A RESPONSE TO KEN HAM AND ANSWERS IN GENESIS ON DOES INERRANCY REQUIRE BELIEVE IN A YOUNG EARTH?

A RESPONSE TO KEN HAM AND ANSWERS IN GENESIS ON DOES INERRANCY REQUIRE BELIEVE IN A YOUNG EARTH?

 

By Norman L. Geisler

 

 

Introduction

 

Let me begin by acknowledging the serious anti-evolutionary work of Ken Ham and the Young Earth creationists at Answers in Genesis (AIG). They have a sincere desire to defend the inerrant word of God and its “literal” historical-grammatical interpretation of Genesis. They have built an impressive organization and Creation Museum in Kentucky (which I have visited).  I personally respect the Young Earth view and once held it myself. Indeed, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I still lean toward it.  I even fought for their right to teach the Young Earth view and creation along side of evolution in the public schools as an expert witness at the “Scopes Two” Trial in Arkansas (1981) (see Geisler, Creation and the Courts). Further, I hope and pray that the Young Earth view is true (because it would be a good argument against evolution). Unfortunately, however, I believe the weight of biblical and scientific evidence does not favor it.

 

However, whatever uncertainty there may be about the Young Earth view, I am convinced of one thing—the age of the earth is not a test of orthodoxy.  Thus, I wrote the article: “Does Believing in Inerrancy Require One to Believe in Young Earth Creationism?” in which I came to a negative conclusion. Answers in Genesis responded to my article in a piece titled “The Ultimate Motivation of This Prominent Theologian.” However, despite their kind words and good intention, their response missed the main point of my article.  It was, as the title affirms, aimed at answering the question of whether belief in inerrancy demands a Young earth View.  My point was not to determine whether the earth is young or old. Nor was the point to deny a connection between belief in the historical grammatical method of interpretation and the doctrine of inerrancy. I believe there is, and as a framer of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy (1978), I strongly affirmed that there is (in Article XVIII), declaring: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis….” Later, in the ICBI Hermeneutics statement on inerrancy, we added: “We affirm the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal, sense.  The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense…” (Article XV). So, the point in my article was simply to determine whether or not believing in inerrancy and the historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible “requires” a belief in a Young Earth.  And AIG avoided answering the central point of my article.  Several of their points call for comment.

 

First, AIG’s response stressed my alleged “motivation” and “ultimate motivation” for holding to an Old Earth position as being the desire to accommodate the evolutionary view of long time periods.  But why should I want to do that when I don’t believe in Evolution and would be happy if the Young Earth view was true.  Indeed, one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time (St. Augustine), who lived a millennium and a half before Darwin, did not hold to a young earth.  So, it is not a question of motivation but of interpretation of God’s revelation in Scripture and in nature that is the issue. My motivation is to know the truth, and to find the truth I must examine the evidence. When I do, I find the evidence for a Young Earth—both biblically and scientifically–less than definitive.

 

As for my “ultimate” motivation, how could any mortal know this?  I believe that AIG would agree that our ultimate aim should be the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31).  And as for immediate motivation, neither most Old Earthers nor I base our biblical view on alleged evidence for the old age of the earth.  Further, as mentioned in the article, long time periods do not hurt creation (in which I believe) nor does they help evolution which they believe. Time as such does not bring order; it brings disorder, as the Law Entropy reveals.  What is more, one’s motivation does not determine truth.  For a person can hold a false view with good motivation, or he can hold a true view with bad motivation. So stressing, as AIG did, the alleged motivation of Old Earthers, really reduces to diverting the issue.

 

Second, since AIG is strongly concerned with the age of the earth, it was understandable that it was easily distracted from the focus of my article to this issue. But the issue was not the age of the earth but whether or not there was a necessaryconnection between the age of the earth and inerrancy.  That is, does belief in inerrancy demand a Young Earth view?  AIG did not really address this question directly.  It does not actually matter to our point whether the earth is young or old.  For even if it is young, it still remains to ask whether such a belief is necessarily tied to inerrancy.  In actuality, there are Young Earthers who do not hold to inerrancy and non-Young Earthers who embrace it but who do not believe that inerrancy demands a Young Earth view.

 

Third, AIG virtually admits what logicians call the “Slippery Slope” fallacy, insisting that our view “unlocks the door” that opens doubt about the rest of the Word of God.  They add, such doubt can (and does) put many people “on a slippery slide of unbelief toward the Word of God,” even though AIG acknowledges that it did not happen in my case.  Nor, we may add, has it happened in the case of the vast majority of all the founders and framers of the inerrancy movement for the last 100 years.  As a matter of fact, there is no logically necessary connection between one’s view on how old the universe is and unbelief in the Word of God

If anything, the opposite is true.  For unnecessarily tying inerrancy to a Young Earth view can easily lead some to give up the Christian Faith. For example, if they believe that Young Earth and inerrancy are logically connected and then comes to believe for whatever reason that the Earth is old, then logically they would have to give up their faith.  This is not so for those whose faith is not logically tied to the age of the earth.

 

Fourth, AIG mistakenly assumes that Old Earth Creationists have “adopted two different hermeneutical principles.”  That is, they claim that we depart from the historical-grammatical hermeneutics when we interpret the early chapters of Genesis. But this is clearly not so, for the ICBI statements, of which the framers were committed to a strong and comprehensive statement on hermeneutics and inerrancy by ICBI (seewww.bastionbooks.com for Explaining Biblical Inerrancy).  For example,–

 

(1) ICBI affirmed that the “text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico—historical exegesis….” (Inerrancy article XVII).  It adds, “We affirm the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal sense.  The literal sense is the grammatical-historical sense…. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take account of all figures of speech and literary forms in the text” (ibid., emphasis added).  All the Bible is literally true, but not all the Bible is true literally.  There are figures of speech (e.g., Jn. 10:7; 15:1) in the Bible.  What is more, some figures of speech related to days.  For example, the “dawn of civilization” and the “twilight of human history” mean something longer than a 24 hour day. One must remember that the “literal” (sensus literalis) interpretation does not demand a literalistic interpretation of the word “day,” as the biblical phrase “the day of the Lord” indicates (e.g., Joel 2:1; 2 Pet. 3:10).

 

(2) ICBI also declared that “Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book,” adding, “We deny that the teachings of Genesis 1-11 are mythical and that scientific hypotheses about earth’s history or the origin of humanity may be invoked to overthrow what the Bible teaches about creation” (Hermeneutics Article 22).

 

(3) ICBI further affirmed that there was a literal Adam and that evolutionism is false.  When they denied that generic categories should be used to “dehistoricize” the Bible, the official ICBI commentary adds, “the Denial is directed at those, for instance, [that] take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person” (Hermeneutics Article XIII).

 

(4) ICBI also declared that “Scripture should [not] be required to fit alien preunderstandings, inconsistent with itself, such as naturalism, evolutionism, scientism, secular humanism, and relativism” (Hermeneutics, Article XIX).  The official ICBI commentary adds, “These accounts [of creation and the Flood] are all factual, that is, they are space-time events” which “actually happened.”  Likewise, “the use of the term ‘creation’ was meant to exclude the belief in macro-evolution, whether of the atheistic or theistic varieties” (Official commentary on Article XXII).

 

In short, the most comprehensive and definitive statement on inerrancy by a large group evangelical scholars (the ICBI) in the twentieth century defended the historicity of Genesis, the actuality of Adam, and the doctrine of creation–all without any commitment to the age of the earth. Of course, one could always claim that Old Earthers are inconsistent with their historical-grammatical hermeneutic, but this is an assertion without demonstration.  Further, this would mean that the leaders and defenders of inerrancy for last the hundred plus years from Warfield and Hodge to Francis Schaeffer and J. I. Packer were all inconsistent with their own principles, and only Young Earthers are consistent with their principles. Besides being unlikely, such a claim lacks both humility and verifiability.

 

Fifth, another problem is that AIG downplays (and virtually denies) the validity of general revelation as a legitimate source of truth.   The Bible clearly states that God has revealed Himself in nature (Psa. 19:1; Rom. 1:19-20; Acts 14 and 17).  In fact, this general revelation is so “clearly perceived” that non-Christians are “without excuse’ (Rom. 1:20).  In spite of this, AIG refers to knowledge from general revelation as “fallible man’s ideas.”  However, general revelation outside of the Bible teaches us that the world does not literally have “four corners” (Rev. 7:1), thus correcting a long held misinterpretation of the Bible by many Christians.

 

Likewise, we know from a proper scientific interpretation of general revelation that the sun does not move around the earth, thus correcting a long held interpretation of many theologians of the Bible that the sun does move around the earth.  Of course, it is true that scientists sometimes misinterpret general revelation (e.g., their belief in macro-evolution), but this does not negate the fact that general revelation, properly understood, teaches the creation of the world, of every type of animals, and of human beings in the image of God (Gen. 1:1, 21, 27).

 

So, the issue is not whether general revelation can be a source of truth and that it can even at times prompt one to correct a misinterpretation of the Bible.  The issue is which interpretationof the Bible and of general revelation is correct.  Thus, it is not, as AIG would lead us to believe, the Word of God versus fallible man’s ideas outside of God’s Word.  Nor is the issue a conflict between God’s special revelation in the Bible and His general revelation in nature.  God does not contradict himself.  As the ICBI Hermeneutics statement (1982) declares: “We affirm the harmony of special and general revelation and therefore of biblical teaching with the facts of nature” (Article XXI). The real issue is whose interpretation of God’s written revelation and His general revelation is correct.  A more detailed answer is found elsewhere (see my Systematic Theology, in One Volume, chap 4).  So, the conflict is not between the Infallible Word of God and the fallible words of human beings.  Rather, the argument is between opposed fallible interpretations of God’s infallible revelation. The problem with many Young Earthers, if I may put it boldly, is that they tend to equate their fallible interpretation on this matter with God infallible revelation.

Sixth, our point in the article was not to deny there is a connection between belief in the literal historical grammatical method of interpretation and belief in inerrancy. Rather, it was to show there is no necessary connection between a Young Earth view and Inerrancy. To date, Young Earthers and AIG have not demonstrated any logical connection between inerrancy and the age of the earth.  The truth is that one can believe in the literal historical–grammatical interpretation of Scripture, as the founders and framers of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy did, and yet not restrict it to a Young Earth view.  That is, the historical-grammatical method allows for an Old earth view which affirms the historicity of Genesis, Adam, and creation.

 

Some have supposed a parallel between the above argument and the claim of some current New Testament scholars (see Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 35, 36, 306, 552, 553) who are using extra-biblical sources to deny or cast doubt on the historicity of sections of the Gospels.  However, the two issues are not the same. For these NT scholars are not using God’s general revelation in nature to override the historicity of the biblical text.  Rather, they are employing extra-biblical data from Hebrew or Greco-Roman sources to “dehistoricize” sections of the Gospels.  But this process is explicitly condemned by name in the ICBI statements (Inerrancy Article XVIII) when it declares: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (Hermeneutics Article XIII).  Also, “We deny that extra-biblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (ibid., Article XXI).

 

Seventh, AIG overlooked or misconstrues some arguments against its view.  For example, they ignore that the word day (yom) is used of more than a twenty four hour period of time right in the Genesis creation account when it refers to all six days of creation as “in the day (yom) in which the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”  Further, “day’ is used of half of a 24 hour day, as in daylight (Gen. 1:4-5a).  Also, AIG overlooked the fact that numbered days sometimes refer to days longer than 24 hours (Hosea 6:1-2).  In addition, the word “day” is used in the Bible of longer periods of time, as in “the day of the Lord” (e.g., Joel 2:1; 2 Peter 3:10). AIG also misinterprets Hebrews 4:9-10 which affirms God is still resting in His “Sabbath rest” from creation (Heb. 4:4-9) thousands of years later. Further, while AIG noted a list of arguments we gave for an Old Earth, it failed to point out  that I also believe that “none of these [arguments] is foolproof, and all of them may be wrong” (Systematic Theology, in One Volume, ibid., p. 1534).  What is more, AIG uses eisegesis (reading into the text) on Roman 5:12 which says only that “death passed on all men” (not on all animal too) because of Adam’s sin. They also assumed that only a Young Earth view is compatible with God pronouncing the world was “good” (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12 etc.) since there was animal death before Adam.  But “good” (Heb. tob) is not a moral term as used here or in most places in the OT, nor is it an evil that higher forms of life can live off  lower forms—otherwise we would have to stop eating!

 

Eighth, AIG mistakenly argues that we appeal “to New Testament abbreviated genealogies that contain no chronological information to argue for gaps in the detailed genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 in the Old Testament.”  First of all, since both AIG and myself believe that both Testaments are divinely inspired, there is no reason we cannot appeal to both which is precisely what we did to show threre is a gap in Genesis 11:12 (which leaves out Cainan—Lk. 3:36).  Further, even within the Old Testament there are gaps in the geologies from one list to another (see Ezra7:2 and 1 Chrn. 6:6-14).

 

Ninth, AIG almost totally ignored the real crucial questions posed in the article, namely, (1) Is the age of the earth a test of orthodoxy?  (2) Is the age of the earth a fundamental of the Faith?  (3) Is it a test of Christian fellowship? (4) If so, why has it not been recognized as such by any of the great creeds of the Christian Faith?  (5) Why is it that even the modern founders of Fundamentalism and the inerrancy movements did not hold this connection?  (6) Does not insisting that the Young Earth view is “required” tend to undermine the faith of young believers who may not be convinced that the age of the earth is necessary to orthodoxy?  At a minimum, an acknowledgement by Young Earthers that the age of the earth is not a test of orthodoxy would greatly further the dialogue and lessen the tensions between Young and Old Earthers.

 

Conclusion

 

The truth of the matter is that the age of the earth has never been a test for orthodoxy in the long history of the Christian Church.  The age of the earth is not a matter of definitive revelation but of debatable interpretation.  It is not, as AIG proposes, a question of the infallible Word of God vs. fallible human opinions. It is a matter of the conflict of opinion about God’s written Word (the Bible) with opinions about His general revelation.  As such, the age of the earth is not a fundamental of the Faith.  While belief in the “Creator of the heaven and earth” is an essential Christian belief found in the creeds, but the age of the universe is not.  Rather, it is in the category of non-essential beliefs and should not be used as a test of orthodoxy or of Christian fellowship.  In fact, insisting that it is a test for orthodoxy may unnecessarily influence some believers to leave the faith who (for one reason or another) come to believe that the world is older than 6000 B.C.

Is Genre Criticism of the Gospels Contrary to the Inerrancy of Scripture?

Is Genre Criticism of the Gospels

Contrary to the Inerrancy of Scripture?

 

By Norman L. Geisler

 

 

Introduction

Since many evangelical scholars are involved in genre criticism, even some who claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, it behooves us to examine the connection between genre criticism and inerrancy.  In order to do so, we must first define what we mean by the terms inerrancy and genre criticism. Once we define the terms, then we will examine whether genre criticism is compatible with inerrancy.

The Meaning of Inerrancy

By “inerrancy” we mean unlimited inerrancy which holds that everything the Bible affirms is true, including historical and scientific matters. In short, it is the view that the Bible is without error as defined by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).  There are many reasons for accepting this definition of inerrancy.

First, it was composed by the largest group of evangelical scholars in the world to write systematically on this topic.  It resulted from the work of nearly 300 evangelical scholars from around the country and several other countries that came from diverse denominational backgrounds and ecclesiastical traditions.  Virtually all of them were recognized scholars in their biblical and theological fields.  Some of them were pastor-scholars, a concept very compatible with the Reformation.  The earlier Lausanne Covenant statement (1974) was good and widely represented, but it was not systematic or comprehensive. The relevant part reads simply: “We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” While this statement is good in general, it is not specific enough to deal with the issue at hand in genre criticism and the Bible.

Second, the ICBI view on inerrancy was comprehensive and complete, consisting of two major statements with affirmations and denials in each one, including official commentaries on each set of propositions so that later individuals could not interpret the statements any way they wished. The four major ICBI documents on the meaning of inerrancy are:

1) The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978)

2)  The Official ICBI Commentary on the Chicago Statement

3)  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982)

4)  The official ICBI commentary titled Explaining Hermeneutics: A Commentary on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics

The last document is listed as “Appendix B” in the official ICBI book on Summit II.  It contains the papers from that conference, the officialStatements on Biblical Hermeneutics with Affirmations and Denials, and the official Commentary on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics  by the “General Editor, ICBI” (p. viii) of the series of ICBI books on inerrancy.  For convenience, all four of these crucial documents have been placed in one volume:  Explaining Biblical Inerrancy: Official Commentary on the ICBI Statements (available at http://bastionbooks.com/shop/explainingicbi/).   

It is important to note that the commentaries were officially ICBI endorsed commentaries.   The particular editors of these statements were framers of the documents and were chosen by the ICBI and represented the official ICBI view on the topic. They were all published as part of the official ICBI literature.

Third, the ICBI work took place over a period of ten years (1978-1988), including three major Summits. However, the third and final Summit which dealt with applying inerrancy (1988) did not deal with the meaning of inerrancy (as the first two summits did) but with its application to the life of the church.  It produced a document titled Applying the Scriptures (Kenneth Kantzer ed., Academie Books, 1987).

Fourth, in addition to these documents, ICBI produced a series of books containing chapters on the various aspects of inerrancy. These books form the biblical and theological background for the four crucial documents defining and explaining inerrancy listed above.  These background books are mentioned in the ICBI book on Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible, p. ix as follows:

________________________________________________________________________

“General Editor’s Introduction

    This book is part of a series of scholarly works sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).  They include the following areas:

General—Inerrancy (Zondervan, 1979), Norman L. Geisler, ed.

PhilosophicalBiblical Errancy: Its Philosophical Roots (Zondervan, 1981), Norman L. Geisler, ed.

TheologicalChallenges to Inerrancy (Moody, 1984), Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest, eds.

HistoricalInerrancy and the Church (Moody, 1984), John Hanna, ed.

Hermeneutics—Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible (Zondervan, 1984), Earl Radamacher and Robert Preus, eds.

The ICBI does not endorse every point made by the authors of these books, although all the writers are in agreement with the ICBI stand on inerrancy. Freedom of expression of this commitment was exercised throughout the various books.  All wrote with the hope that believers in Christ will become increasingly assured of the firm foundation for our faith in God’s inerrant Word.

Norman L. Geisler

General Editor, ICBI” ______________________________________________________________________________

Although there was freedom of expression in other written expressions by ICBI authors, there was complete unanimity on both ICBI statements and in the two commentaries on them. Those who did not agree with every point were free not to signs the statements, but very few did not sign them.

Fifth, the ICBI understanding of inerrancy was accepted by the largest group of evangelical scholars in the world (over 3,000), the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS).  ETS began in 1949 based on the single doctrine of inerrancy: “The Bible alone and the Bible in its entirety is the Word of God written, and therefore inerrant in the autographs.”  This served the society well for many years until, after a couple major controversies involving the meaning of inerrancy, ETS adopted the ICBI definition of inerrancy (in 2003) which affirms: “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).”

Sixth, the first ICBI document on the topic, known as the “Chicago Statement on Inerrancy” (1978), is crystallized in 19 basic statements of Affirmation and Denial.  Several of them touch on topics related to genre criticism, but one relates to it directly. Article 19 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 Scripture is to interpret Scripture.  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.”  The official ICBI commentary on Article XIII 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.”

In brief, the ICBI view is that of unlimited inerrancy which asserts that whatever the Bible affirms on any topic is true, that is, it corresponds with reality.  Inspiration is not limited to redemptive matters, but it includes historical and scientific matters as well. Further, the Bible is to be interpreted by the historical grammatical method of interpretation.  Hence, when it makes affirmations about the space-time world, they correspond to the facts.  Any attempt to reduce biblical narratives to myth, legends, or allegory is unacceptable and inconsistent with the inerrancy of Scripture.

Several ICBI citations will suffice to support these points: “We affirm that Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God” (Inspiration, Article I). Also, We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write” (Inspiration Article  IX).  “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” (Inspiration Article XII). Furthermore, “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis…. We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text…that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching…” (Inspiration, Article XVIII, emphasis added in all citations).

 

The Meaning of Genre Criticism

Biblical Genre Categories are Acceptable

Now that we have defined what is meant by “inerrancy,” we need to explain what we mean by “genre criticism.”  The word “genre” simply means kind or type. As applied to Scripture, it refers to classifying sections into certain categories such as, history, poetry, parables, allegory, etc.  Two kinds of genre criticism must be distinguished.

First, there is an acceptable use of “genre categories” such as allowed for in the following ICBI statements: “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).  Also, we affirm that “Scripture communicates God’s truth to us verbally through a wide variety of literary forms” (Hermeneutics, Article X).  And “We affirm that awareness of the literary categories…is essential for proper exegesis, and hence we value genre criticism as one of the many disciplines of biblical study (Article XIII).

In this sense, genre studies are an entirely proper endeavor by which a study of different types of literature presented in Scripture one can discern the difference between narratives, poetry, parables, allegory, and the like.  This enables the interpreter to know how “Scripture is [properly used] to interpret Scripture.”  This helps, for example, to avoid the confusion of interpreting poetry literally and history allegorically.

Extra-Biblical Genre Criticism is Unacceptable

However, second, there is an unacceptable form of “genre criticism” which is spoken against by ICBI.  It is when extra-biblical genre categories are used to determine what is meant by certain statements or events in Scripture. ICBI condemns this practice, declaring, “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.”  The official ICBI commentary on Inerrancy Article 18 adds: “It is never legitimate, however, to run counter to express biblical affirmations.”  Inspiration Article XIII declares emphatically: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.”  Hermeneutics Article XIV adds, “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).

Further, “We deny that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (Hermeneutics, Article XX).  Inspiration Article 13 also relates to the topic.  It declares: “We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage and purpose.”  The official ICBI commentary on Article 13 clarifies: “’By biblical standards of truth and error’ is meant the view used both in the Bible and 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.”   It adds: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.”

The ICBI statements oppose “dehistoricizing” sections of the Gospels by genre criticism. Article XVIII of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy(1978) declares: “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.”  Further, “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).

When Inspiraton Article XIII affirms that we “value genre criticism as one of the many disciplines of biblical study,” it clearly does not mean the kind of genre criticism that denies the historicity of the text since it explicitly condemns “dehistoricizing” the text in the same article.  It means, as it says,“that in some cases extrabiblical data have a value for clarifying what Scripture teaches, and for prompting correction of faulting interpretations” (Hermeneutics Article XX, emphasis).  However, it rejects making anything outside the Bible hermeneutically determinative of affirmations or events inside the Bible.

We deny that extra-biblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (Inspiration Article XX).  Thus, “We deny that Scripture should be required to fit alien preunderstandings, inconsistent with itself, such as naturalism, evolutionism, scientism, secular humanism, and relativism” (Hermeneutics, Article XIX).

Further, “We affirm the necessity of interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal sense…. Interpretation according to the literal sense will take account of all figures of speech and literary forms found in the text” (Hermeneutics, Article XV emphasis added).   Thus, ICBI approves only of genre studies that come from studying and comparing individual texts of the Bible by means of the “grammatico-historical” method of interpretation which the ICBI framers were committed to from the beginning (see Article XVIII of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy).  But if externally determined genre is used to govern the meaning of the biblical text, then it is rejected. For in this kind of genre criticism the interpreter must know the genre before he can properly interpret the text. But this is tantamount to imposing genre expectations upon the text.  In hermeneutics, this is labeled eisegesis(reading meaning into the text), rather an exegesis (reading meaning out of the text)!  So, this widely used method of genre determination is contrary to the ICBI understanding of inerrancy.

In fact, ICBI declared: “We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write” (Inspiration Article  IX).  “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” (Inspiration Article XII).   Also, “We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture” (Inspiration Article XIII).

The ICBI commentary adds, “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” (Article XII).  With regard to the historicity of the Bible, Article XIII in the official commentary points out that we should not “take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person.”  Likewise, it affirms that we should not “take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ.”  It adds, “We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and he flood” (Article XII of the “Chicago Statement”).

