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



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