Saturday, December 17, 2005

Gallery of the dark Truly Reformed underworld

Paul Owen ordinarily alludes to his opponents anonymously. So imagine my surprise when he singled me out for personal praise.

He says that he reads my blog for entertainment. I am truly humbled by the honor he pays me.

But, in all, honestly, I must divide the credit. For he is far too modest regarding his own signal and indispensable contributions to the comedic potential of my blog.

Just as there is, behind every great man, a great woman, so there is, behind every great funnyman, a great straight man. And I could never to hope find a finer straight man than Dr. Owen.

He is Harpo to my Groucho, Gracie to my George Burns, Blondie to my Dagwood, Dino to my Jerry Louis, Bing Crosby to my Bob Hope, Ed McMahon to my Johnny Carson, Art Carnie to my Jackie Gleason.

What is more, I am totally dependent on good material, and some of my very best material comes from Dr. Owen and his gag writers over at Communio Sanctorum. Their routines are a veritable cornucopia of slapstick material.

I can only hope that in the days and weeks and months to come, I shall be able to live up to the confidence which Dr. Owen has abode in me.

Thank you, Dr. Owen, for believing in me and making all this possible.

BTW, I never knew until now that Dr. Owen was a fan of pro wrestling. Has he published any articles on that subject in the Library of Second Temple Studies? Certainly it lends new meaning to "refereed" scholarship.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Social Security reform

Publishers Lunch reports that conservative humorist Christopher Buckley’s next novel will be Boomsday, “in which a fiery female activist opposed to Baby Boomer excess convinces the government to solve the Social Security crisis by offering Boomers incentives to kill themselves at retirement age.”

A turning point?

After a brilliant blitzkrieg incursion, the occupation quickly bogged down in a grinding war of attrition. The passivity of the Iraqi populace has made our brave soldiers pay an exorbitant price for their freedom.

Although it’s too soon to say, yesterday’s Iraqi election may mark the beginning of the end of the insurgency. It seems that the Sunnis have finally resigned themselves to the old adage: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Not only was there a tremendous turnout of Sunni voters, but former insurgents were actually guarding the polling sites rather than bombing them. This marks a critical split between the native insurgents and the foreign jihadis.

Ironically, the fruits-n-nuts party represented by the likes of Dean, Hilary, Kerry, Pelosi, and Murtha, to name a few, chose precisely the wrong time to go wobbly on Iraq.

Unfortunately, a number of squishy, clueless Republicans have also defected on such issues as the Patriot Act and civil rights for terrorists.

We’re still having to fight a war on two fronts--at home and abroad.

Certainty & scepticism

1. Because God has endowed us with a creative imagination, it is possible to fantasize about sceptical scenarios which we cannot escape, viz. Descartes' evil genie, a brain in a vat, a butterfly dreaming he's a man, and so on and so forth.

But there's a difference between artificial, make-believe scepticism and genuine doubt. The merely abstract possibility that I might be in error is not a rational basis for doubt. I need a specific reason to doubt a specific belief.

For example, it's possible that I'm insane. After all, one characteristic of crazy people is the belief that they are sane and everyone else is insane.

But is that a good reason to doubt my sanity?

2. There are two different ways of doing epistemology. You can start with all of the objections to knowledge and certainty, and then try to climb out of the hole you've dug for yourself.

Or you can start with the fact that we are able to successfully execute certain noetic tasks, and then ask the preconditions which make that possible.

3. For example, take the act of communication. It is possible for people to misunderstand each other. What is more, people often do misunderstand each other.

Now, you could start with the problem of miscommunication. And you could emphasize how that erodes certainty. But if you go down that narrow, twisting road you will probably lose your way, be unable to back out or turn around.

Instead of starting with the problem of miscommunication, it is better to start with examples of successful communication. How is that possible?

After all, even the skeptic presupposes the possibility of successful communication. His scepticism depends on it. Otherwise, he could not successfully communicate his scepticism!

4. The noetic effects of sin are not the same for the regenerate and unregenerate alike. God has certain intentions for the elect that he doesn't have for the reprobate. God intends to bring the elect to a saving knowledge of the truth by means of a verbal revelation.

5. It is true that we use our senses to acquire a knowledge of Scripture. But the stock objections to sense knowledge aren't very relevant to that particular activity.

You know the stock objections: the problem of induction, viz. how many samples constitute a representative sample? Why assume that the future will resemble the past?

The veil of perception. Is grass really green? Where is the color? In the sensible? In the mind?

Spatiotemporal paradoxes of infinite divisibility. That sort of thing.

But none of these familiar conundra is terribly relevant to processing propositional information from an audiovisual medium.

It doesn't matter what color the Bible really is. Reading or hearing the Bible is not like counting black ravens.

Sure, it's possible to misread or mishear the message. But that brings us back to point #4. We're only able to correct our error, to know that we misread or misheard the message if it's possible to successfully process propositional information. That sets the benchmark. Even the skeptic can't make his case unless he can successfully convey his sceptical arguments.

Again, the skeptic could contend that the acquisition of language is an empirical process (although Chomsky would demur). And he could raise familiar difficulties about how we fix the referent.

But the fact remains that he himself is dependent on language, he himself is able to fix the referent; otherwise, his case for scepticism would be abortive.

So even the skeptic must tacitly begin with successful communication as the framework within which to discuss miscommunication.

And that invites a transcendental argument: what are the necessary and sufficient truth-conditions which make this possible? Or as James Anderson would put it: "If knowledge, then God."

Polychem 101

A little something a friend sent me:

A major research institution has recently announced
the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to
science. The new element has been named

Governmentium has 01 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons,
75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons,
giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles
are held together by forces called morons, which are
surrounded by vast quantities of particles called

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert.
However, it can be detected, because it impedes every
reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute
amount of Governmentium causes one reaction to take
over four days to complete, when it would normally
take less than a second.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 4 years; it
does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization
in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and
deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase
over time, since each reorganization will cause more
morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This
characteristic of moron promotion leads some
scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed
whenever morons reach a certain quantity in

This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes
Administratium - an element which radiates just as
much energy as the Governmentium since it has half as
many peons but twice as many morons.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Military blogs

WMD moved to Syria

Saddam's WMD Moved to Syria, An Israeli Says

By IRA STOLL - Staff Reporter of the Sun
December 15, 2005

Saddam Hussein moved his chemical weapons to Syria six weeks before the war started, Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom says.

The assertion comes as President Bush said yesterday that much of the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was incorrect.

The Israeli officer, Lieutenant General Moshe Yaalon, asserted that Saddam spirited his chemical weapons out of the country on the eve of the war. "He transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria," General Yaalon told The New York Sun over dinner in New York on Tuesday night. "No one went to Syria to find it."

From July 2002 to June 2005, when he retired, General Yaalon was chief of staff of the Israel Defense Force, the top job in the Israeli military, analogous to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the American military. He is now a military fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He made similar, but more speculative, remarks in April 2004 that attracted little notice in America; at that time he was quoted as saying of the Iraqi weapons, "Perhaps they transferred them to another country, such as Syria."

The Israeli general's remarks came on the eve of Mr. Bush's speech to the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, in which the president addressed the issue of intelligence and defended the decision to go to war. "When we made the decision to go into Iraq, many intelligence agencies around the world judged that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. This judgment was shared by the intelligence agencies of governments who did not support my decision to remove Saddam. And it is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," Mr. Bush said in remarks that were one of a series of speeches he has given recently on the war.

Mr. Bush's defense of the war echoed themes he has been pressing since before the war began and through his successful campaign for re-election. "Given Saddam's history and the lessons of September the 11th, my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Saddam was a threat - and the American people and the world is better off because he is no longer in power."

An official at the Iraqi embassy in Washington, Entifadh Qanbar, said he believed the Israeli general's account, but that the Iraqi government is "basically operating in the dark" because it does not have its own intelligence agency. He said the issue underscored the need for the new Iraqi government to have control of its own intelligence service. "We don't have any way to find anything out about Syria because we don't have intelligence," Mr. Qanbar said. He said there is a high-rise building in Baghdad with 1,000 employees working on intelligence but that it has no budget appropriation from the Iraqi government and "doesn't report to the Iraqi government."

"Nobody knows who it belongs to, but you should understand who it belongs to," he said, in what was apparently a reference to American involvement.

An Iraqi politician, Mithal Al-Alusi, whose sons were both assassinated in Iraq last year, told The New York Sun's Eli Lake last month that his party would press the Iraqi government to renew the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Mr. Al-Alusi said he believes Saddam clearly had the weapons before the invasion. "They will find the weapons, I am sure they will," Mr. Al-Alusi said.

A spokesman at the Syrian embassy in Washington did not return a call seeking comment. But General Yaalon's comment could increase pressure on the Syrian government that is already mounting from Washington and the United Nations. Mr. Bush has been keeping the rhetorical heat on Damascus. On Monday, he said in a speech, "Iraq's neighbor to the west, Syria, is permitting terrorists to use that territory to cross into Iraq."

