Thursday, November 30, 2017

Farnell's Plays The Numbers Game

David Farnell has hit the panic button again. Oh sure, there are young people rapidly having sex outside of marriage and aborting their children. Sure, we have ISIS knocking at our doors and radical Islam on the rise. What's Farnell's target? Oh, it's hideous alright. Apparently, DTS graduates are making a case that the Old Testament could contain hyperbole in their numbers.

Okay. I'll give you a few minutes to sit down. I'm sure that terrified you as much as it terrified me.

I wish I was joking. I really do. In fact, someone I showed this article to actually thought it was from the Babylon Bee at first, but it's not satire. It's entirely real. David Farnell refers to the alarming rise of the hyperbolic hermeneutic.

Gasp! If the Bible contains hyperbole, it could be, you know, literature! It actually might not be written in a way immediately understood by Western 21st century Americans! We might actually have to work to understand the text!

So let's go through Farnell's panic and see how bad it is.

This year, Protestants celebrate the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation (1517-2017). Since the days of the Reformation, except perhaps for their inconsistency in prophetic literature like the book of Revelation, the Reformers fervently championed the plain, normal, literal interpretation of Scripture. Indeed, one can say that the Reformation was at heart a hermeneutical reformation in biblical interpretation. During their day, the prevailing interpretation ideology of Romanism was allegorical, or more importantly, non-literal interpretation that had held sway for 1500 years at least.
Sadly, Farnell gives no evidence of this. It is just an assertion. It would be good to have some scholars of the Reformation show up and speak about how Luther and the others saw Scripture. Amusing is the insistence that there was inconsistency with the book of Revelation. Apparently, Farnell really thinks that an apocalypse is to be read the exact same way as any other book. It's a wonder then that we have to spend so much time wondering who the antichrist is. Just look for the guy with the multiple heads coming out of the sea. That's him. Of course, as an orthodox Preterist, I contend that Farnell isn't a literalist with Revelation since it says that these things must happen "soon." I see no way that 2,000 years without is soon, but that's not the main point here.

From here, Farnell goes on to write about the importance of a literal interpretation to the Reformers. I leave that to the scholars of the Reformation to comment on. I mainly want to get at the heart of the argument. Farnell thinks that groups like ETS were founded to defend a literal interpretation and the Fundamentals was written for this.

In 1992, a Dallas Seminary, Old Testament Department graduate, David M. Fouts wrote his dissertation entitled “The Use of Large Numbers in the Old Testament with Particular Emphasis on the Use of ‘elep.” A condensed form of this dissertation appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1997. Fouts found troubling many literal numbers in the Old Testament, arguing that “For some scholars the use of large numbers in the OT is an interpretive issue. For others it involves the theological issues of inerrancy and the historical veracity of Scripture.” He argued that his article’s purpose was “to demonstrate and defend the premise that he issue is hermeneutical rather than theological, involving interpretation rather than inerrancy.” (Fouts, JETS 40 [Sept 1997] 377. He examined issues surrounding five examples of population figures in the text of the OT. I will highlight only three:
Of course, for Farnell, interpretation and inerrancy are tied in together. Inerrancy must entail a literal interpretation. What is not told is who decides what a literal interpretation is. What is literal to a 21st century Western American might not be what is literal to the rest of the world. It's quite a bit of cultural bigotry on Farnell's part that he thinks every other culture in the world thinks just like him or even worse, that the Bible should have been written with someone of his culture in mind. Sadly, this the kind of bigotry that one finds in many internet atheists today who would use the exact same hermeneutic of Farnell. It is doubtful that Farnell will ever actually go and engage with some of these people, but it is certain that if he did, he would find himself totally unequipped and it is further certain that he would just cement the unbelief of these people.

So what do we have here? We have a claim by Fouts. Now what I want to know at the start are the answers to some questions. What is the evidence of this? Can it be demonstrated? Does it make better sense of the text? What are the implications of not reading it in a non-hyperbolic way? Did the ancients do this kind of thing regularly?

Farnell apparently has no such questions. All that matters is that the interpretation is not literal. The die has been cast. Judgment has been given. Gather the stones.

1. The population of Israel at the Exodus, i.e., the size of the Israelite nation given in the OT (i.e., Num. 1:45 at 603, 550 total) as well as the size of the Israelite population just before conquest in Numbers 26:51 at 601, 730).
I will grant that in isolation this is not convincing to me, but I would like to see what Fouts would say about it. There seems nothing odd about populations remaining stable all things being equal, but perhaps Fouts does have a better case here.
2. The number of the Ephraimites in Judges 12. Judges 12:6 gives a number of slain at 42, 000 for mispronouncing “Shibboleth,” but that such a number “exceeds the census for that tribe in either Numbers 1:32 (40,500) or Numbers 26:35 (32,500). Fouts asserts “Even allowing for an increase of the Ephraimite warrior population after the conquest does not alleviate the problem of the enormity of the number of those slain.” (p. 378).
This one I do find more convincing. Fouts has certainly looked at this issue much more and considered even a normal population growth. Fouts has hit on something here I think could be a problem for a more literalistic approach and one that we need to consider.
3. The Davidic census in 2 Samuel 24: at 1.3 million and 1 Chronicles at 1.57 million arguing that “Like the censuses of the book of nUmbers, the totals are entirely too large.” (p. 379).
By the way, I am copying this just as Farnell wrote it and he has the capital U in the middle of numbers, and no, the book title is not capitalized. I would like to see the evidence for the numbers being too large, but if I grant it, then this is a problem and it needs to be addressed.
Based on this reasoning concludes, “Those who would challenge an essentially conservative view of Scripture often do so by appealing to such passages that involve large numbers” (p. 379). He continues, “Accepting them at face value often leads to internal disharmony with other Biblical passages. There are also the archeological data to contend with. These facts may no longer be ignored by conservative scholars.” (p. 379). He says that “What is needed is a balanced approach that examines the numbers as they are encountered in the text and suggest a plausible explanation of their use consistent with other Scriptural data and with the demographics demonstrated by regional archeology.” (p. 379). 
It's hard to think of a way to argue against this, but no doubt Farnell will. Just simply Fouts questioning the traditional interpretation is enough. Do note the irony about starting a post about the importance of the Reformation and in it complaining about young scholars going against the established tradition before them.
Next, based on an examination of (1) a brief review of the history of interpretation of these numbers that asserts a rejection of these numbers as true but rather allegorized them [with the exception of the Reformers who took them literally—PLEASE NOTE: [notice they were grammatico-historical advocates of literal interpretation] (pp. 379-81); (2) textual consideration in the OT that affirm these large numbers as being indicated in the original Masoretic text, especially by the Hebrew term for “thousand” (‘elep) being accurately understood as such a large number so that there is no substantive doubt that large numbers are truly indicated in the MT (pp. 381-82), (3) current archeological and demographics discoveries that suggest at no time did the land contain such a large population as seen in Numbers 1; 26; and (4) Ancient populations around Israel employed “hyperbolic fashion” in their literature regarding in “military contexts expressing the number of troops enaged in battle, number of enemies slain or captured, amount of spoil taken and amount of corvĂ©e labor employed” (p. 383-84).
These are important matters to be dealt with. We will see if Farnell's approach is what we expect, which is just to put one's head in the sand and cry out "Inerrancy!" An inerrancy that cannot be defended but can only be asserted is not an inerrancy that matters at all.
He concludes that the OT is similar to ancient history writing in use of hyperbole. “Scripture is similar to other ancient historiography in that it may use large numbers hyperbolically in military contexts” (p. 386). He concludes that one must understand these large numbers as hyperbolic. Fouts concludes that the OT reflects, especially in 1-2 Chronicles, “a literary pattern of hyperbole, the purpose of which is to glorify both Yahweh and his theocratic ruler David (and his descendants)” (p. 387) . . . . “the choice of the size of the numbers may have been due to authorial intent rather than a strict accounting of factual figures” (p. 387). Finally, he states,
[T]he large numbers have often been a stumbling block for accepting the Biblical accounts as legitimate records of history. If the numbers are simply reflective of a rhetorical device common in ancient Near Eastern literature, however, one may no longer question the integrity of the record of use of this argument. The large numbers are often simply figures of speech employed to magnify King Yahweh, King David, or others in a theologically based historiographical narrative. (p. 387).
This is just quoted in the interest of being fully accurate. We will now see what Farnell says in reply.
1. It is good that Fouts appears to give credibility to the Bible as well as inerrancy. But one is left wondering just what he means by the term “inerrancy” as one examines his contentions. Clearly a shift from historically, traditional, orthodox understanding of the term has occurred by examining his “solution” here. Obviously, ICBI inerrancy standards are clearly violated by ICBI standards of 1978:
We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.
We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.Clearly, Fouts dehistoricized. Perhaps as he does not believe in ICBI?
Of course, dehistoricizing is the favorite one here. We know obviously, the ancient Israelites would not use hyperbole because, well, reasons! Surely God in wanting to get His message out would be clear and write what would be immediately understandable to modern 21st century Western Americans. Again, Farnell with that kind of approach sounds exactly like a lazy atheist you would come across on YouTube, something that should concern him, but it won't.
2. How does Fouts know the mind or “intent” of the OT writers? Is he a mind reader?
He knows it by looking at the text and looking at other text. The reality is we try to judge intentions of others all the time. A wife expects her husband to pick up on a lot of the clues that she drops him. Children will hint to their parents many times about what they want on Christmas. Do we have 100% certainty on these matters? No. Can a reasonable case be made? Yes.

