Saturday, August 30, 2014

And the walls came tumbling down


In my judgment, the only way to counter this for the inerrantists is to prove that the historical and archaeological evidence supports that account as it is in Joshua 6.  
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/06/the-inadequacy-of-the-inerrancy-model-pete-enns/ 
On the problem passages, I have one big comment: inerrantists tip toe and tap dance around the fall of Jericho’s walls and end up denying the overwhelming conclusions of the archaeologists. Pete Enns is right here to challenge dust-in-the-eyes proposals of resolution to these sorts of problems. 
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/13/well-versed-inerrancy/

Several issues:

i) There's the question of personal and professional ethics. McKnight used to teach at TEDS. That's a seminary committed to inerrancy. Yet he's attacking inerrancy. Has he changed his mind? Or did he dissemble about his true views when he was there?

ii) Biblical archeology is a wonderful discipline. But it has inherent limitations. Unless we know what Jericho looked like in the 2nd millennium BC, from one century to the next, we don't know what it looked like before or after the Conquest. Not to mention over 3000 years of subsequent erosion, reuse of preexisting materials, &c. So what's the basis of comparison? 

iii) Do proof and disproof have the same burden of proof? Does archeological proof that something happened, something existed, have the same evidentiary onus as archeological disproof that something never happened, never existed? 

iv) Josh 6 is, in itself, historical and archeological evidence for the event in question. Written records are a major source of archeological evidence. 

v) Why are inerrantists required to supply corroborative evidence? The area where I grew up has changed drastically in just 50 years. Many of my old haunts are now unrecognizable. From memory, I can mentally reconstruct what used to be there. But only someone who lived through that period is in a position to do so. And when that generation dies, those memories are lost. That knowledge is gone. 

vi) Incidentally, McKnight is a prominent Arminian. Once again, I'm struck by the fact that Arminians, especially in academia, are more liberal then their Calvinist counterparts. 

The Cat in the Hat


I'm going to comment on some of Lydia McGrew's latest statements on this thread:
I think if you have a real, absolute moral prohibition on killing infants, you should be very, very uncomfortable with these passages and especially with saying that it really happened just like that. You should have a serious conundrum. You should not be *just fine* with the, "God ordered it, so I guess then it's okay" response.
That's reversible. If you take Biblical revelation seriously, then you should question having "a real absolute moral prohibition" on killing infants.
There are plenty of reasons for not just taking it that it must be okay, the most important of which is that that would appear blasphemously to be saying that God ordered the murder of children. It's odd that those who are concerned for the honor of God aren't concerned that perhaps attributing this to Him isn't so honoring to Him.
Notice her tendentious tactics. Christians who defend Biblical revelation aren't saying that God ordered the murder of children. She smuggles in her own characterization, then imputes that to her opponents. 
As I said elsewhere, Scripture is full of statements that God is light, that God is love, that in God is no darkness at all, that God is good, that all goodness comes from God. If we are to consider that God ordered hacking infants to death, surely you can see that any attempt to say that our ideas of goodness are just radically faulty enough that we can't see why that is okay severely calls into question our ability to have any concept of divine benevolence! It raises the very real question of whether the passages could say that God ordered _just anything_ and people would believe it in the name of inerrancy. It also raises the very real question of what we are worshiping and whether we can be worshiping truly, truly adoring God's goodness, while attributing these things to Him. And if one were simply to accept such a thing, it raises the question of whether one who insists on doing that could literally _reverse_ the meanings of "good" and "evil" and still worship the god thus defined.
But that goes to the problem of evil generally. After all, infants have been "hacked to death" at various times regardless of whether or not God orders it. Since she considers that intrinsically evil, how is God benevolent towards infants if he twiddles his thumbs while that happens? 
As for its not being applicable to today, that seems to confuse the situation of the Israelites vis a vis the Canaanites with our situation vis a vis the Israelites. _They_ didn't get this order from a written canon of Scripture, because no such thing existed. _They_ couldn't have believed sola scriptura. Anyone who putatively received such an order today would presumably believe himself to be in _their_ position. He's not interpreting what God said to the Israelites but interpreting what he thinks God is telling him to do today. If you believe God could order the slaughter of infants over three thousand years ago, it seems rather too convenient, and argumentatively unsupported, to use the concept of sola scriptura to argue that God _couldn't_ do such thing today.
She's disregarding the specific reasons given in the text for the holy war commands. 
The putative slaughter of the Canaanites, with its apparent contradiction of the 6th commandment and even other OT statements, _does_ undeniably put strain on Judaism sans Christ, even as it puts strain on Christianity (which is a continuation of Judaism).
She keeps salting the mine. It's only in apparent contradiction to the 6th commandment if it's murder. That's the very question in dispute. 
First of all, I am not "setting" the Scripture against the Scripture. I am pointing out what seems to me a direct conflict, which would be there even if I never pointed it out. This isn't something I'm just making up. You yourself should be able to see the appearance of conflict, and simply resolving it by saying, "I believe in inerrancy" isn't much of a resolution. 
Notice that she's stipulating a "direct conflict." 
I would not apply the "consequentialist rationalization" label to God, because I've already said at the outset that the entire category of murder does not apply to God at all. It's just a category mistake to try to apply it to Him. So therefore the notion of a consequentialist rationalization of a wrong action cannot apply to God either.
If the entire category of murder does not apply to God at all, how does that mesh with her claim about "the very real question of what we are worshipping"? 
I'm surprised that you don't see the relevance of the hypothetical to the topic at hand. There are evidently some things that you would not believe to be true, even if found in part of the canon of what is designated as Scripture that has come down to us.
A counterfactual scenario can show a method to be mistaken. If your method is, as it seems to be, to take it as beyond question that anything that comes down to us in what is designated as the canon of Scripture must be true, even if that means attributing what appears to be an atrocity to God, and redefining our concept of "atrocity" accordingly, then that method is subject to a reductio ad absurdum. That reductio can be understand in terms of a counterfactual as to what that method would require us to do in the hypothetical case I have given. You cannot just say that the hypothetical is irrelevant because it isn't actual, because to do so is to show a failure to comprehend the nature of a reductio for a method of coming to a conclusion.
In trying to run a different reductio using a hypothetical, I'm simply finding something that you _would_ balk at.
Your method of believing whatever is in what is designated as the canon of Scripture _does_ have these absurd consequences as shown in my hypothetical. For some reason you just do not see that I have presented thereby a reductio of your method.
I'm pointing out, however, that someone could say exactly the same things you are saying, in exactly the same way, about *absolutely any content*. Since you don't apparently really want to say that you would accept *absolutely any content* as being true just because it is in the canon of Scripture, you should realize that what you are saying to me is also not argumentatively moving.
In that context, to try to move me *merely* by saying, "You can't call that into question. It's in the Bible" is a fairly weak argument and really does invite the sorts of reductios I have been bringing forward.
Why is this so hard? Why couldn't someone say the _exact_ same thing about "why the Bible shouldn't be the norm" if the Bible contained a record of God's telling the Israelites to rape the Canaanite children? The answer is, someone could.
This point has force whether you see it or not. If you have any line at which you would reject what is in the canon of Scripture, then you are prepared to do the exact same thing that I am doing.
i) Notice the bait-and-switch. When she asks, "What if the Bible said…?" she's no longer talking about the Bible, but something different. The fact that an inerrantist doesn't have the same deference for what's not the Bible as he has for what is the Bible proves nothing. That's not what has come down to us from the Jews, or Jesus, or the Apostles. 
ii) To say "what is designated as Scripture" is sleight-of-hand. Suppose an avid fan of Dr. Seuss founded the Church of Seuss. Members regard Dr. Seuss as a prophet sent by God to restore the true faith. In the Church of Seuss, his writings are designated as canonical Scripture. As a result, Green eggs and ham are the communion elements.
Suppose Lydia then says, "Well, if you balk at what Green Eggs and Ham teaches, then you ought to balk at what Deuteronomy 20 teaches." Really? How does that counterfactual scenario show that faith in Deuteronomy is misplaced? 
Yes, there are some things I wouldn't believe to be true, even if found in what the Church of Seuss designates as Scripture. I draw a line. And that's a reason to deny the Bible? 
iii) Lydia acts as if the designation of canonical Scripture is arbitrary. The title on the dust cover. What's inside could be anything. 
But, of course, the books comprising the canon aren't simply designated as Scripture by fiat, a la The Da Vinci Code. At least, not for Protestants. 
iv) In fact, this isn't just hypothetical. There are rival canons of the OT. The church of Rome, the Orthodox church, and the Ethiopian church have different OT canons than the Protestant canon. Protestants reaffirm the Hebrew OT canon because that has the best historical chain-of-custody. The OT apocrypha and pseudepigrapha arose during the Intertestamental period, and there's no good reason to think the Jews, or Jesus, or the Apostles, ever viewed those Intertestamental writings as Scripture. Content, per se, is not the criterion, but the chain-of-custody. 
If the idea is that the reason we don't need to talk about those hypotheticals is that the real-life situation *isn't really all that bad* and hence needn't be compared to such a hypothetical, then that, of course, is where we disagree.
So if her opponents don't think the real-life situation is intrinsically evil, then by her own admission, the hypothetical comparison has no traction. 
What is her argument, anyway? Is this an argument from analogy? If you reject child rape, you ought to reject child homicide, because the two are morally equivalent? But if that's the claim, where's the supporting argument? To say they're morally equivalent begs the question. 
In what sane moral universe, I ask you, do we say, "Raping little kids, that can't be justified. I draw the line there. But cutting off their heads with swords--yeah, I can probably find a workaround to justify that"?
But we're talking here about swiping the heads off of babies, which, on the contrary, *is* one of the things which has been condemned both by natural law and by tradition all along. Therefore all manner of special pleading is necessary to try to justify it in the case of the Canaanites.
For some reason, chopping off children's heads just doesn't do it for you, but raping children does.
i) Are we talking here about beheading babies? That's what she's talking about, but does the OT command the Israelites to behead Canaanite babies? Where does the Pentateuch prescribe that method of executing the Canaanites? Why is she suddenly imputing that imagery to the text? Is it because she finds that polemically useful, even if it's untrue? 
ii) Since, moreover, she's conceded that God has the right to end a child's life, then her comparison between raping children and killing children isn't analogous even on her own grounds. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Disambiguating impassibility


