Thursday, June 05, 2008

Strawfoot-in-mouth disease

“I still stand by it and still feel that it is entirely appropriate. For the early Christians who lived near a pre-conversion Paul whose families were indeed being murdered and torn asunder by the, (at the time) Christian-hating Saul I would say the same thing. Christ Himself prayed, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ If He, HE could pray that, I truly cannot fathom any excuse we could have for not praying for our enemies. It is easy to pray for people who are like you, but it is another thing entirely to pray for someone who isn’t like you – or even flatly opposed to you."

A couple of basic problems:

i) Did Christ ever say that? The problem is that the MSS evidence is stacked against the authenticity of Lk 23:34. So if Strawfoot is invoking the authority of Christ for his position, shouldn’t he make a minimal effort to evaluate the textual authenticity of his prooftext?

I pointed this out in my initial reply. What is Strawfoot’s response? To blow right past it.

So what does his faith rest on? Make-believe? Scribal interpolations attributed to Jesus? Does Strawfoot also take up snakes and drink poison?

What about visions of the Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich? Or splinters of the True Cross?

ii) How did he get from early Christian martyrs who prayed for their executioners to Ted Kennedy? I missed the transitional argument. Where’s the parallel?

Remember, this is his own analogy. How does he plan to complete the comparison? Is he saying that Ted Kennedy is a 21C version of Nero? In what respect?

“If praying for my ideological/personal/physical enemies forever excludes me from the TR club and makes me an insipid lunkhead then so be it.”

What, exactly, is Strawfoot’s problem? Did I say we shouldn’t pray for our personal enemies? Didn’t I specifically identify the enemies in Mt 5:44 as personal and/or political enemies? If Kennedy filled that job description, then—in principle—it would be our duty to pray for him. (Mind you, the Federal gov’t has something like 3.6 million employees.)

Is Strawfoot too illiterate to read what I wrote? Is he too blinded by personal animus to pay attention? Or is he simply dissembling?

What about “ideological” enemies? Is Mt 5:44 referring to “ideological” enemies? Can Strawfoot sustain that identification from the context? Does he even try to exegete his prooftext?

If he doesn’t care what the Bible really means, why go through the motions of quoting Scripture? Why not drive a hybrid car, practice Yoga, and visualize world peace?

Incidentally, just how many Senators, judges, governors, Congressmen, et al. is Strawfoot actually praying for on a regular basis? How often did he pray for Ted Kennedy before news of his brain cancer hit the airwaves?

“I can see no other healthy response. Until your faith has been tested in the area of praying for someone who means you harm then you can’t know how it feels.”

I take it that Strawfoot has extensive personal experience praying for government officials who’ve persecuted him for his faith and murdered various members of his family. Perhaps he’d like to share some personal anecdotes for our inspiration and edification as we brace ourselves for Kennedy’s national inquisition. Only when Ted Kennedy takes away their frappuccinos will the Tavernistas know what it feels like to pray for a mortal enemy.

“RE: BBB-ers: I hope and even pray that they are true brothers and sisters in Christ. I want to think they don’t mean to send ill-will to non TR Christians – even if I’d be reluctant to flip up their coat-tails looking for the ‘yellow stripe’ of God’s elect for fear of a Truly Reformed right hook.”

Did I ever frame the discussion in terms of who was or was not truly Reformed? No. Because Strawfoot can’t defend his position from Scripture, he takes refuge in these cutesy diversionary tactics.

“(For which I would have a split second to decide to dodge the punch, punch back, or turn the other cheek. All of these being responses that would probably get me in further trouble within the TR fortress.)”

But he’s not turning the other cheek, is he?

“So I can deduce from this that so and so isn’t worth praying for and there is no hope.”

Did I ever frame the issue in terms of who is “worth” praying for? No. Strawfoot covers his retreat in a trail of falsehoods. Piety never looked so like charlatanry.


  1. This is my double take. You just said one of the sayings when Jesus was on the cross probably shouldn't be there and is either inaccurate or added in later? A link to any article talking about this would be nice, I didn't know that.

  2. It's actually fairly common knowledge, like the story of the adulteress (Jhn 8) or the long ending of Mark.

  3. Sean,

    I'm sure Steve has some scholarly sources, but you can also go to something simple like and read the footnotes for the passage on versions like the NIV, NLT and ESV.


    Excellent post. As usual, you make a good series of arguments and responses. I have enjoyed learning from this discussion on praying for Kennedy.

  4. "It's actually fairly common knowledge"

    It's not common enough...though to be honest the story of the adulteress always perplexed me. And not just because Jesus didn't pick up a stone and peg her.

