A Stone At Sloan

Is the attack aimed at Robert Sloan hitting the mark? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I’d like to begin this post by asking everyone to open their Bibles and please turn to the book of ICBI.

“There is no such book as ICBI.”

Now I find this surprising because lately, I’m finding it quoted so much by “true defenders of Inerrancy” that I would think it’s right up there with Scripture. The club of ICBI has lately found a new target and that’s in Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University (HBU) that hired Dr. Mike Licona as a professor there. HBU has been putting together a crack apologetics team and I suspect will soon be an apologetics hub in the world.

Yet for some people, it doesn’t matter as long as you don’t play their song and dance.

So what is being said in the latest rant?

“Despite the fact that Mike Licona lost his positions at the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and at Liberty University subsequent to the public criticism of his views on inerrancy by Southern Baptist leaders like Al Mohler and Page Patterson and others, Houston Baptist hired Licona and placed its blessing on his views.”

By the way, right at the start, that’s “Paige Patterson.” One might think I’m nitpicking, but it isn’t the first time that this mistake is made in this writing. Unfortunately, none of these people are NT scholars and there’s no reason why I should give Mohler or Patterson that level of confidence. One would hope Geisler would be above fallacious appeals to authority, but alas, he is not. If the goal is to ruin Licona, then all is justified, including bad logic.

The article goes on with Sloan’s words.

“Dr. Michael Licona is a very fine Christian. We trust completely his commitment to Scripture. There are those who disagree with his comments on what is a very difficult passage (Matthew 27:45-53, especially verses 52-53), but Mike Licona’s devotion to the Lord Jesus, his magisterial defense of the resurrection, his publicly and solemnly declared affirmation of the complete trustworthiness of Scripture and his worldwide efforts to win others to Christ give us full confidence in his work as a teacher, colleague and faculty member of Houston Baptist University (reported in the Baptist Press [BP] 2/6/2013).”

To which, we salute Sloan for this and the evangelical world ought to. One hopes that Sloan is not the type to respond to bullying from people like Geisler and Mohler. It will not be a surprise to see HBU moving fowards while Geisler’s own VES gets nothing. By the way, I also suspect that within a few years, provided Geisler is still around, there will be a controversy at VES and Geisler will be at the heart of it doing the same thing to someone else.

We continue:

“Besides the fact that Sloan notably makes no claim that Licona believes in inerrancy, there are several serious problems with this approval of Licona’s aberrant views on Scripture:…”

Yes. Sloan said that Licona believes in the completely trustworthiness of Scripture, yet somehow that’s supposed to mean he thinks the Bible has errors. If Sloan had said “Licona affirms Inerrancy” would it have even mattered? Licona put together the list of scholars who said his views did not go against Inerrancy. Licona himself has said he believes in Inerrancy. Still, it is not enough. Instead, we are given the impression that this is lip service. So, if Sloan does not say it, it’s suspect. If he did say it, we would be told why it’s wrong. You can’t win if the opponent keeps changing the evidence to fit their claims.

“First, Licona has not repudiated his claim that there is a contradiction in the Gospels about which day Jesus was crucified on. In a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (Spring, 2009) Licona declared, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point there. But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified” (emphasis added). In short, John contradicts the other Gospels on which day Jesus was crucified. This is a flat denial of inerrancy for at least one of them has to be an error. But if the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then how can it err on this matter?”

Okay. I don’t really agree with Licona’s thinking on this, but here’s the question I have in return.

Which temptation came first? Was it the temptation to worship the devil or the temptation to jump from the temple mount? Matthew has one order. Luke has another. Which is it?

Or do we go with something like “The Jesus Crisis” and maybe say the devil tempted Jesus six times and just used the same temptation twice? If not, then either Matthew changed the order or Luke did. If so, then wouldn’t this be by Geisler’s standard a denial of Inerrancy since one of them would have to be in error?

Or could it be it is an error by a modern post-enlightenment standard, but not by an ancient Jewish standard. To say the Bible must be read according to our standard is to get us into reader-response criticism, part of postmodernism. I’m sure Geisler doesn’t want to do that, but if the meaning of error-free in the text is determined by the culture of the reader, it looks like that’s where we’re going.


