Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Pitre sampler

I've been watching some Brant Pitre videos to see if he does a better job of making an exegetical case for Catholicism than other Catholic apologists. Here's a sampler. 

The second thing to notice is that Jesus is emphasizing the realism of his presence under the form of food and drink... 

That the food and drink he's going to give, which they don't yet understand [because] he hasn't instituted the Last Supper…

It's going to be necessary for us to receive it in order to have eternal life. 

If you eat his flesh and drink his blood he will abide in you and you will abide in him. 

The OT manna was miraculous bread from heaven. Now if the NT manna was just a symbol, that would make the old manna greater than the new manna. 

The 50 cent army

"Twitter shuts down 200,000 Chinese accounts for spreading disinformation about Hong Kong protests"

  1. I wonder how many people are aware of China's 50 cent army: "The 50 Cent Party, or 50 Cent Army (Chinese: 五毛党), is the colloquial term for internet commentators (Chinese: 网络评论员) which are hired by Chinese authorities in an attempt to manipulate public opinion to the benefit of the Chinese Communist Party [CCP]."

  2. The fact that the CCP is able to create 200,000 fake accounts on Twitter (that we know about) to try to influence Western public opinion should be disconcerting to say the least.

  3. It's also interesting because Twitter is supposed to be banned in China! Welp, I guess Twitter is banned for the Chinese people, not for the CCP.

  4. Not to suggest I trust Twitter (e.g. Twitter has censured political conservatives), but in this case I think Twitter made the right call against communist China and for pro-democracy Hong Kong.

  5. On a related note, there's the added problem of celebrities who shill for communist China. For example, Jackie Chan is beloved in the West, but he has long been disliked by his own fellow Hong Kongers precisely because Jackie Chan has supported communist China over and against his own people and his own native city of Hong Kong for years.

    Likewise Liu Yifei stars as Mulan in the upcoming live action Mulan film from Disney. However she recently made a comment supporting police brutality against pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters when she said "I support the Hong Kong Police. You can beat me up now....what a shame for Hong Kong" on Chinese social media (Weibo). The Hong Kong police work for the Hong Kong government, but the Hong Kong government is full of toadies for communist China. Hence many people around the world are calling to ban Mulan. That includes other Asians living in democratic nations like South Korea and Taiwan.

  6. If the 21st century is supposed to be the Asian century, then I'd prefer it to be a century of pro-democracy Asian nations like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, not pro-communist or other tyrannical Asian nations like mainland China.

Ministering spirits

From approximately 31 to 40 minutes, Corrie ten Boom tells four stories about angels. The second story is reminiscent of 2 Kgs 6:17. Admittedly I'm more skeptical about her third story. Her fourth story is intriguing.

Marian typology

1. I've been watching some Brant Pitre videos. He's a Catholic apologist with an emphasis on the (alleged) biblical evidence for Catholicism. He's popular and prolific, with a number of books and video series. As I said in another post, he's probably the best Bible scholar among Catholic apologists. 

I imagine his explanations would be a "revelation" to untutored evangelicals. "Why hasn't anyone told me this before?" 

In this post I'm going to make some methodological observations about his typology. Admittedly, my exposure to his material is pretty limited. However, from what I've seen thus far, there's a stereotypical quality to his arguments, so this seems to be a representative sample of his methodology or hermeneutical grid. Because NT Mariology is so thin, Catholic apologists who wish to demonstrate Catholic Mariology from Scripture must resort to layers of typological padding. In this post I'll focus on his Marian typology, in the following videos:

An ostensive definition of inerrancy

Definitions of inerrancy typically take the form of abstract definitions. While there's a necessary place for abstract definitions of inerrancy, their generality makes them fact-free vacuities. But traditional inerrantists have specific examples in mind, so it's useful to supplement or complement abstract definitions with ostensive definitions to avoid vacuity. For instance:

1. The historical narratives of Scripture (e.g. the Pentateuch; Gospels) are factually accurate. They record real events. Moreover, they describe real events in ways that would be recognizable if you could step into a time machine and go back to the scenes they narrate. 

