Friday, February 22, 2008

We'll always have Paris...Texas

Jay Dyer has been attempting to make a case for the Orthodox canonization of the Apocrypha. One of Dyer’s many delinquencies in this respect is his failure to interact with critical scholarship. Consider, for example, some of what the author of the standard commentary on the apocryphal interpolations to Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah has to say:

“The Additions to Daniel, Esther, and Jeremiah consist of those eleven extended passages in the Septuagint which have no counterpart in the Hebrew Bible…On one point virtually all modern scholars agree, namely, all the Additions with one possible exception, are secondary and intrusive, that is, each of them was added after the particular book in question had attained its final form. In other words, with the possible exception of one passage in Daniel, none of these Additions is a ‘survivor’ or witness to a passage that was in the Semitic text of Daniel, Esther, or Jeremiah when that particular book *was first written*,” C. Moore, Daniel, Esther and Jeremiah: The Additions (Doubleday 1977), 3-4.

“How do we know this? Sometimes, as with the Additions to Esther, inconsistencies and contradictions between the canonical and the deuterocanonical portions prove that the Additions had not been had integral part of the book but were added later. Sometimes, as with ‘Susanna,’ ‘Bel and the Snake,’ and, especially ‘The Prayer of Azariah and the Hymn of the Three Young Men,’ the Septuagint (the LXX), in contrast with the later ‘Theodotion’ version, shows what the particular Addition in question was originally separate and circulated quite independently of the biblical book in which it is now found. Other times, such as I Baruch, the presence of certain religious teachings and historical errors argue against the authenticity of the material in question,” ibid. 4-5.

“…the external evidence supports and reinforces the impression drawn from the internal evidence, i.e. there are no ancient Hebrew or Aramaic texts containing any of these additions, no indisputable instances of their being quoted in the Talmud, and no extant Greek translation of them by Aquila, the Jewish convert of the second century AD, who translated the then-current Masoretic text (MT) into slavishly literal Greek,” ibid. 7.

“Perhaps the one incontestable generalization that can be made concerning these Greek Additions [to Daniel] is that, with the possible exception of one passage within the first Addition (i.e. the Prose Narrative [see pp63-65]), all the Additions to Daniel are clearly intrusive and secondary, that is, they were added at various times after what we call canonical Daniel had taken its’ final’ form. Both the external and internal evidence clearly support this conclusion,” ibid. 24.

As for the external evidence, not only are these Additions lacking in the present MT, but there is no manuscript evidence for their existence among the Jews of antiquity. No Jewish writer in the Talmud either quotes or alludes to these specific Additions; nor does Josephus, even though in his Jewish Antiquities (ca. AD 93-94) he provides his readers with other apocryphal stories about the prophet Daniel (Ant. x 11.6-7). Nor has any evidence of them been found among the Dead Sea scrolls, this in spite of the fact that at least seven copies of Daniel, some of them admittedly quite fragmentary, have been found at Qumran, as well as three heretofore unknown stories about Daniel in Aramaic fragments (see p120). Nor do scholars know of any Greek translation of these Additions by Aquila, the second-century Jewish convert to translated the then-current rabbinic text into ridiculously literal Greek (on Aquila, see Roberts, OTTV, 120-1232). All ancient Semitic versions of Daniel, including the Syriac, the Syro-Hexaplar, the Arabic, and the Aramaic, as well as other versions such as the Old Latin, the Vulgate, the Ethiopic, Bohiaric, and Sahidic, are clearly based upon the Greek versions, i.e. upon either the Septuagint or “Theodotion”. Finally, Jerome himself (340-420) expressly stated that he knew of no current Semitic text of the additions,” ibid. 24.

The internal evidence certainly corroborates the case made by the external evidence…these generalizations and assertions will be discussed in detail later on at the appropriate places,” ibid. 24.

Beyond these considerations, I’d like to hear Dyer explain and defend which text of Daniel—with special reference to the apocryphal interpolations—represents the authentic text or the official text of the Orthodox church. This is why I ask:

“The longer version of Daniel is known primarily from the Greek, surviving in two rather different editions. The older edition, the ‘Septuagint’ proper, survives in its entirety only in a single manuscript, Codex Chisianus from the ninth century (Codes 87; Papyrus 967 contains chs. 5-14), and in the Syriac translation of Origen’s edition of the Septuagint (Pfeiffer 1949; 4:33,441; Moore 1977: 33). The more recent edition, called 'Theodotion,' displaced the older 'Septuagint' edition in the usage of the Christian church by the late third century, so that all the major codices of what we call the Septuagint actually contain the Theodotion edition Daniel…Theodotion prepared his version in the early second century CE, but appears to have utilized an earlier Greek text of Daniel that differed markedly from the Septuagint (Grelot 1966),” D. deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker 2004), 222-223.

“Also debated is the question of Daniel-Theodotion in particular. Some argue that the characteristics of this translation do not fit those found in materials otherwise attributed to Theodotion,” K. Jobes & M. Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Baker 2005), 42.

Sifting testimonial evidence

Many sceptics use the facile formula that extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence to discount miracles. Likewise, career sceptics (e.g. James Randi, Martin Gardner, Paul Kurtz) recycle the same stock objections to the paranormal that are leveled against Biblical miracles—or modern counterparts.

Stephen Braude is a philosopher who specializes in the study of the paranormal. In the course of his study, he evaluates testimonial evidence concerning the paranormal. Since objections to the paranormal generally parallel objections to the miracles of Scripture, his comments on testimonial evidence are quite germane to Christian apologetics. Just mentally substitute “the Resurrection,” “the raising of Lazarus,” “the plagues of Egypt,” or “the miraculous,” &c., for “the paranormal,” “psi,” &c., to see what I mean.

I’ll be quoting from two of his books. This will involve a certain amount of repetition with variation.

“It’s actually shameful to claim that the early investigators of mediums were more gullible than their successors…Moreover, the Argument from Gullibility suggests a shocking blindness to the current state of public gullibility. When you take into account, say, the widespread use of psychic hotlines and our fascination with sloppy and sensationalistic media coverage of psychic happenings, gullibility today arguably surpasses anything that preceded it. Besides, there’s no hard data on gullibility levels (much less a gullibility index) to which we can appeal here. But then the Argument from Gullibility seems merely to be a thinly veiled complaint that since mediumistic phenomena are impossible, people must have been more credulous in the old days,” S. Braude, The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations (U of Chicago Press 2007), 27-28.

“Furthermore, it’s equally lame to appeal to advancing technology’s potential for fraud suppression. For one thing, the Argument from Technology is a double-edged sword. If nineteenth-century technology limited the means for detecting fraud, it also limited the means for producing it…Similarly, if current technology—for example, miniaturized, remote-controlled, and automated electronics—enhances our ability to detect various kinds of fraud, it also enhances our ability to produce it. After all, magicians can perform convincing tricks today that simply were not feasible before,” ibid. 28.

“Several factors influence whether or not (or to what degree) we accept a particular observation claim. Probably the most important are: (a) the capabilities, condition, interests, and integrity of the observer, (b) the nature of the object/s allegedly observed, and (c) the means of observation and the conditions under which the observation occurred. When we evaluate reports of paranormal phenomena, we weight these factors differently in different cases, But in general, it matters: (a) whether the observers are trained, sober, honest, alert, calm, prone to exaggeration, subject to flights of imagination, blessed with good eyesight, and whether they have strong prior interests in observing carefully and accurately; (b) whether the objects are too small to see easily, whether they’re easily mistaken for other things, or whether (like fairies, extraterrestrials, and unicorns) they’re of a kind whose existence can’t be taken for granted; and (c) whether the objects were observed at close range, with or without the aid of instruments, whether they were stationary or moving rapidly, whether the observation occurred under decent light, through a dirty window, amidst various distractions, etc.,” ibid. 33.

“Perhaps the most familiar skeptical argument in this context is that reports in question are examples of biased testimony. That is, witnesses of paranormal physical phenomena—mediumistic or otherwise—are predisposed to see either miraculous things generally, or certain paranormal phenomena in particular. But in that case (so the argument goes), they’re likely to be guilty either of motivated misperception or outright fabrication,” ibid. 33.

“Initially at least, this Argument from Human Bias might seem perfectly reasonable. After all, there’s no doubt that some people misperceive or lie, and there’s also no doubt that their predispositions might be one reason for these lapses. Nevertheless, this argument turns out on closer inspection to be remarkably flimsy, for several reasons,” ibid. 34.

“First, even if witnesses were biased to experience paranormal physical phenomena, that wouldn’t explain why independent reports agree on peculiar details…But to my knowledge, no proponent of the Argument from Human Bias has developed a psychological theory (much less a credible theory) explaining how people could be biased to make these specific reports,” ibid. 34.

“Second, an argument from bias could be used to undermine virtually every scientific report requiring instrument readings and ordinary human observation. After all, it’s not just parapsychologists and ‘plain folk’ who have strong beliefs, desires, and predispositions about how the universe works. Presumably, mainstream scientists have at least as much at stake and at least as many reasons for perceptual biases as do witnesses of the paranormal. They might even have more, considering how success in the lab can make or break their careers, especially when their research is novel and potentially groundbreaking,” ibid. 34.

“Third (and even m ore important), like the Argument from Technology, the Argument from Human Bias is doubled-edged. Obviously, biases cut two ways, against reports by the credulous and the incredulous. So if a bias in favor of psi phenomena might lead people to misperceive or to lie, so might biases against psi phenomena. And those negative biases are arguably at least as prevalent—and certainly sometimes as fanatical—as those in favor of the paranormal. Anyone who thinks otherwise simply hasn’t been paying attention. In fact, the history of parapsychology chronicles some remarkable examples of dishonest testimony and other reprehensible behavior on the part of skeptics…So, we adopt an indefensible double standard if we distrust only testimony in favor of the paranormal,” ibid. 34.

“Fourth, the only way to make the Argument from Human Bias with a straight face and a clear conscience is from a position of benign (rather than willful) ignorance regarding the data. It’s obvious that many who investigate the paranormal are motivated primarily by curiosity and the need to know (whatever the outcome). In fact, in some of the best cases, witnesses of mediumistic phenomena have clearly been biased against the reported phenomena,” ibid. 35.

“Fifth, although many observers may be open to the possibility of psychic phenomena, that’s not the same as being biased in their favor. For example, one can be open to the possibility of a phenomenon (say, alien visitations) while thinking that its actual occurrence is highly improbable. In fact, one can be open to the possibility of a phenomenon and also biased against observing it…That’s similar to the way parents can be blinded to drug use among their children. Even when they concede that it’s not literally impossible that their children use drugs, they might also feel strongly that it’s something that happens only in other families,” ibid. 35.

“Similar considerations apply to the skeptical argument that because memory is notoriously unreliable, witnesses are simply liable to forget or misremember…[But] much of the scientific evidence for memory loss concerns experiments with boring or very ordinary material (e.g. dull stories or nonsense syllables). For those with no faith in common sense (or those who think the government needs to finance large research grants to confirm what any sensible person already knew), evidence also confirms the commonsense observation that people tend to remember dramatic, interesting, and relevant events, and that those memories change or fade very little over time,” ibid. 36.

“The most radical argument would be a sweeping indictment of all human testimony. Some might argue that observation and testimony are inherently fallible, and that what is inherently fallible cannot be trusted. But of course the matter is not this simple. The possibility of error exists equally with respect to sources of evidence on which we rely all the time—for example, laboratory studies in science, which are based on various sorts of observation, notation, and instrument readings—all far from incorrigible,” S. Braude, The Limits of Influence (Routledge & Kregal Paul 1986), 26.

“Sceptics might concede that human testimony generally is suspect, but that some cases are better documented that others, especially scientific laboratory reports. After all, they might say, many scientists, on the same or different occasions, report the same results; and such collective and repeated testimony is more credible than the isolated and untestable reports founding the semi-experimental and anecdotal literature of parapsychology…But there exist numerous collective eyewitness accounts of phenomena, and reports of unusual sorts of phenomena occurring on more than one seems to me that such convergence of independent testimony cannot easily be brushed aside,” ibid. 26-27.

“Nevertheless, some might protest that witnesses of ostensibly paranormal phenomena are disposed to see the miraculous, or to see what they want, and thus are prone to misperceive or deceive themselves, and perhaps even lie or exaggerate (possibly unconsciously) in order to protect their preconceptions…But this rejoinder, which we may call ‘The Argument from Human Bias,’ is still unsatisfactory, and for two reasons,” ibid. 28.

“Even if witnesses of ostensibly paranormal phenomena were biased or predisposed to see such things, this would not explain why the biased misperceptions or reports should be similar in so many peculiar details,” ibid. 28.

“Moreover, it is not clearly to the skeptic’s advantage to rely heavily on the Argument from Human Bias. That argument cuts two ways, against reports by the credulous and the incredulous. If our biases may lead us to malobserve, or misremember, or lie, then we should be a suspicious of testimony from non-believers as from believers. If (on the basis of their favorable dispositions) we distrust reports by the apparently credulous or sympathetic that certain odd phenomena occurred, we should (by parity of reasoning) be equally wary of reports by the incredulous or unsympathetic that the alleged phenomena did not occur (or that cheating occurred instead),” ibid. 28-29.

