By the way, we're also surprised it took him so long this time. Mike had already spoken at the Apologetics Academy and made the statement that others have already responded to. We can't help but wonder what was keeping Geisler away from the most important of all battles? Was he not told because he was preparing to respond to an atheist and then someone said that Mike Licona had breathed again and Geisler had to jump into gear? Inquiring minds want to know!
Geisler's latest piece is here. Now I will state that I am at an advantage because as it stands, Mike took my wife, his daughter, out for an evening last night of father-daughter time together and when he came in and we all chatted together, that's when we got the email about this and we looked through it together. Mike was quite amazed to see all the things that he apparently believes and holds to that he did not know he believes and holds to.
In his YouTube presentation on this topic, Mike Licona declared that “probably Mark is confused” concerning the location of the Feeding of the 5000. Later, in his internet article on the topic (8/23/2016) he wrote, “The difficulty appears after the feeding when in Mark 6:45 we read that Jesus told His disciple to cross over the lake to Bethsaida. This seems difficult to reconcile with Luke’s report that the feeding had occurred at or near Bethsaida.”Of course, I do think that Mike didn't phrase things the best when he spoke and that can happen. William Lane Craig can be seen on YouTube defending the proposition that 2 + 2 = 5 for instance. It can happen. I spoke last Sunday about Mike in a talk I gave about having Aspergers and referred to him at first as my wife Allie's father-in-law. It happens.
Still, this doesn't change the fact that there does seem to be a discrepancy that is difficult to reconcile. This isn't a problem to admit. One can be an inerrantist and admit there are apparent discrepancies and even some that we can have a really hard time answering. Dare I say it, but maybe some cannot be answered for us based on our present knowledge of the text.
After reviewing what Licona considers several admittedly “possible” solutions, he dismissed them for various reasons; they were “awkward,” did not solve the “tension,” “a stretch,” or “groundless.” He concludes, “while some are less ad hoc and more plausible than others, none of them enjoys anything close to a scholarly consensus….” He then resorts to his favorite solution—a hermeneutically definitive appeal to extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre and finds similar difficulties when Plutarch tells “the same stories differently.” Thus, Licona concludes that he also is willing here to accept the “confusion” of Mark, and “remain content to live with an unanswered question.”And what exactly is so awful here? Of course, Geisler has not interacted with our criticisms here of his claims that the Gospels are not Greco-Roman biographies. Instead, he has simply stated his position and acted as if that should be sufficient. Who cares what your critics are saying? We have an agenda after all!
He also doesn't really interact with the point. Yes. Some harmonizations can be ad hoc. Some can be groundless. Some can be a stretch. One need only think about the idea that when Peter betrayed Jesus, the cock crowed six times, or that Jesus gave the sermon on the mount twice and used different pronouns each time. Mike has instead actually done something that should be done. He's actually gone to the culture that the Bible was written in and asked how differences were handled then.
So now Geisler has a brief response. What's his first point?
First of all, there is no unresolvable problem for an inerrantist here, as even Licona admits there are “possible” solutions.Indeed there are, and some do work better than others. The sad part about all of this is that Geisler does not give one. Instead, this is what makes me think Geisler is taking a presuppositionalist approach. There is no problem because inerrancy is true. Well what about this supposed discrepancy? It's answerable. How? Because inerrancy is true. And what's the answer? Don't know, but it's there because inerrancy is true.
Now of course, one could still hold to inerrancy even if one does not know of a solution just by saying "I have seen solutions come to past problems and I am not ready to change my position at this point due to something that is at this point problematic." This is what happens when anomalies show up in classical scientific theories for instance. Unless a major amount of evidence comes through, one is justified in going with the preponderance of the evidence.
Still, it would have been nice for Geisler to have given one suggested resolution and let Mike interact with it. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.
Second, he even acknowledges that some solutions are “more plausible” than others.And?
I mean, is this supposed to be a major point? Even if one thinks all explanations fail, what's the point of saying that some are more plausible than others. All attempts to shoot at the bullseye in the archery contest failed, but some where closer than others.
Third, Licona’s problem rests with his acceptance of Greco-Roman genre which allows for even contradiction in the Gospel, as there are in Greco-Roman literature.Note of course this does not necessitate intentional contradictions, but let's suppose we go with this. People who wrote in Greek period could allow for this. Geisler acts like a writing style is pagan. Should we say the same about the Greek language that the New Testament was written in? Is it out of grounds because it's pagan?
Note also that this is Licona's "problem." It's not a problem we have to deal with in the text. Of course, Geisler himself has given no solution to this. You would think if he was going to say that Mike is missing a clear point, he'd easily be able to address what the solution to the problem is.
Also, what is wrong with allowing for contradictions to begin with? I think we all should. That does not mean that there are contradictions, but it can mean "If you can show that there is one, we will have to accept it." Isn't that going where the evidence leads?
Fourth, he reflects his distaste for some attempts to use the time-honored method of “harmonizing” (which goes back as far as Tatian’s Diatessaron, c. 150-160 a.d.) to reconcile the tension or apparent contradiction. He calls it “hermeneutical gymnastics” and elsewhere refers to similar proceedings by the exaggerated term “hermeneutical waterboarding.”Frankly, this reminds of me of students on college campuses who respond to something they don't like to hear by speaking about how offensive it is. Unfortunately, it's not addressed whether or not this is the case. Are some supposed time-honored methodologies gymnastics or pretty much forcing the text to say what you want it to say? Are all attempts at harmonization legitimate?
Fifth, Licona’s confusion, not Mark’s, also stems from the hidden premise that if there is no “scholarly consensus” on a problem, then we must consider it unanswered, if not unanswerable. He seems unwilling to admit the venerable conclusion of St. Augustine who wrote, “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken; but either:  the manuscript is faulty, or  the translation is wrong, or  you have not understood’” (Augustine, Reply to Faustus 11.5). But to repeat, “itis not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken’”—or confused.God is not confused, and He cannot err (Heb. 6:18), and the Gospel of Mark, along with the rest of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), is the Word of God. Therefore, it cannot be confused or err. If anyone was confused here, then mark it down, it was not Mark.Mike was very surprised to learn that he thinks that if there is no scholarly consensus then the problem is unanswered if not unanswerable. It's a wonder where Geisler got this idea. As for Augustine (Is he inerrant now? Sure seems like it), I would like to ask why is it not allowable to say that? Of course, I'm not saying there is an error in Scripture, but is our position unfalsifiable? What does it do to say we believe in Inerrancy if whenever we are presented with a problem just say "Well, Inerrancy is true anyway?" No. We need to have an answer. If we study extensively on one and get nothing, well we could still just be agnostic and give the Bible the benefit of the doubt. If they start to pile up, then we can work on that.
And by the way, Mike's work is leading groundbreaking research on this that has never been done before. Mike's work is meant to help solve Bible contradictions. In other words, it's defending inerrancy.
Maybe Geisler is more familiar with asserting inerrancy instead of defending it.