We could also just as well ask how is it that Farnell knows that the Old Testament text would be written in a way immediately amenable to people like us today? How does he know that the message was written just like that? How does he know that when God wants to get a message across, He does it in full literalistic mode?
3. All we have are these numbers given in the text literally. Grammatico-historical interpretation accepts these numbers at face value in light of no compelling reason textually to dismiss them. Fouts has now stepped away from plain, normal and subjectively imposed non-literal or allegorical or, what he calls, “hyperbolic” rhetorical devices or “simply figures of speech.” Plain, normal interpretation is directly tied to ICBI Inerrancy
Again, plain and normal according to who? Someone in a modern individualistic culture? Is it anathema to Farnell to actually step outside of his culture? Is modern America just so awesome that God wrote the text immediately in a way that we can understand? Note that this does not deal with Fouts's concerns at all thus far. It just touts out inerrancy.
4. Would the original readers have picked up any clues in the context that the writer “intended” hyperbole? Examining the context of these places evidences prose, not poetic, literature, written in a very factual nature.
Farnell might be shocked at this, but many times we can use hyperbole and other non-literal forms when we are not speaking in poetry. If you say you are so hungry you could eat a horse, you are not reciting poetry at that point. It is just prose and it is hyperbolic. The sad thing is Farnell asks a good question at the start. The sadder thing about it is that he doesn't even consider the question. Instead, it's assumed that it's an "of course not." How does he know this?
How is God glorified by figures that have no truth correspondence to reality? If the figures are not actual numbers, then how is God glorified through obvious deceit of hyperbole that might not be recognized as the “intent” of the writer or recognized by the reader of these documents as hyperbole. Common sense would suggest that hyperbole on Fout’s supposition assaults the character of God not affirm it.
So Farnell thinks that this involves deceit on God's part if it is not literal. This is the same kind of thinking that led to the claim that the Bible must be teaching that the Earth is the center of the universe. When Matthew tells us that Jesus will be in the belly of the Earth three days and three nights, does Farnell take that literally? Does he think Jesus is being deceitful with the numbers?