2. The moral and theological teaching of Scripture is true. Scripture doesn't command evil. Scripture doesn't misrepresent the true nature of God.

3. The prophecies of Scripture are genuinely and accurately predictive. They were delivered prior to the fulfillment, rather than "prophecies" after the fact. In addition, the predictions have been or will be realized.    

The Voice And Personality Of The Enfield Poltergeist

If a poltergeist talks, there's potential to get more information from it. But the value of the information you get is going to depend, in part, on the poltergeist's personality.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Enfield case, an aspect that often gets more attention than is warranted, is the voice that allegedly was manifested by the poltergeist. Despite the large amount of attention the phenomena receive, interpretations of the voice, both in support of its paranormality and against it, are usually remarkably simplistic. That's partly because the large majority of people commenting on the subject have only heard a small percentage of what the voice said. But even what they say about that small percentage is often unreasonable.

I'm revisiting the issues surrounding the voice because I finished listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes earlier this year. The voice is present or discussed on dozens of those tapes, covering many hours, so that the tapes provide a lot of additional information on the issues involved.

When I cite the tapes below, I'll use "MG" to designate a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. For example, MG102B is tape 102B in Grosse's collection, and GP59A is tape 59A in Playfair's.

I'll be including the voice's vulgar language when I quote it. I don't use that sort of language, and I disapprove of it, but it has relevance to some of the points I'll be making. And given how often the voice is vulgar, leaving out the vulgarity would be too disruptive.

I want to start by summarizing the evidence for the authenticity (paranormality) of the voice. That will provide some motivation upfront for working through these issues. I'll then move on to address some objections to the authenticity of the voice. After that, I'll discuss some other subjects. Since this article is so long, some readers may want to use Ctrl F to find what they're most interested in.

The extent to which the evidence for and against the voice is significant, or even relevant, will vary from one view of the voice to another. If somebody thinks that one or more of the Hodgson children had dissociative identity disorder or some other such condition, for example, then that view has different implications than one in which the children faked everything without any of those other psychological issues involved. I'm offering some general considerations with more than one view in mind.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Exploring Islam: half price sale


Is Purgatory in the Bible?

42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Lk 12:42-48).

Among Catholic apologists, Brand Pitre is probably the best Bible scholar, so it's useful to evaluate his exegetical case for Purgatory:

Let's summarize his argument: 

Operation Antifa

This is brain dead for many reasons:

  1. At least get the historical facts correct! This is a photo from the Normandy landings. Operation Overlord. However D-Day didn't take place in 1945, but 1944. June 6, 1944 to be precise.
  2. Most conservatives in the US aren't white supremacists like the Nazis were. Most conservatives disown groups like fascists, white supremacists, the alt-right. And some conservatives have even been attacked by white supremacists or the alt-right (e.g. Ben Shapiro, David French).
  3. As far as I can see, the only way to conclude most conservatives in the US are white supremacists is by committing a guilt by association fallacy, viz. most conservatives voted for Trump who foments white supremacy or racism hence they must be white supremacists or racists too.
  4. And/or this is an equivocation, viz. Trump wants to build a wall because he's racist against Latinos. However the fact is most conservatives argue for border security (including the wall) because they don't want illegal immigration and they don't want open borders. That threatens our nation in multiple ways. In any case, being against illegal immigration and/or open borders is hardly equivalent to racism.
  5. Most conservatives knew things would end very badly for conservatives if Hillary was voted in. However, Trump was a wild card. They didn't know what Trump would do. Maybe he'd be just as bad as Hillary, maybe even worse, but then again maybe he wouldn't be. Hence many conservatives gambled and took the wild card (Trump) over and against the known quantity (Hillary) whom they knew would be very bad for conservatives. That’s hardly voting for Trump due to racism.
  6. Indeed, in the view of many conservatives, Hillary would have enacted racist policies because she has a history of preferencing other races/ethnicities over and against white people. She likely would have continued much of Obama's policies, many of which were based on identity politics, race wars, class warfare.
  7. What's more, Antifa is just as bad as the alt-right. Both are violent. Both are bigoted. Antifa is bigoted against non-liberal whites. Not to mention Antifa is favorable toward groups which arguably threaten US safety and security like Muslims. Why haven't liberals and progressives disowned Antifa like conservatives have disowned the alt-right?
  8. The Democratic party has been hijacked by its radical progressive factions. Look at how the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi can't even keep a junior representative like AOC down. Look at how radical all the positions of the current crop of Democratic presidential hopefuls are. Almost all of them (if not all of them) advocate socialism. At least a soft socialism. Yet even a soft socialism, like the social democracy one sees in many European nations, let alone communism, is quite arguably as bad as fascism and Nazism.
  9. Liberals and progressives would likely have smeared any GOP candidate as racist. Not only Trump. After all, that's what happened with both McCain and Romney whom many conservatives believe are RINOs rather than true conservatives and who in any case certainly weren't racist. Yet liberals attacked McCain and Romney for being racist, which signaled to conservatives that liberals and progressives will stoop very low indeed. If that's what liberals are going to do anyway, then why should conservatives care what liberals think about their candidate?

Diet Eman

Like Corrie ten Boom, Diet Eman is a Dutch Christian who helped Jews and resisted the Nazis during World War II. She's also honored as a "righteous gentile" by Israel. Her testimony about her time in the war is edifying to listen to and it likewise holds lessons for us today. In the end, in life or death, the only certainty is God with us if we are his.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

What is the Essence of Roman Catholicism?


Death be not proud

Bill Mounce reflects on the death of his father.

I am going to interrupt my normal Greek blogs to share some thoughts about my dad, funerals, and death.

Dad passed away due to complications from two surgeries, broken hip, shoulder, and elbow, all from falling. He was 97. His obituary is on his blog site, Shout4Joy.net.

It is expected to be reflective in the face of death, and I am no exception.

1. Death is final

No dah, but it is. I am now the oldest Mounce in my family, the patriarch. No one to call for senior advice. No one to remind you of the details of your life. No one to help put history in perspective.

I wasn't going to look at my father's body in the casket, but when they opened it my wife thought I should. I would never have recognized him, but it was extremely clear that he wasn't going to sit up and talk again. He was dead. There was nothing left for him to do.

Our days are numbered. Our life is but a vapor. Don't waste it (with apologies to John Piper and his excellent book on this topic). Do what really matters. You don't get a second chance.

2. The ground is level at the casket (and the cross)

There is some irony in where dad is buried. It is a family plot, with his parents to the right, grandmother further to the right, uncles and cousins to the left. It is basically farm land where the only facilities are a questionable outhouse.

No one reading the memorial stones would recognize the name of a University of Chicago professor born in Gravelswitch Kentucky, educated by traveling teachers in exchange for chickens, and whose first time in a school was as the teacher. My Grandfather.

No one would recognize the name of a published poet whose most famous writing was on the day that Lincoln died. My great-grandmother.

No one would recognize the two women who traveled the Oregon trail and taught as single women in Kellog, Idaho at a time when single women never did that sort of thing. My grandmother and her sister.

In time, no one will recognize the name of Robert Hayden Mounce. He was one of the first graduates of Fuller Seminary who, along with David Hubbard, pursued their Ph.D.'s in Britain and gave Fuller educational legitimacy. Or who wrote the question and answer column for Eternity magazine for 22 years. Or who wrote one of the best commentaries on Revelation. Or who ended his career as the president of Whitworth University.

And in time, no one will remember the name of Bill Mounce, and that's just fine. Despite the human desire for self-aggrandizement in death, everyone is six feet under. They're all dead. And they will stand equally before an impartial judge who will determine their eternal destiny. He is not impressed with what impresses people. Neither should we.

3. Death and legacy

A lot of people talk about legacy. I have never been impressed with the desire for legacy. Books fade. Friends who know you die. As important as BiblicalTraining.org is to me, the only thing that really matters are my wife and children, and the friends whose lives I have touched and who have touched me. If you want to consider that as legacy, then fine.

As my grandma used to quote, "Only one life will soon be past, and only what's done for Jesus will last." If my legacy is a family and group of friends who love Jesus more because I was in their life, then that is enough. There are no heros in the graveyard, only dead bodies waiting to be reunited with their resurrection bodies if in fact they followed Jesus.

As for me, my "legacy" is the embrace of my savior and those long-awaited words, "'Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master's happiness!'"

Nobel laureates vs. evolution

This looks like a useful compilation, though it's from Vincent Torley:

"Seven Nobel Laureates in science who either supported Intelligent Design or attacked Darwinian evolution"

Blood on my hands

In theodicy, freewill theists lean on the notion that God merely permits evil to happen. The intuition is that if an agent directly causes or determines an event, then that makes him morally complicit in a way that just allowing, or not preventing, an event caused by another agent does not. A cliché comparison is the distinction between killing a patient and letting him die, in medical ethics. 

And sometimes that's a morally salient distinction. But sometimes not. Suppose I'm a guard at a Nazi concentration camp. Suppose I secretly despise Hitler and the Third Reich. I'm not there because I signed up. I was conscripted. I'm there against my will. I privately hope the Allies will win. 

Suppose the commandant has a plan. If it becomes unmistakable that German lost the war, and the Allies are marching into Germany, the prisoners, including Jews, as well as Allied war captives, will be executed so that the Allies can't liberate the camp. After executing all the prisoners, the Nazi personnel will evacuate the camp. Even though the Nazis lost, they will kill as many Jews and Allied war captives as they can on the way out. A final act of spiteful revenge. 

Suppose I have a choice: I can stand by and let the prisoners be mowed down, or I can turn my machine gun on my nominal comrades and save the prisoners. Under that scenario, is inaction morally preferable to action? If I do nothing to prevent the massacre, does that let me off the hook? Conversely, if I take direct action by shooting the commandant and his henchmen to prevent them from murdering the prisoners, am I culpable? 

Résumé stuffer

Democrat presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttboy touts his military record. I'd just point out that there's a difference between serving in the military and using the military to use yourself. It's clear from how he brags about his military record on the campaign trail that his military service was just a résumé stuffer, like ambitious college students who do lots of extra stuff they don't care about to put on their application form to impress the admissions office at the Ivy Leagues. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Family ten Boom

(The ten Boom family in 1895. Top row: Cor (mother), Casper (father), family friend. Middle row: Aunt Jans, Aunt Bep, Aunt Anna. Bottom row: Willem, Corrie, Nollie, and Betsie. Betsie was the eldest child, Willem second, Nollie third, and Corrie the youngest.)

1. It seems to me the ten Boom family had many faithful Christians (Dutch Reformed) across several generations. At least as far back as the early 1800s. Apparently they were always poor watchmakers but everyone in their community knew and respected them.

Their home was always open. They held Bible studies and prayer meetings in their home. They always welcomed guests. They always contributed to their community (e.g. lending what money they had). Not only to help Jews, but also others like missionaries and their kids (e.g. missionaries from the Dutch East Indies aka modern Indonesia).

In this respect Corrie ten Boom wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary in helping Jews since her family had always been doing the same for generations. In fact, though Corrie was most famous (because she lived to tell the tale), her other immediate family members seemed to have done more than Corrie did during the war. Today Corrie, her sister Betsie, and her father Casper are honored as "the righteous among the nations" by Israel. Yad Vashem is Israel's official Shoah (Holocaust) museum to honor the deceased; Yad Vashem honors the ten Boom family too.

2. However, from what I can tell, World War II effectively wiped out most if not all the ten Boom family (e.g. Corrie's father Casper died 10 days into his imprisonment in Scheveningen prison, Corrie's eldest sister Betsie died in Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1944). The few that survived the war died soon after (e.g. Corrie's brother Wilhem who was a pastor died in 1946 from an infectious disease he contracted in a concentration camp), never married or had kids (e.g. Corrie ten Boom), or their kids were never heard from again (e.g. Corrie's nephew was never seen again and most likely died in a concentration camp).

3. Sometimes Christians can be utterly faithful and committed to God, but it doesn't necessarily end well for them. Their branch is cut off from the tree. Indeed their family ends precisely because they were faithful.

4. That stands in stark contrast to professing Christians today who have a mindset that God is always going to bless them in terms of material success. As if a relationship with God is a quid pro quo relationship.

5. It likewise stands in stark contrast to those who prosper because of their wickedness. Consider Psalm 73.

6. I suppose that's one reason why biblical wisdom literature includes both the book of Proverbs as well as the book of Ecclesiastes. To (over?)simplify, Proverbs is about the general moral norms of life, while Ecclesiastes is about the hard cases in life. It's one thing to walk on a clear and bright day, but it's another to walk when the sunlight has dimmed, when the shadows creep in, when the darkness envelops.

Two doors

I've discussed this before, but I'd like to use a different example to illustrate the point. Freewill theism touts the necessity of having freedom of opportunity. To have "real" freedom or a "real" choice means having alternate courses of action available to you. 

But here's the problem. Say you're standing in front of two doors. You can choose between Door A and Door B. In a sense, that's freedom of opportunity. You have two options to choose from. 

But here's the catch: the doors don't have windows. They're opaque. So you don't know what lies behind each door. You don't know in advance where each door will take you. 

Moreover, whichever door you go through locks behind you. So you're trapped by the choices you make. 

Even though you can pick one or the other, it's a blind choice. You might as well flip a coin. 

What if you go through Door A and find out that as a bad choice. But you couldn't know that before you did it, and once you do it it's too late to try Door B instead. You're stuck with the choice you made even though you couldn't foresee what you were getting into.

In addition, you didn't get to choose what your options are. Rather, you're confronted with options, and you have to make a choice from the options you're given. But what if none of them are the options you wanted? 

And this isn't just a metaphor. This is what happens to us in real life. This is how "choice" actually plays out. Open theism is so shallow in that regard. 

At least in Calvinism, there's the promise that everything happens for a good reason, even if you have to go through hell on earth in this life. But in freewill theism, you make conscientious decisions with catastrophic unintended consequences for yourself or your loved ones, and it may be utterly pointless. Just your hard luck. 

Is Calvinism Manichean?

A popular Arminian trope is to say that Calvinism is based on Augustinian theology, and Augustinian theology is colored by Augustine's residual Manichaeism. 

i) It's absurd to claim that all Calvinists are getting their theology mediated by Augustine. Even if Augustine was a major stimulus for Calvin, it doesn't follow that all or most Calvinists arrive at their position by the same route. You can be a Calvinist without reading a page by Calvin or Augustine. 

The Reformed tradition points people to Biblical prooftexts for Calvinism. So many (most?) Calvinists are getting their theology from the prooftexts. They find the prooftexts convincing. While an Arminian will say they misinterpret Scripture, the point is that their frame of reference isn't Augustine or Calvin but Scripture. 

To take a comparison, I can use a map to drive to a national park. And I can use the map to find the trails, and the scenic destinations. But once I'm there, I can see it for myself. What I believe about the park no longer relies on the map. 

Likewise, suppose I'm a park ranger, and my kids were born in a cabin for park rangers. What they know about the park isn't dependent on the route I took to become a park ranger and be assigned to that national park. Even though that's where the journey began for me, they begin at a different point. 

2. In addition, the genetic fallacy cuts both ways. We could just as well say that indeterminism is a pagan idea, going back to the role of luck, randomness, and chance in Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Epicurus. Therefore, freewill theism has a heathen pedigree. 

Corrie ten Boom

Below are some random tidbits associated with Corrie ten Boom.

First a disclaimer:

All this is based on what Corrie ten Boom has claimed in interviews and books. However I can't vouch for all her claims. I haven't studied her life in any depth. I've only watched some of her interviews and read some of her material.

As such, it's possible these facts are incorrect. If so, I doubt she was intentionally attempting to deceive or lie, but it's possible she misperceived events or the like.

For example, I think Corrie has often told a story about seeing a Nazi prison guard at a post-war evangelistic meeting. She hated him for how he treated her and her older sister Betsie in their concentration camp. However she ended up forgiving him after he had asked for her forgiveness in light of becoming a Christian. At the same time, starting at approximately 51:30 in this video, Corrie tells what appears to be an almost identical story except it's a female nurse. To be fair, perhaps this truly happened to her with two different people on two different occasions.

Also, though Corrie was Dutch Reformed, she wasn't a theologian. In fact, as far as I know, she wasn't ever formally educated beyond secondary school, though apparently she did become the first female watchmaker in the Netherlands.

And she may have held theological beliefs I don't agree with (e.g. I've read she was premil).

All that said, and in no particular order:

On private judgment


Vicarious martyrdom

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a revered figure for many professed Christians all across the theological spectrum. And that's merited. There is, though, the danger of self-deception in the veneration of figures like Bonhoeffer. It's chic to admire Bonhoeffer. It can become an exercise in self-flattery. If I admire a good person, that makes me good by extension. 

And it can become a form of vicarious martyrdom. It takes no courage to praise his courage. We admire him at a safe distance from the mortal hazards he faced. Venerating figures like Bonhoffer becomes a cost-free substitute for taking the risks he took. It has all the advantages of martyrdom without the price-tag. 

But while we admire him, would he admire us? I'm old enough to remember Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's controversial commencement address at Harvard. The western intelligentsia lionized his moral heroism. Having honored him by inviting him to deliver the commencement address at the most prestigious university in America, they expected him to honor them in return. Instead, he delivered a scorching speech about secular decadence in the west. His speech was prophetic:

In fairness, someone might say the same thing about this very post. I don't face imprisonment, torture, or execution for posting this. Point taken. I don't claim to be a hero. Posting this doesn't make me virtuous. So this is a message for me as well. 

The Davitamon bottle

(Left to right: Betsie ten Boom, Nollie ten Boom, Corrie ten Boom c. 1905.)

Here is an excerpt from Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place. The book is in part about her time in a concentration camp during World War II. Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Reformed Christian who helped hide Jews during the war, but was eventually caught and imprisoned by the Nazis, along with most the rest of her family including her older sister Betsie ten Boom.

Another strange thing was happening. The Davitamon bottle was continuing to produce drops. It scarcely seemed possible, so small a bottle, so many doses a day. Now, in addition to Betsie, a dozen others on our pier were taking it.

My instinct was always to hoard it-Betsie was growing so very weak! But others were ill as well. It was hard to say no to eyes that burned with fever, hands that shook with chill. I tried to save it for the very weakest-but even these soon numbered fifteen, twenty, twenty-five. . . .

And still, every time I tilted the little bottle, a drop appeared at the top of the glass stopper. It just couldn’t be! I held it up to the light, trying to see how much was left, but the dark brown glass was too thick to see through.

"There was a woman in the Bible," Betsie said, "whose oil jar was never empty." She turned to it in the Book of Kings, the story of the poor widow of Zarephath who gave Elijah a room in her home: "The jar of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of Jehovah which he spoke by Elijah."

Well-but-wonderful things happened all through the Bible. It was one thing to believe that such things were possible thousands of years ago, another to have it happen now, to us, this very day. And yet it happened, this day, and the next, and the next, until an awed little group of spectators stood around watching the drops fall onto the daily rations of bread.

Many nights I lay awake in the shower of straw dust from the mattress above, trying to fathom the marvel of supply lavished upon us. "Maybe," I whispered to Betsie, "only a molecule or two really gets through that little pinhole-and then in the air it expands!"

I heard her soft laughter in the dark. "Don’t try too hard to explain it, Corrie. Just accept it as a surprise from a Father who loves you."

And then one day Mien pushed her way to us in the evening food line. "Look what I’ve got for you!"

Mien was a pretty young Dutch woman we had met in Vught. She was assigned to the hospital and often managed to bring to Barracks 28 some stolen treasure from the staff room-a sheet of newspaper to stuff in a broken window, a slice of bread left untouched on a nurse’s plate. Now we peered into the small cloth sack she carried.

"Vitamins!" I cried, and then cast an apprehensive glance at a camp policeman nearby. "Yeast compound!" I whispered.

"Yes!" she hissed back. "There were several huge jars. I emptied each just the same amount."

We gulped the thin turnip water, marveling at our sudden riches. Back at the bunk I took the bottle from the straw. "We’ll finish the drops first," I decided.

But that night, no matter how long I held it upside down, or how hard I shook it, not another drop appeared.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The God of Peter

The following is an excerpt from The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun by Paul Hattaway. Brother Yun recounted his testimony and ministry in China to Hattaway which Hattaway turned into the book.

Hattaway is the founder of Asia Harvest. The most recent edition of Themelios positively reviewed another book Hattaway wrote called Shandong: The Revival Province. For what it's worth, the review calls Hattaway "an authority on the history of the Chinese church" (among other things).

That said, there's some skepticism about the miracles in Brother Yun's life. The miracle that seems to receive the most criticism is the one I've excerpted below (along with Brother Yun's 74 day fast). At least from what I can tell, it seems many of the criticisms against Brother Yun can primarily be traced back to another Chinese Christian living in Germany named Titus Pan. Pan's pseudonym is Lin Mushe.

However, some people are skeptical about Pan too (e.g. here, here).

Epstein and assisted suicide


If it was "suicide," he had a lot of help :-)

Erasing Catholic teaching

The teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (here after CCC) has undergone substantive since its initial publication. I wonder how many Catholics compare different editions to register the changes. In addition, there's a distinction between print editions and electronic revisions. Nowadays the CCC can be revised or updated without formally issuing or announcing a third edition, fourth edition, &c.. 

The official edition is at the Vatican website. While it's convenient to be able to read the CCC online, a downside of the electronic version is that whenever it's revised, that erases the prior history of the CCC's teaching. 

It's also becoming harder to check the online version against print editions because libraries are eliminating print books. They take up space and fewer borrowers check them out. 

Another complication is that the "canonical" text is in Latin, so the wording of English translations may vary a bit. Likewise, when the Latin text is revised, there might be lag time to revise translations. All these factors make it harder to compare different editions of the CCC back-to-back. Unless you happen to own a print copies of the first and second editions, it's hard to make a direct comparison from the primary sources. Sometimes you can get the text from secondary sources that discuss changes to the CCC. 

I see some Catholic apologists offer the face-saving explanation that the first edition was "provisional". But the first edition wasn't a draft copy. It was approved for publication by Pope John-Paul II and Cardinal Ratziger, then Prefect for the CDF and chairman of the CCC committee. It contains the foreword ("Apostolic Constitution") by John-Paul II, where he declares is "declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith":

Let's compare two examples where the teaching of the CCC has undergone substantive alteration. 

1. Lying

Original edition

2483 To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has a right to know the truth. 


2483 To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error.

2. Capital Punishment

Original edition:

2266 Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty. 

First revision (John-Paul II)

2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. 

Second revision (Pope Francis)

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide. 

3. Taking stock

In the case of lying, the revision eliminates the proviso: someone who has a right to know the truth

In the case of capital punishment, the first revision eliminates the proviso: not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty. 

While the second revision rules out capital punishment in principle. 

These are fundamental issues in Catholic moral theology, so it's striking to see the teaching of the CCC undergo substantive change or reversal in the course of a few years. 

4. For further reference:

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1995 print edition)