In the last week or so, the Licona-Geisler controversy, which we've been on top of from nearly Day 1, has been hitting the fan in the wider world: Articles in the Baptist Press and Christianity Today; various blogosphere observations from non-Christians about Geisler's handling of the matter, and more piling in with support on each side. This may not end any time soon, but for today's entry, I'd like to bring to the fore two points.
The first has to do with Geisler's own inconsistency on this matter, which we have briefly pointed out earlier, with respect to his old-earth views on Genesis. Please note something that Geisler says on page 230 of When Skeptics Ask:
Of course, there are many Creationists who argue for an old earth. Biblically, this position that the word for day is used for more than twenty-four hours even in Genesis 2:4, the events of the sixth day surely took more than twenty-four hours, and Hebrews 4:4-5 implies that God is still in His seventh-day rest. If the seventh day can be long, then the others could too. Scientifically, this view does not require any novel theories to explain the evidence. One of the biggest problems for the young earth view is in astronomy. We can see light from stars that took 15 billion years to get here. To say that God created them with the appearance of age does not satisfy the question of how their light reached us. We have watched star explosions that happened billions of years ago, but if the universe is not billions of years old, then we are seeing light from stars that never existed because they would have died before Creation. Why would God deceive us with the evidence? The old earth view seems to fit the evidence better and causes no problem with the Bible.
But yet, what does Article 12 of the inerrancy statement say?
We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.
We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.
Here is could be easily said that Geisler is using science to overturn the teaching of Scripture that he implies would be the most consistent. I know my creationist friends would say as much. Thus Geisler is doing the very thing he condemns Licona for doing.
The second point for this entry has to do with why I plan to keep on top of this matter -- apart from my personal connections with Nick Peters (Mike Licona's son in law) and the fact that as an independent voice, I can speak out with more freedom and not be concerned about being bullied by Geisler or his adherents.
At the heart of this rhubarb lies a tension I have always seen in the performance of apologetics, as well as in the use of the Bible in modern Christianity and in preaching.
On the one hand, we have always had bullies like Geisler whose anachronistic views have done more harm than good; who, for whatever reason, refuse to let go of their childish notions of Scripture, and insist on reading into it an inappropriate level of transcendancy which strongly divides it from its defining contexts (while also, oddly, turning into a modern, Western product that would have left first century people with entirely the wrong impression about it).
On the other hand, we have had voices like mine, like Licona's, like that of many Biblical scholars, calling for a recognition that Scripture was written within certain specific contexts within which it is properly understood, and with which we must come to terms if we are to have a faith that is genuine, informed, and protected from fire on all sides.
Though I am displeased by the hardship Geisler has caused my friends with his misplaced authoritarianism, I also welcome the public exposure of the conflict. It is my hope that in its process, it will cause Geisler and others of his mindset to become increasingly marginalized; such that others outside the church will come to see that there are real and intelligent alternatives to that type of view, and a far more cerebral and judicious faith that can be had. In the end, this can only help us get rid of all the dross that Geisler's mindset produces -- which I would say includes everything the free-for-all exegesis used by everyone from the emergent church to 40 Days of Purpose, as well as the notion that scholarship is a dangerous thing that needs to be tightly controlled by (cough) "godly men in authority" like Al Mohler who wouldn't even know how to ask where the restroom was in the Biblical world without offending the natives and getting themselves clapped in a Roman jail.
We need to get leaders like Mohler and Geisler out of their leadership roles when it comes to issues like these. They have their own missions they can do tolerably well (for example, Mohler isn't as bad as all that when it comes to moral leadership issues), and they can stay there just fine; but they need to get themselves out of matters of Biblical exegesis and interpretation that they do not understand. If nothing else, I hope that this controversy will bring an end to, or at least seriously impair, the reign of authoritarian ignorance that leaders like these -- whether they be major leaders like Geisler or Mohler, or pastors who maintain an iron hand on local teachers out of fear of being exposed to new ideas.