Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Worldliness Of A Church And Its Converts

"A [Vatican] spokesman said such an 'authoritative personality' [Tony Blair] choosing to join the Catholic Church 'could only give rise to joy and respect'." (BBC News)

"OUT OF office and out of danger of igniting a constitutional crisis, former prime minister Tony Blair, after years of worship as a closet Roman Catholic, has announced his formal conversion to the faith. During mass at the Archbishop's House in Westminster on Friday, Blair was received into the Church and given full communion. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, who led the service, said the new convert had been a regular at mass with his family and in recent months had been following a programme to prepare him for the 'reception into full communion'....Those close to him believe that even as far back as his student days at Oxford, when he first met his Catholic wife, Cherie, the decision to convert was put off to avoid political prejudices Blair came to believe could affect his career. Although Iain Duncan Smith and Charles Kennedy led the Tories and LibDems as Catholics, Blair kept his religious leanings quiet....Blair's contradiction is that he practised his faith in private, yet preached political boldness in public. As New Labour's leader, he ripped apart the traditions of the party, and maintained Labour were best at their boldest. Yet Blair, who once said he regarded Jesus 'as a moderniser', kept his faith quiet....Blair was first noticed at mass in Westminster Cathedral, both with his family and alone, in the years between becoming Labour leader in 1994 and winning the 1997 general election, but it is believed he had been attending mass since soon after his marriage in 1980. He became an MP in 1983, and a frontbench spokesman the following year. If he believed the top job in British politics would some day be his, did he decide open and public Catholicism would have to wait till he left office?...Before the 1997 election, Blair regularly took communion at his local Catholic church in Islington. Technically, though, he was breaking the rules. Being leader of the opposition did not constitute 'a grave and pressing spiritual need' - the exemption that allows non-Catholics to take part in mass. Blair was also doing much the same thing at Westminster Cathedral, and Cardinal Basil Hume even wrote to Blair to ask him to stop attending because he was not a Catholic....Blair, however, found a way to practise his Catholicism in private and regularly attended church when he was at Chequers. Father Michael Seed is said to have been the priest who regularly visited 10 Downing Street - but by the back door - as Blair's spiritual adviser. In public, and on the advice of Alastair Campbell, his communications chief, Blair 'didn't do God'. On the eve of the Iraq war, Blair wanted to end a broadcast with 'God bless', but Campbell persuaded him to stick to a secular message. On TV last year, Blair told Michael Parkinson he had prayed before sending British troops to Iraq. More recently, though, Blair said he avoided talking about his religious views while he was in office for fear of being labelled 'a nutter'." (Sunday Herald)

"But converting earlier could have been tricky, because of his [Tony Blair's] role in peace talks between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland, his government's legislation on same-sex partnerships and his role appointing Church of England bishops. His former press chief, Alastair Campbell -- who once told journalists 'we don't do God' when Blair was asked about religion -- told BBC television: 'His faith does matter an awful lot to him as people who've worked with him, those who have known him, they've known that for some time. 'And it's something that I suspect he probably felt he couldn't do as prime minister, he's done it now.'...Some commentators suggest that Blair will struggle to reconcile his Catholic faith with certain political decisions taken by his government such as allowing same-sex couples to enter into legally recognised civil partnerships. Lawmaker Ann Widdecombe, from the main opposition Conservative Party, who became a Catholic in 1993, said being received into the faith meant stating publicly: 'I believe everything the church teaches to be revealed truth.' 'And that means if you previously had any problems with church teaching, as Tony Blair obviously did over abortion, as he did again over Sunday trading... you would have to say you changed your mind,' she told Sky News television. John Smeaton, head of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), said he would be writing to Blair to ask whether he has 'repented of the anti-life positions' he advocated during his political career. 'During his premiership Tony Blair became one of the world's most significant architects of the culture of death, promoting abortion, experimentation on unborn embryos, including cloned embryos, and euthanasia by neglect,' he added." (AFP)

Now that Blair is out of government, he can "do God" more than before. And Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams wishes him well:

"The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, wished Blair well in his spiritual journey. He added: 'A great Catholic writer of the last century said that the only reason for moving from one Christian family to another was to deepen one's relationship with God. I pray this will be the result of Tony Blair's decision in his personal life.'" (Sunday Herald)

Judging from Williams' comments, you wouldn't think that Blair had joined a denomination that contradicts Anglicanism on justification, the papacy, and so many other issues of such significance. Many Anglicans of past generations chose to die rather than convert to Roman Catholicism.

A Radically Liberal Christmas

I recently read an article about three books on Christmas that just came out. I have the book by Marcus Borg and John Crossan, and I'm about 100 pages into it. (See the endorsements for their book, by Brian McLaren and others, here.) I've ordered the other two books, but haven't received them yet.

Another recent article in the Boston Globe features the book by Borg and Crossan, and the author interviewed Borg. Notice Borg's comments on economics and the war in Iraq. His book, co-written with Crossan, has a lot to say about the political context of ancient Israel and its alleged implications for us today. They have little to say, though, about some of the other contexts of the infancy narratives, such as how the earliest Christians and their opponents interpreted the passages and what those sources said about the historicity of the accounts. On pages 27-28, we read:

"The issue of the factuality of the birth stories is recent, the product of the last few hundred years. In earlier centuries, their factuality was not a concern for Christians. Rather, the truth of these stories (including their factual truth) was taken for granted. Their truth, and the truth of the Bible as whole, was part of conventional wisdom in Christian areas of the world. It was part of 'what everybody knew.' Believing them to be true (including factually true) was effortless. Nobody worried about whether they were factually true. All of the interpretive focus was on their meaning....Premodern Christians saw them [other accounts in the Bible] as stories of the way things happened. There was no reason for them to think otherwise. It didn't take faith to believe in them, just as it didn't take faith to believe in the factuality of the nativity stories....Many of us have a childhood memory of hearing the birth stories this way. Most of us who grew up Christian took their factuality for granted when we were young children, just as people in the premodern Christian world did. We heard them in an early childhood state of mind known as 'precritical naivete.'...Whether the stories were factual was not an issue. Indeed, Marcus can remember as a child looking for the star of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, thinking that perhaps it appeared every year on the night of Jesus's birth....But this precritical way of seeing the birth stories has become impossible in the modern world, for Christians and non-Christians alike. The reason is the impact of the Enlightenment, which began in the seventeenth century with the emergence of modern science and scientific ways of knowing." (The First Christmas [New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007])

None of those assertions are documented. The entire book has eight endnotes, taking up only a portion of one page (p. 259).

Borg and Crossan's claims above are highly misleading, whether that's a result of poor communication, ignorance on their part, or something else. As I've documented in the past (for example, here, here, and here), the early Christians and their opponents were interested in the historicity of the infancy narratives. The early Christians cite extra-Biblical evidence to corroborate the historicity of the accounts. The early enemies of Christianity question or deny some of what those accounts report. Etc. Many of the arguments that Borg and Crossan use in their book were used by critics of Christianity in the earliest centuries of church history, and Christians frequently interacted with those objections. Read Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho, Julius Africanus' Letter To Aristides, Origen's Against Celsus, John Chrysostom's Homilies On Matthew, Augustine's Harmony Of The Gospels, etc. As Robert Wilken notes:

"The question of the mythological and legendary character of the Gospels did not first arise in modern times. The historical reliability of the accounts of Jesus' life was already an issue for Christian thinkers in the second century....What Porphyry wrote about Daniel [the late dating of Daniel that Borg and Crossan mention and utilize in their book] was so revolutionary, and so disturbing to Christian interpreters, that his critics sought to refute him in detail and at length....Pagan critics realized that the Christian claims about Jesus could not be based simply on the unexamined statements of Christians...The question of faith and history, so much a part of modern theological discourse since the Enlightenment, was also a significant part of the debate between pagans and Christians in the ancient world....Christians and pagans met each other on the same turf. No one can read Celsus's True Doctrine and Origen's Contra Celsum and come away with the impression that Celsus, a pagan philosopher, appealed to reason and argument, whereas Origen based his case on faith and authority....Pagan critics realized that the claims of the new movement [Christianity] rested upon a credible historical portrait of Jesus. Christian theologians in the early church, in contrast to medieval thinkers who began their investigations on the basis of what they received from authoritative tradition, were forced to defend the historical claims they made about the person of Jesus. What was said about Jesus could not be based solely on the memory of the Christian community or its own self-understanding." (The Christians As The Romans Saw Them [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984], pp. 112, 138, 147, 200-201, 203)

These earliest centuries of church history, discussed by me and by Wilken above, are the most significant centuries we can consider in this context. The earliest Christians and their opponents didn't have the mindset Borg and Crossan suggest they had.

And even later generations surely wouldn't have had such a mindset. Christians of later centuries would have been reading Justin Martyr, Origen, Augustine, etc. They would have seen the citations of extra-Biblical evidence in such authors, and they would have seen those authors' interactions with the arguments of non-Christians. Borg and Crossan refer to what was believed in Christian parts of the world, but Christians of the Middle Ages, for example, would have sometimes interacted with people from non-Christian regions of the world. There were atheists and other skeptics in premodern times, even in parts of the world where Christianity was highly influential.

There are a lot of problems with Borg and Crossan's book. Their liberalism is so radical that they conclude:

"Thus, in our considered judgment, Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2 contain, and were intended to contain, minimal historical information - probably just the three items that Jesus was a historical figure whose parents were Mary and Joseph and whose home was at Nazareth in Galilee." (p. 38)

That's an absurd conclusion, as we've argued at length elsewhere (see the links here and here). They claim:

"We are not concerned with the factuality of the birth stories. Though we comment on this issue and controversy in Chapter 2, our concern is neither to defend them as factual nor to trash them as nonfactual." (p. ix)

I'm about 100 pages into the book, and, so far, they comment on issues of factuality frequently. They often portray the infancy narratives and other portions of the Bible in a negative light without any supporting evidence, and sometimes they do so when it has little relevance to what they're discussing (for example, the speculative scenario on p. 78 in which Jesus' father dies around 4 B.C., which contradicts Luke 2:41-51; the allegation on p. 90 that Ruth "seduces" Boaz; etc.). It seems that Borg and Crossan want to put forward an image of kindness and a desire to avoid controversy, as if their disagreements with those who are more conservative don't concern them much, while, at the same time, acting otherwise.

But I agree with Borg and Crossan about the significance of the Christmas season:

"The stories of Jesus's birth are the foundation of the world's most widely observed holiday. Christmas is celebrated by the world's two billion Christians, a number about twice that of the next largest religion, Islam. Moreover, because of the cultural and commercial importance of Christmas in Western culture and beyond, it is observed by many non-Christians as well. Indeed, no other religious holiday is so widely commemorated by people who are outside of the tradition that originated it....Indeed, in contemporary Western culture and even for many Christians, the commemoration of Christmas exceeds the commemoration of Easter. Because of the importance of Christmas, how we understand the stories of Jeus's birth matters. What we think they're about - how we hear them, read them, interpret them - matters. They are often sentimentalized. And, of course, there is emotional power in them. They touch the deepest of human yearnings...Moreover, for many Christians, they are associated with their earliest memories of childhood. Christmas has emotional power....They [the infancy narratives] speak of personal and political transformation." (pp. vii-viii)

Why, then, aren't Evangelicals doing more to argue for and defend the historicity of the infancy narratives? Why don't we hear more about these issues in sermons, in Sunday school classes, from Evangelical blogs, radio programs, and books, etc.? The liberal media choose to focus on liberal scholars like Raymond Brown and more radical liberals like Borg and Crossan, but why haven't Evangelicals done more to offer an alternative? We don't control the media, but even if we did, what recent books would we have to offer in contrast to something like Brown's book, Borg and Crossan's, or Vermes'? How many Evangelical radio programs that you've listened to this Christmas season have had much to say about the historicity of the infancy narratives? When they address the subject, do they go into much depth? Do they recommend many, or any, good resources on the subject?

Friday, December 21, 2007

The religious test

A number of conservative pundits who ought to know better are admonishing evangelical voters that it would be unconstitutional of them to refrain from voting for Romney because he’s Mormon.

Let’s play along with this contention for the sake of argument. If this is true, then the logic is reversible. It would also be unconstitutional to vote for Romney because he’s Mormon.

Now, don’t you just suppose that Romney has a lot of Mormon supporters? Isn’t that his natural base? His core constituency? And don’t you just suppose that a whole lot of Mormons are going to vote for Romney because he is a fellow Mormon? One of them?

In that event, if the conservative pundits are being sincere, then all registered Mormon voters should be disqualified from voting in the 2008 presidential election since the standing presumption is that Mormon voters will vote for a Mormon candidate because of his religious affiliation.

Just for starters, we should temporarily suspend Utah from the Electoral College. After all, an unconstitutional vote is an unlawful vote. It’s a form of voter fraud. Only a lawful voter has the right to cast a lawful vote. Therefore, all Mormon voters should be barred from the polls come November. Otherwise, it’s like stuffing the ballot box with votes cast in the name of folks from the local cemetery.

It may be necessary to quarantine Mormons in temporary internment camps to prevent them from violating the Constitution. I’m sure that conservative pundits will lobby local officials to do whatever is necessary to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.

"Torture" and Misplaced Distrust

“I'm not sure what the morbid fascination is.”

Well, Lee, I guess it goes something like this. The jihadis have declared war on America. In order to defend ourselves, we need counterintelligence. In order to obtain counterintelligence, we must sometimes interrogate those in the know for information.

Congress is trying to outlaw waterboarding. Therefore, the morality and utility of waterboarding becomes a pertinent topic of conversation.

“But the boys at Triablogue are still praising the use of torture.”

Please supply direct verbatim quotes where we praise the use of torture.

“I guess knowing that a suspected terrorist is being waterboarded (or worse) thousands of miles away.”

Where have we argued that distance is a factor one way or the other?

BTW, do you think that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is merely a “suspected” terrorist? Do you think that Abu Zubaida is merely a “suspected” terrorist?

“Somehow makes them feel safe.”

That may have something to do with the fact that I’ve cited cases in which the use of interrogation was said to yield information that allowed us to intercept terrorist attacks in the pipeline. What, exactly, are you taking issue with?

“Just remember this: the government you trust to protect you now.”

Where have I said that I “trust” the government to protect me? This is not a question of “trust.” I judge gov’t claims on a case-by-case basis.

I do happen to think we have some honorable men and women serving in gov’t. Do you think all our soldiers and CIA and NSA and FBI agents are untrustworthy? Gov’t is just a bunch of people. It is not something over and above the people who comprise it.

Do you think we should disband the American military and retreat into the Smokey Blue hills?

“Is the same government that was completely powerless to protect anyone on September 11, 2001.”

What makes you think our gov’t was “powerless” to protect us on 9/11? There are various things the gov’t could have done to prevent 9/11, like tightening up student visas or taking Bin Laden out of action, &c.

The fact that the gov’t failed to do its job in no way implies that it was powerless to do so.

“It's also the same government that saw to it that no one on board those planes could protect themselves.”

And what are you referring to, exactly? Are you saying that the flight crew and/or certain passengers (e.g. law enforcement officers, citizens with concealed weapons permits) should be allowed to carry firearms on board in order to defend themselves against a hijacking?

If so, I don’t object to your contention, but it’s a bit superficial to blame the ban on the gov’t, don’t you think? Why not blame the electorate? Voters could insist on arming the flight crew, &c.

So do you also distrust the electorate? What’s your alternative to representative democracy?

“Is that the kind of track record that warrants trust?”

Of course, that’s a non-sequitur. What does that have to do with waterboarding?

"World opinion"


“Maybe I was not clear about that, sorry. I am also worried about ‘what do Americans think of the international community?’ That is an important issues too.”

In what sense? That we should simply kowtow to “world opinion”? Why is that a one-way street?

“Your Nazi comparison does not really apply here. Remember Iraq did not attack the US.”

Remember, Nazi Germany didn’t attack the US.

Anyway, your comparison is different than my comparison, so it’s a non-sequitur.

“You could try to address why EU now rarely agrees with US foreign policy.”

I thought you were concerned with what the “international community” thinks of American foreign policy. But your Eurocentric bias now emerges.

Assuming that you’re not just paying lip-service to the “international community,” but sincerely care about “world opinion,” which is hardly synonymous with the EU, please furnish the following information:

1.How many foreign language news outlets to you read, see, or listen to?

2.What do the following countries think of US foreign policy over, say, the last 50-60 years? (Of course, some of the political borders have been redrawn in that time, but as a keen observer of international affairs, I’m sure you can make the necessary adjustments):

Brunei Darussalam
Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Côte d'Ivoire
Dominican Republic
Equatorial Guinea
Marshall Islands
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent
San Marino
Sao Tome
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
Sri Lanka

Supply full citations for your polling data.

BTW, did the pollster employ simple random sampling, stratified sampling, systematic sampling, or multi-stage cluster sampling?

Did the pollster employ bivariate, multivariate, or univariate analysis?

