Saturday, October 28, 2006

TAG and Inerrancy

Anonymous said:

I was curious. Does the Bible have to be inerrant for TAG and presuppositionalism to work? And related to this question: My ESV or NIV or whatever is not inerrant. Neither is my Greek Nestle/Aland Greek text or my Hebrew Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia text. How does this affect the TAGers argument?

10/28/2006 5:18 PM

Daniel Morgan said:


So far as I can tell, the TAG has little to do with inerrancy. Ralph Walker wrote a pretty solid formulation of the transcendental argument against physicalism in Objections to Physicalism, Robinson 1993, pp. 61-80.

You could use the TAG, for example, and be a Deist or Muslim or etc., so far as I can tell. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Furthermore, PS is an apologetic method that is 99.9% Christian, but I see no reason that Muslims and other worldviews couldn't advocate it as well -- claim that their own worldview "accounts for" everything, and nothing else does, and that by impossibility of the contrary, their own worldview is true, etc., etc.I suppose PS doesn't even have to be a religious method. It could just be a general defense of any worldview/philosophical system, I would think.

Of course, I think it's a poor method, but nonetheless...

In response to anonymous:

1. The doctrine of inerrancy, for one, is limited in scope. The original autographa are inerrant, not particular translations. These translations are the inerrant Word of God as far as they represent the autographa.

2. In answer to your question, yes and no. TAG is primarily an epistemological argument for the existence of God. Often the question of inerrancy doesn't even enter the discussion.

But any Christian "presuppositionalist" would argue that, because biblical Christian theism is the only coherent worldview, the TAG is not effective to argue for any worldview that denies infallible and inerrant revelation from God.

Also, epistemology is moral in nature. True and false do not merely represent naked facts, but moral claims. You should believe the truth. You shouldn't believe a lie. The truth is the right belief. But how do we know what is right and wrong? The TAG tells us that universal moral absolutes are impossible apart from the existence of God. But how do those universal moral absolute come in contact with us so that we know what is right and what is wrong? Well, they come by some form of revelation. Because the unbeliever knows God but suppresses this knowledge, he has a general idea of right and wrong. This idea is enforced by general revelation. But apart from infallible special revelation, we have no absolute distinction between what is objectively right and what is objectively wrong. So morality, or at least our application of morality, depends upon infallible revelation.

In response to Daniel:

You, also, are correct in one sense and yet incorrect in another sense.

1. The TAG is not some end-all argument for Christian theism. It isn't some magic argument that justifies the entire Christian worldview in one step. "Just add T+A+G and out comes Christianity!" No Christian "presuppositionalist," or at least no modest one, would claim that the TAG is such an argument.

Rather, Christian apologetics is a collective effort. A process of elimination. We eliminate atheism with the TAG. And we have entire traditions of apologetics in response to non-biblical religions.

2. But, in a sense, you're incorrect. In a sense, transcendental argumentation eliminates all other worldviews. The TAG doesn't just argue for any God. It demands a certain type of God: a sovereign, trinitarian, immutable, absolute personality who relates with his creatures as Creator (namely, the Christian God). No other can truly account for logic or morality. No other is internally coherent.

This Week's Narrow Mind

Guest for next week's The Narrow Mind (Oct. 30-Nov. 3) are as follows:

Monday - R. Scott Clark "Covenant, Justification and Pastoral Ministry"
Tuesday - James Kime "New Covenant Theology and Israel"
Wednesday - Christopher Hallquist "Christianity and Atheism"
Thursday - Jason Robertson and Scott Hill "Covenant Theology"
Friday - Jay Walker "His Return to The Narrow Mind"

The Narrow Mind airs live online at Unchained Radio, Mon. - Frid., 9-10am PDT. Phone lines are usually open after the first half hour. To get on board call 1-800-466-1873.

The program's podcast is located here and discussion on each show takes place here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Machiavellian atheology

A while back, Daniel Morgan posted a link to a presentation by Gene Witmer.

At the time I was busy with other things, so I’ll now take the occasion to revisit that issue.

I would note, in passing, that Witmer freely concedes that Manata handily won his debate with Barker:

“To my disappointment, Barker did a terrible job defending atheism; indeed, I
couldn't bear to listen to the entire thing, quitting perhaps 3⁄4 of the way
through. The debate made it clear that presuppositionalists can be effective in
throwing advocates of atheism off balance, leaving them disoriented and at
apparently a terrible disadvantage in responding. Perhaps Barker's generally
not too good at debate; I don't know.”

Exposition aside, Witmer’s presentation is a combination of a few substantive objections along with a lot of tactical advice. These are somewhat interrelated, but, for clarity of analysis, I’ll make some effort to address them separately. Let’s address the substantive objections first:


One obvious difficulty with this style of argument is that it requires that
the options be eliminated, and given how many there are, this seems quite
difficult. It is not enough to sum up the opposition as one simplistic kind of
atheism and argue that that can't be right; all varieties thereof must be dealt


That’s a valid criticism of one particular formulation of presuppositionalism. But this is easily rectified by scaling back the claim to a more reasonable burden of proof. The onus is not on the presuppositionalist to rebut every conceivable alternative to the faith. That would be an inhuman burden of proof. And it would saddle him with a double standard, for no one, whether believer or unbeliever, can meet such a hypothetical challenge.

Rather, the claim is limited to real life alternatives. To an actual debate between a presuppositionist and an actual opponent, representing his own position—whatever that might be.



Another difficulty to bear in mind: this sort of argument only succeeds if the
same kind of alleged incoherence does not threaten Christian belief as well.
Suppose we eliminate the opposition, but the tools we used eliminate our own
position; we then need to go back and rethink the techniques used. So, for
instance, if the presuppositionalist argues that atheistic treatments of
morality fail because of such and such an implication, he needs to ask himself
whether or not his own treatment of morality has the same problematic


True, when it comes to arguing for one’s own position or against a competing position, both sides have their own burden of proof to discharge.

But Witmer forgets this when he gets around to giving practical advice (see below).



In any case, note too what is said about God's originating logic. He did so
"because they are a reflection of his nature." So his nature includes the laws
of logic. This is hardly an explanation of the laws of logic; it's just putting
them, so to speak, inside God. I'm reminded of a famous parody from Moliere
("The Imaginative Illness") in which a pill's ability to cause sleep is said to
be explained by its dormitive virtue -- i.e., its sleep-causing power. In the
same way, the explanation is merely pushed back: Logic is explained by God's
nature, his, you know, logic-causing nature.


This is a valid criticism as far as it goes. Presuppositionalists can be guilty of substituting slogans for arguments. Paraphrasing the original claim.

Witmer’s objection exposes the limitations of giving short, snappy answers to complicated questions.

However, this doesn’t mean that no such answers exist. There are book-length treatments on modal metaphysics from a theistic perspective which go into excruciating detail.



It is, of course, an interesting fact if we cannot argue for the claim that
induction will lead to the truth without presupposing that very claim. But it
is, frankly, absurd for the presuppositionalist to complain about this
presupposition when he, of course, admits doing the very same thing with his
beliefs about God. If it's okay to take some beliefs for granted, then, of
course, this belief -- that using induction is likely to get us to the truth --
may well be one we can take for granted. It is in any case hardly clear why
that belief should be thought any less worthy of being taken for granted than,
say, the belief that God exists!


Here he’s transitioning from substantive objections to tactical advance. And notice, in the course of this transition, how he’s forgotten where he himself positioned the burden of proof?

His advice takes the form of: “You think we’ve gotta problem? Well, you’ve gotta problem too!”

But this is an attempt to flip the burden of proof rather than discharge the burden of proof. To say that unbeliever doesn’t have to justify induction on secular grounds because the believer has unwarranted beliefs as well—even assuming that this is true—is not an intellectually responsible answer.

It’s fair to point out that the believer has his own burden of proof to meet. But that doesn’t shift the burden of proof from the unbeliever to the believer.

The onus is still on the unbeliever to justify induction on secular grounds. The onus doesn’t go away just because he can claim that the believer has failed to meet his own burden of proof.

For one thing, these are logically unrelated. To say that I don’t have to justify belief A because you can’t justify belief B is illogical. For A and B are not about the same thing. B has nothing to do with A.

It’s like saying “I don’t have to justify my belief that it’s going to snow tomorrow because you can’t justify your belief that the stock market is going to crash tomorrow!”

For another thing, even if these beliefs were about the same thing, both sides would bear their respective burden of proof. The onus is on the believer to justify induction on Christian grounds while the onus is on the unbeliever to justify induction on secular grounds.

Even if the believer was guilty of shirking his side of the argument, that would’t prove that the uvbeliever was right.

Finally, let’s move on to some of his tactical advice:


Notice that our discussion earlier of beliefs that we take for granted indicates
that some beliefs might be reasonable without argument. So if my belief that my
senses are mostly trustworthy is to be taken for granted, then, if someone
insists on a basis for this, I can of course say, "there is no basis; this is
one of the things I take for granted." (Again, there's a good question as to
why some things should be taken for granted and others can't; that's a deep
question that I don't want to try to tackle here.) In the same way there are
truths that don't have any deeper explanation. So, perhaps the right answer to
"why is it that 15+16=31?" is just "That's just the way it is; there's no
further explanation." Just as it's hard to see how one could avoid taking some
beliefs for granted, it's hard to see how one could avoid allowing that some
facts are just primitive or unexplained in this fashion. The presuppositionalist
has his own primitive fact, too, of course: the existence and nature of God.
Nothing further explains why God exists or why he is the way he is, on their view.
Maybe he can explain everything else, according to them; but nothing else explains him.
So by their own lights they will accept that some things can be primitive in this way.

