There are moments when I am proud to be an Evangelical. This is not one of them.

I was listening to a discussion between two gentleman at the Credo House this afternoon. The conversation started as one man introduced another man to a guest scholar we have invited to the Credo House for our “Coffee and Scholars” in two weeks: Mike Licona. He will be here speaking about the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. His recent work The Resurrection of Jesus hit the stands last year and I was glad to get this resource in my hands and glad to have Licona get it into the public stream of scholarship. Proud. Maybe that is not a good word for someone like me to use of someone like Mike Licona. But ever since I was introduced to Mike a few years back, he has made me proud. Proud to be an evangelical. Proud to be a Christian. But most of all, today, proud to have such a resource that defends the resurrection of my savior with such persuasiveness.

My ears perked up to the conversation between the two gentlemen at the Credo House. Hoping against hope that I would not hear what I thought I might hear, longing for the conversation to dignify truth, justice, and the evangelical way, I tuned in to see how this invite to hear Mike tell his testimony might play out. From behind the bar, this peaceful coffee barista’s countenance turned red-nosed in anger as I heard how Licona was introduced. “You know Mike Licona,” the one man told the other, “the guy who Norman Geisler called on to repent because of his view of the dead saints that rose in Matthew. He believes . . .” I told the guy to stop. I took over and told about the Mike Licona who just produced what might be the best historic defense of the resurrection that an evangelical has ever had his thumb print on. I told about the Mike Licona who is traveling all over the world in the power of the Spirit persuading people that the Christ is alive right now. I told about the Mike Licona who is out on the front lines debating atheists with grace, kindness, and resolve. I told about the Mike Licona who reaches out to those who are doubting their faith with mercy, gently giving hope back to them one gentle spoonful at a time. The Mike Licona that Norman Geisler has created should be nothing more than a parenthetical afterthought.

(Warning: Anger laden satire forthcoming with multiple mixed metaphors. Cover your ears and allow me to vent.)

Unfortunately, the Mike Licona that Norm Geisler has created is in the spotlight. With gloves on and mouthpiece in, Mike’s image and priorities have been changed. He is on the defense as his own blood relatives with Jesus DNA and tiger’s blood are tag-teaming with one purpose: to bring Mike to repentance. “In this corner,” the announcer screams, “‘Team Inerrancy’: Norman Geisler and Alber Mohler.” The stands behind them, filled with life-long followers, scream and cheer. “In the other corner, ‘Team Resurrection’: Mike Licona.” The stands behind him have just a few brave souls. The empty seats have personal letters to Mike expressing their support and sorrow that they could not attend to give public support. Mike came to this ring expecting discussion, dialogue, or maybe (God forbid) a pat on the back and invitation to join the team. But as he arrived he found only a tribunal. His new book was laid on the table. The men point to the book and say, “Did you write this?” Mike says, “That’s my name on the cov . . .” They responded before he was finished, “Are you ready to recant!” Taken aback, Mike said “Of what am I to recant? My belief in resurrection of Jesus?” “No,” they responded, “Of your denial of inerrancy.” “But I don’t deny inerrancy,” Mike said. “Yes, you do,” Geisler’s voice become distinct, “I wrote the book on inerrancy. I say who denies it and who does not. And you, sir, deny inerrancy due to your faulty interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53.” “No, I don’t. I just said that it might be apocalyptic, the same as many others evangelicals have said.” “Well, I don’t accept your interpretation as being a valid option. If you will turn to the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, page 4, you will see . . .”

“Let’s just hold him until he recants.”

“Wait, wait . . . the prisoner wishes to say a word . . .”

“Freeeeeeeedooooooooommmmm”

(Satire over…I hope)

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 27:52-53 might 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).

First, let me say this: I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Geisler and Mohler. Geisler’s A General Introduction to the Bible was instrumental for me early in my studies. I have just about everything he has ever written and have loved and benefited greatly from most of it. Mohler deserves no less a commendation as he has contributed greatly to the cause of Christ. Both will forever be heroes of mine. However, I can’t think of anything else in the last ten years that has disturbed me as much as this controversy. A few months ago, I avoided interaction at all costs. While Licona’s first response to Norm Geisler was placed on our blog, I did so reluctantly for two reasons: 1) I did not and do not want Credo House Ministries to be involved in controversial issues involving specific personalities if at all possible. 2) I did not like to give “air time” to an issue creating dirty laundry where none really exists. After all, I thought (hoped), Norm Geisler’s open letters are not very accessible as his website gets very little traffic. And he is only one person involved and most “insiders” already call him “Stormin’ Norman” due to his slight theological temper. I just thought (hoped) that it would die.

However, I think I have stood by and watched my friend Mike Licona take enough shots. Not that there is anything personally I can do or that my voice is that loud or deep. And it is not as if I am the only one coming to his defense. But when Albert Mohler joined the tribunal, I knew that this controversy would go viral and have terrible effects on many levels. Now that this controversy makes up the first point of contact on Mike’s Wikipedia legacy (sigh . . . can someone please edit that out?) and Google’s search engine produces the suggested query “Mike Licona Norm Geisler” when “Mike Licona” is all I am searching for, it is time to realize that the cat is out of the bag and making a spectacle of evangelical theology. But most importantly, as I reluctantly caught up on all that has been written about last Saturday, I came to morn greatly when I found out that Mike’s recent job transitions out of the North American Mission Board and Southern Evangelical Seminary were not coincidental. This great apologist’s life and family is being deeply affected by the unrelenting crusade of very few, but powerful, evangelical brothers. It is a spectacle and a travesty.

Three points of concern:

1. 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. I have seen people say that those who deny that Revelation 20 is speaking of a literal thousand year future millennium are denying inerrancy. While I believe it is a literal thousand years, I don’t say that inerrancy says you can’t interpret it any other way than literal. There is symbolism in the Scripture, even in historic narrative. However, even if one completely thinks someone else has lost their interpretive marbles when they spiritualize some passage through appeals to apocalyptic, symbolic, or, even, allegorical interpretation, the issue is one of hermeneutics, not inerrancy. In other words, you cannot tie inerrancy to a particular interpretation.

As well, Geisler believes in an old earth. In other words, he does not take the narrative of Genesis 1 and 2 literally. Even though it is embedded in a historical genre, he gives himself liberty to see symbolism in the creation account (probably due to the testimony of modern science). Why does his view of inerrancy allow him this freedom, but when Licona suggests something similar, he is called to public reprimand and repentance? When someone professes inerrancy, our interpretation and hermeneutic cannot be the judge as to whether they really believe in it or not. There has to be academic freedom, even in tighter circles of Protestant theology such as evangelicalism, especially when the discovery of truth is the issue.

2. Norm Geisler and Albert Mohler both call on Mike to reaffirm biblical inerrancy by changing his interpretive position. Their banner flag is inerrancy and they fly it high. But it is not just inerrancy that is written on their banner, it is inerrancy as defined by the International Council for Biblical Inerrancy codified in the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) of 1978. In fact, as I read through both of their critiques of Licona, I believe they quote from the CSBI more than any other source, even Scripture. The issue, for them, seems to be not whether Mike’s interpretation was valid or even the need to counter his interpretation with their own, but whether or not Licona had violated this 1978 creedal statement. How did the CSBI become the premier standard to orthodoxy? Don’t get me wrong, the last time I read it, I agreed with it all (except for one statement). But as much as I respect the history and personalities behind the CSBI, it is neither infallible nor the norma normans sed non normata norm (Lat. “norm which norms which is not normed”—a statement of faith about the supreme authority of Scripture, not about “Norm” Geisler!). In the end, Geisler and Mohler are not calling on Licona to repent and return to the orthodoxy of this historic Christian faith, but to repent and return to their interpretation of the CSBI.

Now, last time I checked, the doctrine of sola Scriptura is much more a distinctive of Protestant orthodoxy than is inerrancy. Sola Scriptura is one of the two primary battle cries of the Great Reformation (the other is sola fide “justification by faith alone”). As a matter of fact, a few years ago, after the Francis Beckwith issue I suggested an amendment to change the defining characteristic of Evangelical Theological Society from inerrancy to sola Scriptura. The doctrine of sola Scriptura says that the Scripture is our final and only infallible source of revelation. The Scripture, not any council (much less a 1978 Evangelical council), is the norm that norms which is not normed. I think that Geisler (and possibly Mohler) are in more danger of violating the more central doctrine of sola Scriptura than Licona is of violating inerrancy.

3. But there is something that looms much larger than both of these concerns in my opinion. It is the blatant violation of evangelical theological propriety that this issue has raised. Grace is absent. Mike Licona has just written what both men recognize is a (if not the) premiere defense of the central doctrine of the Christian faith: the resurrection of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Licona is not only an evangelical in every sense of the word, he is a rising apologetic leader whose central focus of his life is the risen Jesus. His work on the subject is surpassed by none, even the great N.T. Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God. It is fine that these two men had concerns with Licona’s interpretation of Matthew 27. It might even be fine that they felt that these concerns could have some significant “slippery slope” repercussions. But their concerns should have been drowned out by the commendation that they gave Licona for his monumental work. Geisler, an apologist of the “old school,” should have written twenty open letters of commendation and praise before he ever even thought of writing his first open letter of criticism which eventually left Mike out of a job. Though I have talked to Mike briefly about this over the phone and he did not seem too discouraged, what a deflation of purpose, drive, and ambition this must be for him. To contribute so significantly to the defense of the core of Christianity only to find his greatest battle coming not from unbelievers, but from his very own kin whose commendations serve only as a prelude to calls to repentance, recantation, and reform must be more than difficult.

Geisler and Mohler should have thrown Mike Licona a parade but instead they have paraded a spectacle of shame and dishonor, elevating a non-essential issue of interpretation to the very test of orthodoxy. Mohler said that “Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon.” I am beginning to think that just the opposite is true. Mohler and Geisler (and anyone else who has defined Licona  accordingly) are presently giving the enemies of Christ a powerful weapon. Illegitimate weapon, yes. But powerful nonetheless. (Not to mention embarrassing.)

“We have met the enemy and it is us.” This comic strip phrase captures the essence of how evangelicals often eat their young. I have met the enemy and it is not Mike Licona.

Mike, for what it is worth, I stand behind you even understanding that my ministry could suffer indirectly due to my support. I commend you as I did on your Facebook page right after I got your book on the resurrection. I commend you as I did after I handed out your Evidences for God book on the airplane to a grateful gentleman. I commend you as you, four years ago, patiently came on our “Converse with Scholars” program and settled people’s fears about the Talpiot tomb. I commend you as you are open and brave to express your understanding, doubts, and struggles yet glorify God in defending the faith. I pray that the stands are full in your corner during this battle. There are so many of us who appreciate what you are doing and are praying for you.

I think that Max Andrews said it best when he brought Wormwood into the mix:

“My Dearest Wormwood,

Whenever you find an expert defense of the enemy’s resurrection marshall the forces of the fundamentalists to marginalize it by ceaseless debates over ‘inerrancy’ in minor, inconsequential details.”

There are moments when I am proud to be an Evangelical. This is not one of them.

Mike’s site: http://risenjesus.com/, Support him.

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    180 replies to "Mike Licona, Norman Geisler, Albert Mohler, and the Evangelical Circus"

    • ScottL

      I, too, hate when controversy happens amongst Christians, especially over the smallest of things. I, too, hate calling out specific people by name. This is a very sad situation that gives an extremely bad testimony for us as followers of Christ. I desire to see us more focused on what Christ has called us to do rather than looking constantly to defend against what might be error (and, of course, if Licona’s interpretation is wrong, it is so very minor). Truth exposition rather than heresy hunting.

      Alas, some will get their excitement from this. But I see something bigger and better within Christ and His kingdom rule.

    • Romeo Fulga

      I am so disappointed of the late Norman Geisler, that I just wanted to give up his books altogether. This would not be good also though! His book “Chosen but Free” was an exegetical disaster, his “Evangelical” coverup of the lying so called former Muslim-turned-Christian Ergun Canner, and NOW the purposeful unjust discreditation of someone like Mike Licona does not make sense. Has Geisler lost his mind? Is this what power and influence turns a good man into??? I allow you conclude!!! What is wrong with Norman Geisler? Is the old age taking a toll just as in the case of the great evangelist Billy Graham???

    • Eric S. Mueller

      It’s amazing how we are capable of latching onto something so small and blowing it into a huge deal. I’ve heard Chuck Missler say “In the church, we organize our firing squads in a circle”.

      I know little about Geisler. I greatly respect Albert Mohler, and it’s disappointing to see this.

    • Lisa Robinson

      That Wormwood quote is so on point. Yes, the whole thing has been quite disappointing and a black stain on the integrity of Christian scholarship. Mike has been such a Christian gentleman throughout all this that is also worth noting.

    • Ranger

      You said, “As well, Geisler believes in an old earth. In other words, he does not take the narrative of Genesis 1 and 2 literally. Even though it is embedded in a historical genre, he gives himself liberty to see symbolism in the creation account”

      Let me state that I agree with the majority of this post and it’s main point, but I have to disagree with this one statement. I’m agnostic on the age of the earth, because the Hebrew text doesn’t specify the time when the sky and land were “created” (ברא). It’s simply not a concern with the text and taking a very literalistic, conservative reading of the Hebrew leads me to this conclusion.

      There is a long tradition that sees בראשית as an “indefinite period of time” at the start of a specified period. See for instance the usage in regards to land in 10:10 “the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh.” It’s not a specific point of land, but a section. The same goes with time. It’s not a point, but a period, such as in Jer 28:1 where the “fifth month of the fourth year” is considered “in the beginning” (בְּרֵאשִׁית) of Zedekiah’s reign, which was only 11 years long. So “in the beginning” includes near the halfway point of his reign.

      The other way that the rabbis read the phrase was as a personified wisdom. In the typical view though, the seven days of shaping (or forming, i.e. עשׂה) the land are the specific period of time, but the time when they were all created was unspecified.

      Furthermore, the only way I can think of defending your second sentence quoted above would be if you were reading Gen 1:1 as a title (which is a foreign convention to ancient literature…this would be the only instance in the ANE that I’m aware of). If it’s not a title (which I see no reason to think it is from outside or inside the text), then 1:1 refers to the creation of all things visible “in the beginning,” i.e before the seven days.

      Since “sky and land” is a merism inclusive of everything visible, then there is no set point of time when they were “created” (ברא) only when they were “formed” (עשׂה), i.e. in seven days. The capstone of this latter period being the “creation” (ברא) of man. There is no way in the Hebrew to get around seeing man’s creation as different from the rest of the things formed in the seven days. Humans are ברא’d just like everything else was in verse 1.

      Of course, scholars like Walton go as far as saying that even the verb ברא refers not to “creating” but “forming.” I’m unconvinced by his argument, even from personal conversations on the topic, but if he’s correct it even goes further to suggest that the בראing of the sky and the land was functional and says nothing of the age of the earth.

      All of that is to say that it’s possible to be agnostic on the age of the earth and hold to an extremely literal reading of the Hebrew (as I do). Blessings.

    • ScottL

      CMP –

      Post this article at Theologica.

    • Gary DeMar

      This is an interesting discussion, especially since Dr. Geisler, who is a dispensationalist, is involved. If it’s one thing dispensationalists don’t do is interpret the Bible literally. They don’t take the time texts (near, shortly, and quickly) literally or the way Jesus uses “this generation.” I’ve read a lot of dispensational works on Ezekiel 38 and 39, and few understand horses, shields, chariots, bows and arrows in a literal way. Bows and arrows are missile launchers and missiles, and horses are “horse power.” Then there is Ezekiel 37. Does Dr. Geisler see this resurrection as literal or symbolic of a national resurrection? This would be a good test case. Like you, I believe the resurrections in Matt. 27 are real — and eschatological — the first fruits of what happens to Israel at Pentecost and beyond.

    • Alfonso

      Great stuff, Mike! Thanks for your support for Dr. Licona.

    • Nick

      I made the same point about Geisler and Mohler handing the enemies of Christ a powerful weapon in my summation of this issue:

      http://deeperwaters.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/the-future-of-inerrancy-2/

      Note also with Geisler, he has said the reason he believes in an old-earth is modern science. I have no problem with that per se. I do have a problem that Geisler can use 20th century information to interpret an ancient text, but Licona cannot use 1st century information to interpret it.

      As for dispensationalism, I am not a dispensationalist and I have thought at times that this is also a way of protecting Geisler’s eschatology. Could it be one reason to not be as certain of the ICBI statement is because Geisler is a framer and the deck could have been stacked not in favor of Inerrancy but in favor of his interpretation?

      Why not make Inerrancy simple? “The Bible is without error in all that it teaches.” What does it teach? Inerrancy cannot tell you that. Only hard study can.

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      CMP:

      A very great-hearted article written with a well-thought-out mind!!! I respect the way you have defended Mike Licona.

      I know, as we all know, that God could take this controversy, and use this to have many people read Mike’s book. We wouldn’t not be surprised if many come to trust Jesus as a result, and many strengthened that already believe but struggle with doubts!

    • Greg

      I hope Drs. Geisler and Mohler do not take this too literally, but I think they are straining at a gnat, while swallowing a camel. I can’t remember who first said that, but I’m sure it was probably meant literally. (Sarcasm over)

    • Francis Beckwith

      There’s an interesting question percolating beneath this controversy: what if Mike Licona cannot change his mind because he remains unconvinced by his critics’ arguments? Our beliefs are not formed like we form arguments, the latter of which are deliberate with a certain end in mind. People, of course, do change their beliefs, but they rarely if ever change them because of one or two arguments. Why? Because beliefs come in clusters, and those clusters are part of a complex mosaic of interlocking and mutually dependent other beliefs.

      So, when Geisler et al demand that Licona recant, they are literally asking him to publicly violate his own conscience (if in fact they have not provided him sufficient reason to abandon his belief). The only way that Geisler et al can trump Licona’s conscience is if they have authority; that is, unless Geisler et al constitute am ecclesial magisterium that Mike is obligated to obey, their call for recantation is unwarranted. It is interesting, however, that Geisler et al seem to know this. For this is why they continually appeal to faux magisteria, e.g., ICBI, the ETS Founders, and so forth. They know that the arguments alone are inadequate to move Mike’s conscience. Of course, even if they are wrong about the teachings of the faux magisteria (and there are good reasons to believe that they are), why should anyone believe that the theological beliefs of a small group of mid-20th century Anglo-American Evangelicals constitute the “settled truth” on such matters forever, unless they are a real magisterim?

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    • Marv

      Dr. Licona has no need to repent of denying inerrancy. But this is because that is an inaccurate description of what is wrong with his take on those few verses.

      However, the interpretation is problematic on other grounds. And if that one little bit is distracting from his superb apologetic work, the solution is simple.

      There comes a time when a person has to say “I should have known better.” This is such a time for Dr. Licona. The interpretation, which if I understand correctly, he essentially holds out only as a possibility is so extremely shaky, so problematic, that it sticks out like a sore thumb in his book.

      He ought to say, “I’m not repenting of denying inerrancy because I never have, but I’m withdrawing this suggestion, because it just isn’t my best work on exegesis.” And then remove it from future editions.

      Focusing on Drs. Geisler and Mohler, who detect something amiss (correctly) but label it (IMHO) incorrectly in this sort of circle-the-wagons thing is UNhelpful. There needs to be an acknowledgement that there is a problem, even if that is not the problem.

      If nothing of the sort happens, and this continues to be a distraction from what is possibly Dr. Licona’s great masterpiece, then Dr. Licona will mainly have himself to blame.

      If the thing in itself is not all that significant next to the supreme importance of the Resurrection, as is the case, then dump the thing.

      And do it quickly.

    • NW

      Marv,

      You’re completely wrong. There’s no excuse for Geisler and Mohler trying to destroy Licona’s career as an apologist simply because they disagree with his interpretation of Mt 27:52-53. In fact, the whole situation is so absurd that I can’t help but feel that this crusade against Licona is motivated more by feelings of personal jealousy on Geisler’s part than it is by a sincere concern for Licona’s faithfulness to CSBI.

    • This is one of those days that I am thankful I am an Anglican Brit, but a conservative one, though in the US right now. This is a very sad affair for American Evangelicalism, at least for Messrs. Geisler and Mohler. Shame! And for Geisler the parallel with the interpretative of the Old Earth, yet not literal fully is a hammer blow, hermeneutically, to Matt. 27. Licona’s view, is a very righteous exegesis! And I myself, stand with this interpretation, again well done Mike, this will continue to open, and become the more eschatological in the apocalyptical interpretative view!

      “I do have a problem that Geisler can use 20th century information to interpret an ancient text, but Licona cannot use 1st century information to interpret it.” Here, here to this statement!

    • Annie Nardone

      I loved the Wormwood quote as well. At a time when we are in a Postmodern world and struggling to defend our faith, WHY would learned people devour their own kind? I don’t have the credentials that these men have, but I DO know that when I talk to a non-Christian, I want to tell them about the love of Christ. Sacrificing the message of that over interpretation of one word (which doesn’t affect my salvation either way) is a waste of time. Jesus was born, Jesus died, Jesus rose again. I’m saved. That’s the milk we offer to non-Christians and new believers. The food gets chewier as we grow in our faith. Jawbreakers like Geisler’s gripe is an intellectual debate on such a high level, that it should best be left as spirited debate between the PhDs and such. Geisler’s demand of recanting etc. reminds me of what I’ve just been teaching my elementary kids during our homeschool lessons. The church’s attack on learned men is a common thread through history.

    • Steve

      Michael, thank you for having the courage to post this article (even if it may bring some negative results to your ministry at Credo House). Now THAT’S integrity!

    • Susan

      As I have said to Paul Copan, perhaps it is time to consider the possibility that Geisler is exhibiting the early stages of dementia. I saw similar behavior in my dad, who was a doctor, before he was diagnosed at age 74. He was still working at a doctor at the time. It’s dangerous for one who has a large public platform to develop mental insufficiencies due to physiological change…or even long-time brain chemistry issues. Perhaps his employer should require a psych eval, with brain scan. It’s amazing what shows up on those (old head injuries which impact behavior for a lifetime etc.). I don’t say this to be derogatory toward Geisler (and Mohler is another matter), but if there is something physiological going on wouldn’t that change the entire picture here?

    • @Amen there Steve!

      @And Amen there Susan, I saw my father.. who was an old school Irish Brit, WW2 RAF pilot, scientist and physicist, lose it all, as dementia came late at 85, died at 88. RIP!

      So somebody help Geisler! 😉 And Mohler, I am older than you, so there is no excuse!

    • Keith Brenton

      I come from a faith heritage (Churches of Christ) which began as a unity mivement and, sadly, has probably become known for disunity more than anything else … due to episodes like this one.

      When they occur, I always want to ask: Did those who disagreed with a statement / interpretation GO TO the one who made it? Was there an attempt made, face-to-face or at least by private letter, to iron out the differences before the open letters appeared in print and on the ‘net for everyone to see — believer and non-believer alike?

      If not, then I think a violation of the instruction (by Jesus) in Matthew 18:15-20 has taken place, which hints at a disrespect for that brother or sister, and a betrayal of most of the sermon on the mount. We owe it to each other as fellow believers to do as Aquila and Priscilla did (Acts 18:18fff) so that we do not embarrass ourselves, a brother who may or may not be in error, and the entire body of Christ.

      And we ignore the instruction and example at our own peril.

    • Marv

      No, NW and others. Geisler and Mohler have a right and responsibility in the Christian community to stand up for the doctrine of inerrancy. It is regularly assailed and has been for a long time. In this case I think they are hitting a false positive, and they also ought to come to recognize this. I don’t deny that they too ought to back off on the inerrancy thing.

      But the exegetical thing Licona does with those verses is wide the mark. Even if you don’t think it is wide the mark, and even if Licona doesn’t think so, he still has the responsibility to toss it in the recycling bin at this point, rather than let it distract from his work–unless he thinks it is a supremely important point. Which I doubt he does.

      This is no time or issue for a Luther like Here I Stand. He doesn’t need to say I was wrong just I’ll agree to rethink the thing. But delete it from the book. He can do that if he wants. If he chooses not to, might as well stop complaining about the others.

    • Michael

      You’ve hit it out of the park with this one. Your comments are spot on and your statements toward Drs. Geisler and Mohler, while necessarily pointed, are neither hateful nor bitter.

      It is sad that those who have been committed to building up people in the true faith can so tear down one who is committed to the same. Their tunnel vision with regard to this issue prevents them from seeing this. I pray the Lord open their eyes to the reality of this situation. Sadly, unless the Lord opens their eyes, the pride that lurks in each of our hearts will prevent them from seeing the horrible injustice they are committing against Dr. Licona and his family.

      Do I understand correctly that Dr. Geisler has been contacting seminaries and schools in an attempt to prevent Dr. Licona from speaking or seeking employment or something of that nature? What he has already done is shameful enough, that would simply add insult to the present injury.

      Thank you for taking a stand in this situation.

    • So tell us Marv, how this “apocalyptic” interpretation is so wide of the mark? It does not deny the history of the atonement or the resurrection of Christ, but it is a certain “genre” to express the truth of this reality!

    • Rick

      Great post. Your points are right on.

    • Marv

      “Apocalyptic” as a genre is questionable in the first place. But second, how is resurrection of saints an apocalyptic thing? Third, where do we see apocalyptic in narrative stream, aorist tense, mixed in with otherwise straighforward historical references. It is a facile suggestion, providing a handy highlighter to delete embarrassing lines. Why not the temple veil? Or the darkness at the crucifixion. If anything smacks of apocalyptic that does. Where is the indication to the reader: stop understanding this as historical at this point? Now we return you to your regularly scheduled gospel.

      And parallels to classical Lives, were these embellishments meant to be understood by readers as non-historical in those cases? Why should we think the authors expected the readers to categorize them as “special effects.” If they were just padding the bio with cool but not-really-real details, and that was okay cuz of the genre, are we saying Matthew did the same…. Sure, folks will believe this happened but I have my apostolic fingers crossed?

      How was Matthew expecting his readers to understand at that point that he was veering into not-quite-historical? And where is any evidence that anyone ever did understand it that way?

      This thing is shaky in the extreme. Analysis of genre is an important and valuable tool, but it needs to be used with care. He is not using it with care, as far as I can see.

    • NW

      Marv,

      Why should anyone care as to whether Geisler, Mohler, or yourself happen to disagree with Licona’s interpretation of Mt 27:52-53? What’s the big deal?!

    • Stan McCullars

      If I think Revelation is “Apocalyptic” does that mean I have denied inerrancy?

    • Marv

      NW,

      The issue isn’t agreement with an interpretation. It is an example of a significantly flawed methodology. There is a problem. A problem that needs to be discussed. The problem isn’t about “inerrancy.” But there is a problem.

      Why should anyone care about what Norman Geisler has to say about an interpretation? Or Al Mohler? I don’t know, why do you bother reading theological opinon blogs. Or commenting?

    • @Marv: Sorry, but that’s the real issue here, “seeing” with the Jewish-Hellenistic mind-set! And not the modern or European, etc. It is most obvious in the 1st century mind that the “Apocalyptic” is not an assault on the historical at all! Note, we need to study the Apocalyptic genre and history here itself, something that does not appear to be happening, sadly! So before ya tear into the Text/Texts, this needs to be done. And note again these two “texts” (Matt. 27: 52-53) are seen only here in Matthew’s Gospel! The theological point here, is that Jesus death conquers death itself – which the Church also professes in its belief in Christ’s descent into hell or hades, and His resurrection! Again, this is theological & spiritual truth. Or in Jewish ideas, this is a midrashic, a cosmic portent, again we simply must note the OT Apocalyptic background! For space I will say no more, but lets do our homework shall we, I hope so?

    • Mike

      @Marv, I think Licona may have already done more or less what you suggested. In his August 31st statement he said:

      “Further research over the last year in the Greco-Roman literature has led me to reexamine the position I took in my book. Although additional research certainly remains, at present I am just as inclined to understand the narrative of the raised saints in Matthew 27 as a report of a factual (i.e., literal) event as I am to view it as an apocalyptic symbol. It may also be a report of a real event described partially in apocalyptic terms. I will be pleased to revise the relevant section in a future edition of my book.”

      His comments regarding the genre may also be interesting. The entire statement is posted here at Parchment and Pen at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/09/press-release-michael-licona-response-to-norm-geisler/

    • NW

      Marv,

      “It is an example of a significantly flawed methodology.”

      According to whom?! The whole point of sola scriptura is that there is no evangelical magisterium that determines such things. If you find yourself yearning for such an authority to invoke in these matters then perhaps you should swim the Tiber and join Mr. Beckwith.

    • jonathan

      CMP,

      How should of Geisler and Mohler dealt with this issue?

      It is obvious they strongly disagree…….but is part of the issue that men of these ranks (Geisler and Mohler) have used there authority in the wrong way?

      Should they have personally gone to mike and talked? Should there be a certain protocal among the heavy weights (Mike, geisler and mohler,ect)….

      Just trying to understand the dimensions going on.

    • Nick

      Marv. What is Licona’s methodology that is so unorthodox?

    • Wow, that’s humility, but I fear too he, Licona feels the pressure of his Evangelical peers. I know this old Anglican, though conservative does not give him much, when I stand with him. I have taken my lumps with my own communion, but I would not change a thing said theologically! But, I am sad and just ashamed for the whole Church in our time & generation, especially the so-called Evangelical. It is at times like this, that I personally have looked and considered the EO, or Orthodoxy. As too going back to Rome (raised RC)? Again, this brings to head, where the authority is in the Church! The Reformers said both Church & Holy Scripture, but one must wonder just where is that Church at such times? And I am wondering now! Of course this includes much more than this issue, at hand.

      But again, I stand with Mike’s book: The Resurrection of Jesus, A New Historiographical Approach, (IVP). If you have not got a copy, get one, especially you pastors and theolog’s, and read it!

    • NW

      Perhaps one of the major reasons for this fiasco is that too many protestants would rather see their own individual hermeneutical boundaries enforced (e.g. Geisler, Mohler) than be faithful to the principle of sola scriptura. The whole point of sola scriptura is that the conscience of the individual is bound to what he understands to be the meaning of Scripture and cannot be bound by what any external human authority identifies as such.

    • @NW, No where does the sola Scripture mean that the Church is somehow sitting in the back seat, as we can see too with the unio mystica, or unio spiritualis. In fact the Holy Church stands under Holy Scripture, but also with authoritas Scripture and principia theologiae. The Church itself is “the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (1 Tim. 3: 15) Perhaps the better idea here is ‘Tota Scriptura’, within the hands of the church itself. No infallibility, but certainly pilgrim authority in the Total and Full Scripture, in “spirit & truth”! Indeed the Reformers thought of the Church as One, Holy, Catholic, & Apostolic reality!

    • Also NW, I have seen the argument of conscience pressed for the whole gay agenda! So it is Scripture, but also Scripture that is properly taught and understood. Indeed the Visible Church is just very important!

    • Nick

      What I recommend people to do is follow Fr. Robert’s advice. Buy Mike’s book. That also shows your support for him by your wallet. Go to conferences where Mike is speaking and encourage conferences to have him. Support his ministry at RisenJesus.com.

      And then if you don’t support what Geisler is doing, then show that by doing the opposite actions.

    • John Metz

      CMP,
      Like you, I disagree with Licona’s interpretation of Matthew 27:53-54 and believe those verses refer to an actual, historical event. As you stated, inerrancy should not be the issue but, rather, it should be a civil discussion about interpretation.

      Although I did enjoy your ‘vent,’ the situation is far too serious and potentially damaging for venting to help. This is an all-too-evident example of the type of evangelical narrowness and stinted spirit of brotherhood that characterizes certain segments of evangelicalism.

      Some comments above have referred to the history of certain parties in this dispute. This is a very helpful way to put some of the complaints in context. When we read these sort of things, we should ask if any of the parties have such a history of rancor and sloppiness. It is easy to misrepresent someone’s ideas and then attack that misrepresentation as if it was the fact. Sadly, this is often a tactic used by Christian brothers who should know better. May the Lord deliver us all from such things!

      If you would allow me to niggle (real word) a bit, some ‘old earth’ interpretations are not caused by non-literal readings of Genesis 1 & 2 but by a very literal reading of it. In saying this, I acknowledge that I cannot speak to Norm Geisler’s reasons for being an ‘old earth’ advocate.

    • Yes, I have Licona’s RisenJesus.com on my own blogroll.

      Btw, for me the ‘Old Earth’ is a position best seen in some aspect of ‘Framework’. The first three chapters of Genesis are foundational for the whole Salvation History of God! (Gen. 3:15) Here is Creation, Fall & Redemption! Note St. Paul’s verse in 2 Cor. 4: 6..”Let light shine out of darkness, who has has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

    • Man of the West

      What on earth IS it with people, that they can’t just say, “Sorry, blew it, I overreacted”?

    • Oun Kwon

      Do you all remember when Jesus laughed or smiled? If you don’t remember, read the Gospel accounts carefully 😉
      Yes, Jesus wept. I can see He weeps over His bride.

      I have thought the churches have a lot of problem. Recently, I feel that the Church is the problem. They, at least those who are to defend the faith fervently (not like liberals, prosperity-cult, purpose-driven cults, GLT as pastors and bishops) – those ‘conservative’ have lost love. What good comes out from the church when there is no love thriving?

      We cannot say ‘inerrancy’ except of the Word of God. Is the Bible or even the Scripture inerrant? So then? What does it mean?

      Are we forced to worship a Bible (e.g. KJV-onlyism), even a Scripture in the original language? Tell me then, what manuscripts to choose.

    • Saskia

      It definitely seems like there’s a serious case of “plank and speck syndrome” going around…

      How disappointing that someone defending the most central element of our faith has been decried and forced out of a job because of a position on one bit of scripture, that he is clearly not that attached to.

      He’s obviously an honest academic, who will clearly keep looking at the evidence. So if that’s the case, and he is wrong, he will eventually work it out himself. No need to badger. Loving discourse is all that is needed.

    • Daniel B. Wallace

      Michael, I just wanted to drop a quick line to express how proud I am of you for taking the time and temerity to speak out on this issue. I fear that American evangelicalism is headed toward a great divide, and the reaction of Geisler and Mohler puts it in bold relief: when evangelicals see their own interpretation to be every bit as inerrant as the scriptures they unwittingly erode biblical authority and elevate tradition. Not a good path to go down.

    • Carrie

      What really bothers me about all of this (aside from what Mike Licona wrongfully suffered as a result of it, as at the end of the day, that is the most disturbing thing about it) is Geisler stating this issue is to do with inerrancy when it is actually an issue of hermeneutics.

      Is he truly not aware that the statement “saints rising from the grave as dipicted in Matthew 27 could possibly be apocolyptic language” is a statement that is ultimately to do with hermeneutics? If he doesn’t understand that (very simple) concept, then it would seem he doesn’t properly understand what inerrancy actually entails. Thus, he should remain silent on the issue.

      If Mike were guilty of denying the inerrancy of Scripture, he would have to be questioning the authenticity of the passage itself, suggesting that it was a scribal addition … wait, no, even then, it wouldn’t be a question of inerrancy. If Mike said “Matthew got it wrong. He was wrong in writing what he wrote. Such a thing did not happen. Such a thing will not happen” now see, bold statements such as those would make me raise my fundy eyebrow (its the one on the right) and wonder “Hmmm, what’s Licona up to”

      But Mike did not say anything of that nature!

      He merely said it could be apocolyptic! He didn’t even say it WAS apocolyptic and by cracky there are enough apologists out there that ARE saying that and even then they are not denying the inerrancy of Scripture!

      These accusations are just mad. Mad I say!

    • Carrie

      Dan said “when evangelicals see their own interpretation to be every bit as inerrant as the scriptures they unwittingly erode biblical authority and elevate tradition”

      Yep. They in turn assume the characteristic of infalability themselves. They put themselves on par with the very authors (and Author) of Scripture.

      Bad stuff and very un-Evangelical.

    • […] within the evangelical churches and entirely apart from the structures of church discipline.Over at Parchment & Pen, C. Michael Patton has some reflections (some sarcastic I must warn you) about the debate. […]

    • Luke Geraty

      CO-SIGN!

    • Brendan P. Burnett

      A fantastic defense and post.

    • Kevin Snider

      CMP,

      This particular blog post is precisely why I continue to read your work. Thanks for the contribution!

    • John

      A great example of why I continue to read this blog. I differ with some of your perspectives, but we do not differ on how to engage people with whom we differ. Thank you! You model and represent Christ well. I’m glad to be a reader.

    • Chad Miller

      Sgned, sealed, delivered.

    • Daniel

      Didn’t Geisler write that book on reason? You would think he would know a fallacious argument when he used it. I commend Mike for his hard work and CMP for not being afraid to say that the self-professed emperor has no clothes. It is important to stand for the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

    • mark begemann

      I’ve not read the book yet but am quite familiar with the debate. I think Mike Licona is an amazing example of how to handle a situation like this. Strange as it may sound, i’ve been encouraged by the events that unfolded although they are dreadful on the surface. His dedication to truth while maintaining humility has given me a clearer picture of what it means to pursue Bible study with integrity. Thank you for supporting him publicly.

    • Daniel

      I’m wondering, after reading over the comments, how many people who think that Mike should give up this possible interpretation have actually read a defense of it and the problems it is said to solve. I’m not fully convinced of them, but after exploring it in an irenic and fair matter, I have to recognize the possibility of it. And, to my understanding, all Mike has done is to say that it is a possibility. Saying that there are other ways to interpret something is a fact, and to suggest that he back away from that fact and say something else is nothing more than to ask a scholar to spin or distort reality so they don’t rock a weaker brother’s boat.

    • Bobby Valentine

      I read this blog through twice. Posted a link to my FB too. I read Licona’s book a while back and never would have thought there was an issue. It along, with N. T. Wright’s Resurrection, are absolute must reads!

      I am shocked by the thought police of Geisler and Mohler though. These kinds of power plays are what make “creedal” Christianity so distasteful to so many. Actual loyalty to the Bible is not what is required. What is demanded is that a person sign away to so humanly formulated and humanly written document and demanding homage to IT!!

      Even if Licona is mistaken about the interpretation of this passage in Mt 27 does that mean that he denies either the inspiration or the authority of the Scriptures? Paul never once, nor did any other apostle … ever … demand loyalty or a signature to the Chicago Statement on biblical inerrancy. What thinks Geisler/Mohler believe they have that kind of authority?

      Shalom,
      Bobby Valentine

    • Scott Barber

      Signed – don’t let fundamentalism get you down. We have the freedom in Christ to ask questions: questions of genre, questions of interpretation.