It is evident from these statements that the ICBI framers rejected any form of biblical criticism, genre or otherwise, which takes priority over biblical teaching, whether it is naturalism, relativism, or evolutionism.  Likewise they oppose using extra-biblical data to “dehistoricize” biblical narratives, whether in the Gospels or elsewhere.  Indeed, the name of Professor Robert Gundry came up in the ICBI proceedings.  It was explicitly mentioned in a plenary session by the drafters of the ICBI Statement on Hermeneutics as one who propounded a view which is excluded by this document (see Hermeneutics, Articles XIII and XIV).  The official ICBI commentary on this point (Summit II: Hermeneutics, 1983) also has Gundry’s position in view (p. 11), and the ICBI “Executive Council” voted unanimously to inform ETS that “Robert Gundry is inconsistent with the ICBI Summit II statement” (ICBI Council “Minutes,” October 21, 1983, p. 3).  From this it is clear that the ICBI statements on Inerrancy (also adopted by ETS for understanding inerrancy), including the one used by Robert Gundry to deny the historicity of sections of Matthew’s Gospel, was deemed incompatible with the ICBI view on inerrancy.  So, the difference between acceptable and unacceptable use of genre in interpreting the Bible can be contrasted as follows:

The Use of Genre in Biblical Studies

Acceptable Use of Genre Unacceptable Use of Genre
To Classify Genre inside the Bible To Critique Bible from Genre Outside the Text
To Use Extra-biblical Genre to Clarify the Meaning of a Text Use Extra-biblical Genre to Determine the Meaning of a Text
Use Biblical Genre to Confirm the Historicity of a Text Use of Extra-biblical Genre to Deny Historicity of a Text
Used as Part of the Historical-Grammatical Method Use of Extra-biblical Genre contrary to  the Historical-Grammatical Method

 

So, using Hebrew or Greco-Roman genre to negate the historicity of sections of the Gospels is clearly contrary to what the ICBI framers meant by inerrancy. Those who make claims to the contrary are creating their own view of inerrancy, but they clearly do not reflect the view of the ICBI framers.

 

Robert Gundry’s View’s on Genre Criticism was Rejected by ETS

As already noted, ICBI rejected the use of extra-biblical genre categories to deny truth affirmed in the Bible.  The genre views of Robert Gundry are an important case in point.

The Views of Gundry

A summary of the objectionable views of Robert Gundry which were rejected by an overwhelming majority of the ETS members are summarized in the following “Notes” given to the membership before they voted on the issue:

 

 

Quotations from R. Gundry’s Matthew Commentary (Eerdmans, 1982).

  1. “Clearly, Matthew treats us to history mixed with elements that cannot be called historical in a modern sense.  All history writing entails more or less editing of materials.  But Matthew’s editing often goes beyond the bounds we nowadays want a historian to respect.  Matthew’s subtractions, additions, and revisions of order and phraseology often show changes in substance; i.e., they represent developments of the dominical tradition that result in different meanings and departures from the actuality of events” (p. 623).
  2. “Comparison with the other gospels, especially with Mark and Luke, and examination of Matthew’s style and theology show that he materially altered and embellished historical traditions and that he did so deliberately and often” (p. 639).
  3. “We have also seen that at numerous points these features exhibit such a high degree of editorial liberty that the adjectives ‘midrashic’ and ‘haggadic’ become appropriate” (p. 628).
  4. “We are not dealing with a few scattered difficulties.  We are dealing with a vast network of tendentious changes” (p. 625).
  5. “Hence, ‘Jesus said’ or ‘Jesus did’ need not always mean that in history Jesus said or did what follows, but sometimes may mean that in the account at least partly constructed by Matthew himself Jesus said or did what follows” (p. 630).
  6. “Semantics aside, it is enough to note that the liberty Matthew takes with his sources is often comparable with the liberty taken with the OT in Jubilees, the Genesis Apocryphon, the Targums, and the Midrashim and Haggadoth in rabbinic literature” (p. 628).
  7. “These patterns attain greatest visibility in, but are by no means limited to, a number of outright discrepancies with the other synoptics.  At least they are discrepancies so long as we presume biblical writers were always intending to write history when they used the narrative mode” (p. 624).
  8. “Matthew selects them [the Magi] as his substitute for the shepherds in order to lead up to the star, which replaces the angel and heavenly host in the tradition” (p. 27).
  9. “That Herod’s statement consists almost entirely of Mattheanisms supports our understanding Matthew himself to be forming this episode out of the shepherd’s visit, with use of collateral materials.  The description of the star derives from v. 2.  The shepherds’ coming at night lies behind the starry journey of the magi” (p. 31).
  10.  “He [Matthew] changes the sacrificial slaying of ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ which took place at the presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:24; cf. Lev 12:6-8), into Herod’s slaughtering the babies in Bethlehem (cf. As. Mos. 6:2-6” (pp. 34, 35).  [see N.L. Geisler, The ETS Vote on Robert Gundry at their Annual Meeting in December 1983.]

________________________________________________________________________

 

      The views of Gundry were described by the Christianity Today article on the matter as follows:

Even more controversial [than redaction criticism] has been Gundry’s suggestion that in the ‘infancy narratives’ (Mat. 1, 2) and elsewhere Matthew uses a Jewish literary genre called midrash.  Like many preachers today, the writer of a midrash embroidered historical events with nonhistorical additions…. Gundry says, for example, Matthew changed the shepherds in the fields into the wise men from the East because he wants to foreshadow and emphasize the mission of Jesus to Gentiles.  Gundry does not believe wise men visited Jesus” (Christianity Today, “Evangelical Scholars Remove Robert Gundry for His views on Matthew,” Feb 3, 1984).

This, of course, is the point of contention with genre criticism, namely, it denies the historicity of a number of biblical narratives.  In the words of the ICBI, it “dehistoricizes” sections of the Gospels.  Thus, contrary to the claim of some that there is no presumption of a biblical narrative being historical, the evidence is to the contrary. First, ICBI declared clearly: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (Hermeneutics Article XIII).  Second, the “grammatico-historical” method affirmed by ICBI (Hermeneutics XVIII) entails, as the name implies, a commitment to the “historical” nature of the text.  Third, the “standards of truth and error” view of truth embraced by ICBI (in Inerrancy Article XIII) implied a presumption of historicity, stating emphatically, “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” (Official ICBI commentary on Article XIII).  But a correspondence view of truth affirms that statements must correspond with the facts.  Thus, when speaking of historical persons and events, the presumption is that the biblical narratives correspond with the actual historical facts.

The ETS Vote on Gundry’s Views

After three years of papers, publications, and discussion of the issue, and the rejection by ETS leaders of a petitions from 59 scholars (including several deans and seminary presidents), the membership of ETS called for a vote on the Gundry issue.  Roger Nicole made the motion: “As one of the five founders of the Evangelical theological Society, with a heavy heart I officially request that Dr. Robert Gundry submit his resignation, unless he retracts his position on the historical trustworthiness of Matthew’s Gospel.”  The vote was 116 to 41 (nearly 74% in favor) to ask Gundry to resign.  After a short speech in which Gundry urged his followers to stay in ETS, Gundry resigned, and the issue calmed down.  However, it did not die out.  According to theChristianity Today article (ibid.), at Gundry’s suggestion, the strategy was “to stay in the organization” and “to recruit evangelical scholars who are more likely to support their viewpoint.” Since ETS allowed members to interpret the doctrinal statement as they wished, it is understandable that the organization gradually moved to the left. ”

A result of this strategy was evident at the November, 2013 annual ETS meeting when one member of the panel discussion on inerrancy (Michael Bird) spontaneously called for an informal vote on how many members present wished to see Gundry return to the Society.  Two independent eyewitnesses reported that about one-third of the audience responded positively.  There has been a rumbling of other voices in favor of overturning the Gundry decision in recent days.  Early on some members have expressed their view in print.  Dr. Craig Blomberg wrote:

Is it possible, even inherently probable, that the NT writers at least in part never intended to have their miracle stories taken as historical or factual and that their original audiences probably recognized this? If this sounds like the identical reasoning that enabled Robert Gundry to adopt his midrashic interpretation of Matthew while still affirming inerrancy, that is because it is the same. The problem will not disappear simply because one author [Gundry] is dealt with ad hominem. . . . How should evangelicals react? Dismissing the sociological view on the grounds that the NT miracles present themselves as historical gets us nowhere. So do almost all the other miracle stories of antiquity. Are we to believe them all?” (Blomberg, “New Testament Miracles and Higher Criticism: Climbing Up the Slippery Slope,”JETS 27/4 [December 1984] 436, emphasis added).

In view of all this, it is evident that if the ETS Gundry decision were ever reversed, it would open the flood gates to the rejection of the ICBI understanding of inerrancy.

This would do two undesirable things:  First of all, it would solve a serious problem for some current ETS members who have not signed the ETS statement in good conscience.  We know they exist based on how they voted on certain issues (like the Gundry and Pinnock cases) and by their own confession. For the report of the Executive Committee, confirmed by the membership vote, knowingly allowed in its membership persons who do not hold the same view on inerrancy as that of the framers of the doctrinal statement.  This they have knowingly done since 1976 when the 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 conscience they could not sign the statement” (1976 Minutes, emphasis added).  Further, 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.  The restoration of Gundry to the ETS would certainly calm the consciences of the more “liberal” members who are now signing the ETS statement with mental reservations.

Waiting in the Wings

Second, a reversal of the Gundry decision would mean a reversal of the historic position of ETS (and ICBI) to a more open-ended position in which every member could do hermeneutically what is right in his own eyes!  In short, it would mean the death of the historic view on inerrancy held by ETS and ICBI (see John Hanna, Inerrancy and the Church, 1984).  If the truth be known, there are many non-inerrantists (and those with a moral liberal view on the issue) “waiting in the wings” to join an organization like ETS.  However, honesty demands that they should join other organizations that do not believe in the historic traditional view of inerrancy as held by the ETS and ICBI framers.

One clear example of those hoping for a broader understanding of inerrancy that would be inclusive of genre criticism that “dehistoricizes” sections of the Gospels is Mike Licona.  He has expressed the belief that there is a disagreement among the living framers of ICBI statements as to the meaningof the ICBI statements with regard to this genre issue.  However, that this is not the case is evident from several facts:

(a) Even in its formal statement on inerrancy (“the Chicago Statement” of 1974) there is a reference to the “grammatio-historical” (i.e., literal) method of interpreting the Bible (Article XVIII) which demands that the Gospel narratives be taken in the literal historical manner.

(b) In the same article it condemns “dehistoricizing” the text of Scripture which is what Licona does in several New Testament passages, including the raising of the saints in Matthew 27, the angels at the tomb in all four Gospels, and the mob falling backward at Jesus’ claim (in Jn. 18).

(c) In actuality, all the living ICBI framers (R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, and Norman Geisler) all agree that it is contrary to inerrancy (in the material sense) to “dehistoricize” the Gospel record and not take it as literal space-time history.

(d) As noted above, the ICBI framers affirmed a “correspondence” view of truth which demands that the affirmations in the Gospel record must have a literal referent in the real world (i.e., must be historical).  As the ICBI commentary put it, “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” (“Chicago Statement” Article XIII and Sproul, Explaining Inerrancy, 37).

The genre views of Mike Licona are basically the same as those of Robert Gundry who earned his dismissal from ETS by the use of the Hebrew Midrash genre in Matthew. The only difference is that the extra-biblical genre by which the biblical record is “dehistoricized” is Greco-Roman for Licona and Hebrew embellishment and legend for Gundry.  Otherwise, both views fall into the category of unacceptable use of extra-biblical genre by which the biblical text is interpreted.  The result is the same: both views are incompatible with the ETS (and ICBI) view on inerrancy.

