Saturday, November 05, 2011

For all the saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, alleluia!

Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
Thou, Lord, their captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true light.
Alleluia, alleluia!

O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, alleluia!

From earth's wide bounds, from ocean's farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, alleluia!

(I love this hymn. But I'm not sure if the above is a good rendition. For example, I thought the third stanza might've been better served had the entire chorus or perhaps a male sung instead. Particularly so given the martial imagery painted. At any rate, I hope it's enough to give a fair sense of the hymn.)

“First Holy Communion”, Spring 1967

For all my Roman Catholic fans, yes, I did grow up a geeky little Roman Catholic boy. This is a photo of me at my “First Holy Communion”, spring 1967, at the end of second grade. And that’s a “Missal” I’m holding, not a Bible. A missal is a liturgical book containing all instructions and texts necessary for the celebration of Mass throughout the year. I think I still have this one. We didn’t use it for long. Not long after this, the RCC came out with “missalettes”, small, paperbound booklets that contained the cycle of Mass readings for several weeks or several months.

Later, in my early 20’s, I was devout enough that I thought I might want to become a priest, too.

He has sent redemption

HT: Jay Wingard.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Pastor Jeffress defends 'Mormonism is a cult' comment

Political prisoners

I haven’t follow the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled at Herman Cain closely, but from what I’ve read thus far, it amounts to anonymous sources quoting unnamed women making vague allegations. For now I’ll make the following points:

i) I don’t think Cain is the best candidate for other reasons. It may be that he will be knocked out of the running for the wrong reasons. I’d prefer another candidate, although it would be unfortunate if he’s unjustly ousted.

ii) There’s a larger issue. The accusations I’ve read thus far are politically correct accusations of the sort that endanger all normal men. It’s fostering a witch-hunt climate for men who are harmlessly flirtatious, or simply take pleasure in gazing at a pretty woman. That shouldn't be a prosecutable or a fireable offense.

iii) A witch-hunt creates a dilemma. On the one hand, it threatens many innocent bystanders. You never know who the accusers will come for next.

On the other hand, it’s also dangerous to oppose the witch-hunt. To be the first person to take a public stand against it. For the instant you do so, suspicion falls on you. What would motivate you to defend an accused witch unless you yourself were a secret sympathizer?

So even though many men privately disapprove of what’s happening to Cain (assuming he’s innocent of genuine wrongdoing), there’s still a temptation to distance yourself from him for your own protection. If you defend him, you’re inviting unwanted attention.

iv) This also reflects a new, reverse double standard. According to the old double standard, boys could be boys, but girls were shamed.

Now, however, it doesn’t seem as if a woman will get in trouble for flirting with a male coworker, or casting admiring glances at a male coworker. Same thing in public school.

v) A related problem is the way this illicitly expands the roster of registered sexual offenders. It doesn’t discriminate between genuine sexual predators and politically incorrect offenders.

And, ironically, this is more likely to fuel pornography and prostitution, if men feel that’s safer than flirting or dating.

A witch-hunt feeds on its own momentum. It only stops when it implicates the power brokers. If the power brokers feel threatened, then they will shut it down. But it does untold damage before reaching that point.

Like Stalinism, the liberal establishment is creating a class of political prisoners.

Peter Enns on Paul, Adam, and Evolution

HT: Patrick Chan

Can Mutations Create New Information?

What follows is an interesting article by biologist Dr. Robert Carter that goes beyond the usual "evolution can't happen because it requires novel genetic information" argument:  Can Mutations Create New Information?  In this article, Dr. Carter discusses genetic algorithims, determining a proper definition for "information" for biological systems, decompression of packed information, the five dimensions of biological information, and meta-information.

Obama mocks “In God We Trust”

Obama mocked Republicans in congress for discussing the motto, “In God We Trust”. And in doing so, he invoked (with no sense of irony whatsoever) the medieval conception of justification, quod in se est (“God helps those who help themselves”). His actual phrase was “God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work”.

