Saturday, March 28, 2009

Gay pride

I wrote most of this up some time ago, and my memory being what it is(n't), have unfortunately forgotten to whom and how much I'm indebted for many if not most of these points. My apologies in advance. But please feel free to give proper attribution if you recognize something.

Here are some (preliminary) thoughts on a few things pertaining to homosexuals such as the sin of engaging in homosexual sex:

1. To start with, this should probably be obvious but homosexuals are sinners, not just homosexuals. They're no different from other people with respect to being sinners and sinful. Quite apart from whether or not they've engaged in homosexual acts, they've sinned in other ways such as by lying, hating, stealing, coveting, etc. Homosexuals are by nature sinners like heterosexuals and all people.

2. At least from what I understand, few homosexuals -- particularly male homosexuals -- are monogamous. In fact, many are quite promiscuous. This is itself sinful. That is, let's put aside whether homosexuals are having sex with other homosexuals. And let's simply ask whether they're having sex outside of marriage. If they are, then they're sinning.

However, for some this might raise the related question of whether homosexuals who are in a committed, monogamous relationship would be sinning if they were legally allowed to marry and were married. My immediate response is that I'm not talking about what's legal but rather what's moral. Sin is still sin even if it's legal. In other words, this would be sinful on the grounds that engaging in homosexual acts are in and of themselves sinful, or that homosexual "marriage" perverts the God-established creation ordinance of marriage between a man and a woman.

3. Some people argue that homosexuality is genetic.
  1. First off, even if homosexuality is genetic, does this then make it acceptable to engage in homosexual acts? No. Anger or perhaps the predisposition toward anger might be genetic, for example, but it doesn't make it right to murder someone.

  2. Some people have argued that there is a significant difference in the size of a particular region of a homosexual's brain relative to a heterosexual's brain. Even if this is true, how do we know that this is the cause of homosexuality rather than its result?

  3. Even if homosexuality is genetic, why should homosexuality be considered permissible on these grounds? Or even considered "normal"? There are many diseases such as certain forms of cancer which are genetic. But these diseases are not therefore "normal." In fact, that's why they are "diseases," because they are not normal; they are not markers of health.

  4. Even if homosexuality is genetic, it's not as if everyone with a gay gene is necessarily controlled by it. Even if there is a gay gene, it doesn't then follow that one is therefore compelled into homosexuality.

  5. At best, the existence of a gay gene might mitigate sin in some sense, but it would never excuse let alone condone sin.

  6. Now, if homosexuality is genetic, and if this in some way excuses homosexuality, then wouldn't the "inheritance" of our sinful nature from Adam excuse all sin -- which would be patently false?

  7. We've been talking about genetic factors (nature), but let's not forget about environmental factors (nurture). If we were raised in a home with physically and emotionally abusive parents, would this excuse our being physically and emotionally abusive towards our own children? No.
4. Homosexuality goes against the order of creation, of how God created us "male and female."
  1. Male-on-male and female-on-female sex is blatantly against how we were physically created. It overturns our sexuality. As John MacArthur once asked, with a touch of humor, "Do I need to draw you a picture of how a man and a man or a woman and a woman cannot possibly physically 'fit' together?"

  2. Homosexuality cuts against God's purpose for humanity as "male and female," as part of a family, as part of society. Men and women were created with distinctive roles. This is not a sexist statement; this is how God created us. This recognizes who we are as males and females, as husbands and wives, etc. And the family is the most fundamental building block of society. Note, for instance, that Eve was given her name because she was "the mother of all living" (Gen. 3:20). Her name is tied to her role as mother. Homosexuality does away with our God-given roles as men and women and as families.

    There's also the related danger of homosexual couples adopting children. Imagine the possible affect on little Johnny or Jane growing up with two dads but no mom or two moms but no dad, to say nothing of the affect on others. I'm not saying it's a foregone conclusion but from what I've read and seen there does seem to be a high degree of deleterious effects in exposing and raising children within the context of a homosexual lifestyle.

  3. According to the Bible, there's a sense in which homosexuality demonstrates the height of sinful, rebellious man (à la Romans 1).
5. What then shall we do as Christians?
  1. We ought to reach out and love homosexuals (as we do others) by telling them the truth about their sins and their need for the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, just as Christ reached out to us and loved us. Homosexuals are no better or worse than other sinners in regard to the need for redemption. And we were once sinners like them, without hope and without God in this world.

  2. Also, some of us might want to keep in mind how emotionally and psychologically difficult it must be for the struggling homosexual (to say nothing of other difficulties). Is the homosexual destined to lead a life of unrequited love? Is he or she called to lifelong celibacy? And so on.

  3. Of course, there's much more to say. So I'd highly recommend reading stuff by someone like Robert Gagnon. There are some very good websites and weblogs under our "Culture Wars" category on the right sidebar too.

Coming home to Mother Kirk

Ben Douglass is the most reasonable and congenial Catholic epologist I’ve had occasion to deal with. That may have something to do with the company he keeps.

As I look over his blog, it's revealing to see how often he must raid the pantry of Protestant scholarship to restock his Catholic cupboard (see below). For a traditionalist Catholic, the irony must be acute.

Mind you, I don’t say this as a criticism. Indeed, I think his taste in reading material is often impeccable. Given his fondness for, and dependence on, so many conservative Evangelical scholars, to bolster his high view of Scripture, it would represent a failure of hospitality on my part if I didn’t invite him to return to Mother Kirk.

Ben, the door is ajar. There’s a candle in the window. And we have a fatted calf roasting on the rotisserie. Come inside and join us!


He alleges a consensus of Bible scholars. But no such consensus exists. The field of Biblical scholarship is far from monolithic; Bible scholars span the entire theological spectrum and as such believe a myriad of contradictory ideas. Does Kersten include, within his supposed consensus of Bible scholars, Bauckham, Bruce, Carson, Metzger, Miguens, Wallace, or the Opus Dei scholars at Navarre?

Keil lists, as concrete examples, changes in the use of pronouns, the spelling of the demonstrative pronoun, the construction of infinitive verbs, the conjugation of third person plural verbs, and vocabulary.79 Most conclusively, Keil notes that the name "the Lord of hosts," Yahweh Sabaoth, is absent from the Pentateuch, even though it "was current as early as the time of Samuel and David, and so favourite a name with all the prophets."80 This datum is inconsistent with the supposition, required by the Documentary Hypothesis, that the Pentateuch was written concurrently with the prophets.

Reformed Evangelical scholar John Currid summarizes the refutation of this rationalist critical argument...81

Indeed, I may, with slight interpolation, make my own the words of the Protestant scholar C. F. Keil...86

[64] Protestants have often alleged that (a) the teachings of the Catholic Church cannot be infallible because they are not consistent over time, and (b) the Church's claim to be under the authority of the Word of God is disingenuous. If Kersten's description of Catholicism were accurate, both of these criticisms would be true, for in his view, (a) the Church's teaching on Scripture has changed, and (b) the Church can correct what is erroneous in Scripture.

[71] Cf. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis (Jerusalem, Israel: Shalem Press, 2006); Duane Garrett, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1991); Gleason Archer, A Survery of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1996).

[78] C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 1, Pentateuch (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006) p. 11.
[79] Ibid., pp. 11-12.
[80] Ibid., pp. 10.
[81] John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1 (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2003) pp. 29-30.

The end of Superman

It’s my sad duty to inform you that, after fighting crime since FDR, Superman has hung up his cape for good. He was forced into early retirement, not by Lex Luther, but by the cellphone. With more and more cellphones, there were fewer and fewer telephone booths for Clark Kent to duck into.

From here on out, you and I will have to fend off the criminal element, from muggers to megalomaniacs, without the man of steel by our side. Prepare for the worst!

Ehrman's conundrum

I’ve decided that I need to expand my review of Bart Ehrman’s new book, Jesus Interrupted. In previous installments, I skipped over chapters 6 & 7.

In these chapters he talks about NT textual criticism, the formation of the NT canon, and the establishment of Christian orthodoxy, viz., the deity of Christ, messiahship of Jesus, as well as heaven and hell. They’re a rehash of stuff he’s already said in books like Misquoting Jesus and Lost Christianities.

I skipped over these chapters for the following reasons:

1.I’ve discussed the canon on many occasions, so I don’t feel the need to repeat myself here. I’d note in passing that Ehrman disregards textual evidence for the early formation of the NT canon (e.g. David Trobisch) as well as intertextual evidence for the NT canon.

2.Misquoting Jesus was subjected to a number of scathing reviews, some of which are available online.

3.There are many fine treatments of Messianic prophecy by scholars like T. D. Alexander, Derek Motyer, O. P. Robertson, and John Sailhamer–not to mention commentaries on specific passage (e.g. Waltke on Micah). Erhman ignores this material and simply regurgitates the standard liberal line.

4. Likewise, there are fine exegetical treatments of the afterlife in Scripture and extrascriptural tradition, viz. Richard Bauckham, The Fate of the Dead, or Christopher Morgan & Robert Peterson, Hell Under Fire.

5.There are a number of books on the market, some scholarly and some popular, which expound the high Christology of the NT and target the conspiratorial views of Ehrman, Dan Brown, and the Jesus Seminar. I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Ehrman has a habit of ignoring his critics. To take a few examples:

Darrell Bock, The Missing Gospels

Darrell Bock & Dan Wallace, Dethroning Jesus

Robert Bowman et al, Putting Jesus in His Place

Craig Evans, Fabricating Jesus

Gordon Fee, Pauline Christology

Simon Gathercole, The Preexistent Son

Murray Harris, Jesus as God

Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ

Timothy Jones, Misquoting Truth

Ed Komoszewski et al, Reinventing Jesus

Nicholas Perrin, Lost in Translation?

Now I want to move onto to my major point:

1.Ehrman’s attack on the Christian faith utilizes the fashionable cliché that history is written by the winners. Therefore, you’re only getting one side of the story.

But this line of attack generates a dilemma for Ehrman. On the one hand, his conspiracy theory would only be impressive if the winners destroyed or effectively repressed the incriminating evidence. If the cover-up was successful, then we’d be in no position to know where the truth lies–since any evidence to the contrary was eliminated by the winners.

On the other hand, Ehrman can only prove his conspiracy theory by reconstructing what “really” happened. But his historical reconstruction presupposes that enough evidence survives from the losing side that we can, in fact, evaluate both sides of the argument.

In order to prove his theory, Ehrman must disprove his theory. He can only document his conspiracy theory if documentary evidence attesting his conspiracy theory is available. But, in that event, the winners didn’t succeed in writing the final chapter on early church history.

Since, by his own admission, contemporary Christians are in a position to evaluate both sides of the story, the cover-up failed.

2.At this point, Ehrman’s attack would only remain effective if you think the winners made the wrong call.

i) Ehrman’s attack might carry some weight with Christians (e.g. Catholics, Orthodox) for whom tradition is decisive. Since, however, Protestants are in the habit of sifting tradition, Ehrman’s attack, even if valid against high churchmen, would not be valid against Protestant theology, per se.

ii) Ehrman’s attack might carry some weight with Protestants if he could show that a high Christology is unscriptural, or that Jesus was not the prophesied Messiah, or that heaven and hell are post-biblical developments, or that our canon was wrongly decided.

However, Protestant scholars have defended all of these propositions. Hence, we don’t depend on the “winners” to underwrite our theology.

We can exegete a high Christology from the NT. We can exegete Messianic prophecy from the OT. We can exegete heaven and hell from both Testaments.

As a matter of fact, there are some differences between the Protestant canon, the Catholic canon, the Eastern Orthodox canon, and the Oriental Orthodox canon.

But ecclesiastical tradition is not the only line of evidence for the Protestant canon. We include Jewish evidence, text-critical evidence, and intertextual evidence.

3.Ironically, Ehrman the conspiracy-theorist is identical with Ehrman the conspirator. Ehrman has become the very thing he accuses the “winners” of being. For Ehrman presents the reader with a very one-sided version of the evidence. Ehrman withholds evidence that is damaging to his own position. Ehrman is knee-deep in his own cover-up.

"The dragon in my garage"

Carl Sagan once wrote a little parable entitled “The Dragon In My Garage.”

This is meant to be a thinly-veiled analogy for Christian faith–or religious faith in general.

The first thing I’d note is that Sagan’s parable of the invisible dragon is a rip-off of Antony Flew’s parable of the invisible garden.

Both parables presume that Christians believe in God despite the total absence of evidence for his existence.

On a related note, they accuse Christian faith of being unfalsifiable since nothing would ever count as evidence against it.

There are some fundamental problems with this objection to the Christian faith:

1.There’s no real argument here. Sagan and Flew have imputed to Christians a position that many or most Christians reject. Sagan thinks there’s no evidence for God. (Flew has since changed his mind.) So that’s a presupposition of his parable.

In his parable, he tacitly imputes that assumption to the Christian, as if the Christian shared his belief that there is no evidence for the existence of God. His parable is then designed to illustration the vacuity and irrationality of Christian faith.

But, of course, most Christians (except for a few extreme fideists) wouldn’t grant his assumption in the first place. So his parable amounts to a straw man argument. What he’s done is to begin with an atheistic assumption, impute that atheistic assumption to the Christian, then point out that the Christian is irrational for continuing to believe in God in spite of the atheistic assumption.

But the parable is an exercise in mirror-reader since the Christian doesn’t buy into Sagan’s atheistic assumption. All that Sagan’s parable ends up revealing is his insular, hidebound perspective. Sagan lacks the critical detachment to even distinguish between his own viewpoint and the viewpoint of his opponent. His parable is monumentally obtuse.

2.There is also an elementary difference between inevidence and counterevidence. Lack of evidence is not synonymous with evidence to the contrary. As such, lack of evidence doesn’t falsify a position.

Lack of evidence might mean we lack adequate warrant or sufficient justification for what we believe. But that’s not the same thing as falsifying our beliefs. It most, it means our belief is irrational, not that our belief is erroneous.

In other words, Sagan is using the argument from silence. But the argument from silence is only cogent if, assuming the belief were true, we we’d expect there to be some evidence for what we believe.

That, in turn, goes to the types of evidence appropriate for the existence of God. In his parable, no physical test can detect the presence of the dragon.

But, of course, that’s parabolic. In order to convert this illustration into an argument from analogy, Sagan needs to step outside the parable and literally explain why we don’t have the types of evidence for God’s existence which we’d expect to find if he existed.

As it stands, Sagan is giving us an illustration in lieu of an argument. While illustrations can be useful, they need to illustrate an argument, and not take the place of an argument.

Ironically, the popularity of Sagan’s parable demonstrates the irrationality of the average atheist. An atheist would have to be pretty dense to be impressed with Sagan’s stupid little parable.

Daddy Doll

Daddy Dolls are dolls with a picture of a child's dad who has been deployed to Iraq (see above). I know it may seem weird at first, but I saw some kids on the news who had them and they kept hugging them and said "they get to sleep with their daddy every night." Anyway, some families are too poor to buy one, you can go to this site and donate a doll to a child.

(P.S. Note the kid in the pic. His name is Calvin :-)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Battlestar Valactican

Gerry Matatics is like a Cylon sleeper agent who was planted on the Battlestar Valactican, then switched on. The only remaining question is the identity of Number One. Who programmed Matatics and planted him on the Valactican? The ship’s pool is divided. Some are betting on James White while others are betting on Eric Svendsen–with Turretin Fan running third.

There’s a certain twisted logic to Gerry’s conclusions once you buy into the Catholic premises. His position is a reductio ad absurdum of Catholicism. It's like strapping yourself to a runaway roller-coaster. Once your take the fatal step of strapping yourself into the car, you're doomed as you watch it derail–with you and your fellow passengers inside, screaming all the way down to the pavement below:


So-called “mainstream traditionalist” publications like The Latin Mass magazine, The Remnant, The Fatima Crusader, Catholic Family News, and groups such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the Institute of Christ the King, and even the Society of St. Pius X (still unapproved by, but ever hopeful for a rapprochement with, Rome) — publications and groups I once thought were authentically traditional — have all fatally compromised with this modernism, as these talks demonstrate.

These talks make the case that, according to Catholic theology and canon law, John XXIII through Benedict XVI could NOT have been validly elected to the papacy, due to their disqualifying character as manifest heretics before their election. I also show all these men to be promoters of one or more of the following: Talmudic Judaism, Communism, and Freemasonry — which further disqualifies them not only from office, but even from membership in the Catholic Church. (I have cited the relevant magisterial prooftexts that heretics cannot hold membership or office in the Church in previous essays on this website; please see the archives. I quote all those prooftexts in these recordings.)

Thus, John XXIII could NOT have validly called, and Paul VI could NOT have validly concluded, a true council of the Church. This explains why Vatican II “authoritatively” teaches doctrines previously condemned by the Church’s Magisterium (teaching office), such as a heretical view of the Church, religious liberty, ecumenism, salvation through false religions, etc., as I demonstrate in these talks.

Instead, Vatican II was convened to call the world’s Catholic bishops to Rome to be spiritually seduced (and browbeaten, where necessary) into putting their signatures to these heresies. Then these men were sent back to their dioceses, no longer as bishops of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church, but as bishops of a NEW church which had thus taken over the infrastructure “formerly owned and operated” by the Catholic Church. (The devil, not being God, can’t create ex nihilo _ out of nothing _ but must use the timbers of God’s true Church as the raw materials with which to construct his false church.)

Following a remarkably similar script, virtually the same thing occurred during the so-called English “Reformation” of the 16th century. By the time it was over, all the dioceses, parishes, and institutions of the Catholic Church in England had been hijacked by a new church, the Church of England. It claimed to be the Catholic Church, “reformed” and yet in authentic continuity with the Catholic Church of the preceding thousand years. But in fact it was not.

As a result, the new, Vatican II church teaches new doctrines. It offers a New (invalid) Mass and sacraments, including an invalid ordination rite that CANNOT produce valid bishops or priests. It enshrines a new morality in its New Code of Canon Law. All of these clearly demonstrate it to be another church than the Catholic Church. Holy Mother Church, as Pius XII reminds us in paragraph 66 of his 1943 encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, is always “spotless” in the doctrines she perennially and unchangingly teaches and passes down from Christ, in the worship she offers God and the sacraments she dispenses among mankind, and in her universal legislation.

Consider just a random handful of the Rome-approved abominations (even leaving aside the “abuses”) of the past 50 years:

• John Paul II’s 1986 World Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi, with representatives of virtually every false religion of the world in attendance, including voodoo witch doctors and devil worshippers
• “papal” Masses incorporating pagan rites
• inter-faith worship with heretics and schismatics, forbidden by divine law
• altar girls – also forbidden by divine law, according to all the Church Fathers!
• sacrilege in the administration of “sacraments,” including giving them to non-Catholics
• vernacular Masses which invalidly misrepresent Our Lord as saying “for you and for ALL” in consecrating the chalice
• the sex education and modernism endemic in every “Catholic” school, college, university, and seminary
• Biblical scholarship which accuses Sacred Scripture of error and myth
• heresies regarding the fate of Jews, Muslims, pagans, and unbaptized infants
• the Balamand Statement forbidding the evangelizing of the Eastern schismatics
• the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification, etc., etc.

The list, of course, is endless. Anyone who resists the “sedevacantist” conclusion but who admits that such abominations are not Catholic has already LOST the argument: the “church” authorizing these things CANNOT be the one true Catholic Church!

But what about Benedict XVI? What about his 2007 motu proprio allowing more celebrations of "the Tridentine Mass"? What about his recent lifting of the excommunications of the four SSPX bishops? Don't these events indicate the slow but sure return of "Tradition" to the Vatican II church?

Hogwash. In my seminar I show that, far from betokening that long-promised “new springtime of the Church,” Benedict's “pontificate” is actually a FRAUD that intensifies the current crisis and deepens the diabolical disorientation and deception pervasive among contemporary “Catholics,” while it seduces the SSPX and other "traditionalists" to return to the leprous embrace of the whorish (as St. John bluntly describes her in the 17th chapter of his Apocalypse) Vatican II church in the mistaken belief that she is really Holy Mother Church.

What difference does it make what the non-pope, non-Catholic Ratzinger thinks of the non-Catholic SSPX (non-Catholic because they accept a non-Catholic as pope), or what the SSPX thinks of him?

What difference does it make if Novus Ordo (and thus invalid) “priests” are allowed to say the truncated and illicit 1962 Mass of antipope John XXIII (which falsely claims to be the “Tridentine” Mass)? Even though this illicitly promulgated (because "promulgated" by a non-pope) Mass is minimally valid, if a man who's not really a priest says the words of consecration, nothing happens. Pantomime "priests," however good their intentions, produce pantomime "Masses." Illusion begets illusion.

This immediately raises the question, “What would keep everyone in the world from noticing this drastic reduction in the dimensions of the one true Church?" (Rather like the futuristic submarine in Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage that is rapidly shrunk to microscopic size until it can no longer be seen with the unaided eye.)

The answer is simple, and supplied in Sacred Scripture (2 Thessalonians 2): the near-universal apostasy of the Church’s members will be a disguised apostasy. It will be a masquerade ball, during which the enemies of the Church, having successfully infiltrated her, will then spiritually snuff out, on the installment plan, her members (and particularly her officers) and systematically replace them with devout-looking Doppelgangers, plastic-surgery-produced placeholders (figuratively speaking) – a generation of “genetically altered,” spiritual Stepford wives, or (if you prefer a different cinematic simile) piously posturing “pod people,” like those in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

How? Simply get the Catholic “consumer” to upgrade to the “new, improved version” of the Faith, but first get him so softened up and then spellbound that he never notices the catechetical con, the sanctimonious swindle, the spiritual switcheroo (2 Thessalonians 2:11). With any luck you can get him to thus leave the real Catholic Church and enter a counterfeit Catholic Church without hardly noticing his theological migration.

And that is exactly what Scripture itself indicates will be the case in the last days. No longer will the true Faith be widely accessible. No longer will the true Church occupy its vast global infrastructure. Instead,a cunningly planned coup d’état will cause a counterfeit Catholicism to commandeer the real estate “formerly owned and operated by” the Church – from the local parish to the diocese to Rome itself – with cleverly disguised heretics occupying the offices of the hierarchy, up to and including even the very highest office, the see of Peter itself (2 Thessalonians 2 and related passages in both Old and New Testament).

It is my contention that the evidence is steadily mounting – and has been mounting ever since the election of John XXIII, the calling of the Second Vatican Council, and the spiritual seismic shocks of subsequent events – that this Scripturally-predicted state of affairs is now already in place.

A Common Objection Answered

What has all the above got to do with February 9? Simple. I always have Q & A sessions after all the talks I give all over the world. I also get questions from people via email, also from all over the world. And one of the questions about (or, more precisely, one of the objections to) this second truth usually goes something like this:

“By your own admission, Gerry, as you yourself always emphasize at the beginning and conclusion of all your talks, you’re just a layman, a fallible layman, with no official authorization to speak for the Church. What gives you the right to consider your local parish priest, your bishop, or Benedict XVI a heretic?”

Today – February 9, the feast of St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria and Doctor of the Church – is the perfect day to post on my website my unvarying response to this objection.

Dom Guéranger on the Nestorian crisis:

“It was then [i.e., after the Arian crisis had been addressed in the fourth century, as Guéranger had been relating in the preceding paragraphs] that Satan produced Nestorius, crowned with a fictitious halo of sanctity and knowledge.

“This man, who was to give the clearest expression to the hatred of the serpent for the woman [Guéranger had previously cited God’s prediction in Genesis 3:15 of such a conflict], was enthroned in the Chair of Constantinople amid the applause of the whole East, which hoped to see in him a second Chrysostom [one of Nestorius’s predecessors in the patriarchal see of Constantinople, which by this point – the fifth century – was the most influential office in the Church after the see of Rome itself].

“The joy of the good was of short duration. In the very year of his exaltation, on Christmas Day 428, Nestorius, taking advantage of the immense concourse which had assembled [in the great basilica of Constantinople] in honour of the Virgin Mother and her Child [i.e., for the Christmas Mass], pronounced from the episcopal pulpit [during his homily] the blasphemous words: ‘Mary did not bring forth God; her Son was only a man, the instrument of the Divinity.’ [This false teaching – that Christ was, not one Person with two natures, but two persons: 1) a human person born of Mary, upon whom 2) the second person of the Trinity would later descend – would thereafter become known in history as the “Nestorian” heresy.]

“The multitude shuddered with horror. Eusebius, a simple layman, rose to give expression to the general indignation, and protested against this impiety. Soon a more explicit protest was drawn up and disseminated in the name of the members of this grief-stricken Church, launching an anathema against anyone who should dare to say: ‘The only-begotten Son of the Father and the Son of Mary are different persons.’

“This generous attitude [on the part of the faithful] was the safeguard of Byzantium [the ancient name of Constantinople], and won the praise of Popes and Councils. When the shepherd becomes a wolf the first duty of the flock is to defend itself.
“It is usual and regular, no doubt, for doctrine to descend from the bishops to the faithful, and those whoare subject in the Faith are not to judge their superiors [in the same Faith]. But in the treasure of revelation there are essential doctrines which all Christians, by the very fact of their title as such, are bound to know and defend. The principle is the same whether it be a question of belief or conduct, dogma or morals.

“Treachery like that of Nestorius is rare in the Church [that is, it was rare when Guéranger wrote these words over a century ago!], but it may happen that some pastors keep silence for one reason or another when religion itself is at stake. The true children of Holy Church at such times are those who walk in the light of their baptism, not the cowardly souls who, under the specious [false] pretext of submission to the powers that be, delay their opposition to the enemy in the hope of receiving instructions which are neither necessary nor desirable.”

(Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, The Liturgical Year, Volume 4: Septuagesima, reading for feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria, February 9, pp.379-80.)

Lesson #1: Heretics Can Occupy Offices in the Hierarchy

The first lesson is this: Sometimes God in his providence permits heretics to seemingly hold high-ranking office in the Church, or permits those initially validly holding high Church office to subsequently fall into heresy.

Clearly this happened in the case of Nestorius, who was in his day the second highest-ranking prelate in the Church. Nor is he the only such example.

At the height of the aforementioned Arian crisis, 97 to 99% of the bishops (at least in the East) fell into heresy. Often other heresies and schisms in the early Church – semi-Arianism, Apollinarianism, Donatism, Eutychianism, Pelagianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Iconoclasm, et al – similarly seduced segments of the episcopate. At the time of the English Reformation, all the bishops except St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, followed Henry VIII into schism, and into at least implicit heresy, since they denied the pope’s supreme jurisdiction in England. Later, under Henry’s son and successor, the boy-king Edward VI, those bishops who wished to retain their sees went into explicit heresy as well, now on a number of doctrinal points.

In other words, though the Church herself is indefectible – i.e., she will never fall away into non-existence, or even into heresy – this is not true of individual members of the Church, who always have free will and can therefore choose to embrace heresy (as did Nestorius) or schism, or even apostatize altogether. And officers in the church are no exception. As Dom Guéranger put it in the passage cited above, the shepherd can become a wolf.

This is no more than what God Himself tells us in Sacred Scripture. “Beware of false prophets,” Our Lord warns, “who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). And St. Paul, no doubt consciously building on the imagery Christ employed, warned the bishops of Asia Minor that in years to come “ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. And of your own selves [i.e., from among the body of bishops] shall arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

Lesson #2: Heretics Hide Their True Colors

A second lesson is this: These heretics in the Church often possess a reputation for great piety and great learning, and this often neutralizes or weakens the opposition of the faithful to their unorthodox agenda. As Guéranger puts it, "Nestorius [was] crowned with a fictitious halo of sanctity and knowledge."

Both John Paul II and his successor Benedict XVI immediately come to mind in this regard. “He’s so Marian!” “He’s so humble!” “He’s so brilliant!” “He speaks seven languages!”

Don’t let the window dressing fool you. He may be wearing Granny’s cute cap and Granny’s soft, cuddly flannel nightgown (or Granny’s Gucci slippers), but, if one looks closely, the wardrobe won’t be quite enough to hide the lupine ears, paws, or snout.

Again, this employment of masquerade is no more than what the Bible itself says (see Matthew 7:15 cited above). If a wolf wants to spiritually fleece the flock (not to mention feeding on them) he’s going to wear the right costume to the party.
Nor is the design of dressing up as something other than what we really are confined to the liberals of our day, by the way. The same problem plagues the various tribes of traditionalists, too. Just because a false shepherd says the Tridentine Mass doesn’t make everything about him OK.

Lesson #3: Heretics Legally Lose Their Office

A third lesson: Once an officeholder in the Church manifests his heresy (as Nestorius did in his Christmas Day homily), such a heretic no longer holds legal title to his office in the Church.
This follows from two fundamental principles of the Catholic Faith:

1) Heretics are not members of the Catholic Church, since the Church is “one body professing one Faith” (Ephesians 4:4-5).
2) No one can lawfully hold office in a body of which he is not even a member.

That's why canon 188.4 in the 1917 Code of Canon Law states that “Any office [in the Church] becomes vacant automatically [literally, “upon the fact” -- ipso facto in the Latin original] and without any declaration, by tacit resignation recognized by the law itself, if a cleric … publicly defects from the Catholic Faith.”

That's why Pope Paul IV, in his February 15, 1559 bull Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio (which is cited in the footnote to canon 188.4 in the Latin text of the Code), teaches that if a man, prior to his election to any office in the Church, up to and including the papacy itself, “shall have deviated from the Catholic Faith, or fallen into any heresy,” then his election, “even if it shall have been uncontested and by the unanimous consent of the Cardinals, shall be null, void, and worthless.”

Such a man, Pope Paul IV goes onto say, is “deprived automatically, and without need for any further declaration, of all dignity, position, honor, title, authority, office, and power.” Furthermore, Paul IV states, not only clergy but also religious and laity are free “to withdraw with impunity from obedience and devotion to those thus promoted or elevated and to avoid them as warlocks, heathens, publicans, and heresiarchs.”
And that brings us to a fourth and final (for now) lesson.

Lesson #4: Catholics Must Never Be in Communion with Heretics

Well-instructed Catholics are perfectly within their competence and their rights to both discern and decry heretical teaching in their supposed superiors, and to break communion with such heretics.

As Guéranger tells us, “The multitude shuddered with horror. Eusebius, a simple layman, rose to give expression to the general indignation, and protested against this impiety. Soon a more explicit protest was drawn up and disseminated in the name of the members of this grief-stricken Church, launching an anathema against anyone who should dare to say: ‘The only-begotten Son of the Father and the Son of Mary are different persons.’”

Notice: a “simple layman” spoke out. Someone even drew up a formal protest and anathematized anyone who taught what Nestorius was teaching – which obviously included Nestorius himself, their putative shepherd!

Lesson #5: The Right Response of the Faithful to the Presence of Heretics in the Hierarchy

Because they knew their Faith, the orthodox clergy, religious, and laity in Constantinople had no hesitation in recognizing Nestorius as a heretic in 428, based on his deviation from the constant teaching of the Church expressed in its ordinary magisterium. They thus refused to be in communion with him, even though it would not be until the Third Ecumenical Council met in Ephesusin 431 that the extraordinary magisterium would formally declare the true doctrine concerning Christ as being one Person and not two, concerning Mary as Mother of God, and would formally condemn Nestorius and declare him to have deposed himself legally by his support for heresy. That council in fact declared that, from the moment he manifested his heresy, all of Nestorius’s acts (e.g., his suspension of priests who preached against him) were completely null and void.

Far from chastising the true believers at Constantinople who dared to denounce Nestorius and who refused to be in communion with him, even years before any official action was taken, Rome on the contrary applauded them for their foresight and courage. As Guéranger put it, “This generous attitude [on the part of the faithful] was the safeguard of Byzantium, and won the praise of Popes and Councils.”

After making that statement Guéranger proceeds to point out that if your rightful superior (e.g., your parish priest, your bishop, your abbot, your pope) professes the same orthodox faith as you, then of course you, as his subject, by definition have no juridical authority over him. But, Guéranger continues, as a Christian you are obliged to know your Faith well enough to be able to recognize when the man above you is no longer preaching that Faith, and thus is no longer your superior. And then you must oppose him as your enemy, and not piously wait for “instructions [whether from Rome or from heaven] which are neither necessary nor desirable.” Such waiting is not necessary, says Guéranger, because you ought to know your faith and how to profess and defend it. Such waiting is not desirable, because in the meantime the heretic invalidly occupying the office can lead many souls astray unless you put them on their guard.

In other words, it's wrong for you to claim that until some future declaration from Rome is forthcoming, you can't tell the good guys from the bad guys. Shame on you! You and I are called to know our Faith so as to be able to recognize deviations from it and respond appropriately. On Judgment Day God will not accept from you and me such paltry excuses as that we're mere fallible lay folk, that we're not the magisterium, that heretics are devious, that intelligent and sincere people differ on such matters as the authority of Vatican II, the validity of the New Mass, or the orthodoxy of Benedict XVI.

Job's ordeal

“God himself has caused the misery, pain, agony, and loss that Job experience…And to what end? For ‘no reason’–other than to prove to the Satan the Job wouldn’t curse God even if he had every right to do so. Did he have the right to do so? Remember, he didn’t do anything to deserve this treatment. He actually was innocent, as God himself acknowledges. God did this to him in order to win a bet with the Satan. This is obviously a God above, beyond, and not subject to human standards. Anyone else who destroyed all your property, physically mauled you, and murdered your children–simply on a whim or a bet–would be liable to the most severe punishment that justice could mete out. But God is evidently above justice and can do whatever he pleases if he wants to prove a point,” B. Ehrman, God’s Problem (HarperOne 2008), 168.

This analysis suffers from several fundamental problems.

1.Erhman states, in objection to the book, something that is, in fact, a presupposition of the book. Yes, Job is innocent. That’s a presupposition of his ordeal. To raise that issue in objection to the story when that very issue is a narrative presupposition of the story is simply obtuse. Job’s innocence is a central to the inner logic of the action.

2.Moreover, Job is innocent in very narrow or technical sense. He’s innocent in the sense that a man falsely accused of a crime is innocent. Although the accused is innocent in that particular respect, this doesn’t mean the accused is innocent in every respect. A man who’s guilty of tax evasion may be innocent of identity theft, or vice versa. He's innocent on all counts as far as the indictment is concerned.

Job is an innocent victim in the qualified sense that there’s no one-to-one correspondence between something he did wrong and the ordeal he is having to undergo. His specific ordeal is not the result of a specific sin.

Put another way, Job’s ordeal doesn’t reflect divine punishment. There’s nothing punitive about his ordeal.

This, however, doesn’t mean that Job is innocent in the broader sense. The Book of Job is clearly set in a fallen world. No one is sinless.

Because Job is a sinner, that creates a general liability to just suffering. God does Job no wrong by suddenly withdrawing the earthly blessings that Job had hitherto enjoyed, for Job was never entitled to all those blessings in the first place.

He didn’t deserve health and wealth and friends and family. That’s a consequence of God’s merciful forbearance.

It’s not as if these were ever Job’s possessions. No, these were always God’s possessions. God’s bounty.

3.Finally, the point of Job’s ordeal is not for God to win a bet with the devil. That’s a very superficial reading of the book.

Ehrman is making a mistake that many readers make, which is to overlook the role of the reader himself. Who are the parties to a book of Scripture? In the case of a historical book, like Job, we think of the narrator as well as the characters.

But there is also an unspoken party to the book. And that would be the reader. In the nature of the case, the reader stands outside the narrative. The narrator doesn’t refer to the reader.

Yet the reader is the target audience for the book. The Book of Job is not a private diary. It’s not for the author’s eyes only.

It’s a public document, for the benefit of posterity. The book is tacitly directed at the reader.

God isn’t proving a point to Satan. He isn’t even proving a point to Job. This isn’t a gentlemen’s wager between private parties. Rather, God is proving a point to the reader.

It’s easy for the reader to forget that he is a party to the book he reads. We’re on the outside, looking in. We don’t see ourselves because we’re looking at something else. Something on the inside.

But there’s a window behind the window. God is watching us as we watch Job. For Job’s story is a story within a story. The reader is also a character in God’s overarching story.

God put Job through this ordeal so that God would then inspire an author to write that down for posterity’s sake–so that God’s people can learn from Job’s ordeal. That’s the point.

Ehrman illustrates, once more, the common link between theological incompetence and eventual apostasy.

Four Kingdoms?

It seems there are two two kingdom models one finds in the various media the theory is set forth in. One model claims that the Christian may, and should, take specially revealed principles into the public square, using them to inform him on issues of social policy. The other claims that this approach, while permissible in a free country, is not advisable or proper. They claim that you would not take your Bible under the sink with you to inform you on how to fix a leak. Likewise, in another equally common realm, why would you take specially revealed principles under that (much larger) sink to help you fix those leaks? These two two kingdom models make four kingdoms.

This latter view is more common on the internet and is the kind most transformers (though I have pointed out that this label breaks down as a demarcating locution and becomes simply a sophism) attack. So there is some talking past (if not over) each other in this debate. It appears the first model (the one pushed by the more reserved and sophisticated of all two kingdomers) breaks down into a difference of degree instead of kind with the more sophisticated transformers (for lack of a better word). The problem with the second model is that it is unlivable. In addition, due to the loudness of its protagonists, as well as the typical ghettoizing and wagon circling all such radical groups eventually undergo, the constant drum beating will fade into the background making them irrelevant dialogue partners.

I previously pointed out David vanDrunen's two kingdom model as an example of the more cautious models antithetical with the second model. Another example is that of Neil McBride (Reformed Christian and key player in various Democratic campaigns and administrations). I should point out that it is heartening to know that there are strongly confessional and theologically conservative Reformed Christians inside the Democrat Party (and the Republican party for that matter!). Nevertheless, and quite apart from biblical reasons, I think liberalism is irrational. But enough of that. What is interesting to note here are the comments two kingdom proponent Neil McBride made in October/November 2008 issue of Modern Reformation magazine. McBride was part of a group interviewed by Mike Horton. I would like to draw attention to his views on the Christian in the public square as contrasted with the more radical of the models I mentioned above.

McBride says:

As a Democrat and a Reformed Confessional Christian, I often tease my Christian friends who are neither Democrat or Reformed that I may be to the left of them politically, but that I am to the right of them theologically--and it drives them crazy. But as the late James Boice pointed out, if you're Arminian, you're stealing a little bit of the glory of God when it comes to those great issues.

I agree with Dan [Dan Bryant, another guest, and a two kingdoms advocate who is Republican and Reformed. Dan and Neil attend the same church in Washington D.C., by the way]. I would say at the outset that many times we hear, "You two kingdom folks, you Refomed folks, say that biblical principles should play no role in developing a coherent set of public policy." I don't understand that to be at all what the two kingdom doctrine says. I believe that our biblical faith can indeed inform how we think about public policy. It can and it should.
That kind of talk is radically different from what we so frequently hear espoused as "two kingdoms" on the internet. But, I guess every group has its radicals. If what I consider the radical wing of two kingdoms theology wishes to correct me, ensuring that they all agree with men like McBride and vanDrunen, then it appears that thousands of pounds of crow need to be eaten--and that may not be healthy. But, if they do wish to make this apology, perhaps they can make amends by engaging in an internet campaign where many of their comments to (what they call) transformationalists will be deleted from public view. After all, it sounds rather hypocritical to chide some person for claiming that biblical principles inform his critique of government and culture while claiming that you have the special status to invoke biblical principles to inform your critique of government and culture. No matter what side you come down on, hypocrisy isn't a virtue in the left or right handed sphere. Neither is special pleading. But, perhaps we'll be told that there are two kingdoms governing epistemic virtues. In one kingdom, logical fallacies and intellectual vices are allowed, but not in the other. Unfortunately, if this is the case, it's not always clear in which kingdom these epistemic virtues don't apply.

"orthodox Christian universalism"

“I've been busy in recent months writing as an invited guest-author (on orthodox Christian universalism)…”

While Jason is at it, why not include “orthodox” Christian Arianism, “orthodox” Christian Gnosticism, and “orthodox” Christian reincarnation?

Reincarnation or retrocognition?

I’ve already argued that alleged evidence of reincarnation can be accounted for by possession (where the living are possessed by the dead). But I’d like to draw attention to yet another alternative explanation.

Parapsychology has always taken an avid interest in precognition. There is, however, a parallel phenomenon which, from what I can tell, has not received the same amount of attention, and that is retrocognition.

The most celebrated case is the “timeslip” reported by Annie Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain. But there are other recorded cases.

Assuming, for the same of argument, that this is a genuine phenomenon, then it would undercut the alleged evidence for reincarnation. As one writer explains:

Another method which has been used to induce retrocognition is regression under hypnosis, first explored by Colonel Albert de Rochas around the turn of the century. Subjects could relive what appeared to be episodes in their past lives, he found, though it was rarely possible to verify the episodes, or the lives, historically. Could the explanation be that these were not ‘past lives’ which were being relived, but instances of retrocognition, displaying the confusion familiar in dream precognition? The bulk of the work done with hypnotically regressed subjects, however, has been done in connection with reincarnation, rather than retrocognition, which has largely been ignored by parapsychologists, B. Inglis, The Paranormal: An Encyclopedia of Psychic Phenomena (Paladin 1986), 104.

One might object that this argument is only as good as the alleged evidence for retrocognition. But that argument cuts both ways since we could say exactly the same thing about reincarnation.

The presumption of atheism?

Carl Sagan famously said that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. In this he was popularizing a Humean rule of evidence.

I’ve criticized this maxim on various occasions. Now I want to make a different point.

Unbelievers invoke this maxim because they think it undercuts the Christian faith. For example, unbelievers apply this maxim to miracles. They classify miracles as extraordinary events, then treat miracles as inherently improbable and therefore implausible for that very reason.

But let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that this is a sound maxim. The problem with this maxim is that it cuts both ways.

On the one hand, Christians don’t regard the existence of God as extraordinary. Rather, they regard the existence of God as necessary. There’s nothing extraordinary about the existence of a necessary being. To the contrary, it would be extraordinary if a necessary being did not exist. Indeed, it would be impossible.

Conversely, Christians regard nature as extraordinary. And that’s because nature is contingent. Its existence is unnecessary. Therefore, the existence of nature demands a special explanation.

Given the existence of nature, then nature is ordinary, but the given is extraordinary. As Leibniz famously said, why does something exist rather than nothing?

Beyond the general “specialness” of nature, you also have fine-tuning arguments which contend for the extraordinary character of the big bang, or life on earth, &c.

At the moment, my purpose is not to expound or defend any of these arguments. Rather, I’m making the point that Sagan’s maxim is a double-edged sword. It doesn’t carry any presumption in favor of naturalism. It doesn’t create any presumption against supernaturalism.

Both sides of the debate can begin with this maxim and draw opposing conclusions. Both sides of the debate can try to use this maxim against the other side. So this maxim doesn’t assign a distinctive or disproportionate burden of proof on the Christian. As far as the maxim is concerned, the onus falls equally on believer and unbeliever alike.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

William Lane Craig Discusses His Debate With Richard Carrier

William Lane Craig is in the process of discussing his debate with Richard Carrier on his Reasonable Faith Podcast. Go here and scroll down to the second group of podcasts. The first part of the discussion has been posted. I don't know how many parts there will be.

The injustice of hell

One of the stock objections to Christianity is the doctrine of hell. Not surprisingly, many atheists take this quite personally. After all, that’s where God is putting all the atheists. So you’d expect them to find this doctrine especially offensive. At least for some of them. Those in a position to articulate their displeasure.

And the more I think about it, they have a point. Consider the sheer number of atheists in hell. Does the absence of belief in God merit such a stern punishment?

As I speak, countless cabbages are stewing in the lake of fire, in varying degrees–and I do mean “degrees”–of crispiness–depending on when they were cast into the fiery waves.

Remember, “atheism is characterized by an absence of belief in the existence of gods.”

Think about that for a moment. If that’s not enough to give you pause, to make you shiver, I don’t what is. Consider the chilling implications of that definition. (Perhaps “chilling” is not the best adjective to describe hell.)

Every single cabbage that now lives, ever lived, or ever will live, is doomed to spend eternity in hell. No exceptions!

Now, I ask you, what did a cabbage do to merit an infinite punishment? The poor little cabbage only existed for a few weeks. Where’s the justice of making a cabbage spend eternity in hell for the finite sin of not believing in God? Did it bother anyone? Who did it hurt?

And that’s just the cabbage family. We haven’t even gotten around to the nutcrackers and silverware. It hardly seems fair that a butter knife or oyster fork should be consigned to the everlasting bonfire for the finite sin of not believing in God. If that’s not a cosmic miscarriage of justice, I don’t know what is!

You can see why some Christians are driven into the arms of universalism by the dire prospect of that unspeakable alternative.

What's the IQ of the average atheist?

Contrary to popular Christian propaganda, atheists vastly outnumber Christians. Die you know the tree outside my window is an atheist? My chair is an atheist. A clam is an atheist. A sea-slug is an atheist. A cabbage is an atheist. A sponge is an atheist. A bicycle is an atheist. An eggbeater is an atheist. A toaster is an atheist. My bicycle is an atheist. My underarm deodorant is an atheist.

Just consider a standard definition of atheism. If you were looking for a standard definition of atheism, where would be a logical place to go? Why not the Secular Web?

And, not surprisingly, the Secular Web furnishes a nice, compact definition of atheism: “Atheism is characterized by an absence of belief in the existence of gods.”

So, by definition, all inanimate objects and lower animals are atheists. I don’t have any polling data on higher animals like dolphins

With that in mind, perhaps I now need to qualify my previous classification of the toaster. There’s an AI toaster in Red Dwarf which might or might not believe in God.

The advantage of this minimal definition is that it apparently lowers the burden of proof. Unfortunately, there’s a catch.

Not only does it lower the burden of proof, but it also lowers the bell curve. If you factor in all the candidates for atheism, the IQ of the average atheist is barely measurable.

Yes, you’ve got a few bright guys like Russell and Quine and Quentin Smith. But if you throw in all bicycles and toasters and hairdryers, I’m afraid to say the average mean is pretty low.

Considering the fact that sentient atheists (a statistically insignificant fraction of the whole) pride themselves on the intellectual superiority of atheism, it must be humbling for them to realize that, on average, Christians are geniuses compared to the typical atheist–like the garden-variety lawnmower or toothbrush.

Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say the average atheist is utterly irrational. Mindless. Brainless.

That’s not a putdown. That’s a statement of fact.

Why universal healthcare is a diabolical idea

“The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 13:41-42).

The eternal gnashing of teeth would normally grind the teeth down to the gums. It’s obvious, therefore, that the damned receive regular prosthodontic surgery. And since the damned lack gainful employment, it’s clear that socialized medicine has its origin in the pits of hell–although I have it on good authority that they skimp on dental anesthesiology.

The fate of infants

One of the stock objections to Christianity concerns the fate of infants. I recently dealt with this objection in another connection, but now I want to address it separately.

One form of the objection attacks the OT when God commands the Israelites to execute the heathen–down to the last man, woman, and child.

Likewise, the fact that God brings about the death of infants through natural causes or natural disasters, viz. spontaneous miscarriage, tidal waves, disease, Noah’s flood, &c., is also regarded as morally objectionable.

Finally, they attack the idea that God would consign any infant or child to hell.

The underlying presumption is that infants are innocent. Hence, it would be wrong to bring about their death–directly or indirectly–much less their damnation.

How are we to address this objection?

i) One problem with this objection is that unbelievers like Peter Singer defend abortion and infanticide. Hence, on secular grounds, it’s unclear why an atheist should take such umbrage at the death of infants.

One reason is that a lot of militant atheists are apostates. Despite their repudiation of the Christian faith, they remain far more influenced by Christian ethics than they care to admit.

So there’s a moral time-lag in their objections. They’re playing catch-up with the moral implications of atheism.

ii) Another problem with this objection is that it’s incoherent. If you presume that infants or children are innocent, then infant mortality would not imply divine punishment for their sins.

To be logical, we need to split the objection into either of two corollary forms:

a) If infants are innocent, then God won’t kill or condemn any infant on account of its sin. Infants are innocent: therefore, God never kills or condemns an infant on account of its sin.

If God does kill an infant, then that is not on account of its sin. Rather, that’s for the greater good. And God will save any infant he kills (assuming their innocence).

b) Conversely, if God kills any infant as a punitive act, then infants are not innocent–in which case God does no injustice to an infant by taking its life.

iii) As you can see, the logic is reversible. You can substitute the conclusion for the premise, or vice versa.

So the objection poses a pseudoproblem. If you presume that infants are innocent, then, on that presumption, infant mortality is not a punitive sanction. Rather, it’s for their ultimate good.

Everyone dies sooner or later. The crucial question is where you end up.

iv) A more orthodox version of the argument is to say, not that infants are innocent, but that infants are justified –as the objects of God’s grace.

v) My larger point is that, in rebutting the objection of the unbeliever, a Christian doesn’t have to stake out a particular position on the fate of infants.

If, on the one hand, he takes the position that infants are innocent (or justified), then God will save any and every infant he kills. So God does them no injustice. They are the beneficiaries of his saving grace. They take a short-cut to heaven.

If, on the other hand, he takes the position that infants are guilty in Adam, then it’s wrong to claim that God is killing the innocent–in which case, infant mortality is not unjust.

Whichever position you take, God’s action is justifiable.

vi) This debate is beclouded by two other issues:

a) It’s often decked out in Dantean pictures of hell. But that’s a straw man argument.

b) It pictures an infant at the moment of death. But death is not the end of maturation.

Ali Baba and the godless naifs

I’ve been asked to comment on a post by an atheist:

He, in turn, refers the reader to a post by another atheist:

So I’ll comment on both. I’m not going to discuss Craig’s explanation since I’m free to present my own arguments.

Whenever we debate biblical morality with an atheist, we need to discuss a preliminary issue. In order for an atheist to claim that God mistreats human beings, the atheist must, as a precondition, establish two propositions:

i) There are moral absolutes
ii) Human beings have human rights

Many secular thinkers frankly admit that atheism leads to moral relativism or moral nihilism.

And even if atheism could underwrite moral absolutes, it doesn’t follow that human beings have human rights. According to atheism, human beings are just a collection of chemicals that activate and, after a period of time, deactivate.

“Christians believe their God is all-good and all-loving.”

i) As a Calvinist, I don’t believe that God is all-loving. I believe that God shows mercy to some while exacting retribution on others.

ii) God is good because God is just.

iii) It’s not always a good thing to be equally loving to everyone. What should we do with a sniper? Should we talk him down from the clock tower while he’s killing innocent bystanders? Or should we tell the police sharpshooter to cap him if he gets a clear shot?

It would be more loving to the sniper to try and talk him down, but that would be less loving to his victims. And the sniper forfeits the right to be treated lovingly.

“In Genesis 7:21-23, God drowns the entire population of the earth: men, women, children, fetuses, and animals.”

i) And why does God send the flood? Genesis doesn’t just say that God sent the flood. Genesis gives a reason. Indeed, two reasons. Why does Luke ignore the reason? Because he’s dishonest.

a) “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”(Gen 6:5). That’s the basic moral justification for the flood.

b) Beyond that immediate justification is an overarching rationale: the protoevangelium (Gen 3:15). God must protect the seed of promise from the corruption or destruction of the reprobate:

ii) What about animals?

a) Does Luke believe in animal rights? If so, he needs to mount a secular argument for animal rights.

b) Doesn’t natural selection result in the mass extinction of entire species? Does that consequence falsify naturalistic evolution? Why would a moral objection falsify the Bible, but not falsify Darwin?

“In Exodus 12:29, God the baby-killer slaughters all Egyptian firstborn children and cattle because their king was stubborn.”

i) What’s wrong with slaughtering cattle? Is atheism committed to veganism? Where’s the argument?

ii) Why does God continue to execute people after the flood? What’s the moral justification? “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21). A just judge has a right, and a duty, to punish the wicked.

iii) Why would an atheist object to infanticide? Doesn’t Peter Singer defend infanticide?

iv) From a Christian perspective, what about infant mortality?

Either babies are innocent or guilty in the eyes of God. If babies are innocent, then God takes them to heaven when they die. If babies are guilty, then there’s no injustice in infant mortality.

So, whichever position you take, infant mortality does no injustice to babies.

“In Numbers 16:41-49, the Israelites complain that God is killing too many of them. So, God sends a plague that kills 14,000 more of them.”

God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Yet the Israelites were a bunch of ingrates. Instead of thanking God for rescuing them from a life of bondage, they rebelled against God. They deserve what they get.

“In 1 Samuel 6:19, God kills 50,000 men for peeking into the ark of the covenant.”

i) Actually, the exact figure is a matter of dispute, both on text-critical grounds and grammatical grounds. Cf. D. Tsumura, The First Book of Samuel (Eerdmans 2007), 226-27.

ii) God struck them down because they desecrated the ark of the covenant. So what?

“In Numbers 31:7-18, the Israelites kill all the Midianites except for the virgins, whom they are allowed to rape as spoils of war.”

That’s a deliberate travesty of what the passage implies.

i) The virgins were war-brides. The Jewish men married them. There’s a standard provision in the Mosaic law for dealing with this type of situation (Deut 21:10-14; Jewish wives enjoyed civil rights under the Mosaic law. And this was a great improvement over the life they would have endured had they remained in a pagan culture.

Consider the alternatives:

a) Suppose the Israelites never conquered the Midianites. Would women living in a heathen, ancient Near Eastern culture, have led a better life? Would they have been at liberty to marry anyone they wanted? Love at first sight?

b) Having killed the Midianite soldiers, should the Israelites have left the virgins to fend for themselves?

ii) The Mosaic law is sometimes harsh by modern standards. Why is that? Because the ANE was a harsh place to live, and the Mosaic law is adapted to the socioeconomic conditions of the time. Why was the ANE such a harsh place to live? Because it was dominated by pagan cultures–like the Midianites. To the extent that you and I are better off, that’s because we live in a culture which has been influenced by Biblical ethics. If Luke had his way, we’d revert to the brutal conditions of the ANE.

iii) Indeed, modern secular cultures are cruel. They practice abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. And that’s even before we get around to Stalinism, Maoism, &c.

“In 2 Kings 2:23-24, some kids tease the prophet Elisha, and God sends bears to dismember them.”

It doesn’t say they were “kids.” “The Hebrew narim is used of servants or persons in early life of marriageable age,” D. Wiseman, 1 & 2 Kings (IVP 1993), 198.

Moving along:

‘It always amazes me how many times this God orders the killing of innocent people even after the Ten Commandments said “Thou shall not kill’.”

In context, the Commandment is dealing with murder. It doesn’t prohibit all forms of killing. For example, the Mosaic law stipulates capital punishment for a number of crimes.

“For example, God kills 70,000 innocent people because David ordered a census of the people (1 Chronicles 21).”

Were they innocent? As one commentator explains: “There always was a risk of in the assembly of a large body of men that an epidemic might break out. Ritual precautions were needed involving confession, penitence, and the offering of sacrifices and prayers…In Israel people enrolled for military service were required to pay a ransom and be ritually purified. Otherwise a plague would result. The half-shekel of Exod 30:12 was a precaution against a breach of purity laws,” J. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles (Broadman 1994), 160.

Continuing with Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe:

“God also orders the destruction of 60 cities so that the Israelites can live there. He orders the killing of all the men, women, and children of each city, and the looting of all of value (Deuteronomy 3). He orders another attack and the killing of “all the living creatures of the city: men and women, young, and old, as well as oxen sheep, and asses” (Joshua 6).”

I’ve already touched on this issue in response to Luke. But let’s make another point. How do you deal with a ruthless enemy? Consider a modern example: the threat which Islam poses to the West. How does you deal entire Muslim populations that teach their boys and girls to be suicide bombers? How does you deal with Muslim cultures which use their own people as human shields? How do you deal with an enemy that is sworn to exterminate or subjugate the infidel?

In a situation like that, there’s no neat-and-tidy way to discriminate between combatants and noncombants. A fanatical enemy doesn’t allow you to be discriminating.

“In Judges 21, He orders the murder of all the people of Jabesh-gilead, except for the virgin girls who were taken to be forcibly raped and married. When they wanted more virgins, God told them to hide alongside the road and when they saw a girl they liked, kidnap her and forcibly rape her and make her your wife!”

I’ve already addressed this type of willful misrepresentation in response to Luke.

Incidentally, what does Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe mean by “forcibly rape”? Does he think it’s okay to rape a girl as long as you don’t “force” her, viz. spiking her drink with a dash of roofie?

“In 2 Kings 10:18-27, God orders the murder of all the worshipers of a different god in their very own church!”

Of course, that disregards the historical context. This is not about freedom of worship. It’s not as if Jezebel, Athaliah, and the Baal-worshipers believed in freedom of worship. Rather, they were forcibly imposing Baal-worship on Israel. 2 Kgs 10:18-27 describes a counterattack. An act of self-defense, not an act of aggression.

“The God of the Bible also allows slavery, including selling your own daughter as a sex slave (Exodus 21:1-11).”

i) To begin with, it’s very naïve to assume that a law code condones everything it regulates. A law doesn’t ordinarily prescribe an ideal state of affairs. (An exception would be utopian social engineers.)

To the contrary, the general function of a law is to limit harm. Cf. G. Wenham, Story as Torah, chap. 5.

ii) Regarding this particular law, “The practice of selling minors is well attested in the ancient Near East. Parents who were in debt, or unable to support their families, sold children in the markets…In this section of Exodus we learn that Hebrew parents could sell their daughters into conditional slavery…In the Old Testament, this girl is not a slave-girl in the usual sense that we understand the term. She is better protected, and is not to be treated as other salves. As we shall see in the following verses, the law presupposes that she will marry either her master or his son. Therefore, she has the status of a married woman and she is to be treated kindly and with the utmost respect,” J. Currid, Exodus: Chapters 19-40 (EP 2001), 67-68.

This is dealing with a situation in which parents were unable to provide for all their children. And it’s situated in a culture where arranged marriages were already the norm. It's stupid to attack a law without considering the socioeconomic conditions which gave rise to that law.

It’s the best available solution under the circumstances. It would be analogous to poor families who had to apprentice their sons and daughters at an early age to feed and clothe them.

“Child abuse (Judges 11:29-40 and Isaiah 13:16)”

The narrator doesn’t condone the action of Jephtha. It’s quite naive to assume that a historian approves of everything he recounts.

“And bashing babies against rocks (Hosea 13:16 & Psalms 137:9).”

i) God is not commanding the Israelites to do this.

ii) Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe is getting carried away with figurative imagery.

“This type of criminal behavior should shock any moral person. Murder, rape, pillage, plunder, slavery, and child abuse can not be justified by saying that some god says it’s OK. If more people would actually sit down and read the Bible there would be a lot more atheists like myself.”

i) From a secular standpoint, why be moral?

ii) All that Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe has demonstrated is that if you bring the same pig-ignorance to your reading of scripture that he does, you might become another pig-ignorant atheist.

“Jesus also promoted the idea that all men should castrate themselves to go to heaven…(Matthew 19:12 ASV) I don't know why anyone would follow the teachings of someone who literally tells all men to cut off their privates.”

If Chris "Ali Baba" Thiefe is really this stupid, then that would help explain why became an atheist.

“The God of the Bible also was a big fan of ritual human sacrifice and animal sacrifice.”

Newsflash: God prevented Abraham from sacrificing his son.

The eye of a needle

From Gordon Fee in How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding the Bible (p. 22):
[I]n Mark 10:23 (Matt. 19:23, Luke 18:24), at the conclusion of the story of the rich young man, Jesus says, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God." He then adds: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom." It is often said that there was a gate in Jerusalem known as the "Needle's Eye," which camels could go through only by kneeling, and with great difficulty. The point of this "interpretation" is that a camel could in fact go through the "Needle's Eye." The trouble with this "exegesis," however, is that it is simply not true. There never was such a gate in Jerusalem at any time in its history. The earliest known "evidence" for that idea is found in the eleventh century (!), in a commentary by a Greek churchman named Theophylact, who had the same difficulty with the text that we do. After all, it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, and that was precisely Jesus' point. It is impossible for one who trusts in riches to enter the Kingdom. It takes a miracle for a rich person to get saved, which is quite the point of what follows: "All things are possible with God."

White-Ehrman debate

James White has posted a link to a transcript (PDF) of his debate with Bart Ehrman.

Why Does Paul Use "I, Paul" And Similar Phrases In His Letters?

(For more about the background to this post, see here and here.)

Paul sometimes uses the phrase "I, Paul" in his letters or repeats his name in some similar manner (1 Corinthians 16:21, 2 Corinthians 10:1, Galatians 5:2, Ephesians 3:1, Colossians 1:23, 4:18, 1 Thessalonians 2:18, 2 Thessalonians 3:17, Philemon 9, 19). There are several potential reasons why Paul or another author might use such language.

One reason why an author might use a phrase like "I, [author's name]" would be to identify himself. Even if a document's author is known by an oral report, a title, a tag, or some other means, including an additional identifier within the main body of the text can be useful as a safeguard. And sometimes an author needs to be identified more than once. A phrase like "I, Paul" can distinguish among authors in a document written in the name of more than one person. Most of the letters in which Paul uses such a phrase are written in the name of more than one individual (1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, etc.).

Paul might use a phrase like "I, Paul" for emphasis. Passages like 2 Corinthians 10:1 and Ephesians 3:1 include further qualifiers ("myself", etc.) to add even more force. We commonly use that sort of emphasis by repetition in our language today. It occurs in Paul's letters without a name as well ("I myself" in Romans 15:14). There can be many reasons for putting emphasis on the identity of the author: to emphasize the author's authority, to emphasize his affection, to emphasize his experience, etc. The identity of the author can warrant emphasis in some contexts.

Language like "I, [author's name]" was often used in legal contexts as well, such as in oaths and certificates of debt. Signatures are used for purposes of authentication and to prevent forgery. The same occurs today.

Literary customs often involve the use of a name, even when the name is already assumed or already present somewhere else. We sign a birthday card we send to somebody, even if the recipient will already have our name in the return address portion of the envelope, even if we intend to hand him the card, etc. A son who sends his mother a letter may sign his name at the end, even though the author's name is already known by the content of the letter and other indications. Similarly, some ancient writers would sign letters, sometimes with a note accompanying the signature, even if the author's name was already known.

There can be a combination of reasons for including "I, Paul", a signature, or a repetition of Paul's name in some other way. Sometimes there are multiple potential explanations, and Paul may have had more than one reason.

We should keep in mind that the letters of Paul were written around two thousand years ago. We often communicate differently today than people did in the past. Even in our day, people sometimes communicate in ways most wouldn't (Bob Dole referring to himself in the third person, for example). It helps to consult scholars who have studied the contexts in which Paul's letters were written and to read other ancient literature that's of a similar nature or relevant in some other way.

People don't always communicate with maximum efficiency, and they often say more than they need to say. We don't have to sign our name on a card or at the end of a letter. We do so anyway. The issue isn't whether a phrase like "I, Paul" seems awkward to us or whether Paul would have to communicate that way.

Below are some New Testament scholars' comments on each of the passages in question.

1 Corinthians 16:21

"Hence although Paul may have added his signature in part to assure his readers of the authenticity of the letter, more probably the personal handwritten signature or note should be understood as a sign of affection and indication of his desire and longing for personal presence in Corinth (see above on parousia). It is generally agreed that 1:1 through to 16:20 would have been penned by Sosthenes, while 16:21-24 would be in the different handwriting (probable 'large letters,' Gal 6:11) of Paul." (Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle To The Corinthians [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000], p. 1347)

"Paul often used an amanuensis (Rom 16:22; the poor often used scribes because they could not write; the wealthy dictated to scribes because they could afford to). Thus he often closed letters by adding his signature (Gal 6:11; Col 4:18; 2 Thess 3:17; cf. Phlm 19), as here (16:21). Writing a letter (or in this case a part of it) in one's own hand conveyed affection (e.g., Fronto Ad M. Caes. 3.3)." (Craig Keener, 1-2 Corinthians [New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005], p. 141)

2 Corinthians 10:1

"Paul reserves the expression 'I, Paul' (10:1) for emphatic remarks (Gal 5:2; 1 Thess 2:18; 2 Thess 3:17; Phlm 19; Col 1:23; Eph 3:1); the reflexive pronoun 'myself' underlines it all the more." (Craig Keener, 1-2 Corinthians [New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005], p. 216)

"As well as anticipating v. 1b ('The very Paul who....this same Paul appeals to you'; cf. Plummer 271-72), this expression stresses the intensely personal nature of his appeal, reflects his recognition of the great significance of the issues to be discussed, and alludes to his apostolic authority. Perhaps Paul is also now distinguishing himself from his co-author or co-sender Timothy (1:1) (Julicher 102; Black 133) or from the three delegates who, like Paul, will soon be visiting Corinth (9:3-5)." (Murray Harris, The Second Epistle To The Corinthians [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2005], p. 666)

