Monday, November 18, 2019

Some Reactions To The Chick-Fil-A Situation

- It's early, but it looks to me like Chick-Fil-A is being intentionally ambiguous about much of what's going on. In the stories I've read, I've noticed a suspicious lack of quotations when the alleged comments of Chick-Fil-A representatives are being discussed. I wonder how many of them agreed to talk to the media only if they wouldn't be quoted. That allows them more opportunity to revise their comments, claim that they were misunderstood, etc. We'll see what develops. But the ambiguity so far and the lack of a quick clarification in support of what Chick-Fil-A has traditionally been associated with is telling.

- I don't involve myself in boycotts much. I'm highly selective about them. Even when I participate in one, as I have against Target on transgenderism issues, I don't give much attention to it. It's not a high priority. There are more important things to be occupied with. But I think there's merit in boycotting to some extent, especially in cases that have a lot of potential for optimal impact. My sense at this point, and it's still early, is that boycotting Chick-Fil-A would be a good idea. I don't intend to put a lot of time and effort into figuring out all of the details and trying to maximize the situation, but I'll probably try to avoid supporting Chick-Fil-A in the future to some extent, depending on how the circumstances develop.

- The Salvation Army's response is problematic. They told Bisnow:

"We serve more than 23 million individuals a year, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, we believe we are the largest provider of poverty relief to the LGBTQ+ population."

By the same reasoning, they're probably also the biggest provider of poverty relief for adulterers and polyamorists. I doubt they'd mention that in a statement to the media, frame it the way they've framed their help for LGBTQ people, and do some equivalent to adding the ridiculous "+" to the end of "LGBTQ". Like Chick-Fil-A and so many others, the Salvation Army is far too defensive. That sort of weakness is part of the reason why they're in such a bad situation. They're digging themselves deeper in the hole.

- There's some merit to helping the poor, supporting educational efforts, and other such activities that Chick-Fil-A, Salvation Army, and others are highlighting in this context, but I want to remind people of something I've said many times before. Poverty is far less of a problem in the world today than it was in Biblical times and even just several decades ago. (See, for example, here and here.) That's largely because of Christianity's positive impact on the world. It's also because of the advancement of technology, medicine, democracy, and capitalism, for example. Rates of poverty have plummeted in recent decades. In many contexts, our standard of living and standards in other parts of the world have gotten much better in recent years. To be as concerned about something like poverty today as the Biblical authors were in their day is irresponsible. It would be like being as concerned as Biblical authors were about diseases that either no longer exist or exist to a much lesser degree. That wouldn't make sense. The fact that disease X was prominent to degree Y during the Biblical era doesn't prove that disease X has the same significance today. The amount of attention that's given to issues like poverty today is inexcusable. Governments, charities, businesses, churches, individuals, etc. are spending oceans upon oceans upon oceans of money and other resources on such issues in the modern world. There's a widespread cultural consensus in many parts of the world that we should be helping the poor, educating people about secular and trivial subjects, improving people's health, and so on. Christians should be more focused on supporting missions, evangelism, apologetics, theology, the study of the paranormal, work on ethical issues, philosophical work, and other such endeavors. The world is overly focused on helping people in physical, short-term ways. Christians should work on benefiting people in a physical and short-term manner to some extent, but we shouldn't follow the world's lead in being as imbalanced as they are on these matters (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

- The biggest problem related to LGBTQ issues isn't with the organizations that promote the LGBTQ movement or organizations that are too accommodating to them, like Chick-Fil-A. It's not with political leaders, pastors, etc. Rather, the biggest problem is with the average person. As in so many other contexts, there's too much of a focus on leaders and not enough focus on laymen. The latter bear far more responsibility for where we are in this culture. LGBTQ organizations wouldn't be as influential as they are, and organizations like Chick-Fil-A and Salvation Army wouldn't be as weak as they are, if the average American (and the average person in many other nations) weren't so corrupt. Even in conservative Evangelical circles, how many people provided objective, verifiable arguments against same-sex marriage when the controversy over that subject was at its height? How many, instead, either stayed silent or just did something like state their view without supporting it or supported it inadequately, such as by merely quoting the Bible? My estimate is that only a small percentage of conservative Evangelicals, probably a single-digit percentage at best, handled the same-sex marriage controversy in anything even close to a responsible manner. The large majority either were silent or spoke up in a highly inadequate way. How many Christians are putting much effort into doing research and reasoning with people in a mature way, whether on LGBTQ matters or other issues? See my article here about the neglect of apologetics and the neglect of intellectual maturity more broadly in modern Christianity. Non-Christians deserve the primary blame for the absurd situation with LGBTQ issues in modern America. But some of the blame also goes to American Christians, who are so intellectually immature, among other problems. That's part of the reason why the Chick-Fil-A story stings them so much. They've been overly focused on such organizations, activities like eating at restaurants are too big a part of their lives, they're overly focused on what their leaders (such as the people running Chick-Fil-A) are doing and not focused enough on their own responsibilities and opportunities, etc.

- There's been a lot of focus on how the LGBTQ movement won't be satisfied with Chick-Fil-A's concession. That's largely true. But don't underestimate how much some people will respond positively, will enjoy seeing Chick-Fil-A compromise, and will want to encourage more of it.


An interesting thing about fences is that when a fence is all you've got to go by, you can't tell if you're on the outside looking in or the inside looking out. I daresay most unbelievers envy the rich and famous. They're on the outside gazing through the gilded fence of Malibu or Bel Air estates, eager to get in. By contrast, believers are in the world, gazing through the chain-link fence separating them from a better world beyond, eager to get out.  

Christmas music

Christian Christmas music

Once in royal David's city

O come, all ye faithful

Hark! the herald angels sing

Ding dong! merrily on high

While shepherds watched

In the Bleak Midwinter

Angels, from the realms of glory

The Angel Gabriel from heaven came

Personent hodie

The First Nowell

In dulci jubilo

O little town of Bethlehem

Away in a Manger

O come, O come, Emmanuel

Quittez, pasteurs

The Infant King

As Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night

The Three Kings

We Three Kings of Orient Are

Handel's Messiah

Bach, Christmas Oratorio
Unitarian Christmas music

White Christmas

Baby It's Cold Outside

Frosty the Snowman

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Jingle Bells

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Here Comes Santa Claus

Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town

The presence of God

In traditional Catholicism you need the guidance of the magisterium to steer clear of damnable error. The claim is circular since the damnable error is dissenting from Catholic theology.

By contrast, Protestant theologians appealed to the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit as a kind of epistemological shortcut. To Catholic theologians that's an ac hoc appeal, but here's a sophisticated defense:

You also have charismatics who claim to have up-to-the-minute guidance from God. So that's another paradigm, a flawed paradigm, though no less flawed than the Catholic alternative. In addition, "the presence of God" is invoked very loosely in popular and/or folk theology. 

On a different, but related note, some Christians say they've had an unmistakable experience of God's presence. Likewise, some unbelievers say they had the same kind of experience, which was instrumental to their Christian conversion.

Unlike the loose use of the term, this refers to something overwhelming and undeniable for the person who had it. Not a visual or auditory apparition, but nevertheless a powerful, transformative encounter with God. I'm certainly not vouching for every claimant, although I think it's undoubtedly the case that God has manifested himself to some Christians or converts to Christianity in that way.

Now some paradigms I outlined conceive of divine guidance in terms of specific ongoing directives. They view the Christian pilgrimage like a dark, narrow, winding mountain road where drivers can easily veer off on either side and plunge to their death hundreds or thousands of feet below. To make it safely to heaven, you need the road to have street lights at regular intervals. Somewhat parallel to this is the charismatic belief that God gives his people signs on a regular basis. 

The presumption of the traditional Catholic paradigm is that because there are so many different ways to be damned, we need regular up-to-date warnings every step of the way. One swerve and you hurtle down the cliff. 

Of course, Protestants believe God gave us a roadmap in Scripture, and the roadmap doesn't need to be updated every year. 

But in addition to that, suppose a Christian who's at the end of his tether has an unmistakable experience of God's presence. That gives him timely confirmation that he's still on the right path. So he doesn't need to be constantly shown that he's on the right path. Rather, if he strayed, if he was now on the wrong path, he wouldn't have that confirmatory experience.

So that reverses the presumption. You're going in the right direction unless you have a sign that tells you you took a wrong turn. It's not like GPS where you're shown at every juncture which turn to make. You can read a roadmap for yourself. At best, you only need to be warned if you're about to take a wrong turn–or assuming you already got off course, have an indication of how to get back onto the right path. 

Now I'm not suggesting that most Christians experience God in that dramatic fashion. I'm just pointing out that not every Christian has the same experience. God is sovereign. And divine direction can take different forms. Scripture is fundamental. But God guides his people through the providential orchestration of events. And occasionally in more direct, individual forms. A Magisterium isn't the only paradigm. 

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Do Miracles Happen Today? Dr. Tim McGrew Weighs In

Winger on death of Judas

What is Christmas?

There are standard definitions of conversion. With a focus on the before and after–especially the immediate aftermath (weeks and months following conversion). That's fine as far as it goes. 