There's currently a debate within evangelicalism generally and Calvinism in particular over the question of whether God is impassible. One problems with the current debate is equivocation: there are two different definitions of impassability in circulation. If you Google "impassibility," you pull up definitions like this:

1. Classic theism teaches that God is impassible — not subject to suffering, pain, or the ebb and flow of involuntary passions. 
Incapable of suffering or of experiencing pain 
Incapable of feeling 

Compare that to a more academic definition of the term:

2. Nothing created can cause God to change or be modified in any way…Many classical theists make this point by insisting that God is impassible. In this context "Impassible"…means "not able to be causally modified by an external agent"…God cannot be altered by anything a creature does. B. Davies, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 3rd ed, 2004), 5. 

Notice that #1 doesn't mean the same thing as #2. #1 defines impassibility in terms of divine emotional generally or divine suffering in particular.

By contrast, #2 does not include emotion or suffering in the definition. Rather, it defines impassibility in terms of divine independence. God cannot be influenced by his creatures. 

Take another example:  

The view that God is in no way affected by creatures is called the impassibility of God. This seems to be the view that you favor. God cannot suffer emotional pain. 
Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/divine-impassibility-and-the-crucifixion#ixzz3Bnn02fI5

Craig begins with one definition, but immediately substitutes a different definition. He oscillates between two different senses of the word, without even registering the equivocation.  

For now I'm not discussing which one is true, or whether either one is true. The immediate point is that the current debate suffers from this semantic confusion. 

It's possible to see how these two different definitions might be interrelated. If you deny #2, then that makes God susceptible to emotion or suffering if God reacts to events in the world. 

Finally, I'd point out that impassibility, in the sense of #2, dovetails with Reformed theism, which stresses divine independence. God is never conditioned by the creature, but vice versa. 

Government as one big SWAT team

http://www.weeklystandard.com/print/articles/bureaucrats-bearing-arms_803525.html

Clock time


Alan Kurschner solicited my comments on this argument:


We've had some amicable banter via email. I'm posting my side of the exchange (thus far). 

1. I think the inference involves a level-confusion. For the deeper question, or preliminary question, isn't so much how 19 and 20 are related to each other, but how the narrative was meant to map onto reality. The key issues isn't how these scenes are internally related but externally related. 

If, say, someone (like myself) views Revelation as an allegory (e.g. Pilgrim's Progress, The Divine Comedy), then even if we thought the narrative was linear, that doesn't resolve the larger question of how to match the allegorical story with real-world referents. 

