Thursday, September 18, 2014

Coming After Craig

Recently, there was an event on the internet where Mike Licona shared that the reason he took down his calendar was because Paige Patterson and Norman Geisler were contacting places he was speaking at and saying he shouldn't be due to his views on inerrancy. Geisler responded by saying that the accusations were false. As it turns out, this time Geisler was in the right. Licona did the right thing and apologized, as did I for sharing the status as well. Many of us also shared it. We had hoped this would be leading towards a resolution to all of this, but alas it has not. Instead Geisler has turned to Craig and is still including Licona in his sights.

Before addressing the point against Craig, I'd like to let the reader consider something. Why did so many of us have no problem believing the claim about Geisler pressuring places to cancel Licona's speaking engagements? There are two reasons.

First, many of us have become familiar with Geisler's character in this. He's been a hound in pursuit and has jumped on most anything in order to make his case. It's a wonder that Mike Licona could have dinner without having Geisler go after him for something. I've watched Geisler's ministry page on Facebook since this started. Apparently, the main thrust of his ministry has been going after Mike Licona. By now, the only people Geisler is reaching are those who were already convinced of his position in the first place. He has alienated far more. Geisler needs to ask why people who once respected him, like myself, now no longer want anything to do with him. Why is it that so many people could readily believe he'd be capable of doing what he was thought to have done?

Second, and more importantly, many of us have come to know Mike Licona's character far better. While my view could be easily dismissed because of my being his son-in-law, I ask that you really consider it since I am not alone in it as non-family will tell you. Licona has been gracious and upstanding in this whole affair. He has not said anything in mocking of Geisler at all, and this in a time when a number of people were wanting him to be critical. In fact, when he found he was in the wrong on something, he did what should be done. He immediately apologized privately to Geisler and publicly to everyone else. We can easily say we believed Mike Licona because he has been a pillar of honesty and virtue in this whole exchange, despite being unfairly targeted.

In fact, I happen to agree with Max Andrews of Sententias. It is time for Geisler to let it go, step down, and retire. Right now, while he may think he's doing the right, and I'm sure he's thoroughly convinced of that, he's doing far more harm than good, and this includes his stance on inerrancy. If there's anyone causing people to move away from ICBI today, it's Norman Geisler. It's not Mike Licona. It is not that people are looking at Licona and saying "Wow. That position on Matthew 27 is persuasive. I need to abandon ICBI." Instead, they're looking at Geisler and saying "Wait. Are you saying that's what ICBI is? Then if ICBI means we need to go after guys like Mike Licona and deny what we know about the NT, then I need to abandon ICBI."

ICBI has no greater threat to it today than Norman Geisler.

Apparently not content with going after Licona, Geisler has now decided it makes sense to go after William Lane Craig. It is my suspicion Craig will really say nothing about this. In fact, it is my recommendation that he doesn't. It is a shame Geisler has reached the point in his career where he's treated like the schoolyard bully that you're taught to just ignore and let them go away on their own when they find out that they're not doing anything.

However, while I disagree with Craig on a number of issues, he's always been gracious and kind to me still and agreement is no requisite for friendship. If I am going to get after Geisler for going after Mike Licona, I will do the same for William Lane Craig.

So to begin with, all wanting to see what Geisler is saying about Craig can go here. Those wanting to see the hideous post that got Craig in the line of fire can go here.

So how does Geisler start?

In a recent web post (, William Lane Craig defends a view of limited inerrancy in contrast to the historic view of unlimited inerrancy. Unlimited inerrancy contends that the Bible is inerrant not only on all matters it addresses, not only on redemptive matters but also on historical and scientific matters as well. By contrast limited inerrancy claims that the Bible is only without error when speaking on matters of salvation. There are several related questions to this view that need to be examined. First of all, limited inerrantists contend that unlimited inerrancy is based on a deductive logic, whereas their view is inductively based.
So many problems.

To begin with, if Craig is a limited inerrantist, then it would seem that his view would be inductively based. Is it?

What does Craig himself say?

To begin with, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, as I learned it and, I think, as most of its adherents today would defend it, is not arrived at inductively, but deductively.

So Craig right at the start says his view is not arrived at inductively but is arrived at in a deductive manner. What kind of syllogism does he use?

1.  Whatever God teaches is true.
2.  Historical, prophetic, and other evidences show that Jesus is God.
3.  Therefore, whatever Jesus teaches is true.

4.  Whatever Jesus teaches is true.
5.  Jesus taught that the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
6.  Therefore, the Scriptures are the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
Next, we are told that limited inerrancy teaches that the Bible is inerrant only on matters of salvation and not of history and science. But let's take a look at Craig's post. Using a search feature I find salvation mentioned zero times. He never once claims the Bible has an error on science or history and in fact, the only place science is mentioned is in the speaking of God's "omniscience." Perhaps Geisler just thinks he knows the authorial intent of Craig....

Geisler goes on.

Craig claims that biblical inerrancy “as he learned it” and as “most of its adherents today would defend it, is not arrived at inductively, but deductively.”  However, as we have shown elsewhere (Geisler, Systematic Theology in One Volume, chap. 12), this is a false disjunction. While a deductive move is involved to form the conclusion, the biblical basis for inerrancy is a perfect (complete) induction which yields two premises: 1) The Bible teaches that God cannot err, and 2) The Bible is the Word of God. From this inductive basis it follows logically that the Bible claims to be the errorless Word of God. Since the Bible is a limited set of data, one can make a complete induction of all its contents. So, biblical inerrancy, as usually held, has an inductive basis, even though a deduction from the two inductive premises is involved. Further refinement in view of the biblical data also has an inductive basis in the text and is not imposed upon it from some deductive theological or philosophical basis, but comes from Scripture or from general revelation of God (e.g., Psa. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:19-20; 2:12-15). For example, while the Bible speaks of the “four corners of the earth” (Rev. 7:1), we know by observation from general revelation that the world is round. This trumps any literalistic interpretation of the figure of speech about “four corners” of the earth used to support the Square Earth Society.
It's amazing that Geisler can go after a view that claims that inerrancy is arrived at from an inductive position and then when Craig says it's arrived at deductively, Geisler goes after him for that too. I do not think Craig would raise any serious issues with Geisler's usage of inductive and deductive here. Of course, he just might, but from my perspective it doesn't look like something Craig would argue against but would rather take as a complement to what he said.

It's interesting that Geisler considers refinement of data as important to helping interpret Scripture, such as using science to interpret the shape of the Earth. (You know, the kind of modern science that we have access today that ancient readers did not have access to. It'd be horrible to use something like say, Second Temple Judaism or Greco-Roman biographies, ideas and realities the ancients did have access to, to help them interpret their texts.) The problem I see with Geisler's approach is that it is an easy way to ignore context. Consider the time of Galileo. It was thought that the Bible was teaching that the Earth cannot be moved. In fact, Galileo's opponents in the battle with the church would have been seen as the ones who were defending inerrancy and standing with the truth of Scripture and resisting extra-biblical information. Which one was right? Galileo was, and inerrancy survived!

What would have been better? To look for the author's intent right at the start. Is the author of the text really wanting to give a statement on cosmology at this point or is he stating something about the Earth in relation to the plan of God? I agree with John Walton that much of the debate we have over the age of the Earth could have been avoided had we actually watched to see what the Genesis author was really talking about. (And yes, I know Craig disagrees with Walton. Like I said, there are areas I don't agree with Craig on.)

Could it be that there could be something to authorial intent? After all, if all you have is the text then it looks quite clear that the Bible is teaching in Revelation that the Earth has four corners. In fact, as has been pointed out elsewhere, this is the exact problem found in The Civil War As A Theological Crisis. Who was it that was standing up for inerrancy supposedly and saying disagreeing with their clear interpretation was going against the Word of God? It was the slave owners in the south. Who was bringing in extra-biblical information and seeking the historical context? It was the abolitionists.

Maybe it's just me, but I think those abolitionists were right. Could it be that understanding Scripture could be greatly benefited by studying extra-biblical material?

We move on from here to authorial intent questions.

The Craig article also speaks of the truth of inerrancy in terms of “the intention” of the author. This would seem to imply an intentionalist’s view of truth, as opposed to a correspondence view of truth.1  He wrote, “We may need indeed to revise our understanding of what constitutes an error.” Then he gives two illustrations: The first one is about the reference to the mustard seed, he says, “Jesus is not teaching botany.”2 Rather, Jesus “intends” to teach only about the kingdom of God. And inerrancy should be judged in terms of what the author intends to teach, not in terms of what he actually said. So, contrary to the correspondence view of truth, which affirms that a mistake (an affirmation that does not correspond with reality) is an error, the intentionalists view of truth asserts that only wrong intentions are errors, not wrong affirmations.
Geisler again wants to use one of his favorite tactics. If you go along with this, you are calling into question a correspondence view of truth. How? Who knows! If it is the case that Jesus really intended to speak about the Kingdom of God and not give a lesson in botany, then it corresponds to reality to say that is the case. It is not being said that Jesus is teaching an error, but Jesus is rather using the knowledge of the time, which is just fine. Would Geisler have preferred Jesus say "But there is a smaller seed that is located in a South American Jungle thousands of miles from here."