  5. Well it's fairly common knowledge if one follows the manuscript history of the Scriptures somewhat. If not, then sure, I suppose it might not be. I didn't know about the comma johanneum until I read James White's "The King James Only Controversy". Even so, some modern translations like the NASB will bracket these passages.

  6. Any reading suggestions? It seems I have a large gap in knowledge in my reading list. I probably have saved items on amazon and don't know about it.

  7. The aforementioned James White book is good, even if you're not interested in the KJVO debate. There's also F.F. Bruce's, "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?", Carson, D. A. & D. Moo, "An Introduction to the New Testament" and Metzger'z "The Text of the New Testament". A lot of the more detailed commentaries will usually touch on manuscript evidence as well.


    “This is my double take. You just said one of the sayings when Jesus was on the cross probably shouldn't be there and is either inaccurate or added in later? A link to any article talking about this would be nice, I didn't know that.”

    I don’t know about online resources. As for my own sources of information, I’ll give you a few examples:

    “Though found in some mss…these words are omitted in very early and important mss. from diverse geographical areas…and some ancient versions…Because of this the question is raised whether they really formed part of the original text of Luke. They interrupt the flow of the story of the crucifixion and sound like the prayer of Stephen in Acts 7:60b (cf. also the story of the stoning of James the Just in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2:23,16),” J. Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke 2:1503.

    C. F. Evans also has a good discussion in his commentary on Saint Luke, p867-88.

    BTW, I’m not recommending Evans or Fitzmyer as the best overall commentaries on Luke. But they’re good on this sort of minutiae.

    Bruce Metzger, in his Textual Commentary on The Greek New Testament, says the logion was “probably not a part of the original Gospel of Luke,” given “the [most impressive] absence of these words from such early and diverse witnesses [as]…” (154).

    However, he strikes compromise position. He thinks it represents authentic oral tradition, due to “self-evident tokens of its dominical origin.”

    But, of course, that’s not a text-critical judgment. That just tells you something about Metzger’s theology. He thinks Jesus would say something like that.

    My point is not that this verse is incontestably spurious. My point, rather, is that the textual authenticity of this verse is pretty suspect, in which case Christians should be very wary about erecting a grand edifice on such a shaky foundation.

  9. I happen to have the earlier version of the Moo-Carson "Introduction to the New Testament", with the late Leon Morris as a co-author. That version's out of print but it's excellent and worth picking up if you can find it used.

    I always found that particular passage to be odd, if Christ indeed said it. If He did, I think He was probably referring to the Roman soldiers (who probably had no idea Jesus was innocent, nor was it their position to make such judgments), not Pilate or the Sanhedrin, who very obviously DID know precisely what they were doing.

  10. I never continue to be flabbergasted.

    In the spirit of the underpants gnomes, this sequence seems to be:

    1. See post regarding prayer for X
    2. Write tome of exegesis containing less grace and truth than a bale of dirty straw regarding why prayer for X is not necessarily warranted.
    3. ???
    4. Profit!

    The missing step 3 is realizing after engaging in step 2 that prayer for X is necessary for the salvation of your own soul.

    Kyrie Eleison

  11. hmmm yes south park is a fantastic comparative grid for christians

  12. I never fail to be flabbergasted. In the spirit of the emotionally crazed elves, the sequence seems to be:

    1. See post regarding attempt to discern what Scripture acutally says

    2. Write some tome containing as much self-righteousness as a pile of dirty rags

    3. ????

    4. Whine!

    The missing step 3 is realizing after engaging in step 2 that prayer for yourself is necessary for your own pereseverance in the faith.

  13. You know I've stayed out of this discussion because I've decided to take a long break from blogging- and I lost my C:drive on my computer a few weeks ago and it took me forever to recover. But this sort of post warrants a response:

    1. See post regarding prayer for X
    2. Write tome of exegesis containing less grace and truth than a bale of dirty straw regarding why prayer for X is not necessarily warranted.
    3. ???
    4. Profit!

    1. If you think that the exegesis doesn't contain grace and truth, then it's up to you to actually demonstrate it. I can't help but notice that few, if any of Steve's opponents have done that. Rather, they seem to:

    a. Read post
    b. Say it lacks grace and truth
    c. Fail to demonstrate it.
    d. Lose the argument.

    2. The other problem here is that Nathaniel can't follow the argument. All of this began when Steve pegged a response to Mr. Reynolds. Steve has never actually stated we shouldn't pray for Kennedy. Rather, he's simply raising some objections to Reynolds on grounds Reynolds himself originally framed. This goes to the theology of prayer.

