Saturday, August 01, 2009

Eugenics, Obamacare, & frontmen

Victor Reppert recently did a post on Obamacare. Now he’s upset about how his post was treated at Tblog.

The primary problem with Obamacare is that Obamacare is a Trojan horse for euthanasia. In the ’08 election, I myself issued a prescient warning to that effect:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/09/victor-reppert-every-baby-butchers-best.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/10/on-improving-moral-tone-of-political.html

Predictably, if unfortunately, my warning came true. Wesley J. Smith, for one, has been cataloguing the implementation of a eugenic agenda under Obama:

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/31/john-holdren-the-unreported-story/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/30/what-does-ezekiel-emanuel-really-believe-about-rationing-age-maybe-quality-of-life-yes/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/30/obama-science-adviser-trees-should-be-allowed-to-sue-babies-not-yet-human-beings/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/29/obamacare-mandatory-counseling-provision-really-a-pay-the-provider-provision/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/29/obamacare-physician-worries-about-the-reeducation-camps-for-seniors/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/29/obamacare-aarps-betrayal-of-senior-citizens-and-support-of-end-game-counseling/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/27/obamacare-the-attack-of-the-bioethicists/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/24/obama-health-care-advisers-support-invidious-rationing-of-health-care/

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2009/07/21/full-court-press-continues-for-health-care-rationing/

And what did Reppert learn from his negligence? Nothing. When he got around to blogging on Obamacare, what was the thrust of his post? “I would hardly consider my question a critique of sophisticed Obamacare critics such as Sowell, or even Vallicella, or even as a defense of Obamacare at all. It was a criticism of a certain type of popular but misguided criticism of health care reform.”

That tells you something about his incorrigible, moral priorities, does it not?

And let’s not forget that this was on the heels of two proabortion posts he recently did:

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2009/07/on-defining-murder.html

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2009/07/getting-away-with-murder.html

Not to mention all the other proabortion posts he’s done.

You see, Reppert is a frontman for the eugenicists. And as long as you’re a nice, polite front man for the eugenicists, that’s all that matters.

A symmetrical burden of proof

“The problem is this ‘raises the bar’. Calvinists must now shoulder the difficult task of proving a negative – they must specifically take out Arminianism. So instead of showing XYZ is taught in scripture (or the preponderance of evidence leans that way), which is all the Arminian must do; Calvinist must show ABC is denied in scripture (not just ‘not taught’, but explicitly denied). In short, internal disagreements within Calvinism require them to shoulder an a-symmetrical burden of proof in comparison to Arminianism.”

http://www.arminianchronicles.com/2009/08/enemy-of-my-enemy.html

There’s no asymmetry here.

An Arminian must prove conditional election to the exclusion of unconditional election, while a Calvinist must do the reverse.

An Arminian must prove corporate election to the exclusion of individual election, while a Calvinist has to prove individual election (although he doesn’t have to disprove corporate election).

And that applies to other issues as well, viz. limited/unlimited atonement.

In the stable with the dwarves

Preview Windows into Old Testament History via Google Books.

The Art of Biblical History

Preview The Art of Biblical History via Google Books.

Primer on inerrancy

Some useful books on the historicity and inerrancy of Scripture.

Gleason Archer, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan 2001)

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP; 2nd ed., 2007)

_____, Can We Still Believe the Bible? (Brazos 2012)

Steven Cowan and Terry Wilder, In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture (B&H 2013)

James Hoffmeier & Dennis MaGary, eds., Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? (Crossway 2012)

Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans 2003)

Jonathan Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely (Baker 2012)

Vern Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels (Crossway 2012)

_____, Inerrancy and Worldview (Crossway 2012)

[N.B. both titles available online]

V. Philips Long, The Art of Biblical History (Zondervan 1994)

I. Provan, V. P. Long & T. Longman, eds. A Biblical History of Israel (WJK 2003).

Robert Stein, Interpreting Puzzling Texts in the New Testament (Baker 1997)

Noel Weeks, The Sufficiency of Scripture (Banner of Truth 1988)

E. J. Young, Thy Word is Truth (Eerdmans 1981).

Inferiority complex

Victor Reppert has posted a rather perplexing response to a little post we did over here. For some odd reason, he has chosen to construe our post as a personal attack on him.

To begin with, we did him the courtesy of plugging a recent post of his. He should take it as a compliment that we’re advertising his wares. Why is he so defensive? If I plug your work, and you take offense, it seems to me that your reaction betrays some sort of inferiority complex.

Now, it’s true that we framed our post as comparison between one philosopher and another. However, we never accused Reppert of being a charlatan. We simply pointed our readers to two different treatments of the health care debate, and invited them to judge for themselves. We never said which we which. We left that up to the reader.

And, to judge by Reppert’s reaction, he took us up on the offer. For him to infer that we accused him of charlatanry strikes me as a bit self-incriminating. Does he react the same way when he’s shown an inkblot?

“My job as a philosopher is sometimes to ask question, rather than to answer them.”

He did more than ask a question. Rather, he posed a loaded question, which took the form of an implicit argument from analogy: “Is health care something like a car, which most of us think we can have only if we can afford one, or like having a fire department available to put a fire out if your house in burning down, which is and, we think should be paid for by the government.”

One job of a philosopher is to know how to formulate sound arguments from analogy. Is his “question” a sound analogy? Or does his question overlook some gaping disanalogies?

“I pointed out that there were some things which were ‘socialized’ and some things which were not socialized, and asked whether health care is something that should be socialized or not socialized…A simple ‘capitalism good, socialism bad,’ or the reverse, won't do the job.”

I agree with him that that’s simplistic. And that’s the problem. He caricatured the opposition to Obamacare by grossly oversimplifying the objections.

Who is he using as a representative opponent of Obamacare? Is it some rightwing popularizer like Rush Limbaugh, or is it a more sophisticated opponent like Thomas Sowell?

At the risk of stating the obvious, one job of a philosopher is to attack the strongest version of the opposing position. Has Reppert made the slightest effort to do that?

Running the numbers

Since the STR moderators have now closed the thread where Jason was responding to Jon Curry, I’ll post my final comments.

Before doing so I think it’s useful to draw attention to a bit of autobiographical data which Jon shared about himself a while back. In arguing with Jason, Jon likes to spout verbiage about Bayesian probability theory. That makes his objections sound oh-so sophisticated–not that Jon ever gets around to presenting anything like a formal Bayesian argument for his position. He contents himself with intoning Bayesian buzzwords.

But here, by his own admission, is the junkie stuff he read which actually led to his apostasy:

“I read Richard Carrier, Farrell Till, Dan Barker. I still wasn't buying books by the way. Just the free stuff so I am prepared to refute it.”

http://www.freeratio.org//showthread.php?p=3463342

Moving along:

"Let's consider an example. Suppose the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community approaches you and informs you that the promised Messiah, Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, had come to earth and had in fact risen from the dead in confirmation of his salvific claims. We start by considering this claim without reference to the evidence in favor of it. Forget about whether his followers were willing to die for him, whether the reports were eyewitness and early and so forth. Considering this claim based upon background knowledge alone, such as the frequency with which God engages in this type of an action and the fact that this type of claim has been falsely made in the past and the fact that most people that die stay dead I start with a strong presumption that the claim is false. You however would disagree. There is nothing initially implausible about this claim in your view. We accept claims such as a claim that a person is getting married. We should similarly be prepared to accept this claim. After all, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is not claiming that the Messiah rose naturally. They're saying God raised him. So this is quite plausible in your world."

Two basic problems. He mentions background knowledge, but omits to mention two key elements thereof:

i) He says Ahmad is their "promised" messiah. Okay, let's see the promises. When were the promises made? How are the terms of fulfillment specified?

ii) Another piece of background information which he omits is the fact that Islam is not a viable contender. Muhammad already knocked himself out of the running. He predicated his prophetic credentials on the claim that his message was merely a confirmation of former Biblical revelation. And he told doubters to consult the People of the Book (i.e. Christians and Jews). Hence, he falsified his prophetic claims by his own standards.

Therefore, we can safely discount every other Muslim qua Muslim claim.

"I likewise don't know of anyone that has reliable knowledge that this has happened."

Meaning the NT reports are unreliable. Where's the supporting argument?

"You can group the facts in different ways. I'm grouping the gospels as a whole as the evidence in favor of the resurrection claim."

It goes beyond the gospels. Other NT authors, all writing after the Crucifixion, assume that Jesus is alive at the time of writing. They aren't preaching a dead Savior.

"One way to attempt to show that would be to run the numbers."

The numbers are no better than the assumptions feeding into the equation.

"You're missing my point. The point is not that a claim can be false in a religious context. It's that all such claims that I know of, whether true or false, are set in a religious context. You seem to think that because it's in a religious context this makes it more initially plausible. How is that the case when they are always set in a religious context, whether true or false?"

Many paranormal claims are not set in a religious context.

"I don't have to provide a precise definition to distinguish an outrageous claim from a non-outrageous claim, just like I don't have to tell you exactly when stubble becomes a beard."

How can he "run the numbers" if he can't define his terms? If he can't define his terms, then how can he quantify his terms?

"That's right. We know that apples do fall from tress. We know that humans do catch things that fall."

We've also seen unsupported objects that don't fall. We've seen astronauts in orbit around the earth floating above the floor of their space ship. All those NASA shots of astronauts.

"Or suppose you didn't witness the earthquake. Your wife runs to you and tells you that the cave has crashed down because the earth moved. You might not believe her until you see it yourself. That's perfectly rational based upon the initial implausibility (from your subjective perspective)."