Galatians 5:2

"As Paul moves toward the conclusion of his tour de force argument, he is well aware that the adept rhetorician will stress the strong emotions, in order sufficiently to warn his converts against the perils of doing what the agitators were urging them to do....It must be understood that the rhetorical handbooks are quite clear that there is a place for vehemence and threatening language if the situation is grave and it is imperative that a certain action be taken (cf. Quintilian Inst. Or., 11.1.3ff.). The intent of this sort of arguing is to force the audience to make a choice - either to follow Paul's guidance or that of the agitators....Quintilian reminds us that while arguments should take precedence, that nonetheless the testimony of witnesses can be important when trying to convince or persuade someone about something. Paul here in his climactic argument resorts to personal testimony. This testimony in a formal forensic setting would be given under oath, and a witness would be called because they claimed to know the facts about the matter under dispute (see Inst. Or. 5.7.26-37). So why has Paul put himself on the witness stand at this crucial moment? Precisely because, as he will intimate indirectly at 5.11, he himself had once 'preached circumcision'....The Galatians would not be able to dispute that Paul was something of an expert on this subject. From the outset in vs. 2, the apostle makes evident that this is Paul speaking personally to his converts....At the crucial point in the discourse, Paul throws the full weight of his personal authority and experience behind what he says....Notice the other places where Paul uses the 'I Paul' formula to add weight to the testimony that follows (cf. 1 Thess. 2.18; 2 Cor. 10:1; Ephes. 3.1; Col. 1.23). Notice that Paul does not here in Galatians invoke his apostolic office. His apostolic status is not at issue or in question in this letter. The issue here is the weight of his personal testimony behind which stands his personal experience in this matter of circumcision." (Ben Witherington, Grace In Galatia [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998], pp. 363, 365, n. 17 on p. 365)

Ephesians 3:1

"Beginning with the emphatic 'I, Paul,' this section includes a repeated emphasis on Paul's authority. Such terms as 'I,' 'me,' and 'my' are employed throughout (cf. 3:2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 13)....There may be some irony inherent in the fact that Paul's triumph is announced in the context of bondage, but it has less to do with the nature of the gospel message itself than with bolstering the confidence of the community. Paul's afflictions are the community's glory: they represent an assertion of the community's honor in a hostile world" (Margaret MacDonald, Colossians And Ephesians [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2000], pp. 260, 270)

Colossians 1:23

"Paul reminds his audience that he (not some false teacher) is the minister of this true and sufficient gospel about Christ which has been preached throughout the known world." (Ben Witherington, The Letters To Philemon, The Colossians, And The Ephesians [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2007], p. 141)

"The first-person singular voice ('I, Paul') is in contrast to the 'we' of the thanksgiving (Col 1:3-14) and emphasizes Paul's apostolic authority." (Margaret MacDonald, Colossians And Ephesians [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2000], p. 74)

Colossians 4:18

"But it was not uncommon, if the letter as a whole was dictated to an amanuensis, for the sender to write the last few sentences himself for the sake of authentication. Paul appends his signature here, as in 1 Cor. 16:21 and 2 Thess. 3:17. Where a colleague played some part in the composition of the letter, like Silvanus in 2 Thessalonians and Timothy in Colossians, Paul's signature would stamp the whole with his apostolic authority." (F.F. Bruce, The Epistles To The Colossians, To Philemon, And To The Ephesians [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1999], p. 186)

1 Thessalonians 2:18

"The 'even I Paul' is emphatically personal. Regardless whether Paul's plural 'we' has been merely editorial or has consciously included Silas and Timothy (1:1), he wants to make sure that his readers realize that he personally had this strong desire and made these specific plans." (Robert Picirilli, et al., 1 Thessalonians Through Philemon [Nashville, Tennessee: Randall House Publications, 1990], pp. 40-41)

2 Thessalonians 3:17

"Paul frequently included a note about the change in his hand because his letters were read publicly in the assembly of the Christians. Not everyone could see the greeting in his handwriting, but everyone could hear it. Ancient authors included subscriptions in their own hands for a number of reasons. At times it served as a means to insure that the agreements and content of the letter were legally binding, but in other cases the author included a note in his own hand to give the writing a personal touch. In other instances authors included it either to deal with a personal subject they did not want to dictate or to guarantee the authenticity of the correspondence. In each case, the context indicates the author's purpose. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul included this subscription as his distinguishing mark (semeion), which means that it served as a sign that 'authenticates the letter.'" (Gene Green, The Letters To The Thessalonians [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Erdmans, 2002], p. 359)

Philemon 9

"He will try to generate as much pathos as he can before mentioning Onesimus....Paul has not only delayed mentioning Onesimus until v. 10, he also delays making his full request until v. 17. Such is the delicacy of the matter. V. 9 begins with a reference to love, then to Paul being an old man, then to him being a prisoner, then to his child who was 'begotten in chains.' If Philemon was not moved by the initial prayer, he would have been a really hard-hearted person not to be moved by the stirring of the deeper emotions including both love and sympathy. What could be more pathetic than a beloved apostle who was old and a prisoner, or a child born in chains?...This letter is not an ambassadorial letter but an emotive appeal using Asiatic rhetoric. Paul calls himself an old man to provoke sympathy in Philemon and the rest of the audience....He wants to be sure to excite as much sympathetic feeling as he can before he mentions Onesimus and then makes his request. Such tugging on the heartstrings in long sentences is typical of Asiatic rhetoric." (Ben Witherington, The Letters To Philemon, The Colossians, And The Ephesians [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2007], pp. 66-67)

Philemon 19

As Peter O'Brien notes, the construction in Philemon 19 "gives the statement the character of a formal and binding signature" (Colossians And Philemon [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982], p. 300).

"So too there are plenty of original documents on papyrus to teach us the nature of an ancient acknowledgment of debt. A large number of ancient notes of hand have been published among the Berliner Griechische Urkunden, and probably every other collection of papyri contains some specimens. A stereotyped formula in these documents is the promise to pay back the borrowed money, 'I will repay'; and they all are in the debtor's own hand, or, if he could not write, in the handwriting of another acting for him with the express remark, 'I have written for him.'...It now becomes clear that St. Paul, who had playfully given the Philippians a sort of receipt [Philippians 4:18], is in the letter to Philemon (18 f.) humorously writing him a sort of acknowledgment of debt...The parallelism between the legal formulae and the letters of St. Paul becomes still clearer when we observe that the ancient note of hand generally took the form of a letter acknowledging the debt." (Adolph Deissmann and Lionel R.M. Strachan, Light From The Ancient East [Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2003], pp. 331-332)

Similar Practices Among Other Ancient Authors

"I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord." (Romans 16:22)

The author of Revelation refers to himself as "I, John" (1:9, 22:8). D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo write that modern scholars "rarely" hold that Revelation is pseudonymous. Instead "most who demur from the traditional identification" of the author maintain that the book was written by another early church leader named John (An Introduction To The New Testament [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005], p. 706). The evidence suggests that the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 accepted the book as a genuine work. On what basis would one argue not only that the attribution to the apostle John is wrong, but also that we somehow know that another John didn't write it either? As Loren Stuckenbruck observes, "There is little ground, therefore, for supposing that Revelation is a pseudonymous work" (in James D.G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson, edd., Eerdmans Commentary On The Bible [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2003], p. 1535). Most likely, the "I, John" of Revelation was used by somebody named John, not by somebody writing a pseudonymous work.

In Josephus, Judea, And Christian Origins (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), Steve Mason renders the opening of Josephus’ Jewish War with the phrase "I, Josephus" (p. 58). H. St. J. Thackeray uses "I - Josephus" (Josephus: The Jewish War, Books I-II [Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997], p. 3).

In the work of Adolph Deissmann and Lionel R.M. Strachan referenced above, an example of an ancient certificate of debt is cited. The author, Papus, refers to himself as "I Papus" (p. 331).

"Porphyry's emphasis on his own role in the story appears in the very way he refers to himself [in Life Of Plotinus]. He chooses to write of himself in the first person, but, to ensure that his readers or hearers remain fully aware of his identity, nineteen times he writes 'I Porphyry,' combining the pronoun (ego) with his name." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], p. 142)

Gregory Nazianzen repeatedly refers to himself as "Gregory":

"Do you not know me or yourself, you eye of the world, and great voice and trumpet and palace of learning? Your affairs trifles to Gregory? What then on earth could any one admire, if Gregory admire not you?" (Letter 46)

"Therefore let me entreat you to remember your Gregory without ceasing in all the matters in which I desire to be worthy of your remembrance." (Letter 64)

"Pray remember your friend Gregory and pray for him." (Letter 93)

Abraham Malherbe, commenting on Paul's use of "I, Paul" in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, cites some of these passages from Gregory Nazianzen:

"More important are 2 Cor 10:1 and Phlm 22 (cf. Eph 3:1), in both of which his name heightens the emotion, which appears to be the function of using his own name. The same is true in letters of friendship, in which there is a strong sense of physical separation, which is also the case in all three occurrences in Paul (cf. Gregory Nazianzen, Epistles 64.5; 93; Chariton, Chaereas and Callirhoe 8 4 5-6, in all of which, however, the name appears at the close of the letter; cf. 1 Cor 16:21; see Koskenniemi, 124)." (The Letters To The Thessalonians [New York, New York: Doubleday, 2000], p. 184)

"Changes of handwriting at, or following, a personal signature with or without a note as a postscript are attested in papyrus letters. Sometimes a short personal note is added in the margin as an afterthought." (Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle To The Corinthians [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000], p. 1347)

"Cicero seems commonly to have written his letters himself, but where he uses an amanuensis, he indicates that the letter-closing is in his own hand (cf. Ad Att. 13.28: hac manu mea, 'this in my own hand'). In another letter he quotes a sentence from one which he himself had received from Pompey and says that it came in extremo ipsius manu, 'at the end, in his own hand' (Ad Att. 8.1)." (F.F. Bruce, 1 And 2 Thessalonians [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982], p. 216)