Friday, December 30, 2011

Moral and philosophical theology

Some impertinent individuals think philosophical theology is empty speculation with no real-world relevance. But as you can see, philosophical theology has a practical side:

http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/Humor/aqqq1220.html

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Marriage, morality, and politics


From time to time a candidate’s marital history comes up in presidential campaigns. I’ll just make a few quick observations:

i) A long and successful marriage takes a lot of dedication. That’s to be commended.

However, it’s easy to judge things superficially.

ii) A man can be married to the same woman all his life, but have extramarital affairs (or vice versa).

iii) A man can be married to the same woman all his life, and be nominally faithful, yet he’s really married to his job. A number of men are ambitious, career-driven workaholics who are absentee husbands and fathers. (The same holds true for some women.) That’s a type of desertion.

iv) In a fallen world, we sometimes see the paradoxical spectacle of men and women who are passionately devoted to each other even though they are faithless. Richard Burton and Liz Taylor come to mind.

v) A couple can be devoted to each other, but still be rotten to the core. Bonnie and Clyde were inseparable, yet they wouldn’t be my first pick for President and First Lady. Hitler and Eva Braun also come to mind.

vi) In biblical ethics, premarital sex is sinful as well as extramarital sex.

vii) The liberal media touts the Hallmark image of devoted homosexual “couples.” That’s largely illusory. But suppose a homosexual “couple” were faithful to each other or monogamous. Although fidelity is a virtue, fidelity in a perverted relationship is a vice. 

The papacy and the presidency


Nearly twenty-eight years later, Gingrich is the front-runner for the Republican nomination for the presidency of the United States. Much, of course, has happened since he published that book in 1984, and over the years we have learned many things about Gingrich. His many achievements include his leadership role in the 1994 Republican take-over of Congress and his subsequent ascendancy to the office of Speaker of the House. His many foibles include a significant House ethics violation and personal moral failures that resulted in two broken marriages.
 
In 2009, Gingrich was received into the Catholic Church, the faith of his third wife, Callista Bisek. Because Catholic conversion requires the sacrament of confession, Gingrich has been absolved of his sins. This, of course, suggests to many, including me, that one cannot evaluate Gingrich’s candidacy and character without taking his conversion seriously. It is a mistake for Christians to emulate the world and treat a man’s conversion as if it were the metaphysical equivalent of a change in hobby.
 
On the other hand, Rod Dreher raises an important point in suggesting that Christian conservatives take care in their choice of standard-bearer. Relying on insights by New York Times writer Ross Douthat, Dreher argues that Christian conservatives, in the toxic atmosphere of the culture wars, cannot afford to have as a public face a figure who for most of his adult life has shunned the virtues and ways of life that Christian conservatives want to advance in the public square.
 
This is not to diminish or call into question Gingrich’s conversion. Quite the opposite. For, as the Catholic Catechism teaches, absolution of sins does not eradicate all the effects and consequences of those sins on the shaping of one’s character. This requires ongoing conversion, including detaching oneself from those things that may provide an occasion for sin.
 
It seems to me that a man whose sins arose as a consequence of the pursuit of political power and the unwise use of it after he became Speaker of the House should not be seeking the most powerful office in the world.
 
Newt Gingrich, to be sure, changed my life, and I am grateful for that. But it is far more important that Gingrich’s new life change his soul, and for this reason, I will not support him in the Republican primary.


This raises the intriguing question of whether Beckwith holds the US President to higher moral standards than the Pope:




Of course, one has to use Wikipedia with a grain of salt, but just as a matter of principle, if we assume this is historically accurate for the sake of argument, should sexual immortality disqualify a man from being the US President even though it shouldn’t disqualify a man from being the Vicar of Christ?

Announcement: Rhology's Upcoming formal debate with Muslim Saaib Ahmed

It is my pleasure to introduce my second formal debate, in which I will affirm, defend, and conclusively demonstrate the resolution, namely:

Resolved: The Bible is the Word of God.



Denying the resolution is Saaib Ahmed, a Kashmiri Muslim, of apyem.blogspot.com.  I would like to thank Saaib for challenging me to a debate and appreciate his willingness and courage to engage. Debating in other than one’s native tongue is a challenge in and of itself, so I invite our readers to take that into account and to extend him grace if his English expression should lack clarity or precision. Hopefully, such instances will be few.
The structure is a little unusual in my experience, but it is a result of extensive negotiation.


My opening: 2000 words maximum, due 03 Jan 2012.
Saaib's rebuttal/opening: 3500 max, due 08 Jan 2012.
My rebuttal: 2000 max, due 13 Jan 2012.
Saaib's rebuttal: 1500 max, due 17 Jan 2012.
My rebuttal: 1000 max, due 22 Jan 2012.

I will ask Saaib the first cross-examination question 23 Jan, and he answers 24 Jan.
Saaib asks me his first cross-examination question 24 Jan, and I answer 25 Jan.
Then I ask 25 Jan and he answers 26 Jan.
Then he asks 26 Jan and I answer 27 Jan.
Each question must be framed in 300 words max and each answer in 1000 maximum.

Final statements: 3000 words max. Posted simultaneously 31 Jan.

I plan to post all the content here, and I believe he will be posting his on his Facebook page, though I am unsure which. Given that Facebook sometimes suffers from limited profile visibility, I will post all the content on my blog.
Comments will be disabled for all the debate posts, but each will contain a link to one single comment thread where anyone may comment on the thread. Do not expect me to re-debate the topics of the debate in that thread, however.

Thank you, and may the Lord Jesus Christ bless this debate and use it for His glory in every way.

Survival of the fittest



BTW, some might enjoy this blast from the past.

Partakers in the age to come

From D.A. Carson:
I recall, a number of years ago, leading the Bible study at the Bell Labs in Chicago. The Christian I knew there observed that at the lunch break various clubs were formed, so he thought, “If they can start clubs, I can start one too.” So he organized a Bible club, and it was just for the scientists in his unit, around thirty-seven of them. The format was simple enough: for eight weeks, I would teach something from the Bible for about twenty minutes, while they ate their lunches. After that, they would ask questions for thirty minutes or so.

The man who got this whole thing started was the only Christian in this group, besides me. There were also a failed Buddhist, a failed Hindu, a failed Catholic, a failed Lutheran, and the rest were unbelievers. So we had a fairly biblically illiterate group, and I was trying to unpack the Bible for them.

On about week five or so, I was dealing with Matthew 6:19–21:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
I noted that this passage does not tell us to guard our heart; it tells us to choose our treasure. I noted further that the reason for this was that what you treasure most is where your heart will go.

One of the group members, a Hindu chap, said, “Do I understand you right?” I asked him, “What do you think I have said?” “Well,” he began, “this is a pretty good research establishment. There are several Nobel laureates amongst us, we have a good budget, excellent projects, and most of us are really glad to be here. We have worked hard to get where we are, and we have our lives pretty well mapped out. Who knows, but maybe two or three more of us will get Nobel prizes in the next few years. We will work hard and advance, and at the age of sixty-five we will retire. We’ll continue on as consultants and hire ourselves out in this or that way, write a couple of books that we were unable to write while working, and then produce some more technical papers. We will slow down a wee bit and then play with our grandchildren, and after that it gets a bit fuzzy. But you are saying that Jesus says we shouldn’t plan for the next thirty years. We should plan for the next fifty billion or so. Is that right?” I replied, “That sounds exactly right to me. That is what Jesus is talking about.”

