blomberg mistakenly attributes his own version of inerrancy to the ICBI.”

I find this incredible. The Bible is reliable, yes, but this work is going against ICBI and therefore it cannot be accepted?

Frankly, as an apologist who debates much more online and elsewhere than I’m sure Geisler is nowadays, I would be ecstatic just having people realize that the Bible is reliable. I really don’t care for this all-or-nothing game where we either have to go with all-out inerrancy or else we must remain skeptical.

And I do say that as an Inerrantist.

Yet Geisler goes on to say that Blomberg does not believe in its inerrancy, at least not according to the standards of ICBI. So this raises a question.

Can someone disagree with ICBI and still believe in inerrancy?

It’s kind of the same situation Blomberg addresses in his book about KJV-onlyists. If the KJV is the only true form of Scripture, does that mean mankind was without Scripture until 1611? Does that mean someone must learn King James English to know what Scripture says?

In the same way, does this mean that until ICBI came along that no one knew what inerrancy was or no one truly held to a view of Scripture that could be called inerrancy? If ICBI does equal inerrancy, then it would mean that inerrancy would not be a historical doctrine of the Christian church. If ICBI does not equal inerrancy, then one could believe in inerrancy without holding to ICBI as inerrancy is a doctrine that can exist independently of ICBI.

Geisler says Blomberg attributes his own version of inerrancy to ICBI. Is that really what’s happening? Why not just go with Blomberg’s own view of his view? If Geisler considers himself authoritative to interpret the ICBI statements, shouldn’t Blomberg’s view of his own position be authoritative? Shouldn’t he be the best one to say what he really believes?

And if he says then that he believes in inerrancy, should we not accept that?

The Geislers of this world will have nothing of it. It’s either their way or the highway.

And this is why so many people today are really starting to say that they don’t want to identify with inerrancy like this any more. If Geisler wants to blame someone for his legacy of ICBI going to waste, nay, for his entire life’s work being tarnished entirely, then all he needs to do is look in the mirror. There are several looking at Geisler’s approach in all of this and saying “If this is what is meant by believing in ICBI, I want no part of it.”

Count me as one of those.

Keep in mind some didn’t sign the ICBI document because they thought it gave too much leeway. It’s my understanding that Henry Morris would not sign it because it would allow for old-earth creationism. Does that mean that Henry Morris denies inerrancy? While I would disagree with Morris’s interpretations, I would hardly say that not signing ICBI meant a denial of inerrancy.

Let’s also deal with a misnomer. These were not 300 scholars who signed this. No doubt, some were scholars. No doubt, some are not. Hal Lindsey, for instance, would not be counted as a scholar. You do not get to call someone a scholar because they know a lot of stuff about the Bible (Supposedly) or some other field. I would consider myself quite well-read on Scripture, but in no way would I consider myself a scholar at this point. That’s a goal to aim for, but it has not been reached.

So anyway, let’s move on.

“However, our response here is not with persons but with principles. So, our critique is not against any person but only the ideas expressed. Our evaluation is focused on what they teach, not on their character or motives. We respect the individuals as scholars who disagree with inerrancy and love them as brothers in Christ. Our concern is with one thing and one thing only: Is their teaching in accord with the doctrine of inerrancy as defined by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI)? So, when we use of the word “inerrancy” in this article we mean the ICBI view of inerrancy as expressed in the following documents.”

Well it’s nice to know that there’s nothing personal in all of this. If this were true however, it would certainly be quite different from the hounding that went on after Mike Licona. Yet I am sure I am not the only one concerned about this last statement. The only concern is if the teaching is in according with ICBI inerrancy.

I have made a statement before that I think Geisler has ICBI in the back of his Bible.

I am now convinced I was wrong.

It is in the very front.

” Blomberg is aware of all these ICBI statements on inerrancy and even cites some of them (Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible? [hereafter B], 136, 149, 170, 178, 222, 262). He even goes so far as to claim agreement with everything in the “Chicago Statement’ (CSBI) on inerrancy except one implied word (B, 273), the word always in the last line. He believes that ICBI is claiming that a denial of inerrancy always has grave consequences. Otherwise, Blomberg even calls the “Chicago Statement” on Biblical inerrancy (CSBI) “a carefully crafted document” (B, 149). Further, he praises Article 18 of CSBI, saying, “this affirmation reinforces everything we have been discussing” (B, 170). In addition, he commends the “reasonably well highlighted” statement on genre criticism in CSBI (B, 178). Strangely, Blomberg even commends one Chicago statement more than the other, declaring: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics CSBH) has not had nearly the lasting effect that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy did, which is a shame, because in many ways it is the superior of the two documents” (B, 261, n. 98).”

Looking at the references here, it’s noteworthy that on page 178, Blomberg does say it could have been highlighted more. He goes on to say “Institutions or organizations that claim to abide by it must allow their inerrantist scholars the freedom to explore the various literary options without reprisal.”

If only these words could be written in gold.

This is indeed the situation. If a scholar says he believes in inerrancy, let him make his case. Let him use the best scholarly tools for examination. If his case is false, it will not hold up. If it does not have the support from the data, others will not follow it. On the other hand, if it is true and if it is supportable, then we should seek to go with it. Are we not to be people of truth?

If Christians are called before an inquisition of sorts because they are wanting to explore an option, then we have reached a dangerous day for Christianity. We can no longer then say we are people of truth if we fear to look at where we think the evidence could lead.

Consider the case for the resurrection. If we assume inerrancy at the start, it would be easy to write a book defending the resurrection. Here’s how it goes.

The Bible is Inerrant.

The Bible says Jesus bodily rose from the dead.

Jesus bodily rose from the dead.

And then we can all sleep well tonight as the case has been proved.

Or you could actually have to do the real scholarly work of examining the texts, not assuming inerrancy, coming at it from the grounds that a skeptic would, and still being able to demonstrate the Bible is right on the question of the resurrection.

I would even suggest that a minister wanting to get up and teach on the resurrection on Easter Sunday while he will likely hold to inerrancy in a conservative church, he should still give reasons from a scholarly perspective about why the resurrection is true. (In fact, I did this when I spoke at my grandmother’s funeral. I had ten minutes to speak. The first five was building a case for the resurrection as briefly as I could. The last five were explaining what a difference it made.)

Geisler says there are some points that according to Blomberg one can believe without denying inerrancy. What are these?

“1. He denied the historicity of Jesus’ command about getting the coin from the mouth of the fish (in Matthew 17:27), saying, “Yet even the most superficial application of form criticism reveals that this is not a miracle story, because it is not even a story” (“NT Miracles and Higher Criticism” in JETS 27/4 [December 1984] 433). But this is a futile attempt to defend his disbelief by diverting attention from his denial of the historicity of this text on the grounds that it was not a story but a command (B, 263, n 113). By focusing on these factors, attention is deflected from a crucial point, namely, that Blomberg does not believe this event ever happened, as the Bible says it did. Blomberg added, “Further problems increase the likelihood of Jesus’ command being metaphorical” (B, “NT Miracles,” 433).”

Unfortunately, Geisler has not paid attention to the story, strange for someone who wants to go by what the text “literally” says. Nowhere in this account do you hear of Simon Peter going and catching a fish and getting a coin out of its mouth. Blomberg would not deny that it could happen, but the text does not say that it did. This would be strange as with many miracles, even where Jesus is not directly present, there is a record that the event took place. Here, there is not.

So could there be a metaphor? Let’s consider something. I know it’s a bizarre idea, but how about we examine Blomberg’s case and critique it from a scholarly perspective? Otherwise it becomes this.

The Bible is Inerrant.

Geisler’s interpretation is what the text says.

Therefore, Geisler’s interpretation is Inerrant.

Blomberg’s interpretation disagrees with Geisler.

Therefore, Blomberg denies inerrancy.

It’s at this point that one wonders if Geisler has become his own pope.

“2. According to Blomberg, “The author’s intention [in Genesis] is almost entirely to narrate the “who” rather than the “how” of creation” (B, 151). So, almost nothing informs us about how origins occurred, whether by creation or by evolution.”

In fact, I would agree with this. This is in fact why I interviewed John Walton on The Lost World of Genesis One</a. I agree with his view that Genesis is meant to tell us about the nature of God and His purpose in creating rather than how He did it or if He used evolution or not.

Has Geisler made a sufficient case that the Genesis account must answer our apologetics questions about origins? That might be what the big debate is about today, but was it really the question that would have been on the mind of Moses's readers? Was it really the argument they would need? Would they be more interested in how the creation came about, or in dealing with the polytheistic accounts around them?

Since this is in fact my position, if I say Genesis is focused on God and His purposes, how is that a denial of inerrancy? It seems quite odd really as well. It's like saying "The problem with Blomberg's view is that He allows for an approach that focuses on the God of creation rather than how He created."

Hmmmm. Which position do we think is more important in Genesis? Is it the who or the how?

And keep in mind, a view that was very much framework in its approach was that of Henri Blocher in his work "In The Beginning", which was in fact endorsed by J.I. Packer. Packer, we must remember, is one of the framers of ICBI. Such a view could allow for theistic evolution and it would not be a problem.

Therefore when we come to point 3

"3. Blomberg claims that “Some [inerrantists] opt for forms of theistic evolution in which God creates the universe with all the mechanisms built in to give rise…to each new development in the creative ‘week’” (B, 151). This too is deemed compatible with inerrancy according to Blomberg."

We have it answered already then. Geisler wants us to rise up in defense with the code word of "evolution" as if to assume that this must be stomped out at all costs. Strange this comes from such a defender of Thomism since many Thomists really have no problem with theistic evolution.

#4 on the list is

"4. He adds, “Must there have been a historical Adam and Eve? . . . Many scholars, including a few evangelicals, think not” (B, 152). Blomberg adds, “Nothing in principle should prevent the persons who uphold inerrancy from adopting a view that sees adam (“man” or Adam) and hawwa (“life or Eve) as symbols for every man and woman…” (B, 152)."

And once again, we have a code situation. If Geisler wants to argue against this view, what he needs to do is to critique a position like that of Lamoureux in "Four Views on the Historical Adam" which I reviewed here. It won’t work to say “Inerrancy, therefore the position is false.” Geisler has to show that his interpretation is the right one. Now I do not find Lamoureux’s position persuasive, but I am not ready to go after him. I am happy to say it is not an area of expertise for me so I am indeed speaking as a layman on that matter.

“5. Further, Blomberg believes that “None of this theology [about Job’s view on suffering] requires Job to have ever existed any more than the teaching of the parable of the Good Samaritan requires the Samaritan to have been a real person” (B, 156). He added, “Almost nothing is at stake if Job never existed, whereas everything is at stake if Jesus never lived” (B, 223).”

Question then. Would the lesson of Job be true even if Job never lived? Answer. Yes. Would Christianity be true if Jesus never lived? Answer. No. Why? Because Christianity is entirely dependent on real actions taking place in space and time. The lesson of Job is not dependent in that way. Does that mean it is untrue? No. I have no problem accepting Job as a historical figure.

“6. Likewise, he asserts that “Surely, however, someone might argue, Jonah must be completely historical, because Jesus himself likens his death and resurrection to Jonah’s experience with the great fish (Matt. 12:40; Luke 11:30). Actually, this does not follow at all” (B, 157). ”

Unfortunately, here Geisler gives part of the argument and then ignores the rest. The last sentence would tell you there is more. Blomberg makes the point that one could talk about Frodo going to Mordor and make a lesson out of it without thinking Frodo is a historical figure. The amazing thing is Blomberg makes a case for the accuracy of Jonah right after that and this is completely ignored by Geisler. It will sadly be ignored by his readers as well who will refuse to read Blomberg’s book and get the treasure trove of knowledge he has for us.

“7. Further, “Ultimately, what one decides about its [the Book of Isaiah’s] composition or formation need not have anything to do with biblical inerrancy at all” (B, 162, 163), even though he admits Jesus mentioned “the prophet Isaiah” as being author of texts in both sections of Isaiah (B, 161).”

And in dealing with this, Geisler will need to deal with an approach such as that found in The Lost World of Scripture, which was co-authored by John Walton who I referred to above and by Brent Sandy, who I interviewed here.

