Saturday, July 14, 2012

Trueman on Macculloch on Moore on the Cathari

Macculloch on Moore on the Cathari:
The review indicates once again what historians take for granted: the rise, consolidation and definition of papal power is an historically very complex issue; and, indeed, as scholarship advances, the story becomes more, not less, convoluted and subversive of papal claims. For some converts to Roman Catholicism, papal authority is somehow seen as an obvious riposte to problems with the perspicuity of scripture. In other words, it is the answer to an epistemological/authority problem. For those of us who have spent the best part of our lives reading late medieval and early modern history, however, papal authority is not an epistemological solution to much of anything at all; rather, it is first and foremost an historical problem and, until that problem is solved (which would be a result going somewhat against the flow of play at this point), I find that I can barely work up the energy to address all the other tricky issues that must be faced by real, full-blooded, baby-and-bathwater Roman Catholics (as opposed to the consumerist eclectic RCs) -- from Honorius to the purgatorial myths to the cult of Padre Pio and beyond.

Does God Think Propositionally?

http://www.proginosko.com/2012/07/does-god-think-propositionally/

Pick a card, any card

Over at Called to Confusion, Brent has attempted to counter one of my illustrations:


 Keep in mind that my illustration was just one small piece of a much larger response. In the process, Brent has decontextualized my illustration.


Choosing to follow the Church Christ founded; namely, the Catholic Church, is far from convenient and affordable.

Brent misses the point of the comparison. The analogy wasn’t whether choosing Roman Catholicism is convenient and affordable. The analogy was about using reason to choose from competing alternatives. Cost and convenience is simply a consideration that people often use when deliberating between alternatives.


Lastly, the problem with your argument is that it proves too much. Let’s try your analogy, only let’s call it:

    “Tarot Card Christianity”:

    Let’s compare two different paradigms of decision-making:

    i) On one paradigm, you make decisions based on reason and evidence. You inform yourself about alternatives. You compare the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative in reference to the other alternatives. Then you opt for what seems to be the best overall choice.

    ii) On another paradigm, you investigate different Saviors in your area. You use your reason to decide which one is the most convenient and affordable.

    Having relied on reason to make that initial decision, you then rely on the Savior and His Book to make all your subsequent decisions for you. Whenever you have important decisions to make, you schedule a session with your personal “Lord and Savior” for a reading and prayer session. This is “manifestly superior” to the first method because you can always ask him or her follow-up questions to clarify ambiguities. He or she can always show you another passage of Scripture or “illuminate” your mind and explain its significance to your situation. You can be certain of what each passage means because you have been illuminated or can be illuminated.

    Of course, there’s just little catch in this decision-making paradigm. It’s only as reliable as your Savior.

    Christians like Joe and Suzy are like clients of a Tarot card reader. Yes, they can always get “answers” from their “savior”, but if the source is untrustworthy, then they’re moving ever further from the truth.

i) Let’s remind Brent of the original context. Ray Stamper, in a comment plugged by Liccione, said that up to a certain point, Catholics and Protestants are in the same boat. Both must use fallible reason in selecting their authority source. But having make that initial selection, there’s a “crucial difference”:

When Protestants opt for sola Scriptura, they must continue to use their fallible reason to interpret the Bible. By contrast, Catholics no longer need to lean on their fallible reason every step of the way, because the Magisterium can give them infallible answers.

You can’t question a book. But you can ask the Magisterium follow-up questions until you achieve clarity and certainty.

That was the argument. My counterargument compared two different types of decision-making. In one case we always use reason to make decisions.

In another case, we use reason to find a cartomancer. Having employed reason to make that initial choice, we no longer rely on reason to make major decisions. Rather, we consult our cartomancer. Because the cartomancer is a living respondent, we can always ask her questions and follow-up questions.

That’s the point of analogy. Now which is a better method of decision-making?

Both sides agree that Tarot cards are not a trustworthy form of guidance. So merely having the opportunity to question your authority source is not a reliable source of information. For that process is only as good as your authority source.

Likewise, relinquishing your reason is not inherently preferable to reliance on reason. Fallible reason is still vastly preferable to cartomancy.

ii) Do Catholics think the Magisterium is equivalent to cartomancy? No. But remember that Stamper and Liccione never presented a direct argument for the claims of the Magisterium. They didn’t try to show that that was true.

Instead, they contented themselves with a hypothetical, a priori argument. They can claim that putting yourself at the disposal of the Magisterium is fundamentally different from putting yourself at the disposal of a cartomancer, but that’s not something they argued for. That’s just a faith-statement on their part.

iii) How is Brent’s comparison analogous to Protestantism? Stamper said Protestants rely on reason from start to finish, in contrast to Catholics, who start with reason yet end with the Magisterium.

But Brent’s comparison is the opposite. On his analogy, Protestants have their own Tarot-card reader. They use reason up to a point, then switch to the cartomancer. So Brent reverses Stamper’s comparison. What’s disanalogous in Stamper’s illustration is analogous in Brent’s illustration.

So how does that undermine my parallel?

iv) Likewise, does Brent think Protestants are following a different Savior? If not, then wherein lies the comparison?


Only to make matters worse, as your friend notes (slightly edited):

    But their belief in the infallibility of the savior is a fallible belief. They fallibly believe the savior is infallible, even if the savior is actually fallible. There’s no certainty that what they fallibly believe about the savior corresponds to what the savior is really like.

How does that comparison make matters worse? Brent isn’t showing that similar consequences fail to obtain in the case of Catholicism. He’s merely attempting to show that Protestants are saddled with the same (or similar) consequences.

But how does that vindicate Catholicism? How does that demonstrate the superiority of the Catholic interpretive paradigm? To say your position suffers from the same problems as mine is hardly an argument for my paradigm.

Moreover, I didn’t concede that framework. I only accepted that framework for the sake of argument. I don’t grant that “fallible reason” has the sceptical consequences that Liccione imputes to it.

If you tax the rich too heavily ...

... in greater numbers than ever, they are simply renouncing U.S. citizenship:

Denise Rich, the wealthy socialite and former wife of pardoned billionaire trader Marc Rich, has given up her U.S. citizenship - and, with it, much of her U.S. tax bill.

Rich, 68, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and glossy figure in Democratic and European royalty circles, renounced her American passport in November, according to her lawyer.

Her maiden name, Denise Eisenberg, appeared in the Federal Register on April 30 in a quarterly list of Americans who renounced their U.S. citizenship and permanent residents who handed in their green cards.

By dumping her U.S. passport, Rich likely will save tens of millions of dollars or more in U.S. taxes over the long haul, tax lawyers say.

Rich, who wrote songs recorded by Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and Jessica Simpson, is the latest bold-faced name to join a wave of wealthy people renouncing their American citizenship. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin gave up his U.S. passport to become a citizen of Singapore, an offshore tax haven, before the company's initial public offering in May.

Nearly 1,800 citizens and permanent residents, a record since data was first compiled in 1998, expatriated last year, according to government figures.

So yes, by all means, keep making these folks targets, and before long, we'll be rid of them all!

Modern Miracle Reports With Evidence (Part 1)


In his book, Miracles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), Craig Keener cites many examples of modern miracle reports that involve the testimony of eyewitnesses, medical documentation, and other forms of evidence. Below are several examples. Much of what I'm presenting here is in summary form. Keener often provides more information than I'm going to include, such as more information about his relationship with some of the witnesses and more details about physical illnesses that were healed. Those who want fuller accounts can consult his book.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Talks With Scholars

http://www.kingsdivinity.org/theological-articles/talks-with-scholars

“Christians Had No Basis to Distinguish Heresy from Orthodoxy Until the Fourth Century.”

http://michaeljkruger.com/10-misconceptions-about-the-nt-canon-7-christians-had-no-basis-to-distinguish-heresy-from-orthodoxy-until-the-fourth-century/

Honky homeland

 

Drake Shelton is seeking a homeland for the late great Aryan race. I think Ocean Harbor (Antarctica) would make a really swell choice.

For one thing, you can’t get any whiter than Antarctica. Snow white!

For another, it’s hard to practice miscegenation when you only have penguins and seals for company.

Whitietude




Dear Cyclops,

I share your concern about Drake. He's an embarrassment to the glorious cause of whitietude. He will never be worthy to walk the hallowed halls of honkydom.

Have you run a background check on his ancestry? Done a white count? He can't be one of us. He must be a mongrel.

The Wiz


-----Original Message-----
From: cyclops
To: impwiz
Sent: Fri, Jul 13, 2012 8:20 am
Subject: Whitietude

Dear Imperial Wizard,

I'm worried about Drake. He's making us look bad. How can we convince anyone that we're the master race with a retard like that? I mean, we might as well have Daffy Duck as our press secretary. I think he's seen too many reruns of Underworld.

Drake can't be 100% purebred Aryan. Maybe he can pass for Aryan, but he’s obviously a mutt. What should we do about him?

Exalted Cyclops

John Jewell on ‘Apostolic Succession’

Among those who consider themselves to be “Continuing Anglicans”, that is, those who eschew the liberalism of “The Episcopal Church” but still wishing themselves to “continue” in the long-standing traditions of the Church of England (which has independent roots back into the fourth and fifth centuries), there is still a question of “apostolic succession”:

The question that hangs out there in Anglican circles is as follows: Is the church born of the gospel, i.e. the Word of God rightly preached, and thus legitimized by sound doctrine or does the church itself through the official succession of its ministers effect legitimacy upon herself? The one option raises right doctrine as taught in Scripture as the primary and necessary mark of a true church. The other puts forth the continuation of a physical lineage of ministerial successors from the Apostles as the esse of a true church. It is one or the other. It can't be both.

Such questions have been going on for hundreds of years. John Jewell of Oxford (1522 – 1571) saw himself as a “low-church” reformer during the English Reformation, “strongly committed to the Elizabethan reforms” and an a “literary apologist of the Elizabethan Settlement”, which was:

Elizabeth I’s response to the religious divisions created over the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. This response, described as “The Revolution of 1559”, was set out in two Acts of the Parliament of England. The Act of Supremacy of 1559 re-established the Church of England’s independence from Rome, with Parliament conferring on giving Elizabeth the title Supreme Governor of the Church of England, while the Act of Uniformity of 1559 set out the form the English church would now take, including the re-establishment of the Book of Common Prayer.

Jewell was a disciple of Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562), himself an Italian theologian within the Reformed tradition, who later came to England and taught theology at Oxford.

Richard Hooker spoke of him as the “worthiest divine that Christendom hath bred for some hundreds of years.” In his Apology Jewell touches upon the above question. But it remained to be more directly addressed in his Reply Unto M. Hardings Answer. Finally in his Homily for Whit-Sunday, Jewell states the confessional position of the Church of England regarding the marks of a true church. Needless to say, while Jewell clearly embraced episcopal polity and proper ordination of clergy, he steered clear of any strict interpretation of apostolic authority residing in bishops or presbyters due to physical succession (via laying on of hands) from the Apostles on down. Rather, he argues and teaches that what ensures the validity of the visible church before God is the retention and communication of sound Apostolic teaching, the faith once delivered.

Here are some further quotes on this:

"To be Peter's lawful successor, it is not sufficient to leap into Peter's stall. Lawful succession standeth not only in possession of place, but also, and much rather, in doctrine and diligence. Yet the bishops of Rome, as if there were nothing else required, evermore put us in mind and tell us many gay tales of their succession." [pg. 201]

"... But Christ's love passeth not by inheritance of succession of sees." [pg. 283]

"... But Christ saith: By order of succession, the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses chair..." [pg. 322]

"... This is M. Harding's holy succession - Though faith fall, yet succession must hold; for unto succession God hath bound the Holy Ghost." [pg. 347]

"... Now, M. Harding, if the pope and his Roman clergy, by his own friends confession, be fallen from God's grace, and departed from Christ to antichrist, what a miserable claim is it for them to hold only to bare succession! It is not sufficient to claim succession of place: it behooveth us rather to have regard to the succession of doctrine. St. Benard saith: What availeth it, if they be chosen in order, and live out of order." [pg. 349]

"... The faith of Christ, M. Harding, goeth not always by succession. The bishops of Rome have been Arians, Nestorians..." [pg.610]

"And for that cause they say, We are Peter's successors: even as the Pharisees sometime said, We be the children of Abraham. But John said unto them, Put not your affiance in such succession. For God is able even of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." [pg. 439]

The author here says “Now the above quotes aren't intended as any kind of definitive case by Jewell. But his deemphasis and outright dismissal of physical succession as that which validates the ministry is evident.”

I think it’s important to look at how even historical Anglicans who believed in “succession” viewed “succession” – and it is curiously similar to the case made today by Reformed writers.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

For those who are keeping score

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303740704577522603440183734.html

At a news conference Thursday in Scranton, Pa., university trustee Kenneth Frazier, who is chief executive of Merck & Co., said the board of trustees failed to take action and didn't force the issue when alerted in the spring of 2011 about a grand jury investigation into the abuse allegations.
"We are accountable for what's happened here. Our administrative leadership also failed... People who were in a position to protect children and confront a predator" did not do so, Mr. Frazier said. "We are deeply ashamed."



A Social Scientific Response to the Regnerus Controversy

http://www.baylorisr.org/2012/06/a-social-scientific-response-to-the-regnerus-controversy/

Defining the "historical Adam"

With Peter Enns pushing the envelope, I assume it’s only a matter of time before the PCA (as well as the OPC, URCNA, &c.) has to decide where to draw the line. Thus far discussion tends to coalescence around the “historical Adam.” However, it’s important to keep in mind that that phrase is quite ambiguous.

In principle, someone could affirm the historicity of Adam without affirming that Adam and Eve were the first humans, or the progenitors of the human race. One tactic is to claim that God singled out a couple of Neolithic farmers.

Likewise, someone could affirm that Adam and Eve were the first humans without affirming that Adam and Even were the first hominids. In principle, someone could affirm that Adam and Eve were real people, consistent with an evolutionary history of early man. One tactic is to claim that God took two protohuman hominids and humanized them.

If, therefore, the PCA wishes to reaffirm the traditional understanding of Adam and Eve, it will need to use a narrower formulation than the “historical Adam.” It will have to add further qualifications to eliminate theistic evolution–if that’s its goal. 

Human Origins and the Fossil Record: What Does the Evidence Say?

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/07/human_origins_a_1061771.html

Is the history of science an argument for atheism?

http://jameshannam.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=science&thread=1137

Suffering and Bereavement

http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2012/07/back-to-basics-a-book-on-suffe.php

The formerly One True Church®

http://www.aoiusa.org/blog/same-sex-marriage-and-the-revolt-against-metropolitan-jonah/

Tarot card Catholicism

 I'm going to comment on some comments at Called to Confusion:

Bryan CrossNo Gravatar June 20th, 2012 9:58 am :


The Bible has authority in two distinct and non-mutually exclusive ways. All Scripture has divine authority because it is God-breathed. But the canon of Scripture also has authority in another sense because it was recognized as canonical by the Church, through Tradition. What Tom is talking about is the authority Scripture has as God-breathed; Scripture does not derive that authority from the Church. What Eck is talking about (in the selection Swan cites) is the authority the canon has on account of its having been recognized as canonical by the Church; Scripture does derive that authority from the Church.

i) This is somewhat confused. Something with no inherent authority can have derivative authority. Take the rules for football. These have no inherent authority. They are arbitrary, conventional, manmade rules. It would be possible to change the rules.

But in a football game, both teams agree to play by the same rules. Both teams ascribe authority to the rules. The rules function as an authority.

ii) Likewise, the Bible can function as an authority in the life of the church. But that doesn’t mean the functional authority of Scripture is merely ascriptive. Rather, the Bible has functional authority because the Bible has inherent authority. It ought to function as an authority (indeed, the supreme authority) in the life of the church.

Michael LiccioneNo Gravatar June 20th, 2012 7:55 pm :


John, you’re overlooking a few rather elementary facts.

For one thing, while they lived, Peter, Paul, and other authors of New Testament books were themselves the leaders of the Church appointed directly by the Lord.

i) What makes Liccione think every NT writer was appointed directly by Jesus? That isn’t even true on traditional authorship.

ii) Moreover, modern Catholic scholars routinely deny traditional authorship. Likewise, modern Catholic scholars don’t assume that the Gospels or Acts give us an accurate picture of how the church was originally constituted.

iii) What makes him think every NT author was a church leader? Was Mark a church leader? Was Luke a church leader? “Leader” in what sense?


They had been teaching the Church and speaking for the Church well before they wrote those books. So “the Church” just is “older than Scripture,” where the Scripture in question is the New Testament. (More generally, the entire “people” of the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ is older than the entire scriptural canon, since the Jews were constituted as God’s chosen people before any of the OT was put to papyrus.)

But is “the Church” older than the word of God? There’s a sense in which the word of God goes all the way back to creation (“And God said…” Gen 1).


Given as much, believers saw some of the NT books as divinely inspired because the Apostles and those who wrote and taught with their authorization said they were.

i) Who is he referring to when he alludes to those who “wrote and taught” with apostolic authorization? Is he alluding to the subapostolic fathers? The church fathers generally? Roman bishops?

If so, he’s begging the question in favor of apostolic succession. That’s something he needs to establish.

ii) Or is he alluding to some NT writers? If so, why assume NT writers needed apostolic authorization? If they were divinely inspired, they already had divine authorization.


The faithful believed them because, in making that claim, the Apostles and those they authorized were known to be exercising the authority the Lord had given them. So those NT books which were accepted early as divinely inspired–whatever the exact list, if any–were authenticated as such by the Apostles and those they authorized to write and teach. And that is the same as to say that said books were authenticated as divinely inspired only with “the Church’s authority.” So Eck was by no means off base in making the claim you say does “violence” to the Scriptures.

If you were already a Christian, then you accepted the authority of Christ and the apostles. But if you were a Jew or pagan gentile, that wasn’t a given.


The NT Scriptures were books of the Church: written through her instrumentality, and recognized as such by her authority. That is historical fact, not theological dogma.

In what sense is it a historical fact rather than theological dogma that the NT Scriptures were written through the church’s instrumentality? That sounds like theological dogma to me.

What does that even mean? How is Liccione defining the church? What is the minimal unit of the church? The laity? The episcopate? The Apostolate?

In what sense did Paul write through the instrumentality of the church? He was directly called by Christ. He was divinely inspired.

In what sense did Jude write through the instrumentality of the church? He had a direct connection to Jesus, as his stepbrother.


Moreover, it’s just a historical fact that the entire NT canon took several centuries to coalesce and be closed. It was the Church which decided all along which books belonged in the NT canon and which didn’t.

i) Which church decided that? Certainly not the church of Rome, all by itself. That wasn’t the unilateral decision of local church like Rome. Rome didn’t decide that for every other church. That was more of a collective decision.

ii) And to a great extent that wasn’t even a decision, but a prior understanding. Most books of the NT were never in doubt. That was the only canon the church ever had.

iii) Of course, as you move later into the process, you encounter later books. Apocryphal books written in the mid-2C and beyond. But that’s not what the church started with. Those are barnacles. The church was sloughing off barnacles.

So the church came full circle. She ended where she began.

iv) Did the church select the NT? Or did the NT select for the church? A church is not a true church if it contradicts the NT.

v) There’s also a sense in which the OT selected the NT. For the NT must correspond to the OT. The NT Scriptures are the counterpart of the OT Scriptures. The OT pairs off with the NT, and vice versa.


 That decision didn’t make the NT divinely inspired, but as things happened, the decision was clearly necessary for making the conviction that certain books were divinely inspired anything more than private opinion. Just recall the Marcionite controversy and others regarding particular books.

It was more than “private opinion” in the sense that this represents collective opinion. But there’s nothing intrinsically deficient about “private opinion” as long as that’s correct.

Judging Competing Miracle Claims


Critics of the supernatural often ask how Christians explain non-Christian miracle accounts. See, for example, Matt McCormick's chapter in The End Of Christianity (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2011). He asks Christians to explain everything from claims that Michael Jackson rose from the dead (204) to "statues of the Lord Ganesh drinking milk", the "otherworldly powers" of "gurus, New Age spiritualists, and other quasi-religious leaders", and the miracles associated with the founding of Islam and other major religions (214). This past March, Geoff Lillis, an atheist, was on a radio program with Craig Keener, discussing Keener's recent book on miracles. (See the March 17 and March 24, 2012 editions of the Unbelievable? radio program, found in the archives here.) He wanted to know how Keener would explain the miracles attributed to Sai Baba.

And both non-Christians and Christians sometimes ask how alleged post-Biblical Christian miracles are related to the miracles of the Biblical era. Is there any difference between the miracles of Jesus and the apostles and the miracles supposedly occurring among Christians today? That issue is relevant to disputes over cessationism, and it's relevant in other contexts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Conditional forgiveness

http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/can-you-forgive-someone-who-refuses-to-confess-their-guilt/

Obamascare

"83 percent of doctors have considered quitting over Obamacare"

Rod Dreher on Declining Attendance in American Churches

Rod Dreher provides this report on the pitiful state of The Episcopal Church (the mainline denomination):

numbers from the Episcopal Church show a stunning collapse in church attendance between 2000 and 2010. It’s down 23 percent overall, with some dioceses in far steeper decline than that. Pittsburgh, for example, has lost 73 percent of its churchgoing Episcopalians over that time period. That’s nearly three out of four Episcopalians in Pittsburgh, gone within a decade. San Joaquin saw four out of five of its people stop coming to church in the same period.

No diocese is growing, but a handful of them — Tennessee and South Carolina, for example — kept losses down to single digits. Maybe some of you readers who are Episcopalians can explain why. It can’t be simply a Southern thing; other Southern dioceses experienced losses on par with TEC in other regions.

At the end of the article, he provides this update:

UPDATE: The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops voted today to make it against church law not to consider transgenders for ministry. If the House of Deputies goes along with it, as it is expected to, this becomes Episcopal Church law.

Yes, things are bad.

Interestingly, here is one comparison that Dreher makes:

Putnam & Campbell, sifting the data, found that if not for the large influx of Hispanic immigrants, Catholicism in the US would be declining at a rate comparable to that of mainline Protestantism.

Putnam & Campbell are the authors of a 2010 work called American Grace, a study on “the ever-changing religious and political landscape in America”. Here is what they say about that:

• The religious traditions that are losing the most adherents are mainline Protestants (including Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Congregationalists) and Catholics.

• Roughly 60 percent of Americans raised as Catholics are no longer practicing Catholics – approximately one third have left the church entirely, while another third are only nominally Catholic. No denomination in America has gone through more rapid or wrenching change.

• However, the overall share of the population that is Catholic (just under 25 percent) has held steady. For while "Anglo" Catholics (mainly the grandchildren of European immigrants) have been rushing out of one door, Latino Catholics have been entering through another.

• For Catholics aged 18-34, 59 percent are Latino. Catholicism in America is well on its way to becoming a majority-Latino religion. This transition is not taking place without tension, as some congregations experience strains between older English-speaking parishioners and younger Spanish-speaking ones.

This study, especially the item saying that “roughly 60% of Americans raised as Catholics are no longer practicing Catholics” provides independent confirmation for a Pew Research survey that we had cited recently.

He concludes:

But no Christian church should gloat, and not just out of politeness, either. Putnam & Campbell documented that all Christian churches are seeing declining numbers. We are living through a great shift in religion and society now.

Illustrating the Some Truths about the Trinity

"The illustration here is one attempt to capture in a diagram some of the truths related to the persons of the Godhead".

Read more about it here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The homunculus in the machine

I, as the conscious witness of my experience, no more initiate events in my prefrontal cortex than I cause my heart to beat. There will always been some delay between the first neurophysiological events that kindle my next conscious thought and the thought itself. And even if there weren’t–even if all mental states were truly coincident with their underlying brain states–I cannot decide what I will next think or intend until a thought or intention arises. What will my next mental state be? I do not know–it just happens.

Sam Harris, Free Will (Simon & Shuster 2012), 9.


Getting behind our conscious thoughts and feelings can allow us to steer a more intelligent course through our lives (while knowing, of course, that we are ultimately steered), ibid. 47.

But if he can’t get behind his prefrontal cortex, how can he grab the steering wheel away from his brain? Harris acts like the homunculus in the machine. 

And why his he trying to convince everyone to embrace atheism? According to him, if I’m a Christian, I can’t sneak around to the back of my prefrontal cortex to initiate an impious brain state. What I consciously come to believe is the after effect of unconscious neurophysiological events. 

"Wonder of the Universe"

http://bylogos.blogspot.com/2012/07/review-gibersons-wonder-of-universe.html

How Many People Claim To Have Witnessed A Miracle?


A person doesn't have to witness a miracle in order to have sufficient reason to believe that one occurred. But how many people in the modern world claim to have witnessed a miracle?

Numbers are often hard to come by, and the quality of the information can vary from one circumstance to another. We often have to piece things together and make rough estimates. But there's enough information to go by to lead us to some significant conclusions.

Monday, July 09, 2012

A New Topical Index For Triablogue

You may have noticed a new tab at the upper left portion of the screen, titled Triablogue Master Index. It's a topical index linking to some of our posts on a large variety of topics. The index was put together by Matthew Schultz. If you don't find what you're looking for there, you can try another topical index I designed last year, or you could try a Google search.

Neo-Nazi? No. Anti-choice? Wait, what?

Apparently we have arrived.
At Daily Kos, a fairly well-known clearinghouse for the Left, a blogger named OllieGarkey has taken note of our efforts and "operations", and found us of sufficient interest that they decided to raise the question today whether our distinctive symbol evokes the neo-Nazi Wolfsangel

(Source of image: OllieGarkey at Daily Kos. Originally found here.)
(Source of image: OllieGarkey at Daily Kos. Originally found here.)

While I have a bit of sympathy for someone's spotting a seeming similarity between our chosen visual aid and the Wolfsangel, or even a swastika, I am glad to take this opportunity to state in no uncertain terms that we officially and unofficially, categorically detest all the distinctives of Nazism, including but not limited to racism, anti-Semitism, inclination toward mass murder, and megalomaniacal lust for power.
We are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ and are comprised of people of all ethnicities, languages, and skin color. Many of us have adopted children of a different ethnicity and skin color and children of "mixed" ethnicity, and we love them all.
We have a bustling Facebook community with numerous admins and, while it is impossible to police every single comment thread, we have often taken the initiative to block unruly professing Christians when their tone has become too harsh, their invective too vitriolic, and their argumentation too personal and too lacking in real substance. The (thankfully few) times posters have posted racist or just plain awful rhetoric, we have swiftly banned them. The reason for this is simple: It is easy for many pro-choice people to see a post on our page from someone who claims to be pro-life and jump to the unwarranted but common conclusion that we endorse what they said and how they said it. Such is not necessarily the case, and we do our best to clean up after the messes less thoughtful pro-lifers and anti-abortion people make.

To his credit, OllieGarkey, the author of this Kos post, took at least some time to peruse our website to find out whether we do host any neo-Nazi sympathies. He of course found no evidence of such. He even links to a discussion of what our symbol means and its purpose and inspiration. I also credit him with not jumping to a bad conclusion in his article. He says:
I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that it's not intentional, but as a history buff I nearly sprayed tea all over my screen this morning when I saw an anti-abortion poster which contained a German Wolfsangel. It's a symbol in wide use by neo-nazis today (emphasis mine, not original).
He is correct - it is not at all intentional. It is intentionally striking and unique, however, as noted in our article. I don't know about "fawning over ourselves", but no reasonable person ever accused Daily Kos bloggers of immaculate objectivity.
A few more notes about his article:
I doubt, I very seriously doubt, that there is more to this than the fact that conservatives really suck at history.
Interestingly, the majority of our approach and motivation is derived from history, both 1st-century Middle Eastern and southeastern European history and also 18th- and 19th-century British and American history. Here is just one example. The director of the Society and the designer of the AHA symbol has forgotten more about the history of abolition than OllieGarkey knows. His contempt is a joke.

That's a kind of cryptofascist lie you might find if you went to read white nationalist literature from American Renaissance or Stormfront: The conspiracy theory is that abortion and homosexuality were invented as a way to decrease white births, and thus help destroy "the Caucasian race."
In no way would we ever make such a statement. It is difficult to deny, however, that the flipside of this view is very plausible, with a great deal of historical support.

So no, we don't particularly fear an impending destruction of the "Caucasian race". Far nearer is the abortion-driven destruction of African-Americans, with a solid assist from Planned Parenthood, one of the Daily Kos' favorite NGOs. 

Let's pause to consider how twisted up this whole scenario is. Two babies are murdered every minute in this country, and this Daily Kos blogger wants to ramble about how our symbol kind of, a little bit, sorta looks like some obscure pagan symbol that has been co-opted by a group that has a big name but virtually never does anything? Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is targeting minorities for extermination. No big deal.
What's that? You think pro-choice arguments have some merit? Sorry, we haven't yet found one that does.
Even if we did have neo-Nazi sympathies, what would that matter? The fundamental issue at hand is that babies are being murdered, the future of our country is being eroded, and our country is spitting in God's face every minute that we allow this gross violation of human rights and the image of God in humanity. Where is the Daily Kos' independent thought now? OllieGarkey is merely one in a long line of drones who have bought the leftist lies and embraced the apathy. Hey, they're not his kin; why should he care about their future and their voice?

Just look at the way he ignores, sidesteps the original poster's argument, in favor of calling attention to the symbol. You know, we make the posters for several reasons, and one of them is to show that abortion is evil and must be considered such by reasonable people. He could have spilled his ink interacting with our argumentation in a rational manner...but no. Instead, it's neo-Nazi Wolfsangel and foolish mockery, using words (like "crypto-fascist") he probably doesn't understand and which most certainly have no application to us.
OllieGarkey continues:
I don't see anything overtly racist in what they're writing other than the idea that women having access to birth control is just as bad as slavery (emphasis original).
Now wait just a minute.
Does OllieGarkey really mean to contend that abortion is morally equivalent to birth control? Is he familiar with the difference between contragestion and contraception?
Where has he engaged the extensive argumentation in favor of the abolitionist position that human life begins at conception? Is he unfamiliar with the explicit abolitionist position that God is the One Who has the prerogative to give and take life, and that only under very particular circumstances has He delegated that to humans? And that dismembering tiny babies or attacking them with chemical and pharmaceutical weaponry isn't one of those circumstances? 
As a matter of fact, we have made the argument very clearly that, while women having access to birth control is certainly not equivalent to slavery, society allowing the powerful to oppress and kill the weakest and most voiceless through abortion is very similar to society's having allowed the powerful to oppress and abuse the weakest and most voiceless through slavery. 
The distinction may not be clear to someone seeking fodder for a hatchet job, but we believe it is available for the reasonable reader.

Finally, he accuses us of being "anti-choice".
One wonders whether he would say the same thing to an abolitionist of human slavery, that he would not grant that there really exists a plantation owner's right to own Negroes to work his cotton fields?
It’s always self-defeating to impose your own morals on others by telling them not to impose their own morals on others. The thing is, the state “denies” our "choice" to do or not do all sorts of things, such as:
--not rape, even if someone really really wants to
--drive at or under the speed limit
--refrain from firebombing legal places of business
--pay taxes
etc.
Unless OllieGarkey is a consistent and total anarchist, he doesn't have a problem with being "anti-choice" in some cases. The question is not whether morality will be imposed, but which morality will be imposed. He would do well to argue for his views that his moral view is better, not merely dismiss them. 

I'm probably wrong. I hope I'm wrong (emphasis original).
He is not wrong where he thought. Sadly, he is wrong in most of the other important spots. 

Skewed view of circumcision

http://www.chiefrabbi.org/2012/07/06/the-jerusalem-post-the-europeans-skewed-view-of-circumcision/

An Interview with Craig Blomberg on Jesus and the Reliability of the Gospels

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/07/08/an-interview-with-craig-blomberg-on-jesus-and-the-reliability-of-the-gospels/

“Direct evidence” and “Keys of the Kingdom” in Context

My interlocutors at Called to Communion have been challenging me on “direct evidence”, suggesting that their “interpretations” of Matthew 16:19, for example, are exactly what Matthew meant, and that the things I am suggesting represent merely “fallible human opinion”.

In this comment, my intention is to show that the situation they present is not what it appears to be, and is, in fact, precisely the opposite of what they say it is.


Andrew Presslar (#442):

while the two of you appear to be in agreement on his central point; i.e., that the Protestant IP yields only interpretive opinions, not conclusions for which the assent of faith is warranted, you are not agreed on the significance of this point.

First off, some folks here use the phrase “binding and loosing” as if Christ, at Matthew 16 and 18, gave “the Roman Catholic Church” some power to “bind consciences” in the form of “dogma”. But this is not the slam-dunk you think it is, and in fact, in the spirit of “words mean things”, let’s look at the words.

It should be noted that, temporally, the events described in Acts and in Paul’s letters occurred [in time], that is, before Matthew wrote his gospel. And so if we assume Matthew is the Apostle Matthew (and I’m not going to argue against that assumption), we can assume at least that Matthew was (a) present for Jesus’s teaching, (b) aware of the intervening history, and (c) addressing some present audience in some situation (in the 60’s AD).

He is writing his Gospel. As a person who is literate and who is going to write, he is aware of other “biographies” that are written about other founding figures of philosophical schools, “something like a charter document which can provide definition for the movement involved and provide a point of entry for those who might wish to align themselves with the movement” (Nolland Commentary on Matthew, 19). Given the technology involved (i.e., quills and parchments”), he knows this is a major undertaking. He has done some research to know, for example, the genealogy he recounts at the beginning of the Gospel. He is aware of Jesus’s preaching about the Kingdom of heaven. He himself became a follower. He experienced Jesus’s teaching first-hand. He saw the events in Jerusalem; he may have seen the crucifixion. He definitely saw the Risen Lord. He was present at Pentecost. He was an eyewitness to Peter’s first sermon, and likely the events at least through Acts 8:1. He likely, too, was around for the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10), Peter’s arrest and release in Acts 12.

We know he was very careful in the writing of his Gospel. Nolland notes, “the complexity of the patterns of cross reference within the Gospel itself reveal themselves only to those who give patient and repeated attention to the text. Matthew seems to have understood himself to be creating a foundational text to which people would feel the need to return again and again”.

The Gospel of Matthew is, in itself, a literary masterpiece of the ancient world.

The major issue of that time was the admission of the gentiles into the church, and how that was to be accomplished. Nolland writes:

Matthew tells the story of Jesus, but he writes for a situation in the early church which belongs after the death and resurrection that brought Jesus’ ministry to an end. The disciples of Matthew’s day do not live directly within the story of Jesus. There are, necessarily, adjustments involved in moving from the one situation to the other. For the new situation Matthew wants to emphasize that what was gained with the presence of Jesus is not lost. The Twelve are authorized and empowered to replicate Jesus’ preaching and therapeutic ministry. Peter as their leader will have in his hand the keys of the kingdom, and along with other disciples he will be in a position to bind and loose: to prohibit and command in a manner that is backed by God himself. Only in Matthew of the Gospels does Jesus directly anticipate the (postresurrection) formation of a church with its corporate life; otherwise only the structured life of the Twelve anticipates this future. And Jesus promises to continue to be with the disciples in their corporate life and in their mission to all nations (pg 43)

At this point in the life of the early church (and the apostles), the admission of the Gentiles into the church was a far more important issue than the creation of dogmas. Matthew does not introduce the concept of “binding and loosing” to be applied to the creation of dogmas many years down the road. “Binding and loosing” had a very specific meaning; “the kingdom of heaven” had a very specific meaning. It is a major event – the major event of the times – that the admission of the Gentiles to the very Jewish (at the time) church, is the breaching of a major barrier. Matthew is telling his largely Jewish audience that, in “the church that Christ founded”, Peter has the authority to let “the nations” (i.e. “the Gentiles”) into the Kingdom.

We know this is the issue that is going on at the time, because (as Scripture interprets Scripture), it is cross-referenced all through Acts and Paul’s letters. Consider Ephesians 2:

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh) the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility [between Jews and Gentiles] (Eph 2:11-16).

In commenting on this text, Harold Hoehner writes:

“The prepositional phrase ‘in his flesh’ refers to the crucified Christ and is parallel with the phrase ‘”by the blood of Christ’ in verse 13 and ‘through the cross’ in verse 16…It was only in his flesh that the law was rendered inoperative. It shows the locale of this accomplishment.” (374)

“In the present context kainos (“new”, v. 15) is used to show that Christ has created a whole new person entirely different from the two former persons, namely, Jews and Gentiles. It is not that Gentiles become Jews as Gentile proselytes did in pre-NT times, nor that Jews become Gentiles, but both become “one new person” or “one new humanity,” a third entity” (378-379).

“The new corporate person, who is called “one body” in verse 16, refers to the church…Later in 4:13, Paul does picture the two groups, Jews and Gentiles, as a single individual of a mature person… [The phrase “the fullness of Christ” in this verse means “maturity,” a concept which is also found in other places in the New Testament, notably Hebrews 6.] This is a new body of Christians who make up the church. This creates unity among believers in the church, for they are in Christ. It is this community to which Jesus made reference when he said to Peter, “I will build my church” (Matt 16:18)” (379-380).

The “keys of the kingdom”, and the effect of “binding and loosing” referred to this phenomenon. They have a specific meaning at a specific time, for the accomplishing of specific events.

In the world of “direct evidence”, who here thinks that Matthew, writing these words, talking of Peter’s role, and Peter’s acts, has in mind the specific situation that is talked about here, in his lifetime? And who can imagine, when one has in mind the specific acts here, that some promise of some future authority to create dogmas is just mere speculation?

How can Matthew possibly have in mind the kinds of things you are talking about, as here:

Thus, Mike points out that (paraphrasing): without an interpretive authority that is protected from teaching error when definitively stating the locus and meaning of divine revelation, every definitive statement about the (complete) locus and (synthetic) meaning of divine revelation would be only an interpretive opinion.

Matthew is talking about the specific events of his lifetime – the coming together of Jews and Gentiles in “the church that Christ founded”, and you are the one actually who is speculating about some future “interpretive authority that is protected from teaching error”.

As Nolland “fallibly” relates, “the present keys imagery has as its starting point the need for the gates of the kingdom of heaven to be opened if people are to find entry”. And of course, this is a leading Protestant interpretation. Peter used the keys to admit the Gentiles into the Kingdom of heaven.

Does it make sense to say that Matthew is working to solve some present conflict in the church (i.e., admitting the Gentiles for the first time)? How then do these words (as you’ve alluded) have anything at all to do with “the Magisterium”?

You do not dispute the point, but proceed to offer a bevy of interpretive opinions (often by proxy) about revealed matters, e.g., the nature of the Church, the nature of God.

What I’ve offered here, in this comment, is far more consonant with what the Scriptures say; and what Rome offers about these verses somehow bolstering its authority, is what’s speculative.

the reason that you are inclined, on occasion, to speak in that way is simple: The topic at hand is divine revelation, and to treat that revelation, as to its locus and meaning, as though it were a matter of mere human opinion would be at least as incongruous as an unauthorized, fallible interpreter setting himself up as the oracle of God to the Church. But that is precisely what you, the unauthorized, fallible interpreter, have to do in order to propound your interpretive opinions as something that calls for the assent of faith (“thus saith the Lord”), the latter being precisely the response that we know we should have to the doctrinal content of the word of God.

Look at the “method” that I have employed in this comment. The actual words that are used draw their meaning from the historical context in which they are written. Is there some medieval style “fourfold meaning” to the text? If there is, that “meaning” is totally disconnected from the historical context in which they are written. If there is some connection between what Matthew is writing and “the Magisterium”, it is merely allegorical interpretation. It cannot be exegeted from the text.

You are waxing lyrical about “the locus and meaning” of “divine revelation”, and my own supposed fallibility, but given all the emphasis that’s put on “direct evidence” who, really, is dealing more directly with the evidence in the text here?

Keep in mind the paradigm of Acts 2: we are (Peter is) reporting on events that you have seen with your own eyes. Scripture itself provides the interpretation of these acts of God in history.

The trial of the century

International Herald Tribune

In the International Criminal Court today, key witness for the prosecution Olaf Olafsen took the stand. The 6’ 5” MMA fighter often broke down during testimony has he recounted the harrowing experience of having his wisdom teeth extracted without his consent as a teenager. Jurors openly wept at the emotional testimony. The judges wept. Even hardened court reporters wept.

“I felt violated,” he sobbed. “I will never be whole again. They took something precious from me.”

He still has recurring nightmares about the ordeal. “My extracted wisdom teeth visit me in dreams, reproaching me. ‘How could you do this to us?’ they say.”

Defendant Jorge Jorgensen, the Swedish dentist accused of crimes against dental integrity, buried his face in his hands during the gut-wrenching testimony.

Dr. Blutenherz, a board-certified psychiatrist and expert witness on cases of posttraumatic wisdom tooth extraction, testified to the delayed psychological impact of the procedure:

“Persons who have lost pearly whites must grieve their loss. The first stage of grief is denial of the loss. Loss of wisdom teeth is bound to have profound psychological effects, not only on the person directly affected but also on family, friends, workmates, and caregivers. The thought of permanent loss of wisdom teeth is so painful that persons deny their loss in order to avoid facing the painful feelings. Denial of loss causes a flight from reality. Persons in denial may minimize their loss. Tooth extraction causes the loss of a body part and all of its functions, so denial of loss is not uncommon in extracted males. Extracted males may experience the full range of distress and emotional dysfunction resulting from loss. This frequently results in extracted fathers adamantly insisting that a son be extracted.

“Fathers are frequently unable to vocalize their feelings. They will say that ‘I want my son to have good teeth.’ In fact, what the father really may be feeling is, ‘I don’t want a son with intact wisdom teeth to remind me of what I have lost.’

“Some extracted male dentists misuse the orthodontic literature to support, rationalize, and justify their own loss; and to defend the practice of tooth extraction. Dentists who have been extracted themselves may be unable to stop extracting others. Dentists who are older, male, and extracted are more likely to condone tooth extraction. Members of dental societies may have emotional issues that may preclude the objective formulation of policy concerning wisdom tooth extraction.

“Wisdom tooth extraction contributes to later aggressive, violent, and/or suicidal behaviour. Studies identified a compulsion in traumatized persons to repeat the trauma. The performance of wisdom tooth extraction by an extracted male dentist may be a reenactment of his own extraction trauma.”


On “the assent of faith” and on locating “Mary’s Immaculate Foot” in Gen 3:15

Chuck Noll, the coach of those great Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970’s, was fond of “getting back to the basics”. That is, at the start of training camp, he held practice sessions in which players would walk through the plays, without pads, before they would run them.

In discussions between Roman Catholics and Protestants, before we get to some of the highfalutin philosophical theories that are floated, it’s important to walk before we run. That’s the spirit in which I submitted this comment to the discussion at “Called to Communion”:

* * *

Michael Liccione (#443):

John’s purpose is not to “identify doctrinal truths calling for the assent of faith as distinct from that of provisional opinion,” but simply to argue that the historical data show that the Catholic doctrine of ecclesial authority is false.

Yes, I believe I have not been shy about my intentions in any way.

As to the wider question which doctrines call for the assent of faith, as distinct from that of opinion, he does not argue that his use of scholarship successfully identifies such doctrines. He just takes for granted that the Protestant canon is divinely inspired even though, on his showing, interpretations thereof can themselves qualify only as provisional opinions.

I take for granted that the Bible is “divinely inspired”, and thanks to Michael Kruger’s work, “Canon Revisited”, I understand that “the narrow question of whether Christians have a rational basis (i.e., intellectually sufficient grounds) for affirming that only these twenty-seven books rightfully belong in the New Testament canon” is “an unqualified yes”. Or put differently, “the Christian belief in the 27-book canon of the New Testament is justified (or warranted)”.

[No, I have not reproduced his argument here. If you want to contend with it, you should read the book, because he presents it so much better, and in so much more detail, than I could. According to Sean, someone from here is going to write a review of it].

Now K Doran, Bryan, and others have already made clear in detail why one cannot infer, from such facts as John presents, that Catholicism is false. There are just too many leaps beyond evidence and logic.

In one sense, this is true. Roman Catholicism has written its doctrines in such a way that it’s just plain difficult to find the “defeaters”. One might think, there is just no way to falsify it. There is no way one can check under God’s robes to see if, for example, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only, or from the Father and the Son. No one was there when Mary was conceived, and no one was there (that we know of) who saw Mary “Assumed” into heaven. And on some questions, such as that Mary really had other children (i.e., “James the brother of the Lord”), well, the “interpretive paradigm” says that “οἱ ἀδελφοὶ” really doesn’t mean “brothers”. It would just be a “leap beyond evidence and logic” to suggest that “adelphoi” means “brothers”.

This is just for example. There are other instances like this.

It just isn’t empirically plausible to say that finally, after all these centuries, scholars have dug up enough solid information about the early Church to actually prove that the Catholic (or, for that matter, the Orthodox) doctrine of ecclesial authority is false. If the eminent Catholic scholars John cites thought so, they would have doffed their priestly collars and ceased to profess Catholicism–which none of them have done. But that is itself a secondary problem.

I have also been honest about this. In 363 I say:

A theologian like Francis Sullivan can say “most Catholic scholars agree that the episcopate is the fruit of a post New Testament development” and further “that this development was so evidently guided by the Holy Spirit that it must be recognized as corresponding to God’s plan for the structure of his Church”.

I would agree with the first part of that statement, but reject the second part of that statement. And to do so, I would look to Bavinck’s analysis of a “superadded gift” with respect to special revelation. Or the lack of such a thing, according to Protestants. The upshot is, “oral tradition” did not have “supernatural protection”. The canon of Scripture was the determining factor in ongoing “orthodoxy” (beginning with Irenaeus and Tertullian, in the way that Cullmann explains it), and yes, “Scripture alone” was God’s intended method for seeing to it that the gates of hell do not prevail against the church.

This is an honest disagreement, and we can honestly discuss this sort of thing. Again, this is where I think that theologians like Brown, Sullivan, Meier et. al. are doing a greater service for honesty and “unity” than you are – they are not hiding behind some “IP” that fixes the rules of the game. They are dealing honestly with the historical facts as they are very generally agreed upon these days.

And of course, “after all these centuries”, yes, we are in a position know more about “Second Temple Judaism”, and the peculiar mix of Hellenistic and Palestinian cultures – the histories that led to the shaping of that particular world, and the imposition of the Roman Empire on that world. We know what the synagogue structure was like – we have archaeologically uncovered synagogues, and we have, through the writings of the time, come to understand what the synagogue worship and synagogue leadership structure was like. So when Acts tells us that Paul spoke in the synagogue, and then he later ended up forming a church in someone’s house, we know how the leadership structure was set up. We know what an elder was in a synagogue. We know how the Roman and Greek households were structured (from “direct evidence” accumulated inductively, the way all history is understood), and so when Paul says “ἐν οἴκῳ θεοῦ” (“the household of God”, in 1 Tim 3:15 for example), we know what kind of imagery is being pictured here, and it is does not comport with the official explanation given in Lumen Gentium 8.

When you start pulling on threads like this, they come loose. And when you talk about “divine authority”, it is really God who has the real “divine authority”. Some of you may have heard the phrase, “words mean things”, and words like “household” and “brother” refer to certain definite things, and at some point, the weight of just simply the words whose meanings must be fudged to allow for Catholic dogma (consider Mary’s “Immaculate foot” in Gen 3:15 – to consider just one thing that’s “rationally unassailable”) makes the whole system look more like “wishful thinking” than anything else.

So no, I do not choose to believe that Almighty God empowers (in any way) people who “deduce” “Mary’s Immaculate foot” from the text of Gen 3:15, and then authoritatively make that into dogma.

I didn’t start off the great quest of my life saying, “Gee, Protestantism looks like it has an ‘interpretive paradigm’ that just is going to set the world on fire”. I began by looking at all the inconsistencies in Roman Catholicism, and the accumulative weight of them all, and saying, “God does not empower an infallible church to authoritatively do this”. This is where the true weight of the “leaps beyond evidence and logic” lie.

I’ll talk about “divine propositions” in another comment.

A Landmark Study Of Miracles


Timothy McGrew recently commented that Craig Keener is the sort of scholar who only comes along once every two or three centuries. He made that remark in the context of discussing Keener's upcoming commentary on Acts, which reportedly was around 7000 pages long in its original manuscript. While Keener was working on that commentary, he began a footnote on the subject of miracles. The footnote grew large enough to become a book of its own, titled Miracles (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011). The main text of the book is just under 900 pages long, followed by more than 150 pages of bibliography. I recently finished reading the book, and I intend to write some posts about it, as I have time, in the coming weeks. The book has a lot of relevance to a lot of subjects: whether miracles occur, how often they occur, what types of miracles occur, the quality of the evidence for them, how Christian miracles compare to non-Christian miracles, etc. Once my series on the book has been completed, I intend to post an index that will link to each thread.

I want to open this series with a quote from Keener's book, taken from a passage that's significant on many levels. But I haven't yet seen anybody discuss this passage. Near the end of the book, Keener recounts some apparently supernatural experiences he had in the process of conducting his research. This is from an appendix on spirit possession:

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Grudem's Old Earth Inconsistency

http://bylogos.blogspot.com/2012/07/grudems-old-earth-inconsistency.html

Self-imploding atheism

We’re approaching the point where it’s going to be superfluous for Christian apologists or Christian philosophers to dismantle atheism, for the way in which some atheists go about defending atheism is so self-destructive to their cause that there’s little left for a Christian critic to say. Case in point:


Paul Pardi says:

This argument has teeth only if we first assume that “moral laws” exists outside of whatever beliefs and practices have been developed by evolutionary processes and are things that beliefs must correspond to. Objectivity and a moral statement being “lawful” need not entail this. Suppose humans believe the following to be a moral law: it is wrong to treat people as means. On evolution, what might make this a moral law just is the fact that humans believe (consciously or unconsciously) that this practice is conducive to survival (and the belief is a product of evolutionary processes including social and environmental programming). Objectivity does need to be any broader than the idea that the belief is shared and publicly analyzable and it’s can be considered a law only to the extent that it continues to be a practice humans believe to be conducive to survival. Over time, evolution may rewire our brains such that this is no longer considered to be valuable for survival and it would cease to be a moral law. That doesn’t seem to have any impact on the value or force of what we call a moral law today.

To say that on evolution, our moral beliefs and practices wouldn’t track truth assumes what it’s seems to want to prove: that moral laws are something outside of the human mind that beliefs must correspond to. Given the enormous fluidity of the moral code across generations and cultures, there seems to be little reason to believe that.

http://www.jpmoreland.com/2012/04/22/michael-shermer-on-evolutionary-accounts-of-ethical-beliefs/

The Pluralist game

This is how it works. The political liberal, unable to win much support for the goodness of the activity he wants permitted, makes this suggestion to his adversaries: why don’t we let each individual decide for himself whether or not he wants to do X? His doing X does not affect you, since the state is not forcing you do to X. So this is a perfectly neutral position consistent with individual liberty. By permitting others to do X, you are not approving of X. All you are doing is allowing each person to choose to do or not do X.

Fr. Canavan makes the point that the pluralist game is a sort of bait and switch. The pluralist promises neutrality in exchange for your support, but winds up giving you something far different than what he promised. You are forced to acquiesce to a set of beliefs that are, in fact, hostile to what you believe. They become over time part of the unquestioned infrastructure of our public life, and thus make it more difficult for you and your dissenting compatriots to live consistently with what you believe about the nature of the good life.


Michael Shermer on Evolutionary Accounts of Ethical Beliefs

http://www.jpmoreland.com/2012/04/22/michael-shermer-on-evolutionary-accounts-of-ethical-beliefs/

Did rabbinic Judaism change circumcision?

One stock argument deployed by anticircumcisionists is their contention that Jews changed the procedure in the 2C AD, implementing a more radical excision. Prior to that time, circumcision didn’t expose the glans. In other words, modern Jewish circumcision isn’t the same as (or comparable to) OT circumcision. So goes the argument.

I have reservations about nonspecialists who think they can jump straight into the Mishnah, Talmud, and Tosefta. These are often obscure documents that require a lot background knowledge to appreciate the context.

According to this article (see below), rabbinic Judaism did not alter the traditional procedure. Rather, some Jewish assimilators were shirking the traditional procedure, and the Mishnah was merely reaffirming the traditional procedure. In other words, the traditional procedure did expose the glans. That’s not a later innovation.


Ironically, this article is posted on an anticircumcision website.

Circumcision, baptism, and Baptists

What’s the Baptist position on outlawing circumcision?

i) Many Baptists are dispensationalists. I assume they support the right of Jewish parents to circumcise their sons.

ii) Baptist theology also tends to accentuate the discontinuity between the old covenant and the new covenant, although there are many variations on this emphasis. Baptists who subscribe to the LBCF see more continuity than new covenant Baptists (e.g. D. A. Carson). Dispensationalists see continuity in terms of ethnic Israel's future restoration.

Considered in isolation, if you emphasize the newness of the new covenant, you might be more inclined to support a legal ban on circumcision. Circumcision null and void.

iii) On the other hand, Baptists also tend to stress separation of church and state, although there are variations on this emphasis as well. And Baptists who stress separation of church and state often ground this in their view of the old covenant. They say the old covenant in toto is obsolete. The OT theocracy was part of Israel’s unique, unrepeatable, cultic holiness. It represents a temporary stage in the history of redemption.

If you begin with that frame of reference, you might be inclined to oppose the state outlawing circumcision because you don’t think the state has the duty to regulate religion. That’s too theocratic. Rather, you’d support religious freedom. Individual conscience.


Circumcision and the state

Some Christian anticircumcisionists use the following argument to justify banning male neonatal circumcision: according to the NT (e.g. Acts 15, Galatians), circumcision was a rite of the passé old covenant. Christians aren’t obligated to practice circumcision. That’s defunct. Hence, the state has the authority to ban circumcision.

The underlying principle of this argument is that gov’t has the authority to proscribe whatever the Bible does not (currently) prescribe. But there are several problems with that argument:

i) It’s a recipe for totalitarian gov’t. Whenever you empower the state, you disempower the public. You are transferring power from the public to the state–power which the state will frequently use against the public. So that's not something to be done lightly.

Do we really wish to cede to gov’t the authority to forbid whatever the Bible doesn’t command?

For instance, although the Bible encourages Christians to have children, the Bible doesn’t specify how many children a Christian couple ought to have. Does this mean the state has the right to dictate the number of children Christians are allowed to have?

The Bible doesn’t say Christians should have four children. Does this mean the state can regulate the number of children Christian couples can have? Does the state have the authority to forbid a Christian couple from having four kids?

ii) The argument is also fallacious.

a) As a rule, if something is obligatory, then it’s permissible–at least in principle. That’s an a fortiori argument from the greater to the lesser (a maiore ad minus).

God would not command something that’s intrinsically evil. But before something can be morally obligatory, it must be morally permissible.

b) If God used to command something, then even if that’s no longer an obligation, the fact that it ceases to be obligatory doesn’t make it prohibitory. So even if circumcision is no longer a religious duty, it doesn’t follow that circumcision is now forbidden. Rather, it would be adiaphoral.

c) Of course, it’s possible for some things to be permissible under special circumstances, but impermissible under general circumstances. Yet that requires a separate argument. That’s not a given. 

iii) In addition, it is sometimes better for the state to allow evil than suppress evil if the effort to suppress evil would cause greater evil.

For instance, it’s evil for a man to gamble away his paycheck, so that he can’t provide for his dependants. Should the state therefore suppress that evil by outlawing casinos and online gambling? But there are two problems with that solution:

a) It drives gambling underground. Creates an unregulated, black market. And that can be worse than legalized gambling.

b) It would take a police state apparatus to enforce a blanket ban on commercial gambling. And that would create its own evils. Expansive, intrusive gov’t. Abuse of power. 

In theory a police state might seem to be more virtuous because it cracks down on all manner of vice. In practice, a police state is more corrupt because those in power use their unchecked power for personal aggrandizement. The state because a massive, official shakedown operation.

iv) Apropos (iii), let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Jewish circumcision is morally wrong. That, of itself, is not sufficient reason to outlaw the practice–for we need to weigh the (alleged) evil of the practice over against the attended evils of enforcing a law against it.

That’s an a fortiori argument from the lesser to the greater (a minore ad maius). Does suppressing a lesser evil have the side effect of generating an even greater evil?

To take a concrete example, the Mosaic law had a complex position on prostitution. Cultic prostitution was forbidden. Likewise, male and female Israelites were forbidden to be prostitutes (on pain of death!).

However, foreign nationals were allowed to practice prostitution (except cultic prostitution). The Mosaic law did not condone the practice. But the Mosaic law distinguished between sins and crimes. Not every sin was a crime. Not every sin fell within the jurisdiction of the state.

That’s why Proverbs uses prudential arguments rather than judicial arguments against prostitution.

v) This, in turn, goes to the question of religious tolerance. How permissive should the state be in reference to false religion?

Take folk Buddhism. That’s a false religion.  Should a Christian state outlaw the practice of folk Buddhism?

But even the Mosaic law made provision for resident foreign nationals. These were not Jewish believers. They were normally pagan. As long as they practiced their pagan faith in private, that was tolerated. What was not tolerated is if they attempted to subvert and supplant the true religion.

So let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that rabbinical Judaism is a false religion. That wouldn’t automatically mean it ought to be outlawed. 

And, of course, rabbinical Judaism isn’t false in the same degree as folk Buddhism.