Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nailing jello to the wall

ED: WHat have I been corrected on? You have merely asserted that you do not believe your position to be defined by these, but in your classic phraseology, you have yet to "show" why the force of my arugment is misapplied.

SH: No, I didn’t “merely assert” my position. Rather, I carefully deconstructed your argument and drew attention to the flaws in your reasoning.

ED: For all of your words, your contra argument amounts to, "No I don't." Please forgive me if I fail to find that compelling.

SH: Notice that instead of making any effort to mount an actual counterargument against what I said, ED offers a tendentious characterization of my analysis.

ED: Your "responses" are interesting, for they do not actually deal with the logic of my posts, but retreat into propositions that have little or nothing to do with what I have written.

SH: Another assertion without a supporting argument.

ED: I hardly see how "mental causation" is fundamentally different from "material causation."

SH: If you did any serious reading in philosophy of mind, you’d be able to see the distinction.

ED: In fact, I would argue that they are exactly the same, as human consciousness inevitably derives from our material constitution.

SH: If that’s what you “would” argue, then where’s the argument?

ED: When have I denied that God created the world? All I have denied is that this creative act can be adjudicated on the basis of material processes, as you clearly assume they can be.

1.You deny that divine creation is a causal category.

2.God didn’t make the world “on the basis of material processes.” Rather, material processes are a consequence of divine creation. They are an effect of creation ex nihilo, having their basis in creation of a material world, not vice versa.

Given material processes, as a result of divine fiat, God also effects certain events via second-causes. One can find this all through the Bible.

ED: No, my objection is to philosophies which reduce the divine to materialist speculation. ALthough you would vehemently deny it, I hardly see any difference between the definition of God which you provide and that of Feurbach.

SH: To the contrary, you are superimposing on Scripture your apophatic-cum-Kantian epistemology.

ED: That is fine. I do not deny that God has made the infinite intelligible through the finite. However, the very nature of this means of self-revelation would seem to categorically preclude us from making that which finite infinitely and defnitively qualified.


1.Once again, you’re not getting this from Scripture. Rather, you’re running Scripture through your extraneous, apophatic-cum-Kantian grid.

2.You’re confusing infinite knowledge with knowledge of the infinite. One can have a finite knowledge of the infinite. Partial knowledge can be true knowledge as far as it goes.

If we need to know everything to know anything, then we know nothing—which is self-refuting.

For example, mathematicians enjoy a true, if partial, knowledge of the Mandelbrot set without being able to mentally encompass the entire set.

3.You are also assuming, without benefit of argument, that we can only know something if it is like us. That the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge must belong to the same ontological category.

Where is your supporting argument for this assumption?

For example, do I have to be like the Mandelbrot set to grasp the Mandelbrot set?

ED: I have outlined an alternative.

SH: Where?

ED: Stop supposing that finite propositional statements can be definitive of the divine nature.

SH: “Definitive” is a weasel word. The question at issue is whether they are true.

ED: I do not see why the category of "the other" is an inappropriate example within this discussion. Within theological and philosophical discourse, this is a quite normal way of speaking of the divine in relation to that which is created. It is a category of difference. You appear to be looking for something to attack, rather than actually dealing with what I am saying.

SH: There are unscriptural as well as scriptural ways of defining divine transcendence.

A Neoplatonic or Kantian or Barthian definition of transcendence is unscriptural.

You define transcendence in a way contrary to Scripture.

ED: This is an absurdly circular argument. Upon what basis have you determined whether or not something would or would not obtain apart from the assumed property of "inspiration?"


1.For the obvious reason that if it would or could obtain apart from inspiration, then inspiration would be superfluous.

2.Moreover, the Bible predicates certain effects of inspiration.

ED: You are making causal that which, it would seem by its very nature, cannot be reduced to causality.

SH: No, you are beginning with an unscriptural version of divine transcendence, which you then deploy to quash what the Bible has to say about the process and product of inspiration.

ED: However, this merely goes to support my contention that you have ultimately delimited the divine nature by materialist conceptions of reality--hence, your reduction of inspiration to the causal frameworks of space/time. However, in doing so, you have made yourself the master of inspiration, for it is upon the categories which you have fabricated that the nature of inspiration is defined. I fail to see how one can have a more materialist conception of the divine than this.


1.The categories come from the Bible. The self-witness of Scripture to the nature of inspiration.

2.You are the one imposing on Scripture a wholly alien conceptual scheme.

ED: Well, that should be qualified as "your" elemental self-understanding of Scripture, whatever that actually means. You have chosen to look at Scripture in a certain way and, not surprisingly, you have found your conclusions waiting for you.

SH: You retreat into these fact-free abstractions. A writer like B. B. Warfield has actually documented the various ways in which Scripture describes the process and product of inspiration.

You, by contrast, present no exegetical alternative. To say something and to show it are two different things.

ED: You have yet to show why this is a mischaracterization. MOreover, given what you have said about the ability of reducing divine inspiration to causality, you have only gone to prove my contention, not overturn it and you continually profess yourself to have done.

SH: To claim that my definition of inspiration is reductionistic is another assertion without a supporting argument.

ED: According to your categories, yes, I assume it is. However, as you are not the ultimate determiner of potential categories for understanding reality, God, or the Scriptures, your conclusions are hardly warranted, and lack any substantive proof apart from appeal to your presupposed conceptions.

SH: Yet another assertion without a supporting argument. Notice a pattern here?

ED: I don't believe in indeterminism--you are forcing that category upon my responses, which will lead you to exactly the wrong conclusions about my methodology. Both determinists and indeterminists are cut from the same presuppositional cloths; they merely disagree on the conclusions, which even then are not that different when one cuts through the rhetoric.

SH: Yet another assertion without a supporting argument.

There are sophisticated models of determinism and indeterminism alike in the philosophical literature.

Show us your mediating alternative?

ED: Why? This conclusion is based upon the presupposition that God's relationship to creation can be materially reduced to causality. Being as God is not confined to causality, it is also not a necessary conclusion that God's relationship to creation need be defined along these lines.

SH: A fallacious inference. God is not confined to causality because God is a se. But the creation is not a se. Rather, the creation is contingent on divine causality for its being.

ED: No, I do not "think" that at all. What we call "communication" is what it is. However, what is there beyond our conception and usage of language that would provide us with the basis for determining whether or not our communication is "successful" or not?

SH: Do you really need to ask a question like that? To take one example: if you ask for directions, and I give you good directions, you will successfully arrive at your destination. If I give you the wrong directions, and you follow them, then you will arrive at the wrong destination.

ED: If your definition of successful communication is based upon "the Bible," then you are basing your understanding merely upon fiat, and not some supposedly objective standard by which to determine the reality of the thing.

SH: You’ve lost track of your own question. I didn’t use the Bible to “define” successful communication, but to supply a standard of reference.

ED: This argument only works from your end, for the categories through which you view me "work." As I do not presuppose these categories, they are not applicable.

SH: You like to talk a lot about alternative categories without providing any.

ED: This is all patent conjecture. After all, to begin, the autographic text of Scripture no longer exists.


1.You were the one who failed to distinguish certainty as it relates to the objective wording of the text from certainty as it relates to the subjective effect of the text on mind of the reader the reader.

Nothing the least bit conjectural about my distinction between the text and the reader.

2.And there’s nothing conjectural about a distinction between originals and copies.

ED: Next, even if it did, upon what standard would you determine that it, indeed, bore the marks of "inspiration?" The only possible answer would be either upon some arbitrary standard devised by your own thinking, or an appeal to the autograph itself--both of which terminate in exactly the same answer.


1.Further confusions on your part. How much I take for granted when debating with an opponent depends, in part, on whether the opponent is a professing believer or unbeliever.

2.This, in turn, goes to the distinction between what the Bible claims for itself, and whether the disputant is prepared to accept the Bible on its own terms.

3.The Bible does assert its own inspiration. And that assertion does not depend on having the autographic text before us since, as textual criticism has established, our extant text is quite reliable.

4.I don’t have to prove the inspiration of Scripture to prove its claim to divine inspiration. These are separate issues with separate arguments.

And when I deal with a professing believer, it should be unnecessary to prove the inspiration of Scripture.

ED: Therefore, you entire argument is based upon fiat, not of the actual, objectively determinite nature of the thing itself. As I have said before, it would appear that if one could determine the criterion for identifying the mechanism of "divine inspiration," this very identification would seem to preclude the mechanism from being the thing which one has set out to prove that it is. This spiral continues, indefinitely.


1.There are objective criteria in textual criticism.

2.There are objective claims in Scripture respecting its own inspiration.

3.There are also many lines of internal and external evidence to confirm this claim.

4.The “spiral” is generated by your unscriptural and extrascriptural version of divine transcendence.

ED: Well, before the Scriptures were composed, the community of Christ-followers was the context in which faith in Christ was developed and communicated. The so-called propositions of Scripture came after, not before, and developed out of the "being" of the church.


1.You are evidently a Marcionite. The OT Scriptures antedate the NT church.

2.The Apostles preached the gospel, in large part, from the OT scriptures.

3.The chronological priority of the spoken word to the written word, even if true, is irrelevant to our own epistemic situation.

We, living in the 21C, are dependent on a text for our knowledge of the person and work of Christ.

ED: Christian faith is in the person of Christ.


1.No, Christian faith is in the person and work of Christ—including his teaching.

2.We only have access to the person of Christ via the written record of his person (and work).

The immediate object of faith are propositions by and about Christ recorded in Scripture.

ED: The very limited teachings of Christ which were incidentally recorded in the Scriptures are important, for sure.


1.They are not limited in terms of the amount of space they occupy in the Gospels.

2.And they are not incidental to the Gospels, but strategically located. The teaching supplies the interpretive matrix for the person and work of Christ. Without the teaching material, the person and work of Christ loses all significance. It’s becomes a mute event.

Many 1C Jews died by crucifixion. Apart from the explanatory context of Christ’s person and mission, the raw events are ciphers.

ED: However, the church formed around a person, not a curriculum.

SH: It formed around a person who was known by the disciples. And they disseminated their knowledge by the spoken and written word.

ED: Yes. And who are the fools? Those who believe they can quantify the knowledge of God in such a way as to twist it to their own purposes.

SH: That’s an acontextual definition. You are citing 1 Cor 1-3 out of context as a pretext to justify your apophatic-cum-Kantian epistemology.

These Are The Voyages

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Get out the popcorn, people. Paramount has spent the past 2 years quietly remastering Star Trek: The Original Series for the 40th anniversary and given it the Star Wars Special Edition Treatment. That's right, no more cheesy shoestring SFX. Want to see the Doomsday Machine eat planets? Want to see the Gray Lady make mince meat of the Klingons? Who else rolls their eyes at those model shots of "Earth" hanging on the viewer? No more! They've been replaced with realistic CGI models that match our own planet. No people on those starbases? Never fear, there's been a population explosion. No moving clouds on the alien worlds? The wind machine has been rev'd up and the clouds have rolled in. Will they show Spock's Brain (we can only hope)? Will they replace two crewmen with Bashir and O'Brien in The Trouble With Tribbles (that'd be sneaky, wouldn't it)? Well, you'll be able to find out beginning September 16. No, not on DVD, but in syndication, just like the good old days when most of us saw it the first time. This is classic Trek, for the proletariat, not that upper crust, uberclass Trek Paramount produced later. So, it's time to relive your childhood in an up-to-date fashion. Go get the kids and show them that Trek was Trek before Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer knew how to fly. Oh, and they've not replaced any dialogue or acting, so Kirk is still as wooden as ever, but Janice Rand is still wearing the boots and miniskirt!

The report is at Trektoday:

By Michelle
September 2, 2006 - 2:57 AM

CBS Paramount Domestic Television has officially confirmed the planned release of digitally remastered high-definition episodes of the original Star Trek, with all new special effects and rerecorded music.

Michael Logan in TV Guide reported in the Insider column that on September 16th, the first of the Star Trek shows will return to syndication for the first time in 16 years, with computer-generated effects specially designed for this release. "We're taking great pains to respect the integrity and style of the original," said longtime scenic art supervisor Michael Okuda, who has worked on numerous Star Trek motion pictures and the spinoff series for nearly 20 years. Trek veterans Denise Okuda and David Rossi worked on the episodes as well.

"Balance of Terror", the first Romulan episode ever shown, will be the first of the remastered episodes aired; they will be shown out of order from their original sequence. CGI people have been added to largely empty ships and starbases, and a more detailed view of Earth from space replaces the original in "Miri." In addition, Alexander Courage's theme music has been recorded in stereo with new vocals, and William Shatner's "Space, the final frontier..." voiceover has been remastered digitally. provided more details, stating that the episodes would air on more than 200 stations and that the first batch were selected as fan favorites. The official site noted that the Enterprise and other starships originally filmed with models would be replaced by CGI-created ships, and the Enterprise and planets in the main title sequence are being given "depth and dimension." Graphics of the galactic barrier, alien planets and scenic backgrounds will also be redone. states that at the present time, there is no confirmation if or when the episodes might be available eventually on DVD or other formats.

Creation Entertainment has announced that at two upcoming conventions featuring Shatner (Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock), in Chicago and Sacramento, attendees will be treated to an exclusive sneak peek of the remastered episodes along with behind-the-scenes footage of their production.

Hebrews 11 and the Old Testament canon

I. Chronological Sequence

How is Hebrews 11 organized? At least up to a point, the arrangement of events is chronological. A few of his allusions are rather open-ended, but most of them can be identified. Based on the standard commentaries, these are the specific individuals and events he refers to in the course of his hortation:

Abel (11:4)

Enoch (5)

Noah (7)

Abraham (11:8ff.)

Isaac & Jacob (11:9ff.)

Jacob & Esau (20)

Joseph (21-22)

Moses (11:23ff.)

Rahab (31)

Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtha (32a)

David, Samuel, the prophets (32b)

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego (33b)

Daniel (34a)

Maccabean revolt (34b)

Elijah & Elisha (35a)

Maccabean revolt (35b)

Zechariah (37)

So the general progression is from prediluvial history to the Intertestamental period.

More particularly, from the prediluvial period through the patriarchal era, the Exodus, the Conquest, the Monarchy, the Exile, the postexilic era, and the Intertestamental period.

So he is illustrating his point by beginning at the commencement of human history, and taking that all the way up to the brink of the NT era. From ancient history or the distant past to the epoch immediately preceding the time of his audience.

II. Canonical Sequence

What is the source of his relative chronology? The obvious answer is the OT canon, supplemented by the OT apocrypha when he reaches the Intertestamental period.

He sees the events unfolding in a certain historical sequence because the books of the OT canon were arranged in an editorial sequence such that the canonical order parallels the chronological order.

He has OT history mentally laid out before his eyes as he catalogues this honor roll of OT heroes and heroines. And he has this mental picture of events because he has a mental outline of the OT canon.

The individuals and events cited or alluded to parallel the following books of the Bible:

11:4-22 (Genesis)

11:23ff. (Exodus)

11:31 (Joshua)

11:32a (Judges)

11:32b (Samuel)

11:33b-34a (Daniel)

11:35a (Kings)

11:37 (Chronicles)

For the Maccabean revolt, he must, by definition, turn to extracanonical sources since the date of that episode fell inside the Intertestamental period.

III. Literary Sequence

On the face of it, the linear progression breaks down towards the end of the chapter. For the sequence is consistent until we hit v35. Elijah and Elisha obviously antedate the Maccabean revolt, as does the stoning of Zechariah.

But the anachronism may only be apparent. For it depends on the internal divisions within chapter 11.

We have an explicit transition in v32, where the author admits a shift to a more abbreviated summary of events.

Moreover, as one commentator notes, “the present series of terse clauses is broken in vv35-36 by a piece of connected speech that brings the chronicle of the triumphs of faith to a conclusion and effects the transition to the martyology in vv 35b-38,” W. Lane, Hebrews 9-13 (Word 1991), 387.

“The long chain of asyndeta in v37 is rhetorically effective,” ibid. 390.

If this analysis is correct, then the presentation is not dischronologous. Rather, the chronology is simply subdivided into shorter literary units, while the overall direction is preserved.

IV. Comparative Sequence

A sidelight of this chapter is that it furnishes a 1C (pre-70 AD) historic witness to the Jewish canon of Scripture.

Of course, the author’s selection criteria restrict his range of reference to the narrative genre, as he cites examples of OT heroes and heroines.

But within the limitations of his selection criteria, an incidental consequence of his chronological scheme is to outline the boundaries of the OT canon from Genesis to Daniel and Chronicles.

This may strike the modern reader as out of sequence, since Daniel and Chronicles are not positioned at or near the end of our Christian editions of the OT.

However, the author’s sequence does correspond to our ancient sources for the Jewish canon (e.g. Josephus, Origen, Epiphanius, Jerome, the Talmud), where Daniel comes before Chronicles, while both belong to the third division of the canon, at or near the end.

For details, cf. R. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its Background in Early Judaism (Eerdmans 1986).

There are other witnesses to the Jewish canon, such as Philo, but they don’t indicate the overall shape of the OT canon—beyond the bare, threefold division of Sirach.

V. Original Sequence

By contrast, the author’s sequence does not correspond to the LXX. This discrepancy is striking since, by all accounts, the author of Hebrews is literarily dependent on the LXX.

The obvious explanation is that our copies of the LXX date to the Christian era. As such, they may not reflect the original content or sequence.

In my opinion, Heb 11 is a neglected witness to the OT canon. And it’s a valuable witness because, on the most likely dating scheme, it antedates (the writings of) Josephus, Jamnia (c. 90 AD), and the fall of Jerusalem (70 AD)—making it our earliest witness to the contours of the OT canon.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Epistemic certainty

ED: I did not realize that epistemological certitude was the purpose of revelation. I guess I have been mistaken...

SH: Yes, you’ve been mistaken—from start to finish.

For one thing, you’re confusing epistemic certainly in reference to the way in which inspiration secures the wording of Scripture with epistemic certainty in reference to the effect of reading or hearing Scripture on the mind of the audience.

These are two quite different things. For someone with your intellectual affectations, you’re a very sloppy thinker.

The point at issue is not the psychological state of the reader, but the autographic text of Scripture.

ED: Yes, this is why the actual self-revelation of God occurred in a person, not a text or a sermon.

SH: We’ve been over this ground before. Yours is an especially inept disjunction.

1.To begin with, 21C Christians know Christ by description, not by acquaintance.

Our knowledge of Christ is mediated by linguistic propositions recorded in Scripture.

2.You further disregard the teaching ministry of Christ. The self-revelation of God in Christ was by no means limited to the person of Christ, but consisted, in large measure, in his teaching. The spoken word—later committed to writing.

3.As has also been pointed out on more than one occasion, given your view that God is ineffable and inscrutable, a divine Incarnation would not disclose the nature of God.

ED: This is why Paul says that knowledge of God is foolishness--after all, the moment you have claimed certitude in quantifying the eternal nature of God is the very moment that you have forgetten the extreme scandal that God in Christ was massacred on a bloody cross. All categories for "knowing", in this light, are completely exploded.


1.Given your theory of language and denial of propositional revelation, you surrender the right of appeal to the Passion narratives or 1 Cor 1-3.

2.If “all categories of knowing are completely exploded,” then we don’t “know” that Christ was massacred on a bloody cross.

3.You also bungle the meaning of 1 Cor 1-3, completely missing the pervasive irony of Paul’s argument.

Paul is not saying that the knowledge of God is foolishness. To the contrary, the knowledge of God is the true wisdom.

His point, rather, is that divine wisdom is foolish to fallen men because fallen men are fools.

God is wise, but men are fools. Because men are fools, they equate true wisdom with folly when, in fact, what they deem to be wisdom is actually foolishness while what they deem to be folly is actually and supremely wise.

Virtual Christianity

The Book of Proverbs, as well as 1 Cor 1-3, distinguishes between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence without wisdom is worse than useless.

Far better to be godly, but dumb than brilliant, but damned.

There are facile thinkers like Don Cupitt, D. Z. Phillips, and Gordon Kaufman—as well as wannabes like exist~dissolve—who feel the odd need to keep up appearances long after there’s nothing underneath.

For them, religious language strictly instrumental or functional. They continue to sing their hymns and intone their creeds, but it’s a private, code language which they reinterpret according to their hermetic lexicon.

The language of faith loses all referential force. There’s no reality to redeem the linguistic tokens.

Metaphors of nothing. A code encoding nothing. A symbol that stands for nothing beyond itself.

Signs pointing nowhere.

An empty bottle without a message.

Of all God’s creatures, none is smarter than the Devil. His IQ is off the scale. And what good did it do him? Pure genius devoid of wisdom.

Dwight Moody was by no means an intellectual, and his theology was flawed, but he knew the way home.

There’s a constructive use of reason, and then there’s an evasive use of reason. There’s a use of reason which seeks to understand man’s place in the world, and then there’s a use of reason which seeks an alibi to absolve its spiritual revolt.

There’s a use of reason that honors a higher reason, by deferring to the supreme reason of God, and then there’s a misplaced ingenuity which goes out of its way to deny all that’s obvious and essential.

God made human beings to be just smart enough to realize that God is infinitely smarter than human beings. Hence, nothing is more rational than humble submission to the Word of our Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.

But the reprobate are rebels. They have locked themselves into a jail cell and tossed the key out the window. We no longer have the key to release them, and they have no incentive to leave—even if the prisoner or the jailor had access to the key.

Some of them maintain a façade of piety. Theirs is a virtual Christianity. A spiritual simulation. They fill the time behind bars by playing a cabbalistic game of scrabble. I leave them where I found them—in their self-imprisoned folly.

Self-referential incoherence

ED: I hardly see why this is a necessary conclusion. THe only way in which this is a necessary conclusion is if one presupposes that God's sovereignty must be materially reducible to the physical outworkings of the universe. As I happen to think that God's sovereignty is not delimited by such considerations, your conclusion is simply wrong. There is nothing logically necessary about your assumption, unless of course you expect me to operate within the pantheistic framework which you propose for the universe in which we live and the God who [supposedly] created it.


1.You continue to use buzzwords like “pantheistic” or “materialistic” although you’ve been corrected on this.

You shot your wad some time ago. You suffer from an incapacity for self-criticism.

When you first attempted to cast the debate in these terms, I responded to you. When you attempted a repeat performance, I responded again.

I’ve addressed your challenge. Instead of mounting a counterargument, you merely repeat yourself.

Pity your intellectual development stalled at such an early age.

2.I don’t limit the real world to matter in motion. There are spiritual agents as well as physical agencies in play. Mental causation as well as material causation.

That’s been drawn to your attention as well. But you’ve adopted a certain rhetorical strategy, and you’re either unable or unwilling to break free from your default setting. Once again, you lack a capacity to learn.

3.When you can’t even bring yourself to say that God created the world, your objection is not to Calvinism in particular, but to Christianity in general. You’re basic problem is that you’re a theological liberal who’s trying to salvage some face-saving remnant of Christianity. Why that’s important to you, I don’t know.

4.Because we’re finite creatures, God ordinarily relates to us via creaturely means. His method is adapted to the nature of the object.

ED: This is, again, hardly a necessary conclusion. The alternative which you "allow" for my position still operates within a materalist conception of God's relationship to creation, a viewpoint which I patently reject. Just because you cannot conceive of "sovereignty" outside of the boundaries of your divine physicalism does not mean that such a conception is impossible nor improbable.


1.Aside from the fact that ED habitually misrepresents the opposing position, he never presents an alternative. He merely talks about an alternative, without spelling it out.

2.And it’s clear that any alternative which he could offer would be unscriptural.

ED: Are you kidding me? So you are saying that divine inspiration--which is divine by virtue of being "other" than that which is common to the universe--can be explicated on the basis of the very thing over and against which it is supposed to be "other?" As usual, you fully prove my contention about your materialist conception of God and the divine relationship to the created order.

SH: As usually, ED likes to indulge in vacuous abstractions (“the other”) instead dealing with the witness as well as the self-witness of Scripture.

Inspiration determines an outcome that would not obtain apart from inspiration. For if the outcome were attainable apart from inspiration, then inspiration would be superfluous.

So inspiration is a causal category. And that’s how the process of inspiration is described in Scripture—which goes to the elemental self-understanding of Scripture.

ED: I fully believe in the inspiration of Scripture. I simply deny that the notion of inspiration can be adjudicated on the basis of physicalism, as you assume that it can be.

SH: Aside, once again, from the fact that EB mischaracterizes the opposing position, this is the same guy who said that “as the Bible was written by humans, it would seem difficult to posit its authority beyond the gathered community of worshippers.”

He pays lip-service to the inspiration of Scripture, but given his denial of divine causality as well as his denial of propositional revelation, his affirmation of Biblical inspiration is hollow to the core.

ED: Why is it self-refuting? You incessantly accuse me of making claims without "showing" the proofs, yet you continue to do the exact same thing. Why don't you show me how "inspiration" cannot be conceived of in any other way than the conclusions to which your presuppositions about the material relationship of God to creation lead you...

SH: Two issues:

1.As I said before, I don’t have to make an independent case for my own position since I can make a case from your own presuppositions. By your own admission, your indeterminism undercuts language as an adequate vehicle of communication.

So it’s your very own framework that illustrates the impossibility of the contrary.

While there are varieties of determinism, the only alternative to indeterminism is some form of determinism.

2.It would also behoove you to develop a Scriptural doctrine of Scripture. A good place to begin is vol. 1 (“Revelation & Inspiration”) of B.B. Warfield’s collected works.

ED: Why? Why should we assume that successful communication is possible?

SH: Gee, that’s a tough one. Let’s see now.

Maybe, just maybe, we should assume that successful communication is possible because, barring that assumption, we are in no position to pose that very question in the first place. Ya think?

ED: ANd if it is, what does it look like?

SH: Like the very exchange we’re having.

ED: Against what standard would you judge such a thing? (I'm really interested to see the answer for this...).

SH: How about the Bible?

ED: I don't exempt them. I have never denied my presuppositional loyalties, nor have I ever claimed that they are somehow immune from criticism nor that they are infallible. You are the one who insists upon absolutizing them, an approach which I specifically reject.

SH: The problem, of course, is that, like any armchair relativist, ED has one position on paper, and a contrary position in practice.

He talks about relativism, but he talks like an absolutist. In principle, he’s a relativist—but as soon as he opens his mouth and attempts to convince anyone of his relativism, then he has to abandon his relativism.

Rational persuasion and global scepticism don’t go together.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Perry Robinson's Claims About What The Church "Always Taught"

Perry Robinson has posted another response to me on Al Kimel's blog. In it, he writes:

"In any case, the man of God in that passage and by and large throughout scripture is not Joe Blow layman. Ministers, even if you reject episcopacy, are the primary teachers of the church."

I haven't disputed either of those two concepts, and neither leads to your Eastern Orthodox conception of "what the Bishops taught". If you didn't intend to cite 2 Timothy 3 to support your position over mine, then you were citing scripture to support concepts that aren't in dispute.

You write:

"It stands to reason that if you want to know what a body officially professes, you don’t go to the average member. You go to representative sources. Consequently representing a widespread belief among the people carries with it little purchase, for as I noted before, lots of heresies were widespread among the people, the chief example during the 2nd century being Modalism."

I addressed this issue in my responses to you earlier this year, such as in this article. If you're going to claim that concepts such as the veneration of images and prayers to the deceased were always taught by the church, then we wouldn't expect to see widespread rejection of those concepts, whether among bishops or among laymen. If a doctrine you claim to have always been taught by the church isn't advocated by any of the earliest bishops and is repeatedly contradicted in a variety of early sources, whether laymen or others, then why should we believe your assertion that the doctrine was always taught by the church? In your last post, you yourself appealed to popular practice, not just "what the Bishops taught". You wrote:

"We know from archaeological sites and texts and even hostile Gnostic sources that the Church had images, used them in the Liturgy and venerated them in their homes. Moreover, the pervasiveness of a belief or practice among the laity wouldn’t of it self show that the practice or teaching was the teaching of the church."

So, while you tell us that the laity can be wrong in belief and practice, you also appeal to evidence of what happened in "archaeological sites" and other places outside of the writings of bishops, such as in "homes", though you give us no documentation. As I explained to you earlier this year, I was primarily addressing the ante-Nicene fathers, and I was addressing the veneration of images, not the use of them. Some early sources oppose even the use of images, but a person can oppose their veneration in some sense without opposing their use altogether. You still haven't given us any reason to think that the veneration of images was always taught by the church.

You write:

"Are we to believe on the same line of reasoning that the Christian Church once professed modalism too? What is the difference between that and your infant baptism example?"

One difference is that I've given you sources for my claims about infant baptism, whereas you haven't yet given me a source for your claims about how widespread Modalism was. Another difference is that Modalism is contradicted by apostolic sources, whereas no apostolic source teaches the veneration of images. And another difference is that I don't claim that there was an infallible church that always existed and always taught the same doctrines. My position is that the Bible contradicts Modalism and that Modalists were wrong in their belief, but I wouldn't claim that there was an infallible institution that was widely recognized as the one true church and always taught that Modalism is wrong. I don't make the same claims about Modalism that you make about infant baptism.

Furthermore, we can understand why some people would oppose a concept such as Trinitarianism, since such a view of God wasn't common and involves some difficult concepts. Something like baptizing infants or praying to the deceased, on the other hand, not only is easy to understand, but also would have been reminiscent of much that's found in non-Christian religions. If the leaders of the church were encouraging people to baptize their infants and pray to the deceased, why would there be widespread opposition to such practices? I can see Gentile converts to Christianity having difficulty with something like Trinitarianism, but not so much with something like praying to the deceased.

You write:

"Heck, even with established doctrine, I still know lay people who don’t take infant baptism seriously or even have a rudimentary understanding of it."

It's not a matter of people "not taking it seriously". Rather, it's a matter of nobody referring to it in the earliest generations. And when it's first mentioned by Tertullian, he's writing in opposition to the concept. We know that there was a widespread practice of baptizing infants if they were nearing death, and that wouldn't have been done if baptisms were occurring earlier in the lives of those infants. We know of church leaders who had Christian parents who did take living the Christian life seriously, yet they weren't baptized until adulthood. I've cited this sort of evidence and other evidence at length, and David Wright discusses it in depth in the sources I've mentioned. To conclude, in light of this sort of data, that infant baptism was always taught by an infallible church that was established by Christ doesn't make sense. As I said before, the reason why you have to keep offering explanations for why nobody advocates your positions early on is because the historical evidence doesn't support your assertion that your positions were always taught by the church.

You write:

"I think that the texts you cite on images have to do with idols and not images per se. I think the context makes that pretty clear."

In my discussion with you earlier this year, I cited the council of Elvira as an example. That council legislated on images in churches, not "idols". Just after the ante-Nicene era, when the veneration of images was becoming increasingly popular, Epiphanius would still write:

"Moreover, I have heard that certain persons have this grievance against me: When I accompanied you to the holy place called Bethel, there to join you in celebrating the Collect, after the use of the Church, I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ's church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. They, however, murmured, and said that if I made up my mind to tear it, it was only fair that I should give them another curtain in its place. As soon as I heard this, I promised that I would give one, and said that I would send it at once. Since then there has been some little delay, due to the fact that I have been seeking a curtain of the best quality to give to them instead of the former one, and thought it right to send to Cyprus for one. I have now sent the best that I could find, and I beg that you will order the presbyter of the place to take the curtain which I have sent from the hands of the Reader, and that you will afterwards give directions that curtains of the other sort--opposed as they are to our religion--shall not be hung up in any church of Christ. A man of your uprightness should be careful to remove an occasion of offence unworthy alike of the Church of Christ and of those Christians who are committed to your charge." (Jerome's Letter 51:9)

The bishops at the council of Elvira and Epiphanius, a bishop, weren't laymen. And they weren't just addressing "idols". Similarly, men like Clement of Alexandria (The Stromata, 2:18) and Lactantius (The Divine Institutes, 2:19) make comments about images in general, not just "idols". Tertullian comments that Peter couldn't have known what Moses and Elijah looked like from seeing images of them (Against Marcion, 4:22), since the law had forbidden such images, and he comments that the law against images is still in place (On Idolatry, 5). The segments of The Octavius Of Minucius Felix that address images (2-3, 20-21, 32, etc.) are about the veneration of images in general, not just "idols". Origen associates the Christian view of images with the Jewish view (Against Celsus, 7:64). The Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar John McGuckin comments that "Origen of Alexandria in the third century remains immensely hostile to the idea of figurative art" (The Westminster Handbook To Patristic Theology [Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004], p. 32). Critics of Christianity like Celsus (Origen's Against Celsus, 7:62) and Caecilius (The Octavius Of Minucius Felix, 10) were associating opposition to the veneration of images with Christians in general, not just some laymen who rejected what was taught by the church. Ludwig Ott summarizes:

"Owing to the influence of the Old Testament prohibition of images, Christian veneration of images developed only after the victory of the Church over paganism. The Synod of Elvira (about 306) still prohibited figurative representations in the houses of God (Can. 36)." (Fundamentals Of Catholic Dogma [Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1974], p. 320)

You write:

"Just because Tertullian dissented, it doesn’t follow that because Athanasius didn’t that Athanasius or Cyril some how altered the religion."

How do you know that Tertullian "dissented"? Where's your evidence that the veneration of images, infant baptism, etc. were always taught by the church?

Nothing in Tertullian's comments about infant baptism, for example, suggests that he was opposing something accepted by the bishops of the Christian world throughout church history. Similarly, when men like Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Epiphanius, etc. contradict Eastern Orthodoxy on an issue like the veneration of images, they don't present any argument as to why they're rejecting a teaching that's always been accepted by an infallible church. In some cases, these men don't even seem to expect any Christian to disagree with them. When somebody like Epiphanius does anticipate some disagreement among Christians, he approaches the issue as if it can be settled by an appeal to better argumentation on the grounds of general principles. He doesn't seem to think that some consensus of bishops or an unbroken teaching lineage of an infallible church is involved. The sort of background you keep assuming in these contexts, as if there was some unbroken teaching of an infallible church in support of your doctrines, is unproven and highly dubious.

It's not as though there were no opportunities for your alleged infallible church to leave traces of its teachings in the early historical record. Let's take prayers to the deceased as an example. There are hundreds of passages on prayer in the Bible and in the earliest patristic literature. Some of the earlier church fathers wrote entire treatises on prayer. Those early treatises not only never advocate praying to the deceased, but they even sometimes refer to prayer as if it's something to be directed only to God or directly condemn the offering of prayer to any being other than God. If there was an infallible Eastern Orthodox church that was widely recognized as the one true church, and it had been teaching people to pray to the deceased all along, we would expect to see explicit evidence in the historical record, in many places. Prayer is one of the most common elements of the Christian life. It was discussed frequently and in depth. Why, then, is praying to the deceased absent and contradicted early on?

You write:

"It is quite true that many common people delayed baptism, including for adults as well as children. That only tells us the practice of the common people and not the teaching of the church."

Again, where's your evidence that the church always taught infant baptism? Why would the common people, including Christian parents who seem to have been serious about following church traditions, disregard what the church supposedly had always taught about infant baptism? When the bishop Gregory Nazianzen suggested that people baptize infants only if the infants are dying, was he rejecting what was always taught by the church?

You write:

"Moreover, if your line of reasoning is legitimate here, then what ever shall we do with Gregory of Nazienzen’s comment in his oration on the Holy Spirit that the wise men of the church had all kinds of different views regarding the personality and the deity of the Spirit? Now, why doesn’t that prove that the church’s teaching changed on the Trinity?"

See my comments above on Modalism.

You write:

"I simply disagree with your reading of the Cappadocians on Baptism and denying Tertullian as a Father is all too easy, given that all sides admit that he was something of an extremist and became a heretic."

Christians agree with Tertullian on most issues. The fact that he was wrong on some issues doesn't justify an assumption that he was departing from church teaching on issues like the veneration of images and infant baptism. Other patristic sources were wrong on some issues as well, but I can't therefore dismiss what they said on every other subject. Besides, I've cited much more than Tertullian to support my position on these issues. Even if I had only cited Tertullian on an issue like infant baptism or prayers to the deceased, his testimony would be of more significance than the absence of sources supporting your position in the earliest generations.

In summary:

- You haven't demonstrated that doctrines such as infant baptism, the veneration of images, and prayers to the deceased were always taught by the church.

- Though you ask for "what the Bishops taught" as evidence against such doctrines, you've cited archeological data, such as what's been found in ancient "homes", in support of your position. If "what the Bishops taught" must be cited against your position, then that's what you have to produce in order to prove your position as well. Where, then, is your evidence that concepts such as infant baptism, the veneration of images, and prayers to the deceased were always "what the Bishops taught"?

- If there was one church founded by Christ that was infallible and always taught Eastern Orthodox doctrine, then why did not only so many non-bishops, but also bishops (the bishops at the council of Elvira, Epiphanius, Gregory Nazianzen, etc.) contradict what Eastern Orthodox believe about issues like infant baptism and the veneration of images?

- If the people who contradicted Eastern Orthodoxy were opposing what had always been taught by an infallible church that was widely recognized as the one true church established by Christ, then why do these sources repeatedly neglect to address such an unbroken infallible teaching and sometimes even act as if they weren't expecting any Christian to disagree with what they were saying?

- It's not as though issues like baptism and prayer weren't mentioned much in the early generations. They were mentioned frequently, and a practice like infant baptism or praying to the deceased ought to have left many and explicit traces in the historical record.

Nonsense on stilts

ED: I see absolutely no reason why Calvinism's conception of sovereignty is "stronger" than an libertarian's.

SH: Existdissolve gets sillier with each passing comment. Logically speaking, a libertarian can’t have a doctrine of divine sovereignty.

As most he can believe in Geach’s Olympian Grand Master, where God doesn’t know his opponent’s next move, but knows all possible moves and can always outmaneuver his opponent.

Inspiration is a deterministic process—otherwise it wouldn’t be inspirational. Indeterministic inspiration is an oxymoron.

Indeed, Existdissolve admits as much himself. That’s why he doesn’t really believe in the inspiration of Scripture. It’s too deterministic for his libertarian pretensions.

ED: Of course, this gets back to the issue of how human language infuses words with meaning--you have chosen to say that your conception of sovereignty is "Strong." This, however, by no means establishes the point.

Again, you are presupposing a certain value for "providence" that may or not be an actual reality. That you interpret your conception of "providence" to be strong by no means mitigates against the antithetical viewpoint claiming the exact same thing.

SH: The “antithetical viewpoint” is self-refuting. So we can mount a transcendental argument for providence due to the impossibility of the contrary.

Your outlook is unable to ground successful communication.

You relativize meaning while conveniently exempting your own propositional statements.

Social conventions & moral absolutes

Dagood has written another long, rambling piece.

Cutting through the abundance of dead wood, this is more or less his core argument:

DS: And we are told that the times of the Tanakh were different, and God related to the people in a different manner, imposing a different morality. (Sounding like a morality based on relativism, not being absolute.)

SH: Who is telling him that God was imposing a different morality?

1.Dagood is indulging in fallacious all-or-nothing argument: either every precept is a moral absolute, or no precept is a moral absolute.

But that’s quite illogical. Some Mosaic injunctions exemplify moral absolutes, but others are social conventions.

In any society, to be a functioning society, certain rules must be put in place to regulate social interaction. Some of these rules are arbitrary, like stop signs and stop lights.

2.And even as far as moral absolutes are concerned, we need to distinguish between the abstract norm and the concrete ways in which the norm is enforced. There can be more than one way to enforce the same norm.

For example, the creation ordinances in Gen 1-2 are a set of moral norms, viz. labor, family, Sabbath-keeping, and the cultural mandate.

But there’s more than one way to implement a creation ordinance.

Marriage is a creation ordinance, but that doesn’t dictate one particular marriage ceremony.

Same thing with the Decalogue.

DS: Taking just one example--Why did God change His position on taking vows? Did He discover that there is some scale of morality which allows a vow-taker to supercede other moral laws?


1.Vows are not moral absolutes. They are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end.

The end is the point of principle, whereas the means are pragmatic.

A process is not a moral absolute. It is not a value in itself. Rather, a process is a means to an end.

This is not a question of morality, but prudence.

2.Even in the case of moral absolutes, in a fallen world we may often be confronted with conflicting obligations. In that event, a higher duty overrules a lower duty.

DS: Jephthah is bound by his oath, and sacrifices his daughter. Now, in our humanistic determination, we would find this act immoral. While breaking an oath is assuredly not encouraged, it can be remedied here without the necessary loss of life.

Somehow, in this absolute morality proposed by the Christian viewpoint, breaking an oath is MORE immoral than killing an innocent child. If I swear to God if He gives a good parking spot, I will break the arms of my son—is it a greater sin to not break his arms upon getting right next to the handicap spot?

Apologists typically argue that Jephthah did not actually kill his daughter, but rather devoted her to the Lord.

SH: As I said before, vows are not moral absolutes.

1.The Mosaic law distinguishes between lawful and unlawful vows (e.g. Num 30).

2.Dagood disregards the genre of Judges. This is historical narrative, not a law code.

In narrative theology, the narrator generally makes his points by showing rather than telling. You don’t expect the narrator to pipe in with editorial comments all the time.

Even so, we do have a few editorial asides planted at strategic locations (e.g. Jdg 17:6; 21:25) which make the editorial viewpoint unmistakably clear.

3.Far from approving of all the reported conduct, the purpose of the book is just the opposite. As the standard commentary explains:

“The them of the book is the Canaanization of the Israelite society during the period of settlement...The author’s agenda is evident not only in the individual units but in the broad structureof the book as a whole. The Prlogue (1:1-3:6) explaisn the underlying causes of the Canaanization of Israel: the tribes’ failure to fulfill the divine mandante in eliminating the native population (Deut 7:1-5). The major part, the ‘Book of Deliverers’ (3:7-16:31, describes the consequences of Israel’s Canaanization and Yahweh’s response. The collection of ‘hero-stories’ ahs its own specific prologue (3:1-6) in which the reader is reminded of the problematic historical and spiritual background for the following hero-stories. The sequence of six cycles of ‘apostasy-punishment-cry of pain-deliverance’ not only expresses the persistence of the issue; it demonstrates the increasing intensity of the nation’s depravity. The arrangement of the ‘hero-stories’ reflects this process so that in the end we are left with ‘antiheroes” rather than truly great men of God. In the Epilogue (17:1-21:25), which really is the climax of the presentation, the Danite and Benjamites tribes demonstrate the extent and intensity of the problem in the nation’s religious and social dysfunction,” D. Block, Judges, Ruth (B&H 1999), 58.

Dagood needs to learn a thing or two about narrative technique. Cf. R. Pratt, He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student’s Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives (P&R 1993).

DS: As I read the tale of Jephthah, I can’t help but reflect on King David’s similar situation. King David committed murder (perhaps) but certainly adultery—a crime punishable by death. Yet in this Christian morality scheme, there appears to be an out. An exception. Regardless of the immorality or morality of an action, God can impose mercy, and exempt the person from punishment.


1.Isn’t this wonderfully inept? He cites an OT account to illustrate the “Christian morality scheme.”

Well, I guess we can be grateful for the fact that Dagood continues to affirm the prophetic character of the OT.

2Yes, God pardoned David. But it wasn’t a plenary pardon. Cf. 2 Sam 12:10-12.

3.And as far as the “Christian morality scheme is concerned,” divine forgiveness is predicated on penal substitution.

There is no suspension of the moral law. Rather, justice is exacted on the Redeemer.

As usual, Dagood doesn’t understand because he doesn’t try to understand. He is a man self-condemned.

Forgive & forget

Christian ethics ranges along a continuum, from theonomy, at one end of the spectrum—to Anabaptism, at the other.

In terms of confessional Calvinism, the Westminster longer and shorter catechisms take the Decalogue as their point of reference. The London Baptist Confession of Faith also upholds the Decalogue.

In practice, Calvinism often took in elements of the case law, including the penalties.

Some Christians reject OT ethics on theological grounds. In their view, OT ethics, in toto, is tied to the Mosaic Covenant, which is defunct.

Anabaptism is a classic expression of this viewpoint.

You also get this in traditional dispensationalism, although, with the advent of progressive dispensationalism, it’s harder to draw the lines.

For a mediating position, read Ethics for a Brave New World by the Feinberg brothers.

Whatever you think of these two positions, they are principled positions. They involve the larger question of how the OT is fulfilled in the NT.

However, many believers, as well as unbelievers, reject OT ethics, in whole or in part, for emotional rather than theological reasons.

They reject OT ethics simply because they regard it as excessively harsh, legalistic, and judgmental.

By contrast, Anabaptist ethics, with its turn-the-cheek docility, seems so much more loving and merciful.

