Saturday, July 10, 2010


Click here to play the game.

HT: William Dembski.

A bibliography on the history of inerrancy

From Mark Dever.

The Ergun Caner Debacle and the Gullibility of Evangelicals

Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniacs has written a timely piece on the Ergun Caner scandal titled, "Evangelical Bunko Artists: How I learned the Hard Way that Pious Gullibility is No Virtue."

Given what has occurred with the ongoing saga surrounding Dr. Ergun Caner, former president of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, I, as an elder of a small church in Greensboro, NC am weary of hearing about the lies and deception that occur in broader Evangelicalism. For the uninitiated, I'll recap Dr. Ergun Caner's scandal in one sentence: it involves fabricating an entire portion of his life that never happened and repeating that lie over and over and over again behind dozens of pulpits and in other apologetic contexts in order to give chutzpah to his current apologetic "ministry". Scandals, cover-ups, and perpetual liars like this are one of the many reasons why I and other pastors like me have no desire to be associated with present-day broader evangelicalism. Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptists might be a small group, but at least we strive to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth and if we do have a habitual, unrepentant liar in our midst, we follow Scripture in dealing with him or her. But of course, disciplining unrepentant, habitual liars doesn't do well in building huge congregations; which explains why our churches typically average less than 100 congregants (including children and visitors) on any given Sunday. When you follow Biblical protocols for handling unrepentant sin, it doesn't leave much room in the congregation for professing Christians living in habitual, unrepentant sin.

As Johnson points out in his article, evangelicalism and fundamentalism has a sordid history of "snake oil peddlers" including Linda Davidson Stafford, John Todd, Mike Warnke, Alberto Rivera, Bob Larson, and Ted Haggard and even though these folks have been publicly discredited as deceivers, people still follow them. But why do people continue to follow them? 2 Timothy 4:3-4 answers this question:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Timothy says that for whatever reason, some people want to turn aside to myth-makers because it fits with their own desires. Men that ought to know better will even go so far as to"exhonerate" liars and even post an endorsement sheet that further confirms the liar in his sin and undermines the credibility of the person(s) "exonerating" them. After all, if acclaimed apologists are willing to conveniently ignore critical information in order to protect a "brother's" reputation, yet they would be quick to condemn the same behavior in an opponent of Christianity and possibly even use it to further support their apologetic arguments against an unbeliever, why then should an unbeliever take seriously anything they have to say in defense of the faith?

I've seen this kind of thing many times while explaining the false prophecies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to a Jehovah's Witness. Many of them have admitted when showing them photocopies of their own documents that they have studied the same documents in their Kingdom Hall libraries. They come up with every rescuing device in the world to explain how such blatant false prophecies don't undermine "the organization". It's a shame when evangelical apologists do the same thing. We ought to do more for the truth than what the cults are willing to do for a lie.

Sadly, the gullible and self-deceived follow liars that arise "from among our own selves" (Acts 20:30) because they want the myth-makers to tell them something exciting, sensational, and mysterious, especially if the deceiver can play a tune on their heart strings. Worse, they'd rather have an unrepentant sinner for a spiritual leader rather than a godly man because the sinner makes them feel justified in their own sin. After all, if Ted Haggard can have a homosexual affair and he's been "exhonerated" in some sense, then why can't I? I'm sad to say that Ergun Caner is simply another snake-oil myth maker and people are buying and promoting his "goods" in spite of the fact that he has been publicly discredited.

In spite of the documented fabrication about his past Jihadi training as a child in his own words, Ergun Caner, has been "exhonerated" by the likes of apologists Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. John Ankerberg even though he was asked to step down from his position as Dean of Liberty Seminary. I'm not up for crucifying anyone, but given his blatant lies, it is my opinion that Dr. Caner should have been fired on the spot and his church should publicly call for his repentance per Matthew 18:15-17. All Drs. Geisler and Ankerberg are doing is further confirming and enabling Caner in his sin and discrediting their own work by supporting an unrepentant liar.

With its emphasis on decisional regeneration combined with a shopping mall/market-driven pragmatism of "doing church", modern evangelicalism has created this mess because it has filled the pews and pulpits with false converts. Yes, I just clearly suggested what other men have been cautious to say, Dr. Ergun Caner's lack of repentance is the mark of a false convert. If any reader of this blog wants to challenge me on that statement, then go ahead. However, if you want to contend that he's a Christian brother given his perpetual lying combined with his lack of repentance in light of his unwillingness to answer clear, unambiguous questions that have been asked of him, then I leave you to your opinion. It's not as if he hasn't been given space to repent after the issues have been clearly laid out before him. So go ahead; defend the defenseless. And yes, I do hope that I'm wrong about Caner's spiritual condition. Believe me, I do not enjoy writing about such things; but given the current state of this scandal, what am I left to think, especially light of what God says about men that continually behave this way? (1 John 3:8-10)

So, when you see the debacles, scandals, scams, and snake-oil peddlers; just remember that pseudo-Christian cults aren't the only unpaid bills of the church.

Kinder, gentler annihilationism

Like the other alternatives to hell, the motivation for annihilationism is emotional. Hell is just too horrible to be true.

Whether that’s intuitively plausible isn’t self-evident. After all, many unbelievers fear death because they fear oblivion. They fear death precisely because they don’t think anything lies on the other side of the grave. So it isn’t obvious that they view a disagreeable afterlife as worse than no afterlife at all.

This also depends on your view of hell. Opponents of hell typically take the eternal torture chamber as their foil. That’s the kind of thing that Ingersoll used to rail against.

Of course, if I were God, I might make a point of consigning Ingersoll to the very paradigm of hell he expended so much effort to revile. Seems like poetic justice. Punish him with the very punishment he reviled.

Mind you, this entire line of objection is misguided from a Christian perspective. Doesn’t Hitler deserve a worse fate? Isn’t that the point? Should the damned get to choose how they want to be punished?

However, there’s another problem with annihilationism. Remember that right now I’m not discussing the exegetical pros and cons of the issue. (I think it doesn’t hold up exegetically, but that’s an argument for another day.) For now I’m just discussing the emotional appeal of annihilationism, as a preferred alternative to hell.

A person is often better off having never had a certain experience in the first place than to have it, then lose it. Take a story of revenge. One teenage boy (let’s call him Bryce) does something to tick off another teenage boy (let’s call him Ted).

In retaliation, Ted cuts a deal with the prettiest girl in school (let’s call her Amber). In exchange for some favor from Ted (like helping her get through math and physics), Amber will pretend to take an interest in Bryce. She will lavish her considerable charms on Bryce until he falls madly in love with her. Then, at the last moment, she will dump him.

Yet that’s like the God of annihilationism. He lets certain people taste the gift of life, then he snatches it away, half-eaten. In a sense, they end up worse off than if he never gave them that tantalizing taste in the first place. All their fond hopes and memories extinguished in the blink of an eye.

But if God is too loving to send anyone to hell, why would he confer the gift of life in the first place, only to take it away? Isn't that a mean thing to do?

Thank you, I needed that!

Caner's consiglieri

"[TV host] John F. Ankerberg, who interviewed Caner for more than a dozen television programs, has posted on his website that he is disheartened by the attacks upon his friend's integrity and character. Ankerberg said he believes Caner's testimony is 'completely true.'" ---Christianity Today, posted 7/02/2010

" In a day of negativism and bad news, I am rejoicing today over many things. I rejoice over faithful witnesses of Jesus in a small Ohio Baptist church that loved two Moslem boys to Christ and then encouraged them to live for Jesus. I am grateful to God for the many people that have come to Christ through the witness of those two men. I continually thank God for His unbelievable plan to use sinners and mistake-prone men like the Caners, and even more amazing, people like me, to accomplish some things of great value in His kingdom business. Only eternity will reveal the good that two former Moslems have done. I thank God for them both."--- Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

"I know Dr. Caner and have done a number of apologetics conferences with him, and have witnessed God using Ergun in a powerful way. He has always spoken words of grace to others, and I thus find it disturbing that some have chosen to show NO grace to Ergun in the midst of his current trial. If God only used perfect vessels, who among us would be qualified? I know of none. I urge all those who respect my work to take the word of someone who knows Ergun personally (me): He is a good man with a heart for God." ---Dr. Ron Rhodes, author and President of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries

Apologist Dr. Norman Geisler declared: "We posted complete and detailed response to criticisms against Dr. Caner on our website (" He concluded that, "Having examined all these charges against Dr. Caner carefully and having looked at the related evidence, I can say without hesitation that all of the moral charges against Dr. Caner are unsubstantiated. Further, no one had demonstrated moral intent on any of the factual misstatements he made (which we all make)." He added, "Dr. Caner is a man of honesty, integrity, and loyalty to Christ."---Dr. Norman Geisler, author and Professor of Apologetics at Veritas Evangelical Seminary

"Dr. Geisler's response to the charges brought against Dr. Ergun Caner by some Muslims and other groups has hit the mark. The charges on the surface sounds formidable until they are met with TRUTH, then they quickly evaporate away losing all power to condemn – leaving the accusers to contemplate their actions. Dr. Geisler's responses serve to confirm what I had already known about Dr. Caner's sincere character and tireless efforts to reach the lost with the gospel and equip Christians to defend the faith in a hostile world. Dr. Geisler and Dr. Caner are the two spiritual warriors I would most like next to me in the trenches doing battle for the cause of Christ." ---Dr. Joseph Holden, President of Veritas Evangelical Seminary, Murrieta, CA

*"Tim Rogers of SBC Today (A Southern Baptist news organ), declared and defended his claim that Ergun Caner was "exonerated" of the charge against him by citing Merriam-Wesbsters definition "to clear from accusation or blame."

Thursday, July 08, 2010

For Pete's sake

"Flexibility of views and generosity of spirit concerning Genesis 1 are hardly unusual among committed Christians."

Put another way, "committed Christians" can take any one of the following three positions:

a) Gen 1 is wrong some of the time

b) Gen 1 is wrong most of the time

c) Gen 1 is wrong all of the time

Show them no mercy


I'm not so concerned about defending Sparks himself, but Jonah's comment struck me the wrong way. Granted that revulsion at God's commanding moral atrocities (ok, let me qualify: actions that in any other context we would call atrocities) is not sufficient grounds for apostasy, at the very least I think we should recognize the apparent inconsistency between the moral values and judgments which the moral argument appeals to, and the actions of the Israelites as commanded by God in the OT.

i) That depends in part on which version of the moral argument you’re using.

a) In one version, we begin with the alleged phenomenon of cultural universals. Given the (alleged) existence transcultural moral norms, we then argue for the existence of God to ground and ratify these moral norms.

That version of the argument takes for granted certain paradigm-cases of social morality, or paradigm-cases of moral atrocities, and then uses these as an ethical and theological criterion.

b) But another version doesn’t begin at that level of specificity. It doesn’t begin with concrete instances of moral norms.

Rather, it takes a transcendental approach. It’s concerned with establishing the general possibility of moral absolutes. Apart from God’s existence, there is no objective basis for personal or social morality.

That version of the argument doesn’t ratify our particular moral sensibilities. It doesn’t abstract from the specific to the general.

c) It is, of course, possible to try and combine both the top-down and the bottom-up versions of the moral argument. That’s what Lewis tries to do in his popular and influential treatment. But these are separable arguments.

d) And there’s a certain circularity in the (a) version of the argument. On the one hand, you’re using certain examples as moral and theological criteria. On the other hand, apart from God, morality has no foundations. So these can’t really function as independent criteria.

ii) There’s no prima facie problem distinguishing between behavior which, all things being equal, is impermissible, and behavior which, all things considered, is permissible–even if it’s the same behavior.

Assuming that we have higher and lower moral obligations, then if and when these come into conflict, a higher obligation overrides a lower obligation. What is generally impermissible may well be permissible or even obligatory under special circumstances.

How can we point to the Nazi death camps as a paradigm case of horrific evil, and not recognize what God was commanding Israel to do as such?

That comparison takes for granted a fundamental analogy between the two events. But are they analogous?

It’s not as if the Biblical laws of warfare are arbitrary. The Bible gives a rationale for its laws of warfare. The problem is that many modern reader simply disapprove of the stated rationale.

i) Due to their impiety and immorality, the Canaanites forfeited the right to inhabit the land (e.g. Deut 9:5).

ii) If allowed to cohabit with the Israelites, they would corrupt the Israelites (e.g. Deut 4:3-4; 9:7-24).

iii) Holy war was a preemptive war of national defense. In the wilderness, on their march to the Promised Land, Israel had already been subject to attacks by Amalek, the king of Arad, Sihon and the Amorites, as well as the king of Og. Likewise, the faithful were persecuted under the regimes of Jezebel and Athaliah. So peaceful coexistence was not a live option.

iv) Apropos (iii), how do you deal with a hostile warrior culture? You can’t simply treat them as discrete individuals, for they have a national character, and they behave accordingly. For instance, little boys will grow up to be warriors.

v) At the same time, let’s not forget the paradigm case of Rahab.

I've read in some of your other posts that it is proper to express revulsion at some of what God commands, with the understanding that God intends and will bring about a greater good as a result. I think that's fair…The only legitimate response to what God commanded in the OT, I think, is deep revulsion combined with an 'and yet' trust that God meant to bring about some greater good. Somehow, in a sense we can't fully understand, those actions qualify as just.

i) Since God isn’t human, I don’t think he expects us to feel the same way he does about certain events involving our fellow man. That’s like expecting a cat to feel the same way about a dog that it feels about another cat.

ii) Different people can feel differently about the same event, yet all those feelings may be appropriate in their place. Suppose my son commits murder. I will feel differently about my son than the judge and jury, much less the family of the victim. All the interested parties will have different feelings about my son, and all those different feelings will be appropriate. I have a different relationship to the assailant than they do, and vice versa. They have a different relationship to the victim than I do, and vice versa.

iii) It is also important to distinguish between appropriate feelings and appropriate evaluations. At a purely emotional level, it’s appropriate for me to feel ambivalent about my murderous son. On the one hand, I should feel profound disapproval. On the other hand, I’m emotionally invested in him.

But at an intellectual level, I should also acknowledge that his punishment is just. He deserves to be executed for his heinous crime.

iv) Obviously, too, we ought to make allowance for the reaction of individuals who are sick or grieving. Job is a classic example. People in that condition may make intemperate statements. Grief and illness clouds their judgment. But that’s part of being human.

v) You and I may wince at some of these injunctions, but suppose we were reading this text through the eyes of a warrior culture like the Assyrians, Aztecs, Cossacks, Huns, jihadis, Iroquois, Kshatriyas, Mongols, Plains Indians, Samurai, Vikings, or Zulus (to name a few). Would they feel revulsion?

Likewise, many readers who find these Biblical injunctions offensive also defend the right of parents to kill their children (abortion, infanticide) and euthanize their elderly parents. Some of them also support antinatalism, which is global genocide. We also have street gangs who shoot rival members without batting an eyelash. Not to mention textbooks atrocities like the Holocaust, Killing Fields, Bataan Death March, Cultural Revolution, Nanking Massacre, Stalinist purges, Rwandan Genocide, &c.

So what makes you and me different from them? Do you and I have different innate moral intuitions than they do? Does it owe something to different social conditioning? As well as the Christian subculture to which we both belong?

I don’t say this to promote radical chic cultural relativism. If, however, I didn’t already believe in God, then I’d have reason to be quite sceptical of about my sense of “revulsion.” Even if I couldn’t help feeling that way, I’d chalk it up to natural selection and social conditioning.

I think it’s good that we feel compassion. That’s a virtue. But it’s not something I take for granted. That’s not a cultural universal. If anything, it represents a form of cultural exceptionalism. And apart from Christian ethics, it can’t be justified.

But this conclusion can only be reached with the awareness that, by all appearances, these actions are contrary to the moral commands that God intends human beings to live by.

I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. Since the Biblical laws of war comprise a subset of the moral commands that God issued, then, by all appearance, these actions are not contrary to God’s law.

At most you could try to say that there’s an apparent tension between one set of laws and another. (Not that I see it that way.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Quick Notes on Daniel's 70 Weeks

William Birch has been doing a series on eschatology over on his blog and I typically disagree with almost everything Birch writes… :-D

This time, however, I’ve found his posts to be quite useful for sparking thought and they also provide a good bit of relevant background data, and I don’t feel the need to try to try to refute the few areas we disagree on.

Eschatology is a very divisive thing in modern Christiandom, and sadly so. I say “sadly so” because in my opinion it’s about the least important systematized Christian doctrine. The broad outline is not trivial, of course—but then every view holds the broad picture to be the same: in the end, Jesus wins. I’m talking about the particulars: whether someone is premillennial, postmillennial, or Biblically sound amillennial. Add on the fact that we have people who are pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation too. Then there’s the Preterist movement, which consists of full preterism, partial-preterism, and historic preterism, and probably a few other adjectives too.

One thing about eschatology is clear, and that’s that eschatology isn’t very clear at all. The proof of that is found not only in the wide variety of doctrinal positions, but also in the fact that there don’t seem to be much “connective tissue” between the various sub-levels of positions. True, there are general trends. For instance, preterism doesn’t seem to be all that popular amongst dispensational circles (mostly due to the fact that dispensationals tend to be premillennial, whereas preterists tend to be a- or postmillennial). However, it’s still not unheard of to have a dispensational preterist.

In fact, if we randomly assigned various labels from eschatology, I doubt most people would say, “Wait a minute, those views don’t go together.” In other words, someone could say they’re a post-trib amillinial dispensationalist and another could say he’s a pre-trib covenantal historical premillinialist and none of us will cry out that it's a contradiction. On the other hand, have someone say, “As a Calvinist, I hold to Libertarian Free Will” and you’re going to see sparks fly.

As I said, this shows me that Biblical teaching on eschatology is not very clear at all. Now since I believe in the perspicuity of Scripture, someone might ask me why that wouldn’t cause tension in my view. Well, I believe that the Bible is clear on the subjects that it needs to be clear on—the important issues. And in the issues where the Bible is less clear, then it is not as vital that we know what’s put forth.

Now that is not to say that it’s pointless, or that somehow eschatological texts are somehow “less Scripture.” But God Himself prioritizes within Scripture, holding some things to be more important for us to know than others. Indeed, in the end, He withholds certain things from us, saying that the secret things belong to Him alone.

So when it comes to eschatology, I have no qualms whatsoever at saying, “I have no confidence at all in my understanding of this particular passage.” That said, it doesn’t hurt to hash things out, to think about Scripture amongst fellow believers, and try to gain some further understanding. So long as we don’t become sola eschatologists then we’re fine.

With that in mind, I want to share the comments (typos and all) that I left on William’s post about the 70 weeks of Daniel:
Part of the problem with the numbers involved is the fact that Hebrew numerology was just plain weird (as far as modern Americans are concerned). For example, look at how Matthew displayed the geneology of Jesus so that there would be 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to Babylon, and 14 from Babylon to Christ.

BTW, if we take 490 (as 70 x 7) and divide by 14, we get a generation of 35 years. That seems almost twice as long as a "typical" generation, especially when you consider that under the Roman empire the average life expectency was only around 30 (for instance, one site claims: "On average, the life expectancy at birth of women was between 20 and 30 years and that of men a bit higher").

So, with that in mind, it's quite plausible that the 70 weeks (or "weeks of years") in Daniel may have little to nothing to actually do with length of time, and a whole lot more to do with some Hebrew numerological concepts.

Further, our modern concept of time is very foreign to the ANE mindset. For one thing, today we measure things to fractions of a second, and we've structured our lives on strictly following a rigid clock; but back then, there were no clocks. Best you got was a sundial, or maybe a water-drip or hourglass type of a thing. But our fascination with time and getting things exact wasn't something shared by shepherds. This means that there can be an aweful lot of "rounding" going on, and it wouldn't have concerned anyone.

Combining numerological ideas with this rounding "error rate" (for lack of a better term) has some interesting applications. For us today, we usually round to the nearest 100, 500, or 1000 when speaking of years. So we say Christ came 2000 years ago, even though it's probably about 2014-2016 by now. Or we say that the Reformation started 500 years ago. Etc. These numbers are the kind we gravitate toward.

But consider the case of 500. If you were predisposed to considering multiples of 7 to be "holy", it might very well be that you'd round 500 to 490, so it would by 70 x 7. So something happening 500 years from now, perhaps, you'd say was happening in 70 times 7 years. This isn't a violation or an error anymore than us saying Christ came 2000 years ago is an error. It's a rounding principal.

For reasons such as these, I don't take the numbers in Daniel as requiring literalistic interpretations. That said, I do find it interesting that you can get a count that gets fairly close to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD; but I just don't have any confidence in any of those interpretations in the end.

(Again, this is all my opinion and I don't begrudge anyone's disagreement.)

By the way, William, one other thing that may be of interest to you in your studies here is the use of Hebrew codes. By this I don't mean the nonsense that was profligated by "The Bible Code" a decade ago. Instead, I mean such things as the "atbash" (i.e., "Sheshach" standing for "Babylon"). This shows that the Hebrews did have a rudimentary (for our times) system of encryption. And it's also important to remember that Daniel was in the Babylonian courts (albeit as a POW, but he was still trained as a wise man) and so could have been familiar with Babylonian encryption techniques too. I haven't had time myself to delve into any of that in detail, but depending on how much work you want to do it's a possible path to search too. :-)
One potential objection that I want to address would be the charge that if we say that we cannot come to a full understanding of the 70 weeks in Daniel, then it was pointless for God to inspire that passage. Let us suppose that it is impossible for us to ever learn what was meant there, not just in practice but in theory too. Does that make the passage pointless to us now?

I argue that it does not render the passage pointless for at least two reasons. First, we know that the passage meant something to Daniel. When the passage was penned, it had immediate significance to that audience. Even if we are unable to discern what that meaning is, it tells us that God worked through Daniel for His purposes. And secondly, it shows us that God is proactive and responds to His people’s prayers. He doesn’t abandon them in captivity in a foreign country. He is there, with them. Both of these concepts are demonstrated, even if full interpretation is impossible. And I don’t believe it is impossible in theory, even if perhaps in practice we will never figure it out this side of heaven.

The H.M.S. Thibodolt

Thibodaux continues to circumnavigate the bathtub in his plastic battleship.

His primary tactic is the fallacy of question-framing. He invariably tries to rig the issue in terms detrimental to Calvinism while Arminianism slips through. Having framed the question in tendentious terms, he then pats himself on the back when he succeeds in answering the question to his own satisfaction, although the answer was a foregone conclusion given the initial set-up, and even though his answer was the answer to the wrong question.

Thibo’s debates are always monologues dressed up as dialogues. He may seem to be talking to someone other than himself, but that’s a toy phone in his hand. There’s no one on the other end of the receiver.

