Saturday, September 01, 2007

Perry Robinson's bombshell

i) Perry Robinson has made an earth-shattering discovery. I hesitate to even repeat his finding because I know the utterly devastating effect in may have on our commitment to sola Scripture. But after much fasting and prayer and trepidation, I decided that it’s better if you hear it from me rather than see it splashed across the front page of the New York Times.

Sensational revelations of this magnitude can only be kept under wraps for so long. It’s only a matter of time before someone scoops his undercover story.

So what is his bombshell?

Take a deep breath. In case of cardiac arrest, keep your cellphone handy to dial 911. Or go ahead and dial 911 as a precautionary measure.

Here goes: Perry Robinson thinks that he has uncovered some evidence that some Protestants are sometimes inconsistent in their application of sola Scriptura.

Okay, I finally got the words out. Are you still with me?

But before you strip down to your tighty-whities and swim the Bosporus, I implore you to give me at least one chance to see if I can’t patch up the irreparable damage which this utterly damning admission may have had on the Protestant rule of faith.

ii) I should add that Perry has a very expansive definition of inconsistency. In his definition, it is not enough that you are personally consistent in your application sola Scriptura.

No. In his definition, you are inconsistent if someone you know or read about in a church history book is inconsistent, and you fail to respond by going on a hunger strike or picket the ETS.

The bottom line is that if anyone, anywhere, and at anytime, has ever been inconsistent in the application of sola Scripture, then, by strict implication, sola Scriptura cannot be the true rule of faith. The inexorable force of Robinson’s logic is irrefutable, wouldn’t you say?

iii) Okay, I guess it’s time for true confessions. Let’s take a personal example. Although I have been known to occasionally attend an Orthodox Easter service, I generally observe Easter according to the Western calendar.

And why is that? In a word: tradition.

I’m a Protestant. As such, I’m an heir to the Latin church rather than the Eastern church.

Is that a shocking admission on my part? Have I played into Perry’s hands?

In fact, I’ll take it a step further. In the Quartodeciman controversy, there’s no doubt in my mind which side had the better of the argument, and it wasn’t the pope.

iv) So why do I follow tradition on this point, and “Catholic” tradition in particular? Simple: the date on which we celebrate Easter is adiaphorous.

On this issue I go along with social convention because there’s no overriding reason to buck convention. It’s not as if Scripture commits us to a particular date to celebrate Eastern.

v) Which brings us to another point: these debates are often asymmetrical, for one side has bigger investment in the outcome than the other. The question of the “true” church year is a big issue in Orthodoxy. Just consider the Greek Old Calendarists.

One of Perry’s problems is that just because something happens to a big issue for him, he thinks it ought to be a big issue for everyone else. Take divine simplicity. He makes a big deal about this because it is a big deal for Orthodox theology. To Perry’s way of thinking, divine simplicity is incompatible with his dogmatic commitment to libertarian freewill.

But many Evangelicals would never make that connection in the first place. And even if they did, many Evangelicals are not committed to libertarian freewill, so they don’t have the same stake in this debate.

vi) Or take the Filioque. Why do most Evangelicals recite the Filioque? Because it’s in their version of the Nicene creed. And why is that? Because their version is a translation of a Latin exemplar. And why is that? Because (most) Evangelicals are heirs of the Latin church.

Many or most of them recite the Filioque because it’s part of their tradition. A tradition of the Western church. A tradition they inherited from the Western Church rather than the Eastern Church inasmuch as they are Western Christians rather than Eastern Christians. And, of course, you could say the same thing in reverse regarding Eastern Christians.

Now, watch Perry pounce. “See!” he will exclaim. “Steve Hays has just proven my point!”

Well, yes and no. I’m happy to concede that many Evangelicals unthinkingly conserve certain residual tidbits of old controversies which may or may not be well-founded in Scripture. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them don’t know the historical background of Double Procession.

But, of course, one could say the same thing about many or most Orthodox believers. They rubberstamp the theological tradition in which they were socialized.

If fact, Perry has even admitted that many of the Orthodox—whether converts or cradle communicants—are helpless at defending their rote belief-system:

“I think that the Orthodox had better wise up because the novlty of being Orthodox and ethnic conclave won’t protect us much longer from Protestant missionaries. They are already showing up our festivals like they did last year passing out tracts. It won’t be long till they start picking off members in large numbers.”

“As things stand the general feel of things is that one becomes Orthodox because of smell, bells and pretty pictures. I think we can do better, lots better. This is not to say that Orthodox can be reduced to a rational scheme, because it can’t. It is to say that the Fathers used arguments and there are clear logical links between the things they taught in the main. Often converts are warry of rationalism, but they don’t seem to be concerned about going into the opposite error of something like Otto’s Kantianism in The Idea of the Holy where what passes for religion is a non-rational nebulous feeling. People often favor this because it gives them a one up, a place that can’t be criticized, but it also makes them irrelevant and equalizes their positions with all kinds of non-personal religions. Such a view isn’t Incarnational but Apollinarian.”

vii) And there are a couple of obvious reasons why many Evangelicals haven’t given much thought to these questions. For one thing, Rome was the sparring partner in the Reformation, not Constantinople. The Reformation was not a movement in reaction to Orthodox distinctives, but certain Romish distinctives.

vii) In addition, the Protestant Reformers had their own theological priorities. Constantinople wasn’t setting the agenda.

The Filioque is another example of a lop-sided issue. For this is more important to Orthodox theology than it is to Evangelical theology. The issue is more important to their model of the Trinity, and it’s more important to their concept of ecclesiastical authority.

Who gets to decide: Constantinople or Rome? In the high-church tradition, that’s a vital question. Within Evangelicalism, that’s a dead question.

viii) Another problem is that Perry has a double standard. Indeed, more than one. I recently pointed out that Timothy Ware regards universalism as a live option. Perry demurred. He insisted that universalism was out of bounds in Orthodox theology.

Ware was simply wrong. But that’s okay, because Orthodox ecclesiology admits that a bishop can be wrong. Thus saith the Robinson.

So, for Perry, if an Orthodox bishop is inconsistent, that doesn’t invalidate the Orthodox rule of faith—but if a Protestant is inconsistent, then that does invalidate the Protestant rule of faith.

And this is especially duplicitous when you consider the fact that the Orthodox church is a more authoritarian institution than the Evangelical movement, so these inconsistencies should be more of a problem for Orthodoxy than they are for Evangelicalism.

ix) And here’s another one of his double standards. On the one hand he faults Evangelicals if they blindly recite creeds containing certain propositions that allegedly lack Scriptural support.

On the other hand, he will also fault an Evangelical who is prepared to buck creedal tradition in case he thinks a certain creedal statement lacks Scriptural support.

This is because Perry is an unprincipled partisan. He’s looking for emotional or political leverage (in the sense of church politics) to make Evangelicals capitulate to Orthodoxy through his use of rhetorical extortion.

x) Let’s switch from Perry’s double standards to Perry’s straw man arguments.

“Either Sola Scriptura doesn’t logically preclude the innovation and codification of major theological error or very few if any Protestant bodies have been using it correctly in relation to the doctrine of God.”

a) Since when was the case for sola Scriptura ever predicated on the assumption that sola Scriptura cannot be the true rule of faith unless it logically precludes the innovation or codification of error?

b) What “major” theological errors does he have in mind? Creation ex nihilo? But he presumably believes in that.

What about divine simplicity or Double Procession? He may, indeed, regard these as major theological errors, but that merely begs the question in favor of Orthodoxy.

c) Moreover, he’s moving the goal post. His original allegation was that Evangelicals are guilty of affirming certain doctrines that lack adequate Scriptural support.

Even if that charge were true, it doesn’t’ imply that these are major theological errors. To say there’s insufficient evidence for what you believe is hardly equivalent to saying that what you believe is positively erroneous. Insufficient evidence isn’t the same thing as counterevidence.

Suppose I think it’s going to rain tomorrow. I believe that because I read it in the newspaper. I think I read it in yesterday’s paper, when I was at the barbershop.

But I’m wrong about that. The paper was from last week. It didn’t give tomorrow’s weather report.

Clearly my evidence for believing that it will rain tomorrow is insufficient. Does it follow from this that it won’t rain tomorrow? Not in the least.

“If Sola Scriptura were true, when applied correctly not only should it adjudcate such matters but it should preclude such doctrines.”

This is circular. At most, it would preclude error when correctly applied. But it doesn’t preclude an incorrect application. For that matter, it doesn’t preclude a lack of application—whether correct or incorrect.

So even if he could identify “major theological errors” in Protestant theology, that would not invalidate sola Scriptura.

The Bible is not a linebacker or bar bouncer. It doesn’t block or tackle a heretic.

It’s simply a rule of faith. A heretic is at liberty to disregard the rule of faith—although he does so at his immortal peril.

“If Sola Scriptura were true, it should when used correctly produce only teachings that bind the conscience of a believer.”

And how does that conclusion undermine the premise?

xi) Here’s another straw man argument:

“”He [Steve Hays] just posted to articles that he thinks are sufficient to answer my challenge… What will become apparent is that Steve hasn’t done his homework if he thinks the Bray article is going to do any real work for him... If he had read anything substantial he would not have proffered the article as scriptural proof or any other kind, if he even read the article.”

