Friday, October 13, 2006
“Military force vs. islamic strongholds is quite an absurd method of combatting radical, violent islam.
How is that absurd? You repel force with overwhelming counterforce.
BTW, I never said military force alone would defeat jihad.
For one thing, its stateless”
That’s simplistic. There are state sponsors of terrorism like Iran and Syria.
To some extent that’s also true of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—although they scaled back after 9/11 out of fear of American military reprisal.
The jihadis need material resources to do their thing.
“For another it is ideological”
Yes, a militant ideology.
One way of combating a militant ideology is to defeat it militarily. That’s what we did with Japan in WWII. Pretty successful, I’d say.
Nothing falsifies a triumphalist ideology quite like failure. The defeat of the Nazis is another case in point.
“And fueled by the perception of imperialistic aims backed by military power.”
The theology of jihad antedates Western “imperialism” by centuries. It’s the jihadist ideology that’s imperialistic.
And, if you wish to cast it in such terms, it’s commonplace in military history for one “imperialistic” regime to crush another “imperialistic” regime and put it out of business.
“American militarism has created radical islam.”
Is that a fact? What’s your historical referent? How far back in American history are you going? When do you think this began? Care to give me a date? Was there some pivotal event?
“So how in the world will more stupid (and amoral) foreign policy ratchet down the hostility.”
Killing your enemies can be a pretty effective way of ratcheting down the hostility.
“We let the genie out of the bottle.”
And when did we do this?
What about the Ottoman Empire? Or the Mongol invasion before that? Or the Abbasid conquest before that?
These were all Islamic warrior cultures.
“More of the same will only create more terrorists, until what?”
Do you have any hard statistical data to back up your claim?
“Our govt shrugs its shoulders and says ‘Oh well, now we HAVE TO nuke 'em"?”
Really? Can you quote any high-ranking administration official who’s said that?
“Funny, I don't think God condones that sort of logic.”
Aside from the fact that you’re building on a faulty premise, how do you know what God thinks of our foreign policy?
“And ‘them’ happens to be men-made-in-God's-image. It's time to start thinking of these persons as human beings.”
A straw man argument. It’s because the jihadis are human beings made in God’s image that they are morally responsible agents.
There were laws for conventional war as well as holy war in the OT (Deut 20). Is that because God viewed the Canaanites as subhuman?
If an armed house-burglar breaks into my home and threatens my family, I’ll kill him if I get the chance.
There’s a basic difference between innocence and guilt.
And if you and your like-minded friends really care so much, why don’t you all emigrate to Pakistan or Iran or Syria or Saudi Arabia and practice your philosophy on the locals?
“ Maybe some of them do think of you as an insect. Does that make it right for you to return the favor?”
Another straw man argument. Self-defense is not predicated on what your assailant thinks of you, but what he does or intends to do.
“You don't combat an ideology or religion with physical means.”
You can combat a militaristic ideology by militaristic means. Nothing is more disillusioning to the proponents of a militaristic ideology that ignominious defeat.
“It's a fools errand to think that by killing zillions of arab muslims, you will eliminate islam, and eradicate evil thoughts.”
You’re addicted to straw man arguments. No one is supposing that we are going to eliminate Islam.
Thus far, the vast majority of Muslims are sitting on the sidelines waiting to see who will win. Only a fraction are active jihadis.
“Wasn't that the error of Pol Pot? of communism? of naziism? of ancient Rome vs. Christianity?”
These regimes weren’t brought down by flower-power.
Conversely, force can be a very effective way of stamping out religion. The Mideast was once Christian. Now the Christians are hanging by a thread.
The brutality of the Counter Reformation (e.g. the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre) was very successful in halting and scaling back many of the inroads made by the Reformation.
“All that's happenning right now is hate-breeding,”
Once again, do you have any comparative statistics?
“And the curtailing of missionary effectiveness, not only in islamic countries, but everywhere.”
You’re living in a fantasy world. Evangelism is illegal in countries governed by Sharia, and converts are executed.
“America has lost goodwill around the world.”
Another example of your naïveté.
“And instead of introspection, we bemoan the fact that "no one understands us.’"
Is that what “we” are doing? Who’s the “we”?
“Well, maybe they do understand us, and we don't understand us.”
Or maybe you don’t understand the nature of the enemy.
“Why should we think that God supports our stand--militarily or ideologically--against islam, when the wickedness of the west may well be more nauseating to God than militant islam?”
You like to jumble a lot of things together. God is opposed to Islam.
Since we’re in no position to know whether God either supports or opposes the Iraq war—to take one example—God’s delitescent position is irrelevant to our foreign policy. We can only act on what we know or think we know, and not on what we do not know and cannot know.
“Maybe islam is God's hammer today?”
And maybe it’s not.
There’s only one way to test a hypothetical—and that’s by putting it to the test.
“But since the spiritual battle is the real battle,”
This is a Gnostic view of the “real” battle. A “real” battle can be both. It can be a physical force which is animated by a spiritual motive.
“Islam will not be defeated by "democracy" (a false religion) or nukes, because God will not let it happen. He will not let men, with their idolatry and illegitimate means, claim his victory.”
You have a very confused mind:
1.We’re not trying to defeat Islam. Rather, we’re trying to defeat a jihadist expression of Islam.
2.It’s not a choice between total victory and total defeat.
Rather, it’s more a matter of cutting your enemies down to size. You cannot eradicate the threat, but you can minimize it.
3.In what sense is democracy a “false religion”? Are you a registered voter? Does the act of voting make you an idolater?
4.Maybe democracy won’t work in the Mideast. You don’t know what will work until you try it. If one thing fails, you try another.
5.Once more, where does the talk of “nuking” our enemies come from? What are your sources? Any direct quotes from Bush, Cheney, Condi, or Rummy?
6.But as long as you bring up the issue, if it came down to a choice between Iran nuking the US, or the US nuking Iran, then “we” should nuke Iran.
“There is no true victory that is not a moral victory. And there is no genuine defeat where there is moral victory. “
That sounds very nice on a bumper sticker, but even “immoral” military victories are genuine victories. They stick.
“Americans know their govt bludgeons entire nations for the sins of a few.”
What’s the referent? Iraq? Afghanistan?
I’d add that jihadis can only function with popular support.
“Americans know their govt now justifies torture in the name of expediency.”
To begin with, “torture” is a word used the critics, which they then impute to the “gov’t.”
You don’t get to frame the issue the way you like, and then blame the rest of us for your prejudicial characterization.
Interrogation is not the same thing as torture. The first question to ask is how to extract information from an enemy.
There are many available methods.
Critics like you use “torture” as a conversation stopper.
“Pragmatism will sap every ounce of moral will in this nation,”
Pure pragmatism is immoral, but pragmatic considerations are not inherently immoral. To the contrary, pragmatic considerations are an essential element in much moral valuation.
Do you believe in disarming the police? Are consequences irrelevant?
“Until embracing islam seems like a positively moral choice.”
You place great confidence in your prophetic powers. If it turns out that you prognostications were false, I assume you don’t mind if we stone you to death.
“It's already happenning on the left wing,”
Where, exactly, is this happening? Is Nancy Pelosi or Arianna Huffington or Katrina vanden Heuvel sporting a burqa these days?
Is Teddy Kennedy praying to Mecca fives times a day and observing the fast of Ramadan?
“And its migrating rightward.”
Once again, where is this happening? Is there an emerging pattern of conservative Christians and Ultra-Orthodox Jews converting to Islam? Or even libertarians?
“It's high time for true Christians to self-consciously distance themselves from the pragmatists,”
No, it’s high time for folks like you to drop the emotionalism and bring some reason to bear, using actual evidence and argument instead of hysterical tirades and feel-good slogans.
“And others seeking amoral political & military solutions to these life-and-death issues.”
You haven’t begun to demonstrate that the political and military solutions are “amoral.” A mountain of groundless assertions doesn't add up to a millimeter of truth.
“Can you please elaborate on your point of view regarding the Holy Spirit's illumination. I have always been taught that the Holy Spirit teaches us Scripture, through various different means, pastors, teachers, books/commentaries, etc.”
The locus classicus for this would be 1 Cor 12.
This would be a case of the Holy Spirit teaching believers indirectly via certain spiritual offices.
Usually, though, the term is used to denote something more immediate (i.e. direct) and individual. As C. C. Ryrie puts it:
“Specifically, the doctrine of illumination relates to that ministry of the Holy Spirit that helps the believer understand the truth of Scripture…illumination refers to the ministry of the Spirit by which the meaning of Scripture is made clear to the believer,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, W. Elwell, ed. (Baker 1984), 545.
For reasons I’ve already given, I regard this conception as erroneous and pernicious.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t teach us (in this sense.) Rather, the Holy Spirit makes us teachable.
“For example, recently a friend of mine was asked, 'Who teaches you God's truth', and he replied, The Holy Spirit thru the Bible.”
Yes, that quasi-charismatic view is very popular. It’s also a great way to make shipwreck of one’s faith.
“I guess this is taken from ‘When He comes, the Helper will guide you into all truth.’"
That may well be. But the Johannine passage is a promise to the Apostles, and not to Christians in general or the institutional Church.
“But of course, one must do a study to see what exactly this means, and not just read it as though it were written in english by John.”
Exactly. Your friend is taking the verse out of context.
Indeed, this becomes a viciously circular appeal. They appeal to a particular verse to prove their view of illumination, and then appeal to their view of illumination to prove their appeal to a particular verse—or vice versa!
The End of the World As We Know It
by Mark Steyn
Are you ready for a conflict between America and the rest of the world? In America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, Mark Steyn (the most widely read and wittiest columnist in the world today) argues that that's just what's coming. European and Islamic anti-Americanism, he explains, threatens to leave us isolated in the world: the global situation is rapidly reaching a point at which America will have to confront the enemies of civilization without help from anyone else. And when the world is divided between America and the rest, all those who don't want to see the world shrouded in a new Dark Ages should hope that America wins.
Steyn argues forcefully that much of the Western world as we know it will not survive the twenty-first century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes -- including many if not most European countries. He shows how this process is already well advanced, and explains that whether we like the New Order in Europe and the world depends on whether America can summon the will to shape at least part of the emerging global picture. If not, then it will mean the end of the American moment and the beginning of the new Dark Ages: the return of much the planet to a primitive state.
America is facing this life-and-death challenge, says Steyn, because of the Western world's demographic decline; the unsustainability of the welfare state in Europe (as well as in the United States, Canada, and Australia); and the apparent exhaustion of western civilization. Suffused with Steyn's trademark wit and piercing insights, this book calls on us to summon the will to fight this great struggle for Western civilization. In America Alone, Mark Steyn provides an enlightening primer to just how bad things are likely to get, and what we must do now to ensure that our children and grandchildren live in the bright light of freedom.
