Norman Geisler has still not acknowledged our challenges -- directly -- but he has taken the time to scour Mike Licona's book on the Resurrection rooting around for manufactured problems, after the manner of a pig rooting around for truffles. No doubt stung by a highly positive review of Licona's book in the Christian Research Journal -- one that saw none of the problems Geisler imagined existed there -- Geisler now hits the panic button with a chorus of sledgehammers, proclaiming that Licona is "worse than we originally thought" on inerrancy.
Initially Geisler presents a personal story -- one I cannot confirm or deny myself, but which I am told by closer sources is heavy on spin -- in which Licona allegedly failed to convince a "key Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leader that his view was orthodox." I'll leave specific defense of that to those more personally involved, but even if Geisler's account happened to be true, we may color ourselves unimpressed without further information.
First of all, who was this "key leader"? Those that immediately come to mind as candidates in the SBC aren't exactly what I'd call scholarly powerhouses qualified to assess the matter. I'm thinking here leaders like Charles Stanley, or Al Mohler (whom Geisler refers to beyond this) who frankly wouldn't know a Greco-Roman biography from an antelope's rump, and would think that the Agricola of Tacitus was some kind of Roman-era soft drink. In that light I find neither the judgment of this unnamed "key leader," nor the words of Mohler from the prior entry (from which Geisler once again quotes extensively, and with emphasis on the panic button parts) of much relevance or strength. I also note that while Geisler is eager to quote Mohler, he is hesitant to note that credible and serious scholars like Dan Wallace, Edwin Yamuchi, and J. P. Moreland have stood behind Licona by specifically naming them (other than Gary Habermas).
Next, Geisler makes note of how Licona was dismissed from SES and ISCA after all of this was uncovered. I am also able to neither confirm nor deny specifics on this, but allow me to say again that authoritarian bullying does not constitute an argument. If this is the position ISCA has taken -- and it appears from their website that they have -- then I daresay I am well served to have not renewed my membership there. I will therefore not miss at all not having been able to attend the next conference on Kansas City; all I will have missed is a ceremonial passing out of wooden clubs and sabre-toothed tiger skins, and the ISCA deserves to be ignored by all credible apologists and utterly abandoned as a credible and useful organization.
After this, Geisler mourns the fact that the Evangelical Philosophical Society (and by extension, its parent organization, ETS) is giving Licona place to discuss his views. Given that EPS and ETS are havens for those who take scholarship seriously, I'll take Geisler's dyspepsia over the matter as a reason to celebrate their having moved on from his backwards views to something more contextually informed.
So what else has caused Geisler dyspepsia from the book which he missed before? He has now found suggestions from Licona -- not affirmations -- that the angels at the tomb could be legendary elements, as could be the incident in John's Gospel in which the soldiers fall to the ground. As before, while I don't think these suggestions are valid conclusions, I also do not see that they cause any problem for a serious and contextualized doctrine of inerrancy. Geisler still does not "get" the key point that you can't dehistorcize a text that wasn't meant to be taken as historical in the first place. It is doubtful that he ever will.
I said that Geisler has not acknowledged our challenges. Indeed he has not, but it is clear that he is aware of them and that they sting badly. One of our challenges was to explain, as noted:
Challenge: Are the Gospels in the genre of Greco-Roman biographies (bioi)? If not, why not? If so, then why is this not a case of “by superimposing some external pagan idea on the text in order to determine what the text means”?
Neither option bodes well for Geisler. Identifying the Gospels as bioi has been of some assistance in determining their nature, meaning, and purpose. It has not been particularly relevant to the exegesis of the Gospels, but it remains that identifying them as such was the same process of Licona used in trying to identify Matt. 27 as a poetic device – it was done by comparison to “some external pagan (!) idea” which was then (as Geisler puts it) “superimposed on the text.”
On the other hand, if he chooses to deny that the Gospels are bioi, he will be hard-pressed to explain why the credible scholarship of Burridge, Talbert, and others ought to be rejected.
Geisler addresses this point, but does so by having dug out places where Licona affirms the nature of the Gospels as bioi. It takes Geisler a few lines of name-calling ("bad methodology") before he finally gets to an actual answer, which reaches stratospheric heights of obscurantism unimagined even by the most fundamental of Bob Jones disciples:
In brief, two main errors in Licona’s methodology stand out. First, his genre decisions are made “up-front” based on extra-biblical data. On the contrary, one should approach every text with the historical-grammatical method to determine within the text, its context, and by other Scriptures what it means. Then, and then alone, is he in a position to know its genre.
How can one know the "genre" of a text apart from multiple examples of that genre? Why does not the historical-grammatical method include defining extra-Biblical data? (It certainly does so when interpreting the Greek and Hebrew of the Bible!) What within the text itself tells us what genre the Gospels are? (The answer of course, is that nothing does.) And are we simply to ignore the vast parallels established by credible study and scholars (like Burridge and Talbert) to works like Tacitus' Agricola and say with Geisler, "yes, it looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, it walks like a duck, it has feathers like a duck, but it's really a mongoose"? Geisler's answer is simply intellectual gibberish and the worst sort of obscurantism.
His second point is no better:
Second, even then, categories of genre made up from extra-biblical sources (like Greco-Roman history) are not the way to determine the genre of a unique piece of literature like the Gospels. For it may be—as indeed we believe it is—that the Gospels are a unique genre of their own, namely, Gospel genre where redemptive history is still real history.
This is nothing more than patent circular reasoning. The Gospels are simply assumed to be unique in their genre in order to argue that they are unique in their genre. Such an obscurantist, neanderthalish assertion will do nothing to erase, answer, or obscure the comprehensive and detailed parallels enumerated by scholars like Burridge, and Geisler's attempt to put the Gospels into "unique genre" is nothing more than ignorant special pleading of the sort that has enabled hyenas like Bart Ehrman to cull the ranks of the church for those who recognize this sort of contrived anti-intellectualism for what it really is.
Geisler goes on:
What is certain is that whatever aid extra-biblical material may have in our understanding of the text, no extra-biblical data is hermeneutically determinative in interpreting any text of Scripture. It may help in understanding the meaning of words and customs, but it cannot be used to determine whether a text is historical or not historical.
However, with that last statement, Geisler has offered his own self-refutation. Logically, he cannot draw a line around "words and customs" and say, "no, it stops here and we can't use such externals to determine historicity of a text." That is simply an arbitrariness and a convenience designed to suit his own predetermined purposes -- and it is again exactly that kind of dictatorial arbitrariness that enables Skeptics to thin Christian ranks.
Geisler thereafter once again appeals to ICBI, but as we have noted before, not even ICBI is saying that it is wrong to "dehistoricize" a text that wasn't meant to be taken as historical in the first place; Geisler's confusion on this matter continues unabated, and is not likely to be cured any time soon.