But that’s not the reason I gave for citing the articles. If you go back and reread what I wrote, this is what I actually said:

“He acts as if he’s leveling novel objections which would leave a Protestant speechless. Before he raises an objection, why doesn’t he bother to do a bit of research in order to see if his objection has already been addressed? If there are preexisting answers in the public domain, shouldn’t he at least acknowledge the answers and interact with the answers?”

Perry is only now beginning to do what he should have done the first time, and he’s only doing it in response to what I wrote.

xii) Here’s another straw man argument:

“(You can see how indebted Hays is to this Platonism here).”

Except that if you click on the link, it doesn’t show you how indebted I am to Platonism. Perry has done nothing to actually demonstrate my intellectual indebtedness to Platonism.


“What was especially funny was Steve’s invocation of Platonism to deny that God’s glory is visible, even though Scripture says otherwise (Lev 9:6, Num 20:6, Ex 34:29-35) All one has to do is read Augustine’s De Trinitate books 1-6 to see the same Platonic moves to deny God’s visibility, which incidentally was the same line of thinking that the Arians employed to deny the divinity of the Son.”

a) Once more, where do I invoke Platonism to deny God’s visible glory? Did he document that claim? No.

b) And he’s also equivocating over the relation between God and God’s glory. I’ve discussed that in some detail.

xiii) Here’s another straw man argument:

“Of course, he lists no article on divine simplicity. And there is a good reason for that. Steve knows that it is not justifiable by Scripture alone.

Perry needs to use some Windex on his crystal ball.

a) One reason I didn’t list an article on divine simplicity is because I’d already explained the way in which I’d defend a version of that doctrine from Scripture in my earlier reply to Perry:

Does Perry suffer from short-term memory loss?

b) I was also confining myself to online articles for the convenience of the reader, since online articles are available to everyone who has internet access, and if they didn’t have internet access they wouldn’t be reading my blog in the first place.

xiv) One more straw man argument—indeed, several bundled into one:

“What we need from Hays via Bray is a scriptural demonstration where the doctrine is taught…In fact, I have to wonder if Hays even read the article for Bray concedes that the doctrine lacks explicit scriptural warrant... The point is that the doctrine is supposed to be justifiable on the grounds of Sola Scriptura and this article by Hays is supposed to be the proof.”
Several problems:

a) I never said if Bray represented my own position. That wasn’t the point. Rather, the point, which I clearly stated in my original post, is that Perry is accusing Evangelicals of paying lip service to sola Scriptura while they rubberstamp piece of traditional theology that cannot be supported by Scripture alone.

And the reason I cited Bray and Copan, as I explained at the time, is to show that Perry hadn’t done his homework when he leveled a charge like that—for there are Evangelicals who have made a good faith effort to do the very thing he denies.

b) I already explained my position on the Filioque in my original reply to Perry:

Does he suffer from short-term memory loss?

c) The Protestant rule of faith has never maintained that we need “explicit” Scriptural warrant for what we believe.

d) In addition, Perry can’t keep track of his own argument. With reference to divine simplicity he said: “It matters not if Steve personally subscribes to it.”

In consistency, he would say the same thing about my personal view of Double Procession or creation ex nihilo.

In that event, it doesn’t matter to Perry what I personally think of Copan’s performance or Bray’s performance. Whether I agree or disagree is immaterial to his argument.

xv) On a different note, consider this call to arms:

“(I encourage Catholic readers to start going through systematic theologies to start finding other doctrines that are specifically philosophical in content and run the same kind of argument. Go get’em boys!)”

So Perry makes common cause with the Papists. But aren’t they guilty of “major theological errors” or even heresies—some of which, according to Robinson—were passed down to Evangelicalism?

When Vlad the Impaler made common cause with the Hungarian Catholics to beat back the Saracens, he was excommunicated by the Orthodox church. Evidently, the hierarchs have gone soft on church discipline since those halcyon days.

xvi) What about this inflated claim:

“We aren’t arguing on his turf. He made a simple mistake. He came into my backyard. I pretty much know what is out there in terms of criticisms of my view. I know the Classical Protestant tradition fairly well. And I know my own tradition better and have greater resources than an outsider like Steve. Steve needs to learn to stay out of other people’s backyard. Read the sign, dude. Beware of dog.”

“His” backyard? I didn’t realize until now that Perry holds the title-deed to the Orthodox church. I’m sure a lot of money had to change hands to expedite that transaction. Reminds me of how Steven Segal became the reincarnation of a Tibetan lama.

xvii) Finally, what does Perry’s alternative amount to, anyway? Take creation ex nihilo. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Perry is right. If creation ex nihilo is not clearly revealed by God, either implicitly or explicitly, what does Orthodoxy do to make up for that alleged deficiency? There are only two possible alternatives:

a) Orthodox tradition dogmatizes a philosophical position that lacks revelatory warrant.

b) Orthodox tradition supplies a new revelation on creation ex nihilo.

War & Religion & The New Atheism & Three Solutions

On the one hand you have the Dawkins', the Harris', and the Hitchens' all claiming that "religion is the main cause of wars." And that, "If religion would end, so would wars." Now, one will notice, if one has bothered to read these books, that these claims are hardly, if ever, backed up by serious scientific research and investigation. This is interesting in and of itself since they purport to chastise believers for not believing their dogmas on "scientific grounds." Sure, these champions for "free thought" will list dozens of wars where religion can be seen to be involved, or the leaders perhaps religious zealots, but there is no analysis of the situation. Thus, they leave the reader with the idea that it is religion that is to blame for all these horrors. This disrespects the reader. And, indeed, since most Christians don't even bother to read their insulting diatribes (except those weird souls called "Christian apologists") where they and their beliefs are mocked from the first page all the way to the last, these books are mostly for the choir. Perhaps Hitchens claims that his "intended audience" is religious believers, but when he insults and ridicules them on the very first page, I highly doubt he's serious in his claim. He's like the husband who says he got the 50 inch plasma T.V. for his wife, when in reality he got it for the NFL Network (every single football game) he ordered, and for TUF on Spike. The wife hardly feels flattered, needless to say.

Well, is "religion" the cause of our problems? If "religion" (notice these terms are never defined) was gone, would wars follow them? David Livingstone Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of New England, and an atheist, has written a book called "The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War." In it he claims to analyze war as a philosopher and a researcher. He puts in some serious time looking at "war." As an atheist, and an ardent evolutionist (co-founder of the Institute for Cognitive Science and Evolutionary Psychology), what has his hard thinking and long hours of research led him to find?

"War can be approached from many angles. We can consider it from the standpoint of economics, politics, history, ideology, ethics, and various other disciplines. All of these are important, but there is one dimension that underpins them all: the bedrock of human nature." (p. xiii)

"Historically, there have been two broad, sharply polarized views of the relationship between war and human nature. One is that war is human nature in the raw, stripped of the facade of contrived civility behind which we normally hide. In most recent incarnations of this ancient theory, the taste for killing is said to be written in our genes. The other is that war is nothing but a perversion of an essentially kind, compassionate, and sociable human nature and that it is culture, not biology, which make us so dangerous to one another. In fact, both of these images are gross oversimplifications: both are true, and both are false. Human beings are capable of almost unimaginable violence and cruelty toward one another, and there is reason to believe that this dogged aggressiveness is grounded in our genes. But we are also enormously sociable, cooperative creatures with an elemental horror of shedding human blood, and this, too, seems to be embedded in the core of human nature. Strange as it may sound, I believe that war is caused by both of these forces working in tandem; it is a child of ambivalence, a compromise between two opposing sides of human nature." (p. xiv, emphasis original)

"What evidence was that these people [who cased wars or acts of terror or brutal slayings] were insane? There is usually none. The psychologists who painstakingly sifted through the data on the senior Nazi officer brought to justice in the Nuremberg trials found that ‘high-ranking Nazi war criminals … participated in atrocities without having diagnosable impairments that would account for their actions.’ They were ‘ as diverse a group as one might find in our government today, or in the leadership of the PTA.’ If the Nazi leaders were not deranged, what about the rank and file who did Hitler’s dirty work? What about the members of the Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units that committed atrocities like the mass killing at Babi Yar, where 33,000 Jews, as well as many gypsies and mental patients, were machine-gunned to death during two crisp autumn days in 1941? Do you think these men must have been psychopaths or Nazi Zealots? If so, you are wrong. There is not a shred of evidence to suggest that they were anything other than ordinary German citizens. ‘The system and rhythm of mass extermination,” observes journalist Heinz Hohne, “were directed by … worthy family men.” The men of the German Reserve Police Battalion 101, a killing squad in Poland who were involved in the shooting of at least 38,000 Jews and the deportation of a further 83,000 to the Treblinka death camp, were ordinary middle-aged family men without either military training or ideological indoctrination. ‘The truth seems to be,’ writes psychologist James Waller, ‘that the most outstanding characteristic of perpetrators of extraordinary evil lies in their normality, not their abnormality.’ Purveyors of violence, terrorists, and merchants of genocidal destruction are, more often than not, people who fit the profile that Primo Levi panted of his Nazi jailers at Auschwitz: ‘average human beings, averagely intelligent, averagely wicked … they had our faces.’ To Hannah Arendt they were ‘terribly and terrifyingly normal.’ They could be your neighbors, parents, or children. They could be you.” (p. 4)

“Wars are purposeful. They are fought for resources, lebensraum, oil, gold, food, and water or peculiarly abstract or imaginary goods like God, honor, race, democracy, and destiny” (p. 7)

“Hobbes thought that antagonism simmers beneath the surface of all human interactions, constantly threatening to erupt into lethal violence, and the problem lay in human equality.” (p.9, ).