But I'd like to discuss it from a different angle. In conversion, God brings us into his life. There are many analogies. 

Take an orphan who's adopted at 5-7. He's had a life of neglect. He knows what it's like to be lonely all the time. 

If he's adopted into a loving home, the adoptive parents take him out of the life he's know up to that point and bring him into their life. In some cases they travel to a far country to pick him up and take him back home to their home, his new home, a real home.He's suddenly exposed to all the things he instinctively longed for but didn't know existed.

Or take an adolescent boy whose home life is a hellhole. Then he's befriend by a classmate with a happy childhood. Up to this point the adolescent boy has only known the ugly side of life. Physical ugliness and especially moral ugliness. Physical and psychological abuse. 

But his friend, who sought him out, introduces him to a different side of life. Shares the goodness of his own life with the classmate. Exposes him to the joy and beauty of life.

Or take two well-adjusted teenagers who become friends. They have complementary interests. Each friend takes the other friend into his own life. Suppose one boy has an interest in science fiction novels. His friend isn't familiar with that, but enjoys it once his friend shares it with him. Suppose the other boy has an interest in a genre of music he's friend isn't familiar with, but enjoys that once his friend shares it with him. 

Another cliche is a couple to get married and make a life together. Some of these examples are like conversion. 

Which brings me to the title of the post. In Christmas Eve sermons it's typical for the preacher to say God came into our world as a child. And that's true enough.

But there's a neglected truth–in the opposite direction. At Christmas, God is coming into our world to bring us into his world. God shares his life with us. That's the meeting-point where God takes us out of our world into his world. 


in my "Color-coded Bible," a friend pointed out that I left out my name at one point, making it look like Lydia was still speaking. It materially changes the sense. I've gone back an edited the post. I pick up here:

To generalize, presuppers have a more theological orientation whereas evidentialists have a more historical orientation. By that I mean, evidentialists approach the Bible as historians–in contrast to presuppers who approach the Bible as a religious document (as well as a historical document), so that, as a matter of principle, presuppers treat Christian theology and Bible narratives as a unit–rather than an assemblage of separable parts, to be individually reaffirmed or discarded. (Which doesn't mean presuppers, or at least the most intelligent representatives, are unconcerned with the value of corroborative evidence, where available.)

Bound for the Promised Land

Brian woke up in the E.R. He didn't remember how he got there or why he was there. He did have a headache. 

Turned out he suffered a concussion at the football game. This was the first time he regained consciousness since the accident. Other than the headache he was quite lucid. 

His parents and younger brother Bobby were at his bedside, relieved to see him come to. Yet they weren't as happy as he expected them to be. They seemed to be hiding something.

A few minutes later the neurologist came in. He began by telling Brian that the concussion probably did no permanent damage. But Brian sensed another shoe was waiting to drop. 

The brain scan revealed an unsuspected aneurism. It may have been there for years. And the location made it inoperable. 

Brian was confused. At first he didn't register the significance of the finding. So the neurologist explained to him as gently as he could that this meant Brian could die at anytime. He was very unlikely to have a normal lifespan. He'd probably die sooner rather than later. 

It's like the hospital room suddenly went dark. The news robbed Brian of his future. All his youthful dreams snatched away. 

He counted on having a normal life. Marry his high school sweetheart. Have kids. Coach football.

But now he couldn't plan long term. How could he risk having kids if he wouldn't live to see them to adulthood? How was that fair to them? 

He didn't tell Coach about the aneurism. That enabled him to finish out the football season. Playing football with the brain aneurism was risky, but what did he have to lose? He was going to die young, anyway. 

But after that he dropped out of school. Became increasingly bitter, angry, and alienated. He had nothing to live for. Nothing to look forward to. He was just waiting for the time-bomb in his head to detonate. 

He was sullen with his parents and his kid brother. He broke off old friendships. Broke up with his girlfriend. Spent hours a day walking alone on wooded trails, brooding. Or sitting by the pond, brooding. 

He had a therapist for counseling, but the therapist could do nothing to change the situation. He didn't need happy talk bromides.

But after months of feeling sorry for himself, and not without justification, he decided that was a dumb way to spend his remaining time. If he was doomed, shouldn't he make the most of whatever time he had left rather than squandering it? Rage was pointless. 

But even though he knew what he was doing was a waste of time, he had no constructive alternative. Then he remembered the Bible a girl at school had given him. She was always witnessing to other students. Everyone made fun of her behind her back or to her face. She took it bravely, but it hurt.

He had tossed the Bible in his locker, buried under muddy sneakers. Now he took it home and began to read. And read. And read. He drank it in. He warmed up to his kid brother, which was timely because since Bobby was going through a really rough stretch and desperately needed Brian's support. 

And watching Brian engrossed in the Bible, as they sat side-by-side on the bed, made Bobby curious, since he was into whatever his big brother was into. So he started reading the Bible, too. 

Their parents were irreligious and didn't quite approve of Brian getting religion, or infecting Bobby with the virus. But they preferred Brian this way to the sullen, disaffected Brian. 

Over the next few years, Brian coached younger boys from fatherless homes. And it gave him a chance to share his discovery with them. Some weren't ready for it, but he was sowing seed.

One day Bobby went over to Brian's apartment. Went inside. It was silent. Went into the bedroom to find Brian's lifeless body upright on the bed, with a Bible in his lap. Brian dead at 23. 

Scoring virtue points

An exchange I had with Michael Bird on Facebook regarding his article:

Steve Hays
Michael's article is unintentionally comical. He fails to take into account his own cultural conditioning. He acts like the viewpoint of an Australian evangelical is the clear lens while the viewpoint of American evangelicals is the tinted lens. But why privilege an Australian evangelical perspective on American evangelicalism? What makes that more objective than American evangelical perspectives on Australian evangelicalism? Moreover, the same culture wars are duplicated in Australia. Bird himself is an outspoken politically active culture warrior. He thinks Jesus is on his side. So the whole analysis is an exercise in Michael talking to his own reflection in the bathroom mirror.

Michael Bird 
Steve, whoa. (1) I have no pretentions to viewing myself as some kind of political Switzerland, I do have my own political convictions, but I do not presume that they are the same as Jesus. I aspire to have a Jesus-kingdom to have a view! (2) My point is not "Pfft, American dumb asses." Rather it is more like Robert Froster, "Try to see yourself as others see you." (3) I would say that Australia does not have the same culture wars as America, e.g. everyone here believes in gun control and universal healthcare. As for me being a "culture warrior." I wouldn't say that, though I have written actively on social issues relating to the need for gambling reform and religious liberty in the face of bad government policy. Blessings. Mike Bird

Steve Hays 
i) Some social issues are political issues because social ethics spills over into law and public policy. That in turn is represented in the American 2-party system. So we can either vote for viable political candidates or we can sit out the election. But boycotting the electoral process has consequences, too.

ii) "Try to see yourself as others see you". 

I'm waiting for you to take your own advice. Your application of that adage is always one-sided: how Americans should see themselves through the eyes of an Australian chauvinist who constantly scores virtue points with his own peer group by badmouthin American society, domestic policy, and foreign policy. 

Since you brought it up, I'm struck by how many non-American elites are obsessed with the so-called American "gun culture". You are aware, are you not, that most of the gun violence in America is concentrated in a few large urban centers. 

Recently you noted that Detroit resembles a war zone. You are aware, are you not, that Detroit has been dominated by the Democrat establishment for decades.

Australian gun control. Do you think that's a constructive alternative to the American "gun culture"? From what I've read, Australian private citizens have been stripped of the ability to practice self-defense. Not only have they been disarmed with respect to handguns, but knives and even pepper spray. But they are allowed to carry whistles! 

Or what about London, with its epidemic of knifings and acid attacks. According to Peter Hitchens, the police don't patrol the streets to crack down on crime. Instead, they hide out in their stations, patrolling social media for perceived "hate speech". They don't protect the public, and they don't allow the public to protect themselves. But anything is better than the American "gun culture," right? 

What about Venezuelan security forces mowing down unarmed protesters. 

What about Hong Kong security forces (stooges of mainland Red China) attacking unarmed Protesters?

What about immigrant Muslim rape gangs assaulting unarmed women in Germany while the police either look the other way or cover for the rape gangs?

But anything is better than the American "gun culture," right?

The Trinity in relief

There's a simple reason why the Trinity lies in the background of the OT but the foreground of the NT. That's because salvation is Trinitarian. The Atonement is Trinitarian. It unites the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Son doesn't die for people at random. Rather, he consented to become Incarnate, become the Savior, on condition that his redemptive death would secure the salvation of all those the Father gave him (Jn 6,10,17). Likewise, the Father adopts and justifies the redeemed. So the Father and Son work in tandem. Likewise, the Spirit renews and preserves all those whom the Son redeems. So the Son and Spirit work in tandem. 

It was therefore inevitable that the Trinity would come into relief when the Atonement came into relief. The OT was preparatory, but when the Atonement is actually implemented, the three players will come to the fore. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand

Dark City

If naturalistic evolution is true, then human beings are like the characters in Dark City who have false implanted memories. The characters have beliefs about their past, but their beliefs don't map onto reality.

LIkewise, if naturalistic evolution is true, we've been brainwashed to value kin altruism, but that's a projection which doesn't map onto reality. Nothing is actually good or bad, right or wrong. It's just how our brains were wired by blind evolution. The valuation is arbitrary. We could just as well be rewired to value cannibalism. 

Color-coded Bible

My post

provoked a conversation in the combox which I'm posting separately because it offers a high-level comparison and contrast between the respective positions:

Lydia McGrew
I would say that evidentialism per se doesn't tell us anything about any of those specific things. If we imagine an evidentialist who is convinced of the most conservative position on all of those specific things, and thinks he has extremely strong evidence for them, then there is no reason to talk about a "floor" at all anymore, unless we assume that he's just missing some significant piece of evidence right now.

I would put the marriage analogy a little differently: Suppose that I say that I believe that my husband exists based upon evidence, not as a presupposition.

And suppose someone says, "Well, then, you could in theory become convinced that your husband doesn't exist? So it could go that low, there's no floor?"

How would one answer this? Presumably one would say, "Well, that's a crazy scenario. Are we imagining that I get some almost unimaginably bizarre influx of new evidence in which I become rationally convinced that my husband is really a robot inserted into our country by space aliens, or what?"

In other words, there are tons of things that we are so over-justified in believing by evidence that we can only envisage becoming convinced that they are false if we make up the wildest of future evidential scenarios, which we'd have to be crazy to lose sleep over.

Does that mean that we are "presuppositionalists" about those things? No, of course not. It means that our evidence is so mountainous and overwhelming that we have, by evidential means, a kind of "practical certainty" about them so that we would have to rip up huge amounts of our other justified beliefs (in this case, our justified confidence that space alien robots are not successfully impersonating humans over many decades, etc.) in order to change our minds about them.

In that trivial sense one can say that there is "no floor" on whether, in principle, one could abandon such a belief, as long as it isn't something known a priori. 1 + 1 = 2 is more justified than "I have a hand" or "My husband is not a robot." But that's not an argument against being an evidentialist about such propositions.

A problem I have with that response is that while I used some picturesque metaphors to illustrate the principle, my primary examples aren't hypothetical, much less farfetched hypotheticals, but real-life examples, and not exceptional but commonplace. Lots of folks who used to be conservative Christians but over time the content of their faith atrophies along the pattern I describe. It's not so much that the bottom fell out of their faith, but that their faith had no bottom to begin with.

Lydia McGrew
Sure, but presumably presupps don't have particular positions on all of those things as part of their "floor." At least I wouldn't imagine that they do. There's nothing about being a presupp per se that means you have to have one particular position on the ages of the patriarchs or Noah's flood. I can easily imagine presupps disagreeing among themselves about those issues.

Nor is there anything especially friendly to "myth or legend" in the evidentialist position.

I can easily imagine a presupp who takes a more "liberal" position on those particular issues than an evidentialist. Or I can imagine a presupp. and an evidentialist having exactly the same set of things where they draw a line and say, "No, I'm not going to change my mind on that."

The meta-level positions don't really tell us where someone's "floor" is going to fall. I have a really strong position on the historical Adam. I can easily imagine a presupp. who would be more friendly than I am to theistic evolution for the body of man.

In practice, I suspect that both presupps and evidentialists have as their practical "floor" those things that they tacitly or explicitly believe are extremely strongly justified by the data, including the data of Scripture. The reason that a particular position on the deity of Christ is a non-negotiable is (in no small measure) because we all recognize that it is over-justified by the Scriptural data as a tenet of Christianity. But that's not the case on, e.g., a local vs. a universal flood.

I would instance here Paul Moser as a guy who is a sort of rabid neo-Barthian and hates evidentialism with the passion of a thousand burning suns. I'd be willing to bet a sum of money that his positions are far more liberal on all of those issues than mine and that he has a lower "floor" than mine on other issues as well.

To generalize, presuppers have a more theological orientation whereas evidentialists have a more historical orientation. By that I mean, evidentialists approach the Bible as historians–in contrast to presuppers who approach the Bible as a religious document (as well as a historical document), so that, as a matter of principle, presuppers treat Christian theology and Bible narratives as a unit–rather than an assemblage of separable parts, to be individually reaffirmed or discarded. (Which doesn't mean presuppers, or at least the most intelligent representatives, are unconcerned with the value of corroborative evidence, where available.)

As long as we're toying with hypotheticals, here's another hypothetical way to frame the difference between presuppers and evidentialists:

i) Suppose the Book of Esther made demonstrably false historical claims. An evidentialist might say that just means we should dispense with inerrancy. The Book of Esther might still be a historically useful witness to an especially trying time in Jewish history, but it's not infallible. It's comparable to 1 Maccabees.

By contrast, a presupper might say in that case it's not that Scripture is fallible, but that Esther isn't Scripture. Scripture wasn't mistaken; rather, the canonization of Esther was mistaken. We don't dispense with inerrancy but with errant books. 

ii) Put another way, presuppers accept or reject books as a unit rather than accepting or rejecting parts of (the same) books. 

iii) That's because presuppers regard Scripture as a religious document (as well as a historical document). A supernatural rather than naturalistic product.

iv) BTW, this isn't a uniquely presuppositional approach to the Bible. I also approach the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and the Arcana Cœlestia (to cite three representatives examples) as religious documents. They purportedly originate in supernatural encounters, and that's how I evaluate them (although historical analysis is certainly pertinent, where possible). As such, I accept or reject them as a unit. I don't affirm parts of them while discarding other parts. Rather, I accept or reject them in toto.

Of course, the Koran does have some incidental historical and autobiographical value regarding the life and times of Muhammad. It's worthless on Bible history, but does shed light on a particular period in Middle Eastern history.

To illustrate the contrast from different, but related examples, here are some more comparisons:

i) As I presupper, I don't approach the Koran the same way I approach the Jewish Wars by Josephus. Josephus wrote a historical account, not a religious document. It doesn't claim to be Scripture or divine revelation. 

I can accept or reject parts of the Jewish Wars, if some parts are of dubious historicity. 

By contrast, the Koran is first and foremost a revelatory claimant. Considered on those terms, it reject it in toto. 

ii) Considered as a canonical candidate, I reject 1 Maccabees in toto. That's if I judge it on Catholic grounds.

iii) However, 1 Maccabees isn't a Catholic document. It was appropriated by the Catholic church, but it didn't originate in Catholicism. It's a pre-Catholic, pre-Christian document. A historical document about the Maccabean revolt. It doesn't claim to be Scripture. So at that level, I can accept parts of it and reject parts of it, if some parts are of dubious historicity. 

iv) Consider the scribal/apocryphal additions to Daniel, Mark, and John. I don't accept some parts of Daniel, Mark, and John while rejecting other parts. Rather, I don't regard the apocryphal additions to Daniel, or the scribal interpolations to Mark and John (the Long Ending of Mark, the Pericope Adulterae) to be parts of those books in the first place. They're not original to Daniel, Mark, and John. 

v) This is not to deny that the same document can be both historical and religious. But if a document puts itself forward as a candidate for Scripture, then I'll assess the status of the document on religious terms rather than historical terms. Of course, if the revelatory claimant makes blatantly false historical claims, that doesn't help its case!

Lydia McGrew
What I'm pushing back against here is the to my mind mistaken view that evidentialism says, "Never come to a strong conclusion about anything" or "always hold a lower-than-really-high probability for all religious propositions." There is nothing about evidentialism that says that. That's maybe a caricature that arises understandably from statements like, "Always follow the evidence," but my point is that you can follow the evidence and thereby come to an extremely high confidence in a proposition such that you don't envisage changing your mind on it ever. It's not like evidentialism puts some kind of artificial "ceiling" on the degree of confidence you can have in any religious proposition, like you have to hang around in a state of semi-uncertainty about the deity of Christ (or whatever) all your life so that you can prove to yourself that you're open-minded and ready to follow the evidence. I forget if it's GK Chesterton who has that famous quotation about how open-mindedness is fine so long as it doesn't prevent us from closing our minds upon the truth when we find it. An evidentialist can say "amen" to that at least as loudly as a presuppositionalist.

There's the question of what motivates a reinterpretation. For instance, the reason people question or outright deny the longevity of the antediluvians is because they think that's unrealistic. Whereas a presupper would say it's realistic because that's attested in Scripture. 

Now, I agree with you that one can postulate hypothetical scenarios which create untenable dilemmas for presuppers. But like hypothetical moral dilemmas, that ultimately becomes a question of divine providence in real life. Will God allow believers to be confronted with untenable intellectual dilemmas? That also depends on how much control we think God has over world history. So the debate spills over into other theological commitments.

Lydia McGrew
Is it your position that presuppositionalism per se contains a position on the meaning of the ages of the antediluvians? Because I would bet there are presuppers who would disagree with you on that.

I was under the impression that presuppositionalism had various issues where various interpretations of Scripture's literalness was allowed in a generally evidential manner just as it is for evidentialists, not that presuppositionalism per se is committed to a more literal hermeneutic.

For example, I think there are presupp OECs as well as presupp YECs.

(I'm inclined to take the ages of the antediluvians as literal, btw.)

Maybe we should distinguish presuppers from "people who take some non-evidentialist approach to apologetics." Perhaps one wouldn't say William Lane Craig is a presupper. See my comment below. He's not an evidentialist, though. But evidently the "internal witness of the Holy Spirit" isn't telling him that Genesis 1-11 are not "mytho-history," even though the IWHS is telling him that the Bible as a whole is true!

So it's not just hypothetical but actual for someone to have a commitment, even what that person characterizes as a whole-book, non-evidentialist commitment, to the truth of the Bible as Scripture, and to reinterpret segments as non-historical in fairly radical ways just as you are bringing up here, even more so than a given evidentialist (like me) does. Again, this isn't just a hypothetical scenario.

i) When I contrast presuppers with evidentialists, that doesn't mean I'm exempting classical apologists (e.g. Craig) from the contrast. I'm just using evidentialism as a representative point of contrast.

ii) Especially among the laity, some Christians appeal to the IWHS as a hermeneutical shortcut. The Holy Spirit gives Spirit-filled Christians the correct interpretation of Scripture.

However, that's just folk theology. The Bible itself never makes that promise. It's convenient for lay Christians who don't have access to academic Bible commentaries or the aptitude to process them. But the appeal is misguided. 

iii) In terms of historical theology, the IWHS wasn't used as a hermeneutical shortcut but to undergird the assurance of salvation and/or conviction that the Bible is the word of God.

On the one hand, the principle has some value, possibly indispensable, because most Christians lack the aptitude to justify their faith through rigorous argumentation, so they must have an alternate mode of access to ground their faith. For a fairly sophisticated formulation of the IWHS:

iv) However, the IWHS, if valid as a general principle, is too coarse-grained to function as a criterion for the canonical candidates (or textual criticism). 

We might compare it to the argument from miracles, which eliminates conventional naturalism, and creates a presumption in favor of Christianity compared to non-Christian religions (because miracles cluster around Christianity), but is too indiscriminate to eliminate intra-Christian rivals. 

v) In principle, the IWHS isn't the only epistemological paradigm that could perform the role assigned to it. An alternative might be a providential paradigm where God instils Christian faith by arranging for people to be exposed to good religious conditioning, as well as miracles, special providences, or answered prayers.

vi) The IWHS could be expanded into the argument from religious experience.

vii) As you know, "reinterpreting" the Bible is sometimes a euphemism for "the Bible got it wrong", but it would be controversial to say that, so a reinterpretation is more politic. 

viii) As I said before, the primary issue isn't reinterpretation per se, but what motivates reinterpretation. If I question or reject a traditional interpretation, I didn't personally change my mind. That interpretation was around long before I was born. Every new Christian generation must assess traditional interpretations. Christians in different times and places may find themselves in different epistemic situations. A cliche example is geocentrism. 

ix) Moreover, it's not always a case of revising the interpretation under pressure from factual challenges. For instance, biblical archeology may provide new evidence that invites an alternative interpretation. 

x) My primary target is an approach to Scripture like the Jesus Seminar. A color-coded Bible in which we go through the Bible rating various statement as probably true, probably false, definitely false. 

And that also happens under the guise of "reinterpretation," where reinterpreting a passage of Scripture is functionally equivalent to saying it's wrong. The revised interpretation is face-saving device. 

This dovetails with your criticism of token inerrancy, where lip-service is paid to inerrancy but the affirmation is vacuous because it strips historicity out of inerrancy. Inerrancy becomes an empty suit.

Lydia McGrew
Just thought of this: Bill Craig has critiqued evidentialism and doesn't consider himself an evidentialist, and he's out there saying that Gen. 1-11 is "mytho-history." I don't know if you just think WLC is an outlier or something, but he really is an example of someone who both a) has distanced himself explicitly from evidentialism (I guess he'd be more of a Plantingian in certain ways) and b) has engaged in reinterpretation in exactly the way you are talking about and, I would say, for the same motives, though perhaps he would dispute the motive claim.

I don't really think he's all that unusual among non-evidentialists and anti-evidentialists. But perhaps you're just making generalizations about presuppositionalists more narrowly conceived and saying that those in that group are more inclined to stick with a more literal hermeneutic and not to engage in reinterpretation based on outside evidence or judgements of probability than self-styled evidentialists. 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Keener's conversion testimony

Drag queen patriarchalism

Transgenderism is the new misogyny. We've come full circle from historic discrimination against women through the woman's lib movement and equality laws to the oppression of women under the guise of transgenderism. Drag queen patriarchalism.

Theistic conceptual realism

Recently, Greg Welty debated Peter van Inwagen and William Lane Craig on abstract objects. That will be published in the Winter issue of Philosophia Christi. Here is Welty's title and abstract:

Title: “Do Divine Conceptualist Accounts Fail? A Response to Chapter 5 of God Over All”.

Abstract: "William Lane Craig’s God Over All argues against the kind of ‘divine conceptualism’ about abstract objects which I defend. In this conference presentation I note several points of agreement with and appreciation for Craig’s important work. I then turn to five points of critique and response pertaining to: the sovereignty-aseity intuition, the reality of false propositions, God’s having ‘inappropriate’ thoughts, propositions being purely private and incommunicable, and a consistent view of God’s own ontological commitments. I conclude by summarizing our two key differences, indicating that we may have much more in common than first appears (both theologically and metaphysically)."

In the final footnote, Welty mentions five more criticisms that weren't read out. 

In addition, Dr. Welty will be updating his arguments in Colin Ruloff (ed.), Contemporary Arguments in Natural Theology (Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming).

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The intellectual lifecycle

There's an interesting cycle in the intellectual life of some people. When they're teenagers, they have an existential outlook, as they ask the big meaning-of-life questions. And it's a natural time of life to begin thinking about that. Not coincidentally, that's when many people either convert to Christianity or else personally appropriate the Christian faith they were raised in.

But in their 20s and 30s they may shift away from that to more abstract intellectual pursuits like math, science, and philosophy. In the case of Christian men, there's often a focus on apologetics and theological debate. Christianity and atheism. Calvinism and freewill theism. Amillennialism and premillennialism. And so on and so forth. 

Yet when they hit middle age, that's a natural time to take stock of where they are in life. Reassess their goals. Recalibrate. 

Have they achieved their goals? Were their goals worth achieving? They set goals when they were younger, but with the benefit of hindsight, maybe their priorities seem less important now. 

Assuming they achieved their goals, what do they do next? Is that what gave them a sense of purpose? If so, what's left to live for? 

Or do they recognize that their goals were unrealistic? Or realize they they are running out of time to achieve their goals? They will have to scale back and lower their ambitions and expectations. 

So middle age can redirect them back to an existential focus. And if that doesn't do it, old age is apt to give them a more existential outlook, as they look back over their lives and consider if they led fulfilling, worthwhile lives, and what, if anything, lies ahead. At that point youth and old age come full circle. You might say that as teenagers they were existential philosophers. Then, in their prime they became analytic philosophers. Finally, as they hit the summit, with the downhill side ahead of them, they revert to being existential philosophers. BTW, I think women naturally have an existential orientation. 

Degenerative disease

Few things can be as bad as having a degenerative illness. So this dramatically illustrates the problem of evil. Why would an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent God permit degenerative diseases? 

Consider two related cases. A medical test for something unrelated on a healthy, asymptomatic teenage boy or girl, adult man or woman turns up the fact that they have a gene for a genetic disorder. This could take two forms. In one case the genetic defect makes it inevitable that they will develop the disease. In the other case the genetic defect makes it likely that they will develop the disease. Say a 50/50 chance.

The results in themselves generate a psychological dilemma. The patient would be relieved to know they don't have the fateful gene. But hearing the results carries the risk that they do have the fateful gene. 

That completely changes their outlook on life. Before they got the news, the presumption was that they'd have a normal healthy lifespan. But that's been abruptly and brutally replaced by terrible foreboding. 

There is, however, another way to look at this. Thanks to modern medicine, many people are presumptuous about the life ahead of them. They take life for granted. So they squander the gift of life on frivolity. Ephemeral, trivial pursuits, because they have time to burn. The prospect of death or the ravages of old age lie decades away.

If the prognosis is inevitable, the patient lives with a sense of doom. If the prognosis is 50/50, there is still an unshakable sense of dead.

But having a preview of the future gives them time to reflect on what makes life important. What should we live for? Likewise, it gives them an incentive to view this life from the perspective of eternity. Even at its best, this life can only be so good, and even then the good comes to an end. 

So while the prognosis is devastating, it concentrates the mind on what matters. It gives them lead-time reorient their lives while they're still healthy. It gives them advance notice to prepare for the afterlife, since they have nothing to hope for in this life. Things won't get better, or even stay the same, but become inexorably and horribly worse until they die.