I stress this because it is in fact always open to you, if you are defending
yourself against this negative strategy whereby they aim to show that all belief
systems contrary to theirs are self-undermining or incoherent, you can take
advantage of this option. If they say, "But what is your basis for logic?" (and
if they mean "what explains why these things are true?"), you can always say,
"They just are, and that's the end of the story. They can hardly complain that
this move is never allowed, as they need to make it themselves, albeit with a
different (alleged) truth.

Of course, you might not like Platonist atheism. Maybe you'd like something
more satisfying. But it's certainly available as an option. One could explore
other explanations but hold out this one is always what you can revert to if the
other explanations fail.

Keep in mind that while you might want to have more interesting and ambitious
theories about, say, the nature of logic and morality, you can always say things
like "While I'm inclined to think that the laws of logic can be explained by
linguistic facts, I recognize there are problems here. If it turns out that the
laws of logic are primitive and unexplained by anything else, then, so be it."

Above all: remember that insofar as they have an argument, it is purely
negative in character: trying to show that the atheist is committed to some
incoherent view. This gives you enormous resources for responding. All you
have to do is point out that you can be minimal in your commitments and not be
incoherent. You can say that lots of things are primitive and unexplained and
that they've hardly shown that you can't consistently say such things.


The problem with all this is that it’s so transparently cynical and unprincipled.

The unbeliever is entitled to take some things for granted “if” he has good reason to take these things for granted. The unbeliever is entitled to treat certain facts as primitive facts if they are primitive facts, and he has good reason for believing so. The unbeliever is entitled to say, “they just are, and that’s that,” only “if,” as a matter of fact, that’s a truthful claim.

The unbeliever is only entitled to revert to atheistic Platonism as his last-ditch stand if that fallback maneuver is actually true or he has good reason for believing it’s true.

And, of course, if that’s what he thought all along, then he wouldn’t “revert” to atheistic Platonism, now would he?

The unbeliever is entitled to be noncommittal if he is, indeed, truly noncommittal, and has good reason to be a minimalist.

But what Witmer is saying throughout this section is that an unbeliever should make opportunistic use of any blocking maneuver or evasive maneuver whether he believes it or not.

He is coaching the unbeliever on how to win the debate without winning the argument. How to lose on the merits, but survive intact. It’s pretty revealing that Witmer would resort to such unscrupulous counsel.

Use any old argument, good or bad, just to get the presuppositionalist off your back! The convenience, and not the cogence, of the argument is all that matters.

On another subject, Danny also refers us to an article by Nino Cocchiarella on “Logic & Ontology.”

Two problems:

i) Does Danny subscribe to Cocchiarella’s solution? Of is this just one of those blocking maneuvers recommended by Witmer to silence the presuppositionalist if you can’t answer him?

ii) Cocchiarella discusses the three standard theories of universals, and opts for a synthetic solution: conceptual realism.

I myself also opt for a synthetic solution: theistic conceptual realism.

Cocchiarella confronts me with a false dilemma, for I favor an option which isn’t even on the list. Therefore, Cocchiarella hasn’t boxed me into accepting his solution.

And, for reasons I won’t go into at the moment, I don’t accept his solution.

John Calvin's Ideas

The Book.

David Ford's review.

K. Scott Oliphint's review.

Helm's rejoinder to Oliphint.

"Redeeming Science"

Vern Poythress has published a book on science, entitled Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (Crossway Books 2006). A free, online edition is also available at his website.

Due to the author’s interdisciplinary education, he brings a unique expertise to the subject. On the one hand, he majored in mathematics at Caltech, and was awarded a doctorate mathematics from Harvard.

On the other hand, Poythress also holds advanced degrees in theology, linguistics, and hermeneutics. That’s excellent preparation when it comes to the integration of science and Scripture.

The natural temptation in reading such a book is to skip over the preliminaries and jump right into the storm center with the chapters on Genesis and ID theory.

But in many respects, this book is less about the specifics of the science than it is about metascientific issues. I’ll confine myself to some of the major themes:

I. Hermeneutics

1.Genesis was written in ordinary, prescientific language to render it accessible to all cultures (92-93,222-223).

2.Likewise, the Bible is often written in observational language, reflecting the natural perspective of an earth-bound observer.

3.Poythress has definite ideas about the relation between general and special revelation. It’s a concentric process of elimination.

For example, we begin with Gen 1. We examine the primary interpretative options, and narrow these down to a few.

There then comes a point when a particular theory or interpretation (e.g. YEC, OEC, theistic evolution) is more specific than the text (255-56).

Having narrowed the field as far as we can on purely exegetical grounds, we then turn to science to supplement our understanding and further exclude some of remaining options.

4.One of his recurring concerns is the danger of unconsciously foisting an anachronistic interpretation onto the text by importing our own cultural preconceptions onto the text. For example, we must guard against reading the flood account from an Apollo 11 perspective (127-28).

5.Conversely, he rejects the contrary efforts to simply merge Biblical cosmology with ANE cosmology. For example, he shows from Scripture how the ancient Israelites knew perfectly well that rain comes from clouds (94-95).

II. Exegesis

1.Poythress devotes half a chapter to mature creation (chapter 9). Here he goes back to the pure version of the theory as originally proposed by the Victorian, marine biologist, Philip Henry Gosse—which attempts to account for the fossil record by appeal to mature creation.

As with methodological naturalism, Poythress attempts to give mature creation every benefit of the doubt. He points out that even when taken to a logical extreme, it is not as outlandish as its critics would make it out to be.

Poythress leaves the door open to subhuman death before the fall (121). Indeed, he seems to imply it at one point. Noting that the Garden of Eden was a fertile garden, he makes the commonsense observation that ordinarily, fertile soil “contains decaying organic matter from dead plants. Bacterial and soil-dwelling creatures like earthworms work over this matter…So the soil in the garden would have the necessary organic matter and the bacteria, even if God in fact prepared the garden and its soil over a period of seconds or hours rather than the many years that it takes to generate soil by gradual processes” (118).

And this juncture he anticipates a possible criticism: “The trees in the garden of Eden could be full-sized. But the objector would not accept rings within the trunk indicating a succession of seasons” (118).

He then takes up another example to undermine this distinction by referring the reader to the miracle at Cana. “Could it [the wine] have contained any grape plant cells or yeast cells or fragments from cells? Such cells would contain DNA, and the DNA would by its distinctive signature enable a scientist to infer from what grapevine stock the wine derived. He would then infer past events like…the operation of yeast in aging, and so on (119-20).

As a result, “I conclude that a hard-and-fast distinction between complex structures and mature structures with an idea past is implausible” (120).

Poythress is clearly sympathetic to mature creation, and regards it as valid up-to-a-point. But unsatisfactory an all-purpose explanation.

2.Regarding YEC, Poythress finds flood geology unconvincing. For one thing, he surmises that the “water” which covered the mountains (e.g. Gen 7:19; 8:4) might be snow. At a certain altitude, precipitation takes the form of snow (129). The receding floodwaters might then include the snowmelt.

He also criticizes Whitcomb and Morris for artificially restricting the explanatory scope of mature creation (105).

3.He rejects the calendar-day theory in favor of an analogical-day theory (chapter 10).

One justification for this is his contention that ancient people were not as time-conscious as modern people, who live by the clock—regulating and subdividing their lives by hours, minutes, seconds, and nanoseconds (e.g. 138-43). Punctuality is a modern obsession.

Although he doesn’t mention it, this is a point made by David S. Landes in Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World (Belknap Press 1983).

This distinction leads him, in turn, to say that “God really did create the world in six-days. That is to say, when we speak in everyday human terms…because we are thinking of days within an interactive orientation. Only within the technical sphere of consistent clock orientation and calculation do we develop another, complementary perspective on time. Within that sphere, where we define ‘time’ in an unusual, precise way that separates it from human rhythms, we obtain a figure of 14 billions years” (220).

4.He defends the traditional reading of Gen 2 on the special creation of Eve.

5. He discusses the relation between Gen 1 and Gen 2, explaining that Gen 1 prefers a taxonomical organization while Gen 2 prefers a teleological organization (89).

6.He defends creation ex nihilo (73-76).

III. Metascience

1.Ordinary perception is just as valid as our scientific picture of the world (150-151). He rejects the traditional hiatus between appearance and reality (217). There is no one correct picture of reality. Rather, we should embrace a stratified view of reality.

He appeals to optical illusions (200) as well as alternative, but mathematically equivalent, versions of quantum mechanics (202) to justify his pluralism.

2.Poythress devotes a lot of attention to the metaphysical and epistemic status of natural “laws.” For example, he says that natural “laws” are merely “human descriptions of the way in which God governs the world now within the physical sphere” (163).

3.Poythress uses Robert Pennock as a foil to examine methodological naturalism (262-266). After giving Pennock every benefit of the doubt, Poythress concludes that methodological naturalism is a prejudicial and unstable compromise which collapses into metaphysical naturalism.

After arguing his point, he ends on the note that methodological naturalism “devalues science” (271).

4. Furthermore:”In fact, scientific laws are themselves a prime case of design. Design shows itself not only in a particular case like a bacterial flagellum but in a general law like the conservation of energy” (266).

