Friday, January 11, 2008

Does Ron Paul support the Bush doctrine?

I [Ron Paul] think they [Israel], one time in the '80s, took care of a nuclear reactor in Iraq. I stood up and defended Israel for this. Nobody else did at that time.

We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends.

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

Why does Ron Paul support Israel when Israel launched a preemptive first strike against Iraq, but is opposed to the US doing the same thing in relation to Iraq or Iran? Why does he support the Bush Doctrine in application to Israel, but not in application to the US?

The Headquarters of the International Jewish Conspiracy

After bribing a member of the Mossad with a vintage bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, I was able, at last, to track down the shadowy whereabouts of the International Jewish Conspiracy.

This should be of special interest to Ron Paul and his devoted band of supporters, seeing as it serves to confirm their worst suspicions about who is pulling the strings of American foreign policy.

Ron Paul on 9/11 Truthers

CAMERON: Congressman Paul, many of your supporters call themselves 9/11 Truthers. They believe that the U.S. government was in some way complicit with the 9/11 attacks or covered it up.

Are you tonight prepared to either embrace that rhetoric or ask those supporters to abandon it, or divorce themselves from your candidacy?

PAUL: Well, I can't tell people what to do, but I've abandoned those viewpoints.

Does this mean that Ron Paul used to think 9/11 was an inside job?

Thursday, January 10, 2008


(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Ron Paulettes typically refer you to the same handful of books and authors to justify a foreign policy predicated on non-interventionism. But there are two basic problems with this appeal.

One is the presumption that you can't understand the present conflict unless you understand the past. When we were hit on 9/11, there was a flurry of books and articles attempting to analysis the historical causes leading up to this event.

That can sometimes be useful. If you lack firsthand knowledge of today's enemy, studying the historical background of you enemy can sometimes bring you up to speed.

At the same time, that can also misdirect you. For today's enemy may not be the same as yesterday's enemy. As you know, one of the problems with old generals is that they tend to keep fighting the last war. The war they lost. That prevents them from adapting to the new threat.

The only way of knowing your enemy is to fight your enemy. After you've been fighting him for a few years, the history books are irrelevant or obsolete. For you now have real-time knowledge of what the enemy is like. His methods and motives.

Another obvious limitation with history books is that historians are not ideologically neutral. A historian who supports the war effort will be apt to interpret historical events in a way that lends credence to the war effort, while a historian who opposes the war effort is apt to interpret historical events in a way that undermines the war effort.

So there's a sense in which we understand the past via the present, rather than vice versa. You know which historical interpretation is either correct or at least germane to the current situation by knowing the current situation. That selects for the best interpretation of the past as it bears on the historical causes leading up to the current conflict.

Another problem is with the lopsided character of their appeal. It's not as if the viewpoint expressed in their selective reading has gone unchallenged. Consider, for example, some of the reviews:

1. The 9/11 Commission Report
[review here]

2. Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire by Chalmers Johnson
[review here]

3. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror by Michael Scheuer (the former Chief of the CIA's bin Laden Unit, Alec Station)
[review here, here, and here]

4. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism by Professor Robert A. Pape of the University of Chicago
[review here]

5. Perfect Soldiers by Terry McDermott
[review here]

6. The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
[review here]

Theonomy or libertarianism?

One of the oddest developments in the current campaign is the alliance or intersection between libertarians and recons, as if these were synonymous positions.

To take just two examples, Gary North used to work for Ron Paul. Not surprisingly, he continues to plug his old boss. Also, both theonomic and libertarian writers contribute to

Now, from what I can tell, the only thing that theonomy and libertarianism have in common is a common opposition to statism.

Recons, in common with libertarians, also tend to favor local government—although that isn’t intrinsic to theonomy, that I’m aware.

But once we get beyond their shared support for limited government, theonomy and libertarianism are polar opposites. Perhaps we need to present some representative statements side-by-side to illustrate the stark contrast between their respective positions.


As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.

Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals

We oppose any abridgment of the freedom of speech through government censorship, regulation or control of communications media, including, but not limited to, laws concerning: _a) Obscenity, including "pornography", as we hold this to be an abridgment of liberty of expression despite claims that it instigates rape or assault, or demeans and slanders women.

Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on both sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration… We oppose government laws and policies that restrict the opportunity to choose alternatives to abortion.

The Issue: Politicians use popular fears and taboos to legally impose a particular code of moral and social values. Government regularly denies rights and privileges on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Principle: Consenting adults should be free to choose their own sexual practices and personal relationships. Government does not have legitimate authority to define or license personal relationships. Sexuality or gender should have no impact on the rights of individuals.

Solutions: Culture wars, social friction and prejudice will fade when marriage and other personal relationships are treated as private contracts, solely defined by the individuals involved, and government discrimination is not allowed.