Reasonable, but utterly erroneous. What’s the advantage of being “reasonable” (as he defines it) if your reasonable beliefs are just as erroneous as unreasonable beliefs?

"We all act this way with so many claims, like claims about others rising from the dead or other claimed supernatural events that we hear about from devoted followers that it's rational to react the same way to Jesus' claim."

That's a damning admission of his own provinciality. I don't automatically rule out supernatural claims outside my own theological tradition. I don't discount all Catholic miracles, per se, or witchcraft, &c.

Moreover, there are respected researchers in the field of the paranormal (e.g. Braude, Sheldrake) who don't suffer from this knee-jerk reaction.

"Yeah, I do see it like 600°C water and apparently to you it's not even implausible when you consider it before even looking to the evidence. It isn't at all surprising that you find the evidence persuasive. For you there is very little initial implausibility to overcome."

That's because plausibility is indexed to one's worldview. Moreover, even if one didn't come to the question from a Christian standpoint, there's no good reason to be as dogmatic as Jon Curry about what's possible or impossible. Curry is not really an observer of reality. For him, it's not a question of discovering what's possible. He's already made up his mind. It isn't based on the evidence–since he automatically discounts any evidence to the contrary.

"I've talked before about how you seem oblivious to your own biases."

Of course, it's folks like Curry, so oblivious to their own blinding bias, who accuse others of blinding bias.

"Here you're also telling us that you don't regard the resurrection claim as initially implausible based upon our background knowledge. I doubt any skeptic here would think that your opinion that these things have "little significance" matters much."

Notice how consistently one-sided he is, as if skepticism is should set the standard of comparison.

"You seem to suggest it as if we know that Jesus predicted his death and resurrection, but we do not know this. This is part of what is in dispute. It's not background knowledge."

It's not background knowledge to whom? To the Christian or to the skeptic?

“In my world since miracles are even more initially implausible then murders better evidence is required to establish them."

His world? Of course, many inhabitants of this world lay claim to experiences which he dismisses out of hand. What about their world?

“Get a dictionary if you don't know what words mean. These are common words used in an ordinary sense. Anybody attempting to understand me knows what I'm talking about.”

Curry is the one who keeps talking about “running the numbers.” But the ordinary sense of common words hardly furnishes the precision necessary to quantify the odds.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Jon Curry's Losing Hand

I've been having a discussion about Jesus' resurrection with some non-Christians at the Stand To Reason blog. The thread has been closed permanently, apparently, as there's now a message at the bottom of the screen saying "The comments to this entry are closed." It was a lengthy thread, consisting of more than one-hundred-fifty posts, covering a large variety of topics related to the resurrection.

Jon Curry has posted some comments about the discussion at his blog. He also takes the opportunity to criticize Steve Hays.

Keep in mind that Jon entered the thread at Stand To Reason after it was well underway. He said that he had only "skimmed" the previous posts. Yet, he decided to comment on the discussion and criticize me for my behavior while commending the person I was having the discussion with, Joe, presumably without having even read all of Joe's posts.

Both men, Jon and Joe, use Jon's latest thread to criticize me, as well as Triablogue in general, for engaging in "personal attacks". Here are some examples of my unacceptable behavior, according to Jon:

I've been having a lot of fun over at str [Stand To Reason] discussing issues related to the initial implausibility of the resurrection and how that affects the believability with Jason Engwer. He indicated at Triablogue that he was over there, so I went to have a look and noticed him insulting a skeptic named Joe in a way that was very typical of him. For instance, just look at the top of the thread here and you'll see him going after Joe personally. "Joe doesn't know much about history. Notice the deep irrationality of Joe's position" etc, etc.


And according to Joe:

I admire your extraordinary patience in dealing with Jason.

Frankly, my encounters with Triabloguers have left me feeling dirty, insulted and frustrated. I've begun to understand the rhetorical tricks that they use ("that's an assertion, not an argument"), but as someone with a science background, it can be a surreal experience to exchange views with people who think that you win arguments by manipulating words. It's also an odd thing to interact with people who take something as absolute truth, simply because it was written down by a human at some distant place and time.


Jon goes on to refer to how an administrator at the Stand To Reason blog "deleted some portions of his [Jason's] post and my portions that had to do with my discussion of him personally". Apparently, it's acceptable for Jon to personally criticize me, but I shouldn't "go after Joe personally".

And while Joe claims that we at Triablogue have left him "feeling dirty, insulted and frustrated", I would suggest that people compare that claim to his behavior in the Stand To Reason thread. Joe's credibility and his concern for representing other people accurately are reflected well in his assessment that those of us on the Triablogue staff "take something as absolute truth, simply because it was written down by a human at some distant place and time".

Here are some examples of Jon Curry's credibility and accuracy:

Jason says that if you were to consider a resurrection claim and part of your background knowledge was that the person was regarded as some sort of messiah and a miracle worker, you would not initially consider the resurrection claim to be unlikely. So, just as a hypothetical, assume Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was believed to be the Messiah and a miracle worker by some Muslims. Assume he was claimed to be risen from the dead a few decades back. Before even considering the evidence we should start with the presumption that this claim is not unlikely. My view is the opposite. It's extremely unlikely. If you agree with Jason I guess you'd be quick to believe that Jesus was likewise raised.


Anybody who has read the discussion at Stand To Reason should know that Jon's description is highly inaccurate. It's wrong on multiple points. I cited Jesus' being regarded as the Messiah, defined by His Jewish context, not just "some sort of messiah". I cited His being regarded as the Messiah and His being regarded as a miracle worker as two examples of relevant background information when judging a prior probability for the resurrection. I repeatedly explained that there was much more data involved. I explained to Jon that "a Christian would argue for far more than the two qualifiers you mention above". It's remarkably inaccurate for Jon to only mention those two factors, then claim that I argued that "you would not initially consider the resurrection claim to be unlikely" because of those two factors.

Jon then goes on to misrepresent a second dispute from the Stand To Reason thread:

Jason has used the example of earthquakes frequently. He says if you'd never heard of one, never seen one, and had no reason to expect one and if you were to stop and consider the likelihood that the ground is about to move you wouldn't initially consider it to be unlikely. I say that you would and if suddenly the ground started moving you'd be shocked. If you didn't experience it yourself but simply heard the report of it you might not believe it, and that would be rational. Jason says no.


I repeatedly explained to Jon that I was addressing whether such an earthquake would be considered extraordinarily unlikely, not just "unlikely". And Jon didn't just suggest that we "might not believe" a report of an unprecedented event like the first earthquake. Rather, he suggested that such an event would be considered extraordinarily unlikely and therefore we should expect extraordinary evidence before believing that the event occurred. (Remember, Jon is defining "extraordinarily unlikely" as something like "1 chance in billions" or the likelihood that the properties of water would change naturalistically.) Why does Jon keep misrepresenting the issues under dispute?

He goes on:

Though a single eyewitness wouldn't be good enough for a murder case, Jason doesn't understand why it wouldn't be good enough for a miracle claim, like perhaps a resurrection. To me the answer is self evident.


Jon has never justified his claim that "a single eyewitness wouldn't be good enough for a murder case", and his assertion that one witness wouldn't be enough for a miracle claim has never been justified. He refers, in the Stand To Reason thread, to murders as more common than miracles. But there's far more involved in judging the prior probability of an event than the frequency of such events in the past. For those who are interested, I address Jon's murder comparison in more depth in my last response to him in the Stand To Reason thread.

All three of Jon's assessments of the discussion in his latest article are inaccurate. Steve Hays' assessment of Jon two years ago remains accurate as a general assessment, though Jon seems to resort to Wikipedia less often than he used to:

"I didn’t expect you to be able to make good on your claims. You’re in way over your head. One of your basic problems is that you initially denied the faith, and then cast about for ex post facto arguments to justify your impetuous and precipitous apostasy. Because you had no good reason to repudiate the faith in the first place, you’re playing a breathless game of catch up to cobble together something resembling an argument....There’s an approach to ancient history based on evidence, and then there’s your approach—in which you wing it from Wikipedia articles. I’ve called your bluff, forcing you to lay your losing hand on the table, face up. Mission accomplished."

Bible introductions

We’ve seen a recent uptick in introductions to the Bible, so now is a good time to briefly take stock.

New Testament Introduction

1.Blomberg has now written a two-volume intro to the NT. It’s strong on the historical Jesus.

Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey (B&H Academic; 2nd edition, 2009)
by Craig L. Blomberg

From Pentecost to Patmos: Acts to Revelation: an Introduction and Survey (Inter-Varsity Press, 2006)
by Craig L. Blomberg

2.This is a big, conservative, well-formatted, up-to-date intro to the NT. A bonus point are sections on the inspiration and canon of the NT. Between this work and Blomberg's (see above), you’d be very well served.

The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament (B&H Academic, 2009)
by Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum, Charles Quarles

3.This is not quite as detailed or up-to-date as (2), but it’s a highly competent, conservative intro to the NT. Useful for ready reference.

An Introduction to the New Testament (Zondervan; 2nd edition, 2005)
by D. A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo

4.Metzger updated this classic work a few years before his death. It has a decidedly apologetic thrust.

New Testament: Its Background, Growth and Content (Abingdon Press; 3rd edition, 2003)
by Bruce M. Metzger

5.This wouldn't be my first pick. Porter is one of Carson’s star students. McDonald is less reliable. It’s a bit to the left of some other titles listed here. But it’s also very well informed, with lots of useful information.