The thing is, if this is known hyperbole, it is not deceit. I am not deceiving someone if I sit down for a meal and say "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse," and I'm not really going to eat a horse. Everyone knows that I'm using hyperbole. Still, my attitude does correspond to reality. It means I am really hungry. 
6. Inerrancy accepts that the text of Scripture is without error. Fouts hermeneutic of hyperbole assaults the doctrine of inerrancy rather than affirms it as he contends. The Scripture is made to bow to the fleeting/temporary evidence of archeology and demographics. The Scripture, its integrity, its trueness, is made to bow before the subjective whims of historical criticism evidenced in his analysis. In essence, his approach is a pig with lipstip in that it assaults inerrancy rather than upholds it.
We wonder what lipstip is, but oh well. Fouts does point to actual data, but Farnell will have none of it. He would rather that Scripture bow down to fleeting/temporary standards of modern 21st century Western Americans. The Scripture must bow to us! It must be readily understood by our culture! Aren't we awesome?!
7. It is also non-sequitur to say that because others did this during Israel’s day that Israel followed suit.
Sure, but it's also a non-sequitur to say that ancient Israel would think like modern 21st century Americans, but apparently, Farnell thinks that they did. They had to. They had to be literalists just like we are. Again, this is just cultural bigotry on Farnell's part.
8. Above all, his “solution” or “remedy” is worse than the “disease” he addresses. By attempting to resolve the difficulty, he creates a bigger difficulty. If the OT exaggerated numbers, why not exaggerate other things? Why stop there. Why not invent other exaggerations regarding the Fall (e.g., a talking snake; rib from the side of Adam), The Flood (e.g., a mere thunderstorm becomes a flood), the Exodus (some small group of Jews who wander out of Egypt becomes an exaggerated deliverance)?
And with this, Chicken  Little Farnell has entered full panic mode. Note that the objections are still there. Note that the problems are still there. Farnell, who doesn't have to go deal with internet atheists regularly, will give no answers to his readers. He will not equip students who go to college and have to face these questions. Even worse, he shows that he is not open to the possibility of being wrong. When presented with a new interpretation, he is not open to it being accurate. He just throws out "Inerrancy!" and the case is closed.
Another more recent DTS graduate shares a similar type of non-literal interpretation rather than plain, normal interpretation once championed by DTS. At the Evangelical Theological Society on November 15, 2017, at Providence Rhode Island, DTS graduate Craig Olson presented an interesting paper along similar lines to Fouts. Olson is a PhD graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, receiving both his ThM in “Academics and World Ministries” (2007) and PhD in Bible Exposition (2017) from the school. He teaches at DTS as well as a class on hermeneutics at Trinity Southwest University in Fall 2017. In 2013, Olson received the Donald K. Campbell Award in Bible Exposition. He also is associated with Josh McDowell ministries.
Enter the second great villain. Well at least Farnell can write an article on inerrancy without mentioning Mike Licona, the arch-heretic.
At the ETS meeting, Olson wrote a paper entitled, “How Old was Father Abraham? Why the Patriarchal Lifespans Cannot be Face Value Numbers. A Paper Presented to the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, November 15, 2017.” Reflecting similar thinking of hyperbole to Fouts, Olson argues in his “Abstract” portion of the paper that,
The long lifespans in Genesis are only a problem for those who hold to inerrancy. If the patriarchal narratives are merely legends, then exaggerated lifespans fit right in. However, for those who believe Genesis records actual events about real people, the lifespans raise significant questions. Skeletal and tooth wear data from ancient times indicate an average lifespan of around forty years old, not over 900 years as in Genesis 5, or even the almost 200 years of the later patriarchs. But the problems are not limited to scientific data outside the Bible. A face-value reading of the patriarchal ages contradicts other Scriptures. Plus, a chronology based on these lifespans is biblically inconsistent and contradicts the archaeology of the Intermediate Bronze and Middle Bronze ages.
He goes on to argue that,
This paper will outline reasons from both inside and outside the Bible why the patriarchal lifespans were never intended to be read as face value numbers and will survey a history of interpretation. This paper proposes that Genesis genealogies reflect the authentic Middle Bronze Age practice of using schematic and exaggerated lifespans to bestow honor on significant ancestors. A symbolic interpretation of the patriarchal lifespans from an evangelical perspective will be proposed and defended, and the proposal will be applied to other extraordinary lifespans in Scripture. [red highlight added]
At this, I just want to say that Olson has presented a real problem and he has also presented a real solution. The Ancient Near Eastern mindset was much more centered on honor and shame than we are in the West. Of course, we can expect that Farnell will handle it the same way.
In this article, Olson contends that questioning the lifespans of the OT text does not question inerrancy. He argues that
Evangelicals have traditionally claimed that to question the face value interpretation of the lifespans in Genesis is to question the inerrancy of the text. However, the truth is actually the opposite. The long lifespans of the patriarchs present a problem for those who believe that Genesis records actual historical people and events. The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy states that “Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching … about the events of world history.'” But these lifespans are outside the known extent of human longevity and seem to add a mythical or legendary quality to the narratives. There is no evidence of anyone at any time in history living these types of lifespans, and a chronology based on a face value reading does not match the archaeological evidence we find in the ancient Near East. So, taking the ages in Genesis at face value actually undermines the historicity of Genesis and exposes the text to the possibility that it is historically inaccurate. [red highlight added]
Keep in mind Olson is wanting to uphold inerrancy then in saying this. Farnell will have none of it. Following in the footsteps of Norman Geisler, Farnell is much like a cardinal who is ready to speak on behalf of his evangelical Pope and say that Olson has violated the dogma.
In Olson’s thinking, to accept these lifespan ages at face value undermines historicity and actually assaults inerrancy. Why? He gives several reasons, essentially centering on problems “outside the Bible” and problems “inside the Bible”
1. “[E]xtended lifespans clearly contradict all known evidence. . . . . There has not been presented any credible archaeological or anthropological evidence of any human living past 120 years old..” So he believes there is a scientific problem based on discovered evidence to date.
2. If we accept long lifespan figures, “The events recorded in Genesis could not have occurred during the IBA [Intermediate Bronze Age—1950-1800 BC). So he believes there is a chronology problem based on current understanding of ancient times.
3. He goes on to cite various alleged chronological problems “within” the Bible based on his understanding of the apparent contradictions that might arise if long ages are accepted among the Patriarchs.
4. He then reviews the history of interpretation of long patriarchal lifespans in Jewish and Christian history. He notes that “written records of how people interpreted the lifespans in Genesis do not appear until after ca. 300 BC” so one cannot be certain as to how the ancients interpreted lifespan due to the “time gap.” He notes that some Jewish interpreters (e.g., Demetrius the Chronographer [ca. 200 BC], Eupolemus [ca. 160 BC], the book of Jubilees [ca. 150 BC], and Josephus [in Antiquity of the Jews, ca. AD 94] “all took the numbers in Genesis at face value.” The LXX “showed a willingness to change the numbers for their own purposes.” Christian chronographers such as Julius Africanus [AD 221], Eusebius as well as Archbishop Ussher [mid Seventeenth century AD] took them at face value. But he dismisses this as due to a belief in a strict 6000 years of history corresponding to six days of creation. He also notes that the Reformers [Luther, Calvin] took these lifespans at face value. Yet, he argues that “the evidence does not support the common notion that everyone interpreted these lifespans at face value until the nineteenth century.” The evidence that he does cite does indeed show this latter contention so one is left wondering about his contention here!
Olson has brought up several good points here. It's also noteworthy that many evangelicals who hold to inerrancy, including Geisler, don't hold to a 6,000 year Earth either. (In fact, many YECs happily say that Geisler is not interpreting the text literally, but the evangelical pope gets a free pass) It seems foreign to Farnell that new evidence could actually change our minds. One wonders if Farnell thinks the Bible teaches geocentrism or not.
His proposed solution to the “problem” of long lifespan ages in the following terms,
If we abandon the face value interpretation of the patriarchal lifespans are we not simply appropriating the findings and assumptions of the critical scholars?
The answer is no. A symbolic interpretation of the patriarchal lifespans from an evangelical point of view holds that these schematic numbers were part of the original composition of Genesis by Moses after the Exodus . . . .
My contention is that these patriarchal lifespans were originally written as schematic numbers intended to memorialize and convey honor to the lives of real ancestors who played significant roles in the founding of the nation Israel. I believe that a better understanding of how ancient cultures recorded lifespans will not only lead to a more accurate biblical interpretation, but also align the patriarchal narrative with the chronology of the patriarchal age and known archaeology from the Middle Bronze Age. This interpretation can restore faith in the historicity of the patriarchal narratives by removing the conflict between the face value interpretation and the historical evidence.
Keep in mind what Olson has done once again. He has pointed out a real objection. I know this because it is one I encounter regularly. In turn, he has offered a real solution. It might not be the right one, but it is at least a solution. Investigators at this point would want to know what the evidence is. Internet atheists and fundamentalist Christians won't. It goes against a literal interpretation!
Therefore, Olson rejects the concordance view that believes such contradictions between science and the Scripture would be debunked through future discovery. He also rejects that God has accommodated himself to fit a pre-scientific world view. His conclusion is that they are symbolic numbers “to memorialize and convey honor to the lives of real ancestors who played significant roles in the founding of the nation of Israel” and “the patriarchal lifespans are in error if the original author intended them to be accurate historical records, and the audience accepted them as such.”
Of course, there are any number of problems with a concordance approach to the Bible, but Farnell will have none of it. After all, we are in a scientific culture, so the Bible must be written with a scientific culture in mind. Sadly, Farnell's responses are exactly the same.
1. All the Criticisms directed at Fouts apply here to Olson for their hermeneutic is very similar. They negate the plain, normal sense of Scripture, the grammatico-historical sense, due to rationalistic reasons. Please review the criticisms above Fouts.
2. The overwhelming evidence is that as far as one can determine, the vast majority of orthodox individuals, from Jewish to Christian, took these numbers at face value.
3. Once again, why stop the “hyperbolic hermeneutic” to just the area of lifespan in 2017? Fouts has already extended it to population figures in 1992. Where will this stop? Perhaps the entire book of Genesis 1-11 is a hyperbolic, non-literal account. Nothing stops Olson’s approach from explaining away many other “problem” areas in the OT/NT.
And our replies to Farnell are again the same. Once again, the tradition has spoken and where will it end? Shields up everyone! We can't dare suggest that something could be non-literal! Farnell is incredibly identical to the internet atheists I encounter. The difference is not in methodology but in loyalty.

Farnell goes on to lament how DTS has apparently fallen from its original standards. Let's look at some of what he says.
3. The refutation of both Fouts and Olson stand, in reality, just by listening to them. They clearly apply rationalistic arguments that violate inspiration and inerrancy all the while contending that their views affirm it. Their affirmation is really a denial!
The refutation of Farnell comes just by reading him. He presents no answers to problems in the text, treats them like they must not exist, and then says "Inerrancy!" How would he differ from a Muslim or a Mormon who took the same approach to their sacred text when presented with problems? What would Farnell think of a Mormon who when presented with archaeological difficulties and such in the Book of Mormon just said "Inerrancy!" (More likely, they'd say they have a testimony from the Holy Spirit that Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Book of Mormon is true. Yep. I've heard it enough times.) Farnell could not fault them for ignoring problems in light of believing in the inerrancy of their Scriptures since he does the exact same thing.
4. I was a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary in 1990 from the Department of New Testament with my PhD. I witnessed things advocated in the Department that clearly were in contradiction to I long believed DTS stood for. I was during my 4 years there often shocked by the advocacy of some of those in the NT faculty. I could write many more pages, but I don’t feel this is the place. At least now anyway. My experience was one of being berated with verbal threats and raised voice if I did not accept the “enlightenment” of historical-critical ideologies. I witnessed an incident of someone singled out for removal from the program when they dared object to historical criticism. I only graduated by God’s grace who protected me during those years. The “new DTS” that I experienced was not the “Old DTS” that I heard about from my teachers who graduated from there.
Farnell doesn't give any specifics here and it would be good to know what DTS says in response. I have to wonder about being berated with verbal threats since Geisler considers being hit with a snowball in a video to be inciting violence. I wish I was kidding, but no, I'm not.
5. The evidence is now seriously suggesting something may well be wrong both spiritually and doctrinally among evangelicals, and DTS in particular. In the OT, a Hebrew word “ICHABOD” or “no glory” or “the glory has departed” may well be applicable (1 Sam 4:21). The words of Revelation 2:5 to Ephesus may also, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” 
Whoa! What's this? The church at Ephesus could have brought about the return of Christ! Surely so because Jesus says that if they do not repent, He will come! Oh yeah. He's also going to knock over a lampstand apparently. If that sounds ridiculous to you, well hey, I'm just going by the plain reading and being consistent and doing that with the book of Revelation. How am I supposed to know the intent of the author after all?
6. Finally, the present writer has noticed an inverse proportion of the prestige and influence of a seminary. Simply put, the more Bible-believing a seminary is, the less influence and prestige it has among the world as a whole; the more liberal or unbelieving a seminary becomes, the more prestigious the world considers the institution. I believe THAT MY DTS DEGREE IS BECOMING VASTLY MORE PRESTIGIOUS. 
The sad thing is that at this rate, Farnell is not having any influence on the world, except for one that will further undermine our witness to a world when we can't accept the results of scholarship. Why does Farnell even need a degree? You need a degree to know that the Bible says what it means and means what it says? Sounds like he wasted a lot of time.
7. ETS clearly has drifted in its definition and understanding of inerrancy in its membership.
Could we get a clear statement from Geisler and Farnell on where ETS stands? First, we are told that they are not evangelical. Then we are told that they need to vote on Licona and that will settle the matter. The reality is that if ETS agreed to keep Licona in, Geisler and Farnell would say that this shows ETS is not reliable. If they vote them out, then ETS will be evangelical again. Either way, the vote won't matter.

And keep in mind the prediction was true. Nowhere in this did Farnell deal with any problems. Nowhere did he address the data. Nowhere did he produce contrary scholarship.

Farnell is convinced that the tradition he pays loyalty to is going away. Good. It needs to. A faith that isolates itself from data and the world has no reason to expect to have any impact on the world.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Why Bob Wilkin Disturbs Me

Bob Wilkin showed up on our radar some time ago when he went after Craig Blomberg. Wilkin is apparently part of this old guard that believes in a rigid fundamentalist approach to the Bible that is all-or-nothing. Never mind that this kind of hold on Inerrancy has led to numerous deconversions for young people who make Inerrancy an essential. Wilkin will make sure that this position is held.

Now he's going after Licona's latest book which he finds disturbing. It's hard to read a title like that, which I have decided to parody in my own title, without thinking about the snowflakes running around feeling triggered. What will be more pertinent to us is to see if Wilkin butchered Licona's book as badly as he did Blomberg's. So let's jump to it.

We just got the book, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? in our office last week. So I’ve only had a chance to give it a fast read. However, I’ve seen enough to be disturbed.
Actually in the Foreword Dr. Craig Evans anticipates my reaction, “Many Christian readers of Dr. Licona’s book will be surprised by his findings. Some will perhaps be troubled” (p. x, emphasis added).
No doubt, because Evans has dealt with this kind of fundamentalist approach that produces people like Bart Ehrman. In fact, this is the kind of approach Ehrman regularly argues against and I think sadly to this day, he still holds. This is how the Bible should be because it's the Word of God. Of course, it's never explained why it being the Word of God means that it will somehow become that which a modern 21st century Western society immediately understands. If being readily understood is a requirement for Scripture, then we have to ask why is it that so many Jews misunderstood Jesus as the promised Messiah in fulfillment of the Scriptures in His time, or why Peter said Paul wrote things that were hard to understand and which some people distorted. Sorry, but just because you want to call the Bible the Word of God does not mean that it is easy to understand and is straightforward.