Now I really prefer to say that Jesus is not speaking so much about size but about worth. The mustard seed could have been seen as a seed of the least value, but in the end it becomes something incredibly valuable and useful. Of course, I could be wrong. It could be Jesus is really speaking to the knowledge of the people of the time, and that's not a problem.

No one is saying the truth lies in the intentions however. One is saying that the intentions matter to what one is saying. If someone does not intend in the Gospels to give a chronological account, it is not a fault if they do not give a chronological account. We cannot impose a modern extra-biblical standard of error onto the text. We must take it as it is. The question is not how the text appears to us. It is how the text appeared to them.

Of course, this comes down again to ICBI, which as we know is in the front of Geisler's Bible. For all his talk about the dangers of extra-biblical items, he sure seems to have no problem imposing the standards of ICBI on an ancient text. We dare not impose an ancient view supposedly on the Gospels, say Greco-Roman biography, despite the mountain of evidence showing that they are Greco-Roman biographies onto the text, but we can impose modern science and ICBI on the text. That works just fine!

Geisler continues:

Craig speaks of things affirmed in a biblical text (like the mustard seed is the smallest seed) as “incidental to the lesson” and, thus, the author can be in error or mistaken in peripheral matters without affecting the inerrancy of the text. He adds, “What matters is that the central idea is conveyed,…but the surrounding details are fluid and incidental to the story.” But this opens Pandora’s hermeneutical box. For instance, in most cases the numerous references to angels in the Bible are incidental to the main message of the passage. So, by this logic we would have to conclude that almost nothing the Bible affirms about angels is without error (mistakes). Likewise, other doctrines of the Bible, even fundamental ones like the Trinity, that are not an essential part of what the author intended to teach, could also be in error. For there are few, if any passages whose direct purpose (intention) is to teach the doctrine of the Trinity. So, by this intentionalistic logic of distinguishing between what is incidental and what is essential in biblical affirmations, the inerrant canonical text is seriously shrunk to a size determined by the interpreter.
The next favorite tactic of Geisler. Push that panic button! Slam it for all you can! After all, if we go down this path, it will lead to X, Y, and Z! Next, our children will be running off and joining cults and we will experience the entire downfall of Western Civilization because we dared to say that in telling a story, that the gist of the story is what matters and not the secondary details.

This would work were it not the case that Craig is absolutely correct.

Craig rightly uses Ken Bailey and James Dunn as examples of scholars who have studied the oral tradition and knows the ways that oral societies work. In these societies, when telling a story, it is just fine to change the secondary details so long as the primary ones are intact. In fact, we do this every day. We will repeatedly tell a story to other people and from time to time, the details will change due to memory problems or anything else, but the main thrust is the same. Sometimes we will even intentionally leave out information depending on the audience.

Suppose some Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door. I have a great conversation with them and when they leave, I want to call and tell people how I did. I call my parents first, who are not apologists. I tell them many of the details as I remember them and get to hear their praise on how their son did. Next I call my in-laws and particularly, Mike Licona. As I talk to him, I tell him more of the finer points. Why? He's an apologist and he speaks the language of the apologist and he will understand those finer points. My parents will not.

Am I still telling the same story?

Am I spreading error at all in the story? (At least intentionally)

In fact, an excellent example of this in the Gospels would be the temptation of Jesus? Did it happen that Jesus was first tempted to jump from the temple (As in Matthew) or was he first tempted to worship the devil? (As in Luke.) I would argue that Luke is in fact arranging his material thematically. There is a theme throughout the Gospel and each temptation deals with that theme in order. Craig's example of the cleansing of the temple is a good one, though I am open to it actually happening twice.

Now Geisler could say since I could have memory problems, that can easily lead to error. This objection won't work as well because first off, ancient people did have better memories than we do. They had to. They didn't leave in an era of post-it notes and online databases. If they wanted to learn something, they had to memorize it.

Second, these stories were often of public events and would have been told in group settings, unlike a telephone game. The group would share the stories among themselves, usually having some select people playing the role of gatekeepers of knowledge, and thus the stories would be spread and if someone made a serious error in the story, another member would call them out on it.

If Geisler wants to contest this, what he needs to do is not just make an assertion, but actually study the scholars of oral tradition. We eagerly await the opportunity to see Geisler go after Ken Bailey and James Dunn and tell them that they are wrong on oral tradition and that he knows better, despite my not seeing him refer to any scholars of oral tradition to back his point like Craig did.

What is more, according to the intentionalists view, only essentials are inerrant. But much of the time there is really no objective way in the biblical text of determining what is and what is not inerrant. For there is often no objective way to differentiate the peripheral from the essential. This leads to another problem—the appeal to extra biblical sources to determine what the Bible really intends to affirm and what it does not.
This criticism could have some credibility were Craig to hold to a view of limited inerrancy. He doesn't. He does think the Bible is historically and scientifically accurate. Of course, we have the problem of the appeal to extra-biblical sources, as if the Bible was written in a vacuum and somehow it escaped any interaction with its culture in any way. There is no reason I should think this and every reason that I should not. (And keep in mind, the abolitionists and Galileo both referred to extra-biblical sources.)

Craig uses the illustration of a joke to make his point. He wrote: “observe how the central idea and especially the punch line are the same…”when the joke is retold. But “The variation [is] in secondary details.”  In like manner, he argues that what is important in the Bible is the essential point, not the details.
The problem with this illustration is that the Gospels are no joke! They claim to be serious and accurate history. Luke, for example, claims (Lk. 1:1-4) to have “followed all things closely” and to be giving an “orderly account” that we may have “certainty concerning the things you have been taught” which was from “eyewitnesses.” Historians have found that what Luke records in Acts (Part Two of his history of Luke-Acts—Acts 1:1; Lk. 1:1) is minutely accurate in numerous details (see Colin Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History, Eisenbrauns, 1990). And since Matthew, Mark, and even John affirm the same basic truths (where they overlap with Luke), then this speaks in general of the historical accuracy of all the Gospels. Indeed, John claims to be based on eyewitness testimony (Jn. 19:35; 21:24). And even some noted New Testament scholars are now speaking of the eyewitness basis of the Gospels (see Richard Bauckham, Jesus and Eyewitnesses, 2006).
We greatly want to thank Geisler for pointing out that the Gospels are not jokes. Obviously, this changes Craig's viewpoint entirely. Had he known about this fact, it is sure he never would have used the illustration....

Or could it be that Craig really is doing what he said and giving an example that many people can understand. Most all of us have told jokes. Very few of us have written Gospels.

Note also that Geisler says Luke wrote an orderly account. In fact, we agree. Scholars have noted before that Luke's prologue is one that is used to indicate a historical investigation. (Note. This is an insight we get from that great evil known as extra-biblical literature) The question is what is meant by orderly. Does it mean chronological? It could. It could also mean thematically. It could mean Luke wrote with a purpose and real intention to present Jesus in such a way that would not be errant by ancient standards, but might not necessarily be chronological.

Is this possible? Yes. How should Geisler respond? Should it be by just shouting "Inerrancy!" or should it be actually, and yes, I know this is a strange and bizarre thought, interacting with New Testament scholarship? At least he tries to with Bauckham, though it would be helpful if he had read Bauckham and picked up what he says in his book about oral tradition, including the usage of Ken Bailey.

Or it could be that NT scholarship is to be heeded when it agrees with Geisler and not when it disagrees. We come down to the evangelical Pope again.

Along with a number of other Neo-evangelicals on inerrancy, Craig appeals to extra-biblical genre to determine the meaning of biblical text. With his colleague, Mike Licona, who appealed to Greco-Roman genre, Craig claims that “questions of genre will have a significant bearing on our answer to that question.” But Licona’s conclusions reveal just how dangerous it is to use extra-biblical genre as hermeneutically determinative of the meaning and truth of a biblical text. He wrote, “Greco-Roman biography…often include legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 34). Indeed, Licona affirmed that there is legend or poetry in the Gospels (ibid., 306, 548, 552, 553). He even holds there is a contradiction in the Gospels (in a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Spring, 2009), but he denies that this affects the doctrine of inerrancy. He said, “I think that John probably altered the day [Christ was crucified] in order for a theological—to make a theological point there. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified.” However, a divinely inspired error is a contradiction in terms since God cannot err (Heb. 6:18).  And an inerrant error is a logical impossibility! With regard to the genre view, the biblical text could still be reliable, but certainly not inerrant, thus placing the Bible on a level with every other book that partially contains the truth and is partially errant.
Yes. Once again, Geisler goes after Licona once more. So let's see. What does he say on these pages?

On page 34, he does indeed say that in Greco-Roman Bioi, it can be hard to know where history ends and legend begins. This is so. It does not follow from this that the Gospels necessarily contain legend even if they are Greco-Roman Bioi. (And they are.) After all, Geisler himself has said that just because man wrote the Bible (Guided by God of course) it does not follow that because man errors, man must necessarily error. The same with genre.

Now what of the other quotes? Let's go to page 306.

 For this reason, we get a sense that in the canonical Gospels we are reading authentic reports of Jesus' arrest and death, even if Luke may have cleaned up or omitted some of those embarrassing details, and John all of them, and even if some embellishments are present.
What must keep in mind is what Licona has written here is from his dissertation on the resurrection. He was not writing to convince Christians who already held to inerrancy, but was writing appealing to a secular audience on their own standards. It's saying "Okay. You think the Gospels contain embellishments. You think Luke cleaned up and omitted details as did John. Even if that is the case, we still have authentic reports going on so the account is still reliable." He did not say in this that the Gospels do contain embellishments. (In fact, on the Theopologetics Podcast with Chris Date, he denied that.) He is saying that even if they did, they still contain authentic and reliable reports.

The rest is from the section on the resurrected saints, and Licona is not saying that's a legend. He's saying it's apocalyptic language. That is not the same as legend.

What Geisler misses is Licona is trying to convince a skeptical audience of the truth of the resurrection. He is not trying to convince them of inerrancy. For the resurrection, he only needs reliability. He does not need inerrancy.

Next, Geisler attempts to argue that the Gospels are not Greco-Roman bioi. Now keep in mind most people when doing this would go and review the scholarly material. They would pick up works like those of Burridge and go through them and find out the main points that they make and write a response. They would also respond to other scholars who agree and make a scholarly case.

Not Geisler. For Geisler, it's enough to show that in his opinion, this will disagree with his view on inerrancy, so forget Burridge. Burridge must just be wrong. If Geisler is convinced of this, we eagerly await his going to a group like the Society of Biblical Literature and presenting his paper on the topic of the genre of the Gospels to an audience of competent and trained scholars. (It will be even more amusing if he says the writers of ICBI say all the scholars are wrong)

First of all, the Gospels are accurate history based on eyewitness testimony that is completely true with a clear distinction between truth and fiction. They inform us about our eternal salvation through the incarnation, crucifixion, and physical resurrection of God-Incarnate. But Greco-Roman biography admittedly lacks these characteristics, containing legend, error, and often admittedly the inability to distinguish between legend and history.
Because we know when biographers wrote biographies, what they strove for was inaccurate history. They sought to write accurate history, but it might not be accurate by modern standards. Of course, we surely don't want to impose a modern standard on an ancient text. That would be something that would violate ICBI. Right?

Second, to say that the subject matter of the biography being about salvation changes the genre is a non sequitur. Of course, with a resurrection, there will be some minor differences, but the overall emphasis is on Jesus and other characters are brought in to show how they relate to Him. Jesus is being shown as a life worth emulating. All of this fits in with Greco-Roman bioi.

Second, Licona contends that on this grounds that Greco-Roman genre allows for contradictions like this, and that the Gospels are written in Greco-Roman genre. However, this premise should be rejected, as most biblical scholars have through the ages until recent times.
If Geisler wants to go with what most scholars did until recent times, he's more than welcome to return to a Bultmannian approach to the Bible all he wants to. As it stands, I find that more and more of the Bible is being confirmed through the studies of historical criticism.

The main point is Licona is not saying that it allows for contradictions. He is saying it allows for fluidity. There is a difference. Geisler is taking his philosophical presuppositions and reading those into the text.

Third, even if there are some similarities in form between the New Testament and Greco-Roman genre, the New Testament has a greater concern for historical truth (see Lk. 1:1-4) because Christianity is a historical religion that stresses the real spatio-temporal physical appearance of the God-man in the flesh (Jn. 1:14 cf. 1 Jn. 4:2; 2 Jn. 7).
By this standard, we might as well say that portions of the Psalms cannot be poetry because poetry is meant to give us the revelation of God. It won't work. If anything, that they are Greco-Roman bioi in fact gives a greater reason to think that the Gospels are legitimate. When someone tells me that Harry Potter contains real places in it, I point out the Gospels are Greco-Roman bioi. To say that they were that genre would indicate that in fact, the Gospel writers are taking the history quite seriously.

Fourth, the Bible warns us to “avoid…contradiction” (1 Tim. 6:20 ESV), not to attempt to explain them away on the grounds of extra-biblical genre. Literally, Paul forbids holding “anti-theses.” For both cannot be true.
It would be nice to see where Licona is holding up what he thinks is a contradiction.

Fifth, the law of non-contradictions controls all thought and writing, taking precedence over any genre determinations. It is a literally undeniable principle of thought.
This will be relevant when Licona or Craig deny the LNC. Thus far, no one has.

Sixth, extra-biblical genre should not be used to determine the meaning of a biblical text for this gives them more authority than the inspired text. Of course, as already noted, extra-biblical facts (not theories, legends, or literary genre), such as those found in general revelation, can and should be used to help interpret the Bible.
One wonders if ICBI would be included as a theory or does Geisler include it as a fact? Also, to say that gives the writing more authority would be like saying using a Lexicon to understand a word means that that Lexicon now has more authority than the text. If one attends Geisler's Seminary to understand the Bible, are we saying that Geisler's Seminary has more authority than the Bible? Would Ken Ham not want to say that Geisler is giving modern science more authority than the Bible when he doesn't uphold YEC?

Why is it that ancient genres that the readers would have recognized and had access to cannot be used in interpretation of a text, but modern science, which the readers had no access to, can be used?

Seventh, using extra-biblical genre determinations is rejected by the ICBI understanding of inerrancy which was adopted by the ETS, the largest group of evangelical scholars in the world (see citations above).
To this, Geisler is free to take a survey of evangelical NT scholars at ETS and see how many of them agree with the Gospels as Greco-Roman bioi. He is also free to do something odd and ask them why they think it is. Furthermore, if ICBI forbids us from allowing to see the Gospels as Greco-Roman bioi, then so much for ICBI. Geisler is giving another reason not for upholding it, but for redoing it.

But this is not Geisler's biggest problem in this area.

The biggest problem is that Geisler has been challenged on this. He has refused a challenge from my ministry partner, J.P. Holding, to debate the genre of the Gospels.

So let's see. Geisler is not responding to his critics on the genre of the Gospels, is refusing to interact with them, is refusing a debate challenge from them, even going so far as to delete said debate challenge from his wall and ban the person who put it there, and yet we should still listen to Geisler's position on the matter? If Geisler is right, then taking on Holding on this should be simple. Let him try.

He won't. I'm quite sure Geisler knows he can't win that challenge and if he loses it, then again, so much more the worse for ICBI and his crusade on Mike Licona and now William Lane Craig. It is easier to ignore it.  Of course, his followers don't get to see that this challenge is out there since Geisler won't link to it and will ban any mention of it from his wall, but those of us who study the issues of NT scholarship seriously see it and as long as Geisler ignores it, we have no need to listen to him. Those sitting on the fence will notice this as well.

Geisler goes on to answer if inerrancy is an essential.

On the contrary, epistemologically, inerrancy is at the very foundation of every other Christian doctrine, since if the Bible is not the divinely authoritative basis for our beliefs, then we have no divine authority for any Christian doctrine. For all Christian doctrines are derived from the Bible. Of course, if the Bible is not inspired, there may be degrees of probability for believing these doctrines but there would be no divine authority for embracing them. So, in this sense inspiration-inerrancy is the divinely authoritative basis for whatever other Christian doctrines we believe.
Simple question here.

Why should someone believe Jesus rose from the dead?

Is it because the Bible is inerrant and the Bible says Jesus rose therefore Jesus rose?

Or is it because that a historical case can be made that Jesus rose from the dead even if we don't treat the Bible as inerrant?

I'm going with the latter. How do we know the Bible is inerrant if we hold to that, as I do? We know it by studying it and realizing that it upholds with history well and that conflicts are resolvable in it. No one says "The Bible is inerrant because it says it's the Word of God." (At least they shouldn't!) By that standard, we might as well say the Koran or the BOM is inerrant.

Geisler argues that there would be no divine authority if the Bible is not inspired, but what is he going to say? Are we going to make a case for the resurrection of Jesus using the Bible as even the critics say and Geisler say "Well I still wouldn't accept that even though the facts are all there and I can't come up with a better explanation because I have no 'Thus sayeth the Lord' on the matter"? The only way one would know the Bible is inerrant at the start is by affirming that Jesus rose from the dead. That is the foundation.

Geisler goes on:
Furthermore, as we showed elsewhere (Christian ApologeticsRevised, 293), the logical order of beliefs should have truth as its basis, for unless truth is knowable we cannot know it is true that God exists. So, the logical order is as follows: 1) Truth is knowable; 2) The opposite of truth is false; 3) God exists; 4) Miracles are possible; 5) Miracles can confirm a miracle; 6) the New Testament is historically reliable; 7) Jesus was confirmed by miracles to be God; 8) Therefore, Jesus is God; 9) Whatever Jesus as God teaches is true; 10) Jesus taught the Bible is the inspired-inerrant Word of God; 11) Therefore, the Bible is the inspired-inerrant Word of God; 12) Whatever is opposed to the teaching of the Bible is false. That is, essential Christianity is true, and whatever is opposed to its teachings is false.
Using the above logical steps, premises 3) and 6) are crucial. For if it is true that God exists, then miracles are possible. And if the New Testament is historically reliable and teaches that Jesus is God, then it follows that Jesus’ teaching that the Bible is the inspired-inerrant Word of God is true.  But, contrary to critics, denying inerrancy would not thereby disprove God, miracles, and the deity of Christ. The issue would be: Did Jesus teach the Bible was the inspired-inerrant Word of God? (Point 11). If he did, then inerrancy is true. If he did not, then the question of inerrancy would be up for grabs, but the essential redemptive truths of Christianity (e.g., God, miracles, Christ’s deity) would not thereby be in question. So, contrary to Craig’s view, Christianity does not crumble if the traditional view of inerrancy is denied.
Craig says Christianity will fall apart if the traditional view of inerrancy is denied?


This is what I see Craig saying instead.

Ehrman had, it seems to me, a flawed theological system of beliefs as a Christian.  It seems that at the center of his web of theological beliefs was biblical inerrancy, and everything else, like the beliefs in the deity of Christ and in his resurrection, depended on that. Once the center was gone, the whole web soon collapsed.  But when you think about it, such a structure is deeply flawed.  At the center of our web of beliefs ought to be some core belief like the belief that God exists, with the deity and resurrection of Christ somewhere near the center.  The doctrine of inspiration of Scripture will be somewhere further out and inerrancy even farther toward the periphery as a corollary of inspiration.  If inerrancy goes, the web will feel the reverberations of that loss, as we adjust our doctrine of inspiration accordingly, but the web will not collapse because belief in God and Christ and his resurrection and so on don’t depend upon the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.
Once again, Craig explicitly denies what Geisler says he says. Furthermore, note how Geisler argues. Denying inerrancy would not disprove God, miracles, or the deity of Christ. Hopefully this would include the resurrection as well. Inerrancy is a belief further down in the web.

Which is exactly what Craig says....

Does Geisler really read these articles?

Next, we move to the supposed view of limited inerrancy which Craig was not shown to hold.

Claiming that inerrancy is not an essential doctrine, but is only a peripheral teaching, is not a helpful move for evangelicalism for several reasons. First, this is contrary to the historic view of the Christian Church which holds to inerrancy [see John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church].
That the church held to it historically does not mean it is an essential issue rather than a peripheral issue. Let's suppose that the church held to baptism by immersion prior to the usage of sprinkling. Would we be saying that your view on baptism is one that is an essential? Something can be important and still be a peripheral issue.

Second, that they held to inerrancy does not mean that they held to ICBI inerrancy. That is an "extra-biblical" aspect Geisler is adding in.

Second, it gives up the historic doctrine of total inerrancy for limited inerrancy. Thus, it moves from the Evangelical view on inerrancy to the Neo-evangelical view (see above).
But this amounts to saying limiting inerrancy is wrong because it limits inerrancy. Of course, Geisler's critics would hold that he holds a Neo-fundamentalist view on hermeneutics.

 Third, this is contrary to the ICBI statement on inerrancy which was also adopted by ETS, the largest scholarly group of inerrantists in the world. Of course, one can reject the meaning the framers gave these statements and reconstruct their own meaning, but this is contrary to sound hermeneutics which seeks the author’s meaning of a text and makes the Bible into a nose of putty that can be moulded by the reader in any direction he desires.
But as we have pointed out, Geisler has rejected ETS. After all, he is the one who said here:

And it is an evangelical tragedy of great magnitude that the Executive Committee of ETS and a majority of its members have retained Pinnock in what has now become the formerly Evangelical Theological Society.
So let's get this straight. When the ETS agrees with Geisler on Gundry, they are reliable. When they disagree with Geisler, they are the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society. Now that he wants them to agree with him, then they are again evangelical. Of course, one wonders what would happen if we did have an actual meeting with an actual vote at ETS with all members present and a vote was taken as to whether Mike Licona or William Lane Craig or Craig Blomberg or anyone else denied inerrancy. If we do that, this is what we want however.

We want it to be that whatever the vote is, Geisler will go along with it. If he has been saying that the voting of the ETS counts, then he needs to stick by that should ETS vote against his viewpoint. If he does not, then Geisler is showing that the voting of ETS really doesn't matter. Quite frankly also, it doesn't. When ETS didn't vote Geisler's way, then they were to be rejected. When they did, they were to be accepted. Geisler doesn't care about the vote because he would interpret any event to go his way. Get a vote that inerrancy has been violated and you will hear the praises of what a wonderful group of scholars we have. Get the other way voted and you will hear how we now know the ETS has even more rejected biblical inerrancy.

So the mention of ETS is really worthless, though it is quite amusing for Geisler to keep wanting to refer to what he himself called the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society.

Fourth, this forsakes the objective meaning of the biblical text for purely subjective and personal wishes. But one cannot deny the objectivity of the text without the use of objective statements about it (see Thomas Howe, Objectivity in Hermeneutics, 1998).

We are still waiting to see who denies the objectivity of the text....

Fifth, what is more, the move to the purely redemptive model of limited inerrancy places much of the Bible in an unfalsifiable category. For if only redemptive or spiritual truths are inerrant, then there are no scientific and historical matters which can be falsified. Here one is reminded of the response of the liberal theologian, Paul Tillich, when asked why he did not believe in the physical resurrection of Christ. He is alleged to have replied, “Because I do not want any of my New Testament scholar friends calling me and saying, ‘Guess what Paulus, we have found the body of Jesus!’” Of course, if one does not believe anything that is falsifiable, then his beliefs cannot be falsified. But neither can it be verified.
This would be relevant if Geisler could show that Licona, Craig, Blomberg, etc. have argued that the Bible is only inerrant on matters of faith and practice. Since they have not, it is not relevant.

This unfalsifiable retreat to limited inerrancy is unsatisfactory for many reasons. First of all, the apostle Paul said, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). In other words, if the resurrection is disproven, Christianity would crumble. This is a bold claim that opens the door to falsification.  Even those who reject full inerrancy but believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus have to admit that the resurrection is open to falsification, and if it is falsified, then essential Christianity collapses. Further, did not Jesus connect the two when he said to Nicodemus, “If I have told you of earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you of heavenly things” (Jn. 3:12).
It is a wonder how it can be that denying inerrancy leads immediately to "Jesus didn't rise from the dead." It only will if you place belief in inerrancy prior to belief in the resurrection, which does in fact mean that inerrancy is at the center of your web and that it will collapse if inerrancy falls. This is in fact the very danger many of us have been warning about.

We also do say the resurrection is open to falsification. What of it? Give us a better explanation of the data and we'll believe it. Isn't that the way we should be? Shouldn't we be open to the evidence?

From here, Geisler wishes to argue what it would take to disprove inerrancy.

It would take a demonstrable error in an original text of Scripture or in a perfect copy of it. By error is meant something that is logically contradictory or else that does not correspond to the facts of the matter. But this is not as easy as it may seem for several reasons. First, one must demonstrate that we have an autographic text of the Bible (i.e., either an original manuscript or perfect copy of one).  Currently, we do not have a verified original manuscript or even a perfect copy of one. However, it is possible that one may be found. So, if one were found with a demonstrable error in it, then inerrancy would be falsified.  However, as long as it is possible that the original text did not have an error, it would not be necessary to give up inerrancy.
In light of what was just said about views being falsifiable, this is quite amusing. So whatever data is presented, Geisler can just say "Well until you can show me an original manuscript, I have no need to abandon inerrancy" and by doing so can rest comfortably knowing that it's quite unlikely we will ever uncover an original manuscript. Geisler might want to go with what is possible. Sure. It's possible that all these copies that we find that could seem to indicate an error (hypothetically of course as I don't hold to errors in Scripture) are wrong, therefore it's not necessary to give up inerrancy. But if we go by just what's possible, it's possible we're all brains in vats or it's possible Jesus was an alien with advanced technology that allowed a resurrection or it's possible that we all just popped into existence five minutes ago with false memories in our minds and false food in our stomachs.

Let's go not with what is possible, but what the evidence shows is likely to be actual.

The rest is material I don't really have a problem with in this section.

Finally, an article started about Craig seems to have switched focus to Mike Licona again. What does Geisler say about Licona's real error?