Transitional Action: Repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act and state laws and amendments defining marriage. Oppose any new laws or Constitutional amendments defining terms for personal, private relationships. Repeal any state or federal law assigning special benefits to people based on marital status, family structure, sexual orientation or gender identification. Repeal any state or federal laws denying same-sex partners rights enjoyed by others, such as adoption of children and spousal immigration. End the Defense Department practice of discharging armed forces personnel for sexual orientation. Upgrade all less-than-honorable discharges previously assigned solely for such reasons to honorable status, and delete related information from military personnel files. Repeal all laws discriminating by gender, such as protective labor laws and marriage, divorce, and custody laws which deny the full rights of each individual.


Accordingly theonomy views God's laws directing moral behavior to be a reflection of His unchanging character; such laws are not arbitrary, but objectively, universally, and absolutely binding. It is God's law that "you are to be holy because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16, citing Leviticus). The law may not be criticized or challenged by us. It is "holy, righteous and good" (Rom. 7:12). This moral law was revealed to Israel in oracles and ordinances, but even the Gentiles show the work of the law upon their hearts and know its ordinances from the natural order and inward conscience (Rom. 1:32; 2:14-15). Who, then, is under the authority of God's law? Paul answers "all the world" (Rom. 3:19).

What is crucial to notice here is that theonomic ethics comes to these conclusions on the basis of Biblical instruction. Men have no right to alter or spurn Old Testament laws on their own say-so, social traditions, or preconceived ideas about what is morally appropriate or inappropriate in the Mosaic law. They have no right to include more in the discontinuity between old and new covenants than can be warranted from divine revelation.
Theonomy thus teaches that we should presume that Old Testament laws continue to be morally binding in the New Testament unless they are rescinded or modified by further revelation.

That general continuity which we presume with respect to the moral standards of the Old Testament applies to political ethics. John Murray called it a fatal error "if it is thought that the Christian revelation, the Bible, does not come to the civil authority with a demand for obedience to its direction and precept as stringent and inescapable as it does to the individual, to the family, and to the church"

So theonomy teaches that civil rulers are morally obligated to enforce those laws of Christ, found throughout the Scriptures, which are addressed to magistrates (as well as to refrain from coercion in areas where God has not prescribed their intervention). As Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-10, magistrates -- even the secular rulers of Rome -- are obligated to conduct their offices as "ministers of God," avenging God's wrath (compare 13:4 with 12:19) against criminal evil-doers. They will give an account on the Final Day of their service before the King of kings, their Creator and Judge. Christian involvement in politics calls for recognition of God's transcendent, absolute, revealed law as a standard by which to judge all social codes and political policies. The Scottish theologian, William Symington, well said: "It is the duty of nations, as subjects of Christ, to take his law as their rule. They are apt to think enough that they take, as their standard of legislation and administration, human reason, natural conscience, public opinion or political expediency. None of these, however, nor indeed all of them together, can supply a sufficient guide in affairs of state" (Messiah the Prince, p. 234).

The Apostle Paul affirmed that one of the uses of the Old Testament law which we know to be good is the restraint of criminal behavior (1 Tim. 1:8-10)… Although Israel as a political body has expired -- and along with it its judicial law as a constitution -- the general equity of those judicial laws is still required (Westminster Confession XIX.4). Similarly, when a public library goes out of business (and your library card thus expires), the truth of what was written in its books is not abolished or changed. Political codes today ought to incorporate the moral requirements which were culturally illustrated in the God-given, judicial laws of Old Testament Israel. George Gillespie, widely regarded as the most authoritative theologian at the Westminster Assembly, wrote: "the will of God concerning civil justice and punishments is no where so fully and clearly revealed as in the judicial law of Moses.... He who was punishable by death under the judicial law is punishable by death still" ("Wholesome Severity Reconciled...," 1645).

Those who do not favor taking God's law as the ultimate standard for civil morality and public justice will be forced to substitute some other criterion. The civil magistrate cannot function without some standard of good and evil. If that standard is not the revealed law of God, then in some form or expression it will have to be a law of men -- the standard of self-law or autonomy. Men must choose in their civil affairs to be governed by God's law (theonomy), to be ruled by tyrants, or acquiesce to increasing social degeneracy.

Voices of the (Minor) Prophets: Week 2

Jonah 2:9 (abbreviated)
Salvation is from the LORD
Habakkuk 3:18 - 19
18Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
19The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds' feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Precious memories

“People have different ideas about memory. I (Darrell) remember a discussion about memory I had in front of a packed house at Southern Methodist University with John Dominic Crossan, an articulate member of the Jesus Seminar, former professor of New Testament at DePaul University, and author of several significant and very popular books about Jesus. He told our curious audience the story of an experiment conducted at Emory University shortly after the Challenger disaster. In the experiment, campus freshmen were asked to describe where they were and what they were doing when the shuttle exploded. The same students were asked the same set of questions three years later. Afterward, the students were asked to compare their testimonies and choose the one they liked best. The study noted that most students preferred the description they gave three years after the event rather than the initial account they gave immediately after the event. His point in citing the study was to say that memory becomes distorted over time,” D. Book & D. Wallace, Dethroning Jesus (Nelson 2007), 2.