ABC recently rebroadcast a special it had done on the Amish. Here’s a summary:


This week, "Primetime: The Outsiders - The Amish" looks at people who are radical believers. Elizabeth Vargas reports on a disturbing side of the Amish community and interviews Mary Byler, a woman who broke the Amish code by reporting sexual abuse to authorities. Byler became the center of the scandal that rocked her tight-knit Amish home in Wisconsin when she told the Sheriff's office that she was raped hundreds of times - by eight or nine men, including her own brothers, who did confess to the crime. According to sociologist Donald Kraybill, confessing in the Amish Church for wrongdoings is the key step to forgiveness, and the standard punishment for any infraction is banishment from church activities for six weeks. Byler, on the other hand, felt the punishment was not enough. "You're being grounded for six weeks," she says. "It's just really ridiculous punishment. The funny thing is that they view drinking alcohol until you puke as bad a sin as raping somebody." She also speaks out about what brought her to her final decision to go to the authorities and what life after leaving the Amish community is like. This report originally aired in December 2004.


Here we see, in very stark terms, the limits of compassion. The more merciful you are to the perpetrator, the more merciless you are to the victim.

Under OT law, her brothers would have been executed. Simple as that.

But in Anabaptist ethics, her brothers got off with a slap on the wrist (until she reported them to the police) while she was ostracized by the community—and, indeed, excommunicated—for being unforgiving and bucking the system.

The kinder and gentler approach to the assailant was decidedly unkind and uncharitable to the victim.

Frequently, justice is the most merciful course of action. Nothing is crueler than misplaced compassion.

The Nestorian canard

PR: I wasn’t aware that I bore any burden to inform people who presume to write on a topic of which they are not informed.

SH: If you accuse your opponent of being uninformed, then you bear a burden in making good on your claim.

It’s one thing to say something’s the case, quite another to show it.

PR: Perhaps it might be better to educate themselves before making claims.

SH: Once again, this assumes what it needs to prove.

PR: Secondly, there is no shortage of literature on Orthodoxy just as there is on Calvinism. Take up and read. The point is, you are hardly a reliable source for information about Orthodoxy. If people want to learn Calvinism, then they should Calvinist literature and not primarily or exclusively material from its critics or the popular media. The same goes for Orthodoxy. Got it Sparky?

SH: In other words, Robinson can be safely ignored. If you want reliable information on Orthodox theology, skip a low-level popularizer like Robinson and read John Meyendorff or Timothy Ware instead.

Thanks, Perry, for reminding everyone of how irrelevant you are to this debate. Now go home and take your own advice. Got it Sparky?

PR: There was no “tactic” of labeling, except with the stated goal of brining to mind to my readers the fact that you suffer from major theological problems even by your own standards.. And God forbid I should classify someone’s position. If you disagree with the classification, then give an argument rather than whine about it.

SH: To the contrary, it’s a very transparent tactic. Perry wants, at all cost, to avoid the bar of exegetical theology. So he tries to bait his opponent into making some allegedly heretical admission.

My rule of faith is divine revelation. Perry’s rule of faith is Cyril of Alexandria.

PR: How about human personhood?

SH: A rather broad question, don’t you think?

PR: Is Jesus a human person?

SH: A deceptively simple question:

Jesus is a theanthropic person, which makes him a complex person. So it would be misleading to discuss his personhood in atomistic fashion.

There is, in the person of Christ, a full set of human attributes along with a full set of divine attributes.

PR: Are human persons an instance of a nature?


1.Is this an exegetical question or a philosophical question?

To say that a human person is an instance of a nature is somewhat Platonic.

Human beings share certain attributes in common. That’s what makes them human.

So they exemplify certain properties.

2.What does this have to do with Chalcedon, anyway? Chalcedon doesn’t use the word “person.”

“Person” is an English translation of a Greek word, in tandem with a number of other Greek words, which carry a lot of conceptual baggage due to the early Christological controversies. So this is one of the systematic equivocations running through Perry’s interrogation.

3.All that matters, for me, is NT Christology, and whether the creeds are true to NT Christology.

Perry’s line of attack is a diversionary tactic, to distract attention away from the litmus test of NT Christology.

Perry’s problem is that he is dissatisfied with revelation. He wants to elevate a variety of speculative philosophical distinctions to the status of dogma.

PR: If Jesus is a divine person, do you think he has genuine human experiences and consciousness?


1.To say that Jesus is a divine person is simplistic. Jesus is a theanthropic person. His personhood is characterized by a full compliment of divine and human properties.

2.The divine nature qua divine does not experience the human nature qua human. But we can predicate genuine human experiences and consciousness of the unified subject.

3.The Incarnation is a unique event. Since the hypostatic union is sui generis, it is a fundamental mistake to extrapolate from the Incarnation to humanity in general.

PR: You seemed to have some reservations at the least, if not disagreements with an affirmation of those points in the past. This was your basis of dissent from the Chalcedonian position and you admitted that my position represented the historical position in question while yours did not.


1.I do not concede that your position represents the historical position. One would have to be a patrologist by training to offer an informed opinion on that question. And there is disagreement even among the pros, which suggests the absence of a uniform historical position.

2.You’re frustrated because I refuse to walk into an ambush. You set a trap, and I walk around it.

3.Do I dissent from the Chalcedonian position?

Here is what the creed of Chalcedon has to say:

“So, following the saintly fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity, and in the last days the same for us and for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer as regards his humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being; he is not parted or divided into two persons, but is one and the same only-begotten Son, God, Word, Lord Jesus Christ, just as the prophets taught from the beginning about him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ himself instructed us, and as the creed of the fathers handed it down to us (”

There is nothing in this statement from which I dissent.

Here is what the Westminster Confession has to say:

“The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man” (WCF 8:2).

There is nothing in this statement from which I dissent.

PR: If nature is not prior to person in the deity, then what exactly do you take the relation to be?


1.Revelation doesn’t say what “exactly” the relation amounts to. The point is not to state the “exact” relation, but to avoid reductionistic formulations.

2.”Nature” is a covering term.

PR: Are they identical?

SH: Identical in what respect?

i) The members of the Trinity share the same set of divine attributes.

ii) However, the members of the Trinity are not the same person. They are not identical with one another.

iii) If you’re looking for an analogy, the members of the Trinity are symmetrical rather than identical, using enantiomorphism as our model of the one-over-many.

PR: If you stand condemned by confessions of your own tradition, even confessions that you may profess subscription to, then I would think you would either undertake to change them in your own religious body, conform to them or remove yourself from them. Perhaps you have some other option handy such as blessed inconsistency though. In any case, I’d think you wouldn’t want to identify yourself with a false view of the Person of Christ.


1.Your conclusion is predicated on a false premise.

2.Even if I were to deviate from the Westminster Confession (or other suchlike) in some respect, contemporary Calvinism generally operates with system subscription rather than strict subscription.

It’s left to the discretion of the session, presbytery, and general assembly to determine the tolerable boundaries of licit dissent.

For example, the Westminster standards say that God made the world in the span of six days, but that is not enforced.

Likewise, when the (original) Westminster standards identify the Pope with the Antichrist, this presupposes a historicist interpretation of 2 Thessalonians and Revelation. But that is not enforced.

Along the same lines, the Westminster Directory of Worship, with its Puritan strictures, is simply ignored in the OPC and PCA.

PR: Moreover, those who read you should be aware of your dissent from Chalcedonian Christology, a Christology to which the Reformation professed fealty so that they are aware that you do not hold the same faith as they do. I would think that would be worth knowing. In fact, marking those out who do is something hardly limited to the Orthodox. Calvinists do it all the time.

SH: You continue to build on a false premise. But a delusional mindset has its own momentum.

PR: And I am just the least bit curious, why by confessional standards someone like yourself gets a pass on heterodox Christology from your co-bloggers but everyone else gets the third degree? Shouldn’t they be grilling you just as they do others, or is Christology just not that important? Is it non-essential in some way? I’d love to see how they square that with the Confessional status of said doctrine.

SH: Aside from your faulty operating assumption, I guess I “get a pass” is because my fellow bloggers are well aware of your devious methods. Indeed, some of them have been on the receiving end of your serpentine tactics.

PR: And if you are a “Biblicist” first and firmly believe your dissenting view, I would think that you’d be more than happy to announce it clearly rather than being defensive about it and having me pry it out of you. And I doubt that most people who read your blog know that you dissent from Chalcedonian Christology that is professed in numerous Reformed and Lutheran Confessions. Christology is hardly a “nook and crany” of Reformed theology, but then again, maybe it is! So much for being “Christ centered.”

SH: I’m not going to play the chump for your impersonation of Joseph Goebbels. You think that by repeating a lie long enough, it becomes the truth.

Perry likes to pose a string of trip-wire questions. He’s frustrated by the fact that I don’t accommodate him by marching through his sophistical minefield. I prefer to walk around it. I don’t let him frame the terms of the debate.

PR: So far I haven’t seen any denial on your part that my classification of you was off target.

SH: You must be suffering from glaucoma. Better get that treated.

PR: In any case, Steve, where is your clear denial of my classification? And where is the clear argument showing that I am wrong?

SH: Notice how Perry, in the grand tradition of a Stalinist prosecutor, likes to lead with a wife-beating question. The onus is then on the defendant in Perry’s little show trial to prove that he didn’t beat his wife.

PR: Guess I was right.

SH: Guess you were wrong.

Goodbye, Dr. Corts

This past Tuesday evening, a dear friend, and my former pastor, C. Mark Corts of Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, NC, passed into that which is to come after a long struggle with kidney and heart diseases. He was a model of theological conviction, drive, determination, and cooperation with others of differing views (Memphis Declaration Signers, here’s the reason I signed the declaration), underwritten by a love for His Lord and a desire to teach His Word. I had the opportunity to serve on the staff of Calvary several years ago, and I can say that, while I somewhat lament the conditions there now, for the place isn’t what it once was, the church has, because he built it for His Lord not on Jesus Loves Me pabulum sermons but on expository preaching and teaching from both the pulpit and the Sunday School classes, fared far better than most SBC churches I know in these days of doctrinal and biblical illiteracy and struggles over biblical sufficiency.

This article appeared in my newspaper today. Please join me in both grieving and rejoicing with his family and his church. We have lost another soldier of the cross in the Southern Baptist Convention this year. Dr. Rogers and Mrs. Criswell recently joined the Church Triumphant. It looks like the Convention is moving out of Nashville and into Heaven these days, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Lutheran" Pietism

LK: This is all very interesting. To begin just let me say that the acusations of Protestants being their own Pope or having a paper Pope, while poetic and all are simply imflamatory and not really an argument.

However, I am struck Steve by the degree to which (at least in this thread of argument) you are in fact a rationalist. It is reason and argumentation that even trumps appeal to revelation.

SH: This cuts against the grain of my stated position. I do not subordinate revelation to reason. Just the contrary.

I believe in sticking to exegesis. What do you think that means if not submitting to revelation?

But reason is the organ by which we apprehend and assent to the truths of revelation.

Reason cannot submit to revelation if reason is unable to grasp revelation.

So I affirm the primacy of revelation rather than the primacy of reason. This should have been obvious from what I wrote.

Grano is the one who wants to go beyond the boundaries of revelation.

LK: This of course is necesary since you deny continuity.

SH: This is an overstatement. There are continuities as well as discontinuities.

And this is true, both in reference to Evangelicalism and contemporary Catholicism.

LK: As any Protestant does who wishes to claim that somehow Luther and Calvin discoevered the Truth of Scripture that either had been missed for several hundred years and or was never discoverd (as the Alister McGrath quotes so wonderfully shows a truely astounding bias against the church).


1.This is not an issue of being a particular kind of Protestant. Rather, it’s the difference between being a Catholic and a Protestant.

If you don’t think there’s anything distinctive about Protestant theology, reread the Council of Trent.

2.Alister McGrath is very much a product of the 20C. For example, is he not a theistic evolutionist.

And is this something the early church affirmed? Or is this a theological innovation?

What about his views on the role of women? Is he a traditionalist?

What about his views on the punishment of heretics?

LK: As a Lutheran Pietist I agree that at the time of the Reformation there were things wrong with the Roman church.

SH: Wrong in what sense? Corruption? Venality? Or unscriptural doctrines which gave rise to so much of the corruption?

LK: It is equally clear to me that Luther's and Calvins interpretations of Scripture are not closer to the truth than Patristics.

SH: Then you’re not a Lutheran. Why cling to the label?

LK: And Steve wheter you admit it or not it is clear you are traped in a system and can't get out, and your Orthodox dialogue partner is actually less systematic than you and thus can accept ambiguity and that God didn't drop a complete book that is the revelation of God, rather the church that produced the figures you are so skeptical about actually gave you the Revelation in Scripture you believe you are defending with your rationilistic system.


1.You are superimposing your Pietism onto Grano. Grano is not retreating into ambiguity. Rather, Grano is giving reasons for his position. And if he’s going to give reasons for his position, then his reasons are subject to rational scrutiny. I’m answering him on his own level.

2. The church didn’t write the Bible. The church didn’t write the OT.

And the church didn’t write the NT. Rather, individuals wrote the NT.

Books which were addressed to local churches.

LK: And I must say that if you follow the implicit argument in your three points , we leave oursleves open to needing to say the Gnostic thelogy, Arian Theology etc. all need to be considered as the theology of the church, and then the divinity of Christ, the doctrin of the Trinity etc. begin to slowly slip away.


1.That depends on how you define the church. If historical theology is your frame of reference, then Gnostic theology or Arian theology is just as historical as Nicene Orthodoxy.

2.If, however, you define the church according to exegetical theology, then Gnosticism and Arianism are not true to the true church.

LK: If you read Peters sermons in Early Acts, it is very difficult to see either that Jesus is supposed to be God, or get any sense that God is triune.

SH: Two problems with this:

1.Are you saying that traditional theology is underdetermined by Scripture? If so, then traditional theology goes beyond the scope of revelation.

In that event, you’re the one who’s a rationalist, not me.

2.Systematic theology is, or ought to be, a doctrinal construct which integrates the entirely of the NT witness (as well as the OT witness) to person of Christ as well as the Trinity.

LK: Actually as for the last point #1 I was not taking that Steve believes that Calvinism was arround from the beginning but that to not believe so as I assume Steve believes (If he believes otherwise there woudl be no point to conversing on this subject as he would clearly be out of touch) rather that Calvinism some how discoverd the actual truth of Christianity 1500 years after the church was founded. This I find astounding.

What I hear in Steve's arguments is that although he admits that Calvinism does not agree with the continuous interpretation of Scripture through the centuries in the church that it is the truest theology, even though it did not exist until at best 500 years ago (and that is possibly a highly dubious claim since 5 point calvinism may in fact misinterpret Calvin).

SH: There are several problems with this line of argument:

1.LK is mounting an argument for his position. Nothing wrong with that except that if he’s going to reason with us, then he forfeits the right to play the Pietist card and accuse us of rationalism.

2.Calvinism is an offshoot of the Augustinian tradition. So elements of this position were always represented in the church—at least from the time of Augustine.

Keep in mind, too, that things like Nicene Orthodoxy took time to develop as well.

3.More to the point, it’s a historical fiction to identify a “continuous interpretation of Scripture” with the “church.”

There is no Gallup poll of what all Christians or even most Christians believed in the year 500, or the year 1000.

What LK is pleased to call the “church” is a very elitist concept of the church.

How many Christians were literate after the fall of Rome? How many Christians had private copies of the Bible? How many Christians read the Bible in Greek and Hebrew?

What LK is pleased to call the “continuous interpretation” of the “church” is restricted to the extant writings of a handful of theologians.

Only a fraction of Christians were in a position to write about their beliefs, and publish their writings. And only a fraction of this material has survived.

What LK identifies with the “church” is, in fact, severely limited to a thin upper crust of the educated class.

What did the illiterate masses, or Christians who had no access to private copies of the Bible, believe?

Well, I assume they believed what they were taught.

So the idea that Luther and Calvin are coming up with newfangled interpretations which run contrary to what Christians always and everywhere believed is a historical fiction.

The vast majority of Christians were never in the interpretive business to begin with.

4. Catholics like to point to the “scandal” of Protestant denominationalism.

Actually, this phenomenon directly undercuts the argument of someone like LK.

As soon as you make the Bible widely available, differences of opinion emerge.

And that’s because, for the first time, the disenfranchised laity have been given the opportunity to actually read the Bible for themselves.

Far from Calvin and Luther opposing some mythical Christian consensus, theirs is the true populism.

As soon as you inform the masses and actually put it up for a vote, diversity surfaces.

They are discovering something in the Bible they never had a chance to see before because they never had a Bible before.

Indeed, this one was reason that, traditionally, the church of Rome was so opposed to putting the Bible in the hands of the rank-and-file. It would lose control over the message.

LK is the one operating with an ahistorical model of the “church.” With a church that never was. His church is all tip, and no iceberg.

Where No Man Has Gone Before

From Trektoday:

By Michelle
August 29, 2006 - 9:06 PM

An Australian student has earned a PhD degree with a prize-winning thesis on the mythology of Star Trek.

The dissertation of Dr. Djoymi Baker, entitled Broadcast Space: TV Culture, Myth and Star Trek, has won a chancellor's prize for excellence at Melbourne University, according to The Age. For research, Baker watched 624 advertisement-free hours of Star Trek episodes dating from 1966 to 2005.

Baker's 90,000-word analysis of the series compares the characters and their adventures with stories from ancient mythology, including Homer's Odyssey. "I was interested in where myths turn up in less obvious forms, and there wasn't much work on the early years of television and its relation to myth," said Baker, who admitted to being a fan. "I don't think just because a study is serious and that I'm connecting Star Trek to a broader history of TV and ancient myths that it means there is not also a fun side - I can see the fun side as well."

She noted that while some of Kirk's monologues were inspired by John F. Kennedy's speeches exhorting humans to reach for the moon and deeper into space, the roles were reversed decades later when NASA scientists made guest appearances on Star Trek to gain support and funding. Baker is in the process of turning the thesis into a published book.

Now for some witty banter...

So this is what our friend the Pedantic Protestant has really been up to for the past year! :~)
I mean, did he really have to go to all this trouble to learn that Picard is superior to Kirk, but Spock is superior to Data? Everybody knows that Odo is much more interesting than Phlox, but by the same token, it's a toss-up as to whether or not Quark or Neelix is more annoying. DS9 is far superior to TOS, TNG, or Voyager, so I'm not so sure that'd make for great dissertation material. The less said about Enterprise the better. On the other hand, perhaps this would make for an interesting dissertation on the Femme Fatale motif. We all know Seven of Nine rescued Voyager, and who can argue that Lt. Uhura was ahead of her time? Take that T'Pol!