However, upon closer examination, we discover that: “Preparation” (used to support the Thursday view in Jn. 19:14) is a word used for “Friday,” the day of preparation for a Sabbath or feast and not for Thursday. Thus, there is no contradiction with Mark. For the Bible says clearly that “Since it was the day of preparation, and so the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath, the Jews asked Pilate…” (Jn. 19:31 cf. Mk. 15:42).  Many noted New Testament scholars support this same conclusion.  For example, A.T. Robertson declared, “That is, Friday of Passover week, the preparation day before Sabbath of Passover week (or feast)” (Word Pictures, vol. 5, p. 299).  Further, D.A. Carson adds: “(‘Preparation’) regularly refers to Friday–i.e. the Preparation of the Sabbath is Friday” (The Gospel According to John, 603). This being the case, there is no error in the biblical text; the error is in the misinterpretation of the text.
Will this really fly? Well if Geisler wants to have a talk with Licona, he's free to try to use this. I doubt it will have as much success since this is also tied in with the dating of the Last Supper which is seen as a Passover meal which would have been eaten on a Thursday and we're told Caiaphas had not yet eaten it. This is not really a simple issue. Geisler's point could have some credibility to it, but what he really needs is a real dialogue with Licona on the issue.

Since Geisler has said he wants to get together to resolve the issues, hopefully he will follow through.

Until then, it will not help to say he wants to resolve the issues in person and still argue them publicly on the net. If he waits till the meeting, we will wait. My stance has been I say nothing about Geisler unless he says something. Let's hope this is the last hurrah for awhile.

In Christ,
Nick Peters



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Limiting Fundamentalism

Once again, Geisler wants to go off and say the exact same thing again pretty much and just use new words to say it. Is he interacting with his opposition? Nope. Any responses to what we've said? Not a chance. No doubt, his own fans will be supportive and keep going, but the world of NT Christian scholars is going to be wanting him to please stop speaking because he damages their cause with every post.

Let's hope this is your necessary corrective.

So what do we have here?

According to Neo-evangelicals, the application of genre criticism tells us the Gospels are really Greco-Roman biographical literature, a flexible genre that allows biblical authors to incorporate into their text fiction dressed up in the garb of history (Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics [hereafter CSBH], XIII). 
Now I have never advocated limited inerrancy. Mike Licona has never advocated limiting inerrancy. In fact, all of us have said that we do hold to inerrancy, but we do not hold to the inerrancy of the new fundamentalists. We do not hold to a wooden inerrancy but as is said in Defining Inerrancy, we hold to a contextualizing inerrancy, where the context of the writing, both within the text and outside in the social context, help us to understand what the text is saying.

Now at that thought, most NT scholars are saying "Yeah, and?"

This isn't news to them.

For those who are not NT scholars, this is seen as something hideous. This is the Word of God we're talking about! It's understandable by the common man isn't it? For that, expect a blog review of an interesting book I've read about a historical situation concerning that later on. For now, I will say that while the common message can be understood, in reality, to understand it deeply, you do need to familiarize yourself with the scholarly world. This will not go against the basic meaning of the text, but it will rather enhance it and put it in a greater context.

Note also that Geisler starts this with the statement about the Gospels belonging to the genre of Greco-Roman biography which can be flexible and include fiction.

Yes. It can. That does not mean that it must. Narrative accounts can include fiction. Do we want to say the accounts of a book like Genesis or Acts can't be narrative accounts then because some narratives can contain fiction?

There is however a more important point here. Geisler has not argued convincingly that the Gospels are not Greco-Roman biographies. He has just said that he does not like the consequences if they are, therefore they are not. This is just an appeal to consequences. It would be like answering a charge that there is a contradiction in Scripture with "If that is a contradiction, then inerrancy is not true. Since inerrancy is true, that cannot be a contradiction." Such a response does nothing to address the supposed contradiction.

If the Gospels are Greco-Roman biographies, then the truth simply is that they are and that must be accepted and dealt with. Of course, the scholarly world for the most part could be wrong. How will you determine that they're wrong? It's not going to be by saying "If they're Greco-Roman biographies, then inerrancy is in danger."

Here's how you do it? You go and get Richard Burridge's book "What are the Gospels?" and then you go through and you examine the arguments and then you respond with a scholarly case if you think that his is false. Nowhere in your case should you bring up the inerrancy of Scripture. Your argument should not appeal to the consequences in anyway.

It's almost like Geisler is presupposing the Bible is inerrant and then saying that because it is inerrant, then it cannot be the case that the Gospels are Greco-Roman biographies. Is this the way for serious apologists to respond? Should we really presuppose our conclusion and then say that because our conclusion is correct, then the claim on the other side is false? I can be absolutely certain that Jesus rose from the dead, but if someone comes up with a powerful argument against it, I still need to answer that argument. It won't answer it to say "The argument that says Jesus did not rise is false because Jesus did rise." Obviously if Jesus did rise, the argument against that is false, but that must be shown and you can't just make an argument go away because you don't like its conclusion.

All this time I thought Geisler was a classical apologist. Maybe I was wrong. Is Geisler also among the presuppositionalists?

But no, we're not holding our breath. We seriously doubt there will be interaction with the work of Burridge and others. This interaction should also be read over by the scholarly community and interacted with. For those who are dogmatists like the new fundamentalists, do not expect them to accept scholarly interaction, such as engaging in round table discussions about an opposing viewpoint.

These fictions include invented speeches that never took place in reality (CSBH, XIV), legend, and historical narrative that never occurred (Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy [hereafter, CSBI], XVIII). In fact, according to this recent fad, it is difficult to tell the difference between history and fiction. For the Neo-evangelicals, this limited view of inerrancy is a more defensible position since it accounts for the “intent” of the author, explains strange passages (the resurrection of the saints in Mt. 27:52-53), and is consistent with Greco-Roman extra-biblical literature.

Reality is that speeches could be made up in a sense, in that a writer could give what they think the person said because there could be multiple versions. Also, a writer can simply paraphrase. None of the accounts of the great confession of Peter are identical, but the basic message of what he said is certainly there in all of them. Also, speeches could be shortened. Does anyone really think that sermons in the ancient world were always two minutes or less like they are in the book of Acts? (I'm sure many people in the pews would love for that to be so!)

This was acceptable in the ancient world. It's not in the modern world, but it was back then. Why should the ancients be held to modern standards? If this is what Geisler wants, then he can have some fun explaining why the Bible gets pi wrong. Now of course, I don't think it does. It's not speaking in modern standards, but in ancient ones, but look at what the skeptic writing at the blog says.

But Heddle is determined to convince us that the plain meaning of the text is not the correct one.

It never occurs to Geisler that every time he is arguing for this "plain sense" interpretation, he is playing right into the hands of our enemies who want us to go with that. Now Geisler is free to explain why this isn't a contradiction, and I'm sure he can do so, but to do so, he will have to use the ancient standards of the world. Why is that allowed with pi but it is not allowed with the Gospels?

In reality, our position is more defensible because it in fact takes ALL of the data. That in fact includes the authorial intent. Now can we know with absolute certainty the authorial intent? No. So what? We don't think the scientific mindset that says absolute certainty is required works. (In fact, the sciences can't give absolute certainty.) We make a case based on what we see in the text and elsewhere for why we think it is. It won't work to just say "Well you don't KNOW that."

What is ironic, many of those Neo-evangelical scholars who subscribe to limited inerrancy belong to the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), the largest evangelical society of scholars in the world, which has accepted the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI, 1979) as their definition of full inerrancy. Despite Gundry (who was asked to resign from ETS), Rogers, and McKim being thoroughly refuted decades earlier (see John Woodbridge, A Critique of Roger/McKim Proposal, 1982), and the formulation of the CSBI (and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics, 1982) which was drafted and agreed upon by the largest group of evangelical scholars in history to address the inerrancy issue, still maintain a view of “limited inerrancy” that affirms the truthfulness of the spiritual message but not all the historical details.

Reading paragraphs like this is just amusing because you get to see how much is wrong.

Let's start with the upholding of the Evangelical Theological Society. Geisler is treating this group as authoritative. Yet keep in mind what someone has said about this group.

In short, the ETS framers would not affirm any of these and Pinnock has not denied any of them. If he really wants to clear the record, then all he has to do is deny all 21 of these in clear and unequivocal terms. If he does not, then his unrecanted written views are contrary to what the ETS statement really means since the framers would not agree with any of them. And it is an evangelical tragedy of great magnitude that the Executive Committee of ETS and a majority of its members have retained Pinnock in what has now become the formerly Evangelical Theological Society.
ETS is no longer evangelical. It is formerly evangelical. Surely if a group is no longer evangelical, it should not be used as a standard for what evangelicals believe. Yet here, we have someone advocating that this group is no longer evangelical, contrary to what Geisler says. Who is it that says that ETS is no longer evangelical?

That would be Norman Geisler. Just scroll to the bottom of the article. It's there.

So here is how it works apparently. When ETS agrees with Geisler, they are evangelical and should be seen as authoritative. When they disagree, they are not evangelical and therefore would not be authoritative. Apparently, the decider of whether ETS is authoritative or not is whether they agree with Geisler or not.

Evangelical Pope anyone?

As for Gundry, one could argue that Gundry's position was refuted. I would not have a problem with that. Does that mean that Gundry denied inerrancy? Not for a second. It simply means that an interpretation that Gundry has is wrong. I will not speak on the others, but Geisler gives the impression that in each case, inerrancy was challenged. Maybe a modern conception that he holds to, but not inerrancy itself.

Then of course, we also have the statement about ICBI being drafted by the largest group of evangelical scholars. We're still wondering upon what grounds Hal Lindsey is considered a scholar and how someone like Frank Schaeffer being on the panel now helps. There were a lot of pastors and such on the group, but how many could be called scholars? Not all of them to be sure and being seen as an authority in some sense does not make you a scholar.

CSBI clearly affirms full inerrancy, affirming “that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write. WE DENY that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word” (Article IX). Moreover, “WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science” (Article XII). In addition, CSBI affirms “that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses. WE DENY that it is possible for the Bible to be at the same time infallible and errant in its assertions. Infallibility and inerrancy may be distinguished, but not separated” (Article XI).

Really, that's nice. We know exactly what you believe. You've spelled it out umpteen times by now. Of course, objections to it have been ignored, but you have pointed out what it is. Yes. We all know that ICBI is at the front of the Bibles. Yes. We know it is obviously the defining creed of evangelicalism and if we go against ICBI inerrancy, then Christianity will fall in America and we'll have a new dark ages....

Besides the severe problems of allowing extra-biblical sources to determine the truth-value of Scripture, the impossible task of discovering the biblical authors’unexpressed intentions, and the lack of objective principle whereby one may distinguish between what in Scripture is history and what is fiction, Harold Lindsell correctly identified the difficulties and sobering implications that follow from “limited inerrancy.”
This once again is another problem with Geisler's approach. He thinks there's something horrendous in using extra-biblical material to understand a text. (Obviously, this doesn't apply to the numerous books he's written to help people understand the text.) Are we really to believe that Matthew and Paul and Peter all wrote in a cultural vacuum? Somehow, because they were writing Scripture, they bypassed all the effects that their culture would have on them?

"Hey Matthew. What are you writing?"

"Beats me. It's in Greek."

The reality is Geisler is not allowing the Bible to be investigated like any other book. This must be allowed. We have long argued that there is a double standard in Biblical studies and the Bible is put to a different measure than any other work. Now of course, it can always stand, but holding an ancient book to a modern standard just makes the problem worse.

Well let's go on to what Lindsell said and we can't help but wonder, do you really want someone who argues that the cock crowed six times to be your source?

This term [limited inerrancy] is meaningless; it is nonsense.  The sooner we realize this, the sooner we will see the issue of inerrancy in its proper perspective.  And, at last, every deviation away from inerrancy ends up by casting a vote in favor of limited inerrancy.  Once limited inerrancy is accepted, it places the Bible in the same category with every other book that has ever been written. Every book contains in it some things that are true.  And what is true is inerrant.  Only two things remain to be determined once this position is acknowledged.  The first is what proportion of the book is true and what proportion false.  It may be 90 percent false and 10 percent true; or it may be 90 percent true and 10 percent false. The second thing that needs to be determined is what parts of the book are true.  Since the book contains both error and falsehood, of necessity, other criteria outside of the book [such as genre] must be brought to bear upon it to determine what is false and what is true.  Whatever the source of the other criteria, that becomes the judge of the book in question.  Thus the book becomes subordinated to the standard against which its truth is determined and measured.  If inspiration means anything, and if inspiration pertains to the totality of the Bible, then we must see what limited inerrancy means.  First, it means that something outside of and above the Bible becomes its judge.  There is something that is truer and more sure than Scripture and whatever it is has not been inspired by God.  So a noninspired source takes precedence over an inspire Bible.  Second, it leaves us in a vacuum without any basis for determining what parts of the Bible tell the truth and what parts do not.  For the evangelical, the genius of inspiration lies in the fact that it disposes of these problems and provides for us a book that we can trust so that when we come to it, we do not need to do so with suspicion nor do we need to ask the question: “Is this part to be trusted?”  This does not deliver us from the need to examine Scripture and to determine what it teaches.  But it does give us a word we can trust, and leaves us with the assurance that once we have gotten its true meaning, we can test every other book against the Bible and not let other books determine the truth of Scripture. (The Battle for the Bible, 203)
Lindsell unfortunately gives us the old fundamentalist all-or-nothing thinking. "If this book isn't entirely true, we have no way of knowing what is and isn't true!"

Yes we do. It's called historical study. Would any of the neo-fundamentalists tell me that if they found out that there was absolutely an error in the Bible, that they would be uncertain that Jesus existed? I sure hope not, but unfortunately I meet too many atheists with that exact same belief. The Bible is either completely true or completely false and if it has any errors, we have no way of knowing what's true.

Of course, it was nice enough for Lindsell to start by saying Limited Inerrancy is meaningless. It's interesting to know that Geisler can tell us so much about what a meaningless term means. It's also more interesting that Lindsell can do the same thing.

Lindsell also thinks that something will be above the Scripture and able to judge it if we don't accept his kind of inerrancy. No. No one is arguing that another piece of literature judges another. How could it? Pieces of literature do not judge. No one is saying the biographies of Plutarch will be over the Bible. This is just some paranoid fear-mongering that exists in the mind of Lindsell and whoever he has infected with it.

Most of us are not so panicked. Because we take Scripture lightly? Not at all! It's in fact the opposite. We take it so highly and we're convinced it can stand up to scrutiny. We do not presuppose inerrancy. We conclude inerrancy and not a modern kind. We do not accept the Bible as a modern book written to a modern culture, but treat the Bible as an ancient book written in an ancient culture and judged by ancient standards instead of modern western standards. This is not to lower the Bible. The Bible is not to be faulted because it is not a modern text. It is not to be thought to be errant because it is a modern text. It just means we do not treat it like it was a message to us. It is for us, but not to us.

We hope that the new fundamentalists will wake up to the damage that they are doing to the trustworthiness and reliability of Scripture with their paranoid spreading of fear and will instead learn to interact with the scholarly resources and reply to them. If not, then we will just have one question.

Is Geisler also among the presuppositionalists?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Unpacking Packer

Ah. One has to live with the great joy of ministry where the #1 goal apparently is to prove Geisler's version of inerrancy. Seriously. Go to Geisler's page and most of the articles you see recently have been about inerrancy. Well Geisler can go on and on about how we must defend his version of inerrancy. I'll think about that some while I talk to numerous atheists who have deconverted and are now rabid anti-theists because they found the problems with that version on inerrancy. It's not just me saying this. As Daniel Wallace said

In Defining Inerrancy, the authors note that they have known many evangelicals who have abandoned the faith precisely because they started out with such a hardening of the categories. This rings true: I get countless emails from people who have either jettisoned their beliefs (or have friends or family members who have) because their starting presupposition was that it’s inerrancy or nothing. Such people would throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater! And it is this very problem that one of the architects of modern evangelicalism, Carl Henry (who could hardly be condemned as being soft on inerrancy!), addressed in his book, Evangelicals in Search of Identity. It seems that many evangelicals are still not listening. And yet Henry saw, forty years ago, that the evangelical church was making inerrancy the litmus test of orthodoxy to its discredit. Yet again, I digress. Holding and Peters are not in the least denying inerrancy; they are simply rejecting a rigid form of it that they see as dangerous to the health of the evangelical church.

 As I have written here, this passage in Wallace's review has been badly misunderstood. Still, it looks like Geisler is not one to be slowed down by evidence contrary to his position. Now, it is being claimed that Packer is being misrepresented. (Almost as if we're not getting the intent of what Packer said right. Couldn't be that could it?)

Fortunately, we happen to know Geisler has a great track record of getting quotations of his opponents right. After all, we can see the great job done in one case in particular. In his book, Licona brought up Crossan's view that Matthew didn't write Matthew. Despite a clear footnote that this is Crossan's view, Geisler said it was Licona's view. On the plus side, he did rescind that, but the evidence is still available because we said that it would stay that way until a public apology was made rather than trying to brush it under the rug. No public apology has been made.

Of course, it's not just there. Geisler has also used questionable methods in citing the church fathers. Has there been any alteration to that? Nope. It looks like Geisler makes a charge, and it gets responded to, and Geisler still keeps going. It's easy to think of a quote attributed to Churchill (Though it's still true even if he never said it) that "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened."

So now, Geisler is quite sure that Packer in this article has been misunderstood. Geisler has co-authored a response that can be found here. He starts with saying he has no problem accepting the author of the original piece as a classic evangelical, but now some neo-evangelicals are using his material. Neo-evangelicals. It's kind of like a compliment is being paid back for the title of neo-fundamentalists. Imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery after all. As Geisler says on his Facebook page:

Some claim recently blogged J.I. Packer statements support the Neo-Evangelical view of Scripture.

Some claim. Yeah. Anyone wanna guess who that is? It couldn't be that we here shared that article could it? Geisler has a regular tendency to not want people know about the writings here and at Could it be that if people read the other side they might disagree with Geisler? Now I meanwhile have no hesitation to show readers what I am responding to. That way, you can also see the claims that are being made and make sure I am treating them rightly, and so you can know what my opponents are arguing.

Interestingly also, Geisler has said nothing about our Ebook "Defining Inerrancy", which is linked to in the Wallace quote above.

But I digress. Let's get to the piece.

So how do we begin?

On the one hand, evangelical readers should be thankful Taylor brought this timely article by Packer to the forefront of our attention. On the other hand, present-day evangelicals should not draw any false implications from this article that Packer never drew; namely, that because “inerrancy and interpretation must be kept separate,” one can remain a consistent inerrantist while utilizing a hermeneutic that denies the historicity of any part of the biblical narrative. This position can be made in the following points.

Of course, Geisler still does not seem to understand this. If the text is not historical, then denying its historicity is not denying inerrancy. One would think someone who knows logic would know well the idea of begging the question. Geisler's position is more of a presuppositional fideism where the text has to be historical because the text is inerrant. This does not recognize that the Gospels and other writings in Scripture can often speak with rich language and metaphor. Does that mean they are in Matthew 27? That's open for debate, but it does not work to just say "My side is right because I hold to inerrancy." That is indeed confusing inerrancy of Scripture with inerrancy of interpretation.

What's the proper way to handle this debate? It's simple and to his credit Geisler has done this before. You list the reasons why you think the text should be read as historical. The reality is Geisler has been answered in all of these points by myself and others. He has not responded to the charge. Perhaps he is not familiar with how this works, but normally in a debate, if you say something and your opponent replies, before you go on about how your position is the correct one, you need to reply. If you don't, then drop the debate.

This has not been done. Instead, it has been tactics that definitely match the picture of bullying. Instead of a strong argument, we are being shown a strong arm. The reality is inerrancy should never have been brought up in this discussion, but alas it has been.

So what points does Geisler wish us to grasp?

(1) This single article does not capture all that Packer has said on the topic of hermeneutics and inerrancy (namely, it was one section of much larger book, Beyond the Battle for the Bible, which critiques Neo-Evangelical views and his numerous other publications., one being, ‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God); and

To which, no one said it did. No one took this and said "Well there you have it! Everything we need to know about Packer's view is right there!" Of course, for someone wanting to make sure we have the whole of the picture, Geisler seems to ignore repeated statements from Licona, myself, Blomberg, my ministry partner J.P. Holding, and others that we do affirm inerrancy. Gotta love that selective quoting. Right?

(2) Neo-Evangelical interpretations fail to note that Packer affirmed the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982), which by way of theological and historical purview, condemned the prevalent Neo-Evangelical views of Scripture and interpretation (in particular, any hermeneutical method used to dehistoricize the biblical narrative).
And we're back to the earlier argument. Why is it historical? Geisler says so. The case is closed. One would hope that good readers of Scripture would be open to new evidence, but alas some are not. Also, Geisler needs to realize that CSBH and ICBI are actually not Scripture. The way these documents are spoken of, one would think Geisler came down the mountain with two tablets, one having ICBI on it, and the other CSBH, and proclaimed "Thus sayeth the Lord!"

The first implication disproves any notion that Packer favors the interpretive beliefs of present-day Neo-Evangelical views on inerrancy and hermeneutics. This is not to say he does not recognize the debates concerning the distinction between inerrancy and hermeneutics. Take for instance, in Beyond the Battle for the Bible; Packer makes the following points about inerrancy and interpretation. Packer writes:
Of course, we would like to hear from Packer himself. Could Packer come forward himself and answer questions? Could that include a question of "Have you read Mike Licona's book yourself?" You see, all we have is hearsay from Geisler on what Packer believes and we don't have any reason to think that Geisler has accurately reported Licona's views. (Especially considering how wrong he's got those views in the past)

It's interesting that when we hear from Sproul and Packer and anyone else, we tend to hear them secondhand, well aside from the Caner brothers who I'm sure those who didn't trust Geisler before were quite happy to see brought up again. Even on his Facebook page there's been a question of if he will ever respond to his claims about those two and what's been said in response, but it looks like nothing has been said.

As we go on, Packer in the article says

Recently the so-called ‘battle for the Bible’ has switched evangelical interest back to inspiration and the inerrancy which was traditionally held to be bound up with it, though hermeneutics is still the main concern of the rest of the church (9, emphasis added).

Geisler says about this:

The point being, Packer and other classic evangelicals rightly understand there is a separation (or the better term would be distinction) between inerrancy and hermeneutics, however, not a total separation (more on this below). In other words, as classic evangelical and signer of the CSBI statement, Henry Blochersaid to Baptist Press November 9th, 2012, “It is thus possible to talk of Scripture’s supreme authority, perfect trustworthiness, infallibility and inerrancy and to empty such talk of the full and exact meaning it should retain by the way one handles the text.”
It is noteworthy that Geisler never says anything about Blocher's view of Genesis 1-3 which would seem to go against the idea of a "literal" interpretation as most understand it. Now I really have no major problem with Blocher's view. I think it definitely falls into the inerrancy of Scripture, but I also think it would be a problem for someone like Geisler.

I also agree. One can speak of all the proper attributes of Scripture and yet not give it its full and exact meaning by mishandling the text. What is a reality however is that unless anyone of us has a perfect interpretation of Scripture, we all do that. When we mishandle the text however and don't give it its full and exact meaning, it does not mean we're denying inerrancy or authority or anything of that sort.

Second, Neo-evangelical theologian’s who use Packer to justify their hermeneutical practices, overlook the fact that Packer’s answer to the question of whether inerrancy is part of the catholic (universal) heritage is “Yes….”  So, contrary to the claims, Packer has always affirmed that inerrancy is the belief of the historic universal church (See John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church). Neo-Evangelicals also overlook the fact that Packer wrote a critical review of Rogers and McKim’s book, The Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: An Historical Approach in Beyond the Battle for the Bible (146-151). There, Packer, reaffirms that inerrancy is the historic position of the church, not the invention of rationalistic or Enlightenment philosophy and methodology. In many places, Packer notes how Rogers and McKim misrepresent the history of biblical authority and inerrancy. So much so, Packer concludes his assessment with these words:

Yes. The church has historically affirmed inerrancy. It's good that this has been brought out to Neo-Evangelicals. After all, we all know where Mike Licona denied this in....ummmm.....errrr....uhhh....ummmm....

Okay. I've never heard him deny this.

Okay. Well Blomberg surely has such as well.....we're not told where, but he must have!

Myself and Holding? Nope. Never once. I find it bizarre to even think someone would say that this was something invented by rationalistic or Endarkenment philosophy and methodology.

Apparently, Geisler just wants to ignore our repeated affirmations of inerrancy and tell everyone what we really mean. You'd swear that he thinks he knows authorial intent....

Continuing the quotation of Packer we hear:

Now I saw in my dream, that when Rogers and McKim got to heaven they found two shining ones waiting arm in arm, with something to say to them. The name of the one was Calvin, and the name of the other was Warfield. I saw that the new arrivals were freely and heartily forgiven; and I was glad. So I awoke, and behold it was a dream (151).

Geisler says about this (Though it would have been nice to see some context seeing as we're suddenly talking about a dream) that:

What were they forgiven for? Misrepresenting their [numerous Christian theologians throughout history] views because the book was, “. . . unhelpful . . . to dwell on philosophical and methodological differences between men as to cloud the fact that in their view and use of the Bible, and their understanding of the message of the gospel, they were substantially at one” (150-151, emphasis added). Contrary to the Neo-Evangelical belief that inerrancy is a modern phenomena, Packer believes that despite their methodological differences, each orthodox theologian down through the ages affirmed the classic view of inerrancy (despite their methodological differences). Whereas present-day Neo-Evangelicals not only operate according to a different methodology, they also affirm a different view of inerrancy.
It's kind of amusing to hear about misrepresenting theologians in history without a response to my article on "Fathers Know Best" where I respond to Geisler's pointing to the early church fathers.

Now what theologians are we misrepresenting? We're not told. Which one of us is saying inerrancy is a modern-day phenomena. None of us. We are saying ICBI understanding is, but not that inerrancy is. Do we hold to a contextualizing inerrancy? Yep. We believe that our understanding of Scripture should go with the best evidence that is available. Yet in all of this, we still affirm inerrancy. It looks like for Geisler that if you do not affirm ICBI, you do not affirm inerrancy.

The two are not the same.

