Saturday, July 29, 2006

Leon Morris, R.I.P.



Leon Morris

15.3.1914 – 24.7.2006

Leon Lamb Morris was perhaps Australia’s most prolific biblical and theological author. He wrote over fifty books of theology and biblical commentary which have sold nearly two million copies worldwide and been translated into many languages. This is an astonishing output for an Australian writing technical or academic books. He was well-known throughout the Christian world as a careful, conservative biblical scholar. Extraordinarily, Morris received no formal theological education, apart from two years of supervision for his doctorate in Cambridge. He was self-taught theologian who brought his rigorous and disciplined training in scientific enquiry to his study of the Bible and theology.

Born in Lithgow in March 1914, his father was an iron founder. Morris began training as a teacher in 1931 with a degree in science. In his first year he was converted to Christ in the Anglican parish of Leichhardt under the ministry of R B Robinson. At the Katoomba Convention the next year he felt the call to ordained ministry. Having qualified as a science teacher he was required to serve out the five years of his bond to the Department of Education. However while he worked as teacher, he studied in his spare time for a Licentiate in Theology and topped the Australian College of Theology List. The Archbishop of Sydney, Howard Mowll, paid out his bond to the Department of Education and he was ordained to a curacy in Campsie in 1938.

In 1940, under the auspices of the Bush Church Aid Association, he began five years as priest in charge of the vast Minnipa Mission in outback South Australia during the difficult years of World War Two. He continued his private studies at this time, gaining the Bachelor of Divinity from London University with first class honours in 1943 and the Master of Theology in 1946. Mildred, whom he married in 1941, would drive the bumpy, dusty roads of South Australia while Leon studied New Testament Greek in the passenger seat.

In 1945, Morris was invited to the position of Vice-Principal of Ridley College in Melbourne. He spent 1950-51 in Cambridge gaining his Ph.D. which was later published as The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, a book which became seminal for modern evangelical theology of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. He was encouraged in his study by Professor, later Archbishop, Michael Ramsay. In 1951 he became the first Australian elected to the Society for New Testament Studies.

In 1961, Morris accepted the position of Warden at Tyndale House in Cambridge, a significant evangelical biblical research centre. In 1964, he courageously left this ideal academic post and returned to Ridley College as Principal when the college was in severe difficulty, convinced this was God’s call. During his fifteen years as Principal, he strengthened the college, gave it a worldwide reputation, built a new chapel and established Ridley College as an official residential college of Melbourne University, the first college to take both men and women. He was made a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1964 and a member of the University Council in 1977. In 1966 he was runner-up in the election of the Archbishop of Sydney.

During these years he continued his prolific writing, publishing commentaries on almost every book of the New Testament, many of which remain classics. He was in demand as a lecturer and preacher in Australia and overseas where he was visiting professor in a number of colleges. His style was famous for his dry wit, conciseness, simplicity and attention to the detail of the biblical text applied relevantly. He served on the boards of a number of Christian organizations including the Evangelical Alliance, Scripture Union, Church Missionary Society, Bible Society, and he chaired the 1968 Billy Graham Crusade Committee. As President of the Evangelical Alliance, he established TEAR Fund, a significant Christian aid and development agency in Australia. He was a translator for the New International Version of the New Testament. In 1974, on his sixtieth birthday, he was presented with a Festschrift from eminent biblical scholars from around the world.

In retirement, Morris continued writing from his large study in Doncaster. He lectured overseas several times and continued to preach regularly. He and Mildred were loyal members of Holy Trinity Doncaster where he preached his final sermon, on the opening verses of John’s gospel late in 1997. Typically he preached with few notes from the Greek text. As always, he was remarkably lucid. The Gospel of John held a place close to Leon Morris’s heart and his magisterial commentary on John remains perhaps his magnum opus.

Morris was well known for his humble manner and gracious Christian character. He leaves a vast legacy of theologically equipped ministers throughout the world upholding biblical Christian faith centred on the atoning death of Jesus Christ. His theology is the subject of a recently completed Ph.D. from the University of Queensland.

The first of four children, he is survived by his brother, Max. His wife Mildred predeceased him in April 2003. They had no children. The Leon and Mildred Morris Foundation continues their generosity to many good causes.

The Rev’d Canon Dr Peter Adam, Principal, Ridley College, Melbourne

Archdeacon Dr Paul Barker, Vicar, Holy Trinity Doncaster


A Life That Was Lived Well

I just saw this article from earlier this week at Justin Taylor's blog. More information is available here. This past Monday, I gave away a copy of the 1992 edition of An Introduction To The New Testament to a coworker. That was the day Leon Morris died. I didn't know it at the time. I'm sure that my example of his influence will be multiplied many times. "The memory of the righteous is blessed" (Proverbs 10:7).

"Those preachers whose voices were clear and mighty for truth during life continue to preach in their graves. Being dead, they yet speak; and whether men put their ears to their tombs or not, they cannot but hear them...Often, the death of a man is a kind of new birth to him; when he himself is gone physically, he spiritually survives, and from his grave there shoots up a tree of life whose leaves heal nations. O worker for God, death cannot touch thy sacred mission! Be thou content to die if the truth shall live the better because thou diest. Be thou content to die, because death may be to thee the enlargement of thine influence. Good men die as dies the seed-corn which thereby abideth not alone. When saints are apparently laid in the earth, they quit the earth., and rise and mount to Heaven-gate, and enter into immortality. No, when the sepulcher receives this mortal frame, we shall not die, but live." (Charles Spurgeon, cited in The C.H. Spurgeon Collection [Albany, Oregon: AGES Software, 1998], A Biography Pictoral of C.H. Spurgeon, p. 3)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Who Wrote The Gospel Of John?

DagoodS of Debunking Christianity has written an article on the authorship of the gospel of John. Compare that article with an article I wrote on the same subject last year.

Though DagoodS claims that Biblical authorship is an issue he's "studied vociferously", the objection he focuses on (the absence of some Synoptic material on love in John's gospel) is weak by itself and even weaker when contrasted with the evidence we have for Johannine authorship. To recognize the weak nature of DagoodS' objection, we should establish a timeline.

The apostle John lived until around the end of the first century. Irenaeus and Victorinus say so explicitly, other ante-Nicene sources suggest it, and Eusebius, who had access to many documents no longer extant, accepts the report without presenting an alternative. Thus, the second century sources reporting on the authorship of John's gospel are commenting on the subject not long after John's death. John's disciples lived well into the second century. Polycarp didn't die until the early part of the second half of the second century. Irenaeus refers to John's disciples (more than just Papias and Polycarp) living into the second century. He refers to how they were consulted about the correct rendering of a passage in the book of Revelation, for example, which means that people must have known who the disciples of John were and must have associated them with Johannine books, such as Revelation.

From the time of Polycarp's death onward, Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel is nearly universally stated or implied (with the minor exception of the heretical Alogoi, who had no historical knowledge of a different author). Around the middle of the second century, close to the time of Polycarp's death, Justin Martyr writes of an established church tradition of reading the gospels along with the Old Testament scriptures in church services (First Apology, 67). He refers elsewhere to "the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them" (Dialogue With Trypho, 103). Notice the plural: "apostles" and "those who followed them". The use of the plural matches our four gospels: apostles (Matthew, John) and those who followed them (Mark, Luke). Justin doesn't cite the number four anywhere, but his comments are consistent with the collection of four gospels that sources living just after Justin's time refer to. In another place, Justin refers to the fact that the apostles composed gospels (First Apology, 66), so he can't just be referring to the apostles as the subject matter of the gospels. Justin isn't as explicit as a source like Irenaeus, but what he reports is consistent with what Irenaeus and other sources tell us.

Shortly after Justin's death, a wide variety of sources (a variety of locations, personalities, backgrounds, etc.) report that the gospel of John was written by the apostle (Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, etc.). They state the fact as if they aren't expecting it to be challenged.

A source like Irenaeus is especially significant, since he had met John's disciple Polycarp, possessed the writings of John's disciple Papias, and had lived in a city John was in contact with (Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11). Given the recent timing of John's death, the prominence of John's disciples in the second century church, the nearly universal acceptance of Johannine authorship, and other such factors, the external evidence for John's authorship of the fourth gospel is strong. It would require a major amount of internal evidence to overturn the implication of the external data.

But there is no strong internal evidence against Johannine authorship. Instead, the internal evidence further supports the traditional view. The New Testament scholar Martin Hengel argues that the traditional names of the gospel authors were part of the documents all along (The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000]). Any claim that John's name isn't part of the document has to be argued, not just asserted. And my article linked at the opening of this post gives a lot of other internal indications that the gospel was written by John. The Synoptics, Acts, and Galatians portray John and Peter as frequently associated with each other, and the gospel of John similarly associates the beloved disciple with Peter. The Synoptics add the qualifier "the Baptist" to John the Baptist's name, whereas John's gospel doesn't, probably because there would be no third person references to another John, since the author was the apostle John. Etc. Anybody who's interested can read my article linked above for more details.

I want to respond to some of the comments DagoodS makes in his article:

"Part of my journey was discovering that the authors of the Gospels were not eyewitnesses to the events, and therefore subject to the same troubling problems of error being introduced into their accounts."

The gospels were written within several decades of Jesus' death, when eyewitnesses of Jesus and the apostles were still alive. They wouldn't have to be documents written by eyewitnesses in order to be historically reliable documents.

And skeptics like DagoodS don't just want to dismiss a few details here and there. Rather, they want us to believe that the gospels are all wrong to a radical extent. The fact that a document wasn't written by an eyewitness (if true) doesn't lead us to the radical conclusions of skeptics like DagoodS.

"John has numerous unique sayings, a lack of parables, and refers to Jesus doing signs, all of which are vastly different than what we see in the Synoptics."

If DagoodS had read the early external sources commenting on John's gospel (Tatian's Diatessaron, Clement of Alexandria, etc.), he would know that the earliest Christians were aware of the differences between the Synoptics and the gospel of John and that they gave an explanation for those differences. John wrote last. He was deliberately supplementing what had been written previously. He chose to focus on different things. He puts more emphasis on the sayings of Jesus and less emphasis on the miracles of Jesus than Mark did, for example. If John was deliberately supplementing one or more of the previous gospels, then the differences make sense. DagoodS' charges of contradiction and non-historicity have been addressed by Craig Keener, Craig Blomberg, and other scholars, but DagoodS shows little knowledge of what they've written.

The Synoptics and John are similar for the most part. The general outlines of Jesus' life, His character, His enemies, etc. are the same in detail after detail. If the gospel of John is as "vastly different" from the Synoptics as DagoodS claims, then why didn't he notice such a vast difference when he was a professing Christian for a few decades? There are differences, but they aren't as significant as DagoodS and other critics make them out to be.

"John also disappears, a mention is made of his missionary trip to Samaria, and no more. Acts 8:14. The primary leaders of the early Church, according to Acts, were not Disciples."

Why single out the book of Acts? The book was written by a companion of Paul, so its focus on Paul makes sense. But Paul himself tells us that John remained prominent in the church (Galatians 2:9), we have five documents written by John (one of which is addressed to seven churches, some of them churches of major significance), and the early post-apostolic sources tell us that John had an important role in the church of the first century. Has DagoodS read much of Irenaeus? You can't read much of Irenaeus without noticing the large shadow that John and his disciples cast over the second century church.

"Perhaps he was not there that day—it was his turn to go into town and pick up bread."

DagoodS acknowledges that John records some of Jesus' comments about love, yet he asks why John didn't record more of them. Why should we expect him to? He's largely supplementing one or more of the other gospels. Jesus' statement in the Synoptics about love as the greatest commandment is similar to what Jesus states in a passage like John 13:34-35, so why would John need to repeat this theme in its Synoptic form?

"I am stumped as to how one can have Jesus giving a new commandment of 'love one another' after the stories recorded in the Synoptics."

Notice that DagoodS only quotes a portion of the passage. Read the rest of John 13:34. Jesus puts the love in the context of "as I have loved you". No love could be patterned after Jesus' life until Jesus lived that life. And He doesn't set a timeframe on the newness of the commandment. If it was something that originated a few months or a few years earlier, He could still refer to it as new at the time of John 13. For an illustration of how similar commandments can be seen as both old and new, see 1 John 2:7-8. Nothing in John 13 contradicts the Synoptics.

I just cited a passage in 1 John, and I should note something here about the epistles. Notice that DagoodS uses the Johannine epistles in his argument, yet rejects the strong implication those epistles have for the Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel. If all four documents were attributed to the apostle John, it's far more likely that the early Christians were right four times than that they were wrong four times. It's not as if these documents were written anonymously, without anybody knowing who circulated them. As we see in 2 John and 3 John, the author knew the people he was writing to and was writing to them about specific events occurring among them. He wasn't just addressing general principles. How likely is it that the recipients of these documents would leave no trace of the actual identity of the author anywhere in the historical record, followed by Christians living just afterward collectively reaching the mistaken conclusion that all four documents were written by the apostle John?

"I propose that the Gospel of John was written by someone unfamiliar with the Synpotic stories who was not traveling with Jesus."

Then you have a lot of internal and external evidence to the contrary to explain. And that evidence weighs far more than your belief that the apostle John would have repeated more of the passages in the Synoptics. You can't overcome strong internal evidence and strong external evidence with an appeal to weak internal evidence.

How likely is it that the author of John was unfamiliar with the Synoptics? It's highly unlikely. Most scholars date Mark prior to 70 A.D., which would mean that the document was circulating for decades prior to the writing of John's gospel (assuming the late first century dating of that gospel, which makes sense in light of what Irenaeus and other ante-Nicene sources report). Papias reports, early in the second century, that he learned of the origins of Mark's gospel from the church leadership of his day. He tells us that he acquired the information from "the elder" (Eusebius, Church History, 3:39:15), a possible reference to the apostle John. Whoever gave Papias this information, it was widely known in his day. The gospels are widely quoted and alluded to by sources of the late first and early second centuries, and Aristides even refers to the gospels' availability to non-Christians who were interested in reading them (Apology, 2). Eusebius tells us that Christians of the early second century distributed copies of the gospels as they traveled (Church History, 3:37:2). The concept that the author of the gospel of John wouldn't have known about any of the Synoptic gospels, and would have been ignorant of the traditions behind them as well, is absurdly untenable. Craig Keener comments:

"Suggesting that the Fourth Gospel is not directly dependent on the Synoptics need not imply that John did not know of the existence of the Synoptics; even if (as is unlikely) Johannine Christianity were as isolated from other circles of Christianity as some have proposed, other gospels must have been known if travelers afforded any contact at all among Christian communities. That travelers did so may be regarded as virtually certain. Urban Christians traveled (1 Cor 16:10, 12, 17; Phil 2:30; 4:18), carried letters (Rom 16:1-2; Phil 2:25), relocated to other places (Rom 16:3, 5; perhaps 16:6-15), and sent greetings to other churches (Rom 16:21-23; 1 Cor 16:19; Phil 4:22; Col 4:10-15). In the first century many churches knew what was happening with churches in other cities (Rom 1:8; 1 Cor 11:16; 14:33; 1 Thess 1:7-9), and even shared letters (Col 4:16). Missionaries could speak of some churches to others (Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:1-5; 9:2-4; Phil 4:16; 1 Thess 2:14-16; cf. 3 John 5-12) and send personal news by other workers (Eph 6:21-22; Col 4:7-9). Although we need not suppose connections among churches as pervasive as Ignatius’ letters suggest perhaps two decades later, neither need we imagine that such connections emerged ex nihilo in the altogether brief silence between John’s Gospel and the 'postapostolic' period. No one familiar with the urban society of the eastern empire will be impressed with the isolation Gospel scholars often attribute to the Gospel 'communities.'" (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], pp. 41-42)

Gospel harmonies are already on people's minds and circulating in written form in the middle of the second century (as reflected in Tatian's Diatessaron). In other words, people were perceiving the four gospels as harmonious accounts of actual historical events at a time when eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the apostles were still alive. The people living just after the time of the apostles have no concept of some Johannine community writing a gospel in ignorance of the other gospels or in opposition to the other gospels. The traditional view, involving the historicity and harmony of the four gospels, is there from the start.

I want to close this post with an emphasis on the theme I began with. Compare the arguments cited against Johannine authorship of the fourth gospel to the arguments cited in support of it. If one side has no external sources and the other side has many, and one side has softer internal evidence and the other side has harder internal evidence, what does that contrast suggest? And what does it suggest when the side relying on much weaker evidence in this case does the same over and over again with other books of the Bible and on other disputed topics?


DM [Daniel Morgan]: I would have to say that I don't think you've given Roberts credit for the real argument he is making here. He is not making the argument that if a number of answers are wrong, then the best answer is no answer at all -- the "no god" option is an answer. It's not "well since 2+2 =/ 5, it can't = 4," but "what method do we use to arrive at /=?" Do we apply that same method consistently to "="?

SH: There are two issues here: (i) What did he mean? and (ii) what do unbelievers mean by quoting him?

(i) And (ii) may not be the same thing. What makes his statement so quotable is that it’s so pithy.

But that’s also what makes the interpretation debatable. It’s quite possible to overinterpret his statement since he himself admits that he never expected it to become so popular. It's just something he said off the cuff that took on a life of its own.

My point is that his statement involves some very facile reasoning which deserves further scrutiny.

DM: In the same way, do you apply the same skeptical criteria to your own Bible that you apply to other books, esp those that are regarded as "sacred/holy/inspired"? It doesn't mean that your conclusion itself is necessarily the target of his argument, but the METHOD you use to make your conclusion. Note that he referred to the reasons that you reject other gods, as in, your methodology in determining the veracity of your own god, versus skepticism towards those other gods.

SH: That’s a very broad question.

i) I may be a Cartesian dualist, but I’m not a Cartesian sceptic. I don’t pretend to doubt things that I don’t doubt or cannot doubt.

ii) There’s an implicit voluntarism in your question, as if the cognitive subject is one thing, and his beliefs are another, such that he can bracket his beliefs at will and be in a mental state of suspended belief about anything and everything.

I don’t put my beliefs in a box every night and take them out every morning. That’s totally artificial.

iii) As far as the Bible is concerned, I find the Bible believable. I find myself in a state of belief regarding the Bible.

iv) I’ve read a great deal in support or opposition to the Bible. I find the objections specious and the supporting arguments convincing.

v) As to rival revelation claims, these are quite limited. Eastern religions lack the metaphysical machinery even to lay claim to divine revelation, for their concept of the divine is impersonal and immanental.

vi) What we’re left with are Christian heresies of one kink or another which regard the Bible or part of the Bible as either their rule of faith or one element thereof.

In that event, it comes down to an exegetical question of who has the better of the argument in the interpretation of Scripture.

DM: And if there really were no gods, then it would be just as arbitrary to believe in one as to believe in many, correct?”

SH: True, but Roberts’ argument moves from the many to the one to the none, not vice versa.

DM: Except it happens to be the one and only "creation story" that science accepts as a scientific one. (whether or not it is true) So it is the only one that is accepted for scientific reasons (whether they are wrong or right).”

SH: “Science” is just an abstraction for the collective working methods and beliefs of various scientists

There’s a lot of diversity within science, both on the secular side and the Christian side.

DM: But this is a logical fallacy. "Anti-Darwinianism" doesn't imply that one is myth-less, it is specific. On the contrary, atheism is general and sweeping and broad.

SH: It’s supposed to be a logical fallacy since it’s a parody of Roberts’ reasoning, which is also fallacious.

DM: Also, I reject all of the other creation stories because of the lack of evidence for them. Common descent from universal ancestors is as well-evidenced as it gets, like it or not.

SH: As viewed through your interpretive prism.

DM: Believing there is no driving force behind it, or that the universe wasn't tuned to allow it to happen, is attaching philosophical significance to an otherwise-scientific answer. That is the problem with the Discovery Institute's vacuous statement. They imply that one has to reject God to accept common descent, when some of their own fellows (eg Behe, and Dembski won't answer it either way) accept common descent.

SH: Yes, ID is consistent with anything from YEC thru OEC to theistic evolution. That’s why it’s a deliberate distortion for critics to treat ID as a stalking horse for creationism.

DM: It isn't global skepticism that Roberts advocates, it is skepticism towards the supernatural and unevidenced. It is bias towards our own beliefs and shielding them from the same level of critical inquiry and skeptical caution that we apply to other beliefs. Consistency is the key, and not in denying everything, but in denying faith in X when Y is just as believable (just as well-evidenced).

SH: I never imagined that Roberts was a global sceptic. But his reasoning is so loose and rubbery that a global sceptic could plug global scepticism into the same argumentative framework and run it into the ground.

My parallel is a parody; not an exposition, but an argumentum ad impossibile.

Nullifidian fundies

Anon: It's a great piece of reasoning for theists who can be honest about why they dismiss all other possible gods, and god claims, and even claims about their own gods they don't like.

SH: I’ve blogged on comparative religion many times before. Been there, done that.

And I don’t dismiss any claims about God in the Bible. You’re confusing the religious left with the religious right—which shows how little you know.

Anon: You're way too far gone for any honest introspection of your own beliefs.

SH: Unfortunately, I’m a byproduct of genes and memes. You know, naturalistic evolution, biological determinism, and social conditioning.

Anyway, Anon is still in bondage to the folk psychology of “beliefs.”

I guess when his Mommy was homeschooling him, she didn’t acquaint him with eliminative materialism.

Anon: That supserstious people have always made all kinds of unsupported god claims of relatively similar types, yet nowadays, it's fashionable for the typical deluded, self righteous , religious fanatic to deny all other claims in a form of special pleading that quickly escalates into tyranny, and violent persecution.

SH: i) Notice that he “says” we engage in special pleading, but he doesn’t “show” that we engage in special pleading. He’d rather talk about the facts than let the facts do the talking.

ii) And it’s not as if religion had a monopoly on special pleading:


Sagan's suggestion that only demonologists engage in "special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble," is certainly not one that accords with my reading of the scientific literature. Nor is this a problem unique to biology. The attempts of physicists to explain why their measurements of the effects of relativity did not agree with Einstein's quantitative prediction is a case no doubt well known to Sagan.


iii) But I also see that Anonymous suffers from a persecution complex. Who is persecuting him? The fundies? Are we giving him bad dreams? Does he need a nightlight?

The only pattern of violent persecution is hailing from the Muslims world.

Anon: Is there one god? Is his name Allah? Or are there three gods? Does god want you not to do any work on Saturday? Does god want you to pray facing Mecca? Does god want you to have a holy man sprinkle water on you? That god doesn't want you to use birth control of eat pork?

SH: Anon has strayed quite far from Roberts. The question at issue was the existence of any given God, not the commands of God given his existence.

Anon: Sorry you skipped biology 101 Fundy. Evolution simply desribes the process where genes change over time in breeding populations. It's not a "creation story", and there are no magical gods involved.

SH: Sorry you weren’t good enough to make the cut for Harvard, unlike Kurt Wise.

Had you only had the chops to get in, you might have learned a thing or two from Richard Lewontin:


We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.


Anon: No, it’s an appeal to the scientific method and the skeptical peer review process that requires scientists to publish their theories, predictions, experiments and data so that it may be challenged and/or corroborated by other scientists working in their field.

SH: Uh-Huh:


Despite its claims to be above society, science, like the Church before it, is a supremely social institution, reflecting and reinforcing the dominant values and views of society at each historical epoch.

As to assertions without adequate evidence, the literature of science is filled with them, especially the literature of popular science writing. Carl Sagan's list of the "best contemporary science-popularizers" includes E.O. Wilson, Lewis Thomas, and Richard Dawkins, each of whom has put unsubstantiated assertions or counterfactual claims at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market.

It is said that there is no place for an argument from authority from science. The community of science is constantly self-critical ... It is certainly true that within each narrowly defined scientific field there is constant challenge to new technical claims and to old wisdom. ... But when scientists transgress the bounds of their own specialty they have no choice but to accept the claims of authority, even though they do not know how solid the grounds of those claims may be. Who am I to believe that quantum physics if not Steven Weinberg, or about the solar system if not Carl Sagan? What worries me is that they may believe what Dawkins and Wilson tell them about evolution.


Anon: LOL…I’m VERY conversant in empiricism, and I’m also aware that “reality” is a meaningless term outside the context of human perception.

SH: which is precisely the problem for Anon: the veil of perception.

Anon: If on the other hand you’re a Christian fundy who just wants to make some quick money appealing to the ignorance of the mass Christian fundy market, just write a bombastic book attacking evolution without ever doing any real science to support an alternative theory. Guys like Dembski, Johnson, and Behe have all made a pretty good buck using this approach.

SH: If on the other hand you’re a nullifidian fundy who just wants to make some quick money appealing to the ignorance of the mass nullifidian fundy market, just write a bombastic book attacking creation or intelligent without ever doing any real science to support an alternative theory. Guys like Dawkins and Dennett have all made a pretty good buck using this approach.

Anon: The facts of biological evolution have been OBSERVED in the lab and in nature. They are completely verifiable… Biological evolution and common descent is completely falsifiable.

SH: Uh-huh:


Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection in particular is hopelessly metaphysical, according to the rules of etiquette laid down in the Logic of Scientific Inquiry and widely believed in by practicing scientists who bother to think about the problem. The first rule for any scientific hypothesis ought to be that it is at least possible to conceive of an observation that would contradict the theory. For what good is a theory that is guaranteed by its internal logical structure to agree with all conceivable observations, irrespective of the real structure of the world? If scientists are going to use logically unbeatable theories about the world, they might as well give up natural science and take up religion. Yet is that not exactly the situation with regard to Darwinism? The theory of evolution by natural selection states that changes in the inherited characters of species occur, giving rise to differentiation in space and time, because different genetical types leave different numbers of offspring in different environments... Such a theory can never be falsified, for it asserts that some environmental difference created the conditions for natural selection of a new character. It is existentially quantified so that the failure to find the environmental factor proves nothing, except that one has not looked hard enough. Can one really imagine observations about nature that would disprove natural selection as a cause of the difference in bill size? The theory of natural selection is then revealed as metaphysical rather than scientific. Natural selection explains nothing because it explains everything.


Anon: Sorry Fundy…the earth is 4.5 billion years old, single cell microorganisms show up ~ 3.5 billion years ago, the first vertebrate fossils ~ 525 million years ago, the first mammals ~ 120 million years ago, the first bipedal hominid ~ 4 million years ago, and our species, H. Sapiens, shows up ~ 200,000 years ago.

SH: Anonymous has a sloppy habit of acting as if every critic of evolution has to be a YEC. Some critics belong to the OEC camp while other critics like Denton and Berlinski have no religious ax to grind.

Anon: “Evolutionary psychology” has nothing to do with the FACTS of science I’m talking about.

SH: Anon is such a babe in the woods. Evolutionary psychology cuts its own throat. The FACTS of science are only as good as the MIND of the scientist.

But I guess his Mommy didn’t teach him evolutionary psychology when she was homeschooling him.

Anon: The Heaven’s Gate cult was just another evolved religion that combined elements of Christianity and beliefs in UFOs.

SH: Ufology is a secular cult. It’s the problem child of secular humanism.

Anon: Feel free to link to any article in a peer reviewed science journal that challenges biological evolution with a better, falsifiable, scientific theory.

Oops…you can’t do it.

SH: Here’s a very informative link on the whole subject:

Anon: LOL…who said anything about the science of “memetics”? Not me. I think you’re imaging things again fundy…seems to be a common infliction of your cognitive dysfunction.

SH: Anon was the one who talked about a “Christian mind virus,” which is straight from the playbook of memetics.

But Anon is forgetful. Seems to be a common infliction of his cognitive dysfunction.

One god too many?

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god [sic.] than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

— Stephen F Roberts

I see this quote popping up all over the secular hemisphere of the blogosphere.

Why do unbelievers think this is such a great piece of reasoning?

Roberts is insinuating that a theist is an inconsistent atheist. A theist is an atheist who has narrowed the field to just one contender. A theist is an atheist who’s down to one God.

But what, exactly, is the underlying argument?

Why is it illogical to believe that while the shades of error are infinite, there is often just one right answer to a question?

If there really were a lot of gods, then it would be arbitrary to believe in only one. But Roberts is an atheist, not a polytheist.

Let’s apply his logic to a few other test cases.

I suppose that he believes in evolution. But as unbelievers are quick to remind us, Gen 1 is not the only creation story around. There are many creation stories.

Indeed, evolution is just one more creation story.

Suppose a secular anti-Darwinian like David Berlinski were to apply Roberts’ reasoning to evolution:

“I contend that we are both anti-Darwinians. I just believe in one fewer creation story than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other creation stories, you will understand why I dismiss your Darwinian story.”

Or suppose we were going to apply Roberts’ logic to a number of other truth-claims, such as the debate between alethic realism and antirealism:

“I contend that we are both global sceptics. I just believe in one fewer truths than you do. You believe that there are many wrong answers to when Churchill was born, but only one right answer (1874). When you understand why you dismiss all the other birthdates, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

“I contend that we are both global sceptics. I just believe in one fewer truths than you do. You believe that there are many wrong answers to what two-plus-two equals, but only one right answer (2+2=4). When you understand why you dismiss all the other sums, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

“I contend that we are both global sceptics. I just believe in one fewer truths than you do. You believe that there are many wrong answers to the boiling point of water, but only one right answer (100˚C). When you understand why you dismiss all the other temperatures, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

The fact that so many unbelievers are so impressed by Roberts’ shallow, easily refuted, argument says a lot about the beetle-browed, knuckle-dragging level at which many unbelievers reason.

R U 4 the UN?

Ted said:

“Steve, I couldn't agree more! All that stuff about ‘love thine enemy’ and all is for the dogs. Pull out all the stops!”

It’s always revealing how many unbelievers act as if satire is un-Christian. They never say why. They just emote.

Ted’s reaction reflects muddled-thinking at several levels. He quotes the Sermon on the Mount out of context, which I’ve discussed elsewhere.

Beyond that, Hezbollah is not “my” enemy. Hezbollah is not firing missiles at me.

So even if Ted were not quoting the Sermon on the Mount out of context, his quotation is inapplicable in this context.

But it’s true that I side with Israel over Hezbollah.

I guess that Ted would rather side with Hezbollah over Israel.

I employed sarcasm to make a serious point: the UN is always part of the problem, and never part of the solution.

The UN had all these “peacekeepers” on the ground in Lebanon. Did they keep the peace? No.

The UN had all these observers on the ground in Lebanon. Where were they looking when thousands of missiles were transported from Iran to Lebanon?

Far from monitoring the militants, the UN simply provides cover for the militants.

By in large, the UN is an ally of our enemies.

And no matter how often the UN fails, the liberal establishment continues to support the UN.

Liberals don’t care about solutions; they only care about symbols.

Sarcasm aside, this is my take on the war in Lebanon:

Israelis complain that Israel always gets the blame regardless of what she does. If she's aggressive, she takes the blame, and if she's restrained and conciliatory, she takes the blame.

While this is a valid complaint, I think there's another way of looking at it. If you're going to get blamed no matter what you do, then you have nothing to lose by acting in your own self-preservation regardless of the headlines.

Since Israel always takes the blame anyway, she might as well use maximal force to repel the enemy. Hit hard and fast and get it behind you.

I have little sympathy for the Lebanese. The excuse I’ve heard is that the Lebanese gov’t lacks the muscle to evict Hezbollah.

Maybe that’s the case, but the Lebanese had an alternative: they could have formed a military alliance with Israel, squeezing Hezbollah from both directions, inside and out, in a pinchers maneuver.

But most Arabs (not to mention Iranians) are Jew-haters first, last, and always, so such an alliance would be unthinkable even though it would be in their self-interest.

I realize that the Bush administration is worried about the collapse of the fledgling democratic movement in Lebanon, but as long as Hezbollah is calling the shots, any "democratic" gov't would be a puppet gov't.

I also think it would be helpful if the US were to use some of its airpower against Syria and Iran. We should form a military alliance with Israel in the war against global jihad.

Daniel Morgan also weighed in. Unlike Ted, Danny was at least attempting to make a serious point:


Perhaps the more, um, reasonable (and perhaps Christian) way to have made Steve's point would have been to say something of the effect that, had the bomb hit the HQ instead of the outpost, the effect on peace (when and how it will come) would have been nil.

The underlying question in all of this is, of course, can you remove Islamic fascism by force? Can you kill them all? Or in fighting them, do you not draw more persons into their cause, and convince more moderates that they [Hizbollah] are on the right side of things, and that such a militia is necessary?

Perhaps I'm just an idealist. I'm not a leftie in the sense that you mean it, but I suppose I see this cycle of violence as cruel in its unending circularity. Watching Munich was a beautiful narrative for convincing me of that.

How many people think this doesn't just motivate the crazies further, and encourage their efforts to acquire serious weapons, as well as make those with access to such weapons more likely to sympathize with them and give them over?


I would respond as follows:

1.We don’t have the luxury of choosing our battles. Our enemies don’t give us a range of preferred options.

2.No, we can’t kill every jihadi on the planet. But that’s not the point.

The police can’t apprehend every criminal or preempt every crime. Should we therefore disband the police force?

This was never about winning once and for all. It’s about risk management. Cutting your enemies down to size. Keeping the threat-level on a scale that permits some semblance of normality.

3.As I said in my piece on just-war criteria, the way to end the cycle of violence is through the application of overwhelming force rather than proportional force.

If we had used proportional force in Japan, Japan would still be a warrior culture.

4. Not all Muslims nurse a death-wish. They may support the suicide-bomber, throw him a stag party before he leaves to do his homicidal thing, but they don’t strap themselves into the explosive vest.

It’s better to make your enemies love you than fear you—but if you can’t make them love you, then I’ll settle for fear.

As to Spielberg’s amoral, softheaded propaganda piece, I prefer Dennis Prager’s review to Danny’s:

Thursday, July 27, 2006

UN observers take a hit

It's a pity that Israel accidentally bombed the UN bunker yesterday...a pity Israel didn't bomb the UN headquarters instead!

Hearts & flowers for Hizbullah

Best of the Web Today

Thursday, July 27, 2006 3:58 p.m. EDT

Hezbollah Groupie

One Cecilia Lucas, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, has penned a "love poem for Hizbullah." We kid you not. Here's a sample:

You were born out of death to a life in a cage
Where bombs are not the only reason people die
Fed by the violence of hunger and homelessness
Raised by colonialism
Your heart and your will still grew strong

You scare me
Not just because they tell me to be scared
Not just because they repeat, repeat, repeat
The story of 1983
Begging me to understand
Americans are worth more than Lebanese

We suppose a certain romanticization of nihilistic political violence is a common enough form of adolescent rebellion, though one suspects young Miss Lucas is getting egged on by her professors, many of whom no doubt are liberal baby boomers who never outgrew their own adolescence.

Ah well, the best way to respond to this sort of thing is with mockery, as blogger "Iowahawk," writing under the nom de plume "Omar Walid Muhammed, Chairman, Hezbollah Poetry Club," devastatingly does, in a poem called "I Love You Too, Cecilia Lucas":

You were born in the Valley to a life in a suburban cage
Encino, where mean girls and cheerleaders
Drop bombs of hate on the unpopular girls
Shy poetry club chicks like you
With 1480 SATs and early admission to Berkeley
Fed by the violence and lookism of the dance squad
Raised in a four bedroom colonial
They wouldn't let you wear your Che T-shirt to prom
But your heart and your armpit hair still grew proud and strong

You scare me too
Not just because you have that Code Pink Manson girl freak-vibe
Not just because you repeat, repeat, repeat
All those quotes from your dog-eared volumes of
and Zinn
and Edward Said
Begging me to understand
Can't we just hold each other
Instead of talking, talking, talking
About your Masters thesis?

Dogmatic sceptics

Anon: In the philosophy of science, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which emphasizes those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to experience formed through deliberate experimental investigation. I realized a home schooled fundy like yourself has never actually studied, or ever performed any scientific experiment, so I don’t expect you to understand any of that.

SH: How many of Anon’s scientific beliefs has he personally subjected to scientific experimentation?

He talks about experience and experimentation, but, of course, this is really a camouflaged appeal to the argument from authority.

Anon: It is generally taken as a fundamental requirement of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than relying on intuition or the revelations of anonymous ancient near east tribal shamans, or some 16th century religious pyscho named Calvin.

SH: Testing theories against observations of the natural world makes certain crucial assumptions about the observer’s perception of the natural world.

If Anon were truly conversant with the history of empiricism, he would realize that the relation between appearance and reality is a very vexed question in empiricism.

Anon: So, the common descent and gradual evolution of species by biological, reproductive processes on a geological timescale,(3.5 billion years) has been established as a scientific FACT based on the overwhelming empirical evidence that supports it , and based on the fact that there has not been found any evidence that falsifies it.

SH: Several problems with this assertion:

i) It ignores scientific dissent. It ignores the many arguments to the contrary.

ii) His scientific “facts” are predicated on unverifiable and metascientific assumptions involving the uniformity of nature and methodological naturalism.

iii) It is also quite possible to formulate a theory which is so flexible that it’s unfalsifiable.

iv) Assuming that naturalistic evolution is true, evolutionary psychology logically leads to scepticism. If it’s true, it’s false: therefore, it’s false.

Anon: Under certain circumstances, these ignorant, gullible people can be convinced by their cult leaders to kill themselves, so that a spaceship hiding behind a comet will take their "souls" to heaven.

SH: For someone who claims to be so concerned with the facts, note how he instantly transitions from Christian “fundamentalism” to secular ufology, as if these were interchangeable.

Anon: The worldwide scientific research community from over the past hundred years has discovered that no known hypothesis other than biological evolution and universal common descent can account scientifically for the unity, diversity, and patterns of terrestrial life.

This hypothesis has been verified and corroborated so extensively that it is currently accepted as FACT by the overwhelming majority of professional researchers in the biological and geological sciences, which includes many Christians. No alternate explanations compete scientifically with common descent, primarily for four main reasons:

1. The predictions of common descent have been confirmed from many independent areas of science.

2. No significant contradictory evidence has yet been found.

3. Competing possibilities (such as biblical creationism) have been contradicted by enormous amounts of scientific data.

4. Many other explanations (ie “theistic” evolution) are untestable, though they may be trivially consistent with biological data.

But then, you're not really interested in what the data and facts show, you're only interested in what some ancient myth says.

SH: There’s only one little problem with this assertion: he hasn’t marshaled any facts or predictions or biological data or scientific evidence.

All he’s offered us is a string of vouchers issued by the bank of City Groupthink. We’re given consensus in lieu of argument.

And those of us who, unlike Anon, follow both sides of the debate also know that his appeal to consensus is strategically overstated.

Anon: I have a graduate degree, but more importantly, what I don't have, is a Christian mind virus, that infects my thoughts and forces me to swear my allegiance to the ancient creation stories and allegories of my ignorant ancestors.

Several more problems:

i) The creation/evolution debate is quite interdisciplinary. No one man is expert in all of the salient fields.

For some reason, there are unbelievers who imagine that just because they have a degree in science, that somehow qualifies them to make dogmatic pronouncements far outside their area of study.

You’d think that a degree in science would have the opposite effect. That the more I learn about my own field of research, the more I realized how extremely specialized the sciences have become, so that I ought to cultivate a spirit of intellectual humility—especially when speaking outside my field of study.

ii) Then, for all his stated devotion to the “facts,” he resorts to the junk science of memetics.

iii) And even if memetics were hard science rather than pseudoscience, appealing to memes is a double-edged sword.

Are Christians infected with a Christian “mind virus”?

Or is it, rather an acute case of infidels infected with an infidelic mind virus?

iv) Notice, as well, the discrepancy between his stated emphasis on the facts and the moralistic tone he adopts.

Men whose only concern is with the dry, stubborn “facts” don’t assume the unctuous tone of the pulpiteer.

It’s clear that Anonymous has a deep, emotional investment in the outcome of this debate.

Anonymous is a poor man’s Richard Dawkins, while Dawkins is a frustrated priest.

Why I Believe in the Covenant of Works in Genesis 2

Recently, a question has arisen on an email discussion list about whether or not there is a Covenant of Works, or, rather what can be a covenant at all, in the narrative of the pre-Fall state of man in Genesis. In addition the dawgs at Fide-O have been writing about Covenant Theology itself for a few days. In addition, I've been revisiting Vos and some others myself, as well as studying the text on my own. I do affirm that there is a Covenant of Works in this text. I'd like to confine myself to why I affirm there is a covenant here without addressing its nature as much as its presence. I'd add that one does not have to affirm CT in order to hold this position. Dispensationalists often affirm that there a named covenants in Scripture. I believe that if look at the common elements between those covenants, it becomes abundantly clear that there is a covenant here in this text, and thus there is no good reason not to affirm that there is a covenant here. I'd like to thank Steve in particular for writing about the sacramental imagery of the Tabernacle, Ark, Creation, and the Balaam narrative in the past, as that has contributed to my understanding of these texts, so he may find some of this quite familar. I'm not going to reveal who wrote the comments to which I am responding on this list so as not to violate confidence, but I am choosing to provide them in order to provide a framework for my responses. This individual had stated that the word "berith" being present would make the case stronger here. I disagreed, stating that this would commit the word-concept fallacy. We need only prove that the concept is present, and I outlined some reasons why I believe it is present without giving many details. We pick up at this point in the conversation...

I'll expand this further, but this cannot be a covenant for the simple reason Adam had no choice. There is no acquiescing to a covenantal arrangement (e.g. Ex 24:7). This is God making a declaration of the natural order in the world. This is God saying “this is the ways things are.”

A. Covenants of Grant in particular require no concept of parties in mutual agreement with each side making more or less equal contributions, where one "acquiesces" to the other. God's covenants are sovereignly bestowed. A one-sided law can become a berith because of a religious sanction. It would seem to me that you're hiding behind stipulative definitions here. Why not mount an internal critique of the concept?

B. God's covenant with Noah in chapter 9 fits this same description you give, and here we have a named covenant. There are no stipulations and it too is imposed, and he has no choice. Do you deny that there is a covenant in chapter 9 of Genesis? What about Abraham? That was imposed too.

C. Then by your own yardstick, there is no New Covenant. To start with, the Covenant of Grace emanates from God's side, not ours anyway. Regeneration is monergistic and we repent and believe as a response but it is a response secured by grace; the covenant is imposed upon us and we do not, strictly speaking "have a choice." Predestination itself undercuts your objection. The covenant form between king and vassal allows for a covenant to be imposed this way, when one is the vice regent of the other. What's more, Adam certainly does "acquiesce", since he names animals and does not fall away immediately. What's more he calls the woman his wife, anticipating that he will obey the cultural mandate to be fruitful and multiply.

There is nothing about “eternal life” and nothing about “probation” these are inferences you are reading into the text to obtain the desired result.

False and here's why:

A. Audience: These statements are recorded in a book. The book operates at two levels. There’s the historical level of the original events and speeches. And there’s also the narrative level of the authorial viewpoint, after the fact. The author is writing with a target audience in mind. Genesis is addressed to a Hebrew audience and written by Moses. They would bring a cultural preunderstanding to the text. We must also assume the role of those hearers/readers. Even if we assign a later date, which I deny, but if we do, then this only amplifies that understanding.

B The Theme of Inheritance: "Who will inherit the earth God created and why?" is hovering in the background of the whole Bible (the answer is "the covenant people," / "the sons of God"). Moses is writing to a people poised to enter the promised land. Why is the land theirs? Because God has a covenant with them, going all the way back to Adam. Adam is not just the father of all people, but the father Seth, who fathered Enoch..Noah...Shem...Terah...Abraham...
Isaac...Jacob...the sons of Jacob (and the 2 of Joseph)...the recipients of the book. This presumes a covenant relation going back to creation, because the geneaologies retell redemptive history, which presumes a covenant to underwrite it It isn't just redemptive history, this is their history, the history of God's covenant people. Likewise why do believers as a whole "inherit the earth?" Because Christ is the Second Adam, and we find that He succeeded where Adam failed. This presumes a covenant relation in eternity among the Godhead and the breaking of a covenant by the first Adam, and gets us to imputation issues in Romans 5, for example.

The covenants, while not last wills and testaments, often involve a concept of inheritance. The protoevangelion points to regaining the Garden one day, so the earth will be inherited by God's children in some way. The Noahic passed on the cultural mandate to Noah and his family and this covenant that keeps the cycles of nature as long as heaven and earth remain thus these cycles and the earth itself is inherited from one generation of men to the next. The Abrahamic and Old Covenants involve an inheritance of land on one level and many nations on another, the Davidic is specific to the House of David, and thereby stipulates the inheritance of the Davidic King as the nation, and this culminates in Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, the Coming King, and in whom we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8, thereby the children of God inherit the earth. Inheritance is thus a thematic element in covenants. Here, God places Adam and Eve in the garden. Adam is called God's son (Mt. 1), he, like the prodigal son in Jesus' parable, is given his inheritance early and we know what he did with it. Thus, we can expect a covenant to be present in this text.

C. Tabernacle Imagery: Note once again the environment. The Garden of Eden itself is structured in a manner that reflects the 3 tiered structure of creation but this is also carried forward in the minds of the readers to the Ark of Noah and then Tabernacle. Cf. G. Beale, The Temple and the Church's Mission (IVP, 2004) (I would add that this too is reflective of the Trinity as well).

Now, let's widen this out a bit more. Let's start with the flood and move back and then move forward to the Tabernacle and Trinity. In the flood account we have a triple-decker ark with a window and a roof (6:16; 8:6,13). The animals occupy different decks. During the deluge the ark has water above (rain) and below (floodwaters). Now, let's compare this to the world. In the creation account, the world has windows (7:11) and a roof (1:6-8; 14-16). It has water above and below (1:2,7). The world has three decks: sky, earth, water (cf. Exod 20:4). Animals occupy different "decks." Now, let's compare this to the Garden. It is in the world, surrounded by the rivers (waters), in Eden there is a garden (earth) and in the center (sky) are the two trees, one to life or death. Now, let's compare this to the Tabernacle. We have the camp surrounding it. It is set at the center of the camp (earth/the world), there is a court (Eden) with a laver (water, the rivers), a Holy Place with bread and light (earth/the garden) and a most holy place where God dwells (sky/the center of the garden) with the mercy seat (the tree of life/God's mercy) over the Ark of the Covenant containing the Law, staff of Moses, and manna (the tree of knowledge/God's justice).

This is even more explicit by the time we get to the construction of the Temple and the way it was decorated as well as structured. The point here is that man and God are together in the Tabernacle and with the "mercy seat" (the tree of life) and the ark of the covenant (the contents, the Law, the staff, the manna) represented by the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (In fact, it is because the first couple break the Law that they are cast out and that the Law was given in Moses day to reveal sin). This assumes, from the standpoint of the original recipients of the book, that they are engaging in a covenant relationship. This is no mere inference. This is the structure of the images themselves. So the setting of Gen. 2 itself is the place, the tent of meeting, where God began His covenant relation with the covenant people and met with them. Indeed God is pictured as walking in the Garden looking for Adam suggesting that he and Adam met in the Garden, and they certainly fellowshipped there before the Fall.

Now let's add the Trinity. We have the Spirit (hovering over the waters/water/Eden/the Courtyard), the Son (the Word that created, the Word of Wisdom, the Incarnate Word/The Holy Place where both God and man can meet w/o man being destroyed, in addition Christ is the High Priest who can see God face to face, and finally at the center, we have the Father (sky/the center of the Garden/The Most Holy Place) and His justice and mercy (the two trees/the mercy seat & Ark/His throne...all of which in the New Covenant include Christ's intercession and/through the blood of Christ taking away our sins by satisfying God's justice and giving grounds for His mercy for His covenant people). The entire plan of salvation is about God including us in a relationship with Himself, thereby participating in life forever with the Trinity. Indeed the way to the tree of life is open again at the end of Revelation and the tree of life reappears and we are in the "New Eden, "where there is no curse, there is only life, we have rivers here too, and we have God's throne, fellowship with God, eternal bliss with Him! This is the culmination of the covenant.

If that wasn't enough, you have more than that. You also have the image of an altar and a house, which evokes the concept of covenant as well. The Bible pictures the earth as a house, cf. Job 38:4-6. Moreover, the Bible pictures the earth as an altar, with four corners, cf. Revelation 7:1; 9:13-21. All of this goes back to the Garden of Eden, which had four rivers flowing out of it to water the whole earth, headed for the "four corners." The word for ‘corner’ in Hebrew is kanaf, literally ‘wings.’ The cherubim have four wings (Ezekiel 1). The garment worn by each Hebrew male was to have four wings or corners, so that his garment was analogous to a house or tent that he carried with him at all times (Numbers 15:38; Deuteronomy 22:12; Haggai 2:12). This gives us is a series of analogous models: The Garden of Eden is like a house, and they are like an altar, and they are analogous to the human person (who is the temple of the Spirit), etc...all of which evoke the concept of covenant relation.

In addition to the "housing" metaphor there is the figuration of the cosmic "tent." This sets up an intentional parallel involving the tabernacle as a microcosm of the cosmos, which is patterned by Eden in the world before the Fall, and thus we're back to the Garden as the tent of meeting for mankind and God before the Fall. Noah in the curse of Genesis 9’s conclusion mentions the tent of Shem, and he had the ark itself as his tent of meeting with God. Moreover, David anticipated the building of the Temple, this prompts the Davidic covenant. Abraham’s dream in Gen. 15 becomes its own tent of meeting, and then God’s visit with Abraham in Gen. 18 is an event of meeting under the tree, telling us that, in fact, the entire land was the tent of meeting for God and the Patriarchs. Abraham will even be told sacrifice Isaac on what will be the Temple Mount. In the New Covenant the Spirit dwells in the church as God’s temple and we anticipate the New Jerusalem with a new Temple.

Thus, where there is a tent of meeting/temple, there is a covenant underwriting it. It would not make sense to divorce these tabernacle images from the concept of the covenant yet unite them to covenants elsewhere. All of this points toward God and His covenants in this text as well, because of the typology of the Garden as the tent of meeting. Thus there is every reason, based on this alone, to read this as a covenant in this part of Genesis. It would not make sense to place Adam in a "tent of meeting" (indeed being a living soul in a body is another type of "tent" in which we meet God through the Holy Spirit's work today), e.g. Eden, without a covenant underwriting their relationship, especially given the audience.

In the Fall, they are cut off from the tree of life and put out of the Garden and thus put outside the tent of meeting and cut off from the covenant. To the Jew this would be analogous to being put outside the camp and left to the elements to die. Why would this happen to an Israelite ? Because he had apostatized from the covenant. Likewise, they are cut off from the presence of God in the tent of meeting, because they violated the covenant, but rather than "stoning them to death," God is merciful and in the protoevangelion begins another by His grace.

D. Structure: The covenant includes a stipulation and sanctions. A negative presupposes a positive. But that is not the ground for asserting that there is a promise of life here, because the only tree prohibited for eating is the tree of knowledge. The tree of life is not prohibited until after the fall. They are cut off from the "sacramental" source of life, but they had access to it beforehand. The sanction, death for eating the tree of knowledge presupposes a promise, bliss, the state in which they were already living, and in which, it would seem from 3:24, they could have continued had they eaten from that tree and not the other.

We also have in this text a preamble, parties, as well as stipulations, and sanctions. This is all in the context of a relationship between God and man. That's all we need. If we consider the wider scope inclusive of the "New Eden" there's the promise of life there, so why would this not reflect a promise of life in this text? We should not expect an explicit promise of eternal life here if probation is also here, because they fellowshipped with God and were already living. God is the God of the living. Such would fail to distinguish between that life they had naturally and that eternal life which would come if they passed their probation.

The absence can be accounted for on three bases (a) in the immediate situation, their walk was so close with God and their nature of innocence such that there need be no promise, because they enter the narrative already on that trajectory toward life by nature; and (b) the author's purpose is to contrast this trajectory with the actual trajectory, to their sin, so (c) the relation between this text in Gen. 2 is to the nature and purpose of the Law spoken at Sinai, to govern the nation and to reveal sin and administer grace after sin is revealed--here grace is in the background through the tree of life, and that Law does include ceremonial law to underwrite mercy and grace to men, but the need for that is not yet present. It is lurking in the background in that there is a second tree, which is analogous to the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, where the blood would be poured out later in history with a promise of life for God’s people. The tree of knowledge is in the foreground here right now. Ergo the moniker "Covenant of Works."

As to "probation" the very term "knowledge of good and evil" suggests maturity and growth. God had them in the Garden and the tree of life and the tree of knowledge were the instruments that would lead them and would stand as a testimony either for or against them, just as the OT Law would lead Israel, and the Law, through being written on our hearts leads us. By being cut off from the tree of life after the Fall, we can see that not only was the contrast between good and evil impressed upon them as very stark indeed, but they are cut off from the tree of life itself. They cannot work their way back into God's presence and fellowship on their own (total inability). Thus we have a judgment based on their violation of a covenant.

E. Sacrifices and Signs: Other covenants between God and man have sacrifices and sacramental signs besides the tabernacle/tent of meeting/Temple. The New has the work of Christ and then the ordinances. The Davidic is an extension of the Old and the Abrahamic, but it has the seed culminating in Christ, who is the outward sacramental sign (He is the water and bread of life) and the ultimate once for all sacrifice for sin (Hebrews). The Old has circumcision (from Abrahamic) and the sacrifices and the Ark of the Covenant. The Abrahamic has circumcision and sacrifice. The Noahic has sacrifice and the rainbow. The Adamic has the clothing from animals killed by God, the naming of Eve, mother of all living, anticipating children and “the seed.”. This one pre-Fall has no sacrifices (they are unnecessary) but a sacramental sign, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge would be eaten so it becomes the reason we require sacrifices.

F. Lawsuit presumes covenant: We know a covenant was here because God comes looking for them after they eat the fruit. He comes and judges them. He also asks them questions prior to rendering a verdict and He gives them time to respond. He's bringing a lawsuit and this is the typical procedure in a covenant lawsuit under the Law. This presumes a law was broken, and this in turn presumes a covenant, because the Law supplies the supporting material for the covenant lawsuit (Isaiah-Malachi), returning an indictment against Israel while pointing towards the final redemption, and through Jesus, God the Son incarnated as man now comes Himself just as God came in the Garden.

