Saturday, September 30, 2006

Where Jon Curry's "Honesty" Has Led Him

For those who are interested, I just posted another reply to Jon Curry in one of the older threads. It's lengthy, but some of you may be interested in some of the issues discussed.

I'll give some examples of the claims Jon Curry made. Regarding the early Christians' judgments about the books of the New Testament canon, he wrote:

"As far as their concern for apostolicity, this also is bogus. They say they are concerned that the writing be apostolic. But how do they know something is apostolic? Is it a matter of textual criticism? Of course not. It starts with how widely accepted a writing is and also touches on other factors, such as whether or not the writing is orthodox. I'm not impressed by people saying 'Only apostolic writings count, and since I want certain books it must be that those books are apostolic.' That's not demonstrative of high moral standards."

Regarding the moral standards of the earliest Christians, Jon wrote:

"The issue is your claim to 'high moral standards' amongst early Christians. If early Christians engage in widespread forging of documents, why should we accept your claim to high moral standards? That's the relevance of the issue. As to how I know it, it's just apparent. I've cited many examples. Forged documents represent a very large proportion of early Christian writings and a very low proportion of books on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble....It's rare enough [for forgeries to occur today] that it is news."

When I told Jon that if a document attributed to Paul didn't begin circulating until after Paul and those who knew him were dead, then that lateness would itself be a major difficulty for any forger to overcome, he responded:

"How so?"

Since he wanted me to explain it to him, I did. But while Jon is so skeptical of arguments for the traditional authorship attributions of the Bible, he doesn't seem to be nearly as skeptical about alleged internal evidence against the traditional authorship attributions. He even refers to how he has "suspicions" about documents like 1 Corinthians and Philemon, which are accepted across the scholarly spectrum. He writes the following about passages in which Paul comments on his own handwriting and passages that use the phrase "I, Paul" (1 Corinthians 16:21, Galatians 6:11, Colossians 4:18, Philemon 19, etc.):

"These are all cause for suspicion of these documents. 'I Paul' references are also suspicious as they are in many pseudonymous works as a dead give away to forgery."

And Jon has taken up an argument that's popular in online skeptical circles regarding how Eusebius of Caesarea supposedly advocated lying. Roger Pearse discusses and refutes the argument here. I've added some comments of my own in response to Jon Curry, including some citations of other scholars commenting on the subject (Roger Pearse cites some scholars as well).

Anybody interested in any of these issues can find my responses to Jon Curry here. The more Jon attempts to justify his rejection of Christianity, the more he has to propose theories of widespread ignorance, widespread forgeries, widespread apathy, etc. In his recent responses to Steve Hays and other posters here, Jon has commented on how "honesty" led him to where he is. Read his comments in the thread linked above and ask yourself whether it seems likely that it's honesty that's led him to the left of the Jesus Seminar.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Explanation & explanandum

SH: Since a naturalistic alternative which is devoid of any positive evidence whatsoever is still more plausible than a supernatural/miraculous explanation.

JC: That's not my view. Can you quote me where I said that?


1.To begin with, this is not all about you. This is part of an ongoing thread which began when Gene rightly criticized the methodology of the contributors to The Empty Tomb.

BTW, Stephen Davis has since leveled the identical criticism. Great minds think alike.

At that point you jumped into the fray. So much of what I say is generally targeting TET, since that was the original point of reference.

2.Oh, and it is your view. This is not what you say your view is. You’ll deny it. You’ll say there is positive evidence for the alternatives.

But I’ve already been over that ground with you. So I’m moving ahead.

SH: Without affirming or denying the metaphysical status of the miraculous, it will deny that a miracle can ever be verified, either (i) because, “by definition,” a scientific and/or historical explanation can only appeal to a naturalistic explanation by assuming the uniformity of nature as a closed system, or (ii) because a miracle is always so inherently and highly improbable that not amount of evidence can ever meet the threshold of justified belief.

JC: That's not my view either. So your first to points used to explain my original claim in fact don't explain my claim at all.


1.Once again, this is not all about you. It’s the way the objection is generally framed by folks like Bart Ehrman, the Jesus Seminar, the contributors to TET, and so on.

2.But, once again, it is also your own view. You may deny it, but by your own admission, from past discussion, you stack the deck by creating a huge presumption against the miraculous. And, again, what is driving that, by your own admission, is your prior commitment to naturalism.

Oh, you may say, as a throwaway argument, that your commitment to naturalism is not unconditional, but as a practical matter, it clearly is.

SH: Alternative explanations enjoy an independent probability value.

JC: You can set them up that way if you like for the purpose of discussion. If you don't like that assumption you don't need to hold to it.

SH: This is not “my” assumption. This is the assumption of the opposing position, as I’ve established in previous discussion.

SH: Contradictory explanations can be bundled together to count against the phenomenon they dispute.

JC: Finally one thing described accurately. This is what Holding is doing. This is what the book The Empty Tomb does.

SH: Okay, so by your own admission, TET supplies a point of reference. It’s not all about you.

SH: Apropos (4), contradictory explanations acquire a cumulative probability value that outweighs the singular claim they oppose.

JC: This again has nothing to do with what I said.

SH: Actually, it has everything to do with what you said. You suffer from a couple of basic failings in these exchanges:

1.You act as if anything I now say is limited to the very last thing you said, so that we’re starting from scratch with every pair of exchanges.

I don’t compartmentalize my replies in that way. I take into account everything we’ve both said up to and including your last reply—not to mention many of your past exchanges with Jason.

2.Another problem is that you confuse a denial with a disproof. The fact that you may deny a position I attribute to you or others doesn’t amount to a disproof of the attribution.

You’ve denied various attributions in the course of this thread, but then I proceed to show how the attributions stick—your protestations notwithstanding.

SH: All this is quite disanalogous with a biblical harmonization:

JC: Probably because it has little to do with my claim. Only 4 is accurate and it turns out 4 is exactly what Holding is doing. So how is my example "disanalagous"?

SH: I detailed the way in which it’s disanalogous in what follows. Apparently, you don’t read through a rejoinder from start to finish before you respond.

SH: There should be some positive evidence in favor of the proposed harmonization for it to enjoy any positive epistemic warrant.

JC: Better tell Holding to knock it off with his alternative explanations to biblical problems.


1.Holding is your choice, not mine. He’s not my yardstick. Someone like Blomberg would be better example of the harmonistic method.

If you want to attack Holding’s harmonistic method, you are welcome to go back to DC and do a post on that very topic, then get into a debate with Holding.

That’s not what I’m here for.

I’m discussing the issue at a higher level of generality. Your own example from Holding is just as illustration of a much broader set of phenomena involving the harmonistic principle.

2.As I said before, there is more at issue than that particular example. The thread goes back to the methodology of TET.

3.I also doubt that Holding would say his alternatives are devoid of positive evidence. But that’s between you and him.

SH: At the same time, I can field your hypothetical objection with another hypothetical explanation. Even if my explanation may lack any positive warrant, it answers your objection on its own level. My conjecture is just as good as yours.

JC: Sounds like you're saying I can offer hypotheticals to Holding and my conjecture would be as good as his.


1.I’m not saying anything about Holding. You are.

2.As I made clear in dealing with your fellow Debunkers, if an unbeliever can raise a hypothetical objection to the logistics of a given Biblical claim, then it is sufficient for the Christian to proffer a hypothetical solution.

SH: Even in case of 2, it should make use of known possibilities.

JC: Holding doesn't.


1.Holding is your obsession, not mine.

2.However, in the example you gave, he was appealing to known possibilities.

SH: The probability of a proposed harmonization is also dependent, at least in part, on the veracity (rather than falsity) of the underlying phenomenon.

Given that x is a true statement, or given that x really happened, or given that both x and y are true, then there must be some correct explanation for the apparent discrepancy, whether or not it’s available to us.

JC: Obviously Holding's critics do not take it as a given that X is a true statement if X is some of those statements in the Bible we're referring to.

SH: Except that if you’re accusing Christians of inconsistency (a double standard), then that’s in the nature of an internal critique. And when you mount an internal critique, you assume the viewpoint of the opposing position (in this case the Christian) for the sake of argument.

SH: In this case, the probability of the explanation is derivative of the phenomenon it explains, although it may or may not enjoy a measure of direct evidence as well.

JC: Not qute sure what you're talking about here. I think you're saying that since the Bible is true this factors in to the probability of biblical contradiction explanations. They carry more weight because their must be an explanation. I don't think so.

SH: You don’t think so on what grounds? An internal critique? Or an external critique?

SH: By contrast, alternatives to the Resurrection assume the falsity of the Resurrection, and are treated as though they enjoy some independent level of probability due to the metaphysical or methodological assumption that any explanation, however improbable, is more probable than an impossible explanation (i.e. miraculous/supernatural).

JC: This is absolutely false.

SH: Oh contraire. This is absolutely true, and I’ve argued that very point in the course of this thread. Anyone is free to go back through the archives.

SH: Apropos (5), there is a difference between saying that (i) alternative explanations of the same phenomenon all count in favor of the same phenomenon, and saying that (ii) alternative explanations all count against another opposing explanation.

JC: You bet there is. One is an explanation to show that what Christians think is true. The other is an explanation to show that what skeptics think is true.

SH: The function of a harmonization is not to show that the phenomenon is true, but rather, to show that the phenomenon isn’t false.

JC: I mantain a consistent standard. I have no problem with Holding offering multiple mutually exclusive explanations. You are a Christian so you engage in special pleading. One standard for skeptics, another for you.

SH: You continue to confuse the relationship between various explanations, on the one hand, with the relationship between explanations and the phenomenon they purport to explain, on the other hand.

Sorry you lack the mental clarity to extricate yourself from this elementary level-confusion, even after it’s drawn to your attention.

SH: Comparing one explanation with another, or with a set of explanations, is different from comparing an explanation or set of explanations with the phenomenon it purports to explain.

JC: OK. Who is comparing an explanation or set of explanations with the phenomenon the explanation purports to explain? What does that even mean? Do you even know what you are saying?

SH: Sorry you can’t keep track of your own argument. According to the way in which you yourself have framed the argument in the course of this thread, the phenomenon would be something like the Resurrection or a Bible quote.

An explanation would be a way of harmonizing that phenomenon with some alleged contradiction or else an alternative theory of what “really” happened.

JC: I'm comparing a set of explanations to a single opposing explanation in both cases.

SH: No, you’re substituting a set of mutually exclusive hypotheticals for the thing to be explained.

You really need to learn the elementary and elemental distinction between an explanation and the explanandum (that which is to be explained).

JC: I'm saying it's perfectly fine for a Christian to offer a set of explanations for a biblical contradiction.

SH: Actually, it’s not perfectly fine without further qualification, as I stated before.

JC: But since that's true for Christians (in my world) it must be true for skeptics as well. Logic doesn't have one rule for Christians and another for skeptics. If it is fine for you then it is fine for me. I can offer a set of explanations to the opposing single Christian explanation for the resurrection event. Either have your cake or eat it.

SH: A fallacious analogy since your parallel is predicated on a false premise. I presented a carefully caveated statement of what counts as a valid harmonization or alternative explanation, including the limits to such a procedure.

You, in turn, drop all the caveats, then accuse me of special pleading or a double standard. This is a straw man argument.

You can only fabricate your artificial analogy by stripping away my qualifications. Your characterization of my argument is a demonstrable caricature, and a childish one at that.

Is the problem that you lack the intellectual aptitude to keep more than one idea in your head at a time?

All you’ve succeeded in showing is that you can’t interact with a sophisticated argument.

And as far as confectionary metaphors are concerned, it’s quite possible in my world as well as yours to have my cake and eat it to. I can eat half of it now, and save the other half for later.

Not only is that possible, but it’s better for the waistline.

Babinski on the Bible


Dear Dave [Armstrong], Please note that I did not head this article, "Flat Earth Teachings of the Bible," but "Flat Earth Assumptions of Biblical Authors." I agree that the question of "Whether the Bible TEACHES the world is flat" is separate from the question of "What the ancient Hebrew writers of the Bible may have thought about the shape of the cosmos." One can accept all of the prima facia evidence that the ancient Hebrews believed and spoke in terms of a flat earth without necessarily having to believe that the Bible was written in order to "reveal to future mankind" the true shape of the earth. Therefore Evangelicals (like Seely and Walton, mentioned below) as well as Catholic biblical scholars can and will continue to employ the historical approach when it comes to discovering what the Hebrews mostly likely believed about the shape of the cosmos based on their writing in the Bible, and at the same time argue that the Bible might not have been written in order to provide accurate information as to the shape of the cosmos. So we probably agree there.

However, one point I wish to add to the above is that IF God allowed ancient naive flat-earth views of the cosmos (as well as views of a "six day creation" of the entire cosmos that revolved around "earth" evenings and morning) to exist in the minds of his ancient followers, what other ideas in the Bible might not also be the result of naiveté rather than truth?

What about the ancient view that animal sacrifices were necessary to appease god(s) for instance? Was that the result of naiveté or eternal truth? Or the idea that "the life was in the blood" instead of being primarily in the brain and nervous system? Might it not have been naiveté that inspired the ancient Hebrews to view the world in terms of "sympathetic magic," as in the case of their belief that by laying their hands on a goat and then driving the goat into the wilderness, their sins would thus be carried away? (Lev. 16:20-22) Or was it naiveté that inspired the Hebrews to use the SAME word to describe both mildew stains on walls, and leprosy sores on the human body, and in both cases employ a bird to which the priest claimed to transfer such stains and sores, and then let the bird go into the sky to try and make both of those unwanted things likewise go away? (Lev. 14:4-7,48-53) What other beliefs and practices in the Bible might not also be based on naiveté rather than truth? That is my question.


Babinski is confounding two quite distinct issues, and is therefore drawing an inference from a false premise.

I don’t know of any intelligent inerrantist who would deny that Bible writers held false beliefs. Being a Bible writer doesn’t make you omniscient or confer exhaustive inerrancy on everything you happen to believe. So this is a straw man argument.

The point at issue is not whether the Bible writers were infallible in whatever they believed, but in whatever they wrote.

The Bible writers were not inspired in everything they ever thought. Rather, inspiration applies to the subset of beliefs which they committed to writing.

In many cases, this would also include the spoken word, which was later inscripturated.

Now, Babinski is interacting with Armstrong’s formulation. I’m not commenting on Armstrong’s formulation, which may or may not be vulnerable to Babinski’s critique. I’m making a separate point.


“For instance, the Bible has much to say about the all-directing heart of man, his life-blood, and his soul-breath, i.e., the pounding heart, the whistling breath, and the sharp color of blood, together with its lack being a sign of death, attracted the attention of the ancients. While the organ known as "the brain," a silent unobtrusive organ, was overlooked (see here and here) and therefore not granted the meagerest mention or symbolic association in the Bible, unlike the heart, bowels and kidneys which are all granted symbolic "guiding" mentions. The brain was ignored even when animals were offered up to Yahweh who wanted their hearts, kidneys, bowels and blood, but not their brains. Yet today we know that it is the organ of "the brain" that is our chief directing organ and holds the "life" most precious to us, being the center of our conscious life. All of which goes to prove that the Bible is far from being an authoritative guide to science and/or the authors of the Bible dwelt more on appearances than on scientific facts.”

This is fallacious on several grounds:

1.The use of idiomatic language does not, of itself, carry any ontological commitments. It’s just a figure of speech.

2.Ancient peoples could hardly be unaware of the fact that head trauma might result in mental impairment. This would be a matter of common observation.

3. There is also evidence of brain surgery among the ancients:

As well as trepanation:

4.To answer Babinski on his own grounds, we can see the same usage in modern discourse. Modern people, who do know about brain function, including those who limit mentality to brain function, continue to employ metaphors which assign various attitudes to various organs, viz. “heartless,” “heartache,” “hard-hearted,” “heartbroken,” “heart-rendering,” “intestinal fortitude,” “gut reaction,” “full of bile,” “thinking with one’s (fill in the blank),” &c.

Moving along:

“Seely's research, along with that of several other Evangelical scholars (like Gordon Wenham's commentary on Genesis 1-15), helped convince Dr. John Walton, a professor of O.T. at Wheaton College, that the ancient Hebrew writers of the Bible imagined the shape of the cosmos was flat. See Dr. Walton's NIV APPLICATION Commentary on Genesis (Zondervan, 2001). Keep in mind that Wheaton is an Evangelical Christian institution, Billy Graham's alma mater in fact. Walton's APPLICATION commentary is worth a read, because he agrees as I do with much mainstream scholarship in the area of the shape of the ancient biblical cosmos.”

1.Although Babinski has finally corrected the publication date of Walton’s commentary, notice that while he continues to “cite” Walton’s commentary, we still don’t see him “quoting” from Walton’s commentary or even giving any page references.

So has he actually read the commentary, or has he only read a review of the commentary? Where are the specifics?

As I read him, Walton does not contend that the Hebrew writers subscribed a literal triple-decker universe. Rather, they were using categories of sacred time and sacred space to symbolize the world as a cosmic temple, foreshadowing the tabernacle and the Sabbath. Cf. 79f.; 123f.; 147-52; 182.

This is not the same thing as Seely’s position.

2.I'd add that Christian institutions often liberalize over time. The fact that an old man like Graham can claim Wheaton as his alma mater says nothing, of itself, regarding the present state of Wheaton.


Jon Curry said:


This hearkens back to that discussion we had a while back. Is it irrational to have mutually exclusive alternative hypothesis?

Does this reasoning apply to Christians when they offer multiple mutually exclusive hypothesis to bible contradictions?


You’re equivocating, for your question grossly oversimplifies the original claim. Therefore, the comparison is disanalogous.

Let’s refresh ourselves on the original claim:

1.Given metaphysical naturalism, any alternative explanation, however improbable, is more probably than the impossibility of a supernatural/miraculous explanation.

Hence, a naturalistic alternative which is devoid of any positive evidence whatsoever is still more plausible than a supernatural/miraculous explanation.

2.One can substitute methodological naturalism for metaphysical naturalism. It has the same cash value.

Without affirming or denying the metaphysical status of the miraculous, it will deny that a miracle can ever be verified, either (i) because, “by definition,” a scientific and/or historical explanation can only appeal to a naturalistic explanation by assuming the uniformity of nature as a closed system, or (ii) because a miracle is always so inherently and highly improbable that not amount of evidence can ever meet the threshold of justified belief.

3.Alternative explanations enjoy an independent probability value.

4.Contradictory explanations can be bundled together to count against the phenomenon they dispute.

5.Apropos (4), contradictory explanations acquire a cumulative probability value that outweighs the singular claim they oppose.

All this is quite disanalogous with a biblical harmonization:

1.There should be some positive evidence in favor of the proposed harmonization for it to enjoy any positive epistemic warrant.

2.At the same time, I can field your hypothetical objection with another hypothetical explanation. Even if my explanation may lack any positive warrant, it answers your objection on its own level. My conjecture is just as good as yours.

3.Even in case of 2, it should make use of known possibilities.

4.The probability of a proposed harmonization is also dependent, at least in part, on the veracity (rather than falsity) of the underlying phenomenon.

Given that x is a true statement, or given that x really happened, or given that both x and y are true, then there must be some correct explanation for the apparent discrepancy, whether or not it’s available to us.

In this case, the probability of the explanation is derivative of the phenomenon it explains, although it may or may not enjoy a measure of direct evidence as well.

By contrast, alternatives to the Resurrection assume the falsity of the Resurrection, and are treated as though they enjoy some independent level of probability due to the metaphysical or methodological assumption that any explanation, however improbable, is more probable than an impossible explanation (i.e. miraculous/supernatural).

5.Alternative biblical harmonizations are all proposed to explain the very same phenomenon. The phenomenon itself is not an explanation, but the thing to be explained.

For apologetic purposes, a phenomenon like the Resurrection can be treated as a theory or hypothesis which best accounts for the evidence of the empty tomb, post-Resurrection appearances, and so on—as an inference to the best explanation.

But the Resurrection is more than just another explanation. That is an apologetic application of the Resurrection.

In its primary identity, the Resurrection is the phenomenon to be explained. That is a direct datum of the historical record, and not a possible inference thereof.

Given the Resurrection, this phenomenon will also enjoy a measure of explanatory power. It will carry certain implications. But it isn’t just another theory of what happened on Easter Sunday.

Rather, the only accounts we have of the event in question are accounts of the Resurrection. There is no alternative version of events. So all of the positive evidence is evidence of a resurrection on Easter Sunday.

6.Apropos (5), there is a difference between saying that (i) alternative explanations of the same phenomenon all count in favor of the same phenomenon, and saying that (ii) alternative explanations all count against another opposing explanation.

Comparing one explanation with another, or with a set of explanations, is different from comparing an explanation or set of explanations with the phenomenon it purports to explain.

So you are committing a level-confusion.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hyperventilating humanism

Steven Carr said:


I liked Davis comment about the seed and the plant ' But they are numerically the same because there is material continuity between them…'

Gosh, perhaps Adam and Eve were the same person, because the material of the rib of Adam was turned into Eve. There was material continuity between them :-)


Does Steven Carr believe there is no point of numerical continuity between the seed I plant in the ground and the tree that grows out of that particular seed?

Isn’t it that seed in particular which gave rise to that tree in particular—rather than some other, unrelated seed?

Is Carr asserting complete discontinuity between the seed which germinates and the tree which grows out of the decaying seed?

Is he saying that we cannot trace that particular tree back to that particular seed? Is he denying an internal relation between a given seed and a given tree? Is he denying a one-to-one correspondence between the tree and the seed from which it springs?

Carr’s problem is that he’s reasoning back from his denial of the Resurrection to a denial of numerical continuity between a seed and its resultant growth.

He’s too blinded by his religious hostility to see straight.



Perhaps though, we should not take claims of material continity too literally (unlike Davis), especially bearing in mind the words of Davis's Lord and Saviour who seemed to doubt the assertions of Davis that there is a numerical similarity between the seed and a plant.

John 12:24 'I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.'

And , rather more importantly, Paul uses the analogy to tell his converted Jesus-worshippers in Corinth, who still scoffed at the idea that a corpse could rise, that they were idiots for thinking that the resurrection of mortals involved the raising of a corpse. Paul tells them that the corpse is just a seed which dies. Paul tells the Corinthians that the seed is dead.

1 Peter 1:23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

This is the same Peter who tells people that 'all flesh is grass', presumably to persuade them that flesh will be made eternal.

All ignored by Davis, of course, who cannot bear to think that people are idiots for imagining that resurrection is about a decayed corpse being restored into something amazing.


How does any of this undermine Davis’ interpretation?

Davis believes that the body of Christ expired. How is that inconsistent with the Johannine, Pauline, and Petrine imagery of a “perishable” seed which also “dies”?



And , of course, there is no word for 'it' in speireita, which just means 'sown'.

'Sown in dishonour' is a perfectly acceptable translation.

Meaning that the dead are sown in dishonour.

And this is what Carrier says in his chapter. The dead are sown in dishonour, the dead are raised in glory. (Or to be more precise, 'one of the dead' ,as it is singular)

But Paul simply never says that dead bodies are sown in dishonour and the same bodies are raised in glory. That is a fact.

There is no word which means 'it', in verses 43-44. There is no word 'it' , which has a referent, let alone the same referent.

There is no prounoun in those 2 verses.

This is a plain fact that no amount of rewriting of the Bible can change.


“The clauses [1 Cor 15:42-43] have no expressed subject: ‘body’ is most likely intended as the subject for both verbs in each set, thus implying genuine continuity between the present body and its future expression,”

G. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 1987), 784.

“This is in fact specified in the fourth set, where ‘body’ is the subject or predicate apposition,” ibid. 784, n.37.

Incidentally, why does Carr even care about the correct interpretation of 1 Cor 15? He wouldn’t believe in 1 Cor 15 on any interpretation.

Even if he thinks that Carrier’s interpretation is correct, he still doesn’t believe that 1 Cor 15 is true.

So why is he getting so exercised over this issue? At this rate we will need to break out the smelling salts.

Beyond unbelief

Stephen T. Davis has written a rather long and quite critical review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

“The Counterattack of the Resurrection Skeptics: A Review Article.” Philosophia Christi 8.1.

HT: James Gibson.

Davis is a Christian philosopher who specializes in the Resurrection. By his own admission, Davis “does not affirm inerrancy, and is prepared to admit interpolations and contradictions in the text of the Bible” (48, n.20).

Given his low view of Scripture, the way he pans The Empty Tomb is all the more damning since he shares some of the same sceptical presuppositions as the contributors to that volume.

Here are a few highlights:


I should point out that Richard Carrier is virtually the only contributor to TET who recognizes the controlling influence that metaphysical commitment to naturalism or supernaturalism has on one’s attitude toward the resurrection of Jesus; see TET, 370. On the other hand, he says, “Christian theism faces tremendous problems regarding plausibility, disconfirmation, and evidential support” (355). I just wish that Carrier had pointed out what those problems were. I would love for him to have told us what evidence, in particular, disconfirms Christian theism or even shows that it is implausible, (40, n.5).

A believer in the resurrection may hold that Cavin’s (1) is provable [i.e. Jesus died and afterward he became alive once again], but hold that the rest of what Christians believe about the resurrection of Jesus must be taken on faith. That is, it is not necessary to establish (8)-(12) in order to establish (1) | (42).

My notion is that belief that God raised Jesus from the dead is rational from the perspective of Christian supernaturalism. I agree with Martin that even from that perspective, miracles will be highly unusual. Neither in scripture nor in Christian experience does God constantly perform miracles (42).

I do not accept Martin’s accept Martin’s epistemological claim that the probability of a given hypothesis H must be greater than .5 for belief in H to be rational. Normally, this is indeed the case. But suppose we are in a situation where (a) there are four mutually exclusive alternatives to belief in H (call them A, B, C, and D); (b) each of A, B, C, and D, has a probability of .15 (and thus the probability of the falsity of H is. 6 and the probability of the truth of H is 4); and (c) H, A, B, C. and D exhaust all the possibilities. In such a case, believing H is the most rational alternative (42).

I deny that miracles—as long as they are rare, as Christians insist that they are—would impede “scientific understanding of the world” (46). It is true that a miraculous event cannot be explained scientifically, but the vast majority of events—all the nonmiraculous ones—still can…There are even contemporary secular philosophers who argue that explaining things like consciousness and qualia is permanently beyond the pale of science. Mental properties, they say, resist scientific explanation and form a limit to scientific understanding (43).

See, for example, Ned block, “Mental Paint and Mental Latex,” in Perception, Philosophical Issues 7, ed. Enrique Vallanueva (Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview, 1996), 19-49. (43, n.10).

Is it a priori highly unlikely, given God’s freedom to choice about when and where to place it, that the incarnation occurred at the particular time and place that Christians say it did? Martin argues that it is. However, the trouble with that claim is that it renders extremely unlikely virtually any hypothesis about the time and place of any past event. Suppose Jimmy Carter was trying to establish that exactly three yeas ago today at 317 p.m. in his backyard in Plaints, Georgia, he for the first time drank a glass of tomato juice. Now think how initially improbable that putative event would be in relation to all the other places and times that it could have occurred. Imagine that for some reason it was important for Jimmy to prove in a court of law that the event happened when and where it did. And imagine further a lawyer on the other side giving Martin-like arguments to the Jury: “think of all the other times and places that the event of Jimmy Carter first drinking tomato juice could have occurred,” the lawyer might say, “so it is highly improbably that it occurred when and were Jimmy Carter alleges.” Such an argument would convince no one (43).

Moreover, Martin’s argument is irrelevant to the debate about the resurrection of Jesus because he and the apologists have already agreed on the question of where and when Jesus’s putative resurrection occurred. It occurred in or around Jerusalem some time in the very late twenties or very early thirties of the 1C. This argument from Martin goes nowhere (43).

I had earlier objected to Martin’s assumption that the rarity of miracles entails that such events have low probability. Suppose, I said, that I enter a used car lot that has a thousand cars for sale. What is the probability that I will buy the one and only red car in the lot? I argued that the answer to that question will not depend merely on considerations of rarity (which might make one erroneously believe that the probability is .001), but also on consideration of preference. Maybe I have always wanted to own a red car (43).

Martin objects that the analogy fails because we do not know God’s preferences. But contrary to Martin, Christians believe that we do “know God’s preferences” (or at least many of them), because God has revealed them to us. Among other things, we believe we know that God wants to redeem human beings, that redemption from death is ca crucial aspect of redemption, and that Jesus promised that he would be raised from the dead. Accordingly, my used car lot illustration still stands. It is entirely possible that God decided to use the vehicle of resurrection in order to vindicate and exalt Jesus in part precisely because of the rarity of resurrections (43-44).

As other contributors to TET admit, it is not true that “given Roman crucifixion customs, the prior probability that Jesus was buried is low” (464). In point of fact, the Romans almost always allowed for local burial customs, and this included Jewish customs, which emphasized quick burial of corpses. The one big exception was during time of war…IN times of peace (and there was no war in Palestine during the time when Jesus would have been crucified), the Romans allowed executed criminals to be buried. This does not prove that Jesus was buried, of course, but it does render it probable (44).


It is Ted Drange, and not any Christian theologian of whom I have ever heard, who apparently thinks that Christian atonement must require that Jesus die and then stay dead forever. Does Drange think that he gets to decide this question?…that God subsequently raised him from the dead does not affect the fact that he truly died (45).

Now on all these points that I am attributing to God’s sovereign choice, I want to note that they are not arbitrary choices, as if God, say, flipped a coin in order to decide between bodily resurrection and immortality of the soul. They were appropriate choices, given human nature, God’s nature, and God’s past actions, as revealed in the Hebrew Bible (46).

Contra Price, there are in fact quotations and clear allusions to 1 Cor 15:3-11 in the Apostolic Fathers, that is, well before the 3C. Ignatius, who died AD ca. 110-12, unmistakably alludes to 1 Cor 15:8-9 in chapter 9 of his Epistle to the Romans. The Shepherd of Hermas, usually dated between AD 140 and 155, clearly alludes (in a different context) to 1 Cor 15:6. And Irenaeus, who flourished from about AD 180-99, quotes 1 Cor 15:8 in his Against Heresies 8:2 (47)

Price himself is the one who set the “beginning of the 3C” cutoff date (we have, he says, no MSS from before tht date and that is why we have no evidence of texts of 1 Cor 15 sans verses 3-11)…Ignatius was definitely 2C and his Epistle to the Romans is widely accepted as authentic. This looks like a case of simply brushing aside inconvenient evidence (48).

Unlike Price, I do not think that 1 Cor 15 makes much sense apart from vv3-11. (If Price is correct, what exactly would Paul be making known to the Corinthians?) Moreover, unlike Price, I think 1 Cor 15 makes perfect sense with vv3-11 includes…The formula establishes, in Paul’s view, the fact of the resurrection of Jesus and the rest of the chapter explains, in Paul’s’ view, the implications or meaning of the resurrection of Jesus, especially in terms of the general resurrection. Moreover, Paul shows both here (1 Cor 15:20,23) and elsewhere (for example, Rom 6:5; 8:11; Phil 3:10-11,20-21; 1 Thes 4:14) that he closely connected the two. Jesus’s resurrection was the first fruits or promise or guarantee of our resurrection (48-49).

Price seems upset that Craig has made up his mind that God raised Jesus from the dead. But hasn’t Price made hp his mind that God did not raise Jesus from the dead (or maybe event that there is no God and there was no Jesus so, obviously, God did not raise Jesus from the dead)? Is the problem that Price thinks Craig is close-minded on this point? Then it would become an interesting question whether Craig is more close-minded or personally interested in his view than Price is, for his. So far as I can see, both are doing what Price calls “engaged scholarship” (50).

I do not accept the claim tht “there appears to be not a single biblical prophecy that meets minimal conditions of being genuinely prophetic, and whose fulfillment can be independently confirmed” (476). In order to falsify this claim, I will submit just one such prophecy. In Mt 24:5, Jesus says, “Many will come in my name, saying, “I am the messiah!” and they will lead many astray.” That surely, is a true statement (51).

[Fales’s] thesis asserts that the whole of the bible should be understood not as history but as myth, that the biblical writers understood and accepted that mythology was what they were doing, and that biblical mythology was always written in support of political or social goals (51).

So far as the “sign of Jonah” text is concerned, Fales’s argument is based on the apparent inconsistency between (1) Jesus’s prediction in that passage that he would be in the heart of the earth for “three days and three nights” (which was obviously a reference to his upcoming death), and (b) the fact that Jesus was in the tomb at most part of Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday, which hardly amounts to three days…But I have always been impressed with the fact that Matthew seems to use the phrase “after three days” (27:63) synonymously with the phrase “on the third day” (16:21; 17:23; 20:19). So perhaps the phrase “after three day s and three nights” was meant, despite the implication of 72 hours, not to be taken literally, but instead to be taken as meaning the same thing as the other two phrases. Perhaps “three days and three nights” is a Hebrew figure of speech. Note Esther 4:16 and 5:1, where Eater and the Jews of Susa apparently fasted for 72 hours, but then it says the appeared before the king “on the third day” (51).

Finally, the rock on which Fales’s theory flounders, in my opinion, is the practice of private prayer. Were the ancient Israelites and NT Christians so dense as not to see that prayers that included requests for divine forgiveness, intercession for others, and petitions for oneself addressed merely to an ideal sociopolitical state of affairs were nonsensical? No political situation, however ideal, could be in a position to hear, let alone answer, their requests. An idea is not a person. Ergo, the ancient Israelites and early Christians, who regularly engaged in such practices of prayer, though of God as a personal agent, not an ideal sociopolitical state of affairs (52).

Kirby also argues that Matthew’s and Luke’s empty tomb stories are entirely dependent on Mark’s. I do not accept this point either, especially since we know that both Matthew and Luke had sources of information about Jesus that were unavailable to Mark (54).

Kirby argues that the consistent use of plural words like “they” and “them” in canonical and noncanonical burial accounts is an indication that Jesus was buried not by Joseph but by his enemies (247). But of course Joseph would hardly have buried Jesus without any help from other persons. As such, the pronouns may refer to Joseph et a. after all. (54).

Lowder defends an interesting thesis, namely, that Jesus’ body was relocated after its initial burial…But it is damaged beyond repair, in my view, by the fact that there is no suggestion of any such thing in the texts. Indeed, Mark 16:6 is inconsistent with it, and so must be explained away (55).

Moreover, what Lowder has in mind is not like the common ancient practice of reburial. Typically, a body was buried for a year until only bones remained, and then those bones were removed and placed in an ossuary (55).

Moreover, I do not agree that Jesus’s corpse would have been unrecognizable after 7 weeks (which Lowder uses to refute the common argument that had Jesus been buried by his enemies they would simply have put the corpse on display when the disciples started preaching the resurrection). I myself also checked with an eminent pathologist on this point, w ho told me that when a body is in fact buried, and the climate is dray and fairly cool, a corpse can be readily identified for much longer than that (55).

Moreover, we must note that any body that was found in Jesus’s tomb and put on display, even an unrecognizable one, would have spelled disaster for the Christian movement (55).

Surprisingly, given Carrier’s vigorous critique of an argument from silence that William Lane Craig deploys at one point (177-9), much of Carrier’s case is based, to an amazing degree, on arguments from silence. There is one after another. They are usually of the form, “If Paul had meant x, why didn’t he say y?” Now I am not an enemy of all arguments from silence; sometimes they can be fairly effective (especially where a powerful case can be made in favor of the statement, “If the author had meant s, she would have said y”); but they are hardly ever probative when standing alone (56).

Also, there seems to be in this essay a great deal of what I will call “picking and choosing” among texts…it seems that Carrier fastens upon and privileges any texts that can be taken as supporting his theory, and rejects all others. For example, he rejects the whole of the book of Acts as “worthless as a source” except the three descriptions of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-22; 22:6-16; 25:12-18), which Luke puts in the mouth of Paul. This is because the themes of seeing light and hearing voices (TET, 154) seem to agree with Carrier’s view of the subjective e nature of all the resurrection appearances of Jesus. Accordingly, he very much likes those bits of Acts (57).

As Carrier points out, Paul places great emphasis on the simile of a seed growing into a plant. Carrier sees I this metaphor a confirmation of the two-body theory; after all, he says, the plant is very much different from the see. Yet I see in the simile proof of the one-body theory. It all depends on what is meant by “the same” (r, alternately, “different from”) | (57).

It is certainly true that the seed and the plant are qualitatively different. But they are numerically the same because there is material continuity between them…Jesus’s old body is not, as Carrier would have it, replaced by the new one (while the old one decays in the grave); rather it becomes the new body. There is material continuity between the two; the new boy, although transformed, is the same body (57).

I am simply unable to read 1 Cor 15 in the way that Carrier does. One seldom noted grammatical point—which is clear both in standard English translations and the Greek—is the repetition in vv43-44 of the pronoun “it.” Three times Paul says, “It is sown…it is raised…” Now what is the intended referent of this word “It”? Surely he means the person’s body…This does not sound like the exchange of one body from another (57-58).

My only comment on this essay [“The Plausibility of Theft”} is that we must distinguish between two quite different questions. First, is it possible for us to imagine a scenario that is not impossible, is not disproven by the available evidence, and that covers all the admitted facts? Second, do we have convincing evidence that the scenario is true?

Believers in the resurrection of Jesus should answer the first question in the affirmative. Of course e can imagine such scenarios. Carrier does so, again and again…This certainly is a metaphysically possible scenario, but there is no evidence whatsoever for it. That is precisely the case, I believer for many of the theft scenarios that Carrier creates (58-59).

Carrier thinks it is obvious that the claim that Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple of Jesus (Jn 19:38-40) is a legendary embellishment. I ill just say that that is not obvious to me. Carrier’s theory is based on assuming the truth of what he calls the “core accounts” in the gospel burial accounts (that is, “details common to the majority: [386]). But one cannot help forming the suspicion that Carrier’s actual criterion for what details he will accept from the burial accounts is not what is “common to the majority,” but what agrees with his theory (59).

For much of his article, Parsons is buys answering the wrong set of questions. Few people, including Christians, will dispute the claim that sane and intelligent people sometimes “believe tings that never happened” (343)…the real issue here is whether there is good evidence to believe that this sort of thing happened in the case of the disciples’ beliefs about Jesus (59).

There are also several lesser points where I disagree with Parsons. He quotes Robert Price as asking, “where in the Gospels or in acts do we read ‘profound, extended conversations’ between the risen Jesus and his Disciples?” (444). And I am just wondering why Price and Parsons think Jn 21 fails to fill the bill (60).

Against Parsons, I still think that the resurrection of Jesus looks like an unlikely candidate for hallucinations. The considerations here are several: Jesus’s followers were not expecting a resurrection, many people saw the risen Jesus; the encounters were located in various places and times; some doubted that it was Jesus, and others only recognized him with difficulty; there were no drugs, high fever, or lack of food or water mention; and longstanding convictions and permanent lifestyle changes were produced. Taken together, these points constitute a powerful case against hallucination (61).

I was surprised, however, at how much below-the-surface disagreement there is in the book. In fact, I found myself t times wondering whether I might just somehow step out of the way and let them duke it out among themselves on such issue as:

• whether Jesus ever existed;
• whether Jesus died on the cross;
• whether Joseph of Arimathea existed;
• whether Jesus was buried (by anybody);
• whether the theft-of-the-body thesis is plausible;
• whether the disciples were convinced that Jesus had risen;
• whether Paul learned anything about Christianity from other Christians;
• whether the evangelists ere even trying to record actual events, and
• whether any parts of the Gospel accounts of the burial and resurrection of Jesus are either true or were meant to be taken as true (61).

I must point out that the contributors to TET advance some extremely radical proposals:

• The very concept of God is incoherent,
• The whole of the Bible is myth in the service or politics,
• Jesus never existed;
• Jesus did not really die on the cross; and
• 1 Cor 15:3-11 was not written by Paul.

Not all ten authors of TET push these theses. But I must say that these claims seem rather desperate to me. And so I draw this moral; If these are the lengths to which you have to go in order to deny the resurrection, maybe it is better to affirm it. Accordingly, to a certain extent, I believe that the authors of TET have shot themselves in the foot. Most scholars will recognize these claims for the eccentricities that they are (62).

One aspect of the desperation of which I speak is a methodological procedure that unites the essays in TET. I would describe it as having these steps: (1) suggest a naturalistic hypothesis which, if true, explains some aspects of the NT accounts of the resurrection of Jesus; (2) embrace all biblical or extrabiblical ancient texts, phrases, hints, or textual variants that can be interpreted as supporting the hypothesis; and (3) reject all other biblical texts as late, or patently false, or apologetically motivated, or legendary (62).

Has TET refuted the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead? No: the authors have not even come close to that (63).

John M. Frame on the Narrow Mind

Dr. Frame will be on The Narrow Mind Monday 010/02 9am-10am Monday. The topic: "Redemptive Historical Preaching."

This should be an interesting show and is sure to ruffle the feathers of some Westminster Seminary profs.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Hermeneutical constraints

Stuart is coming at 1 Cor 11 from the opposite end of the spectrum of the Debunkers. They are militant unbelievers, whereas he is a conservative, Bible-believing Christian. Since he raises some valid questions, let’s run through them:

“Steve’s (and others’) argument is essentially the same explanation my late father and pastor gave for not requiring head coverings in church. I have deep respect for those men, but I have trouble buying the argument. For me, it’s is a frightening notion to simply dismiss a direct, clear biblical mandate on the basis what seems a very heavy dose of speculation. I could, after all, speculate “until the cows come home” to justify behaviors and even theological positions that are, say, more agreeable to my disposition or socially acceptable but that violate the plain sense meaning of scripture; I believe examples of this practice are myriad nowadays.”

Several basic issues:

1.Since I’ve not a woman, the question of wearing hats in church is irrelevant to my disposition. It would, at most, be relevant to the disposition of the woman affected by that policy. But the issue has nothing to do with whether I, as a man, find the custom agreeable or not since I’m not party to that custom one way or the other.

I don’t wear a hat in church, and I wouldn’t wear a hat in church even if it were socially acceptable to do so.

2.Is it socially unacceptable for a woman to wear a hat or head-covering in church?

This custom only exists in certain conservative churches, and the only people who might be offended by that custom are people who don’t attend conservative churches in the first place.

3.Nowadays, what is socially unacceptable to many is the idea of male headship (in the hierarchical or authoritarian sense). That’s what offensive, not donning a hat.

I believe that four of the T-bloggers have weighed in on this issue: Paul, Gene, Evan, and me.

As I recall, all four have defended the principle of male headship. And that, predictably enough, was the principle which a number of our critical commenters have pounced on.

If we wanted to be politically correct, we’ve go the egalitarian route or even resort to feminist hermeneutics. That would be the easy way out.

4. You talk about the “clear” or “plain” sense of Scripture. Clear and plain to whom?

To whom is this supposed to be clear or plain?

1 Corinthians wasn’t written to you. It was written to the Corinthians.

In the plan and providence of God, 1 Corinthians was written for you, and every other Christian, but it wasn’t written to you.

The question to ask is what would be clear to the original audience.

For example, Gene makes the point that no one really knows what the allusion to the “angels” (11:10) has reference to. That’s a very in-house allusion.

Apparently, this is part of an ongoing exchange. A modern reader is jumping into the middle of an ongoing discussion. And when something like 11:10 comes along, we’re out of the loop.

5.As to speculation, there’s a difference between responsible speculation and unbridled speculation. There’s a difference between an educated guess and a wild guess.

There’s bound to be a speculative element in any historical reconstruction of the original setting.

The alternative to attempting a historical reconstruction is to interpret the text in a historical vacuum, and when you do that, what fills the vacuum is your own historical setting. You’re 21C sitz-im-leben unconsciously supplies the historical situation.

You’re suggesting that the grammatico-historical method is a way of setting aside whatever we or others find disagreeable or unacceptable in Scripture.

To the contrary, the GHM does just the opposite. It restrains the expositor from substituting his own preferred frame of reference for the original. He is not at liberty to swap out original intent for the revisionist interpretation du jour.

6.Keep in mind that even in dealing with the original audience, Paul also had to write 2 Corinthians to correct some misinterpretations of 1 Corinthians. So what he wrote wasn’t entirely clear to the very people he wrote it to.

Not that he was unclear in his own mind. But you can’t control both ends of the communicative process.

7.No methodology will prevent people from being sly or disobedient. But one paradoxical function of Scripture is to give some people something to rebel against. And that will be held against them on the Day of Judgment.

“What are the biblical controls on an interpretive framework that relies so heavily on manmade categories?”

Of course, this is a loaded question.

1.At one level, the external control takes the form of a uniform methodology, known as the grammatico-historical method.

2.If, however, you mean some rule-of-thumb that will prejudge the interpretation of any given passage, then, of course, that does not exist, and we wouldn’t use it if it did since this would impose on the text rather than listen to the text.

3.What “manmade categories” do you have in mind? Paul deploys several different arguments in the course of his discussion. There’s an appeal to custom in 11:16. That’s a sociological argument. He also frames the issue in terms of honor and shame. That presupposes a shame culture. Another sociological argument.

On the other hand, he also appeals to the natural order (vv7-9,14). That’s a cross-cultural argument.

So, when I distinguish between timeless principles and timebound applications, or cross-cultural norms and culturebound applications, these are Pauline categories, not manmade categories.

Sure, the labels are manmade. But the concepts which the labels denote are not manmade categories.

4.Do you really think that Christians are under some standing obligation to reproduce a Greco-Roman dress code? Tell me, do you wear a toga to church? Do you walk around barefoot in the sanctuary? Or to you dress according to the dress code of your own culture and social class?

5.When Paul talks about a shameful mode of dress, whether for men or women, what is “shameful” is observer-relative. “Shame” in relation to the message it sends to others. The social signals. And that varies in time and place. Community standards.

It’s not altogether relative. For example, here are stereotypical ways that men and women may dress to be attractive to the opposite sex.

But much of what goes into a dress code involves culturebound social markers.

In India, a married woman puts a dot between the eyes to signify that she’s no longer eligible. In America, she wears a wedding ring.

“The arguments that have been floated here that favor setting aside a mandate that Paul, himself, makes no effort to qualify as time bound or culture bound seem devoid of the kind of exegis that is ubiquitously celebrated on this blog.”

1.To the contrary, your objection does not reflect a close reading of Paul. It fails to distinguish the variety of arguments he brings to bear in making his case.

2.Gene and I have spent a lot of time on this text. You may disagree with our exegesis, but we have laid out a detailed case for our position by directly interacting with the text.

Frankly, your objection gives us nothing to respond to because it’s so very vague. And you haven’t presented an exegetical alternative.

“From my perspective it plays into the hands of the opponent to suggest we can shunt aside entire passages on the basis of appeals to considerations that are completely external to the text.”

If you think that our interpretation plays into the hands of the enemy, then you are welcome to engage the enemy yourself, using what you deem to be a better approach.

“Why would God make the path to true understanding be so circuitous?”

1.And what is so “circuitous” about our interpretation? A distinction between a general norm and a specific application is pretty straightforward to me. Between the universal principle and the way in which that principle is concretely particularized from place to place and age to age.

2.If it seems complicated, that’s only because the Curry brothers have gone out of the way to disregard the obvious.

Therefore, Gene and I and others (Evan and Paul) have to spend a lot of time explicating the obvious.

3.I and others find it fairly easy to identify the timeless principles: sexual differentiation, male headship, and sexual interdependence.

Reconstructing the historical reference point is more involved, but that’s true of historical reconstructions generally.

“If I, due to ignorance of, say, the cultural milieu in which Paul was writing, accept the plain sense meaning of the Bible (regarding head coverings) as opposed to the heavily nuanced, theory-laden interpretations offered thus far, have I not been deceived by the Bible itself?”

1.The question at issue is not merely one of what the passage “means,” but how it applies.

2.If you’re deceived, then you’re deceived by a false expectation, and not by Scripture.

Indeed, your appeal to the “clear” or “plain” sense is deceptive or self-deceptive.

Most folks read the Bible in translation. Someone had to learn Greek and Hebrew. Ultimately, a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew comes from reading Greek and Hebrew authors, inscriptions, &c. Meaning is determined by usage.

A NT lexicographer reads secular Greek and LXX Greek as well as NT Greek in order to piece together a knowledge of Koine Greek. The cultural milieu is what supplies the usage.

3.The meaning of Scripture is not and cannot be self-contained. For the text of Scripture is studded with many extratextual referents.

What is Paul talking “about”? What is he “referring” to?

Paul himself is situating his discourse in the context of the Roman Empire. And when Paul is talking about the world of Greco-Roman culture or Second Temple Judaism, then it is incumbent upon us to consult the available evidence in order to know what Paul is talking about. To hear the text as it would have been heard by the Corinthian congregation.

“And if contextual considerations trump the literal sense in this case, what seals us off from the possibility that beliefs that we currently consider essential will be set aside at some future date by a more ‘sophisticated and ‘historically informed’ interpretive grid?”

1.You continue to confound meaning with application.

2.You also set up a false dichotomy between text and context. The cultural context is an essential ingredient of original intent. Paul means what he meant to mean to his audience. He is writing to be understood.

He doesn’t spell out everything he means because he can allude to familiar examples. They can read between the lines and fill in the blanks.

But their common knowledge is not the same as our common knowledge.

3.What’s your alternative? To say that all interpretations are frozen in time? That we could never make an archeological discovery which would revise our interpretation of any given verse of Scripture?

4.”To whom much is given, much is required” (Lk 12:48). You and I are not responsible for some hypothetical discovery which would force us to reinterpret some passage of Scripture.

That hasn’t been given to us. You’re the one who is now indulging in speculation, not me.

5.There’s a great deal of redundancy built into the teaching of Scripture. Nothing “essential” turns on one particular verse.

Jon Curry said:

“A fascinating and refreshing post, Stuart. It is good to see honesty and a willingness to admit that some issues are difficult and cannot simply be dismissed with the wave of a hand.”

Gene and I didn’t “dismiss” the issues with a “wave of the hand.” To the contrary, we presented a detailed respond.

It’s the Curry brothers who indulge in preemptory dismissals.

“I face the same difficulties with the problem of evil, because I believe in God. But I don't bother with the trite responses to the problem that Christians often offer.”

No one at Triablogue has offered a “trite” response to the problem of evil.

“It's a hard issue and I'm willing to admit that I don't have all the answers.”

This is an exercise in mock modesty. Curry believes that God is the wrong answer to the problem of evil.

“But I must warn you that you may not be able to survive as a Christian with this honest approach to the Scriptures. Steve is so comfortable man-handling the text of the Bible that he can even dismiss ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ from Lk 6:31 with the simple excuse that it is a ‘distraction’".

1.A palpable lie since this is not the only reason I gave.

But Curry wants to play hopscotch. He raises a “problem passage.” When we answer him on his own level, and he can’t answer back, then he tries to change the subject without admitting his error.

There are over 31,000 verses in the Bible. By hopscotching from one verse to another and another and another, Curry can stall for time and play out the clock if you let him.

2.Notice that Bridges answered him, which he ignores.

3.He gives no evidence that I “manhandle” Scripture. Assertion in place of argument.

“Steve made his decisions a while back, and today the Bible is Play-Doh. Whatever he wants it to say it will say.”

Notice that Curry is characterizing my interpretation rather than arguing it down. He substitutes a tendentious description for a reasoned argument to the contrary. No attempt to actually show that I treat the text like Play-Doh. Just a lazy, evasive characterization.

“When 2 Pet 2:1 says ‘They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them’ for Steve that still means Christ only died for the elect.”

1.Notice how he changes the subject. He tries to make his opponent fight on several fronts at once while he retreats from a losing skirmish.

2.What I point out in 2 Pet 2:1 is that the Arminian interpretation is anachronistic. It maps later, dogmatic usage back onto Biblical usage as if the mere occurrence of the word “purchase” were a technical term denoting the full-orbed doctrine of penal substitution.

“When I Tim 2:12 says that women need to be silent in church, for Steve it doesn't mean that.”

1.Agreed. 1 Tim 2:12 doesn’t mean that. And that’s because it doesn’t say that. Curry is mistaking 1 Cor 14:34 for 1 Tim 2:12.

Since 1 Tim 2:12 isn’t 1 Cor 14:34, it’s quite true that one verse doesn’t mean the same thing as a different verse—just as “Jesus wept” doesn’t mean “Judas hanged himself.”

2.I don’t have a vested interest in this question. I’m not a woman, and I’m not a church officer. So it’s not as if my exegesis is driven by some ulterior motive.

3.Verses mean what they mean in relation to the flow of argument as well as other injunctions.

i) 1 Cor 14:34 cannot be a blanket prohibition since Paul makes specific allowance for (some) women/wives to speak in church (11:5).

The language in 14:34-35 is a carryover from the same usage in the immediately preceding verses of the same chapter (vv28,30,32), with reference to the adjudication of prophecy.

So the prohibition probably has reference to women (or wives) who sit in judgment over the various oracles, quite possibly cross-examining their husbands.

ii) How this applies to the current situation depends, in part, on how we answer another question regarding the continuance or discontinuance of the spiritual gifts.

iii) 1 Tim 2:12 cannot be a blanket prohibition because Paul elsewhere instructs women to teach other women (Tit 2:3-4).

iv) There is also a question regarding the syntactical relation between the two negations with reference to the two infinitives. Is the prohibition applied to two separate activities (to teach, to exercise authority over men), or is one an extension of another?

For Curry to say that I ignore the meaning of these verses when he acts as if the meaning is separable from semantic and syntactical considerations regarding the grammatical construction, usage, and flow of argument, is utterly mindless.

But we’ve come to expect mindless objections from the Curry brothers.

“When I Cor 11 says women need covering on their head, Steve makes it say something else. “

No, it means exactly what it says. The point at issue is not the original meaning, but the modern application.

Application is an argument from analogy. You reason from cross-cultural norms in tandem with the historical setting to analogous circumstances. The norms apply to a comparable situation.

That is why a book like Bruce Winter’s Roman Wives, Roman Widows: The Appearance of New Women and the Pauline Communities (Eerdmans 2003), is germane to the exposition of 1 Cor 11.

It is not enough to identify the timeless principles. Until we can also identify the original situation, we are unable to apply the timeless principles to a parallel situation.

“And now Luke 6:31 can be discarded. This is a verse that many consider to be one of the central aspects of Christ's teaching.”

1.I don’t have a duty to drive down every detour that Curry points me to. The Curry brothers use chapter and verse as a decoy, skipping about to avoid being cornered. Prove them wrong and they change the subject. It’s a pretty transparent ruse.

Notice how Curry is simply assuming that Lk 6:31 is a problem for my theology. But he doesn’t bother to explain how it poses a problem for my theology. He doesn’t bother to argue his point.

I’m under no obligation to explain how a given verse of Scripture is consistent with my theology when he makes no effort to explain how it is inconsistent with my theology. He’s given me no argument to refute.

“The Bible means nothing for Steve. He might as well throw it out.”

Sure. That’s why I invest thousands of dollars in commentaries and exegetical resources. Real convincing.

“You may be facing decisions right now that Steve faced long ago. Will the Bible be Play-Doh, kind of like the Supreme Court treats the Constitution, or will you accept it for what it says?”

Bad example. The Warren Court and its contemporary epigones (e.g. Larry Tribe) disregard original intent in favor of a “living Constitution,” whereas the GHM does just the opposite.

“I made my decision, as difficult as it was. I was sorely tempted to take the path of least resistance as Steve probably did.”

1.The path of least resistance would be for me to adopt the egalitarian interpretation.

2.I never made a “decision” to believe the Bible. Belief is not an act of the will. I simply found myself believing the Bible. Found myself in a believing state of mind.

“I'm proud to say…”

His pride will mean a lot to him when he’s rotting in the grave.

“I took honesty over comfort. Will you?”

What the Curry brothers exhibit is intellectual escapism rather than intellectual honesty.

They raise intellectual objections to the faith. When their objections are answered on their own level, they either change the subject or strike an anti-intellectual pose.

“Will you put hats on the women? Who knows where that could lead you.”

Other issues aside, to insinuate that there’s something horribly oppressive about a woman wearing a hat in church is pretty hilarious.

“Who knows where does putting hats on women will lead to?”

Let me think about that for a moment. Okay, I guess it leads to women with hats.

Likewise, putting sneakers on boys will lead to boys with sneakers.

Yes, I can see my faith melting away, drop by drop, under the acid touch of Curry’s remorseless logic.

Reason And The Existence of God

Tune in tonight (8PM ET, 5PM PST, -5 GMT) to the infidel guy to hear Victor Reppert offer his Argument From Reason.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Secular sophistry redux

Jon Curry said:

“ Looks like you made a prophet out of Bill. You not only ignore Luke 6:30, but also Luke 6:31 with further name calling.”

I chose to ignore his appeal to Lk 6:30-31 for a couple of reasons:

1.This is a diversionary tactic. Your brother is attempting to change the subject in the middle of the debate. He was the one who brought up 1 Cor 11. I have no intention of letting him off the hook.

2. (See below).

“I suppose someone like Jason will come in and explain that "Do unto others" is really just hyperbole.”

And that’s the other reason I ignored it, for as I recall, Jason has already spend a lot of time on that issue. You and your brother are simply repeating yourselves by revisiting oft-refuted objections.

“Anyway, I notice your commentaries don't address the central problem. There may be many good reasons for thinking that Paul's demand of head covering doesn't apply today. I could have bought off on some that you offer, such as that from Keener or the others. The problem is Paul gives us the reasons why women need to wear hats and they have nothing to do with the reasons Keener offers. They have to do with the very order of creation as it occurred with Adam and Eve, how Adam was created first, then Eve, and how Eve is created for Adam, not vice versa. Paul says for this reason and because of the angels, women need head coverings. Nothing about lesbians. Nothing about homosexuals. Why are you unwilling to discuss the reasons Paul offers? Are his reasons valid in your mind?”

I see you haven’t been paying any attention to the course of this thread. I went into that question in some detail in my previous post on the subject.

What I notice is that you are the one, along with your brother, who’s ignoring my detailed discussion of that very question.

Try rereading the extensively argued distinction between timeless, cross-cultural principles and the culturally diverse ways in which the invariant principle can be variously instantiated.

Given your studied disregard for the answers I gave to questions raised by your brother, it’s apparent that the two of you have no counterargument to offer, which is why you resort to the stance of a storefront preacher or hillbilly preacher-man: “Me and mah King James Bahble! Don’t’ go givin' me none-a yer new-fangled book larnin’ from them thar Calvinistical commen-ta-tors!”

I’m more than willing to discuss Paul’s reasons. Indeed, I’ve already done so.

You’re the one who’s unwilling to respond in kind. The ball is losing air and going flat as it sits in your court, gathering dust.

Secular sophistry


Bill Curry said:

I understand that commentaries are very useful tools if you want to ignore a clear teaching in the text. I suppose your commentaries on 2 Timothy 3:16-17 let us know that the author intended to include the qualifier “If the appropriate Calvinist commentaries are available.”

I think it is fairly clear that you don’t think or act like the Bible is inspired. You are just in denial about it. Steve, I await you next round of insults. Let your light shine.


1.Clear to whom? The original audience? Or a modern audience?

Clear to the Corinthians? Or clear to an American living in the 21C?

Curry’s obscurantist dismissal is just as silly as saying that “commentaries on Dante or Shakespeare are very useful tools if you want to ignore the clear meaning of the text.”

We study Bible commentaries for the same reason as we bone up on Medieval Florentine cultural history and or Elizabethan cultural history if we wish to understand the text as it was meant to be understood by the implied reader.

All Curry’s objection achieves is to illustrate the intellectual backwardness of unbelief.

2.One of the primary interpretive issues in 1 Cor 11:3-16 is the cultural significance of fashion at that time and place.

It should be unnecessary to point out that where a 1C Greco-Roman or Jewish dress-code is concerned, what would be “clear” to the Corinthians is not automatically clear to a 21C American.

The inspiration of Scripture is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Christians believe in historical revelation. The interpretation of Scripture is naturally bound up with the customs and conventions in which it was revealed. That’s the port of entry. The inspired writers exploit the cultural preunderstanding of their target audience to convey their message.

3.Let’s looks at just a few of the salient considerations. As one commentator explains:


Research by classicists demonstrates an unevenness and fluidity in the expectations and status of women in mid-century Roman culture, depending on a variety of factors…Augustus reformed family law in ways which affected the status of women some three times between 18BC and AD 9.

How does this relate to language about “head” (kephale)? (i) The laws of Augustus to which we have alluded also modified the system of guardianship (tutela) of women inherited from the closing yeas of the Republic…Under Claudius guardianship of freeborn women was abolished, although not for freedwomen.

Further, a considerable amount of archaeological research on this subject also demands attention…Archaeological evidence shows “the side-spread use of male liturgical head coverings in the city of Rome, in Italy, and in numerous cities in the Roman East…on coins, statues and architectural monuments from around the Mediterranean Basin.” Men covering their heads in the context of prayer and prophecy was a common pattern of Roman piety.

A. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 2000), 801-802,805.


This is from the standard commentary on the Greek text of 1 Corinthians. I’d add that Thiselton is not a “Calvinist commentator.” And he inclines to the egalitarian position, which puts him to the left of me. So I’m not citing a sympathetic source.

The background in Roman law and Roman piety, which would be clear to readers living in the mid-1C Roman Empire, would not be clear to modern readers.



Why should the length of a man’s hair be an issue? In Paul’s world, for a man to attach too much importance to the way his hair was dressed hinted at effeminacy, at sexual ambiguity. If he let his hair grow long, it proclaimed his homosexuality both for Jews and for Gentiles. The Roman Juvenal speaks dismissively of “a long-haired catamite” (Satires 8:130), whereas the Jewish philosopher Philo rails against homosexuals because of the “provocative way they curl and dress their hair” (The Special Laws 3:36). Hair was grown long in order to create a feminine hairdo. The normal hair length for men was the short-back-and-sides that one sees on Roman statues of the period. For Jews the standard was set by the priests: “They shall not have their heads or let their locks grow long; they shall only trim the hair on their heads” (Ezk 44:20).

Lesbians shaved their heads to be comfortable when wearing wigs, or else cut it short as men did. Lucian describes a woman “with her hair closely clipped in the Spartan style, boyish-looking and quite Masculine” (The runaways, 27).

J. Murphy-O-Connor, 1 Corinthians (Doubleday 1998), 112-113.


Murphy-O’Connor is not a “Calvinist commentator.” He is a liberal Catholic Bible scholar and authority on Roman Corinth.

And what he says about hairdos at the time of writing is not interchangeable with modern American culture.



In Jerusalem, Tarsus, and for some of the women of Corinth (including members of eastern immigrant communities, probably including many Jews), it sufficed to cover the hair, the most prized potentially public object of male desire (e.g., Apuleius Metam. 2.8; Sipre Num . 11:2.1-3). Traditionalists expected modest wives to shield their beauty from other men’s gaze (e.g., Seneca Controv. 2.7.6).

Few expected single girls, who were supposed to need husbands, to cover their hair, but married women were to protect their hair from public view. Well-to-do Roman matrons, however, paid well for expensive hairstyles, following fashions generated by the impresses; upper-class women were far less likely to cover their heads (cf. 1 Tim 2:9). In public, even well-to-do roman women probably pulled a mantle over their heads, but if the church met in homes, the need for such behavior may not have been evidence. Because mot Christians gathered in the wealthier homes, Christians of different social strata and background met together.

C. Keener, 1-2 Corinthians (Cambridge 2005), 91-92.


Keener is not a “Calvinist commentator.” His hails from the Assemblies of God. And he’s an egalitarian, unlike me.

He’s describing the unwritten rules of a multicultural civilization very unlike our own.

Once again, this sort of historical context is not something which would be plain to a modern reader belonging to an entirely different culture.

Militant unbelievers are so duplicitous. On the one hand, they dismiss the Bible as the product of a Bronze or Iron Age culture.

On the other hand, they dismiss an interpretation which is culturally sensitive to, and historically informed by, the customs and conventions of that time and place.

But I want to thank Bill Curry for once again reminding us of how retrograde unbelievers must be to justify their unbelief.

Devastation and Hope: One Church's Opportunity in New Orleans

Check out this video.

"The credal notion of a person"

According to R. Scott Clark:


One is not entitled to posit a new definition of person and then say “but I affirm the creedal notion of person too.” They incompatible. The creeds do not equate person with substance. One cannot equate them as one pleases and distinguish them as one pleases.


Notice what is missing from this statement. Clark doesn’t tell us what the credal notion of a person is. Do the creeds define “person”?

Likewise, what’s the credal notion of a “substance”?

This raises an interesting question. When a WSC grad comes before his ordination board, in what sense is he required to affirm the credal notion of a person?

Unlike a graduate of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, I doubt that the average WSC graduate has mastered the primary and secondary literature on the Greek Fathers.

So whose usage is determinative?

Must an ordinand affirm the credal notion of “person” (or “substance”) according to original intent?

If so, how many WSC grads are competent to render an informed judgment on that question?

I’m not singling out WSC. I only mention it because that happens to be Clark’s preferred frame of reference.

But the question is relevant to Evangelical seminaries in general, which do not specialize in patristics.

Moving along:


There is a difference between speaking about God's essence and claiming to know what it is or to know God as he is in himself. I don't have to know God "as he is in himself" to be able to say that God has an essence or that his essence is utterly transcendent.

We know that God is who/what he is/will be, but we don't know God AS he is.

This is a fundamental Biblical and Protestant distinction. Scripture is accommodated. All of it. We never have contact with God as he is in himself. God, in se, is wholly other.


Several problems here:

1.Clark is endorsing apophatic theology. We know that God has an essence, but we don’t know what his essence is.

But if this is so, then we don’t know what God is really like.

2.Apropos (1), how can we speak truthfully “about” God’s essence if his essence is ineffable and/or inscrutable?

To what does his statement correspond? Clark is making a claim about the essence of God, but according to his own claim, his claim cannot correspond to the object to which it refers.

3.Clark’s basic confusion is a failure to distinguish between the divine mode of knowledge, which is incommunicable, and God as an object of knowledge, which is communicable.

Human beings cannot reproduce the divine mode of knowledge, but it hardly follows from this that God cannot be an object of knowledge.

4.If Clark’s position were correct, then we’d be idolaters. For if what we believe about God fails to correspond to what God is really like, then we are guilty of idolatry—which is the archetypal sin.

Moving along:


Three URC pastors in LA have moved their radio show to the Web.

These are WSC grads. Adam is pastor of Ontario URC. Movses (pron. Moses) and John are church planters in Pasadena and Diamond Bar…but they make an important central point: These folk who are becoming Calvinists in non-Reformed churches need to get out of such congregations and into confessionally Reformed congregations.


Why should a Calvinist automatically leave a non-Reformed church? For one thing, why shouldn’t he use his insider position to bear witness to the doctrines of grace?

Moving along:


If the Reformed confessions (i.e., the Three Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards) define what it is to be Reformed, then I must say that Reformed Baptists are not "true" churches.


Notice the viciously circular nature of this appeal. What about, say, the London Baptist Confession of Faith?

Is this a Reformed confession or not? To say that it’s not a Reformed Confession because it disagrees with Dort or Westminster on certain points simply begs the question in favor of Dort or Westminster.

Truth by definition.

Moving along:


I admit it's more difficult with confessional RB's than with the SBC or with genuine Anabaptists, but they do have one thing in common and that's a big problem for confessional Reformed folk, or it should be.


So the SBC is not a true church? The Amish don’t have a true church?

What, in Clark’s opinion, is the relationship between a “true” church and a “Christian” church?

Is he saying that a denomination or theological tradition can be Christian, but be false, or is he saying that the SBC or Amish aren’t even Christian?


It's for this reason, I think, that the Synod of Dort was careful to say in their church order that we ought not commune anyone except those who profess the "Reformed religion."


So we shouldn’t fellowship with fellow Christians unless they are Reformed?

Where is the Scriptural justification for this restriction? Why would we not regard all Christians as members of the same family? As long as someone is a brother-in-Christ, why would I automatically disfellowship him because he isn’t a Calvinist?



I get along well with my ARBCA brothers. I regard them as rebels.


I suspect that if they knew what he thought of them, he might hit a bump in the road.


They ought to unite with a true church.


So only a Reformed church is a true church. A Lutheran church is not a true church, which must mean a Lutheran church is a false church. Is that the idea?


They are Reformed in every other regard, so far as I know them, but they have an over-realized eschatology that requires them to insist of a kind of purity in the institutional church that causes them to exclude (in their case) children whom they acknowledge to be "covenant children," from the sign/seal of covenant initiation.


According to William Young, the category of “covenant child” is a theological innovation which does not represent traditional Reformed theology.

Moving along:


They worship in defective congregations. They hold a serious error and they are defective in practice. In the Belgic "sect" refers to the Anabaptists. The ARBCA folk are not that, but they do agree with the AB's on baptism.


What Anabaptists are we talking about, exactly? Historic Anabaptists living at the time of the Belgic Confession?

“Anabaptism” is a cover term for a fairly diverse group of people, especially in the 16C.

How does that correspond to modern-day Anabaptism?

Clark acts as if there’s no possible difference between the historical referent and the contemporary referent.

Maybe there isn’t, but that can’t be taken for granted. One must make allowance for the passage of time.

Moving along:


Read Belgic Confession Articles 28-29 closely, carefully, phrase by phrase and tell me what I should conclude in the light of what we confess?


One of the problems with Clark’s appeal to the creeds is his misconception of the function of the creeds.

Creeds don’t tell us what we ought to believe. Rather, creeds are a witness to what professing Christians do believe.

Creeds purport to tell us what we ought to believe, but of course, different creeds differ on what we ought to believe.

For example, the Racovian catechism purports to tell us what we ought to believe, but I rather doubt that Clark would appeal to the Racovian catechism.

So, at some point, we need to dial back the discussion to Scripture. Which creeds got it right?


Is "predestination" a sufficient condition to be Reformed. No. If "Reformed" doesn't include church and sacraments, then the word has little use. Of course it includes those things. It always has. The rather loose way we use it today was unknown when we coined the phrase.


Is Clark saying that the LBCF excludes church and sacraments?

Moving along:


Why were there no baptists at the Westminster Assembly? Because they weren't invited. Why? Because they weren't regarded as Reformed? Anglicans were there, Independents were there, Presbyterians were there. but no Baptists.


I see. So, according to Clark’s definition, Archbishop Laud was truly Reformed, but John Piper is not. Okay.

Moving along:


The definition of "Reformed" is the Reformed confessions.


Very well, then, let’s take the Westminster Standards. This includes the Westminster Directory of Worship.

Does Clark observe the Puritan style of worship? If not, then he’s not truly Reformed, is he?

What about the Pope as the Antichrist? This would logically commit him to the historicist school of interpretation vis-à-vis Rev 13. Is that Clark’s position?

It would also commit him to the Solemn League & Covenant. Is he waiting for Bonnie Prince Charlie to come charging over the hill?

Monday, September 25, 2006

A hair-raising predicament


Bill Curry said:


Do women wear hats in your church, or do you ignore/rationalize away the stupid passages in the Bible like like I used to?

9/25/2006 3:45 PM
Anonymous said:

I'm wondering if the women in your church dare to speak...or do you ignore that verse too?

How about the verse about men having long hair?


I'm sure you have some nifty rationalization as to why those verses no longer monkey boy, dance!
9/25/2006 4:28 PM


1.Since I’m not a church officer, I’m not responsible for church discipline.

And since I’m not a woman, I’m not responsible for what the women do.

2.Notice the duplicitous character of Curry’s wife-beating question—a duplicity aped by the anonymous commenter as well.

Are they posing sincere questions or not? It is insincere to ask a question, then poison the well by dismissing any answer in advance of the answer as a way of “ignoring” or “rationalizing” away the “stupid” passages of Scripture.

This way of framing the question is deliberately prejudicial, and just another illustration of the intellectual frivolity and duplicity of unbelief.

3.I realize that Curry would like to keep everything a simple-minded as possible since the only objections he can offer to the Bible are simple-minded objections.

But Paul’s own discussion is highly nuanced.

3.Paul’s argument, by his own admission, involves both timeless and timebound elements.

In terms of the timeless elements:

i) At a minimum is the timeless distinction between men and women.

ii) At a maximum is the ordinary or general principle of male headship.

Egalitarian scholars opt for (i) to the exclusion of (ii).

In my opinion, both elements are present, although Paul is also concerned to emphasize the interdependences of the sexes.

4. In terms of the timebound elements:

i) Fashion, both now and then, is a semiotic system, projecting social and sexual identity. Fashion is a form of sign language‚a cultural code language. A fashion statement is a statement of social status or countercultural status, as well as a statement of eligibility (or not.)

Up to a point, this form of nonverbal, symbolic discourse varies in time and place. Let’s remember that Paul is explicitly dealing with a shame culture where the dress code is indicative of a specific honor-code, or infractions thereof.

ii) Although Paul affirms the natural principle of male headship, he also and elsewhere affirms the duty of Christians to honor those in authority.

In the Roman Empire, one’s place in the pecking order was assigned by social class rather than gender.

A Roman noblewoman would outrank a slave boy or male commoner.

When, for example, Paul had his audience with Agrippa and Bernice (Acts 25-26), he would have been the social inferior of Bernice.

So there’s a practical tension between the created order and the social order in a fallen world.

Hence, the timeless element of male headship also has a timebound aspect when we contrast the timeless norm with the exigencies of life in a fallen world.

And that includes the norm of governance. So there’s a priority of norms.

5.Conversely, there’s a timeless aspect to the timebound elements.

For example, if a woman wants to attract a man, she will dress in a way that accentuates her feminine assets.

Likewise, there are cross-cultural ways in which a man may be effeminate.

So even our social constructs have a basis in the natural order, except where they go out of their way to be abnormal and unnatural.

6.The question Paul is dealing with in 1 Cor 11 & 14 is the culturally appropriate way to exemplify a culturally universal norm.

Although the way in which the principle is exemplified is in some measure culturebound, the underlying principle which it serves to exemplify is cross-cultural.

Sexual differentiation is timeless principle, while the way in which sexual differentiation is signified through fashion is in some degree, but not altogether, timebound.

Likewise, male headship is a timeless principle, but there also times when that must defer to a social order in which some women are in positions of authority over men, viz. a queen, queen mother, noblewoman, &c.

7.Let’s keep in mind that Paul is dealing what is natural and socially suitable for men as well as women.

8.Let’s also keep in mind that Paul is probably talking about wives in particular rather than women in general.

9.Moreover, Paul draws a distinction between the way a woman qua woman should conduct herself, and the way a woman qua prophetess or supplicant should conduct herself.

10.Furthermore, Paul is talking about the public sphere rather than the private sphere.

11.But given the further fact that NT churches were house-churches, that created the potential for a clash of social values as members belonging to different social strata or subcultures within the far-flung Roman Empire intermingled. Upstairs rubbing shoulders with Downownstairs; East meets West.

12.As to what a woman can do in church, that depends, in part, on a comparison and contrast between a NT church and a contemporary church.

As I said before, NT churches were house-churches.

But in the age of denominations and independent churches, the authority of the pastor varies with the polity of the particular denomination or individual church.

Moreover, modern-day pastors have no real authority outside the confines of the church.

By contrast, a NT pastor might well have been a real authority-figure. To take a later example, St. Ambrose was a Roman aristocrat and jurist before he became a bishop.

13.In my opinion, pastoral authority is only as good as pastoral exegesis.

14.In principle, I think that a woman could function as a teaching elder or pulpit supply, although that is hardly the norm.

However, she could not properly function as a ruling elder, for that would put her in a position of authority over men, which is unnatural according to Scripture.

15.A contemporary parallel would not be bareheaded women in church, since hats obviously don’t hold the same significance for us as they did in 1C Corinth, but, say, a woman in a bikini walking into church.

16.Oh, and before the Debunkers accuse me of sexism because I subscribe to male headship, I’d just observe that the DC is a boys’ club. The Secular Outpost is another boys’ club. (They have a token woman to keep up egalitarian appearances, but she never does any posting.)

So let the reader measure the Debunkers’ feminist rhetoric against their patriarchal practice.