    • Cory C

      I’m going to order Dr. Licona’s book as my show of support. I can’t believe how much venom and ink has been spilled for this. He wrote a book that defends the essential of essentials, and the hue and cry is over an interpretation of a tangential verse? Yikes.

      God bless you, Dr. Licona.

    • Eric Miller

      I feel like the Licona supporters are missing the point: whether or not he is a good apologist or has done lots for the kingdom is besude the point, the issue is whether or not he is being faithful to the Scripture. If he is not being faithful to the scripture what he has or hasn’t done should not excuse him. I respectfully disagree with Norman Geisler on this issue but I’m upset that his concerns are not being taken seriously.
      .
      Both sides need to meet and hash this out, so that at the very least they can agree to disagree and perhaps restore some unity and order. This is truly a watershed moment in the greater evangelical community and everyone should take note.

    • Jared B. Tremper

      Is it me or have we simply aided the enemy in allowing a civil war among evangelicals, when what we need are more allies in the evangelical cause? Why do we shoot our own people?

      Good blog and I commend you for taking the risk to your own ministry in defending Dr. Licona. May the Lord grant us grace to fight the good fight, and mercy to help us stop fighting one another.

    • Chris Echols

      I posted the same comment on Facebook, but I figured I suppor Mike by posting here as well…

      Obviously, I don’t get what they’re so mad about. So, Licona affirms that Jesus rose, but has doubts about a bunch of other dead people rising up out of the tombs as well? I though Zombies weren’t real?

      Are y’all saying that Zombies ARE real? How does this work? What does THAT look like? Sure I’m being a little facecious, but I’m wondering what that scene looks like to you guys. Can anyone give us a minds eye report of that scene if indeed it’s not “apocalyptic”?

      For the record, I believe that they did rise as the bible says, but not because I believe in “innerrancy”, but I can certainly understand someone NOT believing a scene that is really incredible…

    • Phil Anderson

      This situation grieves me but doesn’t surprise me. Norm has shown this same spirit of making his interpretation the norm. We went through it in the 80’s with his attacks on Murry Harris.

    • John Bailey

      Wow, excellent post that really puts the issue in its proper perspective. I have just purchased two of Mike’s books for my Kindle. He is an excellent author and worthy of support from the whole Christian community.

    • Michael

      C Michael,

      I’m confused.

      Is it wrong to question someone and critique their views? Is it divisive to call someone out when they are wrong?

      The Bible says bodies were raisED (past tense). Licona questions whether this actually happened. But because the rest of his book is good, or he’s coming to speak at an event, we should not call him to repent?

      Categorical error: This is not comparable to Revelation 20, which is yet to occur and can be open to interpretation. And it is not comparable to different Genesis 1 & 2 interpretations which differ on the “how”, not the “what”. From what I understand, Licona is not questioning “how” bodies were raised (which would be an interpretation), but the fact it even happened! Matt. 27 is all historical, not apocalyptic. Did the veil not rip on its own either? That seems kind of supernatural to me, like dead bodies rising. Maybe we should question that as well!

      Regarding point 2, you certainly gave your opinion of CBSI, but I’m still not clear whether you think that Licona holds to it or not?

      In regards to #3, so Licona says something didn’t happen in the Bible, even though the Bible says it did, and Mohler/Giesler should throw him a parade?

    • Nick

      @Michael

      Is it wrong to question someone and critique their views? Is it divisive to call someone out when they are wrong?
      The Bible says bodies were raisED (past tense). Licona questions whether this actually happened. But because the rest of his book is good, or he’s coming to speak at an event, we should not call him to repent?

      Reply: Have you read Licona’s reason for what he says? He finds similar events happening in pagan literature. Do you want to say they happened? You know what is said about Mithras and Horus by Christ-mythers?

      Michael: Categorical error: This is not comparable to Revelation 20, which is yet to occur and can be open to interpretation.

      Reply: Another begged question. Some of us think Revelation 20 is going on now.

      Michael: And it is not comparable to different Genesis 1 & 2 interpretations which differ on the “how”, not the “what”.

      Reply: Upon what basis does Geisler say he interprets Genesis 1 and 2 the way he does?

      MichaeLFrom what I understand, Licona is not questioning “how” bodies were raised (which would be an interpretation), but the fact it even happened! Matt. 27 is all historical, not apocalyptic. Did the veil not rip on its own either? That seems kind of supernatural to me, like dead bodies rising. Maybe we should question that as well!

      Reply: Why not? It’s been done. It was perfectly valid to slip in apocalyptic meaning in the middle of a historical narrative. Tell me this Michael. Do you think God literally changes his mind? The OT says he does. Do you think Moses saw God’s back in Exodus 34 meaning God has a body? The text said he did.

      Michael: Regarding point 2, you certainly gave your opinion of CBSI, but I’m still not clear whether you think that Licona holds to it or not?

      Reply: He does.

      Michael In regards to #3, so Licona says something didn’t happen in the Bible, even though the Bible says it did, and Mohler/Giesler should throw him a parade?

      Reply: Again, you’re begging the question. You cannot dehistoricize a text that was not meant to be historical in the first place.

    • Wow, there are still people that just don’t get this whole affair, amazing! Talk about “categorical” error! And talk about confusing! No wonder some of the evangelical church leaders, as their followers, are having such a hard time, and appear to be stuck like the Judaizers! They just cannot seem to see the whole theological preview, of the historical Church Catholic!

    • Michael

      Nick: “He finds similar events happening in pagan literature. Do you want to say they happened? You know what is said about Mithras and Horus by Christ-mythers?”

      And? This has no bearing on whether bodies were raised from the tombs in Matt. 27. The Scriptures are not comparable to mythological accounts when it comes to inerrancy. The same ANE type argument made against bodies being raised could be made against Christ being raised.

      Nick: “It was perfectly valid to slip in apocalyptic meaning in the middle of a historical narrative.”

      How do you decide what is apocalyptic in the middle of the a historical account of the resurrection? Why not make it all apocalyptic? Who get’s to draw the lines? (Don’t jump to Obidiah or somewhere else to make . Stay in Matt. to make you case first.)

    • @Michael: So lets “stay” in Matthew, as I have noted, these two texts (52-53) are found alone in Matthew! And the problem of the “timing” of resurrection, etc. here? Again, this strongly appears to favor the “apocalyptic”, and not a literal happening! This again is theological, spiritual truth, the death of Christ conquers death itself, and from here we have the power and reality of the resurrection. The whole essence “here” is the power and impact of Jesus death! Again, note the OT Apocalyptic, (Ezek. 37:12 / Joel 2:10 / Isa. 26:19 / Nahum 1: 5-6) just to give a few.

    • Nick

      @Michael.

      Sigh. More begged questions. Here’s what can happen. You will meet someone who says Christ is a copycat of other pagan myths. After all, Mithras was born of a virgin, had twelve disciples, observed a last supper, was known as the good shepherd, died, and rose again. Now why do you not accept that as literal?

      “Because it’s not the Bible!”

      At this point, the skeptic realizes that it’s no good to discuss the issue. Instead, my reply would be to look at the history of each claim and call it into question. You’re just saying “The Bible is inerrant and therefore all these events are automatically historical, but when I see them happening in pagan literature, they’re not historical because it’s not inerrant.”

      It’s begging the question.

      Now I believe I had also asked you about Exodus 33-34 where Moses saw God. It would have been nice if you had actually addressed that rather than ignored it. It would also be nice for you to tell me how an omniscient being literally changes his mind? What new information does he gain?

      I will say that you also say the same argument could be used against Christ being raised.

      Except for the fact that Mike Licona has written a 700+ page book explaining why it is historical and not apocalyptic so no, the same arguments cannot be used. One would have to eliminate all the arguments Licona gives for this being historical.

      How do we know when apocalyptic is used? We study the text. Mike Licona gives his reasons so I will ask some questions relevant to that.

      Have you read any of Mike’s book?

      Have you heard the talk that he gave at EPS or read the transcript?

    • Ken Blatchford

      We have met the enemy and it was us.
      -Pogo

    • Eric: The guy especially missing the point here is Giesler! Licona is simply presenting another, but well known interpretation in the theological academic from the Apocalyptic! Btw, I am myself the odd man out here as a Brit, and Anglican, but a conservative one. But now in the USA for the last few years. I can remember Giesler’s whole sad affair with Murray Harris, so again Giesler is the one that should be on the carpet here!

      Yes, this just might be a major affair in the American conservative Evangelical community, but I am not sure, the history here is to close ranks around the general conservative idea. And, as not much happened to Giesler back in the late 80’s over Harris, I don’t think much will happen now. Btw, Harris was a scholar, well beyond Giesler, but that of course is my opinion.

      I can tell ya one thing, NT Wright would not fair well in the American Evangelical community, but of course he could care less with his success in selling books here. And I like Wright personally, but don’t follow much of his theology or books myself, save some stuff on the history of the Gospels.

    • Btw, it appears I sent a post toward the one “Michael” on the questions of Matt. 27: 52-53, that did not get moderated? I know I have written my share here!

      • C Michael Patton

        No my friend. It did not get moderated. It just got caught in the spam filter. I don’t know why but I restored it for you.

    • Thanks C. Michael! This is such an important subject, and one that should cause us all to be humbled! Thanks again to take your stand! The cost is always toward the truth, amazing that God in Christ lets us be (in some way) part of HIS Word & Testimony! (Kerygma!)

    • Don Sartain

      Thank you for posting this. I first came across this issue when I read Licona’s letter a few months ago. My initial reaction was that Mohler and Geisler were right to call him to repent. And maybe they were, but it seems the fashion in which it was done is not coming across as gospel-centered or Christ-exalting.

      Thanks for providing some clarification.

    • Oun Kwon

      Thanks for wonderful discussion on number of issues.

      The readers need some interpretation here. What Licona offered is one of the interpretations. I believe it is a valid one. On the other hand, Geisler et al. did not offer any interpretation.

      What actually happened according to their reading of the text in Jerusalem 2000 years ago? Who were the saints? To whom did they appear? That they appears in public? What does it mean at all? Any book has to be read in its own literary framework with the context and the author’s kerygmatic intention.

      Taking those claiming to be inerrants, let’s say the verse in G-Mt is inerrant. (I know it’s inerrant). So then? What was Matthew trying to tell us? What was going on?

      To show my support for Mike Licona, I am going to buy his book though the topic is not a urgent one I need at this time.

    • Marv

      RE: 31. Ha. I didn’t know that. Glad to hear it. That really is all he should need to do, seems to me.

    • Chad Winters

      I don’t think this issue can be separated from Geisler’s protection and defense of Ergun Caner. If you haven’t kept up on this, you should really look into the facts. Geisler went out of his way to protect Caner and vilify those who pointed to evidence that the president of Liberty Seminary was demonstrably, caught on video and on paper, habitually lying about his background and resume.

      Unrepentant Caner he protects, but Licona has to go down for a hermeneutical “maybe” that is no worse than can be seen in a study bible note?

      Everything he says about Licona’s paragraph, could be said about Chosen but Free far more accurately.

    • Personally I think Geisler was backing Ergun Caner more for the protection of Liberty. As Caner’s discripancies are most evident. Btw, Ergin has a younger brother, Emir who is president of Truett-McConnell Baptist College.

      And indeed the literal interpretation of Matt. 27:52-53 is frought with many questions about the “timing”, visibility and meaning in the Text. And note, I have yet to see a full historical exegetical interpretation, here. I even looked at EW Bullinger, who really says little, and asks the question: ‘Is this the resurrection referred in Rom. 1:3?’ And then adds this is a fulfillment of John 5: 25. Interesting, but of course this does not exegetically connect, but in a general sense.

    • Kevin Thompson

      It’s amazing how we can become enraged when our ox is being gored but we take great satisfaction when it is someone else’s ox that is getting the business.

    • Matt

      CMP, this is a prophetic (-like) post, and it is exhibit A in the case for Parchment and Pen being such a fantastic blog. God bless you and Mike L! Thank you.

    • rob Haskell

      Geisler is the one who needs to repent. Don’t even dignify his pronouncement with a response.

    • Bobby Grow

      I have not read Licona’s book yet, but I have read what’s at stake and what Licona exegetes in re. to the passage under scrutiny. Unfortunately Geisler and Mohler have influential voice, and thus must be responded to. But other than their “appeal to the people,” they have nothing of material import to say or appeal to; so why not simply ignore them (other than writing posts like this one, that put them in their place in this instance).

      Anyway, I think this is a good post.

    • […] 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). […]

    • Stephen Dawe

      Being from a very post-Christian part of the world, I have always felt a little weird when joining in on a group of US evangelicals who want to pronounce anathemas on other evangelicals for disagreements that seem to be within the realm of possible interpretations, whether I agree or not. Let’s face it, there are much larger theological fish to fry than floating a possible misapplication of the apocalyptic genre.

      That said, in liberal circles this is precisely the form of argument used to discount other clear teachings of scripture (including the resurrection itself). That said, I think Mohler and Geisler need to argue why the apocalyptic genre shouldn’t be applied here, and thus model to the rest of us how proper interpretation should be done.

