Saturday, July 05, 2014

All things work together for good


And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28).
Commentators differ on the best way to render and understand this verse. Fitzmyer has a useful breakdown of the major options. 
Some commentators think "God" is the subject of the sentence: God works all things together for good…
But whatever the theological merits of that rendering, it's considered ungrammatical. Some commentators object to making "all things" the subject of the sentence on that grounds that that's too impersonal. "Things" don't cooperate for our benefit. 
There's a sense in which that's true, but it misses the point by erecting a false dichotomy. Certainly Paul didn't suppose that "things" cooperate for the good of Christians independent of divine agency. V28 is sandwiched between lengthy passages that expound God's plan and providence. God works through things for our good. 
Rather, it's a matter of emphasis, and the emphasis is quite important to practical theology. For it's "things" that often seem to impede rather than facilitate the walk of faith. They get in the way. They often seem to conspire against us rather than for us. That's frustrating. Aggravating. Discouraging. And no one knew that better than Paul himself. He had firsthand experience. Just read 2 Corinthians!
So Paul is making the point that, appearances notwithstanding, all things (both all things and all things) do, in fact, work together for the ultimate good of Christians. And that's a very familiar idea for a writer like Paul. Consider OT history, Consider the Joseph cycle (Gen 37-50). Despite repeated obstacles and setbacks, despite appearances to the contrary, God was directing events behind the scenes for the good of his chosen people. 
Not just the obviously good things, but even, or especially, the seemingly bad things, contribute to our welfare. All things. But that's often something we can only appreciate in hindsight.Yet that isn't helpful when we're in the thick of things. That's why we need God's promise. God's promise is a glimpse of hindsight in advance. 

Lutherans and Elvis sightings


Over the centuries, Calvinists have so successfully vilified Arminianism that people who are Arminian are afraid to say so. This is true even though Arminianism is the default theological position of Christian Protestantism. 
http://evangelicalarminians.org/survey-are-you-an-arminian-and-dont-even-know-it-2/
It's gratifying to see SEA correct a rampant urban legend. I don't know when or by whom the rumor got going that Lutherans are real, but it's about time that someone finally set the record straight. Like other chimerical critters, Lutherans only exist in Marvel comic books. Arminianism is the default theological position of Christian Protestantism.

"After Adam"


Recent research in molecular biology, primatology, sociobiology, and phylogenetics indicates that the species Homo sapiens cannot be traced back to a single pair of individuals, and that the earliest human beings did not come on the scene in anything like paradisal physical or moral conditions. It is therefore difficult to read Genesis 1–3 as a factual account of human origins. In current Christian thinking about Adam and Eve, several scenarios are on offer. The most compelling one regards Adam and Eve as strictly literary figures—characters in a divinely inspired story about the imagined past that intends to teach theological, not historical, truths about God, creation, and humanity. 
Recent studies in primatology, sociobiology , and phylogenetics are also pertinent to the historicity of Adam and Eve and to the Christian doctrines of the Fall and original sin. Here a range of evidence establishes that virtually all of the acts considered “sinful” in humans are part of the natural repertoire of behavior among animals—especially primates, but also birds, insects, and other species—behaviors including deception, bullying, theft, rape, murder, infanticide, and warfare, to name but a few.7  
The source of the human inclination toward self-aggrandizement, then, is to be found in animal nature itself. Far from infecting the rest of the animal creation with selfish behaviors, we humans inherited these tendencies from our animal past. 
Together, these newer lines of research join other, well-established ones in making it hard to imagine that the earliest human beings appeared on the scene in anything like paradisal physical or moral conditions. They would instead have had to struggle to sustain themselves, and to do so, they would have possessed strong tendencies toward the same types of behavior common to all animals. Only over time would they have developed a sufficient spiritual awareness to sense that many selfish behaviors are contrary to God’s will, and the moral imperative to transcend those behaviors. 
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2010/PSCF9-10Harlow.pdf

Of course, Harlow imagines that this is just a problem for traditional Christian theology. But it's not. If you accept this evolutionary account, then it doesn't just falsify young-earth creationism or old-earth creationism. Even theistic evolution is squeezed out of the picture. There's no middle ground between special creation and naturalistic evolution, for the evolutionary narrative is indistinguishable from naturalistic evolution. 

In theory, we can distinguish between historical and theological truths about God, creation, and humanity. For instance, the parables of Jesus are fictional stories, yet they teach theological truths. 

That, however, doesn't solve the problem Harlow has posed for himself. The parables of Jesus teach theological truths because they are true to life. Lifelike. They have verisimilitude. 

The problem for Harlow, even on his own terms, is that he isn't merely distinguishing between historical and theological truth. He has driven a wedge between the two. Gen 1-3 could only be theologically true, despite being historically false, if the narratives are at least analogous to historical events. But in Harlow's understanding, natural history is fundamentally unlike Gen 1-3. The real past is radically dissimilar to the "imagined past" of the Biblical depiction.  That follows on his own grounds, even if we grant his assumptions for the sake of argument. 

I won't say too much about the rest of his argument. His discussion of the scientific evidence is one-sided. Moreover, his scientific evidence is more persuasive if you ignore the unstated presuppositions, viz. methodological naturalism, the uniformity of nature. If, however, God is active in the process, then you can't assume a linear continuum of cause and effect. 

His comparative mythological parallels are forced. His exegesis lacks critical sympathy. This is not a feasible alternative to traditional Christian theology, but a dead-end. 

Friday, July 04, 2014

The next frontier in civil rights and social justice

http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/NC-lawmaker-Pedophilia-is-like-homosexuality-5576632.php

God-dishonoring Arminians


The Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA) is an association of evangelical scholars and laymen who adhere to Arminian theology and are united in order to glorify God, edify his people, protect them from error, and foster the proper representation of our magnificent God to the world by…(2) refuting Calvinism and diminishing the number of its adherents, through the concerted, strategic effort of Arminians networked through the society for the accomplishment of these goals. 
http://evangelicalarminians.org/about-us/
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Arminian theism is correct. (Of course, there are varieties of Arminianism, but I'll pass on that for now.) Let's say God is just like SEA's statement of faith. 
Would God be pleased with SEA's priorities? Or do SEA's priorities dishonor the Arminian God?
If Arminian theism is correct, then refuting Calvinism and diminishing the number of Calvinists is a God-honoring exercise. Problem is, if Arminian theism is correct, why does refuting Calvinism and diminishing the number of Calvinists take precedence over refuting atheism and diminishing the number of atheists? Refuting Roman Catholicism and diminishing the number of Roman Catholics? Refuting Islam and diminishing the number of Muslims? Refuting Mormonism, Hinduism, or Buddhism, and diminishing the number of their adherents?
Refuting abortion or euthanasia, and diminishing the number of abortions or "mercy-killings"? Refuting homosexual marriage? Refuting attacks on the inerrancy of Scripture? Refuting attacks on the historicity of Adam? 
Does the Arminian God think that refuting Calvinism and diminishing the number of Calvinists is more important than all these other issues? Why is that SEA's only target? 
How will SEA members respond if, on the Day of Judgment, God asks them why they didn't make anything like the same "concerted, strategic effort" to refute these other egregious errors? Why was their concerted, strategic goal confined to refuting Calvinism and diminishing the number of Calvinists?
Ironically, if Arminian theism is true, I'd feel safer as a Calvinist than a member of SEA on the day of Judgment. I'd hate having to explain to the Almighty why I was so negligent in these other areas. 
Frankly, I don't think the God of Arminianism is very real to SEA members. For if he were real to them, they'd realize that they dishonor the God they profess by their pinched agenda, to the exclusion of so many other targets, which–if Arminian theism is true–are at least as antithetical to the "proper representation" of God as Calvinism. 

Corporate personhood


I'm going to begin by making a legal and political point, then use that to segue into a theological point. Liberals mock or revile the legal concept of corporate personhood when that crops up in certain First Amendment cases that don't go their way. They act like corporate personhood is arbitrary or absurd.

