There is within this article an interesting bit on his interrogation so to speak with the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.
– Isaac Asimov
Friday, June 13, 2014
Christian apologists often cite archeological corroboration of various Scriptural customs, persons, events, &c. But on the face of it, this appeal cuts both ways. If archeology is in a position to confirm Bible history, does that mean archeology is in a position to disconfirm Bible history?
Indeed, critics of the Bible cite examples where the archeological record allegedly contradicts the Bible. So where does that leave the evidentiary value of archeology in Christian apologetics?
1) To begin with, critics usually mount an argument from silence. They point to the lack of archeological evidence for various Biblical narratives or references. That, however, doesn't contradict Scripture. So the objection involves a bait-and-switch.
In addition, we wouldn't expect an abundance of archeological corroboration. Most of the evidence never survived. Moreover, place-names change over centuries, so identification can be difficult.
2) But there's another issue. For these are not symmetrical claims. If, say, Josephus and the NT both refer to John the Baptist, that demands a special explanation. It's highly unlikely that both would accidentally refer to John the Baptist. Rather, there must be a reason for their correspondence.
In principle, there are two potential reasons why two (or more) independent accounts refer to the same thing:
i) They refer to the same thing because they are based on the same event. A common event accounts for independent records of the same event. Because it really happened, it was reported. Indeed, reported in more than one source.
ii) In some cases, they may refer to the same thing because they share a common source. Even though two accounts may be independent of each other, they may be dependent on the same underlying source.
In any case, their agreement commands our attention. It's impressive when two independent accounts report the same thing.
3) But if they disagree, that doesn't demand a special explanation. That may simply mean one had a better source of information than the other. By itself, their disagreement doesn't cast doubt on one account rather than another. One account can be true, even if it's flatly contradicted by another account. For instance, a court historian may say the king always wins, even if the king lost.
By contrast, if two different accounts correspond, this strongly suggests that both accounts are at least approximately correct, for it's not just a coincidence that two independent accounts refer to the same thing–as if they just so happen to imagine the same thing. Usually, an actual event gave rise to both accounts.
In TNG, Data and Lore are identical twin android "brothers." Yet Lore is Data's alter ego. Data is good, while Lore is evil. Data is the Boy Scout to Lore's serial killer.
What makes one good and the other evil? Simply that Lore was wired a little differently than Data. Lore was a failed experiment. A defective model. Noonian Soong was learning by trial and error how to make an artificially intelligent robot.
Another example is The Terminator series. In the first film, the Terminator was programmed to neutralize John Connor. In the second film, he was reprogrammed to protect John Connor.
From a secular perspective, that's what morality comes down to. It all depends on adding or removing something from the brain. If natural selection installs a morality chip, that makes you "good." If the chip is removed, that makes you amoral. If the wrong chip is accidentally inserted, that makes you "bad."
Morality is arbitrary. It's all about parts. Reducible to parts of the brain. If you replace one part with another part, you replace one morality with a different morality. Data and Lore are different because their circuitry is a bit different.
Dr. Nelson Jennings’s Final Response
I believe that the overriding question we actually face before God and others is whether we will unwittingly remain in our Euro-American-tribal gated communities, e.g., Greco-Latin theological instincts, or exhibit an ever-reforming growth through humbly engaging with other parts of the omnilingual Creator-Redeemer's worldwide Church. Our cultural-linguistic limitations, enforced by our U.S. nationalism and clannish historical sensibilities, keep us devotedly singing one Christian note and prevent us from hearing the splendor of divinely orchestrated music resounding throughout the earth. I pray that future generations of our ecclesiastical circles will develop wider cultural-linguistic breadth than we currently have.
i) I wonder if Jennings is really that confused, or if he's simply kicking up a dust-cloud to conceal the real issue. Maybe he's so defensive at this point that he sincerely believes his own propaganda.
One of the flashpoints of the IM controversy is whether Christian missionaries and Bible translators should continue to speak of Jesus as the "Son of God" in the context of outreach to Muslims. Keep in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg. There's much more to the Insider Movement. It just gets worse (see below).
But, for now, let's stay on point. The question at issue isn't about words, but concepts or categories. Fatherhood and sonship aren't culturebound categories. To the contrary, these are cultural universals. In the nature of the case, every human society, however large or small, primitive or advanced, has mothers and fathers, sons, brothers, &c. I daresay every language on earth has words for these core relationships.
In addition, fatherhood and sonship are unique, irreducible, and irreplaceable categories. There's nothing more ultimate. No equivalents. These are defining, rock-bottom features of human nature.
For that reason, God made them central theological metaphors in his revelation to man. Moreover, human fatherhood and sonship are analogous to the divine nature.
Christians missionaries should avoid giving unnecessary offense to the receptor culture. When, however, the Gospel itself is the stumbling block, there's nothing more that a missionary can do than to explain it. OT prophets preached a message that many listeners spurned. Jesus and the Apostles preached a message that many listeners spurned. That's unavoidable.
ii) It's also patronizing for IM proponents to think non-Western cultures can't adapt to Biblical categories. How did Western missionaries become Christian in the first place? The OT didn't originate in Western culture. And, to a great extent, the NT is rooted in the OT.
When our Western ancestors converted to Christianity, they had to adapt to what was, in many ways, an alien outlook. For that matter, Islam has been Westernized over the centuries. Consider medieval Muslim theologians who interacted with Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosophy.
Finally, here's an expose of the Insider Movement:
Michael Bird has weighed in on WTS retiring Douglas Green:
I'm struck by how Bird and William B. Evans act like they just fell off the turnip truck. Both men should know by now how the world works. Sure, to speak of his "retirement" is a bit euphemistic. But we'd expect the official announcement is going to be expressed in diplomatic terms, which will understate the full reasons for the action.