And if there's evidence that the structure is more like a spiral than a line, then that further complicates attempts at directly correlating the narrative with real-world events. 

Put another way, the question is how to synchronize 19-20 with external events. That involves more than how the scenes are interrelated within the narrative. That involves how the narrative is related to the world outside the narrative. That question operates at a different level. 

I myself don't think Revelation has a single timeline, although there's an overarching direction. 

At best, your argument could be one element in a cumulative case for premillennialism.

2. In a book like Revelation I think it's important to distinguish between historical causation and dramatic logic. I think the sequence you describe follows dramatic logic. There's a distinction between those who take orders and those who give orders.

The foot soldiers have both a defensive and offensive function. They attack the people of God. But they also protect the ringleaders–like bodyguards. 

In dramatic logic, first defeat the foot soldiers, in part as a way of getting to the ringleaders. Capture and punish the ringleaders after eliminating their security detail. You have to go through the phalanx to reach the commanders. 

Satan is saved for last because he's the ultimate ringleader. He comes in for special treatment. 

Orders come from the top down. Defeating the enemy reverses the process by working up the chain of command. That's dramatic logic rather than historical causation. 

By the same token we need to distinguish between chronological time and narrative time. For instance, even though the Gospels are historical accounts, narrative time is not the same thing as historical time. Gospel writers take liberties with chronology, viz. narrative compression, thematic sequencing. 

4. There's the familiar problem of where Satan gets his army for round 2 (20:8-9), since his army was destroyed in round 1 (19:21). That suggests recapitulation. 

This is one reason I'm hesitant about reducing the action to a single timeline. There's a certain back-and-forth in Revelation. 

Of course, premils can posit that the millennium itself creates a new generation to resupply Satan's depleted ranks. There's nothing inherently wrong with that postulate. But it's not specified by the text. 

5. I don't know the specifics of your overall position. So I'll take a stab at it, and you can correct me. 

It's my impression that you think Revelation is basically a historical narrative written ahead of time. Not just that it refers to real future events. But that in terms of genre, it's essentially a history book, like Genesis, Chronicles, or Acts. The difference is that unlike ordinary historical narratives, which record the past or present, this is about the future–given the author's advance knowledge of things to come. So you think Revelation is fairly prosaic and chronological, like other historical narratives. What makes it different from a typical historical narrative is not the genre but the timeframe.

Likewise, given your view of Biblical supernaturalism, it's my impression that you don't think Revelation is nearly as symbolic as amils typically take it to be. That is to say, the surreal elements could well be realistic. The grotesque monsters aren't symbolic. Rather, given Biblical supernaturalism, why can't reality be like that? 

I'm also assuming you think 4-22 is chronological. And I assume you think that jumps ahead to the endgames, in contrast to the 1C setting of 1-3. 

Again, correct me of I'm wrong.

Assuming that's correct, I'll say a few things for now, and save the rest for later.

Regarding the grotesque monsters, there are various possibilities or interpretive options:

i) John could be using zoological analogues for advanced technology. Maybe they represent predator drones. Writing for an ancient audience, John must use imagery that's intelligible to his audience. 

ii) The monsters could be real zoological organisms. But perhaps they are bioweapons. Bioengineered by the Dragon or the Antichrist, as part of their army of darkness. 

iii) The monsters could be occultic entities who are able to assume grotesque physical form.

Speaking for myself:

i) My default position is to regard them as literary composites, based on OT antecedents. Their hybrid features symbolize the abilities we associate with fearsome animals.

ii) However, I'm certainly open to the possibility (perhaps more than a possibility) that these are occultic entities who are able to assume that form. Just recently I was reading about an Eskimo village on the North Slope of Alaska. Due to coastal erosion, it relocated. The new site was built on old Eskimo burial grounds–which included the graves of Eskimo "shamans" (witch doctors).

From time to time, residents reported sightings of a black, winged wraithlike entity that terrorized the community. Of course, that could just be a tall tale. However, I'm willing to entertain to the possibility or probability that this was the ghost of a witchdoctor. A damned soul haunting the village for disturbing its grave. 

On a related note, M. Scott Peck was trained (at Harvard) in secular psychiatry, yet later in his career, two patients were referred to him whom he diagnosed as possessed. Indeed, according to him, when the possession manifested itself, they'd take on a reptilian appearance. Cf. Glimpses of the Devil

iii) To take a comparison, the seraphim/cherubim in Ezekiel's visions are tetramorphs. But they aren't literary composites. Rather, that's what Ezekiel actually saw. I don't know if it was a subjective or objective vision. But in any event, that's how they manifested themselves to him. 

iv) Preterists and amils typically regard the chronological gap which premils posit between 1-3 and 4-22 as ad hoc. Now, I myself don't think 4-22 has exclusive reference to the distant future. 

However, I don't think positing a chronological gap is necessarily ad hoc. John didn't know the duration of the interval between the first and second advents. And the question is what would be the next big event in redemptive history. Arguably, the next big event is the cluster of events involving the return of Christ and the final judgment. So it wouldn't be out of the question to have a lengthy gap.

4. I think you're conditioned to counterattack a conventional version of amillennialism which isn't identical to my position. I think you're responding to something like this:

i) The structuring principle of Revelation is recapitulatory parallelism. This is a systematic structuring principle. 

19 belongs to the 6th cycle, while 20 belongs to the 7th cycle. 20 begins a new cycle. The narrative isn't continuous from 19 through 20.

20 refers to the first advent of Christ. The "first resurrection" is the new birth. The binding of Satan is Christ's 1C defeat of Satan's kingdom, illustrated by dominical exorcisms.

ii) You object to this partly on the grounds that it's anachronistic. If 19 is about the second advent of Christ, then it does violence to the narrative flow to make 20 about the first advent of Christ. 

Speaking for myself:

I) I do think Revelation exhibits a fair amount of recapitulatory parallelism. However, I doubt that's a systematic structuring principle. I think that imposes a degree of artificial symmetry on the book. So I'm dubious about making a hard break between 19 and 20 based on recapitulatory parallelism. 

ii) I agree with you that the first resurrection doesn't refer to the new birth. One reason is because I think Revelation describes public events. External phenomena. Not private, inner experiences. 

iii) That said, I classify Revelation, not as historical narrative, but fictional narrative. Allegory. There are different kinds of fictional narrative. There's historical fiction, which is based on real people and real events. Fiction set in the past. With accurate period detail. There's supernatural fiction. And there's time-travel fiction, where the protagonist travels back into the past to change the past, with a view to changing the future, then returns to the new future. Often he's dissatisfied with the results, so he keeps going back in time to change the past until he either gets the results he's hoping for or gives up trying. 

