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The Three-Headed Monster and the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible - Part 2

Exposing the Major Weapons Levied against the Trustworthiness of the Bible


The Crux of the Battle

We have reached the central issue, and the battle lines are clear. The Bible claims to be the very word of God Himself. It is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17); it is right (Psalm 33:4); it is the word of truth (John 17:17; 2 Corinthians 6:7; Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:15); and these descriptors apply to all of it:

The entirety of Your word is truth (Psalm 119:160a)

Even if the meaning of a passage is difficult or unpleasant, “the Scripture cannot be broken” according to Jesus Himself (John 10:35).

If we believe these things, then we cannot ignore them in our analysis of Scripture. Scripture is not limited by human imperfection, nor does it have errors. But to proclaim this is not considered academically respectable or scholarly, and the very concept seems to have all but disappeared from evangelical scholarship. Even those who profess a belief in meaningful inerrancy [124] seem to park that belief at the door before venturing into the halls of academic analysis. If anything, the Bible is treated with less respect than other ancient historical writings [125]. And so the liberal paradigm assumptions are accepted wholesale, and the trustworthiness of the Bible is continually eroded. We have reached the point now where liberal scholars do not need to do anything more to undermine the Bible; they can just sit back and let the evangelical scholars do it for them.

A House Divided

Imagine that you and your family are in a house that is under attack by three monsters. Dracula is at the front door, trying to get in so that he can kill you and your family. At the window to the left of the front door is a werewolf, also trying to enter in order to kill you all. And at the window to the right is Frankenstein’s monster, seeking entry for the purpose of killing all of you. Fortunately, you have appropriate weapons against each of them. So what do you do?

There are two good options. The first is to move back and forth from window to door to window, selecting the appropriate weapon at each to battle the monster there and deny him entry, thus keeping your family safe. The second is to recognize that, inasmuch as you are an expert with only one weapon, you battle only that one monster, and let those other family members who are experts with the other weapons safeguard the other points of entry by battling those monsters. This approach, too, will keep you and your family safe.

There is a third and a fourth option, which are both awful and ultimately futile. The third option is simply to open one or more of the entry points and usher the monsters into your house, but dress like them and act like them and talk like them in the hope that they will then respect you and your family and not kill you all. You might even be hoping that you can eventually convince the monsters not to be monsters any longer, but of course that does not happen and your family is being killed off meanwhile.

The fourth option is to select a point of entry that is attacked by the monster you are well equipped to battle, being an expert with the appropriate weapon, and battle only that one, explaining that it is the most dangerous monster, while unwittingly opening the other points of entry and allowing or even helping those monsters to come in. (Alternatively, perhaps you do not even realize that what is at those other windows are indeed monsters that want to kill you and your family.) Some of your family members, being more familiar with those monsters than you are, try to warn you of the danger and ask you not to help those other monsters to enter, but you ignore them, focusing on what a good fight you are putting up against your chosen monster. Meanwhile, your family is being picked off one by one by the monsters you have helped. The fact that your family members are dying you take as proof that your chosen monster is the most dangerous foe and you continue battling him while patting yourself on the back about what a good job you are doing. Eventually, though, your family members are no longer interested in how well you defend against your chosen monster – because they’re dead.

This whimsical picture is analogical to the ways in which evangelical scholars have responded to the three-headed monster of historical criticism, textual criticism, and Darwinism. The only effective responses against the predations of these threats are the first two options, yet few if any evangelical scholars adopt either approach. The large majority, as we have seen, seem to adopt the third approach, accepting many or all of the liberal paradigm assumptions of historical criticism and especially textual criticism, and accommodating Darwinism in various ways.

Yet the most frustrating is the matter of those who adopt the fourth option. These are evangelical scholars and popular-level apologists who do believe in inerrancy and are sincerely trying to defend it, but whose expertise is limited to only one of the “heads.” They recognize the infiltrations of liberalism in that one area and battle it, often very effectively.

However, they have not applied the same sort of critical analysis to the other heads as to their own area of expertise, and so without even realizing it they have “received” and now “pass on” the same liberal paradigm assumptions in these other areas, and so contribute to the undermining of the Bible. (Indeed, because their followers see them as trustworthy in their area of expertise, they tend to assume that their pontifications in other matters are equally trustworthy, which is a dangerous assumption indeed). At the end of the day, it does no good to stop Dracula’s attacks if the werewolf or Frankenstein’s monster has meanwhile destroyed your family.

We follow with a few representative examples of how evangelical scholars and apologists are doing with respect to the three-headed monster.

Norman Geisler

As we have seen, Norman Geisler is a strong proponent and defender of Biblical inerrancy. He clearly believes that the Bible is the inerrant word of God Himself and in addition to his books exposing the erosion of inerrancy among evangelical scholars [126], he has written books defending the trustworthiness of the Bible [127].

How does Geisler fare regarding the three-headed monster? Regarding historical criticism, he clearly opposes its dangers. However, as to the dates of the Gospel books, he is familiar with the work of John A.T. Robinson, who “came to believe some of the Gospels could have been written as early as AD 40 [128],” yet he opts for dating the earliest Gospel books, those of Matthew and Mark “to sometime in the mid-50s [129],” which is too late; it is not clear why he opts for such dates. Furthermore, he embraces the extreme late dating of the Gospel According to John, placing the date of composition of this book to AD 81-96 [130].

On the other hand, Geisler rejects Markan priority [131] and at least raises questions about the Q hypothesis [132]. In addition, in the matter of literary dependence, Geisler outlines the various theories to account for the similarities among the synoptic Gospel books and, though he does not clearly identify which of these he accepts [133], he does seem to lean towards the Independent Eyewitness Records Theory [134] (which Farnell calls the “Independence view of Gospel origins”).

So Geisler’s views on historical critical issues are a mixed bag, and he is not immune to glaring inconsistencies. He opines that “It is inconceivable that Q does not have a Passion and a resurrection narrative! This is the heart of the gospel [135],” yet he thinks it most likely that the Gospel According to Mark ended at 16:8 [136] – so that it has no resurrection account. Why Geisler thinks it “inconceivable” that a non-canonical writing should have no resurrection narrative yet thinks it eminently “conceivable” that a canonical Gospel book has no such narrative is difficult to understand. Nevertheless, inasmuch as he rejects Markan priority and leans against literary dependence among the Gospel books, his views on historical critical matters are far better than those of most other evangelical scholars and apologists.

Regarding textual criticism, however, Geisler has clearly swallowed the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort approach hook, line, and sinker [137]. He touts Griesbach’s canons [138] without any apparent critical examination of them or their origins. He passes on the trope that scribes took it upon themselves deliberately to alter what they believed was the word of God to correct mistakes and contradictions in the original text [139]. This is simply not true; not only has every actual study shown that scribes very rarely (if ever) deliberately altered the text and that the most common scribal error by far was accidental omission [140], but it is a fact that early Christian leaders were vehemently opposed to any alteration of the word of God [141].

Unfortunately, Geisler does not seem to have bothered to examine critically these issues and so apparently accepts without any question the canons proclaimed by fiat by a German Rationalist liberal scholar in the 18th century – canons which were designed to introduce and maximize the number of errors in the “original” NT text. It is indeed surprising to see this staunch inerrantist accept and teach that scribes worked hard to fix all of the errors and contradictions and disharmonizations in the original text – one would think an inerrantist would find problematic the working assumption that the autographs were rife with errors, contradictions, and disharmonizations. Yet this is what this approach assumes, whether Geisler realizes it or not. And, predictably, Geisler rejects the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20, with all of the disastrous consequences for which that omission sets the stage, and also rejects the authenticity of the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:11) [142].

Geisler dramatically underestimates the scale of the differences among the Greek texts, citing various estimations and surmises as to this scale:

The New Testament has some 99-plus percent accuracy of content. Westcott and Hort estimate that only about one-sixtieth of these variations rise above “trivialities” and can be called “substantial variations.” They estimate it is 98.33 percent pure. Ezra Abbott said about nineteen-twentieths (95 percent) of the readings are “various” rather than “rival” readings, and about nineteen-twentieths (95 percent) of the rest make no appreciable difference in the sense of the passage. Thus Abbott sees the text as 99.75 percent pure. A.T. Robertson said the real concern is with about “a thousandth part of the entire text.” So the reconstructed text of the New Testament is 99.9 percent free from real concern.

Now, even if this were true, it would mean that there are 138 words in the NT about which there is “real concern, which is problematic given that Jesus said,

“’Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word of God.’” (Luke 4:4)

Furthermore, it is not true; neither Geisler nor any of his “go-to” sources tell us how those estimates were derived. Were they calculated rigorously or are they just guesses? And does the portion of which they are certain include the errors that have been inserted by the Griesbachian method? The answers are: (1) They are just guesses. (2) It includes the errors. They are certain that these erroneous readings are part of the “pure” original text.

In fact, according to Daniel Wallace, there are 6,577 differences between the NA [143] text and the Majority Text [144]. If the average difference involves only two words, that is already a difference of 9.5%, not 0.1%. (If it involves three words, the difference is 14.3%.) I should think that an inerrantist would be concerned at the prospect that about 10-15% of God’s words may have been replaced by the words of men [145].

Finally, Geisler is tragically wrong in his repeated assertions that no “basic doctrine of the Christian faith” is affected by textual differences [146]. Inasmuch as the Griesbachian/ Westcott-Hort approach to textual criticism, “which is now received by (virtually) all evangelical scholars,” was designed to insert errors into the original text [147], there is most certainly one doctrine (and I assume that Geisler would consider it “basic”) that is affected by “textual differences”: the doctrine of inerrancy. This doctrine is dead in the water as long as whatever is the current incarnation of the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort text is accepted as the most accurate NT text. It may be that nothing else has so effectively destroyed belief in the doctrine of inerrancy as the fact that pastors and scholars can see the errors embedded in the text, errors that are in fact not part of the original text but have been put there by liberal scholars (with the acquiescence and, indeed, cooperation, of countless evangelicals) and are told that these errors are the original readings.

Regarding Darwinism, Geisler rejects the theory of evolution [148] but he believes in an “old earth,[149] which is a necessary but not sufficient requisite for Darwinism, and in the Big Bang Theory [150]. Despite his protestations, these views are absolutely incompatible with Biblical inerrancy [151].


FOR MORE DETAILS, see our article “Is a 4.6-Billion Year-Old Earth Compatible with Biblical Inerrancy? A Response to Norman Geisler”


In sum, then, how does Geisler fare? He is obviously a sincere believer in Biblical inerrancy and does attempt to defend it. Regarding the first head of the monster, historical criticism, he is well above average in comparison to most evangelical scholars, though there are some problematic areas. Regarding the third head, Geisler is a mixed bag, rightly rejecting the theory of evolution but wrongly teaching an old earth, which is not compatible with Biblical inerrancy. And regarding the second head, textual criticism, he uncritically accepts in toto the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort approach that has done so much harm to belief in inerrancy. At best we could give him a score of 1.25 out of 3, and regrettably such a score puts him near the top as far as evangelical scholars go.

Associates for Biblical Research (ABR)

Associates for Biblical Research is (ABR) “a Christian apologetics ministry dedicated to demonstrating the historical reliability of the Bible through archaeological and Biblical research [152].” They are clearly committed to Biblical inerrancy, avowing in their Statement of Faith that they “believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the verbally inspired Word of God, and inerrant in the original writings [153].” In fact, they trace their founding to a time when “an idea began to grow that a team of evangelical scholars, proceeding on the premise that the Bible is inerrant, could help in breaking the liberal establishment’s stranglehold on Old Testament scholarship while producing some refreshing new insights on the Bible. The result is that we have now formed a non-profit corporation called the ‘Associates for Biblical Research.’ [154]” Such an attitude is refreshing and is all too rare among evangelical scholars and apologists.

ABR’s core focus and competency is Biblical archaeology as it pertains to the historicity of the Bible. The large majority of their material is on the Old Testament, and not only do they publish, they do actual field excavations. Their material is usually excellent and this ministry is highly recommended.

How do they fare regarding the three-headed monster? Since they focus on the OT, the issue of origins naturally comes up frequently, and ABR is solidly against Darwinism in any form [155]. As ABR staff member Rick Lanser writes,

We must diligently cultivate the mindset that when the plain sense of the Word of God conflicts with our understanding of science, the Bible wins the battle. We must subject our wills to His revelation instead of seeking creative ways to reinterpret it … Scripture may clash with science’s currently favored interpretations, but so what? Our mindset should be to question the way science understands the data, rather than reinterpreting the straightforward sense of Scripture. Our first allegiance, after all, is to the Lord, not scientific authorities. We have an obligation as Christians to accept the plain sense of Scripture even when it’s tough to reconcile with certain scientific ideas [156].

This is a very commendable attitude, and one from which most evangelical scholars and apologists can learn.

ABR also rejects any attempt to date the earth to billions of years old [157]. Interestingly, in their article “101 Reasons the Earth is Young,” there is very little original content; the main feature is a link to a Creation Ministries International article by Don Batten titled “Age of the earth: 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe [158].” This is a sterling example of implementing Option 2; since scientific creationism is not ABR’s area of expertise, they defer to another ministry that is qualified to deal with it.

Regarding historical criticism, since their main focus is on the OT, they rarely touch on NT historical criticism. If they have a stand on such things as the dates of the Gospel books, literary dependence, Markan priority, and Q, it is certainly not immediately clear. On the rare occasions when they do touch upon it, however, there are problems. For example, in a review of Reinventing Jesus: How Contemporary Skeptics Miss the Real Jesus and Mislead Popular Culture by J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace [159], ABR staff member Brian Janeway begins by affirming the three authors’ “endeavor to build a positive case for the trustworthiness of the biblical text using an historical approach, asserting that ‘We treat the Bible like any other book to show that it is not like any other book.’As we have already seen, that is never good, and we know what is coming, for we have already seen Wallace’s utterly inadequate view of inerrancy.

Janeway cites with approval [160] the claim of Markan priority, stating that

Most scholars hold that the first Gospel published was Mark, sometime prior to the early 60s AD [161].

He also embraces the late dating of the Gospel books which, he says, were “written decades after the life and times of Jesus … This several decade delay begs the question as to why the writers waited so long … nearly three decades had passed since the resurrection [162].

He shrugs off potential unease caused by this putative long delay by insisting that “There was undoubtedly a period of oral proclamation that followed Jesus’ death and resurrection” – and this he does despite the fact that, as we have seen, Luke explicitly tells us that he got the information for his Gospel book directly from eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2); Matthew and John were direct eyewitnesses; and Mark was writing Peter’s direct eyewitness testimony.

It is illustrative – and dismaying – to follow the chain of illogic proffered by Komoszewski et al. that supposedly supports this historical reconstruction, a chain that is accepted by Janeway with no apparent hesitation. For the case offered by Komoszewski et al. well shows that liberal paradigm assumptions have become so entrenched in the minds of evangelical scholars that they override the actual evidence.

According to Janeway’s summary of the case made by Komoszewski et al,

There was undoubtedly a period of oral proclamation that followed Jesus’ death and resurrection. As indicated by numerous passages (Acts 2:47; 6:7; 19:20; James 1:1; 1 Pet 1:1, etc), the church was growing and the gospel message was spreading rapidly. During this formative period, the emphasis was on the preached word of eyewitnesses … Only when the Apostles began to die off and the return of the Lord did not transpire as expected was the need perceived for a written account.

Right away, we should note that there are three problems with these assertions: (1) They are unsupported by any evidence; (2) They do not even make sense; and (3) They are contradicted by the actual evidence. That is not a good combination, and it makes it difficult to understand why so many evangelicals accept them so readily.

Regarding (1), there is no doubt that the apostles and other Christians were preaching the Gospel from the earliest days, but that says nothing about whether it was also written down or not. Interestingly, not one of the “numerous passages” adduced by Janeway actually speaks of oral preaching, and the last two are salutations to written documents! There is not even one shred of evidence to support the claim that the church confined itself to oral preaching until “the apostles began to die off.

Regarding (2), Paul did not confine himself to oral preaching but wrote letters that he expected to be passed around from church to church (Colossians 4:16), and that is not surprising, since Paul could only be in one place at one time. There were only so many eyewitnesses to preach the Gospel, whereas written documents could be copied and reach a far wider audience. So why would they not write it down at an early time?

Regarding (3), we have already seen that the testimony of the church Fathers and the colophons in the f35 manuscripts all indicate that the Gospel books were very early, beginning with Matthew’s in AD 40-41. Add to this the fact that Paul quotes Luke 10:17 and refers to is as “Scripture” in 1 Timothy 5:18. We see, then, that the actual evidence favours the early writing of the Gospel books, contrary to the claims of Komoszewski et al.

It gets worse. Janeway now tells us that

The authors correctly highlight the critical role played by Jewish oral culture of that day. Long before the printed word, the centrality of memory in community cannot be overstated. In such an environment, the events and words of Jesus were replayed and recalled hundreds and thousands of times by those who were present with him, beginning during Jesus’ lifetime and continuing for decades through countless retellings. It has also been noted that Jesus’ instructions were often uttered in rhythmic fashion, making them easier to recall later and memorize … It seems quite likely that the collective memory of the early community of followers faithfully and accurately preserved an oral tradition of the activity and teachings of Jesus. The consequence of these cultural and historical factors leads to the only reasonable conclusion—that the written record forms an authentic eyewitness account of the life and times of the founder of the Christian faith.

What we see here is what we saw earlier in the contention between Farnell and Bock: Are the Gospel books God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16)? Do they record the exact words given by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you”? Or are they simply the product of fallible human memory? If the latter, the doctrine of inerrancy may be jettisoned now, for, contra Komoszewski et al., it is most certainly possible to overstate “the centrality of memory in community”; no ancient historian believed or claimed he was writing the ipsissima verba of his subject, for memory is not good enough to do that in any culture.

As Farnell asks, were the writers and/or sources of the Gospel books “eyewitnesses who, in many cases, reproduced the exact wording of dialogues with and sermons by Jesus [163],” who were able to do so because “their memories received stimulation through the Holy Spirit’s guidance in accord with Jesus’ promises to the disciples [164]” in John 14:26 and John 16:13? Does “the factuality and accuracy of the Gospels stem from their uniqueness as divinely inspired documents–as God-breathed as well as God-guided documents [165]” – which, of course, makes them qualitatively different from any other books so that they cannot be “treated like any other book”? Or are the sources nothing more than “the collective memory of the early community of followers [that] faithfully and accurately preserved an oral tradition of the activity and teachings of Jesus [166]”?

If the latter, then they may (or may not) give us “an authentic eyewitness account of the life and times of the founder of the Christian faith,” but they cannot give us inerrancy. There was a time when every evangelical knew that the answer to this question was the former, but under the baleful influence of the three-headed monster, evangelical scholars blithely opt for the latter. It is indeed passing strange.

It gets worse still. Komoszewski et al. turn their attention to NT textual criticism [167], and it is evident that they accept the liberal paradigm assumptions of the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort approach, including the calumny that

Even if the authors were faithful in recording what they saw and understood, later editorial activity may have changed or embellished the original accounts.

While this is idea is quintessential to the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort approach, we have already seen that the evidence shows that scribes did not take it upon themselves to “change or embellish the original accounts.

Janeway next tells us that

Using this methodology over the last two centuries, scholars have been successful in isolating what are known as textual variants.

That is incorrect; textual variants are there for everyone to see and do not need to be isolated. The purpose of the Griesbachian methodology was not to isolate the variants but supposedly to adjudicate among them to select the original reading – though in fact the actual agenda of the method was to insert errors into the NT text [168].

The claim is then advanced that “only about 1 percent of all documented variants are actually considered viable and meaningful,” although we have seen that the actual number is much higher. More importantly, the 99% of the text about which textual critics proclaim themselves to be “certain” include a number of errors, thus destroying inerrancy.

Then the charge is received and passed on that for the Gospel According to Mark

the best and earliest manuscripts end after verse 16:8 … it makes for an abrupt conclusion to the book.

As we have already seen, only in a bizarro world can two manuscripts that were copies so carelessly that they contradict each other more than 3,000 times in the Gospel books alone be considered “the best. And their testimony as the “earliest” (fourth century AD) to the supposed omission of Mark 16:9-20 is useless in light of the fact that Irenaeus explicitly quotes Mark 16:19 and identifies it as being from near the end of the Gospel According to Mark – and he does this in the second century AD. And the suggestion that “Perhaps the additional twelve verses reflect the original version” is naive; textual critics have closed ranks around the party line that Mark intentionally ended his Gospel book at 16:8.

Janeway thinks that Komoszewski et al have effectively countered other charges, too. Regarding the idea that Jesus was only proclaimed to be divine at the Council of Nicaea in AD 325, we are told that this idea “overlooks indisputable evidence from nearly fifty pre-4th century documents that correspond on all counts in their portrayal of Jesus as God”; that Paul teaches the deity of Christ in various passages that “may well reflect the first discernible doctrinal statements of the early church”; and that testimony from secular writers and Church Fathers in the 2nd century AD agree that Christians worshipped Jesus as God.

Yet none of this will disprove the claims of the liberal skeptics. As we have seen, if we accept late dating of the Gospels, Markan priority, literary dependence, the omission of the last twelve verses of the Gospel According to Mark, and the Q hypothesis – as Komoszewski et al. apparently do – the liberal skeptic case, as we have seen, is that the two earliest Gospel books, the Gospel According to Mark and Q, do not have a resurrection (and, thanks to Licona’s pontifications, that can now be expanded to the three earliest, including the Gospel According to Matthew), so the idea that Jesus rose from the dead must have come about some time in the 80s or 90s; Paul, not an eyewitness, invented the idea of the deity of Jesus; the evolution of reverence towards Jesus can be traced from the Gospel According to Mark, the earliest and the one with the lowest Christology, to the Gospel According to John, the latest and the one with the highest Christology (and this evolution was probably influenced by Paul’s teachings); and if this trajectory is traced back to the time of the original Jesus, we get the only-human Jesus of liberal theology. We see Jesus as divine today only because Paul’s faction won the power struggle with Jesus’ original followers after most of the latter were killed off during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

There is nothing in the proof Janeway here touts that obviates any of this. Second-century evidence that Christians viewed Jesus as God cannot disprove the claim that this idea evolved in the first century, and the avowal that Paul’s writings are the earliest testimonies to the deity of Jesus dovetails perfectly with the idea that Paul is the actual inventor of this idea.

In reality, when they are preaching to the choir, the case advanced by Komoszewski et al. may sound impressive, but it is completely impotent before clever skeptics. Arch-skeptic Dr. Robert M. Price, of the infamous Jesus Seminar, for example, makes a strong case against the book [169]. On the other hand, an informed apologist who has rejected the liberal paradigm assumptions that have been brought into historical criticism and textual criticism can easily refute the claims of Price.

In sum, then, Associates for Biblical Research is a very valuable ministry. Their view of Biblical inerrancy is top-notch, and the material they produce in regard to their core focus is excellent. They properly reject Darwinism in all its forms as well as the idea of that the earth is billions of years old. Their one glaring weakness is in the area of NT historical and textual criticism; fortunately, to date they have dabbled very little in these areas.

It must be said that ABR’s idea to “to grow that a team of evangelical scholars, proceeding on the premise that the Bible is inerrant, [that] could help in breaking the liberal establishment’s stranglehold on Old Testament scholarship while producing some refreshing new insights on the Bible [170]” is exactly the sort of thing that is very much needed. But the same must be done for New Testament scholarship, and for that to happen, we must have no truck with the liberal presuppositions that ABR endorsed. It does no good to defend the Old Testament if the New Testament is undercut.

Creation Ministries International (CMI)

Creation Ministries International (CMI) is a well known evangelical apologetics organization that focuses on the creation/evolution debate. They reject Darwinism in all its forms and hold to a young earth of approximately 6,000 years old. They describe their mission thus:

To support the effective proclamation of the Gospel by providing credible answers that affirm the reliability of the Bible, in particular its Genesis history [171].

They hold to Biblical inerrancy, maintaining that

The Bible is divinely inspired and inerrant throughout. Its assertions are factually true in all the original autographs [172].

CMI’s core competency is scientific creationism, i.e. refuting the putative arguments from science for the theory of evolution and for a 4.6-billion year-old earth, as well as providing positive scientific evidence to support the fact that the world was designed and that it is of a young age. The majority of CMI’s staff have academic credentials in various fields of science, and most of their material on scientific creationism is excellent.

When it comes to the other heads of the three-headed monster, however, it is another matter entirely. They address topics related to historical criticism and textual criticism not infrequently, and when they do, far too often their material is toxic.

Although CMI has no official stance on historical critical matters, they repeatedly endorse the late dating of the Gospel books and the extreme late dating of the Gospel According to John. Similarly, while they have no official stance on matters of textual criticism, CMI’s teachings on textual criticism are also toxic. They have clearly swallowed the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort model in toto and endorse the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies Greek NT text as the best [173]. Not surprisingly, CMI denies the authenticity of both Mark 16:9-20 and the Pericope Adulterae (John 7:53-8:11).

This is particularly curious, inasmuch as CMI sees their mission as “calling the church back to the authority of the Word of God beginning from the very first verse [174].“ They unambiguously assert that

The Bible is God’s word to us—every single word inspired by God [175].

And that

every word (in the original autographs) is the exact word that God wanted there for all people for all time [176].

Is it not ironic, then, that CMI embraces a text-critical methodology that guarantees that one can never knowevery single word inspired by God”? Is it not ironic that they actually affirm that “every word (in the original autographs) is the exact word that God wanted there for all people for all time,” while conceding that God has failed to keep every word that He wanted for all people for all time, that some of those words are no longer available to us?

That is certain if the Nestle-Aland Greek NT text is correct, and CMI certainly champions this text which Lita Cosner admits is only “the closest possible match to the original text [177],” and not the “exact” words. And it is no wonder that she admits this; the Nestle-Aland editors readily tell us that

The text shared by these two editions was adopted internationally by Bible Societies, and following an agreement between the Vatican and the United Bible Societies it has served as the basis for new translations and for revisions made under their supervision. This marks a significant step with regard to interconfessional relationships. It should naturally be understood that this text is a working text: (in the sense of the century-long Nestle tradition): it is not to be considered as definitive, but as a stimulus to further efforts toward defining and verifying the text of the New Testament [178].

Why CMI does not realize that the idea that “every word (in the original autographs) is the exact word that God wanted there for all people for all time” is utterly incompatible with the textual theory they endorse is difficult to understand.

Finally, CMI rightly insists that inasmuch as the Bible is the inerrant word of God, all of its assertions are factually true, and they apply that standard rigidly to all matters related to creationism – but it is not quite as rigid in other matters. Regarding historical critical and text critical matters, some of their claims are not consistent with their high view of inerrancy. And they openly promote some teachers (especially James Patrick Holding) whose views of inerrancy are very different from CMI’s own standard.

In sum, then, Creation Ministries International is a valuable ministry that produces excellent material in the area of scientific creationism, their core focus and core competency. They understand that there is a great deal of erroneous teaching among evangelical scholars about Darwinism and so they do not simply follow evangelical party lines but think critically and research carefully in this area. Alas, when it comes to historical criticism and textual criticism, there does not seem to be anything remotely approaching the same level of care, as they accept and pass on liberal paradigm assumptions readily. Lamentably, CMI is to historical criticism and textual criticism what Dr. Hugh Ross is to creationism. Their defence of inerrancy is accordingly severely compromised.




The Current Situation: Dire and Getting Worse

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of the Lord and God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:28-30)

It is likely that most evangelicals in North America attend a church with a strong and clear affirmation of the inerrancy of Scripture. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention Statement of Faith says that the Bible “has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy [179].” Centre Street Church in Calgary, one of Canada’s largest evangelical churches, affirms that the Bible “is the authoritative written Word of God and contains no error in all that it teaches [180].” Such statements are typical, and lay evangelicals take them at face value, understanding that “no error” is a very plain and obvious concept.

Most lay evangelicals are unaware that things have changed dramatically at the level of academic scholarship. They are unaware that among evangelical scholars, those who hold to the plain meaning of inerrancy (which is that the Bible contains no errors, so that what it says happened did happen the way the Bible says) have become a small minority. As Peter Enns points out,

Inerrancy was once the unquestioned foundation for the evangelical tradition. In recent generations, however, it has become within evangelicalism a theological problem needing to be addressed. Many evangelical thinkers over the last several generations have raised their voices to say that we can no longer marginalize or explain away broadly agreed upon developments in theological, philosophical, and biblical studies that happen to rest uncomfortably with inerrancy … But now, many younger evangelicals are saying openly that inerrancy does not have the explanatory power that its defenders once claimed for it. New paradigms, they say, are needed and have been for some time … The inerrantist paradigm is being called into question because the paradigm does not have explanatory power and new ones are needed [181].

Inasmuch as these “broadly agreed upon developments in theological, philosophical, and biblical studies” are fundamentally built on liberal paradigm assumptions, it is not at all surprising that

they rest uncomfortably with inerrancy.

What is surprising is how readily professing evangelicals, faced with choosing between the word of God and the touted “developments” in academic fields, opt for the latter without any apparent serious thought. There are a great many examples of this that could be shown, but we will give just one excellent one here: the putative “mistake” Luke made in claiming that Jesus was born “when Quirinius was governing Syria,” when it is known fact of history that Quirinius did not begin to govern Syria until ca. AD 7.

All of our brilliant evangelical scholars agree that this is an intractable problem; in fact, Daniel Wallace insists that it casts serious doubt on Luke’s accuracy [182]and that

it cannot be resolved with certainty … “Only the discovery of new historical evidence can lead to a solution of the problem.” This is where we must leave the matter [183].

To be sure, some evangelical apologists do try to find explanations for this seeming error [184], but Wallace debunks these gambits [185].

It never seems to occur to these brilliant evangelical scholars to question the factoid that Quirinius did not begin to govern Syria until AD 7. None of them thinks to ask how we know that. If they did so and did a little bit of research, they would find that the only evidence is some questionable testimony from Josephus, so in fact this is not a case of Luke contradicting known history at all, but of Josephus contradicting Luke. And since Luke is a far more accurate historian than Josephus and much closer in time to the events than is Josephus (and, oh, yes, Luke’s writings are God-breathed!) this most intractable problem is not a problem at all! Yet evangelical luminary Wallace tells us that this “casts serious doubts on Luke’s accuracy [186]”!

For those who are willing and able to think and unwilling to jettison the inerrancy of the God-breathed Scriptures so readily, inerrancy is not a “theological problem. It has all the explanatory power needed and so we do not have to look for another paradigm. This is the case for those who are willing and able to think. For those who would rather accept whatever liberal paradigm assumptions are presented to them as long as they have the imprimatur of evangelical scholarship, it is another story.

Tragically, this will only get worse with the next generation. As Enns tells us,

Over the last several decades, evangelicals have seen a recurring pattern, where promising evangelical thinkers leave their evangelical seminaries to pursue further study in biblical studies, theology, and philosophy in secular research universities. In time, they begin to see that an inerrantist paradigm does not account well for certain pressing biblical and historical issues (such as the authorship of biblical books and the historicity of many biblical narratives). In response, this younger generation wants to name the problem for what it is and have a constructive dialogue to propose better intellectual models of Scripture … This scenario is common to anyone participating in evangelical academic culture [187]

Let’s go through this. According to Enns, there is a “recurring pattern” in which “promising evangelical thinkers leave their evangelical seminaries to pursue further study in biblical studies, theology, and philosophy in secular research universities.”

Now, if these evangelicals are actually thinkers, why in God’s name would they pursue further studies “in secular research universities”? Did these “evangelical thinkers” have such little regard of the word of God that they felt they could safely ignore its teachings that the world is implacably at enmity with God? Did they really think that people who do not know God would somehow be able to tell the facts about the Bible better than believers? Did they really think that people who reject the deity of Christ and the possibility of miracles could actually analyze the Biblical accounts correctly? Did they really think that God was kidding when He said, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33)? Or was that shiny piece of paper that says “Ph.D” on it just too tempting to resist?

And of course under the baleful influence of liberal professors, it is inevitable that

In time, they begin to see that an inerrantist paradigm does not account well for certain pressing biblical and historical issues (such as the authorship of biblical books and the historicity of many biblical narratives).

What they “see,” though, is an illusion. The “pressing” problems are such as the supposed contradiction between Luke 2:2 and the date of Quirinius’ governorship. All of these “pressing” problems have reasonable solutions, if one is willing to do some careful thinking about them.

But how many of these students are willing (or able) to do that when they are sitting under the teaching of professors with doctorates who are telling them that these problems “cast serious doubts” on the accuracy of the Bible, that they “cannot be resolved with certainty,” or that “only the discovery of new historical evidence can lead to a solution of the problem. This is where we must leave the matter”?

How many are willing (or able) to do that – or even have an impetus to do it – when trusted evangelical defenders of inerrancy such as Norman Geisler tell them that the world is billions of years old when the Bible makes it undeniably clear that it is no more than 7,680 years old at most?

How many are willing (or able) to do that – or even have an impetus to do it – when evangelical scholars tell them that, never mind that the Bible explicitly says that OT saints rose when Jesus died, that never happened; or that Jonah was never really swallowed by a great fish, despite the fact that the Bible says he was and Jesus Himself affirmed it (and, indeed, scholars hint that it is insane to believe that Jonah was swallowed); or when evangelical librarians tell us that Judas never hanged himself, although Matthew explicitly tells us he did [188]?

Most of all, how many are willing (or able) to do that – or even have an impetus to do it – when trusted evangelical scholars and apologists who affirm inerrancy also affirm that when reconstituting the original text of the NT, the readings that introduce errors into the text are the readings that came from the pens of the original authors? When even ministries such as CMI that affirm their belief in inerrancy proclaim such nonsense? Why defend inerrancy if the reconstructed NT text that these scholars and apologists tell us is “the closest possible match to the original text” includes undeniable errors? There may indeed be ministries who are willing to embrace such cognitive dissonance, but why would “promising evangelical thinkers” want to do so?

Enns comes down solidly on the side of these “promising evangelical thinkers,” which is not surprising since he himself has rejected “the inerrantist paradigm [189].” He claims that inerrantists caricature these “promising evangelical thinkers as either enamored of the thought of academic fame and fortune … or they are simply judged as being incompetent to address the issues at hand, proceeding unaware of the subtleties contained in various tomes written by guiding lights of centuries past [190].

Yet those are not the only two possibilities (though it is quixotic to assume that neither of them ever comes into play). The main reason is that these liberal paradigm assumptions have become so ingrained in evangelical scholarship that even the bare possibility that they might be wrong does not occur to these “promising evangelical thinkers”; they simply absorb them and pass them. Enns may opine that this “is not some spiritual, moral, or intellectual failure on the part of younger evangelicals,” but it most certainly is.

And so the erosion of Biblical inerrancy continues apace. The attempt to discard this doctrine, it must be said, has spawned some tactics that can only be described as ludicrous. Evangelical scholar Michael F. Bird, for example, says,

My complaint has always been that many inerrantists preach the inerrancy of the text but practice the inerrancy of their interpretation. In other words, inerrancy is not just about scripture, but about setting up fence posts against certain interpretations of scripture [191].

He tells us that

Interestingly enough, D.A. Carson’s plenary paper said much the same thing. Carson said that inerrancy cannot be used as a “scalpel” to determine which interpretations are out of bounds [192]!

Bird and Carson would be correct – if we were living in Alice’s Wonderland, where, as Humpty Dumpty puts it, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” But here in the real world, inerrancy means “no errors.Period. It means that all of the assertions of Scripture are true. Any assertion in an historical narrative is factually true – not poetically “true,” not apocalyptically “true,” not although-it’s-an-error-it’s-not-an-error-because-people-in-those-days-all-made-that-sort-of-error-so-it’s-not-an-error “true,” and not yes-it’s-a-contradiction-but-that’s-not-an-error-because-it-was-intentionally-done-to-make-the-narrative-more-interesting “true.” Contra Bird and Carson, it is not “the inerrancy of interpretation” that is a scalpel that determines which interpretations are out of bounds; it is the definition of inerrancy itself, which rules out any interpretation that redefines an assertion in an historical narrative as anything other than historical.

If Bird is correct, then, that “there is no single doctrine of inerrancy dominant within the ETS. It is better to speak of inerrancies in the plural [193],” it does not change the fact that there is only one valid definition of inerrancy (“no errors”); the other inerrancies are “falsely so called.” The attempt to obfuscate matters with a putative “inerrancy of interpretation” gambit is nothing more than a red herring.

Stan Gundry’s plea is also a red herring. He insisted that

Important as it is, though, the discussion of inerrancy should not be allowed to become the preoccupation of evangelical theology. Theology is more than prolegomena. Our theological task is to move beyond and build on that theological foundation … It is important that a building have a foundation; but what value is a foundation with no adequate structure atop it [194].

Yet every builder knows that a firm foundation must be established before any structure should be built on it. Only disaster follows from building on top of a shaky foundation, and these new definitions of inerrancy are shaky indeed. And the key point is that what is happening is not simply moving on from an established foundation to building on it; it is the destruction of that foundation. Indeed,

If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3)

One example is of this is l’affair Licona. We have looked at this in detail already. In sum, the resurrection of the OT saints (Matthew 27:52-53) is stated as part of a continuous narrative of Jesus’s death, entombment, and subsequent resurrection. It was accompanied in Matthew’s historical account by the same sort of historical phenomena as the resurrection of Christ Himself. There is no reason in the flow of the narrative to assume that Matthew was making this up rather than reporting actual history as he did before that sentence and after that sentence. Licona, however, proclaimed that the resurrection of the OT saints did not actually happen. In times past, this alone would have been enough to get him laughed out of the church. But it gets worse.

The problem was not only that Licona denied the historicity of the resurrection of the OT saints; it was his reason for so doing. Licona appealed to the fact that unregenerate pagans, acolytes of false gods – who could not remember all the historical facts about anything since they were not divinely enabled to do so – inserted made-up stories into their bios of real people, to show that they are great men.

Therefore, Licona insists, we should accept that followers of the true God, the God of truth, about Whom we are told that “the entirety of Your word is truth,” who were divinely empowered to remember all of the facts about Jesus’ words and deed (John 14:26) – and who were writing God-breathed Scripture – just decided to imitate the pagans and make up stuff to put into their Gospel books, you know, to show that Jesus was a great man. As if the actual facts about Jesus – His fulfillment of ancient prophecies, His miracles, and His resurrection from the dead were not enough. No, Matthew just had be “like the nations” and put in non-historical stuff. The fact that this imperils the credibility of the resurrection itself is not lost on Licona (and, as we have seen, his attempt to get around this problem is a non-starter); nevertheless he insists that the resurrection of the OT saints did not happen; it was just poetic or apocalyptic language.

This is lunacy, and the idea that this could be considered compatible with inerrancy is lunacy. Such ideas ought to be laughed to scorn. But they are not. Perhaps the most dismaying thing is how many evangelicals come out of the woodwork to defend this lunacy [195]. For example, we have already seen that CMI’s favourite librarian, James Patrick Holding, not only defends this lunacy but viciously attacks Norman Geisler for opposing it.

There’s also Michael F. Bird, who agrees with Licona’s view on Matthew 27:52-53 [196] and who also tries the failed gambit of accusing Licona’s critics of “preach[ing] the inerrancy of the text, but practic[ing] the inerrancy of their interpretation [197].” According to Bird,

Licona is one of the best evangelical apologists on the North American scene right now and some folks want to keelhaul him over his footnotes. We need some sober and measured perspective on this [198]!

Footnotes? Proclaiming that part of the historical narrative of the Bible is not historical and thus undercutting the credibility of the resurrection itself cannot be considered to be “footnotes. It is Bird who “need[s]s some sober and measured perspective on this.

And Bird is entitled to think that “Licona is one of the best evangelical apologists on the North American scene right now,” but I think that writing long books that play by liberal rules and destroy inerrancy – and, as far as we can see – have not converted even one of those liberals, does not qualify as “one of the best” or even a good apologist. His approach is exactly the opposite of what is needed.

Then there is C. Michael Patton, President and Instructor of Credo House Ministries [199], which he founded [200]. Credo House Ministries has created and is selling DVD “Credo Courses” on “The Historical Reliability of the Gospels” by Craig Blomberg and “Textual Criticism” by Daniel Wallace – which tells you all you need to know about Credo House Ministries if you are serious about inerrancy.

Patton presents us with a fulsome panegyric to Licona in which he tells us, inter alia, that Licona makes him proud to be an evangelical [201]. He recounts an incident in which, when he heard two people discussing Licona in Credo House, he was “longing for the conversation to dignify truth, justice, and the evangelical way” (which he seems to equate with supporting Licona) but when he heard one of the men mention Geisler’s view of this matter, Patton’s “countenance turned red-nosed in anger” and he “told the guy to stop [202].” What a hero!

Patton entertains us with a witty – well, halfwit-y – likening of Licona to Luther and Geisler and Mohler to Luther’s Roman Catholic inquisitors [203]. Then Patton objects to the shocking –shocking!– statement by Mohler that

Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon [204].

Yet as we have seen this is exactly what Licona has done, and the only shocking thing is that Patton does not see something so obvious.

Then Patton trots out the red herring that we have seen before, insisting that

this is an issue of interpretation, not inerrancy [205].

If he had not gone off the rails before, he certainly does now. He asserts that

I believe in inerrancy, but I also believe that we have to separate inerrancy from particular interpretations. Just about anything could be tied to inerrancy when disagreement about interpretation is at issue … even if one completely thinks someone else has lost their interpretive marbles when they spiritualize some passage through appeals to apocalyptic, symbolic, or, even, allegorical interpretation, the issue is one of hermeneutics, not inerrancy. In other words, you cannot tie inerrancy to a particular interpretation … When someone professes inerrancy, our interpretation and hermeneutic cannot be the judge as to whether they really believe in it or not [206].

But then he describes as “the central doctrine of the Christian faith: the resurrection of the God-man, Jesus Christ [207].” On this Patton is correct (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:13-19). Now, suppose someone who professes to believe in inerrancy denies the bodily resurrection of Christ and spiritualizes the resurrection accounts “through appeals to apocalyptic, symbolic, or, even, allegorical interpretation.

Would Patton see this as an issue “of hermeneutics, not inerrancy”? Would he allow that one could believe in inerrancy and yet deny the bodily resurrection of Christ? If so, then he would allow that the “central doctrine of the Christian faith” is an optional belief and thus would make a hash not only of inerrancy but of Christianity itself.

If not, if he insists that the bodily resurrection of Christ must be accepted as an historical fact, then he has destroyed his entire position that what must be seen as factual truth in the Bible is only a matter of interpretation – and this does not depend on the importance of the fact. Lo and behold, we are back to the fact that inerrancy is not modelling clay that evangelical scholars can shape however they wish; inerrancy necessarily means that what the Bible asserts happened did actually happen. It is difficult to understand how Patton missed something so obvious.

Licona’s position, then, on Matthew 27:52-53 is not compatible with inerrancynor, for that matter, is Geisler’s acceptance of a 4.6-billion year-old-earth – and there is no way to make it so. It is indeed a wrongheaded stance that has most assuredly “handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon” that will be used by scholars far more clever than Patton to undermine the case for Christ. Patton’s attempted defence of Licona’s position, then, is ill-considered nonsense.

And then there is Randal Rauser, “a systematic and analytic theologian of evangelical persuasion” and a seminary professor [208]. Rauser has published a paper in which he denied that God commanded the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites, arguing that, regardless of what the Biblical testimony says, God did not issue such a command because Rauser knows that it would be wrong for God to command such a thing [209]. With such a casual disregard for inerrancy, it is not surprising that Rauser also leaps to the defence of Licona.

Rauser offers an imaginary courtroom scenario intended to show how inept Licona’s critics are. Rauser’s scenario is as follows:

Imagine a defense attorney that is trying to defend his client’s innocence against the charge of murder. To his initial delight the defense attorney comes across an eyewitness who is emphatic that the attorney’s client did not commit the murder. The reason? The eyewitness says he saw another man commit the crime. Do you think the attorney would be delighted at this discovery? Do you think he would welcome the testimony? Of course. Any minimally capable defense attorney would do precisely that. But then imagine if the defense attorney expressed reservations about the value of the eyewitness. The reason? “My client says the murderer was wearing a red shirt but the eyewitness says he was wearing a blue shirt.” Yeah, so? I mean are you kidding? Mr. Attorney, how about some perspective here? The main point you want to defend is not that your client provided an accurate description of the attire of the murderer. Those are mere details. The real point is to establish that your client was not guilty. The attorney responds: “But what if people learn that the eyewitness disagrees with my client on the color of the shirt? That could call my client’s entire testimony into question. I mean, if he got the detail of the shirt color wrong, what else did he get wrong?” Face-in-palm. Can you imagine a defense attorney that inept? [210]

But that is not a true analogy to the Licona case. A more apt one would be as follows:

A defence attorney is trying to defend his client against a charge of murder. To his delight, he receives an affidavit from an eyewitness to the actual murder. The witness tells how he saw the killer following the victim, yelling at him, stabbing him in the chest, and then turning and fleeing. The witness got a good look at the killer’s face when he turned, and it was not the face of the client. Furthermore the killer was a large, stocky man who ran with a limp, unlike the client. Delighted, the attorney makes plans to present the affidavit at the trial and he eagerly tells his law clerk, “This is great evidence.” And then he adds, “Of course, we’ll tell the jury that the part about seeing the face of the killer didn’t really happen.” “What!” exclaims the clerk, stunned. “Why?” “Well,” says the attorney, “Many witnesses in many trials claim to have seen the face of the killer, but sometimes they’re making it up to enhance their testimony. It’s just their way of saying, ‘Now, this really happened to a really important guy.’ Our witness is probably just imitating their style.” “But the witness described seeing the face in exactly the same way as he described everything else in the rest of his testimony!” objects the clerk. “Well,” replies the attorney, “I suppose he could have actually seen the face, but all things considered I think it’s better to see this claim as simply his symbolic way of saying this really did happen to an important guy.” At the trial, the prosecuting attorney naturally asks the jury, “If the witness said he saw the face of the killer and he didn’t, why should we believe the rest of his testimony?” All the defence attorney can sputter is that no one ever claimed the rest of the witness’s testimony wasn’t true, to which the prosecutor retorts, “No one ever said the claim about seeing the face wasn’t true, either – until you claimed that!” Is it a surprise that in the end an innocent man is convicted?

Face-in-palm, Rauser. Face-in-palm.

Despite Rauser’s best efforts, there is no reasonable way to suggest that by asserting that part of Matthew’s account of the death of Jesus and its aftermath consists of made-up events, Licona is not dealing a mortal blow to the Gospel testimony about Jesus’ resurrection. There is no reasonable way, as we have seen, that Licona can assert that Part A is fictional but Part B, written in the same way and including the same putatively apocalyptic elements, is not fictional. Nor will any skeptic fail to take full advantage of this. It is dismaying that so many evangelical scholars are so unaware that they do not see this.

Nor does it help to wax eloquent, as Licona’s peanut gallery does, about what a wonderful apologist he is and what a wonderful book he has written. According to Bird,

Licona is one of the best evangelical apologists on the North American scene right now [211].

Rauser describes Licona’s book as “magisterial … a monumental accomplishment of history and apologetics” and lauds “Licona’s magisterial treatment of the historical resurrection [212].

Michael Patton, meanwhile, is positively cloying in his praise of Licona’s book:

Mike Licona has just written what both men recognize is a (if not the) premiere defense of the central doctrine of the Christian faith: the resurrection of the God-man, Jesus Christ … His work on the subject is surpassed by none, even the great N.T. Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God. It is fine that these two men had concerns with Licona’s interpretation of Matthew 27 … But their concerns should have been drowned out by the commendation that they gave Licona for his monumental work. Geisler, an apologist of the “old school,” should have written twenty open letters of commendation and praise before he ever even thought of writing his first open letter of criticism [213].

It is not surprising that Licona’s cheerleaders swoon over this book. After all, it is long, it has many footnotes, it has a lengthy bibliography, and it uses the language of scholarship. The emperor himself could not have a nicer set of new clothes. But let us not forget that this book was written, as reviewer Garwood Anderson describes it, to “engage liberal scholars,” that it includes only data that has “a near universal acceptance among contemporary scholarship,” and that this is supposed to represent “methodological neutrality [214]” – as if the standards whereby liberal scholars accept data is methodologically neutral!

We have already seen the outcome of this approach: not only does Licona deny the historicity of the resurrection of the OT saints in Matthew 27:51-52 [215], he relegates to a mere one paragraph [216] Paul’s testimony that the majority of more than five hundred eyewitnesses were still alive at the time 1 Corinthians was written!

Regardless of the swooning of Licona’s cheerleaders, a book on the resurrection that denies the historicity of part of the narrative and devotes only one paragraph (out some 700 pages) to the five hundred eyewitnesses mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6 cannot and should not be considered “a (if not the) premiere defense of the central doctrine of the Christian faith.It should be obvious that a defence of the resurrection that all but ignores one of the very best lines of evidence for its historicity because liberal scholars do not accept it is not nearly as wonderful as Licona’s cheerleaders think.

As for the attempt to downplay the danger of Licona’s denial of the resurrection of the OT saints by pointing out that it comprises a very small part of the book, mere “footnotes,” I wonder what people like Bird and Rauser and Patton would think of a primat of Dom Pérignon Œnothèque Rosé, 912.87 ounces of what is supposed to be one of the very finest champagnes – if it were mixed with a mere one ounce of puffer fish toxin? The champagne would still be 99.9% purebut it could kill 30,000 people. No matter how good the rest of Licona’s book may be, his “footnotes” denying the historicity of what is clearly portrayed as historical are toxic. In sum, then, Licona has certainly handed a crucial weapon to the enemies of the cause of Christ that they will undoubtedly exploit fully to undercut the credibility of the resurrection.

Perhaps the hebetation of evangelical scholarship as evident in l’affair Licona is best shown by another of Rauser’s attempted witticisms:

Screwtape must surely have a letter devoted to this somewhere: 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 [217].

So there you have it folks: according to such people, fundamentalists who defend the actual inerrancy of the word of God (the kind that actually means “no errors”) are doing the devil’s work. This is the depths to which evangelical scholarship has sunk.


Attacks on the trustworthiness of God’s word go back almost to the beginning of human existence, when the serpent said to Eve in the Garden of Eden,

Has God indeed said …?” (Genesis 3:1b)

It is unlikely that such attacks ever really stopped, but certainly they accelerated with the coming of the so-called Enlightenment.

For a long time, liberal scholars have used historical criticism and textual criticism as weapons against the credibility of the Bible. They began with naturalistic presuppositions, ignored the actual hard evidence in favour of imaginary scenarios, and engaged in special pleading to apply a historiographical double standard to the Gospel books. The goal of all this was to deny the deity, miracles, and resurrection of Jesus, and to recast Him as nothing more than a Jewish wise man, rebel, or failed prophet.

The Griesbachian approach to textual criticism was created and promoted in order to introduce errors and contradictions into the Bible, thus destroying inerrancy and undermining Biblical credibility in general. With the help of Westcott and Hort, this approach ruled supreme.

And then in the latter half of the nineteenth century, the third head of the monster appeared, Darwinism, with the publication of The Origin of the Species in 1859. With the credibility of the Bible now sufficiently weakened to allow for its acceptance [218], Darwinism became another potent weapon against the Bible.

All of this was done with the verisimilitude of objective scientific analysis and scholarship (and copious application of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” tactic). With this false cachet, these views became scholarly orthodoxy and in time dominated the universities and seminaries. As we have seen, evangelicals awoke to the threat too late, and their reaction, which led to the so-called fundamentalist-modernist controversy, ended in failure.

That was followed by the rise of the neo-evangelical movement around the middle of the 20th century, when

Many young fundamentalist scholars became resentful of the fact that they were not viewed with respect by fellow scholars in their special disciplines. Because they were fundamentalists, they were viewed as deficient intellectually, and their work was not recognized by the scholarly world as a whole [219].

These evangelicals reentered the world of academia, and the price for this was to accept the liberal paradigm assumptions of historical and textual criticism, often without even realizing that they were doing that very thing but simply trusting without question in what the professors said. And of course they were required to adopt “a friendly attitude toward secular science [220]” and embraced a variety of ways to reconcile the Bible with an old (i.e. billions of year old) earth and Darwinism.

Even a little leaven leavens the whole lump, and with this amount of liberal leaven injected into the Biblical scholarship that was being swallowed by young evangelical tabulae rasae entering academia, the betrayal of the Bible by the denial or redefinition of inerrancy became inevitable.

In many, and perhaps in most, cases it was not intentional. Many evangelical scholars continued to hold to a genuine belief in inerrancy (that is, the kind that means there are no errors in the Bible) and strove mightily to find explanations for the errors they had allowed liberal scholars to insinuate into the Bible.

That is a mug’s game, however, and more and more evangelical scholars became very comfortable with the idea that the Bible does contain genuine errors, after all, and they either discarded the idea of inerrancy entirely or, like Humpty Dumpty, redefined inerrancy to allow for errors. They went seamlessly from “treating the Bible like any other book to show that it’s not like any other book” to “treating the Bible like any other book. Period.” and finally to “treating the Bible like any other book because it is like any other book,” a product of the limits and errors of the culture of the day, like, for example, Greco-Roman bios. If divine inspiration was still mentioned, it seemed more of a perfunctory label than anything that actually affected how scholars now looked at the production of the Bible itself.

There was a time when we could tell the players without a scorecard. Liberal scholars used to say, “I do not believe the Bible is the word of God. I do not believe the Bible is inerrant. The Bible is full of errors,” and evangelical scholars used to say, “I believe the Bible is the word of God. I believe the Bible is inerrant. The Bible has no errors whatsoever.” Now liberal scholars still say, “I do not believe the Bible is the word of God. I do not believe the Bible is inerrant. The Bible is full of errors,” but now evangelical scholars say, “I believe the Bible is the word of God. I believe the Bible is inerrant. The Bible is full of errors.” They do not usually say it too loudly, though, when they are where the rubes in the pews might hear.

This is what seminarians are indoctrinated into now. They come out of seminaries having been taught liberal paradigm assumptions, and it does affect how they view the authority of the Bible. Is it any wonder that so many churches now major on emotionalism, psychologies, and social works rather than on the doctrine of the word? Is it any wonder that so much of evangelical church in the western world may be a mile wide but only a micron deep? If you wonder why the church has been so marginalized and lost society, look no further than the gloating three-head monster rending the church.

The number one enemy of the church is no longer liberal scholars, the John Dominic Crossans and Marcus Borgs and Gerd Lüdemanns of the world. It is not the so-called New Atheists, the Richard Dawkinses and Cristopher Hitchenses and the Daniel Dennetts. It is not even Darwinism or deep time.

The number one enemy of the church now is evangelical scholarship [221].


[124] As we have said, so many of them redefine inerrancy so that it does not actually mean “inerrant; being free of all mistakes of any sort.”

[125] We shall see this when we discuss the putative error in Luke 2:2.

[126] Geisler and Roach, op.cit.; Geisler and Farnell, op.cit.

[127] e.g. Geisler, Norman L. & Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences. Revised and Updated. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013; Geisler, Norman L. and Patty Tunnicliffe. Reasons for Belief: Easy-to-Understand Answers to 10 Essential Questions. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2013.

[128] Geisler and Tunnifcliffe, ibid., p. 96

[129] ibid., p. 97

[130] ibid., pp. 94-95. Geisler’s basis for this late date is careless. He writes “John wrote well after AD 70, since he doesn’t refer to this important date at all.” That could just as easily mean he was writing before AD 70, when nothing had as yet happened and so there was no reason to “refer to this important date at all.”

[131] Geisler, Norman L. A Popular Survey of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007, p. 61

[132] ibid., pp. 37-39. He repeatedly points out that “Q is a purely hypothetical source” and that this is a problem, but he does not flatly deny that there was a Q.

[133] Geisler, Survey, pp. 36-40

[134] ibid., p. 40

[135] ibid., p. 37. It should be noted that this is a statement about the contents of Q, not its existence.

[136] Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Revised and Expanded. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986, p. 488

[137] See Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Revised and Expanded. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986, pp. 452-489

[138] ibid., pp. 477-478

[139] ibid., p. 477. Geisler is careful to avoid the word “error” here, speaking instead of such things as “a scribal tendency to harmonize divergent accounts of a given event recorded in Scripture.” However, since what is proclaimed to be the original in such accounts does sometimes create contradictions, it is difficult to see how we can avoid admitting that these would be actual errors.

[140] See Tors, John. “A Primer on New Testament Textual Criticism (in Manageable, Bite-sized Chunks)” at for details and a list of studies. At most, we are told that deliberate scribal alterations were rare, but it is difficult to be sure than even any of these were, in fact, intentional.

[141] See Kruger, Michael J. “Early Christian Attitudes toward the Reproduction of Texts” in Hill, Charles E. & Michael J. Kruger. The Early Text of the New Testament. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 63-80. Kruger is confused by the seeming contradiction between this opposition to alteration and the many differences in the early NT papyri. His confusion would be cleared up if he realized that these early NT papyri were – literally – garbage. (See Tors, John. “GIGO: Unearthing a Decisive New Tipping Point for Textual Criticism” at

[142] Regarding the authenticity of this passage, see Tors, John. “A Call for Serious Evangelical Apologetics: The Authenticity of John 7:53-8:11 as a Case Study” at and the companion article Tors, John. “Examining the Claim that the Words and Expressions of John 7:53-8:11 are More Lukan than Johannine” at

[143] For convenience, I use here this abbreviation that is used in the NKJV to designate the Nestle-Aland and United Bible Societies Greek texts, which in their latest editions are identical, which are the current “best” heirs of Westcott and Hort, and which are used for the NT translation of every major modern English Bible except the NKJV.

[144] Wallace, Daniel. “Some Second Thoughts on the Majority Text.” Bib.Sac. 146 (July-September 1989), pp. 277. His count is based on the 3rd edition of the UBS NT Greek text (which is identical to the 26th edition of the Nestle-Aland text) and the 1st edition of the Hodges-Farstad Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text.

[145] In fact, we need not worry about this if we reject the NA text in favour of the Majority Text which is the original text. (See Tors, “A Primer on New Testament Textual Criticism,” op.cit.) Wilbur Pickering makes a case that the text found in the Family 35 manuscripts is the original text (See Pickering, The Greek New Testament According to Family 35, op.cit.); this text is very close to the Majority Text.

[146] Geisler & Nix, op.cit., p. 489. Cf. Geisler & Brooks, op.cit., p. 102; Geisler and Tunnicliffe, op.cit., p. 102

[147] For example, in some 1,700 manuscripts of the Gospel According to Mark, Mark 1:2 reads, “As it is written in the prophets, ‘Behold I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’” Fourteen manuscripts read, “As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘‘Behold I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’” Three of Griesbach’s four main canons actually favour “in the prophets,” but the reading “in Isaiah the prophet” introduces an error, since the following quote is from Malachi 3:1 and is most certainly not “written in Isaiah the prophet,” so that is the reading that is chosen according to the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort methodology. This is just one example of the errors that are found in the “inerrant” Bible used by Geisler.

[148] Geisler & Brooks, op.cit., pp. 227-244

[149] Young and old are relative terms. In this discussion, “young earth” indicates that the Earth is in the order of thousands of years old, whereas “old earth” indicates that the Earth is in the order of billions of years old.

[150] ibid., pp. 230-231; Geisler and Tunnicliffe, op.cit., pp. 50-51; Geisler, Norman L. Creation and the Courts: Eighty Years of Conflict in the Classroom and the Courtroom. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007, p. 257 (cited in Henry, Jonathan F. “Christian apologists should abandon the big bang.” Journal of Creation 23:3 (2009), p. 103.)

[151] A proper analysis of this issue is lengthy and would distract from the focus of this article, so we have prepared such an analysis, including a detailed examination of Geisler’s arguments, as a separate article. See Tors, John. “Is a 4.6-Billion Year-Old Earth Compatible with Biblical Inerrancy?” op.cit.

[152] From

[153] ibid.

[154] Smith, jr., Henry B. “Affirming Inerrancy.” Posted on September 11, 2013. At

[155] Witmer, Daryl. “Can a person believe in both God and Evolution?” Posted on August 29, 2008. At; Beall, Todd. “Christians in the Public Square: How Far Should Evangelicals Go in the Creation-Evolution Debate?” Posted on August 30, 2009. At

[156] Lanser, Rick. “Science and the Bible: Friends or Foes?” Posted on March 23, 2015. At

[157] Smith, jr. Henry B. “101 Reasons the Earth is Young.” Posted on January 4, 2010. At

[158] Batten, Don. “Age of the earth: 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe.” Posted on June 4, 2009. At

[159] Janeway, Brian. “‘Reinventing Jesus’: Book Review.” Posted on May 10, 2013. At Subsequent quotes are from this article until and unless otherwise noted. (Bolding added.)

[160] This is clear from his opinion that the fact that the authors “succeed in their task is made abundantly clear in 262 well-written pages” and insists that “Komoszewski, Sawyer, and Wallace have rendered exemplary service to the household of faith and have made an compelling defense of the word of truth (1 Pet 3:15),” while not challenging any of their assertions.

[161] “Most scholars do not believe that the Gospel According to Mark was written “sometime prior to the early 60s AD.” The majority date it to about AD 70.

[162] That should be “raises the question,” not “begs the question,” and is certainly does raise that question.

[163] Farnell, op.cit., p. 292

[164] ibid.

[165] ibid.

[166] Komoszewski et al. allow that “We also cannot discount the probability that the disciples took down notes to record significant events or lessons,” which is the only thing they get correct. In particular Matthew, a tax collector who would have had to know shorthand, may have jotted down the logia of Jesus as they were being spoken, and he and the other Gospel writers may have subsequently used these notes. That does not change the fact that it is the inspiration of God that makes the Gospel books inerrant.

[167] Janeway says that “The field of textual criticism attempts to recover the original wording of the books of the Bible,” but in fact the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort acolytes are quite clear in their declaration that it is impossible to recover the original wording of the Bible; they are only trying to come as close as possible.

[168] See Tors, “A Primer on New Testament Textual Criticism,” op.cit., for details.

[169] Available at Price’s critique only holds water against apologetics that is heavily tainted by liberal paradigm assumptions.

[170] Smith, jr., Henry B. “Affirming Inerrancy.” Posted on September 11, 2013. At

[171] “About Us.” Posted at

[172] “What We Believe.” Posted at See also Sarfati, Jonathan. “The authority of Scripture.” Posted at; and Kulikovsky, Andrew S. “The Bible and hermeneutics.” Journal of Creation 19:3 (December 2005), pp. 14-20. Posted at

[173] As we shall see, they state this explicitly in some articles. Also, while in times past, their writers seemed to quote from their Bible translation of choice, all quotes are now from the ESV. Unofficially, at least, they have chosen to ally themselves with this translation that is based on the Griesbachian/Westcott-Hort model.

[174] Mortenson, Terry. “But from the beginning of … the institution of marriage?” Posted on November 1, 2004. At

[175] Weinberger, Lael (interviewer). “Creation and Redemption: A Conversation with Albert Mohler.” Creation 33:1 (January 2011). Posted at (Bolding and underlining added.)

[176] Ham, Ken. “A low view of Scripture.” Creation 21:1 (December 1998). Posted at (Bolding and underlining added.)

[177] Cosner, Lita. “The ‘gender neutral’ Bible: Emasculating Scripture for political correctness.” Posted on September 10, 2009. At (Bolding and underlining added.)

[178] Nestle-Aland Greek-English New Testament. 27th edition. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1994, p. 2

[179] Southern Baptist Convention: The Baptist Faith and Message I at

[180] “Our Statement of Faith.” Posted at

[181] Enns, Peter. “Inerrancy and Younger Evangelicals.” Posted on March 11, 2012. At

[182] Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996, p. 304 (Bolding and underlining added.)

[183] ibid., pp. 304-305

[184] For example, Bott, Michael and Jonathan Sarfati. “What’s Wrong With Bishop Spong? Laymen Rethink the Scholarship of John Shelby Spong.” Last updated on February 7, 2007. At

[185] Wallace, Greek Grammar, pp. 304-305

[186] For details about this issue, see Tors, John. “Why There is an Error in Mark 1:2 in Your Bible: Another Example of the Evangelical Betrayal of the Bible,” at which also looks at the questions surrounding Luke 2:2.

[187] Enns, op.cit. (Bolding and underlining added.)

[188] Holding, James Patrick. “The Death of Judas Iscariot.” Posted at This is discussed in detail in our companion article, Tors. John. “Creation Ministries International and the Three-Headed Monster: Why the Monster Wins” at

[189] ibid.

[190] ibid.

[191] Bird, Michael F. “Reflections on ETS and the Conference Theme of Inerrancy.” Posted on November 29, 2013. At

[192] ibid. The plenary paper mentioned was delivered at an Evangelical Theological Society conference in 2013.

[193] ibid.

[194] From Stan Gundry’s 1978 ETS presidential address, quoted in ibid.

[195] Of course there are still evangelical scholars who oppose this lunacy, including Geisler, R. Albert Mohler, and James White.

[196] Bird, Michael F. “More on the Michael Licona and Resurrection Dust Up.” Posted on December 2, 2011. At

[197] ibid.

[198] ibid.

[199] “Staff.” Posted at

[200] Moring, Mark. “Michael Patton Brews a Potent Theology.” Posted on March 28, 2012. At

[201] Patton, C. Michael. “Mike Licona, Norman Geisler, Albert Mohler, and the Evangelical Circus.” Posted on December 2, 2011. At

[202] ibid.

[203] ibid.

[204] ibid.

[205] ibid.

[206] ibid.

[207] ibid.

[208] “About Randal.” Posted at

[209] Rauser, Randal. “‘Let Nothing that Breathes Remain Alive’: On the Problem of Divinely Commanded Genocide.” Philosophia Christi 11:1 (2009), pp. 27-41

[210] Rauser, Randal. “Al Mohler says the devil is in the details. Ironically enough, he’s right.” Posted on September 22, 2011. At

[211] Bird, Michael F. “More on the Michael Licona and Resurrection Dust Up,” op.cit.

[212] Rauser, op.cit. (Bolding added.)

[213] Patton, op.cit. (Bolding added.) “Both men” refers to Geisler and Mohler. “Old school,” I suspect, means (perhaps unintentionally) the approach to apologetics that understood “inerrant” actually to mean that there were no errors in the Bible, unlike today’s evangelical “new school.”

[214] Anderson, Garwood P., op.cit.

[215] Interestingly, Licona tells us that what most persuaded liberal scholar and Jesus Seminar member John Dominic Crossan “to go with a metaphorical understanding of resurrection is the harrowing (or robbing) of hell theology found in a hymn (Odes of Solomon), images (found in two ancient churches), a narrative (Gospel of Peter), two texts in 1 Peter (1 Pet 3:18-19; 4:6), and a ‘weird residual fragment’ in Matthew (Mt 27:52-53).” (Licona, op.cit., p. 527). The last of these is the only one in the purview of Licona’s book, and one wonders about a possible influence of Crossan’s faith-breaking objection to it. Perhaps Licona has been hobnobbing with liberal scholars too long; as the saying goes, “If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

[216] “Though with numerous mentions,” points out Anderson (Anderson, op.cit.)

[217] Rauser, op.cit. This is enthusiastically passed on by Patton (in Patton, op.cit.)

[218] There was not one original idea in Darwin’s books. Every one of his ideas had previous been advanced by earlier writers such as Charles De Secondat Montesquieu (1689-1755), Comte de Buffon (1707-1788), Denis Diderot (1713-1784), and Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802). The ideas had previously been rejected for lack of evidence and a viable mechanism. Darwin offered no genuine evidence and no mechanism, but now the same baseless ideas were widely accepted. It is hard to argue that the reason is that the influence of historical criticism and textual criticism had finally made society ready to discard God. As Pulitizer Prize winning historian Professor Edward J. Larson says, “During the Enlightenment, during, say, the 1700’s, notions of evolution began creeping back in, that, is, creation by natural law. If a people are intent in pushing out God, or rejecting divine causation, really the only alternative is where species, well, they could be eternal, as Aristotle said, or they had to come from other species. Where else could they come from?” (Larson, Professor Edward J. “The Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy” Lecture 1: “Before Darwin.” The Great Courses, CD version. (Bolding and italics added.))

[219] Pickering, Ernest, pp. 8-9

[220] ibid., p. 14

[221] This is not anti-intellectualism. Genuine scholarship, the kind that carefully sifts through all of the evidence to learn more about the origins of the Bible is welcome. But that is very different from unthinking acceptance of liberal paradigm assumptions that discredit the Bible, which is what so much of evangelical scholarship is today.

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