 

 

Genre Criticism: A Comparison between Gundry and Licona

                 Gundry                                                Licona

Source of Genre                     Extra-biblical                                   Extra-biblical

Function of Genre                To Determining Meaning                To Determine Meaning

Relation to Historicity          To Determine Historicity                To Determine Historicity

Type of Genre Used              Hebrew Midrash                                Greco-Roman

Relation to Inerrancy           Incompatible                                     Incompatible

 

            As is clear from the comparison, the only real difference between Gundry’s and Licona’s use of Genre is the type of Genre used: Gundry used Hebrew midrash genre and Licona used Greco-Roman type genre.  The function and result are the same: both denied the historicity of certain Gospel texts, and both are incompatible with the ICBI view of inerrancy.

 

Stepping Way Over the Line 

To understand the serious inherent dangers in the genre view, in the Spring of 2009 in a debate with Bart Erhman at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Mike Licona claimed that the Gospel writers stated contradictory days on which Christ was crucified.  Licona said, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point there.  But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified.”  In short, John contradicts the other Gospels on which day Jesus was crucified.  Clearly this is a denial of the inerrancy of the Gospel record.

Licona attempts to justify this use of genre by contending that the Gospels, being written in Greco-Roman genre (as R. Burridge taught in What are the Gosples?), allow for contradictions.  Licona wrote: “There is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (bios).”  Thus, “Bioi offered the ancient biographers great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches,…and they often included legend.  Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus, 34, emphasis added).  Licona points to similar phenomena in Plutarch where contradictions in his biographies are found.  However, as we have seen, a contradiction anywhere in the Bible is opposed to the doctrine of inerrancy as held by the ICBI.  In fact, it is also opposed to the Bible and to ICBI statements. (a) The Bible says emphatically, “Avoid…contradictions” (Gk. antitheseis).  (b) The Law of Non-contradictions forbids that opposites can both be true, and this Law is undeniable since it cannot be denied without using it in the denial.  (c) The ICBI statements demand that the contradictory statements cannot both be true, as is clear from the following ICBI declarations: “We affirm the internal consistency of Scripture.  We deny that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved vitiate the truth claims of the Bible” (Innerancy Article XIV).  “We affirm the unity, harmony, and consistency of Scripture.”   “We deny that Scripture may be interpreted in such a way as to suggest that one passage corrects or militates against another” (Hermeneutics Article XVII). “We deny that later revelation, which any fulfill earlier revelation, ever corrects of contradicts it” (Inerrancy Article V). “We affirm that any preunderstandings which the interpreter brings to Scripture should be inharmony with scriptural teaching and subject to correction by it”  “We deny that Scripture should be required to fit alien preunderstandings, in consistent with itself….” (Hermeneutics Article XIX). “We affirm that since God is the author of all truth, all truth, biblical and extrabiblical, are consistent and cohere….”  Further, “We deny that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (Hermeneutics XX). “We affirm the harmony of special with general revelation and therefore biblical teaching with the fact of nature.  We deny that any genuine scientific facts areinconsistent with the true meaning of any passage of Scripture” (Hermeneutics Article XXI).

The emphasized words make it clear that there is a non-contradictory “unity,” harmony, “coherence,” and “consistency” of the Bible within itself and with all other facts.  Any contradictions or errors must be merely “alleged” but not real.  The Bible never “contradicts” itself or any other truth.  This is all possible only because of the Law of Non-Contradiction which is part of God’s general revelation in nature—the undeniable nature of man as a rational being.  For one cannot deny the law of non-contradiction without using it in the very denial.  Therefore, a real contradiction in the Bible would be a denial of inerrancy.

 

ICBI Framers on Licona’s Use of Genre Criticism

Of course, the ICBI framers were before Licona wrote and, so, did not speak directly to his view.  However, the ICBI principles clearly apply to Licona’s position.  Indeed, Licona supporters often claim that his view is not contrary to the ICBI principles. Some point to a letter [2/12/2012] posted on the internet by a Mike Licona supporter which claims that “the framers of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) don’t always agree on how to interpret ICBI.”  He claims to have received a letter from J. I. Packer that this matter of genre criticism and how to view Matthew 27 “is not an inerrancy question.”  However, the above ICBI texts which Packer helped to frame and which he signed is sufficient to respond to this misinterpretation.  And a phone call to my ICBI colleague J. I. Packer and co-framer of the inerrancy statements removed all doubt.  He expressed very clearly to me what I knew to be true from years of working with him on ICBI that:

(a) He was speaking of inerrancy in the formal sense, not the materialsense.  For, being a framer of the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” (CSBI) Packer held that while hermeneutics and inerrancy are formally distinct, there is a material overlaps between them.

(b) Indeed, he helped to pen the whole article (Inerrancy, Article 18) which is dedicated to hermeneutics and inerrancy.  It reads: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by the grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of the literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.”

(c) Further, Packer added, “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing,dehistoricising, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship” (emphasis added).  Having been part of the discussion and drafting committee, I can testify to the fact that the objection to “dehistoricizing”  was aimed at views like Gundry’s which denied the historicity of whole sections in Matthew (like the visit of the Magi).  This became even more explicit in the next ICBI Statement, the one on Hermeneutics and Inerrancy.

(d) What Packer said in the letter posted on the internet (2/12/2012) was that he rejected Licona’s view as not being “plausible.”  This is understandable since it is in fact an example of “dehistoricizing” of the text forbidden by the ICBI settlement (Inerrancy Article XVIII).

While some ICBI proponents may differ on how much symbolism or figures of speech (which are allowed by ICBI Inerrancy Article XVIII and Hermeneutics Article X) are involved in the Genesis story, nevertheless, all agree that Adam an Eve were historical persons and that Genesis 1-11 is a historical record. Hermeneutics Article XXII says explicitly, “We affirm that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book.  We deny that the teachings of Genesis 1-11 are mythical….”

As for the New Testament, the original framer of the ICBI “Chicago Statement,” R.C. Sproul, has spoken explicitly and emphatically to this issue.  He wrote Dr. William Roach:

May 22, 2012

Thank you for your letter.

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 Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI.

You can use this comment by me however you wish.

  1. C. Sproul (emphasis added).

This letter should put the issue of the alleged compatibility of the unacceptable genre views and the ICBI Statements to rest for all but diehards who disregard the meaning of the framers of the Inerrancy Statement in a reckless post-modern manner.  By the same logic, they would reject the views of Washington, Adams, and Madison on the meaning of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, if it conflicted with their more liberal views of the subject.

As for other scholars who approve of Licona’s views as being compatible inerrancy, they either: (a) have their own private (non-ICBI) view of inerrancy, or else (b) they do not understand the ICBI view on inerrancy, or (c) they are putting fraternity over orthodoxy because of friendship with him.  Furthermore, the fact that others may hold views (or approve of views) that are similar to Licona’s does not thereby justify his views.  It simply makes more people guilty of approving the same doctrinal aberrations.  The fact is that Licona (ibid.), like Gundry, has written a major work using genre criticism (and has given scholarly presentations defending this view) which call into question the historicity of certain sections of the Gospels.  As such, this view is open to criticism.

 

                              Conclusion

Scholars like Robert Gundry and Mike Licona who hold to a form of genre criticism which denies the historicity of certain biblical text are not consistent with the meaning of the ICBI framers.  In this sense, the answer to the question with which we began is clearly negative.  Genre criticism used to deny the historicity of a Gospel narrative is not compatible with the ICBI view on inerrancy.  When it is remembered that ETS (2003) accepted the ICBI interpretation on inerrancy, this draws a large circle of evangelicals who reject the Gundry-Licona use of genre criticism to cast doubt on or deny the historicity of certain narrative sections of the Gospels.

In short, scholars who adopt the “New Historiographical Approach” using Greco-Roman Genre have every right to hold whatever view they wish on genre and inerrancy.  Thus, they have every right to reject the ICBI interpretation of inerrancy.  But they have no right to claim that their view—which includes holding that contradictions in the Gospels are compatible with inerrancy—is in accord with the view of inerrancy upheld by the nearly 300 scholars of the ICBI Summit (1978) which was subsequently adopted by the ETS (in 2003) as a  guide to understanding inerrancy in their doctrinal statement.  The two are simply and emphatically incompatible.  To repeat, as the originally ICBI framer R. C. Sproul put it, “I can say categorically that Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI” (cited above, emphasis added).

A Response to Craig Blomberg’s “Can We Still Believe in the Bible?”

A Response to Craig Blomberg’s Can We Still Believe in the Bible?

 

by Norman L. Geisler

 

Introduction

            The real answer to the question posed by Craig Blomberg’s book title is: Yes, we can believe in the general reliability of the Bible, but No we do not believe in its inerrancy, at least not in the sense meant by the framers of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).  Blomberg mistakenly attributes his own version of inerrancy to the ICBI.

In general there are many helpful things said by Blomberg in the first three chapters in defense of the reliability, canonicity, and transmission of the Bible.  Indeed, we have often positively cited his book on The Historical Reliability of the Gospel.  However, our focus here is on Blomberg’s strong attack on inerrancy as we presented it in our recent book, Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation (Baker Books, 2011) and in particular his personal attack on the authors of the book and some other supporters of ICBI inerrancy.

However, our response here is not with persons but with principles.  So, our critique is not against any person but only the ideas expressed.  Our evaluation is focused on what they teach, not on their character or motives.  We respect the individuals as scholars who disagree with inerrancy and love them as brothers in Christ.  Our concern is with one thing and one thing only: Is their teaching in accord with the doctrine of inerrancy as defined by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI)?  So, when we use of the word “inerrancy” in this article we mean the ICBI view of inerrancy as expressed in the following documents.

 

The ICBI Documents on Inerrancy

            There were four official documents produced by ICBI related to defining inerrancy as follows:

 

1) The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978)–CSBI

2)  The official ICBI Commentary on the Chicago Statement –CSBI Commentary

3)  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982)– CSBH

4)  The official ICBI commentary titled Explaining Hermeneutics: A Commentary on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics—CSBH Commentary

 

These four documents are collected together in Explaining Biblical Inerrancy (Bastion Books: 2013).   Together they express the official ICBI view on the meaning of inerrancy.  Other related books were also published under the ICBI label such as, Inerrancy (Geisler, ed.), Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible (Earl Radmacher and Robert Preus, eds.), Inerrancy and the Church(John Hannah, ed.), and Biblical Errancy: Its Philosophical Roots (Geisler, ed.).

 

Blomberg’s View on the ICBI Statements

            Blomberg is aware of all these ICBI statements on inerrancy and even cites some of them (Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible? [hereafter B], 136, 149, 170, 178, 222, 262).  He even goes so far as to claim agreement with everything in the “Chicago Statement’ (CSBI) on inerrancy except one implied word (B, 273), the word always in the last line.  He believes that ICBI is claiming that a denial of inerrancy always has grave consequences.  Otherwise, Blomberg even calls the “Chicago Statement” on Biblical inerrancy (CSBI) “a carefully crafted document” (B, 149).  Further, he praises Article 18 of CSBI, saying, “this affirmation reinforces everything we have been discussing” (B, 170).  In addition, he commends the “reasonably well highlighted” statement on genre criticism in CSBI (B, 178).  Strangely, Blomberg even commends one Chicago statement more than the other, declaring: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics CSBH) has not had nearly the lasting effect that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy did, which is a shame, because in many ways it is the superior of the two documents” (B, 261, n. 98).

Blomberg’s Views on Inerrancy Contradict ICBI

A Statement of His View

Although Blomberg claims he does not personally hold many of the views which he describes below (see B, 177), nonetheless, he believes that none of them is inconsistent with belief in inerrancy.  In other words, according to Blomberg, one can hold any of the following views without denying the inerrancy of Holy Scripture:

  1. He denied the historicity of Jesus’ command about getting the coin from the mouth of the fish (in Matthew 17:27), saying, “Yet even the most superficial application of form criticism reveals that this is not a miracle story, because it is not even a story” (“NT Miracles and Higher Criticism” in JETS 27/4 [December 1984] 433).  But this is a futile attempt to defend his disbelief by diverting attention from his denial of the historicity of this text on the grounds that it was not a story but a command (B, 263, n 113).  By focusing on these factors, attention is deflected from a crucial point, namely, that Blomberg does not believe this event ever happened, as the Bible says it did.  Blomberg added, “Further problems increase the likelihood of Jesus’ command being metaphorical” (B, “NT Miracles,” 433).
  2. According to Blomberg, “The author’s intention [in Genesis] is almost entirely to narrate the “who” rather than the “how” of creation” (B, 151).  So, almost nothing informs us about how origins occurred, whether by creation or by evolution.
  3. Blomberg claims that “Some [inerrantists] opt for forms of theistic evolution in which God creates the universe with all the mechanisms built in to give rise…to each new development in the creative ‘week’” (B, 151).  This too is deemed compatible with inerrancy according to Blomberg.
  4. He adds, “Must there have been a historical Adam and Eve? . . . Many scholars, including a few evangelicals, think not” (B, 152).  Blomberg adds, “Nothing in principle should prevent the persons who uphold inerrancy from adopting a view that sees adam (“man” or Adam) and hawwa (“life or Eve) as symbols for every man and woman…” (B, 152).
  5.  Further, Blomberg believes that “None of this theology [about Job’s view on suffering] requires Job to have ever existed any more than the teaching of the parable of the Good Samaritan requires the Samaritan to have been a real person” (B, 156).  He added, “Almost nothing is at stake if Job never existed, whereas everything is at stake if Jesus never lived” (B, 223).
  6. Likewise, he asserts that “Surely, however, someone might argue, Jonah must be completely historical, because Jesus himself likens his death and resurrection to Jonah’s experience with the great fish (Matt. 12:40; Luke 11:30).  Actually, this does not follow at all” (B, 157).
  7. Further, “Ultimately, what one decides about its [the Book of Isaiah’s] composition or formation need not have anything to do with biblical inerrancy at all” (B, 162, 163), even though he admits Jesus mentioned “the prophet Isaiah” as being author of texts in both sections of Isaiah (B, 161).
  8. Isaiah may not have predicted “Cyrus” by name 150 years in advance (in Isaiah 45:1) of his reign because “Cyrus could in fact be a dynasty name (like “Pharaoh” in Egypt) rather than a personal name (B, 162).  This too is deemed compatible with inerrancy.
  9. According to Blomberg, the prophet Daniel may not have predicted all the things his book indicates because “Perhaps two works associated with the prophet Daniel and is successor, written at two different times, were combined” (B, 164).
  10. Blomberg, argues that treating sections of “Matthew as Midrash” and not as history would have been taken by his audience “who would have understood exactly what he was doing, not imagining his embellishment to be making the same kinds of truth claims as his core material from Mark and Q” (B, 166).
  11. Likewise, Blomberg believes that the story of “Lazarus” (in Luke 16) is a “parabolic fiction” (B, 150).
  12. Although Blomberg attempts to downplay it (B, 272), he has shown an openness to aberrant views in his book co-authored with a Mormon titled How Wide the Divide in that they agree on 12 affirmations, the first of which is: “1. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one eternal God.”  But anyone who has studied Mormonism knows that Mormons do not believe in the Trinity but in the heresy of Tritheism.  Further, they believe in Polytheism of which the prophet Joseph Smith said: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man for I am going to tell you how God came to be. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity… I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see” (April 6, 1844). Since Mormons have not repudiated the prophetic office of Smith or any of the official Mormon’s many denials of essential Christian doctrines, cozying up to Mormon is not the most doctrinally discerning thing one can do (see Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Mormons).

In short, according to Blomberg, it is consistent with inerrancy to deny the historicity of Adam, Eve, Job, and Jonah, as well as the historicity of early Genesis and the doctrine of creation.  Likewise, he holds that an inerrantist need not believe that there was only one Isaiah or that he and Daniel made the supernatural predictions traditionally attributed to them.  He claims that even the Mormon cult has significant commonalities with evangelical Christianity so that the divide is not so wide as evangelicals have traditionally thought, even though Mormons deny the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and Salvation (to the highest heaven) by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, and many other evangelical beliefs (See Geisler and Rhodes,Conviction without Compromise, Harvest House, 2008).

 

Blomberg’s Views Contradict the ICBI View on Inerrancy

Blomberg’s claims to the contrary, one thing is certain: his viewsare contrary to the clear statements of the ICBI.  Consider the following ICBI declarations against Blomberg’s view on some of these very issues:

  1. Genesis 1-11 is Historical. CSBH, Article 22 “affirms that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book.”  CSBI Article XIII reads: “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.”
  2. Historicity of the Flood.  CSBH: Article XIX affirms “…the factual nature of the account of the creation of the universe, all living things, the special creation of man, the Fall, and the Flood. These accounts are all factual, that is, they are about space-time events which actually happened as reported in the book of Genesis (see Article XIV).”
  3. Theistic Evolution and Genesis. CSBH: Article XIX: “WE DENY that Scripture should be required to fit alien preunderstandings, inconsistent with itself, such as naturalism, evolutionism, scientism, secular humanism, and relativism.”  Further, “… it is important to apply the “literal” hermeneutic espoused (Article XV) to this question. The result was a recognition of the factual nature of the account of the creation of the universe, all living things, the special creation of man, the Fall, and the Flood. These accounts are all factual, that is, they are about space-time events which actually happened as re-ported in the book of Genesis (see Article XIV).” Further, “There was…complete agreement on denying that Genesis is mythological or unhistorical. Likewise, the use of the term ‘creation’ was meant to exclude the belief in macro-evolution, whether of the atheistic or theistic varieties” (ibid., emphasis added).
  4. Historicity of Jonah.  CSBI Article XIII reads: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual….  Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ.”
  5. Historicity of the Gospels.  CSBI Article XVIII “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 Scripture is to interpret Scripture.  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.”  CSBH Article XIV says: “We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact.  We deny that any event, discourse of saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated.”  Further, CSBH Article XIII asserts that “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.”  Blomberg tries in vain to avoid the impact of this statement by presupposing that the Gospel narratives do not all “present” themselves as historical.  However, this is clearly contrary to (1) what the Gospel of Luke claims (Lk. 1:1-4); (2) the literal historical-grammatical method ICBI adopts; (3) the correspondence view of truth employed by ICBI which presumes narratives are literal unless shown to be otherwise.   
  6. The Use of Extra-Biblical Genre

            Traditionally, many have considered the Gospels to be a genre of their own (sui generis) because of their unique nature as a revelation of God.  However, Blomberg buys into the currently popular notion that the Gospels should be interpreted by extra-biblical genreHe wrote:  “Once we determine, as best we can, what a passage affirms, according to the conventions of its style, and genre, a commitment to inerrancy implies acceptance of the truth of those affirmations.  But a commitment to inerrancy does not exclude a priori any given literary style, form, or genre that is not inherently deceptive” (B, 164).  In short, we must determine first what a passage means according to its genre.  We cannot know in advance that it is going to be historical just because it is a narrative or is in a historical book.  Further, the genre can be an extra-biblical like the Greco-Roman genre.  Hence, an extra-biblical genre can determine the meaning of a biblical text.  This is, of course, contrary to the ICBI statements on genre for several reasons.

First, ICBI Article XIII forbids the use of extra-biblical genre to determine the meaning of a biblical text.  It reads “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (emphasis added).  Further, CSBH Article XIV says: “We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical facts” (emphasis added). 

            Second, ICBI demands interpreting “Scripture by Scripture” (CSBI Article 18), not the Bible by extra-biblical genre.  That is, nothing external to the New Testament text should be hermeneutically determinative of the meaning in the text.  In some cases, one can derive the meaning (use) of a term from contemporary use of the word. But the meaning of a text is discovered from studying the text in its grammatical and historical setting, as compared to related Scripture on that text.

Third, the alleged “purpose of the author” of which Blomberg speaks is not the determinative factor in understanding a text.  For there is no way to know what the author had in his mind behind the text except by what he affirmed in the text.  Hence, the appeal to the linguistic philosophy of John Austin to determine the illocutionary (purpose) act or the perlocutionarly act (results) is futile.  Usually, all we have in Scripture is the locutionary act (What is affirmed).  So, the locus of meaning has to be in what is affirmed, not why it is affirmed because often we are just guessing about that.  Thus, the genre critic Blomberg is using extra-biblical ideas to determine the meaning of the biblical text.

 

Blomberg’s Attack on Defenders of the ICBI Statements

            Not only do the ICBI statements repeatedly contradict Blomberg’s view on inerrancy, but he repeatedly distorts the ICBI statements and demeans the character of those who defend the inerrancy of Scripture.  We note first of all his unscholarly and unprofessional characterizations of those who defend the historical biblical view of inerrancy as represented in the ICBI statements.

             His Excessively Negative language about the Defenders of Inerrancy

            Blomberg often employs condemnation and exaggeration instead of refutation related to inerrantists claims.  He labels inerrantists, for example, as “very conservative” (B, 7), “overly conservative” (B, 217), “ultra conservative” (B, 11, 214), “hyperconservative” (B, 13), “extremely conservative” (B, 7).  Of course, this tends to make his views look more moderate by comparison, when, as we shall see, they are in direct opposition to those the mainstream evangelical view as reflected in the ICBI statements.  He even likens ICBI defenders of inerrancy to Nazis and Communist (B, 8)!  He quotes with approval the statement, “the far left and the far right—avoid them both, like the plague” (B, 8). At one point he stops just short of questioning the Christianity of ICBI supporters (B, 254).  What is more, he sometimes makes it very clear about whom he is speaking by name (Robert Thomas, David Farnell, William Roach, and myself)–all Ph.D. in biblical related studies who have written critical reviews of Blomberg’s positions. He also addresses Dr. Al Mohler and Master’s Seminary in negative terms.

Such exaggerated language is not only unprofessional and unscholarly, it borders on being morally libelous, as the following statements reveal.  Strangely and inconsistently, Blomberg responds strongly when other scholars use a negative term about his views (B, 254).

His Unjustified Condemnation of Alleged Motives and Character of Inerrancy Defenders

Blomberg goes further than extremist labeling of inerrancy defenders. He claims that we “simplistically” distorted the evidence in order to oust Robert Gundry from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) over his midrash denial of the historicity of certain sections of Matthew (B, 167).  He charges that we engaged in a “political campaign” against Gundry (B, 167).  Elsewhere, he alleges that we have utilized a “standard ploy throughout his [my] career” when “trying to get someone removed from an organization” (B, 262 n. 111).  He adds the allegation that inerrancy is used as “a blunt tool to hammer into submission people whose interpretation of passages differs from ours…” (B, 125).  These charges of an alleged sinister and continuous career of unjustified activity on my part are both untrue, unjustified, and unethical. Indeed, they are serious moral judgments of motives for which Blomberg should apologize.  Someone has rightly asked why it is that those who defend inerrancy are attacked and those who attack inerrancy are defended.

Without attributing motives, one thing seems clear: “Blomberg is dead-set on broadening the acceptable borders of orthodoxy on inerrancy, the result of which would be a more inclusive statement that would embrace scholars (like Blomberg himself) who have moved well beyond inerrancy as traditionally understood and as expressed by the ICBI.  This may explain the use of such passionate and uncalled for language in describing those who wish to retain a more traditional stand on inerrancy.  Perhaps a lot of their passion and zeal arises from the fact that those who hold a more liberal view on inerrancy may fear their view may be deemed unorthodox too.

 

His Many Errors and Mischaracterizations of the Defenders of Inerrancy

 

Ironically, Blomberg’s attack on those who defend an inerrant Bible is filled with errant statements. Here is a list of some that come to mind.  Contrary to Blomberg’s charge, it is not true that:

 

  1. No one offered an “intelligent response” to Gundry (B, 167).  Even Blomgberg acknowledged that D. A. Carson wrote a critique of it, as did Doug Moo.  Not to mention the scholarly response given at ETS and articles published in the Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society (JETS, 2003).

 

  1. A majority of speakers at ETS were in favor of retainng Gundry in its membership (B, 166).  This is a misleading statement since, when given a chance to vote almost three-quarters of the membership voted to ask Gundry to resign.

 

  1. The proceeding of the ETS which resulted in Gundry’s removal from membership was not fair or representative (B, 166-167). On the contrary, it was the result of a long (two year) process, during which papers and articles were presented pro and con.  The meeting at which the vote took place was deliberate and orderly and the vote was taken properly.  Even Gundry accepted its conclusion.

 

  1. The vote for Gundry’s removal was not a bare minimum “just over” what was necessary (167).  The vote was 116 in favor of his removal and 41 opposed (as reported by Christianity Today 2/3/1984) which is almost 74% in favor of his removal.  This is nearly three-quarters of the membership present and well over the two-thirds (67%) necessary.

 

  1. ETS did not “expel” Gundry from membership (B, 167).  The vote was to ask Gundry to resign, not to expel him.  If he had refused to resign, then there could have been another vote to expel which was unnecessary because Gundry voluntarily resigned.

 

  1. The process of Gundry’s removal was a “political campaign” in which “circulating advertisements” occurred (B, 167).  This too is false.  No “campaign” was held and no “advertisements” were circulated.  Each ETS member was given a paper with quotations from Gundry’s book so that they could make an intelligent decision on how to vote.

 

  1. “Gundry’s views were simplistically presented…” at the ETS meeting (B, 167). This too is false.  Exact and complete quotations were given of Gundry’s views to each member.  There was nothing simplistic about it.

 

  1. Geisler utilized a “standard ploy throughout his career…when he is trying to get someone removed from an organization,” namely, getting all the living framers to agree with him in order to oust a member (262 n. 111). I never did and such thing.  In the Pinnock issue, Roger Nicole contacted all the founders of ETS, but I was not a founder of ETS and was not part of any such effort.  I have argued Licona’s views are contrary to the ICBI framers, but I was never part of a “ploy” or effort to get him ousted from the ETS organization, nor any other group.  Neither, have I done it “throughout my career” (which is now almost 60 years long because there was never another occasion in all those years where a group of framers were involved in getting someone removed from an organization in which I participated.  These are serious, sinister, and slanderous charges that impugns the character of another brother in Christ and call for an apology from the one who made them.

 

  1. Geisler resigned from ETS because they exonerated Clark Pinnock of the charges against him.  This is partly true.  After all, Pinnock claimed to believe in inerrancy, yet he has said in print that there were false predictions in the Bible (see Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover, 50), and he denied the Bible is the written Word of God (Scripture Principle, 128).  I was also disappointed with the process by which Pinnock was retained because it was not completely fair and open.  However, the main and underlying reason I left ETS was because I believed it has lost its integrity by allowing a scholars to join who did not have to believe the doctrinal statement on inerrancy as the founders meant it (see my article, “Why I resigned from the Evangelical Theological Socity,” at http://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/ETS/2003-WhyIResignedFromTheETS.htm.)

 

  1. Geisler has become increasingly more conservative over the years as indicted by the successive schools at which he has taught (B, 143-14).  This is false.  In each case my move to an established school was because I was offered what appeared to be a better opportunity for service.  In the case of the two Seminaries I helped start, they were after I retired and was asked by others to help them start two seminaries (where I still teach) which stress apologetics which has been a passion of mine from the beginning.  It had nothing to do with the degree of conservativeness of the Seminaries.  They all have sound doctrinal statements.  None of them was significantly more conservative than the others.

 

  1. Only a “tiny minority” throughout history held that inerrancy is the only legitimate form of Christianity (B, 221).  This is a purely “Straw Man” argument since almost no one holds this view.  ICBI, the view we are representing, states clearly that “We deny that such a confession is necessary for salvation” (CSBI Article 19).  It adds, “We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history” (CSBI, Article 16).  ICBI also held that there are “grave consequence” (CBSI Article 19) for denying inerrancy.  But it never affirmed that is the only legitimate form of Christianity.  So, this criticism is an empty charge, applying to almost no one.

 

Blomberg’s Misinterpretation of the ICBI Statements

 

Not only did Blomberg attack those who defend ICBI inerrancy but he distorts the meaning of the ICBI statements.  As noted earlier, Blomberg affirms the ICBI statements and even acknowledges the official commentaries.  Nonetheless, he often distorts the meaning of these statements to support his own unorthodox views which are, in fact, contrary to the ICBI statements.  Consider the following examples.

 

ICBI View of Truth as Correspondence

 

 One of the reason Blomberg can claim he agrees with the ICBI statements (and yet hold views opposed to them) is that he misinterprets the ICBI statements. CSBI Article 13 affirms: “We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.”  But after acknowledging this, Blomberg proceeded to read his own purpose into certain texts of Scripture so as to doubt or deny their historicity (see midrash discussion below).  This he does in direct contradiction to the ICBI official commentary (that he acknowledges) which declares a correspondence view of truth, as opposed to an intentionalist view which stressed (like Blomberg) the alleged purpose of the author, not the propositional affirmation of the author in the text.  This is directly contrary to the CSBI commentary which declares: “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 toward those who would redefine truth to relate to merely redemptive intent, the purely personal, or the life, rather than to mean that which corresponds with reality” (emphasis added).  When truth is defined as correspondence with the fact, one cannot easily escape the fact that that the sections of the Gospels doubted or denied by Blomberg, Robert Gundry, or by Mike Licona are a denial of inerrancy (see next).

ICBI View of Genre

It is difficult to understand how Blomberg can praise the ICBI statements as a whole and yet hold a genre view which is directly contrary to the ICBI view.  A hint as to how he does this is when he praises one half of an ICBI statement on genre (which he takes out of context) and questions the other half which speaks directly against his view.  For example, he agrees with CSBI Article 18 when it affirms that “Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture,” especially to the part we highlighted.  However, he is not sure how this is consistent with the very next line which asserts: “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text of quest for sources behind it that leads to relativizing, dehisorticizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship” (emphasis added). And well he should disagree with this part because it is precisely what he approves of in the cases of Gundry, Licona, and himself.  He approves of relativizing, deshistoricisning, and rejecting the claim to authorship as consistent with inerrancy.

Relativizing.  Once the correspondence view of truth is not fully accepted, then truth becomes relativized because there is not objective reality to which it must correspond. Blomberg asserts, “What it means to say he Bible is wholly true varies widely from one genre to the next…” (B, 131).  So, the “truth” is relative to the genre, and the genre choices are not absolute by any stretch of the imagination.

Dehistoricizing.  For example, the choice of a midrash genre (Gundry) or a Greco-Roman genre (Licona) will determine whether or not the narrative is historically true or is just a legendary embellishment (see below).  So, for New Testament critics truth is relative to genre which in turn is relative to the interpreter.

Pseudonymity. Blomberg even allows for the use of an author’s name to be used when in part or in whole he did not write the biblical book with his name on it.  He himself believed that Part of 2 Peter was not written by the apostle Peter, and he allows (as consistent with inerrancy) for whole books to be such (B, 171).

Blomberg’s Defense of Robert Gundry

According to Robert Gundry, whose view is defended by Blomberg as consistent with orthodoxy, whole sections of Matthew (like the Visit of the Magi—Matthew 2) are not historical because the author’s purpose was not to affirm what corresponded with reality (as in a correspondence view of truth), but to use a midrashic embellishment understood as such by his Jewish audience (B, 164f).  So viewing “Matthew as Midrash” and not historical “would have understood exactly what he was doing, not imagining his embellishment to be making the same kinds of truth claims as his core material from Mark and Q” (B, 166).

Of course, Blomberg laments that an overwhelming majority (nearly 74%) of the ETS voted to ask Gundry to resign from ETS because of his denial of the historicity of certain passages in Matthew.  Blomberg remains proud that his is one of the small minority who voted to retain Gundry in ETS. Indeed, as even Blomberg admits (B, 168), the framers of the statement (of which I was one) “had Gundry in mind” when the CSBH statements were made which we certainly did. We wrote: “WE deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (CSBH Commentary on Article 13).   No amount of re-interpretation can override the clarity of this statement or the testimony of living framers as to its meaning.  And when the framers die, the written words of the framers (as here) will remain to vouch for the meaning of their words.

Blomberg’s Defense of Murray Harris

            There seems to be a camaraderie among many biblical scholars that blinds them to some serious errors and prompts them to put fraternity over orthodoxy. Professor Murray Harris had claimed the resurrection body was “essential immaterial” (Raised Immortal, 53-54), even though the Bible (Lk. 24:39; Acts 2:31) and the Early Creeds affirmed the resurrection in the “flesh.”  Further, Harris affirmed the ascension of Christ was a “parable” (RI, 92).  Further, he held that believers receive a spiritual resurrection body at death (RI, 44, 100) while their physical bodies remain rotting in the grave.  In spite of all this, Blomberg, in an act that seeming puts fraternity above orthodoxy, defends his fellow New Testament scholar’s view as orthodox.

Further, Blomberg was unaware of what the real issues were (see our Battle for the Resurrection, Thomas Nelson: 1989. Or see the third edition Bastion Books: 2014), namely, that we had written a whole book (titled, In Defense of the Resurrection, Witness Inc, 1993, chap. 5) responding to Harris’s objection.  Neither did Blomberg show awareness of the fact that some 90 counter-cult group pronounced Harris’s views “false doctrine,” “unorthodox,” or even “cultic” (ibid., 189).  Nor was Blomberg cognizant of the fact that Harris had been warned by Trinity that he would lose his position, if he did not change his view on the resurrection of believers.  Harris did change his view over the weekend when the Trinity appointed (not ETS related) a committee of three scholars to met with him.  One would have expected that a scholar of Blomberg’s reputation would have looked into this issue more carefully before pontificating on it.

Blomberg’s Defense of Mike Licona

It is incredible that anyone, let alone a biblical scholar, would defend the orthodoxy (i.e., compatibility with inerrancy) of Mike Licona’s Greco-Roman genre views.  Licona has yet to retract his view that the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is a legendary, poetic embellishment (see TheResurrection of Jesus, 552, 553, 548), even though he is now not as sure of it as he once was. Further, Licona embraces the Greco-Roman Bios which admits that it is “a flexible genre [wherein] it is often difficult to determine when history ends and legend begins” (Licona, ibid., 34).  This is ironic in view of Blomberg and Licona’s criticism that the defenders of inerrancy are imposing their modern view of what an error is on the Bible when in fact it is they who are imposing their modern view of genre criticism on the Bible.

More importantly, Licona believes there is a contradiction in the Gospels about the day on which Jesus was crucified, yet he insists this is consistent with a belief in inerrancy!  In a debate with Bart Ehrman (Spring, 2009), Licona said, “I think that John probably altered the day [on which Jesus was crucified] in order for a theological—to make a thelogical point there.  But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified” (emphasis added).

The ICBI framers condemned Licona’s kind of view in clear and unequivocal language when they spoke against “dehistoricizing” the Gospels (CSBI, Article 18).  Likewise, they affirmed: “WE deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (CSBH Commentary on Article 13).   Licona’s view  is so far from measuring up to ICBI standard for orthodoxy that 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 Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI”(Letter, May 22, 2012, emphasis added).

 

 

Conclusion

            One fact emerges from Blomberg’s recent book, namely, whatever merits it has, the view which he defends is contrary to the ICBI view of inerrancy.  And since the ETS has accepted the ICBI definition of inerrancy (in 2003), it is also contrary the statement of largest group of inerrantist scholars in the world!  So much for Blomberg’s charge that the defenders of the ICBI statements on inerrancy, including living framers like J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, and myself, are a tiny extremist minority.  And to debunk the living framers, as Blomberg did (B, 262, n 111), because they will someday be dead, misses the point, namely, they are the best testimony to the meaning of their own words while they are alive.  And their written words will still live on even after they die.

Finally, we do agree with Blomberg’s words when he wrote: we should embrace a “full-fledged inerrantist Christianity so long as we ensure that we employ all parts of a detailed exposition of inerrancy, such as that found in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy…, and not just those sections that are most amenable to our personal philosophies or theologies.  This also means that we interpret the Chicago Statement, like the Bible, in terms of what is actually written, and not merely what one of its authors might have wanted to write or might have wanted it to mean” (B, 222). Unfortunately, however, as has been shown above, such a view is not the view that Blomberg promotes, but it is the view he attacks.

 

 

About the Author

Dr. Geisler is a graduate of Wheaton College (B.A., M.A.), William Tyndale College (Th.B.), and Loyola University (Ph.D.).  He has taught at the College or graduate level for over 50 years.  He is the author or co-author of more than 100 books, including Inerrancy, General Introduction to the Bible, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, and Defending Inerrancy.  He is a former president of The Evangelical Theological Society and co-founder and first president ofThe Evangelical Philosophical Society.  He was co-founder of theInternational Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) and was a co-drafter of the famous ICBI “Chicago Statement” on inerrancy and editor of the ICBI books.  He has taught at some of the top evangelical seminaries in America, including Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Dallas Theological Seminary.  He also co-founded two seminaries, Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC and Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Los Angeles–schools where he still teaches.

 

On Licona Muddying the Waters (2014)

On Licona Muddying the Waters

Norman Geisler

June 5, 2014

 

Cool, Clear Waters

Before Mike Licona wrote his recent article (June 2, 2014) “On Chicago’s Muddy Waters,” the waters were clear.  That is, the “Chicago Statement” on biblical inerrancy was clear on the meaning of inerrancy.  It affirmed that “dehistoricizing” sections of the Gospels, such as Licona has done, was contrary to inerrancy.  It declared 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” (Articles XVIII, emphasis added in all these quotes).

 

Article XIII declares emphatically: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narrativeswhich present themselves as factual.”

 

ICBI Hermeneutics Article XIV adds, “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated.

 

Further, “We deny that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (Hemeneutics Statement, Article XX).

The official ICBI commentary adds, “Though the Bible is indeed redemptivehistory, it is also redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world” (Commentary on Article XII).

 

 

Cool, Clear Framers Agree

All living framers (R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, and N.L. Geisler) agree that ICBI excludes a view like Licona embraced in his book (The Resurrection of Jesus,185-187; 530, 548, 552,553).

 

R.C. Sproul declared clearly and emphatically: “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 Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI” (Letter, May 22, 2012).  He added, “You can use this comment by me however you wish” (emphasis added).

 

J.I. Packer added plainly: that “As a framer of the ICBI statement on biblical inerrancy who once studied Greco-Roman literature at advanced level, I judge Mike Licona’s view that, because the Gospels are semi-biographical, details of their narratives may be regarded as legendary and factually erroneous, to be both academically and theologically unsound”(Letter, May 8, 2014, emphasis added).

 

Norman L. Geisler: I have spoken repeatedly of the similarity of Licona’s views with those of Robert Gundry who was asked to resign (in 1983) from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) by an overwhelming 74% vote.  No attempt to minimize this vote can negate its legitimacy, clarity, or finality, no matter how much some may wish to do so. What could be clearer than the ICBI statements on this matter and the clear and emphatic words of the only living framers of the ICBI statements?

 

Casting Mud at Defenders of the ICBI Statement

 

If any waters have been muddied, it is from the mud cast at the defenders of the Chicago Statement on inerrancy.  They call the ICBI defenders “New Fundamentalist” eight times in Licona’s short article. They insist we are “rigid” and engage in “ferocious fratricide.”  They are designated inerrancy “police” or “police officers” who have a “most wanted” list.  They consider an inerrancy defender a “tar baby.”  They “politicize” this issue.  He even goes so far as to question our “motives,” rather than be content with evaluating our statements.

 

Licona and his supporters believe we engaged in a personal “crusade” against Licona.  In what seemed like a kind of doctrinal paranoia, Licona falsely claims Geisler is “criticizing me” or a “crusade against me” (twice, emphasis mine). He said, “I’ve been in the crosshairs of Norman Geisler,” as though he was a special target I wanted to kill.  The truth is we have never attacked him as a person, but only his views. I have said many times that I like Mike as a person and love him as a brother in Christ. However, we try never to put fraternity over orthodoxy or cloud our love for God’s truth by how nice a guy is or how good a friend the person is.  This cannot be said of Licona or his friends for their writings are toxic with personal attacks. One can look to Craig Blomberg’s recent book to illustrate the point.

 

Craig Blomberg, engaged without substantiation in a tirade in print against defenders of ICBI inerrancy (see his Can We Still Believe the Bible?)  He insists that we are “very conservative” (B, 7), “overly conservative” (B, 217), “ultra conservative” (B, 11, 214), “hyperconservative” (B, 13), “extremely conservative” (B, 7).  Of course, this tends to make his views look more moderate by comparison, when, as we shall see, they are in direct opposition to the mainstream evangelical view as reflected in the ICBI statements.  Blomberg even likens ICBI defenders of inerrancy to the extreme views Nazism and Communism (B, 8)!  He quotes with approval the statement, “the far left and the far right—avoid them both, like the plague” (B, 8). He claims that we “simplistically” distorted the evidence in order to oust Robert Gundry from the Evangelical Theological Society (B, 167).  He charges that we engaged in a “political campaign” against Gundry (B, 167).  Elsewhere, he alleges that we have utilized a “standard ploy throughout his [Geisler’s] career” when “trying to get someone removed from an organization” (B, 262 n. 111).  He adds the allegation that inerrancy is used as “a blunt tool to hammer into submission people whose interpretation of passages differs from ours…” (B, 125).  These charges of an alleged sinister and continuous career of unjustified activity on my part are both untrue, unjustified, and unethical.  Someone has rightly asked why it is that those who defend inerrancy are attacked and those who attack inerrancy are defended.

 

When mud-slinging occurs one can be reasonably sure that the attackers have run out of reasons and evidence to use in a rational argument and, thus, have resorted to attacking the person instead of the argument.

 

Muddying the Chicago Waters

 

Licona and his colleagues have insisted on muddying the Chicago ICBI waters by claiming the ICBI position is not clear.  They have charged that:

There are other interpretations of the ICBI Statements on Inerrancy.

 

Of course there are, no one disputes this.  However, that is not the question.  The question is: Are there better ones?  Do they correspond with the meaning expressed by the Framers of the ICBI statements?  The answer is an emphatic “No.” the Framers have spoken in commentaries and letters (see above).

 

Further, the “other” interpretations are not supported by the historical evidence (see Mark Hannah, The Church and Inerrancy).  Church history is virtually unanimous on the orthodox view of inerrancy.  It is unlimited inerrancy as expressed by the ICBI statements (see John Woodbridge, A Critique of The Roger/McKim Proposal).

 

What is more, I know of no other inerrancy statement ever made that was the work of some 300 interdenominational and international scholars that is more extensive and more complete and has been more widely accepted as that of the ICBI. Even the membership of the largest body of evangelical scholars who believe in inerrancy, the Evangelical theological Society (ETS), consisting of over 3000 members, adopted the ICBI statement as the definition of their brief inerrancy statement by an overwhelming 80% vote (in 2006).  If Mr. Licona and his New Testament critical friends think they can improve upon it, let them try.

 

The Chicago Statement is not a Creed.  Of course it isn’t, and it does not claim to be. That does not keep it from being a very good statement, or even the best one produced by a broad group of scholars to date. Nor does it hinder it from being right when it condemns “dehistoricizing” the Gospels as many critical scholars are doing today (see citations above).

 

The Chicago Statement is too “Conservative.”  It all depends where one is standing.  This is a relative term.  If one is already standing left of Scripture, then no doubt ICBI will seem too conservative.  However, when judged by the views of the Fathers of the Church from the earliest times down to and through the reformation to modern times (see John Hannah,Inerrancy and the Church, Moody, 1984),   the Chicago Statement is on target.  In fact, it is the Licona Neoevanglical view of Scripture that is too “Liberal.”

The Lausanne Covenant Statement on Inerrancy is more widely Accepted.  There is no comparison between Lausanne and Chicago statements on inerrancy.  Lausanne has only a brief statement on inerrancy as follows: “We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice” (1974). The Chicago statement is a more comprehensive statement containing numerous Affirmations and Denials. Indeed, there are two major statements with accompanying commentaries. The ICBI conference, unlike Lausanne, focused only on inerrancy and consisted of scholars trained on the topic.  So, for a detailed statement on inerrancy, the ICBI statement has been the most widely disseminated, embracing the 3000 members of the ETS and influencing numerous denominations, including the largest Protestant denomination in the world—the Southern Baptist Convention.

 

It is noteworthy that Billy Graham signed the Lausanne statement on inerrancy.  However, he also gave money to help start the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy which produced the Chicago Statements on inerrancy. And more recently, both Billy and his son Franklin Graham made statements in support of inerrancy on the www.DefendingInerrancy.com web site.  In fact, the world-wide circulation of Billy Graham’s magazine Decision(May, 2014) on “the dangers of compromise” featured an article defending ICBI inerrancy by the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society.

 

Many Books Defending ICBI Inerrancy were not published by Standard Publishers.

This is an irrelevant and misleading charge for several reasons.  First, numerous books defending ICBI inerrancy have been published through standard publishers.  To name only a few: The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism by B. K. Beale; Defending Inerrancy by myself and William Roach; A Critique of  The Roger/McKim Proposal by John Woodbridge;  Indeed, the ICBI itself produced many volumes defending inerrancy all of which were published by standard publishers (like Zondervan, Baker, and Moody).  These include: Inerrancy, Biblical Errancy: Its Philosophical Roots; The Church and Inerrancy; Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible.

Second, this charge is amazing since Licona was able to divine the reason for ICBI inerrantists using a non-standard publisher (like Xulon) was that we “could not find an interested publisher.”  As most writers know, there are other reason for using non-standard publishers as well, including time, money, control of the content, and owning the rights.  And there are also reasons to reject some “standard” publishers who would have published it.

Second, this objection assumes that truth is conveyed best, if not exclusively, by what they view as “standard” publishers. This supports a kind of professional elitism and academic snobbery. Truth is what corresponds to reality no matter who publishes it.

Third, this charge is amusing and ironic since the recent book attacking ICBI inerrancy which was blessed by Licona and many of his New Testament critic friends was self published by Licona’s son-in-law and his friend!

 

Many Muddy Statements by Licona

 

Licona and friends have made many statements that are clearly not traditional orthodox views on Scripture.  They include the following:

(1) Licona charges that we believe the Gospels speak with “legal precision” or “photographcic accuracy.”  The Chicago Statement spoke directly to this point, saying, “We further deny that inerrancy is negated by biblical phenomena such as lack of modern technical precision…and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material…or the use of free citations” (Article XIII).

(2) He believes there are or may be errors in the Gospels, for example: (a) on the report about when Jarius daughter died; (2) on whether the centurion made his request in person to Jesus; (c) whether the woman anointed Jesus two days before the Passover.

(3) Licona even goes so far as to affirm there is an error in the Gospels regarding on which day Jesus was crucified. He said “Jesus may have changed the day and time of Jesus’ crucifixion in order to make a theological point.”  Earlier in a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (Spring, 2009) he said, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point there.”

But this is clearly contrary to the ICBI view of inerrancy which demands “the unity and internal consistency of Scripture” (Article XIV).  Also, “We deny that later revelations…ever contradict it” (Article 5).  We affirm the unity, harmony, and consistency of Scripture…. We deny that Scripture may be interpreted in such a way as to suggest that one passage corrects or militates against another” (Hermeneutics Article XVII).  WE affirm that since God is the author of all truth, all truths, biblical and extrabiblical, are consistent and cohere…” (Hermeneutics Article XX).

(4)  Licona affirmed that Joseph Holden, president of Veritas Evangelical Seminary dismissed Gary Habermas and Paul Copan as Adjunct faculty members because “they denied the inerrancy of the Bible on account of their failure to condemn the interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints” (Note 6).  President Holden affirmed in a letter (June 2, 2014) that this is false.  Holden wrote, “In the footnotes, it says I dismissed Habermas and Copan for their support of Licona and failure to condemn his interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints. When in fact, they were dismissed because of their own expressed view of inerrancy that became apparent in their defense of Licona.”

(5) Licona also wrongly affirmed that I was the founder of Veritas Evangelical Seminary.  I was not.  It was Joe Holden’s idea and he asked me to join with him and be a co-founder of the Seminary.

