Saturday, January 22, 2011

A tale of two pilots

Jacob DeShazer was an American pilot in the Doolittle Raid, whereas Mitsuo Fuchida was the lead Japanese pilot in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On DeShazer:
During his captivity, DeShazer persuaded one of his guards to loan him a copy of the Bible. Although he only had possession of the Bible for three weeks, he saw its messages as the reason for his survival and resolved to become a devout Christian. His conversion included learning a few words of Japanese and treating his captors with respect, which resulted in the guards reacting in a similar fashion. After his release, DeShazer entered Seattle Pacific College, a Christian college, and began studying to be a missionary, eventually to return to Japan with his wife, Florence, in 1948.

DeShazer, the Doolittle Raider who bombed Nagoya, met Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor, becoming close friends. Fuchida became a Christian in 1950 after reading a tract written about DeShazer titled, "I Was a Prisoner of Japan," and spent the rest of his life as a missionary in Asia and the United States. On occasion, DeShazer and Fuchida preached together as Christian missionaries in Japan. In 1959, DeShazer moved to Nagoya to establish a Christian church in the city he had bombed.
On Fuchida:
After recuperation, he [Fuchida] spent the rest of the war as a staff officer. Fuchida was in Hiroshima the day before the atom bomb was dropped, attending a week-long military conference with the Army. He had received a long distance call from Navy Headquarters asking him to return to Tokyo and returned to Hiroshima the day after the bombing on a party sent to examine and assess the damage of the bomb. Later, all members of Fuchida's search party died from radiation poisoning but Fuchida suffered no symptoms. . . .

After the war, Fuchida was called on to testify at the trials of some of the Japanese military for Japanese war crimes. This infuriated him as he believed this was little more than "victor's justice". Convinced that the Americans had treated the Japanese the same way and determined to bring that evidence to the next trial, in the spring of 1947, Fuchida went to Uraga Harbor near Yokosuka to meet a group of returning Japanese prisoners of war. He was surprised to find his former flight engineer, Kazuo Kanegasaki, who all had believed had died in the Battle of Midway. When questioned, Kanegasaki told Fuchida that they were not tortured or abused, much to Fuchida's disappointment, then went on to tell him of a young lady who served them with the deepest love and respect, but whose parents, missionaries, had been killed by Japanese soldiers on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

For Fuchida, this was inexplicable, as in the Bushido code revenge was not just permitted, it was a responsibility for an offended party to carry out revenge to restore honor. The murderer of one's parents would be a sworn enemy for life. He became almost obsessed trying to understand why anyone would treat their enemies with love and forgiveness.

In the fall of 1948, Fuchida was passing by the bronze statue of Hachiko at the Shibuya Station when he was handed a pamphlet about the life of Jacob DeShazer, a member of the Doolittle Raid who was captured by the Japanese after his B-25 Mitchell ran out of fuel over occupied China. In the pamphlet "I Was a Prisoner of Japan" DeShazer, himself a former U.S. Army Air Force Staff Sergeant and bombardier, told his story of imprisonment, torture and an awakening to God. Fuchida became more curious about Christianity but couldn't find a Bible at the time in post-war Japan, but in the spring of 1949, again at the statue of Hachiko he met a man from the Pocket Testament League selling the New Testament of the Bible, and he bought one. Later that fall, while reading the Bible, he understood for the first time why the young lady had forgiven her enemies and took his first steps in becoming a Christian. In May 1950, he and Jacob DeShazer met for the first time, as friends.

Home Sweet Away From Rome

A popular tactic in Catholic apologetics is to tout conversions to Roman Catholicism. This fosters the impression that Roman Catholicism is on a rising tide. Here's something I ran across recently which may be a more reliable indicator of demographic trends. Of course, this is just a sample. But it's something to ponder.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A hot water bottle and a dolly

For more about Dr. Helen Roseveare and her ministry, see here, here, and here. She's also written several books (e.g. Digging Ditches).

Preliminary review of Horton's systematic theology

Theological homophobia

I’d recently ran across the claim that Norman Geisler has compared Calvinism to “theological racism.”

Charges of “racism” are typically thrown around by liberal pundits. Indeed, Geisler’s analogy reminds me of homosexual activists who try to draw a parallel between racial discrimination and discrimination against sodomites. Yet I assume Geisler believes that impenitent homosexuals are hellbound.

So by Geisler’s logic, if Calvinism is guilty of theological racism, then Geisler is guilty of theological homophobia–inasmuch as his heteronormative theology discriminates against the LGBT community. 