    • Doug Robinson

      I’ve read every post and appreciated the thoughtfulness. Good men with great minds sometimes do change with age. Before the resurrection of the body comes the death of the body (including the brain) and the dying process happens over years rather than just hours. Sometimes the new wheels don’t fit in the old ruts. A theological grid is a man-made construct, however well intentioned, one step (or more) removed from divine revelation–and sometimes such devices are reduced to something akin to rutted roads. A train on a wider gauge rail is no less a train than the old narrow gauge trains–it still cannot stray from the tracks without derailing and crashing. Innerancy yes. One faith, one baptism, one hope, one Lord–indeed. One hermeneutic with no room for questions and mysteries? No.

    • philwynk

      “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

      No truly effective work can be done without the Doctrine Police hurling accusations against it. If I were Mike Licona, I would count myself blessed to be on the receiving end of the attack by Geisler and Mohler; it’s the surest evidence that he’s making a positive difference.

      We should all take warning, because any one of us can become momentary servants of the evil one if we do not walk humbly. I don’t know Albert Mohler by reputation, but I know that Dr. Geisler, himself, has done significant work for the Kingdom of God. One can only hope that he will later repent of his own role in this ugly incident. But I think it’s clear who’s serving whom, and I know that Mike Licona deserves the support and encouragement of every servant of the living God.

      Let us all be fearless in our defense of our Lord, who is able to rescue us from the mouths of lions — even human lions with impressive theological degrees.

    • BlueCat57

      I just got to #1 and Mr. Patton finally adds the qualifier “imagery” to the word apocalyptic thereby slightly clarifying the argument. He should have added that qualifier to the first use of apocalyptic and he should have explained what “apocalyptic imagery” is at that point.

      I’ll continue reading and see if he explains that and why the dead walking as apocalyptic imagery makes the Bible errant.

      I’m guessing that a Dispensational bias by Licona and Mohler will be at the root of the disagreement. We’ll see.

    • BlueCat57

      #1 is just full of goodies. Geisler is an Old Earther because of Modern Science. Just saw something that implied that William Lane Craig is also an Old Earther (not confirmed yet, saw it in the description of “Already Compromised”).

      I’m just beginning to develop my position on why Logic dictates a Young Earth. But basically if Genesis 1:1 isn’t true (OK, I am an Answers in Genesis fan, but I’m basing my argument on Logic) then what else have the writers (note I use the word writers, not the inspiring Holy Spirit) lied about? (a harsh word but accurate since the intent of the writers would be to deceive)

      Science is based on Logic; therefore, Logic comes first and if Logic dictates something is true then it is Science that is in error.

      Since we believe God exists, God created and God inspired; therefore, the account of Genesis is true. If Science says it is not, then it is Science that is in error because if Science is right then the Bible is errant. Which of course Geisler says it isn’t, so it is Geisler that is wrong about the age of the Earth.

    • BlueCat57

      Ah, what a way to end an argument in support of a heretic, to use the words of another heretic, C.S. Lewis.

      Darn, no devil horned Smiley faces to highlight my sarcasm. I just read an article comparing Lewis to that Bell heretic. Oops. Forgot, no Smiley faces to note my sarcasm.

    • Bo Grimes

      It has been clear for some time that conservative evangelical leadership elevates the CSBI above Scripture and are most concerned with building fences around it and determining who is in and who is out. The question is are the faithful in the pews going to continue to be so publicly afraid of being defined as outside that they can only parrot soundbites and catch phrases or make a stand about a completely useless word: Of course God is without error but do we understand His meaning?

      There’s a scene in A Wrinkle in Time when the children are on Uriel. Mrs Whatsit is flying the children up to the mountains when they fly over winged creatures singing and dancing below. “They were making music, music that came not only from their throats but from the movement of their great wings as well.” Meg wanted to know what they were singing. Mrs. Whatsit said “It won’t go into your words. I can’t possible transfer it to your words.” Meg is adamant, demanding: “I want to know what they’re saying! I want to know what it means.”

      So, Mrs Whatsit tells Meg’s younger brother Charles, who has special gifts, if he is “getting any of it.” Charles says “A little. Just a very little. But I think I can get more in time.” Mrs Whatsit asks him to try and translate. Charles cries in anguish: “But I can’t! I don’t know enough! Not yet!”

      Mrs. Whatsit tells Charles “Then try to work with me and I’ll see if I can’t verbalize it a little for them. After time and the expenditure of great energy (and that is what Scripture takes: time and energy and help from teachers and other believers) Mrs Whatsit begins her translation. “The resonant voice rose and the words seemed to be all around them so that Meg felt that she could almost reach out and touch them.” This is what the song of “angels” translated to:

      “Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice; let the habitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to the Lord.”

      The language of Scripture is a vessel of perfect (in both senses found in Scripture: without blemish, and made complete) revelation, but both the vessel (language) and the destination of that vessel (our hearts and minds) are limited and bounded. Scripture is like in The Wrinkle in Time when Mrs. Which accidentally lands the children on a two-dimensional planet and almost kills them. It is more like an infallible, but two-dimensional, map of the infinite Logos, one we can not adequately read without the help of the Spirit.

      Like Charles I cry “I don’t know enough,” but I affirm with Charles that “I can get more more in time.” I want to be like Meg, hungry, famished, to know the meaning, but I can’t without the Spirit, and without my Charles and Mrs. Whatsit, who symbolize the whole congregation of the faithful, the royal priesthood.

    • BlueCat57

      I’m going to have to check out this Chicago thing. Haven’t read it but have a vague recollection of it from my college days.

      Since discovering the Preterist view I’ve come to see the bias and influence of Dispensationalists in many places. It is interesting how Dispensationalists claim the high ground when they are the newcomers.

      Maybe the Dispensationalists are starting to feel pressure from the revival of Reformed thinking that seems to be sweeping through churches.

      Or maybe they are attacking other Christians because the New Atheists’ 15 minutes of fame are over and attacking them doesn’t get the headlines anymore.

      Who knows? But if I were them I’d go easy on calling people heretics. If you want to debate the issue then debate it. If you want to call names then become a Democrat. (Ooops, is that OK to say here?) (And if my humor is falling flat here please tell me. I can also be boring and do a pretty good curmudgeon.)

    • JJ

      Thanks Michael. I don’t know what Geisler and Mohler were thinking. The only thing worse was when old-time hero John MacArthur was calling on Mark Dricoll to step down as UNFIT TO SERVE as a pastor! Hmm, up and coming Calvinistic pastor being dissed by the used-to-be number 1 Calvinistic pastor-author. Too sad for its transparency.

      This issue is even worse in ways. Geisler and Mohler attach for the lack of an interpretation that suits them. Since when did the eldest brother’s among us become the most volatile and least grace-filled? Sad for us all. Something we should learn from, however. Thanks.

    • Doc Pagala

      What Carrie said in post 46 is my take on this as well. Why is it so easy to show grace to a new believer, yet tear each other up often without mercy. What part of the church being the Bride of Christ don’t we get? Is it all that important to disagree to the point of such controversy, disregarding grace to each other? Come on, what’s up with that?

    • Steve Bartholomew

      I’m not familiar with Mike Licona, but I thought the defense offered to him in this blog is excellent. In addition, I believe that for someone who believes in an “old earth” (i.e., Norman Geisler) – which obviously rejects a literal interpretation of the “days” in Genesis 1 – to reject Licona’s interpretation of Math. 27:52 & 53 as being “inerrant” is the height of hypocrisy. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

    • John Minter

      I would suggest that Jesus Christ is best served when, as suggested by Dr. Gordon Fee, one can claim, “I understand” before we say “I agree” or “I disagree.”

      I cannot comment on Dr. Geisler’s argument but note that Dr. Mohler posted his concerns here:

      http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/09/14/the-devil-is-in-the-details-biblical-inerrancy-and-the-licona-controversy/

      I would suggest the interested reader look at Dr. Mohler’s concerns and tone and draw your own conclusions. As I read Dr. Mohler’s critique, I see general admiration for Dr. Licona’s work and a concern about the implications of one section in particular.

      In Dr. Mohler’s own words

      “His treatment of Matthew 27:51-54 is glaringly inconsistent with his masterful defense of the resurrection as history and of Matthew as a faithful reporter of this central historical fact.”

      and Dr. Mohler’s conclusion (in his own words):

      “Michael Licona is a gifted and courageous defender of the Christian faith and a bold apologist of Christian truth. Our shared hope must be that he will offer a full correction on this crucial question of the Bible’s full truthfulness and trustworthiness. I will be praying for him with the full knowledge that I have been one who has been gifted and assisted by needed correction.”

      This strikes me as a humble admonishment about an issue Dr Mohler believes has far-reaching consequences to the flock of Christ.

      When two guys in a coffee shop (apparently) take words out of context, I don’t think it is fair to pillory something that was written in the tone of the posting by Dr. Mohler.

    • […] language rather than intending to portray a historical event. I’m very pleased to see that Michael Patton has been defending Licona and calling for a great deal more generosity concerning this […]

    • I remember reading Mohler’s letter: ‘The Devil is in the Detials’, etc. off his blog, and this was about the whole of Licona’s work and book. And Mohler’s title here itself shows that this piece is not without judgment. And Mohler’s use of what Robert Gundry had to say about the Text/texts in Matt. 27 using the Jewish midrash, was certainly not related fairly. In fact, Mohler just doesn’t ever historically exegete the text here, and he just keeps suggesting that the history of the Resurrection and the inerrancy of the Scripture are somehow at stake. And this is just quite simply erroneous! One really wonders how such a simple theological blunder can be made by Al Mohler? Save to say, he is simply not thinking without bias here, and is not looking at the various theological aspects of the text, nor the Apocalyptic. Again, not good work, nor a place to impugn a real scholar. Sorry, but both Giseler and Mohler have missed the scholastic mark here, in ignorance and certain personal bias, and attack on Like Licona. Again I say shame!

    • *Mike

    • Randall Birtell

      Dear Mr. Patton,

      You state that “has been publicly called to repentance by theologian and author Norman Geisler”. Please provide a source for this. I do not find this in any of Geisler’s responses on his website. Certainly Geisler is calling Licona “wrong” but that of course is quite different than calling him to repent.

      This is not a debate about interpretation – it is absolutely about inerrancy. For those who think that Licona can dehistoricizing Matt. 27 while not denying inerrancy – how about this? Licona states that “A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4-6″ [p. 306, note 114). This is a philosophical statement that does not presuppose inerrancy – it is not a statement of interpretation.

      As for those who have characterized Dr. Geisler’s reaction as “over the top”, a “hyper-reaction”, “ridiculous” – let me simply say that this is not some insignificant topic. For if Scripture is errant (contains embellishments), then Scripture is not Divinely inspired, for the Divine cannot error.

      -Randall

    • […] Dustup over Inerrancy Got this in an email this evening: Mike Licona, Norman Geisler, Albert Mohler, and the Evangelical Circus | Parchment and Pen Was unaware of the dustup between Licona and Gesiler. After reading Geisler's open letters at his […]

    • Duane

      This is what happens when error is allowed in the name of orthodoxy. Geisler needs to be soundly reprimanded for denying literal Genesis. Licona needs to be set straight about Mt. 27. And how is it that erring men like Gary DeMar are allowed to chime in? It’s time to stop worshiping Reformed theology – replacing the Word of God with the opinions of man. Stop quoting Augustine and the Reformers and submit your prideful opinions to Scripture. Hypocrits! God has sovereignly elected national Israel and preserving the people for a future generation in which the prophecies will literally be fulfilled. Biblical eschatology is premillennial. Period. There is no other millennial view derived from the exegetical exposition of the biblical text. That’s what happens when degree programs created by men, filled with critiques of other men’s opinions, are allowed to undermine a proper understanding of Scripture. And give up on “evangelical” too. As MacArthur has correctly observed the term has become meaningless. “Evangelicals” are all over the map, with the average lay believer having little sound understanding of the Word. My observation some 25 years ago stands – it’s not the believers don’t know the Word; it’s that they don’t know that they don’t know the Word. Thankfully Christ is building his Church despite the splintered churchianity.

    • Gary Simmons

      Since when did inerrancy come to mean “can’t contain embellishments”? A purposeful embellishment is not an error. I embellish all the time! (No, not literally. When I say “all the time”, I am purposefully embellishing. The statement is nonetheless true.)

      Both overstatement and understatement are legitimate figures of speech used in human language. If God is the author of our mind, then surely He would not refuse the use of rather common figures of speech.

      The problem is that some people have a naive approach to inerrancy and abuse the text by forcing post-Enlightenment assumptions on a pre-Enlightenment writing.

      If there is no apocalyptic imagery in Matthew, then I suppose we have to believe in reincarnation. After all, Jesus *did* say that John is Elijah (Matt 11:14), and we all know that John was born to Elizabeth (see Luke). Not to mention Jesus claimed he would in a mere three days finish the Temple that been under construction for forty-six years. That can’t be talking about his body, because that would be apocalyptic.

      He couldn’t have seen the Spirit descending like a dove, either, because that’s apocalyptic.