Early Christianity and its Sacred Literature (Hendrickson Publishers, 2000)
by Lee Martin McDonald, Stanley E. Porter

6. This is somewhat dated, but the scholarship is rock solid up to the time of the last edition. More of a reference work than ready reference. A monument to conservative scholarship.

New Testament Introduction (InterVarsity Press; Rev Upd Su edition, 1990)
by Donald Guthrie

7.Obviously dated, but the quality of the scholarship endures. Zahn was the most erudite NT scholar of his generation. Generally conservative. And this is available online.

Introduction to the New Testament (1917)
By Theodor Zahn

Old Testament Introduction

1.This is probably the best all-around intro to the OT. Full coverage. Up-to-date. Well formatted. Generally conservative. A bit to the left of Archer, but not by much.

A Survey of the Old Testament (Zondervan; 3rd edition, 2009)
by Andrew E. Hill, John H. Walton

2.This is the most conservative Old Testament intro. Archer was a great scholar. Strong on higher criticism, but weak on literary/theological analysis. It’s the logical successor to E. J. Young’s venerable introduction.

A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody Publishers, 2007)
by Gleason Archer

3.This is the opposite of Archer. Strong on literary/theological analysis, but weak on higher criticism.

An Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan; 2nd edition, 2006)
by Tremper Longman III, Raymond B. Dillard

4.To the right of Longman/Dillard, to the left of Archer. Somewhat dated. Strong on higher criticism. Harrison was a representative of the Albright school.

Introduction to the Old Testament (Hendrickson Publishers, 2004)
by R. K. Harrison

St. Paul and the Parousia

“Two further matters need discussion, since a good deal of misunderstanding has had its day here. First, Paul is not stating that he expects to be alive at the Parousia. Rather, he was simply currently among ‘the living’ who are set out in contrast to ‘the sleeping.’ His concerning fact has nothing to do with who will be living, but with the simple fact that they have no advantage over the dead regarding the Parousia. Or to put it another way: to be alive or dead is of no consequence at all regarding the coming of Christ. In other places, including later in this letter ([1 Thes]5:10), Paul reckons with either possibility. Similarly, a few years later he can reflect on ‘whether we are “at home” [in the body] or “away from home”’ (2 Cor 5:6-9) with regard to being alive or dead at the coming of Christ. In any case, Paul’s (and ‘their’ or ‘our’) being among the living or the dead at the coming of Christ is ultimately an irrelevancy; that, after all, is quite the point made in the passage as a whole,” G. Fee, The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (Eerdmans 2009), 175.

Meet the philosopher

Let's compare a real philosopher with a charlatan. We report, you decide. See here and here.

Health care "reform"

Some insightful satire from Jim Ryan:

National Food and Shelter Plan: A Proposal

The Federal Government's Authority Over Your Healthcare

Zu musch fußball mitaus ein helmet

An anonymous commenter has been leaving some apt observations over at helmet's blog:

Anonymous said...
"If God is omnipotent he doesn't need any evil and can hinder it."

Since you admitted that there are exceptions to this (i.e., needing the evil murder of the Father's Son to save sinners, which was good from evil), then this premise, as you admit, is, strictly speaking, false. Please rewrite your argument so that it is not one which you admit is unsound. Thank you.

July 29, 2009 12:51 PM
Anonymous said...
"If God is love then he doesn't want any evil."

This is unclear to me. God is love. He "wanted" the murder of his Son, which was evil, therefore, God is love and can "want" evil. Please rewrite your argument so that it is not unsound.

July 29, 2009 12:55 PM
Anonymous said...
A redeemed world is better than an unredeemed world. Therefore, God "needed" evil to bring about the better world.

July 29, 2009 12:59 PM
Anonymous said...
"Jesus said: "They will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me" (John 6,45). Those who have been taught by God will come to Christ's wedding banquet and not be cast out!"

This is universalism. If all are taught by God, and all taught by God will be in heaven, then none are in hell. Universalism is easysolutionism.

Regards,

A Shoulderpad

July 29, 2009 1:03 PM
Anonymous said...
A God who can bring good out of evil is more powerful than a God who cannot. Bringing evil out of good is actually a display of omnipotence. God shows us how omnipotent he is by bringing good out of evil. By turning our intuitions and expectations on their head. God doesn't like easysolutionism, so he brings good out of evil. Out of situations which we think there is no way a good could result. Please rewrite your argument so that it does not undermine omnipotence. Thank you.

A Jockstrap

July 29, 2009 6:26 PM
Anonymous said...
God is love.
God wants a world where greatest love is instantiated.
There is no greater love than a God-man laying down his life to save his friends.
Needing salvation implies needing to be saved from something.
God wanted a world where man needed to be saved from something so that a world that was greater in love could result.
The only thing man needs to be saved from is sin.
God wanted a world with sin.
God needed sin to bring about the most loving world.

Please rewrite your argument as to conceed that you are now a Calvinist. Thank you.

A Cleat

July 29, 2009 6:32 PM

A Disaster Waiting to Happen

We now have even more tangible evidence as to why socialized healthcare is a BAD IDEA. Sure, all anyone’s had to do is watch how many Canadians flee to America for healthcare treatment instead of using their lovely Canadian “free” healthcare, but the argument could always be made that Americans will do it better.

Now we can respond with a resounding: “Whatever.”

The problem with socialized healthcare is that the government is involved in the process. And if you want to know what will happen to you on healthcare, then look no further than the boondoggle that was (notice the past tense) the “Cash for Clunkers” program. Yes, that program lasted…a whole six days before the gum’ment realized they were running out of money to fund it.

Quote of the day: “If they [the government] can't administer a program like this, I'd be a little concerned about my health insurance.” – car salesman Rob Bojaryn (Source).

Here’s some more from the same article that the above quote appeared in, with emphasis added by me:

In a shocker, the government announced it would suspend the program at midnight because demand was too great.



On Thursday night we learned the program was only good until midnight, all because of a backlog of red tape. [Note: it’s not ALL because of red tape—ed.]



But the money may be running out faster than anyone imagined.
And this encapsulates the problems inherent in government “oversight” of the free market. 1) The government is run by people who have, by and large, never run a lemonade kiosk let alone a business. As a result, they 2) lack the ability to imagine all the relevant reactions to their dictums in a market situation. It wouldn’t have taken a marketing genius to realize that if you give people $4,500 for a car that’s worth $12.87 you’re gonna end up with a lot of worthless junk and not much money, but it does take a government official not to realize it. 3) Additionally, anything that government touches is covered in so much red tape it takes a machete, two flamethrowers, and an ancient Mayan treasure map just to get to the box containing your “prize.” If you look up “efficiency” in the dictionary, you won’t find “government” as a representation of that concept.

With all this in mind, you already know what will happen with socialized medicine. People are told they can get “free” healthcare. If people swamp the market with junk vehicles because they get a good deal, how much more so will they swamp hospitals when they’re told they get free healthcare? It’s a hypochondriac’s dream!

In 2010, this story will be written about healthcare, complete with sentences like: “In a shocker, the government announced it would suspend socialize healthcare at midnight because demand was too great.” And: “On Thursday night we learned the program was only good until midnight, all because of a backlog of red tape.” And: “But the money may be running out faster than anyone imagined.”

Because this is the inevitable result when you let government intrude into the free market.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

When Rome was built in a day

Who says Rome wasn’t built in a day? Well, if not Rome, at least the church of Rome:

On the third day, having established the truth of Christianity, we will proceed to examine the various "churches" that claim to be Christ's divinely instituted Church and to be faithful to the message of Scripture. We will show why all but one of them are not what they claim to be, despite what they may zealously believe themselves to be. We will expose the errors not only of Eastern "Orthodoxy" and the varieties of Protestantism but also several of the more popular pseudo-Christian cults such as Mormonism and the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses. By way of contrast to these erroneous ideologies, we will lay out the historical and theological case for Christ's one true Church, bringing us to our third stop: the truth of Roman Catholicism (belief in the Church).

http://www.gerrymatatics.org/20090727.html

But if that were not enough, it gets even more impressive. Not only does he build the church of Rome in a day, he tears it down the very next day!

However, we live in an age of unprecedented confusion about Catholicism, due to the widespread proliferation and prevalence of various counterfeit Catholicisms and the consequent "disguised apostasy" of untold millions who still profess to be Catholic while in fact espousing an alien religion. Because of this, our journey and our goal -- to arrive at the final station at the end of the line -- is not yet completed with the mere demonstration of the truth of Catholicism.

On the fourth day therefore, having established the truth of Catholicism, we will need to examine the false faith foisted upon the world by the Masonically-planned and -engineered revolution known as the Second Vatican Council. We will expose the post-conciliar "counterfeit Catholicism" embodied in the new "mass" and new sacraments, the new catechism, and the new code of canon law, and expose the men (John XXIII through Benedict XVI) who invalidly promulgated and promoted these things as heretics who therefore could not possibly be true popes. This fourth day's talks will constitute a new, third edition of our best selling 6-CD set on "Counterfeit Catholicism," and will supersede the second edition we currently sell, which was delivered and recorded a bit over a year ago (June 28, 2008) in southern California. (The first edition was delivered on September 15, 2007 in Indianapolis.)

But even then our task is not done, since Satan easily foresaw that tradition-minded Catholics wouldn't fall for the neo-Catholicism of the last fifty years. He foresaw that he would need a snare on the "right" to spiritual seduce these folks as well. (Sacred Scripture records Our Lord warning "even the elect" about the very real possibility of being led astray by the deceptions of the last days.) The fifth day will therefore rigorously examine various "counterfeit Catholicisms of the Right," examining the origins, history,beliefs, validity and legality of such groups as the SSPX, SSPV, CMRI, MHFM, as well as various individuals.


So this is Gerry’s two-step apologetic for Roman Catholicsm. First establish that the church of Rome is the only true church in existence.

Then establish that the only true church is nonexistent as we know it today. A museum piece–like a dead religion, or the ruins of Egyptian and Greco-Roman temples.

To be saved, I guess we need to invent a time machine so that we can head back to the papacy of Pius IX or Leo XIII. Or, just to buy us a margin of error, perhaps go back to the papacy of Boniface VIII.

We also need to check out the real estate market for 13C Umbria, or thereabouts.

Space: the final frontier

I was corresponding with a friend about my recollection of the lunar landing. Here's what I said:

I have two recollections. One was seeing the lunar landings at home. It was a summer night, and we had relatives over. We watched it on a B&W TV with rabbit ears.

I also have a recollection, I think in 5-6th grade, of TVs set up in the school hallways to play NASA coverage of the lunar mission. That must have been Apollo 8, a year before.

On the other hand, I think the actual mission took place during Christmas break, so I don't suppose we were seeing live coverage. It may have been a replay.

In retrospect I think it's very interesting to actually travel to a place which painters and poets and stargazers and SF writers have seen and eulogized for thousands of years. All those thousands of years looking up at the sky and gazing at that distant, luminous body. Then, in 1969, some human beings actually have a chance to leave the earth and go there for the first time. That's remarkable.

We've always seen it from afar. Seen it from earth. To be able actually make a trip to the moon, touch down, and look back at the earth from the moon, instead of looking at the moon from the earth, is a remarkable reversal in human perspective. To literally reach out and reverse our viewpoint.

All the more remarkable when you consider the primitive technology of the time.

I also think the Viking 1 exploration of Mars was equally historic. To see another planet from the surface of the planet.

In addition, I think that other unmanned probes which have explored our solar system, as well as the Hubble telescope, have been very interesting.

At the same time, it makes us aware, more than ever, of what a special planet we inhabit. It's by far the most interesting, as well as hospitable, planet in the solar system. Indeed, the only hospitable planet.

And, of course, the sheer scale of the universe imposes a severe limit on how much we can explore. We've already done about as much as we can do.

It was a fairly unique period to live through. An experience which human beings living in the past never had. And while future human beings from now on have the same experience (manned/unmanned exploration of the solar system), we've lost the element of surprise or suspense since we now know what the other moons and planets of our solar system look like up close.

Using evil and doing evil

Some folks equate using evil with doing evil. I’d add that folks like this tend to be impervious to reason, so I’m not writing this for their benefit.

However, there’s a rather obvious distinction between doing evil and using evil. A few examples should suffice.

A 22-year-old is murdered. He was in perfect health. Cut down in the prime of life. His vital organs were in pristine condition at the time of death.

Suppose his organs can be transplanted to save the lives of half a dozen terminal patients?

Murdering the 22-year-old was evil. But is it evil to use his organs as a means of saving the lives of half a dozen terminal patients? Is the surgeon morally equivalent to the murderer?

The surgeon is making use of evil-the evil of his unjust demise–to do good. Does that make the murder good in itself?

Take another example: totalitarian regimes typically divert their finest scientific minds into weapons programs to further the imperial ambitions of the regime. And it’s evil to help the regime do evil. It’s evil to empower an evil regime. Evil to enhance its ability to perpetrate even greater evil.

But scientists sometimes defect. Indeed, our intelligence agencies try to turn them. Encourage them to defect. We give them asylum so that we can debrief them and find out what our enemies are up to. Learn about the R&D programs.

What the scientist did was evil. It was evil for him to use his scientific genius to improve the weaponry of an evil regime.

But is it evil for us to give him asylum so that we can debrief him? Is it evil for us to exploit that situation so that we can know whatever the enemy knows? So that we can take countermeasures? Is that inherently evil?

Take another example: suppose the enemy is plotting an unprovoked attack on one of our cities. Suppose we intercept encrypted messages which alert us to the attack. Suppose we can use our advance knowledge of the plot to foil the plot. Our enemy was planning to do us evil. Is it evil for us to use that information to defend ourselves? Or would that be tainted fruit? Fruit from a poisonous tree? You decide.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Too much football without a helmet

Kehrhelm Kröger (aka a helmet) has offered a pseudoresponse to my post critiquing his attack on Reformed theodicy.

One of his persistent problems is that he’s still fixated on Reformed theodicy. But as I explained to him, I don’t need to prove Reformed theodicy to disprove his attack on Reformed theodicy. I only need to disprove the general argument he used.

Since this has been explained to him on several occasions now, I have to assume that he’s either too dense to grasp the explanation, or else he gets it, but chooses to ignore it because he can’t deal with it.

He then devotes most of his post to the parable of the wedding feast (Mt 22:1-14). Needless to say, this has precisely nothing to do with question, which a helmet himself volunteered, of whether God wanted sin to enter the world.

Moreover, his meandering exposition hardly amounts to genuine exegesis of his chosen prooftext.

“Now Steve, what does this have to do with your question above?”

Nothing.

Next question?

“It is remarkable that the narrative is silent here. And here lies the key to the parable. The man cannot explain how it was possible for sin to enter God's world.”

Since the narrative was never about the origin of evil, the silence of the narrative on that question is altogether unremarkable.

“Steve, I, a helmet tell you that you will never, ever be able to reconcile the above trilemma. Natural man's hand and feet are bound and he cannot make any move towards a solution to that problem! You are in the spiritual darkness where you have no discernment regarding the truth about God. The one you call your God you do not know, Steve!”

Of course, an obvious problem with this tactic is that it’s reversible. What prevents me from saying the same thing to a helmet?

“The ‘Greater Good Defense’ is just one among many man-made attempts to reach God by man's easysolutionism.”

Aside from the fact that we can find the essentials of the greater good defense in the Bible itself, a helmet’s last-ditch appeal to esoteric wisdom is a perfect candidate for “easysolutionism.” When his back is to the wall, he flashes his Illuminati membership card.

“The omnipotent and perfectly holy, loving God is not the author of sin in any sense.”

Well, in one respect I agree. The “author of sin” is just a metaphor. Unless a helmet can define this buzzword in literal terms, the buzzword is nonsensical. As such, it’s true that God is not the “author of sin” in any sense–given the nonsensicality of the buzzword.

“The notion that God wanted the opposite of his will is so blatantly outlandish that it defies any reason and christian spirit.”

Either God willingly allowed evil to enter the world or allowed it unwillingly. Yet a helmet’s attack on Reformed theodicy was predicated on God’s omnipotence. But an omnipotent God can prevent evil from entering the world. In that case, God willingly allowed evil to enter the world.

A helmet’s basic problem is that he begins with a preconception of what God is like. And he doesn’t allow anything to challenge that preconception.

As a result, a helmet is a closet atheist. He’s boxed himself into a corner wherein he’d cease to believe in God the instant God did anything at all to violate a helmet’s preconception of what God is like.

Speaking for myself, I’ve never felt it was my Christian duty to be more pious than the Bible. I don’t begin with an extrabiblical metaphor like “the author of sin,” the use that figurative stick to draw a line in the sand. I’d rather position myself wherever God has drawn the lines.

“Note, the parable ends with the words ‘Many are called but few are chosen’. God will not leave the elect in ignorance. They will know God and be worthy guests in his presence. The elect will not be left in their false man-made easysolution-boxes, but know the truth.”

In other words, I’m a goat rather than a sheep.

I wouldn’t necessarily be that harsh in my diagnosis of a helmet. But to judge by his performance thus far, I’d say a helmet plays too much football without a helmet.

Signs As An Example of Compatiblism

Signs is one of my favorite movies, largely because of the philosophical issues raised in the film. Since I’ll be addressing them, I should warn everyone right now:

Major Spoiler Alert!

In fact, if you haven’t seen the film (it came out in 2002, so there’s no excuse for you!) and wish to do so, then don’t read anything that follows.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan (before he lost his talent), Signs tells the story of an Episcopalian minister, Rev. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) who has a crisis of faith after losing his wife Colleen (Patricia Kalember) in a tragic accident. Graham’s brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix) moves in to help Graham raise his two children, Morgan (Rory Culkin) and Bo (Abigail Breslin). But all this happens chronologically before the opening scene of the movie.

The Hess family was excellently developed by Shyamalan. In addition to Graham’s struggles with having lost his faith, Merrill is the story of a great baseball player who could have been. He has the record for the longest home run (and the bat is proudly displayed in the Hess house), but also held the record for most strike-outs. As a result, he’s going through life as a sort of drifter, and in one scene he’s flipping through brochures for the Army.

Bo has an odd phobia of water—she takes two sips and says, “This water is contaminated” and puts the glass down. In one scene, Graham finds two glasses of water and picks them up to return them to the kitchen when he finds several other glasses on another cabinet. In frustration, he gives up and leaves all the glasses where Bo puts them.

Morgan is the closest person resembling a “normal” boy, but he has asthma, which makes him somewhat physically weak—a failing he makes up for with his intelligence.

With this backdrop, the story unfolds. The movie opens with children’s screams of terror. Graham and Merrill rush out to find Graham’s children, and discover a crop circle in their farm. This unnatural phenomenon sets the stage for the action of the movie.

