Saturday, March 05, 2011

How Scientism Destroys Science

Introduction:  I have been interacting on and off with an anti-creationist detractor named "David" on this blog for some time and I think that his question below gets to the heart of the issue as it pertains to discussions and debates between atheistic Darwinists and young earth creationists. 


You asked, "I really am curious if there is any evidence that you would accept as 'sinking' young earth creationism . . .?"

No, because the problem isn't facts, it's the philosophy of fact. What I'm about to write isn't meant to be derogatory, but you seem to be naively assuming that the "facts speak for themselves".  For example, when evolutionist Mary Schweitzer discovered red blood cells in T-rex soft-tissue, I knew that at least one of two things would happen: (1) evolutionists would deny that the samples were genuine erythrocytes and soft-tissue, and/or (2) some evolutionists would agree that it was a genuine find but would instead argue that soft tissue can be preserved in situ for 65 million years.  I was correct on both counts.  Of course, finding unfossilized dinosaurian soft tissue is perfectly consistent with young earth creationism (hereafter YEC), but given what I've been told by creation scientists, maintaining any soft-tissue integrity via the best cryogenic conditions isn't possible beyond 10,000 years.  Thus, creationists argue that the idea of biological tissue surviving for 65 million years in situ is preposterous.  Nevertheless, because evolutionary "faith" demands it, some evolutionists have dogmatically asserted otherwise, namely, that dinosaur soft-tissue can remain preserved and unfossilized for at least 65 million years.  So why aren't the creationists and evolutionists changing their mind but instead are sticking their ground?  Its because the facts don't speak for themselves.  All facts are pre-interpreted facts that are run through one's mental filter known as a worldview, which consists of a network of presuppositions that aren't testable through the procedures of natural science.  This mental filter determines what one will and will not accept as metaphysically possible.  As Augustine and others after him so eloquently put it, "I believe so that I may understand."  So it goes with YEC proponents, so it goes with the naturalist.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.   

Naturalism Undermines Cognitive Reliability

It gets worse because on naturalist lights, it is impossible to know whether anything is really true or not given the conjunction of Darwinian Evolution with Naturalism. Of course, your comments have always assumed that naturalism is true, that we are autonomous (vs. being dependent and accountable to God as His creatures), that we have the cognitive prowess within ourselves to figure out our problems on our own, without deferring to what skeptics would consider to be a mere imaginative philosophical crutch called "God".  However, you seem to be unaware that certain things about reality that you take for granted and use to undermine creationism couldn't be true if Darwinism and naturalism were true.  Quoting from naturalistic materialists, Darwin himself confessed,
With me, the horrid doubt always arises, whether the convictions of a man's mind, which have been developed from the minds of lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Why would anyone trust the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there were any convictions in such a mind?
Physicalist atheist philosopher Patricia Churchland was consistent when she said this:
Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F's: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism's chances of survival [Churchland's emphasis]. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.
 And so my questions for you are twofold:

1.  Given naturalism, evolutionary theory, and the conjunction between those two, what basis do you have to believe that your cognitive faculties are reliable given naturalism and evolution? And to offer a follow-up question:

2.  If what you say is true, how can you can figure out your problems on your own since the very cognitive faculties you use to problem solve to answer my objections to atheism are called into question by the very process they supposedly arose from?

Naturalism is Metaphysically Contradictory and Self-Refuting

It appears that your underlying philosophical assumption for evaluating evidence is empiricism. But in the process of their argumentation, most empiricists are unaware that they annihilate empirical science itself, the very thing that they have put their "faith" in.  Science depends upon nonempirical ideas such as the uniformity of nature and the predictability of future events in order to function or teach us anything. But empirical verification must apply only to a particular time, place, and entity to be examined. I cannot empirically prove that the sun will rise tomorrow until I test the hypothesis tomorrow. But the past cannot be used to predict the future if no metaphysical truths are valid. Thus, science as we know it would then become impossible. Knowledge (science in this case) could mean no more than the reception of unrelated and there unintelligible sensations, bombarding the senses from the physical world.

