Saturday, September 29, 2007

How to Have Your Libertarian Cake And Eat it Too

Bob the defender of an unlimited atonement for no one has a perfect debate strategy.

For example, here he said,

"Actually, God operates by this same axiomatic belief, see Ezekiel 18 in particular but there are other passages as well where God holds people responsible for their actions and blames them because they could have and should have done otherwise.” (emphasis supplied.)

And here he says,

"Besides, who said that the “ought implies can” principle has to always be true, in every situation? Could it be true in some instances and not in others? And if it is not in force in some situations can you then conclude that it is not in force in any other situations? How can you rule out that possibility? You cannot." (emphasis supplied)

But now in this combox discussion I had argued that his view of god is a view of a failure god who cannot do what he intends: to "save the world" (John 3:18). But he argued that his god did all he could do, now it is up to man, and man must have faith, and if man does not have faith, then it is man who failed, not his god. Bob argues thusly when asking if men are held accountable if they do not place their faith in Jesus:

If yes, then how are they held responsible for something that was not something that they had to/or could do? (emphasis supplied)

Bob wants to have his cake and eat it too. When it's convenient, "ought-implies-can," and when it's not, "maybe it doesn't."

But, let's use Bob to argue against Bob. Let's assume that they are held responsible and also cannot actualize that faith since God chooses not to regenerate them. Here's our Bobbed-out surrejoinder:

"Who said that the “ought implies can” principle has to always be true, in every situation? Could it be true in some instances and not in others? And if it is not in force in some situations can you then conclude that it is not in force in any other situations? How can you rule out that possibility? You cannot."

Bob has given us all the ammo we need. If it is not always true that "ought-implies-can" then bob cannot, per Bob's own Bobism, say that God "cannot" hold cognitive subject S responsible for not placing faith in God, even if S "could not" (in the sense of having the ability to actuate an alternative possibility) produce that faith. I mean, I guess he could say, "Oh no, in this case it does hold." But that seems self-serving. (But, furthermore, if all men "ought" to have faith, then to fail to have faith is to commit an immoral act. To commit an immoral act is to sin. But, Jesus died for "all" sins. So he died for the sin of failing to have faith in Jesus. Thus when someone is punished in hell for that sin, then both they and Christ were punished for the same sin.)

Thus Bob beats Bob. Arbitrariness is a fickle friend indeed, my friends!

Early Perceptions Of The Gospels' Genre

Much of what's argued by critics of Christianity is contradicted not only by early Christian sources, but also by early non-Christian sources. I've discussed some examples in the past, such as the empty tomb and New Testament authorship.

Another example is the genre of the gospels. Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd write:

Fourth, and more recently, a number of scholars have argued that the Gospels are best understood in terms of ancient "fiction."...

There is no consensus among scholars within this camp as to what exact kind of fiction the Gospels are intended to be. Candidates include "folktale," "storytelling," "myth," "legend," "historical novel," "fantasy," "comedy," and even "joke." (The Jesus Legend [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007], pp. 314-315)

Eddy and Boyd discuss some of the problems with such proposals. One of the most significant problems with all of the arguments for a fictional genre is that both the earliest Christian and the earliest non-Christian interpreters of the gospels viewed them as non-fiction:

Fifth, if Acts [which is relevant to the genre of Luke] was indeed intended to be fictional, it is somewhat surprising that no one in the early Christian community ever read the work as such. James Dawsey rightly asks, "If the Acts of the Apostles were the creative [i.e., fictional] work of an author, why would it not have suffered the same fate as the Acts of Paul?"...

As a matter of historical fact, neither the early Christians nor anyone up to very recent times ever thought of interpreting Mark or any other Gospel as intentional fiction, let alone as fiction patterned after Homer's Odyssey and Iliad [as Dennis MacDonald proposes]. MacDonald himself writes, "Readers for two thousand years apparently have been blind" to the fact that Mark was writing a fictional "prose anti-epic of sorts." One wonders how everyone got it wrong for so long.

This problem is particularly acute since, to make his larger case, MacDonald argues that "ancient authors could expect the readers to draw connections to Homer that are invisible to us." However, by his own admission, no one did. As Karl Sandnes has pointed out, MacDonald's thesis about Mark is missing at least one essential element: in the ancient world when one text was imitating another - even in an exercise in transvaluation - the subtle moments of emulation were accompanied by very clear moments of "advertised intertextuality," moments in which the emulation exercise was "broadcast in ways that alerted the reader." These clear moments of advertised emulation are missing from Mark's Gospel. It seems Mark's alleged allusions to Homer were as "invisible" to his original audience, and even his fellow Gospel authors, as they are to all modern scholars - except MacDonald. This obviously begs the question of whether it is all other readers throughout history, on the one hand, or MacDonald himself, on the other, who missed Mark's real intention. (pp. 339, 342-343)

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Wrong Odds

Thomas Paine wrote in Age of Reason (on-line source: note, I just Googled the quote so I'm not endorsing anything else on that website!):

If we are to suppose a miracle to be something so entirely out of the course of what is called nature, that she must go out of that course to accomplish it, and we see an account given of such a miracle by the person who said he saw it, it raises a question in the mind very easily decided, which is,--Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course, or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course; but we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time; it is, therefore, at least millions to one, that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie.
This quote has been used by many different atheists (for example, Gordon Stein used it in his debate with Greg Bahnsen), but a simple examination of the quote reveals major flaws in Paine's thinking. First, let us consider this statement: "We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course...." Note that this is directly contradicted by his previous statement, "we see an account given of such a miracle by the person who said he saw it" (emphasis added). Thus, someone is indeed claiming to have seen the very thing that Paine claims "we" have never seen. In other words, Paine is begging the question when he says "We have never seen" miracles; he is ruling all claimed observances as lies and then using that to determine that they are all lies.

But Paine's argument also fails because of the use of the term "we." How does he know what other people have or have not observed? By their testimony. But this is the same testimony that Paine criticizes. If it is indeed true that millions of lies have been told, why is this evidence against some testimony (I have seen a miracle) but not against other testimony (I have not seen a miracle)? Again, Paine is assuming what he needs to prove.

Perhaps, though, Paine was simply using the editorial "we." In such case, his sentence should be read as, "I have never seen, in my time, nature go out of her course..." But, naturally (pun intended), this severely limits the strength of Paine's argument. The argument can only be valid if it has generalized truth behind it. That Paine has never seen a miracle is no proof that no one has ever seen a miracle.

And I'd point out that we must take Paine's word for it that he's never seen a miracle, but Paine's own argument is that there have been millions of lies told. How are we to know Paine is telling the truth here rather than using irony to affirm what he pretends to deny?

This actually gets to the core of the problem with Paine's methods. Just because some people lie a lot and the total number of lies on Earth is vast, doesn't many any particular person at any particular time is telling a lie. This would be like the prosecution stating, "While no one has ever seen the defendant murder the victim, he has claimed not to do so. But we know that during the course of this trial millions of people have told lies. Which is more likely to believe, that the defendant didn't murder his wife or that he told a lie when he said he didn't murder his wife?"

But perhaps a better illustration will help out our atheists friends (to use the editorial we again). We have never observed macroevolution. During the time of our observation, nature has remained steady. But we have reason to believe that during this same time of observation, billions of lies have been told (after all, there are now nearly 7 billion people on Earth, and if each of them only told 1 lie during the time of our observation, we'd have 7 billion right there). Which is more likely then, scientists' claims that macroevolution really happened, or that they are lying?

Seen in this light, Paine's argument is a whiffle bat.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Human Rights and Justice in an Age of Terror

Human Rights and Justice in an Age of Terror: An evangelical critique of An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture. by Keith Pavlischek

Me, Myself, and I.

Jim: "Thanks for saving my life, good friend, I almost drowned out there."

Bob: "Don't mention it. I did it for myself. After all, my life would suck if you weren't in it, and there's that matter of the 1,000 dollars you owe me. It wouldn't be beneficial for me to lose out on that. So, you're welcome, friend."

Who out there, if you were in Jim's shoes, would think this act of Bob's was a good, moral, and altruistic act? Not many, I'd wager.

But, don't those adhering to ethical egoism say that they can account for "altruism?" That helping and saving others is actually good, for them? That their system doesn't do away with our moral responsibility to help others, for the sake of helping others?

But, isn't this a trick? Doesn't this, in fact, fail to distinguish between pseudo and genuine altruism? The latter has, as its goal, purpose, and intrinsic value, the benefit of another irrespective of benefit to one's self? (And, as an aside, that there may be personal payoffs and side effects does not logically entail that the moral action was done for egoistic reasons as its basis. Sure it is nice to have your friend around and to collect on the 1,000, but an altruistic act is done solely for the sake of the other; even though there might very well be side effects and outcomes that are good for you, personally.)

Many atheists, especially Randroids (followers of the Rand Cult (as dubbed by an atheist, mind you)), adhere to ethical egoism. And, they frequently try to justify "altruistic" acts within their system; try to make them fit; try to make sense of them. But above I've pointed out that the cost is to defend pseudo altruism over against genuine altruism. And, the argument from side effects does not imply ethical egoism. Indeed, most of us, including Jim, might rightly look down on Bob's actions. Altruistic acts, done on and for egoism's premises, are morally repugnant acts.

The Adoptomatic


“Reformed Baptists are only half-Calvinists, so I don't much see their views of baptism as normative.”