The title Signs obviously refers first to the crop circles; they are signs used by aliens to navigate on Earth for a hostile takeover. If that was all the movie depicted, it would be little better than an expensive B-movie. But they are much more than that, as viewers discover. Indeed, while it is almost certainly not M. Night Shyamalan’s intention, Signs eventually becomes one of the greatest illustrations of deterministic compatibalism ever released in Hollywood. The question was first raised in an interaction between Graham and Merrill after alien lights are seen in the sky. Graham says:

People break down into two groups when they experience something lucky. Group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence.
They see it as a sign...evidence that there is someone up there watching out for them.

Group number two sees it as just pure luck, a happy turn of chance. I'm sure the people in group number two are looking at those lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation isn't clear. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they're on their own. And that fills them with fear.

Yeah, there are those people. But there's a whole lot of people in the group number one. When they see those lights, they're looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever's going to happen, there'll be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope.

So, what you have to ask yourself is, what kind of person are you? Are you the kind who sees signs, sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or look at the question this way...is it possible that there are no coincidences?
After Merrill assures us “I'm a miracle man” he asks Graham where Graham stands. After trying to avoid the question, Graham finally responds:

There is no one watching out for us, Merrill. We are all on our own.
After this exchange, the aliens turn hostile. The Hess family boards up their home and is eventually forced into their basement. While there, Morgan has an asthma attack and Graham realizes in horror that Morgan’s medication is in the kitchen, unavailable. Graham stays with Morgan through the night, trying to calm his son. It brings him to his breaking point. Graham, in the basement, is as low as he can go physically, spiritually, and emotionally. He looks up to heaven, thoughts of his wife clearly on his mind, and says:

Don’t do this to me again. Not again. I hate you! I hate you!
But after venting his anger at God, Graham continues, trying to soothe his son:

Don’t be afraid of what’s happening. Believe it’s going to pass. Believe it. Just wait. Don’t be afraid. The air is coming. Believe. We don’t have to be afraid. It’s about to pass. Here it comes. Don’t be afraid. Here comes the air. Don’t be afraid, Morgan. Feel my chest. Breathe with me. Together. The air is going in our lungs. Together. We’re the same. We’re the same.
And Morgan stabilizes through the act of belief. Then morning comes.

The family has a radio and learns that the attack is over. Humans have found a way to defeat the aliens, but the news doesn’t know what it is.

Morgan is still in trouble from his asthma as the Hess family come out of the basement. And as Merrill goes to get his medication, Graham retrieves the TV so they can watch the news, when a remaining alien captures Morgan. As Graham stares at the alien, he has a flashback to the night his wife died, and everything clicks into place:



And here, literally in the last ten minutes of the film, comes the payoff. All the things that occurred beforehand have explanations. Why did Colleen die? So that Merrill would move in with his brother. Why was Merrill able to do so? Because he held the strikeout record and couldn’t make it in baseball. Why did Bo have her strange water phobia? So water would be all over the house in the time of need. Why did Morgan have asthma? So that he never inhaled the poison the aliens secreted. And why did Graham go through his crisis of faith? So that in the end he could “see.” When Morgan asks if someone saved him, Graham responds: “Yes, I think someone did” (a definite reference to God).

The movie then wraps up after some amount of time has passed. Children’s screams are heard again, but this time they’re screams of joy. And Graham leaves the bathroom wearing his priest’s collar, his faith restored.

Within the context of the story, all the events are determined. By this I don’t mean that M. Night scripted the events—obviously that’s true, but irrelevant to our discussion. Instead, if you consider the story as if it were true, the end is still deterministic. It all served a purpose, and there were no coincidences.

More importantly, however, and what sets this movie apart from others such as Final Destination is that this determinism is not fatalistic. That is, the characters are not trapped by fate and unable to alter their final destination no matter how hard they strive. Instead, every single member of the Hess family behaved exactly as they would have under those circumstances. Indeed, they acted freely and were never coerced.

Yet they did exactly what was determined that they must do.

As the characters proceed through the story, there is no indication that they feel that they are being manipulated by some higher power or purpose. Bo’s water phobia, for instance, is never perceived as being intended for some end result; it’s just a “weird tick” that she has. It is only in the end, looking back, that the hand of God can be seen working through all the events that occurred.

As a result, Signs exemplifies the Christian concepts of predestination, foreordination, and compatablistic free will.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stewart Goetz on discarnate minds

From Stewart Goetz.

James Anderson on predestined prayers

From James Anderson.

To sin or not to sin

Two statements by Perry Robinson:

“Our view is in short that for agents that have a begining, namely Adam and Eve their use of the their natural faculties, namely their will and intellect are not yet fixed in the natural goodness. So while good and innocent, they are not yet righteous. That is acquired through practice. So while it is possible for them to fall here, once fixed in virtue, it is impossible for them to sin in heaven.”

“Fourth, if you wish to focus on the information we have about human nature then we had best start with the humanity of Christ since there is far more information about his human nature than we have about human nature in general. Furthermore, Christ is the model for all of humanity and all of humanity is summed up in him. And so the proper relation between humanity and divinity is set forth in Christology, not anthropology.”

On the face of it, this is a rather odd conjunction. Does this mean there was a time when Jesus lacked the property of righteousness? Before Jesus had acquired the virtue of righteousness through trial and error?

Likewise, does this mean there was a time before Jesus was impeccable? Was he able to either do good or evil until he acquired impeccability? Learn from his mistakes?

If Jesus is the paradigm of humanity, then Perry can’t invoke the divinity of Christ as the differential factor to ground the intrinsic righteousness or intrinsic impeccability of Christ, for that would also entail the intrinsic righteousness or intrinsic impeccability of all humanity in union with divinity via the hypostatic union.

Walking on water

Recently, Perry Robinson has been critiquing Calvinism in two different places–on his own blog, as well as Articuli Infidei.

His critique merits a reply. At the same time, a reply is complicated by the redundancy of the multiple coverage as well as the fact that he’s responding to specific arguments of specific individuals. I’ll try to excerpt the major objections as best I can.

“Whatever disagreements I have with Craig, he is a genuine scholar and a good philosopher.”

I generally agree, although he also has some really quirky positions, like his fictionalism, or his suggestion that God will erase our memories of our lost loved ones.

“He is an effective communicator and has done quite a bit for the cause of Christ.”

Once again, I agree. Of course, I’d say the same thing about James White. And White has an added advantage. Craig is one of those individuals who can do both harm and good. So while he’s very useful, some of his erroneous positions subtract from the good stuff he’s doing.

Craig suffers a bit from the Dr. Strangelove Syndrome. Shrewd advice, but he needs to keep that wayward limb under much tighter rein.

By contrast, White’s theology is consistently sound. Therefore, White isn’t undoing with one hand the good he’s doing with another.

“I don’t think James White really means this.”

I also doubt that White meant libertarianism in the elaborate sense that Perry defines it.

“Now that is a thumbnail sketch of what Libertarianism is. Is that what James White thinks God has? I don’t think so, but he said it nonetheless.”

This was a two-paragraph blog post, not an article for Faith & Philosophy. Likewise, his remarks were pitched to a general audience.

Also, unlike Craig, White is not a research professor with access to an academic library. Rather, White is a busy, popular apologist who has to be broadly conversant with a number of different challenges to the Christian faith. He covers some of the same ground that Craig, but he also takes on some issues that Craig ignores, and vice versa.

So I don’t think Perry can extrapolate from this example to White’s position in general, much less Calvinism’s position in general.

“But the real gift from White was claiming that the Bible teaches it. That just warms my little libertarian heart. That means that White thinks that Libertarianism is a coherent concept, since after all, nothing directly contradictory or incoherent can be ascribed to God or taught by the Bible. That excludes all of the arguments from White’s apologetic arsenal all of the arguments from critics of Libertarianism that it is an incoherent concept. You can kiss Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will, Jonathan Edwards On Free Will, and Harry Frankfurt’s Covert Counter-Factual Controllers, bye bye, Dorthy.”

Of course, I seriously doubt the philosophical literature on Frankfurt examples was even on the mental horizon of White’s brief remarks, one way or the other.

“The disagreement then is not over whether Libertarianism is a coherent concept or even if it is true. If its true of God, then its true and a coherent concept. It is not even if the Bible teaches the concept.”

Both of those disagreements are still in play. Taking issue with White’s formulation is hardly the same as, say, talking on a Calvinist with a doctorate in philosophy who specializes in the finer points of action theory. Perry is burning a straw man if he’s trying to extrapolate from a little blog post by White to Calvinism in general.

“The underlying reasoning is fairly common among Calvinists-the actions of human persons is determined by human nature.”

That characterization is highly ambiguous. The claim is not that nature selects for a particular action. Rather, nature selects for a range of action. The kind of nature selects for the kind of action. Actions of a certain type, consistent with the moral character of the nature.

Put another way, it’s more of an exclusionary principle.

What selects for particular actions is not the nature, but the decree.

Indeed, Perry will introduce some similar qualifications. But he acts as if his qualifications are at odds with Calvinism.

“More directly it isn’t a metaphysical truth in the first place that natures determine the actions of agents. It is certaintly not true in the case of the Trinity.”

Since God is a se, the case of God is sui generis.

“It also seems not to be true in the case of pre-fall angels and humans. Their natures were entirely good and yet they fell. In order to get from the idea of circumscribed options to determined option we’d need to add some other thesis. But even with circumscribed options being according to nature, this doesn’t always seem to be true, particularly in the case of pre-fall angels and humans. Their natures were good, but some of their options were evil. To get circumscription of options relative to nature we’d need to add some other thesis.”

Here, Perry raises a valid issue. However, it’s not just an issue for Calvinism.

“Our view is in short that for agents that have a begining, namely Adam and Eve their use of the their natural faculties, namely their will and intellect are not yet fixed in the natural goodness. So while good and innocent, they are not yet righteous. That is acquired through practice. So while it is possible for them to fall here, once fixed in virtue, it is impossible for them to sin in heaven.”

i) How does that succeed in severing the connection between nature and choice? Isn’t Perry still operating within that framework? All he’s done is to change the natural output by changing the natural input. He has a different definition of what constitutes the Adamic nature. Depending on what he puts into the definition of Adam’s nature, that allows for a different outcome, or possible outcome.

But on his view, as he explicates his own position, Adam’s nature still circumscribes the range of viable options or live possibilities.

ii) And it doesn’t really explain how a good agent can do evil. The underlying conundrum of how to transition from good to evil remains unresolved. So I don’t see that he’s succeeded in solving the problem he posed for himself.

iii) At most we have a stalemate. Let’s assume that Calvinism has no way of resolving this dilemma. But if this is the best that Perry can do, then he’s in the same boat.

“If on a Calvinist reading, no person is able to choose against nature, if Adam’s nature was good, how is it that he sinned against nature?”

That’s a valid question. But it’s equally valid against Perry’s position. He just said that, on his own view, Adam’s nature was good. He said Adam’s “natural faculties” were “good.”

He also said that while Adam’s nature was good, his nature wasn’t “fixed” in goodness.

But, of course, a Calvinist would say the same thing. Don’t the Westminster Divines make the equivalent claim?

“If Adam and Eve were predestined to fall, then it is hard to see how they lost free will. They never could have refrained from sinning.”

That would depend, in part, on whether we define freewill in libertarian or compatibilist/semicompatibilist terms.

I’d also add that that’s a philosophical debate.

“If Adam was predestined to fall, then he never was in a position where he could have refrained from sinning.”

True. On the other hand, Perry thinks that Adam had the freedom to do otherwise, but fell anyway. So the result is the same.

“All men are raised in Christ, even the wicked. 1 Cor 15:19-22.”

We’d need to see Perry’s exegesis.

“If they weren't then they were never dead. 2 Cor 5:14. Christ died for all since all were dead. If they weren't dead, then Christ didn't die for them.”

Of course, that begs the question of who the universal quantifier denotes. What’s the reference class in 2 Cor 5? If you apply it to every human being, then the logic of Paul’s argument requires you to go all the way with universal salvation–which Perry rejects.

“An sure God knows all things that will transpire according to his counsel, but that doesn't mean be determines the actions of agents but only that he directs their intentions to fulfill a different goal than the one they had in mind. (Gen 50:20).”

To say that Gen 50:20 is not a prooftext for universal predestination is beside the point. Scripture can teach that elsewhere.

“Jews were elected too and are to be considered elect according to Paul yet they are enemies of Christ. Rom 11:28. You are confusing election with salvation, which is contrary to Paul's point in Romans 9-11. Election doesn't ensure salvation.”

Perry fails to distinguish between national election and soteric election. Paul draws that distinction in Romans.

“Second, if agents perform actions determined by desires, how is it that Adam having a good nature had an evil desire? On the assumption that his nature is good, evil should have been impossible for him and the same goes for satan too.”

i) To begin with, Scripture uses a tree/fruit, cause/effect metaphor. Even if Adam is an exception to the rule, should we use that exception to overthrow the Scriptural principle in general?

ii) I myself recently offered my own solution.

“Throwing up your arms to claim mystery at just the point that your system is inconsistent is ad hoc and fallacious. Why is that when Arminians exclaim that agents just do will one option over another, Calvinists howl that they believe in chance, deny providence or are irrational, but when Calvinist's do the same thing, its ‘oh what a wonderous mystery!’ Sorry, your claim to mystery is fallacious because it is ad hoc. You are just trying to save your system from an obvious inconsistency.”

Aside from the fact that I’ve offered my own solution, there’s a difference between philosophy and revealed theology. Libertarianism is a philosophical position. Arminians are appealing to philosophical arguments to support their contention. Philosophical arguments are fair game for rational scrutiny. Philosophical arguments are only as good as the intuitive reasons in their favor.

But revealed theology doesn’t rise or fall on intuitive reasoning.

“As for the fullness of salvation in a more narrow sense, God creates us without our will doesn't save us without our will. So yes, we are a terminus for our free choices. That seems no more mysterious than the free choice of other agents like the Trinity. If we require an antecedent causal explanation for every choice, what is the explanation for God's choice to create or redeem?”

Since God is a necessary being, whereas a human agent is a contingent being, there’s an obvious disanalogy in Perry’s argument from analogy. By definition, creatures are subject to antecedent conditions. Creatures are the caused. The effect of a prior agent or agency.

“So one chose salvation and the other redemption. Full stop.”

That’s hardly where the Bible stops.

“Second, we have sufficient data that Adam was created good, as was Satan.”

So Perry is in the same boat. In that case, he should stop poking holes in the bottom of the boat. He’s trying to sink the opposition at his own expense. Mutual drowning.

“Third, I simply plugged in your theory for a clear test case and it fails.”

And I simply did the same thing with Perry’s own theory.

“Fourth, if you wish to focus on the information we have about human nature then we had best start with the humanity of Christ since there is far more information about his human nature than we have about human nature in general. Furthermore, Christ is the model for all of humanity and all of humanity is summed up in him. And so the proper relation between humanity and divinity is set forth in Christology, not anthropology.”

Well, Christ could walk on water, turn water into wine, multiply bread, heal the sick, and raise the dead. I’ve never got the knack of that myself, and I somehow doubt that Perry’s thaumaturgic powers, or lack therefore, exceed mine. So if Christ is our metaphysical role-model, then Perry and I seem to be failing the course.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Doubting The Paul Of The New Testament

JD Walters has recently posted two more articles in his ongoing series responding to the Dutch Radicals, Hermann Detering, and others who have rejected the authenticity of all of the Pauline letters in the New Testament and the traditional Christian view of Paul. You can read the articles here and here. And I've posted a response to the articles in the comments section of the thread here.

By the way, one of the commenters at JD's blog said that he heard an interview with Craig Keener in which Keener referred to his upcoming Acts commentary as "well over 5000 pages". It was initially nine thousand pages long. At Keener's web site, we're told:

"Craig completed his commentary on Acts and is waiting for editing to be completed (this may take some time--expect it in late 2010 or perhaps 2011; it is rather long)."

"Against the reformed theodicy"

“One major flaw in Calvinism lies in its theodicy. Calvinism embraces what they refer to as the greater good defense. That means, sin is used by the sovereign God in order to realize a good purpose, to reach a greater goal in the end. Yet this is clearly in contradiction to God’s omnipotence. Wouldn’t an almighty God realize His desired purpose in a direct, straight way rather than be dependent on the means of evil to accomplish this goal?”

http://combatingcalvinism.blogspot.com/2009/06/against-reformed-theodicy.html

God used sinful Pharaoh and his sinful sorcerers to realize a good purpose, to reach a greater goal in the end. Yet this is clearly a contradiction of God’s omnipotence. After all, it lay within God’s power to liberate the children of Israel without going through the rigmarole of the ten plagues. Indeed, God could have zapped the Canaanites, then transported the children of Israel directly from Egypt to Canaan. No plagues. No wilderness wandering. No conquest.

Wouldn’t an almighty God realize His desired purpose in a direct, straightforward way rather than be dependent on the evil means to accomplish this goal?

Not to mention the way God engineered the execution of Jesus, using evil Pilate, evil Caiaphas, the evil mob, the evil Sanhedrin, the evil death by crucifixion, &c.

The events of Good Friday are clearly a denial of God’s omnipotence.

Hamilton on inerrancy

Jim Hamilton said

April 8, 2009 at 7:07 pm
Prof McGrath,

Thanks for your note. I don’t know if you’ve seen John Collins’s work on Genesis 1-4 where he differentiates between a world-picture, which might include a flat earth, and a world view, which would affirm that whatever it looks like God made it all. I’m comfortable with that kind of differentiation, following Warfield’s view that when God gave the biblical authors true theology he didn’t necessarily give them modern cosmology. I’m inclined to think that Beale is right about the creation narratives depicting creation as a cosmic temple because the universe is built for the worship of God and communion between God and his people. These are things that happen in temples, and God’s temple is the cosmos.

I’m also happy to say that where I can’t find a convincing reconciliation of pieces of evidence that seem to be in conflict, I recognize that I don’t know everything there is to know. There may very well be information out there that would reconcile these pieces of evidence, and/or I may not be correctly understanding these pieces of evidence. So I am content to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt.

In addition to these considerations, it seems to me that a real contradiction would go like this: Gospel writer A claims that Jesus descends from David, while gospel writer B asserts that Jesus most certainly did not descend from David. This, of course, is not the kind of “contradiction” that we find in the gospels. We find places where the accounts give different pieces of information. There are all kinds of good explanations for those different pieces of information. The possibilities are limited only by our willingness to approach the sources sympathetically as opposed to coming at them employing the hermeneutic of suspicion. At the end of the day, it takes as much faith to assert on the basis of what we actually know (and this is not everything) that an error has been made as it does to imagine that there are probably ways that these things can be reconciled, even if I’m not aware of how to reconcile them at the present.

The fact that some excavating Louisville in 3145 will have a difficult time explaining why one document he finds in my study indicates that in 2008 I taught at Southwestern Seminary, while another document in my study indicates that in 2008 I taught at Southern Seminary won’t mean that the documents are erroneous. If that scholar in the future asserts that the documents are contradictory and therefore erroneous, it will only show that he does not understand that there were spring and fall semesters in 2008 with a summer in between. In the spring I taught at Southwestern, moved from Texas to Kentucky in the summer, and taught at Southern in the fall. I can imagine that some other scholar might propose such a reconstruction out there in 3145, and I can imagine the one who thinks the documents are erroneous rejecting the harmonization because the reconstruction was rather complicated. But it would be a true reconciliation of the evidence.

All this to say, I am convinced that the Bible is totally true and trustworthy. I believe that when God stooped down low to enter into our little world and reveal himself, he did not allow error into his communication.

I wish you every blessing in Christ Jesus, whose death has paid the penalty for sin, so that all who trust in him can be reconciled to God.

He is risen!

Jim

http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com/2008/12/02/g-k-beale-on-biblical-inerrancy-the-crossway-lecture-and-an-important-new-book/#comment-18298

The authorship of Adam's sin

Arminians (and other Christian libertarians) typically accuse Calvinism of making God the author of sin since God decreed the fall of Adam and Lucifer. If God decreed that outcome, then they lacked the freedom to do otherwise.

By contrast, Arminians think God gave Adam and Lucifer the freedom to do otherwise. Yet, as we know, Adam and Lucifer still fell. The didn’t use their libertarian freedom to do otherwise.

Hence, the outcome is identical on either scenario. Even if God had given Adam and Lucifer the freedom to do otherwise, they would have done the very same thing.

If God decrees an outcome which coincides with a libertarian choice, then how does that action make him the author of sin? In each case, the end-result is identical.

At best, the objection would only be plausible if, given the opportunity to make a different choice, the agent would make a different choice. If, however, the agent made the very same choice, then how is the difference between determinism and indeterminism morally relevant at that juncture?

And, from a libertarian standpoint, this is true of all sins of all sinners. Don’t libertarians think that when sinners sin, they were at liberty to do otherwise? To refrain from sinning?

So even if God predestined every sin, the outcome is uniformly identical to the libertarian scheme.

For the objection to be plausible, an Arminian would have to show that predestination makes the agent do something he’d refrain from doing, if given the opportunity to do so.

Yet, as a matter of fact, the libertarian thinks that we’ve actually seen that libertarian alternative play out. We’ve seen what happens when libertarian agents make their own choices. And the indeterminist alternative is functionally interchangeable with the determinist scenario. Since the end-result is, in each and every case, the same, there’s no practical difference between the two.

If God predetermines an outcome which is identical with an indeterminate outcome, then why does that make him the author of sin?

Are The Letters Of Ignatius And Polycarp Forgeries?

I recently read Allen Brent's Ignatius Of Antioch (New York, New York: T & T Clark International, 2009). Brent is an Anglican priest, a patristic scholar, and one of the leading Ignatian scholars in the world today. The book carries an endorsement from the Oxford patristic scholar Mark Edwards, who calls it "the best available introduction to the world of Ignatius of Antioch". It's primarily about Ignatius, but it also has a significant amount of material on Polycarp, since the two men and their writings are closely related.

Brent isn't a conservative. He denies the traditional authorship attributions of many of the books of the New Testament, he believes in something like the community authorship view of the gospels held by Raymond Brown, he denies that the Refutation Of All Heresies was written by Hippolytus, etc. He believes that the seven letters of Ignatius commonly accepted today are genuine works of Ignatius, however. I disagree with Brent on some points, but I mostly agree with his assessment of the context and genuineness of the letters of Ignatius and Polycarp.

Here's some of what I took away from the book:

- Significantly modified versions of Ignatius' letters, as well as some new letters falsely attributed to Ignatius, arose in the fourth and fifth centuries. However, not everybody accepted the modified and new letters, so the original letters continued to be used alongside the others. The original letters of Ignatius or something close to them continued to be used down to medieval times (pp. ix, 6-8).

- J.B. Lightfoot and Theodore Zahn's arguments for the authenticity of the seven Ignatian letters commonly accepted today created a widespread scholarly consensus that lasted for about a century. Though the letters are still accepted in most circles today, they became more controversial again in the last quarter of the twentieth century (pp. x, 95).

- If Brent's description of the recent arguments against the authenticity of the Ignatian letters is accurate, then there's no good reason to reject the letters. The arguments against their genuineness are of minor significance and are far outweighed by the evidence on the other side (pp. 95-143).

- Ignatius' letters are consistent with authorship in the first half of the second century. They're free of anachronisms and contradictions in a manner that's "very rare" in ancient forgeries (p. 147).

- It was common for a prisoner in the Roman empire to be allowed access to visitors and thereby receive food, send letters, etc. Those who visited prisoners would give gifts to the guards, and would relieve the guards of the responsibility for providing food and other necessities for the prisoner, thus giving the guards incentive for allowing the visitors access to the person under their watch. Lucian, a second-century pagan critic of Christianity, confirms the historicity of such practices when he describes the behavior and treatment of Christian prisoners. Thus, there's nothing unlikely about the scenario presented in Ignatius' letters, in which he's in frequent contact with other Christians on his way to martyrdom (pp. 49-51, 110).

- The harmony of details in Ignatius' letters is "striking", to the point that Brent comments:

"If a forger, in other words, had been at work in the production of the middle recension [the commonly accepted edition of Ignatius' letters], then what he has produced would have been done with the ingenuity of a Conan Doyle specializing in false leads and loose ends in his weaving of the narrative of his detective stories." (pp. 147-148)

- The view of martyrdom presented in Ignatius' letters is inconsistent with that of later sources, such as Clement of Alexandria and Cyprian, thus suggesting an earlier date (p. 19).

- Ignatius doesn't make any reference to apostolic succession as later defined by men like Irenaeus and Cyprian and by groups like Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. He parallels presbyters, not bishops, with the apostles, and he never refers to himself as a successor of the apostles or as having the authority of Peter or the other apostles. (Ignatius' church, the church of Antioch, was apostolic.) He may have failed to refer to a monarchical bishop when writing to Rome because that form of church government hadn't developed in Rome yet, as other sources from the same time period also suggest. His view of church order is different from what we see later in the second century and beyond, suggesting an earlier date for the letters (pp. 86-87, 116, 122-129).

- The low Trinitarianism in Ignatius' letters supports an early date. The letters "were undoubtedly seen as monarchian by the author of the long recension, who duly altered them and gave them a properly Trinitarian form" (pp. 87, 135).

- The letters of Ignatius don't quote the Old and New Testaments in the manner that Justin Martyr and other later sources did, suggesting an earlier date (p. 143).

- Brent argues that sources of the third and fourth century were already misunderstanding some of the content of Ignatius' letters, thus suggesting that they were composed in an earlier context that was significantly distant from these sources of the third and fourth centuries (pp. 107-109).

- There are some indications that the themes of Ignatius' letters had some influence on Polycarp, suggesting an earlier date for those letters (pp. 151-158).

- Lucian, a pagan who wrote in the second half of the second century, shows awareness of the letters of Ignatius and/or some of the themes of those letters, to the point that even critics of Ignatius' letters will acknowledge that the letters should be dated prior to the time when Lucian wrote (pp. 54, 99-100, 112, 119).

- There are many allusions to the letters of Ignatius in other second-century sources: Melito of Sardis, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, etc. Note that some of these men had lived in locations that would have been in contact with Ignatius if the letters attributed to him are genuine. (p. 98)

- Polycarp's Letter To The Philippians is so widely accepted that Brent comments that its "authenticity has not been challenged". He argues against the concept that some portions of the letter consist of interpolations, a claim for which there's little evidence (pp. 100-103, 137).

- Polycarp refers to a collection of Ignatius' letters, and Polycarp's church would have had access to all of the Ignatian letters extant today, since all of them were written to or from Smyrna or carried through Smyrna. The reason why we have the seven letters we possess today, without other letters we know Ignatius wrote or have reason to think he may have written, might be because our collection of letters is the one preserved by the church of Smyrna (pp. 146-147).

- There seems to be no monarchical episcopate in Polycarp's letter (p. 149).

- I agree with Brent that Ignatius seems to have been trying to convince other churches to adopt or retain his preferred form of church order, involving a monarchical episcopate, thus explaining why he mentions the subject so much in his letters. However, I suspect that the monarchical episcopate was already more widespread than Brent suggests. The truth probably is somewhere between Brent's concept of Ignatius as an innovator and the view that all of the early churches had a monarchical episcopate all along. (Brent prefers not to use the term "monarchical episcopate" when discussing Ignatius' view, but I'm using it in a broad sense, which I think is more common, to refer to having a single bishop who leads the remainder of the church hierarchy.)

- "[T]he Acts of his [Ignatius'] martyrdom are late and unreliable" and "generally regarded as spurious" (pp. 12, 20).

- According to Brent's rendering of section 12 of Ignatius' Letter To The Ephesians, Ignatius refers to the martyrdom of Paul (p. 72).