Whether I'm A Calvinist, Response To Perry Robinson, Etc.

I got home from work earlier this evening, and I just got done reading through the dozens of posts that resulted from my comments earlier today. Al Kimel referred to all of the Triablogue staff as Calvinists, and Steve Hays responded:

"Actually, I don’t know that Jason Engwer is a five-point Calvinist. I invited him to join the team for other reasons."

I've addressed this issue in a few forums in the past, although I haven't addressed it since joining Triablogue, as far as I recall. I did comment on it in a thread here last year, though, before I joined the Triablogue staff, and Steve might have gotten his impression from what I wrote in that thread. I'm not a Calvinist. I've attended an Evangelical Free church since around the age of four, and there are people in that denomination on both sides of the issue. I don't know enough about it to take a confident position. I have read some books, followed some debates, and such, but I still have a lot of unanswered questions, have heard of positions on the issue that I haven't studied yet, and don't consider it an essential, though it is important.

As far as I know, Steve has never said that only Calvinists would be on staff. I know that Eric Vestrup was on the staff for a while, and he isn't a Calvinist. Most of us are, though.

On his blog, Al Kimel wrote:

"The Church Fathers are only of interest to them to the degree that the Fathers confirm their exegetical conclusions. That the Church Fathers were not five-point TULIP Calvinists does not bother them."

I'm not sure how Al would know what's "of interest" to me in this area. I do think highly of the church fathers, and I've read thousands of pages of their writings. I've distanced myself from segments of Evangelicalism that ignore them or are highly dismissive of them. I do think that the fathers have some relevance to Biblical interpretation, especially the earlier fathers. They're also significant in a lot of other contexts. I don't consider Al's description above to be an accurate assessment of my view of the fathers.

Later in the thread, Perry Robinson made some comments about me, although he repeatedly misspelled my name as "Enweger". We've had discussions in the past, including at Al Kimel's blog, so I'm not sure why he'd misspell my name, unless the misspelling has some significance I'm not aware of. If it's a deliberate misspelling, I've missed the significance of it.

Perry writes:

"What Enweger needs to look at to present a significant problem for Orthodoxy is what the Bishops taught (1 Tim 3:16-17) since they are the principle teachers of the Faith."

There is no verse 17 in 1 Timothy 3, so I assume he meant to refer to 2 Timothy. And 2 Timothy 3:16-17 doesn't lead us to Perry's understanding of the significance of "what the Bishops taught".

I'm aware that Eastern Orthodox don't think that every church father was orthodox on every issue, that they don't consider the fathers infallible as individuals, etc. I'm also aware of the other issues Perry raises in his response. I've been over these issues with Perry before. In my original post, which Perry is responding to, I linked to one of my posts here earlier this year, in which I interacted with arguments like the ones Perry is raising. My comments were posted at Al Kimel's blog as well, and Perry, to my knowledge, never responded to me on those points in either forum.

I don't deny that Eastern Orthodox give explanations for why they reject patristic beliefs that they disagree with. But Grano1 suggested that there was a continuity of belief. Even if you think that the fathers were speaking fallibly when they opposed the veneration of images or opposed praying to the deceased, for example, the fact remains that they did hold such positions that aren't consistent with modern Eastern Orthodoxy. To go from not baptizing infants or baptizing them only when they're near death, on the one hand, to baptizing all infants without regard to nearness of death, on the other hand, is a change. To go from opposition to the veneration of images to venerating images is a change, not a continuous belief. To go from praying only to God to also praying to the deceased and angels is a change.

Perry can raise some qualifiers if he wants to, such as an Eastern Orthodox standard for "what the Bishops taught", but I think that most people would consider the contradictions between the church fathers and today's Eastern Orthodox more significant than Perry does. For Perry to act as if my post suggests that I'm unaware of the qualifications he discusses is misleading, especially when I addressed such issues in a discussion with Perry earlier this year.

On infant baptism, Perry writes:

"Enweger’s material on infant baptism has been discussed here before, but let me pick out one goof. One line of evidence against infant baptism is supposedly the belief that children were not guilty, and therefore had no need of baptism. The idea of children being guilty came later. Well this supposes that the function of baptism is primarily to remove guilt."

Perry doesn't tell us what "goof" in my comments he's responding to. Where did I make the argument he's objecting to?

I don't know what Perry has in mind, but I recommend that people compare my posts on infant baptism (the ones I linked to earlier today and the others available in the archives here) to Perry's claim that infant baptism has always been a teaching of the church. I've largely repeated the sentiments of the paedobaptist patristic scholar David Wright on this issue. Nothing Perry has written in response so far (today or earlier this year) overturns my position. The reason why Perry has to keep appealing to the fallibility of individual church fathers, what some people might have believed without leaving a record of their beliefs in the historical record, etc. is because the historical record doesn't support Perry on these issues.

Common grace


Grano1 said:

I posted a comment this morning somewhere on here about narrowing my focus down to one troubling question, due to time constraints. Don't know if and where that post showed up, but here's my question: At one point in our discussion I asked Steve if God loved Todd, the 'blasphemer,' and wanted him to be saved. As far as I can see, he never answered. But someone writing as 'Shining and Burning Light' had this response:

"God hates sinners who remain in their sins. He does have a general love for all men in that He provided a Savior and has offered that Savior to everyone. He also provides for the needs of sinner and saint alike as He causes the rain to fall on the wicked as well as the righteous. However, He has a special love for Christians. He doesn't love all men with the same love that He has for His people who are in covenant with Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, if a blasphemer doesn't come to Christ, does God love him? Obviously not with that special redemptive love that leads to salvation. Should you align yourself with an unrepentant blasphemer over and against a Christian brother with whom you disagree about theological matters? Sounds fishy to me, anyway...."

First of all, I aligned myself with Todd only in the sense that I found his questions non-frivolous. I did not know his history with the blog and was considering the particular questions on that post only.

I still would like to hear from Steve -- does God love Todd? Does He want him to repent and be saved?
Above, Shining... says God hates unrepentant sinners who remain in their sins. What if he is predestined to repent tomorrow and be saved? Does that mean God didn't love him today? Isn't God's love toward the unbeliever what prompts Him to save him? "Christ died for us while we were yet sinners," right? "For God so loved the world..." right?

But if I follow this logic it implies that God hates what we would consider his "enemies." Yet Christ commands us to love OUR enemies. Isn't God expecting us to do something he himself won't do? Didn't Christ die for us while we were at enmity with him?

So again I ask...what about it, Steve? Does God love Todd and want him to be saved?


A couple of preliminary comments:

1.The combox at T-blog has a way of turning into an informal discussion board. And that’s fine with me. I think that’s a healthy development.

But by that same token, I’m not bound by anyone’s formulation, and no one is bound by mine.

2.To my knowledge, none of the historic Reformed confessions address this issue, so there’s no official answer to your question.

I believe that this issue got started with Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace.

Kuyper, in turn, had a deep influence on the CRC.

Herman Hoeksema took issue with Kuyper’s doctrine of common grace (back in the 20s).

He lost his battle with the CRC, and formed a breakaway denomination.

At a later date (in the 40s), this issue, along with some others, resurfaced in the Clark Controversy, when Gordan Clark’s application for ordination in the OPC was challenged.

The majority report, written by John Murray and Ned Stonehouse, carried the day.

On this view, the universal offer of the gospel implied a well-meant offer, according to which God loves the reprobate and desires their salvation.

The minority report, representing the viewpoint of Gordon Clark, William Young, and others, took issue with this inference.

So you can find contemporary Calvinists on both sides of this issue.

3. As to my own general position:

On the one hand, I agree with Kuyper and disagree with Hoeksema regarding the reality of common grace.

On the other hand, I also agree with William Young that the universal offer does not imply a well-meant offer—at least in the way that Murray construes it.

To me, an offer is sincere as long as it is true. If anyone complies with the terms of the promise, God will make good on his promise.

While I affirm common grace, common grace is, in my opinion, for the benefit of the elect rather than the reprobate.

In a common field, God must send his sun and rain on the wheat and tares alike in order to send his sun and rain on the wheat in particular.

So God often blesses the reprobate for the sake of the elect.

4.With respect to Todd, if Todd is one of the elect, then God loves him and desires his salvation. Indeed, if Todd is one of the elect, then God will regenerate Todd at some future date.

But if Todd is a reprobate, then God does not love him or desire his salvation.

And since Todd doesn’t believe in God, there’s no reason why he should find this offensive.

5.I do not impute to God an unrequited desire.

This world is exactly what God wants it to be. If God didn’t like it, he was in a position to make another world entirely to his liking.

There’s nothing to hinder God from having the world he wants, down to the very last detail.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that God approves of everything that occurs considered in isolation to his overall purpose.

And his motives are very different from the motives of the sinner.

6.There is, of course, a sense in which repentance is good, and God approves of whatever is good.

But some goods are greater than others. And some goods are incompatible with other goods.

For example, there is more than one woman who would make a good wife for me, which doesn’t mean that I should marry more than one woman!

7.We are to love our enemies for the duration of the church age. There is, however, such a thing as hell.

The injunctions in the Sermon on the Mount do not address the final state.