Pilgrim's progress

My question then, is if indeed it was prophesied that the House of Israel would be taken into the 'wilderness' as part of the new covenant, after they were sifted through the nations [Isa 30:28,38][Amos 9:9][Jer 15:14][Jer 17:4], how do we distinguish biblically between descriptions of the final post-judgement 'heaven' and the historical location of the House of Israel's punishment?

i) Certain eschatological imagery carries over from the OT into the NT, including NT prophecy. Therefore, I don’t think it’s limited to the OT, or ethnic Jews.

Although stock imagery can be used to illustrate a specific situation, the imagery isn’t tied to that situation.

ii) There are fairly literal descriptions of the general resurrection, the resurrection of the just, and the resurrection of Christ (which is the prototype of our own). That’s an anchor for extrapolating certain features of the final state. For bodies don’t exist in a vacuum. They occupy space. A physical environment.

Moreover, Jesus could eat. Indeed, we’d expect a body to eat. The fact that a body is naturally immortal doesn’t mean you can’t starve to death if you don’t eat.

His glorified body retained scars. So that suggests a fairly high degree of continuity between his mortal and immortal body.

iii) And we’re talking about many embodied persons in fellowship. That implies a concrete, interactive environment.

iii) Metaphors are analogies. So analogies, to be meaningful, must have some literal counterpart.

Offhand it’s hard to see how certain eschatological motifs, like the restoration motif, can be meaningful without some essential continuity between the past and the future, to ground the analogy. Therefore, I think it’s probably valid to extrapolate from this life to the afterlife–as long as we make allowance for revealed discontinuities. 

Sheep, goats, and SUVs

Thursday, January 20, 2011

UNCG Outreach Report 1-19-2011

INTRODUCTION: I had several profitable conversations with many students about the truth of God's grace yesterday. I handed out at least a hundred ministry cards with the gospel on it, and spoke with many, many unbelievers. Notable conversations were with one man of the Baha'i faith, two agnostics, and several people who claimed to be Christians but couldn't really explain anything about the gospel.

Question of the Day: In your personal opinion what does it take for a person to go to heaven?

Our Bahai friend

This man was the first person I spoke with face to face after handing out a few ministry cards. After handing him our ministry card he said, "What is this?" and I said, "I am a pastor of a local Christian church and this card has to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ; do you know what the gospel is sir?" He said, "Uh, no, why don't you tell me what it is?" So I started explaining the gospel to him and he interrupted me and explained that he held to the Baha'i faith. He then asked me if I knew anything about Baha'i and I said "very little". He then tried to turn the tables and proselytize me (which happens sometimes) and I he told me that the Baha'i believe the gospel of Jesus just like Christians. Then I said, "Let's see if that's true; please explain to me the main teachings of Baha'i." He then said that Baha'i had prophets and I said, "You mean Baha'u'llah, right?" He said, "Yes, but I thought you said you didn't know anything about Baha'i?" I said, "No, I said I knew very little about it, but I did know that." So he continued. He came to the point where he explained that Baha'u'llah was a prophet of God and I asked, "He's the second coming of Jesus Christ right?" He said yes and I said, "Well, there's the problem. Jesus warned us about false prophets and false Messiahs who would seek to mislead many saying that they were the Messiah (Matthew 24:4) and Jesus said that there were certain signs that would accompany His return, Baha'u'llah didn't meet those requirements, therefore Baha'u'llah was a false Messiah that preached a false gospel.

At this point he got a little hot and bothered that I would say such about his prophet and asked me, "Have you read Baha'i literature?" I said, "no", he said, "How can you say such things about Baha'u'llah and Baha'i when you've never read our literature?" to which I calmly responded, "I don't need to, if it contradicts the clear teaching of Christ regarding His second coming, Baha'u'llah didn't meet that criteria, then I know on the authority of Christ's teaching that Baha'u'llah is a false Messiah with a false gospel." Apparently some folks standing by didn't appreciate my Baha'i friend getting a little hot under the collar during our conversation and someone called the cops.

Here comes the heat!

