Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Plagues of Egypt

Debunking Christianity briefly departed from its soup-kitchen testimonials to do a substantive post on the ten plagues of Egypt.

“Archeology in the past 30 years has reduced the historical probability of the Exodus from slim to none.”

Dagood never substantiates his opening statement. What has happened in the past 30 years to deprobabilify the Exodus? What archeological discoveries justify this sweeping assertion?

“There is not a lick of proof of the destination of Exodus. Even though we should have extensive amounts of evidence of an invasion of Hebrews into Canaan, we have none.”

Why should we have extensive evidence for the Exodus or conquest of Canaan?

As Kenneth Kitchen explains in his book On The Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans 2003),

“The setting presented in Exod 1-14 is indubitably that of Egypt’s East Delta, whence the Hebrews are shown going directly into the Sinai Peninsula first of all. Background data may well be drawn from Egypt overall, but for locating the biblical Hebrews and their movements ‘on the ground in Egypt we are restricted to the East Delta zone geographically.

This fact imposes further severe limitations upon all inquiry into the subject. The Delta is an alluvial fan of mud deposited through many millennia by the annual flooding of the Nile; it has no source of stone within it. Mud, mud and wattle, and mud-brick structures were of limited duration and use, and were repeatedly leveled and replaced, and very largely merged once more with the mud of the fields…The mud hovels of brickfield slaves and humble cultivators have long since gone back to their mud origins, never to be seen again. Even stone structures (such as temples) hardly survive, in striking contrast to sites in the cliff-enclosed valley of Upper Egypt to the south. All stone was anciently shipped in from the south and repeatedly recycled from one period to another.

Scarce wonder that practically no written records of any extent have been retrieved from Delta sites reduced to brick mounds (whose very bricks are despoiled for fertilizer), with even great temples reduced to heaps of tumbled stones. And in the mud, 99 percent of discarded papyri have perished forever; a tiny fraction (of late date) have been found carbonized (burned…A tiny fraction of reports from the East Delta occur in papyri recovered from the desert near Memphis. Otherwise, the entirety of Egypt’s administrative records at all periods in the Delta is lost; and monumental texts are also nearly nil. And, as pharaohs never monumentalize defeats on temple walls, no record of the successful exit of a large bunch of foreign slaves (with loss of a full chariot squadron) would ever have been memorialized by any king, in temples in the Delta or anywhere else,” ibid. 245-246.

“(1) Usually less than about 5 or 10 percent of any given mound is ever dug down to Late Bronze (or any other) levels; hence between 85 to 95 percent of our potential source of evidence is never seen.

(2)The principal Hebrew policy under Joshua was to kill leaders and inhabitants, not to destroy the cities, but eventually to occupy them (cf. Deut 6:10-11), destroying only the alien cult places (Deut 12:2-3).

(3)Conquests, even historically well-known examples, often do not leave behind the sorts of traces that modern scholars overconfidently expect,” ibid. 189-190.

“See B.S. J. Isserlin…quoting the Norman Conquest, the Anglo-Saxon settlement in England, and the Muslim Arab invasion of Syria-Palestine. One may also cite the innumerable campaigns of Egyptian, Hittite, Assyrian, and Neo-Babylonian armies in the Levant, of whose encampments and battlefields almost no traces are ever found,” ibid. 545, n84.

“No total conquest and occupation. The book of Joshua does not describe a total Hebrew conquest and occupation of Canaan, real or imaginary. Read straight, its narratives describe an entry (from over the Jordan), full destruction of two minor centers (Jericho, Ai; burned), then defeat of local kings and raids through south Canaan. Towns are attacked, taken, and damaged (“destroyed”), kings and subjects killed and then left behind, not held on to. The same in north Canaan; strategic Hazor is fully destroyed (burned), but no others. The rest are treated like the southern towns, and again left, not held,” ibid. 234-235.

Regarding the absence of corroboration:

“In the late 13C, Mesopotamia—in the guise of Assyria—never penetrated beyond the Euphrates into Syria proper; Hittite power at Carchemish stood against them. So no data can come on south Palestinian events (especially in the inner highlands) from that quarter. Egypt officially was overlord of Canaan, but her main interest was in the productive coastal plains, lowland hills, and Jezreel, not in the economically poorer highland, and in keeping hold on the main routes north into Phoenicia (to Tyre, Sidon, Babylos, &c) and to Damascus in Upe,” 235.

So we should not expect to have extensive evidence of the Conquest. And yet, despite the inherent paucity of potential evidence, the Biblical account for this event is not without a measure of corroborative evidence.

“So long as highlanders of any kind did not interfere there, and the Transjordanian groups did not interfere with the Timna (Sinai) mining works at the southern end of the Arabah, neither did Egypt bother with them. When they did, she struck back, and they got mentioned…So the biblical data and Egyptian references are agreed on the effective existence and activity of Seir/Edom, Moab (with Dibon!), and Israel at this time, plus Ammon (which was archaeologically extant). One cannot really ask for more in the circumstances,” ibid. 235.

Another scholar has citied eight “items in the book of Joshua [that] cannot otherwise be explained than, or can best be explained, by tracing their origin to the second-millennium BC,” R. Hess, Joshua (IVP 1996). Among these items he cites the following:

“The description of the borders of Canaan in the Pentateuch and in Joshua 1:4 matches the Egyptian understanding of Canaan in second-millennium BC sources, where the cities of Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, Acco and Hazor form part of the land,” ibid. 26.

“Josh 3:10 lists the groups of people whom God will drive out before Israel. Among these are three groups that have a distinctive association with the second millennium BC: the Hivites, the Perizzites and the Girgashites…The association of the Hivites and Perizzites with Hurrians is important for dating. Hurrian peoples and names flourished in the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200BC). Their presence diminished in the following two centuries and disappeared at the beginning of the first millennium BC. Girgashites may be attested in second-millennium BC Ugaritic and Egyptian sources,” ibid. 27-28.

“The names of the defeated kings in Josh 10-11 provide clues as to the origins of these narratives,” ibid. 29.

“Josh 24:7-27 contains a report of a covenant that, in its form and content, most closely resembles the Hittite vassal treaty structure unique to the second millennium BC,” ibid. 30-31.

Incidentally, the data cited by Kitchen and Hess are largely irrespective of whether you favor an early or late date for the Exodus.

Continuing with Dagood:

“Here is a question as to how far-reaching these plagues were. When it says ‘every’ is that just exaggeration for ‘quite a bit’”?

“Exaggeration” is a misleading adjective. It is a social convention of ordinary usage that quantifiers like “every” and “all” can be used as general expressions admitting various exceptions in particular.

That’s not an “exaggeration.” Rather, it’s a linguistic convention. How sweeping the actual scope of universal quantifier is meant to be can only be determined by their contextualization.

More than a linguistic convention, it is also a literary convention. It’s a standard compositional technique in OT historical narrative to lead with a broad programmatic statement that is later modified by a more detailed exposition. The pattern is from general to specific.


“Were they localized? The problem with this proposition is that God intended this to be a demonstration of His glory. A local sickness, killing a few cows, or a bad summer storm would not be remarkable.”

This is a false dichotomy. It isn’t necessary for the plagues to either exterminate all Egyptian life and livelihood or else be very narrowly targeted to achieve their appointed end.

The events must be on a scale sufficient to prove the point, without however killing every eyewitness to the events in question, since that would be self-defeating. There’s a mean between “killing a few cows” and total devastation.

“Water to Blood The Nile, every stream, every river, every pond, even water stored in vessels turns to blood. 7:19. (All verses from Exodus.)

First of all this would mean the loss of drinking water. The Bible notes this problem. 7:24. How does one transport the water from rivers and streams inland? The effort must be made to dig new wells, then transport it. This could not be done in any short time at all…ALL of the water in Egypt turned to blood. They had no reserves. There would be a loss of life due to dehydration.”

i) This is a considerable overstatement. As Dagood to admits that the groundwater was not contaminated (7:24).

This is not like drilling for oil. In a river valley, along a riverbank, you don’t have to dig very deep to reach groundwater. Animals do this all the time during the dry season.

ii) We are also told that the Egyptian magicians were able to replicate the first plague (7:22). This assumes that all the extant water was not bloody.

So Dagood has chosen two disregard two contextual delimiters in his effort to force the account into making nonsensical claims.

“But most important would be the loss of marine life. The fish (and other sea creatures) died. 7:21. Later, this will have in impact as to a food source. Environmental water systems, such as rivers, ponds and streams, have a necessary balance. By wiping out all of the fish, this balance would be irrevocably upset. It is not as if the blood turned back to water, and fish all of a sudden re-appeared. They were gone. It would take decades, if ever, for marine life to replenish and re-habit the rivers.”

It’s obvious that Dagood is no zoologist or geography teacher. We’re not talking about “marine” species, but fresh-water species. The Nile is a river, not an ocean.

Likewise, rivers and ponds are not interchangeable. Unlike a lake or a pond, which is fed by a river or stream or rainwater, but has no necessary outlet, there is continuous turnover of water and aquatic life in a river system.

That’s the difference between standing water and running water. Pretty elementary, my dear Watson.

Whatever fish were killed downstream would be replenished by fish upstream once the plague abated. The bloody water and dead aquatic life would wash out into the gulf, to be resupplied by water and aquatic issuing from the headwaters of the Nile.

Sure, there would be damage to the ecosystem, but damage and utter destruction are two different things.

“Birds that relied upon the fish for food would migrate or die. Crocodiles that relied upon the birds and fish for food would look to alternative sources. Every creature, dependant on marine life, would find alternatives, leave, or die.”

Birds and crocodiles could survive very nicely on dead fish and carrion for a week—the duration of the plague. Indeed, they’d gorge themselves on the sheer abundance of easy pickings.

Also, crocodiles don’t need to eat very often, while birds are highly mobile and migratory.

“Frogs, flies, boils and darkness While none of these plagues would be necessarily deadly; they would bring the economy of Egypt to a halt.”

i) A temporary disruption. Damaging to the economy? Yes. The end of the world? No.

ii) Mention of the frogs introduces another contextual delimiter into the extent or impact of the first plague. Since they survived the plague of blood, the narrator never intended to suggest that this particular event destroyed all aquatic life in Egypt.

Once again, Dagood and only make his case by doing violence to the text.

“Death of Livestock The beginning of the terrible plagues. Every Egyptian cow, horse, donkey, oxen, camel and sheep are killed. This would cause devastating problems in a variety of areas.”

This disregards the explicit contextual delimiter in 9:3 (livestock grazing in the open fields), as well as the implicit delimiters in 9:9 (the sixth plague) and 9:19-21 (the seventh plague).

Since livestock are also the target of the sixth plague (of boils) and seventh plague (of hail), the fifth plague was never understood to destroy all available livestock—not even all the Egyptian livestock, much less the Jewish, which was exempt. And that’s in addition to 9:3.

The account of the ten plagues forms a literary unit. They were never meant to be read in isolation. Since the reader has access to the entire account, information supplied by a later stage can shed contextual light on an early stage. He can read ahead.

Indeed, that’s the point. The ten plagues have a cumulative impact as the effect is phased in over time—with mounting severity.

“At this point, we would see a huge influx of Egyptian goods being traded to outside countries for their animals.”

Really? What about trading with their Jewish slaves, whose herds were intact? (Exod 9:4-7,26).

Remember, the Jewish population was enormous. So their livestock would have been commensurate (12:37-38).

Since, moreover, they were slaves, the Egyptians were in a position to plunder the Jewish herds for food or breeding-purposes.

Remember, though, that according to 9:3, all Egyptian livestock were not, in fact, destroyed.

“Hail Wipes out many of the animals that were just obtained from other countries, some servants, and much of the crops. 9:25.”

It only wipes out the livestock left in the open field, but not the livestock in barns and stables, for those Egyptians who prudently heeded the warning (9:19-21).

More damage done, but not the apocalypse.

“And for the animals that are left, what do you feed them? People have no meat, and now have no grain to eat.”

This overlooks two things:

i) The agricultural impact of the seventh plague was selective (9:31-32).

ii) Egypt had granaries set aside just in case of famine and drought (Gen 41; 47).

“Locusts A killer. Every single plant is gone; nothing green is left. 10:15. (Note: this would have done within the same harvest as the hail. 10:12)

The few animals left would have nothing to eat. They would die. What would the people eat? There is no marine life. No wild animals now. No cattle, sheep, or even pigeons. But more importantly, no grain. No fruits. No vegetables.

The only food source possible would be from outside sources or roots dug up.”

Same answers as above. Dagood Ignores the royal granaries, as well as building on a series of faulty interpretations.

“Tenth Plague The firstborn of every family dies. Including the firstborn of the livestock. (Where do these animals keep coming from?”

As we said before, the livestock come from Jewish herds, which were spared, as well as Egyptian herds secured in barns and stables.

The Exodus account and historical antecedents in the Joseph cycle have the internal resources to address all these objections. Dagood willfully disregards relevant narrative information, unless he’s just too dim to see the obvious starring him in the face.

“Army wiped out Although technically not a plague, it is an important event that happened immediately on the heels of these national tragedies, that would further demonstrate how Egypt would no longer be in existence if the Plagues happened as recorded.

Pharaoh pursues the Hebrews with all of his army, all the chariots and horsemen (where DO those horses keep coming from?), and his captains. 14:9. And they are wiped out. 14:28.”

i) The horses come from the royal stables. Hence, they escaped the hail. One doesn’t have to be a rocket science to figure this out.

ii) Dagwood also misconstrues the text. As John Currid explains:

“Note, however that it is only the mobile forces, the chariots and cavalry [14:23], who take up the chase,” Exodus (Evangelical Press 2000), 1:303.

“Attached to the phrase ‘the entire army of Pharaoh’ [14:28] is a lamed preposition…the particle may be used to indicate possession, so that the phrase means ‘the chariots and horsemen which belonged to the entire army of Pharaoh.’ It is not the whole army of Pharaoh that was destroyed in the Red Sea, but only the chariots and cavalry of Egypt,” ibid. 1:306.


“Can anyone take this literally?”

Yes, I can.

“OR, is it more likely this is a story. A legend. In stories and legends, we don’t have to worry about the effects.”

As Kitchen points out, “We are dealing with realia here; river, fish, frogs, insects, cattle, humans, and not a fantasy world off (e.g.) dragons, monsters, genies, Liliths, or other plainly mythical beings, and in a real country (Egypt), not an imaginary place unknown to geography,” Ibid. 249.

Kitchen also summarizes the classic monograph of Hort, according to whom the sequence of the ten plagues follows a perfectly natural causal sequence:

1.July/August. “Extreme high flood because of extra heavy rains in Nile source regions; brings masses of Roterde [the Red Nile] plus flagellates;> red color, oxygen fluctuation, so fish die and rot, breeding round for infections.”

2.August/September. ”Insects bring Bacillus anthracis to rotting fish, infects frogs, who mass-migrate onto land and die, carrying infection into land and herbage.”

3.October/November. “Mosquitoes overbreeding, in pools of excessive Nile flood.”

4.October/November to December/January. “Flies bit legs/fee, fly=Somoxys calicitrans, infection from #2.”

Goshen spared.

5.January. “Animals let out into fields contract anthrax from pasture, hence ingest (like the frogs) and die.”

Goshen spared.

6.January. “Humans and livestock (indoors). Bitten by the Somoxys calcitrans flies, causing a (nonfatal) skin anthrax. Cf. #4.”

Goshen spared.

7.February. “Hail on flax and barley (too soon for wheat and spelt). The two latter crops not due then.”

Goshen spared.

8.February/March. “Locusts breed in east Sudan; move north up Red Sea/Northwest Arabia; these ones, blown from east to west into Egypt; Northwest wind (i) blows them into north of Upper Egypt and (ii) away to yam suf.”

9.March/April. “The initial khamsin of the season, whipping up not only sand, but masses of fine, dense, dark roterde, giving greater ‘darkness than just a sand wind,” ibid. 251 (Table 18).

My point is not that a naturalistic explanation is necessarily preferable to a supernaturalistic explanation. But when naturalistic objections are raised to the Exodus account, and there are replies which answer the critic on his own grounds, then this needs to be addressed rather than ignored.

Whether Dagood’s abject failure is due to sheer ignorance and ineptitude, or else a calculated suppression of the internal and external evidence to the contrary, I cannot say. In any event, his case against the Exodus has all the mileage of a flat tire.

The Significance Of Protestant Associations

In a recent thread on the New Testament Research Ministries boards, a poster commented that groups like Oneness Pentecostalism and the Word of Faith movement are part of Protestantism, even if we don't want them to be. The same poster has said, in another thread, that he's moving toward Eastern Orthodoxy, so his concern over what's happening to "our" Protestantism is dubious. As somebody moving toward Orthodoxy, he has an interest in putting Protestantism in a negative light.

Since this criticism of Protestants is common, I've decided to post part of my reply here. If we agree with the teachings of a Presbyterian or Methodist church, for example, should we refrain from joining it because of its association with Protestantism? If groups like the Word of Faith movement are associated with Protestantism (or groups like liberal Methodists, liberal Baptists, etc.), how much significance does their association with Protestantism have for other people who consider themselves Protestants? Here's what I wrote:

Since Eastern Orthodoxy claims to be the one true church, should we associate every group that claims to be Christian with Orthodoxy? Should we say that though Eastern Orthodox "may not want to claim them as their own", these groups are "theirs"? Should we put Eastern Orthodoxy together with every heretical group that ever existed in the Eastern regions of the world, then call all of them together "Eastern Christianity"?

In addition to the category of "Protestantism", we can speak of other large categories, like "Eastern Christianity", "Western Christianity", "modern Christianity", etc. We can categorize groups by the region in which they originated, some of the doctrines they hold, etc. All of us, no matter what church or denomination we attend, can be placed in a number of smaller and larger categories, and that categorizing will sometimes associate us with other people we disagree with on some issues. If followers of the Word of Faith movement are to be considered Protestants, the fact would remain that I can join a local Methodist, Presbyterian, or Lutheran church without having any close associations with the Word of Faith movement. If I think that the evidence leads to the conclusion that a Methodist church is correct in what it teaches, should I refrain from joining that Methodist church just because that church shares the broad category of "Protestant" with other groups I don't agree with? It would be difficult to live your life without having any broad associations with any group you disagree with. Protestantism is a broad movement defined in different ways by different people.

Our primary concern in deciding what church to join shouldn't be its broader associations, but rather its own teachings and behavior. The more distant an association is, the less significance it carries. Being part of the Protestant movement is too distant an association for the inclusion of something like the Word of Faith movement to make it unacceptable to be a Protestant. There's nothing inherent in being a Protestant that involves the acceptance of something like Word of Faith theology.

We should ask why it is that so many of the people who raise this objection against Protestants don't seem to apply the same reasoning to their own church (or the church they're considering joining). If you're going to refrain from becoming a Baptist because of the distant associations a Baptist church has with other groups, then why not apply the same reasoning to Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, etc.?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Big Yawn

Yet another apocryphal gospel.

Eating & drinking

I see that a discussion, apparently prompted by a post of mine:,

continues apace over at:

I’ll respond to a few comments:

One disputant says:

“I agree that [Jn 6) forshadows the cross. However, to the Catholic (and anyone who believes in the Real Presence really) the Crucifixion and the Eucharist are intimately tied together.”

But even if we agree with the intimate connection between the Crucifixion and the Eucharist, that does not amount to an exegetical argument for the sacramental reading of Jn 6.

Another disputant says:

“The real fact remains that historically, the interpretation I posted was held for centuries right from the Apostles (1 Corinthians 10:16).”

Several problems with this appeal.

i) It assumes the Catholic interpretation of 1 Cor 10:16, which begs the question.

ii) By using 1 Cor 10:16 to interpret Jn 6, this appeal takes for granted the sacramental reading of Jn 6, which also begs the question.

That 1 Cor 10:16 is talking about communion is explicit. Whether Jn 6 is talking about communion is the very point at issue.

iii) It is also dubious to use one writer to interpret another writer. Paul is not commenting on John. Indeed, it’s unlikely that Paul ever read the Fourth Gospel.

So why assume that Paul and John are talking about the same thing?

This is another example of a how a Catholic begins with his dogmas, and then casts about for some Scriptural prooftext.

The same disputant argues for a sacramental reading of Jn 6 because the verb “to eat” means “to eat,” and he quotes a number of Johannine passages in which it denotes literal consumption.

But this appeal commits the classic semantic error of failing to distinguish between sense and reference.

Yes, “to eat” means “to eat.” That’s a tautology. No one denies that.

From this is doesn’t follow that “to eat” means to literally eat.

That confuses the general meaning of a word with what it refers to.

But the particular referent isn’t supplied by the bare meaning of the word.

That’s why we can use the same word is a multitude of different settings.

Whether the verb has reference to literal or figurative consumption is context-dependent. The context supplies the concrete referent.

Once again, if the disputant spent a little time with a concordance he would quickly see that words and images of eating and drinking are often deployed as spiritual metaphors (cf. Ps 42:1; Prov 15:14; Jer 3:15; Amos 8:11; Jn 4:9-14; 7:37-39; 18:11; 1 Cor 3:1-2; Heb 5:11-14; 1 Pet 2:2; Rev 14:8-10; 16:6; 21:6).

I don’t cite this usage to interpret Jn 6, but merely to establish the possibility of this construction, and illustrate a semantic fallacy.

"The living bread"

After Schrödinger’s cat finally died of acute cognitive dissonance in 1954, Tellus II fissioned off from planet earth.

As a part of a parallel universe, Tellus II had a history in many ways parallel to Tellus I, but being part of an alternative universe, it also had a history in some ways alternative to Tellus I.

(Incidentally, there was an intense debate among the theoretical physicists of Tellus II regarding the actual or hypothetical existence of Tellus II. But that’s another story.)

Because Tellus II instantiated a different timeline, it quickly branched off in different directions.

When John XXIII became Antipope, he ushered in a new era of aggiornamento.

(Incidentally, when I say that John XIII was an “Antipope,” that doesn’t mean he was an imposter. It only means that just as papal incumbents of Tellus I were made of matter, papal incumbents of Tellus II were made of antimatter.)

The principal concern of John XXIII’s antipontificate was to revise the traditional understanding of the sacraments.

In traditional Tellurian dogma, the communion elements become the true body and blood of the Messiah.

John XXIII, however, belonged to the secret society of the Literati.

As their name suggests, the Literati took the Bread of Life discourse literally. So when the Messiah described himself as living bread, come down from heaven, this meant exactly what it said: the Messiah was a loaf of bread.

As such, the Literati rejected the dogma of the Real Presence in favor of the Real Breadence.

On this point they would brook no compromise. To tamper with the plain meaning of the text by suggesting that true body existed under the species of bread, or in, with, and under the bread, was a blatant case of Scripture twisting.

When the text said “bread,” it meant “bread.” It meant what it said, and said what it meant. To depart from the natural sense of the text was rationalistic and impious.

So after John XXIII became Antipope, he set about to officially reformulate the dogma by convoking the Second Vatican Council.

But his efforts met with stiff opposition. Archbishop Lebreadre accused him of being a “Pope,” which in Tellurian II discourse was synonymous with “Antipope” in Tellurian I discourse.

(Yes, I know this gets to be a bit confusing.)

John XXIII endeavored to defend himself against this charge by appealing to Cardinal Newman’s theory concerning the breadolution of dogma.

John XXIII was not contradicting traditional dogma, but merely elucidating and elaborating the latent implications of the deposit of faith.

However, his attempted reformulation proved to be too radical, and he was deposed.

This, in turn, generated a schism. Indeed, a series of schisms.

For the doctrine of the Real Breadance raises a number of hitherto unanswered questions. For example, if the Messiah was a loaf of bread, then what kind of bread was he?

This is not, I assure you, a merely academic dispute or scholastic quibble, for unless the true ingredients could be identified and reproduced, the sacrament was invalid.

So the Literati soon subdivided into a multiplicity of rival factions, such as the Apple Walnutters, Pumpernickel Ryeans, Chocolate Babkans, and Cinnamon Raisins.

The controversy soon spread beyond the confines of Mother Church to engulf the separated brethren. Appalachian believers said the Messiah was made of corn bread (“holy hoecakes”), and Southern Presbyterian said he was made of hushpuppies, while Scots-Presbyterians, being of a dour disposition, said he was made of sourdough.

For their part, charismatics were less interested in the flour than in the leaven. They favored a yeasty spirituality.

There was also a split between Copernican Literati and Ptolemaic Literati. You see, as Cardinal Dulles pointed out in his crustological proof, heaven bread implied a heavenly Baker as well as a heavenly Bakery.

So there were fiery disputes over the astronomical positioning of the heavenly Bakery.

In addition, the Literati worshipped a trinity of the Baker, the Bread, and the Leaven.

There were also ceremonies concerning the reservation and adoration of the Pumpernickel.

Since Scripture expressly denominated the bread as “living” bread, Pumpernickel Ryeans (and other Literati) took to leaving food out for “The Pumpernickel” to consume in private.

The fact that their provision of food was never actually eaten was taken by some sceptics as evidence that the Pumpernickel was not a living entity, but as the Literati pointed out, this was a test of faith, for faith, as everyone knows, is believing the unbelievable.

Things got so chaotic that Benedict XVI reinstituted the Inquisition to impose a measure of unity and outward conformity in order to stave off the tragic scandal of so many competing recipes. Heresy trials abounded.

Sectarian Literati justified their respective traditions by appeal to apostolic succession. According, for example, to ancient Appalachian tradition, St. Bartholomew, after crossing the Atlantic on the back of a porpoise, founded an apostolic see in the Smokey Blue Hills.

Other schismatics cited equally venerable legends.

Heretics and schismatics who refused to recant were sentenced to a diet of unleavened bread and dish water.

I wish I could tell you how it all came out, but the wormhole I was using to receive signals from the religion correspondent on Tellus II collapsed before his transmission was finished, and I’ve been unable to reestablish an uplink.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

PTL - R.C. Sproul Comes to Direct TV®

Move over Jan Crouch and Benny Hinn...R.C. Sproul has arrived! Now, we really can "Praise the Lord!" At last, an alternative to TBN, where the motto is "All Heresy All the Time!" I did some checking, and they are also airing Kay Arthur's program. John Ankerberg also broadcasts on NRB. The president is an elder in the PCA. One of my friends, Stu Epperson Jr. is on their board.

HT: John Hendryx
Renewing Your Mind with Dr. R.C. Sproul launches on DirecTV ®

Orlando, Fla., April 22, 2006 — Renewing Your Mind (RYM) is embarking on a new era of outreach by broadcasting on the NRB Network, channel 378 on DirecTV ®, with a potential audience of more than sixteen million subscribers. This new broadcast will contribute quality programs that provide a platform to expand the kingdom of God by increasing the reach of biblical truth. RYM will feature teaching by Dr. R.C. Sproul, airing for thirty minutes at both 7:30 EST in the morning and evening.

Since Americans are watching television now more than ever, the need for solid Christian programming with content that rivals secular channels has increased. John Duncan, executive producer for RYM, said, “The opportunity on the NRB Network brings the ministry to its knees in prayer, because we are at the threshold of something that has the potential to be as effective as the radio outreach. As we did not realize the profound impact that the radio ministry would have in the world, so the new television ministry opportunity has also opened up endless possibilities.” For the first time, Dr. Sproul will be invited into viewers homes, while they come face-to-face with his deep theological knowledge and characteristic, practical teaching style.

The NRB Network “exists to represent the Christian broadcasters’ right to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.” Senior vice president and chief operating officer of the NRB network, Troy Miller, said, “As of yet, there is not a Christian network seeking to compete with the secular broadcasters such as the Hallmark Channel, the Discovery Channel, Bravo, Fox News, PBS, PBS Kids, and so on. The NRB Network enters the market to answer the challenge — bringing a solid biblical world and life view, coupled with a modern and more mainstream programming approach.”

Dr. R. C. Sproul is featured on RYM, an international radio broadcast that has aired for more than ten years with an estimated two million people tuning in every week. Dr. Sproul is a respected teacher, theologian, and pastor. He is currently serving as the director of Serve International, and senior minister of preaching at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Florida. He has had a distinguished academic teaching career, written scores of articles for national publications, is general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, executive editor of Tabletalk magazine, and he has written more than 60 books, produced more than 300 lecture series, and recorded more than 80 video series — which will be prepared to air on the RYM television program. For more information please visit

Debunking godless suckers

Well, the mutual recriminations continue to fly fast and furious over at gods4suckers. John Loftus is trying his level best to be the voice of reason, which is not small task given the flat-liners he must deal with over at his sister site.