(6)  Licona affirmed that I refused to attend a particular panel discussion.  In any event, one cannot help but be impressed with the quasi-omniscient powers of critics who can read another’s mind.  This leads to arrogant charges like the following: Licona asserted that “In Geisler’s mind, there is no need for discussion in an academic forum because he apparently thinks he already knows the correct answers; all of them.”  I have participated in untold academic discussions and debates over the last fifty years, so I have learned to pick carefully the ones in which I participate.

 

(7) He alleged that we never offered a solution to the alleged contradictions he raised in the Gospels.  This too is false.  I have presented it many times in official presentations on alleged contradictions in the Bible.  Further, it is in one of the “20 articles” Licona said I wrote on the issue, titled “Mike Licona Admits Contradiction in the Gospels” (January 2013) which he apparently did not read.

 

(8) He claims that “Many of the original signers [of the ICBI Statement on Inerrancy] do not agree with how Geisler and others interpret it.”  In response, two brief comments are in order.  First, even according to Licona, the true meaning of a text is in the “intention” of the framers, not the signers.  Second, all living framers (see above) agree on its meaning, especially as it applies to Licona’s view.  So, it is not just my view on the matter.

 

(9) ICBI view of Inerrancy actually undermines Inerrancy.  By a strange twist of logic Licona argues that the ICBI view of inerrancy actually undermines the authority of the Bible because showing one error overthrows the Faith.

 

First, by this same logic people should not believe Christ rose from the dead since a sophisticated naturalist might convince them that miracles are not credible. Or, people should not believe God exists since a sharp atheism might convince them that He does not exist.

Further, this objection confuses reliability and inerrancy.   If a critic could prove (and none have) one real error in the Bible it would overthrow the ICBIview of inerrancy, but it would not overthrow the Faith.

 

Inerrancy is to be distinguished from the reliability of the Bible.  My CPA is a very accurate book keeper.  But if he made one mistake in math that would not overthrow his reliability. On the other hand, if he claimed divine authority and inerrancy, then one error would overthrow his claim to divine authoritybecause God cannot make even one mistake (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2; John 17:17).

 

This is what B.B.Warfied meant, and Licona misunderstands.  For Warfield too believed that the Bible was divinely authoritative and inerrant and, as such, one error would destroy that divine authority/inerrancy. However, it would not overthrow the Faith since the Faith could be true apart from inerrancy.  Inerrancy is not a test of evangelical authenticity but of evangelical consistency.  Licona confuses Warfield’s apologetics and his theology.  Warfield used apologetics (based on the evidence to show thereliability of the Bible). But once he knew from good reason that the Bible was more than reliable; it was the inerrant Word of God, then Warfield believed that only an inspired and inerrant Word of God is an adequate basis for our belief in the divine authority of the doctrines of the Bible.

 

So, likewise, Licona misinterprets our statement about inerrancy being a “fundamental” of the Faith.  We said clearly that it is not a doctrinal or theological fundamental; it was an epistemological fundamental. For without an inerrant Bible we have no divinely authoritative basis for our Faith.

 

(10)  Licona also makes other statements that are seriously mistakes.  One is that (a) “the doctrines of the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Gospels are faith doctrines that cannot be proven.” (b) Another is that a historian should be “making no theological assumptions pertaining to whether they [the Gospels] are divinely inspired or inerrant.”  These are both based on Licona’s admission that he (c) “unashamedly confess[es] the historical critical method.”  Given that Licona sees Genre criticism as part of this endeavor, no wonder he can believe in contradictions in the Gospels (see above) and say “Bioi offered the ancient biographers great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches,…and they often included legend.  Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (The Resurrection of Jesus, 34, emphasis added).

 

(11)  Licona contends that “biblical inerrancy is a secondary or tertiary doctrine.” Statements like this show a serious lack of understanding and appreciation for the doctrine of divine inspiration which entails inerrancy as a necessary concomitant.  For a divinely inspired error is nonsense. If the Bible is the Word of God, and that is what divine inspiration means, then it is inerrant.  For God cannot error. So, to attribute error to God’s Word is to attribute error to God Himself.  As John Calvin affirmed, “our faith in doctrine is not established until we have a perfect conviction that God is its author.  Hence, the highest proof of Scripture is uniformly taken from the character of him whose word it is” (Institutes 1.7.4).

 

(12) Licona criticized me for twisting the arms of other seminary presidents. This reckless charge misrepresents the facts. At the same time, he has attempted unsuccessfully to convince some of the orthodoxy of his view.  He even made a yet unadmitted trip of some distance to try to convince one influential Christian leader of the orthodoxy of his unorthodox view—only to be unsuccessful. Another one even set up a forum for him to express his view, after which the Seminary president said he would not hire him on his faculty.  Liconna tried to convince a third seminary to accept his view, after which they dropped him from their Adjunct Faculty. One faculty member who attended the meeting said, “It was worse than I thought.” Yet I did not contact a single seminary and ask them to reject Licona from their faculty. Nor did I “turn” to seminary presidents “to come out publicly” against him when I could no longer get enough high-caliber scholars to speak against his view.

 

Furthermore, this accusation is an insult to the integrity and autonomy of these different seminary leaders.  As for asking others to support the inerrancy cause, of course we do, as do those who oppose it.  In fact, we have a web site dedicated to it defending inerrancy (www.defendingInerrancy.com). Licona’s son-in-law has a web site dedicated to attacking me regularly by name and even making an insulting video for YouTube with Licona’s blessing. Anyone who examines the two approaches can see the difference.

 

(13) He rejected (without giving any evidence) the strong case we made for all the main orthodox Fathers of the Church between the apostles and the Reformers of holding that the story of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27:51-53 as being history not poetry or legend (see “The Early Fathers and the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27” athttp://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/Licona/Early%20Fathers%20on%20Matthew%2027.pdf).  Just to cite a couple examples:

 

Irenaeus (AD 120-200), who knew Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John,

wrote:

 

…He [Christ] suffered who can lead those souls aloft that followed His ascension.  This event was also an indication of the fact that when the holy hour of Christ descended [to Hades], many souls ascended and were seen in their bodies (Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus XXVIII, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, Alexander Roberts, ibid., 572-573).

 

Even Origen (AD 185-254), who had the Neoplatonic tendency to spiritualize literal events, believed Matthew 27 was literal history, declaring:

“But,” continues Celsus, “what great deeds did Jesus perform as being a God?…Now to this question, although we are able to show the striking and miraculous character of the events which befell Him, yet from what other source can we furnish an answer than the Gospel narratives, which state that ‘there was an earth quake, and that the rock were split asunder, and the tombs were opened, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, an the darkness prevailed in the day-time, the sun failing to give light” (Against Celsus, Book II, XXXIII. Alexander Roberts, ed. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, 444-445).

 

St. Augustine (A. D. 3546-430), the greatest biblical theologian of his time, wrote:

 

“As if Moses’ body could not have been hid somewhere…and be raised up therefrom by divine power at the time when Elias and he were seen with Christ: Just as at the time of Christ’s passion many bodies of the saints arose, and after his resurrection appeared, according to the Scriptures, to many in the holy city” (Augustine, On the Gospel of St. John, Tractate cxxiv, 3, Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. VII, 448).

 

John Calvin (1509-1564) added,

 

“Yet we may doubt whether this opening of the tombs happened before the resurrection, for the resurrection of the saints which is shortly after added followed in my opinion the resurrection of Christ.  It is absurd for some interpreters to image that they spent three days alive and breathing, hidden in tombs.”  For “It seems likely to me that at Christ’s death the tombs at once opened; at His resurrection some of the godly men received breath and came out and were seen in the city.  Christ is called the Firstborn from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20; Col. 1:18” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 3, pp. 211-212).

 

These kinds of statements are found to and through the Reformation to modern times.  So, those who deny the historicity of this Matthew 27 passage on the saint’s resurrection have virtually the whole of the history of the Christian Church against them.

 

Conclusion

 

Mike Licona wrote his recent article (June 2, 2014) on “Chicago’s Muddy Waters.”  But it was not the Chicago Statement or the interpretation of it by the living Framers that muddied the waters.  This represents the crystal clear evangelical view down through the centuries of full inerrancy and complete historicity of the Bible.  To be sure, the waters have been muddied, but they were muddied by New Evangelical scholars like Licona who have adopted the New Historical Critical method and have become New Evangelicals or Neoevangelical on their view of Scripture, creating a New “battle for the Bible.”

 

This leaves us with the conclusion that the ICBI statement represents the biblical view of inerrancy which we call the evangelical view.  Hence, since Licona and his supporters, whom he lists as  Darrel Bock, Dan Wallace, Craig Blomberg, Michael Bird, William Lane Craig, Jeremy Evans, Craig Keener, Lee McDonald, Kevin Vanhoozer, Robert Yarborough, and Gary Habermas) embrace a new kind of evangelicalism–a Neoevangelicalism–with regard to Scripture, which has been its label now for a generation.  It is definitely not the biblical or traditional view, hence, its view of Scripture has no rights to the use the unqualified term “Evangelical.”  It is more properly described as Neoevangelical.  While Licona and Bird would have us believe that they are fighting the barbarians at the gates of the city, in actuality they are escorting the Trojan horse of the barbarians through the gates and deep into the city.

Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation (Baker Books, 2011)

DefendingInerrancyBookSm

 

Defending Inerrancy:
Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture
for a New Generation
Baker Books, 2011
     book | ebook


“Defending Inerrancy is a much-needed work and one that will start an important and timely conversation. This is a book that cannot, must not, and will not be ignored.”–Al Mohler Jr., president , The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.     “In the following pages Norman Geisler, who contributed as much as anyone to International Council on Biblical Inerrancy’s [ICBI] original legacy, and William Roach interact with evangelical hypotheses that have the effect of confusing that legacy. They are masterly gatekeepers, and I count it an honor to commend this work to the Christian world.”–J. I. Packer from the Foreward     “In this superb volume, Geisler and Roach have demonstrated once again that the attack [on the Bible], though and old one, must and can be answered. Anyone engaging the culture needs to read this book.”–Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Jesus Quest: The Danger From Within

ISBN = 9781628394658

 

THE MOST SHOCKING EXPOSÉ OF THE MASSIVE EROSION OF THE DOCTRINE OF INERRANCY IN THE EVANGELICAL CAMP SINCE BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE (1978)!
This work examines the historical and philosophical strengths and/or weaknesses of current evangelical approaches espousing some forms of post-modernistic historiography and its resultant search for the “historical Jesus.” It demonstrates the marked undermining impact these efforts have had on the biblical text, especially the Gospels, as well as inerrancy issues. It compares the Jesus Seminar’s approach with current evangelical practices of searching in terms of their evidential apologetic impact on the trustworthiness of the Gospels. A number of well-known, contemporary evangelical scholars are involved in the so-called “Third Quest” for the historical Jesus. This book raises serious questions about such an endeavor.

 

FOREWORDS BY PROMINENT SEMINARY PRESIDENTS
Dr. Joseph M. Holden, President, Veritas Evangelical Seminary
Dr. Richard Land, President, Southern Evangelical Seminary
Dr. John MacArthur, The Master’s Seminary
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. L. Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Table of Contents & Forewords by Seminary Presidents

 

CONTRIBUTORS
Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D., Chancellor, Veritas Evangelical Seminary; Distinguished Professor of  Apologetics and Theology
F. David Farnell, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament, The Master’s Seminary
Richard G. Howe, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics, Southern Evangelical Seminary
Thomas A. Howe, Ph.D., Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages, Southern Evangelical Seminary
William E. Nix, Ph.D., Professor of Historical and Theological Studies, Veritas Evangelical Seminary
William C. Roach, Ph.D. candidate, Co-Author of Defending Inerrancy (2013)
Dennis M. Swanson, D.Min., Vice President for Library and Educational Assessment

http://www.veritasseminary.com/the-jesus-quest/

Video: http://youtu.be/aHPcLsyQkco

http://www.amazon.com/The-Jesus-Quest-Danger-Within/dp/162839465X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396303753&sr=8-1&keywords=the+jesus+quest

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