Saturday, February 09, 2008

Reppert on hell

Victor Reppert has been debating the problem of evil. He makes a number of useful points along the way. But a few comments caught my eye:

“I'm not even assuming the doctrine of everlasting punishment here. That's not entailed by theism.”

i) One doesn’t have to get drawn into a debate over eternal punishment to debate the problem of evil, and this can be a diversionary tactic, so, to that extent, I agree with him.

ii) It’s also true that eternal punishment is not entailed by theism. It’s a contingent truth, related to other contingent truths. In a sinless world, there would be no need for hell.

But by the same token, one could also say that theism doesn’t entail a divine incarnation, piacular sacrifice, or resurrection of the Messiah. These are also contingent truths.

But even though *theism* does not entail these events, *Christian* theism most certainly does. So I’m unclear on how far Reppert takes his taking his disclaimer. Where does he draw the line, and why?

“I can imagine all sorts of things that would refute theism. If it were discovered that someone were in hell forever simply because of a divine fiat when that person could have been just as easily saved would do it for me.”

i) That’s an odd statement. How would this example refute theism? Doesn’t his example assume theism?

If God didn’t exist, then there would be no hell—and even if there were a hell, one wouldn’t find someone in by divine fiat. Conversely, if someone is there due to a divine fiat, then God must exist.

So what this amounts to, at most is that Reppert would fear rather than revere such a God—and not that such a God would be nonexistent.

ii) How would the fact that God could save Attila the Hun, but damns him instead, refute theism? Why is God under some obligation to forgive Attila the Hun? Do the victims of Attila the Hun share Reppert’s moral intuitions?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Two Testaments, One Story

Christianity Today has an interview with G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson on their recent publication, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament.

Good questions in search of bad answers

High-churchmen typically claim that an authoritarian church confers an epistemic advantage over the Protestant rule of faith. But does it?

1. Are we talking about a hypothetically advantageous situation, or a live option? Hypothetically speaking, it would be advantageous if all Christians were divinely. Indeed, Pentecostals think that’s a live option. But converts to the high-church tradition don’t think that Pentecostalism is a live option. Indeed, they regard Montanism—the ancient counterpart to Pentecostalism—as a heresy.

2. As far as the high-church tradition is concerned, most prospective converts either opt for Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy.

Even this is rather arbitrary. Why not Oriental Orthodoxy?

3. As a practical matter, its not as if either the Catholic church or the Orthodox church has listed a 1-800-ANSWERS number where you can receive specific, timely, divine guidance in life. Neither church operates a hotline where you can receive God’s answer to such basic, personal questions as:

“Should I marry Betty or Debbie?”

“Which college should I go to?”

“What should my college major be?”

“What school should I send my kids to?”

“Where should I live?”

“How many kids should I have?”

“How long will I live, so that I can plan for the future?”

“Will I ever be diagnosed with a degenerative illness, and—if so—at what age?”

“Which form of cancer therapy should I undergo?”

“Should I put my dad in a nursing home?”

“Which stocks and bonds should I invest in?”

“What should I do in a ticking timebomb situation?”

“If my wife goes shopping this afternoon, will she be killed by a drunk driver, leaving me widowed with four kids to raise on my own?”

“Should I quit my lucrative, full-time job, take a part-time job, go to seminary, and have my wife work outside the home?”

“What can I do to keep my son from getting hooked on drugs?”

“Which candidate should I vote for?”

“I’m on a jury. Should I vote to convict or acquit the defendant?”

You can add your own queries to the questionnaire. Point being: there are ever so many morally freighted, life-changing questions for which the high-church tradition doesn’t even pretend to offer an answer.

4. There’s a tradeoff between Catholicism and Orthodox. And each tradition has its own problems:

i) Catholicism lays claim to a living teaching office in a way that Orthodoxy does not. Orthodoxy is more decentralized, tradition-bound, and backward-looking.

So, the Catholic magisterium would be closer to what some converts are looking for in terms of topical, time-sensitive answers, if they credit its grandiose claims, and ignore what I said under (3).

But this, in turn, creates a tension between the past and the present. It’s very difficult to honestly reconcile past magisterial teaching with modern magisterial teaching. So the very contemporeity of the Magisterium generates internal conflicts between modernity and antiquity.

ii) By contrast, Orthodoxy has undergone less internal development. It’s more rooted in the past. But that, in turn, means that, by definition, it doesn’t have traditional, real-time answers to modern questions. Tradition is bound to be silent on questions peculiar to modernity.

And, ironically, this leaves Orthodoxy wide open to modernism in all those situations where it doesn’t have a set of pat answers from the past. So we see that Orthodoxy is susceptible to evolutionary biology and German Bible criticism.

5. Some Evangelicals who are tempted to cross the Tiber or the Bosporus are asking good questions. I respect their questions. There are bright young men who are posing intelligent, worthwhile questions. And sometimes they don’t get good answers from the Evangelicals they happen to read or question.

What I find, however, is that those who do convert to Orthodoxy or Catholicism stop asking the same questions. They don’t hold Rome or Constantinople to the same standard as they held Geneva to.

They don’t keep pressing the same tenacious questions, or demand the same rigorous answers, of their adopted, high-church tradition. They are relentless on Geneva, but easygoing on Rome or Constantinople.

Where Geneva is concerned, a facile, but fallacious answer won’t do. They can see right through that. That leaves them dissatisfied.

Mind you, the answers you get are only as good as the individuals you ask. Likewise, the answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask.

But in the end, they settle for easy answers. The past of least resistance.

They settle for a shortcut. An ecclesiastical shortcut.

And they stop asking themselves whether the ecclesiastical shortcut is does the job. Indeed, they change the job description.

They also stop asking themselves whether there is any compelling evidence for the ecclesiastical shortcut—not to mention evidence to the contrary. Convenience becomes the only criterion.

So they collapse halfway through the journey. They start out on their own two feet when they examine the Protestant rule of faith.

But then they thumb a ride on the Catholic or Orthodox bandwagon for the rest of the journey, and they hop on that vehicle before they even establish if it’s roadworthy or headed in the right direction. Instead, they simply get tired of walking and hitch a ride on whatever they see coming down the road.

Tough questions for Geneva. Go hard on Geneva. Don’t let up for a minute. Evasive answers won’t do.

Softball questions for Rome or Constantinople. Gloss over all of the historical gaps and forgeries and discontinuities and infighting.

6. Their primary question is predicated on a false expectation. The expectation of exhaustive guidance.

But consider the OT law. This was a divinely inspired code of conduct for personal and social ethics.

What did it amount to? A general set of moral norms (the Decalogue) along with a set of case-laws. The case-laws illustrated the way in which the moral norms were to be applied in some representative situations.

And that’s it, folks. It was left to the Jews to infer the rest. That’s where their duties to God and man began and ended.

It was the duty of OT Jews generally, and Jewish judges in particular, to extrapolate from general norms to specific applications—as well as extrapolate from case laws to analogous situations. And although the Decalogue and case-laws were inspired, their interpretation and application by Jewish judges was not. That’s why, in Second Temple Judaism, you had rival schools of thought (e.g. Hillel v. Shamai).

The high churchman invokes the appealing claim that an infallible revelation requires an infallible interpreter. Well, that equation has a catchy, symmetrical ring to it, but it's not the ring of truth. That’s not how God governed his people in Bible times. God’s word in tandem with God’s providence were sufficient to realize God’s purpose for his people.

And no high-church tradition even ventures to give every Christian instant, heaven-sent answers to our daily decisions in life—many of which are weighty and momentous. Not even close. By the same token, no high-church tradition presumes to offer God’s own interpretation of every verse in Scripture. Not even close.

Praise & Blame

Genesis 20

Abraham and Abimelech

1 From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, "She is my sister." And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, "Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife." 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, "Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, 'She is my sister'? And she herself said, 'He is my brother.' In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this." 6 Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.

Usually free will theorists contend that only relevantly free agents, free in the libertarian way, are proper subjects of ascriptions of praise and blame. That moral praise and blame presuppose the relevant type of control over your actions that only a libertarian account can afford. But in Genesis 20 not only do with have the passage implying that Abimelech made a choice, we have him saying that he cannot be blamed for his actions. But also contained is the presupposition that it was God who kept Abimelech from sinning. That God could have allowed him to sin, and then blamed him. Abimelech’s not sinning was not in his control in the libertarian sense. He had a possible alternative closed off. Whether Abimelech sinned or not, it was up to what God allowed.

Assume that there are two doors in front of you, doors 1 and 2. Now, assume that in front of door 2 is an invisible force field. Thus you would be “kept from” entering door 2. 2 is not a live option for you in the sense that you can instantiate that choice. Say you enter door 1. Would we say that this person was not free? If so, then was Abimelech not free? Then why the comment of his integrity? That he shouldn’t be blamed? And, could it not just as easily be that Abimelech sinned while God “kept him” from not sinning? And, if so, the passage intimates that he would have been blamed.

So, either Abimelech was not free in this passage (which is not at all clear from the text, and seems to presuppose that he was), or he could have been blamed for doing something he didn’t have the ability to actually refrain from doing (assuming that if God "keeps you" from Xing, you cannot nevertheless X by overriding his power). He would have been “kept from” entering that first door. And, just sticking with the passage, to say, “I cannot be blamed for I am morally in the clear. The actions I chose to do are not worthy of ascriptions of blame,” seems to imply freedom not robotics (as the dichotomy is often posed). But he didn’t have an alternative possibility. He was “kept from” instantiating one of them.

Thus we see that (i) libertarian freedom is not required for blame (given what easily could have transpired), (ii) Abimelech made choices and was free but was “kept” from being able to instantiate an alternative possibility, and (iii) to say that Abimelech was not free here goes against the presuppositions of the text. It seems to me that Genesis 20 militates against libertarian freedom as long as the conjunction that the Bible is authoritative on that which it speaks is also presupposed. In other words, if one accepts the orthodox assumption that if Scripture says X, and your position says ~X, then ~~X.

De Trinitate

"But whatever hesitations there may have been generations ago, 'person' is now almost universally accepted as the word of choice to describe the quality of being in common to all three members of the Trinity and it seems unlikely that it will be dislodged from its exalted position anytime soon. Concomitant with this has been the apparent eclipse of the basically philosophical concept of 'substance.' This has been a long time coming, and it may not be definitive, but for the moment at least, it seems possible to say that the notion that God is a 'substance' somehow distinct from his three persons has been rejected, mainly on the grounds that the unity of God cannot be depersonalized, nor can there be a fourth 'thing' in him that can be conceptualized as such."

---Gerald Bray, The Trinity: Where Do We Go From Here?, in _Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology_, IVP, 2006, p.23

Also see this post by James Anderson, as well as some corroboration of some of Anderson's comments by Bray (ibid, pp. 30-31).

Wheaton Administrators Come To Their Senses

HT: Justin Taylor

See CT's blog.


Todd Littleton over at SBC Outpost has defended Mike Edens' statement on this and taken Dr. Mohler to task for his statement.

I remain in agreement with Dr. Mohler and Dr. Piper. That said, I agree with this statement by President Littfin @ Wheaton:

As to the related question this incident raises of evangelism and inter-faith dialogue, surely the best answer is a balanced one. If we truly believe the Gospel and love our neighbor, evangelism will lie near the core of our relationships without occupying the whole of it. Our friendships with non-Christians transcend evangelism in the sense that those friendships continue even when Christ is not received. In other words, our friendship is not contingent upon that reception. But nor can any genuine friendship with non-Christians exclude an evangelistic concern. Our relationship may be in pre-evangelistic phase, or evangelistic phase, or a post-evangelistic phase, but a desire to see our friend find Christ must never disappear from the frame. If our love is genuine, we will always retain sight of our friend’s deepest need and stand ready to serve it if the opportunity arises.

I would add:

1. We can do this without acting as if Muslims have done nothing for which they should repent as well. That was one of my major problems with the original statement. It acts as if forgiveness is unconditional. No, it isn't. Forgiveness in Scripture is conditioned on repentance, and that includes, in human relationships at least a profession of repentance by the offending party when confronted.

2. We can do this without pretending that Allah and Yahweh are the same God. This is, by the way, equally true with the way we deal with Mormons. The gods of Islam and Mormonism are not the God of Judaism and Christianity - period. Dr. Edens said,
"Secondly, Muslims misunderstand the Bible, Christ and Christianity. We who are redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ are to bear witness to Him and the Bible. The best hope for clarification of the confusing theology in Islam is through witness shared by Bible-believing Christians. For me, such witness is best delivered in close conversation. I do that best with Muslims I know and see here in New Orleans but I do that in community with followers of Christ all around the world. From my experience where Islam is dominant, our witness with individuals is hurt when Christian leaders refuse such offered conversations."

Well, doesn't going along with the notion that Allah and Yahweh are identical further such misunderstanding? I find Dr. Edens' position intellectually confused. To do that panders to the self-interest of the sinner. We wouldn't tell an adulterer that his adultery was fine and dandy as if God had nothing to say about it would we? That too panders to the sinner's self-interest, just as surely as saying "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for you life" without qualifying that statement's meaning does. Sure, He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life...conditioned on your repentance from sin and faith in Christ. I hardly think that your certain damnation otherwise constitutes a "wonderful plan" in the sense that statement from "The 4 Spiritual Laws" is intended to convey.

3. We can do this without prostrating ourselves before Allah and his followers the way Israel did before Egypt and Ra through Pharaoh leading up to the Exile. We should not beg for Allah's forgiveness, for Allah is a false god of the Muslims vain imaginings.

What about illegals?

A friend recently asked me a couple of questions about illegal immigration. For what it's worth, here's a slightly edited version of my original answer.


That's a complicated question to answer. With respect to your first question:

1. I don’t object to illegal aliens simply because they’re here illegally. One of the first questions we need to ask ourselves is not whether something is illegal, but whether it ought to be illegal. If we have bad laws, we need to change the law.

2. Illegals are not all of a kind, so I’m going to mention certain types of illegals which I object to:

i) I object to illegals who come here simply to leech off the welfare state. I don’t approve of the welfare state to begin with. I don’t approve of income redistribution generally. Since I don’t approve of the welfare state for American citizens, I don’t approve of extending the welfare state to illegals. That merely worsens a bad situation.

Our social obligations are concentric. My primary obligation is to support my own family.

Now, there are situations in which you and I benefit if we pool our resources. But that still involves a principle of reciprocity. I do something for your family if you do something in return.

One of the problems with the welfare state is that it tends to garnish responsible wage earners and transfer their income to subsidize the folks with an irresponsible lifestyle.

ii) Apropos (i), I object to illegals who come here for what they can get rather than what they can give back.

iii) I object to illegals who imagine, out of some arrogant sense of entitlement, that the host country should accommodate the customs which they brought with them from the country they left behind. For example, there’s no reason our government should issue official forms in foreign language.

I have no problem with immigrants speaking their mother tongue. But the host government is under no obligation to speak their language. Same thing with bilingual education.

In general, I don’t object to immigrants who bring their culture with them. But that’s different than imposing foreign customs on the host country. Cultural change and exchange should be voluntary rather than coercive.

BTW, I’m not just talking about, say, illegal Mexican immigrants. Legal Muslim immigrants are just as bad or worse in this respect.

iv) Not only is this arrogant, but it’s often hypocritical. If the country they left behind was so great, why did they leave it behind? If they’re coming to America for a better life, then why are they trying to turn America into a carbon copy of the culture which they came to America to escape?

v) Apropos (iv), I object to illegals who come to America to escape a dysfunctional culture, only to import their dysfunctional social mores into American society. An example would be Mexican street gangs, the Mexican Mafia, and other suchlike.

vi) Apropos (v), I do think that foreign nationals have some responsibility for reforming their own dysfunctional countries. America cannot absorb all the poor people of the world.

Many poor countries have natural resources. Many poor countries have a rich cultural heritage. It should be possible to make those countries viable.

vii) Another problem with the S. border is that Mexico doesn’t extradite illegals who commit a capital offense here, then flee to Mexico.

viii) Illegal labor dries up blue-collar jobs for American citizens. It contributes to joblessness.

At the same time, many American businesses like to exploit all of that dirt-cheap, sweatshop labor right across the border.

ix) There is also a danger that reverse discrimination is fueling a white supremacist movement. Ron Paul’s campaign is tapping into some of that pent up rage and resentment.

The charge of “racism” can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When legitimate social grievances no longer have a legitimate political outlet, that drives them into angry seditious fringe groups.

x) Incidentally, the S. border gets a lot more attention than the N. border because we don’t have Canadians pouring into our country.

However, the Canadian border does pose a threat to our national security—as well as Canada’s national security. Because Canada has such a lenient policy on immigrants, refugees, and citizens of the UK, it’s a haven for jihadis:

That’s an oft- neglected issue in the controversy over porous borders.

In addition, the Eurabian bureaucrats in Canada are now treating any criticism of the jihadis a hate-crime:

I’m sorry that so many Canadian Christians are at the mercy of their own social engineers in the power elite.

With respect to your second question:

1. It isn’t inherently hypocritical to treat people we know differently than people we don’t. We treat friends better than strangers, and there’s a reason for that.

This doesn’t mean we should treat strangers badly, but there’s nothing inherently hypocritical about making an exception for a friend or acquaintance. Favoritism is an essential component of friendship. It’s part of the social glue which keeps the social fabric in one piece.

Of course, there are situations when this can be hypocritical. A paradigm-case would be bureaucrats who pass laws and prosecute offenders while they exempt themselves from the laws they enforce on everyone else.

2. There’s also a legal and moral distinction between reporting a crime and covering for someone.

i) As a rule, I’m not breaking the law if I don’t turn you in for breaking the law. Now, some localities have laws where, if you belong to a particular profession, you are legally obligated to report a particular crime. But, generally, civilians are not under a legal obligation to report a crime.

ii) And there’s not always a moral obligation to do so. A few years ago a convicted child molester was going to move back into a residential community. He had “served his time.” But before he moved in, one of the neighbors burned the house down.

Now, that’s not something I would do. And I don’t ordinarily approve of arson. And I don’t ordinarily approve of vigilantism. But if I knew who the torched the house, I wouldn’t report him to the authorities.

It situations like this, citizens take the law into their own hands because government officials are shirking their duties. They are failing to protect the populace.

Of course, there are many other situations in which I do have a moral obligation to report a crime. But there are times when it’s none of my business.

Take a stupid law like a smoking ban in a tavern. What do I care whether a customer is smoking in a bar?

My philosophy is: if you’re going to pass a stupid law, enforce it yourself. Don’t expect me to collaborate in your stupidity.

3. On the other hand, it’s one thing to turn a blind eye to certain crimes, but something else to facilitate a crime or actively subvert the legal system. Give him sanctuary. Falsify documents. Destroy evidence. Lie to authorities.

Mind you, there are other circumstances in which this is also permissible. Take the French Resistance. It was permissible for Frenchmen to lie to the Nazis, lie to the puppet regime of the Vichy government. Support an underground insurgency.

One can come up with many parallel examples.

4. Basically, I think that people should break the law at their own risk—as long as they’re not putting others at risk.

If you violate immigration laws, even if I don’t report you, don’t expect me to front for you. You’re on your own as far as the legal system is concerned. You came here at your own risk. You knew the risk. Don’t count on me to bail you out.

It’s like swimming when no lifeguard is on duty. Swim at your own risk. Don’t sue me because I didn’t pay to keep a lifeguard to be on duty around the clock, and someone drowns in his absence.

If you try to cross the Rio Grande, and you’re swept away, that’s a tragedy, but it’s not my fault.

5. There is also a difference between the few and the many. The social infrastructure can absorb a certain amount of criminality—but when it reaches a certain extent or intensity, then that’s intolerable.

It’s like the ER. No, we don’t want someone to bleed to death. When possible, we should be charitable. But if the ER is so overwhelmed by indigent patients that it has to close its doors, then everyone loses.

Few apologies for Islam

Three Arabs told an audience at the Air Force Academy on Wednesday they left a life of terrorism and sectarian hatred after converting to Christianity. (keep reading)

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Last month, I was able to watch a screening of Ben Stein’s upcoming movie, Expelled ( Stein was there at the presentation too, so I got to sit through a little Q&A with him. At the time, all viewers had to sign a confidentiality agreement that precluded us from writing reviews about the movie. That restriction was lifted yesterday, however, so today I bring you my review of Expelled.

For those who know absolutely nothing about the film, Expelled is Stein’s look at Intelligent Design and the way that ID proponents are expelled from the "academy" via academic censorship. The basic goal of the film is to publicize the fact that there are professors who question Darwinistic dogma who are then censured for it, who cannot get tenure, who are fired from their jobs, etc. Therefore, on a broad issue, the film is designed simply to publicize the suppression of free-thought by Darwinists and not to provide an apologetic for ID as such.

Since I knew this was the motivation, I watched the film intentionally thinking of what Darwinists would say in response to it. Because of that, when I watched it I found the movie does have some weaknesses. The main drawback to it from the intellectual standpoint is that it relied on a heavy emotional link to Social Darwinism, especially manifest by Hitler’s Darwinism; thus the "intellectual" Darwinist will most certainly respond: "It's nothing but emotive propaganda with no substance" (which isn't true, but the emotive aspect was emphasized enough that it did sometimes feel that way even to this ID proponent).

By the way, I should also point out that I don't think it's bad in and of itself for the movie to play on the Social Darwinistic evils that have come about; atheists harp on the Crusades enough that they deserve this. And frankly most people are unaware of the links between Eugenics and Darwinism and Planned Parenthood, which are also mentioned in the film along with Hitler and the Communists.

Throughout the film is the metaphor of the Berlin Wall, and Stein ends the film by paralleling Reagan's famous "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" speech. The attempt is to get people to know the wall exists so that others will be able to work at chipping it away. The rallying cry is: "We need academic freedom, and that includes the freedom to believe contra-Darwin about origins of life." I do believe the film captures this goal, and so it succeeds at what it attempts to do.

So to review it, it definitely would get a solid A in my book. And while the movie is only 97 minutes long in the form I saw, Stein told us the DVD is going to have tons more footage and extra features in it, including what will probably become one of the most famous Dawkins interviews, at least for the IDers.

In fact, that interview remains the most memorable portion of the film if, for no other reason, than the fact that I have read so much of Dawkins materials beforehand. Stein had Dawkins looking absolutely flummoxed. During Stein’s interview, Dawkins stated that it was impossible that there is an Intelligent Designer. Stein asked him for a percentage on how sure he is of that idea. Dawkins refuses to give an exact number, then finally decided on 99%. Stein asked: "Couldn't it be 49% instead?" Dawkins responded with his typical: "No, the probability of a designer is nowhere near half" etc. Then, Stein pressed Dawkins on how the first cell was created, and in the end Dawkins actually acknowledged that he could accept the theory of panspermia (aliens did it). Everyone in the theater laughed, because after just saying it was impossible for intelligent design to have created life on Earth, Dawkins admits that aliens that were "more intellectually advanced than we are" (as close to a direct quote as I can recall from memory of something I saw only once) could have done it after all.

As a funny aside, one of the questions Stein was asked during our forum was: "Do you think you treated Dawkins fairly in the movie?" To which Stein responded (accurately, as those of you who have read Dawkins already know): "I think we treated him charitably. There were many hostile responses he gave that we edited out, where his response was basically, 'I'm Richard Dawkins and you don't know what you're talking about. I'm Richard Dawkins!'" It remains to be seen how much of the entire interview will be in the DVD version of the film.

Naturally, this film will not convince any Darwinist to look at ID...but then, no film could do that. It will hopefully be enough to pry open the door a bit for some so that others can come along with more detailed explanations in the future.

"The Wisdom of Solomon"

"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."

Why don’t we begin by quoting some scholarly observations by the author of the standard modern commentary on this particular book of the OT apocrypha:

“Thus the author of Wisd is quite capable of constructing sentences in true period style (12:27; 13:11-15), and his fondness for compound words is almost Aeschylean. His manner at times has the light tough of Greek lyric poetry (17:17-19; 2:6-9; 5:9-13), and occasionally his words fall into an iambic or hexameter rhythm. He employs…Greek philosophical terminology,” D. Winston, the Wisdom of Solomon: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Doubleday 1979), 15-16.

“These characteristics, in addition to the author’s many favorite ‘theme words and expressions which recur throughout the work, argue for unity of authorship, and make the hypothesis that Wisd is a translation of a Hebrew original virtually untenable,” ibid. 16-17.

Now the book clearly intimates Solomonic authorship. But I don’t think one can seriously contend that Solomon wrote in Greek—especially the kind of Greek we encounter in Wisdom.

So that would make the work of forgery. My theory of inspiration does not extend to inspired forgeries. But Dyer may beg to differ.

“No consensus has thus far emerged regarding the date of Wisd, and various scholars have place it anywhere between 220 BCE and 50 CE,” ibid 20.

“There are further considerations, however, which point to the reign of Gaius ‘Caligula’ (37:41 CE) as the likeliest setting for Wisd,” ibid. 23.

1.But didn’t Dyer assure us that “all admit” it was written prior to the first advent of Christ?

Either he hasn’t consulted the standard commentary on Wisdom, where the commentator not only offers his own date for the work, but reviews the dating scheme of other scholars—dates which sometimes postdate birth and death of Christ, or else he has read this commentary, and is dissembling about a scholarly consensus on the pre-adventual date of the book.

I suppose a third option is that he read it, but is too forgetful to remember what he read.

The most plausible and charitable explanation is that Dyer is an ignoramus—and a pretty hypocritical ignoramus at that. He berates the Protestants for their failure to include the OT apocrypha in their canon while he himself is too lazy to acquaint himself with the standard exegetical literature on a book which he himself puts forward as a test-case for the inspiration and canonicity of the OT apocrypha.

2.While we’re on the subject, does Dyer think that Solomon was a contemporary of Caligula? That would require a rather creative reconstruction of standard chronology.

Or is Dyer of the opinion that Solomon outlived Jesus? That would be pretty impressive for a man who was born around 971 BC. It’s even more impressive considering the fact that the OT records the death of Solomon.

Of course, Dyer is at liberty to challenge Winston’s dating scheme. If so, then we look forward to his erudite interaction with Winston’s evidence.

“For the Greek Church, the Synod of Jerusalem in 1672 introduced Wisd and other Deuterocanonical books to a place in Holy Scripture. ‘There appears to be no unanimity, however, on the subject of the canon in the Greek Orthodox Church today. Catechisms directly at variance with each other on this subject have received the Imprimatur of the Greek Ecclesiastical authorities and the Greek clergy may hold and teach what they please about it (Metzger: 195),” ibid. 67.

Oh, dear! And here I was led to believe that the Orthodox church is a beachhead of religious certainty amidst the shifting sands of Protestant scholarship. I’m so disillusioned.

“The author’s treatment of the suffering and vindication of the child of God [2:13ff] is a homily based chiefly on the fourth Servant Song in Isa 52:12 with some help from earlier and later passages in that book,” ibid. 119-20.

So even assuming that we credit Dyer’s Messianic interpretation of this chapter, that would be derivative of OT prophecy, on which Wisdom is literarily dependent.

I could quote other examples from Winston’s commentary on this passage to underscore the same point.

Dyer presumably cited Wisdom 2 because he believes that this chapter of this book furnishes an especially impressive case for the inspiration and canonicity of the OT apocrypha. If that’s the best he can offer, then it’s downhill from there.

Frameing the Issues

"[O]n the question of whether God imputes the righteousness of Christ to the believer[:]

Whether or not Scripture specifically refers to such imputation, it is clearly implicit in our union with Christ. Remember that 'imputation' means to reckon the righteousness or guilt of one person to another. But to be one with Christ is certainly to have his righteousness as our own. In him we become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Far from rendering imputation unnecessary, union with Christ is impossible without imputation, and vice versa. I am convinced that the church will make no progress on the justification issue until this point is fully understood and appreciated."

---John Frame in _Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology_, ed. A.T.B. McGowan, 2006, p.12

Libertarian fatalism

Jason said:

"I agree that fatalism, as you describe it, is not what I've seen advocated on this blog. It sounds like you and Steve are advocating the point that our own wills are constrained. Wouldn't this be a deeper form of 'fatalism' (not only are we doomed, but we actively seek our doom and we have no choice but to want to seek it)."

1. Depends on how you define fatalism. In Classical fatalism, a character like Oedipus or Croesus knows his fate. It may be revealed to him through an oracle.

The character then attempts to escape his fate. But no matter what he does, his evasive maneuvers are futile. Indeed, the very attempt to escape his fate is the means by which he fulfills his fate.

The key idea is that he is doomed against his will. A modern counterpart would be the B-flick Final Destination, where the characters try desperately and unsuccessfully to cheat death.

2. You use the word “constraint.” But Calvinism doesn’t take the position that the human will is under constraint. For constraint implies an opposing force. Left to my own devices, I would do X, but my desire is overridden by a superior force.

In Calvinism, by contrast, the reprobate are not unwilling participants in the outcome. Indeed, it’s the other way around. Common grace is a restraining influence. The unregenerate commit evil to the extent that God relaxes common grace, to the extent that their sinful impulses are allowed to go unchecked. They sin through lack of constraint.

3. I don’t know why you say that, according to Calvinism, we are “doomed” to fulfill our destiny. You might say that about the reprobate, but to say the elect are “doomed” to wind up in heaven is a rather odd adjective for such a blissful “fate.”

4. One more thing about Calvinism. Critics of Calvinism typically level two contradictory objections:

i) On the one hand, they claim that Calvinism is an axiomatic system. We begin, so we’re told, with the axiom of predestination, and then we deduced everything from our axiom. So our method is aprioristic. And we filter the Bible through our Calvinistic grid.

ii) On the other hand, they attack Calvinism because of the unacceptable consequences of our theology. How can we believe in a God who blames us for Adam’s sin? How can we believe in a God who predestines some people to hell? How can we believe in a God who decrees natural disasters?

The answer is: we believe these things because they are taught in Scripture, and we believe the Bible. We begin with the Bible and take it from there.

By contrast, it’s the critics of Calvinism who begin with certain consequences, which they deem to be unacceptable, and then construct a theological system to avoid those consequences.

5. Ironically, where you find examples of theological fatalism are not in Calvinism, but in libertarian theological schemes. Let’s take a couple of examples:

i) Open theism begins with the axiom of man’s libertarian freedom. But open theism still wants God to win the war between good and evil. It doesn’t want to create an even playing field for God and Satan. It doesn’t want to posit an eternal dualism between good and evil, a la Manicheanism.

So it uses the analogy of a chess game. God is the Grand Master. For every move that I make, God can make a countermove. And because God is a better chess player than I am, he always wins. No matter what move I make, God can outmaneuver me.

But this is a form of fatalism. No matter what I do, I lose. Every move I make is a losing move.

So, in open theism, my actions are irrelevant. Nothing I do makes any difference to the ultimate outcome. Whether I do something or nothing, whether I opt for A instead of B, or B instead of A, God always backs me into a state of checkmate—so that I end up wherever he wanted me to be.

In open theism, the game might as well be rigged, the deck might as well be stacked, the dice might as well be loaded, since the outcome is inevitable.

ii) Molinism tries to harmonize libertarian freewill with divine determinism. The way it does this is to say that human beings are libertarian agents in possible worlds. There’s a possible world in which Judas betrays Jesus, and another possible world in which Judas remains loyal to Jesus.

God determines the outcome, not by determining what Judas will do, but by determining which possible world will become the real world. God determines to bring about the possible world in which Judas will betray Jesus.

But this harmonization is fatalistic. For Judas isn’t given a chance to choose which world he will live in, in terms of which possible world will end up having real world consequences.

It doesn’t matter to Judas if he goes to hell in a possible world, for in a merely possible world, Judas is not a real person. He is not a conscious agent. He can’t actually suffer. The consequences of his hypothetical actions don’t stick. For he is just an idea in the mind of God—having no objective, extramental existence. But if the hypothetical, hellbound Judas happens to land in the real world, then his infernal fate will be the real deal.

Now, if Judas were given a choice as to which scenario would play out, whether the heavenbound Judas or the hellbound Judas, I assume he’d rather wind up in heaven than in hell.

But, in Molinism, God chooses between one possible world and another. Judas isn’t given that all-important choice. Judas has no control over his actual destiny.

So Judas is trapped in a world which is not a world of his own choosing. He is doomed to play his fateful role to the bitter end.

This is not the destiny that he would have chosen for himself had he been given the chance to opt out and select a happy ending instead.

Hence, Calvinism is deterministic without being fatalistic while libertarianism (of the theological stripe) is fatalistic without being deterministic:

6. Finally, secularism is both deterministic and fatalistic. In secularism, libertarian freewill is illusory, for all our thoughts and feelings and actions are predetermined by a combination of genetics, social conditioning, and natural laws.

And here’s the rub: unlike other animals, human beings are aware of these determinants. Yet they cannot escape their fate. They are doomed to age. They are doomed to die. They are doomed to pass into oblivion when their brain ceases to function.

Love is just a chemical reaction. Morality is an illusion. Indeed, according to eliminative materialism, even consciousness is an illusion.

Family in Focus

Ben Cole has written some excellent observations about Dr. James Dobson's most recent outburst.

If I might add some material. I agree that Dobson has grown increasingly shrill over time. On the one hand, I admire him for taking a stand, on the other I despise some of what he's done for a few reasons:

1. He comports with Rome in such a way that he seemingly reduces his faith to a system of ethics. John Paul II's death serves as a prime example. Dobson was right to applaud him for his stance on abortion, but he was wrong to pretend that he was just another Christian.

2. Apropos 1, I think he has some serious theological problems, namely, he needs to get a handle on the gospel of justification by faith alone, the doctrine of sanctification, and especially start calling the churches to repent.

3. Apropos 1 and 2, I think he has so immersed himself in the world of politics that he's lost or losing sight of the fact that, while pushing against abortion "rights" and gay marriage "rights" is a laudable and worthy pursuit, anti-abortion legislation and constitutional amendments against gay marriage do nothing about the causes of abortion and homosexuality. I'm tired of churches that will literally pass a petition against gay marriage around the pews and yet they won't do anything to witness to the homosexuals in their community. Ministries like Harvest USA are struggling because of that attitude.

4. Which gets me to an observation that some of our readers may find distasteful. When all is said and done, I'm not very concerned about who is "prolife" and "anti-gay marriage" in this election cycle. I'm more concerned that the people of this nation are deeply divided because they don't feel they can trust each other, the media, and their government. What the country needs is somebody who can unite the people; I could care less about the two parties and what different factions among their leaders want. Yes, the financial problems of this nation have taken a toll on the economy, but also consider that when the morale of a company is low, productivity declines. Why shouldn't the nation be the same?

In my own state, we've had multiple officials sent to the federal prisons in the past two years because of high level corruption. I'm willing at this point to vote out anybody and put somebody new in just to purge the General Assembly of NC, the Office of Governor, and the Council of State. I can live with a pagan in office if he's honest, I can't live with men who profess Christ and turn out to be dishonest, like one of my state representatives.

a. The churches are in disarray, people. Look around us. When the SBC can't pass a simple resolution on regenerate church membership, something is wrong. We've lost or are losing the gospel.

b. The gospel, not legislation, is what this nation needs. Maybe the country is in such a hole right now morally because the church is sliding closer to apostasy.

c. I'd add that when the Lord returns, Scripture implies that one reason He returns is because the covenant community is in a sorry state, so sorry that it takes His physical presence to correct it. As a result, the world gets caught up in the judgment too. Every "Day of the Lord" in the Bible has been preceded by this. Why should the next differ?

d. The Church thrived under persecution in the early years. Maybe the American Church needs some good old fashioned persecution to weed out some of the dross and get back on mission. We're reaping what we have sowed ourselves.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Defending the Indefensible

Nick writes:

I hope you will excuse my ignorance on this point, but I don't understand the distinction you are making between "spiritual uncleanness" and "ritual uncleanness." My understanding is that, if anyone breaks the ritual law on any point, he commits a sin, and sin makes him spiritually unclean. It was a sin to touch a dead animal, or a woman who was going through her period. Sin is a very spiritual matter and it requires a spiritual remedy.
The distinction between these is common in both Catholic and Protestant theology and understanding of the these texts. The problem here is that you drew an inference without bothering to familiarize yourself with the concept. Ritual cleanness is not sinful in itself. Rather, it pictures sin. Touching the dead defiled a man because death is the ultimate consequence of sin. I would suggest you avail yourself of a copy of Vern Poythress' The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses.

Do you expect me to respond to all of that? I guess I can if you really want me to, but I would have rather respond to your own words, instead of a great big copy-and-paste. Also, you seem to be making an argument from authority by utilizing what "Keil & Delitzch" have to say. The problem is, I've never heard of those guys (sorry!) and so their opinion on this matter doesn't really mean a whole lot to me. Finally, do you know what the "shotgun approach" is? It's when you overwhelm someone with a massive amount of information and then, when he/she can't respond to it all (b/c of the undue burden placed upon the person's time and energy) then the person with the shotgun claims the victory. I hope that's not what you are doing here.
K&D is a standard OT commentary with a Lutheran slant and is still honored as one of the best to this day, nearly 150 years since it was first published . Since I agree with the exegesis, even though I am a Reformed Baptist, then why shouldn't I offer it? I also chose it and not another for the simple reason that it is easily accessible. Would you prefer I chose Wenham, Bellinger, Keck, Gane, Ashley, Cole, or Levine? Somehow I don't think you'd know who most of these persons are, and I think that appealing to any of them would have garnered a similar response.

If you would like to counter it, by all means, go ahead. Yes, I do expect you to exegete the text, but that would, of course present you with a dilemma wouldn't it, given your rule of faith? If you do that, you'd need to appeal to a Roman Catholic, and to know that it wasn't private speculation, you'd have to demonstrate the exegesis was infallible. So much for the Roman Catholic rule of faith.

You're the one using the text to justify your practice. I'm sorry you don't like having to read the material, but that comes with the territory if you want to defend the faith. If you don't have the time, that's not my problem.

The problem here - repeatedly- is that you don't seem at all familiar with the literature. There are any number of commentaries I could cite from both Protestant and Catholic sources. Your biggest problem is that you didn't bother to exegete the text. Rather, you chose the proof text method. Now, you're reaping the consequences.

An argument from authority is not fallacious at all when engaging in an exegetical discussion when it is unreasonable for the disputant to dispute the authority in question. Since I'm quoting a standard commentary accepted in both circles, the fact that you don't know who they are merely advertises your ignorance. It does not however, falsify the appeal any more than a Jehovah's Witness can falsify an appeal to Bruce Metzger. The onus is on the JW and the onus here is on you.

Types, by their very nature, only go so far. I wasn't even using that passage as an explicit example. But, the fact remains that the water in question is holy and it is being used to remove spiritual uncleanliness. That's the only reason why I cited it.
1. Notice that you still have yet to exegete the text.

2. This is still an assertion bereft on an argument, and if the water is a "type" of what is it a "type?" Holy Water? Where is the supporting argument?

3. Hebrews says all those "types" are fulfilled, so appealing to "types" is fallacious, once again, on exegetical grounds. The NT licenses water for baptism, nothing else.

4. The particular text in question is related to the ceremonial law, and both Catholicism and Protestantism accept that the ceremonial law has passed away. In appealing to this as an example of "holy water" is thus ruled out on those grounds alone. Thus, your position on that passage is out of step with your own communion.

5. You're also using "examples" to justify a present practice. Where is the supporting argument? The first (proto)deacons were chosen in Acts by lot. Tell me, do you advocate the choosing of deacons by lot? John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey. Why don't you do the same? Saul killed the Amalekites. Hosea took an an adulterous wife and children. Go thou and do likewise.

Now, you'll notice that tfan is rejecting the very notion that water can even be made holy
No, he never rejects the consecration of water.

I'm not saying that it is "holy water" in the developed sense, as in "water that is blessed by a Catholic priest." Those passages are merely examples of water that was made holy, and/or water that was used in the same way that "holy water" (in the developed sense) is used today
1. Again, this is a caveat not in your original. Rather, you simply state that these are examples of "holy water." I've already been over that.

2. So you keep asserting, but you keep failing to demonstrate it. That's the problem. Your "analogies" are disanalogous in a number of ways, which I went over. Had you exegeted the texts, you'd have known that. You're citing them for "water that is made holy" but neglecting several important facts. So, at best, your citations are highly selective, at worst, you're wresting Scripture from its context and perverting it for your own ends.

For example:

Elisha makes the water "healed" [KJV], "purified" [NAS], or "wholesome" [RSV] (cf. 2 Ki 2:19-22).
This has all the virtue of the old joke about the backwoods preacher who believed he was called to preach who would simply turn in his Bible to a passage and preach from it without studying it. One day he turned to the passage "Judas hung himself." Startled, he closed his Bible and reopened it to a new text, "Go thou and do likewise." Now scared, he closed the Bible and opened it again, "What thou doest, do quickly."

No, Elisha makes the water pure for everyday use by the people. This is not an example of "holy water" or "holy water being used then like it is today." Do your priests consecrate holy water for drinking, washing dishes, and farming? No. What we have here is the miraculous purification of "bad water." Such water is common that part of the world.

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." You, Nick, 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.

The difference is that I base the legitimacy of my position upon the soundness of my argumentation, not upon my reputation or the status I have in the Church. In other words, nothing is ever right simply b/c I say so. Instead, it is right b/c of the evidence and the argumentation that I provide.
1. A caveat not in your original, and if we judge by the soundness of your argumentation, the Roman Church is hard up for apologists.

2. "The soundness of your argumentation" and you rejectig a person's testimony on the grounds of his vocation are not convertible categories, so your objection here doesn't work.

However, I'm simply supposed to believe that water is superstitious b/c some unnamed doctor a long time ago told Perrin that there were many superstitions among the people in medieval times?
Well, if we follow that sort of thinking, we can safely say that much of what you and I believe is to be dismissed. Why should I believe anything Eusebius of Caesarea said, if, that is I apply the same standard to his work that you apply to Perrin's?

I mean, give me a break! Tfan wants me to simply take this guy's word for it. That's an argument from authority, and if you're going to make an argument like that, then you have to make sure the person you are citing is an actual authority.

It is up to you to dispute the authority by disproving it since it's from your own side of the aisle. Instead, you simply waived your hand and said that physicians don't have authority in matters of theology in the Roman church. So much for the quality of your argumentation. Perrin is a historian, and yes, Nick, when you do that, you are engaging in rhetorical shorthand.

So, here's my challenge, PC, exegete each and every text that you gave and demonstrate that they say what you think they say and then make the connection to "holy water."

Commandments & case laws

I’ve been asked to comment on this article:

In his magisterial commentary on Exodus, Douglas Stuart does an excellent job of delineating the legal and literary relationship between the Ten Commandments and the case law. I’ll quote from the pertinent portions:

“What the chapter [Exod 20] contains—in particular, the Ten “words” (debarim)—is more like the content of a national constitution than merely the content of one section of codified law or another. If the American legal corpus is used as an analogy, it could be said that the ten ‘words’ of Exod 20 are somewhat like the Constitution of the United States (legally binding in a most basic, foundational way but more than a mere set of individual laws) and the laws that follow (cf. 21:1, ‘These are the laws you are two set before them’) somewhat analogous to the various sections of federal law dealing with all sorts of particular matters that have been enacted legislatively over time. The one group is absolutely ‘constitutional’ or ‘foundational;’ the other is specifically regulatory, following from the principles articulated in the more basic ‘constitution’,” Exodus (B&H 2006), 440-41.

“The biblical commandments occur in three levels of specificity. At the most comprehensive level are the ‘two great commandments’ of Deut 6:5 (‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart…’) and Lev 19:18b (‘love your neighbor as yourself’). The first of these commands requires in broad terms a loyal, covenantal obedience to God, who is put first above all other relationships. The second requires loving (loyal) treatment of other human beings,” ibid. 441.

“The first four of the Ten Commandments hang on the command to love God since they describe ways to show covenant loyalty directly to him. The final six hang on the command to love neighbor as self…Thus the first four ‘vertical’ commandments are balanced by the final six ‘horizontal commandments.’ Then, in order of hierarchy, follow all the others. The order is, then, the two, the ten, and the six hundred and one,” ibid. 442.

“Modern societies generally have opted for exhaustive law codes. That is, every action modern society wishes to regular or prohibit must be specifically mentioned in a separate law. Under the expectations of this exhaustive law system, state and/or federal law codes run to thousands of pages and address thousands of individual actions by way of a requirement or restriction or control or outright banning of those actions. By this approach, all actions are permitted that are not expressly forbidden or regulated. Thus it is not uncommon that criminals in modern Western societies evade prosecution because of a ‘technicality’ or a ‘loophole’ in the law—their undesirable actions are not *exactly* prohibited or regulated by a written law, so they cannot be convicted even though an objective observer may be convinced that what they did surely deserved punishment,” ibid. 442.

“Ancient laws did not work this way. They were paradigmatic, giving models of behaviors and models of prohibitions/punishments relative to those behaviors, but they made no attempt to be exhaustive. Ancient laws gave guiding principles, or samples, rather than complete descriptions of all things regulated. Ancient people were expected to be able to extrapolate from what the sampling of laws did say to the *general* behavior the laws in their totality pointed toward. Ancient judges were expected to extrapolate from the wording provided in the laws that did exist to *all other* circumstances and not to be foiled in their jurisprudence by any such concepts as ‘technicalities’ or ‘loopholes.’ When common sense told judges that a crime had been committed, they reasoned their way from whatever the most nearly applicable law specified to a decision as to how to administer proper justice in the case before them,” 442-43.

“The way paradigmatic law works: through a somewhat randomly presented admixture of rather specific examples of more general behaviors and very general regulations of broad categories of behavior, the reader/listener comes to understand that all sorts of situations not exactly specified (either because a law is to broad or so narrow) are also implicitly covered,” 444.

“Perhaps the best way to translate this verse [24:12] would be: ‘Come up to me on the mountain and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone—as well as the law and the commandment—which I have written for their instruction.’ In other words, the verse intends to convey that it was the ‘tablets of stone’ that God himself wrote, not all the laws of the covenant. Consistently in Exodus, it was only the tablets of the Ten Words/Commandments that God actually wrote (see comments on 32:15-16; 34:1). All other commandments were written by Moses according to God’s dictation (e.g. Exod 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; cf. Deut 27:3,8; 31:9). Indeed, Deuteronomy is even more specific as to God’s personal writing being limited to the Ten Words/Commandments (Deut 4:13; 5:22; 10:2-4),” ibid. 558.

“These verses [31:7-11] review succinctly everything mentioned in chaps. 25-30…There are both similarities and differences between the relatively lengthy commandment in Exod 20:8-11 and the restatement here in 31:12-17…the present commands reflect all the essentials of the Ten Words/Commandments Sabbath law, while adding reminders of its perpetual observance and the penalty of being cut off/put to death for dishonoring the Sabbath,” ibid. 652-53.

“The text of Exod 24:12 reads: ‘The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.’ From the moment he ascended the mountain, Moses was to anticipate receiving the special tablets of stone that would represent a permanent record of the Ten Words/Commandment of God as spoken directly by him to the people, and as recorded in chap. 20, in addition to the other laws that he himself would write down on paper or parchment, a temporary surface compared to the stone. But nothing in 24:12 speaks of the tablets being written by God’s finger…It is at *this* point [31:18], not earlier, that the reader first learns that God would personally inscribe on a permanent medium the words he audibly spoke to the people earlier from atop the mountain,” ibid. 655-56.

Evil, Love and Silence

Evil, Love and Silence by Paul Helm

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Jason said:

“Our current choices do not determine the past. My posting a response to your post is not the cause of your creating the post in the first place.”

How do you think the status of retrocausation is relevant to the issue at hand? Most determinists and indeterminists don’t subscribe to retrocausation, so that doesn’t distinguish one position from another.

“Of course you might say that I have no choice but to write the sentences above, because I have no choice (free will). If so, why do you post blog entries? Are you trying to convince people of something(s)? What does it mean for someone to be convinced ( change their mind, etc. ) if they do not have free will? How would you describe your own actions given that you do not have free will?”

You seem to equate determinism with fatalism. How do you imagine that follows?

Most versions of determinism have a strong commitment to causality. Causes and effects. Necessary and sufficient conditions.

Something causes me to do a post. My post might, in turn, cause you to change your mind. Convincing someone would be an effect of something I wrote. My words can function as determinants, affecting what you belief.

Causes effect changes. How do you think that is at odds with determinism? Determinism is, itself, a causal category.

Ironically, the question you raise is a problem, not for determinism, but indeterminism. If you deny causality, then why are you trying to change someone’s mind? Unless something you said or wrote could *cause* another man to reconsider his position, then what does it mean to you, as a libertarian, to use persuasion in order to make another man change his mind?

Monday, February 04, 2008

Looney left alert

SJSU bans blood drives on campus.

Orthodox Miters, Crowns, and Assorted Pointy Hats

It's well known that Orthodox priests enjoy wearing miters and bejeweled crowns. Recently, some of our Orthodox opponents have shown us that the laity also seem to enjoy pointy hats.

At least once on Josh Brisby's blog and twice mentioned here, Jay Dyer has said this about the Jews:

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?

In the process, he, of course, gives a free pass to that wicked heretic, Origen. What may we learn from this? I appears that Mr. Dyer is wearing that peculiar set of clerical robes found mostly in the South, and he does, I might add live in TN.

I surmise this must be one their church services. That's a great way to burn incense too, don't you think. It really sets a mood.

Then we have this zinger, which by the way,we think comes from none other than Orthodox, our resident dishonest Orthodox churchman who can't honor the ban imposed upon him. (Psst, Orthodox, we know you've been posting here, you sorta forgot to use the "Anonymous" label and left your name. Good job!).

I had written:

Because the easiest way for you to show that Paul taught things that are not included in Scripture is for you to produce them. So, have at it.

The reply
Go to an Orthodox Church and ask the priest.

In other words, he has no answer. Clearly this person wears a
third sort of hat in his church services. Here's a picture of him in Sunday School.

Which gets us back to those bejeweled crowns. For, you see, Orthodox, in the comment which was deleted in order to help him comply with his ban, made the statement that the Protestant rule of faith is, from the Orthodox point of view, (as if he speaks for "the" Orthodox point of view), seems like nothing more than atheism.

Why does this get us back to those bejeweled crowns? Well, it should be obvious. The Protestant rule of faith is that Scripture alone is God-breathed. Consequently, it is the sole infallible rule of faith for the faith and practice of the churches. All other traditions are useful but not infallible.

So, in saying that our rule of faith is convertible with atheism, Orthodox very kindly demonstrated that he is an ecclesiolater. For him God's own words are not sufficient to guide the church, and consequently not him. He must depend on "Holy Tradition," and therefore "the Church" (and a particular church at that). So, he has replaced the Word of God itself with the word of the church, the words of men. Sure, he dresses that up with mystical mumbo jumbo about the Holy Spirit living his life through the church, but this is, of course, nothing more than a rhetorical maneuver to hide his idolatry. When, by the way you call white black and black white, I might add, indeed by equating the work of God with the work of the devil, for that is, of course, what atheism is, you've committed the sin of the Pharisees. Good job, Orthodox.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

All flesh is grass


“It's amazing the contortions protestants go through to try and prove that verses like 2 Th 2:15 don't mean what they actually say.”

i) And what does this verse actually say:

“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word of by our letter.”

This is a command…to whom? To me? Did he address 1 Thessalonians to me? No. Did he speak to me personally? No. Was I in the audience when he spoke? No.

Is Paul, in this verse, enjoining *me* (Steve Hays) to adhere to the written and oral traditions which *he* taught me by his spoken word or earlier letter? No. False on both counts.

Is Paul enjoining me to follow a 5C bishop of Thessalonica—or 8C bishop of Constantinople, or 18C bishop of Moscow—who claims to be handing down an oral Pauline tradition? No. Since the text never says that, it can’t very well mean what it never said.