Illuminated with wit and wisdom by Mark Steyn:
* The hidden reason that the problem of Islamic jihad has exploded across the world since 1970
* Why the threats that the world faces today should be taken much more seriously than the environmental scare-mongering that has been going on since the 60s (and, thanks to Al Gore, continues)
* The likely outcome of today's global situation, in which Islam is militarily weak but ideologically confident -- while the West is militarily strong but ideologically insecure
* Disquieting implications of the fact Islam is a religion, not a race or nationality (as it is commonly portrayed in the West) -- and an explicitly political religion at that
* Why the liberal talk of finding the "root causes" of terrorism in the errors and excesses of Western foreign policy is so wrongheaded
* Why we are witnessing the end of the late twentieth-century progressive welfare democracy
* Why Libya's Colonel Qaddafi is probably correct when he says that "there are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe -- without swords, without guns, without conquests"
* Why the problem Europe faces today is not one of race, but of culture
* How the willingness to subordinate individual liberty to the primacy of society -- as expressed by Nazism, Communism, and more - has blighted Europe for over a century
* The dangerous consequences that are likely to come from manifestations of "cultural sensitivity" -- such as the fact that U.S. guards at Gitmo must handle copies of the Koran only when wearing gloves because the detainees regard infidels as "unclean"
* How the terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 -- along with other events such as the murder of Theo van Gogh -- were the opening shots of a European civil war
* The little-noticed reason why America's European "allies" failed to grasp the significance of September 11
* Why the progressive Left can be in favor of Big Government or population control but not both -- and how that mutual incompatibility is about to plunge Europe into societal collapse
* Sobering facts about how advanced civilizational suicide already is in Japan and Russia
* How mosques in the West serve as recruiters for the jihad and play an important role in ideological subordination and cell discipline
* Why the Spanish government was so eager to appease the jihad terrorists after the Madrid bombings of March 2004
* How oil isn't the principal Saudi export, Islamic jihad ideology is -- and our oil money bankrolls its spread
* Why the war against global Islamic jihad will be harder to win the longer it goes on
* How Western analysts continue to fall into the error of thinking that if a violent Muslim has no ties to Al-Qaeda, he cannot be a terrorist and poses no threat
* Europe's suicidal multicultural malaise -- and why jihadists understand that the Continent is ripe for the taking in a way that America isn't
* Why it is so important for Americans and others who want their families to enjoy the blessings of life in a free society to understand that the life we've led since 1945 in the Western world is very rare in human history
* How the ultimate victory of Islam in America can be avoided not by more government but by less: by government returning to the citizenry the primal responsibilities it has taken from them in the modern era
But let me pose a question here. Either God was not clear in his revelation about these issues, or the Holy Spirit isn't doing his job in illuminating the truth of the Bible, or God doesn't care what Christians believe. If God doesn't care, then he's also partly to blame for the wars and inquisitions and heresy trials of the Christian past, which claimed many lives. You pick. Which is it? [This doesn't even begin to address the issues that separate different branches of Christianity].
In a previous blog entry, here, I asked why so many professed Christians disagree with each other when interpreting the Bible.
As a former Christian I had difficulty with why there were so many different ways that professed Christians interpreted the Bible. I could never answer that question. I just put it on the backburner of things I didn't know, and I proceeded to try to come up with what I considered the correct interpretations, because that's all I could do.
What I now believe is that history is not a reliable "point of contact" for God to speak with man, assuming God exists. Anyone who studies the philosophy of history knows that history (and historical writings) should be interpreted in light of the historian's present perspective. Why? Because that's all we can do...we cannot do otherwise. So women gain rights in Christian countries and Biblical historians (theologians?) interpret the Bible to say what they have come to believe on other grounds, and so forth, hell being another doctrine.
1.I’ve already given a general answer to this objection in the past. Since, however, Loftus has no new or better objections to the faith, he can only recycle oft-refuted objections to the faith.
It reminds me of a slightly senile old uncle whom my paternal grandmother used to visit in the nursing home.
He liked to read murder mysteries, so she’d check them out from the local library. Unfortunately, the small-town library only had about 10 murder ministries on the shelf.
However, her uncle, being quite forgetful, didn’t quite remember one novel from the next, so as long as she spaced them out and reshuffled the order in which he read them, he never quite caught on to ruse.
2.It’s also important to keep in mind that Loftus was a member of a backward, legalistic, cultish denomination.
Evangelicals generally have the maturity to realize that no one denomination is conterminous with the “true” church. Rather, the true church is exemplified in varying degrees in various denominations and independent churches.
If, therefore, they have an unpleasant experience with one denomination or local church, they don’t treat that as representative of Christendom generally.
Loftus, however, has a habit of treating his provincial experience as if it were the paradigm of Christian experience. And, what is worse, the denomination he belonged to isn’t even within the Evangelical mainstream.
So his idea of Christian theology, which supplies the frame of reference for his apostasy, is often very deficient from the get-go.
3.Notice the number of unspoken and question-begging assumptions built into his objection. For example, the “Holy Spirit isn't doing his job in illuminating the truth of the Bible.”
This assumes a definition of “illumination” which he doesn’t bother to defend.
In terms of theological method, one common mistake is to treat every theological metaphor as if it were a separate theological category or separate divine activity.
But that’s a methodological error, which commits a level confusion.
Different metaphors don’t necessarily stand for different objects or referents. One can use different imagery to illustrate the same truth.
Take baptism. The NT uses a number of picturesque metaphors to illustrate the nature of baptism. But these all share a common object. They all refer to baptism—where the context is baptismal.
In both Testaments, the distinction between light and darkness symbolizes the difference between believers and unbelievers.
Unbelievers walk in darkness. Their minds are darkened by sin.
Likewise, conversion represents a passage from darkness into the light.
What a good systematic theologian will do is to first determine the literal meaning of various theological metaphors. He will then devise a matching category.
In my view, “illumination” refers to the conversion experience. It covers the same basic ground as regeneration—another metaphor—although we might extend it to include an aspect of sanctification, which is, itself, an extension of regeneration.
In Scripture, illumination doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit is teaching Christians what the Bible means.
Rather, the Holy Spirit “enlightens” the mind of the believer by making him a believer in the first place. Thanks to spiritual renewal, the believer is now receptive to the revelation of God.
4.Loftus also assumes, without benefit of argument, that doctrinal diversity is necessarily due to the ambiguity of Scripture. That it’s a hermeneutical problem.
But why assume that all such disagreements are a question of interpretation rather than, say, a question of sanctification?
People will often reject the truth if it happens to be an unwelcome truth. The problem is not an inability to understand the truth; to the contrary, they understand it only too well. And they understand what it implies for them.
They may reject a revealed truth merely because they dislike it. Take predestination or everlasting punishment.
Opponents of both are frequently quite candid about how their opposition is due to their personal animosity towards the doctrines in question.
To take a more extreme example: John Spong often understands exactly what the Bible is teaching. His problem is not with the clarity of Scripture, but with the authority of Scripture.
I’m not claiming that this is the source of all doctrinal diversity. The point, rather, is that Loftus is operating with a simplistic set of assumptions.
5.Loftus further assumes, without benefit of argument, that violent, ecclesiastical persecution is attributable to different ways of construing the Bible.
But that's a non sequitur. Such a consequence only follows if you interpolate some other assumptions, viz. (i) only one denomination qualifies as the true church; (ii) theological dissent should be subject to forcible suppression.
It’s obvious that Christians can differ over various issues without resorting to violence. Just look at modern-day America.
6.Apparently, Loftus never learned about the notion of adiaphora when he went to seminary. But there are many areas of belief and practice on which Scripture is silence. Many things which Scripture doesn’t prescribe or proscribe.
If we disagree on these issues, it’s because we’re free to disagree, and we’re free to disagree because God has no disclosed his will in these matters. So it’s a point of liberty.
7.One reason Christians disagree with one another on certain issues is not because God’s revealed will is unclear, but because God has not revealed his will on certain issues.
Some Christians are looking for more specific or detailed answers than the Bible was designed to give. They are not going to find the answers they’re looking for because they are asking the wrong questions.
They’re posing questions which the Bible was never intended to answer, so the answer is not to be found in Scripture.
There are no ready-made answers for every question in life. And it’s unnecessary for there to be, because there are many occasions in which more than one licit option is available.
It’s not as if it always comes down to one right way of doing something. There can often be more than one right way of doing something.
8.It wouldn’t be possible for the Bible to answer every possible question because there are too many possible questions.
A book that answered every possible question would be infinitely long. Such a book could not be written. Such a book could not be read.
9.You don’t always need to know God’s will to do his will. God, in his providence, can guide us by opening some doors while closing others. Directing our lives in large part by the opportune circumstances in which he puts us. My options are limited to the situation in which I find myself.
10.On a related note, Loftus fails to appreciate the fact that God often works through means. The journey can be just as important as the destination. The journey is a learning process as well as a maturing experience.
The church is a family. Believe it or not, family members have actually been known to argue with each other. Imagine that!
That’s part of the social and emotional maturation process.
11.In principle, God could operate by private revelation. But God has a common revelation because the church is a social organism.
12. Christians do not simply reinterpret the Bible to make it say what they have come to believe on other grounds. Many Christians retain traditional, countercultural, politically incorrect positions.
13.To some extent, doctrinal diversity is due to social conditioning. Historically, different Christians belong to different nationalities and subcultures. They reflect their respective theological traditions, rooted a national church in the old country.
But in a country like the United States, where there is no social stigma attaching to a change in one’s religious identification, people frequently move from theological tradition to another—or none at all.
The preexisting options were supplied by closed cultures from the past. Choice between preexisting options, or modification of preexisting options, is supplied by an open society. That’s the dialectic.
14.The question of perspicuity is, itself, ambiguous. Clear to whom?
Needless to say, 1 Corinthians is clearer to the Corinthians than it is to us. Deuteronomy is clearer to the Exodus generation than it is to us. Deuteronomy is also clearer to the Exodus generation than it is to the Corinthians.
Yet Deuteronomy may be clearer to us than it is to the Corinthians, because we know more about ANE history than 1C Christians.
So clarity is a relative notion. This is only a problem if you fail to make allowance for the obvious.
15. If Loftus is going to contend that Scripture is inscrutable, then he will pay a high price for his contention. Loftus tries to disprove the Bible by claiming both that Scripture is self-contradictory as well as contradicted by history and science.
But if Loftus is also going to claim that Scripture is too inscrutable for us to arrive at any confident interpretation of what it means, then Loftus can never establish either an internal or external contradiction.
If the text of Scripture is fatally ambiguous or equivocal, then it doesn’t contradict anything.
So Loftus, if he wants to be logical for a change, needs to withdraw one objection or another.
16.Finally, I see that Armstrong has tried to horn in on this debate in order to put in a plug for the Roman Catholic rule of faith. But one problem with this alternative is that if you run your thumb down through the list of titles which Loftus has passed along from Babinski, many of these books are debating issues for which there is no official position within Catholicism.
What, in Catholicism, is the de fide position on the mind/body problem, or the Millennium, or economics, or divine foreknowledge, or divine eternality, or evolution, or the spiritual gifts, or apologetic methodology, or OT holy war?
Or take the question of conventional warfare. Although Catholicism has a just-war tradition, is this an article of faith?
And even if it were an article of faith, how are just-war criteria to be applied in any particular case?
For example, the late John-Paul II opposed the Iraq war, but this was not an ex cathedra pronouncement. As such, many conservative Catholics felt free to go their separate ways on this particular issue, treating the issue as a prudential question.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
"Where did I say Steve assumes that John is wrong on subject B because he is wrong on subject A? Where are you getting this?"
Here are some of the comments you made to Steve:
"You don't have to assume that John is wrong in everything he did and in everything he says....Every statement he makes is a statement you feel you must reflexively oppose. If you are going to read his book, why not just read it and try to allow it to improve your understanding of another fellow human. Maybe even empathize a little. Skeptics are humans, Steve. 'Made in the image of God' if you like....Talk about his arguments against Christianity if you want, but your critiques of his experiences and his thoughts about those experiences are really completely useless."
You accuse Steve of "assuming that John is wrong in everything", which is a ridiculous accusation by itself. You then go on to distinguish between different categories. You distinguish between being a skeptic and being a human. The implication is that Steve is assuming that John is wrong in the human category because of what he disagrees with in the skeptic category. You then distinguish between "his [John Loftus'] arguments against Christianity" and "his [John Loftus'] experiences and his thoughts about those experiences". Again, the implication is that Steve shouldn't assume that the latter are wrong because he thinks that the former are wrong. My characterization of your argument was accurate. You were telling Steve that he shouldn't reject what John Loftus says on subject B because he disagrees with John on subject A.
