Renowned apologist, author and philosopher, Dr Norman Geisler has died at the age of 86. Known as a cross between Thomas Aquinas and Billy Graham, Geisler was a leading light in the defence of evangelical Christianity.
In a career spanning seventy years, he founded Southern Evangelical Seminary in North Carolina and Veritas International University and Evangelical Seminary in California. He also wrote over 100 books aimed to equip believers to defend their faith.
Born in Michigan to parents he described as ‘anti-religious’, Geisler nevertheless attended church and was converted at seventeen. He immediately tried to share his faith on the streets of Detroit, but realised he needed to study the Bible in order to counter the various objections he encountered.
Geisler duly pursued higher education and received degrees from Wheaton College, William Tyndale College and Loyola University. He became Chairman of Philosophy of Religion at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Professor of Systematic Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. He went on to write a four-volume systematic theology.
The 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, signed by over 200 church leaders, was co-authored by Geisler. It is regarded as a seminal document in clarifying the evangelical position on Holy Scripture against a tide of liberalism.
Resolute in his apologetics and evangelicalism, ‘Stormin’ Norman’ came to be a nickname for Geisler. Between 1970 and 1990, he engaged in dozens of public debates, defending theism, biblical miracles, creationism, Christ’s resurrection, the reliability of the Bible and other topics.
Calvinism was one area of the Reformed Faith where Geisler had reservations. He subscribed to the doctrine of divine election, but distanced himself from a traditional understanding of the Five Points of Calvinism.
He was President of the Evangelical Theological Society but left in 2003 after it did not expel a faculty member who advocated open theism. Geisler also founded and was first president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.
Dr Geisler is survived by his wife of 64 years, Barbara Jean, their six children, 15 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Following his death, Geisler’s online ministry (ngim.org) posted one of his favourite passages on the Christian hope of resurrection:
‘But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).