And so on the one hand we have those in the New Atheist camp that wish to blame wars on religion, or religious belief, and on the other hand we have philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and myriad researches who point out that wars are fought for an abundance of reasons - belief in God being only one of the contributing factors for some wars - but the underlying cause is human nature. It is man that causes war. Man is the problem. And, these so-called butchers are just like you and me.

It seems to me that Christians have been saying this for a long time. Man’s sinful nature is a major cause of the world’s problems. Southern Presbyterian R.L. Dabney says that when we speak of man being sinful by nature we mean, “the evil quality which characterizes man's natural disposition and will. We call this sin of nature original, because each fallen man is born with it, and because it is the source or origin in each man of his actual transgressions.” What is needed, then, isn’t books by The New Atheism telling people that religion (again, a word they always fail to define) is the root of all evil. As shown above, even if religion was removed, war would still rage. And, man would still be here. There would be something else to fight over. There always is. The New Atheists have done us a disservice in their sloppy overgeneralizations. They have made those atheists (mainly the young and impressionable militant types who live in cyber-space) who have trotted out their arguments look like uneducated, sloppy thinkers. Rather than carefully think through these issues they have, as David Livingstone Smith says following Plato, failed to “carve nature at its joints,” but have opted to hack off parts “like a clumsy butcher” (p. 15). So, not only have they been sloppy in their generalizations, failing to note the abundant causes of war and violence, the more careful thinkers in the atheist community have noted that they haven’t even needled the correct problem, the underlying source of war and violence - man.

Now, Smith argues that man can get around this genetic problem by lifting himself up by his own bootstraps, so to speak (p. 27). Man is the problem, and paradoxically, man is the solution to the problem! Man is the Messiah. We will save ourselves. But we will still be man. But this Messiah is a false Messiah. Smith only has what Dawkins would call blind faith in man’s ability to save himself. Smith ends his book by saying this of war and killing: “Both are deeply rooted in human nature, and neither can be extirpated. If I am right, we will never stop men from enjoying war, and trying to do so is a fools errand. The most that we can hope for, in the end, is for men to detest it more than they enjoy it, and the only way to shift the balance is to expose the self-deception that makes killing bearable” (p. 215). And so on the one side we have anti-intellectual men who have not done their homework and thus cannot hope to provide a solution having failed to grasp the problem, on the other side some atheists have drawn close to the problem, but there is no solution other than that of faith, mere hope.

This hope seems totally blind given that normal, intelligent, seemingly emotionally stable and compassionate men like, say, Winston Churchill could claim “I love this war. I know it’s smashing and shattering thousands every moment - and yet - I enjoy every second of it.” And “philosopher-soldier” J. Glenn Grey describes man’s thoughts about killing in WWII: “Happiness is doubtless the wrong word for the satisfaction that men experience when they are possessed by the lust to destroy and kill their kind.” And, take the words of Henri de Man, a soldier in WWI who later became leader of the Belgian Socialist party. He was a cultivated and intelligent person, but he says that after he secured his first hit on an enemy position and saw pieces of men’s bodies fly up in the air, and listened to the screams of the wounded, he “experienced such extreme pleasure that he wept for joy.” And, Vietnam veteran Philip Caputo says that his experience in war was “like getting screwed for the first time,” and it was an “ache as profound as the ache of orgasm.”

Smith thinks the above is the “delusion” that we must escape. He does not tell us how except to say that we can “use nature against nature” (p. 215), like how we use our desire for a long-term companion to ward off our desire to sleep with anything that breathes. But of course if you’re smart, like most men think they are, they‘d rather become good liars and end up sleeping with everything that breathes, while also keeping their wife in the dark. Have their cake and eat it too. Maybe like the formation of the atheist universe, it will just happen. Perhaps given Smith’s worldview, the above is no delusion. Perhaps the delusion is shaking your fist at Mother Nature. At transcending your genes. This is what Bertrand Russell thought:

“Brief and powerless is Man's life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned to-day to lose his dearest, to-morrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built; undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power.”

Thus the desire to shake your fists at The Law of Natuture is the delusion. But some like to live in a delusion. In the Christian worldview, we teach that man needs a new nature. He is still man but his old, sinful nature, needs to die. We need new natures. This is called regeneration. B.B. Warfield expresses regeneration thusly: “Regeneration (from Lat. re-, again + generare, beget) is a theological term used to express the initial stage of the change experienced by one who enters upon the Christian life. It is derived from the New Testament, where the ‘new birth’ (1 Pet. i. 3, 23; Titus iii. 5; John iii. 3 f.) is the beginning of that ‘renewal’ which produces the ‘new creature.’” Man doesn’t contradictorily save himself, he needs a savior. This savior is Jesus Christ. This regeneration is only the start of the new life. We still have vestiges of an enemy within. So, the war to be fought is against our old self (for those hawks who love a good fight, try battling against your old self day in and day out), not necessarily against an Osama Bin Laden (there is still a place for defense, but that goes beyond the scope of this entry). Even a regenerate man will still sin. But that is looking at things in a short-sighted fashion. This is the beginning of the process. (Though the here and now would change tremendously if more people were truly regenerate and looked to the principles of peace-making to solve problems.) Eventually, we will come to the place where the Prince of Peace rules. Indeed, the new heavens and earth is described in Revelation 21:25 as a city with open gates. In it’s historical context, this means safety. Cities would protect their inhabitants against attacks by closing its gates. In Isaiah 2:4 we read, “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

On the other hand, to reject this salvation, means an eternity of war. The Nazis carried out their atrocities under the umbrella of God’s restraining grace - while he waits for all his elect to come to him. This will be removed. Some soldiers have described war as hell. This might be closer to the truth than you think. Reading the above comments about the love many men left in an un-regenerate state have for war and killing, what might a place where these men - you included - were un-restrained - you included - from committing the kind of evil they are really capable of be like? So, trusting in the likes of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and even the more level-headed Livingstone Smith, will only get you, eventually, to a more violent place, where the wars we see will seem like a day at Disneyland. As you read this, then, and you say you really do want war and violence to stop, trust in the only man who can do the job, the God-man Jesus Christ. He will change your nature, and bring you to a place where there is no more war. Out of the three solutions to ending war, one was seen to be based on bad scholarship, over-generalizations, and a failure to cite the real cause thus failing to find a real solution; the other was seen to be somewhat contradictory in saying that man is both the problem and the solution, somewhat ignorant of man's desires, and a sort of pie in the sky "just maybe" story, though it got the problem right, it's naturalism failed to find a solution; and the last, though maybe laughed at by the atheist, seemd to get the problem right, and offer a solution that could answer the problem.

Does the world ever seem like a nightmare
Some suffer but the other ones don’t care
What does it matter if its going on elsewhere
Like it doesn’t happen of it's not happening here
There’s a girl with only a mother and her dad just won't seem to bother
No love so she finds a lover
Now she has a child who doesn’t have a father

Whoa O O I hope the Prince of peace is coming soon
Whoa O O Yeah I hope the Prince of peace is coming soon
Whoa O O We'll learn to make a plowshare from a gun
Cause we won't need them when the kingdom comes

When the Communists turn into the terrorists
But the axis came before the soviets
And before that came the confederates
We’ll always have a war to fight
You can count on this

With every cure there comes another sickness
The Earth dies with every bit of progress
We've gone deaf to the cries of oppressed
What we need is Jesus to redeem us

Whoa O O I hope the Prince of peace is coming soon
Whoa O O Yeah I hope the Prince of peace is coming soon
Whoa O O We'll learn to make a plowshare from a gun
Cause we won't need them when the kingdom comes
No we won't need them when the kingdom comes

Now the world doesn’t work cause we’ve broken it
And we need dope or Prozac just to cope with it
Now the beast speaks it's peace the congress
Plans to Propagate
Proposition 666
Hitler’s still alive in the knives of abortionists
And the news twist the truth like contortionists
And they wonder what happened to humanity
You say peace but were headed for calamity

Whoa O O I hope the Prince of peace is coming soon
Whoa O O I hope the Prince of peace is coming soon
Whoa O O We'll learn to make a plowshare from a gun
Cause we won't need them when the kingdom comes
We long for the day when we will see the heavens and the earth as they should be

- The O.C. Supertones, Prince of Peace Lyrics

Some Lesser Known Evidence Relevant To Gospel Authorship (Part 1)

In previous posts, I've discussed some of the reasons we have for trusting the traditional authorship attributions of the gospels. Before I move on to the particular line of evidence to be addressed in this series of posts, I want to review some of the issues I've discussed relevant to the authorship of the gospels in previous posts.

Human memory is more reliable than critics often suggest.

Eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the apostles were still alive when issues surrounding the authorship of the gospels were being discussed (see here and here).

The early Christians had high moral standards, even by the admission of some of their enemies.

The early Christians believed that they were the recipients of a historical revelation that warranted an interest in historical information, they maintained a system of authority that gave prominence to eyewitness testimony, and they recognized and utilized many of the historiographic standards of their day (see, for example, Richard Bauckham's Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006]).

