Saturday, April 13, 2013

Inter-racial marriage and same-sex marriage

William Lane Craig on "Inter-Racial Marriage and Same Sex Marriage".

Yahweh Does Not Play Word Games

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/345483/dehumanizing-word-games-gosnell-andrew-c-mccarthy

the baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby’s arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall.
The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby went completely limp. . . . He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used.

And the Lord said by his servants the prophets, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. (2 Kings 21:10-12)

Speaking hope to the world

HT: Tim Challies.

The Bad Fruit Of Neglecting Apologetics And Other Intellectual Matters

I agree with William Lane Craig's comments in his April 2013 newsletter (I'm quoting the email edition I received):

One overwhelming impression of these engagements is the way in which the intellectual defense of Christian faith attracts men. Both at Texas A&M and again at Miami every single student who got up to ask a question was a guy! I wondered if the girls are just shy. But then I remembered a lengthy clip Jan and I watched of cast members of Downton Abbey doing a Q&A with an audience in New York. Almost every person who came to the microphone at that event was a woman! It wasn’t until late into the evening that a man finally asked a question, which was remarked by all the cast members. Why the difference between that session and the ones I experienced?—simply because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is more appealing to men.

Churches have difficulty attracting men, and the church is becoming increasingly feminized. I believe that apologetics is a key to attracting large numbers of men (as well as women) to church and to Christ.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The papacy’s murky origins

The Wall Street Journal has a “Saturday Essay” entitled “How the Pope was Picked”.

I left a comment -- my comment is #6, linked here.

I said this:

My hope is that he will have the courage to relate research about the papacy’s murky origins. At a very recent ecumenical discussion, the Roman Catholic New Testament Scholar John Meier said “A papacy that cannot give a credible historical account of its own origins can hardly hope to be a catalyst for unity among divided Christians.” Catholic Archbishop Roland Minnerath said “At the heart of the estrangement that progressively arose between East and West, there may be a historical misunderstanding. The East never shared the Petrine theology as elaborated in the West.” And the Lutheran scholar John Reumann said “historically a gap occurs at the point where it has been claimed “the apostles were careful to appoint successors.” All of this is related in “How Can the Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Unity of the Universal Church?” James F. Puglisi, Editor, Grand Rapids, MI and Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, ©2010. It’s time for the Catholic Church to own up to this publicly.

RINO Rubio

"Secure the border FIRST, then we will talk."

This should be the conviction of Republicans including Rubio.

However, Republicans are so eager to create 11 million Democrats overnight with their immigration bill, the bill that Democrats are laughing about behind closed doors.

Enter the permanent Democratic majority:

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/marco-rubio-immigration-bill-89979.html?hp=t1

P.S. There is the myth that these illegal immigrants want citizenship. The vast majority do not. They want the benefits of citizenship, but not the citizenship itself.



Ed Dingess: Troll

This post is a bit ironic since I'm calling attention to Ed Dingess rather than ignoring him! Also, I've failed at ignoring him many times in the past, against my better judgment, and to my considerable detriment.

So I hope this post serves as a word of warning to others. Don't make the same mistake I did! Please be aware of Ed Dingess. Or at the very least take great caution when attempting to engage him in dialogue or debate.

Of course, if you're not aware of Dingess, that's fortunate!

However, if you'd like to be aware of Dingess, you could start by checking out this comment from RWH.

I'll turn off comments for this post for hopefully pretty obvious reasons.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ancient Non-Christian Sources On Gospel Authorship

Something I wrote in a recent Stand To Reason thread:

It should be noted that many ancient non-Christian sources corroborated the traditional authorship attributions of the gospels (Marcion, Celsus, Porphyry, Julian the Apostate, etc.). Those today who reject the authorship attributions aren’t just disagreeing with the ancient Christians, but also with the ancient Jewish and pagan opponents of the religion. We find ancient non-Christian sources disputing the authorship of Old Testament books, such as the Pentateuch and Daniel, as well as some of the New Testament in a minority of cases, and the ancient Christians sometimes disputed the authorship claims among themselves (whether Peter wrote 2 Peter, whether John wrote Revelation, etc.). Thus, it can't be argued that they were just uncritically accepting whatever authorship claims were made or never thought of the possibility that the attributions were wrong. They knew that the attributions could be wrong, and they sometimes disputed them, yet we see widespread acceptance of the traditional authorship attributions of the gospels among both ancient Christians and non-Christians.

For some examples of the evidence from these non-Christian sources, see my series linked within the post here and John Cook's The Interpretation Of The New Testament In Greco-Roman Paganism (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), e.g., 140, 184, 198, 203, 235, 263, 289, 297, 301, 303-304.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Perfect Storm for America's Death

"Barack Obama, as did Mussolini, Lenin, Mao and Hitler before him, has the ability to visibly remain above the fray, appear as the champion of the people and manipulate the emotions of an ill-educated populace.  In the case of Obama he has the further benefit of being able to exploit the racial guilt embedded in the American society."

www.americanthinker.com/2013/04/why_the_united_states_is_a_dying_country.html

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Christian Scientific Society

http://www.christianscientific.org/css-first-annual-meeting-pittsburgh/
Plenary Session
A friendly debate on Intelligent Design.
Prof. Martin Poenie, Department of Molecular Cell and Developmental Biology, Univ. of Texas at Austin
Prof. Jed Macosko, Department of Physics, Wake Forest University

Special Talk
Can Darwin-Doubting Scientists Experience Academic Freedom?
Casey Luskin, Discovery Institute (California Bar, active member)

Annual Meeting Format
The Annual Meeting is open and free of charge to all associate and full members of the society; there is no additional registration charge. Registration must be done in advance to ensure space. To register, send email to info@christianscientific.org.
http://www.christianscientific.org/

A Devastating Critique Of James Randi

Michael Prescott has a good post on a new book by Will Storr. The book is partly about parapsychology, and it includes interviews of Rupert Sheldrake and James Randi. Here's a quote from Sheldrake, taken from the interview:

“Randi is a liar,” says Sheldrake. “He's a man of very doubtful character indeed – a rude, aggressive, dogmatic Skeptic who knows nothing about science. He's taken seriously by people like Dawkins – they worship him – because they see themselves as engaged in a war against unreason and religion. And if you're in a war, you want to have thugs on your side.”

Read what Prescott goes on to quote regarding Randi's inconsistencies and lies, as well as an exchange Storr had with Randi during an interview. Read the whole thing. There's a lot of valuable material.

No enemies on the left

"Why Doesn't Communism Have as Bad a Name as Nazism?"

On Ed Dingess and covering for apathy

Dr Ed Dingess has replied to our rebuttal of his original critique of our position. Let's analyse together his reply.

(FYI: It appears that he only remembered he was talking to AHA and not Triablogue halfway through the composition of his article.)

Dr Dingess begins with his opinion "that abortion is murder and should never be considered a viable option to manage an unwanted pregnancy". Good, we can agree on that. One of the themes that we will see emerge in our analysis will be: What is the Christian to do about the fact that we agree that abortion is murder, and that abortion is widespread and has happened 55+ million times in 45 years?
Is God pleased with empty words, or convictions held forth and confirmed in action?

Dr Dingess helpfully gives us the entire premise of his argument, namely:
The entire premise of my argument is really quite simple: it is not the place of the Church to abolition (sic) human abortion in our society. The Church, believe it or not, has a higher calling. She is charged with preaching the gospel, baptizing those whom God converts, and turning those converts into disciples.

We appreciate Dr Dingess' clarity of expression here, but we disagree significantly for the reasons stated in our previous article. Dr Dingess apparently holds that discipleship of believers, teaching them to obey ALL that Christ commanded, is not accomplished in the context of performing good works of love, protection, assistance, agitation, etc. Not to put words in Dr Dingess' mouth, but if training in good works aren't included in discipleship, would be propose restricting such discipleship to the consumption of theological treatises and Bible studies?

Yet what does the Scripture say about that?
Titus 2:14 - who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Ephesians 2:8-10 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

James 1:27 - Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

And, with tongue half-in-cheek:
Ecclesiastes 2:12 - But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.
(Abolitionists love books; don't get us wrong.)


She extols Christ’s values before the world community.

Not by hanging out behind her walls. Nor by restricting herself to preaching the Gospel. We are commanded by the Lord Jesus and the rest of the Scripture to do ALL that He commanded, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Dr Dingess seems to be operating under the mistaken belief that preaching the Gospel and zeal for good works are mutually exclusive. They are not. Abolitionists' daily work is living proof thereof. Come to think of it, so was Jesus' own earthly ministry.
Matthew 4:23 - Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.



the Church is not an institution that should focus her time and attention on social transformation or political reform.

Dr Dingess' mistake here is to play with words, such that "love of neighbor" is arbitrarily transmogrified into "social transformation or political reform". Loving one's neighbor is not primarily either of those things.
If, however, the society and the current political zeitgeist entirely accepts the systematic murder of preborn (or Jews, or "Negroes", or the elderly, or disabled), then we are against the world, for the world. If our task of loving neighbor brings us into conflict with the world system, is that not the example of the Lord Jesus and His apostles?
Is Dr Dingess attempting to insulate himself behind a cloak of piety and religious language from the needs of his preborn neighbors? There is no way to know, but this would certainly be a convenient excuse for inaction.
And that's a problem, for the lazy and unregenerate false brother could easily grab onto this type of argument to ward off conviction of sin. It's actually dangerous for everyone's soul. It is one step away from antinomianism and covers for the false convert, which is bad both for the false convert and the church of which he may be a member.


It is likely that if we in the Church did a better job turning converts into disciples, we would have fewer John Wayne Christians running around rebuking pastors and elders for not getting on board with their personal agendas and pet projects.

This is no doubt true, though if Dr Dingess is implying that abolition is a "personal agenda", which is unclear, he needs to argue against what we have contended already.
We would also no doubt have fewer elders and pastors (and members) who waste time and resources doing things the Lord has not commanded while neglecting the weightier matters of the law of God.


POINT ONE

The author fails to recognize that a necessary connection between the church and AHA would equate to a divine imperative to adopt the views and practices of AHA.

Rather, Dr Dingess has confused abolition, the ideology and the God-ordained responsibility of His people, with naming the name of "abolitionist" or "Abolish Human Abortion". We don't care a whit if anyone ever uses our symbol, calls himself an abolitionist, or ever talks to us.
Philippians 1:15-18 - Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Not that abolition is identical to preaching Christ (rather, it is simultaneous and alongside). Abolition is commanded by God, and "go forth and make disciples" is commanded by God. Both are law. What we mean is that we want people to obey Jesus, not be part of a clique.
It is certainly true that "AHA is not a necessary part of the Church of Jesus Christ." Abolition is, though.