I give Licona credit for bringing his ideas down to the lower shelf at times. For example, in the introduction he indicates that the “the historical accuracy of ancient literature may be viewed in a manner similar to what we observe in movie theaters today” (p. 6). He considers the Gospels to follow the biographical/historical practices of “ancient literature.” Licona believes that the four Gospels are like a movie that is based upon real events, but which obviously takes many liberties with the facts.
That is an outstanding illustration. He views the Gospels kind of like A Beautiful Mind, Catch Me If You Can, Schindler’s List, Into the Wild, Moneyball, Ray, or The Pianist. If you’ve seen any of those movies, you surely did not come away thinking that what you saw was an accurate portrayal of what was said and done. If you want to know what parts of the movie were true, you do a google search. When you do, you find out that quite of lot of what was presented in the movie never was said or done.
The problem is Wilkin has taken an idea and run with it. Did the Gospel writers take liberties in some areas? Yes. To what extent? It's not said. All one needs to do to speak of some liberties being taken is to look at the same event or dialogue in different Gospels. You find different wordings and such that take place. Some accounts have one person being healed and some have two. The Sermon on the Mount has differences. The voice at the baptism of Jesus has differences. Licona has never said this means the description is inaccurate. Perhaps it would be if these were 21st century biographies, but they are not.
While I don’t view the Gospels in that way, and I don’t think it is spiritually healthy to do so, I appreciate him making it so clear that is how he understands them. 
Wilkin can think this, but does he assume that his way is spiritually healthy? I question that because again of all the deconversions that have taken place. I find it quite spiritually unhealthy when one person is ready to throw out the resurrection of Jesus because they can't find absolute certainty on, say, how old King Saul was when he began to reign.
Licona continues, “Some movies claim at the beginning to be ‘based on true events’ while others claim to be ‘inspired by true event.’ The latter will involve more dramatic license than the former. Even in the former, however, we expect reenacted conversations to be redacted to varying degrees for clarity, dramatic impact, and artistic improvement” (p. 6). I find it odd that the Gospel writers could make improvements on what Jesus said. Couldn’t the One who created language have spoken in such a way as to be artistic and memorable? Are we to understand that the King of kings needed His disciples to redact what He said?
But who said redaction means improvement? For one thing, Jesus's words would have originally been in Aramaic so when we translate to Greek, we already have a change. What happens if someone paraphrases Jesus's words to get the gist of what is being said? Is that meant to be an improvement or a summation of it? What about differences in the Gospels on the words of Jesus at various times? Did Jesus say literally every single word or has one person taken minor liberties? What about the end of John's Gospel? Since not everything was written, could we accuse John of saying he thought some parts of the life of Jesus just weren't important enough to be mentioned?

Licona does suggest, however, that the Gospel writers took less liberties in changing speeches and events than secular authors did: “the extent of editing by the evangelists is minimal by ancient standards” (p. 199).
Licona is trying to correct what he considers two extremes. One wrong extreme is those who “assume those authors [the Gospel writers] must have written with the degree of accuracy and almost forensic precision we desire and expect today” (p. 201). He says such “devout Christians” are sometimes guilty of “subjecting the Gospel texts to a sort of hermeneutical waterboarding until they tell the exegete what he or she wants to hear” (p. 201). What they want to hear is that the words reported accurately represent what Jesus said and did. That is one extreme to avoid.
The other extreme is “critics of a cynical type [who] have often appealed to Gospel differences as a means for not taking seriously what they report” (p. 201). While the Gospels are not historically accurate in all details according to Licona, they do give us “general historical accuracy” (p. 201).
Sadly, if what Licona says is true, then we really do not know what Jesus actually said or did. We have a general picture. We have the gist. But we do not know how much of what the Gospel writers report was dramatic license. 
It would be nice of Wilkin to tell us how he knows what Jesus said and did without doing so in a question-begging way, say a presuppositional approach. I also think Wilkin is hitting the panic button. When we have Jesus saying "Love your enemies", I do not think it was originally that Jesus said "String them up and crucify them" and that eventually this somehow became love them. This seems entirely unlikely. If all we have is the gist, what is wrong with that? That is accurate enough. The gist is what we use today in most day to day conversations. Not having the exact words is not a problem. We have the exact voice.

Licona goes through nineteen Gospel accounts and explains how the Gospel writers redacted and improved what Jesus said. Here are some examples:
  • “It could be suggested that much of the dialogue between Pilate and Jesus is a Johannine creation [!],” Licona says, “since the Synoptic narratives do not suggest that anyone else was present to overhear the exchanges, much less any of Jesus’s disciples. Of course, this suggestion can neither be confirmed nor disconfirmed” (p. 116, emphasis added).
 From the standpoint of historical writing, this is entirely true. Licona is writing a book that is not an apologetics book per se, though it serves that purpose, but a book written to show interaction with scholarly material and to give a scholarly look. Wilkin however is quite dishonest with this quote. Let me continue it for the benefit of the reader.

However, it is worth observing what Luke 23:3-4 says: "Pilate asked Jesus, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' and Jesus answered, 'Yes.' Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I find no cause for guilt in this man.' " Luke's report seems implausible if read independently of John. Would the Roman governor respond in such a manner after Jesus had just affirmed Himself as a king? Yet Pilate's responses to Jesus's claim to be a king is entirely plausible if a dialogue had occurred between the two that was at least somewhat similar to what we read in John. Since John was probably written after Luke and is largely independent of Luke, both evangelists must have known a tradition such as we read in John."
I consider it quite dishonest for Wilkin to give one part and then ignore that Licona gives an argument in favor of historicity. Those who do not read the book will not know this and it's doubly tragic if they don't read it because of how Wilkin has handled it.

  • Licona suggests, “Matthew may be doubling up and conflating two healings in order to abbreviate…” (p. 136).
Sadly in Wilkin's world, the very suggestion is anathema. He leaves out that Licona immediately says that Mark may have shined his spotlight on one person or identifying his source. Having just finished the second edition of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, I think the latter is far more likely.

  • Both Matthew and Luke, according to Licona, “displace a portion of Jesus’s teaching and transplant it in a different context” (p. 142).
Once again, what of it? Does Wilkin think the disciples had to be told this twice? If so, then why does no Gospel record it twice? Again, for Wilkin, raising up the suggestion is enough.

  • “John may cross-pollinate details from a different event” (p. 151).
Yes. He might.There are differences in the accounts. Wilkin himself has to offer his own answers. Does he think the anointing took place exactly as it was twice? Licona has offered a suggestion. Implying you don't like it is not a refutation.

  • “Mark and Matthew present a question that Luke changes to a command” (p. 145).
Here's the first question I would think about when I see this claim. Does Luke do this? If he does, then there needs to be some way to explain it. Wilkin's review could in fact open up people to problems in the Gospels that his approach can't solve and sadly for him, sticking your head in the sand doesn't make them go away. 

Licona says “there are numerous reasons why differences exist” (p. 2). The first reason he cites is “a slip of memory”! Really? The Gospel writers inaccurately reported events because of bad memories? What, then, does John 14:26 mean? The Lord said, “The Holy Spirit…will…bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” That is the promise of perfect memory. But Licona never discusses John 14:26 (though he does mention it in a list of verses in footnote 25 on p. 241).
Wilkin has two problems here. The first is that Licona is speaking of all ancient literature at this point. Differences exist in discussions of the same event in other writers. The second problem is John 14:26 really doesn't apply. If it did, it would apply only to Matthew and John. At that, it would only call to mind what Jesus said as His actions are not included. Mark and Luke are not part of this group meeting so why should we think they would be included?