Did the sample-group have access to free media or state-run media?

Did the survey questions reflect interview bias?

3.What makes you think the EU reflects public opinion? Given the vicissitudes of the Maastricht Treaty, the EU seems to lack grassroots support. Or do you equate “world opinion” with pundits and bureaucrats?

4.And while you’re at it, perhaps you could pull up the stats on what the international community thinks of Andorra’s foreign policy, or Barbuda’s foreign policy, or Cameroon’s foreign policy, or Cape Verde’s foreign policy, or Kiribati’s foreign policy, or Mauritania’s foreign policy, or Suriname’s foreign policy, or Tobago’s foreign policy, or Vanuatu’s foreign policy.

As a committed internationalist, I’m sure your not so provincial and patronizing and ethnocentric as to suppose that all comparisons center on the United States.

“What do you think are the policy issues where the US is right and EU is wrong?”

Since you’re the one who’s using the EU as a yardstick, not me, I’m under no obligation to compare the two.

“US keeps on breaking its promises like; AIDS help to Africa.”

You have a very paternalistic and imperialistic attitude towards the third world. Do you think Africa should be recolonized?

“Respecting international deals and laws.”

Such as what?

And please apply the same standard to the other countries I’ve listed.

“The recent Bali climate confrence, where the US was the only country trying to stop the progress.”

If you’re that concerned with global warming, then we should do everything we can to keep India and China in a preindustrial state, correct?

“It would take $5-$10 Billion to eradicate Malaria. It would take $10-$15 Billion to provide clean drinking water to everyone.”

So you think America should assume the role of the Great White Hope. I take it that Kipling is your favorite political theorist.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Self-hating Americans


“What do you think other nations think about US policy?”

Peter (not to be confused with Peter Pike) lobs a number of other accusatory questions in my direction. I’m going to ignore his other questions because I’ve already dealt with those sorts of questions on other occasions. That also applies to the raving and ranting of the other hostile commenter.

In addition, Evan May and Patrick Chan, at my request, has posted links to several other articles by other writers that deal with various aspects of counterintelligence or the war effort.

Instead, I’m going to focus on this particular question. Variations on this question or objection crop up all the time by opponents of the war effort.

What is revealing about this objection is the asymmetry of the objection. It always takes the same one-sided form: what does the international community think of America?

You can supply your own synonyms. “The world.” “Muslims.” “The Muslim world,” &c.

Have you ever noticed that critics never reverse the formula: what do Americans think of the international community?

This betrays the inveterate bias of the self-loathing American. Their anti-American bias is so deeply engrained that they are oblivious their own anti-American bias. That is why it never occurs to them to reverse the formula.

For them, the “world” or the “international community” or even the “Muslim world” supplies the standard of comparison. They unquestionably assume that “world” opinion is right, and American opinion is either wrong or irrelevant. Only a self-loathing American would constantly frame the question in this lop-sided fashion. It’s the unconscious, involuntary reflex of the self-hating American. Their default setting is to fault America.

Suppose we were fighting WWII. Would they constantly ask, “What do the Nazis think of American foreign policy?” “What do the Kamikazes think of American foreign policy?”

It’s fascinating to see a segment on the Far Right reprise the role of Tokyo Rose. Not only is this unpatriotic (stronger synonyms come to mind…like seditious), it is also unethical.

The fact that other countries may disapprove of American foreign policy doesn’t put us in the wrong. Is the UN the moral arbiter of the world?

But perhaps the critics would say their objection is practical. Maybe they would say our foreign policy is self-defeating because we’re making more enemies.

But the problem with that objection is that it’s a pragmatic and, dare I say, utilitarian objection. Yet these are the very same people who denounce “torture” as immoral because it is (supposedly) predicated on a despicable, end-justifies-the-means calculus.

So what is the basis of their objection to American foreign policy? That it’s too pragmatic or too little pragmatic? Too utilitarian or too little utilitarian?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why "torture" doesn't work...except when it does (part 3)

A former CIA officer who participated in the capture and questioning of the first al-Qaeda terrorist suspect to be waterboarded said yesterday that the harsh technique provided an intelligence breakthrough that "probably saved lives," but that he now regards the tactic as torture.

Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein abu Zubaida, the first high-ranking al-Qaeda member captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, broke in less than a minute after he was subjected to the technique and began providing interrogators with information that led to the disruption of several planned attacks, said John Kiriakou, who served as a CIA interrogator in Pakistan.

The waterboarding lasted about 35 seconds before Abu Zubaida broke down, according to Kiriakou, who said he was given a detailed description of the incident by fellow team members. The next day, Abu Zubaida told his captors he would tell them whatever they wanted, Kiriakou said.

I continue to harp on this issue for a couple of reasons:

1.There’s a deeply entrenched and highly influential urban legend that “torture” never works. One of the primary objections which opponents of “torture” typically raise is that torture is ineffective. It yields unreliable information since anyone will say anything under torture.

Now, if the opponents were sincere, then when we can cite cases in which “torture” did, in fact, yield reliable information, they should withdraw their objection. And if that’s their major objection, then they should drop their opposition to “torture.”

But, thus far, I haven’t seen any opponents reevaluate their opposition in light of these examples. They keep repeating the same discredited objection.

2.Is 30 seconds of waterboarding torture? I can see why someone might think that 3 hours of waterboarding is torture (although, if they had to waterboard Abu Zubaida for 3 hours to squeeze the information out of him, that’s fine with me), but to say that 30 seconds of waterboarding is torture trivializes the concept of torture. If that’s torture, then torture is grossly overrated.

Following up on follow-up questions

Questions in the meta are sometimes overtaken by other longwinded controversies. Here are two questions that fell through the cracks. They’re unrelated, but I’m going to discuss them together since they got lost in the shuffle. And I’m lifting them out of the combox since the original commenters probably lost hope of ever seeing a response to their questions.