    What do Steve and Pike get in return, pages of argumentum ad emotum in reply that don't actually deal with the theology of prayer. Indeed, one of Pike's interlocuters stated he doesn't really care about that. Rather, his reasons are emotive. It's all about feeling, not about actual, biblical reasons.

    A truly biblical argument for praying for Kennedy that's true to what the Bible actually teaches about praying for our leaders would be something like this:

    Kennedy and his kind are systemtatically making life difficult for believers to live in peace in this nation, because their policies, if taken to their logical end could result in the open persecution of believers for taking particular stands. Therefore, in accordance with the Bible, we should pray for him. However, this doesn't entail necessarily entail us praying for him to be healed of his cancer, since prayer for the sick, in context, is generally for those who are members of the covenant community. He's Roman Catholic, which automatically, if you are consistent Protestant, means he cannot give us a credible profession of faith. His policies indicate that he does live according to biblical standards of morality.

    Now, I happen to be one of those people who doesn't vote for every anti-abortion candidate on the slate. I also am somewhat ambivalent toward gay marriage. But my reasons for this aren't due to my morality, rather they are due to the fact that I happen to think the American Church is far too involved - on both left and right as this election cycle has proven already - in politics. The Church needs to learn to be the Church again. So, if we pray for Kennedy to be healed, we should pray for his conversion, and we should pray that his policies, if his party comes to majority in both the Legislative and Executive branches of government would be used to protect the Church and move the Church to be the Church - that a change in Government would be used of God like Cyrus was used of God in the Bible, not like Nero.

    And by the way, the I-Monk and I have a relatively calm relationship. We don't always agree, but when we do, I appreciate it. He and I came up through SBTS and SEBTS at around the same time and witnessed some of the same shenanigans, so we have some common ground.

  14. Oh, I follow the argument. Here's the problem I had with his post, in short:

    It depersonalized Kennedy in the process of ascending into a theology of prayer.

    If you can intellectualize prayer to that level and discuss an individual and in the midst of making your various points don't feel the need to lift up the most perfunctory communication regarding the person you are discussing. Well, from where I sit that's a faith completely divorced from the human person and from God.

    Frankly, it's impossible for someone like me to even argue with someone like Steve because we might as well be on different planets.

    I reject an emotional exegesis or hermeneutic approach to Scripture. But I also reject an intellectual one. Between that and rejection of various solas, I don't recognize the validity of his various arguments, his contextual model of Scripture, or even of reality. And I suspect the converse would be true for him.

    I can say neither of us have the knowledge of God to make bold claims about the proper interpretation of Scripture. The difference is I know it.

    I guess the only reason for the post was a combination of slack-jawed amazement and affirmation that it isn't merely a bunch of people on the BHT that considered the original post ghastly.

  15. Nathaniel said:
    Frankly, it's impossible for someone like me to even argue with someone like Steve because we might as well be on different planets.

    Then why do you do it?

  16. What do you mean that you are ambivalent about gay marriage? Could you expound on that?

  17. "I reject an emotional exegesis or hermeneutic approach to Scripture. But I also reject an intellectual one."

    What kind of approach to exegsis do you embrace then?

  18. Nathaniel, what's truly ghastly is a) your immaturity as a Christian, and b) your apathy towards (a).

  19. The Bible says to pray without ceasing (1Thes 5:17), for everyone(1Tim 2:1) and for everything (Philip 4:6)... which doesn't leave much room for argument.

    "If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of Our Lord Jesus Christ and with the doctrine conforming to godliness: he is conceited and understands nothing, but has a morbid interest in controverial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of depraved minds and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain...guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge" which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you." (1 Tim 6:3-5,20)

  20. Anne,

    "The Bible says to pray without ceasing (1Thes 5:17)"

    I hope you don't take this in a literalistic fashion. I mean, you had to cease praying in order to type out the above sentence.

    "for everyone(1Tim 2:1)"

    1 Timothy 2:1 has a context: "for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquill and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (v.2)

    The purpose for praying for these men (i.e. the reference to "all men" in v.1) is so that our leaders won't persecute us. If TK were trying to persecute us, then we should pray for him.

    Secondly, do you get out a phone book and start praying for every single last person in the book?

    "and for everything (Philip 4:6)"

    The NASB reads "...but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

    It is saying that let all of your requests to God ("everything") be made known through prayer. It does not say to pray for everything.

    Anne, we are not saying that one should *not* pray for TK. What we are saying is that we have no *obligation* to pray for TK.

    In fact, when I think about this, I'd rather use my time to pray for some persecuted saint in the Third World than pray for TK. [Of course, I've already done that as well: to pray that this disease will bring him to repentance.]