We could say there is a third problem because if there is this perfect memory, then why are there any differences in the accounts? Why would Matthew use so much of Mark? Does he really need to read Mark if he has a perfect memory of the events?

The bottom line for Licona is that we should not read the Gospels like we would a report with “the degree of accuracy and almost forensic precision we expect and desire today.” We should change our expectations when we read the Gospels. We must read them as stories which are based on fact, but which contain a significant amount of made up dialogue and events.
Which is not anything Licona has said. He instead says we should not read them with the standards of modern biographies but rather those of ancient biographies. Licona nowhere says there are made up dialogues and events. If Wilkin thinks this, then I want to see the quote.
In other books and messages, Licona strongly asserts that Jesus actually died on the cross for our sins, rose bodily from the dead on the third day, and appeared to many in His glorified body. But in this book we find little in the way of certainties. This book places the Gospel writers on par with Plutarch, an unbelieving author who played loose with his sources and made up much of the “history” he reported (see, for example, pp. 90-91). 
Except it doesn't. It realizes that the writing styles could be similar. This is no more alarming than saying that Josephus and John both wrote in Greek and therefore, if we compare the words that they use, we're placing John on par with Josephus. The book is also not mean to give us certainties. It's meant to help us understand as a hypothesis how ancient Gospel writers wrote.

Licona is entitled to his opinions, however dangerous they are. However, I do not recommend this book or his ideas. 
And Wilkin is entitled to his misrepresentations, however wrong they are, however I do not recommend his work. He has sadly shown himself to not be an honest reviewer.

In Christ,
Nick Peters



Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Response To Geisler's Preserving Orthodoxy

Ah. Spring is here. The birds are out. The trees are growing their leaves, and Geisler is pushing the panic button on Inerrancy again and, what a shock, the longest chapter in the book is on Mike Licona. You have to love the springtime!

Geisler's book is a rush job as one can tell since it has got a number of typographical and grammatical errors in it. In fact, if Geisler had limited himself to saying everything one time, he could have probably cut this book in half. Many times you'll find the exact same statement repeated twice in the same chapter.

Also, it would be interesting to go through and count and see if ICBI is referred to more often than Scripture. It would be close at least. I am reminded of my earlier claims in past writings that Geisler has ICBI at the front of his Bible.

If you're wondering: No. Geisler has not responded to his critics here. The arguments are entirely one-sided. This is one of the great deficiencies. Many people will sadly never read Mike Licona's excellent material defending the resurrection and answering charges of Bible contradictions because Geisler has already got in their mind that he's a liberal who denies Inerrancy. 

Geisler also places great emphasis on the Grammatical-Historical method of exegesis. Unfortunately, he never tells us why this should be the case. Those on the outside will even be left wondering what it is. Geisler never tells us. Can he demonstrate that this is in fact what the early church did? A work like Mark Sheridan's makes quite a compelling case that they didn't. Is Geisler just scared of allegory or something of the sort?

This ultimately means that with Geisler, you have not just a method that has to be used, but also an interpretation that must come with so much so that if anything disagrees, Geisler immediately pushes the panic button and shouts "Denying Inerrancy! Denying Inerrancy!" The discussion is no longer about examining the viewpoint, but questioning one’s orthodoxy. A perfect illustration of the adage of "Better to debate a question and not settle it than to settle it and not debate it."

Geisler also argues that the literal approach was preferred by the Fathers since they held that Christ was literally conceived of a virgin (which I do affirm), died, and rose again. Still, this is hardly a convincing point. The Bible is a big book and just looking at a few of the main events does not point to how all matters were interpreted. For instance, preterists and dispensationalists could agree on those, and still disagree with the interpretative techniques of the other. The same for Calvinists and Arminians or young Earth creationists and old Earth creationistss. 

In showing the historical case for inerrancy, while Geisler is certainly right that Inerrancy is the historical position, not necessarily ICBI Inerrancy. Second, Geisler in fact goes to an example that does not help his case. This is to look at Martin Luther. The example was so dangerous to Geisler's cause that I wanted to make sure I had it right. In fact, Geisler has it at his web site and there, the case is even worse. We could say "It's worse than we thought." The original quotation is as follows:

There was mention of a certain new astronomer who wanted to prove that the earth moves and not the sky, the sun, and the moon. This would be as if somebody were riding on a cart or in a ship and imagined that he was standing still while the earth and the trees were moving. [Luther remarked,] “So it goes now. Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Josh. 10:12] (Table Talk June 4, 1539).

Now I don't have any desire to speak ill of Luther here. I am a good Protestant. I also do think some Luther scholars question the accuracy of some of the Table Talk, but here Geisler accepts it as legitimate, so I will do the same.

How does this help Geisler's case? In fact, it has Luther saying that he knows Copernicus is wrong on heliocentrism and why? Because he interprets the Bible literally. This is what Geisler wants us to do and not use extra-biblical sources to change the meaning of the text. Still, the text does say that Joshua asked the sun to stand still. Does Geisler believe this? If so, is he questioning heliocentrism? If not, then is he using extra-Biblical information to interpret the text that was not present for the earliest listeners?

The next example doesn't help his case any more.

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

There are plenty of people who will say that Norman Geisler himself denies Inerrancy by denying this. For instance, consider Dr. Jason Lisle, who is an astrophysicist and holds to young-earth creationism. Now I disagree with Lisle on the age of the Earth, but notice what he says about Geisler.

Inerrancy means that the Bible, in its original autographs, is entirely without error. That necessarily includes the timescale of Genesis, as well as everything else the Bible teaches. That the Bible teaches that “God created in six days” is certainly not a relatively new position. And if indeed the Bible teaches that, then inerrancy demands that we accept it as true.

Norman Geisler would no doubt disagree with this, but is this not a problem? Mike Licona uses ancient biographical techniques to interpret the Bible. That's wrong and denying Inerrancy! Norman Geisler uses modern science to interpret Genesis. That's okay! Does Geisler think he has the right to not only say what Inerrancy should be for everyone but what it entails and doesn't? If so, then how is it that we do not have an Evangelical Pope?

And we're still not done! On his web site, Geisler continues the quotations of Luther to show the history of Inerrancy by these quotes:

Though this Epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and regard it as a good book, because it sets up no doctrine of men and lays great stress upon God’s law. But to state my own opinion about it, though without injury to anyone, I consider that it is not the writing of any apostle. My reasons are as follows:
First: Flatly in contradiction to St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture it ascribes righteousness to works and says that Abraham was justified by his works in that he offered his son Isaac, though St. Paul, on the contrary, teaches, in Romans 4, that Abraham was justified without works, by faith alone, before he offered his son and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. . . .
Second: Its purpose is to teach Christians, and in all its teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the Resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ.