You acknowledge the fact that a person can be wrong on one subject while being right on another, yet you don't apply that acknowledgment reasonably or consistently. The example I cited was your dismissal of Irenaeus' testimony about the authorship of the fourth gospel on the basis of his erroneous view of how old Jesus was when He died. Here's what you write in your latest post in an attempt to justify your argument about Irenaeus:
"I say he is untrustworthy when he claims to relay apostolic traditions. This doesn't mean he is wrong. He could be right about the authorship of John. But he could just as easily be wrong. His claims are not positive evidence for the authorship of John because we see that he makes up apostolic traditions."
As I've explained to you before, your use of the term "apostolic tradition" is misleading. Let me explain why again.
You haven't just dismissed Irenaeus' testimony when he claims some sort of tradition related to the apostles. You've also rejected his testimony about his memories of hearing Polycarp speak, for example.
And when he does testify to something that could be called an apostolic tradition, why are we supposed to think that all of his claims "are not positive evidence" because of an error on one subject? If three different claims can all be called apostolic tradition in some sense, yet he had differing types and degrees of access to the truth for each of the three claims, then how can his incorrectness about one justify the assumption that his testimony "is not positive evidence" on the other two?
I don't know of any historian who would argue that Josephus and Tacitus, to cite two examples, never made a mistake in their historical claims. If Tacitus was wrong on subject A, but his claims on subjects B, C, and D are consistent with what we know, are pieces of information he would be likely to have close access to, and are partially or entirely corroborated by other sources, can we dismiss his claims on B, C, and D on the basis of A? The error on A would lessen his general credibility. But we would need more than that error on A in order to justify a dismissal of B, C, and D. It would be ridiculous to place all of his historical testimony under the category of "historical claims", then conclude that his error on subject A means that his testimony on every other issue related to history "is not positive evidence" (as you've said about Irenaeus). I don't know of any historian who approaches a source like Josephus or Tacitus in the manner in which you're approaching Irenaeus (and Papias and other Christian sources).
Why does one error (or two or three, for example) result in the conclusion that a source's testimony "is not positive evidence"? As I've mentioned to you before, Irenaeus makes far more true than false claims. In the same documents in which he refers to Jesus' old age, Irenaeus also refers to many other facts related to Jesus that are accepted by modern scholarship. He makes credible claims much more often than he makes claims like the one about Jesus' age.
Jon, when you commit an error on a subject, does it logically follow that all other claims you make on a related subject are untrustworthy? If you forget something on one subject, should we assume that all of your memories on all subjects "are not positive evidence"?
Irenaeus' false view of Jesus' age can be attributed to his misreading of John 8:57. If some elders of the church affirmed the historicity of John 8:57, or agreed with Irenaeus that Jesus lived the life of an ideal teacher (without intending the implication of old age that Irenaeus assumed), then Irenaeus could have wrongly concluded that the elders agreed with what he believed about Jesus' old age. Since other early sources disagree with Irenaeus on this point, it seems unlikely that the elders of the church were teaching what Irenaeus believed.In contrast, there is no comparably credible way to explain how Irenaeus would have erred about the authorship of John's gospel, and Irenaeus is widely corroborated on that issue rather than widely contradicted. A large number of other early sources from a wide variety of locations and backgrounds agree with Irenaeus about the authorship of the fourth gospel (Ptolemy, Theophilus of Antioch, The Muratorian Canon, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, early manuscripts of John, etc.). You reject all of their testimony, not just the testimony of Irenaeus.
An issue like gospel authorship would have been widely discussed and would have been a subject the early Christians would have been highly concerned about. Jesus' age, on the other hand, is less significant. There is no early document that explicitly tells us that Jesus was such-and-such an age when He died. We arrive at conclusions about His probable age by means of putting together various pieces of information. We today may think that it's obvious that Jesus died in His 30s, since we hear that conclusion so often from pastors, historians, etc., and we so often see artwork, movies, and such that portray Jesus as somebody in that age range. But whether Jesus was in His 30s or 40s isn't of much significance to Christianity, and Irenaeus lived at a time when that issue hadn't received nearly as much attention as it has since then. It would be much more difficult for Irenaeus and the other early Christians to have erred collectively on a subject like the authorship of John's gospel than for Irenaeus alone to have erred on an issue like Jesus' age. Even on an individual level, it would have been more difficult for Irenaeus to have erred on an issue of gospel authorship than on Jesus' age. You can't assume that all errors are equally plausible.
As I've documented in our previous discussions, Irenaeus had heard Polycarp, a disciple of the apostles, speak. His predecessor in the bishopric of Lyons was a man who had been a contemporary of the apostles. He possessed documents written by disciples of the apostles, including documents no longer extant. He was in contact with apostolic churches, and he had lived in cities that were in contact with the apostles (Rome), including the apostle John (Smyrna). To conclude that his testimony on the authorship of the fourth gospel "is not positive evidence", because he was wrong about the age of Jesus, is like dismissing all of Tacitus' access to information about the Roman empire after you conclude that he was wrong about one of the issues he discussed. According to your reasoning, if Tacitus is credible on the large majority of historical issues, yet we conclude that he was wrong on one historical issue, then his claims on all historical issues in general "are not positive evidence".
If you want us to think that Irenaeus' testimony on the authorship of the fourth gospel "is not positive evidence", then you need to give more of a justification than citing the fact that Irenaeus was wrong about Jesus' age. The fact that both issues can be called issues of "apostolic tradition" in some sense doesn't address the many differences that accompany that similarity. Your dismissal of Irenaeus' testimony has more to do with your desire to reject much of what Irenaeus reports than it has to do with any actual problem with Irenaeus' credibility.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
“Have you ever seen the programs on TV where some guy or gal marries a person just to kill them and take their money? While Linda wasn't that bad, she was of the same type personality. I don't expect you to understand. It hasn't ever happened to you.”
i) Are there sexy women who pursue rich men for their money? Sure. But you’re not The Donald. So that explanation doesn’t apply to your bank account.
ii) But since you choose to use that illustration, what about it? Yes, we’ve all seen young, bombshell blonds with rich old geezers. She marries him for money, and he marries her for sex. They are using each other—by mutual consent. Each has something the other wants.
Is such a woman acting sinfully? Yes. But it’s a sin which is predicated on a reciprocal sin. Supply and demand. Unless there was a male market for these “services,” there would be no prostitution, pornography, or strip clubs.
So, sorry, but I as a man can’t blame a woman for making a living by trying to please a man. So even if her motives are depraved, it is a male appetite, run amok, which is feeding this industry.
This is something that men need to own up to. That men need to take the lead on.
“But it absolutely devestated me to the core. I see no Christian compassion here at all, as expected, and as I experienced in my own Christian community. You just don't understand. I'm just guilty. That's all you care about.”
i) What comes across in your account is impenitence rather than contrition. Christian forgiveness is not unconditional. Rather, it’s contingent on repentance.
ii) I’d add that you have a very me-centered notion of compassion. In this account, you are not very compassionate towards Linda or your ex-wife or your fellow ministers.
Is it compassionate for you to publicize your marital woes with you ex-wife and imply that she was a frigid woman, which is why you “succumbed” to Linda?
And what about Linda? Why does a woman become a stripper? A true spirit of compassion would ask why Linda turned to such a lifestyle in the first place.
What you’ve done, instead, is to concoct a misogynistic scenario in which Linda becomes a mythological, whip-wielding dominatrix who preys upon hapless, helpless ministers.
Sorry, John, but this is pathetic, and no self-respecting man who cast himself in such an obsequious role.
Stop whining and start acting like a real man, for God’s sake!
“I'm not excusing myself here. But I dare say that the temptation was just beyond me. That you won't understand either. If a pretty woman wants you and is clever, very clever, she could probably get you.”
i) None of the contributors or commenters at T-blog is a stranger to sexual temptation.
i) A pretty woman doesn’t have to be very clever to seduce a man. All it takes is a pretty woman and a willing man.
ii) Is sexual temptation resistible? It depends.
It’s resistible if you keep a certain distance. If you take certain precautions.
Where it becomes irresistible is if you take it to the point where you no longer want to resist.
iii) But the further point is what we do in case we do give into temptation. Do we repent, or do we start pointing fingers at everyone else?
“That you won't understand either. I'm just guilty, and I do bear the blame.”
Except that you don’t accept responsibility for your actions. What you’ve done is to accept a little bit of the blame, but then to dilute your admission by spreading the blame around.
“There are a lot of books available where people confess to having sex with Elvis and the like. I was just honest here in revealing what changed my life.”
Since I don’t read books about Presley’s former lovers, I couldn’t say.
“Now think about this. I knew people would object to this incident but I included it anyway. Why? Because I'm dishonest? No! Because I was trying to be as honest as I could.”
Actually, I think this incident was a play for the sympathy vote. But it backfires because your self-image, along with the exculpatory interpretation of your role in this affair, is quite different from how it looks to an outsider.
“My book is a sincere attempt to explain why I changed. You cannot dispute that anymore, since I write about the good the bad and the ugly.”
And that’s why, by your own admission, this is relevant. You are using your deconversion story to justify your apostasy. And you are using this incident as a key step in the process of deconversion.
“ Listen up. You treat me as if I'm not a person. You treat me as if I'm an alien or something.”
i) I treat you as a morally responsible agent.
ii) I also make allowance for the fact that I’m only getting your side of the story. That you demonize Linda, as if she overpowered you through trickery.
Let’s get real, here. No man was ever seduced against his will. To blame the woman is simply unmanly.
“YOU tell me this, what do YOU do whenever you're caught in sin? That's exactly what I did. And there are mitigating factors to all sins too.”
Ah, yes, “mitigating factors.” That’s your escape clause. That’s why you remain impenitent.
You say you don’t excuse yourself, but then you immediately negate that admission by drawing attention to a number of extenuating circumstances—as you view them.
“But that you will refuse to acknowledge since it's me.”
John, your idea of charity begins and ends with you. You were quite uncharitable towards everyone else whom you tried to implicate in this sordid affair.
“ I'm the one who signs my real name to what I write.”
And I sign my real name to what I write as well.
“I'm the one revealing myself here, in all sincerity in the honest attempt to explain myself. Most of you are simply gutless pricks.”
One of the problems with this excuse is your perverted notion of what honesty demands. A tell-all novel or trashy, talk show is not my idea of honesty.
Why do you think that we need to know about your sex life?
And when you choose to write a kiss-and-tell bio, you immediately violate the privacy of everyone else concerned. For example, it never occurs to you that it might be a breach of confidence to inform the world that your ex-wife, whom you specify by name, was no fun in bed—which is why you turned to a stripper.
One has to be morally blind to a monumental degree not to see what is wrong with this kind of “honesty.”
“ Your turn. Tell me the things you've done wrong in your life. Go ahead. Post it with your real name too. Then let me tear you a new [explicative deleted].”
1.You’re the one who chose to publicize your sex life. But when I repeat what you say, word-for-word, you fly into a rage.
You’re the one who is using you sex life, and the ensuing consequences thereof, to justify your apostasy. God let you down. The church let you down.
This is how you chose to frame the issue. And I agree with you that this episode sheds a very revealing light on your road to apostasy.
2.Since, however, I have never attempted to use my private life, whatever that may be, to prove what you use your private life to prove, I’m under no obligation to parallel your practice. I don’t measure my witness by your X-rated yardstick.
3.There are Christian converts who speak in general terms about how God delivered them from addiction or gambling or pornography or other suchlike. That’s great.