It's pretty jejune to think that tells the whole story. I expect the action has less to do with his faint digital footprint and more to do with what he's said in class over the years, as well as what came out when he was repeatedly questioned by the Trustees.
My best guess is that the Trustees wanted to avoid a repeat performance of the public psychodrama involving Peter Enns. The problem with suspending Enns before he was terminated is that it gave his supporters advance warning, which they used to mobilize opposition and mount a public campaign ("Save our Seminary").
In this case, by entering into private negotiations with Green, the only public announcement was at the end of the process, rather than the outset of the process. It's a done deal. Hence, no time for supporters to riot.
I also expect a condition of offering him early retirement is that both sides would refrain from saying too much in public about the nature of their disagreement. Otherwise, both sides feel the need to defend themselves, in which case it's the Peter Enns affair redux.
This way, each side gets something out of the deal. Because it's mutually beneficial, Green agreed to it rather than raising a ruckus. He gets a golden parachute while the board gets to reorganize the OT dept. Notice that retiring Green was coordinated with hiring Duguid.
I don't know that for a fact, although I do have some inside information. But as long as outsiders to the process like Bird and Evans feel free to speculate, I can speculate, too.
I blogged on this topic some years ago around the time of the Peter Enns controversy and it prompted no few responses (and let the record show that I do disagree with Enns on a lot of stuff, just see the book Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy).
But it's not enough to say you disagree with Enns. That's a throwaway line, like "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but…"
It's the duty of the WTS administration to ensure fidelity to the authority of God's word. Past administrations were derelict. The current administration is being blamed for cleaning up the mess left by the lax policy of their latitudinarian predecessors.
Fact is, evangelicalism seems to be heading for a schism. The current political climate has emboldened "progressive evangelicals" to openly reject "offensive" biblical teachings. So now is the time for Christian colleges and seminaries to recommit.
This reminds me why I am so grateful for the three colleges I’ve worked for because I’ve never had a board where members troll through my work looking for the slightest minor exegetical objection that they can use as a reason to hang me. So glad that the boards of HTC, BST, and Ridley College have focused on strategic matters, creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual encouragement, supporting faculty in their research, and not micro-managing the interpretive decisions of their faculty with the threat of a lynching ever lingering in the air.
Bird has a penchant for making chauvinistic statements. But given what I've read about the degree of secularization Down Under, as well as how Enns has been moving steadily to the left, Bird needs to eat some crow rather than crow about the superiority of his alternative.
Thursday, June 12, 2014
This phrase is increasingly popular among social liberals (although conservative pundits occasionally use it). It's equivalent to other idioms like "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
I doubt liberals who use this phrase really think about the logic behind it.
i) To begin with, it's a recipe for amoral pragmatism. Back the winning side, whichever side that might be. Do social liberals really believe that? What if the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade. Would they switch sides on the abortion debate?
ii) There's also the quality of a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can make something a lost cause by premature surrender. Sometimes you create the outcome by prejudging the outcome, then adapting to the imagined outcome.
iii) The motto is tautologous. History is whatever happens, for good or ill. Better for some and worse for others. In that sense, there is no right or wrong side of history.
By that logic, whoever won the last war is on the right side of history. When whoever won the last war loses the next war, that suddenly puts him on the wrong side of history–unless the next reversal. Outcomes oscillate.
iv) The culture wars don't have decisive winners or losers. Both sides gain ground and lose ground.
Mary Cheney, the openly gay daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney and younger sister of Wyoming U.S. Senate candidate Liz Cheney (R), said Sunday that her sister is on the "wrong side of history" by opposing same-sex marriage.
Social liberals increasingly resort to this phrase. I'd simply point out that, by that metric, Christians are on the right side of history:
31 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30).
I'm going to make a few observations about the census of Quirinius (Lk 2:1-2).
i) Richard Carrier thinks Luke contradicts Josephus. And he uses Josephus as his standard of comparison:
In the tenth year of Archelaus's government the leading men in Judaea and Samaria could not endure his cruelty and tyranny and accused him before Caesar...and when Caesar heard this, he went into a rage...and sent Archelaus into exile...to Vienna, and took away his property.[3.3]
So roughly ten years separate the death of Herod and the arrival of Quirinius. When was the census held in Judaea? Josephus says quite unequivocally that:
Quirinius made an account of Archelaus' property and finished conducting the census, which happened in the thirty-seventh year after Caesar's defeat of Antony at Actium. [3.4]
ii) It's revealing to compare his confidence in Josephus with what Carrier says elsewhere:
Your doubts become stronger when you can't question the witnesses; when you don't even know who they are; when you don't have the story from them but from someone else entirely; when there is an agenda, something the storyteller is attempting to persuade you of; when the witnesses or reporters are a bit kooky or disturbingly overzealous. John Loftus, ed. The Christian Delusion (Promethus 2010), 292.
Why doesn't Carrier apply his skeptical criteria to Josephus? Carrier can't very well question the ancient witnesses. He doesn't even know who they are. Moreover, Josephus is getting his information from someone else. And Josephus had an agenda.
iii) By conventional reckoning, the census of Quirinius took place about 40 years before Josephus was born. In the nature of the case, Josephus had no firsthand knowledge of the event. He relies on whatever his sources were. And his sources may rely on other sources.
iv)This also raises questions concerning how much ancient historians could know about relative chronology. Let's take a comparison. Consider the gunfight at O.K. Corral. Contemporary newspapers tell us that happened on October 26, 1881. But that's because newspapers were using the Gregorian calendar. When, however, we attempt to date the census of Quirinius, we don't have that kind of direct calendrical correlation. We have to reconstruct the date, as best we can.
Suppose our sources for the gunfight didn't give a date. Suppose they said it took place before W.W.I. Although that tells me the gunfight was earlier than W.W.I., it doesn't tell me how much earlier. It doesn't tell me if it happened before or after the Civil War.
Likewise, suppose our sources said it happened when Chester Arthur was president. But unless I know when Chester Arthur was president, that doesn't give me a date, or a year. Indeed, it doesn't even give me a relative chronology. For, unless I know the historical order of US presidents, knowing that the gunfight took place when Chester Arthur was president doesn't tell me if that happened before or after Ulysses Grant was president.
That's the thing about relative chronology: to know a little, you need to know a lot. To know that one event was earlier or later than another event, especially how much earlier or later, you have to know about the intervening events. If there are significant gaps in the record, you can't say how much earlier or later. You have a bare sequence, but the duration of the intervals is indeterminate.
v) The census of Qurinius and the gunfight at O.K. Corral have something else in common. These events became more famous with the passage of time. They didn't start out that way. There were ever so many shootouts in the Old West. In our own time, the gunfight at O.K. Corral is famous because Hollywood made it famous. And because Hollywood made it famous, historians go back and write about it. So you have a dialectical process. It was sufficiently well-known that Hollywood directors made movies about it. That, in turn, makes it more famous, which attracts additional historical investigation.
Likewise, Luke made the census of Quirinius a famous event. It wasn't that famous to begin with. As a result, our surviving records don't say that much about the career of Quirinius. He was just one among many barely-remembered Roman officials. More famous in death than in life. Immortalized by one verse in the Bible.
Karl Giberson is a prominent critic of creationism and intelligent-design theory. He recently made some revealing comments about miracles on Paul Moser's Facebook page:
Karl Giberson I refer to the study by Larson and Witham, considered definitive. Also some more recent work by Elaine Ecklund. Miracles are more complicated and less relevant. Loads of Christians reject virtually all miracles save the resurrection and even define that in a different way.
15 hours ago · Like
Robert Firestone At what point is the word "Christian" even meaningful without the bodily resurrection?
15 hours ago · Like · 1
Karl Giberson You should read Hans Kung or other leading theologians who explain that. I am not a theologian. I was once, rather provocatively, asked to "draw the trajectory of the ascension." Try it....
15 hours ago · Like
Wall Street Journal: Islamist Insurgents Advance Toward Baghdad … Overrun Tikrit ...
Islamist militants swept out of northern Iraq Wednesday to seize their second city in two days, threatening Baghdad and pushing the country's besieged government to signal it would allow U.S. airstrikes to beat back the advance.
An alarmed Iraqi government also asked the U.S. to accelerate delivery of pledged military support, particularly Apache helicopters, F-16 fighters and surveillance equipment, to help push back fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an al Qaeda offshoot known as ISIS. The U.S. said it has been expediting shipments of military hardware to the Iraqis all year.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said his country faces a "mortal threat" from the ISIS insurgents…
Stratfor: Worsening Violence in Iraq Threatens Regional Security
Battles continue to rage across northern Iraq, pitting jihadist group the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant against Iraqi security forces and their allies. The growing reach of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant has escalated an already brutal campaign in Iraq. Alarmingly quick advances by the militants across an important region of the Middle East could draw in regional powers as well as the United States.
Using hit-and-run tactics, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, has sought to keep Iraqi security forces dispersed and under pressure. ISIL has achieved this by striking at areas where security forces are weak and withdrawing from areas where Baghdad has concentrated its combat power. The jihadists have been working hard to improve their tradecraft by developing skill sets ranging from staging complex ambushes to using Iraqi army equipment effectively in surprise raids. ISIL has also sought to better develop its ties with local Sunni communities. …
New York Times: Iraq Militants, Pushing South, Aim at Capital
BAGHDAD — Sunni militants consolidated and extended their control over northern Iraq on Wednesday, seizing Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, threatening the strategic oil refining town of Baiji and pushing south toward Baghdad, their ultimate target, Iraqi sources said.
As the dimensions of the assault began to become clear, it was evident that a number of militant groups had joined forces, including Baathist military commanders from the Hussein era, whose goal is to rout the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. One of the Baathists, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, was a top military commander and a vice president in the Hussein government and one of the few prominent Baathists to evade capture by the Americans throughout the occupation.
“These groups were unified by the same goal, which is getting rid of this sectarian government, ending this corrupt army and negotiating to form the Sunni Region,” said Abu Karam, a senior Baathist leader and a former high-ranking army officer, who said planning for the offensive had begun two years ago. “The decisive battle will be in northern Baghdad. These groups will not stop in Tikrit and will keep moving toward Baghdad.”
The United States really needs to re-think its policies vis-à-vis Islam. I’m not a person who believed the US should have “finished the job” in 2003 – the reference there to the containment policy policy put into place by George Bush 41 – “no-fly” zones to contain the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Hussein was bad, but he in turn had contained the various Islamist forces within his country. The exaggerated threats that “made necessary” the 2003 invasion of Iraq have now come full cycle, to be seen in their full folly.
The U.S. invasion did not settle the region. It has inflamed it. Poor thinking now by two U.S. Presidents has enabled Islamists to become more powerful and entrenched in the region than they have ever been:
Today, ISIS's network of fighters in Syria and Iraq are better trained, equipped and manned than its predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, which U.S. forces fought for years and eventually decimated at the height of the Iraq war, according to the latest U.S. military assessments.