Of course, judges and lawmakers are perfectly aware of the fact that corporate personhood is a legal fiction. But it's a meaningful and essential construction. As one prominent law prof. explains:

The law also treats various nonhuman, nonsentient entities as “persons” for certain legal purposes. Corporations, estates, trusts, partnerships, and government entities are often defined this way. Walmart, Illinois, and the California Pension Fund can sue, for example, without anyone asking if they have a right to abortion. Sometimes, corporations can bring suit (or be sued) because a statute explicitly gives “persons” that right, and defines “persons” to include corporations. At other times, the statute does not define “persons,” but courts interpret the word to include corporations because they believe that is what Congress intended. This transubstantiation of corporations into persons advances some pretty uncontroversial policy goals. If corporations lacked personhood, you couldn’t sue FedEx for crashing a van into your car, or Walmart for selling you a defective space heater that burns down your home, or J.P. Morgan for defrauding you when you get a lemon mortgage. You wouldn’t be able to enter into contracts with a corporation at all. Legislatures and courts have been treating corporations like persons for hundreds of years: There is even a general interpretive rule in the law that when Congress says “persons,” it means corporations as well, unless the context of the statute provides otherwise. 
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2013/12/personhood_for_corporations_and_chimpanzees_is_an_essential_legal_fiction.html
Here's another useful analysis:
This goes into even more detail:
So the principle is quite important in its own right. But that brings me to the next point. Catholics complain that justification by faith alone, the imputation of Adam's sin, and the imputation of Christ's righteousness, are "legal fictions." Likewise, some atheists (e.g. Ken Pulliam) and Arminian theologians (e.g. Joel Green) complain that penal substitution (or vicarious atonement) is a "legal fiction." To this I'd say three things:
i) If you'd rather die in your sins than accept vicarious atonement, you get what you ask for.
ii) It's not a legal fiction. Christ's righteousness really is imputed to the elect. 
iii) But suppose, for the sake of argument, it was a legal fiction. So what? Maybe that sounds bad. But there's no reason a "legal fiction" should have invidious connotations. The law treats businesses and nonprofit organizations as if these were were persons, even though a legal person is not a real person. Yet there's nothing silly about that construction. To the contrary, it's a necessary acknowledgement of the fact that human action has a social as well as individual dimension. The law must confer personal rights and responsibilities on such organizations. 
Union with Christ is analogous to corporate personhood. Even if we consider it a "legal fiction," that's a meaningful and necessary principle.  

Dershowitz on Hobby Lobby

From a blue ribbon liberal law prof.:

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-TV/2014/07/02/Dershowitz-Hobby-Lobby-Case-Insignificant-Contraception-Not-Denied-in-Win-Win

Rauser's forked tongue


Arminian theologian Randal Rauser's continues his campaign to normalize homosexuality and transgenderism in Christian theology. Activists like him always deny their agenda. If they declared their intentions at the outset, that would provoke instant opposition. So they resort to an incremental strategy to chip away at resistance to their agenda. 

Talking out of one side of his mouth:

Randal Rauser Mod Rob • a month ago
Interestingly, after I posted this I discovered that Steve Hays from Triablogue wrote a response to my article in which he speculates: 
"I assume Rauser is using this as a wedge tactic to justify homosexuality and transgenderism in the church." 
*face-palm* 
http://randalrauser.com/2014/06/intersexuality-the-pastors-dilemma/#comment-1416912319
Talking out of the other side of his mouth:
The biblical authors did not have a conception of the problem of transgender identity as we now understand it. 
Note the close parallel between homosexuality and transgender identity. Just as the Bible does not offer any clear response to transgender identity as we currently understand it, so a person can plausibly argue it offers no clear response to homosexuality as we currently understand it. 
http://randalrauser.com/2014/07/homosexuality-and-christianity-a-review-of-the-brown-vines-debate-part-1/

Will Santa occupy Wall Street?


I'll briefly comment on this post:


However, there’s no shortage of the passages more directly supporting middle knowledge – those passages showing that God’s knows what we would choose under different settings. It’s not as if scripture limits middle knowledge to the famous examples of David in Keilah or the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon.
Problem with Dan's list is that he tendentiously classifies these as prooftexts for middle knowledge, when–at best–they only bear witness to counterfactual knowledge. Although middle knowledge would be a type of counterfactual knowledge, counterfactual knowledge is not equivalent to middle knowledge. Even William Lane Craig candidly admits the distinction and concedes that you can only prooftext God's counterfactual knowledge from Scripture, not middle knowledge. So Dan is salting the mine.
God uses His middle knowledge to warn people. If you put yourself into a given circumstance, you will do this. God knew what would happen if the Israelites intermarried. He knew what the foreign wives would do and how the Israelites would respond. Sadly, Solomon didn’t listen.
On divine determinism, God’s foreknowledge is logically “too late” to serve as a warning.  All  (even the hypothetical – if you intermarry, you will fall away) is determined by God.  So 1 Kings 11 turns into “I told you I determined you would fall” as opposed to “I told you you would fall”.
i) Notice how Dan abruptly shifts from middle knowledge to foreknowledge, as if these are interchangeable concepts. 
ii) The providential inutility of simple foreknowledge is a problem for freewill theism. If God already knows what human agents will do in the future, then it's too late for God or the agents to change course. That's not a problem for Calvinism, since God doesn't and shouldn't change his mind. But that's an acute problem for freewill theism. 
iii) The warning is only too late if it was God's intention to deter Solomon. But according to "divine determinism," that wasn't God's intention in the first place. 
Deterrence is not the only purpose of a warning. Like other future-oriented discourse (e.g. prophecy), warnings can have a retrospective value. Some people learn the hard way. The fact that they were warned, then suffered the consequences of disregarding the admonition, can make them appreciative of God's prescient wisdom. Likewise, learning by experience, even–or especially–by painful experience, makes the lesson more real than abstract information. 
Generally, those who reject middle knowledge providing two alternative views of these texts. The first grants that the passages teach what a person would do in various settings but denies we have libertarian free will. For biblical arguments we have libertarian free will see (link).  Here’s an example from Steve Hays:
  •  God knows what might have happened because he knows how things would turn out had he decreed that alternative.
  •  And that’s also consistent with God as the final source of every alternate possibility. What’s possible is a measure of divine omnipotence. God knows what God is capable of doing. Divine omnipotence is the engine generating those possibilities. (link)

I don’t think omnipotence (i.e. God’s capabilities) is enough to account for these passages. Imaging [sic] God creates Santa (which of course He could do). God could have Santa deliver toys this year or He could have Santa occupy Wall Street instead. How does He know which would happen if Santa existed? God must not only be able to do either, but He must choose one.
God knows what would happen if Santa existed because he not only decrees Santa's bare existence, but he decrees what Santa will do. Yes, God must choose which possible outcome to instantiate. So what? That's perfectly consistent with a predestinarian model of divine counterfactual knowledge. God knows Santa will deliver toys this year if that's the timeline God decrees. Conversely, God knows Santa will occupy Wall Street if that's the timeline God decrees. God knows which outcome God decrees. 
Dan's analysis is thoroughly confused. 

Planet of the Apes


My little post on "Adam, Eve, and Cain" generated some feedback:


Rostin Commonly, theistic evolutionists who believe in an historical Adam think that his special creation consisted of a preexisting hominid being ensouled.
If someone is comfortable with holding that view, I don't know why believing something similar about Eve would be problematic.
Several problems:
i) Ensoulment is a classic stopgap solution favored by Catholic evolutionists. But from what I've read, ensoulment reflects antiquated embryological notions ("quickening"). Why would a theistic evolutionist graft obsolete embryology onto evolutionary biology to make Gen 2 more scientific? If you're going to be consistently scientific, then you need to avoid appeals to prescientific theories like ensoulment. 
ii) Ensoulment presumes a dualistic anthropology in which God imparts an immaterial soul to a preexisting hominid. Ensoulment accounts for the unique psychological traits of the ensouled hominid. Yet that's in tension with evolutionary biology, which is committed to physicalism. According to evolution, the difference between man and nonhuman hominids is a difference of degree, not of kind. We range along a common continuum. What makes us psychologically distinct from nonhuman hominids is an evolutionary process of gradual encephalization. We are different because we have bigger brains, not because we have an immaterial soul superadded to our nonhuman hominid brain. 
So, once again, this makeshift solution is in tension with the evolutionary theory that it's attempting to pacify. 
iii) Gen 2 describes a different process for the origin of Eve than for the origin of Adam. Even if you think the language is figurative, when a narrator uses different figurative language, these must represent different things. 
iv) By that logic, Cain was afraid that soulless hominids would avenge the death of Abel. But since these hominids are unrelated to the family of Adam, why would Cain's fratricide lead to a blood feud between Cain and hominids unrelated to Cain? 
Moreover, this assumes that soulless hominids think Cain violated a tribal honor code by murdering a member of his kith and kin. But isn't that a moral perspective which soulless hominids lack? Isn't that kind of ethical enlightenment the result of endowment? 
davidjricardoBingo. Anyone asking this question has clearly not thought the issue through clearly.
moby__dickSo you're saying that the offspring of Adam and Eve never mated with the pre-existing hominids?
davidjricardoI don't think we know that. I tend to think no, or at least they weren't supposed to do so. I do think that a pre-existing hominid female would not be a "helper suitable for him."
Dying_DailyWhy would you say that?
davidjricardoThe question presupposes that God made Adam when there were preexisting "humans." But, any answer to the question "Why did God make Adam when there were already humans?" will necessarily answer the question "Why did God make Eve?" To ask the latter demonstrates a lack of thought about the former.
Yet Ricardo has just admitted, in a roundabout way, that these are two contradictory explanations. If, on the one hand, the people alluded to in Gen 4 were real human beings, contemporaneous with Adam and Eve, then that could supply a wife for Adam. Moreover, there'd be no need for God to create Adam in the first place, given preexisting humans.
If, on the other hand, they were soulless hominids, then Adam and Eve were in fact the first humans (pace theistic evolution). 
Furthermore, theistic evolutionists cite Gen 4 to explain where Cain got his wife. But if only Adam's offspring were truly human, does that imply interspecies breeding? Cain mating with a nonhuman hominid? 
namer98Gen 2:7, man was ensouled. 
No. Ensoulment means imparting a soul to a living organism. In Gen 2:7, by contrast, the man was not alive until God's act of in-breathing. That's what made him alive or brought him to life. Prior to that moment, all you had was a lifeless body. 

Before the mountains were brought forth

"Before the Mountains Were Brought Forth: A Defense of Divine Timelessness" by Lydia McGrew.

Potential Christian Explanations Of Near-Death Experiences

A recent commenter in an old thread asked me several questions about near-death experiences (NDEs): whether the religious figures encountered in NDEs identify themselves or are being identified by the experiencers instead, whether I can provide examples of NDEs contradicting each other, how I explain the paranormal knowledge some experiencers seem to gain through their experience, how well the demonic view of NDEs explains the NDEs of children, and more. You can read my responses in the comments section of that thread. One of the issues I address is the range of options Christians have for explaining NDEs. Even if my explanation is incorrect, are there other explanations that would also be consistent with some form of Christianity?

Is it always wrong for a man to hit a woman?

A provocative post over at rockingwithhawking's weblog.

Jesus According to Scripture

http://booksataglance.com/author-interviews/interview-with-darrell-bock-author-of-jesus-according-to-scripture-restoring-the-portrait-from-the-gospels

Thursday, July 03, 2014

No, Virginia, Science hasn't debunked Adam

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/07/no_virginia_science_has_not_de.html

Is Hobby Lobby a "slippery slope"?


One of the dumber objections to the Hobby Lobby ruling, an objection that's mindlessly repeated by various opponents, is that it creates a "slippery slope" precedent. It doesn't even occur to liberals who raise this objection that slippery slope objections don't select for liberal ideology. Both sides use slippery slope arguments. 

Take a stock objection to homosexual social policy: if you decriminalize sodomy, the next step is a right to homosexual marriage, then polygamous or incestuous marriages, then pederasty. That's a conservative slippery slope argument. And, as a matter of fact, that prediction is coming to pass.

By the same token, it doesn't occur to critics of the Hobby Lobby ruling that there's also a slippery slope argument regarding invasive gov't. That had SCOTUS ruled the other way, that accelerates the momentum towards a totalitarian state. 

Are Christians in the Midst of a 'Social Secession?'

http://www.nationalreview.com/node/381910/print

Why inerrancy matters


What's the practical value of inerrancy? One evangelical apologist who says he personally affirms inerrancy nonetheless demotes it to a "tertiary" doctrine. And what about those who openly deny inerrancy?

It's not hard to see the results. When people deny the inerrancy of Scripture, they no longer take it seriously. It ceases to be an authority–much less the final authority–in their lives. They cease to be guided–much less governed–by the word of God. Instead, they manipulate the Bible to endorse whatever they believe or disbelieve. They no longer live in submission to the lordship of God.

Of course, some people laud that consequence. They don't think Scripture should have that kind of authority in our lives. And that makes sense if you're an atheist. That makes sense if you don't think Christianity is a revealed religion. That makes sense if you don't think we are creatures of a sovereign God. 

But that doesn't make sense if you profess to be a Christian. 

The looter's philosophy


The Hobby Lobby ruling incited predictable rage from the left. The reaction is a window into the mindset of liberals. Liberals either don't understand the proper role of the courts, or they just don't care. Liberals operate with outcome-based jurisprudence. They think the duty of a judge is to arrive at a morally right (as they define it) decision. But there are fundamental problems with outcome-based jurisprudence:

i) Under a representative form of gov't, officials are not autonomous. Rather, the rule of law is based on the consent of the governed. 

How is the consent of the governed expressed or secured? By electing lawmakers who reflect the will of their constituents. In matters of public policy, citizens express and exercise their will through their elected representatives. And there's a reason that's an elective office. To make lawmakers responsive and responsible to the governed. 

It is then the duty of executive branch to enforce said laws, and the duty of the judicial branch to interpret and apply said laws. Under our system of gov't, judges are subservient to the will of the people, as expressed through the laws promulgated by their duly elected representatives. Judges are not the ruling class. Voters the ruling class. 

Judges aren't supposed to take sides. Rather, judges are supposed to rule on what the law means (what is says, as well as legislative intent). 

Outcome-based jurisprudence subverts the democratic process. Subverts representative democracy. When protesters decry the Hobby Lobby ruling because they think it's a "war on women," they should be made to understand that outcome-based jurisprudence denies the consent of the governed. 

ii) At the risk of stating the obvious, outcome-based jurisprudence is a mirror of the party in power. Outcome-based jurisprudence doesn't select for any particular ideology. Embracing that principle doesn't mean liberals get their way. Rather, it pivots on the ideology of the judge. In outcome-based jurisprudence, a good outcome is defined by the ideology of the judge, be it liberal, libertarian, or conservative. 

iii) Liberals show increasing impatience and contempt for the First Amendment. They don't like the results. They think it's a good thing when the Obama administration or the Ninth Circuit flouts the First Amendment. This, again, reflects an outcome-based philosophy.

But when officials take it upon themselves to unilaterally rewrite the social contract, that invites social unrest and, if taken far enough, civil war.  

iv) By the same token, liberals are increasingly impatient and contemptuous of statutory law. If Congress is an impediment to Obama's agenda, then it's okay for him to rewrite statutory law or refuse to enforce statutory law. 

But an obvious problem with that tactic is that if a Democrat president can do it, why not a Republican president? Why are liberals so shortsighted?

v) Apropos (iv), liberals increasingly operate with an end-justifies-the-means philosophy, even though that can obviously backfire. Both liberal and conservative officials can adopt that philosophy. 

I wonder if this doesn't reflect a secular outlook. If you don't believe in the afterlife or the day of judgment, then that makes you impatient. Time is not on your side. You're in a hurry to get what you want. So you gamble on short-term gains. You cheat to get ahead. Nice guys finish last. Take as much as you can get while the getting is good. A looter's philosophy. 

You don't concern yourself blowback further down the line, because that's unpredictable, and in any case, you may not be around by then. As economist John Maynard Keynes said, "In the long run we're all dead!" Not coincidentally, he was a homosexual atheist.

Why is science possible?

"Why Is Science Possible?" by Vern Poythress.

Plan B

A good friend pointed out the following to me, which appears to come from someone who disagrees with the Hobby Lobby decision:

plan b is not an abortion method, it cannot kill a fetus in any way

Just a quick response:

  1. Plan B contains 1.5mg of a drug known as levonorgestrel in a single oral pill. It's widely used as an emergency contraceptive due to its effects: (a) interfering with female ovulation, (b) interfering with male sperm function including motility, and (c) interfering with the process of implantation in the woman's womb or uterus.

    Letters (a) and (b) are fine with most pro-lifers. But (c) is the problem.

    Of course, if levonorgestrel interferes with an egg or sperm prior to conception, then (c) wouldn't be necessary, for there would be no embryo to implant in the first place. Many abortionists say (c) is unlikely to pose a problem because (a) and/or (b) would most likely take place, rendering (c) all but moot.

