A Response to Mike Licona’s Defense of Dehistoricizing the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27


A Response to Mike Licona’s Defense of Dehistoricizing the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27

Norman L. Geisler

I wish to express my appreciation to Mike Licona for his belated response to some of the issues I raised about his view over two months ago.  While this response was no doubt prompted by the superb treatment of the matter by Dr. Al Mohler that was just placed on his web site, Licona’s response is better late than never. Before addressing Licona’s defense of this view, it is noteworthy that he acknowledges that it is a denial of the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 and says clearly, “which is my position.”  Indeed, he has still not retracted his in-print view that this event is a “legend.” As for Licona’s defense of his view, he offers several arguments.  Let me address them briefly.

First, he 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. Indeed, they requested that Robert Gundry resign (by an overwhelming vote) for holding a similar view which dehistoricized sections of the Gospel of Matthew.  Licona makes no mention of this crucial fact, but insists on redefining inerrancy to fit his errant view. However, in the light of the Gundry decision, Licona has no grounds on which to stand to claim his view is consistent with the historic view of inerrancy, which was embraced by the founders of ETS.

Second, Licona appeals to the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) statements on inerrancy to support his view of “deshistoricizing” Matthew’s account.  However, the ICBI statements on this matter specifically refer to this process as being contrary to inerrancy.  Indeed, as one of the framers of the ICBI statements, I can verify that we explicitly had Gundry’s views in mind when we condemned dehistoricizing the Gospel record. An official ICBI statement declared, “All the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual or spiritual” (Sproul,Explaining Inerrancy (EI), 43-44).  Also, “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis…and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture,” not extra-biblical texts used to determine the meaning of the biblical text.  Further, the ICBI framers said: “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing,dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship” (Article XVIII). Also, “Though the Bible is indeed redemptive history, it is also redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world” (Sproul, EI, 37). Again, “When the quest for sources produces a dehistoricizing of the Bible, a rejection of its teaching or a rejection of the Bible’s own claims of authorship [then] it has trespassed beyond its proper limits (Sproul, EI, 55). Also, “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (Explaining Hermeneutics (EH), XIII). “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (EH XIV bold added in all above citations). Clearly, Licona’s views are not exonerated, but condemned, by the framers and commentaries of the ICBI statements.

Third, Licona begs the question by assuming that we should approach the Gospel record by not prejudging whether it is historical or not.  However, it is not a bias to consider the Gospel records as historical for several reasons: (1) They present themselvesto be giving history (cf. Matt 1:1, 18; 2:1). Luke, for example, claims explicitly that he is recording accurate history (Luke 1:1-4), and Matthew records the same basic historical events as Luke; (2) Luke also provides historical crosshairs with eight historical figures (Luke 3:1-2), all known to have lived at that time; (3) All the main events of Matthew are taken to be historical, even by Licona, including the birth, life, works, words, death and resurrection of Jesus. Why then should not the rest of the book be considered historical as well? Thus, the burden of proof rest on anyone who denies the historicity of a section of the Gospel.  And to comb through contemporary extra-biblical sources, as Licona does, to find legendary material that seems similar to something in the Gospels and then use it as hermeneutical determinative of what the Gospel writer meant is a completely misdirected way of interpreting Scripture. What is more, the presumption of the historical nature of the Gospel is supported by the weight of nearly two thousand years of the Christian Church.  Furthermore, as I mentioned in a previous Open Letter, there are crucial differences between this type of extra-biblical literature and the biblical text?

Fourth, Licona refers to using “authorial intent” to determine the meaning of a statement, but he refuses to take the “authorial intent” of the meaning of ETS and ICBI statements on inerrancy seriously.  If authorial intent is definitive in the meaning of a text, then as an ICBI framer, I can verify that Licona’s Gundry-like views of dehistoricizing Matthew 27 are not compatible with the ICBI statements.  In fact, we had the very thing in mind when we spoke against “dehistoricizing” the biblical narrative by that very name.

Fifth, what is more, Licona violates another standard hermeneutical principle by taking ICBI texts out of contexts.  The ICBI statements only allow the use of extra-biblical data to “clarify” the meaning of words in the biblical text and “prompt” a reexamination of the biblical text itself, which is the final authority.  ICBI never allowed extra-biblical data to be hermeneutical determinative of the meaning, nor of the historicity of the text. As Dr. Mohler correctly noted, they cannot be used to “invalidate” the teaching of a biblical text.  In fact, ICBI explicitly condemns this extra-biblical practice used by Licona and affirms that “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” and that by the “grammatico-historical” method alone. Nowhere did ICBI claim that extra-biblical writings were to be used to override the meaning of biblical writings as understood in their context and by other Scriptures.  In fact, it stated just the opposite (see above).

Sixth, not only does Licona violate sound interpretive principles, but he draws a false analogy between using symbolic language and dehistoricizing a text.  For example, simply because the Bible speak of Satan under the figure of a “dragon” (an example Licona gives) does not mean there is no literal Satan, nor a literal fall of Satan and a third of the angels (Rev. 12).  In fact, the book of Revelation even interprets these symbols as referring to literal persons and event (cf. Rev. 12:9).  Therefore, the use of symbolic language and figures of speech in the Bible in no way justifies taking the individuals and events as non-historical and legendary, as Licona does with the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27. The ICBI statements make this very clear.  What is more, no such language is used in the simple unembellished accounts of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27, which Licona denies as historical.

Seventh, Licona ignores virtually all the arguments we 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. To state just a few of these arguments given in favor of historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27: (1) It occurs in a book that present itself as historical (cf. Matt 1:1,18); (2) Numerous events in this book have been confirmed as historical (e.g., the birth, life, deeds, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ); (3) It is presented in the immediate context of other historical events, namely, the death and resurrection of Christ; (4) The resurrection of these saints is also presented as an event occurring as a result of the literal death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Matt. 27:52-53); (5) It has all the same essential earmarks of the literal resurrection of Christ, including: (a) empty tombs, (b) dead bodies coming to life, and (c) these resurrected bodies appearing to many witnesses.  In view of all of this, there is simply no reasonably way one can dehistoricize the resurrection of these saints, particularly based on alleged similarities with extra-biblical stories and expressions.  Indeed, to dehistoricize the resurrection of these saints is to dehistoricize the resurrection of Christ which is said to be the cause of it.

Eighth, Licona claims the extra-biblical literature containing phenomena similar to the raised saints in Matthew 27 may provide insights pertaining to how Matthew intended for us to interpret his raised saints. However, in support Licona offers more false analogies such as the use of figures of speech of events today.  But no one claims that the “earth-shaking” events of 9/11 were non-historical or poetic devices used to describe what every eye-witnesses knows to have taken place in the actual space-time continuum. We validate the historicity of this event by the eyewitnesses who experienced the event  and who recorded it as actual history. If someone 2,000 years from now interprets the events from 9/11 as apocalyptic or legendary, then they will be in error.

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 have already placed approval on his view in a recent Open Letter released by Licona. Hence, it may be a case of the fox guarding the hen house!  There are far bigger and better scholarly circles than this, such as, the nearly 300 international scholars who formed the ICBI statement on inerrancy and its statements which declare that views like Licona’s were incompatible with the view of full inerrancy which declared that the Bible is wholly and completely without error and denied all dehistoricizing of the Gospel record.

Tenth, Licona claims that to reject a view like his is to “stifle scholarship.”  In response, we do not wish to stifle scholarship but only to reject bad scholarship.  Further, as Evangelicals we must beware of desiring a seat at the table of contemporary scholarship, which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity. Indeed, when necessary, we must place Lordship over scholarship (2 Cor. 10:5). We do not oppose scholarship, but only scholarship whose presuppositions and methodological procedures are opposed to the Faith once for all committed to the saints.

Unfortunately, Mike Licona refers to Dr. Mohler and me as “detractors.”  In response, I would like to repeat that I have both love for Mike as a brother in Christ and respect for him as a scholar.  However, I have a higher respect for the truth of God’s inerrant Word and for my duty to defend it.  And I am firmly convinced that the Gospel record is seriously undermined by this kind of Second-Temple, pro-legendary interpretation that denies the sufficiency of the historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture and flies in the face of nearly two centuries of Christian consensus on the historicity of the Gospel record. Hence, while I am not a detractor, I do believe that Dr. Licona needs to be a retractor of this serious challenge to the complete historicity and full inerrancy of the Bible.  Since he has expressed some doubt about his own view in his previous Open Letter, I would hope that his doubt about his own hermeneutics would not decrease and that his certainly about the inerrancy of the whole Gospel record, including this text, would increase.  I am praying to that end.

 

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

A Response to Mike Licona’s Open Letter


A Response to Mike Licona’s Open Letter

Norman Geisler (Sept 8, 2011)

                On July 3, 2011 I wrote Mike Licona expressing my deep concern about his denial of the historicity of the saints in Matthew 27.  I waited in vain for a whole month for a response to my questions about this denial of the full inerrancy of Scripture.

On August 3, 2011, I wrote again, saying, “Mike: I wrote you a month ago.  I am very disappointed that I have not heard back from you yet—even a brief response.  This is a serious issue.  It is the same thing Gundry was asked to resign from  ETS over.  Please respond.  In all fairness, I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond.  I did not want to go public with my critique of this until I heard from you.  I hope you will change your view.  I like you and respect you, but you owe me a quicker response than this.  Sincerely, Norm. ”

On August 4, 2011 Lincona replied that he did not have time to respond, saying that when He “revisit[ed] the passage” he would consider my points.  And he indicated that it might still be a longer time before he responded, saying, “my investigation will be a lengthy process.”  I responded that in the meantime, since his view was in print, that it was open to scholarly critique, and he agreed in writing that this was so.  Only then did I release my “Open Letter to Mike Licona.”

Finally, two full months after my first letter (of July 3) on September 8, 2011 I received “An Open Response to Norman Geisler” (dated “August 31, 2011).  His response is disappointing for several reasons:

First, Licona has not recante his denial of the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27.  At best, he is no longer as certain of the view as he once was.  Further, whatever his final thoughts, he is convinced that this published view is compatible with inerrancy.  Yet this kind of “dehistoricizing” of the Gospels is the same reason that Robert Gundry was asked by an overwhelming majority to resign from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), of which Licona is a member.

Second, even in his belated “Open Letter” to me Licona has not yet responded to any of the arguments I gave for the historicity of Matthew 27 resurrection saints. Nor has he responded to any of the reasons I gave as to why his view is incompatible with the ETS and ICBI view on inerrancy.  In short, after two months, I still have a mere reply but not a real response to the issues I raised.  And this reply is something that could easily have been written two months ago.  Apparently, the pressure from Southern Baptist sources that preceded his resignation from his position at their North American Mission Board helped convinced him to resign and reconsider writing a reply.

Third, Licona claims, “I still hold to biblical inerrancy,” yet his “dehistoricizing” this part of the Gospel of Matthew is exactly the issue that prompted ETS to ask Gundry to resign over, namely, because it was inconsistent with the ETS inerrancy statement.  But Licona is also a member of ETS. Why is his view any less inconsistent with the ETS view of inerrancy?  Just saying a view is consistent with the historic view on inerrancy does not make it so.

Fourth, in 2003 ETS adopted the ICBI (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy) view on inerrancy as their guide in understanding what inerrancy means for ETS.  Yet, as I showed in my “Open Letter,” the ICBI framers clearly denied that views like Licona’s are compatible with inerrancy.

Fifth, Licona has not yet recanted his published view denying the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 but, rather, he has attempted to restate it, saying, “one could have articulated a matter more appropriately.”  Furthermore, presenting other possible options, as he does in his “Open Letter,” is not a denial of what he said in his book, namely, the resurrection of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is not historical.

Sixth, listing some scholars who agree with him misses the point.  First, as he admits, most of them do not agree with his unrecanted in-print view.  Further, the fact that they say they are “in firm agreement that it is compatible with biblical inerrancy” misses the point entirely.  For it does not answer the question of with whose view of inerrancy it is in agreement?  As we all know, the term “inerrancy” can be twisted to mean many things to many people.  In my “Open Letter” I affirmed only that Licona’s view was not in agreement with the ETS (of which Licona is a member) view of inerrancy as expressed in the Gundry case.  Of course, one can always find a number of people with whose views on inerrancy it is in agreement.  But that is not the point.

Nor is Licona’s view in accord with the ICBI view on inerrancy (which ETS has adopted as a guideline in understanding the topic), as I showed in my “Open Letter.”  In fact, as one of the framers of the ICBI statement, I can testify to the fact that it was Gundry’s view (and others like it) which we were specifically condemning when we spoke against “dehistoricizing” the Gospel record as Licona has done.

Seventh, this is not, as Licona asserts, merely a hermeneutical issue on which any one can take his own views.  As was pointed out in our debate with Gundry (in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society), one’s hermeneutics or methodology cannot be totally separated from his view on inerrancy.  If it were, then people like Karl Barth could be said to be consistent with inerrancy, even if they believed the Bible was not without error in certain facts of history or science.  Indeed, as Gundry was forced to admit, even Mary Baker Eddy could consistently sign an inerrancy statement (on Licona’s argument), while she was allegorizing away, not just the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 but also allegorizing away all the stories in the Bible, including the resurrection of Christ!

Indeed, contrary to Licona’s claim that this Matthew 27 issue “was outside the primary thesis of the book,” for the resurrection of these saints was directly connected to the resurrection of Christ and listed as a result of it (see Matthew 27:50-53).  So, the two events are interwoven.  Hence, to deny the literal historical nature of the saints who were resurrected as a result of Christ’s resurrection, is also to deny the literal historical nature of the cause of their resurrection, namely, Christ’s resurrection itself.

Eighth, Licona reveals the basis of his own problem when he admits that his view on Matthew 27 “is based upon my [his] analysis of the genre of the text” and that this was based on a comparison with “similar phenomena in the Greco-Roman literature in general.”  But this is clearly not the way to interpret a biblical text which should be understood by the “historical-grammatical” method (as ICBI held) of (a) looking at a text in its context and (b) by comparing other biblical texts, affirming that  “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (as ICBI mandated).  The proper meaning is certainly not found by superimposing some external pagan idea on the text in order to determine what the text means.  By this same kind of fallacious hermeneutic one can also conclude that other biblical stories, like the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Christ, are just legends too, along with the creation record in Genesis 1-2.

So, it matters not how many scholars one can line up in support of the consistency of their personal view on inerrancy (and many more than this can be lined up on the other side).  What matters is whether Licona’s view is consistent with the view of full inerrancy held down though the ages (see John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church) and as expressed by the ETS and ICBI framers and as expressed and confirmed in the official ICBI commentaries on the matter.  For once we begin to neglect the “authorial intent” (to use a phrase from Licona’s “Open Letter”) of the ETS and ICBI statements, and replace it with what we think it should mean, then “inerrancy” is a wax nose that can be formed into almost anything we want it to mean.  Sadly, many names on Licona’s list of scholars are members of ETS (some of whom are on the faculties of evangelical seminaries that require their faculty to sign the ICBI view of inerrancy).  What is more, their approval of Licona’s view reveals they are not signing the doctrinal statement in good conscience according to intention expressed by the framers.  The ETS and ICBI framers have drawn a line in the sand, and Licona has clearly stepped over it.  Only a clear recantation will reverse the matter and, unfortunately, Licona has not done this. Let’s pray that he does. 

Sincerely disappointed,

Norman Geisler

Copyright © 2011 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

 

A Second Open Letter to Mike Licona on the Resurrection of the Saints of Matthew 27


A Second Open Letter to Mike Licona

on the Resurrection of the Saints of Matthew 27

Professor Norman L Geisler, Ph.D.

August 21, 2011

 

Almost two months ago, I wrote Mike Licona a private letter expressing my concerns about his published view in The Resurrection of Jesus (RJ) that the story of saints resurrected after His resurrection in Matthew 27:52-53 was not historical.  He spoke of it as a “strange little text” (548 cf. 556).  Indeed, he called it “poetic” or a “legend” (185-186).  He appears to include the angels at the tomb (Mk. 16:5-7) in the same category (186).  He speaks of it as similar to Roman legends with “phenomenal language used in a symbolic manner” (552).  He adds, “…it seems to me that an understanding of the language in Matthew 27:52-53 as ‘special effects’ with eschatological Jewish texts and thought in mind is most plausible” (552).  He says that by this legend “Matthew may simply be emphasizing that a great king has died” (552).  He adds, “If he has one or more of the Jewish texts in mind [that contain similar legends], he may be proclaiming that the day of the Lord has come” (552).  He concludes that “It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew as a poetic device added to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel” (553).

In my Open Letter to Mike Licona a few weeks ago (see www.normangeisler.com) I spoke of how this dehistoricizing of Matthew’s inspired account was contrary to the stand of The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) which asked Robert Gundry to resign by an overwhelming vote of the membership in 1983 for the same basic reason.  I also pointed out that this kind of “dehistoricizing” of the Gospel record is contrary to the statements of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) whose statement was accepted by the ETS (of which Mike Licona is a member) in 2003 as a guide in understanding of what their inerrancy statement meant.

 

Unfortunately, since Mike has chosen not to respond publically to my Open Letter, or to me privately, I wish to appeal again for him to reconsider his view.  There are two major points I wish to express.  First, there is no good grounds for taking Matthew 27:15-53 as not historical.  Second, this dehistoricizing of sections of a Gospel inconsistent with the standard view on inerrancy as held by the Evangelical Theological Society and the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.

On The Inconsistency of Licona’s View with the Text of Matthew 27:50-53

            This text at issue is in Matthew 27 which affirms that when he died “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and  yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (vv. 50-53 ESV).  Now there are many reasons this text in this context should be taken as historical and not as a legend.

 

First of all, in this very text the resurrection of these saints occurs in direct connection with two other historical events—the death and resurrection of Jesus (vv. 50, 53).  There is no reason here to take the resurrection of Jesus as historical and the resurrection of the saints as a legend. Hence, to borrow the subtitle from Licona’s book, it appears that this “New Historical Approach” which employs extra-biblical sources to determine the meaning of this text has led him astray.  Indeed, there are many reasons in the text itself to take these resurrections as a literal events, including the terms like “earth,” “quake,” “temple,” “veil,” “rocks,” “tombs,” “bodies,” “asleep” (dead), “raised,” and “appeared”—all of which speak of a physical event elsewhere in the New Testament.  Indeed, the crucial word associated directly with the resurrection of these saints resurrection (viz., “raised”—egiro) is also used of Jesus’ resurrection in the 1Corinthians  when Paul speaks of Jesus dying for our sins and being “raised” (egiro) again (1 Cor.15:3-4).  And the word for “appeared” (Mt. 27:53) after his resurrection is an even stronger word than usual,meaning”become visible, appear…make known, make clear, explain, inform, make a report esp. of an official report to the authorities” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Geek-English Lexicon of the NT, p. 257, emphasis added).

 

Second, there is a direct connection between the resurrection of these saints and Jesus’ resurrection.  For the text is careful to mention that they did not come out of the tombs until “after” Jesus’ resurrection (v. 53).  Indeed, Paul calls Jesus’ resurrection “the firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:23), so, it is only proper that He should emerge from the dead first.  Thus, speaking of the resurrection of these saints after Jesus’ resurrection and as a result of it makes no sense, if their resurrection, unlike Jesus’ resurrection, is a mere legend.

 

Third, this text lists the same kind of evidence for the resurrection of these saints as is listed elsewhere for Jesus’ resurrection: [1] the tombs were opened; [2] the tombs were empty; [3] the dead were raised; [4] there were physical appearances; [5] many people saw these resurrected saints (cf. Mt.27; 1 Cor. 15).  In brief, if this is not a physical resurrection, then neither was Jesus’ resurrection (that preceded and prompted it) a physical resurrection.  Or, conversely, if Jesus’ resurrection was physical, then so was the resurrection of these saints in Matthew 27 a physical resurrection. Thus, denying the physical resurrection of these saints undermines belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus.

 

Fourth, as Ellicott’s Commentary puts it, “the brevity, and in some sense, simplicity, of the statement differences [sic] it very widely from such legends, more or less analogous in  character… and so far excludes the mythical elements which, as a rule, delights to shows itself in luxuriant expansion” (vol. VI, p. 178).  In brief, the typical characteristics of a myth as found in apocryphal and other literature of that time is not found in this text.

Fifth, some of the elements of this story are confirmed by two other Gospels.  For both Mark (15:38) and Luke (23:45) mention the renting of the veil in the temple (Mat. 27: 51) as a result of Jesus’ death as well.  But Luke’s writings in particular have been historically confirmed in nearly one hundred details (see Colin Hemer, Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History). There is no reason to believe he is less historically accurate in mentioning this detail.  And if this part of the story is factually confirmed, there is no good reason to reject the rest of it.

 

Finally, the cumulative evidence for the historic and non-legendary nature of this text is strong.  In fact, the story is interwoven with the historic evidence surrounding the death and resurrection of Christ in such as manner that the denial of the resurrection of the saints undermines the historicity of the resurrection of Christ in the same text.

 

 On the Inconsistency of Licona’s View with the ETS and ICBI View on Inerrancy

 

The Evangelical Theological Society is on record in the Robert Gundry case as rejecting this kind of dehistoricizing of the Gospel record as inconsistent with their view of the inerrancy of Scripture.  In 1983 by an overwhelming vote the ETS members Robert Gundry was asked to resign from the ETS for holding a similar view in which he dehistoricized sections of Matthew’s Gospel.  Since Mike Licona is a member of ETS, it follows that his view is inconsistent with the ETS stand on inerrancy.

Of course, Licona can argue that it is not inconsistent with his personal or private view on inerrancy, but that is not the point we made in our Open Letter, nor is it the point here.  The fact is that the society of scholars to which he belongs has already ruled against the view which he embraces.  Further,  Licona is on record affirming that a text should be interpreted in accord with the “author’s intent” (RJ, 85) or “authorial intent” (RJ, 195).  Thus, it would be inconsistent, if not dishonest, to reject the ETS and ICBI framer’s intent when interpreting its inerrancy statement.  Unfortunately, it is this kind of dishonesty that erodes the integrity of a doctrinal statement.  For example, in 1976 the ETS Executive Committee confessed that “Some of the members of the Society have expressed the feeling that a measure of intellectual dishonesty prevails among members who do not take the signing of the doctrinal statement seriously. Other members of the Society have come to the realization that they are not in agreement with the creedal statement and have voluntarily withdrawn. That is, in good consciencethey could not sign the statement” (1976 Minutes of the ETS Executive Committee, emphasis added).  If one cannot sign a statement in good conscience according to the intent of the framers, then, of course, resigning is the honest thing to do.

Furthermore, in 2003 the ETS accepted the ICBI interpretation as the guideline for interpreting what inerrancy means by an overwhelming 80% vote.  Thus, it too can be used as a test of whether Licona’s view is consistent with what the framers mean by inerrancy.  And an examination of the following citations from official ICBI statements and official commentaries on them make it clear that denying the historicity of sections of the Gospels is inconsistent with its view on inerrancy.

Consider the following ICBI statements (emphasis added):  “We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science” (Article XII).  And “By biblical standards of truth and error (in Article XIII) is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.  This part of the article is directed toward those who would redefine truth to relate merely to redemptive intent, the purely personal, or the like, rather than to mean that which corresponds with reality” (Sproul, Explaining Inerrancy (EI), 43-44).  Thus, “… all the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual or spiritual” (Sproul, EI, 41).

 

ICBI added, “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.”  Hence, “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship” (Article XVIII).  The official ICBI commentary adds, “Though the Bible is indeedredemptive history, it is also redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world” (Sproul, EI, 37).  “When the quest for sources produces adehistoricizing of the Bible, a rejection of its teaching or a rejection of the Bible’s own claims of authorship [then] it has trespassed beyond its proper limits” (Sproul, EI, 55).  Also, an official commentary titledExplaining Hermeneutics (EH). It reads: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (EH, XIII).  Further, “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (EH,  XIV).

 

As one of the framers of the ICBI statements, I can say with certainty that our expressed intentions of the ICBI framers is directly contrary to Licona’s dehistoricizing of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:51-53.  In fact, Robert Gundry, who was asked to resign for a similar view, came up by name to the framers when we penned our statements.

 

Objections Sometimes Raised Against the ETS and ICBI View of Inerrancy

 

Those who defend the Gundry-Licona type view of “dehistoricizing” parts of the Gospels have offered several objections to this kind of critique over the years.  These will be brief addressed here.

Objection One: ETS and ICBI are not the Final of Infallible Word on Inerrancy

 

Some have disowned the ETS and ICBI statements on inerrancy.  After all, as these objectors correctly point out, these statements are not infallible.  This is true, but then too no creedal statements are infallible, even The Apostle’s Creed is not infallible. Only the Bible is God’s infallible written Word of God.  Nonetheless, there are good reason to accept these early creeds as a guideline for Christian belief.  And, since there were no explicit early creedal statements on the Bible, there are several reasons to accept the ETS and ICBI statements as guides on this inerrancy issue.