“Second, believing there are contradictions in the Bible is emphatically rejected by the Statements of International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). Licona has claimed to agree with the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) which accepted the ICBI statements as a guide to understanding its view on inerrancy (in 2003). But the ICBI Statements contradict his claim, saying: ‘We affirm the unity and internal consistency of scripture” (Article XIV). And “We deny that later revelations…ever correct or contradict” other revelations (Article V). As for the alleged compatibility of Licona’s view with the ICBI statements, the co-founder of ICBI and the original framer of its inerrancy Statements, R. C. Sproul said flatly, “As the former and only president of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the united Statements of ICBI’ (Letter May 22, 2012).”

Ah yes. ICBI has spoken. The case is closed. All hail the papacy of evangelicalism. Here’s the reality. Licona does not believe there are contradictions in Scripture. When Licona says that clearly, it is disregarded. Who cares what he says? And this from the same group that says we can’t know authorial intent. R.C. Sproul might have said this, but what jurisdiction does he have to comment on Licona’s work since he is not a NT scholar?

By the way, what is happening is really not good for Geisler because when a new authority comes up like Sproul the response is “Wow. I guess I can’t respect Sproul any more.”

“President Al Mohler of Southern Seminary adds correctly, ‘The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with inerrancy.’ An actual contradiction is an error’ (BP article 2/6/2013, emphasis added).”

Yep. So does Licona. Still, it is not what he says that matters. It is what is perceived by his opponents. It is certainly for them to try to stand up on Sinai and pass down a new tradition and put it on par with what has been revealed.

As I say this, I am thinking about a comic strip from Peanuts I put on my Facebook recently with Charlie Brown telling Snoopy he hears he’s writing a book on theology and hopes he has a good title. Snoopy says he has the perfect title and as we see him typing, we see the title is “Has It Ever Occurred To You That You Might Be Wrong?”

If we get a copy of that, can we please pass it on to Geisler and Mohler?

“Third, Licona still embraces the view that it is compatible with inerrancy to accept the Greco-Roman view that there are legends in the Gospels. Licona claims this Greco-Roman view is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus, 34). Indeed, he adds, “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…and they often included legends” (ibid., emphasis added).”

Did Licona say there are legends in the Bible? Nope. He was first determining what the genre was of the gospels. The best work to read on this would be Burridge’s book “What Are The Gospels?” Licona is writing a scholarly book for other scholars and stating at the start what the genre is and the rules of it. He is not stating that since many contain legends, therefore the gospels do. Geisler is taking out of context a saying of Licona’s and making it mean something it doesn’t.

Be careful. In some places, that’s called “false witness.” I would think if someone wants to take the text seriously, they should consider what the text says about that.

“In a YouTube video (11/23/2012) taken at the 2012 Evangelical Theological Society meeting (http://youtu.be/TJ8rZukh_Bc), Licona affirmed the following: “So um this didn’t really bother me in terms of if there were contradictions in the Gospels…. So um it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed. But it did bother a lot of Christians.” However, Licona consoles himself, saying, “I mean there are only maybe a handful of things between Gospels that are potential contradictions and only one or two that I found that are really stubborn for me at this point and they are all in the peripherals again.” However, this is no consolation for an inerrantist since even one error in the Bible would mean it is not the Word of God because God cannot error in even one thing that He affirms. After all, how many mistakes can an omniscient Being make? Zip , zero, zilch! None!”

Reply: Here’s why this doesn’t bother Licona? The case can be made that Jesus rose from the dead still. Is Geisler really going to tell us that if the Bible is not Inerrant, then we cannot make the case that Jesus rose from the dead? Has it come to that? Is it the case for Geisler that if the Bible is not Inerrant, then that means that Christianity is false? If so, then I really feel sorry for his faith position.

One would be hard-pressed to memorize every detail to deal with what look like contradictions in the Bible. Even for those who affirm Inerrancy, they can still understand that some places in the Bible do look like they contradict. If not, why would a whole book be written like “When Critics Ask”? If your whole faith depended on giving a defense for everyone of those consistently, what a burden it would be!