In fact, those of us in this camp have done much to answer charges of Bible contradictions. We think the question does matter. We do consider it extremely important to uphold Scripture. We just know that inerrancy is not the main issue. The resurrection of Jesus is.
Third, the qualification given that inerrancy and interpretation are to be separated is misinterpreted by Neo-evangelical theologians. While it is true that inerrancy and interpretation can be separated (once again, the better term is distinguished), they cannot be totally separatedMuch like we can distinguish between inspiration and inerrancy, we can distinguish between inerrancy and hermeneutics; however, we can never make a complete or total separation between the two. This was such an important point to the framers of the ICBI, they declared, “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical hermeneutics” (Article XVIII).  Further, Article XVIII also declares that, “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” (emphasis added).  Namely, this is another way of affirming with Blocher, “It is thus possible to talk of Scripture’s supreme authority, perfect trustworthiness, infallibility and inerrancy and to empty such talk of the full and exact meaning it should retain by the way one handles the text.”
And once again we have "ICBI has spoken. The case is closed." Geisler doesn't understand that when ICBI is being viewed as problematic, it does not help to keep affirming ICBI. It's almost like dealing with Mormons who are told problems with the BOM and they instead respond by affirming that they believe in the Book of Mormon.

In addition, in Beyond the Battle for the Bible, Packer cites at length the official commentary on Article XVIII (57-58). The implications being: First, since at least 1979 (or 1980 depending whether you cite the article or its presence in the later published book) it has been the practice of framers of the CSBI to cite the official commentary in order to properly interpret the statement. Second, the commentary rightly states, “. . . history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor . . . and so forth.” However, Neo-Evangelicals wrongly treat “. . . history as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor.” Lastly, Packer (along with the CSBI and ICBI framers) rightly notes that the Bible utilizes genres, however, they do not fall prey to genre criticism (unlike present-day Neo-Evangelical theologians).

It would be interesting to know what Geisler means by Genre criticism. Does he mean the genre of a text has no bearing on the interpretation? That would be just silly. Does he want to take the Psalms in a wooden literalistic sense? Note also that Geisler says that neo-evangelicals say history should be treated as poetry, hyperbole, and metaphor. If he means us, we do not. This is more question begging on the part of Geisler. Can we get more than ex cathedra statements from Geisler?

True, Packer also said, “But now it really is important that we inerrantists move on to crystallize an a posteriori hermeneutic which does full justice to the character and content of the infallible written word as communication, life-embracing and divinely authoritative.” However, we must not forget that shortly after the publication of this article, Packer participated in the 1982 conference on Inerrancy and Hermeneutics (Summit II Conference) in which he affirmed emphatically, “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (emphasis added).  In fact, Packer considered the Council on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982) an attempt to “crystallize an a posteriori hermeneutic”!

More of the same. More of the same. Geisler. Please get this straight. We understand that you think the text is historical. We just disagree with your interpretation. Pointing to the authority of ICBI will not change our interpretation. We actually think it's best to go with the evidence of the text itself. Yeah. Funny thought isn't that? Maybe we can learn what the text means by studying the text instead of studying ICBI? As I've said, I once believed Geisler had ICBI at the back of his Bible, but now I disagree. I think it's front and center.

But this is precisely what Neo-evangelical’s do not want to highlight about Packer’s views. Mainly because their views of inerrancy do to biblical texts (namely, denying the historicity), exactly what the ICBI and Packer forewarned.  By way of historical purview, I (Norman Geisler) being one of the ICBI framers with Packer, can testify to the fact that we consciously had Robert Gundry in mind when we penned these words.  For Gundry had just denied that sections of the Gospel of Matthew (like the story of the Wise Men—Mt. 2) were historical. Eventually, Gundry was asked to resign from the Evangelical Theological Society in 1983, by an overwhelming majority of the Society for these declarations. Note again, the Summit II Conference took place in 1982, predating Gundry’s actual resignation in 1983. The point being, the Summit II Conference was to prevent Gundry like approaches, not a reaction to the ETS decision on Gundry like approaches.
It's awfully nice of the Evangelical Pope to tell us what he had in mind. It's also interesting to see that he is still speaking about ETS. I'm still wondering. Is this the Evangelical Theological Society or the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society? You see, as I wrote out here, Geisler is quite selective with ETS. Back when they voted out Gundry, ETS was authoritative. When they did not vote out Pinnock, ETS was not authoritative. Now that he needs to use Gundry again on Licona, ETS is suddenly authoritative.

Oh. What did Geisler say? Glad you asked!

In short, the ETS framers would not affirm any of these and Pinnock has not denied any of them. If he really wants to clear the record, then all he has to do is deny all 21 of these in clear and unequivocal terms. If he does not, then his unrecanted written views are contrary to what the ETS statement really means since the framers would not agree with any of them. And it is an evangelical tragedy of great magnitude that the Executive Committee of ETS and a majority of its members have retained Pinnock in what has now become the formerly Evangelical Theological Society.
Now looking at all of this, I think it's quite simple to figure out. When is ETS authoritative? Why when they agree with Geisler of course. From this, we can gather that ETS doesn't really matter. They can be used or ignored. It depends entirely on their position with Geisler. Therefore, what really matters is if you agree with Geisler or not.

Here again, this citation can easily be misinterpreted by Neo-evangelical theologians, when in fact, Packer actually gave a positive answer, saying, clearly, “YES…”; but adds only that Lindsell would have gained by “re-angling” his work.  Of course, most everything could gain by “re-angling.”  The point is that Packer said, “Yes”; inerrancy is a “touchstone, watershed” issue!  But this is the very thing that the Neo-evangelical theologian’s deny.
With this we are back to Geisler speaking about Packer. The position is wrong again. In reality, all of us defend inerrancy. All of us uphold inerrancy. All of us also deny that inerrancy is an essential. Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection and if we make inerrancy the prerequisite to believing in the resurrection, we have an easy basis for disbelieving it then. Just show an error anywhere in the text and it all crumbles. Make the resurrection central and have inerrancy come from that and it's much simpler.

Packer has made it very clear, contrary to the claims of Neo-Evangelical theologians and their view of inerrancy, that he does not approve of any hermeneutic which denies the historicity of the biblical narrative (the gospels in particular). For example, when he was asked whether Mike Licona’s hermeneutic, which denies the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 by declaring them as legend and factually inaccurate, was in accordance with the classic doctrine of inerrancy, Packer wrote:
As a framer of the ICBI statement on biblical inerrancy who once studied Greco-Roman literature at advanced level, I judge Mike Licona’s view that, because the Gospels are semi-biographical, details of their narratives may be regarded as legendary and factually erroneous, to be both academically and theologically unsound  (Letter, May 8, 2014).

Of course, this ignores what we have from Packer as well. As I showed here someone emailed Packer first and wrote about it on Licona's Facebook.

Dr. Licona, I noticed that Dr. Geisler has written a reply to your recent interview by TheBestSchools. Geisler’s response is at
I noticed in his point 22 that he disagrees with your statement that the framers of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) don’t always agree on how to interpret ICBI. Dr. Geisler says there were only 3 framers of ICBI, R. C. Sproul, J. I. Packer, and himself. He then says “we all agree that Licona’s views are not compatible with the ICBI statements.” I just wanted you to know that I emailed J. I. Packer last fall and asked him what he thought of your view of Matthew’s raised saints. I received this reply from him on 24 February forwarded from David Horn, the Academic Secretary at Regent College:
Hello Johan,
Thank you for your email. I have just today received the following handwritten reply from Dr. Packer.
Dear Johan Erasmus,
I apologise for lateness in responding to your email.
What Dr. Licona offers is an interpretive hypothesis as to Matthew’s meaning. What biblical inerrancy means is that Scripture, rightly interpreted, is true and trustworthy. I don’t think Licona’s guess about Matthew’s meaning is plausible, but it is not an inerrancy question.
Sincerely in Christ,
J.I. Packer

Geisler's reply to this was unconvincing and has been answered here.

And finally, there is a pointing to R.C. Sproul. We need not say nothing about this as more of us are interested in what actual NT scholars have to say.

The article concludes

In summary, the classic doctrine of inerrancy has served as the orthodox position of biblical authority since the advent of the church. Our shared hope with Taylor is that Packer’s writings will continue to influence the views of present-day evangelicals in their approach to theological doctrines. Taylor’s reintroduction of Packer’s article would have benefited present-day evangelicalism more if it presented the entire corpus of Packer’s thoughts, publications, and interactions to prevent any misinterpretations of Packer (even though it never intended to do so); nevertheless, without taking these thoughts into consideration it will continue to provide Neo-Evangelical theologians a platform to falsely claim their position is in agreement with the orthodox theologians of the church and the central figures of evangelicalism. We hope and pray this article will serve as a corrective to the prevalent misrepresentations of Packer, so that evangelicals will both understand properly the doctrine of inerrancy and interpret correctly the writings of J. I. Packer.

We meanwhile hope and pray that Geisler will actually learn our views and not spend so much time going after defenders of Scripture and the resurrection and focus his abilities more on those outside the camp and those who are really attacking Christianity. As I have said before, if anyone is doing anything today to damage inerrancy within Christianity, it would have to be Geisler.

In Christ,
Nick Peters