Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chuck Colson and Christopher Hitchens: Two lives and two deaths

Christopher Hitchens died recently. Chuck Colson died today. Both were public figures. Both opinion-makers. It's striking to compare and contrast their very different lives and legacies.

Varieties of faith

I’m going to comment on this post.

Before remarking on his specific claims, let’s draw a few distinctions:

i) McKnight treats the audience of Hebrews as monolithic, as if the author has only one audience in mind. But the congregation probably reflected a range of individuals.

ii) Apropos (i), people generally attend church as families. Families tend to do things as families. That, in turn, can break down in the following ways:

a) You have one or more devout family members who attend church because their motives are pious.

b) You have nominal or unbelieving family members who attend church because a devout family member attends. In the case of kids, they may attend because they have to. Their parents make them. In the case of parents, one spouse may attend out of deference to the other spouse.

This isn’t based on a Calvinist classification scheme. Rather, it’s based on the fact that the natural family is the fundamental unit of society. Families do things together. Family members do things with or for other family members.

So, within the same family, people have different motivations for attending church.

Let’s classify churchgoers in another way:

i) Devout believers

Christian faith is a central, defining feature of their lives. That’s what gives them hope and purpose. That’s how they interpret their lives. Gives them inner direction. A unifying frame of reference.

ii) Nominal believers

They are social chameleons. They believe because people around them believe. They believe what people around them believe.

It’s a default belief. They can lose their faith (and often do) the moment their faith is put to the test–intellectually, ethically, or emotionally. They can lose their faith (and often do) the moment they are transplanted to a different social environment.

When they lose their faith, they don’t have much to lose. Their faith never made their life meaningful. Their life seems just as meaningful or meaningless to them with or without their nominal Christian faith.

iii) Unbelievers

They don’t pretend to believe in Christianity, but they don’t make a big deal about it one way or the other. They don’t protest. That’s not their priority. Their social life is more important. They attend church to humor their devout family members. To be involved in the lives of their spouse or kids.

They go through the motions: sing hymns, recite the creed, recite public prayers, take communion.

iv) Heretics

A heretic is a parody of a devout believer. A counterfeit. He’s just as passionate about his heretical beliefs as a devout believer. His heresy is something he lives for. All-important.

One again, these distinctions don’t presuppose a Calvinist classification-scheme. These are sociological observations. As a matter of common observation, that’s the usual breakdown.

v) These categories aren’t static. Unbelievers can become believers. Believers can become unbelievers. Devout believers can become nominal believers. Nominal believers can become devout believers.

vi) There is, of course, a difference between the way Arminians and Calvinists classify believers. For Arminians, there is no qualitative distinction between nominal believers and “true” believers. In Arminianism, every believer is a born-again believer, for you are regenerated after you believe, as a result of believing.

In Calvinism, by contrast, there’s a distinction between regenerate believers and unregenerate believers, or elect believers and elect unbelievers.

On the one hand, the unregenerate can be nominal believers. On the other hand, the elect can (for a time) be unbelievers.

Of course, McKnight rejects Calvinism, so he might regard that distinction as question-begging. Since, however, he’s critiquing Calvinism, he has to consider the Reformed classifications on their own terms. Are they self-consistent? Can Hebrews be consistently read through that classification scheme?

vii) McKnight fails to distinguish between the author’s audience and the author’s paradigm-cases of faith and infidelity. The author doesn’t simply explain the nature of faith and infidelity by how he talks about the audience, by describing the characteristics of the congregants, but also, and primarily, by his examples of the faithful in Old Testamental and Inter-Testamental times (Heb 11)–as well as the faithless Exodus-generation (Heb 3-4). And he analogizes from these past exemplars–for good or ill–to the situation of the congregants.

Moving to the specifics:

viii) McKnight frames the issue in terms of Calvinism v. Arminianism. However, many Arminian Baptists affirm some version of eternal security. Doesn’t McKnight know that?

ix) Likewise, McKnight rejects the “rhetorical” interpretation, yet Ben Witherington favors the “rhetorical” interpretation in his commentary on Hebrews. Doesn’t McKnight know that?

x) He creates a false dichotomy between “Two kinds of people and/or two kinds of faith” But faith is a property of people, a property of believers. So if there were two (or more) kinds of faith, that would be embodied in different people.

xi) Moreover, the same person can have an evolving or devolving faith. So it’s not as if we automatically pair off one kind of faith per person. There’s some fluidity.

