Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Unholy See

Pope Lawyer Seek Immunity in Texas Case

By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer Tue Aug 16, 6:46 PM ET

VATICAN CITY - Lawyers for Pope Benedict XVI have asked President Bush to declare the pontiff immune from liability in a lawsuit that accuses him of conspiring to cover up the molestation of three boys by a seminarian in Texas, court records show.

The Vatican's embassy in Washington sent a diplomatic memo to the State Department on May 20 requesting the U.S. government grant the pope immunity because he is a head of state, according to a May 26 motion submitted by the pope's lawyers in U.S. District Court for the Southern Division of Texas in Houston.

Joseph Ratzinger is named as a defendant in the civil lawsuit. Now Benedict XVI, he's accused of conspiring with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to cover up the abuse during the mid-1990s. The suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Gerry Keener, said Tuesday that the pope already is considered a head of state and automatically has diplomatic immunity. Keener said Benedict doesn't have to ask for immunity and Bush doesn't have to grant it.

International legal experts said Tuesday it would be "virtually impossible" for the case to succeed because the pope, as a head of state, had diplomatic immunity. "There's really no question at all, not the vaguest legal doubt, that he's immune from the suit, period," said Paolo Carozza, an international law specialist at the University of Notre Dame Law School.

Nevertheless, lawyers for abuse victims say the case is significant because previous recent attempts to implicate the Vatican, the pope or other high-ranking church officials in U.S. sex abuse proceedings have failed — primarily because of immunity claims and the difficulty serving top Vatican officials with U.S. lawsuits.

"It has gone further than any suit before, and it should be instructive to the church that if evidence of their continued handling of these matters keeps coming to light and is inconsistent with fair play, that lawyers are going to pursue it," said Stephen Rubino, a New Jersey lawyer who is not involved but has handled hundreds of other cases of church sex abuse.

The three boys, identified in court documents as John Does I, II and III, allege that a Colombian-born seminarian on assignment at St. Francis de Sales church in Houston, Juan Carlos Patino-Arango, molested them during counseling sessions in the church in the mid-1990s.

Patino-Arango has been indicted in a criminal case by a Harris County, Texas grand jury and is a fugitive from justice, the lawsuit says.

Attorney Daniel Shea, who is representing one of the three boys in the civil suit, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who headed the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before becoming pope, was involved in a conspiracy to hide Patino-Arango's crimes and to help him escape prosecution.

In the lawsuit, Shea cited a May 18, 2001 letter from Ratzinger, written in Latin to bishops around the world, explaining that "grave" crimes such as the sexual abuse of minors would be handled by his congregation. The proceedings of special church tribunals handling the cases were subject to "pontifical secret," Ratzinger's letter says.

"Ratzinger's involvement arises out of this letter, which demonstrates the clear intent to conceal the crimes involved," Shea said.

The Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have insisted that the secret church procedures in the sex abuse case were not designed to cover up abuse nor to prevent victims from reporting crimes to law enforcement authorities. The document deals with church law — not keeping secrets from secular authorities, they say.

"To insinuate that this letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is part of a Vatican conspiracy is a total and complete misunderstanding of the purpose of the letter," Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza said in a statement. He heads the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese and is also named as a defendant in the suit.

A Vatican spokesman and attorneys for the pope declined to comment.

Shea was in Rome on Tuesday for a demonstration, timed to coincide with the church's World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, to protest what activists said was Vatican protection for "sexual predators" among the clergy. Some 60 people formed a semicircle on the edge of St. Peter's Square and held banners calling for Bush to refuse to grant Ratzinger immunity.

Shea said Ratzinger learned as early as January that he had been named a defendant in the lawsuit. He said Ratzinger had been served thanks to Texas' "long-arm statute," in which Shea served the Texas secretary of state the lawsuit, and the secretary of state then served Ratzinger at the Vatican through certified mail.

On not getting it


You, Steve Hays, and Jason Engwer all responded by reasserting the exact thing to which I objected.

Every one of these statements simply reasserts what people already said: that the GHM is the only reliable method to extract meaning from Scripture, and that it is sufficient for its purpose. Both asserted without philosophical justification, and both fallacious for the reasons I already gave.

This is what I mean, guys. They just don't get it. These are not responsible answers to serious objections. No one is obligated to answer people who aren't willing to do what is necessary to establish their case reasonably, and they haven't.

I'm done. The hand-waving has become all the more vigorous, but it is just hand-waving in the end.

Edited by - crimsoncatholic on 08/20/2005 11:23:51 AM


No, it’s actually Jonathan who just doesn’t’ get it.

To begin with, I, for one, did respond to his philosophical objection. And I did offer a justification for GHM.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on the subject, but that’s because Jonathan didn’t spend a lot of time on it either. His alternative proposals were all so indefinite and under-developed and under-argued that he didn’t give us much to respond to. Like a pointillist painting, the closer you look the less you see.

Second, as I also pointed out, naming names—and I could name a lot more names--GHM is not just an Evangelical thing. It represents mainstream Catholic scholarship as well.

Jonathan seems to be hibernating in some sort of Patristic time-warp—Rip Van Winkle-like. But while he’s snoozing, his own church has long since moved on.

Jonathan isn’t only at war with Evangelical hermeneutics—he is equally at war with contemporary Catholic hermeneutics.

So I agree that it may well be premature of him to engage Evangelicalism before he has learned to come to terms with his own communion.

I’d add that when a man continually declines to make a reasoned case for his own position, the continual air of intellectual superiority rings pretty hollow. There’s nothing to back up the pose. More argument, and less affectation, is sorely in order.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Purple Papist

Jonathan Prejean has now cobbled together his basic objections to the Evangelical faith, in a post entitled “Argument from a hypothetical Evangelical”:

He takes as his immediate point of departure some statements by Jason Engwer and myself. I do not, of course, speak for Jason, and he does not speak for me. So he is not responsible for the particulars of my reply.


This is essentially the commonplace argument that God "accommodated" Himself to human language so that we ought to be able to "know" what He meant with "reasonable certainty" using "ordinary methods for interpreting historical documents."


It is important to be clear on what I mean by divine accommodation. It is not that God has accommodated himself to human language. Human language is, itself, a gift of God. He endowed us with a capacity for speech. God is the author of human language.

So it is not as though he is having to adapt himself to human language. Rather, he is making use of a medium which he himself originated in the first place. Language is adapted to God, not the other way around. Human language is preadapted to speak to God and about God, just as God can speak to us—as he has spoken through the prophets.

And, yes, Scripture was given to be understood. The primary point of divine self-revelation is, after all, to disclose man’s duty to God and to his fellow man.


My objections fall into three basic classes: epistemological, philosophical, and historical.

1. Epistemological

The common feature of every one of the arguments above is that they assert greater knowability associated with the reliability of a particular method as evidence for greater certainty. One big problem: greater reliability is something that is established by empirical practice demonstrating that a method actually works. Another bigger problem: an argument from the need of a method to the existence of the method is fallacious. Essentially, the argument above says that because God gave us a written revelation, we must be able to extract everything that we need to know from that revelation according to a reliable method, which doesn't follow.


Prejean is mashing together a couple of quite distinct issues: in particular, he is confounding a hermeneutical method with an apologetical method.

I can understand the source of the confusion inasmuch as the debate over at Crowhill went back and forth on these two issues as though they were synonymous, but they’re not.

i) The hermeneutical question is the question of how we ascertaining the meaning of a document—especially a document from the past, whether the Bible or the church fathers or a church council or a papal encyclical, &c.

That’s what the grammatico-historical method (GHM) has reference to.

ii) The apologetical question is how we verify or falsify the truth-claims of a document.

Historical evidence (evidentialism) may figure in the answer, especially in the case of historical revelation, but that is not at all the same thing as GHM.

As I understand him, Jason drew a couple of distinctions:

a) He didn’t deny that verification might require more than historical evidence alone; rather, he denied that it might require less than historical evidence.

b) He didn’t deny the value or occasional necessity of metahistorical considerations; rather, he denied the necessity of debating the rules of evidence unless the rules of evidence were wrong, or were challenged.

So he regarded historical verification as a necessary, but insufficient condition, depending on the person-variable nature of the apologetic encounter.

iii) GHM and evidentialism may intersect at various points. This can happen, for instance, when GHM is used to ascertain the meaning of a documentary truth-claim, while evidentialism is then used to verify or falsify that truth-claim.


In particular, the grammatical-historical method (GHM) makes a number of assumptions about texts that are dubious in the case of the Bible, such as the meaning of the text being limited to that which the author was trying to convey and its logical implication, which cast into doubt the applicability of the method to extract the "true meaning" of the text.


Unfortunately, this is an assertion bereft of a supporting argument or concrete illustration, so I don’t know exactly what Prejean has in mind or how he’d defend it.

But I’ll take a stab. The use of Hos 1:11 in Mt 2:15 came up fairly often in the debate, so maybe this is the sort of thing he has in mind. If so, the following remarks are in order:

i) We are not using allegorical exegesis to isolate this example. Rather, we are using the GHM. If we were using allegorical exegesis, then we could take Mt 2:15 to mean anything we please. So the very appeal to a verse like this, far from disproving GHM, assumes it.

ii) Mt 2:15 is an instance of typology, not allegory. Allegory is literary whereas typology is historical. Typology is a relation between events, not a form of exegesis or alternative school of hermeneutics.

iii) And while it is true that Mt 2:15 goes beyond original intent, it does not go beyond the logical ramifications of the passage.

Fulfillment doesn’t add to the meaning of the original. What it adds is the outcome, and the circumstances surrounding the outcome. But that is historical, not semantical.


Conversely, the application of the method to Scripture imports all sorts of factors extraneous to the GHM, such as the supposed "inspiration" of Scripture (not a factor that I've seen discussed in my historical texts about Abraham Lincoln, for example), "authority" of speakers, interpretation of texts in light of the writing of other authors (effectively treating Scripture as a single "book"), Scriptural inerrancy (whether factual, moral, or theological), etc., etc.


Unity, inerrancy, inspiration, and authority are exegetical results of applying GHM to the text of Scripture. They figure in the self-witness of Scripture. When we exegete Scripture, using sensible and responsible methods, we discover what it has to say about itself as well as other things. These are not theological assumptions, but exegetical end-results of the GHM.

The fact that this doesn’t come up in a historical text about Abraham Lincoln is irrelevant to the method. It doesn’t come up, not because the methodology differs, but because no such claim is lodged in the text.

To repeat: there are two distinct issues here:

i) The identification of a truth-claim, and:

ii) The verification of a truth-claim.

(i) is a prerequisite for (ii).

It’s odd that Prejean is so hostile to the GHM. This isn’t just a Protestant thing anymore. It’s pretty mainstream stuff in Catholic scholarship as well, viz., Brown, Fitzmyer, Johnson, Lagrange, McKane, Meier, Murphy, Vawter, &c. Same applies to contemporary Jewish scholarship, viz., Cassuto, Levine, Milgrom, Sarna,

What’s his problem, anyway? Is he just not up on contemporary Bible scholarship? Or does he view it as a threat to Catholic theological method?


2. Philosophical

This could actually go on for days in terms of particulars, but for the moment, I'll stick with the philosophical question of proper theological method. First, I think that the notion of God "accommodating" Himself in Scripture is incoherent in the way that it is asserted. If one accepts any sort of notion of God's transcendence (not even the correct apophatic method, but any method at all), it is de fide that God's infinity cannot be comprehended by finite human reasoning. But in the practice of Evangelical interpretation, terms are interpreted as if they could be applied univocally to God, with any incoherence being chalked up to "tension."


i) Pure apophaticism is incoherent. You can’t know what something is not unless you have a standard of comparison. Knowing what is supplies the frame of reference.

ii) From a Protestant standpoint, “proper theological method” takes its cue from the revelatory event itself. What does God say about himself in Scripture? What can we learn about exegetical theology from the intertextual example of the inspired authors themselves as they comment on one another?

Prejean is plucking out of thin air a wholly ersatz definition of divine transcendence rather than taking his cue from God’s actual self-revelation.

We Evangelicals reapply to God the terms that he has chosen to apply to himself. We have revealed warrant for doing so. By the same token, we have revealed warrant for making every necessary adjustment as we distinguish between divine and human attributes.

No one is supposing that human reason can exhaust the infinitude of God. But there’s a difference between infinite knowledge and knowledge of the infinite.

One could spend a lot more time on this, but because Prejean is so terribly vague, there’s no point marshalling specific answers to nonexistent particulars. One would need a much more precise idea of what he has in mind.

I happen to agree with him that a lot of the talk about points of tension is a cop-out. And he would be hard-pressed to find the same tensions in my own theology.

By contrast, there are plenty of tensions in Catholic theology, beginning with the perennial effort to square the circle of merit and grace.


Second, the philosophical premises used to justify the GHM particularly in the Scriptural context strike me as entirely unbelievable.


I’m happy to agree with his awful examples, but I don’t see that the GHM needs a heavy-duty philosophical justification.

It’s based on the common sense principle that God revealed himself in a different time and place, language and culture than our own.

And we also have Scriptural warrant for GHM. The Bible is quite sensitive to cultural and historical distance. When, for example, Moses is writing about conditions which no longer obtain, he throws in an editorial comment (e.g., Gen 13:10).

Mark explains Aramaic terms. NT writers quote for the LXX for the benefit of Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews. The whole transition from a Hebrew OT to a Greek NT is an exercise in recontextualizing the message. And there are many other examples in the NT of adapting Jewish expectations to a Gentile audience.

When a Bible scholar, using the GHN, tries to bridge the distance between past and present, he is simply emulating the practice of the canonical writers as they endeavor to bring the reader up to speed.


In both cases, one's certainty is rooted in the ontological presence of God in objectively perceptible manifestations, so that you can go where the Sacraments are.


This assumes what it needs to prove regarding the real presence and baptismal regeneration. It also substitutes philosophical verbiage for anything resembling an actual philosophical argument. Rubber checks pay no debts.


Evidently, before conservative Evangelicalism decided to make a comeback into serious scholarship against the tide of nineteenth-century liberal Protestantism (which, BTW, was mere decades ago), this method simply didn't exist. I guess all that bit about God "accommodating" Himself to human limitations meant 20th century human limitations.


Actually, the GHM is a throwback to the Antiochean school of exegesis, which enjoyed a comeback with the Renaissance, and which, in turn, spurred on the Reformation. Calvin, for one, was a practioner of the GHM.

Archeology has done a lot to beef up the method, but the method has been around since day one.


St. Augustine screws up on baptismal regeneration because of the noetic effects of sin, OK. 99% of every Christian of whom we have records?


Whoever said we have to attribute his misinterpretation to the noetic effects of sin? Not me! It’s simply bad exegesis, that’s all. And given the institutional church, errors quickly become institutionalized.

As to the numbers game, we’ve been over this ground before. Only the educated classes could even read. And only the well-to-do had any books to read. There was no Bible for most folks to misinterpret.


Yes, we can quibble here and there, but if I am going to give even my ordinary level of deference to historical scholarship, this is a no-brainer. If there were Christians out there who denied baptismal regeneration, the apostolic succession, and the consecrated bread and wine as the metaphysically real Body and Blood of Christ (entitled to adoration), I don't know where the heck they were; I can't honestly read the historical record and think that they even existed, much less played any substantial or continuous role in Christian history.


Once again, we’ve been there—done that.

You might as well argue that Stalinism was true because the dissidents were few. The Inquisition, imperial pogroms, and the like, served as a fairly effective enforcement mechanism for keeping most folks in lock-step.

In is no accident that the expansion of doctrinal diversity coincides with the contraction of the church’s temporal authority. The potential for widespread dissent was always there just beneath the surface.

This last-ditch appeal to the vox populi merely exposes the fact that Prejean can offer no direct and exegetically sustainable argument from the only source that counts—which is divine revelation. If apostolic succession, baptismal regeneration, and the real presence were clearly revealed, then there’d be no need for this pitifully circular appeal: we should believe it cuz others believe it. Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists would be more than happy to help themselves to Prejean’s faux-populism.

Art Sippo: crypto-Prot

I see that Sippo has weighed in. I seriously doubt that there's any contemporary Catholic NT scholar who affirms the Petrine authorship of 2 Pet. Not Fitzmyer. Not Johnson. Not Brown.

For that, he'll have to go over to the Prots (e.g., Green, Guthrie, Harrison, Kruger, Moo, Schreiner, Warfield).

So poor Mr. Sippo is reduced to Evangelical scholarship for his appeal to “what Pope St. Peter warned us about in his second encyclical.”


Prots are notoroiusly thin-skinned when it comes to criticism but rather eager to tell us Catholics how mean we are for "not taking us seriously." They still think that debating and human scholarship are the way to discovering eternal verities. Their pride is offended when their clever systems are challenged. This is nothing more than a theological form of Pelagianism. They fail to understand that salvation is not the only thing that we receive from God by grace alone. We also receve revelation in the same manner. Prots are so fearful of offending God with "righteousness by works," but they are totally commited to "revelation by works."

That is what Pope St. Peter warned us about in his second encyclical:

2Pe 1:19 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
2Pe 1:20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,
2Pe 1:21 because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.


Omnes semper - ad Jesum, per Mariam, cum Petro! - top

Thursday, August 18, 2005

A peace to die for

Regarding the pullout from Gaza, I’d just say the following:

1.From what I can tell, Israeli society is generally left of center. Many Jewish thinkers are militantly humanistic.

It’s often been observed that Marxism is a secularized Messianism.

This is the only way I can account for the desperate optimism of so many Israeli Jews.

Time and again, Israeli Jews have made risky concessions, only to be rewarded for their good faith overtures by waves of suicide-bombers.

2.To my knowledge, the Israeli gov’t has, in times past, been instrumental in promoting settlements as a way of extending and securing its de facto borders.

The reversal of policy is naturally viewed by not a few as a betrayal of trust.

3.I’ve heard Michael Medved say that some of the settlements are strategically ill-situated, which renders them nearly indefensible. The settlers are surrounded and outnumbered by hostile Arabs 10-1, 100-1, 1000-1.

If the purpose of the pullback is for Israel to draw defensible borders, and to draw them on terms most favorable to her national security needs, then that strikes me as a rational policy.

4.If, on the other hand, this is yet another land-for-peace deal, then it is hopelessly and suicidally naïve.

If the Arabs can’t stand to live side-by-side a tiny Jewish minority in their midst, then they can’t stand to live side-by-side a Jewish state.

But this is really an internal affair. If that’s the will of the majority, so be it.


August 18, 2005 -- John Podhoretz states that Israel was in Gaza only because it was forced to seize the area in the '67 war, but doesn't explain why Israel was forced to do so ("A Grim Necessity," Post Opinion, Aug. 16).

Although Podhoretz argues that the decision to expel the settlers from Gaza was a democratic one, he neglects to mention that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fired all those in his Cabinet who opposed him.

Jewish life has a long history in Gaza — the Jews were there long before Israel was renamed Palestine by the Romans.

They have turned the Gaza desert into farms and villages and have stayed despite ongoing terrorist attacks.

It will be much more difficult to defend Israel when the buffer zone of Gaza becomes a terrorist state.

Emmett Levi


The government of Israel is making a bold concession in which it's not yet receiving anything in return.

It is risking great animosity within the country — all for the hope of peace for future generations.

It's Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' turn to do something brave that will advance the peace process.

Steven Clayton
Ocean, N.J.


If 1 million Arabs are citizens of Israel, why weren't the 8,500 Jews in Gaza invited by the Palestinian leadership to remain as a minority and eventually be given citizenship rights?

The world has moved on from the days of "no Irish need apply," but now liberal social activists are not fighting on behalf of the Jews being evicted.

Robert Semel


Podhoretz talks about the Israeli retreat from Gaza as "a grim necessity," but the only grim necessity that Israel and the United States face is to defeat Islamic terror at all costs — not reward it with appeasement.

The only pseudo-Messianic phase that Podhoretz should note is that the Palestinians want to accept the state of Israel. They want to dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad and end hate incitement in their media and schools and Gaza will be a partner for peace.

I'll sell him the Brooklyn Bridge instead.

The pullout from Gaza does not serve Israel's needs for survival.

Marvin Belsky


Whatever the future of Gaza may be, there is one inevitability.

The commentators, officials and experts who demand that Iraq become a Jeffersonian democracy overnight will, with equal eloquence and force, demand that the Arabs of Gaza be given all the time in the world to take even one step toward civilization.

Criticism for delays in development will not be leveled at the bomb-throwers and terrorist-sympathizers, but at the courageous and sacrificing Israelis and Americans.

Aaron Shafer


Cindy sealed the deal


August 17, 2005
Cindy sealed the deal.

I actually felt myself become a republican today. It was around 10am, when I read the latest update of the Cindy Sheehan saga in I then shot over to read some blogs about it, and perused the comments in some of them, which was nothing but a long series of petty (albeit entertaining) partisan bickering.

Then it happend. The good little democrat in me tied the little noose around his neck and jumped off the stool. He just couldn’t take it anymore.

Take what? The whining. The constant whining by the extreme left about the reasons for war, the incompetence of this administration, and how we’ve all been lied to, and how we should pull out of Iraq immediately, because, *gulp* our soldiers were in danger.

Guess what folks….they signed up to join the Army, not the boy scouts. Anytime your orientation to a new job involves an automatic weapon, you should be smart enough to figure out there’s danger involved. I actually read some people’s comments about many of the soldiers over there being naive….they weren’t expecting to go to war, so, they should be allowed to go home. Wow.

Soldiers know, when they enlist, that it is entirely possible they will be shipped out and never come home. It’s part of the job. The fact that people still walk in to recruiters’ offices and sign that piece of paper make them heroes. To imply that they are simple kids who didn’t know what they were getting into, or even worse, that they died for no reason, or an immoral reason, does a horrible thing. It strips their sacrifice of the honor that it deserves. Even though those folks sitting out there in the Texas fields claim to honor and support the soldiers, they obviously have been blinded by their own selfishness as to the real way to support them.

Because, long story short, we can’t end this war now. That would send the message that those bastardly little terrorists have won. It doesn’t matter if the administration told us the desert sand was made of gold, and we are going over there to collect it in little buckets to bring home, the concrete fact that we are at war doesn’t change. We are there, and we have a job to finish. We’ve toppled a regime that was dangerous not only to its own people, but also to the rest of the world. Now, we are there fighting the same terrorists we are fighting in Afghanistan. We’ve given liberty to millions of people, and we’re trying to help create a government, in an area that is very volatile, that will be a bastion of freedom and hope for an entire race of people. I hate the fact that our boys are getting killed over there, and I wish it didn’t have to happen.

But, it is, there’s nothing we can do about it, except for doing everything we can to offer support and hope to the folks fighting over there. Arguing and whining about the reasons we’re there, and the need to come home not only kills morale, but it is a complete waste of time.

I just re-read the above post, and I apologize for the rambling….just needed to vent a little. Here’s a breakdown of the way I see things:

-right or wrong, we’re at war. no amount of yelling will fix that now.
-we have to finish the job. HAVE TO. it may take another 1800 soldiers, but it has to be done
-whether or not we’re there for the right reason, we’ve done something great for that country

I never was a big fan of Bush. But, one thing I do believe….he honestly wants to make this country, and this world a better place. Think about it…the war almost cost him the election. If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, he’d have won in a landslide.

I think it’s just my personality that lead me to this decision. I think the left is too concerned with everyone’s immediate rights and needs, and refuses to sacrifice a bit of comfort and happiness in the present, for something that will make life better for everyone in the future. You can take the environmental stance on that, and I’d have no argument…but I think there enough conservatives concerned with that to make it a moot point.

…it’s time for all of America to stand together, put on the big boy pants, and get through the next few years.


John the Revelator

Here are a couple of interesting articles on the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse.

There's a danger here of succumbing to chiasmania. But even if the treatment may be overly schematic, the parallels are still pervasive.

And this amounts to a quite formidable argument for common authorship.

Occam's razor

Patrick said:


It's cruel of you to dig up some of those links, PP. Posting Link 2 was especially heartless. Steve Hays must find it pretty humiliating to see you link to the discussion with me where he made believe that a certain claim made by Archbishop Chaput committed him to open theism. That was a real trainwreck.


I said:


Well, now, let’s see. If I was so disappointed with my performance in that exchange I could either delete it altogether or at least delete Patrick’s side of the exchange. But it’s all there for all to see.

And what they will see is that Patrick tried to save the good Archbishop from heresy by imputing to him one or another—or was it both at the same time?—position to him, viz. Thomism or Molinism. As a matter of fact, Occamism is a third alternative, but Patrick is apparently unacquainted with that. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, there’s more than one version of Molinism as well.


Patrick said:



Actually, Occamism isn't a third option with respect to the issue of Predestination. It's really just a position on reconciling foreknowledge and freedom, but I guess you don't realize that foreknowledge and Predestination are distinct, though obviously related, issues. Kind of makes your snide superiority seem pretty silly, doesn't it?


I said:


Wherever did I get the silly idea that the Occamist option might have anything to do with predestination? Hmm. Well, just for starters, the title of his treatise might contain a wee bit of a clue:

Tractatus de praedestinatione et de praescientia Dei et de futuris contingentibus (Franciscan institute publications [Philosophy series], 1945).

Hint? Hint?

You really wonder why Patrick keeps coming back to get slapped down again. Is he doing penance for venial sin or something?


Patrick said:


But let me ask you--did you ever _open_ the book by Occam? No, I didn't think so.


Some guys just don’t know how to quit when they’re behind. Here’s the table of contents:


Question I: Are passive predestination and passive foreknowledge real relations in the person who is predestinate and foreknown?

Question II: In respect of all future contingents does God have determinate, certain, infallible, immutable, necessary cognition of one part of a contradiction?

Question III: How can the contingency of the will, both created and uncreated, be preserved in the case of its causing something external? That is, can the will, as naturally prior to the caused act, cause the opposite act at the same instant at which it causes that ct, or can it at another subsequent instant cause the opposite act or cease from the caused act?

Question IV: Is there a cause of predestination in the predestinate and a cause of reprobation in the reprobate?

Question V: In view of the fact that the propositions “Peter is predestinate” and “peter is reprobate” are opposites, why cannot the one succeed the other in truth?

William Ockham. Predestination, God’s Foreknowledge, & Future Contingents, M. Adams & N. Kretzmann, eds. (Hackett 1983).


As we can see, from the table of contents alone, predestination is an integral element of Occam’s analysis.

And I’m quoting from the table of contents because I also have the full text before my very eyes--since I own the book in question. I can just as easily lift direct quotes from the body of the text, if need be.

I realize that Patrick is a glutton for punishment, but now might be an opportune time to throw in the towel before he does himself, his cause and his side even further damage. Just an idea.

Has Camp gone soft?

Why does Camp have links to Sean Hannity and the National Review on his blog? Why is he steering free business to these hotbeds of Catholic political activism? It's okay for Camp to retail his own brand of ECB--just not anyone else.



At the outset, we should keep in mind that we are talking about a historical phenomenon. Catholics and Protestants agree that certain historical events have occurred, and we agree that these events no longer occur. If you don't discern a historical event by historical means, then how do you discern it? I don't deny that God can communicate with people by other means. He can appear to people in visions, impress truths upon their heart without any historical examination of evidence, etc. But what's being addressed here is apologetics, how we defend a system in public. In other words, we're addressing how we show the truth, not how we know it.


At what point did people lose that little chip in their heads that prevents them from piping up out of sheer ignorance? If you are willing to stop being a complete nimrod for five seconds, the point isn't that they are believed in spite of history, but that they do not need to pass your artificial test of verifiability. I don't care whether Jason thinks that they are unverifiable; he has to prove that anyone should care about his (or your) criteria of verifiability.

You can’t sit down and eat before you set the table.


There's nothing wrong with discussing philosophical matters, but the idea that every discussion must begin with dotting every philosophical "i" and crossing every methodological "t" (or if not every one of them, then some inordinately large number of them) is absurd.

We can discuss the disagreements when they arise. If two groups have some common ground, they can begin with that common ground without having to first discuss every conceivable disagreement they might have on every conceivable methodological issue.

Since this is a discussion board between Catholics and Evangelicals, there is already a fair amount of common ground on where to put the knives and forks, is there not?


Don't be stupid! You present forkological evidence without justifying your criteria for evidence, which might as well be not presenting evidence

And my point is that you haven't even covered what would be necessary for the "initial stages" of table setting. It's not that you haven't gone far enough; it's that you haven't even started down the path.

We don't have agreement on the evidence, because we don't have agreement on how one identifies forkological truth in historical information. The question is, and always has been, how do we extract forkology from historical texts.


That’s way too vague. You need to be more specific. I would point out that I can't defend my method against criticisms unless those criticisms are stated.


Rather obviously, that would depend on my theory of forkology, which would depend on me making an argument for my theory of forkology. I haven't done that, and I don't plan on doing that. I don’t have the time to recap a hundred years of ressourcement.


What’s ressourcement?


It’s French for ad fontes.


What’s ad fontes?


It’s Latin for ressourcement.


The fact is, you're just using your complaints about methodology, not understanding my views, etc. as an excuse for not making a case for Catholicism and not acknowledging that Evangelicalism is publicly verifiable in a way in which Catholicism isn't.


And that’s exactly the point at which you cross from being an ordinary, reasonable human being to acting like a complete idiot!


We’ve had this discussion before. I've already told you what sort of assumptions I have. We've agreed on the objective existence of knives and forks, on the reliability of the senses in acquiring probable knowledge about knives and forks, &c.


There you have it! That’s a classic example of low-Church, anti-instrumentalist, historically-discontinuous, Cartetian [sic]-Lockean-Baconian democratized American Evangelicalism’s reduction of truth and meaning to black squiggles on pieces of paper and the intellection which takes place on their basis.

I certainly agree with the Purple Papist that forkology is more than a purely immanent manner, that truth is not confined to “timeless” truths about “objective” knives and forks, and that genuine exegesis does not properly proceed if exegetes pretend that only the technology of grammar and syntax matters to finding and defending truth.

Jason and his cohorts just aren't working with a full deck of cards. I mean that not in the sense of their basic intelligence, but in the sense that they've artificially lopped off whole areas of inquiry and thus lost the ability to articulate their claims in ways that don't come off looking like little more than backwoods Bible-thumping and preaching to the choir.

Oh, I stipulate that they're very good technicians. Unfortunately for them and their Pharisaical pretensions about everyone outside their little forkological clique, technology isn't neutral, nor does it fully describe the reality we inhabit under the sun.

That’s the major point that I fear you are missing in your discussions with Purple Papist--and me. This point about a distinction between the original and existential meaning of forkological propositions, btw, makes a lot of sense to me in light of what I've seen concerning how Pope Gregory VII treated patristic sources. "Literally-speaking", if you compare how Gregory VII cited his predecessor Gregory I, you can only come to the conclusion that Gregory VII was some kind of weirdo who had trouble reading "plain" texts--or else, more ominously, maybe he was deliberately deceptive because he disliked the "clear" truth of the texts he was citing.

But trying hard to understand a nearly totally different conceptual universe of knives and forks opens up different, and more charitable, ways to deal with other Christians on matters of sharp dispute. It's hard, but I think we have to try.


Precisely! We assume that the universal consensus of our Church is correct. St. Athanasius and St. Cyril used allegorical exegesis to establish the basis for Nicene forkology, and that's a good enough pedigree for me.

If you're trying to get forkology out of them, this is a non sequitur. You would only approach them as historical documents if you wanted to get historical information out of them. Whether that would bear any resemblance to the forkological meaning is entirely inscrutable by historical methods.


I think St. Cyril was saying that his favorite flavor of ice cream is strawberry. I don't have to limit myself to the historical-grammatical approach, so I can interpret Cyril or Athanasius in other ways.


You’re still majoring in the minors, Jason. How can you even set the table until you present a fundamental ontology for the hyperousios of soupspoons?


Perry Robinson has written a couple of ground-breaking articles on that very question:

“A comparative methodological study on the dialectic of table setting in St. Maximus the Forkologist and Pseudo-Dionysius the Spoonerist.”

“The Forkioque of the dinner fork from a teaspoon: a church historical study in the evolution of cutlery.”


You still haven’t told us how you would set the table.


As I’ve said before, I don’t have time to give you a crash course in table manners. But just for starters, there are two ways to use a knife and fork to cut and eat your food: in the Evangelical style, one cuts the food by holding the knife in the right hand and the fork in the left hand with the fork tines piercing the food to secure it on the plate. Cut a few bite-size pieces of food, then lay your knife across the top edge of your plate with the sharp edge of the blade facing in. Change your fork from your left to your right hand to eat, fork tines facing up. (If you are left-handed, keep your fork in your left hand, tines facing up.) The Catholic style is the same as the Evangelical style in that you cut your meat by holding your knife in your right hand while securing your food with your fork in your left hand. The difference is your fork remains in your left hand, tines facing down, and the knife in your right hand. Simply eat the cut pieces of food by picking them up with your fork still in your left hand.

And under no circumstances may the butter-knife be allowed to fraternize with the teaspoon unless an escort is present.

You can’t just brush aside these deep methodological differences. And that’s before we ever get to the bigger issues over napkin folding and where to place your napkin if you need to pay a little visit to the powder room on the middle of the meal. This is the stuff of schism.


Hypocrites! That’s what they are! A bunch of lousy, no-good hypocrites! Where in heck is Bloody Mary when you need her?




The Prots, of course! Why, I have it on good authority that the second cousin of James White’s Great Aunt Ella was once seen in polite company using her dessert fork as a cocktail fork!

Hypocrites, I say. Every last one of ‘em! Where in heck is Torquemada when you need him?


I still haven’t heard any of you make a case for Catholic forkology.


I’ve written tons of stuff defending Catholic forkology.


Such as?


The Book About Me
All About Me
More About Me
Even More About Me
The Wit & Wisdom of Dave (holy hanky included!)
The Wonderful World of Dave
Friends & Enemies of Holy Mother Dave
The Martyrdom of Dave (a passion play in twenty-seven acts, part I)
The Importance of Being Dave
The Great “I AM”
All You Ever Wanted to Know About Me, but were Afraid to Pay.
First-Person Singular
Mirror Mirror on the Wall
Your Davely Devotional
The Autobiography of Dave, vol. 53-
The One-Minute Dave
Dave for the Ages
The Ever-Luvin’ Dave
Davidus et Narcissus
The Church of the Holy Dave
Dave’s Baby Pictures (autographed glossy included!)
The Dave Diary
The Chronicles of Dave, vol. 79-
Exercises In Holy Humility, by Dave Armstrong. Foreword by Dave Armstrong.

But don’t take my word for it. You can see all my book reviews at Every one got five stars!


I'm not sure that it's the sort of thing that really needs a basis; it's axiomatic to my ecclesiology of forkology of that forkology is received. It seems to me that it's a good deal easier to look for recipients of forkology than to try to construct what is required for forkology and to determine what is revealed on that basis, so I proceed on that premise without explicit confirmation.


You can't define who is and isn't a recipient in the first place without forkology. So, how can you claim that "the historical practice of Catholics" tells you how to derive theology?

Do you appeal to the authority of the church? Then how do you know that there is a church, what authority it has, and what the church has said if you don't limit yourself to the grammatico-historical approach? An appeal to the church must be accompanied by a case for the church having the authority it allegedly has.

And you're not being consistent with your own professed standards. You've told me that you don't think that forkology can be derived from the grammatico-historical method, yet you're using the grammatico-historical method to identify who is and who isn't a Catholic, which is an issue of forkology. And you're using the grammatico-historical method to identify how Catholics of the past interpreted scripture. You can't use the grammatico-historical method to identify Catholics and identify how they interpreted scripture and thereby arrive at forkological conclusions about who Christians are and how we should interpret scripture, then turn around and tell us that forkology can't be derived from the grammatico-historical method.

Probabilities aren't certainties, but they're better than the nothing you're offering as an alternative.


Because it's the only other option consistent with the theory that I was describing. It's Cathoforkology, Orthoforkology, or bust.

Bottom line: I don't care about the substance of your arguments at all!


And I’d say that this just about sums up our whole conversation.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Date: Tue, 16 Aug 2005 21:02:31 -0400
From: David Virtue
Subject: As Eye See It : THE ISLAMIZATION OF EUROPE - by Patrick Sookhdeo


by Patrick Sookhdeo

11 August 2005

On Friday 20th May 2005 a crowd of some 300 Muslims burned a wooden
cross outside the American embassy in London. This was part of a protest
against the rumoured desecration of a Qur'an by American soldiers in
Guantanamo Bay, during which British and American flags were also
burned. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this event was that it was
not deemed to be newsworthy, receiving little attention in the national

The whole scenario is reminiscent of what happens in so many
Muslim-majority countries: a rumour of an insult to Islam, a violent and
blasphemous anti-Christian reaction, police watching idly, and a
complete lack of public interest let alone outrage. It could have been
Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia or Northern Nigeria. But it was the UK.

Europe is undergoing a rapid process of change as Muslims make their
presence felt in politics, economics, law, education and the media.
While there is a wide range of attitudes amongst Muslims in Europe, with
many who are broadly content with the status quo and just want to live
their lives peacefully, others are striving deliberately to drive
forward the changes.

As a result of the efforts of the latter, Europe is gradually being
transformed into a society in which Islam takes its place, not just as
an equal alongside the many other faith communities, but often as the
dominant player. This is not purely, or even primarily, a matter of
numbers, but is more a matter of control of the structures of society.
It is not happening by chance but is the result of a careful and
deliberate strategy by certain Muslim leaders.

Though the effects are only now becoming noticeable, the planning was
done decades ago. In 1980 the Islamic Council of Europe published a book
called Muslim Communities in Non-Muslim States which clearly explained
the Islamic agenda in Europe. When Muslims live as a minority they face
theological problems, because classical Islamic teaching always
presupposed a context of Islamic dominance; hence the need for guidance
on how to live in non-Muslim states. The instructions given in the book
told Muslims to get together and organise themselves with the aim of
establishing a viable Muslim community based on Islamic principles. This
is the duty of every individual Muslim living within a non-Muslim
political entity. They should set up mosques, community centres and
Islamic schools. At all costs they must avoid being assimilated by the
majority. In order to resist assimilation, they must group themselves
geographically, forming areas of high Muslim concentration within the
population as a whole. Yet they must also interact with non-Muslims so
as to share the message of Islam with them. Every Muslim individual is
required to participate in the plan; it is not allowed for anyone simply
to live as a "good Muslim" without assisting the overall strategy. The
ultimate goal of this strategy is that the Muslims should become a
majority and the entire nation be governed according to Islam. (M. Ali
Kettani "The Problems of Muslim Minorities and their Solutions" in
Muslim Communities in Non-Muslim States (London: Islamic Council of
Europe, 1980) pp.96-105) Not all Muslims would support this action plan.
The more secularized are happy to become integrated within the majority
society. Even amongst those who agree on the ultimate goal of creating
an Islamic state, there are differences about methodology i.e. whether
this should be a slow and peaceful transition, or whether it should be
hastened by means of political dominance or even - say some - by

Despite the variety of opinion amongst Muslims, it is not hard to
recognize the different stages of the Islamic Council of Europe's
strategy being put into practice within today's Europe. Muslims do tend
to live in tightly concentrated areas, and show little sign of
integrating into wider society. Saudi funding is paying for the erection
of large and beautiful mosques, staffed by imams brought over to Europe
from the "home countries". Sweden's third largest city, Malm=F8, is
effectively ruled by violent gangs of Muslims, and some of the Muslim
residents of the city still cannot read or write Swedish though they
have lived there for 20 years. Denmark has recently seen the
Nordg=E5rdsskolen in Aarhus become the first school in the country to have
100% Muslim pupils. Britain's Muslim population (variously estimated at
between 1.6 and 3 million) is concentrated in three areas: north-west
England, the midlands and London. In some of these areas Muslims are now
targeting the remaining Christian presence, arsoning churches,
physically attacking church leaders and their property; the aim seems to
be to "cleanse" these areas of non-Muslims.

European Muslims are Islamizing many aspects of life that also affect
non-Muslims. Spanish Muslims have expressed their desire to "regain" the
mosque of Cordoba. This building was originally a church, then turned
into a mosque, and then turned back into a place of Christian worship.
Halal meat is now routinely served in many British prisons, schools and
hospitals, sometimes to Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and the hijab
[Islamic headscarf] is worn in British schools. Muslims in the London
borough of Tower Hamlets have forced name-changes for districts and
local amenities if the existing name sounds too Christian for their

In the UK, where Islam is making its most rapid advance, Islamic law
(shari'a) is already practised unofficially, with shari'a councils and
shari'a courts giving judgments on Muslim family matters. In education
numerous concessions are being made to British Muslims, Islam often
being given more prominence and respect than other faiths at state
schools. An increasing number of university posts are being funded from
Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries on condition that a certain line
of thinking is promoted.

The ultimate goal of taking control of society, as depicted by the
Islamic Council of Europe in 1980, is clearly in the minds of at least
some Muslim leaders. A Dutch Imam has stated that Islamic law is
superior to other forms of legislation so there is no need to obey other
laws. Some Finnish imams preach on the Islamic duty to kill a Muslim who
converts to another faith, adding that it is difficult to carry this out
in Finland at present because Muslims do not yet "own the state".
Furthermore, the freedoms of European society are being exploited by
Islamic militants and their supporters to plan terrorist activities
around the world. London - or "Londonistan" as it is becoming known - is
one of the most important bases for Islamic terrorism worldwide. This
has been illustrated by the July bombings in London itself.

Despite all these advances, Muslims still tend to portray themselves as
victims in European society, while the majority society in turn
struggles to affirm them and to avoid giving any accidental offence.

But this kind of reaction by non-Muslims can be seen as the typical
behaviour of dhimmi. In classical Islam, Christian and Jewish minorities
within an Islamic state were called dhimmi. They were free to worship
and live out their faith, but had to submit to a raft of discriminatory
and humiliating laws. They learned to be subservient, and to consider
the dominance of Muslims as normal as the Muslims themselves did.

It is typical of dhimmi not to protest if a Christian cross is burned by
an angry crowd, nor even to feel that anything outrageous has occurred.
Likewise the Muslim scheme to turn the cathedral of Cordoba back into a
mosque has the backing of some Spanish government leaders in the city.

At a political level, European countries are responding in different
ways to the challenge of Islam. France is determinedly protecting its
secularism, and has banned the hijab in school. The Netherlands have
recently swung from one extreme to the other, following the ritualized
killing of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh by a young Muslim in
November 2004; they are turning against multiculturalism and becoming
concerned to control immigration. The UK seems to be seeking to
replicate the segregation and communalism of the British Raj in India,
whereby the various religious communities were each given their own
laws. This policy would certainly mesh well with some Muslim leaders'
own plans for Britain. If Britain is to be sub-divided in this way,
perhaps geographically as well as legally, it raises the question of how
the Church would survive in areas of Islamic rule. What form would
Christian ministry be able to take in these areas?

Muslims are still a minority in numerical terms in Europe, with an
estimated 20 million living in the European Union. No country apart from
Albania has a Muslim community amounting to more than about 10% of the
population. However, demographic studies indicate that Muslim
populations are growing far faster than the non-Muslim populations. This
is due partly to continued immigration, partly to conversion, but mainly
to the larger number of children which Muslim families typically have.
The growing Muslim community is a mosaic of different ethnic,
linguistic, cultural, sectarian and geographical backgrounds, and
characterized by increasing internal tensions particularly over how to
relate to the host society.

Some Christians have decried as faithless pessimism those who predict
the Islamization of Europe before the end of the century. But it must be
remembered that the region which is now Pakistan and Afghanistan was
once Christian, as was North Africa. The Church was completely
eradicated from these areas by the advance of Islam. It would surely be
arrogant to think that this could never happen to the Church in Europe.

As individual Christians we must love our Muslim neighbours and forgive
any wrongs done to us. But as a community the Church must defend
herself, as well as the Judaeo-Christian heritage with which Europe is
blessed. For this her leaders need great wisdom and courage.

--Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of the Barnabas Fund
and the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity. He holds a
PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University
and was awarded a Doctor of Divinity by Western Seminary, Portland,
Oregon for his work in the field of pluralism. He has written and
lectures widely in the field of other faiths. Both Patrick and his wife
Rosemary hold dual New Zealand and British citizenship.

The Barnabas Fund seeks to support suffering Christian minorities by
making known their need to other Christians, facilitating prayer on
their behalf, and channelling funds to small-scale projects run by
national Christians in the countries concerned. It has supported
projects in 39 different countries. The Institute for the Study of Islam
and Christianity does research on the status of the church in the Muslim

Tom Ascol Nails It

[The following blog post is by Jus Divinum]


I have previously been a bit critical of some earlier blog entries by Tom Ascol. But today he nails a crucial point. Here's the money quote:

Beyond this, I believe that American Christians actually have a responsibility to be involved in the political process to promote justice and goodness. Let me try to explain the direction of my thinking about this.

Does the Bible give directives to civil rulers and monarchs? Even the most convinced pietist would, I think, agree. Romans 13:1-7 not only calls for Christians to submit to civil authorities but it also states that civil authorities are under God's authority and are therefore accountable to Him to reward good and punish evil. The Old Testament abounds with examples of God holding rulers accountable for the way they rule. This is true not only of the kings of Judah and Israel but also the kings of pagan nations.

If we lived under a monarchy we would have not only the right but the duty to call on the monarch to govern justly, knowing (whether he acknowledged it or not) that he is God's servant and obligated to reward good and punish evil.

But we do not live in a monarchy. We live in a democratic republic. Who is our civil king? We are. The citizens. We are citizen-kings. Thus we have not only the right but the responsibility to use the political process established by the republic to promote that which is good and restrict that which is evil. Citizen-kings should advocate good laws and decry bad ones. We should hold elected officials responsible for the trust we vest in them. Citizen-kings are responsible to work for justice and goodness in society.

Exactly! We are citizen-kings who "have not only the right but the responsibility to use the political process established by the republic to promote that which is good and restrict that which is evil." We should "advocate good laws and decry bad ones". We are "responsible to work for justice and goodness in society," by political means as well as by every other lawful means, primarily by the preaching of the gospel but not restricted to this.

So far I've largely (though not exclusively) staked the case for Christian political activism in terms of Christian liberty. (Steve Camp clearly denies us this liberty as citizens in a free society.) The above is just one of many ways you can make a positive case: it is precisely our form of governement which ensures our responsibility here, one which we would not have under a monarchy or imperial Rome.

It is also in the spirit of the comments about Calvin received and posted by Scott Klusendorf:

"As Calvin recognized, once Christians actually had the power to be kings, even in some little way, they took on the responsibility that goes with kingship. Christian responsibility towards government is discussed in but a few places in the New Testament. The most notable example is in Romans 13. Romans 13 begins with the instruction to submit to governing authorities (13:1). The purpose of such authorities is to punish evil from verse 4 and to promote social order and good. (verse 3.) It follows, then, that if Christians are part of the governing authorities—as indeed every Christian in the United States is—they must fulfill God’s will for government by punishing evil and promoting good. Calvin saw no basis for the view that the Christian who is in a position to change society and laws can shirk that responsibility."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

More Hyperventilations From Steve Camp

Steve Camp has posted the "12 dangers of ECB". Unfortunately, Camp needs a 12-step program of his own, to wean him from his dangerous addiction to posting outrageously inaccurate and slanderous pieces about his brethren.

Let's see:

On Camp's view, you can be 'salt and light' if you live out your faith, but by definition participating in the political process of the country in which you live cannot be a living out of your faith! No, that would be 'secular'. I see ;-)

"There is no such thing in Scripture as a 'moral human imperative' that applies to all peoples absent of the gospel."

Here Camp just announces to the world that he is an antinomian, and doesn't believe the law of God applies to all men whatsoever. That is, he undermines what should be the very presupposition of the gospel.

"There can be no meaningful social change or impact apart from the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

That's right! Civil rights came about in this country because all the judges and congressmen believed the gospel! Or, maybe, Camp just thinks that civil rights wasn't a "meaningful social change". I can't tell which proposition is worse.

"Resumes, press releases, and well-nurtured political alliances do not change the world"

Sorry to disappoint, but "well-nurtured political alliances" got us Bush II, and I daresay he's changed the world. Nay, "well-nurtured political alliances" got us victory in WWII, and I think that changed the world. Now, ECB is not identical to the Churchill/Roosevelt relationship in a time of crisis, but surely Camp needs to scale back the nonsensical rhetoric a bit. His generalizations are showing.

"It is against the command of Scripture to partner with an unbelieving world in any kind of spiritual ministry or enterprise. This is what the apostle Paul called “being unequally yoked” (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1)."

And Camp's argument that ECB is a "spiritual ministry" is... what?

It's as if Camp hasn't bothered to think through the consistency of his position. He keeps pounding away at how utterly secular and earthly is the whole enterprise of ECB, but then he turns around and tells us it is a form of "spiritual ministry"! If Camp wishes to hold on to logic, at least one of these fundamental criticisms has got to go.

BTW, Camp still hasn't bothered to define what constitutes "yoking". Perhaps he should watch some oxen in the fields some day :-) Last I checked, Bill Donohue wasn't constraining or coercing Al Mohler from walking away any time he likes.

"Evangelical Cobelligerents fault and accuse nonbelievers in society for living like nonbelievers."

I'm aghast to discover that some gospel preachers do this too, as does God in his Word ;-)

"Let me ask the ECBs a question: if you didn't know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, what would you be living like? And then, would you want someone to picket you, boycott you, petition against you, vilify you, strong arm you, coerce you, legislate against you – or would you rather someone had come to you with the gospel of grace and walked with you as your neighbor and explained how to have eternal life by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone?"

But why would I want eternal life if I'm happy in my sins? Maybe Camp thinks you can preach the gospel without informing people of their sins, or offending them in any way. That would fit with his antinomianism quite well :-)

"Co-belligerents really distrust the Sovereignty of God in His working through the governments and the leadership of those governments that He by His own choosing, purposes and will has raised up in power to accomplish whatever He has predetermined them to accomplish."

More slander from Camp against his fellow Christians. Apparently, if you 'trust' God, you must believe that he works quite apart from any means whatsoever, and therefore you must never expend any effort in means that God could use. I guess when Camp fixes his food each day, he 'distrusts' God ;-)

Hey, let's take the "Sovereignty of God" a bit further: we distrust God when we preach the gospel, because God can predestine people to heaven quite apart from our help, thank you very much ;-)

"There is an amazing verse of Scripture on this theme found in 1 Peter 4:15. He says, "Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler." That phrase troublesome meddler literally means a "political agitator.""

Unfortunately, Camp can't manage to find a single reputable commentator who gives any scholarly support for why that hapax legomenon must be translated as "political agitator". No English translation of 1Pe 4:15 translates the word as "political agitator". Is this a marvelous coincidence, or, perhaps, a conspiracy to deny what is obvious to Camp? :-)

Here's what Thomas Schreiner says in his recent (2003) commentary on this verse: "The fourth word represents one of the most difficult interpretative problems in the New Testament. This word, translated 'meddler' by the NIV, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, nowhere in the Septuagint, and nowhere in other Greek literature before 1 Peter... though certainty is impossible, a reference to being a busybody seems most probable. Peter wanted believers to refrain from acting tactlessly and without social graces" (The New American Commentary, vol. 37, pp. 224-225).

Somehow, I think Camp wants his criticism of ECBers from 1Pe 4:15 to run a bit deeper than this ;-)

It would be interesting to see how ECBers are 'busybodies' but Camp's blog is not, seeing as they both seek to hold public figures to the standards of Scripture (whether doctrinally [in the case of Camp's blog] or morally [in the case of ECBers]). Notice in particular that whatever Camp wants to make of 1Pe 4:15, Peter does not make a distinction between expressing political concerns and expressing theological concerns. All activities are to be done without being "troublesome meddlers" (NASB). I submit to Camp that whatever standard he uses here to make 1Pe 4:15 rule out the ECBers, it would also rule out most of the theological contention that Camp promotes on his blog against other Christians. Is it consistent for Camp to promote theological agitation again and again, and then turn around and use 1Pe 4:15 against ECBers?

Perhaps Camp is really saying that the Peter teaches we can't hold elected public officials accountable through lawful means ;-)

"We are not to be seen in the culture as ones who would disrupt the political process and its leadership to forward our own moral or spiritual agenda."

That's right! Christians lawfully participating in the political process would be to "disrupt the political process". Yeah, that makes sense ;-)

"Even in exile under Babylonian captivity the Lord instructs His people how to live. Notice, He doesn’t call them to organize and overthrow their captors."

That's right! ECBers are calling Christians to "overthrow their captors"! What an accurate assessment of their message! No, no, not slanderous at all! ;-)

"Evangelical Cobelligerents say they exist to protect our religious rights. This is spiritual smoke and mirrors. First, we don’t have any religious rights to violate"

Quick, someone send Camp a copy of the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps Camp will next instruct black Christians that they have no civil rights. Makes about as much sense...

"I realize that this is a difficult way of thinking in our times, but as Christians we only have one right—to have no rights."

And, as we all know, Paul never appealed to his rights as a Roman citizen (Ac 16:37; 22:25), because -- remember, class -- we have no rights ;-) Perhaps Camp got Thomas Jefferson to cut those offending passages out of his Bible ;-)

"One of the most tragic fallouts of ECB philosophy is reducing the body of Christ to nothing more than a political force."

That's right! Due to ECB, the body of Christ has been reduced to nothing more than a political force. I don't quite understand it, seeing as how I thought the "Sovereignty of God" and the sure promises of God would preclude such a disaster from happening, but apparently, according to Camp, that is all the church is today! ;-)

Howard Campi Stern

From the man who bewails the Evangelical downgrade and dumbing down of the gospel, Steve Camp is now comparing ECB to flatulence.

There's a popular word for these sorts of "jokes," but it's not a word I happen to use, and it's not the sort of joke I tell. What a pity when a one-time Christian leader turns himself into the George Carlin or Howard Stern of the God-bloggers.

Steve Camp has become a disgrace to the name of Christ. One wonders how much longer his slavish fans will put up with this shameless behavior. It's time for the Evangelical community to shun him lest we share in his disgrace.

JD Archive

[The following blog post is by Jus Divinum]

What follows is an archive of my Triablogue posts so far, for reference purposes only:

8/04/2005 | "Our friends, the Campis"

8/05/2005 | "Neo-Pietism or Ostrich Evangelicalism"

8/06/2005 | "Ostrich Evangelicalism, Indeed"

8/08/2005 | "Further Comments on the ECB Dispute"

8/09/2005 | "Camp's Manifesto About the Kingdom"

8/09/2005 | "Interesting Question"

8/09/2005 | "Slippery Slopes and the Genetic Fallacy"

8/11/2005 | "Scattered Replies"

8/12/2005 | "Machen on Christian cultural engagement"

8/12/2005 | "The Hyperventilations of Steve Camp"

8/15/2005 | "Clearing the Air with Bro. Phil"

8/15/2005 | "Further Replies to Bro. Phil"

8/15/2005 | "Politics, Dentistry, and Gunsmithing"

8/15/2005 | "What is a Generality?"

8/15/2005 | "Scattered Replies Redux"

8/15/2005 | "JD, Out"

For the sake of completeness, I posted two early comments here:

7/26/2005 | Reply #1 to Phil Johnson

7/27/2005 | Reply #2 to Phil Johnson

Popery potpourri

Jonathan Prejean, of Crimson Catholic fame, posted the following comments on my blog:


Patrick didn't disagree with either one of us. It's not as if papal infallibility is simply separate from the Church, as if the Pope says it, and that's it. The teaching has to be evaluated in the context of the belief of the entire Church. Until that process is complete, the "meaning" of even an infallible pronouncement is not settled.

I'd analogize it to law, a situation that has been noted in the past. When the legislature passes a law, the law's meaning is not definitely fixed based on the opinion of any of the legislators that went into it or even the prevailing arguments, because people may have had vastly different reasons for voting for the law, so there has to be some principle for determining the meaning of the law authoritatively (a "rule of law"). Ordinarily, the meaning of the law is determined in subsequent applications, actual decisions made using the law, which may or may not reflect the intent of any of the particular legislators who passed it. That is the difference between an objective discipline determined based on formality (which the authority of the Catholic Church is), and a subjective discipline based on persuasion. Patrick's point is exactly that you have to appeal to objective teaching to ground anything, and Shawn and I are simply applying the rather ordinary criteria that one interprets the meaning of objectively authoritative statements primarily based on how they are subsequently applied (which is effectively what is binding) and the general reception of the document in the community, rather than the intent the authors had for the document (which is not). The canons of "Catholic jurisprudence" aren't all that different from English common law, which is unsurprising, as Catholic canon law was the primary basis for those systems.

Honestly, Catholicism is not particularly different from from legal scholarship. Before a definitive Supreme Court ruling, there may be a number of theories among lawyers, judges, and academics as to what the law means, none of which are binding but all of which represent various ways to understand and meaningfully apply the law, considering things such as original intent but also factors such as overall coherence of the jurisprudence in the area, giving effect to all provisions, presuming against repeal or preemption without stated intent, etc. After a while, you'll usually note some kind of practical consensus, which typically guides practitioners from there on out (this is what Patrick means by the "apologist" view as opposed to the "speculative views."). Sometimes, it simply remains bitterly divided even among different regions of the county, and sometimes the Court simply leaves it that way, exercising its own discretion as to when it reins in the lower authorities. This acceptance does not indicate that the Court agrees with all of the views or even any of them, but merely that until something definitive comes down, everyone does the best that they can.

Obviously, in such an objective system, formality is huge; anything which is definitely formal cannot be ignored. A step below that are matters of technical informality but high relevance, such as Supreme Court reasoning (not technically binding, but almost invariably persuasive), and there are steps below that, again based on relative formality, not authority. There's nothing inherently anarchic about such a system; indeed, I can hardly figure out how any system based on the "will of the people" giving meaning to objectively authoritative pronouncements (which Catholicism inherently is) can be grounded in anything other than such jurisprudence.

That's why we Catholics are always a bit baffled by the obsession with finding a definitive meaning for everything that can be fixed at a particular moment in time; that's simply not necessary for language to be objectively and authoritatively binding (and indeed, it's questionable as to how the definitive meaning can possibly be fixed in anticipation of all possible future contingencies). Epistemic certainty about meaning simply isn't necessary for something to be authoritatively binding; there's nothing incoherent about accepting an authority without having a definitive knowledge of every ruling the authority has made. You simply judge based on the internal operation of the legal system and the likelihood of interpretation within that system. Indeed, one could argue that there is considerably *less* certainty in the American jurisprudential system (since unlike the older English common law or the Catholic Magisterium, Supreme Court decisions can be overruled later), but we fallible lawyers all manage to muddle through somehow. Your argument sounds a great deal like "You shouldn't be American because your legal system doesn't provide certainty," to which I reply "Perhaps that's not a reasonable basis on which to make one's decision to be American."

Vatican pronouncements, like Supreme Court decision, are rather extraordinary means to resolve doctrinal disputes. In the ordinary course of things, teaching filters down by this deliberative process of determination within the Church, and unless there is such an extreme risk in allowing the process to continue that it must be cut off, that is ordinarily the preferred way for things to happen (viz., people achieving gradual consensus through deliberation). The PBC is nothing more than another voice in those deliberations; it provides a venue for certain people to speak their views based on their expertise. Generally, if people aren't advocating out-and-out lawlessness (i.e., denial of the objective authority of the Magisterium), then it's ordinarily permissible for this process to take place. That's why I tend to be less harsh on liberal and traditionalist Catholics than most; it's not my job to discipline them, but to bring them around to my way of thinking through articulation of my views (deliberative process). But if the rule of law itself is rejected (as in Protestantism), then there's no common foundation even to discuss things.


By way of comment:

1.Prejean is imputing to Patrick a number of things that Patrick never said or implied. Perhaps Prejean is acting in legal capacity by making a better case for his client than his client could make for himself. And there’s no doubt that Prejean’s pro bono work in this regard has resulted in an argument with far more horsepower than the original—like swapping out a Hyundai motor for a racing car engine. I’m also more than happy to engage this new and improved version. But in the interests of intellectual property rights, I really must insist on giving credit where credit is due.

2.As to the legal analogies, it sounds as though Prejean is playing Larry Tribe to my Bob Bork.

3.One problem with the legal analogy is that it begs the question by assuming such an analogy rather than mounting an actual argument from analogy.

4.Presumably, a divine teaching office does enjoy a measure of divine foresight. Therefore, it ought to anticipate future contingencies. If it can’t to that, then wherein lies the divine guidance? Anyone can to do fix-up job after the fact.

5.Prejean’s retrojective warrant reduces to a tautology: meaning is whatever we say it is, whenever we say it. Yesterday’s meaning may not be today’s meaning, and tomorrow’s meaning may not be today’s meaning. But that is less an argument than a sanctification of the status quo.

And if the meaning of a magisterial document really has such an ephemeral shelf-life, then Catholic claims suffer from built-in obsolescence. So Prejean’s argument seems to be self-refuting.

6.For that matter, retrodictive proof can justify any outcome whatsoever, including contrary outcomes, for any modern-day state-of-affairs has a historical trajectory behind it. If it validates Catholicism, then it validates Calvinism and Lutheranism and Anabaptism and fundamentalism and Pentecostalism and Nestorianism and Mohammedanism, &c.

6.Even if we accept the legal analogy, I’d take it in a rather different direction. In terms of Biblical ethics, the Bible contains a number of general norms. Their range of application varies with the concrete circumstances. A valid application is a special case of a general norm.

However, unless the norm enjoys an invariant meaning, we would never know how it was meant to be variously applied.

7.In Evangelical hermeneutics, meaning is tied to authorial intent. It is tied to the secondary authorial intent of the human agent, which is, in turn, tied to the primary authorial intent of the divine agent who inspired the human agent.

Now, the resultant text may contain logical implications which outstrip what the human writer was conscious of, but they may not contradict original intent.

8.Again, there’s a sense in which the original reader may complete the meaning. For the word was given with an implied audience in mind. It takes for granted a common cultural preunderstanding. More is assumed than is actually said, for writer and reader share a common referential universe of natural cues and social codes. And the aim of the grammatico-historical method is to recover that common knowledge.

9.It is true that certainty and authority are not the same thing. The question, though, is not about abstract possibilities, but the concrete question of what level of certitude the Catholic rule of faith claims for itself in relation to the Protestant rule of faith.

10.It is also quite true that you can accept an authority-source without foreknowing every consequence. But that, of course, assumes that you have good reason to credit your authority-source in the first place.

And this is where Prejean’s argument runs razor thin. For it remains entirely on the plane of a purely abstract structure or formalism. We have criteria applied to nothing, distinctions applied to nothing.

What one would like to see is how he applies his own criteria to make a case for his own authority-source. As it stands right now, we are being paid in verbal vouchers unredeemed by concrete content.

Surely Prejean isn’t waiting for the Evangelicals to make their case first. For, if they have failed to make a persuasive case up until now, then that makes his own job all the easier, does it not?

11.I also don’t see what the trickle-down process and incremental consensus-building has to do with high-placed liberals like Brown and Fitzmyer.

Indeed, the logic moves in the opposite direction. Prejean appears to be setting up a false antithesis between gentle persuasion and forcible intervention.

To simply depose a Brown or Fitzmyer does nothing to build a contrary consensus. But promoting them only has the effect of mainstreaming and standardizing their viewpoint.

There is a third way, which is for a curial congregation or a special commission to offer a reasoned rebuttal of erroneous views. And that would give a potential consensus something to coalesce around. You can’t beat something with nothing. If Brown or Fitzmyer are to the left of the magisterium, then in order for a contrary consensus to form, the magisterium needs to speak up and offer an alternative vision.

12.To say that the Protestants have rejected the rule of law is, I guess, a metaphor for the Protestant rule of faith.

But in what sense is sola Scriptura not a common foundation? It is not a common foundation for liberal Protestants, to be sure. But, then, they’re analogous to liberal Catholics who reject the Catholic rule of faith.

The fact is that Protestant theology is quite stable. It takes the form of two-tiered consensus. There is a synchronic/diachronic inter-Evangelical consensual level as well as the diachronic intra-Evangelical consensual level. There is what all Evangelicals hold in common, at any given time, and over time, and then there is the perpetuation of distinct Evangelical traditions over time.

The Protestant Reformation firmed up and settled down very quickly. Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Anabaptism continue to perpetuate themselves. These have, in turn, propagated a number of variants—some more moderate than the original, others more radical, still others a synthetic variant thereof--but all true to type. And even the more radical or reactionary progeny tend, over time, to assimilate with and be reabsorbed into the host.

One can find parallels for this in Judaism and Islam and Roman Catholicism. The religious spectrum repeats itself because human nature repeats itself, and there are only so many viable options. This is a combination of nature, grace, and sin.

It only takes a handful theological traditions within any given religion to exhaust what different personality-types are attracted to. That’s why the religious continuum reiterates itself in every time and place. The variations are cyclical rather than linear, microevolutionary rather than macroevolutionary.

By contrast, the Hegelian model of development which has captured the contemporary Catholic church is linear rather than cyclical, macroevolutionary rather than microevolutionary.

Monday, August 15, 2005

JD, Out

I've posted five entries to Triablogue today (OK, six, if you're counting this one). Fall is almost upon us, and I have to focus on other things for the near future. It's been an interesting experience, and I want to thank Steve Hays for the Triablogue access these past few weeks. I might pop in from time to time in the comments box for a brief comment or two, but I don't have any more time to devote to this at present. Perhaps Steve Hays will pipe up if there's a particularly egregious misinterpretation foisted on my stuff, but he shouldn't feel obligated :-)

Despite my extended disagreements posted here, it is still the case that I agree with at least 90% of what Phil Johnson posts to his blog. He does a fine all-around job as an evangelical watchdog, even if from time to time I think the watchdogs need watching :-) I'd recommend his blog to anybody (and I do!).

Scattered Replies Redux

[The following blog post is by Jus Divinum]

Phil Johnson has posted a fairly detailed reply to my earlier post "Scattered Replies". Here are my remarks.

Phil had said:

"My first gripe is with ostensibly Christian organizations and ministers of the gospel who in any degree dilute, suppress, deflect, or confuse the simple, pure gospel message they are called and ordained to preach, and either substitute or blend into their "gospel" a political message instead."

And I had replied:

"Re: his first point, I'd just say that there is a difference between a "Christian organization" which simply articulates a political message, and an organization which "blends into their 'gospel' a political message". There is a difference here, and it ought to be respected. I have yet to find a significant ECBer organization which actually espouses the view that political activism is part of the content of the gospel message itself."

And then Phil replied:

"Perhaps in theory, but I'd be interested in seeing a specific real-life example of any major evangelical political organization that has made a clear and unambiguous effort to maintain a definite distinction between law and gospel—without participating in activities like ecumenical or inter-faith prayer meetings; without extending implicit public recognition to Roman Catholic priests as if they were legitimate ministers of the true gospel; without supporting ecumenical "evangelistic" programs; and without allowing the political message to eclipse the gospel in their message to unbelievers."

Sorry, but it's going to be impossible to fulfill Phil's request; he's expanded my original point beyond all recognition. Let me contrast my position with Phil's. Phil speaks of his "gripe with ostensibly Christian organizations" who "dilute," etc. "the simple, pure gospel message they are called and ordained to preach." The fallacy here is simple: if you're a Christian organization, then you're called to preach the gospel. Nope, not true. There are many Christian hunger relief agencies, and Christian hospitals, whose primary task is not to preach the gospel. That's not their primary calling. Would Phil oppose Christian legal defense organizations on the grounds that their primary activity isn't to preach the gospel, but something else? Would Phil condemn them because they've managed "to eclipse the gospel in their message to unbelievers"? What if they don't so much as have a message to unbelievers? Is there a footnote in Phil's Bible which says, "If you're a Christian organization of any sort, your primary goal is to give the gospel to unbelievers, no exceptions"?

Notice the problem here. Phil denies that he makes generalizations. And then he turns around and makes more generalizations, in the ethical demands he makes on any Christians who are organized for any purpose whatsoever.

In addition, I was specifically talking about organizations which "blends into their 'gospel' a political message," that is, an organization "which actually espouses the view that political activism is part of the content of the gospel message itself." In response, Phil simply changes the subject, and comes up with five conditions that are not what I was talking about.

But let's look at these five conditions.

[1] The organization must make "a clear and unambiguous effort to maintain a definite distinction between law and gospel".

[2] The organization must not be one "participating in activities like ecumenical or inter-faith prayer meetings".

[3] The organization cannot be involved in "extending implicit public recognition to Roman Catholic priests as if they were legitimate ministers of the true gospel".

[4] The organization cannot be one "supporting ecumenical 'evangelistic' programs".

[5] The organization cannot be one "allowing the political message to eclipse the gospel in their message to unbelievers."

I think I agree with Phil that [2] and [4] are unacceptable. But I don't see [1] and [5] as obligations upon all Christian organizations whatsoever. To be frank, these are more legalistic, fundamentalist-type rules Phil has whipped up out of thin air. You certainly won't find any Scriptures saying that any organization of Christians whatsoever must adhere to something like [1] and [5] in the work they do. Indeed, I don't see why preaching the gospel, or explaining and defending particular theological distinctions, needs to come within the province of all Christian organizations whatsoever.

(I'm not rendering a judgment on [3], because it is too ambiguous. I don't know what Phil means by "extending implicit public recognition". I won't prejudge Phil here, but since most fundamentalists I know can drive a Mack truck of arbitrary ethical prohibitions through that word 'implicit,' I'm exceedingly wary of giving [3] any credence without further explanation.)

Moving along, I had said:

"I have yet to find a significant ECBer organization which actually espouses the view that political activism is part of the content of the gospel message itself."

And Phil replied:

... well, Phil replies by changing the subject! Incredibly, he gives us a series of examples not of "ECBer organizations," but local churches in which the preacher often talked about politics from the pulpit. But, to reiterate, Phil has not given an example of someone who "actually espouses the view that political activism is part of the content of the gospel message itself," much less any examples of ECBer organizations that do this (as opposed to preachers in local churches). Is Phil seriously suggesting that any of the people he named preached from the pulpit a gospel message like the following: "If you support Prohibition, or if you oppose Communism, your sins will be atoned for and you will go to heaven!"?! Perhaps these preachers laid down (rightly or wrongly) various duties for the Christian life, but that's not at all the same thing as preaching these various duties as part of the content of the gospel message itself. If it was, then by that 'standard' we might as well say that MacArthur's gospel message consists, in part, of the activity of raising godly families and attending church ;-)

Why does Phil persist in changing the subject? When I say something, I mean what I say, and not something else.

I had said:

"Re: his second point, again, I have yet to find any ECBers who do 'think (or act as if) political remedies for society's evils are more effective instruments for the improvement of our culture than the gospel message itself.'"

And Phil replied:

... well, Phil goes on and on about Dobson, but he doesn't give a clearly sound argument that Dobson actually believes that political activism is more effective than the gospel message itself. Part of the problem here is that Phil doesn't provide a link to the actual letter in question, nor does he provide full citations of the MacArthur material to which Dobson is responding. Phil concludes by saying, "The only reasonable conclusion is that Dobson believes the gospel ministry has no power to stem that tide." No, an equally reasonable conclusion is that Dobson believes that political activism has some power to stem that tide. And so far, Phil hasn't given me any reason to think otherwise.

But, sure, let me cut all this off at the pass. If Phil ever finds someone who clearly does think that political remedies are more effective than the gospel message in 'cultural improvement,' then let me say I will be the first to join Phil in rebuking the notion.

Phil says:

"I've never been critical of just "anyone who spends any time involved in political activism." I have been critical of "ministries" that do little else (while raising money for "the Lord's work")"

I'm curious. What if they didn't call it a 'ministry' or 'the Lord's work,' but did solicit money from Christians for the purpose of political endeavor? Would Phil still be opposed to it?

Moving on, Phil had said:

"My third gripe is with those who make politics a higher priority than evangelism in their dealings with unbelievers."

And I had replied:

"Re: his third point, I'm not quite sure how to apply it to anyone in particular. That's because, for just about any ECBer I know of, it is next to impossible to know whether they "make politics a higher priority than evangelism in their dealings with unbelievers"."

And then Phil replied:

"In practical terms, it's not "next to impossible" at all. Because my remark has nothing to do with what they might list as priorities in theory. I'm talking about the issues they actually devote their costly radio airtime and ink and paper to the discussion of. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34)."

OK, if Phil is talking about ordained ministers of the gospel, that is, pastors/elders in local churches, then I agree that the bulk of their time ought to be given to the Scripturally defined duties of an elder, and not to political activism. If Phil looks at his third point above, as initially stated, it is not clear that he had these people (and these people alone) specifically in view. Ostensibly, only his first point of the four made any reference to these kinds of people. His remaining three points were perfectly general. But I'm glad he's clarified his position.

I had said:

"And my main point throughout this extended exchange is whether cooperative political activism is permitted for individual Christians, not whether it is obligatory for all and sundry."

And Phil replied:

"I don't know about that. That certainly has not been very clear."

I disagree in the strongest terms. I don't have the time to reference all of my comments on Phil's blog, but I think if Phil will read them again, he will see that that was indeed my main point. As I said quite awhile ago:

"You repeatedly connect my position with some obligation that allegedly pertains to the mission of "the church" or "the whole church". Surely the fact that I am drawing explicit analogies to things like dentristry and car mechanics, should give the lie to the notion that I think political activism is the obligation of every Christian as a member of the church."

If Phil will recall, these are the analogies I repeatedly posted to his blog, from the very beginning. Interestingly enough, he never bothered to respond to the above comment. Phil is certainly free to pick and choose what he will respond to, but nevertheless I will take the occasion, when applicable, to point out where I've already dealt with a point he's made.

Phil continues:

"If I recall correctly, what stirred your ire in the first place was my criticism of Dobson's leadership in 'culture war.'"

Eh? No, that's not right. Look at my first two comments ([1] [2]) on Phil's blog on this stuff. No mention of Dobson. Indeed, as Phil himself never tires of pointing out, I haven't so much as mentioned Dobson on his blog. So which is it? Am I extremely reluctant to talk about Dobson, or am I so obsessed by criticisms of Dobson that my 'ire' is 'stirred' to directly reply on his behalf? According to Phil, both! :-)

(Indeed, in my very next comment to Phil, I actually affirmed his criticism of Dobson's attitude toward Roman Catholics, three times!)

The fact of the matter is that I posted not because I care about defending Dobson, but because I wanted to challenge Phil's hasty generalizations about Christian political activism in general. I've told him as much more than once.

I've never met Mohler, Dobson, or Colson. I've never given a penny to their political efforts. In fact, I've never attended a political rally of any kind in my life. What I'm defending is not personalities, but positions. In particular, I'm interested in critiquing Phil's view that people who fall into the various categories he specifies are invariably compromisers of the sola fide gospel. Phil says he doesn't believe this, but his generalizations tell a different story. I'm interested in critiquing a fundamentalist approach to Christianity and culture, one that heavily relies on dubious historical generalizations and fallacious slippery slope arguments. By Phil's 'standards,' I could just as well argue that fundamentalist retreat from culture invariably ends up in legalism, Arminianism, and cult-like tendencies. But, despite appearances, I think that kind of argument is equally bad.

Phil said:

"As noted above, a major and recurring theme in his message is the notion that if you are not lobbying for legislation, you're guilty of doing nothing of any real consequence to stem the tide of unrighteousness in our society."

Phil "noted" nothing of the sort. Phil gave a highly dubious argument with multiple questionable inferences from one letter Dobson sent out two years ago. And from this Phil infers "a major and recurring theme in his message"? Phil's rhetoric is argumentatively-impoverished.

BTW, Dobson did focus on other issues for the better part of his public career. So if you take the measure of the man's life as a whole, you'll get a more balanced assessment of his total contribution. Why can't someone focus on different things at different times in his life? As I said before, he's not a pastor of a church or an elder, so who is Phil to tell him how he needs to spend his time?! Does Phil lecture Christian doctors and lawyers that they ought to be spending more hours preaching the gospel than doing what they ordinarily fill their weeks with?

Phil said:

"I would, however, say that to take resources donated or paid for by people who believed they were giving their money to the Lord's work, and use it instead to lobby for the appointment of a particular Supreme Court Justice is indeed to squander resources and waste energies."

This is yet more of Phil's unargued legalistic standards for how Christians can use their money. What, is he saying that organizations like Focus on the Family don't tell people how they will spend donated money? If they don't, how did Phil find out? :-) Is he actually saying they are taking it under false pretences? Is he prepared to actually defend that claim with evidence?

Of course, it is only a squandering of resources and a waste of energy if indeed no Christian is permitted to give their resources and energy to political activism. This is yet another painfully obvious generalization about all evangelicals who fall into category A therefore having property B. Phil hasn't done a thing to argue this one. It's just hanging out there, begging us to take it on faith. Phil acts like he can just declare that the resources are squandered and the energies are wasted, and he doesn't have to lift a finger to support his specific conclusions.

Phil said:

"Dobson left his medical practice and Colson left his legal practice to go into "full-time ministry"; they solicit donations from the church in the name of Christ to support what they do; they operate tax-free parachurch organizations; and they are in unique positions of leadership that give them more influence in the church than the vast majority of qualified elders. There is a spiritual stewardship that goes with that kind of influence, and both men have sold it for a mess of ecumenical pottage."

Wrong. This is just a very bad argument. All along Phil says he is "explicitly talking about men who are called and ordained and trained and qualified to teach Scripture and sound doctrine." Indeed, he stresses this so much that he claims I've distorted his position on this point. But when it comes down to it he feels free to apply his legalistic rules to any organization any Christian wants to start, even if he isn't an elder or pastor in a local church. But just because you take donations for the purpose of political activism, and speak often about political activism, doesn't mean that Phil Johnson can invent a new chapter in 1 Timothy that applies to you.

The President of the United States is in a "unique position of leadership" that gives him "more influence in the church than the vast majority of qualified elders" (well, more authority than Dobson!). It doesn't follow that he should spend more time preaching the gospel than talking about politics!

What we've gotten from Phil here is just another extended exercise in coming up with more rules for life for people, because there just aren't enough rules in the Bible, I guess. I won't use the F-word again in this post, but I sure am tempted.

Phil said:

"But if they decide to leave the government payroll, start parachurch organizations, solicit support from the church, and use those resources for political lobbying, with the implied promise that this sort of politicking is vital for the redemption of our society and the ultimate triumph of righteousness in our culture—then I'll strongly object, OK?"

Phil's rhetoric here is excessive. Vital for the ultimate triumph of righteousness in our culture? I doubt Phil is addressing anyone who actually exists.

In any event, I of course think Phil has the legal right to do the above. It's "OK" in that sense. I think he's given a totally bogus argument for his 'objection,' however. There's nothing wrong whatsoever with asking Christians for donations for political activism. This is just another general ethical prohibition that Phil likes to impose on people apart from Scriptural warrant.