So it looks like for Geisler, you can question if James has apostolic authority and if it should be in the Bible, and that's okay because you're being consistent with Inerrancy. You can also say that James disagrees with Paul on salvation and you're okay! But if you dare to suggest that the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is not literal, then you've crossed the line, bub! What a strange world Geisler lives in. 

Geisler is also still pushing the rumor that 30% of ETS voted against Gundry and asked for him to be dismissed. This is yet another case of Geisler ignoring his critics. James Patrick Holding (JPH) and I have pointed out the truth behind this claim in this video.

Geisler also tells of how Michael Bird has challenged the Gundry decision regularly and suggested that Gundry should be reinstated. He also says that Blomberg has pointed out some problems saying that the NT miracles present themselves as historical, but so do many pagan accounts. Do we just beg the question by assuming that the NT accounts are true because they're in the Bible? 

Geisler doesn't respond to this question, which is a good and important one. Well, he doesn't respond unless you consider pushing the panic button a response. Unfortunately, this leaves us unprepared in the face of challenges to our worldview. Those of us who do believe in the reliability of Scripture have no problem accepting historical tests of the Bible. We're sure it will pass.

Geisler also says that for Gundry, saying "Jesus said" or "Jesus did" does not mean He said or did what follows. Unfortunately, this is unavoidably true to an extent, unless we want to suggest that Jesus was the rare rabbi who spoke Greek all the time except for when he raised Jairus's daughter. There is no doubt paraphrasing and some mild editing took place just like in any historical account, ancient or modern. 

This also gets us to a problem where Geisler will have unnamed sources. For instance, the president of one of our largest seminaries is reported to have said "If Gundry stays in ETS, then I'm leaving." Who? Inquiring minds want to know. The hesitancy to have him mentioned can't help but leave me wondering how close this person was to Geisler such that if Geisler revealed his identity, it would hurt his case.

Geisler also says that one could say they believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and yet still allegorize everything. This is panic button pushing, but sure. They would not be in ETS since one would need to hold to evangelical doctrines. I do not deny that Jehovah's Witnesses believe in the Inerrancy of Scripture despite them getting most every major Bible doctrine absolutely wrong. If you know the Bible is Inerrant, you do not know what it teaches. You only know that what it teaches is true. 

Geisler also briefly and amusingly goes after other targets, if only mentioning them by name, though referring to them in his earlier book. (This one is Defending Inerrancy if you're playing at home and you've lost track of all the books Geisler's written on this major issue of our day.) Included in this of all people is Darrell Bock. When someone like Bock is gone after, you have to wonder just how much Geisler might just be looking for targets to go after. 

Going after Pinnock of course isn't much of a shock and I disagree with his open theism of course, but the key point of this chapter is that at the end, he calls ETS the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society. He has said this in other writings, but it's good that it's here. Make a mental note of this. Now, it's time to move on to the arch-heretic, Mike Licona. 

No. Geisler still has not accepted arguments from prior posts even though he has been corrected frequently on them. For instance, he still says that Greco-Roman bioi contains legend. As he says

 There is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco–Roman biography (bios). Bioi offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches . . . and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins. (RJ, 34, emphasis added in this and following citations).

 Geisler has been told repeatedly that Licona's book is his Ph.D. dissertation. It is not meant to be directed specifically towards an evangelical audience. He starts out stating the simple fact. These bioi could contain legends and sometimes it's hard to tell where history ends and legend begins. Note this. This does not mean that the Gospels then MUST contain legends. Because the genre allows for it does not mean it necessitates it. Licona is also just starting to argue his case and trying to cover as many of his bases as he can.

Geisler makes another mistake on similar grounds next saying that Licona says there are embellishments in the Gospels.

Embellishment is Present in the Gospels
 “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).
“A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4–6” (RJ, 306, n. 114).

 Sadly, Geisler doesn't pay attention to Licona's argument and what he says. For starters, when asked point blank by Chris Date if he thinks there are legends and embellishments in the Gospels, Licona said no. This was something I pointed out on my own blog some time ago. To be fair, it was only a little over five years ago so Geisler obviously did not have time to notice this claim. I also point out that this is Licona ultimately saying that maybe we could have an embellishment or a legend, and to play devil's advocate, he gives some suggestions. He nowhere says these are legends or embellishments. The same follows with this:

Angels at the Tomb may be Legend
“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. 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).

The above arguments apply just as much here. 

Now remember that statement about the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society I asked you to remember? It's important because in this chapter, the very next one, Geisler says the following:

First, Licona claims that his view is in accord with the doctrine of inerrancy. However, the Evangelical Theological Society, which is the largest group of scholars in the world based on inerrancy, pronounced the same kind of dehistoricizing of the Gospel record as incompatible with its view on inerrancy. (Loc. 1742)

So according to Geisler, when years earlier ETS kept Pinnock in, they became the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society. There's even an appendix in this book on why Geisler left them. Yet now, when Geisler wants to have a group to denounce Licona's view, he has no problem pointing to ETS even though they're not evangelical according to him. One can't help but wonder where ETS stands? Is it just this rule that if they agree with Geisler, they're evangelical, and if they don't, they're not? Does that mean if a vote took place and it came out that Licona was accepted, that Geisler would see this as proof that they weren't evangelical? If Licona was removed, does that mean Geisler would see this as proof they were reliable? Geisler will get the conclusion he wants to either way.

Of course, if Geisler wants to try this, it will be interesting to see if he wants to apply the same standard to William Lane Craig. Why has Geisler not gone after Craig? Could it be that there is something else going on? Is it that Geisler doesn't think he'll get grounds if he tries to go after a man often seen as the leading defender of Christianity today?

Geisler also argues against Licona's view saying that ICBI never allowed extra-Biblical data to determine what the text means. Yet if this is the case, it has to be asked. What about Joshua 10? What about Genesis 1-2? Lisle would say that Geisler does use extra-biblical data, and it's hard to deny that since he points to modern scientists for his interpretation. 

The irony gets better with this statement:

Seventh, Licona ignores virtually all the arguments presented for the historicity of the resurrection of these saints in Matthew 27 and then claims that we beg the question in favor of the historicity of the event in question. (Loc. 1796)

Please note that Geisler has never responded to JPH or myself on these matters. I, as Mike's son-in-law, am in a position to speak on his behalf. If Geisler is waiting for Licona to personally engage, it's not going to happen. He's too busy defending New Testament Christianity to engage in this battle. That is where JPH and myself come in. Geisler even banned someone from his Facebook page who put up a challenge to him from JPH. If anyone has ignored arguments on this issue, it has been Geisler. We welcome any attempt of his to answer our charges and to accept the debate challenge, but we are not holding our breath.