I’m afraid the Fearsome Pirate has put his finger on a truly embarrassing problem for Reformedom. Like the Pon farr and Barry Manilow music, this is not something we discuss in polite company.

But it’s sadly true that we have far too many half-breed Calvinists crashing our formal soirees and lowering the tone of the proceedings—what with their lowbred accent and uncouth table manners.

For this reason, the T-bloggers have designed The Adoptomatic. After extensive, behind-the-scenes negotiations with some of the best families in Dordt, Perth, and Geneva, they have agreed to adopt a half-breed Calvinist for a suitable incorporation fee.

Adoptomatic machines will be installed in the narthex of every Southern Baptist church this side of the Mason-Dixon line. You insert a credit card, select which family tree you wish to be grafted on to, and the machine will issue you a certificate of pedigree which you can keep in you wallet just in case you ever wish to take communion at an OPC or URC church.

For those of you who can’t afford the incorporation fee, we will also be setting up the Adopt-A-Half-Breed-Calvinist Fund—which will issue Adoptomatic bonus cards to the deserving poor as long as they can recite the first 17 chapters of the Westminster Confession in one breath.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On Conspiracy Theories

Since the subject of the Iraq war brought this up (albeit unintentionally), I thought it might be helpful to do a quick examination of the nature of conspiracy theories in general. However, since certain people have a habit of being unable to read anything but instead assume that each paragraph I write must somehow be about them, I’ll explicitly state right now that this entire blog post is not a response to anyone in particular. If you think it’s about you, it’s not.

Then again, I am the conspiracy.

Umberto Eco quotes Karl Popper: “The conspiracy theory of society … comes from abandoning God and then asking: ‘Who is in his place?’” (Popper, Conjectures and Refutations, London, Routlege, 1969, iv, p. 123; qtd in Eco, Umberto. Foucault’s Pendulum. 1988. Orlando : Harcourt, Inc. p. 601). And this often does seem to be the case. If we lack divine oversight, we have a void to fill; so we manufacture our conspiracies.

But it doesn’t have to be grand Illuminati-type conspiracies. Eco writes:

Take stock-market crashes. They happen because each individual makes a wrong move, and all the wrong moves put together create panic. Then whoever lacks steady nerves asks himself: Who’s behind this plot, who’s benefiting? He has to find an enemy, a plotter, or it will be, God forbid, his fault (ibid p. 603).
Foucault’s Pendulum is a great book if you want to see how it is possible to generate a conspiracy. It’s actually quite easy to develop a plausible-sounding conspiracy theory (by “plausible-sounding” I mean only that those who do not understand logic will easily fall for it) using simple connections that occur in life, even by accident. These connection are necessary because, at some level, everything actually is connected. In fact, I can offer a challenge of sorts for anyone who wishes to do so in the comments section: Offer up two random facts or two random objects and I guarantee I will be able to find some kind of link between them. It’s very easy to demonstrate this with a quick example of my own: Trees and concrete.

A tree is connected to concrete because a twig looks like a crack in the sidewalk. We can continue the thread. An apple is connected to New York through popular metaphor, but why should that be? Well, New York has concrete sidewalks, and thus it can be linked to a tree. For this reason, New York is also called the “Big Apple”; it is a reference to the original Garden of Eden via apple trees (the traditional fruit Adam ate) and concrete sidewalks.

Now the terrorists attacked New York City because they were representing Adam’s fall from Eden. Since the fall impacted the whole world, they chose the World Trade Center. Since Genesis also mentions such rivers as the Euphrates, which happens to be in Iraq (where the real Eden was located), the New York City Eden was really a faux Eden. Thus the terrorists were purging the world of a fake Eden. This is further documented by the fact that the terrorists also attacked the Pentagon. Why there? Because the Pentagon is a pentagram (an obvious Satanic symbol), and attacking it would demonstrate more fully the real reason for the attack: the metaphoric fall from grace of the Adamic line….

I could continue with the illustration, but need not. Naturally, my usage of the conspiracy terms is weighted toward the Cabalistic mystical version of conspiracies since (God knows I hope this next bit is actually accurate) no one reading this blog would take them seriously, and therefore it should be easier to see the flaws in the “logic.”

The logical problem with all this is the same problem we get when trying to match any specific trait to any specific causal event in biology (or any other science for that matter). I wrote about this earlier in this post where I quoted David Raup (who was speaking about extinction specifically):

Once we have the lists, we must search for common denominators: characteristics shared by most victims but not survivors, or vice versa. This is straightforward, and we have seen the results in the case of mammalian body size. The problem is that organisms have a virtually unlimited number of characteristics that might be important: anatomical, behavioral, physiological, geographical, ecological, and even genealogical. We can compare lists of victims and survivors with so many different traits as we have energy. If the lists are not long, it becomes virtually inevitable that we will find one or more traits that match the lists closely enough for us to make a case.

If we find an interesting correlation by this procedure, we can apply standard statistical tests to evaluate the possibility that the correlation is due to chance alone. Each such test asks, in one way or another, “What is the probability that the random sprinkling of a particular trait among species would, by chance, yield a correlation as good as the one we observe?” If that probability turns out to be very low—say, 5 percent or less—we feel comfortable in rejecting random sprinkling and concluding that the observed correlation is true cause and effect.

The fatal flaw in this logic is that testing cannot be adjusted for the fact that we tried many traits before finding a promising one. Remember that one out of every twenty completely random sprinklings will, on average, pass our test if odds of twenty to one are considered acceptable—as is common in scientific research. Because it is virtually impossible to keep track of the number of traits we have considered—many were discarded at a glance—we cannot evaluate the test results for any one trait.

This problem is not unique to paleontology, or to science either. If you have difficulty accepting my reasoning, try some experiments yourself. Take some baseball statistics or election results or anything that will provide a list of winners and losers. Fifty or a hundred results should be adequate. Then inspect the list to see what characteristics the winners or the losers have in common. The pattern does not have to be perfectly consistent—a statistical tendency is enough—and you are free to change the ground rules as you go along. You can even redefine winner and loser if this will help. Pay special attention to the smaller category of outcomes. For example, you may wish to compare characteristics of first-place baseball teams with those of all other teams. The shorter list (first-place teams) is more likely to have things in common than the longer list. If so, you may be able to venture conclusions like “Most managers (or all, if you are lucky) of first-place teams are firstborns, whereas managers of other teams follow the national average.”
This problem permeates conspiracy theories. We can find connections between a small list (the conspirators) and a big list (all the events in the world) and draw any sort of conclusions we want. “George Bush was in Skull & Bones; so was John Kerry; therefore the 2004 presidential election was rigged by the Skull & Bones Society.”

Yet when we take any two individuals, it’s easy to find characteristics that are common to them that are not common to the majority of people. For instance, the majority of people do not have bald heads; Vin Diesel and Paul Manata have bald heads; therefore, we have established some kind of correlation between the two of them even if that correlation is meaningless. Because we automatically reject all the non-compatible traits, we don’t even have to think about them: Vin Diesel is an actor; Paul Manata is a blogger. This doesn’t help us correlate the two individuals, therefore we don’t think about these two traits.

The problem is, unless we account for the traits that don’t match, we cannot determine the statistical likelihood that the traits that do match are actually meaningful traits. Suppose that there is a 1 in 20 chance that a trait between two people will match but will do so for completely random reasons, not implying any true correlation. Diesel and Manata have a trait in common. Is this part of the 1:20 chance of random correlation, or is this a significant trait commonality? Without knowing the totality of traits involved (which, as shown above, we largely ignore when they don’t match) it is impossible to determine if there is a meaningful correlation.

So consider: Cheney worked at Haliburton. Haliburton is offered a contract in Iraq. There’s a linkage there, but is it meaningful? Haliburton happens to be one of the only companies that can do what Haliburtan does. Is the contract due to Cheney or due to the company’s purpose for existing? Without knowing all the things that do NOT imply correlation, we cannot determine whether the Cheney-Haliburton link is statistically meaningful or just a random correlation.

Raup offered his own example, which I summarized in my previous blog post:

Raup gave a tongue-in-cheek example using the World Wide Atlas from Readers Digest’s 1984 edition to demonstrate that the most populous cities begin with letters in the last half of the alphabet, therefore people tend to flock towards cities that have this attribute. The data is simple. The seven most populous cities (in 1984) were: Tokyo-Yokohama, New York City, Mexico City, Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto, Sao Paulo, Seoul, and Moscow. All of them start with letters in the M-Z range of the alphabet. The next seven cities, however, were: Calcutta, Buenos Aires, London, Bombay, Los Angeles, Cairo, and Rio de Janeiro. Of these, only Rio de Janeiro does not fit the pattern. Thus, Raup states (again, tongue-in-cheek): “The statistical likelihood that this was caused by chance alone is so small that rejection of a hypothesis of randomness is routine. Cause and effect is clearly indicated (p. 99).”
What does this tell us of conspiracy theories in general then? Mainly, conspiracies are built entirely on unsubstantiated linkages between people, events, dates, et al. and you cannot tell the difference between a legitimate link and a random link due to the fact that all things are inherently related (if, for no other reason, than the fact that all things exist and are perceived by the mind of the one inventing the conspiracy theory). Secondly, a good conspiracy must never reveal itself, for a conspiracy revealed is an impotent conspiracy. Thus, conspiracies must always be small and, as a result, completely impotent. This paradox—a conspiracy must be impotent if it is to refrain from being impotent—is part of the reason it’s so irrational to believe in conspiracies. If they were actually capable of doing something, the conspirators would stand out from the background noise of regular random events, and since the goal of any conspiracy is to remain undetected, conspirators must limit themselves to acting only when it is plausible that something other than the conspiracy acted. Which only begs the question: if the conspiracy could have piloted planes into the World Trade Center, but Islamic terrorists are more than willing to do the same thing, for what intellectual reason must we hold to the conspiracy?