      No, no apocalyptic imagery here, folks. No angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. No talking with Moses and Elijah and experiencing a face-glow transformation. No seeing the Son of Man coming on the clouds or seated at the right hand of Power. No disciples vying for positions of authority in a Coming Kingdom. Certainly not.

      ____
      You can’t “dehistoricize” a text unless it was historical to begin with. Matthew 5-7 is a rather lengthy speech. Speech is not narrative. Matthew starts with a genealogy, which is also not narrative. Luke has two songs in the early chapters of that Gospel, which — you guessed it — are poetry rather than narrative, per se.

      Acts contains Stephen’s speech with a mostly-but-not-perfectly accurate (from a “historical” standpoint) retelling of the history of Israel. And the real kicker? Stephen gave that speech empowered by the Holy Spirit. That’s right. The Holy Spirit inspired Stephen to proclaim the embellishment that God called Abram in the land of Ur *before* coming to Haran.

      The Hebrew text does not support this, although some [evangelical] translations of Gen 12:1 seem to pretend that the vayyiqtol form can be a pluperfect in this singular instance.

      My point is simple: even narrative contains embedded genres, some of which are not narrative. Besides, a writer is completely allowed to cross the line between one genre and another at will, thus allowing for some apocalyptic imagery set within an otherwise-mostly-historical framework.

      Mike doesn’t need to be tarred and feathered for simply considering a possibility. Sheesh. There’s enough apocalyptic material within the Gospels to leave one reasonably open to the possibility, and it is not disingenuous for an author to embed apocalyptic imagery within narrative, despite our Modern sensibilities saying otherwise.

    • Zion

      CMP, good job trying to defend your friend. If he has made a mistake, it seems that he has made some amends (comment #31) and leaves open the possiblity of an update in a new edition. I’m not in a position to judge his accusers, especially since I don’t know the details about the situation, but I feel distressed like in Matthew 18:31.

    • rosalind

      I read most of the article, and I have one thing to say, to many christians are trying to convert others to believe like them. It does not work. Sometimes it takes a simple mind to see the truth. Sometimes to much knowledge confuses people. I have seen people drugged through the mud just because they do not see things eye to eye. The most important thing is to show God’s love by forgiving even when others do not, and to keep on our mission for our purpose. unfortanely christians have lost what God is telling us. Love one another. To many nick pick, shun and act like small little children. We all who are christians need to love and let God do the rest. Stop judging. I have had preachers say we all judge, but the kind of judging when you put one of God’s worker down and destroy there lifes is the work of Satan. Christians fighting. WHY? For the sake that they are right. Let God show them the truth,and remember there are lost souls out there who just need to see God’s love plain and simple.

    • Roger - Australia

      This whole sorry episode proves what many of us have always known, that Christian fundamentalists in Calvinist clothing (euphemistically called “Evangelicals”) would eat their own children if the thought that they were straying even a little out of their narrow predefined doctrinal boundaries.

      Belligerent, intolerant, narrow-minded and completely lacking in Christ’s love, mercy and grace. Brick bats.

    • Brian Parker

      A word from across the pond – The assumption of theological authority and the exercise of legalised violence to sustain it has slain more poor Christian souls than many wars. “Recant” was always the demand of authority, burning the fate of the victim. In England (Old England that is) we know it only too well.

      Burning at the stake may not be an option but the mind set remains.

    • keith

      I will have to order that Book – many thanks for the reccomendations cmp. I’m also curious as to what Gisler would make of N.T.Wright who is big in apocalypising (away!) much of Jesus’ teaching about his second coming … if I have understood some of the issues (which I may not have & don’t claim to have read up on what he said just the concerns expressed by evangelical friends of Wrights)

      I’m a little confused as to what problem people have with selected individuals being resussitated from the dead by God as additional rather emphatic witnesses of the fact that the Messiah had come and the saints in Hades/Sheol would now be able to enter heaven.

      The vail separating perfect God and sinful humans is torn in two. The Holy of Holies is for the first time since eden … accessible. Que Problema?

      Perhaps a more critical issue beneath this is an obsurity over the faith of those who awaited the Messiah’s coming? or an understanding of what happened during the three days between death and ressurection? Scritpure does not support a “Jesus had a nice 3 days sleep” view but generally it just isn’t talked about … at least in my very limited exposure to stuff.

      J Sidlow Baxter’s book the other side of death is worth reading in this respect. Also one might wish to familiarise oneself with the early church’s Fathers belief of Jesus preaching the gospel in hades …(yeah yeah … another pandoras box of interpretations … but that IS what THEY asserted!) 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 4:6, Eph 4:8-10, Rom 10: 6-7; http://hellbusters.8m.com/upd5.html for more

      For a defense of Jesus preaching being actually preaching with a possiblity of repentance … i.e. post mortum evangelisation see:
      http://www.thesecretofeternallife.com/bill_turner_studies/22a_The_Issues_of_Death_and_Eternal_Judgement.doc
      and more quotes of chuch fathers on pages 9 & 10

      ps I am NOT a universalist and consider that the idea of those who would willfully reject God’s grace and truth and light and love here (i.e. pharisees and saducees who simply wnated to kill Jesus and hated him more the more of God’s grace and power he displayed) … is a little silly!

      regards,

      Keith
      regards,

      Keith

    • keith

      I will have to order that Book – many thanks for the reccomendations cmp. I’m also curious as to what Gisler would make of N.T.Wright who is big in apocalypising (away!) much of Jesus’ teaching about his second coming … if I have understood some of the issues (which I may not have & don’t claim to have read up on what he said just the concerns expressed by evangelical friends of Wrights)

      I’m a little confused as to what problem people have with selected individuals being resussitated from the dead by God as additional rather emphatic witnesses of the fact that the Messiah had come and the saints in Hades/Sheol would now be able to enter heaven.

      The vail separating perfect God and sinful humans is torn in two. The Holy of Holies is for the first time since eden … accessible. Que Problema?

      Perhaps a more critical issue beneath this is an obsurity over the faith of those who awaited the Messiah’s coming? or an understanding of what happened during the three days between death and ressurection? Scritpure does not support a “Jesus had a nice 3 days sleep” view but generally it just isn’t talked about … at least in my very limited exposure to stuff.

      J Sidlow Baxter’s book the other side of death is worth reading in this respect. Also one might wish to familiarise oneself with the early church’s Fathers belief of Jesus preaching the gospel in hades …(yeah yeah … another pandoras box of interpretations … but that IS what THEY asserted!) 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 4:6, Eph 4:8-10, Rom 10: 6-7; http://hellbusters.8m.com/upd5.html for more

      For a defense of Jesus preaching being actually preaching with a possiblity of repentance … i.e. post mortum evangelisation see:
      http://www.thesecretofeternallife.com/bill_turner_studies/22a_The_Issues_of_Death_and_Eternal_Judgement.doc
      and more quotes of chuch fathers on pages 9 & 10

      ps I am NOT a universalist and consider that the idea of those who would willfully reject God’s grace and truth and light and love here (i.e. pharisees and saducees who simply wnated to kill Jesus and hated him more the more of God’s grace and power he displayed) … is a little silly!

      regards,

      Keith

    • T. D. Webb

      Firstly, may I say that I find myself in unequivocal agreement with the belief that our Bible is inerrant in its autographs. Secondly, I agree with the view that Matthew 27 is a historic account, rather than being tinged with “apocalyptic” interpretation. That said and having read Norman Geisler’s lengthy “article” attacking Dr. Mike Licona, this Christian is greatly dismayed with the mean-spirited tone Dr. Geisler adopted. In his zeal to defend the inerrancy of Scripture, Dr. Geisler’s critique of Dr. Licona’s monumental work, The Resurrection of Christ, smacks of gnat-straining comments laced with vituperative condescension and unadulterated arrogance. For the author of Chosen But Free to pontificate on the scholarship methodology Dr. Licona utilized in writing his masterpiece is cause enough to question the assertions, or even the underlying motives, of Dr. Geisler. Furthermore, Dr. Geisler’s demand that Dr. Licona “recant” is ludicrous on its face and a classic example of audacity at its worst. Finally, it is a sad day to see the once gentle and cogent Christian apologist, Dr. Geisler, descend into the morass of bitter ecclesiastical politics and legalistic judgmentalism.

    • ERNST WENDLAND

      Here’s a quote from John Stott that may be applicable to this discussion: “On Theological enquiry: We need to encourage Christian scholars to go to the frontiers and engage in the debate, while at the same time
      retaining their active participation in the community of
      faith. I know this is a delicate issue, and it is not easy
      to define the right relations between free enquiry and
      settled faith. Yet I have often been disturbed by the
      loneliness of some Christian scholars. Whether it is they
      who have drifted away from the fellowship, or the
      fellowship which has allowed them to drift, in either case
      their isolation is an unhealthy and dangerous condition.
      As part of their own integrity Christian scholars need both to preserve the tension between openness and commitment, and to accept some measure of accountability to one another and responsibility for one another in the body of Christ. In such a caring fellowship I think we might witness fewer casualties on the one hand and more theological creativity on the other.
      From Authentic Christianity © 1995 John Stott and Timothy Dudley-Smith.

    • K. Reuxa

      Where on earth does Geisler and Mohler receive the authority to be Grand Inquisitors? I am so glad to be part of an independent group rather than one controlled by councils, conventions, or national offices!

    • K. Reuxa

      I am also part of a non-creedal group. I recognize the value of the early ancient creeds–but this is an illustration of how divisive creed making can truly be!

    • Chad Winters

      Quoting Roger from Australia: “This whole sorry episode proves what many of us have always known, that Christian fundamentalists in Calvinist clothing (euphemistically called “Evangelicals”) would eat their own children if the thought that they were straying even a little out of their narrow predefined doctrinal boundaries.
      Belligerent, intolerant, narrow-minded and completely lacking in Christ’s love, mercy and grace. Brick bats.”

      Since Dr. Geisler is the proto-typical Anti-Calvinist (see Chosen but Free) I’m not sure this fits into your ad-hominem there….

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      All in all, I would say that Geisler has shown his true color (arrogance), and Mike has shown his (humility). At the end of the day, humility under-girded by love for God and his Word wins. Arrogance reveals little or no love for God, but it only displays our own pettiness.

    • Doc B

      To lump Mohler’s congenial analysis of the cultural impact in with Geisler’s hit piece is to construct a straw man out of poopy. It is irresponsible at best.

      Separate the two and address each of their concerns individually; otherwise this will turn into a mud-slinging contest that will embarrass even the Republican presidential candidates.

    • Mohler may be a less sounding “prefect of doctrine”, but his position theologically (so-called) is the same as Geisler! This is hardly a “straw man”, they both know what their seeking to do! It is still “shame” on both for Christian leaders!

    • Danny Zacharias

      I think the fair thing for the two fudamentalists to do is take the time to call out the rest of the evangelical scholars who hold to the same interpretation as Licona – i.e. most of the Matthew and Gospels scholars (myself included). Let’s be consistent, and help people recognize that most experts on the Gospel of Matthew hold to the same position as Licona. If you’re going to be a poor example and bad witness for the Gospel, at least go the whole way to polarize the Christian community instead of trying to make it look like Licona stands alone – he doesn’t.

    • Amen there Danny! My point about NT Wright, who American Evangelicals seem to read in great voraciousness! And he certainly ain’t so-called historical on Matt. 27: 52-53. 😉

    • Jason Pratt

      Very much in favor of Mike’s book overall; and of Mike’s side on this dispute. Good article, CMP.

      JRP

    • Nick

      @Randall.

      To begin with, Inerrancy is a conclusion. It is not a presupposition. Of course Inerrancy is not presupposed. Otherwise, Mike would have just written “The Bible is Inerrant and it says Jesus rose. Therefore, Jesus rose.”

      As for embellishments, do you know what Mike means by the term and do you have a source for this?

      As for repentance, how many times has Geisler been threatening Mike with talk about Gundry and ETS and saying he needs to change his mind on this issue? If you’re looking for the exact word. No. If you mean is Geisler pushing Mike as if he’s a threat to the Kingdom, then yes.

    • In reality, I don’t think either Geisler or Mohler are that “creedal”, they both don’t appear to understand the spiritual reality of our Lord’s teaching about Jonah’s “three days and three nights in the belly of the earth”? (Matt. 12:39-42)…The “sign” of Jonah! And this certainly applies to Christ’s death, and burial…the state of the dead Christ is the mystery of the tomb and descent into hades! This is not so much a literal order of events, as a spiritual reality of both Christ’s death and His resurrection, which is certainly historical but also spiritual, (1 Peter 3:18-22). Here we can certainly note the Apostles Creed! It very clearly states the essentials about belief in Jesus Christ. And certainly, the Apocalyptic is seen here, in the ultimate destruction of evil and the triumph of good, as we can see in the Book of Revelation, itself!

    • C. Barton

      I am reminded that Paul got it right when he taught that truth must be spoken in charity, or don’t bother (my paraphrase!). I liken this situation to an irate librarian beating bad spellers over the head with a dictionary: it will reduce misspelling, and also will empty the library.
      Would that the scholars involved should deliver well-framed debate regarding the apocalyptic issue, and avoid the “ad hominem” debacle!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      I believe that this was a historical event retold by Matthew as well.

      My secondary question is why didn’t the Sadducees promptly abandon their their disbelief in a bodily resurrection given the eyewitness testimony (which might have included Sadducees themselves) of the risen saints?

    • Of course only faith can see and believe in the Resurrection of Christ, and only regeneration & calling can give faith! Note the so-called, ‘ordo salutis’.

    • Jeff

      One of the main reasons I walked away from fundamentalism and the “church” in general after 17 years; doctrine over love and know it all attitudes. Every Christian and his/her beliefs are right and the other persons are wrong. I sought out love for many years and found it in a peculiar place, non Christians. I had enough of fake smiles and bloated heads thank you. Can someone please quote me some verses that justify a theologian? Read Pagan Christianity, explains most everything wrong in the Church today. Norm was wrong period.

    • stephen cavness

      *full disclosure* i did not read all of the comments,i just read the first round of comments…

      im no mohler apologist.. i appreciate much of his work and stances, but he does drive me crazy sometimes. i say that first hoping to dispel any notions that i feel the need to rush to his defense.

      here is a link

      [ http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/09/14/the-devil-is-in-the-details-biblical-inerrancy-and-the-licona-controversy/ ]

      to mohler’s article regarding licona’s book, where he spends *** six paragraphs*** at the beginning singing the praises of licona’s book, scholarship, writing, etc.

      he then closes with:
      “Michael Licona is a gifted and courageous defender of the Christian faith and a bold apologist of Christian truth. Our shared hope must be that he will offer a full correction on this crucial question of the Bible’s full truthfulness and trustworthiness. I will be praying for him with the full knowledge that I have been one who has been gifted and assisted by needed correction. Leaving his argument where it now stands will not only diminish the influence of Michael Licona — it will present those who affirm the inerrancy of the Bible with yet another test of resolve.”

      one might disagree w/ mohler re: the cause/effect of the stance of the passage in question, i would hardly call mohler’s position and handling of it something to be embarrassed of – whether its content or demeanor. (at least in this article… granted i didnt hear the discussion you spoke of).

      geisler on the other hand…

    • tom

      please lord come back now my head hurts

    • C Michael Patton

      I think that the issue now is that Licona is suffering so much from this without a peep from either Geisler or Mohler calling to account their followers who are keeping him from getting his jobs back. Three jobs were lost as a direct effect of Mohler and Geisler. I can’t imagine that neither know (especially since Geisler is proactively trying to warn individual places about hiring Mike).

      I doubt either of them would treat a beggar on the road the way that they are treating Mike. Is this the type of reward someone deserves for producing something as monumental as what Mike has done just because of a minor detail?

      When one has a big plateform, they need to be careful about what they say about someone else. There are actually some people out there that are gullible enough to listen and ruin someone elses life.

    • Jim Reggio

      Geiser needs to retire and go way. The man holds a whole host of beliefs that most heavyweight theologians disagree with, and after his defense of the Caner scandal he has no room to accuse anyone of anything. Pride run amok.

    • Jonathan Perreault

      CMP,

      I agree with you 100%. Mike Licona is a first-rate resurrection scholar, following in the footsteps of Gary Habermas. I hope that Al Mohler and Norm Geisler don’t miss the forest for the trees here.

      Thanks for this great post!

      Jonathan Perreault

    • Jesse

      I agree with John. Mohler seemed quite respectful, though obviously concerned. CMP’s article and the comments seem quite immoderate in suggesting that is a witch hunt by fundies.

    • C. Michael: I am actually amazed that this situation has run this far along, I mean in Mike Licona’s world with his fellow scholars, this is an open question, so in reality the likes of both a Norm Geisler and Al Mohler, really matter little. Neither one of these two are in the central world of Christian academia. Even Geisler has never been in the centre of this world. So I am somewhat baffled that he can have so much pull? But I understand myself political religious personalities, which Geisler certainly seems to maintain, but the bottom line is always the real depth of biblical, theological and spiritual authority. And in this “centre” Mike Licona simply holds the high ground! One has but to read those people who have written with high regard for Licona’s book: The Resurrection of Jesus, etc. It is my prayer that some if not many of them would come forward, and say no witch hunt here!

      But we always must be critical here also, as CS Lewis said: Theology/Truth is not “adjustable to contemporary thought,” etc., as some theologians seem to believe – as if we were trying to make rather than learn. And also we cannot sit on the truth, and build a fence around it, but must seek it, live it, and thirst for it!

    • BlueCat57

      Fr. Robert – There you folks go quoting CS Lewis again. While I was joking in a previous post about him being a heretic, some of his views would certainly be frowned upon by most posting on this board.

      So the question really is: Why do Geisler and Mohler seem to be picking on Licona? My usual answer is “follow the money.” I still contend that they are doing it because it gets them more attention that simply praising the book.

      It may have even by CMP that posted about Ron? Bell and Lewis. I’m having difficulty finding where I read the comparison. I believe I commented about the comparison between Bell and Lewis, that Lewis in his writings promoted God while Bell tends to promote man and himself. That is why Lewis is so universally accepted and respected despite his non-orthodox views on some items. Licona was not promoting his views on Matt. 27 in this book, from what I read here it was almost an aside that could easily have been left out without affecting the book. So why all the hubbub? Follow the money.

    • BlueCat,

      As an Anglican priest/presbyter, and now semi-retired at 62, I am well aware of “religion” and money. And by the grace of God I will and have never sold my soul for any of it! I have a real respect for certain conservative American Evangelicals, certainly mostly in the past, but God has His men and people there today, as still a few Brits in my homeland. The memory and work of CS Lewis included! In reality the true church is always “Catholic” (universal)!

      Reading Michael Licona’s book: The Resurrection of Jesus, etc., was a real theological and even spiritual treat! I pray he has many years to come and give, as God enables him! God Bless Mike and C. Michael and friends, all! 🙂

      *Perhaps the Lord has a few good years left for this old Anglican! soli Deo gloria!

    • And btw, something worse than religion and money, is religion and power, and a so-called name for yourself! Lord deliver us from such in the Visible Body of Christ, at least let us “see” them for what they are!

    • Howard Pepper

      Interesting post. Michael you say “I am beginning to think that just the opposite is true. Mohler and Geisler (and anyone else who has defined Licona accordingly) are presently giving the enemies of Christ a powerful weapon. Illegitimate weapon, yes. But powerful nonetheless….” I don’t think of citing the controversy like use of a weapon, personally.

      But I do think this kind of response by Geisler and Mohler, like many other similar ones by many Evangelical leaders at various times IS germane to an evaluation of a number of claims of Evangelical Christianity, most notably the supposed transformation that brings the grace of God into the heart of anyone trusting Christ for salvation. Without expecting perfection by any means, it seems reasonable to expect Christian leaders, scholars and defenders of the faith of the status of these men, and others, to have real transformation evidenced by love and grace. That is, if the content of that trust in Christ really is important (e.g., belief in his deity, “finished work,” etc.)

    • Randall Birtell

      A couple of thoughts:

      1. Nick, I assume Mike is using the term “embellishment” in the normal sense, to enhance a story or narrative with fictitious additions. Also, what I meant by “presuppose” is that if Mike believed the text was without error – he would not entertain the idea that the text had embellishments.

      2. Gary S., you say a purposeful embelleshment is not an error. I agree, overstatements are used in the human language. However, this is different than an embellishment. A narrative such as John 18:4-6 describes the scene when the Roman cohort came to arrest Jesus. Either John descibes reality correctly or he errors by adding fictitious details. If John adds fictitious details the text then is not inerrant.

      Also, Dr. Richard Howe has also weighed in on this contorversy:
      http://quodlibetalblog.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/breaking-my-internet-silence-on-mike-licona-and-inerrancy/

    • Cindy Skillman

      Wow! Thanks for letting me know about what looks like being a great resource. 🙂 Just bought it for my Kindle and as soon as I can I’ll post a review.

      As for the brothers squaring off against a brother, there’s nothing but shame in that. We all disagree about some things, and we are all precisely where God has us in our journey following Jesus. We have no business attacking one another over this sort of minor doctrinal point. Even if it were a major point, it would better be handled in love and privacy.

    • Matt

      I know that Mike has had some invitations revoked and it is my hope that Norm Geisler has not been involved in the cancellation of those events through any direct contact as there is a federal law against “Interference” with a persons ability to make a living. Interference in labor and employment law is ruled by the courts to be any activity to prevent a person from making a living that involves direct correspondence. If Norm Geisler called to interfere in an invitation that Mike received than Norm Geisler has violated a federal law and should be charged. As I said, I hope this is not true but if it is he should confess and pay the consequences.

    • […] the he denies the inerrancy of the bible. For a discussion of this ugly dispute, see http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/12/mike-licona-norman-geisler-albert-mohler-and-the-evang… and the references to the articles by Geisler and Mohler contained on Michael Patton’s […]

    • Nick

      @Randall. Then you’re simply mistaken about embellishments. I know this because I did something unusual. I asked Mike. He says he holds to Inerrancy. I believe him. So I ask him how his view fits. (I tell you, it’s quite amazing when you go up to someone and first ask them questions about their view instead of shooting out accusations) Embellishments is a difficult word really, but what I get is that it describes the historical event, but it uses powerful and dramatic language to paint a picture of what’s going on.

      Yes. I know Richard Howe has weighed in. The problem is I give more credence to the NT scholars who have weighed in and so far on Geisler’s side I’ve seen zero, while on Mike’s I’ve seen a plethora.

      I also see no reason why Inerrancy can’t be simple. It can just be “All the Bible teaches is true.” I’ve seen the Geisler side quote ICBI more than Scripture. Isn’t that interesting?

    • Eric S. Mueller

      CMP, I somehow missed the part about Licona losing jobs and having trouble getting a job because of this. Something is seriously wrong in a system where one or two people can have such a dramatic effect on one man’s livelihood. I would NOT want to be in their “industry”.

    • BlueCat57

      Fr. Robert – I did not mean for that comment to in any way be directed at you personally. I just haven’t figured out how to reply directly to a post.

      I was also not intending to denigrate Lewis, but to:
      a. Be a bit snarky, which is hard to do in short comments
      b. Point out that many, many prominent Theologians and Apologists have what would be considered by most heretical views yet they are generally overlooked because their main body of work adds value and that the “heretical” views are not the focus of their ministry.

      It was Michael Patton and published an article titled “Why do we love C.S. Lewis and hate Rob Bell.” Surprisingly I haven’t seen mention of that article in these comments, yet it discusses a related issue.

      A minor point, shouldn’t “Catholic” be lower case “c” in the way you are using it?

      Finally, power and money are, I believe, the issue here, not Matt 27. That is unfortunate and of course I have no intimate knowledge that would prove my point. That said, we can only “judge” by what we see and I see a struggle for power that will lead to money for those that win. And that, IMHO, is part of the nature of man.

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      And I wonder how Geisler sleeps in the night knowing that he is the instrumental cause for so much pain for Licona, knowing he has lost three jobs now. I mean, seriously I cannot digest this cheap mentality on display, and that too by a Christian towards his own brother. Ver cheap, Geisler!

    • Eric S. Mueller

      Leslie, I don’t know much about Geisler, but I’ve never seen evidence self-appointed “doctrine police” worry about the effects of their actions.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Hmmmm, looks like the Tone Police vs. the Doctrine Police.

      Tone Police: “Your doctrine is sound, but your tone is offensive! You’re arrested!”

      vs.

      Doctrine Police: “Your tone is not the concern, but more importantly, your doctrine is egregiously aberrant! You’re arrested!”

    • And now the so-called ICBI/ICC is called into the situation. Sad, for this is simply a parachurch group. Years back it was somewhat created because of the so-called Neo-Orthodoxy, and then people thought of as a treat, like Karl Barth. But in reality, as Bruce McCormack has shown Barth was not really a ‘Neo-Orthodox’! I myself would agree with some of the ICC positions, but that is not really the issue, I mean how does the conservative Evangelical Church or really churches manage itself, with parachurch groups? I would hope not. In the end, for Licona he should only be seen before the scholastic academy, which is simply where this position should sit. If the Evangelical Churches disagree, that is up to them, but on an individual church basis. Again, it is very sad to watch this whole affair, and see the treatment of Michael Licona. But again my prayer is that many in the academy would come forward and support their fellow scholar & brother in Christ!

    • *threat

    • C Michael Patton

      Truth,

      It is not about tone, but what the tone represents as a Magisterium is present in Protestant Evangelicalism and its threats not only to sola Scriptura but what defines an Evangelical (i.e. subscribing to one or two people’s interpretation of ICBI).

      1. That Geisler and Mohler and do what they did the way that they did it and influence so many people in Evangelicalism evidences a problems. Why does Geisler think he has to receive a response from Licona at the threat of going public? What if everyone did that with every issue they have in any book they read? Is this the proper way to handle a situation?

      2. That Mike has been let go from three positions and that Geisler is actively attempting to keep him from others. This is beyond doctrine and a significant problem in Christian practice. How can someone turn a Christian brother into a beggar on the side of the road and not only drive by but actively be engaging others to drive by? This alone should cause much greater credibility issues than the charges he is bringing against Licona.

