Saturday, July 05, 2008

"The Cheshire Cat certainly is a literal cat"

Jeremy Pierce and I have been having a little TET-a-TET about Genesis:

I could say more, but I'll probably leave it where it stands. Here's my side of the exchange:

By steve hays on June 30, 2008 7:53 PM

You should review John Currid's 2-volume commentary on Genesis while you're at it.

By steve hays on July 2, 2008 2:48 PM

“Well, I haven't looked at it, so I can't say much. I know he takes the six-day literalist view, which puts it way down the list from any evangelical commentary in this list…I'm very reluctant to recommend any work that defends such a view, even if the rest of the work turned out ok.”

Isn’t that a rather myopic criterion, Jeremy?

“It's very hard to maintain such a position even textually.”

How would you know that if you haven’t even studied his exegesis?

“Never mind given what God has revealed through scientific study.”

But that isn’t the job of a commentator. Indeed, a commentator should avoid intruding these extraneous concerns into his exegesis. To shape his interpretation with a view of modern science would be blatantly anachronistic. A primary purpose of the grammatico-historical method is to avoid such anachronistic reinterpretations of the text.

I’ve read 19C commentaries on Genesis which reinterpret the text in light of cutting-edge 19C science. Needless to say, the exercise is hopelessly obsolete.
When we interpret a text from the past, including the sacred text, the first duty of the commentator is to assume the historical horizon of the ancient author and his target audience—not make the author/audience assume the historical horizon of a modern reader. The last thing we should do, exegetically speaking, is to bring the text into our own time and place. That’s a valid move after we’ve done our exegetical homework, and are now concerned with its application to our own situation.

It’s seem to me that you’re allowing apologetics to drive exegesis. Do you think that apologetics should dictate the exegetical agenda? Should apologetics prejudge what the word of God is allowed to say?

In my opinion, the job of apologetics is to defend the results of exegetical theology, not prejudge the results of exegetical theology.

“I did look at his Exodus commentary, and I was particularly disappointed at his treatment of the lying issue with the midwives.”

Once again, Jeremy, I think your priorities are askew, and you bring unrealistic expectations to a commentary.

You’re an ethicist, Currid is not. It wouldn’t surprise me if your understanding of licit deception is more sophisticated than his.

Currid is an OT scholar and a field archeologist. He brings a different kind of expertise to the text of Genesis or Exodus. He has a doctorate from the world’s premier institution in the field of ANE studies. And that background is still very useful in dealing with the Pentateuchal literature.

I also wouldn’t be as dismissive of the “six-day literalist view” as you are. Ironically, an uber-liberal like James Barr defends this interpretation on grammatico-historical grounds:

By steve hays on July 3, 2008 10:06 AM

Hi Jeremy,

“Interpretation isn't just about exegesis.”

That statement isn’t self-explanatory.

“But the best exegesis of the best commentators has shown that there's no need to take the days to refer to 24-hour periods.”

First of all, you’re the one who wants to turn this into a debate over YEC. You chose to single out that feature of Currid’s commentary. That had nothing to do with my initial suggestion that you include his commentary in your review.

“The structure of the passage almost cries out to be read as a poetic structure describing what God did…”

Are you alluding to the framework hypothesis at this point? Since you insist on debating this issue, there are several problems with the framework hypothesis:
i) The parallels are rather inexact.
ii) Apropos (ii), other scholars have “discovered” different internal lparallels, so the whole exercise is rather subjective.
iii) In the hands of someone like Kline, the literary analysis becomes rather labyrinthine.
iv) There’s a schematic, visual quality to the framework hypothesis. Indeed, proponents of the framework hypothesis often feel the need to illustrate their interpretation by showing the reader a diagram. But Genesis was written for the ear, not the eye. For a listener.

More to the point, the basic chronological structure of Gen 1 is the 7-day week. That’s linear, not parallelistic. And the reason for the 7-day week is, of course, to foreshadow the Sabbath. A six-day workweek followed by a day off.

That temporal sequence furnishes the structuring principle of Gen 1. The backbone.

So the only real question is whether the creation week is figurative or literal. That’s the proper way to broach the issue.

“But not as if it's a scientific manual detailing what happened in actual 24-hour periods.”

You know that’s a caricature, Jeremy. The question at issue is not whether Gen 1 is a “scientific manual.” That’s just a diversionary tactic.

The question is whether it’s factual and historical. Science is a second-order discipline. Science and history take the same world as their object. So if Gen 1 is factual and historical, then that will impinge on the subject matter of science. Gen 1 doesn’t need to be a scientific manual to have scientific ramifications.

Of course, you’re tacitly assuming a particular philosophy of science—scientific realism.

“I don't see where apologetics is fitting in here. I didn't bring it in. I did bring science in.”

You seem to be suggesting that any interpretation of Gen 1 which comes into conflict with science is out of bounds. So you seem to be taking a concordist position, which is a classic apologetic move. If you’re not concerned with the scientific fallout from a YEC interpretation, then why would you introduce science as an undercutter or defeater for a YEC interpretation?

So you seem to require an interpretation of the text that’s scientifically defensible. Which is why I said apologetics is driving your exegesis at this point.

“What I said is that it's hard to derive that view from the text, and if you bring more into interpretation than just exegetical issues (since those don't settle it), you're not going to get any help from general revelation.”

Now you’re treating science as a facsimile or transcript of general revelation. Hence, if an interpretation of Gen 1 conflicts with science, it conflicts with general revelation. How you arrive at that equation, I don’t know.

I suppose that depends, in part, on whether you view perception as a window or a veil. It also depends on what a world would look like if it were up-and-running in the span of six calendar days.

“You seem to have a linear model of hermeneutics, and I don't find that plausible. Theology affects exegesis. Ideally you can try to do exegesis without letting theology affect it too much, and then you can try to develop your biblical theology, eventually asking more systematic questions, and so on, but that will then mean you need to start over again and do your exegesis in the light of what you've arrived at with the broader picture. The spiral model of hermeneutics is much more accurate to how people actually think and is at least psychologically possible. A linear model isn't.”

I didn’t say we should do exegesis without theology. I didn’t say anything like that. What I said, rather, is that we should resist anachronistic interpretations which interpret the text beyond the historical horizon of the author and his target audience.

There is, however, a difference between exegetical theology and systematic theology. When I interpret Genesis, I don’t limit myself to Genesis, for the Pentateuch forms a literary unit. Themes in Genesis foreshadow later Pentateuchal developments. Yet intertextuality stays true to original intent. To the viewpoint of the narrator.

Systematic theology operates at a higher level of abstraction. We should interpret each author on his own terms, according to his own theological framework, rhetorical strategy, literary allusions, anticipations, and historical circumstances.

The job of systematic theology is to take the results of exegetical theology and integrate them at a higher level of synthesis. It’s a second-order discipline.

“I do ethics, but everyone does ethics. I have to think about possible cases of licit deception, because I have to teach ethics, but he has to think about them too, because he has to comment on Exodus 1. The text seems to treat what the midwives did as not just morally allowable but especially praiseworthy. This is a pattern throughout the Bible. Bill Arnold recognizes this in his Samuel commentary in the NIVAC series. His treatment of that issue is absolutely stellar. The Exodus one by Enns in the same series and the EBC one by Walter Kaiser (who has a book on Old Testament ethics) seemed absolutely terrible to me. They seem to go against the text in order to defend a view that seems to fit their moral intuitions. They do bad exegesis on other texts to get those texts to teach those views, and then they think this particular text must be read in a way that doesn't fit with its emphasis in order to maintain those views. The problem starts with their exegesis, not their ethical reasoning. I'm not expecting brilliant ethical arguments, although Arnold's navigation of those issues does meet my philosopher's standards. I'm just expecting them to look at the text and comment on what it does say.”

i) I’m not taking issue with your position in this respect. I agree with you that the Bible authorizes deception in cases where innocent life is at risk. Whether we can extend that principle to other, less dire cases is an interesting question.
ii) I wouldn’t be surprised if Currid’s interpretation is colored by John Murray’s classic discussion (Principles of Conduct, chap. 6), which is influential in Reformed circles. Ironically, Murray is using the very methodology you recommend for Gen 1. Murray was a systematic theologian, and he begins with the divine attribute of truth or truthfulness. He then uses that as an overarching framework to deal with Scriptural passages which seem to imply divine approval for deception in life-threatening situations.

I happen to think that Murray’s reasoning is flawed, and it does lead to a certain amount of special pleading when he has to cope with problem passages (problematic for his position). He resorts to hairsplitting distinctions to salvage his position. But that’s due to his starting-point.

By steve hays on July 4, 2008 3:25 PM

“I meant just a more general recognition of poetic elements, material that is very similar to genuine myth in other ancient near eastern literature.”

Like what? The Enuma elish? There are scholars who reject that comparison.

“All the views on this take the language literally. I've written about that before. The six-day view does not have a monopoly on taking the language literally. The days refer to days within the structure of the mythic poetry. The question is whether the mythic poetry itself refers to actual days, whether the literal days within the poem correspond to periods of time of greater length, or whether they do not correspond to any chronological pattern. I take the third view, but in all three views the days are not metaphorical for something other than days. They literally mean days within the account. It's how the account is taken, not whether the language is literal.”

Um…isn’t that a rather Pickwickian definition of literal? On that definition, you could take Alice in Wonderland literally because the Cheshire Cat is a literal cat within the story. This isn’t what we ordinarily mean by a literal interpretation. Indeed, it turns the ordinary meaning into its opposite.