“For example, Ducasse wrote…’there is likely to be just as much wishful thinking, prejudice, emotion, snap judgment, naiveté, and intellectual dishonesty on the side of…scepticism…as on the side of hunger for and of belief in the marvelous. The emotional motivation for irresponsible disbelief is, in fact, probably even stronger—especially in scientifically educated persons whose pride of knowledge is at stake—than it is in other persons the motivation for irresponsible belief,” ibid. 29.

“Ducasse’s caveat about irresponsible disbelief is buttressed by a wealth of evidence. For one thing, according to Stevenson (1968), p112), experiments have revealed a number of interesting ways in which peer pressure and other contextual factors can apparently influence a person’s perceptions or perception reports. But even apart from the experimental evidence, the history of parapsychology chronicles an astounding degree of blindness, intellectual cowardice, and mendacity on the part of skeptics and ardent non-believers, some of them prominent scientists,” ibid. 29-30.

“A person’s merely being open to he possibility of a phenomenon would not explain why the person should actually report having observed it…For example, many would concede that it is possible than alien spaceships will visit or have visited the Earth, while nevertheless assigning to such an event a probability approaching 0. As a matter of fact, one can be open to the possibility of P but be biased against observing or believing in P. This is undoubtedly why many parents fail to register clues indicating that their children have been smoking marijuana, even though they would admit that such an event is empirically possible,” ibid. 35-36.

“In fact, given the preparedness and occasional skepticism of the observers, as well as the large-scale nature of some reported phenomena, there is reason to think that witnesses might be less liable to malobserve than are witnesses of more ordinary events. One would need to posit a magnitude of error for these cases considerably greater than that generally required to undermine eyewitness accounts of ordinary events (e.g., crimes, domestic squabbles, or occurrences during military campaigns). Normal events are often observed and reported under conditions at least as conducive to error as those encountered by psychical researchers, and sometimes more so,” ibid. 39.

“In fact, eyewitness reports in parapsychology may be even less suspect than many scientific laboratory reports. The collecting of experimental data often requires great alertness, and is easily subverted by a momentary relaxation of attention. This, the soporifically routine and painstaking observations of some scientific studies may be more conducive to (minor but critical) error than the immediate and unusual experience of a large-scale paranormal event,” 39-40.

“Therefore, if malobservation is no more probable in the case of large-scale ostensibly paranormal phenomena than in the case of many normal phenomena, it would seem that reports of the former are no more inherently unreliable than reports of the latter. But then to reject eyewitness accounts of large-scale phenomena simply because the phenomena reported seem paranormal is to hold an indefensible double standard with respect to eyewitness testimony,” ibid. 40.

“Furthermore, skeptics have little to gain by appealing to the fallibility of memory…non-experimental cases frequently concern events that are far more easily remembered. They are often emotionally intense and highly interesting, and the subject (ether for these reasons or from an interest in the paranormal) is frequently highly motivated to remember what occurred…[as D. S. Gardner observed] ‘The extraordinary, colorful, novel, unusual, and interesting scenes attract our attention and hold our interest, both attention and interest being important aids to memory. The opposite of this principle is inversely true—routine, commonplace and insignificant circumstances are rarely remembered as specific incidents’,” ibid. 40.

“For that matter, we now know that observers of ostensibly paranormal phenomena have sometimes withheld information, for fear of ridicule or loss of professional prestige and credibility…Thus, Richet admitted, in his disarmingly candid address to the S.P.R., ‘In the course of these studies [in somnambulism] I had here and there observed certain facts of lucidity, of premonition, of telepathy; but since these facts were denied and ridiculed on every side, I had not pushed independence of mind so far as to believe them. I deliberately shut my eyes to phenomena which lay plain before me, and rather than discuss them I chose the easier course of denying them altogether. Or, I should rather say, instead of pondering on these inexplicable facts I simply put them aside, and set them down to some illusion, or some error of observation’,” ibid. 42.

“Now I confess that I find a retreat to this position [collective hallucination] rather desperate. Its flaws, however, are instructive. To begin with, as far as I can ascertain, there simply is no evidence—apart from the ostensibly paranormal cases, apparent UFO sightings, and some biblical stories where the hypotheses of collective hallucination and hypnosis are advanced as explanations—that such collective, concordant, non-paranormal, and non-veridical experiences ever occur. We know, of course, that people are susceptible to hypnotic suggestion and hallucination. But if we have no evidence, apart from the peculiar cases in question, that the proposed sort of collective hallucination or hypnosis, occurs, then these counter-hypotheses are extremely weak indeed,” ibid. 43.

“For those still intent on challenging the authenticity of the case reports and eyewitness accounts, the only remaining option, as far as I can see, would be to maintain that the testimony results from some combination of those factors already discussed…this would clearly be a last-ditch attempt to discredit the non-experimental evidence, and I propose that we call it, somewhat disdainfully, hodge-podge skepticism,” ibid. 51.

“But as Broad (1962a) observed, this position is plausible, at best, only when we consider the cases one at a time. Even when a skeptical hypothesis works on a case-by-case basis, this does not thereby support a general skepticism with regard to the total corpus of cases,” ibid. 51.

“Broad writes, ‘Provided that one is prepared to stretch the arm of coincidence far enough, to postulate sufficient imbecility and dishonesty on the parts of investigators who are known to be in other respects intelligent and truthful, to suppose that the narrators have gone to considerable trouble in falsifying diaries and forging letters with no obvious motive, it is always possible to suggest a normal, or at worst an abnormal, explanation for any story of an ostensibly paranormal sporadic event,” ibid. 51.

“Precisely because the phenomena are not ordinary, and so long as they remain not well understood, we lack the kind of information customarily needed to assess the probability of such events having occurred. To judge whether a given event is likely in a particular circumstance, we must first know something of the event’s nature and limits…But it is just this sort of information that we lack in the case of ostensibly paranormal events,” ibid. 53.

“To this we could add Ducasse’s observation that ‘assertions of antecedent improbability always rest on the tacit but often in fact false assumption that the operative factors are the same in a presented case as they were in superficially similar past cases. For example, the antecedent improbability of the things an expert conjurer does on stage is extremely high if one takes as antecedent evidence what merely an ordinary person, under ordinary instead of staged conditions can do. The same is true of what geniuses, or so-called arithmetical prodigies, can do as compared with what ordinary men can do’,” ibid. 54.

Nihilism Illustrated

I’m currently reading through Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky (the title was formerly translated as The Possessed due to a misinterpretation; the Russian Бесы is actually referring to the possessors and not the possessed). The “demons” in Demons are not really spiritual entities, but instead are the various political and philosophical ideas that ran through Russia in the late 1800s. One character is named Kirillov, and he is a nihilist. Given recent comments regarding nihilism, I thought the following section between Kirillov and the narrator of Demons (the narrator is only known as G----v) was relevant.

