Saturday, May 11, 2013

Obama's IRS attack dog

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/irs-punished-conservative-non-profits-perhaps-also-pro-israel-groups/2013/05/11/0/?print

“The Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church is to deny religious liberty”

Paul Bassett has published an exceptional study of the recent history of Roman Catholicism with respect to “religious liberty”:

http://anactofmind.com/2013/05/11/the-death-of-roman-catholic-tradition/

Here are a few items. He begins by describing a speech given by...

the Most Reverend Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia to a group in Greensburg, PA. What I found fascinating about the Archbishop’s address is that he while he admonishes his audience to remain true to their Catholic heritage he does so on a Protestant foundation. In other words, he had to abandon Catholic teaching and Tradition on the issue of religious liberty and build his case on the work of the Protestant Founders of America.

His Excellency encouraged his audience not to “dilute our zeal as Catholics” and reminded them that they cannot “achieve good ends with impure means”...

Official “Church Teaching” on Religious Liberty: 1776-1958
At the time of the American Revolution of 1776 and through the period where the U.S. Constitution was drafted, ratified and implemented, the pope of Rome was Pius VI. Here is an example of Pius VI’s idea of “religious liberty” in the Papal States over which he presided:

…at the time of Pius VI came to St. Peter’s throne in 1775 and issued his order reinstating all the old restrictions, Jews lived in eight ghettoes, locked in each night behind high walls and heavy gates. Everyone was able to tell who was a Jew, because, in another sixteenth-century papal provision reiterated in the 1775 edict, Jews were required to wear a special badge on their clothes…Jews were not allowed to keep shops or warehouses outside the ghetto and their social isolation was to be strictly enforced.

If you were a Jew living in Rome at the time of the American Revolution, “religious liberty” meant being imprisoned, giving up your possessions and being harassed by the Catholic Church.

The pontificate of the next pope, Pius VII was marked by the struggle with Napoleon. It is interesting that Napoleon freed the Jews imprisoned by the Catholic Church after he invaded Rome at the beginning of the 19th century. Unfortunately the Jews were re-imprisoned by the next pope, Leo XII in 1826. One notable Catholic historian describes Leo this way:

Leo XII’s pontificate was an extremely conservative one: he condemned religious toleration, reinforced the Index of Forbidden Books and the Holy Office (formerly the Inquisition), reestablished the feudal aristocracy in the Papal States, and confined the Jews once again to ghettos.

Leo was followed by Pius VIII who lasted only twenty months who was in turn followed by Gregory XVI. And Gregory was no fan of “religious liberty”. Fr. McBrien once again:

Gregory XVI was as rigid in dealing with theological issues as he was in dealing with political ones. In his encyclical “Mirari vos” (August 15, 1832)…he denounced the concepts of freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, and separation of Church and state, particularly the liberal views associate with the French priest Félicité Robert de Lamennais…(Lamennais favored religious liberty and the separation of Church and state….



You see, according to the Pope, the type of system the Archbishop thinks is fundamental to defend the religious liberty of Catholics is actually heretical. If the Archbishop were true to his own dictate to remain true to “Church teaching” he would give up this talk of liberty.

And the next pontiff – the “pastoral” Pius X – was no different. It seems that this pope was so set against “religious liberty” that he refused to see the American President Teddy Roosevelt simply because the President was scheduled to speak at a Methodist Church in Rome. I have a hard time finding the “liberty” in that story, don’t you?

Benedict XV’s pontificate seems to have been preoccupied with internecine quarrels as well as with the events of the First World War. But his successor, Pius XI renewed Rome’s march against religious liberty with the encyclical “Martalium animos” which “forbade any Catholic involvement in ecumenical conferences.”[ix]

The last pope that I will mention brings us past the mid-point of the twentieth century; Pius XII. And I have to note him with a truly great sense of irony. You see, Pius XII instigated a “persecution” of leading Catholic scholars of the day including Henri de Lubac, who Archbishop Chaput quotes from to begin [this blog post]! And while it is true that John Paul II later raised de Lubac to the episcopate, the fact remains that he was first an example of the sort of religious intolerance which is the true legacy of Rome.

Read the whole article for fuller quotes and citations.

Walking on water

I’m going to repost some comments I left over at David Marshall’s blog (Christ the Tao) in response to an atheist:

steve said...

    I seriously doubt that Brian has actually studied the scholarly literature on "miracle of the sun." Seems more likely this is a thirdhand anecdote he picked up from some village atheist website.

    For what it's worth, I did a lengthy analysis of that reported event a few years ago:



    May 8, 2013 at 6:39 PM
steve said...

    Brian Barrington said...


    "Or to take another example, the physical evidence is that people can swim in water but that people cannot walk on water...I presume you would agree with this?"

    I don't. Your principle is simplistic. What you ought to say is that absent countervailing factors, people can't walk on water.

    For instance, waterskiers don't sink due to countervailing factors (e.g. skis and motorboat).

steve said...

    Brian Barrington said...


    "Steve, if someone water-skis then that is not contrary to the physical evidence – it is a completely natural event that we have all witnessed, and not contrary to the laws of nature or to physical laws."

    You're apparently unable to follow your own argument. You originally said:


    "Or to take another example, the physical evidence is that people can swim in water but that people cannot walk on water...I presume you would agree with this?"

    Why can't people walk on water? Actually, they can. I gave a rough counterexample.

    So what your denial really amounts to is that absent a countervailing factor, a heavier body will sink in water. The force of gravity is dominant.

    Yet supertankers float and skiers skim the surface.

    That's because countervailing factors have been introduced.

    Likewise, Jesus can walk on water because he introduces an additional cause. It's not a case of walking on water, where no additional conditions apply, but changing the conditions.


