Saturday, June 04, 2005


J-Bo, not to be confused with J-Lo, has come to the rescue of Enloe.

Why he thinks that Enloe needs a spokesman is an interesting question, but I won’t speculate on the answer.

<< Enloe is a presbyterian, so I don’t think he is attempting to imply that presbyterian polity is a merely mental abstraction. >>

So what is he attempting to imply? Absent an alternative explanation, which J-Bo doesn’t offer, why should we credit J-Bo’s denial?

Enloe sets up a contrast between episcopacy and non-episcopacy, and he does so in terms of the “mental abstractiveness” of non-episcopacy. The contrast is Enloe’s, not mine. The terminology is Enloe’s, not mine.

Presbyterianism is non-episcopal. Indeed, if you read any traditional defense of divine-right Presbyterianism, it is ferociously anti-episcopal.

BTW, why should we assume that just because Enloe is still a nominal Presbyterian (ditto: Paul Owen), he is not in a transitional stage on the way to something more truly episcopal and catholic or Catholic? Frankly, “Reformed-Catholic” is just a softening up exercise for the next logical step. This is done incrementally to cushion the blow.

<< If you’re an heir of the radical reformation…>>

I’m not an heir of the radical Reformation. Rather, I’m an heir of the Reformed tradition. And, unlike J-Bo and the other 11 members of the worldwide Reformed-Catholic movement, I realize that I don’t have the right to redefine and customize a theological tradition just to make it agree with me. I acknowledge, on historical grounds, that a Calvinist can be a Baptist (cf. LBCF), an Anglican (39 Articles; Lambeth Articles), a Welsh Methodist (cf. Calvinistic Methodist Confession of Faith, 1823), or a Presbyterian (cf. WCF).

Like it or not, Anabaptism is just as Reformational as Calvinism and Lutheranism. Of course, Anabaptist theology is not Reformed theology, but, then, neither is Lutheran theology.

For that matter, Zwingli affirms infant baptism (a la Calvin, Luther), but denies sacramental grace (a la John Smyth). Does that disqualify Zwingli as a charter member of the Magisterial Reformation?

Far from being catholic, “Reformed-Catholicism” is sectarian and schismatic. It is to Calvinism what Matatics and Sungenis are to Catholicism. It parachutes into the Reformed community, sets up a squatters’ rights HOA, and then attempts to evict the natives.

If “Reformed-Catholics” think they can improve on Calvinism, we welcome their arguments. Just don’t treat the illegals like the natives and the natives like illegals.

It is quite a spectacle when nominal Presbyterians attack Reformed Baptists because they are insufficiently deferential to Lutheranism and Catholicism. These guys aren’t even bona fide Presbyterians, yet they are setting up their Presbyterian heritage as the arbiter of what is truly Reformed.

<< Where does Enloe imply such a thing? He does not say that there is no objective reality. >>

Tim was the one who put the scare quotes around “objective,” used that adjective to modify “reality,” and set that in contrast to “flesh-and-blood realities.”

And J-Bo has done nothing to extricate Enloe from my syllogism. Perhaps Enloe is waxing hyperbolic here. Perhaps he is using an ontological category (objective “reality”) when he really intends an epistemic category (objective “knowledge”).

Still, how can Enloe make a claim about objective reality or objective knowledge unless he has access to one or the other? How is he in a position to set up a contrast between the objective and subjective dimension from within the subjective dimension? If an insider’s perspective is the only perspective we have, then we have no way to draw the line. Enloe is surreptitiously assuming the very viewpoint he denies.

Invoking “catholicity” multiplies rather than simplifies the conundrum, for “catholicity” is merely collective subjectivity.

Instead of offering a knee-jerk reaction to what I said—which wasn’t directed at J-Bo in any event, J-Bo would to well to slow down and really think through the bind that Enloe has gotten himself into.

<< I don’t know Tim all that well…>>

In that case, why pose as his spokesman?

<< Goodness. Why do people attempt to comment on things about which they know very little? >>

It’s always unintentionally comical when a twenty-something lectures a forty-something on how little the forty-something supposedly knows in relation to the twenty-something—rather like an adolescent explaining the birds and the bees to his own parents.

It’s especially droll when the twenty-something, by his own admission, has been a Christian for all of six years; has--in that time—already gone from Arminian dispensationalism to Baptistic Calvinism, then from there to “covenantal” Calvinism, then from there to “sacramental covenantal Calvinistic Catholicism” (a hyper-hyphenated Christian!), and has only been into the last phase for the past two years.

“No doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you! (Job 12:1).

At least guys like Doug Wilson and Andrew Sandlin have a lot of life experience under their belt.

<< Docetism is an entire system of thought which opposes spirit to matter, not merely a Christological heresy. >>

That’s a nonstandard definition of docetism. Docetism is just a Christological heresy--nothing more, nothing less. Yes, it later gets plugged into a whole system of thought, but doceticism itself is logically and historically separable from that subsequent development, and--in any event--the part cannot be equated with the whole. B-Lo is committing both the division fallacy and the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy.

“The monophysite heresy—unlike docetism – was only a Christological heresy.”

Not according to Enloe himself, who in response to J-Bo, says that:

<< Christological heresies are fundamentally ecclesiological heresies (Christ being head of the Church, and all). >>

On that view, there is no Christological heresy which is “only” a Christological heresy. No, every Christological heresy is “fundamentally” an ecclesiological heresy. Which just goes to show that J-Bo was right the first time when he admitted that he doesn’t know Enloe all that well.

But while we’re on the subject, note the sloppy reasoning. To say that Christ is the head of the church does not imply that every Christological heresy is fundamentally an ecclesiological heresy. Christ is not the church. He is the head of the church—the head of the body. So, if it implies anything at all, it would only imply that every ecclesiological heresy is fundamentally a Christological heresy. These are not convertible propositions.

But, what is more, to make good on his claim, Enloe would need to diagram a stepwise argument from a specific feature of a specific Christological heresy to a specific feature of a specific ecclesiological heresy. Needless to say, Enloe doesn’t bother to do this since that would impel him to make an actual case using actual evidence.

He stonewalls Frank Turk the same way he stonewalls me. Instead of his giving a straight answer to an honest question, Enloe does a snow-job with pretentious allusions to Jean Gerson, Pierre D’Ailly, and the Thomistic doctrine of natural law—mere allusions, mind you, no actual quotes or literary references or concrete summaries—as if Enloe was the next Etienne Gilson. Frank Turk was simply asking Enloe to state his own position.

Like a debtor on the run from his creditors, we keep waiting for Enloe redeem all those promissory notes—even a down-payment would be better than nothing—but with Enloe, the check is always in the mail, and the mail is always late…or the check was lost in the mail...or he forgot to stamp the envelop...or the dog ate it.

Not surprisingly, J-Bo drops out before we ever get to Rom 11. This is the same pattern we find with Tim and with Kevin. Emerge from the bushes just long enough to lob a few stones, then go back into hiding.

