Saturday, June 23, 2007

Interesting Audio Interviews with New Agers

Our church is heavily involved with outreach and evangelism in our local community, and what follows is our most recent friendly interaction with New Age community at the Summer Solstice celebration held annually at the Lindley Park Arboretum in Greensboro, NC.

In 2006, almost our entire church mingled with the participants and performers at Lindley Park while I did some open-air preaching for about 15 minutes. After the open-air; we broke up into groups and interviewed people as to their views concerning truth, God, the Bible, trying to get a hold on their views of epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics so as to present the gospel. This year the celebration fell on Thursday during a week wherein I could not attend due to extenuating circumstances.

However, my fellow elder attended this year's events and interviewed both performers and participants. He asked a variety of questions to briefly set in bold relief the stark contrasts between the New Age Worldview and the Christian Worldview. Regardless of your worldview, you will benefit from and enjoy hearing those questions and answers. My fellow elder read passages from Exodus and Romans and asked for their “opinions" regarding those passages. The opening question was:

"Will you describe God to me?"

This was usually followed up with some questions about the location of the Ten Commandments.

Finally, a question was posed about the interviewee’s acceptance or rejection of the following proposition:

“Since God has written His Law in the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, and people who break those laws are sinners and God Judges Sin, and the only way to avoid the judgment of God is by the Grace of God through Faith in Jesus Christ alone, Do you accept or reject that proposition?"

While the interviews can be entertaining, the real issue is that our own “Jerusalem” has plenty of people who not only don’t believe that Jesus Christ died for their sin, by God’s Grace, but they have made a god in their own image from their own imagination to suit their own sinful interests. It does not matter that they cannot possibly live consistently with their “concept” of god, truth, or reality, but many times it is blatantly evident that they have never thought about their own inconsistencies and how they naturally try to blameshift sin.

My fellow elder noted that He wanted to ask some of the following questions:

"If it is all about love and doing no harm, do you LOVE people who do harm to others?" (i.e., Hitler, Dahmer, etc).

However, in this case, these interviews were designed for upcoming podcast broadcasting at our church website, or perhaps at The Narrow Mind, with Pastor Gene Cook, Jr at . At this point, you can subscribe to the podcast by simply copying the data in the atom box on the lower right-hand side of the page and you will hear the whole podcast when it is done, Or paste the following link into your iTunes player: You should also be able to listen and/or download from the links below.

For WMA (play on your computer)

For MP3 (ipod and mp3 players)

A helluva time

This is carried over from the previous discussion:

A number of commenters have made a number of excellent points in response to Steve Jones. And I’d recommend that you read their replies.


“If I did caricature the faith, the caricature isn't very far from the reality. We still have one of the two first parents deceived (I maintain that "tricked" is OK).”

Irrelevant, since Eve is not responsible for the fall of man—Adam is.

“You still have people who can't repent being told to repent and being punished for not repenting.”

There are different senses in which people “can’t” do something. Not all forms of inability are exculpatory.

“You still have people suffering for all eternity, a suffering that's compared to being burned in fire. (Am I wrong on this?)”

Comparable in what sense? That’s the issue.

“And every indication from the New Testament is that God (or even Christ himself) is inflicting the pain: ‘in flaming fire, taking vengeance on those that know not God ...’ Hell is never portrayed as a kind of Devil's Island where incorrigible criminals are dumped to wreak mayhem on one another. The bottom line is this: If God creates a Lake of Fire and hurls people into it, how can anyone deny that God is the one inflicting the suffering?? The very fact that you guys resort to such word games and hair's breadth word-distinctions is indicative of a weak position.”

i) You are conflating two different issues:

a) Is the fiery imagery literal?

b) Is God responsible for the existence and administration of hell.

An affirmative answer to (b) does not imply an affirmative answer to (a).

ii) What the Bible literally teaches about hell is fairly limited:

a) Damnation is irreversible and everlasting.

b) Damnation often involves a reversal of fortunes.

c) Damnation is punitive

d) The damned are devoid of common grace or special grace.

e) The damned are miserable.

f) The final state of the damned is corporeal.

iii) Beyond that, we are left with speculation. We can speculate on the basis of two factors:

a) What the Bible actually teaches, in combination with:

b) Extrapolations from life in a fallen world.

Some of these inferences may be reasonable or even correct. But we need to distinguish between the actual teaching of Scripture and possible inferences or a synthetic construct from Scripture and experience.

iv) Just as I construe the hellish imagery of Scripture figuratively, I also construe the heavenly imagery of Scripture figuratively. So I’m quite consistent on this point.

I don’t assume that heaven is literally a cubical city. I don’t assume that heaven is literally a woman. And I don’t assume that heaven is literally a cubical woman—the foursquare bride of Christ.

Any halfway intelligent interpreter is going to ask himself what these picturesque metaphors literally denote. You must unpack the metaphor.

“You're right that we can't deny something just because it's harsh. I believe in cancer and war, even though these things are highly unpleasant. But the doctrine of a loving God can't be sustained in the face of eternal misery.”

i) God is not reducible to a single attribute. Love is not God’s only attribute. And love is not God’s most important attribute. One divine attribute does not rank above another. They are equally important. Love without justice would be immoral.

ii) Even if, for the sake of argument, love were God’s only or primary attribute, it isn’t possible to be equally loving to everyone.

To use your own examples, it isn’t possible to be equally loving to Charles Manson and his victims, or Nero and his victims, or Jack the Ripper and his victims, or Hitler and his victims.

iii) It’s pretty obvious that even in this life, God is not as loving to every individual as he could be.

“In our own world, the more loving and compassionate the person, the less likely he or she would ever torture anyone (let alone forever). Are you saying that when we raise love and compassion to an infinite level, that the torture of rational beings becomes inevitable?”

You keep rigging the debate by trying to fasten the word “torture” on to our position, and then, in turn, assign that to God.

But, once again, we need to distinguish between what the Bible actually teaches and our conjectures about hell:

i) Exegetically speaking, Scripture doesn’t literally teach that God tortures anyone.

ii) Hypothetically speaking, it is possible that some of the damned torment one another. I don’t have any qualms about (ii). What one hellion inflicts on another is poetic justice. If Charles Manson and Jack the Ripper spend eternity at each other’s throats, that’s fine with me.

iii) There is often a moral difference between what I do, and what I allow someone else to do.

Suppose Jack the Ripper captures Charles Manson, or vice person. Suppose one of them proceeds to torture the other. Suppose I’m in a position to intervene and prevent it.

Am I under some obligation to keep one psychopath from tormenting another psychopath? No, I’m not.

They deserve each other. Making them cellmates would be just punishment. They would punish themselves by punishing each other.

“You're saying that our understanding should be limited to just two perspectives: (1) God inflicts excruciating pain on sinners forever in hell, or (2) God doesn't recompense sin at all.”

And what’s your alternative? You’re reluctant to lay your own cards on the table. But what you’ve said thus far appears to be a softening up exercise for annihilationism. That, however, is subject to its own problems.

Annihilationism is a compromise position, and it suffers from the liabilities of an intellectual and moral compromise. It inherits the apparent or actual disadvantages of the opposing positions, without their apparent or actualadvantages.

On the face of it, annihilationism is more just, but less merciful than universalism, while being less just, but more merciful than eternal damnation.

But even its limited advantages are deceptive. It exacts a measure of retributive justice on the damned. But it arbitrarily commutes the sentence. For the damned never cease to be guilty. Yet their punishment comes to an end.

Moreover, it isn’t very nice to zap people out of existence.

“I'm not saying that evildoers should get away with their evil deeds. But I am saying that torturing a living being for trillions and trillions and trillions and trillions of eons without any hope of future mercies is utterly untenable.”

i) Once more, you try to rig the debate by imposing your tendentious description (“torture”) on the rest of us.

ii) To say it’s “utterly untenable” is not a reasoned argument. You merely beg the question.

