Saturday, November 24, 2012

Satan v. Olson



    Attorney for: Melvin Belli









    Roger Olson


    CASE NO: 666
    (Defamation of Character)

    Plaintiff complains and for causes of action alleges as follows:

1. Plaintiff is an individual and is now, and at all times mentioned in this complaint was, a resident of Pandemonium. Plaintiff has worked as the Archfiend. Plaintiff has during all this time enjoyed a reputation for unrivaled perfidy, infamy, and iniquity, both generally and in his official occupation.

2. Defendant Roger Olson, is an individual and is now, and at all time mentioned in this complaint was, a resident of McLennan County, Texas.

3. On or about 2011, defendant published Against Calvinism, stating that God was even worse than the Devil.

4. The entire statement “The Calvinist God is worse than the Devil!” is false as it pertains to plaintiff. Plaintiff is a being than which no wickeder can be conceived. Plaintiff prides himself on his unspeakable evil.

5. The invidious comparison is defamatory on its face. It clearly exposes plaintiff to diminished contempt, ill-will, and obloquy.

6. As a proximate result of the above-described publication, plaintiff has suffered irreparable loss of professional ill-repute, and injury to his self-esteem. Plaintiff seeks punitive damages to the tune of hourly disemboweling defendant in ninth circle of hell.

    WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands judgment against defendant,
    and each of them, for:

    1. Compensatory damages according to proof;

    2. Punitive damages;

    3. Interest as allowed by law;

    4. Costs of suit; and

    5. Such other and further relief as this court may deem
    cruel and unusual.

Vallicella reviews Nagel

Bill Vallicella has apparently competed his serial review of Nagel's recent book:

An Important Christmas Resource

Tom Schmidt’s Chronicon site has a lot of valuable material on issues related to Christmas, especially the origins of the December 25 date for the holiday. He argues that the date was used by Christians to mark Jesus’ birth long before the fourth century and without the sort of pagan influence often suggested.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Nothing can I boast in

At God’s perfect timing,
Christ died for fallen man.
He wore a crown of thorns,
Nails driven through his hands.
Christ willingly endured it,
To death he chose to go.
He broke his body for us,
Shed blood to make us whole.

Nothing can I boast in,
My life is scarred with sin.
My works are filthy rags,
No merit can I bring.
Yet mercy filled Christ’s heart,
Love took him to the tree.
It’s grace alone which saves me;
Christ’s blood that sets me free.

So if I am boasting,
I’ll speak of my disgrace.
For my weak self displays
The power of God’s grace.
Christ’s Spirit works within me,
In weakness he is strong.
So I look to my Saviour
To safely bring me home.

Cut-flower ethics

Many years ago, Will Herberg spoke of “cut-flower ethics.” He argued that, once unmoored from the religious soil that nurtured them, ethical principles would endure for a while, but would ultimately wither. To assume otherwise is to mistakenly dismiss the catalyzing effect that the idea of God has had on ethical motivation throughout the centuries.

When was Joel fulfilled?

Peter’s citation of Joel 2:28–32 in Acts 2:16–21 is a significant text for our attempts to define the relationship between Israel and the Church and to understand God’s eschatological program. Pivotal questions concerning the Joel text include how wide its application is, how to interpret its apocalyptic imagery, and whether it was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when Peter cited it.

Characteristic of the multiple-fulfillment approach is Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.:

All interpreters know that Pentecost took care of only the first two verses in that prophecy, and that only to an initial degree. Where were the “wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke”? “The sun will be turned to darkness,” promised Joel, “and the moon to blood.” These events yet await the consummation of history.

D. Treier, “The Fulfillment Of Joel 2:28–32: A Multiple-Lens Approach,” JETS 40/1 (March 1997), 13-14.

In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost he quotes Joel 2:28-32 in support of what God is doing on that day. It is both interesting and instructive to observe the debate between Classical Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology over Peter’s citation of this text. Dispensationalists have typically tried to avoid Joel’s fulfillment in Acts 2:16-21, most likely because they see the OT prophecy addressed to Israel and because a NT fulfillment to the church threatens the distinction between the two.

Classical covenant theologians took a different approach. They accepted Peter’s citation as proof that Joel 2:28-32 has been fulfilled. Moreover, on the basis of this text and others, they concluded that there would not be fulfillment to the nation of Israel qua nation. It is interesting to observe the two extremes. Dispensationalism, to maintain what they saw as the sense of the OT prediction, refused to allow the prophecy to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, while Covenant Theology, having granted the fulfillment of Joel in Acts, assumed that OT prophecies given to Israel are now to be fulfilled in the church.

…Acts 2:16-21 is not the complete referent (fulfillment) of Joel 2:28-32. This can be seen from the sense of the OT prediction and from the fact that section two of the prophecy was not fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.

P. Feinberg, “Hermeneutics of Discontinuity,” J. Feinberg, ed. Continuity and Discontinuity (CB 1988), 126.

I’d like to question one aspect of this argument: the way in which premils like Kaiser and Feinberg bifurcate the prophecy, so that only the first part was fulfilled (or partially fulfilled) at Pentecost, while the second part remains to be fulfilled at the end of the church age, with a 2000+ year gap between the two.

I happen to think Feinberg’s overall interpretation is reasonable (which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s correct). And I agree with him that we must respect Joel’s prophecy on its own terms, as well as the NT appropriation of that text. So my challenge, even if valid, won’t disprove the premil and/or dispensational interpretation.

But it does take issue with one of the supporting arguments. For it seems to me that in the context of Luke-Acts, the cosmic signs may well be fulfilled by the time of Pentecost.

i) Keep in mind that apocalyptic language is fairly generic. It reuses stock imagery. So it’s unreasonable to assume the fulfillment must exactly match the imagery. The language is more suggestive or evocative e than strictly descriptive. Indeed, commentators have noted allusions to the Sinai theophany.

ii) Jesus’ ministry was characterized by signs and wonders (Acts 2:22). Nature miracles, healing miracles, and exorcism–not to mention the Resurrection.

You also had the darkening of the sun during the crucifixion, as well as the torn curtain (Lk 23:44-45).

Then you have the Ascension (Acts 1:9-11), with Jesus levitating in mid-air. Several commentators think the “cloud” is the Shekinah. This corresponds to the pillar of fire and smoke in Exodus. And you had “tongues of fire” (2:3)–as well as the theophanic “wind” (2:2) at Pentecost.

(If we add Matthew, we have the earthquake on Good Friday, and the angelic descent on Easter Sunday.)

So, if we interpret Acts 2 on its own terms, taking Acts 1 and Luke’s Gospel into account, I think Joel’s prophecy could be fulfilled at that point. Fulfillment would begin with the recent past (i.e. life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ), and be capped in the present (i.e. the speaker’s present) by the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Of course, even within the chronological framework of Acts, the “Day of the Lord” retains a future aspect. After all, history didn’t come to a sudden end at Pentecost. Luke continues the narrative for another three decades. And the rather abrupt conclusion to the narrative hardly marks the end of the world. In modern parlance, we’d say that’s an instance of inaugurated eschatology.

Still, I don’t see any textual or contextual justification for driving a wedge between one part of Joel’s prophecy and another part. That seems to be imposing on Acts 2 an extraneous preconception of how it ought to be fulfilled, rather than taking its cue from Acts 2 (and related background material).

I also don’t see why Kaiser thinks the sun darkening and the moon turning to blood is a uniquely end-time event. Doesn’t that imagery refer to solar and lunar eclipses? And aren’t these periodic phenomena?

Does baptism save?

Nicholas Leone

I was a Baptist, but after a study of the Scriptures, I became a Lutheran. The Lutheran position on Holy Baptism is the only Biblical one. Most people are offended at the idea that Baptism can save! . . . Baptism in the Holy Spirit cannot be separated from water Baptism. They happen simultaneously."

1 Peter 3:21-22

21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

I don’t usually criticize Lutheran theology. Since, however, a Lutheran commenter has thrown down the gauntlet, I’ll respond. Lutherans are, of course, welcome to criticize my Calvinism. I’m just pointing out that I didn’t initiate this debate.

Before discussing specific prooftexts, let’s make a few general observations:

i) This appeal reflects a naïve understanding of symbolism. I realize some Christians instinctively flinch at the word “symbolism,” as if that’s a weasel word. But this is a principled distinction.

For instance, Paul talks about how we are saved by the cross. Needless to say, he doesn’t mean we’re literally saved by a piece of wood. Rather, he’s using the cross as a symbol for Christ’s redemptive death at Calvary. It’s not the wooden cross that actually saves anyone, but what that stands for.

You can quote NT passages about the gracious efficacy of baptism, but that’s perfectly consistent with a purely symbolic understanding of baptism.

ii) In Acts, you can’t assume that the gift of the Spirit is equivalent to regeneration. Rather, it’s generally used in connection with the charismata. It’s a mistake to filter Acts through the lens of John’s Gospel or Paul’s epistles. 

iii) Lutherans subscribe to infant baptism. But in Acts, the specific baptismal candidates are believers or converts. Promises are made to them if they repent of their sins and believe in Jesus. And they submit to baptism in obedience to the apostolic kerygma. You can’t simply rip that out of its missionary setting and transfer it to babies, as if these are interchangeable parties. 

Keep in mind that I don’t object to infant baptism. But you can’t wrest these passages out of their embedded context and make them refer to something they don’t.

iv) In Scripture, water has three symbolic meanings: (a) a cleansing agent; (b) a destructive agent (e.g. flood waters), and (c) a source of life (e.g. drinking water).

Baptism trades on the natural, varied symbolism of water.

v) What Scripture sometimes attributes to the effect of water baptism, it elsewhere attributes to the effect of faith in Christ. Therefore, it’s logical to view the rhetorical effect of baptism as a picturesque metaphor for the actual effect of faith.

vi) Although it’s customary for Lutherans to prooftext baptism regeneration by citing Jn 3:5 and Tit 3:5, the baptismal referent isn’t a given. Mere aqueous imagery doesn’t single out baptism, for aqueous imagery is commonplace in Scripture.

vii) In Acts, there’s no normative sequence for water baptism and the gift of the Spirit.

viii) They are inherently separable. The Holy Spirit isn’t chained to a ritual. The Holy Spirit is a sovereign agent, free to act at his own discretion (Jn 3:8; 1 Cor 12:11).

To insist that the Holy Spirit must regenerate the baptismal candidate reflects a classically magical outlook. In pagan witchcraft, you can manipulate supernatural forces to do your bidding by saying the right words in the right order, or by doing the right things in the right order.

ix) To use 1 Pet 3:21 as a Lutheran prooftext for baptismal regeneration proves too much. For that would mean whoever is baptized is guaranteed salvation. Yet Lutheranism deems it possible for a born-again Christian to lose his salvation.

x) It’s important not to overload the word “save” in 1 Pet 3:21. This is not a technical term for salvation in the soteriological sense. Peter is punning. There’s wordplay between “salvation” from drowning (v20) and “salvation” by baptism. But “salvation” from drowning means physical deliverance. God rescued Noah and his family from watery death by means of the ark. The word itself doesn’t mean spiritual salvation. That turns on the larger context.

xi) Peter explicitly plays on the symbolic imagery of baptism. Where dirt represents sin, and washing represents forgiveness. In analogy with the flood, he also trades on the destructive symbolism of water. So the rite is emblematic.

xii) As his further qualifications indicate, baptism is a token (“pledge, appeal”) of faith in Christ, and the resultant effects of saving faith. 

xiii) Apropos (xii), Peter is clearly referring to believers or converts who submit to baptism, as an expression of their newfound allegiance in Christ. It doesn’t refer to babies.

BTW, I don’t object to infant baptism. But you must respect the context of your prooftexts. 

xiv) Like Jews who put their faith in the efficacy of circumcision or their physical lineage (e.g. Mt 3), there’s a constant temptation to substitute external rites for faith in Christ. That’s false assurance. There’s no substitute for trusting in Christ from start to finish.

Breaking Bad

James White and Turretinfan have taken on Jason Stellman in a two-part audio series that I’d highly recommend.

Jason Stellman (right side of image) of course is all over the place at the Called to Communion site these days – he’s the equivalent of a Roman Catholic Convert anti-hero. And the good guys, James White and Turretinfan take on this Jason Stellman interview in a two-part (and more-to-follow) series of their own:

Part 1 (approx. 30 minutes).

Part 2 (approx. 90 minutes).

About the image: My wife and I have been watching through the “Breaking Bad” series. To “break bad” evidently is to turn and start being evil instead of good. The anti-hero of that series is a man named Walter White (left side of image), and the main character is someone who certainly becomes evil over the course of time.

When I had the CTC site up on my monitor this morning, Beth noticed the resemblance immediately. [And how do we know that Stellman isn’t purposely trying to look like this character?]

Breaking Bad is about a chemistry teacher who, on finding that he has lung cancer, seizes upon the side job of “cooking” crystal methamphetamine – known as “meth”. So the connections seem obvious to me. Stellman, in his own way, has been “breaking bad”, in his case selling something called “cath”.

On the word “catholic”, as it was used in the early church, meant that the church was “universal”, that is, encompassing those who professed faith in Christ throughout the world. Rome, of course, has twisted that meaning with its oxymoronic usage, making the “provincial” “Roman” to be the sum and center of “the church that Christ founded”, when really, it is, well, quite provincial. Calling the Roman church “catholic” is as much a misnomer as saying “crystal methamphetamine makes you feel good”.

Interestingly, the crystal methamphetamine wiki site notes that long term usage of “crystal meth” “develop a long-lasting psychosis resembling schizophrenia after stopping methamphetamine. The condition persists for longer than 6 months and is often treatment resistant”. It will be interesting to see where these guys are in a few years. Andrew Preslar is already on record saying that “Catholicism is like a marriage, in which romance does not reduce to sentimentalism, nor prescind from difficulty and pain, but rather flows from the realities of a life shared together, come what may”.

To be sure, there will be difficulties.

At any rate, if you’re interested in following the Jason Stellman saga from a safe distance, James White and Turretinfan provide an excellent analysis of the things Stellman is saying, and it seems as if more is to follow.

Christmas Apologetics

Each Christmas season over the past few years, I’ve put up a post linking to Triablogue’s material related to Christmas:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The true Israel

1) It’s common for some Reformed amils to make the following two claims:

i) The church is the new Israel

ii) Christ is the true Israel

But if you combine both claims, that will yield a third claim:

iii) Christ is the true church

Clearly, though, that shows the need to qualify our usage. It doesn’t make much sense to say that Jesus takes the place of the church.

1) There’s a serious exegetical argument to be made for (i). However, that’s somewhat ambiguous, depending on how we define the key terms.

2) Concerning (ii), this only makes sense if we use it as a shorthand expression for corporate solidarity or federal headship. Christ is the true Israel in the sense that Christ represents Israel, not that Christ is identical with Israel.

By the same token, Christ acts on behalf of his people (“the church”). To some degree he acts in their stead, as their redeemer (i.e. vicarious atonement, penal substitution).

However, it’s not an antithetical relationship, as if Jesus supplants the church.

God, man, and miracles

Since it is God who causes miracles to happen, not the apostles or Paul as “miracle workers,” it is a moot point whether miracles should always, or at least ideally, accompany the proclamation of the gospel. It is God, not the missionary, evangelist, or the local church, who determines whether miracles happen. Christians believe God can work through miracles today, and they pray for the sick to be healed, as the risen and exalted Jesus Christ continues to have the power to heal the sick and to drive out demons. At the same time, Jesus’ power did not prevent Peter from being thrown into prison (4:1; 5:18; 12:3), Stephen and James from being killed (7:58-60; 12:2), and Paul from being shipwrecked (27:13-44).

E. Schnabel, Acts (Zondervan 2012), 1098.

How are forgiveness and baptism linked?

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be immersed, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah, on the basis of the forgiveness of sins…” (Acts 2:38).

The preposition “for” (eis) in the expression “for the forgiveness of sins” raises the question of the relationship between immersion in water (baptism) and the forgiveness of sins. Some interpret the preposition as expressing purpose (the purpose of baptism is the forgiveness of sins), some as expressing result (baptism results in forgiveness).

A contextually more plausible interpretation assumes a causal meaning (forgiveness of sins is the cause of baptism); the Jews who had heard Peter explain that Jesus was the crucified, risen, and exalted Messiah and Lord who saves Israel in the “last days” had repented of their sins and come to faith in Jesus. Otherwise, they would not have been willing to be immersed in water for purification “in the name of Jesus the Messiah”; they were immersed in water for purification “on the basis of the forgiveness of sins,” which they had received from Jesus.

E. Schnabel, Acts (Zondervan 2012), 164-65.

Obama and Rubio on Genesis

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How Many Adams?

The Dolly-Llama


At 77, there is heightened speculation about who will succeed the Dalai Lama. Historically, succession battles over the next Dalai Lama can be vicious. And as Eddie Murphy can attest, protecting a golden child is fraught with peril.

To ease the transition, Tibetan officials consulted scientists about creating a Lama in the laboratory. By crossbreeding a cloned sheep with a llama, scientists successfully produced a Dolly-Llama.

The Dolly-Llama held a news conference, flanked by Richard Gere and Harrison Ford. Steven Seagal boycotted the conference.


Plus this: 


Equals this:

Visiting an invisible church near you

Church attendance poses logistical challenges for pious Protestants. That’s because, as any good Catholic apologist will tell you, we don’t have a visible church. Only the Roman church is the visible church, founded by Jesus.

When I first got saved, I had a dickens of a time trying to find an evangelical church to attend. I looked in the yellow pages under the church section, but the names and addresses of the Protestant churches were all printed in invisible ink.

I drove around town, but I could never see a Protestant church. Just empty lots.

I finally asked a nice blind evangelical to take me to his church. Everything was invisible to him, so locating a Protestant church posed no special problem for him.

However, I got off to a bumpy start. I tripped over the steps leading up to the entrance because I couldn’t see them. I accidentally stepped on the toes of the invisible usher at the door. Once inside, I accidentally sat on three invisible parishioners before I found an empty seat.

This has also posed a serious technical challenge to televangelists when they broadcast a church service. You don’t see an actual church sanctuary, since that’s invisible. What you see is chroma key compositing. The sanctuary is really (if “really” is the operative word) a postproduction simulation.

Ecclesiastical invisibility has some fringe benefits, however. For instance, the collection plate was invisible, so I couldn’t put any money in the plate when the invisible ushers passed it around.

Next week I got one of those white folding canes the blind use, so that I could feel my way around a bit better.

When you think it about it, it’s remarkable how well Protestants manage to navigate the hurdles of invisible church attendance.

And on second thought, it’s certainly no worse than consuming an invisible, miniaturized Jesus in the communion wafer.

Justice denied

This also illustrates why you can't trust a life sentence to be...a life sentence. Liberals offer the life sentence as a more humane alternative to the death penalty, but liberals can't be trusted to keep their word. The bleeding-hearts who release killers should be locked up with the killers overnight. See what we find in the morning.

How to defend your cult


But on to your claims: to accuse the Roman Catholic hierarchy in general of facilitating the abuse of children is overblown, and thus does nothing to help your argument or to correct the problems that actually did occur.

That the Roman Catholic hierarchy in general has facilitated the abuse of children can be backed up with reams of documentation. For instance:

Certainly, there were many priests and some bishops who sinned grievously, and in doing so, failed to live up to the teachings of the Catholic Church. But it is a big stretch to then accuse the hierarchy in general of the devious motive of teaching a high view of human sexuality for the express purpose of protecting or legitimizing their own deviant behaviors.

i) I didn’t say “teaching a high view of human sexuality for the express purpose of protecting or legitimizing their own deviant behaviors.” Historically, the church of Rome has taught a low view of human sexuality.

ii) However, to play along with your argument, it’s not unusual for hypocrites to say all the right things. That provides cover for what they do in private. That deflects suspicion away from them.

Let's not forget that while the media went into a frenzy over the sins of bishops and priests, planting these sins deeply in our minds (while doing nothing to point out the documented false accusations being made by liars and thieves), the fact is, the general frequency of abuse was very low, and not much higher--if higher at all--than the rates of abuse found in other non-Catholic communities.

i) I don’t know how you’d be in a position to judge that. As one expert noted:

Authors such as Philip Jenkins feel that the incident rate is definitely not higher among priests than among clergy in other denominations. I respectfully disagree, especially when we consider that so many of the abuse allegations led to secret settlements. So it's hard for us to know how many credible allegations have been brought against priests, especially when the church until recently has been unwilling to make the numbers known. If the bishops wanted to, they could easily find out if the incident rates are lower, the same, or higher compared with other clergy or helping professionals.

As another expert noted:

...based on the available data, there has been around six times as much child sexual abuse by clergy and religious in the Catholic Church as there is by ministers of religion in all the other churches in Australia combined - and I would regard that as a conservative figure. Admittedly, the Catholic Church is the largest denomination in Australia, and it is also one in which priests and religious have been involved in schools and orphanages, unlike ministers of other churches. Even still, the reality is that the levels of abuse in the Catholic Church are strikingly out of proportion with any other church - and, from what I have seen, this is an international pattern.

ii) You’re also overlooking the correlation between priestly abuse and homosexuality. The source of the abuse scandal is the fact that homosexuals are overrepresented in the priesthood.

Your own denomination classifies homosexual activity as “intrinsically disordered.” By contrast, heterosexual activity is not intrinsically disordered.

Therefore, wouldn’t we expect homosexuals to behave immorally? And if homosexuals are overrepresented in the priesthood, wouldn’t we expect Catholic clergy to have higher rates of sexual predation?

To turn the tables a bit, I feel much safer spiritually in a church who has not compromised its moral teachings (even if some of her members fail to live up to them) than in a church that no longer teaches that some sinful behaviors (contraception, divorce and remarriage, etc.) are in fact sinful.

Of course, that’s the classic circular reasoning of a cult-member. You appeal to your sectarian standards to validate your sect. But that begs the question. Unless you already know that your denomination is legit, you can’t take your sectarian standards for granted.

I have no idea what you believe or practice in regard to these issues, but I think in general it is far better to find sin in one church than a denial (and normalization) of sin in another.

Which assumes what you need to prove.

And for the record, you'll be happy to know that the Catholic Church has addressed the problems of abuse and is now very likely the safest institution (religious or secular) you could leave your kids.

From news reports I’ve read about Austria, Australia, Poland, Ireland, &c., I have no reason to think the Catholic church has put that problem behind it. Let’s just take one significant counterexample:

Regarding your second claim, that Catholics think that only the Church can interpret the Bible, could I kindly ask you to cite an official document of the Catholic Church where that claim is asserted?

For starters:

Perhaps what you take issue with is the authority that the Catholic Church claims for herself, but surely you realize that the Church doesn't wield authority in such a way that it would demand that Catholics shut down the natural function of their brains when reading a text, which is to interpret it.

Sure it does. Take the utterly fanciful way in which Pius XII tries to prooftext the Assumption of Mary:

Often there are theologians and preachers who, following in the footsteps of the holy Fathers,(20) have been rather free in their use of events and expressions taken from Sacred Scripture to explain their belief in the Assumption. Thus, to mention only a few of the texts rather frequently cited in this fashion, some have employed the words of the psalmist: "Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark, which you have sanctified"(21); and have looked upon the Ark of the Covenant, built of incorruptible wood and placed in the Lord's temple, as a type of the most pure body of the Virgin Mary, preserved and exempt from all the corruption of the tomb and raised up to such glory in heaven. Treating of this subject, they also describe her as the Queen entering triumphantly into the royal halls of heaven and sitting at the right hand of the divine Redeemer.(22) Likewise they mention the Spouse of the Canticles "that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense" to be crowned.(23) These are proposed as depicting that heavenly Queen and heavenly Spouse who has been lifted up to the courts of heaven with the divine Bridegroom.

Or the equally fanciful way in which Pius IX tries to prooftext the Immaculate Conception:

This sublime and singular privilege of the Blessed Virgin, together with her most excellent innocence, purity, holiness and freedom from every stain of sin, as well as the unspeakable abundance and greatness of all heavenly graces, virtues and privileges -- these the Fathers beheld in that ark of Noah, which was built by divine command and escaped entirely safe and sound from the common shipwreck of the whole world;[15] in the ladder which Jacob saw reaching from the earth to heaven, by whose rungs the angels of God ascended and descended, and on whose top the Lord himself leaned'[16] in that bush which Moses saw in the holy place burning on all sides, which was not consumed or injured in any way but grew green and blossomed beautifully;[17] in that impregnable tower before the enemy, from which hung a thousand bucklers and all the armor of the strong;[18] in that garden enclosed on all sides, which cannot be violated or corrupted by any deceitful plots;[19] as in that resplendent city of God, which has its foundations on the holy mountains;[20] in that most august temple of God, which, radiant with divine splendors, is full of the glory of God;[21] and in very many other biblical types of this kind. In such allusions the Fathers taught that the exalted dignity of the Mother of God, her spotless innocence and her sanctity unstained by any fault, had been prophesied in a wonderful manner.

It is quite possible that you haven't ever experienced the interpretive freedom to which I refer…

Oh, I see lots of interpretive freedom among Catholic Bible scholars like Ray Brown, John Meier, Joseph Fitzmyer, Luke Timothy Johnson, Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, &c. The freedom to deny the historicity of Biblical events.

Regarding the factual test, you know very well that Rome doesn't claim to be an infallible teacher on geocentrism or evolution, and thus, it doesn't make a dent if she learns a thing or two from science every once in a while.

Of course, that belated realization conveniently comes centuries after the fact.

Might I suggest strengthening your argument by pointing to a change in her teachings in an area that she does claim to speak infallibly?

Once again, that’s the classic circular reasoning of a cult-member. By definition, your sect can never be wrong when it counts. If it’s found to be wrong, then, by definition, it wasn’t speaking infallibly. So you render your sect unfalsifiable even in principle. Thanks for proving my point.

That would be of interest to me, and perhaps your other readers as well. Also, you suggest that the Popes' teachings contradict the Bible, but doesn't that assertion contain a presumption that you hold the very type of authority that you think makes the Pope into a cult leader? Are you trying to rob the Pope of the freedom to interpret the Bible as he wills? Would you rather he follow your own interpretation, yielding in obedience to your presumed hermeneutical authority? And if so, how have you avoided styling yourself as a cult leader in the same stroke that you paint the Pope as one?

It doesn’t require authority to interpret a document. It only requires authority to misinterpret a document. Since Rome can’t justify its dogmas through sound exegesis, it must resort to an argument from authority to leverage the illicit interpretation.

“Common Grace” reaches even into San Francisco

Evidently you can legislate at least some morality. But on what basis?

San Francisco City Council Passes Ban on Public Nudity

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- San Francisco shed a vestige of its free-spirited past as local lawmakers narrowly approved a citywide ban on public nudity.

Casting aside complaints that forcing people to cover up would undermine San Francisco's reputation as a city without inhibitions, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 on Tuesday in favor of an ordinance that prohibits exposed genitals in most public places, including streets, sidewalks and public transit.

Exemptions would be made for participants at permitted street fairs and parades, such as the city's annual gay pride event and the Bay-to-Breakers street run, which often draws participants in costumes or various states of undress.

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the ban in response to escalating complaints about a group of men whose bare bodies are on display almost daily in the city's predominantly gay Castro District. He said at Tuesday's meeting that he resisted for almost two years, but finally felt compelled to act.

"It's no longer an occasionally and quirky part of San Francisco. Rather, in the Castro, it's pretty much seven days a week," Wiener said. "It's very much a, `Hey, look what I have' mentality."

Wiener's opponents on the board said a citywide ban was unnecessary and would draw police officers' attention away from bigger problems. Supervisor John Avalos also expressed concerns about what the ordinance would do to San Francisco's image.

"We are a beacon of light to other parts of the country, and sometimes there is a little bit of weirdness about how we express ourselves," Avalos said.

A simple argument against abortion that even liberals can understand

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mystery on Mars

NASA reports an “earthshaking” discovery on Mars (one for the “history books”), although spokemen are mum on the details, awaiting further confirmation. I’m laying bets on what they found. Here are leading contenders:

1. Twinkies
2. A velvet Elvis
3. Pink plastic flamingos
4. Atlantis
5. A putt-putt golf course
6. Sadam’s WMD
7. Carl Sagan
8. A Sani-can
9. Col. Sander’s secret recipe
10. Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate
11. A telescope facing our way
12. The Holy Grail
13. Jimmy Hoffa’s stiff
14. Flight 19
15. Space junk
16. The lost tribes of Israel
17. Justin Bieber’s manhood
18. El Dorado
19. The fountain of youth
20. Rosie O’Donnell’s talent
21. My car keys
22. The missing link
23. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
24. The Roanoke Colony
25. Andrew Garfield’s toupee
26. Will Robinson
27. Camelot
28. Bertrand Russell’s deathbed confession (“I take it all back!”)
29. A “No Trespassing” sign
30. The Palestinian homeland
31. A “No Littering” sign
32. Garden gnomes
33. Bill Maher’s brain
34. Precambrian rabbits
35. Britney Spears’s virtue
35. A rough draft of The Martian Chronicles
36. Rocks arranged to spell: “God is still alive and Nietzsche is still dead!”
37. An autographed, first edition of the Koran containing the original preface: “A burlesque in 114 chapters. Any resemblance to real events is purely coincidental.”

Roger Olson's boyfriend in the sky

What torments him the most, however, is his utter inability to find a girlfriend...To make a long story short (as they say), the writer discovers that he can control the girlfriend by writing about her…Eventually, the writer becomes disillusioned with this magical phenomenon. He comes to think of the young woman as real which, in the movie, in a sense, she is. Physically, she’s “there.” But he controls her completely. She becomes whatever his momentary whim causes him to write about her.

Finally, he has a kind of nervous breakdown and starts furiously writing sentences that cause her to be like a puppet—just to demonstrate his power over her. Then, in a moment of utter despair, loving her so much, he writes that she is real and free.

In his book The Providence of God Calvinist philosopher-theologian Paul Helm says: “Not only is every atom and molecule, every thought and desire, kept in being by God, but every twist and turn of each of these is under the direct control of God.” (p. 22) Yes, of course, he goes on throughout the book to attempt to demonstrate how this is a good thing. But, in the end, it’s unsatisfying for the same reason as the writer’s control of Ruby in the movie.

Toward the end of “Ruby Sparks,” the writer character discovers that what he is having with Ruby is not a relationship but a condition. Ultimately, she is not yet real. Or, if she is real, she is not a person. What he is having with her is not a personal relationship—from either his or her perspective. His perspective that he was having a personal relationship with her was an illusion. And his power to control her was not in any way glorifying or magnifying of him (as he seemed to think at some points). It was not only unfair to her (since he could cause her to be real and free); it was demeaning to him. What he was doing was unethical.

Now, let’s adjust the movie, the parable, just a bit and see what would happen “if.” Imagine that the writer finally decided that controlling Ruby was better than giving her reality and freedom. Better for whom? Well, for both him and her. After all, he could then protect her from the many dangers of being real and free. And he could show off his magical power to his brother (a character in the movie) and his therapist (he does reveal it to both of them). But who would think he was “protecting” her or revealing real ability? All people in their right minds, decent, reasonable people, upon realizing what he was doing to her, would condemn him for it. (In the movie his brother comes to think what he is doing is wrong. His therapist never really believes it.)

Here is my question to Calvinists: even if the writer in the movie treated Ruby with kindness, would you ever agree that he is doing something good—either morally or in terms of showing his greatness? I can’t imagine it. What’s great about using a magical power to control things compared with using persuasion to influence them? And what’s morally good about controlling another person compared with giving them freedom and entering into a real relationship with them?

Of course, Helm, and most Calvinists with him, goes to great lengths to try to show that God is different. It’s okay for God to control his human creatures whereas it would never be okay for humans to do so (except, of course for small children or hopeless imbeciles).

A ventriloquist may claim to “love” his puppet, but anyone hearing that claim would laugh or cry—considering the ventriloquist either joking or crazy. That would be even more the case if the ventriloquist claimed the puppet loved him!

Philosopher Brümmer also demonstrates, rightly, I think, that strict Calvinism (he uses the Canons of Dort as his foil) is ultimately incoherent insofar as it claims that God is so different, so unique, that somehow it’s good and right for God to control humans in such a manner that would never be considered right or good in human experience. If God is so “wholly other,” such that there are no analogies, then, he says, we really do not know anything about God. This is what I’ve been saying here for a long time—almost since the blog’s beginning. Ultimately, strict Calvinism, divine determinism, must posit a “hidden God,” a voluntarist God who has no nature or whose nature is so radically different from ours that we can’t even conceive of it. And, in light of hell, such a controlling, manipulative God cannot be conceived as “good” in any meaningful way.

i) First off, I commend Olson for pressing the boyfriend/girlfriend analogy to illustrate Arminianism. I think that’s a very revealing, and apt comparison. And it nicely illustrates some childish weaknesses in Arminianism.

In a healthy romantic relationship, both man and woman give something and get something. It satisfies a deep psychological (and physical) need.

There’s an ineluctable element of self-interest which motivates the relationship. Not just doing something good for another person, but how that’s good for you. We are incomplete without it.

We wouldn’t marry if there wasn’t something in it for us. At least, that’s the expectation going in–although reality doesn’t always turn out that way. We marry to receive something in return. Reciprocated affection. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t hope to get something out of it. Although romantic love ought to be concerned with the best interests of the beloved, it’s also essentially self-interested. The man wants a woman who wants him in return. He wants her to want him as much as he wants her. And I assume most wives want a husband who desires them rather than viewing them as just a charity case.

And that’s roughly how Olson defines a “real relationship.”

Speaking for myself, I don’t seek a “relationship” with God in that sense. If that’s what motivated God, he’d be pathetic. I don’t need a God who needs me. I don’t worship a God who needs me (and other creatures) to complete what’s lacking in himself.

In Calvinism, God’s love for the elect is an act of sheer disinterested love. God has nothing to get out of it. He does it purely for the good of the elect.

ii) In defense of Olson, someone might say that Scripture itself uses romantic theological analogies. But if you examine the specific examples, they don’t intersect with Olson’s comparison.

There’s the motif of God as a jilted husband who remains faithful to a faithless wife (Hosea; Isa 54; Ezk 16). There’s the motif of God defending his bride (Rev 19). There’s the motif of God/Christ laying down his life to save his wife (Eph 5). And there’s the motif of God marrying down (Ezk 16; Eph 5).

iii) I don’t think Calvinism requires God to be “wholly other” or “hidden.” That’s just Olson’s hostile characterization.

And, yes, it is different with God. He’s the Creator, we’re the creature. That’s a fundamental and unilateral asymmetry. Cause and effect.

That’s very different from the boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic, where they grow closer to each other, grow through each other, grow into each other.

iv) Olson’s illustration also suffers from an inner tension. He says “Then, in a moment of utter despair, loving her so much, he writes that she is real and free.”

But what does it mean to say that Ruby is finally set free to be herself? She started out as a figment of the writer’s imagination. His idea of the perfect girl. And although she continues to evolve, it’s his idea of her that’s evolving. She has all and only those characteristics which he invests her with at any particular moment.

So even if he frees her and reifies her at the end (a la Pygmalion), she didn’t invent herself. Everything she is she got from him. At whatever stage of the process he frees her, what he reifies is his own concept.

Now, we might speculate that after he frees her, she continues to develop on her own. Becomes a somewhat different person. But even so, she didn’t make herself from scratch. She could only work with what he gave her. Her potential for further development is limited to his creative idea. At bottom, she can’t rise any higher than her source. A reified fictional character is still defined by the writer. By his personal vision.

Politicizing creationism

Giving up without a fight

I’ll comment on this post:

As usual, Ed spends a lot of time repeating his oft-refuted contentions, so I’ll skip over that.

Steve Hays writes, “Of course, I never said the only effective method of opposing “something” is political activism. Rather we were dealing with the specific case of public school indoctrination. And I said that “if you reject Christian political activism, then you have no effective means of opposing the secular education establishment.”

This represents the crux of Steve’s argument. It is firmly utilitarian, firmly pragmatic, and in my opinion, it fails to focus on loving the right behavior for the right reason.

Actually, I’m just responding to Ed on his own terms. This is how he chose to frame the issue:

The educational institutions play a strategic role in the liberal indoctrination of our children and in my view...

He himself flagged that example as a serious problem. So what’s the solution, if any?

The source of the problem is political. The excuse that public schools use to indoctrinate students in secular ideology consists of Supreme Court rulings which claim that it’s unconstitutional for the state to promote the Christian faith.

Since the source of the problem is political, the only direct solution is political.

Moreover, there is no sound exegetical support for Steve’s argument. In rebuttal after rebuttal, rather than appeal to specific Scriptures rightly interpreted, Steve has been very dismissive about my charge.

i) Needless to say, there’s no specific Scripture that says “The educational institutions play a strategic role in the liberal indoctrination of our children.”

Why does Ed demand a specifically Scriptural solution to a problem that’s not a specifically Scriptural problem? He’s the one who highlighted this problem.

ii) Moreover, what’s wrong with direct solutions? If I have a persistent toothache, I go to the dentist. Do I need specific Scriptural justification for that solution?

Is it “firmly utilitarian, firmly pragmatic,” for me to visit the dentist if I have a persistent toothache? And even if it were, so what?

If I need to drive across a stream everyday, is it okay for me to build a bridge? Or is that too “utilitarian,” too “pragmatic”? Should I just pray for a bridge to miraculously materialize?

iii) Ed’s theological method is flawed. It’s a parody of sola Scriptura. But we don’t need specific Scriptural warrant for everything we do. For instance, if Scripture lays down a general principle with various logical implications and applications, that will suffice. The specificity is logically implicit rather than verbally explicit.

Christians preaching the gospel out of love for obeying God, not because they think they can change the world.

Passing good laws or repealing bad laws isn’t intended to “change the world,” but to making discrete changes that improve a particular situation.

They know that if the world is going to change, that is the business of God.

That sounds fatalistic. But God often employs the instrumentality of human beings to work his will.

 Their hope is that all men would come to Christ, not that their culture would be morally good.

Does Ed think we even need to have good laws? Why not repeal all laws against theft, mugging, murder, &c.

Pay attention to Steve’s use of the phrase “no effective means.” Apparently, Steve thinks that Christians cannot effectively oppose secular philosophies in the universities unless they are politically active.

Actually, my statement didn’t single out universities.

 In other words, indoctrinating your children in the truth of God’s word is an ineffective way to counter the effects of the secular university. Selecting a godly Church where the creeds are soundly biblical, the sermons expositional, the music Christ-centered, and the youth program seriously aimed at firming up the faith of the young is ineffective apparently by Steve’s way of thinking.

i) I already responded to that alternative. Ed presumes the freedom to practice your faith. Yet Ed doesn’t think Christians have a right or duty to defend their religious rights and liberties.  In which case, Christians will lose the freedom to select a godly church with good youth programs.

ii) Moreover, Ed exhibits a callous attitude towards the fate of kids who don’t have Christian parents. Should we just abandon them to atheism?

Steve criticizes my position that one can oppose the secular university with its godless philosophies by publically condemning them and speaking out against them. We can oppose them by arming our children with the truth and with good critical thinking skills. We can oppose them by preaching the gospel and carrying on with the mission of the Church.

i) Ed keeps repeating the same equivocal usage. The question is not whether you can “oppose” it, but whether your methods are “effective.” Merely “condemning” or “speaking out” against liberal indoctrination in public education does nothing to prevent or lessen liberal indoctrination in public education. It’s like shouting at a bulldozer or a freight train. You can shout until you’re hoarse, but that won’t keep the train or bulldozer from running right over you.

ii) And, once again, he takes for granted the civil right of Christian parents to raise their kids in the faith; the civil right of pastors to preach the gospel. Yet he mocks the notion that Christians should defend their religious rights. The man is schizophrenic.  

Steve says, So what, if anything, does he propose to do about it? To merely “speak out” against public school indoctrination is not an “effective” means of opposing it. To merely be “against” something is not an “effective” means of opposing it. Rather, Ed’s alternative is an ineffectual means of opposing it. It doesn’t change anything.

Steve further exposes his pragmatism by asserting that my action “doesn’t change anything.”

How have his actions solved the problem that he himself complained about?

Would Steve argue that preaching the gospel is ineffectual and hence it should be abandoned in cases where it produces few to no converts?

How is that comparison relevant to the issue at hand?

 Moreover, where is Steve’s exegetical evidence supporting his view?

He’s asking a question I already answered.

 If I understand Steve correctly, he is asserting that Christians have a duty, a divine mandate to be politically active. This makes it a sin for Christians to be otherwise. Indeed, this is a serious accusation. Christians must take absolute care anytime their view leads them to this sort of behavior. If I accuse someone of sin when they in fact are not sinning, I have sinned. I would hope Steve would ease up a bit where it involves introducing the idea that we sin when we are not doing what he thinks we should do in the political arena.

That’s not a counterargument to my argument. That’s just a complaint about the consequences of my argument. But if my argument is sound, so what? 

"Why Darwinist Materialism is Wrong"

Alvin Plantinga reviews Thomas Nagel's latest book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. (BTW, a little while back Nagel reviewed Plantinga's Where the Conflict Really Lies.)

Israel’s “Iron Dome” changes the course of the conflict

Time Magazine: A Missile Shield that Works;

Military gear-heads like to boast about how this or that latest technology that they’re fond of – or that their company, or country, is pushing – is a “game-changer.”

The major-combat debut of Israel‘s Iron Dome missile-defense shield over the past several days may be one of the few that can legitimately make that claim.

It is destroying about 90% of the rockets and missiles that Hamas, the Palestinian political party governing Gaza, is firing into southern Israel, Israeli officials say.

One battery of Iron Dome anti-missile missiles downed 100% during a salvo, a senior Israeli official tells Battleland.

“We’ve got about a 90% success rate,” he says, ... “This is unprecedented in history.” It’s also impossible to confirm, but the lack of Israeli casualties suggests Iron Dome is the most-effective, most-tested missile shield the world has ever seen.

“We keep tweaking it,” says the senior official, who declined to be identified. “In one of the recent exchanges, one of the batteries was 100% [successful]. That means, to me, that Iron Dome is capable of 100% [across the board] — I don’t think it was entirely a fluke.”

The Wall Street Journal noted in an editorial this morning:

The engineering achievement has saved countless lives, but the strategic benefits are also significant. By limiting civilian casualties, missile defenses provide more options and more time for military and political leaders to decide how to respond. If missiles were landing willy-nilly in Israeli cities, the pressure would be great either for a ground incursion into Gaza, or a possibly humiliating accommodation with Hamas.

So far, Hamas has launched about 1000 missiles at Israel. In a recent skirmish, such missile launches have killed thousands of Israeli citizens. By giving Israeli leaders more time to respond to the barrage, this missile defense system is indeed changing the course of the conflict.

“Written before the foundation of the world in the Lamb’s book of life”

A question has come up in Andrew Clover’s Lutheran and Reformed Discussion group, “Does scripture teach the doctrine of reprobation?” I wanted to talk about this for a bit, because not only is this one of the more notable areas of disagreement between Lutherans and the Reformed, but it has some other applications as well.

Some of the discussion in the group centers on Romans 9 and 11, but here is another passage (group of passages) that I think very clearly show God’s intention.

While this is not a slam-dunk on the doctrine of reprobation, it does speak to the doctrine that God deliberately chooses, not that God merely “foresees”. This is also one of the greatest sources of comfort for the Christian believer who may be undergoing earthly trials.

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

Rev 13:5–10, ESV

If this is “a call for endurance”, it is also a source of information about where that endurance comes from. This passage clearly shows God’s deliberate intention.

The beast is “given a mouth”. “It was allowed to make war”. “Authority was given it”. We are not looking at a description of a God who allows things to chance.

We are also looking at “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world…” There are those whose names were deliberately written (Rev 21:27), and there are those whose names were not written.

I became aware of the construction found in verse 8 in a Christology course taught by Richard Gaffin of WTS. It was not just “the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world”, but that names were “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life”.

Gregory Beale, in his NIGTC commentary The Book of Revelation (pgs 701 ff) provides some analysis of this passage:

The phrase “book of life” appears five other times in the Apocalypse (Rev 3:5, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27). In each case, as here, it is a metaphor for saints whose salvation has been determined: their names have been entered into the census book of the eternal new Jerusalem before history began, which is explicitly affirmed in 21:27, though the pretemporal phrase is omitted there, unlike 13:8 and 17:8, which express the notion of predetermination with “from the foundation of the world.” That saints were written in the book before history began is implied by the fact that the beast worshipers are said not to have been so written.

The genitive “of life” (τῆς ζωῆς) denotes the nature or purpose of the book. The book is a picture of security in God’s eternal city, and the genitive clarifies what kind of security is provided. The saints are given the protection of eternal life. This book stands in contrast to the “books” that record the sins of the ungodly (Rev 20:12–13). The dual notion of a “book of life” for the righteous and “books” of judgment for the wicked is based on Daniel 12:1–2 and 7:10).

The point here is that the multitudes throughout the earth who worship the beast do so because their names “have not been written in the book of life.” They are deceived into worshiping him because they do not have the eternal life-giving protection granted those whose names are in the book. Their destiny is identified with that of the false prophets, whose names also have not been written in the book of life (Ezekiel 13:9: false prophets will not be “written down in the register of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel”).

The last phrase, “from the foundation of the world,” might explain that the death of Christ was decreed before time began (“of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world”; so 1 Peter 1:19ff.: cf. Assumption of Moses 1:14, where Moses’s mediatorship was “prepared before the foundation of the world”). The former translation is viable because the statement about the Lamb’s death is immediately followed by the precreation temporal expression. And it is unlikely that the concluding temporal clause goes with “written,” since twelve words separate them. If the phrase describes the decree of the Lamb’s death, it is complementary to Rev 17:8, which strongly implies that the elect were written “in the book of life before the foundation of the world.”

But Rev 13:8 may refer to the same decree as 17:8, where the precreation phrase immediately follows “whose names have not been written in the book of life” (ὧν οὐ γέγραπται τὸ ὄνομα ἐπὶ τὸ βιβλίον τῆς ζωῆς ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου). But if that is the case here in 13:8, why is the temporal phrase separated from the clause it modifies? It is so that a further description may be given to “the book of life.” “Of the Lamb who was slain” is a genitive of possession, or it could also identify the Lamb as the source of the “life” associated with the “book” (the genitive functions likewise in 21:27). The phrase is in contrast to the similar description in vv 3 and 11. People reject Christ, the true “lamb who was slain” because they follow the beast “who was slain” and the beastlike lamb. Those who give such allegiance to the beast demonstrate that they “have not been written in the book of life.” Therefore, the Lamb does not grant them spiritual protection from the beasts’ deceptions. Genuine believers have assurance that their souls can weather any Satanic storm because of the safety accorded by the Lamb’s book. This safety is the precreation identification of God’s people with the Lamb’s death, which means that they also identify with his resurrection life, which protects them from the spiritual death and ultimate deception (cr. Rev 5:5–13). No one can take this life from them.

This conclusion stands regardless of how the syntactical problem is solved. Because the book of life is unreservedly ascribed to Christ, the salvation of all, implicitly including OT saints, is represented as depending on the one redemptive act of Christ.

The language here couldn’t be more clear. Those individuals “whose names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life from before the foundation of the world” have a life that cannot be taken away from them, that will not be dependent on some kind of “second plank of salvation”.

[The question will undoubtedly come up, “how do you know you are one of these”, but that is beside the point: those who were “written before the foundation of the world” never have a need for any kind of “second plank”, and those not written never have the opportunity for any kind of “second plank”. This is a clear contradiction from Scripture of an essential Roman Catholic doctrine.]

I don’t want to make light of this, suggesting it is a “once saved, always saved” kind of thing. But the language is clear: “once written in the Lamb’s book of life (from before the foundation of the world), always written in the Lamb’s book of life”.