Sean and Stardust are utterly befuddled by how Loftus had could so “forgiving” and “turn the other cheek."

Well, the explanation is pretty simple:

For one thing, Loftus is not the guy who got punk’d. He knew that my satirical series was just a spoof, so he’s not the one making a public fool of himself.

As such, he doesn’t feel the need to assume a defensive tone. On this occasion his reputation survived intact. Since he never dug himself into a hole, he has no need to dig himself out of a hole.

But Loftus is also enough of a tactician to realize that when those who were bamboozled by a palpable parody continue to dig themselves ever deeper into the wet, slippery mud, with the sides caving in at every turn, they do more damage to the cause of infidelity than any outsider could.

So Loftus continues to throw them a rope and coax them out of the pit of quick sand before they go totally under, but they continue to slap the lifeline away.

At this rate they’ll go the way of the mastodons.

John 6—metaphor?


John 6, Metaphor?
I was thinking about this, and someone else I know brought up a very valid point. He told me that this passage cannot be a metaphor

Jhn 6:53 “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”

And then he pointed out something that i had not noticed. In the passage, if you will notice, Jesus says "Verily, Verily". And, my friend said, Jesus would never say this before using a metaphor, but only when he was revealing something as absolute truth. And in a sense he is right. Verily Verily, or truly truly, was kind of like swearing an oath to be true. To use it before a metaphor or a allegory would be unthinkable. So it cannot possibly be a metaphor. This leaves us with two possible interpretations that I know of. Either we physically take in Christ's body and blood, I.E. the Eucharist, or we do so spiritually. So, this leaves another question. How do we interpret this passage here?



This is a textbook example of folks who have their theology spoon-fed to them from Mother Church instead of reading the Bible for themselves.

i) Gwahir says the verily-verily formula is only used to reveal something as “absolute” truth.

Does this mean that whenever Jesus does not preface a statement with this formula, that his statement is not absolutely true?

How true is a statement of Jesus without this prefatory formula? Half true? Two-thirds? A quarter?

Is it only true every second Sunday of the month?

ii) And where does Gwahir come up with the idea that a metaphorical statement can’t be true?

When Jesus says he’s the light of the world, or the true vine, isn’t this true? Isn’t it just as true as a literal statement?

Of course, you need to determine the meaning of the metaphor, but the statement is true according to the intentions of the speaker.

Gwahir is pulling these claims out of thin air. And that’s not the worst of it. It’s obvious that he didn’t bother to consult a concordance before he made his sweeping claims.

“And he [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see haven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’” (Jn 1:51).

This is, of course, an allusion to Jacob’s ladder (cf. Gen 28:12).

So, if we apply Gwahir’s yardstick to this verse, then it’s “unthinkable” that Jesus is figuratively a ladder to heaven.

Rather, by the miracle of transubstantiation, Jesus is transmuted into a wooden ladder with actual rungs, or perhaps a masonry staircase, if you prefer.


“So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep’” (Jn 10:7).

Again, as Gwahir would have it, Jesus is literally a wooden gate, by the miracle of transubstantiation, or consubstantiation, or whatever.

I’m sure that Gwahir is a much nicer man than I, but what gives him the right to make religious assertions without ever bothering to do any elementary fact-checking?

Christianity is not something that exists inside our heads, like an imaginary story that we can armchair claims about.

NTRMin Blog Resurrected!

Eric Svendsen has resumed posting at the New Testament Research Ministries blog. Send some love his way.

The happy humanist

“Let’s suppose I’m working late in my Princeton home one fall evening, and even though it’s 2 a.m. I decide to take a walk to clear my head…I don’t plan a long walk but go down the hill to Carnegie Lake. At 2 a.m., Princeton is very still. There is music from a few dorm parties in the distance, but houses are dark and there are not streetlights. Now let us suppose I trip on a root as I walk along a steep embankment, fall forward, strike my head on a limb, and plunge into the lake. Unconscious, I sink to the bottom; my coat snags on a branch buried in the mud, and I drown.”

“No one sees me fall or hears the splash. The circles soon disappear into the smooth surface of the water, and all is quiet again. Dark stillness pervades and time passes.”

“After fifty years almost no one wonders. This book and others gather dust in the library, and silence settles over all the activity I now so vigorously sustain and intensely value. The irony is deep and powerful. All this comes to absolutely nothing. Now this is probably not how it will happen. But it will happen to me—and to you. There is not the slightest doubt that the two-dimensional world you and I now so intently sustain will come to nothing at all. This is the perfect statistic, one death per person every time in a material universe that is ultimately destined to silence. That, of course, makes our obsession with meaning, and the meanings by which we live, absurd.”

J. Loder, The Transforming Moment (Helmers & Howard 1989), 83-84.


For some reason there are people out there, both Christian and non-Christian, under the misimpression that satire is unchristian.

This is due, in part, to the fact that many people don’t know their way around the OT at all, while their command of the NT is sketchy at best.

But satire is a regular feature of the Bible. There’s a lot of light-hearted satire in Proverbs and the Book of Jonah, while Amos and Mat 23 are studded with satirical barbs.

There is also a satirical genre known as the taunt-song, which you find in both Testaments:

Exod 15:1-18
Num 21:27-30
Judg 5
1 Sam 17:45-47
1 Kgs 18:27
Ps 2
Ps 115:2-8
Ps 135:15-18
Isa 14:3-21
Isa 44:9-20
Jer 10:1-16
Jer 38:22
Ezk 27-28
Hab 2:18-20
Rev 18-19

There are also some brain donors who equate satire with bearing false witness.

Needless to say, bearing false witness has contextual reference to perjurious testimony in a court of law. It has nothing to do with satire.

If someone accuses a satirist like Juvenal, Voltaire, Erasmus, Swift, Cervantes, Alexander Pope, or Mark Twain of “lying,” then this accusation says a good deal less about the character of the accused than it does about the mental ability of the accuser.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Speaking of Younger Leaders in the SBC

Here's an event I highly recommend.

Younger Leaders Summit II slated for Greensboro

By Staff

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--What began in Nashville at the 2005 SouthernBaptist Convention will continue in Greensboro when the Younger LeadersSummit II convenes at 10 p.m. Monday, June 12, following the annualPastors' Conference.

Marty Duren, pastor of New Bethany Baptist Church in Buford, Ga., and principle organizer for the gathering at the War Memorial Auditorium,said the intention is for the summit to conclude by 10:45.

"We really want this to be an interactive time," Duren said. "We want those attending to have time to interact with the speakers as well as network with each other and hope that the fellowship following themeeting is as beneficial as the meeting itself. I think last year we saw the value of bringing younger leaders together. There were some beneficial relationships established."

Last year's Younger Leaders Summit was hosted by James T. Draper Jr.,then-president of LifeWay Christian Resources.

In 2004, Draper challenged the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis to "pull a chair to the table" for younger leaders, allowing them to getmore involved in the convention. Draper then spent the next year encouraging cross-generational interaction through various personala ppearances and commentaries circulated SBC-wide, culminating in the Younger Leaders Summit in Nashville. Draper said at the time that the summit was an opportunity to give younger leaders a platform from which to speak.

Draper, who retired from LifeWay in February, will be among the speakers at this year’s summit. The main address will be delivered by Jeff Iorg,president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley,Calif.

Also scheduled are Doug and Kiki Cherry, Mission Service Corps campus directors at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Jerry Rankin,president of the International Mission Board; and Tim Sweatman, pastor ofJackson Grove Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Ky.

"We've seen a lot of positive things happen in the two years since Dr.Draper called the denomination to reach out to younger leaders," Duren said. "It seems things have accelerated in our denomination just since last year's summit in Nashville and interest continues to build toward Greensboro. I appreciate that Dr. Draper expressed the leadership he did. It was timely and providential.

"I believe we have a great lineup [of speakers]. I believe each will bring a challenge for calling our denomination to focus its energies onreaching a lost world with the Gospel,” Duren said. “We wanted speakers who were relevant and could address the need for missional living in ourchurches."

A praise team will lead in a time of worship. Registration is not necessary.

You see...the younguns and folks in small churches can put together a Convention event, and they can and do include folks on the program from the large agencies, the small churches, and even the unsung heroes in campus ministry.

I'm not "down" on the big churches. For the record, as I stated before, my home church is one of the big ones. What I'm "down" on is the continued narrowing of who gets to play ball in the SBC and the increasing pragmatism that masquerades as evangelical orthodoxy. I agree with the doctrinal parameters the SBC has set, but I disagree with the continued predilection with large numbers and the continued denigration of Reformed theology by an even smaller, yet very vocal group, and still others meddle with missions and believers baptism beyond the parameters set in the BFM, while others in the SBC ask, "Is the SBC an unregenerate denomination?" In all these cases, the same group, the "in crowd," the "Good Ol' Boys" are at work. When others in their camp dare to differ, they attack them. I know folks on the Convention committtees this year who fear to speak out for fear of being excluded and attacked, and whom some of us have worked to protect their names to keep them from being put into a bad situation. I fear Rome is burning while Nero fiddles. Somebody call the Fire Department.

More For the Pastor's Wives

2nd Pastors’ Wives Sessionto spread ‘Contagious Joy’
By Staff
GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--“Contagious Joy” is the theme for the secondannual Pastors’ Wives Session of the Southern Baptist Convention’sPastors’ Conference in Greensboro, N.C., and the program features severalnoted pastors’ wives sharing ways God has given them joy in their lifeexperiences.

The session, which is Monday, June 12, from 8:30 to 11:45 a.m., is freeof charge and no registration is necessary.

Doors open at 8 a.m. at the War Memorial Auditorium, adjacent to the Greensboro Coliseum.

“Contagious Joy” is based on 1 Peter 1:8, which says in part, “... you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible full of glory.” Donna Gaines, wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church inCordova, Tenn., said the session is designed to address some of the needsindicated on a survey that last year’s participants completed.
“Sometimes the circumstances of our lives and the trials we encounter candampen our joy,” Gaines, the meeting’s organizer, said.

Speakers will include Anita Renfroe, a regular humorist at “Women ofFaith” conferences, who will speak on having joy in worship and laughter;Liz Traylor, wife of Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church inPensacola, Fla., speaking on joy in darkness; Jeana Floyd, wife of Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., speaking onjoy in healing; Carol Ann Draper, wife of James T. Draper Jr., retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources, speaking on joy in learningfrom the past; Ginger Spradlin, wife of Roger Spradlin, co-pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., speaking on joy in ministering outside the Bible Belt; Elizabeth Luter, wife of Fred Luter,pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, speaking on joy in restoration; and Teresa Brown, wife of Joe Brown, pastor of HickoryGrove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., speaking on joy in peace.

A panel discussion will address “Hot Topics in the Ministry.”

In addition to Gaines, Traylor, Floyd and Draper, other women serving onthe ministry’s board include Susie Hawkins of Dallas; Diane Nix of Tulsa,Okla.; Barbara O’Chester of Austin, Texas; Joyce Rogers of Memphis,Tenn.; and Janet Wicker of Naples, Fla.--30--


Now, this is actually much better than Dorothy Patterson's programming contribution. It does actually, from the look of it actually address some real issues.

However, notice the laundry list of pastors and their wives. Each and every one of these churches on this list well known large SBC churches. For example, Joe Brown is pastor of HGBC in Charlotte, the largest SBC church in the state of NC. Steve Gaines is pastor at Bellevue Church in Memphis/Cordova, TN. He is Dr. Adrian Rogers' successor. Fred Luter will be preaching at the Convention itself. I believe Sister Hawkins is O.S. Hawkins wife. Brother Hawkins is past pastor of FBC Dallas, where W.A. Criswell served until his retirement and passing, the church where Paige Patterson served at the start of the Conservative Resurgence.

The problem I have here isn't the content, rather it is who is planning the content and executing it. This is the same small circle of leaders of statistics obsessed churches run by "the Good Ol' Boy" network in the SBC. Would it really hurt the SBC to actually plan a Convention event that doesn't come with the marks of this body of persons? It only lends credibility to the notion that power is being increasingly restricted to a few insiders. The majority of SBC churches are small. Let's let the pastors' wives from these small churches contribute to these events in each phase. Let them feel a sense ownership for the programming at the Convention. Otherwise, it begins to look like the Plantation owners' wives are having a nice program for the share-croppers' wives.

I know some of these pastors. Brother Ronnie Floyd is a fine man who does some good work in Arkansas. Brother Traylor is prominent in the FL Convention and on the Pastor's Conference circuit. My home church is one of the large churches in the SBC. I interned under one of the leaders in the SBC many years ago, so I'm not speaking as one who doesn't know the system or admire these ministries in some fashion. I give credit where it is due. By the same token, you can bet your bottom dollar that if I asked just about any of these men where they stand on the doctrines of grace, I'd hear an anti-Calvinist rant. Steve Gaines has given one from his pulpit in the past year. Brother Brown hosts a Bailey Smith Conference at his church every year when he can, and James P. Boyce would not be made welcome, nor would John Broadus. You's all the same people...every year...patting themselves on the back...again.

This does not help, when the younger leaders in the SBC are feeling more and more disenfranchised and are wondering if there isn't an implicit class system at work in the Convention.

Wise on the rise

Creationist will replace intelligent design teacher at seminary

Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A Tennessee professor who teaches the biblical version of creation will lead the Center for Theology and Science at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Kurt P. Wise, currently a professor at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., is replacing William Dembski, a leading proponent of intelligent design theory, who left to take a teaching job closer to his Texas home.

Wise was also director of Bryan College's Center for Origins Research, which supports the "validity of the biblical account" of creation, according to its web site.

Wise, who holds degrees in philosophy and paleontology from Harvard University, advocates a form of creationism that says God created the Earth relatively recently.

The intelligent design theory touted by Dembski and others says life is too complicated to have arisen by chance, though it does not explicitly identify the designer as God.

Sunday Night at the SBC Pastor's Conference 2006

Pastors’ Conference 2006 Schedule

June 11-12, 2006Greensboro ColiseumGreensboro, N.C.

Theme: Reaching Today's World for Jesus Christ

Scripture: Acts 4:10-12 and 1 Corinthians 9:22b

5:45 Worship and Praise: Mark Cottingham and Impact Team, JohnsonFerry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.; Word Recording Artist David Phelps

6:10 Welcome and Prayer: Bryant Wright, president, 2006 Pastors’Conference, Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, Marietta, Ga.

6:20 Testimony in Song: Word Recording Artist David Phelps
6:25 Video Feature: Shandon Baptist Church, Columbia, S.C.
6:30 Message: Dick Lincoln, Shandon Baptist Church, Columbia, S.C.
7:00 Billy Graham Tribute: Christianity Today International
7:10 SBC President’s Welcome: Bobby Welch, First Baptist Church,Daytona Beach, Fla.
7:15 Worship and Praise: Mark Cottingham and Impact Team, JohnsonFerry Baptist Church

7:25 Offertory Prayer and Giving to the Lord: Doug Munton, VicePresident of 2006 Pastors’ Conference, First Baptist Church, O’Fallon,Ill.

7:35 Video Feature: First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.
7:40 Message: Johnny Hunt, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.
8:10 Worship and Praise: Mark Cottingham and Impact Team, JohnsonFerry Baptist Church
8:20 Testimony: Chuck Kelley, President, New Orleans BaptistTheological Seminary, New Orleans, La.
8:30 Testimony in Song: Word Recording Artist David Phelps
8:35 Message: Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, Calif.

9:05 Closing Prayer: Gary Urich, Secretary of 2006 Pastors’Conference, Southern Hills Baptist Church, Bolivar, Mo.

Just to get this straight...

At 7pm, they will unveil a "larger than life statue of Billy Graham" to be placed outside the Lifeway Building in Nashville later in the year. (No, it isn't made of gold melted from the booty taken from the foreign mission field).

At 7:10, we will hear from Bobby Welch, the man who has given us what many of us call "the Million Man Dunk." Now, consider for just moment that this is the man who wants us to baptize a million and calls Calvinists anti-evangelistic in his church newsletter, yet here is his annual church profile:

3506 members
203 baptisms
253 other additions
2200 primary worship attendance

3812 members
296 baptisms
190 other additions
2100 primary worship attendance

4011 members
209 baptisms
137 other additions
2031 primary worship attendance

4163 members
237 baptisms
204 other additions
1874 primary worship attendance

To borrow from Tom Ascol: Would this church meet anyone’s criteria for "declining?" It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. If my math is correct, that is a 15% decline.Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means.

But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers! If the church continues to grow at this rate then by the time it adds around 10,000 new members the preacher will be preaching to an empty auditorium at his "primary worship" service.

40 minutes later, Johnny Hunt will preach (Anti-Calvinist rant or statement? Will he be able to resist?).

If there is another presidential candidate this year, shouldn't he be allowed to speak too? Word has it that Wade Burleson might be nominated. In view of this possibility, he has graciously decided not to speak at the Younger Leaders Summit II at the Convention, in order to avoid looking as if he is pandering for votes and to avoid charges of impropriety. The contrast could not be more stark.

Dr. Hunt will be followed by Rick Warren at about an hour later. (Which translation will he use? Will there be a Powerpoint presentation? How many Scriptures will be ripped from their context?)

Tablets of Stone will be broken afterward. Plagues, thunder, lightning, and floods will follow.

Godless greenhorns

John W. Loftus Says:

“And they are trying to make a point about the gulibility [sic.] of we atheists. Don’t buy into it.”

Excellent advice. Unfortunately for them they already maxed out their line of dupability. All sales final. The tickets to Snookersville are nonrefundable.

It's pretty revealing to see what so many unbelievers will fall for. All I had to do was post my little squares of satirical cheese and then sit back as one by one they went stepping straight into the mousetrap.

This is painfully and screamingly ironic from folks who pride themselves on their superior powers of rationality.

Is there something essentially paranoid or conspiratorial about modern-day atheism that makes them so easy to play for chumps?

I guess it’s okay to be a schlemiel as long as you’re a secular schlemiel.

Our secular suckers are just as gullible as all the patsies who sign over their Social Security check to float the lavish lifestyle of Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Robert Tilton, or Peter Popoff.

Clearly I'm in the wrong profession. I need to start a new blog hawking tubes of holy water and anointed hankies for all the credulous unbelievers of the world.

No less striking was how quickly secularism turns cannibalistic as the mice from one atheistic blog instantly sank their ratty little teeth into the nape of a sister blog.

You heard it first from me

I suppose it’s only a matter of time before someone blows the cover of Triablogue, so you might as well hear it from me.

Yes, Triablogue is a hoax, but a genuine hoax, like genuine gnawgahide.

This is how it all got started. I used to sell vinyl siding at Wall-Mart.

(That’s also where Bill Gates was recruited. We were coworkers. But that’s another story.)

Then one evening as I was listening to The Best of Loretta Lynn, a Viper with tinted windows drew up to my mobile home. Two men in trench coats and dark glasses got out and knocked on the door.

They drove me to a private jet, which flew me to Sicily, where “Dr. James Anderson” (not his real name) has his winter residence—a seaside villa overlooking the Bay of Naples.

There I also got to meet his wife Lucrezia, an almond-eyed, olive-skinned stunner, and their two Russian Wolfhounds—Scylla & Charybdis.

That’s when he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Either I could come work for him as his front-man—Triablogue is really a shell corporation to launder funds for the Carlyle Group, the theological stuff is only there to throw INTERPOL off the scent—or else his trench-coated security detail would give me a chance to do some undersea exploration in the Bay of Naples.

As a man of unbending principle, I chose the former.

I currently work out of the basement of a small governmental office in Brasilia.

Every Friday afternoon at 2:45 sharp, a man in dark glasses and a trench coat presents me with a manila envelope containing a roll of nonsequential C-bills to remunerate me for my efforts.

I usually receive my operating instructions from Dr. Anderson via secure video, although we occasionally speak face-to-face, whether at his winter residence, or his summer residence—overlooking Lake Lucerne—or his super yacht, docked in Monte Carlo.

Needless to say, my team members are also not what they seem to be.

Evan May is a 72-year old Green Beret who supplements his fixed income by working on the side as a bookie for fellow residents of his retirement home. Mostly horseracing.

Gene Bridges is a Russian Orthodox Metropolitan who impersonates a Southern Baptist to plant insidious seeds of division and rancor within the SBC.

Paul Manata is executive producer of Teletubbies.

I could tell you who Jason Engwer is, but you’d have to take out a life insurance policy.

God Is At Work in Italy Too!

Calvinists believe in missions. I know that may be hard for some folks to understand, but, we Baptists in particular have a history of missions that fly the banner of the Reformed churches. Take Fuller, Carey, the Judsons, and Lottie Moon. Each supported the work and /or went. God bless their memory.

I lived in Britain a one time. Yes, God is still God over there. I can go there and get married and He is still paying attention. (It's Canada, you have to worry about...Looks across the blogosphere at Tim Chailles...just kidding dude). I even visited Italy while I was there. I love it when Roman Catholics assume that I've never been to Catholic Mass. Err, no, I've the Vatican, and Pope John Paul II was speaking that day. So, yeah, I've been Catholic Mass, a bigger one than many Catholics I see posting on the internet.

It's good to know the Lord is working in Italy. A friend of mine who lives over there (who reads this blog by the way..HT: Francesco!) sent me this. Let's pray for this group and covenant to support their work.

WELCOME TO CERBI (Evangelical Reformed Baptist Churches in Italy)An Association of Reformed Baptist Churches born to empower the Evangelical witness in Italy

Hundreds of believers and many churches gathered to witness this historic event for Italy. On 25th April in the northern town of Bologna, the CERBI project was launched in an atmosphere of joyful celebration and prayer. CERBI stands for Chiese Evangeliche Riformate Battiste in Italia (Evangelical Reformed Baptist Churches in Italy). It is an association of churches which is based on a Reformed confession of faith (the 1689 Baptist Confession), and has been nurtured by years of fellowship and practical cooperation between elders and local churches, and which aims at serving the cause of the Gospel in Italy more vibrantly.

So far, Italy has lacked a Reformed and Evangelical group of associated churches. Historically speaking, in this country, there are Reformed churches (the Waldensians), but sadly they are very liberal in their present orientation. There are also Baptist unions, but they are liberal or arminian. CERBI’s identity and role is therefore unique in that it represents the confessional Protestantism which is so important in many parts of the world and which has been so central in Church history.

CERBI does not stem from separation from other churches, but from the coming together of different free churches which have deepened their fellowship over the years. Moreover, these churches have cultivated an attitude of openness and cooperation with other Evangelical churches and initiatives in proportion to the doctrinal agreement. For many years, they have been involved in evangelistic activity, theological training (with IFED in Padova), and the Italian Evangelical Alliance.

Joyfully recognising the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, the doctrinal standard of CERBI is the 1689 Baptist Confession. Within contemporary Evangelicalism, CERBI values the 1996 Cambridge Declaration issued by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

Since congregationalism is its ecclesiological framework, CERBI is not a denomination as such. While respecting the importance of local churches, CERBI unites a group of them on a confessional basis. It seeks to develop common ministries between churches, especially for pastors (e.g. fraternals) and church members (e.g. the annual conference and celebration). Beyond internal objectives, CERBI is also dedicated to the encouragement of church planting projects and the common witness of churches in Italy. At the moment, seven churches are associated with CERBI, but there are several others which are considering becoming part of it.

CERBI is strongly interested in developing meaningful relationships with like-minded churches throughout the world and asks prayer so that the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be powerfully enhanced through its witness. Italy still needs a Biblical Reformation and CERBI is fully dedicated to promoting it.

For information and contacts:

Though He Slay Me...

I often hear from apostates like John Loftus that one day a trial will strike my life and I will renounce my faith. They argue that all devotion to God will be abandoned once I experience, supposedly, the lack of his goodness and therefore the lack of his existence. I surely hope that no formal argument is attempting to be made here. For, the livability of a worldview has no rendering on the rationality of the worldview. Furthermore, if we are going to take into account one principle of the Christian worldview (that God is good), we must take all of the principles of the worldview into account (for instance, that God’s goodness is Biblically defined). Of course, John Loftus cannot stand the internal critique, so he will attempt with all of his might to avoid this.

In any case, is there any warrant to such a statement (that trials attack faith) to begin with? Yes and no. If my “faith” is based solely on an emotional posture, then when my emotions change (say, when my life undergoes a crisis), I will abandon my “faith.” In other words, spurious, false faith is not protected from the attacks of suffering. No where is this promised in the New Testament.

However, the Bible teaches that God’s elect will persevere in faith (on the basis of his preservation), and that their trials will be a means of stretching and strengthening their faith:

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

And history is replete with evidence of this. John Loftus is terribly uninformed when he makes such a statement that altogether fails to take into consideration a church that has been suffering from the moment of its conception. Indeed, it is as Matthew Henry wrote long ago, “The state of the church in this world always is, but was then especially, an afflicted state; to be a Christian was certainly to be a sufferer.”

Has Mr. Loftus considered Haratio Spafford, composer of the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”? This was a hymn that was writ­ten following two ma­jor trau­mas in Spafford’s life. The first was the great Chi­ca­go Fire of Oc­to­ber 1871, which completely ru­ined him fi­nan­cial­ly. Not long after, while cross­ing the At­lan­tic, all four of Spafford’s daugh­ters died in a col­li­sion with an­o­ther ship. Spafford’s wife Anna sur­vived and sent him the now fa­mous tel­e­gram, “Saved alone.” Sev­er­al weeks lat­er, as Spafford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died, Spaffored penned,

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Or did Loftus never learn about the lives of the Puritans Ebenezar and Ralph Erskine? Ebenezar Erskine buried his first wife, who died at the age of of thirty-nine. His second wife he buried three years before his own death. In addition, he lost six of his fifteen children. Likewise, Ralph Erskine buried his first wife when she was thirty-two, along with nine of thirteen children. Joel Beeke writes that “the Erskines well understood that God has ‘only one Son without sin but none without affliction,’ as one Puritan put it. Their diaries, so typical of the Puritans, are filled with Christ-centered submission in the midst of affliction.” Consider this entry which Ebenezer penned when his first wife was on her deathbed and he had just buried several children:

I have had the rod of God laying upon my family by the great distress of a dear wife, on whom the Lord hath laid his hand, and on whom his hand doth still lie heavy. But O that I could proclaim the praises of his free grace, which has paid me a new and undeserved visit this day. He has been with me both in secret and public I found the sweet smells of the Rose of Sharon, and my soul was refreshed with a new sight of him in the excellency of his person as Immanuel, and in the sufficiency of his everlasting righteousness. My sinking hopes are revived by the sight of him. My bonds are loosed, and my burdens of affliction made light, when he appears…. “Here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.” If he call me to go down to the swellings of Jordan, why not, if it be his holy will? Only be with me, Lord, and let thy rod and staff comfort me, and then I shall not fear to go through the valley of trouble, yea, through the valley of the shadow of death.

Yes, I wonder what would happen if Ebenezer Erskin were alive today, and John Loftus approached him assuring him that he would abandon his faith as soon as crisis hit.

Evan May.



Yo said:

my dear, my dear,

Yes, that is what it meant. They didn't fully understand it, just as they didn't fully understand passages dealing with the future messiah.
4/25/2006 9:56 PM
NuumbaOne said:

The argument that a sacramental reading of Jn. 3 is anachronistic has no merit, since Jesus often spoke anachronistically to foreshadow things to come in the future.

Like, what about the time Jesus told the Jews that He would tear down the temple and raise it up in three days?
In the context, they did not know what he was talking about yet. But He expected them to know what he meant.

Same with John 3:5.
4/25/2006 10:08 PM


One of the problems with these objections is the way they redefine an “anachronism.”

An anachronism is not simply a case of foreshadowing a future event.

I agree that Jn 6 foreshadows something to come. Yet what it foreshadows is not communion, but the cross.

That is how it functions is the narrative arc of the Forth Gospel.

This is a problem when people are prooftexting to justify something they already believe rather than reading a passage of Scripture within the larger flow of the argument.

Again, this is not a contrast between a partial understanding and a fuller understanding. Rather, what the sacramentalist is doing here is to swap out the original understanding for an entirely different and divergent understanding.

As I said before, the problem with Leithart’s interpretation is twofold: it doesn’t fit with (i) either the Jewish understanding (ii) or the Christian understanding.

As far as prophecy is concerned, the original audience knew what was prophesied. If you don’t know that much, you will be in no position to recognize the fulfillment.

But they didn’t know was the who, when, and how.

And they didn’t know it because that wasn’t given in the prophecy itself. The historical means by which the prophecy was to be realized was no part of the original prophecy.

So the original audience were in a perfect position to understand what a prophecy meant; what they were unable to grasp is not what it said, but what it left unsaid—to be penciled in by future events.

Jn 2:19-22 is a poor counterexample, for their failure consisted in an over-literal interpretation of Jesus’ words. He was speaking figuratively, and they should have been able to detect that much.

How this proves that we should take Jn 3 as a literal allusion to baptism, or Jn 6 as a literal allusion to communion, when the Johannine examples of misunderstanding move in the opposite direction—of mistaking spiritual metaphors for literal descriptions, is less than evident.

There’s also a larger principle at stake, here. Whether we allow anachronisms into our reading of Scripture is no trivial matter.

i) The presence of anachronisms is a telltale sign of forgeries.

One reason we discount the Book of Mormon is because it was written in faux Elizabethan English.

Or take The Da Vinci Code, with its abundance of historical anachronisms.

ii) Sure, you can treat Ezk 36 as a prophecy of Christian baptism.

But once you make elbowroom for anachronistic exegesis, then you can also treat Ezk 1 as a veiled reference to flying saucers.

Having debarred the grammatico-historical method, Erich von Daniken’s interpretation is just as good as Iain Duguid’s.

The cost of “proving” your own position that way is to prove every opposing position the same way.

The Last Puritan

Andrea Weisberger said...

“The upshot of all this is that if there is suffering in the world which is extra -- something which is not accounted for by appeals to free will, or some other type of excuse, then there is unnecessary suffering.

If there is unnecessary suffering in the world -- suffering for which there is no good reason, or any reason, then either god is not all powerful (else this suffering would be eradicated) or god is not all good (since a good god would want to eradicate that to which it is in opposition).

This, in a nutshell, is the problem of evil.”

Andrea is in a bind. She is attempting to disprove the existence of God by invoking the problem of evil.

The problem of evil comes in two basic forms: moral and natural evil.

The difficulty with invoking the moral version is that there are some well-lubricated countermoves to that appeal: the freewill defense, a soul-making theodicy, Leibniz on the best possible world, or a supralapsarian rationale.

In addition, the theodicist can always claim that since it’s sinners who suffer, their suffering is not unjust, but rather, poetic justice. They suffer for their sins.

If an atheist can switch to natural evil, that will undercut a number of theodicies adapted to the moral version.

But there are problems with that move as well. On the face of it, natural evils are not intrinsically evil. Either they’re intrinsically good, or else they’re neutral.

Water is necessary for life, but too much water or too little water is destructive to life. Fire can warm, but fire can burn.

Pain is unpleasant, but an organism insensible to pain is at great risk of injury.

Natural disasters are only disastrous in relation to the incidental organisms that happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Yet natural disasters are not surd events. They result from the conjunction of certain natural forces. And they are often beneficial to the ecosystem. The immediate damage is offset by a long-range or large-scale improvement over the preexisting conditions.

So natural evils are not gratuitous evils. Rather, they serve an obvious function in a physical universe.

What Andrea gives us is a synthesis or hybrid by piggybacking natural evil onto moral evil.

Her showcase is animal cruelty, viz., the hunting and consumption of wild horses.

Horses are innocent, involuntary victims of human caprice and cruelty.

If the argument succeeds, it will capitalize on the merits of both the moral and the natural versions of the problem of evil without their attendant difficulties.

If it fails, it will inherit the liabilities of both versions without their compensatory gains.

As I pointed out in my previous critique, Andrea’s argument is burdened by too many unpaid intellectual bills.

Her case hinges on many unspoken assumptions for which she offers no supporting argument.

We will not extend her a line of credit until she begins to pay some of her intellectual debts.

Moving on:

“Anyone who is in doubt as to whether ‘suffering is a bad thing’ ... well maybe they are a masochist or a sadist -- someone who takes pleasure in the pain of others or themselves perhaps.

In general, for the vast majority of sentient creatures, suffering is most certainly a bad thing.

Is that not self-evident?”

In some ways, this goes to the nub of the problem.

i) Is it self-evident that suffering is a bad thing?

Is it evil that I burn my fingers on a hot stove?

Or would it be evil if I were insensible to pain, so that I kept my hand on the hot stove until the damage done was irreparable?

ii) Self-evident relative to what? Andrea’s rhetorical question enjoys a good deal of intuitive appeal.

The problem, though, is whether her moral intuition makes any sense given her secular outlook on life.

Due to natural revelation and common grace, Andrea retains a remnant of common decency.

But is suffering self-evidently evil from the viewpoint of atheism?

iii) One of the funny things about unbelievers is that even though they deny the doctrine of the Fall, they act as if they were living in a fallen world.

Now, from Andrea’s perspective, the sensible world is the only world there is. There is nothing else to compare it to. It just is.

So why is she so bothered by the fate of wild horses? Either they’re killed by human hunters or natural predators. Is it better to die in the wild? Is it so much better to be eaten alive by a wolf pack?

Why does she act as if there’s something wrong with the world? As if things are not the way they are supposed to be?

How is she in any position to compare the real with the ideal? If this world is all there is, then what supplies the ideal frame of reference by which she disapproves of what she sees?

iv) Aren’t human beings just what natural selection made us to be? Aren’t we killer apes by nature? Blame it on our smart genes.

How did Andrea and others like her ever get to be so emotionally maladjusted to the world they live in?

What makes them think that something is not quite right with the world? Why do they find themselves alienated from the only world there is?

For someone who presumably believes in evolutionary adaptation, Andrea is remarkably ill-adapted to her own environment.

Unbelievers so often act as if this world were paradise lost, and it’s their sacred duty to redeem it and restore it to its Edenic perfection.

Andrea is a secular postmillennialist—like the dutiful characters parodied in Santayana’s The Last Puritan.

Or as Hepburn said to Bogart, "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put into this world to rise above."

Code Breaking Tools

About The Da Vinci Code:
McRyanMac: "The reality is so devastating to Dan Brown's absurd novel that if properly explained it might shame some from ever questioning the veracity of the Bible again. It's humiliating being so wrong so many times and no one wants to be ridiculed. I can just hear students parroting Teabing as if he was a real person or claimed real history. When they find out that the Priory of Sion is a bald hoax, the dam of ignorance will crack and then a flood of errors, omissions and falsehoods will burst forth in deluge. Humiliations galore."
Also outlined are some simple tools that Campus Crusade has developed to dismantle the Da Vinci Hoax.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Born of Water

NuumbaOne11 said:

If you deny the sacramental readin of John 3:5, what’s left? You’d have to argue that “water” means some Old Testament symbol, like the water from the rock or the water of the Red Sea. But that wouldn’t make sense in the sentance: Is Jesus saying we must be born of the Red Sea and the Holy Spirit?

4/25/2006 1:59 PM

1. This commenter, in asking his question, altogether ignores Steve’s initial presentation. He pretends that the anachronistic and acontextual properties of the sacramental reading are non-existent. In asking, “What’s left,” he expects one to accept an improbable reading on the basis that it is, supposedly, the only reading available. The fact that such a reading is wholly out of synchronization with the rest of John’s themes seems to matter little to this commenter.

2. For years, I ignorantly assumed that the birth “of water” referred to the amniotic fluid that flows in the process of birth (”water breaks”). But this type of reading is almost as anachronistic as the sacramental reading, for there is no evidence in any early manuscript that birth was referred to in this manner.

3. Furthermore, as was pointed out in the comments section, the Greek text does not refer to two births, but one. It does not distinguish between a natural birth and a spiritual birth. Rather, both births are referred to by the same preposition (rather than “of water and of spirit,” it is simply “of water and spirit”: εξ υδατος και πνευματος). The spiritual birth is the water birth.

4. Jesus, rather than alluding to something about which Nicodemus would have no clue (baptismal regeneration), he refers to something which Nicodemus would have easily understood:

Ezekiel 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

One must be regenerated to enter the Kingdom of God, and this regeneration involves the dual work of both being cleansed of sin and receiving the Spirit. In order to enter the Kingdom, one must not only be free from his sins, but he must possess a heart of flesh and the Spirit of God that is received in regeneration.

Evan May.

Help Upgrade is undergoing an upgrade. Many of us use this site, and we owe John Hendryx our gratitude for his ministry there. John, you're an unsung hero in these parts. I'd like to to thank you for your work.

Please head over there to give what you feel led to give so that they can get this project off the ground.

Here's the link:

If that link should be down, just go to and look for the information on the upgrade.

HT: Tim Chailles and Alan Kurshner

Back to the Bread of Life

“Some commentators claim that John 6 cannot be talking about the Lord's Supper because the verbs (in vv. 52-59) are aorist. This is very implausible to me. John recorded a discourse of Jesus in which he speaks of eating flesh, drinking blood - both resonant with Eucharistic associations, and he wrote this discourse to churches that commemorated Jesus with a meal of Jesus' flesh and blood. And yet, we know that John didn't intend to talk about the Eucharist because of the verb tense! If John didn't intend his readers to think of the Eucharist, he's chosen a singularly odd way to do his business. It almost seems like a trick: Everything in the chapter SOUNDS like Eucharist, but John leaves us the subtle clue of the verb tense to let us know it's not. A wider point about grammatical-historical exegesis: This is an example of grammar trumping the text; the verb tense controls what the passage means, rather than the whole passage controlling what the passage means. This is not the way we normally use language; when we use rich and resonant imagery, we expect our readers to notice it, and not to focus on verb tenses and not to let the verb tenses control (or cancel out) the imagery. (This is not to say that the verb tenses of Scripture are irrelevant or unimportant. They are, as is every jot and tittle. But there is not reason to make the verb tenses controlling.)”

I agree with Leithart that the proper interpretation of Jn 6 cannot turn on fine points of verbal aspect.

But that’s not what’s wrong with the sacramental reading of Jn 6.

1.He fails to distinguish between the audience of the discourse and the audience of the Gospel.

The Gospel was written for Christians, but the discourse was spoken for Jews.

Jesus wasn’t addressing churches that observe the Eucharist.

Jesus was addressing Jews who were living on the Old Testamental side of the cross.

2.Contemporary readers have a responsibility to draw some distinction between now and then, and not act as if every book of the Bible was written to them.

Although the Bible is written for the benefit of the church, every book of the Bible is not written to the church—much less the contemporary church.

This is a mistake that occurs all the time in popular fundamentalism. Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye act as if the Bible is written specifically to Christians living in the late 20C or early 21C, so that every time there’s a war or oil crisis in the Mideast, this is one more stage in the endtime denouement.

They also treat the martial imagery in Revelation as code language for modern military technology.

Many high churchmen who make fun of Lindsey and LaHaye do the very same thing in their own way.

They also act as if they are the target audience for Jn 3 and Jn 6. They also act as if Jn 3 and Jn 6 are written in code language—that Jn 3 is an allegory of the font, while Jn 6 is an allegory of the Mass.

3.Everything in Jn 6 does not sound like the Eucharist. It talks about bread and blood, but it doesn’t talk about wine or body.

4.It is true, nevertheless, that Jn 6 is reminiscent of the Eucharist.

And that’s because Jn 6 and the Eucharist both stand for the same event. They both stand for Calvary.

The difference is that Jn 6 is prospective, whereas communion is retrospective. Jn 6 looks forward to the cross, whereas communion commemorates the cross.

5.And this brings us to a larger point: Leithart fails to ask what function Jn 6 performs in narrative theology. Where does it fit into the narrative arc?

Is Jn 6 intended to point the reader to the communion table?

No, Jn 6 is intended to point the reader to the cross. This is preparatory for the passion.

Indeed, Jn 1-18 is paving the way for Jn 19.

The entire preceding narrative is structured around the glorification of Christ on the cross.

Like 3-point perspective, the narrative sightlines direct the reader’s eye to the climactic events of Golgotha. That’s the focal-point.

So not only does Leithart’s interpretation disregard the Jewish audience for the Bread of Life discourse in particular, but it also disregards the Christian audience for the Gospel as a whole.

6.One objection to my interpretation might be that misunderstanding is a subtheme of the Fourth Gospel. The listener often misunderstands the words of Jesus.

That being so, maybe Jesus said something in Jn 6 which wasn’t meant to be intelligible at the time.

But there are several problems with this move:

i) In the Gospel of John, these misinterpretations are treated as culpable. The listener incurs guilt for misconstruing the words of Jesus.

But if their true import were dependent on information to which he had no access, then how is he at fault?

ii) Their misunderstandings ordinarily consist in taking Jesus too literally: in failing to appreciate the metaphorical character of the discourse.

Jesus is moving on two different planes, where the concrete imagery is emblematic of spiritual truth. His listeners never make the transition.

And yet the sacramental reading of Jn 3 & Jn 6 is distinguished by its literalism.

iii) In Jn 3, Nicodemus is reprimanded precisely because he was in a position to understand what Jesus said.

His incomprehension is not due to lack of information, but moral and spiritual obtuseness.

He is blameworthy because he knew enough to know better.

That is also the underlying theme in Jn 6. And it comes to a head in Jn 12.

Our Lord’s opponents are inwardly blind. They see, but they lack insight.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Review: Dear Timothy

Imagine you’re sitting at a table surrounded by the modern Apostle Paul’s, Jonathan Edwards’s, and Charles Spurgeon’s of our day… and each one of them has some wisdom concerning pastoral ministry that he wants to share with you. Such is the arrangement and opportunity that has been made available in Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry (edited by Tom Ascol). This multi-authored book is assembled in the format of individual letters written to a fictional character “Timothy,” a young man who is new to the pastorate. Tom explains in the preface, “Timothy is a composite character. He is twenty-six years old, has recently graduated from seminary, and has been in his church for six months. He and his wife Mary have been married for four years and they have a two-year-old son with another child on the way. Each pastor was asked to offer counsel to him on the basis of a long-term relationship and sincere interest in seeing him make a good start.”

Tom begins this wonderful book in the preface with establishing the importance of pastoral influence upon pastors. As Tom notes, this is the concept that is wonderfully portrayed in the title of Louis McBurney’s work, Every Pastor Needs a Pastor. When pastors and teachers fail to receive the counsel and care that is required for those who pour out themselves for the church, ministry-burn-out is soon to come. Equally important is that personal Paul-to-Timothy fellowship that is necessary for those who are new to the pastorate. Tom reminds us that Paul too received such influence. Consider Barnabas who, while many were still skeptical of their former persecutor, took Paul “under his wing, introduced him to church leaders, and helped him get stared in the work of the ministry (Acts 9:26-30, 11:25-26). The man who was to become our Lord’s foremost apostle was greatly blessed to have such an experienced minister counsel him early in his ministry.”

So, in an age where the art of letter-writing is a dying one, the letters in Dear Timothy are quite reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s transferring the care he received from Barnabas into his own passion for the life of Timothy. “Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus,” Tom writes, “serve as divinely inspired manuals of pastoral ministry. Though Paul undoubtedly gave himself in personal ministry to these men, it is the preservation of his letters to them that has served the church so well throughout history.” Likewise, the authors of this work express the same concern as they pen their letters to the fictional character Timothy, sharing the wisdom that they have received from years of studying the Scriptures and experiencing the daily ministry of the pastorate: “The twenty chapters that follow reflect the collective wisdom of more than 480 years of pastoral experience. Each contributor is, at the time of writing, serving a local church. Pastoral ministry is their calling. Their contributions have been made in and around the regular preaching, teaching, counseling, and leadership demands that go with pastoring a local church. This fact lends credibility to what they have written.”

Here’s the chapter list:

1. Establish Priorities by Tom Ascol
2. Watch Your Life by Conrad Mbewe
3. Love Your Family by Tedd Tripp
4. Love Your Flock by Ted Christman
5. Memorize Scripture by Andy Davis
6. Pray Always by Martin Holdt
7. Cultivate Humility by C. J. Mahaney
8. Be Courageous by Bill Ascol
9. Do the Work of an Evangelist by Mark Dever
10. Do Personal Work by Fred Malone
11.Watch Your Doctrine by Raymond Perron
12. Keep Studying by Ligon Duncan
13. Learn from the Puritans I by Joel Beeke
14. Learn from the Puritans II by Joel Beeke
15. Preach the Word by Roger Ellsworth
16.Worship in Spirit and Truth by Terry Johnson
17. Train Other Men by Steve Martin
18. Care for the Nations by Phil Newton
19. Don’t Neglect Revival by Ray Ortlund, Jr.
20. Find a Place to Settle by Geoff Thomas

For having a variety of pastors retrieved from various backgrounds and creeds, this work displays a wonderful over-all unity. It is balanced and perspectival, but it is one work. It is amazing that while each author/pastor writes concerning his own topic, the foundational principles expressed in each chapter are in wonderful like-mindedness.

Each author’s topic was very appropriately assigned. For instance, we have Tripp on the family, Dever on evangelism, Mahaney on humility, etc. In each case, I don’t know if I could select a better person to impart wisdom on the particular topic. And obviously, your every-day young pastor does not have a close relationship with this many gifted leaders, but by reading this book he receives part of the benefits of knowing these men.

Additionally, each author displays tremendous creativity in incorporating his topic into the life of the fictional character “Timothy.” This is, no doubt, creativity that has been acquired from years of counseling and preaching. But though these may be practically inconsequential details compared to the work as a whole, it is quite entertaining to listen in on how each of these men of God would write to his friend and fellow minister of the Word. Indeed, evidences of grace are displayed even in the small elements of creativity that spice these articles. And these authors did a great job at bringing reality to their statements. The reader truly feels like he is Timothy.

I heartily endorse this work and recommend it to young pastors, old pastors, and basically any Christian, and I joyfully pass on to you the link to where you can purchase Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry.

Evan May.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

"Horrific consequences"

According to John Loftus:

“Calvinists further claim that the evidential apologetics practiced by Arminians leads people to atheism…”

This statement is less than self-explanatory. There is no official school of apologetics in Calvinism.

Likewise, how many men started out as professing Christians, and were led into atheism through their study of evidential apologetics?

Or is Loftus saying that evidential apologetics only has this effect when it is practiced by Arminians?

“…while Arminians claim that the horrific consequences of Calvinism leads people to atheism.”

How would Calvinism have this effect on people?

If you don’t believe in Calvinism, then you don’t believe that Calvinism has any horrific consequences.

But if you do believe in the consequences of Calvinism, whether “horrific” or not, then you must be a Calvinist rather than an atheist.