An article in the Fall 2005 Middle East Quarterly reports that in an appearance on Israel's Channel 2 on December 23, 2002, Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon stated, "Chemical and biological weapons which Saddam is endeavoring to conceal have been moved from Iraq to Syria." The allegation was denied by the Syrian government at the time as "completely untrue," and it attracted scant American press attention, coming as it did on the eve of the Christmas holiday.

Syria shares a 376-mile border with Iraq. The Syrian ruling party and Saddam Hussein had in common the ideology of Baathism, a mixture of Nazism and Marxism.

Syria is one of only eight countries that has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty that obligates nations not to stockpile or use chemical weapons. And it has long been the source of concern in America and Israel and Lebanon about its chemical warfare program apart from any weapons that may have been received from Iraq. The director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of 2004, "Damascus has an active CW development and testing program that relies on foreign suppliers for key controlled chemicals suitable for producing CW."

What's an allegory?



1.Description of a subject under the guise of some other subject of aptly suggestive resemblance.

2.An instance of such description: a figurative sentence, discourse, or narrative, in which properties and circumstances attributed to the apparent subject really refer to the subject they are meant to suggest; an extended or continued metaphor.

3. An allegorical representation: an emblem.

The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford 1971), 1:58.


It's all about Christ

Narnia's lion really is Jesus
Christopher Morgan

AN unpublished letter from the novelist C S Lewis has provided conclusive proof of the Christian message in his Narnia children’s books.

In the letter, sent to a child fan in 1961, Lewis writes: “The whole Narnian story is about Christ.” It has been found by Walter Hooper, literary adviser to the Lewis estate.

It has emerged ahead of this week’s release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The film, starring Tilda Swinton and Jim Broadbent, cost £75m to make and has been at the centre of a tug of war between Christians and secularists.

Brian Sibley, author of Shadowlands, the book which describes Lewis’s marriage to Joy Gresham, said: “This is the most specific explanation of Narnia I have heard.”

The new film depicts one of the seven novels in Lewis’s series, which tell the story of four children journeying through a wardrobe into Narnia, a world of talking animals that is plunged into endless winter by a witch. The children and animals rally to Aslan, a noble lion.

On one side church groups, backed by the film’s producer Disney, are promoting the story’s message as Christian, with Jesus represented by Aslan saving a world fallen into sin.

Others say it is just an adventure story that draws on a variety of religious and folklore sources. Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson, said recently: “Churches in Britain and America are promoting the film as a Christian film, but it’s not . . . and the Narnia books aren’t Christian novels.”

The letter, written from Magdalene College, Cambridge, where Lewis was a don, contradicts this. “Supposing there really was a world like Narnia . . . and supposing Christ wanted to go into that world and save it (as He did ours) what might have happened?” he wrote.

“The stories are my answer. Since Narnia is a world of talking beasts, I thought he would become a talking beast there as he became a man here. I pictured him becoming a lion there because a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; b) Christ is called ‘the lion of Judah’ in the Bible.”

The text is contained in a volume of Lewis letters to be published next year.,,2087-1903338,00.html

The ticking time bomb


Harrison Ford & the Ticking Time Bomb

What does Hollywood think about torture?

The answer isn’t as obvious as you think. Sure, as a political force, Hollywood is against torture, which ranks somewhere in the parade of horribles ahead of SUV ownership and perhaps even voting Republican.

And to be fair, the Hollywood crowd isn’t alone. Back here in Washington, the issue of torture has largely united liberals and divided conservatives. One of the main disagreements is what people mean by torture. If you mean hot pokers in unwelcome places, pretty much everyone is against it, save perhaps in the famous “ticking-time bomb” scenario.

But the meatier part of the argument is in the more nuanced area of “coercive measures,” “stress positions,” and what one unnamed official once described to the Wall Street Journal as “a little bit of smacky-face.” Some, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham want even that stuff banned (but acknowledge that if it comes to a ticking-time bomb situation, well, “you do what you have to do,” as McCain put it).

Others go even further than that. Naturally, human-rights groups are appalled by the suggestion harsh treatment is ever justified. Similarly, blogger Andrew Sullivan dismisses the ticking-time bomb as a “red herring” and argues that you “you cannot raise or lower the moral status of mass murderers with respect to torture. The only salient moral status with respect to torture is that the mass murderers are human beings.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter what the person you are coercing did or why you are coercing them in the first place. Torturing an evil man to save innocent lives is no greater a sin than torturing a noble man in order to snuff out innocent lives, or just for the fun of it. The way Sullivan and those who agree with him see it, torture is torture is torture — and torture is always wrong, even when defined as intimidation and “smacky face.” “Not in my name,” is their rallying cry, often with the sort of sanctimony and self-righteousness which suggests that those who disagree must admire cruelty.

And that’s where Hollywood comes in. Politically, Hollywood is fairly two dimensional in its liberalism. But artistically — and to its credit — Hollywood seems to grasp that life can be morally complicated. After all, tactics which qualify as torture for the anti-crowd shows up in film and television every day.

In Patriot Games, Harrison Ford shot a man in the kneecap to get the information he needed in a timely manner. In Rules of Engagement, Samuel L. Jackson shot a POW in the head to get another man to talk. In the TV series 24, the heroes regularly use torture and cruelty to get results. They even mistakenly tortured an innocent woman.

And the audience is expected to cheer or at least sympathize with all of it. Now, I know many will say “It’s only a movie” or “It’s only a TV show.” But that will not do. Hollywood plays a role in shaping culture, but it also reflects it. It both affirms and reflects our basic moral sense (which is one reason why it dismays some of us from time to time).

The issue here is context. Coercion of the sort we’re discussing is used by good guys and bad guys alike — in films and in real life. Just as with guns and fistfights, the morality of violence depends in large part on the motives behind it (that’s got to be one of the main reasons so many on the left oppose the war: They distrust Bush’s motives. Very few of Bush critics are true pacifists).

American audiences — another word for the American public — understand this. A recent poll by AP-Ipsos shows that some 61 percent of Americans believe torture can be justified in some cases. Interestingly, roughly half of the residents of that self-described “moral superpower” Canada agreed, as did a majority of French citizens and a huge majority of South Koreans.

My guess is that when presented in cinematic form, even larger numbers of people recognize that sometimes good people must do bad things. I’m not suggesting, of course, that the majority is always right. But it should at least suggest to those preening in their righteousness that people of good will can disagree.


He's not a tame lion

Here's an excellent movie review of the new Narnia film:

The ransom theory

One criticism of the new Narnia movie I’ve run across in several different venues is that it presents the ransom theory of the atonement rather than penal substitution.

I’ve not seen the movie, and it’s been years since I read the book, but it seems to me that this particular criticism is deeply confused.

It’s true that Lewis had a subscriptural theory of the atonement. But the death and resurrection of Aslan is an allegory of the atonement, not a theory of the atonement. This is symbolic picture-language. And at an allegorical level, the depiction of his death, as I recall it from the book, which, to judge by the movie reviews, is faithfully reproduced in the cinematic adaptation, is perfectly consistent with penal substitution.

To be sure, Lewis denied that his Christian fiction was allegorical. But he seems to have been operating with a very narrow definition of allegory. His fiction doesn’t set up a point-by-point correspondence between the narrative and extranarrative levels, as we have in Dante or Bunyan, where nearly everything stands for something else.

But there’s a lot of calculated Christian symbolism in his fiction, so they are allegorical in both broad and specific ways without being allegorical through-and-through. And the death and resurrection of Aslan is quite clearly allegorical.

Indeed, the very objection to this depiction takes it to be an allegory of the atonement. But, in that event, we need to distinguish between the allegorical and the literal level. On an allegorical plane it symbolizes the atonement, but at a literal level it is not a theory of the atonement. It is simply an imaginative emblem of the atonement.

Another problem with this criticism is the tacit assumption that Lewis began with an idea of the atonement, and then figured out how to translate that idea into word-pictures. And maybe that’s how it happened.

But it’s at least as likely that he began, not with an idea of the atonement, but an image of the atonement, a mental image derived from Christian iconography, from cross, and crucifixion, and innumerable paintings of the Crucifixion, and translated that artistic tradition into an allegorical counterpart.

So both in terms of the creative process as well as the distinction between the allegorical narrative and its extranarrative referent, this objection strikes me a fundamentally ill-conceived.

Secular fideism

I’ll be quoting and commenting on some excerpts of a recent interview with Richard Dawkins.

“I would want them to believe whatever evidence leads them to; I would want them to look at the evidence, judge it on its merits, not accept things because of internal revelation or faith, but purely on the basis of evidence.”

Now that’s a nice sounding bit of advice. There’s only one little problem, though; Richard Dawkins thinks the evidence leads to gradualism, but Stephen J. Gould thought it led to punctuated equilibrium, while Bill Dembski thinks it leads to intelligent design, and Kurt Wise thinks it leads to young-earth creationism. But other than that, thanks a bunch.

“Not everybody can evaluate all evidence; we can’t evaluate the evidence for quantum physics. So it does have to be a certain amount of taking things on trust. I have to take what physicists say on trust, for example, because I'm a biologist. But science [has] a system of appraisal, of peer review, so that I trust the physics community to get their act together in a way that I know from the inside.”

There’s some truth to all this, but it’s deeply misleading.

1.If most folks are incompetent to evaluate the scientific evidence for evolution, then why is Richard Dawkins churning out so many titles targeting the general public? Why is he trying to convince them that evolution is true if they should take it on faith?

Dawkins is a leading popularizer of evolution. Does he or does he not believe that the average reader is competent to form an educated opinion on the merits of evolution?

2.One can accept his premise, but draw a very different conclusion. If I’m incompetent to weigh the evidence for myself, then maybe I should reserve judgment. I wouldn’t either believe it or disbelieve it. Rather, I wouldn’t venture to form an opinion.

3.Peer review can be a quality control mechanism. But it can also be an enforcement mechanism to penalize rational dissent and reinforce a groupthink mentality.

“I wish people would put their trust in evidence, not in faith, revelation, tradition, or authority.”

A couple of basic problems here:

1.If most folks are incompetent to weigh the evidence for themselves, such that they need to take certain things on faith, then they are putting their trust, not in the evidence, but in scientific authority. So this is an appeal to faith--an argument from authority.

2.Dawkins is also assuming, without benefit of argument, that faith and reason are opposed, as though a Christian couldn’t possibly have a good reason for what he believes, as if all the evidence were on the side of secular science, and none on the side of the Christian faith.

“They need to understand what evolution is about. Many of them don’t…That is staggering ignorance of what evolutionary science is about; if they think that’s what evolutionists believe, no wonder they’re skeptical of it. How can a civilized country have adult people in positions of leadership who know so stunningly little about the leading biological concept?”

This allegation is interesting from several different angles:

1.The evolutionary establishment has had a chokehold on public and private education for decades. So why are so many people ignorant of evolution?

Or could it be that many of them knowingly reject evolution as a flawed theory?

2.Dawkins freely admits that evolution is a profoundly counterintuitive theory. That nature has the undeniable appearance of design. But that our sneaky genes have played a dirty trick on us by fostering the illusion of design.

Dawkins is also on record as saying that consciousness itself is illusory.

Now, when you can only salvage your theory by appealing to global illusions, by telling us that the evidence of natural design is a trick of the mind, and the mind itself is ultimately unreal, then is it any wonder that your theory strains rational credulity well past the breaking point?

3.I suspect that one reason many people don’t believe in evolution is that men like Dawkins refuse to expose their claims to an honest debate. Why does Dawkins retreat into the comfort zone of a softball interview?

Suppose that Dawkins were to challenge Dembski to a formal, public debate? Suppose that Dawkins were to trounce his opponent. That would be the end of the ID movement.

Let us take his advice. Let us accept the argument from authority. How can we put faith in evolution when a leading evolutionary scientist like Dawkins treats his theory as something so very vulnerable that he will only promote it from the safety of a keyboard or a sympathetic podium?

A lot of folks are taking their cue from the likes of Richard Dawkins. Watch what he does, and not what he says.

4.If the average student is incompetent to weigh the evidence for evolution, then why should it be part of the core curriculum, anyway?

5.Assuming, for the sake of argument, that many Christians evince a staggering ignorance of evolution, many Darwinians evidence a staggering ignorance of Christianity, as well as a staggering ignorance of the ID literature.

Dawkins betrays not the slightest evidence of having done any serious reading in Christian apologetics, natural theology, or philosophical theology. Dawkins betrays not the slightest evidence of having done any serious reading in the ID literature.

“It’s certainly hard to know what to make of it. I think it’s a betrayal of science. I think they have a religious agenda which, for reasons best known to themselves, they elevate above science.”

Notice the moralistic tone. This from a man who dismisses the mind as illusory. Just what is Dawkins justification for secular ethics, anyway?

“If it’s true that it causes people to feel despair, that’s tough. It’s still the truth. The universe doesn’t owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn’t owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it’s true, it’s true, and you'd better live with it.”

“Well, of course it is. Wouldn’t it be lovely to believe in an imaginary friend who listens to your thoughts, listens to your prayers, comforts you, consoles you, gives you life after death, can give you advice? Of course it’s satisfying, if you can believe it. But who wants to believe a lie?”

Assuming, for the sake of argument, the truth of the premise, how does the conclusion thereby follow?

If the universe doesn’t owe us anything, then we don’t owe the universe anything in return. In that case, why shouldn’t we prefer a beautiful illusion to a terrible truth?

“However, I don’t think it should make one feel depressed. I don’t feel depressed. I feel elated. My book, ‘Unweaving the Rainbow,’ is an attempt to elevate science to the level of poetry and to show how one can be—in a funny sort of way—rather spiritual about science. Not in a supernatural sense, but there are uplifting mysteries to be solved. The contemplation of the size and scale of the universe, of the depth of geological time, of the complexity of life--these all, to me, have an inspirational quality. It makes my life worthwhile to study them.”

“I think there is something glorious in the universe, in contemplating the Milky Way galaxy, in contemplating the fact that this is only one in billions of galaxies, contemplating the fact that at the beginning of the 21st century, humanity really has gone a very long way toward understanding the universe in which we live and the life form of which we are a part. I find that a truly inspirational thought.”

There is, of course, a Christian explanation for that: “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Ps 19:1).

“Yes, because it doesn’t explain where the designer comes from. If they’re going to emphasize the statistical improbability of biological organs—"these are so complicated, how could they have evolved?"--well, if they’re so complicated, how could they possibly have been designed? Because the designer would have to be even more complicated.”

Is this supposed to be his trump card against the teleological argument? If so, it’s a remarkably fallacious objection.

It’s true that invoking God generates a new set of questions. But an answer to one set of questions is not necessarily a wrong answer because it fails to answer another set of questions.

Explaining that Richard Dawkins wrote “Unweaving the Rainbow” doesn’t explain where Richard Dawkins came from. And the writer is more complicated than his writing.

So is it fallacious to infer that “Unweaving the Rainbow” came from the pen of Richard Dawkins unless we can explain where Richard Dawkins came from? And does the fact that Richard Dawkins is more complicated than a book of his thereby generate a vicious regress?

“In fact, any respectable theologian of the Catholic or Anglican or any other sensible church believes in evolution.”

This is more of his trademark question-begging.

“Obviously, there are other things having nothing to do with science—music, poetry, sex, love. These are all things that make life, to me, extremely worth living.”

An odd statement from a materialist. Isn’t everything ultimately reducible to physics?

“Then there's the added fact that it is the only life we’re ever going to get. Don’t kid yourself that you’re going to live again after you’re dead; you’re not. Make the most of the one life you’ve got. Live it to the full…Don’t imagine for one second you’re going to paradise. You’re not. You’re going to rot in the ground.”

This exordium is only appealing to the living, and not, unfortunately, to the dead. Once you’re dead, and that’s the end of the line, then it’s of no concern of yours how much you got out of life.

“I would never wish to disabuse or disillusion somebody who believed that. I care about what’s true for myself, but I don’t want to go around telling people who are afraid of dying that their hopes are unreal.”

So it is okay to believe a pleasing lie after all?

Due to common grace, Dawkins has a few remnants of humanity left in him. A residual morality and decency. But this is wholly at odds with his icy creed.

Spaghetti soup


Very interesting. When I compared the academic credentials of NT Wright to a Reformed teacher who was critiquing him in a recent publication, I was roundly condemned.

What's the difference?

# posted by Michael Spencer : 12/14/2005 8:05 PM


1.Let me first say that I wasn’t party to that particular debate.

2.There is no doubt that one’s level of education can make a difference. There are certain highly specialized fields in which an amateur can’t very well wing it on merely facility. There’s no substitute for technical expertise.

3.By the same token, some fields demand more brainpower than others. Let’s face it, folks--it doesn’t take the same mental horsepower to be a sociologist as it does to be a mathematician.

4.We all know college profs. who couldn’t argue their way out of a wet paper bag. They got to where they were by riding on the crest of the latest academic wave, by dutifully reproducing every jot and tittle of the new orthodoxy, and by being chaperoned through their degree program by a star professor and a timely nudge from affirmative action.

5. There are some deadly dull fields of study in which quicksilver brilliance would be a positive disadvantage. Only someone with a plodding mind would have the patience for all the tedious minutiae.

6.You don’t have to be brilliant to be a fine Bible scholar. You just have to be disciplined and diligent.

7.There are many men with the same academic credentials as NT Wright, yet they don’t dominate the debate the way he does. Education alone is not the differential factor.

8.There are some gifted autodidacts who can argue circles around the average college prof. The contributions of (the other) Philip Johnson to the ID movement is a case in point.

9.There are few basic problems with Paul Owen’s appeal. There’s the glaring double standard in which he holds his critics to a higher standard than his colleagues at Communio Sanctorum.

10.Beyond the hypocrisy is a more fundamental point, and that is the illicit appeal to the argument from authority. Now there are fields in which this is relevant. Since most of us can’t sight-read hieroglyphics or cuneiform, we take the word of an Egyptologist or Assyriologist.

11.In general, though, your education is not something apart from the argument, but something which figures in the argument.

In writing a scholarly book or article, your education is something which feeds directly into the argument in terms of the evidence you put on public display and the quality of your reasoning.

