Saturday, December 24, 2011

Scrooge's Christmas Eve Gift

Yes, I know. I wasn’t planning another entry, but some spare time opened up, and this was too good to pass up waiting on. ;)

On 12/22, Mrs H and I celebrated anniversary #21, and Norman Geisler laid a new egg in his efforts to outdo the stereotypical Inquisitor of the cartoon world. His latest effort, titled “Licona’s Denial of Inerrancy: The List Grows,” repeats a lot of the arguments we have already refuted here, and we can sum by saying that no – he still doesn’t get that you can't “dehistoricize” a text that wasn’t meant to be historical; he still thinks he can prop ICBI's 300+ 'scholars" as a counter (in spite of: many NOT being scholars; many of those who are scholars being scholars in specialities unrelated to Licona''s thesis; many being deceased; two of them openly disagreeing with him on this issue -- which he doesn't want to mention -- and even one of them having gone apostate). So there's a lot not new there, and there's also (again) a lot directed specifically to Licona's views on Matt 27, which we do not share. So again, our own comments on that will be limited to what is relevant to us.

In contrast, shortly thereafter, Geisler also uploaded a rather whiny piece on our video “Geisler’s Christmas Carol,” and we’ll consider that as well, but separately; it’s title is, “Statements on the Pro Licona YouTube Video Attack on Dr. Geisler.”

Geisler objects that he is concerned that "we have come to the point where one
cannot critique a position" without being accused of bullying. But of course, it is much more than that Geisler has "critiqued a position." He has also brought his influence to bear in such a way that Licona has been denied speaking engagements, had to resign certain positions, and has lost income. Geisler himself may not have himself wielded the knife, but he did provide the sharpening service; he is not merely "critiquing". As is typical, bullies attempt to minimize the damage they cause ("I only pushed him down!") as though that in some way relieves them of their responsibility for the injuries they cause. It does not. The aggravation caused to Licona (and others) lies as a debt on Geisler's shoulders; so likewise he will receive his reward for any who are driven from reading Licona's works because of his self-centered crusade. Geisler may well expect to join those whose fate is to scrub toilets in the New Jerusalem.

In the essay towards Licona, Geisler continues to deftly avoid confronting us directly. He expresses awareness of our video, which he calls "offensive" (chuckle!) and claims was "produced by his son-in-law and friend who falsely caricaturing scholarly critiques of his view and wrongly claiming that we said Licona had sinned.' " I'm afraid part of that is too incoherent to comment on, but two points in reply. First, the production credit is part of a covering of an obvious mistake in which Nick Peters at one point was reckoned to be the producer of the film, not me. I have no idea how this mistake came to pass on the part of Geisler's supporters, since Nick is listed only as a voice, and the film credits clearly list Tekton as the film producer. That means me. The emendation to "son-in-law and friend" fails to obscure this mistake. Nick can not in any sense be called a "producer" of the film. That was and is solely my designation. But
perhaps Geisler felt that a student was an easier target for him to bully than a "wildcard" apologist who isn't cowed by his bullying tactics, is not in thrall to any person whom he can influence, and doesn't grant him any of the inertial respect he has gathered over the years (in my view, mostly undeservedly, and oblivious to the actually generally low-level and basic quality of his apologetics).

Second, it is a wonder to note that Geisler apparently understands the video is
as grossly literalistic a fashion as he reads the Bible. What he apparently alludes to here is a scene in which the cartoon Licona asks why the cartoon Geisler posted all over town notices with Licona's picture that said, "Sinner repent!" Why Geisler takes this to mean that we think he literally called Licona a sinner I cannot imagine; next I suppose he'll think I meant to relate that he literally posted flyers all over town, literally kicked Licona 50 feet in the air (complete
with cartoon sound effect), and literally had to use a stepladder to speak to Licona face to face. (Well...maybe he did have to do that literally; after all, this whole incident has made him into rather a small person indeed.)

So what of that flyer then? The phrase "sinner repent" was chosen in order to draw an analogy between Geisler and hellfire fundamentalist preachers who mindlessly demand that "sinners repent" and use bullying tactics. The point being, while Geisler has not called Licona a sinner, he has treated him like one -- and that cannot be denied save with the most skilled of rationalizations covered (as indeed in the video) by gratuitous "I love you brother"s that ring as hollow as a chocolate Santa.

Geisler then notes:

Even Southern Evangelical Seminary, where Licona was once a faculty member,
condemned this approach in a letter from “the office of the president,” saying, “We believe this video was totally unnecessary and is in extremely poor taste” (12/9/2011). One influential alumnus wrote the school, saying, “It was immature, inappropriate and distasteful” and recommended that “whoever made this video needs to pull it down and apologize for doing it” (12/21/2011).

I find it odd that the office of the president was able to make such a comment on a video 7 days before it was released. Presumably this is a typo. In any event, all of this rhetoric is not supported here with any sort of reasoning why it is immature, inappropriate, etc. and I have news for Geisler and those who wrote
these things: "Because it gored my oxen" isn't a good enough reason -- and it will neither come down nor be the subject of any apology, unless and until Geisler undoes the damage he has done (and also, as noted, does an SR-71 wingwalk for me).

In light of his actions, Geisler's further request for a "reasoned reply to all the critiques that have been made" is itself more cartoonish that his Scrooge persona. This comes from a man who has deleted challenges containing just such replies from his Facebook page. Geisler is bothered by Licona's reported declination to read his critiques, and calls that "both unscholarly and insulting." I
have read the critiques. I think Licona has better ways to spend his time. Thomas Howe was the first to issue anything that even approached a scholarly and viable
critique, and that was just in the last few days; Geisler, for the most part, has done little more than repeat the same authoritarian nonsense and panic polemic time and time again, and for the most part, he continues to do so here.

Yet again, his argument appeals to ICBI; and it is Article 13 and his use of it to which I would devote some attention next:

Article 13: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual. Some, for
instance, take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person. Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ.” This makes it unmistakable clear that myths, legends, and embellishments, such as Licona allows in the Gospels,
cannot be part of an inerrant (wholly truthful) book such as the Bible.

But hold on here. Apocalypse -- the genre in which Licona argued for the key text to be put -- is not a "generic category." Furthermore, the point of Licona's argument is that it does not "present itself as factual" once all the evidence is considered. It also attempts to argue that yes, there are good reasons for not taking the key text as literal, which is the very effort at a "hermenuetical test" Geisler says is required. If Geisler wanted to get it right, he would not say
Licona denied inerrancy, but that Licona tried and failed to offer a sufficient hermenuetical test for his reading to "pass" as a way to deliteralize the text.

Again, I must note for the record that I do not find Licona's arguments regarding Matt 27 persuasive. But I also find Geisler's arguments for a violation of ICBI even less persuasive. His attempt to draw an analogy between the biblical narrative and road signs (!) shows a remarkable lack of grasp of the complexity and richness of available genres and modes of expression in the Biblical world. Geisler is a hyper-literalist trapped in what N. T. Wright might call a hurricane of
first century literary production values. When he further insists that ICBI's framers were specifically out to stop the sort of thing Licona is doing, I can believe it - because if Geisler is typical of the framers, then they are mistaking Licona's views for something they are not, and made much the same mistake with Robert Gundry.

And yet again, Geisler finds it necessary to thump the panic button until it breaks; he again uses the outlandish example of Mary Baker Eddy, having ignored a point I made here some time ago that Eddy's methods, unlike Licona's, could link to no precedent in first century literature. But Geisler, of course, simply
rejects out of hand as "not a suitable model" Licona's effort to use such literature -- not because he has shown that it is actually unsuitable (eg, per my challenge on the Gospels being Greco-Roman bioi), but merely on his authoritarian say-so.