What’s wrong with Santorum?

http://www.geneveith.com/2011/12/28/whats-wrong-with-santorum/

HT: Patrick Chan

Spend More Time With God in 2012

http://www.bizarrocomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Bizarro-Sistine-06-10-07.jpg

Monday, December 26, 2011

A SEAL’s account of how Osama bin Laden really died

http://dailycaller.com/2011/11/07/correcting-the-fairy-tale-a-seals-account-of-how-osama-bin-laden-really-died/?print=1

Ron Paul's foreign policy


I'm going to quote some things from an article. Here's the full text:


Fmr. Senior Aide, US Cong. Ron Paul, 1997 – 2003
Campaign Coordinator, Ron Paul for Congress, 1995/96
National Organizer, Draft Ron Paul for President, 1991/92
Travel Aide/Personal Asst. Ron Paul, Libertarian for President
1987/88

I have been asked by various media the last few days for my comments, view of the current situation regarding my former boss Ron Paul, as he runs for the presidency on the Republican ticket.
 
He is however, most certainly Anti-Israel, and Anti-Israeli in general. He wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all. He expressed this to me numerous times in our private conversations. His view is that Israel is more trouble than it is worth, specifically to the America taxpayer. He sides with the Palestinians, and supports their calls for the abolishment of the Jewish state, and the return of Israel, all of it, to the Arabs.
 
Ron Paul is most assuredly an isolationist. He denies this charge vociferously. But I can tell you straight out, I had countless arguments/discussions with him over his personal views. For example, he strenuously does not believe the United States had any business getting involved in fighting Hitler in WWII. He expressed to me countless times, that “saving the Jews,” was absolutely none of our business. When pressed, he often times brings up conspiracy theories like FDR knew about the attacks of Pearl Harbor weeks before hand, or that WWII was just “blowback,” for Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy errors, and such.
 
I would challenge him, like for example, what about the instances of German U-boats attacking U.S. ships, or even landing on the coast of North Carolina or Long Island, NY. He’d finally concede that that and only that was reason enough to counter-attack against the Nazis, not any humanitarian causes like preventing the Holocaust.
 
There is much more information I could give you on the sheer lunacy of his foreign policy views. Let me just concentrate on one in specific. And I will state this with absolute certainty:
 
Ron Paul was opposed to the War in Afghanistan, and to any military reaction to the attacks of 9/11.
 
He did not want to vote for the resolution. He immediately stated to us staffers, me in particular, that Bush/Cheney were going to use the attacks as a precursor for “invading” Iraq. He engaged in conspiracy theories including perhaps the attacks were coordinated with the CIA, and that the Bush administration might have known about the attacks ahead of time. He expressed no sympathies whatsoever for those who died on 9/11, and pretty much forbade us staffers from engaging in any sort of memorial expressions, or openly asserting pro-military statements in support of the Bush administration.
 
On the eve of the vote, Ron Paul was still telling us staffers that he was planning to vote “No,” on the resolution, and to be prepared for a seriously negative reaction in the District. Jackie Gloor and I, along with quiet nods of agreement from the other staffers in the District, declared our intentions to Tom Lizardo, our Chief of Staff, and to each other, that if Ron voted No, we would immediately resign.
 
Ron was “under the spell” of left-anarchist and Lew Rockwell associate Joe Becker at the time, who was our legislative director. Norm Singleton, another Lew Rockwell fanatic agreed with Joe. All other staffers were against Ron, Joe and Norm on this, including Lizardo. At the very last minute Ron switched his stance and voted “Yay,” much to the great relief of Jackie and I. He never explained why, but I strongly suspected that he realized it would have been political suicide; that staunchly conservative Victoria would revolt, and the Republicans there would ensure that he would not receive the nomination for the seat in 2002. Also, as much as I like to think that it was my yelling and screaming at Ron, that I would publicly resign if he voted “No,” I suspect it had a lot more to do with Jackie’s threat, for she WAS Victoria. And if Jackie bolted, all of the Victoria conservatives would immediately turn on Ron, and it wouldn’t be pretty.

Bogus stats

This is a useful corrective to the popular infidel argument regarding the "crimes of Christianity":

http://bedejournal.blogspot.com/2011/12/this-is-bogus-statistic.html

Captivity and Restoration

Here's a classic firsthand account of a Colonial-American women who was captured by Indians, and how her Christian faith sustained her during the ordeal:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/851/851-h/851-h.htm

Monotheism and the deity of Christ

I’d like to make a brief point about the relationship between prooftexts for monotheism and prooftexts for the deity of Christ. In Scripture, there are, by my count, far fewer prooftexts for monotheism than there are for the deity of Christ. In the OT it basically comes down to Deut 4 and some passages in Isa 40-48. (The Decalogical statements are more about monolatry.) You also have a few monotheistic prooftexts in the NT. By contrast, prooftexts for the deity of Christ greatly outnumber monotheistic prooftexts.

My point is not to question the sufficiency of the monotheistic prooftexts to establish monotheism. I think they’re perfectly adequate to the task.

But it’s not as if the deity of Christ has a tremendous uphill climb to surmount. It’s not as if monotheism is the presumptive benchmark or default position which the deity of Christ must laboriously overcome.

To the contrary, there are few doctrines in Scripture more widely attested than the deity of Christ. We treat many biblical teachings as articles of faith on far less textual evidence­–and that includes monotheism. By sheer the sheer weight of attestation, both broad and deep, it’s the deity of Christ which furnishes a benchmark for understanding Biblical monotheism. 

TFan responds to Jamin

http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2011/12/trivium-of-responses-to-jamin.html

Christmas day, 2011

Beth is still getting fevers, fighting headaches and things like that, and so she probably won't get to come home for at least a few days. But it seems as if most of the initial complications are behind her -- the doctor noted that yesterday was probably "the first day of engraftment", which is the designation when (among other things) the "absolute neutrophils" number is over 500 for three days in a row. In fact, Beth's white blood cell count went on successive days from zero, to 0.10, to .29, to 1.13, to 2.0, which means she's no longer neutropenic and is fighting infections on her own.

We spent Christmas in the hospital yesterday -- my kids spent the day with my brother and sister. Beth's hair has been falling out in clumps, and so my older two sons came in and gave us the buzz cut. It's a traumatic thing for a woman to lose her hair; I wanted to try to make her laugh (as much as I possibly could), and so I went first.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Can God Become A Man?

The following is a debate between James White and Abdullah Kunde.

John Loftus feels neglected


How is it that “a leading atheist spokesperson” is not notable enough for a Wikipedia article?
 
December 25, 2011 at 4:06 pm  John W. Loftus
 
My apologies to people who have read it before but it just seems I am continually misunderstood by both sides of this great debate.

 
Wikipedia has decided I’m not notable enough for an article. I really do not care one whit if I get an article or not...

 
Many Christians hate me while several of them dog my steps like few others.

 
So on the one hand Christians don’t like what I do and on the other hand I don’t have enough atheist supporters to counteract them.

 
When it comes to atheists I am not a scientist so some scientifically minded atheists may look down their noses at me. Since I don’t have a PhD some atheists (mostly non-PhD degreed people) think I don’t know what I’m talking about. Since my target is to debunk Christianity some atheists think I’m too offensive (without actually reading what I write). To date Michael Shermer’s Skeptic magazine does not offer any of my books for sale in the back of their monthly magazine, nor have they reviewed them.

An atheist reviews The End of Christianity

Here's how it begins:

2.0 out of 5 stars Presupposing materialismDecember 24, 2011
This review is from: The End of Christianity (Paperback)
"The End of Christianity" is a compilation of hard-line, atheist-materialist polemics against - guess what - Christianity, brought to us by the indefatigable John W. Loftus, a recovering fundamentalist minister. Apparently, its part of Loftus' very own space trilogy, the other titles being "The Christian Delusion" and "Why I became an atheist". (I haven't read those, yet.)