I think Revelation has elements of all three fictional genres. Like historical fiction, it refers to real agents and real events. Sometimes in the past, or John's own time, but also in the future. Like supernatural fiction, it has supernatural characters and miraculous events–which stand for real agents and real events. 

And like time-travel fiction, it's repetitious in the sense that the story restarts several times, reaches the denouement ("It's the end of the world!"), circles back and starts over again–but each time it's different. 

Revelation has a series of narratives within the overarching narrative. Narrative units that have a chronological sequence (a beginning and ending), but the next unit doesn't begin where the last unit ended. Rather, the next unit begins where the last unit began. Like a row of snowglobes. A self-enclosed world within a world. Each with its own, internal timeline. 

I think this periodicity is there to show us that no matter when you live, you can expect the same kinds of challenges as a Christian believer. 

iv) I don't mean the whole book is cyclical. Revelation is like a passenger ship. Passengers are moving backward and forward, up and down, although the ship itself has a definite direction. In that respect, the passengers are going where the ship is going, even if they are going in all directions on deck. 

v) We should also resist the inclination of imposing our sense of clock time on the text. Our modern obsession with punctuality. From my reading, ancient and/or primitive cultures don't have that rigorous sense of clock time. They don't live by the clock. They don't operate with that rigid schematization of time or causality. They operate by event time rather than clock time. 

This consideration is reinforced by the fact that John received his visions in an altered state of consciousness. Precognition and retrocognition flatten the perception of temporal succession.   

Saints, Satan, heaven and hell


20 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years (Rev 20:1-4).
John's millennium receives disproportionate attention. That's unfortunate inasmuch as his millennium is secondary or penultimate to what follows. Of much greater importance is how the story ends (chaps. 21-22).
i) One question is where the millennium takes place. The text itself doesn't specify the locale. It's essential to the premil scheme that it happen on earth. Conversely, an earthly setting would be awkward (but not fatal) for amils. 
In favor of the earthly locale is the parallel with 5:10. By contrast, amils appeal to the parallel in 6:9-11 (cf. 14:13). In that event, it takes place in heaven. This is reinforced by the fact that v4a has its background in Dan 7:7-27, which is set in heaven. On balance, I think there's more exegetical support for the heavenly setting of the millennium. 
ii) There is, however, another related issue. How is the binding of Satan related to the millennium? One key is the probable contrast between the location of Satan and the location of the saints. The "pit" or abyss is a synonym for hades or the netherworld. In John's symbolic cosmography, that's down under. The lowest part of the universe. And that would form a natural contrast to heaven, which is the upper story of the universe. 
Indeed, this implicit contrast would furnish supporting evidence for the heavenly setting of the millennium. 
That, in turn, suggests the significance of their respective domains. The spatial separation between the saints in heaven and Satan's incarceration in hades means, among other things, that the saints are safe from Satan. Out of reach. Untouchable. He can't get to them. Not only is he imprisoned, but his prison is physically separated (symbolically speaking) from them. He's at the opposite end of the universe. 
iii) Incidentally, this may be one reason why Scripture uses the sky to symbolize God's dwelling place. God is invisible. You can scour the earth, but never find him. 
Putting God in the sky (as it were) is a way of saying God is out of sight. Too far away to be seen. Transcendent. 
Of course, God can make himself accessible to man. But that's at his initiative. 

An overview of different methods of apologetics

From Nathan Rinne:

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” — 2 Cor. 10:5

There are generally thought to be three approaches to Christian apologetics. Definitions will vary, but here are what I think are some good ones.

One approach is known as fideism which says that the best defense of the faith is preaching the Gospel, and that “rational evidences” have nothing to do with the process. Faith and reason, while both having their place, are opposed to one another like oil and water.

Presuppositionalism has its roots in Calvinist theology, emphasizes the unbelievers darkened reason and the power of the Word of God to convert, and, according to John Frame, “should present the biblical God, not merely as the conclusion of an argument, but as the one who makes argument possible” (Cowan, Five Views on Apologetics, 2000, p. 220).

Evidentialism looks to engage a persons’ rational capacity and takes advantage of accepted methods of doing scientific and historical research. It examines the claims made about Jesus Christ by the eyewitnesses of the Biblical narratives, and looks to determine whether or not the claims are, as the Apostle Paul put it, “true and reasonable” (Acts 26).

What is one to make of the variety of approaches to Christian apologetics?

Nathan cites writers as diverse as Kierkegaard, Plantinga, John Warwick Montgomery, and Sye Ten Bruggencate. In the comments, Richard Swinburne is cited (“On my view, Christians can quite properly offer any arguments for the truth of Christian belief they think are appropriate. I doubt that these arguments are sufficient to warrant the firmness of belief involved in faith (as traditionally understood) but it doesn’t follow that they have no use at all. On the contrary; they can be extremely useful, and in at least four different ways....”).

Read the whole article here, which promises to turn into a series....

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ethical supernaturalism

http://www.mandm.org.nz/2014/08/ethical-supernaturalism-is-still-more-plausible-than-naturalism-carriers-preliminary-objections.html

Deceptive stats

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/08/26/is-it-really-true-that-three-quarters-of-whites-dont-have-any-non-white-friends/

Cyclists and anteaters


Atheists often point to alleged design flaws in nature to disprove a divine Creator, or Intelligent Design theory. In the past I've discussed the inevitable tradeoffs in engineering. Now I'll cite an example.

A potential hazard in cycling is that your foot can slip off the pedal. And even if it doesn't, you don't have consistent pressure on the pedal.

One solution is pedal straps. However, some cyclists are very serious. Not only do they have skintight uniforms, but special footwear. They have magnetic pedals with matching footwear. Apparently, that's more efficient than pedal straps. 

When they dismount, I see them hobble about. Cycling shoes aren't walking shoes. Having that magnet embedded in the sole impedes walking. 

Which represents optimal design? Which represents suboptimal design?

Well, if your just cycling, I guess the more specialized solution is optimal. More efficient than pedal straps.