ISIS operates in formations, more like an army than a loose network of fighters, said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official. The group's sophisticated global recruitment network could allow it to redirect suicide bombers from targets in Syria and Iraq to neighboring countries, the official said.
What’s an effective policy for fighting this sort of thing? The 1948 “Berlin Airlift” was a policy that supported western interests in preventing Soviet expansion. The Korean War was a stalemate and a disaster. Eisenhower’s “Cold War” efforts provided an effective policy throughout the 1950’s for containing the Soviet Union. But the “hot wars” in Korea and Vietnam were disasters that accomplished nothing and fomented much damage.
Nixon’s “d’etente” with the Soviets was weak. Ronald Reagan’s military build-up in the 1980’s was the ultimately effective deterrent to the Soviet threat. George Bush 41 learned from that. His response to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 – “Desert Shield” – the build-up of multi-national military defenses along the Saudi border was an effective deterrent. The continuing policy of deterrent, from 1991 through early 2000s, was also an effective policy. The attacks of 9/11/2001 were not from a failure of that policy. And the 2003 invasion – seeking to “one-up” the 1991 “Desert Storm” effort in Iraq, has proved to be a failure. Israel’s security fence surrounding the Gaza Strip has effectively prevented single suicide bombers from crossing its border with Gaza, and the security wall between Israel and the West Bank is having the same effect.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. But it’s not hard to understand what’s worked in recent military history, and what hasn’t worked. We know that “elections have consequences”. It would be good to see some intelligent discussions about these issues over the next couple of years.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
I'm going to comment on this article:
i) First thing I'd ask: whose the editor of By Faith? Why is online magazine of the PCA pushing this politically correct rubbish?
It's like Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. Your neighbors are replaced by pod people. Alien lookalikes. When did By Faith become infiltrated by contributors like this? I'd note in passing that the previous article takes the Jim Wallis view on illegal immigration.
Here's a better idea: do an article on why Peter Enns is still a PCA elder in good standing.
ii) The article is written by a vegetarian. What a surprise.
Billions of animals are thus negated each year, denied the environment and context in which to live out their lives in the manner in which their Creator designed them: running, foraging, grazing, ranging, scratching, breeding, socializing.
That's very idyllic–like a Disney film, with fawns, butterflies, chipmunks, and bunny-rabbits. Of course, for those of us who watch nature shows, life in the wild typically consists of prey eaten alive by predators. Is that more humane than "factory farms"? Some species practice filial cannibalism. Is that more humane than "factory farms"?
CAFOs are the “factory farms” that produce the overwhelming majority of today’s animal-based food. To many people concerned with animal welfare, including some Christians, CAFOs are notorious. More than simply being locations where animal cruelty takes place, CAFOs themselves are a systematized form of creature abuse. Matthew Scully calls them “negation” — negation of cows, pigs, and chickens as created beings and affirmation of them only as units of production.
i) Like atheists who hyperventilate about the (alleged) problem of animal suffering, Mobley treats all animals alike, as if one species is interchangeable with another species. But animals range along a continuum of sentience.
Not only are some wild animals naturally stupid, but livestock are bred to be stupid. That makes them more manageable. More docile. Less likely to escape or attack the farmer or rancher.
Chickens aren't very bright–to put it mildly. What's the emotional life of a chicken?
Likewise, cows are awfully dumb. And they are bred to be dumb. If milk cows and beef cattle had the intelligence or temperament of Cape Buffalo, they'd be extremely dangerous for farmers and rangers to work with.
Pigs may be smarter than cattle, although that isn't saying much.
ii) In addition, we need to distinguish social animals that bond with humans (e.g. dogs, horses) from animals that don't bond with humans.
For instance, I think dogfighting should be illegal, but I don't think cockfighting should be illegal. I think cockfighting is depraved. It reflects very badly on the humans. But let's face it, chickens are really dumb. Honestly, what's a chicken's capacity for mental anguish?
iii) Consider the OT kosher laws. That involves slitting the animal's throat (shechitah). Animal rights activists have lobbied to have shechitah outlawed because they think it's inhumane. Did God command animal cruelty?
Evangelical scholars often struggle to synchronize who was at the empty tomb at what time. I'll make a few programmatic observations:
i) Inerrancy makes allowance for reporting events out of sequence.
ii) As a practical matter, it's often impossible to narrate a complex series of events in their chronological order. Take a historian writing about the Civil War. He couldn't adhere to a strictly chronological account even if he wanted to, because you have so many simultaneous or overlapping incidents at different places. What Northern or Southern politicians were doing at any given time. What Northern or Southern generals were doing at any given time.
iii) But here's another complication. Why assume the men and women who visited the empty tomb only did that once? If you were a follower of Jesus, and you discovered the tomb was empty, or you heard from others that the tomb was empty, would you only go there one time? Or would you return to the site several times that day, because it was so astonishing that you kept going back to see it again and again?
So, if we attempt to synchronize the relative order in which people went to the empty tomb, we should make allowance for some of the same people going there more than once on the same day.
13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper… (Jn 13:1-2).
28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover (Jn 18:28).
14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” (Jn 19:14).
Some scholars think there's a discrepancy between John's Passion week chronology and the Synoptic chronology. There are different proposals for finessing this alleged discrepancy.
1) One issue concerns the timing of the Crucifixion. Did it take place at the third hour (Mk 15:25) or the sixth hour (Jn 19:14)?
i) One proposal is that John uses the Roman system whereas the Synoptics use the Jewish system (e.g. Andrew Steinmann). But that's disputed.
ii) Perhaps a better explanation is that, before the advent of clocks, when people told time by the sun, the time of day was inherently imprecise. Sunrise and sunset vary throughout the year. Hence, it's anachronistic for modern readers, with digital clocks, to expect precise hourly time-divisions.
2) A more substantial issue concerns the relationship of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion to the Sabbath.
i) One suggestion is that John and the Synoptics are working from different, independent traditions (e.g. J. R. Michaels). The problem with that suggestion is that if John and the Synoptics endorse divergent traditions, then that's at odds with the inerrancy of Scripture.
ii) There's also the question of whether John was familiar with the Synoptic Gospels. Assuming that's the case, then even if, for whatever reason, his chronology is different, that wouldn't be a mistake on his part. Rather, that would be intentional. It's not as if his chronology is different because he was ignorant of Synoptic chronology. Rather, the difference is deliberate.
iii) Apropos (ii), another suggestion is that John adapted the timeline for symbolic reasons, to synchronize the Crucifixion with Jewish pilgrims sacrificing their paschal lambs (e.g. Leon Morris, Craig Keener). However, that's subject to certain objections.
a) This is based on later Jewish tradition, which may not go back to the time in question.
b) Even if the tradition is accurate, it might be too subtle for John's audience. That, however, assumes John wrote with just one audience in mind. But authors often pitch their work at different levels. The basic story is comprehensible to the average reader. But they also write with the ideal reader in mind–someone who will appreciate the subtleties.
c) If John changed the day to make a theological point, there's no underlying event to support the symbolism.
iv) Perhaps the best suggestion is that John is referring to something else. As one scholar explains:
If one is not content to posit a contradiction between John and the Synoptists (a position which has its own difficulties, not the least of them being the indications that John himself knows, and sometimes follows, the Synoptic chronology [See below, pp293-294]), various possible ways of reconciling them are worthy of consideration.
"The Preparation of the Passover" (Jn 19:14) is a phrase which naturally recalls the rabbinical expression "the Eve of the Passover," meaning Nisan 14, "The Passover" itself being Nisan 15. However, the rabbinical form of language is curiously at variance with the OT, where it is Nisan 14 that is "the Passover," and Nisan 15 is the first day of "Unleavened Bread" (Lev 23:5f; Num 28:16f); and there is no clear example of the rabbinical phraseology in the NT. So, as the "Preparation," paraskeue, commonly means Friday (the preparation for the Sabbath), and as the word is used twice in this sense in the very same chapter of John (Jn 19:31,42), it seems better to understand "the Preparation of the Passover" as meaning "the Friday of Passover week"–either the Friday of the Jewish week (from Sunday to Saturday) within which Passover fell that year, or, perhaps better, the Friday within the feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, though of as a single festival (cp. Mk 14:1; Lk 22:1).
"Eat the Passover" (Jn 18:28) is more difficult, for there is no doubt that it would usually mean "eat the Passover lamb." But since it turns out, in light of the foregoing evidence, that this interpretation would make John contradict himself about the chronology, a less usual interpretation becomes a distinct possibility. The sacrifice of the Passover lamb, and the meal which followed, were only the first (though the most important) of the many sacrifices and sacred meals which took place throughout the Passover and Unleavened Bread, and had done so since OT times. In the first century, it was held that the command not "to appear empty" before the Lord at the pilgrim feasts (Exod 23:15; 34:20; Deut 16:16) had a precise meaning: it meant each male Israelite bringing a burnt offering and a peace offering, in addition to the Passover lamb; and this obligation is the subject of the tractate Hagigah in the Mishnah. Those referred to in Jn 18:28 as wanting to remain ceremonially clean so as to "eat the Passover" are the chief priests and the Pharisees (cp. v3). The Pharisees would have been very scrupulous about the Hagigah duty, and as it involved a peace offering, which necessarily included a sacred meal, they would certainly have wanted to remain ceremonially clean so as to be able to eat it. Even more would this have concerned the chief priests, since a share of every peace offering went to the priest who offered it. Moreover, the peace offering might be an ox from the herd, rather than a lamb or goat from the flock.
The question, therefore, faces us, was it possible to use phrases like "to sacrifice the Passover" and "to eat the Passover" to cover these other sacrifices and sacred meals as well? In OT times, Deut 16:2f shows that it was, and as the OT was the Bible of Judaism, and the Pentateuch was reckoned its most important part, it was always possible for Pentateuchal phraseology to be echoed or copied. What Deut 16:2f says is:Though shalt sacrifice the Passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to cause his name to dwell there. Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it (i.e. with the Passover); seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread with it, even the bread of affliction.Here the phrase "sacrifice the Passover" is actually used, and the phrase "eat unleavened bread with the Passover" (and therefore "eat the Passover" itself) is clearly implied; and in both cases the reference is to what goes on for seven days, and includes the sacrificing and eating of oxen from the herd as well as lambs and kids from the flock. The usage is found again in the Hebrew of 2 Chron 30:22, in the account of Hezekiah's Passover, where the literal meaning isSo they ate the festal sacrifice (i.e. the Passover, v18) for the seven days, offering sacrifices of peace offerings, and giving thanks to the Lord, the God of their fathers.Moreover, the earliest example occurs in biblical Greek as well, since Deut 16:2f is literally translated in the Septuagint (whereas 2 Chron 30:22 is paraphrased). R. Beckwith, Calendar and Chronology, Jewish and Christian (E. J. Brill 1996), 290,294-296. Cf. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul (Concordia 2011), 276ff.
We now possess, in some Essene writings, works emanating from apocalyptic circles in Palestine at about the middle of the second century BC–the very setting in which Daniel is widely believed to have been composed. It is therefore noteworthy that, had the 70-Weeks prophecy been regarded in these circles as a prophecy after the event, relating to the murder of Onias III, they could by the use of their chronological scheme have provided it with a much more accurate date than 483-490 years after the Exile; but in point of fact they did not regard it as a fulfilled prophecy but as one yet to be fulfilled and did not relate it to Onias III but to the Davidic Messiah (See Table I on p257 and also pp232-234). R. Beckwith, Calendar and Chronology, Jewish and Christian (E. J. Brill 1996), 274-75.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
I believe that true love never kidnaps, and never forces itself on another…Love must always be chosen.
This is a popular Arminian trope. It reflects the superficiality of Arminians, who don't bother to consider obvious counterexamples. For instance:
16 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 2 “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations, 3 and say, Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. 4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ 7 I made you flourish like a plant of the field (Ezk 16:1-7).
In this passage, Israel is like foundling. A newborn abandoned to die of exposure. Yahweh adopts the foundling and raises the foundling. Needless to say, the baby didn't choose the adoptive parent.
Take another example of a mother who, at grave personal risk, kidnapped her own daughter in a rescue mission:
A desperate mother dressed head-to-toe in Islamic dress and hid her face behind a veil to carry out a daring mission to snatch her daughter back from the child's Egyptian father. Alex Abou-El-Ella, 29, of Slough, Berkshire, risked everything to rescue her daughter Mona, three, two years after her husband spirited the girl out of Britain and took her to his home country. She ignored Foreign Office warnings not to travel to the country, which is gripped by civil unrest, tracked down the child and disguised herself as a local to carry out the audacious rescue.
There are quite a few stories like this. That's true love–maternal love.
By now the news has spread regarding the forced “retirement” of Dr. Douglas Green, Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. After being examined in 2009 by the WTS Board regarding his view of the institution’s “Affirmations and Denials Regarding Recent Issues” (a document framed in the context of the controversy involving another WTS OT Professor, Peter Enns) and passing muster, we learn that in November of 2013 the Board reversed itself and decided that Green’s response is “no longer acceptable.”
I don't have an informed option to offer on Green. From what I can tell, he doesn't have much of a paper trail.
However, I'll say this. If I remember rightly, when Peter Enns applied for tenure at WTS, all his colleagues in the OT dept. supported him. And during the ensuing controversy, I don't recall that any of his colleagues in the OT dept. opposed him. Opposition came from other departments.
Hence, it would be naive to assume the problems in the OT dept. at WTS begin and end with Peter Enns. It would be naive to assume that his departure solved the problem, all by itself. To the extent that his colleagues in the same dept. were sympathetic and supportive, the problem was never confined to Enns. Perhaps he was just more aggressive and outspoken about promoting his views.
So I was waiting to see if WTS was going to follow up on other faculty in the OT dept. Taken by itself, his termination could just be a symbolic gesture. It's gratifying to see that WTS is making a good faith effort to root out the problem.
All this raises uncomfortable questions about the future of WTS. The institution that I attended in the 1980s was one in which Ray Dillard and Dick Gaffin and Sinclair Ferguson and Harvie Conn and Tremper Longman and Vern Poythress and Philip Edgcumbe Hughes and Clair Davis and Robert Knudsen and Tim Keller and Moises Silva and Roger Greenway and Manny Ortiz and Rick Gamble could get along and work together despite their sometimes considerable differences. That institution is now apparently gone. Of course, nothing stays the same, and perhaps a new context and new challenges demand that lines be drawn more narrowly. It remains to be seen, however, whether a narrower institution can thrive in the current challenging seminary market environment. Furthermore, will it produce scholarship that is meaningful and useful to the broader Christian world rather than catering to the boundary preoccupations of the conservative Reformed subculture?
Actually, the question is whether seminaries like WTS will maintain their commitment to the inspiration and historicity of Scripture. WTS is undergoing a midcourse correction. That's long overdue.
Some lives seem to be cut short in the prime of life, when they had so much more to experience or offer. E. J. Young died at 60. His unexpected death left the OT dept. at Westminster in disarray. In fact, it never recovered. We may puzzle at God's providence.
By contrast, Gleason Archer died a month shy of his 88th birthday. He had so much to give, and his long life enabled him to give so much.
Archer and Young had much in common. Both wrote conservative OT introductions. Both wrote commentaries on Daniel. Both wrote monographs defending the inerrancy of Scripture. Both were phenomenal linguists:
Dr. Archer taught New Testament Greek, biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Akkadian, Egyptian, and Syriac…Some have estimated that he spoke about thirty languages.
Many of us were aware of Young's ability in languages. In my opinion, no one except Dr. Young and the Lord God knew how many languages he could speak or read. From my contacts with him, I knew he could read well most of the modern Western European languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, etc. I also knew he was capable in most of the Semitic languages, such as Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, the Akkadian languages, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Moabite, etc. I understand that he learned to communicate in Arabic during a transatlantic boat trip to Israel. In addition, I heard that he had learned to speak Korean from some of the students at the Seminary and was skilled enough in that language to correct the grammar in a Korean letter he had received—a thing he did, no doubt, with characteristic self-effacement and humility. It was reputed that as he took his usual walks to and from the Seminary, he was reading one of the Latin or Greek volumes from the Loeb Classical Library.
So it might seem Archer had a more productive life than Young. If only Young had another 10-15 years.
Yet longevity is hazardous:
Gleason’s wife, Sandra, passed away October 27, 1999, and he began to suffer more extensively from dementia after that, living with his daughter Betsy and her family. He passed into the presence of the Lord on April 27, 2004 (ibid.).
So he was senile in the last 5 or so years of his life. It might seem as though Young died prematurely. yet had he lived longer, he might have suffered the ravages of old age.
