Saturday, April 14, 2007

Touchstone's Pickle

Touchstone has been arguing lately that the laws of logic are possibly not necessary, that TAG is a bad argument, that he objects to arguments that use words like "necessary" etc., etc., etc.

Well, since I've been cursed with a crazy memory, I remember something Touchstone said once on Debunking Christianity which, when coupled with the above, make for some interesting predicaments.

Touchstone had said in a thread last year on Debunking Christianity when asked how he knew something,

"Espistemically, we *don't* know that God got it right this time. I'm not one to point to a deductive production that establishes that."

And therefore according to Touchstone to epistemically know (whatever that means, is there non-epistemic knowledge that is distinct from opinion? If not, then "epistemic knowledge" seems a bit redundant. Anyway...) that P one must be able to "point to a deductive production that establishes that" P.

Despite the problems with this infallibilist constraint on knowledge, Touchstone pretty much ruins anything he says here. Does he know that TAG is a bad argument? No. In fact, given his antipathy towards "words like necessity" why would he even say what he says above! Apparently since he has such a big problem with "necessity," and cringes when us Triabloggers use the word, then he should never try to know anything. Unless, perhaps he will be consistent and say that "point[ing] to a deductive production that establishes that" P doesn't necessitate the conclusion. That is, there could still be a possibility that P is false. If so, then why can't he say that "God got it right this time?" That doesn't require certainty. That doesn't require necessity. And so we must interpret Touchstone as saying that he can't know that P because he can't establish P in a necessary and infallible way. Not only is he tacitly assuming that laws of logic are necessarily true, he's also acted like a hypocrite here. Indeed, since he has such an aversion towards "necessity," especially "logical necessity," then I guess Touchstone doesn't "know" anything! Therefore, all Touchstone has been doing here is offering his opinion on matters. Why someone debates so vigorously and in such a long winded way about matters of opinion is beyond me. But perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps Touchstone is the sort of fellow that stands out in front of Baskin And Robbins ice cream shop debating people about whether chocolate tastes better than vanilla.

This is what happens to people with bad philosophy. People who don't bother to think through their system. People who say things without thinking them through. Touchstone said he doesn't like philosophy. Perhaps if he didn't hate it so much he'd avoid silly mistakes like the one above. Now, if he wants to deny his internalist and infallibilist constraint on knowledge, fine. Then he's wrong in what he said on Debunking Christianity. He's not a careful and cautious thinker. More like a gun man who fires wildly with his M-60, hoping to hit anything. A sniper takes his time, systemizes his thoughts. But Touchstone hates sniping. Takes too much intellectual time and effort. Better to blaze away. Touchstone is the Kamikaze of apologists, not the Bob Lee Swagger. In order to "save" his faith, he must make knowledge unatainable. In order to save himself, he kills himself. He knows he's going down, so he takes others with him.



“And still the premise is not true, since the scriptures were read every day in church all that time.”

Two problems:

i) As usual, Orthodox offers no evidence to substantiate his claim.

ii) I have cited specific counterevidence from both The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity and the Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church to prove that the Orthodox laity did not hear the Scriptures read in the vernacular throughout Orthodox church history.

“Oh I forgot, they all would have been protestants if only the LXX was more accurate.”

Orthodox must now resort to bald-faced lies. Both Jason and I have explained that this is not our claim.

“Which means the entire canon is now up for grabs again.”

i) I’ve been over this ground with Orthodox several times now. He’s merely repeating himself instead of addressing the counterargument.

ii) Orthodox cannot tell us what is the official canon of his own communion. The Greek Orthodox has one, while the Russian Orthodox has another. So, according to his own adopted tradition, it’s still up for grabs.

“And yet you have no hope - no hope whatsoever, of proving that your particular 66 books is the correct set other than by pointing in some way to a consensus.”

I don’t invoke consensus to establish the canon. I’ve given my arguments. Try again.

“So everybody is doomed to a tiny step above "sheer ignorance" unless you are highly literate and educated, you have a private copy in Greek and Hebrew, and you understand the original languages.”

i) Orthodox is such a child. Let’s walk him through the argument one more time.

He is the one who appeals to what pre-Reformation Christians believed about the Bible.

Okay, this appeal raises an obvious follow-up question: if you’re laying claim to what pre-Reformation Christians believed about the Bible, then what percentage of pre-Reformation Christians either read the Bible or heard the Bible in the vernacular?

This is a question that follows from *his* argument, not *mine*. He is the one who’s appealing to what Christians always believed about Scripture before the Reformation came along.

So, on the basis of *his own argument*, it’s only natural to ask what access pre-Reformation Christians had to the Bible.

He then does a lot of whining about the consequences when I cited evidence from standard reference works on Eastern Orthodoxy and/or Eastern Christianity that such access was spotty.

But these are consequences which flow from *his own argument*. If the consequences are unacceptable, then they invalidate his position, not mine.

ii) And, yes, there are degrees of Biblical literacy. In varies from person to person. It varies in time and place. That’s just a fact of life.

From a Reformed perspective, all that’s necessary is that the remnant in each generation come to a saving knowledge of the faith. One doesn’t need to be a Bible scholar or theologian to be saved.

“The issue is that the Orthodox Church is the one the apostles set up, and we do not change.”

Another one of his thumb-sucking assertions.

“What sort of a rule is worth anything unless it is agreed on?”

He continues to peddle his manmade, aprioristic definition of what constitutes the rule of faith.

“How well would the bible work as a rule of faith in your church if one man considered the book of Mormon as canonical, and the next man included the Koran?”

Is he trying to be obtuse, or does this come naturally?

i) If the Bible is the rule of faith, then, by definition, the Koran or the book of Mormon is not the rule of faith.

ii) A denomination (including his own) is a voluntary association of like-minded believers. If a member bucks the system, he can be excommunicated.

“Right, and I want to be on the side of the body of Christ in the Church he set up.”

Orthodox has never been able to explain how he is in any position to know that the Orthodox Church is the body of Christ.

“The issue is that protestantism as a religion, cannot ever agree on anything.”

Hyperbole. And self-refuting hyperbole at that. If we don’t agree on anything, then there’s no such thing as Protestantism, in which case Orthodox is unable to identify the target of his attack.

“You’ve got no hope of ever knowing for sure how to resolve these problems.”

Two problems:

i) I’ve already discussed the relation of probability to providence. He ignores the argument.

ii) Orthodox has never shown how he can “ever know for sure” what he believes is true.

“Certainly, and those people tend to end up outside the Church.”

Yes…people like Orthodox, who substitute their idolatry for the NT church.

“The issue is not whether the bible is designed to make everyone agree.”

So Orthodox is now recanting his former thesis. The validity of Scripture as the rule of faith is not dependent on common consent. Thanks for retracting your central objection to sola scriptura.

“The issue is that God's will is that HIS CHURCH should agree.”

If that is God’s will, then why the disagreement? Apparently, Orthodox is an open theist who regards the will of man as overpowering the will of God.

“So according to you, the sign of a good rule of faith is that everyone disagrees as much as possible? I guess if you can draw a circle so small that only you can stand in it, you will have a really excellent rule of faith.”

I don’t define the rule of faith by desirable or undesirable consequences. The rule of faith is simply whatever God says it is. The results are in his hands.

“However, when the Church found that they couldn't decide something from the scriptures in Acts 15, they didn't cheer at the disagreement, they came together in council and made a ruling.”

i) Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That was the apostolic age. The age of public revelation.

But the apostles have come and gone—leaving us the NT.

ii) And notice that we only know about this event because it was recorded for posterity in Scripture.

“It doesn't say ‘They went off and studied the scriptures privately and formed separate denominations, praise God’.”

As a matter of fact, Peter, James, and Paul did study the scriptures privately. Each of them studied the Bible for himself. And that is why, when they came together, they were each in a position to quote Scripture and discuss Scripture.

“You assume that chain consists of people who fit your criteria - i.e. Exegetical scholars who have private copies of the bible and read them in the original languages. However the real chain is that of the Church which passes on the teachings.”

No, you’re backing down on your original claim, according to which pre-Reformation believers always knew the Bible because they always heard it read aloud in church. You then oppose this mythical consensus to the Protestant faith. Try to keep track of your own argument.

“I don't know what group Steve is thinking of who didn't have a bible in a sufficiently vernacular translation.”

Why doesn’t he know that when I cited specific examples from standard reference works on Eastern Orthodoxy and/or Eastern Christianity?

“But I can guarantee that they believed and passed on the same teachings as their predecessors who were reading it in the vernacular.”

And how can he guarantee that? Where’s the evidence?

“What is more important? To pass on accurate copies of the scriptures, but not know what it means, or to pass on the teachings accurately, never changing anything because of the latest scholarly fad?”

A false dichotomy. Moreover, in my last reply to Orthodox, I cited two examples (one on higher criticism, the other on lower criticism) in which contemporary Orthodox scholarship is revising traditional views on the composition and transmission of Scripture.

Orthodox doesn’t believe in the real, concrete manifestation of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as it either existed in the past or today. Rather, he has put his faith in an ahistorical idealization which only exists in his airtight imagination, like dried flowers or butterflies under glass.

“All I can say is ** HUH ** ???”

Yes, that’s all he can say. I cited the Orthodox capitulation to the documentary hypothesis as an example of how Orthodoxy is not etched in stone. It is revisable—going from bad to worse.

“The Gospels are in large part a translation. Jesus wasn't generally walking around talking Greek.”

Actually, it’s quite likely that Jesus was, at the very least, bilingual. What language he used would depend on the audience.

“And yet we are willing to accept that translation because the apostles had some link to it.”

Speak for yourself. I accept it because it is an inspired translation. And even (or especially) an inspired translation must accurately render the sense of the original.

“Similarly, the apostles approved of the LXX translation by their use of it.”

Up to a point, although they don’t always quote it verbatim. And, of course, they quote it when addressing Greek speaking Gentiles or Hellenistic Jews of the Diaspora.

“But it is the LXX form of the text, not the Masoretic, that the Church used.”

Which church? The NT church was a multilingual body. The LXX was not the edition of the Bible favored by Palestinian Messianic Jews.

“Why is it so important to you that there be a canonical edition?”

You keep attacking the Protestant rule of faith on the grounds that we supposedly can’t be sure of the canon, or the text of Scripture, or the interpretation of Scripture, &c.

Presumably you regard Orthodoxy has offering a positive alternative to the alleged deficiencies in Protestantism. But if, by your own admission, you can’t do any better on the very examples you level against Evangelicalism, then you do really have ask why it’s so important? It’s important to your own argument. Pity you can’t follow your own argument.

“You are the one who is proposing that we can't really understand the scriptures unless we have them in their original, unadulterated form.”

More hyperbole. There are degrees of understanding.

What I’m saying is self-evident. Someone who reads Dante in Medieval Italian will understand him better than someone who reads him in translation. Someone who reads Racine in French will understand him better than someone who reads him in translation. Someone who reads the church fathers in Greek and Latin will understand them better than someone who reads them in translation.

This isn’t an all-or-nothing affair. You can learn a lot from a good translation. You can learn from less from an archaic translation.

The fact that Orthodox takes umbrage that the most elementary truisms just goes to show how utterly insecure he is.

“This is elite scholarship gone off the rails again.”

It’s very amusing to have a high-churchman rail against elitism. Nothing is more elitist that Orthodox ecclesiology. It’s a quintessentially hierarchical, authoritarian, top-down polity. Bishops, patriarchs, metropolitans, &c.

But there’s a big difference. In Orthodoxy (as well as Catholicism), it’s an authoritarian form of elitism.

By contrast, “elite” evangelical scholars are answerable to the laity. They have to reason with the laity. They have to make a case for their exegesis, by appeal to the evidence, rather than a blind appeal to raw authority.

“Unless you can point me very specifically to exactly where I can find the authentic people of God...”

The “authentic” people of God are God’s elect. God knows who they are.

“In short, you have no basis for a canon, so you have no basis for anything.”

More of his fact-free denials.

“The trouble is you are working with a flawed understanding of Orthodoxy, as if some unbroken chain of exegetes represents the true church.”

The trouble is that you never make a case for your own position. You think that by supposedly poking holes in the opposing position, that somehow exempts you from having to defend your own.

If your lifeboat is taking on water, then lobbing a grenade into the lifeboat beside you does nothing to prevent your own lifeboat from sinking.

Jason, I, and others have done three things in the course of this thread: (i) We’ve presented positive arguments for our own position; (ii) we’ve responded to your counterarguments, and (iii) we’ve argued against your position.

All you’ve ever done is to hurl assertions against our position, while failing to answer our counterarguments.

“Which will have limited success when it no longer exists.”

One doesn’t have to have the original to reconstruct the original with a high degree of certainty.

“I don't have to duck it, because I am not the one claiming a perfect original language bible is required to exegete a rule of faith.”

Aside from his evasive hyperbole, if the LXX is the official OT of the Orthodox Church, and if allegedly Orthodoxy offers a level of certainty absent from Evangelicalism, then, yes, indeed, he’s required to tell us where we can find the official text of the LXX.

“Again, it doesn't matter a great deal because scripture is only a part of the Tradition. Protestants have to obsess over the canon, because that's all they have and it is their only starting point. Actually, both canons are a part of the Tradition of the Christian church, but unlike Protestants, we would not be coming up with any innovative doctrines because one book or another might be in or out.”

This is a backdoor admission that Orthodoxy has no official canon of Scripture.

“Possibly the Church will at some point decide what to do with the discrepency, but the important thing is the doctrines and teachings.”

So, according to Orthodoxy, the canon is now up for grabs.

“I find your accusation disgusting and offensive. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

One will find a number of Jew-baiting remarks by Orthodox in an earlier thread:

“Are you actually in submission to any elders in your church, or are you just a loan gun?”

I’m remunerated for my black bag operations by nonsequential C-bills in unmarked manila envelopes. I can’t tell you who I report to in the NSA because that’s classified. But if you need confirmation, I have Dick Cheney on speed-dial.

My cover job is driving an ice cream truck. But I don’t sell kosher fudgsicles on pain of excommunication from the one true church.

BTW, pop-goes-the-weasel is actually a cypherpunk code, used by my fellow spooks in the NSA.

“Amazing that before accusing someone of being a Nazi you are too lazy to actually read the Quinisext canons yourself, but have to rely on some bible dictionary.”

This is funny in more than one respect:

i)”A bible dictionary”? What I quoted from was The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, which is prefaced by a commendatory forward by a bishop of the Greek Orthodox church. If Bishop Ware recommends a reference book on Eastern Christianity, then why shouldn’t I regard this as a reliable source of information?

Who speaks for Orthodoxy? A Greek Orthodox bishop? Or some anonymous layman?

ii) There’s nothing wrong with quoting from secondary sources. They often supply the historical context or contemporary interpretation. This reference work says that “Quinisext is held by Eastern Orthodox to have an ecumenical status and authority” (396).

It was in light of this statement that I proceeded to quote its summary of canon 11. However, just to call his bluff, I went ahead and posted the actual canon:

It’s not as if the wording of the canon is any improvement over the summary.

So, according to this “ecumenical” and “authoritative” canon, a Christian should not have Jewish friends. Or a Jewish physician. A Christian should never have lunch at a Jewish deli.

There should be segregated locker rooms for Jews and Gentiles so that Christian athletes don’t have to shower with Jewish athletes.

“Very clearly, you have lost this debate.”

Uh-huh. Explain to us how you deal with canon 11 of Quinisext.

>Poor little Orthodox isn’t even conversant with
>the state of Eastern Orthodox Bible scholarship.

“Irrelevant. The bible scholars can do what they like and good luck to them. But we won't be changing the faith because of the latest theories, and we don't need the finest textual critical speculation before we have a rule of faith.”

I was quoting directly from the Historical Dictionary of The Orthodox Church. And what I quoted was not merely a descriptive statement of critical scholarship, but an approving statement.

Who are the contributors to this reference work? Here’s a little bit of their curriculum vitae:

“This Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church is the result of a joint effort by several eminent authorities. The body was written by Michael Prokurat and Alexander Golitzin,” ibid. ix.

“Michael Prokurat (M.Div., St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary [&c.])…is an archpriest in the Orthodox Church in America…Dr. Prokurat has occasionally represented the Orthodox Church in America nationally and internationally at inter-Orthodox and ecumenical convocations, holding various ecclesiastical offices during a twenty-year pastorate…He also serves on the board of trustees of the Orthodox Institute in Berkeley under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople,” ibid. 439.

“Alexander Golitzin (M.Div., St. Valdimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary [&c.])...has taught Eastern Orthodox history and theology at…St. Vladimir’s Seminary…He is an ordained priest of the Orthodox Church in America and a monk of the Monastery of Simonos Petras, Mount Athos. Dr. Golitzin is a member of a number of scholarly societies, among them the Byzantine Studies Conference for North America, the North American Patristics Society, the International Society of Neoplatonic Studies, the Church History Society of America, and the Orthodox Theological Society of America,” ibid. 439.

Now, who is a more creditable representative of Orthodoxy? Orthodox clergymen with degrees from St. Vladimir’s, &c., or a tinny-voiced layman who only speaks on condition of anonymity?

Did the Greek fathers believe that the Pentateuch was composed by anonymous redactors during the Babylonian exile? Or by Moses? Clearly there’s a sea change here.

“Yes, the canon of the post-Christian Hebrew people did not contain it.”

He hasn’t offered a particle of concrete evidence to substantiate that claim. He hasn’t quoted any post-Christian Jewish sources. He hasn’t even quoted any church father to that effect.

“Your responses have got so weak now that they can be ignored.”

Yes, it’s terribly weak of me to quote from a reference work endorsed by a Greek Orthodox bishop when responding to an Orthodox layman.

Orthodox is to Orthodoxy what Matatics and Sungenis are to Catholicism. They pay lip service to the hierarchy, but as soon as you start to quote the hierarchy against them, they turn crypto-Protestant on a dime.

What Orthodox is giving us is a classic specimen of do-it-yourself-Orthodoxy. He’s a self-anointed high churchman, dismissing anyone in the chain-of-command whose representations run counter to his own.

“Merely throwing out random barbs and ignoring that facts presented.”

You haven’t presented any “facts.” Just your ipse dixit.

For a presentation of the facts, read chapter 9 of David deSilva’s Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker 2004).

“If Origen, who knew more about the Jews than anybody in the Church couldn't get it right (by Protestant reckoning) about what the Jewish canon was, then what hope do you have 1800 years later?”

You haven’t quoted Origen. And Jews like Josephus trump Origen on the Jewish canon.

“Oh, but your 2000 years after the fact scholarship is all knowing and all wonderful. Yeah right.”

More of his self-reinforcing ignorance. The Jewish evidence isn’t 2000 years after the fact.

Official Orthodox Anti-Semitism


LET no one in the priestly order nor any layman eat the unleavened bread of the Jews, nor have any familiar intercourse with them, nor summon them in illness, nor receive medicines from them, nor bathe with them; but if anyone shall take in hand to do so, if he is a cleric, let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off.



Jewish unleavened bread is to be refused. Whoever even calls in Jews as physicians or bathes with them is to be deposed.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I’ve updated the bibliography. Mouse over to the sidebar, click on “Steve Hays’ Topical Index,” then scroll down to “Bibliophile."

Byzantine Jew-Haters R Us


“So what if we restrict our survey to only the literate christians?”

