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Licona declines exchange in Philosophia Christi

About a month ago, after J.P. Moreland had endorsed my work concerning alleged literary devices in the gospels, I made the suggestion to several people that Mike Licona and I might have a scholarly exchange in the pages of Philosophia Christi about his work. Phil. Christi is an excellent journal and has hosted symposia of this kind before. Over a decade ago, Tim McGrew and I had an exchange on the historical argument for the resurrection with Alvin Plantinga in the pages of Philosophia Christi.

Phil. Christi was open to the idea. If Dr. Licona had been agreeable, the discussion would have come to pass. A third party made contact with him to suggest it. I have just recently been told that he has declined, without citing a reason.

I want to be clear that I don’t think Dr. Licona owes it to me to have such an exchange. We all have our own lives to live, and we all make decisions about how to use our time. This would certainly be time consuming for both parties. No scholar is owed a response simply because he writes a critique of another scholar’s work.

At the same time, I think that it would be a good thing in many ways if Licona would engage with the details of my critique, and Philosophia Christi would be a highly respectable venue in which to do so.

There are several ways in which my written critique is different from anything else that is out there. (See the wrap-up post from the 2017 series, here, with synopses of all posts.) First, I consider Licona’s ideas to be highly problematic across the board, but this is not because of my theological views concerning inspiration or inerrancy. Rather, my criticisms are evidential and historical. Second, mine is (as far as I’m aware) the longest and most detailed existing critical discussion of his book. Third, as far as I know, I’m the only scholar to have gone back to Licona’s Plutarch and Tacitus examples and to have evaluated them on their own terms, not taking his word that they demonstrate that fictionalizing compositional devices were in common use at the time. These are all reasons for him to interact with the arguments.

I have recently finished drafting a lengthy review of Licona’s work, partly based on and partly adding to my scholarly blog series, for John Warwick Montgomery’s Global Journal of Classic Theology. That critique is set to come out in the fall and will provide a useful reference point in future discussions.

I’m publishing this post to make it known that I am quite willing to engage with Dr. Licona in a neutral, scholarly venue. That is appropriate to the importance of the issues. If it does not occur, it is not because I am unwilling or because I insist on preaching to the choir. I would warmly welcome the opportunity for such an exchange of ideas with Dr. Licona.

Comments (1)

Any scholar in Licona's shoes will be tempted to weigh the possible down-sides of such an exchange against modest up-sides. For instance, if he does well, he may bolster his standing a tiny bit, whereas if he shows poorly, he can damage his reputation gravely. Though this is an unseemly kind of motivating factor, it still is something many professional scholars will consider important.

Hopefully, ANY scholar would also include in the gain column the increase in knowledge and understanding in the readership from such an exchange, which should be the primary motivation in any case. As a side benefit, he might hope to learn a thing or two himself, or to learn to hone an existing argument better, to be put into the scales with the amount of time required to devote to it. In any case, Licona might be in a better position to do it down the road, in a year or two. You never know.

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