Thursday, January 21, 2021

Money Interests In Matthew's Gospel As Evidence Of Authorship

Matthew himself was traditionally identified as a tax collector, and Matthew's Gospel shows the greatest level of financial interest, including numerous references to money and treasure that Matthew alone records:

- The magi, with their rich gifts (2:11)
- The parable about hidden treasure (13:44)
- The parable about the discovered pearl (13:45-46)
- The scribe compared to someone bringing out old and new treasures (13:52)
- The account of Peter and the temple tax collectors (17:24-27)
- The parable of the servant who was forgiven a huge debt of ten thousand talents and who refused to forgive a fellow servant a debt of a hundred denarii (18:23-35)
- The parable of the workers in the vineyard, discontented with their pay of one denarius for a day because the same was given to late arrivals who had worked less time (20:1-16)
- The parable about talents (25:14-30)
- Judas's betrayal money (27:3) and what was purchased with it (27:7)
- The bribe given by the chief priests to the guards at Jesus's tomb (28:12)

(Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust The Gospels? [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2018], approximate Kindle location 1349)

There's some merit to Williams' argument, but it should be qualified.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

"Democracy" in America

If we want to know who's really in power, then perhaps one way to know is to think about who or what we cannot openly criticize in a reasonable manner...

...without being shouted down.

...without being publicly shamed.

...without being called false names.

...without losing our reputations.

...without made into social pariahs in our own communities.

...without being ostracized in our own nation.

...without having our speech curtailed or even silenced.

...without being fined.

...without losing our jobs.

...without being imprisoned.

...without being forcibly "re-educated".

...without unjust corporeal punishment.

...without being "disappeared" in the middle of the night.

...without being publicly executed.

...without being (shall we say) "canceled".

In China, it is the CCP.

In North Korea, it is the Kim family.

In Russia, it is Putin.

In Iran, it is the ayatollah.

In many Middle Eastern nations, it is Islam.

In the US, are we still able to openly criticize in a reasonable manner people, organizations, institutions, the government, and so forth without significant cost to us or our families?

[O]ne theme in particular dominated all others: the growing tyranny of the majority, the ever-increasing and most formidable barriers raised by the majority around the free expression of opinion, and, as a result, the frightening oneness of American thinking, the absence of eccentricity and divergence from the norm.

A perfect liberty of the mind exists in America, said Tocqueville, just as long as the sovereign majority has yet to decide its course. But once the majority has made up its mind, then all contrary thought must cease, and all controversy must be abandoned, not at the risk of death or physical punishment, but rather at the more subtle and more intolerable pain of ostracism, of being shunned by one's fellows, of being rejected by society.

Throughout history kings and princely rulers had sought without success to control human thought, that most elusive and invisible power of all. Yet where absolute monarchs had failed, democracy succeeds, for the strength of the majority is unlimited and all pervasive, and the doctrines of equality and majority rule have substituted for the tyranny of the few over the many, the more absolute, imperious, and widely accepted tyranny of the many over the few. (Richard Heffner, Democracy in America)

Monday, January 18, 2021


David Wood doesn't care about big tech demonetizing and deplatforming him. He's going to continue speaking the truth, exposing Islam, exposing big tech, exposing the mainstream media, and so on. I think that speaks volumes about Wood's character.

At the same time, Wood has a large family (by modern western standards) to provide and care for including two special needs kids if I recall correctly. Last I heard he lives in NYC which isn't exactly an affordable place to raise a family nor a friendly place for conservatives of any stripe. Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't be more prudent for Wood to be less provocative, but I suppose then he wouldn't be who he is nor accomplish all the good he has accomplished.

Regardless, when leftists talk about fighting for freedom, I'd say David Wood (and the many others like him) is far closer to what fighting for freedom looks like today than, say, leftists taking selfies at Antifa protests (let alone burning down local businesses and violently attacking other protesters) so decades later they can tell their kids or grandkids that they particpated in "the revolution". I just hope history remembers that they took part in what should be shameful activities, but even if history doesn't, God sure does.

Sunday, January 17, 2021


Here's an interview with Andrew Torba, the founder and CEO of Gab:

People can listen to the same interview here (starts at approximately 12:30):

Gab is an alternative to Twitter and similar social media. Torba is a conservative Christian.

It's maddening how Gab and even Torba as a person have been treated by big tech and others. I fear Torba is right that we're only a step or two away from the Bible being considered hate speech by the left. Same goes for what conservative Christians say online. If that happens, then it's possible to see (for example) a conservative church website or an apologetics ministry "canceled" by big tech and having to face all the sorts of battles Torba and Gab have faced. I guess "social justice" doesn't apply "equally" to conservatives.

This interview took place on July 14, 2020. Of course, things have only gotten worse since then.

The Tax Collector's Gospel

The traditional authorship attribution of the gospel of Matthew is sometimes disputed on the basis that what the author says about the calling of Matthew in chapter 9 is too similar to what's found in Mark and Luke or isn't detailed enough. I've responded to such objections elsewhere, but I want to add some points I didn't make there.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Should we dismiss unbelievers because of their bias?

Stephen Braude wrote:

Moreover, it is not clearly to the skeptic's advantage to rely heavily on the Argument from Human Bias. For one thing, because human biases are not limited to the domain of the paranormal, the application of the argument extends beyond the boundaries of parapsychology. For example, we could use the argument to challenge every scientific lab study based on instrument readings and ordinary human observation. After all, scientists have at least as much at stake, and therefore at least as many reasons for perceptual biases, as do witnesses of psi phenomena. In fact, they may have more, given the intimate connection between their lab work and career interests. Furthermore (and even more important), the Argument from Human Bias cuts two ways, against reports by the credulous and the incredulous. If our biases may lead us to malobserve, misremember, or lie, then we should be as suspicious of testimony from nonbelievers as from believers. If (based on their favorable dispositions) we distrust reports by the apparently credulous or sympathetic that certain odd phenomena occurred, we should (by parity of reasoning) be equally wary of reports by the incredulous or unsympathetic that the alleged phenomena did not occur (or that cheating occurred instead). Although philosophers and scientists who fancy themselves to be tough-minded and impartial are often reluctant to concede this point, there have been exceptions. (The Limits Of Influence [Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1997], 26-27)

He quotes C.J. Ducasse:

…allegations of detection of fraud, or of malobservation, or of misinterpretation of what was observed, or of hypnotically induced hallucinations, have to be scrutinized as closely and as critically as must the testimony for the reality of the phenomena. For there is likely to be just as much wishful thinking, prejudice, emotion, snap judgment, naiveté, and intellectual dishonesty on the side of orthodoxy, of skepticism, and of conservatism, as on the side of hunger for and of belief in the marvelous. The emotional motivation for irresponsible disbelief is, in fact, probably even stronger - especially in scientifically educated persons whose pride of knowledge is at stake - than is in other persons the motivation for irresponsible belief. (27)

Braude goes on:

Ducasse's caveat about irresponsible disbelief is buttressed by a wealth of evidence. For one thing, according to Stevenson (1968, p. 112), experiments have revealed some interesting ways in which peer pressure and other contextual factors can apparently influence a person's perceptions or perception reports. But even apart from the experimental evidence, the history of parapsychology chronicles an astounding degree of blindness, intellectual cowardice, and mendacity on the part of skeptics and ardent nonbelievers, some of them prominent scientists. (27)

Regarding the significance of bias in general, whether the bias of believers or unbelievers, see here.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The purge

So the purge is on:

1. Just as many conservatives predicted: if the Democrats win the White House and the Senate, then the left will seek to silence opposition or dissent. That's what's happening right now.

Specifically, as many know by now, Twitter banned Trump and locked the POTUS account too. They won't reinstate the POTUS account until Biden takes office. This is despite the fact that Trump is still the sitting president. And not only has Trump been banned, but many of his supporters too, even though many of his supporters haven't said anything that would incite riots or racism.

In addition, big tech companies removed alternatives to Twitter like Parler and Gab. I can no longer download either app via Google Play or the Apple Store. These apps can still be downloaded via a site like APKPure. However, if Parler and Gab have their businesses ended, thanks to big tech's concerted effort to destroy their businesses, then there's no point downloading either app.

In a way, it feels more like this is communist China, not the United States, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will "direct" all "loyal" Chinese including Chinese companies to do what the CCP deems best for "the people", then Chinese companies and other organizations immediately comply.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

John Piper On Reading, Writing, And His New Book

Kevin DeYoung recently interviewed John Piper about a lot of issues related to reading and writing, including which books have most influenced him, his experiences in writing books, and his upcoming book about providence. They discuss some pastoral issues as well.

Friday, January 08, 2021

The Alleged Pagan Roots Of Holidays

David Wood recently interviewed Michael Jones (of InspiringPhilosophy) about the supposed pagan background of Christmas. Michael has done a lot of research on the topic, and they discussed many of the issues that are often brought up in this context (the origins of the December 25 date, whether certain Biblical passages are opposed to Christmas trees, etc.).

I've done some work on the history of the December 25 date, but I haven't looked into most of the other issues much. That's partly because I don't think a lot is at stake. Even if things like Christmas trees and the use of mistletoe in the context of Christmas had the sort of pagan roots that people often allege, the association with paganism would be too distant to have the implications those people often suggest. Similarly, there are distant pagan connections to the calendar names we use (names of months, names of days, etc.), the food we eat, the clothing we wear, and so on. The people who are so upset about the supposed paganism of Christmas don't seem nearly as upset, if they're upset at all, about other pagan connections, like the ones I just mentioned. Meat sacrificed to idols had a relationship to paganism, but Paul considered it acceptable to eat such meat (1 Corinthians 8, 10). The relationship was distant enough to not be significant.

Many good points are made during David's discussion with Michael, and a lot of what they discuss is relevant to holidays (and other issues) in general, not just Christmas. Apparently, Michael has done similar work on Valentine's Day and Easter and is planning a discussion of objections to the history of Thanksgiving. I don't know enough about some of the Christmas issues they discuss to make much of a judgment of the accuracy of Michael's conclusions, but there's enough good material during the program to make it worth listening to.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Listen To A Poltergeist Dragging Somebody Out Of Bed

The large majority of the Enfield tapes recorded by Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair haven't been made available to the public, but some of the audio has occasionally surfaced in one context or another. Grosse gave people copies of some of his tapes, and he sometimes played portions of the audio during public events, for example, so there have been opportunities for people to get the material in contexts like those. Sometimes a portion of the audio will make its way onto YouTube, by whatever means.

Last year, a video was posted there that strings together some audio from several incidents in the Enfield case. One of those is an occasion when the poltergeist dragged Janet Hodgson out of bed. The most significant part of the original tape involves two draggings, not just the one that's now on YouTube, and it lasts about eight minutes. The segment I'll be linking below is only about one and a half minutes long in its original version, but the form on the YouTube video is a little longer, since the audio is being played at a slower speed. That slower speed makes it easier to hear what people are saying, but it also distorts their voices. A lot of YouTube recordings of the Enfield audio run at a slow speed, maybe in part because that slower speed makes the poltergeist's voice sound more dramatic. Whatever the reasons for the distorted audio, a large percentage of the Enfield tapes you find on YouTube are of much worse quality than the digitized version of the tapes, and the clip I'll be linking below has that sort of lower quality. It's better than nothing, though, and it adequately conveys some of what occurred and the evidence for it.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Events Involving The Operation Of Machinery In The Enfield Case

(I'll be citing Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes. I'll use "MG" to refer to a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to refer to one from Playfair's, so that MG22B refers to tape 22B in Grosse's collection, GP50B refers to 50B in Playfair's, etc.)

Some of the paranormal events in the Enfield case involved the operation of machinery of some type. I'm distinguishing between the involvement of machinery and the involvement of the operation of machinery. If a refrigerator is moved by a poltergeist, that has some value, but it isn't significantly different than the movement of some other large object that we wouldn't normally refer to as a machine, such as a bookcase. I want to include everything from the malfunctioning of equipment often reported in poltergeist and other paranormal cases to the detection of paranormal activity by means of various types of machinery. I'm including events like the throwing of a tape recorder, whereas I'm not including something like the moving of a refrigerator, since the former has a lot more potential to be connected to the function of the machinery in question. It may just be a coincidence that a tape recorder was thrown rather than some other object nearby, such as a plate. But there's substantially more potential that the moving of a tape recorder was related to the poltergeist's interest in the operation of that recorder. The operation of tape recorders seems to be of more interest to a poltergeist than the operation of refrigerators (e.g., a poltergeist's interest in whether and how its activities are recorded on tape), so a poltergeist's activities related to the former have more potential to be related to the operation of that sort of equipment. I'm not trying to be exhaustive here, but I want to include examples of a broad variety of phenomena that can be summarized as involving the operation of machines in some manner. I'll explain some of my reasons for framing things that way at the conclusion of this article.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

New Books To Get In 2021

This is the first of what I hope will be a series, which will consist of one post I'll put up near the end of each year. I'll mention some books I'm looking forward to that are due out the following year, and anybody who's interested can add their own books they're looking forward to in the comments section of the thread. You don't have to be expecting to agree with everything in the book or even most of what's in it. These are just new books, coming out next year, that you think are worth getting for whatever reason. And you don't have to be exhaustive. You can mention one, two, or however many you want. I'm hoping these posts will help us be more aware of what books are coming out and to make better plans about which books to get, which to read, in what order, and so on.

I'll just mention a few I'm looking forward to, to start things out. John Piper is publishing a book on providence. Lydia McGrew's book on the gospel of John, The Eye Of The Beholder, is supposed to come out next year. So is Stephen Carlson's book on Papias.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Are you putting yourself and others to work?

What did you do with your time this year?

"But my soul hath been refreshed and watered, when I hear of your [David Dickson's] courage and zeal for your never-enough-praised, praised Master, in that ye put the men of God, chased out of Ireland, to work. Oh, if I could confirm you! I dare say, in God's presence, 'That this shall never hasten your suffering, but will be David Dickson's feast and speaking joy (viz.), that while he had time and leisure, he put many to work, to lift up Jesus, his sweet Master, high in the skies.' O man of God, go on, go on; be valiant for that Plant of renown, for that Chief among ten thousands, for that Prince of the kings of the earth. It is but little that I know of God; yet this I dare write, that Christ will be glorified in David Dickson, howbeit Scotland be not gathered." (Samuel Rutherford, Letters Of Samuel Rutherford [Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2012], 315-16)

Friday, December 25, 2020

A Well That Doesn't Run Dry

"I have walked through 65 Advent seasons as a believer in Jesus. I preached my way through half of them. So, counting Christmas sermons, that would be roughly 150 messages during Advent. I don't ever recall thinking, 'Oh my, how will I say anything fresh this year?' There are some wells that don't run dry. Some horizons that expand as you approach. Some stories that reach back forever, forward into eternity, down to the depths of mystery, and up to the heights of glory. Advent is one of those. It is inexhaustible." (John Piper)