They were aware of the possibility of forgery, and they recognized and utilized methods of avoiding forged documents: the use of recognizable handwriting (2 Thessalonians 3:17), networking (1 Corinthians 1:11), comparing manuscripts (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:30:1), punishing those who are caught in such activity (Tertullian, On Baptism, 17), analyzing writing styles (Eusebius, Church History, 7:25:8-27), etc. Polycarp expresses the general sentiment of the early Christians when he condemns "whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord" and describes the Christian interest in maintaining "the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning" (Letter To The Philippians, 7).

When disagreements existed about the authorship of a document, such as Hebrews or 2 Peter, those disagreements were mentioned explicitly and often. Even when only a small minority of people disputed the authorship of a document, like the dispute over whether the heretic Cerinthus wrote the fourth gospel, traces of such disputes were left in the historical record. Thus, when there's widespread agreement, even universal agreement, on the authorship of a gospel, that sort of agreement is accordingly significant.

The gospels' internal evidence is consistent with and suggestive of the traditional authorship attributions (see here, here, here, and here).

The gospels probably circulated with accompanying authorship attributions from the start, whether through labels, titles, or some other means.

The authorship attributions of the early Christians were often corroborated by non-Christian sources.

Such evidence is highly significant, and it's much better than what critics offer as an alternative. However, in this article and a few more in the coming days, I want to address a line of evidence that's often underestimated. The external evidence for the authorship attributions of the gospels is significantly better than is often suggested.

Sources like Papias and Irenaeus are frequently discussed in the context of gospel authorship, but without due appreciation of the significance of their testimony. It's sometimes suggested that somebody like Papias or Irenaeus either originated or popularized an authorship attribution. But what about the influence of Christians who lived prior to their time? Why do the early enemies of Christianity say nothing of a period of something like forty, fifty, or eighty years during which the gospels circulated anonymously or with different attributions than they later had? If somebody like Papias was so influential on issues of gospel authorship, then why is he mentioned so rarely in the extant ante-Nicene literature, and why did so many Christians disagree with him on other issues, for example? As we'll see in the coming days, both Papias and Irenaeus refer to sources predating them who held the same view of gospel authorship. They were passing on what they had received. They weren't originating it, and, as we'll see, they also don't seem to have been popularizing these attributions in the sense of making something become widely accepted that hadn't been previously.

As Martin Hengel notes, the circumstances in which the gospels circulated and the manner in which they were commented upon suggest that recognized authors were associated with the gospels even in their earliest decades of circulation:

"the knowledge of a widely recognized collection of the four Gospels which is used in worship is certainly substantially older than Irenaeus...Evidently Clement [of Alexandria] took it for granted that the collection of four Gospels was based on recognized church tradition and was unchallenged, since he does not have to defend it anywhere....Another comment on the name Matthew: apart from the first Gospel, to which he gives his name, Matthew plays no role in primitive Christianity. He appears only in the lists of apostles. He is only mentioned rather more frequently at a substantially later date in apocryphal writings on the basis of the unique success of the Gospel named after him. That makes it utterly improbable that the name of the apostle was attached to the Gospel only at a secondary stage, in the first decades of the second century, somewhere in the Roman empire, and that this essentially later nomenclature then established itself everywhere without opposition. How could people have arrived at this name for an anonymous Gospel in the second century, and how then would it have gained general recognition?...the First Gospel [Matthew] already established itself quickly and tenaciously in the church at the beginning of the second century...this writing [the gospel of Mark], quite novel in earliest Christianity, managed to establish itself in the communities and to be used extensively by such self-confident authors as Luke and the author of the First Gospel - in the case of Matthew around eighty percent and of Luke more than sixty percent - only because a recognized authority and not an anonymous Gentile Christian, i.e. a Mr. Nobody in the church, stood behind it....Therefore nothing has led research into the Gospels so astray as the romantic superstition involving anonymous theologically creative community collectives, which are supposed to have drafted whole writings." (The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], pp. 14, 16, 71-72, 80-81)

Commenting on the gospel of John in particular, Craig Blomberg writes:

"In fact, the variety of contexts in which Irenaeus refers to John and/or his Gospel demonstrates that it was already commonly believed around the empire that the son of Zebedee authored this work (Lewis 1908: 24-32)." (The Historical Reliability Of John's Gospel [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001], p. 25)

If the traditional gospel authorship attributions were significantly disputed in Irenaeus' day, he probably wouldn't have written as he did. This is especially evident in book 3 of his treatise Against Heresies, where a rejection of his authorship attributions for the gospels would radically undermine his argument.

Similarly, Tertullian's comments on gospel authorship rest on widespread acceptance of those attributions, not just his own acceptance of them:

"So I affirm that among them - and I am not now speaking only of apostolic churches, but of all those which are in alliance with them in the fellowship of the mystery - that gospel of Luke which we at this moment retain has stood firm since its earliest publication, whereas Marcion's is to most people not even known, and by those to whom it is known is also by the same reason condemned. Admittedly that gospel too has its churches; but they are its own, of late arrival and spurious: if you search out their ancestry you are more likely to find it apostatic than apostolic, having for founder either Marcion or someone from Marcion's hive. Even wasps make combs, and Marcionites make churches. That same authority of the apostolic churches will stand as witness also for the other gospels, which no less than Luke's we possess by their agency and according to their text - I mean John's and Matthew's, though that which Mark produced is stated to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was. Luke's narrative also they usually attribute to Paul. It is permissible for the works which disciples published to be regarded as belonging to their masters." (Against Marcion, 4:5)

When people like Papias, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian commented on gospel authorship, they weren't just expressing their own views. They repeatedly, sometimes implicitly and sometimes explicitly, express their dependence on or agreement with other sources. As Martin Hengel explains, concerning written sources:

"In this connection we should not forget that simply of the second-century Christian writings known to us by title, around 85% have been lost. The real loss must be substantially higher." (The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], p. 55)

The Christians who agreed unanimously about the authorship of three of the gospels, and nearly unanimously about the authorship of the fourth gospel, did so with access to far more evidence than we have before us today.

And the lateness of some of our extant sources isn't as significant as some critics make it out to be. As Craig Keener explains, while commenting on the gospel of John:

"Granted, much of the evidence for the Gospel's [John's] authorship - like most of our external attestation for ancient works - is not from the generation immediately following the Gospel" (The Gospel Of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], p. 100)

Notice the phrase "like most of our external attestation for ancient works". Critics often hold Christian documents to a different standard than non-Christian documents. Accepting relatively late attributions for those non-Christian documents makes sense, for a variety of reasons, such as the fact that significant earlier disputes about authorship probably would be reflected in later sources, if such earlier disputes occurred. The same is true of Christian documents. And some of those Christian documents, including the gospels, do have external testimony "from the generation immediately following the Gospel". I'll discuss some examples, as well as other relevant evidence, in the coming days.

Friday, August 31, 2007

How to do Catholic apologetics without doing Catholic apologetics

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Jonathan Prejean has responded, sort of, to something I wrote.1

The paradoxical thing about Prejean is that he’s a Catholic apologist who never does Catholic apologetics. He never gets around to defending his own faith.

I suppose that there’s a roundabout logic to his roundaboutness. After all, if Catholicism is specifically indefensible, then it would be a suicide mission to vainly defend the specifics of your faith with specific arguments.

Prejean doesn’t offer historical or exegetical arguments for his faith since, if he ever got that down-to-earth, his arguments would fall prey to specific counterarguments.

In that respect he’s several steps ahead of other Catholic apologists like Hahn, Keating, and Armstrong. Realizing the futility of their approach, he tries to put as much distance as possible between his faith and supporting arguments specific to his faith.

His strategy is to dig a very deep moat, raise the drawbridge, retreat into the citadel of natural theology, and have an underground tunnel to Byzantium in case the citadel is overrun.

My earlier words will be in red, while his will be in blue:
"It's hardly a coincidence that Mormons view Jewish anthropomorphism as philosophically normative; that appears to be what sola scriptura entails."

i) This is a category mistake, since sola Scriptura doesn’t entail any particular interpretation of Scripture. Sola Scriptura is a rule of faith, not a hermeneutical prediction.

JP> It's not a category mistake; Hays simply hasn't responded to my argument that something can't possible serve as a formal rule unless it adjudicates exactly those sorts of hermeneutical disputes. That was the whole argument regarding formal authority.
It’s true that, in this case, I didn’t respond to his other argument ("that something can't possible serve as a formal rule unless it adjudicates exactly those sorts of hermeneutical disputes.")

And that’s because I was responding to a different argument of his. I didn’t respond to that argument here, because I was responding to this argument—on what sola Scriptura allegedly entails.

Notice that Prejean, instead of standing behind his argument, and explaining why his argument was not a category mistakes, simply issues a denial and then changes the subject.

So he has done nothing whatsoever to rebut the charge that his contention was a category mistake. Instead, he resorted to a bait-and-switch maneuver, swapping out the argument of his I did respond to, and swapping in another argument of his.

Incidentally, I do get around to responding to his other argument as well. Just not here.

I’m taking his arguments one a time. If he lacks confidence in his arguments, that’s his problem, not mine.
ii) Jews themselves don’t construe "Jewish anthropomorphism" as philosophically normative in the Mormon sense of taking these anthropomorphic passages literally. Simply put, Jewish theism is a world apart from Mormon theism.

JP> I don't disagree. But Protestants following them do take literally a large number of passages about God "electing," etc., that are philosophically absurd on a literal construction. Obviously, God doesn't literally choose among people.
This is an assertion in place of an argument—and a question-begging assertion at that.
iii) The Bible itself, in certain programmatic statements, distinguishes between a divine and human viewpoint (e.g. Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29). Therefore, since Scripture itself internalizes a distinction between literal and anthropomorphic depictions of the divine, one doesn’t need to ransack natural theology to draw this distinction—for Scripture already differentiates and prioritizes those alternating perspectives.

JP> The irony here is that the two passages are both anthropomorphic, treating God as if He were literally a human agent, speaking and promising. Obviously, these are figures of the impassibility of the divine nature; it would be silly to imagine God as a being that makes choices, elects, or takes action in time and is then bound to what He did "before."
i) Here he makes a gesture in the direction of explaining himself. Unfortunately, he continues to beg the question.

Indeed, he’s using the same argument that atheologians like Kai Nielsen frequently use to prove (to their own satisfaction) that a timeless, discarnate being cannot be a person or personal agent: hence, God does not exist.

Prejean is assuming, without benefit of argument, that "electing" is a temporal action. Ironically, Prejean is the one who is anthropomorphizing the godhead.

It is true that when human beings make choices, there is a temporal process of deliberation, as well as an interval between the mental resolve and its practical execution. But to say on this account that God cannot choose is to illicitly equate the essential nature of choice with an incidental mode of subsistence.

Prejean has offered no argument to show that choice is inherently temporal, such that there would be a time before God made a choice, and a time subsequent to his choice. Same thing with "promising." Where is Prejean’s actual argument that only a temporal agent can make a promise?

ii) Likewise, he fails to distinguish between a timeless cause and a temporal effect. God’s intentions are effected in time, without God himself acting in time. His intention is not, itself, temporal.

iii) On a related note, Prejean also fails to take into account the use of second causes to facilitate God’s will.

Is the idea of divine speech inherently anthropomorphic? No. Prejean is lifting this verse out of context. Indeed, this very chapter supplies the context.

Who is the speaker? Samuel. Samuel is a prophet. He is speaking on God’s behalf—as a mouthpiece for God Almighty.

So God uses human beings to communicate his message. There is nothing figurative about that predication or process. The prophets are divine spokesmen. Recipients of visions and auditions.

And God has other conduits to convey his message. He can speak through an angel. He can speak by means of a theophany. He can cause letters to be inscribed on stone.

Scripture doesn’t describe divine speech in anthropomorphic terms. Rather, it describes a number of different, but literal modes of divine speech.

When God inspires a prophet, he forms a set of verbalized thoughts in the mind of the prophet. This is divine speech because God inspired the words and sentences. We can predicate the speech to God because God inspired the words the prophet is uttering. There’s an exact match between what the prophet says and what the Lord caused him to say. Nothing the least bit figurative or anthropomorphic about that correspondence.

Prejean has a very crude, philosophically naïve, and Biblically uninformed idea of what divine speech amounts to. That’s because he disdains the Bible, so he doesn’t make any effort to even understand the nature of the claim.
I have no doubt that "pre-philosophical" OT authors might have literally meant what they intended here, but natural theology demands a hermeneutical principle that takes the literal sentiment for what it analogously symbolizes.
So he frankly admits that, from his standpoint, the OT authors were simply mistaken. They meant well. And they genuinely meant to attribute these mental states and actions to God. But they were wrong.

We know better. Natural theology has falsified their claims.

I’m not going to take the time, here and now, to argue with Prejean’s low view of Scripture. It’s sufficient to merely highlight his infidelity.

I appreciate the way in which he candidly distinguishes his Catholic faith from Bible-believing Evangelicalism. He presents the alternatives is refreshingly stark terms.
"I can't say that I see much merit in the more general suggestion of how Catholics should argue with Protestants. The primary refutation of sola scriptura is that it is absurd as a matter of natural theology and that its conclusions deny certain conclusions of natural theology."

i) So he doesn’t even entertain the self-witness of Scripture as a relevant consideration.

JP> From a normative perspective, that appeal would be viciously circular. Scripture might be obviously false if its self-witness were contradictory, but self-witness can't say anything positive about truth.
It would be viciously circular if I were arguing with an atheist. But when two professing Christians get into a debate, is it viciously circular to assume that both sides take the self-witness of Scripture as a given?

Historically, Catholicism does acknowledge the Bible to be the word of God. So, when I’m debating with a Catholic apologist, how is it viciously circular for me to take a doctrine for granted that we both share in common?

Or do we? It’s clear from Prejean’s reaction that Catholicism and atheism are interchangeable. Hence, it would be viciously circular to grant the identity of Scripture as the word of God when debating with a Catholic apologist. File that for future reference.

Once again, I appreciate Prejean’s frank infidelity. It’s a real time saver.
ii) How does he identify natural theology? Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as natural theology. What we have, rather, is a bewildering variety of natural theologies.

JP> Strictly speaking, the claim that there is no such thing as natural theology would entail the claim that nothing at all can be known about God from existence.
Prejean is prevaricating. This is what I actually said, in full:
Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as natural theology. What we have, rather, is a bewildering variety of natural theologies.
Notice that he quotes the first sentence, but omits the second sentence—which qualifies the force of the first sentence.

So what I actually said is that there’s no such thing as natural theology (singular) because what we have instead is a variety of competing models of natural theology.

But Prejean is too dishonest to quote me in full since that would ill-serve his purpose. Not that one must always quote someone in full, but when you partially quote someone in a way that deliberately leaves a false impression, then that is dishonest.

Which is fine with me. If Prejean can’t defend his position by honest methods, that’s a tacit admission that his position is indefensible.
Innate ideas are simply nonsense
Wow, how’s that for a closely-reasoned argument.
Representational indirect realism using innate ideas is incompatible with the hylomorphism required to justify alethic realism, Augustinian exemplarism, and any coherent account of Cartesian dualism.
i) Another assertion in lieu of an argument. In addition, I didn’t say that indirect realism uses innate idea. Indirect realism is a theory of perception. My immediate point is that some of our knowledge is innate, while some of our knowledge is acquired—via perception.

ii) At the same time, there is a relationship between the two modes of knowledge. Unless we were endowed with an innate classification system, we would be unable to classify raw sensory input. You can’t bootstrap a classification system. Without some preexisting categories to sort out the raw data, it remains a jumble. Some slots must already be in place to mentally organize, analyze, and synthesize the input.
But that simply goes to show that there are a lot of wrong conclusions that don't vitiate the correctness of natural theology generally.
Natural theology is not generally correct (or incorrect) since there’s no such thing as natural theology in general. To assess the correctness of natural theology, you must begin by selecting the correct version of natural theology.
JP> True. And most everyone was wrong about something. The good thing about continuity is that you can actually progress and get more things right.
Yes, if you have a criterion for continuity and progress. Yet he is citing natural theology as his criterion. But when you have a number of competing models, then it begs the question to cite natural theology as the criterion. What is his criterion to distinguish the correct version from the erroneous versions?
JP> Spoken like a true idealist! It's all about the "interpretive grid."
To the contrary, I’m addressing Prejean on his own grounds. He’s the one who is using natural theology as an interpretive grid which he superimposes on Scripture.

So, yes, the onus lies on him to specify and defend which version of natural theology functions as his interpretive grid.

But, as usual, his response is to indulge in evasive maneuvers. When you confront him on his own grounds, he pushes the eject button and parachutes out of his flaming plane.

If I were in his situation, I’d be tempted to do the same thing. But it would be even better not to put yourself in that situation in the first place.
Reality dictating knowledge? Pshaw! That might require that even Scripture have to be consistent with external knowledge before it could be affirmed as true. But in the idealist world of divine revelation, this is entirely opposite. Scripture tells you what is real, no matter what you know, because what's real is what's in your head. If God puts something in your head, that is more "ultimate" than your experience.
i) Once more, this reveals quite a lot about his view of divine revelation, does it not? Reality is one thing, and revelation is another.

ii) Of course, from a Christian standpoint, in contrast to Prejean’s, divine revelation is a revelation about reality.

iii) And what about his appeal to "experience"? Does "experience" distinguish what is real from what is unreal? Don’t we experience dreams? Isn’t a hallucination a real experience? I didn’t hallucinate that I was hallucinating.
"Nonsense on stilts" is, I believe, the apt historical description of that.
But you can dream about a pair of stilts. Or hallucinate. How does raw experience adjudicate between real stilts and your stilted dream or hallucination?
This is a purely a priori postulate. And one problem with this stipulation is that we find no precedent for his armchair postulate in the life of the old covenant community. God did not endow a definite set of individuals with the power to resolve doctrinal disputes. So why should we take Prejean’s dicta seriously?

JP> Indeed, I consider the old covenant community to be evidence that lack of a stable, formal authority is doomed to failure. Israel seems like an object lesson of the principle that I deductively derived (not a priori) from what struck me as reasonably descriptions of the operation of actual authorities (induced from actual knowledge). Every time that God gave them some sort of gift to help them stay on the straight and narrow, they spurned it. If that didn't show the need for the constant presence of God's authority, I don't know what would.
In what sense was the OT rule of faith a failure? What does it mean for something to fail?

i) Suppose your hard drive fails. We might chalk that up to a design defect. And the next model should correct for that failure.

ii) But suppose it’s one of those counterterrorist scenarios. The jihadis threaten to blow up New York unless we hand over a computer with sensitive military schematics.

And suppose the Pentagon gives into the demand, but with a catch. It builds a design flaw into the hard drive to ensure that the hard drive will fail. And this buys us time to track down the jihadis.

Was this a failure? The question is ambiguous. In this case, it was designed to fail—like planned obsolescence.

iii) And let’s remember the larger context of our debate. The high-church contention is that sola scripture is a false rule of faith because it "fails."

Yet Prejean just told us that the OT rule of faith was a "failure." Indeed, it was "doomed" to fail."

Does this mean the OT rule of faith was a false rule of faith? Does this mean that God did not institute or constitute the OT community of faith?

If the OT rule of faith "failed," that is not because it was flawed. To the contrary, if it failed, then it did so because it was designed to effect that particular outcome.

In fact, the OT rule of faith was a success. It succeeded in achieving the purpose that God meant for it.

iv) In addition, the word of God was never intended to yield a uniform result. The word of God serves more than one purpose. It is instrumental, both in preserving the elect and hardening the reprobate. It is also instrumental, up to a point, in restraining sin—even among the ungodly.
"My argument was essentially that, for anything to function as a binding authority, it must actually be able to bindingly resolve every dispute coming under the auspices of the formal system. That means, ultimately, that if any interpretation of any material authority can be disputed, there has to be some human authority that has the power to finally resolve it, even if that power isn't exercised. Otherwise, in the end, all you have is persuasive authority, and the hope that there is actually an answer to be had if reasonable people simply exercise their God-given reason."

i) Once again, since no such authority existed in God’s constitution of the old covenant community, why should we intuit the necessity of such an institution in the life of the new covenant community?

JP> Because the old covenant community didn't work. It was dysfunctional, and the new covenant has been held out as something better.
i) And why didn’t the old covenant work? Did it not work out because the old covenant was never meant to be the true rule of faith for God’s people, at that time and place?

Let’s review the church-argument once more:

a) The true rule of faith cannot fail.

b) Sola Scriptura is a failure.

c) Therefore, sola Scripture is not the true rule of faith.

Let’s transfer that argument to the OT. Is the Catholic or Orthodox apologist prepared to carry his argument to its logical extreme?

ii) Where does Prejean locate the superiority of the new covenant? There were apostates under the old covenant. There are apostates under the new covenant. There were schismatics under the old covenant. There are schismatics under the new covenant. There were heretics under the old covenant. There are heretics under the new covenant.

There is no doubt a sense in which the new covenant is better than the old covenant. But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether it is more "successful"—as the high churchman defines success.

And, of course, there’s also something to be said for defining success and failure in Biblical terms.
Formal authority pertains to the object of faith, so the distinction between the covenants is based on the new object, not a new disposition in the subject. The improved object of faith is the Son of God subsisting in His Body, the Church.
i) This assumes that the Messiah was not the object of faith in OT piety. But I’ll pass on that for now.

ii) More to the issue at hand, how does Prejean’s explanation militate against sola Scriptura as a rule of faith? If the dispensational improvement lies in a better object of faith, then that, of itself, does nothing to secure faith in the object of faith. A rule of faith doesn’t ingenerate faith in itself and by itself. Making Christ the object of faith doesn’t forestall "anarchy" or "chaos."

The rule of faith is objective to the believer. It presents the mind with something to believe. But whether you believe it or not depends on your subjective predisposition to believe it or not. Prejean’s rule of faith is an abject failure according to his very definition of success.
"The problem I see with sola scriptura in that regard is that there is no good cause for granting authority to Scripture in the first place, so there is never more than merely probable and rebuttable warrant for any particular conclusion drawn."

Well, I suppose we should at least commend Jonathan for his candid infidelity. For him, the Word of God has no intrinsic authority. For him, the Word of God has no inherent credibility. Whatever authority we credit to Scripture is a purely secondary and derivative authority which is conferred on Scripture by some extrinsic locus of authority.

JP> Pay very close attention here, because this is a direct admission that Hays's belief is fideistic and irrational, but it's easy to miss. Hays says that my denial of the Word of God having "intrinsic authority" and "inherent credibility" is infidelity. It follows then that fidelity requires admitting these things. But "intrinsic authority" and "inherent credibility" are meaningless, nonsense in the most basic meaning of the term. So Hays is saying that faith REQUIRES you to accept something that not only has not been proved but cannot possibly be proved, because it entails something that cannot be rationally believed. That's fideism in a nutshell
Only one problem: I never said what Prejean imputed to me. Prejean is the one who said that "intrinsic authority" and "inherent credibility" are meaningless, nonsense in the most basic meaning of the term.

So all he’s done is to draw a conclusion from his own premise, not mine. And, in that respect, his statement is another damning admission with respect to his contemptuous view of Scripture. I’ll have more to say about this at a later point.
How is Prejean’s view of Scripture any different than 18C Deism, a la Collins, Toland, Tindal, et al.?

JP> News flash: I'm Catholic. I believe that Christ is still around and active. They don't.
Okay, so his view of Christ is different. But that wasn’t the question. How does this make his view of Scripture any different?

Like Prejean, the English Deists also subordinated Scripture to natural theology. They were only prepared to believe as much of Christian doctrine as they could authorize via natural theology. Prejean is a methodological Deist. He has adopted the very same theological method as they did.
"And unlike the case of science, there's no good cause for thinking that exegesis of Scripture produces knowledge in the first place, because unlike science, its normative standards aren't justified by first principles."

So when the OT prophets interpret the Pentateuch, this exercise doesn’t yield knowledge. And when Jesus or the Apostles interpret the OT, this exercise doesn’t yield knowledge.

JP> For THEM it did, because they have a reason to accept Scriptural authority. You have no reason, so for you, it produces nothing.
See how Prejean is having to retreat from his original claim.
"One can do what conservative Evangelicals do, which is a bare, unjustified assertion of properties like inerrancy, wholeness, etc., of Scripture, which is effectively to conjure a normative authority out of nowhere."

Yes, to agree with God’s self-estimate regarding the divine authority of his word is "effectively to conjure a normative authority out of nowhere."

JP> If by "God's self-estimate" you mean your normative interpretation of Scripture, then yes, that's exactly what I mean. Viciously circular normative arguments by definition conjure a normative authority out of nowhere.
What I mean is how God views his own utterances in Scripture.
"Every allegedly divinely revealed conclusion is only as good as its weakest normative link, and there is not even a coherent way of defining what the normative principles are. Unless God has invested some definite class of people with formal divine authority (and there might be legitimate disputes of judgment as to who those people are, but one has to at least think that there are such people), the situation for arriving at theological truth outside of natural theology is hopeless."

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that "God has invested some definite class of people with formal divine authority," are there no weak links in the chain of transmission? Isn’t the dissemination of Catholic dogma a trickle down process?

JP> Hays is confusing objective authority with subjective knowledge. If there's no proper object of authority (in terms of a formal system), then you don't even get to the question of whether people can find it, because there's nothing to find.
Once again, Prejean refuses to stand behind his original argument. At best, his appeal to objective authority would only supply a necessary, but insufficient, condition of knowledge.

There is still a weak link in his chain (indeed, countless weak links) unless he can take the next step by showing how the Catholic rule of faith is able to suffice as a condition of knowledge.

Remember, there was more to his original claim than the bare possibility of knowledge. He made a claim about "arriving" at theological truth.

Prejean’s position is like saying, I’m deeply in debt, but I’ve got a million bucks in my safe. Unfortunately, I forgot the combination, so I can’t actually get to my money and pay my bills. But I’m "objectively" rich.

Or like saying, I’ve got a million bucks in a Swiss bank account, but I forgot my account number and I lost my ID.

Herein lies the vast superiority of the Catholic rule of faith.
Even if the chain of transmission is hooked into the extraordinary Magisterium at one end, as soon as the chain of transmission drops below the extraordinary Magisterium, then we’re back to a series of weak links. So, by Prejean’s own yardstick, the case for Catholic dogma is hopeless.

JP> Quite the contrary, because I believe in both natural theology and the presence of Christ in the Church, I believe that there is something out there to know. If there are screw ups in transmission, then there is some real thing to which we can turn to discern whether we've screwed up. And I would mark out one key difference between my view and Hays's view: without that external grounding in reality, competition is chaos.
i) One of the problems with this statement is that much of Christian doctrine is not confirmable by natural theology alone. Much of Christian doctrine deals with unique historical particulars or invisible realities. You can’t intuit Christian theology from the being of Being—or is it the Being of being?

ii) He’s not going to find the presence of Christ in the Church from natural theology. For that he is reliant, at best, on revealed theology.

iii) In addition, he’s implicitly operating with a correspondence theory of truth. Nothing wrong with that where it applies.

But bracketing Scripture in particular, and turning hermeneutics in general, correspondence is scarcely sufficient for doing exegesis—whether on Scripture or some uninspired text—since the meaning of one text in relation to another is more a matter of coherence rather than correspondence.

iv) Put another way, there’s a difference between establishing the meaning of a text, and establishing its veracity.

To some extent, correspondence may verify or falsify a text, but it doesn’t ascertain the meaning of the text—for the obvious reason that a false textual claim can still be meaningful. Indeed, it’s because the textual claim is meaningful apart from external corroboration that we can then test its assertions about the world in relation to the world.

For that matter, the fictional genre doesn’t even claim to be realistic. Is The Martian Chronicles grounded in reality? No.

Does this disconnect render The Martian Chronicles is unintelligible? No.

Same thing with the Divine Comedy or Lord of the Rings. Exegeting Dante or Tolkien or Bradbury doesn’t depend on how well grounded they happen to be in reality. There are right and wrong interpretations of Dante—irrespective of whether his science is right or wrong.
The reason that discussion and theory can produce answers is that reality is a forcing function on the method, and in Hays's idealism, there's no necessary correlation between knowledge and reality, because the most fundamental tenet of the whole system (Scriptural authority) comes out of nowhere. Knowledge can't depend on something internal to you, like some disposition toward Scripture, some "interpretive grid," and still be knowledge about reality.
The Bible makes self-referential claims as well as constantive claims. Prejean uses natural theology to verify or falsify the constantive claims, and then—in turn—uses the constantive claims, duly verified or falsified, to verify or falsify the self-referential claims.

Several problems:

i) He’s done nothing to establish natural theology.

ii) He’s done nothing to establish that natural theology should validate or invalidate revealed theology—as if natural theology is a source of knowledge, while revealed theology is not.

iii) He confuses interpretation with verification.

Now for the bottom line. In a different thread, Prejean went so far as to say that:
You can't rationally have faith in anything but divine acts, not accounts of divine acts, not description of divine acts.2
This exposes the depth of his infidelity. According to Prejean, you can’t have faith in what God says, but only in what he does.

Could anything be more at odds with Biblical piety? For Prejean, it’s irrational to take God at his word, to trust in his promises.

But what is Scripture if not, in large part, an account of divine deeds? It’s a running narrative of God’s creative, judicial, and redemptive deeds—from OT history through the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Historical descriptions of what God has said and done. And yet, according to Prejean, this is not an object of faith. Only the raw events, and not the record of the events, is an object of faith.

Just in passing, I wonder how many of the church fathers or scholastic theologians would agree with him.

Now let’s finish with what one of Prejean’s commenters had to say:

Check out this classic:
**"The problem I see with sola scriptura in that regard is that there is no good cause for granting authority to Scripture in the first place, so there is never more than merely probable and rebuttable warrant for any particular conclusion drawn."**

"Well, I suppose we should at least commend Jonathan for his candid infidelity. For him, the Word of God has no intrinsic authority. For him, the Word of God has no inherent credibility. Whatever authority we credit to Scripture is a purely secondary and derivative authority which is conferred on Scripture by some extrinsic locus of authority."

WOW, good one Steve. My undergraduate philosophy professor used this (on the first day of class in an introductory course) as a textbook example of sloppy thinking among Christians. Why is the Bible the Word of God? Because it says so. Why trust the Bible? Because God wrote it. How do you know God wrote it? Because the Bible says so...etc...etc...etc...

What in the world can it mean for Scripture to have "intrinsic authority" or "inherent credibility?"

Several issues:

i) I’m sorry that Joseph’s philosophy prof. is so inept. I guess that Joseph attends the same school as Apolonio.

Be that as it may, notice that Joseph has simply substituted his own caricature for what I actually said. Did I say "Why is the Bible the Word of God? Because it says so. Why trust the Bible? Because God wrote it. How do you know God wrote it? Because the Bible says so...etc...etc...etc..."

No, that was not my argument. So, if you want a textbook example of Joseph’s sloppy thinking (of which his philosophy prof. is equally guilty), here is a blatant straw man argument.

ii) And that’s not the only textbook example of Joseph’s sloppy thinking (of which his philosophy prof. is equally guilty).

There’s such a thing as an argument from authority. That is a valid argument when two disputants share a common authority.

Now, if I were debating with an atheist, an appeal to the intrinsic authority of Scripture would beg the question. But, at least traditionally, Roman Catholics claim to honor the authority. Indeed, they get very irate with Protestants who routinely deny that Catholics honor the authority of Scripture.

Since I was debating a Catholic apologist rather than, say, Richard Dawkins, I didn’t start from scratch.

However, it’s apparent from the reaction of Joseph and Jonathan that Catholicism is synonymous with atheism. Therefore, when debating with a Catholic apologist, the Evangelical apologist must equate Catholicism with atheism, and mount a preliminary argument to establish the identity of the Bible as the Word of God.

iii) And here is still another textbook example of Joseph’s sloppy thinking. In the statement he quoted from me, I didn’t say that we should trust the Bible because God wrote it. I didn’t say we should trust the Bible. And I didn’t say that God wrote it.

Rather, all I did was to point out the consequences of Prejean’s position. And Joseph has done nothing at all to show that those consequences do not flow from Prejean’s position.

What I offered was a description of his implicit position rather than a value-judgment. I left it to the reader to judge the results.

I said that, for Prejean, Whatever authority we credit to Scripture is a purely secondary and derivative authority which is conferred on Scripture by some extrinsic locus of authority."

What has Joseph offered to overturn that characterization? Nothing.

iv) Finally, let’s finish with his statement: What in the world can it mean for Scripture to have "intrinsic authority" or "inherent credibility?"

Why does he think that’s such a hard question to answer?

a) God is the supreme authority figure. God has intrinsic authority. The Word of God partakes of God’s authority. It is authoritative because he is authoritative. It’s authoritative because it’s the word of an authority figure. Intrinsically authoritative because it’s identical with God’s will for what he intended to communicate.

b) As to the question of inherent credibility, is he challenging the notion in general, or only its application to Scripture?

If this is a general challenge, then it follows that the church lacks inherent credibility. And it also follows that natural theology lacks inherent credibility.

If nothing is inherently credible, then nothing can warrant belief in something which may be otherwise true, but lacks inherent credibility. Bad news for Catholicism.

If, however, his challenge is limited to Scripture, then why would he affirm that other things are inherently credible, but deny that Scripture is inherently credible?



Thursday, August 30, 2007

What Logic Requires Us To Believe About The Existence of God--Part 3

As we continue with the series What Logic Requires Us To Believe About The Existence of God, it is probably helpful to provide a link to our previous points. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

As was mentioned previously, philosophers make a distinction between “being” and “becoming” as characterized by the distinction in the statements “What is, is” and “What is, is changing.” Furthermore, we already spoke of how the idea of “becoming” could be viewed atemporally as the concept of “being” frozen in specific points of time, but we can also define A in the identity “A is A” as having a temporal aspect as well. In both cases, we are presented with a question of time.

Time has fascinated me greatly for years, and it is quite possible for me to go on a lengthy bunny trail on this subject. However, I will resist that and instead limit our discussion for the moment to only those specific aspects of time that we can logically link to the concept of existence (as described in the last post). First of all, we must ask: what is meant by time?

This is a difficult question to answer, much as defining “existence” is difficult. We could take Einstein’s view that “Time is that which clocks measure.” Or we can take the other physicist’s common idea: “Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once.” Neither of these is very satisfactory.

We are not helped much by the advent of Special and General Relativity. Instead of simplifying the problems for us, conceptually it increased the difficulty. There is no such thing as a universal time anymore. The rate of time depends upon the rate of movement through space, such that the faster you move through space the slower you move through time. In fact, one way of illustrating this is by imagining that you have an engine that can move through four dimensions (three space and one time), but that the combined rate of movement must equal exactly the speed of light. As such, since light moves through space at the speed of light, it moves through time at a speed of 0. On the other hand, we move through space at a much slower rate, and the leftover bits get transferred to how fast we move through time. Thus, the faster we move through space, the slower we move through time.

While this brings up immediate bunny trails (for instance, how would one determine my “age” when, for instance, no time has elapsed for a proton that escaped the sun at the exact moment I was born—although this is weakened by the fact that according to relativity, there is no such thing as simultaneous events anyway), again we need only speak of a few points here.

The first is this: no matter how we look at time, we are always reduced to a question of existence. If time is that which clocks measure, then clocks must exist before there can be knowledge of time. Note that this does not mean your bedroom alarm clock must exist before time exists! A clock is simply a device that has repetition built in. The Earth rotating once on its axis is a clock—1 rotation = 1 day. The Earth rotating around the Sun is also a clock—1 rotation = 1 year. Furthermore, most of our watches today are built by counting the frequency of quartz crystals that vibrate at a specific rate when electricity passes through them—32.768 kHz = 1 second.

Naturally, while clocks measure time clocks are not time themselves. Indeed, we can imagine that if all physical processes stopped, time could still move on. However, time’s “moving on” is only meaningful if things later change back to movement. Then, the period between the stop and the start of physical process would be a unit of time. Time is meaningless if all physical processes ceased and never picked up again.

This leads us to a related point: the perception of time. We are primarily convinced of the existence of time because we are able to perceive change. We know things today that we didn’t know yesterday, and we can remember learning these things. We can put a piece of bread on the counter and watch as it first becomes stale and then eventually grows moldy. We perceive these changes.