[Kirillov speaking] “…but I’m only looking for the reasons why people don’t dare to kill themselves, that’s all. And it makes no difference.”

“What do you mean, don’t dare? Do we have so few suicides?”

“Very few.”

“You really think so?”

He did not answer, got up, and began pacing back and forth pensively.

“And what, in your opinion, keeps people from suicide?” I asked.

He looked at me distractedly, as if trying to recall what we were talking about.

“I…I still know little…two prejudices keep them, two things, just two; one very small, the other very big. But the small one is also very big.”

“What is the small one?”


“Pain? Is it really so important…in this case?”

“The foremost thing. There are two sorts: those who kill themselves from great sorrow, or anger, or the crazy ones, or whatever…they do it suddenly. They think little about pain and do it suddenly. But the ones who do it judiciously—they think a lot.”

“Are there any who do it judiciously?”

“Very many. If it weren’t for this prejudice, there’d be more; very many; everybody.”

“Really? Everybody?”

He did not reply.

“But aren’t there ways of dying without pain?”

“Imagine,” he stopped in front of me, “imagine a stone the size of a big house; it’s hanging there, and you are under it; if it falls on you, on your head—will it be painful?”

“A stone as big as a house? Naturally, it’s frightening?”

“Fright is not the point; will it be painful?”

“A stone as big as a mountain, millions of pounds? Of course, it wouldn’t be painful at all.”

“But go and stand there in reality, and while it’s hanging you’ll be very much afraid of the pain. Every foremost scientist, foremost doctor, all, all of them will be very afraid. They’ll all know it won’t be painful, but they’ll all be very afraid it will be.”

“Well, and the second reason, the big one?”

“The other world.”

“Punishment, you mean?”

“That makes no difference. The other world; the one other world.”

“Aren’t there such atheists as don’t believe in the other world at all?”

Again he did not reply.

“You’re judging by yourself, perhaps.”

“Each man cannot judge except by himself,” he said, blushing. “There will be entire freedom when it makes no difference whether one lives or does not live. That is the goal to everything.”

“The goal? But then perhaps no one will even want to live?”

“No one,” he said resolutely.

“Man is afraid of death because he loves life, that’s how I understand it,” I observed, “and that is what nature tells us.”

“That is base, that is the whole deceit!” his eyes began to flash. “Life is pain, life is fear, and man is unhappy. Now all is pain and fear. Now man loves life because he loves pain and fear. That’s how they’ve made it. Life now is given in exchange for pain and fear, and that is the whole deceit. Man now is not yet the right man. There will be a new man, happy and proud. He for whom it will make no difference whether he lives or does not live, he will be the new man. He who overcomes pain and fear will himself be God. And this God will not be.”

“So this God exists, in your opinion?”

“He doesn’t, yet he does. There is no pain in the stone, but there is pain in the fear of the stone. God is the pain of the fear of death. He who overcomes pain and fear will himself become God. Then there will be a new life, a new man, everything new… Then history will be divided into two parts: from the gorilla to the destruction of God, and from the destruction of God to…”

“To the gorilla?”

“…to the physical changing of the earth and man. Man will be God and will change physically. And the world will change, and deeds will change, and thoughts, and all feelings. What do you think, will man then change physically?”

“If it makes no difference whether one lives or does not live, then everyone will kill himself, and perhaps that will be the change.”

“It makes no difference. They will kill the deceit. Whoever wants the main freedom must dare to kill himself. He who dares to kill himself knows the secret of the deceit. There is no further freedom; here is everything; and there is nothing further. He who dares to kill himself, is God. Now anyone can make it so that there will be no God, and there will be no anything. But no one has done it yet, not once.”

“There have been millions of suicides.”

“But all not for that, all in fear and not for that. Not to kill fear. He who kills himself only to kill fear, will at once become God.”

“He may not have time,” I observed.

“It makes no difference,” he replied softly, with quiet pride, almost with scorn.

(from Demons translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky, 1994. Vintage Classics. New York, NY, p.113-116)
Naturally, not every nihilist will agree with everything Kirillov puts forth. However, the basic thrust is conveyed beautifully here in the repeated refrain, “It makes no difference.” This is the end result of nihilism: there is no difference between living and killing oneself.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Baptist Church Courts

An interesting comment thread at SBC Outpost has erupted, in which ecclesiastical courts have been mentioned.

A few observations:

On the one hand, Baptists have not historically recognized ecclesiastical courts on the order of say the PCA and OPC which are, after so long it's hard to know how long, have only now begun issuing final rulings regarding the Federal Vision.

On the other hand good old fashioned church trials have been held even in SBC history. For example, there was one involving RBC Howell and FBC Nashville in the 19th century. The SBC resolved it by seating FBC's messengers when the TNBC had refused at their state convention, then the SBC elected Howell president. After Graves spoke his peace about missions, the SBC ignored him and then Howell resigned, and that was how the SBC spoke then.

A conflict like this one should never have reached the courts without being arbitrated by a presbytery. You know the P word is not unheard of in our history. It's just not convened often. Something like this should have happened before this went to the secular courts:

Dr. Klouda and the elders of her church should have contacted the elders of Dr. Patterson's church. They should have agreed to a selection of a balanced jury drawn from the local association (or associations if not in the same one), and Patterson should have been confronted by his elders.

Now, I'll say this, I think some of us are skeptical that the eldership of his church would even agree to that. Indeed, with a celebrity like him, it's hard to know if any pastors would have the courage to sit him down and place him under any sort of church discipline - and this is true of any celebrity in any church. So, I think that may be why it was not done. I don't know, maybe it was and refused.

At any rate Baptist ecclesiology does, in fact, allow for such a process, and it would be from the local association up, not top down, eg. from the SBC itself. The SBC would be the final court of appeal, and it could choose to act like it did with Howell and Graves or in another way.

We can find it in documents like the Charleston Association's Book of Discipline and their history.

I'll quote:

Query. 6. f12 Whether all matters debated in a church are to be determined byplurality of voices, and that determination final, though it grieve theconsciences of some?

— Answ. No church, or majority of a church, has power to bind the conscience: If therefore the majority should introduce errors subversive of the peace of the church, and wound the consciences of the brethren, the minority may, after all proper methods to reclaim the rest by calm reasoning, by calling in the assistance of other churches, and by referring the matter to the Association, should these prove ineffectual, be received as the church, and the majority disowned

Notice, before forming their own church, the minority could petition their grievance to the Association.

From the Book of Discipline (emphasis mine):

The benefits arising from an association and communion of churches are many.

In general, it will tend toward maintaining the truth, order, and discipline of the gospel.