Finally, conspiracies are almost always invoked as a way to put some agent in control of the chaos. Denying God’s sovereignty, random actions serve no purpose. If a tree falls on me in the forest, it’s so unlikely that it obviously must have been pushed by someone who cleverly remained hidden from view. Perhaps George Bush used an NSA satellite with a laser beam to cut the tree and make it fall on me. It’s better to be the victim of an agent than the victim of a random quantum flux. So if the tree falls on me, who benefits? Obviously the doctors do. So they must be in collusion with Bush (Bush is a given for any proper conspiracy theory). Perhaps my coworker who insulted me yesterday is in on it too. As is Greenpeace, because trees falling on me demonstrate Global Warming. Therefore, they caused it.

While this example is ridiculous, it’s no less sound than saying: If there is war in Iraq, who benefits? Obviously the oil companies benefit, because they can go to Iraq and steal the oil there. Obviously the terrorists (read: Marine Corps) benefit because they get a recruiting tool. Obviously Bush benefits because of the surge in patriotic behavior (although we were smart enough to neutralize this, and now it’s too late for him to alter his mistake). Obviously the military R&D folks benefit because they can go out and test weapons that they wanted to test. Obviously the ammo suppliers benefit, as do hospitals who care for the wounded, and morticians everywhere. But the state benefits the most because it can trample on everyone’s rights without anyone caring. Therefore, they caused it.

Anyone can correlate anything. But a twig on a branch is not a crack in the sidewalk no matter how similar they look. There is no great crack-inducing conspiracy (other than the Freemasons, of course…which includes the Skull & Bones Society, come to think of it)….

Open Theism and Divine Immorality

From Steve:

Lately, libertarians have been using two arguments against Calvinism:

1. They raise moralistic objections to Reformed determinism.

2. They are also borrowing a page from neotheist hermeneutics.

Jeremy Pierce does a good little job of showing the moral consequences of combining these two arguments for the libertarian position itself.

An Old Testament Theology

An Old Testament Theology: A Canonical and Thematic Approach by Bruce Waltke

Check out the Table of Contents and Chapter 1.

Triablogue Exposed!

Well, Miss Piggy, I really don’t have much choice in the matter. You see, I’m just a Muppet. My stage name is Steve Hays, but my legal name is Kermit the Frog. Paul Manata is really Jim Hensen.

We at Triablogue realize there are those out there who would like to put faces with our names. Since Steve blew our cover Monday, we now realize we are obligated to do something in view of this breach of security. We can either "Deny! Deny! Deny!" or we can just own up to it. We have chosen the latter option.

So, without further adieu:

Jason Engwer:


Charles Sebold:


Patrick Chan:

Gene Bridges:

Gene also moonlights as a traveling Time Lord in the off season:

Evan May:

Eric Vestrup (aka the Pedantic Protestant):

Paul Manata:

Steve Hays (the myth:)

Steve HayReality: The Ultimate Apologetics Computer, in orbit on the International Space Station, designed by Dr. John Frame and Vern Poythress with advice from Founders:

This is who he said he was, but this is just a smokescreen:

And we all know that that means that the above picture is just a cover for the real Patrick Chan:

Watching from afar: James Anderson and Ryan MacReynolds:

And if anybody gets snippy about it, Manata moonlights on the orbiting space station as a security guard:

Shiver me timbers!

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Josh Strodtbeck recently gave a series of interviews to the iMonk in which he attempted to compare and contrast Lutheranism with Calvinism.1 As a rule I don't target Lutheranism. That's not one of my priorities.

As a Calvinist I obviously have some basic disagreements with Lutheranism. However, the areas of disagreement are roughly paralleled in other theological traditions (i.e. Catholicism, Arminianism), so I find it more useful to target those traditions instead since they reproduce some of the same mistakes (along with many others), minus the many compensatory virtues of the Lutheran tradition.

Since, however, Josh has initiated a comparative critique, using Lutheranism as his standard of comparison (naturally), I'll take the occasion to interact with his critique.

Josh has every right to offer his criticisms of the Reformed tradition. Calvinism must acquit its claims before the bar of Scripture.

Also, since Josh is a very bright, articulate, and well-read disputant, the case for Lutheranism is in good hands. It's not as if I'm picking on a weak opponent. To judge by what I've read on his blog, he's more than able to hold his own with most-all of his critics. Indeed, if he didn't suffer from coprolalia,2 I'd be happy to add his blog to the blogroll over at Triablogue.

I also remember reading that he used to be a Calvinist himself. I'm not quite sure why he swam the Rhine. Maybe with a Teutonic surname like Strodtbeck, it was inevitable that sooner or later he would succumb to the irrepressible urge of the Lutheran Pon farr.3

Perhaps if some enterprising Reformed Baptist had kidnapped him and christened him MacStrodtbeck or van Strodtbeck, he would still be in our camp. However, we can console ourselves in the knowledge that whenever he gets to heaven, Brother Strodtbeck will resume his career as a five-point Calvinist.
If you look at Calvin's Institutes, he begins by defining God philosophically, much like Thomas Aquinas does in his Summa. That is, he defines God in terms of various attributes.
How is it "philosophical" to define God in terms of the divine attributes? Doesn't God reveal his attributes in Scripture? Doesn't God define himself by his revealed attributes?
That in itself makes Calvinism more prone to seeing theology as the development of an abstract system of thought. Again, the similarities to Thomas should be obvious. Of course, just listing attributes of God gets kind of dull after a while, so you have to begin discussing his actions at some point. But since the system itself begins with philosophically defined and described attributes, the theologian is naturally going to gravitate toward discussing things in terms of the attributes.
i) How is it more philosophical to go from what God is (i.e. attributes) to what God does (i.e. deeds) than vice versa?

ii) Why does Josh focus on Calvin's theological method when, at a later stage in the interviews, he will say that contemporary Calvinism is far more influenced by the Westminster Standards than it is by Calvin?

iii) As Josh will later point out, covenant theology is a central plank of the Westminster Standards. And what God does is hardly incidental to covenant theology.

iv)And while we're on the subject of philosophy, what about Gerhard's introduction of Aristotelian categories into Lutheran theology?
I think the nature of the human mind is such that one, maybe two or three more, of the attributes will become dominant, and for Calvinists, this attribute is divine sovereignty, especially because Calvinism as a theological tradition quickly became defined partly in terms of opposition to synergism and a strong emphasis on the ontological transcendence of God. This is manifested most sharply in the Westminster Standards, which in both the Confession and the Catechisms define God in terms of his attributes and derive the rest of Christian doctrine out of God's decrees.
i) It's certainly true that, to a great extent, the emphasis in Reformed theology has been conditioned by its sparring partners (e.g. Catholicism, Arminianism, Amyraldism).

ii) But I would like to see Josh demonstrate the claim that the Westminster Standards derive the rest of Christian doctrine from God's decrees. Is it really that axiomatic?
You see this show up in a number of places. The most obvious one is TULIP and the obsession of some Calvinists with predestination and the ordo salutis.
i) This is a charge I run across quite often—especially at the "Reformed Catholic" kennel. I would like to know which Calvinists are obsessed with TULIP. Is he referring to traditional Reformed theologians? Contemporary Reformed theologians? Reformed epologists?

Could he favor us with a few names? This allegation gets thrown around very freely without any documentation. That is how legends evolve.

ii) There is also a circularity to the charge. It's like members of the news media who constantly badmouth the war effort, then appeal to the unpopularity of the war to justify their hostile coverage. But, of course, the unpopularity of the war effort is owing in large part to the hostile coverage.

Likewise, it's only natural for Calvinism to regularly defend those aspects of Calvinism that regularly come under attack. Are we obsessed with TULIP, or is it our critics who are obsessed with TULIP?
The dominating concern in traditional formulations of the ordo is that God be absolutely sovereign in each step so that his desires are in no way frustrated. Less obvious is the Calvinist use of the Law. A sovereign is chiefly in the business of promulgating laws, whether those laws are active, such as the decree of predestination, or passive, such as the prohibition of murder. For some Calvinists, this means an emphasis on self-reflection to see if one's law-keeping sufficiently proves one's regeneration and election. For others, this means rewriting the doctrine of justification in terms of covenant fidelity or downplaying the significance of justification in theology.
i) How is the emphasis on God's role as a lawgiver in tension with an emphasis on justification? Isn't justification a forensic category? How can you have doctrine of justification by faith apart from its grounding in a divine lawgiver?

ii) What Calvinists "rewrite the doctrine of justification in terms of covenant fidelity"? Is he talking about traditional Calvinism or the Federal Vision?
It often means rigorous church discipline, and it can even manifest itself by discussing the entirety of one's knowledge of God and pursuit of the Christian life almost wholly in terms of law-keeping.
i) I agree with Josh that Presbyterians can get carried away with church discipline. But is the problem with church discipline, per se, or with the imagined infractions that are subject to church discipline?

ii) Is rigorous church discipline a bad thing? Does Josh favor a lax and permissive policy—like the ELCA or PCUSA?
The most obvious place is the doctrine of baptism. Your typical Calvinistic treatment of baptism heavily emphasizes the imposition of covenant obligations on the parents, the child, and the church. Depending on who you read, the "grace" of baptism is little more than being in the community where the covenant stipulations are upheld.
This may be true in some Presbyterian circles. It's less obviously applicable to Reformed Baptistery.
Luther shied away from abstractions, and we Lutherans inherited that. Not just sovereignty, but the attributes of God in general are simply not of extreme importance.
But if God has revealed his attributes in Scripture, then isn't this neglect unscriptural?
If you look at Luther's catechisms, he actually defines God in terms of Creation, the Cross, and the Church. Compare that to Q7 in the Westminster LC. So for Lutherans, theology is done in terms of God's relation to us. That means theology never gets away from Law and Gospel, from justification, from the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If you look at the discussion of election in the Formula of Concord, its driving concern is not maintaining God's sovereignty, but rather how election is to be preached within the framework of Law and Gospel.
Isn't that a rather agenda-driven theological programme? And the danger of a theological agenda is that it tends to be reductionistic. Justification is not the only soteric category in Scripture. What about election, redemption, regeneration, adoption, sanctification, reconciliation, propitiation, and glorification?

Several years ago, Robert Schuller wrote a notorious book4 in which he tried to reorient Christian theology away from Pauline theology because he thought Pauline theology was too negative. It was bad pastoral theology. Too judgmental. Too much guilt-tripping. We need to get back to Jesus.

Obviously Josh wouldn't agree with that way of doing theology. But isn't his own approach just as prejudicial?
That's why Chemnitz is comfortable with basically saying that God declares our election to us in the preaching of the Gospel and admonishes against rational speculation on the inscrutable decrees of God apart from Christ, who is made known to us in the Gospel and the Sacraments.
That's a standard caricature of Calvinism, as if our commitment to predestination is due to our unbridled "speculation" over the "inscrutable" decrees of God. Now, some folks think the supra/infra debate is guilty of that, but in the main, Calvinism is committed to predestination because predestination is a revealed truth.
So for Lutherans, divine sovereignty isn't a significant driving force in theology.
And why is that supposed to be a good thing?
As we see it, God's attributes are in some sense inscrutable.
i) That's a cop-out. Calvinism doesn't deny that "God's attributes are in some sense inscrutable." But this doesn't excuse us from ignoring what God has revealed about himself.

ii) Moreover, is that the real issue? Isn't the real issue the point of tension between sacramental grace and sovereign grace? Sacramental grace is indiscriminate and resistible, whereas sovereign grace is discriminating and irresistible. Since Lutheran theology is committed to the objectification of grace in the sacraments, it must fuzz over predestination.

So isn't the professed agnosticism respecting God's "inscrutable" decrees and attributes something of a charade? Far from being agnostic on the subject, Lutheranism has taken a very definite position on the nature of saving grace, according to which the means of grace (i.e. Word and sacrament) channel saving grace—as a result of which it's necessary to demote gratia particularis in order to promote gratia universalis?
Theology begins and lives where God is known, which is in Christ given to us in the Word and the Sacraments, not in abstract formulations of attributes or rigorous, logically consistent assertions about the nature of divine decrees.
i) And what about his Word? What does he say about himself in his Word? What about his self-revelation in Isaiah or John or Romans or Ephesians?

ii) Is Lutheran theology really that indifferent to logical consistency? For example, Lutheranism vehemently rejects reprobation as inconsistent with gratia universalis. But if Lutherans don't care about logical rigor, then why not affirm reprobation alongside gratia universalis, just as they affirm election alongside gratia universalis? It's seems to me that Lutheranism is very selective in its harmonistic methodology.
In the more common versions of TULIP, justification is an instantaneous, one-time event done by God alone based solely on his eternal, sovereign will and thus ceases being relevant after your conversion.
i) Is Josh saying that, according to Lutheran theology, justification is akin to sanctification? That it's progressive in character?

ii) What makes him think that, in Calvinism, justification is irrelevant after your conversion? Why wouldn't a Calvinist thank God every day for his justification in Christ? Why wouldn't that lay a firm foundation for his subsequent walk of faith? Motivate him to more forward?
In other formulations, justification is a decree made by God after a lifetime of sovereignly directed covenant-keeping.
What formulation is he referring to?
So already, the idea that the pastor's actions have anything to do with justification is taken out of the picture.
Once again, why is that a bad thing? Why should our justification before God be contingent on what a pastor does or fails to do? Why should a pastor mediate our justification? Why should a pastor be the instrument of our salvation or damnation?
So what is there for the pastor to do? Without justification, things can become extremely Law-driven. For example, there are some Reformed pastors who envision the Church as a home-school cult where even suggesting that there are benefits to the local public school gets you excommunicated. That simply doesn't happen in Lutheranism. I know secondhand of a woman from a Reformed church that got excommunicated for not articulating baptism exactly right, and for the Reformed, excommunication means being driven out of the community.
I agree with Josh that this is legalistic. On the other hand, it's a very odd example for him to choose considering a later statement he makes:
First, Lutherans believe that you need to believe in what the Eucharist is in order to receive any benefit from it. We would regard anyone who openly disbelieves in the Eucharist as not ready to receive it (we do not believe that the Real Presence is simply a theological opinion; it is what the Eucharist fundamentally is). This isn't just a fellowship issue; it's a pastoral issue.
So isn't Josh admitting—even insisting—that according to Lutheran church discipline and Lutheran pastoral theology, a theologically accurate and articulate understanding of communion is a precondition for being a communicant? Why isn't that directly parallel to the "bad" example of legalism he cited in reference to Calvinism?
As I said before, we Lutherans are huge on justification, and we believe that God justifies man by forgiving his sins in the Word and Sacraments. Preaching, baptizing, and communing are obviously pastoral actions, so the pastor sees himself chiefly in the business of justification.
How is the administration of the sacraments "obviously" a pastoral action? Where does the NT actually assign or confine those actions to the pastorate? Isn't it pretty precarious for Lutheran theology to erect such a soaring edifice over an invisible foundation?

Incidentally, I don't object if we delegate that task to the pastor, but from what I can tell, that's a tradition—nothing more. Where does the NT ever say that a pastor must officiate at baptism or communion? It doesn't.

There's a difference between what the Bible permits, and what it prescribes. Since Scripture is silent on this issue, we are free to delegate that task to the pastor. But there's nothing mandatory about that social convention.
God is literally forgiving people's sins through him.
Where does the Bible say that?
When you go to a Lutheran pastor and blurt out all that heinous evil you've been engaged in for the last ten years, the first thing he's going to do is forgive your sins in Christ's name.
Where does the Bible mandate auricular confession?
With a typical Calvinistic emphasis on sovereignty as, a Calvinist just plain can't do that.
And how is that a bad thing?
After all, you might not be elect. Christ might not have died for your sins, and thus God may not forgive you at all. So any language about forgiveness and justification is so heavily qualified by predestination language as to make it an abstract conditional formulation you can't grab onto and apply to yourself.
Actually, the denial of priestly absolution doesn't depend on either election or special redemption. There are other reasons for rejecting priestly absolution. I may not believe that Scripture has vested a fallible clergyman with that kind of authority over another man's eternal fate.

Does Josh really think that heaven must mechanically rubberstamp every priestly absolution—regardless of the circumstances? What if the confessionalist isn't truly contrite, but just wants to wipe the slate clean so that he can continue to sin with impunity?

Suppose I'm a Lutheran serial killer. I commit murder Monday through Friday, but go to confession on Saturday, and take communion on Sunday.5 Does God honor my diligent attempt to game the system? Are his hands tied?
Besides, the Reformed have traditionally viewed absolution as God's sovereign right and thus not really the business of the pastor.
Yes, and what's wrong with that, exactly? Sounds good to me!
In less election-obsessed versions of Calvinism, the Law is much more central to pastoral actions than it is in Lutheranism. For example, in Chapter XIV of the Second Helvetic Confession on Sacerdotal Confession & Absolution, the "Gospel" is defined mostly with law terms, being reconciled to God is understood as "faithful obedience," and most importantly, the Office of the Keys is understood as opening "the Kingdom of Heaven to the obedient and shut it to the disobedient." That's not to downplay what it says about absolution and the obvious influences of the Lutheran Reformation there, but this particular Reformed confession hedges its justification language with obedience language in a way that we Lutherans simply don't. I think that's tied up with divine sovereignty–God is a lawgiver who demands to be obeyed.
i) To begin with, the more I read Josh's interview, the more he sounds like Zane Hodges. Of course, they arrive at the same conclusion by somewhat different routes, but what's the ultimate difference?

ii) How does Reformed theology "hedge" on justification? Reformed theology doesn't confound justification with obedience. Rather, Reformed theology says that there's a "benefits' package" to which every child of God is party. Every true Christian is, was, or will be elect, regenerate, redeemed, justified, sanctified, glorified. If you have one, you have them all.

Everyone who is justified is sanctified, or vice versa. If you're not justified, you're not sanctified, and vice versa. These invariably go together, but they do not intersect at any point. So Reformed theology preserves justification in complete, self-contained integrity.
If God says I'm baptized in his name, that's his body & blood for the forgiveness of my sins, and that my sins are forgiven, who am I to argue?
Does Josh believe that every baptized Lutheran and Lutheran communicant is automatically forgiven? Does Josh draw any distinction between a nominal believer and a true believer, or—for that matter—a closet unbeliever or open unbeliever?

What about all those liberal Lutheran Bible critics of from the 19th and 20th centuries? Are they all entitled to the assurance of absolution as long as they've gone through the motions? Are we saved by pronouncing the right ritual words and performing the right ritual deeds? Is Josh's soteriology ultimately that crass and perfunctory?
So if you look at Westminster, it bases assurance on anything and everything except the proclamation from the pulpit that Jesus died for you…because the pastor isn't allowed to say that. Sure, it mentions "promises," but when a Lutheran says "promise," he means "an unassailable promise God has made to you in Christ." When Westminster says "promise," it means "a promise contingent upon fulfillment of covenant conditions." In that context, the only assurance a Calvinist can have is the kind based on a positive self-assessment.
i) Is Josh a universalist?

ii) Josh acts as if the gospel promises are unconditional. Are they?

Isn't forgiveness predicated on faith and repentance? Are you still forgiven even though you're faithless and impenitent?

If Josh answers "no" to either (i) or (ii), then isn't he offering men and women a false assurance of salvation?
The scary thing about TULIP is that uncertainty about predestination means uncertainty about the atonement. For the Calvinist, as long as his predestination is up in the air, so is his atonement. So the only recourse Westminster gives him is a subjective experience, which obviously is subject to uncertainty.
i) Josh doesn't believe that universal atonement entails universal salvation, does he? So universal atonement cannot ground the assurance of salvation.

ii) Doesn't Josh think that you at least need to be a believer to be saved? That you must believe in Jesus? Believe the promises?

Isn't faith a subjective state of mind? Can we really eliminate the subjective dimension altogether? If we eliminate subjective experience, don't we thereby eliminate faith and repentance?

iii) Are we entitled to unconditional assurance? Assurance irrespective of one's faith or fidelity?
I knew a guy who went to a large PCA church here in Kentucky. We got to talking, and I straight-out asked him, "Did Jesus die for your sins?" His answer: "I know that if God wants me to, I'll be saved." It was just depressing. To him, all the passages in the Gospels where Jesus is forgiving people left and right aren't talking to him.
Well, I'll grant you that the guy Josh spoke to gave the wrong answer. So what's the right answer? Is the right answer that all the gospel promises are made to believers and unbelievers alike?

Why didn't Josh ask him a question like, "Do you believe that if you repent of your sins and trust in Jesus to save you from your sins, Jesus will save you?"
They're merely historical narratives of Jesus forgiving some other person's sins. The Gospels are a dead letter to him. And I think that's how most Calvinists look at the Bible, and it's reflected in their sermons. The Bible is largely a compilation of historical information, data for systematic theology, and conditions to fulfill.
Whose sermons? Calvin? Spurgeon? Whitefield? John Owen? Jonathan Edwards? Richard Sibbes? Martyn Lloyd-Jones? John Piper? What about the inspirational writing of Bunyan, Kuyper, and Samuel Rutherford?
For Calvinists, the Supper is just like the atonement. If you're not elect, then you're not regenerate, then you don't have true faith, so Jesus isn't even there to begin with, and he sure as heck isn't telling you your sins are forgiven.
Does Josh think the sacraments are like redeemable tin cans, where if you round up enough sacraments, like discarded tin cans in a shopping cart, and turn them in on your deathbed, you will collect your heavenly dues?

Does he think that a communicant who has no faith is still forgiven? Is Jesus absolving the faithless and impenitent among us?
Westminster's doctrine of communion is actually nearly identical to Trent's (remember that the Sacrifice of the Mass and Holy communion are practically two different sacraments in Trent)–it's all about making you a better person and strengthening your soul with nary a word about forgiveness. The reason Luther was so insistent on the objective, identifiable real presence is that he knew that if you make the reality of the sacrament dependent on your own faith, you lost the whole thing and would be stuck obsessing on whether or not you really had faith rather than believing what Jesus said about "for the forgiveness of sins."
So if Hitler consumes a communion wafer, his sins are remitted? No questions asked? Signed, sealed, and delivered to heaven by certified mail?
The same goes for baptism. Mostly what baptism does is place a bunch of conditions on you and your parents. Anything it promises is either conditional or not a promise of forgiveness of resurrection. I've even heard some Calvinists say that if you're not elect, you didn't get a real baptism; you just got wet. We Lutherans always look to baptism as establishing us in Christ and as God declaring us his forgiven children. We take "therefore reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ" very seriously when it comes to baptism, so all this vague stuff about "inauguration into the covenant community" isn't anything we have time for.
And what if a baptized Lutheran doesn't take the Pauline dictum very seriously? Does it make any difference to his "objective" state of grace whether or not he takes it seriously?
I think by this point, people know what I'd say. I'd answer by saying, "Listen to what God says to you in the Word, and believe in what he gives you in the Sacraments."
What if no one in the audience is listening to Josh's exhortation? Do they need to listen? Or would that reduce the objectivity of grace to a conditional promise? Isn't listening a "subjective experience."
Obviously, most Christians aren't taught to believe that the minister has any kind of divinely established mandate to forgive sins, and they mostly look at the sacraments as impositions of obligation, memorials, or divine ordinances you obey in order to testify of your own faith. We believe that God is the one testifying in the sacraments, and he's testifying to you and to the world that your sins have been nailed to the Cross.
What if you don't confess to the minister? Is that a condition of salvation? If God has already testified to the world in Word and sacrament that our sins have been nailed to the cross, then why is salvation contingent on priestly absolution?
That's not too far off from Reformed "signs and seals" language, but their language is tempered with limited atonement and/or conditional covenants so that there's some kind of disconnect between between the sacraments and an objective, divine declaration of absolution and righteousness. So the signs are only "effectual" for the elect, or their promise is contingent upon good covenant standing, or something.
Is Josh claiming that the sacraments are "effectual" for everyone who was ever baptized or took communion? In what sense are they effectual for everyone? Is a wafer your nonrefundable ticket to heaven? Instant salvation—just add saliva?

I keep hoping that Josh's position isn't as bad as it sounds, but he's so insistent and persistent that I begin to wonder.
The big criticism from all the other traditions–Catholic, Reformed, Wesleyan, you name it–is that if God were to just go around recklessly forgiving sinners, if people were allowed to believe in their salvation just because Jesus got nailed to a cross, that would encourage people to sin more. The answer, of course, is putting a hedge around Jesus. Basically, you tell people they can't have him unless they shape up. There are volumes and volumes of literature from all sides of Christianity about the conditions placed on forgiveness. Living up to covenants, doing penance, detaching your soul from sin, committing your life fully to obedience, and so on. We absolutely do not believe in that sort of thing. Jesus didn't put covenant conditions on the paralytic before forgiving him. He didn't tell the thief on the cross to shape up. He just absolved them. Just don't call God a liar.
But there are Biblical conditions placed on forgiveness. Forgiveness is conditioned on faith and repentance. And isn't obedience a necessary element in Christian discipleship? Josh would do well to scale back on the invective ("Just don't call God a liar") lest the admonition recoil on his own head.

No, we don't have to "shape" up before we come to Christ. But sanctification is not an optional accessory in the Christian life—like Mag wheels or leather upholstery.
Right, so where's election come into assurance? I think you learn to be confident of your election as you learn to be confident that what God says to you in the Gospel and the Sacraments is true, and that he is indeed saying those things to you.
True for whom? True for John Spong?
God speaks, and you say "Amen."
What if you don't say "Amen"? Is Josh placing a "condition on forgiveness"? Does that introduce a note of uncertainty into the transaction?
I believe I'm elect, because God's called me through the Gospel.
Wouldn't it be better to say I believe I'm elect because I'm answering God's Gospel call? That my response is the mark of election?
When I hear Luke, that paralytic is me. So when Jesus says "Man, your sins are forgiven," he's not just saying it to the paralytic in the story, but to me and everyone else who sees himself lying helpless on that mat. So I believe in my own election, and I'm not afraid to say that.
I don't have any particular problem with that application, but it's a conditional application all the same.
There's always the big question mark about apostasy. No matter what you believe about election, that one can keep you up at night. Christians who were just as good as you have fallen away, so why shouldn't you fall away, too? I think the answer lies in the fact that God's promises don't come out of the sky; they're made in the Church, because that's where his Word is spoken. My answer to that question isn't to try and find a logical resolution or some quality that differentiates me from them; it's to go to church.
Go to which church? Josh talks about certainty, yet he has staked his certainty in the sacraments. Yet that raises its own set of uncertainties. How does he determine a valid sacrament? How does he determine a valid ordination?
Christians are elect because Christ is elect, and so if I decide I don't want to be where Christ is because I think church is stupid or I'd rather live a life of flagrant sin, I'm counting myself out by my own unbelief.
Is he saying that "flagrant sin" is damnatory? But he keeps telling us that we have these objective, unconditional promises in the Word and sacraments.

Incidentally, where does Scripture say that Christ is elect?
I know most people want a logical answer, but I just don't have one. Keep going to church and believe what God says to you there if you want your troubles about apostasy to bother you less. That's why it's absolutely essential to go to a church where the Gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered according to Christ's institution and not let unfaithful pastors stay in power.
Well, that's fairly good advice, but he's stipulating that certain conditions must be met to avoid apostasy, and he's introducing an element of uncertainty in his appeal to the valid administration of the sacraments.
As I've said before, the pastor is an ambassador, given specific duties to perform. This is established when Jesus told his disciples in Matthew, "Whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." John's version is even more transparent: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." We take these words of Jesus very seriously in the Lutheran church.
Do they take these words of Jesus very seriously? Where did Jesus make this promise to the pastorate?
But I am left thinking: Why is election defined as God choosing some for salvation and some for damnation.

In the OT, God elects/chooses a nation to fulfill the Abrahamic promise to bless the nations. Israel is chosen not in spite of the other nations but in order to bless the nations (with the only hope for humanity, knowlege of the one true God). Election then has a missional sense. Why do we then go to the NT and give it the sense of divine determinism.
i) This assumes that OT election was indeterministic.

ii) It also assumes that "election" in the OT is identical with "election" in the NT. But Paul distinguishes between different levels of "election."
Was Paul's theology formed in a vacuum? Paul spent years with the Christian communities in Antioch and Jerusalem. Doesn't it make sense that the synoptic tradition along with Paul's Damascus road experience would have provided the core of his theology?
Why? Paul was an OT scholar in his own right. And he received his knowledge of the gospel by direct revelation.
Doesn't it seem logical that the parable of the seeds and the soil, which appears in ALL FOUR gospels, would have informed his belief about God's initiative in salvation (the sower) and man's response (the nature of the soil)?
Why does Josh think the parable of the sower is inconsistent with Reformed theology?
Paul knew Jesus as Lord and God and had to know of Jesus' weeping over Jerusalem's refusal to find rest and refuge in him. Did he think Jesus was faking it or something?
Is Lk 19:41 Josh's best argument against the Reformed interpretation of Isa 40-48, or the predestinarian passages in the Gospel of John, or the predestinarian passages in Acts, or Rom 9-11, or Eph 1-2, &c?

Since Jesus is the God-man, he has human emotions. We already know that. How does that negate Biblical predestination?
One of the main problems that I have with hardcore Calvanism (and another other kind of systematic theology that does the same thing) is that pictures God sitting on a throne emotionlessly picking and choosing, saving and damning, killing and delivering. That is not the God of the OT that constantly bears his heart through his prophets.
i) Is Josh a neotheist? I don't think so. How would Josh debate a neotheist? He seems to share the same hermeneutical assumptions as open theism.
That is not the God revealed in Jesus' parables. That God runs to prodigal sons in great fits of emotion.
Does Josh really think that God is subject to "great fits of emotion"? Is God manic-depressive? Is God on Prozac? What happens if you have the ill-fortune to catch God on a bad day?

Is it better for God to be "killing and delivering" as long as he's emotional about it? A passionate executioner?

This is not to deny that God may have something selectively analogous to human emotions. But unless you turn Yahweh into Zeus, it is necessary to make allowance for poetry and hyperbole. A parable is fictitious. And it's often hyperbolic by design. Didn't they teach him that at seminary?

ii) Josh's complaint reveals another problem. His attack on Reformed theology is almost entirely pragmatic. He disapproves of certain consequences which follow from Calvinism. But how is that any way to judge if Calvinism is true to Scripture?

For example, Josh is a critic of the ELCA. But liberal Lutherans revile the consequences of Josh's confessional Lutheranism, do they not? They think it's antiquated, bigoted, judgmental, patriarchal, narrow-minded, sexist, intolerant, unscientific, homophobic, heteronormative, &c. Is Josh measuring Reformed theology by the same yardstick he's using on Lutheranism?

Josh generally strikes me as a pretty thoughtful guy, but in reading through his interview, he doesn't seem to have thought through his theological position as thoroughly as I'd expect.

2 Coprolalia is a medical condition which is disproportionately represented in Catholic, Lutheran and emergent church populations. Although it may have a genetic point of origin, it appears to be contagious.
3 As one can see from my Scottish surname, I was ultimately unable to resist the Reformed Pon farr.
4 Self-Esteem: The New Reformation.
5 As Lutheran serial killers go, I happen to be a fine lay theologian, with a well-marked copy of the Book of Concord. I'm also a regular lurker at weblogs like Cyberbrethren and Metalutheran.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Eyewitnesses And Servants Of The Word

Owing to the influence of [Rudolf] Bultmann, it has become a "basic article of belief" with most form critics that "the Gospel tradition owed the form in which it reached our evangelists almost entirely to community use and its demands, and hardly at all to direct intervention or modification on the part of eye-witnesses." Appeals to eyewitnesses found in the Gospels, and especially the epistles, usually have been understood as apologetic fictions.

To be sure, some of the earliest form critics - most notably Vincent Taylor and Martin Dibelius - diverged from the Bultmannian perspective and insisted that the disciples of Jesus must have played some regulating role in the oral transmission of the Jesus tradition....

Vincent Taylor even more emphatically states the case in his now-famous words: "It is on this question of eyewitnesses that Form-Criticism [e.g., as approached by Bultmann and company] presents a very vulnerable front. If the Form-Critics are right, the disciples must have been translated to heaven immediately after the Resurrection. As Bultmann sees it, the primitive community exists in vacuo, cut off from its founders by the walls of an inexplicable ignorance. Like Robinson Crusoe it must do the best it can. Unable to turn to anyone for information, it must invent situations for the words of Jesus, and put into his lips sayings which personal memory cannot check....However disturbing to the smooth working of theories, the influence of eyewitnesses on the formation of the tradition cannot possibly be ignored. The one hundred and twenty at Pentecost did not go into permanent retreat; for at least a generation they moved among the young Palestinian communities, and through preaching and fellowship their recollections were at the disposal of those who sought information....When all qualifications have been made, the presence of personal testimony is an element in the formative process which it is folly to ignore"...

The last several decades have seen a renewed emphasis on the need to understand Jesus and early Christianity within a first-century Jewish context. In this light, it is significant to note that - beginning with its Scriptures - the Jewish tradition as a whole put strong emphasis on the role of eyewitnesses. Only by appealing to credible eyewitnesses could one certify a claim as factual (e.g., Jer. 32:10, 12; Ruth 4:9-11; Isa. 8:2). Correlatively, bearing false witness was considered a major crime in ancient Judaism. Indeed, this was one of the explicit prohibitions of the ten primary stipulations of the Sinai covenant (Exod. 20:16). The Jewish law of multiple witnesses reflects the life-or-death importance of this command (Deut. 17:6-7; Num. 35:30).

It seems that this emphasis on the importance of eyewitnesses was quite explicitly carried over into the early church. The Sinai principle regarding multiple witnesses was retained (Mark 14:56, 59; John 5:31-32; Heb. 10:28) and made the basis of church discipline (Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19). More broadly, the themes of bearing witness, giving a true testimony, and making a true confession are ubiquitous in the tradition of the early church (e.g., Matt. 10:18; Mark 6:11; 13:9-13; Luke 1:1-2; 9:5; 21:12-13; 22:71; John 1:7-8, 15, 19, 32, 34; 3:26, 28; 5:32; Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:37-41; 13:31; 22:15, 18; 23:11; 26:16; Rom. 1:9; 1 Cor. 1:6; 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:23; Phil. 1:8; 1 Thess. 2:5, 10; 1 Tim. 6:12-13; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Pet. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 5:6-11; Rev. 1:5; 2:13; 3:14; 6:9; 11:3; 17:6). As Robert Stein observes, the sheer pervasiveness of these themes in the early church testifies to "the high regard in which eyewitness testimony was held."

More specifically, certain key individuals are singled out in the New Testament for their roles as faithful witnesses, teachers, and preservers of the Jesus tradition, for example, Peter, James, and John, as well as James the brother of Jesus (e.g., Acts 1:15, 21-22; 2:14, 42; 3:1-11; 4:13, 19; 5:1-10, 15, 29; 8:14; 12:2; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; Gal. 2:9; Eph. 2:20). This emphasis on key individuals is not only consistent with ancient Judaism, but it is precisely what we should expect, given what we have learned from orality studies about the central role individual tradents play in orally dominant cultures.

It is difficult to explain this common appeal to eyewitness testimony in the New Testament if it is not rooted in historical fact. It seems we must accept as fact that "Jesus gathered around himself a group of committed disciples, some of whom were also prominent in the early church." This conclusion would suggest that mechanisms were in place in the early church that would naturally limit the amount of legendary material that was introduced into the Jesus tradition....

For many scholars, it seems that we have a very convincing reason for not accepting the early Jesus tradition as rooted in eyewitness recollection - namely the ubiquitous presence of supernatural and miraculous elements. Long ago, Julius Wellhausen made this often hidden presupposition quite explicit when he wrote, "The miracle stories in the form in which they are presented in Mark are most resistant to being attributed to the most intimate disciples of Jesus," and therefore "none of them may come from an eyewitness." Here, we submit, a historical decision about eyewitness influence upon the Jesus tradition is being decisively influenced by a metaphysical conviction about the possibility of supernatural occurrences....

Building upon some of the insights of [Samuel] Byrskog, [Richard] Bauckham offers several additional lines of evidence for the presence and importance of eyewitness testimony in the early church....

Bauckham has delivered a number of papers on this topic in recent years and has just released a full-scale study on the phenomenon of eyewitness testimony in the early Jesus tradition, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), that will likely serve as a landmark statement on this topic. Given that we were in the later stages of the publication process when the book was released, we were unable to incorporate it within the body of the text....