      3. How does someone like this still have credibility anywhere in Evangelicalism. While I appreciate his contributions (and forever will), he has done this over and over again and somehow still has the ability to win friends and influence people. Not sure what that says about the divide in Evangelicalism, but it shows that one is definitely there.

      4. What might be typical with Geisler given his track record, is tragically typical with Mohler right now. Mohler should be writing another blog telling those who are blocking Mike’s livelihood and profession to cease. He should also be writing an open letter to Geisler exposing him. In fact, they both need to write open letters to themselves.

      I am glad that I am an Evangelical due to higher ideals than the fraternity among Evangelicals themselves. “Love one another” is not present here and, ironically, seems to be more absent when the passion people defend intellectual consent to a particular Evangelical theological position becomes the only placeholder for Evangelical love.

    • BlueCat,

      I don’t see the use of “Catholic” with the capital C as belonging to Rome, but perhaps it should be a small c? Note we Anglicans consider ourselves “Catholic” also, just not Roman Catholic. And I am myself something both “reformed” and “catholic”! Note, I even like and read Karl Barth, though I am not “Barthian”.

      Indeed Lewis was somewhat eclectic, as many Anglicans, I am too eclectic myself! But, on matters of faith and doctrine I would surely see myself as a conservative, just not an American one! 😉

    • BlueCat57

      Re: C Michael Patton says: December 6, 2011 at 11:22 am

      CMP says that he is an “Evangelical.” That statement reminds me to remind those here that whenever you are involved in a debate one of the first things you should do is agree on a definition of the terms that are being used in the debate. At the very least you should take the time to try and figure out how the others involved are defining the terms.

      I’m not going to take the time right now to cull through the comments for key terms but I’m sure that if you asked 10 people that have made comments in this thread that you would get at least four or five definitions and that not everyone would agree on a single definition for “evangelical” to use in this discussion.

    • BP57: Yeah, even with us Brit’s we have what is called, ‘Open Evangelicalism’, and people like Tom Wright claim that aspect. So that is not much help! Perhaps “brotherhood”, and to my mind, “man-up” should be applied here? I mean what has happened to Christian Manhood? Especially with those who claim pastoral & theological leadership? Indeed this is also a major issue to my mind! Is it gonna take an Evangelical synod to approach Pope Giesler? Sorry, but I am angry somewhat for Michael Licona’s sake! It’s time for all to simply ‘man-up’!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      I understand that some folks are peeved at Geisler and Mohler for their admonishments of Licona for his scholarly writing about Matthew 27.

      Here’s what helps me remain detached (to some degree):

      (o) As “evangelical scholars” do Mohler and Geisler have reason and liberty (or even responsibility?!) to offer substantive critique to “evangelical scholar” Licona’s writings about Matthew 27?

      I can’t see a convincing reason to shut down Mohler and Geisler’s freedom to rebut Licona’s writings about Matthew 27.

    • Danny Zacharias

      Truth Unites… and Divides:

      “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” (1 Cor 10:23)

      We’re called on to submit our will to Christ for the building up of his body and the proclamation of his Gospel, not to exercise our “freedom” as if that trumps everything else.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Faithful proclamation of (and fidelity to) Historical Truth builds up the Body of Christ.

    • Andrew T.

      As much as Norman Geisler seeks to defend orthodoxy, this isn’t a case of him defending scripture, rather it is a case of him defending his interpretation which he views as just as inerrant as scripture.

      This is a case of mistaking interpretation with text; of muddling tradition (ecclesiastical orthodoxy) and orthodoxy.

    • Jonathan Perreault

      Hello “Truth Unites…and Divides”:

      Speaking generally here – I like your comment about the Tone Police vs. the Truth Police…that’s pretty good!

      JP

    • It is interesting that really neither Geisler or Mohler have even tried to give a full historical exegesis of Matt. 27: 52-53, save to say it is and MUST be historical! I have in fact not seen myself a solid historical presentation yet, and as I noted, not even with the literal-minded EW Bullinger! And even John MacArthur uses the word “Evidently” (apparent), and likens this as – “a kind of foretaste of 1 Thes. 4:16”. But how he arrives at such a conclusion is simply not exegetical. So the whole literal, historical, is both a supposition and a presupposition. The only real reality here is as the text, the death & resurrection of Christ, itself! The details and the timing are just simply not clear! And so this does appear to be best seen within the Apocalyptic genre. But then thats my exegetical take anyway.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Thanks Jonathan Perrault for your “like” of my earlier comment.

      (General observation) In the interaction between folks who generally lean towards the Tone Police and folks who generally lean towards the Doctrine/Truth Police…

      is that they occasionally speak past one another.

      (Another general observation) Tone Police tend to be dogmatic, ironically enough, in their subjective assessments as to what constitutes “inappropriate” tone.

      For example, as regards this post, I did not find anything objectionable in either content or tone in the blog post written by Albert Mohler about Licona’s writings on Matthew 27.

      On the other hand, some folks found Mohler’s post to be objectionable in his tone. Whereas I thought Mohler lauded and extolled Licona’s contributions quite a bit before constructively critiquing Licona on Matthew 27.

      Which makes me think of a subsidiary question:

      Did Jesus’s opponents ever object to Jesus’s tone or word choice(s) when He addressed or responded to them? If they did, were they justified in objecting to His tone that He used with them? Moreover, did His tone prevent them from truly hearing the truth and substance of what He was conveying? Or did they have such a pharasaic obsession with tone and propriety that their obsession prevented them from receiving the substance of what Jesus was saying to them?

    • The very title of Mohler’s post, was.. ‘The Devil Is In the Details, etc.’ So this is hardly an open minded look from the very beginning!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Albert Mohler: “Michael Licona is a gifted and courageous defender of the Christian faith and a bold apologist of Christian truth. Our shared hope must be that he will offer a full correction on this crucial question of the Bible’s full truthfulness and trustworthiness. I will be praying for him with the full knowledge that I have been one who has been gifted and assisted by needed correction.”

      Looks good and sincere and genuine to me.

    • Eric Miller

      The conflict isn’t simply that “Resurrection of the Saints” isn’t historical. That is a blatant misrepresentation of the controversy. The issue IS inerrancy. Dr. Licona has said:

      “It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes. We may also be reading poetic language or legend at certain points, such as Matthew’s report of the raising of some dead saints at Jesus death (Mt 27:51-54) and the angel(s) at the tomb (Mk 15:5-7; Mt 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-13”

      If there are embellishments and legends in Scripture that undercuts any view of inerrancy. I like Dr. Licona but people need to stop downplaying the seriousness of his assertions.

      http://normangeisler.net/public_html/ResponseMLEPS.html

    • You cannot see his presupposition that Licona is already wrong? I am right here to tell you that it is both Mohler and Geisler who are really wrong, and should listen to the work of Licona! Indeed the majority of the Christian academy see this as “Apocalyptic”, in Matt. 27: 52-53! Its really just that simple! Now if one “wants” to hold and believe in the historical idea of details here, they are quite welcome! But, it really just cannot be seen exegetically!

    • Eric: It is quite unfair really to jump right into the middle of a scholastic and scholars argument on the Resurrection. As Licona here! The view of inerrancy is really not the subject here. I myself believe in the classic idea of inerrancy, but I also believe in the Apocalyptic nature and interpretation of Matt. 27: 52-53. And I am most certainly a conservative Christian and Anglican!

    • BlueCat57

      In response to:
      Truth Unites… and Divides says: December 6, 2011 at 1:58 pm
      “I understand that some folks are peeved at Geisler and Mohler for their admonishments of Licona for his scholarly writing about Matthew 27.
      Here’s what helps me remain detached (to some degree):
      (o) As “evangelical scholars” do Mohler and Geisler have reason and liberty (or even responsibility?!) to offer substantive critique to “evangelical scholar” Licona’s writings about Matthew 27?
      I can’t see a convincing reason to shut down Mohler and Geisler’s freedom to rebut Licona’s writings about Matthew 27.”

      Based on what I’ve seen here Geisler and Mohler are not admonishing Licona nor are they offering substantive critique, they are calling him a heretic and demanding he recant.

      It also appears from many posts that Matt 27 is open for debate.

      Others have indicated that they are not aware of scholarly papers on the subject by any of those involved that have been published in peer reviewed journals, so there is nothing to rebut except statements made almost in passing without any details about how their respective positions were arrived at. We are discussing conclusions without the supporting facts. Sherlock Holmes would be ashamed of us.

      If Mohler and Geisler were actually rebutting Licona then they are free to do that, but they are calling him a heretic. And while they are free to do and say whatever they want, they should extend that freedom to Licona as well. They just have bigger pulpits to broadcast their opinions from.

      They are not presenting scholarly arguments and debating the passage in the appropriate forum which would be in an academic setting. Of course I have such a low opinion of academia, both secular and religious, that I doubt Licona would get a “fair” hearing. Either Mohler/Geisler would demand he present in front of a Southern Baptist audience or they would refuse to attend a debate in a more “liberal” setting.

    • We should note that the so-called doctrine of inerrancy is itself quite hard to define! Charles Spurgeon said he would as soon defend a lion as the Word of God! Yes the Word of God is its own defense! Just speaking for myself, I don’t need to “define” how the Bible is inspired or the Word of God, it just IS! Note, here I tend toward the presup ideas. I say “ideas”, for humanly speaking we are found always stumbling & grappling before and with the God who is Totally Other! (To quote Barth)

    • Wow, I just realized that this really is about fame, fortune and books! Norm Geisler is coming out with a new book in the Spring (2012), called: Defending Inerrancy, etc. So his name and position is on the block! (Or so he sees it no doubt) And Al Mohler is writing in support of it! More Classic Fundamentalism!

      Rally round the flag boys!

    • Eric Miller

      The conflict isn’t simply that “Resurrection of the Saints” isn’t historical. That is a blatant misrepresentation of the controversy. The issue IS inerrancy. Dr. Licona has said:

      “It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes. We may also be reading poetic language or legend at certain points, such as Matthew’s report of the raising of some dead saints at Jesus death (Mt 27:51-54) and the angel(s) at the tomb (Mk 15:5-7; Mt 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-13”

      If there are embellishments and legends in Scripture that undercuts any view of inerrancy. I like Dr. Licona but people need to stop downplaying the seriousness of his assertions and stop disrespecting those who do not support him.

    • Nick

      @Eric.

      Do you know what Mike Licona’s book really is?

      Do you know who his audience is?

      Do you know what the word “may” means?

    • After reading from Geisler’s own site, I can see that the only thing that one can really do, is to let Geisler and Company go their own way! I know easy for me to say, but not for Michael Licona. Reading Geisler’s Letters, he is comparing Licona to Robert Gundry, and speaking both ad hoc and ad hom, therein. I loathe this method of Geisler myself, but it is the nature of such mentality. So he/they are no going to listen or dialogue, sadly. But welcome to the Church today in postmodernity. It seems many still retreat back into Fundamentalism at such a time. But in reality this won’t work either! I value many in Fundamentalism, but in the end it just won’t work or feed the soul!

    • C Michael Patton

      Although I have not had much time to keep up on these comments (!), I think SOME of you are missing MY main point: like I said in my most recent post (and the reason I put it up), these are twinkling lights that serve to overshadow the significance of the contribution that Mike has made. It is so sad to recognize the reality that if Mike would not have produced this work, he would not be out of a job. That is unimaginable! Seeing how both Geisler and Mohler have reaceted one in silence one in promotion of Mike’s loss of job, I would say that both of them think all the lights are better off not being on at all if they are not going to twinkle.

    • C. Michael,

      I have said perhaps too much here already, but I am certainly baffled somewhat, and very sad about this whole issue and treatment of Mike Licona! But again reading Geisler’s site, he is just bent on his own course, hell or highwater! And he is just a Christian Fundamentalist, not much else can be said. So we all should just move on, and leave this man behind! Again, easy for me, but perhaps harder for Licona. So again, those that support and stand with Michael, from his place of Evangelical fellowship, etc., should stand up against this base Pharisaism of Geisler and Company! And I hope his fellow scholars stand with him too!

      I think I will retire from this debate, and move on, but certainly I will keep standing with Mike Licona, prayfully and spiritually! God Bless you all in this desire!

    • C Michael Patton

      Good word. I think we will close these comments. It is hard to moderate.

    • […] my strength I want to push back against your recent shenanigans against Michael Licona. I believe Michael Patton already pointed out how much of a circus this “controversy” has become. There is nothing I can say that hasn’t been said better by Patton. Yet I continue to read […]

    • […] some background and commentary that hits the nail on the head, read Michael Patton’s excellent post here. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

    • […] us are not inerrant, anonymously and not independently written, which is good enough for me. And Even other evangelicals find Norman a bit much sometimes. I mean, he's a smart guy but some of his reasoning is priceless. […]

    • […] more baffling is the fact that Mike Licona got fired, tough he is himself a conservative Evangelical. He wrote in one of his books about the […]

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