Geisler and Mohler, Upset Again…

Posted: December 4, 2011 in controversy, evangelicalism, Jesus, theology

Credo House:

For those of you who don’t know, Christian apologist and New Testament scholar, Mike Licona, has been publicly called to repentance by theologian and author Norman Geisler and the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler. The accusation is that he has denied inerrancy (the doctrine that the Bible contains no errors, historic or scientific) because he suggested in his book The Resurrection of Jesus that the account of the dead saints rising in Matthew 27:52-53might be apocalyptic. One statement in this 718 page book that Craig Keener says is “the most thorough treatment on the resurrection and historiography to date [building] a coherent case showing that the best explanation for our evidence involves Jesus’ historical resurrection” has caused Geisler to issue a personal call to repentance followed by three open letters and five public reprimands for Licona’s interpretation. So prominent is this issue that Norman Geisler’s website has a section on the front page devoted to this issue called the “Licona Letters” (source). Albert Mohler followed Geisler’s call to repentance with one of his own making a shocking statement that “Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon” (source).

Patton (the author of the article) hits the nail right on the head when he writes (emphasis mine):

I don’t agree with Mike Licona about the possibility that Matthew 27:52-53 is apocalyptic imagery rather than describing historical events. Let me make that clear. I have read his defense and dug into it just enough to say that I think that the raising of the dead saints, while odd, is meant to be understood as historical. However, this is an issue of interpretation, not inerrancy. I believe in inerrancy, but I also believe that we have to separate inerrancy from particular interpretations. Just about anything could be tied to inerrancy when disagreement about interpretation is at issue.

Too often, Christians conflate the doctrine of inerrancy with the issue of interpretation (not that they aren’t related), assuming that if someone doesn’t agree with their fallible interpretation, that person must be denying biblical inerrancy.  Mohler himself provides another example of this exact thing in his argument for young-earth-creationism (although, in reality, it’s not much of an argument).  Geisler has also done this kind of thing before, specifically in relation to New Testament scholar, Robert Gundry.

Always the need to attack someone…

It often seems to me that we conservative Evangelicals are experts at doing exactly what Paul instructed God’s people not to do (Titus 3:9; 1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:14).

  1. Matt Gerrelts says:

    So true. This is a perfect example of how the doctrine of inerrancy is conflated to “what I believe is inerrant” by implication. This situation is also why I would push against having a doctrine of inerrancy (sometimes)—it can be more helpful than hurtful when not explained/understood carefully and with grace.

  2. Matt Tully says:

    I agree that some people conceive of/use the doctrine of inerrancy incorrectly. However, I’m not sure that’s a good reason to get rid of it. Just like many other complex yet important concepts, nuance is necessary. And just because it takes time to fully explain the (correct) position, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Personally, I think that what you lose in denying inerrancy is too precious.

    That being said, I do think that inspiration (I hate this term) and authority are much more foundational to a correct doctrine of Scripture.

  3. I like the title of this blog post….made me giggle.

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