Moreover, you don't have to be elderly to be susceptible to lose your mind. OT scholar John Sailhamer had to take early retirement:
Seth Postell was one of the last Ph.D. students before Sailhamer, sadly, was unable to continue functioning due to dementia.
Although we're tempted to lament the untimely demise of some people, other people live too long for their own good. In God's providence, dying sooner can be a mercy. God knows best.
Marc Lüttingen recently interviewed Jerry Walls. Lüttingen lobs a series of leading, softball questions. Let's evaluate a few of the answers:
Calvinists are skillful at employing the rhetoric of love and most people do not really understand what Calvinists are saying. So Calvinism maintains credibility by way of misleading rhetoric about the love of God that their theology does not really support.
Really? Is the Westminster Confession a classified document? Can't you find that on the Internet, along with Calvin's Institutes, Jonathan Edwards, and so forth? It's not like you have to be a 33º Freemason before they show you the fine print.
I believe whatever God wills is right, but I DO NOT think it follows that God can will just anything and make it right.
Neither did John Calvin. What a coincidence!
Or worse. For the Calvinist, God’s ways that are “higher” than ours are actually lower than the standards we expect for a decent human being.
Actually, the Arminian God refuses to intervene in many situations where we'd expect a decent human being to intervene.
That is only because it is rather embarrassing to admit you don’t really believe “God so loved the (whole) world” and gave his Son for all. But that is only a feeble attempt to mask the hard reality that the Calvinist God does not truly love all persons.
i) So Jerry evidently thinks the Johannine kosmos is synonymous with "all persons." He doesn't offer any exegetical or lexical evidence for that equivalence.
ii) John doesn't say God loved the "world." Rather, John said God loved the kosmos. John wrote in Greek, not English.
Now, when translators render Greek into English, they try to find English words whose semantic domain overlaps with the Greek words. Even so, the English words won't have all the same meanings or connotations as the Greek words. To take an example:
Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood (Rev 22:15).
Does that mean your pet dog is damned? Clearly the Greek word has different connotations for a 1C reader than "dog" has for 21C pet owners.
In addition, we must also ask what John is contrasting kosmos to. For an example of both distinctions:
ii) Finally, would it be "embarrassing" to say God doesn't love Joseph Mengele, Kermit Gosnell, John Evander Couey, or Lawrence Bernard Singleton (to name a few)? Would their victims find that "embarrassing"?
So long as you have unconditional election and irresistible grace only for the elect, it does not help to play down limited atonement.
I, for one, don't downplay limited atonement.
You still have limited salvation. It is limited strictly to the elect God unconditionally chooses to save, but no one else.
Everyone except the universalist limits salvation–Walls included.
Such claims make shambles of the claim that God is love.
In Calvinism, God does more for fewer people; in Arminianism, God does less for more people. Which is more loving? It's a tradeoff.
Jerry Walls: I’m not sure, but this may be good candidate for the infamous distinction between the revealed and the decretive will of God. He reveals one thing to be his will, and commands it, but decrees something altogther different! Talk about internal conflict!
You mean, like this "infamous" distinction:
2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt (Exod 7:2-3).
I'm going to comment on this:
Out of all of the theologies in the world, I find Calvinism among the most offensive. And frustrating. And irritating.
I see. More offensive than militant Islam or the Aztec religion. Nice to see he has priorities.
One of the key aspects of Calvinism is a concept called “predestination” which essentially means, God picked the people who are going to heaven. Where it gets sick is on the flip side of that same coin (a position held by Calvin), that God also picks the people who go to hell. There are no choices involved– before God even created us, he hand picked who would go to heaven and who he would burn in hell for all of eternity.
Sick like this?
For those whom he chose beforehand he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom 8:29).
4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,…11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph 1:4-5,11).
who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Tim 1:9).
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come (Rev 17:8).
Why is it "sick" that God decides what to do with us before he made us? Would it be preferable for God to make us before he had any idea what to do with us? Make us first, then decide after the fact what will become of us?
Now, we know from the teachings of Jesus that the group of people in history who embrace God is smaller than the group who do not (broad vs. narrow road).
Even Arminians like Joel Green, in his commentary on Luke, disagree with that interpretation.
If both Calvinists and Jesus are equally correct, the result is purely evil. This would mean that God created a MAJORITY of humanity for the sole purpose of torturing them in hell for all of eternity, and that they never had a choice. God would have created them for the sole purpose of torturing them. I just don’t think I can worship a god who would do something like that.
i) That's confused on many levels. What exactly is his objection? If God only predestined a minority of humanity to go to hell, would he withdraw his objection? Is his objection about the ratio?
ii) What makes him think that according to Calvinism, God creates the reprobate for the sole purpose of punishing them in hell? Can he quote any Reformed creeds or representative Reformed theologians who say that?
The reprobate serve a purpose in history. For instance, there are reprobate fathers of elect sons or daughters.
iii) Why does he assume hell is equivalent to "torture"?
Case in point: if I get to heaven and find out that my beautiful daughter Johanna is in hell and that she’s in hell because God chose her before the foundations of the world to burn for all eternity, I won’t be able to worship him in good conscience. Perhaps I would bow down out of total fear, but I would NOT worship him because he was holy, beautiful, and “all together wonderful” as Boyd often describes him. Instead, I would bow down because he would be a sick and twisted god who scared the crap out of me.
Is his objection to reprobation, or to damnation?
Hang around the average Calvinist very long…
How much experience does he have hanging around the average Calvinist?
...and there’s a good chance you’re going to get a mental picture of God that is largely defined by anger and wrath. While I do believe that God gets angry, and do believe there are times he has acted on that anger throughout scripture, this is not what Jesus majors on when he taught people what God was like. Calvinists often build a worldview on anger, while Jesus built one on love.
What does he think Jesus saves people from? According to Scripture, Jesus saves us from…the wrath of God.
When Jesus tried to explain what God is like, he simply told people “look at me- if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen him” (John 14:9). In Jesus, we don’t see a God who is dominated by wrath, but a God who is consumed with nonviolent love. Calvinism makes me want to gouge my eyes out because it’s a belief system that keeps showing me a God who doesn’t look like the Jesus I see in the New Testament.
You mean like this:
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Mt 25:41,46).
Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (Jn 9:39).
6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from[b] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thes 1:6-9).
15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:15-17).
Back to Corey:
For the vast majority of my life I have felt like I was one of those “not good enoughs” who doesn’t get picked and doesn’t get included.
The message of Calvinism could have an encouraging message for me: you got picked! However, knowing that most people do not get picked for the team but instead, get picked for destruction and torture, a guy like me will probably always be convinced that I was picked for the latter– because that’s been my experience in life.
Actually, the message of Calvinism is that God generally picks the losers:
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor 1:26-30).
Back to Corey:
I have rejected Calvinism in favor of Arminianism, because in the later, we are able to proclaim the truth that God has picked everyone! If you want to be on the team- you’re welcome; the choice is yours. We don’t need a belief system that leaves us wondering as to whether or not we got picked; we need a belief system that assures us we were already picked and that we’re free to enjoy the benefits of being picked.
Yet he says Jesus taught us that most folks are hellbound. So even though they were all picked, the team has a terribly attrition rate. Most of them wash out and wind up in hell. So I guess that most of the recruits were "not good enoughs."
Jesus’ favorite people were the outisders [sic] and misfits.
I thought we were all picked. But now he's telling us Jesus plays favorites.
As a Jesus follower, I think the cross is the central point of all of human history. The cross was God’s ultimate act of nonviolent enemy love, the act that that demonstrated God’s love for the whole world (John 3:16), the act that drew all people to God (John 12:32), and the act that reconciled all of creation to God (Col 1:20).
How did the cross draw all people to God and reconcile all creation to God if, by his own admission, we know from the teachings of Jesus that most folks are going to hell?
From a Calvinist paradigm, the cross is quite different. The cross isn’t the moment where Jesus died to reconcile all of creation– the whole world– but the moment where Jesus died simply for the few people God picked. This is a concept they call “limited atonement” that reduces the cross to being an act for the “elect” (those God picked) instead of an act for the world (John 3:16) and all of creation (Col. 1:20).
It "reduces" the cross to actually saving those he died for, rather than an empty gesture of ineffectual love.
As such, instead of the Gospel being Good News for the world, it becomes good news for the few people God picked for his team and becomes absolutely horrible news for everyone else in history.
Yet he says that according to Jesus, only a few will be saved. Isn't that absolutely horrible news for everyone else?
I feel somewhat bad saying this, but I think I can honestly admit that there are only 3 Calvinists I’ve met in my life who I actually like– two are friends in my “real” life and one is a Christian blogger whom I really like and respect.
Does that mean he wouldn't pick us for his team?
Bracketing the question of whether Ben Corey is a likable person, for a missiologist he's pretty irritable, easily-offended, and finicky about who he likes. How would he ever evangelize militant atheists, radical feminists, hardcore Muslims, or Hindu nationalists (to name a few)? Are they likable?
Monday, June 09, 2014
I'm going to venture a few comments about the paedocommunion debate.
i) From what I can tell, many proponents are affiliated with the Federal Vision. At the same time, I think the case (such as it is) for paedocommunion is logical separable from the Federal Vision.
ii) It's easier to argue for paedocommunion if you already embrace paedobaptism. If, by contrast, you're a Baptist or Anabaptist who espouses credo-baptism, then you can oppose paedocommunion on the same grounds.
I'm not saying paedobaptism entails paedocommunion. But objections to paedocommunion tend to parallel objections to paedobaptism.
iii) On a related note, contemporary Presbyterians typically argue that the children of believers are entitled to the covenant rite of baptism because they are covenant children. If you are a covenant child, then that entitles you to the covenant sign. But that logic plays into paedocommunion.
iv) From what I've read, the stock objection to paedocommunion is that it violates what is required of communicants in 1 Cor 10-11. However, it's tricky for a paedobaptist to make that argument:
a) Baptists typically object to infant baptism on the grounds that all the explicit examples of NT baptism specify adult baptism. Paedobaptists typically counter that this reflects sample selection bias. In the nature of the case, the NT church was dealing with converts to Christianity. A missionary setting. So accounts of NT baptisms naturally select for adult converts. That doesn't preclude infant baptism. Just that underage children aren't converts.
But if we accept that argument, then the same argument can be redeployed in reference to 1 Cor 10-11. The emphasis on faith and self-examination is simply a reflection of sample selection bias. Paul is talking about converts to Christianity. Underage children fall outside the sample group under review.
b) Another difficulty is that paedobaptists typically regard parents or sponsors as proxies for the child, inasmuch as they exercise faith in the child's place. But, of course, that argument is transferable to paedocommunion.
c) A complication with making the communicant's intellectual aptitude a condition of receiving the Lord's supper is the case of the developmentally disabled, or elderly Christians who are going senile.
For instance, one duty of deacons is to bring the Eucharist to shut-ins or nursing home residents who can no longer receive communion in church. But is there a cut-off when dementia reaches the stage where a Christian now lacks the mental competence to make a credible profession of faith?
Of course, it could be argued that if the Eucharist ceases to be meaningful to the communicant, why give it to them? But, then, it's not as if baptism is meaningful to babies.