In conclusion, given that the first-century Jewish world of the pre-Gospel oral Jesus tradition highly valued eyewitness testimony, we find it far more plausible that the early church valued and preserved the essence of the personal remembrances of Jesus's original disciples than that they neglected the actual eyewitnesses, only to manufacture fabricated testimonies at a later date. At the very least, we can now conclude that the standard form-critical arguments against the presence of a significant amount of eyewitness testimony within the oral Jesus tradition are deeply flawed. (Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, The Jesus Legend [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007], pp. 269-270, n. 2 on p. 270, 286-287, 290, n. 78 on p. 290, 291)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sesame Street Atheism

A few characters (or one type of character posting as many tokens) asked me how I knew that God existed, that the Bible was his word, and that he had certain attributes.

I didn't think that they jumbled and confused proofs and arguments with knowledge, so I didn't try to answer in that way. (Of course the above confusion had problems since it invokes an infinite regress.) Anyway, out of the many possible ways I could have answered (rather than the immediate knowledge all men have, cf. Romans 1, or some experiential knowledge, cf. Alston's Perceiving God), I told them that I knew it based on God's - another person - testimony. I assumed that knowledge by testimony was a relatively unproblematic notion. Thus I take it that an acceptable way one could know:

[1] My wife had eggs for breakfast

is by:

[2] My wife told me so.

I also assume that most of what we non-specialists know about science, philosophy, architecture, cars, ects., is based on the testimony of another. I highly doubt that our atheistic friends seek to personally verify all the thousands of experiments, calibrate the hundreds of tools, and interview the hundreds of scientists whose findings were used by other scientists to tell us about a new theory (or, even, an old one, like evolution). Thus I take it as an unproblematic assumption that people don't have a problem with knowledge by testimony.

So, when asked how I knew that the biblical God existed, that the Bible was his word, or had certain attributes, I answered with:

[3] My God told me so, I take it on his own testimony (another way this can be expressed is, "I take it on faith." But, this type of answer shows that faith is not contrary to positive epistemic status).

Now, I was not asked how the atheists, say, Bert and Ernie (since they post anonymously I'll assume they don't mind), could know that God exists, the Bible was his word, or had certain attributes. That would, at least in cases where they wanted to be persuaded, require a different answer (and this would depend on what their presuppositions were). But, as I said, I wasn't asked to answer how they could know (not savingly, of course; this is only brought about by God's instigation and regenerating work in the heart of the sinner) that God existed, or that the Bible was his word.

Okay, so apparently they didn't appreciate [3], for some reason! They came back with something like these rejoinders:

[4] Allah told the Muslim that he existed.

[5] Kali (or one of the billion of so other Hindu gods) told the Hindu that she existed.

[6] My god (some nebulous formal principle without material, I guess) told me that your God was a liar.

And so [4] - [6] was supposed to be taken as defeaters for my belief in [3], I guess.

But, I don't appreciate the force of [4] - [6] at all persuasive, for some reason!

I find it an odd argument that essentially can be expressed thusly:

[*] People cannot know any proposition P based on the testimony of testifier(1) if another testifiee has another testifier(2) who have testified some other proposition P1 inconsistent with P.

[*] seems prima facie ridiculous. Here's a couple reasons why. Take what I told my son when he was two. I told him:

[7] Santa Clause does not exist.

As a two year old he couldn't fly to the North Pole and empirically verify my statement (and, even if he could, perhaps Santa was buried far below the icy surface. I don't suppose he could have received funding for a major dig into the Polar ice caps). So, either he knew, or did not know, [7]. Say he believed me. Say his belief was true. Was his belief warranted? Well, not by propositional evidence in favor of [7], after all, he was two! Many would say he knew [7] based on:

[8] His father told him so.

Now, if knowledge by testimony is a valid way to obtain knowledge, and above we agreed that it was, then my son knew that Santa was not real. If philosophers of testimony are correct, they assigning knowledge to testifiees whose testifiers know what they have testified. I knew that Santa Clause was not real, and this knowledge was transferred to my son. Knowledge is transitive in these cases.

This could be multiplied. It seems like our two year olds know many claims that they do not have empirical evidence for, well-thought-out arguments for, self-consciously aware of the reasons for and against, etc. They know claims like this:

[9] Our pet Rusty is a dog.

[10] Drinking bleach under the sink will cause a boo-boo.

[11] That ugly man (in my case) and that pretty woman (in my wife's case) are mommy and daddy.

It would appear that they know claims like those expressed in [9] - [11] based on the testimony of another; in many cases, the parents. I suppose it's relatively unproblematic to assume that the attitude our 2 year olds should take to the above testimonials is not one of skepticism. What reason should skepticism and disbelief be the automatic select? "I believed by instinct whatever my parents and tutors told me, long before I had the idea of a lie, or a thought of the possibility of their deceiving me. Afterwards, upon reflection, I found that they had acted like fair and honest people, who wished me well. I found that, if I had not believed what they told me, before I could give a reason for my belief, I had to this day been little better than a changeling," says Thomas Reid.

But look at how [*] affects something we would all count as knowledge in the case of [7] based on [8] in this situation: My 2 year old plays in the McDonald Play Palace one December day with Jessica, another two year old. Jessica's father has told her that Santa Clause is not real. As they're in the Hamburgler's jail house, they begin to discuss the fast approaching Christmas morning. After some discussion, Jessica then says, "My daddy told me that Santa was going to bring me a bunny rabbit." My son, disobeying his father's instruction to keep quiet about what I've told him, blurts out, "There is no such thing as Santa Clause!" After some hostile words about cookies and milk disappearing, presents not being under the tree on Christmas Eve, and then "magically" appearing on Christmas morning, and even hearing Santa's "Ho ho ho," Christmas Eve night, Jessica asks my son, "Oh yeah, how do you know that Santa Clause is not real?" My son replies with [8]. Then, Nicole, a notorious pushy preschooler chimes in with:

[12] "Well, then you can't know that Santa isn't real because Jessica's dad has told here that he is, in fact, real."

Now, from what we've learned, we know that Jessica does not know [12]. She has been mislead. She is, in fact, justified in her belief (but not warranted since her epistemic environment was not conducive to supporting true-belief formation), though; but that's another matter. What concerns us for our purposes is if, based on [*], [12] takes away my son's knowledge that [7] based on [8]? It is hard to see how. Thus [*] seems to imply that my son could not know that [7], which seems absurd. This could be extrapolated into far more weighty areas as well. Surely there are scientific beliefs that we hold based on the testimony of some scientists. Say that someone learns some theory:

[13] Certain combinations of chemicals of this and that sort, according to this or that physical principle, based on such and such biological principles, can bring about speciation.

Surely there is much in [13] that most people who hold to evolution take on the testimony of so and so scientists. There are measurements, rules, formulae, laws, calculations, etc., that most of those who hold [13] have not personally verified for themselves. They have not read all the journals, verified all the tests that stand as givens for other tests, etc. Some of what goes into [13] is taken on the testimony of, so they say, the brilliant scientists whose profession it is to know these things.

Now, let's look at another claim about science. Let's pick that fundy creationist every evolutionist loves to hate, Ken Ham, as saying:

[14] Certain combinations of chemicals of this and that sort, according to this or that physical principle, based on such and such biological principles, cannot bring about speciation.

Now, I suspect the evolutionist wouldn't bat any eye lash at the claim that he cannot know some things assumed by [13] merely because Ken Ham as testified to the contrary. The evolutionist would hardly say that the fundy creationist knows [14] just because a "scientist" (so as not to beg any questions) has told them otherwise.

Examples like the above could be multiplied greatly.

I thus take it that (*) fails as a defeater for [3].

Now, certainly [3] isn’t going to be very persuasive of a reason for the atheist to know that God exists, that the Bible is his word, or that he has certain attributes; but the question was how could I, a Christian, know that he exists, etc. And, certainly if God doesn’t exist then I couldn’t know that he did based on [3]. But, from my perspective, I don’t need to prove his existence to myself, and so that rejoinder wouldn’t count as a defeater for [3]. This objection also shows that the de jure question cannot be easily separated from the de facto question. Now, perhaps the atheist has a defeater for my belief in God? If so, he needs to present it. But as it stands, with the information contained in the question, I take it that I have answered it. The response given to my answer has, I believe, been shown to be unsuccessful.

Providence & Prayer

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Terrance Tiessen is an advocate of what, for convenience, I dub Reformed middle knowledge—which is a compatibilist variant of Molinism. His book on Providence & Prayer, which is well worth owning, presents a comparison and contrast between competing positions on divine providence. Terry also has a forthcoming article in the WTJ in defense of Reformed middle knowledge.