Only when a scholar is getting desperate does he brandish his credentials to shore up what is lacking in the actual presentation. For unless he can translate his education into a well-reasoned argument, the quality of his education is irrelevant to the quality of his argument.

12.NT Wright is not only or primarily writing for the benefit of his fellow academics. Rather, he is writing for general consumption, for the church, for the educated layman.

The act of writing presupposes that the implied reader is competent to follow the reasoning, follow the conclusions, weigh the evidence, and draw his own conclusions. Otherwise, why bother to write?

13.Needless to say, many critics of the NPP are just as well-educated as the advocates of the NPP.

14.Returning to Dr. Owen, it is particularly stupid for a blogger to talk down to his audience. Blogging is inherently a mass medium for general consumption. It is not like a refereed journal. Does the standard fare over at Communio Sanctorum measure up to the standards of a refereed journal? Obviously not. Do the puff pieces that Dr. Owen is posting over there on a regular basis distinguish themselves by their tight reasoning and meticulous documentation? Obviously not.

15.Let us suppose that Owen is right. Suppose that I labor under the double handicap of being both incompetent and wrong. In that event, Owen should be able to make short work of such a lame opponent. Here I am. Come and get me.

16.Returning to Spencer, he is clearly a bright, articulate, well-educated man. But there are better educated men. So does Spencer want us to judge him by his diplomas, or by the quality of his writing?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hard Times


[By the way, I have seen comments on the web to the effect of: “Who does he think he is, talking to us about exegesis?” Let me again clarify the fact that I was ASKED to comment on these issues. Furthermore, the simple fact of the matter is that (unlike my critic) I have an earned doctorate from one of the world’s top universities, in New Testament studies. I have proven my competence as a New Testament scholar, outside the safe and secure playground of evangelicalism. So if I am being asked why I presume to have something to say on these matters, I can simply note that I have published in places such as the Journal for the Study of the New Testament, and the Library of Second Temple Studies. I have presented papers at the national meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature. My doctoral dissertation ( “Jewish Eschatology as a Matrix for Understanding the Death of Jesus in Early Christianity”) has been accepted (pending revisions) by a major academic publisher. My vocal critic, on the other hand, has yet to demonstrate the capacity to even successfully navigate the course of study of a masters degree program at a satellite campus of an evangelical seminary. Yet he regularly takes it upon himself to correct the “errors” of seasoned scholars who have a proven track record of academic excellence and credibility. Maybe he should wait until he has at least completed the modest task of finishing graduate school with a decent GPA, before pontificating about issues which are quite evidently beyond his present grasp and realm of competence.]


Truly the cause of Reformed Catholicism hath fallen upon hard times. Paul Owen, after reams and reams of great swelling words about catholicity, ecclesial authority, and historical continuity, up and became a Body-rending schismatic, while Kevin Johnson and Tim Enloe, after whispering sweet nothings into the ticklish ears of Romish suitors, burned their bridges with two of the leading Romo-bloggers. And now we have Dr. Owen unloose this terrible string of abuse.

Just because Tim Enloe was critical of Owen’s Anglo-Catholic Mariolatry, is that any reason for Owen to remind the world of Enloe’s limited academic attainments? Whatever happened to the milk of human kindness and cordial of Christian charity?

Just because Master Enloe is attending the safe and secure playground of a third-tier Evangelical college, having as yet to complete the modest task of earning an undergraduate degree, much less a masters or a doctorate, is no reason for Owen to be quite so censorious. Unless, that is, Dr. Owen is alluding to Kevin Johnson’s lack of academic credentials.

Surely Dr. Owen is not insinuating that Enloe and Johnson should wait until they have his resume before they presume to pontificate on issues which are quite evidently beyond their present grasp and realm of competence.

Why, if that is where the bar is set, then there would be scarcely any reason to visit Communio Sanctorum at all.

On second thought, maybe that’s not such a bad idea. Who are they to attack such seasoned scholars as Dr. Svendsen and the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A mind is a terrible thing to waste


I am not going to walk across the room to see how many Calvinist commentaries on John interact with Witherington's Commentary on John. The gun shoots both ways I'm sure.
Posted by Michael Spencer at 08:30 PM


Well, let’s see Michael. How many Reformed commentaries on John have been published since Witherington published his? The only recent commentary on John from a consistently Reformed perspective is Carson’s. That was published in 1991, four years before Witherington came out with his.

Köstenberger doesn’t strike me as a Calvinist, but in case you want to include him, his commentary (2004) does interact with Witherington’s.

And now for another dim bulb (see below):


I did see where Witherington cites Douglas Moo's commentary on Romans quite a bit, which is a fairly traditional (reformed) understanding of Romans, so it's naive to think that Witherington is avoiding the "reformed interpretation" of Romans.


Moo is not a Calvinist. Moo identifies himself as a “modified Lutheran.” Lutheran theology and Reformed theology are quite distinct traditions.


I don't see why he has to address every signle Reformed work, as if there is something radically different in all of them.


“Every single Reformed work.” Hyperbole as a substitute for serious argument.


As if in all of his career he has been scared to interact with Calvinists! I think Calvinists need to get the memo that the world of Biblical scholarship is familiar with their arguments, and have addressed (both defended and attacked), and is now moving on. From an academic standpoint, why would BWIII just want to take up all of his pages on interpretations everyone is familiar with? There is too much relatively new, and "exciting" things happening in New Testament/ Pauline studies to go back to the old Calvinist-Arminian pissing contests.


Yet another made-up defense of Witherington, totally ignoring his latest book, The Problem of Evangelical Theology, in which he does go back to the old Calvinist/Arminian debates.


Witherington says in the preface that his purpose in writing the commentary is not to rehash the same old Wesleyan vs. Augustinian/Calvinist/Lutheran commentary with which everyone is familiar…


That is not at all what Witherington says. What he says is: “One of the more surprising things I have discovered along the way is that there really has never been, since the English Reformation, a major exegetical study of Romans which intentionally takes into account Arminian and Wesleyan readings as opposed to more Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist readings of Romans” (xi).

So his stated purpose is just the opposite. The Arminian/Wesleyan perspective has been neglected, and he intends to redress the imbalance.


So don't be surprised when he doesn't address every Calvinist who has written a commentary on Romans.


More hyperbole deputizing as an argument. Witherington doesn’t address any Reformed commentary on Romans.


Why do Calvinists (at least blogging ones) have a persecution complex? As if everyone hasn't heard their arguments 5 billion-zillion times.
Posted by Ryan Cordle at 08:26 PM


I realize that this would be a foreign concept to the brain donors over at BHT, but there’s a virtue in knowing what you’re talking about before you open your mouth.

Will London burn too?

Date: Tue, 13 Dec 2005 20:15:17 -0500
From: David Virtue
Subject: Islam & Christian Persecution: Will London burn too? - by Patrick Sookhdeo

Will London burn too?

by Patrick Sookhdeo

November, 2005

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, has
warned recently of 'sleepwalking our way to segregation'. Although he
was not speaking principally about Muslims, they have become perhaps the
most dominant group in British society. Divided along ethnic and
sectarian lines, Muslims are nevertheless united by their creed, their
law and the powerful concept of the umma, the totality of Muslims

The process of migrating and establishing a Muslim community in a
non-Muslim context has an important place in Islamic theology. The word
hijra is used to describe such a migration, in particular the migration
of Mohammed and his followers in ad 622 from Mecca, where they were
persecuted, to Medina where they established the first Islamic state.
Eight years earlier another hijra occurred when Muslim refugees found
freedom of worship in the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia.

Muslims see the establishment of a Muslim community in the UK as a
contemporary hijra. But an important question concerns which 7th-century
hijra they compare it to: the hijra to Abyssinia in which the Muslims
became contented and loyal subjects of a Christian king, or the hijra to
Medina where they seized political and military power.

While the Muslim scholar Imtiaz Ahmed Hussain has indicated that he
looks to the Abyssinian model, many other Muslims seem to look to the
Medinan model. A book published in 1980 by the Islamic Council of Europe
gives instructions for how Muslim minorities are to work towards
achieving domination of European countries through a policy of
concentration in geographical areas.

The Muslim writer Amir Taheri, tackling the question of 'Why Paris is
Burning', described how France's policy of assimilation began to fail
when (Muslim) immigrants grouped themselves in concentrated areas. The
resulting alienation, says Taheri, opens the way for radical Islamists
to promote religious and cultural apartheid. Some are even calling for
Muslim majority areas to become like an Ottoman millet, i.e., to
organise their own social, cultural and educational life in accordance
with their religious beliefs. In parts of France, says Taheri, a de
facto millet system is already in place, seen in Islamic headdress,
Islamic beards, Islamic control of the administration, and the
elimination of cinemas, dance halls and shops selling alcohol and pork.

The Muslim community in France is well on the way to becoming a millet,
a state within a state. The only substantive goal still outstanding is
the implementation of Islamic law (Shariah) instead of French law.

Muslims in France have by and large rejected the concept of the
integration of individuals and are working instead for the integration
of communities. The same is happening in the UK, where the concept of
multiculturalism has long been popular.