    "But if someone just walks on water – that is contrary to the physical evidence – otherwise it would not be a miracle."

    No, that's only contrary to "the physical evidence" if the only operative conditions are a man, water, and gravity.

    If, however, we add an intervening medium (e.g. skis) and an artificial dynamic (motorboat) that counteracts gravity, then he won't sink.


    "So if someone said to you 'I saw someone walk on water today while I was down by the lake' you would be immediately suspicious. You would demand a lot of testimony before you accepted that something contrary to the physical evidence had occurred."

    Actually, I wouldn't. If, say, I knew the individual was an occultist, I'd find the claim far more credible. For that would explain why he might have the ability to walk on water.

    May 9, 2013 at 8:52 AM
steve said...

    Brian Barrington said...


    "Crude, I would think that all miracles are contrary to the physical evidence. If they were not contrary to the physical evidence then they would be (unusual) natural events rather than supernatural events – they would not be miracles, right? If this is not the case then how could any of these events be called miracles? The only reason they are called miracles is because they are flat out contrary to the physical evidence – we cannot think that there could be a natural, physical, materialist explanation for the event."

    i) "Evidence" is an epistemological category, not a metaphysical category. If a miracle occurred, there could be physical evidence of the miracle, if the miracle had a physical effect.

    ii) You're confusing "physical evidence" with "natural laws" or "physical laws." But appeal to such "laws" would be ontological rather than evidentiary.

    iii) You need to define what you mean by a "law" of nature. Philosophers disagree on what natural laws are, or even whether there are natural laws.

    iv) A miracle can be a "natural" event. Take a coincidence miracle. A miracle of timing, where a particular conjunction is prearranged by God. That's not "contrary" to any physical laws.

    What would make it miraculous is that inanimate factors alone would be insufficient to account for that opportune conjunction. Rather, they are the result of forethought.

steve said...

    Brian Barrington said...


    “Now, if someone just gets up and literally walks on water without any assistance from skis or a motorboat or some object of that sort, then that is contrary to the physical evidence…”

    You seem to use “physical evidence” as a synonym for “natural law” or “physical law.” If that’s the case, then you continue to confuse epistemology with metaphysics. I already explained the problem with your usage, so why do you repeat yourself?


    “That is the kind of walking on water that I was referring to, as I think is evident.”

    You’re missing the point. The relevant distinction isn’t “physical” or “natural,” but causal. Walking on water requires an additional intervening cause to offset what would otherwise happen absent that countervailing factor. That’s the key principle.

    Jesus can walk on water because he has causal resources at his disposal that ordinary human agents do not.


    “So if someone claimed that they had been out walking on water this morning then I, for one, would be very sceptical about the testimony, even if (perhaps especially if) they claimed to be an ‘occultist.’”

    Since you were asking me, how you yourself would respond is beside the point.


    “If a miracle is an unusual natural event then I agree that miracles occur.”

    Since I didn’t say anything to indicate that I define miracles that way, your comment is off the mark.


    “Generally, people mean that a miracle is a supernatural event. If the event is not contrary to natural laws then it is just an unusual natural event, which I agree happens. For example, coincidences occur all the time – in fact, if coincidences did not occur all the time it would require supernatural intervention to prevent them happening.”

    Did this event run counter to any natural laws?:


    “Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours” (Mt 17:27).

    Is it just a coincidence? Or did many causally independent variables have to be coordinated to yield this particular outcome?


    “But as far as I can work out you seem to be suggesting that there is no difference between the natural and the supernatural, or do I misinterpret you?”

    From a Christian standpoint, every “natural” event is directly or indirectly an act of God.

steve said...

    Brian Barrington said...


    “If it happened it could be an remarkable coincidence (thus a completely natural event and not a miracle), or some magic trick based on deception (thus a completely natural event and not a miracle) or it could be that the person who made the prediction has supernatural powers that permitted him to make the amazing prediction (in which case it would be a miracle). Of course, the key word is 'if' it happened - the claim is based on testimony and the event is extremely unlikely to occur so anyone would be justified in treating the testimony with a pinch of salt, unless the testimony is so powerful so as to be extremely unlikely that it is incorrect.”

    i) You have a habit of missing the point. I didn’t cite this example because I thought you’d find it believable. Rather, I cited this example to test your definition of a miracle.

    If you treat this as a hypothetical case, would it qualify as a miracle? No natural law is violated.

    ii) There’s more to it than a supernatural prediction. It assumes a series of natural events which was divinely prearranged to yield this result.

    iii) In what sense do you say this is extremely unlikely, demanding oh-so powerful testimony?

    It is extremely unlikely that an undirected process would yield this result. If, however, God orchestrated prior events to yield this result, then in what sense is it extremely unlikely?

    Are you claiming it’s extremely unlikely that God would do that? Is so, how do you prejudge what God is likely to do?

    Of is it a question of God’s existence? If so, how do you prejudge the likelihood of God’s existence?

    iv) To take a comparison, if multiple witnesses say they saw a gambler roll sixes ten times in a row, is that believable?

    Is it likely or unlikely that a gambler would roll sixes ten times in a row?

    Well, that depends on whether or not the dice are loaded. So you can’t say in the abstract what the odds are. If you knew the dice were loaded, your assessment would be very different.

    May 9, 2013 at 12:52 PM
steve said...

    Brian Barrington said...


    “If an event is contrary to the physical evidence (and to natural laws derived from the physical evidence)…”

    You’re very enamored with the phrase “physical evidence,” which you don’t bother to define. Are you using “physical evidence” as shorthand for inductive natural regularities…or something else?

    Likewise, you don’t bother to define “natural law.” Do you think natural laws are causes or general descriptions?