The police officer arrived in his patrol car, walked up to us, and so I quickly but courteously ended my conversation with my Baha'i friend and then introduced myself to the officer with a warm handshake while identifying myself, told him my purpose for being there, and at his request I gave him my driver's license. This officer was one of the two that arrived on the scene in the Fall semester after an atheist came up and stood right in front of me laughing at me and blowing smoke on me when I was open-air preaching at UNCG on 8-24-2010. This officer kindly asked me to do all that I can to avoid upsetting people while distributing literature and talking to them. I assured him that I would, then I thanked him for his service to the community, and then gave him a parting handshake. As an aside, I want to remind my Christian readers that we must always show the utmost respect to the civil authorities as they are ordained by God for the general protection and welfare of society and for the punishment of evildoers (Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-17). We must do this whether they are kind or cruel and we must obey them as long as they don't command us to do something that is sinful or prohibit us from doing something that is explicitly commanded in Scripture (Acts 4:19-20, 5:29). However, even when we disobey in those circumstances, we must still be polite and respectful and accept our punishment as the will of God (1 Peter 2:12, 15; 3:15; Philippians 1:29).

Talking to three day laborers

UNCG always has some kind of construction work going on, and I saw three men sitting outside on the brick patio of a nearly completed building having a smoke break, so I walked over to talk to them. After introducing myself, I asked them what it takes for a person to go to heaven? In a group of three, its almost always the case that one person is more talkative than the other two. So, the most talkative man of the group stated that you can worship whatever you want, as long as you are sincere about it. I then asked him that if I called the maple tree behind him "Jesus" and then bowed down and repented and believed on my maple-tree Jesus and feverishly worshiped it, would do me any good on the day of judgment? He said "Yes". All three men agreed that as long as I was sincere enough, it didn't matter what I worshiped, I would still go to heaven when I die. I then asked, "Since your criteria for whether a person goes to heaven or not is the degree of their sincerity, when the terrorists flew the planes into the World Trade Center on 9-11, they were sincere enough to die for their beliefs, so did they go to heaven?" Then the shuckin' and jivin' started and two of them slowly made their way back to the workplace.

One man was left finishing his cigarette and I sat down beside him, asked him his name, and he said "Omar". He said, "Preacher, I want to ask you one question, if what you believe is true, why is it that most people don't believe it." I said, "Omar, that's a great question, one that the writer of 2/3 of the New Testament had to deal with. The Apostle Paul gave God's answer to that question in Romans 9." Then I began reading and explaining God's sovereignty in salvation from Romans 9:6-23 and Ephesians 1 and he was transfixed on me. I explained to him that most people are created for destruction and that they will glorify God in said destruction; but that God has chosen some to receive mercy through faith in Jesus Christ and that that is one of the reasons I am out there today. I explained that the preaching of the gospel is the means that God uses to gather in His elect, and at that point, he seemed to get convicted. I then explained the good news to him in a way I thought he could understand it (i.e., sin problem > Jesus' active obedience throughout His life > Jesus' passive obedience on the cross > faith in what Jesus did on the cross = justification). We shook hands, he thanked me for my time, and I was off.

A happy agnostic

The next conversation I had worth reporting was with a young, agnostic student who listened to our debate with the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics. I asked him why he was an an agnostic and the only really good reason he could give me was the problem of hypocrisy in the church. He said it drove him away from "organized religion". I asked him if he liked "disorganized religion" instead. He laughed and I agreed with him that hypocrisy in the church is a real problem and then I went on to explain that many people are religious but not converted and briefly explained the doctrine of regeneration and the problem of false conversions in evangelicalism. I told him that I used to be a skeptic and so he asked me why I became a believer, and I said, "Because the Holy Spirit did a work of regeneration in me as I just described to you." I then went on to explain, "It was only when I had the light of Christ that I was able to make sense out of things like moral realism, human nature, evil, and scientific and logical paradigms. He wanted to talk more and was a great guy, but he had to scoot.

An unhappy agnostic

After having several other conversations with people, I spoke with another agnostic student named Jessica. Based on Jessica's body language and eye-rolling, she wasn't interested in talking, but I persisted. I asked her if absolute truth existed, she rolled her eyes and said no. I then asked her if that proposition itself was absolutely true and she hesitated a little and said "uh, I don't know." I said, "How can you be sure that absolute truth doesn't exist if you can't know if that sentence itself is true?" I'm not convinced that she was following me, so I moved on to ask her what basis she has for grounding moral standards given naturalism. She hedged a little in her answer and I suggested "Do you believe society makes up moral standards?" and she said, "Who else, if not society?" and I said, "Well, I'd argue that morality is ultimately grounded in God, but that's not what we're talking about just yet, so I want to know how you can condemn another society's actions if each individual societies get to make up their own morality?" She said, we don't. I said, "Really? Do you really think what Nazi Germany did to 12 million people was okay?" She said, "Yeah, I guess" (eyes-rolling). I then said, "So, what you're telling me is that it would be okay for a society to legalize the torturing of little girls for fun?" She agreed that it would and I said, "Oh c'mon, you don't really mean that do you? What about if it was your little girl?" to which she responded, "Well, I wouldn't personally agree with it, but I'd have no choice since society said it was okay." I then said, "You've just given me a great example of why I am thankful for being a Christian. You see Jessica, you may think that what I believe is hooey, but if you begin with the Christian God, you can declare something to be wicked even though society says its okay because God has the final say-so in any matter. I then explained to her, that contrary to her intellectual beliefs, she actually lives in a way contradictory to said beliefs and expects moral order, uniformity in nature, and the absoluteness of logical laws. I then asked, "Do you care that you are being irrational by contradicting yourself like that?" and she rolled her eyes again and said, "Not really." I then said shook her hand, thanked her for her time. Please pray for Jessica, she had a very hard heart.

IN CONCLUSION, I've said it before and I'll say it again: more and more intelligent people I witness to don't care that they are irrational; that they hold to mutually exclusive and contradictory beliefs. As long as they are comfortable, they are quite content to ride the wave of irrationality. I think this is providential, for it is a call for Christians to focus on the gospel as the power of God unto salvation while not leaving the rest of the apologetic task undone.

Cannibalistic feminism

Involuntary commitment

Pearls of wisdom from Scott Windsor:

OR - when talking about THIS incident, the focus should remain on the REAL PROBLEM of the state of mental health in Arizona and the United States.

i) Since I’m not a resident of Arizona, or a mental health professional, I don’t have an informed opinion to offer on that score. Of course, Windsor has never let his ignorance stand in the way of firmly held opinions–as his exchanges with James Swan over Luther bear out.

ii) I will say, in general, that we’re dealing with tradeoffs. On the one hand there are horror stories involving the mentally ill, who “fell through the cracks.” The “system let them down.” All things being equal, some people ought to be institutionalized.

But, of course, there are also horror stories regarding involuntary commitment. That creates unique opportunities for institutional abuse. To begin with, it’s hard for patients to report abuse, since they are cut off from the outside world. And even if they manage to report abuse, that is easily discounted–since the complainant is crazy, right?

In addition, totalitarian regimes employ involuntary commitment to punish dissidents. Although we’re not at that point in the US, liberals would like nothing less than to turn the US into a police state, with liberals in charge.

So we tend to have the swinging pendulum. When there’s a horror story about a madman who should have been institutionalized, there are predictable cries for stricter mental health laws. But when there’s a horror story about institutional abuse, there are predictable cries for laxer mental health laws.

To seize this for other topics (even worthy ones) seems to be opportunistic at the expense of those in mourning. THAT was the point of "My 2 cents."

i) There’s nothing wrong with using an incident like the Arizona rampage to make a case for unborn babies. To the contrary, you seize the opportunity when a suitable illustration is fresh in the public imagination.

ii) How does it come “at the expense” of the mourners to protect innocent life? Did I say anything critical about the victims? No. (Mind you, there are also situations in which it’s important to correct the record about a particular decedent.) 

Where's the "Catholic" church?

Steve, "Intervening centuries" as between 400 and 2011 AD. I think that the usage (‘catholic’) goes back much further, to around 100 AD, but it had become a proper name, a brand name, at least by Augustine's time.

Meaning is based on usage, not etymology. In this case, contemporary usage, vis-à-vis Sean’s illustration.

The reason a random pedestrian would point the questioner to a Roman Catholic parish church is due to cultural associations based on cultural osmosis. It has nothing to do with the pedestrian’s ecclesiology or knowledge of church history.

Rather, the major reason that even many non-Catholics associate the “Catholic” church with the Roman Catholic church is due to pop media influence. The pope is famous. He is treated like a pop star.

Likewise, for Italian or Italian-American directors and TV producers, the Roman Catholic church is the default denomination for their Christian characters or church settings. That’s true even when the director/producer is a lapsed Catholic. That’s true when he’s mocking Roman Catholic figures and institutions.

This is also reinforced by the fact that many American directors and producers hail from NYC, and give their TV dramas a NYC milieur. NYC is iconic, and the trappings of the Roman Catholic church are iconic.

Since, moreover, film and TV is a visually oriented medium, it uses a character with a clerical collar, names him “Fr.” so-and-so, has interior shots of a Roman Catholic cathedral, and so on, as a convenient form of narrative shorthand. Pope, bishop, priest, nun, exorcist, candles, vestments, stained-glass, sign of the cross, and all the conventional paraphernalia. That supplies a familiar, ready-made context for the audience. Like literary conventions.