So what? This restriction means that an Orthodox (or Catholic) polemicist must radically scale back his original objection. His initial objection to Protestant theology or the Protestant rule of faith was that no pre-Reformation Christian ever read the Bible that way.

Of course, even on its own grounds, this is a tautology: no pre-Protestant Christian is a Protestant. Likewise, no pre-Darwinian biologist is a Darwinian; no ante-Nicene Father is an ante-Nicene Father.

But the force of the original objection lay in opposing a tiny Protestant minority to the vast majority of Orthodox (or Catholic) believers.

If, however, we offer the obvious and necessary qualification that to be a Bible-believer, you must either read the Bible or hear it in some intelligible translation, then that instantly changes the terms of the comparison.

We’re now comparing Protestant believers with another miniscule subset of historical Christendom: literate pre-Reformation Christians.

So the original objection, which was predicated on a huge numerical disproportion, suddenly loses its huge disproportionality. Instead, we’re merely comparing one subset of Christendom (Protestants) with another subset of Christendom (Orthodox literates).

“How come none of them were Protestants?”

Well, for one thing, it’s not as if they had a choice in the matter. Orthodoxy was the state religion. Dissent was persecuted. The emperor or monarch determined the faith of his royal subjects.

“Supposedly I guess, if only all those poor illiterate Christians could read they would have come to completely different conclusions to those who could read? Amazing.”

Is Orthodox trying to be obtuse? I have no opinion one way or the other. And I don’t have to have any opinion. The point is that we cannot poll the dead. We cannot retroactively ask what people would have believed had they been exposed to something they never knew.

This is not an argument for Evangelicalism. Rather, it undercuts an argument for Orthodoxy. Pity that Orthodox is unable to distinguish one form of argument from another—especially when I’m answering him on his own terms.

I never made consensus the rule of faith: he did. So the argument doesn’t cut both ways. It only undercuts his appeal.

“And what if we restrict our survey to only those who without any doubt were reading the scripture in the vernacular, how come none of them were Protestants?”

Another issues aside, that’s not an exegetical argument. That’s not a reason for believing that anything is true or false.

The question at issue is not the merely descriptive question of what people believe, but the normative question of why they believe. What reasons do they give? Are these good reasons for bad reasons?

Orthodox’s appeal is viciously regressive or circular. Why does Jimmy believe what he does? Because he believes what Jerry believed. Why did Jerry believe that? Because he believed what Johnny believed, and so on infinitum.

Even if you had a consensus to invoke, appeal to consensus only pushes the question back a step.

“And how come God set up a rule of faith (allegedly) that was bound to fail until everyone could become literate?”

This is a trick question because it begs the question of how a rule of faith is supposed to function.

“Apparently Christianity is a religion purely for the literate elites, the rest of you can just wallow in ignorance, never knowing where to find the truth?”

A straw man argument. Orthodox is trying to change the subject. The original argument was an appeal to historic Christian consensus on the meaning of Scripture.

All I’ve done is to make the common sense observation that the only men who are even potentially qualified to comment on the meaning of Scripture were men who actually knew the Bible.

Isn’t that crushingly self-evident? Why do I even need to point that out? Because Catholic and Orthodox critics of Evangelicalism have a remarkable capacity for ignoring the obvious.

Now, it’s quite possible for someone who is either illiterate or without a private copy of the Bible to acquire some intermediate knowledge of the Bible. He could learn about the Bible through good expository preaching. Or he could learn about the Bible through the public reading of the Scriptures in the vernacular.

That wouldn’t be as good as being able to study your own copies of the Scriptures, or reading the Bible in the original Greek and Hebrew. But it’s not equivalent to sheer ignorance.

At the same time, the fact that some Christians at some times and places heard the Bible read aloud in the vernacular doesn’t tell us anything about what it meant to them.

“Oh yes, and not just a literate elite, but a wealthy elite, since apparently you need a ‘private copy’ in order to do sufficient study to discover the truth, at a cost astronomical in the first 1500 or more years of the church.”

As usual, Orthodox is retailing his false dichotomies. There are degrees of knowledge.

But to say that what F. F. Bruce believed is false because it doesn’t match up with what a Russian Orthodox serf living in 1300 believed is absurd.

To discredit Evangelical theology by numerically opposing what modern Protestants believe with whatever illiterate Orthodox peasants believed is a silly comparison on the face of it.

“Oh yes, and nowdays everyone is literate with their own private copy, and yet there is no signs of protestants, even the most well read and educated, of coming to any kind of agreement. Actually the areas of disagreement just increase year by year with new theories coming day by day.”

This is how he defines a successful rule of faith: everyone agrees. Two problems:

i) Is that how the Bible defines its own function? To the contrary, the word of God was meant to be divisive. For example, this is a running theme in the Gospel of John. The preaching of Jesus has a polarizing effect on the Jews. Some Jews side with Jesus, while other Jews turn away (e.g. Jn 3:19-21; 6:60-71).

ii) Another, related function of Scripture is to harden certain listeners (e.g. Jer 7:16; 11:14; 18:11-12; Ezk 2:3-7; Isa 6:9-10; 63:17).

The Bible is not designed to make everyone agree. To the contrary, it was, in some measure, intended to have the opposite effect—a winnowing effect.

Orthodox has his manmade theory of what a rule of faith is supposed to accomplish—a theory which runs counter to the self-witness of Scripture.

iii) Even on his own grounds, the Orthodox rule of faith “fails.” Consider, for example, the schism involving the Old Believers, who repudiated the liturgical reforms of Patriarch Nikon.

“And then the complaint turns to the Russian church of a few hundred years ago??? What of the Russian church now, they are both literate and have access to the bible in vernacular, and yet the protestant churches there are floundering, a great many are leaving and returning to Orthodoxy.”

i) Once again, Orthodox is straining to change the subject. He needs another refresher course in the original argument. The argument went as follows: Evangelicalism is false because it offers a reading of Scripture which runs counter to how pre-Reformation Christians always understood the Bible.

Now, to make this comparison stick, it requires historically continuous access to intelligible editions of the Bible. The appeal to credal unity is predicated on historical continuity.

If, however, there are large gaps in time and place when the faithful did not have access to vernacular editions of Scripture, then historical discontinuity negates the appeal to historical continuity. A diachronic argument is only as good as the spatiotemporal links in the chain. Once you introduce a lot of missing links, the chain ceases to be a chain.

ii) In addition, Orthodox scholarship has been affected by Protestant scholarship. For example:

“A consensus exists among scholars that the 6C BC, and more especially the time and place of the Babylonian Exile, was the matrix from which the Hebrew Pentateuch and most of the prophetic books emerged in their final written form,” Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church, M. Prokurat et al. (Scarecrow Press 1996), 293.

Gee, where do you suppose that came from? 19C German higher criticism. So mainstream Orthodox scholarship has been influenced by liberal Lutheran scholarship.

“And then the claim is that bibles may not be accurate according to the Hebrew, and if the LXX isn't good enough it is a problem. What verse says that the Masoretic Hebrew is the canonical one?”

Once again, is he trying to be dense? Two issues:

i) The LXX is a translation. A translation of a Hebrew exemplar. A translation is only a good translation if it accurately renders the sense of the original exemplar.

ii) The fact that Protestants and Orthodox disagree is irrelevant unless they share a common referent.

Remember, the original argument was that if all the Christians in the past were reading the same Bible we are, yet they didn’t construe it the way we do, then that supposedly invalidates our (Protestant) interpretation of the Scriptures.

But what is the basis of comparison? Are we even reading the same Bible? If a church father is reading the LXX, while an Evangelical scholar is reading the MT, then they don’t share the same point of reference. So it’s not a case of divergent interpretations of the same text.

“We are told there is a big problem because of Lucianic versus Origen's version of the LXX.”

Yes, because the Orthodoxy traditionally appeal to the LXX as their canonical edition of the OT. But there were three different editions of the LXX in play in major centers of Orthodoxy. So which edition of the LXX is the canonical edition?

“What of differences between Masoretic and pre-Masoretic text types?”

Several problems:

i) Protestant Bible scholarship isn’t limited to the MT. A number of other witnesses feed into critical editions of the Hebrew canon (e.g. DDS, SP, Targumim, Peshitta, Vulgate, LXX, Saadia). But they are not coequal in their historical value.

ii) Orthodox constantly acts as though, if he has raised some problems for Protestantism, then Orthodoxy automatically wins by default. But:

a) Even if, for the sake of argument, Evangelicalism were a problematic position, it doesn’t follow that, by process of elimination, Orthodoxy is the only remaining logical alternative.

b) And it also doesn’t follow that Orthodoxy can deflect objections to its own position by simply drawing attention to alleged objections to Evangelicalism.

If Orthodoxy is a problematic position in its own right, then it’s no answer to its own problems to shift the issue to problems in the opposing position. The Orthodox apologist has his own burden of proof to discharge.

iii) As to differences between the Masoretic and pre-Masoretic text types, that’s why we have textual criticism.

“What of the clear and blatent errors in the Masoretic that do not exist in the LXX?”

What about giving us some examples?

“Which is canonical then?”

i) A false dichotomy. For a critical edition of the Hebrew text will involve an eclectic approach in sifting the various witnesses to the Hebrew text.

ii) Orthodox is also ducking the necessity of Septuagintal lower criticism to produce a critical edition of the LXX.

According to him, what is the canonical edition of the LXX in Orthodox tradition? What is the official text?

And what is the official canon? Is it the Greek Orthodox canon, which includes 4 Maccabees? Or is it the Russian Orthodox canon, which includes 4 Esdras?

“Why do we need protestant scholars to come in and tell us that the LXX is no good and we all can become protestants if only our bibles were more accurate?”

Several more problems:

i) This isn’t merely a question of Protestant scholarship. It’s also a question of Jewish scholarship. Of course, Orthodox is a certified Jew-hater.

Incidentally, how many people happen to know that Eastern Orthodoxy is an officially anti-Semitic denomination?

“Quinisext is held by Eastern Orthodox to have ecumenical status and authority…Canon 11 deposes clergy and excommunicates laity who eat matzot sent by Jews, receive medicine from Jews or consort with Jews in the baths,” K. Parry et al. eds. The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (Blackwell 2004), 396.

So Orthodox’s Neonazi conspiracy theories are entirely in keeping with his adopted tradition. He’s plays the good German from first to last.

ii) This is also a question of contemporary Eastern Orthodox scholarship:

“Today, the relationships between the various Hebrew and Greek textual traditions have to be taken very seriously. This was illustrated in the 19C by Patriarch Philaret of Moscow who oversaw the Russian Bible (q.v.) translation, now published and used in the Russian Church. Similarly, one of the greatest resources in illuminating the relationship between the Hebrew and Greek textual traditions has been given us within this century by the discoveries at Qumran…In many ways, certainly because of the discovery and availability of new information, we are currently in a position to do work with Scripture that was impossible even half a century ago,” Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church, 294-95.

Poor little Orthodox isn’t even conversant with the state of Eastern Orthodox Bible scholarship. Apparently the popular pabulum which is spoon-fed to the waiting beaks of chirpy little hatchlings like Orthodox doesn’t include any indigestible nuggets of in-house scholarship which the tender-bellied hatchlings would choke on.

“Then we are told that no two LXX copies contain the same canon. I assume he is referring to the very oldest existing copies. But what of Origen's and other ECF comments that say that the Jews were including books like the Epistle of Jeremiah in their 22 book canon? I guess no two accounts of what the Jewish canon is were identical either. So we all throw our hands up in the air, and we have no religion left, right?”

i)“He [Athanasius] includes, however, Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremias as part of Jeremias, though neither is in the Hebrew canon,” The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, 82.

So, according to this standard reference work on Orthodoxy, which carries a forward by Bishop Timothy Ware, the Hebrew canon did not contain that apocryphal epistle.

ii) There is also an obvious difference between Jewish accounts of the Jewish canon, and patristic accounts of the Jewish canon. Patristic imputations do not prove that the Jews themselves had more than one canon. Orthodox is confusing primary and secondary sources for the Jewish canon.

An Open Challenge To Touchstone

Constant readers of the comboxes are already familiar with Touchstone (hereafter: T-stone). He's the man who claims to be a Christian yet hasn't found an atheist's argument he doesn't like. I've maintained for some time that not only do I doubt T-stone's Christianity, I doubt he's even a theist (he seems to me to be nothing more than an atheist plant).

Since I recently spent a great deal of time on a post that formulated a positive argument for my own beliefs, found here, and since, to my knowledge, T-stone has never given any argument for why he believes in God, I am hereby issuing my challenge to him.

T-stone, I challenge you to present a positive argument for the existence of the God you claim to believe in. If you've already done so on a different site, feel free to provide a link; otherwise, please comment below.

My reasons are as follows. You've not given any evidence that you actually do believe in God, so doing so will allows us to accept your claim that you do believe in God; if you cannot do so it will demonstrate that you either are an atheist plant or are so shallow theistically that you are functionally no different from an atheist plant.

So here's your chance, T-stone, to provide your apologetic and convince us all that you actually do believe in God and are not simply claiming you do to make atheistic concepts (such as your crusade for evolution) more "palatable" for Christians.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Jesus the Logician

Jesus the Logician by Dallas Willard

Helm on Olson on Arminianism

Paul Helm reviews Roger Olson's Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.

The Queen Mother

Protestants traditionally accuse Catholics of Mariolatry: the sin of worshipping Mary. And, for their part, Catholics traditionally respond by claiming that this reflects our sorry ignorance of Catholic theology. If only we could appreciate the distinction between dulia (veneration of saints and angels), hyperdulia (veneration of Mary), and latria (veneration of God).

So what, if any, is the discernible difference in the Catholic reverence for Christ and Mary respectively? Let’s begin with a Catholic prayer to Christ:

“From our earliest years nothing has ever been closer to our heart than devotion—filial, profound, and wholehearted—to the our Lord Jesus Christ. Always have we endeavored to do everything that would redound to the greater glory of our Lord, promote his honor, and encourage devotion to him.”

“Great indeed is our trust in Jesus. His foot has crushed the head of Satan. Our Redeemer, ever lovable and full of grace, always has delivered the Christian people from their greatest calamities and from the snares and assaults of all their enemies, ever rescuing them from ruin.”

“And likewise in our own day, the Lord Jesus Christ, with the ever merciful affection so characteristic of his loving-kindness, wishes, through his efficacious intercession with God, to deliver God’s children from the sad and grief-laden troubles, from the tribulations, the anxiety, the difficulties, and the punishments of God's anger which afflict the world because of the sins of men. Wishing to restrain and to dispel the violent hurricane of evils which, as we lament from the bottom of our heart, are everywhere afflicting the Church, Christ desires to transform our sadness into joy. The foundation of all our confidence, as you know well, is found in Jesus Christ. For, God the Father has committed to his Son the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through him are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is his will, that we obtain everything through his Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Surely there is little if anything in this devotion to the person and work of Christ with which any traditional Protestant believer would take exception.

Oh, but wait. I have a confession to make. This is not, in fact, a Catholic prayer to Christ.

What I just did was to take a claim about someone else and make a few minor changes in wording—mainly substituting masculine nouns and pronouns for the original wording. Here is what was actually said:

“From our earliest years nothing has ever been closer to our heart than devotion—filial, profound, and wholehearted—to the most blessed Virgin Mary. Always have we endeavored to do everything that would redound to the greater glory of the Blessed Virgin, promote her honor, and encourage devotion to her.”

“Great indeed is our trust in Mary. The resplendent glory of her merits, far exceeding all the choirs of angels, elevates her to the very steps of the throne of God. Her foot has crushed the head of Satan. Set up between Christ and His Church, Mary, ever lovable and full of grace, always has delivered the Christian people from their greatest calamities and from the snares and assaults of all their enemies, ever rescuing them from ruin.”

“And likewise in our own day, Mary, with the ever merciful affection so characteristic of her maternal heart, wishes, through her efficacious intercession with God, to deliver her children from the sad and grief-laden troubles, from the tribulations, the anxiety, the difficulties, and the punishments of God's anger which afflict the world because of the sins of men. Wishing to restrain and to dispel the violent hurricane of evils which, as we lament from the bottom of our heart, are everywhere afflicting the Church, Mary desires to transform our sadness into joy. The foundation of all our confidence, as you know well, Venerable Brethren, is found in the Blessed Virgin Mary. For, God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that everyone may know that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation. For this is his will, that we obtain everything through Mary.”

This is taken verbatim from the papal encyclical that formally codified the Immaculate Conception.

Evangelical "innovations"

Among Catholic and Orthodox critics of Evangelicalism, one of the major objections to Protestant theology is that Protestant theology is innovative. No pre-Reformation Christians interpreted the Bible the way in which Evangelicals do. This is an objection that conceals a number of unspoken and unsupported assumptions.

What percentage of pre-Reformation Christians had access to the Bible? How many were literate? How many had private copies of the Bible?

If they were dependent on the public reading of the Scriptures, were the liturgical lectionaries in the vernacular? And is merely hearing the Bible read aloud the same thing as forming an interpretation of the Scriptures? How do we poll the opinion of pre-Reformation Christian laymen? What’s the statistical data on this?

Did they have the same Bible? Did the pre-Reformation Catholic church or Orthodox church(es) uphold a uniform canon of Scripture?

How accurate were traditional versions and/or the LXX in relation to the Hebrew OT and/or Greek NT?

Without attempting to answer all these questions, let’s consider a few of the following historical footnotes—with special reference to the Orthodox tradition:

“During the ‘Judaizing heresy’ and the possessor/non-possessor (q.v.) controversy, the first complete Church Slavic Bible was complied in Novgorod (q.v.)…. Basically the entire effort responded to the above-mentioned movements, and was authorized by Archbishop Gennadius of Novgorod—and became known in Russian as the Gennadievskii (Gennadius’s) Bible (1499).”

“Political and polemical considerations undermined the effort from the beginning. Neither Hebrew, Gree, nor extant Slavic translations were employed as primary texts from which to translate, but only the Vulgate. This phenomenon is indicative of a general orientation of Russian toward the Occident after the fall of Constantinople,” M. Prokurat et al. Historical Dictionary of the Orthodox Church (Scarecrow Press 1966), 135-36.

“The first full text of the Church Slavic Bible, after the earlier Gennadievskii Bible (q.v.), was published in 1580 and again with emendations in 1581. Known as the Ostrog Bible after its chief patron, Prince Constantine of Ostrog (Konstanin Ostrozhskii), the work appeared as part of a larger private publishing effort among the Orthodox in Lithuania and Poland…In methodology of biblical translation the [Ostrog] Circle employed classical Church Slavic, while attempting to follow the Greek textual tradition using every available critical resource,” ibid. 248-49.

“In Russia in the 19C theologians and members of the newly formed Russian Bible society, such as Alexander Golitsyn (q.v.), were particularly interested in the Hebrew Scriptures…Archpriest Gerasim Pavskii (1787-1863), a professor and Hebraist in St. Petersburg translated the entire Old Testament, which his students secretly circulated until all copies ere confiscated in 1842. These translations from Hebrew into Russian, instead of Church Slavic as in the Gennadievskii and Ostrog Bibles (qq.v.), drew mixed reactions from the hierarchy and from society at large for about fifty years, until the last quarter of the century.”

“The great Bible translation project of 19C Russia can be credited to only one individual, Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow…Translation was from the Masoretic Hebrew as the basic text, then from Greek when it was the original language, giving both preference over Church Slavic,” ibid. 280-81.”Since both the Greek and Russian Churches use the Lucianic Septuagint liturgically, there is a tendency among the faithful to romanticize the unanimity of the liturgical witness and beauty of the language, depicting the history of the Greek Scriptures as devoid of controversy and independent of the Hebrew. History reveals flaws in this attitude. For example, during the 4C there were three different Septuagints in use in the major Christian centers of the eastern Mediterranean: 1) the churches in Antioch and Constantinople (qq.v.) used the Lucianic recension; 2) Caesarea (q.v.) in Palestine utilized a translation by Origen (q.v.) that was updated by Pamphilus and Eusebius (q.v.); and 3) Alexandria (q.v.) had a third recension by a certain Hesychius about which little else is known. The Constantinopolitan practice, based on a translation done by the Presbyter Lucian (who preferred Attic forms), finally won out,” ibid. 294.

“No two Septuagint codices contain the same apocrypha, and no uniform Septuagint ‘Bible’ was ever the subject off discussion in the patristic church. In view of these facts the Septuagint codices appear to have been originally intended more as service books than as a defined and normative canon of scripture…There is also no evidence that the ante-Nicene church received or adopted a Septuagint canon,” E. Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity: Canon and Interpretation in Light of Modern Research (Baker 1992), 34-35.

“Modern Orthodox bibles contain all the so-called Apocrypha, including 1 Esdras, Psalm 151, the Prayer of Manasses and 3 Maccabees. Greek bibles, issued with the approval of the Holy Synod, also include 4 Maccabees, but in an appendix, while those issued by the Russian Orthodox Church include 4 Esdras,” K. Parry, et al. eds. [Foreword by Rt Revd Kallistos Ware] The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity (Blackwell 2004), 83.

“Throughout this period, and into that of Ottoman domination from the 15-16C, Old Church Slavonic remained the language of liturgy, theology and church administration in the Romanian church as well as of locally composed hymns and chronicles…An abridged Romanian-language Bible, the Orastie Bible, was published in 1582…and a complete translation of the Bible by Nicolae Milescu, known as the Bible of Bucharest or Serban Cantacuzino’s Bible, in 1688,” ibid. 407.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Draws Him....Raise Him"

Kyle said...

saint and sinner said

"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me ***draws him***; and I will raise ***him*** up on the last day." (John 6:44)

The "him" in both parts of the sentence refer to the same person (since there is no other "him" other than the Father to refer to). Thus, all that are drawn by the Father will come to Christ and be risen to eternal life on the last day.

>>I am an undecided Christian about election, predestination, and the mechanics of salvation. I read Geisler's Chosen But Free and found that it mischaracterized Calvinism in many places. I am in the process of reading the Potter's Freedom by James White. I am a regular Dividing Line listener and I have carefully read and heard James' exegesis of John 6 many times. I called his program to ask about the 'him' in John 6:44. When I read it I can see how the 'coming one' could be the subject and then both 'hims' refer back to the one who comes. James said that it is not possible in Greek because the phrase "No one can come" is an infinitive and can't be the subject of the sentence. This went over my head since I have no Greek training besides some personal study of beginning material. Can anyone here shed light on this?

When I read John 6:44 this is how it appears to me: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him (the coming one); and I will raise him (the coming one) up on the last day," Thus the ones who come are raised. We know that if anyone comes God first drew them and if they come God will raise them up (eternal security). God gets all the glory in salvation because men are helpless without God's drawing. The next verses explain that the Father draws men through the Word and therefore it seems sensible to conclude that all who hear the Word are subject to drawing though many reject the message.
1. The phrase translated "No one can come" is literally "No one is able to come" (oudeis dunatai elthein). Hence, the infinitive. Strictly speaking, the subject of the sentence isn't the coming one, but the one who is unable to come apart from the drawing of the Father.

2. However, of course, it isn't in dispute that the one who comes has been drawn and will be raised. The question is the extent of the Father's drawing. Henry had made the statement, "No where in the text of John 6 or anywhere else for that matter does it state that only the elect are drawn." Therefore, Saint and Sinner pointed out that verse 44 contains a double parallel singular accusative autos ("...Father who sent me draws him, him I will raise..."). In other words, the text knows no disjunction between the one who is drawn and the one who is raised. In synergistic theology, however, one can be drawn but not come and not be raised. But such a scenario is foreign to this verse.

3. Most important, however, is the over-arching context. Jesus is explaining unbelief. Verse 36 sets this up when he says "But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe." The synergistic interpretation of verse 44 turns the passage on its head because it transforms Jesus' explanation of unbelief into a teaching on the possibility of belief. Rather than Jesus telling his hearers that some do not believe because they are unable to do so, he is saying that all are able to believe (because all have been drawn). This hardly fits the thrust of the context of this passage.

In verse 65 it is even more clear:

64 But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."

Jesus says This is why I told you. In other words, Christ is saying that those who do not believe remain in disbelief because they are unable to do otherwise (i.e., they haven't been drawn by the Father). The synergistic explanation of this text simply cannot make sense out of this statement.

It is here where we simply must be honest with what Scripture is saying. What is the reason why Jesus says what he does in verse 65? He says "This is why I told you." Well, what is the reason? Is Jesus attempting to draw a portrait of ability? Is he saying that, while all men are unable to believe apart from being drawn, all men have in fact been drawn and are therefore able? Is that what he is trying to convey? Then it must be asked how this interpretation makes any sense out of the context of unbelief and Christ's explanations initiated in verses 37 and 65.

Nevertheless, It is clear, I believe, that Jesus is not portraying a situation of ability but that of inability. No one is able to come, which is why some still do not believe. But the one who is able to come, he has been drawn by the Father and will be raised up on the last day.

So it isn't simply the grammar and syntax of verse 44 that demands a limited scope of the drawing of the Father, but the context of the entire passage in general. And this is even without taking into consideration the limited scope of verse 37, where clearly only those who come are the ones who are given to Son by the Father. Thus, the synergist must either radically reinterpret verse 37, or completely disconnect the actions of the Father's giving and the Father's drawing, resulting in two completely different groups that are the objects of these actions. This, needless to say, tears the passage in half.

I hope that helps to clarify some things concerning the Reformed exegesis of this passage. If you have any more questions, just let me know.

A Question of Logic

On this post on my site, a person by the name of Sik90 asked some interesting questions regarding logic. Since the original post wasn’t about this subject, and since his/her questions had more substance than usual, I figured I’d respond publically so all can benefit.

Sik90 asked:
Can logic be just the self-sustaining thing? The just is? In other words, there is no conceivable world where logic cannot exist. Since there is something (meaning an existing reality/world) then logic necessarily must exist. The problem of the absurdity of proving logic arises when we ask, “Why is logic logical?” So to solve the problem, we just have to accept it as it is and stop asking “why.” Logic is logical, period. Anyway, if you invoke God, we’ll also have to stop asking “why” at that point. Either way, asking “why” has to stop. Since it has to stop, and it seems from the fact that we cannot make do without logic, then perhaps, logic is the “just is.”
The first problem with the above is that even in this description logic is not “just is.” After all, Sik90 predicated the validity of logic on the fact that: “Since there is something (meaning an existing reality/world) then logic necessarily must exist” (emphasis added). Logic, therefore, depends on the existence of this reality/world.

It is helpful to remember that logic is not a being/object. To stipulate that logic “just is” (at least in the manner Sik90 has used it here) is to reify logic. It makes logic into a thing, the existence of which causes logic to necessarily exist. But logic is not a thing (or more specifically, it is not an object); it cannot establish itself in this manner.

Now I have no problem at all saying “Since there is something…then logic necessarily must exist.” This is nothing more than a reiteration of the Law of Identity (a logical law) and the Law of Non-Contradiction. That X exists and does not non-exist at the same time/relationship already establishes the foundational concepts of logic. But we want to know what “X” is! What attributes must X logically have? I shall put forth a reexamination of this at the end of this response.

Sik90 continued:
If you add God to the equation, you’re just extending it unnecessarily. You will say that God is “just is” at a particular point meaning a “just is” X is metaphysically necessary. But I contend that God and logic are just on the same footing.
This is where Sik90 errs. Adding “God to the equation” doesn’t extend it unnecessarily; it establishes the equation. Logic alone cannot suffice, for again there must be some object to establish logic. (Note: this object need not be physical in our own confined three dimensional observation of the universe; however, even granting that, logic itself does not exist other than in consciousness, and consciousness necessitates a conscious being (said being being an object) to have that consciousness.) Thus, as my argument (reiterated below) demonstrates, in order for logic to be valid, the object that exists to necessitate logic must have certain attributes—attributes that are divine in nature.

Sik90 said:
If you invoke God then I might as well ask, “why is God’s nature logical?” To further my point, the question “why is God’s nature logical?” is basically the same as “why is logic logical?” Stopping at logic suffices, invoking God is not necessary (since you can still formulate the same question anyway).
Except that once again this requires us to reify logic. God’s nature is logical because He exists and does not non-exist at the same time and in the same relationship. The fact of His existence is what begins the laws of logic. This does not work with logic, since logic does not exist; it is not an object.

But Sik90 is close to being accurate here in that s/he recognizes the intrinsic linkage between logic and God’s ontology. When s/he says, “Stopping at logic suffices” this is very close (though unintentionally so) to an understanding of the simplicity of God, wherein all His attributes can be seen through the “prism” of any other attribute. God is logic in the same way that God is omnipotent, yet since logic alone cannot suffice to establish the necessity of logic, logic requires the existence of another object that contains “divine” attributes. In other words, since logic is not an object, it requires a logical object to necessitate logic.