I would next comment on Geisler's complaints about "counting heads." After his repeat appeal to the "scholars" of ICBI, he also rather questionably appeals to this:

Second, if the circle of scholars is rightfully broadened to include academically
credentialed evangelical scholars, then the vote has already been taken, and it is not favorable to Licona. For after two years of discussion and scholarly interchange and at a regularly scheduled annual meeting of The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), the largest group of evangelical scholars in the world, voted in 1983 with an overwhelming 70% majority to ask Robert Gundry to resign from ETS for “dehistoricizing” parts of the Gospel record, as Licona has done.

70% majority? Not quite. The vote was 116 to 41, with a far greater combined number abstaining. Geisler is not telling the whole truth here: It was only 70% of the voting group that he is referring to, not the whole membership of ETS.

Geisler then reveals the results of the "survey" we have noted here before (and
which was effectivly critiqued by Max Andrews, and here as well, dismissed rightly as little more than an exercise akin to trusting Wikipedia). Not surprisingly, 76% of respondents voted against Licona, but given the loaded way he presented the matter, I would give that survey as much credence as i would the yes-no voting procedures on YouTube -- and for much the same reason: Insufficient indication of voting numbers (it is interesting that Geisler only presents percentages, and not number of votes -- what if only 100 people voted?), and no qualification of the voting population as qualified to assess the situation (as opposed to eg, voting as they did because they think aliens told them to vote a certain way). Geisler's "survey" is little more than a bad statistical joke.

I think an even bigger joke, however, is this commentary:

Furthermore, there is a latent but serious flaw in the contention that only a
specialized group of scholars are capable of determining what is meant by inerrancy. It is in fact a kind of scholarly elitism which denies the rest of the body of Christ have a valuable role to play in formulation what they are asked to confess. Or, to put it another way, it is a replacement of the Teaching Magisterium of the Roman Church with a Teaching Magisterium of biblical Scholars. This violates the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and excludes the very people for whom the confessions or statements of Faith are made. And the history of doctrinal declension has proven that it begins in the
pulpit, not the pews. It is generated in the seminaries, not in the sanctuaries.

Wowie zowie -- was Geisler trying to pack as much epic fail into one paragraph as he could with this one? If he was, it is one of the few things he's done right so far.

First: There's no "elitism" here because the sort of knowledge used by scholars to arrive at what is meant by inerrancy is available freely to all. If there is any "elitism" here, it is an elite of serious disciples -- and Jesus himself declared greater rewards for those who worked harder, and so to that extent, himself
indicated that an "elite" would exist -- one of merit and rewards -- within his Body. Paul also admonished Timothy to study to show himself approved -- and if we take that as exemplary, as I am sure Geisler does, then it is an example
which means we should all become the "elite".

Second: Despite Geisler's professions about "the rest of the Body of Christ," it is a brute fact that a body, as Paul says, has many parts. Not all can be the "brain" in the body. In fact I'd say most today want to be the backside in the Body of Christ, the part that remains seated. Still, there is no Biblical warrant for this
idea that everyone should have a say in formulating confessions. The appeal to the priesthood of believers is frankly inane; does this also make us all equally
competent at evangelism, preaching, teaching, apologetics, and all else? If it does, then why doesn't Geisler just find a Christian vagrant down at the Salvation Army and have them write his next book? Why does he appeal to the "scholars" at ICBI if their being "scholars" (haw haw!) doesn't make any difference? Why read Thomas Howe's critique of Licona when a critique by Elmo P. Thudpucker, Christian motorcycle mechanic -- a member of the same "priesthood" as Howe -- can do the same job? Geisler has no warrant for making the formulation and
understanding of doctrine an exception, save his own need to special plead his case.

In reality, the "priesthood of all believers" relates to one thing only -- our ability to directly engage in a covenant with God, and not rely on priests to broker the covenant apparatus for us. It doesn't make us all equals in ability or gifts.
Geisler is merely begging an exception for an area of his concern.

Finally on the above, I wonder about Geisler's profession that it is the pulpit and seminaries that generate doctrinal declension. I'd like to see some stats on that, because it doesn't quite ring true. Joseph Smith was a barely educated teenager who could have done better Biblical exegesis with a bucket of KFC chicken bones
than with his brain. Mary Baker Eddy, Geisler's fave whipping button for panic this round, didn’t have any serious education to speak of and was mainly self-taught. Jim Jones, head of the People's Temple, had a degree…in education. Ellen White of Adventism had no formal schooling.

Reaching back, we find that Arius, who started the Arian heresy, held some rank
in the church. However, so likewise did his opponent Athansius; if this proves anything, it is that the pulpits and seminaries police their ranks and provide the counter for deviancies within themselves -- and ironically, it is Geisler who has called on the "scholars" of ICBI, and it is a scholar, Thomas Howe, who so far has provided the one reasoned and scholarly critique of Licona from Geisler's camp. Why didn't Geisler link up with someone in the pews to do this job? We may add
that the example of Arius, and any other before the modern era, won't really work anyway; in ages prior to mass communication, it could only be members of an elite class (like Arius and Athanasius) who, being one of the few literate people around (literacy being around 5-10%) had the knowledge, power, and ability to spread doctrinal declension. Joe Pew, circa 300 AD, had very little chance of getting his personal declension past the front door. So such examples as Arius would not adequately serve to prove Geisler' s point.

I'm sure that some heresies or declensions somewhere did indeed begin with
either pulpit or seminary, but apart from Geisler assuming what he wants to prove with Licona and Gundry, the only examples that come to mind are Murray Harris and Clark Pinnock -- and one can hardly compare their deviancy and influence to the prior examples. It appears that Geisler was so anxious to provide a snappy consonance that would stick in readers' memories ("seminaries/sanctuaries", "pews/pulpits") that he forgot to validate his claim.

In close on Licona, Geisler offers props for his upcoming book on the subject of inerrancy. One is tempted to wonder at times whether Geisler's attack on Licona is some sort of attempt to draw attention to this new book and give it an early sales boost; it would be a much better explanation for why Licona has been singled out this round, than Geisler's hollow retort that he went after a lot of
people in his book -- after all, he still hasn't gone after me, and still hasn't gone
after William Lane Craig, and using examples from his book will spoil a surprise for those he hopes will read it. Such a stunt would not be beyond Geisler or many other authors. However, we can just about guarantee that it will do nothing to further informed, reasoned, and intelligent faith of the sort that can withstand the attacks of modern critics.

That leaves Geisler’s commentary on our video, and there’s not much more to it; it's shorter by far. It preserves the original error stating that “a student has made a video” and repeats some of the same ox-gored complaints we noted earlier, though again, actual explanations of why the video is in poor taste, unkind,
distasteful, etc. In all this, it is anonymous “Alumni” from Southern Evangelical Seminary who are quoted, though why anyone should give their opinions any credence is also not explained. Apparently, we’re supposed to submit like good
little authoritarian managed drones and shut up when some “alumnus” has
a hissy fit. So, here’s all I need to say, really, for example to the longest complaint:

1) They used the classical Christmas Carol story in a very distasteful way….

No I didn’t. There, that’s as much argument as they provided. End of discussion, I win. But really, since they don't explain what the Dickens they mean by this, at least in what is quoted, there's no more response warranted than that.

2) Like Dr. Geisler or not, he deserves respect. Furthermore, Dr. Geisler is far more accomplished than the youngens who made the video.

Bah humbug
is the best response to that one. Geisler has been giving up his
“respect” with bells on these days, between the embarrassing incident with Caner and now with Licona. As for “more accomplished,” I’m not sure what that means. Has he written more books than I have? That’s true. But Danielle Steel has us both beat. Has he produced better apologetics than I have? Actually – no, he hasn’t. In fact his type of apologetics has done more harm than good when it comes to protection from the Ehrman hyenas.

3) The video was sarcastic and put words into Dr. Geisler’s mouth. This shows
not only immaturity, but further strengthens Dr. Geisler’s position….

Sarcastic? That it was, and deservedly so; satire tends to be that way. after all. That’s an even exchange again. As for words in his mouth, unfortunately, we’re not told specifically where that was done, and yes, the ellipses is where the quote ends.

4) He makes the point repetitively that those who support Dr. Geisler’s view are clones of Dr. Geisler, eluding that all who hold to the position that Dr. Geisler does are non-thinkers….

Really? I can’t recall where that point was made once, much less “repetitively”
in the vid, and once again, unless it is hidden behind those triple dots, we’re not told how or when in the vid this happened. That said, I have said in other forums that Geisler does have a lot of “Kool Aid drinkers” behind him – I know because they’ve written to me.

5) This video seems to mock inerrancy despite the fact that it tries to skirt that it is the main issue…..

Nope. It doesn’t mock inerrancy at all and it doesn’t skirt any issues but addresses them directly. Maybe they should try watching it again, and pay attention this time.

6) Lastly, while he illustrates physical attacks on Dr. Geisler in humor, it is still depicting physical attacks. It also explicitly is threatening to take action against Dr. Geisler…. This is stooping to verbal threats and scare tactics.

Oh dear. Never mind that Mike Licona gets kicked 50 feet in the air; compared to that, all Geisler gets is a couple of snowballs to the noggin. Hey folks…it’s a CARTOON. Do these guys call ASPCA to complain about Wile E. Coyote?

Finally, one of these poor souls is quoted as saying that they “reported the
video to YouTube for a TOS violation” as being “like predatory behavior, stalking, threats, harassment, intimidation, invading privacy, revealing other people’s personal information, and inciting others to commit violent acts”.

Now that’s the biggest laugh riot at all. These poor fellows need to get on some big boy pants, because what I offered was exceptionally mild compared to what those fundy atheists have to offer on YouTube. And heck, you may as well report your local editorial cartoonist for all those horrible drawings of Obama.

Really though, that's a good way to close off this one -- because it shows how Geisler's camp deals with these issues: By squelching competing voices with authoritarian bullying. But it won't work this time -- not for a Christmas Carol minute.

See ya'll next week.


  1. I hope you have a blessed Christmas JP. Take care, you and your family.

  2. Geisler should put together a list of 300 scholars supporting the removal of your video and send it to youtube.

  3. Oh my gosh, Norman Geisler is so annoying. I really used to look up to this guy. When I first got into apologetics a little over 10 years ago, he was my idol. Then I grew up and read Tektonics. ha. But seriously. Why can't he get this through his silly head? Calling a part in the Bible unhistorical is . . . not . . . tantamount . . . to . . . Errancy, if it wasn't meant to be taken historically. I feel like I could have understood this as a 5 year old.

    And thank you for pointing out how hypocritical he is being. I mean, are scholars important or not? They are if you need the votes; but they're not if you want to play on the heart strings of the average church goer who might get butt hurt because it might take a little - oh my! - homework to get all the meaning out of an ancient doc. Well, duh! Youtube generation is a bunch of dummies.

    Oh yea, get a freaking sense of humor! Holy crap, these guys are little wusses. Your vid cracked me up! Remember when that one cartoonist drew that pic that somehow made fun of Muslims and they took to the streets rioting? I swear, I'm thinking of that with these pitiful butt hurt Geisler-zombies. They want to kick it off Youtube for inciting violence???? HAHAHHAAAHAHAAAA Oh please never let these losers in any Church leadership!! Please!

    Oh, and if he is really doing this to promote his book, he's a piece of you know what. Maybe he is getting senile with old age, or something . . .

  4. @Kairos Stunts like that used to be the sort of thing people might do to promote a book, but these days it's too crude a technique. I'd say that as in many areas, Geisler is living in the 70s.

  5. I'm a new student in the MACA program through Biola. I was just assigned Licona's "The Resurrection of Jesus" book by my professor, Sean McDowell. I was researching some of the discussion topics and came across this video today. I actually assumed it was done by an atheist until I clicked over here. What a disappointment. Nothing in the video does service to the Kingdom of God. * Bad form *

    1. You need to quit the program, as you will never be a competent apologist: You have no conception of giving reasons for your position. Pious offense is not an argument. Try the Biola macrame program instead.

    2. Scarlett. Do you know who Boss Tweed was?