Again, this does not mean our perceptions are valid. Just as we cannot prove other objects exist via our perception of those objects, we cannot prove that those objects change via our perceptions. But we can prove we have the perception of change, for we have memories of the change.

In this case, however, our perception is not able to do for time what it could do for existence. That is, while our perception means we know existence exists by direct knowledge, our perception of the passage of time could be an illusion. Our memories could be false memories. We could possibly exist as beings outside of time with false memories of the passage of time, including thoughts of our remembering certain things occurred “more recently” than other things. But while this might be possible, it is hardly probable. Indeed, it is difficult to see how it would be possible for a timeless existence to have beings that exist with the memories of time, especially as elaborate as these memories are.

So let us assume the existence of time. It is not only most likely to be right, but if it is a false assumption it doesn’t matter. After all, if this is a false assumption then I can never change my mind on the issue as I will be forever frozen with this idea that time is real. No one can “convince” me otherwise, as that would require change and change can only be expressed through time. Thus, there remains absolutely no reason to doubt the existence of time.

Let us now couple this notion of time with our previous post’s ideas of existence. Since I know for a fact that something most certainly exists due to my direct knowledge of my own perceptions (and due to the fact that even if my perceptions are imaginary, I must exist in order to be deceived by them) and since there is no reason to doubt the validity of time, what does this mean for us?

First (and most paradoxically) it means that there must be some form of existence that is outside the realm of time! In other words, existence within time presupposes existence outside of time too. How does this work? To answer that question, we must first ask another: where did my own existence come from, or did it come from anything?

There only seem to be a grand total of three possible options here:

1. I am self-created.
2. I am self-existent.
3. I am created by something else that is self-existent.

(Another option that philosophers have used is “4. My existence is an illusion” but we have already disproven this notion.)

So what would it mean if I were self-created? Basically put, it would mean that at one point there was nothing, and out of that nothing I created myself. But this explanation already seems absurd (and it is), for if there is “nothing” then not even I existed then. But if I didn’t exist then, then I would not be able to create myself. Self-creation, therefore, results in a logical contradiction: I exist and yet I non-exist at the same time and in the same relationship, if I am self-created.

So self-creation is illogical. Logic dictates instead that there must be some form of self-existence. What is self-existence then?

Self-existence means simply that the self-existent object has the “power” of existence with itself. If I am self-existent, then I contain as one of my attributes the attribute of existence. This, in turn, would make me a necessary being—for if I hold the power to existence within myself then it is impossible for me to cease to exist without ceasing to be me.

But my perceptions are not that I am myself a self-existent being. Instead, I perceive that I have parents. Let us suppose this perception is right (and I have no reason to deny it). The question moves back one step. Where did my parents come from? Either they are self-existent, or they too were created by something else.

My parents claim to have parents. The chain moves back up another link and we repeat the question again. Soon, we have travelled quite some distance. In fact, some might be tempted to ask “Why isn’t it possible that there are an infinite number of links in this chain? If the chain is infinitely long, then we never need to stipulate that there was some being that was self-existent.”

The problem with the infinite chain idea is the infinite time involved. See, if my existence comes from something else, and that something else’s existence comes from another something else, and this continues forever, then we have continual change. Change, as we talked about earlier in this post, is the essence of time. An infinite chain of change would take an infinite amount of time to form. But if it took an infinite amount of time to form, then we could not presently be in our current time—we would still be an infinite time in the past from this point!

In other words, an infinite chain involves us with what is called an infinite redux. The same position must be taken back one step an infinite number of times, and therefore nothing is ever gained. The only way to stop this is if, at some point, we break out of the chain and stipulate there must be something to start the chain, and that chain-starter must be self-existent.

For the same reasons as the infinite redux, this self-existent being must be able to transcend time itself. In other words, the self-existent being must be eternal (by eternal we do not mean infinite, as that would bring us back to the infinite chain problem; we mean only that an eternal existence is not bound by time). It exists apart from time (which, being linked to space as demonstrated in our example of the engine, means that the self-existent chain-starter must have non-physical existence too).

Thus we have established that logic demands that there be some form of self-existence. Since all I have direct knowledge of is my own existence, I might be that self-existent being. But if my perceptions are right, I am most certainly not that self-existent being. How can we tell if I am this self-existent being or if I am instead created by this self-existent being after a long series of other creations? What other things does logic require us to believe at this point?

We shall find out in our next post.

The Epistemology of Faith

"Faith is believing something you know ain't true."

"Faith takes over where reason leaves off."

"Christians don't know their theological beliefs are true, they believe them on blind faith."

Well, that's certainly one way of looking at it. But what if "taking something on faith," in the Christian worldview, is something like forming a belief upon the testimony of another? Knowledge by testimony is regarded as a valuable way to acquire knowledge. If believing something on faith -- not soteriologically speaking -- is like this kind of knowledge, then it is false to claim that when a Christian believes something on faith he believes irrationally. Indeed, believing something on faith wouldn't be to believe in the absence of evidence, but it would be to believe something on the testimony of another person. Perhaps faith is similar to this? Perhaps the oft repeated charge that believeing something on faith is irrational will be seen to be groundless?

The SEP states that,

The main epistemological problem of testimony is that an enormous number of our beliefs originate in the assertions or testimony of speakers, but our accepting or believing those assertions merely on the word of the speaker does not seem sufficient for those beliefs to be justified, warranted, or knowledge. The problem is diminished but not eliminated if it is assumed, as is standard, that the speaker is justified or warranted in the beliefs that his assertions express, and even if he knows them.

And so without confusing the de jure with the de facto, does the Christian theist who holds, say, some basic beliefs of the Christian faith -- e.g., God's existence, God reveals himself to humans via holy Scripture, Christ's divine-human nature, salvation by grace alone, -- on the basis of faith, or, the say-so or God, or, on the testimony of the word of the living God, know (say, WTB) the above Christian dogmas?

If the speaker, in this case Jehovah, is justified or warranted in His beliefs -- and surely on the Christian story God has maximal, supreme, super warrant or justification, or, fill in the appropriate terminology -- and if the Christian takes the say-so of God as a source for his/her beliefs, then isn't the Christian entitled to "know" these things?

On this theory, if one starts out trusting God, as indeed s/he should, then one never undermines the credibility of the testifier. In debates about knowledge by testimony, one can say that if the testifier has been shown to be unreliable, then that might issue a defeater for a belief you have obtained by his testimony. But, if the honesty was never called in to question in the first place, taking his word, especially about, say, the color of his mother's hair, would be quite natural. And, if his mother's hair was blonde, and that's what he told you, then you knew it. (At this point Plantinga would admit warrant, but he would say that you would have more warrant if you verified what was testified to you. I think that fine as far as it goes, but in our case, surely the word of an omniscient being who cannot lie carries more weight than my "checking up on" the testimony. My own verification would seem to be ranked lower on list of epistemic authorities in a situation like this.) So, why should we even begin the relationship with God by doubting His honesty? Thomas Reid,

"I believed by instinct whatever my parents and tutors told me, long before I had the idea of a lie, or a thought of the possibility of their deceiving me. Afterwards, upon reflection, I found that they had acted like fair and honest people, who wished me well. I found that, if I had not believed what they told me, before I could give a reason for my belief, I had to this day been little better than a changeling."

And, wouldn't knowledge gained in this kind of way -- the testimony of God -- constitute a belief that had such warrant that if you remained in the natural state of faith, i.e., trusting the word of God, taking things on His say-so, it would be a defeater-deflector for challenges to the above types of beliefs? That is, a person does not have an automatic defeater for his/her belief that God exists since the warrant of the belief that is the subject of attempted defeat is such that it deflects the defeater.

Now, if this person began to think autonomously, i.e., begin with the premise that God's say-so should be doubted unless otherwise verified (remaining unwarranted until then), then the defeaters, if not themselves defeated, would constitute defeaters for the above beliefs for that kind of person.

But, doesn't the layman Christian, who takes this roughly Van Tillian/Plantinganian approach to faith, knowledge, and warrant (in an epistemological sense, not a soteriological sense of trusting and resting in Christ alone), know the above dogmas? Furthermore, doesn't he have an automatic defeater-deflector to challenges to his faith such that if this model is roughly true, then all Christians, not just ivory tower apologists who can think long and deep about challenges to the faith, and come up with defeater-defeaters (which are needed for various situations, like the autonomous man above who may one day start to doubt Christianity because he can't defeat a defeater) who hold to something like this model can be said to "know" their core dogmas and, furthermore, not be irrational in asserting their truth?

If something like this model is accurate, and surely it needs to be developed as the above is just rough thoughts and chicken scratching, then if the Christian story is true, and something like the above epistemology of faith is true, then Christians are rational in their beliefs, and are not affected by certain defeaters to certain core Christian beliefs. Wouldn't the atheologist need to disprove Christianity and a model of this kind before they could call the Christian in the pew, say, Sophie the washwoman, irrational? If a model of faith had close similarities with the respected notion of knowledge by testimony, then wouldn't the pejorative 'blind faith' be seen to be nothing more than that? A pejorative. Isn't the atheist, in most cases, simply begging the question against a Christian epistemology when he says we are irrational in our beliefs that we say we know by faith? Anyhow, rough thoughts, as I said....