Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pass the Soma, A Brave New World is Coming!

Updated: 07:15 PM EST
'Trauma Pill' Could Make Memories Less Painful

ZUMAResearchers say the pill would reduce the effect of stress hormones
that etch unpleasant events into memory.

(Jan. 14) - Suppose you could erase bad memories from your mind. Suppose, as in a recent movie, your brain could be wiped clean of sad and traumatic thoughts.

That is science fiction. But real-world scientists are working on the next best thing. They have been testing a pill that, when given after a traumatic event like rape, may make the resulting memories less painful and intense.

Will it work? It is too soon to say. Still, it is not far-fetched to think that this drug someday might be passed out along with blankets and food at emergency shelters after disasters like the tsunami or Hurricane Katrina.

Psychiatrist Hilary Klein could have offered it to the man she treated at a St. Louis shelter over the Labor Day weekend. He had fled New Orleans and was so distraught over not knowing where his sisters were that others had to tell Klein his story.

"This man could not even give his name, he was in such distress. All he could do was cry," she said.
Such people often develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a problem first recognized in Vietnam War veterans. Only 14 percent to 24 percent of trauma victims experience long-term PTSD, but sufferers have flashbacks and physical symptoms that make them feel as if they are reliving the trauma years after it occurred.

Scientists think it happens because the brain goes haywire during and right after a strongly emotional
event, pouring out stress hormones that help store these memories in a different way than normal ones are preserved.

Taking a drug to tamp down these chemicals might blunt memory formation and prevent PTSD, they theorize. Some doctors have an even more ambitious goal: trying to cure PTSD. They are
deliberately triggering very old bad memories and then giving the pill to deep-six them.

The first study to test this approach on 19 longtime PTSD sufferers has provided early encouraging results, Canadian and Harvard University researchers report.

"We figure we need to test about 10 more people until we've got solid evidence." said Alain Brunet, a psychologist at McGill University in Montreal who is leading the study.

It can't come too soon.

The need for better treatment grows daily as American troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan with wounded minds as well as bodies. One government survey found almost 1 in 6 showing symptoms of mental stress, including many with post-traumatic stress disorder. Disability payments related to the illness cost the government more than $4 billion a year.

The need is even greater in countries ravaged by many years of violence. I don't think there's yet in our country a sense of urgency about post-traumatic stress disorder" but there should be, said James McGaugh, director of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California at Irvine.

He and a colleague, Larry Cahill, did experiments that changed how scientists view memory formation and suggested new ways to modify it.

Memories, painful or sweet, don't form instantly after an event but congeal over time. Like slowly hardening cement, there is a window of opportunity when they are shapable.

During stress, the body pours out adrenaline and other "fight or flight" hormones that help write memories into the "hard drive" of the brain, McGaugh and Cahill showed.

Propranolol can blunt this. It is in a class of drugs called beta blockers and is the one most able to cross the blood-brain barrier and get to where stress hormones are wreaking havoc. It already is widely used to treat high blood pressure and is being tested for stage fright.

Dr. Roger Pitman, a Harvard University psychiatrist, did a pilot study to see whether it could prevent symptoms of PTSD. He gave 10 days of either the drug or dummy pills to accident and rape victims who came to the Massachusetts General Hospital emergency room.

In follow-up visits three months later, the patients listened to tapes describing their traumatic events as researchers measured their heart rates, palm sweating and forehead muscle tension.

The eight who had taken propranolol had fewer stress symptoms than the 14 ho received dummy pills, but the differences in the frequency of symptoms were so small they might have occurred by chance - a problem with such tiny experiments.

Still, "this was the first study to show that PTSD could be prevented," McGaugh said, and enough to convince the federal government to fund a larger one that Pitman is doing now.

Meanwhile, another study on assault and accident victims in France confirmed that propranolol might prevent PTSD symptoms.

One of those researchers, Brunet, now has teamed with Pitman on the boldest experiment yet - trying to cure longtime PTSD sufferers.

"We are trying to reopen the window of opportunity to modulate the traumatic memory," Pitman said.
The experiments are being done in Montreal and involve people traumatized as long as 20 or 30 years ago by child abuse, sexual assault or a serious accident.

"It's amazing how a traumatic memory can remain very much alive. It doesn't behave like a regular memory. The memory doesn't decay," Brunet said.

To try to make it decay, researchers ask people to describe the trauma as vividly as they can, bringing on physical symptoms like racing hearts, then give them propranolol to blunt "restorage" of the memory. As much as three months later, the single dose appears to be preventing PTSD symptoms, Brunet said.

Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscience professor at New York University, is enrolling 20 to 30 people in a similar experiment and believes in the approach.

"Each time you retrieve a memory it must be restored," he said. "When you activate a memory in the presence of a drug that prevents the restorage of the memory, the next day the memory is not as accessible." Not all share his enthusiasm, as McGaugh found when he was asked to brief the President's Council on Bioethics a few years ago.

"They didn't say anything at the time but later they went ballistic on it," he said.

Chairman Leon Kass contended that painful memories serve a purpose and are part of the human experience. McGaugh says that's preposterous when it comes to trauma like war. If a soldier is physically injured, "you do everything you can to make him whole," but if he says he is upset "they say, 'suck it up - that's the normal thing,"' he complained.

Propranolol couldn't be given to soldiers in battle because it would curb survival instincts.

"They need to be able to run and to fight," Pitman said. "But if you could take them behind the lines for a couple of days, then you could give it to them after a traumatic event," or before they're sent home, he said.

Some critics suggest that rape victims would be less able to testify against
attackers if their memories were blunted, or at least that defense attorneys
would argue that.

"Medical concerns trump legal concerns. I wouldn't withhold an effective treatment from somebody because of the possibility they may have to go to court a year later and their testimony be challenged. We wouldn't do that in any other area of medicine," Pitman said. "The important thing to know about
this drug is it doesn't put a hole in their memory. It doesn't create amnesia."

Practical matters may limit propranolol's usefulness. It must be given within a day or two of trauma to prevent PTSD.

How long any benefits from the drug will last is another issue. McGaugh said some animal research suggests that memory eventually recovers after being squelched for a while by the drug.

Overtreatment also is a concern. Because more than three-quarters of trauma victims don't have long-term problems, most don't need medication.

But LeDoux sees little risk in propranolol.

"It's a pretty harmless drug," he said. "If you could give them one or two pills that could prevent PTSD, that would be a pretty good thing."

Klein, the Saint Louis University psychiatrist, said it would be great to have something besides sleep aids, antidepressants and counseling to offer traumatized people, but she remains skeptical about how much long-term good propranolol can do.

"If there were a pill to reduce the intensity of symptoms, that would be a relief," she said. "But that's a far step from being able to prevent the development of PTSD."

Only more study will tell whether that is truly possible.

The above article is from AOL News Service. It's its own commentary, isn't it? So, I'll just say this:

"And this is the crowning guilt of men, that they will not recognize One, of whom they cannot possibly be ignorant." (Tertullian, Apology, 17)

We the People

We the People
Top books on the Constitution.

Saturday, January 14, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

1. "The Federalist" by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.

Written to promote the ratification of the proposed Constitution, this series of New York newspaper essays in fact had little effect on the outcome. They are, nonetheless, invaluable evidence of what leading proponents expected to be the operation and benefits of the new government as well as statements of the principles of republican government. Madison's essays, in particular, on the Union's "tendency to break and control the violence of faction" while preserving liberty are classics of American political thought. Alas, the authors failed to anticipate the political power that a judiciary entrusted with the Constitution would seize.

2. "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States" by Joseph Story (Hillard, Gray & Co., 1833).

Joseph Story, who produced this work while he was both a justice of the Supreme Court and a professor of law at Harvard, plainly lays out what the Constitution meant to the generation after the Founding. Story rejected the judicial activism advocated by some in his time: "A constitution of government is addressed to the common sense of the people; and never was designed for trials of logical skill, or visionary speculation." He offered rules of interpretation to avoid giving the Constitution "an extent and elasticity, subversive of all rational boundaries." The modern Supreme Court has nonetheless assigned to the Constitution an elasticity that is stretching it to as yet unknown dimensions.

3. "The Least Dangerous Branch" by Alexander M. Bickel (Bobbs-Merrill, 1962).

Alexander Bickel attempted to resolve the central problem of constitutional law: Our political ethos is majoritarian, but the court, possessing the power to nullify laws democratically enacted, is countermajoritarian. The problem becomes acute when the court imposes principles not to be found in the Constitution. Mr. Bickel justified that role by saying that courts should apply principles drawn from the "evolving morality of our tradition." Written gracefully and offering many insights into constitutional doctrines, this book is the most intellectually honest, if unsuccessful, defense of non-originalism of which I am aware.

4. "The Rise of Modern Judicial Review" by Christopher Wolfe (Basic Books, 1986).

Christopher Wolfe addresses a transformation in constitutional law that "The Federalist" and Joseph Story could not have foreseen and that Alexander Bickel, despite his attempt to justify a modest non-originalism, deplored. The book traces judicial supremacy from its early "moderate traditional form" to the modern era, in which many judges think that the historic Constitution "does not contain sufficient constitutional (judicially enforceable) protection for liberty and equality," thus requiring them to revise and even overrule the Framers' intentions. Mr. Wolfe's critique of the court and the academic defenders of its activism defies easy summation precisely because of its comprehensiveness, erudition and analytical rigor.

5. "Separation of Church and State" by Philip Hamburger (Harvard University, 2002).

What Mr. Wolfe does regarding the excesses of judicial activism in general, Mr. Hamburger does for the many distortions of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. He devastates Jefferson's notion of a "wall of separation" between religion and government, demonstrating that such a notion was utterly idiosyncratic at the time. Strict separation was revived by anti-Catholics in the 19th century and picked up by the court in the 20th, a development for which Justice Hugo Black bore much responsibility. The modern era of judicial hostility to organized religion and its symbols in the public square is directly contrary to what the Framers meant when they prohibited the establishment of religion. Though Mr. Hamburger does not trace the damage done by preposterous decisions in recent decades, this is a marvelous book.

Mr. Bork, a fellow of the Hudson Institute, is editor of "A Country I Do Not Recognize: The Legal Assault on American Values" (Hoover, 2005).

How so?

“ posted some interesting thoughts, but might you take a stab at responding to the questions I asked in my blog post? I would like to know how you think Calvinism deals with the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus and His human nature.”

Paul McCain is alluding to the following statement, which I’ve numbered for clarity of reference:

“I found the quote that follows these remarks to be a helpful insight into Calvinist thinking on the Lord's Supper. My quick response to their "how" question about our Lord's human nature is simply this:”

“ was it possible for the Risen Lord to suddenly "appear in the midst of them" among His disciples on Easter?”

These accounts resemble OT Christophanies or theophanies, where the Lord would suddenly appear to people out of nowhere. Such apparitions did not require a hypostatic union. Hence, the Easter appearances do not, in this respect, tell us anything about the nature of the glorified body.

“2.What was His human nature doing after the Resurrection? Was it omnipresent with Him?”

The gospels don’t tell us where Christ was in-between his appearances.

I deny that his human nature is omnipresent. For that matter, I deny that his divine nature is literally omnipresent.

The relation is analogous to the mind/body relation. The soul doesn’t literally occupy the body, as if it took up a certain volume of space within the body.

There is an interface between body and soul. The body can influence the soul, and the soul can act upon the body. How that is, we don’t know, since we’re only acquainted with the effect.

In any event, how does invisibility prove ubiquity? How does appearing and disappearing, coming and going, prove omnipresence?

“3.Or was Jesus hiding out until the Ascension?”

Why not?

“4.How did His human nature ascend?”

His ascension resembles the translation of Elijah, which did not require a hypostatic union.

In addition, Christ was a wonder-worker. If he could perform nature miracles, he could presumably perform a nature miracle on himself. So one need not attribute his powers to the powers of his body. They were the powers of his omnipotence.

“5.Or what about the Transfiguration? It seems that was a pretty amazing event for His human nature, a foretaste of what was to come during His glorification?”

This event resembles the Mosaic halo. Yet that nimbic aura did not require a hypostatic union.

“6.How is God able to create everything out of nothing?”

This is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Gene’s point was not about logical possibility in general, but the internal logic of Lutheran theology.

“7.How is a Virgin able to conceive?”

Same answer as #6.

“8. How is that some are saved, and not others?”

Because God elects some, but reprobates others.

“9.Finally, how is it that Christ fills all things, and yet, not, apparently, according to the Calvinists with also His human nature, which is forever joined to the divine nature, see Eph. 4.”

Calvinism doesn’t deny the indissoluble character of the hypostatic union.

But in Eph 4:10, taken in context, the fullness of Christ is a metaphor for his universal dominion.

The Unregenerate and "Gospel Art"

Justin Taylor had noted Tim Challies’ post about the coming movie The End of the Spear and that Chad Allen–who plays both Nate Saint and Steve Saint–is a homosexual. However, Justin concludes in his article “The End of the Spear: Is the Messenger the Message?” that to him, it wasn’t that much of a “big deal.” I, of course, have great respect for Justin Taylor. However, I find it sad that he would say something like this, and must disagree with him. I know that Justin is reasonable, and if he reads this post it is my hope that he would reconsider his statements (by the way, as a note to the readers, besides Alan Kurschner I am unaware of the opinions of the other contributors of Triablogue and must state that this posts represents solely my opinion on the matter). Justin writes:


But I have trouble seeing the big deal here. Film acting is a sophisticated form of make-believe. Good-looking people who talk and memorize well are paid lots of money to act out stories. In my mind, the main issue is whether they do a good job with the task.

Most of Hollywood is out of step with most of America. But at the same time, most of us simply don’t care about the political or moral views of Hollywood. What does Sean Penn think about the Iraqi insurgency? What does Alec Baldwin think about the President’s legitimacy? What does Tim Robbins think about civil liberties? What does Barbra Streisand think about the ethics of House Republicans? Few care! Most of us want to send them a copy of Laura Ingraham’s appropriately titled book: Shut Up and Sing.

On a personal level, of course, I wish that Chad Allen would find satisfaction in the way that God has designed him. But in watching the film, my concern will be with whether or not he is doing his vocation well. As one commentator pointed out on Tim’s site, Ian Charleson–who famously played Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire–was gay. (He died of AIDS in 1990.) But I don’t believe that the messenger is the message.


His argument seems to be as follows:

1. Film acting is a sophisticated form of make-believe.
2. Most people don’t care about the “person” behind the actor
3. Precedent: it has been done in the past, and not many have objected
4. The messenger is not the message

We must ask this question: what is the movie attempting to represent? Is it attempting to merely represent an occurrence in history, or is it attempting to represent the gospel message? From the way that Christians, pastors, and many ministries are promoting this movie, I would strongly conclude that they are interpreting the latter to be the case. But let’s assume for the moment that the former is the case; that is, that this movie does not wish to represent the Christian principles on which the actual historical occurrence is based, but is merely representing the occurrence. Then why the statement, “I don’t believe that the messenger is the message”? What is “the message”? In other words, if we are to interpret this movie as simply intending on conveying historical fact, then what message is Justin concerned about preserving? Obviously, he is indeed concerned about preserving this message. Otherwise, he wouldn’t make this statement. Is the message merely that both Steve and Nate Saint were Christians, or is it more than that? If this movie purely intends to represent history accurately, then whatever actors play the parts is irrelevant as long as they correctly portray the situation. But if this is Justin’s viewpoint on the movie, then it would have been much better of him to clarify this. In addition, he must establish that this is indeed the purpose of the movie, and that Christians are wrong to interpret it in the way they do in the first place.

However, I believe there is much reason to conclude that this movie intends to represent not just the people of the occurrence (Steve and Nate Saint), but the principles for which they lived. For instance, the mission of Every Tribe Entertainment is “To create quality entertainment for a broad audience that inspires hope through truth.” Truth is a risky word to use, and anyone who uses it must do so with great care. What is the truth that ETE is wishing to inspire in its audience? As Christians, we affirm that the gospel is truth. If ETE wishes to inspire anything that is contrary to the gospel, then that in itself is cause for objection to their portrayal of this story. But Christians around the nation are interpreting this movie evangelistically. They see it as an opportunity. I believe I would be correct in stating that ETE views it in the same manner.

If this is the case, then here we have a problem. Justin sates, “But I don’t believe that the messenger is the message.” Why not? While we can say that proudly, it would simply be untrue. We don’t live in a society that will ever focus solely on the “message” that is produced without examining the messenger. For instance, non-Calvinist simply cannot help but attack the person of John Calvin. Why is this? This is the society in which we live. Therefore, the effect can only be negative. It can only be for the worse. It was simply unwise for ETE to choose the actor they did (the amount of people who object is proof of this). In fact, Jason Janz has shown that this choice will be quite detrimental.

In the comments section, Justin asked this question:


So just for clarification: to be consistent, you would say that non-Christians may never portray Christians in films or theatre. Is that right?


Actually, yes, I do believe that is right. I believe it is always unwise to choose the unregenerate for main roles in films with an evangelistic purpose.

But we should note one thing: there is this unspoken argument in the mind of Justin when he asks this question. He expects the reader to answer “no,” so that he can then rebut with a “why is this person’s sin greater?” argument. But we aren’t talking about the Judgment seat of Christ, in which case all sin is equally condemnable. Rather, we are talking about whether or not someone who is a loudly self-proclaimed God-hater (in deed, at least) should be a good choice for someone who is going to represent truth. All unregenerate suppress the truth. But should someone who is publicly known for not only doing so, but promoting others who act the same be the conduit for the gospel message? I believe it is pretty fair to answer with “no,” and I believe a conclusion of “it’s no big deal” is simply unwise.

Evan May.

[By the way, it should be noted that my disagreement with Justin is based solely on my love for the gospel and not any desire in me to create disunity.]

Original intent

Jim Still, over at, has offered a surrejoinder to my rejoinder. Among other things, he says the following:

“It is true that I am implicitly considering the Constitution to be a living document. I know that there are strict constructionists out there like Scalia who deny that the document should have any meaning other than what the original framers intended. But if that were so and our founding document did not evolve along with our progressing society, then we’d be forced to admit that human slavery, a woman’s right to vote, and other such norms of the eighteenth century should be legal today. I think the framer’s were wise enough to know that the Constitution would need to be durable and flexible enough to provide guidance for issues they could not possibly have anticipated in their day. Or at least I want to give them credit for such foresight.

Steve also suggests that the Establishment Clause should be narrowly understood as a prohibition against the federal government from “meddling in the internal religious affairs of the states” by establishing a national Church. Rather than say whether I agree or disagree with that argument I think it would be more fruitful merely to point out that since Everson v. Board of Education (1947) the Supreme Court has consistently held that the states are not free to establish religion. At this point stare decisis (that new term I’ve learned since watching the Sam Alito hearings) has pretty much settled the matter. We’re just not going to go back to those halcyon days of the one-room schoolhouse where a pupil either recited a Christian prayer or was kicked out of school. So maybe it’s best if we all accept that fact and move on.”

By way of reply:

i) The Constitution is a historical document, a document from the past, an 18C document. To that extent it is frozen in the past, the same way that Homer and Dante and Shakespeare are frozen in the past.

The framers did not foresee contemporary contingencies. Hence, it’s an exercise in make-believe to “discover” newly-minted rights in the Constitution.

ii) This doesn’t mean that we’re trapped in the past. To begin with, the framers did provide a mechanism for updating the Constitution, and that is the process of amending the Constitution.

Still talks about suffrage and slavery. Slavery was not abolished by a creative reinterpretation of the Constitution, but by amending the Constitution. Women’s suffrage was not enacted by a creative reinterpretation of the Constitution, but by amending the Constitution.

iii) In addition, we have the legislative process as well as popular referenda.

iv) The reason that liberals have turned to the courts is to impose social policies that lack popular support.

v) Any historical text means what it meant at the time it was written. For example, when I interpret Dante, I construe his poem consistent with his medieval outlook. I don’t subscribe to Thomism or Aristotelian physics or Ptolemaic astronomy, but for purposes of understanding the text, that antiquated framework supplies the interpretive grid. I don’t reinterpret Dante in light of process theology and string theory.

vi) By bringing up examples of suffrage and slavery, Still is positing an outcome-based jurisprudence in which you first specify the desired result, then pretend to construct a textual trajectory from the Constitution to your preferred outcome. This has reached the point where the more liberal members of the court are now “interpreting” the Constitution in light of international law. There are several problems with such tactics:

vii) Everyone can see that it’s a legal fiction. You are imputing to the text a meaning that it doesn’t carry, and yet you continue to affect the pretence of Constitutional authority for your results.

It’s an argument from authority, yet the authority-source does not, in fact, authorize that result. This is coming from the judge, not the text.

Why should we be expected to submit to this game of pretend? If everyone knows it’s playing-acting, if no intelligent individual is taking in by the ruse, why keep up appearances?

viii) Judicial activism cuts both ways. It can be deployed to impose left-wing policies by judicial fiat, but it can also be deployed to impose right-wing policies by judicial fiat. In fact, that’s what happened during the FDR administration, when SCOTUS was striking down New Deal legislation as socialistic.

ix) It also means that the party in power gets out of the habit of having to justify its policies by reasoned argument.

