My Support and Endorsement of Mike Licona

by Max Andrews

It has been a long time coming but I wanted to publicly support Dr. Mike Licona amidst recent accusations of him denying inerrancy over Matthew 27.51-54 (the resurrection of the saints at the time of the crucifixion) in his most recent book The Resurrection of Jesus:  A Historiographical Approach.  Licona takes the position that this passage is apocalyptic imagery and is not literal.  To be clear from the beginning, Licona has not denied inerrancy.  He has been quite clear about that (even though he lost his job as the Apologetics Coordinator with the North American Mission Board over this… unfortunate).  Dr. Al Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has openly condemned Licona for his position. 

Michael Licona is a gifted and courageous defender of the Christian faith and a bold apologist of Christian truth. Our shared hope must be that he will offer a full correction on this crucial question of the Bible’s full truthfulness and trustworthiness. I will be praying for him with the full knowledge that I have been one who has been gifted and assisted by needed correction. Leaving his argument where it now stands will not only diminish the influence of Michael Licona — it will present those who affirm the inerrancy of the Bible with yet another test of resolve.

I appreciate his kind way of putting it, but he’s simply wrong.  Licona’s critics fling the Chicago Statement around as if it’s the nail in the coffin.  I hold to it and so does Licona, but he’s clearly not in violation.  James White also offers his criticism of Licona (and to see White agree with Geisler is quite rare).

Here’s my greatest concern, Geisler has written three open letters to Licona about this.  Several prominent philosophers have emailed Geisler requesting that he back off the issue and leave Licona alone.  Geisler has responded via email with harsh, mean tones and has even accused one of these philosophers as a liar (a very prominent philosopher we’re all familiar with).  I’m leaving names out for confidential reasons simply because they haven’t made this public and so I won’t release names.  What’s going on behind the scenes is horrible.

As far as my position is concerned, I’m agnostic about the issue.  I don’t know if it’s literal or apocalyptic.  I would probably lean more towards the literal interpretation but I haven’t researched it.  I’ve read Licona’s section on this and his argument but I would prefer to do more research.  What Geisler and Mohler should have done is allow scholarship to function as it should.  Let the theologians and biblical scholars (of which they are) research and critique Licona in peer-reviewed literature.  It should be critiqued and researched in academia for the next few years.  Unfortunately, it seems like scholarship is at a loss for some Southern Baptists.

Another blogger made an interesting note about Mohler’s comment, particularly about how familiar it sounds.  Well, it seems like an email has been leaked between Geisler and Mohler, it reads:

My Dearest Wormwood,

Whenever you find an expert defense of the enemy’s resurrection marshall the forces of the fundamentalists to marginalize it by ceaseless debates over ‘inerrancy’ in minor, inconsequential details.

Of course I’m being satirical quoting C.S. Lewis here.  My point is that it’s quite unfortunate that Geisler and Mohler have taken such an adamant and ostensible position against Licona.  Unfortunately, Licona must now handle all the accusations being dealt his way and defend himself.  What Licona should be doing is continuing in his scholarly research and publish his findings.  He should be putting his focus where the real issues are and dialoguing with skeptics of the resurrection.

Currently, Licona is a professor with Liberty University.  I actually spoke with the Philosophy Department in an attempt to convince them to hire Licona residentially.  Unfortunately, Liberty has its own residential issues and isn’t hiring any more residential professors at the moment (a whole other issue).  Again, no names, but Licona is a friend of our department.

Mike, for what it’s worth, you have my support and my endorsement.


23 Responses to “My Support and Endorsement of Mike Licona”

  1. Awesome. I’m gonna re-blog this.

  2. Wow- I was not keeping up with this. I didn’t know he had to leave both NAMB and SES. This is really heartbreaking.

  3. I like the allusion to Screwtape and I think it fits nicely. While we’re here bickering about an issue of hermaneutics, Satan is laughing because he has created another division in an already fragmented body of Christ.

  4. I’m trying to look for an upside to this issue, I’ll let you know if i find one. Perhaps Geisler can tell us how this is supposed to promote Christianity in the public square. It’s like “come and join christianity, just don’t you dare question the sacred doctrine or else” Isn’t this just what the infidel types have been claiming all along?

  5. I agree that the issue is about what hermeneutic one uses as opposed to whether these men believe in inerrancy, and I agree that the back and forth thus far has probably hurt more than helped. However, hermeneutics is a fundamental issue. It’s not fair to judge the entirety of Licona’s contribution by his understanding of this one passage, but people should be able to question and even criticize it.

  6. Licona knew the rules. If he does not want to belong to the club, he should have resigned.

    Just as William Lane Craig would resign from Talbot School of Theology if he stopped believing their doctrinal statement that Adam and Eve were created by God from non-living matter.

  7. Max,

    Off the top of my head (I almost typed ‘heart’), I could see the logic behind Geisler’s and Mohler’s point about inerrancy and in fact, I supported them right away until I started reading a bit more about the issue and read Licona’s response (I’ve only read one, I don’t know if he’s put up others. I have read his son-in-law’s various responses) at which point, I have to admit I started thinking there might be more to the issue than at first appears.

    While my natural inclination is to side with strict inerrancy, I agree with you: I don’t think “calling” out Licona in this fashion will lead to a clarification of the issue, especially with how little regard for decorum and order Geisler seems to be exhibiting. I agree also when you say this is a matter for scholarly pursuit and I appreciate the reference to Lewis’s Wormwood. Where there is discord, there you will find Satan.

    What I don’t get is how you can support Licona, but are “agnostic” re the topic? Is that even possible?

    I do hope they iron out their differences and that what comes out of the process is more enlightenment and education.

    Fred

    • I consider myself agnostic because I don’t know how to interpret it. Licona had made a good argument, of which I need to account for, and so I need to reevaluate the argument. Until then, I don’t know how it should be interpreted. William Lane Craig holds a similar position, he’s not quite sure if it’s literal or metaphorical. This whole issue isn’t really that new.

  8. I don’t see how you can’t take this passage as literal. That’s the way I was taught, by two of the best interpreters of Scripture I’ve ever encountered in person or thru print, Bob and Gretchen Passantino. And, that’s how the passage actually reads, in context. Licona seems to have a bizarre method of interpretation that does indeed question inerrancy, if taken to its logical conclusion. And, as a genre scholar who taught genre briefly at Northwestern University, I prefer Geisler’s explanation of genre. It seems more biblical to me and fits better with the traditional understanding of inerrancy. That doesn’t mean I have to agree 100% with every single thing or fact Geisler has written or cited regarding this controversy. The material is just too lengthy and dense for that.

  9. Mr. Carr – I doubt Dr. Craig would resign. Just look at the record of the Dr. Mohler’s Baptist Seminary. Did the faculty resign when they disagreed with the Baptist Convention? No they had to be forced out. Look at the battle at Erskine. Where are Furman’s Baptist convictions? Put out on the trash heap by the faculty. There are many, many more battles to be fought over larger issues than “apocalyptic imagery.” If history is any indication it will be the faculty that will win to the detriment of Church. Let’s hope it is the faculty that are put out.

  10. Dr. Snyder – If Licona has “a bizarre method of interpretation that does indeed question inerrancy, if taken to its logical conclusion” then what do you call Geisler’s and Mohler’s methods that lead them to a Dispensational view of prophecy? Not even its proponents can cite scripture to support many of its features.

    I’ve always thought that the passage was literal even though I have wondered why Josephus, et al, never mentioned it. I would think it noteworthy enough for a comment from some secular historian.

  11. @Fred. Thanks for reading my blog also on this at Deeper Waters! Always great to meet a reader and know the difference it makes.

    Also, it’s possible to not only be agnostic, but to totally disagree with Licona and think that he is not violating Inerrancy. That’s the position of J.P. Holding at Tektonics.

  12. I still can’t believe such a trivial issue can cause so much conflict. I hope Mike continues his good scholary work and not be discouraged by anyone.

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