The nature of the “righteousness of God”: Martin Luther was right

This is the “interpretation” of the “verse” on which the Reformation hinges. And Martin Luther got it right. The “infallible” “Church” got it wrong, and the world has never been the same.

I’m continuing to talk about Martin Luther’s “discovery” of “justification” and “the Theology of the Cross,” both of which emerged in his thinking at the same time, and which were inextricably related to each other. As McGrath (“Luther’s Theology of the Cross,” Oxford, UK: and Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, ©1985, 1990) pointed out:
There are two aspects to Luther’s discovery of ‘the righteousness of God’. The first relates to the nature of this righteousness: Luther discovered a ‘wonderful new definition of righteousness’ which stood in diametrical opposition to human understandings of iustitia. The second relates to the mode by which this righteousness comes to the individual: man cannot perform good works which are capable of earning justification on a quid pro quo basis, but he can totally abase himself, and cry out to God for grace.
McGrath considered “the second aspect of the matter,” “mode”, first. And at these two links I talked shared that discussion:

The Righteousness of God
God’s wrath is his penultimate and not his final word

Beginning his discussion now of the “nature” of this “righteousness of God”, McGrath says:
It will be clear that Luther’s early insistence upon the necessity of destroying human preconceptions of iustitia through the opus alienum Dei leads us on to consider the nature of the ‘righteousness of God’. In the opening of the scholia [commentary] of his lectures on Romans, Luther states his conviction that the letter represents a programmatic assault upon human preconceptions of wisdom and righteousness.
Remember that it was not so clear-cut at all for young Martin Luther. Consider the world in which he grew up , and what “human preconceptions of wisdom and righteousness” were like:

Thursday, November 03, 2011

God and Evolution

Practice makes imperfect

As I was channel-surfing last night I stumbled across an episode of Real World: San Diego. In-between commercial breaks of The Ultimate Fighter, I watched snatches of the MTV program. Taking the temperature of the pop culture.

From what I can tell, this is the set-up: the producer is trying to create a narrative to advance his political agenda. Zach is the foil. The stereotypical gun-tottin' redneck alpha male jock. A throwback to the caveman. That’s how the show depicts him. That’s why he was picked for the show. To play the villainous homophobe. 

He pairs off with Ashley, a cheerleader type. They form the heteronormative couple. Of course, from the viewpoint of the producer, that’s bad.

Then you have Alexandra, who’s the embodiment of liberal enlightenment. Think Guinan.

Finally, you have the two queer characters. This is what the producer is trying to promote.

At least from what little I saw, which was more than enough, their behavior ironically subverts the political agenda.

You have Sam, who poses as the butch lesbian. And you have Frank.

Both of them keep assuring the viewer of how “proud” they are to be homosexual. Problem is, they spend far too much time trying to convince us–and themselves. Men and women who are truly at ease in their own skin don’t feel incessant need to prove themselves to others.

Despite their protestations, they dissolve into tears when Zach and Ashley refuse to participate in their “Gay Pride” event. But if they’re so sure of their alternate sexual identity, why do they feel so threatened by Zach and Ashley? Why do they so desperately pine for heterosexual approval? Zack and Ashley certainly don't seek validation from their queer roommates. 

Fact is, both Sam and Frank crack under the strain of pretending to be something they are not. Sam’s body language is so tense, so rigid, wrapped so tight that she’s almost a mannequin. And Fred is a whiney, high-strung sissy.

While Zach and Ashley are secure in their identity, Sam and Frank are both a bundle of nerves. It’s hard to keep up the act 24/7. You don’t have to work at being normal. That comes naturally. But try to rebel against nature–now that takes effort. Practice all you please, it never becomes habitual. 

By Jove!

I’m posting my side of a recently exchange with Bob Gonzales. My disagreement in no way detracts from all the other fine work Dr. Gonzales is doing.


How would you respond to someone who suggested that the hermeneutical approach taken by Murray on God’s attitude towards the reprobate leads to open theism if carried to a logical extreme?