But that’s not the same thing as naming names, and thereby exposing the private lives of others we know—of using “honesty” as a pretext to settle old scores and give a defamatory, one-sided account of who’s to blame.
Jay Adams once described group therapy as group slander, in which people sit around and publicly badmouth their parents, or spouse, or whomever else they want to incriminate in order to shift blame for their own failings.
In Christian ethics there’s a big difference between confession to God and malicious gossip.
“YOU are the reason I will never return to the sludge pit of the Christian faith. The more you treat me with disrespect the more it confirms what a bankrupt way of life Christianity really is.”
Welcome to the true face of apostasy. When we unmask the apostate, when we wipe away the make-up, it’s personal and emotional.
Forget about John’s “cumulative case.” That’s just so much eyewash.
This is his real reason. Pride. Rage. Resentment. Immorality. Self-denial. Self-justification.
“Steve, you have just proved that you are not just a biased reviewer of my book. You are a dishonest one too. You never quoted what I said about this, did you?”
I didn’t quote what he said about what?
“You only quoted what you wanted to quote, and that's dishonest.”
Oh, so I did quote him after all.
Notice that he doesn’t document the charge of dishonesty. Is he suggesting that I quoting him out of context?
If so, the customary way of showing that someone quoted you out of context is to quote a larger sample of the surrounding text to demonstrate that when the original quote in put in context, it casts the whole thing in a different light.
Now, Loftus wrote this book. I assume he wrote it on computer. So it would be very easy for him to copy/paste whatever addition material he thinks would document his charge.
“People who have read my book know differently.”
All three of them, you mean?
“Tell me this, does your faith require that you be dishonest with those who object to your faith? If that's the case, then you are is a desperation mode.”
Once again, why doesn’t he back up his claim by actually illustrating how I supposedly quoted him out of context?
“Three other things here: 1) You cannot confess your own shortcomings because if you did then it would undercut your own claim to have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus.”
This reflects the very defective state of Loftus’ theological understanding. What comes through in his account is not contrition, but angry finger-pointing.
“Tell us this Steve, in the interest of full disclosure, do you look at pornography on the net...do you lie...do you yell at or hit your wife..do you tithe...do you pray like you think you should...do you pay your taxes....have you ever been divorced...are you secretly gay....do you hate someone...do you desire another woman.... 2)”
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll admit that, unlike Loftus, I’ve never been a sex slave to a scheming Dominatrix.
I guess I’ve led a very boring life.
As to whether I have a secret sex life, well…if I told him about it, then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore—which would spoil all the fun.
So I’ll have to keep my secret sex life secret—at least until I write up my own deconversion story, at which point I’ll spice it up with juicy details about my Lotharian exploits with naughty, mob girls like Jayne Mansfield (I was very precocious) to sell more copy.
“I am free from the guilt trip that Christians throw on other people.”
If he’s guilt-free, then why does he sound so defensive?
“3) Such a review as yours does not undercut my case. It's an ad hominem of the worst sort.”
Actually, this isn’t ad hominem, but ex hominem. Not “to the man,” but “from the man.”
It’s not as if I hired a P.I. to dig through his garbage.
No, Loftus volunteers this information. Puts it in the public domain.
It’s very revealing that when I quote his own words back to him, he accuses me of launching an ad hominem attack of the worst sort.
Consider the source. If he thinks that quoting directly from his own book is some form of character assassination, then this could only be a form of self-inflicted character assassination—which is far more damning that any charge I could level.
“Nice going! Wow! That says it all.”
Since, however, he accuses me of not quoting what he said about “this,” whatever “this” is, here’s a much fuller quote from the infamous “Linda” episode:
I was the founding president of Operation Shelter, (now called Turning Point) in Angola, Indiana. It was an organization that seeks to give temporary shelter to people in need, I worked day after day with the executive director, whose’ name was Linda. She practically idolized me. She did everything I said to do, and would call me daily to help her deal with various situations that came up from the running of the Shelter, along with her personal problems. What man doesn’t want to be worshipped? I guess I did. I was having problems with my own relationship with my wife at the time, and Linda made herself available. I succumbed and had an affair with her.
There’s so much more I’d like to say bout this, but few people would believe me. I believe she was a con artist, and she conned me. As a former stripper she had it inn for preachers, and she took out her wrath on me. Perhaps because I was a moral crusader in town and stood against abortion and X-rated video rentals, she chose to humiliate me. Suffice to say there are some women out there who, akin to Potipher’s wife in the Bible, find it challenging to see if they can sack a minister, and she did.
How many sermons have you heard about Joseph and Potipher’s wife where the preacher asked something like this: “how many men would have been able to overcome this temptation?” And they conclude with, “I fear not many men could’ve over come this.” Preachers say this to bolster our confidence in the amount of faith Joseph had, and his strength of will. But when someone like me actually does succumb to such a temptation, these same preachers are quick to condemn me. Although, I’m not proud of this.
Ethicist Richard Taylor wrote a book on Having Love Affairs (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1982) and he discusses whose fault it is when there is an affair. I am not excusing myself here, but as he explains, there may be more to it. “Though a wife may be ever so dutiful, faultless, and virtuous in every skill required for the making of a home, if she lacks passion, then in a very real sense she already is without a husband, or he, at least, is without a wife…What is to be stressed is that the first infidelity may or may not have been committed by the one who is having an affair. The first and ultimate infidelity is to withhold the love that was promised, and which was originally represented as the reason for marriage to begin with.”
But there is more. After a few months I decided I could no longer reconcile the affair with my faith or my family life—at this time I was not ministering at the church. So I told Linda that it was over. Well, William Congreve is right, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” She went off in a rampage and told the board of directors at the Shelter that I had raped her. She went to the prosecutor with my former associate minister and tried to press charges against me, too. They were all lies. No charges were brought against me, thankfully.
I thought everyone had heard of her accusations and that most people believed her. I received a phone call from someone who threatened my life, and it sounded like he would kill me, too. One man whom I had a great amount of respect for, had heard her accusations. I said to him, “you don’t believer he do you?” He replied, “John, I don’t know what to believe.” This really hurt. I did some research on her and found that she was married eight times; although she told me she was only married twice. I talked with most of these former husbands and I learned she was quite the consummate liar. I found out some more negative stuff too, which led me to the conclusion that she had duped me about many things. But I was supposed to be smarter than that, or so I thought. How could this happen to me? How could I let her come me like that? How could I have an affair with her? How could I allow my reputation be sullied by claims that I had raped her? Why did God test me by allowing her to come into my life when she did? All of this devastated me. I do thank my ex-wife, Kathy, for forgiving me and for standing by me during this period in my life. She is a wonderful woman.
Why I Rejected Christianity, 22-23.
So is that what “this” is referring to?
Okay, then—let’s take stock. Does this extended quote present Loftus in a more favorable light? What does this quote include that I left out in my original quote?
In this quote:
1.Loftus blames his ex-wife for the affair. Borrowing a page from Richard Taylor—who is writing, not coincidentally, for an atheistic publishing house—he insinuates that his ex-wife was really the first one to cheat on him since she was a frigid woman, which is equivalent to infidelity.
2.Loftus blames his fellow ministers for condemning the affair.
3.Loftus blames Linda for seducing him. Yes, Linda—that sinister reincarnation of Jezebel, Delilah, Messalina, Thais, Mata Hari, Barbara Stanwyck, &c., &c.
BTW, am I the only one to detect a deep-seated strain of misogyny in Loftus’ description?
4.Loftus mitigates the affair on the grounds that when he had his fling with her, he thought she’d only been married twice before.
5.Loftus talks about how she accused him of rape, and how most of the folks he knew found her side of the story more credible than his.
6.In both the original quote and the extended quote, Loftus says there’s “so much more” he’d like to say, but “few people” would believe him.
Gee, imagine that.
7.In both quotations he also blames God for his affair.
I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if this additional material paints him in a more favorable light.
Remember, all this sordid stuff is coming straight from his own book, to justify his deconversion.
And, indeed, the real reason for apostasy is often emotional or sexual.
"As we learned from Jason Engwer during our discussion on Eusebius and dishonesty, Eusebius at specific places in his writings actually talks about truth and how it is important. He talks about other virtues as well. Clearly anybody that speaks highly of honesty and truth could never be guilty of dishonesty."
Did I say that Eusebius "could never be guilty of dishonesty"? Here's what I wrote on this subject in a recent thread, one that Jon Curry participated in:
"There's a lot of Eusebius' material that I haven't read. And he surely was dishonest to some degree or another at times in his life, perhaps in some places in his writings. You've probably heard of Bob Woodward's recent book on the Bush administration and the situation in Iraq, and the people responding to that book and the issues surrounding it have been making accusations back and forth about the motives and accuracy of both sides. I saw a member of the Bush administration interviewed on television this morning, and he didn't want to accuse Woodward of lying or even of 'having an agenda', but he did suggest that Woodward had some bias and wasn't as careful as he should have been. People will make accusations back and forth about differing degrees of bias, carelessness, dishonesty, etc. on both sides of the dispute. But it's doubtful that many people, if any, from either side will accuse the other side of publicly advocating the practice of lying. That's the charge that's been brought against Eusebius. Supposedly, he publicly advocated lying in book 12 of The Preparation Of The Gospel."
Not only did I not argue that Eusebius "could never be guilty of dishonesty", but, to the contrary, I said that he "surely was dishonest to some degree or another at times in his life". Why is it that Jon Curry is so careless in representing the positions of the people he's interacting with, even after he's been corrected? Maybe dishonesty is more his problem than a problem with Eusebius.
"In my discussions with Jason he's argued that early Christians were men of high moral standards, and thus we can trust them with regards to certain claims (such as Irenaeus claims about the authorship of the gospels) though not other claims for some reason (such as that Jesus lived to his 50's or Papias claim that Judas head swelled to the width of a wagon trail). I see no reason to believe that early Christians had high moral standards. Jason points to their statements extolling the virtues of truth, honesty, and so forth. You will find similar statements from the Caner's I'm sure. It means nothing....If these men can be dishonest, all the while extolling virtuous concepts, then extolling virtuous concepts does not show you to be honest. Hence we should not assume that the early Christians had high moral standards."
Jon acts as though he doesn't know why I accept some claims of a source like Irenaeus while rejecting others. I've given him an explanation repeatedly, but he keeps ignoring what he's been told. I've also given him documentation for my belief that the earliest Christians had high moral standards, and I gave him more than "their statements extolling the virtues of truth, honesty, and so forth". See the discussions here and here, for example.
As I've explained to Jon repeatedly, he himself accepts some of the claims of a source like Irenaeus while rejecting others. He'll accept what Irenaeus reports about the authorship of a Pauline document while rejecting what he reports about the authorship of John's gospel, for example. (To see how poorly Jon has interacted with the evidence for John's authorship of the fourth gospel, see here.) No historian I'm aware of would argue that we must either accept everything a source reports or reject everything that source reports. We have to give reasons to justify accepting one piece of data while rejecting another, and I've repeatedly done that, though Jon often ignores it, but it is reasonable to accept only some portions of what a source reports. As I told Jon in another thread, one of the many threads he left without responding to what others had written to him:
"Your comment that I reject something like Irenaeus' belief in Jesus' old age because it 'makes the Bible wrong' is misleading. Irenaeus' view isn't just rejected by Christians, but by scholarship across the board. Irenaeus isn't just contradicted by the Bible, but also by many other sources. Even if the Bible was the only source we had by which to evaluate Irenaeus' claim, the Biblical authors wrote in circumstances in which they had better access to the truth. There would be reason to trust the Biblical authors over Irenaeus, even without believing in the inspiration of the Bible. I can give good reasons for rejecting something like Irenaeus' view of Jesus' age. You, on the other hand, repeatedly reject what the early sources report (Jesus' existence, the authorship of the gospels, etc.) for no good reason. Both of us accept some of what a source like Irenaeus reports while rejecting other things he reports. The difference is that I have far better justification for what I accept and reject than you have for what you accept and reject."
"And I think it's pretty obvious that they weren't, with rampant forging of documents, rampant modification of copies of canonical texts for theological motives, and later improvements on the gospel story from Mark to Matthew, Luke, and John."
Jon is repeating, once again without documentation, claims that have already been addressed. He ignores the evidence offered in response to his claims and he leaves the threads where his assertions are discussed, then he repeats the arguments later, as if they weren't addressed previously. See the threads here and here for some examples of Jon's claims being addressed. He'll make false claims, ignore the refutations, then repeat the false claims in another thread.
Thank you. This let's the reader know the perspective of the reviewer. Now you should probably also explain why others have reviewed my book differently. The question is whether or not you've read the same book they have.
By Dr. James Sennett, “Scholarly unbelief is far more sophisticated, far more defensible than any of us would like to believe.
By David Van Allen, "This book is an absolute 'must have' for anyone who has left the Christian faith or is having serious intellectual doubts about the Christian religion.”
Matthew J. Green, “This book is one of the best introductory texts on the philosophical problems with Christianity I have read."
Richard Carrier, “The logic of it is insurmountable, in my opinion, even by a so-called reformed or 'holy spirit' epistemologist."
Yes, it does indeed sound as if they read a different book than I did. And that’s because, as I explained at the outset, I chose not to comment on the biographical sections of his book.
Clearly these reviewers are commenting on a different part of his book, a part which I myself did not review.
And I know exactly what they’re referring to. You see, Loftus raises one atheological objection which is so devastating that it left me speechless and shaken to the very core of my fragile faith.
But now that Loftus has exposed me for the biased reviewer than I am, I have no alternative but to fess up and come clean.
The technical name for this objection is the argumentum ad femme fatalum.
As Loftus puts it:
"I was having problems with my own relationship with my wife at the time, and Linda made herself available. I succumbed and had an affair with her."
"There’s so much more I’d like to say about this, but few people would believe me. I believe she was a con artist, and she conned me. As a former stripper she had it in for preachers, and she took out her wrath on me…Why did God test me by allowing her to come into my life when she did? All of this devastated me” (22-23).
As you can see, this example raises the problem of evil to the very pitch of inscrutability. If God is both benevolent and omnipotent, how could he allow this painted woman to force herself on his helpless servant?
How could such a God ever allow a scarlet woman like Linda to take advantage of an unwilling victim like Loftus?
Even without Bill Curry attempting to quantify this objection in terms prior probabilities, the level of scholarly sophistication and insurmountable logic is utterly crushing.
Only a blind fideist could continue to believe in a God who permits defenseless men to be exploited by the untoward advances of a wanton, man-eating seductress.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
In my discussions with Jason he's argued that early Christians were men of high moral standards, and thus we can trust them with regards to certain claims (such as Irenaeus claims about the authorship of the gospels) though not other claims for some reason (such as that Jesus lived to his 50's or Papias claim that Judas head swelled to the width of a wagon trail).
I'm wont to intercede in your dispute with Jason. Jason can, and has successfully defended himself in the past. I'd add that the words of P.H. Mell to Reneau apply equally as well to you and your fellow skeptics. I'd take them to heart if I were you. So, I'll get the ball rolling as it were, here, and let Jason chime in when he has time. I have family in town I've not seen in ten years and a class, ironically, in Nicene Era church history to teach Thursday, so I really do have better things to do with my time this week.
Of course, these are not claims by Jason are not made in isolation. More importantly, Ergun Caner is a living person. Eusebius is dead. You need a historical reason to declare Eusebius "dishonest." All you have is the evidence of history and the analysis of generations of historians. We have our personal eyewitness experience of this saga. What's more, some of us know these parties personally and have been privy to some of what has transpired.
I've already dealt with, for example, Iraneus claim about the age of Jesus, and you simply discard it. Iranaeus said what he said against the backdrop of refuting Gnostics with a doctrine of the atonement we know as the recapitulation theory. What you see, therefore, there is a reflection of that. It is an error attributed to a particular interpretation of a text in John's Gospel and is a product of his overall atonement theory. We can also trace his motive for saying it.
You, by contrast, make broad claims about Eusebius' history based on prejudicial, acontextual quotes, translated by one particular (hostile) person. No, Mr. Curry, these are not remotely the same.
I understand that LU is either the largest evangelical university or maybe the largest Southern Baptist University. I also understand that Jason was raised E-Free, so I assume he generally accepts E-Free theology. I'm not aware of any substantial difference in theology between E-Free and Southern Baptist. If that's true that would mean that the main representatives of Jason's denomination in education are wholly dishonest men. That's my conclusion as I've followed the arguments between the Caner's and White/Ascol. If these men can be dishonest, all the while extolling virtuous concepts, then extolling virtuous concepts does not show you to be honest. Hence we should not assume that the early Christians had high moral standards. And I think it's pretty obvious that they weren't, with rampant forging of documents, rampant modification of copies of canonical texts for theological motives, and later improvements on the gospel story from Mark to Matthew, Luke, and John. You shouldn't assume on the basis of the fact that a person is a Christian that you are dealing with someone more likely to have high moral standards. I don't see it.
Wow, there's just so much here that's wrong.
LU is not a "Southern Baptist University," and its size means nothing. If you can't get this correct, then what trust should we have in anything else you write.? LU began as an independent university, sponsored by TRBC. It is not supported by Cooperative Program dollars. You will not find an allotment for it in the SBC budget. You may find an allotment for it in the odd local church budget of churches in certain states, notably Virginia. You may find a budget item for it in one of the 2 state conventions in VA. That would, at best, make it a VA Baptist university, but not for the whole state. That's a far, far cry from "the largest SBC university" or even "an SBC university." What's more, there are a great many state Baptist colleges and universities. They range along a continuum in size and what they teach.
EFree theology and SBC theology...Well, SBC theology is all over the map. I assume you think EFree is all over the map as well. That is, again, a pretty fundamental distinction you apparently are too lazy to study for yourself.
If that's true that would mean that the main representatives of Jason's denomination in education are wholly dishonest men.
If these men can be dishonest, all the while extolling virtuous concepts, then extolling virtuous concepts does not show you to be honest.Hence we should not assume that the early Christians had high moral standards...This, of course, undermines any appeal you make for yourself and your own honesty in the past, now, or in the future. That, in turn undercuts your own reliability. Hence, we not should assume that you have high moral standards based on, well, anything you say. In fact, we should, if we follow your own reasoning, believe you are dishonest. If your character undermines the alleged facts and evidence you present, then might I again thank you for supplying us a reason for dismissing what you say. This isn't my yardstick; it's your own.
And I think it's pretty obvious that they weren't, with rampant forging of documents, rampant modification of copies of canonical texts for theological motives, and later improvements on the gospel story from Mark to Matthew, Luke, and John.
Oh, goody, Jon Curry wants to make some claims about textual manipulation. Well, let's see them. To know this, you have to have a proper idea of the autographa in order to show deviation. It wouldn't be enough to trace backwards, you'd have to know what the autograph itself looked like. You need to know who changed the text and how it was changed and exactly why it was changed. So, let's see you justify this sweeping claim.
“FYI: I have read several reviews of my book now. Most all of them aren't written very well at all. Two of them proceeded to argue with it chapter by chapter. A couple others went hodgepodge through it, pointing out things they liked and didn't like. But good reviews will first summarize the book”
Fine. Always happy to accommodate.
John Loftus’ book is string oft-refuted, reheated leftovers from the maggoty dumpster of infidelity, which he is attempting to serve up for the umpteenth time as something new and special by shamelessly riding on the coattails of William Lane Craig.
How’s that for a summary?
“Tell what the author is attempting to do”
Having committed spiritual suicide by jumping from the lifeboat of Christianity into the shark-invested waters of atheism, Loftus is spitefully attempting to punch holes in the lifeboat so that all his fellow passengers will share his same, sorry fate—while making a little ill-gotten gain on the side.
“Tell who would benefit the most from reading the book”
“Compare it to other books he's seen on the same topic”
A second-rate popularization of other men’s flea-bitten objections to the faith.
“And offer a generalized statement about how effective his book is in attaining his stated goals.”
“Then at that point the reviewer can speak about some specifics in the book as examples that support his generalized statement by arguing with them or supporting them.”
See my review.
“This is High School stuff here.”
If so, then we’re merely answering him at his own, sophmoric level.
“Like many other infidels who have watched the religious right hypocrisy over the years, I waited to hear what James Dobson would say.”
When he talks about “religious right hypocrisy” over the years, what does he have reference to? What is his sample base?
There are tens of millions of members of the religious right. In his view, what percentage of the religious right is hypocritical? Tell us his criteria. Show us his statistical data.
In addition, it’s not as if the religious right held an election to make James Dobson the official spokesman for the religious right.
“After all, he is the point man for family values among evangelicals.”
Really, he is “the” point man for family values among evangelicals?
Still seems to labor under the misimpression that the religious right has an evangelical papacy in which men like Dobson make ex cathedra pronouncements for the religious right.
Now, there’s no doubt that Dobson has a following. That he’s an influential leader.
But the idea that whenever Dobson opens his mouth, he is speaking on behalf of the religious right is just plain silly.
It’s not as if he ran a draft version of his press release by the religious right for our preapproval.
“(As an aside let's be absolutely clear about one point: 'family values' is a code word for a creepy sort of male white superiority -- a hearkening back to a so-called golden age when white suburban nuclear families ruled the world, minorities knew to keep their place, and non-traditional gays, atheists, artists, musicians, poets, philosophers and liberals tred lightly at the margins of society.)”
Since Still chooses to frame the issue in terms of hypocrisy, this is a sterling example of liberal hypocrisy. In the name of liberal inclusivism, he ends up making a very racist, sexist, and prejudicial comparison of his own.
The implication is that no female or minority would subscribe to the values of the religious right.
Does he really think that the suburban nuclear family is a white thing?
When a man marries a woman and they have kids, that’s “a creepy sort of male white superiority”?
What about women like Ann Coulter, Laura Schlessinger, Laura Ingraham, Eleanor Stump—to name a few?
Oh, that’s right. They’re conservative women, so they must be brainwashed. They don’t count.
What about Alan Keyes, Larry Elder, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Stephen Carter, and Tony Evans—to name a few?
Oh, that’s right. They’re black conservatives, so they must be Oreos. They don’t count.
What about religious minorities like David Brooks, Larry Kudlow, Daniel Lapin, Michael Medved, Marvin Olasky, Bob Novak, Dennis Prager, Jay Sekulow, and Ben Stein—to name a few.
Oh, that’s right. They’re Jewish conservatives. Neocons! So they don’t count.
I personally know many Korean Americans whose values are interchangeable with the religious right.
What artists, musicians, poets, and philosophers is he talking about?
Bach? Mozart? Dante? El Greco? George Herbert? T. S. Elliot? Thomas Reid? Alvin Plantinga?
Have you ever noticed what a small world the unbeliever inhabits? A city-state about the size of Harvard Yard.
Still is simply a leftwing Bull Connor.
And as long as he brings up the issue of race and gender, what politically correct pigeon hole does he belong to? Is Still a black woman? A Japanese transvestite?
Or is he also—gasp!—a white male? How many minorities are represented on secular blogs? How many women are represented on secular blogs?
And I don’t merely mean a decorative name on the sidebar. I don’t mean a trophy on the wall of liberal tokenism.
Rather, how many are active contributors?