Geisler may not think Licona’s view is a great consolation for an Inerrantist. Who is it a great consolation for though? A Christian. Why? Because a Christian can know that you can take a Bible that could be less than perfect and still get the truth that Jesus rose from the dead and thus Christianity is still true.

Besides, how far will Geisler’s idea of an omniscient being making no mistakes go? Now I agree that God does not make mistakes, but does Geisler not know about internet atheists? Does he not know about people who will say that an omniscient and omnipotent God could do a better job of preserving His Word? Would Geisler maybe like to side with the KJV onlyists who say that He did, but only in the KJV? Could one not ask Geisler “If God can write a perfect book, why can He not preserve one?”

Many of us think God did preserve His Word. We just realize it requires work on our part. It is not a fax from Heaven or something like golden tablets. The writing and copying was still a very much human process. Errors in copying, which no one should deny exist, do not equal errors on God’s part. They equal errors on our part. A view like Geisler’s will instead set up Christians to have their faith shattered by having to have everything perfect.

“Fourth, Licona believes the Greco-Roman Genre used by the Gospels allows for errors. He claims this is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus [RJ], 34). So, “as I started to note some of these liberties that he took I immediately started to recognize that these are the same liberties that I noticed the Evangelists did, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” (ibid., emphasis added). So, “these most commonly cited differences in the Gospels that skeptics like Ehrman like to refer to as contractions aren’t contradictions after all. They are just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”

Yes. The quote on page 34 just in case you missed the fact that it was quoted not too long ago.

Oh, by the way, that part about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? That’s not on page 34 of the book. It comes from the Baptist Press article. Geisler doesn’t even tell you who the “he” is in the passage. It’s Plutarch and this was a project begun after the book was released. In fact, note what Licona has done. He’s done this to show that what Ehrman says are contradictions aren’t. You can argue that Licona is wrong, but the reason he’s doing this is to show there aren’t contradictions. These are just liberties, and having liberty in writing does not mean that one will necessarily have contradictions.

You’d think someone who cares about Inerrancy so much would welcome this.

“However, the ICBI statements clearly reject this conclusion, insisting that: “WE DENY that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (ICBI Hermeneutics Article XX). The Bible does use different genres of literature (history, poetry, parable, etc.). But these are known from inside the Bible by use of the traditional “grammatico-historical exegesis” which the ICBI framers embraced (Inerrancy Article XVIII). Indeed, the framers said emphatically, “WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual. WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact. WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (Hermeneutics Article XIII).”

Alas. It does not matter. ICBI has spoken. The case is closed. I wonder at this point if I opened up Geisler’s Bible if I’d find ICBI in the back of it. Geisler is still getting it wrong in that you can’t dehistoricize an account that is not historical to begin with. Note also that Licona does not say Matthew is “inventing” an event.

“Unlike Licona, the genre categories into which the Bible is said to fit are not determined by data outside the Bible. The Gospels, for example, may be their own unique genre, as many biblical scholars believe. As the ICBI statement puts it, “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (Chicago Statement, Article XVIII). Indeed, the ICBI Commentary on Hermeneutics Article XVIII declares: “The second principle of the affirmation is that we are to take account of the literary forms and devices that are found within the Scriptures themselves” (emphasis added). The Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible, not Greek legends.”

Really? Which biblical scholars are these? The article doesn’t tell us. We also need to know why they think this. Even if that is given, the other side needs to be shown to be wrong. Without that, it just becomes “We have people who take our side, therefore we are right” and truth can come to just a head count.

Also, if Geisler is so scared of extra-biblical information, then what is he doing with Genesis 1, which he thinks ought to be seen as teaching an old Earth in light of modern science. Note that that modern science is NOT something the ancients had access to. They did have access to the kind of material Licona uses. Could not someone come to Geisler and say “You deny Inerrancy for you use extrabiblical material to make the Bible say the Earth is old when the text itself says it isn’t, and the Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible.”

Geisler could come up with a defense, but his opponents can just say “Oh sure. You affirm Inerrancy, but you’re changing the meaning of the text with extra-biblical material.” The sword cuts both ways.

If Geisler wants to dispute the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies, no scholars will have a problem with it, provided he makes an actual argument. He can read Burridge’s book. An actual response will deal with Burridge’s data and show why it’s wrong. An actual response will not be “ICBI says otherwise!”

As for the “Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible” this is just a cliche saying. The Bible cannot interpret itself. It does not have a mind like that. It is the great holy book of our faith, but it is still a book. I’d like to use an example of why this is problematic. I read 2 Timothy last night. Can Geisler tell me who Jannes and Jambres were?

Remember. No extra-biblical literature is allowed.

You see, these two are mentioned in 2 Timothy 3. It does not tell who they are? Tradition says they were the magicians who opposed Moses, but all we know from the text is that they opposed Moses. The magicians certainly did, but many times so did the Israelites.

Can Geisler give me a definitive word on who these two are without referring to extra-biblical material? Answer. Nope.

If you want to know the layout of the land of Israel to know where Jesus walked, or the layout of the Roman Empire to know where Paul went on his journeys, you must use extra-biblical material. Does Geisler want to rip the maps out of the back of his Bible since they’re extra-biblical? (It could give him more room to include the ICBI statements in there after all.) Geisler makes the mistake of treating the Bible as if it was written in a vacuum. It wasn’t. It is in a high-context society that assumes you’re familiar with the background material. We’re not since we’re not part of that society. Hence, we need the scholarly work. Even knowing the society is knowing something “extra-biblical.”

Let’s deal with the next parts together.

“Fifth, in direct contradiction to the ICBI statements on inerrancy, Licona dehistoricizes part of the Gospels. Licona and even some reviewers tend to focus on only one issue in Licona’s writings, namely, the non-historical status of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27. But the ICBI statements on inerrancy condemn “dihistoricizing” the Gospel record. Article XVIII of the Chicago Statement on inerrancy reads: “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship” (emphasis added). The ICBI commentary on this reads: “To turn narrative history into poetry, or poetry into narrative history would be to violate the intended meaning of the text” (Commentary on Inerrancy Article XVIII). Again, “WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact. WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (Hermeneutics Article XIV). The official commentary adds, “While acknowledging the legitimacy of literary forms, this article insists that any record of events presented in Scripture must correspond to historical fact. That is, no reported event, discourse, or saying should be considered imaginary.”

“Licona’s claim that he is not “dehistoricizing” is bogus since it is based on the false assumption that the Gospels are not making a claim to be historical (cf. Lk. 1:1-4). But the ICBI fathers clearly reject this, insisting that: “WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (Hermeneutics Article VIII).”

Looking at the first part, note that it says that to turn narrative into poetry or anything of the like would deny the intended meaning of the text.

I thought we couldn’t know the intended meaning….

Next we have the same canard that Licona’s view is bogus since it assumes the gospels are not making a claim to be historical. This is just more question-begging on Geisler’s part. It is amusing that he refers to the ICBI fathers. Do we have a magisterium going on here?

“This is particularly true of the Matthew 27 text about the resurrection of the saints which presents itself as historical in many ways, including the following: (1) It occurs in a book that present itself as historical (cf. Mt. 1:1,18); (2) Numerous events in this book have been confirmed as historical (e.g., the birth, life, deeds, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ); (3) It is presented in the immediate context of other historical events, namely, the death and resurrection of Christ; (4) The resurrection of these saints is also presented as an event occurring as a result of the literal death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Mt. 27:52-53); (5) Its lineage with the preceding historical events is indicated by a series of conjunctions (and…and…and, etc.); (6) It is introduced by the attention getting “Behold” (v. 51) which focuses on its reality;[1] (7) It has all the same essential earmarks of the literal resurrection of Christ, including: (a) empty tombs, (b) dead bodies coming to life, and (c) these resurrected bodies appearing to many witnesses; (8) It lacks any literary embellishment common to myths, being a short, simple, and straightforward account; (9) It contains elements that are confirmed as historical by other Gospels, such as (a) the veil of the temple being split (Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45), and (b) the reaction of the Centurion (Mk. 15:39; Lk. 23:47). If these events are historical, then there is no reason to reject the other events, such as, the earthquake and the resurrection of the saints.”