(11) Modern objections to a straight–forward acceptance of this passage as a historical narrative are based on a faulty hermeneutic which violates sound principles of interpretation. For example, they (a) make a presumptive identification of its genre, based on extra–biblical sources, rather than analyzing the text for its style, grammar, and content in its context; or, (b) they use events reported outside of the Bible to pass judgment on whether or not the biblical event is historical. (12) The faulty hermeneutic principles used in point 9 could be used, without any further justification, to deny other events in the gospels as historical. It is simply special pleading to neglect this overwhelming evidence in favor of the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew. (Loc. 1812)

Geisler unfortunately does not understand how Licona arrives at his conclusion. It is by studying the text and its style, grammar, and content. It is odd that Geisler wants to avoid other examples outside the Bible. Does he think that only the Bible has Wisdom literature or Proverbial stories or creation accounts? If Geisler thinks that the approach of Licona could be used to deny other events, he's welcome to try. It's not an all-or-nothing game for us. Each case is taken on a point by point basis.

Ninth, it is understandable that Licona would be “grateful to the Southeastern Theological Review for their invitation to participate in a round table discussion on the meaning of this text and the solution” that he proposed. However, we must be careful not to place too much weight on such a meeting, particularly because some of those involved already placed approval on his view in a recent Open Letter released by Licona. Hence, it in their case we have the fox guarding the hen house! (Loc. 1824)

Keep in mind Geisler was invited to this meeting. Why is it he did not want to go to a public meeting to discuss, including one where others who disagreed with Licona were there? I know that Licona would have no problem with a meeting if there were witnesses present. Why is it that Geisler has a problem with this? Does he just think he couldn't stand up to hard questions of his view?

Geisler also says that, “Licona’s vacuous methodological claim is self–defeating since they claim that their view corresponds to reality when they claim that truth is not what corresponds to reality.”

It is a wonder where Geisler gets this from. I know Licona personally. I have never seen him deny the correspondence theory of truth. It's just easier for Geisler to put things in this kind of language instead of, you know, dealing with the actual arguments.

Geisler then quotes J.I. Packer, who has recently issued an endorsement of Licona's latest book. Packer wrote an endorsement of Defending Inerrancy saying

“In the following pages Norman Geisler, who contributed as much as anyone to ICBI original legacy, and William Roach interact with evangelical hypotheses that have the effect of confusing that legacy. They are masterly gatekeepers [for inerrancy], and I count it an honor to commend this work to the Christian world.” (Loc. 1902)

Of course, there are a number of reasons to discount this. First off, it is well known by scholars that these blurbs, often say some positive things about a book without going into an extensive negative critique. Also, Packer has written dozens of blurbs over the years—even for books containing views with which he disagrees.

Wait. What's that? Those words sound familiar? Well, they should. That's what Geisler said about Packer writing a blurb in defense of Mike Licona's book. If it can work for Licona, why not for Geisler? Maybe Packer just wrote a positive blurb without a full negative critique. Maybe Geisler and Roach's book did contain views Packer disagrees with?

It's not a shock to see Geisler using David Farnell as his go to guy for this. I have already written a response to what Farnell has said. Farnell is not unaware of this. When he commented on my Amazon review of Licona's latest book, I followed it up with a response to what he said. He never answered. Until Farnell responds, then I consider my response still standing. 

“First, Genre criticism is based on belief in the primacy of Mark. However, the view that Mark was written first is far from universal. In fact, it was almost universally rejected in the early church in favour of Matthew being first. And there are many contemporary scholars who reject the primacy of Mark as well, including former Bultmanian Eta Linneman, conservative Harold Hoehner, liberal professor William Farmer, and conservative New Testament scholar David Farnell. The parallel passages in Mathew and Mark can just as well be Mark following Matthew as the reverse. Or, they can both be based on their own eyewitness accounts.” (Loc. 1991)

It would be amusing to try to see Geisler go after the Synoptic Problem. Just saying "These scholars disagree" is not sufficient. Okay. Why do they disagree? What are their reasons? Also, if we were all convinced that Matthew was written first, I see no reason to think that that would change our view of the Gospels as Greco-Roman bioi. 

Geisler continues:

Seventh, the Greeks did not believe in the physical resurrection of the body. In fact, for them salvation was from the body, not in the body, as it is for Christians. The Greeks mocked the Apostle Paul for proclaiming the resurrection (Acts 17:32). Yet it is the heart of the Christian message (1 Cor. 15:1–7, 12–19). For Paul declared: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). But clearly the New Testament did not adopt Greek beliefs to understand the phenomenon of the resurrection. So, adopting Greek genre to understand the New Testament is contrary to the heart of the New Testament Christian Gospel message of the death and resurrection of Christ. (Loc. 2044)

It is a wonder that Geisler can write a paragraph like this and think it constitutes an argument. Do we dare mention to him that the vast majority of the New Testament is written in Greek? He seems to have this belief that if you use Greek styles of writing and argumentation, that you must accept all Greek beliefs. Does he think that Thomas Aquinas was required to accept the eternality of the universe and that a person ceases to exist after death just because he took so much from Aristotle? This is truly a bizarre argument on Geisler's part and that he uses such hideous argumentation smacks of desperation. 

When Geisler goes to the next chapter about how orthodoxy can be lost, we get another ironic statement.

The good ole boys network is strong, and it is often easy to tolerate doctrinal deviation for a good and likeable colleague. The truth is that faculty members find it very difficult to vote to exclude any of their colleagues. (Loc. 2450)

This is ironic since Geisler relies on such a network. He refers only to the people who agree with him, does not pay sufficient attention to critics, and then declares the case has been made. Pay attention to how many times he refers to someone as "noted" for instance, no matter how old their work might be. Their work might have been exceptional at the time, but has it stood the test of time?

Geisler goes on to play the victim saying:

The fear of being stigmatized is a strong motivation favoring the road to heresy. The temptation to unorthodox is a powerful force. No one wishes to be called undesirable names because of his defense of truth. I personally have been charged with “hermeneutical waterboarding,” called a bully, excluded from groups, have been the object of false accusations, and have had invitations canceled because of my stand on the inerrancy of Scripture. One publishing house even allowed an unprecedented negative article on me in an otherwise scholarly journal. This kind of personal attack is almost unheard of in a scholarly work. (Loc. 2497)

Geisler never seems to stop to see if some of these charges could be true. Could he be being a bully? Yes. Especially since Licona has lost two jobs and been excluded from groups and I myself have faced exclusion just because of my relation to him. Why? I have been excluded because Geisler has gone after Mike Licona. Geisler will say "Why am I attacked for defending Inerrancy." No one has a problem with defending Inerrancy, but we have a problem with how it has been done. Geisler can play the victim all he wants, but it's clear in history who fired the first shot. Geisler is like the kid on the schoolyard who goes around knocking down the other kids, until someone fights back and then he cries victim and says "I was only playing." No. When Licona lost employment because of Geisler's stance, that was not playing.

For the final chapter on building up an apologetic defense, one will find little disagreement. This is the Geisler I would like to see more often. It would be good to see him going after the real threats to the faith. Unfortunately, Geisler has done a good job destroying the legacy he spent decades building. Geisler has found a target most everywhere so often that no one really listens anymore. In reality, I would dare say that if anyone is undermining Inerrancy today, it's none other than Geisler.