If, on the other hand, the director/producer was Greek or Russian, he’d switch to Orthodox paraphernalia. Same thing if more films and TV dramas were set in the Bible-belt, with directors and producer who were native to the Bible belt. Baptist religion would be the default milieu.

Proper names are among the things we primarily use to indicate identity. If a company arises tomorrow, and claims to be "GE," but some research shows that this company is constituted by a faction of board members who broke away from the "GE" that has existed for decades, and continues to exist, then we would not accept their claim to be GE. Now, suppose that this "GE" company is formed, and justifies its appropriation of the name by claiming to be even more general, and more electric, than the other company, the one everyone refers to as "General Electric." Fine. Maybe they are, that would have to be demonstrated. But what is indubitable is that this new company, whatever they might wish to call themselves, whatever they might be, is not GE. The identity of GE is recognized by the name, and by the material continuity of the organization, acting as such, through time. New structures can be developed. Different aspects of essential roles can be emphasized, or not, at different times. Services, marketing, etc., will change over time, adapting to circumstances. The central idea, the essence, of the organization will blossom into action, growing and expanding, so long as the organization lives.

I used a better example, which you ignore. Take NBC. This was founded in the 1920s. It’s retained the same name over the decades. But is it the same organization?

Yes, there’s historical continuity, but there’s substantial discontinuity. It went from being a radio network to a TV network. Its programming has acquired a leftwing political slant. It also promotes queer characters. That certainly wasn’t the case in the 50s or 60s.

Finally, it has changed hands many times. Bought out by different parent companies.

So it’s pretty meaningless to say that NBC is the “same” organization throughout time. That attribution is subject to too many caveats.

In principle, you could have a brand-new TV network which only runs syndicated NBC dramas from the 60s and 70s. That would have far more in common with the historical roots of NBC than NBC in 2011.

Yes, GE changes over time. So does the Catholic Church. But in order for a thing to change, it has also to remain the same. Those who have left to start their own company can complain that the Catholic Church has not remained the same in essentials. But they cannot claim to be the Catholic Church.

You’re committing the word-concept fallacy.

When, for instance, the Westminster Divines speak of the “catholic” church (WCF 25), they define catholicity in terms of their particular Protestant ecclesiology.

You may disagree with their definition, but given their definition, they can rightly claim to be “catholic.”

How Much Should We Trust Papias?

A poster in another thread wrote:

Also, was wondering what you think of Eusebius assessment- of Papias being 'a man of small mental capacity'.

And wondering if you think Papias was a hearer of the apostle John or the mysterious John the Elder.

Here's my response:

Richard Bauckham has some good material on Papias' credibility and Eusebius' assessment of him in Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006). I disagree with Bauckham on some points, but his material is mostly helpful.

Judging from his terminology and practices, Papias seems to have been familiar with and to have employed some of the standards of ancient historiography. He was literate, of course, and was entrusted with the office of bishop. Qualifications like those place him well above the average person in antiquity. His work was of enough quality to motivate people to preserve it for more than a thousand years, despite the widespread opposition to his eschatology that persisted during most of that timeframe. (If you read the fragments at Tom Schmidt's web site, Papias was frequently criticized for his premillennialism, even in contexts in which that criticism could easily have been avoided. And he didn't just advocate premillennialism. He claimed that it was apostolic and reported alleged apostolic traditions to support it.) He recorded some dubious traditions, such as his material about the events surrounding Judas' death. But there's similar material in Josephus, Tacitus, and other ancient sources who are trusted on most issues.

Like all of us and like other ancient sources, Papias would have known more about some subjects than others. We have to make case-by-case judgments about how good of a position he was in to know the truth on a particular matter and how credible his claims seem to be. If we have reason to distrust something he reports about the death of Judas, it doesn't follow that we have comparable reason to distrust what he reported about the origins of Mark's gospel, for example. The Judas material has internal problems that the Mark material doesn't have, he names a highly credible source for his Mark material while not doing so for his Judas account, what he reports about Mark is corroborated by other sources whereas his Judas material isn't, the Mark account is about more recent events, the material he was reporting about Mark was of a more public nature, etc. To dismiss his Mark material by citing the unreliability of the Judas material, which people often do, is simplistic. Many of the same people who take that approach toward Papias don't treat other sources, like Josephus, the same way.

Eusebius does refer to Papias as "of very limited understanding" (Church History, 3:39). But he made that comment in the context of criticizing Papias' premillennialism, which Eusebius despised. In other contexts, even later in the same section of his church history, he cites Papias as if he's a reliable source.

Regarding his relationship with John, I've written on that subject at length in previous threads. See, for example, here and here. Of all the extant sources who comment on Papias' relationship with John, Irenaeus is the earliest and the one in the best position to judge the matter. He affirms that Papias was a disciple of the apostle. The large majority of the later sources who comment on the subject agree, and they do so at a time when Papias' writings were extant and other early documents not extant today were still available. Eusebius tells us why he doubts that relationship between Papias and John, and his reasons for doubting it are weak. It's unlikely that the elder John, as distinguished from the apostle, even existed. See here and here. The elder Papias refers to most likely was the apostle John. Either way, he was a source even earlier and more prominent than Papias.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Debunking Outer Space Challenge

According to John Loftus:

I've proposed reading one skeptical book a month in 2011 as the Debunking Christianity Challenge. Now I'm going to propose a Part 2. Both of these challenges are designed to help Christians test their faith as outsiders. Here's another way for Christians to take the Outsider Test for Faith. Do this...

First, if you are a conservative Christian (my target audience) then 1) Spend one month visiting and commenting at the Progressive Christianity Board. You will see quite clearly that your brand of Christianity isn't the only one. Try to deal with their arguments while you're at it (Hey, they're not coming from atheists). 

Then visit and comment on the following forums for one additional month each: 

2) Scientology Forum
3) Mormon Forum
4) Islam Forum
5) Hindu Forum
6) Orthodox Jewish Forum

My claim is you will see quite clearly that the basis for your faith is the same as the basis for each one of these other faiths. You will see why you should abandon it in favor of a science based reasoning.

I have a counterproposal to help Loftus test his faith in science as an "outsider."


Escher, Heaven and HellFigure 3. A model for the hyperbolic plane. Heaven and Hell by M.C. Escher.

Not quite as well-known are Poincare's models of 3-d non-Euclidean space. Imagine space to be filled with small metal balls, whose size is proportional to the temperature T of space.  Euclidean space is represented by a constant temperature, so that the spheres are uniformly the same size throughout space. A model for infinite hyperbolic space can be constructed by taking a finite Euclidean sphere of radius R with a temperature variation of T = k (R2- r2), where k is a constant of proportionality and r is the distance of a ball from the center. The metal balls then shrink to nothing as they approach the edge (this is the 3-d version of Figure 3). For a moving object, its speed likewise diminishes as it approaches the edge, so it never quite reaches the edge.

 Similarly, we can model (finite) elliptical space of radius R in the same Euclidean sphere by letting the temperature vary as T = k/(R2- r 2). Now the spheres grow infinitely large as they approach the edge, thus re-appearing on the opposite side.

Such modeling of non-euclidean geometries within the more familiar euclidean space helps us to visualize the properties of such novel geometries. This illustrates a further function of mathematical models: to represent various aspects of reality that are otherwise hard to visualize. Mathematical models help to translate novel conceptual geometries into the more common Euclidean space of our everyday experiences.
Of Earths Inverted and Flattened

Closely related to these geometrical models are some unusual conceptions of the universe. For example, Fritz Braun (1973) asserts, based on his Inverted Universeinterpretation of biblical texts, that the Earth should be inverted. The Earth's surface is the inside of a hollow sphere enclosing the Sun, Moon, and stars. Heaven is at the center of the inverted universe, thus making this model literally theocentric (see Figure 4).

Figure 4. Braun’s Inverted Universe. Note that heaven is at the center, surrounded by the glassy sea, the planets, Sun and clouds.

         At first sight this model seems obviously false. One might think, for example, that this model entails that we should be able to see across the hollow sphere to the other side of the Earth. Indeed, in 1933 German promoters of the hollow Earth theory tried to prove their theory by means of rockets. They reasoned that a rocket, fired straight up, should hit the opposite side of the Earth. Various rockets were fired but, unfortunately, they all malfunctioned and the test was eventually abandoned.

However, this model is not that easily dispensed with. It can be devised so that disproof is impossible.        The above tests take for granted that the normal laws of physics hold. In particular, light is expected to travel in roughly straight lines and rockets, in the absence of forces, are expected to move at a constant velocity. But what if this is no longer the case?
The hollow Earth model can be derived from the more usual picture of the universe via a simple mathematical transformation called a "geometric inversion". The procedure is very simple. For each point in the universe, measure its distance r from the center of the Inverted UniverseEarth and move the point along the center-to-point line to a new distance 1/r. The result of this operation is that all objects originally outside the Earth (e.g., mountains, houses, clouds and stars) are now inside, and vice versa (see Figure 5). Inversion is a conformal transformation, which means that local shapes are preserved.

Figure 5. A Simple Model of the Universe and Its Inverse. The second figure is the result of inverting the first figure, taking the earth’s center as the center of inversion. For ease of comparison, the first figure has been flipped horizontally. Note the curved light rays and the diminishing size of the rocket as it recedes from the earth.

The laws of physics are also inverted, with consequences that may seem strange for those accustomed to thinking in terms of the more conventional universe. For example, light now travels in circular arcs. Also, a rocket launched from the Earth to outer - or, rather, now "inner" - space will shrink and slow down as it approaches the central heaven, never quite reaching it (see Figure 5).
Consequently, Braun's inverted universe is observationally indistinguishable from more conventional models of the universe. Yet, although the two models are empirically identical, they involve quite different ways of viewing reality. Braun's model reflects his theological beliefs. Again, the mathematical model functions here to connect a particular worldview with observations, thus making that worldview more viable.

Note that, if we were to take a point on the Earths’ surface as the center of inversion then we would get a flat Earth (i.e., this is the stereographic projection of geography). As you travel to the edge you become infinitely large at the edge, so that you re-appear at the right (see Figure 6). Again, this model is observationally undisprovable.The earth is flat after all

Figure 6. Inverting to a Flat Earth. An inverted picture of Figure 5, with the center of inversion on the earth’s surface. The other figure is an enlarged view.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Machen's Warrior Grandchildren

Back on 12/22, Green Baggins did a post on "The Resurrection of Machen’s Warrior Children." I haven't bothered to monitor the feedback. All I've done is to check back periodically to tally the number of comments. As of now, it stands at 549 comments and counting! If Dr. Frame ever revises his famous essay, he will have to include one more entry for warrior grandchildren who war over "Machen's Warrior Children"!

This is the book of the generations of Machen. Machen lived 50 years, and begat Warrior Children.

And the days of Machen after he had begotten his Warrior Children were five years. And all the days that Machen lived were 55 years: and he died.

And Machen's Warrior Children begat children who warred over Machen's warrior children. And the days of Machen's Warrior Grandchildren were...

Playing shell-games with "The Church"


Until that change comes, Augustine's point will remain of some practical benefit, and this benefit will continue to provide some limited but palpable support for the doctrinal claim that the location of the Church that we confess in the creeds is not hidden in a corner of the mind.

The church you confess in the creeds is not and cannot be the 21C church of Rome. The framers of the ancient creeds couldn’t have that denomination in mind. The creeds do not and cannot refer to a denomination centuries after the fact. They can only reflect the historical horizon of the framers. The state of the church in their own experience. In their own time and place. Past and present, but not far into the future.

When you confess the creed, you can, if you are so disposed, mentally reassign the referent to the 21C church of Rome, but that’s an odds with the intent of the framers. So at that juncture you’re really not confessing the creed. Rather, you’re confessing your own creed under the guise of an ancient creed, by using the ancient creed as a cipher which you redefine at will.

I really do not know what to make of the title and related comments. As I have indicated, this particular post at CTC is right in line with St. Augustine. So, those of us who think that there is something to it are in pretty good company.

This suffers from the same fallacy. Augustine couldn’t possibly be talking about the 21C church of Rome. That didn’t lie within his purview. He was not a prophet. He was not a seer. To appeal to Augustine in that manner is an act of self-deception. An exercise in projection and retrojection. 

Ted Haggard

Ted Haggard is back in the news for his reality show. Both Carl Trueman and Justin Taylor have blogged on the issue. And they have come in for some predicable, misguided criticism.

The way some folks have handled this situation reflects elementary theological confusion. In particular, there is more to restoration than forgiveness. There is also such a thing as sanctification.

Suppose I forgive someone who wrongs me. That, of itself, has no direct affect on him. It doesn’t change his character, or alter his predisposition.

A thief and a sodomite are both sinners. However, theft is more about what you do than what you are. A thief can cease to be a thief overnight.

However, a sodomite can’t cease to be a sodomite overnight. For that goes to who he is, not merely what he does. Even if he ceases to practice sodomy, that doesn’t change his impulses. He doesn’t suddenly feel the same way about his wife (if he has one) as a normal man does. It’s a deeply engrained feature of his personality. Hard to root out.

There is also the question of reconciliation. When he secured the services of a callboy, much was made about how sinful that was. But I don’t remember anyone pointing out that he wronged the callboy.

Imagine the effect on the callboy of a famous minister securing his services. A guy has to be pretty messed up to become a callboy in the first place. It’s hard to think of a more degraded occupation.

A callboy desperately needs the witness and friendship of normal Christian men to lead him out of his aggravated depravity. 

Images of heaven

Christians are supposed to be heavenly-minded. After all, isn’t that what we’re living for? What we have our hopes pinned on? That’s what motivates us. At least, that’s supposed to be what motivates us.

But it’s hard to be goal-oriented if you lack a clear idea of what you’re aiming for. How can we look forward unless we know what we’re looking forward to?

The Bible depicts the world to come using a number overlapping themes or images. For now I’m going to focus on the heavenly rather than hellish dimensions of the new world order. What lies in store for the redeemed rather than the damned.

More Papias Fragments

Tom Schmidt has the best collection of Papias fragments I've seen anywhere. He recently edited his collection and added more fragments to it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rin Tin Tin

Over at Called to Confusion, Sean Patrick comes up with this gem:

Where is the Catholic Church?
If you are curious then I might first suggest that you try this exercise:
If you live in a small town, go to the corner store on the main street and ask the first people you meet, ‘Where is the Catholic Church?’
If you live in a big city, go downtown and ask the first people you meet, ‘Where is the Catholic Church?’
If you live in Singapore, go to the nearest market and ask the first people you meet, ‘Where is the Catholic Church?’
If you live in Nigeria, go to town and ask the first people you meet, “Where is the Catholic Church?’
In each scenario I am willing to wager that the vast majority of the people asked this question will give you directions to the nearest church. But not just any church. You will be given directions to a church which is pastored by a priest who has been entrusted by a bishop to celebrate the sacraments. And this bishop will be in communion with the bishop of Rome, Benedict the 16th.
I recently tested this theory. I work in Houston, TX in an office complex that is 40 stories high. I stood in the lobby for a few minutes and asked several passers-by if they knew where the Catholic Church is located. I asked ten people in the span of ten minutes. Two people said, ‘I do not know, sorry.’ The rest of them gave me rough directions to either St. Anne’s Catholic Church or St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Both parishes are about equidistant from the office. Both St. Anne’s and St. Michael’s are in communion with the Bishop of Rome. If I were to leave the office and follow the directions I was given I would pass at least a half dozen other churches but those churches were not identified as the ‘Catholic Church’ by any person that I asked. If I stood there all day and asked one hundred people the same question, I would be shocked if anybody pointed me to a church that is not in communion with the bishop of Rome.
You can also examine the question this way:
Go outside and go to your neighbor’s house. Knock on the door. Ask your neighbor what church they attend. If they attend a church then ask, ‘Which one?’ After they tell you which one ask, “Is that a Catholic Church?” If they answer in the affirmative then I would be willing to wager that the church in question will be a church pastored by a priest who is in communion with the bishop of Rome. If they say, ‘No, it is not a Catholic Church’ then I am willing to bet that their church will not be pastored by a priest who is in communion with the bishop of Rome.
What is my point? My point is that when it comes to the question, Where is the Catholic Church?: “Securus judicat orbis terrarum” or “The verdict of the world is conclusive.” – St. Augustine (Contra Epist. Parmen. III.24)

Even for Sean, this scales new heights of dizzy brilliance.

Or not. In popular parlance, “the Catholic church” is a name-brand for a particular denomination. As such, if you ask somebody in a small town “Where’s the Catholic church?” they will point you to a church that belongs to that denomination (assuming it has a Catholic church).

(Keep in mind that there are no capital letters in speech.)

It’s no different than if you asked, “Where’s the Baptist church?” I’d “wager” that they’ll direct you, not to just any ol’ church, but to a (gasp!) Baptist church! That’s right–a church pastured by a (gasp!) Baptist minister!

Is that dumb luck? No. Not if you repeat the “test.” Happens every time! Clearly there’s something uncanny afoot.

Same thing in a big city. If you flew into Houston, got off the plane, and asked somebody in the terminal, “Where’s the Catholic Church?” they’d say, “Which one?”

Likewise, if you asked them, “Where’s the Baptist church?” they’d say, “Which one?”

Will miracles never cease!

How does a post like that even get past their “Editor in Chief” or their “Academic Editor(s)”?

I often wonder what Sean’s contribution is to CTC is supposed to be. It can’t be the intellectual gravitas.

Does he provide a human shield to cover their retreat? Is that it? When Bryan senses that the argument is going badly for him over at Green Baggins, does he whistle; Sean comes bounding up, all frisky and eager-to-please, Bryan points him to the pesky Prots; says, "Go get 'em, boy!" then–as the fur flies–Bryan makes his escape with his reputation roughly intact? That’s how things seem to time.