And now, finally, I will reiterate how this occurs. Since I am not writing a novel here, the following will be incomplete (i.e. the same argument can be used by other theists than just Christian theists), yet it will demonstrate that atheism is impossible from a logical standpoint. Since most of the people who will respond to this are either atheists or already Christians, I will save time and energy by simply focusing on this portion (if followers of other religions decide to respond, then I shall expand it).

To demonstrate my point, we can use the first steps Descartes used to come to his statement cogito ergo sum, although I will change it slightly. This enables us to start from a ground that is personal in nature and should not be contested by many, and then we can see what is logically necessary for this to happen. So….

I perceive, therefore I am. Even if I am nothing but a brain-in-a-vat—or even if I have no “brain” at all, it’s all simply mental hallucinations with no actual physical reality—I cannot doubt that I exist. I perceive things. Regardless of whether these things are real or not, perception occurs. Something perceives, and therefore there must be a “perceiving being.” Since these perceptions are “owned” by me, I am this perceiving being (by definition). I exist.

Now this doesn’t tell me that I exist physically, or that anything I perceive is real or not; but it does tell me that I do, actually, without a doubt, exist. I am whatever I am (as yet, undefined). I have identity. A is A (or in this case, I am me).

And if I exist, then it is the case that I do exist and do not non-exist at the same time and in the same relationship. If I exist (in whatever form I exist), I really do exist (in whatever form that may be), and the contradiction of this is not the case. Thus, my bare existence alone requires the law of Non-Contradiction.

Since I exist, logic must be valid. And since logic is valid, we can use logic to probe some other questions. For instance, have I always been here? It is possible that I am the only being that has ever existed, despite my perception of other beings. I do not have the self-awareness with these other beings that I do with my self; therefore, I cannot “prove” they exist in the same manner that I can “prove” I exist. So it is possible they do not exist at all and I am the only thing that exists.

But it is also possible that I have come from something else. After all, I perceive a world that functions in a specific manner, and if my perceptions are accurate then this means that I have come from my parents.

But where did they come from? Perhaps they’ve always been here; perhaps they had parents too. And if they had parents, their parents may have had parents too. This chain can go back for a very long time.

But it cannot be infinite. At some point, something must have existed without being derived from previous existence—otherwise, we are stuck in an infinite regress with no chance of ever escaping to begin logic in the first place. Thus, the fact that I exist demands that somewhere there must be a self-existent being.

I might be that self-existent being, of course. So, too, could my parents, etc. But whatever the case may be, logic requires that whatever or whoever the self-existent being is must be the cause of my own being. If it were not the cause of my own being, my being would never existed (for we would be back to the infinite regress).

So, the fact that I exit proves the necessity of some object with self-existence that caused my existence. This object could not have been created by anything else (for the same reasons of the infinite regress). The "first" object to ever exist must be self-existent.

If an object is self-existent, it is a necessary object. It holds the power of its own existence, and therefore nothing can keep it from existing. If nothing can keep it from existing, then it always has existed.

Some problems arise when we include time. After all, time is measured by physical objects that move. Thus, one pendulum swing on a clock = one second. One rotation of the Earth = 1 day. Etc. These physical processes define the length of time.

But we’ve already shown that a necessary, self-existent object must always exist. If this is the case and if that object is physical, then we have an actual infinite of time. If time extends an eternity backwards, it would take an eternity for the past to have gotten here. Thus we must conclude that time isn’t eternal, but instead it must have begun at some point.

So how do we reconcile this apparent tension of an eternal self-existent object in a temporal time frame? Logically, this is satisfied by either jettisoning our definition of time (in which case we have no meaningful way to speak of time) or by acknowledging that the self-existent necessary object is immaterial. Since time is measured by physical objects, an immaterial object would not cause time to exist co-eternally with itself. This immaterial object must still exist in such a way as to provide the basis for my own existence, however. (After all, remember that the self-existent object is a logically necessary requirement due to my own existence.) Thus, in order to stay rational, we must acknowledge an immaterial self-existent necessary object that can cause my own existence.

It is important to note that due to the necessity of the immaterial aspect of this object, it is impossible for secular science to speak meaningfully about this object. If science is limited to the physical world only, then science cannot speak to this. As such, we have demonstrated a necessary being that extends beyond the limits of science. Thus, the fact of my existence proves that science cannot answer the questions of something that necessarily must be true!

Other attributes can be logically deduced from this same being. For instance, omnipresence (all existence derived from this self-existent source must come from this self-existent source, so the source must be omnipresent--there is no existence outside of the existence of this self-existent obejct); omnipotence (all power is derived from existence, so all power flows from the self-existent source—without that source, there is no power); and immutability (since logic is immutable, the source of logic must be unchanging as well).

Thus far, the only real difference between this object and God Himself is that we’ve yet to prove any kind of consciousness in this object. But that too is simple enough to deduce. After all, this entire time we’ve been using logic. Logic works because existence is based on laws, and laws imply a law giver.

Why is it that “nature” acts the way it does? We can give a list of reasons, but these reasons are likewise subject to the same question: Why do these reasons act the way they do? Once more, we cannot engage in an infinite regress here. At some point we must reach the level where we are left saying, “That’s simply the way it is.”

And at that level, laws will still exist. And again, laws imply law givers, so the very aspect of the “law-giving” (i.e. the consciousness) must be necessarily basic to this object as well. This law giver must be the same self-existent, immutable, omnipresent, omnipotent, atemporal being I have already demonstrated must exist. This being fits the definition of “God.”

But even if someone does not like the above, we can always turn the tables and use some empirical evidence (which, following induction, cannot be known for “certain”). Assuming that our perceptions are valid, that we see the world as it really exists, etc. we know the following. All consciousness we have ever observed has come from previous consciousness. There is no evidence that consciousness can come from non-consciousness. Since I am conscious, whatever the source of my being is would logically be conscious as well, for we have no warrant to believe consciousness could have ever come from non-consciousness--there is no proof, no evidence, no observation of this ever.

In short, what the above demonstrates is: “For his [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they [unbelievers] are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Internal Inconsistencies in Loftusianity

How could an all-wise Loftus offer such bad Loftusian arguments? Since Loftus could reason better, he would. He doesn't, therefore Loftus doesn't exist.

Loftus, for some reason, puts a lot of stock into the: "God could do X, therefore you have no reason to believe He wouldn't do X" argument. I've already discussed this type of atheist strategy elsewhere.

One of Loftus' favorites is this one: "God could deceive you, therefore you have no reason to believe He wouldn't, therefore you can't trust your reasoning."

It's an obvious non sequitur. That Loftus could beat his doggie doesn't entitle me to believe that he would beat his doggie. Similarly, that Loftus could offer a somewhat logical argument does not entitle me to believe that he ever would do so.

Loftus offered his above favorite "God could do X" argument in the combox of the above linked post of mine. He was responding to Steve, and Steve responded to Loftus. And, Steve is right, he's already discussed this issue with Loftus in previous exchanges. But, Loftus goes on living as if people never respond to him, this way he can continue to recycle his bad arguments. Loftus thinks that saying something a multitude of times will change the outcome of his arguments. Loftus is like a man who believes that 0 + 0 = 0 but 0 + 0 + 0 does not = 0. For some reason, he thinks his arguments, which equal zero, can add up to more than zero if he just adds some more zeros to the equation.

I also responded, but since it is buried in the thread I didn't want Loftus to miss it. This post will serve as more documentation to cite the next time Loftus tries to add a zero to his other zeros.


"Steve merely believes what God sovereignly decrees him to believe, and he has no basis at all to think what he believes is true and based on the evidence, or that he will be rewarded after he dies because of what he believes. NONE. All he can say is that he believes what his God decrees him to believe, period."

1. The first thing to note is that (a) if theism is true, and Loftus' claims are true, then Loftus has no reason to believe what he's written. And, (b), via tu quoque, if Loftus' physicalism is true, he has no reason to believe his charges here. So, if either (a) or (b) are the case, and what Loftus says is the case, Loftus has, by believing the conjunction of the two, a defeater for his beliefs, esp. his beliefs in his argument here. On top of that, if Loftus holds to Naturalism and Evolution, he has no reason to believe his cognitive faculties are reliable. Why would evolution select for truth *content?* It would seem that content would be invisible to evolutionary processes. Unless, of course, Loftus wants to identify content with syntax? But then why think that the *truth* of a proposition has any bearing on neural structures. Presumably a "false" neuron is the same, physically, as a "true" neuron - this is supposing we can make sense of "false and true" *neurons.*

2. Loftus' mere say-so that Steve has no basis for his beliefs does not, no matter how much Loftus wishes, mean that what he says has any basis in reality. Indeed, it does not make the argument stronger because Loftus writes "NONE" in all caps.

3. How does Loftus know that Steve has *no* reasons? How could be possibly know that? It’s not an analytic truth, i.e., there's nothing in the proposition "God decreed S's beliefs," that entails the claim, "therefore S has no reason to believe that his beliefs are true." So, how does Loftus propose to argue for this universal negative?

4. Say that something roughly similar to Plantinga's model is correct. That is, say that God designed us with cognitive faculties that were successfully aimed at being reliable in belief production. Surely this isn't a logical impossibility. Hence, Loftus cannot say that there are *no* reasons to think our beliefs are successfully aimed at the production of true beliefs.

"Moreover, the God doing the decreeing of Steve's beliefs could be so much different than the God he believes in."

Notice an instantiation of the type of arguments I discuss in this post. It baffles me how Loftus can think that his mentioning of "could" has any argumentative force, at all. If the fact that God "could" be different that Steve's conception is meant to conclude, "therefore Steve has no reason to believe that God *is* like Steve believes," then it appears that we can prove that God *is* quite like how Steve believes him to be. Counter:

(*) "God *could* be like the God Steve believes to be, therefore, God is (or most probably is) how Steve believes him to be."