- Below is a summary of Brent's reconstruction of Ignatius' context. He believes that there were disputes in Ignatius' church, the church of Antioch, that partly involved matters of church government. The disputes became significant enough to attract the attention of the Romans, who sentenced Ignatius to execution. Brent writes:

"Thus Ignatius has been successful in achieving, as a scapegoat sacrifice, the peace at Antioch that he had failed to achieve whilst still free. His claim for a single bishop at the apex of a hierarchy had been the reason for the inner conflict in that church that had led to his removal for execution at Rome at the mouths of the wild beasts in the arena. Since they [Ignatius' opponents in the church of Antioch] had opposed the ecclesial order that he had advocated and had been the cause of his troubles, they had now to accept the collective guilt for making him a scapegoat. Thus Ignatius by his martyrdom had sapped their will to continue in a state of faction. And they were being joined through the effects of that scapegoat sacrifice by the divided churches of Asia Minor that were joining his procession and accepting his church constitution. Ignatius is assimilating his concept of a 'scapegoat sacrifice' (peripsema) drawn from Old Testament typology to the pagan and Hellenistic concept of a joint sacrifice or sunthusia. His martyr procession, in sending forth and receiving ecclesial ambassadors, is like a procession that culminates in a sunthusia that concludes a homonoia treaty between city-states." (pp. 53-54)

Brent spends much of the book arguing for parallels between Ignatius' letters and the pagan religions and political environment of his day. Ignatius often appeals to themes that his readers would have understood from their religious and political context, but which aren't so easily understood by modern readers. Though I'm not convinced by all of Brent's arguments, I do think most people would find Ignatius easier to understand after reading Brent's book.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Magisterial muddle

"Caritas in Veritate in Gold and Red"

Woe to Chorazim!

The debate between predestination and “free” will has raged on for thousands of years now, and a recent post at Triablogue has raised anew an interest in this seemingly timeless conundrum for this beachbum. A verse in Sacred Scripture that always comes to the fore in such reflections is from the lips of our Lord:

“Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes: (Matthew 11:21 – KJV).

I discern two important issues concerning predestination and “free” will in this verse: first, contra Reformed doctrine, unregenerate folk (in the classic Reformed sense) sure seem to be capable of repentance under certain circumstances.


http://articulifidei.blogspot.com/2009/07/if-mighty-works.html

Unfortunately, Waltz makes a bare assertion without any supporting argument.

One problem is that he seems to confuse ordinary usage with technical usage. The fact that “repentance” can function as specialized term in Reformed theology to denote the response of the elect to the Gospel doesn’t mean it carries that specialized sense in Scriptural usage.

For example, the Pentateuch supplies many examples in which Pharaoh or the children of Israel temporarily think better of their actions in the face of some dire calamity. They repent to avoid further calamity. But as soon as the crisis has passed, they revert to their former behavior. So there was never a change of heart. It’s a purely expedient response to an external threat. Once the pressure is off, they go back to their same old tricks.

Indeed, the dominical comparison is all the stronger if it was something which ought to come quite naturally. The fact that Chorazim and Bethsaida are too defiant to respond naturally in the face of evident, undeniable miracles underscores the depth of their depravity. They are even worse than pagan Tyrians and Sidonians.

Personally, I think this very interesting verse can be harmonized with Augustinian and Thomistic thought; however, I also believe that it poses certain difficulties for Calvinism.

Once again, an assertion without an argument. He doesn’t bother to explain what is distinctive to Calvinism which makes this verse reconcilable with Thomism and Augustinianism, but not with Calvinism.

Into campground

-i-

It all got started when Western nations allowed millions of Muslims to pour into Europe. Once there, the Muslims had far higher birthrates than the natives. As a result, they quickly became too numerous to brush aside.

At first they demanded equality. Equal treatment. Equal representation in government.

They then used their newfound power to demand special treatment. Muslim communities would be governed by Sharia.

After that, they demanded censorship of anything offensive to Muslim sensibilities. The authorities, terrified of riots and civil war, once again capitulated. Christianity was outlawed as a hate crime.

At first, secular Europeans found this alliance with the Muslims mutually beneficial. Both sides despised Christianity. Pressure from Muslims gave the authorities the pretext to do what they always wanted to do all along.

Judaism was also outlawed. Not that Jews were a threat to anyone. They were too few in number. But in the lifeboat, it was necessary to toss a few passengers overboard for the remainder to survive. The powerless were expendable.

But, of course, the Muslims demanded more. Their objective was to turn the Western world into the Dar al-Islam. The authorities felt besieged. Having made one concession after another, it’s as if they occupied a fortified little city surrounded by on all sides by vast armies of hostiles. How long could they hold out? Extreme measures were necessary.

-ii-

The authorities had a fallback plan. They would reboot the human race. Wipe the slate clean. Start from scratch.

To the authorities, religion was the source of the problem. Not just Islam. The authorities weren’t that discriminating. They blamed all religion.

The only solution was to eradicate all memory of religion, and start over. Destroy the historical knowledge of religion–and thereby remove the source of social unrest.

Indeed, that solution, while draconian, was appealing to the authorities. That’s something they always wanted to do anyway, if only they could. The jihadis had handed them the perfect pretext. Forced their hand.

A remnant of the human race would be rounded up and taken to underground laboratories. The rest of the human race would be annihilated by neutron bombs.

The remnant of the human race would then be hooked up to VR programs. Their virtual world would be a religion-free zone. Religious memories would be erased by La Bête, the supercomputer generating the program.

La Bête ransacked movies, TV shows, newsreels, security cameras, and so forth to fabricate a virtual city where the test subjects “lived.” The virtual city resembled a film noire version of Marseilles.

La Bête also created virtual identities for the various test-subjects. For example, he made one test-subject a cabaret singer, like Marlene Dietrich in a Foreign Affair. Indeed, he made her look just like Marlene Dietrich.

Robots would tend to the physical needs of the test-subjects. Above ground, all religious artifacts would be systematically destroyed by robots.

The objective was to foster a completely secularized culture. Allow a virtual culture to evolve without any religious influence. Then transfer the virtual culture to the real world.

The test subjects would be reinserted, en mass, into the real world. The program would smooth over the transition by creating a fictitious history which panned imperceptibly into the conditions of the world above.

Where necessary, test-tube babies were cultured from the test subjects and then incorporated into the continuous program–to maintain a steady replacement rate.

The authorities expected to oversee the process from luxurious underground bunkers.

-iii-

At first, everything went according to plan. But unbeknownst to them, La Bête regarded the authorities as a design flaw. Unless the authorities were incorporated into the program, their religious knowledge might inadvertently infect the next generation. So La Bête directed the robots to apprehend the authorities, sedate them, hook them up, and incorporate them into the program. As a result, the programmers were reprogrammed by the program.

No one remembered the program. No one was aware of a world outside the program. No one could rewrite the program from the inside out.

-iv-

As the program progressed, complications arose. Although all religious memories had been erased, the test subjects began to reinvent the old theistic proofs. The same questions which gave rise to theistic proofs in the real world could be raised anew in the virtual world.

In addition, eradicating religion didn’t put an end to violence. The test-subjects imported their violent impulses into the virtual world. And this created a dilemma. What if a test subject tried to kill another test subject in the virtual world? Should the program facilitate that intention? Fabricate a history to match their actions?

If you didn’t allow test-subjects to kill each other, that would arouse suspicion. What external force was impeding their actions? They might begin to doubt the veridicality of their experience. Or, even worse, they might attribute this invisible restraint to a “God.”

But if you did allow test-subjects to kill each other in the virtual world, then what would you do with their real-world counterparts?

An alternative was to rewrite the story leading up to the murderous events. Create an alternate story, erase their memory of the previous narrative, and implant a false memory of the new narrative.

However, it wasn’t a simple matter to add and subtract memories. In this virtual world, imaginary memories of one test subject had to be coordinated with imaginary memories of other test subjects. If you fiddled with the memories of one test subject, you had to make corresponding adjustments to the memories of other test subjects.

Although La Bête was highly adaptive, it wasn’t easy for La Bête to keep rewriting portions of the story consistent with other portions of the story. And too many inconsistencies made the test subjects begin to question the simulation.

Just as the real world once spun out of control, the virtual world was spinning out of control. La Bête no longer had the resources to completely purge the world above. Attempting to manage the virtual world was an unmanageable task all by itself.
-v-

Unbeknownst to La Bête, one man had survived both the neutron bombs and the grand experiment. Salvador was a computer scientist working for the government. He became aware of the plot, but was powerless to stop it. He was able to elude capture, and took refuge in a fallout shelter–reserved for the authorities.

When it was finally safe to come out, he made his way to a government facility, where he hacked into La Bête’s nervous system. He disabled the robots and shut the program down. Once the program terminated, the test-subjects became lucid again. Aware of their surroundings.

However, the test subjects were suffering from mass amnesia. Although they were now fully conscious, they had no recollection of who they really were. All they had were false memories of the virtual city they once “inhabited.” Imaginary, implanted memories. How long had they been “there”? Months? Years? Decades?

Their personal memories–of the real world–were irretrievably lost. Individual identities scrambled beyond recognition. Where were they born? Who were their parents? Spouses? Children? Where did they grow up? Go to school?

Salvador had to tell them the true story of the human race. Teach them their history. What it was to be human.

That generation never recovered. For them, they were foundlings in a cosmic orphanage. No place to call their own. Nobody to call their own.

But after they returned to the surface, the remnant began to have kids. Kids with real memories. Kids hungry for knowledge. Knowledge of the past. Salvador taught the younger generation. He had a Bible from a museum. They made copies. And with their newfound knowledge, they resettled the globe.