Sunday, November 23, 2014
"Paul…Apollos…Cephas…Christ" (1 Corinthians 1:12)
"the rest of the apostles…the brothers of the Lord…Cephas" (1 Corinthians 9:5)
"James…Cephas…John" (Galatians 2:9)
Catholics often argue for the papacy by citing Peter's position at the beginning of lists of the disciples in the gospels and Acts (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-9, Luke 6:12-6, Acts 1:13). But why cite those lists and not others, like the ones I've quoted above? And why think that Peter's position in the lists represents his rank in the church? During the times being addressed by the four passages in the gospels and Acts, there was no system of church government as we have in churches today. And two of the most prominent apostles, James and Paul, weren't apostles yet (at the time of three of the lists for James and at the time of all four for Paul). James was an apostle at the time of Acts 1, but the passage in question is addressing the earlier disciples of Jesus, not all of the apostles, which, once again, underscores the limited significance of the list. Why should we think that Peter's position in lists about the pre-Pentecost era reflect the jurisdictional rank of Peter and his alleged successors throughout church history?
However, speaking honestly, you have lost my respect as a board.
And, based on the many emails and private posts that I have received, I am far, far from alone in that assessment. It is indicative of a problem that many of those who contact me privately ask for anonymity because of a fear of reprisal from the present administration at the Seminary.
This approach is unprecedented in Westminster’s past and thus represents a departure from the tradition of Westminster Seminary. As a result, until the past ten years, Westminster had been a significant influence in the broader evangelical and even the broader Christian world.
Today, Westminster is irrelevant to the broader Christian world. The Seminary, under your leadership, has circled the wagons and become in-grown and parochial.
Indeed, it has become increasingly embarrassing for alums and former professors like myself to say we were connected to Westminster.
In the first place, I seriously doubt that the Board will discipline the administration. The problem is that the Board has basically been shaped by the administration after there was a mass resignation of Board members who voted against the continuance of the present administration.
The board may be ultimately responsible for the Seminary, but it is accountable to its constituency and owes those of us who are a significant part of the Westminster community an answer to these disturbing questions.
Already I have received messages from people (including PCA ministers and denominational executives) who have said that they will not hire Westminster students.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
There were about a dozen people in attendance, and the discussion lasted about 2.5 hours. It was not recorded.
My thanks to Dr. David Snoke for the invitation, and to all who attended and took part in the discussions. I had a great time.
2014-11 Agora Forum on Roman Catholicism.
They began to be concerned with their own history…The Marcionite church had is beginning with Marcion…The Montanists went back to Montanus…All of these bore the names of founders whom people knew, while the Christian churches normally went back beyond the turn of the first century into the time of the apostles. Only that which can trace its history back into the earliest time, either directly or through fellowship with churches which are able to document it directly, can be genuine. In this way the concept of apostolic tradition developed and along with it, apostolic succession.
In this context people sometimes proceeded quite liberally in building the chain of tradition...Then, as now, historical thinking was overlaid with wishes.
The idea that both of them [Peter & Paul] first came to Rome after the church had already existed there for a longer time had no place in early Christian thinking, which in this case wanted to forge a connection between something they knew and the earliest and best-known men whose names they knew.
In the first century and the beginning of the second, the Roman church was led by a college of presbyters, as we learn reliably from 1 Clement which we have frequently mentioned. We can no more speak about an apostolic succession, by which Peter passed on the episcopal office by a laying on of hands, than we can about many other things. This idea was a product of the second century when the idea of apostolic succession inevitably developed from the concept or requirement of apostolic tradition. Both existed only after the second half of the second century. K. Aland, A History of Christianity (Fortress 1985), 1:118-120.
Friday, November 21, 2014
Interstellar is primarily a story about survival and the drive within nearly all human beings to live for as long as possible despite all the odds. Having it set in a science fiction universe helps Nolan to craft his universe as he sees fit for the story. Indeed, this is one of the powerful aspects of science fiction. As Arthur C. Clarke’s third law states, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This enables a film maker to allow literally any possible universe by simply declaring that at some point in the future there will be technology that will enable it to be that way.
Because of this, we can capture a genuine glimpse of how Nolan views the world. When he creates his own universe, how do people behave in it? What does this show us of human nature in general? There is a scene early on in the film where the astronauts discuss whether or not nature itself is evil, and one of the characters (Amelia Brand, played by Anne Hathaway) concludes very strongly that nature is not evil—only man is. Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, disagrees. (This dispute actually leads toward one of the most on the nose metaphors of the movie involving a character named Dr. Mann, but I won’t put that spoiler in here. Believe me, if you watch the film you won’t miss the metaphor because it’s so obvious.)
While some reviewers have criticized Anne Hathaway’s acting, I actually thought she did a very good job with this movie. In fact, every actor in it was at least competent (there was no bad acting in it), and the leads turned in, pardon the pun, stellar performances. While the script could have allowed a little more breathing room (and probably should have cut about 10% of the material to get the movie to a more manageable time), there were only a few points that took me out of the suspension of disbelief. This is mainly because I’ve studied a lot of physics.
The first moment that broke the spell was when one of the characters claimed that in physics time couldn’t run backwards. This is actually the exact opposite of what the laws of physics state. Indeed, one of the conundrums of modern physics is trying to figure out precisely why time seems to have an “arrow” that consistently moves from past toward future. The laws of physics do not require this arrow of time.
The second moment that took me out of the film was when the astronauts wanted to fire a probe to skim just past the event horizon of a black hole in the hopes that, if the probe was moving fast enough, it would be able to transmit a little bit of the quantum information from inside the singularity out so people would know what to do with it. Of course, the event horizon is where photons cannot even escape the gravity of a black hole and they’re moving at the speed of light, so I wonder just how fast the filmmakers were thinking this probe would be going…
There was another glaring problem with the time distortion in relativity, but it would involve a couple of spoilers so I won’t get into that one here.
One final point that is quite interesting is Nolan’s take on love. Throughout the movie, love drives the main characters. Thankfully, it’s not so cliché that Cooper and Brand are in love with each other, but rather Cooper loves his children and Brand is in love with one of the scientists first sent to explore various planets for human habitability. At one point, Brand states how love is the one thing that can transcend space and time, since you can love someone after they have passed away with just as much intensity as when they were still living. And while Nolan never states anything about the existence of God, he does have the influences of love actually affect things in a way that is not scientifically verifiable. And of course, without knowing Nolan’s beliefs about God, it is interesting to note the emphasis on love given the Bible’s statement that God is love. I’m quite sure that Nolan was aware of that even though it was never discussed in the movie.
So for my final verdict, I would give the film overall an A-. I definitely plan on picking it up when it comes out on DVD, and would even watch it in the theaters a second time. If you like movies that involve a bit of thinking and some philosophical conundrums, Interstellar is well worth your time. And even if you don’t like that, the visual special effects are quite impressive.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice (Mt 23:1-3).
49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation (Jn 11:49-51).
Thursday, November 20, 2014
...outgoing pope, Benedict XVI, who as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was asked on Bavarian television in 1997 if the Holy Spirit is responsible for who gets elected. This was his response:I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the Pope. ... I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit's role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.Then the clincher:There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!
People like Guy don't believe in the cult of the saints because they have direct, compelling evidence for the propriety of that practice. Rather, they believe it because they believe in the authority of the Roman Magisterium to promulgate dogma. Their real reason is indirect.
Hence, it's generally a waste of time to debate specific Roman dogmas with people like Guy. That's too far downstream. Their real reasons lie upstream: the alleged authority of the Roman Magisterium. Specific Roman dogmas are merely the effect of that source. If you're going to have a debate, then debate the cause, not the effect.
"I understand that John Piper does not pray that his own children be elect."
He doesn't quote Piper.
In any case, a Calvinist can, without inconsistency, pray that God elected his children.
"It seems to taint your view of the Sacraments too."
A tendentious non sequitur.
"However, when the question of a certain miracle was to be attributed to the intercession of St. Joan of Arc or to Mary, it was determined that since even a saint in heaven prays to Mary, both were to be thanked for their intercession."
How was it determined that Joan of Arc in heaven prayed to Mary in heaven? Was a seance held to question Joan of Arc on her postmortem activities?
People like Guy don't argue in good faith. It's all drive-by shootings.
God doesn't first make people for hell, then change his mind and elect a "few" for salvation.
Moreover, the scope of election and redemption is conterminous. Those whom the Father elects, the Son redeemed (and the Spirit renews). Christ dies for the elect. Jesus is necessary inasmuch as election was for the purpose of redemption, and vice versa. They operate in tandem.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Apart from the above interview, which I think is well worth watching in its entirety, Berlinski also has other interviews which some may find interesting. For example, he has had two interviews with Peter Robinson over at the Hoover Institute. The first is titled "Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions" (2011), while the second is titled "Science, Philosophy, and Society" (2014). I've watched both, but I thought the 2011 was better, though the 2014 isn't bad.
Berlinski has likewise done at least one debate, but my opinion is he's far better when chatting one-on-one with someone where he has the time to flesh out his thoughts and musings than he is in a time-constrained debate format or similar situation.
Many of those opposed to the death penalty argue it's wrong to wrongfully execute an innocent person, because death would be an injustice which could never be undone. Short of a miracle, it's not as if the innocent person can be raised from the dead.
Of course, I trust most if not all of those on the opposing side would entirely agree it's wrong to wrongfully execute an innocent person. I take it we'd be agreed here.
However, is the fact that death is an injustice which cannot be undone when carried out against an innocent person (or any person) a good reason to oppose the death penalty?
If it is, then why not oppose lesser punishments in our legal system as well? After all, surely there are many wrongful punishments meted out against innocent persons in our legal system, and surely many if not most of these punishments cannot be undone once they've been administered.
Indeed, wouldn't it be generally wrong to wrongfully punish an innocent person, even if the punishment is less than death? Say someone has been wrongfully imprisoned for a year. Financial or perhaps other restitution might be given to the wrongfully imprisoned person. But it's still a year of freedom he or she can never get back. This, too, cannot be undone.
But let's say the person who is against capital punishment bites the bullet and argues we should do away with lesser punishments for this reason. If so, then what sort of a legal and penal system would we have left? There wouldn't seem to be much of one left, for it would seem to rule out punishing many if not most crimes.
Finally, I think there might be some tension (albeit perhaps a tension which could be relieved) for those who are against capital punishment for this reason but in favor of euthanasia, for it's possible the person who euthanizes themselves may come to regret the decision in the future if it were somehow possible for them to choose again. But, of course, it wouldn't be possible.