Hate to tell you this Geisler, but apocalyptic and even fictional accounts have those too. In fact, by this argument, how can Geisler deny the copycat thesis to be false since it has the exact same characteristics often. Is Geisler going to say they are false because they are not biblical? If so, then again, he is begging the question. If he can say they can have these types of things in them and still not be historical, then he has refuted his own argument. He can’t have it both ways. Note also there has not been a response to Licona’s own arguments, such as what he said in “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

“Further, Both Licona and even some reviewers make the mistake of assuming that Matthew 27 is the only problem that Licona has on the inerrancy issue. In fact, there are numerous places where Licona deviates from the traditional ICBI view on inerrancy which even ETS adopted as a guide for understanding inerrancy. Consider the following:”

Just a side note. Geisler never deals with “these reviewers” which include myself, J.P. Holding, Max Andrews, and others. Those challenges are still floating out there. Holding has challenged Geisler to debate that the gospels are not Greco-Roman biographies. That challenge was deleted from Geisler’s Facebook page and the person who put it up banned. If Geisler is so sure of his view, then how about dealing with these reviewers and accepting the challenge, or is it Geisler knows he can’t win that debate and would prefer to rant and rave from where he is?

“(1) Licona denied the historicity of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27. He wrote in his book on The Resurrection of Jesus (RJ) that the resurrection of the saints narrative was “a weird residual fragment” (RJ, 527) and a “strange report” (RJ, 530, 548, 556, emphasis added in these citations).[2] He called it “poetical,” a “legend,” an “embellishment,” and literary “special effects” (see RJ, 306, 548, 552, 553, emphasis added in all these citations). He adds, “It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes (see RJ, 185-186, emphasis added in all these citations). While Licona later moderated his certainty of this denial, he never retracted it, nor has he retracted his belief that it is compatible with inerrancy, even the ICBI view, to hold that this section is a legend.”

Let’s see. Who else holds this view? William Lane Craig does. Do we hear about Geisler going after Craig? Nope. Someone else is Craig Evans who says in “The Textual Reliability of the New Testament” on pages 166-167 (I am unsure exactly as I read it on the Kindle) that the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is chronologically clumsy and does not reflect the literary skill of the Matthean evangelist and “Should we someday recover a second century Greek manuscript that preserves the latter part of Matthew 27, I shall not be surprised if vv. 52-53 are not present.”

Let loose the hounds of heresy!

Note also the way Licona says about the data with Jesus that “it could be mixed with legend.” Licona is writing to scholars and when you do that, you don’t assume Inerrancy, you state what could be at the start, but the rest of the work is to show that it is not. This is again fearmongering.

“(2) Licona also affirmed that one of the Gospels claims that Jesus was crucified on the wrong day. This he said in a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Spring, 2009 (which is cited above). This is a serious breach of inerrancy.

(3, 4, 5, 6) Licona also casts doubt on the existence of the angels at the tomb after the resurrection in all four Gospels). He declared: “We may also be reading poetic language of legend at certain points, such as …the angels at the tomb (Mk 16:5-7; Mt 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-13)” (RJ, 185-186).”

We had to have the changed date mentioned again. It’s kind of like the way it was the day Michael Jackson died. You have to have it repeated umpteen times just in case anyone missed it by now. As for the part about angels, this is just the same thing. Licona is trying to do a historical investigation without assuming Inerrancy. That’s how it’s done. You have to be open to being wrong.

Something Geisler is not.

“(7) He also suggested that the mob falling backward at Jesus claim in John 18:4-6 may not be historical but could be a legendary embellishment. He called it: “A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4-6” (RJ, 306, n. 114).”

Despite the fact that on the Theopologetics podcast, Licona said he does not believe there are embellishements. Why is he saying what is said above then? Again, this is the way scholars write. One piece some think is an embellishment is the one cited.

“Licona affirms that the Gospels sometimes embellished Jesus’ words. He wrote, “For this reason, we get a sense that the canonical Gospels are reading authentic reports of Jesus’ arrest and death…even if some embellishments are present” (RJ, 306). This is contrary to Luke 1:1-4 which affirms that the Gospels are based on the accounts of “eyewitness.”