But what if your bike breaks down miles from home? Miles from the nearest bike shop? What if you have to walk for miles with that magnet jammed up against the arch of your foot? With your full body weight bearing down on that little square, rather than the weight evenly distributed from heel to toe? I imagine your next visit wouldn't be to the bike shop, but the podiatrist. 

If I were a cyclist, I'd go for the pedal straps. They may be suboptimal for cycling, but they're far better for walking–if it comes to that. 

By comparison, it's like asking which is a better designed animal: an anteater or a raccoon? The advantage of an anteater is that it can monopolize on a particular food source. Far less competion for its food source. The disadvantage is that if there's a shortage of ants and termites, it will starve.

By contrast, the raccoon has an all-purpose design. It has far more food sources to choose from. The downside is that it has more competition for the same sources of food. 

The anteater has an optimal design for a diet of termites and ants. But that specialization carries a cost. 

On the front lines


I'm not a big fan of the current law enforcement culture. To begin with, as I've explained before, law enforcement can only be as good as the law to be enforced. To the extent that liberals in Congress, state legislatures, Executive agencies, and the judiciary enact godless laws and regulations, to that extent law enforcement officers will be agents of injustice rather than justice. They are the spear of the ruling class. Add to that the evolving police state, militarization of the police, and a hands-off approach to protected classes, and the law enforcement culture is going from bad to worse.

However, that general trend doesn't prejudge any particular transaction between the police and the public. In relation to Ferguson, a lot of nonsensical objections have been raised by critics behind the safety of their keyboards. In that respect, I think it's useful to get the perspective of retired cops. For instance:



Simple foreknowledge


Traditionally, I think many or most Arminians espouse simple foreknowledge. Recently, there's been a debate about whether Arminus was influenced by Molinism, That's an Arminian intramural debate that doesn't concern me. My immediate point is that for contemporary Arminians who espouse simple foreknowledge, this analysis sketches some of the difficulties with their position. 
It is important to note that even if foreknowledge and freedom are compatible, it is not clear that simple foreknowledge — foreknowledge that is not based on middle knowledge (see below) — could be of any aid to God in providentially ordering His creation. If God knows what will actually happen, He cannot also use this information to arrange for something else to happen, for then the contents of what He “knows” would not comprise knowledge. Foreknowledge is of the actual occurrence of future events; once the occurrence of these events is known, it is “too late” to prevent them (or to bring them about). Doing so is incompatible with their occurrence being infallibly known by God. Simple foreknowledge, if God has it, allows Him to know what will occur without having to wait for the future occurrence of events, as He must for contingent events according to Open Theism. But His knowledge is no less conditioned by the occurrence of the events; He has no greater control over their occurrence based on foreknowledge than He does if Open Theism is true. 
Once it is realized that simple foreknowledge does not offer any providential advantage to God, one may wonder what reason there is to affirm it, aside from an assumption that it is more perfect for God to have such knowledge than not. One might think that foreknowledge would provide an explanation for the accuracy of prophecy. But it does not. If God has “at once” complete foreknowledge of all that happens, He “sees” what will happen including whether or not He instructs persons to prophesy that events will happen. Given knowledge of what will occur, God is not free to do otherwise than He foresees He will do. Perhaps God could “look” at a little bit of the future at a time, make decisions about how He will react to the events He foresees, and then “look” a little further to see how His creation reacts to these actions. But this would offer no greater help for predicting future events. Suppose that God foresees the course of the world until the end of 1935. Could He then decide to warn persons on January 1st of 1936 that the holocaust is about to occur? Not in any infallible way. For assuming that the holocaust was still avoidable in 1935, and assuming that God has not yet “looked” beyond 1935, He does not yet know what will occur in the next ten years. He can decide to make probably accurate but possibly mistaken predictions on January 1, 1936, based on the tendencies present at that point, but this is no more than He can do given Open Theism. 
Simple foreknowledge has no utility for God’s providential governance of the world, nor can it ground infallible predictions of future events. (It should also be reiterated that Open Theists believe that there are less instances of such predictions in the Bible than is thought by those who affirm a traditional meticulous view of providence.) If one wants to affirm that we have libertarian freedom and still maintain a traditional view of providence according to which God directs the course of the world rather than merely witnessing how it unfolds, then affirming foreknowledge is not enough. 
http://www.iep.utm.edu/o-theism/#H3

From silver bullets to bullet ricochet


I'm going to comment on some additional statements by Lydia McGrew, from two sources:



The point is that all the attempts to make that position *seem less bad*, such as by using phrases such as "original sin" or "capital punishment" or what-not, fail. And I think people use them because they find it hard to say, "Yes, these were innocent babies, and God ordered them slaughtered. You know, just exactly the sort of thing we're fighting against every day in the culture of death. Well, God actually ordered that done. But I'm okay with that."
I suppose it's good in the way that people feel uncomfortable saying that. But I have a niggling feeling of duty to take away the fig leaves and evasions.

The fact that we find it "hard" to attribute some statements or actions to God doesn't mean God didn't say it or do it. 

By the way, I want to note an interesting dynamic: In a conversation where I hear Christians at first staunchly defending the idea that God really did order putting a bunch of children to the sword, I find psychologically that any reversion to a view like Copan's ("Maybe it really is hyperbole; maybe it doesn't mean what it appears to mean") comes as a relief. There is something so shocking and horrifying to me about people's twisting their minds into justifying the slaughter of children (all the more so when the commitment to inerrancy is such that they will admit no reductio) that one would almost rather that they accept a view like Copan's. I believe that Copan's view is _intellectually_ untenable and born of wishful thinking, and that was why I felt that I had to write refuting it. But in the grand scheme one feels in one's gut that that's better than holding a view that is morally untenable and, frankly, morally corrupting.
i) Commitment to inerrancy means commitment to divine revelation. That Christianity is a revealed religion. That's not a secondary or expendable principle. Rather, that's foundational to the Christian faith. 
ii) What is morally untenable is for Lydia to reject revealed moral norms. Absent that standard of comparison, how does she avoid moral skepticism? She may appeal to "natural law" to undergird her moral intuitions, but having repudiated Biblical norms, why think her moral intuitions transcribe natural law rather than species variable natural instincts or cultural conditioning? 
iii) There are two basic problems with her resort to hypotheticals and reductios. To begin with, it's a diversionary tactic. And it's irrelevant to the issue it hand. Suppose she asks, "What if Scripture says God said or did such-and-such? Would you believe it? Would you obey it?"
Suppose I said no? Has she succeeded in extracting a damaging concession from me? Not at all. For she's not talking about the real Bible, but a hypothetical Bible. How does the fact that I might reject statements in a hypothetical Bible justify rejecting statements in the real Bible? The real Bible doesn't make those statements. How are imaginary commands germane to the case at hand?
Sure, we can postulate a hypothetical Bible with hypothetical commands, hypothetical narratives, &c. Suppose I don't believe it. Is that a reason not to believe the real Bible? How is "what if" a compelling reason to reject "what is"? There's no evidentiary parity between the two. 
Given Biblical revelation, we can posit there are some things God wouldn't say or do. But absent that revelatory standard of comparison, we lack a basis for the contrast. Her hypotheticals implicitly withdraw the benchmark. 
iv) Lydia takes refuge in natural law as her fallback position. But that's very naive. At best, natural law is pretty coarse-grained. It won't warrant the specificity and absolutism that she requires. 
If, moreover, you're skeptical about Biblical revelation, you ought to be equally skeptical about natural law. For instance, Lydia might say we find filial cannibalism morally repellent because that's grounded in natural law. But some animals practice filial cannibalism. How will she respond to an atheist who says the cannibalism taboo is simply a natural human instinct, while other animals have a natural instinct to practice cannibalism? 
I find all of that highly problematic, as I found the response by Steve on my personal blog in which he started going down the double effect rabbit trail. 
So if I mention the double effect principle as a counterexample, that's a "rabbit trail." But if Lydia floats hypotheticals and reductios, that's not a rabbit trail? Notice the egregious double standard on her part. 
Lydia acts as though discussing exceptions and counterexamples can only be motivated by a malicious agenda to "make room" for atrocities. But although that's sometimes the case, ethicists necessarily consider exceptions, counterexamples, borderline cases. She herself tries to bolster her position with analogies (e.g. suicide, euthanasia). 
Steve's point was similar: If this or that qualification is required, then the intrinsic evil of deliberately putting a child to the edge of the sword is called into question. I simply don't agree at all, and I think it is troubling to find that a technique in use is to call into question the _general_ intrinsic wrongness of unambiguously, deliberately killing a child in order to make space, as it were, for the slaughter of the Canaanites, in order to preserve inerrancy. Surely it should be obvious that such an approach has potential ramifications that go beyond just allowing the slaughter of the Canaanites.
Notice that she's not presenting a counterargument. She's just expressing her disapproval. 
What I did was not a "rabbit trail." I'm responding to her on her own grounds. Does she grant the double effect principle? If so, is that consistent with her overall position–or does she herself allow for exceptions? 
My argument is that we have to have a category of murder, and we do have a category of murder, which really is always wrong under every circumstance. 
By definition, "murder" is always wrong under every circumstance. But that's a decoy. The question at issue isn't the wrongness of murder, but homicide. Not all homicides are murders. There's such a thing as justified homicide. Lydia herself acknowledges that category. 
Now, we already know that that category does not apply to God when God acts directly. The whole point of a category such as "murder" is that it applies to finite creatures in their interactions with one another. We wouldn't even have the category at all if we were just talking about God.
That's an important concession on her part. 
I'm willing to allow that there could be _adjustment_ in the category of murder, so that it is murder under normal circumstances for an individual to kill someone for (say) his private p*rn*gr*phy use, but under some extremely strange but imaginable circumstances, God might appoint another human being to execute him for that sin. But that the human killing of infants is intrinsically wrong is something that I've spent twenty-five years arguing as part of the pro-life movement.
Of course, she's begging the question. She keeps resorting to stipulative claims, as if expressing her vehement opinion should suffice to settle the matter. 
I've been through all the blocks and moves, all the "what ifs," all the attempts on the part of the pro-aborts to say that there is such-and-such an exception, all the scoffing at absolute moral prohibitions, all the attempts to undermine this one. This is old hat for me. 
And where's the actual argument?
And intrinsically wrong means just what it sounds like. It means that you can *never* deliberately aim a sword, swing it, and deliberately kill that baby right there with it.
That's her claim. Where's the supporting argument?
(The very fact that God doesn't need to swing swords, that God is capable of exercising His will to take someone to Himself via direct, unmediated, sovereign power over His creation, is one clue that there is a huge difference between the two.) 
How is that metaphysical difference equivalent to a moral difference? How does that begin to demonstrate that it would be illicit for God to delegate such a task to a human agent? How is the medium all-important?
The same thing is true, by the way, of both suicide and euthanasia. In the pro-life movement we have spent all this time arguing that it is wrong to kill yourself, yet the argument given here would (as far as I can see) also license God's ordering you to perform a suicide bombing against the equivalent of the Canaanites. After all, it's just God "indirectly taking life," right?
Here she's propping up one disputable claim by appeal to another disputable claim. Is suicide always wrong under every conceivable circumstance? What about a suicide mission? What about a soldier throwing himself on top of a live grenade to shield his comrades? What about a member of the French Resistance who kills himself before the Nazis apprehend him so that he won't give up the names of his comrades under torture? What about stranded office-workers on 9/11 jumping to their death to avoid incineration? 
Or consider a suffering baby. We have argued that the infanticide for disabled and suffering children in Europe is an abomination. But the argument here would mean that God could order it as being *no different from* God's quietly ending the child's suffering via His own action. Of course, the whole _point_ of arguing against euthanasia is that there is a _huge_ difference between the two. There's nothing wrong even with _praying_ that God would take a suffering loved one to Himself. There's something hugely, always, directly wrong in giving the lethal injection to end the suffering. That's why God wouldn't order you to do it.
This assumes that mercy-killing is always wrong. What about a wounded soldier? What if his comrades have to leave him behind. There isn't time to medevac him. The enemy is minutes away. If they know the enemy will torture him to death, is it wrong for them to euthanize him? 
That's why we show movies like _The Silent Scream_. That's why we understand and rejoice when an abortionist like Nathanson or clinic owner like Abbey Johnson finally cannot do this anymore. We take that to be listening to the voice of conscience. I would go so far as to say that suppressing that voice of conscience is the road to damnation. Now, what some are saying in the case of the Canaanite slaughter is that it was an _obligation_ for the Israelite soldiers to suppress that horror and revulsion, that God wanted them to do so. To my mind, this is near-blasphemous, as it is saying that God was tempting man to suppress the very instinctive, conscientious revulsion which God Himself placed within man as a clue to the nature of reality. But James says that God does not tempt any man.
i) Why assume Israelite soldiers were suppressing revulsion? Where's her evidence that they felt the same way she feels?
ii) Her appeal to James is only as good as her interpretation. It is, moreover, self-defeating to pit Scripture against Scripture. Having repudiated inerrancy, why is James more authoritative than Deuteronomy? How does one fallible book trump another fallible book? 
iii) Sometimes doing your duty can be painful. What if parents have a psychotic teenager. He threatens his mother with a butcher knife. The father shoots his son to protect his wife. That's an excruciating choice for the father and husband. 
Then, of course, there are plenty of Bible verses against murder, as well as the biblical statement that God hates "hands that shed innocent blood." If they don't mean an absolute prohibition on killing babies, I'm not sure what they do mean.
What it means, in context, is to not knowingly execute a defendant for a crime he didn't commit. "Innocent" of violating the Mosaic law. If you falsely charge and convict him of a capital offense, then carry out the death sentence, that's "shedding innocent blood." 
By the way, the babies and young children didn't just have to be driven out to die in the wilderness. They could have been kept and raised as adoptees.
That's highly unrealistic. That might work for babies and toddlers who were too young to remember who did what to whom. But for children old enough to remember that the Israelites killed their parents, I imagine that when they got to a certain age, some of them would return the favor by killing their adoptive parents to avenge the death of their biological parents. Revenge is a powerful motive. 

Lydia has replaced Copan's magic bullets with bullets that ricochet. That's no improvement. 

Truthy database

http://freebeacon.com/issues/feds-creating-database-to-track-hate-speech-on-twitter/

Turning back the clock


Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined (Isa 38:8). 
And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” 11 And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz (2 Kgs 20:9-11).
i) Some commentators compare Joshua's Long Day to Judges 5:20. However, I think the "sundial" of Ahaz is a better comparison. 
ii) Nothing would be more familiar than the uniform, daily direction of sunlight from east to west. In a way, this is more dramatic than Joshua's Long Day, for this involves a counterclockwise motion. 
iii) One interpretation is that God temporarily reversed the earth's axial rotation. People raise scientific objections to that interpretation, but that misses the point. It's a miracle. It's supposed to be unnatural. And if that's the correct interpretation, God would of course keep other things in place. 
iv) One objection to that interpretation is that this was evidently a local miracle, confined to the land of Judah (2 Chron 32:31). Had it been a global phenomenon, Babylonian emissaries wouldn't travel to Judah to enquire about the sign. Rather, they were following up on a report–given Babylonian interest in astronomical portents and prodigies. 
v) Although it may not involve a miracle of the sun, it surely involves a miracle of sunlight. What was witnessed was the effect, not the cause
And the same explanation might well apply to Joshua's Long Day. 

Why Amillennialism Disrupts the Unity of the Narrative by Starting at "Revelation 20:1"

http://www.alankurschner.com/2014/08/27/when-does-the-binding-of-satan-for-a-thousand-years-begin-revelation-1911-203-supports-premillennialism-not-amillennialism-ep-3/





Why Imputation Is Not a Legal Fiction

http://theaquilareport.com/why-imputation-is-not-a-legal-fiction/

There are a variety of responses, but the best one, it seems to me, resides in the metaphor of marriage union. We will also add a few things afterwards that will help us understand.

In most marriages, property entails joint ownership. Now, if a woman comes into the marriage with a debt (like a college debt), the husband assumes that debt. It becomes their debt (it can also be described as his debt), even though the husband did not incur that debt. Similarly, whatever money the husband brought into the marriage doesn’t belong just to him anymore, it also belongs to her, even though she did not earn it. So, by virtue of the marriage union between husband and wife, the debts and the assets are transferred.

In a very similar way, when the believer becomes united to Christ by faith, a new legal situation results with transfers happening.

Read the whole article here.

An 11th Century “Sinner’s Prayer”

There is an exhortation of Anselm (1033-1109) to a dying brother, written in the most comforting words: “When a brother seems to be in his death struggle, it is godly and advisable to exercise him through a prelate or other priest with written questions and exhortations. He may be asked in the first place: ‘Brother, are you glad that you will die in the faith?’ let him answer: ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you confess that you did not live as well as you should have?’ ‘I confess.’ ‘Are you sorry for this?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you willing to better yourself if you should have further time to live?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has died for you?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you believe that you cannot be saved except through his death?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you heartily thank him for this?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Therefore always give thanks to him while your soul is in you, and on this death alone place your whole confidence. Commit yourself wholly to this death, with this death cover yourself wholly, and wrap yourself in it completely. And if the Lord should want to judge you, say: “Lord, I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and thee and thy judgment; I will not contend with Thee in any other way.” If he says that you have merited damnation, say: “I place the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between myself and my evil deserts, and the merits of his most worthy passion I bring in place of the merit which I should have had, and, alas, do not have.” ’

Commenting on Sola Fide prior to the Reformation. Martin Chemnitz, “Examination of the Council of Trent, Part 1, Eighth Topic: “Concerning Justification”, Section II, “Testimonies of the Ancients Concerning Justification, pg 511.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When time and tide wait


A notable example that we probably all agree about is Joshua’s battle during which the sun is said to have stood still (Joshua 10:13). I have never met anyone, not even the most conservative Christian fundamentalist, who takes that literally. And yet, when Copernicus and later Galileo argued that the earth revolves around the sun many Christians argued they were denying the truth of the Bible. We have adjusted our interpretation of Joshua 10:13 to accommodate what we now know about the solar system.
But there are those who will still argue that what the story really means to say (in modern terms) is that the earth stopped rotating for a time. But, of course, we also know from modern science what that would mean for plant and animal life on earth.
Many Christians who take the Bible seriously do not take every story in it literally. Who is to say that a Christian who argues that the Joshua story means neither that the sun literally stood still nor that the earth stopped rotating is not a Bible believing Christian? 
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2014/08/god-and-children-would-jesus-god-command-their-slaughter/

i) To begin with, Olson doesn't care what this passage really means. He doesn't make a good faith effort to ascertain what it means. He's not committed to the text. As he says in this very thread "Shaking off inerrancy was a total liberation for me." He's just using this as a wedge tactic to rationalize his dismissal of other passages which offend him.

ii) Framing the issue in terms of "literal" interpretation is a ruse. The real issue isn't literal interpretation but grammatico-historical exegesis–which may or may not yield a literal interpretation, depending on the text.

iii) To says "we also know from modern science what that would mean for plant and animal life on earth" if God temporarily stopped the earth from rotating is ridiculous. That artificially isolates the event, as if God would do that one thing without regard for its physical ramification. But if, in fact, that's what God did, then he'd make the necessary adjustments. Does Olson apply that objection to Biblical nature miracles generally? To the extent that these are not discrete, self-contained events, a nature miracle will include whatever's necessary to preserve the balance of nature. 

iv) To say Christians don't take it "literally" is dimwitted. As scholars point out, the passage is poetic. It would be nonsensical to construe poetic language literally. And the grammatico-historical method makes allowance for differences in genre. 

