A Response to Paul

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. Tonight, I’m going to continue our look at the Inerrancy debate with a personal appeal from my friend Paul and what he fears is going on in this matter. For that, let me give a little background.

Paul and I met in 2001 at Johnson Bible College. I was a student there and in my Western Civilization class had raised my hand to speak out against JEPD theory and in the midst of that quoted Ravi Zacharias. This caught Paul’s eye who was in that class and he came up to me and asked me if I knew about the Apologetics Conference and about SES.

You mean you can go to school for this? There’s a conference about this?

I had no idea and I was sold from that point on. That year, I went to my first apologetics conference with him and a couple of other guys. I think I ended up spending around $400 in the book store.

Paul graduated before I and went on to SES. I soon followed. When my roommate and I moved in, he was the one who came over and helped us, seeing as we didn’t know anyone else in town. When he left to get a job in another state as a youth minister, he simply asked that SES take care of me.

Recently also, Paul found out that one of his sons has autism, which I thought was an interesting turn of events seeing as my wife and I are both Aspies, and Paul has begun doing more study on the topic of autism. Allie and I have been a great resource for him.

And to his credit, Paul is the only one I know who supports Geisler, but seems willing to reach out. I hope something good comes of that. Unfortunately, I have seen a number of friends cut me off because I do not support Geisler and I am arguing against his claims. While on Facebook thus far, I have not blocked anyone over this, but I have been blocked.

As for those who have done such to me, my wife and I still pray for God’s blessing on them everyday, and in a number of ways I have a great concern for them.

Having given a good introduction, now I will look at what Paul says.

I am a Norman Geisler fan. He is a godly man who has worked tirelessly for more than half a century. He is a man of integrity and a defender of the faith.

Probably a year ago, I would have said the same thing. However, from what I have seen in the past few months, I could no longer say any of this. I have talked to others who have had a similar problem with Geisler and too many people who I think could not just have a grudge. I have heard the people I consider to be some of the kindest in the world speak out on the nature of Geisler and have heard about the damage that has been done elsewhere, this from persons I trust highly.

As for Geisler being a defender of the faith, unfortunately it seems to also be more focused on his personal view on how the faith should be. When Mike told me his interpretation of Matthew 27 even before the book came out, I considered it an interesting idea worthy of further study. Never once would I have thought it was a denial of Inerrancy.

Here’s a simple way to look at it. Mike believes what he believes because he believes that is what the text actually teaches. How is it that he can be denying Inerrancy when he’s just saying “I want to believe what it is that I see the Bible teaching?” It seems the reply is “No. You must see what we say the Bible is teaching.”

If you want to know why Mike has not changed his mind, it’s for a simple reason. The evidence is not convincing. This is a man who got a book on the sighting of comets in the ancient world and having all of them catalogued just to better understand the phenomena described in the text. His reading of Greco-Roman biographies was to further understand the way the gospels were written.

Some out there unfortunately seem to panic at the thought of something outside of the text influencing how we read the text. Unfortunately, there is something that does that for all of us. It’s our surrounding culture. For instance, I can go to you and say a sentence and you can wonder what I’m talking about. I can then go to a really good friend and say the same thing to have him bust out laughing. Why? He knows a surrounding context to the text that you don’t know.

Lately, I’ve been reading some of the material of Ken Bailey. I find it fascinating the way he talks about how an understanding of Middle Eastern culture can help us with the text. The text was written in that climate and there was no need to explain the ins and outs of that culture to the listeners. They knew it already. They lived it. However, for those who do not, we can fail to notice several clues that we would not know about by studying the culture.

Let’s consider what’s called the parable of the Prodigal Son. Do we see anything in the Bible that says that in the ancient world, it was shameful for a man to run? No. However, it was, and then when we see the father running to meet the son, we understand that this father is breaching social etiquette out of extreme love for his son.

We get that from the surrounding culture. Archaeology is another example of this seeing as archaeological findings have helped us understand Bible passages. For instance, why is Daniel offered the third-highest position in the kingdom in Daniel 5? Well now we know. Archaeology has shown that Bel didn’t have it to give to Daniel. He was a co-regent at the time and so Daniel would have had the highest position Daniel could offer.

This is not to deny that the basic message of the Bible can be understood without help from the outside culture, but it is to say let’s get past the allergy idea of using information outside the text to teach us what the text means. In fact, if any of you have code messages that you use with your spouse, you should know about this.

I am a Mike Licona fan. I appreciate his eagerness to defend the Christian faith and his extensive research on the resurrection. Although I did not have the opportunity to study under him, his students speak very highly of him.

Keep this in mind everyone. Mike is defending the resurrection. Remember that? It’s the central doctrine of the Christian faith. Mike has written the best tour de force out there on the topic, as even said at SBL with N.T. Wright present. That is a strong position of orthodoxy, and yet so many people seem willing to say that Mike is trying to discount the supernatural or that he’s wanting to water down the gospel or that he thinks we can’t trust the Bible.

Yes. I have seen each of these said.

