Christian Apologetics Alliance

Christian Apologetics Alliance
Member: Christian Apologetics Alliance

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Michael Licona's response to Norman Geisler

I've been quite occupied with ministry and work and haven't had the chance to read, much less update this blog. However, a recent development in the apologetics community caught my attention.

"Stormin'" Norman Geisler, one of the old timers in the apologetics disciplines called out Dr. Michael Licona on his position on a verse of scripture in Matthew 27.  The link to that open letter is here.

While I did not know it at that time, Mike was feeling a lot of pressure from the academic community because of those open letters, despite knowing that it wasn't a justifiable action undertaken by the old timer.

I wrote him to let him know of my support and told him that I clearly saw his point. Apparently, quite a lot of people in the apologetics scholastic community also thought so.

Mike just responded to the open letter and I am posting his response for all of you who care to read it.

An Open Response to Norman Geisler
(updated as of 10 September 2011)

Norman Geisler has taken issue with a portion of my recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, in which I proposed that the story of the raised saints in Matthew 27:52-53 should probably be interpreted as apocalyptic imagery rather than literal history. In response, Dr. Geisler has offered strong criticisms in two Open Letters to me on the Internet. Until now I have been unable to comment because I have multiple writing deadlines, two September debates in South Africa for which to prepare, and, consequently, no time to be drawn into what would probably turn into an endless debate. I shared these first two reasons with Dr. Geisler in an email several weeks ago. Yet he insisted that I “give careful and immediate attention” to the matter. I simply could not do this and fulfill the pressing obligations of my ministry, which is my higher priority before the Lord.

Dr. Geisler questions whether I still hold to biblical inerrancy. I want to be clear that I continue to affirm this evangelical distinctive. My conclusion in reference to the raised saints in Matthew 27 was based upon my analysis of the genre of the text. This was not an attempt to wiggle out from under the burden of an inerrant text; it was an attempt to respect the text by seeking to learn what Matthew was trying to communicate. This is responsible hermeneutical practice. Any reasonable doctrine of biblical inerrancy must respect authorial intent rather than predetermine it.

When writing a sizable book, there will always be portions in which one could have articulated a matter more appropriately. And those portions, I suppose, will often be located outside the primary thesis of the book, such as the one on which Dr. Geisler has chosen to focus. When writing my book, I always regarded the entirety of Matthew 27 as historical narrative containing apocalyptic allusions. I selected the term “poetic” in order to allude to similar phenomena in the Greco-Roman literature in general and Virgil in particular. However, since Matthew is a Jew writing to Jews, “apocalyptic” may be the most appropriate technical term, while “special effects” communicates the gist on a popular level.

Further research over the last year in the Greco-Roman literature has led me to reexamine the position I took in my book. Although additional research certainly remains, at present I am just as inclined to understand the narrative of the raised saints in Matthew 27 as a report of a factual (i.e., literal) event as I am to view it as an apocalyptic symbol. It may also be a report of a real event described partially in apocalyptic terms. I will be pleased to revise the relevant section in a future edition of my book.

Michael R. Licona, Ph.D.
August 31, 2011

We the undersigned are aware of the above stated position by Dr. Michael Licona, including his present position pertaining to the report of the raised saints in Matthew 27: He proposes that the report may refer to a literal/historical event, a real event partially described in apocalyptic terms, or an apocalyptic symbol. Though most of us do not hold Licona’s proposal, we are in firm agreement that it is compatible with biblical inerrancy, despite objections to the contrary. We are encouraged to see the confluence of biblical scholars, historians, and philosophers in this question.

It has come to my attention that this matter may become a political/theological hot potato. The scholars on the list have stood with me. It was not my intent to amass a huge list. It was my intent to demonstrate that a significant number of the most highly respected evangelical scholars, all of whom are members of ETS, see no incompatibility between the position I took in my book and the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. The list has served its purpose. I have no desire to be the cause of pressure brought on those who have stood with me or on their academic institutions. Therefore, I have decided to remove the list of names for the present time at least. In no case, did an institution demand that their professors withdraw their names.

A number of scholars have suggested that this discussion is better played out in the theatre of an academic forum. I could not agree more! Southeastern Theological Review (STR) has offered to host a ‘virtual’ roundtable discussion involving several significant scholars commenting on my book. A main subject of this roundtable will be the raising of the dead saints in Matthew 27:52-53. This roundtable discussion(s) will be posted on the STR web site and will precede a full journal devoted to my book in the Summer 2012 edition of STR.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Renewing the mind and the faith

Of recent, it's been a tough ten days.

Ever since we started upping our involvement in a ministry towards tribal groups in selected areas around Mindanao (count 'em - 35!), there have been strange coincidences of unexpected setbacks that some of the regular "no risk" ministers prefer to call "superstitious" occurences.  

What would they know. They live such programmed lives, anything spontaneous would qualify as miraculous. And let's not get into the matter of the Holy Spirit. There are just too many people making Him in their image and likeness in their minds that it's no wonder He chooses to go elsewhere.

At any rate, these minute by minute disturbances range from the irritatingly mundane to the disturbing, and sometimes cruel.

And all this, happening at exactly the time when we made major inroads in the ministry towards the pilot area in Western Mindanao, where we're likely to achieve a degree of success.

But then again, the learned ministers of the Word from the Western Evangelical bible colleges would know better. These are superstitious thoughts and just merely "occurences".

Sure. Let's trade shoes for a month, and then let's talk.

These are the times when I find it convenient to be cynical and question why of all times, when I put my skills and network to a Godly use, is when we suffer an onslaught of these events.  And what's worse, we can't make a head or tail of where they come from or how to counter them.

At least, when I was a new believer, I had fellow likeminded new believers to pray with against these things and for a time, (I'd like to think) we kept them abay.

But of course, we're more educated believers now and these things don't happen. Right.

As far as I can remember, it was in the gospel narratives when the manifestation of supernatural "non beings" like demons were mentioned a great many times more than they were ever mentioned in the annals of the Old Testament.

And we (rather, my divinely educated friends from the Ivy League Christian universities) prefer to refer to them as "superstitious" concepts. Let's take that up with the Coming King when he gets here, okay?

However, in all this, I found encouragement in the most unlikely places.

First a good online friend and fellow apologist (so I'd like to think of myself as such as well) Joshua Tongol ( comforted me and told me to read up on George Muller, who influenced him greatly in his life.

So I did. I found a great many resources such as this one - - which also led me to this wonderful blog piece by Kimberly Powell:  Although the spelling was off and the site she had pointed in the wrong direction, Kim gave such a fresh, candid account of her dependency on the Lord God that I was just taken aback by the vividness of her experience.

It was then when I had realized that the value of studying apologetics first helps in reworking the mind's orientation to be able to think in terms of faith.  Because more often, what we should believe is always in conflict with what we can think should be possible or impossible.

Faith was never logical or meant to be logical.  Somehow I wished that that was deliberately mentioned by the Lord Jesus in the gospel narratives so we could hold on to it earlier than discovering it much later when studying the philosophy of the Kingdom.

But no matter, I discovered the reason why I had to study these difficult subjects first - so that my obstinate mind would know the Lord God thoroughly, and through these rough times, come into consonance with a heart that can be inclined to believe when the mind says it's just not possible to.

I have yet to come through this fire, but deep down I know that my family and I will see this through, with the Grace of the Lord God - to whom I have prayed to just hold my hand in all this, as I can't see any visible indication of a solution to all the problems that have been dumped on me - financial and otherwise.

Just the comfort of being close to Him will be my only solace. But there will be a glorious ending to this. It's what He promised, and we have to hold on to it.  There's no other way.

I hope to post about the surprise when it gets here. Until then, I'd appreciate your prayers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lost in Translations

It's been quite a while since my last entry, I know.

The past six months have been devoted to study, research and work.   I'm preparing to qualify for a Chapter Directorship for a Reasonable Faith Chapter here.

Add to that, finally making a move to another congregation for the sake of my girls - they needed more than the usual and we found a great congregation that were taught exegetically.  The pastor, Earl Norman Opinion has become more than just a regular acquaintance and we look forward to spending more time with him in the days to come.

The wonderful thing about continuing the exegetical study is that you realize that many an error in doctrine (still prevalent in the majority of present day ekklesias both in the West and here in our own hometown) continue to be perpetuated by simply not looking into the translations a bit more intently.

Small wonder why the Reformation took off with quite a lot of banging on the doors of the Wittenberg church by Martin Luther, posting his 95 theses - and this, after he read the hurriedly done and erroneous first edition of the Greek New Testament by Erasmus - what we now identify as the Textus Receptus, and discovered firsthand that salvation was a matter of grace and nothing else.

Of course, Martin Luther still wasn't immune to committing errors in his interpretation of doctrine ( his own version of "replacement theology" was a result of his frustration with the Jews not responding to his evangelizing overtures) and started his own grave errors as well, resulting in the persecution of the Jewish people.

However, with the availability of resources online, it's not too difficult to get back to the original texts in the manuscripts and derive the meanings as they were intended by the New Testament writers.

My own recent discoveries of these resources - including, the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts ( and other resources (Dr. Daniel Wallace's lectures on and the video lectures on iTunes) have enriched my study of the new testament very greatly.

However, these have just made matters a bit more difficult for myself. I now find myself re examining my positions on various issues - including the matter of "once saved, always saved" - resolved: it's conditional; Take a look at John 10:28 on and look at the greek word for perish - it's apolwntai and in the subjunctive mood. Meaning, it's conditional. The previous ou me denotes a double negative. Absolutely no one can take Jesus' own from Him - except when they choose to go their own way.

So - reset the mind again.  Follow the evidence to where it leads.

Now, I'm studying the position on the rapture. However, though the scriptural references are less for the pretrib position, they seem to be more solidly evidenced than that of the other position.

Our dear friends, Joey and Mary dropped by today to see what was going on and why we were enjoying the teaching. However, as they comprise the minority of American English speakers among Cebuano followers of the Lord Jesus, a lot of the great teaching today somehow got lost in translation as well.

Oh well, at least we know that some of it was greek to all of us.

Blessings to all of you.  Makarios ones.