Being neither a Christian nor a materialist, I'm of course eminently suited to give this book a fair hearing and perfectly objective review... And then, maybe not. :D

Frankly, "The End of Christianity" is a very mixed bag, but it veers strongly towards the "bad" end of the bag spectrum. For instance, John Loftus' Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) is obviously rigged so only atheist-materialists can pass it. Richard Carrier's moral philosophy is zany, to say the least, and other articles work only if you accept the exact theological notions being debunked. Thus, those who don't accept the particular version of the atonement attacked by Ken Pulliam will consider his article a shot in the dark. Likewise, only cessationists will be stung by Matt McCormick's article about the Salem witch trials. The undertone of the entire book is that science (or perhaps Science) can solve all problems, including those pertaining to morality, the meaning of life, etc. Some of the authors have an obsession with a certain kind of formal logic, as if that could prove anything (on this point, they share the pew with some Christian apologists). As somebody pointed out long ago: you can't use formal logic to prove the existence of whales.

Another weak argument goes like this: The empty grave doesn't prove that Jesus was resurrected, since a phony story about a resurrection will - by definition - include a story of an empty grave. You can't use one part of a legend to "prove" the other part (there's even a funny comic to drive home this point). True, I suppose. But then, a true story about a resurrection would also include a story about an empty tomb, wouldn't it? In fact, I think I can prove that using formal logic! Thus, the argument of "Jesus and Mo" only works if materialism is presupposed from the outset.

And that, I think, is the main reason why I find this book so frustrating (a bit like Lee Strobel in reverse). The narrow materialism-positivism-scientism of the contributors is never really argued for, it's there from the outset. (The OTF is just the most glaring example.) Nothing "wrong" with that, I suppose, expect that it gives the book the quality of a monologue.


http://www.amazon.com/review/R1R6V6ENLYH1G6/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1616144130&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=

Subjugating the infidel

Below is what Al-Ghazali actually wrote about jihad war, and the treatment of the vanquished non-Muslimdhimmi peoples (from the Wagjiz, written in 1101 A.D.):
…one must go on jihad (i.e., warlike razzias or raids) at least once a year...one may use a catapult against them [non-Muslims] when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire to them and/or drown them...If a person of the Ahl  al-Kitab [People of The Book – Jews and Christians, typically] is enslaved, his marriage is [automatically] revoked…One may cut down their trees...One must destroy their useless books. Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide...they may steal as much food as they need...
the dhimmi is obliged not to mention Allah or His Apostle…Jews, Christians, and Majians must pay the jizya [poll tax on non-Muslims]…on offering up the jizya, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits [the dhimmi] on the protruberant bone beneath his ear [i.e., the mandible]… They are not permitted to ostentatiously display their wine or church bells…their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmimay not ride an elegant horse or mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle[-work] is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They [the dhimmis] have to wear [an identifying] patch [on their clothing], even women, and even in the [public] baths…[dhimmis] must hold their tongue…. 
Moreover, Al Ghazali’s views regarding non-Muslim dhimmis – which were typical of the prevailing written opinions of Muslim theologians and jurists during the Abbasid-Baghdadian Caliphate – resulted in tangible acts of dhimmi persecution, as recorded, for example, in this contemporary chronicle from Baghdad by Obadyah the Proselyte, in 1100 A.D.:
…the Caliph of Baghdad, al-Muqtadi [1075-1094], had given power to his vizier, Abu Shuja… [who] imposed that each male Jew should wear a yellow badge on his headgear. This was one distinctive sign on the head and the other was on the neck- a piece of lead of the weight of a silver dinar hanging round the neck of every Jew and inscribed with the word dhimmi to signify that the Jew had to pay poll-tax. Jews also had to wear girdles round their wastes. Abu Shuja further imposed two signs on Jewish women. They had to wear a black and a red shoe, and each woman had to have a small brass bell on her neck or shoe, which would tinkle and thus announce the separation of Jewish from Gentile [Muslim] women. He assigned cruel Muslim men to spy upon Jewish women, in order to oppress them with all kinds of curses, humiliation, and spite. The Gentile population used to mock all the Jews, and the mob and their children used to beat up the Jews in all the streets of Baghdad…When a Jew died, who had not paid up the poll-tax [jizya] to the full and was in debt for a small or large amount, the Gentiles did not permit burial until the poll-tax was paid. If the deceased left nothing of value, the Gentiles demanded that other Jews should, with their own money, meet the debt owed by the deceased in poll-tax; otherwise they [threatened] they would burn the body.5
           
Simply put, the views of the much lionized Al-Ghazali are identical to those of countless classical and contemporary Muslim theologians, including Qaradawi, who justify jihad terror, including the “incidental” killing of non-combatants, and the sacralized inferiority of non-Muslims. And second tier apologists such as Ormsby also choose to not to discuss the theological realities which are at the root of the unique Islamic institution of jihad itself, expressed eloquently by the contemporary scholar Bassam Tibi:
At its core, Islam is a religious mission to all humanity. Muslims are religiously obliged to disseminate the Islamic faith throughout the world. “We have sent you forth to all mankind” (Q. 34:28). If non-Muslims submit to conversion or subjugation, this call (da’wa) can be pursued peacefully. If they do not, Muslims are obliged to wage war against them. In Islam, peace requires that non-Muslims submit to the call of Islam, either by converting or by accepting the status of a religious minority (dhimmi) and paying the imposed poll tax, jizya. World peace, the final stage of the da’wa, is reached only with the conversion or submission of all mankind to Islam…Muslims believe that expansion through war is not aggression but a fulfillment of the Qur’anic command to spread Islam as a way to peace. The resort to force to disseminate Islam is not war (harb), a word that is used only to describe the use of force by non-Muslims. Islamic wars are not hurub (the plural of harb) but rather futuhat, acts of “opening” the world to Islam and expressing Islamicjihad. Relations between dar al-Islam, the home of peace, and dar al-harb, the world of unbelievers, nevertheless take place in a state of war, according to the Qur’an and to the authoritative commentaries of Islamic jurists. Unbelievers who stand in the way, creating obstacles for the da’wa, are blamed for this state of war, for the da’wa can be pursued peacefully if others submit to it. In other words, those who resist Islam cause wars and are responsible for them. Only when Muslim power is weak is “temporary truce” (hudna) allowed (Islamic jurists differ on the definition of “temporary”). 6


4. Al-Ghazali (d. 1111). Kitab al-Wagiz fi fiqh madhab al-imam al-Safi’i, Beirut, 1979, pp. 186, 190-91; 199-200; 202-203. [English translation by Dr. Michael Schub.]
5. Scheiber, A. “The Origins of Obadyah, the Norman Proselyte” Journal of Jewish Studies (Oxford), Vol. 5, 1954, p. 37. Obadyah the Proselyte was born in Oppido (Lucano, southern Italy). He became a priest, and later converted to Judaism around 1102 A.D., living in Constantinople, Baghdad, Aleppo, and Egypt.
6. Tibi, Bassam. “War and Peace in Islam,” in The Ethics of War and Peace: Religious and Secular Perspectives, edited by Terry Nardin, 1996, Princeton, N.J., pp. 129-131.


http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=11869

Suicide Terrorism: Origins and Response

http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2005/11/suicide-terrorism-origins-and-response/

Muslims for Ron Paul 2012

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Muslims-for-Ron-Paul-2012/220581561289003#!/pages/Muslims-for-Ron-Paul-2012/220581561289003?sk=wall

Interpreted events

Since the historical Jesus stands in varying degrees of contrast with the Jesus of the Gospels Jesus historians are left with a problem: what should one do with the Gospels and their Jesus?…Since the earliest sources for Jesus are (1) necessary and/or unavoidable but (2) already interpreted and serving an agenda, a primary concern in historical Jesus scholarship–if not the primary concern–has been establishing methodological means by which scholars can find the historical Jesus amid the interpreted Jesus of our earliest sources. They often do this by separating “authentic” Jesus tradition, thought to reflect the historical Jesus, from “inauthentic” tradition, thought to reflect the Christ of faith.

C. Keith & L. Hurtado, Jesus Among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels (Baker 2011), 272.

i) This type of analysis can be of some value in apologetics. Take the “minimal facts” strategy of William Lane Craig. It’s something we can do for the sake of argument.

ii) But from the vantage-point of Christian faith, this orientation is fundamentally misguided. The proper object of Christian faith is not the bare event, but the recorded event. The interpreted event. That’s what God has given us to live by.

iii) This type of analysis also suffers from positivistic reductionism. It acts as though interpretation is in tension with history: the more interpretation you have, the less history you have. So the objective is to strip away the extraneous layers of interpretation to uncover the buried kernel of truth. But that’s philosophically and theologically naïve.

The empirical aspect of an event doesn’t generally reveal the significance of the event. A physically accurate description of what the observer would have seen doesn’t give the reader an understanding of what it means.

For instance, three men were crucified on Good Friday. Even if you were an eyewitness, what you can see is fairly undiscriminating. One death by crucifixion is much like another. Had you been at Calvary, watching the situation unfold wouldn’t single out the death of Christ as more important than the death of the two thieves. Yet his death is uniquely significant.

Take two photographs of two different high schools. Both photographs are accurate. They depict the physical appearance of each school. But there’s a critical dimension they fail to capture.

Suppose you attended one of them, but not the other. If so, then looking at a picture of your alma mater is a very different experience than looking at a picture of someone else’s high school. You could look at pictures of a thousand schools you didn’t attend, yet it's all be the same to you.

But if you look at a picture of your alma mater, that’s different. That means something to you. That triggers a wealth of memories. A wealth of associations–good, bad, or both.

In one case, there’s nothing more to the photograph than the image. In the other case, the photograph is emblematic. It conjures up something far beyond what can be seen in the photograph. For better or worse, your high school experience is highly significant to you.

You don’t just see the image on the photograph. Rather, the image on the photograph reminds you of many inner representations you retain of your three years there. Rooms, words, names, games, faces, voices, emotions, and so forth. You see that picture through the prism of memory.

There’s more to remembered events than bare events. For bare events are discrete, self-contained happenings, but remembered events have a larger context.

Take one of those excruciating formal dinners among foreign dignitaries. Everyone is dressed to the nines. Everyone is polite. Everyone smiles. No one says what he means. It’s an elaborate exercise in concealing your true intentions. The diplomats are probing each other for weaknesses without tipping their hand.

Maybe the ambassador’s wife is having an affair with the attaché to Hungary. But he’s about to be reassigned. At this diplomatic function, the illicit lovers will feign emotional distance.

Suppose a director filmed that as is. In one sense it would be accurate, but in another sense it would be misleading. For there’s so much just beneath the surface that isn’t captured by merely depicted what was seen or said. The guests say the opposite of what they think. They speak of peace as they plan on war. The body language is false. So a purely descriptive portrayal would lack insight into what was really going on.

Instead, suppose the director put words in the mouths of the conniving characters, making them say what they actually thought, but avoided saying in real life. The director makes the Austrian ambassador whisper to his aid that he despises the Czech foreign minister. He has the illicit lovers go out onto a balcony, where they share a passionate kiss. Where they exchange a passionate embrace. Where they speak in desperate tones about no longer seeing each another.

Would that be less accurate–or more accurate? In a sense it’s unhistorical. That’s not what happened at the diplomatic function.

Yet, on another level, it’s a truer account of what really happened. For it goes behind appearances to hidden motivations. The unseen psychology of the event.

If you stepped into a time machine and traveled back to the original event, the director’s interpretation would stand in contrast to outward events. Physically inaccurate in various respects. Yet in others ways the director’s interpretation would be truer to the event. More faithful to what was driving the conversation. Instead of just showing us what happened, it would account for appearances.