“8. Isaiah may not have predicted “Cyrus” by name 150 years in advance (in Isaiah 45:1) of his reign because “Cyrus could in fact be a dynasty name (like “Pharaoh” in Egypt) rather than a personal name (B, 162). This too is deemed compatible with inerrancy.”

How could this be incompatible? If Cyrus is indeed a name of a dynasty, then this would be an accurate statement. Geisler can only assume that it is not. If the Bible is teaching about a dynasty that will free the Jews from exile, then he is speaking the truth. I in fact wonder if the same could be going on with the ruler Abimelech in Genesis. The name can be translated as “My Dad is King.” Could this not point to a dynasty as well?

“9. According to Blomberg, the prophet Daniel may not have predicted all the things his book indicates because “Perhaps two works associated with the prophet Daniel and is successor, written at two different times, were combined” (B, 164).”

See my reply to #7 for this.

“10. Blomberg, argues that treating sections of “Matthew as Midrash” and not as history would have been taken by his audience “who would have understood exactly what he was doing, not imagining his embellishment to be making the same kinds of truth claims as his core material from Mark and Q” (B, 166).”

This was the position of Gundry which we will be getting to. I will save it for later.

“11. Likewise, Blomberg believes that the story of “Lazarus” (in Luke 16) is a “parabolic fiction” (B, 150).”

There are many fine evangelical scholars who see the story as a parable. I also see it as a parable and parables are fictional, unless Geisler suddenly thinks the fires of Hell are literal and that there is literally a great chasm between Heaven and Hell.

Well if that’s the case, why would there be someone named in this one?

Lazarus would be named so that he would be seen as honorable in comparison to the rich man. The only unnamed character in Ruth, for instance, is the one who refuses his duty to Ruth. This is a way of shaming him. Jesus’s parable is not meant to give the furniture of the afterlife, but rather to teach us that just because one has wealth in this life, that one is not necessarily living in the favor of God, and vice-versa for poverty. By not even giving the rich man a name, he is showing that the rich man is essentially not someone worth thinking about.

#12 deals with views based on Blomberg’s interaction with Mormonism. Not having read the book, I will not comment.

Moving on to some of Geisler’s responses, I wish to go to #6 straight away since it deals with an area I do consider myself knowledgeable on.

“Traditionally, many have considered the Gospels to be a genre of their own (sui generis) because of their unique nature as a revelation of God. However, Blomberg buys into the currently popular notion that the Gospels should be interpreted by extra-biblical genre. He wrote: “Once we determine, as best we can, what a passage affirms, according to the conventions of its style, and genre, a commitment to inerrancy implies acceptance of the truth of those affirmations. But a commitment to inerrancy does not exclude a priori any given literary style, form, or genre that is not inherently deceptive” (B, 164). In short, we must determine first what a passage means according to its genre. We cannot know in advance that it is going to be historical just because it is a narrative or is in a historical book. Further, the genre can be an extra-biblical like the Greco-Roman genre. Hence, an extra-biblical genre can determine the meaning of a biblical text. This is, of course, contrary to the ICBI statements on genre for several reasons.”

The notion is not the “Currently popular” one, but the currently scholarly one. Has Geisler critiqued yet the work of Burridge or that of Talbert and shown that their views are false?” If he has not, then he has not grounds for going against the scholarly consensus just because they go against his pet viewpoint.

Also, keep in mind Geisler was challenged on this by my friend Greg Masone, who was subsequently banned from Geisler’s page for pointing out the challenge. Geisler has NEVER accepted this challenge. It can be found here.

Because of this, it means Geisler is expecting his critics to answer his charges, but he is not willing to answer theirs.

Geisler considers these views extra-biblical, but what does this even mean? Is one only allowed to write Scriptures in a certain genre? Would it be that if Matthew began writing his Gospel that he’d hear a voice from Heaven say “Matthew! Do not write as the pagans do even though your work will be read on them! Write in a style completely unique that no one has ever done before!”?

Note also this usage of extra-biblical material is highly selective.

For instance, Geisler thinks that Genesis 1 teaches an old Earth. Why? Because modern science has shown us that it does.

So let’s bring in a YEC at this point. My hypothetical YEC at this point will say

“Geisler believes in an old Earth in Genesis 1, but this is based on the currently popular notion that modern science is right in its view of the age of the Earth. A true biblical interpretation however will not bring in extra-biblical science but will instead allow Scripture to be its own interpreter and show that the Earth is indeed young. Therefore, Geisler’s view is certainly incompatible with inerrancy and he is using extra-biblical science to deny the historicity of a young Earth and therefore the text.”

And yes, this is not my view at all. If this is said, what can Geisler say? If he points to his own authority, is he not making himself a pope of inerrancy?

In fact, none of Geisler’s defenses work here. Consider the first.

” First, ICBI Article XIII forbids the use of extra-biblical genre to determine the meaning of a biblical text. It reads “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (emphasis added). Further, CSBH Article XIV says: “We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical facts” (emphasis added). ”

So extra-biblical genre cannot be used, but extra-biblical science can be used. The Jews in the time of Jesus would know about Greco-Roman bioi. The Jews in the time of Moses would not know about modern science. Was the truth of Genesis 1 then lost until modern science came along? Why can Geisler use information the Jews did not have to interpret Genesis 1, but Licona and Blomberg cannot use information the Jews did have to interpret the Gospels?

“Second, ICBI demands interpreting “Scripture by Scripture” (CSBI Article 18), not the Bible by extra-biblical genre. That is, nothing external to the New Testament text should be hermeneutically determinative of the meaning in the text. In some cases, one can derive the meaning (use) of a term from contemporary use of the word. But the meaning of a text is discovered from studying the text in its grammatical and historical setting, as compared to related Scripture on that text.”

Nothing external to the NT should be used to determine the meaning of the Gospels, but science that is external to Genesis one can be used to determine the meaning of Genesis. Why not have Scripture interpret Scripture? (Even though that is a nonsense statement. Interpretation is done by minds. Scripture comes from a mind but it does not have a mind itself.)

