Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Response To Geisler's Preserving Orthodoxy

Ah. Spring is here. The birds are out. The trees are growing their leaves, and Geisler is pushing the panic button on Inerrancy again and, what a shock, the longest chapter in the book is on Mike Licona. You have to love the springtime!

Geisler's book is a rush job as one can tell since it has got a number of typographical and grammatical errors in it. In fact, if Geisler had limited himself to saying everything one time, he could have probably cut this book in half. Many times you'll find the exact same statement repeated twice in the same chapter.

Also, it would be interesting to go through and count and see if ICBI is referred to more often than Scripture. It would be close at least. I am reminded of my earlier claims in past writings that Geisler has ICBI at the front of his Bible.

If you're wondering: No. Geisler has not responded to his critics here. The arguments are entirely one-sided. This is one of the great deficiencies. Many people will sadly never read Mike Licona's excellent material defending the resurrection and answering charges of Bible contradictions because Geisler has already got in their mind that he's a liberal who denies Inerrancy. 

Geisler also places great emphasis on the Grammatical-Historical method of exegesis. Unfortunately, he never tells us why this should be the case. Those on the outside will even be left wondering what it is. Geisler never tells us. Can he demonstrate that this is in fact what the early church did? A work like Mark Sheridan's makes quite a compelling case that they didn't. Is Geisler just scared of allegory or something of the sort?

This ultimately means that with Geisler, you have not just a method that has to be used, but also an interpretation that must come with so much so that if anything disagrees, Geisler immediately pushes the panic button and shouts "Denying Inerrancy! Denying Inerrancy!" The discussion is no longer about examining the viewpoint, but questioning one’s orthodoxy. A perfect illustration of the adage of "Better to debate a question and not settle it than to settle it and not debate it."

Geisler also argues that the literal approach was preferred by the Fathers since they held that Christ was literally conceived of a virgin (which I do affirm), died, and rose again. Still, this is hardly a convincing point. The Bible is a big book and just looking at a few of the main events does not point to how all matters were interpreted. For instance, preterists and dispensationalists could agree on those, and still disagree with the interpretative techniques of the other. The same for Calvinists and Arminians or young Earth creationists and old Earth creationistss. 

In showing the historical case for inerrancy, while Geisler is certainly right that Inerrancy is the historical position, not necessarily ICBI Inerrancy. Second, Geisler in fact goes to an example that does not help his case. This is to look at Martin Luther. The example was so dangerous to Geisler's cause that I wanted to make sure I had it right. In fact, Geisler has it at his web site and there, the case is even worse. We could say "It's worse than we thought." The original quotation is as follows:

There was mention of a certain new astronomer who wanted to prove that the earth moves and not the sky, the sun, and the moon. This would be as if somebody were riding on a cart or in a ship and imagined that he was standing still while the earth and the trees were moving. [Luther remarked,] “So it goes now. Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Josh. 10:12] (Table Talk June 4, 1539).

Now I don't have any desire to speak ill of Luther here. I am a good Protestant. I also do think some Luther scholars question the accuracy of some of the Table Talk, but here Geisler accepts it as legitimate, so I will do the same.

How does this help Geisler's case? In fact, it has Luther saying that he knows Copernicus is wrong on heliocentrism and why? Because he interprets the Bible literally. This is what Geisler wants us to do and not use extra-biblical sources to change the meaning of the text. Still, the text does say that Joshua asked the sun to stand still. Does Geisler believe this? If so, is he questioning heliocentrism? If not, then is he using extra-Biblical information to interpret the text that was not present for the earliest listeners?

The next example doesn't help his case any more.

Because we are not sufficiently able to understand how these days occurred nor why God wished to observe such distinctions of times, we shall rather admit our ignorance than attempt to twist the words unnecessarily into an unnatural meaning. As far, therefore, as St. Augustine’s opinion is concerned, we hold that Moses spoke literally not allegorically or figuratively, that is, the world and all its creatures was created within the six days as the words declare. Because we are not able to comprehend we shall remain disciples and leave the instructorship to the Holy Ghost.

There are plenty of people who will say that Norman Geisler himself denies Inerrancy by denying this. For instance, consider Dr. Jason Lisle, who is an astrophysicist and holds to young-earth creationism. Now I disagree with Lisle on the age of the Earth, but notice what he says about Geisler.

Inerrancy means that the Bible, in its original autographs, is entirely without error. That necessarily includes the timescale of Genesis, as well as everything else the Bible teaches. That the Bible teaches that “God created in six days” is certainly not a relatively new position. And if indeed the Bible teaches that, then inerrancy demands that we accept it as true.

Norman Geisler would no doubt disagree with this, but is this not a problem? Mike Licona uses ancient biographical techniques to interpret the Bible. That's wrong and denying Inerrancy! Norman Geisler uses modern science to interpret Genesis. That's okay! Does Geisler think he has the right to not only say what Inerrancy should be for everyone but what it entails and doesn't? If so, then how is it that we do not have an Evangelical Pope?

And we're still not done! On his web site, Geisler continues the quotations of Luther to show the history of Inerrancy by these quotes:

Though this Epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and regard it as a good book, because it sets up no doctrine of men and lays great stress upon God’s law. But to state my own opinion about it, though without injury to anyone, I consider that it is not the writing of any apostle. My reasons are as follows:
First: Flatly in contradiction to St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture it ascribes righteousness to works and says that Abraham was justified by his works in that he offered his son Isaac, though St. Paul, on the contrary, teaches, in Romans 4, that Abraham was justified without works, by faith alone, before he offered his son and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. . . .
Second: Its purpose is to teach Christians, and in all its teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the Resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ.

So it looks like for Geisler, you can question if James has apostolic authority and if it should be in the Bible, and that's okay because you're being consistent with Inerrancy. You can also say that James disagrees with Paul on salvation and you're okay! But if you dare to suggest that the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is not literal, then you've crossed the line, bub! What a strange world Geisler lives in. 

Geisler is also still pushing the rumor that 30% of ETS voted against Gundry and asked for him to be dismissed. This is yet another case of Geisler ignoring his critics. James Patrick Holding (JPH) and I have pointed out the truth behind this claim in this video.

Geisler also tells of how Michael Bird has challenged the Gundry decision regularly and suggested that Gundry should be reinstated. He also says that Blomberg has pointed out some problems saying that the NT miracles present themselves as historical, but so do many pagan accounts. Do we just beg the question by assuming that the NT accounts are true because they're in the Bible? 

Geisler doesn't respond to this question, which is a good and important one. Well, he doesn't respond unless you consider pushing the panic button a response. Unfortunately, this leaves us unprepared in the face of challenges to our worldview. Those of us who do believe in the reliability of Scripture have no problem accepting historical tests of the Bible. We're sure it will pass.

Geisler also says that for Gundry, saying "Jesus said" or "Jesus did" does not mean He said or did what follows. Unfortunately, this is unavoidably true to an extent, unless we want to suggest that Jesus was the rare rabbi who spoke Greek all the time except for when he raised Jairus's daughter. There is no doubt paraphrasing and some mild editing took place just like in any historical account, ancient or modern. 

This also gets us to a problem where Geisler will have unnamed sources. For instance, the president of one of our largest seminaries is reported to have said "If Gundry stays in ETS, then I'm leaving." Who? Inquiring minds want to know. The hesitancy to have him mentioned can't help but leave me wondering how close this person was to Geisler such that if Geisler revealed his identity, it would hurt his case.

Geisler also says that one could say they believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and yet still allegorize everything. This is panic button pushing, but sure. They would not be in ETS since one would need to hold to evangelical doctrines. I do not deny that Jehovah's Witnesses believe in the Inerrancy of Scripture despite them getting most every major Bible doctrine absolutely wrong. If you know the Bible is Inerrant, you do not know what it teaches. You only know that what it teaches is true. 

