Norman Leo Geisler
July 21, 1932
Warren, Michigan, U.S.
|Died||July 1, 2019 (aged 86)|
|School||non-denominational Evangelical Christian, Amyraldism, Neo-Thomistic Philosophy, Premillennial-Dispensational|
|Philosophy of religion, Christian Apologetics, Systematic Theology, Philosophy, Thomism/Neo-Thomism, biblical inerrancy, Bible difficulties, Creationism versus Evolution, Calvinism-Arminianism, Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism (differences and agreements), Christian Ethics|
|12 point apologetic argument, Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics|
Norman Leo Geisler (July 21, 1932 – July 1, 2019) was an American Christian systematic theologian and philosopher. He was the co-founder of two non-denominational evangelical seminaries (Veritas International University and Southern Evangelical Seminary).
He held a Ph.D. in philosophy from Loyola University and made scholarly contributions to the subjects of classical Christian apologetics, systematic theology, the history of philosophy, philosophy of religion, Calvinism, Roman Catholicism, Biblical inerrancy, Bible difficulties, ethics, and more. He was the author, coauthor, or editor of over 90 books and hundreds of articles.
Geisler's education included a Th.B. (1964) from William Tyndale College, B.A. in philosophy (1958) and M.A. in theology (1960) from Wheaton College, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Loyola University. He had additional graduate work at Wayne State University, the University of Detroit, and Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Norman Leo Geisler was born on July 21, 1932, in Warren, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. He attended a nondenominational Evangelical church from age nine but was not converted until the age of eighteen. He immediately began attempting to share his faith with others in various evangelistic endeavors--door-to-door, street meetings, and jail service, rescue missions, and Youth for Christ venues. Some of his conversations forced him to realize that he needed to find better answers to the objections he was hearing. He subsequently earned two bachelor's degrees, two master's degrees, and a Doctorate.
Geisler's decades of degree work overlap a professorial career begun at Detroit Bible College (1963-66) and continued at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1969-70) and Trinity College (1970-71). He was later Chairman of Philosophy of Religion at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1970-79) and Professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary (1979-88).
In 1981, Geisler testified in "the Scopes II trial" (McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education). Duane Gish, a creationist, remarked: "Geisler was. . . the lead witness for the creationist side and one of its most brilliant witnesses. His testimony, in my view (I was present during the entire trial), effectively demolished the most important thrust of the case by the ACLU. Unfortunately, in my opinion, no testimony, and no effort by any team of lawyers, no matter how brilliant, could have won the case for the creationist side."
Geisler was formerly a president of the Evangelical Theological Society but left the ETS in 2003, after it did not expel Clark Pinnock, who advocated open theism. Geisler also founded and was first president of The Evangelical Philosophical Society. Additionally, he was the founder and first president of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.
In 2008, Geisler co-founded the Veritas Evangelical Seminary located in Santa Ana, California. The seminary offers master's degrees in theological studies, apologetics, biblical studies, and Divinity. Geisler served as Chancellor, Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Theology, and occupant of the Norman L. Geisler Chair of Christian Apologetics. He retired from this post in May 2019.
Geisler was married to Barbara Jean, and together they had six children. He died of cerebral thrombosis at a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina on July 1, 2019, 20 days before his 87th birthday. Geisler's funeral was held at Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Ravi Zacharias gave the eulogy.
Geisler is known first and foremost as a classical Christian apologist. Between 1970 and 1990 he participated in dozens of public debates and gained a reputation as a defender of theism, biblical miracles, the resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible. The first attempt to publish an outline of his apologetic method showed up in an appendix of his 1990 book When Skeptics Ask. The appendix is titled "Reasoning to Christianity from Ground Zero" and in it we see a high-level view of the holistic system of classical apologetics he had been developing over the years. The first outline contained fourteen points of argument:
The overview of his system was later streamlined slightly into a 12-point schema. As of 1999, it could be summarized as follows:
These same twelve steps served as the framework for the chapters of the highly popular book I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist in 2004 and for Geisler's 2012 e-book Twelve Points that Show Christianity is True.
Geisler was a conservative evangelical scholar who wrote a four-volume systematic theology.
He defended the full inerrancy of the Bible, being one of the co-founders and framers of the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy" (1978) and editor of the book Inerrancy (Zondervan, 1978). More recently, he co-authored Defending Inerrancy with William Roach (Baker, 2013). He also co-authored (with William Nix) General Introduction to the Bible (Moody Press, 1986) and From God to Us, revised (Moody, 2012).
Geisler considered himself a "moderate Calvinist", as expressed in his book Chosen but Free (Harvest House, 2001) and Systematic Theology, in One Volume (Harvest House, 2012). On the Five Points of Calvinism, he believed:
Geisler wrote two significant books on ethics: Christian Ethics and The Christian Love Ethic. He provided his perspective on ethical options, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, biomedical issues, capital punishment, war, civil disobedience, sexual issues, homosexuality, marriage and divorce, ecology, animal rights, drugs, gambling, pornography, birth control, and more.
Of the six major ethical systems (antinomianism, situationalism, generalism, unqualified absolutism, conflicting absolutism, and graded absolutism), Geisler advocated graded absolutism, which is a theory of moral absolutism which affirms that in moral conflicts we are obligated to perform the higher moral duty. Moral absolutism is the ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong regardless of other contexts such as their consequences or the intentions behind them. Graded absolutism is moral absolutism but clarifies that a moral absolute, like "Do not kill", can be greater or lesser than another moral absolute, like "Do not lie". Graded absolutism is also called "contextual absolutism" but is not to be confused with situational ethics. The conflict is resolved in acting according to the greater absolute. That is why graded absolutism is also called the "greater good view", but is not to be confused with utilitarianism (see also prima facie right).
Geisler believed the American Revolution was not justified by the standards of either the Bible or just war theory. However, he was not a pacifist, believing that defensive wars are justified but revolutions are not.[page needed]
The following is a list of books authored, co-authored or edited by Dr. Norman Geisler.