North Carolina pastor and Southern Baptist blogger, Tim Rogers, first wrote of Dr. Norman Geisler’s “open challenge” to Dr. Mike Licona on what appears to be an historical denial of a clear piece of supernatural history recorded in Scripture (Matt. 27:53). That was August 27th. Rogers continued posting several sequences following-up the ongoing exchange (09/06/11, 09/09/11, 09/09/11, 09/14/11, 09/16/11, 09/17/11, 09/20/11) >>>
On September 14th, Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a stinging rebuttal to Dr. Licona, while apologist and author J.P. Holding wrote a series of support for Licona (beginning here).1 Mike Licona’s son-in-law and colleague to Holding, Nick Peters, also wrote several pieces favoring Licona (beginning here). For those interested, my first shot fired may be heard here.
Baptist Press is finally getting around to actually acknowledging a problem exists for Southern Baptists—How do we define the doctrine of biblical inerrancy? In two pieces posted yesterday (November 9th, main article and a sidebar piece), assistant editor of Baptist Press, Erin Roach tackled the issue.
Quite frankly, we thought we all knew what we meant by "inerrancy"—especially those of us who survived the Southern Baptist war during the Conservative Resurgence. Yet, as Erin Roach pointed out in Baptist Press’s main piece, three Southern Baptist scholars went on record supporting Dr. Mike Licona’s denial of what appears to be a slice of real, space-time history2 surrounding the resurrection of Jesus (Matt. 27:53).3
So are Southern Baptists confused about the doctrine of inerrancy? Were the Moderate-Liberal critics correct in their charge to “Fundamentalist-Conservatives” that their embrace of “inerrancy” was so entirely muddled that no one knew what they meant by an “inerrant” text? After all, they warned us, just look at how many “versions” of inerrancy exist within evangelicalism, versions which stab to death with the razor-sharp blade of a thousand plus one qualifications any clear definition of inerrancy. Has it all come back to haunt us Conservatives? Did Southern Baptist conservative resurgence leaders herd us to a hollow victory only now to realize we were herded off a hermeneutical cliff like so many demon-possessed pigs? Were we all duped into believing that we could agree that our confessionally descriptive statement on Scripture as “truth without any mixture of error”--a statement we Baptists borrowed from philosopher John Locke—could be literally and uniformly interpreted to be a flat-line inerrant text?
I have to confess, I am confused. And, apparently so are others. Roach records Southeastern seminary’s promise of a forum as the “appropriate” place to see “what develops as the scholars interact.”
While literally no one could respect and support good scholarship more than I, scholars interacting is, in significant part, precisely what got us into the theological mess we were in pre-1979. Hence, I am in no mood to hear “what develops” from afar as "scholars interact." This issue profoundly affects all Southern Baptists, not just scholars interacting with scholars. Hence, the forum should be an open forum. Any SBCer (or other for that matter) should be able to attend without charge. In addition, the papers and/or presentations should be made available to all Southern Baptists free of charge. If Roach is correct, and the Southeastern Theological Review will publish the forum presentations, then Southern Baptists will be required to pay for the results of the forum.
Southeastern seminary has a blog where the presentations could easily be available free of charge to any Southern Baptist. They routinely post articles by the president and other faculty. Moreover, they have a sophisticated media department which uploads weekly chapel addresses and other conference speakers. The forum could effortlessly be uploaded at no charge making it available to all interested Southern Baptists.
The truth is, our church--like so many other small SBC churches--gives a large chuck of our budget supporting entities like Southeastern seminary. We surely feel it is not too much to ask Southeastern seminary to allow us a complimentary copy of what develops from afar as our CP-supported scholars interact. This issue affects us. Thus, we want to know—without being gouged for yet more money—what our scholars are saying about this crucial issue.
Finally, I found one snippet4 in the BP article intriguing. Roach quotes Dr. Licona:
Historical research, Licona said, must work on a case-by-case basis. The bodily resurrection of Jesus was an event that occurred in space-time and is remarkably different than what is known about Matthew's raised saints, he said. Jesus' resurrection has been corroborated throughout Scripture and by other historical accounts; the raised saints passage has not (emphasis added).
Apparently, Dr. Licona believes that since no corroboration either in biblical or extra-biblical sources may be cited to substantiate Matthew’s “resurrected saints” (Matt. 27:53), and given the mythical allusions to Greco-Roman sources are allegedly present in Matthew’s text, one is quite justified in suggesting Matthew’s text may be legitimately dehistoricized. And, if he is correct, Licona thinks it is both Norman Geisler and Al Mohler (among others) who’ve unjustly historicized the text. While I’m sure more needs to be said about this, one wonders what Dr. Licona would conclude about a text like Luke 13:1-5:
At that time, some people came and reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And He responded to them, “Do you think that these Galileans were more sinful than all Galileans because they suffered these things? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well! Or those that the tower in Siloam fell on and killed—do you think they were more sinful than all the people who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!” (HCSB)
Apparently neither of the historical references about which Jesus affirmed—the Temple slaughter nor the Siloam tragedy—are sourced either in biblical or extra-biblical material. Luke stands alone recording this slice of purported history. Hence, the historical, space-time events Jesus either accepted or cited in Luke's gospel possess no corroboration, a non-negotiable tenet in Licona’s argument on Matt. 27:53. So, would Dr. Licona’s version of inerrancy allow a poetic reading of these two events, events which are clearly recorded as history by a divinely inspired historian?
If inerrancy does include such interpretive gymnastics, then I cast my vote for the Moderate-Liberals—inerrancy is a bogus doctrine which desperately needs to be dumped. It also tragically follows that the Conservative Resurgence was nothing more than a magnificently loud but entirely hollow victory for Southern Baptist conservatives.
Somewhere in inerrancy there's a village missing an idiot.
With that, I am…
1I supported Al Mohler contra J.P. Holding. For a further insight into Holding’s frivolous approach check out this post (don’t miss the brief exchange I had with Holding on the comment thread. It’s almost impossible to exchange with internet “apologists” because most of them don’t know they are not in a formal debate and hence must win the conversation)
2”space-time history” was a favorite phrase of evangelical apologist, cultural critic, and author, Francis Schaeffer
3two scholars from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Drs. Jeremy Evans and Heath Thomas) and one from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Dr. James Chancellor) signed a supporting statement for Dr. Licona. Subsequently, all three names were officially withdrawn (in fact, all names disappeared from Licona's response). One may only wonder how much influence Dr. Mohler had in the SBC professors being withdrawn from official support for Licona--especially Chancellor’s
4another revealing tidbit Roach recorded in the “sidebar” piece is Henri Blocher’s response to Dr. Licona’s approach to Matt. 27:53. In responding to BP, Blocher suggested Licona undermined inerrancy with his particular view of the “resurrected saints,” and that in the face of Licona insisting Blocher’s approach to biblical inerrancy was similar to his own (i.e. Licona’s)
5departing from the North American Mission Board as head of apologetics, Dr. Licona now teaches at Liberty University, a paradoxical maneuver for LU in itself
UPDATE to footnote #5: we have a clarification on Dr. Licona's relationship to LU which makes my statement misleading. Please read my correction "Mike Licona and Liberty University: setting the record straight"