White liberals like Still presume to speak on behalf of women and minorities instead of letting women and minorities speak for themselves.
White liberals like Still put women on a pedestal and treat minorities like social mascots.
They speak for them and about them. Why didn’t Still let Julia Sweeney or Andrea Weisberger address question of women’s rights? Can’t women be trusted to make a case for themselves?
Where does Condi Rice fit into Still’s classification scheme?
Still is simply a liberal chauvinist pig.
Fact is that women of accomplishment have never needed affirmative action to make their mark.
Women like Christian Rossetti, Elisabeth Anscombe, Dorothy Sayers, and Joyce Baldwin—to name a few—distinguished themselves long before women’s lib.
“Dobson goes on to say that news of Foley's indiscretions were ‘released by liberals’ just before Congress went into recess. Never mind that there is absolutely no evidence for it.”
I agree with Still that bringing up the timing of the event is a diversionary tactic.
“The creepy amoral thing about it is Dobson's attempt to smooth over growing evidence that Foley's colleagues covered for a pedophile.”
Speaking of diversionary tactics, Still is guilty of the same thing he accuses Dobson of.
Foley is not a pedophile. A pedophile is a man who is sexually attracted to preadolescent boys and girls.
Foley is a homosexual. He is a man targeting teenage boys. This is a homosexual scandal.
Still uses the word “pedophile” to deflect attention away from the real source of the problem.
“Notice how Dobson ignores Krugman's main point and instead focuses on his condemnation of Foley's behavior.”
Krugman? And who is Krugman?
Wasn’t Paul Krugman an Enron employee before he took his current job at the NYT?
So why is Dobson a posterboy for rightwing hypocrisy, but Krugman is not a posterboy for leftwing hypocrisy?
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the House leadership was complicit in Foleygate.
I don’t know that for a fact. This is a developing story. But let’s assume it’s true.
What policy should the GOP have in place? The source of Foleygate lies with the Log Cabin wing of the Republican Party.
Should the GOP purge the party of Log Cabin Republicans? I’d be all for that.
No more hypocrisy. A heteronormative party.
That would be a consistent policy. That would protect our teens from another Foleygate.
But I rather doubt that Still would applaud such a return to moral consistency.
Allow me to post a few excerpts from your recent post, Gene.
And this is a systematic lack of simple honesty. To begin with, these critics don't seem to feel that they are under any obligation to acquaint themselves with the actual position of the opposing side by consulting the opposing side.
And I think this raises a more general question: why do certain fundamentalist leaders or spokesmen feel that a Christian doesn't have to be honest? Why to they act as if they are exempt from doing the right thing?
It looks to me as if this attitude has been very entrenched. It's become so habitual that it's expected. This is their standard modus operandi.
What we're dealing with here goes to a fundamental breach of holiness. Pervasive dishonesty is unholy.
This is, in my opinion, common currency in the SBC at present in some respects.
Clearly Gene you are mistaken to suggest dishonesty on the part of these Christians. As we learned from Jason Engwer during our discussion on Eusebius and dishonesty, Eusebius at specific places in his writings actually talks about truth and how it is important. He talks about other virtues as well. Clearly anybody that speaks highly of honesty and truth could never be guilty of dishonesty.
Don't SBC people routinely talk about honesty and virtue? Doesn't Ergun Caner talk about similar themes? It therefore follows logically that they could never be guilty of pervasive dishonesty. You must be reading them wrong. Let me go see if I can find some commentaries by people deeply committed to the view that the Caners and the SBC are highly virtuous to help you properly understand what their words really meant.
For starters, you, Mr. Curry, are in no position to moralize, since your worldview simply does not have the metaphysical machinery for you to do so, as we have demonstrated repeatedly.
Second, you've confused premodern historiographical method and the problem of selection with writing any historical record, with being dishonest. This is a fairly basic distinction that you, in your interactions with Jason Engwer, have yet to grasp.
Third, apropos 2, if you were remotely concerned about honesty, you'd make an attempt to interact with actual church history scholarship and not beg the question in your favor by continuing to cite the ever more unstable Richard Carrier. Remember, Carrier is the one who rendered 3 mutually exclusive theories of what happened with respect to the Empty Tomb then decided that Jesus did not exist at all and still expects us to take what he says seriously and as valid. The blind follow the blind. So, your own appeals to honesty and reliability are duplicitous at best. Let's not forget for a moment that your claim rests solely on a prejudicial appeal to a particular quote from Eusebius. Your sweeping indictment of Eusebius in particular and early Christians in general is based a (i) single, (ii) second-hand (via Carrier, hostile source), (iii) out-of-context quote. It is not based on a demonstrable pattern of behavior that you have witnessed first hand. Your analogy to Ergun Caner is rendered specious on its face.
Fourth, apropos 3, neither you nor Mr. Carrier have been able to show that Eusebius was dishonest. To do that, you'd have to have access to the history Eusebius discards and be able to access it accurately yourself. But Eusebius' history accounts for one half or more of what we know about the period of church history his history covers, so, in discounting his history, you cut at least two legs from under the chair in which you wish to sit.
Fifth, you've been directed to the work of Pearce, among others. If you'd like to interact with that sometime, I'm sure those of us who have taken a church history course or, even better, published books are articles in that field or have taught that course would take a look at it.
Sixth, you ignore a lot of contrary evidence, and suggest that we don't have much evidence for the moral standards of the earliest Christians, so that we have to focus more on later Christians, like Eusebius and Cyril. Okay, fine, let's apply that standard. How does it follow that if the morals of Cyril or the motives of Eusebius are questionable that their body of work is incorrect or not up to snuff? If you say that Eusebius' premodern historiographical perspective and method renders his history unreliable, then you must acknowledge the same of every other premodern historian. That cuts out a large mass of secular history too, and you'd likely need at least part of that same history in order to assert Eusebius was incorrect and unreliable. There goes at least one more, if not both of the other legs of the chair in which you wish to sit. If you say that Cyril was less than ethical in his behavior, a fact that church historians already acknowledge (have you ever taken an undergraduate or graduate level class in church history?), then how does this render his theological insights invalid? Would it render Einstein's body of work invalid if he was less than ethical in his treatment of others? If we apply your own standards to your own body of work and that of the persons whom you follow ever farther down the primrose path, then might I say that we thank you for pointing out that duplicity renders a body of work unreliable, disaffirmable, and worthy of being dismissed. We no longer have reason to take anything you say or those of your compatriots seriously.
Monday, October 09, 2006
I'm not as directly involved in some of these disputes. It's just something I monitor from time to time. And, as a result, I have formed a broad impression. What I notice is what seems to be an emerging pattern on the part of many fundamentalist critics of Calvinism. Examples include the Caners and other players at Liberty U, as well as Dave Hunt, along the two guys you were dueling with at Strangebaptistfire, in addition to the KJV-only crowd. These are a few examples which come to mind.I've tried to stay out of this fray for the past few months. I'm one of the ones that, in the back of my mind, thought they'd find a way to back out. This is, in my opinion, common currency in the SBC at present in some respects.
And this is a systematic lack of simple honesty. To begin with, these critics don't seem to feel that they are under any obligation to acquaint themselves with the actual position of the opposing side by consulting the opposing side. Moreover, when their straw man arguments are corrected, they continue to retail the very same straw man arguments.
And I think this raises a more general question: why do certain fundamentalist leaders or spokesmen feel that a Christian doesn't have to be honest? Why to they act as if they are exempt from doing the right thing? Why do they think that even after their error is pointed out to them repeatedly, it's okay for them to brush off correction and continue with business as usual?
It looks to me as if this attitude has been very entrenched. It's become so habitual that it's expected. This is their standard modus operandi. Dr. White has often had to discuss this at a specific level, but I think we're at the point where this needs to be addressed at a separate issue. How did this behavior come to be acceptable in their theological circles?
What we're dealing with here goes to a fundamental breach of holiness. Pervasive dishonesty is unholy. And that brings me to a second point: is there something about easy believism and the antinomian version of eternal security which is feeding into what has evolved into a theological culture of unholiness? Where the idea of holiness in word and deed is no longer an essential ingredient of Christian ethics and the walk of faith? Is there's something about popular fundamentalism which selects out for contrition and spiritual self-examination by cultivating a shallow notion of conversion as well as a superficial notion of piety?
I think this attitude needs to be confronted at a general level and on a regular basis. From what I can tell, it has become endemic among certain fundamentalist leaders and spokesmen. Second nature. To take an invidious comparison, I've reminded of the way the liberal media automatically discounts Muslim violence. After all, they're just Muslims! What do you expect?
On a related note, a guy like Dr. White couldn't be habitually dishonest even if he wanted to be. That's because White is a public debater.When you're a public debater, when you engage in a public debate before a live audience, with cross-examination, and a public record of the event (audio,dvd/transcript), you leave yourself very exposed. You can't hide behind a keyboard. You can't play to a sympathetic clique. You can't choose what questions to answer, and what questions to duck.If you duck a tough question, everyone will see the dodge for what it is. The dynamic is completely different. It forces a measure of accountability. A debater doesn't have to answer a tough question, but if he's evasive, it will show. If he's evasive, he will pay a price in the court of public opinion. He will disillusion some of his one-time supporters. That is undoubtedly a major reason why some of White's most vociferous opponents avoid getting into a setting where they are not in control of the variables.
The examples would be used to make a larger point. Although it cannot be prevented, this behavior should not be allowed to go unnoticed or unchallenged. Rather, it needs to be highlighted and challenged on a regular basis. Not just in the narrow terms of backing out of a debate and then blaming the opponent, but as a separate issue of whether a Christian is called to a life of holiness. For honesty in word and deed is a necessary ingredient of holiness.
In the past, we in or formerly of the SBC have observed good men mowed down by third parties doing the dirty work of others. Misrepresentations of their views abound in the wake of those episodes. "Did you know that so and so believes such and such?" Then the judge's gavel comes down, and the man and/or his church and his associates are systematically ostracized.
The blogs have changed this, as has the internet. Men like Ergun Caner and the trustees of the IMB can't hide anymore. The news about what they have done travels too quickly. In Dr. Caner's case, he seems to have a habit of opening his mouth without thinking first. On the one hand, I feel like I'm watching the followers who don't match up to their predecessors. The architects of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC were never this sloppy. What's more, they were more diplomatic, though I'm well aware of underhandness that went on many times that is traceable, at least in part, to one particular character. On the other hand, I'm tempted to see this as the logical outworking of a culture that promotes baptizing a million while your own church continues to decline; a culture where the church with 200 faithful members and 50 extras every week is called a "failure" and "unevangelistic" whereas the church that baptizes 300 people in a year, and only 30 are added to the attendance in the process is called a success. This is what happens when you baptize the unconverted.
Baptist churches are congregational, at least for the most part. I lay this at the feet of members who look the other way as long as the numbers are up. I lay this at the feet of a faculty and staff at LU that doesn't sit Ergun Caner down as a group. President or not, and tell him to knock it off, because he is dragging down the whole institution. I especially chalk it up to Dr. Falwell, who is both Chancellor of the university and senior pastor of the church to which the university and seminary are attached. He needs to do the work of a pastor, and not the CEO of a multinational corporation. I feel like I'm watching a "sanctified" (and I use this term broadly) version of Enron unravel. Why should the greater society listen to us, when this is the way our "leaders" (and use this term even more broadly) behave? Why is it that Dr. White is the bad guy, when he's the one standing up for integrity?