 

First of all, it is the standard to which Licona and supporters refer when they claim his view is consistent with inerrancy.  After all, Licona is listed as a member of the ETS which has adopted the ICBI statement as a guide to understanding inerrancy.  So, he is being judged by his own standard.

 

Second, it has been well established that the total inerrancy view expressed by  the ICBI has been the historic view held by the great church teachers down through the centuries (see John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church; John Woodbridge, Biblical Authority: The Roger/McKim Proposal).

 

Third, ETS is the largest conservative scholarly society in the world (with some 4000 members).  Hence, it statement on inerrancy carries more weight than any private opinions on the matter, even among some of its members.

Fourth, since the ETS statement is short, its members decided to accepted the ICBI statement on inerrancy as a guide to its meaning in 2003 by an overwhelming 80% vote.

 

Fifth, the ICBI statement has been the standard view on the topic among American evangelicals for the last generation.  Hence, there is no need to reject it now, particularly for “a new historical approach” that is contrary to the historical-grammatical approach which has been at the basis of orthodoxy down through the centuries.

 

So, in view of the foregoing evidence, the burden of proof  falls on any individual who pit their private view of inerrancy against the historic view down through the centuries, as is expressed in the ICBI statements on the issue.  And, as we have shown, Licona position clearly contradict what the ETS (to which he belongs) and ICBI framers meant by inerrancy.

 

Objection Two: Matthew 27 is the Only Reference to this Event

 

It is objected that since the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is based on a single text, its historicity is in doubt.   However, from an evangelical view of Scripture (which Licona claims to hold), this is a clearly an unjustified assertion.  How many times does an inspired record have to mention an event for it to be true?  Many historical events in the Gospels are mentioned only once, including Jesus talking to the woman at the Well (Jn. 4) and his speaking to Nicodemus (in Jn. 3) in which He used the famous words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3).  Also, the encounter with the Rich Young Ruler and the story about Zaccheaus are only mentioned once (Lk. 19), as are numerous other things.  Further, as noted above, there are some aspect of this story (namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus and even the renting of the temple veil which is confirmed by both Mark  (15:38) and Luke (23:45).

 

Furthermore, many events from the ancient world survive by only one record.  So, by the logic of this objection, we would have to eliminate much of ancient history, to say nothing of much of the Bible!

 

Objection Three: Open Genealogies Support a Non-Literal View of Matthew 27

 

Robert Gundry raised this objection when he was asked to resign from ETS in 1983. In short, it is argued that Matthew 1:8 leaves out three generations when it lists Jesus’ ancestry (cf. 1 Chron. 3:11-12).  Hence, it is argued that that there is no reason to take passages like Matthew 27:51-53) as historical.  However, as any student of logic can quickly determine, this conclusion does not follow from the premises. For there is a big difference between abbreviation in a literal genealogy and taking the persons listed in it as non-literal.  Summarization of historical factsand dehistoricizing of themare really different things.  Thus, this objection is based on a false comparison.

 

Objection  Four: Many Inerrantists take Sections of Prophecy as Non-literal

 

It is sometimes objected that if some prophetic events can be taken in a non-literal way without denying inerrancy, then why can’t some events in the Gospels (like Matt. 27:52-53) be taken as non-literal and this view still be considered consistent with the doctrine of inerrancy?  Here again, we have a misplaced analogy for several reasons.

 

First of all, there is a difference between history and prophecy.  The question in Matthew is about a historical book, not a prophetical book.  Even if apocalyptic language can sometimes be taken to refer to non-literal events, it would not necessarily follow that this is true of historical sections of the Bibleespecially those directly connected with the resurrection of Christ.

 

Second, the use of figures of speech in apocalyptic discourse does not necessarily mean that it is not referring to literal events.  For example, speaking of the Devil as being “chained” (as a figure of speech) does not mean there is no literal Devil (Rev. 20:1), nor that he won’t be restrained in some manner.  Likewise, other figurative language need not be taken to mean it does not refer to literal events.

 

Third, consistent evangelical inerrantists (whether Pre- Post or A-millennial) do not deny the literal, historical nature of the Second Coming regardless of whatever figures of speech may be used to describe it.  But what Licona has done is to deny the very historical nature of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27.  And he has done so with a text that does not use figurative, apocalyptical language, but refers to literal events like Christ’s death, resurrection, and bodies being raised from tombs and appearing to many in the city of Jerusalem.  Thus, it makes a big difference when one denies the historicity of this kind of event, as Licona has done.

 

Objection Five: Taking Matthew 27 as Non-literal is no Different than Accepting an Old Earth View

 

It is argued that if one can take the “days” of Genesis in a non-literal way and yet be considered consistent with inerrancy, then why can’t they take a section of Matthew 27 non-literally also be considered consistent with inerrancy?  It is a known fact that many strict inerrantists from B.B. Warfield and A.A. Hodge to the modern ETS fathers and ICBI framers hold an “Old Earth” view which they believed was consistent with a strict view of inerrancy.  However, this too is an unjustified comparison.  For the Hebrew the term “day” (yom) is used of a literal but longer period of time than twenty four hours in many places in the Old Testament.  This is true of numbered series of days (cf. Hosea 6:1-2) and days with “evenings and mornings” (Daniel 8:14, 26) connected to them.  It is also used in the Genesis creation record (Gen. 2:4) of more than one twenty-four hour day, referring as it does to all six days of creation.

However, in none of these cases is “day” used of non-literal events.  Thus, ICBI inerrantists insist that denying the literal historicity of Genesis 1-3 and beyond is inconsistent with inerrancy.  Indeed, Article XII of the ICBI “Chicago Statement” reads: “We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.”  And Article XIII of the ICBI statement on Hermeneutics reads: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.”  Thus it rejects the view of “Some, for instance, [who] take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person.”  And indeed it should reject those views that deny the historicity of the Genesis record since many crucial New Testament teachings are based on it, including the Fall  (Rom. 5:12-17), and Christ’s called the “Last Adam” after His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:45).

 

So, while the age of the earth is not a test of inerrancy orthodoxy, the literal historicity of Genesis 1-3 and following is.  So, contrary to this objection, accepting the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 as legend is contrary to orthodoxy, but accepting the Genesis record as history (regardless of the age of the earth) is not.  Indeed, there are many orthodox ways to hold an “Old Earth” view and still believe that the “days” of Genesis are literal historic days, whether solar days or longer (see Geisler, Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, Appendix 4).

Objection Six: Other Inerrantists Agree that This View is Orthodox

Sometimes others who claim to believe in inerrancy, even ETS and ICBI kind of inerrancy, are cited in support of Licona’s view.  Dr. William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas have been put in this category.  However, it is important to note that neither of these men—nor others like them—accept Licona’s view that the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is a legend.  And as for believing that Licona’s view is consistency with inerrancy, as we have shown above, they cannot mean consistent with what the ETS and ICBI framers meant by inerrancy, and the ETS is the organization to which Licona belongs.  And, as Licona himself holds, the intent of the author is definite for the meaning of a text.  Further, as we have shown, the ETS rejected Gundry’s view and adopted the ICBI interpretation of inerrancy which explicitly rejects dehistoricizing the Gospel record such as Licona does. Indeed, there is no real grounds for claiming that Licona’s view is consistent with the framer’s intent of ETS or ICBI.

Concluding Comments

In conclusion, Licona has not publically recanted his published view denial of the historicity of  the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27.  Until he does so, his view on this matter should be considered unorthodox, non-evangelical, and a dangerous precedent for the rest of evangelicalism. And what is so sad is that his view is unnecessary.  Actually, his otherwise generally good treatment of the resurrection of Christ would be enhanced, not diminished, by holding to the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 which, indeed, is listed as one of the literal fruits of Christ’s own resurrection.  My prayer is for Mike to make this change, improve his tome on the resurrection, and make his view consistent with his claim to believe in inerrancy.  I like Mike as a person and love him as a brother in Christ, and it would be a shame to see him fall permanently from the ranks of consistent biblical inerrantists.

With over a half century of experience in the scholarly world, I would also add one last word to other young evangelical scholars: resist the desire to be an Athenian (Acts 17:21).  There is something more important than having a seat at the table of contemporary scholarship; it is putting Lordship over scholarship when necessary.  Further, there is something more important than “a new historiographical approach”;  it is the “old” historical approach which takes the Gospel record—all of it—as historical.  It has served the Church well for nearly 2000 years, and there is no good reason to change it now.

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Copyright © 2011 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

 

An Open Letter to Mike Licona on his View of the Resurrected Saints in Matthew 27:52-53


An Open Letter to Mike Licona on his View of the Resurrected Saints in Matthew 27:52-53

by Norman L. Geisler

2011

Dear Mike:

I have examined your work on the resurrection (The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (IVP, 2010).  Overall, it is a massive (718 pages), scholarly resource, and I commend you for your efforts and for your defense of the bodily resurrection of Christ.

There is, however, one thing I found in it that raises some serious questions.  You speak of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:52-53 after Jesus’ resurrection as a “strange little text” (548 cf. 556).  Indeed, you call it “poetic” or “legend” (185-186).  You appear to include the angels at the tomb (Mk. 16:5-7) in the same category (186).  You speak of it as similar to Roman legends that use “phenomenal language used in a symbolic manner” (552).  You add, “…it seems to me that an understanding of the language in Matthew 27:52-53 as ‘special effects’ with eschatological Jewish texts and thought in mind is most plausible” (552).   You say that by this legend “Matthew may simply be emphasizing that a great king has died” (552).   You add, “If he has one or more of the Jewish texts in mind [that contain similar legends], he may be proclaiming that the day of the Lord has come” (552).  You conclude that “It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew as a poetic device added to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel” (553).

Then you address the obvious problem that “If some or all of the phenomena reported at Jesus’ death are poetic devices, we may rightly ask whether Jesus’ resurrection is not more of the same” (553, emphasis added).  This is a very good question.  However, your answer is disappointing.

First, you say that “There is no indication that the early Christian interpreted Jesus’ resurrection in a metaphorical or poetic sense to the exclusion of it being a literal event that had occurred to his corpse” (553).  But neither is there any indication in the text that a historical understanding of the resurrection of the saints should be excluded from this text.  Indeed, the reference to these saint’s “bodies” coming out of “tombs” and going into the “holy city” (Jerusalem) and “appeared” bodily to “many”—all as a result of Jesus’ literal death and physical resurrection—are too many physical details to take this as purely poetical.    And just because one event (Jesus’ resurrection) is a bigger event would not, by the same reasoning, make it any less a legend.   There is no less evidence in the text that the smaller event (the resurrection of the saints) is any more metaphorical, to the exclusion of life returning to their dead corpses as well than there was Christ’s resurrection which was the cause of it.

Your second reason is even less convincing.  You argue that Jesus’ resurrection must have been literal (and the resurrection of these saints was not) since “no known Christian opponent criticized the early Christians or their opponents for misunderstanding poetry as history” (553).  But this is a well-know fallacy of an argument from silence.  Further, why should the enemies of Christians focus on this relatively minor byproduct of Christ’s resurrection when the major issue was whether Christ had risen bodily from the grave.  Neither did they concentrate on attacking the resurrection (resuscitation) of Lazarus or others who came back from the dead by the hands of Jesus and the apostles.  After all, the essential truth of Christianity did not rest on these resurrections, as it did on the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:12-19).

Finally, the same mistake seems to be occurring in your interpretation of this text as is made by many current liberal scholars in dehistoricizing other biblical texts, namely, using extra biblical sources as determinative for understanding a biblical text.  So what if other Roman or Jewish legends are similar?  The context of biblical text and other biblical texts are the best way to understand what a given passage is teaching.  And both of these favor a literal interpretation of the resurrection of these saints as a “firstfruits” of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20).  Using extra-biblical sources in this way is similar to the false analogies used to deny the Virgin Birth of Christ because there are similarities with other non-Christian “virgin birth” stories.  They both overlook crucial differences!  None of these legends involve   the Second Person of the Triune God  becoming incarnate in human flesh as the New Testament does.

In short, dehistoricizing a seemingly incidental event in the biblical record may seem to be a relatively minor issue , but it is in fact very important.  This is so for several reasons.

First of all, what is being done here is the same basic thing that Robert Gundry did in dehistoricizing sections of Matthew and for which he was asked to resign from the Evangelical  Theological Society in 1983.  How then can another evangelical interpretation of the same kind be overlooked as unimportant to orthodox Christianity?  In fact, being one of the ICBI framers, I can tell you that we had Gundry in mind when we framed Article XVIII of the famous “Chicago statement” (which speaks against “dehistoricizing” the Bible).  And even The Evangelical Theological Society has adopted the ICBI statement as its guideline for understanding inerrancy.

Second, the size and relative significance of the event that is being dehistoricized is not relevant to the importance of the hermeneutical issue, namely, the principle being used to undermine the historicity of biblical events.  Once upfront genre decisions are made based on extra-biblical legends, then one has adopted a hermeneutic that can undermine orthodox Christianity

In brief, I heartedly agree with the first part of your title (“The Resurrection of Jesus”) but cannot concur with the last part of it (“A New Historiographical Approach”).  We don’t need a “new” historical approach.  The “old” historical-grammatical approach is sufficient, as it has been down through the centuries.  Indeed, if the principles of your historical approach (of using extra-biblical material as determinative of the meaning of a biblical text) were used consistently on the Bible, then it would undermine orthodoxy by dehistoricizing many crucial passages of the Bible.

Sincerely,
Your brother in Christ,
Norm Geisler

 

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*I sent a copy of the letter to Mike over a month ago.  He has not yet responded to its points but said he is still considering the matter, though he anticipated that it would take him some time.

 

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

 

Open Theists and Inerrancy Clark Pinnock on the Bible and God


Open Theists and Inerrancy:

Clark Pinnock on the Bible and God

by Norman L. Geisler

Pinnock on the Bible

The Bible is not Completely Inerrant

“This leaves us with the question, Does the New Testament, did Jesus, teach the perfect errorlessness of the Scriptures? No, not in plain terms” (Pinnock, SP, 57).

Although the New Testament does not teach a strict doctrine of inerrancy, it might be said to encourage a trusting attitude, which inerrancy in a more lenient definition does signify. The fact is that inerrancy is a very flexible term in and of itself” (Pinnock, SP, 77).

“Once we recall how complex a hypothesis inerrancy is, it is obvious that the Bible teaches no such thing explicitly. What it claims, as we have seen, is divine inspiration and a general reliability” (Pinnock, SP, 58).

“Why, then, do scholars insist that the Bible does claim total inerrancy? I can only answer for myself, as one who argued in this way a few years ago. I claimed that the Bible taught total inerrancy because I hoped that it did-I wanted it to” (Pinnock, SP, 58).

For my part, to go beyond the biblical requirements to a strict position of total errorlessness only brings to the forefront the perplexing features of the Bible that no one can completely explain and overshadows those wonderful certainties of salvation in Christ that ought to be front and center” (Pinnock, SP, 59).

The Inerrancy of Intent, not Fact

Inerrancy is relative to the intent of the Scriptures, and this has to be hermeneutically determined” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

“All this means is that inerrancy is relative to the intention of the text. If it could be show that the chronicler inflates some of the numbers he uses for his didactic purpose, he would be completely within his rights and not at variance with inerrancy” (Pinnock, SP, 78)

“We will not have to panic when we meet some intractable difficulty. The Bible will seem reliable enough in terms of its soteric [saving] purpose,… In the end this is what the mass of evangelical believers need-not the rationalistic ideal of a perfect Book that is no more, but the trustworthiness of a Bible with truth where it counts, truth that is not so easily threatened by scholarly problems”(Pinnock, SP, 104-105).

 

The Bible is not the Word of God

“Barth was right to speak about a distance between the Word of God and the text of the Bible” (Pinnock, SP, 99).

The Bible does not attempt to give the impression that it is flawless in historical or scientific ways. God uses writers with weaknesses and still teaches the truth of revelation through them” (Pinnock, SP, 99).

What God aims to do through inspiration is to stir up faith in the gospel through the word of Scripture, which remains a human text beset by normal weaknesses [which includes errors]” (Pinnock, SP,100).

A text that is word for word what God wanted in the first place might as well have been dictated, for all the room it leaves for human agency. This is the kind of thinking behind the militant inerrancy position. God is taken to be the Author of the Bible in such a way that he controlled the writers and every detail of what they wrote” (Pinnock, SP, 101).

The Bible is not Completely Infallible

The Bible is not a book like the Koran, consisting of nothing but perfectly infallible propositions,… the Bible did not fall from heaven…. We place our trust ultimately in Jesus Christ, not in the Bible…. What the Scriptures do is to present a sound and reliable testimony [but not inerrant] to who he is and what God has done for us” (Pinnock, SP, 100).

He Rejects Warfield’s View of Inerrancy

Inerrancy as Warfield understood it was a good deal more precise than the sort of reliability the Bible proposes. The Bible’s emphasis tends to be upon the saving truth of its message and its supreme profitability in the life of faith and discipleship” (Pinnock, SP, 75).

He Rejects ICBI View of Inerrancy

Therefore, there are a large number of evangelicals in North America appearing to defend the total inerrancy of the Bible. The language they use seems absolute and uncompromising: `The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own’ (Chicago Statement, preamble). It sounds as if the slightest slip or flaw would bring down the whole house of authority. It seems as though we ought to defend the errorlessness of the Bible down to the last dot and tittle in order for it to be a viable religious authority” (Pinnock, SP, 127).

He Holds a Dynamic View of Inspiration, not Plenary Inspiration

“In relation to Scripture, we want to avoid both the idea that the Bible is the product of mere human genius and the idea it came about through mechanical dictation. The via media lies in the direction of a dynamic personal modelthat upholds both the divine initiative and the human response” (Pinnock, SP, 103).

“Inspiration should be seen as a dynamic work of God. In it, God does not decide every word that is used, one by one but works in the writers in such a way that they make full use of their own skills and vocabulary while giving expression to the divinely inspired message being communicated to them and through them” (Pinnock, SP, 105).

 

He Redefines Inerrancy and Rejects the Prophetic Model

“The wisest course to take would be to get on with defining inerrancy in relation to the purpose of the Bible and the phenomena it displays. When we do that, we will be surprised how open and permissive a term it is” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

At times I have felt like rejecting biblical inerrancy because of the narrowness of definition [!! See previous quote] and the crudity of polemics that have accompanied the term. But in the end, I have had to bow to the wisdom that says we need to be unmistakably clear in our convictions about biblical authority, and in the North American context, at least, that means to employ strong language” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

“Paul J. Achtemeier has called attention to the inadequacy of the prophetic model for representing the biblical category of inspiration in its fullness-The Inspiration of Scripture: Problems and Proposals” (Pinnock, SP, 232, n. 8).

He Holds that there are Minor Errors in the Bible

“The authority of the Bible in faith and practice does not rule out the possibility of an occasionally uncertain text, differences in details as between the Gospels, a lack of precision in the chronology of events recorded in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, a prescientific description of the world, and the like” (Pinnock, SP, 104).

What could truly falsify the Bible would have to be something that could falsify the gospel and Christianity as well. It would have to be a difficulty that would radically call into question the truth of Jesus and His message of good news. Discovering some point of chronology in Matthew that could not be reconciled with a parallel in Luke would certainly not be any such thing” (Pinnock, SP, 129).

“I recognize that the Bible does not make a technical inerrancy claim or go into the kind of detail associated with the term in the contemporary discussion. But I also see a solid basis for trusting the Scriptures in a more general sense in all that they teach and affirm, and I see real danger in giving the impression that the Bible errs in a significant way. Inerrancy is a metaphor for the determination to trust God’s Word completely” (Pinnock, SP, 224-225).

 

He Holds that The Bible Contains Myth and Legend

“In the narrative of the fall of Adam, there are numerous symbolic features (God molding man from dirt, the talking snake, God molding woman from Adam’s rib, symbolic trees, four major rivers from one garden, etc.), so that it is natural to ask whether this is not a meaningful narration that does not stick only to factual matters” (Pinnock, SP, 119).

“On the one hand, we cannot rule legend out a priori. It is, after all, a perfectly valid literary form, and we have to admit that it turns up in the Bible in at least some form. We referred already to Job’s reference to Leviathan and can mention also Jotham’s fable” (Pinnock, Sp, 121-122).

“Thus we are in a bind. Legends are possible in theory–there are apparent legends in the Bible–but we fear actually naming them as such lest we seem to deny the miraculous” (Pinnock, SP, 122).

“When we look at the Bible, it is clear that it is not radically mythical. The influence of myth is there in the Old Testament. The stories of creation and fall, of flood and the tower of Babel, are there in pagan texts and are worked over in Genesis from the angle of Israel’s knowledge of God, but the framework is no longer mythical” (Pinnock, SP, 123).

“We read of a coin turning up in a fish’s mouth and of the origin of the different languages of humankind. We hear about the magnificent exploits of Sampson and Elisha. We even see evidence of the duplication of miracle stories in the gospels. All of them are things that if we read them in some other book we would surely identify as legends” (Pinnock, Sp, 123).

He Holds Robert Gundry’s View of Midrash in Matthew

“There is no mythology to speak of in the New Testament. At most, there are fragments and suggestions of myth: for example, the strange allusion to the bodies of the saints being raised on Good Friday (Matt. 27:52) and the sick being healed through contact with pieces of cloth that had touched Paul’s body (Acts 19:11-12)” (Pinnock, SP, 124).

“There are cases in which the possibility of legend seems quite real. I mentioned the incident of the coin in the fish’s mouth (Matt. 17:24-27)…. The event is recorded only by Matthew and has the feel of a legendary feature”(Pinnock, SP, 125). [Yet Gundry was asked to resign from ETS by 74 percent of the membership.]

Pinnock on God

The Bible Has False Prophecy

“Second, some prophecies are conditional, leaving the future open, and, presumably, God’s knowledge of it” (Pinnock, MMM, 50).

“Third, there are imprecise prophetic forecasts based on present situations, as when Jesus predicts the fall of Jerusalem (Pinnock, MMM, 50).

“…despite Ezekiel, Nebuchadnezzar did not conquer the city of Tyre; despite the Baptist, Jesus did not cast the wicked into the fire; contrary to Paul, the second coming was not just around the corner (1 Thes. 4:17)” (Pinock, MMM, 51 n.66).

 

Even Jesus Made a False Prophecy

…despite Jesus, in the destruction of the temple, some stones were left one on the other” (Mt. 24:2)” (Pinnock, MMM, 51 n.66).

 

God is not Bound to His Own Word

“God is free in the manner of fulfilling prophecy and is not bound to a script, even his own” (Pinnock, MMM, 51 n.66).

“We may not want to admit it but prophecies often go unfulfilled…” (Pinnock, MMM, 51, n.66).

God is Limited and Corporeal

But, in a sense, creation was also an act of self-limitation…. Creating human beings who have true freedom is a self-restraining, self-humbling and self-sacrificing act on God’s part” (Pinnock, MMM, 31).

“As regards space, the Bible speaks of God having living space in the heavens:… Let’s not tilt overly to transcendence lest we miss the truth that God is with us in space” (Pinnock, MMM, 32).

“If he is with us in the world, if we are to take biblical metaphors seriously, is God in some way embodied? Critics will be quick to say that, although there are expressions of this idea in the Bible, they are not to be taken literally. But I do not believe that the idea is as foreign to the Bible’s view of God as we have assumed” (Pinnock, MMM, 33).

” The only persons we encounter are embodied persons and, if God is not embodied, it may prove difficult to understand how God is a person….Perhaps God uses the created order as a kind of body and exercises top-down causation upon it” (Pinnock, MMM, 34-35).

 

God’s Foreknowledge is Limited

It is unsound to think of exhaustive foreknowledge, implying that every detail of the future is already decided” (Pinnock, MMM, 8).

“Though God knows all there is to know about the world, there are aspects about the future that even God does not know” (Pinnock, MMM, 32).

“Scripture makes a distinction with respect to the future; God is certain about some aspects of it and uncertain about other aspects” (Pinnock, MMM, 47).

“But no being, not even God, can know in advance precisely what free agents will do, even though he may predict it with great accuracy” (Pinnock, MMM, 100).

“God, in order to be omniscient, need not know the future in complete detail” (Pinnock, MMM, 100).

 

God Changes His Mind

“Divine repentance is an important biblical theme” (Pinnock, MMM, 43).

“Nevertheless, it appears that God is willing to change course…” (Pinnock, MMM, 43).

“Prayer is an activity that brings new possibilities into existence for God and us” (Pinnock, MMM, 46).

 

God is Dependent on Creatures

“According to the open view, God freely decided to be, in some respects, affected and conditioned by creatures…” (Pinnock, MMM, 5).

“In a sense God needs our love because he has freely chosen to be a lover and needs us because he has chosen to have reciprocal love…” (Pinnock, MMM, 30).

The world is dependent on God but God has also, voluntarily, made himself dependent on it…. God is also affected by the world.” (Pinnock, MMM, 31).

God is not in Complete Control of the World

This means that God is not now in complete control of the world…. things happen which God has not willed…. God’s plans at this point in history are not always fulfilled” (Pinnock, MMM, 36).

“Not everything that happens in the world happens for some reason,…. things that should not have happened, things that God did not want to happen. They occur because God goes in for real relationships and real partnerships” (Pinnock, MMM, 47).

“As Boyd puts it: ‘Only if God is the God of what might be and not only the God of what will be can we trust him to steer us…'” (Pinnock affirming Boyd, MMM, 103).

“Though God can bring good out of evil, it does not make evil itself good and does not even ensure that God will succeed in every case to bring good out of it” (Pinnock, MMM, 176).

It does seem possible to read the text to be saying that God is an all-controlling absolute Being…. but how does the Spirit want us to read it? Which interpretation is right for the present circumstance? Which interpretation is timely? Only time will tell…” (Pinnock, MMM, 64).

God Undergoes Change

“For example, even though the Bible says repeatedly that God changes his mind and alters his course of action, conventional theists reject the metaphor and deny that such things are possible for God” (Pinnock, MMM, 63).

“I would say that God is unchangeable in changeable ways,…” (Pinnock, MMM, 85-86).

“On the other hand, being a person and not an abstraction, God changes in relation to creatures…. God changed when he became creator of the world… ” (Pinnock, MMM, 86).

“…accepting passibility may require the kind of doctrinal revisions which the open view is engaged in. If God is passible, then he is not, for example, unconditioned, immutable and atemporal” (Pinnock, MMM, 59, n.82).

 

He Admits Affinity with Process Theology

The conventional package of attributes is tightly drawn. Tinkering with one or two of them will not help much” (Pinnock, MMM, 78).

“Candidly, I believe that conventional theists are influenced by Plato, who was a pagan, than I am by Whitehead, who was a Christian” (Pinnock, MMM, 143) [Yet Whitehead denied virtually all of the attributes of the God of orthodox theology, biblical inerrancy, and all the fundamentals of the Faith!!!]

 


 

All italic emphasis in original, bold emphasis this author’s emphasis.

SP–Clark Pinnock, The Scripture Principle (San Francisco, Harper & Rowe: 1984).

MMM–Clark Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids, Baker: 2001).


Did Clark Pinnock Recant His Errant Views?

By Norman L. Geisler

December 1, 2003

It Would Seem That He Did

It is widely believed that Clark Pinnock changed his views on whether the Bible has errors in it and thereby convinced the ETS Executive Council and Membership that his views were not incompatible with the inerrancy statement of the ICBI. As a result, both the Executive Council recommended and the membership voted on November 19, 2003 to retain him in membership.

It would seem that Pinnock did in fact recant his earlier view for several reasons. First, his restatement satisfied the Executive Committee who examined him. Second, his restatement convinced the membership of ETS who gave him a 67 percent vote of approval. Third, the paper he read at ETS left the impression that he had changed his view. Fourth, his written statement indicates that he made a “change.” Fifth, he wrote in his paper and said orally to the membership that he accepted the ICBI statement on inerrancy which would indicate a change. Finally, upon reading the Executive Committee report and hearing Pinnock’s paper, I too got the impression he had changed his view.

To cite the ETS Executive Committee about their decision, “This is a direct result of extensive discussion with Dr. Pinnock, including his clarifications of many points, and his clarifying and rewriting of a critical passage in his work, retracting certain language therein” (Letter October 24, 2003 from Executive Committee to ETS membership, p. 1, emphasis added in all quotes). They added, “The day ended with Dr. Pinnock disavowing– voluntarily and unprompted–some of the affirmations in note 66 [of Most Moved Mover which claimed that a number of biblical prophecies, including one by Jesus, were not fulfilled as predicted] (ibid., 3). Thus, “the Committee reveals its belief that, in the light of Dr. Pinnock’s clarifications and retraction of certain problematic language, the charges brought in November 2002 should not be sustained” (ibid., 3-4). They also said “Dr. Pinnock…has clarified and corrected parts of what he wrote” (“ETS Executive Committee Report on Clark H. Pinnock October 22, 2003,” p. 2).

On The Contrary

In spite of all of this, there is good evidence that Pinnock never really recanted his views on inerrancy. First, he never used the word “recant” of his views in either written or verbal form. Second, he never used any synonyms of recant when speaking of his views on this matter. Third, even if it could be shown that he actually changed his view on prophecy, he has never recanted his position on numerous other statements that are incompatible with the ETS statement on inerrancy.

When one reads carefully what the ETS Executive Committee said of their decision to approve of Pinnock’s views, it does not really say he recanted his views but only his way of expressing them. It wrote: “This is a direct result of extensive discussion with Dr. Pinnock, including his clarifications of many points, and his clarifying and rewriting of a critical passage in his work, retracting certain language therein” (Letter October 24, 2003 from Executive Committee to ETS membership, p. 1). Likewise, as we will see below, what Pinnock said was only a recantation of how he expressed his view, not of the view itself.

I Answer That

Once we understand Pinnock’s view, it is not difficult to explain why he appeared to change his view when in reality he did not. It grows out of his view of truth.

Pinnock’s Intentionalist View of Truth

When Pinnock speaks of the truth of Scripture, he does so in terms of the author’s intention. An error is what the author did not intend. Hence, an intended “truth” can actually be mistaken or not correct and still be “true” by Pinnock’s definition. This came out clearly in Pinnock’s answer to a question after his paper. When asked whether he would consider an inflated number in Chronicles an “error,” he responded, “No,” since exaggerating the numbers served the intention the author of Chronicles had in making his point. So, what is incorrect, mistaken, and does not correspond to reality, is not considered an “error.” Of course, by this intentionalist view of truth all sincere statements ever uttered, no matter how erroneous they were, must be considered true. Clearly, this is not what the ETS framers meant by inerrancy. Ironically, even the Executive Committee itself disavowed such a view in principle when they excluded “various forms of views explicitly affirming errors in the text (though condoned by appeals to so-called ‘authorial intent’).” See the “Executive Committee Report on John E. Sanders October 23, 2003,” p. 6. Unfortunately, they did not apply what they said to Pinnock himself.

That Clark Pinnock holds an intentionalist view of truth is clear from his many statements on the matter. He wrote, “All this means is that inerrancy is relative to the intention of the text. If it could be shown that the chronicler inflates some of the numbers he uses for his didactic purpose, he would be completely within his rights and not at variance with inerrancy” (Pinnock, The Scripture Principle (hereafter SP, 78). Again, “We will not have to panic when we meet some intractable difficulty. The Bible will seem reliable enough in terms of its soteric [saving] purpose…. In the end this is what the mass of evangelical believers need–not the rationalistic ideal of a perfect Book that is no more, but the trustworthiness of a Bible with truth where it counts, truth that is not so easily threatened by scholarly problems” (Pinnock, SP, 104-105). Finally, “Inerrancy is relative to the intent of the Scriptures, and this has to be hermeneutically determined” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

It is important to note that the ETS Constitution implies a correspondence view of truth when it speaks of one making “statements” that are “incompatible” with the Doctrinal Basis of the Society (Articles 4, Section 4). Further, even the Executive Committee affirmed a correspondence view of truth (“ETS Executive Committee Report on John E. Sanders Oct 23, 2003,” p. 2). But if this is so, then their action was inconsistent since on a correspondence view of truth Pinnock has unrecanted statements that claim the Bible affirms things that do not correspond to the facts (see below under nos. 4, 9, 10).

Pinnock’s Statement About ICBI is Misleading

Both in his paper and verbal presentation at ETS (11/19/03) Pinnock said he affirmed the ICBI statement on inerrancy. Many took this as an indication of his recanting. However, this is not the case since Pinnock is on record as viewing statements on “truth” as being what the author intended. But this is clearly not what they meant. But Pinnock seems unaware that the ICBI framers explicitly ruled this intentionalist view of truth out in favor of a correspondence view of truth. They wrote, “By biblical standards of truth and error is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.” It adds, “This part of the article [13] is directed toward those who would redefine truth to relate merely to redemptive intent, the purely personal or the like, rather than to mean that which corresponds with reality.” It goes on to claim, contrary to Pinnock [SP. 119], that “the New Testament assertions about Adam, Moses, David and other Old Testament persons” are “literally and historically true” (R.C. Sproul, Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary, Oakland, CA: ICBI, p. 31). But Pinnock clearly denied this (see no. 14 below).

So, Pinnock does not believe the ICBI statement on inerrancy which emphatically repudiates his view. In point of fact, Pinnock does to the ICBI statement what he does to the ETS statement; he reads them through his own intentionalist view of truth. In both cases, Pinnock is clearly in conflict with the meaning of the framers. On a correspondence view of truth, which is what the framers of both ETS and ICBI held, Pinnock’s view embraces errors in the Bible, that is, statements that do not correspond to the facts.

Further, Pinnock’s alleged recantation is not all encompassing. Pinnock did say that he was willing to make “changes” in his writings, but he did not tell us which ones. Indeed, he did not even say clearly that any of these changes would involve the admission of errors. He wrote: “I am 100% certain that, were we to sift through the text of The Scripture Principle as we did with the Most Moved Mover, some phrases would have to be improved on and some examples removed or modified.” Indeed, he added, “I am sure, were we to go through it carefully, changes would be in order” (“Open Theism and Biblical Inerrancy” a paper given on November 19, 2003 at the ETS annual meeting, p. 4). He spoke only of removing or modifying illustrations, improving phrases, and the like. There is not a single definitive word about admitting any error to say nothing of recanting four pages of quotations we presented the ICBI Executive Committee from Pinnock’s writings.

As to the ETS Executive Committee’s decision, a careful look at its language will reveal that Pinnock never recanted any of his views. Consider again the statements of the Committee. It speaks only of “clarifying and rewriting of a critical passage in his work, retracting certain language therein” (Letter October 24, 2003 from Executive Committee to ETS membership, p. 1). Notice that the only thing that was “retracted” was “certain language,” not his view. Indeed, Pinnock claims that his view remained the same, for he said, “I was not intending to violate it [the ETS inerrancy statement]. My clearing away the ambiguity is what made possible a positive verdict in my case. And I could do it sincerely since it had never been my intent to violate inerrancy here or elsewhere in my work” (Pinnock, ibid., 3). Pinnock said the same of statements he made in The Scripture Principle: “It was not and is not at all my intent to deny inerrancy…” (Ibid., 4). By this logic, no sincere author has ever made any error either in any of his or her books since they never intended to do so.

The Committee also said, “The day ended with Dr. Pinnock disavowing–voluntarily and unprompted–some of the affirmations in note 66 [of Most Moved Mover in which he claimed that a number of biblical prophecies, including one by Jesus, were never fulfilled] (October 24, 2003 letter from the ETS Committee to the membership, p. 3). Thus, “the Committee reveals its belief that, in the light of Dr. Pinnock’s clarifications and retraction of certain problematic language, the charges brought in November 2002 should not be sustained” (ibid., 3-4). But here again the only retraction was only of “problematic language,” not of his actual view on the matter which remains unrecanted.

The same is true of another use of the word “corrected” by the Committee with regard to Pinnock. They wrote: “Dr. Pinnock …has clarified and corrected parts of what he wrote” (“ETS Executive Committee Report on Clark H. Pinnock October 22, 2003,” p. 2). But here again it is not a correction of his view which was in error but of the language he “wrote,” that is, the way he expressed it.

Conclusion

In summation, although at first blush it would appear that Pinnock recanted all previously held views incompatible with the ETS inerrancy statement, the contrary evidence demonstrates that he did not recant any of these views. Certainly, he nowhere recants all of them. And even one of them is sufficient to show that he embraces a view that is incompatible with the ETS statement on inerrancy. Rather, using his intentionalist view of truth he claims he believes in inerrancy as understood by the ETS and ICBI framers, when in fact he does not.

But if Pinnock did not really recant his errant views, then what of the validity of the ETS acceptance of them as compatible with its inerrancy statement. It is bogus.
There is a way Pinnock can clear the air. All he has to do is to repudiate in unequivocal and unambiguous language all of the following statements he has made that are contrary to the ETS framers view of inerrancy:

1) “Barth was right to speak about a distance between the Word of God and the text of the Bible” (Pinnock, SP, 99).

2) “The Bible does not attempt to give the impression that it is flawless in historical or scientific ways” (Pinnock, SP, 99).

3) “The Bible is not a book like the Koran, consisting of nothing but perfectly infallible propositions…” (Pinnock, SP, 100).

4) “The authority of the Bible in faith and practice does not rule out the possibility of an occasionally uncertain text, differences in details as between the Gospels, a lack of precision in the chronology of events recorded in the Books of Kings and Chronicles…, and the like” (Pinnock, SP, 104).

5) “Did Jesus, teach the perfect errorlessness of the Scriptures? No, not in plain terms” (Pinnock, SP, 57).

6) “The New Testament does not teach a strict doctrine of inerrancy…. The fact is that inerrancy is a very flexible term in and of itself” (Pinnock, SP, 77).

7) “Why, then, do scholars insist that the Bible does claim total inerrancy? I can only answer for myself, as one who argued in this way a few years ago. I claimed that the Bible taught total inerrancy because I hoped that it did–I wanted it to” (Pinnock, SP, 58).

8) “For my part, to go beyond the biblical requirements to a strict position of total errorlessness only brings to the forefront the perplexing features of the Bible that no one can completely explain” (Pinnock, SP, 59).

9) “All this means is that inerrancy is relative to the intention of the text. If it could be shown that the chronicler inflates some of the numbers he uses for his didactic purpose, he would be completely within his rights and not at variance with inerrancy” (Pinnock, SP, 78).

10) “We will not have to panic when we meet some intractable difficulty. The Bible will seem reliable enough in terms of its soteric [saving] purpose…” (Pinnock, SP, 104-105).

11) “Inerrancy as Warfield understood it was a good deal more precise than the sort of reliability the Bible proposes. The Bible’s emphasis tends to be upon the saving truth of its message and its supreme profitability in the life of faith and discipleship” (Pinnock, SP, 75).

12) “The wisest course to take would be to get on with defining inerrancy in relation to the purpose of the Bible and the phenomena it displays. When we do that, we will be surprised how open and permissive a term it is” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

13) “Paul J. Achtemeier has called attention to the inadequacy of the prophetic model for representing the biblical category of inspiration in its fullness–The Inspiration of Scripture: Problems and Proposals” (Pinnock, SP, 232, n. 8).

14) “I recognize that the Bible does not make a technical inerrancy claim or go into the kind of detail associated with the term in the contemporary discussion…. Inerrancy is a metaphor for the determination to trust God’s Word completely” (Pinnock, SP, 224-225).

15) “In the narrative of the fall of Adam, there are numerous symbolic features (God molding man from dirt, the talking snake, God molding woman from Adam’s rib, symbolic trees, four major rivers from one garden, etc.), so that it is natural to ask whether this is not a meaningful narration that does not stick only to factual matters” (Pinnock, SP, 119).

16) “On the one hand, we cannot rule legend out a priori. It is, after all, a perfectly valid literary form, and we have to admit that it turns up in the Bible in at least some form. We referred already to Job’s reference to Leviathan and can mention also Jotham’s fable” (Pinnock, SP, 121-122).

17) “The influence of myth is there in the Old Testament. The stories of creation and fall, of flood and the tower of Babel, are there in pagan texts and are worked over in Genesis from the angle of Israel’s knowledge of God, but the framework is no longer mythical” (Pinnock, SP, 123).

18) “We read of a coin turning up in a fish’s mouth and of the origin of the different languages of humankind. We hear about the magnificent exploits of Sampson and Elisha. We even see evidence of the duplication of miracle stories in the gospels. All of them are things that if we read them in some other book we would surely identify as legends” (Pinnock, SP, 123).

19) “At most, [in the NT] there are fragments and suggestions of myth: for example, the strange allusion to the bodies of the saints being raised on Good Friday (Matt. 27:52) and the sick being healed through contact with pieces of cloth that had touched Paul’s body (Acts 19:11-12)” (Pinnock, SP, 124).

20) “There are cases in which the possibility of legend seems quite real. I mentioned the incident of the coin in the fish’s mouth (Matt. 17:24-27)…. The event is recorded only by Matthew and has the feel of a legendary feature” (Pinnock, SP, 125). [Yet Gundry was asked to resign from ETS by 74 percent of the membership.]

21) “God is free in the manner of fulfilling prophecy and is not bound to a script, even his own” (Pinnock, MMM, 51).

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.


 

All italic emphasis in original, bold emphasis this author’s.

SP–Clark Pinnock, The Scripture Principle (San Francisco, Harper & Rowe: 1984).

MMM–Clark Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids, Baker: 2001).

 

A Band-Aid on Cancer: Comments on the Recent ETS Decision to Accept ICBI Statement (2004)


A Band-Aid on Cancer:

Comments on the Recent ETS Decision to Accept ICBI Statement

by Norman L. Geisler, former president of ETS

November 29, 2004

 

 

At its November 2004 meeting in San Antonio, the members of the Evangelical Theological Society voted to approve the following statement:


For the purpose of advising members regarding the intent and meaning of the reference to biblical inerrancy in the ETS Doctrinal Basis, the Society refers members to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978). The case for biblical inerrancy rests on the absolute trustworthiness of God and Scripture’s testimony to itself. A proper understanding of inerrancy takes into account the language, genres, and intent of Scripture. We reject approaches to Scripture that deny that biblical truth claims are grounded in reality.


While on the surface this may appear to be a significant clarification of the ETS understanding of inerrancy, in reality it is little more than a Band-Aid on cancer for many reasons.

First of all, the statement is not binding on members since it is not part of the ETS bylaws. At best it is only informative, not normative.

Second, even if it became part of the Bylaws, it is not binding. In its own words it is only “advising” members. Good advice is nothing more than a bite without teeth. Members need to be instructed, not merely advised, about its expressed meaning.

Third, the statement contains the ambiguous word “intention” which leaves the door open for those, like Pinnock, who affirm only the inerrancy of intention, not all facts, in the Bible. But this is clearly not what either the founders of ETS mean or the framers of ICBI. “Intention” often means merely purposed or unexpressed intent, neither of which is what is meant by inerrancy.

Fourth, it does not address the real problem, namely, that ETS knowingly allows people to be members who do not hold what the framers meant by its statement. Why then should they accept the framers meaning of the ICBI statement.

Fifth, a new statement was not necessary. ETS needs only to enforce the framers meaning of the statement it has. But ETS refused to do this when all the living framers petitioned ETS a few years ago, insisting that the Open Theism view on inerrancy is not what the framers meant. That should have ended the issue right there. It is like rejecting the understanding of the Gospel by Peter, Paul, and John while they were still alive in favor of a broader view by some younger converts.

Sixth, both Clark Pinnock and John Sanders were on record in advance, saying they would sign the ICBI statement on inerrancy. As a framer of the ICBI statement who has read carefully Pinnock’s writings, I can assure you that he does not agree with the ICBI meaning of its statement. Indeed, the ICBI expressed what it meant by its Chicago Statement in an official commentary: Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary by R.C. Sproul. It defined truth as “a correspondence view of truth,” namely “that which corresponds to reality” (p. 31). Pinnock flatly denies this of the Bible as I documented in the four pages of unrecanted quotes presented to the ETS at its annual November meeting in 2003.

If ETS desires to do something useful and not just put a Band-Aid on cancer, it should embrace a statement like this:

For the purpose of instructing members of the official and binding meaning of its inerrancy statement, ETS adopts the ICBI Chicago Statement on Inerrancy as understood by the ICBI framers and expressed in its official commentary: Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary by R. C. Sproul. All members are required to accept the ICBI statement as meant by its framers and expressed in its official commentary or be subject to dismissal from ETS membership.

Don’t hold your breathe on this one. It would take a miracle to get the needed two-thirds vote to add this to the ETS Bylaws. And the membership could not even muster that many votes to oust Pinnock and Sanders who denied what its framers meant by its inerrancy statement.

The sad truth of the matter is that passing this statement was worse than doing nothing because it gives the appearance of doing something when in fact it is doing nothing–except leaving the wrong impression that something important was done. It is in fact doing nothing more than perpetuating the hypocrisy of allowing members to sign a statement and belong to an organization which claims to believe in inerrancy when in fact they do not.

This is not to say that there are not many other worthwhile organizations that do not have inerrancy statements. It is simply to point out that it is a matter of integrity to insist that all members of an organization actually believe that for which the organization stands. And when any member can no longer in good conscience sign the statement as meant by its framers, then integrity demands that they leave or be asked to leave.

A Review of Peter Enns’s, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: 2005)


A Review by Norman Geisler of Peter Enns’s, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: 2005)

by Norman L. Geisler
August, 2009

Points of Agreement with Professor Enns

This book has done exactly what the author intended-it provoked a scholarly “conversation” (167) on a very important evangelical topic. Like most books of its kind, there is much with which one can agree; some things on which there is disagreement, and other things that need further discussion. Let me begin with some points of agreement. Professor Enns confesses that “Bible is God’s word” (15, 108, 161). Likewise, he asserts that the Bible is unique book in the “coming together” of divine and human elements (168). Furthermore, he claims correctly that “for God to reveal himself means that he accommodates himself” (109). Also, he rightly contends that the “incarnational model” (of comparing the Bible and Christ) is a helpful one (20). Likewise, he acknowledges the “full humanity” (20) of the Bible, an important part of which is the diversity in Scripture (77). Like most other evangelicals, he holds that the “canon is closed” (67). He properly claims to rejects a “cultural relativism” (168) where the Bible is not “standard for faith” (169).

As for the relation of external evidence to the Bible, we agree with Professor Enns that our assumptions determine how we understand evidence (48). We also concur that Genesis does not borrow from Babylonian origin stories because the similarities are only conceptual, not textual (55). Enns also points out that there are similar truths in other religions known from General Revelation (58). He correctly points out that similarity of Genesis with other ancient texts does not diminish the inspiration of the Bible (39). Nor is the directly dependent on creation and flood stories (29). Archaeology supports historicity of Israel’s monarchy (43). Our problems with the Bible are largely due to our misconceptions (15). He rightly acknowledges that conflicting passages are sometimes not addressing the same situation (90). Thus, there is often no “fundamental contradiction” between apparently different (96). Even conflicting proverbs are both correct in their specific situations (76). He also affirms that one cannot properly apply the law without recognizing the different situations that are addressed (94-95).

As for his view of God, Enns is correct in asserting that God does not need creation to be complete in Himself (103). Also, God knows far more about what the Bible teaches than the human writers did (161). God transcends the world, nonetheless, he can and does interacts with the world (104-105).

On the matter of biblical interpretation, there are several points of agreement as well. Enns rightly observes that the Old Testament should be understood in light of the climax of Israel’s history which is Christ (120). Also, Christ is both the beginning and end of Bible interpretation (163). There is Christ-related “coherence” in the Bible (170). Further, the Bible is clear on the central matters of our Faith (170). The real dilemma about how the New Testament writers used the Old Testament is: Either we should follow the apostle’s use of Old Testament (and violate historical-grammatical view) or not follow them and admit they were misguided or using a view we can’t use today (156).

Of course this list is not exhaustive. However, it does suggest that there are significant overlaps with his view and the historic evangelical view of Scripture.

Areas of Disagreement with Professor Enns

In spite of the many good things Professor Enns affirms, there are many troubling things to ponder. First, we will list some of them and then we will engage the most important ones.

Disagreement about the Nature of the Bible

Professor Enns claims that the non-Christian world view of their day influenced what the biblical authors wrote (14). He also holds that it is a misconception to think Bible is unique, unified in outlook (16). He says myth is proper way to describe Genesis, even though he claims it is also contains history (41, 49). Enns believes that “The Bible seems to be relativized” by culture of the day (43). He claims that we cannot reason back from the evidence for the historicity of later Old Testament books to that of earlier ones (43-44). There is no objective unbiased view of history (45). He believes it is fallacious assumption that Bible is accurate in all details (47). He holds that all attempts to state nature of Bible are open to examination (48). Genesis was not recorded until first millennium B.C. (52). God adopted the mythical categories within which Abraham thought (53). He also asserts that God transformed the ancient myths to focus on Him (54). The Bible does not say Flood was universal (55). He affirms that Israel’s laws were not new in content but were uniquely in that they were connected to a monotheistic community–Israel (57). OT history is not untrue because it is not objective (62). Samuel and Kings were not written until the 4th or 5th cent. B.C (63). There was only one cleansing of the temple by Jesus (65), even though the Gospels list two at different times. OT laws are culturally relative and not normative (67). Some moral laws of the OT are not biding on us today (67). The Bible not a timeless how-to book that applies today (67). Diverse factual content is not incompatible with theological message (73). There are contradictions in Ecclesiastes (77, 78). Enns claims that Ecclesiastes has no notion of an after life (79). There are inconsistencies in the moral law in the Old Testament (85). Even the Law is inconsistent. Exodus conflicts with Deuteronomy (87). God allows the Law to be “adjusted over time” (87). NIV is wrong for assuming inerrancy as a basis of its translation (92). He also believes that the Bible was written over a 500-1000 years period which is 500 years less than most evangelical scholars hold.