"One thing struck me when discussing compatibilism with my arminian friends. We cannot pray in the same way when praying for someone’s salvation.”


“For example, the arminian will pray that someone will come to their senses and choose God. That does not make sense from a calvinistic perspective.”

Yes and no. There are a couple of issues here:

i) Left to their own devices, the unregenerate suffer from spiritual inability. They cannot repent of their sin and exercise saving faith in Jesus. They cannot perform good works.

But God, by his grace (i.e. regeneration), can bring them to their senses.

ii) Belief isn’t a choice, in the straightforward sense of the word. And this isn’t a theological issue, per se. It’s just that, psychologically speaking, belief is not an act of the will. We don’t simply will ourselves to believe something or disbelieve something.

Conviction is primarily involuntary. If you have a predisposition to believe or disbelieve something, and you’re presenting with suitable evidence, that is apt to automatically generate a corresponding belief or disbelief.

For example, I didn’t choose to believe there’s a tree outside my window. That belief is spontaneous and irrepressible.

Mind you, there are certain things we can do to indirectly cultivate a belief or undermine a belief. If I only read one side of the argument, I’m inclined to belief that side of the argument.

“If prayers are not theologically sound, but well-meaning, is it ok for a calvinist to say amen to them?”

Depends on what you mean. For example, some prayers have the right goal, even if the theology underpinning the prayer is faulty. If the goal is right, we can agree with the goal. We can agree that God grant this request.

Most Christians aren’t professional theologians. And even professional theologians aren’t infallible.

So God is used to hearing prayers which may be theologically defective in some respect or another. And God often answers theologically defective prayers.

Wesley once prayed for his horse. He needed his horse for transportation. I doubt his defective theology had much to do with whether God healed the horse.


“I wish to read more on the decrees and providence of God and how the relate to cause and effect.”

The decree is a divine state of mind. It is God’s complete concept of the world he intends to create. By itself, an idea or intention is not a cause—in the sense of making something happen. Rather, it’s a resolve to make something happen. To act on that idea. There’s a difference between having a plan and enacting a plan.

God causes his decree to be realized through the process of creation, miracle, and providence. His decree subsists outside of time and space, but he objectifies his decree in time and space by creating the world according to his decree. And that includes the creation of impersonal agencies (e.g. forces of nature) and personal agents (e.g. men, angels).

They do things. They cause things to happen. They are ways in which the decree is realized.

There’s an analogy (which also involves an element of disanalogy) between divine and human creativity. We also plan to do things. And we implement our plans by various material means.

The metaphysics of freewill

Traditionally, libertarians cash out the freedom to do otherwise in terms of alternate possibilities. Although there’s an enormous literature attempting to either prove libertarian freewill or reconcile libertarianism with some other belief, such as God’s knowledge of the future (which, however, some libertarians deny), there’s no comparable literature on the metaphysics of freewill. (In this post I’m going to use freewill as a synonym for libertarian freedom.)

Instead, it’s taken for granted that a free agent can instantiate these alternate possibilities. Let’s pursue that assumption from a number of different angles.

1.This goes to the question of how the future eventuates, or how time (or segments thereof) comes into being. Do we will the future into being by our choices? How do we will the future into being by our choices? How do we access these abstract possibilities and realize one possibility over against another?

2.From a libertarian perspective, I suppose there must be a general metaphysical divide between one class of events which is willed into being by the choices of free agents, and another class of events that is going to eventuates apart from our volition.

For example, if it rains tomorrow, that future outcome is not the result of human volition. So, if libertarianism is true, then some patches of reality are realized by human volition while other patches of reality are realized apart from human volition. But somehow, these blend into a seamless, unified reality. The reality that it will rain tomorrow, and the reality that I will take an umbrella to work tomorrow, align in time even though these two events are causally independent. One occurs because I willed it while the other occurs without my willing it, or even in spite of my wishing that it would be fair and sunny tomorrow.

It would be interesting to hear a libertarian explain the metaphysical machinery by which this occurs.

3.At the same time, not everything that human beings do is voluntary, in the sense of a conscious choice. I can deliberately blind my eyes. I can deliberately blink one eye rather than another. I can deliberately blink my eye a certain number of times. But, most of the time, this is involuntary. I give no thought to blinking my eyes. Same thing with breathing and other semiautonomic functions.

So, it libertarianism is true, then some blinkings eventuate as a result of human volitions while other blinkings eventuate apart from human volition. Some human actions are realized voluntarily while other human actions realized involuntarily, even when the same type of action is in view. Voluntary blinkings and involuntary blinkings. Human agents will some of their semiautonomic futures into being, but not others. The futurition of some future blinkings is willed by us, while the futurition of other future blinkings is not.

Does this mean, from a libertarian standpoint, that there’s a default possibility which instantiates itself unless that is overridden by the deliberate choice of an alternate possibility? That the future will automatically turn out a certain way unless human volition intervenes? What is the mechanism?

4. On a related note, take habitual actions. Let’s say I learn to operate a stick shift because I like to drive sports cars. At first I have to think about shifting gears. But after a while, it becomes second nature. Yet there are times when I might consciously shift into overdrive if, say, I’m on a wide-open stretch of road, and I want to drive the car flat out.

I think it’s fair to say that, in operating a stick shift, there are degrees of conscious control. Sometimes I consciously shift gears. At other times my mind is elsewhere, and I do it through force of habit. And, at other times, I’m vaguely aware of shifting gears while l listen to music or take in the scenery.

From a libertarian standpoint, how are these alternate possibilities realized? Since they range along a continuum, from subconscious to conscious, what’s the threshold between an outcome that is voluntary and an outcome that is involuntary? What is causing these outcomes to eventuate?

5.How do we cause a possibility to become a reality? Is it simply by willing it into existence, like a Genie? Yet there are many things we cannot will into being.

Two young brothers fight over a toy. Both brothers will to have the toy, but the older brother wins the fight because he can overpower his younger brother.

So how is the outcome realized? By willing an alternate possibility? Or by brute force? What’s the relationship between superior strength and actualizing an alternate possibility? Do muscle men have more control over the future than 90-poundl weaklings?

If it comes down to brute force, then an act of the will is not what instantiates this alternate possibility.

5.Or does it work like this: God causes our choices to eventuate. We choose, but it is God’s creative power that enacts that alternate possibility.

But if that’s the case, why does God defer to some choices, but not to others? Why did he defer to the big brother’s choice rather than the kid brother’s choice? Seems unfair to let the older brother win.

6.And what about animals? Animals also seem to range along a continuum. Higher animals are apparently more intelligent than lower animals. When my dog chases a cat, and I summon my dog, does my dog deliberate over choosing to obey me or choosing to pursue the cat? Are dogs and other animals endowed with libertarian freedom?

A dog is smarter than a crow. A crow is smarter than a clam. Indeed, the idea of an intelligent clam seems pretty absurd—although I’ve never been a clam, and—for all I know—clams have a very low opinion of human intelligence.

From a libertarian standpoint, are higher animals accessing alternate possibilities? And where’s the threshold below which some animals do not contribute to which possible outcome will, indeed, eventuate?

Libertarianism presents a patchwork reality in which some pieces of the quilt are willed into being while other pieces come into being without our willing them. Isn’t this a very ad hoc ontological scheme?

By contrast, the ontology of Calvinism is far more economical. God has decreed just one unified reality. His decree is realized by means of creation, providence, and miracle.

More Discussion Of The Lukan Census

If anybody's interested, there's an ongoing discussion of my series on the Lukan census at the CADRE Comments blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Infancy Narratives With Links To Related Triablogue Material: Luke

(Some of the articles that are linked address more than one subject. To find the material you're looking for in a given article, you can use Ctrl F on your keyboard. For example, the posts linked to the opening verses of Luke 2 discuss a lot of issues related to the census account, so you could search for the relevant terms in each post to find the portions of those posts you're most interested in.)

The Gospel According To Luke

Chapter 1

1 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,

2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word,

3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus;

4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

8 Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division,

9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.

10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.

11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.

12 Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.

13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.

14 "You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.

15 "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb.

16 "And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God.

17 "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

18 Zacharias said to the angel, "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years."

19 The angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.

20 "And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time."

21 The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple.

22 But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.

23 When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.

24 After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying,

25 "This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men."

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth,

27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.

28 And coming in, he said to her, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."

29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.

30 The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.

31 "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

32 "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David;

33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."

34 Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"

35 The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

36 "And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.

37 "For nothing will be impossible with God."

38 And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

39 Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah,

40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

43 "And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?

44 "For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.

45 "And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord."

46 And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 "For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

49 "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.


51 "He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

52 "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.

53 "HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed.

54 "He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy,

55 as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever."

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.

58 Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

59 And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father.

60 But his mother answered and said, "No indeed; but he shall be called John."

61 And they said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name."

62 And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.

63 And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, "His name is John." And they were all astonished.

64 And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God.

65 Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea.

66 All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, "What then will this child turn out to be?" For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,

69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant--

70 as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old--


72 to show mercy toward our fathers, and to remember His holy covenant,

73 the oath which He swore to Abraham our father,

74 to grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,

75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.

76 "And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS;

77 to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins,

78 because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,

79 TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, to guide our feet into the way of peace."

80 And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

Chapter 2

1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,

5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12 "This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, "Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us."

16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.

18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

21 And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord

23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD"),

24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, "A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS."

25 And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law,

28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 "Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word;

30 for my eyes have seen Your salvation,

31 which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel."

33 And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.

34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed--

35 and a sword will pierce even your own soul--to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,

37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.

38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth....

Chapter 3

23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli,

24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,

25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai,

26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda,

27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri,

28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,

29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,

30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,

31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,

32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,

33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah,

34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,

35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah,

36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,

37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan,

38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Me, Myself, and I, part 4

{Part one here}

{Part two here}

{Part three here}

Ethical Egoism EE teaches that man has the moral duty to act in his sole self-interest. He must be the beneficiary of his actions. We might express EE's theory of what makes actions right or wrong thusly:

* An act A is right iff A was in my best (long term) interest.

** An act A is wrong iff A was not in my best (long term) interest.

*** An act A is morally permissible iff A is neither in my, or not in my, best (long term) interest.

What about conflicts of interest (ethical dilemmas?)? Baier (among others) brings this up in his book The Moral Point of View. A conflict of interest C might be something like this:

[C] Moral agent 007 needs a kidney. Moral agent 008 needs a kidney. There is one kidney that is a match for agent 007 and agent 008. Both 007 and 008 are ethical egoists. Who should get the kidney?

What is the morally right (or correct) action to take in C? (This isn't hard to see. We make ethical decisions like this all the time. We would all agree that the 18 yr. old kid who suffers from a rare kidney disease through not fault of his ownshould get a kidney over the 90 year old man who drank alcohol like a fish for 75 of his 90 years.)

Since moral principles are supposed to serve as action-guides for the right (or wrong) way to act in situations, what principle should the 00's espouse?

It would seem that 007 should say that the right thing to do in this situation is to secure the kidney for himself.

He should prescribe that 008 has a moral duty to act in 007's best interest.

(As an aside, this is a prime example of the critique that EE should not teach its ethical theory as the correct theory. If 007 was an egoist, it would have been best for him had 008 been an austere altruist. Moral principles serve as action guides that inform us how to act in situations. Moral precepts should be teachable. Teach others how to act (this would be a necessary but not sufficient feature, character/virtue ethics and teleological ethics would also need to be included). Publicized so that others are morally informed agents. But if Ethical Egoism were true, not only would it be unwise for me to teach it, it just might be immoral for me to teach it. Teaching others to be egoists could easily turn out to be not in our best interest.)

007 should prescribe that 008 has a duty to give 007 the kidney. But 008 is an egoist and thinks that he has a moral duty to secure the kidney for himself.

Thus 008 has the moral duty to give 007 the kidney and to not give 007 the kidney.

This seems like an inconsistency.

EE may say that 008 only has the duty to act in 008's best interest.

Thus 008 does not have the moral duty to give the kidney to 007.

But then why should an EE prescribe a principle that is not in 007's best interest.

It would seem that if 007 prescribed that 008 had a moral duty, and this was the correct moral duty, to secure the kidney for himself, then this would conflict with *. Why should 007 prescribe that 008 should act in 008's best interest and not 007's?

If 007 thinks that 008 has the moral duty to secure the kidney for himself (008) then this will harm 007's self-interest. Thus according to ** to prescribe this would be to prescribe something morally wrong.

Stopping 008 would be in 007's best interest, it would be the right thing to do.

But if 008 has an objectively right moral duty to secure the kidney, and if 007 has an objectively right moral duty to stop 008 from getting the kidney, then 007 has the objectively right moral duty to stop 008 from doing the objectively right moral duty. Something has gone wrong. Any ethical theory that prescribes actions whereby one agent has a moral duty to stop another agent from doing their moral duty seems implausible.

But the Egoist can say that it isn't problematic to stop someone from doing his/her duty. For example, soldiers have duties to stop other soldiers from doing their duty. We can separate beliefs from desires, it is claimed. So, a soldier A believes that another soldier B has a duty to his country to make it across enemy lines and plant a bomb at enemy headquarters (A's). But A can desire that B fail. We can just extrapolate to the "kidney war." In other words the belief that 008 ought to get the kidney does not imply that 007 wants 008 to get the kidney.

Two problems, right off the bat: [1] We are talking about objective right and wrong. Applying that to the war, if there is a just and an unjust side, then one is objectively right and the other is objectively wrong. Say soldier A is on the just side. A does not have to believe that B has a duty to get across enemy lines (A's lines) and plant the bomb. A doesn't because A doesn't believe people have duties to commit immoral acts. [2] piggy-backs off of [1]. Any moral theory that implies that you actually want people to commit an immoral act (or that you don't want them to do a morally right act) seems to suffer immediate intuitive problems. There are certainly times that we don't want the morally right side to win. To prevail. But surely we would call this a defect in our character, wouldn't we?

A virtuous person has their duties in line with their desires. I think most agree that there is a moral difference between these two cases: a person who did a right act (did her duty), and did it because she sincerely wanted to do the right thing (her desires); and a person who did a right act (his duty) but did so dragging his feel and moping about it (he didn't desire to do it). An improperly functioning moral agent would be an agent who believes one thing about moral duties, but desire an altogether contrary thing. People who believe that other people have the objective duty to do the immoral thing seem to be impotent in laying blame at the feet of others. If someone is subjectively rational in his moral ideas, then some culpability is avoided.

Another response is one that James Rachels gives in his book Elements of Moral Philosophy (p.83).

Rachels says that the above critique works if one assumes the moral principle it appeals to. Rachels says that the Moral Principle appealed to is this:

[MP] When a moral conflict arises people have the duty to find a solution such that everyone involved can live harmoniously.

Thus the above dilemmas will be resolved "not by application of an ethical principle but by one of them winning the struggle" (ibid).

This seems odd since ethical theories purport to tell us the right way to act in situations. They do this by offering principles which serve as action-guides. In this case, EE fails the determinacy test (see Timmons, Moral Theory, pp. 13-14). No action-guides are offered, rather, do what you have to do to win is the action-guide. This is vague, and so we don't know what to do. If asked "What is the correct answer to a moral dilemma?", the response would be, "Whoever wins the struggle." In this case, what makes an action right would vary from case to case. This fails the theoretical test (see Timmons, ibid, p. 13). Furthermore, the way the argument was set up above is not what is stated in [MP]. The solution is to find the right course of action to take. The duty is to do the right thing, for the right reasons, and out of the right character. This may be harmonious for all involved, but this is simply a by-product of doing the right action. If we are morally virtuous people, then we should all accept the right answer to the question, and thus live in harmony over the decision. But, this need not happen. From a Christian perspective it is right that all people serve and love God rather than, say, money. In this postlapsarian world, this may not get a harmonious response. The point is, the main goal isn't harmony, but harmony would be a by-product if the people were comprised of morally virtuous agents who desired and believed that the right principles should be offered for moral dilemmas.

The Infancy Narratives With Links To Related Triablogue Material: Matthew

(Some of the articles that are linked address more than one subject. To find the material you're looking for in a given article, you can use Ctrl F on your keyboard. For example, since the articles with material related to the star of Bethlehem address other subjects as well, you can search those articles for terms like "Herod" and "Arabia".)

The Gospel According To Matthew

Chapter 1

1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.

4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon.

5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.

6 Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.

7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa.

8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah.

9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.

10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah.

11 Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel.

13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor.

14 Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud.

15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob.

16 Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

21 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:


24 And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,

25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

Chapter 2

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

2 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

5 They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:


7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."

9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

14 So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.

15 He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON."

16 Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

17 Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:


19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said,

20 "Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead."

21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee,

23 and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The First Adam

As I’ve studied theology, I’ve come to the conclusion that God really knew what was best when He decided to reveal Himself through the Old Testament shadows before He revealed Himself fully in the person of Christ. As a result, I am going to look at a few of the Old Testament typologies as they relate to Christological significance. There is no better place to begin than with the Garden of Eden itself, and with Adam. Now I should point out that this post is not the place to weigh questions of how literal the six day creation is, or whether or not Darwinism is true. While those are fine topics of discussion, what I want to look at is simply the relationship between the opening chapters of Genesis and the person of Christ. It is my hope that by looking at the Old Testament in more detail, we can all gain more insight into Him.

Before you read any of the following, it is helpful if you read Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 3:24. Due to space concerns, I will not quote the entirety of the passage here (you can read it in the ESV, which is the version I shall be using, by clicking here).

To set the stage, we begin with the creation of the universe. It culminates in the creation of a man, Adam, and his wife, Eve. Of the nature of man, we read:

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:26).
There has been much debate over what is meant by being created in the image of God. However, I think it is safe to conclude that at least part of what is meant is given by the rest of the context. Man gains dominion over the animals on the earth. Just as God has dominion over all created beings, man (in the image of God) has dominion over animals.

To exercise his dominion, Adam names all the animals on Earth (Genesis 2:19). In the ANE culture, naming was a way of showing dominion. God named Adam to show God had dominion over man, but He allowed man to name all the animals because God had given Adam dominion over them.

Additionally, Adam named Eve (Genesis 2:23). It is important to note a few things about this. First, Eve was created after God had already demonstrated that none of the animals on Earth were a suitable helper for man. In other words, while pagan cultures always devalued women, the Jewish culture was shown that women were, indeed, to be treated better than any animal on Earth. Women are just as much in the image of God as men are (Genesis 1:27), yet God chose that men would hold a position of dominion. This is a dominance of position, not of worth (in the same way that a governor holds dominion over his subjects, yet holds no greater human rights than his subjects). Naturally, once sin entered the equation this relationship has always been strained; yet it remains a fact that God established this relationship, and it further remains that He worked to ensure that men would know women were of more value than any animal. Sadly, most cultures throughout history have forgotten this.

The form of dominion that Adam had was one that can best be represented in terms of Federal Headship. We see this by the fact that Adam, and not Eve, was specifically given a command to obey:

"You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17).
This command came before God created Eve. Adam had responsibility to obey it, and because of his Federal Headship, his obedience and disobedience would be meted out to all of those who came from him (including Eve, who came from one of Adam’s ribs).

Indeed, we see from the Fall in Genesis 3 that Eve’s eyes were not opened until after Adam had eaten of the fruit too:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked (Genesis 3:6-7, emphasis mine).
Because God’s command had come specifically to Adam, the consequences for sin were not meted out until Adam fell. Since both Adam and Eve fell, we do not know what would have happened to Eve had she eaten and Adam refrained. Quite possibly, given the structure of dominion that God had put in place, God may have simply given Adam the responsibility to mete out punishment since Eve was given the command via Adam and not directly from God. But this is speculation since it did not occur. What we do know from the text is that once Adam sinned, the eyes of both Adam and Eve were open and they knew they were naked.

After the Fall, God punished men and women for their sinfulness. But even while punishing, He offered a promise. To the serpent, He said:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).
This passage, commonly referred to as the protoevangelium, gives us the first explicit information about who Christ would be. However, much is also inferred from the events that occurred before this. Let us now examine both, starting with the clear statements from Genesis 3:15, and then looking at the inferences from the rest of Genesis 1-3.

1) We know that Christ will be human. The serpent is told it will be one of Eve’s offspring.

2) We know that Christ will be wounded in the exchange. “You shall bruise his heel.”

3) We know that the serpent will be destroyed by this. “He shall bruise your head” (other translations use the word “crush” instead of “bruise”).

In addition to this explicit information, we can infer much from what has gone on before, and it deals specifically with what is called Original Sin.

When Adam sinned, all of his descendents were judged sinners with him. This causes most of us to immediately proclaim: “That’s not fair!” After all, we did not have a choice in the matter. We did not sin, so why should we be included in the judgment? That the judgment does extent to all mankind is immediately seen from the punishments meted out to Adam and Eve—the cursing of the ground indeed occurs to this day, as does increased pain in childbirth. And, returning to the theme of dominance, it is certainly the case for woman that “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). These punishments occur to this day; so too does the punishment of all of us knowing we are “naked” before God.

This happens, again, because Adam was the Federal Head of all who came from him. He was the Federal Head of the entire human race, and as such when he fell all mankind fell with him. But had this not happened—had God not put Adam in that Federal Headship role—it would have been impossible for Christ to save all mankind by His actions.

For we know from later Scripture that Christ is the second Adam. Christ fulfilled the laws that Adam could not, and as a result all those who are under the Federal Headship of Christ transfer their status from being under the judgment of God to being under the blessing of God. In order to fix the problem of evil, Christ had to be under the same situation as Adam. If we balk at all men under Adam being condemned in Adam, we must balk at all those under Christ being redeemed by Christ.

Thus, it becomes vitally important to look at the role Adam had before and after the Fall. As Paul tells us, Adam was the “type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14). As a result, when we learn about Adam we learn about Christ.

The opening of Genesis gives us a great deal of information about Christ, information that was given in a type and shadow format. God gave the shadow before the reality so that, when we see the reality, we would have something to relate it to. We can understand Christ's representation of us before God because we already see Adam's representation of us before God. Since we live with the effects of Original Sin, we have something with which we can grasp His imputation.

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"Epistle to the Muslims: Christian leaders abase themselves before Islam" by Bruce S. Thornton.

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"Consent of the Governed: A Reponse to Austin Cline" by Bill Kesatie over at the Christian CADRE Comments blog.