Also, when you use logic and reason to suggest that YEC is invalid or contradicts "well-established facts", you are utilizing cognitive tools that are not themselves empirically verifiable. In other words, the laws, concepts, criteria, and propositions you appeal to to make your case are not themselves testable, demonstrable, or empirically proven. They are abstract, immaterial, and universal. Since when has anyone seen, smelled, or touched the law of non-contradiction? Thus, reasoning itself is destroyed as the human mind is reduced to a random collection of atoms and electrochemical events that we cannot assume is anything more than a statistical anomaly. We cannot even speak of the brain revealing a pattern if all knowledge is purely empirical. And then who is to say that the atomic event constituting my brain leading me to believe in Jesus Christ is any more or less "valid" than the atomic event of your brain leading you to put your "faith" in naturalistic materialism? Thus, the validity of any argument involves an appeal to various metaphysical (transcendental) criteria.

For instance, how do we know that to be an empiricist is valid? That is a metaphysical question. A material event accessible to the senses is neither valid nor invalid; it is just an event. This is why there are no such things as brute facts. All facts are interpreted facts.

In my experience of interacting with intelligent unbelievers, they correctly note that the creationist assumes the metaphysical propositions of the Bible before coming to the evidence. However, I have also noted that fellows like yourself rarely see that you are metaphysician too; just one of another kind. You too are a person of faith. You presuppose materialism by limiting the nature of existence without any warrant (empirical or otherwise) to do so. Consequently, you seek to disprove metaphysics by using your own metaphysic, and thus adhere to a self-referentially absurd worldview.

, a person holding this view of reality has undermined the very possibility of any knowledge whatsoever, whereas Biblical Christian theism provides us with the philosophical grounding for knowledge (scientific or otherwise), logic, and the intelligibility of human experience.

A Dividing Line You Should Listen To

I think a lot of our readers follow James White's blog and at least occasionally listen to his webcast. For those who don't follow the blog or missed the most recent webcast for some reason, I highly recommend listening to it. You can read a brief and incomplete overview of the program on the page I just linked. But some of the most significant information isn't discussed until near the end of the program, and it isn't mentioned on the page I just referenced. Listen to the whole thing. It's instructive on so many points. It not only further illustrates the problems with Ergun Caner and his ministry, but also says a lot about modern American politics and those who are closely associated with our political system. When people think of political corruption, they often think of things like sex and money. What's worse is the sort of theological corruption that's so widespread today, including in conservative Republican circles. The false priorities, theological ignorance, apathy, religious pluralism, and lack of discernment, among other problems, are appalling. James White emphasized the problems with Caner and those closely associated with him, like Norman Geisler, but I would add that there are so many negative implications for other contexts as well. This incident is yet another illustration of the corruption of our society and political system in general and how unreliable even many conservative politicians and pundits are.

Hopeful universalism

Rob Bell is NOT a Universalist (and I actually read “Love Wins”)
On the basis of a publisher’s promotional paragraph and an advertising video in which Rob Bell questions someone’s certainty that Ghandi [sic.] is in hell, Justin Taylor sounded the web-wide alarm that Rob Bell’s forthcoming book Love Wins espouses universalism (the doctrine that everyone will eventually be saved)...I suspect I have a slight advantage over some who have expressed strong opinions on Love Wins inasmuch as I have actually read the book (I received an advanced copy).
Second, given Rob’s poetic/artistic/non-dogmatic style, Love Wins cannot be easily filed into pre-established theological categories (viz. “universalism” vs “eternal conscious suffering” vs. “annihilationism,” etc.)...I strongly doubt Rob would describe himself as a “Universalist.”...And this holds true even if Rob believes he has warrant to hope everyone will eventually be saved. And for this reason, I would argue that Rob cannot hold to Universalism as a doctrine: he cannot be, in the classic sense of the word, a Universalist.
Addendum: As I’ve said, I don’t think it’s accurate to describe Rob’s book as a defense of Universalism, though it expresses a hope for all to be saved. If you’re looking for defenses of Universalism as a doctrine, the best I’ve found are...Gregory MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist...

i) As a matter of fact, there is a “preestablished theological category” in which to fit Bell’s book (as Boyd himself describes it). There are varieties of universalism. And in the typology of universalism, there’s a distinction between “hopeful universalism,” “dogmatic universalism,” and “hopeful dogmatic universalism”:

Is universal salvation something that Christians can reasonably hope for or is it something they can be certain of? Ludlow and Walls point out that most Christian theologians who have been universalists had held to a form of “hopeful universalism,” whilst both Talbott and Reitan in this volume defend a form of “certain” or “dogmatic universalism,” R. Parry & C. Partridge, eds. Universal Salvation: The Current Debate (Eerdmans 2003), xviii.
Some Christians describe themselves as “hopeful universalists.” By this they mean that Scripture gives good grounds for real hope that all will be saved, but there is no certainty…Other Christians are dogmatic universalists. They argue that it is certain that God will save all. I agree but with a qualification. The theology outlined in this book is one that espouses a dogmatic universalism, but I must confess to not being 100% certain that it is correct. Thus I am a hopeful dogmatic universalist, a non-dogmatic dogmatic universalist, if you will G. MacDonald, The Evangelical Universalist: The biblical hope that God’s love will save us all (SPCK 2008), 4.
I said right at the start that I am a hopeful dogmatic universalist. That is to say that, although, according to my theological system, God will save all people, I am not 100% certain that my system is correct,” ibid. 176.

I believe that Jason Pratt, of the CADRE, is another hopeful universalist. And I think Randal Rauser also identifies himself as a hopeful universalist. So this is well-established usage in universalist circles.

It’s odd that Boyd would mischaracterize universalism when, in fact, he cites a book (which he says he read) that draws that very distinction (more than once).

ii) Boyd also perpetuates the falsehood that Justin Taylor had no firsthand knowledge of the book. 

Moving along:

The stew keeps cooking on controversial mega-church pastor, Rob Bell, and his latest book, Love Wins. Today, Greg Boyd, hardly a non-controversial figure himself among evangelicals with his open theistic views, went on record saying Bell is no universalist.
Sometimes the best test for discovering what someone really believes is right or wrong is observing how he or she reacts when another person treats him or her in a particular way. 

Notice that Lumpkins relies on secondhand information. He continues his attack on Justin Taylor and others based, not on his own reading of Love Wins, but based on hearsay information–what Boyd says Bell says.

Lumpkins is guilty of the very thing he faults in others. So he flunks his own test.

Lumpkins is a bigot. And because he’s a bigot, he’s oblivious to his own bigotry. A bigot thinks the other guy is the bigot.

In Lumpkins’ priority system, if a man who happens to be a Calvinist says something right about a heretic, then it’s more important to attack the Calvinist and defend the heretic, than vice versa.

The Reliability Of The New Testament Text

I'm in the process of putting together more posts that will link to some representative material we've written over the years on a given topic. I've done that in the past with our posts on Jesus' resurrection, Roman Catholicism, and other subjects. I'm planning to eventually put all of these posts together into something like Steve Hays' topical index, but with more than his material.

What I want to do in this post is collect some links to our material on issues related to the textual reliability of the New Testament. As with the other link collections I've posted, this one isn't supposed to be exhaustive (of the subject or of our posts about it). My intention is to provide a good overview, hopefully including at least some of our best material on the subject, but I may overlook some posts or make some bad judgments about what should be included. There's no way to get Blogger, Google, or some other source to produce posts like this for us. As good as Google is for online searches, it often misses things. And it can't make a judgment about which posts at this blog are the best ones or are representative of what we've written on a subject. These things have to be done manually and fallibly, and they take a lot of time.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Village Physicist

I’m struck by why physicists like Robert Oerter, Taner Edis, and Vic Stenger divert so much time to attacking Christianity. Are they bored with physics? Is physics just a part-time occupation?

Or is the problem that physics has hit a wall? That there’s not much new to say about physics? A lack of fundamental progress?

Put another way, has contemporary physics became so intellectually daunting that only the most brilliant minds in the field (e.g. Ed Witten, Roger Penrose, Juan Maldacena) can hope to make a groundbreaking contribution? Hence, while second-stringers like Oerter, Edis, and Stenger are waiting for the big boys to chart the way forward, they fill the time with dilettantish diversions? 

The politics of fear

"The Overhauling of Straight America"

"Don't Hate Me Because I'm Arminian"

A dozen years ago, Roger Olson wrote an article entitled “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Arminian.”

I want to assure Roger than I don’t hate Arminians. To the contrary, I like Arminians. Indeed, there are many different ways in which I like my Arminians.

Whenever I go on a cruise with my Reformed homiez, we bring along some tender young Arminians if we need something to eat just in case we’re stranded on a desert island. I always take along a waterproof, pocket-sized cookbook with my favorite recipes, viz. Arminian au jus, Arminian au poivre, Arminian brouillé, Arminian brulée, Arminian confit, Arminian en croute, Arminian en papillote, Arminian flambé, Arminian fondue, Arminian fricasse, Arminian gratin, Arminian Lyonnaise, Arminian Niçoise, Arminian pâté, Arminian poché, Arminian potage, Arminian soufflé. 