Take another case. Suppose summer camp was the highpoint of a boy’s life. Two back-to-back summers when he was coming of age.

Suppose a director is filming the man’s life story. Suppose he combines two summers into one summer. Combines four months into two weeks. At one level that’s unhistorical. Some boys were there one summer who weren’t there the other summer. Different things were said and done each summer.

But at another level, he’s not adding anything. Everything the characters say and do in the film corresponds to something they actually said or did at summer camp. Just not all in one summer. Just not all in two weeks.

It’s simply a more efficient way of telling the story. Cut the dead wood. Eliminate extraneous details. Focus on the memorable, life-changing encounters.   

The gospel writers have techniques to clue the reader into the significance of the events they relate. They may rearrange the chronology to put things in their teleological relationships. They may use language from the OT that implicitly compares an event in the life of Christ with an earlier event in the life of Israel.

This is interpretation, but their interpretation reveals the invisible purpose of outward actions. For the meaning of who did what when and where doesn’t just lies on the sensible surface of events.

For instance, the order of intention reverses the order of execution. I have a goal. I then reason back from the goal to the things I must to do achieve my goal. I must do them in a certain order. But that’s not the order in which I must think them. Suppose I go to the beach. To do that I must drive there. To drive there I must get in the car. To drive the car I must get the car keys.

There’s a chronological order and a teleological order. There’s a physical depiction and a psychological depiction. Both are equally true. There’s more to history than what lies on the surface. In addition, there’s whatever motivates the historical actor. The meaning that he assigns to his own actions. His plans and aspirations.

Or take possession. You can see the demoniac, but you can’t see the demon. A sensory depiction would be quite truncated, for what lies behind the eyes is just as real, and more important, in that situation. How does a writer show possession? Possession has some empirical effects, but that’s a shallow perception of the invisible, underlying cause.

This goes to the inerrancy of Scripture as well as the historicity of Scripture. Even if you stepped into the time machine, went back into the past, saw the event for yourself, and observed some notable differences between the reported event and the actual event, that of itself wouldn’t mean the Biblical account is erroneous. For there’s more to accurate reportage than a physically accurate depiction. And if you confine yourself to a physically accurate depiction, that may even be deceptive–inasmuch as that leaves out of account many real factors that escape a purely empirical account.  

The Sun Of Righteousness Rises

"I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone." (Psalm 71:16)

"God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)

"the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death" (Luke 1:78-79)

"He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them...Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:51-52)

"The righteousness of God here spoken of is just the doing and dying of the Lord Jesus. It is called the righteousness of God, because it is that of God himself. You remember when Christ was a child, it is said he was 'the mighty God' [Isaiah 9:6]…And, in the same manner, the obedience of Christ was the obedience of one who was God; and when he obeyed his parents [Luke 2:51-52], it was the obedience of one who was God….Those of you who are awakened sinners, here is a righteousness that can cover you; behold, for each of your crimson sins, here is a stripe of one who is God. And, brethren, more than that, here are acts of holy obedience to cover your naked soul, here are holy words to cover your unholy words, here are holy deeds to cover your unholy deeds. O brethren! here is a lifetime of obedience to cover your soul….So it is with you; if you have on this righteousness you will be covered, and when God looks down, he will see nothing but the glassy sea of his Son's obedience….When Paul approached the gates of Rome, when he looked at its marble baths, when he saw the multitudes flocking to the theatre, and when he saw the crowds bowing down to the statue of Jupiter or Minerva, the heart of Paul was touched, and why? Because the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against them, and he knew that he had in his hand that which could cover every sinner. O, said Paul, if I could get them to put on this righteousness!…It is like casting a stone into the deep; it sinks, and it is not seen." (Robert McCheyne, A Basket Of Fragments [Scotland: Christian Focus, 2001], 99-101)

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)