A debate has been swirling in Apologetics circles (particularly the Evangelical Philosophical Society) between two well-known and effective Christian apologists, Norman Geisler and Michael Licona. We at SBC Today have been aware of the debate for some time, but withheld comments on it in hope that a resolution amenable to all parties would take place. After the EPS meeting in San Francisco earlier this month, it has become apparent that no such reconciliation is likely. Therefore, we want to describe our understanding of what has happened (in Part 1), particularly for those of you who were not previously aware of this controversy. In a future post (Part 2), we would like to attempt to provide some perspective on the debate.
The subject of this controversy is Mike Licona, a Christian apologist who (until recently) served as Apologetics Coordinator for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as a research professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina. He has spoken and debated on behalf of positions held by evangelical Christians in numerous venues – regional Baptist meetings, evangelism conferences, scholarly meetings, and college campuses. He is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, which requires an affirmation of the inerrancy of Scripture as a prerequisite for membership. So, to summarize, Licona is a conservative evangelical and inerrantist who has served the SBC effectively in addressing Apologetics issues in conferences, churches, and college campuses.
The focus of the controversy is several pages in Licona’s new book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2010). The overwhelming majority of this book is very positive, presenting a careful and well-researched scholarly defense of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. However, it is just a few pages (pp. 185-186, 548-553) out of this 718 page book around which the controversy has swirled. On these pages Licona addresses “that strange little text” (p. 548) in Matt. 27:52-53, which describes six events after the crucifixion – darkness, an earthquake, the tearing of the temple veil, rocks splitting, the opening of tombs, and some saints coming to life from the tombs. Licona mentions this scriptural account while addressing John Dominic Crossan’s hypothesis that these events were associated with the “harrowing of hell” (1 Pet. 3:19-20, 4:6). Licona suggests that apocalyptic events such as these were claimed in Greco-Roman literature at the death of kings (Romulus, Julius Caeser, Cladius, etc.) and similar significant events. Indeed, Licona notes, the Roman historian Lucian openly admitted that he embellished his stores “for the sake of ‘dullards’” (p. 549).
Matthew 7:5-13 tells us of a time the Pharisees confronted Jesus about his disciples’ non-washed hands before they would partake of a meal. Jesus responded to them about their own traditions where they were dishonoring the word of God through what they thought to be wisdom. In other words, they did not rely on the sufficiency of the Scripture. The Pharisees said they believed the Scripture but developed numerous rules to keep the Scriptures and these rules ended up being used to violate the Scripture they said they believed. These, over 600, rules used to keep the Ten Commandments could be said to be the wisdom of man in determining how to follow the Scripture. This example of affirming one’s belief of Scriptural authority raises a question; “If the Scriptures are sufficient to guide my life, why does my wisdom keep me from engaging in an action the Scripture affirms?
This week’s podcast is our longest yet, at just over forty-four minutes, but hopefully the discussion will prove worth the time. We didn’t even cover all the topics we intended to address. In times past, such long-windedness would have been laid squarely at the feet of Bart Barber, but since he’s not around to blame, we’ll have to come up with another excuse. We began by addressing the response by Dr. David Allen to a review by Dr. Tom Nettles of a book by Dr. William Dembski. If you think you’re confused now, wait until you hear our discussion. We finished the podcast discussing tithing, antinomianism, and Les Puryear.
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Links to some of the items discussed: