Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Authoritarian Bully Petition Drive

I’m doing tomorrow’s Ticker entry today for a couple of reasons. One is that Mike Licona is set today to do a presentation today at EPS on the subject of inerrancy. Another is that with various medical appointments the next two days, I may not get the chance to do a post here tomorrow. The third reason – Geisler’s in the process of sticking his foot into his mouth for the public at large again. Or maybe into some other orifice you can guess at.

Through means I won’t reveal, I’ve gotten hold of a “petition” Geisler is circulating on this subject. It consists of three parts:

1) Various quoted sound bites from Licona’s book where Licona uses words like “embellishment” or “legend”. Not all relate to Matthew 27, and at least one (on page 527) is a case of Licona quoting someone else (John Dominic Crossan), but Geisler doesn’t let little matters like accuracy stop him now any more than before.

In these quotes it seems to matter little whether Licona uses the words to reach a conclusion that some item is legendary, or whether he just presents it as a hypothesis to be considered in proper historical examination. Nor does it matter what arguments Licona presents pro and con.

In this, Geisler is imitating some of the worst atheists on the Internet; those who think it is a good argument to quote passages like Malachi 2:3 (“spread dung on your faces”) as though this proves that “Biblegod” is a cruel and disgusting being. In the same way, Geisler’s obvious intention is to merely charge the emotions and cause those who read these pull quotes to think that Licona is doing something horrible.

2) Various quotes from the Chicago Statement and certain related supplemental sources. Not that any of them actually apply. What has continued to elude Geisler before continues to elude him again: You can’t “dehistoricize” at text that wasn’t meant to be taken as historical. You can’t designate as a “distortion” a text that isn’t meant to distort history. You can’t “misrepresent” a text as legendary if the author’s intention was that it be understood as legendary. Things like proverbs do not report events that “actually occurred in the space-time world” and you can’t object to someone saying that some report didn’t happen there if the author’s intention is not to say it happened there either.

Geisler’s mental blocks in this regard are ones he no doubt hopes his petition readers and signers share; he also no doubt expects his readers to not have any clue about such things as purposeful and isolated use of legendary material in Greco-Roman biographies or other otherwise historical works. And of course, it continues to elude Geisler that his own old-earth view would be seen by many as denying that Gen. 1-11 are historical texts.

3) Last, the petition readers are asked to vote Yes or No on whether Licona’s view of inerrancy violates ICBI, and then sign. Yip dee diddle doo.

It’s not clear what Geisler plans to do with this candy bar once he gets done with it – and, we assume, he gets the results he wants. Will we be granted knowledge of who votes what way – and why? As on YouTube with voting there, a Yes or No doesn’t mean much if the person who votes is ignorant of the issues (eg, has no idea what a Greco-Roman bioi is, let alone how the genre functioned), or votes a certain way because voices in their head tell them how to vote, or vote a certain way because Geisler will harass and bully them as he did Licona if they vote the other way.

It also doesn’t mean much if Geisler cherry-picks who he sends this to (which is reflective of his own habits above, re collecting sound bites) to ensure that he gets all the Yes votes he wants. This was the tactic of the atheist Brian Flemming, who did “man on the street” interviews of Christians, asking them about obscure issues like Mithra knowing he’d get a lot of “duh what” answers which he crowed over. But Flemming wisely avoided taking a short walk down the way to Biola University, where he’d find classfuls of students and professors who would laugh off his idiotic questions.

In the same way, I’m not counting on Geisler to release this petition to more than perhaps a token few he knows won’t answer the way he wants – and also would have the requisite scholarship to get the point. In other words, I’m betting he wants ICBI all over again: Top heavy on those who are clueless or less educated in the relevant fields (eg, most pastors, business leaders, etc), the better to get a majority to render an uninformed opinion that coheres with what the results he wants.

If any process needed oversight, it surely is this one Geisler is putting into motion. But since his practice so far indicates he regards himself as above regulation (eg, removing challenges posted on his Facebook page), I have about as much confidence in this petition, procedurally, as I used to have in prison inmates doing their own legal work.

What it does show, at least – as if we had any doubts --is that anything that isn’t simple authoritarian bullying is beyond Geisler’s ability to handle. He has refused to attend a conference discussing these issues. He was refused to answer challenges. He has not engaged a single argument from any source on this point (although, to be fair, that is also because he doesn’t seem to “get” what the argument actually is, per above).

As some are aware, Geisler has a long record of this sort of bullying. Sometimes he gets what he wants (eg, Murray Harris, Robert Gundry). Other times he doesn’t, and he leaves in a huff (eg, Clark Pinnock). Yet other times he gets badly embarrassed (eg, Ergun Caner, and James White, though as is known, I don’t think White did that well either), and yet other times he gets mostly ignored (eg, Hank Hanegraaff on preterism). This round, it’s going to be “badly embarrassed” if Geisler doesn’t come to a grinding halt. Unlike most of these past issues (Caner’s being an exception), the Internet, the blogosphere, and lightning communications will keep Geisler from keeping a handle on all aspects of the situation. It will become clear and widely known when he is refusing challenges and using misleading quotes (as with Crossan above). He will be checked on in detail by numerous parties – and he’s not used to that.

We’ll keep on top of whatever else we hear about this petition.

Add on: Max Andrews (link) notes that Geisler is sending this thing out to ETS members. Given that Geisler himself dropped out of ETS over the Pinnock issue, his motives here become all the more inscrutable.


  1. Finally somebody posted the actual page number. I had to go back and search through ROJ to find each and ever mention of Matthew 27 to find it. The source material that spawned this whole episode was starting to get lost in all this. Good lookin.

  2. @KQ Oh heck, I could have told you that and even sent ya the scanned pages...

  3. Oh no worries, I have ROJ in my library, read it last year, and so revisited it recently since the Geisler fiasco to find out exactly what was said. Thanks though.