Saturday, April 28, 2007

Father knows best

"A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text." -- D.A. Carson's dad.

Indices For Google Books

See here.

We're both solipsists!

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

—Stephen F. Roberts

I contend that we are both solipsists. I just believe in one fewer world than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other actual or possible worlds, you will understand why I dismiss yours.


I contend that we are both sceptics. I just believe in one fewer truth than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other truths of fact or reason, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

—Sextus Empiricus

Peeling an onion dome



Steve--__Quinisext ratifies the following disciplinary canons: __1. Canons of the Council of Laodicea_2. Canons of the Council of Carthage_3. The 85th Apostolic Canon_4. The Canons of Athanasius_5. The Canons of St. Gregory the Theologian_6. The Canons of Saint Amphilochius of Ikonion__Each of these contain different but non-conflicting lists of books to be included in the biblical canon.


1.So what is your method? To simply add up the individual lists by combining the overlapping books with the non-overlapping books in order to create a sum total?

2.What makes you think these individual churchmen and local councils were all pointing in the direction of the same canon, rather than decreeing alternative canons?

“The last one states the list of divinely inspired books, which is the equivalent of the Protestant Old and New Testaments.”

It’s fine with me if the Orthodox canon of inspired books corresponds to the Protestant canon.

“Thus the Quinisext publicly promulgates and establishes the biblical canon.”

How? On the assumption that you simply collate and tally the preexisting lists? Is that what you mean?

“(i) This may be a problem for an individual national church itself in the sense that it isn’t keeping up after the exact manner of canon law. However, I don’t think its actually a problem for (1) the ability of the Church to have consensus on the biblical canon, or (2) our ability to recognize the contents of the canon.”

i) How do you identify the Church? What are the boundaries? Do only Orthodox believers count as members of the Church? What about other Christians? Do only Orthodox believers have the spiritual discernment to recognize the contents of the canon? Which Orthodox believers? All Orthodox believers? Individually or collectively? At all times, or only some of the time? Everywhere or onlyy somewhere?

ii) Are you suggesting that consensus is a gradual affair, in time and place? What’s your criterion for when consensus achieves critical mass? Where and when does it begin and end?

iii) What’s the relation between an individual national church and the Church? Who speaks for the Church? The Church can’t speak all at once. If the national Orthodox churches don’t’ speak with one voice, then how do you hear the voice of the Church, over and above the conflicting voices of the various national churches that collectively comprise the Church? How does the Church have the ability to recognize the canon, but not the subset of national churches which compose the Church?

“The reasons are as follows:__First of all, I believe that Quinisext lays out a specific biblical canon.”

Why don’t you spell out your process. Is your process the same as Quinisext? Does Quinisext actually splice together the various canons of these local councils and individual churchmen? Or are you simply assuming that you should cut-and-paste together a specific biblical canon on the basis of the preexisting material it ratifies?

“However, the actual nature of that biblical canon is different from what Protestants normally mean when they say “canon”. Not all of the canon is divinely inspired; some of it is just “respectable” or “holy”.”

i) So you’re saying the Orthodox believe in a two-tier canon or canon within a canon, consisting of:

a) An inner canon of inspired books, and

b) An outer canon of uninspired, even apocryphal, but edifying literature.

Is that what you mean?

ii) Other issues aside, this introduces an equivocation into your comparison. You were apparently dissatisfied with Evangelical methods of identifying the canon. But you also indicate that Orthodox canonics differ both in process and product. The Orthodox define the canon differently. Since they’re disanalogous, you’re no longer comparing two different examples in kind, but two different kinds. So how does Orthodoxy fix the perceived deficiency in Evangelical canonics if it’s not even talking about the same thing? It’s shifted the terms of debate.

It isn’t solving the same problem. It’s a solution to a different problem because it redefines the problem. So if there really was a problem, then it leaves the original problem unresolved.

“Second of all, if the council didn’t actually state the canon or there were other problems, I could still say the following: the fact that the canons of two parts of the church don’t agree on one or two books just means that there isn’t implicit ecumenical consensus about one or two books. Thus they aren’t part of the canon that is mandatory for all parts of the church to possess.”

How does that differ from Jason’s position that it would be possible to have a functional canon without a complete canon?

“The rest of the books, however, have been received by the entirety of the Church understood as canon, and have implicit ecumenical consensus.”

How do you define and identify the “entirely” of the Church? Are you polling all of the Orthodox believers who ever lived?

This is not a facetious question. Are you including the laity? How do you survey their opinion, past and present?

“Hence, those books that all the parts of the Church agree on constitute the canon of the Church.”

So you have a core canon. How does that differ from Jason’s principle of a core canon?

“Individual parts of the church may still be anticipating a time when they can add those books to the canon (by getting everyone to be in consensus); but for now they can just be included with the Bibles of those who choose to include them, without other parts of the church being required to do so (cuz they aren’t part of the official canon of the whole Church).”

We’re talking 2000 years down the pike and counting. How does such a glacially evolving, incomplete, and open-ended rule of faith mark an improvement over a low-church Protestant ecclesiology?

“(ii) I think what was stated above can help resolve this issue. There would never be a need to do this because there’s no problem with some parts of the Church including different books in addition to the canon that is established by ecumenical consensus.”

What if they’re including books that are simply false, viz. pious fraud?

“That’s interesting that you’ve interacted with Perry before. Could you point me to some specific posts? (I’d like to see the arguments on both sides).”

If you mouse over to the sidebar, click on my topical index, and scroll down to “smells & bells,” you’ll find some material, although the index hasn’t been updating in a while.

“I’m not sure that what you’re saying about me using an aprioristic method invalidates my argument. Your criticism sounds like an expression of dislike; but what about the argument I’ve made is bad? After all, sometimes we come across an argument for our position by assuming our position is true and looking around us to see what validates or invalidates it. That seems to be at the root of a lot of apologetics; the apologist assumes Christianity is true, then tries to look for what might support that. The actual way that I came to believe in the validity of the canon argument is by being convinced by an Orthodox person. It was one of the things that urged me to move from Protestantism to Orthodoxy; so at the very least it isn’t something that I did to validate a position I already believed in at the time. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood your criticism (in which case I apologize); would you care to explain it a little bit more?”

History is not something you can know by deduction. History is not an axiomatic system. History can only be known by observation, after the fact.

You need to study the way in which God has actually governed his people in the past (in OT times and NT times), rather than claiming that something (e.g. the Protestant rule of faith) can’t be true because it would have unacceptable consequences, and instead stipulate your preferred historical result, then reverse engineer a process which will generate your resultant postulate. That’s an artificial and fictitious way of determining historical questions.

“What sweeping historical overgeneralizations are you referring to exactly?”

You said “The canon of Scripture was recognized and made binding and authoritative by the Church.”

This glosses over quite a bit of chronological and geographical diversity. How do you identify and verify the Church (as you define it)? How do you abstract the one true church from the many regional and rival churches back then?

“I’m saying that the Church makes the canon authoritative through an infallible ecumenical consensus of the hierarchy to recognize the books of the Old and New Testaments as being the literature that expresses the content of the Christian revelation.”

i) Earlier you appealed to the “entirety” of the Church in the recognition of the canon. Now, however, you’re radically downshifting to the “hierarchy.” So you arbitrarily oscillate between populist appeals and elitist appeals. Which is it?

ii) Are you alluding to the ecumenical councils? If so, then what’s your criterion for ecumenical conciliarity? For example, why doesn’t Ferrara-Florence qualify?

“The Bible was inspired (true and carrying divine authority) prior to the approval of the canon by the Church; however, the Church was the mechanism by which God revealed the inspiration and authority of the Bible.”

Where are you coming up with these abstractions? For example, the gospel of Luke was addressed to an individual—Theophilus (Luke’s patron). Most of the NT letters, along with Revelation, were addressed to local churches. After that they circulated more widely as private copies were made and distributed.

What universal entity which you deem the Church was mechanism by which God revealed the inspiration and authority of these NT documents? What timeframe are you talking about?

“This would be similar to how Israel was the means by which God revealed his will (enshrined in the Mosaic law) to the nations. The disanalogy is that the Mosaic law was directly revealed by God and so it was part of public revelation even prior to Israel’s acceptance of it and proclamation of it. (and I’m also not sure Israel can meaningfully be spoken of as “infallible”) However, the New Testament isn’t part of public divine revelation until the Church accepts it. It seems like it would only be private until then.”

i) In what sense is the Mosaic law (what about the rest of the OT?) “directly revealed,” but the NT is not “directly revealed”?

ii) How do you define “public revelation”? Although various NT documents were addressed *to* local churches, they were written *for* the benefit of the church at large.

iii) To take one example, if John writes a Gospel, does its status as public revelation depend on the authorization of the Church, or on his own, apostolic authority?

This is one of the perennial problems I have with high-church ecclesiology. Instead of looking at the concrete situation in terms of who wrote what where and when, to whom, and for whom, we are instead treated to these ahistorical abstractions about “The Church’s” relation to “The Bible.”

“I would say that the Church’s authority seems to be grounded in the fact that the Jesus publicly entrusted the Church with the truth.”

i) When and where did he do this? Or is this one of those fuzzy, elusive, postbox generalities that has no physical address in the NT text?

ii) And what do you mean by “the Church.” Is this a bait-and-switch where, whenever you say “the Church,” that’s really code language for the Orthodox hierarchy?

“And declared that the Church would be led into all truth.”

When and where did he do this? You seem to be alluding to Jn 14-16. But this is a promise to the apostolate, not to the Church.

“At least this seems to be what grounds the Church’s authority (maybe another suggestion could be offered).”

Yes, what about exegeting a text in context.

Friday, April 27, 2007

More From Dawson

Dawson responded to my comments on his original post. It’s difficult to know how to respond to him now. I’d try to explain it, but this is probably best simply demonstrated.

Dawson said:

Nowhere does my paper argue that an omniscient being would not know what a concept is. Rather, my point is that it would not possess that knowledge in the form of concepts. Pike fails to distinguish between the object of knowledge and the form in which that knowledge is held. He’s talking about the former while my paper talks about the latter.
I must have fallen victim to the notion that Dawson was trying to present an argument that was relevant. I suppose it’s a natural assumption that if someone is going to write 3,300 words on a site dedicated to “incinerating presuppositionalism” that that article would actually be applicable to a presuppositionalist position, but apparently Dawson doesn’t think that way. Dawson seems to be the type of person who would go to a Star Trek convention to argue that the Death Star should have been two meters wider.

Since I assumed that Dawson was trying to interact with the position he was critiquing, I read it in that manner. But I suppose I needn’t bother myself with such “trivialities” in the future.

But I’ll also say this certainly doesn’t seem to fit with Dawson’s original supplied reason for his argument in the first place, namely:

If it can be determined that an "omniscient" consciousness would not possess its knowledge in the form of concepts, this would have ruinous implications for the presuppositionalist approach to Christian apologetics which seeks to contrive aspects of man’s cognitive experience as evidence for an omniscient being whose thinking serves as the model for man’s mental abilities.
Now Dawson’s argument is simply that God does not hold knowledge in the form of concepts. To which I respond: so what? This obviously does not cause “ruinous implications for the presuppositionalist approach to Christian apologetics” since God can still use concepts. Surely Dawson is bright enough to realize this. Surely, he meant more by his post than just the above.

But apparently not.

Dawson displays his hypocrisy when he says:
My paper provides a rationale, based on the objective theory of concepts, for supposing that an omniscient being would not have its knowledge in the form of concepts. Pike himself said his god’s knowledge is not conceptual, but he did not provide an alternative rationale for supposing this other than the loose statements found in the bible which say nothing about concepts whatsoever.

Those statements are:
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

Neither of these verses say anything about whether or not the god it speaks of possesses its knowledge in the form of concepts.
Back the truck up, Dawson. I quoted those verses in response to YOUR CLAIM that: “Many believers might think that, since Christianity teaches that man was created in the Christian god’s image, man’s thinking in the form of concepts would indicate that their god thinks in the form of concepts as well.” I responded with those verses and concluded: “Given these passages, it would be very foolhardy indeed for a believer to argue, ‘I think this way, therefore God does too.’” I wasn’t quoting those passages as “an alternative rational for supposing” that “[G]od’s knowledge is not conceptual.” I was pointing out by those passages that a Biblical believer would be stupid to assume God thinks conceptually on the basis that they think conceptually.

If you’re going to criticize me for supposedly responding to something that you didn’t write about, perhaps you shouldn’t respond to something I didn’t write about in the process.

Dawson said:

First, my statement “consciousness is consciousness of something” was nowhere offered as a definition. Why does Pike suppose it was?
Since it was in this paragraph:

To understand how erroneous it would be to assume that an omniscient, all-seeing and omnipresent consciousness would possess its knowledge in the form of concepts, we need to consider what concepts accomplish for man. And to understand what concepts do for man, we need to understand the essentials of his consciousness. Consciousness is consciousness of something, i.e., of an object(s). And man’s consciousness begins with perception of the world around him. Perception does not give man awareness of concepts; it gives him awareness of particular entities, their attributes, actions, etc. Sense perception gives man awareness of these things in the form of percepts.

(Emphasis added.)

Am I to suppose Dawson doesn’t think the definition of a term is needed “to understand the essentials of” that term? Do I really need to think he is that big of an idiot? Is this what he is really asking me to do here?

Dawson said:

Second, ‘consciousness’ is an axiomatic concept.
Good. This means that the following, which I wrote and you’re “responding” to now, should apply:

Now Dawson would most certainly argue that it is because consciousness is axiomatic; but even if it is, all he has done here is given us an empty label that he bases the rest of his argument upon. It’s about as meaningful as saying “A is A.” It tells you absolutely nothing about the nature or ontology of A. “Consciousness is consciousness of something” tells you absolutely nothing about what consciousness is, other than that it involves “something.”
So, tell me Dawson—how in your argument is “consciousness” anything other than an empty label? What is conscious? Or, since consciousness is involved it is more proper to ask: WHO is conscious? What are the attributes that this axiomatic consciousness requires of the subject who is conscious?

You want to ignore all that and just assume “consciousness” as if consciousness could exist without a subject. If it does, then it is a content-less, meaningless “empty label” as I said before.

Dawson said:

Like other axiomatic concepts, it lies at the fundamental level of the conceptual hierarchy, which means: it is not defined in terms of prior concepts.
So “consciousness” is meaningless in Dawson’s world. Yet Dawson seems to know an awful lot about it. Dawson is giving us restrictions on what consciousness can do, etc. and yet he has acknowledged that he doesn’t even have a way to define it.

Remember, Dawson originally said: “Consciousness is consciousness of something.” So what he’s really saying is “An undefinable term is an undefinable term of something.”

Very helpful indeed.

Dawson then said:

Pike then got sidetracked on the unrelated issue of whether or not concepts are open-ended, and presented a thought experiment to substantiate his position that they don’t have to be.
Actually, my thought experiment was only to demonstrate that you could actually perceive every single physical object and still be able to form concepts. It is therefore frankly dishonest for you to complain:
The original issue is whether or not concepts are open-ended, but the scenario Pike presents in his illustration is deliberately crafted so that open-endedness cannot apply.
Since I was never asking whether concepts were open-ended or not, Dawson’s response is ingenious at best. Now Dawson could certainly argue that my illustration only applies for close-ended concepts (although even he argues that it applies to open-ended concepts), but he cannot claim that my argument was meant to address that issue in the first place.

Once again, Dawson is doing the very thing he claimed I did (that is, responding to what wasn’t written in the first place).

Dawson said:

Also, he asks us to assume that “the entire universe consisted of one room with two objects in the room.” “Room”? What does this mean? Where did he get this concept? That’s right, he got it from the real environment. To make his thought experiment work, he needs to borrow from outside it, which makes it an unclean laboratory for developing his point.
Newsflash: I’m not saying the thought experiment universe is real! It doesn’t matter that it borrows from the outside world. The thought experiment is designed to focus on specific points.

Seriously, you need to get out more, Dawson. You’re freaking out over an analogy here. No analogy is ever going to be a perfect one.

Dawson continues:
Then, without explanation, Pike adds an “observer.” Is this observer part of the universe? If so, then we’re asked to contradict what we were first asked to suppose, namely that the entire universe consisted of one room with two objects. Now it’s a room with three objects, one of which is an observer. How many more changes to the thought experiment are we to expect coming down the pike?
Surely you are able to think better than this. No, the observer is not a physical object within the thought-universe, just as God is not a physical object within the real universe. Since the analogy is linking the observer to the nature of God (that is, demonstrating that an observer can have full knowledge of all objects that exist within a universe and still be able to form concepts) then the only reason you have to assume I’m adding an object is because you’re being willfully pedantic.

Dawson says:

Another problem is that we’re asked to suppose we know something without any explanation of how we’re supposed to know it; we’re asked to suppose that the entire universe consists of one room with two (um, make that three) objects in the room. How would we know this?
Gee, Dawson, I dunno…maybe by READING WHAT I WROTE?

Seriously: fresh air. Try it from time to time.

I wrote:
Or, to put it another way, if you can conceptualize based on a few objects, you can conceptualize based on a few more than that. And if you can conceptualize with more objects, you can conceptualize even when you have all objects, both real and potential
To which Dawson responds:

This does not reverse the facts that we are directly aware of only a small number of units at any time, that there are always many units of which we are not aware at any time, and that we need concepts to help us cognitively manage those units which lie outside our immediate awareness.
Which completely ignores the fact that we’re talking about an omniscient being here. Dawson forgot that he’s the one who posed the original question: Would an Omniscient Mind Have Knowledge in Conceptual Form?

Dawson said:

Again, Pike has missed what my paper argues. It argues that an omniscient being would not have its knowledge in the form of concepts. I did not say that Pike's god could not have the ability to form concepts.
So where’s the problem with Presuppositionalism?

Finally, Dawson concludes with another complaint:
But this does lead to a question: If the Christian god does not possess its knowledge in conceptual form, what is the form in which it possesses its knowledge? Pike did not speak to this.
Could that be because I was RESPONDING to your argument instead of presenting a positive one of my own?

In any case, Dawson has promised to use the concept that God doesn’t think in concepts for another post. If it’s anywhere near as torturous as this one, the Marquis de Sade would be well pleased.

No Brainer

Is your brain really necessary?

Richard Dawkins: Popularising scientific ignorance

Review of Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Orthodoxy & Anti-Semitism

Priests: Remove anti-Semitic Liturgy

PCA Report on FV, NPP, & Auburne Av

Report of Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies

Wikipedia, Orthodox, And The Canon Of Carthage

As we've seen before, Wikipedia is often unreliable. For a more recent example, see this ongoing thread about whether the Biblical canons of the councils of Carthage and Trent are the same. Not only is the Wikipedia article Orthodox cites wrong, but it also seems likely that Orthodox edited the article. Keep that in mind the next time you think of using Wikipedia. The article you're using might have been edited by somebody like Orthodox.