This is the second of a series on the authorship of sin that came about as a result of discussions and observations on this post. Part 1 and the first section of this post address Calvinist claims that Arminians “also make God the author of sin.”

i) There’s no reason that a Calvinist would frame the issue that way in the first place, except as a tu quoque.

ii) This is exacerbated by the fact that Thibo doesn’t even define “authorship” in terms of traditional theological usage. Instead, he substitutes a made-up definition which suits his polemical agenda.

iii) The proper way to frame the question is in terms of complicity. Given what Arminians find objectionable in Calvinism, can their own alternative avoid making God complicit in sin and evil?

That’s the real question. But Thibo doesn’t want you to ask that question, since he doesn’t have a good answer to that question.

When discussing authorship implying the origination of sin, the argument inevitably arises, “but if sin originates in people, people still originate from God, therefore sin originates from God as well!” Not quite. Beings capable of sin originated from within God, it doesn’t follow that their rebellion itself came from within Him.

For counter-example, my children originated from within me. If my daughter goes off and does something of her own imagining that I didn’t teach or tell her to do, then can it rightly be called my idea? Would it be fair to state, “your daughter’s action came from her, she came from you, therefore her action originated in you!”? Not at all. There’s a independent volitional separator between myself and my daughter’s choices and actions, namely, my daughter herself, who is a free agent and makes choices that proceed from within herself independent of my causing them. To assert that all of her choices come from me or are somehow my idea is the utmost folly since she has some degree of independence from me in her choices. Now if I were somehow controlling her so that she couldn’t think or do anything but exactly what I commanded, then such an accusation would be fair, but thankfully for all involved, that isn’t the case!

i) Even if, for the sake of argument, we confine ourselves to his “authorial” paradigm (whatever “authorship” means), his illustration is counterproductive. He fails to show that God is not the “author” of sin on Arminian terms. For even in his own illustration, God indeed originates sin. The distinction he’s drawn is not between God originating or not originating sin, but between God directly or indirectly originating sin. God still originates sin, in a derivative sense.

ii) Having failed to achieve his purpose, Thibodaux would then need to show that while immediate origination is culpable, mediate origination is inculpable.

iii) And, of course, he disregards a fundamental disanalogy. The Arminian God knows what choices we will make. That being the case, how can Thibo absolve the Arminian God of complicity in the choices we make–including our sinful choices? We couldn’t make them unless he made us. So that makes the Arminian God an accomplice, collaborator, or coconspirator in the outcome. (Indeed, all three.)

So likewise, God is the originator of all creation, but it’s fallacious to think that He’s the originator of everything His creation does if He’s granted them some degree of independence. Or to put it plainly, if God created agents with wills that can function in some ways external to Himself, then those agents are capable of concepts and choices that don’t arise from within God.

i) Didn’t God have a concept of the world he was going to make? Or does Thibo think that divine creation is like a game show where God blindly chooses whatever lies behind Door 2? Is creation a shot in the dark?

ii) If the Arminian God makes us, and if he also knows our future choices, then how can Thibo distinguish God’s choices from our choices? Didn’t God choose to make a world with all those choices? If I choose to make you, and you choose to make a choice, and I know what choice you will make, then wasn’t I making the same choice that you were making? You’re the instrument of my choice. I make the same choice via your choice.

Your choices become a subset of my choices. If you choose a certain outcome, then I choose the same outcome by choosing the chooser. If you commit murder, and I know that you will commit murder if I make you, then I chose a murderous outcome by making you. I chose to make a world containing your choices. In that respect, your choices and mine coincide. I chose a world with just those chosen outcomes. My choices include your choices.

So that’s my choice, too. It’s not merely your choice. Indeed, you couldn’t make those choices in the first place unless I chose to make you–with all those foreseen choices in the pipeline. My choice of your choice.

So, yes, those choices “arise” from God. He made the chooser. He chose the chooser. To say the choice “proceeds from within the human agent,” even if true, does nothing to negate God’s complicity.

One Calvinist objection to the middle-knowledge view is that if God knows what you will do given situation X, then puts you in situation X, that your reaction to X is then necessary. They then may argue that God can therefore be called the author of sin if middle knowledge is employed, since He’s made sin necessary by putting His creations in situations in which He knows they will sin.

The error in logic here is equating “necessary given what you will do” with “divinely necessary.” If what I will do if put in situation X is determined by me rather than God, then my reaction can’t be divinely necessary, as this would essentially be saying that what was divinely necessary was contingent upon a created being’s independent will -a contradiction. God knowing what I will do in situation X and putting me in situation X makes the reaction certain, but if it in any way depends upon my independent agency, then it can’t be called divinely necessary.

i) We don’t have to cast the issue in terms of “authorship” (whatever that means). “Authorship” is not the only morally pertinent category in discussions of responsibility or culpability.

ii) We don’t have to frame the issue in terms of “necessity.” What about “inevitability”? If I know that by putting you in a particular situation, you will do X, then it’s inevitable that you will do X if I put you in that situation.

Even if you deny the “necessity” of that outcome, how is that morally germane to the theodicean issue?

iii) Suppose I take a recovering alcoholic to a bar. Suppose he resists the temptation in that environment.

Was it still appropriate for me to take a recovering alcoholic to a bar? Should I expose him to that temptation?

If your best friend was a recovering alcoholic, would that be a considerate thing to do to him? Would that be acting in his best interests?

Keep in mind that this is about the weakest example we can imagine. I didn’t force him to drink. I didn’t buy him a drink. I didn’t offer him a drink. And he didn’t drink.

Still, don’t we think it’s inappropriate to put him at risk–regardless of the outcome? Isn’t solicitation culpable? Isn’t incitement to evil evil?

iv) Suppose I offer him a drink, and he accepts. I didn’t make him accept the offer. Suppose he was free to refuse my offer.

Still, if I offer a recovering alcoholic a drink, and he accepts my offer, doesn’t that make me complicit? Is it appropriate to offer a recovering alcoholic a drink?

Is he to blame? Sure. But is he solely to blame? No. I share the blame by leading him on. By playing into his weakness.

For Thibo to constantly cast the issue in terms of “authorship” or “exhaustive determinism” is just a diversionary tactic, for questions of responsibility or culpability don’t require anything nearly that strong.

v) Now perhaps Thibo would say there’s a basic disanalogy between what’s permissible for God and what’s permissible for man. But if that’s his fallback argument, then that argument is also available to the Calvinist.

In a similar vein, it’s also argued that our agency doesn’t really constitute free will if the outcome is made certain by God placing us in a situation. I mean, you don’t really have power to choose if your choice is certain, do you? Logically speaking, you actually do. ‘Certainty’ doesn’t imply constraint, it implies factuality, including that which is occurs apart from necessity. An ‘acid test’ to tell if an agent is free in the libertarian sense is the question, “For any given choice and the situation in which it occurs, could the choice be different based solely on the agency of the creature, with no factors changed or differing action on God’s part?” If the answer is “yes,” then this reply indisputably implies libertarian agency, regardless of objections that it “doesn’t sound like free will.”

But the creature’s agency isn’t the sole factor. If God knows the outcome, and if his foreknowledge renders the outcome certain, then the outcome can’t go either way.

For Thibo to artificially isolate one variable, while conveniently disregarding another relevant variable, is fallacious.

“It’s good when God decrees it happen, bad when it actually happens…”

i) That’s a caricature of the Reformed position. God decrees it for a good reason, and, by the same token, God has a good reason for enacting it through providence.

It is bad in and of itself. It is bad in terms of the bad motives of the sinner. But it’s good in relation to its overall contribution to God’s design, and God’s intentions in decreeing that event, and bringing it to pass, are good.

ii) Moreover, we could easily recast his objection in Arminian terms: “It’s good when God permits it happen, bad when it actually happens…”

This is how Calvinists have classically tried to evade the problem of God authoring sin. It’s declared to be somehow righteous and holy in God decreeing it, but it’s just somehow bad when people commit it.

And this is how Arminians have classically tried to evade the problem of God’s complicity in sin. It’s declared to be somehow righteous and holy in God permitting it, but it’s just somehow bad when people commit it.

Foster responds to this with the obvious question and inevitable conclusion:
But, then, a question arises right here. Was not the sinner’s intention decreed, also, as well as the act? If you answer, “No,” then here is something which comes to pass in time which was not decreed before time. If you answer, “Yes,” and the sin was in the intention, then God, who was the author of the intention, was the author of the sin; for the sin and the intention are the same.

i) Foster doesn’t define his terms. What does he mean by “author” of sin? Is he using that phrase according to historic theological usage? Is God the sole agent? No. Not according to the Westminster Confession (to take one representative source).

ii) Yes, God decreed the sinner’s intentions.

iii) And according to Arminianism, didn’t God intend the sinners intentions? If God foreknew the sinner’s intentions, and chose to make him, then God intended that the sinner’s intentions come to pass.

Obviously, if nothing happens apart from God’s decree, then this would include not only one’s actions, but his thoughts and intents as well.

Obviously, if (a la Arminianism) nothing happens apart from God’s creative fiat and providential concursus, then this would include not only one’s actions, but one’s thoughts and intents as well.

So truly exhaustive determinism would necessarily have God authoring not only the act, but that which makes the act itself evil.

What is more, truly exhaustive foreknowledge (a la Arminianism) would necessarily have God authoring not only the actor of the act, but that which makes the act itself evil.

Beyond being mere “lack of good,” wicked thoughts and intents are themselves an abominable thing to God.

“The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure.” (Proverbs 15:26)
The book of Proverbs goes to further state that those who devise evil things are also abominable to Him.
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Yet the Arminian God freely and knowingly chooses both to make and sustain a world in which abominable thoughts and intents occur. So God presumably does that for the greater good. And a Calvinist can avail himself of the same rationale.

Or does Thibo think that God brings about this “abominable” situation for no good reason?

At least some actions can be in and of themselves morally neutral, with the thought behind it determining whether it’s good or evil. Thoughts and intentions are a different matter, evil thoughts being inherently contrary to the Holiness of the absolutely Holy God, and utterly abominable to Him along with the heart that devises them. The horrid ramification of exhaustive determinism, as seen above, is that all of these things that God finds abominable wind up originating in Him. Further, if the wickedness of the wicked isn’t ultimately from themselves, but rather produced for them from within God, then the heart that devises their evil schemes wouldn’t truly be their own, but God’s!

i) Thibo has failed to show how Arminianism can avoid the “horrid ramifications” which it imputes to Calvinism.

ii) Moreover, he’s already been corrected on his simpleminded failure to distinguish between evil thoughts and thoughts of evil. As an omniscient being, God entertains the evil thoughts of the wicked. Does that make God himself a wicked being?

Many Calvinists appeal to “secondary causes” to mitigate the concept of God being the author of sin. Besides being a rather lame defense (employing secondary causes didn’t get David off the hook -see 2 Samuel 11:14-12:9)…

If that’s a rather lame defense, then so much the worse for Arminianism, considering the fact that Thibo’s entire Arminian theodicy hinges on that distinction.

The usual last resort to try and reconcile exhaustive determinism with God not being the author of sin is appeal to mystery.

Since Thibo hasn’t even show that God is the “author” of sin in the historic sense of the term, no response is called for at this stage of the argument.

Which brings us to the claims of many Calvinists who hold to exhaustive determinism: God by Himself exhaustively, immutably and unconditionally predetermines [which plainly implies authorship]…

How does that “plainly imply authorship”? Is that how the term is used in historical theology?

Thibo continues to bandy the term for three more paragraphs without attempting to show that “authorship” in traditional theological usage has the meaning he unilaterally assigns to it.

Arminian ethics and other oxymorons

It's always revealing to see what passes for moral discernment among Arminian epologists. For instance:

A.M. Mallett said...

I noticed that the Triablokes attempted a hatchet job on Dr. Olsen's comments regarding open theism as result of this post. I do not think they grasped the intention or context of Olsen's comments though.

July 3, 2010 12:39 PM

Notice that Mallett doesn't lift a finger to actually show that I did a hatchet job on Olsen, or that I failed to grasp the intention of context of his comments on open theism. But then, integrity has never been Mallett's strong suit.

Moving along:

William Watson Birch said...

You can't expect Hays to be fair. Look at his recent attack out of the blue on Dave Armstrong. Was that necessary?

Let's see. I pointed out that some upscale Catholic epologists don't have Armstrong on their blogroll. How is it unfair to judge Armstrong by his peers?

Continuing with Birch:

Plus, Hays is not a careful reader. It was my comment concerning Open Theism, not Olson's. I see how he wants to make the connection, but it's just another one of his Christlike smear campaigns. Oh wait, no, it's not Christlike at all.

Just to set the record straight, Billy did a post in which he denied that Arminians are liberals. And he cited open theism as a paradigm-case of liberalism. He accused Calvinists of pedaling "misinformation" about Arminianism. He said they ought to be "embarrassed." He said Arminians have no more in common with open theism than Calvinism does. And he cited Roger Olson in support of his general contention.

I quoted Birch verbatim. Then I quoted Olson verbatim, in which Olson goes out of his way to defend open theists. In the course of which Olson also says that Arminianism has more in common with open theism than it does with Calvinism.

Birch fails the ink-blot test. When you quote somebody verbatim, as well as quoting somebody else verbatim whom he cited in support of his position, and he then accuses you of an "unChristlike smear campaign," he's simply smearing himself. He's staring into the mirror, then accusing the mirror company of character assassination. Well, all I did was hold up the mirror to his own statements. So what does his reaction tell you about his own character?

N.B. Never turn to Billy Birch for tips on how to be Christlike.

Neopagan Arminians

kangaroodort, on July 3, 2010 at 12:27 am Said:

Likewise, it seems ridiculous to us (Arminians) that Calvinists cannot understand that a gift is still a gift even if it is received freely, and that grace doesn’t have to be irresitible to be grace. This seems to be an obvious redefining of what “grace” means by Calvinists. Good luck finding any support outside of Calvinistic philosophy for the idea that a gift is only gracious if it is given and received irresistibly, or grace is only grace if it cannot be resisted. Bizarre.

So while the Arminian is working with normal word usage and long standing definitions, the Calvinist redefines many such words (grace, sovereignty, freedom, etc.) and then faults the Arminian for not holding to the Calvinists bizarre definitions, even to the point of calling such Arminians “dishonest”. What a shame.

1. Unfortunately, Ben doesn’t know the elementary difference between the meaning of words and the meaning of concepts.

2. However, if we ignore that blunder for the time being, Ben makes an important point about the crucial difference between Calvinism and Arminianism. For if we apply normal standards to Reformed theism, then God is abnormal.

For instance, some boyfriends, if they give their girlfriend an engagement ring, will take it back if they break up. That’s “normal.”

It’s normal for folks to break their promises. Likewise, it’s normal for folks to be petty, promiscuous, vindictive, shortsighted, backstabbing, and mercurial.

And there are various religions in which the gods are very normal. The gods of the Greek pantheon are very normal. The gods of the Nordic pantheon are very normal. The gods of the Mormon pantheon are very normal.

Clark Pinnock’s theology normalized over the years. He migrated from abnormal Calvinism through Arminianism and open theism, to interfaith dialogue with Mormonism. Can’t get more normal than that!

Ben is welcome to Zeus, but I’ll stick with my abnormal theism.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Whither Enns?

JD Walters and I recently had an exchange over Peter Enns. Now there are different ways of sizing up his position. One way is to judge him by his own statements. However, Enns is also a part of a collaborative effort over at BioLogos. I'm going to quote a few statements by his fellow contributor, Ken Sparks.

Now, it's obvious from what he says that Sparks has no personal investment in the Christian faith. And I appreciate his candor. At least he's not putting on a false front.

But either Enns agrees with Sparks or he doesn't. If he doesn't, then what are we to make of his silence?

Kent Sparks - #19986

I have no interest in preserving Christianity ... I believe because, as I understand it, it makes sense of human experience. But if it turns out that Christianity fails to do that, I’ll simply turn elsewhere.

Kent Sparks - #20019

I am not interested in any theology that makes God out to be the murderer of his himself ...

Kent Sparks - #20041

I do believe that a barbaric view of God appears in Scripture and that it reflects a broken human perspective that naturally arises when we see a troubled world. Things are bad, so God is causing it ... that is the logic.

I am no pacifist. There are instances in which violence is necessary to protect the innocent ... but the idea that God would actually command his people to kill innocent people can’t be right ... Better to be a Unitarian than to believe such a thing.

Kent Sparks - #20182

So I must work with the Bible that we have ... beautiful but broken ... or admit, with all of the skeptics, that the broken world, and broken Bible, are strong evidence that God either doesn’t exist or doesn’t care.

I come to Christianity from the outside, so to speak, and have no interest in perpetuting a faith in Christ and Scripture if that entails believing all sorts of things that don’t suit the evidence or experience.

BioLogos or Diabolus?

Kent Sparks - #19986

I have no interest in preserving Christianity ... I believe because, as I understand it, it makes sense of human experience. But if it turns out that Christianity fails to do that, I’ll simply turn elsewhere.

St Peter

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

(Jn 6:66-68)

Apostasy & Perseverance (An ebook by Steve Hays)

Steve Hays has written an ebook entitled Apostasy & Perseverance <--click to read it--and yes, it's free!

To whet your appetite, here's what's in it!
I. Introduction

II. Exegetical Theology

A. Major Motif

B. Locus Classicus

Heb 6 & 10

C. Paradigm Passages

1. Rom 1:18-25

2. Mt 13:1-23

3. 1 Cor 10:13

4. Mt 12:31-32

5. 1 Jn 2:19

6. 1 John 5:16-17

D. Secondary Passages

1. Mt 24:10-12,24

2. Jn 15:1-6

3. Rom 14:15

4. Gal 5:4

5. 1 Tim 4:1-5

6. 2 Pet 2:1,20-21

7. Rev 3:5

8. Rev 22:19

E. Paradigm Cases

1. Lucifer

i. Gen 3:1-5

ii. Isa 14:12-14

iii. Ezk 28:11-19

iv. Lk 10:18-20

v. 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6

vi. Rev 8:10 & 9:1

vii. Rev 12:7-9

2. Adam & Eve

F. Secondary Cases

i. Ahab

ii. Ahaz

iii. Asaph

iv. David

v. Demas

vi. Eli

vii. Hymenaeus

viii. Jehorem

ix. Jeroboam

x. John the Baptist

xi. Judaizers

xii. Judas

xiii. Manasseh

xiv. Peter

xv. Saul

xvi. Simon Magus

xvi. Solomon

III. Philosophical Theology

1. Original Sin

2. Apostasy & Assurance

3. Counterfactual Precautions

IV. Excurses

Excursus 1: Literary Allusions in Heb 6

Excursus 2: Thomas Schreiner

Excursus 3: Luke Timothy Johnson

Excursus 4: Buist Fanning

Excursus 5: Arminianism & Apostasy

Excursus 6: Ophidian Symbolism

Excursus 7: Ophidian Possession

V. Bibliography
As you can see, it covers a lot of ground, and is well-worth reading if you are a Calvinist or Arminian.

Errant Enns


“This is a profoundly uncharitable reading of Enns' post.”

Because I don’t play the patsy for Enns? Sorry, but I don’t think gullibility is either an ethical or theological imperative.

“I hope you're not implying that it's wrong everywhere, always and for everyone to instill doubts on any issue.”

Well, that’s ironic coming on the heels of your accusation about uncharitable interpretations.

What’s the context of my statement? The way in which Enns denies or undermines inerrancy to make room for whatever he can’t believe in the Bible.

“But if Biologos is right about the strength of the evidence for evolution, instilling doubt about the accuracy of the YEC is morally praiseworthy.”

The question at issue is not the accuracy of YEC, but the accuracy of Scripture. Enns openly denies the inerrancy of Scripture. For instance, he admits that Paul taught the historicity of Adam, which Enns regards as false.

“I hope you realize that this is a hopelessly vague, question-begging statement. It's vague because you don't specify what exactly it means to doubt God's word.”

That’s because Enns has a track-record at BioLogos. And not only him. BioLogos is a collaborative effort. Sparks is another contributor who explicitly denies the inerrancy of Scripture.

“Enns deals with Christians who are finding it very hard to reconcile their trust in God's word with the findings of natural science. He is not making them doubt God's Word, he is allowing them to hold onto their trust in it by showing that one can affirm both the scientific account of origins and the authority of the Bible.”

Well, that’s one explanation. Here’s an alternative explanation: What we see here is an exercise in self-justification. Enns wants to rationalize his infidelity, and part of that process involves enlisting others to second his infidelity.

“I'd say he's doing the Church a service.”

Which explains why you are so defensive. It would, however, behoove you to redirect your zeal from defending those who attack the Bible, and attacking those who defend the Bible, to defending the Bible against those who attack it.

“If I was convinced that the only legitimate model of origins for a Christian was the YEC model I would have abandoned my faith a long time ago, because my study of the relevant science forces me to take the evolutionary history of the cosmos seriously.”

i) Once again, the question at issue is not YEC, but inerrancy. It’s not as if the primary contributors to BioLogos are any more sympathetic to OEC, or even ID theory (which is neutral on these permutations). Try to pay attention to the actual state of play over at BioLogos.

ii) You’re the one, not me, who’s hyping the issue of YEC. I didn’t bring that up in my post. Try to use my post as a window, not a mirror. It will do wonders for your vision.

iii) If you’d cast off your Christian faith due to apparent conflicts between Scripture and science, then your faith was pretty cheap to begin with. You undervalue the Gospel, and overvalue science.

Let’s hope your statement is a reflection of youthful impetuosity rather than settled judgment.

“You're not exactly doubtful about your own convictions re: Calvinism, anti-realism in science and the like.”

A non sequitur since I’m not the one who was commending the value of doubt, Enns was. I’m merely responding to him on his own terms. That’s not difficult to grasp, JD. If you weren’t emoting so much, you could see that.

“Why should Enns attempt to cultivate doubts about macroevolution if there's good evidence for it, or at least what he thinks is good evidence?”

i) Why is it better to cultivate doubts about Scripture than to doubts about macroevolution?

ii) And his post affects this pose of mock humility when, in fact, he’s nothing of the kind.

“For Enns the new default is the facticity of macro-evolution, so until he is presented with convincing evidence to the contrary his theological project is to reconcile macroevolution with his understanding of Scripture.”

i) To begin with, I don’t see BioLogos ever make an honest attempt to deal with the other side of the argument. But maybe I missed something.

ii) And what about taking certain things on faith? Is that too much for God to ask of us? Or should we murmur in the wilderness?

“That Enns is trying to deconvert people is ridiculous.”

It’s ridiculous to you because you want to keep your options open.

“He's trying to allow people to hold onto their faith in the face of the challenge of evolution.”

He destroys the village to save the village. Helps them to “hold onto their faith” by undercutting their faith in Scripture.

“Unless of course you think YEC is the only legitimate origins model for Christians, in that case yes he is attempting to deconvert people, and he should.”

Once more, you’re the one who’s obsessing over YEC, not me. That was no part of my post. And that’s hardly the only target over at BioLogos.

“Again, we are obligated to pursue the truth, and I find YEC highly unlikely to be the truth about our origins.”

i) If you assume that pursuing the truth takes you away from Scripture.

ii) And as far as that goes, I don’t think we have an unconditional obligation to pursue the truth. If atheism were true, then we’d have no obligation to pursue the true, for in that event, we’d have no obligations whatsoever. We only have an obligation to pursue the truth on condition that we have obligations. Once you deny the Christian faith, then duty and morality are the first casualties.

“Doubt, according to Enns, is not a gift of God only when it makes a conservative believer question his faith. Rather, it is a gift when it makes any believer question their unreflective faith, whatever that may be.”

Don’t be duped. It’s not a virtue. Enns is consistently and completely one-sided in his criterion of doubt.

Sure, for PR purposes he may like to sound as if this is open-ended, but that’s just a ploy. Transparently so. Compare that with his paper trail.

“Enns is referring to anyone who believes anything about God here.”

He says that for public consumption, to foster the illusion of even-handedness. But in practice he’s quite single-minded.


“No, because you attribute to him base motives that he does not hold.”

i) Both of us are imputing motives to Enns. It’s not as if you (JD) have direct access to his true motives.

ii) Enns is an easily recognizable type. (For the record, so am I.) In every generation we have people like Enns. The players may change, but the play remains the same. In the past, someone like Charles Augustus Briggs played the same role.

iii) I’m also justified in my imputation of motives because the Bible has a fair amount to say about what motivates a man to question God’s word. I apply biblical psychology to the case of Enns.

“He is not trying to get people to abandon their faith, he is trying to get them to nuance it precisely so they may hold onto it. Even if you think his version of faith is untenable and unorthodox, at least acknowledge that his intention is not to destroy faith but to save it. Charity does not mean thinking that people are right, but it does mean rightly construing their intentions.”

You have a rather naïve view of what it takes to make somebody an enemy of the faith. But there’s more than one type. There’s the outsider. The open opponent. Bertrand Russell. Richard Dawkins. Christopher Hitchens. Bart Ehrman. Antony Flew.

But then you have insiders like Bultmann, Schleiermacher, Spong, Fosdick, Cupitt, and D. Z. Phillips. They don’t see themselves as opponents of the faith. To the contrary, they cast themselves as saviors of the faith. They’re trying to “rescue” the Bible from the fundies. Make Christianity palatable to modern man.

Insiders can do more damage than outsiders because, in their self-deluded mission, they actually imagine that they are doing the Christian faith a favor.

“How? Sometimes it may be legitimate to cast doubts on someone's intentions and character despite the appearances. But in light of Enns' long career as a biblical scholar struggling to be true both to his faith and his critical scruples, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

Trust is earned, and he has earned my distrust.

“He is not trying to destroy faith, he is not even trying to liberalize it in 19th Century fashion.”

He may wear a chammy overcoat, but the pointy snout and the protruding fangs are a dead giveaway.

“Anyone familiar with his work would realize that.”

Since I’m familiar with his work, that’s a rather conceited statement on your part. Try to use persuasion rather than assertion.

“To say that he denies inerrancy is to assume a particular definition of a contested term.”

Back to my example. On the one hand he admits that Paul thought and taught that Adam was a real person. The first man. The first human being.

On the other hand he believes that this can’t be true. Given what we “know” about the “true” origins of man (a la evolution), that’s not possible.

So something has to give. Guess what?

If you want to say the Bible is “inerrant” even though it inculcates factual falsehoods, then that’s a Pickwickian definition of terms. Who are we fooling?

“But I think it's clear that Enns is not so much interested in having a choir to sing to as he is in creating space for Christian faith to thrive in a world where science has considerable authority (and rightly so, in my opinion, again based on my own study of science).”

And I think it’s clear that he’s trying to create space for his own latitudinarian faith.

“Again, I think it's ridiculous to claim that Enns is attacking the Bible. Dawkins and Hitchens attack the Bible. Ingersoll and Paine attacked the Bible. Enns is not attacking the Bible. But again, your characterization is very vague. What does it mean to attack the Bible?”

Once again you expose your naïveté. For instance, Mary Baker Eddy didn’t consciously intend to attack the Bible or the Christian faith. But her idealistic filter is just as destructive as Porphyry’s frontal attack. You can destroy the Christian faith from within by redefining key terms and concepts, a la Swedenborg.

“I greatly admire the work you, Jason Engwer, Paul Manata and others do in defense of the reliability of the Gospels, etc”

The respect is mutual. But defending Enns is unworthy of your talents.

“And anyone who has read my voluminous posts on Christian CADRE knows how zealous I am in defense of the Bible.”

Which I appreciate. But at the moment you’re taking away with one hand what you give with another.

“But I cannot go against my intellectual honesty in defending an understanding of the Bible and its authority that I regard as untenable.”

I don’t know what that means. Does tenability take the self-understanding of Scripture as its point of reference, or an extraneous reference point like the scientific establishment?

We can only defend the Bible on its own terms. We can’t honestly defend the Bible in a way that runs counter to the self-understanding of Scripture.

“My point in bringing up YEC is that for many Christians it has been a sticking point for their faith, because of their assumption that inerrancy entails YEC, which is in conflict with well established science.”

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t. BioLogos never engages the more astute representatives of YEC (e.g. Byl, Snelling, Sarfati, Wise).

“On the contrary, I think it's a cheap faith that settles into a particular understanding of things and from there on is impervious to development.”

i) Now you’re changing the subject. You initially cast the issue in terms of choosing between Christian faith and apostasy. Now you’ve recast the issue in terms of a choice between a monolithic understanding of the faith and a historically progressive understanding of the faith. We could debate the pros and cons of that, but it’s a different issue.

ii) The Bible means whatever it means. We can’t begin with what we’re prepared to believe, then dictate that what the Bible means can only fall within the preset parameters of what we’re prepared to believe. That’s not how we interpret Homer or Dante or Bradbury.

“It is taking it seriously, which you seem reluctant to do, even though you are typing these posts using a computer made possible as a result of advances in physical science.”

That’s philosophically jejune. Technology is quite compatible with varieties of scientific antirealism.

“Again, I suspect you already 'know' what it means to doubt Scripture and wouldn't be open to my urging that Enns only doubts what he regards as an untenable understanding of Scripture.”

i) That’s demonstrably false. It’s a useful ruse for Enns to pretend that this is just a hermeneutical issue. And that’s a nice softening up exercise. But he’s gone beyond that. He takes the position that on the correct understanding of Scripture (i.e. his own understanding), Scripture is simply wrong on issues like the historicity of Adam as the father of the human race.

ii) Unless by “understanding Scripture, you mean, not understanding what Scripture teaches, but understanding the nature of Scripture itself. Yet the two issues are intertwined. To understand what Scripture teaches will include an understanding of what it teaches about itself. By imputing error to the teaching of Scripture, Enns also rejects the self-referential teaching of Scripture as the word of God.

Christianity is a revealed religion. You can’t “nuance” away the revelatory foundation, and still have Christianity. Either God has spoken or he hasn’t.

“Which argument are you referring to? Over Scripture or over macroevolution?”

Their one-sided treatment of comparative mythology. Their habitual caricaturing of ID theory. The fact that they dismiss YEC out of hand rather than debate the most sophisticated exponents of that position. The fact that they simply ignore OEC.

“If the former, Enns has written lots of material on understanding the authority of the Bible on an 'incarnational' model.”

Which D. A. Carson dismantled in an early review.

“I would agree that on certain materialistic views the existence of obligations is absurd, but I don't trinitarian Christian faith is the only possible ground of duty and morality. It may be the most plausible, but not the only possible one.”

Well, that poses a striking dilemma. I value truth because I’m a Christian. Were I not a Christian, I wouldn’t care. In a godless world, who was right and who was wrong doesn’t make a bit of difference in the long run. In that event, you and I are slabs of meat in the morgue.

I don’t have a fallback option. I’m not hedging my bets. I got all my chips on the Christian jackpot. For me it’s Christianity or bust. All in or all out. There’s nothing in-between.


"But are you also saying that it's 'inerrancy or bust'?"

Always nice to hear from you, Layman. You, JD, and BK, are the troika that put the CADRE in the top-tier of Christian apologetic blogs.

i) Since I don't think there's viable alternative to Christianity, there's a sense in which your hypothetical (inerrancy or else) is moot.

I admittedly have a presuppositional commitment to inerrancy:

ii) That dovetails with the self-witness of Scripture regarding verbal inspiration, which entails inerrancy (if you also factor in the Biblical view of God).

iii) As a saved sinner, I have a duty to put my trust in the truthfulness of God's word.

iv) Without the intersubjectival standard and external check of divine revelation, I think there's very little that we can know about the sensible world. So I regard divine revelation is a necessary precondition of human knowledge. As such, empirical evidence can never disprove the Bible.

(Of course, we need a separate argument to address rival revelatory claimants.)

Resources on Messianic prophecy

T. D. Alexander, The Servant King: The Bible's Portrait of the Messiah (Regent College Publishing, 2003)

G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson, eds., Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker Academic, 2007)

Iain M. Duguid, Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality: The Gospel According to Abraham (P & R Publishing, 1999)

Tremper Longman, Immanuel in Our Place: Seeing Christ in Israel's Worship (P & R Publishing, 2001)

J. Alec Motyer, Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ (Kregel Academic & Professional; 1st ed., 2004)

Vern S. Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses (P & R Publishing, 1995)

O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets (P & R Publishing, 2008)

Michael Rydelnik’s The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? (B& H 2010)

John H. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation (Intervarsity Press, 2009)

Monday, July 05, 2010

John MacArthur "Jumping"

This is dedicated to my fellow elder, a man who appreciates John MacArthur's ministry, but doesn't care much for "Holy Hip Hop." Enjoy.

"JUMPING" - John MacArthur Rap from Nathan W. Bingham on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Into the Wild

I recently saw the film Into the Wild. It’s an adaptation of a “true story.”

Part of the movie’s magnetism lies in the perennial appeal of a road movie. This taps into the profound and universal metaphor of life as a journey through time and space. OT history and typology plays on this metaphor. Adam and Eve banished from Eden. The nomadic life of the patriarchs. Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, on its way to the Promised Land. Israel’s exile and return.

This also plays out in the life of Christ. His boyhood as a fugitive. His public ministry as a journey to the Cross. At a cosmic level, his coming to earth, return to heaven, and second coming.

This also represents the pilgrim motif in NT theology (Acts 7; Heb 11). That’s why we call the Christian life a “walk” of faith. Paul “ran the race.” The dialectic of exile and homecoming.

I suspect that God has programmed this metaphor into the psyche of the human race. A subliminal “homing” instinct.

The genre allows us to meet a cross-section of humanity as well as a cross-section of geography. So the film benefits from a powerful collusion of intrinsically compelling features. An early example of this genre was the TV series Route 66.

The film also triggers a related motif–the loner, the drifter.

Up to a point it’s only natural for many young men to have an adventurous streak. A hankering to see the world. Revel in their boundless energy and freedom of movement. Test themselves against nature.

The nicest scene in the movie is watching the protagonist (Christopher McCandless) paddle down the Colorado River in his kayak, in the glowing waters, surrounded by canyons. The film also profits from some good folk music.

In one of his encounters he befriends an aging hippie couple. To some extent they represent an older version of himself. Rebellious. Living on the edges of civilization.

However, they also reflect the disillusionment with their chosen lifestyle. While it may be fun to be a twenty-something hippie, it’s not so fun to be an over-the-hill hippie.

He also befriends a widowed veteran. This sets up a classic interplay between youth and age. The young are risk-takers. Living for the day. At their age they can blow one opportunity, while having another opportunity just around the corner. Time is on their side.

By contrast, the old man has the far-sighted wisdom of painful hindsight. He is cautious. Sedentary. And lonely.

The character is played by Hal Holbrook in the twilight of his career. A seasoned actor who infuses ever word and gesture with a lifetime of personal and professional experience.

McCandless finally reaches his destination–the Alaskan bush–after crossing the Teklanika River during the dry season. For the first few weeks he’s ecstatic. Living out his dream. Awed by the rugged beauty and solitude of the Alaskan wilderness, as well as his unfettered freedom.

However, pride is his undoing. He prides himself on his ability to wing it. To coast through life. Live by his wits. Take each day as it comes. Improvise on the spot.

Yet he’s survived up until now on the kindness of strangers. He’s not as independent as he imagines. But in the Alaskan bush, there are no kindly strangers to rush to his aid. In large part we create civilization to insulate us from the dangers of the natural world. But in the wilderness, there is no buffer zone. A single misstep may be fatal.

McCandless sought out nature as a sphere of absolute freedom. But far from being free, he existed at the whim of an indifferent and inhospitable environment. No reprieve. A land of law, not gospel.

If the Colorado River epitomized his freedom, then the Teklanika River epitomized his captivity. The now-swollen river barred his exit. He died of starvation–alone and lonely.

The fate of McCandless is a parable of the unbeliever. It’s easy to live off the fat of the land in the spring and summer months. But when the winter of life overtakes you, unprepared, it is too late to stock up and hunker down.

Like McCandless, the unbeliever is rootless. Homeless. Fatherless. A desert saint without a calling. He treks into the wilderness, never to return.

“Too late!” The saddest words in the lexicon. Don’t wait until midnight to check your provisions. Be a wise virgin, not a foolish virgin.

More from the Religion of Pieces

While our dear brothers over at Answering Muslims continue to press forward with litigation after being arrested in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S.A., for handing out copies of the gospel of John on a public sidewalk, it looks like Muslims are doing a successful job of duping the Brits into allowing them to engage in angry protests, and the aggressive, threatening speech, and violence that you see below; all of course under the banner of "free speech".

It looks like "sweet sharia" isn't too far away for people in the U.K., should the government continue to allow for such nonsense in the name of pluralism. Worse yet, private citizens cannot own firearms and British police don't carry them on their person. In light of that fact, one wonders what means of protection many people will have when blood begins to run in the streets of Great Britain. As the foundations of cultural Christianity have long since crumbled in the U.K. and secularism has left a gaping void in English culture, it is high time we pay attention. Dear Christians, take a good look at the video below and remind yourself that this is the judgment of God on a nation that ditched Biblical truth for secular ideals (Rom. 1:18ff). After all, when the void of secularism has ravaged people of any desire to live for anything but themselves and those same people have aborted their own children multiple times, the Qu'ranic Muslims will be more than happy to take their place with 4-6 children per family combined with a robust religious and community tradition that shows secularism up for the folly that it is.

Here's another video wherein Anjem Choudary, a leading Muslim, clearly states that Islamic teachings inform his pro-jihad message. Listen to him explain in his own words that Islam is not a "religion of peace", but rather a religion of "pieces" that glories in jihad. We would do well to do as President Reagan did, and study those who want our blood. We must know what these folks believe, why the believe it, what they plan to do about it, how we as Christians can minister the gospel to them, and how we must protect ourselves from them should that ever be necessary.

HT: Answering Muslims