Disagreement about God and Theology

We also disagree with Enns that God learned through his interaction with Abraham (103). Or, that God reacts to man’s actions (104). Or, that Moses got God to actually change his plans (105). He rejects the view that God does not really change (105). He rejects any “behind the scene” view in favor of taking the Bible as it is (106). Our prayers do have an effect on God (107). He speaks against an apologetic stance that defends the Bible against the charge of error (108). He is opposed to apologetics that defends the perfection of Bible (109). We accept the Bible as the word of God by faith (66. 169), not by reason or evidence.

Disagreement about Interpreting the Bible

NT writers use 2nd temple hermeneutics (117). The traditional grammatical-historical is generally a good approach, but “original context” means not only grammar and history but the hermeneutics of the time (117). Daniel was given a deeper meaning of Jeremiah’s words about the 70 years (119). The biblical writers dig for deeper “mysteries” in the text (131). There is a “superfullfillment” in Christ of OT texts that were not speaking of him (136). Abraham’s “seed” had double and deeper meaning (137). Paul changed an Old Testament text, adding a word (and changing the meaning) (140-142). Non-historical tradition is part of the New Testament interpretation of the Ole Testament (143). Apostles did not come to view that Jesus is Lord from an objective interpretation of the OT (153). The New testament takes the Old Testament out of context and puts it in another context (of Christ) (153). Israel is replaced by the Church (God’s higher, deeper meaning) (154). Historical-grammatical method is not normative method (159). God intended more than the human author of the Bible did (160). Bible is [merely] a written witness to Christ (161). Christian interpretation is well beyond scientific markers (objective criteria) (162). Proper interpretation is a community activity-a historic community, the family of God. The Bible interpretation is not a fortress to defend but a pilgrimage to take (162). Inerrancy or infallible can never be fully understood (168). We have no absolute point of reference to interpret the Bible stripped of our own cultural context. Incarnational model helps us to see multidimensional gospel (169). The Bible is not a timeless rule book or owner’s manual (169). Available evidence transcends the labels of conservative or liberal (171).

Interacting With Central Issues

Now that we have set forth many of the areas of agreement and disagreement with Professor Enns, we will interact with several issues relating to the nature and understanding of Scripture. First, we will look at Professor Enns’s understanding of God. For it is axiomatic that the statement “The Bible is the Word of God” (which Enns endorses-21, 108), is no stronger than what is meant by “God.”

Relation of Biblical and Systematic Theology

Despite the fact that Enns claims his view does not lend support to the Openness View of God, which claims that God has no infallible foreknowledge of human free acts (106), the evidence is to the contrary since all the following affirmed by Enns clearly supports the Openness View of God: He declared that: (1) God actually learned through his interaction with Abraham (103). (2) God reacts to man’s actions (104). (3) Moses got God to change his plans (105). (4) He rejects the view that says God does not really change (105). (5) He rejects any “behind the scene” in favor of taking the Bible as it is (106). (6) He also holds that our prayers do have an effect on God (107).

Since we have addressed Open Theism in details elsewhere (see our Battle for God, Kregel, 2000), we will only note here that these conclusion are both contrary to Scripture which affirms that God does not change (1 Sam. 15:29; Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2: Jas. 1:17) and sound reason which demands there be an ultimate unchanging Being by which all change is measured. As for infallible foreknowledge, the God of the Bible knows “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10). Hence, he was able to predict the Cross of Christ before the foundations of the world (Rev. 13:9; Acts 2:22-23), predetermine the elect (Eph. 1:4; Rom. 8:29), predict Judas would betray Christ (Jn. 13:26; 17:12; Acts 1:16) and make numerous other infallible predictions, including whole world kingdoms (Dan. 2, 7), and the birth (Micah 5:2), death (Isa. 53), and resurrection of Christ (Psa. 2, 16 cf Acts 2:24-30). Indeed, God’s test for a false prophet (namely, if he gives a false prophecy) assumes only God can make infallible predictions of the future (Deut. 13:2-3; 18:22).

He also claims that there is no evidence that God providentially guided the customs of the day (57) so as to be a fitting vehicle of his Word through the human authors. But the Bible speaks of God’s providential knowledge and care extending to details like the death of a sparrow or the number of hairs on our head (Mt. 6:25-30).

Enns also opposes any apologetics that defends the perfection of Bible (109). He claims we accept the Bible as the Word of God by faith (66. 169), not by reason or evidence. Yet, as we shall see next, he accepts extra-biblical evidence as being all but determinative in deciding the meaning of the biblical text. But if this kind of extra-biblical evidence can be used so strongly, then why cannot other archaeological evidence be used to support the historicity of the Bible. Indeed, Enns admits that such evidence supports the historicity of Israel’s monarchy (43), though he denies that the Nuzi material supports the historicity of the Patriarchs (30). Other than an anti-supernatural bias, there is no reason that similar evidence can be used to support the historicity of New Testament books like Acts and Luke. But once one admits this, he is already doing evidential apologetics which Enns rejects. Ironically, Enns is rejecting his own incarnational model by positing a deeper, mystical, allegorical meaning to the biblical text than the historical-grammatical method reveals. For in the Incarnation there was a union of the divine and human so that what Jesus said was one with what God said. There was a divine concursus in the adaptation to human finitude (not error) in what God said and what Jesus said. If so, then both were affirming one and the same meaning and truth. There was no separation. To deny this is to employ a heretical view of the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. Likewise, by analogy in the incarnational model of Scripture, God and the human authors affirm one and the same thing in one and the same text. The fact that God knows more about the topic than the human author-or that more is affirmed elsewhere-is irrelevant. The truth is that in the union of the divine and human in Scripture is that both are affirming one and the same thing.

Relation of Extra-biblical Data to Interpretation

Many of the novel and questionable views expressed by Enns seem to be related to his misunderstanding of the relation of extra-biblical data to the Bible. He declared that the Genesis story is “firmly rooted in the worldview of its time” (27). He even acknowledges that this extra-biblical data is sometimes highly influential role in determining the meaning of the Bible (48).

In this connection, Professor Enns is clearly overly enamored with the alleged “Second Temple” interpretation he feels the New Testament writers are making of the Old Testament (155). In these New Testament texts he sees them using a midrash-like non-factual spiritual embellishment of certain Old Testament passage, such as Paul’s allegedly making the rock that followed Israel a midrashic-like story to emphasize his Christotelic interpretation of the Old Testament. Space only permits a brief response to this mistaken interpretation. First, even Enns admits this is a minority view among evangelicals. Second, he also acknowledges that ere are no clear rules to prevent us from taking his “Christoletic” view too far (162). Third, Enns is aware that this involves developing “deep intuitions” (102) in order to come to these conclusions. Likewise, he acknowledges that one must reject the traditional historical-grammatical method of interpretation to do this and come up with multiple layers of meaning (161). Finally, other evangelical scholars have offered alternative interpretations without jettisoning an objective hermeneutic to do so (See D.A. Carson’s article in JETS).

Objectivity and Interpretation

Enns also embraces a post-modern form of subjectivism in interpreting Scripture. He contends that the traditional grammatical-historical is generally a good approach, but it is insufficient (159). It must be augmented with a so-called “Second Temple” midrashic-like view that adds spiritual embellishment to the text (117). He believes Daniel was given a deeper meaning of Jeremiah’s words about the 70 years (119). He claims that the biblical writers dig for deeper “mysteries” in the text (131). There is a “superfullfillment” in Christ of Old Testament texts that were not speaking of him (136). Abe “seed” had double and deeper meaning (137). He sees non-historical tradition as part of New Testament interpretation of the Old Testament (143). Further, Enns affirms that the Apostles did not come to view that Jesus is Lord from an objective interpretation of the Old Testament (153). He uses this to support his replacement theology that Israel is replaced by the Church (God’s higher, deeper meaning) (154). Indeed, he claims that Christian interpretation is well beyond any scientific markers or objective criteria (162). Indeed, he believes that proper interpretation is a community activity-a historic community, the family of God. Hence, biblical interpretation is not a fortress to defend but a pilgrimage to take (162). He affirms that inerrancy or infallible can never be fully understood (168). We have no absolute point of reference to interpret the Bible stripped of our own cultural context. The Bible is not a timeless rule book or owner’s manual (169). New Testament writers use Second Temple hermeneutics (117). The traditional grammatical-historical is generally a good approach, but “original context” means not only grammar and history but hermeneutics or the time (117). Daniel was given a deeper meaning of Jeremiah’s words about the 70 years (119). The biblical writers dig for deeper “mysteries” in the text (131). There is a “superfullfillment” in Christ of OT texts that were not speaking of him (136). Abraham’s “seed” had double and deeper meaning (137). Paul changed the passage, adding a word (and changing the meaning) (140-142). Non-historical tradition is part of New Testament interpretation of the Old Testament (143). Apostles did not come to view that Jesus is Lord from an objective interpretation of the OT (153). NT takes OT out of context and puts it in another context (of Christ) (153). Israel replaced by the Church (God’s higher, deeper meaning) (154).

According to Enns, the historical-grammatical method is not normative method (159). God intended more than the human author of the Bible did (160). Christian interpretation is well beyond scientific markers (objective criteria) (162). Proper interpretation is a community activity-a historic community, the family of God down through the centuries. The Bible interpretation is not a fortress to defend but a pilgrimage to take (162). Inerrancy or infallible can never be fully understood (168). We have no absolute point of reference to interpret the Bible stripped of our own cultural context. Incarnational model helps us to see multidimensional gospel (169). The Bible is not a timeless rule book or owner’s manual (169). Thus, he is unwilling to call his view either labels or conservative (171). As a matter of fact, it should be called neo-Barthian.

The evaluation of this subjectivism can be brief. One cannot deny that objective meaning can be derived from the text without having an objective understanding of the text. Nor can one say all interpretation is progressive without standing outside the progress to make this pronouncement. Further, there is no way to know that God intended a deeper meaning for a given text when all we have is the written text to inform us what God mean. To use other text to get this alleged “deeper” meaning does not avoid the problem for two reasons. First, even here all we have is the written text to go by. Second, what the biblical text says elsewhere does not add to what another text says; it simply gives us more on this topic. A given text cannot affirm (or deny) any more than that given test affirms (or denies). To claim any more for it is to attempt to read beneath, behind, or beyond the lines-rather than reading the lines. In the final analysis, Enns is not augmenting the historical-grammatical method of interpretation; he is negating it.

The Incarnational Model

Professor Enns is correct in positing an incarnational model that includes two important factors: 1) the “full humanity” of Scripture; 2) the unity of the divine and human elements of the Bible. However, he seems to be in serious error in his understanding that these elements involve factually and historically incorrect materials (168). Likewise, he contends that this model handles diversity better (73). Also, it aids us in seeing a multidimensional gospel (169). But this does no escape the charge of hermeneutical relativity which is self-defeating.

On closer examination it becomes apparent that by “incarnational model” Enns does not mean what is traditionally meant by orthodox theologians who make this comparison between Christ and Scripture. For they argue that just as Christ was fully human without sin, even so the Bible is fully human but without error. After all, both the Savior and Scripture are called “the Word of God.” But God can neither sin nor error. Hence, God’s word (Living or Written) cannot sin or error. Indeed, both are called perfect (flawless) in the Bible. The Living Word of God is said to be “without sin” (Heb. 4:15. “without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19), one who “committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22), “righteous” (1 Peter 3:18), “pure” (1 Jn. 3:3), one “who had no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), “holy, innocent, unstained, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). Using the biblical incarnational analogy, it is difficult to see how the Written Word of God could be imperfect and errant. Indeed, the Bible is said to be “perfect” (flawless) (Psa. 19:7), “truth” (Jn. 17:17), “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16), “unbreakable” (Jn. 10:35), imperishable (Mt. 5:17-18), Spirit-utter words (2 Sam. 23:2; Jn. 14:26; 16:13), and comprised of “every word which comes out of the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). Clearly, the incarnational analogy as presented in the Bible favors the inerrancy of all the Bible affirms.

The “Accommodation” View

While it is acknowledge that historically orthodox theologians have held that a divine adaptation is necessary for God’s communication with human beings, nonetheless, there has been a serious shift in the meaning of “accommodation” in more recent times. So serious is the shift, that we have for some time advocated that evangelicals discard the term “accommodation” for the word “adaptation.” This will not be the first time that it becomes necessary to use a new terms to describe (the word “gay” once had different connotations too). Certainly, when God revealed himself in Holy Scripture there was an adaptation to human finitude. But there was no accommodation to human error. For God cannot err (Titus 1:1; Heb. 6:18). Unfortunately, Professor Enns seems to believe that God can accommodate Himself to factually incorrect affirmations (i.e., errors). But this is a denial of the inerrancy of Scripture. This is manifested in several things he said.

First, he uses some ambiguous terms of the Bible, such as the Bible is “messy” (109) and Jesus “completely assumed” cultural trappings of world around him (17). Hence, the Bible cannot be kept from the “rough and tumble drama of human history” (109). But he nowhere clearly disassociates this from implying that the there are affirmations in the Bible that entail factual mistakes or misrepresentations. Indeed, at time Enns seems to admit that there are these kinds of errors in the Bible. For example, he holds that the biblical authors really believed there were other gods (i.e., polytheism) (98).

Second, by using a true incarnational model, words and phrases like “messy” (109), “completely assumed” cultural trappings of world around him (17), and entering the “rough and tumble drama of human history” (109) are, at best, ambiguous and, at worst, they veil a denial of the inerrancy of the written Word of God and, by comparison, the sinlessness of the Son of God.

Third, Enns speaks against an apologetic stance that defends the Bible against the charge of error (108). If he believed the Bible is inerrant, he should have no hesitation in trying to defend it against false charges that it is not.

Finally, Enns believes there are inconsistencies in the moral law in the Old Testament (85). Even the Moral Law is inconsistent. He believes that Exodus conflicts with Deuteronomy (87). He says that God allows the Law to be “adjusted over time” (87). Also, he held that the NIV translation is wrong for assuming inerrancy as a basis of its translation (92). But what is this but a denial of inerrancy.

In view of this, it is apparent why Enns prefers to move beyond the “battle for the Bible” which is over whether or not the Bible affirms any errors, namely, statements that are factually incorrect. It is because he does not believe in inerrancy. Indeed, Enns seems to favor a neo-Barthian view of Scripture wherein the Bible is merely “the written witness to Christ” (161). Or, the book wherein God “speaks to the church” (46). These statements are true as far as they go, but they do not go gar enough. Indeed, they seem to be a cover for a neo-Barthian view which denies the historic orthodox view that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant written Word of God.

Conclusion

When the true view of Enns is unveiled, it is easier to understand the kind of theological paranoia Enns reveals about his view when he exhorts others not to speak of his views like his with “judgmental suspicions” (172) or “predispositions against new ideas,” or to consider such views to be “on a slippery slope.” Likewise, we warns against “power plays” and attempts to “vilify person holding” such views, or against those who “go on the attack” against it and “jump to conclusions” about one’s motives and engage in “build[ing] our own kingdoms” All of this he calls the “angry evangelical syndrome” (173). Of course, the net effect of ad hominem phrases like these is to build a protective wall around his admittedly minority and clearly unorthodox views. By so doing, he hopes to ward off any critical analysis that would consider them unbibiblical and/or unorthodox.

It is always a danger when one sets out, as Enns does, to reconcile his view of Bible with “modern biblical scholarship”(13). More often than not, when this takes places one trades orthodoxy for academic respectability. This criticism should come as no surprise to Enns since he recognizes that one’s world view influences how he interprets the Bible (14). He wrote: “the assumptions we have about the nature of God (which includes notions of revelation and inspiration…), and so on, will largely determine how we understand the evidence” (48). Why then should we expect that most of “modern biblical scholarship” (which he wishes to accommodate), based as it is on antisupernatural biases, is not reconcilable with the Bible. An attempt to reconcile a supernatural God who performed supernatural events recorded in a supernaturally inspired Book with naturalistically based scholarship which denies all of the above is doomed to failure.

A Review of Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, Eds. J. Merrick and Stephen Garrett


A Review of Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy,
Eds. J. Merrick and Stephen Garrett

by Dr. Norman L. Geisler

 

Introduction

The Zondervan general editor of the Counterpoint series, Stanley Gundry, together with his chosen editors, J. Merrick and Stephen Garrett, have produced a provocative book on Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (2013). The five scholar participants are Albert Mohler, Peter Enns, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Bird, and John Franke.  This Counterpoints series has produced many stimulating dialogues on various topics, and they no doubt intended to do the same on this controversial topic of inerrancy.  However, there is a basic problem in the dialogue format as applied to biblical inerrancy.

There is Madness in the Method

The “dialogue” method works well for many intramural evangelical discussions like eternal security, the role of women in the ministry, and the like.  However, when it is applied to basic issues which help define the nature of evangelicalism, like the nature of Scripture, the method has some serious drawbacks.  For if inerrancy is a doctrine that is essential to consistent evangelicalism, as most evangelicals believe that it is, then it seems unfitting to make it subject to the dialogue method for two reasons.  First, for many evangelicals the issue of inerrancy is too important to be “up for grabs” on the evangelical dialogue table.  Second, just by providing non-inerrantists and anti-inerrantists a “seat at the table” gives a certain undeserved legitimacy to their view. If, as will be shown below, the non-inerrancy view is not biblical, essential, or in accord with the long history of the Christian Church, then the dialogue method fails to do justice to the topic because it offers an undeserved platform to those who do not really believe the doctrine.  To illustrate, I doubt if one were setting up a conference on the future of Israel that he would invite countries who don’t believe in the existence of Israel (like Iran) to the table.

Stacking the Deck

Not only can the staging of the inerrancy discussion in the Five Views book be challenged, but so can the choice of actors on the stage.   For the choice of participants in this Five Views “dialogue” did not fit the topic in a balanced way.  Since the topic was inerrancy and since each participant was explicitly asked to address the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI), the choice of participants was not appropriate.  For only one participant (Al Mohler) states his unequivocal belief in the CSBI view of inerrancy produced by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).  Some participants explicitly deny inerrancy (Enns, 83f.).[1]

Others prefer to redefine the CSBI statement before agreeing with it.  Still others claim to agree with it, but they do so based on a misunderstanding of what the framers meant by inerrancy, as will be shown below.
What is more, an even greater problem is that none of the framers of the CSBI, whose statement was being attacked, were represented on the panel.  Since three of them (J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, and N. L. Geisler) are still alive and active, the makeup of the panel was questionable.  It is like convening a panel on the First Amendment to the US Constitution while Washington, Adams, and Madison were still alive but not inviting any of them to participate!  Further, only one scholar (Al Mohler) was unequivocally in favor of the CSBI view, and some were known to be unequivocally against it (like Peter Enns).  This is loading the dice against positive results.  So, with a stacked deck in the format and the dice loaded in the choice of participants, the probabilities of a positive result were not high, and understandably the result confirms this anticipation.

Understanding Inerrancy

To be sure, whether inerrancy is an essential doctrine is crucial to the point at hand.  In order to answer this question more fully, we must first define inerrancy and then evaluate its importance.

Definition of Inerrancy

Unless otherwise noted, when we use the word “inerrancy” in this article, we mean inerrancy as understood by the ETS framers and defined by the founders of the CSBI, namely, what is called total or unlimited inerrancy.  The CSBI defines inerrancy as unlimited inerrancy, whereas many of ETS participants believe in limited inerrancy. Unlimited inerrancy affirms that Bible is true on whatever subject is speaks—whether it is redemption, ethics, history, science, or anything else.  Limited inerrancy affirms that the Bible’s inerrancy is limited to redemptive matters.
The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), the largest of any society of its kind in the world, with some 3000 members, began in 1948 with only one doctrinal statement: “The Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety is the Word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs.”  After a controversy in 2003 (concerning Clark Pinnock’s view) which involved the meaning of inerrancy, the ETS voted in 2004 to accept “the CSBI as its point of reference for defining inerrancy” (Merrick, 311).  It states: “For the purpose of advising members regarding the intent and meaning of the reference to biblical inerrancy in the ETS Doctrinal Basis, the Society refers members to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978)” (see J. Merrick, 311).  So, for the largest group of scholars believing in inerrancy the officially accepted definition of the term “inerrancy” is that of the CSBI.
The CSBI supports unlimited or total inerrancy, declaring: “The holy Scripture…is of divine authority in all matters upon which it touches” (A Short Statement, 2).  Also, “We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science” (Art. 12).  It further declares that:  “The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own” (A Short Statement, 5,emphasis added).  As we shall see below, unlimited inerrancy has been the historic position of the Christian Church down through the centuries.  Thus, the history supporting the doctrine of inerrancy is supporting unlimited inerrancy.

The Importance of Inerrancy

The question of the importance of inerrancy can be approached both doctrinally and historically.  Doctrinally, inerrancy is an important doctrine because: (1) it is attached to the character of God; (2) It is foundational to other essential doctrines; (3) it is taught in the Scriptures, and (4) it is the historic position of the Christian Church.

The Doctrinal Importance of Inerrancy

First of all, as the ETS statement declares, inerrancy is based on the character of God who cannot lie (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2).   For it affirms that the Bible is “inerrant” because (note the word “therefore”) it is the Word of God.  This makes a direct logical connection between inerrancy and the truthfulness of God.
Second, inerrancy is fundamental to all other essential Christian doctrines.  It is granted that some other doctrines (like the atoning death and bodily resurrection of Christ) are more essential to salvation.  However, all soteriological (salvation-related) doctrines derive their divine authority from the divinely authoritative Word of God.  So, in an epistemological (knowledge-related) sense, the doctrine of the divine authority and inerrancy of Scripture is the fundamental of all the fundamentals.  And if the fundamental of fundamentals is not fundamental, then what is fundamental?  Fundamentally nothing!  Thus, while one can be saved without believing in inerrancy, the doctrine of salvation has no divine authority apart from the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture.  This is why Carl Henry (and Al Mohler following him) affirmed correctly that while inerrancy is not necessary to evangelical authenticity, it is nonetheless, essential to evangelical consistency (Mohler, 29).
Third, B. B. Warfield correctly noted that the primary basis for believing in the inerrancy of Scripture is that it was taught by Christ and the apostles in the New Testament.  And he specified it as unlimited inerrancy (in his book Limited Inspiration, Presbyterian & Reformed reprint, 1962).  Warfield declared: “We believe in the doctrine of plenary inspiration of the Scriptures primarily because it is the doctrine of Christ and his apostles believed, and which they have taught us (cited by Mohler, 42).  John Wenham in Christ and the Bible (IVP, 1972) amply articulated what Christ taught about the Bible, including its inerrancy, for Wenham was one of the international signers of the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (see Geisler, Defending Inerrancy, 348).   Indeed, to quote Jesus himself, “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and “until heaven and earth pass away not an iota, not a dot, will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt 5:18).  A more complete discussion of what Jesus taught about the Bible is found in chapter 16 of our Systematic.
Fourth, inerrancy is the historic position of the Christian Church. As Al Mohler pointed out (Mohler, 48-49), even some inerrantists have agreed that inerrancy has been the standard view of the Christian Church down through the centuries.  He cites the Hanson brothers, Anthony and Richard, Anglican scholars, who said, “The Christian Fathers and the medieval tradition continued this belief [in inerrancy], and the Reformation did nothing to weaken it.  On the contrary, since for many reformed theologians the authority of the Bible took the place which the Pope had held in the medieval scheme of things, the inerrancy of the Bible became more firmly maintained and explicitly defined among some reformed theologians than it had even been before.”  They added, “The beliefs here denied [viz., inerrancy] have been held by all Christians from the very beginning until about a hundred and fifty years ago” (cited by Mohler, 41).
Inerrancy is a fundamental doctrine since it is fundamental to all other Christian doctrines which derive their authority from the belief that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant Word of God.  Indeed, like many other fundamental doctrines (e.g., the Trinity), it is based on a necessary conclusion from biblical truths.  The doctrine of inerrancy as defined by CSBI is substantially the same as the doctrine held through the centuries by the Christian Church (see discussion below). So, even though it was never put in explicit confessional form in the early Church, nevertheless, by its nature as derived from the very nature of God and by its universal acceptance in the Christian Church down through the centuries, it has earned a status of tacit catholicity (universality).  It thus deserves high regard among evangelicals and has rightly earned the status of being essential (in an epistemological sense) to the Christian Faith.  Thus, to reduce inerrancy to the level of non-essential or even “incidental’ to the Christian Faith, reveals ignorance of its theological and historical roots and is an offense to its “watershed” importance to a consistent and healthy Christianity.  As the CSBI statement declares: “However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church” (Art. 19).