I can understand the use of Wikipedia in some contexts, such as to get basic information on a relatively non-controversial subject. But it's often unreliable. It should be used with discernment. And as the thread linked above demonstrates, people like Orthodox don't exercise much discernment when using Wikipedia or when editing it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Does God suffer?

Thomas Weinandy on divine impassibility.

Dawson's Concepts

Looking at Dawson Bethrick’s site after reading Steve’s response, I found that Dawson has posted a lengthy essay answering the age-old question: “Would an Omniscient Mind Have Knowledge in Conceptual Form?

My heart really goes out to this man now. Of all the things he could be doing in San Francisco in the spring (like putting flowers in his hair, watching the Giants, or whatever), he decided to write this post instead. And while it demonstrates Dawson’s commitment to Randian philosophy, it also demonstrates his inability to grasp basic Christian concepts.

Dawson said:
Many believers might think that, since Christianity teaches that man was created in the Christian god’s image, man’s thinking in the form of concepts would indicate that their god thinks in the form of concepts as well.
Firstly, this relies on the worn out, “Many unnamed non-specified people think X” fallacy. Dawson plays this card a lot, I’ve noticed (I’ve been interacting with him for several years—probably close to half a decade by now). I’ve no doubt that he’s heard the above from someone; but it makes his argument seem more relevant to change it to “many.”

Secondly, even if “many believers” do think this, it’s certainly not due to Biblical knowledge, which includes such verses as:

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9).

For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).
Given these passages, it would be very foolhardy indeed for a believer to argue, “I think this way, therefore God does too.”

So now we get to the purpose of Dawson’s argument:
If it can be determined that an "omniscient" consciousness would not possess its knowledge in the form of concepts, this would have ruinous implications for the presuppositionalist approach to Christian apologetics which seeks to contrive aspects of man’s cognitive experience as evidence for an omniscient being whose thinking serves as the model for man’s mental abilities.
(Note: readers of the above sentence may now realize why I included Bethrick in my previous satire, Ode Owed to Bethrick, Morgan, Enloe, Orthodox, et. al..)

Of course I can see many ways in which this would not be ruinous at all, even if we ignore the fact that Dawson is attacking a straw man here. I will delve into those more in detail as Dawson presents his argument. But at a bare minimum, I also have to wonder just what Dawson thinks “omniscient” means.

If we define omniscience as knowledge of everything, this is not actually a definition of omniscience that is held by a Biblical believer. For instance, God does not know what a round square looks like. And of course God doesn’t have experiential knowledge of sin: that is, God does not personally know what it is like to lie, etc.

But when we realize that omniscience refers to those things that are possible for God to know, such as all true propositions, then we simply ask: is it impossible for a being that knows all that is possible to know to know what a concept is? If it is possible to know what a concept is, then a being that knows all that is possible to know, would indeed know these concepts too.

Dawson claims:
It would not make sense to suppose that man’s cognitive functions are patterned after a consciousness whose awareness is so vastly superior to or different from man’s consciousness that it would have no use for the kinds of functions man’s mind employs.
This, of course, begs the question. After all, is it not possible for a being that knows all that can logically be known to use concepts that He knows to communicate to beings He created with the ability to understand these same concepts? If God intends to use concepts to communicate with His creation, how would that cause any logical problems?

Simply asking these questions before he began to write his essay would have saved Dawson a lot of time to watch the Giants…

By now, you may be wondering just how Dawson defines what a concept is anyway. Seeing the definition helps to demonstrate why there is no contradiction in Christian theism.

Dawson writes:
To understand how erroneous it would be to assume that an omniscient, all-seeing and omnipresent consciousness would possess its knowledge in the form of concepts, we need to consider what concepts accomplish for man. And to understand what concepts do for man, we need to understand the essentials of his consciousness. Consciousness is consciousness of something, i.e., of an object(s).
I’ll interrupt for a second to point out the obvious problem with the last sentence. “Consciousness is consciousness of something” demonstrates that Dawson cannot define “consciousness” without referencing the very thing he’s trying to define! As such, this “definition” requires you to know what is being defined in order to understand the definition. Now Dawson would most certainly argue that it is because consciousness is axiomatic; but even if it is, all he has done here is given us an empty label that he bases the rest of his argument upon. It’s about as meaningful as saying “A is A.” It tells you absolutely nothing about the nature or ontology of A. “Consciousness is consciousness of something” tells you absolutely nothing about what consciousness is, other than that it involves “something.”

And man’s consciousness begins with perception of the world around him. Perception does not give man awareness of concepts; it gives him awareness of particular entities, their attributes, actions, etc. Sense perception gives man awareness of these things in the form of percepts….

But man can perceive only a limited number of existents at any moment, and his perceptual faculty can retain and integrate only a limited number of sensations at any moment. However, man can get “beyond” these limitations by means of conceptual integration. Conceptual integration allows him to expand his awareness beyond the objects of his immediate, perceptual awareness by combining them into classes which include not only the particular entities which he perceives in the “here and now,” but also similar entities which he has perceived, may one day perceive and may never perceive. What makes this expansion of man’s consciousness beyond the immediate inputs of sense perception possible, is the process of abstraction: integration of multiple units into categories by means of measurement-omission according to common isolated essentials.
Now it should be noted that I have no objection to any of the above. Man certainly does seem to think in this manner. But how Dawson gets from the above definitions to the idea that an omniscient being cannot use concepts is where the problems are.

In the above, Dawson is dealing with man: a finite creature. This is demonstrated by Dawson pointing out that “man can perceive only a limited number of existents at any moment.” No matter how hard a man may wish it, he simply cannot become infinite. He cannot view an infinite number of “existents” because he is limited both in space and in time. Without the ability to form abstractions, communication and higher thinking simply could not exist.

All this I agree with Dawson on. However, he then concludes:
Concepts thus allow man to treat as a single whole an unlimited series of existents which he has not observed or directly perceived, on the basis of those which he has observed or directly perceived. Concepts are therefore a kind of mental shorthand which he needs because he does not have direct awareness of all members of a class.
And this is where I disagree. Concepts can be formed even when one has “direct awareness all the members of a class.” This can easily be demonstrated by a quick thought experiment.

Suppose the entire universe consisted of one room with two objects in the room. These objects both had the same shape. One observer looked in this room and said that the shape of the first object was “square.” The other shape is also a square. He can thereby state that if anything else were to pop into existence with that shape, it would also be square. He has abstracted the shape “square” and yet has full knowledge of all the actual existent objects in the universe.

Or, to put it another way, if you can conceptualize based on a few objects, you can conceptualize based on a few more than that. And if you can conceptualize with more objects, you can conceptualize even when you have all objects, both real and potential.

Of course, I should point out that Dawson did couch his argument in terms of “need” for he said: “Concepts are therefore a kind of mental shorthand which he needs because he does not have direct awareness of all members of a class.” So perhaps he could argue that God did not need the ability to form concepts even though He could do so.

But God did not need to create man either, and He chose to do so. Once God created man, then the need would certainly be there if He desired to communicate with man. If God did not wish to communicate with man, then there would be no need for Him to be able to form concepts; but because that view is heretical to the Christian position, which Dawson is supposedly critiquing, we can safely ignore it.

Skipping down to Dawson’s response to his made-up theist objections, we read:
[Believing that God’s consciousness is infinite] will only play into my point, namely that the “knowledge” which Christians claim on behalf of their god could not be conceptual in nature. Since its awareness is not limited to only a small number of units at any given time, it would not possess its knowledge in a form which omits specific measurements in order “to extend its grasp beyond a mere handful of concretes.” Such a method of cognition would actually destroy its omniscience, for it would obliterate its immediate awareness of all the details belonging to everything that exists save for a statistically insignificant few.
Of course, as I’ve quoted in the verses above, the Bible doesn’t treat God’s knowledge as only “conceptual in nature.” Dawson put this limitation on the theist, not the Bible. But what Dawson fails to realize is that an all-knowing God could still form concepts in order to communicate to those He created. God knows what concepts are; if He is all-knowing, He knows not only all objects but all true conceptualizations of these objects too. God can use them to communicate (revelation) with man. There is nothing inherently illogical with this.

Dawson, after quoting Bahsen, concludes:
Since, according to this view, the Christian god “has no ‘percepts’ from which He constructs His knowledge,” it would have no need for a faculty which “integrates and thus condenses a group of percepts into a single mental whole.”
Once again, Dawson begs the question. He supposed God would have no “need for a faculty which ‘integrates and thus condenses a group of percepts into a single mental whole’”, which begs the question that God does not wish to communicate to concept-based beings! God most certainly WOULD need the faculty to do so if He wished to relate to His creation, and (as I argued above) it is not illogical to state that God can do so. Since He logically can do so, and since Christians state God does want to communicate to us, then Dawson has no argument left.

God's knowledge--what He Himself knows--is not conceptual. But He reveals Himself to us conceptually because that is the only way that we can think. We are the image of God, not God Himself.

Carson on Wright

D.A. Carson reviews N.T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of God.

Dawson's spaghetti western worldview

“It is unclear why Hays decided to title his reaction after a famous spaghetti western movie, for he never explains this.”

Bethrick is one of those slow thinkers who needs to have everything explained to him. My title was simply a take-off on one of his favorite films, listed in his profile.

“Hays responded to these two paragraphs in a most puzzling manner…This is a truly dumb retort, for I make it clear in the very portion of my blog that Hays quotes that my question is for believers to consider. My question is directed to Christians about what Christianity teaches. So of course it is applicable to those who want to see themselves as 'heaven-bound.' It was intended to be!”

Bethrick is now backing away from his original objection and attempting to cover his tracks by rewriting the history of the thread. This was what he originally said:


Many Christians have expressed outrage over the senseless and bloody massacre that took place at the beginning of this week on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. But if they are truly faithful to the worldview they preach, why would they feel any outrage at all?

On the Christian worldview, life is eternal. For the 32 victims and the gunman who “died” on Monday, their lives did not really end. They just passed on to the next stage. Biological demise is simply a doorway to a supernatural eternity thereafter. Rather than great loss, “to die is gain,” wrote St. Paul (Phil. 1:21). It seems believers should be rejoicing, if they truly believed, for the god of the bible is glorified by such things.


So, according to his initial objection, it is inconsistent for a Christian to be outraged by the gunman’s actions since, from the standpoint of his victims, “their lives did not really end. They just passed on to the next stage. Biological demise is simply a doorway to a supernatural eternity thereafter. Rather than great loss, ‘to die is gain,’ wrote St. Paul (Phil. 1:21).”

Hence, according to the way he originally framed the issue, the fate of the victims is directly germane to the consistency, or lack thereof, of the Christian response. Thus, only on the presumption that all the victims were heavenbound would his argument have any traction at all—and even then it would fail on other grounds.

“That’s exactly the point. As I had mentioned, Christians think that there is an afterlife and that they have been ‘chosen’ to go on to a paradise once their biology meets its demise. The question I ask in my opening paragraph is not why non-Christians would feel outrage, by why CHRISTIANS would feel outrage. Whether he realizes it or not, Hays is simply confirming the appropriateness of a statement that he just called ‘truly dumb’."

Bethrick continues to exhibit his intellectual confusion. At best, this would only be germane to Christian victims of the massacre.

Incidentally, not all Christians believe in election.

“Why wouldn’t it be ‘a boon to those he leaves behind’? It’s all part of ‘God’s plan,' isn’t it? Isn’t the glory of ‘God’s plan’ a ‘boon’ to believers? Or does ‘God’s plan’ get them bummed out?”

I already addressed that objection in the material I cited from Helm and Aquinas, which Bethrick passes over in silence.

The true definition of Christian consistency is to be consistent, in thought, word, and deed, with the totality of divine revelation. In Scripture, God condemns evil and also uses evil as a means to a greater good. Hence, the consistent Christian attitude is to identify with each aspect of God’s policy. One the one hand, we condemn the blameworthy motives on the human (or demonic) wrongdoer. On the other hand, we commend the praiseworthy motives of God in bringing good out of evil. As usual, Bethrick strains to create an inconsistency by being simpleminded.

“Hays’ presumption that ‘the survivors will suffer... emotional loss’ begs the question, for it is not established that they are Christians who truly believe.”

That’s irrelevant since believers and unbelievers alike share emotional loss when a loved one is cut down by a murderer. Due to the way in which God made us, everyone has the same basic emotional makeup.

“I’m asking Christians, like Hays, who were not directly affected by the incident. Hays gives us no answer to this question in his response. Hays needs to explain why HE feels outrage – if in fact he does (perhaps he doesn’t) – in response to the Virginia Tech massacre, given his professed beliefs. This is precisely what needs to be explained, given what Christianity teaches, if Christians truly believe.”

A couple of issues:

i) Whether I personally feel outrage is irrelevant to the question of consistency. Other Christians could feel outrage consistent with Christian theology whether or not I feel outrage. My defense of their consistency is not predicated on my having to feel the same way they do.

ii) Why might a Christian feel outrage when he is not directly affected by the incident? Apparently, Bethrick is just as sociopathic as Cho.

The answer, in a word, is compassion. God has given us a capacity to empathize with the plight of strangers. Even though we may not feel just what they feel, we can imaginatively sympathize with their suffering and loss.

“Now, if a parent truly believed in the magic kingdom view of Christianity, and truly believed that his or her son or daughter killed in the rampage were ‘saved,’ why wouldn’t that parent rejoice? The notion of ‘emotional loss of extended separation’ smacks of utter selfishness, and yet the believer is called to “deny himself” (Mt. 16:24).

Several more errors:

i) If valid at all, this argument would only be valid in the case of the Christian victims.

ii) Bethrick is also someone who can only keep one idea in his mind at a time. But it’s quite possible for a normal human being to feel mixed emotions. To be ambivalent. On the one hand, we rejoice for the dearly departed—for those who die in the Lord.

On the other hand, we grieve for our own temporary loss—the loss of separation. Death can be a means to good, but death itself is evil. Death is the result of the Fall. Death is a curse. An “enemy.” A penalty for sin.

Bethrick can only fabricate an inconsistency in the Christian attitude by presenting a highly truncated theology of death.

iii) Christianity isn’t Buddhism. Christianity isn’t a religion of apathetic self-abnegation. Rather, Christianity appeals to enlightened self-interest. To prize heaven over hell.

In Christian theology, there’s godly selfishness and ungodly selfishness. It’s godly selfishness to see that doing God’s will is the source of personal fulfillment. God is the supreme good. By loving God, we love the good. By loving what God loves (and hating what he hates), we love the good. To value whatever God values is both pious and prudent.

iv) Bethrick tries to forge a case by quoting two or three words out of context. If you read the totality of Scripture, it’s clear that Christianity never mandates a monkish piety. What it does establish are certain priorities—especially in a fallen world.

“Consider Hays’ reasoning here. The bible describes many things, such as murder, harlotry, incest, disobedience, idolatry, haughtiness, deceitfulness, stealing, genocide, raping, pillaging, etc. Does the mere fact that the bible describes these things mean that ‘there’s nothing unscriptural about’ them? The New Testament demonstrates crass, uncaring indifference to those whose loved one dies when one of Jesus' disciples asks him to wait while he goes off to bury his dead father, and Jesus replies ‘Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead’ (Mt. 8:22). So much for ‘the grieving process.’ Corpses are to be left to rot in the streets.”

Is he playing dumb, or is he really that clueless?

i) The Bible is full of laments. Inspired laments. There’s nothing unscriptural about mourning. But biblical lamentation is tempered by the knowledge of better things to come, a reversal of fortunes. The present never eclipses the future, just as the future never eclipses the present.

ii) Jesus is not opposed to mourning. Jesus himself commiserated with Mary and Martha over the loss of their brother (Jn 11:35). In context, Mt 8:22 is a question of priorities.

Bethrick uses the same gimmick time and again. Selective quotation. Disregard the well-rounded teaching of Scripture. For a fuller analysis of Mt 8:22, see:

C. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans 1999), 275-77.

“Moreover, even if “the Bible describes the grieving process,” this does nothing to address my question. A description of the grieving process does not explain why someone who believes that the Virginia Tech massacre was all part of the “plan” of a universe-controlling consciousness who “has a morally sufficient reason” to sanction the evil that happens in the universe, would feel outrage over such an incident.”

I already addressed his question. I already explained that. He demands an answer, but ignores the answer when it’s given. Go back and interact with the material by Helm and Aquinas.

“Okay. So? Even if ‘most of the victims were twenty-somethings,’ or that one of those victims was Hays’ older brother, whether or not his older brother was a Christian, Hays professes to be a Christian who believes that everything that happens in the universe (including down here on little ol’ earth) is all part of some unfolding ‘plan’ set in motion by an invisible magic being which “controls whatsoever comes to pass” and ‘has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.’ In comparison to the enormous ‘glory’ that Hays’ worldview ascribes to the unfolding of ‘God's plan,’ is Hays really worried about not seeing his brother ‘for another fifty or sixty years’?”

Bethrick keeps repeating the same question, ad nauseum, even though it was answered. What’s the problem? Did the answer go over his head?

“But this misses the broader ethical context ever-present throughout the New Testament, namely that the believer should be willing to lay down his life at any moment, principally because he is not to think it his own, but a possession owned by an invisible magic being who can take it away any moment.”

Christianity is not a suicide cult. Preparing oneself to die for the faith, if need be, is not the same thing as courting execution. There is no cult of martyrdom in Scripture. No command to actively seek our own demise.

“This of course depends on what one means by ‘life-affirming.’ A this-worldly life-affirming orientation requires reason, not faith. Faith is preferred over reason when the object is imaginary and the goal is irrational.”

These are assertions in lieu of arguments. And keep in mind that evolutionary psychology sabotages reason.

“Contrary to what Hays asserts, Christianity is an afterlife-affirming faith, which is nothing short of death-worship (there's a reason why an instrument of execution is a fitting symbol of Christianity). To begin with, it is a view held on the basis of faith (i.e., on the hope that it is true; Hays does hope Christianity is true, does he not?), and the ‘life’ it ‘affirms’ is not the biological flourishing that is human life, but an eternity in a magic kingdom beyond the grave. This is the promise that is dangled like a carrot before the believer, keeping him as true to the faith as possible. But the question is essentially: How possible is that?”

Here he displays his theological ignorance:

i) The earth is the Lord’s. This is his handiwork. It is good. Even a fallen world retains much good. Asceticism is contrary to Christian values. We are to rejoice in all of God’s natural blessings (1 Tim 4:3-4)—as well as his supernatural blessings.

ii) Bethrick confounds the intermediate state with the final state. In Christian eschatology, the afterlife (for believers) is a two-stage process. The intermediate state is a discarnate state. But the final state is an earthly, reembodied state, on a renewed, earthly paradise.

“But this is what the Christian needs to explain on behalf of Christianity. What does the believer love more – his god and its alleged ‘plan’ (which could include any fate for the believer at any time, no matter where he is in his life), or his life here on earth? Where does he put his treasure? In the magic kingdom, or in this life? He cannot have two masters, can he?”

A false dichotomy. Bethrick is talking like a Gnostic or Manichaean. Life on earth is part of God’s handiwork. This is God’s world. He is master of heaven and earth alike.

“Values here on earth can be corrupted by moths and rust, so don't bother going after them. A promise awaits you in death.”

An overstatement. That’s not what the passage says. This isn’t a question of living for the future (“laying up treasures on earth”), but living for the present. We enjoy one day at a time. Every day God brings us ought to be a source of gratitude. Each day is a gift from his providential hand. A Christian is thankful for the past, present, and future. For heaven and earth alike.

“But if one truly believes that the unfolding of events in the world are all part of ‘God’s plan’ and that the believer’s moral duty is to “deny himself,” this readiness to kill in self-defense needs to be explained. A man’s resolve needed to act in self-defense requires a code of rational values, such as my worldview teaches.”

Where is Dawson’s case for secular ethics?

“The bible teaches a morality of duties, and holds up as a virtue the unquestioning obedience of adherents to divine whims, not a morality of values.”

A tendentious characterization without a supporting argument.

“It should be pointed out that, when Abraham was preparing to kill his own son, he was not acting in self-defense. His son did not pose any threat to Abraham’s life and well-being. To interpolate a motive of self-defense to the Genesis story of Abraham misses that story’s point completely.”

Poor little Bethrick can’t follow his own argument. He’s simply confusing himself. He originally cited two different “lessons”:

“The lesson of Abraham (cf. Genesis chapter 22) is clear: Be willing to kill. The lesson of Jesus (cf. the four gospels) is also clear: Be willing to die.”

Bethrick is the one who is mixed up on which is which.

“This can all be rationalized in the believer’s mind as an intended part of ‘God’s plan,’ which means he is not morally opposed to whatever happens, because whatever happens is part of ‘God’s plan’ anyway. To oppose what happens is really to oppose ‘God’s plan’.”

Same broken record even though I addressed that objection. But he’s too obtuse to register the answer.

“How is my point that Jesus was willing to die a ‘case of acontextual prooftexting’? Jesus’ sacrifice is commonly held up to Christian believers as a model sacrifice. The Christian atonement for sins by sacrifice has its roots in the Old Testament tradition of animal sacrifice.”

No, the death of Jesus is sui generis. Unique and unrepeatable.

“Also, to lay down one’s arms, he first had to have taken them up. Where does the bible mandate that one take up arms in the first place?”

You could start with Deut 20, which describes the laws of warfare, for conventional war and holy war alike. Then there’s the Biblical authorization to kill a house-burglar (Exod 22:2).

“Also, the instruction that the believer present his body as ‘a living sacrifice’ is also not from the Sermon on the Mount. It is an instruction from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.”

Bethrick seems to think this has reference to literal self-immolation.

“So again, I ask: Why would a Christian believer, who truly believes that ‘God controls whatsoever comes to pass,’ think it necessary to resist evil regardless of whose well-being it threatens when the explicit instruction in the bible is: ‘resist not evil’? If he truly thinks that ‘God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil’ it sanctions in the world, why resist this evil?”

i) Because I already answered this question.

ii) Because you’re citing this verse out of context (as I already explained).

iii) Because the same God who controls whatever comes to pass also inspired a criminal law code to restrain and punish evildoers.

“Whether or not Cho's victims did anything to him to deserve his massacre is irrelevant since, in a Christian universe, the primary concern on this point is that one is guilty before the Christian god. Since ‘God controls whatsoever comes to pass,’ whether Cho’s victims ‘deserved’ to die at his hands or not is completely beside the point, from the Christian perspective. The primary concern in the Christian perspective is that the Christian god is calling all the shots, and according to the storybook we've all been judged guilty of sin (cf. Rom. 5:12), even before we've had our day in court. Being ‘innocent in relation’ to Cho is utterly nugatory. Cho is just a vehicle for ‘God’s plan,’ a character in the Immaculate Animation.”

Once again, Bethrick ignores the civil and criminal sanctions Scripture. Biblical jurisprudence does, indeed, distinguish between manward offenses and Godward offenses. It does, indeed, distinguish between our guilt before God and our guilt or innocence in relation to our fellow man.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Craig on Dawkins

William Craig on Richard Dawkins

Improving the church

The (PCA) church I currently attend recently solicited advice from the congregation. My church also has a Christian school. Below is a generic version of what I wrote back, along with some additional remarks that I didn’t make in my original reply:

One other thing before I jump in. I realize that a pastor must often choose what battles to fight. There are churches in which it’s a turf war between the pastor and one dominant family or rival power clique.

1. I think a church website should be used as an information clearing house.

i) In other words, this technology should be exploited as a general resource, with links to various weblogs and websites which offer church members access to sound theology and apologetics.

ii) It should also be used to post the pastor’s sermons or sermon outlines.

iii) It should have an annotated reading list on various topics in theology and ethics.

2. I have no idea what the curriculum is like at the school. But there are certain things it ought to include, whether or not it does a present, in order to prepare young Christians for challenges to the faith, whether ethical or intellectual:

i) A course in comparative religion and the cults.

Possible textbooks:

John Armstrong, ed. Roman Catholicism (Moody 1994)

David Baker, ed. Biblical Faith & Other Religions (Kregel 2004)

Francis Beckwith, ed., See the Gods Fall (College Press 1997)

Winfried Corduan. A Tapestry of Faiths: Common Threads Among the World’s Religions (IVP 2002)

_____, Neighboring Faiths (IVP 1998)

Elliot Miller & Ken Samples, The Cult of the Virgin Mary: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Mary (Baker 1992).

Robert Spencer. Islam Unveiled (Encounter Books 2002)

Eric Svendsen. Evangelical Answer: A Critique of Current Catholic Apologists (Reformation Press 1999).

ii) On course on the historical Jesus.

Possible textbooks:

T. Desmond Alexander, The Servant King (Regent College 2003)

Darrel Bock. The Missing Gospels (Nelson 2006)

Ed Komoszwski, et al. Reinventing Jesus (Kregel 2006).

Lee Strobel, ed. The Case for Christ (Zondervan 1998)

iii) A course on the creation/evolution debate

Possible textbooks:

John. Byl. God & Cosmos (Banner of Truth 2001)

_____. The Divine Challenge (Banner of Truth 2004)

J. P. Moreland. Christianity & the Nature of Science (Baker, 1989)

Del Ratzsch. Science & Its Limits (IVP 2000)

Jonathan Wells, J. Icons of Evolution (Regnery 2002)

____The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Regnery 2006)

Kurt Wise. Faith, Form, and Time (Broadman 2002)

iv) A course on higher criticism

Possible textbooks:

Paul Barnett, P. Is the New Testament Reliable? (IVP 2nd ed. 2005)

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (2nd ed., forthcoming)

F. F. Bruce. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Eerdmans 2003)

Walter Kaiser & Duane. Garrett, eds. Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan 2006)

V. Philips Long. The Art of Biblical History (Zondervan 1994)

John Walton. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Baker 2006).

v) A course on apologetics.

Possible textbooks:

F. F. Bruce, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament (Eerdmans 1984)

John Frame. Apologetics to the Glory of God (P&R 1994)

Os Guinness, O. Long Journey Home (Waterbrook 2001)

J. Gresham Machen. Christianity & Liberalism (Eerdmans 1983)

vi) A course in Christian ethics.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any ideal textbook presently in print. John Frame teaches a fine course at RTS. Perhaps the church could arrange with RTS to have access to the course materials.

vii) Courses in the foundational/central books of the Bible, viz. Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, and the four Gospels.

Possible textbooks:


Genesis 1:1-25:18 (EP Study Commentary)
by John D. Currid

Genesis 25:19-50:26 (EP Study Commentary)
by John D. Currid

The NIV Application Commentary Genesis
by Dr. John H. Walton


Exodus 1-18 (EP Study Commentary)
by John D. Currid

Exodus 19-40 (EP Study Commentary)
by John D. Currid


Prayer, Praise and Prophecy: A Theology of the Psalms (Mentor)
by Geoffrey W. Grogan


Proverbs (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms)
by Tremper Longman


The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary
by J. A. Motyer


Matthew (New American Commentary)
by Craig Blomberg


Mark (The NIV Application Commentary)
by David E. Garland

The College Press Niv Commentary: Mark (The College Press Niv Commentary)
by Allen Black (Author)


Luke (The NIV Application Commentary)
by Darrell L. Bock

Luke (New American Commentary)
by Robert H. Stein


The Gospel of John Introduction, Exposition and Notes
by Frederick Fyvie Bruce

The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel: Issues & Commentary
by Craig L. Blomberg

Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective (Encountering Biblical Studies)
by Andreas J. Köstenberger

3. As to the sanctuary and the worship service:

i) The organ rather than the piano should be used in hymnodic accompaniment. Pianos are only used to accompany hymns in nursing homes and storefront churches.

By design, a piano is basically a solo instrument. The piano is a very poor instrument for accompaniment, for it isn’t a very powerful instrument (except for a concert grand), and it can’t sustain the tone. The organ is a superior instrument for hymnodic accompaniment.

Also, in the age of digital organs, it’s much easier to transpose music using an organ than a piano.

ii) Presbyterian holdouts need to ditch the old Trinity hymnal for the new Trinity hymnal. There are several problems with the OTH:

a) It’s full of Victorian era hymns of the Ira Sankey ilk. This was not the great age of hymnody, either in terms of the lyrics or the hymn tunes. Hymns of that era are characterized by trite lyrics and amateurish accompaniment. There are a few exceptions, but they’re just that—the exception.

b) In addition, the technology of typesetting has improved since the days of the OTH, which is hard to read.

d) The OTH is also pitched about a full tone too high for untrained voices. Generally speak, untrained voices find it difficult to sing above a top D natural.

e) The OTH recycles too many of the same tunes. It’s useful for Christians to associate a particular tune with a particular text. That way, the tune functions as a mnemonic device, helping one to recall the text.

f) Some hymns have alternative melodies. In many cases, the OTH has reproduced the musically inferior alternative.

g) Then there’s the problem of the faux-Elizabethan diction.

Now, I don’t have any problem with authentic Elizabethan diction by a distinguished period writer, viz. Cranmer, Herbert, Shakespeare, Spenser, Vaughan.

I do have a problem with the merely quaint and mediocre archaizing of English, as if that’s supposed to be more reverent.

I’m not claiming that the NTH is in anyway a masterpiece. But it’s a distinct improvement over the OTH.

BTW, there’s a sense in which hardcopy hymnals are becoming obsolete. In the computer age it’s possible to cherry-pick from a variety of hymnals and reprint a hymn (complete with music) in the program. I knew a music director who used to do that.

For some distinguished exemplars, Ralph Vaughan Williams was editor of The English Hymnal as well as The Songs of Praise and The Oxford Book of Carols.

iii) The liturgy is too dry and wordy.

I once attended a Lutheran church (WELS) on and off which had a sung liturgy.

What they would do is to versify some of the liturgical material, like the creeds, and then set them to a familiar hymn tune. This is an improvement over reading aloud in a couple of respects:

a) Singing liturgy doesn’t drag the way reading liturgy does:

b) If you regularly sing a particular text (like a versified creed) to a particular tune, it’s easier to remember it.

There’s a reason we have so many songs in Scripture.

iv) There are too many sermonettes in the service. Every reading is prefaced by a sermonette. I appreciate the idea behind this, which is to give the congregation some contextual background.

But is the congregation going to remember these whirlwind introductions?

4. In terms of outreach:

The church should set up Bible clubs in the local public schools. That’s a great way to reach the young.

For the legalities, go to

Other places where young people hang out, like shopping malls and beaches, are obvious venues.

I. Preaching

For purposes of analysis, I’ll distinguish between preachers and teachers. By a preacher I mean someone with natural speaking ability.


Some men and women are naturally gifted public speakers. This can either be a strength or a weakness.

i) On the one hand, a great public speaker can reach some people (indeed, many people) in a way that wooden speaker cannot. To judge by contemporary reports—including hostile sources like David Hume and Benjamin Franklin—George Whitefield may well have been the greatest preacher in the history of Christendom.

ii) On the other hand, there are some obvious dangers. There’s the temptation to coast on one’s native facility. To wing it.

In addition, great oratory can disarm the critical faculty among many listeners. A great orator can be a great heretic. So it tells you nothing about the theology of the preacher, which may be good or bad.

In terms of oratorical ability, Charles Stanley, Billy Graham, Tony Evans, James Robison, Jimmy Swaggart and C. L. Franklin are, for better or worse, representative examples of very gifted public speakers.

iii) Then you have some men who are naturally wooden, but try to be great orators. They resort to melodrama. In my opinion, James Kennedy and W. A. Criswell are hammy preachers.

This isn’t a moral or theological flaw, so it’s a fairly trivial criticism. And Kennedy, for one, has done about as much good for the kingdom as any one man can do.

iv) It’s no secret that, in America, the two great preaching traditions are the black and Southern Baptist.

In terms of the stock, black preaching-style, C. L. Franklin is, perhaps, the paradigmatic example. And “Bishop” T. D. Jakes is, I suppose, the modern-day equivalent.

But, at another level, these are very poor role-models. What they do is pure showmanship. Anyone with a good ear and a bit of acting ability can imitate that style. And the style carries the message, even if the message is heretical, or pious nonsense.

A much better role-model is Tony Evans. He’s a gifted preacher, but he doesn’t work the crowd the way Franklin or Jakes do. He’s well-educated, evangelical, and orthodox.

v) Then you have white Pentecostal preachers who try to sound like black preachers. Rod Parsley and Paula White are two who come to mind. You might say that Rod Parsley and Paula White are to preaching what Eminem and Vanilla Ice are to hip-hop. All a-quiver with push-button passion and rhetorical gimmicks.

vi) Finally, although preachers in the charismatic tradition generally excel at histrionics, there are a few, like Rex Humbard and Benny Hinn, who succeed by cultivating a low-key, Marcus Welby bedside manner. Sometimes a smooth, soothing, oily sales-pitch is just as effective as the hard sell. It’s the difference between a mugger and a pickpocket.


i) Since most clergymen are not orators, they should focus on being expository preachers. By “expository” preaching, I mean exegesis with application.

Unfortunately, a lot of what passes for expository preaching is very thin on exegesis. It merely uses the expository format to do topical preaching or systematic theology or psychobabble pep talks.

ii) Incidentally, there’s nothing wrong with topical preaching or systematic theology. But we still need to do exegesis. Application must grow out of exegesis. Systematic theology must grow out of exegetical theology.

iii) You don’t have to be a great orator to be a fine Bible teacher. Indeed, too much oratorical ability can get in the way of exposition. It’s better for evangelism than discipleship. Whitefield wouldn’t make a very good pastor.

However, to be a fine Bible teacher, a pastor does need to be studious. I often wonder how a lot of pastors spend their time. Clearly it’s not going into sermon preparation.

iv) Although you can’t turn a naturally inexpressive speaker into Tony Evans or Charles Stanley, even pastors with no natural talent for public speaking could benefit from professional coaching.

There are a number of Christian theatrical companies in this country, and seminaries should include some drama coaching in the seminary curriculum.

It would help a lot of seminarians improve their delivery. Lose some of their reticence. Eliminate distracting ticks or irritating mannerisms. Learn how to relax. Learn how to phrase and pace oneself for sense and emphasis. Gain some self-confidence in public speaking.

v) On a related note, there’s no reason that elders should do all the public readings of Scripture. Being an elder doesn’t make one a skilled public reader.

In this respect, Presbyterian polity is a bit antiquated. 400 years ago it made more sense for the clergy to do everything since the clergy were among the few members of the educated class. Among the few people who could read and write. Who even owned books.

But, nowadays, most of the laity are college-educated professionals.

One of the ironies is that high-church traditions, which are very top-down affairs, with a dogmatic lay/clerical division, nonetheless have a larger role for lay participation in the worship service than the traditional Presbyterian polity.

II. Art and Music

i) A number of one-time Evangelicals converted to Orthodoxy on aesthetic grounds. They got tired of the artistic mediocrity in so many Evangelical and fundamentalist churches.

While artistic scruples are no justification for adopting false doctrine, I would also say, at the same time, that there’s no excuse for so many Protestant churches to be so kitschy and tasteless.

ii) Contemporary Presbyterians seem to be rather schizophrenic in this regard. On the one hand, they’ve dumped the Puritan style of worship. On the other hand, they seem nervous about becoming too high-churchy, so what we end up with is a homogenous, nondescript style of worship that isn’t much of anything in particular.

In this respect, I think that Presbyterians and other suchlike need to shed their inhibitions and help themselves to the best of the Christian musical and artistic tradition, as long as that doesn’t glorify or underwrite false doctrine. We’re not going to reproduce the Assam-Kirche. But we can selectively mine the past, making critical use of Christian tradition.

The Solomonic temple was an artistic masterpiece, for the eye and ear alike.

iii) In terms of church architecture, we have the Byzantine, Romanesque, and Gothic. And some regions like the south have Colonial and antebellum churches.

Ugly can be just as pricey as beautiful. Why pay top dollar for ugliness?

iv) What about modern architecture? It depends on what you mean. Modern sometimes means modern for the sake of modernity. To break with the past at all cost. That should be opposed.

But men like Otto Bartning, Basil Spence, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright have created some stimulating church architecture.

v) I’m a classical music buff, so that’s where my musical sympathies lie. But as far as CCM is concerned, the most distinguished pop genre is jazz.

For a creative synthesis of classical and jazz, we have the Jacques Loussier Trio. It would be interesting to see that adapted to gospel music.

vi) While we’re on the subject of gospel music, I think that Marion Williams was the leading stylist of that genre.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Jim Benton on Morality

Earlier this evening, I happened to look over on the DebunkingAtheism website and saw that Jim Benton has written a little piece responding to some of my comments in this post.

Benton said:

A moderately sophisticated version of biological or cosmological Creationism such as Intelligent Design only demonstrates the existence of a Deistic God. It can't prove that the Creator-God is, in fact, Theistic.
Surely Benton knows that “Deist” is only the Latinized form of the Greek “Theist.” In point of fact, it is definitional: it is impossible to have a non-Theistic God.

I’ll assume what Benton means here is that ID can be used to prove a completely impersonal God, as opposed to the personal God of Christianity. And as far as that goes, I’d agree. This is why teaching ID isn’t equivalent to teaching religion, and further evidence why there’s no reason the courts shouldn’t allow ID to be taught in schools due to the separation of church and state excuse.

Benton said:
Remember that all our current Gods were conceived when the Universe was considered to consist of the Earth -- in reality a small part of it -- and some 'lights in the skies.'
Remember that Benton simply begs the question that all “Gods” were “conceived” instead of an actual God revealing Himself to a certain group of people on Earth at a specific point in time.

Benton said:
In this context, it was reasonable to see Man as the high point of, and the reason for, Creation.
So? That’s not the context that Christian theism holds to. That’s only the concept that Benton’s position holds to.

Benton said:
In a Universe consisting of a billion galaxies each with a billion stars, a much stronger argument -- or ego -- is needed to see Man as its center and reason for existence.
Again, this isn’t the Christian position, which does not view “Man” as “its center and reason for existence.” Rather, Christianity views GOD as the center and reason for the existence of the universe. We are theocentric, not anthropocentric. Hence:

What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him, visit him every morning and test him every moment? (Job 7:17-18)

What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:4)
Benton said:
But moral Creationism is different. Were it to be provable -- as unlikely as this appears -- it would be an absolute refutation of the claims of Christianity -- at least in its literalist-evangelical form.
Given that thus far you haven’t even accurately represented the Christian position, your claim doesn’t frighten me.

Benton said:
But, of course, the best place to find expressions of this is from Paul Manata and the TRIABLOGUE crew, whose portrayal of 'strong Christianity' accomplishes a level of self-debunking that matches anything we say here.
As an aside, when you say “accomplishes a level of self-debunking that matches anything we say here” are you acknowledging you self-debunk?

In any case, I wonder why you say “the best place to find expressions of this is from Paul Manata” and yet the only quotes you give are from me? That might make Paul jealous :-P

After my quotes (which you can read in the post or in their original context) Benton (who unfortunately didn’t use paragraphs and seemed to switch thoughts in mid-sentence throughout) said:
Let's try and summarize the argument they make:1) The Creator of the Universe included within it, or within humanity, a certain universal and absolute morality, and that when someone speaks of something as 'moral' or 'immoral' he is recognizing this inherent 'moral standard.' Thus it is only by way of this standard that it is possible for an action to be judged 'good' or 'evil.
No, that’s not how it starts. It starts like this: Atheism has nothing qua atheism that allows anyone to speak of anything as “moral” or “immoral.”

This is a negative argument. I am simply denying that atheists have a basis for their morality. You could easily prove my position wrong by…what’s the word I’m looking for here? Oh yes: by demonstrating a basis for atheistic morality.

Given that Benton hasn’t even understood my argument in the first place, most of his summary amazingly enough has nothing to do with what I’ve said. I wonder why he even bothered to list my quotes.

In any case, although it’s irrelevant to my own arguments, I’ll look at some of the other things he said in his “summary” of my position.

Benton continued:
2) That this Creator is identical with the 'Abrahamic' God.
Again, my argument is a negative argument against atheism. I’m not advancing an air-tight argument for Christianity. I don’t need to in this instance. My sole objective is to demonstrate that atheists have to jettison atheism in order to have morality.

They can do this with any deity they please, but they cannot remain atheists.

Benton said:
3) That this God is the 'author' (or 'inspirer') of the Old and New Testaments.
Again, not addressing my argument. But let’s play along and pretend it did.

Benton said:
But there are logical consequences to these statements: A) If this God is both the creator of the 'moral standard' and the Bible, he cannot contradict himself in these two 'authorial creations.
How do you know that God cannot contradict Himself? You seem to be imposing a morality on God rather than getting the morality from God. That I happen to agree that God doesn’t contradict Himself is irrelevant to this point—how do YOU know that God cannot contradict Himself? You’ve not established this in your argument.

Instead, you seem to be taking the Christian conclusion as your presupposition. Which is fine insofar as that goes; but that does mean that you have to be consistent with the entirety of the Christian presupposition instead of your current “pick and choose” method, which violates this Christian presupposition (meaning that your refutations of it are external additions to it, not due to internal inconsistencies).

In short, either presuppose it correctly or demonstrate it externally without any reference to the Christian presuppositions involved.

Benton said:
'B) Even if we argue that the Old Testament and 'time of the Jews' was a way of preparing the world -- by growing ideas of monotheism, social justice,' personal responsibility, and a direct relationship with God -- for the message of Christ, the final message of God -- we have to assume that the Old Testament does not, in itself, contain immorality.
No, we don’t have to agree with that at all, as you acknowledge in your next point. The Scriptures can contain immorality; they just cannot be immoral.

Benton said:
To eliminate two frequent complaints…
Good thing you eliminated that which no one was going to raise. We can all rest easier at night now :-)

Benton said:
The two books can, obviously, contain stories OF immorality -- the story of David and Bathsheeba being an obvious example -- but they cannot, if written by the Creator of the ultimate moral standard, accept or celebrate such immorality.
This is simply naïve. What is the most immoral action ever committed? The murder of Jesus Christ. Yet this was for the greatest possible good because it saved His people. The Bible can celebrate the fact that evil people did an immoral action because of what was accomplished by it: the greatest good.

What the Bible cannot do is call that which is evil good. And it doesn’t. The men who murdered Jesus are rightly condemned as evil people, even though the good that we gain through His death is celebrated Scripturally.

Benton said:
D) The existence of the 'two Testaments' implies that humanity's moral sense might grow and deepen, but the 'ultimate standard' cannot itself change.
I don’t see how that follows from the existence of the two Testaments. God’s immutability and His promises are the reasons why “the ultimate standard” won’t change.

Benton said:
Humanity's moral sense might grow, but it cannot grow beyond that which the Creator has created. (To make that clearer, if God has permitted something as moral, we may not claim we now 'know better' and see it as immoral -- not if the standa5rd is in fact 'absolute' or 'ultimate.’
This likewise does not follow. That God permits something does not mean that what is permitted is good. Jesus Himself points out that God permitted divorce under Moses, even though He hates divorce. Due to the hardness of men’s hearts, God does not enforce the law 100%, but has mercy on whom He has mercy.

Mercy isn’t owed; therefore, it need not be given to all. If God permitted (for example) polygamy in the Old Testament, it doesn’t mean He cannot choose to no longer permit it in the New Testament.

Benton said:
And some [commandments], like the rules on 'mildew and infectious skin diseases' -- Leviticus 13,14 -- or the laws on planting two crops in the same field or wearing clothes of two different materials -- Leviticus 19:19 are inexplicable, at least to me -- I'd go so far as to call them simply 'weird.')
Yes, and we know that Benton’s standard of “weirdness” is the objective standard that we must all accept, and that if Benton doesn’t get it then no one can get it. Argument from ignorance.

Benton said:
Many Christians argue that the "New Covenant" wiped out the Old, that the laws of the Old Testament were abolished by Jesus.
“Christians I know believe X” fallacy. Many Christians are Biblically illiterate. That doesn’t disprove Christianity. The New Covenant didn’t “wipe out” the Old; it fulfilled it.

And then suddenly it’s over. Benton’s argument is just finished (with the promise that there will be more someday).

So I ask, since Benton is going to write more, that he establish morality under atheism. Now it should be noted that by “morality” I mean an objective, transcendent morality. That is, Benton needs to show how he can come up with moral commands that I ought to follow, without invoking a deity of any kind. If he wants to say that murder is wrong, then he needs to establish it without abandoning his atheistic principals. He needs to demonstrate, FROM ATHEISM, how murder is wrong.

If he cannot do so, then I’d say that’s a pretty airtight argument that morality presupposes some form of deity.

Holding in a huff

“Hays has gone childish and is now playing the ‘that guys uses a pseudonym’ card.”

“Well, given Hays' childish resort to the ‘use of a pseudonym’ card…”

“The childish resort to the ‘pseudonym’ card.”

My, isn’t he touchy. I simply pointed out that my opponent goes by two different names. Turkel/Holding has, himself, put this information in the public domain:

[DOC] Robert Turkel
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Mission/Ministerial Statement. Tekton Apologetics Ministries is committed to providing scholarly answers to serious questions which are often posed on major ... - Similar pages

So why the outrage?

“No, a critique of the corporate understanding does NOT even touch the matter unless it comes at it from the correct angle, the social science one.”

So the only correct angle is a social science one. Yet he quotes folks like Cranfield and Morris in support of his own position. Do they come to the text from the same “angle” as Esler? Turkel is being duplicitous.

“The Calvinist goes too far in thinking that Paul is saying everything and all that can be said about the salvation of individuals.”

A strawman argument since no Calvinist says that. Can he quote Piper or Murray or Schreiner or Baugh—on Rom 9—making that claim?

He’s simply using this strawman argument as a diversionary tactic to evade the predestinarian force of Rom 9.

“My point was that Tinky Winky is just throwing this elephant around for the sake of bamboozling an average reader who won't have the time or the interest to look themselves.”

Note how Turkel talks down to the “average” Christian reader.

“Beale's arguments are old news to me, and have no bearing on or refutation to my own arguments, we'll wait for Tinkly Winky to do the hard work of extraction of arguments to show us why not.”

Beale’s article is a sustained critique of synergism in favor of monergism. It’s directly germane to Turkel’s claims.

“The absolute stupidity of comparing the question of the continued existence of the Temple with reference to the continued validity of the Jewish covenant, with a celebrity gossip story, speaks for itself in terms of Tinky Winky's childishness and lack of congnizance [sic.] of the significance of the larger picture that Paul had to deal with.”

Turkel never shows that Paul was dealing with that “larger picture.” He simply asserts it. Proof by stipulation.

He also uses buzzwords like “social science” as a substitute for actual exegesis.

“The enormous bulk of power was in Jewish hands, from the great Sanhedrin to local rulers.”

A purely delegated authority which Rome could rescind at the drop of a hat.

“What these amount to is that they had to be uninterrupted because if they hadn't been, they'd have been interrupted.”

Which is not what I said. Or Stuart said. Or Sarna said. Turkel is substituting a tautology of his own making for the rationale they actually gave.

“The mental block Tinky Winky has is the usual Calvinist one in which he declares that God's "purpose" was Calvinistic, and that Pharaoh never could have repented, and so that's why there could have been no interruption of the plagues.”

Must Turkel be such a dim bulb? I specifically quoted from two leading commentators on Exodus who are not in the Calvinist camp. Stuart is Arminian, and Sarna is Jewish.

The fact that Turkel feels the need to constantly distort or evade the actual argument illustrates the intellectual bankruptcy of his own position.

“Of course it never occurs to Tinky Winky that if Pharaoh had repented and let Israel go, all that would mean is that God would have accomplished His purpose for Israel in another way.”

i) So, according to Turkel, God is the follower, and man is the leader. God is simply reacting to whatever man does. Man is dictating the agenda.

ii) For Turkel, God is not in control of the outcome. God is unable to carry out his purpose by executing a particular course of action of his own choosing.

Instead, God only has a set of contingency plans. If one falls through, God has a backup plan. God takes his cue from man.

“Tinky Winky simply assumes that if God does the hardening, then God will just continue on with it under all possible circumstances.”

More of Turkel’s reading incomprehension. This is contrary to what I actually said. What I said is that it wouldn’t matter if hardening were temporary or permanent, for, in any event, God is the agent.

“Sorry, but as my exegesis shows, Rom. 9:6-8 has not one bit to do with this, but is about claims of etnnic identity as a marker, and claims that simply because someone was a Judaen, they had an automatic "in" with God.”

Does “Jew” mean Judean” in Romans? Observe the criticism of this redefinition by one of the SBL reviewers I quoted.

“And according to Tinky Winky, they are tied to the contextual misfirings of commentators in the 16th and 17 century.”

I haven’t cited any 16-17C commentators. Instead, I’ve cited Beale, Baugh, and Schreiner. Turkel never fails to miss the target.

“The above is not an "argument" by me but an observation by Morris. I make no use of his observation in any argument. I merely report his as a point of view on the subject.”

Now he’s on the ropes. Why would he cite Morris except in support of his own position? Is he citing Morris just for the sake of citing Morris? To fill out the word count? Would he cite Morris if Morris were irrelevant to his position? No, he’s citing Morris to undermine the predestinarian force of this verse.

“He then posted a review of Esler, which unfortunately does not answer a single point upon which I made use of Esler.”

Actually, I excerpted two reviews. And they address various points upon which he made use of Esler. They address Esler’s flawed methodology as well as flaws in his individual arguments, such as the redefinition of “Jew” as Judean. Turkel is dependent on both.

“I did -- RTS Library in Orlando.”

Did he read Schreiner’s essay in the Still Sovereign anthology?

“Since I don't deny the God did some part (not ALL) of the hardening, it doesn't really matter.”

Use of the divine passive construction implies that God is the agent of hardening, not that he did “some part, but not all.”

“He's using the tactics of the atheists, and ought to be ashamed of himself for it.”

I guess shame cultures aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. So much for the social science angle.

“My time is too valuable to waste on a hack like Hays as he now presents himself and his "arguments".”

Turkel is in competition with Vincent Cheung as the most self-important apologist in the blogosphere. The contest will take the form of which contender can gaze at himself in the mirror for longer.

“Since he thinks he accomplished something by posting a negative review of Esler.”

No, two negative reviews, to be exact. Both from the Society for Biblical Literature—that infamous hotbed of hardcore Calvinism.

And now for MMGG:


The statement

"Let's also not forget that Molinism (and Holding claims to be a Molinist) begs the question of libertarian freedom. He needs to show us Scripture that proves libertarian freedom."

made by Genembridges on Triablogue is perplexing to me. Here are a couple of reasons why:

First of all, just to turn the question around,

1. It seems that the Calvinist needs to prove compatiblism [sic.] from Scripture too. Compatiblism [sic.] is not a default position on this subject; it doesn't win the debate automatically if there is no evidence presented for libertarianism.


No, a Calvinist doesn't need to prove compatibilism from Scripture. A Calvinist only needs to prove Calvinism from Scripture.

Compatibilism is a philosophical position, not a theological position. It dovetails nicely with Calvinism, and it's a philosophical counterargument to a philosophical objection (libertarianism).

Calvinism is not dependent on compatibilism in the way Arminianism is dependent on libertarianism.



Now, some little arguments for libertarian freedom:

2. Two questions I have for Calvinists:

a. does God have libertarian freewill?

b. If so, where does it say this in the Bible?

Denying God libertarian freewill has disastrous consequences (I will explain if anyone wants me to). But affirming it is not based on explicit biblical teaching. Pointing to texts that say God sovereignly chooses will not prove libertarian freedom. Instead it seems that LFW is an assumption that we must make with respect to God because of other things Scripture says about Him. The same can be argued with respect to humans: it seems like we could ascribe LFW to human beings based not on explicit statements in Scripture but rather various indirect data.


That’s the wrong way to frame the issue.

On the one hand, God is, in many respects, freer than man. He's omnipotent.

On the other hand, this doesn't mean that God enjoys the freedom of contrary choice, i.e., the freedom to choose between good and evil.

So, in that respect, God is less free than Adam or Lucifer.

On the one hand, God's actions are not necessitated.

On the other hand, there are certain things that God cannot do (consistent with his moral character).



If God can have LFW and we can admit this without prooftexts, then why can't humans have it and we admit this without prooftexts?


Gee, what a toughie. Let's see—maybe because God can actually do one or two things that his creatures cannot. Assuming, then, that God is omnipotent while we are not, it hardly follows that anything God can do, we can do.



3. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul states that

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

The implication of this verse seems to be the following: all the external influences and internal mental states of a human person that a compatiblist [sic.] would say causally necessitate a certain action are counterbalanced by divine grace in such a way so that neither God's grace nor the temptation that a person experiences will cause them to act one way or the other.


i) Totally inept, for assuming that compatibilism is true, compatibilism isn't one thing, and grace another—as if grace is a factor in tension with compatibilist factors. Grace would work via external influences (e.g., the means of grace) and/or mental states (e.g., immediate regeneration).

ii) Does he deny that we act in accordance with our mental states? If our mental states don't determine our decisions, than something other than our mental states determines our decisions. In that event, the agent isn't making his own decisions. Libertarianism is such an improvement over fatalism, you see.



Normally, perhaps, (I'll grant for the sake of argument) temptation would causally necessitate sin; but it doesn't. Grace counteracts the force of temptation and makes it possible for a human being to obey God in every circumstance where they are tempted.


Other issues aside, is Paul talking about human beings in general, or Christians in particular?

BTW, if MMGG (any relation to Henry?) believes that a human being can always obey God, then he is both a Pelagian and a perfectionist.



Now if this is true, libertarianism seems to follow. For in the case of a person who is tempted and sins, it seems that we must say they did not sin because prior causes necessitated it...


Off-topic. Have you noticed how quickly the feminist/transgender convention of singular nouns with plural pronouns ("a person...they did") mainstream discourse, even among some professing Christians?

The reason for violating the grammatical rules of numerical agreement is, of course, to avoid the politically incorrect generic masculine pronoun.

Why does MMGG buy into this socially subversive convention? Is he a bra burning radical feminist? Is he a crossdresser? Henry by day, Henrietta by night?



If you want to say that a tempted person was caused to sin by their own mental states or something,


Once again, if our mental states don't make the decisions, what does?



then I would ask: did God really provide a way out of temptation for them? It seems not, because they were incapable of obeying God; that's the exact reason why they sinned--they were caused to. The libertarian can easily point to this verse and say: look, it seems like agents, when tempted, are capable of avoiding sin because God's grace is sufficient to prevent them from sinning. Thus agents are

a. able to do otherwise in situations where they are tempted (because even when they sin, they could have resisted temptation and obeyed)


Actually, compatibilism doesn't deny the freedom to do otherwise. The agent is free to do otherwise if he wants to do otherwise. The question is whether he's free not to want to want what he wants.



b. the source of their own intentional action (because neither grace nor the temptation explains their ultimate decision one way or the other)


How does MMGG distinguish between the agent and his intentions? In what sense is the agent the source of his intentions? Is the agent something over and above his own mind? Is a rational agent an agent apart from his mental states?

One could, of course, say that prior intentions or previous mental states are the source of subsequent intentions/mental states. But that would be way too deterministic for MMGG.

So he must deny personal continuity. Your past self is discontinuous with your present or future self.



4. There are many places where human agents resist divine saving grace in Scripture (I could provide the verses if asked). But if compatiblism [sic.] is true, then divine saving grace is fully sufficient to cause a person to accept salvation; if grace is offered then the person should accept.


MMGG doesn't even know how to state the opposing position. In Calvinism, saving grace isn't something that God "offers" a person, but something that God does to a person to change him and his standing.



Regarding Molinism,

If we assume libertarian freewill is true, then I think Molinism is not hard to deduce from Scripture. Take 1 Corinthians 2:8 for instance:

"None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."

Notice the word "would". This sentence is a counterfactual statement (a statement of what would happen in another circumstance). If we already hold to libertarian freewill, it is very natural to read this statement as a counterfactual of creaturely freedom about how the rulers WOULD have acted. And if God can know one counterfactual of creaturely freedom, why not others?


Totally inept. Calvinism doesn't deny the truth-value of counterfactuals or the modality of possible worlds. The question, rather, is what grounds these possibilities or counterfactuals. The will of man or the will of God?

Once again, MMGG is too incompetent to even accurately state the opposing position.