    But pro-lifers think since (c) is a possible effect of the drug, such as if (a) or (b) fail, if fertilization has already occurred, then levonorgestrel still stands as a potential abortifacient.

    In fact, my understanding is, orally, such as in Plan B, ovulation interference occurs in less than 50% of women. So we're generally relying on (b) and (c) more than (a).

    Besides, have there been any good studies done on the likelihoods of (a) and/or (b) and/or (c) to occur?

  2. Also, what about intention? Shouldn't that be a factor?

    That is, why use Plan B as an emergency contraceptive pill if the intention is not to keep conception from occurring or to keep a conception that has already occurred from developing further?

    It's possible I'm missing something here though.

  3. BTW, I wonder if this person is attempting to obfuscate the issue by using "fetus" at this juncture? Medically speaking, the baby is considered an embryo in its first eight weeks of development. Only after week eight is the baby termed a fetus. So I suppose in a sense Plan B "cannot kill a fetus in any way" but that's because a "fetus" wouldn't be the term for a baby at this time (i.e. conception).

    Nevertheless, it's possible Plan B kills the baby at conception (assuming pro-life premises).

  4. Perhaps the confusion arises from the following:

    Plan B One-Step is not the same as RU-486, which is an abortion pill. It does not cause a miscarriage or abortion. In other words, it does not stop development of a fetus once the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. So it will not work if you are already pregnant when you take it.

    I'd first note the same article earlier says:

    It is also possible that this type of emergency birth control prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus by altering its lining.

    On the face of it, this seems sort of in tension (for lack of a better word) with the claim "it does not stop development of a fetus once the fertilized egg implants in the uterus."

    But digging a bit deeper, the assumption here seems to be "pregnancy" is defined as occurring at implantation. But that shouldn't be the issue. The issue should be the status of the fertilized egg (+/- implantation).

    Indeed, it's the very point of contention in the debate: pro-lifers view the fertilized egg as a baby.

The Edge of Tomorrow

http://www.proginosko.com/2014/06/philosophy-and-the-edge-of-tomorrow/

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Adam, Eve, and Cain


According to traditional Christian theology, Adam and Eve were the first human beings. There were no pre-Adamites. Theistic evolutionists usually disagree on scientific rather than exegetical grounds. About the only exegetical argument one runs across to challenge the traditional view is the claim that Cain's fear of retribution (Gen 4:13ff.) implies the existence of other human contemporaries (besides Adam, Eve, and Cain's late brother).

Now, there are multiple problems with that inference, but for now, let's grant, for the sake of argument, that this solves the alleged problem of Cain's statement. That solves one problem by creating another.

If Adam and Eve were not the first humans, then why did God make a wife for Adam? if there were other humans on the scene, why didn't Adam simply take a wife from one of the many eligible women already in existence? The theistic evolutionary appeal to Cain's statement implies the availability of other women. Why didn't Adam get a wife the way Isaac got a wife? According to theistic evolution, as well as the theistic evolutionary interpretation of Gen 4:13ff., there were plenty of women to choose from. So why does the narrator depict God specially creating Eve to resolve Adam's lack of female companionship.

Unchain the angels


14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind (Rev 9:14-15).

Premillennialism and millennialism are susceptible to opposing weaknesses. Premils try to find real-world analogues to prophetic symbolism. But by sticking their neck out, they risk repeated decapitation. What they take to be the extratextual referent may be time-conditioned by when and where they happen to be living. Premil identifications are often premature. 

Conversely, amil interpretations tend to be unfalsifiable in a way that many premil interpretations are not. But the price they pay is for amil interpretations to dissipate into arbitrary allegories with vague analogues.

Interpreting Revelation is a balancing act. Take 16:1ff. This evokes the picture of a temple in the sky. Angels come out into the courtyard to empty the contents of their vials over the side. Over the edge they go, raining down on the earth below.

No premil scholar takes that literally. Yet that doesn't absolve us of asking what it was meant to correspond to. 

Take Rev 9:14-15. Detailed amil commentaries by Beale and Prigent make interesting observations about OT literary allusions as well as historical associations which would resonant with a 1C audience. But they don't get around to saying what they think this really describes.

On the other hand, Johnson's commentary exposes tensions in the premil position:

John here makes use of the ancient geographical terms to depict the fearful character of God's approaching judgment on a rebellious world. While the language is drawn from historical-political events in the OT, it describes realities that far transcend a local geographical event REBC 13:674. 

This is ironic inasmuch as premils, especially dispensationalists, typically think prophecies with a Middle Eastern setting will, in fact be fulfilled in the Mideast. What presumably causes Johnson to depart from that principle is the scale of the catastrophe. If the Euphrates overflowed its banks, that would hardly wipe out one third of the human population. 

So what does this refer to? Does it refer to an actual natural disaster? Certainly, in Scripture, some natural disasters are divine judgments. So we can't rule that out.

Or is it metaphorical? But if so, what kind of real-world event does it symbolize? 

It maybe that we have to take a wait-and-see approach. It is, however, interesting to compare this passage with modern developments:


Damming the Tigris and Euphrates, which was a flood control measure, creates the potential for even more catastrophic flooding if the dam fails. In a way, modern technology has made the ancient description more realistic.   

I'm not suggesting this impeding disaster represents the imminent fulfillment of Revelation. It does, however, shed an interesting light on how outstanding Bible prophecies, couched in ancient language, might be fulfilled in the future. If we translate the language into modern counterparts, this is the sort of thing it could refer to. 

Evil love


I'm going to comment on an argument that Matthew Vines used in his debate with Michael Brown. Indeed, this is part of his post-debate argument. 

The argument is that St. Paul isn't categorically condemning homosexuality. Paul is only condemning abusive homosexual relationships. And that's because Paul was unaware of "loving, committed" homosexual relationships. Indeed, it wouldn't even be possible for Paul to know that since people in his own time lacked our scientific understanding of homosexuality. 

There are several major problems with this argument:

1) As Robert Gagnon has documented, there are some favorable treatments of homosexual relationships in Greco-Roman literature: §3:


Therefore, the notion of "loving, committed" homosexual relationships was not unknown to people in Paul's own time. 

2) In addition, the question of whether Paul "knew of any loving, committed homosexual relationships" is a trick question. For that way of framing the issue can mean two different things:

i) Yes, there were "loving committed" homosexual relationships back then, but Paul didn't know about them.

ii) Paul didn't know about them because there's nothing to be known.

This is where the argument from silence is deceptive without further qualification. Take the following comparison:

Why doesn't the Bible mention griffins? Is that because Bible writers were ignorant of griffins? Or because griffins don't exist? 

The reason Scripture doesn't mention griffins is not because there are griffins, but Bible writers were unaware of their existence, but because there are no griffins.

Likewise, to say Paul didn't know about "loving, committed" homosexual relationships is a slanted statement because it begs the question. That way of casting the question implies the reality of the very thing in dispute.

iii) But here's another point. Suppose there are, in fact, loving, committed homosexual relationships which Paul didn't know about. Does it follow that Paul's position on homosexuality is not a categorical condemnation? Let's take a comparison:

The Bible condemns parental incest. Suppose you said, Bible writers were unaware of loving committed incestuous relationships between some mothers and their teenage sons. Therefore, Biblical condemnations of parental incest only apply to bad examples of parental incest. The wrong kind of parental incest. The Bible doesn't condemn parental incest across the board. 

Now, for all I know, there may in fact be cases in which some mothers and teenage sons are deeply committed to each other in a loving sexual relationship. But that wouldn't make it right. That would be morally twisted. That would be a psychopathological relationship. There's such a thing as evil love. Indeed, there are various examples of evil love. 

A mother shouldn't feel that way about her teenage son–much less act on her feelings. And a boy who feels that way about his mother is radically socially maladjusted. Something went drastically wrong in his moral and psychosexual development. 

Balaam's vision


There are three prima facie cases of talking animals in Scripture. 

1. There's the case of the "snake" in Gen 3. But that's quite ambiguous. The Hebrew phrase has three different meanings: "the snake," "the diviner," and "the shining one."

I think the name of the Tempter in Gen 3 is probably a pun or double entendre that trades on associations with occultic forbidden knowledge, as well as ophiomancy and ophiolatry. I think the Tempter is actually an angelophany. A fallen angel. I've discussed this identification in more detail elsewhere.

2. A second example is the talking eagle in Revelation:

Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!” (Rev 8:13).
Now, someone might object that this isn't a real eagle. Rather, this is something that John sees and hears in his vision. A simulated talking eagle. Even in ordinary dreams, we can see and hear things that are naturally impossible.
And I agree with that. But that, in turn, raise questions about the third example:
3. If the talking eagle in Rev 8:13 wasn't a real eagle, but a vision of a talking eagle, what about Balaam's talking donkey? 
In Num 22-24, Balaam is clearly a seer. 22:8-13 and 22:19-20 describe nocturnal visions or revelatory dreams. Among other things, Balaam may well have been an oneiromantist. In addition, 24:3-4 describe him as a seer and visionary. 
There's a potential distinction between dream visions and waking visions. Moreover, the description in 24:3-4 (par. 24:15-16) is idiomatic and formulaic. There's the distinction between eyes "covered" (closed) and eyes "uncovered" (opened). Perhaps that's equivalent to falling into a trance and coming out of a trace. Or perhaps that differentiates revelatory dreams and/or nocturnal visions from waking visions. 
Indeed, in this context, "falling" denotes drifting into a revelatory dream state or hypnotic trance. Cf. B. Levine, Numbers 21-36, p194. 
Notice the same stereotypical language in 22:31: 
Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way, with his drawn sword in his hand. And he bowed down and fell on his face. 
This takes place after the talking donkey incident. 
Given the fact that Balaam was a seer, combined with the use of visionary formulas 22:31 & 24:3-4, this may be a narrative clue to the reader that Balaam was in a trace when he saw and heard his donkey speak. In other words, it was a vision. A simulated talking donkey, like the simulated talking eagle in Rev 8:13. 
Num 22:31 may mark the point at this Balaam emerges from his trance. Or perhaps the entire episode is a vision, and this is a recognition scene within the vision. In Scripture, angels sometimes appear to people in visions. Dreams and visions have shifting scenes. 
In this analysis is correct, then Scripture doesn't record any examples of actual talking animals. Even if it did, that would be miraculous. But I'm exploring an alternative interpretation. 

Hobby Lobby

A detailed legal analysis:

The motivation of Frame

"The motivation of Frame" by Paul Helm.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Kathleen Sebelius v. Lemonade Stand


Reuters
In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court sided with plaintiffs Tina and Tabitha Brown (ages 6 and 8). The DOJ, acting on behalf of HHS, had filed suit against Tina And Tabitha Brown, proprietors of a lemonade stand, for noncompliance with the Affordable Care Act. 
In a blistering dissent, Justice Ruth Bader said "The exemption sought by Tina and Tabitha's lemonade stand operation would deny legions of little girls who don't hold their employers' beliefs access to Viagra and vasectomies."
Ilyse Hogue, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America said: "Allowing lemonade stand bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end. Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows big sisters to reach beyond the lemonade stand and into their kid sister's bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn't hold up. Today it's birth control; tomorrow it could be executives denying asthmatic employees the right to carry inhalers."
Presumptive presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said: “It’s the first time that our court has said that a lemonade stand has the rights of a person when it comes to religious freedom, which means little girls selling lemonade can impose their religious beliefs on their employees, and, of course, denying lemonade stand checkout operators the right to contraceptives as part of a health care plan is exactly that."

Rev 22:19


I recently ran a question by a NT scholar. Here's my question, followed by his answer: 

Wesleyan Arminians (e.g. Witherington) cite this verse as a prooftext to demonstrate that a Christian can lose his salvation. How do you explain it consistent with the perseverance of the saints? 

I think the main problem is in taking "his share" as virtually a technical, precisionistic term, as if one of the main purposes of the verse were to teach that one can lose one salvation, and that this is being articulated by equating salvation with having a share in the tree of life and the holy city. In fact, the language is similar to Heb 6: as part of the community of faith, one is counted as being heir, and one would have had a share in the tree of life in an absolute sense or decretal sense if one had been one of the elect. But Rev 22:19 is focusing on the working out of the dynamics of grace in time in the community (similar in this respect to Heb 6). An individual is counted as sharing in the heritage of the church while he is in the church. He has "his share" in the inheritance that God promises to all in the community. "His share" describes what belongs to human appearances; and it matters to God as well, because someone in the church has greater obligations, Heb 10:29; 2 Pet 2:21. 
I haven't read Witherington's discussion of this verse, but surely he does not favor the Vulgate reading, "book of life" (instead of "tree of life"). If that were the reading, it would make the text quite a bit harder for a Calvinist. Witherington surely also knows about Rev. 17:8, which is heavily against him on that score. I think it is fair to distinguish the contexts of 17:8 and 22:19 in certain ways. 17:8 comes in the context of other discussions of heavenly books, and that is often used with a decretal meaning. It's about a decree in place from the foundation of the world. 22:19, on the other hand, is about participation in a historical process, and the covenantal penalties (e.g., Kline, By Oath Consigned) for violating the terms of the covenant. Arminians typically don't appreciate the complexities that a covenantal approach can include.

Justice Ginsburg's transphobia


I'm going to comment on Ginsburg's dissent:


  • "The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers' beliefs access to contraceptive coverage"
i) Notice her blatantly sexist objection. Why not object that the exemption would deny legions of men (as well as women) access?
ii) Women still have access to contraceptives. Has Ginsburg never been inside a drug store? Not to mention online pharmacies. 

iii) Actually, I don't think an exception should be made for Hobby Lobby since I don't think businesses should be required to provide health insurance in the first place.

  • "Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community."

That's monumentally ignorant. For instance, Christian charities do not exist to foster the interests of Christians. Christian charities routinely minister to non-Christians. That's part of the church's outreach to the lost. 

  • "Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby's or Conestoga's plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman's autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults."
If it's about a woman's autonomous choice, shouldn't she buy her own contraceptives? 

Incidentally, notice Ginsburg's transphobic language. But I thought gender was a social construct. 

  • "It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month's full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage."

If IUDs are that expensive, then clearly someone is picking up the tab. So isn't this a shell-game? Who's paying?  

  • "Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah's Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today's decision."

i) At most, this ruling partially restores the status quo ante prior to HHS implementing Obamacare. Were these worst-case scenarios happening before Obamacare?

ii) If you disagree with a Muslim, Hindu, or Jewish employer's scruples, don't work for him. 

iii) Anyone who works for the "church" of Scientology deserves whatever they get. 

  • "Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very 'risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude."
In that event, HHS has no business approving or disapproving religious claims in the first place. 

Prevenient grace


Brian Abasciano is president of SEA. He's a well-trained NT scholar. So it's instructive to see his positive case for prevenient grace:
As we have noted, because human beings are fallen and sinful, they are not able to think, will, nor do anything good in and of themselves, including believe the gospel of Christ (see the description of Total Depravity above). Therefore, desiring the salvation of all and having provided atonement for all people (see “Atonement for All” above), God continues to take the initiative for the purpose of bringing all people to salvation by calling all people everywhere to repent and believe the gospel (Acts 17:30; cf. Matt 28:18-20), and by enabling those who hear the gospel to respond to it positively in faith. Unaided by grace, man cannot even choose to please God or to believe the promise of salvation held out in the gospel. As Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” But thanks be to God, Jesus also promised, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). Thus, the Father and the Son draw all people to Jesus, enabling them to come to Jesus in faith.  
Continuing Jesus’ mission to save the world, the Holy Spirit has come to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Even though unbelievers “are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph 4:18), the Lord opens people’s hearts to respond positively to the gospel message (Acts 16:14). 
All of this is what is known in traditional theological language as God’s prevenient grace. The term “prevenient” simply means “preceding.” Thus, “prevenient grace” refers to God’s grace that precedes salvation, including that part of salvation known as regeneration, which is the beginning of eternal spiritual life granted to all who trust in Christ (John 1:12-13). Prevenient grace is also sometimes called enabling grace or pre-regenerating grace. This is God’s unmerited favor toward totally depraved people, who are unworthy of God’s blessing and unable to seek God or trust in him in and of themselves. Accordingly, Acts 18:27 indicates that we believe through grace, placing grace preveniently (i.e. logically prior) to faith as the means by which we believe. It is the grace that, among other things, frees our wills to believe in Christ and his gospel. As Titus 2:11 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” 
http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/
i) We might starting by asking what motivates the doctrine of prevenient grace. The answer, I believe, is that Arminians wish to avoid Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism. They wish to stake out a mediating position between Calvinism and Pelagianism. So they assert the priority and necessity of divine grace in relation to faith. God, not man, must take the initiative. 
ii) What's noteworthy about Abasciano's documentation is that not one of his prooftexts suffices to prove his distinctive claim. It's striking that he isn't even aware of the palpable disconnect. 
On the face of it, none of his prooftexts selects for prevenient grace rather than irresistible grace. Yet that contrast is crucial to his position. 
Notice what I'm not saying. In this post I'm not attempting to show that his prooftexts really teach irresistible grace. Rather, I'm commenting on what they don't show. 
None of his prooftexts indicates that the grace in question merely enables the unregenerate to believe. None of his prooftexts indicates that the grace in question frees the will to either believe or disbelieve the Gospel. They don't say or imply that the recipient of this grace is at liberty to respond positively or negatively. 
Even if his prooftexts were consistent with resistible grace, they seem to be equally consistent with irresistible grace. Likewise, none of his prooftexts distinguishes pre-regenerating grace from regenerating grace. 
For some odd reason, Absciano acts as if his prooftexts obviously establish his claim, even though they evidently fall short of what he claims for them. Yet, presumably, these are his best prooftexts for prevenient grace. 
iii) It's also strange to see him quote Tit 2:11 in this context. Given the Arminian interpretation of "all," why isn't this a prooftext for universal salvation rather than prevenient grace? Admittedly, there's more than one way to render the Greek syntax, but given the translation he quoted, how does he avoid universalism? (And if he takes issue with the translation, why quote that version?)
Likewise, given the Arminian interpretation of "all," why doesn't Jn 12:32 teach universal salvation? If I draw water, does the water refuse me? 
iv) Finally, are contemporary Arminians still committed to the historic fall of Adam? Don't many modern Arminians subscribe to human evolution? If so, how do they finesse original sin, which is a presupposition of prevenient grace? 

The dystopian utopia


Have you ever noticed how, the more they get their way, the angrier liberals become? Liberals have made tremendous strides under Obama. You'd think they'd be happier than ever. Yet the more they succeed, the angrier they get. 

Liberals are utopians. And this leads to permanent dissatisfaction. Increasing rage. The world is never good enough. They always see problems. As soon as they think they solved one problem, they see another problem. No matter how much they improve they world, there's still so much wrong with the world. Not enough hours in the day to fix the world. 

A university is a microcosm of the liberal utopia. They force their ideology on faculty and students alike. Yet the ideological purity of the regime is never pure enough. There's a need for constant indoctrination, surveillance, periodic purges. It's hard to be a happy liberal, even in your own fiefdom, where you make the rules and police compliance. Having disinfected the campus of conservatives, liberals turn on each other. 

"Free" contraceptives


I'm no expert on health insurance, but I find the mindset of liberals on this issue peculiar.

i) First of all, liberals operate with the shortsighted notion that if their employer "gives" them something, like "free" contraceptives, they don't have to pay for it. Really?

If it costs a business something to provide contraceptives to employees, then that is coming out of someone's pocket, is it not? On the face of it, there are only two candidates: either the business is charging customers more to defray the cost, or else the company is paying the employee less. Or both. 

So what's the advantage of making less, of having a smaller paycheck, so that someone else can use your money to buy you contraceptives? 

Also, if all businesses above a certain size are legally required to provide contraceptives, and if the company must raise prices on goods or services to do that, then consumers in general are subsidizing contraceptives. And employees are consumers. So aren't you paying for it one way or the other? Either it comes out of your paycheck or it comes out of the hidden surcharge for whatever you buy. 

Put another way, if businesses weren't require by law to provide contraceptives, they could afford to pay their employees more. Likewise, if they weren't required by law to provide contraceptives, they could afford to charge their customers less.

So isn't it a tradeoff? Yes, you have to buy your own contraceptives, but your take-home pay is higher. 

ii) Another problem is that, to my knowledge, companies are often required to provide a preset package of healthcare benefits, whether or not you need all or most of the benefits. In effect, you're paying for a lot of benefits that don't benefit you. Paying for lots of stuff you don't need and don't use. In effect, the company is garnishing your wages.

I suppose the theory behind this is to spread the cost around. Make healthcare more expensive for more people so that it's less expensive for a few. Fewer people using more benefits over against more people using fewer benefits. 

Again, though, that's a tradeoff. You're making healthcare more expensive for many or most people to make it less expensive for fewer people. What if a company is required to offer 20 different kinds of contraception, even though you only use one kind. Or what about postmenopausal female employees who don't need contraception?

We can debate the pros and cons of this arrangement, but I'm struck by how nearsighted many liberals seem to be. Let's consider some alternative arrangements:

a) There's a distinction between a business offering insurance and a business providing insurance. 

Suppose a company was able to give employees an opt-out option. The company would provide insurance coverage if you want it, but you are given a choice. If you receive coverage, you will receive less pay–if you decline coverage, you will receive more pay. If you opt out of company-sponsored insurance, less money will be withheld from your paycheck. What you do with your extra income is up to you. You could get private insurance. Or, if you're young and healthy, you might prefer to be uninsured–and pay out of pocket on a fee-for-service basis if you need to see a doctor.

Is there some obvious reason why that would be an outrageous arrangement?

b) Likewise, what about customized insurance packages where you pay for as much or little coverage as you want or need? Why not give policyholders a checklist of items to choose from? They are free to select what they want or need, rather than paying for the entire menu. Is there some reason why that would be an outrageous arrangement? Is having the freedom to spend your own earnings on what you want such an evil notion?

Keep A Record Of God's Providence In Your Life

One line of apologetics that doesn't receive much attention is God's work in our own lives. Even if we can't provide other people with much or any evidence for something like an answered prayer we've experienced, the experience can have apologetic value for us individually and for people who know us enough to trust us. I've mentioned apologetics, but God's work in our lives is significant in non-apologetic contexts as well.

Years ago, I heard Gary Habermas make some comments to the effect that he hadn't noticed how many of his prayer requests were granted by God until he started keeping a record of answered prayers. At his advice, I began keeping a record of God's providence in my life. I don't limit it to answered prayer. I include other types of apparent interventions of God in my life as well. And I have been surprised by how many of them there are and their significance. If you think you can remember everything without keeping a record, I suggest keeping a record for a while. See what happens. Unless you have an unusually good memory, I suspect you'd forget much of what happens if you haven't recorded it. You don't have to record everything, and you'd probably forget some things even if you intended to record them all. But try to regularly record some examples. I suggest writing down dates and including other relevant contextual information where it's appropriate.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Tinfoil hat eschatology


Now, just as an aside, I am mystified Christians have tied all sorts of evil plotting to the United Nations.  Among conspiracy theorists, the U.N. is primarily identified with the final, one-world government of the end times.  But the reality is quite the opposite. The U.N. has only demonstrated a general incompetence and impotence in unifying any nation under a so-called “one world government.”  In all honesty, they are only good for eliminating hook worms in 3rd world countries, not organizing a “one world government” with the Antichrist as its head. 
http://hipandthigh.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/tin-foil-hat-theology-3/

I agree with Fred, but here's the catch. Doesn't dispensationalism foster the conspiratorial outlook he deplores? Isn't the expectation of one-world gov't headed by the Antichrist something dispensationalism cultivates? Why wouldn't dispensationalists been on the look-out for signs of that impending development? 

Maybe he thinks the UN is a bad candidate, but it's the same mindset that fingers other candidates, viz. the Vatican, the Trilateral Commission, Jewish bankers, Jewish media moguls, Skull and Bones, Henry Kissinger, &c.

Incidentally, the UN is a vehicle for advancing a radical ideological agenda through international law which trumps national sovereignty and the democratic process. Consider, for instance, how the Convention on the Rights of the Child overrules parental rights. CPS on steroids. Or take universal jurisdiction. The UN is not as ineffectual as it appears to be. 

Arminian prooftexts


The argument for Arminianism used to be a whole lot simpler for Arminians. It was a two-sided debate between Calvinists and Arminians. Now, however, Arminians have far more competition. 

They must vie with universalists for the "all/world" passages. 

Likewise, they must vie with open theists for the anthropopathic passages (e.g. Ezk 18:23,33; Mt 23:37; Lk 19:41).

To further complicate matters, many or most contemporary Arminians espouse eternal security. When "4-point Arminians" debate Wesleyan Arminians, they default to Reformed exegesis. 

Finally, even though Arminians champion unlimited atonement, that's masks a fatal equivocation inasmuch as Arminians can't agree what the atonement is or does. Many contemporary Arminians espouse penal substitution, but many traditional Arminians reject penal substitution. Moreover, you have prominent contemporary Arminians who reject penal substitution (e.g. Joel Green, Randal Rauser). Even if you think Christ died for everyone, what does that mean? 

In this post I'm going to quote the major Arminian prooftexts. A partial exception is that I won't quote their prooftexts against the perseverance of the saints, both because I've discussed that at length elsewhere, and because Arminians are divided on the subject.

After quoting their prooftexts, I will quote from a variety of scholars. These include Calvinists, Arminians, universalists, open theists, and non-Calvinists. By non-Calvinists I mean scholars who, to my knowledge, aren't Calvinists, but beyond that I don't know how to classify them. They don't self-identify their overall position, if they have one. 

Obviously, I won't agree with everyone I quote. My point is to illustrate the complexity of the Arminian burden of proof. Nowadays, Arminians are having to fight on several fronts at once, both in terms of intramural debates as well as non-Arminian opponents. It's not a straightforward appeal to their prooftexts.  

In some cases, after quoting a scholar or scholars, I'll include an editorial aside.

1) Isa 5:1-7

What more was there to do for my vineyard,    that I have not done in it?When I looked for it to yield grapes,    why did it yield wild grapes? (v4).

God is sometimes surprised by the way things unfold.  For example, he expected Israel to be fruitful, but they were not (Isa 5:1-5).  
http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/ask-open-theist-greg-boyd-response 
At other times he tells us that he is surprised at how things turned out because he expected a different outcome (Isa. 5:3–7; Jer. 3:67; 19–20).  
http://reknew.org/2007/12/response-to-critics/

Both traditional Arminians and open theists claim this passage. But as Boyd points out, this isn't just an Arminian/Calvinist dispute, but a classical theist/open theist dispute. 

2) Ezk 18:23

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
An even more problematic question that burdens those who view the future as eternally settled and thus known by God as such is why God would give certain agents the free will to damn themselves, especially when he tells us he desires all to be saved and is grieved by very person who is lost (e.g. Ezk 18:23; 33:11; 1 Tim 2:4; 4:10; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Jn 2:2). 
G. Boyd, "God Limits His Control," Four Views on Divine Providence, 202. 
3) Mt 23:37

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
The heart of God, clearly, is a heart which grants freedom, and which sometimes suffers profoundly because of it. In the case of Matthew 23:37, what the Son of God longed for the Son of God didn’t get! The fact that most theologians in the classical tradition found it necessary to attribute this lament not to the heart of the eternal God but only to the humanity of Christ simply testifies to the strength with which a non-biblical philosophical concept of God (viz. God’s impassability) has held biblical exegesis hostage.  
http://reknew.org/2008/01/what-is-the-biblical-basis-of-free-will/

Boyd has a more consistent hermeneutical approach than traditional Arminians. He rejects the Reformed appeal to anthropomorphic or anthropopathetic depictions. Traditional Arminians must straddle the fence without falling over on the Calvinist side or the open theist side. It's quite a balancing act. 

4) Jn 1:12-13

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Some interpreters forcefully reject any idea that the relative clause with which v13 begins ("who were born…") is a comment on the preceding clause ("who believed in his name") since then faith would proceed from regeneration whereas, according to their view, a person must opt for rebirth as a possibility opened up for him or her in the call that comes from the Revealer. In the choice that faith makes a person can be "born again" and so change and come to his or her real being. However, against this it has to be asserted that the concluding statement in v13 traces the entire gift of being a child of God, including the manner in which it is effected, to its deepest ground: "procreation" by God. The idea that faith as a human choice should precede that birth and therefore that in some sense a person should have this rebirth of God at his or her disposal not only seems absurd but is also at variance with statements like this in 1 Jn 5:1," H. Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, 47.
No evangelical would say that before we are born again we must practice righteousness, for such a view would teach works-righteousness. Nor would we say that first we avoid sinning, and then are born of God, for such a view would suggest that human works cause us to be born of God. Nor would we say that first we show great love for God, and then he causes us to be born again. No, it is clear that practicing righteousness, avoiding sin, and loving are all the consequences or results of the new birth. But if this is the case, then we must interpret 1 John 5:1 in the same way, for the structure of the verse is the same as we find in the texts about practicing righteousness (1 John 2:29), avoiding sin (1 John 3:9), and loving God (1 John 4:7). It follows, then, that 1 John 5:1 teaches that first God grants us new life and then we believe Jesus is the Christ. 
http://www.9marks.org/journal/does-regeneration-necessarily-precede-conversion
5) Jn 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Some argue that the term "world" here simply has negative connotations–the created human world. But the characteristic use of "the world" (ho cosmos) elsewhere in the narrative is with negative overtones–the world in its alienation from and hostility to its Creator's purposes. It  makes better sense in the soteriological context to see the latter notion as in view. God loves that which has become hostile to God. The force is not, then, that the world is so vast that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but rather that the world has become so alienated from God that it takes an exceedingly great love to love it at all. A. Lincoln, The Gospel According to St. John, 154.
6) Acts 7:51
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
More puzzling still is why God sincerely tries to get individuals and groups to turn from their wicked ways and surrender to him if he is eternally certain his efforts will fail (e.g. Acts 7:51…). 
G. Boyd, "God Limits His Control," Four Views on Divine Providence, 202.  
7) Rom 5:18; 11:32

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 
For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
So when he uses "all men" here [5:18], he does not mean every human being but rather is saying "that Christ effects those who are his just as certainly as Adam does those who are his." While all are in Adam, it is clear in Romans that only those who are believers are in Christ.  
While some have taken this [11:32] to mean universal salvation, this is impossible in light of the constant emphasis on final punishment at the eschaton (1:18; 2:5-11; 6:21,23; 9:22,29). Therefore, it is likely that the "all" here is corporate, meaning that God's mercy will be shown to Jew and Gentile alike. G. Osborne, Romans, 144, 312.
Notice how Arminian Grant Osborne defaults to Calvinist exegesis to deflect universalism.
Observe first the parallel structure of [Rom] 5:18…The whole point of such a parallel structure, so typical of Paul, is to identify a single group of individuals and to make two parallel statements about that single group of individuals, and the effect therefore is to eliminate any possibility of ambiguity. The very ones who came under condemnation, as a result of the first Adam's act of disobedience, will eventually be brought to justification and life, as a result of the second Adam's act of obedience…Again, I do not know how Paul could have expressed himself any more clearly than that. 
Paul's teaching here is so explicit, and so clear, that even the opponents of absolute universalism have sometimes conceded, as Neil Punt does, that 'Romans 5:18 and its immediate context place no limitations on the universalistic thrust of the second "all men".'  
…Paul's explicit teaching that God, being merciful to all (Rom 11:32), shows no partiality to anyone. So how, then, do the Arminians explain the supposedly final division within the human race? Presumably by an appael to human freedom: We ultimately determine our own destiny in heaven or hell. But if that is true, then the redeemed are also in a position to boast, it seems, along the following lines: 'At the very least, some of my own free choices–my decision to accept Christ, for example–were a lot better than those of the lost, and these choices also explain, at least partially, why my character ended up to be a lot more virtuous than theirs.' Thomas Talbot, Universal Salvation: The Current Debate, 19-20, 260.
Notice how a universalist easily co-opts Arminian prooftexts, hermeneutics, and applies them more consistently. 
8) Rom 8:29

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
proginosko (2) "choose beforehand" tina [someone] Ro 8:29. ton laon autou 11:2. BDAG 866b.
While agreeing that God knows the future, including who will believe, the corporate election perspective would tend to understand the references to foreknowledge in Rom 8:29 and 1 Pet 1:1-2 as referring to a relational prior knowing that amounts to previously acknowledging or recognizing or embracing or choosing people as belonging to God (i.e., in covenant relationship/partnership). The Bible sometimes mentions this type of knowledge, such as when Jesus speaks of those who never truly submit to his lordship: “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt 7:23; cf. Gen 18:19; Jer 1:5; Hos 13:4-5; Amos 3:2; 1 Cor 8:3). On this view, to be chosen according to foreknowledge would mean to be chosen because of the prior election of Christ and the corporate people of God in him. 
http://evangelicalarminians.org/the-facts-of-salvation-a-summary-of-arminian-theologythe-biblical-doctrines-of-grace/
Notice Arminian Abasciano's oblique concession that the traditional Reformed understanding of proginosko was right all along. 
9) Rom 14:15