By it the churches may have such doubts as arise amongst them cleared, and this will prevent disputes (Acts 15:28-29).

They will be furnished with salutary counsel (Proverbs 11:14).

Those churches which have no ministers may obtain occasional supplies (Song of Solomon 8:8).

The churches will be more closely united in promoting the cause and interest of Christ.

A member who is aggrieved through partiality or any other wrong received from the church may have an opportunity of applying for direction.

A godly and sound ministry will be encouraged, while a ministry that is unsound and ungodly will be discountenanced.

There will be a reciprocal communication of their gifts (Philippians 4:15).

Ministers may alternately be sent out to preach the gospel to those who aredestitute (Galatians 2:9).

A large party may draw off from the church by means of an intruding minister,or other ways, and the aggrieved may have no way of obtaining redress butfrom the association.

A church may become heretical, so that with it its godly members can no longer communicate, yet it can obtain no relief but by the association.

Contentions may arise between sister churches, which the association is most likely to remove.

The churches may have candidates for the ministry properly tried by the

These and other advantages arising from an association must induce every godly church to desire a union with such a body. But should any stand off, it would argue much self-sufficiency (Revelation 3:17) and little or no desire after the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3) or mutual edification (1 Corinthians 12:11-14).
The SBC (or any Baptist denomination or state convention composed of more than one association) is a Meta-Association, so establishing a system - from the bottom up not the top down - is the way to go. Ecclesiastical courts are not out of bounds in Baptist ecclesiology. They are just rarely used, particularly in this day when the emphasis is laid on the individual, autonomous church.

The standard argument against ecclesiastical courts in Baptist polity is that it infringes on the autonomy of the local church. However, I would say that such courts are warranted using these general guidelines:

1. A.A dispute within the same church is to be handled by that church. The association is the next level of appeal.

B. If the dispute is between individuals in two different churches, and these two individuals agree to abide by the decision of the elders of either (a) one of their churches, or (b) a presbytery of elders from both churches, the matter is settled. If one disputant dislikes the decision, he may appeal to an association if one exists, but if not, he has no recourse. Incidentally, this has happened to me in recent history. Unfortunately the disputant did not like the decision. Those of you who have said that I need to reconcile with my brother may not be aware of this fact. I'm not the problem here. The problem is that this brother said he would appeal to my elders, I went ahead and brought them into it, they made their decision, and he didn't like it. There is no association to which he can appeal, so I'm left now with his buddies making smart comments from time to time that I need to reconcile with him. The onus is not on me to reconcile when I've been cleared by my elders.

C. If disputes between individuals from two separate churches or associations cannot be resolved at the local church level: The first level of appeal is a presbytery convened at the level of the association if they are in the same association. If in a different association, then the DOM's from those associations should work with the conflicting parties and the elders of their respective churches to do this. Those presbyteries should give priority to the decisions made at the first level and should not, except after very, very careful judgment contradict them. If it gets to this level, it should be understood that the disputants will abide by the decision, period. In this case, the presbytery should act more like a court of appeal, not a new court holding a new "trial."

D. Now, in the Klouda case, the civil law may have been violated. A secular court can determine that too. Secular courts are not, contrary to popular opinion, out of bounds for Christians.

2. If the conflict arises between two whole associations, then the state convention is the right place of arbitration.

3. If state conventions cannot agree and it rises to a level that disturbs the peace in the whole Convention, then the other states and the SBC should intervene.

4. As stated above, the SBC can also taken action through the seating of churches' messengers. In theory, the SBC could refuse to seat two individual messengers who have refused to allow their conflict to be resolved. They could refuse to seat the messengers of their churches if the churches have not taken steps to resolve this issue.

I am reminded of a particular instance in Scripture about two women in the church whose personal problems had disturbed the peace...

Poppin-Jay on the Canon

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

I. Gutting a Cuttlefish

Jay Dyer has done a post on what he alleges to be patristic and/or NT citations of the OT apocrypha.1

Dyer’s tactic is that if you just throw enough fallacious examples at your opponent, the cumulative impact of your serial fallacies will overwhelm his position. So before I comment on any of the specifics, it’s necessary to disperse his ink-cloud by drawing some elementary distinctions which Dyer is either too inept or dishonest to draw for himself or for the benefit of his readers.
  1. One of the lines of evidence for the canon of Scripture is internal to the canon of Scripture. And that goes to the self-witness of Scripture. For later books of the Bible frequently attest earlier books of the Bible.

  2. However, this doesn’t mean that a mere allusion or quotation is equivalent to attestation. There are many other considerations. What is the nature of the quote? How does it function in the argument? Does the quotation or allusion assert something? What is the general reputation of this material? What is the author’s implied reader or target audience?

  3. In the NT, there are standard formulae for citing Scripture. That would automatically count as a form of attestation.

  4. But this is not to deny that a Scripture may also be quoted or alluded to without standard citational formulae.

  5. By definition, a quotation or allusion presupposes the chronological priority of the book which the author is quoting or alluding to. An earlier writer can’t quote or allude to a later writing.

  6. Apropos (5), Dyer makes no effort to defend the traditional date or authorship of the OT apocrypha. But literary dependence presupposes the chronological precedence of the material alluded to or quoted.

    Let us remember that Dyer is attempting to make a case for the Orthodox rule of faith. So he assumes a certain burden of proof. In debating with Protestants, he can’t very well take the prima facie claims of the OT apocrypha for granted—since their authenticity is one of the central points at issue.

  7. Dyer also disregards text-critical questions regarding the OT apocrypha. But if he’s going to cite the OT apocrypha, then he needs to tell us which text is the authentic text. Which text represents the officially sanctioned text of the Orthodox church, and why.

  8. There’s a difference between Bible writers and Bible speakers. Bible writers are inspired. And Bible writers, in historical narratives, quote the statements of various speakers. However, there is no presumption that a Bible speaker is inspired. That depends on the role of the speaker. If the Bible records the speech of a prophet or apostle, then the speaker is inspired. But the Bible also quotes many uninspired speakers.

  9. Dyer always defaults to an apocryphal allusion. He will do this when an OT allusion—or even a direct quote—is readily at hand. He never considers an OT alternative to his apocryphal sources. Is he just pig-ignorant of the OT, or is he prevaricating?

  10. He fallaciously infers that if a NT author is alluding to the same event as an apocryphal author, then the NT author is alluding to the apocryphal writing rather than the event to which the apocryphal author is also alluding. If, say, a NT author alludes to the Exodus, and an apocryphal author alludes to the Exodus, Dyer acts as if the NT author must be alluding to the apocryphal writing rather than primary, OT source which records the OT event.

    Put another way, it doesn’t occur to him that if an apocryphal author alludes to an event recorded in some OT book, that a NT author can directly allude to the same event in the same OT book, rather than alluding to a secondary, apocryphal source—as if the NT author’s knowledge of the event must be mediated by the apocryphal book. If two newspaper reporters refer to the same event, that doesn’t mean that one reporter is referring to another reporter.

    As Intertestamental writers, the authors of the OT apocrypha were naturally acquainted with various books of the OT. So they contain many allusions to the OT.

  11. Dyer acts as though, if a NT author betrays any knowledge of the OT apocrypha, this is equivalent to attestation. But that is obviously fallacious. I can be conversant with many things I don’t agree with.

  12. Dyer cites some instances in which NT authors apparently make use of generic imagery from the OT apocrypha, as if this were equivalent to attestation. Why he draws that inference, I don’t know. There’s a lot of stock, free-floating imagery in Scripture. It moves around a lot.

    Taken by itself, mere imagery isn’t making a statement, whether true or false. That all depends on what the author does with the imagery. That’s why imagery is portable. Different writers creatively reuse the same imagery in various ways.

II. Putting Tobit to the Test

I already did a post on Wisdom.2 Let’s now turn the book of Tobit as another test-case for the canonicity of the OT apocrypha. Joseph Fitzmyer has penned the standard commentary on this apocryphal writing. Here’s some of what he has to say about it:
The manuscript transmission of the story of Tobit is unusually complicated and has been rendered even more so by discoveries in the twentieth century…Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the text of the Book of Tobit was known only from various ancient translations. The most important of these were the versions in Greek and Latin, but the book was preserved also in ancient Arabic, Armenian, Coptic (Sahidic), Ethiopic, and Syrian translation.3

As for the Greek translation of the Book of Tobit, one has to distinguish three forms known today:
  1. Short Recension: It is found mainly in the MSS Vaticanus (B) of the fourth century, Alexandrinus (A) of the fifth century, Venetus (V) of the eighth century, 990 (=P. Oxy. 1594), of the third century, containing Tob 12:14-19, and also in a host of minuscule manuscripts of the ninth and later centuries.

  2. Long Recension: It is found in the MS Sinaiticus (S) of the fourth/fifth century, and in the fragmentary eleventh-century minuscule MS 319 (Vatopedi 513, dated AD 1021), which contains this recension for Tob 3:6-6:616 (up to daimoniou toutou). A bit of the Long Recension is preserved also in the sixth-century papyrus MS 910 (=P. Oxy. 1076, containing only Tob 2:2-5,8).

  3. Intermediate Recension: It is found in miniscule MSS 44 (Codex Cittaviensis), 106 (Codex Ferrariensis), 107 (Codex Ferriensis, ca. AD 1337).4
Question for Dyer: Which edition or MS preserves the authentic text of Tobit? What edition of Tobit represents the official edition of the Orthodox church? Which edition is the canonical version?5

Continuing with Fitzmyer:
Its fictional character is evident in the improbability of several of its chronological and topographical details. For instance:
  1. Tobit speaks of the apostasy of his entire ancestral tribe (Naphtali) as having happened in his youth (1:4-5). Yet that tribe broke away from the house of David in the time of Jeroboam I, who reigned from 922-901 BC (1 Kgs 12:19-20,25-29). That break with the house of David took place two centuries earlier, well before all the people of Naphtali were carried off to Assyria. When Tobit was thus departed in 732 BC (1:10), almost two centuries later, he had hardly been an eyewitness to the apostasy of which he speaks.

  2. According to 1:2, Tobit “of the tribe of Naphtali” was taken captive “in the days of Shalmaneser,” but according to 2 Kgs 15:29 it was that king’s father, Tiglathpileser III (744-727) who conquered “all the land of Naphtali and deported the people to Assyria” (ca. 732 BC).

  3. According to 1:15, “when Shalmaneser died, his son Sennacherib
    came to rule in his stead.” Shalmaneser reigned from 727-722
    and was succeeded by a usurper, Sargon II (722-705), under whom the
    siege of Samaria continued until 721, when the city finally fell to
    the Assyrians. Sargon II was in turn succeeded by his son,
    Sennacherib, who reigned from 705-681 (2 Kgs 18:13-19:37). The author
    of the Book of Tobit has confused two Assyrian kings, in making
    Sennarcherib the son of Shalmaneser.

  4. Tobiah, Tobit’s only son, was born before the deportation to Assyria (1:9-10) and would have gone to Nineveh as a young child (ca. 732 BC). He is said to have lived until he was 117 years of age (14:14). So how would he have been able to see and hear about the destruction of Nineveh in 612 BC (14:15)?

  5. Ecbatana (modern Hamadan) lies about 2,020 meters above sea level near the Zagros Mountains and is about 200 miles away from Rages (near modern Teheran), which lies at 1,132 meters above sea level. These details create a problem when one reads 5:6, which says, “It is a journey of two full days from Ecbatana to Rages, for it lies in the mountains, whereas Ecbatana is in the midst of a plain” (cf. 9:2).

  6. Nineveh had been built on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, so that anyone traveling from Nineveh to Rages, which is almost due East of Nineveh (as the crow flies), would scarcely have crossed the Tigris en route, which does not follow in any such direction. This creates a problem when it is said in 6:2, “they camped by the River Tigris.”

  7. “Kaserin…opposite Nineveh” (11:1) is similarly problematic, because such a place is not only unknown, but its location would again seem to demand a crossing of the Tigris for one coming from Ecbatana in the East.6
Question for Dyer: How do you propose to rebut these apparent anachronisms in Tobit? Otherwise, why wouldn’t that count as evidence for spurious character of Tobit?

Continuing with Fitzmyer:
Clear allusions to the Ahiquar story are found in 1:21-22; 2:10; 11:18; 14:10, so that it would have to be required as a source that the author used. The Story and Wisdom of Ahiquar is a venerable tale, undoubtedly of Assyrian origins, but the earliest attested form of it comes from fragmentary fifth-century Elephantine papyri, written in Aramaic.7
Question for Dyer: How is the literary dependence of Tobit on an Assyrian fable consonant with the historicity of Tobit?

Continuing with Fitzmyer:
I tend to agree with this commonly-held dating, somewhere between 225 and 175 BC, preferring a date toward the end of that period…Some commentators, however, have dated the final redaction of Tobit, if not the entire composition of the book, to the Christian period. Hitzig dated the book to AD 116; Rosenthal, to AD 139-41; Zimmermann, who ascribes the main narrative (chaps. 1:12) to “the later half of the second century” [BC], dates chap. 14 “after 70” [AD). Neubauer followed Grätz in ascribing Tobit to the time of Hadrian (ca. AD 135).8
Question for Dyer: which date would you assign to the composition of Tobit? What are your supporting arguments? If Tobit actually postdates the NT, then the NT couldn’t very well allude to Tobit, correct?