” Third, the alleged “purpose of the author” of which Blomberg speaks is not the determinative factor in understanding a text. For there is no way to know what the author had in his mind behind the text except by what he affirmed in the text. Hence, the appeal to the linguistic philosophy of John Austin to determine the illocutionary (purpose) act or the perlocutionarly act (results) is futile. Usually, all we have in Scripture is the locutionary act (What is affirmed). So, the locus of meaning has to be in what is affirmed, not why it is affirmed because often we are just guessing about that. Thus, the genre critic Blomberg is using extra-biblical ideas to determine the meaning of the biblical text.”

And if this is the case, then why does Geisler keep pointing to what the founders meant when they wrote X statement in ICBI? When Geisler has done that, he has just given us another text and we cannot understand his intent. Why do we keep hearing about what the founders intended and how that matters for ICBI, but we can’t try to know what the authors intended?

Keep in mind that this is not really a Thomistic stance. No less a Thomist than Mortimer Adler has written on how one should seek to understand the authorial intent of a text. Keep in mind that also because we do not know why a practice was affirmed, it does not mean the readers at the time did not know.

Yet this whole situation gets even more bizarre.

“Not only do the ICBI statements repeatedly contradict Blomberg’s view on inerrancy, but he repeatedly distorts the ICBI statements and demeans the character of those who defend the inerrancy of Scripture. We note first of all his unscholarly and unprofessional characterizations of those who defend the historical biblical view of inerrancy as represented in the ICBI statements.”

Yes. Because coming out and saying that people deny inerrancy and seeking to have their livelihood removed and passing around petitions behind their backs is perfectly acceptable behavior.

Geisler is like the schoolyard bully who goes after the other children who refuse to play the way he does, but when someone stands up to him, he then cries “Foul!”

“Blomberg often employs condemnation and exaggeration instead of refutation related to inerrantists claims. He labels inerrantists, for example, as “very conservative” (B, 7), “overly conservative” (B, 217), “ultra conservative” (B, 11, 214), “hyperconservative” (B, 13), “extremely conservative” (B, 7). Of course, this tends to make his views look more moderate by comparison, when, as we shall see, they are in direct opposition to those the mainstream evangelical view as reflected in the ICBI statements. He even likens ICBI defenders of inerrancy to Nazis and Communist (B, 8)! He quotes with approval the statement, “the far left and the far right—avoid them both, like the plague” (B, 8). At one point he stops just short of questioning the Christianity of ICBI supporters (B, 254). What is more, he sometimes makes it very clear about whom he is speaking by name (Robert Thomas, David Farnell, William Roach, and myself)–all Ph.D. in biblical related studies who have written critical reviews of Blomberg’s positions. He also addresses Dr. Al Mohler and Master’s Seminary in negative terms.
Such exaggerated language is not only unprofessional and unscholarly, it borders on being morally libelous, as the following statements reveal. Strangely and inconsistently, Blomberg responds strongly when other scholars use a negative term about his views (B, 254).”

It is amusing to see Geisler say Blomberg compares them to Nazis. What Blomberg does is refer to an English teacher in high school who lived through Nazism and Communism and gave the advice to avoid the far-right and far-left both like the plague. He referred to what she went through because that was relevant. It is bizarre to think that Blomberg was saying that people like Geisler are like Nazis. (Though it is obvious Geisler thinks he knows the authorial intent of Blomberg)

As for questioning the Christianity, Blomberg does not do this. What does he say? He points out how Robert Thomas referred to scholars who use form and redaction criticism as experiencing a “satanic blindness.” Blomberg in the note in the back says “I have no idea how a self-confessed evangelical Christian author dares to use such language in speaking of fellow evangelical Christians!”

Apparently, Blomberg should have just said Geisler had a satanic blindness about him and that would have been okay. So once again we see the double-standard. Thomas says someone has a satanic blindness. That’s okay! Blomberg raises his own charges going nowhere near that and that’s not okay!

Geisler can complain about this being unscholarly and even suggests it is libelous, but let him remember that he would not have been in this position if he had not thrown the first punch. Geisler goes after others saying they deny inerrancy and even goes after their professional positions, but woe befall anyone who dares to just suggest that he is misbehaving at all. It looks like Geisler thinks not only is his interpretation inerrant, but his behavior is inerrant as well.

Also Blomberg knows about his critiques, but are they all critiques in relevant fields? Being a Ph.D. in philosophy does not entail one to be an authority on Biblical matters. This is amusing since Paige Patterson has referred to Mike Licona as a philosopher, when he is not, and most of those in the Geisler crusade are in fact the philosophers.

“Blomberg goes further than extremist labeling of inerrancy defenders. He claims that we “simplistically” distorted the evidence in order to oust Robert Gundry from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) over his midrash denial of the historicity of certain sections of Matthew (B, 167). He charges that we engaged in a “political campaign” against Gundry (B, 167). Elsewhere, he alleges that we have utilized a “standard ploy throughout his [my] career” when “trying to get someone removed from an organization” (B, 262 n. 111). He adds the allegation that inerrancy is used as “a blunt tool to hammer into submission people whose interpretation of passages differs from ours…” (B, 125). These charges of an alleged sinister and continuous career of unjustified activity on my part are both untrue, unjustified, and unethical. Indeed, they are serious moral judgments of motives for which Blomberg should apologize. Someone has rightly asked why it is that those who defend inerrancy are attacked and those who attack inerrancy are defended.
Without attributing motives, one thing seems clear: “Blomberg is dead-set on broadening the acceptable borders of orthodoxy on inerrancy, the result of which would be a more inclusive statement that would embrace scholars (like Blomberg himself) who have moved well beyond inerrancy as traditionally understood and as expressed by the ICBI. This may explain the use of such passionate and uncalled for language in describing those who wish to retain a more traditional stand on inerrancy. Perhaps a lot of their passion and zeal arises from the fact that those who hold a more liberal view on inerrancy may fear their view may be deemed unorthodox too. This might explain their pejorative terms about inerrantists such as “watchdog.” But given the analogy, it is certainly better than being a “kitty cat” on these crucial issue. The truth is that evangelicalism needs more watchdogs to ward off the wolves in sheep’s clothing who are attacking inerrancy.”

Blomberg should apologize….

It’s hard to read that without having one’s eyes roll.

Note that no one is going after someone for defending inerrancy. What is going on is people are gone after because of how they are defending it and what they are defending. For the watchdogs, it seems Geisler has lost sight of what really matters. He goes after Licona for a masterful defense of the resurrection because it goes against his view of inerrancy, thus cutting people off from an excellent defense. He goes after Blomberg because while Blomberg shows the Bible is reliable, he does not agree with ICBI inerrancy as Geisler sees it.

The ICBI is driving everything else. It has practically become an idol.

It would be believable that Geisler does not go around seeking to remove people from organizations if we did not have evidence of this. Alas, we do. We saw it happen with Licona and I had immediate experience of this.

You can see a link to such a petition here. This comes from Max Andrews. The only change he has made is to remove the email of Geisler since this is personal information. The content otherwise is the same. Max Andrews has written about that here.

It is no doubt true that inerrancy has been used as a hammer and that hammer has been constantly wielded by Geisler himself.

Geisler then goes on to say the following are untrue.

“1. No one offered an “intelligent response” to Gundry (B, 167). Even Blomgberg acknowledged that D. A. Carson wrote a critique of it, as did Doug Moo. Not to mention the scholarly response given at ETS and articles published in the Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society (JETS, 2003).”

This would work if that had been what Blomberg said. It isn’t. Blomberg said “not a single critic of Gundry who believed his view was inherently contradicting inerrancy has offered what Carson defines as “intelligent response”–wrestling in detail with the exegetical and historical methods and their applications that Gundry utilized.”

It would have been nice had Geisler accurately represented what Blomberg said. Blomberg knows very well of the responses, but keep in mind Moo and Carson did not believe that it was a denial of inerrancy. They were arguing the proper way. They were arguing on exegetical grounds.

“2. A majority of speakers at ETS were in favor of retainng Gundry in its membership (B, 166). This is a misleading statement since, when given a chance to vote almost three-quarters of the membership voted to ask Gundry to resign.”

Blomberg says the majority that showed up showed up after Geisler went around politicizing the event and calling up people to come to the meeting. It’s noteworthy that Geisler in this never responds to how Blomberg shows Geisler after the Pinnock situation with ETS went around calling it the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society. (P. 143) Yes. When the society went against him, it was not evangelical. When he needed someone to go against Licona, it was evangelical.

Funny how that works.

This would deal with #3 as well

“3. The proceeding of the ETS which resulted in Gundry’s removal from membership was not fair or representative (B, 166-167). On the contrary, it was the result of a long (two year) process, during which papers and articles were presented pro and con. The meeting at which the vote took place was deliberate and orderly and the vote was taken properly. Even Gundry accepted its conclusion.”

and to go along with that, #4.

“4. The vote for Gundry’s removal was not a bare minimum “just over” what was necessary (167). The vote was 116 in favor of his removal and 41 opposed (as reported by Christianity Today 2/3/1984) which is almost 74% in favor of his removal. This is nearly three-quarters of the membership present and well over the two-thirds (67%) necessary. ”

Yes. This was the vote. Here’s the question. How many people abstained? How many people were still there period? Does this meant that the ETS at the time only had 157 members? This seems quite unlikely.

“5. ETS did not “expel” Gundry from membership (B, 167). The vote was to ask Gundry to resign, not to expel him. If he had refused to resign, then there could have been another vote to expel which was unnecessary because Gundry voluntarily resigned.”

Here, we see a distinction without a difference. Today, we would not see any difference between asking Eich to resign from Mozilla and expelling him.

“6. The process of Gundry’s removal was a “political campaign” in which “circulating advertisements” occurred (B, 167). This too is false. No “campaign” was held and no “advertisements” were circulated. Each ETS member was given a paper with quotations from Gundry’s book so that they could make an intelligent decision on how to vote.”

Since this process took years supposedly, how about this? How about each person voted being given Gundry’s book to read and decide based on that? If they were given portions of it to read, then who decided what portions?

In fact, that sounds eerily similar to the petition going around against Licona.

Who selected the portions of the book in that case? I seriously doubt it was Licona!

“7. “Gundry’s views were simplistically presented…” at the ETS meeting (B, 167). This too is false. Exact and complete quotations were given of Gundry’s views to each member. There was nothing simplistic about it.”

See above and see the petition against Geisler. Excuse me if I’m skeptical based on the evidence I have right before me.

“8. Geisler utilized a “standard ploy throughout his career…when he is trying to get someone removed from an organization,” namely, getting all the living framers to agree with him in order to oust a member (262 n. 111). I never did and such thing. In the Pinnock issue, Roger Nicole contacted all the founders of ETS, but I was not a founder of ETS and was not part of any such effort. I have argued Licona’s views are contrary to the ICBI framers, but I was never part of a “ploy” or effort to get him ousted from the ETS organization, nor any other group. Neither, have I done it “throughout my career” (which is now almost 60 years long because there was never another occasion in all those years where a group of framers were involved in getting someone removed from an organization in which I participated. These are serious, sinister, and slanderous charges that impugns the character of another brother in Christ and call for an apology from the one who made them.”

Once again, see the petition from above and I can tell people based on my personal experience that I have seen this happen. I was one of the first people to hear about Geisler going after Licona after all.

“9. Geisler resigned from ETS because they exonerated Clark Pinnock of the charges against him. This is partly true. After all, Pinnock claimed to believe in inerrancy, yet he has said in print that there were false predictions in the Bible (see Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover, 50), and he denied the Bible is the written Word of God (Scripture Principle, 128). I was also disappointed with the process by which Pinnock was retained because it was not completely fair and open. However, the main and underlying reason I left ETS was because I believed it has lost its integrity by allowing a scholars to join who did not have to believe the doctrinal statement on inerrancy as the founders meant it (see my article, “Why I resigned from the Evangelical Theological Socity,” at http://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/ETS/2003-WhyIResignedFromTheETS.htm.)”

I just want to point out that the page of Blomberg’s book where he talks about this also contains how Geisler spoke of the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society, something Geisler has not addressed in this article.

“10. Geisler has become increasingly more conservative over the years as indicted by the successive schools at which he has taught (B, 143-14). This is false. In each case my move to an established school was because I was offered what appeared to be a better opportunity for service. In the case of the two Seminaries I helped start, they were after I retired and was asked by others to help them start two seminaries (where I still teach) which stress apologetics which has been a passion of mine from the beginning. It had nothing to do with the degree of conservativeness of the Seminaries. They all have sound doctrinal statements. None of them was significantly more conservative than the others.”

I urge people to just read what Blomberg himself said, though it is amusing to hear that Geisler wants to avoid the charge that he has become more conservative.

“11. Only a “tiny minority” throughout history held that inerrancy is the only legitimate form of Christianity (B, 221). This is a purely “Straw Man” argument since almost no one holds this view. ICBI, the view we are representing, states clearly that “We deny that such a confession is necessary for salvation” (CSBI Article 19). It adds, “We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history” (CSBI, Article 16). ICBI also held that there are “grave consequence” (CBSI Article 19) for denying inerrancy. But it never affirmed that is the only legitimate form of Christianity. So, this criticism is an empty charge, applying to almost no one.”

One such person affected by this view as Blomberg points out is Bart Ehrman. I have in fact met many “ex-Christians” who would also qualify under this. While we are pleased to see Geisler say inerrancy is not necessary for salvation, it has been put on too high a pedestal by him. When one goes after a masterful work on the resurrection because it does not agree supposedly with a view of inerrancy, then we have a problem.

Moving on, another point worth mentioning

“Of course, Blomberg laments that an overwhelming majority (nearly 74%) of the ETS voted to ask Gundry to resign from ETS because of his denial of the historicity of certain passages in Matthew. Blomberg remains proud that his is one of the small minority who voted to retain Gundry in ETS. Indeed, as even Blomberg admits (B, 168), the framers of the statement (of which I was one) “had Gundry in mind” when the CSBH statements were made which we certainly did. We wrote: “WE deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (CSBH Commentary on Article 13). No amount of re-interpretation can override the clarity of this statement or the testimony of living framers as to its meaning. And when the framers die, the written words of the framers (as here) will remain to vouch for the meaning of their words.”

This is not what Blomberg says on page 168. He says

“Geisler and Roach may well be correct that the framers of a later document known as the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics ahd situations like Gundry’s in mind when they penned ‘We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.’ ”

Yet Blomberg continues to say

“But if so, the wording of this document failed to meet the challenge, because it cannot be applied until there is agreement on which narratives “present themselves as factual.” Approximately half of Jesus’s parables are presented without any contextual matter (like the use of the word “parable”) to indicate that they are not presenting themselves as factual. Internal evidence and formal similiarity to texts inside and outside the canon that are specifically labeled as parables allow us to intuit their nature. Similarly, it was internal evidence and formal similarity of Matthew to Jewish midrash, buttressed by the external evidence of divergent parallel accounts in Mark and Luke, that led Gundry to his position. However mistaken he may have been, if one admits there is a single parable in the Gospels not explicitly called a parable, then one cannot use the Chicago Statement on Hermeneutics ant more than the Chicago Statement on inerrancy, to exclude Gundry’s position.”

Blomberg is then saying even if Geisler is right in what he had in mind, then it still does not work. He is not at all saying that he knows what Geisler had in mind and he is saying that the wording that was used is not sufficient and if Geisler says all we have is the text, then Blomberg is following proper procedures. Why can Geisler point to his intent over and over while saying authorial intent cannot interpret a text?

Let’s move on.

“It is incredible that anyone, let alone a biblical scholar, would defend the orthodoxy (i.e., compatibility with inerrancy) of Mike Licona’s Greco-Roman genre views.”

No. It is not incredible. Those of us who do read the relevant scholarship are not at all shocked. (Should Geisler know that this will be my work on my Master’s in NT? I will be looking to see if the resurrection of the saints is historical or not. I seriously doubt I can turn in a paper that says “Inerrancy, therefore historical” and get my Master’s. If so, please let me know so I can start teaching now and working on my PH.D.)

Geisler then goes on to quote the 1,001 critiques he has of Licona. You know, the ones where he has ignored that myself, J.P. Holding, Max Andrews, and others have already answered him but alas, everyone else is supposed to answer Geisler and he is to answer to no one.

Geisler’s charges could be taken seriously if he would take the critiques of his position seriously.

In conclusion, Geisler has once again said something that will convince the few followers he has left, but the scholarly world as a whole will ignore it. This is probably why his latest book is published by Xulon, a self-publishing firm, since it is quite likely no academic publishing company would take it. Will there be buyers? Oh yes. I suspect most of these will be at the schools that Geisler and his followers teach at where it will be required reading. Will it prepare the readers to interact with real NT scholarship? No. If anything, it will set them back further and get them closer and closer to apostasy when their views cannot stand up and they have to run from scholarship.

As for Blomberg, I am pleased to keep reading his excellent works and even more pleased to call him a friend now. In fact, those who are interested in his latest book are invited to listen to my podcast, the Deeper Waters Podcast on April 26th this year. I will be having him on as my guest again to discuss it.

Also, for all interested, Geisler’s critique can be found here because as I have said, I care about letting people see critiques that I know about.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Can We Still Believe The Bible?

What do I think of Craig Blomberg’s latest book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

CanWeStill

I was one of those fortunate enough to get a copy in advance of Blomberg’s latest book for review purposes. As it stands, I was expecting to get a book on new findings that demonstrate the reliability of the Gospels and answers to atheist objections and matters of that sort. I was disappointed in that regards.

But sometimes, it’s good to be disappointed.

Blomberg’s book was not what I expected, and that’s a good thing, because he dealt more with issues surrounding the Bible. I don’t think he wrote this for skeptics of the faith as much as he wrote it for Christians to get them to focus on what’s really the most important, and there have been too many debates lately that have lost that focus.

The book moves in a gradual path from one point to the next connecting the chapters. There is a progression that the reader can easily pick up on that answers the major contemporary issues that are surrounding the Bible today. Also in this, Blomberg goes to great lengths to avoid extremes. There’s more of a happy medium in the topics that he raises that he encourages us to embrace.

The first topic Blomberg deals with is if we have the right words of the Bible or not. After all, if the text has just been so terribly corrupted, then how can we even begin to say we believe the Bible since we have no idea what it says?

We’ve seen those memes before that have the facts about the Bible about how the copies we have are late and there are only copies and copies and we possess no originals and since all of this is true, well we just can’t really trust the Bible.

The sad reality is that if the text of the NT cannot be trusted, the text of any other ancient document cannot be trusted. Now keep in mind at this point I am not saying the information conveyed in the text is true. I am simply saying that the text has been handed down reliably.

For every ancient text, we only have copies. Some of these are indeed centuries away from the original text. Sometimes, we only have a few extant copies. Yet the time span of the Bible is closer by far than other ancient texts and when it comes to the number of texts that we have, there is an embarrassment of riches.

In fact, we have more evidence of the reliability of the Biblical text than we did when Ehrman had his crisis of faith that he recounts in several of his books. Yet still, this idea persists that we can’t know what the authors of the Bible originally said. (Interestingly, Ehrman does think he can get to what the oral tradition was behind the text of the Bible. So Ehrman thinks he can take an inaccurate text and use that to get an accurate oral transmission?) A sign of this is that recently on Peter Boghossian’s Facebook page he put up a link to Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman and said he was sure the apologists would not comment.

As if any of us were just unprepared for Ehrman and had nothing to say.

This is also especially so since there is always new information coming. A book that came out shortly after Blomberg finished the manuscript I’m sure is The Early Text of the New Testament. There is even a rumor that we could have a 1st century copy of Mark, which would really devastate much of this ideology.

For those interested, Blomberg even goes into Old Testament textual criticism. He notes that the skeptics would have a stronger case here, but it is not made. I suppose the NT is the one that most want to deal with and sadly, too many Christians do ignore the OT.

On the other extreme, Blomberg advises not heeding groups of people like the KJV onlyists. As he tells us, each generation it seems this movement arises again and must be dealt with. I won’t go into what Blomberg says here, but he goes so far as to say the KJV onlyists go past the Muslims in the way they choose one text and just exclude all others.

The next topic to consider is the canon of the Bible. Did the church get it right with the canon? Blomberg here shows how many of the books were debated for the OT and the NT both but eventually made it in. He makes a case for why the Apocrypha was not included in the sacred literature and discusses the books that were selected to possibly be in the canon but in the end, were rejected.

What’s the other extreme to having the canon be flexible entirely? Well it’s to say that the Bible stands alone and is our only guide for anything. This gets ridiculous when we see many books on a Biblical Guide to X, where the topic is concerning matters the Bible was never meant to address. One can find principles that are consistent with the Bible, but let’s not get that confused with what the Bible is really authoritatively teaching. If you want to learn algebra, your best bet is a math textbook and not the Bible.

The next section deals with the topic of translations of the Bible. Why are there so many? Blomberg points out that there are different theories on biblical translation. Some go for a word-for-word translation as much as possible. Some want to focus on getting the meaning across more than a literal translation of the words. Then some try to go in the middle. There’s a time and place for each. It would be a mistake however to always think that the literal is best.

Naturally, there are some translations to avoid such as the NWT of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Mormons. I was also thinking Blomberg might have included something I read when I was in Bible College, which is the Scholar’s Version, the one put out by the Jesus Seminar which included the Gospel of Thomas.

Meanwhile, there is an extreme to avoid here and that has been a debate over gender-inclusiveness in the Bible. Now if we’re talking about turning God into a female for instance, then yes, I have a problem with changing that language, but when we talk about mankind in the generic sense, I really don’t have a problem. There are commands that are clearly wrong for men and women both and changing the language to indicate that is not an issue, yet sadly so many Christians have been ready to attack anyone that moves in a direction they don’t really like. This included an all-out attack on the TNIV.

Blomberg ultimately concludes that one can take any of the best-selling translations of the Bible and find the Gospel message in there. While I have my own preferences at times in translation, I do have to agree with that one.

Next we come to a big one. What about Inerrancy? As many know, I have been caught in the thick of this one having been someone who was a student at Geisler’s first Seminary he founded and even being one of his students for a time. I also happen to be the son-in-law of Mike Licona so when the Inerrancy wars started, I was right there.

One of the first points I really liked in this chapter was how Blomberg dealt with this idea that there is no academic freedom for many scholars since they have to agree to something in a statement such as Inerrancy. Blomberg points out that most scholars agree to that who teach at these institutions because in their background study for years, they’ve come to the conclusion that they agree and they don’t take such claims lightly. If they do change their minds, they move on from that institution to another. Unfortunately, stories like that don’t get attention. It’s when a professor gets “ousted” that the media suddenly show up.

Blomberg also says that “Inerrancy can be wielded as a blunt tool to hammer into submission people whose interpretation of passages differ from ours, when in fact the real issue is not whether a passage is true or not but what kind of truth it teaches.”

Too many times I have seen the idea put forward that because Inerrancy is true, a teaching is true. It could be young-earth creationism. It could be pre-trib dispensationalism. It could even be that the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is a real historical event instead of something apocalyptic!

Consider for instance the doctrinal basis for being a member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

“The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.

God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.”

So to answer someone like Geisler who would ask “Could Mary Baker Eddy join the ETS?”, the answer would be no. She would not agree with the second. Yet notice that believing in the first does not mean one automatically believes in the second. One can believe the Bible is Inerrant and still get the second question wrong in thinking the Bible does not teach a Trinity. Jehovah’s Witnesses do this. Yet they could certainly not join ETS.

If you want to know if a person denies Inerrancy, it is not to be found in looking at what that person thinks the Bible teaches. Where is the knowledge that they deny Inerrancy to be found? It is in saying that they think the Bible has errors in it.

It is not a surprise then that the opposite extreme in this chapter is someone like Geisler again. Blomberg points out that if Geisler and those like him had their way, there would hardly be anyone left in ETS. This is the same Geisler who likes to use ETS as a weapon in the Licona debate to point out how Gundry was voted against (Which is covered in the next chapter) but ignores that the vote didn’t go his way with open theism. At this, Geisler left the institution and called it the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society. Now that he needs the Gundry vote again for his case, then he can start using the ETS once more. Blomberg points out that Geisler has repeatedly left Seminary after Seminary, including the one he founded, because none of them were conservative enough for him. I concur with Dr. Michael Bird.

“I thought a big highlight was Blomberg’s critique of extreme views of inerrancy by Robert Thomas and especially Norman Geisler. It becomes clear that Geisler in particular is not a particularly pleasant chap to work with and has never found an institution that was worthy of him. Seriously, Geisler is the villain of this chapter and comes across as being slightly to the right of Atilla the Hun.”

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2014/03/craig-blomberg-can-we-still-believe-the-bible/

It is good to see evangelicals like Bird and Blomberg coming out and standing up to what has been going on and being willing to really use all the historical tools that we can to examine the Bible instead of imposing modern standards on the text.

Related to this is the fifth chapter on genre categories in the Bible. Again, Blomberg covers both testaments. He asks questions about the nature of Job, Jonah, and the authorship and dates of books like Daniel and Isaiah and asks if the critical approach to any of these would really be a death knell for Inerrancy, concluding that they would not.

When it comes to the NT, he brings up the Gundry issue that I hinted at earlier and again points out the way Geisler behaved in this one. Gundry had the idea that much of Matthew was midrashic and thus not meant to be read as historical. It was something the readers would have known about and thus would not be a danger to Inerrancy.

Geisler would have none of it and encouraged the ETS to oust Gundry from membership. Most of the society however said that Gundry should be allowed to make his case and let it be critiqued in the scholarly circles instead of by censuring him. If there was little to his proposals, they would not gain scholarly support and would die out. Yet in the end, Gundry was voted out of the society. How did this happen when so many were saying what they said?

Answer. Geisler started a political campaign and had friends show up who normally would not come to meetings. The views presented were not presented in their fullest and just barely over the 2/3rds needed voted to remove Gundry. Blomberg points out that someone as stalwart as D.A. Carson did not see a violation of Inerrancy here, though he certainly saw no credibility to Gundry’s views. No shock Geisler has followed similar tactics against Mike Licona.

The simple solution to all of this is to do what we encourage skeptics to do. Follow the evidence where it leads. If the evidence shows that the Gospels are Greco-Roman biographies for instance, and scholarship across the board tends to go this way, then let us go with it. Let us find a way to shape our worldview according to the facts. Let’s not shape the facts according to our worldview.

The final chapter is on miracles. Now I must admit this one was probably the one that I thought could be improved on the most as in dealing with objections to miracles, there are mainly endnotes referring to Keener and Hume. For a book like Blomberg’s I would have liked to have seen some of the argumentation take place, although I certainly agree that pointing to someone like Keener is the way to go.

In this chapter, Blomberg looks at the miracles in both testaments and focuses mainly on the purpose of the miracles and their nature in comparison to claims in other religions. He notes many of the accounts are rather restrained and are meant for a specific purpose instead of just show. This is especially so in the case of Jesus’s miracles in the NT. He also uses the NT time to go after the health and wealth word of faith teachers. Many people Jesus healed did not have faith.

There are two extremes to avoid. The first is to believe all miracle claims. All claims of miracles should be believed or disbelieved based on the evidence that we have available. The next is to be overly skeptical of all miracles, and this includes Christians who believe the miracles of the Bible, but stalwartly refuse to admit any miracle in any other religion. This becomes a double-standard.

Meanwhile, you can also have claims such as John MacArthur with the “Strange Fire” conference where all charismatic were painted with a broad brush. Now I am in no way charismatic, but I agree that MacArthur crossed a big line with this one. Naturally, one can be on guard, but one should always be open to being wrong, and I have many Christian brothers and sisters in the charismatic movement. I have no desire to question their salvation.

In the end, I think Blomberg’s book is an excellent one. It’s not one on biblical apologetics per se, but it does fill a necessary gap. Blomberg’s writing remains us where our true focus needs to be. I highly recommend this one for students of Scripture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Here Comes Inerrancy Again

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 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

Literal Is Best

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth! Tonight, I’d like to continue our discussion on how we read the Bible. For a lot of people, we hear about the importance of the literal hermeneutic over and over. Now to be sure, there are several parts of the Bible that are straight-forward, but does that mean a literal hermeneutic is best? I think an interesting example of the problems with saying that should be applied consistently can be found in the gospel of John.

First off, in chapter 1, is John the Baptist Elijah? He answered no, but Jesus says in the synoptics that John was the Elijah to come. Is there a contradiction. No. John the Baptist was not a reincarnation of Elijah as if he was literally Elijah appearing somehow again, but he was a prophet likened to Elijah enough to be considered his forerunner.

In John 2, Jesus tells the temple authorities that if they destroy this temple, he will raise it up again in three days. They immediately say that the temple took 46 years to build and he was going to raise it up again in three days? Jesus was not speaking of that temple however, but the temple of his body.

In John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again. Nicodemus replies thinking that Jesus literally means being born again and asks how a man can be born if he is old. Can he literally climb into his mother’s womb a second time in order to be born?

In John 4, the Samaritan woman comes to Jesus and Jesus tells her that he has living water for her so she’ll never thirst again. The woman is immediately thinking about the water of the well and asks him how she can get this water so she will never have to come to the well again.

In John 6, Jesus tells the crowds that unless they eat his body and drink his blood, they have no life. It is at this point that many people walk away thinking that he is giving them a hard saying and he even asks the twelve if they will go too. Of course, Peter speaks on their behalf saying that Jesus has the words of eternal life.

In John 11, Jesus tells his disciples that they need to go and wake Lazarus up because he has fallen asleep. The disciples think that Jesus is talking about actual sleep and tell him that if he has fallen asleep, he can wake up, not understanding that Jesus is talking about death.

Throughout the book of John, Jesus regularly uses metaphoric language and John regularly uses words in his gospel that can have a double-meaning. When Jesus speaks of the Spirit in John 3, there is an ambiguity as the same word can be used to refer to the wind, for instance. Good Johannine scholarship can show several such examples.

When we get to John 16 in fact, the disciples finally tell Jesus that at last he is speaking plainly, the word that is used in John 11 when he tells his disciples plainly that Lazarus is dead. It seems if anything then, Jesus did not often speak in literal language and throughout the book, the people who misunderstand him are the ones who take him literally.

Now in all of this, this is not to disparage the idea of reading a text literally often. The idea however is that if we are ones to say “The literal reading is the best reading” then would we not be the ones in the book of John that get the message of Jesus wrong regularly?

Just something to think about.