So, it appears that (*) counters John's argument. If not, how does John suppose his argument to work?

Furthermore, why suppose that God *would* do something like this? Because of the broadly logical possibility that God *could* be deceiving Steve are we supposed to conclude that God *would* deceive Steve? That's the relevant question. If God *wouldn't* do X, the fact that he *could* doesn’t really matter. Loftus has given us no reason to think that God would do anything like what Loftus suggests.

"There may be no atonement, no creation, no incarnation, no resurrection, and no afterlife at all."

Say I have a model of faith roughly modeled after knowledge by testimony. We must agree that the testimony of others is a valid way to gain knowledge. Some estimates put it that 98% of what we know is based on the testimony of others.

Say that testimony is a basic belief, and hence not subject to having to be "justified" or "proven" by appeal to propositional evidence in its favor.

Further, given this model, and a model of warrant similar to Plantinga's: A person S has warrant W for his belief that P only if the testifier T has W for P. If T is warranted in believing P, then S, the testifiee, has warrant for believing in P. Surely God, as conceived in the Christian tradition, has supreme, or maximal, or super warrant for his beliefes (in an alagous way). And, taking his testimony, which I have no reason to doubt (indeed, a case can be made that it is irrational to doubt his testimony since he is the supreme testifier. If His word should be approached with doubt, then we should never take anything on the testimony of others), I am warranted in believing in those doctrines.

Moreover, taken detailed defenses and explanations of defeaters by those like Bergman, Plantinga, Otte, et al., you can't defeat this by the mere mentioning that God could be lying. Trust in the word of God, especially if it has the epistemic role of ultimate authority, can trump some defeaters. Just like if all the circumstantial evidence pointed to me as being the dognapper of Franklin Loftus, my belief, based on clear and impressive memories that I was walking in the park 50 miles away at the time of the crime, serves to defeat those defeaters. If I have not called in to question the testimony of the word of God, then it remains undefeated for me, and I am warranted in believing in those doctrines because they have warrant (in an analogous way, maximal warrant) for God. Now, *you* may doubt his word, but that doesn't mean that *I* have to. If I should, why shouldn't I doubt every thing I know from testimony? The only thing Loftus can say here would, I think, confuse the *de jure* with the *de facto* questions.

"How in the world could you possibly argue this is not possible? Everything you say to argue against this is something your God decrees for you to believe and to say. YOU CAN'T!"

Well, I gave a few ways above. But, there's two points here:

(i) That ~P is *possible* does not entail that we can't know that P. John's placing an infallibilist constraint on knowledge. He must first defend infallibilism if he wants to proceed.

(ii) Since John is in the realm of *possibility* then all I need to do to refute it is offer a logically *possible* state of affairs where the negation of his conclusion obtains. I have done this (indeed, John cannot claim that my scenarios are logically *impossible,* therefore they are possible). Now, though I think my models are more than "just possible," I think something like it is the case. Nevertheless, I don't need to prove something that strong since Loftus chose to frame the debate in the broadly logically possible.

"So let's have done with this crap that you raise every time I back you in a corner by saying I think there is nothing intrinsically good. You have no reasons for what you all!"

i. We've seen that, per John's own argument, he has "no reasons" for what he believes; including that Steve has no reasons!

ii. Supposing that John did this, it was Pike he "backed into a corner" (though this is false), and not "Steve." More evidence that John can't trust his monkey mind (i.e., a mind evolved from an ape-like ancestor).

iii. That one isn't *absolutely certain* (granting that Steve isn't) does not logically entail "therefore he has no reasons for what he believes... at all!"

"Pardon me if I'm no Michael Martin, BTW. But you're no John Calvin or John Frame, either."

But certainly that's not the proper analogy. Steve is not John Frame is equal to the claim that John Loftus isn't Brian Sapient.

John Loftus is about 100*100 times below a Martin while Hays is 1*5 times below John Frame (btw, that's no insult to Frame, it's a compliment to Steve!).

Vicarious atonement


Pike, let's say I punch you in the mouth for being an idiot.

What would you demand from me in order to forgive me? Would you demand to hit me back before you could forgive me? If so, you're not forgiving me at all. You're punishing me. If not, then forgiveness can be offered without punishment.

Some victims will never forgive their assailants even after being punished, while other victims have forgiven their assailants even though they were never punished.

What exactly is the realationship between forgiveness and punishment?

I see none. None at all.

You see, were not talking about a fine, which anyone can pay for someone else. We're talking about why we should be physically tortured and killed in order God to forgive us.


It’s a pity that Loftus learned so little in seminary:

1.Forgiveness and punishment don’t take the same object. God isn’t forgiving and punishing the same person or set of persons. That’s’ why it’s call penal *substitution* or *vicarious* atonement, John.

There are three parties to this transaction: God the Father, God the Son Incarnate, and the elect. Jesus suffers on behalf of and in the stead of the elect.

(In systematic theology, the Holy Spirit is involved in the application of the atonement.)

Justice is exacted on Jesus for the sake of the elect so that forgiveness may be extended to the elect.

“We” are not physically tortured and killed in order for God to forgive us. Rather, the Redeemer endures the penalty of sin for the sake of the redeemed.

2.Because human beings are sinners, we often screw up. Because we often screw up, we often cut each other some slack and give each other a second chance. We forego justice because we would like the offender to do us the same favor the time around when he is the offended party and we are the offenders.

That is actually a miscarriage of justice, but it’s in our mutual, long-range self-interest much of the time. In a fallen world, we couldn’t survive if we were always punished for our sins.

3.God, by contrast, does not sacrifice one’s just deserts in the interests of forgiveness—for that would be unjust, and God is a just God. God upholds the principle of retributive justice while also forgiving sinners of his choosing through vicarious atonement or penal substitution.

That, in turn, lays the moral foundation for God to justly forgive sinners, as well as for sinners to forgive one another—consistent with the scope of special redemption.

Someone with all your seminary degrees should at least be able to accurately summarize the Biblical concept of redemption—whether or not you agree with it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Jesus' family tree

I wondered if you knew of any resources that might help on explaining why the genealogies in Matthew and Luke are different, especially why they have a different number of generations.


I think it comes down to different ways in which different cultures define the family. Judaism was a tribal society, where the family consisted of extended families in larger, concentric units. As one scholar explains:

"Josh 7:14-18 (cf. Judg 17-18) has become the locus classicus for understanding the use of the Hebrew words for family: sebet (‘tribe’), mispaha (‘clan’), and bayit (‘house’; or, better, bet-ab, ‘fathers' house’). With the help of ethnographic studies and archaeological research, these terms, especially the last two, can be understood as 'kinship group' and 'family household,' respectively," R. Hess & M Carroll, eds. Family in the Bible: Exploring Customs, Culture, and Context (Baker 2003), 35.

We, in the contemporary West, think of a family as a serial nuclear family. Hence, we see discrepancies between the two synoptic gospels because we come to the text with alien presuppositions.

But the Jews had a more flexible definition of kinship and ancestry. Tom Wright has briefly commented on this difference (see below).

I should add that numerology is a factor in both genealogies. This is explicit in the case of Matthew.

But Bauckham has argued that septunarian numerology is also shaping the Lucan genealogy (Cf. Jude and the Brothers of Jesus, chap. 7).

This doesn't mean that either of them concocted the materials. Rather, given the flexibility of family trees in Judaism (see my previous email), they used numerology as a selection-criterion, choosing the historical links they needed (while omitting others) to trigger literary allusions and historical associations with the past. I discuss this in my review of TET.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Carping Carr

Maybe you would be interested in two debates Steven Carr is having?

What do you think of his (S. Carr's) thoughts on the resurrection and the reliability of the gospels in general?


I don’t see that he’s saying much of anything I didn’t already cover in my critique of TET. So I won’t repeat myself here except to comment on a few of his claims:

Concerning the Gospels in general, since I view these documents as divinely inspired, I regard them as more than reliable: I view them as infallible. But I realize that isn’t your starting point.

“Certainly Jesus died. Everybody dies.”

According to Scripture, this isn’t true. Enoch didn’t die. Elijah didn’t die. And those who are alive at the time of the Parousia will never die.

“Did the disciples preach a message? Which ones? We have nothing from they to say that they preached a bodily resurrection.”

Let’s remember that a bodily resurrection would be the default position of mainstream Jews. If they believed in a resurrection (pace the Sadducees), such as the eschatological resurrection of the just, then it would be a bodily resurrection. That’s been documented by scholars like Wright.

So there’s no expectation that NT writers would specify a corporeal resurrection, in contradistinction to an incorporeal resurrection.

The only reason that Paul, Luke, and John accentuate the physical nature of the resurrection is because this was coming under challenge—probably by Greeks.

The onus lies on Carr to show that every reference to the resurrection in the NT (whether the resurrection of Christ, general resurrection, or resurrection of the just) is incorporeal unless otherwise stated.

“Acts is anonymous.”

Acts is by the same author as the gospel of Luke. We know the authorship of Luke’s gospel based on the title (read Hengel on the titles of the gospels) as well as external corroboration.

“Never says who the sources were.”

Carr is playing dumb. Generally speaking, when an author writes about contemporary people and events, he doesn’t name his sources. For the unspoken understanding is that he is in a position to talk about these people and events as a matter of personal knowledge. Things which he either observed for himself, or learned from other contemporary eyewitnesses.

For example, Eisenhower, Churchill, and Wiesel all wrote about WWII. Do they name all their sources? Do people read them for their sources?

No, we read them because we regard *them* (the authors) as a primary source of information about WWII, since they were well-placed contemporaries who both knew a lot as a matter of direct observation as well as knowing others who were eyewitnesses.

One can infer from the we-sections in Acts what Luke saw for himself. We can also infer from the fact that he was a traveling companion of Paul, as well as being a member of the numerically small, tight-knit NT church, with its home-base in Jerusalem, that Luke’s information comes from many of the same people he talks about.

“And never tells us how the author sifted true stories from the myriads of false stories Christians were spreading about Jesus.”

What is Carr’s evidence for this claim? Incidentally, notice that Carr never names his own sources. So by his own yardstick, whatever Carr tells us is worthless.

“That makes it invalid as a source of history. Scondary, anonymous writings by biased people engaged in propaganda can be automatically dismissed as revealing no more than what the author wanted people to believe.”

i) Another false dichotomy. The question at issue is the source of the bias. When Ike, Churchill, and Wiesel write about WWII, they are not impartial reporters. They think the Nazis were the bad guys. And they had good reason for their moral assessment. Their bias was based on evidence—evidence involving the stated aims and actual conduct of the Nazis.

ii) Carr is also a biased writer. So, once again, if we apply his own yardstick to his own statements, everything he says is worthless.

“Did the disciples believe? Matthew 28:17 says that some of them doubted, even after they had been shown proofs by the Son of God Himself. Clearly the author of Matthew knew he had to spin away the fact that nobody had heard of 11 disciples preaching a message of bodily resurrection.”

This is a really stupid statement. If Matthew tells us that some continued to doubt ever after seeing the Risen Lord, then this is a mark of Matthew’s candor. If Matthew was in spin mode, he’d never record—much less invent—a group of dissenters.

“Paul did convert to Christianity, describing his Jewish beliefs prior to his conversion as 'garbage'.”

This is citing Paul out of context. Paul didn’t regard everything he knew as Jew or a learned as a Pharisee as garbage. Rather, it was insufficient to justify him before God.

“All Paul ever claims is that Jesus 'appeared' to people, using the sames word 'ophthe' which the New Testament uses to describe how fire 'appeared' on the disciples heads at Pentecost.”

This is a silly statement. The bodily resurrection isn’t based on the meaning of the verb for sight.

“Were the disciples heads physically on fire, when fire 'appeared'? The main meaning of the word 'ophthe' is a non-physical appearance.”

Notice that Carr doesn’t quote any Greek lexicons to substantiate that claim.

“People who claim to have gone to Heaven are nutcases, and their testimony is not to be taken as valid, although they probably sincerely believe that they have visited Heaven.”

This is an assertion, not an argument. There’s a serious body of literature on mysticism, including writers like William James, Nelson Pike, and Joseph Maréchal.

“James supposedly spent 30 years watching his brother's literally Christ-like behaviour. How could he have been a sceptic after observing God-made-flesh for 30 years?”

This assumes that Jesus used to perform miraculous stunts when they were kids. But according to Jn 2:11, the first miracle that Jesus ever performed was for the wedding at Cana.

“If my brother was Jesus, do you really think I would be a sceptic?”

Other issues aside, scepticism isn’t simply a matter of inexperience or ignorance. People can disbelieve in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Consider all of the conspiracy theories about 9/11, although we saw this unfold in real time, on live TV. And even though no event in history was more widely covered or exhaustively scrutinized.

“Just Acts, a work written by who-knows-who and who-knows-where, a work written by an author who is acknowledged by all people to have taken a previous Gospel (the Gospel of Mark) and simply changed it to suit his own private theological agenda.”

This is a simple-minded description of Luke’s editorial process:

i) To begin with, he didn’t get all his information from Mark.

ii) In addition, we can, indeed, see how he redacted Mark (assuming Markan priority). And his editorial changes are extremely conservative. So this supplies an external check on Luke’s fidelity to his sources.

“In the real world , there is no evidence that Joseph of Arimathea ever existed.”

I have no direct evidence that Steven Carr exists. For all I know, Carr is a fictitious character, invented by a Christian to make unbelievers look bad. Surely, if Steve Carr were a real person, he wouldn’t be as blundeing as the Carrian redactor makes him out to be.

“The 'carnal man' has put his hope in a 'carnal body', which is why he is a fool. The 'carnal body' will die.”

This is not what “sarx” means in NT usage.

“Why is Josephus regarded as more reliable than the Gospel of Mark?”

Is he? Notice, once more, that Carr doesn’t cite any sources to back up his claim.

“For one thing, the Gospel of Mark has no markers which indicate that it was even intended as history. It is anonymous, never names sources, never says how the author checked his sources, never gives any attempt at chronology etc etc.”

In light of Acts 12:13, it is likely that Mark was an eyewitness to the Jerusalem ministry of Christ, as well as having direct contact with the Jerusalem apostles. He was also a sometime traveling companion of Paul, as well as a protégé of Peter (1 Pet 5:13). And that’s apart from the patristic testimony. So he was well-informed.

“Luke does at least make an attempt at chronology, but he also never names sources, and never shows any sign of being a critical historian, who evaluates and sifts evidence. By contrast, look at Josephus. A real historian like Josephus mentions his sources frequently.”

A couple of problems:

i) Much of the time, Josephus is writing about events long before he was born. This is quite different from the way an author writes about his contemporaries, or contemporary events.

ii) If Carr thinks that Josephus is a “real historian,” then he must be respectful of his miraculous reports, the way in which his materials so often dovetail with NT history, his remarks about James the Just, and the Testimonium Flavianum.

“The earliest reference to the resurrection is in 1 Cor. 15. There we learn that the Corinthians accepted the resurrection of Jesus, but still disbelieved that a dead body could rise.”

Two problems:

i) I have no particular reason to assume that 1 Corinthians (c. AD 55) was written before any of the synoptic gospels.

ii) Even if it was, one needs to distinguish between the date of the secondary sources (e.g. Matthew, Mark, Luke, 1 Corinthians), and the date of the primary sources which they use in their reportage.

Using retrotranslation back into Aramaic, Maurice Casey has argued for the extremely primitive date of the underlying, synoptic source material—even concomitant with the preaching of Jesus. And Alan Millard has also documented the prevalence of literacy in 1C Palestine.

If Paul can write a letter, Luke can write a gospel. If Paul can write a letter in AD 55, then Luke can write a gospel in AD 55 (or before).

“This is impossible to explain, if they had been taught that Jesus dead body had risen.”

The “Corinthians” are not a monolithic group. Many or most of them were converts from Greco-Roman paganism. Greeks, if they even believed in the afterlife, believe in apotheosis or the immortality of the soul. The resurrection was a Jewish concept.

“After all, modern Christians have no problem with the idea that God can raise dead bodies, because they have heard stories of how the body of Jesus was raised.”

A poor parallel. Many theological liberals call themselves Christians even though they deny the bodily resurrection of Christ—and other doctrines.

“The Corinthians worry is easy to explain if they believed that Jesus was a god. Jesus had been a spirit before he became a human , and became a spirit again after he died.”

A couple of problems:

i) Notice that Carr makes no attempt to exegete this from the text of 1 Cor 15.

ii) God doesn’t “have” a spirit. God is a spirit. God doesn’t cease to be a spirit by becoming incarnate.

“The Corinthians knew that God could breathe life into dead matter. God had breathed life into clay and created Adam as a living person. So if they believed God could make dead matter live, why did they believe God would choose not to make their dead bodies alive?”

That would be more obvious to Jews and Jewish Christians than to Gentiles (except for proselytes or God-fearers) who had no such background in the OT Scriptures or 2nd temple Judaism.

“If Paul thought the Corinthians were idiots for wondering how dead bodies could be raised, when it was child’s play for God to raise dead bodies, he would have told them so. He could have used such passages as Ezekiel 37, or talked about how God breathed life into dead matter to make Adam.”

Two more problems:

i) There’s no such thing as “the” Corinthians. This is a church with many factions. Many subdivisions. Paul is dealing with one subset of the Corinthian church.

ii) Ezk 37 is a symbolic vision.

“Such questions were irrelevant, which is why Paul never answers the questions of how corpses could get back missing limbs, or how a corpse destroyed by fire could be reconstituted from smoke and ash etc.”

Two issues:

i) I’ve never felt the force of this objection. A body is simply a distinctive organization of matter. In some cases, a resurrection would reconstitute, not the original atoms, but the original configuration of atoms.

ii) In the case of Christ, there was still a body to resurrect (or glorify). So there was a high degree of continuity between his mortal body and his immortal body.

But in cases where the original body has disintegrated, there will be less direct continuity. Even so, it’s possible for the glorified body to replicate the original, and thereby be identical with the original, except that the glorified body is immortal rather than mortal.

“English translations of 1 Corinthians 15 often mask Paul’s idea that after our natural body has died, we will get a body made of spirit.”

Is Steve Carr a Greek scholar?

“Just like Jesus, we will become ‘a life-giving spirit.’”

If he bothered to read Thiselton or Wright, to mention a couple of premier scholars on the subject, he’d know that this is Pauline shorthand for a body which is reanimated by the Holy Spirit. It has nothing to do with the composition of the body.

“Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that we will leave this present body behind and receive a heavenly body to replace the old body. He often uses a clothing analogy. At the resurrection we will get a new set of clothes. This means that the old set of clothes will be discarded.”

Paul is juggling more than one metaphor. There are also the allusions to the OT tabernacle. Carr is being woodenly literal with mixed metaphors, which is incoherent.

“So Paul had to write a second letter to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 5, he makes even more explicit his theory that the Corinthians don't have to worry about corspes rotting and decaying, as their natural body is what they are living in now, and they will move into a different residence at the resurrection.”

Actually, Paul is more concerned here with the timing of glorification. On this subject, read M. J. Harris’ commentary on the Greek text of 2 Corinthians.

“Presumably Paul means that our mortal natures (note Paul never writes bodies here!).”

He never writes “bodies” here because he’s dealing with theological metaphors. The usage is figurative and literarily allusive rather than literal—although he clearly believes in the intermediate state.