Indeed, apostasy is a good example of that. Some believers retain their faith while others lose their faith. Some mature while others are spiritually retarded.

First, if the sin to worry about is apostasy, and O’Brien calls it “irreversible apostasy,” how can a person with non-genuine (spurious) faith be warned about apostasy? What are they apostasizing from? (The only answer can be their non-genuine faith because that is all they have.) I contend this makes no sense. Big question: What does apostasy mean for the one who doesn’t really have genuine faith? (The sin of Hebrews is too violent to be anything other than something profoundly serious; I can’t see it being apostasy from less than real faith.)

The answer depends in part, on whether McKnight is seeking a general answer, or else an answer specific to Hebrews. In relation to Hebrews, the conventional view is that congregants are in danger of reverting to Judaism. A defection from Christianity to Judaism. That’s the specific form apostasy takes in this letter.

McKnight himself rejects that interpretation, although he doesn’t present his alternative.

Second, if the exhortation is to continue or persevere, how can a person with non-genuine faith be exhorted to continue? In what, their non-genuine faith?

In relation to Hebrews, they are to continue in the Christian faith, and their continuance will, itself, be a mark of genuine faith. A test of commitment. How much it really means to them-or not.

The only answer here is that the non-genuine faith person should be urged to repent and to believe or to enter deeper from a spurious and inadequate non-saving faith into a real, genuine saving faith. When this topic arises at the end of Hebrews 5 and the beginning of Hebrews 6 there’s no evidence the author thinks of these people of having spurious faith, but instead of having faith that needs perseverance. In other words, it’s just how the author says it: immaturity (or the “elementary”; 6:1) needs to move onto maturity. The elementary is not “spurious” but an immature version of the real thing.

But as I noted before, the author doesn’t explain the nature of faith merely by reference to his audience, but also by comparing his audience to past saints and past apostates. So Heb 6:1 has to be supplemented by that other material.

The exhortation to continue then can only apply for O’Brien to the genuine saving-faith person (in which case the whole conditionality issue becomes hypothetical or only rhetorical and not real — an issue that needs a different discussion).

This makes two mistakes I noted at the outset:

i) McKnight acts as if there’s only one audience for the exhortation. As if all the congregants are in the same condition. But mass communication (i.e. a public letter) isn’t that discriminating. The author will make a number of general observations that apply to some members of the congregation, but not others.

ii) McKnight also acts as if the condition of each congregant is static. But the very crisis this congregation is undergoing can be a refining (as well as winnowing) experience. In a crisis, a nominal believer can either lose his faith or become a devout believer.

In O’Brien’s sketch the warning passages are working with their eyes on two different faiths: genuine-faith people and non-genuine-faith people. I contend this is impossible to prove apart from one’s already-at-work Calvinistic assumptions. I see no evidence for two groups until the final day; at the moment of writing they are believers. The writer of Hebrews never suggests anyone has spurious faith; he worries those with faith will not persevere.
Third, it is not accurate to say genuine faith and spurious faith are clear in the book. That, again, is an imposed category: what is clear is that some believe and are saved and others shrink back and are damned. To say there are two kinds of faith requires a text where the author makes that kind of category clear. (And the word “faith” ought to be present with some kind of adjective that shows the author thinks some have a spurious faith.) What is present in Hebrews is an author who thinks his readers/listeners will persevere or not persevere.

This commits another mistake I noted at the outset. McKnight is myopically focused on the condition of the audience while ignoring the examples that the author gives to illustrate his argument. On the one hand you have the faithful in Heb 11.

On the other hand you have the wilderness generation. They never exercised faith. Despite witnessing God’s miraculous deliverance and miraculous provision, it never took.

The theme of apostasy doesn’t begin with chap. 6. Rather, that begins with chap. 3. Heb 3-4 are programmatic for 6.

Notice that the author says the audience has an “initial experience of the gospel” and then later says they “were never true believers.” I agree with the first but the last category is imposed from without on the basis of other conclusions, namely that if one does not have perseverance one never really had genuine faith. This is the QED, and it doesn’t work to assume this stance in order to explain one’s view. There are two kinds of people, not two kinds of faith. There is one kind of faith: faith. Some will persevere and some won’t. One faith, one kept and one discarded.

There’s a difference between hearing and trusting. Many heard, but only some took it to heart.

Again, the authentic vs. spurious is a way of framing the problem. I prefer it to frame it as “faith” that perseveres and to salvation vs. faith that doesn’t persevere and that leads to judgment. The use of “spurious” suggests it wasn’t the real thing from the beginning, which I think is his point but which is precisely the point that needs to be proven. And this is clear in that O’Brien says in this paragraph “and never was one.” Now that’s the point that has to be shown, and the only way to show this is to assume that genuine faith perseveres vs. ungenuine faith that does not persevere, when the author seems to be using this set of categories: faith that perseveres saves and faith that doesn’t persevere doesn’t save.

No, that’s not the only category. The wilderness generation never responded in faith.

The issue is whether the “faith” is real in each case; I think so. He needs to show that some people do not really have genuine faith.  

Try the wilderness generation.

What does it mean to have “initial” faith or an “initial experience of the gospel” in such terms if it doesn’t mean to trust in Christ?

Hearing the gospel isn’t the same thing as trusting Christ. Even believing isn’t the same thing as trusting.

And a crisis is often a way of testing the difference between hearing and believing or believing and trusting. That has a winnowing effect. It’s easy to believe something when it doesn’t cost you anything. It’s easy to superficially believe something when you don’t have to live what you superficially believe.

Again, in Hebrews 5 to 6 the author brings this up. The initial experience is not spurious, but real.

McKnight is equivocating. There’s no such thing as a spurious experience. Either you have an experience or you don’t.

The question is what you experience. The congregants were evangelized. Some of they witnessed miracles.

Likewise, the Exodus-generation had a genuine experience of God’s deliverance and providence. But they never put their faith in God. They constantly distrusted God.

Not an outsider and not one who is on the edge of church life?

Both nominal believers and unbelievers can be in the thick of church life. Some pastors are nominal believers or closet unbelievers. Many congregants participate in church life because they have devout family members.

I still see a moral problem of a warning with the consequences of hell/eternal damnation that, in fact, can’t happen because it would impugn God’s faithfulness. How can a warning be given with consequences for disobedience be given if those consequences can’t happen — and still be morally justified?

Warnings have deterrent value. Like Arminians generally, McKnight is confusing predestination with que sera sera fatalism. As one philosopher explains:

Determinism is the thesis that everything that occurs including our deliberations and decisions, are causally necessitated by antecedent conditions. Fatalism, by contrast, is the thesis that our deliberations and decisions are causally ineffective and make no difference to the course of events. The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, 232.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Torching the Bill of Rights

Canon Revisited

The Definition of the Term ‘Canon’

What Has Gone Wrong in Commentary Writing on Romans?

This is a rather slanted way to judge commentaries, but makes a useful point:

Greenhorn God


The model put forward by Gregory Boyd in his article in ‘Divine Providence: Five Views’ envisions a process where libertarianly free choices accumulate and solidify into a character that becomes increasingly fixed over time.

One problem with that claim is that you’re doing theology by stipulation rather than revelation–or even reason. Boyd can postulate that position, but why should I believe that his position is true?

It’s like the difference between the logical problem of evil and the evidential problem of evil. To parry the logical problem of evil, we only need to come up with an answer that’s logically possible or logically consistent. It doesn’t have to be true, or even plausible. But that’s not an adequate theodicy.

Likewise, even if Boyd’s position is logically possible or logically consistent, that doesn’t create any presumption that it’s true, or probably true.

There are far more possibilities than actualities. Most possibilities are unexemplified. Many theories chasing a few facts.

Habits to character to destiny. The freewill model is not one where libertarianly free agents are constantly making spontaneous, unpredictable decisions. The initial spontaneity gives way to increasingly fixed patterns of behavior that evidence a distinct character. So there is a point of no return for all human agents, beyond which they are firmly fixed on a trajectory that either takes them to ultimate conformity to the image of God in Christ, or to final, irreversible depravity.

i) That’s not required by a theory of libertarian freedom. Rather, that’s required by your theological construct. But what requires your theological construct?

ii) It also fails to distinguish libertarianism from Calvinism. What you’re actually giving us is a theory of character-determinism. But that doesn’t single out libertarian freewill. Indeed, character-determinism is Derk Pereboom’s model of hard incompatibilism.

iii) Even if we grant your theory of character-determinism for the sake of argument, the cut-off is still arbitrary. People die at different times. Their character development is at different stages when they die. Yet the Palingenesis doesn’t occur at different times. Much less is the Palingenesis synchronized with when people die.

According to your theory, everyone naturally arrives at a fixed character just in time for the Palingenesis. But that’s ad hoc. There’s no reason to think everyone’s character development is synchronized to that degree. Indeed, if character development is a natural process, there’s every reason to think it’s different for each individual.

iv) Moreover, there’s no reason to think a natural process of character development is irreversible. Or even if it’s irreversible, there’s no reason to think behavior has become so reflexive that someone could never again succumb to temptation. You can’t extrapolate from libertarian freewill to a universal pattern.

You say “there’s a point of no return” because that’s what your theological construct requires, and not because there’s any independent reason to think character development is that stereotypical.

No, we maintain the freedom no matter what we choose. But we do need to understand that the consequences of not doing things his way are severe.

So why give us freedom to choose more than one option, then punish us for choosing more than one option?

It is illegitimate to bring in associations from the more popular meanings of the word.

Except that his game theoretical model of providence seems very Pelagian.

I still don't see how you can make that comparison. Rhoda's God responds to his people with blessings if they obey and punishment if they disobey, but is much more inclined toward mercy and blessing than punishment. For their own sake, he would much rather the people returned and found their true happiness in him. How does any of that conjure up Damien?

I’ve explained that to you. You’re just pretending not to understand because you’re so invested in freewill theism.

Go back and reread what I said about the kind of God that emerges from Scripture according to neotheist hermeneutics. You’re being very selective and one-sided about what part of that you cite.

Rhoda does not swallow the exegesis and hermeneutics of Sanders, et al. wholesale. Aren't you the one who's always cautioning that just because you approvingly quote an author on one point, that doesn't mean you put a rubber stamp on everything they say?

Rhoda hasn’t given us his own exegesis or counterexegesis. He defaulted to Sanders et al. So that’s all I have to go by.

In any case, I have a hard time associating the wise, patient, infinitely loving, resourceful God who emerges from the descriptions of open theists with your description.

i) Of course open theists aren’t going to compare their God to Damien or Trelane. They will try to put the best face on their view of God. Play up the positives and downplay the negatives.

ii) But on a consistent neotheist reading of Scripture, God has limited wisdom. God is still learning how to be God. How to deal with people. On-the-job-training. Trial-and-error.

Rhoda’s God isn’t consistently patient. Indeed, he’s often impatient. Rhoda’s God isn’t “infinitely loving.” Rather, he’s loving when he happens to be in a good mood, but if you catch him when he’s out of sorts, you better duck and keep your head down. He’s “resourceful” in the sense that he’s having to make things up as he goes along. Just like the Greek demigods (e.g. Hercules, Perseus) were resourceful, or Jason Bourne. Indeed, Bourne is more resourceful than the neotheist God.

Rhoda isn’t getting a God with “exhaustive contingency plans” from a neotheist reading of Scripture, but from his philosophical theology. The neotheist God of Scripture isn’t very good at thinking on his feet. Indeed, he needs human beings to give him advice. Help him out of a bind.

On freewill theism, God does not ensure that some people be lost for the benefit of the redeemed, or for anything He has to gain from it. The granting of free-will stems entirely from God's regard for His creatures.

On freewill theism (especially open theism), God does not ensure that anyone will benefit. He doesn’t know, by rolling the dice, if that will come up sixes or snake eyes. So he’s putting his creatures at an incalculable risk of immeasurable harm.

Roman Ecclesiology at its Finest

As the largest leadership organization for U.S. women religious begins to discern what steps to take following news Wednesday that the Vatican has ordered it to reform and to place itself under the authority of an archbishop, experts say the options available to the group are stark.

Ultimately, several canon lawyers told NCR, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has two choices: Either comply with the order or face ouster as a Vatican-recognized representative of sisters in the United States.

What’s more, the lawyers say, LCWR has no recourse for appeal of the decision, which the U.S. bishops' conference announced Wednesday in a press release. That release stated that, following a three-year "doctrinal assessment" by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain had been appointed to review and potentially revise the organization's policies.

One prominent canon lawyer, Oblate Fr. Frank Morrissey, summed up the situation facing LCWR in one sentence: “If they want to continue as a recognized conference, they’re going to have to work with this.”

Another, Jesuit Fr. Ladislas Orsy, also put it succinctly: “It’s not very complicated. The Vatican is taking control. They are taking control ... and they hope that in five years, they will put [LCWR] on a different track.”

While other canon lawyers contacted by NCR generally confirmed Orsy and Morrissey’s analysis, they declined to speak on the record, citing the sensitivity of the situation. A short press release from the LCWR on Thursday morning said the group was preparing to meet with its national board members “within the coming month to review the mandate and prepare a response.”

On the one hand, we know all these ladies are the feminist kinds of liberals, who got to where they are because of “the Spirit of Vatican II”, which enabled the liberal factions within the RCC to gain ascendancy. So here you have an organization that represents the leadership of some 80% of the “women religious” in the US.

On the other hand, now, the Vatican is doing what we’ve chastised them for not having done all along: bringing discipline to bear on its errant members, especially the errant leadership within its ranks.

I’ve got a little bit of news for the Vatican. This isn’t the 1950’s, and these are not, by and large, regenerate women they’re dealing with.

Let’s just see how this goes. Because there are other unregenerates within the Roman Catholic ranks, some in high places.

This is Roman ecclesiology at its finest.

Bryan Cross makes the New York Times for his “Bubble” View of the Atonement

My blog post on Bryan Cross's “bubble” view of the Atonement of Christ, Put it in a bubble, and let it float away, was picked up by the NYTimes Blogrunner and was associated with a story on the US Catholic Bishops.

After the nuns, now, maybe they'll decide to rein him in a bit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's all a matter of perspective


I’ve discussed this issue on other occasions, but I’ll return to the issue from a somewhat different angle. According to liberals like Paul Seely, the ancients judged by appearances. They thought the world was flat because, to all appearances, it seemed to be flat, and given their prescientific ignorance, they had no reason to question their naked-eye perception. Hence, we’re treated to that widely circulated diagram of the triple-decker universe.

I grew up in the Greater Seattle area. That’s a hilly, mountainous region. Depending on weather conditions, and where you’re facing, you can see rows of hills–hills behind hills. These turn into foothills, behind which you can see mountains or mountain ranges, like the Olympics, Cascades, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Rainier.

It looks like mountains are the most distant objects. There’s nothing between the mountains and the sky. The mountains appear to be right up against the sky. So it looks like mountains ring the outer edges of the flat earth. The only thing beyond the mountains is the sky.

But there’s a problem with that inference. For sightlines depend on the vantage-point of the observer. If you stayed in the same area all your life, I suppose you might labor under the illusion that you were at the center of the world, while the mountains marked the outer limits of the world.

But, of course, ancient people also traveled by boat or by foot. If you took a boat down the Pacific coast, if you saw Mt. Hood looking East rather than looking South, then you’d see that Mt. Hood wasn’t the end of the world. The world continued on the other side of Mt. Hood. There was something between the mountain and the sky. That wasn’t the edge of the world. Your perspective undergoes a radical shift. The viewpoint is relative to your particular position.

Surely lots of Indians did that sort of thing. Moreover, explorers like to brag about their discoveries. So is it realistic to think ancient people were that clueless about the world they inhabited? And that’s even before we bring inspiration to bear.

Here’s another thing to consider: before the invention and popularization of three-point perspective, how could the ancients accurately depict a landscape even if they knew better? Many of us have seen geometrically inaccurate Medieval paintings. But lack of foreshortening doesn’t mean the painter lacked depth perception. He knew that what’s farther looks smaller.

And even if a painter knew three-point perspective, he might still paint objects out of scale because that’s a way of indicating the comparative importance of different objects: bigger is better. His culture assigns great importance to some objects.

Ardel Caneday on Forgiveness

Doctrinally, nuns in US are “situation ... grave and a matter of serious concern”

It seems as if the organization of the women in leadership of 80% of the 55,000 nuns in the US -- (the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)), the ones who should be (and used to be) doing most of the "teaching" and "catechizing" in the US have gotten a bit off track. The Vatican’s “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly the “Holy Office” and “the Inquisition” prior to that) has decided that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern”. The organization is said to be “stunned”.

Ahh, unity of doctrine. That's what the Catholic Faith is all about. Come home to Rome, and learn all of the correct things to believe. From dedicated, celibate “brides of Christ” who have devoted their lives (a) to learning that unified church doctrine, and (b) actually passing it along to the next generation of devout Roman Catholics.

Must we always forgive?

I’m going to comment on this post:

More importantly, all of us need to meditate a whole lot more on the first thing Jesus said as he was excruciatingly nailed to the cross:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

i) An obvious problem with Blomberg’s argument is that his prooftext is anchored in a verse of questionable authenticity. Blomberg is surely aware of the fact that scholars are divided over the authenticity of this verse. It is therefore precarious for him to build his entire case on what may well be a scribal interpolation.

ii) Moreover, it’s deceptive of Blomberg to center a whole post on this particular verse without bothering to inform his readers regarding the text-critical issues. Many of his readers aren’t aware of the problem.

iii) Finally, Blomberg acts as if there’s only one side to this question. But fellow NT scholar A. B. Caneday has taken issue with unconditional forgiveness in his monograth Must Christians Always Forgive? So it’s not an open-and-shut case.

The examples could be multiplied.  “Father, I can’t have a wholesome relationship with ‘M’ or ‘N’ unless they show signs of true repentance and change.  But please forgive them, and help me not harbor a grudge, plot retaliation, blame you, lose faith, or do anything else that keeps me from growing in imitation of my true Master, Jesus Christ.”
Did we learn anything this year on Good Friday?  Did we even bother to worship with God’s people on it?  Or did we just jump straight to the joy of Easter?  And then how much of our Easter celebration was truly Christian?

In my experience, Blomberg is a good example of somebody who harbors grudges.

Someone needs to give people like these Desmond Tutu’s book on the Truth and Reconciliation movement in South Africa. 

I’m no expert on S. African political history, but based on my recollection of news coverage at the time, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a pragmatic, even cynical way to avert civil war.

It wasn’t practical to prosecute all the culprits. Not only did you have the white-on-black crime, but you also had the black-on-black crime. Black gangs who’d “necklace” (i.e. put burning tires around the necks of) other blacks. Even Winnie Mandela was complicit in the death of a boy.

So the new gov’t created The Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a way of sweeping many atrocities under the rug and putting the past behind them. It wasn’t idealistic or Christian. It was just a way of moving ahead.

Someone needs to introduce them to men and women in the Middle East or West Africa who have been mutilated and partially dismembered by attacking forces in ethnic wars, who nevertheless reach out to their attackers with forgiveness through the Christian gospel.

Actually, African and Middle-Eastern Christians have a perfect right to defend themselves.

Also, notice how Blomberg uses the politically correct, airbrushed term “ethnic wars,” when so much of the violence is fomented by Muslims.

Someone needs to immerse them in the Amish community for awhile, where forgiveness of enemies is routine and genuine. 

Let’s consider a few examples, shall we?

This week, "Primetime: The Outsiders - The Amish" looks at people who are radical believers. Elizabeth Vargas reports on a disturbing side of the Amish community and interviews Mary Byler, a woman who broke the Amish code by reporting sexual abuse to authorities. Byler became the center of the scandal that rocked her tight-knit Amish home in Wisconsin when she told the Sheriff's office that she was raped hundreds of times - by eight or nine men, including her own brothers, who did confess to the crime. According to sociologist Donald Kraybill, confessing in the Amish Church for wrongdoings is the key step to forgiveness, and the standard punishment for any infraction is banishment from church activities for six weeks. Byler, on the other hand, felt the punishment was not enough. "You're being grounded for six weeks," she says. "It's just really ridiculous punishment. The funny thing is that they view drinking alcohol until you puke as bad a sin as raping somebody." She also speaks out about what brought her to her final decision to go to the authorities and what life after leaving the Amish community is like. This report originally aired in December 2004.

Amish Woman 4: My mom was a very gentle soul. She was always a servant to everybody else. She always made sure everybody was taken care of, except mom. She always tried to be the submissive woman. And already then I wasn't sure about that word "submissive." And then I married an abuser, and then the word "submission" just became a monster.
I was so proud of my first child. But I also remember, I would sit at the window rocking my baby. And sitting there alone, and I cried a lot. I knew things were not as they should be, but I kept telling myself, it's okay, it'll be all right. But I would cry a lot. I talked to my husband, and he'd say, "We're married, and I'm the head of the house." I'd say, "You know, the Bible says the father is the head of the home as Christ is the head of the church. But we also need to remember that Christ was not up here like a master with a big whip." Well, that didn't work well, because I was confronting him, and I was doubting his words of wisdom. I soon learned not to say those things. 
They always say that we need to go to the church first, which I did. I went to the church and I asked for help. The very first thing that the minister said to me when I said, "We've been struggling with a lot of abuse, and I need help," he looked at me and he said, "So what did you do that caused your husband to treat you this way?" That was such a blow. That was such a blow. In fact it came to the point where the church actually had both of us not be able to go to communion until we can see where we have failed. And I felt like an outsider looking in.
Finally I reached the point where spiritually I just said, "I'm just done. I've just had it, Lord. I don't know what to do. But I have to be connected with the church again." I told my husband, "I'm going to go back to the ministers, and I'm just going to lay myself out and say, 'Here I am. I'll take any punishment you give me. I'll do anything. I just need -- I need the church so bad.'" And he said, "Well, if you do, you're on your own because I'm not going to do it that way." And so that's what I did. I went back to the ministers, and I just cried, and I just said, "I'll just do anything you tell me to." I acknowledged anything and everything that I could think of under the sun. And yeah, say yes to things that I didn't really think were maybe exactly right to say yes to. But I did it out of obedience because I felt God nudging me that way. And I got back in the church, without my husband. Obedience is not easy.

Does Blomberg think we should emulate that way of addressing domestic violance?

Let’s take another example from the PBS special:

Slate: On October 2, 2006, a non-Amish man entered an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.
Slate: The gunman shot ten Amish girls. Five died.
Slate: That same day, Amish neighbors visited the killer's family.
Slate: More than 30 Amish attended the burial of Charles Roberts. Among them were the parents of several victims.

That probably illustrates the sort of thing Blomberg thinks Evangelical Christians ought to practice, but let’s step back and consider that for a moment.

i) Blomberg says Amish “routinely and genuinely” forgive their enemies. But is that true? I’m no expert on the Amish, but his claim strikes me as a hasty generalization.

I’m sure some Amish routinely and genuinely forgive their enemies (whoever that might be). However, in a fairly closed society like the Amish, I also assume there’s a degree of coercive conformity. You do what’s expected of you. You do what’s required of you. If you buck the system, you’re banished. Indeed, I just quoted two examples of that (see above).

So I’m guessing that some (many?) Amish go through the motions of forgiving others to continue functioning in the community. Forgiving under duress. Grudging forgiveness.

ii) Moreover, consider the case of the murdered girls. The surviving family members have had absolutely no time to emotionally process that utterly devastating tragedy before they are duty-bound to forgive the killer. Has Blomberg ever stopped to consider the psychological damage that might do?

Wouldn’t the survivors naturally be flooded with a range of emotions: shock, rage, hatred, and sorrow? Or the nagging afterthoughts–“If only I’d done something different, maybe this would never have happened.”  

Suppose Caneday is right and Blomberg is wrong. Suppose the survivors are made to feel guilty about not wanting to forgive the killer? They’re already overcome with grief. They’ve suffered an irreparable loss.

Wouldn’t that place even more unbearable pressure on them? Aren’t they choking down their real feelings? Internalizing their true feelings? Masking their real feelings? Isn’t that likely to result in bitterness?

Indeed, isn’t there the considerable risk that some of them will end up hating God and losing their faith because they suffer from false guilt? Redirect their resentment at God because their elders taught them that it’s their solemn obligation to instantly and unconditionally forgive the killer of their children, and they just can’t bring themselves to do that?

Isn’t that an utterly merciless way to treat the surviving family members? Doesn’t that brutalize them all over again?

Shouldn’t they be allowed to work through their grief and loss at their own pace, without making inhuman demands on them? As it is, they will never recover. It will be an open wound.