Continuing with Fitzmyer:
In the earlier centuries of the Christian era, some Fathers and theologians denied the Book of Tobit canonical status: Melito of Sardis, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nazianzus. It is not listed in the canon of the Council of Laodicea (AD 360).9
Question: How do you, as an Orthodox believer, justify the canonicity of Tobit when several important church fathers and one church council repudiated its canonicity?

III. 77 Flat Tires

Dyer thinks the NT cites the OT apocrypha on the following occasions:10

NT passageDyer's assertionActual citation
Matt. 2:16 - Herod's decree of slaying innocent children was prophesied inWis. 11:7 - slaying the holy innocents.Wrong! Try Jer 31:15 (cf. Gen 35).
Matt. 6:19-20 - Jesus' statement about laying up for yourselves treasure in heaven followsSirach 29:11 - lay up your treasure.Wrong! Try Isa 51:8.
Matt.. 7:12 - Jesus' golden rule "do unto others" is the converse ofTobit 4:15 - what you hate, do not do to others.Wrong! This is a paraphrase of Lev 19:18.
Matt. 7:16,20 - Jesus' statement "you will know them by their fruits" followsSirach 27:6 - the fruit discloses the cultivation.Wrong! Try Isa 5:1-7.
Matt. 9:36 - the people were "like sheep without a shepherd" is same asJudith 11:19 - sheep without a shepherd.Wrong! Try Ezk 34:5
Matt. 11:25 - Jesus' description "Lord of heaven and earth" is the same asTobit 7:18 - Lord of heaven and earth.You can also find the same phrase in the Genesis Apocryphon. So it’s a stock formula.
Matt. 12:42 - Jesus refers tothe wisdom of Solomon which was recorded and made part of the deuterocanonical books.A fallacy of equivocation. The fact that Jesus refers to the wisdom of Solomon doesn’t mean that he refers to apocryphal literature attributed to Solomon. Try 1 Kgs 3; 10:1-13, & 2 Chron 9:1-12.
Matt. 16:18 - Jesus' reference to the "power of death" and "gates of Hades" referencesWisdom 16:13.Wrong! Try Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6, Job 38:17 Pss 9:13; 107:18, & Isa 38:10.
Matt. 22:25; Mark 12:20; Luke 20:29 - Gospel writers refer to the canonicity ofTobit 3:8 and 7:11 regarding the seven brothers.
  1. Deceptive! It’s the Sadducees who mention this, not Jesus or a Synoptic Evangelist.
  2. Moreover, the Sadducees weren’t citing this hypothetical case as a historical event. To the contrary, they were presenting it as a counterfactual.
Matt. 24:15 - the "desolating sacrilege" Jesus refers to is also taken from1 Macc. 1:54 and 2 Macc. 8:17.Wrong! Try Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.
Matt. 24:16 - let those "flee to the mountains" is taken from1 Macc. 2:28.Wrong! Try Gen 19:17.
Matt. 27:43 - if He is God's Son, let God deliver him from His adversaries followsWisdom 2:18.Wrong! Try Ps 22:8.
Mark 4:5,16-17 - Jesus' description of seeds falling on rocky ground and having no root followsSirach 40:15.Wrong! He’s treating this verse in isolation. The whole parable employs agricultural metaphors. For OT precedents, cf. Isa 5:1-7; 55:10-11, Jer 31:27-28, Ezk 36:8-9, & Hos 2:21-23.
Mark 9:48 - description of hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched referencesJudith 16:17.Wrong! Try Isa 66:24.
Luke 1:42 - Elizabeth's declaration of Mary's blessedness above all women follows Uzziah's declaration inJudith 13:18.
  1. Wrong! Try Deut 28:4& Judges 5:24.
  2. Besides, Elizabeth is not a Bible writer.
Luke 1:52 - Mary's magnificat addressing the mighty falling from their thrones and replaced by lowly followsSirach 10:14.Wrong! The reversal of fortunes is a common OT motif.
Luke 2:29 - Simeon's declaration that he is ready to die after seeing the Child Jesus followsTobit 11:9.Wrong! Try Gen 15:15.
Luke 13:29 - the Lord's description of men coming from east and west to rejoice in God followsBaruch 4:37.
  1. Wrong! This allusion triggers a conjunctive association of several OT motifs:
    1. The ingathering of the Jewish Diaspora (Ps 107:2-3; Isa 43:5-6; 49:12).
    2. The conversion of the Gentiles (Isa 45:6; 59:19; Zech 2:11; Mal 1:11.
    3. The Messianic banquet (Is 25:6; 55:1-2; 65:13; Zeph 1:7).
  2. There are also some basic problems with the historicity of Baruch.11
Luke 21:24 - Jesus' usage of "fall by the edge of the sword" followsSirach 28:18.Wrong! Try Jer 20:4-6.
Luke 24:4 and Acts 1:10 - Luke's description of the two men in dazzling apparel reminds us of2 Macc. 3:26.Here’s a novel suggestion: maybe Luke said that’s what they looked like because that’s what they looked like!
John 1:3 - all things were made through Him, the Word, followsWisdom 9:1.Wrong! The primary reference is to Gen 1, with intertextual reflections in Prov 3:19 & 8:30.
John 3:13 - who has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven referencesBaruch 3:29.Wrong! Try Deut 30:12 & Prov 30:4.
John 4:48; Acts 5:12; 15:12; 2 Cor. 12:12 - Jesus', Luke's and Paul's usage of "signs and wonders" followsWisdom 8:8.Wrong! This alludes to the miracles by which God liberated Israel from Egyptian bondage (Exod 4-11).
John 5:18 - Jesus claiming that God is His Father followsWisdom 2:16.
  1. Wrong! Wis 2:16 is alluding to Isa 63:16 & 64:8.
  2. Notice how Dyer isolates this reference to the divine sonship of Christ, as if this were the first and only Johannine verse which made that attribution. To the contrary, the divine sonship of Christ is a fixture of Johannine Christology.
John 6:35-59 - Jesus' Eucharistic discourse is foreshadowed inSirach 24:21.
  1. This assumes a sacramental reading of Jn 6, for which Dyer offers no exegetical argument.
  2. The Bread of Life discourse is foreshadowed in the wilderness narrative of the manna from heaven (e.g. Exod 16; Num 11:7-9; Pss 78:23-24; 105:40.
John 10:22 - the identification of the feast of the dedication is taken from1 Macc. 4:59.Deceptive. Jesus is observing the custom of Hanukkah, and 1 Maccabees records the origin of that festival. Dyer is confounding historical records with historical events. Jesus is observing a traditional commemoration of an event.