“It takes the account to refer to a chronological ordered of exactly what happened and when, as if it's giving a scientific account of the order of events in a way that you can hold it up to scientific views and compare them to see if the science disproves the Bible or the Bible disproves the science.”

Not “scientific.” Just factual or historical.

Interpreting The Bible And Later Sources On The Eucharist

I want to make a couple of points that aren't often emphasized, or even mentioned at all, in discussions about John 6 and the eucharist.

- When John 6 is discussed in relation to the eucharist, the discussion often begins with the comments on the bread of Heaven in verse 31, verse 35, or somewhere else later in the passage. But we should keep the earlier context in mind. Given the contrast that Jesus sets up in John 6:26-29, in which resting in faith in Him is contrasted with the works of the unregenerate that were meant to attain physical benefits, how likely is it that Jesus is about to begin a discussion about attaining eternal life through physical participation in a ceremony that involves eating another type of physical food? Jesus' discourse begins with the contrast between faith and works and the importance of that which is spiritual, and those themes are emphasized again in verses 63-64, shortly after the alleged eucharistic verses. Faith, apart from physical eating and other works, is central to the passage. To read part of the passage as teaching that we attain eternal life through the work of going to a eucharistic ceremony and physically eating Christ's flesh and blood not only is incorrect, but also works directly against what Jesus had said and the context in which He said it.

- I think the weightiest argument for a physical presence of Christ in the eucharist is the popularity of some form of that belief in post-apostolic times. But proponents of a physical presence often overestimate the post-apostolic evidence supporting their position or underestimate the post-apostolic evidence against it. I've discussed some of the patristic evidence in other threads. What I want to do here is mention a line of evidence relevant to some of the earliest fathers, something that isn't often discussed.

When the earliest post-apostolic Christians discussed the issue of cannibalism or responded to the charge of cannibalism brought against Christians (for example, Athenagoras, On The Resurrection Of The Dead, 8; Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolychus, 3:4, 3:15; Minucius Felix, The Octavius, 30), they denied that Christians ever eat any human flesh or drink any human blood. They didn't make an exception for Christ's flesh and blood or attempt to explain that what they do with regard to Christ doesn't have any implications for how they treat human flesh and blood in general. While it would be possible to reconcile such a general denial with a belief in a physical presence in the eucharist, which view of the eucharist makes more sense of such repeated denials that show no concern for exempting Christ or discussing the eucharist? A person who rejects a physical presence in the eucharist could believe in a spiritual presence, so the choice here isn't limited to a physical presence or the symbolic view. And the beliefs of Athenagoras or Theophilus of Antioch don't necessarily reflect the beliefs of, say, Ignatius of Antioch or Cyprian. But the early patristic comments about cannibalism ought to make us more cautious in concluding that early Christian language about the eucharist has the sort of implications that modern proponents of a physical presence suggest. As I think the earlier discussions of John 6 and Ignatius of Antioch illustrate, interpreting the Biblical and patristic passages cited by advocates of a physical presence is often more complicated than they suggest.

Reading The Eucharist Into John 6

Peter Pike has suggested that I repost something I wrote in another thread on the subject of John 6 and the eucharist. Some of my comments and the comments of the person I was responding to might be difficult to understand without having read the surrounding context, but I think most readers should easily understand most of what's being said. I've added a small amount of material in brackets to correct an error in my original post.

LVKA wrote:

"The Psalms are prophetically charged: You know that, I know that, and Augustine definitely knew that, that's why He bothered writing an entire book about them, typologically interpreting there anything he was able to. You could've equally asked me: why do we interpret Isaiah's words (typologically) about Jesus, when they're literally referring to Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. :-\ (since that was the 'immediate', 'OT' meaning, and they lived in 600 BC also)."

You keep ignoring what people have written in response to you in previous posts. Again, even if we assume your interpretation of Isaiah, our acceptance of what you call a typological interpretation of Isaiah would be based on the authority of the entity giving us that interpretation (the authority of an apostle, the authority of scripture, etc.). To make your interpretation of Psalm 34 comparable, you would need to show that such an authority has given us that interpretation. Without the demonstration of such an authoritative interpretation, we would interpret the passage as we would any other historical document. You've given us no reason to think that Psalm 34:8 has the prophetic meaning you're assigning to it, and you've given us no reason to think that Augustine interpreted it that way. I've cited multiple passages in Augustine demonstrating that he didn't view the eucharist as you view it. If he didn't view the eucharist as you view it, then he probably didn't think of Psalm 34:8 as a prophetic reference to your view of the eucharist.

You write:

"The very words used: to believe and to come-to versus flesh and blood."

You're comparing the wrong objects. (You're comparing verbs to nouns, as you put it earlier.) The object in verse 35 of John 6 is Jesus. The object of verse 55 is His flesh and blood, defined in the context as His sacrificial work. Since both the person of Jesus and His sacrificial work are objects of Christian faith, there's no reason to think that faith couldn't be involved in both passages. Flesh and blood can refer to the eucharist, but the eucharist isn't the only context that involves Jesus' flesh and blood. The move from the person of Jesus to the sacrificial element of His identity doesn't single out the eucharist. You would need something more than that shift in focus to justify a eucharistic interpretation.

You write:

"What I meant was: just vecause these words [eat, drink] carry a spiritual conotation in John 6:35, it doesn't necessarily imply that they still do in John 6:55 -- because Your whole point relies on that, that they never change meaning: if their meaning is spiritual once, it's spiritual every time, 'cause it HAS to be so"

The issue is probability, not what's "necessarily" true or "has to be so". It's possible for terminology to be used in different ways within a brief period of time, but a consistent interpretation is preferable, all other factors being equal. You can argue that other factors support your interpretation, but the consistency of my view of John 6 is an advantage that supports my view.

I've already cited some evidence that John 6:55 has a meaning similar to verse 35. Verse 35 isn't the last verse to mention faith. References to faith continue in later verses, and [verses 63-64 conclude] the discussion with both a reference to faith and a reference to the spiritual nature of what Jesus had just said. One of the many problems with your interpretation is that it not only goes against what Jesus said 20 verses earlier, but also goes against what He said in later verses prior to verse 55 and what He said after verse 55. I've also discussed some other problems with your interpretation, such as the fact that the eucharist didn't yet exist and the fact that making the eucharist necessary for eternal life would conflict with verse 35 and with other passages of scripture that refer to people attaining spiritual life at the time of faith. Your interpretation requires a large amount of speculation and special pleading. It's the kind of interpretation that results not from exegesis, but from coming to the text with an overriding desire to find validation of your view of the eucharist.

You've repeatedly rejected probabilities in favor of possibilities. You tell us that it's possible that Jesus was changing His use of the relevant terminology later in John 6. He wasn't necessarily being consistent. You tell us that it's possible for somebody to speak of a ceremony that doesn't yet exist as if participation in it is a current requirement for salvation. You tell us that it's possible for a passage like Psalm 34:8 to be prophetic. What does it suggest about your beliefs when, in an attempt to justify those beliefs, you so frequently bypass a more natural way of reading the text in favor of a more distant possibility?

You write:

"And I would pretty much be still very interested in finding out Your interpretation about the meaning of the nouns food and drink"

I've already explained how I view the food and drink. Just as Jesus is spiritual food and drink in verse 35, the sacrificial element of His identity is spiritual food and drink in verse 55.

What you suggested earlier was that we substitute the terms "return" and "faith" for "food" and "drink" in verse 55 in order to test my interpretation. But I've explained why such a substitution doesn't make sense. In addition to what I said in my last response to you, let's try substituting your suggested words in verse 35 rather than verse 55. According to your description of my view of John 6, I think that Jesus is "return" and "faith" in verse 35. We can make any passage in any document sound awkward if we engage in the sort of word substitution you've suggested (with your malice and your poor communication skills choosing which words to use). Language doesn't work that way. Transitioning from a verb to a noun isn't necessarily a matter of one-to-one correspondence.

What we ought to ask is, does it make sense for Jesus' flesh and blood to be objects of faith, spiritual nourishment, etc. as Jesus is an object of such in verse 35? Yes, it does.

You write:

"And no, the phrase 'for My body is return-to-Me indeed and My blood is faith/belief-in-Me indeed' makes NO sense what-so-ever."

Readers should note how careless LVKA is in continuing to use the word "return" after I explained to him why his use of that term is problematic. Does he even attempt to interact with what I said? No.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Pope of Eastern Orthodoxy

Perry Robinson said,

“I think the irony in John and the ability to see more and a different meaning in the statements than Caiaphas wished to express show that Caiaphas was wrong.”

Even if we accept your description, how does that follow? For example, when a homicide detective questions a suspect, he’ll try to trick the suspect into revealing more than he wished to express. Likewise, when a prosecutor cross-examines the accused, he will try to trick the defendant into revealing more than he wishes to express.

On the one hand, the intent of the suspect or defendant is to conceal his knowledge of the crime. On the other hand, the intent of the detective or prosecutor is to make him inadvertently reveal more about the crime than he would be in a position to know if he were innocent.

That doesn’t make his unwitting admission false. And that doesn’t make the detective’s interpretation of the statement (or prosecutor’s interpretation) at odds with the meaning of the statement.

Take the classic example of the Freudian slip, where a speaker accidentally says what he really thinks.

Let’s also remember that Gaffin’s formulation is targeting the examples cited by Peter Enns. And, in that context, it’s possible that Gaffin’s formulation doesn’t take an example like Caiaphas into account. Why would we expect him to? Enns didn’t cite Caiaphas.

Suppose there are cases in which there’s a difference between the intent of the speaker and the content of the statement? Unless the examples the Enns is citing, and Gaffin is responding to, belong to that category, how does that invalidate Gaffin’s critique?

In the case of Caiaphas, the irony lies in who is making the statement. It’s made by an enemy of Jesus. And that’s what creates the possibility of a tension between the intent of the speaker and the content of the statement.

But that is not a paradigm for OT prophets. The OT prophets did not intend to speak contrary to divine intent. Their messianic oracles weren’t true in spite of what they intended to communicate. They meant to speak truthfully, and they succeeded.

And, actually, if we were to extend Perry’s interpretation of Caiaphas to the case of OT prophets, then Perry would be taking the position that OT messianic prophecies are false.

Does Perry suppose that what Isaiah meant is the opposite of what God meant when he inspired Isaiah? And does Perry suppose that, given a discrepancy between divine intent and human intent, what Isaiah said was wrong?

How does Perry apply his principle more generally? Does he apply it to OT prophecies? If he doesn’t apply it more generally, then how is that germane to the issue at hand?

“Not to mention the fact that the unjust death of Christ and their apostasy, because they claimed Caesar as king and not Jesus, resulted in their destruction in 7- A.D. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t see the destruction of Jerusalem as something ‘better’ than allowing Jesus to preach.”

Remember that Perry cited the statement of Caiaphas as a counterexample to Gaffin. So this comes down to an exegetical question. But Perry isn’t mounting an exegetical argument for his interpretation.

To raise objections on the basis of judicial misconduct or national apostasy or the fall of Jerusalem tells us what Perry thinks of Caiaphas’ statement, but it doesn’t tell us what John though of Caiaphas’ statement. The outlook of the narrator is what is pertinent to the interpretation of Caiaphas’ statement.

Does John think it would be better if Christ kept on preaching for the next 40 years or so, then died of natural causes? No. For John, Jesus came to die. And, by divine design, wicked men like Caiaphas were instrumental in implementing God’s redemptive plan.

Perry’s evaluation of Jn 11:50 is at odds with John’s evaluation (vv51-52). John takes the statement of Caiaphas as true statement and starting point to make a broader observation.

And, yes, it was beneficial that Jesus die for the nation. Not all Jews were apostates. John was a Jew. Was John an apostate? The 1C church of Jerusalem was a Jewish church. Some (not all) of the Jews who perished in sack of Jerusalem went to heaven thanks to the vicarious atonement of Christ.

Because Eastern Orthodoxy has a deep strain of anti-Semitism, it doesn’t even occur to Perry that Jews might be beneficiaries of Jesus’ death. But the elect includes a Jewish remnant as well.

“As for John thinking that the statement was ‘ironically right’ I quite agree because irony is dialectical, which means that the meaning John saw was the opposite of Caiaphas.”

John doesn’t see an opposite meaning in the statement. The irony lies, not in the statement, but the speaker. What’s ironic is “who” said it, not what he said. What he said was true. It’s ironic that an enemy of Jesus would say it. And not just any enemy, but the high priest.

There are different types of irony. There’s verbal irony, in which a speaker intentionally means the opposite of what he says. But Caiaphas wasn’t trying to be ironic. He isn’t Jonathan Swift.

There’s dramatic irony, in which the listener (or reader) knows more than the speaker. That figures in Jn 11:49-52.

And there’s situational irony as well, where the actions of an agent bring about the opposite of what the agent intended. (A paradigm case is fatalism in Greek tragedy.) That also figures in the Johannine pericope.

So Perry is systematically misreading his own prooftext.

“Your condescending comment about learning how to exegete notwithstanding, I don’t suppose you think Carson needs to learn to do so as well.”

Unfortunately for you, that backfires. Carson doesn’t say or imply that Caiaphas’ statement was false. And he doesn’t say or imply that John thought it was false.

Moreover, you said back on comment #47, “It isn’t clear that Ciaphas has a substitutionary thought in mind.”

But Carson says, “both Caiaphas and John understand Jesus’ death to be substitutionary” (422).

Not surprisingly, you didn’t include that when you quoted Carson.

Carson doesn’t take the position that John means the opposite of what Caiaphas meant. And that’s true of other commentators as well.

“Caiaphas is a case where a person is inspired, but it is not the meaning that they utter via the statement that is inspired so strictly speaking what he said was false.”

So you deny verbal inspiration. Does your general theory of inspiration deny verbal inspiration? Do you limit inspiration to the person, but not the end-product? If so, do you apply that theory to conciliar inspiration as well?

Is Caiaphas the exception or the rule? If the former, how’s that relevant to OT prophecies? If the latter, what about ecumenical councils?

“Furthermore, you inject correspondence as a requirement, which to my knowledge Enns does not.”

Enns is trying to liberalize the traditional, Reformed doctrine of inspiration because he doesn’t think that certain passages in Scripture, like Gen 1 conform to reality (to take one example).

“Prophetic statements can be true without correspondence. I don’t see any reason why they can’t be seen as true on deflationary accounts. Truth is the way things are, but it isn’t at all obvious that ‘the way things are’ entails a congruence relation or correlation between two entities.”

Well, I happen to think it makes a wee bit of difference whether Isaiah 53 refers to Jesus of Nazareth, Bar Kochba, or Menachem Schneerson. So, yes, I think a one-to-one correspondence between the figure denoted in Isa 53 and its historical fulfillment is “reasonable”—to say the least.

“And if my entire point is that inspiration is not limited to or even in accordance with the understanding of the authors your question simply begs the question at issue. And if I do not think that meaning is exhausted by or even entails reference, why would you think I would think that prophetic statements require a future referent to be true?”

Actually, it’s your failure to consistently distinguish between sense and reference that leads to your mishandling of OT prophecy.

Did Isaiah know that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah? No.

What Isaiah gives us is a partial job description for the Messiah. And his messianic job description is reiterated or supplemented by other OT writers.

Isaiah didn’t know who the Messiah would be. He didn’t know the identity of the future referent. But he knew what the Messiah would be like.

The historical fulfillment doesn’t add anything to the *meaning* of the oracle. Rather, it supplies the concrete *referent*.

And messianic prophecies were future-oriented, so it was understood all along that these oracles would have a future referent, even if the prophet didn’t know the actual identity of the future referent.

Since prophecies are future oriented, they require a future referent. And the historic terms of fulfillment must be true to the semantic terms of the oracle.

“I don’t deny that a purpose of inspiration is to secure true statements.”

Really? How can you say, on the one hand, that inspiration secures true statements while, on the other hand, you cite the statement of Caiaphas as a paradigm-case of inspired falsehoods? Which is it, Perry?

“I can agree that the historical events are the way Paul’s statements say they are, but that doesn’t necessarily imply a Correspondence Theory of truth and some ‘matching’ relation.”

How does the veracity of a divine promise not entail a match between the terms of the promise and what actually took place? If God promises Abraham a son, and Abraham dies childless, did God keep his promise or break his promise?

“I didn’t shift the discussion to Lipton. I merely gave an example of where Reformed persons in elucidating and defending the Reformed viewpoint on inspiration are committed to non-biblical and extra-biblical doctrines like created grace. This was in response to your claim that my view was non-biblical. And given that his article was posted here, but a few entries back in support of the Reformed view in light of Chalcedon, it was hardly diversionary for me to make reference to it. You may not be here to debate Lipton’s article, but you did make a claim about Reformed theology having an exegetical grounding. I gave an example where it doesn’t. You have yet to show where the notion of ‘created grace’ is found in the biblical text either explicitly or by implication. So my example stands, Reformed theology has extra-biblical doctrines relative to inspiration.”

i) To begin with, we need to distinguish between Reformed distinctives or Reformed essentials, on the one hand, and things incidentally to Reformed theology qua *Reformed* theology, on the other hand. Perry is equivocating.

For example, sola fide and sola Scriptura are Reformed essentials, but they’re not Reformed distinctives. Conversely, a doctrine like double predestination or special redemption is both a Reformed essential and a Reformed distinctive.

If a Reformed essential and/or a Reformed distinctive were unscriptural, then Reformed theology would be unscriptural. But double procession doesn’t define Calvinism in the way that double predestination defines Calvinism.

If, for the sake of argument, we were to drop the filioque from our creed, what difference would that make to Calvinism? We’d still have covenant theology, TULIP, the five soli, &c.

For a number of years, now, Wayne Grudem has been arguing that we should drop “the descent into hell” from our creeds. But that’s not a debate over the Reformed theology, per se. It’s not like Amyraldism.

ii) Likewise, the fact that a theologian who happens to be a Calvinist takes a position on something doesn’t mean this represents Reformed theology. And here I’d draw attention to Perry’s double standard. When, for example, I quote Bishop Ware on universalism, Perry waxes indignant. He assures me that Bishop Ware doesn’t speak for Eastern Orthodoxy.

But Perry then acts as though, if he can quote something that some Reformed theologian said somewhere at some time, then that’s Reformed theology.

There’s a little bunch of expat, Cameronian wannabes up in Edmonton Canada who imagine that anyone who doesn’t swear by the Auchensaugh Renovation is an apostate to the Reformed faith. Should I feel honor bound by their scruples?

“The onus is on you to respond to evidence and arguments made. Again, you haven’t engaged the example I gave, but merely dismissed it.”

The onus is not on me to debate irrelevant arguments. Lane Tipton is shadowboxing with Enns. Enns’ employed an Incarnational analogy to justify his liberal theory of inspiration. So Tipton is answering him on his own grounds. Fine.

That doesn’t commit me to employ the same strategy. I simply reject the framework.

Enns is trying to steer the Reformed community towards a more liberal theory of inspiration. But that’s inherently controversial. So he cloaks his proposal in Incarnational terms. That’s a smart, tactical move.

It gives his proposal a pious veneer. Indeed, it’s a preemptive move. A way of putting his critics on the defensive. If they take issue with his liberal theory of inspiration, then they’re attacking the Incarnation. They’re crypto-Docetists.

Speaking for myself, I wouldn’t even bother going down that road. It’s a decoy to throw us off the scent.

Bible writers never model inspiration on the Incarnation. So it’s improper to treat the Incarnation as the paradigm around which we must formulate our theory of inspiration. That’s an exercise in misdirection. Rather, we should formulate our theory of inspiration on the self-witness of scripture.

And that, I’d add, is traditional Reformed theological method. To my knowledge, Reformed tradition never framed its theory of inspiration in light of the Incarnation.

So even if, ex hypothesi, Tipton were educing extrascriptural arguments in defense of inspiration, that’s irrelevant to the way in which Reformed theology customarily derives its doctrine of inspiration. Rather, it’s an apologetic countermove to Enns. Answering him on his own terms.

“Further as Lipton notes, Scripture does in part attribute inspiration to the Son for it is the Son who sends the Spirit and the Spirit comes through the Son.”

Now you’re equivocating. That doesn’t justify your attempt to substitute a theanthropic model for a pneumatological model.

“And further, since the Son says that the Spirit takes what is his and teaches the Apostles, then Jesus is active in the inspiration of the Scriptures, even if derivatively speaking. Your compartmentalism here simply isn’t biblical.”

“Derivatively speaking”? So now you have to admit, after your convoluted, face-saving explanation, that you were equivocating.

“And thinking that the Son spoke to Moses and the OT figures…”

i) Now you’re shifting ground. I was responding to what you said in comment #65: “Hence the irony of coming to his own and his own not recognizing him.”

That’s an allusion to Jn 1:11. That has reference to the advent of Christ, not OT Christophanies. So you’re confusing the timeframe.

ii) Moreover, you continue to equivocate. The Son speaking to Moses is not the same thing as inspiring Moses to speak. A really basic, obvious difference.

iii) Furthermore, this also goes to your inability to distinguish between inspiration and revelation. They aren’t synonymous.

A theophany is revelatory. Yet it’s not a case of inspiration. It’s objective to the viewer. But inspiration is a subjective process.

“Your current response on the filioque isn’t an exegetical response and so is another non-answer. ‘Traditionally’ the doctrine was that from the persons of the Father and the Son the person of the Spirit was eternally generated as from one principle. No one disputed the sending of the Son in the economia because that is not the doctrine of the Filioque.”

“Traditionally,” the locus classicus of the Filioque was Jn 15:26:

“proceedth] The original term (ekporeuetai, Vulg. procedit) may in itself either describe proceeding from a source, or proceeding on a mission. In the former sense the preposition out of (ek, e) would naturally be required to define the source (Rev 1:16, &c.); on the other hand the preposition from (from the side of, para, a) is that which is habitually used with the verb ‘to come forth’ of the mission of the Son, e.g. 16:27, 17:8. The use of the latter preposition (para) in this place seems therefore to shew decisively that the reference here is to the temporal mission of the Holy Spirit, and not to the eternal Procession. In accordance with this usage the phrase in the Creeds is uniformly ‘which proceedeth out of’ (to pn. to hagion to ek tou patros ekporeuomenoun); and it is most worthy of notice that the Greek fathers who apply this passage to the eternal Procession instinctively substitute ‘out of’ (ek) for ‘from” (para) in their application of it: e.g. Theodore of Mopsuestia (cat.’ In loco),” B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (Eerdmans 1981), 224-25.

So this was employed as a traditional prooftext, by Greek Fathers, for the ontological, and not merely economic, procession of the Spirit. Westcott himself demurs.

“And your answer shows that you either simply do not understand the doctrine in question since the disputed idea was never the economic procession.”

You suffer from a serious case of reading incomprehension. I never said the disputed idea was economic procession. I was opposing economic procession to the tradition dogma, which construed Johannine statements like Jn 15:26 as ontological descriptions of the immanent Trinity. Try to pay attention next time.

“So when you recite the creed with the Filioque you are either affirming a doctrine which has no scriptural support.”

I affirm the filioque in the same sense that I affirm Jn 15:26.

“Or you are reinterpreting the creed contrary to its historical meaning and the meaning given to it by theologians in the Reformed tradition and are therefore making a false profession.”

Several problems with this statement:

i) Westcott, for one, thinks the wording of the creed supports an economic import.
ii) More to the point, I’m not duty-bound to affirm the original intent of an uninspired document.
a) Original intent is hermeneutically normative in the sense that the wording means whatever it meant to the author or framers.
b) But unless a document is inspired, original intent isn’t doxastically normative. I’m under no obligation to agree with the framers.
iii) As to “false” profession, that depends on to whom or for whom the profession is made.
a) If I were an ordinand, and I were asked if I affirm the creed, I’d be duty-bound to explain my interpretation.
b) But in a public recitation of the creed, I’m affirming *my* faith, not the faith of the Nicene fathers.
iv) In addition, most laymen, including most Eastern Orthodox layman, have no scholarly knowledge of original intent or the finer points of Cyrillian Christology. Are they also guilty of a false profession? By Perry’s elitist standard, only a patrologist is qualified to truly profess the creed.

“This is why all of your bantering concerning other traditions having non-exegetically derived doctrines is really not available to you as you are inconsistent in not charging them with the same kind of error that you charge others.”

If the only churches were Reformed churches, I might pick on these penny-ante issues—but with such enormous engines of error like Orthodoxy and Catholicism, that’s scarcely a priority.

“Tactics are irrelevant unless you wish to do psychology rather than logic.”

It’s relevant to alert readers to your machinations.

“Furthermore, the designation of the origin of any doctrine isn’t a separate compartment to relative to its justification.”

Depends on the audience. Documenting the self-witness of Scripture is distinct from justifying the self-witness of Scripture. Now, if the audience is Christian, then it will need no justification. It will believe the self-witness of Scripture on the authority of Scripture.

But if you’re doing apologetics, then you’d need to justify the authority of Scripture. Conversely, even an unbeliever can read Warfield and agree with Warfield that the Bible does assert its plenary, verbal inspiration.

So there is a basic difference between believing the Bible and believing that the Bible claims to be inspired.

“As for a divine person dying, as I noted before this functions as a Shibboleth and it seems you can’t make your tongue (or in this case, fingers) bend that way. I asked for a straight answer which anyone conversant with the traditional Chalcedonian reading which the Reformed profess to accept should have no trouble answering in the affirmative.”

Actually, anyone conversant with the Reformed version of the communicatio idiomatum can predict how I’d go about answering that question, were I so inclined.

“You simply dodge the question.”

Just as Jesus had a habit of “dodging” malicious, irrelevant questions. You want to shift the debate from the exegesis of Scripture to the exegesis of the creeds, and then shift the debate from the exegesis of the creeds to the exegesis of your favorite church fathers. I don’t jump when you say, “jump!” Get a dog.

“Which makes manifest your heterodoxy, even by your own tradition’s standards. The only question is which Christological heresy you endorse.”

Notice that Perry is doing exactly what I predicted. In my previous reply, I said, “Perry likes to pose trip-wire questions and redirect the conversation to his own turf. He wants to maneuver the conversation into a debate over the fine points of Cyrillian Christology, then score rhetorical points by accusing his opponents of the Nestorian heresy.”

Since he’s frustrated, because I don’t play into his hands, he now has to tip his hand.

“My question is quite germane since Christ is the center piece and heart of all Christian theology.”

That sounds oh-so pious, but you’re using that as a pretext for sloppy theological method. The proper way to establish a Biblical doctrine, including the doctrine of Scripture, is to turn to those passages which speak most directly to the issue.

It’s improper to begin with a subset of patristic theology, then infer our other doctrines from that point of reference.

“If you have a wrong view about Christ, it not only doesn’t much matter what you think about inspiration, but it is also likely that you have other heterodox views as well, perhaps some that you are not even conscious of or that you inconsistent.”

Except that, for Perry, Scripture doesn’t define what constitutes a right or wrong view of Christ. Rather, he takes his cue from Holy Tradition. And he tries to impose that extrascriptural yardstick on everyone else.

“Since much of the conversation here has been in terms of historical theology I am framing the issue in a way that is relevant.”

Once again, we need to draw a basic distinction:

i) At one level, the Enns’ affair is a case of internal, institutional discipline. Westminster is a confessional seminary. The faculty is hired on that basis.

Moreover, Westminster was founded in 1929, so it’s developed its own history, its own traditions. And that, in turn, is also bound up with the history of the OPC.

It’s inevitable that an institution like Westminster will undergo a periodic identity crisis given the turnover in faculty. It’s up to the powers-that-be to decide how much discontinuity between past and present is tolerable. So we get into debates over the relation between Westminster and Old Princeton. Or Westminster and the vision of Machen. Or E.J. Young and Peter Enns. Not to mention the Westminster Confession.

That’s how you’d expect a disciplinary process to proceed. This is not like a debate between Bart Ehrman and William Lane Craig, where we have to defend the faith from scratch, from the bottom up. In a disciplinary process involving a seminary prof., a lot of things are taken for granted.

ii) At another level, though, for those of us who aren’t responsible for policing the seminary, it’s a question of evaluating his thesis. Is it true? That’s a very different question than whether he’s crossed the line of permissible dissent.

Is he right or wrong about comparative mythology? Is he right or wrong about apostolic exegesis? Is he right or wrong about “diversity.”

Historical theology doesn’t answer those questions. History is descriptive. That’s not a way to establish the truth or falsity of his thesis.

“And this is often the path of Christological heretics who wish to trash historical theology to hide their own heretical views behind the shield of biblical theology because they know that if they were to spell out clearly and affirm their views, they get skewered.”

And Perry shows us the path of ecclesiolaters who wish to trash exegetical theology to hide their own unscriptural views behind the shield of historical theology because they know that if they were to spell out clearly and affirm their views, they get skewered.

For Perry, unless you invest your eternal destiny in the blind trust of Holy Tradition, then you’re a heretic. It’s a mark of Perry’s own view of Scripture that he doesn’t think we can out-argue the heretics on the basis of Scripture.

“Furthermore, to argue apologetically I don’t have to do exegesis.”

You have to do exegesis if you wish to establish that your alternative is the true alternative. True to revealed truth.

“Methodologically, I haven’t been doing anything much different than that.”

Methodologically, you like to take shortcuts.

“After a while, I simply have more important things to do than to bang on the keyboard with someone who seemingly has hours upon hours to do nothing in his post middle aged existence than to write on the internet.”

Oh, dear! If I didn’t know better, I’d almost suspect that Perry is resorting to an ad hominem attack. But I’m sure he’d never stoop to that level since he disapproves of ad hominem attacks.

“Now you seem to enjoy citing the Blackwell dictionary and it is a common practice of those unfamiliar with a given tradition and can’t think through the system from the inside out to resort to perceived normative sources or handbook type works.”

I see. So Perry is now going to give us his personal, “insider” account of what really happened at a 13C council. I must say that Perry is very well preserved for his age. Is he a vampire?

But for those of us who don’t enjoy his prediluvian lifespan, we rely on secondhand information about the past.

“If you had read even say Pelikan’s survey you’d probably not used this citation.”

So now the problem is that my secondhand source of information disagrees with his secondhand source of information. Should we flip a coin?

“So far, you’ve acted in typical fundamentalist fashion-pick up some popular works and handbooks and go searching for anything you can whip up into a problem.”

That’s an interesting value judgment. Why would I think the Blackwell Dictionary is a useful reference work? Well, one reason might be that it’s recommended by a Greek Orthodox Bishop. As Metropolitan Kallistos Ware explains in his foreword to the Blackwell Dictionary:

“Over the past fifty years there has been a truly remarkable grown of interest in the Christian East, and a comprehensive work of reference such as the Blackwell Dictionary has long been needed. Here is a book written with clarity, accessible to the non-specialist and the beginner, yet there also is a book in which those already familiar with the Eastern churches may discover much to surprise them and to evoke their sense of wonder” (ix).

I guess that makes Bishop Ware your typical, fundy fuddy-duddy—who doesn’t understand the Orthodox faith from the inside out. Thankfully, we have Perry Robison to set the Right Reverend straight. Why doesn’t Perry just cut to the chase and crown himself the Pope of Eastern Orthodoxy?

If A Nation's God Is The Lord

Christians sometimes suggest that Christianity was more influential in America's founding than it actually was. But proponents of a more secularized view of history or government often respond by going too far in the opposite direction. In reality, although many non-Christian influences were involved in the founding of the nation, and many of the founders held unorthodox theological beliefs, for example, the influence of Christianity was substantial, and America's founders were closer to today's religious right than today's secular left.

"I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation." (George Washington)

"The general Principles, on which the Fathers Atchieved Independence, were the only Principles in which that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their Address, or by me in my Answer. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God" (John Adams, The Adams-Jefferson Letters, Lester J. Cappon, ed. [Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 1987], pp. 339-340)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy Dependence Day!

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, our nation's celebration of its declaration and victory of independence from the British. Stinkin' redcoats! Just kidding. (I'm actually an Anglophile. For Queen and Empire! Okay, maybe not that much of an Anglophile...)

However, I just wanted to briefly suggest that as Christians we should think of the day (perhaps as we think of all our days, so that we'd gain a heart of wisdom) as our Dependence Day. Our dependence upon the Lord God -- the one, true, and living God, who revealed himself to us in the Holy Scriptures and ultimately in His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ himself.

We're dependent upon God for everything. From life itself, for every breath we breathe. For who we are as individuals, our personalities and the circumstances we were born into. For which families we were born into as well. For the time and place in which we were born. For our climate -- physical and moral. For our culture and background. For our friends and neighbors. For our physical needs like food, clothing, and shelter. For our jobs. For our communities. For the wonderful (and, yes, not-so-wonderful) people we've met in our lives. For our gifts and talents and opportunities. For the church, who is Christ's Bride and witness of himself in this fallen world. For our pastors and teachers who strive to hold out the Word of God to us, day by day. For our society, insomuch as the truths of God and Christians have been its salt and light -- and for not being as depraved as it could be by God's grace. For our government and laws and leaders. For the soldiers who serve in our military and protect our nation. For the relative peace and security of our society, which allows for the gospel to advance. And for so much more.

In all things we are dependent upon the Lord God.

Of course, at any time, these blessings could be taken away. We could lose our jobs. Our friends or loved ones could leave us. We ourselves could die at any moment. Our community or state or nation could suffer a major catastrophe. And that is why we are to be always humble and thankful for the blessings we do have as believers, and to continue to pray to the Lord that he would do what best glorifies himself and is for our good as his people.

Let us pray that no matter what, even if it means our liberties and freedoms and rights are taken away from us as Christians, even if it means all our goods and kindreds are taken away from us, we would nevertheless continue to live lives which honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. (Although I'm not at all suggesting we shouldn't fight to maintain these freedoms and rights.) How so? By always seeking intimate communion with our precious Lord and Savior in his Word and in prayer so that we would know him all the more, know his love for us, and thus by his grace working in us to love him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and our neighbors. By seeking God and his kingdom first and foremost in our lives, that his kingdom would expand in our hearts and the hearts of others. By preaching the gospel with our lives and our lips. By humbly and joyfully doing good to our neighbors, from wherever they might come, and whoever they might be, even if they are our enemies (I'm speaking on an individual, personal, relational level here). And by trusting and seeking to continue trusting, by repenting and seeking to continue repenting, by knowing and seeking to continue knowing, by loving and seeking to continue loving our thrice holy God, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and others.

In all things we trust in God from whom all blessings flow. In all things we thank and praise him -- not just for the blessings he has given to our nation but also for its difficulties and trials which we pray would turn hearts and lives in repentance and faith towards him. In all things we trust and know God is sovereign, and that he is so very good to us as his people, infinitely far more than we deserve. In all things we humbly trust and thank him, and ask that he might glorify himself in and through us, as he best sees fit, for we are ever dependent upon him.

Happy Dependence Day!

P.S. And let's hope we're not invaded by hostile space aliens. In case we are, though, I've updated my Blogger profile to meet the challenge.

John 6 And The Eucharist

For anybody who's interested, there's an ongoing discussion in another thread concerning John 6 and the eucharist.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Lux Mundi

In a parallel world known as Tellus, a controversy erupted over the rite of light. This controversy turned on interpretation of the words: "I am the light."

There were some heretical schismatics as well as some schismatical heretics who took the words figuratively. However, an Inquisition put a speedy end to their unspeakable impieties.

That, however, left many questions unanswered. When the Savior became a photon (at the words of consecration, “Lux ecce surgit aurea”), what kind of photon did he become?

The Infrareds took one position while the Ultraviolets took another.

There was yet another faction, known as the X-rays (which split into two groups, the Soft X-rays and the Hard X-rays), but no one under the age of 21 is allowed to consult the illustrated history of that particular sect.

His Holiness, Pope Terahertz IV, convoked the Council of Ozone to resolve the controversy before the rift was irreparable. But at that point I lost my uplink to Tellus, so I can’t tell you how the proceedings went until transmission is restored.


I’ve been sparring with Perry Robinson over at Green Baggins.

steve hays said,
June 29, 2008 at 7:46 am


Let’s not lose sight of what’s at issue in the debate over Enns. Enns and his supporters are taking the position that God sometimes inspires errors, that Bible writers sometimes intend to make true assertions which we now know are false.

How is the case of Caiaphas relevant to that issue? He intended to make a true assertion, and he succeeded in making a true statement. God inspired him to speak, and what he spoke was true.

That is not comparable to the alleged case of an inspired Bible writer who meant to make a true assertion, even though his assertion does not, in fact, correspond to reality—according to our enlightened, modern viewpoint.

steve hays said,
June 30, 2008 at 7:32 am

Perry Robinson said,

“There is more than one theory of inspiration, particularly a more theanthropic model rather than a pneumatological one like what Lane proposes which isn’t really Chalcedonian IMO.”

I suppose Lane favors a pneumatological model of inspiration because the Bible consistently attributes inspiration to the agency of the Holy Spirit. It’s terrible the way Lane gets his doctrine of Scripture from the witness of Scripture—instead of some post-Biblical, Greek Orthodox construct.

steve hays said,
June 30, 2008 at 11:59 am

Perry Robinson said,

“Caiaphas’ case is relevant since he was wrong yet inspired. I thought that would be obvious.”

No, it’s not obvious. Are you claiming that his statement is erroneous? If so, in what respect.

“And I wouldn’t think that a theory of inspiration would turn on a specific theory of truth like correspondence theory.”

Now you’re changing the subject. I was pointing out what Enns’ theory entails, and then pointing out that Caiaphas doesn’t illustrate that principle.

The theory of inspiration turns on the self-witness of Scripture, not a specific theory of truth. However, inspiration is not an end in itself. It’s a means of securing certain objectives, of which a truthful record is one.

“Further, as I noted before, his own gloss entails unbiblical doctrines such as ‘created grace’, an artifact of medieval Catholicism. This can be seen in the material where he talks about the Spirit giving created graces to the humanity from the outside. The standard Roman dialectic between nature and grace, where grace is alien and eternal to nature is obvious. That is hardly a product of the witness of the Scriptures.”

You’re obfuscating the issue by attacking a particular formulation of “pneumatic inspiration” because that particular formulation gives you a pretext to attack what you disapprove of in Protestant theology generally.

That doesn’t change the fact that Scripture itself attributes its inspiration of the agency of the Holy Spirit rather than a theanthropic model. Attacking “created grace” is an exercise in misdirection.

“I am still waiting for an exegetical defense of that doctrine without an appeal to natural theology from you.”

What’s your problem, Perry? I’ve already stated my position on the Filioque. Don’t you remember?

The problem is that you only have ears to hear the answers your looking for. If any answer doesn’t conform to your polemical agenda, you’re deaf to what the person said. So you keep demanding an answer as if none was given.

“As for constructs, last I checked, Protestant views are the result of an attempt to reconstruct the Bible’s meaning and so at worst you’ve only put Orthodoxy on the same level as Protestantism. And since I don’t think you are going to find any churches in the first century with Calvin’s name on them, Reformed theology is ‘post-biblical’ as well. Wise cracks make bad arguments.”

Once again, we weren’t discussing Reformed theology in general. Rather, we were discussing the Reformed doctrine of inspiration. In particular, the self-witness of Scripture.

And, of course, Reformed theology in general has an exegetical basis, so the question of 1C labels is a red-herring.

steve hays said,
June 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm

“[Perry Robinson] Perhaps you don’t think that God can die or did die, but I do.”

Perry makes provocative comments like this because he wants to change the subject. He’s looking for a wedge issue to use against Protestant theology.
He doesn’t want to talk about, say, Warfield’s inductive case for the verbal, plenary inspiration of scripture.

Instead, he wants to turn this into a fight over Christology since he’d rather fight on his own turf, and he feels comfortable debating Christology. So he’s baiting commenters into riding his hobbyhorse instead of discussing Richard Gaffin and Peter Enns.

steve hays said,
July 1, 2008 at 10:46 am

Perry Robinson said,

“Caiaphas was wrong in terms of what was in fact better for the nation, not to mention the justice and morality of his statement or rather lack thereof.”

It was wrong for Caiaphas to say it’s better for the people if Jesus dies? How is that wrong?

John didn’t think it was wrong. To the contrary, John thought his statement was ironically right. That’s why John does a gloss on his statement, building on the truth of what he said.

Your interpretation cuts against the grain of John’s editorial comment—not to mention the broader flow of the narrative. You need to learn how to exegete a passage of Scripture.

“Actually I didn’t change the subject. You inserted a specific theory of truth upon which the problem supposedly in part turned. I just brought to light your mistake. To my knowledge Enns isn’t necessarily wedded to a correspondence theory of truth and I don’t see why one must be in discussing this problem. So I don’t think Enns account ‘entails’ a correspondence theory of truth.”

No mistake on my part. I summarized Enns’ position as follows: “Let’s not lose sight of what’s an issue in the debate over Enns. Enns and his supporters are taking the position that God sometimes inspires errors, that Bible writers sometimes intend to make true assertions which we now know are false…That [Jn 11:50] is not comparable to the alleged case of an inspired Bible writer who meant to make a true assertion, even though his assertion does not, in fact, correspond to reality—according to our enlightened, modern viewpoint.”

How, specifically, is that a misstatement of Enns’ position?

But while we’re on the subject—yes, an oral or textual statement that corresponds to extratextual reality certainly figures in what Bible writers would take to be a true statement, and securing true statements is very much an aim of inspiration.

“If inspiration turns on the self witness of Scripture then it is odd that you are injecting correspondence here. And I am not convinced that inspiration is merely instrumentally valuable. It may be true that inspiration serves a goal, but intrinsic goods can also have extrinsic value. You’re assuming quite a lot here without argument.”

And you’re resorting to weasel words like “merely.” But that actually concedes my point.

Take the divine promises and prophecies of Scripture. Do you think they would be true, as Bible writers understood truth, if the fulfillment (the future referent) didn’t correspond to the promise or prophecy?

And what do you think is the purpose of inspiration if not to secure true statements? We don’t need inspiration to secure false statements, do we? The absence of inspiration will secure false statements.

Why does Paul carry on in Rom 9-11 if the word of God doesn’t have to match up with this historical outcome? Why are false prophets subject to the death penalty if a “true” or “inspired” oracle doesn’t have to match up with the historical outcome?

“I am not obfuscating the issue because the issue was your claim that my views were unbiblical. I shot back that Lipton’s view entails unbiblical doctrines so the shoe is on the other foot.”

Trying to shift the issue to Tipton’s position does nothing to absolve your own position. That’s just a diversionary tactic.

“So far you have left that untouched, unless of course you think that your statements constitute an exegetical argument.”

I’m not here to debate Tipton’s article. The onus is not on me to debate Tipton’s article.

“And you are confused since Scripture wouldn’t attribute inspiration to a ‘model’ but to the God-man.”

“Model” was your word. I responded to you on your own terms.

Scripture doesn’t attribute inspiration to the God-man. The agent of inspiration is the Holy Spirit.

“In fact, Scripture does give reason for thinking that the primary revealing agent was the Son since the Hebrews never heard the Father nor saw his form, but rather the Son. Hence the irony of coming to his own and his own not recognizing him.”

So you’re a Marcionite. You dispense with the OT. Divine revelation begins with the Incarnation.

You’re also equivocating. The Son is the self-revelation of God. That doesn’t mean the Son inspired the Scriptures. The Son is revelatory in his own right. The person and work of the Son is revelatory.

That’s not the same thing as inspiring the words of the prophets, whether their spoken or written words.

“And since 'created grace' was an essential part of Lipton’s piece in glossing inspiration, my comments regarding it were hardly a red herring.”

It’s a red herring when you introduce that gloss as an excuse to disregard the self-witness of Scripture regarding the distinctive role of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of Scripture.

“You confuse describing my alleged argumentative behavior with an evaluation of the arguments themselves. The former is quite irrelevant to the question of the quality of the arguments.”

I’m under no obligation to respond to you according to the way in which you’d prefer frame the argument. You don’t get to dictate my theological priorities or recast the questions to your liking, then impose that on everyone else.

“As for the Filioque, you sure did give an answer but you gave no exegetical defense of the doctrine, which is what I am still waiting for. So you mislead the reader. The claim wasn’t whether you supplied an answer but whether you gave an exegetical defense for it, which you didn’t, or don’t you remember?”

This was my initial response: “Historically, this has its Scriptural appeal in certain Johannine statements. And, traditionally, these statements are understood as having reference to an ontological subordination within the immanent Trinity. But, in context, they actually refer to the economic Trinity, not the immanent Trinity. When I recite the Filioque clause, I do so in the Johannine (economic) sense. This may or may not be in line with the original intent of the creed, but unlike the original intent of Scripture, which is divinely authoritative, creedal intent is not inherently authoritative.”

I then did a follow-up piece:

What, exactly, do you think I need to defend? My economic reading of the processional statements in John? But since you reject double procession, why would you object to an economic reading of those statements? Are you paying attention?

“Your personal remarks about what I am deaf to or my polemical agenda are irrelevant to the questions at hand and to the arguments I gave. It seems you haven’t learned how to keep the ad hom’s out of your puff pieces.”

I’ve had more experience dealing with you than some of the commenters here. They didn’t even know you were a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. It’s quite relevant for me to apprise them of your tactics.

“Once again, you mislead the reader. You claim was that my Orthodox views were ‘post-biblical’ and so I responded in kind. No amount of fist pounding that Reformed theology has an exegetical basis will make it so, nor will it get you away from the fact that it is historically “post-biblical.” So my comments about Reformed theology being “post-biblical” only constitute a red herring if yours do.”

My usage was self-explanatory. I set up a contrast between the self-witness of Scripture and a post-Biblical construct. So exegetical theology was the differential factor all along.

“As for Warfield’s inductive case, why would I need to discuss it? I favor a more presupp approach. I don’t think induction can get you to where Warfield wants to go and I think his gloss on inspiration, inductive or not is mistaken. I have addressed this before both here and on my own blog, but perhaps you missed that as well.”

Now you’re confusing two different things:

i) Does our doctrine of Scripture derive from the self-witness of Scripture. That’s an inductive question. A question of exegetical theology.

ii) How do we defend the doctrine of Scripture (thus derived)? That’s a question of apologetics, which might (or might not) involve a transcendental argument.
One doesn’t establish a Biblical doctrine of inspiration by presuppositional reasoning. Rather, that has to be established on the basis of what the Bible says about the nature of its own inspiration.

“So is it true to say that a divine person died on the cross or not? Let’s see if you can answer it in a straightforward fashion or not.”

I’m not going to step into your trap. Your question is irrelevant to the inspiration (and inerrancy) of scripture.

And even if you question were relevant, you have no interest in Scriptural answers. You want to frame this in terms of historical theology. You don’t care about a Biblical Christology.

“You talk quite often about what I ‘want’ and try to put my on the couch as it were and you do this on a regular basis with people, imputing all kinds of motives.”

Because I’ve dealt with you before. I know your modus operandi. And you’re reaching for the same bag of tricks here. You try to bait people into debating the issues you care about according to your rules. You try to reorient the thread so that you can take it where you want it to go.

“In any case, such comments are irrelevant to the arguments I gave and the degree that you engage in such behavior shows your inability to show exactly where my arguments supposedly go wrong.”

You want to dictate what the answers are by dictating what the questions are. I, for one, won’t take the bait.

Perry likes to pose trip-wire questions and redirect the conversation to his own turf. He wants to maneuver the conversation into a debate over the fine points of Cyrillian Christology, then score rhetorical points by accusing his opponents of the Nestorian heresy.

I understand why Perry’s upset. It’s hard for him to stage a successful ambush when I’m standing right behind him, exposing the hidden location of his guerilla warriors.

I hardly think that Lane wants to turn this thread into a debate over the Filioque. But I’ll leave that to the moderators.

steve hays said,
July 2, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Why does Perry keep harping on the Filioque anyway? He acts as if this is a big problem for Protestant theology. But, if so, then it’s an even bigger problem for Orthodox theology given internal divisions over this issue:

“At the Second Council of Lyons in 1245, and at the Council of Florence in 1439-45, Orthodox delegates accepted the filioque. Western theologians faced the Easterns with persuasive collections of patristic texts that used language suggesting that the Orthodox doctrine was not incompatible with the filioque,” The Blackwell Dictionary of Eastern Christianity, 198.

If Eastern Orthodoxy can’t speak with one voice on this issue, even within the solemnity of two church councils, then why is this a problem for us, but not for them?

He’s making grander claims for his ecclesiology that we make for ours. Look at the mismatch between the authoritarian claims and the end-product.

The sufficiency of Scripture

Perry Robinson has been a very busy boy, popping up on Evangelical blogs to market Eastern Orthodoxy. He’s done so at Green Baggins, and he’s done so at Parchment & Pen. I attempted to post a reply, but my comment was “truncated per site policy.”

I take it that Patton wants to pitch his blog to the attention span of a kindergartner. Well, it’s his blog, so he’s welcome to be a merchant of mediocrity on his own blog.

But since I have my own blog, I’ll repost my comment here, minus the preschool word limit.

“[Perry Robinson] Your examples are irrelevant . Theological liberalism is relatively new. You’d expect in the 400 years prior to the advent of theological liberalism that Classical Protestants would be converging theologically, but they didn’t. In fact, they did the opposite.”

“If the theory were true, you’d expect the intelligent people with competence in the languages over a long period of time just using the same ore data to come to significant agreement.”

“As for belief about what, lets take a major Christian teaching like say baptism. You’d think that in 500 years, give or take, Calvinists, Lutherans and Baptists would make some significant headway. Or take polity, the eucharist, predestination, Christological differences, etc.”

He keeps repeating and paraphrasing this objection, but you get the drift.

i) Why would we expect various Protestant traditions to converge over time? Perry is very naïve about human psychology.

Once a theological position wins enough converts, it tends to be self-reproducing. Social conditioning kicks in. Kids grow up in a home with a particular religious tradition. They attend a church with the same tradition. They may be sent to religious schools with the same tradition.

Consider countries with national churches. The whole culture indoctrinates and reinforces a particular religious tradition. One’s individual identity is bound up with one’s social identity. Kin, clan, and country.

Religious adherents have emotional ties to their fellow adherents. We certainly see this in the case of the high-church tradition, with its national churches. Where religious affiliation and ethnic loyalty merge.

So, unless you suffer from Perry’s sociological naïveté, what you’d expect is stability rather than fluidity as a particular theological tradition becomes institutionalized and handed down from one generation to the next.

ii) Moreover, there’s a period of theological consolidation following the initial “revolution.” A period of internal development as second-generation theologians produce a more systematic version of original position, taking various elements to their logical extreme and trying to create a tight-knit set of mutually supportive propositions. For example, Lutherans formulate their Christology to underwrite their sacramentology.

So what we’d actually expect is increasing divergence rather than convergence over time as the tradition hardens, as adherents develop what is distinctive to their position,

Moreover, opponents raise stock objections to the position, while proponents respond with stock answers. So, pretty soon, there’s very little room for progress since both sides are merely recycling the same arguments and counterarguments rather than advancing the argument.

iii) Furthermore, people have an emotional reaction to certain doctrines. They find some doctrines appealing and others repellent. For example, many people reject predestination because they dislike it. And they’re quite candid about their motives. They don’t like the consequences of predestination, and that’s it.

To take another example, high churchmen have a deep emotional stake in sacramental realism. Their assurance of salvation is vested in the ability of a priest to confine Jesus to a piece of bread. They know they have Jesus by having him in a wafer—like grace in spray cans. As such, they’re very resistant to anyone who would rob them of their shortcut to heaven.

“Is Scripture sufficiently clear on baptism? The Eucharist? Christology? You’d think that after 500 years and running the Lutherans, the Reformed and the Baptists, using the same data (scripture) and being competent in the biblical languages would be making some kind of convergence in these areas, but they haven’t.”

Here Perry’s ploy is to prejudge the scope of Scriptural sufficiency, then deem Scripture to be insufficient because Christians don’t agree on certain issues. But that begs the question.

Perry is beginning with his own theologian priorities, then measuring the sufficiency or insufficiency of Scripture by that extraneous stipulation. But why in the world should we accept that assumption?

Like all high churchmen, Perry never begins with God. Never begins with revelation. Never begins with divine precedent.

Rather, he begins with his preconception of the way things ought to be. If Scripture doesn’t measure up to his preconception, then Scripture is insufficient.

But a truly pious mind would broach the issue from the opposite end. God’s word is sufficient for his purposes. One reason we have ongoing debates between paedobaptists and credobaptists is because the Biblical data is someone inconclusive.

Does that mean Scripture is insufficient? If would only be insufficient on the gratuitous assumption that if it were sufficient, it would settle this issue once and for all. But why should we assume that?

Why not judge God’s intentions by God’s performance? It was certainly within his power to reveal more on the subject of baptism than he did. If God didn’t speak to that issue in enough detail to resolve the debate beyond reasonable doubt, then shouldn’t we leave it where God left it? Shouldn’t we respect God’s silence?

Why should we try to be more certain about something than God has given us cause to be certain about? If God, in his wisdom, has disclosed more of his mind on some things than others, then shouldn’t we calibrate our beliefs accordingly? Degrees of belief commensurate with degrees of revelation?

Why should a question be more important to me than it is to God? If God has chosen not to answer all our questions, then the problem is not with the lack of answers, but with the questions. We’re asking the wrong questions. We should limit ourselves to questions that God has answered. Where God is silent, that’s a point of liberty.

It’s not my Christian responsibility to answer questions God has chosen to leave unanswered. It’s not my Christian responsibility to be more specific than God’s word.

I’m not saying for a fact that the paedobaptist/credobaptist debate is stalemated. In part, I’m accepting Perry’s illustration of the sake of argument. Assuming, ex hypothesi, that the Biblical data does not permit a definitive or even probable conclusion, how does that impugn the sufficiency of Scripture?

Sufficient for what? Sufficient is a relative term. Sufficient in relation to what? In relation to God’s intentions—that’s what. Sufficient to discharge our duties to God and man.

“That being the case, I think this points to the formal insufficiency of the Scriptures. More to the point, if the Scriptures were formally sufficient, you wouldn’t need words like homoosious because Biblical language would always and only map on to one concept. But natural languages don’t work that way, which is why you do need words like homoousios.”

Other issues aside, if this proves the formal insufficiency of Scripture, then it also proves the formal insufficiency of Perry’s alternative. How did Christians manage before the Council of Nicea? Did they need a word like homoousios before Nicea? If, on the one hand, they needed that word, but didn’t have it (in the centuries before Nicea), then Perry’s rule of faith is “formally insufficient.”

But if, on the other hand, they didn’t need it, since they didn’t have it, then Perry’s rule of faith is superfluous. What’s the point of an ecumenical council (according to Robinson) if not to supply a need? But if the need went unmet before the council was convened, then how needful is the need of “homoousios”?

“As I noted before, the fact that we require words like homoousios seems to show that the bible is not formally sufficient. As far as I know, the Scriptures no where declare that they are formally sufficient.”

This is tendentious. He posits a condition which Scripture is supposed to meet. If Scripture were sufficient, it would be “formally” sufficient. Yet it never claims that for itself—hence, Scripture must be insufficient.

But that conclusion is an artifact of Perry’s premise. He holds Scripture to a standard of his own making, then deems Scripture to be deficient if it doesn’t submit to his demands. But that begs the question of whether the Bible must be ‘sufficient’ as Perry defines sufficiency.

With Perry, it’s always a game of question-framing. Act as though there’s a standing presumption that if Scripture were sufficient, it would be “formally” sufficient, and—what is more—it would declare itself to be formally sufficient. Absent that declaration, then Scripture must be insufficient.

But his reasoning is viciously circular. There’s no prior expectation that Scripture must be “formally” sufficient, or declare its formal sufficiency, for Scripture to be sufficient for God’s purposes.

“I think people can correctly interpret the Bible apart from tradition (of which the bible is part). That is possible, but that is not the question. “The question is whether the interpretation is binding and can actually require assent.”

Why is a correct interpretation insufficient? Why do you need something over and above a correct interpretation for that interpretation to be binding or constrain our consent?

Isn’t truth sufficient to constrain assent? Shouldn’t you believe something simply because it’s true?

“If not, then there will be no interpretation and hence nothing in any confession that is beyond revision.”

Why would a correct interpretation be subject to revision? Is truth revisable?