For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.
Paul uses the powerful verb apollumi ("annihilate, destroy, ruin") in the present imperative, which implies an ongoing process rather than once and for all "being lost before God."…Horst Baltz is therefore closer to the nuance required by this context in suggesting the translation of lupeo in this verse as "injured/deeply troubled," which implies an ongoing state.
References in the commentaries to "eschatological ruin" or "spiritual ruin" not only overlook the tense of the verb but also provide scant explanation of the effects of conscience violation. R. Jewett, Romans, 861-861.
10) 2 Cor 5:14-15,19

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
19 That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
This probably means that one has died as the representative of all his people, and therefore all of them are deemed to have dead in the person of their representative. F. F. Bruce, I & II Corinthians, 207.
Most commentators admit that the most sensible reading is to take pantes in all three occurrences as being coextensive…In many ways the meaning of the verse turns on this one word [ara]: Christ died for all, therefore all died. The point that Paul wishes to make, inter alia, is that Christ's death effects the spiritual death of others, such that (kai) he died for all so that (hina) those who live (having died in Christ) should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and rose again (v55). In other words, Christ's death is both effective and purposive and reveals there is an implicit union between Christ and those for whom he died, something that Paul makes more explicit in Rom 6:1-11. J. Gibson, "For Whom Did Christ Die?," From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, 303.
11) 1 Tim 2:4-6; 4:10; Tit 2:11

4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.
The purpose of the reference to "all people," which continues the them of universality in this passage, is sometimes misconstrued. The reference is made mainly with the Pauline mission to the Gentiles in mind (v7). But the reason behind Paul's justification of this universal mission is almost certainly the false teaching, with its Torah-centered approach to life that included either an exclusivist bent or a downplaying of the Gentile mission…Paul's focus is on building a people of God who incorporate all people regardless of ethnic, social, or economic backgrounds… P. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 177-178.
It may be that they [false teachers] were consumed with genealogies because they restricted salvation along certain ethnic lines (1 Tim 1:4)…When Paul says that God desires all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and that Christ was the random for all (1 Tim 2:6), he may be responding to some who excluded Gentiles from salvation for genealogical reasons…Paul counters Jewish teachers (Tit 10:10,14-15; 3:9) who construct genealogies to exclude some from salvation. T. Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God's Glory in Christ, 184-85.
These problems disappear if we accept the other possible translation, "to be precise, namely, I mean." "All" is thus limited here to believers," I. H. Marshall, Pastoral Epistles, 556. 
12) Heb 2:9

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
When we place this description of Abraham's offspring with the emphasis on the children God gave to Jesus and the use of the word "brothers," we have significant evidence that Jesus's death "for everyone" (v9) is particular rather than general. All of this fits with v17, which speaks of Jesus's High Priestly ministry "to make propitiation for the sins of the people"… Given the focus on God's elect and Jesus's family in the context, it seems fair to conclude that here the emphasis is on the actual satisfaction accomplished in Jesus's death for those who would be part of his family. T. Schreiner, "Problematic Texts" for Definite Atonement in the Pastoral and General Epistles," From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, 396. Cf. P. T. O'Brien, The Letter to the Hebrews, 101-124.
13) Heb 10:29

How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
The apostate treats as profane that which is in fact not only holy in itself, but the source of cleansing holiness for the believer. The language is cultic, not ethical. P. Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 540. 
In other words, "sanctification," in the usage of Hebrews, refers not to inner renewal by the Holy Spirit, but a kind of ceremonial consecration, like ritual purity or cultic holiness. 
14) 2 Pet 2:1

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
The most immediate [image] is borrowed from the Roman slave trade, where a ransom might serve as the price of emancipation, after which the one freed belong to the one who paid the price.  
First Peter 1:18-19 affirms that believers were "ransomed" from the futile ways of their ancestors "with the precious blood of Christ" (cf. Eph 1:7; 2 Pet 2:1). In these and related passages, NT writers are drawing on a wealth of what would have been shared experience in the larger Greco-Roman world. Those familiar with the history of Israel, of course, would have heard reverberations of the story of the exodus in the background of such references (e.g., Ex 6:6; cf. Is 51:11). Others, however, might have been led to conjer up images of the "redemption" of slaves or of prisoners of war. 
This raises the question, If Jesus' death "purchased" believers, to whom was the purchase price paid? The devil? The demonic world? It is here, at this juncture, that we encounter the limits of the metaphor of redemption. J. Green & M. Baker, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross (IVP 2000), 41-42, 102.
A spillover from Calvinism into Arminianism has occurred in recent decades. Thus many Arminians whose theology is not very precise say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Yet such a view is foreign to Arminianism…Arminians teach that what Christ did he did for every person; therefore what he did could not have been to pay the penalty, since no one would then ever go into eternal perdition…[Arminians] also feel that God the Father would not be forgiving us at all if his justice was satisfied by the real thing that justice needs: punishment. J. Grider, "Arminianism," Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 80.
Joel Green is a premier Arminian NT scholar. The monograph he coauthored with Baker is a frontal assault on penal substitution. But that obscures the Arminian appeal to 2 Pet 2:1 as a prooftext for unlimited atonement. If it's not redemptive in the penal substitutionary sense, then in what sense, if at all, did Christ atone for the sins of the false teachers? Grider's clarification raises the same issue. 
I'd add that even if you think the Bible teaches penal substitution (which it undoubtedly does), you can't superimpose that on every generically redemptive passage. 2 Pet 2:1 lacks vicarious or sacrificial language. It doesn't say the false teachers were redeemed by the blood of Christ. It doesn't say Christ died in their stead. 
15) 2 Pet 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
God's patience with his own people, delaying the final judgment to give them the opportunity of repentance, provides at least a partial answer to the problem of eschatological delay. 
The author remains close to his Jewish source, for in Jewish thought it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment. R. Bauckham,  Jude, 2 Peter, 312-13.
In other words, it's not referring to humans in general, but God's people (Jews, Christians) in particular. 
Why would God strive to the point of frustration to get people to do what he was certain they would never do before they were even born; namely, believe in him? Doesn't God's sincere effort to get all people to believe in him imply that it is not a foregone conclusion to God that certain people would not believe in him when he created them? Indeed, doesn't the fact that the Lord delays his return imply that neither the date of his return nor the identities of who will and will not believe are settled in God's mind ahead of time?…If this isn't what 2 Pet 3:9 explicitly teaches, what does it teach? 
If it is difficult for the classical view to explain why God strives with people he is certain will not be saved, it is evil more difficult to explain why God would create these people in the first place…why a God who loves all epode and who wants no one to perish would give freedom to people he is certain are going to use it to damn themselves to hell. G. Boyd, "The Open-Theist View," Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, 29.
16) 1 Jn 2:2; 4:14

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
If here it is a reference to the whole planet, consideration of the historical context in which John wrote makes a more likely interpretation to be the universal scope of Christ's sacrifice in the sense that no one's race, nationality, or any other trait will keep that person from receiving the full benefit of Christ's sacrifice if and when they come to faith.  
In the ancient world, the gods were parochial and had geographically limited jurisdictions. In the mountains, one sought the favor of the mountain gods; on the sea, of the sea gods. Ancient warfare was waged in the belief that the gods of the opposing nations were fighting as well, and the outcome would be determined by whose god was strongest. Against that kind of pagan mentality, John asserts the efficacy of Jesus Christ's sacrifice is valid everywhere, for people everywhere, that is "the whole world."  
But "world" in John's writings is often used to refer not to the planet or all its inhabitants, but to the system of fallen human culture, with its values, morals, and ethics as a whole. Lieu explains it as that which  is totally opposed to God and all the belongs to him. It is almost always associated with the side of darkness in the Johannine duality, and people are characterized in John's writings as being either "of God" or "of the world" (Jn 8:23; 15:19; 176,14,16; 18:36; 1 Jn 2:16; 4:5). Those who have been born of God are taken out of that spiritual sphere, though not out of the geographical place or physical population that is concurrent with it (Jn 13:1; 17:15: see "In Depth: The "world" in John's Letters" at 2:16).  
Rather than teaching universalism, John here instead announces the exclusivity of the Christian gospel. Since Christ's atonement is efficacious for the "whole world," there is no other form of atonement available to other peoples, cultures, and religions apart from Jesus Christ. K. Jobes, 1, 2, & 3 John (Zondervan 2014), 80.