Saturday, February 02, 2008

Jay Liar

Jay Liar…I mean…Dyer has posted a reply to Josh Brisby. It’s rather ironic that Dyer contributes to a blog entitled Nicene Truth, since his conduct during this debate has been more antonymous than synonymous with the operative noun, but I guess that’s a preemptive move on his part.

“Unfortunately, these were disregarded by many of his blog's commentators, and straw men were attributed to me, when ironically, I was quoting primarily top-notch Protestant scholars.”

i) A demonstrable falsehood. They were not disregarded. To the contrary, we pointed out that Dyer was deceptively picky and choosy in the way he quotes topnotch Protestant scholars to support his case.

ii) Dyer indulges in another ruse. He will use a third-rate figure like Ian Paisley as his foil. He will then quote first-rate figure like F. F. Bruce to disprove Ian Paisley.

As a philosophy major, Dyer must be aware of how dishonest it is to tip the scales in this fashion, but he does it anyway.

“That is, only if there is an infallible Protestant canon and if there are no certainly true religious propositions existing outside of its bounds, does he have a case.”

That’s an assertion in lieu of an argument. Why should anyone accept the way that Dyer has attempted to frame the issue?

“But my argument was merely that there are absolutely true religious propositions outside of the Scripture that Josh accepts, and that Protestantism cannot deal with this fact.”

i) Dyer failed to establish true religious propositions outside of Scripture.

ii) But even if he had, why would Protestantism be unable to deal with this fact? Here are some extrascriptural religious truths: Calvin was a 16C Protestant Reformer. Billy Graham is a Southern Baptist evangelist. Pius XII was a 20C pope. Benjamin Warfield was a Reformed theologian. The Vulgate is a Latin translation of the Bible. The Westminster Confession is a Puritan creed. And so on and so forth.

Is Protestantism unable to deal with these extrascriptural religious truths?

“Furthermore, he rejects the examples I gave of NT citations of Deuterocanonical texts, when top Protestant textual scholars, like F.F. Bruce, admit they are quotations and allusions!”

Except that Bruce also rejects the theory of an Alexandrian canon.

“1. Josh, why do you accept Hebrews as canonical?”

In part because it was written by a member, in good standing, of the Pauline circle (cf. Heb 13:23). And in part because we can historically align his theology with the Hellenistic wing of the NT church.

“2. How do you know, apart from patristic tradition, that Matthew, the disciple of Jesus, wrote Matthew's Gospel, if Apostolic authorship is key to canonicity?”

i) Dyer has been repeatedly corrected on this point, but he continues to falsify the state of the evidence by his deceptive presentation.

ii) Even if our knowledge of Matthean authorship were entirely dependent on patristic tradition, all that means is that we are treating some of the church fathers as historical witnesses. That doesn’t commit us to the authority of the church fathers. Their testimony must still be sifted. Some were better informed than others.

iii) Is Dyer asking if apostolic authorship is key to the canonicity of Mathew, or to NT documents in general? If Matthew originally claims to be written by that author, then that is a key feature of its canonicity.

However, it is not the case that apostolic authorship is a general criterion for canonicity. For example, not a single book of the OT canon was written by an apostle.

And several NT books weren’t written by apostles: Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews, James, & Jude. It is sufficient that an extant writing be inspired to qualify for inclusion in the canon. Of course, in the providence of God, many inspired utterances did not survive the vicissitudes of time, so they are not live candidates for canonization. But if God had chosen to preserve them, then they would qualify for canonization.

“3. If the Apostles quoted and used the LXX in the majority of instances of NT citations of the Old (as all scholars admit), why do you reject the LXX, intending to follow wicked, Christ-rejecting Jews?”

i) Once again, Dyer has been repeatedly corrected on this point, but he continues to falsify the record by his deceptive presentation. He has not begun to establish that 1C copies of the LXX correspond to 4-5C copies of the LXX (e.g. Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus). And he ignores evidence to the contrary by scholars like Beckwith, deSilva, and Hanhart.

When someone speaks a falsehood the first time around, we might chalk that up to simple ignorance—but when he continues to peddle the very same falsehood after having been corrected, then he loses the benefit of the doubt and his untruth graduates from what was—at best—an ignorant mistake to a bald-faced lie.

ii) NT writers quote the LXX because they’re trying to reach as wide an audience as possible, and Greek was the lingua franca of the Roman Empire.

iii) Why does Dyer follow the wicked, heretical Origen on the canon?

“4. Explain in your system the lengthy, clear prophecy of Christ's persecution by the Jews in Wisdom 2 in your inspiration theory, which all admit was written prior to His Advent.”

i) Happy to comply. My theory of inspiration disallows the category of pious frauds. The Book of Wisdom palms itself off as a Solomonic writing (e.g. 9:7-8,12), but is clearly pseudepigraphal. Cf. D. de Silva, Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker 2004), 131-33.

It’s on a par with the Sibylline oracles.

ii) If we apply Dyer’s Septuagintal criterion to the book, then the book is falsified by his own criterion due to its post-LXX date of composition. As one commentator explains, “It was certainly written after the completion of the LXX of the prophets and the Writings (ca. middle of the 2C BC),” Jerome Bible Commentary, R. Brown et al. eds. (Prentice Hall 1990), 510.

iii) To claim that “all admit” Wisdom was written prior to Christ’s advent is a palpable lie. I say that because Dyer keeps citing Bruce. But as Bruce says, “Some students have dated it as late as AD 40,” The Canon of Scripture (IVP 1988), 165.

DeSilva also says “there is a wider debate concerning the date of Wisdom, which has been placed anywhere from 220 BCE to 100 CE,” ibid. 132.

Unlike his familiarity with Bruce, I don’t assume that Dyer is acquainted with deSilva’s standard introduction to the Apocrypha, given his general ignorance of the scholarly literature, but it does, once again, invalidate his sweeping claim.

iv) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that we accept Dyer’s messianic gloss on Wisdom 2, that would only be “prophetic” in the secondary and decidedly uninspired sense that Wisdom 2 is literarily indebted to certain OT prophecies. For example, “The picture of the just here (2:13), and in 3:1-9 is based on the fourth Servant song (Isa 52:13-53:12), as well as on Isa 42:1 and Ps 22:8,” JBC, 514.

For someone who keeps touting the Apocrypha and the LXX, Dyer hasn’t done his homework on either one of these sources.

“What is the nature of the quotes I listed, such as from the Book of the Wars of the Lord, Book of Enoch, etc. in your theory of inspiration, especially where St. Jude refers to a prophecy of the Second Advent?”

I, for one, have already responded to Dyer’s challenge by quoting from Witherington and Charles. Dyer simply denied their explanations rather than attempting to disprove their explanations.

“6. Explain with consistency 2 Thess. 2:15 in your system.”

i) Gene Bridges has done a dandy post on this very verse.

ii) Does Dyer interpret this verse independently of the Orthodox church, or is he dependent on the Orthodox church for his interpretation? If the former, then he doesn’t need the Orthodox church to interpret the Bible for himself. But if the latter, then it would be fallacious for him to rely on the traditional Orthodox reading of 2 Thes 2:15—only to turn right around and cite 2 Thes 2:15 to warrant Orthodox tradition.

Thus far, in his debate with Brisby, Dyer has demonstrated that you can make a case for the Orthodox faith as long as you persistently and pervasively misrepresent the actual state of the evidence.

The Garden of forking paths

Libertarians generally define freedom of choice in terms of freedom of opportunity: the freedom to do otherwise. This is then cashed out in terms of possible worlds semantics: alternate possibilities. Here are a few standard definitions:

Many do not follow Fischer here, however, and maintain the traditional view that the sort of freedom required for moral responsibility does indeed require that the agent could have acted differently. As Aristotle put it, “…when the origin of the actions is in him, it is also up to him to do them or not to do them” (1985, Book III).[3]

Incompatibilists think that something stronger is required: for me to act with free will requires that there are a plurality of futures open to me consistent with the past (and laws of nature) being just as they were. I could have chosen differently even without some further, non-actual consideration's occurring to me and ‘tipping the scales of the balance’ in another direction. Indeed, from their point of view, the whole scale-of-weights analogy is wrongheaded: free agents are not mechanisms that respond invariably to specified ‘motive forces.’ They are capable of acting upon any of a plurality of motives making attractive more than one course of action. Ultimately, the agent must determine himself this way or that.

To have free will is to have what it takes to act freely. When an agent acts freely—when she exercises her free will—what she does is up to her. A plurality of alternatives is open to her, and she determines which she pursues. She is an ultimate source or origin of her action. So runs a familiar conception of free will.

Finally, the plurality conditions require that, whichever choice is made, there have been at least one alternative choice that the agent was able to make such that, had she made it, it too would have satisfied the previously stated conditions.

There are other versions of libertarian freewill, but since this is the basic version which is deployed against Calvinism, this is the version which I’m going to examine. Let’s play along with this version and see how far it will take us when we try to take it to its logical extreme.

1.Let’s say I want to buy an Alfa Romeo. So I stroll through the car lot, scoping out various models. I’ve narrowed my choices down to either the red Alfa Spider or the red Brera.

According to our operational definition, each choice represents a possible world-segment. There’s a possible world in which I buy the Alfa Spider, and another possible world in which I buy the Brera.

For that matter, there’s a possible world in which I buy both, as well as a possible world in which I buy neither.

2.But this, in turn, generates certain metaphysical entanglements. For the car is not a discrete object, existing in a physical or metaphysical vacuum. The car is of a piece with the car lot. And the dealership. And the salesmen. And other customers—in time and place.

The car lot is of a piece with the town, while the town is of a piece with the earth, and the universe. So, in choosing a car, I’m not just choosing a car. I’m choosing everything else that goes along with the car, metaphysically speaking. The past. The whole causal matrix.

I’m instantiating an alternate possibility in which a particular car is a part of a larger package of things. And I am bringing that well-furnished possibility into being by my particular choice.

3.This ascribes a remarkable degree of control to the free agent. The individual agent is responsible for instantiating big chunks of reality.

Not only that, but he has control over other free agents. By choosing the Brera, I instantiate the alternate possibility in which those salesmen exist. I bring them into being. I make them actual. They now exist in the world-segment I chose for them (by choosing the Brera), and they exist in that world-segment, rather than some other (as abstract possibilities), because I chose it.

If I buy the Brera, then they exist in the world where I buy the Brera, rather than the world where I buy the Alpha Spider. And if I bought the Alpha Spider instead…but you know the drill by now.

4.But how is it that one free agent has that much control over another free agent? Wouldn’t the entanglement of my choices with their choices work both ways?

How can my choice commandeer them into existence when they are making choices which likewise affect or even effect the world segment to which I belong?

Suppose a salesman buys a snack at the vending machine. While I deliberate between the Brera and the Alpha Spider, he deliberates between the popcorn and the candy bar.

So whose choice selects for the other agent’s choice? Does my choice of the Brera in turn select for a world-segment in which he chooses the popcorn? Does his choice of the candy bar in turn select for a world-segment in which I choose the Alpha Spider?

5.Since not all possibilities are compossible, wouldn’t all these metaphysical entanglements generate a state of metaphysical gridlock? How can I, by my choice, drag you kicking and screaming (as it were) into my possible world-segment when you, by your choice, are hauling me into your possible world-segment?

If each choice corresponds to an alternate possibility, and each choice is a subset of a larger, possible world-segment, then my choices are tangled up with your choices. Yet each choice represents a different possibility. And differing possibilities cannot be simultaneously realized.

6.It will hardly do to say that God is harmonizing and coordinating our respective choices, for—according to libertarianism—God either cannot or will not force us to agree. For that would be oh-so coercive, ya know. Hence, I must have the freedom to make choices which are incompatible with the choices you make.

7.Suppose two customers want the same car. There is only one red Brera on the lot, and both of us want to buy it. But we can’t both have it. So only one customer ends up buying the car.

But how is it that one customer is able to access the alternate possibility in which he buys the car at the expense of his rival? How can he prevent me from accessing the alternate possibility in which I buy the car?

Why do some free agents enjoy greater metaphysical access than others?

8.Or, to approach our scenario from a different angle, why do we even need to fight over the same car? After all, there is yet another a possible world in which the car lot has two red Breras for sale. Why am I stuck with the range of options I see in the car lot?

I hope the libertarian won’t try to tell me that the real world imposes certain limitations on my freedom of opportunity. For, if this version of libertarianism is true, then the real world is largely the sum-total of all those compossible world-segments which free agents individually realize.

That’s the whole point of libertarianism. The real world is not a fait accompli. The world is what we make it—literally!

So don’t turn around and tell me that the real world infringes on my freedom of choice when you are also telling me that free agents are creating the real world as they go along, moment by moment, by which possible-world segments they instantiate.

Logically, the only restriction on my choice would be your contrary choice. And that results in gridlock. Your choices block my choices. Your world-segment can’t coexist with my world-segment.

Friday, February 01, 2008

More Bad Exegesis on Holy Water

Normally, I would reserve comment for after the debate, but given DA has been helping Nick in the Holy Water debate, and that fact that DA has yet to actually, you know, exegete any of the texts in his list of Scriptures allegedly justifying the use of holy water in the NT church, I couldn't resist.

Nick writes, responding to TF:

- Unclean Spirits: If we were trying to make unclean spirits clean, sprinkling holy water on them might make sense. But we are not, so it doesn’t. Ritual uncleanness for which the OT prescribed washing is unlike spiritual uncleanness, for which the OT prescribed sacrifice.
This is not true. Scripture specifically said that the "water for impurity" was used "for the removal of sin" (Num 19:9).

Nick, please exegete this text. How many times does this have to be asked of you?

Since you don't seem to have bothered, I'll do it for you.

1. This text is dealing with ritual uncleanness. This is not spiritual uncleanness due to sin for which sacrifice was made. Rather this is ritual uncleanness which signifies something greater, sin. That' s the point of the ritual law. Disease, death, etc. are all "unclean" things. They are "unclean" because disease and death are inversions of the created order for mankind. The reason they are present is due to the noetic effects of sin. That's why the water is indexed to the heifer.

2. This water in your text is dependent on the ashes of the heifer. Tell us, Nick, why are you selecting this as an example of "holy water," but deselecting the rest of the ritual? Why not sacrifice a red heifer too?

3. From Keil & Delitzch:

The Law concerning Purification from the Uncleanness of Death.—Ch. 19.

Num. 19.In order that a consciousness of the continuance of the covenant relation might be kept alive during the dying out of the race that had fallen under the judgment of God, after the severe stroke with which the Lord had visited the whole nation in consequence of the rebellion of the company of Korah, He gave the law concerning purification from the uncleanness of death, in which first of all the preparation of a sprinkling water is commanded for the removal of this uncleanness (vv. 1-10a);and then, secondly, the use of this purifying water enjoined as an eternal statute (vv. 10b-22). The thought that death, and the putrefaction of death, as being the embodiment of sin, defiled and excluded from fellowship with the holy God, was a view of the fall and its consequences which had been handed down from the primeval age (see p. 558), and which was not only shared by the Israelites with many of the nations of antiquity,but presupposed by the laws given on Sinai as a truth well known in Israel; and at the same time confirmed, both in the prohibition of the priests from defiling themselves with the dead, except in the case of their nearest blood-relations (Lev. 21:1-6, 10-12), and in the command, that every one who was defiled by a corpse should be removed out of the camp (Num. 5:2-4). Now, so long as the mortality within the congregation did not exceed the natural limits, the traditional modes of purification would be quite sufficient. But when it prevailed to a hitherto unheard-of extent, in consequence of the sentence pronounced by God, the defilements would necessarily be so crowded together, that the whole congregation would be in danger of being infected with the defilement of death, and of forfeiting its vocation to be the holy nation of Jehovah, unless God provided it with the means of cleansing itself from this uncleanness, without losing the fellowship of His covenant of grace. The law which follows furnished the means. In v. 2this law is called hattorakhuqqat , a “statute of instruction,”or law-statute. This combination of the two words commonly used for law and statute, which is only met with again in Num. 31:21, and there, as here, in connection with a rule relating to purification from the uncleanness of death, is probably intended to give emphasis to the design of the law about to be given, to point it out as one of great importance, but not as decretum absque ulla ratione,a decree without any reason, as the Rabbins suppose.

Num. 19:2-10a. Preparation of the Purifying Water.—As water is the ordinary means by which all kinds of uncleanness are removed, it was also to be employed in the removal of the uncleanness of death. But as this uncleanness was the strongest of all religious defilements, fresh water alone was not sufficient to remove it; and consequently a certain kind of sprinkling-water was appointed, which was strengthened by the ashes of a sin-offering, and thus formed into a holy alkali. The main point in the law which follows, therefore, was the preparation of the ashes, and these had to be obtained by the sacrifice of a red heifer.

Num. 19:2ff.The sons of Israel were to bring to Moses a red heifer, entirely without blemish, and to give it to Eleazar the priest, that he might have it slaughtered in his presence outside the camp. para is not a cow generally, but a young cow, a heifer, damalis (LXX), juvenca,between the calf and the full-grown cow. adumma, of a red colour, is not to be connected with t'meema in the sense of “quite red,” as the Rabbins interpret it; but t'meema, integra,is to be taken by itself, and the words which follow, “wherein is no blemish,”to be regarded as defining it still more precisely (see Lev. 22:19, 20). The slaying of this heifer is called khattat, a sin-offering, in vv. 9and 17. To remind the congregation that death was the wages of sin, the antidote to the defilement of death was to be taken from a sin-offering. But as the object was not to remove and wipe away sin as such, but simply to cleanse the congregation from the uncleanness which proceeded from death, the curse of sin, it was necessary that the sin-offering should be modified in a peculiar manner to accord with this special design. The sacrificial animal was not to be a bullock, as in the case of the ordinary sin-offerings of the congregation (Lev. 4:14), but a female, because the female sex is the bearer of life (Gen. 3:20), a para, i.e., lit., the fruit-bringing; and of a red colour, not because the blood-red colour points to sin (as Hengstenbergfollows the Rabbins and earlier theologians in supposing), but as the colour of the most “intensive life,” which has its seat in the blood, and shows itself in the red colour of the face (the cheeks and lips); and one “upon which no yoke had ever come,” i.e., whose vital energy had not yet been crippled by labour under the yoke. Lastly, like all the sacrificial animals, it was to be uninjured, and free from faults, inasmuch as the idea of representation, which lay at the foundation of all the sacrifices, but more especially of the sin-offerings, demanded natural sinlessness and original purity, quite as much as imputed sin and transferred uncleanness. Whilst the last-mentioned prerequisite showed that the victim was well fitted for bearing sin, the other attributes indicated the fulness of life and power in their highest forms, and qualified it to form a powerful antidote to death. As thus appointed to furnish a reagent against death and mortal corruption, the sacrificial animal was to possess throughout, viz., in colour, in sex, and in the character of its body, the fulness of life in its greatest freshness and vigour.

Num. 19:3.The sacrifice itself was to be superintended by Eleazar the priest, the eldest son of the high priest, and his presumptive successor in office; because Aaron, or the high priest, whose duty it was to present the sin-offerings for the congregation (Lev. 4:16), could not, according to his official position, which required him to avoid all uncleanness of death (Lev. 21:11, 12), perform such an act as this, which stood in the closest relation to death and the uncleanness of death, and for that very reason had to be performed outside the camp. The subject, to “bring her forth”and “slay her,”is indefinite; since it was not the duty of the priest to slay the sacrificial animal, but of the offerer himself, or in the case before us, of the congregation, which would appoint one of its own number for the purpose. All that the priest had to do was to sprinkle the blood; at the same time the slaying was to take place l'fanayv, before him, i.e., before his eyes. Eleazar was to sprinkle some of the blood seven times “towards the opposite,” i.e., toward the front of the tabernacle (seven times,as in Lev. 4:17). Through this sprinkling of the blood the slaying became a sacrifice, being brought thereby into relation to Jehovah and the sanctuary; whilst the life, which was sacrificed for the sin of the congregation, was given up to the Lord, and offered up in the only way in which a sacrifice, prepared like this, outside the sanctuary, could possibly be offered.

Num. 19:5, 6.After this (vv. 5, 6), they were to burn the cow, with the skin, flesh, blood, and dung, before his (Eleazar’s) eyes, and he was to throw cedar-wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool into the fire. The burning of the sacrificial animal outside the camp took place in the case of every sin-offering for the whole congregation, for the reasons expounded on p. 525. But in the case before us, the whole of the sacrificial act had to be performed outside the camp, i.e., outside the sphere of the theocracy; because the design of this sin-offering was not that the congregation might thereby be received through the expiation of its sin into the fellowship of the God and Lord who was present at the altar and in the sanctuary, but simply that an antidote to the infection of death might be provided for the congregation, which had become infected through fellowship with death; and consequently, the victim was to represent, not the living congregation as still associated with the God who was present in His earthly kingdom, but those members of the congregation who had fallen victims to temporal death as the wages of sin, and, as such, were separated from the earthly theocracy (see my Archaeology,i. p. 283). In this sacrifice, the blood, which was generally poured out at the foot of the altar, was burned along with the rest, and the ashes to be obtained were impregnated with the substance thereof. But in order still further to increase the strength of these ashes, which were already well fitted to serve as a powerful antidote to the corruption of death, as being the incorruptible residuum of the sin-offering which had not been destroyed by the fire, cedar-wood was thrown into the fire, as the symbol of the incorruptible continuance of life; and hyssop, as the symbol of purification from the corruption of death; and scarlet wool, the deep red of which shadowed forth the strongest vital energy (see at Lev. 14:6),—so that the ashes might be regarded “as the quintessence of all that purified and strengthened life, refined and sublimated by the fire” (Leyrer).

Num. 19:7-10a, etc. The persons who took part in this—viz., the priest, the man who attended to the burning, and the clean man who gathered the ashes together, and deposited them in a clean place for subsequent use—became unclean till the evening in consequence; not from the fact that they had officiated for unclean persons, and, in a certain sense, had participated in their uncleanness (Knobel),but through the uncleanness of sin and death, which had passed over to the sin-offering; just as the man who led into the wilderness the goat which had been rendered unclean through the imposition of sin, became himself unclean in consequence (Lev. 16:26). Even the sprinkling water prepared from the ashes defiled every one who touched it (v. 21). But when the ashes were regarded in relation to their appointment as the means of purification, they were to be treated as clean. Not only were they to be collected together by a clean man; but they were to be kept for use in a clean place, just as the ashes of the sacrifices that were taken away from the altar were to be carried to a clean place outside the camp (Lev. 6:4). These defilements, like every other which only lasted till the evening, were to be removed by washing (see pp. 569, 570). The ashes thus collected were to serve the congregation niddal'mei , i.e., literally as water of uncleanness; in other words, as water by which uncleanness was to be removed. “Water of uncleanness”is analogous to “water of sin” in Num. 8:7

Now, notice, Nick what the water was used for: ritual uncleanness.

Num. 19:11ff.Whoever touched a corpse, “with regard to all the souls of men,”i.e., the corpse of a person, of whatever age or sex, was unclean for seven days, and on the third and seventh day he was to cleanse himself (hitkhattei, as in Num. 8:21) with the water (bo refers, so far as the sense is concerned, to the water of purification). If he neglected this cleansing, he did not become clean, and he defiled the dwelling of Jehovah (see at Lev. 15:31). Such a man was to be cut off from Israel (vid., at Gen. 17:14).

Num. 19:14-16.Special instructions concerning the defilement. If a man died in a tent, every one who entered it, or who was there at the time, became unclean for seven days. So also did every “open vessel upon which there was not a covering, a string,”i.e., that had not a covering fastened by a string, to prevent the smell of the corpse from penetrating it. pateel, a string, is in apposition to tsameed, a band, or binding (see Ges.§ 113; Ewald,§ 287, e.).This also applied to any one in the open field, who touched a man who had either been slain by the sword or had died a natural death, or even a bone (skeleton), or a grave.

Ceremony of purification.They were to take for the unclean person some of the dust of the burning of the cow, i.e., some of the ashes obtained by burning the cow, and put living, i.e., fresh water (see Lev. 14:5), upon it in a vessel. A clean man was then to take a bunch of hyssop (see Ex. 12:22), on account of its inherent purifying power, and dip it in the water, on the third and seventh day after the defilement had taken place, and to sprinkle the tent, with the vessels and persons in it, as well as every one who had touched a corpse, whether a person slain, or one who had died a natural death, or a grave; after which the persons were to wash their clothes and bathe, that they might be clean in the evening. As the uncleanness in question is held up as the highest grade of uncleanness, by its duration being fixed at seven days, i.e., an entire week, so the appointment of a double purification with the sprinkling water shows the force of the uncleanness to be removed; whilst the selection of the third and seventh days was simply determined by the significance of the numbers themselves. In v. 20, the threat of punishment for the neglect of purification is repeated from v. 13, for the purpose of making it most emphatic.

Num. 19:21, 22.This also was to be an everlasting statute, that he who sprinkled the water of purification, or even touched it (see at vv. 7ff.), and he who was touched by a person defiled (by a corpse), and also the person who touched him, should be unclean till the evening,—a rule which also applied to other forms of uncleanness.

Moving on...

2. It has not been established that “Holy Water” is, in fact, holy.
There's holy water in Scripture (cf. Exo 23:25; Num 5:17; 19:9,13-20; 2 Ki 2:19-22).

Of course, Nick, you never exegeted those texts. I realize you had a word limit, however, so I am willing to extend charity to you in that regard. Now would be a good time for you to exegete these texts as well. Thus far your reasoning seems to be "Look for examples of water being used, assume these are examples of "holy water."


PC says that he is not willing to take John Paul Perrin’s word for the fact that the use of holy water against demons was simply a medieval superstition. Perrin however, documented his claim with an appeal to a Roman Catholic doctor (physician) who testified to that fact.
Physicians do not have authority in theological matters.

In that case, you as a Catholic layperson have no authority in theological matters either, so you have thereby defaulted the debate. You've also just "excommunicated" Dr. Art Sippo from the realm of Catholic apologetics. That's a real timesaver.

a. Nick, TF is not citing a physician's testimony as an authority on "theology." Rather, he is citing him as an authority on history. Does one have to be a theologian to cite history?

b. This is also rhetorical shorthand to keep you from interacting with the material cited in that text. A word to the wise: you should sometimes let some items pass by in concluding a debate. Choose your battles well. If you can't mount an actual argument, don't mount it. Rather, your time would be better spent elsewhere, like, for example, exegeting the Scriptures you cite.

What Mormons Have Really Said About Christianity

In our past presentations, we've briefly highlighted some fundamental doctrinal differences between Mormons and Christians in an effort to show that Mormons are not Christians. We've also briefly looked at what Mormon sources themselves have stated.

Below is a selection of quotes compiled by Bill McKeever. The full text can be found at that link. As you can see, the common claim coming from today's Mormons doesn't exactly add up compared with what their hierarchy has taught. In fact, these claims flatly contradict one commenter's claim that the LDS Church does not criticize other communions and that Jesus welcomes all the faithful alike. Keep these in mind when your friendly neighborhood Mormon missionary shows up at your doorstep or the doorsteps of your friends.

Joseph Smith:
"Will all be damned but Mormons?"

"Yes, and a great portion of them unless they repent and work righteousness" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 119).
From Brigham Young:

"When the light came to me I saw that all the so-called Christian world was grovelling in darkness" (Journal of Discourses 5:73).

"The Christian world, so-called, are heathens as to the knowledge of the salvation of God" (Journal of Discourses 8:171).

"With a regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world" (Journal of Discourses 8:199).

"Should you ask why we differ from other Christians, as they are called, it is simply because they are not Christians as the New Testament defines Christianity" (Journal of Discourses 10:230).

"The religion of God embraces every fact that exists in all the wide arena of nature, while the religions of men consist of theory devoid of fact, or of any true principle of guidance; hence the professing Christian world are like a ship upon a boisterous ocean without rudder, compass, or pilot, and are tossed hither and thither by every wind of doctrine" (Journal of Discourses 10:265).

"... the time came when Paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last Christianity was converted into Paganism rather than converting the Pagans" (Journal of Discourses 22:44).

"Brother Taylor has just said that the religions of the day were hatched in hell. The eggs were laid in hell, hatched on its borders, and kicked on to the earth" (Journal of Discourses 6:176).

Orson Pratt, Apostle:
"...all other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God; and any person who receives Baptism or the Lord's supper from their hands highly offend God, for he looks upon them as the most corrupt of all people ...The only persons among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who have authority from Jesus Christ to administer any gospel ordinance are those called and authorized among the Latter-day Saints" (The Seer, pg. 255).

"Who is Babylon? I have already explained that Babylon is a great power that should be in the earth under the name of a church, a woman - that generally represents a church - full of blasphemy ...These churches are scattered over the wide face of the earth, and this is called Babylon. Another angel is to follow the one that brings the Gospel, after it has been sufficiently preached, and proclaim the downfall of this great and corrupt power in the earth" (Journal of Discourses 18:179).

"The worshipers of Baal were far more consistent than apostate Christendom; for they had a faint hope that Baal would hear and answer them; but modern divines have no expectation that their God will say anything to them or to their followers. Baal's followers cried from morning until evening for him to give unto them a miraculous manifestation, in the presence of Elijah; but to even expect a supernatural manifestation or revelation now is considered, by modern religionists, as the greatest absurdity. Baal's worshipers, therefore, with all their absurdities, approached nearer the religion of heaven, in some of their expectations, than those who falsely call themselves Christians" (Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, No. 1 (1850), pp.12-13).

Wilford Woodruff:
"I said then, and I say now, may the Lord give me such periods of darkness as were enjoyed by the Apostles and Saints of old, in preference to the Gospel blaze of modern Christianity. The ancient doctrine and power will unlock the mysteries of heaven, and pour forth that Gospel light, knowledge, and truth, of which the heavens are full, and which has been poured out in every generation when Prophets appeared among the children of men. But the Gospel of modern Christendom shuts up the Lord, and stops all communication with Him. I want nothing to do with such a Gospel, I would rather prefer the Gospel of the dark ages, so called" (Journal of Discourses 2:196).
B.H. Roberts:

"This view of God as an incorporeal, immaterial, bodiless, partless, passionless being is now and has been from the days of the great apostasy from God and Christ, in the second and third centuries, the doctrine of Deity generally accepted by apostate Christendom. The simple doctrine of the Christian Godhead, set forth in the New Testament is corrupted by the meaningless jargon of these creeds, and their explanations; and the learned who profess a belief in them are wandering in the darkness of the mysticisms of the old pagan philosophies" (History of the Church, 1:LXXXV).
Bruce McConkie:
"What is the church of the devil in our day, and where is the seat of her power? ...It is all of the systems, both Christian and non-Christian, that perverted the pure and perfect gospel ...It is communism; it is Islam; it is Buddhism; it is modern Christianity in all its parts" (The Millennial Messiah, pp.54-55).

"Christianity is the religion of the Christians. Hence, true and acceptable Christianity is found among the saints who have the fullness of the gospel, and a perverted Christianity holds sway among the so-called Christians of apostate Christendom" (Mormon Doctrine, pg.132).

"Mormonism is Christianity; Christianity is Mormonism; they are one and the same, and they are not to be distinguished from each other in the minutest detail ...Mormons are true Christians; their worship is the pure, unadulterated Christianity authored by Christ and accepted by Peter, James, and John and all the ancient saints" (Mormon Doctrine, pg.513).
So, when your Mormon friends and neighbors make claims about being "just another sort of Christian," my suggestion is that you ask them to explain these comments, for that claim doesn't match these.

"Recent Developments in the Study of The Great European Witch Hunt"

Self-proclaimed pagan Jenny Gibbons writes about why what we think we know about the European witch hunts might be wrong. Via TJIC. HT: Charles Sebold.

Grammatico-historical exegesis

“Words only have meaning within the code of their own language system and in their historical context. Exegesis assumes that the biblical writer is historically conditioned so that he is drawing on the same pool of words, idioms, motifs, and historical situations as his historical audience—a pool that is not shared by us today. Later audiences are historically conditioned by different environments from that of the original writer…But the ancient pool of the biblical writer’s world can be reconstructed with reasonable certainty and completeness through the disciplines of grammar, history, and literature,” B. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan 2007), 86.

“The process may be called reconstruction, because the Old Testament texts ere written in a different world from ours. We not only need to be aware of, but we must expect and respect this historical distance. To bridge this historical distance, we use the grammatico-historical method that allows us to piece together words, phrases, and historical situations while seeking to uncover material assumed by the text; and, if possible, we use archaeological artifacts to help shed light on that world as well. Only after we have done this work can we confidently ‘rebuild’ the meaning of the text. Most people do this intuitively, but it needs to be done with academic rigor,” ibid. 87.

“The grammatico-historical method is based in Scripture itself and thus is not foreign to biblical thought…Biblical authors themselves employ the method of historical reconstruction to define words and events of their stories that have not been experienced by their audiences. For example, to clarify geographical information such as old locales whose names had changed, biblical writers commonly use formulae such as ‘it is’ or ‘that is.’ In Genesis 14:17 the toponym ‘Valley of Shawe’ (NIV, ‘Valley of Shaveh’) is clarified by ‘that is, the King’s Valley.” In Joshua 18:13 Luz is contemporized by ‘that is, Bethel’,” ibid. 87.

“Biblical writers also defined terms as they thought it necessary, as in the case of the narrator of Samuel, who explains the change of words from ro’eh to nabi to designate a prophet (1 Sam 9:9). An ambiguous word like nwtw (‘oppress him’) in 2 Samuel 7:10, an imprecise word like hpsk (‘you want’) in 1 Kings 5:22 or an obscure nominal form like mwpz (‘refines’) in 1 Kings 10:18 is substituted by bltw (‘destroy him’), srkk (‘our requirements’; ‘your need,’ TVIV), and thwr (‘pure’) in the parallel interbiblical version: 1 Chron 17:9; 2 Chron 2:15; and 9:17, respectively. The same is true of patronymics. Esau becomes ‘that is, Edom.” As for ancient customs, the narrator of Ruth explains that the nearest kinsman took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz to signify Boaz’ right to redeem Nomi’s property (Ruth 4:7). Presumably, at some point in the writing or in the transmission of the story that practice was no longer used or understood. The narrator thought it necessary to explain this practice in order to bridge the historical distance. In other words, biblical authors took note of the differences between the historical horizons of the story and their audience and bridge the gaps so that their message was understood,” ibid. 877.

As an OT scholar writing an OT theology, Waltke naturally uses some OT examples to illustrate his point, but it’s easy to think of NT examples as well, such as the way in which Mark defines certain foreign words, or some of the Johannine asides in the Fourth Gospel.

The OT witness to the OT canon

“How do we begin to pull together the various pieces of the Old Testament corpus? The answer lies in this crucial concept: blocks of writing. A careful reader of the Old Testament immediately notices that although the Old Testament is a collection of books of different kinds and periods, certain books share commonalities with others: vocabulary, literary genre, thematic continuities, and other intertextual evidences. These natural boundaries, not imposed by a scholar seeking to systematize, but present in the text as a reflection of the authors’ intentions, allow us to organize the Old Testament books into blocks of writing and in turn to track the themes of the books both within and among the blocks. By taking these natural boundaries seriously, we begin the process of building a coherent theology that is based on the shape of the canon and/or on the thrust of the texts themselves,” B. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Zondervan 2007), 55.

“Assume for a moment that the Old Testament does not come to us as a bound volume with the ordering of its books predetermined by tradition, but as a random pile of thirty-nine individual volumes. How would we begin to organize this pile? Which book would we begin to read? The book of Genesis would likely strike us as a promising candidate…the various promises and covenants made by God to Abraham do not come to fruition: no nation, no land, no blessing to other nations. Instead, the book ends with the sons of Israel residing in Egypt, not in the homeland God promised them,” ibid. 56.

“The book of Genesis requires a sequel, and we find it in the book of Exodus. In terms of chronology, the book of Exodus picks up four hundred years after the end of Genesis, continuing the story of the sons of Israel and their march toward nationhood. Plot, however, is not the only connection between the two books. Various textual phenomena, easily observable to the careful reader, reflect an intentional effort by the author or authors/or editors to maintain continuity between the two books,” ibid. 56.

“Other books are drawn into this block of writing by similar textual phenomena: Exodus and Leviticus are tied together geographically. Exodus ends at Mount Sinai; the entirety of Leviticus takes place at Mount Sinai. Furthermore, the section on ceremonial law extends from Exodus 25 to Leviticus 9. This material is so unified that one could easily argue that it is part of the same book. Geography and time line continue to serve as the unifying agent for Leviticus and Numbers: Leviticus takes place at Mount Sinai; Numbers traces the path of the Israelites from Mount Sinai to the plains of Moab. Furthermore, the two books are also tied together by their last verses,” ibid. 56-57.

Following the line of plot development and inner-textual links, we would eventually arrive at 2 Kings. Joshua 1 is a pastiche of Deuteronomy (see chap. 18, n.10); Judges 2:6-8 repeats Joshua 24:28-31, but in a chiastic structure bringing closure; 1 Samuel brings closure to the period of the judges; and 1 Kings 1-2 brings the so-called ‘succession narrative’ (about David’s heir to the throne) begun in 2 Samuel 9 to a close…Hence, we have one unified story, from God’s creation of the world to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people of God to Babylon, Primary History,” ibid. 57.

“Though the Primary History provides the principal account of the history of the kingdom of God, other books also serve to recount portions of this same history. The book of Chronicles charts the story from Adam through the exile and extends the plot beyond the Primary History to the enthronement of Cyrus, the king of Persia, who allowed the Israelites to return to Judah to rebuild the temple. This story is then continued by Ezra-Nehemiah, which recounts the return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple and the city wall of Jerusalem. Hence, Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah form another block of historical narrative, tracing Israel’s history from Adam to the reestablishment of Israel in the land as the second Jewish commonwealth with its religious and political structures fully in place so that it can survive under the successive hegemonies of Persia, Greece, and Rome,” ibid. 58-59.

“The remaining books can be divided based on genre and function. The books of the prophets…easily form a single block—the Prophetic Literature. The five books that make up the book of Psalms, which evolved from earlier anthologies of Israel’s liturgical petitions and praises, stands alone comprising the Hymnic Literature. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job form the Wisdom Literature,” ibid. 59.

“Ruth has strong thematic connections to the Primary History; Song of Songs is ascribed to Solomon and has strong connections to Proverbs 7; Esther, concerned with the preservation of the people of God, evokes echoes of another attempted genocide in the book of Exodus and brings to conclusion God’s command to the Benjamite Saul son of Kish to exterminate the Amalekites centuries later by another Benjamite, Mordecai, probably a distant descendant of Kish (Est. 2:5),” ibid. 59.

At this juncture, Waltke is simply laying down some markers for further development. He will amplify these points in the course of his OT theology.

Although it is not his specific intention to defend the OT canon, it’s easy to see how his organic analysis of the OT books as larger literary units is effectively mapping out a strategy for how to explain and defend the contours of the OT canon from within the viewpoint of the OT canon itself. This is not a random pile of books. Rather, the OT books grow into each other and out of each other, like a branching tree, from the roots through the trunk through the various offshoots leading up to the crown. We can witness their canonical point of origin, development, as well as the end-product.

By contrast, the OT apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, which were composed in Inter-Testamental times, fall outside this historical narrative.

Likewise, the historical books provide the historical narrative within which the Prophetic, Hymnic, and Wisdom Literature reside, whether in terms of the place, date, author, audience, and occasion concerning their own composition, or their literary allusions to earlier books of the canon. And a parallel argument can be made for the NT canon.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The common good


“So your main objections to abortion are pragmatic ones? And even if you are correct, why should the country's good outweigh the good to the individual? You would ruin a woman's life by forcing her to have a baby because you think the social security system would benefit? This is totalitarian thinking.”

Several issues here:

1.The “woman” is not the only individual who is party to an abortion. There is also the father and the child. So your appeal to the rights of the individual is quite selective.

2.We’re not taking about women in general, but mothers in particular. A pregnant woman is a mother.

So this is not an isolated question about a “woman’s right,” but also a question of maternal (and paternal) duties. Parents have a duty to care for their children. And you would be in no position to lobby for abortion if your parents had acted on the philosophy you are presently advocating.

As soon as you get through the door, you want to slam it shut so that no one else can come through. If we ever ended up on a lifeboat together, I’d make sure that you didn’t have the gun.

3.As far as coercion is concerned (“forcing a woman…”), most children are conceived as a result of consensual sexual behavior.

4.Believe it or not, sex was actually designed to induce pregnancy. This is a natural and predictable outcome of sexual activity.

Or do you think women are too stupid to know where babies come from? If you think women are that stupid, then they should have no more rights than a five-year old.

5.To complain about “forcing” a woman to bear a child she freely conceived makes about as much sense as complaining that a woman shouldn’t be forced to breathe oxygen in order to survive, or that a man shouldn’t be forced to urinate if he downs a six-pack.

6.As a matter of fact, there are situations in which we should be forced to do things we don’t want to. Take contract law. If you pay me to repair your car, and I take your money without repairing your car, then, yes, I should be forced to either refund you or repair your car.

7.There are also situations in which I have an obligation to do something even if it isn’t fair that I should get stuck with the problem.

For example, mothers who couldn’t provide for their newborns used to deposit the baby at the doorstep of a rich neighbor. The orphaned babies were called “foundlings.”

Suppose I’m the nobleman who finds this baby on my doorstep. All things being equal, it’s not my job to raise someone else’s child. Parents have the primary responsibility for the care and feeding of their own offspring.

But all things considered, it becomes my duty to provide for the foundling. To raise him as my own. Since he was abandoned by his parents, and I have the wherewithal to provide for him, that obligation now falls to me, even if it interferes with my ambitions and plans.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dyering the Waters of Baptism

Mr. Dyer has posted some quotes to, I assume, prove his position (and that of Orthodoxy) on infant baptism.

Note, the links in this article are to articles written by Jason Engwer.

Mr Dyer writes:
Polycarp declared, 'Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and Saviour?"

Polycarp,Martyrdom of Polycarp,9(A.D. 156),in ANF,I:41
Oh, I see, the logic is "Polycarp was very old when he died, ergo, he was baptized as an infant." You're begging the question. Even the Presbyterians when arguing with Baptists don't argue for infant baptism on this ground.
"And many,both men and women, who have been Christ's disciples from childhood, remain pure and at the age of sixtey or seventy years..."
Justin Martyr,First Apology,15:6(A.D. 110-165),in ANF,I:167
And how is this a reference to infant baptism? It's not.
"And when a child has been born to one of them[ie Christians], they give thanks to God[ie baptism]; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who as passed through the world without sins."

Aristides,Apology,15(A.D. 140),in ANF,X:277-278
This is a frequent passage cited. You're assuming without argument that "they give thanks to God" is a reference to baptism. Jeremias (Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries) says the latter phrase can hardly refer to the innocence of children per se, but would rather be interpreted as innocence because of the remission of sins. The whole passage deals with the exemplary character of a Christians whose purity is acclaimed in their way of living. Thus the baby who dies in infancy can more easily attain this purity than an elderly person. Aland (Did The Early Church Baptize Infants?) argues that the term is straightforward and to the point. It alludes, in his view, to the thankfulness of the new convert for his conversion and does not signify any baptismal rites.
"For He came to save all through means of Himself--all, I say, who through Him are born again to God--infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men."

(And St. Irenaeus believed in baptismal regeneration
Isn't it rather pretentious for you to assume that any reference to the new birth is also a reference to baptism? It makes better sense to inquire into the nature of the argument. Where is the supporting argument

In your selected text, Irenaeus is refuting the teachings of the Valentinians and Marcionites. Among other things,they maintained that when Jesus was baptized @ the age of 30, that number corresponded to the 30 Aeons. These Aeons caused Jesus to become Christ @ his baptism. Then 12 caused him to preach for only one year afterwards.

Iranaeus refutes them from traditions allegedly handed down from the Apostles that Jesus preached to the age of 50. He even says Jesus lived to the time of Trajan,which would have made Jesus very old. He is exagerrating to illustrate that Jesus lived through all the ages of man, and thus He can save men of all phases of life, from infancy to old age. The sentence you have lifted from its context simply tells us that the redemptive work of the Lord extends to whatever person of any age. It's purpose isn't addressing baptism at all. It says nothing, not a word, about the age people were baptized, and its focus is not on baptism but the redemptive life and work of Christ, set in a framework that is designed to answer the arguments of his opponents,who argued that Jesus was the Christ for simply a year.
Here Tertullian comments on his preference of delaying baptism in deference to the traditional & universal practice of baptizing infants writes:
"And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age,of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally,however, in the case of little childrem."
Tertullian,On Baptism,18(A.D. 200/206),in ANF,III:678
Infant baptism "universal" and "traditional?" in Tertullian's, time?

The treatise ends with him repeating stringent injunction to be obeyed by those baptized.
They who are about to enter baptism out to pray with repated preayers, fasts, bendings of the knee, and vigils all through the night, and with the confession of all bygone sins, that they may express the meaning of the baptism of John: "They were baptized," says (the Scripture),"confessing their own sins"..."The" someone will say,"it becomes us, too rather to fast after baptism." Well, and who forbids yu, unless it be the necessity for joy, and the thanksgiving for salvation.
As Jason asks: If infant baptism was "common" when Tertullian wrote, then why don't we see it in the earlier documents? Those documents often discuss baptism, and they sometimes address infant salvation. Yet, infant baptism is never mentioned. To the contrary, a source like Justin Martyr will discuss baptism as something resulting from choice, contrasting the people baptized with infants who make no choice to be born (First Apology, 61). As the patristic scholar David Wright mentioned in my earlier citation of him, infant baptism isn't mentioned much in the early centuries, even after it's first advocated in the third century. If it was "common" in Tertullian's day, why don't the pre-Tertullian sources discuss it?

If was "common" how does it follow it was "universal"and "traditional." You like to assume what you need to approve, don't you?
"And they shall baptise the little children first. And if they can answer for themselves, let them answer. But if they cannot, let their parents answer or someone from their family."
Hippolytus of Rome, Apostolic Tradition,21(c. A.D. 215), in AT,33
The Greek version,if I recall, does not exist. We only have Latin translations, and many, like Aland, have pointed out that this phrase is likely a late addition to the text, coming from the 4th century or afterwards, when infant baptism was becoming more popular. What this text shows, at most, and only if you affirm that the Latin faithfully represents the Greek, which we do not possess, is that infant baptism originates in the 3rd century.

He later uses Origen. That's fair enough, but credobaptists don't argue that infant baptism didn't become more common and popular and had done so by that time. That citation isn't really relevant. However, it's worth noting that Mr. Dyer is yet again using Origen as an authentic witness to his communion's traditions, while calling Jews "wicked." Not only would he do well to avoid arguing while wearing his Klan sheets and pointed hat, he'd do well to consider that heresy is just as wicked as the wickedness he ascribes to the Jews. If their witness to something like the OT canon is to be excluded, why does Origen get a free pass, when Origen is accounted a heretic?

In Dyer Straits

“This is the Orthodox canon, bro: we include the prayer of Mannaseh. We exceed the scope of the Hebrew canon.”

That was never in dispute. Rather, that’s the source of the problem.

“You, following wickewd Jews, do not.”

There are several problems with this Jew-baiting dismissal:

i) Dyer is, himself, appealing to what he takes to be a Jewish witness to the OT canon: the LXX.

Now, the LXX was originally a Jewish translation of the OT. So Dyer is very selective about which wicked Jewish testimony he is prepared to accept or reject. For Dyer, some wicked Jews are more equal than others. Wicked Jews who bear witness to the Hebrew canon are untrustworthy, but wicked Jews who (allegedly) bear witness to an Alexandrian canon are trustworthy.

ii) Does Dyer have some evidence that post-Christian Jews are wickeder than pre-Christian Jews? Were the Jews who committed idolatry with the golden calf less iniquitous than 1C Jews? Were the Jews who committed apostasy in Elijah’s time less iniquitous that 1C Jews?

If you transported 2C BC Jews to the 1C AD, would they be less iniquitous than other 1C Jews?

And it’s not as if “the wicked Jews” held the patent on iniquity.

iii) Speaking of which, why does Dyer think that a wicked heretic like Origen is a reliable witness to the OT canon, but “the wicked Jews” are not? Isn’t heresy wicked?

iv) And why doesn’t the iniquity of all those wicked Arian bishops discredit Orthodoxy polity and ecclesiology?

“And the previous author you quoted thinks that St. Athanasius or pseudo-Athanasius threw them out, even though I already pointed out to you in the James White article you posted shows that St. Athanasius' canon included Baruch, which you ignored when you posted that.”

I ignored it because it’s diversionary tactic on your part. Not only does the Athanasian canon fail to support the Orthodox canon, but it undercuts the Orthodox canon. It is hardly adequate to say that Athanasius included one of the DC in his OT canon. You need him to include all of the DC in his OT canon if you’re going to invoke his name as a witness to the Orthodox canon. Consider what he actually says:

“But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles, and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.”

Notice that he’s explicitly excluding a number of DC from the OT canon. What is more, he ranks the excluded DC with the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas.

Did the Orthodox church ever canonize the Didache or the Shepherd of Hermas? Since you keep harping on his Festal letter, the onus is now on you to explain away his opposition to the Orthodox canon.

Moving along:

“Why do you keep twisting my arguments? My argument was against Ian Paisely, who said that 1) the NT never qoutes the DB, and that 2) no Jews used the DB. The Bruce and MacDonald quotes in my first article show that to be entirely false.”

i) The most charitable interpretation to put on this statement is that you suffer from short-term memory loss. In one of my very first replies to you (over at Brisby’s blog), I specifically acknowledge the fact that you had shaped your argument in response to Paisley. Have you already forgotten that? You’re pretty young to misremember what I said.

The less charitable interpretation is that you hope my readers will forget what I said. So which is it? Are you forgetful or mendacious?

ii) And as I pointed out, at the time, when you direct your argument against someone like Ian Paisley, you are picking on an easy target.

This is not a serious way to make a case against the Protestant canon of the OT. If you were halfway serious, you would take on a real scholar like E. E. Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity, or Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church. And that’s just for starters.

iii) As I’ve also pointed out on more than one occasion, you’re very selective in your appeal to Bruce. You disregard his larger argument against the DC.

Moving along:

“Bruce goes on to note about the Church’s acceptance of the LXX (the Septuagint): ‘Indeed, so much did they make the Septuagint their own that, although it was originally a translation of the Hebrew into Greek for Greek-speaking Jews before the time of Christ, the Jews left the LXX to the Christians…’ (The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, pg. 26)”

Several more problems:

i) You’re simply rehashing the same arguments you used before, even though I already interacted with your sorry arguments. You merely repeat yourself instead of addressing the counterargument. For a philosophy major, you don’t show much aptitude in the art of argumentation.

ii) As I mentioned before, appealing to “the Church’s” acceptance of the LXX doesn’t give a Protestant any reason to accept whatever “the Church” accepted.

You are an Orthodox believer. You are attempting to defend the Orthodox faith to Protestant believers. As such, you cannot take Orthodox presuppositions for granted. An argument from the authority of “the Church” simply begs the question.

iii) And while we’re on the subject, *which* canon of *which* church is *the* canon of *the* Church? Even if I were to grant your premise, why should I favor the canon of the Eastern Orthodox Church over the canon of the Oriental Orthodox Church?

iv) As I also mentioned, once before, “the church” is hardly coincident with Christians who read the Greek OT. The NT church included Palestinian Jews as well as Diaspora Jews. And even a Diaspora Jew like St. Paul could certainly read the Hebrew OT. So you are equivocating.

v) And this is not your only equivocation. Bruce doesn’t say that Christian copies of the LXX map back onto pre-Christian copies of the LXX. Some of the DC are not translations of Hebrew originals. To the contrary, some of the DC are Greek originals. So your quote is deceptive. You are using Bruce to prove something that Bruce would deny.

vi) And this brings us to the next point—which was the point of my original post. You are appealing to a Jewish witness: the LXX—which was originally a Jewish translation of the Hebrew OT.

So the next logical question to ask is whether Christian copies of the LXX correspond to the pre-Christian editions of the LXX. Remember, your argument is that post-Christian Jews suppressed the DC, suppressed certain books which were originally included in the LXX.

vii) Apropos (vi), to follow through on your own argument, the first question we need to ask is, Where do we find the LXX? What MSS constitute our earliest and/or best witnesses to the LXX?

And that would take us back to 4-5C Uncials like Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and Alexandrinus.

viii) Apropos (vii), if you’re going to equate the Orthodox canon with the LXX canon, and if, in turn, you’re going to equate the LXX canon with the pre-Christian LXX canon, then you need to establish that our extant copies of the LXX correspond to pre-Christian copies.

ix) Apropos (viii), when we turn to these historical and textual witnesses to the LXX, what do we find? We discover that they don’t match the Orthodox canon. They exclude some books which are included in the Orthodox while they include some books which are excluded from the Orthodox canon.

x) So this brings us to the final question which you continue to dodge: what evidence to you have that the Orthodox canon corresponds to pre-Christian editions of the LXX?

“Fine: we are ignorant and stupid: you know all things.”

I suggested that you were ignorant, not stupid. However, I’ll grant you that ignorance and stupidity are not mutually exclusive explanations, so if you wish me to evaluate your performance by recourse to both explanations, I’m happy to comply with your descriptors.

“Debate me via phone. Let your readers know that you have consistently shyed away from a real audio debate.”

This is another diversionary tactic on your part. Because you keep losing the argument, you want to change the medium.

I thought you were a philosophy major. Don’t philosophers debate one another in philosophy journals?

Imagine if Dyer were to try this tactic on one of his philosophy profs: Debate me via phone. Let your students know that you have consistently shyed away from a real audio debate!

This is not a philosophically serious challenge.

To put things in writing is the best way to debate this issue because it’s the best way to document the evidence. There’s a word for that: scholarship. Something you know precious little about.

Abortion Should Be A Prominent Issue, But Probably Won't Be

Rudy Giuliani's loss in Florida solidifies the expectation that he won't be the Republican nominee. We can expect a presidential campaign in which a pro-life Republican will be competing with a pro-choice Democrat. The next Supreme Court appointment has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade, and I suspect that some of the liberal members of the Supreme Court are interested in retiring, but would prefer to wait for a liberal President before doing so. For that and other reasons, abortion ought to be a major issue in this upcoming presidential campaign.

I doubt that it will be widely perceived or treated as a major issue, though. We're already hearing that the economy is the issue of most interest to voters. I don't doubt that polling data, but I suspect that the public perception of which issues are most important is highly malleable and shaped largely by the media. Most of the media will give a lot of attention to issues like the economy and healthcare while neglecting abortion.

But a presidential candidate has a lot of opportunities to communicate with the public and alter the public perception of which issues are most important. I hope that the Republican nominee, probably John McCain, will use those opportunities better than his predecessors have. I doubt that he will, though. He'll probably take an approach similar to what we've seen from other recent Republican candidates. He'll argue for the pro-life position when asked about it, which won't happen often, and he'll argue for it mostly in vague terms and without much persuasiveness. It will be beneficial to have a pro-life President in office, and a lot of good will result from it on issues like the appointment of judges. But there will be a lot of missed opportunities.

Given how much attention issues like the economy and healthcare receive, I'd like to see a pro-life candidate discuss the connection between issues like those and abortion. What effect does the elimination of tens of millions of people from a population have on the economy? On social security? On our competition with other nations, including nations that are hostile toward the United States and have higher birth rates? Etc. The pro-life side of the abortion argument seems to be winning in America, but probably would be winning much more effectively if the political leaders in the movement would be better informed, more courageous, and more innovative. I don't expect to see that this year, but maybe we'll see some small steps in the right direction.

Monday, January 28, 2008

To Our Mormon Commenters

Recently, some comments have surfaced in the comboxes that deserve public attention on the front page.

Here are some samples:

Christ did not preach hatred. Your words are hate. So sorry for you.

You didn't listen carefully enough to the LDS missionaries. Jesus Christ allowed all faithful people to reside with him in heaven (even Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals).

We try not to disparage your religious traditions, please try not to disparage ours.
In Steve's words:
Gene's post is quite mild compare to, say, Matthew 23. If you think that Gene's post is hateful, then, by your yardstick, Jesus was definitely preaching "hatred" towards the Pharisees in Mt 23.

Try brushing up on the Bible while your at it. As it is, you betray and equal ignorance of Mormonism and Jesus alike. Of course, Mormonism cultivates an ignorance of what Jesus is really like.
In fairness, the first in the above list of comments may or may not be from a Mormon. That's the problem with "Anonymous." If "Anonymous" would like to defend his beliefs about what Jesus taught, he's welcome to do so here.

I thought, however, I would simply supply some material first from the Bible and then from Mormonism itself.

What did Jesus teach?

Matthew 23

Pharisaism Exposed
1Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples,

2saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses;

3therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.

4"They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

5"But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.

6"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,

7and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.

8"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.

9"Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.

10"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

11"But the greatest among you shall be your servant.

12"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Eight Woes
13"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

14["Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]

15"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

16"Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.'

17"You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?

18"And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.'

19"You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?

20"Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it.

21"And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it.

22"And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

23"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

24"You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.

26"You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

27"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.

28"So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,

30and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'

31"So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

32"Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

33"You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

34"Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,

35so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

36"Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Lament over Jerusalem
37"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

38"Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!

39"For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'"

Here's another set from Matthew, this time I'll provide some commentary:

a. Matt. 8:6:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Note that this is written after the so often quoted “judge not that you be not judged” statement. One wonders how, if we are not to judge others at all, how we are to know what is a dog or a pig? “Dog” was a common derogatory term for “Gentile” and the “pig” is an unclean animal. Of course, Jesus does not advocate calling non-believers and Gentiles “dogs,” but he is telling us to judge justly and know the difference between what is right and wrong, true and false, “clean” and “unclean,” etc. One of these days maybe atheists, liberals, and, yes, Mormons will read Matthew 8: 1 - 5 and let their eyes drop down to verse 6. Better yet, let's hope their eyes drop down a few more paragraphs, where we find this:

b. Matt. 8:15

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Is it true that Mormons don't disparage Evangelical Christians? Let's see what some representatives from Mormonism have stated before. Perhaps our interlocuters will take the time, unlike the last, to actually read these statements before "talking all up out their heads."

"Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the "whore of Babylon" whom the lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness." (Pratt, The Seer, p.255)

"And any person who shall be so wicked as to receive a holy ordinance of the gospel from the ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them, unless they repent of the unholy and impious act." (Orson Pratt, OP-WA, "The Kingdom of God," no.2, p.6)

"...all other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God; and any person who recieves baptism or the Lord's supper from their hands will highly offend God, for he looks upon them as the most corrupt people." (Orson Pratt, The Seer, pg. 255)

"After the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, there were only two churches upon the earth. They were known respectively as the Church of the Lamb of God and Babylon. The various organizations which are called churches throughout Christiandom, though differing in their creeds and organizations, have one common orgin. They belong to Babylon." (George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, p.324)
The Ontario Emperor, who linked back here, has provided an interesting quote from Hinckley, one that I would say either demonstrates LDS duplicity or his ignorance of his own faith. Given Hinckley's position, I am not inclined to believe the latter.

On whether his church still holds that God the Father was once a man, he sounded uncertain, "I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it... I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don't know a lot about it, and I don't think others know a lot about it."
1. That quote is from Time Magazine, 1997. Here is Hinckley in 1998:

"In His image man was created. ...In the account of the Creation of the earth, 'God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness' (Gen. 1:26). Could any language be more explicit?" (Gordon B. Hinckley, First Presidency Message, "The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," Ensign, March 1998, 2)
2. From Doctrine and Covenants:
"We are created in God's image. In the Old Testament God said, 'Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness' ...God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820. Joseph revealed that the Father and the Son each have a 'body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's' (D&C 130:22)
“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's” (130:22).
3. Brigham Young on the virgin birth:
He [God] created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, ed. George D. Watt, 26 vols. (Liverpool: F.D. Richards, et al., 1854-1886), 11:122, LDSCL.
The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers. Ibid., 8:115, LDSCL.
When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. . . . Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. I will repeat a little anecdote. I was in conversation with a certain learned professor upon this subject, when I replied, to this idea if the Son was begotten by the Holy Ghost, it would be very dangerous to baptize and confirm females, and give the Holy Ghost to them, lest he should beget children, and be palmed upon the Elders by the people, bringing the Elders into great difficulties. Ibid., 1:50-51, LDSCL.
When the time came that His first-born, the Saviour, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it. The Saviour was begotten by the Father of His spirit, by the same Being who is the Father of our spirits, and that is all the organic difference between Jesus Christ and you and me Ibid., 4:218, LDSCL.
4. Joseph Smith:
We must come down to the simple fact that God Almighty was the Father of His Son Jesus Christ. Mary, the virgin girl, who had never known mortal man, was his mother. God by her begot his Son Jesus Christ, and he was born into the world with power and intelligence like that of His Father. . . . Now, my little friends, I will repeat again in words as simple as I can, and you talk to your parents about it, that God, the Eternal Father, is literally the father of Jesus Christ. (Joseph F. Smith, Box Elder Stake Conference Dec. 20, 1914 as quoted in Brigham City Box Elder News, 28 Jan. 1915, pp. 1-2).
"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret, if the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345. Also cited in Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p.129).

5. Lastly,

For Latter-day Saints, the paternity of Jesus is not obscure. He was the literal, biological son of an immortal, tangible Father and Mary, a mortal woman (see Virgin Birth). Jesus is the only person born who deserves the title "the Only Begotten Son of God" (John 3:16; Benson, p. 3; see Jesus Christ: Only Begotten in the Flesh). He was not the son of the Holy Ghost; it was only through the Holy Ghost that the power of the Highest overshadowed Mary (Encyclopedia of Mormonism).
Evangelicals are often told by Mormons that we should accept them as fellow Christians and/or we should not misrepresent their beliefs. However, as those involved in apologetics with Mormons consistently demonstrate, when it comes down to it, we're only taking Mormons at their own word with respect to what they believe. Perhaps the problem isn't our ignorance, but their own...

Obituary: Gordon B. Hinckley

Mormons will be looking for a new President.

Despite the claims of a few in the comboxes when Mormonism arises as a topic of discussion, Hinckley was a false teacher and will be treated accordingly by his Judge. Now would be a good time to remind your Mormon neighbors of the Gospel. No accolades of men, no meritorious works in addition to faith can save a man's soul. God is not an embodied, exhalted man. Men do not become gods. Christ is not Lucifer's "spirit brother." The Book of Mormon is a fabrication from beginning to end, along with the Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price. Mormons are not Christians.

Christ is God incarnate, not a mode of God's existence, but One of Three subsistences within the Godhead, who together form one God. There is no pantheon of gods. There is but one. His name is not Elohim to the exclusion of others. His covenant name is Yahweh. Christ died for the sins of His people. The way to know that one is one of those people is to put your faith in Christ and His sole and sufficient merit and repent of your sins and throw yourself on the mercy of God holding fast to Christ alone as your only High Priest. He will not turn away any who come to Him.