Unjustified Assumptions about Inerrancy.
A careful reading of the Five Views dialogue reveals that not only were the dice loaded against the CSBI inerrancy view by format and by the choice of participants, but there were several anti-inerrancy presuppositions employed by one or more of the participants.  One of the most important is the nature of truth.
The Nature of Truth.  The framers of the CSBI strongly affirmed a correspondence view of truth.  This is not so of all of the participants in the Five Views dialogue.  In fact there was a major misreading by many non-inerrantists of Article 13 which reads in part: “We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.”  Some non-inerrantists were willing to subscribe to the CSBI based on their misinterpretation of this statement.  Franke claims that “This opens up a vast arena of interpretive possibilities with respect to the ‘usage or purpose’ of Scripture in relation to standards of ‘truth or error’” (Franke, 264).  Another non-inerrantist (in the CSBI sense), Clark Pinnock , put it this way: “I supported the 1978 “Chicago Statement on the International council on Biblical Inerrancy,” noting that it “made room for nearly every well-intentioned Baptist” (Pinnock, Scripture Principle, rev., 266).
However, the framers of the CSBI anticipated this objection, and R.C. Sproul was commissioned to write an official ICBI commentary on the Chicago Statement which, straight to the point in Article 13, reads: “‘By biblical standards of truth and error’ is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.  This part of the article is directed at those who would redefine truth to relate merely to redemptive intent, the purely personal, or the like, rather than to mean that which corresponds to reality.”  Thus, “all the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual, or spiritual” (see Geisler and Roach, Defending Inerrancy, 31, emphasis added).  So, non-inerrantists, like Pinnock and Enns, misunderstand the Chicago Statement which demands that truth be defined as correspondence with reality.  This is important since to define it another way, for example, in terms of redemptive purpose is to open the door wide to a denial of the factual inerrancy of the Bible as espoused by CSBI.
Purpose and Meaning.  Another serious mistake of some of the non-inerrantists in the Five Views dialogue is to believe that purpose determines meaning.  This emerges in several statements in the book and elsewhere.  Vanhoozer claims “I propose that we indentify the literal sense with the illocutionary act the author is performing” (Enns, 220).  The locutionary act is what the author is saying, and the illocutionary act is why (purpose) he said it.  The what may be in error; only the why (purpose) is without error.  This is why Vanhoozer comes up with such unusual explanations of Biblical texts.  For example, when Joshua commanded the sun to stand still (Josh 10), according to Vanhoozer, this does not correspond to any actual and unusual phenomena involving an extra day of daylight.  Rather, it simply means, as he believes that the purpose (illocutionary act) indicates, that Joshua wants “to affirm God’s covenant relation with his people” (Vanhoozer, Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology, 106).  Likewise, according to Vanhoozer, Joshua is not affirming the literal truth of the destruction of a large walled city (Joshua 6).  He contends that “simply to discover ‘what actually happened’” is to miss the main point of the discourse, which is to communicate a theological interpretation of what happened (that is, God gave Israel the land) and to call for right participation in the covenant” (Vanhoozer, Five Views, 228).  That is why Joshua wrote it, and that alone is the inerrant purpose of the text.
However, as we have explained in detail elsewhere (Geisler, Systematic, chap. 10), purpose does not determine meaning.  This becomes clear when we examine crucial texts.  For example, the Bible declares “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Ex. 23:19).  The meaning of this text is very clear, but the purpose is not, at least not to most interpreters.  Just scanning a couple commentaries from off the shelf reveals a half dozen different guesses as to the author’s purpose.  Despite this lack of unanimity on what the purpose is, nonetheless, virtually everyone understands what the meaning of the text is. An Israelite could obey this command, even if he did not know the purpose for doing so (other than that God had commanded him to do so).  So, knowing meaning stands apart from knowing the purpose of a text.  For example, a boss could tell his employees, “Come over to my house tonight at 8 p.m.”  The meaning (what) is clear, but the purpose (why) is not.  Again, understanding the meaning is clear apart from knowing the purpose.
This does not mean that knowing the purpose of a statement cannot be interesting and even enlightening.  If you knew your boss was asking you to come to his house because he wanted to give you a million dollars, that would be very enlightening, but it would not change the meaning of the statement to come over to his house that night.  So, contrary to many non-inerrantists, purpose does not determine meaning.  Further, with regard to biblical texts, the meaning rests in what is affirmed, not in why it is affirmed.  This is why inerrantists speak of propositional revelation and many non-inerratists tend to downplay or deny it (Vanhoozer, 214).  The meaning and truth of a proposition (affirmation or denial about something) is what is inspired, not in the purpose.  Inerrancy deals with truth, and truth resides in propositions, not in purposes.
At the CSBI conference on the meaning of inerrancy (1982), Carl Henry observed the danger of reducing inerrancy to the purpose of the author, as opposed to the affirmations of the author as they correspond with the facts of reality.  He wrote: “Some now even introduce authorial intent or cultural context of language as specious rationalizations for this crime against the Bible, much as some rapist might assure me that he is assaulting my wife for my own or for her good.  They misuse Scripture in order to champion as biblically true what in fact does violence to Scripture” (Henry in Earl Radamacher ed., Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible [1984], 917).  This is precisely what has happened with some of the participants in the Five Views book when they reduced meaning to purpose and then read their own extra-biblical speculations into the author’s supposed intention or purpose.  This will be discussed more when the genre presupposition is discussed below.
Limited inerrantists and non-inerrantists often take advantage of an ambiguity in the word “intention” of the author in order to insert their own heterodox views on the topic.  When traditional unlimited inerrantists use the phrase “intention of the author” they use it in contrast to those who wish to impose their own meaning on the text in contrast to discovering what the biblical author intended by it.  So, what traditional unlimited inerrantists mean by “intention” is not purpose (why) but expressed intention in the text, that is, meaning. They were not asking the reader to look for some unexpressed intention behind, beneath, or beyond the text.  Expressed intention refers to the meaning of the text.  And it would be better to use the word meaning than the world intention. In this way the word intention cannot be understood as purpose (why), rather than meaning or expressed intention (what) which is found in the text. To put it simply, there is a meaner (author) who expresses his meaning in the text so that the reader can know what is meant by the text. If one is looking for this objectively expressed meaning (via historical-grammatical hermeneutics) it limits the meaning to the text and eliminates finding the meaning beyond the text in some other text (i.e., in some alien extra-biblical genre).
Mike Licona is a case in point.  He redefines “error” to include genre that contains factual errors.  He claims that “intentionally altering an account” is not an error but is allowed by the Greco-Roman genre into which he categorizes the Gospels, insisting that an CSBI view cannot account for all the data (MP3 recording of his ETS lecture 2013).
Propositional Revelation. It is not uncommon for non-inerrantists to attempt to modify or deny propositional revelation.  Vanhoozer cites John Stott as being uncomfortable with inerrancy because the Bible “cannot be reduced to a string of propositions which invites the label truth or error” (Vanhoozer, 200).  Similarly, he adds. “Inerrancy pertains directly to assertions only, not to biblical commands, promises, warnings, and so on. We would therefore be unwise to collapse everything we want to say about biblical authority into the nutshell of inerrancy” (Vanhoozer, 203).
Carl Henry is criticized by some for going “too far” in claiming that “the minimal unit of meaningful expression is a proposition” and that only propositions can be true or false (Vanhoozer, 214).  However, it would appear that it is Vanhoozer’s criticisms that go too far.  It is true that there are more than propositions in the Bible.  All propositions are sentences, but not all sentences are propositions, at least not directly.  However, the CSBI inerrantist is right in stressing propositional revelation.  For only propositions express truth, and inerrancy is concerned with the truthfulness of the Bible.  Certainly, there are exclamations, promises, prophecies, interrogations, and commands that are not formally and explicitly propositions.  But while not all of the Bible is propositional, most of the Bible is propositionalizable.  And any text in the Bible which states or implies a proposition can be categorized as propositional revelation.  And inerrantists claim that all propositional revelation is true.  That is to say, all that the Bible affirms to be true (directly or indirectly) is true.  And all that the Bible affirms to be false is false.  Any attack on propositional revelation that diminishes or negates propositional truth has denied the inerrancy of the Bible. Hence, inerrantists rightly stress propositional revelation.
The fact that the Bible is many more things than inerrant  propositions is irrelevant.  Certainly, the Bible has other characteristics, such as infallibility (John 10:35), immortality (Ps 119:160), indestructibility (Matt 5:17-18), indefatigability (it can’t be worn out—Jer 23:29), and indefeasibility (it can’t be overcome—Isa 55:11).  But these do not diminish the Bible’s inerrancy (lack of error).  In fact, if the Bible were not the inerrant Word of God, then it would not be all these other things.  They are complementary, not contradictory to inerrancy.  Likewise, the Bible has commands, questions, and exclamations, but these do not negate the truth of the text.  Instead, they imply, enhance, and compliment it.
Accommodationism.  Historically, most evangelical theologians have adopted a form of divine condescension to explain how an infinite God could communicate with finite creatures in finite human language.  This is often called analogous language (see Geisler, Systematic, chap. 9).  However, since the word “accommodation” has come to be associated with the acceptance of error, we wish to distinguish between the legitimate evangelical teaching of God’s adaptation to human finitude and the illegitimate view of non-inerrantists who assert God’s accommodation to human error.  It appears that some participants of the inerrancy dialogue fit into the latter category.   Peter Enns believes that accommodation to human error is part of an Incarnational Model which he accepts. This involves writers making up speeches based on what is not stated but is only thought to be “called for,” as Greek historian Thucydides admitted doing (Enns, 101-102).  This accommodation view also allows for employing Hebrew and Greco-Roman literary genres which include literature with factual errors in them (Enns, 103).
The following chart draws a contrast between the two views:
ADAPTATION VIEW
ACCOMMODATION VIEW
GOD ADAPTS TO FINITUDE
GOD ACCOMMODATES TO ERROR
BIBLE USES ANALAGOUS LANGUAGE
IT USES EQUIVOCAL LANGUAGE
BIBLE STORIES ARE FACTUAL
SOME STORIES ARE NOT FACTUAL

Peter Enns believes that “details” like whether Paul’s companions heard the voice or not (Acts 9, 22) were part of this flexibility of accommodation to error.  In brief, he claims that “biblical writers shaped history creatively for their own theological purposes” (Enns, 100).  Recording “what happened” was not the “primary focus” for the Book of Acts but rather “interpreting Paul for his audience” (Enns, 102).  He adds, “shaping significantly the portrayal of the past is hardly an isolated incident here and there in the Bible; it’s the very substance of how biblical writers told the story of their past” (Enns, 104).  In brief, God accommodates to human myths, legends, and errors in the writing of Scripture.  Indeed, according to some non-inerrantists like Enns, this includes accommodation to alien worldviews.
However, ETS/CSBI inerrantists emphatically reject this kind of speculation.  The CSBI declares: “We affirm the unity and internal consistency of Scripture” (CSBI, Art. 14). Further, “We deny that Jesus’ teaching about scripture may be dismissed by appeals to accommodation or to any natural limitation of His humanity” (CSBI, Art. 15).  “We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterances on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.  We deny that finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word” (CSBI, Art. 9).  Also, “We deny that human language is so limited by our creatureliness that it is rendered inadequate as a vehicle for divine revelation.  We further deny that the corruption of human culture and language through sin has thwarted God’s work in inspiration” (CSBI, Art. 4).

Reasons to Reject the Accommodation to Error View
There are many good reasons for rejecting the non-inerrantist accommodation to error theory.  Let’s begin with the argument from the character of God.
First, it is contrary to the nature of God as truth that He would accommodate to error.  Michael Bird states the issue well, though he wrongly limits God to speaking on only redemptive matters.  Nevertheless, he is on point with regard to the nature of inerrancy in relation to God.  He writes: “God identifies with and even invests his own character in his Word…. The accommodation is never a capitulation to error.  God does not speak erroneously, nor does he feed us with nuts of truth lodged inside shells of falsehood” (Bird, 159).  He cites Bromley aptly, “It is sheer unreason to say that truth is revealed in and through that which is erroneous” (cited by Bird, 159).
Second, accommodation to error is contrary to the nature of Scripture as the inerrant Word of God.  God cannot err (Heb 6:18), and if the Bible is His Word, then the Bible cannot err.  So, to affirm that accommodation to error was involved in the inspiration of Scripture is contrary to the nature of Scripture as the Word of God.  Jesus affirmed that the “Scripture” is the unbreakable Word of God (John 10:34-35) which is imperishable to every “iota and dot” (Matt 5:18).  The New Testament authors often cite the Old Testament as what “God said” (cf. Matt 19:5; Acts 4:24-25; 13:34.35; Heb 1:5, 6, 7).  Indeed, the whole Old Testament is said to be “God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16).  Bird wrongly claimed “God directly inspires persons, not pages” (Enns, 164).  In fact, the New Testament only uses the word “inspired” (theopneustos) once (2 Tim 3:16) and it refers to the written Scripture (grapha, writings).  The writings, not the writers, are “breathed out” by God.  To be sure, the writers were “moved by” God to write (2 Peter 1:20-21), but only what they wrote as a result was inspired.  So if the Scriptures are the very writings breathed out by God, then they cannot be errant since God cannot err (Titus 1:2).
Third, the accommodation to error theory is contrary to sound reason. Anti-inerrantist Peter Enns saw this logic and tried to avoid it by a Barthian kind of separation of the Bible from the Word of God.  He wrote, “The premise that such an inerrant Bible is the only kind of book God would be able to produce…, strikes me as assuming that God shares our modern interest in accuracy and scientific precision, rather than allowing the phenomena of Scripture to shape our theological expectations” (Enns, 84).  But Enns forgets that any kind of error is contrary, not to “modern interest” but to the very nature of the God as the God of all truth.  So, whatever nuances of truth there are which are borne out by the phenomena of Scripture cannot, nevertheless, cannot negate the naked truth that God cannot err, nor can his Word.  The rest is detail.

The Lack of Precision
The doctrine of inerrancy is sometimes criticized for holding that the Bible always speaks with scientific precision and historical exactness.  But since the biblical phenomena do not support this, the doctrine of inerrancy is rejected.  However, this is a “straw man” argument.  For the CSBI states clearly: “We further deny  that inerrancy is negated by biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision…, including ‘round numbers’ and ‘free citations’” (CSBI. Art. 13). Vanhoozer notes that Warfield and Hodge (in Inspiration, 42) helpfully distinguished “accuracy” (which the Bible has) from “exactness of statement” (which the Bible does not always have) (Vanhoozer, 221).  This being the case, this argument does not apply to the doctrine of inerrancy as embraced by the CSBI since it leaves room for statements that lack modern “technical precision.”  It does, however, raise another issue, namely, the role of biblical and extra-biblical phenomena in refining the biblical concept of truth.
With regard to the reporting of Jesus’ words in the Gospels, there is a strong difference between the inerrantist and non-inerrantist view, although not all non-inerrantists in the Five Views book hold to everything in the “non-inerrantist” column:

USE OF JESUS’ WORDS AND DEEDS IN THE GOSPELS
INERRANTIST VIEW
NON-INERRANTIST VIEW
REPORTING THEM
CREATING THEM
PARAPHRASING THEM
EXPANDING ON THEM
CHANGE THEIR FORM
CHANGE THEIR CONTENT
GRAMMATICALLY EDITING THEM
THEOLOGICALLY REDACTING THEM

Inerrantists believe that there is a significant difference between reporting Jesus words and creating them.  The Gospel writings are based on eye-witness testimony, as they claim (cf. John 21:24; Luke 1:1-4) and as recent scholarship has shown (see Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses).  Likewise, they did not put words in Jesus’ mouth in a theological attempt to interpret Jesus in a certain way contrary to what He meant by them.  Of course, since Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic (cf. Matt 27:46) and the Gospels are in Greek, we do not have the exact words of Jesus (ipsissima verba) in most cases, but rather an accurate rendering of them in another language.  But for inerrantists the New Testament is not a re-interpretation of Jesus words; it is an accurate translation of them.  Non-inerrantists disagree and do not see the biblical record as an accurate report but as a reinterpreted portrait, a literary creation.  This comes out clearly in the statement of Peter Enns that conquest narratives do not merely “report events” (Enns, 108).  Rather, “Biblical history shaped creatively in order for the theological purposes” to be seen (Enns, 108).
Vanhoozer offers a modified evangelical version of this error when he speaks of not “reading Joshua to discover ‘what happened’[which he believes] is to miss the main point of the discourse, which is to communicate a theological interpretation of what happened (that is, God gave Israel the land) and to call for right participation in the covenant” (Vanhoozer, 228).  So, the destruction of Jericho (Josh 6), while not being simply a “myth” or “legend,” Vanhoozer sees as an “artful narrative testimony to an event that happened in Israel’s past” (ibid.).  A surface reading of Vanhoozer’s view here may appear to be orthodox, until one remembers that he believes that only the “main point” or purpose of a text is really inerrant, not what it affirms.  He declares, “I propose that we identify the literal sense with the illocutionary act an author is performing” (Vanhoozer, 220).  That is, only the theological purpose of the author is inerrant, not everything that is affirmed in the text (the locutionary acts).  He declared elsewhere, “the Bible is the Word of God (in the sense of its illocutionary acts)…” (Vanhoozer, First Theology, 195).
The implications of his view come out more clearly in his handling of another passage, namely, Joshua 10:12: “Sun, stand still….” This locution (affirmation) he claims is an error.  But the illocution (purpose of the author) is not in error—namely, what God wanted to say through this statement which was to affirm his redemptive purpose for Israel (Vanhoozer, Lost in Interpretation, 138).  This is clearly not what the CSBI and historic inerrancy position affirms.  Indeed, it is another example of the fallacious “purpose determines meaning” view discussed above and rejected by CSBI.

The Role of Biblical and Extra-Biblical Data
The claim that in conflicts between them one should take the Bible over science is much too simplistic.  Space does not permit a more extensive treatment of this important question which we have dealt with more extensively elsewhere (see our Systematic, chapters 4 and 12).  Al Moher was taken to task by Peter Enns for his seemingly a priori biblical stance that would not allow for any external evidence to change ones view on what the Bible taught about certain scientific and historical events (Mohler, 51, 60). Clearly the discussion hinges on what role the external data have (from general revelation) in determining the meaning of a biblical text (special revelation).
For example, almost all contemporary evangelicals scholars allow that virtually certain scientific evidence from outside the Bible shows that the earth is round, and this must take precedence over a literalistic interpretation of the phrase “four corners of the earth” (Rev 20:8).  Further, interpretation of the biblical phrase “the sun set” (Josh 1:4) is not be taken literalistically to mean the sun moves around the earth.  Rather, most evangelical scholars would allow the evidence for a helio-centric view of modern astronomy (from general revelation) to take precedence over a literalistic pre-Copernican geo-centric interpretation of the phrase the “Sun stood still” (Josh 10:13).
On the other hand, most evangelicals reject the theistic evolutionary interpretation of Genesis 1‒2 for the literal (not literalistic) interpretation of the creation of life and of Adam and Eve.  So, the one million dollar question is: when does the scientist’s interpretation of general revelation take precedent over the theologian’s interpretation of special revelation?
Several observations are in order on this important issue.  First, there are two revelations from God, general revelation (in nature) and special revelation (in the Bible), and they are both valid sources of knowledge.  Second, their domains sometimes overlap and conflict, as the cases cited above indicate, but no one has proven a real contradiction between them.  However, there is a conflict between some interpretations of each revelation. Third, sometimes a faulty interpretation of special revelation must be corrected by a proper interpretation of general revelation.  Hence, there are few evangelicals who would claim that the earth is flat, despite the fact that the Bible speaks of “the four corners of the earth” (Rev 20:8) and that the earth does not move: “The world is established; it shall never be moved” (Ps 93:1, emphasis added).
However, most evangelical theologians follow a literal (not literalistic) understanding of the creation of the universe, life, and Adam (Gen 1:1, 21, 27) over the Darwinian macro-evolution model.  Why? Because they are convinced that the arguments for the creation of a physical universe and a literal Adam outweigh the Darwinian speculations about general revelation.  In brief, our understanding of Genesis (special revelation) must be weighed with our understanding of nature (general revelation) in order to determine the truth of the matter (see our Systematic, chapters 4 and 12.).  It is much too simplistic to claim one is taking the Bible over science or science over the Bible—our understanding about both are based on revelations from God, and their interpretations of both must be weighed in a careful and complimentary way to arrive at the truth that is being taught on these matters.
To abbreviate a more complex process which is described in more detail elsewhere (ibid.): (1) we start with an inductive study of the biblical text; (2) we make whatever necessary deduction that emerges from two or more biblical truths; (3) we do a retroduction of our discovery in view of the biblical phenomena and external evidence from general revelation; and then (4) we draw our final conclusion in the nuanced view of truth resulting from this process.   In brief, there is a complimentary role between interpretations of special revelation and those of general revelations. Sometimes, the evidence for the interpretation of one revelation is greater than the evidence for an interpretation in the other, and vice versa.  So, it is not a matter of taking the Bible over science, but when there is a conflict, it is a matter of taking the interpretation with the strongest evidence over the one with weaker evidence.

The Role of Hermeneutics in Inerrancy
The ICBI (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy) framers of the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” (CSBI) were aware that, while inerrancy and hermeneutics  are logically distinct, hermeneutics cannot be totally separated from inerrancy.  It is for this reason that a statement on historical-grammatical hermeneutics was included in the CSBI presentation (1978).  Article 18 reads: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by the grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.  We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship” (emphasis added).
The next ICBI conference after the CSBI in 1978 was an elaboration on this important point in the hermeneutics conference (of 1982).  It produced both a statement and an official commentary as well.  All four documents are placed in one book, titled Explaining Biblical Inerrancy: Official Commentary on the ICBI Statements (available at www.BastionBooks.com).  These four statements contain the corpus and context of the meaning of inerrancy by nearly 300 international scholars on the topic of inerrancy.  Hence, questions about the meaning of the CSBI can be answered by the framers in the accompanying official ICBI commentaries.
Many of the issues raised in the Five Ways are answered in these documents. Apparently, not all the participants took advantage of these resources.  Failure to do so led them to misunderstand what the ICBI framers mean by inerrancy and how historical-grammatical hermeneutics is connected to inerrancy.  So-called genre criticism of Robert Gundry and Mike Licona are cases in point.
The Role of Extra-Biblical Genre
Another aspect of non-inerrantist’s thinking is Genre Criticism.  Although he claims to be an inerrantist, Mike Licona clearly does not follow the ETS or ICBI view on the topic.  Licona argues that “the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (bios)” and that “Bioi offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…, and the often include legend.”  But, he adds “because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 34). This led him to deny the historicity of the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:51-53 (ibid.,527-528; 548; 552-553), and to call the story of the crowd falling backward when Jesus claimed “I am he” (John 14:5-6) “a possible candidate for embellishment” (ibid., 306) and the presence of angels at the tomb in all four Gospels may be “poetic language or legend” (ibid., 185-186).
Later, in a debate with Bart Ehrman (at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Spring, 2009), Licona claimed there was a contradiction in the Gospels as to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.  He said, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point here.”   Then in a professional transcription of a YouTube video on November 23, 2012 (see http://youtu.be/TJ8rZukh_Bc), Licona affirmed the following:  “So um this didn’t really bother me in terms of if there were contradictions in the Gospels.  I mean I believe in biblical inerrancy but I also realized that biblical inerrancy is not one fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The resurrection is.  So if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is still true even if it turned out that some things in the Bible weren’t. So um it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed” (emphasis added).
This popular Greco-Roman genre theory adopted by Licona and others is directly contrary to the CSBI view of inerrancy as clearly spelled out in many articles.  First, Article 18 speaks to it directly: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (emphasis added).  But Lincona rejects the strict “grammatico-historical exegesis” where “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” for an extra-biblical system where Greco-Roman genre is used to interpret Scripture.  Of course, “Taking account” of different genres within Scripture, like poetry, history, parables, and even allegory (Gal 4:24), is legitimate, but this is not what the use of extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre does.  Rather, it uses extra-biblical stories to determine what the Bible means, even if using this extra-biblical literature means denying the historicity of the biblical text.
Second, the CSBI says emphatically that “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship” (Art. 18, emphasis added).  But this is exactly what many non-inerrantists, like Licona, do with some Gospel events.  The official ICBI commentary on this Article adds, “It is never legitimate, however, to run counter to express biblical affirmations” (emphasis added).   Further, in the ICBI commentary on its1982 Hermeneutics Statement (Article 13) on inerrancy, it adds, “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual. Some, for instance, take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person.  Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ” (emphasis added).  Its comments in the next article (Article 14) add, “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (emphasis added).  Clearly, the CSBI Fathers rejected genre criticism as used by Gundry, Licona, and many other evangelicals.
Three living eyewitness framers of the CSBI statements (Packer, Sproul, and Geisler) confirm that authors like Robert Gundry were in view when these articles were composed. Gundry had denied the historicity of sections of the Gospel of Matthew by using a Hebrew “midrashic” model to interpret Matthew (see Mohler on Franke, 294).  After a thorough discussion of Gundry’s view over a two year period and numerous articles in the ETS journal, the matter was peacefully, lovingly, and formally brought to a motion by a founder of the ETS, Roger Nicole, in which the membership, by an overwhelming 70% voted and asked Gundry to resign from the ETS.  Since Licona’s view is the same in principle with that of Gundry’s, the ETS decision applies equally to his view as well.
Mike Licona uses a Greco-Roman genre to interpreting the Gospels, rather than Jewish midrash which Gundry used.  The Greco-Roman genre permits the use of a contradiction in the Gospels concerning the day Jesus was crucified.  However, the ICBI official texts cited above reveal that the CSBI statement on inerrancy forbids “dehistoricing” the Gospels (CSBI Art. 18). Again, living ICBI framers see this as the same issue that led to Gundry’s departure from ETS.  When asked about the orthodoxy of Mike Licona’s view, CSBI framer R.C. Sproul wrote: “As the former and only President of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Dr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI” (Personal Correspondence, 5/22/2012, emphasis added).
The role of extra-biblical genre in Gospel interpretation can be charted as follows:

THE USE OF EXTRA-BIBLICAL GENRE
LEGITIMATE USE
ILLEGITIMATE USE
A MATERIAL CAUSE
THE FORMAL CAUSE

HELP PROVIDE PARTS
DETERMINE THE WHOLE
ILLUMINATES SIGNIFICANCE
DETERMINES MEANING

The formal cause of meaning is in the text itself (the author is the efficient cause of meaning).  No literature or stories outside the text are hermeneutically determinative of the meaning of the text.  The extra-biblical data can provide understanding of a part (e.g., a word), but it cannot decide what the meaning of a whole text is.  Every text must be understood only in its immediate or more remote contexts.  Scripture is to be used to interpret Scripture.
Of course, as shown above, general revelation can help modify our understanding of a biblical text, for the scientific evidence based on general revelation demonstrates that the earth is round and can be used to modify one’s understanding of the biblical phrase “for corners of the earth.”  However, no Hebrew or Greco-Roman literature genre should be used to determine what a biblical text means since it is not part of any general revelation from God, and it has no hermeneutical authority.
Further, the genre of a text is not understood by looking outside the text.  Rather, it is determined by using the historical-grammatical hermeneutic on the text in its immediate context, and the more remote context of the rest of Scripture to decide whether it is history, poetry, parable, an allegory, or whatever.
Furthermore, similarity to any extra-biblical types of literature does not demonstrate identity with the biblical text, nor should it be used to determine what the biblical text means.  For example, the fact that an extra-biblical piece of literature combines history and legend does not mean that the Bible also does this.  Nor does the existence of contradictions in similar extra-biblical literature justify transferring this to biblical texts.  Even if there are some significant similarities of the Gospels with Greco-Roman literature, it does not mean that legends should be allowed in the Gospels since the Gospel writers make it clear that they have a strong interest in historical accuracy by an “orderly account” so that we can have “certainty” about what is recorded in them (Luke 1:1‒4).  And multiple confirmations of geographical and historical details confirm that this kind of historical accuracy was achieved (see Colin Patterson, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History, 1990).

The Issue of Gospel Pluralism
Another associated error of some non-inerrantism is pluralism.  Kenton Sparks argues that the Bible “does not contain a single coherent theology but rather numerous theologies that sometimes stand in tension or even contradiction with one another” (Cited by Mohler, 55).   So, God accommodates Himself and speaks through “the idioms, attitudes, assumptions, and general worldviews of the ancient authors” (Enns, 87).  But he assures us that this is not a problem, because we need to see “God as so powerful that he can overrule ancient human error and ignorance, [by contrast] inerrancy portrays as weak view of God” (Enns, 91). However, it must be remembered that contradictions entail errors, and God cannot err.
By the same logical comparison, Christ must have sinned.  For if the union of the human and divine in Scripture (God’s written Word) necessarily entails error, then by comparison the union of the human and divine in Christ must result in moral flaws in Him.  But the Bible is careful to note that, though Christ, while being completely human, nonetheless, was without sin (Heb 4:15; 2 Cor 5:21).  Likewise, there is no logical or theological reason why the Bible must err simply because it has a human nature to it.  Humans do not always err, and they do not err when guided by the Holy Spirit of Truth who cannot err (John 14:26; 16:13; 2 Peter 1:20‒21).  A perfect Book can be produced by a perfect God through imperfect human authors.  How?  Because God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick!  He is the ultimate cause of the inerrant Word of God; the human authors are only the secondary causes.
Enns attempts to avoid this true incarnational analogy by arguing the following: (1) This reasoning diminishes the value of Christ’s Incarnation.  He tried to prove this by noting that the Incarnation of Christ is a unique “miracle” (Enns, 298).  However, so is the union of the human and divine natures of Scripture miraculous (2 Sam 23:2; 2 Peter 1:20-21).  In effect, Enns denies the miraculous nature of Scripture in order to exalt the miraculous nature of the Incarnation of Christ.  (2) His comparison with the Quran is a straw man because it reveals his lack of understanding of the emphatic orthodox denial of the verbal dictation theory claimed by Muslims for the Quran, but denied vigorously by orthodox Bible scholars about the Bible.  (3) His charge of “bibliolatry” is directly opposed to all evangelical teaching that the Bible is not God and should not be worshiped.
Of course, Christ and the Bible are not a perfect analogy because there is a significant difference: Christ is God, and the Bible is not.  Nonetheless, it is a good analogy because there are many strong similarities: (1) both Christ and the Bible have a divine and human dimension; 2) both have a union of the two dimensions; (3) both have a flawless character that in Christ is without sin and in the Bible is without error; and (4) both are the Word of God, one the written Word of God and other the incarnate Word of God.  Thus, a true incarnational analogy calls for the errorlessness of the Bible, just as it calls for the sinlessness of Christ.

The Acceptance of Conventionalism
Some non-inerrantists hold the self-defeating theory of meaning called conventionalism. Franke, for example, argues that “since language is a social construct…our words and linguistic conventions do not have timeless and fixed meanings…” (Franke, 194).  There are serious problem with this view which Franke and other contemporary non-inerrantists have adopted.
Without going into philosophical detail, the most telling way to see the flaws of this view is to reflect on its self-defeating nature.  That is, it cannot deny the objectivity of meaning without making an objectively meaningful statement.  To claim that all language is purely conventional and subjective is to make a statement which is not purely conventional and subjective.  In like manner, when Franke claims that truth is perspectival (Franke, 267), he seems to be unaware that he is making a non-perspectival truth claim.  This problem is discussed more extensively elsewhere (see Geisler, Systematic, chap. 6).  We would only point out here that one cannot consistently be an inerrantist and a conventionalist.  For if all meaning is subjective, then so is all truth (since all true statements must be meaningful).  But inerrancy claims that the Bible makes objectively true statements.  Hence, an inerrantist cannot be a conventionalist, at least not consistently.
The Issue of Foundationalism
The CBSI statement is taken to task by some non-inerrantists for being based on an unjustified theory of foundationalism.  Franke insists that “the Chicago Statement is reflective of a particular form of epistemology known as classic or strong foundationalism” (Franke, 261).  They believe that the Bible is “a universal and indubitable basis for human knowledge” (Franke, 261).  Franke believes that: “The problem with this approach is that it has been thoroughly discredited in philosophical and theological circles” (ibid.,262).
In response, first of all, Franke confuses two kinds of foundationalism: (1) deductive foundationalism, as found in Spinoza or Descartes where all truth can be deduced from certain axiomatic principles.  This is rejected by all inerrantist scholars I know and by most philosophers; (2) However, reductive foundationalism which affirms that truths can be reduced to or are based on certain first principles like the Law of Non-contradiction is not rejected by most inerrantists and philosophers.  Indeed, first principles of knowledge, like the Law of Non-contradiction, are self evident and undeniable.  That is, the predicate of first principles can be reduced to it subject, and any attempt to deny the Law of Non-contradiction uses the Law of Non-contradiction in the denial.  Hence, the denial is self defeating.
Second, not only does Franke offer no refutation of this foundational view, but any attempted refutation of it self-destructs.  Even so-called “post-foundationalists” like Franke cannot avoid using these first principles of knowledge in their rejection of foundationalism.  So, Franke’s comment applies to deductive foundationalism but not to reductive foundationalism as held by most inerratists.  Indeed, first principles of knowledge, including theological arguments, are presupposed in all rational arguments, including theological arguments.
Third, Franke is wrong in affirming that all inerrantists claim that “Scripture is the true and sole basis for knowledge on all matters which it touches.” (Franke, 262, emphasis added).  Nowhere does the CSBI statement or its commentaries make any such claim.  It claims only that the “Scriptures are the supreme written norm” “in all matters on which it touches” (Article 2 and A Short Statement, emphasis added).  Nowhere does it deny that God has revealed Himself outside His written revelation in His general revelation in nature, as the Bible declares (Rom 1:1‒20; Ps 19:1; Acts 14, 17).
As for “falliblism” which Franke posits to replace foundationalism, CSBI explicitly denies creedal or infallible basis for its beliefs, saying, “We do not propose this statement be given creedal weight” (CSBI, Preamble).  Furthermore, “We deny creeds, councils, or declarations have authority greater than or equal to the authority of the Bible” (CSBI, Art. 2).  So, not only do the ICBI framers claim their work is not a creed nor is it infallible, but they claim that even the Creeds are not infallible.  Further, it adds. “We invite response to this statement from any who see reason to amend its affirmations about Scripture by the light of Scripture itself, under whose infallible authority we stand as we speak” (CSBI, Preamble).  In short, while the doctrine of inerrancy is not negotiable, the ICBI statements about inerrancy are revisable.  However, to date, no viable revisions have been proposed by any group of scholars such as those who framed the original CSBI statements.

Dealing with Bible Difficulties
As important as the task may be, dealing with Bible difficulties can have a blinding effect on those desiring the clear truth about inerrancy because they provide a temptation not unlike that of a divorce counselor who is faced with all the problems of his divorced counselees.  Unless, he concentrates on the biblical teaching and good examples of many happy marriages, he can be caught wondering whether a good marriage is possible.  Likewise, one should no more give up on the inerrancy (of God’s special revelation) because of the difficulties he finds in explaining its consistency than he should give up on the study of nature (God’s general revelation) because of the difficulties he finds in it.
There are several reasons for believing that both of God’s revelations are consistent: First, it is a reasonable assumption that the God who is capable of revealing Himself in both spheres is consistent and does not contradict Himself.  Indeed, the Scriptures exhort us to “Avoid… contradictions” (Gk: antheseis—1 Tim 6:20 ESV).  Second, persistent study in both spheres of God’s revelations, special and general revelation (Rom 1:19‒20; Ps 19:1), have yielded more and more answers to difficult questions.  Finally, contrary to some panelists who believe that inerrancy hinders progress in understanding Scripture (Franke, 278), there is an investigative value in assuming there is no contradiction in either revelation, namely, it prompts further investigation to believe that there was no error in the original.  What would we think of scientists who gave up studying God’s general revelation in nature because they have no present explanation for some phenomena?  The same applies to Scripture (God’s special revelation).  Thus, assuming there is an error in the Bible is no solution.  Rather, it is a research stopper.
Augustine was right in his dictum (cited by Vanhoozer, 235).  There are only four alternatives when we come to a difficulty in the Word of God: (1) God made an error, 2) the manuscript is faulty, 3) the translation is wrong, or 4) we have not properly understood it.  Since it is an utterly unbiblical presumption to assume the first alternative, we as evangelicals have three alternatives.  After over a half century of studying nearly 1000 such difficulties (see The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, Baker, 2008), I have discovered that the problem of an unexplained conflict is usually the last alternative—I have not properly understood.
That being said, even the difficult cases the participants were asked to respond to are not without possible explanations.  In fact, some of the participants, who are not even defenders of inerrancy, offered some reasonable explanations.
Acts 9 and 22. As for the alleged contradiction in whether Paul’s companions “heard”  (Acts 9:4) and did not “hear” (Acts 22:9) what the voice from heaven said, two things need to be noted. First, the exact forms of the word “hear” (akouo) are not used in both case.  First, Vanhoozer (229) notes that Acts 9:4 says akouein (in the accusative) which means hear a sound of a voice.  In the other text (Acts 22:9) akouontes (in the genitive) can mean understand the voice (as the NIV translates it).  So understood, there is no real contradiction.  Paul’s companions heard the sound of the voice but did not understand what it said.
Second, we have exactly the same experience with the word “hear” today.  In fact, at our house, hardly a day or two goes by without either my wife or I saying from another room, “I can’t hear you.”  We heard their voice, but we did not understand what they said.
One thing is certain, we do not need contorted attempts to explain the phenomenon like Vanhoozer’s suggestion that this conflict serves “Luke’s purpose by progressively reducing the role of the companions, eventually excluding them altogether from the revelatory event” (230).  It is totally unnecessary to sacrifice the traditional view of inerrancy with such twisted explanations.
Joshua 6.  This text records massive destruction of the city with its large walls falling down, which goes way beyond the available archaeological evidence.  Peter Enns insists that “the overwhelmingly dominant scholarly position is that the city of Jericho was at most a small settlement and without walls during the time of Joshua” (Enns, 93).  He concludes that “these issues cannot be reconciled with how inerrancy functions in evangelicalism as articulated in the CSBI” (92).  He further contends that the biblical story must be a legendary and mythological embellishment (96).
In response, it should be noted that: (1) This would not be the first time that the “dominant scholarly position” has been overturned by later discoveries.  The charge that there was no writing in Moses’ day and that the Hittites mentioned in the Bible (Gen 26:34; 1 Kings 11:1) never existed, are only two examples.  All scholars know that both of these errors were subsequently revealed by further research. (2) There is good archaeological evidence that other events mentioned in the Bible did occur as stated.  The plagues on Egypt and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are examples in point.  The first fits well with the Uperwer Papyrus and the second with the recent discoveries at the Tall el Hamman site in Jordan (see Joseph Holden, A Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, Harvest House, 2013, 214‒24).
Indeed, Enns admits that the Joshua description of some other cities around Jericho fits the archaeological evidence (Enns, 98).  He even admits that “a trained archaeologist and research director” offers a minority view that fits with the Joshua 6 record (Enns, 94), only the alleged time period is different.  However, since the dating issue is still unresolved by scholars, a date that fits the biblical record is still possible.
The fact that the belief in the full historicity of Joshua 6 is in the minority among scholars poses no insurmountable problem.  Minority views have been right before.  Remember Galileo?  As for the alleged absence of evidence for a massive destruction of a walled city of Jericho, two points are relevant: 1) the absence of evidence is not necessarily the evidence of absence since other evidence may yet be found; 2) the main dispute is not over whether something like the Bible claimed to have happened actually did happen to Jericho, but whether it happened at the alleged time.  However, the dating of this period is still disputed among scholars.  Hence, nothing like “overwhelmingly” established evidence has disproven the biblical picture of Joshua 6.  Certainly there is no real reason to throw out the inerrantist’s view of the historicity of the event. On the contrary, the Bible has a habit of proving the critics wrong.
Deuteronomy 20 and Matthew 5. Again, this is a difficult problem, but there are possible explanations without sacrificing the historicity and inerrancy of the passages.  The elimination of the Canaanites and the command to love one’s enemies are not irreconcilable.  Even Enns, no friend of inerrancy, points out that an “alternate view of the conquest that seems to exonerate the Israelites” (Enns, 108), noting that the past tense of the Leviticus statement that “the land vomited [past tense] out its inhabitants” (Lev. 18:25) implies that “God had already dealt with the Canaanite problem before the Israelites left Mt. Sinai” (ibid.).
But even the traditional view that Israel acted as God’s theocratic agent in killing the Canaanites poses no irreconcilable problem for many reasons.  First of all, God is sovereign over life and can give and take it as He wills (Deut 32:39; Job 1:21).  Second, God can command others to kill on his behalf, as He did in capital punishment (Gen 9:6).  Third, the Canaanites were wildly wicked and deserved such punishment (cf. Lev 18).  Fourth, this was a special theocractic act of God through Israel on behalf of God’s people and God’s plan to give them the Holy Land and bring forth the Holy One (Christ), the Savior of the world.  Hence, there is no pattern or precedent here for how we should wage war today.  Fifth, loving our enemy who insults us with a mere “slap on the right cheek” (Matt 5:39) does not contradict our killing him in self defense if he attempts to murder us (Exod 22:2), or engaging him in a just war of protecting the innocent (Gen 14). Sixth, God gave the Canaanites some 400 years (Gen 15:13‒15) to repent before He found them incorrigibly and irretrievably wicked and wiped them out.  Just as it is sometimes necessary to cut off a cancerous limb to save one’s life, even so God knows when such an operation is necessary on a nation which has polluted the land.  But we are assured by God’s words and actions elsewhere that God does not destroy the righteous with the wicked (Gen 18:25).  Saving Lot and his daughters, Rahab, and the Ninevites are examples.
As for God’s loving kindness on the wicked non-Israelites, Nineveh (Jonah 3) is proof that God will save even a very wicked nation that repents (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).  So, there is nothing in this Deuteronomy text that is contradictory to God’s character as revealed in the New Testament.  Indeed, the judgments of the New Testament God are more intensive and extensive in the book of Revelation (cf. Rev 6‒19) than anything in the Old Testament.

Responding to Attacks on Inerrancy
We turn our attention now to some of the major charges leveled against CSBI inerrancy. We begin with two of the major objections: It is not biblical and it is not the historical view of the Christian Church.  But before we address these, we need to recall that the CSBI view on inerrancy means total inerrancy, not limited inerrancy.  Total or unlimited inerrancy holds that the Bible is inerrant on both redemptive matters and all other matters on which it touches, and limited inerrancy holds that the Bible is only inerrant on redemptive matters but not in other areas such as history and science.  By “inerrancy” we mean total inerrancy as defined by the CSBI.

The Charge of Being Unbiblical
Many non-inerrantists reject inerrancy because they claim that it is not taught in the Bible as the Trinity or other essential doctrines are.  But the truth is that neither one is taught formally and explicitly.  Both are taught in the Bible only implicitly and logically. For example, nowhere does the Bible teach the formal doctrine of the Trinity, but it does teach the premises which logically necessitate the doctrine of the Trinity.  And as The Westminster Confession of Faith declares, a sound doctrine must be “either set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequences may be deduced from Scripture” (Chap. I, Art. 6).  Both the Trinity and inerrancy of Scripture fall into the latter category. Thus, the Bible teaches that there are three Persons who are God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt 29:18‒20).  Furthermore, it teaches that there is only one God (1 Tim 2:5).  So, “by good and necessary consequences” the doctrine of the Trinity may be deduced from Scripture.
Likewise, while inerrancy is not formally and explicitly taught in Scripture, nonetheless, the premises on which it is based are taught there.  For the Bible teaches that God cannot err, and it also affirms that the Bible is the Word of God.  So “by good and necessary consequences [the doctrine of inerrancy] may be deduced from Scripture.”
Of course, in both cases the conclusion can and should be nuanced as to what the word “person” means (in the case of the Trinity), and what the word “truth” means (see below) in the case of inerrancy.  Nevertheless, the basic doctrine in both cases is biblical in the sense of a “good and necessary consequence” of being logically “deduced from Scripture.”

The Charge of Being Unhistorical
Many non-inerrantists charge that inerrancy has not been the historic doctrine of the Church.  Some say it was a modern apologetic reaction to Liberalism.  Outspoken opponent of inerrancy, Peter Enns, claims that “…‘inerrancy,’ as it is understood in the evangelical and fundamentalist mainstream, has not been the church’s doctrine of Scripture through its entire history; Augustine was not an ‘inerrantist” (Enns, 181).  However, as the evidence will show, Enns is clearly mistaken on both counts.  First of all, Augustine (5th century) declared emphatically, “I have learned to yield respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free form error” (Augustine, Letters 82, 3).
Furthermore, Augustine was not alone in his emphatic support of the inerrancy of Scripture.  Other Fathers both before and after him held the same view.  Thomas Aquinas (13th century) declared that “it is heretical to say that any falsehood whatever is contained either in the gospels or in and canonical Scripture” (Exposition on Job 13, Lect. 1).  For “a true prophet is always inspired by the Spirit of truth in whom there is no trace of falsehood, and he never utters untruths: (Summa Theologica 2a2ae, 172, 6 ad 2).
The Reformer Martin Luther (16th century) added, “When one blasphemously gives the lie to God in a single word, or say it is a minor matter, …one blasphemes the entire God…” (Luther’s Works, 37:26).  Indeed, whoever is so bold that he ventures to accuse God of fraud and deception in a single word…likewise certainly ventures to accuse God of fraud and deception in all His words. Therefore it is true, absolutely and without exception, that everything is believed or nothing is believed (cited in Reu, Luther and the Scriptures, 33).
John Calvin agreed with his predecessors, insisting that “the Bible has come down to us from the mouth of God (Institutes, 1.18.4).  Thus “we owe to Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from Him alone….The Law and the Prophets are…dictated by the Holy Spirit (Urquhart, Inspiration and Accuracy, 129‒130).  Scripture is “the certain and unerring rule” (Calvin, Commentaries, Ps 5:11).  He added that the Bible is “a depository of doctrine as would secure it from either perishing by neglect, vanishing away amid errors, of being corrupted by the presumptions of men (Institutes, 1.6.3).
Furthermore, it is nit-picking to claim, as some non-inerrantists suggest (Franke, 261), that the Church Fathers did not hold precisely the same view of Scripture as contemporary evangelicals. Vanhoozer claims they are “not quite the same” (73).  Bird asserted, “The biggest problem I have with the AIT [American Inerrancy Tradition] and the CSBI [Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy] are their lack of catholicity.  What Christians said about inerrancy in the past might have been similar to the AIT and CSBI, but they were never absolutely the same!” (Bird, 67).  However, identical twins are not absolutely the same in all “details,” but, like the doctrine of inerrancy down through the years, both are substantially the same.  That is, they believed in total inerrancy of Scripture, that it is without error in whatever it affirms on any topic.
The basic truth of inerrancy has been affirmed by the Christian Church from the very beginning.  This has been confirmed by John Hannah in Inerrancy and the Church (Moody, 1984).  Likewise, John Woodbridge provided a scholarly defense of the historic view on inerrancy (Biblical Authority and Interpretation of the Bible: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal, Zondervan, 1982) which Rogers never even attempted to refute.  Neither Rogers nor anyone else has written a refutation of the standard view on inerrancy, as defended by Woodbridge, expressed in the ETS and explained by the ICBI.
Of course, other difficulties with the historic doctrine of inerrancy can be raised, but B. B. Warfield summed up the matter well, claiming: “The question is not whether the doctrine of plenary inspiration has difficulties to face.  The question is, whether these difficulties are greater than the difficulty of believing that the whole Church of God from the beginning has been deceived in her estimate of Scripture committed to her charge—are greater than the difficulties of believing that the whole college of the apostles, yes and of Christ himself at their head were themselves deceive as to the nature of those Scripture….” (cited by Mohler, 42).

The Charge of the “Slippery Slope Argument”
An oft repeated charge against inerrancy is that it is based on a “Slippery Slope” argument that it should be accepted on the basis of what we might lose if we reject it (Enns, 89). The charge affirms that if we give up the inerrancy of the Bible’s authority on historical or scientific areas, then we are in danger of giving up on the inerrancy of redemptive passages as well.  In brief, it argues that if you can’t trust the Bible in all areas, then you can’t trust it at all.  Enns contends this is “an expression of fear,” not a valid argument but one based on “emotional blackmail” (ibid.).  Franke states the argument in these terms: “If there is a single error at any place in the Bible, [then] none of it can be trusted” (Franke, 262).
One wonders whether the anti-inerrantist would reject Jesus’ arguments for the same reason when He said, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things” (John 3:12)?  The truth is that there are at least two different forms of the “slippery slope” reasoning: one is valid and the other is not.  It is not valid to argue that if we don’t believe everything one says, then we cannot believe anything he says.  For example, the fact that an accountant makes an occasional error in math does not mean that he is not reliable in general.  However, if one claims to have divine authority, and makes one mistake, then it is reasonable to conclude that nothing he says has divine authority in it.  For God cannot make mistakes, therefore, anyone who claims to be a prophet of God who does make mistakes (cf. Deut 18:22) cannot be trusted to be speaking with divine authority on anything (even though he may be right about many things).  So, it is valid to say, if the Bible errs in anything, then it cannot be trusted to be the inerrant Word of God in anything (no matter how reliable it may be about many things).