    For instance, natural regularities only tell us what inanimate natural processes will do if left to their own devices. But an agent can deflect or divert natural processes to yield a different outcome. Water runs downstream unless a beaver dams the stream.

steve said...

    Brian Barrington said...


    “Regarding the ‘coin in the fish’ - if there was some intervention from a supernatural being that caused it then, if it happened, it was a miracle.”

    i) You have difficulty following your own argument. You were the one who defined a miracle in opposition to natural law. However, the “coin in the fish” doesn’t violate any natural law, yet it can still be supernaturally orchestrated.

    ii) A miracle doesn’t require divine “intervention.” Prearranging an outcome isn’t equivalent to intervention. “Intervention” suggest things were going a certain way on their own until an agent diverted the natural course of events. If, however, the “coin in the fish” was divinely orchestrated, then events were prepositioned to converge on that outcome from the get-go.


    “The reason people regard turning water into wine and people rising from the dead etc. as evidence that God exists, or that the supernatural, exists is precisely because these events are contrary to the physical evidence, and to natural laws readily observable to everyone. Without this distinction, I see no grounds for calling one event miraculous and another event non-miraculous. If you don't accept the distinction between what is natural and supernatural, then what are your grounds for calling one event miraculous and another non-miraculous?”

    To the contrary, a miracle can be miraculous precisely because it is customized to fit an individual need, where only the party concerned discerns the significance of the event. Say a Christian has a very specific need. He prays about it. Out of the blue his need is met is a very specific and unexpected fashion.

    Only he (or some of his confidants) is in a position to appreciate how timely this is, and how unlikely this would be apart from supernatural provision.

    Which is not to deny miracles of a more public character, but that’s not a defining feature of a miracle.


    “The reason why these events are regarded as miracles by religious people is because they are contrary to the physical evidence, whereas, for example, getting up and going to the toilet to urinate is not regarded as a miracle, since it is a natural act that everyone observes regularly, and one that does not contradict any regularity of nature derived from constant and replicable observation of physical reality.”

    Is history replicable?


    “You might, I suppose, say that absolutely everything that happens in the world (including genocide, child rape, earthquakes, tsunamis and so on) is a "miraculous" act of God - this seems to be where your line of reasoning is leading you. But if that is the case, then me picking my nose is as miraculous as Jesus rising from the dead.”

    You’re not paying attention. I said every natural event is directly or indirectly an act of God. Are you defining child rape and genocide as natural events?

    Likewise, don’t you grasp the distinction between direct and indirect? An indirect act of God would employ a physical medium.

    You added “miraculous” to “act of God,” as if an act of God is ipso facto miraculous.

steve said...

    Brian Barrington said...


    “If you want to call some natural events miracles then I won't quibble over the terminology, although for the sake of clarity it might be useful to still distinguish between miracles that are contrary to physical evidence and natural laws i.e. those caused by direct supernatural intervention (we could call these supernatural miracles)…”

    To define a miracle as an event that’s “contrary to physical evidence” (whatever that means) or “contrary to natural laws” (whatever that means) is a highly contested definition. For instance:


    What philosophical literature have you read on miracles?


    “…and these other miracles that are more like pre-arranged coincidences that could conceivably occur naturally without any pre-arranging by a supernatural entity (we could call these natural miracles).”

    And the term for that is coincidence miracle. See David Bartholomew’s discussion in Uncertain Belief: Is it Rational to be a Christian? (Oxford 1996), chap. 4.


    “But in relation to this I would re-emphasise that remarkable coincidences occur all the time in our world, and about as frequently as one would expect, and they do not require any supernatural explanation - in fact, if remarkable coincidences did not occur all the time it would really amount to proof that there is supernatural intervention in our world, since it is to be expected that coincidences should continually occur in the world and it would require supernatural intervention to prevent them happening.”

    i) Once again, you’re missing the point. You seem to think you can just wing it without bothering to acquaint yourself with the relevant literature. A coincidence miracle has a fairly rigorous definition with highly specified conditions.

    ii) Some events are too coincidental to be purely coincidental. They reflect a calculated and concerted plan.

    iii) You need to distinguish between an event which reflects intelligent agency in general, and one which reflects divine agency in particular. Some events require a mastery of detail and magisterial control over the relevant variables that exceeds human intelligence, power, and/or longevity.

    You yourself find the “coin in the mouth” too convenient to be realistic absent supernatural involvement. And since you’re an atheist, you therefore dismiss it out of hand.


    “Is history replicable?’ No, so our knowledge of much history is fairly tentative, especially as we go further back.”

    Which undermines your appeal to natural regularities, inasmuch you depend on testimonial evidence for your appeal to the (alleged) uniformity of nature.


    “But if a claimed historical event does not contradict any regularity of nature derived from constant and replicable observation of physical reality (e.g. The claim that Caesar crossed the Rubicon) then we have less reason to be immediately sceptical about the claim than if the claim DOES contradict any regularity of nature (e.g. a claim that Caesar turned water into wine, or a claim that he rose from the dead and so on).”

    I’ve already explained to you why your contention is false. You simply blow past the rebuttal rather than presenting a counterargument.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What is an ad hominem fallacy?

"What is an ad hominem fallacy?" by Edward Feser.

What Depends Upon An Historical Adam?

http://calvinistinternational.com/2013/05/10/what-depends-upon-an-historical-adam/

The theology of Prometheus

"The Theology of Prometheus" by Edward Feser.

What Difference Do Hillary Clinton's Lies Make?

Jonah Goldberg gives some examples of why Clinton's dishonesty matters. Other reasons could be added to the list.

