Until now, I have deliberately not directly weighed in anywhere on the internet regarding the row over Mike Licona’s views and the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Scriptures. The continued barrage of views in various blog posts and on FB (some by people I know and others not) has compelled me to give my 1.5 cents worth. I do not flatter myself to think that anyone would care what my views are in this matter; at least, not as far as being relevant in settling things. There might be some, however, who know me (and perhaps have studied under me) who might be interested in what I think about this debate, if only in as much as it departs from their own thinking.
Here I am only interested in offering some observations and conclusions and will save most of my arguments for perhaps another post or venue. My views are in no way motivated by any animosity for Mike. I consider him a friend and I have not heard from him that he has changed his mind towards me—this after we discussed our respective views over lunch.
First, two related but distinct issues are confused by some of those who have weighed in. On the one hand, there is the issue as to whether a given passage (for example, the Mt. 27 passage that started this public discussion) should be interpreted as A or B (or any number of other options). On the other hand, there is the issue as to whether interpretation B is consistent with the doctrine of inerrancy. Of these two, the latter seems to me to be the most crucial.
Second, it is clear to me that if it is possible that the New Testament has legends or embellishments or that a New Testament writer has changed the facts of a story for a theological agenda (all of which Mike says are possible), then necessarily inerrancy is not true. The mere possibility of the former precludes the possibility of the latter.
Third, one has the prerogative to hold whatever view of inerrancy one choses. I regret that some so hurriedly dismiss the work of the ad hoc consortium of pan-denominational Christian theologians and philosophers whose ten-year work yielded eight volumes dealing with (among other things) the philosophical, theological, and historical dimensions of inerrancy; the seventh volume of which was a nearly 1,000 page treatment of inerrancy and hermeneutics. I am not directing this criticism at those who think that we on this side of the issue have misunderstood the doctrine of inerrancy and ICBI (the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy). (For example, Mike and perhaps many on his side of this debate affirm inerrancy and charge our side of either not understanding it or not applying it properly or consistently.) Rather, I am directing this criticism to those who sound the refrain “Why should ICBI be the standard of orthodoxy?” The argument is not whether ICBI is the standard of orthodoxy but whether ICBI is the standard for the doctrine of inerrancy. Anyone who thinks he can do a better job than ICBI is welcome to try. I am not suggesting that nothing in the work of ICBI needs correcting. I am suggesting that such matters require (and deserve) a very careful, thoughtful, and thorough treatment. A one-liner that emotionally appeals to the theological individualism characteristic of many (Protestant) Evangelicals is not enough.
I have been collecting material from both on and off the internet expressing various views on this important discussion. The numerous misunderstandings I have seen of the debate itself have prompted me to offer these observations. It is my hope that soon there can be a public format where sincere participants can come together for a concentrated airing of viewpoints.