Two other Islamic principles are important subjects of debate among
contemporary Muslims. The first concerns 'sacred space'. Islam is a
territorial religion. Any space once gained is considered sacred and
should belong to the umma for ever. Any lost space must be regained -
even by force if necessary. Migrant Muslim communities in the West are
constantly engaged in sacralising new areas - first the inner private
spaces of their homes and mosques, and latterly whole neighbourhoods
(e.g., Birmingham) by means of marches and processions. So the ultimate
end of sacred space theology is autonomy for Muslims of the UK under
Islamic law.

Radical Muslims hope for the re-establishment of the Caliphate,
abolished by Atat=FCrk in 1924. The possibility of a Southern Europe
Caliphate and a North Sea Caliphate has been raised.

The other important principle is the classic Islamic division of the
world into Dar al-Islam (the house of Islam), where Muslims rule, and
Dar al-Harb (the house of war). The sinister name for non-Muslim
territory indicates that Muslims have an obligation to wage war until it
becomes Dar al-Islam. There is much debate within Islam today as to
whether or not the West is Dar al-Harb. Non-Muslims can be thankful for
alternatives such as Dar al-Sulh (House of Truce) and Dar al-Ahd (House
of Treaty).

Some radical British Muslims used to believe in a 'covenant of security'
which forbids Muslims living in the UK from engaging in military action
within the country. Preposterous though it seems, they believed that,
were it not for this 'covenant', they would be duty-bound to attack the
majority community. Most now believe the covenant to be null and void
because of the UK's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the most radical of all hold that the covenant of security applied
only to Muslims who had sought refuge in Britain, not to those who were
born here. In the words of Hassan Butt, 'They [the British-born] owe
nothing to the government. They did not ask to be born here; neither did
they ask to be protected by Britain.'

In Britain we already have many examples of Muslim violence. Some are
within the community - ethnic violence such as Kurds against Pakistanis
in Peterborough or so-called 'honour killings'. Some are between Muslims
and other communities such as the blacks vs Asian Muslims in Birmingham
or the armed black Muslim gangs in south London threatening to kill
those who will not convert to Islam. Will we see the same patterns of
sectarian violence as in Pakistan, the homeland of so many British
Muslims? Shias and Sunnis killing each other, and the persecution of
Ahmadiyyas by Sunnis?

Most alarming of all is the prospect of Muslim secessionist violence in
the UK as in Kosovo, the Philippines, Thailand and elsewhere
(Huntington's much-reviled 'bloody borders of Islam'). Now this is
happening - apparently - in France. A radical Muslim preaching at Hyde
Park Corner on 6 November called for what had happened in France to be
repeated here. He urged all Muslims to move into Muslim areas, after
which any Churches would be expelled. He told his audience that Europe
had once been Muslim and called on them to make it Muslim again.

Many British cities already have concentrated Muslim communities.
Conservative estimates based on census returns indicate that Bradford
had a Muslim population of just under 49,000 in 1991, rising to over
75,000 in 2005. But Sher Azam, president of the Bradford Council of
Mosques, claims that 100,000 Muslims in Bradford attend mosque each
week, suggesting a total Muslim population in Bradford far in excess of
this. Whatever the true figures, it is clear that within a few years
Bradford and many other British cities will have Muslim majorities. It
is also clear that the often quoted figure of 1.6 million for the total
British Muslim population must be a gross underestimate.

Islamic enclaves would be defined by Islamic values, education,
politics, religious practice and above all law. They would be 'cleansed'
of any non-Muslim presence. This cleansing is already beginning by means
of threats and violence to isolated churches in Muslim majority areas.
Even Islamic law is already semi-established, in that a multitude of
Shariah councils and Shariah courts exist which deal with family issues,
effectively creating an unofficial parallel legal system within the UK.

Unless the multiculturalist policy - which has been indirectly
facilitating the separatist agenda of radical Islamists - is reversed
immediately, we shall wake up and find we have sleepwalked into a
situation of apartheid and segregation. If we sleep long enough, we may
even wake up to find that, like Paris, London is burning. Or that we are
living in an Islamic state.

Casting pearls before boars

My latest little post has caused a herd of drunken wild bores…uh, make that boars…to trample my priceless pearls of wisdom underfoot.

Michael Spencer has posted the following link:


I think a question to ask regarding Witherington's Romans commentary is "Who is his audience?" I can tell you, it's not Reformed Baptists. I don't think it is elitist to say that Witherington's audience is probably more along the lines of SBL members rather than ETS members. Because of this, he isn't going to interact with Piper, Schreiner, or even Carson. He's going to interact with E.P. Sanders, Ernst Kasemann, and others who have contributed to the scholarly community's study of Romans. (Note: I am not saying that Piper, Schreiner, or Carson aren't "scholarly". They are but they aren't writing for the same audience as the people I have mentioned).

Another reason for not interacting with Mr Hays' coterie of Calvinist scholars is that they don't appear to focus on the kind of socio-rhetorical commentary that Witherington is known to write. Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe these guys have written volumes about Romans' historical context, but if they have, I haven't read it. And I would be willing to read it, so put the rocks down.

The socio-rhetorical focus is Witherington's M.O. when it comes to commentaries. It seems to me, though, that we human Christians get a little too uptight when we don't see our heroes' names in others' bibliographies. I am totally guilty of that. I check out bibliographies and if I don't see Wright, Witherington, Green, and a handful of others, I turn up my nose, too. It's my loss and I'm learning to move past that attitude.

Here are a couple of RBL reviews (.pdf) of Witherington's commentary. Neither gets after him about his apparent snub of the Reformed community (although the second guy isn't happy with Witheringtons's dismissal of the NPP, so that ought to score him points, right :-)?

Posted by Matthew Johnson at December 13, 2005 06:24 PM


Generally speaking, commentators don’t target a particular audience, do they? The job of a commentator is simply to present his interpretation of a Biblical book, regardless of the potential reader. After all, he has no control over who will read his commentary, and is presumably not going out of his way to snub perspective readers.

Indeed, the reason commentators write commentators is because they think their interpretation is right on the money, and they want to persuade the reader to agree with them. So a commentator is not narrowly targeting readers who already agree with him, but trying to win them over.

That, indeed, is an explicit motive of Witherington’s commentary. If you read his preface (xi-xii), he wants to turn the ship around. He thinks the Reformed tradition has been too influential in the exegesis of Romans—even framing the debate for commentators of non-Reformed persuasion.

Why would the SBL be especially interested in Käsemann? He antedates the socio-rhetorical school. He was a liberal Lutheran in the Bultmannian tradition.

For that matter, Witherington interacts extensively with Barrett, Cranfield, Dunn, and Wright, although none of them belongs to the socio-rhetorical school.

Steven Baugh is a Presbyterian, not a Reformed Baptist. John Murray was a Presbyterian, not a Reformed Baptist. Gregory Beale is a Conservative Congregationalist, not a Reformed Baptist.

Yes, Piper and Schreiner are Reformed Baptists, but there’s nothing especially Baptistic about their interpretation of Romans.

Witherington is at liberty to snub anyone he pleases. But prejudice is not a scholarly virtue.

Matthew Johnson rushes to his keyboard and dashes off this fact-free defense of Witherington’s commentary. Most impressive!


To judge by these two titles, Witherington’s scholarship is a study in insularity and obscurantism.

That's quite a sweeping statement to make based on reading two books, one of which was based for a more popular audience.

Believe it or not, many if not most scholars have little interest in the sources you cited because they themselves tend to be insular and obscurantist. And do you really think a world-class New Testament scholar is going to interact with John Piper in a scholarly work? He's not even on the radar in the vast majority of the academy.

How about dealing with Witherington's arguments instead of trying to find a way to be able to ignore what he has to say without having to actually deal with it?

# posted by Keith : 12/13/2005 6:04 PM


Ah, another masterpiece of reasoning.

Actually, I’ve read more than two books of his. But these two have the most bearing on his case for Arminian theology.

Apparently Keith is unaware of the fact that Piper has a doctorate in theology from the University of Munich. His monograph on Romans is a work of serious scholarship—something Keith would know if he’d every bothered to read it.

Moo, in his commentary on Romans, thinks that Piper is worth his attention. I guess that makes Moo a second-rate NT scholar. Fitzmyer, in his commentary on Romans, thinks that Piper is worth his attention. I guess that makes Fitzmyer a second-rate NT scholar.

Did Keith pick up his radar equipment at a garage sale?

How about dealing with Witherington’s arguments? Hmm. There’s a novel idea. Let’s see, now. I began by commenting on Witherington’s XToday interview about his forthcoming book, followed by a three-part review of his book.

Here’s another novel idea. Why doesn’t Keith dust off his unused brain by interacting with my detailed interaction with Witherington’s arguments?

Perhaps Michael Spencer would make me an honorary Tavernista. It would be a very relaxing change of pace to write for a blog in which a zero balance of intellectual content generates such a handsome rate of rhetorical interest.

