Mike Licona is not backing down. While he softened his wording found in his published book in the open letter to Norm Geisler, it seems he's once again taking a polarizing position on the Matthew 27:52-53 text. Indeed after going back and fairly well arguing strongly for his original position in his book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, Licona boldly asserts >>>
The calls of Drs. Geisler and Mohler for me to retract my opinion that it is possible Matthew intended for his readers to understand the raised saints in Matthew 27:52-53 as apocalyptic symbols is not helpful. Instead, such premature calls stifle scholarship and authentic quests for truth. I will be happy to retract my opinion once I am convinced that Matthew’s authorial intent was to communicate that the raised saints are to be understood as an event that occurred in space-time. So far, I have found the arguments offered by Drs. Geisler and Mohler to be unpersuasive and misguided (source below)
My initial response is, Licona apparently wants to have it both ways. That is, he wants to say on the one hand, his studied suggestion that Matthew's assertion concerning the resurrection saints being an apocalyptic literary device is a possible interpretation which cannot be a priori ruled out by bare literalists like Mohler and Geisler. On the other hand, Licona does not seem to argue that Matthew's assertion concerning the resurrected saints is merely a possible interpretation. Instead, he argues (especially in his book) not only for the possibility that Matthew employed apocalyptic language in Matthew 27:52-53, but even more, that the most plausible interpretation of Matthew's words rests on the apocalyptic interpretation with Matthew "adding" the imagery of resurrected saints appearing to townspeople for "special effects" (pp.552-553).
That's why, of course, Licona could dub both Mohler and Geisler's argument as "unpersuasive and misguided" rather than even a possible interpretation much less a probable one--or, in Licona's own words concerning his position, a "most plausible" interpretation. After all, how can an unpersuasive, misguided argument be a viable argument at all?
Finally, it's interesting how Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary got pulled into this fiasco, and it bears worth watching how Danny Akin is going to handle an issue which could split the Southern Baptist Convention. One wonders as well if Akin's professors will judge President Mohler, along with Norm Geisler, to be both "unpersuasive and misguided."
The truth is, for an entire generation, most Conservative Southern Baptists fairly well imagined they were all on the same page when it came to precisely what they all meant by inerrancy. Mike Licona has opened pandora's hermeneutical box, however, by boldly claiming one may hold inerrancy while denying a biblical text's prima facie historicity, a denial apparently based solely upon extra-biblical literary argumentation.
With that, I am...
For the full text of Mike Licona's response to Al Mohler, check out J.P. Holding