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.