What's more it seems these anti-Calvinist rants are more personal than anything else. Perhaps these men feel threatened. Let's face it, the John Pipers and John MacArthur's of this world are few and far between. These rants often come from men in the large churches. To some extent, I know it comes from the smaller ones, but the most vocal persons come from men with large ministries. What do they fear? A loss of numbers? Well, might I ask which is more successful? 1600 members with 250 showing up, 200 of whom are members, or a church of 200 members, with 250 showing up, 200 of whom are the members? On this level these persons remind me of fast food addicts. They've grown up on Big Macs and fries for so long that they don't want to give up their Super Size options. They've grown fat in the process and don't want to change the menu to a healthier option. When Mommy and Daddy tell them they are going to go to Subway instead, they throw a temper tantrum in the corner. It's disgusting. They need a spanking.
However, all that said, this isn't necessarily a new thing. In the 19th century Russell Reneau tried to exterminate Calvinism too. Never heard of him before? Well, consider that nobody reads him today, but lots of folks know who P.H. Mell is. Mell rebutted Reneau in his own body of writing. In doing this, he prophetically said, "Calvinism has never heard of him before, and if its advocates ever think of him hereafter it will never be in a connection flattering to his vanity." http://www.founders.org/library/mell1/predest.html The same is true of Ergun Caner, Dave Hunt, and the rest.
What Mell says in Predestination and the Saints' Perseverance is worth noting because, if one didn't know it, one would think that he was writing today and addressing Ergun Caner or Dave Hunt (emphasis mine):
The following tract appeared, first, in weekly numbers, in the columns of "The Christian Index", and is republished, with slight alteration and addition, at the request of many brethren. The controversial feature is retained, not because it is thought that Mr. Reneau's name will add any dignity to it, but because,
1. I have not time to re-write it.
2. If all allusion to Mr. R's publication were removed, it would lack congruity and completeness. It discusses Predestination and the Saint's Perseverance, because they are the doctrines assailed; and it is ostensibly confined to a consideration of Mr. Reneau's arguments.
3. Those who have requested its re-publication desire it to retain its original form. Mr. R's production, which it reviews, has been extensively distributed through parts of Georgia and Tennessee and has been lauded as a complete refutation of Calvinism. It is thought, therefore, that, in such localities, it is better calculated to do good in its present form. Besides, men are more likely to read an argument when it is associated with controversy than when it is presented in the form of abstract discussion.
I have been pained to notice, for some years past, on the part of some of our ministers, in some localities in the South, a disposition to waive the doctrines of Grace in their public ministrations. While some have been entirely silent about them and have even preached, though not ostensibly, doctrines not consistent with them, others have given them only a cold and half-hearted assent, and some few have openly derided and denounced them. This, in many cases, has resulted, doubtless from a lack of information and from an apprehension, therefore, that the doctrines of Grace are synonymous with Antinomianism. For this reason, I have thought that a concise and popular exposition of those doctrines was urgently demanded. It is true, there are many able treatises on them, extant; but, they are all locked up in voluminous Bodies of Divinity and, therefore, not accessible to the general reader. I confess, then, that it was to supply, to the extent of my ability, this demand and to counteract, as far as I was able, the tendencies to Arminianism, that I took up my pen. For this purpose, I was glad that the pretext of answering Mr. Reneau was afforded me; and, with this object in view, I extended the discussion on the subject of Predestination beyond Mr. R's objections. Should this publication have the effect to confirm my brethren in the faith once delivered to the Saints and serve, in any degree, to counteract the tendencies in our midst to Arminianism, I shall have accomplished my main design in writing.
Of course, it will be understood that the term, Calvinism, is used in conformity to custom and not to imply that the doctrines embraced in it originated with the Genevan Reformer.
This is a pamphlet of twenty-eight pages and contains the substance of two sermons delivered in various parts of Middle Georgia in 1849. They created quite a sensation at the time, and their author, having no further use for them for the pulpit, has slightly expurgated them, and the world is now blessed with them in a more permanent form. They are designed as attacks (in their author's opinion, it would seem, very effective ones) upon the Calvinistic doctrines of Predestination and what is called, the Final Perseverance of the Saints. There is nothing original about them, excepting the spirit that is exhibited and some ingenious misapprehensions of the plain language of Calvinistic writers, which no one before has been so constituted as to fall into. Leaving these out of view, the remaining is made up of arguments in a diluted state, borrowed, without acknowledgment, from standard Arminian writers; and if we were assured that our readers are in possession of the authors on the Calvinistic side of the question, we should consider ours (excepting in so far as we may be performing a service to our author) a work of supererogation. This publication, we suppose, is but an earnest of what is to follow as we are told on page 1: "We are determined that if it (Calvinism) lives any longer than we do that it shall not be our fault." We hope that on this announcement, our Calvinistic readers will not give way to unnecessary alarm: Calvinism had survived Arminius, and Whitby, and Wesley, and Fletcher, and Watson, and a host of other able assailants. Let us live in hopes, therefore, that it may possibly survive even Mr. Reneau.
Our author, however, has formally declared war against Calvinism and, in effect, announced that he has not only drawn his sword but thrown the scabbard away. The war under his direction, is to be of the most sanguinary character. Nothing short of complete extermination will satisfy him. "We have determined that if it (Calvinism) lives any longer than we do that it shall not be our fault." No quarter is to be granted perhaps none is to be asked. Conscious of his strength, he may be confident that he will occupy the victorious position of Samson when in triumph he sung: "With the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men;" or perhaps, like the same Samson in adversity, he anticipates that, by a mighty effort of strength, he will rejoice to overwhelm in one common destruction both himself and his enemies. However this may be, we confess it shocks us to hear such a blood-thirsty determination announced. There are to be granted no terms of honorable capitulation -- the forces of Calvinism are not to be cheered with the hope that, if it come to the worst, they can save their lives by surrendering at discretion. Entreat as piteously as they may for mercy it is in no case to be granted them. The lifeblood of one or both, it is sternly decided, must water the ground! Is not this the nineteenth century? Has not the savage ferocity of war been mitigated by the spirit of the Gospel and by the humanizing influences of advancing civilization? We hope our author, for his own sake, will reconsider this determination. It may make Calvinism desperate. If he has no bowels of mercy and no respect for "the spirit of the age," -- if none of the softer or the nobler motives can influence him, then let prudence and sound policy cause him to haul down that blood-red flag If he has unrelentingly determined that the forces of Calvinism shall, in no case, be prisoners on parole, let them have the consolation to know that they shall be prisoners of some sort, or they will sell their lives as dearly as possible.
But, after all, we are more than half inclined to think that the danger to Calvinism from him has its existence only in our author's harmless self-complacency. That he considers himself a warrior of no inferior stamp -- destined to achieve victories which no polemical hero before him (he tacitly acknowledges) has been adequate to, is abundantly evident, not only from this, but from other passages of his production; but we see no reason why any else should labor under the same delusion -- surely there is none to be found in the performance before us. It is no uncommon thing for men to "think of themselves more highly than they ought to think." Where they are composed of materials suitable for the purpose and placed in a favorable position, a very little encouragement makes them in fancy swell out beyond all reasonable proportions: and there is no conception of themselves too exalted for them to entertain. Herod, while listening to the adulation of his courtiers, fancied himself a God; and a wise king of Macedon, aware of his propensity of poor human nature, enjoined it upon one of his household to repeat to him daily, "Remember, O King, that thou art mortal!" We are not quite sure that a monitor of the same kind would not be of service to our author?
Notwithstanding, however, he broadly intimates that he has much confidence in his success, his language would seem to imply that he has some apprehension that he may, after all, fail in his super-human enterprise. "If it lives any longer than we do, it shall not be our fault.'' He will at least make a conscientious use of the strength he possesses. He feels that a solemn responsibility rests upon him in the premises -- that much has been given him and therefore much will be required of him. The blood of all the controversialists flows through his veins -- the strength of all the champions of Arminianism nerves his arm" -- "his height is six cubits and a span" (1 Sam. 17:4), and he is commanded to use his resources for the annihilation of Calvinism. Will he come up to his responsibilities? If he fails it shall not be his fault! But suppose Calvinism should not be accommodating enough to die when he attacks it, how will he infallibly know that he has acquitted himself as in duty bound? We fancy that we see him now harassed by the most painful uncertainty. Some months ago he made his first attack and discharged at his enemy seventy-two paragraphs (all numbered off), and since then silence has reigned over the field of operations. If he fancies that this silence is caused by his complete success and that Calvinism lies among the slain, it becomes our painful office to inform him that it is not dead but sleepeth and that we are the only one of its friends that seem to have been awakened by the noise of the attack! But then what becomes of his conscientious determination so to act as to avoid blame? Could he not have hurled one paragraph more? Did he have no other shot to fire? Perhaps another shot, more lucky than the rest, might have reached his enemy's heart and freed the world of bondage. Why then did he not discharge it? If he did all that he could, what becomes of his ostentatious profession of strength? Verily there seems to be an antagonism here -- Strength vs. Conscience. His exalted conceptions of himself, or his conscience, one or the other, must give way. Our author's estimate of his powers must be lowered, in the present aspect of the case, or (his conscience remaining lively) he must be in the most painful state of uncertainty as to whether he is to be any longer responsible for the existence of Calvinism. Verily, Atlas requires much strength to sustain the weight of the world!
"I am determined, that if it survives my attacks!" Surely Mr. Reneau's perception of the ludicrous must be defective? Calvinism has never heard of him before, and if its advocates ever think of him hereafter, it will never be in a connection flattering to his vanity!
We confidently believe that no publication in the language of the same length, contains as great an amount of bitterness and as many examples of misrepresentation as that upon which we are animadverting. The author seems to have written with the feelings of the man, who having the most self--satisfying confidence in his own prowess, and having ostentatiously called upon the whole world to witness the ease with which he would demolish his antagonist, is made conscious at last of a disgraceful failure, and vents his impotent rage by abusive epithets at a respectful distance. Like the Mexican Chief, who soothed the mortification of repulse by pronouncing the American General so ignorant of military science as not to know when he was defeated -- or, more properly, like the blustering quarrelsome urchin, who said if he could not chastise the larger boy he could make faces at him.
The following examples of his style and spirit, under appropriate heads, are given, not because they are the worst of their kind, but because they are shorter and can be more easily extracted.
His Courtesy and Liberality. -- "But in order to carry out their Calvinistic scheme, this talk, &c., has been made a part of their visionary scheme and theories;" -- "To exhibit still further the mad scheme of this system," &c., p.16. "No man that prefers the truth to his own prejudices, it would seem to us, could doubt that Jesus did intend on this occasion to teach that his disciples might lose their religion." "Calvinists holding on to their error with a zeal worthy of a better cause." -- "if we were to admit this foolish hypothesis." p.19. "No man can mistake here provided his prejudices have not blinded him and so wholly perverted his understanding that nothing could instruct him." p.21. "Is there a man on this Camp-Ground stupid enough to believe such to be the true meaning of these texts of Holy Writ? Every one who has sense enough to know the road to the mill knows better." p.23. "We feel that enough has been said to satisfy every honest enquirer after truth, that it is possible for a man to receive the grace of God in vain and thus perish everlastingly." p.23. "Do Calvinists think the world dull enough to believe that such argument makes out their doctrine?" p.27.
His CANDOR. -- "It is palpable that Calvinists hold that God's elect are ordained to everlasting life without any regard to their Christian character." p.14.
His DOGMATISM. -- "This is indeed a very convenient method of proving an unscriptural doctrine." p.6. "If we believe no more concerning predestination than the Bible teaches, we will never believe the Calvinistic notion on that subject." p.11. "Neither these" (passages of scripture) "nor any others prove anything at all in their favor." p.27.
His REFINEMENT. -- "If a poor reprobate were to commit such crimes, eternal damnation in Hell-fire would be the consequence, but let one of these predestinated pets commit them, and they will have the headache or some other punishment and then bask in heaven's smiles world without end." P. 15.