It’s is all about keeping up appearances. Make an empty gesture, then wash your hands of the whole affair and pat yourself on the back.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Going medieval

Enloe says:
<< Episcopacy is too large a subject to try to deal with in depth here, but one thing that is worth pointing out is that whatever problems episcopacy has, it does not have the problem of thinking of truth as a mental abstraction, as something disconnectable from the space-and-time world. In episcopacy (as may be seen from the letters of early Christian writers such as Ignatius and Irenaeus) the center of unity is always a person–particularly a person who bears the ministerial authority of the Person Jesus Christ. Truth in this very personal view is, in other words, not merely a set of propositions which, rattling around unaccountably inside the individual’s mind supposedly “timelessly” connecting it to “objective” reality, relegates to irrelevance flesh-and-blood realities (i.e., making visible unity a sham and invisible unity the real goal of those who love “Truth”). >>

i) So, Presbyterial and congregational forms of polity are somehow mental abstractions--disconnected from the space-time continuum? Did Enloe get this from some old episode of Star Trek?

ii) Does Enloe not believe in “objective” reality? Is he a solipsist? Ecclesiastical solipsism doesn’t sound very “catholic” to me. Ecclesiastical solipsism is hermitic rather than catholic.

iii) Is Enloe’s denial of “objective” reality applicable to his own statement?

a) Enloe says there is no “objective” reality.
b) This statement is, itself, a statement about reality—to wit: there is no “objective” reality.
c) This statement, if true, is self-referential and therefore self-refuting.
d) Ergo, this statement, if true, is false.
e) Therefore, it is false.

<< The denigration of the physical-visible which such a view assumes is radically anti-incarnational, and winds up socially (and ecclesiologically) stating that Docetism and Manichaeanism are the true teachings about Christ and the physical world which He has made. Unity solarum propositionum (”of propositions alone”) is gnosticism. >>

For someone who wraps himself up in the flag of church history, Enloe is awfully fond of citing and applying historical heresies out of context. Docetism is a Christological heresy, not an ecclesiological heresy.

Enloe is playing the same game as the liberal who denies the inerrancy of Scripture on the grounds that inerrancy entails a “Docetic” doctrine of Scripture.

One might as well say that Enloe’s refusal to distinguish between the visible and invisible church reproduces the monophysite heresy.

Instead of playing a shell game with labels you learn in Church History 101, why doesn’t Enloe offer us a serious analysis, if he has one to offer?

After quoting Doug Wilson as follows:
<< This means that I believe in the eventual reunion of all covenantal communions. This extends even to the Jews, as Paul notes in Romans 11. If wild olive branches could be grafted into the cultivated tree and yet grow, what will happen when the natural branches are grafted back in? Life from the dead. The only communions that will not be grafted back into the one olive tree will be those communions that no longer exist. The church in Ephesus had her lampstand removed, and the church is no longer there at all. No one is there except for the tourists among the ruins.

Paul expressly warned the church at Rome that she was vulnerable to the same judgment that befell the Jews, and that she had to guard against the hubris that set the Jews up for their fall. I do not believe they heeded the warning, just as the Jews did not. But this does not slow God down any—let God be true and every man a liar. If Rome was cut out, she can be grafted back in. If Rome was not cut out, but only radically cut back, she will flourish and bear evangelical fruit once again. >>

Enloe goes on to say:
<< I don’t think this needs any commentary, except that I don’t see how anyone, even today’s most militantly anti-Rome type of Protestant, can biblically or historically or practically argue against it. There is nothing even remotely harmful to the Protestant cause in this view of Rome and the Christian future. Indeed, this view of Rome and the Christian future has something marvelous going for it that today’s ultra-pessimistic, historically-reductionistic, biblically-rationalistic form of Protestantism does not:

Well, now, let see:

i) There is the patent equivocation as we jump straight from the 1C church of Rome to the 21C church of Rome, as if these were interchangeable. I’m not sure if Wilson is doing that—but Enloe clearly is.

Other issues aside, there was no 1C church of Rome. What you had, instead, were a number of Roman house-churches (cf. Rom 16). This is a far cry from all the later developments.

ii) Is the Roman Catholic church a covenantal communion?

iii) The argument from Rom 11 assumes a postmil eschatology. Nothing necessarily wrong with that. It has, however, absolutely no traction with premils and amils.

iv) What is more, in his debate with Lee Irons, Wilson seems to endorse a preterist version of postmillennialism—a la Bahnsen, Gentry.

Does Enloe share that view?

And does this mean that Wilson would preterize Rom 11 as well? If not, why not? If so, how does he harmonize preterism with futurism? In what sense, on a preterist version of postmillennialism, does Rom 11 await fulfillment?

v) How does a postmil eschatology entail ecclesiastical reunion? If, even now, Christians can still be Christians although they represent different theological traditions exemplified in different visible denominations, then how would Christianizing the entire world automatically dissolve their theological differences?

vi) Finally, there's the question of which theological tradition, if any in particular, supplies the doctrinal template for reunion? What is the creed of the reunited church? Is it more Lutheran? Anglican? Presbyterian? Roman Catholic? Greek Orthodox?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A chip off the old block

Denominations and theological traditions have a way of taking on the ecclesiastical equivalent of national character. This is, in part, because some of them have a strong ethnic component. But there is also a tendency to take after the leader.

For example, Islam is a projection of Muhammad, and Muslims emulate his character-traits.

This extension of national character can even take on a physical aspect. Just compare the average, corn-fed Baptist preacher-man with the cadaverous and bespeckled Anglican cleric or the equally anorexic, silver-haired, ashen-faced appearance of the average Episcopalian woman—complete with her page-boy hair-cut. It’s almost as if each theological tradition had seeped into the DNA, creating a genetic uniform.

As such, different denominations and theological traditions are prone to certain strengths and weaknesses. Lutherans are likely to be rather insular and ingrown. The Church of England, because it’s a national church, born in the heat of political and theological compromise, is given to immoderate moderation and a sweet-tooth for Anglican fudge. Fundamentalists are in danger of showing more interest in the Second Coming than the First. Pentecostalism is prey to charlatanry. Roman Catholicism, with its pig-headed attachment to mandatory celibacy, is an open invitation to sexual scandal of one sort or another. Churches which concentrate power, whether hierarchical denominations or independent megachurches, are liable to abuse of power.

The apple never falls far from the tree--which is one reason it's so important to be finicky about your orchard and diligent in matters of spiritual horticulture.

The Calvinist is also vulnerable to certain excesses. It is sometimes said that the Scots are a bit dour. And it is sometimes said that the Reformed style of worship is a bit dour. Historically speaking, the two do, in fact, overlap.

As to the Dutch, well…to say nothing more…no one would ever confuse a Dutchman with an Italian! Indeed, one can see how the operatic eye and ear of Catholic piety would predispose an Italian or Latino against the austerities of Reformed worship. Or just compare Calvin’s dry, Gallic wit with Luther’s heavy Teutonic humor.

In addition, Calvinism places a premium on orthodoxy. After all, it broke with Rome over doctrine. And there’s a reason the Puritans were called…well…were called Puritans!

Related to the above, the Reformed faith is heir to a very polemical tradition. This is because it was forged in the cauldron of the Reformation and Counterreformation, when a Calvinist had to be ready to die for his faith, or--if not die--be tortured, or exiled.

Those formative stages have cast the die of Reformed theology in a highly combative, keen-edged vein.

In addition, although Presbyterian theology is anti-legalistic in its soteriology, it's apt to be legalistic in its ecclesiology or polity.

This is also due to the politicization of the Reformed faith during the Reformation and Counterreformation. Back then, there could only be one true church, and it was literally a life or death issue which one you landed in.

This has resulted in putting an undue emphasis on fine points of church government out of all proportion to their intrinsic importance.

The combination of a polemical tradition and a Byzantine appellate process can make Presbyterians a contentious and litigious lot. And, to some extent, their prickly epidermis can rub off onto their Reformed Baptist brethren as well.

PyroManiac: Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism

PyroManiac: Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism: "I have to say with all candor that I can somewhat understand the feelings expressed by some of Calvinism's recent critics. Sniff around some of the Calvinist forums on the Internet and it won't be long before you begin to think something is rotten in Geneva.

But I hasten to add that I don't think the problem really lies in Geneva, or in historic Calvinism, or in any of the classic Reformed creeds. I especially don't think the stench arises from any problem with Calvinism per se. In my judgment, the problem is a fairly recent down n' dirty version of callow Calvinism that has flourished chiefly on the Internet and has been made possible only by the new media."

What's the purpose of purgatory?

What’s the purpose of purgatory? Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, gives the following answer:


There will be few people whose lives are pure and fulfilled in all respects…In any case, we need a final cleansing, a cleaning b y fire, to be exact, in which they gaze of Christ, so to say, burns us free from everything, and only under this purifying gaze are we, as it were, fit to e with God and able, then, to make our home with him.

Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life.

I would say that from the human point of view one of the functions of purgatory is to get rid of these particularist attitudes. It strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together n one enormous symphony of being.

As far as the Buddhists are concerned…even here, though in a quite different way of looking at things-is to be found something like a hope for an ultimate rightness of being.

God and the World (Ignatius 2002), 129-30.


So, according to Ratzinger, purgatory serves two or three functions. It “basically” means that God can put the pieces back together. Likewise, it’s an extension of sanctification—a finish process that completes the work of sanctification. Finally, it’s a leveling or democratizing process.

In addition, notice that Ratzinger speaks of purgatory in relation to “persons” and “people” in general, not to baptized Catholics in particular. Indeed, it hold out hope for the Buddhist, who, depending on his brand of Buddhism, whether folk Buddhist or it’s more philosophical form, is either a pagan idolater (polytheist) or an atheist.

What is striking about all of this is that none of it figures in traditional Catholic dogma, according to which purgatory is reserved for Roman Catholics who died in a state of grace, and are consigned to purgatory in order to remit the penal debt of temporal guilt.

What Ratzinger has done is to take the sting out of purgatory by making it so readily available and eliminating the punitive dimension. This is not a logical development of dogma. Rather, it runs counter to traditional dogma.


The Council of Trent
The Sixth Session

CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.

The Twenty-Second Session

That the Sacrifice of the Mass is propitiatory both for the living and the dead.

And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy Synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propritiatory and that by means thereof this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent, with a sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the oblation thereof, and granting the [Page 155] grace and gift of penitence, forgives even heinous crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. The fruits indeed of which oblation, of that bloody one to wit, are received most plentifully through this unbloody one; so far is this (latter) from derogating in any way from that (former oblation). Wherefore, not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those who are departed in Christ, and who are not as yet fully purified, is it rightly offered, agreebly to a tradition of the apostles.

The Twenty-Fifth Session


Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this oecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, [Page 233] but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy Synod enjoins on bishops that they diligently endeavour that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, transmitted by the holy Fathers and sacred councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and every where proclaimed by the faithful of Christ. But let the more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude. In like manner, such things as are uncertain, or which labour under an appearance of error, let them not allow to be made public and treated of. While those things which tend to a certain kind of curiosity or superstition, or which savour of filthy lucre, let them prohibit as scandals and stumbling-blocks of the faithful. But let the bishops take care, that the suffrages of the faithful who are living, to wit the sacrifices of masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which have been wont to be performed by the faithful for the other faithful departed, be piously and devoutly performed, in accordance with the institutes of the church; and that whatsoever is due on their behalf, from the endowments of testators, or in other way, be discharged, not in a perfunctory manner, but diligently and accurately, by the priests and ministers of the church, and others who are bound to render this (service).


Split-personality Catholicism

Years ago, Robert Schuller came out with his book on The New Reformation, in which he repudiated the Pauline doctrine of sin. Because of his prominence, this ignited a firestorm of controversy in the Evangelical world.

I remember watching an interview with him in which the questioner suggested that Schuller's views were heretical. Schuller bristled at the suggestion, and defended himself by saying that he was an ordained minister in a confessional denomination with an orthodox creedal tradition.

And, as a matter of fact, Schuller was ordained in the Reformed Church in America, which is, historically speaking, a Dutch-Reformed denomination formally committed to the Three Forms of Unity.

The problem, though, is that you have two Reformed Churches in America: there is the RCA on paper, and the RCA in practice. On paper, the RCA is very orthodox; in practice, the Three Forms of Unity are a dead letter.

This is what is wrong with a number of liberal denominations. Many liberal denominations come out of a confessional tradition. The Thirty-Nine Articles in an evangelical creed which codifies classic Reformational theology. On paper, that makes the Episcopal church an orthodox church. The Westminster Confession is an evangelical creed which codifies classic Reformational theology. On paper, that makes the Presbyterian Church-USA an orthodox church. The Formula of Concord is an evangelical creed which codifies classic Reformational theology. On paper, that makes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America an orthodox church.

But it doesn't matter how conservative they are on paper if they are liberal in practice. In fact, what makes these churches apostate churches is precisely the gap between what they profess on paper, and what they do in practice.

Now, when, in talking with an observant Roman Catholic, you point to the liberal positions taken by Ray Brown or Joseph Fitzmyer or Cardinal Kasper or John-Paul II or Benedict XVI on this or that issue, he will defend his church by drawing a distinction between Catholic dogma and private opinion.

On this view, we should only judge the Catholic church by what is stands for on paper, and not what it stands for in practice. Any amount of practical deviation can be discounted. If the Pope and the Prefect and the whole College of Cardinals were heretics, preaching and teaching heresy, and appointing heretical bishops all over the world, the Catholic church would still be a true church--would be, indeed, the true church--as long as we could classify their heretical views as private opinion. Any degree of apostasy can be discounted as long as that can be catalogued and filed under private opinion.

Now, speaking for myself, although I'm not alone in this, a denomination is responsible, not only for its creed, but for its conformity to the creed. What is a confessional church that is not answerable to its own confession? If its members, and especially its leaders, are not held to account for their practical deviation from the creed, then the creed is an empty formality. It does nothing to direct or constrain the actual life of the church. The members pay lip-service to the creed, but then say and do whatever they please irrespective of the creed.

Is there no relation between orthodoxy and orthopraxy? Do these exist in airtight compartments?

What constitutes the true identity of a denomination: what it says on paper, or what it says in practice? If it doesn't actually adhere to its creed, then it isn't bound by its creed, and if it isn't bound by its creed, then the creed no longer defines its identity. The creed is hermetically sealed away from direct contact with the pollutants and contaminants the real world.

Obviously we cannot expect exact conformity from top to bottom. Sin will always lead to some measure of corruption.

The problem, though, is when this becomes a matter of policy. When, as a point of principle, any degree of deviation can be excused as long as it falls under the rubric of private opinion. To do this is to codify corruption, and immunize an institution from its own stated standards of orthodoxy.

What is a creed if not a credo? A statement of faith? A corporate statement of faith? Is there no relation between belief and dogma? As long as the creed says all the right things, we don’t have to say the right things? Is all that matters the abstract magisterium and not the concrete magisterium?

Where do you find the Catholic church? Do you find it in a book? Is Denzinger the Catholic church? If every Roman Catholic were wiped out by a plague, would there still be a Catholic church? Or is the Catholic church to be judged, at least in part, by the application of Catholic dogma? Which is the true Catholic church--the church in action or the church under glass?

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


How should a Christian apologist structure his argument against Hinduism? One way of answering the question is to ask where the burden of proof lies. If the Hindu has no reason for believing as he does, then there’s nothing to disprove.

Put another way, his reason may not be intellectual, but sociological. He’s Hindu because he’s Indian. It’s as simple and complicated as that.

Of course, a geographical accident is poor reason for believing in something, and disbelieving in something else. For reality is no respecter of race or ethnicity. Buddhism doesn’t become true when you cross the border into China, for false when you cross back into India.

Insofar as Hinduism has certain beliefs about the world, the world must be like these beliefs in order for them to be true. And if, in fact, the relation between belief and reality breaks down, then these beliefs about the world are not, in fact, beliefs about the world as it is, about the real world, but are merely fictitious.

And in what sense do you really subscribe to an article of faith if you don’t care whether or not it describes the actual world? If the article of faith fails to correspond to the way the world is, then your belief in that article fails to correspond to article itself if this is a personal belief in a traditional belief about the way the world works.

So there is a breakdown at two levels: between the believer and his belief, between his subjective belief and the external object of his belief. Faith is a three-way relation between believer, belief, and object. And if the relation breaks down at one relation, it breaks down at the corollary relation as well.

So the onus is on the Hindu. And where, in fact, does the Hindu stand in relation to the burden of proof?

Surendranath Dasgupta was the greatest historian of Indian philosophy of his generation. This is what he has to say about the historical relation between faith and reason in Hindu piety. One will see, in the course of his historical review, that what he says about basic Hindu dogma is applicable to Buddhism as well.


Throughout the entire course of the history of Indian philosophy, no one except the Carvakas raised any dissenting voice against this theory of rebirth. We do not know how this doctrine originally crept into Indian thought, but once it was there, it was accepted almost universally without a discussion. The few arguments that are sometimes adduced in its support (e.g., in the Nyaya Sutra and the Caraka Samhita) are trivial in their nature and may be regarded as offered in support of a faith and not as determining philosophical conclusions. The doctrine of rebirth is therefore a dogma of Indian philosophy. The Hindus believed in it; the Jat5akas represent Buddha as remembering his past lives, but the Carvakas denied it. It was a philosophical dogma or creed, which might safely be regarded as unproved.

We nest come to the theory of Karma. This also can be traced to the Upanishads, and it is not improbable that it originated from a belief in the magical efficacy of sacrificial deeds. It is supposed to explain the inequalities of this life by the unknown actions of the past lives, but it refuses to explain any question regarding original inequalities of circumstances and advantages by a clever dodge that there is no beginning in the series of lives.

The difficulties of the theory of karma are further realized in other directions also. It the fruits of the karmas of the past cannot be avoided, how can, then, anyone attain emancipation which must necessarily mean cessation of Karma? In reply to such a question, other dogmas regarding the fruition of Karma are introduced, all of which may be regarded as mythical. It is also held that when true knowledge is attained, or when desires are extinguished, the bonds of karma are burnt up.

So far as I can remember, I suppose, no attempt has been made, anywhere in Indian philosophy, to prove any of these propositions regarding the operation of the laws of Karma in a serious and systematic manner. The law of Karma, therefore, involves a number of unattested propositions, which have never been proved to be true, nor are capable of being proved so.

This is, therefore, the second set of unproved dogmas of Indian philosophy, which has been almost universally acknowledged as true, not as a philosophical conclusion, but as an article of faith. It is only the Carvakas who dared protest against it, but no one ever cared to list to them.

We next come to the doctrine of Mukti, Moksha, Apavarga or Nihsreyasa, and Nirvana…Though this belief in a final and ultimate achievement, extinction or liberation was universal in all systems of Indian thought except the Carvaka, not attempt seems to have been made anywhere in Indian philosophy to prove the reality of this state. In this case direct testimony from personal experience could not be available, for he who attained salvation could not be expected to return back to normal life to record his experience.

But in this case also another fiction was introduced and it was supposed that even after the attainment of this final liberation, one may with the help of another pure mind communicate his experiences for the benefit and instruction of other seekers after Moksha. This theory also has not been proved as a philosophical proposition anywhere. The doctrine of Mukti may, therefore, be regarded as another unproved dogma of Indian philosophy.

The theory of rebirth, the theory of Karma and the theory of Mukti may thus be regarded as the three most important dogmas through which Indian philosophy has been made subservient to ethics and religion. The influence which these dogmas have over the moral and religious well-being of the Indian people cannot be overestimated. Not all Indians are believers in God, not all of them believe in prayers, divine grace, or devotion as the best mode of approach to God, but all of them believe in these articles of faith. They have thus held together the entire relgio-moral fabric of the Hindu-Buddhist-Jaina culture.

Philosophical Essays (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982), 224-28.


Call me Ishmael

Islam lacks the apologetic resources of Christianity. This is due, in large part, to the fact that the Koran is a one-man show. Muhammad performed no miracles and uttered no prophecies.

The OT, because it was composed over the course of centuries, affords a theater for long-range promise and fulfillment—whereas the Koran, being the record of one man’s effusions, affords no such opportunities.

Likewise, the Bible, like a baroque composition, lays down a variety of theological motifs which, through many surprising historical turns, suddenly comes out on the advent of Christ, whereas Muhammad has no such luxury of time, and--in any event--the Koran is a complete jumble.

Again, because the Bible was composed over a period of 1500 years, and because its narration covers an even longer period of time, the Bible is studded with people and places and datable events which invite and receive a fair degree of external corroboration. The Koran, by contrast, does not. Its recital of Bible history is a garbled and truncated affair.

Because the Bible was composed by a variety of writers, often overlapping each other in period, place, and subject-matter, the Bible enjoys a measure of internal corroboration as well.

Likewise, the Bible brings us face-to-face with a number of lively individuals whom we have time to size up. But, in the Koran, everything hangs on the word of Muhammad.

The Bible also enjoys a universal appeal, even among many unbelievers, whereas the audience for the Koran is strictly parochial--by religion or race.

In addition, Islam has no doctrine of regeneration, and, hence, no argument from experience comparable to ordinary Christian consciousness—which is, frankly, the spiritual backbone of the average layman.

Nor, with its austerely voluntarist view of divine command theory, does Islam have easy access to the moral argument for Allah’s existence.

As such, the defense of Islam presents a formidable challenge. For the most part, Islam has escaped the need of any self-defense by resorting to the sword, criminalizing dissent, and depending on peer pressure—especially tribal solidarity--to keep the faith.

Islam produced a few brilliant thinkers early on—men like Al-Kindi (c. 801-66), Al-Farabi (d. 950), and Avicinna (980-1037). These were polymathic men. Philosophically though, they were rather unoriginal--primarily serving to popularize Platonism and mediate between Greece and Arabia. Averroes (1126-98) was an acute thinker, moving in a narrower groove, but his doglike loyalty to all things Aristotelian was no advance over the other three.

This was in the formative stages of Islam, when the outlines of orthodoxy had not yet hardened into stone.

Perhaps the best-known modern philosopher is Seyyed Hossein Nasr. But his eclecticism and esotericism betray a lack of intellectual independence and critical judgment.

Ibn Hazam (994-1064) was an early exponent of offensive apologetics, as he launched a frontal assault on the historicity of the OT. But there was no complementary form of defensive apologetics to take up the rear.

I should add that attacking the Bible is a suicidal strategy for a Muslim apologist to deploy, for Muhammad appealed to Biblical precedent in order to validate his own prophetic call. But given the irreconcilable differences between the Bible and the Koran, a Muslim apologist has to make the best of a losing hand.

The greatest Islamic thinker was Algazel (1058-1111). In his intellectual autobiography, he describes his personal quest for religious certainty. Let us take the measure of his case for Islamic faith.


As I drew near the age of adolescence the bonds of mere authority ceased t hold me and inherited beliefs lost their grip upon me, for I saw that Christian youths always grew up to be Christians, Jewish youths to be Jews and Muslims youths to be Muslims.

W. Watt, ed. The Faith & Practice of Al-Ghazali (Allen & Unwin 1967), 21.


i) This is, indeed, a general phenomenon. And it would be just as well for those who were raised in the Christian faith to examine themselves and personally appropriate the Gospel rather than rely on a merely hereditary or nominal belief.

ii) At the same time, there is clearly a difference between Algazel’s culture and ours. For it is by no means unheard of in our own time and place for someone to convert from one faith to another, or simply lose his childhood faith entirely.

iii) From the standpoint of Calvinism, with its doctrine of providence, the idea that God uses social conditioning as a means of saving some or many of the elect is quite consistent with our own theological tradition.


I therefore said within myself: “To begin with, what I am looking for is knowledge of what things really are, so I must undoubtedly try to find what knowledge really is.” It was plain to me that sure and certain knowledge is such that no doubt remains along with it, that no possibility of error or illusion accompanies it, and that the mind cannot even entertain such a supposition. Certain knowledge must also be infallible; and this infallibility or security from error is such that no attempt to show the falsity of the knowledge can occasion doubt or denial, even though the attempt is made by someone who turns stones into gold or a rod into a serpent. Thus, I know that ten is more than three. Let us suppose that someone says to me: “no, three is more than ten, and in proof of that I shall change this rod into serpent”; and let us suppose that he actually changes the rod into a serpent and that I witness him doing so. No doubts about that I know are raised in me because of this. The only result is that I wonder precisely how he is able to produce this change. Of doubt about my knowledge there is none

After these reflections I knew that whatever I do not know in this fashion and with this mode of certainty is not reliable and infallible knowledge; and knowledge that is not infallible is not certain knowledge (21-22).



i) Compare this with Bishop Butler’s motto that “probability is the very guide to life.” Here we need to steer a middle course. We need to prioritize our beliefs. Probability is perfectly adequate for most of our day-to-day decisions. And, indeed, probability is often the best we can hope for.

ii) Even in the religious sphere, there is room for a measure of uncertainty. To be unsure of some things is not to be unsure of all things. And one mark of a well-founded faith is to know what questions we must have the answer to, and what answers we can live without.

iii) There is also quite a difference between the role of uncertainty within a providential framework, and the role of uncertainty once the providence of God is denied. A Calvinist is content to live by faith rather than sight, for God can see in the dark, and direct our footsteps by ways unknown.

iv) Just as universal certainty is unattainable, so is universal uncertainty. For we are only uncertain of some things because we measure them against other opposing beliefs of which we are the more certain. Thus, even uncertainty has a foundation in certainty. The real issue is to lay the right foundation.

2.Algazel uses as his example a truth of reason, and compares that with a truth of fact. One wonders if this is just an incidental explanation or if he restricts certain knowledge to truths of reason. There is a weighty tradition, both before and after Algazel, for that restriction.

Yet he later speaks of “creedal principles [which] were firmly rooted in his being, not through any carefully argued proofs, but by reason of various causes, coincidences and experiences which are not capable of being stated in detail” (55-56). This has affinities with Newman’s illative sense and Polanyi’s tacit knowledge.

All knowledge is not reducible to argument. And there is a distinction between first-order knowledge (knowing that), and second-order knowledge (knowing that we know that). And the evidence for reflective, second-order knowledge is different from the evidence for prereflective, first-order knowledge. The evidence by which we learn things and the evidence by which we prove things can be two very different things indeed,

How do I know, just from the sound of her voice, that the person at the other end of the receiver is my wife? The reasons are extremely complex. I doubt that science can state them in full. Yet my recognition of her voice is quite compatible with my utter ignorance of the underlying reasons.


i) Algazel’s example is an implicit attack on the argument from miracle. Since Muhammad laid no claim to miraculous attestation, Islam is naturally hostile to the argument from miracle. Perhaps this has colored Algazel’s own attitude, although his skepticism could be purely epistemic.

ii) It is true, as a rule, that there is no direct connection between the miracle and the message. That, however, is not what the argument from miracle amounts to. Rather, the argument from miracle infers an indirect connection between miracle and message via a direct connection between miracle and messenger.

How do I know that a messenger is, indeed, a prophet of God—a true prophet, and not a false prophet? How do I know that he is not speaking on his own authority?

Well, if he performs a miracle, then he must have some supernatural backing for his message, since the miracle exceeds his human abilities. And by accrediting the messenger, the miracle serves to accredit the message. That’s the argument from miracle.

The argument from miracle is a special case of the argument from authority, whereby the miracle authorizes the spokesman. Algazel seems to be directed his firepower at a straw man.

iii) In addition, there is, in the case of some Scriptural miracles, a more direct connection between miracle and message when the miracle is a metaphor for the message. The cursing of the fig tree is an enacted parable. The feeding of the five thousand illustrates the Bread of Life Discourse. Restoring sight to the blind is an emblem of Christ as the light of the world. The Plague of Darkness is a divine judgment on the cult of Amon-Ra, the Egyptian sun-god, and upon Pharaoh, who was worshiped as the son of Amon-Ra.

iv) There is, though, a limitation to the argument from miracle. In general, this is not a direct argument from a miracle itself, but from a reported miracle. Now, if someone doesn’t believe in the Bible, he will not believe in a Biblical miracles. Likewise, if someone doesn’t believe in God, neither will he believe in miracles.

v) This doesn’t mean that the argument from miracle is fallacious or useless. But it needs a supplementary argument.

For example, the argument from the miracle of the Resurrection is usually a two-step process. First, the apologist will argue that the actual event of the Resurrection affords the greatest explanatory power in accounting for all direct and indirect the data. Second, having established the event on those abductive grounds, the apologist will then argue from the Resurrection to warrant other truths of the faith.


Yet the man may still have doubts on the subject of prophethood; he may say, “Grant that your Imam adduces as proof the miracle of Jesus; that is, he says, “The proof of my truthfulness is that I will bring your father to life”; he actually restores him to life and says to me that he is performing what he promised…Yet no one knows the argument from miracle to truthfulness unless he knows magic and the distinction between that and miracle, and unless he knows that God does not lead His servants astray. The topic of God’s leading men astray is one where it is notoriously difficult to make a reply (51).


Here Algazel raises a different objection to the argument from miracle. It isn’t clear if this is one objection or two:

i) By distinguishing between miracle and magic, he seems to imply that an apparent miracle might be of diabolical origin. In traditional terms, this is the distinction between a miracle and a mirable. In fact, Scripture itself allows for that possibility (Deut 13:1-3). Does that destroy the argument from miracle? Not really.

a) It would only mean that miraculous attestation is a necessary, but insufficient condition of divine revelation.

b) A mirable would only cancel out a miracle if the mirable were evidence of a contrary claim. Now, a mirable is evidence of the dark side. But Scripture does not deny the existence of the dark side. Indeed, Scripture affirms the existence of the dark side.

c) You can also differentiate the source of origin by the character of the message. A sorcerer will inculcate a diabolical, God-hating morality. So you can still tell which comes from which.

ii) In addition, Algazel suggests that a miracle could be heaven-sent, yet sent to lead men astray.

There is an element of this in Scripture as well (1 Kg 22:23; Ezk 14:9; 2 Thes 2:11). So is there any way out of this trap?

a) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that there is no escape. In that event there’s nothing more for us to say or do. Either we’re deluded or we’re not. We have no control over the situation. Since it’s out of our hands, we might as well go ahead do whatever we think is right, for we have nothing to lose one way or the other. If we’re right, we have nothing to lose—and if we’re wrong, we have nothing to lose, for in the worst-case scenario, it’s a lost cause anyway.

b) Scriptural threats are only threatening to those who defy the Bible. It would be nonsensical of a believer to apply these verses to himself, for if he believes them, that makes him a believer, not an unbeliever. The authority for this threat comes from the authority of Scripture. If you acknowledge the authority of Scripture, then the threat is inapplicable to your own case.

c) Unlike the Koran, the God of Scripture would never mislead his servants. The God of Scripture is a God who binds himself by covenant to a people of his own choosing—whereas Allah is an utterly inscrutable and capricious deity.


I continued in this stage for the space of ten years, and during these periods of solitude there were revealed to me things innumerable and unfathomable. This much I shall say about that in order that others may be helped: I learnt with certainty that it is above all the mystics who walk on the road of God…their method the soundest method…to the mystics all movement and all rest, whether external or internal, brings illumination from the light of the lamp of prophetic revelation; and behind the light of prophetic revelation there is no other light on the face of the earth from which illumination may be received (60).


i) Unlike the argument from miracle, Algazel does affirm the argument from prophecy, but with a twist. His way of confirming the prophetic office is to recreate the conditions of the prophetic experience—to reproduce the altered state of consciousness in which the prophet received his visions and auditions.

By this, the finest mind in Islam, we have come down, through steady process of elimination, to one argument, and one argument only, for the veracity of Islam. That’s his only positive argument for confirming the prophetic call of Muhammad. There are, however, several difficulties with his singular appeal:

ii) If Allah deceives his servants, then he can just as easily deceive a Muslim mystic.

iii) Mysticism does not select for one religious tradition over another. There are mystics in every religious tradition (e.g., Catholic, Hindu, Sufi, American Indian)—as well as natural mysticism and atheism (e.g., Buddhism).

iv) There is more to Christianity than a set of timeless truths or repeatable experiences. Fundamental to Christianity is the internal relation between word-media and event-media, historical revelation and historical redemption. Redemptive events are particular and unrepeatable. Even if you could recreate the prophetic state of mind, that general condition does not specify any particular truths of fact.

Psychology is no substitute for history or historical testimony. The abstract phenomenology of the prophetic experience cannot deputize for the historic witness of any individual prophet or apostle.


Those to whom it is not granted to have immediate experience can become assured of it by trial (sc. contact with mystics or observation of them) and by hearsay, if they have sufficiently numerous opportunities of associating with mystics (62).


This only pushes the problem back a step. If an outsider can’t tell which claimant is a true prophet, neither can he tell which claimant is a true mystic.


If you understand what it is to be a prophet, and have devoted much time to the study of the Qur’an and the Traditions, you will arrive at a necessary knowledge of the fact that Muhammad is in the highest grades of the prophetic calling. Convince yourself of that by trying out what he said about the influence of devotional practices on the purification of the heart…When you have made trial of these in a thousand or several thousand instances, you will arrive at a necessary knowledge beyond all doubt (67).


i) If the purpose of mystical exercises is to verify the Koran, then it is viciously circular to take the Koranic definition of a prophet as your point of reference.

ii) The fact that you come to resemble the code of conduct you emulate is no evidence that the code of conduct you have chosen to emulate is God-given. What is pure or impure is a value-laden judgment, contingent on particular value-system in question.


By this method, then, seek certainty about the prophetic office, and not from the transformation of a rod into a serpent or the cleaving of the moon. For if you consider such an event by itself, without taking account of the numerous circumstances accompanying it—circumstances readily eluding the grasp of the intellect—then you might perhaps suppose that it was magic and deception and that it came from God to lead men astray; for “He leads astray whom He will, and guides whom He will.” Thus the topic of miracles will be thrown back upon you; for if your faith is based on a reasoned argument involving the probative force of the miracles, then your faith is destroyed by an ordered argument showing the difficulty and ambiguity of the miracle (67-68).


Here we have two objections rolled into one, the first of which I’ve already addressed. As to the second:

i) This is yet another attack on the argument from miracle. Yet the implicit scope of his objection is by no means limited to the argument from miracle. For if my faith in anything at all is resting on a reasoned argument, then a persuasive counterargument will undercut my faith. But should the risk of being wrong outweigh the chance of being right? This strikes me as both irrational and impractical.

Perhaps, though, Algazel has religious certainty in mind. And I don’t deny that this is a high priority.

ii) People seek reasons because their intuitive conviction is weak. It is true that this leaves them vulnerable if their arguments are overturned. But they were already vulnerable, which is why they turned to arguments in the first place. It does no good to tell them that reason may betray them, for if they had had an unquestioning faith to begin with, they’d have need no arguments to fortify their faith. Since they are doubters, they cannot fall back on their faith. That’s their problem.

In fairness to Algazel, he supposes that he has something better to offer them. But I have proven otherwise.

iii) There are good and bad arguments because of truths and falsehoods. But if we believe in truth, and if we believe in the possibility of true belief, then we shouldn’t be so fearful of reasoned argumentation. If there is a truth to be known, then there ought to be lines of evidence that truly point us to the truth. And it should be easier to reason from one truth to another truth than reason from one falsehood to another falsehood.

If, from time to time, we get our facts wrong, that can only be known because, at other times, we get it right. Error is only discernible in relation to the truth, so the possibility of error presents no serious objection to reason and argument—but, rather, presupposes the very process it decries.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Catholic Christology

Walter Cardinal Kasper is President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He was appointed to this post by John-Paul II, and reappointed by Benedict XVI.

In addition, he is President for the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

Back when he was professor of dogmatic theology at Tubingen University, he wrote Jesus the Christ (Paulist Press 1985). My copy comes with glowing commendations by the late Karl Rahner and Bruce Vawter, a Catholic OT scholar.

Among other things, Kasper says the following:


We owe a second insight to modern form-criticism. It has shown that the gospels are not historical sources in the modern sense but are instead testimonials to the faith of the early churches. They are not primarily interested in the Jesus of history, but are concerned with the Christ who is present in proclamation, liturgy, and the whole life of the churches (32).

It is characteristic of the gospels to mix message and report. Obviously they have to face the problem of the mythization of history, but also that of the historicization of a myth (33).

Myth is the form of understanding proper to an out-of-date epoch of human history: the primitive era or childhood, of mankind (44).

These questions take us to the borderline between permissible and impermissible demythologization. Demythologization is permissible if it helps us to show Jesus Christ as the location of divine and human freedom (48).

The NT accounts of miracles are analogous to, or use themes familiar to us from other ancient sources. There are for example, rabbinic and hellenistic miracle stories of cures, expulsions of demons, raisings from the dead, quellings of storms, and so on. Numerous parallels exist in the case of Jesus’ contemporary, Apollonius of Tyana, and many healings are reported in particular from the sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus.

In view of the parallels which remain, it is hardly possible to reject al of the rabbinical and Hellenistic miracle reports as unhistorical lies and deceit, while accepting the NT accounts at face value as historical.

A number of miracle stories turn out in the light of form criticism to be projections of the experiences of Easter back into the earthly life of Jesus, or anticipatory representations of the exalted Christ. Among these epiphany stories we should probably include the stilling of the storm, the transfiguration, Jesus’ walking on the lake, the feeding of the four (or five) thousand and the miraculous draught of fishes…It is the nature miracles which turn out to be secondary accretions to the original tradition.

The result of all this is that we must describe many of the gospel miracle stories as legendary. Legends of this sort should be examined less for their historical than for their theological content…To show that certain miracles cannot be ascribed to the earthly Jesus does not mean that they have no theological or kerygmatic significance. These non-historical miracle reports are statements of faith about the significance for salvation of the person and message of Jesus (90).


My primary purpose in quoting from Kasper is not to comment on the merits of his position. Rather, this serves to document the mainstream view of Scripture in modern Catholicism. Although Kasper was not a high-ranking prelate at the time he wrote this book, what he wrote was obviously no impediment to his ecclesiastical preferment.

Now, if these statements were made by a man of similar ecclesiastical standing in any other denomination--say, Lutheran or Episcopalian or Presbyterian or Baptist—everyone would grant that his particular denomination was on the liberal end of the theological spectrum.

But when a Catholic scholar and high-placed prelate like Kasper says the very same thing, conservative Catholics rush in to distance their church from this sort of teaching.

Having made my main point, I will offer a few comments on the substance of his claims. I can’t prove my point without quoting him, but having quoted him, I don’t wish to let his assertions go unchallenged.

1.Notice his implicit faith in the form criticism of Bultmann and Dibelius. It is important to remember that form criticism doesn’t bring any new or contrary evidence to the table. It isn’t based on any extracanonical data. Instead, it simply infers an oral prehistory to the gospels, and assumes that the putative life-situation was not the actual setting, but was supplied by the life-situation of the church.

Form criticism does nothing whatsoever to disprove the historicity of the gospels. Indeed, form criticism is impotent to disprove their historicity.

Form criticism can be of some use in literary analysis, but that’s about it.

2.Then you have the thoughtless antithesis between faith and fact.

i) Yes, the gospel writers were men of faith. Faith in what? Faith in whom? They were believers because they believed that something really happened. Their faith was an event-centered faith.

Why is it that highly intelligent men like Kasper are too obtuse to see such an elementary connection? Why do men like Kasper continue to parrot this psychologically implausible dichotomy between faith and fact?

ii) Notice that he doesn’t take his clue from the narrative viewpoint of the gospel-writers themselves. Luke, for one, is very much concerned with the Christ of history, as the history of the Christ intersects with Jewish and Greco-Roman history--while Matthew is deeply interested in Christ as the Omega-point of OT history.

As we all know, the Gospel of Mark is fascinated with the thaumaturgical ministry of Christ as an exorcist and wonder-worker—the sort of thing that Kasper finds quite incredible. But Mark is so impressed by this because he firmly believes that Jesus really did work wonders and cast out demons.

And then there is John. John is the most theologically “advanced” of the four. And yet, at the same time, John’s gospel has the greatest density of eyewitness detail. As the liberal Bishop Robinson once observed, “In fact John is at his most theological when he is most historical, and most historical when he is most theological,” Can we trust the New Testament? (Eerdmans 1977), 91.

For example, Kasper mentions the miracle of loaves and fishes, which he disbelieves. Yet this incident is reported in all four Gospels. John’s account is the most theological. At the same time, his account has the most historical background material.

Kasper doesn’t really listen to the text of Scripture. He comes to the Gospels with this form-critical predefinition of what they will say.

3.Then you have the extracanonical parallels.

i) Either miracles happen or they don’t. If they do, then you will naturally have similar stories of similar miracles. How many different ways are there to report a miraculous healing?

And by the same token, nothing more nearly resembles the story of a true miracle than the story of a false one.

See the eminently sensible comments by his fellow Roman Catholic, P. Benoit, Jesus & the Gospel (Herder & Herder 1973), 1:33-34.

ii) There is nothing in the Biblical worldview to preclude Jews and pagans from exhibiting or exercising paranormal powers. Miracles are attributed to such OT Jews as Moses, Elijah, and Elisha—as well as the Apostles.

And there is, indeed, a confrontation between miracle and magic in both the OT (Exod 7-8) and the NT (Acts 13:11).

iii) Conversely, it is striking that Kasper thinks we should sift the canonical sources, but does nothing at all to sift the extracanonical sources. What are our sources for Apollonius and Asclepius? What is their genre? When were they written? Before or after the NT? What is the interval of time between Asclepius or Apollonius and the earliest record of their life and deeds?

These are all essential and elementary questions. Yet Kasper doesn’t answer a one.

A reported miracle is no more or less credible than the report of the miracle, which is--in turn--no more or less credible than the reporter of the miracle.

iv) Yes, Apollonius was a 1C figure (d. c.96-98). But his biography dates to the early 3C (c.217). This is hardly a historical source on par with 1C biographies (the four Gospels) of a 1C figure (Jesus Christ) based on eyewitness observation or eyewitness testimony.

The issue is not the contemporeity of Jesus and Apollonius, but the contemporeity of the record in relation to the event. Is Kasper really too dense to appreciate the difference that makes?

If the parallels are more than coincidental, then that’s only because Philostratus is imitating the canonical Gospels. Given that this work was commissioned by the wife of Septimius Severus, there is no reason to assume that it was anything other than a piece of counter-Christian propaganda.

v) As to Asclepius, we don’t even know if he ever existed.

vi) Over and above that preliminary question, in what precise respect are the parallels truly parallel? One is struck by the disanalogies rather than analogies. As one scholar compares the two:

<< The patient purified himself or herself at the sacred fountain and offered a sacrifice…At night that person took bedclothes and after leaving a small gift for the god reposed on a pallet in the abaton (halls built for incubation). The person would dream that the god appeared.

The cures at the healing sanctuaries are in a totally different frame of reference from the healings by the spoken word or touch of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.

E. Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (Eerdmans 2003), 225-26. >>

4.Finally, Kasper assumes that Scripture was not given as a whole, to be believed as a whole. He acts as though we are a liberty to dissemble it and throw away the parts we don’t want to believe in.

Now, this is not a consistent position for either a believer or unbeliever to assume. Each gospel is a narrative package and literary unit. Each Evangelist recorded what he thought was most important, and left out what he thought was less unimportant. (This applies to the OT as well.)

The finished product was never put together to be taken apart. It was never written to be dissected and excised—a verse here, a verse there; a story here, a story there—then stitched back together in a different arrangement with missing parts.

A consistent believer will accept the Bible as the Bible was actually given, while a consistent unbeliever will reject the Bible as given.

Only an utter fool supposes that you can deconstruct a book of the Bible, toss out whatever you’re not prepared to accept, and still imagine that you have a divine revelation in your hands. Kasper is like the idolater who uses half the log for firewood, then bows down to the other half as his god (cf. Isa 44:9-20).

A peace-loving faith


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Muslims around the world on Thursday to resist calls for violence from people outraged by a report that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Koran.

"We have heard from our Muslim friends around the world about their concerns on this matter. We understand and we share their concerns.”

"I want to speak directly to Muslims in America and throughout the world. Disrespect for the Holy Koran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be tolerated by the United States," she said. "Disrespect for the Holy Koran is abhorrent to us all."



"Islam is Peace" Says President
Remarks by the President at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much for your hospitality. We've just had a -- wide-ranging discussions on the matter at hand. Like the good folks standing with me, the American people were appalled and outraged at last Tuesday's attacks. And so were Muslims all across the world. Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens, and Muslims in nations were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens.

These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it's important for my fellow Americans to understand that.

The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Koran, itself: In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.

The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That's not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace. These terrorists don't represent peace. They represent evil and war.

When we think of Islam we think of a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace. And that's made brothers and sisters out of every race -- out of every race.



Fight against such as those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe neither in Allah nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what Allah and His apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the true faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued (Surah 9:29).

The Koran (Penguin Book 1985), 323.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Nazis riot over Mein Kampf abuse

Edward R. Murrow,
War correspondent
August 4, 1944

Berlin (Washington Post) – At least 20 lie dead and hundreds injured as indignant Germans took to the streets today, burning American flags and effigies of FDR, as well as setting fire to fellow rioters, while chanting anti-American slogans to protest media reports of Mein Kampf abuse at OBDC (Omaha Beach Detention Camp).

The Axis powers have loudly condemned the Mein Kampf abuse. Many Nazis are already upset by the US-led war on fascism, which they believe targets their Vaterland.

Here in Berlin, up to 1,000 members of the Hitler Youth held a rally at the Reichstag, chanting Mein Fuhrer ist Akbar! (My Fuhrer is Great).

Protesters see any desecration of Mein Kampf as further evidence that the US seeks to humiliate the Third Reich, after the civilized world was already shocked to see photographs of US personnel feeding German POWs Coca-cola and cheeseburgers at OBDC.

Sore feelings were further inflamed when, in off-the-record remarks, Gen. Patton was rumored to have said that Mein Kampf came in pretty handy when he ran out of toilet paper in North Africa.

The White House Press secretary quickly issued a statement explaining that Gen. Patton’s comments had been taken out of context, while Dean Acheson was dispatched to the German Embassy to offer an official apology and a box of chocolates.

Gen. Marshall said on Thursday that the U.S. military had identified five incidents of "mishandling of Mein Kampf" by camp guards, including the use of one copy as a doorstop.

But Gen. Eisenhower said investigators had found no credible evidence that another copy was flushed down the W.C., as some detainees have alleged.

However, Gen. Eisenhower promised to conduct sensitivity seminars at West Point as soon as he returned from the war front.

Yet official assurances have done little to assuage the S.S., which considers Mein Kampf to be the literal word of the Fuhrer and treats every single copy with religious reverence.

At a hastily convened press conference, Sen. Alai Stevenson said that this was just another example of Pres. Roosevelt’s failed war policy. “How can we expect to defeat the Empire of Japan when we offend a potential ally like the Third Reich?” he said. “No wonder they hate us so!”