This is one reason that liberals are losing the debate. Instead of making a case for abortion, they simply say that women have a Constitutional right to an abortion, and they defend that right by appeal to a “super-duper” precedent. But this is just a legal gimmick. By abandoning the politics of persuasion, and resorting to the courts, liberals lose the argument since they no longer put up any arguments for their position. And this will cost them at the ballot box.

x) It also confounds a legal right with a Constitutional right. Not all legal rights need to be enshrined in the Constitution. We do have Congress. And we do have state legislatures. We do have popular referenda.

To say that a woman has a Constitutional right to an abortion, otherwise we revert to the bad old days of the back alley abortion, is simply a non sequitur. Even if there’s a need for abortion, how does that make it a Constitutional right? Why must all legal rights be Constitutional rights?

xi) Apropos (x), it further confounds a legal right with what is right. A liberal can believe that abortion is morally right, and also believe that a woman should enjoy legal access to abortion, without thereby feigning that our US Constitution speaks to this issue—especially when everyone can see that the Constitution is simply silent on the matter.

Just because I think something is right doesn’t make it Constitutional. To say that something is a Constitutional right because dire consequences would ensure if it were not a Constitutional right is quite illogical.

Many things are right or wrong irrespective of the Constitution. The fact that something ought to be a right doesn’t make it a Constitutional right. This is childish reasoning. Yet it’s the appeal we hear all the time to justify judicial activism.

xii) The primacy of original intent is ideologically neutral. It doesn’t favor conservatives over liberals, or vice versa.

xiii) It may be true that with Everson v. Board of Education and subsequent rulings, we turned a corner on the status quo ante, and there’s no going back.

And yet, if judicial activism is the norm, then whatever the high court giveth, it can taketh away. It only takes five votes. That’s why Congressional hearings have become so contentious for judicial nominees. It’s a high stakes game. Control of SCOTUS is the big casino.

Theological logic

Paul McCain has responded to Gene Bridges’ post:


I found the quote that follows these remarks to be a helpful insight into Calvinist thinking on the Lord's Supper. My quick response to their "how" question about our Lord's human nature is simply was it possible for the Risen Lord to suddenly "appear in the midst of them" among His disciples on Easter? What was His human nature doing after the Resurrection? Was it omnipresent with Him? Or was Jesus hiding out until the Ascension? How did His human nature ascend? Or what about the Transfiguration? It seems that was a pretty amazing event for His human nature, a foretaste of what was to come during His glorification? How is God able to create everything out of nothing? How is a Virgin able to conceive? How is that some are saved, and not others? So man "how" questions! Finally, how is it that Christ fills all things, and yet, not, apparently, according to the Calvinists with also His human nature, which is forever joined to the divine nature, see Eph. 4.

A desire to provide a "logical" explanation to these "how" questions is really Calvinism's downfall. Again, you notice how the "system" is all important for Calvinism. Whatever doesn't square with it is out. There is a reason old John Calvin said, "The finite is incapable of the infinite" and by saying that he thereby effectively, if they are going to be consistent, excludes the Incarnation to begin with!


Gene is quite able to speak for himself, but while he is otherwise occupied, I’ll play pitch-hitter. McCain levels the familiar charge that Calvinism is guilty of rationalism. By way of reply:

i) I agree with McCain that it’s improper to invoke an abstract axiom like “finitum non est capax infiniti” to oppose the real presence. That particular part of the traditional Reformed polemic should be put out to pasture.

ii) Having said that, Gene did not invoke such a principle. Gene did not reason from Reformed assumptions or the logic of the Reformed belief-system. Gene did not appeal to abstract logical consistency or extraneous standards of reference. There was nothing aprioristic in Gene’s critique.

iii) Rather, Gene was discussing the Lutheran doctrine on its own grounds. Gene was examining the internal logic of the Lutheran belief-system.

iv) In addition, Gene also discussed the Scriptural usage of terms.

v) As I’ve pointed out to McCain, in answer to his question, Calvinism doesn’t have a systemic view of the sacraments. One’s position on the sacraments is not a Reformed distinctive. The distinctives of Calvinism do not implicate any particular view of the sacraments. Reformed theological method doesn’t implicate any particular view of the sacraments.

vi) Lutheran theology would be more consistent if it merely quoted 1 Cor 11:24 and left it at that. But Lutheran theology doesn’t leave it there. As Gene pointed out, Lutheran theology makes two further moves:

a) It tries to explain the real presence by appeal to its peculiar construction of the hypostatic union.

b) It tries to explain the real presence by appeal to “an illocal, supernatural mode of presence.”

By making these moves, Lutheran theology attempts to rationalize the doctrine of the real presence.

vii) Moreover, by glossing the copulative (“is”) as meaning “an illocal, supernatural mode of presence,” Lutheranism departs from the literal sense of 1 Cor 11:24. By insisting on the ubiquity of Christ’s humanity, Lutheranism departs from the literal sense of physicality and corporality.

viii) Speaking for myself, there’s another problem. Even if, for the sake of argument, we affirm the ontological communication of attributes, that would not underwrite the ubiquity of our Lord’s humanity.

Divine “omnipresence” is picture language. It’s a divine metaphor for the literal attributes of omniscience and omnipotence. God’s knowledge and power isn’t bounded by space and time because God subsists outside of space and time. Distance is not barrier to divine action.

The Lutheran definition of ubiquity is implicitly pantheistic, as if God literally filled physical space, like ether. But God is not some extended substance. God is not composed of subtle matter. God is not infinite in that concrete sense of the word. Contrary to process theology, the universe is not God’s body.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A-whoring after strange gods

Since Paul-the-papistical-syncretistic-mariolatrous-schismatic-Owen (hereafter Paul P.S.M.S. Owen for short) never misses a chance to scatter seeds of infidelity, it comes as no great surprise that he’s a religious pluralist in the liberal tradition of Karl Rahner.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 847 (quoting Lumen gentium): “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience–these too may achieve eternal salvation.”

To give two examples, the Catechism states regarding the Jews: “The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant” (par. 839). Regarding the Muslims we are told: “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day” (par. 841).

To be honest, though I consider myself to be a moderate exclusivist, I find it difficult to see what the problem is with these statements.

Consider the following facts:

1. Job was plainly a true worshipper of God, though he was not a member of the family of Abraham.

2. Jethro, the priest of Midian, was also a true worshipper of God, though he did not join the visible Church at that time (Exod. 18:27).

3. The Ninevites experienced God’s saving grace in response to the preaching of Jonah, though there is no indication that they received circumcision and converted to the Jewish faith: “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them” (Jon. 3:10). Jonah in fact cites Exodus 34:6-7 and applies it to the experience of the Ninevites (Jon. 4:2). It is because of what Moses had spoken of the gracious character of God (to all men), that Jonah was reluctant to preach to the people of Nineveh.

4. Does anyone doubt that King Lemuel was a sincere worshipper of God (Prov. 31)?

5. Acts 17:27 plainly indicates that God is present to be found by anyone who will “grope” for him. The word “grope” (pselaphao) is especially significant, because it speaks of those who are searching for God while still in the darkness, prior to the light of full revelation.

6. Peter declared to Cornelius in Acts 10:35: “But in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him.” And note that these words were spoken BEFORE Cornelius and his family were converted through the outpouring of the Spirit.

Please notice that the Catholic Catechism is careful to avoid all forms of Pelagianism, for it insists that it is only possible for the heathen to seek God if they are “moved by grace.” Regarding the specific statements with respect to Jews and Muslims, can anyone doubt that the Jewish faith is a response to God’s revelation of himself under the Old Covenant? Paul insists that the covenant privileges still belong to the Jewish people (Rom. 9:4-5). Paul is hopeful of the salvation of his Jewish brethren, because he recognizes that, unlike ungodly heathen, they truly “have a zeal for God” (Rom. 10:2). With respect to the Muslims, can anyone doubt that they truly adore the one God who revealed himself to Abraham? Could we not say of them, as Jesus said of the Samaritans, that they worship the God they do not know (John 4:22)? Paul said the same of the religious Athenians of his day (Acts 17:23). How much more could it be said of the Muslims?

The Westminster Confession of Faith is very careful when handling these issues. It makes three important points: 1) There is simply no “ordinary” possibility of salvation outside of the visible church (25.2). But that does not mean there is no possibility at all, in the mystery of God’s providence. 2) Those “who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word,” are “regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth” (10.3). That plainly is stated in such a way as not to limit God’s saving operation to the outward preaching of the gospel. 3) It is only by the saving operation of Christ, working in the hearts of the elect by his Spirit, that men can be saved. Those who do not profess the Christian religion cannot “be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they ever so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess” (10.4). There is no saving efficacy in the teachings and rituals of any other religion.

But what of verses such as the following?:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Answer: Anyone who comes to God, comes on the basis of Christ’s atonement, effectually applied by means of the secret agency of his Spirit, and not through the means of other religions. Neither Judaism nor Islam can be accepted as genuine paths to life, though God in his sovereign mercy may choose to give elect Jews and Muslims to the Son (Rom. 9:18). Revelation 20:15 says that anyone whose name is found written in the Book of Life will be spared from the fires of Hell. It does not limit those whose names are found in the Book of Life to the visible Church.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Answer: Christ is the only Savior of the world. Any person who finds salvation, finds it through the grace of Christ, operating openly through the preaching of the word and sacraments, or secretly by means of the operation of the Spirit in the hearts of men. There is no other figure under heaven who can take credit for the eternal salvation of any human being.

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? . . . So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:14, 17). Answer: Paul does not limit the preaching of the word to human preachers. In Romans 10:18, Paul quotes Psalm 19:4 to the effect that the creation itself preaches the word of God.


As usual, his latest essay is riddled with fallacies:

1.Unlike Paul P.S.M.S. Owen, I find it difficult not to see what the problem is with these statements. To begin with, the CCC facilely equates OT Israelites and OT piety with modern-day Jewry and modern-day Judaism. This is grossly anachronistic, and disregards their very considerable historical and theological discontinuities.

Are all modern-day Jews ethnic Jews? Do they all trace their ancestry back to Abraham? Is modern-day Judaism the same as OT or Second Temple Judaism?

Modern-day Judaism is self-consciously anti-Christian to one degree or another. It ranges along a continuum from Ultra-Orthodox to Orthodox to Conservative to Reform to Reconstructionist to Marxist, with many other variations.

Is the Mosaic Covenant still a saving covenant? Is that the view of the author of Hebrews?

Paul P.S.M.S. Owen disregards the principle of progressive revelation. What may have constituted the saving knowledge of God in epochs past is inadequate at a later stage of redemptive history—much less the terminal consummation in Christ.

Is there no soteric distinction between Messianic Jews and non-Messianic Jews?

2.However, the spiritual situation of the Muslims is infinitely worse. At least the Jews have a genuine revelation from God—a revelation which is foundational to the Christian canon.

But Islam is a classic Christian heresy, and Muhammad is a false prophet. The Koran is a pastiche of Muhammad’s garbled, hearsay knowledge of the Bible, further littered with local legends and heresies, as well as his own imaginative effusions and opportunistic adaptations.

There is no historical or Scriptural evidence that Muslims are lineal descendents of Abraham. That’s nothing more than Muslim propaganda.

Then we are treated to this statement, posed as a rhetorical question: “With respect to the Muslims, can anyone doubt that they truly adore the one God who revealed himself to Abraham?”

I, for one, don’t doubt it. Rather, I deny it. Allah isn’t Yahweh. Allah is an idol of Muhammad’s vain imagination.

The only difference between Muslims and pagans is that Muslims adore one false god whereas the heathen adore many false gods.

The depth of Paul P.S.M.S. Owen’s spiritual darkness is nothing short of amazing. It’s as if he thumbed through the entire Bible blindfolded. From Genesis to Revelation, idolatry is the archetypal sin of Scripture. Yet Paul P.S.M.S. Owen has not the foggiest idea of what idolatry really is.

Islam is not the adoration of the true God by another name. Islam is the suppression of the true God by a surrogate god. That’s the whole point of idolatry: to substitute the false for the true.

Paul P.S.M.S. Owen is no more evangelical than John Hick or Joseph Campbell. All Paul P.S.M.S. Owen has done is to rename the Mormon pantheon.

3.Then you have his last-ditch appeal to Job, Jethro, Lemuel, and Cornelius. No, none of these men were Israelites. But they came into contact with the covenant community, as neighbors and in-laws, through trade, marriage, and military occupation. Assuming that they were saved, they were saved because they have a saving knowledge of the true God thanks to their providential associations with the chosen people of God.

4.The Book of Jonah never says the Ninevites were recipients of God’s saving grace. Rather, they were spared temporal punishment. Paul P.S.M.S. Owen is a past master of Scripture-twisting.

5.Then there’s his willful abuse Acts 10:35, where he defiantly lifts the verse out of its explicitly evangelistic context in which the offer of the gospel is extended to all people-groups. He further disregards the fact that Cornelius was already a God-fearer (v2).

6.His appeal to Acts 17:28 flouts the distinction between seeking and knowing. The verbal image alludes to a blind man or sighted man groping in darkness due to the absence of light, where the implicit metaphors represent spiritual ignorance and knowledge respectively. The imagery is pessimistic.

7.Far from supporting his case, Jn 4:22 undercuts it. For the Samaritans shared the same religious roots as the Jews, but by separating from the faith of Israel, they cut themselves off from the saving stream of redemptive revelation.

8. Paul P.S.M.S. Owen’s appeal to Rom 10:18 fails to perceive that Paul’s allusive astronomical hyperbole is being reused as a metaphor for the kerygmatic outreach of the missionary church.

9.Why an Anglo-Catholic bothers to cite the Westminster Confession is unclear. In any event, given the contextual parallel with infant salvation, it is more natural to see those “who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word,” as having reference, not to the heathen, but to other mental incompetents.

10. Paul P.S.M.S. Owen resorts to the old face-saving device of saying that whoever is saved is saved through Christ. But what is missing is faith in Christ, as if that were merely a bonus point or hood ornament.

A Note From "DrOakley"

After Steve posted his article “The ABCs of Calvinism,” several interesting statements were made in the comments section that I would like to highlight. We have first, the comment made by johnMark:


McCain’s questioning and assertions resemble how Schumer and Kennedy have beed attacking Alito showing their inability to listen and interact fairly. It is still a wonder to me as far as McCain is concerned is why he left a certain chatroom when James White popped in rather than chat. He had a change to interact in real time with a Calvinist.


This caused Rev. McCain to comment as follows:


Steve, thanks, your quick guide was very helpful and informative. I appreciaste it. As to the question raised by the other person, please know that on that evening Mr. White actually privately messaged me under a fake name and tossed off a few ad hominems and such and then, finally, when I said basically, “Who in the world are you?” admitted he was James White and in the same breath said I had no virtue.

Hmmm…at that point I realized there is little point in attempting conversation with such as White. I find this curious “groupie” phenonemon with White to be … unsettling. But, again, many thanks for the helpful quick primer on Calvinism’s various groups. John, if you feel the need to exercise your rhetorical ad hominem boxing gloves further, feel free, but I’m disinclined to further converse if that is how you wish to go. But, don’t let me spoil your fun. Knock yourself out.


Rev. McCain has been rather dramatic when it comes to this issue. From what I have witnessed, McCain’s assessment of the situation is quite excessive (terminology such as “this curious ‘groupie’ phenomemon with White” makes this fact evident).

In any case, Dr. White chose to comment:


Steve Hays asked if he could post my comment as a full post, so I offered to expand my comments to make it worthwhile. I appreciate the opportunity. I would like to correct, again, Paul McCain’s false statements regarding myself and in so doing expose the fact that it is Rev. McCain who is simply unwilling to engage in any kind of meaningful dialogue or debate.

Though this has all been explained to Rev. McCain, his memory seems…short. I have the logs of everything that took place that evening, of course. I began running an IRC chat channel in 1996 or so, and after a full decade of that activity, I have learned the value of documentation.

As was explained to him that night, by numerous people (including Lutherans!) in IRC you use “nicks.” Normally I am DrOakley in IRC chat, sometimes NA27, sometimes both if both of my systems are on line (I keep one system in channel, or attempt to do so, 24/7, as we keep “stats” about who is active in our little community: here’s proof. In any case, a small minority of folks use their real names. Otherwise, everyone is using nicks. In channel as I write this we have FlameArk, kletois, DeoVolente, Shamgar, Captain, cmonStart, brigand, and many others—none of which are actual given names. Indeed, one of our regulars is wonky…and that’s his nick! Another is mutato, our mutated spud. Some of our younger users enjoy nick permutations…last year slambammin (he’s a drummer) had over 2,500 permutations of his nick (see the above link).

I was told Paul McCain was on line, and that he was, in fact, going after me by name in another channel on the IRC network. Since we run one of the servers on this network, I am not only a CM (Channel Manager, i.e., I “own” our channel) but I am an IRCop as well (IRC Operator). So I have to be a little careful with reference to conflicts that could so easily erupt given the character of Rev. McCain’s writings of late. At any rate, at first I just tried to resist the temptation of contact him, even though I could see what he was saying about me personally in another channel. But it finally got so ridiculous that I pm’d (private messaged) him an invitation to join our chat channel. Since the message appeared as DrOakley, my nick, this is the basis of his accusation that I tried to “deceive” him. Anyone who has ever used IRC, AIM, etc., knows how utterly ridiculous this allegation is, and given that McCain was refuted on it that very evening, his repeating it is a vacuous excuse for the fact that when I went into the channel he was participating in, he could do nothing more than attack me personally, refused to respond to any substantive reply, and eventually just disappeared. Rev. McCain likes to preach, but he doesn’t like to listen. I hope someday he matures to the point of learning that art.

I do hope this will be the last time we see Rev. McCain proving nothing more than his own ignorance of IRC chat protocols and the use of “nicks” as a very flimsy excuse for his failure to interact with substantive critiques of his viewpoints.

James White


Evan May.

Horror flicks and horrific parents


Yet, the most depressing and horrifying thing about these sorts of films is, alas, not the explicit gore. It is the fact that at nearly every screening of a gruesome horror film I attend (from Massachusetts to Texas), I see parents in the audience with young children. That strikes me as a serious form of child abuse and a more convincing sign of the impending apocalypse than anything depicted on the screen.

— Thomas Hibbs, and NRO contributor, is author of Show About Nothing.


The philosophy of design

Now that Jeff Lowder has started his own blog, I’ll seize the opportunity, as the occasion presents itself, from time to time, to offer some friendly commentary. Having known Jeff since college, I’ll try my best not to let my claws show. My ferocious reputation notwithstanding, I do have retractable claws.

For his part, Jeff is, of course, more than welcome, with or without claws, to return the favor by commenting on my comments.

On his blog, Jeff refers the reader to a sister site. Following the link, an article by James Still caught my eye:


Well it’s old news now. Parents have filed a lawsuit against the El Tejon Unified School District because the Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec, California, is slipping an intelligent design course into its curriculum. Entitled "Philosophy of Design," the district's attorneys told the school board that "as the course was called 'philosophy,' it could pass legal muster."

ID proponents are trying to frame this maneuver as perfectly legal because it's a philosophy course and not a science course…Obviously, the very thin disguise is an attempt to get around the ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover in which Jones ruled that ID does not belong in science class.

Of course this sneaky tactic is doomed from the start. Their mistake is in thinking that Kitzmiller v. Dover narrowly applies to what can be taught in science class. But that wasn't what Judge Jones ruled.

It's pretty clear that ID is not allowed in a public school in any capacity because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Since ID cannot decouple itself from its religious roots it will always be religious content. You could teach it during dodgeball class in the gym and it would still be unconstitutional. This is bad news for the ID intelligentsia, like Dembski and Richards, who have been telling people to treat ID strictly as science so that it will pass constitutional muster.


By way of comment:

1.As a general matter, I agree with Still that Christians sometimes play semantic games to skirt SCOTUS rulings, viz. the Ten Commandments as a “historical” rather than “religious” document, or Bill O’Reilly’s “philosophy” of Jesus.

2.I regard this tactic as a necessary evil. To begin with, judicial activism has forced the Christian community to make its case on a tilted playing field.

In addition, modern jurisprudence is all about semantic quibbles and arbitrary technicalities.

3.While, in this particular case, the classification of ID as “philosophy” may well be a legal ruse, there is a bona fide discipline known as the philosophy of science, and the concept of design can quite properly be discussed as a metascientific issue.

4.I also deny that Dembski et al. have chosen to classify ID as “science” as a legal ploy to skirt SCOTUS rulings.

There is no good reason to suppose that Dembski, Behe, Barr, and Denton, to name a few, don’t regard ID as genuine science.

I realize that many opponents of ID try to recast ID as a Trojan horse to smuggle creationism back into the classroom, but this characterization is demonstrably false.

i) To begin with, it’s demonstrable that the leading proponents of ID are not, as a rule, young-earth creationists who take Genesis literally. They are not fundamentalists.

ii) Moreover, the existence of God is not a presupposition of ID. Rather, the existence of God is an inference from the concept of design, which is, in turn, an inference from the scientific data. ID theory is not “rooted” in religious. The theistic inference is a conclusion rather than a premise of ID reasoning.

iii) Furthermore, the God of ID theory is not a sectarian God, identical with the God of Scripture. Indeed, many conservative Christians have criticized ID theory precisely because of its theological neutrality and ecumenicity.

5.Even if ID were a Trajan horse, to discredit ID on that account commits the genetic fallacy. That is not an intellectually respectable excuse to disregard the actual argumentation of its leading proponents.

6.It is premature to say that ID violates the three-pronged Lemon test. For ID has yet to be adjudicated by SCOTUS, and cases like this often wend their way up to the Supremes.

7.Is Still saying that any course material with “religious content” is unconstitutional? Is it unconstitutional for a high school history teacher to discuss the Pilgrims or the Great Awakening?

8.More to the point, Still’s contention is predicated on certain assumptions of judicial activism which many conservatives reject. He is assuming the right of judicial review, although the Constitution does not, in fact, grant that authority to SCOTUS.

He is also implicitly endorsing the theory of a “living Constitution,” whereby SCOTUS is at liberty to flout original intent. This is a personification run amok.

To say that teaching ID in a public classroom runs afoul of the Establishment Clause is a classic example of judicial revisionism.

The Establishment Clause only applies to the Federal gov’t. (“Congress shall make no law…”), not to the states. The Establishment Clause is all about states’ rights. The whole point of the Establishment Clause was to keep the Feds from meddling in the internal religious affairs of the states. It was a blocking maneuver to prevent the Federal gov’t from establishing a national church along the lines of the Church of England.

However, it left the states free to maintain their own established churches. Indeed, several of the 13 Colonies had established churches, which is why they insisted on the Establishment Clause, in order to preserve the status quo ante.

As far as the Establishment Clause is concerned, a public school teacher could teach full-blown creationism in school.

9.The liberal establishment has tried to rig the game from start to finish:

a) It has twisted the Establishment Clause into a disestablishment clause, wholly subverting original intent.

b) It levies property taxes on Christians to subsidize public schools, but denies the right of Christian parents to have a say in the curriculum.

c) When Christian parents remove their kids from the public schools system in order to home-school them, the liberal establishment tries to prosecute the family for truancy or attempts to impose a secular curriculum on homeschoolers.

d) When Christian parents remove their kids from the public schools in order to educate them in private Christian schools, the liberal establishment insists that they must continue to pay property taxes for the upkeep of the public school system even though the public schools are no longer educating their own children.

Liberals complain that vouchers would divert money from the public schools. True enough. But where is the money going? Shouldn’t the money be following the student? And whose money is it, anyway?

e) Liberals also try to shut down private Christian schools unless they comply with secular accreditation criteria.

There is not the slightest effort to be evenhanded.

Judas Iscariot and the "Doctrinal Devastation Wave"

Judas the Misunderstood: “Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus with a kiss, is to be given a makeover by Vatican scholars.” Yeah, poor Judas has been misunderstood for centuries. I mean, I know Jesus called him “the devil” (John 6:70-71) and all, but deep down inside he’s really a great guy!

It is very evident that postmodernism, the inability to call anyone (and I mean anyone) a sinner, and the desire to make God a tolerant teddy bear have affected the Vatican. Doctrines such as the depravity of man and the holiness of God have long been removed from the thinking of “religious” man. We don’t hear too many people saying about God, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and You cannot tolerate wrong” (Hab 1:13) anymore. Specifically, the postmodern mushy-mush has greatly affected the Vatican in its attempt to “redo Judas.”


The proposed “rehabilitation” of the man who was paid 30 pieces of silver to identify Jesus to Roman soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane, comes on the ground that he was not deliberately evil, but was just “fulfilling his part in God’s plan”.


I’m curious of what we are to think of Pharaoh, or even Satan himself. Both were fulfilling God’s plan, yet both were willfully intending to do evil against God’s people and ultimately Christ himself. Do they get a “get in free pass” because they were fulfilling God’s plan? Or, let’s broaden this. Scripture states, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). God’s plan cannot be thwarted. He has promised that his “counsel shall stand” (Isaiah 46:10). So yes, even Hitler was fulfilling God’s purpose. Does that mean that we are supposed to rewrite history, and change the way that everyone has viewed Hitler? Certainly not!


Christians have traditionally blamed Judas for aiding and abetting the Crucifixion, and his name is synonymous with treachery. According to St Luke, Judas was “possessed by Satan”. Now, a campaign led by Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Science, is aimed at persuading believers to look kindly at a man reviled for 2,000 years. Mgr Brandmuller told fellow scholars it was time for a “re-reading” of the Judas story. He is supported by Vittorio Messori, a prominent Catholic writer close to both Pope Benedict XVI and the late John Paul II. Signor Messori said that the rehabilitation of Judas would “resolve the problem of an apparent lack of mercy by Jesus toward one of his closest collaborators”.


Notice how quickly the point of view is changed: “According to St Luke, Judas was ‘possessed by Satan.’ Now, a campaign led by Monsignor Walter Brandmuller…” In other words, “Scripture says this, but now they affirm this.” This isn’t simply about redefining the sinful nature of man. More importantly, it is about redefining the holy nature of God. Who is the Vatican trying to protect? Jesus. They don’t really care about Judas. The real concern is that there would be a “lack of mercy by Jesus toward one of his closest collaborators.” In other words, unless Jesus denies his infinite righteousness in order to be “merciful” on one of his “buds” because that bud happened to “fulfill his part in God’s plan,” then we have a problem! We have the wrong Jesus!

But this goes beyond the scope of the person of Jesus. This is a redefining of the Christian worldview as a whole. Jesus represents Christianity. If Jesus is not tolerant of sin, then Christianity must not be tolerant of sin. And we simply can’t have that! Thus, the Christian worldview that has a God who “cannot tolerate wrong” is being redefined. But this is not something that is new to the Roman Church. Rome has long created this “Doctrinal Devastation Wave” by redefining one doctrine after another. First, man is ascribed the characterization being good and being able to do good. This not only redefines the depravity of man, but it also (as the wave affect is strung out) affects their doctrine of God. God can no longer inflexibly require absolute righteousness. Rather, he has to “give a guy a break” every once and a while. This is an attack at the core of the gospel, and ultimately, the necessity of the gospel. Rome must not realize that by redefining one doctrine, by affirming that all men are “deep down inside” really good (while the Bible says that the further you go in, the worse it gets), the gospel itself is destroyed. This is the “Doctrinal Devastation Wave,” and we see it occurring in the case with Judas Iscariot.


…The move to clear Judas’s name coincides with plans to publish the alleged Gospel of Judas for the first time in English, German and French. Though not written by Judas, it is said to reflect the belief among early Christians — now gaining ground in the Vatican — that in betraying Christ Judas was fulfilling a divine mission, which led to the arrest and Crucifixion of Jesus and hence to man’s salvation.


So a Gnostic, Sub-Biblical, Post-Apostolic, and historically inaccurate document found in a codex in Sahidic dialect that makes some hero out of the person of Judas Iscariot is about to be published, and we are supposed to alter the manner in which the totality of human history has viewed a man? This is simply anti-scholarship. But why is the Vatican willing to affirm something so foolish? Simple: the “Doctrinal Devastation Wave” has had its effect, and any excuse to manifest it will be sought after.


Mgr Brandmuller said that he expected “no new historical evidence” from the supposed gospel, which had been excluded from the canon of accepted Scripture. But it could “serve to reconstruct the events and context of Christ’s teachings as they were seen by the early Christians”. This included that Jesus had always preached “forgiveness for one’s enemies”.


Does Brandmuller believe that the “Gospel of Judas” actually accurately conveys how the early Christians viewed Christ’s teachings? That would simply be naive. What is sought is a Judas that will represent “forgiveness of one’s enemies.” But who is Brandmuller talking about? Is he talking about Christians forgiving Judas, or Christ himself forgiving Judas? We can certainly forgive Judas (even more, Judas did not even specifically do harm to us). And if we are really preaching forgiveness, why can’t we forgive the Judas who is portrayed in Scripture? Why do we need to concoct some new Judas in order to forgive him? I admit that church history as been a little excessive when it comes to Judas (especially in the arts). But can’t Christians forgive even the worst of sinners? Why must history be changed?

Or perhaps Brandmuller is talking about Christ forgiving Judas. But again, we must ask this question: why do we need to “redo” Judas in order for Christ to forgive Judas? Here is why: in the gospel according to Rome, forgiveness is based upon the goodness of that person. Justification is conditional on not only the fact that a certain person has faith (and, by the way, we certainly do not see Judas possessing saving faith in Scripture), but on how well that certain person keeps up with his religious obligations. It is obvious that the Judas portrayed in Scripture simply won’t “cut it” when it comes to forgiveness, and if we want him to be forgiven, we must “redo” Judas, redefine the depravity of man, redefine the holiness of God, and throw the Gospel out of the window. Such is the affect of the “Doctrinal Devastation Wave.”

Evan May.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Unbelievers on the march

A few days ago I noticed that an atheist by the name of B. A. Robinson had quoted me as a specimen of religious intolerance.

The first thing I’d like to do is to commend Robinson for his reading habits. I’m grateful that the Lord sent him to Triablogue. And there are a number of other Christian blogs and websites I’d be happy to recommend for his spiritual edification.

I’d also encourage Robinson to quote me more extensively. Indeed, he’s more than welcome to reproduce the entire content of Triablogue over at

While we’re on the subject, I’ll quote and comment on some things which he and Robert Mettetal have written. The first two excerpts are from Robinson, and the third from Mettetal.


There exists massive discrimination against Atheists in the U.S.

Another reasons for this discrimination is the common belief that a person cannot be motivated to lead a moral life unless they hope for the reward of heaven, and fear the punishment of Hell. In the past, this belief has been codified into law.


Although adults in North America exhibit reasonable tolerance towards persons of different Christian denominations and other organized religions, this acceptance does not necessarily extend to Atheists. Some older surveys published in the 1980's, showed that almost 70% of Americans agreed that freedom of religion applies "to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme their ideas are." But only 26% agreed that Atheists should be given freedom of speech to ridicule religion and God, "no matter who might be offended." 71% believed that Atheists "who preach against God and religion" should not be permitted to use civic auditoriums i.e. lecture halls supported by general taxation.

This is a serious concern to many non-Christians -- one which has every likelihood of becoming more intense in the future, because of the rapid change in the religious makeup of the U.S. Polling data from the 2001 ARIS study has revealed that the percentage of American adults who do not follow any organized religion has almost doubled from 1990 to 2001. Their number has increased from 8% to 14% of the adult population. Many of the latter are Atheists, Agnostics, Non-believers etc. Many American adults -- 81% of whom identify with a specific religion -- are probably unwilling to extend elementary freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly to this growing minority of fellow Americans.

The ARIS study also showed that the number of American adults who identify themselves as Christians has slid from 86% to 76% over the same interval -- a loss of almost 1 percentage point per year. This could promote a siege philosophy among some Christians, and increase their fears of a growing influence by non-believers.

Born-again Christians in particular seem to have a very negative belief about Atheists. In a 1995 survey by Barna Research, 92% of them viewed Atheism as having a negative impact on society. However, only 50% of non-Christians view the impact of Atheists as negative.

A common thread running through the writings of many conservative Christians is that all people, including Atheists, are aware of God's existence.

From the hundreds of conversations that we have had with Atheists via Email and face-to-face meetings, we have concluded that Atheists generally do not feel that they are suppressing any personal belief in God. They truly believe that they can detect no evidence for the existence of God, Satan or any other supernatural entity. Many find it difficult to understand how others can believe in God, without any convincing data to support that belief.

Of course, Christians are Theists. Many pray to God and believe that their prayers are answered. They believe that they see God taking an active role in their life. Many use phrases such as "their daily walk with Christ." They often find it difficult to understand how anyone can refuse to acknowledge God's presence. This mindset may well lead them to conclude that Atheists are "faking it."

Many conservative Christians state that Atheists reject God because of an ulterior motive: If Atheists were to accept God's existence, then they would have to yield to God's criticism of their immoral behavior, and adopt a higher moral standard to govern their lives. We have see numerous references to this conviction published on the Internet and broadcast over conservative Christian radio programs.


Although an atheist myself, I have always believed that most religious beliefs are generally good, and that they only cross the line into immorality when they are used to justify intolerance and hatred. The Bible itself may urge intolerance, but most Christians and Jews are better than the Bible they believe in, and they respect the rights of their neighbors to believe whatever they wish. Those who urge intolerance, perhaps even to the extent of violence, are in the minority among believers, and in the extreme minority among clergymen.

This tolerance frequently doesn't extend itself to atheism, however. Often, a Christian can't fathom how an atheist can have morals that aren't grounded in Biblical teachings. They overlook, of course, the fact that the concept of morality was explored by such Pagans as Plato, Socrates, and other philosophers from this era in Greek history. Morality comes from within, not from without. People have a natural antipathy towards killing, stealing, and other such immoral acts, dictated to them by what is commonly referred to as the conscience. It's not fear of damnation that makes a criminal confess; it's guilt. Guilt is a natural feeling that goes through a man when he realizes he has done something morally wrong.

Atheists, except for the bravest and boldest of us, are afraid to tell people that they are atheists, for fear of the millions of devout Christians in this country who think they are immoral and on the road to hell. Certainly, some of us are immoral (Stalin was an atheist), but so are some Christians (Hitler was a Catholic). It's unfair to judge someone based solely on their particular beliefs regarding the existence of a deity.

There are two sides to this coin, however. Many atheists have responded to Christian intolerance with equal intolerance towards the Christians. Atheists have been known to refer to Christians as "hopelessly deluded," along with several other uncomplimentary names. Madalyn Murray O'Hair and Jon Garth Murray in their "FAQs About Atheism" describe religious beliefs as "old, silly ideas that we should have abandoned by now." 1 They also do not capitalize the names of any religions, God, or the name of Jesus Christ, which is simply an open act of disrespect.

It should be noted that they also say (supposedly speaking for all atheists) that God "was never anything other than a fictional idea," suggesting that atheists actively disbelieve in God. Many atheists, however, simply refuse to believe in God, but don't go so far as to disbelieve in Him.

It seems like most of the atheists who speak out (rather than hide) hold beliefs like these. When they make their atheism public, they seem to immediately go on the offensive, attacking the beliefs of Christians before they can attack their disbeliefs. The entire FAQ referred to above seems more like one long treatise against Christianity than an explanation of atheism.

My point here is that if we atheists expect to be treated with respect by Christians, we have got to treat them with respect too. We say that we want the right to believe whatever we want without fear of discrimination. Well, if we expect to get that right, we have to practice what we preach: tolerance.


By way of comment:

i) Robinson says that atheists in America suffer massive discrimination. He doesn’t give us any statistics to substantiate his allegation.

Perhaps, though, the best evidence of this allegation is the demontrable fact that atheists are disproportionately represented in high-end jobs in the media, academia, and judiciary, as well as high-end real estate along the East and West Coast. I can certainly sympathize with the plight of a Hollywood director who has to scrape by on a fixed, 8-digit income in the slums and ghettoes of Malibu or Laguna Beach.

Clearly the American Humanist Association should lobby Congress to enact a vigorous affirmative action program to rectify this massive discrimination and ensure a demographically equitable representation of atheistic janitors and garbage collectors. Distributive justice demands no less.

ii) At the same time I must question his projections. As James Taranto has often said about the “Roe Effect,” children generally inherit their political views from their parents. In addition, it’s the baby-butchers who practice abortion while prolifers refrain from abortion. This means that prolifers generally have larger families, and generally pass along their conservative values to their kids.

Moreover, Mexican immigrants constitute an increasingly large share of the American electorate. While Mexicans tend to be politically pro-Democrat, they also tend to be socially pro-GOP. And it is likely, over time, that they will trend towards the GOP.

iii) Furthermore, it’s the secular liberals, and not the Bible-thumpers, who have enacted speech-codes and hate-speech laws. It’s the ACLU which litigates in favor of prior restraint and content discrimination whenever the subject-matter is Christian.

iv) As to “the common belief that a person cannot be motivated to lead a moral life unless they hope for the reward of heaven, and fear the punishment of Hell,” Calvinism maintains that due to natural revelation and common grace, it is possible for an unbeliever to retain a modicum of common sense and common decency.

On the other hand, when we see a post-Christian culture offering profanity, obscenity, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia as the preferred alternative to Christian ethics, it does rather suggest that the popular opinion about moral motives and ethical incentives has more than a grain of truth to its credit.

v) Naturally we wouldn’t expect the average atheist to admit that he’s suppressing the knowledge of God, anymore than we’d expect the average suicide bomber to admit that he’s smuggling an explosive device on board the airplane.

However, we do find atheists going to hysterical lengths to suppress any public or even private expression of the Christian faith—which is rather paranoid if they don’t believe in God and hate God at some level.

vi) If guilt is a merely natural feeling, and we’re aware that it’s only a natural feeling, then we are at liberty to override our natural programming. What, after all, do we owe to nature?

vii) Is the Bible intolerant of unbelievers? The Mosaic Law didn’t expect unbelievers to act like believers. Indeed, resident aliens were forbidden from participating in the religious life of Israel unless they underwent conversion.

The Mosaic Law did not punish unbelief. What it did punish were certain public expressions of unbelief, such as child sacrifice and cultic child prostitution. Yep, pretty intolerant!

viii) It is true that unbelievers feel threatened by believers, and believers by unbelievers.

On paper, Christian Americans hold all the high cards. On paper, the Constitution safeguards Christian freedom of expression. On paper, our form of gov’t enshrines popular sovereignty. And Christians outnumber unbelievers by maybe 10-1.

And yet, Robert Mettetal rightly observes that, despite this, most Christians take a live and let-live attitude towards their unbelieving neighbors.

And we are rewarded for our tolerance by having unbelievers try to treat the majority as a despised minority and deny us our rights.

Unbelievers constantly repair to the courts to get liberal judges to strike down acts of Congress and popular referenda. Anything to thwart the will of the electorate and subvert the democratic process.

Unbelievers defy the free exercise clause. They twist the establishment clause into a disestablishment clause, although several of the states had established church both before and after the Constitution was ratified. They penalize freedom of speech as a hate-crime. They defy the freedom of assembly. They defy the 2nd Amendment. They pretend to find a right of abortion in the 4th Amendment, and strike down a conscience clause for Christian physicians. They deny parental consent or even parental notification. From “emanations and penumbras,” they find a right of sodomy in the Constitution, although all 13 colonies which ratified the Constitution had anti-sodomy laws on the books, and the 14th Amendment was only concerned with the voting rights of ex-slaves. In the meantime, they expand the right of eminent domain in the teeth of the 4th amendment. They force Christians to subsidize public schools without allowing them any say on the curriculum—even though we’re footing the lion’s share of the tab. They deny the civil rights of the citizenry while awarding civil rights to illegal aliens and terrorists. They deny equal rights to Christians while according special rights to their social mascots.

Unbelievers try to ban Christmas trees from the public square, Christmas carols from the shopping mall, Christian films from the movie-theater, and Christian prayer from the schoolhouse, the courthouse, the House of Representatives, home Bible studies, and the chaplaincy of the armed forces.

The list goes on and on and on.

The unbelievers win more often than they lose, but they win by cheating. As a result, every time they win something, they lose something. They win by alienating public opinion and eroding popular support.

We wouldn’t have such a polarized, red state/blue state divide were it not for these iron-fisted tactics. Believers can live side-by-side unbelievers, but unbelievers cannot abide believers.

Assisted mercy eucannibalism

Everyone remembers how France and Germany bravely attempted to block our cowboy president’s illegal and immoral attack on the free republic of Iraq. Unfortunately, Dubya is a pawn of the beetle-browed, knuckle-dragging agents of the vast right-wing conspiracy, rendering him tone-deaf to enlightened advice from our loyal allies.

If anyone still questions the moral superiority of the Continent, the following story should forever lay his doubts to rest.


German Man-eater on Trial Again

By David Crossland

Armin Meiwes is back and so is his tale of extreme sado-masochism that has shocked and fascinated the world. The self-confessed German cannibal, sentenced to over eight years for manslaughter in 2004 for killing and eating 44 pounds of a man yearning to be eaten, went on trial for the second time on Thursday after his original verdict was deemed too lenient.

Looking markedly thinner after spending over two years in jail, Meiwes, 44, entered the Frankfurt district court in handcuffs and a smart dark suit, to fight a case that has confronted the German legal system with an unprecedented dilemma -- whether killing a man who wants to be eaten can constitute murder.

Tall, gaunt and remarkably ordinary looking, he smiled nervously at his team of defense lawyers before sitting down in front of a large folder of documents. People who have interviewed him have said he is of above average intelligence, well-spoken and polite. His lawyer has reportedly described him as so harmless that he would allow Meiwes to look after his children.

The Federal Criminal Court, the country's top criminal appeals court, overturned his original manslaughter conviction and ordered a retrial on murder charges. But legal experts say the case could eventually go as high as Germany's highest court.

Meiwes, a computer repairman obsessed with cannibalism since puberty, gave a full confession at his first trial. He met 43-year-old Berlin computer engineer Bernd-Jürgen Brandes via the Internet where Brandes had sought someone to kill and eat him.

Brandes asked Meiwes to emasculate him and drank half a bottle of Schnapps and painkilling tablets to cope with the pain. Meiwes obliged before they both tried to eat Brandes's penis together.

After Brandes became unconscious from loss of blood, Meiwes took him to a slaughtering room he had set up in his house. "Led on by sexual motives, he laid him on a table in the slaughter room and switched on a video camera to film proceedings," said Köhler.

Ultimately, Meiwes cut the body up into little pieces, filming much of the procedure. He ate 44 pounds of his victim's remains in the following months, defrosting pieces portion by portion. He kept the skull in a freezer and buried other parts in his garden.

"He ate the meat prepared as normal dishes," said Köhler. "He also watched the video for his sexual gratification."

Even as he ate Brandes, barbecuing some parts and following gourmet recipes for others, Meiwes continued to advertise for other victims. It was not until December 2002, after he was reported to the police by an Austrian student, that he was arrested.

His defense team is seeking the lesser conviction of "killing upon request," a form of illegal euthanasia, which carries a term of six months to five years. Prosecutors accuse him of murder to gratify his sexual desires and of other crimes linked to the cutting up of the body, which would carry a term of at least 15 years. German courts tend to follow the recommendations of the Federal Criminal Court, which has called for a murder conviction, but they are not obliged to.

Meiwes, who according to psychiatrists' reports presented at the first trial is sane but deeply disturbed, told the court in 2004 how he had fantasized about consuming a man to fill the void caused by the sudden departure of his father. Using the pseudonym "Franky," he had been in touch with hundreds of people on the Internet, where he posted ads seeking fit men for "slaughter."

But Köhler, the prosecutor, said Meiwes was "aware that his yearning for self-destruction resulted from a severe disturbance of the soul."

Police estimate there are 8,000 to 10,000 people in Germany alone who are using Internet chat rooms to share fantasies about eating a person or being eaten.

Professor Arthur Kreuzer of the Institute for Criminology at Giessen University said: "This is unique, even compared with all other cases of cannibalism. The defendant left it totally open to the victim whether he wanted to be killed or not. I can't imagine a murder where the victim wants the deed to happen and is even encouraging the person to do so."

"You can only explain it with the technology of the Internet that two reciprocally perverted people, the one a sadist and the other a masochist, meet, agree everything down to the last detail and then do everything with the condition that the victim can say no at any time.",1518,394887,00.html


Perhaps, after he’s paroled, Armin Meiwes and Lorena Bobbitt could open an Internet cafe and deli.

The ABC's of Calvinism


Sometime you guys are going to have to explain to me how it is that some "Calvinists" seem to believe in infant baptism, and others do not but they are still claiming they are Reformed but Baptists, but not Calvinists?

Maybe you might take a stab at a post "Calvinism for Dummies" or something like that trying to make sense of all the various "confessions" and the various five-point, or four-point, or infant baptism, or not, etc. etc. etc.


That’s a fair question. To some extent that question has already been addressed (not only in what I said, but the comments left by James Anderson and Jus Divinum):

But Paul McCain’s question goes a little beyond that, so I’ll both repeat myself and make some additional observations.

1.Although Calvinism takes its name from a particular individual, it is not as much of a one-man vision as is the Lutheran tradition. Hence, there is rather more doctrinal diversity within the Reformed tradition than there is within the Lutheran tradition.

2.Every theological tradition is, to some extent, a historical accident. As with any historical phenomenon in the history of ideas, the Reformed tradition is rather fluid, with somewhat fuzzy boundaries in time, space, and content. The doctrinal package is, in some measure, eclectic.

3.There are different ways of identifying the Reformed tradition.

a)You might take certain representative credal statements as your point of reference. These reflect differences of national character and political history.

The Westminster Confession of Faith is the doctrinal standard of confessional, English-speaking Presbyterians.

The Three Forms of Unity supply the doctrinal standard of the Dutch-Reformed.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith (1644/77/89) represents the doctrinal standard of Reformed Baptists.

The New Hampshire Baptist Confession represents the doctrinal standard of Sovereign Grace Baptists.

The Old Baptist Confession of Faith, subsequently revised by John Gill, William Gadsby, and Joseph Philpot, represents the doctrine standard of Strict & Particular Baptists.

The Thirty-Nine Articles and especially the Lambeth Articles represent the doctrinal standard of Reformed Anglicans.

The Confession of Faith of the Calvinistic Methodists is the doctrinal standard of Welsh Calvinism.

Creeds are consensus documents, so they express mainstream opinion, although it may be the mainstream opinion of a particular nationality, ethnicity, or subculture.

b) You might take certain representative theologians as your point of reference (e.g. Bavinck, Calvin, Cunningham, Edwards, Gill, Hodge, Lloyd-Jones, Murray, Owen, Turretin, Warfield).

c) You might take the inner logic of certain doctrinal matrices as your point of reference (e.g. TULIP).

4.As with any faith-community, the question of who’s in and who’s out is a consensus question. You cannot have community without a certain measure of unity. If enough people can’t agree on enough things, they can’t function at a communal level. But there’s no abstract, uniform answer for where to draw the line.

For example, the Reformed tradition has spawned certain offshoots, such as the Amyraldins, Remonstrants, Hyper-Calvinists and antinomians.

These developments and deviations have been repudiated by mainstream confessional Calvinism. So, for instance, Strict & Particular Baptists, due to their Hyper-Calvinist and antinomian sympathies, would not be widely regarded as expressive of authentic Calvinism. The same holds true, for different reasons, of Arminians and 4-point Calvinists.

5.But some issues are not as clear-cut. Is covenant theology a Reformed distinctive? How do we classify Christians like Sovereign Grace Baptists or fundamentalists like S. Lewis Johnson who subscribe to the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP), but reject covenant theology? That’s a judgment call.

6.There are also differences of emphasis. The Puritans and Welsh Calvinists accentuate “experimental religion.”

7.There are parallel debates within Lutheranism. Was Flacius a Lutheran? Or Schleiermacher? Or Bultmann? Is the Lutheran World Federation or the ECLA an authentic expression of the Lutheran tradition?

8. Reformed Baptists are Calvinists because infant baptism is not a Reformed distinctive. Most Christian traditions observe infant baptism. Hence, that does not demarcate Calvinism from rival theological traditions.

Likewise, the efficacy of the sacraments is not a Reformed distinctive.

Calvinists differ over covenant theology, church/state relations, polity, the sacraments, open or closed communion, the rule of worship, and the terms of church membership.

9. Superficially speaking, a 4-point Calvinist is a Christian who subscribes to TULIP except for limited atonement.

However, 4-point Calvinism is a misnomer since it redefines each of the remaining points.

It affirms original sin, but denies spiritual inability.

It rejects unconditional election in favor of conditional election—contingent on foreseen faith.

It rejects limited atonement in favor of unlimited atonement.

It affirms freewill and thereby denies irresistible grace.

It denies the doctrine of perseverance in favor of an antinomian version of eternal security.

If you like, I can flesh out the details of this classification system. For now I’m simply presenting a thumbnail taxonomy.

And the McCain Saga Continues

Dr. McCain has responded to Steve Hays response to his latest jeremiad about Calvinism and Christ. Steve may respond in kind, and I know he can more than hold his own. I'm up late tonight and have time to respond, so I'll go for a round. For now, I'll make a few observations. I'm busy finishing a project this week, so I may or may not make it back. For now this will have to do.

The bottom line is that it remains quite disturbing that you Calvinist chaps can carry on conversations about "assurance of salvation" or "election" without mentioning Jesus.

Notice here that Steve pointed the Rev. McCain here: Election and Assurance

If Dr. McCain believes that is not Christocentric, then he needs to construct a case telling us why, when it clearly makes statements like this:

The opposite error would be to trust in your faith in Christ. Once again, the assurance of salvation comes, not from trusting in your faith, but trusting in Christ.

You don’t look to your faith; rather, your faith is looking to Christ.Faith looking at itself is a source of spiritual insecurity. Never look to your own faith. Don’t put faith in faith; rather, put your faith in Christ.

One wonders if he ever bothers to read and interact with that which he criticizes. Dr. McCain continues:

But that is pretty much par for the course from you sort of Calvinists, you love to listen to yourselves blather on with all sorts of arguments, but somehow, somewhere, you leave Jesus behind.

But that's also typical...since Jesus is stuck up in heaven now anyway, incapable of being present with us.

This gets us to the heart of the matter. The real problem here, for Dr. McCain, is that we don't locate Jesus in the sacraments. Jesus not being present with us is his stock euphemism for criticizing Reformed sacramentology, viz. the Lord's Supper. Fair enough. However, considering that, as Steve pointed out so well, in Lutheran theology one can have a valid baptism and regular communicant of the Eucharist and still be a nominal believer or eventual apostate, one has to wonder what kind of assurance that is? Why is this a better option than the Reformed doctrine or, for that matter, Antonio's view?

For the sake of argument let's stipulate to Lutheran sacramentology and Christology for a moment. What we then have here is a Christ that does not save and cannot assure anybody of salvation, for, if one can still receive the sacraments and the sacraments mediate grace, then Lutheranism's Christ is not a Christ who actually and fully saves His people, since one can partake of them and still be an apostate or nominal believer. If one is justified by faith alone, then why look to the sacraments for assurance?

From my perspective, that's a recipe for false assurance. It teaches communicants to look to the Eucharist for assurance. It is one thing to say "This is a visible reminder of what Christ has done for you," quite another to say "Get your assurance from this." The focus moves from Christ to the sacraments. That's a step away from focusing saving faith itself, viz. justification in particular, on bread and wine, not the Lord Jesus alone. Compare this to Reformed theology, where the Father elects, Christ redeems, the Spirit applies the benefits of election and redemption to the elect infallibly, they all have faith in Christ alone, and all the elect persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation.

In the past, Dr. McCain has mocked Calvin's view of the sacraments. For that discussion, look at Veritas Redux and follow the links Evan provides.

Dr. McCain can't seem to get it in his head that the old rivalries are over. Why doesn't he just go ahead and call us Nestorians, and we can call him a Monophysite. Now, does that make everybody happy? Shall we now draw poison pens?

While we're on this subject, we may as well take a quick look at what he had to say back then. Notice the common thread in Dr. McCain’s argument: He uses icons to tangibly remind him of Christ when worshipping. He needs not only the real presence but also a particular view of the real presence in order for Christ to be made tangible to him in communion and for the very assurance of salvation. Parse it as he may, Dr. McCain's faith for his assurance isn't in Christ, it is in a particular view of the sacraments. It's not in Christ alone, its in the elements at the Lord's Table. It's not in Christ, but an image of Christ. It's not in Christ, the God-man, but in the human nature of Christ divinized. Now, he may wish to argue for his sacramentology and the Christology it requires, but until he does, all he is doing is assuming those issues without benefit of argument.

By the way, in his mockery of Calvin’s views in the past, Dr. McCain forgets his own tradition’s theologians. Lutherans believe calling their view consubstantiation is a derogatory appellation made by their detractors. Fair enough. So how do they describe it? Let’s see:

Calvin believed in the real, spiritual presence of Christ at the Lord’s Table. Rev. McCain should look to the theologians of his own tradition who published under the name of the very publishing house Dr. McCain runs, Concordia. On p. 280 of Christian Dogmatics, John Muller says

“Lutheran theologians explain the omnipresence of Christ’s human nature not by
way of local extension, but by way of His illocal, supernatural mode of

To quote Steve Hays

“Uh-huh. And what, exactly, is the difference between a “spiritual” presence and an “illocal, supernatural mode of presence?”

Dr. McCain also said:

“We are supposed to conjure some sort of “spiritual” communion with Christ, which is as about as imaginative and allegorical as you can get.”

If he would actually interact with Reformed theology itself, he would find that Christ is said to be spiritually present to the faith of believers. Unless he affirms baptismal regeneration and justification as such, his own tradition affirms baptism is a means of grace that engenders faith in an infant and it will die if not nourished and the child converted. Isn’t Christ spiritually present to the faith of the believers when they are baptized as adults if they come to you without a valid baptism? Isn’t Christ spiritually present to the faith of the church when infants are baptized? Isn't Christ spiritually present to the faith of the infant? So, on the one hand, Dr. McCain needs to affirm that Christ is spiritually present to the faith of believers and children receiving baptism when they are justified, baptized, and in daily living the Christian life through the Holy Spirit, but on the other he mocks the assertion that Christ is spiritually present to the faith of believers in the Lord’s Supper, yet it was Luther who said,
“Not only was Christ in heaven when He walked on earth, but the Apostles too, and all of us as well, who are mortals here on earth, insofar as we believe in Christ.”
Note the WCF on the Lord’s Supper says that Christ is spiritually present to the faith of believers. Exactly how is it that Christ, the Apostles, and we are ubiquitous in both heaven and earth "insofar as we believe in Christ” (Luther) any different that Christ being spiritually present to the faith of believers in communion? Uh-huh.

As for the view being “imaginative” he may wish to revisit church history. Zwingli argued the word meant “signified” not “exists as,” and is attributed to Zwingli’s rationalism, not his imagination. Which is more ambiguous, to say that the word “is” in that context in Scripture (Mark 14:22) means “signfiies” or that it means “exists as?” Christ also calls Himself a door and the true vine, are we to interpret that Christ is a door and a vine too? No. It’s the same logic Zwingli used, and, ironically, the same logic Protestants, including Lutherans, employ when discussing transubstantiation with Roman Catholics. If that's "imaginative" then does Dr. McCain accord ubiquity to his own humanity "insofar as he believes in Christ?" If so, why isn't that also "imaginative."

By the way is the cup the new covenant too? Jesus also said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” If we take the Lutheran or the Catholic view as correct, then why don’t they also affirm that the cup is the new covenant? He certainly did not mean it was actually the covenant, did He? Luther makes Jesus words mean “this accompanies my body.” Why take “is” one way for the elements and another for the cup? What is the exegetical warrant for that?

Which is more imaginative, to say “is” means “signifies” or to redefine the meaning of the word “body” and say, as Luther did,

“Not only was Christ in heaven when He walked on earth, but the Apostles too, and all of us as well, who are mortals here on earth, insofar as we believe in Christ?”
If body is something we do not normally mean it to be, then to say Christ is human and has a real body will no longer be as unambigous it would otherwise seem. If Christ’s body is ubiquitous, then it is hard to think of it as a human body, and thus it is difficult to conceive of his human nature. (Brown, Heresies, A History of Heresy and Orthodoxy in the Church). We are left with a Monophyistic Christ and a Docetic set of communion elements. They only seem to be bread and wine, but are really His body and blood. He, especially His body, only seems to be fully human, but has been divininzed. Notice also the implicit contradiction. Dr. McCain has to divinize Christ’s body in heaven in order to make Christ tangible in the communion elements.

If he would actually interact John Calvin and Reformed theology in a fair-minded manner, Dr. McCain would not misrepresent John Calvin on this issue. Calvin objected to Jesus being with him with respect to his humanity, not his divinity. Calvin did not say that Jesus is in heaven and not present elsewhere. Christ is fully God and fully man. He never ceases to be present in all of His being with respect to His divinity, and never has. He would not be fully God if that was the case. Otherwise you end up with a theology of kenosis that is unbiblical. If McCain actually paid attention, Calvin rejected the concept of ubiquity of Christ’s humanity on the basis that it made Christ human only in appearance, which is derivative of Monophysitism which is itself an echo of Docetism.

The classic charge by Lutherans is that Calvin was Nestorian. Read the Chalcedonian Creed and compare it to Nestorius own views. Calvin says nothing that the creed does not affirm. I direct you further here: Lessons on Historical Theology. There are a number of articles in that series that are most insightful, and they cover the rest of the territory. They are under the heading Historical Theology: Christological Controversies. When Calvin did modify those creeds, he did so to affirm that the Son and Spirit are autotheos and do not proceed in essence from the Father, because anti-trinitarians like Valentinus were using the creeds to affirm unitarianism. He saw the creeds needed more clarity. Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox have not objected to this redefinition to any great extent, given the reason it was made.

If we say that the human nature of Christ shares in the omnipresence of Christ, then we have a single incarnate nature, not 2 natures in one person as Chaledon affirms. Dr. McCain has apparently forgotten that the old charge is that Lutherans are closet Monophysites. That’s what you get when you base your Christology and sacramentology theology on the scholasticism from the Latern Councils, not Scripture itself. Perhaps rather than allowing his sacramentology to inform Scripture, Dr. McCain would care to address Scripture itself on the matter. If he wishes to bring up the Iconoclast Controversies and rehash Chalcedon while we’re at it, then let’s go there and lay it all out again. After all, these discussions have a long and tattered history. Lutherans and Calvinists have learned to get along and have since the irenic centuries, but if Dr. McCain would like to push all that to the side, we certainly can. Do we really want to engage in those controversies again, or can we not just stick to the exegesis of Scripture?

I personally find Lutheranism a seaworthy vessel for getting God's people into the kingdom. Unlike Dr. McCain, I don't go around looking to attack other evangelical Protestants based on sacramentology. The last I checked the Reformed churches were seaworthy as well. Just yesterday I was commenting on a Southern Baptist blog defending Dr. McCain's church against the charge of salvation by works. I did this on the basis that they hold to Sola Fide and one cannot look to the sacraments or baptism for anything, including assurance, unless converted. I would hope I was correct in that assessment, but one begins to wonder when a Lutheran of his caliber says the Reformed are not Christocentric.

Can Dr. McCain construct an explanation regarding how exactly the human nature of Christ is present “with, under the bread and wine” of the Lord’s Supper and still be His human nature and fully human? After the Resurrection Christ is depicted as being glorified, able to appear and reappear mysteriously, have an incorruptible body, etc., but there is still continuity with the original body. “Illocality” is not depicted of Him in Scripture. When He is present in the room in His incarnate, resurrected body, He is truly bodily present. Nobody orthodox has ever disputed the notion He is always present in His divinity anyway.

One would have to divinize the human nature in order for his assertion about the elements to be valid. Glorfication is not “divinization.” That is classic Apollinarianism and Monophysitism and Greek piety, not Scripture speaking.

Where does Scripture affirm that Christ’s human nature is present in such a manner? To say that Christ’s humanity is present in the elements divinizes His human nature and further restricts it to the elements at the Lord’s Table, so His humanity shares ubiquity with His divinity with respect to the elements at the Table, yet omnipresence (ubiquity) means God (in all 3 Persons) is present everywhere. Think about that for a moment. How can His human nature be in two places at once, specifically in the elements injested at the Lord’s Table, and Christ be fully human? Approaching this from the other direction, how can His human nature share in the divine ubiquity, which means God is everywhere, and be localized only in the bread and wine? You have to create a special category of ubiquity for Christ’s humanity and the communication of attributes in order to accomodate such a view. I'm sorry Dr. McCain, but you need an exegetical warrant for that.

Lutheran theology tries to get around this by saying His human nature is “illocal” in the Eucharist. The problem is this: It’s not really illocal in this view, it is clearly localized in the elements and in heaven; that’s two specific places at a single time, a fly trapped in amber across two levels of existence. Thus, not only is Christ with respect to His human nature in heaven, He is present on earth in the elements in time when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. That makes his human nature subject to time as well as spatial constraints on earth as well as heaven. That’s one reason why Calvin rejected the notion of ubiquity of Christ’s body in the elements; it involves too many equivocations on the nature of time and space and what and does and does not constitute localization that necessitate extra-biblical ideas and doesn’t appear to be supportable from Scripture. Calvin stakes out a position between that of Luther and Zwingli. In Lutheran sacramentology, we have an illocal presence that is localized, a human nature that is not fully human, an omnipresence that is limited in presence, a divinization that makes Him tangible, and not a theophany, which is an altogether different manifestation. You end up with something other than 2 natures in one Person with ” the property of each nature being preserved.” (Chalcedon).

In Reformed theology, you have a Father that elects, a Son that redeems to the uttermost, and a Spirit that applies this infallibly, and a persevering faith engendered by that Spirit that connects you to the righteousness of Christ, indwells and fills you, empowers your life, and will bring you safely through from beginning to end. I don't need the sacraments for my assurance, Dr. McCain, I have Jesus, the Word of God, the promises thereof, and the work of the Spirit in me. My faith is looking to Christ alone, clinging to Him, not the bread and wine or my baptism. Given the choice I'd rather choose my Lord alone than water, wine, and bread.