The Church can legitimately exist as the Church without complying with and adhering to the views and practices of AHA.

This is one of the central points in this dispute.
Dr Dingess capitalised "Church", which leads us to believe that he refers to the invisible church, the universal group of people who belong to Jesus, who have been born again, and redeemed. There are no unbelievers in the invisible church.
Each visible local church will probably contain both unregenerate people as well as members of the invisible church.

But the problem here is identifying who is in The Church and who is not.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

There are false converts out there. They do not love the law of God, nor the Gospel. They merely pretend, yet they can be part of a given local visible church.
If someone does not love one's neighbor, is his faith not dead, a mere shadow of what it ought to be, and false?
James 2:14-17 - What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

This is nothing new. No one should be assured that he will find himself admitted into Heaven at the end of his life if he refuses to help love his neighbor who is in need when asked to, when reproved for his inaction, for his immunity to reproof and instruction in the Scripture displays a heart of unbelief.
Who is in need more than the preborn child, of whom 55 million have been murdered in this country alone? We asked Dr Dingess that question last time, but we don't see an answer so far.


That insistence, which shows up throughout the website is without merit. In short this method of reasoning is related to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Dr Dingess is a bit confused here. One can't help but wonder if he wanted to adorn his poor argument here with some Latin dressing.


There are a variety of ways to oppose abortion and to love unborn children.

Dr Dingess is too ignorant of AHA to know that we have been saying that from the very beginning.


It illegitimately applies the command to love one’s neighbor to the unborn and it also equivocates on what it means to love.

This statement literally caused us to laugh out loud the first time we saw it.
So, Dr Dingess really thinks that saving preborn children from murder "equivocates on what it means to love"? Perhaps Dr Dingess would prefer a 21-gun salute to show posthumous tribute to the dead? Yet what good would that do anyone?
Would Dr Dingess really argue that the preborn are not our neighbors? Yet he thinks abortion is murder. He can't hold to both; he must choose.


This argument involves argumentum ad verecundiam, or an appeal to inappropriate authority.

More Latin dressing. Simply read back and see whether we appealed to Wilberforce or Garrison as authorities. Rather, we reminded the reader of their lives' work as examples of which we ought to be thankful.


It also begs the question on the issue of slavery assuming biblical condemnation of the practice without showing any concern for the need to prove that thesis.

So Dr Dingess believes that antebellum American slavery may have been justified.


Where is the exegetical support that teaches us that all slavery is a sin?

Two responses:
1) We don't need to show that all slavery is a sin. We'd just need to show that antebellum American slavery was, for our point to stand.
2) Even if slavery weren't a sin, it is far from the ideal. We can be thankful for these men's work even if they merely spent their lives trying to move our society from the acceptable to the better.


Otherwise, those who issue the mandates are guilty of asserting “thus says the Lord God,” when the Lord God has not said!

The Lord God has most certainly said that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.


POINT ONE (C) - THE CHURCH

The attitude in the author’s argument demonstrates a seriously defective ecclesiology.

To paraphrase Dr Dingess here: I am also requesting exegetical proofs that such a contention is true. I do not approve of defective ecclesiology. But that is not the point. My reasons for disapproval are apparently far from those of Dr Dingess. If anyone will lay mandates on the Church, I am well with my rights to demand that all such mandates be shown to be the product of sound exegetical practice. Otherwise, those who issue the mandates are guilty of asserting “thus says the Lord God,” when the Lord God has not said! And this, indeed, is a most serious issue, far more than many in the modern American watered-down Christianity realize.


Christ authorizes ministry through His Church and only through His Church.

See here and here, please.


In addition, these cowboy Christians as they are so prone to do, due to their personality, will often turn around and make demands of the Church and her pastors and elders, accusing them of apathy, being misguided, not caring, in need of revival, etc.

Is the accusation the problem? Or is Dr Dingess pre-emptively saying that it is not true, by and large?


the men who are supposed to be their leaders will often find themselves the target of criticism

Are church leaders above criticism?


much of it from a distinctly uneducated vantage point

Is not Dr Dingess expressing his prejudice rather than examining us as in specific?
These are great warnings to heed. Sure, let's avoid these practices. But where is Dr Dingess' evidence that such is true of AHA?


All leaders and ministries must come under the authority and guidance of God’s ordained leaders, under the Church.

Where is Dr Dingess' Scriptural evidence that this is true?


POINT TWO

if AHA is a ministry of God, then darkness has no place in it. And if AHA permits the ungodly and the deceived to partake of Christian ministry, that is a entirely different problem deserving more serious attention.

If Dr Dingess' local church is a ministry of God, then darkness has no place in it. And if his local church permits the ungodly and the deceived to partake of Christian ministry, that is a entirely different problem deserving more serious attention.

Of course, we agree. Yet no one is omniscient. God brings such things to light in the times He chooses. Sometimes false brethren hang out for a long time among the true brethren. May the Lord be merciful to all gatherings of His people to correctly distinguish!


In addition, there is the question of females preaching at abortion clinics as well.

We admit to disagreeing that the outside of an abortion clinic is actually a church.


This is precisely why submission and supervision by pastors and elders is indispensable.

Because pastors and elders would tell us that the outside of an abortion clinic is a church and therefore our women should be silent there?
What room does Dr Dingess' position have for the obvious, that pastors and elders are themselves fallible men and sometimes get things wrong, that we are to test everything in light of Scripture, and that authority is no replacement for truth?


POINT THREE

if you don’t do it our way you don’t care, or more subtly, you don’t care like we do if you are doing it differently than we are. We are setting the standards!

We are glad to report that Dr Dingess has misread us. The problem is not that some people prefer to staff a Crisis Pregnancy Center when they could otherwise spend that time preaching outside abortuaries.
The problem is that far too many don't actually do anything.


When you add to this equation the fact that we cannot find a local body of elders and pastors who are actually the spiritual supervisors and leaders of this coalition

If you think about it, it would be strange to insist that a member of the Abolitionist Society of Memphis be subject in some way to elders he doesn't know at a church he's never visited. Each abolitionist is to be subject to his/her own elders, because abolitionists are to be Christians, and Christians are to follow what the Scripture commands.


Who authorized these men to engage in the kind of correction and rebuke of the Church they put forth?

Jesus.
(By the way, what rebuke of the Church is he talking about?)


Can anyone who wants to just decide that “THIS ISSUE” is the most important issue and then proceed to claim it is God’s work

We don't have to "just decide" it. It's not based on our claim. It's what the Word of God clearly says.


If AHA is correct, and you must do as they do and think as they think in order to obey the second commandment

Strawman.


And we also confess there is more than one way to oppose abortion and demonstrate we care about this very important issue.

Yes, we all agree about this.
However, how does this match what Dr Dingess has said above, about how "the Church is not an institution that should focus her time and attention on social transformation or political reform"?
He can't have it both ways. But he has multiplied confusion for his readers by not taking the time to figure out what we are actually saying.


it is highly inappropriate for AHA to assert that it is a divine command and to use pressure and manipulation to intimidate others to get on board or else.

This sort of hyperbolic panic language is actually sort of humorous.
"Pressure and manipulation"? Like what? Does Dr Dingess have some sort of evidence that we have engaged in blackmail or threats to enforce compliance with abolition?
"Intimidate"? By making rational arguments (both written and spoken) and posters that speak persuasively to both the mind and heart?
"Or else"? Again, whom have we threatened? What is Dr Dingess even talking about?


CONCLUSION

Why is it that every time an evil grabs our attention, the first thing some men do is indict the Church?

As it happens, if Dr Dingess had checked, for example, the archives of our blog from the beginning, he'd see that's not what we started with at all.


Why is it the Church's fault that women are killing their babies?

This question is poorly phrased. Rather, we should be asking (and do ask): What does Christianity look like in a culture that murders its children?
Shall we obey Jesus or not?
One of the problems (far from the only problem) we are pointing out is that far too many in the visible church actually do nothing.


Did not Christ warn us that the world would get worse, that wickedness would grow worse, and that the world would hate us?

We asked Dr Dingess this before, and he did not reply, so we ask again: Shall we then do nothing in the face of evil?
No, rather, the Lord has commanded us to work to effect abolition. If He chooses to use us to accomplish it, glory be to His name, for He is worthy.
If He chooses to use us up in that way and yet we fail in the attempt, glory be to His name, for He is worthy.

This we know: The Lord has redeemed us. We can do no less.

In Defense of Christian Activism

http://www.frame-poythress.org/in-defense-of-christian-activism-vs-michael-horton-and-meredith-kline/

Uncharted waters

The use of birds which could be released for determining the presence and direction of land (Gen 8:6-12) is not a folkloristic invention, but reflects actual navigational practice…A cage full of homing pigeons is not a bad method of direction finding.

C. Gordon, Before Columbus (Crown Publishers 1971), 77.

James Hornell [“The Role of Birds in Ancient Navigation”] shows that several ancient peoples used birds for the purpose of finding out whether there was land within a navigable distance, and in what direction. Hornell adduces references to the practice of carrying aboard several “shore-sighting birds” among the ancient Hindu merchants when sailing on overseas voyages contained in the Hindu Sutta Pitaka (5C BC), according to which these birds were “used to locate the nearest land when the ship’s position was doubtful.” The same practice is mentioned in the Buddhist Kevaddha Sutta of Digha, written about the same period.

R. Patai, The Children of Noah: Jewish Seafaring in Ancient Times (Princeton 1998), 10-11.


Birds in ancient navigation

6 At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7 and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth (Gen 8:6-7).

In traversing their seas, the people of Taprobane [Ceylon] take no observations of the stars, and indeed the Greater Bear is not visible to them; but they carry birds out to sea, which they let go from time to time, and so follow their course as they make for the land.

Pliny, Natural History, 6.24.

One of the first Norwegian sailors to hazard the voyage to Iceland was a man known as Raven-Floki for his habit of keeping ravens aboard his vessel. When he thought he was nearing land, Raven-Floki released the ravens, which he had deliberately starved. Often as not, they flew "as the crow flies" directly toward land, which Raven-Floki would reach simply by following their lead.

Coptic Christians under siege as mob attacks Cairo cathedral

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/coptic-christians-under-siege-as-mob-attacks-cairo-cathedral-8563600.html

Hundreds of Christians were under siege inside Cairo’s Coptic cathedral [Sunday] night as security forces and local residents, some armed with handguns, launched a prolonged and unprecedented attack on the seat of Egypt’s ancient Church.

At least one person was killed and at least 84 injured as Christians inside the walled St Mark’s cathedral compound came under a frenzied assault from their assailants in the main road outside.

The fighting erupted after a mass funeral for five Copts who were killed during violent clashes in a north Egyptian town on Saturday. A Muslim man also died in the clashes, which happened after an Islamic institute was daubed with offensive graffiti.

Following yesterday’s service thousands of Christians poured out on to the street and began chanting slogans against Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian President and long-time member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Late last night President Morsi issued a statement in which he said he had spoken to Pope Tawadros II, the leader of the Coptic church, and had given orders for the cathedral and citizens to be guarded. He said protecting the lives of Muslims and Christians was a state responsibility and added: “I consider any attack on the cathedral as an attack on me, personally.”

The man killed in the clashes outside the cathedral was named by the state news agency, MENA, as Mahrous Hana Tadros, a Christian name. MENA said 11 of the 84 injured were police officers.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Peter Escalante puts his finger on the root of the “Two Kingdoms” debates

From Peter Escalante at “The Calvinist International”:

John Calvin, of course, said that reason and natural law themselves both point to the architectonic necessity of civil theology, ...

But more is involved here than reason and revelation. For [Roman Catholic writers], the papalist distinction between nature and supernature, and it is important to understand this lest we simply assume that evangelicals and papalists are really talking about quite the same things in these discussions.

Thus a brief reflection on the end of man is in order, since the end of man is the central affair of politics. Both [Roman Catholic writers he is referring to -- see the original articles at the link above] assert the papalist doctrine of the two ends of man, though neither really deal with the controversy about this doctrine among papalist doctors, let alone between those and the evangelical doctors. But in short the idea is that man has a temporal end – roughly what Aristotle calls happiness – and also a “supernatural” end, which is the beatific vision, in which the original nature will be aufgehoben [repealed].

The beatific vision is St Paul’s “face to face,” the final and perfect communion of man with God. Christians have always wondered what exactly the relation of this world, not simply as fallen, but even in original integrity, is to that final status promised by the Scriptures, and the controversy about that relation long predates the great reformation of religion five hundred years ago. And it continues to this day. Although it has become something of an Arcanum, it is the crucial center of the question of what it is for Christians to live in the world.

Attentive readers will see in [the Roman Catholic’s] reply not only the idea of the two ends of man, but also the idea of the donum superadditum.

"Watchblogs"


 

 
Among the realities of this digital world is a whole class of web sites known as discernment blogs or watchblogs...They are the playground bullies of the Internet, shaking their fists and demanding your lunch money.


I deeply resent that. Does Challies think watchbloggers like me are such cheapskates that we’d settle for lunch money? I’m not some smalltime crook. I’m an Ocean’s 11 watchblogger!

 Ocean'sEleven(1960)Poster.jpeg

On a serious note, I don’t think Tblog has ever said anything negative about Challies, so I doubt we’re one of the “watchblogs” he’s alluding to.

Also, I believe he’s alluding to the SGM/Mahaney scandal. That raises serious issues of institutional transparency and institutional accountability. I think some “watchbloggers” went after Challies because they thought he was sweeping that under the rug. I haven’t followed the controversy, myself.

The other thing is a national divide in terms of cultural tone: kinda like Masterpiece Theatre meets High Plains Drifter.

Vikings

I’ve been watching the Vikings TV series. My forebears are Vikings on my father’s side, which we can trace back to 10C Normandy (named after the Norsemen).

The show is filmed in Ireland, with magnificent scenery. The story is ostensibly set in the 9C. Apparently, the show is roughly faithful to Nordic legends, which isn’t the same thing as historical accuracy. 

Unlike the Merlin TV series, Vikings does acknowledge the existence of medieval Christianity. Indeed, the tension between Nordic paganism and medieval Christianity is one of the show’s dramatic pivots.

Except for Athelstan, the monkish war captive, none of the other characters is admirable. All of the men are murderous looters. And the women (e.g. Siggy, Lagertha) are just as bad as the men. Ragnar’s young son (Bjorn) has a certain boyish likeability, but he will grow up to be a killer like his dad.

Normally, Earl Haraldson would be the villain. Normally the audience would be rooting for Ragnar to slay Haraldson. Problem is, all of them are villains.

Normally, heroes play off villains, and vice versa. Yet Ragnar is hardly a sympathetic character. He isn’t treacherous the way Haraldson is, but he’s still a rapacious butcher.

Theoretically, the show has great potential if the monk evangelized the pagans. But I doubt the screenwriters will take the story in that direction. That would be too Christian.

When the Vikings plunder the monastery at Lindesfarne, they naturally seize the silver and gold, but what the monks value is not the silver and gold, but the Bible manuscripts. As Athelstan says, “Without the word of God, all is darkness!” And Athelstan smuggles a codex of Scripture to have with him.

Fimmel doesn’t strike me as a natural actor. He tries too hard. You can see the gears moving. Thinks too much about acting.

I liked him better in The Beast, although he was a little off in that role, too. He reminds me of James Dean in Giant, who gave a memorable, but studied performance.

Gabriel Burne is a fine actor. I liked him in Stigmata. Dumb film, but a strong performance. Burne has real stage presence. He originally studied for the priesthood.

Unfortunately, he plays a very grim character in this drama, so it’s a limited part. By killing Haraldson in the latest episode, they kill off the best actor in the series.

There’s a good child actor who plays Ragnar’s son. And the show has some beautiful women!

Athelstan is too soft and pretty to be a realistic medieval monk. I assume you had to be a tough, hardy physical specimen to survive to adulthood in the middle ages–not a fashion model.

They also make the monk very self-conscious about explaining and defending Biblical stories in contrast to Nordic mythology and folklore. That strikes me as a very modern, pluralistic touch. I’m sure medieval missionaries weren’t bashful about touting the superiority of the Christian faith.

I wonder if monasteries were really that defenseless. Did they just trust in the goodwill or superstitious reverence of the neighbors?

There’s an unintentionally comical scene in the latest episode where king Aelle (of Northumbria) tosses his timid general into a snakepit. To my knowledge, there are no venomous snakes in Northern England. Indeed, I believe venomous snake typically reside in the sunbelt. Moreover, you don’t need to know much about snakes to see that these are boa constrictors. 

Last words

What is your only comfort in life and in death?


That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

(The Heidelberg Catechism)

Roger Ebert’s mother on her deathbed:


I never told my mother I wouldn't become a priest, but she got the idea. Even after starting work in Chicago, I never found the nerve, when we were visiting each other, to not attend Sunday Mass with her. She knew well enough those were the only times I went to church. What I was doing, I suppose, was going through the motions to respect a tradition that was more important to her than to me. She believed in the faith until the hour of her death. In her final days, she lapsed into a comatose state. She didn't respond to questions, and her eyes remained closed. Under her breath, barely audible, she repeated the "Hail, Mary" over and over. She was buried from St. Patrick's Church, and I tipped the altar boys.


John Murray’s father on his deathbed:


I have to give you the sad news that my father passed away last Wednesday. The news of his passing brings a peculiar feeling of sorrow, but I am also filled with a deep feeling of gratitude and joy. He was a dear and eminently worthy father, so faithful, so loving. It is an inexpressible privilege to believe that he is now with the Lord and Savior whom he loved and served for so long. Every indication points in the direction that the work of saving grace was wrought in him at a very early age and with unimpeachable integrity and perseverance he witnessed to the Lord to the ripe age of 90. His interest was lively and his faculties unimpaired, until, just a few weeks ago, his interest in things of this world seemed largely to disappear. In the last letter I had from my sister she told me that for the two days preceding, he was in the 51st psalm and repeated it again and again from the beginning to the end in Gaelic, his mother tongue, of course.

Collected Writings of John Murray, 3:82.

"Suicide, Mental Illness, Depression, and the Church"

Here is a post from Justin Taylor that might be helpful to some people.

Christians and education

Prof. John Frame writes on the topic of Christians and education.

I don't know if I necessarily agree with everything in the paper. Actually, much more likely I'm not competent enough to say one way or the other. At any rate, as is the case with practically everything he writes about, Prof. Frame offers a ton of helpful insight to sharpen one's thinking.

Among other things, the article includes discussion about the role of the state in the education of children. I think this is especially relevant in our political and sociocultural climate, particularly given the debate over same-sex marriage, as it's quite possible a case for homosexual adoption or otherwise gay parents having and raising their own children will come hand-in-hand with or follow from the debate over same-sex marriage.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Homosexual parasitism

I’d like to make a small but significant point about the relationship between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Homosexuality is parasitic on heterosexuality. Every homosexual is the product of a heterosexual union–no heterosexual was ever the product of a homosexual union. So these are fundamentally asymmetrical.

And even if we qualify that by reference to modern reproductive technologies, these are also parasitic on heterosexuality.

A glossary of marital perversions

The current debate over homosexual marriage invites analogies. For purposes of comparison and contrast, let’s put these options on the table, with precise terminology.

Keep in mind that not all of these are mutually exclusive. It’s possible to combine some of these:

1. Open marriage

Where one or both spouses agree to let the other have sexual partners outside the marriage.

2. Homosexual marriage

Marriage between (at least) two lesbians or sodomites.

3. Incestuous marriage

“Incest” is an umbrella term.

Technical

“Incest” can be purely technical. For instance, you could have a blended family with two sets of kids from different marriages. Legally they are siblings, yet they are really in-laws rather than blood relatives.

Likewise, different cultures have different prohibited degrees of affinity. In some cultures, marriage between cousins is incestuous whereas that’s morally licit in other cultures. Some cultures favor endogamy.

In analogy with homosexual marriage, I think the type of incest in view would be parental incest, whether parent/underage child or parent/grown child.

Sibling

A sexual relationship between a biological brother and biological sister.

Adult

Consensual sexual relations between adult family members (e.g. father/daughter, mother/son, uncle/niece, or adult siblings).

Parental

Sexual relations between a biological parent and biological child, whether minors or adults.

Homosexual

Sexual relations between family members of the same sex.

When Christians compare homosexual marriage to incestuous marriage,  that’s probably shorthand for something more specific, like parental incest.

4. Polygamous marriage

Marriage between three or more parties.

5. Bestial marriage

Marriage between humans and animals.

6. Pederastic marriage

Marriage between an adult and a child or minor of the same sex.

7. Pedophilic marriage

Marriage between an adult and child or minor of either sex.

************************************************

Proponents of sodomite marriage typically resent these comparisons. So I’m going to say a bit more:

i) Proponents of sodomite marriage become oddly Victorian or prudish when opponents compare sodomite marriage to incest, polygamy, pedophilia, or bestiality. But when did proponents of sodomite marriage suddenly develop these sexual hang-ups? Why are they entitled to find these alternative marital arrangements morally invidious when Christians are not entitled to find sodomite marriage morally invidious?

Fact is, once you accept sodomite marriage, then there are no rules. We can define and redefine the rules at will. The rules are whatever we say they are, from one day to the next. It’s just a social convention.

ii) This isn’t just hypothetical. Muslims practice polygamy, child marriage, and–in the case of the Pashtun–pederasty. In the current political climate, it’s very easy to see how Muslims in America would demand legal accommodations on all three fronts, in the name of multiculturalism. Muslims already wield great political clout in Michigan.

In addition, the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations have been softening their historic opposition to pedophilia.

iii) What about bestiality? Some American Indian tribes reportedly practiced bestiality. So you could imagine American Indians demanding a legal accommodation, just like they did with Peyote.

Likewise, OT prohibitions against bestiality presume its occurrence among pagans. Well, what about neopagans?

In addition, millions of Americans like their pet animals better than human beings.

So what really stands in the way of bestial marriage, once sodomite marriage punches through? 

Coping with suicide

As most of you have heard by now, Rick Warren’s youngest son committed suicide. I’ll just make one observation.

I assume there are parents of kids who committed suicide who torment themselves with the question, “If only we could have gotten him (her) the help he needed.”

Due to his personal wealth and megachurch position, Warren had resources for treating his son that most Christian parents can only dream of. I’m sure his son had the best professional treatment that money could buy. But it wasn’t enough.

In a fallen world, the things we care the most about are the things we have the least control over. God is our only hope, in this life and the life to come.

Conjugal fisting

Sodomite marriage has been called “the defining civil rights issue of our time.” Oddly enough, proponents don’t seem to be in a hurry to define the defining right.

They make it sound like sodomite marriage is a great idealistic cause. But what, exactly, are they defending the right of homosexuals to do to each other in a state of matrimony? 

If you have friends who defend sodomite marriage, and challenge you on your opposition to sodomite marriage, this is what they’re actually defending. This is the great civil rights cause of our time.

I’m taking the defintions verbatim from NHS safe-sex guidelines for lesbians and sodomites.

1. The right to perform conjugal anal sex:

Anal sex is putting a penis into a sexual partners rectum (insertive) or having sexual partners penis inserted in to the rectum (receptive)

2. The right to perform conjugal felching:

Felching is a practice that involves sucking the semen out of a partner’s anus or vagina, with or without a straw.

3. The right to perform conjugal fisting:

Fisting involves inserting the entire hand, and sometimes part of the arm, into the anus or vagina of a sexual partner.

4. The right to perform conjugal rimming:

Rimming involves oral (mouth, tongue) contact with the anus for the purpose of sexual stimulation.

5. The right to perform conjugal sadomasochism:

The deriving of pleasure, especially sexual gratification from inflicting or submitting to physical or emotional abuse (including being humiliated, beaten and bound).

6. The right to perform conjugal faecophilia

This relates to sexual arousal from the presence of faeces. In some cases faeces may be ingested (Coprophagia).

7. The right to perform conjugal urophilia

Sexual activity involving urine. (Can involve drinking urine, exchange of urine over or into the body).

8. The right to use conjugal butt plugs, &c.:

Sex toys can be used during sex for sexual stimulation. They can be a variety of things, some of the most common are dildos, butt plugs, vibrators and love eggs. Foreign objects are also some times used in this role; many household items are adapted for sexual purposes. Enemas and a douche may also be considered in the context of sex toys.

The Bible in the public square

Should Jews and Christians appeal to Biblical norms when debating homosexual marriage?

Some advocates of traditional marriage think we should confine ourselves to natural law arguments. Now, I have no objection to using common ground arguments in the marriage debate. Here’s a useful collection of articles that reflect that strategy:


However, as Albert Mohler and Denny Burk recently observed, the moral status of homosexuality has suddenly dropped out of the current debate, as if that’s irrelevant or out-of-bounds.

Let’s consider some stock objections to using the Bible in political discourse:

i) Only fundamentalist Bible-thumpers resort to Scripture when debating public policies issues

To begin with, even if that were true, so what?

However, that’s not true. For instance, consider Richard Bauckham’s The Bible in Politics: How to Read the Bible Politically (WJK, 2nd ed., 2011).

Bauckham is not a fundamentalist. And he’s center/left on the political spectrum.

Or take Daniel Carroll’s books: Thinking Christianly About Immigration; Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible.

Since he’s using the Bible to promote a position liberals agree with, his appeal to Scripture doesn’t generate the same outcry.

ii) Appealing to Scripture violates separation of church and state

I’m not a Constitutional scholar, but I’ve read Constitutional scholars who argue that the purpose of the Establishment Clause was to prevent the Federal government from instituting a national church. That’s it.

In fact, it doesn’t take a Constitutional scholar to recognize the fact that many modern judges are promulgating very innovative rulings. Discovering things to be unconstitutional which the generation of the Founding Fathers and states which ratified the Constitution and the Bill of Rights never deemed to be unconstitutional. The very notion of a “living Constitution” is a frank admission that many modern judges flagrantly disregard original intent.

iii) If you allow the Bible to dictate public policy, then theocracy is the logical outcome

a) To begin with, this objection is a double-edged sword. Suppose the Bible does obligate Christians to promote a theocratic state. If that’s the case, then that’s what faithful Christians should work towards, assuming it’s politically feasible.

b) However, different Christian traditions have different positions how much of OT social ethics carries over into the new covenant, or church/state relations. Take Baptists, Anabaptists, and Lutherans. Take confessional Presbyterians who operate with a “general equity” principle. Take Richard Hooker’s Anglican position in contrast to the Puritans.

c) An appeal to Scripture is not ipso facto an appeal to Biblical law. When Christians cite Mt 19:4-5, Rom 1:24-27, or 1 Tim 1:10, that’s not an appeal to Biblical law. These passages don’t belong to the legal genre. An appeal to these passages doesn’t transplant Biblical laws into modern American jurisprudence.

Rather, these involve general truths about the nature and moral status of human sexuality. Shouldn’t our civil and criminal law code be based on truths about human nature? Be based on true moral judgments?  

iv) Appealing to Scripture begs the question when debating non-Christians

a) First of all, we can distinguish between defensive and offensive appeals to Scripture. If a Christian is defending his personal view of homosexual marriage, then he’s justified in appealing to Scripture. The fact that his opponent denies the authority of Scripture is irrelevant, for the Christian is giving his own reasons.

b) When going on the offensive, appealing to Scripture would only beg the question if the Christian simply took the authority of Scripture for granted. But, of course, his commitment to Scripture is defensible. It’s quite possible to argue for the authority of Scripture. Indeed, that’s a standard topic in Christian apologetics. A Christian can give reasons for why everyone ought to believe the Bible.

c) In addition, proponents of homosexual marriage have their own burden of proof. What is their source and standard of social ethics? How do they ground objective moral norms?

d) Likewise, if they espouse naturalistic evolution, then what makes human animals property-bearers of human rights or civil rights? Isn’t a human being just a fleeting and fortuitous arrangement of matter?

But God made me this way!

I appreciated Prof. John Frame's article on homosexuality here.

Before “Infallibility” Was a Twinkling in a Pope’s Eye

In an ongoing discussion on Facebook, [a discussion of “the Johannine Comma”], a FB friend of mine said, “It would be Orwellian doublespeak (and arbitrary) to say that a pope can guarantee absolute certainty for an individual on an issue while at the same time reserve the right to remove the absoluteness of that certainty an any time.”

While this discussion focused on an area of biblical interpretation in which he concludes that epistemologically, “They are in the same situation” as evidentialist Protestants” [Pope Leo had said one thing, then a “clarification” some 30 years later said another], this very sort of thing is what was at the foundation of the medieval discussions of papal infallibility.


* * *

In a 13th century dispute over a papal decision (Nicholas III) regarding the rule of the Franciscans, Pope John XXII rejected the notion of “infallibility” (i.e, a later pope can’t change the decree of an earlier pope) because he viewed it as “an improper restriction of his rights as a sovereign”. In the bull “Quia Quorundam”, he said (see paragraph 6):

If therefore after an interdict of a general council it was lawful for the supreme Pontiffs to confirm orders [that] had not been confirmed, and for their successors to dissolve completely [those which] had been so confirmed, is it not wonderful, if, what only the supreme Pontiff may declare or ordain concerning the rules of [religious] orders, it is lawful for his successors to declare or to change to other things. Moreover it is clear that neither the confirmation of the aforesaid [Popes], Honorius, Gregory, Alexander, and Nicholas [III], was accomplished in general council, since no general council was celebrated by any of these. Granted that Innocent IV celebrated a general council, nevertheless during that [council] the above said declaration of his was not accomplished with the authority of any council. Nicholas IV, however, neither celebrated a general council, nor declared anything concerning the said rule. The aforesaid Gregory IX, however, neither confirmed nor declared the said rule, but in a general council, where there had been not a few orders of mendicants abolished, he did not abolish the orders of the said Friars Minor and [Friar] Preachers, but asserted them to be approved, saying thus: “To these [orders], which the resulting utility of the universal church, evident from these things, demonstrates as approved, We do not permit the present constitution to be extended”.

Bernhard Hasler wrote “the pope’s objection may strike us today a grotesque, but the point was well taken: Infallibility always constitutes a limit to the power of an individual pope, who is bound by the infallible declarations of his predecessors. For the time being, the bishops of Rome had no interest in this theory. Discussion of the issue faded away for centuries” (August Bernhard Hasler, “How the Pope Became Infallible”, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, © 1981, pgs 36-37).

This is one reason why the “Reformation” of Hildebrand (Pope Gregory VII) looms so large. That was the “Reformation” (following the East-West split of 1054) which created the papacy as a “sovereign” in the first place. All Eastern objections to the imperial papacy were at once brushed aside, and the “Imperial papacy” was enabled for the first time to have all the earthly glory it wanted.