Geisler also briefly and amusingly goes after other targets, if only mentioning them by name, though referring to them in his earlier book. (This one is Defending Inerrancy if you're playing at home and you've lost track of all the books Geisler's written on this major issue of our day.) Included in this of all people is Darrell Bock. When someone like Bock is gone after, you have to wonder just how much Geisler might just be looking for targets to go after. 

Going after Pinnock of course isn't much of a shock and I disagree with his open theism of course, but the key point of this chapter is that at the end, he calls ETS the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society. He has said this in other writings, but it's good that it's here. Make a mental note of this. Now, it's time to move on to the arch-heretic, Mike Licona. 

No. Geisler still has not accepted arguments from prior posts even though he has been corrected frequently on them. For instance, he still says that Greco-Roman bioi contains legend. As he says

 There is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco–Roman biography (bios). Bioi offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches . . . and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins. (RJ, 34, emphasis added in this and following citations).

 Geisler has been told repeatedly that Licona's book is his Ph.D. dissertation. It is not meant to be directed specifically towards an evangelical audience. He starts out stating the simple fact. These bioi could contain legends and sometimes it's hard to tell where history ends and legend begins. Note this. This does not mean that the Gospels then MUST contain legends. Because the genre allows for it does not mean it necessitates it. Licona is also just starting to argue his case and trying to cover as many of his bases as he can.

Geisler makes another mistake on similar grounds next saying that Licona says there are embellishments in the Gospels.

Embellishment is Present in the Gospels
 “For this reason, we get a sense that the canonical Gospels are reading authentic reports of Jesus’ arrest and death . . . even if some embellishments are present” (RJ, 306).
“A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4–6” (RJ, 306, n. 114).

 Sadly, Geisler doesn't pay attention to Licona's argument and what he says. For starters, when asked point blank by Chris Date if he thinks there are legends and embellishments in the Gospels, Licona said no. This was something I pointed out on my own blog some time ago. To be fair, it was only a little over five years ago so Geisler obviously did not have time to notice this claim. I also point out that this is Licona ultimately saying that maybe we could have an embellishment or a legend, and to play devil's advocate, he gives some suggestions. He nowhere says these are legends or embellishments. The same follows with this:

Angels at the Tomb may be Legend
“It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes. We may also be reading poetic language of legend at certain points, such as the angels at the tomb (Mk 16:5–7; Mt 28:2–7; Lk 24:4–7; Jn 20:11–13) (RJ, 185–186).

The above arguments apply just as much here. 

Now remember that statement about the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society I asked you to remember? It's important because in this chapter, the very next one, Geisler says the following:

First, Licona claims that his view is in accord with the doctrine of inerrancy. However, the Evangelical Theological Society, which is the largest group of scholars in the world based on inerrancy, pronounced the same kind of dehistoricizing of the Gospel record as incompatible with its view on inerrancy. (Loc. 1742)

So according to Geisler, when years earlier ETS kept Pinnock in, they became the Formerly Evangelical Theological Society. There's even an appendix in this book on why Geisler left them. Yet now, when Geisler wants to have a group to denounce Licona's view, he has no problem pointing to ETS even though they're not evangelical according to him. One can't help but wonder where ETS stands? Is it just this rule that if they agree with Geisler, they're evangelical, and if they don't, they're not? Does that mean if a vote took place and it came out that Licona was accepted, that Geisler would see this as proof that they weren't evangelical? If Licona was removed, does that mean Geisler would see this as proof they were reliable? Geisler will get the conclusion he wants to either way.

Of course, if Geisler wants to try this, it will be interesting to see if he wants to apply the same standard to William Lane Craig. Why has Geisler not gone after Craig? Could it be that there is something else going on? Is it that Geisler doesn't think he'll get grounds if he tries to go after a man often seen as the leading defender of Christianity today?

Geisler also argues against Licona's view saying that ICBI never allowed extra-Biblical data to determine what the text means. Yet if this is the case, it has to be asked. What about Joshua 10? What about Genesis 1-2? Lisle would say that Geisler does use extra-biblical data, and it's hard to deny that since he points to modern scientists for his interpretation. 

The irony gets better with this statement:

Seventh, Licona ignores virtually all the arguments presented for the historicity of the resurrection of these saints in Matthew 27 and then claims that we beg the question in favor of the historicity of the event in question. (Loc. 1796)

Please note that Geisler has never responded to JPH or myself on these matters. I, as Mike's son-in-law, am in a position to speak on his behalf. If Geisler is waiting for Licona to personally engage, it's not going to happen. He's too busy defending New Testament Christianity to engage in this battle. That is where JPH and myself come in. Geisler even banned someone from his Facebook page who put up a challenge to him from JPH. If anyone has ignored arguments on this issue, it has been Geisler. We welcome any attempt of his to answer our charges and to accept the debate challenge, but we are not holding our breath.

(11) Modern objections to a straight–forward acceptance of this passage as a historical narrative are based on a faulty hermeneutic which violates sound principles of interpretation. For example, they (a) make a presumptive identification of its genre, based on extra–biblical sources, rather than analyzing the text for its style, grammar, and content in its context; or, (b) they use events reported outside of the Bible to pass judgment on whether or not the biblical event is historical. (12) The faulty hermeneutic principles used in point 9 could be used, without any further justification, to deny other events in the gospels as historical. It is simply special pleading to neglect this overwhelming evidence in favor of the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew. (Loc. 1812)

Geisler unfortunately does not understand how Licona arrives at his conclusion. It is by studying the text and its style, grammar, and content. It is odd that Geisler wants to avoid other examples outside the Bible. Does he think that only the Bible has Wisdom literature or Proverbial stories or creation accounts? If Geisler thinks that the approach of Licona could be used to deny other events, he's welcome to try. It's not an all-or-nothing game for us. Each case is taken on a point by point basis.

Ninth, it is understandable that Licona would be “grateful to the Southeastern Theological Review for their invitation to participate in a round table discussion on the meaning of this text and the solution” that he proposed. However, we must be careful not to place too much weight on such a meeting, particularly because some of those involved already placed approval on his view in a recent Open Letter released by Licona. Hence, it in their case we have the fox guarding the hen house! (Loc. 1824)

Keep in mind Geisler was invited to this meeting. Why is it he did not want to go to a public meeting to discuss, including one where others who disagreed with Licona were there? I know that Licona would have no problem with a meeting if there were witnesses present. Why is it that Geisler has a problem with this? Does he just think he couldn't stand up to hard questions of his view?

Geisler also says that, “Licona’s vacuous methodological claim is self–defeating since they claim that their view corresponds to reality when they claim that truth is not what corresponds to reality.”

It is a wonder where Geisler gets this from. I know Licona personally. I have never seen him deny the correspondence theory of truth. It's just easier for Geisler to put things in this kind of language instead of, you know, dealing with the actual arguments.

Geisler then quotes J.I. Packer, who has recently issued an endorsement of Licona's latest book. Packer wrote an endorsement of Defending Inerrancy saying

“In the following pages Norman Geisler, who contributed as much as anyone to ICBI original legacy, and William Roach interact with evangelical hypotheses that have the effect of confusing that legacy. They are masterly gatekeepers [for inerrancy], and I count it an honor to commend this work to the Christian world.” (Loc. 1902)

Of course, there are a number of reasons to discount this. First off, it is well known by scholars that these blurbs, often say some positive things about a book without going into an extensive negative critique. Also, Packer has written dozens of blurbs over the years—even for books containing views with which he disagrees.

Wait. What's that? Those words sound familiar? Well, they should. That's what Geisler said about Packer writing a blurb in defense of Mike Licona's book. If it can work for Licona, why not for Geisler? Maybe Packer just wrote a positive blurb without a full negative critique. Maybe Geisler and Roach's book did contain views Packer disagrees with?

It's not a shock to see Geisler using David Farnell as his go to guy for this. I have already written a response to what Farnell has said. Farnell is not unaware of this. When he commented on my Amazon review of Licona's latest book, I followed it up with a response to what he said. He never answered. Until Farnell responds, then I consider my response still standing. 

“First, Genre criticism is based on belief in the primacy of Mark. However, the view that Mark was written first is far from universal. In fact, it was almost universally rejected in the early church in favour of Matthew being first. And there are many contemporary scholars who reject the primacy of Mark as well, including former Bultmanian Eta Linneman, conservative Harold Hoehner, liberal professor William Farmer, and conservative New Testament scholar David Farnell. The parallel passages in Mathew and Mark can just as well be Mark following Matthew as the reverse. Or, they can both be based on their own eyewitness accounts.” (Loc. 1991)

It would be amusing to try to see Geisler go after the Synoptic Problem. Just saying "These scholars disagree" is not sufficient. Okay. Why do they disagree? What are their reasons? Also, if we were all convinced that Matthew was written first, I see no reason to think that that would change our view of the Gospels as Greco-Roman bioi. 

Geisler continues:

Seventh, the Greeks did not believe in the physical resurrection of the body. In fact, for them salvation was from the body, not in the body, as it is for Christians. The Greeks mocked the Apostle Paul for proclaiming the resurrection (Acts 17:32). Yet it is the heart of the Christian message (1 Cor. 15:1–7, 12–19). For Paul declared: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). But clearly the New Testament did not adopt Greek beliefs to understand the phenomenon of the resurrection. So, adopting Greek genre to understand the New Testament is contrary to the heart of the New Testament Christian Gospel message of the death and resurrection of Christ. (Loc. 2044)

It is a wonder that Geisler can write a paragraph like this and think it constitutes an argument. Do we dare mention to him that the vast majority of the New Testament is written in Greek? He seems to have this belief that if you use Greek styles of writing and argumentation, that you must accept all Greek beliefs. Does he think that Thomas Aquinas was required to accept the eternality of the universe and that a person ceases to exist after death just because he took so much from Aristotle? This is truly a bizarre argument on Geisler's part and that he uses such hideous argumentation smacks of desperation. 

When Geisler goes to the next chapter about how orthodoxy can be lost, we get another ironic statement.

The good ole boys network is strong, and it is often easy to tolerate doctrinal deviation for a good and likeable colleague. The truth is that faculty members find it very difficult to vote to exclude any of their colleagues. (Loc. 2450)

This is ironic since Geisler relies on such a network. He refers only to the people who agree with him, does not pay sufficient attention to critics, and then declares the case has been made. Pay attention to how many times he refers to someone as "noted" for instance, no matter how old their work might be. Their work might have been exceptional at the time, but has it stood the test of time?

Geisler goes on to play the victim saying:

The fear of being stigmatized is a strong motivation favoring the road to heresy. The temptation to unorthodox is a powerful force. No one wishes to be called undesirable names because of his defense of truth. I personally have been charged with “hermeneutical waterboarding,” called a bully, excluded from groups, have been the object of false accusations, and have had invitations canceled because of my stand on the inerrancy of Scripture. One publishing house even allowed an unprecedented negative article on me in an otherwise scholarly journal. This kind of personal attack is almost unheard of in a scholarly work. (Loc. 2497)

Geisler never seems to stop to see if some of these charges could be true. Could he be being a bully? Yes. Especially since Licona has lost two jobs and been excluded from groups and I myself have faced exclusion just because of my relation to him. Why? I have been excluded because Geisler has gone after Mike Licona. Geisler will say "Why am I attacked for defending Inerrancy." No one has a problem with defending Inerrancy, but we have a problem with how it has been done. Geisler can play the victim all he wants, but it's clear in history who fired the first shot. Geisler is like the kid on the schoolyard who goes around knocking down the other kids, until someone fights back and then he cries victim and says "I was only playing." No. When Licona lost employment because of Geisler's stance, that was not playing.

For the final chapter on building up an apologetic defense, one will find little disagreement. This is the Geisler I would like to see more often. It would be good to see him going after the real threats to the faith. Unfortunately, Geisler has done a good job destroying the legacy he spent decades building. Geisler has found a target most everywhere so often that no one really listens anymore. In reality, I would dare say that if anyone is undermining Inerrancy today, it's none other than Geisler.  

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