Autistic scholarship

I said:


The problem with this charge as it bears on the case for Calvinism is that, to judge by Witherington’s discussion and bibliography, he is almost completely ignorant of the exegetical literature in favor of Calvinism. For example, he attacks the Reformed reading of Rom 9-11 without a single reference to the commentaries by Schreiner and Murray, or the monograph on Rom 9 by Piper. There’s no interaction with the two-volume work on The Grace of God, the Bondage of the Will, which has a number of exegetical essays in defense of Reformed theology. No reference to Beale’s article on the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exod 4-14. No reference to Carson’s commentary on John, or Silva’s commentary on Philippians, or Murray’s monograph on the imputation of Adam’s sin, or Vos on “The Scriptural Doctrine of the Love of God,” or Warfield’s article on predestination. These are just a few of the gaping lacunae.


Witherington replied:


I have read most all of those sources you have mentioned but this is quite beside the point. I said quite clearly at the outset that I was dealing with these different Evangelical theologies as they are found at the popular and most widely disseminated level. This means unlike most of my work I deliberately avoided spending much time debating other scholars. The issues was the ideas, not who said what.


Just in case I was unfair to Witherington, I decided to order his recent commentary on Romans: Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Eerdmans 2004).

Unlike his popular-level book The Problem with Evangelical Theology, his commentary is supposed to be pitched at a more scholarly level.

It is de rigueur that commentators interact with other commentators—especially commentators who represent an opposing viewpoint. And Witherington says in the preface that he is writing from a self-consciously Arminian or Wesleyan perspective. So you’d expect him to defend his interpretation in response to the traditional Reformed reading.

So what do we find? Perhaps the better question would be, what don’t we find?

Murray’s commentary on Romans is passed over in silence. Schreiner’s commentary on Romans is passed over in silence. Piper’s monograph on Rom 9 is passed over in silence. Schreiner’s article on Rom 9 is passed over in silence. Beale’s article on Exod 4-14 is passed over in silence. Murray’s word-study on “foreknow” is passed over in silence. Baugh’s word-study on “foreknow” is passed over in silence. Murray’s monograph on Adam’s sin is passed over in silence.

In the annotated bibliography there is a passing reference to the commentaries by Calvin and Hodge. That’s the first and last time you ever hear of them.

You get the picture. We have, once more, a studied disregard for the opposing viewpoint. Zero interaction with its best representatives.

At the risk of stating the obvious, you cannot rebut a position whose existence you don’t even acknowledge. Before you can mount a counterargument, you need to present the opposing argument. To judge by these two titles, Witherington’s scholarship is a study in insularity and obscurantism.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Reformed distinctives

There has, of late, been a lot of back and forth, both on this blog and in other venues, on what constitutes a distinctive of Reformed theology. Many have said that infant baptism, or the grounds thereof, constitutes a Reformed distinctive. JD and I have argued otherwise.

In the meantime, there is something which most decidedly does constitute a traditional Reformed distinctive, and that is the reformation of public worship.

In terms of historical theology, the Westminster Directory of Worship is every bit as traditional, official, and authoritative as the Confession and the catechisms.

And I daresay that most of those who are quick to deny the Calvinistic character of Reformed Baptist theology exempt themselves from the Regulative Principle of Worship as exemplified and mandated in the WDW. Here are a few representative excerpts to illustrate the Reformed rule of worship in the Reformed tradition.



Agreed Upon By The Assembly Of Divines At Westminster, With The Assistance Of Commissioners From The Church Of Scotland, As A Part Of The Covenanted Uniformity In Religion Betwixt The Churches Of Christ In The Kingdoms Of Scotland, England, And Ireland:

With An Act Of The General Assembly, And Act Of Parliament, Both In Anno 1645, Approving And Establishing The Said Directory.

1 Cor. xiv. 40. - Let all things be done decently, and in order.
Ver. 26. - Let all things be done unto edifying.


IN the beginning of the blessed Reformation, our wise and pious ancestors took care to set forth an order for redress of many things, which they then, by the word, discovered to be vain, erroneous, superstitious, and idolatrous, in the publick worship of God. This occasioned many godly and learned men to rejoice much in the Book of Common Prayer, at that time set forth; because the mass, and the rest of the Latin service being removed, the publick worship was celebrated in our own tongue: many of the common people also receive benefit by hearing the scriptures read in their own language, which formerly were unto them as a book that is sealed.

Howbeit, long and sad experience hath made it manifest, that the Liturgy used in the Church of England, (notwithstanding all the pains and religious intentions of the Compilers of it,) hath proved an offence, not only to many of the godly at home, but also to the reformed Churches abroad. For, not to speak of urging the reading of all the prayers, which very greatly increased the burden of it, the many unprofitable and burdensome ceremonies contained in it have occasioned much mischief, as well by disquieting the consciences of many godly ministers and people, who could not yield unto them, as by depriving them of the ordinances of God, which they might not enjoy without conforming or subscribing to those ceremonies. Sundry good Christians have been, by means thereof, kept from the Lord's table; and divers able and faithful ministers debarred from the exercise of their ministry, (to the endangering of many thousand souls, in a time of such scarcity of faithful pastors,) and spoiled of their livelihood, to the undoing of them and their families. Prelates, and their faction, have laboured to raise the estimation of it to such a height, as if there were no other worship, or way of worship of God amongst us, but only the Service-book; to the great hinderance of the preaching of the word, and (in some places, especially of late) to the justling of it out as unnecessary, or at best, as far inferior to the reading of common prayer; which was made no better than an idol by many ignorant and superstitious people, who, pleasing themselves in their presence at that service, and their lip-labour in bearing a part in it, have thereby hardened themselves in their ignorance and carelessness of saving knowledge and true piety.

In the meantime, Papists boasted that the book was a compliance with them in a great part of their service; and so were not a little confirmed in their superstition and idolatry, expecting rather our return to them, than endeavouring the reformation of themselves: in which expectation they were of late very much encouraged, when, upon the pretended warrantableness of imposing of the former ceremonies, new ones were daily obtruded upon the Church.

Add hereunto, (which was not foreseen, but since have come to pass,) that the Liturgy hath been a greet means, as on the one hand to make and increase an idle and unedifying ministry, which contented itself with set forms made to their hands by others, without putting forth themselves to exercise the gift of prayer, with which our Lord Jesus Christ pleaseth to furnish all his servants whom he calls to that office: so, on the other side, it hath been (and ever would be, if continued) a matter of endless strife and contention in the Church, and a snare both to many godly and faithful ministers, who have been persecuted and silenced upon that occasion, and to others of hopeful parts, many of which have been, and more still would be, diverted from all thoughts of the ministry to other studies; especially in these latter times, wherein God vouchsafeth to his people more and better means for the discovery of error and superstition, and for attaining of knowledge in the mysteries of godliness, and gifts in preaching and prayer.

Upon these, and many the like weighty considerations in reference to the whole book in general, and because of divers particulars contained in it; not from any love to novelty, or intention to disparage our first reformers, (of whom we are persuaded, that, were they now alive, they would join with us in this work, and whom we acknowledge as excellent instruments, raised by God, to begin the purging and building of his house, and desire they may be had of us and posterity in everlasting remembrance, with thankfulness and honour,) but that we may in some measure answer the gracious providence of God, which at this time calleth upon us for further reformation, and may satisfy our own consciences, and answer the expectation of other reformed churches, and the desires of many of the godly among ourselves, and withal give some publick testimony of our endeavours for uniformity in divine worship, which we have promised in our Solemn League and Covenant; we have, after earnest and frequent calling upon the name of God, and after much consultation, not with flesh and blood, but with his holy word, resolved to lay aside the former Liturgy, with the many rites and ceremonies formerly used in the worship of God; and have agreed upon this following Directory for all the parts of publick worship, at ordinary and extraordinary times.

Wherein our care hath been to hold forth such things as are of divine institution in every ordinance; and other things we have endeavoured to set forth according to the rules of Christian prudence, agreeable to the general rules of the word of God; our meaning therein being only, that the general heads, the sense and scope of the prayers, and other parts of publick worship, being known to all, there may be a consent of all the churches in those things that contain the substance of the service and worship of God; and the ministers may be hereby directed, in their administrations, to keep like soundness in doctrine and prayer, and may, if need be, have some help and furniture, and yet so as they become not hereby slothful and negligent in stirring up the gifts of Christ in them; but that each one, by meditation, by taking heed to himself, and the flock of God committed to him, and by wise observing the ways of Divine Providence, may be careful to furnish his heart and tongue with further or other materials of prayer and exhortation, as shall be needful upon all occasions.

Of the Assembling of the Congregation, and their Behaviour in the Public Worship of God.

WHEN the congregation is to meet for publick worship, the people (having before prepared their hearts thereunto) ought all to come and join therein; not absenting themselves from the publick ordinances through negligence, or upon pretence of private meetings.

Let all enter the assembly, not irreverently, but in a grave and seemly manner, taking their seats or places without adoration, or bowing themselves towards one place or other.

The congregation being assembled, the minister, after solemn calling on them to the worshipping of the great name of God, is to begin with prayer.

"In all reverence and humility acknowledging the incomprehensible greatness and majesty of the Lord, (in whose presence they do then in a special manner appear,) and their own vileness and unworthiness to approach so near Him, with their utter inability of themselves to so great a work; and humbly beseeching him for pardon, assistance, and acceptance, in the whole service then to be performed; and for a blessing on that particular portion of his word then to be read: And all in the name and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ."

The publick worship being begun, the people are wholly to attend upon it, forbearing to read any thing, except what the minister is then reading or citing; and abstaining much more from all private whisperings, conferences, salutations, or doing reverence to any person present, or coming in; as also from all gazing, sleeping, and other indecent behaviour, which may disturb the minister or people, or hinder themselves or others in the service of God.

If any, through necessity, be hindered from being present at the beginning, they ought not, when they come into the congregation, to betake themselves to their private devotions, but reverently to compose themselves to join with the assembly in that ordinance of God which is then in hand.

Of the Sanctification of the Lord's Day.

THE Lord's day ought to be so remembered before-hand, as that all worldly business of our ordinary callings may be so ordered, and so timely and seasonably laid aside, as they may not be impediments to the due sanctifying of the day when it comes.

The whole day is to be celebrated as holy to the Lord, both in publick and private, as being the Christian sabbath. To which end, it is requisite, that there be a holy cessation or resting all that day from all unnecessary labours; and an abstaining, not only from all sports and pastimes, but also from all worldly words and thoughts.

That the diet on that day be so ordered, as that neither servants be unnecessarily detained from the publick worship of God, nor any other person hindered from the sanctifying that day.

That there be private preparations of every person and family, by prayer for themselves, and for God's assistance of the minister, and for a blessing upon his ministry; and by such other holy exercises, as may further dispose them to a more comfortable communion with God in his public ordinances.

That all the people meet so timely for publick worship, that the whole congregation may be present at the beginning, and with one heart solemnly join together in all parts of the publick worship, and not depart till after the blessing.

That what time is vacant, between or after the solemn meetings of the congregation in publick, be spent in reading, meditation, repetition of sermons; especially by calling their families to an account of what they have heard, and catechising of them, holy conferences, prayer for a blessing upon the publick ordinances, singing of psalms, visiting the sick, relieving the poor, and such like duties of piety, charity, and mercy, accounting the sabbath a delight.

Of Singing of Psalms.

IT is the duty of Christians to praise God publickly, by singing of psalms together in the congregation, and also privately in the family.

In singing of psalms, the voice is to be tunably and gravely ordered; but the chief care must be to sing with understanding, and with grace in the heart, making melody unto the Lord.

That the whole congregation may join herein, every one that can read is to have a psalm book; and all others, not disabled by age or otherwise, are to be exhorted to learn to read. But for the present, where many in the congregation cannot read, it is convenient that the minister, or some other fit person appointed by him and the other ruling officers, do read the psalm, line by line, before the singing thereof.

AN APPENDIX, Touching Days and Places for Publick Worship.

THERE is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord's day, which is the Christian Sabbath.

Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Selective credalism

With his permission, I’m posting an email from Gene Bridges.


Paul Owen has now decided to write about his views on exegesis:

I just have a few observations:

Quote: Whereas an individual has every right to call into question and even reject the truth or validity of any other individual’s attempt to restate the original intent of Scripture, no individual has the right to resist and reject the Creedal or Confessional judgments of the Church to which she is subject by virtue of membership (WCF 20.4; 31.3). End Quote

A) Notice where his authority lies, not in Scripture, but in creeds and confessions. One is permitted to resist and reject a person's exegesis of Scripture but not a creed or confession. In other words, we are not to resist a fallible creed or confession (and this includes presumably the interpretation of that confession or creed our church makes of it) but we are to resist infallible Scripture by resisting a person's exegesis of it. It's true, no exegete is infallible, but that's not the point, Scripture is infallible. Dr. Owen will elsewhere get around this by simply saying that Scripture is unclear, ironically on the very issues for which he has been taken to the woodshed by his critics in recent times. Uh-huh.

B) By the way, why cite the WCF to ground his assertion now, since he's no longer a Presbyterian? The APA uses the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal. If he is not free to resist or reject the creedal or confessional judgments of the church to which he is subject, wouldn't it make more sense to cite the 39 Articles, or he secretly resisting them already?

C) I underlined "membership" here because in his defense of his move to the Anglican Communion he pointed out that he has always rejected Presbyterian church government, because no member is required to affirm a particular form of church government. However, the WCF very clearly contradicts him on his views of, say, penal substitution and justification (which Steve discussed here in November), so, while he was a member of said church (PCA) he did that for which he claims no individual has the right to do by virtue of membership.

D) Why is one free to resist the exegesis of Scripture but not a creed or confession? What makes the exegesis of a creed or confession immune from exegesis and interpretation? Why is Dr. Owen free to question or reject the truth or validity of any other individual's attempt to restate the original intent of Scripture but not free to resist or reject a creed or confession? Don't creeds and confessions have an original intent? How does Dr. Owen know what those creeds and confessions mean if not from their original intent and their interpretation? Do you see the double standard here? If his standard is whatever the church to which one is subject says they say, what if tomorrow they adopt the LCBF 1689 or the WCF or a completely new confession that looks like neither one of them? Will Dr. Owen not be free resist or reject the confessional standards of his church?

E) By the way, compare this to the way he speaks of Reformed Baptists like James White. He says on the one hand that one is free to reject the exegesis of Scripture, but he says that no individual is free to resist or reject their church's confessional standards. Why then does he take issue with Reformed Baptists like James White so often, if Dr. White has no right to resist or reject the confessional standards of the church to which he belongs. By standing up for what he believes and his church teaches in its common confession, Dr. White is simply conforming to the practice that Dr. Owen commends. Shouldn't he commend Dr. White for doing this?

F) How is it that Scripture is unclear on so many issues, yet Dr. Owen knows it is clear enough to appeal to Romans 14 to say, "Nor does any individual, no matter his office in the Church, have the right to assert the original intent of Scripture, whether human or Divine, in a manner which offends the conscience of another Christian (Rom. 14:1-4)?" For that matter does this portion of Romans 14 deal with the exegesis of Scripture with respect to doctrine or something else, like dealing with practices that Scripture does not truly address, like food sacrificed to idols?

G) Are these portions of the WCF discussing freedom to resist the exegesis of Scripture and the authority of confessions and creeds or something else? How do they really relate to the WCF on Scripture?

WCF 20: On Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience

I. The liberty which Christ has purchased for believers under the Gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, and condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin;from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grace, and everlasting damnations also, in their free access to God,and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind.All which were common also to believers under the law.But, under the New Testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected;and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace,and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.

II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

III. They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.

IV. And because the powers which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ has established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the Church. and by the power of the civil magistrate.

WCF 31 Of Synods and Councils

I. For the better government, and further edification of the Church, there ought to be such assemblies as are commonly called synods or councils.

II. As magistrates may lawfully call a synod of ministers, and other fit persons, to consult and advise with, about matters of religion;so, if magistrates be open enemies to the Church, the ministers of Christ, of themselves, by virtue of their office, or they, with other fit persons upon delegation from their Churches, may meet together in such assemblies.

III. It belongs to synods and councils, ministerially to determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience; to set down rules and directions for the better ordering of the public worship of God, and government of his Church; to receive complaints in cases of maladministration, and authoritatively to determine the same; which decrees and determinations, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission; not only for their agreement with the Word, but also for the power whereby they are made, as being an ordinance of God appointed thereunto in His Word.

IV. All synods or councils, since the apostles' times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.

IV. Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.

WCF 1 Of the Holy Scriptures

I. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church;and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing;which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.

II. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testament, which are these: Of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles, II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Of the New Testament: The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, The Acts of the Apostles, Paul's Epistles to the Romans, Corinthians I, Corinthians II, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians I , Thessalonians II , To Timothy I , To Timothy II, To Titus, To Philemon, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The Epistle of James, The first and second Epistles of Peter, The first, second, and third Epistles of John, The Epistle of Jude, The Revelation of John. All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.

III. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.

IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

V. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture.And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

VII. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them,therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come,that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner;nd, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

X. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.

From the follow up article (the 2nd one in the links):

Quote: I never cease to be astounded for instance at the dogmatism with which my fellow Calvinists insist on the biblical basis of their view of providence, free will and predestination. The fact of the matter is that a whole range of positions–occasionalism, compatibilism, Thomism, Molinism, open theism–can be defended on the basis of plausible readings of the biblical text. Sophisticated exegetes and theologians have maintained all of these views: Luther and Zwingli (occasionalism), Calvin and Edwards (compatibilism), Vermigli and LaGrange (Thomism), William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland (Molinism), and Clark Pinnock and Robert Chisholm (open theism). These are all men who were or are conversant with the whole of Scripture, committed to biblical authority, competent in the original languages, and familiar with the tools and methods of exegesis. Such realities force us to adopt one of two paths: 1) We can declare that all who reject the view (usually based on a few selected prooftexts) held by myself and my favorite theologian show thereby that they do not love the truth; or 2) We can admit that the Bible does not directly address the specifics of such questions, so we must hold to our own view with a spirit of humility, and respect for others who view the matter differently. End quote

A) And we all know where Owen now stands on the issue of, say, it seems that on the one hand no individual has the right to resist or reject creeds or confessions of the church to which s/he is subject by virtue of membership but he does have a right to resist and reject those creedal or confessional documents for many years and abide in that church, if his name is Paul Owen until you finally give up resisting within your church and enter the Anglican Communion.
B) Are all these views held by these men actually derived from Scripture or are some of these views imposed upon Scripture from outside? It does not follow from the fact that sophisticated exegetes maintain all the views he lists and sometimes defend them from Scripture that those exegetes actually hold them based upon the exegesis of Scripture. Ask William Lane Craig where he grounds his Molinism sometime. Will he answer "Scripture" or "philosophy?" Ask, say Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell where they derive their view of libertarian free will and reject compatibilism sometime, in fact, look in their own writing in Why I am Not a Calvinist, where they tell us in their own words “…Arminians rely on contested philosophical judgments at this point.” You'd think if they actually grounded libertarianism in Scripture, they would point to the exegesis of Scripture when telling us where they ground their libertarianism.

C) If all the readings are plausible, then we have a mess in Scripture, don't we, since some of these positions exclude others in whole or in part.

D) Notice the limited alternatives. Why can't we can strive to understand exactly what Scripture does teach and eliminate those views that do not make sense of the text? You see, Dr. Owen wants it both ways. He believes that these views are all from "plausible" readings of the text and thus we can't be certain enough about the meaning of the text in order to address these issues, but he is certain (being an academician and all that) that the text is unclear and all these readings are plausible. Then, to top it all off, he writes lengthy discussions contra men like Dr. White and Dr. Svendsen trying to tell us and them exactly why their views are implausible. Uh-huh.

Quote: Christian theology includes exegesis, but is not limited to it. Articulating the doctrine of the Trinity, or an understanding of the sacraments, or a theory of justification, or a view of providence and predestination, is not simply a matter of correctly “exegeting” the biblical text. The reason is simple: The Bible does not directly address questions like: the nature of human freedom; the mechanisms whereby the divine decrees are effected on the human plane; the precise details as to how the sacraments are effectual for salvation; how one divine nature can subsist in three acting subjects without a repetition or division of substance; the nature of time and God’s precise relation to it; the logic of atonement through sacrifice; where justification fits in the ordo salutis; the relation between imputed righteousness and union with Christ. These are all questions which have arisen in the history of Christian theology, which have been brought back to the sacred text in search of answers. End Quote

A) Note the content of the list carefully and consider his views on some of these issues. He's toyed with "present" and "future" justification and penal substitution and sounded remarkably Arminian in his writing lately. How is it that he can attempt to make exegetical arguments against the logic of penal substitution, for example, by offering his own "logical" view from Scripture, if it's really true that he believes the Bible does not directly address questions relating to the logic of atonement through sacrifice and think anybody will take him seriously?

B) Perhaps, then Dr. Owen would like to inform us how, let's say Athanasius came to his conclusions if not by exegesis? What did Athanasius himself say? Did he not specifically defend the use of terms like "homoousios" by saying that they best captured the sense of Scripture? Didn't he frame his ideas from the exegesis of Scripture? Were the framers of Nicea/Constantinople reporters of "tradition" or exegetes? Are not the WCF and the 39 Articles of the Christian Religion not said to be based on the exegesis of the Scriptures themselves? On what basis does their authority lie if the very issues which they address, some of which are listed by him, are conclusions that have been derived by the framers from the exegesis of Scripture? Dr. Owen sets himself against the views of very framers of the creeds and confessions he says no individual has a right to reject or resist by virtue of membership.

C) Apparently, the good Reformed Catholic will now set himself against the views of the Reformer John Calvin. "All who mingle their own inventions with the word of God, or who advance anything that does not belong to it, must be rejected, how honourable soever may be their rank." (John Calvin, Synoptic Gospels 2:284) What was Calvin's standard Dr. Owen? Scripture or creeds and confessions?


Mighty Mouse


Thesis #4: It is the task of the Church alone to clarify the original Divine intent of a biblical text (John 16:13; Rom. 3:2; 1 Cor. 2:14-16). This clarification can be seen at work in: 1) the NT interpretation of OT texts; 2) the Church’s judgments in the formation of the canon (which shows the Church’s understanding of the Divine intent through textual relatedness); 3) the hermeneutical judgments of Church Councils, which sometimes narrow the range of potential understandings of biblical texts, in ways that are more specific than (though always consistent with) what was conveyed by the original authors. The judgments of Church Councils do not constitute the Rule of Faith of the Church (WCF 31.4), but they do interpret, clarify and restate it.

Thesis #5: Neither task can be performed in an infallible manner (WCF 31.4), apart from supernatural verbal inspiration (which has ceased since the closing of the canon). But there is a difference between the exegetical judgments of individuals and Church Councils. Whereas an individual has every right to call into question and even reject the truth or validity of any other individual’s attempt to restate the original intent of Scripture, no individual has the right to resist and reject the Creedal or Confessional judgments of the Church to which she is subject by virtue of membership (WCF 20.4; 31.3). Only a Church court can modify or correct an earlier judgment pertaining to the Divine intent of Scripture. Nor does any individual, no matter his office in the Church, have the right to assert the original intent of Scripture, whether human or Divine, in a manner which offends the conscience of another Christian (Rom. 14:1-4).


Thus saith the Owen.

1.The first question to ask is why anyone should take Dr. Owen’s dicta the least bit seriously. What is his authority to lay down these sweeping ultimatums? Is Owen’s “ipse dixit” our rule of faith? Who is he to issue edicts binding on the Christian conscience?

2.Dr. Owen is a theological pretzel. He has managed to twist and contort himself into the contradictory and hypocritical posture of a high church schismatic. He continues to mouth this authoritarian, high-church rhetoric even as he himself has chosen to affiliate with an itsy bitsy breakaway sect. And from the lofty molehill of his splinter-group, he presumes to hand down these Olympian pronouncements. Mickey Mouse in a Zeus-suit.

Again, I ask, why should anyway take his high-pitched squeaks the least bit seriously?

3.Notice the gaping equivocations in his argument, if you can call it that. Which “Church”? Where do we find “The Church”? Which church or churches speak for “The Church”?

4.Which church councils? Which councils count as “church” councils? There are many councils to choose from, are there not?

5.Which canon? The Orthodox Church has one OT canon, the Roman Church another, and the Evangelical church yet another.

6.What we see in the NT interpretation of the OT is not “The Church’s” interpretation of the OT, but the interpretation of inspired individuals.

7.And by that same token, we see inspired individuals challenging the interpretation of the Jewish establishment.

8.If an individual has no right to challenge conciliar dogma, then obviously the church councils do function as the rule of faith.

9.What, in principle, is wrong with individuals challenging the received reading of Scripture? What’s the point of biblical archeology if we can never revise a traditional interpretation in light of new evidence—evidence which clarifies original intent?

10. How can Owen say that church councils are fallible, yet insist that their hermeneutical findings are always consonant with Scripture?

11.How can we avoid offending the conscience of another Christian when we have a diversity of theological traditions? If that is offensive, then it’s mutually offensive.

12.Finally, there is a more fundamental problem. For men like Owen, to be a believer is to play the role of a believer—a role assigned to you by tradition. Tradition hands you your script. Your job is to memorize and recite the script. You speak on cue.

On this view, the Christian is not a believer, but an actor. The only difference between one theological tradition and another is the difference between one school of acting and another. Are you a Method actor? Shakespearean actor? Vaudeville performer? Kabuki artist?

You can see this in Owen’s own checkered career. He’s gone from playing the role of a Mormon to playing the role of a Presbyterian to playing the role of a “Reformed” Catholic to playing the role of an Anglican—successively shedding his Mormon mask for his Presbyterian mask, his Presbyterian mask for his “Reformed” Catholic mask, and his “Reformed Catholic mask for his Anglican mask.

It’s not a matter of believing, but play-acting. The chain of command issues the script and assigns you your role. When you leave one command structure for another, you assume a new role and read from a new script. You have no identity outside the group—a corporate identity, but no individual identity.

This goes to a perennial, temperamental difference between the ecumenist and the Protestant. The motivation of the ecumenist is sociological rather than theological. His spiritual security is bound up with social affirmation and approval. The creed functions as a loyalty-oath to the in-group.

Now, the Christian faith does, of course, have a sociological dimension. We have a doctrine of the church.

But this is a matter of priorities. The vertical relation entails the horizontal, but the horizontal does not entail the vertical. If we are individually related to Christ, where two lines converge at the top of the triangle, then we are related to each other, at the bottom of the triangle, where the two lines are laterally joined.

But the relation is asymmetrical. To be joined at the bottom does not imply that we are joined at the top. Christian identity is something that a true believer emanates, not impersonates.

I have no problem with Christians who position themselves within a given theological tradition. But you need to believe the right thing, and, what is more, you need to believe it for the right reason. The orientation must be Godward, not manward.

Is our Christian fellowship a side-effect of our fellowship with God, or is our fellowship with God a side-effect of our Christian fellowship? That’s the question. And the way you answer it is the difference between two opposing eternities.

As I’ve said before, the first question a Christian must ask myself about what he believes is not: “Is this traditional?” but, “Is this Biblical”? The word of God, and not the word of man, must be our rule of faith.

When I’m on my deathbed, staring into eternity, it will be quite irrelevant to me and to my Maker whether I have my passport is stamped with all the right names of all the approved luminaries.