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?

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