No. There is no affirmation of that. It is saying even if there were embellishments, the accounts would still be accurate. Also, if there were, how does that contradict the account being based on eyewitness testimony. Is Geisler saying an eyewitness could never embellish anything at all? I’m sure some police officers and journalists would be fascinated to hear that one!

“(9) Licona believes that the Gospel of Matthew does not come from the apostle Matthew or from another apostolic source, but it has been redacted by a later writer. For he affirmed that “This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances. However, “the magnificent harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction” (RJ, 530). ”

Does anyone in there see any argument saying Matthew did not write Matthew? I don’t. By the way, I’ve talked to Licona personally about this, seeing as he is my father-in-law, concerning how Ehrman is too quick to dismiss church father testimony on who wrote the gospels. I think I know his view well enough. Geisler has it wrong. Also, perhaps we should address redaction criticism. Mark Goodacre at his blog on the topic defines it this way:

“Redaction Criticism is the study of the way in which the evangelists (= “redactors”) moulded their source material, with a view to discovering their literary and theological agendas”

What does this say about who wrote it? Zip. It just says what they did. To say the writer redacted his material is not to say that Matthew did not write it. I recently took my wife to see a dentist and met a Jehovah’s Witness there. When I told different family members and friends about it, I would regularly take the material I had from my own memory and change it some, not by adding, but by summarizing or leaving parts out or what have you. Within a few minutes of the event, I was redacting it, but that does not mean that I was giving errors in what I was saying.

Edited to add: The case gets worse. If you go to Licona’s book, and I urge anyone skeptical to do so, you will find the quote from Geisler is actually Licona quoting John Dominic Crossan. It has a footnote right after it. I would very much like to hear Geisler explain how it is he thinks that this is Licona’s view since it has a footnote right after it. Is this the kind of methodology that Geisler will employ or allow to go after Licona?

“(10, 11, 12, etc.) Licona also admits that there are an unnumbered “handful” of possible errors in the Gospels. He wrote: “I mean there are only maybe a handful of things between Gospels that are potential contradictions and only one or two that I found that are really stubborn for me at this point and they are all in the peripherals again.” However, he takes comfort that they are all in “peripheral” areas. But here again, how many errors can an omniscient Mind make in so-called peripheral areas? None! Further, some of the errors are not so “peripheral,” such as the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 after Jesus’ resurrection. After all, their resurrection was seen as a result of Jesus resurrection and was even taken to be a proof of it by the context and by many early Fathers of the Church (see “The Early Fathers and the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27,” http://tinyurl.com/bdu23gg), including an apostolic Father (Ignatius) who was a contemporary of the apostle John and Irenaeus who knew Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John.”

Licona is being an honest scholar here. He is looking at the material and dealing with it, something Geisler needs to do, especially with the material of his opponents. Licona is also not calling Matthew 27 an error. As for the article on the church fathers (By the way, the church fathers are extra-biblical. Why are we allowed to use them to interpret the text? I thought the Bible was its own interpreter), there is a reply in the works. Unlike Geisler, I’m seeking an expert in the church fathers to make sure I get my claims correct. I can say Geisler does not deal with Licona’s objections in “When The Saints Go Marching In.”

” Conclusion

Even Licona admits that “… You may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels, but you still have the truth of Christianity that Jesus rose from the dead, and I think that’s the most important point we can make” (BP, Feb 6, 2013, emphasis added). Indeed, one would lose some form of inerrancy, if Licona is right—the form that has been held by Christians down though the centuries (see John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church, 1984) including Southern Baptist (see Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, Baptist and the Bible, 1980), was confessed by the framers of the ETS, and was codified by the ICBI framers. In view of this, it is incredible to hear Licona say, as he did (BP Feb. 5, 2012), that “he has not claimed there are contradictions in the Gospels.” He clearly did say there was a contradiction in the Gospels in his debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (cited above). He also admitted in his YouTube interview (cited above) there were or could be contradictions in the Bible. In fact, if words still have meaning, one wonders what form of inerrancy can there be that admits the Bible is errant? As President Al Mohler said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy” (BP 2/6/2013). ”

Little problem. Licona never affirmed contradictions. This is just putting words in his mouth as part of fearmongering. Note that Geisler does not even say anything about the idea that Jesus rose from the dead is the most important point we can make. Geisler has often spoke about the fundamental of fundamentals. It is not the Bible or Inerrancy. It is what Licona defends instead, the resurrection.

I have a book here in my library that on page 63 in talking about the Bible says the following in discussing the significance of the internal harmony of Scripture:

“This is especially so in view of the fact that the books of the Bible were recorded by some 40 men as diverse as king, prophet, herdsman, tax collector, and physician. They did the writing over a period of 1,610 years; so there was no opportunity for collusion. Yet their writings agree, even in the smallest detail. To appreciate the extent to which the various portions of the Bible are harmoniously intertwined, you must read and study it personally.”

I do not doubt many people would agree with this. Do you want to know where it is?

It’s in a book called “Reasoning from the Scriptures.”

If you do not know, that is one of the main books of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Witnesses affirm Inerrancy, and they’re right! You know what they get wrong? What the Inerrant teaching is. That includes the resurrection. They do not see it as a physical resurrction.

You see, someone can be right about the Bible being Inerrant, and still not be a Christian. Yet could someone have the right view that Jesus rose from the dead and still think the Bible has errors (Which Licona and I don’t.)? Answer. Absolutely! I would rather someone come to the right Jesus and have the wrong view of the Bible, than come to the right view of the Bible and with the wrong Jesus.

Geisler goes on.

” Licona’s good friend Gary Habermas of Liberty University offers a lame excuse for his former pupil’s aberrant views when he claimed that people should remember that Licona’s approach is an apologetic strategy. “Thus, it is not a prescription for how a given text should be approached in the original languages and translated, or how a systematic theology is developed…. So it should never be concluded that the use of such methods in an apologetic context indicate a lack of trust in Scripture as a whole, or, say, the Gospels in particular” (cited in BP 2/13/2013). If this is taken to mean that Licona does not agree with his own words in his own book (RJ) and lectures when he denies the inerrancy of the Gospels, then it is ludicrous. For, as any reasonably intelligent reader can tell, Licona is making and defending the statements of his book as his own and not simply as an “apologetic strategy.” Nowhere in the 718 pages of his book (RJ) does he claim that it is merely an “apologetic strategy.” The only apologetic strategy is the one employed by Habermas to defend his wayward student.”

Note this. A “lame” excuse. Wasn’t this from the side telling us we need a respectful dialogue? Apparently, this is like the people who cry out for tolerance but don’t think they need to show it. Sorry Geisler, but Habermas is right on this. It is an apologetic strategy. All he is wanting to affirm is that the minimal facts approach is not a sidestep of Scripture. It is not about Licona. Geisler is reading something into the text. For Geisler, it has to be spelled out specifically, except for when it disagrees with him. Licona specifically says he does not believe in embellishments in the Bible, but that is not enough. The rules keep changing.

Also, Licona does not deny Inerrancy. Do we really have to keep repeating this?

“Licona told the Baptist Press, “I suppose that if one were to claim that it’s unorthodox to read the Gospels and attempt to understand them according to the genre in which they were written rather than impose Dr. Geisler’s modern idea of precision upon them, then I’m guilty as charged” (emphasis added). However, this begs the whole question for it assumes, contrary to fact, that they are written in a Greco-Roman genre which Licona claims is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins. He added, “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…and they often included legends” (RJ, 34, emphasis added). The truth of the matter is that ICBI framers are not imposing a “modern idea” of precision on the Bible, certainly not in claiming Gospel record of the resurrection of the saints is historical. This is purely a “straw man” fallacy. The ICBI frames clearly said, “We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as lack of modern technical precision, … the use of hyperbole and round numbers” (Article XII, emphasis added). What is more, it is not inerrantists but Licona who is imposing a foreign, extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre on the Bible which leads to “dehistoricizing” the Scripture and undermining the doctrine of inerrancy.”

No. Licona does not “assume” that the gospels are Greco-Roman bios. He argues for it. Geisler says this is contrary to fact. Can he say so? Is he willing to step into the debate ring with Holding on this one? Until he does so, I say there is no reason to listen to him on this. If he thinks his case is correct, he can demonstrate it in a debate. If not, then it’s time to get off of Mount Sinai.

Finally, Geisler ends with this:

“Furthermore, it is not a question of “precision” that inerrantists insist upon when they disallow Licona’s allegations of contradictions in the Bible. As Dr. Page Patterson, President of Southwest Baptist theological Seminary, aptly put it: “Let’s be clear. A story, an affirmation, is either true or false, but not both true and false in the same way at the same time. That is a long accepted law of logic, and no amount of fudging can make it change. While I have no reason to question the sincerity of the author and while only God can judge his heart, Southern Baptists paid far too great a price to insist on the truthfulness of God’s Word to now be lured by a fresh emergence of the priesthood of the philosopher, especially when a philosopher raises a question about the truthfulness of Scripture” (1/9/2012).”

Note that Patterson’s name is spelled wrong again. Yet does Patterson really think Licona is denying the Law of non-contradiction? What is this of the priesthood of the philosopher as well? Licona is not a philosopher! If we want to talk about the priesthood of the philosopher, let’s do some checking.

Patterson – “After graduating from Hardin-Simmons University, Patterson completed the Master of Theology (Th.M.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”


Al Mohler – “A native of Lakeland, Fla., Dr. Mohler was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University before receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He holds a master of divinity degree and the doctor of philosophy (in systematic and historical theology) from Southern Seminary. He has pursued additional study at the St. Meinrad School of Theology and has done research at University of Oxford (England).”


Norman Geisler – ”

William Tyndale College, 1950-55 (diploma)
University of Detroit, 1956-57
Wheaton College, 1958 (B.A. in philosophy)
Wheaton Graduate School, 1960 (M.A. in theology)
William Tyndale College, 1964 (Th.B.)
Wayne State University Graduate School, 1964 (work in philosophy)
University of Detroit Graduate School, 1965-66 (work on M.A. in philosophy)
Northwestern University, Evanston, 1968 (work in philosophy)
Loyola University, Chicago, 1967-70 (Ph.D. in philosophy) ”


Mark Hanna, Geisler supporter – “Mark M. Hanna is a full time writer and was for many years the Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and World Religions at Talbot School of Theology and California State University. He also taught at the University of Southern California, where he earned M.A. degrees in philosophy and world religions and a Ph.D. in philosophy.”


Christopher Cone, Geisler supporter – “Ph.D. / Philosophy, University of North Texas, 2011

Dissertation: Redacted Dominionism: An Evangelical and Environmentally Sympathetic Reading of the Early Genesis Narrative

Ph.D. / Theology, Trinity School of Theology, Kerala, India 2008

Dissertation: Prolegomena: A Survey and Introduction to Method in Theology, Beginning with Presuppositional Epistemology and Resulting in Normative Dispensational Theology

M.Ed. / Leadership & Administration, Regent University, 2005

Th.D. / Theology, Scofield Graduate School, 2005

Dissertation: The Promises of God: A Synthetic Bible Survey

M.B.S / Biblical Studies, Scofield Graduate School, 1997

B.B.S. / Biblical Studies, Tyndale Biblical Institute, 1996

Undergraduate Studies, Moody Bible Institute, 1992-94”

J.I. Packer – “Born in Gloucester, England, Packer won a scholarship to Oxford University. He was educated at Corpus Christi College, obtaining the degrees of Bachelor of Arts (1948), Master of Arts (1952), and Doctor of Philosophy (1955). ”


R.C. Sproul – ”



If we want to end the priesthood of the philosopher, then let us be consistent. Anyone with a Ph.D. in philosophy will no longer determine the path of the studies.

But alas, the rules will be different.

The sad reality is Geisler is not helping Inerrancy. If you read the blogosphere, and I do, people are being driven from it. Geisler is destroying the legacy, nay, has destroyed, the legacy he spent a lifetime building. If anyone is responsible for the decline in affirming Inerrancy today, it is not Licona. It is Geisler himself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Geisler’s article can be found here: http://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/Licona/HoustonBaptistDefenseOfLicona.htm (Because we do believe in responding to critics and making sure we get their views correct.)

Mark Goodacare on Redaction Criticism can be found here: http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-is-redaction-mps-and-nt.html

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