Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 5

Does Jelbert have a refutation of why we suffer? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter is a response to Bruce Little’s essay on why Christians suffer. At the start, Jelbert (Whose work can be found here.) says “You could say that this is evidence for the consistency of God, rather than evidence for God in the first place.” I agree. In this chapter, we are looking to see if Christianity can provide an adequate explanation for why we suffer.

Now Jelbert says this, but does he go there? I am not convinced he does. For one thing, one of the first things pointed out is that indeed, not all things happen the way we want to. Jelbert talks about prayer studies and other such things. I have never been convinced by prayer studies. You have to ask who is praying for who and assume that God is going to answer like a machine would. If any husband has a wife out there, they understand this. What will make your wife happy and please her one day will thoroughly annoy her the next. There are way too many variables with prayer studies.

Jelbert can also speak about the No True Scotsman fallacy for people who aren’t Christians. The thing is, I think this can be the case sometimes. If someone says it every time, it is indeed a cop-out, but there are many people who have a said faith rather than a lived faith. I think people can openly apostasize and such, but we should not use the claim too easily that they weren’t a real Christian. Real Christians can do evil. All I need to know that is to look in the mirror.

The problem with objections here is that the Christian position is that God does know data that we shouldn’t. Why on Earth should this be a surprise? If there is a God, I suspect He knows loads more about reality than I do. I suspect He knows more than all humans that have ever lived combined. What Jelbert needs to do is show that there is no good reason for what seems to be needless suffering. This is one reason in fact that the logical problem of evil is not really debated. The emotional and existential one is, but not the logical one. It is granted there is no logical inconsistency between the existence of God and evil.

Jelbert also says that the idea that evildoers will be punished seems to hopeful, but this seems odd grounds for rejecting an idea. You reject it because it seems too hopeful? Jelbert says this is common sense to want this and thus not evidence for God, but he said at the start this is not about evidence for God, but rather consistency for God. One of the great things about Christian theism is that it does explain that evil will be judged.

In fact, I consider this a major point. Evil is a problem for every worldview and not just Christianity. Atheism needs to explain the existence of real evil and based on Jelbert’s chapter on morality, I do not think Jelbert has an explanation. I say that with some hesitancy because in this chapter it looked to me like Jelbert was jumping all over the map. My point still is that we all have to explain it.

As I write this, it was just yesterday that we learned about a shooting in Las Vegas that killed and injured several. This was evil. In my worldview, I have no hesitancy saying that. Now I need to explain this evil. I think a lot of Christians who had no room to explain evil in their worldview due to not thinking about it were left reeling.

Atheism also has to explain it. One major difference is that Christianity I think can provide hope. It’s a wonder that evil should be seen as a problem for Christianity since evil is one of the things Christianity is meant to address. It’s why we have the cross.

Jelbert spends the rest of the chapter talking about abuse in the church as a result of the Scriptures. He goes to Romans 13 and says that people in the pew view what is said from the pulpit as the commandment from God. That is indeed part of the problem. People in the pew do not educate themselves enough to know how to assess what a pastor is saying.

Jelbert then says that because of this, we have a group of people who think they are ordained by God to dictate the behavior of their subordinates. Overall, I think Jelbert is being too harsh here. I have been to many bad churches, but I don’t think any of them really match what I see here. Still, there are cases, so let’s get to them.

Bill Gothard is one. I recommend that people go to Midwest Outreach like I did. There, you can do a site search like I did and find numerous critiques of Bill Gothard. Mark Driscoll is another one, but again, the church quickly did point out that we have numerous problems with this kind of behavior.

I just want to know that if Jelbert wants to do this, will he be consistent? Will he say that Stalin and Mao and Pol-Pot were being consistent with atheism? Sure, not all atheists are murderous dictators just like not all Christians are power-hungry leaders, but does Jelbert really think that the kind of leadership being done in some churches is really what Jesus had in mind? On the other hand, there is no one to have anything in mind for the murderous dictatorships of atheist rulers. All they have to say is that there is no God and then what tenet of atheism are they violating?

Jelbert goes on to say that if you take the theology seriously, then you believe that all is of God and God is good so that everything that happens must be good. You can then call evil good. Unfortunately (For Jelbert), the Bible doesn’t do this. It calls some things evil and wicked. All that God created is good, but not all that happens is good. Even Romans 8 pointed to at the start does not say all things are good. It says all things work together for good, and even then, only for good to them that love the Lord.

As someone who takes theology seriously, let me be clear.

Evil is real.

Jelbert also writes about situations where the church seems to forgive the abusers and abuse the victims. This does happen, but it’s not just in the church. How many women have been blamed for rape because what they were wearing was asking for it? To say we are all sinners doesn’t work. Even sinners have to accept consequences here. David was forgiven of his sin, but there were still consequences. I wholeheartedly condemn abuse and I am stalwart in my insistence that the church needs to get its act together.

I also agree with Jelbert that if all we do is pray, we have to wonder about what we’re really doing. Now in some cases, yes, prayer is all you can do, but if you can do more, then you’re in error to not do so. Interestingly, James would say the same. If you just go to your brother and say “Be of good cheer” and do nothing to meet his needs, you have not helped him.

Jelbert ends by saying that he is not trying to show that God does not exist here, but that the evidence is insufficient to accept it. Once again, it looks like he has forgotten that the chapter is not about the positive case but rather a consistent case. Jelbert has not shown an inconsistency in Christianity. He has shown an inconsistency in how it is lived out. That does not show it to be false at all. If he wants to say Little neglected to point out the suffering in the church caused by bad leadership, then I say Jelbert can be dismissed similarly because he failed to mention the suffering caused by wicked atheist leadership. If that does not work for Jelbert, then neither is it an argument against Little.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 1

Does the cosmological argument stand up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ve had sitting on the backburner for awhile another book besides Seeing Through Christianity to go through and that’s Evidence Considered by Glenton Jelbert. Jelbert has decided to go after Mike Licona and Bill Dembski’s book Evidence For God. Jelbert is a former Christian and it is interesting to go through what he has.

The first chapter is on the cosmological argument which was written by David Beck. It’s noteworthy that there is no distinction between what kind of cosmological argument is used. Craig uses one kind that is called the horizontal argument. This one goes with the beginning of the universe and largely relies on Big Bang Cosmology. The vertical kind does not require any science at all and is more philosophical and asks what is the basis for the existing of the universe.

Imagine you wake up tomorrow and you hear some weird music playing. You ask “What is causing this sound?” It doesn’t seem to make sense to ask “What caused this sound?” since the sound is going on in the present. The music is continually playing so you ask what is causing it.

Now another day, you wake up and you go outside to do a morning walk and you find when you open the front door a giant crystal orb is blocking your path. You ask “What caused this?” because it’s being put there is an event that happened in the past. It is often missed that you could just as much ask “What is causing this?”

Why could you ask that? Because too often, the existence of these things is treated like a given. It’s as if things can exist by their own power. One could say that we could commit suicide by our own power, but none of us can by our own power say “I don’t want to exist!” and just poof out.

Jelbert begins his response by saying we could grant the argument and it doesn’t really get us close to theism. He says that all religions are able to use this shows this, but can they all use it? For instance, Mormonism would not use this argument since matter is really eternal in Mormonism with gods begetting gods that create their own planets where the denizens can become gods.

The Abrahamic religions can use this because the vertical form definitely depends on one uncaused cause. Using natural theology and Aristotelian metaphysics, Aquinas can tell us plenty about the god that can be found. There is a false notion that to say that since natural theology alone can’t tell us what god there is, then there can’t be a god. In the Middle Ages, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian philosophers could all agree on the arguments of natural theology. They’d determine which form of theism is true by looking at special revelation.

From there, Jelbert goes on to talk about how Jeopardy recently defined atheism as “The active, principled denial of the existence of God.” Jelbert refers to this an absurd definition. Jelbert says “A definition of atheist as someone who does not believe there is a god, is the equivalent of saying that since the case has not been made, the burden of proof lies with the theist/deist.”

First off, this sentence is incredibly unclear. Thinking it was just me, I showed it to one of my friends who’s much more familiar with English and grammar only to get a similar response. My rule with the burden of proof argument is that anyone who makes a claim has a burden. If you come up and say “I am an atheist,” and I ask why, you need to back that. It doesn’t work to say “Unless you can demonstrate your case, atheism is true.” It could be that I am a theist who has terrible reasons for believing in God and yet God still exists. If I come to you and say I’m a theist, it’s not up to you to disprove theism. It’s up to me to demonstrate theism.

As for the idea about it being absurd, perhaps Jelbert would like to speak to these others.

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

William Rowe The Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy p.62

“Atheism, as presented in this book, is a definite doctrine, and defending it requires one to engage with religious ideas. An atheist is one who denies the existence of a personal, transcendent creator of the universe, rather than one who simply lives life without reference to such a being.”

Robin Le Poidevin Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion p.xvii

Jelbert goes on to say that the argument proves nothing about Jesus, virgin births (Which I do affirm), the resurrection, or any creed. Indeed it doesn’t. It is hardly a fault of an argument that it does not prove what it was never meant to prove. The argument could be entirely valid and Islam is true. Either way, atheism is false.

Jelbert goes on to argue that maybe the cause is itself physical. The problem with this is that in the horizontal form, the being is beyond space, time, and matter, which means it is not limited by any of those and thus it is not spatial, it is eternal, and it is immaterial. In the vertical form, it is a being that is not capable of change from another agent. Anything material is capable of such change. This is because in Thomistic and Aristotelian metaphysics, these kinds of things have what is called potential, which is capacity for change. Matter essentially has this. Thus, physical beings are ruled out.

Jelbert also argues that an infinite chain could possibly exist. This would be a problem for a horizontal version perhaps, but not a vertical one. There are two kinds of chains. In one chain, consider my wife and I. Suppose in a tragedy our parents all died through car accidents or some other means today. That would not mean that we suddenly go out of existence. In fact, we could have our own children still without our parents. (Obviously, we don’t want anything to happen to our parents of course.)

If this kind of chain is what the universe is, then an infinite chain could be possible. I leave that to the mathematicians. Yet what if our universe is not like this? Aquinas gives the example of a stick pushing a rock and the rock pushing a leaf while the stick is pushed by a hand. This is a short chain, but in this chain, if you remove any part, all activity ceases. All present activity is continuously dependent on past activity. If that is the case for our universe, then an infinite chain is not possible.

A Thomistic argument gives a chain where existence depends on something else existing. If all existing depends on another existence, then you have such a chain going on as with the rock being moved, then there’s no reason to think any existing would be going on right now. This is not chronological either. If it was, it would be the former chain. Too many atheistic arguments treat existing as if it was a given. It’s quite odd to think that so many atheists who want to talk about how God doesn’t exist don’t really say much about what it means to exist.

Jelbert then says that the third point is that there must be a single uncaused or infinite being. Jelbert sees a switch between cause and being, but it’s a wonder what we’re supposed to see. If anything is causing any change, it must be something that exists in some way, that is, it is. It’s a being.

Jelbert also says that Beck says that “We cannot make sense of the universe, the reality in which we live, apart from there being a real God.” Jelbert says that this is an admission that the feeling of not knowing is something Beck doesn’t like and he heals it with the idea of God. It’s a wonder how this is read. Beck just gave a statement of fact. Nothing is said about personal feelings in the matter.

Jelbert then goes on to say that this is what has been done for millennia, but this is indeed too much of a leap. The first leap is to assume an emotional case for Beck. The second is to assume that everyone thinks in modern individualistic psychological terminology.

If we want to play this game, then we could say that many people find a God distasteful who will judge them for their sins, require repentance, or disagree with their political views. This causes psychological discomfort. The way to quiet this is to argue that this God doesn’t exist to give emotional solace.

Does this apply to some people? Sure. Are some people also Christians for emotional reasons? Sadly so. Does this tell us about the truth? Not at all. Instead, Jelbert has given a reason that cannot be known. Saying that you have an explanation that explains something is not necessarily addressing something emotional. It could provide emotional solace as a plus, but that does not mean that it is false.

We will later on look at another chapter.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

A Response to John Tors On Inerrancy

What do I think of what John Tors said? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, I was away because my wife and I found out about a little Down’s Syndrome girl who was aged five and died suddenly. We went to Tennessee for the funeral. Shortly after I got back, I found out that I had been mentioned in an article by John Tors that can be found here.

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

Tors starts with a statement that Wallace makes in The Case for the Real Jesus when interviewed by Lee Strobel.

Now, finish this sentence, I said. When Christians say the Bible is inerrant, they mean …
“They mean a number of things. For some, it’s almost a magic-wand approach, where the Bible is treated like a modern scientific and historical textbook that’s letter perfect. Some Christians would say, for example, that the words of Jesus are in red letters because that’s exactly what he said.” (Bold Tors’s)

Tors immediately leaps into attack mode with a response that one wonders if he has really read Wallace at all.

It is typical of this sort of evangelical scholar to mock the view of inerrancy that takes it mean “having no errors,” but whether Wallace likes it or not, that is what inerrancy means. So this is not a “magic-wand approach”; it is the only approach consistent with the actual meaning of inerrancy.

Except Wallace never mocked a view of inerrancy as meaning the Bible is without errors. He went after a view of what that is. I suspect Wallace means more the idea that the Bible is like a modern textbook and every word had to be one directly said by the person involved, be it Jesus or anyone else, and that if we dare question that, then everything goes out the window. That Tors reacts in such a way to something that Wallace never said is quite revealing.

Wallace goes on to say as Tors quotes.

“Well, if you compare the same incident in different Gospels, you’ll notice some differences in wording. That’s fine as long as we’re not thinking in terms of quotations being nailed exactly, like a tape recorder. They didn’t even have quotation marks in Greek. In ancient historiography, they were concerned with correctly getting the gist of what was said.”

Tors responds to this point that is not controversial at all among NT scholars by saying

We have already seen Farnell’s devasting response to this approach. The Bible is not like other works of ancient historiography, because it is “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Of course, I have responded to Farnell here and here. However, this is hardly a response. 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! Anyone can look at the Gospels and notice that there are differences in wording. Are we to think Peter said radically different things when he made his great confession of faith to Jesus? Or, are we to think that he made a statement and the writers recorded the gist of it? (Note Tors. We don’t have the exact words anyway because Jesus was going around speaking in Aramaic and the Gospels are in Greek.)

Tors goes on to quote Wallace saying

“My definition of infallibility is the Bible is true in what it teaches. My definition of inerrancy is that the Bible is true in what it touches. So infallibility is a more foundational doctrine, which says the Bible is true with reference to faith and practice. Inerrancy is built on that doctrine and it says that the Bible is also true when it comes to dealing with historical issues, but we still have to look at it in light of first-century historical practices.”

Tors immediately fires back with

Wallace has it completely backwards; inerrancy is the more foundational doctrine, for, as we’ve said, if the Bible is not trustworthy on historical issues, it cannot be trusted “with reference to faith and practice.” So infallibility is built on inerrancy, not vice versa. Nor should we “look at [the Gospel books] in light of first-century historical practices” that allow for errors, inasmuch as the Bible is God-breathed, which is not a standard “first-century historical practice.”

It’s not a shock that Tors is the one who has it completely backward. Infallibility is the reason one holds to inerrancy. Derek James Brown in his dissertation on Inerrancy and ICBI quoted R.C. Sproul (You know, one of those guys who’s a framer of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy) who said

Though the words infallible and inerrant have often been used interchangeably and virtually as synonyms in our language, nevertheless there remains a historic, technical distinction between the two words.  Infallibility has to do with the question of ability or potential.  That which is infallible is said to be unable to make mistakes or to err.  The distinction here . . . is between the hypothetical and the real.  That which is inerrant is that which in fact does not err.  Again, theoretically, something may be fallible and at the same time inerrant.  That is, it would be possible for someone to err who in fact does not err.  However, the reverse is not true.  If someone is infallible, that means he cannot err; and if he cannot err, then he does not err.  To assert that something is infallible yet at the same time errant is either to distort the meaning of “infallible” and/or “errant,” or else to be in a state of confusion. (Page 25 of Explaining Inerrancy).

Wallace goes on to say

“I don’t start by saying, ‘If the Bible has a few mistakes, I have to throw it all out.’ That’s not a logical position. We don’t take that attitude toward Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, or any other ancient historian’s writings. For instance, does the first-century Jewish historian Josephus need to be inerrant before we can affirm that he got anything right?”

To which Tors replies with

Of course not. But 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.” In contrast, it seems very clear that Wallace is treating the Bible like simply any other book. Period.

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. Tors apparently lives in a world where the Bible has to be kept safe from historical research, lest an error be found. It also has to be written in a format that is amenable immediately to 21st century Americans, because, well, aren’t we the most important of all?

Wallace then goes on to say that

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.”’

Tors quotes multiple parts of this multiple times each time with incredulity, because, you know, incredulity makes a great argument. Wallace is saying that by the methods of historical scholarship, we know that this is Jesus’s view of Scripture. Wallace wants to treat Scripture like Jesus did. Tors seems to have a problem with that. He also imagines that Wallace has said there are historical or scientific errors in the text. It would be nice to know where Wallace said that. I must have missed that part.

We will next quote 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.”

To most of us, something like this is not problematic. People write something and they use their own words. Tors however, is always on the hunt for something that goes against his fundamentalism.

See? Just “like any other book.” Period.

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! Wallace goes on to give the reasonable conclusion to what he said with

“That doesn’t trouble me in the slightest. It’s still trustworthy.”

Tors, as expected, hits the panic button.

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. As we’ve seen, Gundry’s suggestion that non-historical additions in the Gospel According to Matthew would not be a problem because his readers would know what was historical from the Gospel According to Mark and from Q is patently a non-starter. Furthermore, if Matthew could add non-historical material, so could Mark have done, so that Matthew’s readers (and we) could not assume that everything in the Gospel According to Mark was historical. In fact, how could they assume that any of it was historical?

And, of course, Q is a figment of liberal imagination. But even if it weren’t, how could the readers of Q know whether any of it was historical? If Matthew and Mark could make up non-historical material, why could not the writer of Q? I have not yet found even one evangelical scholar who can answer this question.

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. If Tors is scared to apply historiography to the Bible, perhaps it is true then that Wallace (And myself) have a high view of Scripture and Tors has a low view of it. After all, Tors apparently seems fearful that if inerrancy goes out the window, that there’s no way of knowing any truth in the Bible.

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.

Strobel’s interview continues.

Do you think this idea of inerrancy has been elevated out of proportion to its genuine importance? I asked.
“At times…. Belief in inerrancy shouldn’t be used as an excuse not to engage seriously with history….”

Quick to panic again and make a mountain out of a molehill, Tors says that

Is this meant to imply that “engage[ing] seriously with history” will necessarily lead to the conclusion that there are errors in the Bible? In fact, inerrantists certainly do “engage seriously with history,” but they use already established facts as part of their analysis – much like, once it has been established that the Earth is round, that fact is used in all further geographic analysis. Now, since the Gospel writers were empowered by the Holy Spirit to remember Jesus’ words, and inasmuch as Scripture is God breathed, the historical information in the Bible is superior to that in any other source and stands in judgment of it.

All too often, what passes for “engag[ing] seriously with history” by evangelical scholars is the opposite; whenever a secular source makes a claim that disagrees with a claim in the Bible, it is assumed by default that the Bible is wrong,2 and therefore efforts have to be made to massage the Biblical testimony to fit – or we are simply to accept that the Bible is wrong.

While inerrantists do engage with history, and I speak as one of them, I do not think Tors does. Tors is not engaging with history but still pushing the claim of the Bible being God-breathed. I agree that it is, but Tors never tells what this means or how this plays out. How does he know the text is God-breathed without making a circular argument? Would he accept it if a Muslim said the same about the Koran?

Fortunately, we see that Tors has said that a British scholar has said we treat the Bible like any other book to show it’s not like any other book. Sadly, he says that this has been shown to be inappropriate, but with no clue where or even who this scholar is. At this point, all Tors has is assertions of faith.

He then continues quoting

“That’s better than the opposite position that has become an evangelical mantra: ‘Hands off the Bible — we don’t want people to find any mistakes in it, because we hold to inerrancy.’”

Tors answers with

The implication seems to be that inerrantists do not want to examine the Bible too carefully, because, as these wise evangelical scholars know, there are indeed errors, and so inerrantists want to ignore facts in order to hold to their doctrine of inerrancy. This is a ridiculous implication.

It is a ridiculous implication, and it’s a good thing Wallace doesn’t hold to it. Wallace is instead saying some inerrantists do seem afraid that they will find errors that won’t stand up to scrutiny. If anyone is hesitant to enter history here, it’s Tors.

Now he decides to go after myself and Holding.

Finally, let us consider James Patrick Holding, founder and president of the on-line Tekton Education and Apologetic Ministries.5 He is of interest because he is a frequent “go-to guy” for both Creation Ministries International and Christian Research Institute, which means he is reaching a sizeable audience. Holding has taken it upon himself to challenge Norman Geisler’s defence of inerrancy, and not only online; he and co-author Nick Peters self-published an e-book, Defining Inerrancy: Affirming a Defensible Faith for a New Generation, in which he and Peters attack Geisler’s Defending Inerrancy. In this e-book the authors aver that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard isdangerous, misleading, and obscurantist in that it will result in a view of the Bible that is not defensible or respectable.”

Tors responds with

Do note that “the perception of ‘inerrancy’ offered by the old guard is that it means “no errors” i.e. the Bible is completely free of all errors, including historical and scientific errors. This is the “perception” that Holding and Peters consider dangerous, misleading, and obscurantist and not defensible or respectable.”

This is news to me, because 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. 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.

I am going to, as I said, bypass what was said about Holding. Holding can answer on his own. For my part, I will address what is said about me.

Holding’s co-author, Nick Peters, who, interestingly, is married to Mike Licona’s daughter, also piles on, but he, too, clearly stultifies himself. He details Patterson’s qualifications, including the following – “A graduate of Hardin-Simmons University, Patterson also completed Th.M. and Ph.D. degrees in theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary” – but then asserts that “While these accomplishments can be all well and good, there is a striking omission from it. There is absolutely nothing here about being trained in NT scholarship and exegesis. Being a competent and even skilled theologian and/or philosopher does not make one an expert on NT scholarship and/or biblical exegesis.”

Why yes, I am married to Mike’s daughter. Apparently, this is being waved around to promote the “Bias” charge. 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.

Tors wants to say I stultify myself. How? Because I point out that we have no reason to think that Patterson is an expert on NT scholarship and/or Biblical exegesis.

One wonders whether Peters has any idea about the sort of courses one takes in Master’s and Doctoral programs in seminary; in case he doesn’t, he should find out that it certainly includes courses in “NT scholarship and exegesis.” It seems rather strange that Peters suggests that Patterson’s training is inadequate, when Peters himself holds only a Bachelor of Science in Preaching and Bible from Johnson Bible College, and is currently working on a Master’s degree – in philosophy.

Of course I know, because I have studied at a Master’s level in Seminary. While this is taught, it does not mean it’s a specialty area. 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. I would say the same thing about Mike Licona trying to be an authority on philosophy.

Tors wrote this in 2015 by the way and wanted to point out with an ironic sucker punch that I’m working on a Master’s in Philosophy. Ouch. Guess that puts me in my place.

Unless, you know, you actually look at anything since 2009 and realize people can change majors, which I did when Mike Licona told me he thought my stuff on NT was really good. Let’s see. What does my own website say?

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Sure. My birthday is 9/19/1980 and I was born in Corryton, TN just outside of Knoxville. I was raised in a Christian home and found out about apologetics while I was in Bible College and my passion was set from then on. I have a Bachelor’s in preaching and Bible from Johnson University and I’m working on a Master’s in New Testament there. I am especially interested in the historical Jesus and the resurrection. I am also an advocate for traditional marriage having been married to my wife Allie Licona Peters since July of 2010. We are both diagnosed with Aspergers and we have a cat named Shiro. My other interests include reading, video games, and popular TV shows like The Big Bang Theory or The Flash and other shows. I’m also extremely sarcastic so you’ve been warned.

Or since he knows about Defining Inerrancy, maybe he could have just read my description in the book.

Nick Peters is currently working on his Master’s in New Testament at North West University in South Africa via a distance program. He has been in apologetics ministry for nearly fifteen years at the time of this writing. He blogs regularly at Deeperwaters.wordpress.com and runs a podcast called the Deeper Waters Podcast, where he seeks to interview the best in Christian apologetics and scholarship. He and his wife Allie are both diagnosed with Asperger’s and both of them currently live in Corryton, Tennessee, just outside of Knoxville, with their cat Shiro.

Now are there differences there? Yep. I switched where I was working on my major at and my website is now at a different address and I now live just outside of Atlanta. Fortunately, the part about my wonderful wife and about Shiro are still true.

Academic qualifications, of course, do not determine how well one can understand the Bible or apologetics, but it is Holding and Peters who choose to focus on that, claiming that Geisler and Patterson are not qualified to assess Licona’s teachings. It seems clear, however, that on that basis Geisler and Patterson are individually each better qualified to assess NT scholarship than Holding and Peters put together.

If so, then either of them 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. 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. Tors can make his assertions of faith, but all it is is faith.

Tors’s approach is in the end, one that is embarrassing to apologetics. It will not convince any skeptic and will leave a Christian who holds to it thoroughly defenseless. Perhaps Tors should study some New Testament scholarship before proceeding.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/11/2017: Mike Licona

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

“It depends on which Gospel you read!” Many of us have heard Bart Ehrman talk about this in describing Gospel differences. It is a kind of unavoidable problem. Why are there differences in the Gospels? Shouldn’t we expect them to agree, especially on major events like the resurrection?

If you want to know why there are differences in the Gospels, you should talk to someone who has written on this. In fact, the very name of his book is Why Are There Differences In The GospelsThat someone is Mike Licona, a friend, a scholar, a great apologist, and my father-in-law, and he will be my guest. So who is he?

MikeLicona

According to his bio:

Mike Licona has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria), which he completed with distinction. He serves as associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Societies, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has spoken on more than 90 university campuses, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

We’ll be talking about Plutarch in comparison with the Gospels, including not just parallel accounts, but how does the writing of Plutarch compare even with anonymity, dating, and miraculous activity? We’ll then be looking at some scenes in Plutarch that appear in more than one life that he has written, but at the same time are vastly different. We’ll be discussing how these work when carried over to the Gospels and if there are similarities in treatment.

We’ll then go to the Gospels. What are we to make of the idea of Ehrman that “It depends on which Gospel you read?” How does this research affect the doctrine of inerrancy if it does at all? What are we to do when we read the same story in different Gospels and see great differences between them? Do the differences outweigh the similarities?

I hope you’ll be listening. Mike Licona is an excellent scholar and this work is one that has been published by Oxford Press and so one can’t say it’s your regular evangelical press. I also hope you’ll be willing to go to ITunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast. I always love to see how much you like the show.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

 

Book Plunge: Why Are There Differences In The Gospels?

What do I think of Mike Licona’s book published by Oxford University Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Go to any debate online about the New Testament and one idea you’ll see pop up regularly will be “It contradicts itself over and over.” Go listen to Bart Ehrman and hear him speak about these and what will he say? “Depends on which Gospel you read?” Gospel differences are something that is a cause of concern to many a skeptic and of course, many a Christian as well. Especially if you hold a high view of inerrancy, you want to know why there are so many differences in the Gospel accounts.

This question isn’t anything new. It goes back to the church fathers. This is in fact why there was even an attempt to turn the four Gospels into one Gospel, but the church didn’t really go for it. As it stands, we have four today and they do contain obvious differences, so do we just have sloppy historians or what? Should we call into question the reliability of the Gospels because of this?

Mike Licona has chosen to answer this question and has done so by doing something that many in our world could consider cheating, but hey, he did it. He actually went back and compared differences in accounts of the same event by an author close to the time of Jesus. His choice was Plutarch and he looked at some of his lives that described figures who lived at about the same time and were quite likely written close to each other chronologically.

Of course, everyone should be warned of possible bias on my part. As many know, Mike Licona is my father-in-law, but at the same time when we have our discussions, if I think he is wrong on something, I do not hesitate to tell him. He got a blunt son-in-law when I married Allie.

Mike’s approach is unique and something that had not been done before. If there is any difficulty I encounter when I am engaging with skeptics of the faith is that they assume the way we do things today is superior simply because that is the way we do them. If we do history this way, well that is the right way to do history. If we want this kind of precision in an account, well that has to be superior and that is what the ancients would want. The greatest error we often make is we impose our own time and culture and society on the ancient world and then misread them.

This is why I say Mike cheated, though in a loose sense of course. He actually went back and saw how they did history and what do you see? You see that the differences that you see in the Gospels that are so problematic are the same kinds of differences you see in Plutarch. Some will no doubt complain and say that surely the Gospel writers would not write Holy Scripture in a style that was known to the pagan world. (Yeah. The second person of the Trinity can condescend to become a human being and die on a cross, but using a certain literary style? God forbid!) Such an opinion is going against the overwhelming majority of Biblical scholarship and ignores how God has often met people where they were and if the writers wanted to write a biography of Jesus to tell about His life and teachings, there weren’t many other options.

Mike goes through the accounts and shows that Plutarch used many different techniques when writing and that the Gospel writers did the same. He has a number of pericopes in Plutarch and a number in the Gospels that give a cross comparison. If one wants to throw out the Gospels as unreliable then, one will have to do the same with Plutarch. This indeed raises the debate to a whole new level. Is the modern skeptic willing to throw out one of the most prolific writers in ancient history just to avoid the Gospels?

What does this say for we moderns as well? It tells us what I said at the beginning. We can too often assume our own standards of accuracy and throw those onto the text not bothering to ask if the ancients followed them. If they did not, then we are being anachronistic with the writers and in fact, being unfair with them. They were not moderns and we should not treat them like moderns.

This should also be taken into account when considering our modern idea of inerrancy. For instance, many of us might think inerrancy means we have to have the exact words of Jesus. What if the Gospel writers did not think that but wanted the exact voice instead? In other words, they wanted the gist of what Jesus said even if it wasn’t exact wordage? That’s okay. We just have to accept that. The ancient works were not modern works and if we impose on them what they aren’t, we will get the wrong message and also miss the true message of them.

Mike’s work has really raised the bar of debate and pushed it beyond just simple harmonization. It is harmonization based on how the ancients did it and not how we moderns do it. I fully hope that other scholars will come alongside and critique the work, both positively and negatively and that we can, in turn, come to a greater understanding of the Gospel texts.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/15/2016: Mike Licona

What’s coming up Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The Gospels are some of the most well known works of literature in the world. Yet today, there is much debate about them. On the one hand, you have some people who are convinced that everything in them is literally true. On the other, you have people who are more of the mythicist mindset who think they’re all totally false. In the middle you have various positions, like my own which is a contextualizing inerrancy or that of many NT scholars today who think there is some truth but not everything is true.

Well what are we to think? Are the Gospels reliable? Can they stand up to the test of scrutiny? Are they good sources to learn about the historical Jesus from?

These are all good questions to ask. Of course, if you ask a good question, you need to make sure you go to a good source for the answer. For that, I decided to bring back a personal favorite guest of mine. This Saturday, I’m pleased to welcome one of the two people in the world I can rightly call “Dad” to the studio. It will be my father-in-law Mike Licona.

Who is he?

MikeLicona

According to his bio:

Mike Licona has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria), which he completed with distinction. He serves as associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Evangelical Theological and Philosophical Societies, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has spoken on more than 90 university campuses, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

We’ll be talking about the questions surrounding the Gospels. Having recently debated this with Bart Ehrman and having written a book (Which we will be interviewing him on) about the topic of the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies, Mike is prepared to tackle this question for us. We will also answer questions of if the Gospels really are Greco-Roman biographies, since apparently some people dispute this, and what that means.

Then we’ll ask how we should try to approach the Gospels and what we’re looking for. Do some people set the standard too high? Do some people set it too low? How do the Gospels compare to other works of literature of the time? What about claims of authorship?

I hope you’ll be joining us next time. We are working on getting past episodes up. We do have the one from the 24th of September and the 8th of this month. They will be up soon. Please consider also leaving a review of the show on ITunes.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 7/11/2015: Mike Licona

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out!

Our podcast returns this Thursday and we have what I am sure is a favorite to you listeners out there returning to be on the show for the third time and that is Mike Licona. What are we going to be talking about? Good question. In fact, that is what we’re talking about. Good questions. I’ve gone to private groups on the internet for awhile now announcing that this show would be coming up and gathering questions on the New Testament and the historical Jesus as I follow a cue from Justin Brierley and have a “Grill-a-Christian” format. This will be just like Mike getting done speaking somewhere and then random questions coming up and we’ll see how he does. Now if you don’t know who Mike Licona is, a brief description follows that is from his web site.

MikeLicona

Mike Licona has a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria), which he completed with distinction. He serves as associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University. Mike was interviewed by Lee Strobel in his book The Case for the Real Jesus and appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books including The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010), Paul Meets Muhammad (Baker, 2006), co-author with Gary Habermas of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Kregel, 2004) and co-editor with William Dembski of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science (Baker, 2010). Mike is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He has spoken on more than 50 university campuses, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.

Now of course, some more skeptical listeners out there could be wondering if there might be some bias here. Mike is my father-in-law. Am I telling him the questions ahead of time? Nope. Not at all. I like to make things a challenge as much as I can and Mike and I can be competitive at times when we get together. (Watch us play Wii Sports sometime when we visit.) What will happen with the questions is I have them all written out and I will mix them up randomly and draw them out of the hat as it were so that I can’t even tell anyone entirely before the show starts what questions Mike will be asked. That means no doubt that not every question will be answered, but we have two hours and we’ll see what happens in that time and how Mike fares with me in the hot seat.

I think this will be an interview you will enjoy and if you’ve never been to an event like one where Mike speaks at, you’ll get to see what it can be like and how people have to answer questions on the spot. If you’re an aspiring apologist, I hope it will drive you to be even more prepared in all your studies so that if you find yourself in such a situation, you will be able to answer those who question you on the Christian faith.

Be watching your ITunes feed for this one!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts On Doubt

What’s a Christian to do with doubt? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out?

Recently, my father-in-law Michael Licona had an article show up where he was interviewed about doubt. Mike has been a very upfront person about the doubt that he has in life. We’ve had many discussions on visitations around times like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve also known him to be very helpful when I meet people who struggle with a very deep doubt. He’s learned well from his mentor, Gary Habermas. I’d like to share some of my own thoughts on doubt to go along with his.

First off, Mike and I are very different people. Mike is a constant second doubter and I would not doubt he is much more emotional than I am. It takes awhile for me to be emotional, but when I am, it is intense. There are many people who think I am just cold, which is not really accurate. My wife would be the first to testify otherwise that I am a very sensitive fellow in many ways. Of course, this is important because there will be varying ways that people experience doubt.

Second, one mistake I think many Christians make in the area of doubt is that they think they have to have an answer for everything. Well in reality, you won’t. Mike and I could both defend the resurrection, but if it had to be one of us doing it, I’d hand it over to him. If it came instead to something like the arguments for the existence of God, he’d let me handle that one. Too many Christians think they have to have an answer to every question and know everything about every subject, but if you try to be a jack-of-all-trades, you’ll wind up being a master of none and just have a shallow knowledge that is easily exposed.

Third, one of the ways to better deal with doubt is to not run from it. It is to face it head on. This is often what we try to do with negative feelings. We try to suppress them instead of trying to face them head on. Now of course, when dealing with really negative feelings, you might need the help of a good therapist. When dealing with doubt, you might want to get the help of those who know more than you do. (You essentially will in any case since that will require that you read the best books that you can.)

I really recommend trying to read both sides. When you come across an objection that’s a really good one in your eyes, look into it. Also, try to avoid just looking on the internet for answers. In the age of the internet, anyone can be seen as an expert just because they have a blog or a web site. Now does that mean you should treat me seriously? Well that’s your choice, but certainly not like a scholar at this point. Please definitely avoid a web site like Wikipedia. One of the best tools you will find for your situation is really just going to a library and doing the research there.

Fourth, while you deal with your feelings, it’s best to try to not focus on them. Mike talked in his interview about not feeling the presence of God. This is another way where we’re different. I cannot describe my own Christian walk as one of regularly feeling the presence of God. This seems to be normative to many Christians that you’ll find in a church service, but I do not think I am alone in my own way of thinking. The great danger is that if this is made to be what every Christian is to experience, then what happens to the Christian who through no fault of his own and no lack of devotion to God does not experience such a thing?

The reality is you cannot make yourself feel something. If we could, we would make ourselves feel happy all the time. We can’t. What we can do is try to think things that could bring about a sensation of happiness. I often get the concern when we want freedom from anxiety or just a good feeling, we come to God and want Him to do that for us, but we don’t come to know Him for Him at those times. It is what is known as morally therapeutic deism. This is like a man who consistently comes to his wife because sex feels really good for him (As it does for any husband), but he just isn’t interested in coming to her for her. This is something we must be careful about in our Christian walk.

Fifth. as hard as it can be, try to not listen to your emotions. This is one reason you talk to people outside of yourself. They can see past issues that you might not see past because you are too busy listening to your emotions. You could also try writing down your arguments you are experiencing mentally and asking if B really follows from A. There are many cases where we think A, and then we just jump ahead to Z from that point on.

Finally, it’s important to note that we usually want absolute certainty and that can rarely be found in anything. When I meet someone who cannot be wrong in anything that they think, I often wonder why I should think they are right in anything that they think. Doubt should not be seen as a disease, but rather a chance to get further growth and a natural part of our learning cycle. In fact, I have more concerns about a Christian who never doubts what they believe. If you do not doubt it, you are not seriously thinking about it and if you are not seriously thinking about it, you’re just not taking it seriously.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Inerrancy An Essential?

Is Inerrancy the litmus test for orthodoxy? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We would have liked to have hoped that Geisler had ended his obsession, but alas, this is not the case. Of course, this has been also because of his web site where he has a petition for people to sign to stand up for the Bible before it’s too late!

Because we all know that Mike Licona, one of the strongest defenders of the resurrection of Jesus today, is just going full throttle in an attack on the Bible. Reading Geisler and seeing his obsession, you’d think Mike Licona is some master villain making it his goal in life to destroy the faith of Christians.

Of course, as has been pointed out with regard to this petition is that Geisler is the one who determines who is the true upholder of Inerrancy and who isn’t. I have in fact demonstrated this pointing out how Geisler has deleted my signature from the petition, even though I agree with what it says. See here. This also has happened to Craig Blomberg.

If you think I sound extreme in this, keep in mind that there is even a question asking if Mike Licona is the next Bart Ehrman. Think I'm kidding? Think again. It’s my understanding that this was from a paper at Veritas Evangelical Seminary. If that’s right, I’m pretty sure that if Geisler graded it I know what the reaction was.

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.

So now, let’s see what Christopher Haun has to say on his article on Inerrancy and if it’s a litmus test for orthodoxy.

It’s worth pointing out that this starts with a quotation from Daniel Wallace in his review of Defining Inerrancy, the Ebook that J.P. Holding and I co-wrote together with a review by Craig Blomberg. You can find a description here:

If you want to, you can go here and buy a copy and help support Deeper Waters at the same time! Please leave a positive review!

Keep in mind also, that this is a book that a response has not been written to. We are sure Geisler will just be thrilled when the print version comes out expanded to include the works of scholars in the field as well.

At least we can be sure that it has been noticed as is indicated by Haun’s review.

What’s the relationship between biblical inerrancy and orthodoxy? Recently Daniel Wallace suggested that Carl Henry opposed the importance of inerrancy, claiming it was not a litmus test for orthodoxy. Wallace wrote:
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.

That is of course Wallace being quoted but note what is said at the start. Wallace said nothing about Henry opposing the importance of Inerrancy. He said the opposed it being used as a litmus test for orthodoxy. If that is the case, then there should be no disagreement.

In fact, Wallace himself says that Henry was not soft on Inerrancy. Wallace’s point then is that Henry did see Inerrancy as highly important, but he did not see it as an essential for orthodoxy. Those interested can see the whole quote here:

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.

If you’re wanting to make sure I’m quoting it right, just go here.

Interestingly, Haun leaves out the problem that is noted here. Also left out is the point that Inerrancy is not being denied but a rigid form that Holding and I see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church, something I take Wallace to agree with since he speaks about getting numerous emails from people who abandoned Christianity because they have the impression that it’s all-or-nothing with Inerrancy.

Wonder where they got that idea from….

Once again also, we must stress that no one in this is attacking Inerrancy. Wallace believes in Inerrancy. Holding believes in it. Licona believes in it. Blomberg believes in it. I believe in it. It is in Geisler’s world and that of his followers that if you disagree with a more literalist interpretation, a style that is foreign to the text, then you disagree with Inerrancy. It doesn’t matter if you say you believe in Inerrancy, as long as you disagree with the interpretation of Geisler, you deny Inerrancy.

If writers are interested in why so many are saying they are moving away from Inerrancy and moving to authority, it is not because we have found a problem with the Bible. Not at all! It is because we are looking at this modernistic view and saying “If what it means to believe in Inerrancy is to believe in what Geisler says, then we need to find something else to believe in.”

But let’s look at some of what else Henry said.

Inerrancy is the evangelical heritage, the historic commitment of the Christian church.

A quote like this I find concerning. It shows me that our emphasis moved from Jesus to the Bible. Now to be sure, the Bible is the best witness we have of Jesus today. Still, the Bible is not Jesus. The church did not start with people proclaiming the Scripture, but it started with people proclaiming the resurrection and the Scripture in part was a testimony to that.

If the strength of American evangelicalism rests in its high view of Scripture, its weakness lies in a tendency to neglect the frontiers of formative discussion in contemporary theology

This one is worth noting because that is exactly what is being avoided. Keep in mind Geisler did not show up at the round table discussion about Licona’s view on Matthew 27 but decided afterwards that this was a good time to go after Blomberg for the great crime of standing up for Licona. (And noteworthy that he had to go back thirty years and find a paper that no one batted an eye at and try to find a way Blomberg supposedly denied Inerrancy in it.)

Geisler has this idea apparently that the way to respond to Licona’s interpretation of the passage in question is to wave a flag that says “Inerrancy” and say “Since the passage is Inerrant, therefore Licona is refuted.

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 would not work to have the Jehovah’s Witnesses come by and when they say Jesus is not fully God to say “Inerrancy!” and act like they’re answered.

To be fair, Geisler has tried to do this some, but his arguments have been highly lacking and have not shown an interaction with New Testament scholarship. The proper attitude at that point would have been to just back away from the discussion until further research had been done. Waving the flag that says “Inerrancy” does not give Licona any reason to think his view is wrong. Now if Geisler does make an exegetical argument one day that Licona sees and makes him say “I am convinced now that Matthew is treating this as a historical event, but I think he was wrong” then I and Holding and others will certainly say that that is a denial of Inerrancy. That has not happened yet.

Those who reject inerrancy have never adduced any objective principle, either biblical, philosophical, or theological, that enables them to distinguish between those elements which are supposedly errant in Scripture and those that are not.

At this point, it is clear that New Testament scholarship has not been interacted with. Now of course, I disagree with those New Testament scholars who say the Bible is in error, but at the same time, I do agree we need a historical methodology to show that the Bible is not in error. Inerrancy is not a presupposition, but rather a conclusion.

In fact, it’s ironic that there is a statement like this because it does indicate a more presuppositional approach.

Simple question. How would someone like Henry know that the message of the Bible is true rather than say, the message of the Koran or the message of the Book of Mormon? Both of those claim to be from God as well after all.

If he points to historical claims that are known about what happened in Scripture without the doctrine of Inerrancy, then our case is made. If he says that he knows that it is true because it is the Bible and the Bible is the Word of God, then we are getting into circular reasoning.

In fact, this is the approach of a minimal facts technique where the Bible is treated the way liberal scholars treat it and we STILL have the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. Once you establish the resurrection, Inerrancy becomes much easier to establish. It does not work however to try to establish Inerrancy first since you will inevitably need to show the resurrection to do that.

So do we have an approach to show some parts of the Bible are at least reliable? We do. We use historiography. Surely Geisler has been pleased to see archaeological findings that have corroborated the Bible and shown that the Bible was right about such and such a person or place existing. No doubt Henry was a great champion of Christianity, but he was simply wrong here.

If one asks what, in a word, eclipsed the biblical doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, what theological redefinition of inspiration in nonconceptual categories, and what encouraged neo-Protestant denial of inspiration as a decisive New Testament concept, the answer is modern biblical criticism.

There is some truth to this. There were liberals who wanted to take an approach to the Bible that would jettison the miracles and “supernatural” phenomena. (I do not like the word supernatural as I think it points to an Enlightenment dichotomy that I do not hold to.) Thus, they attempted to make arguments to show that the text was not reliable. There is nothing wrong with doing this as we make arguments to show Mormon texts are not reliable.

Picture yourself as an evangelical Christian if you’re not one and you have just got done presenting a host of problems with the text of the Book of Mormon such as contradictions and archaeological mistakes and matters of that sort to a Mormon who has come to the door and the Mormon responds by saying

“I have a testimony from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God, and the Mormon Church is the true church of God.” When you hear this, are you going to sit back and say “Well darn it. I guess I can’t refute that.

Instead, you are more likely to see it as a defense mechanism. When I have dialogued with Mormons and they have said that, I have interpreted it to mean “Ah. There is a point that they cannot answer.”

Now picture yourself as a modern Biblical critic who is agnostic or atheist. You go to Christians and present to them what you think are a number of mistakes in the Bible such as archaeological mistakes, disagreements with modern science, contradictions, etc. Now suppose you hear this back.

“The Bible is the Inerrant Word of God and if the Bible says it, then it is true and therefore, Jesus rose from the dead.”

You are not going to be convinced.

But what if that’s what Christians did in the face of criticism? What if in the face of charges that the Bible had errors, our response was to just make a statement saying that the Bible has no errors? That’s no more a response than the Mormons making a statement that the Book of Mormon is from God and that is known because of a testimony from the Holy Ghost.

Now I am not opposed to making statements on Inerrancy, but statements do not answer questions alone. Statements should be made after questions have been answered. Unfortunately, many Christians chose to retreat. When liberals came to colleges that had been set up to proclaim the Christian faith, Christians set up their own Seminaries instead of staying to fight the battle against the liberals. How are those colleges doing today?

The problem was not Biblical criticism. The problem was bad methodology and faulty premises and conclusions. The way to respond to this is to respond with good methodology and true premises and conclusions. The way to respond to bad historiography is with good historiography. The way to respond to bad science is with good science.

If we uphold Scripture as Inerrant, then we should not fear any methodology that seeks to call it into question. If it is Inerrant, then we should not be afraid of scientific research if we think the Bible is addressing scientific questions. If you truly think the Bible teaches a young Earth for instance, you should welcome the scientific research of the scientific community because that should establish it. If you think it teaches evolution, you should welcome that. If you think it teaches an old Earth without evolution, you should also welcome that.

If you think the Bible teaches that Jesus died and rose again, you should welcome the historical research and if you are convinced that historians who say otherwise are wrong, you should seek to point to problems in their methodology or the evidence that they present. Just making a statement of what you believe will not constitute an answer.

In other words, we should be able to meet our opponents at their own game and be able to face them and win. If the Bible is historically true, then if we do history right, we will find that the Bible stands up. Of course, we can’t prove EVERYTHING historically, but if we go through and find we can trust what we can test, then we have good reason to give the benefit of the doubt to the rest. If we think the Bible speaks on scientific matters, then we should welcome the science and if it is wrong, we should be able to show it scientifically.

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. This is the same way that if denying Jesus rose from the dead is bad history, the way to refute it is good history.

If Geisler does not want to get involved in the field of New Testament scholarship and answer Licona on an exegetical level, that is fine. The best course of action then for him to take is frankly to stay out of the debate. Perhaps he can instead rely on others who he thinks are New Testament scholars who will address the problems that they see with Licona’s view and leave the Inerrancy question out of it.

As long as Geisler goes with the Inerrancy question, then he is simply chasing windmills. The sad tragedy is that he is not driving people to Inerrancy but rather driving them away from it as more and more are looking at what is happening and saying “If this is what Inerrancy entails, I want no part of it.”

It is ironic that people like myself and Holding are lifting up a view of Inerrancy that is defensible and this according to NT scholars like Wallace. Haven’t we seen someone say that those who defend Inerrancy are being attacked while those who attack Inerrancy are being defended?

Now if anyone wants to see if I am quoting Haun rightly, and to be fair I am not responding to everything as I don’t disagree with Henry who is cited profusely, then one can just look at the original article here.

It is still my contention that those who are defending a modern literalism based on a modern Western view of Scripture no doubt mean well and their intentions are good and noble, but they are simply doing more harm than they realize to the body. Again, I have interacted with several ex-Christian atheists that lead me to this conclusion.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: He Rose Again From The Dead

Did Jesus stay in that tomb? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The center of the Christian faith lies right here. If this did not happen, then let’s all just pack up and go home. We might become deists or some other kind of theism, but we certainly cannot be Christians any more because Jesus would not be who He said He was.

Now many of us know about the minimal facts approach of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. Many of you also know that I use that approach, but I also use another approach and since the minimal facts is already well known (And if it isn’t, get the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Habermas and Licona)I will be here using another approach. This is one used by my ministry partner, J.P. Holding of Tektonics, and one I plan to do even further research on later on to improve it more.

When a minimal facts approach is started, it’s usually started with Jesus’s death by crucifixion. Yes. This is a fact. It is one of the most certain facts in history. The most that many apologists get from that is that Jesus died.

Let’s not stop at that point.

What kind of death did Jesus die?

Jesus died a death that would be seen as a shameful death. It was designed to lower his status in the eyes of the people as far as possible. To non-Jews, Jesus died as a traitor to Rome. He was a would-be king who got what He deserved and once again, Rome put down those who were opposed to her rule. To a Jew, Jesus died under the curse of YHWH. He claimed to be the Son of God and Messiah and because of that, He was put to death. (Mainly for the first one. Claiming to be the Messiah was not blasphemous. It just might be seen as egocentric, crazy, etc.)

Note in Jesus’s society also, your identity came from someone else. There was no self-made man. Connection to the group was important and if you were a follower of Christ, that would be who your identity was in. It would be in a man seen as a traitor to Rome and under the curse of YHWH.

How many of you want to be a part of that group?

In fact, if you were telling the story about Jesus to someone as a Christian, as soon as you got to crucifixion, the person you were talking to would likely shut their ears at that point. There would be no need to listen any further.

Want to know what it would be like to say a crucified man was your Messiah, savior, and God?

Imagine what it would be like to have someone say that the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention was an open homosexual and pedophile.

Imagine what it would be like to hear the person running for the office of president used to be president of the KKK.

Imagine what it would be like to be a part of Ken Ham’s organization and hearing that Francis Collins or Hugh Ross will be the guest speaker at a convention this year.

Imagine what it would be like to hear that a terrorist arrested in Afghanistan was going to be put in charge of our military.

I’m sure you can come up with your own examples. Pretty much, this kind of event would fly in the face of everything that you knew. If you knew anything about crucified people, you knew that they were no good and certainly no one worth putting an investment in.

And what are you being told to invest in them?

EVERYTHING!

Your whole life and identity is being put on the line with this one. If you are wrong, there’s no turning back. Now this isn’t because of threat of Hell. For many in the ancient world, you die and that is it. You might go to some shadowy existence. Jews could hold to some variation of Hell at times. Either way, the turn and burn approach would not be what was most likely used.

What temporary gains would you get in this life if you became a follower of Christ? Well let’s name a few.

You would be mocked. Now this might not seem like a big deal, but in an honor-shame society like the ancient Mediterranean was, it was. Think back for instance to when you were in high school. You would have cliques being formed and you needed to identify with the cool kids. If you were a guy and got identified as a homosexual for instance, that could end your social status. If you were a girl and got identified as loose, that could also end your social status. Everyone else determined where you were on the social ladder.

Now multiply that a few times and you have a better idea of what the ancient world was like.

A major difference is this world has far more power. You go home from school and school is done. There is no place in the ancient world where you can escape life itself.

You want to go to the marketplace? You’re known there. Want to go worship at a pagan temple or Jewish synagogue? You’re known there. Want to go to a club or meeting place? You’re known there. Not only are you known, your ancestors will be known as well. What you do will forever stay with your children.

Not only will that happen, but with this shaming you will be seen as deviant. Why? You’re going against the gods! You’re going against the emperor! If we suffer, it is because we have not been giving the honor to the gods that is their due. Any major calamity shows up? You’re the problem! You will then be dealt with by Rome because you’re being a traitor to the social order.

And yes, that finally gets us to persecution. A pagan would persecute you because you were a traitor to Rome and denying the gods. If you had wanted to include Jesus among other gods to worship, well worshiping a crucified man would be odd, but okay. No. You’re saying that not only do you worship YHWH through Christ, you say that is the only way to worship. You deny that the other gods even exist. How can the people earn their favor if they tolerate you in their midst?

Yeah. Tolerance. That’s a big one. The Jews could be tolerated because they were an old religion. They were just told that they had to sacrifice on behalf of the emperor. They did not have to pray to him. You want to come with a different belief? Well that’s fine if you can fit it into the Roman pantheon.

A new idea however is viewed with suspicion. That’s going against the social order. That’s claiming that our ancestors have been wrong for centuries. That’s saying that these beliefs that have guided and shaped us our whole lives have been wrong. Come with something new and you are a threat.

“Well geez. Mormonism was something new also and look how well it survived!”

While Mormonism did get some persecution, Americans had far more of a live and let live attitude. Mormons also had several wide open places that they could go to to escape any persecution. Christians only had the catacombs. If Mormonism had survived in an honor-shame culture, there might be something to the argument, but there isn’t.

“Well Islam was also a new belief.”

Yes. It was. And early on it spread by the sword and it offered its followers in this life power, wealth, and women. Those were some nice perks. The perks that came from Christianity could come elsewhere. You want to live a good and virtuous life? Greek philosophy can give you that. You want good fellowship? The pagan festivities can get you that. You want to get in touch with the divine? Mystery religions can give you that.

For Christianity, it’s biggest rewards would not even be seen in this life. They were waited on for the life to come. As you can hopefully see, becoming a Christian was not a simple task of walking down the aisle and saying a prayer and expecting your family and friends to celebrate your new belief. No. It was putting everything on the line.

Which makes it interesting since according to a scholar like Meeks, the middle and upper class were people who were often converting to Christianity. Why does this matter? These people had the most to lose on the social strata. Another aspect is these people often had the means to check out the stories. “You claim you have eyewitnesses? Well let me send my slave to Jerusalem to talk to these ‘eyewitnesses.’ ” These were the people who could most do a fact-finding mission and come to a conclusion.

Well Christianity did offer forgiveness of sins! As if the average Gentile or Jew was worried! Jews already had a system to deal with their sins. The sacrificial system and following the Law worked just fine. Why would they want to risk all of that for a system that abandoned both of those and even abandoned other aspects of Jewish life like the Sabbath and Torah observance? That would help ensure that they got cut off from YHWH!

The Gentiles? They too could offer sacrifices and frankly, they were more interested in living the good life. Of course, this was a life of virtue, but they had the philosophers to help with that. An approach that focused on the sinfulness of the people just would not work as well. (And in fact it assumes right off that Jesus is the solution to that, something that it would be very hard to persuade an ancient person of.)

Note also that Christianity had high high standards of living. Now the Jews would be familiar with them as would a number of God-fearers, but they were still high. Most especially would be in the area of sexual ethics. Chastity was the rule until you were married. Adultery was absolutely forbidden.

Christians also gave to the poor. “Well that’s nice.” Not so fast. The ancients did not really trust the poor. The poor were the ones who were likely to steal from you. After all, they didn’t have anything. The rich were the ones who were your benefactors and you wanted to be in their good favor.

Well surely Christians had something going for them! They taught the resurrection of the body!

Of course they did.

Another strike against them.

What?

Yeah. In the ancient world, the world of matter was a lower world. Go look at your Plato. The material world was lesser and the higher world was the spiritual world. In fact, even having a God not taking on the appearance of a human but of becoming human would be seen as totally bizarre.

To escape the body was seen as a relief. Apotheosis would have been the main goal. This would be being exalted to the realm of deity, and no body was required. This would often happen to the Caesars supposedly.

In the Phaedo of Plato, at the end Socrates asks for a cock to be sent to the god of healing as a gift. Why? Socrates is being released from his body. That is the ultimate healing. He is being free from the prison that he has lived in.

Is it any wonder that some of the earliest Christian heresies had a problem with Jesus being material? Think of Gnosticism or Docetism. Each of these would have made a whole lot more sense than the message the Christians were giving. In fact, if the Christians were supposedly changing the story to make it more acceptable for Gentiles, they would be seeking to remove the resurrection. That was just something seen as bizarre and unwanted to the Gentiles.

Now Jews could be more open, but a resurrection happening in the middle of space and time? That made no sense! The disciples in fact took the hardest route they could with their belief. They did not claim divine vindication. That would be easy! They claimed resurrection. They claimed it in the very city that Jesus was crucified in and in the very faces of those who did it.

So why is it that the resurrection would matter so much? It was more than the forgiveness of sins. It was more than dealing with the problem of evil. It was vindication. If God did raise Jesus from the dead, then God is essentially saying “Jesus was right.” Right about what? He was right about being the Son of God. He was right about being the Messiah. He was right about having your whole life depend on Him.

And if Jesus is raised, well that’s a good reason to believe He’s who He said He was.

In fact, that’s the only reason to do so.

If Jesus was not raised, Christianity should have died out early on like any other cult group would have. Christianity instead overcame the most impossible odds ever and not only did it dominate the Roman Empire without using the sword, today Jesus holds the allegiance of billions all over the world.

Not bad for a guy who was crucified.

Notice also how well this works if you add to it a minimal facts approach as well. We did not have to go into that too much, but even the social data alone makes a powerful case for the resurrection of Jesus and one that is too often overlooked. Why not add it to your apologetic arsenal?

In Christ,
Nick Peters