Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jihadists who targeted Marine Corps wives and children

Somehow I doubt this story will get the same national and international publicity as the story about Marines desecrating the dead, even though the Marine action is pure symbolism whereas this story involves real live potential innocent victims.

Evangelical Leaders to Endorse Rick Santorum for President

Jim "The Texas Rattlesnake" Hamilton v. Evan "The Rabid Wolverine" May in the Octagon

Evan May January 9, 2012 at 3:24 pm #
Of course, this argument just begs the question against the Amillennial reading of Revelation, which does not consider the visions to be chronological representations of a timeline but spiraling perspectives on the same series of events. There is both cycle and progression.
Thus Revelation 15 is not “another” piece of evidence for the Premillennial view but the *same* kind of evidence that Premillennialists generally put forward.

JMH January 10, 2012 at 9:20 am #
Thanks for your note, Evan, but I want to dispute your claim that I’m begging the question.
The evidence I’m giving here shows that there isn’t recapitulation but progression as you move through these chapters–the Christians are killed in the persecution in Revelation 11–13, then they’re present in heaven in Revelation 15, and then they’re raised from the dead in Revelation 20.
To object to that progression and claim recapitulation is special pleading that disregards the actual details of what the text says.

Evan May January 10, 2012 at 9:59 am #
It seems to me that when you say, “Amillers will say that this is a reference to these people coming to life in the presence of God. That view fails because back in Revelation 15:1–2 they’re already alive in the presence of God,” that begs the question. To say that Revelation 20 cannot refer to a certain event because Revelation 15 has already referred to that event is to not address the Amillennial argument on its own grounds but assumes a Premillennial premise.
You can say that appealing to recapitulation is special pleading, but Amilennialists present recapitulation on the basis of textual evidence; it’s not an ad hoc argument in response to Premillnnial claims.
Regarding the relationship between Revelation 11-13 and 20, I don’t dispute that these chapters are progressive in a visionary sense, and they offer different perspectives. But the thematic and linguistic ties convince me that they are intended to be read in parallel fashion. Christians are both killed and conquering in the safety of Christ. I think that you would agree that this reflects Revelation’s own theology.
I have no doubt that Dr. Hamilton would school me in a debate on this subject! Just wanted to offer my perspective on this particular argument.

JMH January 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm #
No worries, Evan.
Watch for an interview at where I list out the reasons for being pre-mil.
On recapitulation, I think we need some evidence in the text that the author intends us to see it. So, for instance, consider the similarity of language in Revelation 11:7and 13:7. This and other features of the text lead me to think that 11:1–14 is telling the same basic story that 12:1–13:10 tells.
Both are depicting the persecution of the church brought about by the deception of Satan, which is precisely what is brought to an end when Satan is bound for a thousand years and the martyrs are raised from the dead to reign with Christ.

Evan May January 11, 2012 at 9:59 am #
“No worries, Evan.”

Thanks for being gracious!

“On recapitulation, I think we need some evidence in the text that the author intends us to see it.”

I agree! Here is an example of this kind of evidence:
Much more could be said, but that’s a summary.

“So, for instance, consider the similarity of language in Revelation 11:7 and13:7. This and other features of the text lead me to think that 11:1–14 is telling the same basic story that 12:1–13:10 tells.”

I agree completely. And its the same kind of features that lead me to believe that 20 is parallel as well.

“Both are depicting the persecution of the church brought about by the deception of Satan, which is precisely what is brought to an end when Satan is bound for a thousand years and the martyrs are raised from the dead to reign with Christ.”

Where does Revelation 20 say that there is no persecution during the Millennium? Where does Revelation 20 say that Satan does not deceive the church during the Millennium?

JMH January 11, 2012 at 10:19 am #
In Revelation 11–13 Satan isn’t deceiving the church, he’s deceiving everyone BUT the elect (13:8). This is what results in believers being persecuted and killed.
This deception is what ends during the millennium, as Revelation 20:3says, “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.” When Satan isn’t deceiving the nations, they are not lead to the conclusion that Christians are evil and should be persecuted.
I hope this helps,

JMH January 11, 2012 at 10:36 am #

RE your link, consider:
Revelation 20 cannot be a recapitulation of Revelation 12 because the details of the two passages are too different–in Rev 20 Satan is alone, in Rev 12 he’s with all his angels; in Rev 20 he’s thrown into a pit, in Rev 12 he’s thrown down to earth; in Rev 20 he’s bound, in Rev 12 he has the free roam of the earth; in Rev 20 he’s locked up for 1,000 years, in Rev 12 he knows his time is short; in Rev 20 he can no longer deceive the nations, in Rev 12–13 he is deceiving the nations (see 13:14). Revelation 12 and Revelation 20 are not talking about the same thing.

Evan May January 11, 2012 at 10:54 am #

I consider them presenting complementary perspectives. I think they are each highlighting the extreme ends of the spectrum of theological truths concerning the realities of the church age.
Do you think if we highlighted all the differences between Rev. 11 and Rev. 12-13 we would also have to conclude that these texts are “too different” to be parallel?

Evan May January 11, 2012 at 10:30 am #

“In Revelation 11–13 Satan isn’t deceiving the church, he’s deceiving everyone BUT the elect (13:8).”

Well, if we’re emphasizing differences, in Revelation 13 Satan is said to have authority over the people of the earth so that they might worship him (v. 8), but the deceiving activity that Satan is bound with respect to in the Millennium has the distinct purpose of gathering the nations for battle (20:8).
It seems that you want to absolutize Satan’s binding in Revelation 20 in a way that removes Revelation’s intentional paradoxes: Satan is both able to deceive and is not able to deceive. He conquers the saints, and yet the saints are the true conquerors. These are the complexities of the already/not yet existence of the church until the eschaton.

JMH January 11, 2012 at 10:34 am #
In Rev 11–13, Satan deceives the nations with a fake christ and a fake version of the holy spirit (false prophet) and he sets himself up as the fake god, and then the false trinity goes to war on Christians, putting them to death (Rev 11:7;12:11; 13:7). The Christians conquer by being conquered. Right.
Then Satan’s ability to deceive the nations into thinking that he’s god and therefore what he says is right is right and what he says is wrong is wrong is brought to an end for 1,000 years.
At the end of that 1,000 years, he’s let loose, deceives the nations again, and goes to war again.

JMH January 11, 2012 at 10:57 am #
You’ll have to get the book for this, but I think there’s a chiastic structure to the whole book of Revelation that juxtaposes chapters 11–13, inviting these sections to be interpreted in light of each other . . .

Evan May January 11, 2012 at 11:07 am #
I’m sure you’re familiar with Beale’s presentation of the chiastic structure of ch. 17-22 (arguing against ch. 19 chronologically preceding 20) in his commentary (p. 983).

Politically correct outrage

On the one hand:

randal says:

I take the event of urinating on dead soldiers to be an example of an EMA, an evil militaristic act.
I’m equally critical of anybody who thinks that urinating on a corpse is morally permissible behavior. I don’t have to wait and find out the nationality, religion, gender, or ethnicity of the corpse before I render my judgment.

On the other hand

46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel (1 Sam 17:46).
36 When they came back and told him, he said, “This is the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant Elijah the Tishbite: ‘In the territory of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel, 37 and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung on the face of the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel’” (2 Kgs 9:36-37).
2 For the LORD is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their host; he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter. 3 Their slain shall be cast out, and the stench of their corpses shall rise; the mountains shall flow with their blood (Isa 34:2-3).
1 “At that time, declares the LORD, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs. 2 And they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and which they have sought and worshiped. And they shall not be gathered or buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground (Jer 8:1-2).

 17 “As for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD: Speak to the birds of every sort and to all beasts of the field, ‘Assemble and come, gather from all around to the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you, a great sacrificial feast on the mountains of Israel, and you shall eat flesh and drink blood. 18 You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, and drink the blood of the princes of the earth—of rams, of lambs, and of he-goats, of bulls, all of them fat beasts of Bashan. 19 And you shall eat fat till you are filled, and drink blood till you are drunk, at the sacrificial feast that I am preparing for you. 20 And you shall be filled at my table with horses and charioteers, with mighty men and all kinds of warriors,’ declares the Lord GOD (Ezk 39:17-20).
3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts (Mal 4:3).
 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh (Rev 19:17-21).

Persevering prayer

According to Marshall Brain:

What is going to happen? Jesus clearly says that if you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. He does not say it once — he says it many times in many ways in the Bible...And yet, even with millions of people praying, nothing will happen…

This confuses very different issues:

i) I don’t object to a Christian praying more than once for the same thing. For one thing, if you pray only once for something, that can be a pretty perfunctory prayer. Like checking boxes on a list, then moving on to something new. Something you do out of duty, to put if behind you.

ii) By contrast, if you pray for the same thing regularly, that’s a test of sincerity. How much you really care about it. How invested you are.

Supposed you pray for salvation of a guy you knew in high school. Suppose you commit to pray for him every day until you die or he coverts–whichever comes first.

It’s tiresome to pray for the same thing every day. Gets to be boring, discouraging. No end in sight.

So that’s a test of how much it really means to you. Persevering prayer is, itself, a testing experience. A test of stamina. To see something through to the end.

The point is not that you’re trying to prove something to God. And the point is not that you think racking up mileage on the prayer odometer magically or mechanically gets you to the destination. This is not an attempt to manipulate God. It just means you care enough about the person to keep at it until the answer comes–or you die trying. It fosters trust, patience, follow-through.

If you miss a day or two, it’s not like that zeros out the effort. Not like you have to start over from scratch.

iii) And that also requires you to prioritize your prayer life. You have to decide what’s important. Make choices.

In the nature of the case, many prayer requests are topical, short-term petitions.

iv) The classic example of “vain repetitions” are prayer wheels. And in the computer age, there are even digital prayer wheels.

It’s not that preserving prayer has a cumulative effect. It’s not as though, if 500 people pray for the same thing, this makes it 500 times more likely that God will answer the prayer. That’s a completely misguided philosophy of prayer. That reduces prayer to gambling. Playing the odds. 

v) Likewise, that’s a cynical, hypocritical prayer. You don’t really care about the amputee (to use Brain’s example). Rather, that’s just a pretext to verify or falsify the efficacy of prayer, and ultimately–to verify or falsify the existence of God. C. S. Lewis put it well:

Some things are proved by the unbroken uniformity of our experiences. The law of gravitation is established by the fact that, in our experience, all bodies without exception obey it. Now even if all the things that people prayed for happened, which they do not, this would not prove what Christians mean by the efficacy of prayer. For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the requests of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them. Invariable “success” in prayer would not prove the Christian doctrine at all. It would prove something much more like magic—a power in certain human beings to control, or compel, the course of nature.
I have seen it suggested that a team of people—the more the better—should agree to pray as hard as they knew how, over a period of six weeks, for all the patients in Hospital A and none of those in Hospital B. Then you would tot up the results and see if A had more cures and fewer deaths. And I suppose you would repeat the experiment at various times and places so as to eliminate the influence of irrelevant factors.
The trouble is that I do not see how any real prayer could go on under such conditions. “Words without thoughts never to heaven go,” says the King in Hamlet. Simply to say prayers is not to pray; otherwise a team of properly trained parrots would serve as well as men for our experiment. You cannot pray for the recovery of the sick unless the end you have in view is their recovery. But you can have no motive for desiring the recovery of all the patients in one hospital and none of those in another. You are not doing it in order that suffering should be relieved; you are doing it to find out what happens. The real purpose and the nominal purpose of your prayers are at variance. In other words, whatever your tongue and teeth and knees may do, you are not praying. The experiment demands an impossibility.

Specter, Santorum, and Toomey

One objection to Santorum is that he backed RINO Arlen Specter over conservative Pat Toomey. I’ll just make a few quick observations:

i) To some extent a Republican politician has to cooperate with the Republican establishment to get anything done. He can’t get legislation passed unilaterally. In the nature of the case, Congressional legislation is a collaborative endeavor.

You have to play ball with the leadership. If you want to get something, you have to give something.

This doesn’t mean you have to march in lockstep with the establishment on every single issue. But you do have to pick your fights.

ii) The alternative is to be a lone ranger like Ron Paul. As a result, Ron Paul has no signature legislation, even though he’s been in Congress on-and-off since the mid-70s.

Frankly, it’s pointless to serve in Congress if you don’t intend to get anything done.

iii) There’s a difference between moral compromise and procedural compromise. Santorum backing the establishment candidate isn’t a moral compromise, but a process issue. A pragmatic calculation. That’s not a point of principle, not an end in itself, but a means to an end. How to work the political machinery.

iv) What matters is Congress is not so much the individual, but the balance of power. Which party has a working majority.

Likewise, Congressmen with more seniority have more power.

v) Toomey is more conservative than Specter. But when Toomey was on the ill-fated super committee, he supported a $250 billion tax hike. So he's not an ideological purist. He, too, is prepared to make concessions on key issues.

The long view: don’t let the perfect to be the enemy of the good.

I don’t remember exactly when, and I don’t remember the exact words, so I can’t provide a citation, but some time during all the rancorous politics of the 1990’s, George Will made the comment that for as much as conservatives disliked (and worse) Bill Clinton, he hadn’t done [or wasn’t going to do] any long-term damage to the Republic.

Now, I was a person who absolutely hated the Clinton presidency. He was so obviously a liar and a scoundrel, it was a travesty that a man like this should become President of the United States.

But after Will’s comment had a chance to sink in with me, I knew he was right. Having a President like Bill Clinton enabled the opposing forces within the Republic to coalesce; we had the small conservative revolution of 1994, and the Clinton presidency was largely neutralized, by forces that the founders had built into the American system some 200 years earlier. See Federalist 51, for example: “the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others.” This is not a fool-proof system, but this principle continues to function properly in our day.

The notion that that, whatever political forces were in the ascendancy at the moment, opposing forces would coalesce, works for both sides of the political spectrum. George Bush, who had promised a “humble foreign policy” but eventually posited “the Bush doctrine” of “preventive war” – was mightily opposed, first in the congressional elections of 2006 – the Democrats made a mighty surge to win back congress, much as the Republicans did in 1994 – then in the 2008 Presidential election, when McCain was called “Bush 3”, to elect an articulate spokesman for their own causes, Barack Obama. And we’ve seen the effects again even during the Obama presidency, as the Democrats tried to do too much, and various Republican and right-leaning movements coalesced to bring the Republicans back into power in the House of Representatives.

* * *

In my lifetime, I have seen several schools of thought among Republicans as to “how to elect a Republican president”. Richard Nixon articulated the view that, as a Republican candidate, you should “run as hard to the right as you can to gain the nomination, then run as hard as you can back to the center in the General Election”. He did this, and it worked for him. Now, he had some problems of his own making, but those problems don’t necessarily negate the validity of this political strategy. In 2004, Karl Rove posited, and Rush Limbaugh popularized, the notion that we should exclude the center – and expand the right as much as possible, so as to create a right-leaning majority. Of course that seems to have worked for Bush in 2004 – but somehow Bush, Rove, and Limbaugh had promised too much, damaged the credibility of the party, and the backlash of 2006 and 2008 soon followed.

* * *

Now the National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein has published a somewhat lengthy analysis of the Republican presidential campaign so far, specifically addressing the question “Why is a party that leans so far to the right poised to nominate a candidate whom many conservatives deeply distrust?” He concludes:

For many Republicans, [no alternative to Romney has] crossed the threshold as a credible president. … [No one of them] has emerged organically from the ferocious antigovernment backlash that emerged during the final years of George W. Bush’s presidency and then erupted early in Obama’s. None of the heroes of that movement—from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin—felt ready to run in 2012, either because they were too young or too recently elected, or both. Other veteran Republicans potentially attractive to those voters also passed, including Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Republican voters were left to choose from a field filled by an older generation that many of the newer activists view with suspicion. “In the next primary election, whenever it is, you’ve got a real group of potential candidates who are truly conservative and pro-growth,” says Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, a leading economic conservative group. “It is an evolution. Republicans went bad, and now [the movement] is getting better, and it’s going up through the House and Senate, but it hasn’t produced a national leader yet.”

I would disagree with Brownstein that it was an “antigovernment backlash” that happened in 2006 and 2008. Nevertheless, we are at a point at which we may be left with Romney the nominee, and even maybe a “President Mitt Romney”. Which brings me to my point. Neither a Romney presidency nor an Obama presidency in 2012 is going to do long-lasting damage to the Republic. The system of government set up by the founders of this country is a pretty good one.

* * *

There was another school of thought on “how to elect a Republican president”, and that was Ronald Reagan’s way. Reagan had lost an election to Gerald Ford, but meanwhile, he was hard at work. A “Goldwater” Republican during the late 60’s and early 70’s, Reagan was a person who took the time to think through how conservative ideas and principles ought to play out in the real world. It was his thought and his policies that led very quickly (within 10 years) to the demise of the Soviet satellite of nations and eventually the Soviet system of government. And it was his economic attitude and policies that enabled the US economy to recover from the stagnation of the 1970’s to become the growth engine that it had become through the 1980’s and 1990’s and beyond.

From this perspective, it’s very hopeful for Republicans to have names like Christie and Ryan and Rubio and Jindal in some high-profile places. Ron Paul has, and articulates, some good ideas, but the weaknesses of his libertarianism (and his personal weaknesses) are very evident. Sarah Palin may have been a pretty candidate who espoused conservative principles, but she was just a “stopper” and a window dressing. The real heavy lifting of the Republican party will need to be accomplished not by someone who merely claims the mantle of Reagan, but by someone who can genuinely do what Reagan did, and that is, to think through the problems of the day, and understand how best to solve these problems with the best of conservative principles.

The American System not only allows for that, but indeed, it encourages it. 

A medical update

Beth’s “engraftment” of her new bone marrow is extremely strong -- they gave her the maximum “dose” of new stem cells (she had a good young donor), and her blood levels, as best as I can tell, are all at or near the normal range. (She is still making daily outpatient trips to the hospital, and she gets IV fluids and antibiotics every day. I don’t get to the hospital as much any more, and so I don’t get to bother them about getting me the lab charts as much as I like).

This week, she is going to have a bone marrow biopsy on Tuesday (1/17), which will provide genetic material for a DNA test called a “Chimerism” test -- that will verify that none of her old marrow is growing, and that it’s 100% of the new stuff. Of course, if her old marrow were to still continue to be growing, that could indicate the possibility of a relapse. (But not necessarily. The intention of the “conditioning” phase was to destroy the old marrow. The chemo and radiation does not eliminate it, but prevents it from growing. The “immune system” from the new material should, over time, remove all of the old marrow in the same way that your immune system would remove any infection: white cells surround it, kill the infection and carry it away.)

The down side of all this is that the new material is also rejecting her tissue. This is called “graft vs host” disease, or GVH. So far, it’s affecting her skin, in the form of a very nasty itchy and painful rash. See this photo. So she’s very uncomfortable right now, but the doctors are confident that she’s progressing as intended.

During the latter part of last year, I followed the story of R.C. Sproul Jr’s wife, Denise. She was diagnosed with AML leukemia in February. She had a bone marrow transplant in the spring. By late summer she had mentioned on her Facebook page that she had relapsed. By December, she had passed away. Beth’s form of leukemia (CMML) is one of the “pre-leukemias” within the AML family. That is, this particular family of leukemias are all related to AML chemically and genetically. AML is the more severe, advanced, and aggressive version of what essentially is a very similar disease. Beth had not advanced into AML when she was diagnosed, and the Vidaza treatments she was receiving was able to prevent that from happening in the months prior to her transplant.

And so, once we get through these nasty outbreaks, there’s a very good chance that the transplant will have worked, and life will get back to “normal”. Again, I’d like to thank all of you who supported us this past year, financially, with your prayers and concern, and your friendship. We are not out of the woods yet, but Lord willing, things are progressing the way we had hoped they would.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tebow no longer a dilemma, only a young boy's hero

Who’s Explaining Away Blue Parakeets?

Shut Your Mouth, War Is Hell

Secular humanism

“We’re just a bit of pollution,” Lawrence M. Krauss, a theorist at Case Western Reserve, said not long ago at a public panel on cosmology in Chicago. “If you got rid of us, and all the stars and all the galaxies and all the planets and all the aliens and everybody, then the universe would be largely the same. We’re completely irrelevant.”

Craig on Rom 9

I’m going to comment on William Lane Craig’s creative interpretation of Rom 9:

One of the striking things about Craig is how carefully he prepares for his debates with liberals and atheists, but how poorly prepared he is in responding to Calvinism. Craig is a very sophisticated philosopher, but a very unsophisticated theologian.

Typically, as a result of Reformed theology, we have a tendency to read Paul as narrowing down the scope of God's election to the very select few, and those not so chosen can't complain if God in His sovereignty overlooks them.

i) Where is Craig’s evidence that according to Calvinism only a “very select few” will be saved?

ii) Craig’s alternative to unconditional election is to say that “God has chosen to save those who have faith in Christ.” But even if we grant conditional election for the sake of argument, that doesn’t predict for how many will be saved. That doesn’t predict for how many will believe.

In principle, conditional election could just as well result in God saving a “very select few.” There’s no presumption that most men and women will respond favorably to the Gospel–even if they had occasion to hear it. So Craig’s implied contrast is fallacious even on its own terms.

The problematic, then, with which Paul is wrestling is how God's chosen people the Jews could fail to obtain the promise of salvation while Gentiles, who were regarded by Jews as unclean and execrable, could find salvation instead.

Is that the problematic? To judge by key passages like Rom 9:6a (cf. Isa 55:11), 11:1-2, & 11:29, isn’t the real problem Paul is wrestling with whether God can be trusted? Does God keep him promises? Or does Israel’s unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness?

To reduce God’s promise to Israel to a hypothetical promise, ultimately contingent on Israel’s faith, wouldn’t generate the dilemma that Paul poses. For, as Paul frames the issue, Israel’s lack of faith is the problem, and not the solution to the problem. What generates the prima facie dilemma is the stark contrast between God’s irrevocable commitment to Israel (11:29) and Israel’s present infidelity. If history has falsified God’s promise to Israel, then God loses all credibility.

So—and this is the crucial point—who is it that God has chosen to save? The answer is: those who have faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul writes in Galatians (which is a sort of abbreviated Romans), "So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Gal. 3. 7). Jew or Gentile, it doesn't matter: God has sovereignly chosen to save all those who trust in Christ Jesus for salvation.

i) That only pushes the question back a step, for it fails to explain the source of faith. Why do some have faith while others lack faith?

ii) And it fails to resolve the dilemma Paul posed. For Paul, if God’s promise to Israel lapsed when Israel lapsed, then that would call into question God’s fidelity–whether to Israel or the gentiles. For Paul, God’s promise to Israel implies a favorable outcome. Something that extends into the future.

That's why Paul can go on in Romans 10 to say, "There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For 'everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved'" (10. 12-13). Reformed theology can make no sense at all of this wonderful, universal call to salvation. Whosoever will may come.

i) That’s not universal; rather, that’s categorical.

ii) Needless to say, Reformed theology can make perfect sense of the promise that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Paul's burden, then, in Romans 9 is not to narrow the scope of God's election but to broaden it. He wants to take in all who have faith in Christ Jesus regardless of their ethnicity. Election, then, is first and foremost a corporate notion: God has chosen for Himself a people, a corporate entity, and it is up to us by our response of faith whether or not we choose to be members of that corporate group destined to salvation.

i) If it’s “up to us,” then that would never generate the dilemma which Paul poses. On that view, Israel could totally defect. But Paul takes the position that for God to be true to his promise, he must preserve a remnant. Indeed, God must even reinstate Israel at some future point.

ii) Notice how Craig upends the Biblical notion of election. In Scripture, God does the choosing; but for Craig, we do the choosing.

iii) If election is contingent on our libertarian faith, then that’s fundamentally individualistic rather than corporate. Corporate identity is a side-effect of one’s individual identity as a believer. And it’s not up to God who will or won’t believe.

Of course, given God's total providence over the affairs of men, this is not the whole story. But Molinism makes good sense of the rest. John 6. 65 means that apart from God's grace no one can come to God on his own. But there's no suggestion there that those who refused to believe in Christ did not do so of their own free will.

Jn 6 doesn’t chalk it up to libertarian freewill, but sin. Moreover, disbelief is the result of divine hardening (Jn 12:39-40). Same thing in Romans (11:7).

God knows in exactly what circumstances people will freely respond to His grace and places people in circumstances in which each one receives sufficient grace for salvation if only that person will avail himself of it.

There’s nothing in Rom 9 or Jn 6 to that effect. Indeed, that cuts against the grain.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hyperbole and prayer

A couple of infidels over at Hallquist’s blog have commented on my rejoinder. They fail to grasp the nature of hyperbole. I, of course, don’t expect them to be reasonable. But for the benefit of others, I’ll say a bit more.

1) Communication involves shared assumptions and expectations. A writer or speaker leaves many things unsaid. He counts on the cultural preunderstanding of his audience to make allowance for what he didn’t say. As Robert Alter explains:
A coherent reading of any artwork, whatever the medium, requires some detailed awareness of the grid of conventions upon which, and against which, the individual work operates.

Let us suppose that some centuries hence only a dozen films survive from the whole corpus of Hollywood westerns. As students of twentieth-century cinema screening the films on an ingeniously reconstructed archaic projector, we notice a recurrent peculiarity: in eleven of the films the sheriff-hero has the same anomalous neurological trait of hyperreflexivity–no matter what the situation in which his adversaries confront him, he is always able to pull his gun out of its holster and fire before they, with their weapons poised, can pull the trigger…Now, eleven hyperreflexive sheriffs are utterly improbable by any realistic standards.

Much of our pleasure in watching westerns derives from our awareness that the hero, however sinister the dangers looming over him, leads a charmed life, that he will always in the end prove himself to be more of a man than the bad guys who stalk him, and the familiar token of his indomitable manhood is his invariable, often uncanny, quickness on the draw. For us, the recurrence of the hyperreflexive sheriff is not an enigma to be explained but, on the contrary, a necessary condition for telling a western story in the film medium, as it should be told.
The Art of Biblical Narrative (Basic Books, rev. ed, 2011), 55-57.

BTW, when I was a kid I used to watch The Rifleman, with Chuck Connors.

Now, Alter doesn’t say this because he’s trying to protect the reputation of Scripture. Alter’s a liberal. But he’s also a consummate literary critic.

2) When Jesus says God will give us whatever we ask for, that’s hyperbolic. That’s a sociolinguistic convention. Any rationale Jew would understand that. Consider the alternative:

i) “If God will give me whatever I ask for, then can I ask God to give me nothing that I ask for.”

But, of course, that’s a contradiction in terms. So that interpretation is self-refuting.

ii) “If God will give me whatever I ask for, then I can ask God to annihilate himself.”

Two problems:

a) That's a blasphemous prayer. So God wouldn’t answer a blasphemous prayer.

b) It would contradict the promise. For if God committed self-annihilation, then he wouldn’t exist to answer any more requests, pace the promise that he will give us whatever we ask. So that’s another self-refuting interpretation.

iii) “If God will gives me whatever I ask for, then I can ask him to make a yoyo go up and down at the same time.”

Since up and down are opposite motions, even omnipotence can’t make a yoyo go up and down at the same time. That’s a pseudotask.

iv) “If God will give me whatever I ask for, then I can ask God to renege on the Abrahamic covenant.”

Although that’s something which God could do, in the sense that God has the ability to do so–that’s not something God would do, given his character.

v) “If God will give me whatever I ask for, then I can ask God to strike my parents dead by a lightning bolt.”

Although that’s something God could do, that’s not something God would do. For I have a divine obligation to honor my parents. Therefore, God will not comply with a prayer that defies his own command.

C. S. Lewis on prayer

Biblical manhood and womanhood

I’ve been asked to comment on this:

A few preliminaries:

I haven’t bothered to keep up with the egalitarian/complementarian debate. I’ve studied the issue in-depth, but it seemed to me that both sides were recycling the same moves and countermoves, so that became a point of diminishing returns. Having arrived at my own position, I moved on to other things. So, for instance, I haven’t read every issue of the CBMW journal. As such I may have missed some developments.

It’s possible that Burleson’s reaction is influenced by personal experience. Maybe something in his upbringing, or Southern culture, or the SBC. Perhaps there are some horror stories in the back of his mind where men abuse male headship.
Because I accept the truth of the Bible, I must accept that the invisible, immortal and omnipotent God has female characteristics, and that females were created in the image of God to be co-regents, co-equals, and co-leaders with men over creation.
Several problems, of which I’ll state three for now:

i) Burleson seems to be assuming that coregency entails coequality. If so, he needs to argue for that inference. It doesn’t follow that coregents have the same authority. For instance, you have royal couples in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean kings and queens wield the same authority.

ii) Gen 1 isn’t discussing the authority of man and woman in relation to each other, but in relation to the subhuman order.

iii) Authority is a hierarchical concept. A superior/subordinate relationship. Subordinates are unequal to their leaders. So there’s a tension between Burleson’s egalitarianism and his hierarchicalism.
In Isaiah 46:3 God says, "Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from My womb."

Later in Isaiah, God says to His people: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15).
This is highly anthropomorphic imagery. So you can’t directly apply anthropomorphic ascriptions to the nature of God. There’s an intervening step. Like any analogy, especially a figurative analogy, you must isolate and identify the literal point of commonality. What is the abstract truth that this concrete image illustrates? Is gender part of the intended analogy, or something more generic?

Incidentally, the same holds truth for male anthropomorphisms.
In Genesis 1:27 it is said, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." The male and the female were created by God. The male and the female both bear the image of God. The male and the female are both included in the Hebrew word adam (man) - "So God created adam ... He created them." Notice what God says about them ... "and let them rule.…” The male and the female were both designed to rule. Men and women are created by God in His image as co-regents of the world He created. Any system, any society, any organization that places one gender as an authority over the other, whether it be patriarchal or matriarchal in nature, is a direct violation of the command and design of the Creator God. Why can women rule in God's creation? Why can women lead in God's creation? Why can women be equal to men in God's creation? Women are created in the image of God, just like men, and when the omnipotent, sovereign and invisible Creator God determined to create man in His image, He created a male and a female, reflecting the very nature of God Himself. This is why there is nothing wrong with considering God as both Father and Mother, as the invisible and all-powerful Ruler of the universe who reflects Himself in both males and females--God is Spirit and the perfections of each gender are seen in God.
I’ve already commented on some problems with this inference. Here are two others:

i) What’s the relationship of Gen 1 to Gen 3? When is Gen 1:26-28 fulfilled? Is this protological or eschatological? Does the Fall disrupt this prospect? Does its realization await a postlapsarian restoration of some sort?

ii) What’s the relationship of Gen 1 to Gen 2? Gen 2 is arguably epexegetical in relation to Gen 1. In my opinion, the relation between Gen 1 and Gen 1 reflects a synoptic/resumptive-expansive technique, where Gen 2 resumes and explicates a part of what’s outlined in Gen 1. In particular, it provides more detail about man and woman.

So it’s exegetically illicit for Burleson to compartmentalize Gen 1 to the exclusion of Gen 2.
George Kwami Kumi, Ph.D. is an Akan Ghanaian Christian and the vicar general of the Diocese of Sunyani, Africa. Dr. Kumi says that the affectionate term Father-Mother God is used among his native people to denote the invisible God of the Bible.
Of course, we could chalk that up to syncretism.
The liberal scholar is the one who denies that both men and women are created in the image of God. Some liberal scholars are self-proclaimed conservative scholars who twist the Scriptures to purport that only man is created in God's image and the woman is the glory of man, not God. Sound strange? To me it sure does. Let me give you an example of this kind of teaching. Dr. Bruce Ware, in a long and bizarre article entitled Male and Female Complementarity and the Image of God writes, "I propose that it may be best to understand the original creation of male and female as one in which the male was made image of God first, in an unmediated fashion, as God formed him from the dust of the ground, while the female was made image of God second, in a mediated fashion, as God chose, not more earth, but the very rib of Adam ... The theology of this is clear ... Genesis 2 intends for us to understand the formation of the woman as both fully like the man in his humanity, while attributing the derivation of her very nature to God's formation of her, not from common dust of the ground, but specifically from the rib of Adam, and so from the man. Just as the man, created directly by God is the image and glory of God, so the woman, created out of the man, has her glory through the man. This much is clear: as God chose to create her, the woman was not formed to be the human that she is apart from the man but only through the man. Does it not stand to reason, then, that her humanity, including her being the image of God, occurs as God forms her from the man as "the glory of the man"? (emphasis mine).
i) But as any Biblically literate reader can see, even from the excerpt that Burleson quotes, Ware’s argument is basically an interpretive paraphrase of Gen 2 and 1 Cor 11. So there’s nothing prima facie “liberal” about Ware’s argument.

ii) However, I’m less interested in exegeting Ware than in exegeting Scripture. To put it briefly, one argument which complementarians use is to start with 1 Cor 11 and work back through Paul’s literary allusions. Paul filters Gen 1 through Gen 2 as well as Ps 8.

Gen 2 glosses Gen 1. Ps 8 contributes the “glory” motif. Ps 8 also plays into Paul’s honor/shame dialectic.

Paul doesn’t deny that women bear the image of God. But one question is how the image of God is transferred.

Adam receives it directly from God (via immediate creation), Eve receives it from Adam (via mediate creation), while subsequent men and women receive the image of God directly from our parents, indirectly from Adam and Eve–and ultimately from God, via the providential process which the Creator initiated.

Adam originates from God, via the ground. Eve orginates from God, via Adam. The rest of us originate from our parents.

The imago Dei is both patrilineal and matrilineal, inasmuch as mother and father conjunctly transmit the image of God to their sons and daughters through procreation. It’s no more demeaning to women to say Eve derives the imago Dei from Adam than to say men derive the imago Dei from their parents–both male and female.

Even if you think Eve receives the imago Dei straight from God, that’s hardly relevant to Adam’s posterity.

iii) 1 Cor 11 teaches male headship, at least in marriage. At the same time it also entitles women to pray and “prophesy” in public worship. So there’s a balance, but it’s not symmetrical.
I think this kind of teaching, promoted as the norm at the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, should be called out for what it is. It is liberal theology. It is a denial of the nature of God and the authority of Scripture. From this strange doctrine arise toxic problems within Christian churches and homes. For example, if the male (not the female) is created in the image of God in an unmediated fashion, and the female bears God's image only through the male, then females will be taught that their identity will only be found in a man, not God, and thus ...
Of course, complementarians have additional prooftexts for their position, viz. Eph 5, 1 Cor 14, Col 3, 1 Tim 2, 1 Pet 3. Burleson is aware of that, and he no doubt has equalitarian counter interpretations. My point is that he acts as though complementarians simply defy the witness of Scripture. Frankly, that’s slanderous.
(1). Females should always be under a 'protective covering' of a man, either a father or a husband just as men need God's protective covering.
He doesn’t say which complementarians make that claim, or how they ground it. So I’m not quite sure how to respond.

For instance, OT fathers could nullify an unmarried daughter’s contractual agreement. However, we have to be careful not to overextend that example:

For one thing, girls were generally married off shortly after puberty. So this concerns the authority of a father over a single, pubescent girl who’s living at home. That’s hardly analogous to, say, a twenty-something single woman who has a job and lives away from home.
(2). Females should never lead, rule or govern anything but only serve and support the males who were designed to rule as God rules.
That’s a rule of thumb. But rules deal with generalities, not exceptions. For an exception, take the case of Abigail (1 Sam 25).
(3). Females should be subordinate to the authority of men in the same manner Jesus is eternally subordinate to the authority of God the Father, and even if that authority is abusive at times, the woman should always remain compliant and submissive.
i) As I’ve discussed elsewhere, I reject Nicene subordination. And I think it’s a mistake for complementarians to ground gender roles in the Godhead. But I won’t repeat myself here.

ii) No, a wife shouldn’t submit to abusive authority.
(4). Females should always find their identity and self-worth in the men that God has given to them (fathers and husbands), with home-making and child-rearing being their focus and never working toward any career or identity outside the man's home.
i) That’s overstated. They should find their identity and self-worth in Christ.

ii) Motherhood doesn’t mean finding your “identity and self-worth” in your husband. For motherhood involve a degree of personal fulfillment in your children–sons and daughters.

iii) It isn’t just the “man’s” home.

iv) It’s possible for stay-at-home moms to have a “career” or “identity” outside the home. For instance, gifted women can be writers.

v) We should also keep in mind that the nuclear family is fairly anomalous socioeconomic development in human history. Throughout most of human history, and in many parts of the world today, extended/intergenerational families living under the one roof are/were the norm. Likewise, you had tribes and clans that lived in community.

So we need to avoid making iconic images of the middle class family in the Eisenhower era (e.g. Father Knows Best; My Three Sons) the paradigm.
Therefore, I praise God when a gifted woman leads, teaches, prays or takes a position of authority in the presence of men.
That jumbles together a number of things that aren’t interchangeable. If, say, a woman writes a Bible commentary (e.g. Karen Jobes), she’s teaching male readers. But that’s not an authoritarian exercise.

Unanimous Supreme Court Decision Upholds Church's Ability to Name its Own Ministers
In a groundbreaking case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday [in a 9-0 decision] held for the first time that religious employees of a church cannot sue for employment discrimination. … It was … the first time the high court has acknowledged the existence of a "ministerial exception" to anti-discrimination laws -- a doctrine developed in lower court rulings. This doctrine says the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion shields churches and their operations from the reach of such protective laws when the issue involves employees of these institutions.

The case came before the court because the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Mich., on behalf of employee Cheryl Perich, over her firing, which happened after she complained of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Writing the court's opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said allowing anti-discrimination lawsuits against religious organizations could end up forcing churches to take religious leaders they no longer want.

"Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs," Roberts said. "By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the Free Exercise Clause, which protects a religious group's right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments."

Newt "Loose Cannon" Gingrich

Worship among the earliest Christians

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The first amendment in context

Controversy between church and state over religious offices is hardly new. In 1215, the issue was addressed in the very first clause of Magna Carta. There, King John agreed that “the English church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished and its liberties unimpaired.”  
The King in particular accepted the “freedom of elections,” a right “thought to be of the greatest necessity and importance to the English church.” J. Holt, Magna Carta App. IV, p. 317, cl. 1 (1965). 
That freedom in many cases may have been more theoretical than real. See, e.g., W. Warren, Henry II 312 (1973) (recounting the writ sent by Henry II to the electors of a bishopric in Winchester, stating: “I order you to hold a free election, but forbid you to elect anyone but Richard my clerk”). In any event, it did not survive the reign of Henry VIII, even in theory. The Act of Supremacy of 1534, 26 Hen. 8, ch. 1, made the English monarch the supreme head of the Church, and the Act in Restraint of Annates, 25 Hen. 8, ch. 20, passed that same year, gave him the authority to appoint the Church’s high officials. See G. Elton, The Tudor Constitution: Documents and Commentary 331–332 (1960). Various Acts of Uniformity, enacted subsequently, tightened further the government’s grip on the exercise of religion. See, e.g., Act of Uniformity, 1559, 1 Eliz., ch. 2; Act of Uniformity, 1549, 2 & 3 Edw. 6, ch. 1. The Uniformity Act of 1662, for instance, limited service as a minister to those who formally assented to prescribed tenets and pledged to follow the mode of worship set forth in the Book of Common Prayer. Any minister who refused to make that pledge was “deprived of all his Spiritual Promotions.” Act of Uniformity, 1662, 14 Car. 2, ch. 4.
Seeking to escape the control of the national church, the Puritans fled to New England, where they hoped to elect their own ministers and establish their own modes of worship. See T. Curry, The First Freedoms: Church and State in America to the Passage of the First Amendment 3 (1986); McConnell, The Origins and Historical Understanding of Free Exercise of Religion, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 1409, 1422 (1990). William Penn, the Quaker proprietor of what would eventually become Pennsylvania and Delaware, also sought independence from the Church of England. The charter creating the province of Pennsylvania contained no clause establishing a religion. See S. Cobb, The Rise of Religious Liberty in America 440–441 (1970). 
Colonists in the South, in contrast, brought the Church of England with them. But even they sometimes chafed at the control exercised by the Crown and its representatives over religious offices. In Virginia, for example, the law vested the governor with the power to induct ministers presented to him by parish vestries, 2 Hening’s Statutes at Large 46 (1642), but the vestries often refused to make such presentations and instead chose ministers on their own. See H. Eckenrode, Separation of Church and State in Virginia 13–19 (1910). Controversies over the selection of ministers also arose in other Colonies with Anglican establishments, including North Carolina. See C. Antieau, A. Downey, & E. Roberts, Freedom from Federal Establishment: Formation and Early History of the First Amendment Religion Clauses 10–11 (1964). There, the royal governor insisted that the right of presentation lay with the Bishop of London, but the colonial assembly enacted laws placing that right in the vestries. Authorities in England intervened, repealing those laws as inconsistent with the rights of the Crown. See id., at 11; Weeks, Church and State in North Carolina, Johns Hopkins U. Studies in Hist. &c; Pol. Sci., 11th Ser., Nos. 5–6, pp. 29–36 (1893). 
It was against this background that the First Amendment was adopted. Familiar with life under the established Church of England, the founding generation sought to foreclose the possibility of a national church. See 1 Annals of Cong. 730–731 (1789) (noting that the Establishment Clause addressed the fear that “one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform” (remarks of J. Madison)). By forbidding the “establishment of religion” and guaranteeing the “free exercise thereof,” the Religion Clauses ensured that the new Federal Government—unlike the English Crown–would have no role in filling ecclesiastical offices. The Establishment Clause prevents the Government from appointing ministers, and the Free Exercise Clause prevents it from interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select their own.

Anglican Reflections on Justification by Faith

The one true Bible

Unlike wayward Protestants, who wander hither and yon like sheep without a shepherd, Catholics have the one true Bible.

The Pope would never quote the NAB (nor will you usually find it being used in English translations of papal documents and speeches) for the very good reason that nobody outside the United States uses it — and the only reason it’s used even in the United States is that the USCCB sponsors it, holds the copyright on it, and insists that it be used for the readings at Mass. It’s a purely American translation. (And it’s not an especially popular one, either; many American Catholics refuse to use it outside of when it is required.) Most other Catholics in the English-speaking world use some version of either the NRSV or the Jerusalem Bible, depending on the preferences of the relevant conference of bishops.