Or is Perry attempting to say that a correct interpretation would still be subject to revision inasmuch as someone might fail to recognize the right interpretation? Mistake the right interpretation for the wrong one, and vice versa?

But short of rendering every individual believer infallible, the possibility of misinterpretation is unavoidable. Perry’s rule of faith does nothing to preclude the possibility of misjudgment.

“This is why I focused on the council in Acts 15. Was that infallible or no? If so, then it significantly undermines SS.”

How would the infallibility of that “council” undermine sola Scriptura? During the apostolic age, the spoken word of an Apostle was authoritative.

But we’re not living in the apostolic age. All we have to go by are inspired written words, not inspired spoken words.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Feelings, nothing more than feelings

I have a friend who has recently been struggling over his feelings and emotions (among other things) through a difficulty. By God's grace, Steve has graciously ministered to him with sweet words of comfort, encouragement, and strength. So, with their permission, and after some editing on my part mainly to preserve as much anonymity as possible, several portions of Steve's half of the dialogue are posted below. I trust Steve's words will minister to others as they've ministered to my friend.

For many of us, what makes life pleasant or even bearable is the combination of certain people and places. We need certain people in certain places to survive emotionally. One without the other isn't enough.

Haven't heard from you for a while. It's possible that you're having second thoughts about your situation. Even if [there's failure], that doesn't mean you made a mistake. Although she isn't ordinarily ranked with Plato, Aristotle, or Descartes among the great all-time philosophers, Lucille Ball had a sage piece of advice: "I'd rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not."

It didn't change your situation, but to some extent it changed you, and that, in turn, makes it easier for you to change your situation. You can put that experience to good use in the future.

Remember the adage: I'd rather regret the things I did than the things I didn't.

Although you're entitled to your feelings, you need to be careful not to dwell on your feelings.

On the other hand, your feelings are justified, and there's no automatic expiration date on how you feel. You're naturally going to be reflecting on your experience for some time to come.

Be patient with yourself.

BTW, don't feel that you have to act like a plaster saint about your emotions. There's a kind of Hallmark card piety that's promoted in a lot of fluffy Christian books and sermons.

But if you read the Psalms or Jeremiah or 2 Corinthians, you see raw emotions on full display. And a full range of emotions. Not just faith, hope, and love. So you're in good company.

You feel lonely because you're alone, away from friends (except for a couple) and family, living among strangers, in a strange part of the world, with a disagreeable climate.

That part of how you feel is due to external circumstances. That will dissipate as soon as you move back home. We can sometimes change our feelings by changing our circumstances.

That sadness won't go away so easily, but moving back home will help.

At present you're in no position to gauge your future or your feelings. You're too close to the situation right now.

At the moment you basically have two sets of emotions. One set is from living away from home. Away from your family and friends.

The other set of emotions has to do with the [difficulty]. You're coming right off of that experience.

The first set of emotions is driven directly by your immediate circumstances. The confluence of these feelings with sort themselves out as soon as you move back.

So that part of the problem will solve itself. That will still leave you with the other set of emotions. But, right now, you don't know which is which. They blend in to each other.

As long as you're a stranger in a strange land, you're in no position to judge your feelings or evaluate your future. Wait till you get back, settle back into your old rhythm, before you even attempt to take stock of your situation.

Put another way, wait till you move back, till you've been there for two or three months. That will automatically shrink your sadness down to more manageable levels. You will have far less to cope with.

It's easier to climb a mountain in summer than in winter. It's an effort to climb a mountain at any time. But it's more of an effort if you have to contend with all the snow and ice. Wait for the right season.

There's nothing inherently sinful about being "selfish" in the sense of preparing for your own future or attending to your own natural, emotional needs.

You're being way too apologetic. You've done nothing wrong. Naturally your mind is still on this situation. That's not going to evaporate overnight. Go easy on yourself, not hard on yourself.

Life in a fallen world has a tragic quality. There are genuine losses.

I wouldn't worry about your other emotions right now. They're perfectly natural and understandable at this point. Give them time to fade a bit.

Moreover, we don't forget important things that happen to us (well, nursing home patients may be an exception!).

As long as you don't go on a shooting rampage, don't browbeat yourself about how you feel at the moment. :-)

Or, if you do go on a shooting rampage, make sure it's a video game!

Hope you're feeling somewhat better now that you're back home. You have a lot of fresh, painful memories to process, so the feelings won't fade overnight, but moving back to familiar surroundings, with family and friends, ought to help the healing process.

However, we're not necessarily the same person after some experiences. And it's unfair to compare ourselves to an earlier, pristine version of ourselves.

I wouldn't worry about your [bad feelings] if I were you.

Put it this way: it's enough to have these feelings; it compounds the problem if you also feel guilty about your feelings, because that piles one set of feelings on top of another. You're adding the feelings of guilt to your [bad feelings]. So, pretty soon, it's feelings about feelings about feelings, like a receding, mirror-image glaring over your shoulder.

So I think you should stop blaming yourself for your feelings. These are perfectly natural, normal feelings.

It's enough to feel [bad]. Don't blame yourself by feeling bad about your bad feelings!

One set of bad feelings is quite enough, don't you agree? :-)

It's a good thing that we have a capacity to form emotional attachments. But the flipside of this capacity is that we suffer accordingly when that attachment is betrayed or unreciprocated.

That, of itself, is not a bad thing. That's the inevitable result of forming emotional attachments.

It's only a bad thing when people cling to these feelings and feed them rather than allowing them to be reabsorbed.

2. In my experience, for what it's worth, there's a difference between giving thanks and feeling thankful.

I find that when I give thanks, even though I'm not in the mood, thankful feelings tend to be the result of giving thanks.

3. Finally, and this is more of a priority, don't focus on whether you feel spiritual. Whether you have holy emotions.

Instead, focus on what makes you feel good by taking pleasure in the natural blessings of life. What is it that normally makes you happy? It is walking along the beach? Having a meal with your family? Watching a movie with an old friend?

Natural goods are also godly goods. They come from God's hand. The innate sanctity of God's creation.

4. Apropos (3), we don't have direct control over how we feel. But we have some indirect control. We know, from experience, the things that make us feel better. So try to spend your spare time in places, or with people, doing what normally gives you pleasure.

That won't make the dark moods disappear, but it will give them some sunny competition. And that's a way of beginning the process of recovery. Shafts of light leading out of the forest.

Like a horse and carriage

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

An email correspondent asks about love and marriage:

1. For most Christian men, permanent bachelorhood would be a spiritual impediment to sanctification.

2. Having more things to be thankful for draws us closer to God. If a wife and kids are an occasion for thankfulness, that will draw you closer to God.

3. Loving God is not a substitute for sexual and asexual varieties of human love. God has not made us that way.

4. We can also love God by loving God's handiwork. By loving natural goods.

5. In this life, our knowledge of God is indirect. It is mediated in various ways.

Frankly, we can't expect to feel the same way about God that we do about someone physically present in our life.

6. Romantic desire is complex. In animals, the sex drive is purely instinctual. And there's an instinctual element in human sexuality as well.

But there are also elements of anticipation and memory. We are conscious of the future. We reflect on the experience of friends and family members.

Our feelings may change over the years. The sex drive may be most insistent in our teens, yet at that age we may also feel that we have our whole future ahead of us. What's the hurry?

As we grow older, the emotional element may become more insistent.

For example, if a young man enters the priesthood, he may, at that time, be quite sincere about his vow of chastity.

Yet life can look very different at 30 than it did at 20, or 40 than it did at 30.

7. It's true that those who never marry may have never made a conscious decision not to marry. It isn't that they never decided not to. Rather, they never decided to do so, and take the steps necessary to make it happen.

You don't have to do anything not to marry. Doing nothing takes no effort. It's not a choice, but the absence of choice.

Marriage is not automatic. It doesn't just happen all by itself. You have to create your own opportunities.

If we're not careful, we can let time pass us by. Life moves very fast. It's easy to become preoccupied -- to lose track of the passage of time.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Infallible falsehoods

According to Perry Robinson:

“Added to this is the fact that various councils claim for themselves divine inspiration.”

“The cessation of the apostolic office wouldn’t imply a lack of divine inspiration in the church, which is exactly and explicitly what the ecumenical councils that Protestants profess fealty to claim for themselves.”

“But I would need to be infallible to judge in a way that was normatively binding on the consciences of other men and that seems fairly easy to establish in terms of what was in the mind of the church at councils.”

“Therefore, the judgments reached in this way are provisional and revisable and therefore represent a practical stability, which can always be re-opened. There isn’t any formal theological statement found in any Reformed confession that isn’t itself open to possible revision, and this includes the canon itself.”

“I don’t have a problem with the idea that erroneous statements could be inspired.”

“Caiaphas’ case is relevant since he was wrong yet inspired.”

Let’s put two and two together. On the one hand, Perry thinks that ecumenical councils are inspired.

And he apparently thinks that conciliar inspiration renders conciliar statements “normative” and “unrevisable.”

On the other hand, Perry also has no problem with the idea of inspired errors. So if we apply Perry’s theory of inspiration to his belief in conciliar inspiration, Perry doesn’t have any problem with the idea that conciliar statements could be wrong or erroneous.

But why would an inspired error be normative or unrevisable? Indeed, given Perry’s theory of inspiration, wouldn’t conciliar statements be provisional and open to correction?

How do inspired errors bind the conscience of a believer? Are we duty-bound to believe falsehoods?

Are inspired errors better than uninspired errors?

Perry seems to regard the mind of the church, speaking in or through ecumenical councils, is infallible. An infallible judge. But how does that square with his theory of inspiration?