I'll quote some passages from his book, and then comment on the excerpts:
Without restating the argument, I believe that the demonstration of the compatibility of foreknowledge and human freedom, even libertarian freedom, which was offered by William Lane Craig (Molinist model) is completely adequate. Foreknowledge is not causative, not would it be an instance of backward causation.1
i) It's hard to square this admission with Terry's stated position elsewhere, in which he denies that foreknowledge and libertarian freedom are compatible (e.g. 317).

ii) I also don't see how his conclusion follows from the premise. It's true that foreknowledge doesn't determine the future. So it's not "causative." But foreknowledge implies a determinate future. The relation is logical rather than causal. But even on logical grounds, foreknowledge is incompatible with an indeterminate future—since an indeterminate object of knowledge cannot be an object of knowledge.
What God knows ahead of time (from our perspective) is the future that comes about through the decisions of free human agents (and would be so, even if they were libertarianly free, which I do not believe is the case, though Craig does). If people decided differently, God's knowledge would have been different. This does not entail that the future must be undecided; it affirms rather than the future that actually comes to be is determined by responsible agents at that time, that those actual decisions have truth value, and that God knows their truth value.2
This statement is not so much wrong as it is misleading, for it's quite ambiguous, and skates over the deeper issues. For those theological traditions that affirm foreknowledge, the question at issue is not whether God knows the future, but how he knows the future—consistent with other attributes or actions.

It's true that human beings, as secondary agents, have an instrumental role to play in causing certain things to happen. It's also true, in a sense, to say that if people decided differently, God's knowledge would have been different. But this is all equivocal.

From a Reformed standpoint, human beings don't "determine" the future. God determines the future. God's determination determines what human beings will do. This includes their contribution to the future as secondary agents. There is a sense in which human beings effect or eventuate aspects of the future. We are temporal creatures, acting in time and space, so that our past or present actions (or even inactions) impact the future. To some extent, we bring it about. A system of providence involves secondary agents (personal agents) as well as secondary agencies (inanimate forces).

That, however, doesn't mean that we "determine" a future event, any more than an electrical storm "determines" a future event. Lightening may cause a forest fire, but it doesn't "determine" that outcome—not in the way that Terry is using the term.

Now, you might say that it determines the outcome in terms of physical determinism. It's a physical determinate, in the sense of cause and effect (e.g. a chemical reaction). But I don't think that's the kind of determinism that Terry has in mind.

Rather, he is taking the position that the possible future which God determines to occur is, itself, determined by his knowledge of what we would do in one possible world or another. That's not the same thing as physical determinism.

Rather, it's a ways of saying that God's reason for choosing to instantiate possible world A over world B is supplied by his knowledge of what we would do in alternative scenarios.

From a Reformed standpoint, our contribution to the future is determined by God. Yes, we contribute to the eventuation of the future. But that is because God has determined that future (as an end), and has also determined our causal contribution (as a means to that end).

Now, it's consistent for Terry to say that we determine the future since, for Terry, God is opting for possible world A over possible world B in light of what we would do in either situation. And that, in turn, introduces the specter of retrocausation—as if God's knowledge of what we would do is caused by what we would do.

Indeed, this implicitly flirts with the specter of preexistence, as if God is making his choice from a platonic plenum of free-floating possibilities that subsist apart from the nature and being God—like a cosmic mail-order catalogue.

Calvinism doesn't deny that God knows what we would do. But what is the source of his knowledge? In Calvinism, God's knowledge of hypotheticals and counterfactuals is an aspect of his self-knowledge. God knows what we would do, because God knows what he would do with us.

In Reformed theology, hypotheticals are hypothetical decrees. God knows the alternative outcome because he knows what would occur if he decreed the alternative outcome. God not only knows the outcome of the actual decree, but he also knows the outcome of every hypothetical decree.

The correct metaphor wouldn't be a mail order catalogue, but a novel. A novelist knows what his characters will do, and he knows what they would do. He knows that, in part, because he assigns to each character its defining characteristics. It would be out of character for a character to act in a certain way. And it would be out of character because the novelist has vested the character with certain characteristics.

He also knows what each and every character will do in the future because he has written their future for them. And he knows what they would do in some alternative future, because he has imagined alternative endings for his novel.

Do the characters determine the plot? No. Do the characters determine the author's knowledge of the plot? No.

The characters carry out the plot. They are part of the story. They make certain things happen—things that wouldn't happen if that character didn't exist. And the author's knowledge of the story would be different if the story were different.

But who would make the story different? The storyteller or the storybook characters? If the author chose to write a different story, then that would affect his knowledge of the story, but that's an aspect of the author's self-knowledge. He determines which possible storyline will become the actual storyline.

The characters don't write the plot. Rather, they are written into the plot. The novel isn't written from the inside out—like The NeverEnding Story.

Okay, I'm using a metaphor. And it has certain limitations—like any metaphor. But I think it helps to explicate and expose certain inchoate assumptions and intuitions that are feeding into middle knowledge.

Unlike fictional characters, human beings are conscious beings. And we are genuine agents. We cause certain things to happen.

Yet, when we talk about possible persons in possible worlds, we are talking about the equivalent of fictional characters. Possible worlds are fictions—fictions which inhere in the mind of God. It's just that one of those otherwise imaginary scenarios will come true—in the actual world which God chooses to instantiate.

What is a possible person, anyway? Is a possible person something over and above God's idea of a possible person?

A real person is something over and above God's bare idea. In making a real person, God objectifies his idea in space and even. Even in that case, a real person exactly corresponds to the possible person—which he concretely exemplifies.

And in what sense is a possible person God's idea of a possible person? Are there possible persons, in the sense of freestanding possibilities—of which God has an idea? That would be Platonism rather than Christian theism.

Rather, God's idea is constitutive of a possible person. A possible person is a contingent set of properties which God predicates of a common subject. They don't have to go together to form that particular set of properties, which—in turn—constitutes a possible person. God could consociate a different set of properties.

Indeed, God entertains every possible combination. That's a feature of his necessary knowledge. He knows all possibilities and all compossibilities. Hence, God knows a possible person by knowing his own idea of a possible person—and his idea is constitutive rather than derivative.

By contrast, Terry is implicitly—if not intentionally—suggesting the reverse: that the possible person is constitutive of God's idea.

From a Reformed standpoint, God knows a possible person by knowing himself. He knows what he thinks, and he knows what he can do. A possible world is a subset of divine omnipotence. A possible world is a circumlocution for what God could possibly do. And a possible person is a special case of a possible world.

So what makes a possible person possible is divine omnipotence. Possibility isn't ultimately an attribute of an ideal person, but of the God whose omnipotence is what makes anything possible, and whose omniscience is constitutive of the object.

That's a long answer to a brief quotation, but it will expedite the analysis as we proceed.
I, too have become increasingly convinced that God's knowledge of what would happen in hypothetical situations is an essential element in his wise planning and predestining of the future of the world's history.3
I don't have any problems with this statement, per se. My problem, rather, is with Terry's assumption that this condition can only be satisfied by middle knowledge. But hypotheticals are possibilities. As such, they are already covered by God's necessary knowledge. God knows what would transpire if he decreed an alternative state of affairs. So this doesn't demand recourse to middle knowledge.
God must know what a person would do in every possible situation, and one cannot know that if the person's decision is ultimately indeterminate, awaiting the apparently arbitrary choice of the free agent when the moment of decision arrives.4
I agree, which is why I don't how what he denies on p317 is at all consistent with what he affirms on p315. Here he says one cannot know that if the person's decision is ultimately indeterminate, awaiting the apparently arbitrary choice of the free agent when the moment of decision arrives, but there he says the demonstration of the compatibility of foreknowledge and human freedom, even libertarian freedom, which was offered by William Lane Craig (Molinist model) is completely adequate.

This tension is reinforced by his definition of contracausal freedom (365) and libertarian freedom (366) in the glossary, which converges with his denial on p317, but diverges from his affirmation on p315.
If God simply decided the future in one logical moment without regard to the possible responses of creatures to his own initiatives and the wisest responses that he could make to those creaturely decisions, then any appearance of significance in those human decisions is thoroughly illusory.5
Once again, this is, at best, ambiguous.

i) How does a denial of middle knowledge imply that God doesn't take the consequences of each alternative scenario into account when he chooses which possible world to instantiate? God's necessary knowledge will suffice.

ii) Now his necessary knowledge would be inadequate if you think that God's knowledge of counterfactuals is dependent on what the creature would do. But I reject that assumption for reasons I gave in my earlier reply to Terry, where I said (to quote myself):
In Molinism, God's knowledge of what the creature would do is a mediate knowledge, mediated by the creature.

God knows what the libertarian agent would do because what the libertarian agent would do is the cause of God's knowledge. God isn't causing the agent to do this, for if he were causing it, the agent would cease to be free in the libertarian sense.

In Calvinism, by contrast, God knows what the agent would do because he knows what the agent would do if he caused the agent to do this or that in some alternative scenario. So, in Calvinism, God's knowledge of hypotheticals or counterfactuals is immediate rather than mediate.

Thus, Calvinism preserves divine aseity and impassibility, whereas scientia media compromises divine aseity and impassibility by making God's knowledge of hypotheticals or counterfactuals contingent on what the creature would do, rather than what God would do with or to the creature.
iii) Since, moreover, Terry is on record as endorsing compatibilism, that would be the obvious strategy to pursue in anchoring and explicating the significance of human decisions.

iv) The problem with Terry's position doesn't lie in the responsiveness of the creature, but in making God react to the creature—as if God must adapt to a realm of autonomous possibilities that present themselves to him or confront him with a preset range of choices from which he is allowed to make his selection.

Yet hypotheticals are not a preexistent, coeternal vending machine, alongside God, as if God inserts the coin, makes his selection from a preset menu, then pushes the button, and out pops the actual world.

1 T. Tiessen, Providence & Prayer (IVP 2000), 315.
2 Ibid. 315-16.
3 Ibid. 316.
4 Ibid. 317.
5 Ibid. 319.