Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Geisler Increases His Blacklist

You would have thought he would have learned to be quiet, but no. While the rest of the world is going about its business, Norman Geisler is still out there preaching the Gospel of "Mike Licona is wrong about inerrancy." Of course, he's not satisfied with just going after Mike Licona. There are numerous other people to go after as well. We wonder how many more people Geisler will have to blacklist before his crusade is done.

Naturally, he starts with ETS. Of course, Geisler is not clear on his position on ETS. In a writing like this, they’re treated as evangelical, but not too long ago, they were treated as formerly evangelical. For instance, when we go here we read:

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.

So whenever you hear about ETS, you always have to ask if we should trust their opinion or not. Are they evangelical or formerly evangelical? Geisler says they made the wrong opinion about Pinnock and therefore we shouldn't trust them, but they made the right opinion about Gundry, and therefore we should trust them, and that right opinion is the one brought forward today. It's an odd picking and choosing. 

Still, Geisler wants to go after more people now. Who is included in his hunt? Some old names but some new ones. Now he's going after Darrell Bock, Craig Blomberg, Dan Wallace, J.P. Moreland, Douglas Moo, W. David Beck, James Chancellor, William Lane Craig, Craig Keener, Gary Habermas, and William Warren. Of course, we dare not leave out Mike Licona, the arch-heretic.

Geisler is still trying to say that Licona says there are errors in the historical text. It still hasn't dawned on him that if an author did not intend to write history, then there is no error if he does not write history. Consider for instance an example Wallace brings out in his review of the Ebook on the subject of inerrancy that I co-wrote:

A case in point (not mentioned in the book): several church fathers, whose bibliological credentials on the New Testament at least were unimpeachable, claim that Jesus’ healing of the blind man in Mark 8.22–26 was not historical. This is one of two miracles of Jesus recorded in Mark that are not found in either Matthew or Luke. Both of them involved Jesus using spittle (the other is the healing of the deaf-mute in Mark 7). Jerome says that the story is “not historical, but symbolic.” And Ambrose, the bishop of Milan in the fourth century, saw the spittle as a symbol for the washing away of sins in baptism.
By Geisler's standards, these church fathers were denying inerrancy. Is he willing to say that? Will we see Jerome and Ambrose of Milan blacklisted next? What about Geisler's own denial of inerrancy that has never been answered from Max Andrews? 

Of course, this is followed by what Sproul, Packer, and Geisler himself have to say. Unfortunately, we don't know the information these men have been given. Geisler has also never said anything about Packer being friendly to a position of theistic evolution. All we have on this is Geisler's word for everything and frankly, many of us have learned to not trust that word.

Interestingly, now Geisler is going after the minimal facts approach. This is very interesting since this approach has been around for a long time and now Geisler is calling it into question in a move that I'm sure will make Richard Carrier and other mythicists proud. Yes. An evangelical is going after the minimal facts and criterion used for historical authenticity. Thanks Norman Geisler for giving more ammunition to the mythicists to use against Jesus. We really appreciate it!

Geisler misses at the start that not everyone who uses the minimal facts approach says there are errors in the Bible. Could you believe in inerrancy and use this approach? Yes. Why? Because you're going to your opponents and saying "Let's use the data your guys accept and let's see how far it gets us." You see, many of us have an interest in not getting people to believe in inerrancy, but to believe in the risen Jesus. I believe my position that the Bible is inerrant because I believe in the risen Jesus. It is not the reverse. To do otherwise is frankly to just have bad epistemology. 

How do you know the Bible is true? If you have to verify every single thing in the Bible to know it's true in order to  believe in the resurrection, then you have a problem. How about if you believe in the resurrection first and then you can reason to the Bible? In fact, perhaps you believe in the resurrection and don't believe the Bible is the Word of God. You still trust Jesus is the Lord and God of this universe who died for your sins and repent and accept Him as savior. You know what that means? It means you spend eternity in the blessed presence of Jesus Christ. The question is not what you do with Scripture but what you do with Jesus.

In fact, I recently  had to answer a question from someone along these lines who was arguing that Christianity is true because the Bible is inerrant. I had to tell him that this was the false way to go. You don't defend Christianity by showing the Bible is the Word of God. The first Christians didn't even have a New Testament to defend. You do it by showing that Jesus rose from the dead. If you start with inerrancy, the person you want to evangelize just has to go look up a web site with 101 Bible contradictions. You must answer all of them. What happens when you do that? Does he fall on his knees and proclaim Jesus is Lord? Nope. He'll go get 101 more. In the end, guess what? You'll STILL have to prove Jesus rose from the dead. Why not just start with that?

Geisler still goes on to say:

Second, it a serious theological mistake to use an apologetic strategy as a hermeneutical method. Even if the Minimal Facts strategy would work to show some key passages of Scripture pass muster, this does not mean it is an adequate method do determine the authenticity of the Gospels, to say nothing of their inspiration. For instance, the Double Reference may provide extra confirmation of some text, but it is not necessary for confirming a biblical text. There are many passages mentioned only once that would be eliminated if the event must be mentioned twice. This would include the miracle of turning water to wine (Jn. 2), the story of the woman at the well (Jn. 4), Zacchaeus (Lk. 19), Nicodemus (Jn. 3), the Magi (Matt. 4), the resurrection of Lazarus (Jn. 11), the healing of the blind man (in Jn. 9), even the actual birth of Christ (Lk. 2), and many other Gospel events.
Likewise, the Principle of Embarrassment is not necessary to confirm a text as authentic. Most things recorded in the Gospels are not an embarrassment to the author and yet they are authentic. The same is true of other ancient literature. Neither of these principles is necessary to confirm an event from the ancient world is authentic. (emphasis in the original)
Likewise, the Principle of Embarrassment is not necessary to confirm a text as authentic. Most things recorded in the Gospels are not an embarrassment to the author and yet they are authentic. The same is true of other ancient literature. Neither of these principles is necessary to confirm an event from the ancient world is authentic. (emphasis in the original)
Then I would simply like to ask how Geisler confirms that an event is historical? If he says "Because the Bible is the Word of God" then he is just using circular reasoning. The only way to do it is to use some method of historiography. There is no other way. When you do history, you have to use historiographical methods. Now are these other events unprovable by these methods? Yes. Just like many events are. What we do then is to reason from general reliability and then look at other methods and say "Where we cannot test, we give the benefit of the doubt." It works even better if we have already established the resurrection of Jesus. 

If Geisler thinks he has a better methodology, he's free to share it. Better yet, he's free to share it with the world of NT scholarship and see if it passes muster. We eagerly await it other than standing up and saying "The Bible is the Word of God and what it says is true because God cannot error." Yeah. I'm sure Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier will both be persuaded by that one.

Geisler goes on to say that:

Third, the new hermeneutic of Neo-evangelicals is a slippery slope. Once one admits the existence of minor errors and the possibility of others in the Gospel, then it is one short step to undermine inerrancy altogether. For example, if one admits Matthew erred in claiming that the saints were resurrected (Mt. 27) after Jesus’ resurrection, then what hinders one in the same passage from claiming that Jesus did not rise either. Licona struggled to explain this (Licona, TheResurrection of Jesus, 553), but his explanation is not convincing, as New Testament critic Bart Ehrman (cited above) illustrates. (Boldness his)
Of course, this is the idea of "Well if it happens once, how do we know it didn't happen elsewhere?" The answer is simple and one that eludes Ehrman as much as Geisler. We use the methods of historiography. Ehrman himself knows this because in a book like Did Jesus Exist? he will point to several beliefs that can be known to be true about Jesus based on the Gospels. Geisler is just persisting in all-or-nothing thinking, the exact same kind of thinking that produces someone like Bart Ehrman and pushing the panic button to do it. Sorry, but the sky is not falling.

Indeed, the presidents of many seminaries do not agree with Licona, including those of his own Southern Baptist denomination. After reviewing Licona’s situation, one SBC president, Dr. Al Mohler, proclaimed that “Licona has not only violated the inerrancy of Scripture, but he has blown a massive hole into his own masterful defense of the resurrection” (“The Devil is in the Details,” Sept. 11, 2011). Another Southern Baptist seminary president claimed he would never hire Licona at his school.” One non-Southern Baptist school, which dropped Licona from their faculty, had a professor on Licona’s examining committee who reported: “He [Licona] even said that if someone interpreted the resurrection accounts as metaphor and therefore denied the historicity of the Gospel accounts, that would not contradict inerrancy. That was unbelievable ” (Letter, Sept. 22, 2014).
For starters, I have already replied to Al Mohler here. Al Mohler is not a New Testament scholar and does not have the expertise on NT studies  to speak here. Meanwhile, Geisler has pointed to unnamed people and said these people who are not identified we should put our trust in. Sounds great. I'll point to several internet atheists who go by different names on YouTube and elsewhere who say that Geisler's brand of inerrancy has led them to be skeptics today and who look at the way Geisler is treating Licona as an example of how you can't have a contrary opinion in evangelicalism and the scholarship is all biased.

In conclusion, if you want to know who is truly undermining  belief in inerrancy the most truly today, don't look to Mike Licona or Craig Blomberg or anyone else, including myself. It's Geisler. People are looking at him and saying "If believing in inerrancy means I have to ditch these great thinkers in Christianity  and believe what Geisler believes, then so much for inerrancy." I urge people to go with the view of inerrancy in Defining Inerrancy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters


  1. Replies
    1. Dr Blomberg! Just finished your work "The Historical Reliability of the Gospel of John." Absolutely first rate! I'm somewhat fanboy-ing here that I have a chance to tell you so person to person!