The Bible is the most maligned, misunderstood, misrepresented book of all time. Unfortunately, much of that abuse has been levied by some of its most passionate adherents and defenders. Those atrocities have caused many folks to question Biblical reliability based merely upon the loudest apologist’s arguments? Because of that view, they often fight straw man the inerrantist.
Now if you’re a conservative evangelical you’re probably pointing your rhetorical finger at liberals. “They’ve denied inerrancy and ushered in liberal theology and an over-emphasis on social justice”, you might say.
True enough. That’s a slippery slope that exists for many mainline denominations. One can make a good argument against certain progressive movements in the Church and accurately point to biblical unfaithfulness as its source. But, that’s the low hanging fruit if you ask me.
It’s conservatives who often do as much harm as progressives. Unknowingly most of the time, and unfortunately all the time, lots of conservative Christians misrepresent God’s revelation of himself. When they do, they do so at all our apologetic peril.
Protecting the corn
For example, there is the ongoing crusade of Norman Geisler against all folks whose biblical trajectory varies from his. He tends to take pot shots at them from his laptop because he believes that some hermeneutical difference they have with him makes them heretical. At the top of his list is usually apologist Mike Licona.
Hermeneutics-Greek hermeneuo, “to explain, interpret”; the science of Bible interpretation. Paul stated the aim of all true hermeneutics in 2 Tim. 2:15 as “rightly dividing the word of truth.” That means correctly or accurately teaching the word of truth. The apostle boasted that he did not corrupt, or adulterate, the Scriptures (2 Cor. 2:17). A proper hermeneutical approach will enable us to say the same.-Dictionary of Theological Terms
In one of his books, Licona attempted an apologetic explaining the raising of the dead in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Matthew wrote in the 27th chapter of his narrative-52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of rthe saints swho had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into tthe holy city and appeared to many. Licona saw the passage as hyperbolic in a way that caused Geisler to question his belief in inerrancy. Geisler has made his condemnation of Licona public and often.
On the other hand, Licona claims to adhere to inerrancy, but understands the term differently than Geisler. Geisler disregards Licona’s definition ad hoc. Furthermore, Geisler has found many other Christians toward whom to point his canonical cannon.
Shooing the crows
Ken Hamm is another who takes liberties playing loose and fast with Bibliology. He is famous for defending the “young earth” view of Creation.
That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with taking a position on interpretation and defending it.
What’s not fine is the fact that when any other Christian takes an opposing view of Scripture, Hamm labels them as unfaithful. He determines, on his own, that any other hermeneutic other than his (at least when it comes to Creation) undermines inerrancy and ultimately faith in God. He has debated people like Hugh Ross, a Christian apologist and founder of Reasons to Believe. Each debate Hamm flirts with tagging his opponents with heresy.
His popularity has placed him in the spotlight more than once and he is a favorite of the skeptical media. Recently, he debated Bill Nye on the web and his positions represented what Christians believe to millions.
It looks like the adage is true about Christians. We are the only people who shoot our wounded.
Blood on the plow
Hamm and Geisler have something in common with a great many passionate believers. They carry the banner of conservative Christianity. Some might say that banner would be more accurately described as Fundamentalism. In that camp, targeting those who disagree as heretics is common practice. It’s a part of their overall strategy. Independent of Ecclesiastical accountability they sit in judgement. How convenient?
I’d like to ask just a few questions. I think these are legitimate and should give us pause before we neglect to remember Exodus 20:16-16 s“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Does differing in opinion on how to read a specific section of Scripture point to a belief that the Scriptures contain error?
If a Christian does not adhere to inerrancy are they a heretic?
Can an individual condemn another person of heresy apart from the authority of the Church?