The Geisler-Licona debate has been a hot topic in the blogosphere lately. Nick Peters has devoted a number of discussions on this issue. I am a Nick Peters fan. I met Nick at Johnson University over a decade ago. He is a brilliant young man who will no doubt play an influential role in Christian apologetics. He and his wife Allie have also been very encouraging to our family.

I quote this only to say that Paul sees me as a friend. For those in the Geisler camp who might want to discount me due to my relation with Mike, I think Paul would say “Don’t do it. If he argues for a position, it is because he believes it.”

I am also a Christian apologetics fan. I am a Jesus fan. As such, it is difficult to watch the Geisler-Licona debate continue much longer. I would like to see Geisler and Licona continue to discuss the issue, as I believe it is an important topic. I’m not convinced either Geisler or Licona is guilty of any wrongdoing regarding the presentation of the arguments. Both men are standing firm to a position for which they have great conviction. This is honorable.

I am convinced however that Geisler is guilty not just in how he presented his arguments, but in what he’s done outside of this.

Here is what Geisler has done in the issue.

He has issued a petition behind the scenes for people to vote on about whether Mike is violating Inerrancy or not.

He has been instrumental in causing Mike to lose a job twice, including personally contacting people to warn them about Mike.

He has caused further financial loss to Mike by getting him uninvited from speaking engagements and has done the same to two supporters, Paul Copan and Gary Habermas.

As Max Andrews has demonstrated, he has misrepresented Mike’s position as well.

He has refused to meet with a scholarly conclave to discuss the idea.

His actions have caused great psychological stress to the families involved.

He’s also played a heavy hand at SES which he left and now wishes to use, just as is the case with ETS.

He has caused a number of people to say they don’t want to join ETS now because they don’t want to be a victim.

He has caused us to be a topic of derision by atheists on the internet who are now saying that Christian scholars can’t be objective because they must toe the line.

This is just a start in fact. I think before too long, we’ll be seeing more results from what has happened.

Now let’s look at what Mike has done.

Mike has offered to meet Geisler to discuss the matter with witnesses. This was not accepted.

Mike gave a paper at EPS to defend his views. Geisler called what he did unscholarly.

Mike went on some podcasts to share his views. Geisler condemned this despite open letters. What’s the big deal however in Mike speaking on an issue when his views are already public and some shows want to know what is going on?

You can hardly find anything posted against Geisler by Mike on Geisler’s Facebook page. Compare this to Geisler’s page. More than half of the most recent posts by Geisler of the most recent 20 have been statements concerning Mike.

I just went to Mike’s Facebook page even. I clicked on News. What did I find about Geisler on there? Absolutely nothing. I then clicked “Articles” and found the EPS paper. Had I not been looking for it, I would not have known about it from the home page.

Meanwhile, I go to Geisler’s page. What do I see? Advertisements about his book “Defending Inerrancy” and to the right of that, an article by Thomas Howe on Licona’s denial of Inerrancy and an outpouring of support for Geisler after the “Pro Licona Attack.” I also find a link to Licona info with twelve articles on it. You’d think Mike Licona was the greatest threat to the Christian faith!

Someone can say “Well Mike hasn’t condemned the attack cartoon!”

Well seriously, why should he?

It’s amazing that this is considered an attack on Geisler when in fact, Mike has been the one who’s suffered repeatedly. Then Geisler gets a little pressure applied to him and expects Mike to condemn the cartoon based on his say-so. Sorry, but the cartoon was quite accurate in what it depicted. JPH documented all the events that he spoke about in that and the responses have been ludicrous. Some people actually think we’re encouraging physical attack on Geisler?

It’s amazing that no one blinked with what Geisler was doing to Mike and is still doing, but now that a cartoon has come out, everyone is speaking about something being offensive.

And I thought Christians were better than the tolerance crowd.

And frankly, if some people can’t take a cartoon, I wonder how they’ll handle it when real persecution shows up. It would benefit Geisler to realize that the reason evangelicals are laughing is that they think the depiction of it is quite accurate. Geisler can say it isn’t, but he needs to tell the rest of the world why it isn’t and stop and consider why so many do think that it is. Could they be seeing any evidence of this?

What concerns me the most is what has recently occurred in the blogosphere. It is heartbreaking to read some of the posts by my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Many of these posts originate from various sites devoted to apologetics. These sites are filled with so many quality discussions on a wide range of topics. However, the language in this debate has become brutal. This needs to end. Of course, I realize that my plea may be met with the same sort of harsh criticism directed towards me for making this request. If so, it’s a favor I won’t return.

Here, I am concerned that there is worry about brutal language but not brutal actions. Take a look again at all that Geisler has done to Mike and we’re supposed to say nothing, but when it comes to language that could hurt Geisler, we are to stop it immediately?

In fact, I don’t think much of what has been said has been severe. For instance, I do not support the action of someone who just said “Shut up already, you old pig.” Do I wish Geisler would be quiet about this issue and drop it? Yes. Do I understand the sentiments that were expressed? Yes. However, we need to also make our statements with arguments. Those who saw the cartoon often talk about it being disrespectful, but the oddity is they never seem to explain how it is.