The Charge of being Parochial
Vanhoozer poses the question: “Why should the rest of the world care about North American evangelicalism’s doctrinal obsession with inerrancy (Vanhoozer, 190). There are no voices from Africa, Asia, or South America that had “any real input into the formation of the CSBI” (Franke, 194).  “Indeed, it is difficult to attend a meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and not be struck by the overwhelming white and male group it is” (Franke, 195).
However, “It is a genetic fallacy to claim that the doctrine of inerrancy can’t be right because it was made in the USA” (Vanhoozer, 190).  While it is true that “in the abundance of  counselors there is wisdom” (Prov 11:14), it is not necessarily true that universality and inter-ethnicity is more conducive to orthodoxy.   Would anyone reject Newton’s Laws simply because they came from a seventeenth-century Englishman?  Vanhoozer rightly asks, “Is it possible that the framers of the Chicago statement, despite the culturally conditioned and contingent nature of the North American discussion, have discovered a necessary implication of what Christians elsewhere might have to say about Scripture’s truth?” (Vanhoozer, 190).  Is it not possible that inerrancy represents a legitimate development of the doctrine of Scripture that arose in response to the needs and challenges of our twentieth-century context?  I don’t see why not.” (Vanhoozer, 191).
The early Christian Creeds on the deity of Christ and the Trinity were all time-bound, yet they rightly attained the status of a Creed—an enduring and universal statement which is accepted by all major sections of Christendom.  Although the CSBI statement does not claim creedal status, nonetheless, being time-bound does not hinder its deserved wide representation and acceptance in historic evangelical churches.
Franke claims that one of the problems with claiming inerrancy as a universal truth is that “it will lead to the marginalization of other people who do not share in the outlooks and assumptions of the dominant group. Inerrancy calls on us to surrender the pretensions of a universal and timeless theology” (Franke, 279).  However, he seems oblivious to the universal and timeless pretension of his own claim.  As a truth claim, the charge of parochialism is self-defeating since it too is conditioned by time, space, and ethnic distinctiveness.  Indeed, it is just another form of the view that all truth claims are relative.  But so is that claim itself relative.  Thus, the proponent of parochialism is hanged on his own gallows.

The Charge of being Unethical
The alleged unethical behavior of inerrantists seems to have been the hot-button issue among most of the participants in the dialogue, including the editors.  They decry, sometimes in strong terms, the misuse of inerrancy by its proponents.  In fact, this issue seems to simmer beneath the background of the anti-inerrancy discussion as a whole, breaking forth from time-to-time in explicit condemnation of its opponents.  In fact, the editors of the Five Views book appear to trace the contemporary inerrancy movement to this issue (see Merrick, 310).
Both the editors and some participants of the Five Views book even employ extreme language and charges against the inerrancy movement, charging it with evangelical “fratricide” (Merrick, 310). The word “fratricide” is repeated a few pages later (317). Three participants of the dialogue (Franke, Bird, and Enns) seem particularly disturbed about the issue, along with the two editors of the book.  They fear that inerrancy is used as “a political instrument (e.g., a tool for excluding some from the evangelical family)” (Vanhoozer, 302) in an “immoral” way (Enns, 292).  They speak of times “when human actions persist in ways that are ugly and unbecoming of Christ…” (Merrick, 317).
Enns, for example, speaks strongly to the issue, chiding “those in positions of power in the church…who prefer coercion to reason and demonize to reflection.”  He adds, “Mohler’s position (the only one explicitly defending the CSBI inerrancy view) is in my view intellectually untenable, but wielded as a weapon, it becomes spiritually dangerous” (Enns, 60).  He also charges inerrantists with “manipulation, passive-aggressiveness, and…emotional blackmail” (Enns, 89).  Further, he claims that “inerrancy regularly functions to short-circuit rather than spark our knowledge of the Bible” (Enns, 91).  In spite of the fact that he recognizes that we cannot “evaluate inerrancy on the basis of its abusers,” Enns hastens to claim that “the function of inerrancy in the funamentalist and evangelical subculture has had a disturbing and immoral partnership with power and abuse” (Enns, 292).
Franke joins the chorus against inerrantists more softy but nonetheless strongly expresses his disappointment, saying, “I have often been dismayed by many of the ways in which inerrancy has commonly been used in biblical interpretation, theology, and the life of the church…. Of even greater concern is the way in which inerrancy has been wielded as a means of asserting power and control” over others (Franke, 259).

A Response to the Ethical Charges

Few widely read scholars will deny that some have abused the doctrine of inerrancy.  The problem is that while we have a perfect Bible, there are imperfect people using it—on both sides of the debate.
Misuse Does Not Bar Use
However, the misuse of a doctrine does not prove that it is false.  Nor does the improper use of Scripture prove that there is no proper way to use it.  Upon examination of the evidence, the abuse charge against inerrantists is overreaching.  So far as I can tell, virtually all the scholars I know in the inerrancy movement were engaged in defending inerrancy out of a sincere desire to preserve what they believed was an important part of the Christian Faith.  Often those who speak most vociferously about the errors of another are unaware of their own errors.  Ethics is a double-edged sword, as any neutral observer will detect in reading the above ethical tirade against inerrantists.  Certainly, the charges by non-inerrantists are subject to ethical scrutiny themselves.  For example, is it really conducive to unity, community, and tranquility to charge others with a form of evangelical fratricide, a political instrument for excluding some from the evangelical family, ugly and unbecoming of Christ, a means of asserting power and control, a means of coercion, spiritually dangerous, manipulation, a passive-aggressiveness attack, emotional blackmail, and a disturbing and immoral partnership with power and abuse?  Frankly, I have never seen anything that approaches this kind of unjustified and unethical outburst coming from inerrancy scholars toward those who do not believe in the doctrine.  So, as far as ethics is concerned, the charge of abuse looks like a classic example of the kettle calling the pot black!

The Log in One’s Own Eye
Non-inerrantists are in no position to try to take the ethical speck out of the eye of inerrantists when they have an ethical log in their own eye.  Harold Lindsell pointed out (in The Battle for the Bible) the ethical inconsistency of the Fuller faculty in voting inerrancy out of their doctrinal statement which they had all signed and was still in effect when they were voting it out of existence.  But how could they be against it, if they were on record as being for it.  We know they were for it before they were against it, but how can they be against it when they were for it?  Is there not an ethical commitment to keep a signed document?  When one comes to no longer believe in a doctrinal statement he has signed, then the ethical thing to do is to resign one’s position.  Instead, at Fuller, in ETS, and in organization after organization, those who no longer believe what the framers meant will stay in the group in an attempt to change the doctrinal statement to mean what they want it to mean.  This is a serious ethical breach on the part of non-inerrantists.
Let me use an illustration to make the point.  If one sincerely believes in a flat earth view and later comes to change his mind, what it the ethical thing to do?  It is to resign and join the Round Earth Society.  To stay in the Flat Earth Society and argue that (1) it all depends on how you define flat; (2) from my perspective it looks flat; (3) I have a lot of good friends in the Flat Earth Society with whom I wish to continue fellowship, or (4) the Flat Earth Society allows me to define “flat” the way I would like to do so—to do any of these is disingenuous and unethical.  Yet it is what happened at Fuller and is currently happening at ETS and in many of our Christian institutions today.
An important case in point was in1976 when the ETS Executive Committee confessed that “Some of the members of the Society have expressed the feeling that a measure of intellectual dishonesty prevails among members who do not take the signing of the doctrinal statement seriously.”  Later, an ETS Ad Hoc Committee recognized this problem when it posed the proper question in 1983: “Is it acceptable for a member of the society to hold a view of biblical author’s intent which disagrees with the Founding Fathers and even the majority of the society, and still remain a member in good standing?” (emphasis added).  The Society never said no, leaving the door open for non-inerrantists to come in.  This left a Society in which the members could believe anything they wished to believe about the inerrancy statement, despite what the Framers meant by it.
The ETS Committee further reported that other “members of the Society have come to the realization that they are not in agreement with the creedal statement and have voluntarily withdrawn. That is, in good conscience they could not sign the statement” (1976 Minutes, emphasis added).   This is exactly what all members who no longer believed what the ETS framers believed by inerrancy should have done.  A member who is now allowed to sign the ETS statements but “disagrees with the Founding Fathers” is not acting in “good conscience.”   Thus, it is only a matter of time before the majority of the members disagree with the ETS Founders, and the majority of the Society then officially deviates from its founding concept of inerrancy.  As someone rightly noted, most religious organizations are like a propeller-driven airplane: they will naturally go left unless you deliberately steer them to the right.

No Evidence for Any Specific Charges Ever Given
The Five Views dialogue book contains many sweeping claims of alleged unethical activity by inerrantists, but no specific charges are made against any individual, nor is any evidence for any charges given. Several points should be made in response.
First, even secular courts demand better than this.  They insist on due process.  This means that: (1) Evidence should be provided that any persons who have allegedly violated an established law.  This is particularly true when the charge is murder of a brother!—“fratricide.”  In the absence of such evidence against any particular person or group, the charge should be dropped, and the accusers should apologize for using the word or other words like demonize, blackmail, or bullying.  (2) Specifics should be given of the alleged crime.  Who did it?  What did they do?  Does it match the alleged crime?  The failure of non-inerrantists to do this is an unethical, divisive, and destructive way to carry on a “dialogue” on the topic, to say nothing of doing justice on the matter.  Those who use such terms about other brothers in Christ, rather than sticking to the issue of a valid critique of deviant views, are falling far short of the biblical exhortation to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15).

The Robert Gundy Case
The so-called “Gundry—Geisler” issue is a case in point.  First, ethical charges by non-inerrantists reveal an offensive bias in narrowing it down to one inerrantist in opposition to Gundry when in fact there were was a massive movement in opposition to Gundry’s position, including founders of ETS.  Indeed, the membership vote to ask him to leave the society was an overwhelming 70%.  Even though I was an eyewitness of the entire process, I never observed hard feelings expressed between Gundy and those asking for his resignation before, during, or after the issue.
Long-time Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Dr. Kenneth Kantzer was the first one to express concern about the issue to me.  An ETS founder, Roger Nicole made the motion for Gundry’s resignation with deep regret.  Knowing I was a framer of the CSBI statement, Gundry personally encouraged me to enter the discussion, saying, he did not mind the critique of his view because he had “thick skin” and did not take it personally.  So, to make charges of ethical abuse against those who opposed Gundry’s “dehistoricizing” (see CSBI, Article 18) of the Gospel record is to turn an important doctrinal discussing into a personal attack and it is factually unfounded and ethically unjustified.
Second, the CSBI principles called for an ethical use of the inerrancy doctrine. CSBI framers were careful to point out that “Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship humbly and faithfully obeying God’s written Word.  To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master” (Preamble to CSBI).  It also acknowledges that “submission to the claims of God’s own Word…marks true Christian faith.”  Further, “those who confess this doctrine often deny it in life by failing to bring our thoughts and deeds, our traditions and habits, into true subjection to the Divine Word” (ibid.).  The framers of CSBI added, “We offer this statement in a spirit, not of contention, but of humility and love, which we purpose by Gods’ grace to maintain in any future dialogue arising out of what we have said” (ibid.).  To my knowledge, the ETS procedure on the Gundry issue was in accord with these principles, and none of the participants of the Five Views book provided any evidence that anyone violated these procedures.
Third, in none of the ETS articles, papers, or official presentations was Robert Gundry attacked personally or demeaned. The process to ask him to resign was a lawful one of principle and not a personal issue, and the parties on both sides recognized and respected this distinction.  Anyone who had any evidence to the contrary should have come forward a long time ago or forever held his peace.
Fourth, as for all the parties on the inerrancy discussion over Gundry’s views, I know of none who did not like Gundry as a person or did not respect him as a scholar, including myself.  In fact, I later invited him to participate with a group of New Testament scholars in Dallas (which he accepted), and I have often cited him in print as an authority on the New Testament and commended his excellent book defending, among other things, the physical nature of the resurrection body (Gundry, Soma in Biblical Theology, Cambridge, 1976).
Fifth, the decision on Gundry’s views was not an unruly act done in the dark of night with a bare majority.  It was done by a vast majority in the light of day in strict accordance with the rules stated in the ETS policies.  It was not hurried since it took place over a two year period.  It involves numerous articles pro and con published in the ETS journal (JETS) as well as dozens of ETS papers and discussions.  In short, it was fully and slowly aired in an appropriate and scholarly manner.
Sixth, the final decision was by no means a close call by the membership.  It passed with a decisive majority of 70% of the members.   So, any charge of misuse of authority in the Gundry case is factually mistaken and ethically misdirected.
Since there are no real grounds for the ethical charges against those who opposed Gundry’s views on inerrancy, one has to ask why the non-inerrantists are so stirred up over the issue as to make excessive charges like blackmail, demonize, or fratricide?  Could it be that many of them hold similar views to Gundry and are afraid that they may be called on the carpet next?  As the saying goes, when a stone is tossed down an alley, the dog that squeals the loudest is the one that got hit!  We do know this: there is some circumstantial evidence to support this possibility, for many of the most vociferous opponents are the ones who do not accept the ICBI statement on inerrancy or they called for either modification or destruction of it.  For example, Enns argues “inerrancy should be amended accordingly or, in my view, scrapped altogether” (Enns, 84).  But it has been reported that he himself left Westminster Theological Seminary under a cloud involving a doctrinal dispute that involved inerrancy.  And as fellow participant of the Five Ways book, John Franke, put it: “His title makes it clear that after supporting it [inerrancy] for many years as a faculty member at Westminster Theological Seminary…. In reading his essay, I can’t shake the impression that Enns is still in reaction to his departure from Westminster and the controversy his work has created among evangelicals” (Franke, 137)
Putting aside the specifics of the Gundry case, what can be said about ethics of inerrantists as charged by the participants of the Five Views dialogue?  Allow me to respond to some specific issues that have been raised against inerrancy by non-inerrantists.

Does the Abuse of Inerrancy Invalidate the Doctrine of Inerrancy?
Most scholars on both sides of this debate recognize that the answer is “No.”  Abusing marriage does not make marriage wrong.  The evil use of language does not make language evil.  And abusing inerrancy by some does not make it wrong for all to believe it.  Even if one would speak truth in an unloving way, it would not make it false.  Likewise, one can speak error in a loving way, but it does not make it true.  Of course, we should always try to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).  But when the truth is not spoken in love it does not transform the truth into an error.  Accordingly, Vanhoozer rightly wondered whether “Enns, too quickly identifies the concept of inerrancy itself with its aberrations and abuses” (Vanhoozer, 302).

Is Animated Debate Necessarily Contrary to Christian Love?
Even the editors of the Five Ways book, who spent considerable time promoting harmony in doctrinal discussions, admit that the two are not incompatible.  They claim: “There is a place for well-reasoned, lucid, and spirited argumentation” (Merrick, 312). They add, “Certainly, debate over concepts and ideas involve[s] description, analysis, and clear reasoning” (Merrick, 316).  Indeed, the apostle Paul “reasoned’ with the Jews from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2) and tried to “persuade Jews and Greek” (Acts 18:4).  He taught Church leaders “to rebuke” those who contradict sound doctrine (Titus 1:9).  Jude urged believes to “contend for the Faith” (v.3).  In view of Peter’s defection, Paul “opposed him to his face” (Gal 2:11). Indeed, Paul and Barnabas “had no small dissension and debate” with the legalists from Judea (Acts 15:2). Sometimes, a refutation or even a rebuke is the most loving thing one can do to defend the truth.
Our supreme example, Jesus, certainly did not hesitate to use strong words and to take strong actions against his opponent’s views and actions (Matt 23; John 2:15‒17).  There are in fact times when a vigorous debate is necessary against error.  Love—tough love—demands it.  All of these activities can occur within the bound of Christian.  John Calvin and Martin Luther were certainly no theological pansies when it came to defending the truth of the Christian Faith.  But by the standards of conduct urged by non-inerrantists, there would have been no orthodox creeds and certainly no Reformation. And should any knowledgeable evangelical charge the Reformers with being unethical because they vigorously defended Scripture or salvation by faith alone?  Of course not!
Should Unity Be Put Above Orthodox?
One of the fallacies of the anti-inerrancy movement is the belief that unity should be sought at all cost.  Apparently no one told this to the apostle Paul who defended Christianity against legalism or to Athanasius who defended the deity of Christ against Arius, even though it would split those who believed in the deity of Christ from those, like Arius and his followers, who denied it.  The truth is, when it comes to essential Christian doctrine, it would be better to be divided by the truth than to be united by error.  If every doctrinal dispute, including those on the Trinity, deity of Christ, and inspiration of Scripture, used the unity over orthodoxy principle that one hears so much about in current inerrancy debate, then there would be not much orthodox Christian Faith left.  As Rupertus Meldinius (d. 1651) put it, “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things, charity.”  But as we saw above, the inerrancy of Scripture is an essential doctrine of the Christian Faith because all other doctrines are based on it.  So, it is epistemologically fundamental to all other biblical teachings.

Is it Improper to Place Scholarly Articles on the Internet?
Some have objected to carrying on a scholarly discussion on the Internet, as opposed to using scholarly journals.   My articles on Mike Licona’s denial of inerrancy (see www.normgeisler.com/articles) were subject to this kind of charge.  However, given the electronic age in which we live, this is an archaic charge.  Dialogue is facilitated by the Internet, and responses can be made much more quickly and by more people.  Further, much of the same basic material posted on the Internet was later published in printed scholarly journals.
In a November 18, 2012 paper for The Evangelical Philosophical Society, Mike Licona speaks of his critics saying “bizarre” things like “bullying” people around, of having “a cow” over his view, and of engaging in a “circus” on the Internet.  Further, he claims that scholarly critics of his views were “targeting” him and “taking actions against” him. He speaks about those who have made scholarly criticisms of his view as “going on a rampage against a brother or sister in Christ.” And he compares it to the statement of Ammianus Marcellinus who wrote, “no wild beasts are such dangerous enemies to man as Christians are to one another.”   Licona complained about critics of his view, saying, “I’ve been very disappointed to see the ungodly behavior of a few of my detractors. The theological bullying, the termination and internal intimidation put on a few professors in SBC…all this revealed the underbelly of fundamentalism.”  He charged that I made contacts with seminary leaders in an attempt to get him kicked out of his positions on their staff.  The truth is that I made no such contacts for no such purposes.  To put it briefly, it is strange that we attack those who defend inerrancy and defend those who attack inerrancy.
While it is not unethical to use the Internet for scholarly articles, it wrong to make the kind of unethical response that was given to the scholarly articles such as that in the above citations. Such name-calling has no place in a scholarly dialogue.  Calling the defense of inerrancy an act of “bullying” diminishes their critic, not them.  Indeed, calling one’s critic a “tar baby” and labeling their actions as “ungodly behavior” is a classic example of how not to defend one’s view against its critics.
What is more, while Licona condemned the use of the Internet to present scholarly critiques of his view as a “circus,” he refused to condemn an offensive YouTube cartoon produced by his son-in-law and his friend that offensively caricatured my critique of his view as that of a theological “Scrooge.”  Even Southern Evangelical Seminary (where Licona was once a faculty member before this issue arose) condemned this approach in a letter from “the office of the president,” saying, “We believe this video was totally unnecessary and is in extremely poor taste” (Letter, 12/9/2011).  One influential alumnus wrote the school, saying, “It was immature, inappropriate and distasteful” and recommended that “whoever made this video needs to pull it down and apologize for doing it” (Letter, 12/21/2011). The former president of the SES student body declared: “I’ll be honest that video was outright slander and worthy of punishment. I was quite angry after watching it” (Letter, 12/17/2011).  This kind of unapologetic use of the Internet by those who deny the CSBI view of inerrancy of the Bible is uncalled for and unethical.  It does the perpetrators and their cause against inerrancy no good.

Is Disciplinary Action Sometimes called for in Organizations like ETS?
“Judge not” is a mantra of our culture, and it has penetrated evangelical circles as well.  But ironically, even that statement is a judgment.  Rational and moral people must make judgments all the time.  This is true in theology as well as in society.  Further, discipline on doctrinal matters is not unprecedented in ETS.  Indeed, the ETS By Laws provide for such action, saying: “A member whose writings or teachings have been challenged at an annual business meeting as incompatible with the Doctrinal Basis of the Society, upon majority vote, shall have his case referred to the executive committee, before whom he and his accusers shall be given full opportunity to discuss his views and the accusations. The executive committee shall then refer his case to the Society for action at the annual business meeting the following year.  A two-thirds majority vote of those present and voting shall be necessary for dismissal from membership” (Article 4, Section 4). This procedure was followed carefully in the Robert Gundry case.
In point of fact, the ETS has expressed an interest in monitoring and enforcing its doctrinal statement on inerrancy from the beginning.  The official ETS minutes record the following:
1.  In 1965, ETS Journal policy demanded a disclaimer and rebuttal of Dan Fuller’s article denying factual inerrancy published in the ETS Bulletin. They insisted that, “that an article by Dr. Kantzer be published simultaneously with the article by Dr. Fuller and that Dr. Schultz include in that issue of the Bulletin a brief explanation regarding the appearance of a view point different from that of the Society” (1965).
2.  In 1965, speaking of some who held “Barthian” views of Scripture, the Minutes of the ETS Executive Committee read: “President Gordon Clark invited them to leave the society.”
3. The 1970 Minutes of ETS affirm that “Dr. R. H. Bube for three years signed his membership form with a note on his own interpretation of infallibility. The secretary was instructed to point out that it is impossible for the Society to allow each member an idiosyncratic interpretation of inerrancy, and hence Dr. Bube is to be requested to sign his form without any qualifications, his own integrity in the matter being entirely respected” (emphasis added). This reveals efforts by ETS to protect and preserve the integrity of its doctrinal statement.
4. In 1983, by a 70% majority vote of the membership, Robert Gundry was asked to resign from ETS for his views based on Jewish midrash genre by which he held that sections of Matthew’s Gospel were not historical, such as the story of the Magi (Matt 2:1‒12).
5. In the early 2000s, while I was still a member of the ETS Executive Committee, a majority voted not to allow a Roman Catholic to join ETS largely on the testimony of one founder (Roger Nicole) who claimed that the ETS doctrinal statement on inerrancy was meant to exclude Roman Catholics.
6. In 2003, by a vote of 388 to 231 (nearly 63%) the ETS expressed its position that Clark Pinnock’s views were contrary to the ETS doctrinal statement on inerrancy.  This failed the needed two-third majority to expel him from the society, but it revealed a strong majority who desired to monitor and enforce the doctrinal statement.
Finally, preserving the identity and integrity of any organization calls for doctrinal discipline on essential matters.  Those organizations which neglect doing this are doomed to self-destruction.

Should an Inerrantist Break Fellowship with a Non-Inerrantist over Inerrancy?
The ICBI did not believe that inerrancy should be a test for evangelical fellowship.  It declared: “We deny that such a confession is necessary for salvation” (CSBI, Art. 19).  And “we do not propose that his statement be given creedal weight” (CSBI, Preamble).  In short, it is not a test of evangelical authenticity, but of evangelical consistency.  One can be saved without believing in inerrancy.  So, holding to inerrancy is not a test of spiritual fellowship; it is a matter of theological consistency.  Brothers in Christ can fellowship on the basis of belonging to the same spiritual family, without agreeing on all non-salvific doctrines, even some very important ones like inerrancy.  In view of this, criticizing inerrantist of evangelical “fratricide” seriously misses the mark and itself contributes to disunity in the body of evangelical believers. Indeed, in the light of the evidence, the ethical charge against inerrantists seriously backfired.

Conclusion
In actuality, the Five Views book is basically a two views book: only one person (Al Mohler) unequivocally supports the standard historic view of total inerrancy expressed in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI), and the other four participants do not.  They varied in their rejection from those who presented a more friendly tone, but undercut inerrancy with their alien philosophical premises (Kevin Vanhoozer) to those who are overtly antagonistic to it (Peter Enns).
There was little new in the arguments against the CSBI view of total inerrancy, most of which has been responded to by inerrantists down through the centuries into modern times.  However, a new emphasis did emerge in the repeated charge about the alleged unethical behavior of inerrantists.  But, as already noted, this is irrelevant to the truth of the doctrine of inerrancy.  Further, there is some justification for the suspicion that attacks on the person, rather than the issue, are because non-inerrantists are running out of real ammunition to speak to the issue itself in a biblical and rational way.
In short, after careful examination of the Five Views book, the biblical arguments of the non-inerrantists were found to be unsound, their theological arguments were unjustified, their historical arguments were unfounded, their philosophical arguments were unsubstantiated, and their ethical arguments were often outrageous.  Nevertheless, there were some good insights in the book, primarily in Al Mohler’s sections and from time to time in the other places, as noted above.  However, in its representation of the ETS/ICBI view of total inerrancy, the book was seriously imbalanced in format, participants, and discussion.  The two professors who edited the book (J. Merrick and Stephen Garrett) were particularly biased in the way the issue was framed by them, as well in many of their comments.

Were the Gospel Writers Reporting or Creating the Words of Christ?


Were the Gospel Writers Reporting or Creating the Words of Christ?

Photo Model or Portrait Model

               

By Norman L. Geisler

 

Imagery can be helpful or dangerous.  Until relatively recent times most New Testament scholars believed the Gospel writers were giving something like snap shot images of the words and deeds of Christ.  However, contemporary literary criticism rejects the “Photo” model and has replaced it with a “Portrait” model.  This, they think, fits better with data and the creativity of the Gospel writers who, they believe, were not strictly reporting but were interpreting, even creating, the words and deeds of Christ.

 

The Difficulties of the Photo Model

Several lines of evidence have been used to support this change of images from the snap shot to the portrait image.  Together, they are used to reject the strict reporting model for a more flexible model which they believe fits the biblical evidence better.

First, there is the obvious fact that the various Gospels do not present the same material (words and deeds) about Christ.  There are many significant differences.  With the exception of some main events like the death and resurrection narratives, there are few events mentioned in all four Gospels and many events are recorded only in one Gospel.

Second, there are known conflicts between the different Gospel presentations.  Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is presented at different times in his ministry, one early (Jn. 2:13-17) and one late (Mt. 21:12-13).  The order of the three temptations of Christ are different between Matthew 4 and Luke 4.  How Judas died is presented as by hanging in Matthew 27:5, but by falling and bursting open in Acts 1:18.  The number of angels at the tomb is one in Matthew (27:5) but two in John (20:12).  Different words come from the thieves on the cross, one railing at him (Mt. 27:44) and the other defending him (Lk. 24:4-42).

Third, the actual quotations of Jesus on the same occasion are often listed differently in different Gospels.  This includes important events like the inscription on the Cross which is reported four different ways in the four Gospels.  Also, the confession of Peter which is stated three different ways.  So, it is argued that if the Gospel writers were giving us photographs of the events, then these would all be the same, but they are not.

Some words appear to be added to Jesus’ sayings.  For example, John uses “verily, verily” (e.g., 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11 [KJV] or “truly, truly” [ESV] or many sayings of Jesus which are not found in the first three Gospels.  Since it is widely believed that John wrote last, it is argued that Jesus never used this phrase (or these sayings) but that John put it into Jesus’ mouth.

The Dangers of the Portrait Model

            Problems like these have led many scholars to think that the Gospel writers were painting a portrait, rather than giving snaps shots.  However, when the “portrait” model is examined closely, it has some serious difficulties of its own.

First, the portrait image does not account well for the many parts of the Gospel that are virtually identical.  This is true, not only of the order and nature of many events, but also of the actual words that Jesus and others used.  Many scholars point to the similarities of the first three Gospels (called Synoptic Gospels).  For example of the 1068 verses in Matthew about 500 overlap with Mark’s 661 verses.  Of Luke’s 1149 verses about 320 overlap with Mark.  In fact, there are only 50-55 verses unique to Mark (W.G. Scroggie, A Guide to the Gospels, 86).  Why would different portraits have so many overlaps that are the same?

Second, the Gospel writers were careful to distinguish their own words from the words of Jesus.  This is what makes it relatively easy to produce a red letter edition of the Gospels (with Jesus’ words in red).  The distinction is clear enough that almost all red-letter editions of the Gospels are the same with only minor exceptions.

Third, the portrait image leaves room for contradictions in the Gospel (which many NT scholars believe) since different portraits done by different persons do not always complement each other in every detail.  But if the Gospels are the divinely inspired Word of God, then how can they have contradictions and errors in them?  God cannot err (Heb. 6:18), and if the Gospels are the Word of God, then they cannot err either. So, the portrait model is in conflict with the inerrancy of Scripture.

Fourth, the portrait image lends to the view that the Gospel writers were not really reporting but rather were creating Jesus’ words and deeds.  But if this is so, then how can we know what Jesus really said and did?

  Ipsissima Verba (Same Words) vs. Ipsissima Vox (Same Meaning)?

If the Gospels are neither snap shots nor portraits, then what are they?  And how accurately do they portray the real Jesus and his actual words and deeds?  Before we attempt to answer this specifically, we need to speak to the matter of the Gospel’s reliability.  Several lines of evidence lead us to believe that the Gospels are historically reliable:

(1) We have some early records by eye-witnesses of the events.  John and Peter were eyewitnesses of events in Jesus’ life.  John said: “The man who saw it [the crucifixion] has given testimony, and his testimony is true” (Jn. 19:35). “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true” (Jn. 21:24).  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1John 1:1). This is about as clear an eye-witness testimony as one can give.

Peter reported: “We did not follow cleverly invented stories [myths] when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). “We did not follow cleverly invented stories [myths] when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).  “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s suffering and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). Peter and John said, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:32).Peter and John replied…. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and Jerusalem.  They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen” (Acts 10:39-40).

Paul, an apostle and eye witness of the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8) wrote many New Testament books, including four that even most Bible critics accept as authentic (1and 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians).  He declared:  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Cor. 15:3-8).  Even critical scholars believe this was written by A.D. 55-57 when almost all the apostles and chief eyewitness were still alive who could verify the main events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Given this fact, this text is a powerful testimony to the fact that Paul was reporting, not creating, the events of which he spoke.

(2) Further, there were multiple eye-witnesses for many of the events, including the most crucial ones like the death and resurrection of Christ.  Indeed, there are 27 New Testament books which have traditionally been ascribed to nine different authors (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews (though some believe Paul wrote it). Jesus’ death, for example, is listed in every Gospel (Mt. 27; Mk. 15; Luke 23; John 19) and in most of the NT books, as is his resurrection (e.g., Mt. 28; Mk. 16; Lk. 24; John 20-21; 1 Cor. 15).  But having two or more reliable witnesses of the same discourse or event is accepted in court as sufficient evidence to convict the accused of the crime.  Indeed, the Law of Moses records that at the mouth of two or three witnesses one can be sentenced to death (Deut. 17:6).

(3) We have other NT books that were written by contemporaries of the eyewitnesses.  Luke wrote: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Lk. 1:1-4). Clearly Luke claimed to be reporting actual history.  

The writer of Hebrews said, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard [him],  while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:3-4 cf.  13:23, emphasis added).

(4) Numerous persons mentioned in the New Testament are known to have lived during that time period.  Luke provided historical crosshairs for a first-century eye-witness setting when he wrote:   “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1-2). It is noteworthy that: 1) An exact date is given–A. D. 29.  2)  All eight people are known from history.  3)  All were known to live at this exact time. 4) Clearly this is not a “once-upon-a-time” legend but real history based on contemporary eye-witness testimony.  All together there are some 30 persons mentioned in the NT that are known from extra-biblical sources to have lived at that time (see Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels).

(5) Many legal authorities have supported the credibility of the Gospel writers.  After applying the principles for testing the validity of a witness testimony to the New Testament, one of the greatest attorney’s in early America, Simon Greenleaf, Professor of Law at Harvard University, wrote:“The narratives of the evangelists are now submitted to the reader’s perusal and examination, upon the principles and by the rules already stated…. If they had thus testified on oath, in a court of justice, they would be entitled to credit; and whether their narratives, as we now have them, would be received as ancient documents, coming from the proper custody.  If so, then it is believed that every honest and impartial man will act consistently with that result, by receiving their testimony in all the extent of its import” (see Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists, 53-54).

Many other attorneys have had similar experiences, including Thomas Sherlock, The Tryal of the Witnesses of the Resurrection; Frank Morrison,Who Moved the Stone? John Montgomery, Christianity and History; Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ; J.W. Wallace, Cold-Case Christianty.

(6) Early non-Christian writers have confirmed the historicity of many of the main events mentioned in the Gospels such as:  (1)  Jesus was from Nazareth;  (2)  He lived a virtuous life; (3)  He performed unusual feats;  (4)  He introduced new teaching contrary to Judaism;  (5)  He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;  (6)  His disciples believed He rose from the dead; (7)  His disciples denied polytheism; (8)  His disciples worshiped Him; (9)  His teachings and disciples spread rapidly; (10)  His followers believed they were immortal; (11)  His followers had contempt for death; (12)  His followers renounced material goods (see F.F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament).

The following chart summarizes the non-Christian source and the events of Jesus’ life that were confirmed:

Non-Christian Sources within 150 Years of Jesus

 

 

 

 

Source

 

 

 

 

AD

Existed Virtuous Worship Disciples Teacher Crucified Empty Tomb Disciples’

Belief in Resurrection

Spread Persecution
Tacitus 115 X X X X X X
Suetonius 117-138 X X X X X X
Josephus 90-95 X X X X X X X X X
Thallus 52 X X*
Pliny 112 X X X X X* X X
Trajan 112? X* X X X X
Hadrian 117-138 X* X X X
Talmud 70-200 X X X
Toledoth Jesu 5thCentury X X
Lucian 2ndCentury X X X X X X
Mara Bar-Scrapion 1st – 3rdCenturies X X X X X X*
Phlegon 80? X X X X

* implied

 

7)  Roman historians, who are experts in first century events, have confirmed the reliability of the Gospels.  Noted Roman historian, A. N. Sherwin-White, wrote: “So it is astonishing that while Greco-Roman historians have been growing confidence, the twentieth-century study of the gospel narratives, starting from no less promising material, have taken so gloomy a turn in the development of form-criticism…that the historical Christ is unknowable and the history of his mission cannot be written. This seems very curious.”  He calls the mythological view “unbelievable” (A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the NT, 187, 189).

Another first century scholar, Colin Hemer, demonstrated the accuracy of Luke on nearly 100 details of history and geography in his book, Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History (1990).  These included (1) Minute geographical details known to the readers; (2) Specialized details known only to special groups; (3) Specifics of not widely known routes, places, and officials; (4)  Correlation of dates in Acts with general history; ( 5) Details appropriate to that period but not others; (6)  Events which reflects a sense of “immediacy”; (7) Idioms and culture that bespeak of a first-hand awareness; (8) Verification of numerous details of times, people, and  events of that period best known by contemporaries.  This same author (Luke), known for his historical accuracy, also wrote the Gospel of Luke (cf. Luke 1:1 and Acts 1:1).

(8) Archaeology has supported many New Testament events (see Joe Holden,The  Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, 2013).  Noted biblical archaeologist, Nelson Glueck wrote: “As a matter of fact, however, it may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.  Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible” (Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, 31). Some of the NT places or events confirmed by archaeology include: (1) Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus; (2) A coin of Caesar Augustus, during whose reign Jesus was born; (3) Tomb of King Herod who attempted to kill baby Jesus; (4) Pool of Siloam where Jesus performed a miracle; (5) Foundation wall of outer court of the temple where Jesus taught; (6) A bone of a crucifixion victim (with a nail in it) who died like Jesus did; (7) Inscription of Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus to death; (8) Ossuary of Caiaphas the high priest who tried Jesus; (9) Ossuary box of  “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”;[1] (10) Arch of Titus who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 showing the Jewish minora being carried away.

Reviewing the archaeological evidence for the Bible, even a secular magazine wrote:  “In extraordinary ways, modern archaeology has affirmed the historical core of the Old and New Testaments—corroborating key portions of the stories of Israel’s patriarchs, the Exodus, the Davidic monarchy, and the life and times of Jesus” (Jeffery Sheler “Is the Bible True,” US News & World Report, October 25, 1999, p. 52).

The Accuracy of the Gospel Records

Now some of these testimonies speak only to the credibility of the overall history of the main events in the New Testament (namely, points 5-9 above).  However, some of them speak directly to the accuracy of the words of Jesus (namely, points 1-4).  But even here the question remains as to whether we have the exact words of Jesus?  Before we can answer this specifically, we must remember that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic (cf. Mt. 27:46 cf. Mk. 7:34) and the New Testament was penned in Greek.  So, at best we have only a translation of most of the words of Jesus.  So, the question boils down to this: Do we have a good translation of the words of Jesus in the Gospels?   

Many Reasons the Records are Accurate.—Admittedly, while we do not in most cases have the exact words of Jesus (ipsissima verba), there is good reason to believe that we do have the true meaning of them (ipsissima vox) for several reasons: 1) the NT documents were based on eye-witness accounts by persons who knew both Aramaic and Greek  so they would know if they were translated correctly; 2) we have multiple accounts of many of the same discourses to cross-check their accuracy; 3) Luke claims to be giving an accurate account of the events (Lk. 1:1-4), and his account in Acts has been confirmed to be accurate in multiple details (see Colin Hemer, ibid.); 4) Many of the accounts were written within the memories of the eyewitnesses (c. A.D. 55-70); 5) Some of the New Testament writers were trained in keeping records (Matthew was a tax collector; Luke was a physician; Paul was highly educated);  6) Many in the non-literary New Testament culture had well developed memories (see Richard Bauckham,Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, chaps. 11-13);  7) Jesus’ words and deeds were impact events that would have been etched on the memories of those who heard him. 8) Jesus promised he would guide the memories of his disciples in recalling what he said to them: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).  This cumulative evidence strongly supports the conclusion that the New Testament provides an accurate report of what Jesus actually said and did.

What About Different Words for the Same Events?–  As for cases where the Gospel records the same event in slightly different words, the differences are accounted for by (a) selection of material, (b) partial reports, (c) abbreviations, (d) paraphrase, or (e) collation in the text.  But in no case are there demonstrated distortions present. A few examples will illustrate the points.  For instance, the words on the Cross are reported four different ways, but merged together they give a harmonious message:

Matthew-   THIS IS JESUS                           THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Mark –                                                            THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Luke –          THIS IS                                       THE KING OF THE JEWS.

John –                      JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.

[Together]  THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.

 

Another example of differences is Peter’s confession which is given in three different sets of words:

Mt. 16:16:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Mark 8:29:  “You are the Christ.”

Luke 9:20:   “[You are] the Christ of God

Here Matthew gives the whole statement and Mark and Luke only the main part of it. But there is no distortion of the message, each one presented the part that he wanted to emphasize.

What About Phrases and Sayings Found only in John. As noted above, John uses phrases like “verily, verily” [or “truly, truly”] that are not found in the other three Gospels. But this posed no real problem since: 1) there are no parallels in the other Gospels; 2) Jesus used the term “verily” in other Gospels (e.g., Mt.5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16). 3) He may have used the doubling effect on these other occasions for emphasis; 4) when there is a direct parallel between what Jesus said in John and in another Gospels the words of Jesus are identical.  For example, Jesus said, “Take up your bed and walk” in Mark 2:11 and John 5:8).  He said, “It is I.  Do not be afraid” in both Mark 6:50 and Jn. 6:20).  And in both Luke and John Jesus said to the disciples, “Peace be with you” (Lk. 24:36 cf. Jn. 20:19).  5) Final, if phases and saying must e rejected because they do not appear in two or more Gospels, then whole stories must be rejected because they are mentioned only in one Gospel (e.g., Turning water to wine—Jn. 2; Nicodemus—Jn. 3; the Samaritan woman—Jn. 4; the raising of Lazarus—Jn. 11; Zacchaeus—Lk. 19; the visit of the Wise men—Mt. 2; the resurrection of the saints–Mt. 27, and many others.

So What is It: Photos or Portraits?

Strictly speaking it is neither one since neither photos nor portraits since the New Testament is a written record and not a visual one.  However, granted the differences in these two types of representations, the Gospel record is more like a series of snap shots than it is like different portraits.   However, on occasion the snap shots are at different angles with different lighting or through different lenses.

(1) For example, an eye witness of Jesus’ tomb standing at one place may have seen only one angel (Mt. 24:5), namely, the one angel who was at the head of corpse, but another eyewitness standing farther into the tomb was able to see both of them (Jn. 20:12). To be sure, the snap shots are from different angles and reveal different perspectives, but they are still accurate pictures of what Jesus actually said and did and what the witnesses saw.  They are not interpretive creations of different writers (artists) who are creating the “Christ” they want the audience to see.  Rather, by selective photographs at different angles, each Gospel writer reported (not created) the real Christ in a manner that emphasizes a different aspect of his multi-faceted mission.

In the case of Judas, the snap shots were at different times.  The first snap shot was when he hanged himself (Mt. 27:5), and the second snap shot was later after his body had fallen from the place of hanging to the rocky ground and burst open (Acts 1:18).

The different words came from the thieves on the cross at different times. At first both thieves were railing at Christ (Mt. 27:44).  However, later on, after seeing how Jesus forgave those who were crucifying him (“Father forgive them…,”—Lk. 23:34), one thieves repented and defended Christ (Lk. 23:40-42).  His request to be remembered when Jesus came into Jesus’ kingdom was granted to him that very day (Lk. 23:43).

(2) Sometimes a different lens is used.  For example, from a Jewish time perspective (lens), Jesus was crucified on the “third hour” (Mark 15:25) which was 9 a.m. Roman time.  But John mentions that Jesus was still before Pilate at the “sixth hour” (Jn. 19:14) which twelve noon Jewish time but was 6 a.m. Roman time (see A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT: The Fourth Gospel, vol. 5, p. 299) before the crucifixion started.  A conflict occurs only when one is looking through the wrong time-lens.  In reality there is no conflict.

(3) In Matthew 9:18 Jairus told Jesus that “My daughter has just died.” But in Mark and Luke Jairus told Jesus she was only “at the point of death” (Mk 5:23) but not yet dead.  Luke said she was only “dying” but not yet dead (Lk. 8:42). Then, “while he [Jairus] was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, ‘Your daughter is dead’” (Lk. 8:49). The fact is that they were all right but were speaking about different times.  Matthew just combines the snap shots given by Mark and Luke in one frame, but what he said was literally true.

(4) Sometimes there is a topical rearrangement of the snapshots in order to fit the theme of the Gospel writer.  For example, Luke gives a different order of the temptation events than is found in Matthew. Matthew lists them as the temptation (1) to turn stones into bread, (2) to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, and (3) to worship Satan.  But Luke reverses the last two.  This fits both the grammar of the text and the purpose of Luke.  Matthew uses the words “then” and “again” (4:5, 8) which indicate a chronological order, while Luke uses only “and” (Lk. 4:5, 9) to connect the events.  So, Matthew lists them chronologically but Luke puts them climactically or topically, possibly to end on the high note of Jesus’ victory over Satan.

(5) Sometimes there are repeated events like the cleansing of the temple.  One occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Jn. 2), and the other happened nearer to the end of his ministry (Mt. 21) several years later.  The fact that different reasons are given for Jesus’ action may indicate that they are two different events.  In John (2:16) it is because they made his Father’s house “a house of trade.”  But in Matthew (21:13) it was because they made it “a den of robbers.”  And in each case a different verse is quoted.  Matthew speaks of it being “a house of prayer” (21:13), but John cites the verse, “The zeal for your House will consume me” (2:17).  As one commentator pointed out, it is not unlikely that a similar condition and response of the Lord of the temple should have occurred again several years later (See Elliott’s Commentary on the Bible, vol. 6, p. 129).  Other noted commentators have lent support to this view of two cleansings of the temple (see Henderickson, Morris, and D. A. Carson).  So, there is no reason to believe that John created a second cleansing, as opposed to reported it.

 

  A Fatal Flaw—Genre Criticism

It is common today, even among many evangelical scholars, to accept that the Gospels were written in a Greco-Roman literary genre.  One such scholar argues that “the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (bios)” and that “Bioi offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…, and they often include legend.”  But, he adds “because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (M. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 34, emphasis added). This led him to deny the historicity of the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:51-53 (ibid.,527-528; 548; 552-553), and to doubt the authenticity of other events (ibid., 185-186, 306).

Later, in a debate with Bart Ehrman (at Southern Evangelical Seminary in the Spring 2009), Licona claimed there was a contradiction in the Gospels as to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.  He said, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point here.”   Then in a professional transcription of a YouTube video on November 23, 2012 (see http://youtu.be/TJ8rZukh_Bc), Mike Licona affirmed the following:  “So um this didn’t really bother me in terms of if there were contradictions in the Gospels.  I mean I believe in biblical inerrancy but I also realized that biblical inerrancy is not one [of the] fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The resurrection is.  So if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is still true even if it turned out that some things in the Bible weren’t. So um it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed” (emphasis added).  More recently in a paper at The Evangelical Theological Society (November, 2013) Licona claimed that“intentionally altering an account” is not an error but is allowed by the Greco-Roman genre into which he categorizes the Gospels, insisting that the CSBI view cannot account for all the data (MP3 recording of his ETS lecture 2013, emphasis added).

This popular Greco-Roman genre theory adopted by Licona and others is directly contrary to the standard view on inerrancy as clearly stated by The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) and signed by nearly 300 scholars (in 1978).  Also, it was later adopted by the CSBI statement by the Evangelical Theological Society, the largest group of evangelical scholars in the world (with over 3000 members).  It reads (in Article 18): “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship” (Art. 18, emphasis added).  But this is exactly what many non-inerrantists, do with some Gospel events.  The official ICBI commentary on this Article adds, “It is never legitimate, however, to run counter to express biblical affirmations” (Article 18, emphasis added).   It adds,“We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (emphasis added).  But many NT scholars rejects the strict “grammatico-historical exegesis” where “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” for an extra-biblical system where Greco-Roman genre is used to interpret Scripture (seeExplaining Biblical Inerrancy, www.BastionBooks.com).

Of course, “Taking account” of different genres within Scripture, like poetry, history, parables, and even allegory (Gal. 4:24), is legitimate, but this is not what the use of extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre claims to do.  Rather, it uses extra-biblical stories to determine what the Bible means, even when using this extra-biblical literature means denying the historicity of the biblical text.  Indeed, the CSBI commentary on its1982 Hermeneutics Statement (Article 13) on inerrancy adds, “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual. Some, for instance, take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person.  Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ” (emphasis added).  Its adds in the next article (Article 14), “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (emphasis added).  Clearly, the CSBI standard view on inerrancy reject the Portrait view that the Gospel writers were creating, rather than reporting the words of Jesus.

 

Conclusion

Admittedly, it is not easy to explain all the biblical phenomena on the snap shot analogy, but two things should be kept in mind. First, it is only an analogy, and no analogy is perfect.   Second, it is closer to the truth than the portrait analogy.  Third, the most important thing to keep in mind is that, while we do not always have the exact words of Jesus, nonetheless, the evidences shows that we have an accurate representation of them.  For this there is strong and multiple evidence.

Many of the differences in the Gospels flow from the author’s selection of material to fit his theme.  Following the traditional understanding, Matthew presents Christ as King to the Jews; Mark as servant to the Romans; Luke as man to the Greeks, and John as the Son of God to the whole world.  But when their different thematic emphases are covering the same event, it does so in a compatible way with the other Gospels.  And when the same discourse is given in different Gospels, the words are often the same.  The bottom line is that the Gospels are a reliable, non-contradictory presentation of the words and deeds of Jesus.  This has been the standard view down through the centuries of the Christian Church, and there is no good reason to give it up now.

[1]   According to the Biblical Archeological Review, the inscription on the James Ossuary has been shown to be authentic. Some had challenged that the words “brother of Jesus” were not in the original inscription, but Yuval Goren, former chairman of Tel Aviv University’s institute of archaeology, was forced to admit on cross-examination that the phrase was in the original inscription on the Ossuary (Oct 2008).  Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University determined that there we not even two chances (actually 1.7) that these three names would be mentioned together. Further, of thousands of ossuaries examined he knew of only one that had the name of a brother on it.  This indicates that such a reference must have been of a very important person.

Dr. R.C. Sproul’s Judgment: “Not even remotely compatible with ICBI”


“As the former and only President of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Dr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI.

R.C. Sproul

May 22nd, 2012

 

Dr. R.C. Sproul holds degrees from Westminster College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and the Free University of Amsterdam, and he has had a distinguished academic teaching career at various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and Jackson, Mississippi. He is the author of more than seventy books and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul has produced more than 300 lecture series and has recorded more than 80 video series on subjects such as the history of philosophy, theology, Bible study, apologetics, and Christian living. He signed the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which affirms the traditional view of biblical inerrancy, and he wrote a commentary on that document titled Explaining Inerrancy.  You can read more about R.C. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries here.