5.He presents a striking analogy between divine and human agency to illustrate the limitations of a reductionistic, materialistic explanation of cause and effect:

“Human intentionality is mysterious. It is not a “cause” on the same level as the physical causes immediately impinging on one machine part. The human being plans and looks ahead and plots the shape of the finished machine. Then he acts in an external world where he uses ordinary secondary causes. His planning and intentionality are like a primary cause in relation to these secondary causes, though of course he in turn also has God as his primary cause…The analogy between God and a human designer still helps. When a human being constructs a motor, we can follow two levels of causes. We can
focus on the secondary causes, involving physical motion and chemistry. By carefully analyzing a single metallic part, we might possibly deduce not only what factory manufactured it, but from what mineral deposit the iron ore came. But suppose that we tried to explain exclusively through secondary causes how the whole motor came together as a whole in one place. We could not do it. Physical causes exist all the way through, in the form of pressures from human fingers, or pressures from machines or robotic fingers set up by a human being. But this kind of causal chain is far too complex to follow, and looks very improbable unless we invoke a “primary” cause, namely the
human designer or assembler” (281-82).

IV. Science

1. Poythress makes the point that “in its practical uses, the vast bulk of modern science and technology concerns what happens now, not what happened in the distant past. It matters little whether the universe originated 6,000 years ago or 14 billion years ago. Most science and technology focus on how the universe functions now. What matters is how I use my car or my telephone” (114).

On a related note, he reaffirms the distinction, drawn by Behe, between “repeated” events and “once-for-all events” (263).

2.Poythress also sees no compelling reason to jettison scientific dating techniques and their conventional results (81-85; 99-105).

3.He offers a very favorable exposition of ID theory (chap. 19), using the flagellum as Exhibit A.

4. On the evidence of analogies and homologies, he argues that these “show common design by a common designer” (247).

With respect to the fossil record, which, according to Darwinians, presents the pattern of an evolutionary tree, Poythress suggests that “one may simply observe that God designed the pattern; it is not an illusion. A single living tree has twigs and smaller braches and larger branches and trunk, with in many respect imagine another. The growth of a tree shows the pattern of offshoots that replicate the growth of an original single stem. What if the pattern of life through geologic ages mirrors life on a small scale, the life of a tree? It then becomes another instance of imaging. The motif of imaging shows that we can organize the entire evidence cited in favor of evolutionary theory within a framework of design” (247).

5. As you might expect from a scientifically-trained mathematician, he takes an avid interest in abstract (mathematical) and concrete (natural and or artifactual) symmetries.

V. Sparring Partners

1.As a member of the Reformed community, Poythress touches on certain intramural debates. He rejects the framework hypothesis, despite its growing popularity in Reformed circles (chapter 10; appendix 1).

2.Likewise, he takes issue with Paul Seely at one point (96n8).

While we’re on the subject of Seely, it’s clear that Poythress is well to the right of his one-time colleague, Tremper Longman (How to Read Genesis [IVP 2005]) as well as his current colleague, Peter Enns (Inspiration and Incarnation [Baker 2005]).

3.He’s also critical of James Jordan (103).

4.In the course of his comparative analysis, he chooses certain writers as representative spokesmen for their respective positions. This raises the question of selection criteria.

Gould is mentioned, but not Dawkins? Why? Is it that Poythress regards Gould as a more impressive representative of naturalistic evolution, whereas Richard Dawkins is more of a popularizer or eccentric?

In ID theory, he settles for Behe and Dembski, (with passing reference to Denton)—presumably because theey are the most technically and theoretically astute members of the ID movement. But he also cites Philip Johnson on the philosophy of methodological naturalism.

Where YEC is concerned, he settles for Walter Brown, Russell Humphreys, Henry Morris, and John Whitcomb. His justification for the focus on Whitcomb and Morris presumable comes from his statement that The Genesis Flood “offers a kind of foundational document” (100).

As you can see, I’m just scratching the surface in my selective exposition. Let’s now move from exposition to evaluation.

In some ways, this book is a landmark in its chosen field. Despite the fact that it’s pitched to a popular audience, it often presents a very sophisticated model of how science and Scripture interrelate. And it frequently advances the traditional point-counterpoint in new directions.

So this is one of those “must-read” books.

At least within the Reformed community, this will be, or at least ought to be, a compass point for further deliberation.

That said, there were certain areas in which I was dissatisfied with the analysis:

1.It’s true that punctuality is a modern obsession. And that is largely due to the availability of accurate clocks and watches.

But I fail to see how that distinction covers the distance from a traditional chronology (6,000+ years) to a modern chronology (14 billion years).

Poythress admits that Jewish culture was time-conscious in relation to the religious calendar as well as the agricultural seasons.

So the difference between then and now would seem to be a rather minor difference with respect to differing degrees of technical precision.

2.It also strikes me as overly facile, to put it mildly, to both affirm that “God really did create the world in six-day” and also that “where we define ‘time’ in an unusual, precise way that separates it from human rhythms, we obtain a figure of 14 billions years.”

Is this just a matter of flipping the switch from an “interactive orientation” to a “clock time orientation”?

That’s an awfully artful performance—like watching a pickpocket make a billfold disappear from its owner’s button-downed vest. I admire the dexterity, but I’m unwilling to surrender my wallet without a fight.

3.Given his evident sympathy for mature creation, which he affirms up to a point, I don’t know why he falls back on conventional dates for the age or the universe in general and the earth in particular.

Where does the dynamic of mature creation leave off and the providential factors kick in?

4.As to the analogy between an evolutionary tree (i.e. the cone of diversity), a real tree, and the motif of imaging, all I can says is that, despite the aesthetic appeal of this very elegant and economical explanation, I don’t see how that would account for the fossil record—at least as the Darwinian has packaged it. Doesn’t a Darwinian say the fossil record charts a more-or-less linear trend from simple to complex? That quite different from a cyclical pattern of self-similar configurations.

5.His suggestion regarding a snowpack, followed by snowmelt, is attractive—and may even true in its own right.

But doesn’t the natural rhythm of the narrative picture the dry land overtaken by rising waters? And upward motion rather than a downward motion?

6.Regarding the following criticism: “The trees in the garden of Eden could be full-sized. But the objector would not accept rings within the trunk indicating a succession of seasons” (118),” I find myself on the side of the critic. For I do think one can draw a principled distinction.

i) The problem with Adamic navels, fake fossils, and annular rings on instant trees is that such features serve no purpose in that pristine setting. As such, they overextend the logic of mature creation.

ii) And his counterexamples don’t succeed in disproving that distinction. Even if instant wine or instant potting soil contained trace elements of an illusory, biochemical process, there would be a functional justification for that illusion. For that’s the differential factor between barren soil and fertile soil, fermented grape juice and unfermented grape juice.

iii) In addition, his counterexamples equivocate. Are we talking about actually “decaying organic matter from dead plants,” as well as actual “bacteria and earthworms”? Or are we talking about the biochemical equivalent? Synthetic mulch.

Same thing with grape cells and yeast cells with a distinctive DNA signature. The miracle instantiates the end-stage of the product minus the intervening process. The effect without the secondary cause, because the primary cause takes its place.

So it’s not as if God is creating dead organisms. Dead plants. Death earthworms.

All that God is reproducing in this scenario is the effect or end-result of an ordinary process while bypassing that ordinary process to produce the same effect directly.

6.I enjoyed his discussion of symmetries. But I find it odd that he didn’t trace this principle all the way back to the Trinity. What, after all, is the Trinity if not the archetypal symmetry?

For example, it would be interesting to see him model the Trinity on enantiomorphic symmetries.

7.His discussion of ID-theory is highly inflected. And he examines the possible origin of the flagellum from just about every conceivable angle.

Unfortunately, one unavoidable consequence of leaving the lofty, metascientific trees for the lowly, scientific trenches is that any discussion of the gritty particulars is bound to be dated in a few years or so, with interminable debates between competing parties.

8.Although he defends creation ex nihilo, he fails to connect this doctrine with mature creation. But creation ex nihilo is what makes mature creature both possible and inevitable. Rather than a gradual, incremental process, the basic forces and cycles of nature are instantiated all at once.

9. By the same token, creation ex nihilo has implications for our chronological extrapolations. The cosmic “clock” was set “forward” as if the cycles of nature were already up and running—which they were, via creation ex nihilo. The end-result wasn’t phased in over millions and billions of years.

Even Stephen Jay Gould appreciated the inner logic of this argument. He simply rejected the operating premise, thinking he had an evolutionary alternative at his disposal. But as he summarizes the argument:

“Gosse began his argument with a central, but dubious, premise: All natural processes, he declared, move endlessly round in a circle…When God creates…he must break (or ‘irrupt,’ as Gosse wrote) somewhere into this ideal circle. Whenever God enters the circle…his initial produce must bear traces of previous stages in the circle, even if these stages had no existence in real time…I find this part of Gosse’s argument quite satisfactory as a solution, within the boundaries of his assumptions, to that classical dilemmas...’which came first…’If organisms arose by acts of creation ab nihilo, then Gosse’s argument about prochronic traces must be respected,” “Adam’s Navel,” Granta (Summer 1985), 16:136-37,39,40.

To simply run the clock backwards in time from the present to the past will thereby yield a false reading.

When a watchmaker constructs a timepiece, there’s the time he made it, and then there’s the time he sets it to. But the time he sets it to is obviously not isometric with the time he made it. They are, indeed, quite independent variables.

9.Another problem with Poythress’ discussion is that any dating technique involves the measurement of time. But that, in turn, involves us in the philosophy of time. Does time have an intrinsic metric?

As a highly trained mathematician, it’s hard to believe that Poythress is entirely unaware of this debate, for it goes back to Poincaré’s conventionalism. Now, the question of metrical conventionalism or its converse (metrical objectivism) is directly germane to our dating techniques, for the question of age is a chronometric question. Yet this issue is never addressed.

Failure to address this metascientific issue renders his straightforward appeal to the scientific evidence philosophically naïve.

10.As far as YEC is concerned, Poythress fails to engage its most sophisticated proponents. I agree with Poythress that The Genesis Flood was a foundational document. But for that very reason, it hardly represents state-of-the-art creationism.

Poythress refers to the sixth edition (1995) of Walter Brown’s In the Beginning. But Brown issued a seventh edition in 2001.

Moreover, Brown has an online edition at his website, where he also has periodic updates on newsworthy developments.

More serious is the omission of John Byl and Kurt Wise. Byl came out with his God & Cosmos back in 2001. Byl is a professional astronomer and YEC.

Byl is a Calvinist in the Dutch-Reformed tradition. He has also contributed to the WTJ in the past, so you’d expect him to be on Poythress’ radar screen.

Kurt Wise is the Harvard-trained paleontologist, and a rising star in YEC. He figured prominently in Ronald Numbers standard history of The Creationists. And he was recently tapped by Albert Mohler to take over Bill Dembski’s old job at SBTS. So he’s a known quantity.

Wise published Faith, Form, and Time back in 2002, along with a more popular version thereof (Something from Nothing) two years later.

Since Poythress bibliography includes 2006 titles, there’s no apparent reason for the omission.

Furthermore, we live in the age of email, and before email there was snail mail. I’ve been corresponding with Byl for years. If I can, Poythress can. I’ve also corresponded with Brown. If I can, Poythress can.

When he was preparing to write his now-classic work on Dispensational, Poythress went out of his way to get first-hand information from the very best sources. He took a sabbatical to make a trek down to Dallas Theological Seminary.

But it doesn’t look like he has made anything like the same effort to acquaint himself with the leading lights of contemporary creationism.

Frankly, this borders on shoddy scholarship, and it’s hard to explain.

11.There are other puzzling lucunae as well.

i) John Walton published a major commentary on Genesis back in 2001. On a number of interpretive issues, his positions are strikingly similar to those of Poythress.

So it would be natural of him to cite Walton in support of his own positions. But, no.

Since Poythress believes that we should interpret the flood account consistent with an eye on ANE geography rather than modern geography, you might expect him to mention a standard reference work like Wayne Horowitz’ Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography (Eisenbrauns 1998). But, no.

Along similar lines is A. Dundes, ed. The Flood Myth (Berkeley: University of California Press 1988).

Obviously, one must make very discerning use of this background material.

ii) Since Poythress rejects the calendar-day theory, it would be instructive to have his take on how John Sailhammer construes the syntax of Gen 1:14, both in his commentary as well as his book Genesis Unbound. But, no.

iii) Likewise, Donald Wiseman, the famed Assyriologist, examines the semantic aspect of Gen 1:14 in his article, “Creation Time—What does Genesis Say?”, Science & Christian Belief, 3/1 (1991), 25-34.

iv) Since Poythress devotes a fair amount of time and attention to the philosophy of science, it would make sense for him to interact with Bas van Fraassen. Although van Fraassen converted to Catholicism a while back, he comes out of the Dutch-Reformed tradition, and his own metascientific views, as well as his way of relating faith and science (The Empirical Stance [Yale 2002]), would furnish a useful foil for Poythress to articulate his contrasting point of view. But, no.

v) One would like to see Poythress remark on some of the more unorthodox critics of naturalistic evolution like Rupert Sheldrake.

Of course, every author is bound to be selective—especially in a semi-popular work.

But even aside from his poorly-researched assessment of YEC, there’s a rather myopic quality of the interaction overall, as if he’s suffering from intellectual isolation.

As a result, Redeeming Science is brilliant in some respects, but provincial in others. Breaking new ground, his book is often outstanding, but it could have been a lot better if his investigations were not so blinkered.

Event 16

The issue of lying is getting rather boring. I almost want to second Ted's yawn (or rather, his :::YAWN!!!:::).

As I friend of Paul's, I am certainly in a position of wanting to defend him. But I think it is important to note that the members of Triablogue took no "Where do you stand on these issues" test before signing on. So the fact that certain members (the ones who have spoken on this issue, at least) are in agreement gives credit to the fact that we aren't merely giving some ad hoc defense of Paul's actions. While the issue of whether or not Paul's particular actions meet the criteria for the application of biblical teaching is a separate one, we at least have been clear on what Scripture teaches.

And few who have objected to Paul's behavior have actually addressed the surrounding Scriptural issues. John Loftus tells us that his critique is an "internal" one, but he has yet to address the foundations (from Scripture) that have been presented.

DagoodS has, at least, given us some interaction with what has been stated (and particularly with the Frame article). Because I don't want DagoodS to be lazy, I won't myself be lazy. So I write this post not because I think that this issue needs any more commentary. Rather, I simply what to respond to DagoodS' efforts.
Evan May,

I will confess. I WAS being lazy. You are quite correct I only brushed over the highlights of what could be a full-blown response to Frame’s article. I momentarily thought of writing a blog entry dissecting it, but after framing the outline within my mind, found it to be obvious. And boring.
Start with Event 16. How does that fit within Frame’s proposal? It doesn’t.
By "Event 16," DagoodS is referring to this example from Frame's article:

16. Luke 24:28, Jesus acts as if he intends to go further.

Note that this is one of seventeen examples that Frame lists. So even if this particular one isn't a good example, it isn't as if Frame's entire article self-destructs or is not worthy of attention.

I think DagoodS also confuses Frame's purpose in writing his article (and, by consequence, his purpose in citing these examples) with Paul Manata's present situation. Even if this particular Scripture passage is not applicable to Paul Manata's actions, this does not mean that it is completely irrelevant to Frame's proposal.

But let's look at this passage:

(Luke 24:27-29) "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, 'Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.' So he went in to stay with them"

Jesus would often do things or say things in order to elicit a certain response from the crowd. So he tells the Canaanite woman, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs" (Matt 15:26) in order to stir in her a response of faith, as she proclaims, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table" (Matt 15:27).

Here, Jesus desires to stir in these disciples a longing to commune with him. So he gives the impression as if he is leaving (though knowing that he intends to stay) in order to elicit their request for him to stay. Jesus uses a form of deception, and yet is without sin.

DagoodS' only reason for criticizing this example is because it is so obvious that Jesus didn't do anything wrong. But that is exactly the point. And all of these examples are merely for the purpose of supporting Frame's claim that "there are other passages in which people mislead other people without incurring biblical condemnation." Is this not the case here? How does this passage fail to meet this standard?

While Frame does give argumentation against other positions (briefly) what is the basis for his own?

Frame: But in the situation where someone is seeking to destroy innocent life, rather than to help and heal, does such a neighborly relation exist? I think not. At least, I doubt that those who misled others in the seventeen passages mentioned earlier were in a neighborly relation to their opponents. Certainly those who deceived in those passages didn’t think so. And I think Scripture concurs in their judgment.

“I think…”? “I doubt…”? “I think…”? Honestly, Evan May—would you ever accept such a position from an atheist as “argumentation”?
My guess is that DagoodS hasn't read much of John Frame. Consequently, he's ignorant about his writing style. Frame is a humble fellow. And his writing style reflects this. He is constantly aware of his own fallibility, and that his arguments can be improved upon.

But I don't think this means that he views his arguments as any less valid. And even if he did, so what? So what if Frame is not confident? That doesn't mean what he has to say is false.

Read that paragraph again. Read Event 16. Explain (if you would be so kind) how that fits.
No, Event 16 does not directly support that paragraph. But that wasn't the purpose of Event 16. Event 16 merely supports the conclusion that sometimes it is biblically permissible to use forms of deception. Other examples, however, are closer to supporting the above paragraph.

But DagoodS is holding Frame's article to standards he wouldn't want forced upon his own writings. He ignores the author's intent in his own statements. The seventeen examples support a general principle from which Frame argues more specific conclusions.
I hope you can see why, after viewing that, I considered a response unnecessary and boring.
Your response would be boring only because the topic at hand is boring--or is, at least, getting boring. And the topic is what it is because your apostate pals have chosen to bring it up and not let it go.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Public Prayer & the Pepsi Generation

Historically, the Christian church has a tradition of public prayer. Here are some examples of what I mean—taken from the Book of Common Prayer:

(For the Human Family)
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(For Peace)
Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

(For Peace Among the Nations)
Almighty God our heavenly Father, guide the nations of the world into the way of justice and truth, and establish among them that peace which is the fruit of righteousness, that they may become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

(For our Enemies)
O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth: deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(For the Church)
Gracious Father, we pray for they holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior. Amen.

(For the Unity of the Church)
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions; take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord; that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(For Social Justice)
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the people of this land], that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Yes, I know. The 1979 edition of the BCP presents an easy target, what with its touchy-feely ecumenism, psychobabble, unisex circumlocutions, and Pepsi-generation pieties. It often reads like a UN resolution or soda pop commercial.

I'd like to build the world a home
And furnish it with love;
Grow apple trees and honey bees,
And snow white turtledoves.

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony;
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it company.

I'd like to see the world for once
All standing hand in hand;
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace throughout the land.

I'd like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony;
A song of peace that echoes on
And never goes away.

But I think it illustrates one of the potential dangers of public prayer. Indeed, I think that, unless we’re very alert to the danger, the practice of public prayer will naturally end up sounding like the various prayers and collects in the 1979 BCP.

What I mean is this. Unlike private prayer, which is inherently personal and particular, public prayer tends to be generic. It’s not talking to, for, by, or about any individual or individual situation.

And that is because public prayer presumes to speak on behalf of the many. It can’t be too specific, so it stays on a plane of general platitudes.

Put another way, public prayer is characterized by its unremitting anonymity. It is not by anyone in particular, to anyone in particular, for anyone in particular, or about anyone in particular.

And here’s where the danger comes in. Because public prayer is so vague and general, it falls into the inveterate habit of overgeneralizing.

And what’s the danger of that, you ask? The danger is that it prays for things that will never happen. For things which were never promised.

It’s a recipe for unanswered prayer. God will never answer these prayers because they are so sweeping and indiscriminate that they overstep the promises of Scripture.

Public prayer unconsciously conditions the worshipper to pray without any expectation that God will answer his prayers.

He prays the same formula prayers year after year, and nothing ever happens. Nothing ever changes.

Prayers like these never make a dent in world affairs. Public prayer is such a broad-toothed comb that it allows every knot and burl to slip through the cracks, for the prayer is all cracks and no teeth.

Year after year, the same worshipers pray the same prayers about world peace, social justice, and church unity.

And to what effect? Zero effect?

Prayers like this don’t make a dimes’ worth of difference. Flicking pebbles against a brick wall.

It’s spiritually corrosive to fall into the habit of praying prayers that never made a difference. Never affect the outcome.

For, at that point, there’s no difference between a prayerful life and a prayerless life. Whether you pray or refrain from prayer, it’s all the same.

This is made worse by the fact that I’m sure many Christians learn the art of private prayer from the art of public prayer.

The public prayers of the church supply the model for their private prayer life.

I suspect that this accounts for a certain amount of apostasy. There are men and women brought up in the church who learn to prayer for themselves and others by reciting the public prayers of the church.

And this, in turn, fosters a false expectation. They get used to praying for things that God will never give them, because such things were never promised in his word.

And, after a while, some nominal believers begin to notice that prayer is profoundly irrelevant to the practicalities of life. Life goes on just the same whether they pray every day, or skip a day, or drop the habit entirely.

Here we need to draw a basic distinction: Even if you pray a Biblical prayer, there is no guarantee that your prayer will be answered in any particular case.

But if you pray an unbiblical prayer, there is a guarantee that your prayer will go unanswered every single time. You will rack up an unbroken losing streak.

Some biblical prayers are answered, but unbiblical prayers are never answered.

Yet, someone will interject, don’t we have public prayers in the Bible? What about Dan 9? Ezr 9? Neh 9? And isn’t the entirety of the Psalter a public prayer book?

Indeed so, but notice the difference. The public prayers of scripture are individualized in a way that BCP petitions are not.

The public prayers of Scripture begin life as prayers by individuals about individuals or individual circumstances. They are very concrete. Very specific.

Biblical prayers move from the particular to the general, whereas BCP prayers move from the general to the particular.

That’s the difference, and what a difference it makes. BCP prayers are empty abstractions. Like a fairy godmother giving a four-year old three wishes.

Should the church continue the tradition of public prayer? Certainly!

But it needs to think about what it’s saying. Feel-good prayers about universal love and brotherhood are worse than useless.

The church needs to model its prayer life on the prayer life of Scripture.

How To Debunk John Loftus

It’s simple, really. Just let him keep talking.

John refuses to engage in rational debate. He wanted to push the lying issue, but the problem is that I've done nothing wrong and so one will be hard pressed to make a case against me. In fact, to the extent that one does, one will come out looking rather foolish.

Three things Paul. 1) When we skeptics write about you lying, we are offering what you call an internal critique of your behavior. It makes no difference if we are godless heathen without a moral compass. You claim to have one, so we've asked you to defend your claim. You cannot offer up a red herring that turns it back on us in this situation. That's a different argument, one we've tried to discuss reasonably with you before to no avail. Stay on topic, please.

A bunch of things:

1. I’ve made many points, forget what you call the red herring and deal with the others. Actually, this is your red herring.

2. I’m at a loss as to how this is in internal critique. Here’s some statements you’ve made, John:

S1: “For the record, I do not post anonymously or under a different name, I do not lie to make a point, and I do not knowingly or purposely misrepresent my opponent's views to ridicule them.”

S2: “ See, once he admits he does it, then it calls into question every anonymous post here at Triablogue. We simply no longer know whether it's Manata defending himself. And that's the whole reason I don't do it.”

And here’s some statements your fellow “skeptics” have said:

S3: “Lying for Jesus. Cute. Thinking Gods thoughts again. The unrepentant heart of a psuedo-Christian.”

S4: Why should anybody read the frantic scribblings of an admitted liar? "Apologetical" tactic = lying. Arguing for the faith by lying. Just like the Apostle Paul.


S5: “I suspect “Brother Blark” is you. (You can deny it, but hey—lying is in your creed, right? That is what stinks about the loss of credibility.)”

a) Where in S1-S5 is an “internal critique?”

b) Exactly what is the internal critique supposed to be? That I lied? But if you’ve paid attention to Steve’s posts, John Frame’s paper, and my posts then you’d know the case was made that “not all lies are wrong, even according to the Bible.”

c) Maybe your internal critique is that I “claim to be a Christian but I sinned. Well, (i) this begs the question against (b), and (ii) how is this even remotely and “internal critique” given the fact that, assuming you’re right, I sinned? This is what the Bible predicts. So, you’re claim actually assumes the truthfulness of my worldview and the falsity of yours. Hence you’re just confirming biblical data about man.

d) Take S3 and S4. Is this what you thought was an “internal critique,” John? If so, the problem is that S3 and S4 tell us that God and the apostle Paul are liars. Hence, if I’ve sinfully lied then it’s not an “internal critique“ to point out that I’m acting just like God and the apostle Paul!

e) Dagoods claims in S5 that “lying ruins your credibility.” Am I to understand that John Loftus believes that if Christians lie then they have no credibility but if atheists do then they retain theirs? I mean, exactly what here is supposed to be an “internal critique?” Do you even know what one is, John?

3. I did defend my claim, now it’s your turn to rebut it. See here:

You’re falling behind, John.

2)Although I did wrong as a Christian and had an illicit affair with my first wife, something you won't understand given the nature of that affair and the accusations when I cut it off, I am a changed man. I am completely and thoroughly faithful and monogamous to my wonderful wife. I love her with all I've got. You see, the past is the past. I deconverted, just as you converted, and all my past "sins" are as if they are no more. It would be as if I continually brought up your past when you went around beating up strangers with a baseball bat. I don't do that, unless you first bring up my past, and you do that all of the time (I did it just now in response to your claim that I am a liar. I am not a liar. I lied, yes. We all do. But that was pre-deconversion days, friend, and you know that with such a (de)conversion we all change! ;-)

This is interesting on many levels:

4. If the past is the past then why did you claim that :

C1: “I dare say, you'll never be able to escape your past.”

C2: “Just like those who have been molested usually become molesters, so also, those raised in an environment like yours with the hate you express will usually beat their wives. These are facts, based upon science and probability.”

So let me get this straight, you can escape your past and your influences, but child molesters and people who had violent upbringings can’t?

5. Before you had an affair you were “completely and thoroughly faithful and monogamous to my wonderful wife.” And you “love[d] her with all [you] got. I can play the same game, John. So, why should anyone believe you, you’ve been a proven liar (and let’s note that my parody is in a different league than lying to your spouse). You started this game, finish it.

6. It would be “as if I continually brought up your past when you went around beating up strangers with a baseball bat. I don't do that…” Here’s some more quotes, John.

Q1: “You were an evil person, Paul, there's no other way to describe it. And it seems as though you still are glorying in those days…”

Q2: “You're still beating up on people aren't you? You're beating up on someone again, and liking the power you get from it. Aren't you so cool?”

Q3: “But now a former bully is bullying still, this time with Biblical precedent (Ps. 139.21). This could get scary for me.”

Q4: “I don't think people who randomly beat others with a baseball bat, with the goal to beat someone from every state in the nation, change behaviors permanently that quickly.”

And so it appears that you in fact do “continually bring up my violent past.”

7. You don’t “bring up my past” […] “unless you first bring up my past, and you do that all of the time.”

The problem here is that this is the first time I’ve brought up your past. Indeed, I just heard about it from Steve’s review of your book (which you still haven’t responded to, btw). So, I never took shots at your family. I took shots at your intellect, yes, I did. Given how you portray yourself, this is fully warranted. If you admitted you didn’t know much about Christianity, and that you were a sincere and honest thinker, it would have been different. However, your “intellectual achievements” are a cornerstone of your atheological tactics. Then, when you claim that God made the earth in 7 days, you rightly should be called on the carpet. I mean, that’s in the first chapter of Genesis man. So, a guy who brags about his intellect, and how much he knows about Christianity, makes huge errors on basic issues which every Sunday school kid knows, rightly deserves to have that thrown out there for all to see and, rightly in my opinion, laugh at.

8. You claim, “I am not a liar.” But, above (7) I just showed another lie. You claim to not “bring up peoples past unless they bring up yours” but in fact we saw that just the opposite is the case. Furthermore, when Frank Walton posted your picture you said, “Frank, are you sure that's me?” This obviously is misleading. So, John, this is the game you chose to play. I want rational debate, you want to name call and push this lying issue. Fine. You lost.

3) One last thing. While I do think you are a present embarrassment to Triablogue and should be given the boot, what I think doesn't matter one bit, now does it? I know I wouldn't have someone with your ethics and attitude on my blog for one minute. But hey, I'm just an "unprincipled moral heathen," right?

All I ever want from you (or anyone who disagrees with me) is a respectful discussion of the ideas. That's all. But you have never given that to me.

9. As I said before, if I were you I’d want Steve and I gone as well. Heck, all of the T-bloggers have fed you’re your lunch, you probably want T-blog to shut down.

10. What “ethics and attitude?” How about if I was a member of your blog and I said this about someone:

John Loftus: “Mark my words, Paul, you will beat your wife when she disagrees with you in the future. If I were her I would be scared to marry you.”

John Loftus: “Berate me all you want to. [Paul’s] wife may thank me, which is more than she can say about you.”

John Lofus: “As far as I'm concerned you have already hit your wife or threatened her, and yet you have the gall to berate me for warning you about this possibility.”

John Loftus: “"She (my wife) must be the silent type, the agreeable type, the humble/submissive type, and the doting wife."

What if someone had the above attitude? So, you can see that your claim about the ethics and attitude of bloggers if pretty laughable. John, you’re loosing on every front. You wanted to play this game and not the reason giving game.

10. You claim that, “All I ever want from you (or anyone who disagrees with me) is a respectful discussion of the ideas. That's all. But you have never given that to me.” Oh cry me a river. You’re like the Rodney King of atheist/theists debates. I’ve never stooped to your level. I’ve always critiqued you intellectually and mocked you intellectually. That’s fair game, not other people’s wife. Get real John. I think you seriously live in a delusion. You constantly scream at people in all caps, you pick on their wives, you call them idiots, and yet you claim you want a love fest.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Having lost the intellectual war the atheists who frequent T-blog’s comboxes have decided to play their last hand - victory by propaganda and character assassination. Fine by me. I’ve always said they were bluffing about their intellectual hand. Most atheists, especially of the teenage and internet hero sort, are about saving the group first, rational arguments second. That’s why you hardly see them critiquing other atheists for the same things they critique Christians for. Fine by me. Strengthens my faith all the more. I’ve always said that to deny Christ is to deny rationality. Since they would rather waste time on calling me names and complaining about my parody blog, The Discomfiter, rather than on actually interacting with any of the arguments we offer here, I’ll meet them where they’re at. Unfortunately, their latest round of attacks only serves to disrepute them even more. The Christian can win in the arena of rational debate, as well as the arena of sophistic rhetoric. Rather than ignore them and just watch them die like a dog on the side of the road I thought I’d have compassion and shoot them; you know, put them out of their misery. Any response I receive hereafter will be the twitching that happens after death.

1. I am fully convinced in my conscience that I did nothing wrong. None of my elders I’ve spoken to think so either. There’s been not one Christian who I’ve talked to that thinks my parody was sinful. At the end of the day, though, God judges me, not man. I don’t give a hoot if the atheists think what I did was wrong. Their claims do not bother me. What matters is my standing before God. And, I only stand before Him trusting in Christ. His life covers my sins.

2. I did not give my name when I did the Discomfiter. I didn’t want to take away from the point of that blog. The point, which people are missing, was to finally give John Loftus’ arguments the credit they deserved: Laughter.

3. Again, as I pointed out before, Momma Nature makes deceivers. Given evolutionary assumptions, one should have no problem with my deception.

4. My argument, nor Steve Hays’ post, nor the link to John Frame’s article, has not been addressed or refuted. The claim is that it’s not always wrong to lie or deceive. See these posts:

5. John Loftus and his fellow debunkers, as well as the teenage atheists in our combox, are trying to point out that I’m “bad.” But, John Loftus points out that,

"People don't misbehave because they are evil, they may just be sick. Punishment isn't what people need, so much as healing and understanding." (source)

But then why is Loftus heaping scorn and ridicule on me rather than “healing me and understanding me?” John Loftus’ ethical view here is ridiculous, but that’s not the point. The point is that he can’t even live consistent with his own ethical theories!

6. In this com box:

Blarky Malarky writes,


I think this all goes back to the fact that you shouldn't have done that little parody, because it put you in a difficult situation and you had to dance around the truth to make it work. You made a point with it, but it could have been made in some other way. Now these hypocrite liar atheists will play this harp string for the rest of your life. Though Loftus lied to his wife, kids, church, etc., committed adultery and all the deceit that goes with it, he is going to stick this in your face every now and then. You made your own bed, bro!

a) No, I should have done it. The point was to get people to laugh, which is what Loftus’ arguments deserve - a hearty guffaw.

b) I don’t care if these atheists play this harp string, it’s all they got.

c) Loftus would throw my belief in 6 day creationism in my face as well and call me a backwards and superstitious person. Loftus (nor you) won't dictate what I will or won’t say.

d) I have no problem laying in this bed, I’m fully convinced I did no wrong.

7. In the same thread, Blark’s _ Grandpa said:

Paul Manata's Deception List 1.0

1. Posts under false names and/or pretenses on blogs and message boards.

2. Claims to be 'bloggers' he is not.

3. Dances around and plays word games to avoid repentance.

4. Claims to be leaving the blogosphere to focus on his family, but then returns to continue his deceptions.

5. Gets defeated soundly by Barker and Sansone, but claims victory.

and so on, and so on.

Sonny...its time to confess your sins, beg forgiveness, and let go of your pride.

a) “Dagoods” posts under a false name. In fact, so do most atheists on message boards.

b) False pretenses? What, parody? I admit one time I posted as “ex-monkey” on “ex-Christian dot net” and pretended to be an atheist, same reason. So what? Are you this much of a baby?

c) I provided exegesis for my claims. Without interacting and dealing with my arguments it appears that you’re the one dancing around and playing word games. If all one needs to do to refute the work done by another is to assert they they’re “dancing around” then let’s just get rid of rational debate. That’s where you’re tactic is leading you.

d) My situation changed somewhat, that’s not lying.

e) LOL. At best I’d be mistaken, but that’s not lying, now is it?

8. Regarding “Brother Blark.” I’m not him but “Dagoods” thought he could provide an inductive argument that it was me (see the above link). He writes,

Now where have I heard that name before? “Blark…Blark…Blark” *snaps fingers* I remember a “Blark” that once posted on IIDB who was an ardent TAG supporter and a pre-supposionalist. Recently, James Lazarus recently indicated that it was you—Paul Manata—that posted under the moniker of “Blark.” (The account has since been deleted, but a search for “Blark” brings up numerous hits.)

Actually, I stole “Blark” from George Smith’s (author of Atheism: The Case Against God) radio interview with Greg Bahnsen. Smith claims that ‘God’ is a meaningless term and you might as well say that “Blark exists.” So, given the fact that George Smith used the term, and he’s a well known atheist who might like to make fun of theists, maybe George Smith is “Brother Blark?” ;-)

9. Both John Loftus, Dagoods, and some other teenage atheists have made the comment that they “can now no longer believe anything I say.” Dagoods also said the same about God, he writes, “Simply put, if the humans created a God that can lie, we cannot know when such a God is telling the truth.”

The embarrassing problem that arises from their claims is radical skepticism. If you can no longer believe anything I say, then if I say that 2+2=4, you can’t believe it! If I say that modus ponens is a valid form of inference, you can’t believe it.

Also, agnosticism is now the default position.

Now, they might say, “well, now that you’ve lied we have no reason to believe that you believe what you say you believe. But I never said I believed I wasn’t the discomfiter. I never said I believed I was Brother Blark (even though I wasn’t). So, I never lied about this.

If you want to make the stronger claim, that you can never believe that I’m telling the truth, then global skepticism results.

10. This is all personal. The atheists are simply hoping that since they can’t win the intellectual war they can obstruct and ostracize me. Because if this wasn’t personal, and they really believed what they say they do, then they would have no reason to believe John Loftus. Even John Loftus shouldn’t believe himself! Why? Loftus has admitted to lying to his wife, his church, and himself. So, considering that Loftus has admitted this, then we can never trust John Loftus. We have no reason to believe his arguments. The DC crew and the teenage atheists should, if this is not personal, heap the same accusations and ridicule on Loftus as they are on me. Not only that, Loftus should ridicule himself.

11. Apropos 10, they won’t though, and this is because they’ve lost the intellectual war. This is all they have left. But, when and argument ends in global skepticism and making you heap scorn upon yourself - when you don’t think you should - you know you’re bluffing. You don’t even have the ace you pretended to have. We can see through it now. Now, you’ve lost the intellectual war as well as the propaganda war.

What might have been-2

Further answers to further questions from my correspondent:

1.As a general matter, we need to guard against the danger of imposing a false ideal on Gen 1-2. Something we import into the text from an extrabiblical preconception.

We need to resist the unconscious temptation of taking a static, antiseptic, Olympian view of view of paradise, such as we find in Greek mythology, popularized by Hollywood, where the Immortals dwell in marble palaces without kitchens or bathrooms, feasting on gold plates of ambrosia and crystal goblets of elixir while they listen to a bard intone the odes of Hesiod to harp music.

In such a world, nothing ever changes. Static, stainless perfection.

Frankly, I think that even an Edenic existence is a bit more down to earth.

At the risk of being indelicate, even the garden of Eden had its share of dunghills.

I assume that unfallen Adam could stub his toe, scratch himself on a branch, or get something in his eye—like a stray insect.

2.As for Frisco, are we to suppose that, in an unfallen world, the geography is frozen in time? Beaches never erode?

Wouldn’t the same panoramic view, however beautiful, get a bit boring after the first 10,000 years? Can’t we have a change of scenery from time to time?