If you want some idea of how badly the Benghazi story is going for the left, read this piece by Salon. Notice how they have to frame the discussion (whether there's a "smoking gun" or "scandal", whether the evidence qualifies as "obvious", etc.) and how much they have to concede. Notice, too, that they'll criticize somebody like Susan Rice or "the Obama administration" without addressing the most negative implications for more prominent individuals, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Is homosexual marriage just about consenting adults?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2043345/The-California-boy-11-undergoing-hormone-blocking-treatment.html

Bergoglio’s Gig 4: Why “Pope Francis” Doesn’t Give Communion

Matthew 27:24:

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”


Winston Smith, 1984:

‘It was a common punishment in Imperial China,’ said O’Brien as didactically as ever.

The mask was closing on his face. The wire brushed his cheek. And then--no, it was not relief, only hope, a tiny fragment of hope. Too late, perhaps too late. But he had suddenly understood that in the whole world there was just ONE person to whom he could transfer his punishment--ONE body that he could thrust between himself and the rats. And he was shouting frantically, over and over.

‘Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her. Tear her face off, strip her to the bones. Not me! Julia! Not me!’



Bishop of Rome Bergoglio:

ROME, May 9, 2013 – There is one particular in the Masses celebrated by Pope Francis that raises questions that have so far gone unanswered.

At the moment of communion, pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio does not administer it himself, but allows others to give the consecrated host to the faithful. He sits down and waits for the distribution of the sacrament to be completed.

The exceptions are very few...

Bergoglio has given no explicit explanation of this behavior since becoming pope.

But there is one page in a book he published in 2010 that allows one to infer the motives at the origin of this practice.

The book is a collection of conversations with the rabbi of Buenos Aires, Abraham Skorka.

At the end of the chapter dedicated prayer, the then-archbishop Bergoglio says:

“David had been an adulterer and had ordered a murder, and nonetheless we venerate him as a saint because he had the courage to say: ‘I have sinned.’ He humbled himself before God. One can commit enormous mistakes, but one can also acknowledge them, change one’s life and make reparation for what one has done. It is true that among parishioners there are persons who have killed not only intellectually or physically but indirectly, with improper management of capital, paying unjust wages. There are members of charitable organizations who do not pay their employees what they deserve, or make them work off the books. [. . .] With some of them we know their whole résumé, we know that they pass themselves off as Catholics but practice indecent behaviors of which they do not repent. For this reason, on some occasions I do not give communion, I stay back and let the assistants do it, because I do not want these persons to approach me for a photo. One may also deny communion to a known sinner who has not repented, but it is very difficult to prove these things. Receiving communion means receiving the body of the Lord, with the awareness of forming a community. But if a man, rather than uniting the people of God, has devastated the lives of many persons, he cannot receive communion, it would be a total contradiction. Such cases of spiritual hypocrisy present themselves in many who take refuge in the Church and do not live according to the justice that God preaches. And they do not demonstrate repentance. This is what we commonly call leading a double life.”

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Lying and dying

This is a sequel to my prior post on a recent article by Vern Poythress:



The final prong in the issue of lying is the situational prong. Those who permit lying describe situations in which a lie seems to lead to good results. Here we must be careful. The mere attraction of a possible good outcome is not sufficient to ground a moral argument.

True.


The ends do not justify the means.

That’s overstated. Sometimes the end does justify the means.

If a particular action is inherently wrong, then the end, however worthy, cannot justify that action. However, not all actions are inherently right or wrong. In many cases, circumstances are a morally relevant consideration.


God does not permit us to “do evil that good may come” (Rom 3:8).

True. But whether lying is inherently evil is the very issue in dispute. Indeed, Poythress anticipates that response.


The advocate of lying may say that the issue is precisely whether lying is evil in all cases. Yes. But an argument that depends wholly on looking at good results, if unsupported by other buttresses, is quite weak. It is weak also because, without exhaustive knowledge of a situation, knowledge that only God has, we cannot say for sure that there are no good alternatives to lying.

But that’s true of ethical decision-making in general. Yet it would often be unethical not to take into account the probable or foreseeable consequences of our actions, to the best of our knowledge.


God promises us that, in any trial, he will provide a way of escape: “but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). We can take as an example a situation that actually involved Nazi soldiers. In the days when Holland was occupied by the Nazis, two of Corrie ten Boom’s Dutch nephews burst into the house because they were being sought for by the Germans to work in the German munitions factories.

The family hid them in a hole under the kitchen floor, a hole used as a potato cellar. A rug lay over the trapdoor, with the kitchen table over the rug…The situation with Cocky involved special circumstances. The advocates of lying may always choose to say that Cocky was naive or over-scrupulous, and that God was merciful to her naiveté. But that argument cuts both ways. Who is naive? Is it Cocky or is it the person who does not trust that God can provide a way out for those who refuse to say untruth? The advice to trust in the Lord emphasizes trust rather than one’s “own understanding”

This assumes that lying is never God’s way of escape. But what if lying–under exceptional circumstances–is, in fact, included in 1 Cor 10:13?


In both Mark (13:11) and Luke (21:12-16), Jesus describes a situation where Christians are on trial for their faith.17 Admittedly it is not exactly the same situation as when Nazi soldiers arrive at the door. And yet the two are akin. Both involve response to governmental authorities. And when the Nazis come, a Christian is figuratively speaking on trial with respect to whether he will continue in the Christian way or give in to the pressure from government. If we are in such a situation, it is wise to pray that God will give us an answer, even on the spot (“not to meditate beforehand how to answer”). Each situation may call for its own creative response.

Of course, a creative response might include a creative lie. Poythress needs to show that his prooftexts furnish an alternative to lying. But what if they are consistent with lying?


But people can still have the feeling that there is no way out.

That way of framing the issue begs the question. What if lying (under special circumstances) is the way out?