To take a concrete example, this is how Gregory Boyd replies to a Wm Young type of reply:

The Scripture used to support the open view may be interpreted as phenomenological anthropomorphisms
Response: This asserts that these passages are a human way of speaking about things as they seem to be, not as they really are. However, nothing in the context of these Scriptures, covering a variety of audiences, authors, and contexts, suggests they are “phenomenological” (how things appear) or “anthropomorphic.” There is no justification for reading into these descriptions of God’s actions anything other than their most natural explanation. How can reports about what God was thinking be phenomenological (Jer. 3:6–7; 19–20; Exod. 13:17)? And if they are anthropomorphic, it’s not clear what they mean. For example, what do all the passages that explicitly say God changed his mind mean if God doesn’t, in fact, change his mind?

Conversely, take the OPC minority report, which you link to. Young raises some of the following objections to Murray’s position:

(a) There is frequent employment of anthropopathic language in Scripture, in which grief, anger, jealously, curiosity, and repentance are ascribed to Deity. Such Scripture passages teach that God acts in a manner which we are taught to view as corresponding to the manner of action of human beings moved by such passions. From these Scriptures the presence of such passions in God cannot be inferred.
(b) Elements in human desire unsuited to the perfection of God can be mentioned. Desire suggests a want or lack in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire. This is incompatible with the self-sufficiency of God. Desire is something weaker than the firm determination of the will. No such weak wishing can properly be ascribed to God whose will is firmly fixed and fixes all things. God has not a will that can be frustrated as well as one that cannot be.
(c) The particular passages of Scripture alleged to support frustratable desires no more prove desire as an emotion or passion in God than the assertion “it repented God…” etc. proves a real change of his mind, or that God actually desired to know that the wickedness of Sodom was as it had been represented to him.

That’s the standard strategy which orthodox Christians use to deflect the arguments of open theists. Notice the parallel between arguments Murray is using and the arguments that open theists use. Wm Young interprets that as anthropomorphic or anthropopathetic usage. But his side lost.
Of course, open theism wasn’t on the radar back then, but if you reject Young’s counterargument to Murray, how could you rebut an open theist who is making the same exegetical moves that Murray does? You’ve forfeited the strategy available to Young.

Murray takes the emotive ascriptions at face value. So do open theists like Boyd. How can you accept Murray’s methodology, but reject the conclusions of open theists when they are using essentially the same methodology?

Gonzales replies:

“(1) Man as God’s image is his visible replica and vice-regent. Accordingly, man himself is a vehicle of general revelation, and God uses human language as a vehicle for special revelation. Such revelation is, of necessity, analogical in nature. That means descriptions of God employing human language and ascribing qualities or faculties to God that sound “human” must be interpreted analogically (similar), not univocally (identical). (contra Open Theism)”

i) I think you and I are talking at cross purposes. For one thing, we need to distinguish between how we interpret/exegete a text, and how we interpret our exegetical findings. Take how Murray handles these two passages:

“Since they did not fulfil that which was optatively expressed in [Deut] 5:29 (26), we must conclude that God had not decreed that they should have such a heart. If God had decreed it, it would have been so. Here therefore we have an instance of desire on the part of God for the fulfilment of that which he had not decreed; in other words, a will on the part of God to that which he had not decretively willed. Should we make full allowance for doubt as to the exact force of the construction in the case of Deut. 32:29 and Isa. 48:18, there can be no room for question but that the Lord represents himself in some of these passages as earnestly desiring the fulfilment of something which he had not in the exercise of his sovereign will actually decreed to come to pass.”

The point at issue is not whether that is how God represents himself. The disagreement doesn’t occur at that interpretive level.

When I say Murray takes his prooftexts at face-value, I mean this: Murray takes for granted that the Bible writer intends to literally ascribe these mental states to God. Murray doesn’t think the Bible writer is speaking rhetorically or hyperbolically. He doesn’t even make allowance for that possibility.

ii) Put another way, is the Bible writer using propositional/illocutionary language about God, or performative/perlocutionary language about God? Is he trying to assert something about the mind of God, or is he trying to provoke an appropriate response in the listener (e.g. encourage, deter)?

Genre considerations are also relevant to our discourse classification.

The question at issue is not whether these texts attribute certain mental states to God, but how the reader is supposed to interpret that attribution. What did the Bible writer intend? What did he have in mind? How did he mean that ascription to be understood by the audience? That’s the issue.

iii) Put another way, we need to distinguish between how we interpret the text, and how we interpret the implications of the text vis-à-vis systematic theology.

In principle, Young could agree with Murray on what the text says. That’s not the primary point in dispute. The bone of contention is whether that ascription was meant to be taken literally or rhetorically. Propositionally or performatively.

iv) Which brings me to the next point. We don’t interpret a text analogically. It’s not our hermeneutical approach that’s analogical. Rather, the question of analogy is a second-order question. How we interpret our exegetical findings. The role of analogy in God-talk. And, underlying that, the degree to which God is metaphysically like and unlike the creature.

“(2) Theologians have commonly referred to such language as ‘anthropomorphic’ (human form) or ‘anthropopathic’ (human feelings). This terminology is appropriate provided that we remember its function is to convey analogical knowledge, not univocal or equivocal knowledge.”

That’s parallel to the distinction between literal and figurative usage. A metaphor involves a relation between one thing and another. A metaphor stands for something else. The metaphor has something in common with the literal referent.

“The psalmist is certainly not implying that God has physical ears or physical eyes.”

i) Sure. You just take it up to the intended level of abstraction. Arms, eyes, and ears are concrete modes of acting or knowing. So they can function as metaphors for divine omniscience and omnipotence.

ii) But analogy doesn’t distinguish your position from open theism. Boyd isn’t a Mormon. Boyd doesn’t think God is just a very powerful man.

“God is not simply above time and space. God actually enters time and space. And within the matrix of human history, God thinks, feels, and acts. Moreover, God’s thinking, feeling, and acting is often depicted as a response to some state of affairs or human action.”

That’s a highly contestable claim which you seem to treat as a given. But theologians like Paul Helm certainly wouldn’t grant your contention.

“So God’s acts within the matrix of human history (e.g., the exodus, the resurrection of Christ) are instances of real and discreet activity occurring within time and space.”

The fact that God’s plan is effected in time, in a given sequence, doesn’t mean that God himself must be in time.

“Similarly, God’s emotive responses to states of affairs or events within the matrix of human history are genuine responses. God reacts to evil with a kind of grief, disappointment, and anger that corresponds to the kind of emotions we feel.”

i) You’re assuming what you need to prove. That begs the very question at issue. And it’s on the same continuum as open theism.

ii) Yes, you introduce predestination, but that’s diluted by your claim that God is “disappointed” with the results.

“But I believe we must embrace all the biblical descriptions of God…”

We must embrace all that with a view to their intended force.

“Yet, I also affirm that within the matrix of human history God experiences grief, sorrow, anger, pleasure, love, hatred, jealousy, joy and peace. All of these emotional responses are perfectly consistent with his unchanging ‘being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.’”

Stipulating consistency doesn’t make it consistent.

“On the other hand, I reject the view that only sees God in terms of above or outside of human history–the view that describes God as a ‘fixed pillar’ and depicts mental, volitional, or affectional changes ascribed to him as merely phenomenal, as changes that really occur in man but not in any sense in God.”

You’re casting classical theism in rather invidious terms, but that aside, you’re admitting, in a roundabout way, that God loses control. That creation can pull God’s strings.

I’m reminded of an old Columbo episode (“By Dawn’s Early Light”) where the Patrick McGoohan character manipulates a cadet because the cadet is so predictable.

“Of course, that doesn’t mean that Murray viewed divine desire in a one-to-one correspondence with human desire. He, like Van Til and John Frame, maintain the Creature/Creator distinction.”

It’s not enough for you to invoke analogy in the abstract. If your going to claim that God literally experiences grief, sorrow, anger, hatred, jealousy, &c., then you need to say in what respect those ascriptions are analogous or disanalogous.

“You raise the question of whether the text is trying ‘to assert something about the mind of God, or is [it] trying to provoke an appropriate response in the listener (e.g. encourage, deter)?’ as if we have to choose between one or the other. My response is that both are true. In this case, performative/perlocutionary language about God is grounded in propositional/illocutionary language about God. That’s how I believe the ordinary Israelite would have interpreted the text, i.e., ‘I should genuinely fear God (which includes faith and repentance) because God genuinely wants me and all sinners–including those who fell in the wilderness–to genuinely fear him always for our perpetual good.’ Indeed, that’s how God wants the Israelite (as well as you and me) to interpret the text.”

I don’t know why you think God has to have a singular purpose or motive when he issues threats, promises, &c. He might issue a threat to deter the elect as well as inculpate the reprobate. His intention is genuine in both cases, but it’s not reducible to a singular intention for both parties.

“So we have to remember the Creator/Creature distinction from the beginning to the end of the whole exegetical process.”

You’re blurring the Creator/creature distinction.

“God does not simply manifest the “effectuation of his plan” in time and space; God manifests his real presence in time and space especially through the incarnation.”

i) That’s a confused statement. I didn’t say God manifests the effectuation of his plan. He effects his plan. He doesn’t effect a manifestation of his plan. Of course, there’s a sense in which the spatiotemporal world is a manifestation of his timeless, immaterial decree.

ii) You also beg the question in terms of how best to model the Incarnation.

“I believe my view is consistent with Scripture.”

Your view is consistent with the surface grammar of Scripture, but the same could be said for open theism.

“Steve, you seem to object to the idea that emotive responses ascribed to God can in fact refer to any real inward psychological activity within the Godhead.”

On my view, God causes changes in the world; the world doesn’t cause changes in God. God is not an effect of his own creation.

“He argued that when the Bible says God feels compassion, it doesn’t really mean that. Rather, God does nice things which we humans interpret as indicative of real heartfelt compassion. But in reality, we’re wrong to interpret it that way, so says Anselm, because of his particular view of divine impassability (unfortunately inherited from certain Greek philosophers) that a priori precludes us from interpreting it that way.”

i) You seem to be equating impassibility with apathy. That’s not what it means. Rather, it means God cannot be affected by anything outside himself.

ii) As far as Greek philosophers go, we could just as well say that your alternative resembles Greek mythology. The Greek gods were very emotional. Very reactionary. Your view of God seems quite Homeric. Prone to wild mood swings.

“On the other hand, you ascribe to me the unfounded belief that God ‘loses control’ when in fact I have asserted that God not only responds emotively in time and space but that God has decreed and providentially governs every one of his responses as well as the states of affairs and/or human actions that precede his responses. How that can be interpreted as God “losing control” is beyond me.”

Because, what you give with one hand, you snatch away with the other. You have God ruing the consequences of his own actions. Take your illustration of a screenwriter. You’re putting the God in a position where the characters in his screenplay have the power to make him mad, grief-stricken, &c. The characters acquire this godlike power over their Maker. They know what buttons to push to get a rise out of him.

You can’t patch it up by falling back on predestination, for given predestination, it’s nonsensical to say that God feels let down by his own plan.

“Above you say I need to prove that God responds emotively rather than simply assuming that he does. Fair enough, the Bible provides an overwhelming amount of data in favor of divine emotivity.”

i) Your methodology is identical to Gregory Boyd’s. He also quotes lots of verses to prove that God frequently changes his mind. God expresses regret and disappointment over how things turned out. God tells us that he is surprised at how things turned out because he expected a different outcome. God frequently tests his people to find out whether they’ll remain faithful to him. God sometimes asks non-rhetorical questions about the future.

ii) Merely quoting Scripture misses the point. As I said at the outset, the question at issue is not whether Scripture contains certain depictions of God, but how we ought to construe those depictions.

“Finally, I question whether this conversation is going to end up productive.”

The point of conversations like this is rarely to change the minds of the immediate participants. Rather, it’s to get the arguments and counterarguments out into the open so that onlookers can better assess the respective claims. But if you feel this conversation is at the point of diminishing returns, fine. Thanks for your time.

A very R-rated Christmas

Militant atheists and apostates treat secularism as liberating. Oh, to be freed from the shackles of Christianity. You'd think they had something better to live for. See what Christians are missing out on:

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Herman Cain Should Be Abandoned

I don't agree with him on every point, but Quin Hillyer provides a generally good summary of Cain's problems. I suspect that many of Cain's supporters are similar to Sarah Palin's in some ways. They like Cain as a person and assign an inordinate amount of weight to his likeability. They're not nearly as concerned about electability as they ought to be. They have a tendency to underestimate his weaknesses. They overestimate the role of the media and other sources in harming their candidate. Etc. I was glad when Palin announced she wouldn't be running. Unfortunately, the mindset of her supporters seems to have gained a foothold in the Cain campaign.

Is he guilty of sexual harassment or something similar to it? Probably. I find it unlikely that the growing list of people who have accused him are all wrong. But even if the accusations had never come up, his frequent missteps on the issues, like the examples Hillyer mentions, are enough to disqualify him.

I originally wanted Bobby Jindal to be the Republican candidate. I was also interested in some other possibilities, like Marco Rubio. But my top choices didn't run. So I went with Tim Pawlenty. Remarkably, even candidates as weak as Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain got more support than Pawlenty did, and he didn't stay in the race long. After Pawlenty, I went with Rick Perry. He's made some mistakes, but his weaknesses aren't nearly as bad as Cain's. Mitt Romney is more electable than Perry, but Perry can be trusted more to govern as a conservative if he gets elected. My sense is that Perry has sufficient electability to win against Barack Obama. But if it doesn't look like he'll be electable enough early next year, I'll move over to Romney. Most Republicans want an alternative to Romney, and they need to decide on one soon. I think Cain should be abandoned, and Perry ought to be the alternative. Then give him some time to improve as a candidate, like improving his debate performances. If he's sufficiently electable early next year, go with Perry. If he's not, go with Romney.

Sharia and the Marines

Murray contra Murray

Bob Gonzales draws attention to an apparent contradiction in the views of Murray and Stonehouse regarding the free offer:

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1959 and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of America in 1981 adopted chapters 34 and 35 of the 1903 revision. Chapter 35, touches on the doctrine of common grace and affirms God’s sincere offer of the gospel to all men. The first two paragraphs are particularly relevant:
I. God in infinite and perfect love, having provided in the covenant of grace, through the mediation and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, as way of life and salvation, sufficient for and adapted to the whole lost race of man, doth freely offer this salvation to all men in the gospel.
II. In the gospel God declares his love for the world and his desire that all men should be saved; reveals fully and clearly the only way of salvation; promises eternal life to all who truly repent and believe in Christ; invites and commands all to embrace the offered mercy; and by his Spirit accompanying the word pleads with men to accept his gracious invitation.7

  1. I’m aware of the fact that Ned Stonehouse and John Murray wrote an article in 1937 criticizing this addition. One can read Stonehouse and Murray’s reasoning here. I honestly can’t understand why Murray would reject this particular doctrinal formula in light of his own view of the free offer that he would later articulate in 1948. Perhaps he changed his mind. Or perhaps the some of the baggage that came accompanied the 1903 revision like, for instance, the accompanying “Declaratory Statement” and unqualified affirmation of the salvation of all infants colored Murray’s view of the agenda that was behind the entire 1903 revision.

Here's the relevant section:

The Love of God
Chapter XXXV purports to express more fully than has been done elsewhere in the Confession the doctrine of the church on the subject “Of the Love of God and Missions.” From the standpoint of the Reformed Faith the objections are principally three:
(1) There is a studied omission of the electing love of God, and therefore of the distinction between the love of God that is unto salvation and the general benevolence of God that is unto all but is not of itself saving. Such an omission is fatal. It is impossible to give creedal statement to the Reformed doctrine of the love of God without explicit enunciation of the particular love of God. This objection gathers all the more strength when it is remembered that the topic is not only “the Love of God” but “the Love of God and Missions,” in other words, the love of God as it is directly related to the missionary work of the church.
It is true that the missionary who has an intelligent love of the gospel and zeal for the salvation of men does not forget the benevolence that God exhibits to all, nor does he fail to impress upon men the witness it bears to the goodness of God. But the chief message of the missionary, the message that pre-eminently constrains him to preach to the lost, is the message of that love that sent the Son of God into the world, the love that is electing and effectively redemptive. This revision, then, omits what a Reformed consciousness in the performance of its paramount duty precisely demands.
(2) But not only is definition of the particular love of God studiously omitted. When the extent of God’s love is mentioned it is expressly universalized. In Section I the love of God is described as infinite and perfect love and in Section II it is said that “in the Gospel God declares His love for the world.” There is, of course, a scriptural sense in which God’s love for the world is declared in the gospel. But in the context in which this is stated in this section it is calculated to teach a doctrine of God’s love entirely different from and at variance with, Scripture teaching and Reformed standards.
(3) In Section II there is careful omission of any mention of the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit. The reply might be given that this phase of truth is sufficiently expressed in the preceding chapter and in the Confession elsewhere. This reply is not an answer to the objection. Why is the reference to the work of the Holy Spirit in Section II left on the plane of merely suasive influence? Why, we peremptorily ask, in a creedal statement that purports to set forth the official teaching of a Reformed Church on the subject of the love of God and missions should there be omission of the very thing that alone offers any real encouragement to the missionary, namely, the love of God coming to expression in the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit?
In brief, the objection to this chapter is that it is not Reformed, indeed, that there is nothing distinctly Reformed in it. The subject treated of lies close to the very heart of the Reformed Faith. How possibly can a formulation so destitute of Reformed truth on so vital a subject be defended in Reformed Confession? There is. no defense.

Dawkins on evolutionary ethics

JB: When you make a value judgement don't you immediately step yourself outside of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it's good. And you don't have any way to stand on that statement.
RD: My value judgement itself could come from my evolutionary past.
JB: So therefore it's just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.
RD: You could say that, it doesn't in any case, nothing about it makes it more probable that there is anything supernatural.
JB: Ultimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we've evolved five fingers rather than six.
RD: You could say that, yeah.

Rosemary's Baby

Weaver’s (and others’) complaint against penal substitution is not that it involves violence; it is that it makes God violent thus justifying our violence.  Weaver knows very well the cross was violent, but he wants to make clear the violence was committed not by God but by Satan and sinful people.  I agree.  And that’s what I grew up hearing.
 From the human perspective, Jesus’ crucifixion WAS a lynching, abuse.  All admit that.  The debate is whether it was at the hands of God or humans/Satan.  I am arguing it was at the hands of humans/Satan, not God’s.  There I’m with Weaver and others who argue for nonviolent atonement. 

Many Christians have concluded that in order for God to accomplish his goal for creation, everything that happens in world history must somehow fit into his sovereign plan. This assumption has permeated the Church throughout most of its history. The assumption is often expressed in clichés Christians are sometimes prone to recite when confronting tragedies like cancer, crippling accidents, or natural disasters. Believers sometimes attempt to console themselves and others with statements like, “God has his reasons,” “There’s a purpose for everything,” “Providence writes straight with crooked lines,” and “His ways are not our ways.”
I call this understanding of God’s relationship to the world “the blueprint worldview,” for it assumes that everything somehow fits into meticulous plan and mysterious purposes of God—a divine blueprint. The view takes many different forms, but each version shares the assumption that, whether ordained or allowed, there is a specific divine reason for every occurrence in history. As traditional and popular as the blueprint worldview is, it is not without significant difficulties. For one thing, this view makes it exceedingly difficult to reconcile the evil in our world with the perfect goodness of God, especially when applied to specific instances of suffering and evil.
The world is caught up in a spiritual war between God and Satan. Unlike the blueprint worldview, the warfare worldview does not assume that there is a specific divine reason for what Satan and other evil agents do. To the contrary, God fights these opponents precisely because their purposes are working against his purposes.
Suffering takes on a different meaning when it is considered in the context of a cosmic war as opposed to a context in which everything is part of God’s meticulous plan and mysterious higher good. In the warfare worldview we would not wonder about what specific divine reason God might have had in allowing little children to be buried alive in mud or a little girl to be kidnapped. Instead, we would view these individuals as “victims of war” and assign the blame to human or demonic beings who oppose God’s will.

I quote these two passages to highlight a fact that’s often overlooked in debates between Calvinists, classical Arminians, and Arminian open theists. The corollary of making God less powerful is to make Satan more powerful. Like a seesaw, when you lower God, Satan rises.

In Calvinism, Satan is just a pawn on God’s chessboard. Indeed, Satan is the ultimate dupe. Although he’s rebelling against God, God decreed his rebellion to contribute to the realization of God’s overall plan. So God is playing Satan like a chump.

But in theological systems that reject predestination and meticulous providence, Satan becomes more godlike while God becomes less godlike. I don’t mean Satan becomes godlike in terms of moral character, but in terms of power relative to God. On this view, the devil is like a resourceful guerilla warrior whom God lacks the ability to crush. Rather, it becomes a protracted battle, where God wins some skirmishes, but loses others. Like those many Antichrist-themed Hollywood movies where the devil is on the ascendant.

It’s ironic that Arminians like Olson say Calvinism makes God devilish, for it’s Olson and his ilk who are actually magnifying the devil. They build up the devil every time they bump God down a few notches. If Arminians accuse Calvinists of making God Satanic, Calvinists could just as well accuse Arminians of making Satan godlike.

Of course, Olson, Boyd, and Weaver think God wins the war in the end, yet that’s only because they’re getting God’s side of the story. But given their lofty view of Satan's near omnipotence, doesn’t the Bible give slanted war coverage? If God has such a hard time stamping out the devil, maybe the Bible is hortatory war propaganda by the losing side. Should we switch teams before it’s too late? 

Coercive love

Types of subordination

In the debate between egalitarians (or evangelical feminists) and complementarians, both sides sometimes try to ground social models in a Trinitarian template. But, in principle, there are four possible positions:

i) The Trinitarian persons are coequal while husband and wife are coequal.

ii) The Trinitarian persons are unequal while husband and wife are unequal

iii) The Trinitarian persons are coequal while husband and wife are unequal.

iv) The Trinitarian persons are unequal while husband and wife are coequal.

I myself think it’s a mistake to use the Trinity as a template for social roles. Not only is there a fundamental disparity between God and creatures, but the attempted analogy is disanalogous.

For instance, complementarians sometimes ground male headship in Nicene subordinationism. But how is that analogous? This is how that would cash out:

The wife is to the husband as the Son is to the Father.

But how is a father/son relation analogous to a husband/wife relation? A father/son relation is a male/male, parent/child relation.

If you’re mounting an argument from analogy for subordination, the logical analogy would be:

Humans sons are to human fathers as the Son of God is to  God the Father.

By contrast, the Scriptural analogy for male headship takes this form:

The wife is to the husband as the church is to Christ.

1 Cor 11:3 is another complementarian prooftext. That analogy cashes out thusly:

The wife is to the husband

As the husband (or man) is to Christ

And Christ is to God

I do think this passage, along with some others, is sufficient to establish male headship in marriage. That said, it can be a double-edged sword unless handled with care.

i) Complementarians gloss kephale in terms of rank whereas egalitarians gloss kephale in terms of source. However, Nicene subordinationists also gloss kephale in terms of source.

But that places Nicene complementarians in a bind. If they wish to use this as a prooftext for Nicene subordination, then they play into the hands of the egalitarians. If, on the other hand, they wish to use this as a prooftext for male headship, then they forfeit the verse as a prooftext for Nicene subordination.

You can either be a complementarian or a Nicene subordinationist, but it’s hard to ride both horses.

ii) In 1 Cor 11, Paul does have a grounding principle: the order of creation.

iii) In addition, 1 Cor 11:3 is dealing with the economic Trinity, not the immanent Trinity, per se.