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.