In reply, let me at least suggest that in some circumstances one might take the initiative in conversation. The manner of taking initiative is even suggested by what Jesus says about “your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:13).

We engage them with the gospel. Soldiers and police are not merely faceless agents of the government. They are human beings to whom we can bring the good news of salvation.18 And this good news, which addresses the issue of the eternal destiny of the soul, is more important even than the preservation of human life, including our own.

What this overlooks is that sheltering Jews is also a Christian witness. Conversely, ratting them out damages the Christian witness.

The hypothetical deals with three parties: the Nazis, hidden Jews, and Christians sheltering the Jews. So one has weigh which party has a greater claim to our beneficence: the Nazis or the Jews.


I am not of course saying that this is the only way to answer, but it is one possible way. Maybe it will result in being carried off to prison and to death. Maybe it will result in the house being continually searched, so that it is not in fact a good place to hide Jews. But the house becomes a good place to witness to Nazis. Every time they come to conduct a search, one can follow them around, or at least talk to the one who is left behind to watch. They become a captive audience, in a way similar to how the soldier guarding Paul became a captive audience for the gospel. If one is imprisoned, as Corrie ten Boom and her sister were, one witnesses to the other prisoners and to the guards, as one has opportunity.

It’s nice to seize the occasion to do that. However, I wouldn’t say the Nazi soldiers are a captive audience. Why assume they will let you annoy them? They might shoot you dead if you become a nuisance.


When the Nazis come, what is at stake is not only our life but the lives of those we may be hiding. Yes. But, especially in this extreme situation, I want to raise the question of whether truth is more important than anyone’s life. If the Lord tarries, we will all die physically—some sooner, some later. The sixth Commandment teaches us to value human life. But life in this world, valuable as it is, is not everlasting. Our life, what is it? “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jas 4:14). By contrast, the truth abides forever (Matt 24:35).

That’s an interesting argument. However,

i) It blurs the distinction between protecting my own life and protecting the life of another. There are situations where I have a greater obligation to protect someone else’s life rather than my own.

ii) If, according to Johannine theology, Jesus is both truth and life, then there’s a sense in which both truth and life are everlasting.

iii) Poythress strikingly argues that truth is more important than mortal life, not because it is true, but because it is everlasting. What makes truth more valuable is not its truthfulness, not its distinctive property, but a property other than truthfulness. But in that case, truth in itself is not more valuable than mortal life.

iv) Apropos (iii), is something everlasting ipso facto more valuable than something temporary? According to Christian eschatology, it’s arguable than the physical universe, or physical elements thereof, is everlasting. Does that mean an inanimate element or process is more valuable than a finite human life, or some finite action?

For instance, Mt 25:35,40 describes temporary acts of charity for persecuted Christians. That’s finite. Ephemeral. Yet it’s accorded utmost value. Ditto: Mt 10:42 (“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward”).

v) Isn’t there a sense in which falsehood is everlasting? Aren’t liars consigned to everlasting punishment? Do they cease to be liars in hell?

At the Oklahoma City abortuary, 08May2013

Infanticide Blitz

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2013/05/infanticide-blitz/

Arguing against abortion

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/05/08/arguing-against-abortion/

The threat of biopolitical control

http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2013/04/23/3743531.htm

Money talks

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/05/03/meet-the-billionaire-hedge-fund-manager-quietly-shaping-the-gop-gay-marriage-debate/?print=1

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Westboro Atheists

Things must be pretty out of control when Robert Price (of all people!) is lecturing his fellow infidels on civility:

http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/zblog/?p=625

Why don’t religious people mind their own business?

http://bnonn.thinkingmatters.org.nz/why-dont-religious-people-mind-their-own-business/

Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?

Vern Poythress has written an article (available at his website) in which he argues that it’s always wrong to lie. For now I’m going to focus on one plank of his argument:


So what is different? When no words are involved, physical actions have to be interpreted. They are potentially multivalent in meaning.8 Does the action of a player charging in one direction mean that he will continue to go in that direction? Maybe, but maybe not. A skilled opponent knows that the player may change direction, perhaps multiple times. Does an army moving back from battle engagement indicate a genuine retreat? Or is it something else? Who knows? The “obvious” interpretation may lie in one direction. But the interpreter must make the decision, and it is his decision, not a decision “dictated” by some intrinsic, inalienable meaning in the physical action itself.

Words and utterances need interpretation too. But the interpretation is constrained by the regularities of language, the regularities in the meaning of words, and the regularities of personal communication. Statements can be true or false; by contrast, a football maneuver or a military maneuver is neither true nor false. The maneuver does not say anything, except to the extent that an interpreter reads in some significance and concludes that it “says” in a metaphorically extended sense that the participant has a particular purpose. Truth is not the issue in nonverbal actions.

We can perhaps further explain the difference by observing that verbal communication has what the linguists have called double articulation. Words have both meaning and sound (or, in written form, meaning and spelling). Except for a few onomatopoeic words like meow, the sound has no obvious relation to the meaning. The sounds do not have an ordinary use by themselves, independent of a second layer of articulate meaning. By contrast, physical actions of moving or dribbling a ball have a certain physical meaning even before they are incorporated into a battle or a game. This presence of an underlying, first-order meaning to physical motions results in a situation in which any second-order meaning, such as attacking, feigning, retreating, and so on, exists in the presence of other possible human purposes, for battles or for gaming. Verbal communication, by contrast, has a meaning largely fixed by the divinely ordained regularities of communication, to which words and their meanings belong intrinsically.  

For several reasons I don’t find his analysis compelling:

i) First of all, it’s not sufficient to merely distinguish between verbal and nonverbal communication. Obviously there’s some difference: one is verbal while the other is nonverbal.

Poythress needs to isolate and identify a morally relevant difference. Not just any difference will do.

ii) In addition, it’s easy to create situations in which speech and action are analogous with respect to interpretation. Although it’s possible to express ourselves clearly, it’s possible to conceal our meaning and/or send mixed signals. Indeed, Christians who think lying is always wrong often defend studied ambiguity or misdirection as a fallback position.

Just as actions can be open to multiple interpretations, a speaker can deliberately express himself in ways that are open to multiple interpretations.

iii) I don’t see how saying actions require interpretation advances the argument Poythress is trying to make. Someone who resorts to deceptive action is banking on the fact that actions require interpretation. That’s a presupposition of his tactic. His choice of action endeavors to manipulate the interpretation of the observer. He is predicting that a particular action will invite a particular interpretation: a misinterpretation. He is exploiting the observer’s expectations to steer in the interpretation in a particular direction.

Take a con man who’s dating a wealthy heiress. He may temporarily live above his means to impress her. Wear fancy clothes. Rent a fancy car. Rent a luxury apartment. Take her to fancy restaurants.

Everything he tells her may be literally true. And he may not have to say very much about himself, because she will fill in the background based on his apparent lifestyle.

In principle, he could marry her under false pretenses without ever lying to her about his real financial situation.

iv) Strictly speaking, sentences aren’t true or false. Meaning is not intrinsic to sentences. Language is just a type of coded symbolism. Audible, visible, or tactile tokens. The meaning of a sentence is assigned meaning. It begins with the socially assigned meaning of words (and grammatical rules). These are then arranged by the speaker to convey an idea. The listener is playing by the same rule book.

By the same token, actions can be coded symbols with assigned meaning.

v) Truth is certainly an issue in nonverbal communication if the intention is to create a misimpression in the mind of the observer. To mislead him into forming a false belief.

What’s Wrong With the Scientific Method?

"What’s Wrong With the Scientific Method?" by Rhett Allain.

To be fair, the post is attacking a popular conception of the scientific method more than anything else.

All hail the State

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce, schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play. 

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone.  Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, these are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.  For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.  No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores.  Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.


What’s striking about this is how Obama reduces the alternatives to either loners or government. That reflects an extremely artificial view of human nature.

Consider some of the many forms of human organization that Obama is leaving out of consideration: marriage, parents and children, siblings, extended family (e.g. grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins), church, friends, neighbors, classmates, sports teams, private business, gangs, hunt clubs, night clubs, motorcycle clubs, pool halls, opera, school musicals, rock concerts, social networks, &c.

Obama has an arrestingly unnatural, atrophied view of how human beings interrelate. Does Obama have any real friends, or does he view “friends” as simply rungs on the social ladder?

Comparing the Bible to Other Creation Accounts

Darryl Bock interviews Richard Averbeck on the background of the Genesis creation account in light of other creation stories of the ancient Near East (ANE). This is relevant to the "did Adam exist" types of discussions. Part 1.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Justice delayed

http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2013/05/city-of-dearborn-apologizes-for.html?spref=fb

What's Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life's Big Questions

Available for preorder. Highly recommended:

http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Your-Worldview-Interactive-Questions/dp/143353892X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1367889747&sr=1-1

Adam & Genetics

http://www.frame-poythress.org/adam-versus-claims-from-genetics/

Paul Ryan supports homosexual adoption

http://www.redstate.com/freedomrepublican/2013/05/05/paul-ryan-now-supports-gay-adoption/

An Exegetical Definition of Natural Law

a fledgeling oak tree
Andrew Fulford at The Calvinist International is attempting to make “an exegetical case for natural law”.

In his first installment here, he is actually quite short of actual exegesis and relies more heavily on Aristotle, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis and Dr. Edward Feser.

A couple of quick points he develops: First, what “Natural Law” is not:

1. Natural law is not mechanistic and exceptionless.

2. Natural law is not autonomous or independent in relation to God.

3. Natural law is not the ius gentium.

Second, what “Natural Law” is:

1. It is a divinely imposed order intrinsic in the beings that exist.

2. This divinely imposed order has “value” built in; “is” and “ought” are identical in it.

His point:

Given this conception of natural law, the main purpose of this series will be to show that Scripture assumes this concept reflects reality. To be more specific, I will attempt to prove the following proposition are supported by the Bible:

(N1) there is an objective order to the universe of the kind described above.

(N2) this order is objectively visible; it is there to be seen, whether one is wearing the spectacles of scripture or not.

(N3) at least some unregenerate people perceive see this order.

One might like to see more actual exegesis within an “exegetical case for Natural Law”. The fact that he is defining the term with sources outside of Scripture gives some cause to be wary, but they’ve been doing excellent work at The Calvinist International and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at this point.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Christian cannibals


 

 
First, a lesson I am slowly learning in my life is that it is much easier to disagree with an idea than a person who embodies it. As I continue to grow in my understanding of the place of homosexual Christians in the body of Christ, I feel that it is incumbent on me to listen to their stories and to learn to love better than I do.

In Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul, I did some wrestling with the question of homosexuality. At the end, while coming to a traditional position about male and female as God’s intention for sexual intercourse, I left the door open like this: God can surprise us.

In particular, I pointed to the issue of circumcision in the NT, where a clear commandment, pertaining to participation in the covenant promises of Abraham, was overturned. God told Peter, “I have made this clean.” At least in theory, it might not be the case that the Biblical stricture has the last word.

Langteaux told a story during the podcast, relayed more briefly and somewhat differently in the book, about his own wrestling with God about homosexuality. He demanded of God to let him know whether it was a sin to be gay. As he sat exasperated, he opened his Bible at random. And he turned to Acts 10, Peter’s vision informing him that the old laws of kosher (and, by implication, circumcision) no longer applied.


What it means to love our gay neighbor as oneself. The chapter argues that we advocate for civil equality and protection to secure the same freedoms and benefits for my neighbor who disagrees with me as I would want for myself.

I suggested that we should be aware of the possibility that the Spirit might make such a demonstration today. We are dealing with a genuinely new moment in the history of the church: homosexual couples openly in committed relationships and striving to faithfully follow Jesus. The presence of this reality is something to be interpreted with care—neither hastily condemning due to a great confidence that we are on God’s side, nor hastily embracing due to the same.

Most of us need to listen more. Those of us from backgrounds that are not affirming need to listen to the stories of gay friends, especially Christian gay friends.


I find Kirk’s narrow-minded intolerance deeply disturbing. It borders on bigotry. I mean, homosexual marriage is already old hat.  We need to press forward for the truly marginalized.

First, a lesson I am slowly learning in my life is that it is much easier to disagree with an idea than a person who embodies it. As I continue to grow in my understanding of the place of Christian cannibals in the body of Christ, I feel that it is incumbent on me to listen to their stories and to learn to love better than I do. I left the door open like this: God can surprise us.

In particular, I pointed to the issue of circumcision in the NT, where a clear commandment, pertaining to participation in the covenant promises of Abraham, was overturned. God told Peter, “I have made this clean.” At least in theory, it might not be the case that the Biblical stricture has the last word.

Jeffrey Dahmer told a story during the podcast, relayed more briefly and somewhat differently in the book, about his own wrestling with God about cannibalism. He demanded of God to let him know whether it was a sin to eat people. As he sat exasperated, he opened his Bible at random. And he turned to Acts 10, Peter’s vision informing him that the old laws of kosher (and, by implication, anti-cannibalism) no longer applied.

What it means to love our man-eating neighbor as oneself. The chapter argues that we advocate for anthropophaginian equality and protection to secure the same culinary freedoms and dietary benefits for my neighbor who disagrees with me as I would want for myself.

I suggested that we should be aware of the possibility that the Spirit might make such a demonstration today. We are dealing with a genuinely new moment in the history of the church: cannibals openly in committed culinary relationships and striving to faithfully follow Jesus. The presence of this reality is something to be interpreted with care—neither hastily condemning due to a great confidence that we are on God’s side, nor hastily embracing due to the same.

Most of us need to listen more. Those of us from backgrounds that are not affirming need to listen to the stories of anthropophaginian friends, especially Christian anthropophaginian friends.

Don't Bisexuals Have A Right To Polygamy?

The issue of polygamy often comes up in discussions of Biblical ethics, and it's often raised in the context of disputes over homosexual marriage. It may not be long before judges in the United States start applying the reasoning of homosexual marriage advocates more consistently. We may soon be getting rulings from judges to the effect that it's unconstitutional for the state to not recognize polygamous marriages. If homosexuals have a right to marriage, don't bisexuals as well? If bisexuals are to marry both sexes, polygamy will need to be allowed. In these and other contexts, it's important that Christians know how to address the issue of polygamy.

Here's a post I wrote several years ago on the subject. I address the evidence against polygamy in the Old and New Testaments and early patristic Christianity. I also interact with some defenders of polygamy in the comments section of the thread. Some other topics related to polygamy are addressed in the comments section of the thread here. And here's something Matthew Schultz wrote.

Does Christianity require Christ?

The Christian tradition has made much of Adam…The levels of freedom (or lack thereof) that many of us experience with regard to the question of Adam as a historical person is inseparable from the theology that we see bound up with him. For some, to reject Adam as a historical person is to reject the authority of Scripture and trustworthiness of the very passages within which we learn of justification and resurrection.1 Others are concerned that to deny a historical Adam is to deny the narrative of a good world gone wrong that serves as the very basis for the good news of Jesus Christ. In short, if there is no Fall, there can be no salvation from it and restoration to what was and/or might have been.2 Even more expansively, Douglas Farrow concludes that “there is very little of importance in Christian theology, hence also in doxology and practice, that is not at stake in the question of whether or not we allow a historical dimension to the Fall.”3 High stakes, indeed. But I want to suggest that things might not be so dire. Specifically, I want to open up the conversation to the possibility that the gospel does not, in fact, depend on a historical Adam or historical Fall…

Paul has an important story to tell. It is the story of God’s new creation breaking into the world through the surprising mechanism of a crucified and resurrected Christ…

Recognizing this relieves the pressure that sometimes builds up around a historical Adam. Contrary to the fears expressed by Douglas Farrow, we can now recognize that Adam is not the foundation on which the system of Christian faith and life is built, such that removing him means that the whole edifice comes crashing down. Instead, the Adam of the past is one spire in a large edifice whose foundation is Christ. The gospel need not be compromised if we find ourselves having to part ways with Paul’s assumption that there is a historical Adam, because we share Paul’s fundamental conviction that the crucified Messiah is the resurrected Lord over all.

Might it be possible that we could retell the stories of both Adam and evolutionary sciences such that they continued to reflect our conviction that the endpoint of God’s great story is nothing else than new creation in the crucified and risen Christ? For many, the cognitive dissonance between the sciences and a historical Adam has already become too great to continue holding both.8 We therefore have to carefully determine whether the cause of Christ, and of truth, is better served by indicating that a choice must be made between the two, or by retelling the narrative about the origins of humanity as we now understand it in light of the death and resurrection of Christ.

The task of reimagining a Christian story of origins for our modern era has already begun…To accompany Paul on the task of telling the story of the beginning in light of Christ, while parting ways with his first-century understanding of science and history, is not to abandon the Christian faith in favor of science. Instead, it demands a fresh act of faith in which we continue to hold fast to the truth that has always defined Christianity: the crucified Messiah is the resurrected Lord over all. Belief in Christ’s resurrection was a stumbling block for the ancients, and it is a stumbling block for us moderns as well—and increasingly so as we learn more about our human story and the biological processes entailed in life on this Earth. We do not give up on the central article of Christian faith when we use it to tell a renewed story of where we came from. On the contrary, we thereby give it the honor which is its due.


Isn’t that inspiring? I could just feel the tears streaming down my cheeks as I read it. My only reservation is that I think brother Kirk stopped a wee bit short. To take his logic to the next step:

The Christian tradition has made much of Christ. The levels of freedom (or lack thereof) that many of us experience with regard to the question of Christ as a real person is inseparable from the theology that we see bound up with him. For some, to reject Christ as a real person is to reject the authority of Scripture. Others are concerned that to deny a real Jesus is to deny the narrative of salvation. In short, if there is no Christ, there can be no salvation. Even more expansively, one alarmist concludes that “there is very little of importance in Christian theology, hence also in doxology and practice, that is not at stake in the question of whether or not we allow a historical dimension to Jesus.” High stakes, indeed. But I want to suggest that things might not be so dire. Specifically, I want to open up the conversation to the possibility that the gospel does not, in fact, depend on a real spacetime Incarnation, crucifixion, Resurrection, or Parousia.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have an important story to tell. It is the story of God breaking into a fallen world through the surprising mechanism of the Incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Son of God.

Might it be possible that we could retell the Christ story such that it continues to reflect our conviction that we inhabit a closed system? For many, the cognitive dissonance between a closed system and a real Jesus has already become too great to continue holding both. We therefore have to carefully determine whether the cause of Christianity, and of truth, is better served by indicating that a choice must be made between the two, or by retelling the narrative about the Christ-nonevent.

Recognizing this relieves the pressure that sometimes builds up around a real Jesus. Contrary to the fears expressed by alarmists, we can now recognize that Christ is not the foundation on which the system of Christian faith and life is built, such that removing him means that the whole edifice comes crashing down. Instead, the Christ of the past, present, and future is one spire in a large edifice whose foundation is unyielding despair. The gospel need not be compromised if we find ourselves having to part ways with New Testament’s assumption that Jesus really exists, because we still have stained glass, pretty music, and pageantry.

The task of reimagining a redemptive narrative for our modern era has already begun. To accompany the New Testament on the task of telling the story of Christ, while parting ways with its understanding of God, history, and eternity, is not to abandon the Christian faith in favor of secularism. Instead, it demands a fresh act of faith in which we continue to hold fast to the truth that has always defined liberal Christianity: the closed casual continuum. We do not give up on the central article of liberal Christian faith when we use it to tell a renewed story of coming from nothing and returning to nothing. On the contrary, we thereby give it the honor which is its due.

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

On Creation and Killing Canaanites: One Simple, Hardly Worth Mentioning (but I feel that I should) Thought

Once we see that Yahweh’s actions toward the Canaanites are like that of the gods of other nations toward their enemies, the discussion cannot continue as before. A vital historical contextual factor is brought into our speculative theological and philosophical musings.

We can talk about God’s actions toward the Canaanites within the parameters of the canon or carefully worded categories of dogmatics and systematic theology. But once we see that Chemosh, god of the Moabites, tells king Mesha (or better, Mesha tells us what Chemosh told him) to take Nebo from the Israelites and “put to the ban” the entire population–and that the word “ban”  corresponds precisely to the Hebrew word for the same sort of behavior–well, it puts the theological and philosophical discussion on a whole different level.

So, the question, “Why would God command the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites?” cannot be addressed in an intramural theological back-and-forth. It must also include this little bit of historical information: Yahweh’s actions are not unique but seem part of an ancient way of thinking.


I agree with Enns that his observation is hardly worth mentioning. Indeed, we could append that disclaimer to most all of what he writes.

He seems to think that because Moabites used a cognate term, they have the same concept. He also seems to think that if the Moabites kill people, and the Israelites kill people, that’s morally equivalent.

Of course, he’s disregarding the specific rationale in the Mosaic law.

To take a comparison, in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Nazis killed Jews and Jews killed Nazis. But the mutual killing was morally asymmetrical.

9-5

I don’t share his conspiratorial view of corporations, but that aside, he has a point:


The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce.

I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing.

The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.

Suddenly I have a lot more money and a lot less time, which means I have a lot more in common with the typical working North American than I did a few months ago. While I was abroad I wouldn’t have thought twice about spending the day wandering through a national park or reading my book on the beach for a few hours. Now that kind of stuff feels like it’s out of the question. Doing either one would take most of one of my precious weekend days!

The last thing I want to do when I get home from work is exercise. It’s also the last thing I want to do after dinner or before bed or as soon as I wake, and that’s really all the time I have on a weekday.

Are children of believers presumptively elect?

http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_51.html

http://www.westminsterconfession.org/the-doctrines-of-grace/historic-calvinism-and-neo-calvinism.php

King of kings, Majesty

Men have forgotten God

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

What is more, the events of the Russian Revolution can only be understood now, at the end of the century, against the background of what has since occurred in the rest of the world. What emerges here is a process of universal significance. And if I were called upon to identify briefly the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, here too, I would be unable to find anything more precise and pithy than to repeat once again: Men have forgotten God.

Read the rest here.

How peer review impedes science

Counterintuitive hypotheses are your trademark. What are the challenges?

When I [Jaroslav Flegr] send papers to top journals, they’re often rejected out of hand by editors, without any formal review. The danger of making interesting claims—like when I said that Darwinian theory is not quite correct and can be improved—is that you won’t be considered a serious scientist.