Any where else than in a sermon, this would be called slang. Other examples under this head we deem it proper to suppress, as they are too gross to meet the eye of our lady readers.
His DEFERENCE TO THE BIBLE. -- "Convince us that Christianity tolerates such things, and we will plead its cause no more." p.15.
Finally, in the way of extracts: "We fear our Calvinistic friends will not easily forgive us for our frank dealing with their favorite doctrines." p.17. "If our Calvinistic brethren feel hurt, they may rest assured that we deliver these sentiments out of no unkind feelings. It is because we thus believe that we thus preach." p. 12. We hope that after this none of our Calvinistic readers will be so unreasonable as to continue dissatisfied. True, our author says that they are "silly" and "dull" and "stupid" and "prejudiced" and "dishonest" and "without sense enough to know the road to the mill", but "it is because he thus believes that he thus writes." Let us, therefore, be grateful for his tenderness and repress our complainings.
The Bible addresses us in plain and intelligible language, While there are many mysteries in it that angels desire in vain to look into and many things difficult to be understood which the perverse frequently wrest to their own destruction, those truths which pertain to eternal life are revealed in the most unambiguous language. God does not dishonor Himself and trifle with His creatures by making their salvation to depend upon the reception of doctrines that are either unintelligible or contradictory. His system of heavenly truth is harmonious and consistent; and revealed with perspicuity and precision. Commencing here on earth with the first "principles of the doctrine of Christ" -- with "repentance from dead works and faith toward God," it ascends a glorious chain, each link shining more brightly as it rises into the pure heavens above until it glitters in the effulgence that shines from God's throne. We are not only commanded to search the scriptures, but we are encouraged by the promise that we shall know if we follow on to know the Lord. Like his sanctification, the path of the Christian's knowledge is as the shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day. God designed that His people should understand His truth-- nay, He has made their salvation to depend upon their belief of it -- and it is His will that they should all come into the unity of the faith, that they should be one as Christ and the Father are one. Why then is there such a diversity of sentiment in the Christian world? Why is it that even evangelical sects draw from the scriptures systems so diametrically opposite? That good men do differ in theological sentiment is indisputable and is as lamentable as it is true; but the reason is not to be found in any ambiguity in the word of God. Some of the difference, perhaps, is to be ascribed to the diversity of their mental constitution and the different way in which the same evidence strikes different minds; much to the force of early bias, to the influence of association, and to the distorted media, therefore through which the truth is seen much to the carelessness with which many read the scriptures and to the indolence which causes them to construct a system out of fragments of Bible truth; but without doubt no inconsiderable part of the disagreement is to be attributed to presumption. Professing Christians (sometimes unconsciously) not infrequently form in advance an idea in their minds -- drawn from the teachings of others or from their own reflections -- of the character of God and of the doctrines which he ought to promulgate and then afterwards consult the Bible to prove that their views are correct; and some carry their presumption to such daring lengths as to reject the Bible if it fails to sustain them in their positions. May not those opinions, which would rob Christ of His divinity, which deny the doctrine of the trinity -- and those others which would make eternal life the portion of all mankind, have their origin here?
While we are far from the bigotry which would make us assert that the denomination to which we belong are the only people exempt from this presumption, and as far from the illiberality which would induce us to apply it to any individual who may differ from us -- while we are free to grant, until evidence appear to the contrary, that all evangelical Christians who differ from us are as honest seekers after truth as we are; we feel no hesitation in placing any one in this category who openly confesses it to be his appropriate place. Such our author has done. He has, in effect, declared that, if it can be shown to him that the Bible teaches Calvinism, he will reject it, and turn his back upon it. "Convince us that Christianity tolerates such things, and we will plead its cause no more." p.15. Like the madman in "The World's Anti-slavery Convention" who said: convince me that the Bible sanctions slavery, and I cast it to the winds and learn my religion from the flowers of the field. The "things" he refers to here are such as he ascribes -- it matters not whether justly or unjustly -- to Calvinists, and which do not therefore, by universal consent, bear upon their face the infallible marks of falsity. Convince him that the sentiments of Edwards, and Doddridge, and Baxter, and a host of other worthies -- who lived in the faith, and who being dead yet speak -- are tolerated by the word of God, and he will plead its cause no more! Verily he has placed himself in a dilemma from which it is impossible that he can be extricated. If he knew in his heart that these sentiments, which were so horrifying to him, were no less decidedly rejected by all other Christians, and that he could therefore with safety stake his reverence for the Bible upon their falsity, then he was guilty of bearing false witness against his brethren. But if he sincerely believed that they were the sentiments of his opponents, then he stands convicted of prescribing terms to Almighty God and of saying to Him that if it can be proved that He sanctions Calvinism, he will plead His cause no more!
He utters a threat that, in a certain contingency mentioned, he "will plead the cause of Christianity no more." It is evidently his intention here that somebody should take warning -- But who? Not his opponents, surely; for if their measure of his efficiency come up to the half his pretensions, they would rejoice that there is a prospect of his quitting the field:(2sp?) not his friends and co-laborers; for they are innocent of any blame in the premises. Against whom then is the threat uttered? Is it possible that our author is unconscious of its impious nature!
The advocates of Calvinism seem to be in a strait here betwixt two. If they permit the argument to go against them by default, they give up what they conceive to be important scripture truth: if they vanquish their assailant, they do it at the expense of making an infidel of him -- or we should rather say, of driving him into open connection with infidels for his threat contains already all the essential elements of infidelity. No explanation can make it much better for him, but we would fain hope, that this sentence escaped him in the heat of chronic passion!
And this is the man that with so much confidence intimates that he is destined to exterminate Calvinism from the land. How will he do it? He has fallen upon a poor expedient to prepare the way for success. We thank God that, in this highly favored land, the doctrine of the Reformation so generally prevails: "The Bible, without note or comment, the only and the all sufficient rule of faith and practice." The people profess to yield themselves with humble submission to the teachings of God's word, and they will say to him and to all others like him. "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
It is a rule in parliamentary proceedings that if the provisions of a bill do not conform to its title, it is to be rejected. Were our author's first sermon tried by the same principle, it would meet with the same fate. It has seldom been our lot to read a production (as far as the argument is concerned) so desultory and incongruous. He uses his arguments in as arbitrary a manner as he does the figures with which he begins his paragraphs. Question them as closely as you may, you will fail to learn from them their adaptation to the case in hand. Old as they are and as much as they have seen of the world, we venture the assertion they have never found themselves in such strange connections before. What dependence they have upon each other and what support they mutually afford, it is difficult to discern. And yet they need all the assistance they can obtain; for, divest them of the martial livery put upon them by their present owner and exorcise them of the evil spirit with which they are possessed, and they are exhibited to be of the most feeble and attenuated nature with hardly strength enough to maintain a perpendicular attitude. Besides, being employed from their youth for other purposes now that old age and hard usage are added to constitutional weakness, they do not possess the flexibility which would make them useful auxiliaries in an employment so contrary to their natures and their habits. Never, perhaps, were very innocent arguments so badly treated. Another example, doubtless, tending to establish the truth of the old saying -- that we esteem that lightly which cost us little.
But, we have said that the production is desultory and incongruous. In the title, the author proposes to attack Calvinistic Predestination; but, in giving a description of it, he defines (in a lame and ungrammatical way) Election; while the attack itself is leveled chiefly at the doctrine of necessity, as opposed to the Arminian idea of Liberty or self-determining power! Why is this? Is it because he is ignorant of that which he professes to assail; or, aping a skillful General, does he design to weaken the point aimed at, by compelling the garrison (as expecting a general attack) to occupy, at the same time, the whole line of defence? Does he amuse us with feigned attacks, that he may mask his real intentions? If so, we submit to him whether this comports with the confidence, more than hinted, that his forces are sufficient, by dint of mere strength, to raze our fortress to its foundations and to put the garrison to the sword? And it may be well, too, for him to bear in mind that, while deceptions on a warlike theatre and on a large scale are called by dignified names and, when successful, are applauded in a more limited sphere, they degenerate into mere tricks which not infrequently bring their perpetrators into merited contempt.
Election and the doctrine of Necessity are important parts of Predestination, but they do not constitute the whole of it. Why, then, did he not give to his readers a definition of Predestination in the very words of its advocates and attempt, fairly and in a manly way, a refutation of it in all its parts and as a whole? Only two suppositions can be given. Either he did not comprehend that to which he was objecting, or he designedly left it in uncertainty that he might avail himself of all the prejudices and misapprehensions of his hearers -- that, by using disjoined parts (and disfigured at that) of the Calvinistic system, united with others of his own invention, he might construct a hideous image (adapting it to his capacity as an adversary) and call it Predestination; and, having demolished this, his depraved creature (to the relief of Calvinists, no less than of Arminians) might set up a shout of triumph, as if he had gained a victory over Calvinism. This course may have been very successful (on a small scale) for the time; but our author will find that it will re-act, with retributive force upon himself. He may have thought, while skipping about, with such marvelous agility over all parts of the field (excepting the right one) -- making so much noise and raising such a smoke- that he would bewilder his adversary and gain the admiration of the lookers-on; and, if he should fail of victory, find at least in the smoke and dust a concealment from the resentment he provoked. But let him know that Calvinism, if it feel so disposed, can trace him out in the deep obscurity he has created, and, having dragged him forth into the light, can bestow upon him before the world the chastisement which will be salutary, not only for his correction, but as a warning to all like him inclined.
Our author possesses some of that ingenuity which is efficient in misrepresenting an opponent and is gifted in no ordinary degree with the powers of denunciation and abuse but he seems to be entirely destitute of analysis. We defy any one to extract a complete skeleton from this sermon. It would seem as if he sat down to write, without any system in his mind and with nothing to guide his ideas but the bitter feelings by which they were impelled. The only difficulties, therefore, in the way of answering his arguments consist 1st -- in finding out what they are, and 2nd -- in perceiving what bearing they have upon the subject after they are discovered. In his title, he essays to give us a treatise on Predestination; but, excepting the arbitrary use of the word, his denunciation is of any other Calvinistic doctrine rather.Amphora coepit
Institui; currente rota cur urceus exit?
Again, he professes to treat of Calvinistic doctrines; but in his statement of them, he quotes from the writings of Dr. Hopkins! Now, every polemic theologian ought to know that the Doctor was the founder of a distinct school and is not acknowledged as a Calvinist at all. Many of his sentiments doubtless, as well as those of James Arminius, conform to our system; but this makes the one, not more than the other, a disciple of John Calvin. Why, then, is Dr. Hopkins cited in this connection? If he meant not to violate the common principles of fairness, he furnishes us with another instance of his inability to pursue steadily the object before him. Having a grudge against the Calvinists, he belabors the Hopkinsians! Let him take care lest he may by mistake kill the wrong man. That would be very sad and may be, if possible, a source of regret even to him. But, why did he not quote from those exclusively who are universally acknowledged as standard Calvinistic writers? To have done so would have given him less opportunity perhaps for the exercise of his peculiar gifts; but it would have been more candid, and we will say also more manly. It matters not though the language quoted from Dr. Hopkins expressed exactly Calvinistic sentiments; it is enough to know that we are no more responsible for him than we are for Mr. Reneau. And this is another specimen of his candor! It would seem that he is so bent on the destruction of Calvinism as to feel authorized for this purpose to adopt the Roman Catholic principle that the end sanctifies the means. This, however, is not one of the most glaring of the misrepresentations with which his pamphlet abounds. We do not know that it will be of any avail; but we would advise him, hereafter, to take pains in advance to understand any thing before he attacks it and to endeavor to treat his opponents with justice and candor. It may make him feel better and fare better -- "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."