“How can you live one happy moment knowing that multitudes are writhing and convulsing somewhere in hideous suffering that will never end?”

i) Because it’s just, and we should rejoice when the scales of justice are righted. In this life, Josef Mengele got off scott free. But consider what was waiting for him on the other side of the grave!

ii) I’m not responsible for what other people do with their lives. I’m not responsible for the consequences of their actions. It’s none of my business. I’m not a cosmic nanny.

iii) My emotions are irrelevant. Suppose Jack the Ripper were my son. How would I feel? Conflicted. Should my personal feelings dictate his punishment, or lack thereof?

“Regardless of the symbolic, eschatological interpretation of these texts, if you still have people living in misery forever and ever, you're holding a morally untenable doctrine.”

Notice the bait-and-switch. He alternates between “torture” and “misery,” as if these were interchangeable concepts. But “misery” is not synonymous with “torture.”

Many men are miserable in this life, absent torture. Self-indulgence and sheer boredom can make you miserable. Utterly miserable.

Suppose that Hell were Las Vegas Strip. For many men and women, that’s their idea of paradise.

And for the first few months or years, they might enjoy themselves. But an eternity of Las Vegas Strip would be an interminable bore. It would become insufferable.

Yet their misery would not involve any degree of torture. Extreme luxury can be unbearable.

“Concerning the culpability of damned sinners, no amount of explanation can make the Calvinist doctrine coherent and rational. A sinner can't believe the gospel any more than he can hold his breath for a week. But God tells the sinner he must. The sinner, of course, can't and doesn't. So he's punished for not doing the impossible. __Where's the justice in that? __It doesn't help to argue that the sinner ‘loves his sin.’ That's all he can do, by your own admission. Maybe God should punish lions for eating meat instead of tree leaves.”

i) To begin with, your objections to Calvinism are a red-herring, for you would be equally opposed to a libertarian version of eternal damnation.

ii) This involves the perennial debate between freedom and determinism. There’s an extensive philosophical literature on this subject. Both soft determinism and hard determinism have answers to the stock objections, as well as raising objections to the libertarian alternative.

iii) Likewise, annihilationism doesn’t select for libertarianism. These are logically distinct positions. There could equally be a deterministic version of annihilationism.

“Also, it's just a dodge to say that God is merely obliging sinners who really want hell instead of heaven. So are you affirming that after, say, 100 billion years of torment, the damned will be relieved (‘Whew!’) that they aren't in an uncomfortable place like heaven where they have to be around a holy God and all that singing? Is God really doing the damned a big favor by placing them in a lake of fire?”

Several issues:

i) The fact that sinners may dislike the consequences of sin doesn’t mean they dislike sin. Even in this life, many sinners engage in self-destructive behavior. They make lifestyle choices which leave them miserable. But as much as they hate the consequences of sin, they love to sin.

ii) Even if the damned end up loathing hell, this doesn’t mean they’d prefer heaven over hell. They continue to hate God. Indeed, their hatred of God and all things holy is hardened in hell.

Men can hate one thing without loving its opposite. They could despise their hellish existence, but despise a holy God even more.

“Besides, you're painting the denizens of hell as all loathsome miscreants prone to hurt one another. (That makes it easier on you, doesn't it?) But what about the decent Tibetan villager who simply died practicing his native-born religion? Or the teen girl dying in childbirth? Or the sweet Jewish lady down the street? Will they all be dumped in with Charles Manson, Nero and Jack the Ripper? Is Hitler in hell with all his Jewish victims, punching it out? That's sick.”

i) Hell is devoid of common grace or special grace. So, yes, the damned are loathsome miscreants.

ii) A lot of Jewish victims would like nothing more than to wreak vengeance on Hitler. There are victims who would choose hell over heaven for vindictive reasons. They would rather be in hell with Hitler than be in heaven with Hitler. They would rather spend eternity hounding Hitler.

And if you think that’s too speculative, then your own objections are equally speculative, and less well founded.

“These texts certainly sound to me like God Himself is the agent of misery upon the unbelievers.”

Once again, notice the equivocation. “Misery” and “torture” are not the same thing.

Yes, God is the judge. So he is directly and ultimately responsible for the existence and administration of hell. That doesn’t mean he tortures anyone.

“And about LaHaye. To suggest that LaHaye's concept of hell is unique to him is nothing short of dishonest. Reformed luminaries like Spurgeon, Edwards, Warfield, Pink, etc., all held to the same crass, repulsive view of hell that LaHaye does ... actually their views were worse and spoken of more graphically.”

The point at issue is not, in the first place, with Tim LaHaye’s doctrine of hell (which may or may not be flawed), but with his hermeneutical approach.

“Gene, you're welcome to worship a God who keeps fallible people alive forever in pain over ONE SINGLE SIN, and calling that a ‘high view of sin’."

Notice that Jones is now excusing and thereby condoning sin. Sinners sin because they’re “fallible.” They don’t know any better. They sin through no fault of their own.

This isn’t even consistent with annihilationism.

“Suppose a legislature passed a law that every legal breach, no matter how slight, would be punished by having the perpetrator's eyes gouged out and his body eaten by wild dogs. Would you admire such a governing body for its high view of the law? I wouldn't.”

Once again, this trivializes the Biblical doctrine of sin.

“No, I'm not. That's why I can't believe that God would perform such a merciless act as to punish an ignorant Tibetan villager for all eternity.”

i) A universalist can’t believe in a God who would annihilate any of his children. An atheist can’t believe in a God who would allow all the evil and suffering we see on this side of the grave.

ii) Notice that Jones doesn’t distinguish between innocent ignorance and culpable ignorance. But the Tibetan villager is still a sinner.

“I have no problem with understanding many of these texts metaphorically. Several of your exegetical points make sense. I've heard good arguments linking the ‘eternal fire’ with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. So do sinners suffer for all eternity or not?”

This assumes that the temporal markers are metaphorical. In what sense are they metaphorical? Where is the figurative imagery in the word “eternal”?

“The biblical doctrine of final punishment is uneven at best. Some texts appear to teach traditional eternal torment, others annihilationism, still others universal redemption. In Luke 20:35, it sounds as if only "worthy" persons will be resurrected at all. __Of course, people will insist on the view they consider most orthodox within the tradition they inhabit.”

Yes, and Bible-believing Christians have taken the time to critique the prooftexts for universalism or annihilationism.

“Eternal misery would, I believe, be gratutious. Eighty or ninety years of sin punished by endless eons of torment? That doesn't seem just or proportionate.”

Guilt has no shelf-life. Once guilty, always guilty.

Guilt can be redeemed (by a suitable redeemer), but it cannot be erased.

And the damned never cease to be sinners. To the contrary, they become more sinful in hell.

For the rest, Jones simply repeats himself without advancing the argument, which is less of an argument than a string of question-begging assertions, tendentious adjectives, and emotive rhetoric.

Few Lashes

There's an ongoing discussion in another thread concerning the nature of Hell. Gene Bridges and others posting there have made many significant points (the fact that there are degrees of punishment in Hell, the self-perpetuating nature of Hell, etc.). I'm not attempting to repeat all of the relevant points here, nor am I attempting to make a full case for a Hell of eternal, conscious punishment. That's the position I hold, and I've argued for it elsewhere, but what I want to do here is add some points to those already made in the other thread.

I think that one of the best Biblical passages that can be cited to illustrate the balance of what scripture teaches on this subject is Luke 12. In Luke 12:49, Jesus not only uses the common Biblical language of the fire of judgment, but He even speaks of how He "wishes it were already kindled". He goes on to refer to how He brings division, even within families (Luke 12:51-53). Comments like these, involving fiery judgment, division, and such, are often cited by critics of Christianity as illustrations of how hateful and divisive Jesus was (or how hateful and divisive the people who falsely attributed such comments to Him were). Modern Christians who argue for the sort of qualifications on the doctrine of Hell that Steve Hays, Gene Bridges, and others are arguing for in the thread linked above are often accused of revising what scripture teaches on the subject. Comments like the ones Jesus made in Luke 12:49-53 are often represented as the Biblical view, which was only later revised when it was perceived to be untenable.

But read Jesus' comments leading up to Luke 12:49. He refers to degrees of punishment (Luke 12:45-48). He refers to some people receiving only "few lashes" (Luke 12:48). These are the words of Jesus, not the opinions of a twenty-first century Christian attempting to revise what He taught.

As Gene has noted in the other thread, one of the earliest Biblical passages to explicitly address the concept of an eternal Hell, Daniel 12:2, focuses on the concepts of disgrace and contempt, not something like physical burning. The variety of terms and images used in the Bible to describe Hell is itself evidence that the Biblical authors had a more nuanced view of the subject than many modern critics suggest. People often associate a term like "weeping and gnashing of teeth" with physical suffering, but Jesus refers to people weeping and gnashing their teeth in a more spiritual than physical context (Luke 13:28). These passages I've been citing from Luke are in the same gospel that uses some of the strongest physical imagery of Hell in scripture (Luke 16:19-31). The same Biblical authors who use such imagery sometimes use other imagery and add other qualifications that are often neglected by critics.

The fact that Jesus would speak of degrees of punishment in Hell, yet use one image of Hell in a given discussion of the subject, should caution us against applying that one image to every person in Hell without qualification. People often use a worst case scenario to warn people about something, even if the majority of people would experience something less than what's reflected in that worst case scenario. Around the time when taxes are due each year, I sometimes see billboards or some other type of advertisement warning about the consequences of tax fraud. Even if most people who are involved in some sort of dishonesty in handling their taxes might be subject to a less severe punishment, these advertisements will often mention or allude to jail time, use jail imagery, or do some other such thing to express the potential consequences in a worst case scenario. We often see the same with regard to warnings about drug abuse, drunk driving, etc. To refer to a Tibetan villager, to use an illustration from the other thread, as if he would be in the same state of suffering as Hitler in Hell, or to assume that everybody in Hell experiences what the rich man in Luke 16 is described as experiencing, is dubious. We shouldn't quote what Jesus said in Luke 16 without also taking into account the common imagery and modes of expression used in that day, as well as the further qualifications mentioned by Jesus in passages like Luke 12.

In the other thread, SteveJ commented:

"The biblical doctrine of final punishment is uneven at best. Some texts appear to teach traditional eternal torment, others annihilationism, still others universal redemption."

It should be noted that the earliest post-apostolic Christians believed in a Hell of eternal, conscious punishment. See here, for example. Some sources did argue for some other position, such as annihilationism or universalism, but the view I, Steve Hays, Gene Bridges, and others in this forum have been defending was the popular view. It's historically probable that Jesus and the apostles taught the concept of a Hell of eternal, conscious punishment, and we have good reason to believe that they were speaking by Divine inspiration.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Biography

Rev 12:11 "And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death"

In the Christian life, testimony presents a wonderful means of being stirred toward godliness. This is why I love biographies. Biographies free us from self-occupation in order to look beyond ourselves to faithful witnesses of Christ who inspire us to pour out our lives for the gospel.

This summer, I encourage you to pick up at least one biography and dive into the life of a Christian saint. Here are a few to choose from:

Augustine of Hippo by Peter Brown
Here I Stand: The Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton
John Calvin: His Life & Influence by Robert Reymond
Grace Abounding: John Bunyan, His Life & Books by David Calhoun
John Owen: Prince of Puritans by Andrew Thomson
Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain Murphy
But Now I See: Life of John Newton by Josiah Bull
Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce by John Piper
John Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides by John Paton
Charles Spurgeon: The Early Years by Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon: The Full Harvest by Charles Spurgeon
B.B. Warfield by Gary Johnson
J. Gresham Machen: A Biographical Memoir by Ned B. Stonehouse
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First 40 Years by Iain Murphy
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith by Iain Murphy
John Stott: The Making of a Leader by Timothy Dudley-Smith

"The Swans are Not Silent" is an excellent series from John Piper:

Contending for Our All
The Legacy of Sovereign Joy

Roots of Endurance
The Hidden Smile of God

The BFM 2K: Thoughts

I've been watching folks around the Baptist blogs talk about the recent decision and statement on the sufficiency of the BFM2K. There seem to be two camps. I've been asked my opinions.

A. About the Motion: On the one hand, I find it odd and rather humorous actually that those claiming it was too vague are making this claim at all. It strikes me as irrational.

1. They didn't really protest the motion on that basis, did they? As I recall, most of the protest arose over whether the trustees should be able to go beyond the BFM2k as they see it, using it only to "guide," not the motion's "vagueness."

2. So, it was too vague to pass, but not so vague to protest? That strikes me as "File Under: Grasping At Straws." That argument cuts both ways.

B. When we declare the Bible, as in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, to be the only infallible and sufficient authority to ground faith and practice, is that vague too?

1. The "no creed but the Bible" people don't think so.

2. When we talk about the doctrine of sufficiency in Scripture, I should think that when that day in Systematic Theology class, the students should know. So, what's the functional difference? Yes, the Bible has to be exegeted. Well, so does a confession of faith, so both parties lose a bit here when you get right down to it.

C. I think the difference is arising at least in part because the BFM2K doesn't address everything at least some of those opposing the motion want it to address. However, confessions aren't ever going to do that. The Apostle's Creed does not address modalism. Nicea-Constantinople, doesn't address Monophysitism and Nestorianism. The Ancient Creeds didn't address soteriology. The Second Helvetic Confession is remarkably minimalist for what we think of a Reformed Confession; so is the Belgic (more on that below). The Westminster Confession and its derivatives take time to address particular issues like election, providence, predestination, etc than the older confessions, and it is more stringent on some things like the covenantal schema than the Second London Baptist. On the other hand, neither one address PPL (private prayer language). So, confessions are in part descriptive and in part polemic. They are drafted as consensus documents often against the backdrop of particular concerns.

D. Which gets us to the idea of Baptist confessionalism. I wrote this at Les Puryear's blog, and I just reproduce it here:

t seems to me our forefathers wouldn't have gone to the trouble of drafting documents like the First and Second London Confessions or the others if they did not find it necessary to use them for something more than saying "look at what we believe."

I'm actually not a fan of the BFM2K. I've stated my reasons in the past. I'll not go into them again.

But that's not to say the LBCF2 is, IMO, the way to go, even though I heartily affirm it. Rather, I'm starting to think something along the lines of the 3 Forms of Unity would be the way to go or the Second Helvetic.

If the SBC finds it too hard to get along with the BFM2K, then what about something like those? The 3 Forms consists of one broad confession (Belgic) a clarification (Dort) and a catechism. The confession is remarkably broad for what we think of when we think of a Reformed confession. There's nothing on predestination and just one article on election that is very brief, and it construes election in single, not double terms, even though double prevailed in theologians of the time. Why? Because there was broad consensus at the popular level on the former, but the latter was a harder doctrine to express for them on the Continent without causing a debate that would be, at the time, divisive, particularly among those near the Lutheran states. Double was expressed later, because of items of concern for Westminster, Savoy, and the LBCF2 framers and by then double predestination was believed and understood properly among the people.

The key is the catechism, which is extremely good and very practical, and therein lies, I think, a problem with the BFM2K right now. Where is the real commentary on it? Where is the catechism? I don't mean the cute booklets, I mean the books like these:




What we need is a real book on the BFM2K that is analogous to these, or to Ursinus' Commentary on the Heilberg Catechism. I say folks petition Broadman & Holman to publish one; it needs to be on the order of their book on baptism that came out recently.