Bock proceeds to criticize this analogy. I agree with his criticisms, but rather than reproducing them here, which you can read for yourself if you buy the book (a modest and worthwhile investment), I’m going to mention a few objections of my own.

1.It’s very ironic that Crossan would use this example to illustrate the unreliability of memory, for he must rely on his own memory to use this example in the first place. He was not an eyewitness to this experiment. He was not one of the researchers or students who participated in this experiment.

It’s something he heard about or read about. Yet he has no doubt that he can trust his recollection to accurately recall the key details of the study in order to cite it in illustrating the unreliability of memory.

2.Moreover, his analogy is disanalogous. He is comparing a memory of a discrete event with the memory of people who were in Christ’s company for a sustained period of time.

It’s safe to say that Jesus often repeated himself. And his disciples would have questioned him in private after he made a public speech or got into a public debate. They would also have discussed his words and actions with one another. They went with him wherever he went.

So they enjoyed saturation coverage of what he said and did. Continuous reinforcement. That is hardly comparable to Crossan’s illustration.

3.Of course, someone might object to this line of reasoning. I’m assuming the traditional authorship of the NT. But that’s something which Crossan denies.

Indeed, he does. And for what reason? Because Crossan doesn’t really believe that human memory is all that unreliable.

To the contrary, the reason that a liberal like Crossan denies the traditional authorship and date of various NT documents is that if they really were written by apostles or companions of the apostles or half-siblings of Jesus, then they would be far more difficult to discount.

Crossan denies that Matthew wrote Matthew, John wrote John (or 1 John), Peter wrote 1 Peter, James wrote James, and Jude wrote Jude because, if they were written by folks who knew Jesus, it would be quite implausible to claim that they misremembered what he said and did.

Even if you bracket inspiration and assume—for the sake of argument—that their recollections were fallible, it is still unconvincing to claim that the Jesus they record for posterity is unrecognizable. No one with a normal memory has that bad a memory.

Even if they made a few mistakes in their recollection, these would be minor errors. Suppose someone asked you to write down what you remember about your parents when you were growing up. Yes, you might misplace where or when something happened. You might forget exactly how your mother or father worded something. But as far as the powers of recollection are concerned, your descriptions would accurately characterize your parents.

Where people wildly distort the record, it isn’t because they have a poor memory. It’s because they remember exactly what happened, and they want you, the reader (or listener), to have a different recollection of what happened.

Indeed, a liberal like Crossan has so much confidence in the reliability of human memory that he will not only deny the authorship of first-hand accounts, he will also denies the authorship of second-hand accounts like Mark or Luke—who rely, not on their own memory of events (for the most part), but on the memories of their informants.
For Crossan, even that is far too trustworthy.

4.Now, another stated reason that liberals like Crossan deny the historicity of the Gospels is because these are faith-statements. They are by authors who are writing to persuade.

But this, too, is unconvincing. That can’t be Crossan’s real reason. For if that were his real reason, he wouldn’t feel the need to deny traditional authorship. If that were his real reason, then he could admit that John wrote John, but then dismiss what he wrote on the grounds that John’s account is vitiated by his theological commitments.

Once again, Crossan, and other like-minded liberals, obviously abode way too much confidence in the memory of an apostle to dismiss the testimony of an apostle. The only way to impeach the credibility of the witness is to deny that the witness was, indeed, an eyewitness.

And, as I already noted, liberals do that, not only with the primary sources (e.g. Matthew, John), but with secondary sources as well (e.g. Mark, Luke). So, up to a point, they also believe in the reliability of memories transmitted from the primary source to the secondary source—which is why they are forced to deny the traditional authorship of both sources.

Needless to say, the OT comes in for the same treatment, and for the same reason. Liberals deny the traditional authorship (and dating) of the Old Testament because, if these books were penned by individuals who actually observed the events they were reporting, then it would be quite implausible to dismiss their recollections out of hand.

5.Incidentally, this is where hallucination theories also betray their insincerity. If you’re going to claim the NT documents which attest the Resurrection were written by individuals who did not have first or second-hand knowledge of the event, then why resort to mass hallucination? Why not say, for example that John did, in fact, write the Fourth Gospel, but his report of the Risen Lord was a delusive vision?

This upshot is that no one has more faith in human memory than a sceptical Bible critic. This is why he takes refuge in every hypothetical alternative, however fanciful, to avoid and evade tracing the record back to the memory of the reporter. Put another way, liberals like Crossan fear the memory of the NT writers. Fear the memory of the OT writers.

They are afraid that human memory is all too trustworthy, and so the only way to discredit the record is to reassign it to someone who was in no position to remember the events. Someone who didn’t see it for himself or hear it from someone who did.

