More on the Michael Licona and Resurrection Dust Up

More on the Michael Licona and Resurrection Dust Up December 2, 2011

Some of you might remember the accusations made by Norm Geisler and Al Mohler that Michael Licona denies inerrancy because of his openness to a symbolic reading of Matt 27:52-53.  At ETS I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Michael and he also outed me at an ETS session as someone who advocates an interpretation of Matt 27:52-53 similar to his apocalyptic poetry suggestion. A central point I would raise against Michael critics is that they preach the inerrancy of the text, but practice the inerrancy of their interpretation, indeed, the text and their interpretation are basically conflated. That is a hermeneutical move we should resist since it moves us towards a kind of de facto evangelical magisterium where conservative luminaries get to determine the orthodoxy of persons sheerly by their influence and entirely apart from any consensus within the evangelical churches and entirely apart from the structures of church discipline.

Over at Parchment & Pen, C. Michael Patton has some reflections (some sarcastic I must warn you) about the debate.  Included is this quote from another blog site that puts the debate in rather dramatic terms:

“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.”

Ouch! That’s pretty harsh, but unfortunately an apt way of putting it.  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!

I would like to see Michael and his critics reconcile, even if they disagree with his interpretation of this tricky passage (many good folks like Dan Wallace do), but recognize that they are both singing of the same sheet of gospel music, and that hermeneutical differences do not amount to differences over biblical authority.


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  • Dennis

    Thanks for thoughts. your phrase, “de facto evangelical magisterium…” is terrific! and yes, hermeneutical difference do not have to indicate differences in views on biblical authority. my hope is that all who call themselves “evangelical” would have such a gracious attitude as we are all on the journey toward better understanding.

  • Jim Beilby

    This is really well said, Michael!

  • Dan Patterson

    Well put. I was really disappointed at the unmeasured response by some of the power brokers in the evangelical scene to Licona on this one. I’m thankful for those that have stood up to provide some perspective.

  • Peter G.

    Mike did you go to Licona’s session at ETS? I missed it but heard it went very well.

  • Leslie Keeney

    I attended Michael’s session at the ETS and from where I was sitting most of the people there seemed sympathetic both to his predicament and to his interpretation of the passage. Admittedly, I am not part of the “in” crowd at the ETS, but it seems that those criticizing him are a vocal minority. I am grateful that other evangelical scholars are recognizing the larger issues at stake and getting involved.

  • Anonymous

    Is their ever an example of Mohler and Geisler ever admitting they are wrong? I doubt it.

  • Scott

    Within the tradition in which I serve, which is Trinitarian Pentecostalism, there is much conflating of inerrant text with “inerrant interpretation”, and this has caused no end of issues apologetically within some of the churches where I have been as a pastor. There is a danger in trying to make one’s interpretation the canon of Scripture, especially if the textual background, the contextual setting, and the cross-referencing support is thin. If Licona has a differing view of a passage within Matthew, then instead of simply saying “he is wrong because my view is really the right one”, there should be some collegial theological debate with the understanding that unless the issue is directly related to the Person of Christ, then there may not be any hill there worth dying for.