Let that be the standard reference volume for such questions as "What is a second or third tier issue?" within the SBC. The SBC need not speak as a unit, and if we go there, then we have to remember "What the SBC gives it can take away next year," All B&H needs is a cross section of our best theologians, and, where there is more than one view, let 2 or 3 of them interact, like they do in the "Five Views" series. It would also make a handy dandy study book for churches, something more than the little piddly things we have at present, and, yes, it might be a big volume, but I'd be worth it to have for every church library. In fact, they should publish it and send a free one to every church, period. The public has to purchase a copy.

It should also talk about confessions and their proper use. At the very least, we need something like this:

Statement One

or Number Two

It should deal with Baptist tradition on this issue too. It's interesting to see how our forefathers used their confessions. Our history is littered with examples of calls to churches to repent for declension from the associational confession of faith and round robin questions from the churches with answers to questions about the confession or another theological subject that got answered and circulated. They could do that back then, but back then people believed in using things like the Charleston Catechism. What folks in our pews think is high falutin' theology today was stuff the kids learned from "yay high," so that when they grew up, they could read a long series of theological exchanges by our state newspaper editors or attend a theological debate and know what was being said.

I remember teaching a Sunday School class for the eldest men at a local church here a couple years back. This was the 65 and over group. The lesson was the first in our denominational lit for Easter, and I could tell from the lessons that they were going to teach on the 3 offices of Christ. So, I took the opportunity as the substitute, to give them a basic lesson on things like:

What is a Covenant?

What is the "Old Covenant?" From Hebrews

What is the New Covenant? Same

What is a Mediator? Same

What are the 3 Offices of Christ?

Scripture proofs for each office.

(Want the lesson? I've got it here somewhere!)

I came with handouts and copies with fill in the blanks for each one, and we proceeded to read the Scriptures aloud while I explained each one from the text briefly, and reminded them to go back home and check everything I taught from the Scriptures and study to see if what I told them was true.

They were blown away. They all told me that nobody had ever taught this to them. Most of them thanked me for taking the time to teach them the Bible and leave the literature for something really informative, you know, beyond, "Jesus came to save us; we should love and obey him; amen," which just, IMO, insulting to be teaching adults in Sunday School. The writer of Hebrews (you're still on milk!) would be rolling in his grave! One man just handed a blank copy to me and left in a huff. "Too hard."

Dude, I learned all of this as a kid in school, not college or grad school! I was fortunate to go to a Christian school here where we live, Les, when as a boy, we learned the Westminster Children's Catechism in sixth grade. Mr. Weber taught us basic systematic theology in 10th grade. Mr. Harvey taught us about apologetics contra Rome and the cults in our senior year. Kids today don't get that, and many don't even get it in church, much less have the benefit of going to a Christian school or even getting it in a Christian school. That shouldn't be. Why do I blog with eggheads like Steve Hays? Because I was taught well, by God's grace. I departed it from it for a time, but the Lord drew me back to it and made it my own in time.

Our "no creed but the Bible" attitude seems to have produced people that just don't get it, a people that are still drinking milk, when they should be feasting on meat. It produces discouraged pastors like a friend in High Point who says he has a dozen or so who get it and the rest are phoning it in, and they love Jesus, but just don't understand how untaught they really are. It's not about knowing arcane truth; it's about pursuing truth that God has given us so we can love Him and understand Him even more and tell others about what He is really like. Instead, we have one of three things in our churches now: a small cadre that "get it;" a group that's just plain baptized and unregenerate; and a third who believe in the theology of sentimentality who have "no creed but Jesus" but who, if they are allowed to do so, will let the church drift into declension in a generation or breed legalists with a shallow theology as a reaction, which in turn breeds atheists in their children (a fact we constantly run into in our work at Triablogue, I might add).

Contrast this with Shepherd's Fellowship in Greensboro. They're holding question and answer sessions after every sermon. They can ask any question, if they have a need, but they mainly concentrate on the sermon and the day's text. Some are really deep; and over dinner every other Sunday, you can listen and they're talking about what they learned in family Bible study, theological questions, how to evangelize their lost friends and relatives, and all sorts of stuff. Frankly, compare this to the average SBC church, and the difference is stark.

They use the First London Confession, and they all believe and understand it. Some understand more than others of course, but they can tell you what the believe and why and defend it; some deeply, some in basic terms, but they all "get it." They know what they need to believe to be a member and they know what issues the church has decided to call secondary, like a specific covenantal theology or eschatology, etc.

I'd also add that I've seen folks say confessions and creeds violate "Sola Scriptura." I'd like to ask what their definition of Sola Scriptura is. It does not exclude confessions, it subordinates them to the infallibility of Scripture.

Also, those most opposed to them also, in my experience, if they don't just wind up being untaught Christians, wind up falling into heresy. The Campbellites are a prime example in our own history. Alex Campbell got an exception from the association on a confession for his church while a Baptist. Then he proceeded to teach heresy.

And I've also watched, folks like our dear friends, Les, at places like WFU Divinity School go on and on about "no creed but the Bible" (as when the protested the changes @ SEBTS years ago) only to wind up being high churchmen, "mitred ones" as Steve Hays calls them, some of whom will appeal to the "Ecumenical creeds" as their rule of faith. I've seen some who go for the ancient creeds as their rule of faith use them to deny Sola Fide. That would be, of course, a denial of the gospel.

So, the middle ground seems to the historic position of our forefathers: Scripture is infallible, but we need some sort of confession to help us keep order and teach our people, which tries as best as possible to carve out a consensus on as many topics as possible, always correctable by better exegesis.

It must rest on the doctrine of Scripture (prolegomena) and the doctrine of God. Its basic boundaries for a credible profession of faith for a Christian in general it would include a proper, but not overly detailed, doctrine of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and justification by faith alone in Christ alone. For fellowship and cooperation with other Baptists, it would need a specific doctrine of Scripture, since that has been a point of contention in times past, a basic soteriological scheme if at all possible to elucidate in general consensus broadly (to support justification by faith alone, for that assumes certain other ideas), the ordinances, and basic ecclesiology, eg., for us, these issues would be general Baptist distinctives: basic believer's baptism, Lord's Supper, regenerate church membership, religious liberty, etc, but nothing that favors exclusion or makes the confession illogically linked (for one doctrine links to another). That's all we really need. Other issues can be secondary. On the other hand, it shouldn't be a document where too many parties can come and see their own views in it, when some exclude others by definition. That's irrational. If that's what the confession does, then it needs an explanation of the articles, e.g. a detailed commentary from the best theologians or a catechism that explains it.

That said, I fail to see how, for example, people can talk about PPL being a central issue, when the WCF and LBCF2, which are the most highly developed confessions ever published, don't deal with those issues, and the Reformed tradition itself has no consensus on those issues.

I also object to any confession that is constructed around "Baptist distinctives" however defined. That's an improper starting place. They come from too low in a theology to function that way. I'll be posting more about this at Tblogue soon.
E. I've also been asked about Dr. Mohler's speech. Some think I agree with him; others think I disagree. Actually I run on a middle ground. I certainly don't believe the Convention didn't understand what it was doing. If that's true, it would be true for both parties squabbling. That objection proves too much.

On the one hand, I agree with Wade, Ben, On the other, when it comes to the seminaries in particular, I can see Dr. Mohler's point. Wade admits there is ONE NAMB, IMB, There are SIX seminaries. I'm not so sure that what is good for one agency is good for all agencies, though I can understand the need for consensus and uniformity. That's what I mean by my middle ground position.

Also, in seminaries, in hiring faculty, there's a reasonable expectation that the faculty have a clue about theology, because, you know, they are being considered to teach. It goes with the territory. So, a seminary should have, I think, more freedom in its theological requirements. They can ask, as Wade Burleson stated. On the other hand, I think it's only fair that the SBC grandfather in those who are using the Abstract already.

On the other hand, I think it's a mistake to say that those who are continuationists only or cessationists only should be teaching there. Those issues are actually further down the list in a theology that even soteriological schema. Further, I'm not so sure that when it comes to those issues a theology professor should be indoctrinating his students on one view. Warfield argued vehemently against continationism, but in his work, he does at least present the other POV, albeit, IMO, not as fairly as he could have. The seminary is also an academic environment. A professor can walk in the door and say that he's an Arminian and then present Calvinism fairly and the vice versa, or at least one would hope so. What folks seem to be secretly assuming is that professors can't or won't fairly represent those views. I think that some of the hesitance to think that they can comes from the days when too many of us, myself included, had to sit in classrooms at SBTS and SEBTS and listen to a "devotional" that was a propaganda piece against "the fundamentalists," and then have our views trashed.

I would propose the SBC consider the idea of "magnet seminaries." For example: If SBTS wants to be a primarily Calvinist/Reformed seminary, let it do so. If SWBTS wants to promote Anabaptist roots and semi-Arminianism (that's my new word for Dave Hunt type soteriology), then let it do so. If SEBTS wants to be a "liberal arts" sort of SBC seminary, let it does so. Each of those will have different needs, and I think a good case can be made that, on that basis, the trustees need the leeway. The thing about that, though, is that if the administration and trustees change their minds, there goes the magnet, so that sort of idea requires a great deal of commitment.

As to the Abstract of Principles, I'm a bit concerned that those "jonesing" to get the Abstract removed from SBC life might get wise to the motion and try to use it for that purpose. I can't help but wonder if that is what Dr. Mohler believes too, but he didn't exactly communicate that well. On the other hand, if SWBTS under its current administration can employ a covenantal Reformed Baptist like Greg Welty while flying the flag of the BFM2K, then I should think that we can safely say the BFM2k is wide enough to accommodate the doctrines of grace and Baptist covenantalism. That which is more narrow, on this view, is not exceeding the wider document, ergo the use of the Abstract should not be considered to exceed the BFM2K. On the other hand, I think what needs to happen, to placate those of us with my first concern, is a simple motion next year to grandfather the Abstract into the statement about our "approved statement of faith." It has been approved for over a century in deed, if not in word. The motion could even simply state the the trustees of seminaries with existing statements of faith other than the BFM2k (SBTS and SEBTS) should be free to apply them as they see fit, with the understanding the the BFM2k is the wider of the two and the Abstract fits within those bounds (for if not, Brother Greg should not be teaching at SWBTS, and I don't think Paige Patterson and his followers would argue for his removal). If they apply the Abstract for any case, then it needs to be documented accordingly with supporting reasons.

F. As noted above, I fail to see how, for example, people can talk about PPL being a central issue, when the WCF and LBCF2, which are the most highly developed confessions ever published, don't deal with those issues, and the Reformed tradition itself has no vast consensus on those issues. At best it has come to majority and minority opinions.

Also, there is but one IMB, for example, and, there, the IMB has a reasonable expectation that the candidates have been through a theological education. Apropos E, that should be enough, if they stipulate to the BFM2k. What more does one need? If that's a problem, then the IMB needs to go to the seminaries and tell them to jack up the quality of the education of the folks coming from them. What needs to happen, in my opinion, is some serious dialogue between the Executive Committee, the Council of Seminary Presidents, and the seminary and agency trustees. They need to all sit down and work this out together and figure it out instead of arguing about it like a bunch of spoiled children. We're all grown ups here, despite some of the comments that come out in the comboxes around the Baptist blogs, and we're all, I would hope, God's people. We ought to, by now, know how to sit down and work out an agreement that satisfies everybody involved when we come away feeling this way.

You know, when our Baptist forefathers couldn't come to an agreement and squabbled the way some of us are, they'd close the doors and get on their knees and pray together and "not let go of the horns of the altar" until the matter was resolved in consensus. It's time all the parties, and I mean ALL the parties do this, and stop acting like the SBC this year was just a church business know the kind, where the church gathers, votes, and then different factions leave disgruntled and mumbling, all argumentative, and hurt. All of them know that's shameful, and I've heard some of them lament it in their own churches, so why are they doing it?

Weathering the dry seasons

In answer to a question.


Yes, there’s nothing in Scripture to indicate that an ordinand must have a sense that God is calling him to the ministry.

BTW, I don’t deny that there are cases in which God may “call” a man to the ministry. But that’s not the norm. That’s exceptional and unpredictable.

As to their statement that “without a clear call to pastor, the ‘seasons of drought’ in pastoral ministry cause many to abandon the field,” several things need be said.

1.There may be cases in which an illusory sense of divine vocation will keep a man in the ministry during the seasons of drought.

Even if that is sometimes the case, that doesn’t justify the prerequisite. For a man shouldn’t be in the ministry, or stay in the ministry, due to an illusory sense of divine vocation.

2.Some men should leave the ministry. Some men were never qualified to be ministers in the first place. And one way to find out if your cut out for ministry is to give it a try. You don’t know if you will succeed or fail at something until you try. You don’t know what your good at (or bad at) unless you try.

3.There’s no particular shame in a man leaving the ministry. Leaving the ministry is not like leaving the faith.

While it may sometimes indicate a spiritual crisis or emotional problem, we shouldn’t automatically stigmatize men who drop out of the ministry. When a man leaves the ministry, that should be a potential source of concern. But leaving the ministry is not, of itself, an act of apostasy.

Any man can suffer a midlife crisis. A man in any occupation can suffer job burnout. If a man quits his job as an air traffic controller because it’s too stressful, or the hours are lousy, his resignation doesn’t raise any eyebrows. It’s only in ministry that a certain odium attaches to a career-change.

Men who drop out of the ministry need our sympathy and support. Even if they suffer a lapse of faith, we shouldn’t go on the offensive.

They’re fallen warriors. Ministers need to be ministered to as well.

It’s only if they go on the attack, in a public assault on their former faith, that we should counterattack.

The stigma is a carryover from Catholicism. The idea that you have taken sacred, indissoluble vows to God. That you have an indelible charism to be a priest.

But Protestants do not, or at least ought not, take such an inflated view of things. A ministry is not a marriage.

4.To lean on a sense of divine vocation during the seasons of drought can make it more likely that a man will not be able to weather the crisis. For if he’s only in the ministry due to the subjective feeling that God called him to the ministry, then it’s precisely at a time of spiritual drought that he may begin to question his original feelings—for the obvious reason that he no longer feels that way.

Feelings come and go. Feelings fade.

5. To rely on a sense of divine vocation makes it more likely that you will drop out of the ministry at some point because you went into the ministry for the wrong reason.

6.The way to weather the dry season is not to reflect on a sense of divine vocation, but to cultivate and maintain the experiences which a man of God needs to sustain a certain level of contentment.

Having a life outside of ministry. Having a happy marriage. A good relationship with his kids. Maintaining his ties with old friends and extended family members. A prayer life. Innocent pleasures. In short: doing things that bring him joy.

It’s really pretty obvious. Where we stumble or fall is when we get so caught up in the rat-race that we neglect the obvious.

If you shortchange your emotional life at the register, you pay for it on the way out the door.

Stepping outside of reality


“I'm not an atheist, nor do I admire Hitchens at all. But I see his point here. What rational person would, in the absence of heavy religious pressure, be drawn to all these harsh doctrines?”

i) Are you claiming that it’s irrational to believe in harsh truths? I believe that many harsh things are true due to the heavy pressure of reality.

Actually, nothing would be more irrational than to first ask myself if something is harsh, then deny that it could be true. Rather, the only rational course of action is to first ask if something is true, and if it is true, to bring my beliefs into conformity with the real world.

I don’t sort the possible object of belief into what is harsh and what is not, then reserve assent for whatever is agreeable to me. That would be delusional. A make-believe world of wishful thinking.

ii) You are also assuming tht what is harsh is wrong. Why should I share your assumption? For example, I think that child molesters should be treated harshly. They deserved harsh punishment. That is good. That is just. I empathize with the victim.

“Stepping outside of your theology for one or two seconds, I'm sure you can muster the empathy to see how some might find these ideas offensive.”

By all means, let’s consider the implications of stepping outside my theology.

By stepping outside of my theology, I step outside of reality. I step outside of morality. I step outside of meaning. I step outside of hope.

When I step outside of my theology, I step outside of any grounding for good and evil.

When I step outside my theology, I step outside of any grounding for human reason.

When I step outside my theology, I step outside of any hope for the future.

“God gives his creatures specific instructions about not eating of a certain tree.”

And the problem with that is what, exactly?

”Yet He allows a crafty devil to enter the garden.”

No, he doesn’t merely “allow” it. Rather, that’s part of the plan. This is a test. A test of their fidelity. As such, it involves a prohibition as well as a tempter.

“And trick them.”

Where does the Bible say that? According to Scripture, Eve was deceived, but Adam was not deceived” (1 Tim 2:14).

Adam was the federal head of humanity, not his wife. Original sin traces back to Adam (Rom 5: 1 Cor 15).

Since Adam was not deceived, he was in a position to intervene. To overrule his misguided wife. To defend his wife against the advances of the Tempter.

As Gene points out, the garden was a sanctuary, and it was the sacerdotal duty of Adam to guard it from defilement by unclean creatures like the Tempter.

“(To boot, they had no knowledge of good and evil at all).”

False. The name of the tree is an idiomatic merism for omniscience. Good and evil are opposites. Everything ranges along a moral continuum, with degrees of good and evil. To know good and evil means to possess godlike knowledge of all things good and evil.

Prior to the fall, their experience was limited to the good things of the garden. Yet there was evil in the world. The Temper represents the incursion of evil into the holy land of Eden.

Adam and Eve did know the difference between right and wrong. Indeed, the prohibition presupposes such a knowledge. It is wrong to do what God has forbidden.

“As a punishment, God pronounces a number of curses (pain in childbirth, death, weeds in the soil).”

Yes, wrongdoing merits punishment. That’s called justice.

“But without telling anyone,”

Except for Adam and Eve, who else was there to tell?

Anyway, parents frequently know things their children don’t know, and parents make decisions for their children.

“God imposes the curse of endless torment in hell after death for the whole race.”

Wrong. God doesn’t damn the whole human race. Everyone will not end up in hell.

“To whom He also transmits a wholly depraved nature incapable of any real good whatsoever.”

i) No, not “wholly depraved.” Total depravity doesn’t mean that. Common grace preserves a remnant of common decency in the reprobate and unregenerate.

Original sin effects spiritual inability. The unregenerate are incapable of repentance and faith.

ii) A fallen man is not a zombie. He is conscious of his evil predilections. He is both the actor and the audience. He sees himself drawn to evil, and does it anyway. He watches himself committing sin. Reviews his own performance.

iii) The sons of Adam identify with Adam’s sin, in much the same way as we identify with a cinematic character. I am not the character I see on the silver screen, and yet I can relate to that character.

“God later commands all men to repent and believe the gospel ... but this inherited nature precludes their ever listening to it.”

It’s true that an evil heart prevents the listener from giving the gospel a fair hearing. So what?

A misogynist can’t bring himself to think well of women. Is his pathological hatred of women exculpatory? The more evil you are, the more guiltless you are?

“So in eternity, God keeps humans (most of them, in fact) in an immortal state for the sole purpose of inflicting on them the most ghastly tortures imaginable with no hope of abatement.”

i) Where does Scripture ever say the sole purpose of hell is punishment for it’s own sake?

a) Even if that were true, retributive punishment is intrinsically good. It’s an end in itself. That justice be done is intrinsically good.

b) But retributive justice can also be a means to a greater good, which the revelation of God’s character as a just God who exacts retribution on evildoers.

c) And this, in turn, supplies the backdrop for his gratuitous grace and mercy towards the elect.

ii) Where does Scripture say the damned are subject to the “most ghastly tortures imaginable?”

Are you getting this from a few picturesque metaphors? Are you getting this from a literary, artistic, and cinematic tradition?

iii) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the damned are subject to torture. Who is tormenting them? One hellion would be tormenting another hellion.

What is wrong with that? Isn’t that poetic justice? The damned suffer at their own hands?

iv) Assuming that hell is, in fact, horrible beyond imagination, it is horrible because it is populated by horrible people. What is wrong with throwing all the horrible people together? A quarantine of evil.

“Honestly, aren't you bothered by any of these ideas?”

The only things that bother me are real things. I’m not bothered by fictions.

If something isn’t true, then it doesn’t bother me. It only bothers me if it’s true.

So how is your objection an objection to the reality of hell?

“Don't you wish in your heart of hearts that you could discard some of them and still be Christian?”

i) To begin with, I couldn’t discard them even if I wanted to. Doing theology is not like writing a novel, where—if you don’t like the ending—you can rewrite the ending to make it more to your liking.

Reality is not a piece of paper that you can crumple into a little ball and toss into the trashcan.

Revelation comes to us from God. The Bible is a revelation of reality—seen and unseen—past, present, and future. The future doesn’t have a set of outtakes or alternative endings. You and I don’t get to insert a deleted scene.

ii) It doesn’t matter what I feel. I’m not God. I’m a creature. I don’t necessarily have the same attitude about everything that God has.

At best, I have an attitude appropriate to my creatureliness. I enjoy steak and lobster. God does not.

I’m not God, and he isn’t me. So how I feel about the fate of my fellow man, even if that bothered me, is irrelevant to the fact of damnation.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Revelation & Reason

Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics by the Westminster faculty (as well as former faculty members such as John Frame and Michael Horton).

Read the Table of Contents & Introduction.

A word to the Wise

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

The following is from Sal Cordova:
Let’s set the record straight about Wise.

First, I spoke with Kurt only last week in person at BSG 2007. Upon asking whether he had written anything of his personal journey and reflections, especially material about his former teachers, Wise mentioned that out of respect for them, he wasn’t intending to publish anything.

Wise studied at University of Chicago under world class paleontologist Raup (Raup, by the way, attended Phil Johnson’s now infamous Pajaro Dunes Conference in 1992, the Genesis of the ID movement). Wise was a creationist then, and Raup had to get Wise into Harvard under Gould.

Wise also helped teach Lewontin’s classes in statistical biology as an assistant. Wise also studied fractals under Mandelbrot! Wise knew Erst [sic] Mayr and E.O. Wilson at Harvard, all the while being a creationist.

Wise, still speaks glowingly of his mentors, Gould and Lewontin. Not surprisingly, Gould and Lewontin have also been labeled left-wing creationists for their anti-Dawkinsian views of evolution….

If this seems too fantastic to believe, look at one of Wise’s recent proteges, Marcus Ross.

While at BSG 2007, I was telling Ross and Wise of my plans for grad school. I told them I was applying to go to a secular grad schools, but not in discipline that would where my view of origins would cause me difficulty.

Ross and Wise jokingly said, “you’re wimping out.” We all laughed. What could I say, these guys did the impossible.

And if one wonders if miracles happen, one only needs to look at Kurt Wise, a creationist, being awarded a PhD from Gould and company WHILE a creationist!


Credulous unbelievers

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

The following is an excerpt from a review by Sam Schulman on Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great.

At heart Hitchens is an unrelieved misanthrope. And, to his credit, he does exhibit a deeper familiarity with human depravity than any of our other anti-religionist authors, whose faith in the perfectibility of mankind is almost comically touching. The question, given his root-and-branch misanthropy, is where on earth he derives his conviction that mankind would be better off without religion.

The answer would seem to be: nowhere. Take, for instance, the phenomenon of sexual repression, which Hitchens blames on religion and regards (it goes without saying) as an unmitigated evil. But sexual repression, in one form or another, has characterized every human community in history, and always will. Religion can be a highly efficient means of enforcing sexual repression; but if it did not exist, some other means would have been found to impose limitations on the expression of human sexuality.

What, then, does Hitchens wish to put in place of religion? He calls for a new Enlightenment, and proposes that we realize its promise by imitating the Socratic method of rational thinking—a suggestion that compels him to engage in some fancy footwork in order to deny there was anything supernatural in Socrates’ insistence that he had a daimon, an inner voice, that enabled him to distinguish good from evil. But this recommendation falls into the same morass as Hitchens’s urging of Shakespeare and Tolstoy over the Bible as teachers of morality. In each case the point is not only anachronistic but odd, given that none of these sages, let alone the Enlightenment itself, is remotely conceivable apart from the religious civilization out of which they all sprang..

There is worse to come. Hitchens is what Hazlitt would call a “good hater.” He hates the idea of the fall of man. He hates the doctrine of atonement and sacrifice. He hates the notion of eternal punishment: “ordinary conscience will do, without any heavenly wrath behind it.” He hates the proscription of masturbation and the prescription of circumcision. Most of all, it emerges, he hates Hanukkah.

Why Hanukkah? It is not just the fact that, in America, the Jews borrowed “shamelessly from Christians in the pathetic hope of a celebration that coincides with Christmas,” a holiday that is itself an “annexation . . . of a pagan Northland solstice.” It is the underlying meaning of the events that Hanukkah memorializes: namely, the success of the Maccabean revolt against the heretical Jewish Hellenizers in the 2nd century b.c.e. For, as Hitchens reads it, that victory—won by a hair—allowed Jewish monotheism to survive, and thereby “eventually to lead to Christianity (yet another Jewish heresy) and thus ineluctably to the birth of Islam. We could,” he laments, “have been spared the whole thing.”

This stroke of counterhistory has been heavily prettified in the details. On the one hand, as Hitchens tells it, there were the Hellenized Jews of Palestine—suave, cosmopolitan, athletic, well educated, yearning to enjoy the finer things in life as represented by their Greek overlords. On the other hand, there were the religious fundamentalists of the day, the Jewish reactionaries seeking only to proscribe and to prescribe. In Hitchens’s reconstruction, the Maccabean revolt sounds like nothing so much as the struggle between “aesthetes” and “hearties” in the Oxford of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited.

But the Maccabean wars were not like that. The Greeks were not fighting for the mellow and the metro- sexual. They aimed to pour hogs’ blood over the altar, erect statues of Jove in the sanctuary, eradicate Jewish identity itself. Had the Maccabees failed, there would have been a victory not of secular humanism over religious fundamentalism but of the pitiless Olympian gods—and their Egyptian co-deities—over monotheism and the complexities of ethical life.

Hitchens’s yearning for a world purified of Jews (and therefore of Christians and Muslims) may remind some of Nietzsche. The comparison is unfair, but inevitable. Hitchens’s sketch of a new Enlightenment posits not a world of supermen but only a mild utopia, populated by men in togas discoursing eternally on the eternal verities, a world like the one painted by the Victorian romanticist Lawrence Alma-Tadema, or envisioned by Oscar Wilde in his gullible, amateurish tract The Soul of Man under Socialism. But that is just the trouble. Shorn of the culture we have, a culture nurtured and preserved by monotheistic religion, his proffered utopia amounts to just another invitation to barbarism. Hitchens here shows himself to be more credulous and sentimental—and much more insidious—than any of the religious mythmakers he so earnestly despises.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Miserable Comforters Are You All!" (Job 16:2)

John W. Loftus said:

Jay Adams was the pioneer back to Biblical counseling. Adams was to counseling like Luther was to the Reformation.

Ha Ha. You're kidding right?

Wow. You really are off the wall.

All truth is God's truth, silly. Sheesh. It has to be if God exists.

You might as well ignore all of the findings of linguistics and just say language developed at the Tower of Babel debacle.

That's right. Ignore all other knowledge. Trust an ancient book written by superstitious people. Beat your children. Tell suicidal people they are right, life is depressing and try to convert them (if you don't then they go away even more depressed--that's Jay's advice ya know).

6/20/2007 8:38 PM
As usual, Loftus has to jump into a discussion he knows nothing about and broadcast his ignorance--in disconnected and unintelligible sentences, that is.

I find Loftus' comment a bit confusing. First of all, he didn't quote me in context, because my next statement read, "But like Luther, he would need other reformers to come along and help refine and apply the progress that he had made. Steve has written a critical review of Adams in the past. Personally, I have found many of Adams’ works helpful. You just need to weed out some of his more hyperbolic or simplistic statements. But generally, I find guys like Welch or Powlison more helpful."

Secondly, why is Loftus asking if I am kidding? Calling Adams the pioneer back to Biblical counseling is, at least in Loftus' mind, not the same thing as calling him an effective counselor. Does Loftus disagree that Adams at least attempted to derive his counseling methods from Scripture? Whether or not those methods were correct is a separate issue.

But, like most of the subjects he took at seminary, Loftus has only learned enough in this category to misunderstand and misrepresent it.

However, let's turn the tables on Loftus. Let's ignore "an ancient book written by superstitious people" and become informed by "all other knowledge." John: your friend confides in you and confesses his suicidal thoughts. What are you going to tell him? What hope do you have to offer him?

Debating Darwin

Debating Darwin: Adventures of a Scholar by John C. Greene

The Irrationality of Richard Dawkins

The Irrationality of Richard Dawkins by Francis Beckwith

Peirce on Coyne on Brownback on Evolution

...Yet another example of the slipshod reasoning that secular intellectuals bring to matters of faith.

Interspecies Colloquium on Evolution

In the year 2123, the animal kingdom finally rose up against Darwinian imperialism. The animals were fed up with the provincial, speciesistic, androcentric bias of Darwinian dogma. They were sick and tired of human beings defaming them as “lower” animals or “primitive” animals.

Different representatives to the Interspecies Colloquium on Evolution (ICE) marshaled various lines of evidence to demonstrate that human beings were, in fact, “lower,” ‘primitive animals,” in stark contrast to the progressive species represented at the international symposium. Their findings were issued in annual installments of the Proceedings of ICE.

Predictably, the Darwinian establishment has blacklisted the bestial anti-Darwinians. Their submissions to peer-reviewed journals are peremptorily denied. So permit me to summarize some of the evidence which has been suppressed by the Darwinian establishment:

Prof. Chamaelontidae pointed out that some lizards are more dermatologically advanced than human beings. They can change color at will, to camouflage their whereabouts, whereas humans are a throwback to monochromatic skin.

Prof. Lacertilia seconded his point by noting that some lizards also have detachable tails that regenerate. Compare than to the plight of human amputees!

Prof. Araneida pointed out that spiders have silk glands to make their own homes.

Prof. Sphyrna pointed out that Hammerhead sharks have electroreceptors which enable them to detect faint electromagnetic fields. Human beings, by contrast, lack this sixth sense.

Prof. Felis pointed out that most cats have retractable claws, which reflects a more advanced design than the blunt, fixed fingernails and toenails of the human monkeys.

Prof. Ophidia pointed out that pit vipers have venom sacks; retractable, replaceable, canaliculated fangs, and infrared vision. How to human beings stack up against that arsenal?

Prof. Elapidae seconded his point with reference to spitting cobras.

Prof. Apodes pointed out that some eels have electric organs. Think how that would save on the power bill? Who needs fossil fuel? Not us!

Prof. Lampyridae seconded his point with reference to fireflies.

Prof. Apoidea pointed out that bees can see ultraviolet light, polarized light, detect magnetic fields, and track fast moving objects better than we can. Their senses are clearly superior to our own.

Prof. Strigiformes seconded his point with reference to the night vision of owls.

And prof. Petromyzon made a similar point with reference to the five opsin genes of the lamprey.

Prof. Notothenioid pointed out that Antarctic icefish have antifreeze instead of hemoglobin, which is a more efficient design if you’re planning to swim the English Channel.

Prof. Loxodonta pointed out that elephants have far more useful noses than human beings do. Have you ever tried to pick up a peanut with your nose? Or use your nose as a straw?

Prof. Edentata seconded his point with reference to anteaters.

Finally, Prof. Chiroptera pointed out that bats have far more acute hearing than humans, which permits them to navigate in the dark using sonar.

I’m just scratching the surface. While various participants at the interspecies symposium sometimes disagreed with one another over which species was more advanced than another, they all agreed that human beings were obviously quite low on the evolutionary ladder, competing with bacteria for the bottom rung.

It was high time to challenge the humanistic bigotry and elitism of the Darwinian establishment and supplant that lopsided model with a theriomorphic model of biological origins and speciation.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Apologetics and Epistemology

GooseHenry said:

Hi Triablogue

I request a list over philosophy/epistemology.

Please, please let us in on how to became so good at refuting the philosophy of unbelief!

Both lay-atheism as well as professional unbelief.

6/19/2007 12:57 AM
Some of the other T-bloggers are definitely much better equipped in this category of literature, but since no one else has jumped on this yet I'll attempt to muster up a list:

Apologetic Method:

Apologetics to the Glory of God by John Frame
Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought by John Frame
Van Til's Apologetic by Greg Bahnsen
Always Ready by Greg Bahnsen
Pushing the Antithesis by Greg Bahnsen & Gary DeMar
Christian Apologetics by Cornelius Van Til

Philosophy and Epistemology:

Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John Frame - (best place to start)
Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God by Vern Poythress
Justification of Knowledge by Robert Reymond - (Reymond is a Van Tilliam with Clarkian sympathies)
A Realist Conception of Truth by William P. Alston
Perceiving God by William P. Alston
Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Platinga
Faith and Understanding by Paul Helm
A Christian Theory of Knowledge by Cornelius Van Til

Philosophy of Science:

Science and its Limits by Del Ratzsch - (good place to start)
Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God by Vern Poythress
Redeeming Science by Vern Poythress - (recommended)
Christianity and the Nature of Science by JP Moreland - (Moreland is a critical realist)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn - (book that started it all: reference point for anti-realism)

Jack Sparrow takes a musket to the Church of Rome

More from the Fearsome Pirate: Part 1 and Part 2.

The Touchstone Fossil

It’s been a week since I last challenged T-Stone to demonstrate evolution (specifically, mutation followed by Natural Selection) from the fossil record. However, T-Stone has since said he has family obligations that prevent him from writing as much during the summer. Therefore, I thought I would do the pro-family thing and help T-Stone out a bit here by demonstrating why he should just give up now. Now he can spend the time with his kids rather than in a futile effort to prove the impossible-to-prove.

To show how futile T-Stone’s efforts would be, I am going to employ an over-simplification of the problem. If the theory, even stated in such an obviously simplified manner, is hard (read: impossible) to prove, then it is going to be even more difficult to prove it from the complicated reality.

Let us begin as simply as possible. Suppose that T-Stone finds two fossils of the same species. What type of fossils these are doesn’t really matter, but for the purposes of illustration let’s say they’re Cothurnocystis fossils (yes, I just wanted to include a "big word" here to give T-Stone something else to do a trivial Google search on). Let us also argue that, due to the rock strata they are discovered in, T-Stone knows for a fact which one of the fossils is older than the other fossil.

These fossils can fit somewhere on a “typical” genealogical branch:

But where do they fit in there? Is it possible for T-Stone to prove that one fossil is a descendant of the other? The answer is a resounding: no. Let us look at this. Suppose that the fossils are descendants of one another. In such a case, we’d have something looking like:

But it could just as easily be something like:

In fact, the odds that two fossils are actually in a direct lineage are small when you consider how many thousands of members of each species actually exist, and how many offspring come from each of these organisms. So right off the bat, we see that T-Stone cannot even prove two fossils are in direct lineage with each other.

If we cannot prove that two fossils of the same species are direct descendants, how can we demonstrate that a fossil of another species is directly descended from the previous fossil? Obviously we cannot.

One way that Darwinists avoid this problem is to ignore the direct lineage problem within the species itself. That is, the Darwinist will take each of the two fossils found for the same species as representative of the whole. Thus, the two Cothurnocystis fossils are arbitrarily allowed to stand for any of the points along the genealogical chart. This is because the species, as a whole, shares aspects; and thus, the Darwinists claims, we can treat each individual as typical of the whole.

Aside from the fact that this commits the error of composition and becomes a hasty generalization, it doesn’t really solve the problem for the evolutionist. After all, now instead of having individuals in the chart, we have entire species. If each dot represents an entire species instead of individuals within a species, we still cannot tell if fossils from two different species, a Cothurnocystis fossil and a more modern echinoderm (like a starfish) for instance, are direct descendants either. In other words, is the relationship direct:

Or indirect:

The Darwinist cannot say.

But there is another problem with these diagrams. The problem is that everything that is black in the diagrams is pure conjecture. That’s right; the relationships between various fossils are purely human invention. There is nothing in the fossil record that shows the links between the fossils.

As such, the relationship between two fossils is found only in the imagination of humans who interpret the fossil record. The fossil record does not show these relationships, for it is possible that there is yet another alternative explanation:

That’s right; the second fossil might not be related to the first fossil at all. Without being able to show the direct links, we have only the conjecture that there is a link.

But what is the conjecture based on? The conjecture is based on having already accepted the theory of Darwinistic Evolution as true. That is, the links between fossils are “discovered” only when one first assumes this kind of evolution is true. There is nothing in the fossil evidence that indicates whether there is a direct link, indirect link, or no link at all between two fossils. The evidence is not sufficient to say which one it is.

As such, my original comment—the one way back on the comments on this post still stands. I originally said:
Evolutionary claims are completely independent of the fossil record. Consider what the fossil record shows and compare that to the evolutionary theory.

The fossil record shows only organisms that existed at some point in the past. That is it. It says nothing about the relationship between organisms--that is left to extrapolation.

Evolution, on the other hand, needs a process by which it can function (genetic mutation followed by natural selection). Mutations cannot be demonstrated by fossils since mutations require looking at DNA. Likewise, natural selection cannot be demonstrated by the fossil record either (except when natural selection is taken in its completely irrelevant tautological sense).

So the theory of evolution is quite independent of the fossil record. The fossil record is only used as a prop. The claim is that the fossil record is what we would expect given evolution. But as I pointed out above, given the inability to recreate this (due to the massive amount of time and the pure randomness of fossil formation), this claim is anything but empirical.

So at most, all the fossil record can be used for is to say that it is consistent with evolutionary theory. But then, the fossil record is so spotty that it is "consistent" with virtually any theory.
Evolution cannot be proven from the fossil record, because one can never show the direct lineage between two fossils of the same species, let alone between two different species. The Darwinist claims that they don’t need to show direct lineage between specific individuals can only be true if one first assumes Darwinian Evolution. In other words, belief in Evolution precedes this interpretation of the fossil record.

With this in mind, T-Stone should now return to ferrying his children to baseball games and drop this matter completely.