Consider a parallel passage:

The sun and moon stood still in their place    at the light of your arrows as they sped,    at the flash of your glittering spear. (Heb 3:11)

That depicts God as a celestial warrior. Thunderbolts are spears and arrows. The imagery is figurative.  

v) Some commentators think the whole passage is figurative. They think it's analogous to Judges 5:20, where stellar combat is a metaphor for earthly combat. 

However, I don't think that does justice to the specifics of Josh 10. It's not that what happens in the sky is a figurative parallel for what happens on earth. Rather, what happens up above makes possible what happens down below. 

vi) Because the passage is poetic, it's hard to identify the "mechanics" behind the miracle. But in context, the miracle involves prolonging daylight to give the Israelites extra time to defeat the enemy. So I think some astronomical miracle is in view.

vii) Finally, it's interesting to compare this with science fiction scenarios in which some characters are almost motionless in relation to other characters because they occupy different timeframes. It's as if time stood still for them, because they are moving so slowly by comparison.   

The Rock of Gibraltar


A question from a commenter got be thinking some more about the Ezk 38-39. 

i) I don't have anything to add to the linguistic analysis of place-names/proper-names, over and above scholars like Block, Hummel, and Yamauchi.

ii) I think Ezekiel is using names with allusive, historical resonance to denote enemies at the outer limits of the known world. This is something of a Biblical trope, like John's reference to invaders from the East (Rev 9:13-19; 16:12). If Ezekiel were a medieval writer, he might say Thule or the Rock of Gibraltar to denote ends of the world. 

What's constitutes the outer limits of the known world varies according to the geographical knowledge of the author or audience. And that varies in time and place. Wherever you live is the frame of reference. What lies beyond in relation to where you live. The circumference in relation to your center. Likewise, as time goes on, the boundaries of the known world expand. 

iii) That's a consideration if we regard Ezk 38-39 to be a long-range prophecy. Even if, by direct revelation, Ezekiel knew about North and South America, Japan, Australia, &c., he wouldn't name them because that would be unintelligible to his audience.

Ezekiel's geography may reflect an ancient Near Eastern outlook because, in fact, that's where the oracle will be fulfilled. Or it may reflect that outlook because that's the only frame of reference his audience had. 

iv) One hermeneutical question is whether this is about God protecting Jews in the land of Israel. Even if you think this is about Jews, it's not as if the Jews are confined to Palestine. There's the Diaspora. Consider the huge Jewish population center in 1C Alexandria. 

Suppose we think this is a prophecy about Jews in the future. But it's not as if all Jews reside in Palestine, or that all their enemies inhabit the Middle East. The Jewish Diaspora is world-wide. What about Jewish population centers in New York or Los Angeles? 

It's arbitrary to freeze Ezekiel's geography in the ANE, while moving the fulfillment into the modern world. Anachronistic to update the timeline while leaving the geographical setting in place. For the passage of time affects population distribution. 

v) There's the additional the question of whether Ezk 38-39 singles out the Jews, or whether it concerns the people of God generally. What about Christians? 

Down babies


Richard Dawkins has issued an unapologetic apology. It's one of those defensive "apologies" that's just a pretext to double down on the original claim:

https://richarddawkins.net/2014/08/abortion-down-syndrome-an-apology-for-letting-slip-the-dogs-of-twitterwar/

I'll venture a few comments:

I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.
Even if we accept his utilitarian yardstick, there's no evidence that giving birth to a Down baby increases suffering or reduces the sum of happiness. In fact, the evidence is very much to the contrary. 

In addition, it's sophistical to say you're acting in the child's own welfare by killing it. The child's own welfare presupposes the child's existence. It takes it from there. 

My position, which I would guess is shared by most people reading this, is that a woman has a right to early abortion, and I personally would not condemn her for choosing it. 

Dawkins is half right. Given atheism, Down babies have no right to live. 

But like many atheists, Dawkins fails to carry his position to its logical conclusion. Given atheism, women have no rights. Humans have no rights. It comes down to raw power. 

If you disagree, fair enough; many do, often on religious grounds. But then your quarrel is not just with me but with prevailing medical opinion and with the decision actually taken by most people who are faced with the choice.

Unless a Down baby pregnancy is significantly riskier than a normal pregnancy, in what sense is there a medical opinion on the preferability of aborting Down babies? Dawkins is hiding behind medical authority to lend respectability to a moral evaluation rather than a medical evaluation. 

Below the belt

http://cnsnews.com/news/article/michael-w-chapman/johns-hopkins-psychiatrist-transgender-mental-disorder-sex-change

How to boil a frog


By itself, this is not a big deal:


It does, however, illustrate the stages of an all-too familiar pattern. When Muslims first move into an area, and begin to acquire political influence, one of their first demands is to insist on separate laws for Muslims. Sharia. Spineless politicians typically capitulate to their demands. 

This emboldens them to take the next step. They begin to intimidate the locals. They insist that no one has a right to offend Muslim sensibilities. That has far-reaching consequences. Although it stops short of forcing everyone to behave like a Muslim, it means no one is allowed to behave like a non-Muslim. 

They also game the system by turning "human rights commissions" against the locals. Pretty soon the locals are persecuting for doing what they used to do before the Muslims moved in.

Here's one classic example:


Here's another classic example:


And keep in mind that this is how they behave when they are in the minority. When they're in the majority, it's far worse for non-Muslims. Just imagine a judicial system in which there's a Muslim litigant against a non-Muslim litigant. Guess who will win every time when Muslims are dominant? 

Unfortunately, Muslims always have quislings who say this is alarmist rhetoric. Alarmist until it's too late to turn back the clock. 

For more: