Saturday, February 23, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
MY FELLOW GROUND WORMS:
It is important for you to know that religion poisons everything! Imagine how beautiful life would be if only we would stop trying to treat our fellow man like he was created in the image of God, stop treating him as if the Creator endowed him with unalienable rights, stop pretending that all men stand equal before their Creator, and start treating him like a purposeless carbon based bag of water revolving around a boring dwarf star, like bits of stellar matter gone wrong, like a sick fly, like the ground worm that he is, like a tuna fish that sprouted legs…
Remember, it is religion that poisons everything! The only thing religious people do is to go around killing each other in the name of God. I ask you honestly, does any rational, logical, skeptical, atheistic, scientific minded person really think it’s necessary to believe in God if you want to go around killing people? Of course not! Don’t let those fanatics brainwash you. Stalin and Pol-Pot murdered millions and I am proud to remind you that they were fellow atheists. Anything those religious people do, we can do much, much better.
Let’s be totally honest. As an atheist I assert that Adolf Hitler’s racist notion that the Aryan race is superior to all other races is a “stupid” construct “made out of literally nothing.” By the same token, Thomas Paine’s idea that all men are created equal is also a “stupid” construct “made out of literally nothing.” There is, however, an important difference between the two…Thomas Paine did not have that silly moustache.
On second thought, since as a result of Darwinian evolution species evolve to higher and higher levels of sophistication and intelligence, it actually is quite possible that one particular race, say for example the Aryan race, through the process of natural selection actually did evolve to a superior level and some of the other races actually are inferior. In other words, just like some types of monkeys and primates are smarter than others…..oops, better not go there, that line of reasoning could really get me in trouble…
In the final analysis I really don’t know what difference it makes anyway, since I have no conclusive reason to care one way or the other. However, please keep in mind that all of us atheists, including myself, Dr. Sigmund Freud, Dr. Steven Weinberg, Dr. Will Provine, etc., assert that there is no objective purpose or value to human life, and the universe is meaningless and pointless. This of course means there is no real point in me speaking to you, or for you to listen to me for that matter…which makes me wonder…why exactly do I keep speaking anyhow?…But even more important, why do you keep listening? The main thing to remember is this: Although I haven’t the faintest idea why, all these things are necessary for morality!
It’s important for Christians to have a realistic view of miracles. Of course, atheists regard a realistic miracle as oxymoronic. A contradiction in terms.
What do I mean by “realistic” in this context? Well, I’m not defining “realistic” the way W. V. Quine would define realistic. I mean “realistic” according to a Christian worldview.
Let’s begin with some comparisons. Is Narnia realistic? Is Middle-earth realistic? Is Poictesme realistic? They aren’t realistic compared to the actual world.
These are magical worlds. Magic is real in Narnia and Middle-earth. Magic is natural in Narnia and Middle-earth.
Narnia has its own rules. Magic is realistic given the narrative viewpoint which C. S. Lewis assumes in writing his stories.
That doesn’t mean anything goes in Narnia. Sometimes a creative writer resorts to a deus ex machina. Even in the fantasy genre, that’s an artistic flaw. It’s precisely because a creative writer is free to make the rules that he shouldn’t get one of his characters into a bind that only a deus ex machina can get him out of. A creative writer should have the foresight and consistency to make everything happen according to the rules of his imaginary world. Since he’s making up all the rules which govern his imagery world, he shouldn’t put himself in the position of having to make an exception to his own rules. Rather, his rules should cover every contingency.
Let’s take another comparison. The French film Donkeyskin (Peau d’Âne) is based on a 17C fairy tale. The film has a loosely medieval setting, viz. period attire, the Château de Chambord.
In the story, Catherine Deneuve has a fairy godmother. Her fairy godmother has magical powers. That’s realistic within the fairy tale framework.
However, at the end of the film, her father and fairy godmother arrive by helicopter. That’s a deliberate anachronism, for comic effect. In the world of Donkeyskin, fairy godmothers are realistic, but helicopters are unrealistic.
Likewise, when Peter Jackson filmed the battle of Helm’s Deep, he could have introduced predator drones, cruise missiles, and stealth bombers to help the good guys defeat the bad guys, but that would be out of place in the world of Middle-earth. In Middle-earth, wizards are realistic, but stealth bombers are unrealistic. That would mix up two different worlds. That violates the rules of Middle-earth.
Take another example: although I haven’t seen it, to judge by reviews, Cowboys and Aliens is a comedy of the absurd. It trades on the incongruity of science fiction and the Wild West, the 19C and advanced alien technology.
Let’s take a different example. It’s possible to write coherent time-travel stories that avoid the grandfather paradox and other antinomies. It’s possible to write a time-travel story in which everything happens just once.
Likewise, there are scientific models of time travel (or the equivalent), like stories set in an Everett universe (i.e. multiverse) or a Gödelian universe (i.e. rotating, non-Minkowski spacetime). However, SF novelists, directors, and screenwriters are usually too lazy to attempt coherent time-travel plots. That’s an artistic flaw. Time-travel may or may not be feasible in the actual world, but if you’re going to do a time-travel plot, try to make it realistic according to the physical laws you invent for the fictitious world you put it in.
Atheists like to attack miracles by concocting intentionally preposterous scenarios like Russell’s celestial teapot. But even a supernatural worldview has rules. It’s not a free for all.
Conversely, this is why it’s fallacious for atheists to define a miracle as a violation of natural laws. A world in which miracles occur is not a lawless universe. It’s still a rule-bound world, but it has its own set of rules.
That doesn’t mean God is bound by the rules. Rather, God made the rules in the first place. He doesn’t have to break his own rules, for the rules allow him to do whatever he wants. If he wanted to do something contrary to the rules, he’d put different rules in place from the get-go. God plays by the rules because the rules reflect his intentions. The rules don’t make him do anything or inhibit divine action. God isn’t a shortsighted creative writer who has to rewrite his own rules halfway through the story to extricate himself from an unforeseen dilemma.
There are theological systems that play into the atheistic stereotype. Take the hagiographic tradition of cephalophoric saints: decapitated Christians with talking heads. That’s supernaturally possible, but it’s not realistic.
Take Christians whose sacramentology requires the body of Christ to be physically present in a wafer. Indeed, simultaneously present in multiple wafers. Or take Christians who convert the risen Christ into a Marvel Comic Book superhero.
This is justified by a promiscuous appeal to divine omnipotence. But that’s unsound.
For instance, why was the tomb empty on Easter morning? How did Jesus escape?
Well, it’s possible that God changed his corpse into a butterfly that flew out the tomb through a crack in the stone. That would also account for the burial strips he left behind. Once he turned into a butterfly, the strips collapsed.
But although that’s possible, it’s not realistic–much less orthodox.
Imagine a Christian angrily denouncing my repudiation of the lepidopteran theory. “How dare you be so sceptical about God changing Jesus into a butterfly! There’s so much we don’t know about the Resurrection. And God is omnipotent. Who are you to dictate what God can do!”
No doubt God can do many things that surpass human imagination. But that doesn’t mean every supernatural explanation is equally plausible. What God can do and what God would do are two very different things.
Because miracles really happen, we need to take seriously the kind of world in which that happens. That’s not Alice in Wonderland.
I occasionally catch the occasionally-helpful and usually-witty Worldview Everlasting show on Lutheran theology, etc, served up by one Pastor Jonathan Fisk, conservative Lutheran extraordinaire. He comes highly recommended by frequent reader Andrew.
I decided to send Pastor Fisk a question on his contact page, to see if he might address it on a future show. The upper limit was 500 characters, so I had to really slice and slice to get it under the limit, but I'm decently happy with what I was able to send:
To say "adult baptism is God’s work" is nothing less than special pleading. Why can’t I assign the label “not my work; God's work” to other things? By this principle, I could consistently be a tithing-circumcisional-abstentional-regenerationist and still profess that I hold to sola fide. Please tell me why I'm wrong. If your answer includes 1 Peter 3:21 or Romans 6, please prove that those are definitely not Holy Spirit baptism (Matt 3) but are definitely water baptism.
Various scholars and public figures proffer responses.
What about the day Jesus was crucified for his people's sins (and resurrected three days later)? For to be without Christ is to be without God's redemption. If Christ never redeemed us in any possible world, then a gazillion different historical paths taken would each ultimately lead to the same place for all people in all places at all times: without hope and without God in the world.
We should keep in mind what Jesus thought of “oral tradition”. Oscar Cullmann notes (“The Tradition”, in “The Early Church”, London, UK: SCM Press Ltd, ©1956) “Jesus rejected in a radical manner the paradosis of the Jews” (pg 60). Consider how Jesus put it:
So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
We have seen how this worked in John Wenham’s contribution in Norman Geisler, ed., “Inerrancy”, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, ©1980), when he says:
Our Lord used the Old Testament as the court of appeal in matters of controversy. Both with Pharisee and Sadducee, He did not call into question their appeal to Scripture; rather, He rebuked them for failure to study it profoundly enough. Even the seeming waste of time and effort by the Pharisees on detailed legal formulations based on their study of the Torah He commended rather than condemned. “You should have practiced the latter,” He said. Their mistake was not that they applied the law too rigorously, but that they left undone its more important matters (Matt. 23:23, pg 10).
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”
Markus Bockmuehl (“Jewish Law in Gentile Churches”: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, ©2003) takes this notion further and puts real flesh on the bones of Wenham’s outline, exploring “your tradition” and how it intersected with “the word of God” in first century Palestine:
The Mishnah [the authoritative compilation of the oral law, ~200AD] commends that a good interpreter should ‘make a fence’ for the Torah, i.e., interpret in keeping with tradition… Pharisaic halakhah, and later normative halakhah, was a way of giving increasingly definitive traditional shape to the practice of Judaism. Whether or not the pharisaic respect for oral tradition had already crystallized into a formal doctrine of oral law, Jesus’ legal disputes with the Pharisees represent a clash between different conceptions of halakhah, different ways of building that protective hermeneutical fence.
That Jesus, too, was engaged in the erection of an interpretive fence cannot be in doubt, even if his overall concern had a different focus. Several emphases of Jesus’ teaching demonstrate this quite clearly. First, and most strongly attested, is his opposition to halakhic arguments that restrict or suspend the plain meaning of the written Torah (emphasis added).
The key illustration here must be the dispute about handwashing in Mark 7:1–13 par. The argument concerns the authoritative place of Pharisaic tradition in a matter of purity not explicitly legislated in the Torah, viz. that of ritual handwashing to cleanse any acquired contamination before each meal. Jesus’ interlocutors appeal to a well-known Pharisaic principle of halakhah that is not based on the Torah (and is apparently not attested at Qumran): food is rendered unclean at second remove, by derived impurity of the hands ([non-Biblical references omitted]; nb impurity of ‘hands’ as distinct from the body). Biblical law, by contrast, recognizes only direct sources of impurity, which affect the body as a whole (e.g. Lev 11:31–35).
Jesus’ reply, as recorded somewhat differently in Mark and Matthew, consists of two parts. First, he insists on the distinction between the authority of the Torah, which he accepts, and that of the ascendant Pharisaic halakhah, which he rejects (Mark 7:8–9 with reference to Isaiah 29:13). This insistence on the halakhic primacy of Scripture over against Pharisaic tradition was also shared by the Sadducees and the sectarian Dead Sea Scrolls).
It was Jesus “making a fence for the Torah” – giving precedence to the Written Torah.
The second part of the argument in Mark 7, equally rooted in a Palestinian Jewish Sitz im Leben well before AD 70, illustrates Jesus’ charge that the Pharisees in practice assign a higher authority to their tradition than to Scripture. He does so by drawing on the familiar halakhic topic of vows (cf. also Matt 5:33–37; 23:16–22), to which the Mishnah later devotes an entire tractate and which was also of interest to the Essenes.
Bockmuehl notes that Josephus “suggests that the Essenes refuse to take vows altogether. Although vows are envisaged … the document nevertheless criticizes the conditional hedging of vows in terms reminiscent of Matt 5:34–36; 23:16–22.”
Jesus again was “giving precedence to Written Torah” in a way that was not unusual in his time.
The halakhah of Jesus’ opponents apparently did not allow them to release a person from a vow to make and offering in the Temple, even in the case where the designated resources were needed to support one’ parents. There is clearly a conflict of commandments here, between the duty to keep one’s vows (Numbers 30:2; cf Deut 23:21, 23) and that of honouring one’s parents (Exodus 20:12; Deut 5:16). The tradition of Jesus’ opponents; perhaps holding all mitzvoth to be of equally binding force [non-Biblical references omitted], had led them to a legal rigorism that made the mitigation or suspension of a lesser commandment in favour of a more important one very difficult to achieve.”
(Bockmuehl discusses “The Weightier Things of the Torah” shortly).
What is more, Jesus’ view in Mark 7 relates easily to the range of mainstream Jewish positions, as is clear from a late first-century debate recorded in the Mishnah (and previously, in Philo). There, a position not dissimilar from that of Jesus is taken by the late first-century R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (who is elsewhere reported to have been sympathetic to an apocryphal Halakhan of Jesus [non-Biblical references omitted]; the explicit Scriptural commandment to honour one’s parents can take precedence over the secondary and merely traditional rules about the cancellation of vows.
For Jesus, therefore, the ‘fence’ around the Torah is itself rigorously scriptural; in case of conflict, the Decalogue’s commandment to honour one’s parents takes precedence over the laws about vows, which are in any case voluntary. Jesus refuses to subordinate one written commandment to the oral tradition pertaining to another (a distinction recognized in [rabbinic doctrine, non-Biblical references omitted].
In the first instance, then, Torah serves as its own interpretive fence.
Thus, Jesus, in giving his teaching, was relying on sola Scriptura, the precedence of Scripture norming tradition, and emphasizing “the weightier things of the Torah”.
As I’ve related: “By standards that Beale relates, there may be more than 4,000 “allusions” or “echoes” of the Old Testament found within the New. Given that there are 7956 verses in the New Testament, more than half the New Testament can be seen as bearing at least some form of “echo of” or “allusion to” some Old Testament concept or idea.”
Jesus, in his teaching, was echoing and reinforcing Torah above all.
Thus, when Jesus, and then a New Testament writer talks of “tradition” “handed down (παρέδοσαν) to him by “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”, the “content” of that “tradition” was “oozing with Old Testament words and concepts.”
In the question of “The Tradition and the Lexicon”, the two were, in the New Testament, one and the same.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
You are operating from an unproven assumption that Jesus' resurrected body could not do things that His physical body could not do without it compromising the fact of the resurrection. I would argue that is sheer nonsense.
Christ’s resurrected body could not perish, it could not decay…
...it did not require food.
In fact, there are a number of radical differences between Christ’s physical body and His resurrected body.
Christ’s physical body walked on water. That defies the laws of gravity.
His resurrected body ascended up into the sky.
How did Phillip find himself in the desert?...Was not Phillip's experience just as mysterious? I would be willing to say that Phillip could equally be said to have vanished.
lonevoiceofreasonThis is not a response at all. This is avoiding answering the question entirely.
superdillinHoly long walk for a short cop-out, batman.The question isn't, "if you thought god were telling you to kill someone, would you do it". It's , "assuming god is absolutely real, and 100% obviously instructing you to kill someone, will you do it."
i) No it's not a trick question. There are commands to kill all over the old testament supposedly commanded by God, why should we not ask what you would do?
ii) The point for me isn't to call religion dangerous, it's to get people to think of how would they know who God is commanding to kill others.
iv) This isn't just about psychotics. People say God speaks to them in a variety of means, and what if any of those means leads to the command to kill others? Certainly there is a movement of Christians in the armed forced that believe God is commanding them to fight. They aren't schizo.
vi) I'm totally lost on what he was saying... no idea what point he was trying to make.
vii) I'm sure Abraham thought he had no reason to think God would command him to kill his son too.
You're basically just admitting you will follow what YOU think God is like as described by the bible over what an actual thing claiming to be God says.
That just changes the hypothetical to would you follow the commands of God if he proved to you he was God and the bible was incorrect and he actually wants you to kill person x.
For some people it has to do with religion. Right now, nobody is forced to serve in the military. There are groups that think they are called by God to defend American and kill the terrorists. Whether you want to say they are using their religion to justify what they want to do or not is your prerogative, but it looks the same from my perspective.
“Now, however, with Benedict set to leave office eight years later in an unprecedented departure, many on the Catholic right are counting up the ways that Benedict failed them, and wondering how their favorite watchdog turned into a papal pussycat.”
All his initiatives remain incomplete,” Michael Brendan Dougherty, a Latin Mass enthusiast, lamented at Slate the day the pope made the shocking announcement that he would resign on Feb. 28….
Benedict did not sufficiently clean house in the clergy sex abuse scandal and did not appoint enough hard-liners to the hierarchy; he did not bring the old Latin Rite schismatics fully back in the fold, a mission that will likely end with his pontificate; he was too quick to mollify Muslims or pursue ecumenical gestures; and he charted, as Dougherty put it, “a precarious middle course” theologically.
Even his three encyclicals — the most authoritative documents a pope writes — focused on social justice issues and often embraced the kind of liberal policy prescriptions that sent conservatives into conniptions….
That vaunted German managerial instinct? It seemed to have no effect, as the Vatican under Benedict became a mismanaged palace of court intrigue and financial scandals, lurching from gaffe to disaster, and all exposed to public view when the pope’s own butler leaked reams of internal papal documents.
Benedict was “as bad as a pope has been for 200 years,” Joseph Bottum wrote in a withering verdict delivered in the latest edition of The Weekly Standard. “All in all,” he said, “a terrible executive of the Vatican.”
Dr. David Snoke, a physicist from the University of Pittsburgh, is asking the question, To what degree can we [Reformed Christians] cooperate with members of the Catholic church and other churches?
After ruling out what he calls “the doctrine of ‘holy separation’”, he goes on to explore a “three-fold” view of “not only ‘churches’ and ‘false religions’, but a third category which I would call ‘churches with radically different views of authority, and consequently radically different concepts of God’s salvation’”. Into this third group he places Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Liberals, Charismatics, and some cults.
Some may disagree with my short summaries, but I think all would agree they have radically different views from the Reformed and Protestant “Scripture alone” and “by grace alone through faith alone”. But I would say that we can find foolish Christians, who are nevertheless real Christians, in each of these.
He is clear to say “I would not view it as wise to cooperate with any of these groups in an evangelistic or discipleship ministry”, and “I would not want to have any official cooperation with, say, the Catholic church or PCUSA, even in a cultural project”.
Then he posits:
But I can support the idea of a board of trustees of a non-profit which includes individuals who, in my view, have made unwise decisions to join such churches, but who themselves are scholars, mature at the personal level, confess Christ as Lord, and show the fruits of repentance toward God. I would want the freedom and level of friendship to be able to continue to try to persuade them of the failings of their churches.
But I think in some contexts that a cultural endeavor which presents the “historical, Western world view” could have great value even without a consensus on such important concepts as authority in the church and the concept of salvation.
He says, “One place where this comes up, obviously, is my own involvement with the ID (intelligent design) movement, which includes many Catholics such as Michael Behe... I am working through the issues, and would welcome feedback on pitfalls that may be faced.”
Paul Bassett takes on the Called to Communion gang, showing how past popes contradicted the “Catholic Interpretive Paradigm” (CIP) that they are advocating.
“The person becoming Catholic, by contrast, is seeking out the Church that Christ founded. He does this not by finding that group of persons who share his interpretation of Scripture. Rather, he locates in history those whom the Apostles appointed and authorized, observes what they say and do viz-a-viz the transmission of teaching and interpretive authority, traces that line of successive authorizations down through history to the present day to a living Magisterium, and then submits to what this present-day Magisterium is teaching. By finding the Magisterium, he finds something that has the divine authority to bind the conscience.”
Paul summarizes the mechanics of that quote here:
The superiority of the Roman Catholic IP consists in the claims that:
1.) it can be located in history,
2.) it has divine authorization, and
3.) it is consistent “through history”
As it turns out, history has given us a laboratory in which to test those claims:
If we were to test this IP we would look for a laboratory that contained only those items needed by the IP but was free from any contaminants not needed by it. And fortunately for us, history provides just such a laboratory – the Papal States. The Papal States was a European country entirely under the control of the Roman church and its hierarchy. It existed for 700 years until 1870 and was at its peak during the 16th century. The Vatican exercised complete and total control over every aspect of life within those borders and therefore qualifies as the perfect laboratory to test the IP.
Therefore, “the Catholic IP” must have flourished there, right? Wrong, actually:
The boys at C2C want us to believe that the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church is the only God-given instrument whereby Scriptures can be properly and authentically interpreted. And yet in a place and time where the Roman Catholic Church reigned supreme not only did they not exercise their alleged responsibility, but they used their temporal power to eliminate the Scripture to the greatest extent possible.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
The following how-to video has been making the rounds:
I'll just say I doubt most the apostles could've made it thru such a rigorous selection process!
To be fair, the RCC isn't Christ so they wouldn't be able to appoint someone as easily as the Lord appointed the apostles. I mean it's not as if the RCC can peer into the hearts and minds of men, among other things, like Jesus can.
However, I don't recall Jesus saying you had to have multiple and higher degrees, be of a certain age, etc. to become an apostle. But I guess Catholic bishops are a bit different from apostles.
Anyway, I'm a bit surprised popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests haven't seriously considered standardized testing yet. Well, just a hopefully helpful tip to Il Papa and the dons from your friendly neighborhood Protestant!
I recently watched the movie Looper. It asks (essentially) whether we'd be willling to kill baby Hitler if we were able to travel back in time.
While browsing thru some reviews and commentaries online, I noticed some secularists argue for killing baby Hitler. But it's ironic how these secularists say stuff like they'd kill baby Hitler in a heartbeat in order to prevent the Holocaust, WWII, and other great evils, whereas on the topic of killing the Canaanites they'd hardly be so sanguine. How do these same secularists know Canaanite babies weren't each ticking time-bomb baby Hitlers, so to speak?
However, other secularists argue they would not kill baby Hitler. Here's a compelling reason that's been given:
By killing Hitler then the likelihood that you would never have been born to get on the time machine in the first place would be quite high, and in my case the chances of my parents ever meeting would have been remote.
To go back in time and kill Hitler would be to wipe out all those people alive today in which the war and its consequences were consistent with the appropriate sperm meeting the appropriate egg.
A large chunk of humanity, I'd guess.
If I did so I wouldn't be here to go back in time and do it.
My parents wouldn't have met if it hadn't been for WWII.
We are all the spawn of the misfortunes of yesteryear.
Everett Ferguson, in his “Backgrounds of Early Christianity”, (Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, UK: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, © 1987, 1993, 2003), defined the Halakah this way:
The authoritative compilation of the oral law in the Mishnah was the achievement of Rabbi Judah the Patriarch (or Prince) at the end of the second century. He was the great-great grandson of Gamaliel the Elder (Paul’s teacher from Acts 22:3 and Acts 5:34) and is often cited simply as “Rabbi”…
Rabbi Judah’s compilation of the oral law in written form and with a few minor additions is the Mishnah, a topical collection of legal rulings. The word comes from a verb meaning “to repeat,” and so means “study.” The Tannaim (lit. “repeaters”) were the rabbinic scholars of the first and second centuries whose interpretations are collected in the Mishnah. More specifically, the Mishnah is a codification of the Halakah (pl. Halakoth). The verb halak means “to walk,” and halakah referred to an authoritative legal decision on how one was to conduct himself according to the law. (Note the frequency of “to walk” in the practical, ethical sections of the New Testament Epistles – e.g., Gal. 5:16; Eph 4:1, 17; 5:2; 8’, 15; Col 4:5; 1 Thess 4:1) (pg 492).
This was a first century “oral law”, not written down and codified until about the year 200. However, various snippets of it were commented on in a variety of ancient sources, from which the following derives.
Halakah and Ethics in the Jesus Tradition
Previous generations of scholars frequently approached the ethics of Jesus from a naively Christian perspective, by categorically asserting the superiority of his love command and the Sermon on the Mount to the supposed ‘legalism’ and hide-bound casuistry of his Jewish contemporaries. More recently, however, the blossoming study of ancient Judaism has enabled us, perhaps for the first time since the first century, to explore Jesus’ moral teaching meaningfully in its original setting.
All the main features of Jesus’ ethics are deeply conversant with Jewish moral presuppositions. God is one and he is supreme. Ethics is therefore inalienably theonomous rather than autonomous: both the substance and authority of right behaviour have their source in the God of Israel. ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus asks. ‘No one is good but God alone’ (Mark 10:18 par.). The commandment to love God in the Shema‘ Israel, along with the love of one’s neighbor, is for Jesus the heart of the Torah – as it was for some of his contemporaries (see Deut 6:4–5; Mark 12:29; [other non-New Testament references omitted], from Markus Bockmuehl, “Jewish Law in Gentile Churches”: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, ©2003, pg 4).
Note here, whereas Bockmuehl does not hesitate to provide a source for Jesus’s ethical teaching (“deeply conversant with Jewish moral presuppositions”), Bryan Cross introduces his concept of “agape paradigm” to support the Roman Catholic view of “infusion of agape as “the law written on the heart”.
Jesus’s ethical teaching features no such “infusion” of anything at all, much less agape. In pointing to “law written on the heart” (Jer 31:33). Paul notes the nature of this in 2 Cor 3. Scripturally, this new ethical teaching is “written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God”, “the ministry of the Spirit”, “the ministry of righteousness”.
He contrasts this with a so-called “list paradigm”, but this is what an ethical law is.
What is the content of this law? As I suggested in my last blog post in this series, the content of the New Testament is overwhelmingly taken from the Old Testament:
By standards that Beale relates, there may be more than 4,000 “allusions” or “echoes” of the Old Testament found within the New. Given that there are 7956 verses in the New Testament, more than half the New Testament can be seen as bearing at least some form of “echo of” or “allusion to” some Old Testament concept or idea.
Thus, when a New Testament writer talks of “tradition” “handed down (παρέδοσαν) to him by “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”, which in Luke 1:2 is a clear reference to the apostles, the “content” of that “tradition” was oozing with Old Testament words and concepts.
Bockmuehl concurs with this:
To this day, textbooks continue to make much of the fact that explicit use of the Torah plays only a minor role for the Gospel writers. This in itself might seem to cast doubt on Jesus’ indebtedness to Jewish moral teaching. Three points, however, must be raised in defense of our proposition.
First, many other Jewish ethical texts also make only limited explicit use of the Torah (see Niebuhr 1987; also cf. the Mishnah), and one must not extrapolate from the specialized exegetical discourse of certain sages and Dead Sea Scrolls to the whole of pre-70 Judaism, as is still so often recklessly done.
Secondly we are dealing with Gospels written in Greek for a Gentile or mixed audience outside Palestine; and that in itself will have a great deal to say about the shape in which the gospel material has been transmitted.
But thirdly and most importantly, to understand the Jewishness of Jesus’ morality it is in any case far less appropriate to theologize abstractly about what he said (or indeed did not say) about the Torah in general than to examine the verbal and practical clues as to how and why he acted as he did. In other words, it is impossible to judge the supposed ‘uniqueness’ or otherwise of Jesus’ moral teaching without an adequate assessment of his practical ethics and his halakhah. It is to this subject, therefore, that we must now turn.
I’ll look at this in another blog post, Lord willing.
A large part of this work took place during a year when Villani was holed up at the Institute in Princeton, and this is described in detail. Difficult working conditions included lack of access to good bread or cheese, a major reason Villani turned down efforts by Princeton to keep him there and returned to France, where he is now Director of the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
In recent years, James Anderson, David Reiter, and other scholars have shown interest specifically in TAG, the transcendental argument for the existence of God. This philosophically rigorous discussion overlooks the fact that in the context of van Til’s apologetic, the transcendental argument amounts to the claim that Christianity is true, and everything contrary to it false. There is no indication in van Til’s writing that he had any interest in formal transcendental argumentation apart from positive Reformed, Christian presuppositions. I think Lane Tipton is correct when he says, “van Til never viewed his transcendental method as operating outside of a trinitarian theology and a corresponding ‘revelational epistemology.’ To construe van Til’s approach as attempting to establish his theology on the basis of philosophical argumentation is simply to misunderstand his approach at a very basic level. This would be to grant a priority to philosophy that van Til’s system in principle prohibits” (Lane G. Tipton, “The Triune Personal God: Trinitarian Theology in the Thought of Cornelius van Til” [Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 2004], 170).
To put it another way, a proposition is essentially 'about' something, as AW note; propositions are essentially intentional (333-5). (This quality of intentionality or 'aboutness' serves AW as the link between propositions and personal minds.) So a proposition is essentially parasitic on whatever it is about. Apart from the thing it is about, a proposition has no referent and no meaning and thus cannot bear truth-value.6 The law of identity is an attribution, a de dicto sort of thing, of de re necessity to the state of affairs A=A, but the attribution itself—the law, the proposition—can have only de dicto necessity.In an attempt to make them more like the sorts of objects that can have necessity, AW affirm that the laws of logic exist; but this is irrelevant. Real existence, particularly mental, intentional real existence, does not change the fact that the modality of propositions, just like their truth-value, is derivative and dependent upon a state of affairs distinct from any proposition 'about' that state of affairs. Quite the contrary. Affirming the mental existence of propositions in fact emphasizes the intentional and thus derivative nature of propositions and confirms that the modality of a proposition is merely de dicto.
If there is no possible world in which the law of noncontradiction is false, it does not follow necessarily that the LNC is true in all possible worlds. For to not be false, a proposition does not have to exist; a proposition might not exist at all and still be not false. But to not fail to be true, it must exist.
According to the doctrines of divine simplicity and aseity, God's mind and thoughts are identical to his being; the only necessarily existing thing, because God did not have to create…
…is God himself; thus God does not necessarily think anything other than himself. No thought content can be imputed to God essentially, in the possible world which is only God, short of implying that the thought content is identifiable with the being of God. Neither the proposition in question, nor any of the laws of logic, are part of the essential being of God: they are not God.
Univocal mind. Univocal terms imply unitarian ontology.
AW use “mind,” “thought,” and “proposition” univocally. In their argument, all of these terms, familiar to us in the created realm, in the context of our knowledge and familiarity, are applied univocally to the mind and being of the uncreated God. When we say “a thought requires a mind,” what do we mean by mind? If no distinction appears, the use of the term suggests that there is one kind of mind; and of that kind, AW argue, there must be at least one which exists in all possible worlds, but that 'necessarily existing' mind is essentially of a kind with minds that exist in only some possible worlds.
The problem with couching possible worlds in terms of logical necessity should be obvious: it is tautologous to say that the laws of logic are true in all possible worlds, and it is pure stipulation. It clearly indicates that we have reached the explanatory limits of this explanatory category.
In other words, possible worlds delineate, by pure stipulation, the boundaries for metaphysical speculation. We who use them for that purpose endorse this surrender to the laws of logic as the most basic and non-negotiable principles of intelligibility; we agree to play by those rules because we can neither find nor imagine any less controversial ones.
The problem of a univocal notion of necessity comes to the fore in of apparent paradox. In 2 Kings 6 an axehead floats; it rises to the surface of the waters of the Jordan river.
In John 2 Jesus changes water to wine.
On a larger scale, there are the problems of freedom and election and of providence and evil. All of these are thought to be at least apparently paradoxical. And the reason for this perception, and for the tremendous efforts it evokes toward resolution, is that it is assumed that notions of logical relations and of logical necessity operate univocally; it is assumed that they apply equally to man and to God.
It is assumed that the laws of logic, as we articulate them and have come to understand them, obtain identically or are equally true in all possible worlds, even in eternity past, before creation. If, however, we confess first the unique ontological self-sufficiency of the triune creator God, and, indeed, the (moral) authority and (epistemological and soteriological) necessity of divine self-disclosure in Scripture, then we always have ready in hand the derivative, dependent, and partial nature of the laws of logic. There is no possible world in which an iron axehead floats; This one did.
This is a true or even only an apparent contradiction only if it is assumed that our logical tools exist independently of God, and apply equally to creator and creature.10
It's likely that the incentive for positing these second order thoughts in the divine mind, distinct from content rich first order thoughts, is largely the preservation of the purely formal nature of the laws of logic, which is crucial to their existing (or being true) necessarily. God must think the laws of logic because the laws of logic exist necessarily. So this much is clear: AW are theologizing by the sheer force of logical necessity alone.In an attempt to maintain pure formality and sustain the notion of necessity they've built their argument upon, AW claim that on some level distinct from his first order thoughts, God thinks exclusively about the form of his first order thoughts. That claim depends on the separability of form and content in God's first order thoughts, which is to lean on a broken reed. For second order thoughts to be purely formal, they must have as their content only the abstracted logical relations of God's first order thoughts. And if the content of first and second order thoughts is distinct, isn't the obvious implication that there are distinct first and second order divine minds?13 In that case the second order thoughts and the second order mind, rather than the first order, are more properly said to exist necessarily, as they only are purely formal.And so why not say that God essentially thinks only the laws of logic, and these give form to his other thoughts, should he have any other thoughts? What is God at this point anyway—is he not merely logic thinking itself? Or, put it this way: what now of God's first order thoughts? What are those thoughts about? What is the stuff that God subtracts from his thoughts in order to think about them qua thoughts? And if only thoughts about thoughts qua thoughts are necessary, why suppose that God has first order thoughts at all? Aren't these thoughts contingent? The notion of thoughts about thoughts as thoughts in the divine mind is incoherent.
It is also pure fiction, forced upon AW by their commitment to a univocal notion of necessity, and standing in the place where AW should have been led to consult the riches of historical theology in which one finds orthodox protestantism consistently denying that God thinks discursively, infers one thing from another, or has propositional knowledge.14
This leads to a third theological concern. According to the doctrine of divine simplicity, God's thoughts are identical to his being. Indeed, AW think this much is true of any mind: “. . . thoughts belong essentially to the minds that produce them” (336 n.31). So if we think thoughts that are essential to God's being—exactly those thoughts that God thinks about his own thoughts as thoughts—are we not participating in the divine essence? The same thoughts—univocal thoughts—belong essentially to our minds and to God's mind. Given simplicity, in other words, unless we deny that our thoughts are ever identical to God's, we flirt with pantheism or apotheosis.
Or, hoping to maintain simplicity and the ontological distinction between God and creation, we may say that the laws of logic are abstract objects existing independently of both God and man.15 In that case, perhaps God knows the laws of logic in all possible worlds because he is omniscient in all possible worlds and the laws of logic exist in all possible worlds, not because he essentially thinks the laws of logic.
Even more troubling is this question: would we be able to affirm in this case that God's Word is essentially—necessarily, in all possible worlds—self-consistent and trustworthy?
Traditionally there are three choices in terms of the meaning of theological language: equivocal, univocal, and analogical. AW implicitly reject the thesis that language and concepts are equivocal and say nothing intelligible about God. For readers of this journal, this is uncontroversial. Enjoying equally broad consensus in the history of Christian theology is a rejection of univocism: when we say “God is good” and “John is good,” it is clear that the predicates are not identical.16 Orthodox protestant thought takes theological language analogically and grounded in verbal divine self-revelation.
On the basis of the voluntary self-revelation of God, we have true knowledge, and yet, since God is incomprehensible to the creature, our knowledge is never exhaustive. Add to this the metaphysics of the Creator-creature relationship: the creation is a contingent image of the Creator. All things are from him, to him, and through him (Rom 11:36, indicating aseity); and everything that was created was created by and through the Word (Col 1:6, John 1:3, indicating the triune economy of the act of creation). So we understand our theological knowledge and categories as applying to God truly but incompletely, imitatively and derivatively. So our concepts are analogical. Not only the nature of the relation as analogical, but the order figures in as well: God is the original or the archetype, and we—and our knowledge—are the analogue, or the ectype. As in any analogy, there is an original and there is an analogue, and the order is irreversible—in the Creator-creature analogy more than in any other. God is the original; we and the created order are derivative. In sum, the irreducible ontological distinction between Creator and creature, and precisely this archtypal-ectypcal or original-analogue order, give us revelationally grounded, analogical theological predication. We have true knowledge, so we reject equivocism; but because of the 'ontological distance' between the Creator and the creature, our knowledge is ever partial; so we reject univocism.
So in Christian thought, triunity is more basic than either threeness or oneness…
Something similar to this argument can be found in James N. Anderson and Greg Welty, “The Lord of Non-Contradiction: An Argument for God from Logic,” Philosophia Christi 13:2 (2011): 321–338. But it appears to me that this article does not take into account the presence of analogy and the Creator-creature distinction in logical reasoning about God (see chapter 24 below).
If any concrete piece of reasoning is, by theological definition, an imperfect creaturely representation of uncreated logic.
Can we have one term, father, that applies both to God and to human creatures who are biological fathers? Clearly we can. But God’s fatherhood and human fatherhood are not on the same level. So the relation between the two is one of analogy rather than strict identity.