So, if we’re serious about what this verse “actually says,” or “actually means,” then the command is not directed to me. It’s directed to mid-1C members of the church of Thessalonica. It is not referring to Christians in general. It isn’t referring to apostolic succession. It isn’t referring to subapostolic oral traditions allegedly of Pauline origin.

That’s what it says. That’s all it says. It can’t mean more than it says. No contortions. Couldn’t be more straightforward.

ii) Of course, there are commands in Scripture which do apply beyond their immediate audience. But there’s no automatic presumption that any or every divine command is binding on all Christians at all times and places. That, rather, depends on the nature of the command, the wording of the command, and/or the context in which it’s given.

So our Orthodox apparatchik has misstated the actual content of the verse in the very process of alleging that we don’t allow the verse to mean what it actually says.

“Even if the "scholarly" meanderings actually have merit, what does it say about the perspicuity of scripture that you've got to jump through this many hoops to prove your point?”

This is a straw man version of perspicuity. Here’s a classic statement of perspicuity:

“All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” (WCF 1.7).

Notice the careful qualifications: “not alike plain in themselves”; “nor alike clear unto all”; “in the due use of the ordinary means”; “for salvation.”

Our Orthodox apparatchik is too ignorant of the theological position he’s rejected to know what he’s rejected.

“First we're told that if Paul taught extra-scriptural things, ‘Let them produce the documentation’."

Yes, that’s a necessary first step. If you claim the existence of oral apostolic tradition, you need to document your claim. How else could you establish the existence of oral apostolic tradition?

After all, we are not immediate disciples of the apostles. So we didn’t get it by word of mouth from *them*. Hence, the only possible way of establishing the claim would be through documentation.

“Then if we do produce the documentation we are told ‘if they so produce the date, then they must admit that the tradition is not unwritten but written, proving the sufficiency of written things for faith and practice in the Church.’__Classic case of ‘have you stopped beating your wife’. The questions are phrased so that however you answer, you are supposedly condemned.”

No, not a wife-beating question, but a classic dilemma. Any *literary* reference to oral tradition involves a written source. Apart from this *textual* witness to oral tradition, we have no other source of information. So we ultimately depend on the primacy of textuality over orality—even to attest the existence of oral tradition.

“But does Gene's rule of faith submit to the same questioning? To whom were the holy scriptrues passed to, and where is the proof that every book of holy scripture is authentic?”

Two problems for our Orthodox apparatchik:

i) Trying to turn tables on the Protestant, even if successful, would only create epistemic *parity* between the opposing positions. But our Orthodox apparatchik is contending for the *superiority* of the Orthodox rule of faith.

ii) Our opponent is asking a question which various Tbloggers have already answered on multiple occasion. It’s not as if we never made a case for the Protestant canon.

“We can point to what Fathers taught such and such a holy tradition, and Gene can point to who quoted such and such a book of the bible. Stalemate all around, EXCEPT for the fact that we acknowledge that Fathers as part of our authority, whereas Gene cannot.”

i) One of the problems with high-church opponents is that they constantly superimpose their own position on the other side. Because *their* case for the canon of Scripture is entirely dependent on external attestation, they impute that to us. But as I’ve said on many occasions, and documented in various ways, there are internal as well as external lines of evidence for the canon.

ii) The fact that the Orthodox “acknowledge” the authority of the church fathers is not an argument for why anyone should share their assessment.

iii) Likewise, high-churchmen constantly confuse *authority* with *testimony*. One doesn’t have to treat a historical witness as an authority to treat him as a source of information. Modern historians make use of Tacitus and Josephus as historical sources without treating them as authority-figures. But high-churchmen cannot think outside their box even to address the opposing position on its own grounds.

“Again, can Gene's rule of faith stand to this scrutiny? Where is the infallible list of rules by which to adjudicate what scripture is, and to decide what scripture means? There is none for a protestant, outside of their own opinion.”

Same problem as before. Even if this tit-for-tat were successful, establishing parity between his rule of faith and ours falls short of establishing the superiority of his own rule of faith.

“Now despite the supposed ‘lack of rules’, we hold that the rule of faith is determined by the understanding of the whole people of God.”

Notice that this is a description of the Orthodox position rather than a reason to believe it.

“Supposedly this rule isn't clear enough for Gene, but its worked for millennia with no problem.”

So his defense of the Orthodox rule of faith is purely pragmatic? Well, many things “work.” Islam “works.” It’s been in continuous existence since the 7C AD. Hinduism “works.” It antedates the NT church by centuries.

“While everything a person does has a private element, the overall attitude is decidedly not private.”

No, an attitude is decidedly private. An attitude is a state of mind. Psychological. Subjective. It can be publicly manifested, but the attitude itself is inherently private.

“And it also, by its very nature promotes the unity of the church because the hermeneutic and unity go hand in hand.”

i) That’s a circular appeal. Orthodoxy doesn’t promote unity. Instead, you simply have like-minded believers who constitute a subset of Christendom—just as members of the NRA believe in the Second Amendment, while members of NARAL believe in abortion on demand. This is a self-selected unity.

ii) Remember, too, that in the past, this unity was coercive. Dissent was illegal.

iii) Unity is morally neutral. All depends on what you’re united behind.

“Unlike sola scriptura which by its very nature is divisive.”

So, according to our Orthodox apparatchik, unity is good, but division is bad. Let’s take a few examples of each:


Genesis 11:1-4

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
3 They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

Acts 4:25-27

25You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: " 'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' 27Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.


Matthew 10:34-36

34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn " 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

Matthew 25:31-33

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Luke 2:34

34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,

John 3:19-21

19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

1 Peter 2:6-9

6For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 7Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected _ has become the capstone," 8and, "A stone that causes men to stumble _ and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Moving along:

“Except that we don't have any writings with Paul's signature on them in his own hand. So apparently we shouldn't trust the scriptures since they might be phony.”

i) Our Orthodox apparatchik is quoting Gene out of context. Gene made that point to help establish the correct *interpretation* of 2 Thes 2:15—not to verify the letter for himself.

ii) BTW, does the Orthodox church have signed or notarized copies of the church fathers or the conciliar canons?

“Think about this for a second. What might a protestant substitute for this truth-check of Paul's hand-writing? Maybe some internal witness? So why didn't Paul mention this better method?”

Actually, Paul does mention the witness of the Spirit as a form of attestation (1 Thes 1:5; cf. 1 Cor 2:4-5). So this is an especially stupid objection for our Orthodox apparatchik to level.

But because he elevates the tradition of men over the word of God, he doesn’t even know his way around the text of Scripture.

“Maybe the scholarly internal evidence that a particular document was Pauline? Paul didn't mention that one either.”

Actually, Paul does mention the criterion of internal consistency (Gal 1:8-9).

Anyway, Gene already answered the question that our Orthodox apparatchik is posing: “He [Paul] had already told them, for example, that the day of the Lord would be preceded by a falling away, and the unveiling of the man of lawlessness. ‘Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things’" (2:5). There was no excuse for them to be troubled by a phony letter, for they had heard the actual truth from his own mouth already.”

In this case, that was the test. What he already taught them in person as well as what he had committed to writing in 1 Thessalonians.

Moving along:

“Instead, his advice was to hold to the deposit of faith he had given them, both written and oral. That was to be the test of truth.”

Which is sound advice–if I were a member of the Thessalonian church where I heard him preach in person.

“If a protestant wants to argue something else is now the test of truth, firstly they need to document this new test. Secondly they need to explain why Paul didn't recommend this test. Then the protestant should tell us when this test went into effect. 10 minutes after Paul left Thessalonica? Hardly, since Paul held them to it after he left.”

What’s ironic about this challenge is that anyone who is conversant with the history of the canon will realize that both the Eastern church and Western church did apply literary criticism to the question of canonicity. So if this is method is invalid, then it invalidates the very church to which our Orthodox apparatchik has sworn his fealty.

“For me, I fail to see the exegetical argument that just because the brothers were "called through our gospel", we can therefore assume that Paul's teachings to be held to must be limited to the gospel. Frankly that is a completely unwarranted and illogical conclusion to come to.”

The illogic lies in the illogical reaction of our Orthodox apparatchik. Gene simple made the observation that "In context 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is epexegetical to 2:14 and refers directly to the gospel itself."

Is that an incorrect observation? Is that a mistaken analysis of the syntactical relation between v14 & v15? Why does our Orthodox apparatchik get so worked up over an innocent point of Greek syntax linking v14 to v15 via the ara oun (“so then”) construction?

“We are told that 2 Thessalonians was written after Matthew (How can Gene rely on an extra-scriptural tradition as an essential argument for his hermeneutic in how to interpret scripture? How Orthodox of him!)”

This is just another think-headed equivocation over the use of historical evidence. Is there some overriding reason why high-churchmen are incorrigibly obtuse about drawing this elementary distinction?

“We are told that the church of the apostles is not the ‘normative’ state of the church. However, scripture knows nothing about a non-apostolic church.”

Our Orthodox apparatchik is equivocating again. “Non-apostolic” in what sense? The Apostles were mortal. They knew they were mortal. That’s one reason you have a very primitive form of church office in the NT. They would not be around. But their writings would outlive them. And it was the duty of pastors to preach from the Scriptures.

“All scripture can inform us about is the apostolic church. If we need to start forming extra-scriptural suppositions about what is to happen in a non-apostolic church, then sola scriptura has immediately failed.”

This is another ignorant claim. The NT contains NT prophecies.

“Paul says to hold to his teachings whether written or oral. In other words, he is putting his oral and written instruction on the same level. If his writings are the word of God, so must his oral teaching have been. Since the Word of God stands forever, the perpetuity is obvious.”

Another fatal equivocation since our opponent’s allusion to Isa 40:8 is a *literary* allusion to a text of Scripture.

“No cut off date or condition is given. Therefore, we should not assume one. If you joined the church in Thessalonica 10 minutes after Paul left, you ought not doubt what the church conveyed to you as Paul's teachings. Neither should you doubt a year later, or 5 years or 10 or 20 or 50 or 500. To pick one of those cut offs is completely arbitrary.”

I see. And if I can’t precisely distinguish between stage 1 cancer, stage 2 cancer, stage 3 cancer, and stage 4 cancer, then any distinction between stage 1 cancer and stage 4 cancer is “completely arbitrary.”

If I can’t pinpoint the precise moment of death, then any distinction between vitality and putrescence, triage and murder is “completely arbitrary.”

If I can’t distinguish the precise point at which one color shades into another, then any distinction between black and white is “completely arbitrary.”

The fact is that space and time are inherently continua, so there are always borderline cases between one transition and another.


“To put it another way, Paul said to hold to his oral teachings. No cut off date or condition is given. Therefore, we should not assume one. If you joined the church in Thessalonica 10 minutes after Paul left, you ought not doubt what the church conveyed to you as Paul's teachings. Neither should you doubt a year later, or 5 years or 10 or 20 or 50 or 500.”

So, according to our Orthodox apologist, any (divine?) command given to anyone in Scripture amounts to a standing command to every Christian unless that command is explicitly repealed in Scripture.

Let’s apply this reasoning to some other commands in Scripture. I’ll confine myself to divine commands. And to economize, I’ll limit myself to just one verb, although I could illustrate the same principle using any number of other verbal imperatives in Scripture:

Joshua 6:22

"Go into the harlot's house."

1 Samuel 15:18

“Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.”

1 Samuel 23:2

"Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah."

2 Kings 5:10

"Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan."

Hosea 1:2

"Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness."

Matthew 17:27

"Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin."

Matthew 19:21

"Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor."

Mark 14:13

"Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.”

John 9:7

"Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam."

Jay Walking

Jay Dyer asks:

Explain with consistency 2 Thess. 2:15 in your system.

Steve has drawn attention to this article. Let your fingers do the walking...

So you don't get hit crossing the street, I'll repost that for you.

I’ve been asked to comment on 2 Thessalonians 2:15 regarding the Roman Catholic and Orthodox argument(s) against the Protestant rule of faith.

Our opponents state the question generally: Paul tells the Thessalonian church that to hold fast the traditions, therefore, this proves that Paul told them to hold fast to unwritten things, thereby disproving Sola Scriptura.

The argument may take several forms, sometimes embedded in a farrago of irrelevant argumentation. For example: Paul is discussing his oral traditions taught before NT scripture existed (all of his traditions, not some of them). It's not even possible that he is referring to things "found in scripture already", since many Christian teachings weren't enscripturated yet.

Others, like the Jesuits of Old asserted that the particle eite is disjunctive, indicating things that had not been delivered and those which he had written, which are not the same, but different. Ergo, “tradition” is not identical with what is “written,” and thus the sufficiency of Scripture is disproven.

By way of reply:

1. In answer to both Orthodoxy and Rome, we reply that the time of the Apostles was not the normative state of the Church. If they wish to sustain their argument, it will require them to assert, as does Rome, that somebody or some bodies must be the successor of the Apostles today in order to state contrary to our position. The arguments have proven self-refuting and question-begging.. Indeed, we enjoy watching Rome and Constantinople assassinate each other over who is the true successor to St. Peter and the Eleven. Also, why not, by the basis of this text, are you not a member of the one true, holy, Apostolic Thessalonian Church?

2. Secondly, we reply that eite is not always disjunctive. It can and does have a conjunctive force, as in 1 Cor. 13:8. Nothing can be gathered from this particle’s usage.

3. The Fathers, like Iranaeus, testify to the antiquity of 2 Thessalonians, such that it predates, at the least, the Gospel of Matthew, if we accept the testimony that he wrote first, Mark if Mark wrote first. It is inconsequential to state that Paul wrote 2 Thessalonians at that time, therefore, the “traditions” he has in view are different from those in Scripture or incomplete, as if they were not written at a later time. Such is the fallacy of the consequent in our opponents’ argument.

4. Apropos 3, to sustain the argument, our opponent would need to sustain an argument for continuing revelation as well. Are they also Pentecostals?

5. What “traditions” might Paul have in mind, assuming for a moment, that our opponents are correct? Dates of Easter and Lent? Feast days? Prayer to saints? The form and manner of sacraments like the Mass, the conferring of holy orders, marriage, etc? Marian dogmas, papal infallibility? If so, then let them produce the documentation.

6. Should they choose to argue that Paul has in mind things concerning the coming of the Man of Evil, like the date thereof, then let them produce the date and tell us to whom Paul revealed these things, and if they so produce the date, then they must admit that the tradition is not unwritten but written, proving the sufficiency of written things for faith and practice in the Church. If they cannot, then it is true that such traditions can be lost and are not, therefore, necessary for the faith and practice of the churches.

7. What if they say that these traditions are written elsewhere in other Scripture, the text does not thereby teach we are to ignore other traditions? We ask:

a. Where does this text establish the infallibility and perpetuity of those traditions?

b. What traditions might our opponents have in mind?

8. Let them:

a. Against Rome- produce an infallible teaching regarding this text.

b. Against Rome and Constantinople- show the rules by which we may adjudicate between true and false traditions and teachings. We can be true to “traditions” without the “traditions” being true.

9. The standard objection they level against our rule of faith is that it is “private” depending upon the “private interpretations” of the consciences of men, but is it not true that if they cannot produce any certain ( and infallible) rules by which to adjudicate these things, that their rule is just as private, if not moreso? We maintain that our rule of faith is public, as public as Scripture itself, and Scripture is public and clear.

10. We also maintain that Paul himself did not write this letter to particular persons – bishops and presbyters, but to all persons in Thessalonica. Do our opponents believe that these “traditions” were revealed to them all or to certain persons? If the former, how is it that the Church today must depend on the Magisterium or some general “Holy Tradition” known to the bishops themselves in detail but not the laity? If the latter, then to whom was it passed and where is the proof by which we can know this?

11. In context, he's talking about what he had taught them and to beware of a false letter.. Here's the text:

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word [of mouth] or by letter from us.

The Thessalonians had evidently been misled by a forged letter, supposedly from the apostle Paul, telling them that the day of the Lord had already come (2 Thess. 2:2). The entire church had apparently been upset by this, and the apostle Paul was eager to encourage them.

For one thing, he wanted to warn them not to be taken in by phony "inspired truth." And so he told them clearly how to recognize a genuine epistle from him: it would be signed in his own handwriting: "I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write" (3:17). He wanted to ensure that they would not be fooled again by forged epistles.

But even more important, he wanted them to stand fast in the teaching they had already received from him. The word paradoseis is a transmission of a doctrine or doctrines (since the use is plural), or depending on the context, it can mean the doctrine itself. He had already told them, for example, that the day of the Lord would be preceded by a falling away, and the unveiling of the man of lawlessness. "Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?" (2:5). There was no excuse for them to be troubled by a phony letter, for they had heard the actual truth from his own mouth already. These were truth, of course, in his previous letter.

Paul was urging the Thessalonians to test all truth-claims by his own letter - Scripture, and by the words they had heard personally from his own lips, and the only words of the apostles that are infallibly preserved for us are found in Scripture.

Here's another one: 2 Thessalonians 3:6, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother that is idle and does not live according to the teaching or the tradition you received from us." Look back at 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 14 as well as 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Paul is referring back to the tradition he had already delivered to them, that is, in writing. In context 2 Thessalonians 2:15 is epexegetical to 2:14 and refers directly to the gospel itself.

If this text is referring to traditions not found in Scripture as we have it, then where in the historical record are these traditions to be found so that you know that you are following them? Did Paul teach something different in the presence of many witnesses that he taught in his epistle to the Romans or the Galatians? If so, where can we find it?