Norman Geisler on Evangelical Scholarship and Following the Evidence Wherever It Leads

(redated post originally published on 9 November 2011)

An Internet search engine quickly led me to Dr. Norman Geisler’s website, where he has posted his side of the story regarding the Michael Licona inerrancy controversy. In one of Geisler’s responses to Licona, he writes:

Tenth, Licona claims that to reject a view like his is to “stifle scholarship.” In response, we do not wish to stifle scholarship but only to reject bad scholarship. Further, as Evangelicals we must beware of desiring a seat at the table of contemporary scholarship, which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity. Indeed, when necessary, we must place Lordship over scholarship (2 Cor. 10:5). We do not oppose scholarship, but only scholarship whose presuppositions and methodological procedures are opposed to the Faith once for all committed to the saints. (emphasis mine)

This is exactly the sort of comment that has caused me to previously express my concerns about evangelical scholarship. Again, I am not suggesting that Evangelicals are not intelligent, rational, well-educated, members of the Academy, or anything of the sort. What I am saying is that it is troubling to read yet another prominent Christian scholar suggest that if there is a conflict between scholarship and Evangelical belief, Evangelicals have a (moral?) obligation to uphold their Evangelical beliefs in spite of contemporary scholarship. This sounds suspiciously similar to the statement: “We do not oppose the use of logic and evidence, but if logic and evidence are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity, then we must place Evangelical Christianity over logic and evidence.”

I know that, in the quotation above, Geisler is talking about scholarship “riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity.” It’s reasonable to assume that Geisler would say there is no actual conflict between reason (or “true” reason) and faith, only an apparent conflict (because of the anti-Christian presuppositions of contemporary scholarship).” But what would Geisler say about the hypothetical (for him) scenario where there is a real conflict between reason and faith? Would or can Geisler say that Evangelical Christians should place reason over faith and follow the evidence wherever it leads? Would he try to dodge the question by saying the hypothetical scenario is impossible? Or would he join William Lane Craig and say that, in such a hypothetical scenario, an Evangelical should believe in spite of the evidence against Christianity?

It may come as a surprise to some, but I actually want to believe that Evangelical scholarship can be, and is, better than that. Can I justifiably hold such a belief? If any Evangelical Christian scholars are reading this and disagree with Geisler’s and Craig’s approach to epistemology, I would love to hear from you.