I’m not opposed to the use of strong language, but I am opposed to it when there is no argument backing it. In fact, this time for me has been a time in the study of forgiveness. What does it mean to show to my family around me how someone handles a tough challenge? How does one deal with what seems like personal betrayal? How do you have an attitude of forgiveness in case someone repents? How do you learn to not hold a grudge.

What I am most concerned with what I see in the blogosphere is unthinking. Now someone has complained that the Geisler video made some people look like drones. In all honesty, when I go to the Geisler Facebook page, a lot of people do a really good job of demonstrating that. For some, it’s simply the case of “Geisler has spoken. The case is closed.”

I honestly wonder if some might take the Mormon hymn of “Praise to the Man” and simply change it from Joseph Smith to Geisler.

In fact, I have a difficulty in some ways with Paul saying he is my fan. I often realize the position that I hold and a lot of people will take what I say very seriously and think “I want you to really study what I tell you.” I often do this trick at work where if someone tells me their birthday, I can tell them what day of the week they were born on. So many customers upon seeing this say “I believe you!” I don’t like that. I want them to check me first. Make sure what I’m saying is true instead of just being willing to believe me immediately.

I fear when I go to Geisler’s page, I see a lot of “yes men.” These are the ones that think “Well Geisler said this in response and that settles the issue.” That is not a position that should be given to any man save Jesus Christ. It should not be given to Geisler. It should not be given to Mike. It should not be given to me. I understand Paul is not doing this with either of us, but are we in danger of following another man instead of Jesus? Do we not remember 1 Corinthians? “I follow Paul. I follow Apollos. I follow Cephas.” It should be for all of us “I follow Christ.” Oh we’d all say we do, but are we following Christ but necessarily through the lens of a mortal man?

Here is my plea to my brothers and sisters in the Christian blogosphere – stop the personal attacks. If you would like to discuss the subject of inerrancy, please continue to do so. However, we must not tolerate the personal attacks. The “[so and so] started it first” argument didn’t work for me in first grade, nor should it be a valid excuse now. Just as I would not tolerate personal attacks against any of you, I can’t tolerate personal attacks against either Geisler or Licona. I urge you to commit to speaking only against a position not a person in this matter.

The reason there is speaking against Geisler in this matter is because he has moved this beyond the arguments by targeting Mike and his family financially. If we want the personal attacks to end, then Geisler needs to also stop playing the role of the bully, which he is now.

If we are to condemn “personal attacks” should we not condemn the cutting off of a man’s income and the targeting of his friends who support him? Paul Copan has said there are some evangelical scholars who want to speak out, but don’t for fear of being the next target. Why should anyone hold this power in the church today? If there is one thing that definitely needs to be done, it is that the evangelical community forms a union in such a way that no one person can have as much influence as this.

When I’ve seen all that Mike has gone through and the effects of that, and there are things we know about happening that we haven’t even shared, to say that a cartoon is offensive rings hollow. In fact, Geisler omits names to protect from annoyance. Yes. That’s right everyone. Mike and friends have had their reputation called into question, been uninvited from conferences, and Mike has suffered loss of income.

Geisler’s followers are in danger of being “annoyed” supposedly.

Keep in mind also, the list of scholars that stood in favor of Mike has been taken down in several places because some of those scholars have been targeted now and some realized their jobs were on the line. There were some who weren’t included to begin with for fear they’d lose their jobs.

Losing income vs. “being annoyed.”

Obvious one-to-one parallel there.

If there are any wrongs that need to be made right between Geisler and Licona, allow them to work it out. If we continue to stir things up in the blogosphere, we can be sure the tone will only get worse. It will distract others from a much more important Message.

It’s been tried, and it has not happened. Mike wants to meet, but only with witnesses. Who can blame him? (Well, apparently some in the Geisler camp can) Why do some of us write? Not to convince Geisler. We’re sure he won’t be. It’s the same reason William Lane Craig debates atheists. It is not to convince the atheist, but to convince the audience.

If I were to convince the audience here of anything, it would not be first off that my father-in-law is not violating Inerrancy. In fact, if you want to think that he is, that’s wrong entirely, but at that level, I’m not really going to complain. I could just see you as a hyper-fundamentalist type, but oh well. I see those often.

I would say instead to take a stand against bullying like this. Look at what I have said has happened to Mike and what could happen to anyone in the evangelical community who does not toe the line. Is this the way we want evangelicalism to continue? Do we want inquisitions like this to happen? We can settle the matter on Inerrancy later of course, but must it involve damaging the well-being of one in the body who has provided an outstanding service to the Christian community in giving a tour de force on the resurrection?

Now if you think Mike has been nasty himself, show where. I have pointed out my qualms with what Geisler has done, but I fear many are like a commenter on my blog here who saw nothing wrong with any of that, and if you are one of those, then I can just pray for you.

I agree it’s time to end, and I think it’s time for some to stand up and say wrong actions are wrong actions.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Addendum: I do wish to add that Win Corduan has been kind to my wife and I in all of this even stating there was no justification for the one who referred to Mike as a demon even. This slipped my mind at the time and my apologies to Dr. Corduan.

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