Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. I’ve spent a lot of time lately writing on the Geisler/Licona debate. I have stated I am Licona’s son-in-law, but I would like to make a few points clear.
To begin with, everything I say here, I say of my own free-will. Yet at the same time, I have made it a point to be objective. My father-in-law and I do disagree on some points and we have discussed them back and forth. Yet in this, while I am not ready to sign on the dotted line with his interpretation, I am open to it, as I am with it being both historical and having apocalyptic symbolism. Still, I am against the idea of him being labeled as denying Inerrancy.
I will also say that when I talk about the future, there are immediate ramifications of this. This has been quite difficult on my family, especially with my wife having her own stress over this. We’ve never had good finances in our marriage as I got laid off three months before our wedding. This puts us in a bind now even further. For new readers, if you do like what is going on, I do urge you to consider making a donation to what we do here at Deeper Waters to keep up a real defense of orthodoxy.
As for the future, I think we’ve all seen something in this debate. We’ve seen how to argue and we’ve seen how not to argue. Even if Geisler and Mohler were right in their points, the consensus across the net from what I see is that using ICBI and ETS like a club is not the right way to establish that. Nor is the right way to be found in the denial of scholarship.
Many on the net are now stating they do not want to join the ETS. Personally, I don’t blame them. I have no desire to join now either. However, let us be clear that we still need to be evangelicals in unity. We need to stand up for the great truths that have made the Christian faith what it is.
A lot of people now are asking “Well what is Inerrancy?” I think this is a good question and it is not a simple one. We know we believe the Bible is a book of truth, but at the same time, we don’t think inerrancy means you take everything necessarily literally. Of course, some passages you do take literally, but of course, there are some you don’t take literally. Has the simplistic idea of “Literally unless needed otherwise” done more harm than good?
While we do not want to defend what Geisler and Mohler are promoting, let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Let’s instead realize that Inerrancy needs to be even better explained. There have been changes in the scholarly world since ICBI. While we can respect what went on then, we realize some more study has been done. For instance, while we agree with what was said at Nicea, that does not mean Nicea was the pinnacle of study on the incarnation.
Thus, while Geisler and Mohler are making a mistake, let us be sure that we do not make a mistake in the opposite direction. Let us make sure we have a definition of inerrancy that can allow for apocalyptic interpretation, but at the same time not a definition where anything goes.
Of course, in this definition, we will always be open to new eyes realizing that the younger generation just might have found something we’ve missed. As I told my friend last night, someday, we will be the older generation of apologists and we will want to make sure we deal with the younger generation in a way unlike what we see Geisler and Mohler doing.
When they come with ideas that seem contrary to the traditional ones we’ve grown up with, let us encourage them. If scholarship shows that those ideas are false, then they are false, but the student will be all the more benefited for having done the research. Biblical studies will also learn that which is not true. If the idea is true, then we can thank the student for bringing to our attention something we’d been seeing wrong and all will be blessed. If we dismiss them with a threat, we are saying that we do not care for scholarship and running from the academy will never serve the church well. It never has in the past after all and there is no need to repeat history.
Part of good scholarship is always being open to the possibility that you could be wrong about something. Now to be sure, the more you have studied an issue, the less likely it is that you will be wrong, but either way, it will be beneficial to you to be open to the idea.
Unfortunately today, it seems that if something is traditional, then we dare not mess with it. Many of us are thankful the Reformers did not take that stance, but yet at the same time we do with the Reformers what they did to the Catholic church. They were not infallible and would not wish to be. Let us be clear on this. No one human being is infallible save our Lord. We have an infallible text. We do not have infallible interpreters.
What will we need in the future then? Study. More of it. If new councils are to be formed to discuss Inerrancy, and I have no problem with that idea, they need to be blessed by having conservative Christians across all the fields. We need scholars in philosophy, theology, history, Greek, Hebrew, Science, Sociology, Archaeology, etc.
We also need them from all belief systems on the conservative spectrum. We need futurists. We need historicists. We need Preterists. We need Calvinists and Arminians. We need old-earthers and young-earthers. We need cessationists and we need those who think miraculous gifts are for today. Provided one holds to orthodoxy, we need them to all come together and say “We disagree on everything else, but on this we can unite.” Can’t be done? We’ve done it with the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and the physical resurrection.
In saying that, I am not saying I believe that Inerrancy must be a test for orthodoxy. I don’t. I think it’s important, but at the same time, beliefs about Scripture are not salvific. We must be sure that we do not make the Bible an idol as we seek to study it. However, since it has long been said that the Bible is without error, the burden is on the one who thinks he knows better than the authors and that’s a heavy burden.
And speaking of heavy burdens, let us be willing to put them on the young scholar who does think he can show a long-held belief is false. If they really want to, by all means try. If we are believing something that is wrong, then please show us so that we can correct it. If it turns out we are right, the student has at least learned the effort of research and reaching a claim based on the evidence.
Will there always be disagreements among us? No doubt there will be. That’s inevitable. The question will be how are we as Christians going to handle those disagreements with one another? I believe the actions of Geisler and Mohler in using ICBI and ETS as a club only stiffen the divide. If you think I am wrong, then I simply ask that you browse the blogosphere and watch what is going on. Why are so many talking about leaving the ETS? Why are so many talking about being sick of seeing open letters? Could this all not have been handled better?
The future belongs to us and our forefathers worked hard to get us where we are and we dare not disregard them. We are not the only generation the Holy Spirit has worked through. Unless Christ returns, we will not be the last either. We are simply carrying on a work from those who came before us. We will seek to correct them when they are wrong, but so will those after us which to correct us when we are wrong.
This is also an awesome responsibility and we dare not take it lightly. Let us make sure Scripture never loses its high place. Those who came before us often willingly died so we, the ones they would never see with their own eyes until the after-death, could get to carry Bibles and study them. We do not treat that book with the awesomeness it demands. Yes. I include myself in that group as well. We do not appreciate enough the rich work that the prophets and apostles wrote for us.
While I believe Geisler raised his charge wanting to preserve Inerrancy, my thinking is that what it has led to is actually the reshaping of Inerrancy. Note that this is not the abandonment of Inerrancy. At least it isn’t on my part. It’s saying that if your idea of Inerrancy is not enough to include someone following what they believe the author really intended the text to mean based on research, and this to be a well-known orthodox author who takes his research very seriously, then your idea could bear some modification.
Peter Kreeft once said that apologetics is the closest we get to saving the world, and really that is what we do. If we believe the Christian faith is the only hope for the world, then those who are defending that faith are doing what they can not only for the faith, but for a dying world in need of that truth.
That could easily lead us to arrogance thinking we are the heroes of the story, but let us not forget it should lead us to humility. God allows us to do what we do. He does not need you. He does not need me. He does not need Geisler or Mohler or Mike Licona. Rest assured apologist. If God were to zap you from the Earth this moment, His message could still be defended just fine. Do what you can, do it well, and enjoy it, but remember that at the end of the day, you are a servant doing what you have been told. God does not exist for the glory of your name. You exist for the glory of His.
Let us not look down on those who are not apologists either. All play a part. I think all should have some basic sill in apologetics, but not all are meant to study it professionally. I believe we should be thankful for counselors, expositors, teachers, evangelists, preachers, etc. Of course, someone could be a combination of these, but let us keep in mind what Paul said about the body in 1 Cor. 12. One part is not better or worse than another and all should serve regardless of where they are.
If you, like me, are serving in apologetics, then serve to the best of your ability. Shine as much as you can. God didn’t place you on this Earth to live a mediocre life. Yes. You are to avoid pride, but the way to avoid pride is not to have nothing that you could be prideful about, but to have a holy and contrite heart.
We have a mission before us. We have a divine calling ahead of us. We have a purpose in the Plan. Let us make sure that when the torch is passed on to the next generation, that it is not only still burning, but that it is burning brighter than ever before.