All Wet

Local Wangateur, Dave "Mundunugu" Armstrong has been helping PhatCatholic in the debate on Holy Water v. Turretinfan. Apparently, he approves of PhatCatholic's argument from Scripture. Let's take a quick look at some of the selected texts, shall we? Note, I am not evaluating the total argument. Turretinfan is doing that. Rather, I am, for my own purposes examining specific texts cited.

For starters, one cannot help but notice that throughout his presentation, PhatCatholic, presumably with Dave's approval, did not bother to do any exegesis. Rather, they felt that simply listing some verses that they felt supported their argument would work. Now, to be fair there is a word limit to be followed. However, one would hope that they did some background work. As we shall see, (a) if they did, they didn't do a very good job or (b) they were too busy to bother so they thought they would assume what they need to prove.

I will not address each and every text. Rather, I will select some particularly egregious errors and leave it to others, like Saint and Sinner, Rhology, James Swan, Carrie, Jason Engwer, Steve Hays, the redoubtable TF, and others to follow up with any additional commentary and biblical analysis. So, with that in mind, let us take a quick look.

Under the line "Believe it or not, there are specific examples of holy water in Scripture" we find a list of texts. So, let us be clear here, the argument appears to be that these texts are examples of holy water itself being used. That seems to me to be quite a stretch. "Holy water" itself is water that has been blessed. The concept is predicated on the Roman Catholic priesthood. Not just any water will do, it has to be blessed by a particular person, and the Roman priesthood is itself dependent on a valid chain of holy orders. So, if we are to connect these examples to "holy water" in the Roman sense, we have to make a set of connections. Does the text support these connections? Further, the argument that is being put forth in the debate deals with the use of such water for a specific purpose, the casting out of demons.

The first text cited is for "water that has been blessed" :
Exodus 23:25 You shall serve the LORD your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of you.
Here is the text in its context:

20"Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.

21"Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.

22"But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

23"For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.

24"You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces.

25"But you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.

26"There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.

27"I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.

28"I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.

29"I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.

30"I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.

31"I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you.

32"You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods.

33"They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you."

1. At most this text would deal with water being used with respect to sickness. The implication of the text is that God will water the earth ( a point made in Jeremiah ) and protect the nation from severe drought and famine. He will keep their water supply pure and drinkable/usable.

2. God Himself is here blessing the water, not a priest.

3. The point of the text is that God will bless the nation with food and water - ordinary sustenance - on the condition that they are faithful to His covenant.

From Keil & Delitzch: Exodus 23: 20 - 33Relation of Jehovah to Israel.—The declaration of the rights conferred by Jehovah upon His people is closed by promises, through which, on the one hand, God insured to the nation the gifts and benefits involved in their rights, and, on the other hand, sought to promote that willingness and love which were indispensable to the fulfilment of the duties incumbent upon every individual in consequence of the rights conferred upon them. These promises secured to the people not only the protection and help of God during their journey through the desert, and in the conquest of Canaan, but also preservation and prosperity when they had taken possession of the land.

Jehovah would send an angel before them, who should guard them on the way from injury and destruction, and bring them to the place prepared for them, i.e., to Canaan. The name of Jehovah was in this angel (v. 21), that is to say, Jehovah revealed Himself in him; and hence he is called in Ex. 33:15, 16, the face of Jehovah, because the essential nature of Jehovah was manifested in him. This angel was not a created spirit, therefore, but the manifestation of Jehovah Himself, who went before them in the pillar of cloud and fire, to guide and to defend them (Ex. 13:21). But because it was Jehovah who was guiding His people in the person of the angel, He demanded unconditional obedience (v. 21), and if they provoked Him (tammeir for tameir, see Ex. 13:18) by disobedience, He would not pardon their transgression; but if they followed Him and hearkened to His voice, He would be an enemy to their enemies, and an adversary to their adversaries (v. 22). And when the angel of the Lord had brought them to the Canaanites and exterminated the latter, Israel was still to yield the same obedience, by not serving the gods of the Canaanites, or doing after their works, i.e., by not making any idolatrous images, but destroying them (these works), and smiting to pieces the pillars of their idolatrous worship (matseivot does not mean statues erected as idols, but memorial stones or columns dedicated to idols: see my Comm. on 1 Kings 14:23), and serving Jehovah alone. Then would He bless them in the land with bountiful provision, health, fruitfulness, and length of life (vv. 23-26). “Bread and water” are named, as being the provisions which are indispensable to the maintenance of life, as in Isa. 3:1; 30:20; 33:16. The taking away of “sickness” (cf. 15:26) implied the removal of everything that could endanger life. The absence of anything that miscarried, or was barren, insured the continuance and increase of the nation; and the promise that their days should be fulfilled, i.e., that they should not be liable to a premature death (cf. Isa. 55:20), was a pledge of their well-being.

Conclusion: Dave and Nicholas have successfully ripped this text out of its context and utterly misapplied it. This does not bode well. Indeed, they should be ashamed for their abuse of God's Word in this manner.

2) Priest using “holy water”:
Numbers 5:17 and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water.
Here is the context:

11Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

12"Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'If any man's wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him,

13and a man has intercourse with her and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband and she is undetected, although she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act,

14if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has defiled herself, or if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has not defiled herself,

15the man shall then bring his wife to the priest, and shall bring as an offering for her one-tenth of an ephah of barley meal; he shall not pour oil on it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of memorial, a reminder of iniquity.

16'Then the priest shall bring her near and have her stand before the LORD,

17and the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel; and he shall take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water.

18'The priest shall then have the woman stand before the LORD and let the hair of the woman's head go loose, and place the grain offering of memorial in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy, and in the hand of the priest is to be the water of bitterness that brings a curse.

19'The priest shall have her take an oath and shall say to the woman, "If no man has lain with you and if you have not gone astray into uncleanness, being under the authority of your husband, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings a curse;

20if you, however, have gone astray, being under the authority of your husband, and if you have defiled yourself and a man other than your husband has had intercourse with you"

21(then the priest shall have the woman swear with the oath of the curse, and the priest shall say to the woman), "the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people by the LORD'S making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell;

22and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away." And the woman shall say, "Amen. Amen."

23'The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness.

24'Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse, so that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness.

25'The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman's hand, and he shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar;

26and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial offering and offer it up in smoke on the altar, and afterward he shall make the woman drink the water.

27'When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people.

28'But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive children.

29'This is the law of jealousy: when a wife, being under the authority of her husband, goes astray and defiles herself,

30or when a spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife, he shall then make the woman stand before the LORD, and the priest shall apply all this law to her.

31'Moreover, the man will be free from guilt, but that woman shall bear her guilt.'"

The water here is used as an "object lesson" in the adultery test. It is made bitter tasting and made to potentially bring a bitter curse. This water is not "blessed" as much as it is made to be a potential curse.

Again, from K&D: The water, which the priest had prepared for the woman to drink, was taken from the sanctuary, and the dust to be put into it from the floor of the dwelling, to impregnate this drink with the power of the Holy Spirit that dwelt in the sanctuary. The dust was strewed upon the water, not to indicate that man was formed from dust and must return to dust again, but as an allusion to the fact, that dust was eaten by the serpent (Gen. 3:14) as the curse of sin, and therefore as the symbol of a state deserving a curse, a state of the deepest humiliation and disgrace (Micah 7:17; Isa. 49:23; Ps. 72:9). On the very same ground, an earthen vessel was chosen; that is to say, one quite worthless in comparison with the copper one. The loosening of the hair of the head (see Lev. 13:45), in other cases a sign of mourning, is to be regarded here as a removal or loosening of the female head-dress, and a symbol of the loss of the proper ornament of female morality and conjugal fidelity. During the administration of the oath, the offering was placed in her hands, that she might bring the fruit of her own conduct before God, and give it up to His holy judgment. The priest, as the representative of God, held the vessel in his hand, with the water in it, which was called the “water of bitterness, the curse-bringing,”inasmuch as, if the crime imputed to her was well-founded, it would bring upon the woman bitter suffering as the curse of God.

One wonders if Rome today practices the adultery test. If this is "holy water" in the Roman sense, why do we not find Dave and Nicholas advocating its use as outlined in this text?

The fact that the water is "holy" refers to it being in the laver at the Tabernacle. The water, there, of course, being part of the Tabernacle, is a sign/shadow of something else. Hebrews teaches that all such signs and shadows have passed away. The laver was the washing basin for the priests. Water descending from the heavens through the seasonal pattern of rains represented in the Holy Place comes to the earth; its life giving power renews it. The laver represents dry land. The altar replicates the whole Tabernacle, where sacrifices are offered. The priests went through a particular set of rituals with the water. The water signifies the Red Sea, which in turn answers for a kind of ceremonial cleansing from Israel's enemies. In short, water is a picture of the past and of God's actions in the future under the New Covenant. As the Tabernacle is passed away, so has any need for "holy water." Even the waters of baptism have a symbolic value, there is nothing necessarily "holy" about water used for baptism. People may be baptized in a river or bathtub. This does not consecrate the river, the bathtub, or the water in the tub.

Moving on..

3. The unclean remain so until the “water for impurity” is sprinkled upon them:
Numbers 19:9,13-20 And a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the people of Israel for the water for impurity, for the removal of sin. . . . Whoever touches a dead person, the body of any man who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is still on him. "This is the law when a man dies in a tent: every one who comes into the tent, and every one who is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. And every open vessel, which has no cover fastened upon it, is unclean.

Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain with a sword, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and running water shall be added in a vessel; then a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the furnishings, and upon the persons who were there, and upon him who touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave; and the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean. "But the man who is unclean and does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; because the water for impurity has not been thrown upon him, he is unclean.
If this is an argument for the use of holy water, it proves too much, for if so, why not do the rest of what is stated? Does Dave the Wangateur believe the ceremonial law is still in effect?

4) Elisha makes the water “healed” (KJV) or “purified” (NASB) or "wholesome" (RSV):
2 Kings 2:19-22 (KJV) And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.
This, of course, commits a similar error as the first citation, namely the water here is purified for everyday use. Elisha ministered in a period of growing apostasy, so the land was experiencing numerous curses in accordance with the terms of the covenant, because of Israel's unfaithfulness. This was at Jericho, where Joshua had been. Abarbinel thinks it was so from the times of Joshua, being cursed by him; but, if so, it would not have been inhabited again; rather this was owing to a new curse, upon its being rebuilt; though this might affect only a small part of the ground, not the whole, as before observed. (Gill) God cleanses the water, showing mercy, and these waters are purified for use for something other than planting and yielding no crop; rather the water is purified for human consumption and the land is made to bear fruit. There is nothing here about "holy water." Once again, Dave and Nicholas have abused the Word of God. Again, same standard commentary:

Elisha makes the water at Jericho wholesome.—During his stay at Jericho (v. 18) the people of the city complained, that whilst the situation of the place was good in other respects, the water was bad and the land produced miscarriages. haarets, the land, i.e., the soil, on account of the badness of the water; not “the inhabitants, both man and beast” (Thenius). Elisha then told them to bring a new dish with salt, and poured the salt into the spring with these words: “Thus saith the Lord, I have made this water sound; there will not more be death and miscarriage thence” (mishsham). m'shalleket is a substantive here (vid., Ewald, 160, e.).hammayimmotsa is no doubt the present spring Ain es Sulta{C}n,the only spring near to Jericho, the waters of which spread over the plain of Jericho, thirty-five minutes’ distance from the present village and castle, taking its rise in a group of elevations not far from the foot of the mount Quarantana(Kuruntul); a large and beautiful spring, the water of which is neither cold nor warm, and has an agreeable and sweet (according to Steph. Schultz, “somewhat salt”) taste. It was formerly enclosed by a kind of reservoir or semicircular wall of hewn stones, from which the water was conducted in different directions to the plain (vid., Rob. Pal.ii. p. 283ff.). With regard to the miracle, a spring which supplied the whole of the city and district with water could not be so greatly improved by pouring in a dish of salt, that the water lost its injurious qualities for ever, even if salt does possess the power of depriving bad water of its unpleasant taste and injurious effects. The use of these natural means does not remove the miracle. Salt, according to its power of preserving from corruption and decomposition, is a symbol of incorruptibility and of the power of life which destroys death (see Bähr, Symbolik,ii. pp. 325, 326). As such it formed the earthly substratum for the spiritual power of the divine word, through which the spring was made for ever sound. A new dish was taken for the purpose, not ob munditiem(Seb. Schm.), but as a symbol of the renewing power of the word of God.—But if this miracle was adapted to show to the people the beneficent character of the prophet’s ministry, the following occurrence was intended to prove to the despisers of God that the Lord does not allow His servants to be ridiculed with impunity.
Other texts cited include:

John 9:6-7 As he said this, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man's eyes with the clay, saying to him, "Go, wash in the pool of Silo'am" (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
One problem here is that we are left to wonder how we get from this to "holy water." This would be "holy mud." Further, Jesus is using his own saliva. The command to go to the Pool of Siloam is a test of obedience, not a confirmation that its waters were specially blessed or even had medicinal qualities. Rather, the man is told to obey Christ after what seemed like an arbitrary act. The use of mud may be an allusion to the creative act of God in Genesis 2:7. The blindness is congenital, so the healing takes on a creative quality. Also, Tenney notes that the weight of the clay may have reminded the man of Jesus personal interest in Him and served as an inducement to obey. The man had to take quite a trip to the southern end of Jerusalem to get to the pool. Jesus did not tell him he would be healed. He simply told him to go wash. So, his obedience demonstrates His faith. To say that Jesus' saliva mixed with dirt and the water gave him sight restored his sight (much less connect that to "holy water" itself) is misplaced. The Lord's authority healed him. The emphasis on the means is not the point of the text. The emphasis is on the identity of the Healer.

I will stop with this one:
Acts 19:11-12 And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
I've chosen this because it is a favorite of the Word of Faith snake oil salesmen. I somehow doubt Dave and Nicolas believe that getting a prayer cloth as a "point of contact" is a valid use of holy water. Indeed, we're back to the need for a set of valid holy orders, and it's not really clear how this connects to holy water itself.

1. God is the healer, not Paul, though Paul has the authority of Jesus Himself, being an Apostle.

2. This is an extraordinary means and used among a pagan people. The focus is on Paul, God's messenger, as opposed to the next verses, the Jews who were also casting out demons. When they invoked Jesus' name, the demons refused to recognize them when they did this.

3. Ephesus was home to all manner of magic, superstition, and witchery, and ancient documents note this (See Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5.242). It therefore is not unnatural that just as Paul met his audiences on common ground ideologically to lead them to Christ, so at Ephesus, he acted this way. The virtue was not found in the materials themselves - that would be witchery - it was in God and the faith of the recipients.

4. How do we get from this to "holy water?" There are several links in that chain. To connect such things to Acts is also to confound an example with a command or an example given as a normative practice to be followed for all ages. Like the Word of Faith crowd, they simply assume what they need to prove and make no supporting argument. This is atrocious and shameful handling of Scripture and it is for this reason that I have intentionally tarred Dave with the descriptions in the opening statement here - and, for his benefit I will add that this is equally true of those who hawk handkerchiefs, prayer cloths, and "holy water" on late night television. It is hardly an issue that is a problem from Roman Catholics. If you're going to advocate such things, whoever you are, you may has well just call up a Voodoo priestess to do your bidding.

I'll not address the other texts. They generally seem to fall short for similar reasons. Others can comment on them.

Do demons sometimes flee at the gesticulations of priests, crucifixes, and "holy" water? No doubt they do, but they could well do so because, as my Protestant forefathers said, Satan likes to make a show of it for such, for he delights in keeping men in bondage through such false miracles. Indeed I am quite sure that the diabolical one is active among pagans to this very day, and it is not without reason that witch doctors do their work,and it no doubt has some effect - for the same reason, to keep men in bondage to sin and death. The Bible, you know, has a doctrine of false miracles as well as true. The message of Rome is a false gospel, so any miracles done by her representatives is confirmation of that gospel. Beware false teachers. A miracles must match the message to be from God.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Chronicle on Stephen Braude

(Posted on behalf of Michael Sudduth and Steve Hays.)

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on philosopher Stephen Braude's study of the paranormal.

Bully for Bull Moose

"The coming Bull Moose Republican Party?"

No-go zones for infidels

"Islamic extremists have created 'no-go' areas across Britain where it is too dangerous for non-Muslims to enter, one of the Church of England's most senior bishops warns today."

Sifting the field

To piggyback on Jason’s post, I’ll briefly discuss certain general considerations I bring to bear when I sift the field of candidates.

One of the basic problems is that, in a presidential campaign cycle, it’s hard to get accurate, reliable information. Everyone has a stake in the outcome. The candidate, his staff, and sympathetic pundits try to paint their guy in the best possible light while the opposing candidate, his staff, and hostile pundits, try to paint the rival candidate in the worst possible light.

1.Sometimes a candidate is a known quantity. He has a long paper trail. In that case, it isn’t difficult to know or find out what he stands for.

2. The candidate’s website will summarize his stated positions. That’s one place to start.

3. Of course, the limitation with #2 is the possible discrepancy between his stated positions and his actual positions. Candidates often make campaign promises which they have no intention of keeping.

Still, #2 is not a useless exercise. For example, you may find that you disagree with so many of his stated positions this disqualifies him from further consideration. You don’t need to do any more research.

In a situation like this, to the extent that his actual positions deviate from his stated positions, they are probably even worse.

4. #2 also gives you a checklist of issues to Google. You can start with that and then do some fact-checking.

5. When I’m evaluating a Republican candidate, it can be more expeditious to see what liberal pundits have to say about him. Ironically, liberal pundits can be more useful than conservative pundits—in this particular regard.

Since liberal pundits oppose what I support, and support what I oppose, when they enumerate all of the things that are wrong with the Republican candidate, that generally gives me a quick list of things that I’m looking for in candidate.

I do need to add one caveat: liberal pundits will sometimes distort the position of a Republican candidate to make him look worse than he really is. From my viewpoint, this would have the effect of making him appear to be better than he really is.

6.It’s useful to compare a candidate’s stated position with his actual record of governance when he was in power. To compare what he says with what he did.

7.This raises the question of consistency. How important is it for a candidate to be consistent?

i) Consistency is not necessarily a virtue. You can be consistently wrong. You can be pigheaded. Impervious to correction.

ii) We shouldn’t automatically disqualify a candidate if he changes his position. For example, a state official might well have a different position on trade than a national candidate. For he is serving a different constituency.

iii) Likewise, human beings don’t have ready-made answers for every conceivable question. They don’t anticipate every contingency or eventuality. Rather, they frequently form their views and policies as they go along, in light of the practical challenges and available solutions.

iv) It’s certain kinds of inconsistency that disqualify a candidate. If he’s compromising on a position of principle. If he changes his position so many times, or changes so many positions, that he has no core values. A pure political opportunist. In that event, you don’t know what he would do in office.

8.Sometimes an evasive answer tells you what a candidate really believes. A candidate will dodge a question if he thinks a candid answer will cost him votes. Ironically, a candidate may reveal his position by trying to conceal it.

9. Candidates have natural constituencies. liberals support liberals. Libertarians support libertarians. Theocons support theocons. Hawks support hawks. Businessmen support businessmen.

It’s more informative when a pundit to who is not a natural constituent of the candidate supports or defends him. If, say, a Jew supports an Evangelical, then he may have something useful to say. He’s not in the tank for the candidate.

10.A candidate may also have a blog in which he and his staff defend the candidate against his critics. Of course, this is going to be very selective and one-sided. Still, it’s important to see how a candidate attempts to defend himself when his positions come under fire. Does he simply deny the charges? Or does he refute, or attempt to refute, the charges?

"Winners and Losers of Debate Night: the Return of Bull Moose Republicanism"

Bull Moose Republican redux?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Huckabee's Populism, Romney's Mormonism, Etc.

Below is an e-mail I recently sent concerning the current presidential campaign. Some people who are thinking through the issues might find it helpful, so I've decided to post it.

I've changed my mind from time to time regarding which candidate I want to support, partly because changing circumstances have resulted in shifts in the electability of the candidates. Thompson's electability, for example, has significantly declined. And since I have so many other things to do aside from following politics, and since there are so many plausible candidates in the Republican field for this election, I haven't followed the issues enough to reach a highly confident conclusion. Even people who follow politics as part of a full-time job have been undecided or have changed their mind about who to support among the Republicans.

I have some problems with Huckabee, like the ones you've mentioned, and there are a lot of other criticisms circulating. It would take a lot of time and effort to research all of them, and I haven't done much research on Huckabee. I'm largely relying on initial impressions and the research done by other sources I trust. Part of my difficulty with Huckabee at this point is what I don't know about him. I should learn more over time and adjust my opinion of him accordingly.

I'm more familiar with McCain, and he has a lifetime rating of more than 80% with the American Conservative Union. That's a significantly high rating, despite the importance of some of the issues McCain is wrong about. I think his electability is the best among the Republicans, even better than Giuliani's. (His temper is a significant potential problem, though. Especially if he's going up against Barrack Obama, he needs to watch his facial expressions and tone of voice, particularly in debates. He has a lot of potential to come across as Al Gore did in the 2000 debates and as Gore has come across in some of his speeches since then. I doubt that McCain would scream the way that Gore does at times or be as bad as Gore in his facial expressions, but he does have that sort of problem to a lesser degree.) McCain seems to be the best of the five major Republican candidates on issues like foreign policy and the military at a time when those issues are prominent. He also has a lot of good advertising, on television and elsewhere.

I'm currently leaning toward McCain, but would be open to Huckabee as I learn more about him and open to Thompson if he goes up in the polls. I would vote for any of the five major Republican candidates, but Romney and Giuliani are my least favorite. Thompson has been getting better, and he did well in the debate yesterday, but it seems that his electability has been diminished too much for him to recover.

Romney's Mormonism is a significant problem, even though I don't consider it always unacceptable to vote for a non-Christian. For example, in an election in which two Mormons were running against each other, one politically liberal and one conservative, I don't see a problem with voting for the politically conservative Mormon. A vote isn't equivalent to an assertion that I agree with every characteristic of the candidate. If the 2008 election is a matter of choosing between, on the one hand, a theologically and politically liberal Protestant and, on the other hand, a theologically moderate and politically conservative Mormon, I would consider the latter significantly better and would vote for him. We don't have a federal church. Americans don't have much interest in Mormonism, so a Romney presidency, though it would help further Mormonism somewhat, probably wouldn't do it much. And Romney probably would try to avoid making much of his Mormonism in public. Letting a Mormon in the White House would do some damage, and I hope it never happens. But the damage done by a theologically and politically liberal Protestant would also be significant.

It's difficult to weigh all of the factors involved, but my sense is that letting a Mormon be President for four or eight years probably is better than letting somebody like Clinton or Obama get elected. I view Romney's Mormonism as in some ways similar to Thomas Jefferson's deism. I'd prefer a Christian, and, contrary to today's prevailing political wisdom, electing somebody so distant from Christianity is a significant problem. But it's a problem we've had before, and it has to be weighed along with a lot of other issues. Thankfully, it looks as if Romney won't be the Republican nominee. But if he would be the nominee, the damage done by his Mormonism might not be much more significant than the damage done by Jefferson's deism. Romney's Mormonism is worse in some ways, but I think the two are comparable to an extent.

There's a lot at stake in the election. It's important that one of these five Republicans is elected. But some of the problems among those five, like Romney's Mormonism, are significant and are often underestimated. Republicans should vote for Romney if he gets the nomination, but he shouldn't get the nomination. And any future support for him should be accompanied by far more qualifications (criticisms of his errors) than we've seen so far.

Islam: Religion of Peace? Debate

David Wood informs me that the debate between Sam Shamoun and Nadir Ahmed is up. See here: