Saturday, July 12, 2014
Friday, July 11, 2014
I am on record as an “evolutionary skeptic.” I don’t deny substantive morality — you ought to return your library books on time — but I do deny objective foundations. I think morality is a collective illusion, genetic in origin, that makes us good cooperators. And I would add that being good cooperators makes each one of us individually better off in the struggle for existence. If we are nice to other people, they are much more likely to be nice to us in return. However, as the philosopher J.L. Mackie used to argue, I think we “objectify” substantive ethics — we think it objectively the case that we ought return library books on time. But we do this (or rather our genes make us do this) because if we didn’t we would all start to cheat and substantive ethics would collapse to the ground.
So I don’t buy the moral argument for the existence of God. I think you can have all of the morality you need without God. I am a follower of Hume brought up to date by Darwin. Morality is purely emotions, although emotions of a special kind with an important adaptive function.
Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.” Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student “was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months”:
“They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. ‘I basically said, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” And then he said, “OK, that’s fine” and stopped. . . . And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.’”
Six weeks later, the woman reported that she had been raped.
“They’d now decided — mutually, he thought — just to be friends. When she ended up falling asleep on his bed, he changed into boxers and climbed in next to her. Soon, she was putting her arm around him and taking off his clothes. ‘I basically said, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” And then she said, “OK, that’s fine” and stopped. . . . And then she started again a few minutes later, taking off my boxers and performing fellatio on me. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let her finish. I pulled my boxers back on and went to sleep.’”
Six weeks later, the student reported that he had been raped.
First, it’s important to pay attention to the fact that Romans 9 was never interpreted as teaching unconditional double predestination to salvation and damnation before Augustine in the early fifth century. For four centuries Christians read the New Testament including Romans 9 and never came up with that interpretation.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Most people believe that dairy isn’t a bad thing because an animal doesn’t have to die in order for you to get it. But the truth is that an animal does have to die – in fact, many animals have to die – for the sake of that slice of cheese on your sandwich, or that milk in your cereal. If you really care about animal rights, the first things you must eliminate from your diet are eggs and dairy.
If you are a feminist like I am, dairy should really hit home for you. This is because dairy is a business that profits off of the exploitation of the female reproductive system. The entire life of a dairy cow is a never-ending nightmarish cycle of depression, torture and rape.
The interviewer who talks the most, Laura Knight-Jadczyk, the one who discusses the alleged reincarnation of her son, seems to have some significant credibility problems. See the thread here. But I'm citing the interview primarily for what Braude has to say.
Wednesday, July 09, 2014
7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea (Jn 21:7).
Richard Bauckham However, as you say, everyone went to the [Roman] baths. Even the rabbis went to the baths. I think even Jews, who were more sensitive about nudity than most people, just thought it was natural to be naked around and in water. Fishermen worked naked, even on shore. The Victorians were the first to invent bathing trunks.
I’ve been aware of these kinds of incidents for a long time. But seeing them in one place, as they are shown here, really presses home the corruption of the whole Roman Catholic system. The history here is valid – by trusted names like Philip Schaff, Williston Walker, and J.N.D. Kelly.
Roman Catholic Apologists will claim, “well, infallibility doesn’t mean impeccability”, meaning, there will still be sinners in an imperfect “Church”. We don’t deny that all men are sinners; but the Roman Catholic authorities portrayed here were not merely imperfect – they were so bad, that some of them make modern day Islamists look like mischievous Sunday School students by comparison.
I invite you to watch for a few minutes and understand how the Roman Papacy has conducted itself at many times throughout history. Again, Roman Catholic Apologists will suggest that these men contributed nothing to “the deposit of faith” – at best, that’s a concession that they were mere placeholders in an “unbroken succession” of popes. But at worst, these things verify what Jesus said: “a tree is known by its fruit (Matthew 12:33)”. This is the fruit of Roman Catholicism in its full, rotten, smelly aroma of death.
HT: Sam Shamoun
Stephen Meyer relates the following story (starting at about the 23:15 mark in this video) about a Chinese professor of paleontology giving a lecture in which Meyer was in attendance. Meyer recounts:
[The Chinese professor is speaking:] "The strange thing about these Cambrian fossil finds is that they turn Darwin's tree upside down. Instead of having the simple forms at the bottom and gradually morphing and then the complex forms arising and then branching out, we have the disparity between form at the very beginning of the [Cambrian] explosion, with nothing underneath."
So there was some uncomfortable shuffling. And then we went to the Q&A time. And one of the geologists from the University of Washington raised his hand and he said, almost as if in warning, "Professor, aren't you a little bit uneasy about expressing scepticism about Darwinian evolution coming as you do from such an authoritarian country?"
And suddenly you could cut the tension with a knife, to use the old metaphor. But this Chinese professor - no one's fool - got a wry smile on his face, and he said, "In our country we can question Darwin, just not the government." And then he said, "In your country, you can question the government, but you can't question Darwinism."
Meyer also relates the same story in his book Darwin's Doubt (see chapter 3, "Soft Bodies and Hard Facts"):
So there was little doubt about the significance of the discoveries that [J.Y.] Chen came to report that day. What was soon in doubt, however, was Chen's scientific orthodoxy. In his presentation, he highlighted the apparent contradiction between the Chinese fossil evidence and Darwinian orthodoxy. As a result, one professor in the audience asked Chen, almost as if in warning, if he wasn't nervous about expressing his doubts about Darwinism so freely - especially given China's reputation for suppressing dissenting opinion. I remember Chen's wry smile as he answered. "In China," he said, "we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin."
MICROCOSM? WESLEY AND EDWARDS: FREEDOM AND THEOLOGY
July 3 at 3:05pm · Edited ·
As we approach July 4 where we celebrate freedom, I have been pondering this historical tidbit. John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards were contemporaries who lived at a time when many Christians accepted slavery. Wesley, however, was an outspoken critic of the practice, and his last letter was to Wilberforce, encouraging him in his fight to end it. Edwards, by contrast, owned a slave. Of course, we cannot read too much into this and I am sure both opponents of slavery as well as supporters can be cited on both sides of this theological divide. Still, I wonder if it is suggestive.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Part 2 of Tom Morris's fascinating interview with Patricia Pearson, author of "Opening Heaven's Door."
Yesterday at 8:21am · Edited ·
Tom: Ha! Good point. In these accounts that you've heard and told us about, there's always a measure of mystery, or uncertainty, which most people think of as a bad thing. And, yet, perhaps it's a good thing. What do you think?
Patricia: Well, there are a number of ways to answer that question. From a spiritual perspective, as the 19th century Baha'i prophet Bahaullah said, "If I told you what paradise was like, you would slit your throats to get there." Islamist suicide bombers believe they know what paradise is like, and are eager to arrive ASAP and wallow with virgins. They clearly have no idea what's entailed in being a spiritually mature human being. So what advantage is there in a false certainty that strands us with people like that?
Humans are in their spiritual adolescence right now, in the Baha'i view. They may be smart as hell, but they're dumb as beer-addled teens in speedboats. How would you trust them with the certain contours of another realm when they would view it as a simple opportunity, and not understand the complex obligations of spiritual maturation that should precede it?
Tom: That's an excellent point. It reminds me of an old expression: "just enough light for the step I'm on." And then, there's a new expression, "What got you here won't get you there."
God is in time because there is no time unless God is in it.
That’s a little Vos-Van Til talk, but we could infer the same from omnipresence and eternity. Eternity does not mean that God as God cannot touch temporality (again, unless you are entangled in Thomistic simplicism; but then you have created your own problems). It means that he fills all time, just as omnipresence doesn’t mean that God cannot be in places (spatially located); it means that he fills all places. This is an unbiblical non sequitur: He fills all time, therefore he cannot be in time. So is this: He fills all space, therefore he cannot be in a place.
So if we affirm, say, omnipresence, what then is condescension (which the divines worked into the confession—WCF 7.1)? If God fills all space, what does it mean that he ‘comes down’? To where does he come down? Well, to the top of Mt. Sinai (Ex 19), for example—even though being omnipresent, he was already there. He ‘comes down’ to covenant with Israel. Mt. Sinai is a particular place; and Ex 19 records the Lord’s presence there at a particular time. And so: if God fills all time, we may say that he condescends in order to covenant with his people at Mt. Sinai, at that time. The Lord speaks to Moses, then and there.
And this presence of God with his people is no innovation; it is the telos of covenant history:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Rev 21:3
The sticking point here has to do with the psychology of the OT writers. When they wrote passages interpreted by the NT as references to Christ, did they consciously have these Christological meanings in view? The advocates of “christotelic” interpretation argue that at least some such Christological content was extrapolated by NT writers in light of the Christ event. Their critics contend that this threatens the authority of Scripture, destroys the “organic unity” of the OT and NT, and stands in tension with the Westminster Standards.
It is this point of the entire truthfulness of the history of revelation and Scripture-- involving “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” as Vos says, and critically essential for any doctrine of Scripture, like that set out in chapter 1 of the WCF, intent on doing justice to the unity and coherent harmony of the Bible as God’s own written word--it is just this crucially important point that is compromised or at best obscured by the Christotelic approach to Scripture.
… Reformed theology has with greater earnestness than any other type of Christian doctrine upheld the principles of the absoluteness and unchanging identity of truth…But the Reformed have always insisted upon it that at no point shall a recognition of the historical delivery and apprehension of truth be permitted to degenerate into a relativity of truth. The history remains a history of revelation. Its total product agrees absolutely in every respect with the sum of truth as it lies in the eternal mind and purpose of God...It is an unchristian and an unbiblical procedure to make development superior to revelation instead of revelation superior to development, to accept belief and tendencies as true because they represent the spirit of the time and in a superficial optimism may be regarded as making for progress. Christian cognition is not an evolution of truth, but a fallible apprehension of truth which must at each point be tested by an accessible absolute norm of truth. To take one’s stand upon the infallibility of the Scriptures is an eminently religious act; it honors the supremacy of God in the sphere of truth in the same way as the author of Hebrews does by insisting upon it, notwithstanding all progress, that the Old and the New Testament are the same authoritative speech of God.
With the greatest variety of historical aspects, there can, nevertheless, be no inconsistencies or contradictions in the Word of God.
Here is a great post from Ann Gauger summarizing the responses to Francisco Ayala's attempt to demonstrate that humans had to have come from more than two individuals based on his comparison of the HLA gene complex (focusing on HLA-DRB1). Gauger is fairly gentle about it, but in my opinion her summary response is devastating to Ayala's position. More like a summary execution!
Monday, July 07, 2014
"We are told that on his arrival, Apollos was a great help to those who had come to believe through God's grace. The help he rendered was apparently not just in teaching those who were already Christians but in doing apologetics….This last verse reflects the language of public debate used of a contest in which rhetoric is used, which involves arguments (or 'proofs') and refutations offered back and forth to convince the audience." (The Acts Of The Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998], 568)
Darrell Bock writes:
"This strong verb appears only here in the NT. It means 'overwhelm' someone in argument (BAGD 184; BDAG 229)." (Acts [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007], 593)
Apollos' apologetic activity isn't described as something counterproductive. There's no suggestion that faith is a blind leap in the dark or belief that goes against reason (two anti-Biblical notions that are popular in the modern world), so that Apollos' work was superfluous or undermining people's faith. His apologetic efforts aren't described in neutral terms either. Nor does Luke merely say that Apollos' work was helpful. Rather, he emphatically refers to how it "greatly helped".
That isn't true of every apologetic effort. But the potential is there. Apologetics is important work. That's especially the case in a rapidly developing information age like ours. People have so much access to so much information and are in such frequent contact with so many people and ideas. Work like Apollos' is even more important than usual.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
Holy Spirit, living Breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity.
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.
Holy Spirit, come abide within;
May Your joy be seen in all I do—
Love enough to cover ev'ry sin
In each thought and deed and attitude,
Kindness to the greatest and the least,
Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
Turn my striving into works of grace.
Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.
Holy Spirit, from creation's birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show Your power once again on earth;
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise.
Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That in unity the face of Christ
Will be clear for all the world to see.
When trials come no longer fear
For in the pain our God draws near
To fire a faith worth more than gold
And there His faithfulness is told
And there His faithfulness is told
Within the night I know Your peace
The breath of God brings strength to me
And new each morning mercy flows
As treasures of the darkness grow
As treasures of the darkness grow
I turn to Wisdom not my own
For every battle You have known
My confidence will rest in You
Your love endures Your ways are good
Your love endures Your ways are good
When I am weary with the cost
I see the triumph of the cross
So in its shadow I shall run
Till He completes the work begun
Till He completes the work begun
One day all things will be made new
I'll see the hope You called me to
And in your kingdom paved with gold
I'll praise your faithfulness of old
I'll praise your faithfulness of old
I have good friends who are Arminians (I know the retort: “friends don’t let friends be Arminians”), and so normally I don’t take much interest in these types of discussions. I like WK and I wanted to see what he found so compelling. But after watching this video, I can’t understand how anybody can take Jerry Walls seriously, at least from a theological perspective. I left the following comment:
I was not impressed. Walls begins with TULIP, but genuine Reformed theology begins with very careful prolegomena and the doctrines of God and Scripture. If an Arminian wants to try to score an easy win against Calvinists, I guess a caricature of TULIP is a good place to start. But if an Arminian really wants to understand the genuine Reformed faith, he must start way earlier in Reformed systematics.
As it is, Walls’s big trump card is “the character of God”, but without an analysis of the Reformed Doctrine of God, Walls’s “character” is something of his own making.
I would disagree, too, that his description of TULIP was accurate. It was accurate within the bounds of stereotypes, but I think his whole simplified message is wrong-headed.
What I find most alarming is that he gets an audience for this kind of thing among evangelical Christians.
For just one response, see Steve Hays’s critique of Walls’s article in Philosophia Christi: