Saturday, July 21, 2007

Exodus redux

Andrew Fulford, a fine young Canadian Christian, college student, and blogger has been contending for the faith once delivered.

I thought both his original post and his reply to William and Greg were excellent.

One preliminary issue: both commenters are attempting to put Andrew on the defensive. This is illicit.

When a professing Christian (William; Greg) is addressing an inerrantist, the onus is hardly on the inerrantist to prove inerrancy.

Christianity claims to be a revealed religion. A religion of the book. The knowledge of Christianity comes primarily from a text. A verbal, written revelation. That’s a fundamental truth-condition of the Christian faith.

This text also makes self-referential claims regarding its inspiration.

The burden of proof lies squarely on the shoulders of the professing Christian who effectively denies the inspiration, and, hence, revelatory status of Scripture (by denying the inerrancy of Scripture) to explain what reason he has to be a Christian when he denies a fundamental truth-condition of the Christian faith.

The Bible says one thing about itself, while William and Greg say something to the contrary. That is a problem for *their* profession of faith, not for *ours*.

They attempt to put Andrew on the defensive by shifting the burden of proof. That’s’ a good tactical move. But it only works when they are arguing with someone to their right on the theological spectrum. However, someone to their left on the theological (or atheological) spectrum could do the same thing to them.

This is what is so duplicitous and unscrupulous about their tactics. They recycle many of the stock arguments against the Bible that you’ll find on the lips of Hitchens or Dawkins or Voltaire or Ingersoll or H. L. Menken or Thomas Paine when attacking the Bible-believer. But they combine this with a compartmentalized Christian faith.

Greg Armstrong said...

“The issue isn't so much with copyists as it is with redactors.”

i) This assumes what he needs to prove: the redaction of Scripture. Where is his supporting argument?

ii) His assertion is less than self-explanatory. What was redacted? The MT? The LXX? Or both?

Is he saying that apparent discrepancies are due to various redactors within the MT and/or LXX, or between the MT and the LXX?

In other words, is he saying that books within the Hebrew Bible contract each other due to contradictory redactional agendas?

Or is he saying that the MT contradicts the LXX because LXX redactors have a different agenda than MT redactors?

Or is he saying that the LXX was redacted, but not the MT?

iii) Even assuming, for the sake of argument, the redaction of Scripture, how does that account for apparent contradictions? Wouldn’t we expect a redactor to try to smooth out the apparent contradictions?

“With copyists we often are able to locate and correct their errors, but redactors have modified the texts in different ways and for different purposes.”

Notice, here, that Greg seems to be using a very different argument than William. Greg seems to affirm what William denies: “Hence you should answer these ‘simple’ MT vs. LXX questions.”

Greg’s insinuation, from what I can tell, is that these conflicts arise from differences between the MT and the LXX, and that it’s no simple matter to choose. But William says just the opposite.


“Thus we no longer need to search for this elusive original text.”

How does that follow? Even if you accept the assumption of a redacted Bible, you still have a final text, and the final text is subject to the vicissitudes of textual transmission. So there would still be a need to recover the final text.

“So maybe the ‘original’ language should be dropped?”

Meaning what? That the MT (or Ur-MT or proto-MT) should be dropped?

Is he claiming that the LXX is the final text?

“Unless of course we do not accept that the redactional processes were inspired. But if we adhere to that view then the problems would just be far too numerous and even irreconcilable with orthodox theology and tradition.”

Of course, he has rigged the alternatives, as if the choice is between inspired and uninspired redaction. That takes redaction for granted as the operating assumption.

But the inerrantist would reject the creative redaction of Scripture.

William said...

“Hence you should answer these ‘simple’ MT vs. LXX questions:”

i) Who said that textual criticism is necessarily “simple”? And what bearing does that have on inerrancy?

ii) In addition, differences between the MT and LXX aren’t merely a question of transmission.

“1) Who killed Goliath?”

Archer, in his Encyclopedia, offers a text critical solution (178-79).

On the other hand, Tsumura, in his commentary, suggests that “Goliath” may be titular name rather than a proper name, citing Ugaritic usage (440). And he treats the two accounts has having reference to separate events. So there’s no contradiction.

“ 2) How tall was Goliath?”

Standard commentators regard the MT as more likely to preserve the original height.

“3) Was David the 7th or 8th child in the family?”

This question disregards the numerological significance of some figures in Biblical and ANE usage. In this case, 7 may be a symbolic number, as Arnold notes in his commentary (231), while Tsumura suggests that 8 may be an epic literary convention, citing Ugaritic usage (421).

“4) Did the Israelites cross the Red or Reed sea?”

How is that a question of inerrancy? We try to identify the geographical landmarks in Scripture on the basis of textual place names in conjunction with archeological information. After 3500 years, give or take, it isn’t always easy to pinpoint the geographical referent. Cf. J. Currid, Exodus 1-18 (EP 2000), 1:280-81; J. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai (Oxford 2005), chap. 5.

“Trust me, when I say these are simple issues that affect the overall shape (ideological trust) of the text. In fact, if you took Biblical Studies seriously, you'd discover that the ideology of one text actually refutes the other.”

Why should we trust him when he betrays such a willfully indolent ignorance of exegesis and period conventions?

Ironically, William acts like a parody of KJV-only fundy who thinks that he knows all he needs to know about meaning of Scripture without knowing a thing about how an ancient text would be heard by an ancient audience.

i) What about the ideological agenda of liberal Bible scholars?

ii) And what about William’s ideological agenda?

iii) If he believes that one Scriptural text refutes another, why does he even claim to be a Christian?

“So how could inspiration guarantee meaning of each text?”

It wouldn’t on his assumption, but that begs the question.

“What is so interesting about reading your post is your resemblance to a fundamentalist that I had to deal with. By 'fundamentalist' I mean someone who is dogmatic about preserving his own tradition, even if it means ignoring the evidence.”

William is a liberal fideist. He regards the Bible as uninspired, but clings to the semblance of Christian faith. How logical is that?

“I assume that you will answer my "simple" questions in one of two ways: harmonization or downplay their significance.”

This is another example of his liberal fideism. He asks Andrew some questions, then discredits his answers with a preemptory dismissal before Andrews has a chance to answer them. This is a way of immunizing his compartmentalized faith from falsification.

“Either way, you'll find yourself developing a very complex system of thought that doesn't in any way reflect the conclusions of honest biblical exegesis.”

The limited inerrantist must come up with a very complex system of thought to explain why he believes some parts of the Bible, but not others. Why he believes in certain redemptive events while disbelieving the historical record of those events. Or does he even affirm the historicity of these events?

If he thinks that “honest” exegesis entails the denial of Biblical inspiration, then the honest course of action would be for him to make a clean break with the faith instead of keeping up appearances.

“Why come up with a complex system to preserve your traditions, when the bible is a very human book.”

Does the Bible claim to be a very human book? Or is this an extrascriptural value judgment that goes against the grain of the Scriptural self-witness?

“The only reason why you'd have a problem with it is due the sacred-secular divide, which is also evident in your view of inspiration.”

This is self-defensive sophistry. What he really means is that he can’t believe a lot of what the Bible says because he believes in many other things which, if true, would contradict the Bible. He then dresses up his infidelity in the vestments of mock piety. But William and Greg are like the faithless Exodus-generation whom God condemned to wander and rot in the wilderness because they would never take God at his word.

“Thus, inspiration has to be revised, not refined.”

How can it be “revised.” Either we have a scriptural doctrine of inspiration or an unscriptural doctrine of inspiration. The self-witness of Scripture is static. The self-witness of Scripture hasn’t changed. It cannot be revised, but only denied.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The new atheism as neofascism

A review of Dawkins by Jonathan Luxmoore

Sympathy for the Devil

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

West Side Story

Ruth Tucker, the missiologist, blogress, and feminist theologian, wrote a book a few years ago entitled Walking Away from Faith. From my own reading and observation, apostates generally leave the faith for one or more of three different reasons:

A. Bad theology

They never outgrew their Sunday school theology. As adults, they still operate at that level of theological understanding.

This, in turn, fosters false hopes and expectations. Their expectations are dashed by experience.

Or they become well-tutored in objections to the faith, and compare these college-level objections to their preschool version of the faith. They don't compare and contrast college level theology with college level atheology.

Now, there may be nothing positively wrong with their Sunday school theology. What they learned in Sunday school may be sound as far as it goes. It may lay a foundation to build on.

But they don't build on that foundation. They don't refine their childish theology.

Or there are other cases in which their hereditary theology is fatally flawed. But instead of correcting their theology, they abandon the faith.

B. Bad behavior

A lot of people abandon the faith to indulge in sexual license. It's as simple as that. Nothing intellectual in play.

They may introduce intellectual objections as an ex post facto rationalization for their misconduct. But that's the cover story.

C. Anger

Some men are angry with God. They're angry with God because he didn't do something for them or prevent something from happening to them or someone they love.

This isn't necessarily based on bad theology. You could give them a theologically sound explanation for what happened. But they don't care. Because that doesn't change how they feel. They cannot forgive God for what he did or didn't do. They wanted things to turn out differently, and their emotional disillusionment trumps any argument, however sound.

This is something we can all relate to at a certain level. Life is full of disappointments.

The only question is whether you and I are going to wallow in irrational bitterness. For this goes to an unjustified sense of entitlement or self-importance.

Tucker's anecdotal book confirms my own impressions. Her case studies fall into one or more of these three categories. In a rare moment of theological lucidity, she makes a truly perceptive observation:
Those who are troubled by scientific and philosophical complexities (fueled by modernism) often deny religious belief altogether. On the other hand, those whose issues relate to psychological and lifestyle factors (fueled by postmodernism) redefine the terms of their religious faith to better fit their lifestyle and psychological needs (149).
Reading through her book, I don't think it's coincidental that Tucker is both a woman and a feminist. It reminded me of the way in which Marilyn McCord Adams makes her case for universalism. Both books are pitched at the same emotional register. Indeed, Tucker is to apostasy what Adams is to universalism. She sympathizes with apostates in the same way that female jurors sympathized with the Menendez brothers. Bleeding heart liberalism transposed to a theological key.

Some vices are twisted natural virtues. Men and women need each other. Men need the benefit of feminine virtues while women need the benefit of masculine virtues. A society without feminine virtues is unmerciful, while a society without masculine virtues is unjust.

Indeed, a society dominated by feminine virtues will become both unmerciful and unjust. For sympathy is transferred from the victim to the perpetrator. Or, put another way, everyone becomes the victim, so no one is guilty.1

This is why men are better at some jobs than women, and vice versa. As a rule, a woman makes a better teacher than a vice principal, a better nurse than a soldier.

And, for Tucker, it goes beyond empathy. She truly identifies with the apostate because her own faith, if you can call it that, is almost indistinguishable from unbelief.

This accounts for the defensive tone of her book. She makes excuses for the apostate.

And she does this as a self-defensive reflex. For she sees herself in the apostate. When she studies the apostate, she is, by her own admission, peering into the mirror. Thus, she can only condemn the apostate on pain of self-incrimination.

The inevitable result is doctrinal permissiveness. And yet, like so many other things, her position is the result of theological confusion.

From the standpoint of Christian theology and ethics, there is nothing inherently hypocritical about condemning in others a sin of which we ourselves are guilty. For that to be hypocritical, several other conditions would have to be in play:

i) I'd have to pretend that I'm morally superior to you. That I am innocent of the same sin.

ii) I'd have to pretend to condemn something that I don't really think is evil.

iii) I'd have to indulge in the same sin without any resistance or sense of guilt.

Let us add that there are worse things than hypocrisy. A "hypocrite" can be well-qualified to give advice precisely because he speaks from personal experience. We can learn from his mistakes.

This is something that children need to understand. There are teenagers who imagine that if Mom and Dad did the same thing at their age, then that disqualifies Mom and Dad from dissuading their kids.

But this is not a question of what is "fair" or "consistent." Rather, this is a question of what is true and prudent. Who better to warn others about the dangers of drug abuse than a recovering junkie? A Christian can be "judgmental" without being self-righteous.

On a related note, Tucker prides herself on being a good listener. And she constantly admonishes the reader to improve his listening skills.

But Tucker is a very poor listener. A very lop-sided listener. She only has ears to hear the doubter or apostate. That's where her sympathy lies.

As a result, she's quite hostile to Christians who don't share her many misgivings. She belittles and caricatures Christians who refuse to play the role of sob sister.

Tucker draws no psychological distinction between doubt and apostasy. She only draws a spatial distinction: an apostate is someone outside the church while a doubter is someone inside the church. Both have doubts, but one left while the other remained.

It never occurs to her that, with one or two possible exceptions, doubt is a sin. Scripture is clear on this. It is sinful to doubt God's word. But you would never get that from reading Tucker.

Now, because Christians are sinners, it is possible for a Christian to entertain religious doubts. You can find that in Scripture as well.

I just said there might be a couple of exceptions. For some folks, doubt is a stage in their maturation. A spiritual adolescence. A rite of passage from a hereditary faith to a personal faith.

Doubt, in that sense, can be a good thing. A transitional period in life when we pass from childhood to adulthood in more ways than one. A child's faith in God may be mediated by his pastor or parent. He has faith in them. They stand for God.

But there comes a point when you need to transfer your faith from the proxy to the real deal—just as there's a sense in which a man must transfer some of his affection from his mother to his wife. In the economy of God, parents and other authority-figures play a surrogate role. And in that respect, you don't grow up until you outgrow them. A lifelong bond remains, but there's an emotional and psychological adjustment.

There is also a form of second-order doubt which is founded on faith. A man may believe the Bible, but if he misinterprets the Bible, or comes to Scripture with a false expectation, that is a recipe for cognitive dissonance. In this case it's his underlying faith in Scripture, in conjunction with some apparently contrary data, that generates a set of conflicting beliefs.

This is not the same thing as simply doubting the Bible. It begins with belief instead of unbelief.

There are many examples. You may have a charismatic who expects a certain level of spiritual experience. This is a false expectation, fostered by a misreading of Scripture. Still, he believes in Scripture, and he also believes that Scriptures teaches this, so when his expectation is dashed by rude experience, he is perplexed.

In addition, there are gradations of sin. Apostasy and doubt range along a common continuum, but they are hardly interchangeable. Even if all apostates are doubters, all doubters are not apostates.

Indeed, an apostate may not even be a doubter. He may have no doubt that Christianity is false. At least, that's what he says—although many men and women leave the faith for emotional or moral reasons rather than intellectual reasons.

The Bible reserves extremely harsh language for false teachers and apostates. But you would never know that from reading Tucker's book.

How should we handle these issues from a pastoral standpoint? We need to draw a distinction between membership and attendance.

There's a sense in which there's no better place for an unbeliever to be than in church. He needs to hear the gospel. He needs to be bathed in prayer and sanctified fellowship.

And, as a practical matter, churches are generally comprised of families. This automatically introduces a mix of believers and unbelievers into the church. The unbelieving family members attend church because the believing family members attend church. And a church ministers to families as well as individuals. It would be quite unnatural to automatically exclude all unbelievers from the life of the church.

At the same time, being a member of a natural family doesn't make you a member of God's family. As such, there are certain offices and observances that ought to be reserved for those who can make a credible profession of faith. Otherwise, the church will be overrun by unbelievers and hollowed out from within, until nothing is left but an outward shell.

Should we be honest about our doubts? That depends on what you mean.

i) One of the pernicious elements of Tucker's book regular insinuation, sometimes stated explicitly, that doubt is the norm, that faith is defined by doubt. Her subversive drumbeat is designed to exculpate her own disbelief. But it is one thing to make allowance for doubt, quite another to insist that all Christians are doubters.

ii) There is also a difference between honest doubt and being honest about one's doubts. I could be very forthcoming about my doubts even if my doubts were insincere. For example, many young people reject Christian theology because they reject Christian morality, and they reject Christian morality because that interferes with their promiscuous impulses.

They may be very honest about their dishonest doubts. They may say they reject the Christian faith because it's oh-so oppressive, unscientific, and so on, but their real objections have less to do with what's going on above the neck than what's going on below the belt.

iii) Then you have professing believers, whether genuine or nominal, as well as backsliders, who really don't know how to reconcile the Christian faith with certain intellectual objections. And there should be a venue in which it's safe for them to freely air their questions. For the only way to answer a question is to ask a question.

iv) At the same time, we live in a day and age which prizes "transparency" over discretion. Social etiquette is equated with hypocrisy. To keep your true feelings to yourself is quaint and hypocritical. A Victorian hang-up.

But there's something to be said for those quaint conventions. Now, etiquette at its worst is a set of silly rules to enforce differences in social class—like having a superfluous number of knives and forks arranged in a "correct" sequence from left to right—or is it right to left?

Because there's no natural difference between members of the upper class and lower class, they can only be differentiated by artificial markers like high fashion and other meaningless customs.

Yet, at its best, etiquette is simply consideration for others, in which you sacrifice your own immediate interests for the sake of others. And that is admirable.

If I suffer from spiritual doubts, there are many occasions in which I should keep my doubts to myself. It is wrong to share my doubts with anyone and everyone. For, in so doing, I may unsettle their faith as well.

I'm not saying that if you suffer from spiritual doubts, you should never speak to anyone about your uncertainties. My point, rather, is that you ought to be selective. Seek out a seasoned believer who is intellectually competent to field your questions.

iv) There are also men and women who suffer a crisis of faith or lapse of faith for emotional reasons, often involving a personal tragedy of some sort. There is no quick fix to this situation.

The grieving process has its own pace. It can't be rushed. And there are certain losses we may sustain in life from which we will never recover this side of the grave.

You don't bounce back from everything that hits you. And as you age, you lose some of your emotional resilience. Some losses are irreplaceable, and the impact is cumulative.

Having established a general framework of analysis, let's move on to some of Tucker's claims and anecdotes.
Mary Kingsley [wrote] "when God made me He must have left out the part that one believes with." I resonate with this woman, and my heart goes out to her and to all the Mary Kingsleys of this world (8).

This is a volume that takes the progression from belief to unbelief seriously and that does so with understanding. I understand the unbelief. I read the stories, and I say, "Me too." But unlike these who have abandoned the faith, I will not—if for no other reason than the mysterious fact that God has a grip on me (25).

Besides, this is my culture, my tradition. I love the Bible stories and the old hymns of faith. I can close my eyes and see Jesus "on a hill far away on that old rugged cross." I love to sit at the piano and sing "Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling" and the other invitation hymns in the page that follow in that tattered hymnbook (25-26).

But do I believe it? If everything depended on my belief, there are some days when, I think, I would be doomed…I desperately wish I did not have to fight and struggle for every little bit of faith I have. I wish the big question was not, at least unconsciously, ever before me: Is there really a God out there, or is my faith tradition a concoction of men, as the sociologists of religion would say? (26).

When Una probed further, L'Engle expanded on her philosophy of faith:
Then there's a third way: to live as though you believe that the power behind the universe is a power of love, a personal power of love, so great that all of us really do matter to him…That's the only way I can live (116).
Marcus Borg, the fictional Peter Fromm [representing Martin Gardner] and Paul Tillich each illustrate the effort to retain a semblance of Christian faith in the midst of doubt and unbelief. If I were being judgmental at this point, I would say to each of them (whether dead, alive or make-believe), "Make up your mind: fish or cut bait! Be a Christian or be an atheist; don't muddy the water." But I know my own heart all to well. I'm an evangelical who struggles with doubt and unbelief. Should it surprise me that some would reinterpret the faith rather than bail out of the faith altogether? And who am I to push them? (127).

On this point I have found the words of F. W. Robertson particularly helpful…
But there are hours, and they come to us all at some period of life or other, when the hand of Mystery seems to be heavy on the soul…Well in such moments you doubt all—whether Christianity be true: whether Christ was a man or God or a beautiful fable…
The quote by Sergei Bulgakov that opens this chapter speaks of loss of faith during seminary education. As a seminary professor, I do not take those lines lightly. Like Robertson, there are moments when I doubt all. It is then that I sometimes ask myself as I'm looking out my office window, What on earth am I doing here? They'd fire me if they only knew (133).

Doubt and unbelief are natural components of faith. Those mature in faith must be open about their own struggles with doubt (200).
i) One of the unconsciously arrogant features of her book is the way in which Tucker constantly assumes a regal tone and rhetorically extorts the reader to agree with her. She presumes to speak on behalf of all Christians.

Are "doubt and unbelief natural components of faith"? Do all Christians at some point in life "doubt all—whether Christianity is true, or else a beautiful fable"? Do all Christians live "as though" we believe in the existence of God? Do all Christians "struggle with doubt"?

Wouldn't it be far more accurate to describe a continuum of Christian experience? Some Christians never doubt the faith. Others have momentary doubts from time to time. Others suffer a temporary crisis of faith or even lapse of faith, but undergo spiritual restoration, and emerge all the stronger from their ordeal.

Then you have borderline cases where the distinction between belief and unbelief is nearly indiscernible. A "faith" so honeycombed with doubt that it ceases to be a credible profession of faith.

To pick up on L'Engle's position, this doesn't even rise to the level of faith. For there's no actual conviction here—just play-acting. Let's play the role of a believer, like a part in a play. And, turning to Tucker, is a sentimental attachment to "my culture," and "my tradition" any substitute for saving faith?

It is one thing to make allowance for degrees of doubt, quite another to make unbelief the paradigm of faith. To redefine saving faith as a thespian art form ("we live as though we believe") is a damnable redefinition.

And that is why, at the end of the day, Tucker is unable to draw any principled distinction between degrees of doubt and wholesale apostasy. She uses her own experience as the yardstick.

How should we address this problem at a pastoral level?

ii) Doubt isn't necessarily a static condition. Doubt often has identifiable causes. There are things you can do to enrich your spiritual experience. There are things you can read that address intellectual impediments to the faith. So it's not a case of once in doubt, always in doubt—as if you're frozen in place.

iii) Having said all that, it's also the case that there's no magic formula or cure-all for doubt. Some people, as a matter of temperament or inexperience, are more prone to spiritual uncertainty than others.

They need to learn to live with that, and we need to learn to live with them. It's like a family. Our loved ones have their blind-spots and weaknesses. Since they're not going to change, you simply work around it.

What should the church do with doubters or unbelievers? Should we push them out the door? The short answer is that we shouldn't push them away unless they push us away. The church is a hospital, not a hall of fame.

There is a grain of truth to what Tucker and L'Engle have said. At least L'Engle is honest enough to admit that she has no fallback position. This is something that George Santayana also understood. For it's not as if atheism offers something better or even as good. To the contrary, atheism is, as Russell readily confessed, quite literally the counsel of despair—unyielding despair.

Why shouldn't Tucker continue to play her favorite hymns from her tattered hymnal, even if she only believes in what they say every other Tuesday or Thursday, or the second Saturday of the new month? Why should she trade in her tattered hymnal for Corliss Lamont's A Humanist Funeral Service?

The play-acting of L'Engle is a sorry substitute for saving faith, but it's still a cut above Shelly's pseudo-Christian vapories about "the choir invisible of those immoral dead who live again in minds made better by their presence."

iv) There are also men and women who quietly take their leave. They drift away.

Should we bar them from coming back? Of course not. We should leave the church door ajar with a candle in the window.

There's no need to excommunicate someone who leaves of his own accord, with no rancor or recrimination. In that situation, excommunication would be purely punitive and merely vindictive.

It is also counterproductive. Not everyone who leaves the faith is a hardened apostate. Some are backsliders. In their case we have no reason to raise the drawbridge over the moat. Rather, we should put out the welcome mat.

v) There are, however, unbelievers who remain in church to destroy the church from within. There are also unbelievers who walk away in order to return with a flamethrower.

Does Tucker really think that Marcus Borg or Paul Tillich should be teaching the next generation of Christian pastors? Does she really think that F. W. Robertson—a notorious liberal who contributed to the mass apostasy of the Victorian church—should occupy the pulpit? Apparently so since she finds it so difficult to distinguish their outlook from her own. With all due respect, Tucker reminds me of what Paul said about the women who were swept away by false teachers in the Pastoral epistles.

No, she shouldn't be teaching seminarians. She's like a lifeguard who can't swim. One drowning swimmer cannot rescue another drowning swimmer.

It should be unnecessary to explain that a pastor ought to be a man of faith. Is that really asking too much? I think not.

This doesn't mean that a pastor should drop out if he's going through a dry season. It's crucial to work one's way through the dry seasons. To keep on moving one step at a time.

That's the only way to come out on the other side. He who endures to the end will be saved. The walk of faith is a marathon, not a hundred yard dash.

If, however, a pastor loses his faith, then he should leave the ministry. This doesn't mean he should leave the church. To the contrary, he needs to relocate from the pulpit to the pew. He needs to sit under someone else's preaching. He needs to be ministered to.

vi) But the militant apostate is another matter entirely. It is he who initiates a slash-and-burn campaign. Under those circumstances we have every right to bolt the door and return fire from the ramparts. Showing hospitality to strangers is a social amenity. But if a houseguest repays the favor by trying to rape your wife and murder your children, a loaded shotgun is the proper response.

Unfortunately, Tucker's theology of sin reads less like Paradise Lost than West Side Story:


Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!

Gee, Officer Krupke, we're very upset;
We never had the love that ev'ry child oughta get.
We ain't no delinquents,
We're misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good!

There is good!

There is good, there is good,
There is untapped good!
Like inside, the worst of us is good!

SNOWBOY: (Spoken) That's a touchin' good story.

ACTION: (Spoken) Lemme tell it to the world!

SNOWBOY: Just tell it to the judge.

Dear kindly Judge, your Honor,
My parents treat me rough.
With all their marijuana,
They won't give me a puff.
They didn't wanna have me,
But somehow I was had.
Leapin' lizards! That's why I'm so bad!

DIESEL: (As Judge) Right!

Officer Krupke, you're really a square;
This boy don't need a judge, he needs an analyst's care!
It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
He's psychologic'ly disturbed!

I'm disturbed!

We're disturbed, we're disturbed,
We're the most disturbed,
Like we're psychologic'ly disturbed.

DIESEL: (Spoken, as Judge) In the opinion on this court, this child is depraved on account he ain't had a normal home.

ACTION: (Spoken) Hey, I'm depraved on account I'm deprived.

DIESEL: So take him to a headshrinker.

ACTION (Sings)
My father is a bastard,
My ma's an S.O.B.
My grandpa's always plastered,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess!

A-RAB: (As Psychiatrist) Yes!
Officer Krupke, you're really a slob.
This boy don't need a doctor, just a good honest job.
Society's played him a terrible trick,
And sociologic'ly he's sick!

I am sick!

We are sick, we are sick,
We are sick, sick, sick,
Like we're sociologically sick!

A-RAB: In my opinion, this child don't need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!

ACTION: Hey, I got a social disease!

A-RAB: So take him to a social worker!

Dear kindly social worker,
They say go earn a buck.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means like be a schumck.
It's not I'm anti-social,
I'm only anti-work.
Gloryosky! That's why I'm a jerk!

BABY JOHN: (As Female Social Worker)
Officer Krupke, you've done it again.
This boy don't need a job, he needs a year in the pen.
It ain't just a question of misunderstood;
Deep down inside him, he's no good!

I'm no good!

We're no good, we're no good!
We're no earthly good,
Like the best of us is no damn good!

DIESEL (As Judge)
The trouble is he's crazy.

A-RAB (As Psychiatrist)
The trouble is he drinks.

BABY JOHN (As Female Social Worker)
The trouble is he's lazy.

The trouble is he stinks.

The trouble is he's growing.

The trouble is he's grown.

Krupke, we got troubles of our own!

Gee, Officer Krupke,
We're down on our knees,
'Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease.
Gee, Officer Krupke,
What are we to do?
Gee, Officer Krupke,
Krup you!2
David Dean's testimony is typical of a spiritual pilgrimage that centers around lifestyle and abandoning faith:
Everything was going wonderfully until I discovered a reality about myself that all the prayers in the world could not change, and that was my sexual orientation…All I knew was that I wanted relief from the guilt of my sin and suicide seemed to offer the best answer.

The height of my depression developed the fall semester of my second year at Moody Bible Institute. I would find myself in my dorm room crying because I felt that I was unworthy of God. I began to entertain thoughts of suicide on a daily basis.
After graduating from Moody, Dean continued on in his biblical studies, "continued to pray, and pray, and pray, for the removal of my sin of homosexuality." But in spite of his prayers, he writes, God "remained silent in his heavenly expanse, not caring about me." Then Dean "abandoned Christianity" altogether: "To me it became a religion of false hopes and lies. To know and experience an intimate God was a fabrication of fanatics."

I walked away from the religious right and fundamentalism about seven years ago. Since then I've been rediscovering a loving God who accepts me (147-148).
This is a textbook example of two triggering mechanisms: immorality and bad theology. Dean's idea that he was unworthy of God completely misses the point of the gospel.

The other fundamental failing is his atomistic notion of sin and charismatic idea of sanctification. Homosexual temptation is hardly something that a homosexual can simply pray out of existence.

The male sex drive is central to masculine self-identity. God has even encoded theological archetypes into our romantic ideals and sexual self-perceptions—where the man stands for Christ, and the woman for the church.

Homosexuality is a very deep-seated disorder. It merges a man's natural need for asexual male affection with his natural need for sexual female affection. To some extent it's an acquired taste, and in that respect an addictive behavior. It represents a developmental dysfunction in one's psychological maturation, and since the formative stages of childhood and adolescence are unrepeatable and irreversible, none of this is simple or easy to correct. We're not talking about a discrete and peripheral sin, but a homosexual's whole emotional make-up and self-image.

Paradoxically, a homosexual needs male friends and male affection. But what he needs is normal male affection and normal male role-modeling. And, of course, he also needs female affection.

Dean was looking for a shortcut to sanctification. Instant wholeness and holiness. Unfortunately, he simply graduated from one version of bad theology to another version of bad theology. Now he imagines that God accepts him just as he is—in his impenitent and defiant immorality.
This then is the paradox for those of us in the Reformed tradition who believe that a Christian's salvation is secure and cannot simply be lost or denied or abandoned. We are left in a quandary. How do we explain the one who faithfully ministers in the church for many years and then walks away from the faith? The answer, I think, is that there simply is no explanation—none that solves the problem, none that satisfies. So we tend to avoid the issue as we watch our brothers and sisters in the Lord appear to walk away from faith. We avoid the issue rather than living in the paradox (8).

What do I do with Dan Barker, who—after his long ministry as an evangelist and a writer and publisher of Christian music—not only no longer believes but now professes atheism. Was he never a Christian? I can claim that, if it is the only way his story fits my theological system, but this means my not taking him at his word (17).

Barker's story is one that we as Christians would rather not hear…We have no framework for deconversion. It is simply not supposed to happen. How, we ask, could a person who has experienced the power of the gospel in his own life and in the lives of others turn his back and renounce the very faith he once proclaimed? We need to also ask, "How does a Christian deconstruct Barker's account of deconversion" (189).
What's so odd about this disclaimer is that she identifies with the Reformed tradition, but evidently has no knowledge of how the Reformed tradition deals with apostasy, even though Reformed tradition has always had to explain in phenomenon of apostasy in relation to the doctrine of perseverance.

i) In Reformed theology, unbelief is the default setting of fallen man. Left to our own devices, we are infidels. That's a legacy of original sin. Hence, unbelief needs no special explanation. No extra push.

It's belief, rather than unbelief, that cries out for explanation. Saving faith is a gift of God.

So it should go without saying that Reformed theology has a framework for deconversion. Yes, apostasy is supposed to happen. Apostates are a subset of reprobates.

ii) Moreover, there's a difference between nominal faith and saving faith. Some people are believers as a result of peer pressure. This is all they've ever known. And it's the ticket to social acceptance.

And that's the sort of faith that evaporates on contact as soon as they are transplanted into a different social environment.

iii) Furthermore, truth is inherently credible. Truth has the ring of truth. Truth makes sense. Truth is true to the world we know. And since the Bible is true, it's possible for the unregenerate to believe the Bible—however tenuously.

iv) But there's nothing especially mysterious about the process of apostasy. For one thing, many apostates tell us what triggered their apostasy.

v) The closer an individual is to the light, the more clearly he can rebel against the light. Many people are too ignorant of the Bible even to know what they disbelieve. Only an angel can be a devil. Clear-eyed rebellion requires 20/20 vision.

vi) Tucker is confusing an experience with the interpretation of an experience. That nominal believers can become apostates is a recurring feature of OT history, NT history, and church history. Calvinism doesn't deny the phenomenon of zealous ministers who go astray.

vii) At the same time, autobiographical claims must sometimes be taken with a grain of salt—or even a ton of salt. People have actually been known to embellish the record by exaggerating their achievements and suppressing their failings. This is a particular temptation when a charlatan is quite literally cashing in on his experience.

And even when the individual isn't intentionally devious, it's a psychological truism that we are not always the best interpreters of our own motives. We're too close. We have too much at stake.
My problem was God's silence. I don't hear the voice of God like other people do. My friend Marcia in Evergreen, Colorado, hears the void of God. She has this pipeline of sorts that I've never known to exist anywhere other than with some of the Old Testament prophets (23).

The silence we encounter when we contemplate the death of a child is deafening. But there is also a silence that is often felt in the less horrific tragedies of life, like when we pray and wonder whether our prayers have gone any further than the ceiling. Is there a personal God who cares about my everyday needs, who hears my prayers…It is tempting to think that our personal concerns are too small for God's attention (156).

Sometimes the silence and absence is implied by one's failure to pray—one's failure to recognize the reality of God's presence. This was true of my friend Judy Kupersmith, who has abandoned the faith of her childhood—a faith that continued through her early adult years…
To be perfectly honest, I think I prayed as much and probably more than anyone else my age. And I listened with my ears and with my heart. Truthfully I never heard anything. I always marveled at those folks who said, "I KNOW what God wants me to do; he told me while I was praying. He leads me every step of the way." Well, I never hear anything and never knew for sure what to do" (156-157).
i) This is another example of doubt or apostasy that's triggered by bad theology. It never occurs to Tucker to question these testimonials. Does Marcia have a pipeline to God? Does the Bible promise us that God will speak to us? You can only be disillusioned if you nurse an illusory belief in the first place.

ii) There is also the problem of men and women who can't find God because they don't know what they're looking for. They have this preconception of what they would find if they discovered God.

The reason they don't perceive the presence of God is not because he isn't there—whatever there means—but because they don't recognize what is staring them in since that is not what they were expecting to see. God is hiding in plain sight.

They can only see God in the extraordinary or spectacular, and never in the ordinary, the commonplace, the unobtrusive. Their channel is tuned to the miraculous rather than the providential. To the punctiliar rather than the linear.
Frequently, the Christian's response is characterized by anger and accusations. We are threatened by the very presence of those who have abandoned the truth that we hold dear, and I sometimes wonder whether our own insecurity is a cause for the breakdown in communication between those who believe and those who once believed (9).

One thing that I have discovered as I have been working on this project is that for many people, this issue touches a raw nerve. For some the very idea of someone's walking away from faith is highly offensive and threatening (10).
This is sometimes true. At the same time, her accusation is reversible. Tucker feels threatened by the very presence of those who have an unwavering faith in God and his Word. And her own spiritual insecurity is driving her to make accusatory attacks on those who don't share her ubiquitous doubts. It's also driving her to stick up for the apostate.
The problem of pain and evil as it relates to the perceived silence of God is surely the most troubling conundrum that Christians confront (153).

The problem of pain and of evil is the ground of all battles for belief (165).

Why doesn't God intervene and put these people out of business once and for all? Why doesn't God pour his wrath out on the wicked and make the righteous prosper? (161)?

From an intellectual standpoint, one can discuss the issues relating to disappointment with God and the sense of silence, but ultimately one will find no answers. I am convinced of that. I have searched the most insightful authors seeking clues, but all they can say individually and collectively is that such things are beyond our comprehension (164).
One of the problems here is intellectual pride. She thinks she knows more than she does. For there are insightful answers to the problem of evil.3
Nicholas Wolterstorff had no such preparation for his lament for a son…Nick's son Eric, who was twenty-five, died on June 11, 1983, while mountain climbing in Austria. Lament for a Son is truly a lament—as powerful a lament as I have ever encountered. "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and resurrecter of Jesus Christ," he writes. "I also believe that my son's life was cut off in its prime. I cannot fit these pieces together. I am at a loss…To the most agonized question I have ever asked I do not know the answer. I do not know why God would watch him fall…My wound is an unanswered question" (154-55).

For a long time I knew that God is not the impassive, unresponsive, unchanging being portrayed by the classical theologians. I knew the pathos of God…But I never saw it" (156).
This raises several issues:

i) It would be callous and counterproductive to scold a grieving parent in the midst of his mourning. That's a time to be a sympathetic listener. And if the mourner makes intemperate or blasphemous statements about God, you should let it slide.

The Book of Job is usually discussed in relation to the problem of evil, but the book of Job is also a study in the grieving process. Of how a mourner works through his grief. We can learn from that.

ii) However, there does comes a point, a few years down the pike, when it is not inappropriate or unhelpful to correct bad theology if the mourner is still blaming God.

To take the case at hand, Wolterstorff is ignoring the obvious. His son was indulging in high-risk behavior. And the element of danger is part of the appeal. If you deliberately engage in a life-threatening activity, you may pay with your life. This doesn't call for any special explanation, does it?

So why does Wolterstorff entertain the expectation that his son should be immune to the possible consequences of an inherently hazardous, recreational activity? On the face of it, his reaction is completely irrational. That would be understandable at the time of the accident, and for however many months the immediate and oppressive sense of loss clouded his judgment.

But Wolterstorff is a very sophisticated Christian philosopher. And he's writing well after the fact.

What's the source of the problem? Is it just that parents have a blind spot where their own kids are concerned? Again, that would be understandable, at an emotional level.

Yet the question remains. Why is he unable "to fit these pieces together"? What kind of world does he envision? A world of pillows? A big padded cell where every misstep is cushioned by a down comforter?

iii) In shifting blame, he also evades the issue of personal responsibility. His son knew what he was doing. He knew the risk. This was a voluntary activity.

What is more, his father knew the risk. Did Nick every sit down with Eric and have a frank, father-and-son discussion about reckless and foolhardy adventures?

It's fine for boys and young men to be adventurous. But some activities are more dangerous than others, and some activities are more likely to result in death or disablement.

It's possible to have fun without killing yourself. Young men need older men to counsel them on where to draw the line. For young men, with their inexperience, death is a distant abstraction. Was Nicholas Wolterstorff giving his son the prudent advice he needed?

iv) Instead of asking himself the tough questions, Wolsterstorff liberalizes his theology. This enables him to evade the tough questions.

The question isn't hard to answer at an intellectual level. It's only hard to answer at an emotional level. That's what Wolsterstorff can't face up to.

Tucker's book is a catalogue of attacks on the Christian faith. Just occasionally she says something to blunt the force of the attack, but most of the time she piles one attack upon another, and not only leaves them unanswered, but justifies the blasphemy.

She's like a gunshot victim who complains about the pain, but defends the shooter and shoots the paramedic. The entire book becomes an extended alibi for the sin of apostasy—of which there is no graver sin.



3 "Must God Create the Best?" R. Adams, The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays in Philosophical Theology (Oxford 1987), 51-64; "Existence, Self-interest, and the Problem of Evil," ibid. 65-76; A. Plantinga, "Supralapsarianism, or 'O Felix Culpa'," P. van Inwagen, ed. Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil (Eerdmans 2004), 1-25.

The Sort of "Science" Only Biology Considers Valid

I just read through this article that has the bold headline: "Study: DInosaurs Starting Having Sex Young." In that article, we read the conclusion:

Dinosaurs had sex well before they reached full physical maturity, just as crocodiles and people can, research now reveals.
The proof for this claim is:

To see when dinosaurs began having sex, researchers from the American Museum of Natural History in New York and their colleagues investigated all seven known specimens of dinosaurs that were buried while brooding eggs.
Yes. That's right. Out of all the dinosaur fossils we have, a grand total of SEVEN specimens were examined.

Don't worry, it gets worse, for later we read:

After four years of research, analysis revealed that although five of the dinosaurs had grown to adult size, two had not — one oviraptorid and one deinonychosaur.
That's right. The universal claim that dinosaurs had sex young (meaning before fully adult-sized) is based on TWO dinosaur fossils, from two different species of dinosaurs.

This is about as scientifically valid as saying all birds don't fly because we've observed two individuals, one a penguin and one an ostrich, that don't fly. Even if we generalize the two individuals to the entirety of the species, that says nothing about dinosaurs as a whole.

Yet we read:

Paleontologist Peter Makovicky at the Field Museum in Chicago, who did not participate in this study, said: "It's pretty difficult to get details on reproductive biology out of fossils, since you can't directly observe it, but the group here was able to put together a number of recently found and described fossils to good use in a fascinating piece of work."
Fascinating it may well be, but one thing it certainly is not is science. Biology, especially regarding paleontology, is the only branch of science where conclusions drawn on this type of "evidence" are not laughed at.

Dictionary of Christian Dictionaries

Dictionaries of the Bible:

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books
Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch
Dictionary of New Testament Background
Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and His Letters
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible

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New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics

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Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals
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Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, & World Religions
Dictionary of Latin & Greek Theological Terms

Fit them In Your Pocket:

Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

He done her wrong

John W. Loftus said...

On what basis can Hitchens denounce the evil in the world? Here's how: Christians believe God is good, omniscient, and omnipotent. They also believe the Bible is God's word (however conceived). Based upon the Bible Christians act in the world. Hitchens can legitimately argue that 1) This world is not one that the Christian God would've created based upon the morality that Christians find in the Bible; 2) The morality revealed in the Bible is not something Christians defend in today's world without gerrymandering it to modernize it with our better moral notions; and 3) Christians do not live up to that morality and sometimes cause suffering when they follow it.

If Christianity is true then it needs to show how this present world is evidence of the morality in the Bible and that Christians actually live that morality.

There is no inconsistency in doing this. None. We've gone over this before, but I was wondering if you have any additional thoughts on the matter.

4:29 PM

steve said...

john w. loftus said...

“On what basis can Hitchens denounce the evil in the world? Here's how: Christians believe God is good, omniscient, and omnipotent. They also believe the Bible is God's word (however conceived). Based upon the Bible Christians act in the world. Hitchens can legitimately argue that 1) This world is not one that the Christian God would've created based upon the morality that Christians find in the Bible.”

That is not, in fact, how Hitchens makes his case. To the contrary, Hitchens denounces Biblical morality as well as Biblical theism. He does not, therefore, consider Biblical theism to be incompatible with Biblical morality, or vice versa.

What Hitchens does, instead, is to attack Biblical theism and Biblical morality alike by his extrabiblical sense of what is right and wrong.

Since that is how Hitchens has chosen to frame the argument from evil, he needs to explain and justify his own source and standard of moral valuation.

“2) The morality revealed in the Bible is not something Christians defend in today's world without gerrymandering it to modernize it with our better moral notions;”

That’s a tendentious overstatement which disregards the many Christians who do defend Biblical morality.

“3) Christians do not live up to that morality”

Meaning what? Since Christians are sinners, they are bound to fall short of their ethical ideal. That does nothing to invalidate the ideal.

“And sometimes cause suffering when they follow it.”

What examples can Loftus cite without begging the question?

2:10 PM

John W. Loftus said...

Steve, suffering is obvious. It's pain pure and simple, and while I accept your point about Hitchens, I was showing how he could do so. He has shown how professing Christians have caused suffering in the world though, and professing Christians are the ONLY kind of Christians we see. According to your own belief system a Christian isn't a perfect person (but instead one who believes), so you cannot plausibly argue that the ones causing this suffering are not true Christians without also claiming Christians are sinless, in my opinion.

As far as God commanding his followers to do what we now consider evil goes, I consider the following commands evil: your God declared that a slave is the property of another man (Exodus 21:21). A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24), while if a virgin who was not pledged to be married was raped, she was supposed to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

I consider the evidence of evolving moral standards--standards that you yourself now accept--as evidence against the God of the Bible...or can you justify honor killings? Answer me this. In obedience to God would you have stoned a virgin pledged to be married who was raped by a man with him, or not?

steve said...

John W. Loftus said...

"Steve, suffering is obvious. It's pain pure and simple."

Shattering philosophy's mirror: a conversation with Richard Rorty - philosopher

"[Richard] Rorty follows Hume and Schopenhauer. Again, Rorty confesses:

'...there is no answer to the question 'Why not be cruel?' There is no noncircular theoretical backup for the belief that cruelty is horrible. Nor is there any answer to the question 'How do you decide when to struggle against injustice and when to devote yourself to private projects of self creation?'... I do not think there are any plain moral facts out there in the world, nor any truths independent of language, nor any neutral grounds on which to stand and argue that either torture or kindness are [sic] preferable to the other (Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity)'."

6:30 PM

steve said...

john w. loftus said...

“Steve, suffering is obvious. It's pain pure and simple.”

Three or four problems:

i) Not all suffering is physical (i.e. “pain”). Therefore, “suffering is not “pain sure and simple.”

ii) Moreover, I, as a Christian, am at liberty to admit the obvious. Yes, there’s such a thing as suffering. Yes, there’s such a thing as pain.

But a consistent physicalist is not at liberty to admit the obvious. Such mental states are inconsistent with naturalized epistemology and evolutionary psychology, which is why eliminative materialism denies the existence of pain and suffering.

I’ve pointed this out to Loftus on multiple occasions. Either he’s too much of an intellectual slouch to address the issue or else he doesn’t dare come to terms with a consistent secular anthropology, for were he to admit that pain and suffering are illusory, given physicalism, he would lose the raw materials for his argument from evil.

The only alternative would be for him to defend a secular version of dualism. But while that might be theoretically possible, such a concession makes it harder to argue against Christianity.

Therefore, Loftus constantly ducks the issue.

iii) Furthermore, to say that pain and suffering exist is not to say that pain and suffering are evil. Loftus needs to mount a separate argument to show that pain and suffering are natural and/or moral evils.

iv) Finally, even if he could demonstrate that pain and suffering are evil, that would be insufficient to mount an argument from evil, for he would need another supporting argument to show that pain and suffering are gratuitous evils.

As usual, Loftus’ objection is all gaps and no argument.

“As far as God commanding his followers to do what we now consider evil goes, I consider the following commands evil: your God declared that a slave is the property of another man (Exodus 21:21).”

No, that’s not what it means. What it means, rather, is that a slave is his master’s source of income. Therefore, it would be pointless for the master to remunerate the slave for lost wages since, in that event, the master would be writing himself a check (as it were).

In the meantime, Loftus also disregards the passage as a whole. Slaves had civil rights under the Mosaic Code. If the master killed the slave, the master was subject to capital punishment. And if the master maimed the slave, he had to pay the equivalent of workman’s comp. The legal protections covering a slave under the Mosaic Law are unique among ANE legislation.

For more detailed exegesis, consult the standard commentaries on Exodus by Currid (2:78-79) and Stuart (490-91).

“A female captive in war was forced to be an Israelite man’s wife (Deuteronomy 21:10-14).”

i) To begin with, in the ANE, marriages were arranged. The idea of consensual marriage is anachronistic.

ii) Loftus has offered no argument for why his modern, provincial, socially-conditioned view of marriage is morally superior to traditional customs which still prevailed in many parts of the world.

iii) A war bride enjoyed civil rights. Instead of suffering the fate of an involuntary concubine, she enjoys the rights of a Jewish wife—which is more than she would enjoy under ANE law in general.

iv) Keep in mind the historical circumstances. We’re talking about survival in a world of warrior cultures. In the ANE, a woman without men to protect her would be completely defenseless.

“If a virgin who was pledged to be married was raped, she was to be stoned along with her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).”

Either Loftus is too ignorant of the law in question to know what it means or else he is prevaricating.

This is a case of consensual sex, not rape. That is clear from the contrast between 22:23-24 and 25-27, which is a case of rape.

In the case of consensual sex between a woman who was already engaged to another man and a man who was not her fiancé, this was equivalent to adultery, and both parties were executed.

A rape victim was not executed. To the contrary, if you actually read other OT rape laws, such as the very next case law (e.g. 22:25-27), you will see that the rape victim was deemed to be innocent—in cases where rape could be presumed—whereas the rapist was executed.

Once again, this illustrates the fact that women had civil rights under the Mosaic Law. Far from an “honor killing,” it was the man, and not the woman, who was killed.

Why does Loftus misrepresent the law in question? Is he willfully ignorant or willfully dishonest?

i) In the final case, the rapist must compensate the rape victim by providing the ancient equivalent of alimony.

And that’s more that Loftus ever did for the stripper he dumped as soon as she became inconvenient. It’s quite understandable why promiscuous men like Loftus revile OT laws that hold men accountable for their sexual indiscretions.

ii) Finally, we need to read this law in concert with the parallel case law in Exod 22:17. Marriage was not obligatory in this situation.

That’s the nature of case law. A particular case law does not address every possible situation or attendant detail. You need to compare one case law with another.

8:21 PM

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mark Roberts on "god is not Great"

Mark Roberts on "god is not Great"

Video Clips on the Deity of Christ

From J. Ed Komoszewski

The Deity of Christ in Philippians 2

The Deity of Christ in Mark 14

What is a Healthy Church?

What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever. Read the Table of Contents, Introduction, and Chapter 1.

Sensitive Dependency on Initial Variables

When I was in publik skrewl, I remember an economics class that we took. Part of the class involved learning about the stock market, and the way we did so was to play a game. Each of us started with $100 of fake money (hence the "publik" part of publik skrewl) that we then "invested" in five to ten stocks of our choosing. We would read the newspaper over the next week or so and see how the stock had changed. If it went up, we made money; if it went down we lost money.

Naturally, when this game started, I had a problem with it. The problem is that in the real stock market, buying or selling stocks impacts the value of the stock. We were pretending to buy and sell stocks, but we weren’t actually doing so; yet we took the results as if we had done so. This, to me, represented a problem.

You see, suppose that I decided to invest $20 of fake money in Pepsi. If this $20 had been real money, the value of the Pepsi stock would have changed, however little, at that point. The difference in the value would mean that the stock would have behaved differently than it did. People who invested before might not have, thinking perhaps the stock was a little closer to going down again; or the converse might have happened where investors saw a little extra there and decided to jump on the wagon too. The results are impossible to predict. All we can know for certain is that if I actually had invested $20 of real money, the stock would have been different than it was after I invested $20 of fake money that had no impact at all.

These little things do add up over time, much as the Butterfly Effect. My fake $100 total, if it had been real, would have had a tangible (although completely impossible to see) effect on the stock market. But we didn’t actually invest at all. Our fake investments did not affect the stock market, and therefore were not realistic. Thus, the game was flawed, which I pointed out to the teacher (but again, this being publik skrewl, instead of allowing me to take a class on the chaos theory’s emphasis on sensitive dependency on initial variables—something I didn’t know about at the time—I was told to just do the game like everyone else and stop causing trouble).

Now the reason I bring this up is not because it’s fun to talk about sensitive dependency on initial variables (although it is). Instead, it’s because I read John Loftus’s opening comments on this post:

God could’ve predicted any number of natural disasters. He could’ve predicted when Mt. St. Helens would erupt, or when the Indonesian tsunami or hurricane Katrina would destroy so much. It would save lives and confirm he is God. Then too, he could’ve predicted the rise of the internet, or the inventions of the incandescent light bulb, Television, or the atomic bomb, and he could do it using non-ambiguous language that would be seen by all as a prophectic fulfillment. God could’ve predicted several things that would take place in each generation in each region of the earth, so that each generation and each region of the earth would have confirmation that he exists through prophecy. God could've told people about the vastness and the complexity of the universe before humans would have been able to confirm it. He could have predicted the discovery of penicillin, which has saved so many lives, and if predicted it would have speeded up its discovery.

Loftus writes this in the context of saying: "If God wants us to believe, why are the so-called prophecies so vague and unclear? We who are skeptics find it easy, and I mean easy, to discount them all." So it is clear that Loftus’s alternatives imply that had God given different prophecies, Loftus would be less likely to be a skeptic.

Now it is easy to refute the suggestions that Loftus gives. After all, none of these prophecies would make sense before the 20th and 21st centuries, so Loftus is in essence saying that God should have been completely incomprehensible to everyone between 33 AD and Loftus’s genesis. However, rather than spending a great deal of time pointing out the Loftusiocentric aspect of the above claims, there is another more important point. Once again, it deals with sensitive dependence upon initial variables.

You see, it is impossible for Loftus to know how he would behave were the Bible different. If the Bible did, in deed, have all the prophecies that Loftus listed above, it would still be impossible to predict (from a non-Calvinist sense) whether Loftus would be a believer or not. We only have access to the way the Bible was written; we don’t know what it would be like if it was different.

Consider another example. Suppose Loftus and I are playing poker (after all, I’m not a Southern Baptist!). Suppose that after shuffling the deck ten times, a deal would result in my having a full house and Loftus having a royal flush. But we shuffle the cards eleven times before we deal, and my three kings beats Loftus’s two sixes. The extra shuffle changed the outcome completely, but none of us will ever know (aside from the arbitrary claim of this example) what the first shuffle would have done. Needless to say, the "alternative futures" of both events is different. This could, in fact, decide who wins the entire match and who does not, and it’s all dependent upon one extra shuffle of the cards.

Now we know when we shuffle the deck of cards, we change the outcome of the future (for the cards we would have gotten are no longer the cards we receive). But we do not know how this has changed. In the same way, speculating about differences in the past is just as fruitless. We do not know how the future (and our present) would be different if the past had changed.

In fact, given the way that Scripture has shaped society in its present form, I can say it is quite like that, were the Bible to have been altered to make the predictions Loftus demands of it our entire culture would be so radically different today as to render the person "John Loftus" irrelevant in that alternate future. The social structures in place affect more than just individuals today; it affects who met and married whom in the past, who went to war and for what reasons, who lives and who dies in a multitude of events.

In fact, given the nature of statistics, it is astronomically more likely that if the Bible were different John Loftus would never have been born than it is that John Loftus would have existed and yet been a believer instead of a doubter. The various aspects of history are so intertwined with the way that Bible actually is that to alter it at that point in the past is to completely alter our current society, and in ways that are impossible to predict.

Now Loftus might argue that society would be better today where these changes in effect in the past; but Loftus cannot know this, and it is equally as possible that where these changes in effect in the past, there would be absolutely no society today at all. We do not know what the changes would have been. It’s a reshuffling of the deck, and none of us have the ability to determine what the outcome would be.

But if Christianity is right, then God does know what the outcome would be. (And if Calvinism is correct, God decreed what that outcome would be.) Even taking foreordination out of the picture, God still could have decided that more people would be saved if the Bible is written the way it currently is than if it was written to suit Loftus’s tastes. Who are we to say that God shouldn’t have tossed Loftus overboard to save more people?

Including foreordination only solidifies the picture. The Bible was written as it was written so that those whom God calls will be justified. Those whom He does not call are not justified.

And finally, the matter of prediction really isn’t the problem Loftus has with the Bible in the first place. After all, the Mayan calendar predicts solar eclipses with great accuracy. I don’t see Loftus becoming a Mayan priest anytime soon...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lost In Translation

Over at Pyromaniacs, Dan asked a really good question that bears being discussed on the front page, not just the combox.

He writes:

Sincere question --- after reading Spurgeon here, I am wondering why so many then still use Latin language on a lot of the blogs and even in churches with the Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura words - when it can be confusing unless you studied the Reformation or know Latin, you don't know what those Latin words mean.

Why not just write the English words of Sola Fide etc. so people can easily understand them and not have to do a double explanation of both what the Latin words mean in English and then explain what the English words mean.

I am being sincere, why keep using Latin instead of saying those words in English. I am not saying we shouldn't say "Justification by Faith Alone" or "Salvation by Grace Alone". but why not say them in English. 98% of the time i see them only listed in Latin, which then seems like you need to be an inser to know that they mean or feel an outsider that you don't know Latin.

The words of Spurgeon made we wonder about that, so I thought I would ask.

Thank you!


Dan, good question.

There have been numerous answers, so I'll repeat them here for the benefit of our readers:

Phil Johnson is quite direct:

If I'm speaking to or writing for someone whom I have reason to think probably doesn't understand a term like sola fide, I would ordinarily try to explain it, or not use it at all. We use some terms like that because in contexts where they are familiar, they make really nice shorthand.

And if I sometimes forget to translate those expressions in contexts where people are confused by my usage of them—mea culpa.
Scott Hill adds:

Dan, I agree that if someone doesn't know the Latin we use then we have not communicated, but I am not for doing away with terms like Sola Fide, or simul justus et peccator and just using the English translation.

For me personally when I here these terms I not only think of the theology, but also the history of the reformation itself and the great men of God that surround that history.

I generally use the terms to one, teach the meaning of the latin term, which means using english, and two to teach some reformation history.

As for our blog name, we just thought it sounded cool.

Djp contributes:

Dan, if I may chime in one more thought:

I don't think there's one word-choice template to use, that works for every audience. Paul spoke the same message to the Antiocheans, the Corinthians, and the beards at Mars Hill, but he used some different terminology and quotations and lines-of-approach to each. I've preached the same message in rescue missions and fancier churches, but the wording I use has some variation.

I definitely think the Sola's are useful, but either only to those who know the meaning, or if we explain them. For instance, I once preached a Reformation Day sermon which I titled Five 'Alones' That Changed Everything. My springboard was Romans 1:17, and from it I preached the truth expressed by the five Sola's, explaining and applying. From what I'm told, the Lord graciously used it for those with and without a Biblical background.

The redoubtable Centurion continues:

Dan --

On the one hand, I'm all for making discipleship like any educational process. For example, first you learn numbers and sets, then you learn arithmetic, then you learn division and multiplication, then you learn algebra, etc.

On the other, eventually you have to learn the technical language. people who play baseball have a technical language which is -required-; people who play video games even have a technical language which is required (for example, everyone knows what happens when some noob get pwn'd). In the same way, if you're serious about understanding the Christian faith, you'll have to learn some theology, and the language of theology is littered with Latin and Greek.

Does someone have to affirm sola fide and homoousios to become a Christian? Not hardly. Do they have to learn -- for their own good, for their own discipleship -- that it is only faith in Christ which saves, and that Christ is of one substance with the Father? Yes, I think so.

Technical language is hardly a liability. It strikes at the heart of the claim that our faith is some kind of brainless, anti-intellectual thing which men accept and follow blindly.

Finally, I add:

By continuing to use these Latin terms, we are anchoring ourselves to the Reformation. The Reformers and the Protestant High Orthodox, as one reads their theologies, were concerned to anchor themselves to the Ancient Church. The Ancient Church was concerned to anchor itself to the Apostolic Church, and they, in turn, anchor themselves to the Old Covenant Community (for example, the frequent use of Isaiah in the works of John, and the whole Book of Hebrews, and that's just for starters!). So, we're only following precedent.

Further, even if we translate "Sola Scriptura" for example, to "Scripture Alone" we aren't explaining anything. In fact, we could be exacerrbating the problem. The "Sola" language is borrowed from Aristotelian categories of causality, but if you bring them over in English, as in this case, one can give the impression that "Scripture Alone" means "Scripture only," which is a mistake. It only refers to the rule of faith such that Scripture alone is infallible, but tradition is fallible and useful. So, the English rendering still requires some explanation and may also result in a bigger mistake on the part of the hearer than "Sola Scriptura."

Let's take "Sola Fide." On the one hand we speak of "justification by faith alone" but Sola Fide can be misread (as it often is as "salvation by faith alone"). That too is a mistake. Justification by faith alone (Sola Fide), in the Reformed tradition, is a species of Sola Gratia, for we anchor justification by faith alone in grace alone. We take the two together to form a unit: justified by faith alone and saved by grace alone), and they stand in a particular relationship to each other. In English, I fear this often gets lost.

Taken apart, you wind up with hyper-Calvinism (by collapsing all the decrees into one of grace and forgetting that the covenant is unconditional in terms of merit but not in terms of instrumentality) or Arminianism (by divorcing Sola Fide from Sola Gratia completely or treating Sola Gratia as quantitative, not qualitative, as if there's a certain amount of grace emanating from God and a certain amount of grace emanating from the person, and these together result in justification, with justification ultimately grounded not in grace alone, but faith, that is to say, on the basis of faith itself, not merely as an instrument connecting us to the righteousness of Christ).

In short, no matter if you use English or Latin terms, you'll wind up having to explain the terms.

I'd also add that I think the use of historic terms is useful to encourage the flock to get acquainted with historical theology and church history. We live in an age where, let's face it, the popular literature has been dumbed down greatly. What was considered common knowledge in the 19th century (or even the 17th!) is today considered "too hard," or "for preachers." This, of course, leads to a people who are "destroyed for lack of knowledge," and we can see exactly what Isaiah had to say about that. Keeping the historic language thus not only keeps us anchored, it provides, I would hope, an incentive for study. Certainly, we should explain our use of these terms, but there is also a time, as we often tell our children (or at least I know my parents and teachers often told me), "Go look it up." We need to do that from time to time with our own people in our churches and our readers on the blogs, for their good. Let us not cultivate a generation (as lamented by the writer of Hebrews) that "should be teachers but are still drinking milk" (paraphrased).

So, here's a suggestion. The next time you deliver a Sunday School lesson or teach on a Wednesday or Sunday night (since these are smaller, more manageable groups for most of us) give your class or congregation some homework. Tell them to look something up in the week between and then come back to discuss it/teach it the following week. It's high time we put the "school" back into "Sunday School," and that's also a creative way to give an invitation @ the end of your services to get away from the "walk the aisle and make a decision" style of invitation, yet keep the tradition alive, but refocused.

Beale on Romans 9 and the Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart

Here you go:

Beale on Romans 9

(Note: It's in .pdf).

HT: Dustin Segers