"The everlasting hills"

It is objected to the argument founded on these passages that the word “everlasting” is sometimes used in Scripture of periods of limited duration. In reference to this objection it may be remarked, (1.) That the Hebrew and Greek words rendered in our version eternal, or everlasting, mean duration whose termination is unknown. When used in reference to perishable things, as when the Bible speaks of “the everlasting hills,” they simply indicate indefinite existence, that is, existence to which there is no known or assignable limit.

Hodge is fielding arguments for annihilationism. While I agree with his overall position, I don’t agree with how he handles this particular argument:

1. It’s important to distinguish the viewpoint of a modern reader from the narrative viewpoint of the Bible writer or his target audience.

Why would a modern reader assume the “everlasting hills” are really perishable? I can think of two reasons.

i) First of all, we’ve been taught by modern geology and orogeny that given sufficient time, mountains and hills erode. Indeed, even a young-earth creationist will grant the life-cycle of mountains, once the cycle is initiated by fiat creation.

a) However, it would be anachronistic to filter Biblical imagery through that perspective. There’s no reason to think the Bible writer, or his target audience, is allowing for millions of years of erosion.

Rather, I assume the Bible writer is simply trading on a commonplace observation: generations come and go, but mountains remain. People have been living in the shadow of mountains for centuries. They live and die. The next generation takes their place. But the mountain remains the same. In human experience, a mountain is a landmark in time as well as space. We don’t see mountains erode. We don’t live that long. And that’s the point of the imagery.

b) Apropos (a), what is intended is not the literal duration of mountains, but the symbolic duration of mountains. In relation to the human lifespan (in a fallen world), mountains are perpetual.

The fact that mountains actually erode over eons is irrelevant to the emblematic of mountains in these passages. The question, rather, is what mountains stand for in Biblical usage, not what mountains are really like.

ii) Secondly, there are eschatological passages that describe the destruction or transformation of mountains. However, that’s irrelevant to the other types of passages.

a) Some passages depict mountains as indestructible to contrast mountains with the fleeting features of human existence. What’s permanent in relation to what’s impermanent. It’s improper to qualify the force of these passages by reference to other passages, for other passages serve a different function. We must respect the intent of each writer. An eschatological passage is meant to make a different point. And, in each case, we’re dealing with the symbolic value of mountains. 

b) In addition, the eschatological passages actually reinforce the inherent perpetuity of mountains. The point is not that mountains naturally erode over time. To the contrary, the point is that mountains are emblematic of something that’s naturally indestructible. That’s what makes the eschatological imagery so arresting. Only divine power can pulverize a mountain. The cataclysmic events of Judgment Day. 

Evidence For Modern Miracles

A common objection to Christianity, as well as supernatural belief systems in general, is that miracles supposedly don't occur in today's world. We've written many posts on the subject over the years. I want to provide links to some representative examples of those posts, as well as a couple of links to other sites.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

"Science bashers!"

Can You Not See What It Takes to Believe? You Must Bash Science!
By John W. Loftus at 2/26/2011

Yep, that what Vic Reppert and gang must do, and Vic is supposedly an intellectual whom Christians say stands head over heels above me! lol Is this not completely and utterly ignorant? This is why I cannot believe. To do so you must be ignorant!

As a Princeton undergraduate, Nader questioned the spraying of the pesticide DDT on campus. "The groundskeepers would spray it on with huge hoses — we'd even wipe it off our faces it was so thick. The next morning there would be dead birds on the sidewalk."
Nader made the connection, but when he approached the editors of the Princeton newspaper with the story, he was brushed off. "They told me that we had brilliant biology professors and chemists at Princeton and if there was a connection between DDT and the birds' deaths, they would know about it. That was one of the best lessons I had at Princeton." 

Peter Lumpkins' kangaroo court

  1. Justin,

    I’m also curious concerning the circumstances surrounding precisely how you gained access to Bell’s book. If you were assigned by HarperOne (or legitimate rep) to critique the book, why did you not engage the book, giving the public a genuine review? If you got hold of a copy sorta “under the table,” so to speak, well, that obviously raises questions. Not necessarily for possessing it understand. I get sent lots of things I didn’t request. So I can identify with that.
    Nonetheless, presuming for argument’s sake you received the book “under the table,” and hence could not in good conscience engage the content lest you call attention to your having an “under the table” copy (again presuming only for argument’s sake), to sound a “backdoor” warning based on what you actually read in the book by just focusing on the cover and video does raise profound integrity questions–at least to me–precisely why you were compelled to do so.
    Whatever the case, you evidently made a horrible gaffe.
    With that, I am…

  1. Notice Peter Lumpkins’ Kafkesque duplicity. On the one hand he condemns Justin for allegedly drawing conclusions about the book without having read it. On the other hand, he also condemns Justin for drawing conclusions about the book in case he read it. If Justin is guilty as charged, then he’s guilty–but if Justin is innocent, then he’s still guilty!
    Lumpkins is a one-man kangaroo court.
    This is what happens to men who are blinded by their partisanship.


What’s the big deal about asking questions? Can’t people hedge their bets simply by putting a question mark at the end of their statements without the hyper-Calvies getting all whacky on them? Has anyone considered the fact that there’s no way that an actual argument can be expressed solely by asking questions without making a single declarative statement?

If it was the case that one could present an argument solely in question format, don’t you think that more and more people would be involved in such tactics than we currently see? How many people present arguments based only on questions anyway? Wouldn’t it have to be a vast minority, perhaps even none? Could you really see the majority of people being able to do such a thing?

Have we allowed our culture to fall to such depths that the mere expression of questions now means that we can discern the “hidden” objective of the question asker? Seriously, isn’t that a flawed type of thinking? What would be the results if we allowed this sort of hyper-Calvie witch hunt to continue? Would Bell be able to write another book? Would Olson be able to comment on it? What about Witherington?

Do you think that maybe this is the sort of thing that should have been examined before Justin Taylor went off the reservation in assailing a man who’s work hasn’t even been sold yet? Isn’t it precisely that sort of jumping-the-gun that causes 99% of the problems between the Neo-Reformed and Real Christians? Haven’t Arminians and Calvinists fought each other enough? Isn’t it time to end the philosophical and theological bloodshed?

How could I possibly make this more obvious to you?

Roger Olson on annihilationism

Roger says:
Thanks. Speaking of annihilationism (which is not my view)–I had coffee with one of its main promoters Edward Fudge this week. He was on campus to hear some lectures and we talked for about an hour. While I disagree with his belief, I don’t think he’s a heretic or anything close to it. But I know some evangelicals probably think so.

"2K or not-2K?"

Another day, another Arminian hypocrite

ben witherington March 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Well Kevin I think I disagree with you. You seem not to be able to assess deliberately rhetorical questions. And they are good questions. I don’t mind if Rob Bell plays the agent provacateur to get us to think about these things. Paul did the same thing at times. I will mind if he gives unBiblical answers to such questions. You might want to see my blog post on the same matter which you can access through my website or by going to Patheos.

i) BW3 misses the point. There are many different types of questions. Rhetorical, leading, loaded, suggestive, declarative, hypothetical, open, closed, &c.

Likewise, different questioners can have different motives for asking the same type of question.

The point is that questions can function as a disguised way of expressing the viewpoint of the questioner. Floating a trial balloon. That tactic can buy the questioner plausible deniability. If challenged, he can exclaim, "I was only asking a question!"

Yet that can be devious if, in fact, the speaker was using a question to express his own viewpoint.

Rhetorical questions can be perfectly innocent. No one denies that. That's not the issue.

The issue is whether Bell is tipping his hand by the types of questions he asks. Is it an effort to disarm potential criticism by broaching the issue through the backdoor?

BW3 prides himself on being an expert in the art of rhetoric, but his objection is simplistic and naive. An orator can uses questions in a cagey way.

ii) The problem is that Bell's defenders are acting as if asking questions is categorically different from making assertions. But that ignores the many different ways that questions can function in communication.

Let's take a concrete example. Take Peter Singer's opening gambit for antinatalism:

Singer is media savvy. He knows that antinatalism is a hard sell. So he presents his case for antinatalism under the guise of asking questions. That's a softening up exercise.

But clearly he's doing more than just asking questions. He's expressing his own viewpoint.

Questions are just a politically expedient tactic he uses to break the ice for a controversial, unpopular position.

Suppose Kevin DeYoung or Justin Taylor were to do a post attacking Singer's op-ed on antinatalism. Would BW3 respond by saying "You seen not to be able to assess deliberately rhetorical questions"?

iii) BW3 is also assuming that Bell is simply playing devil's advocate. But that's precisely the issue in dispute.

[BW3] In this post, I have a very different beef—– I must say I am hugely disappointed in people like John Piper and Mark Driscoll, who also haven’t read the book yet, and yet are prepared to condemn Rob…And even it it turns out there are some unBiblical ideas or thoughts in Rob’s new book, shouldn’t the approach to the matter be to first ‘go to the brother’ and gently talk to him personally about these things before twittering, tweeting, or blogging about the matter?

Did you first go to John Piper and Mark Driscoll and gently talk to them personally before blogging about your grievances?

[BW3] Frankly this is all too typical of the hyper-Calvinistic wing of the Evangelical world. Shoot first, ask questions later…And what should be said to them is— shame on you for prejudging a brother in Christ. Shame on you for being prepared to pontificate and judge before you have even read what the man has to say.

But Justin Taylor, whose post set the ball in motion, says he did rely on firsthand knowledge of the book. So did you actually read Justin’s post, or are you bouncing off of 2nd/3rd-hand hostile accounts of what “the hyper-Calvinistic wing” said? If so, aren’t you “shooting first, asking questions later?”

Hart failure

Over at Green Baggins, Reed DePace has posted the 2k principles of Darryl Hart. I’m going to comment on some of his principles.

Affirmation: the state is called to punish wickedness, reward goodness, and promote peace and order.
Affirmation: church members have a duty to obey the laws of civil magistrates.
Denial: church members may not rebel against or disobey the magistrate.

i) And what is the duty of church members when the state punishes goodness and rewards wickedness?

ii) How does that mesh with the natural law component of 2k? Even if we treat the alleged silence of the NT on civil disobedience or revolution as prohibitive thereof, surely it's easy to come up with natural law justifications for civil disobedience or even revolution. Take a natural law social contract theorist. If a magistrate oversteps the bounds of the social contract, if he flagrantly violates the terms of the social contract, then wouldn't that warrant tyrannicide–as a last resort?

There's a basic tension between the 2k appeal to NT ethics and the 2k appeal to natural law ethics.

iii) Who’s the magistrate?

In many times and places you don't have an orderly transition of power. Rather, there are often rival claimants to the throne.

Take a banana republic where the opposition candidate wins fair-and-square, but still loses to the reigning dictator. One candidate has the votes, the other has the tanks.

So who should Christian citizens submit to? The de jure magistrate or the de facto magistrate?

iv) And that, in turn, raises yet another problem: which takes precedence: the law or the magistracy?

Let's suppose, for the sake of argument, that civil law codifies natural law. The opposition candidate has the law on his side.

But the reigning dictator has the army behind him. He's bribed the generals and the foot-soldiers. So he's not going to step down without a fight. He must be forced from power.

So where does the civic duty of the Christian lie? Should he support the lawfully elected candidate, or the military dictator?

If natural law sets the standard, then presumably he should support the lawfully elected candidate even if that would involve fomenting revolution against the ruling party.

On the other hand, 2k proponents constantly cite Roman gov't as their limiting case. Submit to Nero. Submit to Caligula. Yet many Roman emperors were usurpers.

So do we submit to the usurper, and support the status quo–or do we support the legitimate claimant, even if that's seditious?

Does natural law require us to be traitors?

Denial: the church may not bind consciences on the basis of one minister’s or believer’s interpretation but must do so corporately through the deliberations of sessions, presbyterians [sic.], and assemblies.

i) What was the duty of church members during the Arian controversy? Wasn't Athanasius bucking the establishment?

What was the duty of Luther, Calvin, Vermingli, and other first-generation Protestants? Was it to follow their individual interpretation of Scripture or defer to the religious establishment (i.e. Rome)?

If Hart lived in 16-17C England, would he side with the Puritans or the church of England? Weren't the Puritans the dissidents in relation to the established church?

ii) Wouldn’t it be more sensible to say the true interpretation binds the conscience? After all, it's possible for individuals to be right and collectives to be wrong.

Do the sessions, presbyteries, and assemblies of the PCUSA bind the conscience?

iii) What if one Presbyterian denomination disagrees with another on some point of doctrine or practice? Does it bind the conscience of a church member when he belongs to one Presbyterian denomination, but ceases to bind the conscience when he changes membership?