Should unfallen men and women really expect to live in the very same area for hundreds or thousands of years without any gradual change in the topography?

And if gradual, why not sudden? As long as they know it’s coming.

What we call natural disasters are often wedded to basic natural processes.

Volcanoes don’t just happen. To eliminate volcanoes, you’d need to make a lot of other changes to the subterranean structure of the earth.

Same thing with earthquakes.

Likewise, volcanoes can be constructive forces as well as deconstructive forces. Without volcanic activity, we wouldn’t have the Hawaiian Islands.

How would you eliminate wildfires? A world without lightning?

What about rain? Is rain a bad thing? Should we have a world in which a river never overflows its banks?

But the ancient Egyptian economy depended on the annual flooding of the Nile to replenish the soil.

3. The garden of Eden was just that—a garden. Ordinarily, soil requires decaying fauna or flora to be fertile. Otherwise, it’s barren.

Certain forms of death are essential to certain forms of life.

4.I don’t see that a cyclone presupposes a dying or decaying world. It’s simply a natural mechanism for restoring a natural invariance in the temperature of the air or water. That’s not a case of reviving a dying world. To the contrary, that’s a functioning world. A world with natural cycles.

5.When I talk about technology, I’m not limiting myself to building codes. Advanced technology might be able to control or deflect natural disasters to some degree.

6.I prefer the interpretation of Gen 1:29, 3:14-19, & 9:1-7 by John Walton (in his commentary on Genesis) and Meredith Kline ( [pp54-57; 254-256]) to the interpretation of Morris and Whitcomb or Kurt Wise.

I think Wise is still worth reading. But not for exegesis.

Regarding 1:29 & 9:1-7, Kline has this to say:


A question that calls for consideration in this connection is whether the idea of man, before the Fall, sacrificing animal life for his own higher interests is compatible with the Bible’s representations concerning the original state of blessedness. Since all creatures were subordinated to man’s dominion and, as we have seen, sacrifice and death enter the original order as particular expressions of the consecration principle, there would appear to be no obvious principial objection to man’s having had the right to kill animals to provide himself with animal flesh for food or animal skins for clothing or for other purposes. Moreover, it is generally conceded, even by some who resist the idea of man’s being authorized from the beginning to take animal life, that study of natural history shows that all manner of animals had lived and perished even before man appeared on earth. Indeed, Psalm 104:21 seems to indicate clearly that the Creator had from the outset granted to predatory beasts to feed on other animals. And if that is so, it would have been anomalous if animal flesh had not similarly been consecrated to the higher interests of man, who was set in authority over all the works of God’s hands. This conclusion is supported by the apostle Paul’s comments in 1 Timothy 4:3-5, which reflect the terminology of Genesis 1:31, itself immediately connected to God’s statement concerning his provision of food for his creatures (vv. 29,30). Paul asserts that the foods some were proscribing (and probably meat is chiefly in view) were good and had in fact been created by God to be received with thanksgiving (cf. 2 Pet 2:12).

The counterarguments often drawn from statements concerning man’s diet in Genesis 1:29 and 9:3 are not cogent. In Genesis 1:29 the explicit assignment of the plant world to man for food is not restrictive, as though that were the only kind of food permitted to him. The theme of this passage is man’s kingship over the animal and vegetable realms. Since animals were designed to serve man in a great variety of ways – not only as food but as helpers in agriculture, as means of transportation, as beasts of burden, etc. – the general fact of man’s dominion over them is all that is stated. When it comes to the vegetable kingdom, however, its usefulness as food for man, whether by direct consumption or indirectly through the fattening of animals, is clearly the distinctive contribution it makes to man and hence man’s dominion over vegetation is described in those specific terms. Moreover, there is a special literary purpose in the reference to the permission for the use of plants for food in Genesis 1:29, namely to prepare for the exceptional stipulation in Genesis 2:16,17 prohibiting the use of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. These considerations show how unwarranted is the assumption that the silence of this passage concerning man’s use of animal flesh as food must be intended as a prohibition of such.

We will deal only briefly here with Genesis 9:3. For a more detailed treatment see the discussion below of the postdiluvian common grace covenant. If Genesis 9:3 were interpreted as simply permitting the eating of meat as well as vegetables, it would, in any case, not be the first such authorization even in the postlapsarian period, judging from Genesis 4:4 (cf. 3:21). However, what Genesis 9:3 actually authorized was the eating of all kinds of meats, thus removing the prohibition against the eating of unclean animals that had been instituted for Noah’s family within the special symbolic situation in the ark-kingdom. Instead of posing a problem for our thesis, Genesis 9:3 is another argument for it. For by its allusion to an earlier special situation where the eating of meat had been temporarily restricted to the flesh of clean animals, this passage discloses the fact that the eating of meat had been permitted all along and was not a privilege first granted after the Deluge.

Against our thesis, appeal has also been made to the idyllic prophetic descriptions of an eschaton in which carnivores are turned herbivorous; but this objection too is not compelling. For one thing, it must be remembered that the future world is not a simple return to conditions at the beginning. It is necessary to see if a given feature of the prophesied future may be a new feature introduced in the act of consummating the kingdom order. Moreover, such prophecies can hardly be pressed in the literal sense since we find that in other prophetic portrayals of the world to come, at least at the literal level, the redeemed are depicted as feasting, with no suggestion of vegetarian scruples. More significantly, something of the nature of the eschatological condition is evidenced in the resurrection manifestations of Christ; and in particular the episode of the risen Lord’s eating of the fish suggests that the sacrifice of such a living creature to the use of higher beings ought not to be considered as an imperfection in the order of things.

How then can we say that man’s original state was one of unmixed blessing if the likes of death were present in his world? The validity of that assertion resides in the fact that blessing for man does not consist in the absence of things like death, but rather in man’s dominion over them, or putting it the other way, in their subordination to man and in their serving man’s interests. Similarly, the curse on man consists in the reverse of this relationship; not in the mere presence of things like death but in man’s falling victim to them. Blessing and its opposite, curse, as they relate to man are simply the consecration principle working in two different directions. When the subhuman realm is consecrated to man, a state of beatitude exists; when man is made subservient to or victim of the subhuman, a state of curse exists.

Thus, the presence of subhuman death in the natural order at the beginning was not a glaring exception to the blessedness of man’s first estate, because death was then working for the maintenance and renewal of man’s life. Man standing in his righteousness as king upon the earth, sustaining his life through the death of plants and animals, their life in turn nourished by the sacrifice of the soil – that is the state of beatitude. Man, the sinner, felled and laid low in the earth, dust unto dust, reduced to a part of the soil to nourish vegetation growing above him – that is the state of cursedness. It is only when death thus victimizes man himself as the wages of his sin that it assumes the character of the great last enemy to be destroyed by Christ. In Romans 8:19ff. (reflecting Isa 24:4ff.) the personified earth mournfully groans over the postlapsarian role it must play as Sheol. It especially laments that it must serve as the cover, concealing the blood of the martyr-saints.

The Bible does not require us, therefore, to think of the character and working of man’s natural environment before the Fall as radically different than is presently the case. To be sure, the garden God prepared as man’s immediate dwelling was a place eminently expressive of divine goodness and favor. Nevertheless, the elements that could be turned against man were already there in nature. Man’s state of blessedness is thus seen to be primarily a matter of God’s providential authority over creation, controlling and directing every circumstance so that everything works together for man’s good and nothing transpires for his hurt or the frustration of his efforts. God gives his angels charge over the one who stands in his favor lest he should dash his foot against a stone (Ps 91:12). Blessing consists not in the absence of the potentially harmful stone, but in the presence of God’s providential care over the foot. Adam’s world before the Fall was not a world without stones, thorns, dark watery depths, or death. But it was a world where the angels of God were given a charge over man to protect his every step and to prosper all the labor of his hand.

It appears then that the secret of human beatitude is in the spiritual dimension of man’s relationship to his covenant Lord. To stand in God’s favor is the beginning of blessing and that is why the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

In Genesis 9:3 permission is given to eat all kinds of meat: “All the moving things that live shall be food for you; as in the case of the plants I give you all (the living creatures).” Verse 3b might be translated: “even as the green plants I gave you everything.” This would then be a reference to an original appointment in Eden. As argued above, the eating of animal flesh was indeed permitted from the beginning. That, however, does not seem to be the point being made in Genesis 9:3b. It rather takes account of a limitation that had subsequently been imposed on the permissible varieties of animal flesh but was now being eliminated again in the postdiluvian common grace order. Such a limitation had occurred in the theocratic organization of the covenant community in the ark during the Flood. We come upon a distinction there between clean and unclean animals in the Lord’s instructions to Noah about the ark. When this clean/unclean distinction appears as a feature of the Israelite theocracy, it serves to call attention symbolically to the distinction between the Israelites, whose sanctification was externalized in their outward separation to God in his sanctuary-kingdom, and the nations outside that holy theocratic realm. A similar separation of God’s covenant people was effected in the ark-theocracy and it was similarly signalized at that time too in the symbolism of the distinction between clean and unclean animals. Moreover, since, when we find this distinction in the Israelite theocracy, it is applied to the dietary area, it should also be understood as having dietary relevance in the Noahic theocracy. This will then help to explain the purpose of the additional clean animals brought into the ark beyond the basic pair for the postdiluvian replenishing of the earth (Gen 7:2,3; 8:17). We know that they were intended in part to provide for the burnt-offerings sacrificed by Noah at the conclusion of the deliverance (Gen 9:20). But they were also to serve as food. As is thus clearly assumed, the eating of animal flesh had been proper all along, but the holy community in the ark-kingdom was restricted in its selection of meat to clean animals. When, however, the flood had passed and the temporary theocratic ark organization was disbanded, the rationale for the clean/unclean animal symbolism disappeared and therewith the dietary regulations based upon it. This was recognized and registered in the postdiluvian covenant when things were being returned to the common grace order that obtained prior to the temporary period of the theocracy in the ark. God said (paraphrasing Gen 9:3): “I give you permission to eat all kinds of meat again, without clean/unclean distinctions, just as it has always been permissible to eat all kinds of green plants without distinction.”

We find precisely this same change in dietary regulations being made at that later juncture in redemptive history which found God’s people once more in transition from a theocratic to a common culture, that is, when the Israelite theocracy was being terminated at the founding of the church of the new covenant. Acts 10 narrates that Peter was informed through a vision that the regulatory distinction between clean and unclean meats was abrogated and that he proceeded to apply this heavenly disclosure to the broader cultural distinction according to which theocratic citizens were distinguished from the people of other nations as clean from unclean (Acts 10:28). The theocracy was about to pass away and the people of God, as to their cultural life, were to become part of the common generality of mankind. The opening of the way to table fellowship with the Gentiles was an index of the common character of the society to which the saints would henceforth belong in this world, joining with unbelievers in common political, economic, and other cultural endeavors and institutions of all sorts.

Such a fundamental shift in the divine structuring of the cultural order as is evidenced in Acts 10 must clearly have an extensive bearing on the Christian’s assessment of his obligation to cultural regulations in the Mosaic legislation. This is obviously so with respect to Mosaic prescriptions in which the clean/unclean distinction figured and especially those in which the classification of nontheocratic culture and persons as unclean was a factor. By dealing with the illustrative instance of unclean meats and the related issue of table fellowship, Acts 10 establishes a broad hermeneutical principle that must be constantly reckoned with in the study of Christian ethics.


Walton adds:


The only action of which God is the subject is granting animals for food (v3). Consequently, the fear and dread can be viewed as the natural response to being hunted prey.[1]

”It should be noticed that the word for domesticable or docile cattle (behema) is not included in this list. That suggests that they are not necessarily characterized by this fear” (341, n.1).

Literarily the statement about “fear and dread” replaces the “subdue and “rule” clause in 1:28. What brings about this alternation? In our study of Gen 1, I suggested that the end result of ruling was domestication and control (see p132).

Note also that the category given for food is remes. The noun (remes) and the associated verb (rms) each occur seventeen times in the Old Testament, ten times each in Gen 1-9. This word group is distinct from both the wild (predatory) beasts and domesticated flocks and herds. Neither verb nor noun is ever used to refer to larger wild animals or to domesticated animals.

An alternative is suggested by the Akkadian cognate nammasu/nammastu which typically refers to wild animals that travel in herds; they are distinct from wild animals that hunt or scavenge, from the domesticated cattle, and from the docile beasts that do not tend to be found in herds…These animals were typically characterized as being the prey of hunters and predatory beasts. The most common members of this group were wild cattle, antelope, fallow deer, gazelle, and ibex. Some of these could be managed, though not domesticated.

There is a difference between being a meat-eater (people who use flocks or cattle for food at least on some occasions) and being a predator (hunting for food). Since this verse [9:3] only grants the remes group for food, it is logical to assume that it gives people permission to be predatory hunters of food. It is unclear whether butchering cattle for food is already assumed or has not yet been permitted[8].

“Abel’s offering is intriguing on this count. Since the fat parts were offered, it is clear that the animal was butchered, but the text stop short of indicating what was done with the meat. In later times, when the fat was offered, the meat was eaten at a ceremonial meal by the offerers and the officiants (342, n.8).

Note the interesting fact that when Genesis 1:29-30 granted permission for food, its terminology describes that which grew wild rather than referring to crops that were planted—though the terminology is general enough not to exclude what is sown. I tentatively propose, then that domesticated plants and animals were always considered legitimate sources of food, while permission was granted for gathering food growing wild (1:30) and hunting animals for food (9:3). Meat was not a common portion of ancient meals. Animals were kept primarily for their milk, hair, and wool, not for their meat.

J. Walton, Genesis (Zondervan 2001), 341-42.


Regarding the details of the curse, Walton also has this to say:


Serpents are often the object of curses in the ancient world, and the curse in v14 follows somewhat predictable patterns…Some [Egyptian] spells enjoin the serpent to crawl on its belly (keep its face on the path). This is in contrast to raising its head up to strike. The serpent on its belly is nonthreatening while the one reared up is protecting or attacking. Treading on a serpent is used in these texts as a means of overcoming or defeating it.

Likewise, we should not think of the curse of eating dust as a description of the diet of snakes. The depiction of dust or dirt for food is typical of descriptions of the netherworld in ancient literature…Dust fills the mouth of the corpse, but dust will also fill the mouth of the serpent as it crawls along the ground. Given this background information, the curse on the serpent can be understood as wishing upon it a status associated with docility (crawling on belly) and death (eating dust).

The nouns translated “pain” in the first line is issabon, a word used only two other times in the Old Testament (Gen 3:17; 5:29). Nouns from the same root refer to pain, agony, hardship, worry, nuisance, and anxiety. The verbal root occurs in a wide range of stems with a semantic range that primarily expresses grief and worry. What is important to note about this profile is that the root is not typically used to target physical pain, but mental or psychological anguish (though physical pain may accompany or be the root cause of the anguish).

This is actually helpful because interpreters have generally had trouble working out how conception is painful. Despite the NIV’s “childbearing,” the Hebrew word is specifically concerned with conception.

The text does not suggest that God created thorns and thistles any more than he created labor pains to add to human torment. The ground outside the garden always produced thorns and thistles, but now Adam will have to cope with them.

Ibid. 224-25,27,38.


The interpretations offered by Kline and Walton are complementary. Kline’s in more literary, in the sense that it draws attention to intertextual parallels in which an earlier text foreshadows a later development in the historical unfolding of events as well as the narrative strategy of the author—while Walton’s is more linguistic, as well as attuned to the ANE connotations of these actions, such as his reference to ophic imprecations in Egyptian culture.

In that regard, let’s remember that Moses studied in the Egyptian court. What’s more, even if he made use of preexisting historical sources in the composition of Genesis, Poythress points out in his new book that “the contents of almost the whole of the book of Genesis could have been recorded by Joseph the son of Jacob. As a ruler in Egypt and as a recipient of divine revelation, he had the resources to be able to produce such a work. Earlier records like his could have been used by Moses” (89).

I’d add that the Joseph cycle has always been impressive to Egyptologists like Kenneth Kitchen due to its historical accuracy.

On these verses, the interpretations of Walton and Kline enjoy a degree of textual, intertextual, and subtextual sensitivity and specificity I find quite lacking in the standard YEC literature.

This is not a blank check for everything they say. I’m quite eclectic in my use of commentaries. I’m not tied to their overall school of thought. It’s a question of who has the best interpretation of any particular passage.

The curse was not on the Garden. The curse took the form of an accursed existence outside the Garden.

God provided a garden for Adam and Eve. They don’t have to go through the grunt work of clear-cutting a forest and all the rest. They only had to maintain it.

And the animals in the Garden were domestic animals: livestock. They didn’t have to tame and domesticate wild animals.

All that changed when they were banished from Eden.

Eventually, unfallen man would expand the boundaries of Eden. Cultivate the wilderness. Tame the wild animals. But he could do so a little at a time. And he could do so with the natural stamina of perennial youth.

There’s an indirect sense in which the fall is responsible for a good deal of biodegradation in terms of industrial pollution and the like.

7.The Bible attributes human mortality to the fall. It is silent on animal death. And I think it implies the possibility or even necessity of antelapsarian, subhuman morality.

In fact, as I read him, that is, once again, the position of Poythress:

“What do we say about animal death? The later scriptural statements are talking about human death. God created man to have fellowship with him and to enjoy life in the presence of God forever, as the tree of life reminds us (Gen 2:9; 3:22)…The animals and plants, however, did not enjoy the same exalted status as man…God created man in his image, in distinction from the animals. The animals clearly belong to a lower category” (121).

Poythress also discusses Ps 104 in the same connection (121-22).

Animals could die from aging, disease, or predation.

This is irrelevant to the age of the earth.

9.As to house pets, that’s pure conjecture, and it parallels a child’s question of whether Fido goes to heaven when he dies.

Speaking for myself, it’s quite possible that God will restore a beloved dog to his owner. But it it’s also quite possible that the bliss of the world to come will so overshadow our little joys below that we won’t miss these things. And the same answer applies to a fallen world.

10.As to golden age prophecies, my point is not that the imagery is literal, but that the imagery has a literal referent in the future restoration of the earth. The imagery itself makes use of picturesque metaphors. As one commentator put it with reference to Isa 11:6-9:


The imagery changes again with vv6-8, though v9 then offers its explanation. Context suggests that the talk of harmony in the animal world is a metaphor for harmony in the human world. The strong and powerful live together with the weak and powerless because the latter can believe that the former are no longer seeking to devour them. The end to which vv6-9 lead thus belongs to the same world if thought as vv1-5 and fits with other themes from earlier chapters (e.g., 2:2-4). Indeed, the book opened by using animals to stand for human beings (1:3)—also in connection with the question of knowledge, as here.

J. Goldingay, Isaiah (Hendrickson 2001), 85 (cf. 368f.).