In fact, His ministry often puts Him in the position of examining Israel's leaders with questions. In the Passion Week, He recapitulates the role of God in the Garden, by entering the Temple and, though they believe they are examining Christ, He examines the religious leaders, brings the final phase of the lawsuit, and pronounces His judgment, and ultimately the Old Covenant terminates into the New. "The world" has already been judged according to John (John 3), He comes to examine the covenant people, since they are His representatives to the world, and in the end He goes to their representatives before God, the religious leaders, after walking among the people, ministering, and yet examining them and finding them unbelieving (John 6 for example). In the same way, we have Satan here as the serpent, already fallen and judged, then Eve is interviewed, then last Adam her head who represented her and us before God.

The Noahic covenant is instituted after judgment, and at the end of Genesis 9, we have a curse on Ham through Canaan and a prophecy of the destinies of Noah’s sons, followed by Babel, where God comes, observes, judges, and scatters. The Abrahamic has Sodom and Gommorah. The Mosaic lays out the covenant and God ends up pronouncng lawsuit and judgment on them through Moses in rejecting the first generation. The prophets bring them throughout Israel’s history following the examination/proclamation/judgment procedure. Nathan will pronounce a lawsuit upon David, and the later prophets will pronounce lawsuit on David’s house until the Exile. Finally, John is the last of the OT prophets, and Jesus will then make the final lawsuit.

Lawsuits by God against man presuppose a covenant has been violated.

G. A Tempter: Then there's the snake. This can be related to the Balaam narrative, where Balaam comes tempting the covenant people. The name of the Tempter is a pun: the word for "snake" (Heb.=nahas) in Gen 3:1 is from the same root word used by Balaam to put a hex (Heb.=nahas) on Israel (Num 23:23; 24:1). The angel who opposes Balaam is named "Satan" (22:22). The same sword-drawn angel (22:23) recalls the cherubim who guard the Garden (Gen 3:24). The brazen snake (Num 21:9), as well as the "fiery serpents" (21:6,8) or "seraph-serpents" (another double entendre), recalls the Temper (Gen 3:1) and the fiery cherubim (3:24). The talking donkey recalls the talking snake (3:1ff.). And an imprecatory theme is common to both accounts. In terms of other intertextual relations, the fiery angelology connects Gen 3:24 with the Angel of the Lord [Exod 3:2; 14:19], while the angelic sentinel connects Gen 3:24 with the tabernacle [Exod 25:18-20; 26:1,31; 36:8,35; 37:6-7]. And Ezk 28 picks up on all these motifs, viz., Eden, apostasy, guardian angel, stones of fire. Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, etc. all share the same audience. The Tempter remains to threaten the seed many times culminating in the Temptation in the Garden, the crucifixion, and then his activity in the world up to the present day. He also comes to tempt the covenant people to apostatize.

All of this is done in this narrative and in the parallel narratives, in order to tempt those in the covenant to apostatize from the covenant. Why such similarities? To draw attention to the historical correspondence between the apostasy of Adam and Eve in the Garden, and the apostasy of Israel in the wilderness. Israel recapitulates the Fall, for, like the First Parents, they were on probation too. Such activity presupposes a covenant to tell the reader that the tempter designed to invoke apostasy by the First Parents that day. Apostasy presupposes a covenant relationship exists in order to have something from which to apostatize. This element remains until he is cast into the Lake of Fire once and for all.

None of this is an exegetical stretch, for, given the common authorship of the Pentateuch, it is not surprising that Moses has woven a number of literal and literary analogies into one theological tapestry. Underlying these interpretations is the principle of typology, in which one historical event foreshadows another, or even a number of events—like a row of dominoes—until the final domino falls flat. So the NT isn't reading anything into Gen 3 and neither am I or others here when we say that the preponderance of the evidence here favors this being a covenant. The question is not whether or not a covenant exists, but what the nature of that covenant is.

Also, where is there “probation” in any other named covenant?

This is not an administration of the covenant of grace . You're making a category error to assume that every covenant is like another in every way. The existence of probation in a covenant is not necessary to constitute a covenant but it certainly can indicate a covenant is present. However, we assert it is probationary in that it anticipates something greater. The named covenants, even Noah's, anticipate something greater to come (notice that the cycles of nature repeat as long as earth remains). The Abrahamic anticipates the Old, the Davidic, and the New, and the Davidic links the Old and the New, thus anticipating the New. What's more, the Old Covenant with Israel is multi-generational and it anticipates the New Covenant itself. As such it is "probationary" because it is anticipatory of the final covenant, the New Covenant. In addition to this, the Exodus generation recapitulates Adam's fall. They do it again at the time of the Exile. In fact, the entire nation recapitulates Adam, the days of Noah, and the Exodus generation again at the Exile. And then the generation of the first century does so yet again when they reject Christ, getting us to the New Covenant. You could even infer the New is probationary in that sense in that it anticipates completion in the eschaton.

What's more, they each underwrite the basis of a lawsuit (see above), so men are on "probation" while God watches and examines them whether it be here or in the covenant of grace. We persevere in the covenant of grace by grace, that's why we survive the probation.

I’m also not sure what the idea of the “cultural mandate” has to do with anything.

1:18 - 30 and 2:16 - 17 go together the way 12: 1 - 3, 15, and 17: 1- 22 do. The command to be fruitful and multiply of our own kind is part of the narrative unit and thus inclusive of the command structure and iteration of the covenant here. The cultural mandate is also reiterated in Gen. 9. I would add that all of the administrations/covenants involve this element, including the New, and let's not forget the New is the exemplar for the Old in particular and by extension the Covenant of Grace itself.

Notice that the pre-Fall covenant or at least condition includes this mandate. This is repeated in the Adamic covenant of grace, when he names his wive "Ava," mother of all living, in response to the protoevangelion and it is even assumed in the curse regarding childbearing. It is repeated to Noah in Gen. 9. At the end of Gen. 9, in the curse on Ham, Noah applies this element of the Noahic covenant in prophesying that Yahve will have a people, Shem, with a tent that in which Japheth will dwell, and Ham will also serve. This anticipates the next administrations of the Covenant of Grace. Abraham was promised a seed and that God would make him into "many nations." This covenant anticipates the Davidic (17:6), and the Davidic (I Sam. 7, 2 Sam. 23) protects the seed of the protoevangelion (Gen. 3), terminating its fulfillment in the Lord Jesus (Mt. 1). The Old Covenant includes a command about parents and children in the Decalogue itself and stipulations involving children and not cutting off the a family line unless there was no other resort, and is generally directed toward the governing and growth of the nation of Israel (among many things), all of which presume the cultural mandate--most especially the command to enter the land and subdue it and live on it. Even the New Covenant, we are told to be fruitful and multiply in that we are commanded to go into all the world and make disciples, etc. (Mt.28, Acts 1), and even in church discipline, we are not to cut off a whole "family line" except as a last resort, and this continues until Christ returns for us. Even the Covenant of Redemption between the Members of the Godhead includes its own agreement to be fruitful and multiply, for this grounds the aim of election, the Incarnation, the atonement & intercession, and the application of redemption, and it results in the effectual calling and constitution of a people in the image of Christ, who Himself is the image of God, thus after God's own kind. So, in both creation and redemption, our God is carrying out His personal decision for Himself to be fruitful and multiply. Ergo, the very presence of the cultural mandate to be fruitful and multiply in each of these administrations (or, if you prefer, separate covenants on a dispensational view) is positive evidence for a pre-Fall covenant, as it appears as an element in them all. Where that mandate is iterated, we have a covenant.

If the Hebrew word for “covenant” was present the case would be a lot stronger.

And my point was that this objection clearly commits the word-concept fallacy That’s like saying that if the word for “Trinity” was present the case for it would be much stronger.

Again, the preponderance of evidence that there is a pre-Fall covenant, by looking at the elements in the named covenants and simply asking ourselves if they are here too. They most certainly are here. It has known many names in historical theology, but it nevertheless there. In denying there is a covenant here you are in effect saying:

There is no covenant, where there is a basic form.

There is a understanding of covenants in the audience but no covenant here.

There is no covenant from which to apostatize, but a tempter to tempt them to apostasy.

There is no covenant where there is an outward sign (one of which points to a coming sacrifice).

There is no covenant where there is an inheritance concept.

There is no covenant where there is a tabernacle.

That there is no covenant where there is a cultural mandate.

There is no covenant where there is a lawsuit.

Making a big to-do about doing otherwise

1. For many people, the freedom to do otherwise is a precondition of personal responsibility. The Calvinist understands the appeal of this intuition just as well as the libertarian.

For the Calvinist, however, theology is based on revelation rather than intuition. Even if we couldn’t put our finger on what’s wrong with this intuitive assumption, human beings are creatures of quite limited intelligence, and since God is smarter than we are, it is wiser to trust his wisdom over our own.

2. That said, suppose we take a closer look at the libertarian intuition. What makes it so appealing to suppose the freedom to do otherwise is a precondition of personal responsibility?

After all, we can only make one choice at a time. So why should our incumbency depend on having more than one choice at any given time?

Likewise, suppose I’m dealt a royal flush in a poker game. Now, there are two different ways I could be dealt a royal flush.

It could be due to a random shuffle of the deck. Although the odds against getting a royal flush are astronomical, it’s inevitable that sooner or later a poker player will be dealt a royal flush. This outcome would be analogous to the libertarian position.

The other way would be if the deck was stacked. In this case I was bound to be dealt a royal flush. That outcome would be analogous to the Reformed position.

Now, would I play my hand or place my bets any differently depending on how I was dealt a royal flush?

Suppose I don’t know if the result was random or predetermined.

Does the process affect my choice? No, it doesn’t. I simply play the hand I’ve been dealt.

Since it’s the same hand in either case, regardless of the underlying cause, it makes no practical difference. I wasn’t forced to play my hand one way if it’s due to a stacked deck, but another way if the deck was randomly shuffled.

3. So why do so many people feel that it does make a difference?

The unspoken assumption is that, given a chance, I might have done otherwise.

But unless I would have done otherwise, then what’s the point of my having several choices to choose from even though I’m only going to choose one in particular?

You see, what makes the freedom to do otherwise an attractive proposal is not that principle alone, but the additional assumption that if I had the freedom to do otherwise, then I would do otherwise.

So if the libertarian is going to make a case against Calvinism, he needs to do a lot more than invoke the generic freedom to do otherwise as a precondition of personal responsibility.

For even if we were grant the general principle, the libertarian needs to go beyond this principle in order to establish that, in any particular case, the agent would have done otherwise had he been given the opportunity to do so.

4. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that the agent would have done otherwise. Even that concession carries another unspoken assumption.

To say the agent would have done otherwise does not imply that the agent, if given the chance, would have chosen good over evil.

Suppose, absent the freedom to do otherwise, he chose evil. This does not, of itself, imply that he was compelled to do evil. Remember our example of the poker play.

Given the chance to do otherwise, he could just as well choose the very same evil as he did absent the freedom to do otherwise.

5. But, what is more, even if he were to choose otherwise, this doesn’t imply that he’d choose good over evil. He could just as well choose an alternative course of evil.

Suppose you gave a guy like Robert Tilton a range of good choices and evil choices. If Tilton had the freedom to do otherwise, and if Tilton were, in fact, to exercise that freedom, he would ignore all of the good choices and make one evil choice after another. After having his fill of one evil choice, he’d move on to the next in line.

So the libertarian would also need to establish that even if the agent would have done otherwise, what he would have done otherwise would be to choose good over evil.

Since, as I said at the outset, an agent can only make one choice at a time, we can only judge an agent by the choice he did, in fact, make; for we can never know what other choice he might have made even assuming the freedom to do otherwise.

So it’s hard to see how the libertarian can establish, either certainly or probably, that the agent would have done good instead of evil if given the chance.

Baby names

So here’s the question that every mother and father ask themselves: what to name that bundle of love?

Nowadays, many parents name their kids after their favorite celebrity, but the Puritans had a rather different set of criteria. The late F. F. Bruce has an interesting little article on this subject in A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature, 532-35.

For example, they used to name their daughters after one of the theological virtues like Faith, Hope, Charity, Grace, Patience, & Prudence.

Quite a contrast to Paris Hilton.

The boys were frequently given OT names, and I don’t just mean vanilla gray names like Sam and Dave, but more colorful names like Shadrach, Abimelech, and Zerubbabel.

When was the last time you heard of a boy by the name of Zerubabbel?

Has a nice alliterative rhythm, don’t you think?

But the Puritans could get a good deal more creative with hyphenated names like Flee-fornication Andrews and Jesus-Christ-came-into-the-world-to-save Barebone.

No, I didn’t make that up.

Don’t you think Flee-fornication would be an excellent name for your teenage son?

Oh, and here’s my personal favorite: Hew-Agag-in-Pieces Robinson.

Just the thing to intimidate the schoolyard bully.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Keeping score

Thus far, the Debunkers have been unable to extricate themselves from two consequences of naturalistic evolution:

i) Alethic antirealism

ii) Moral antirealism

1. If nothing else were wrong with atheism, then either one of these would be more than sufficient to deliver the coup de grace.

If, as a consequence of naturalistic evolution, human reason is incurably unreliable, then naturalism is self-refuting.

In addition, alethic antirealism includes moral relativism. If there are no truths, or even if there are truths, but truth is inaccessible to the human mind, then there are no moral truths, or accessible moral truths.

2.Unlike alethic antirealism, moral antirealism is not self-refuting.

In principle, you could be an alethic realist, but a moral antirealist.

But at a practical level, moral antirealism is just as devastating as alethic antirealism.

For if there are no absolute values, then everything we value in life is devoid of value. What’s the value of truth and falsehood if right and wrong are illusory?

If everything I care about is meaningless, then I might as well kill myself.

Indeed, many unbelievers do regard human existence as absurd, which is which they commit suicide or become addicted to drugs and alcohol to deaden the pain and emptiness of their futile existence.

Making the world safe for hypocrisy

Hypocrisy doesn’t get much respect. The word carries an undeniably odious connotation.

“Hypocrisy” is one of the all-time favorite charges that unbelievers hurl against Christians.

This is rather odd since I’ve never seen any statistical evidence that Christians are hypocritical at higher rates of commission than their unbelieving critics.

But I wish, instead, to focus on another oddity.

What’s so bad about hypocrisy?

How did hypocrisy acquire such a disreputable reputation, anyway?

You know Santayana’s line about how a fanatic is someone who’s forgotten his aim while redoubling his efforts to get there?

Unbelievers bandy the word “hypocrisy” after it’s being drained of its all original force.

Remember that it was Jesus who put the sin of hypocrisy on the map. It’s his denunciations that popularized this value-judgment as the imprecation of choice.

Now, why did Jesus condemn the Pharisees for hypocrisy? Was this for the sake of argument?

Did he condemn them for mere inconsistency? For leading a double life or failing to do what they said?

Would he have been satisfied if they dropped the pose of piety and were openly dissolute?

No, he condemned hypocrisy because hypocrisy was a sin, and what made it a sin was the fact that God’s law is true. To break God’s law is sin. And hypocrisy is a form of law-breaking.

Now, unbelievers have picked up on the usage of Jesus, and they fling the charge very freely.

This, of itself, is rather odd. Why would an unbeliever care what Jesus said? After all, they don’t share his scale of values.

But I digress.

Unbelievers who revel in this allegaton come in two varieties.

There are unbelievers who say they believe in right and wrong. And they deem Christianity to be wrong. Terribly wrong.

But, in that event, why do they take offense at hypocrisy in the church?

If they think that Christianity is false, then why should a Christian be true to a false belief-system?

Shouldn’t they rather applaud and encourage his hypocrisy?

I mean, would they be happier if a Christian were true to a false belief-system?

If anything, they should wish the Christian to be even more impious rather than a paragon of piety.

Suppose I were a Jew. And suppose a Nazi were about to torture me to death.

But, at the last moment, he loses his nerve. Suppose I’m the brother of his girlfriend.

As a Nazi, he’s not supposed to have a Jewish girlfriend. That makes him a hypocrite.

(Why, you might ask, would a nice Jewish girl be dating a Nazi? Maybe she’s a member of the Resistance. This is her way of infiltrating the party and securing actionable intel to use against the Axis.)

Be that as it may, he decides not to torture me after all. Perhaps he’s afraid I’ll denounce him to his fellow interrogator once he breaks in that nice new set of thumbscrews.

Or maybe he makes an exception because his girlfriend would hate him if she ever found out that he tortured her brother to death.

Of course, he’s now piling hypocrisy upon hypocrisy. He’s hypocritical for having a Jewish girlfriend when he wears a Nazi uniform. Indeed, he's hypocritical twice or thrice-over having the affair, concealing the affair, and exempting me from the usual treatment accorded to Jews.

Now then, what should I do? Should I quiver with rage and shame him for his hypocrisy? Should I exhort him to remain true to his false ideology and get on with the business of skinning me alive?

Well, I can’t speak for the average unbeliever, but if I were in the position of a Jewish captive at the mercy of a Nazi interrogator, I’d regard his hypocrisy as downright virtuous.

If he’s too hypocritical to boil me in oil, then I’d view his hypocrisy as a decidedly praiseworthy turn of events.

Perhaps, though, a scrupulous unbeliever would consider our Jewish prisoner to be—you know—a hypocrite for refusing to challenge his captor’s hypocrisy.

No doubt if the unbeliever were in the same position, he’d insist on his sacred right to be dismembered and disemboweled rather than endure the ignominious stigma of having compromised his high-minded principles on the seedy altar of self-preservation.

Even if no one else ever knew, he couldn’t live with himself.

Yes, better by far to suffer the excruciating pain of torture than having to suffer the indignity of a hypocrite in one’s midst.

But there’s an even curiouser kind of unbeliever.

And that’s the moral relativist who is morally outraged at Christian hypocrisy. Although he doesn’t believe in right and wrong himself, he waxes indignant that anyone else should believe in right and wrong—especially if the individual in question is a hypocrite.

The moral relativist is tolerant of all other vices in all other unbelievers, but if he should catch the slightest whiff of hypocrisy among the faithful, it would be difficult to distinguish his fervid strictures from the solemn anathemas of Torquemada.

Indeed, if I were inclined to be uncharitable, I’d almost venture to suggest that the hiatus between his relativistic philosophy and his absolutist invective borders on—dare I say?—hypocrisy!