John 10:36 – Jesus accepts the inspiration of Maccabees as He analogizes the Hanukkah consecration to His own consecration to the Father in1 Macc. 4:36.
  1. See above.
  2. There is also a thematic carryover, at this point in the narrative, from the Feast of Tabernacles.
John 15:6 - branches that don't bear fruit and are cut down followsWis. 4:5 where branches are broken off.Wrong! Try Ps 80:15-16, Ezk 15:1-8 & 19:10-14.
Acts 1:15 - Luke's reference to the 120 may be a reference to1 Macc. 3:55 - leaders of tens / restoration of the twelve. Here’s a novel suggestion: maybe Luke said there were 120 people present because there were 120 people present!
Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6 - Peter's and Paul's statement that God shows no partiality referencesSirach 35:12.Wrong! Try Lev 19:15; Deut 10:17; 2 Chron 19:7; Ps 82:2 & Mal 2:9.
Acts 17:29 - description of false gods as like gold and silver made by men followsWisdom 13:10.Wrong! Try Deut 29:17.
Rom 1:18-25 - Paul's teaching on the knowledge of the Creator and the ignorance and sin of idolatry followsWis. 13:1-10.Wrong! Try Ps 106:20-21; Jer 2:11 & 10:14.
Rom. 1:20 - specifically, God's existence being evident in nature followsWis. 13:1.Wrong! Try Job 12:7-9; Ps 19:1-4, & Isa 40:26.
Rom. 1:23 - the sin of worshipping mortal man, birds, animals and reptiles followsWis. 11:15; 12:24-27; 13:10; 14:8.Wrong! Try Gen 1:20,24,26-27; Deut 4:15-19, & Ps 106:20
Rom. 1:24-27 - this idolatry results in all kinds of sexual perversion which followsWis. 14:12,24-27.Wrong! Try Deut 23:17-18; 1 Kgs 14:24, & 15:12.
Rom. 4:17 - Abraham is a father of many nations followsSirach 44:19.Wrong! Try Gen 17:5.
Rom. 5:12 - description of death and sin entering into the world is similar toWisdom 2:24.Wrong! Try Gen 2:17; 3:1 (passim), & Eccl 7:29.
Rom. 9:21 - usage of the potter and the clay, making two kinds of vessels followsWisdom 15:7.Wrong! Try Isa 29:16; 45:9 & Jer 18:1-12.
1 Cor. 2:16 - Paul's question, "who has known the mind of the Lord?" referencesWisdom 9:13.Wrong! Try Isa 40:13.
1 Cor. 6:12-13; 10:23-26 - warning that, while all things are good, beware of gluttony, followsSirach 36:18 and 37:28-30.Wrong! Try Pss 24:1; 50:12, & Prov 23:20-21.
1 Cor. 8:5-6 - Paul acknowledging many "gods" but one Lord followsWis. 13:3.Wrong! Try Deut 4:35,39; 6:4; 10:17.
1 Cor. 10:1 - Paul's description of our fathers being under the cloud passing through the sea refers toWisdom 19:7.Wrong! Try Exod 13-14.
1 Cor. 10:20 - what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God refers toBaruch 4:7.Wrong! Try Lev 17:7; Deut 32:17 & Ps 106:37.
1 Cor. 15:29 - if no expectation of resurrection, it would be foolish to be baptized on their behalf follows2 Macc. 12:43-45.Does the Orthodox church practice vicarious baptism for the dead? Does Dyer think that’s the correct interpretation of this verse? Is Dyer a closet Mormon? For better interpretations, see Garland and Thiselton.12
Eph. 1:17 - Paul's prayer for a "spirit of wisdom" follows the prayer for the spirit of wisdom inWisdom 7:7.Wrong! Try Exod 31:3; 35:31, & Isa 11:2.
Eph. 6:14 - Paul describing the breastplate of righteousness is the same asWis. 5:18. See also Isaiah 59:17 and 1 Thess. 5:8.Since Dyer volunteers an allusion to Isa 59:17, Wis 5:18 is superfluous.
Eph. 6:13-17 - in fact, the whole discussion of armor, helmet, breastplate, sword, shield followsWis. 5:17-20.Wrong! In fact, the whole discussion follows from OT passages like Ps 18:2, Isa 11:4-5, & 59:17.
1 Tim. 6:15 - Paul's description of God as Sovereign and King of kings is from2 Macc. 12:15; 13:4.Wrong! Try Deut 10:17.
2 Tim. 4:8 - Paul's description of a crown of righteousness is similar toWisdom 5:16.Wrong! It’s based on Greco-Roman athletic competitions.
Heb. 4:12 - Paul's description of God's word as a sword is similar toWisdom 18:15.Wrong! Try Isa 49:2
Heb. 11:5 - Enoch being taken up is also referenced inWis 4:10 and Sir 44:16. See also 2 Kings 2:1-13 & Sir 48:9 regarding Elijah.
  1. Wrong! Try Gen 5:24.
  2. Why does Dyer mention 2 Kgs 2? Does he think that Kings is literarily dependent on Wisdom or Sirach? When does he think these documents were written?
Longman and Provan date the final edition of Kings to the exilic era (c. 606-536BC), which, in turn, redacts a preexilic edition.13 Archer shares the same basic dating scheme.1415 while de Silva dates Sirach to the 2C BC.16 Even if we push the date of Wisdom back a ways (a la deSilva), Kings would still antedate Wisdom and Sirach by many centuries. So what is Dyer trying to say? Does he actually imagine that Kings is literarily dependent on Wisdom or Sirach? How could Kings allude to a book that didn’t exist at the time of writing? If Dyer is truly of the opinion that Wisdom and/or Sirach antedate Kings, then he needs to defend his eccentric chronology. But if he thinks that Heb 11:5 is alluding to 2 Kgs 2:1-13, then that would undercut his appeal to the Apocrypha. And if he thinks that Wisdom or Sirach is dependent on Kings, rather than the reverse, then that would also undercut his appeal to the Apocrypha. It’s hard to offer a coherent explanation for Dyer’s citations.
Heb 11:35 - Paul teaches about the martyrdom of the mother and her sons described in2 Macc. 7:1-42.I’ve been over this ground with Dyer on more than one occasion. Pity he’s immune to correction. The author of Hebrews is arranging the heroes of faith in a roughly chronological order. At this point in his exposition, he alludes to Intertestamental literature because he is alluding to Intertestamental history. In the nature of the case, the Historical books of the OT don’t record Intertestamental events. History is the study of the past, not the future.
Heb. 12:12 - the description "drooping hands" and "weak knees" comes fromSirach 25:23.Wrong! Try Isa 35:3.
James 1:19 - let every man be quick to hear and slow to respond followsSirach 5:11.Wrong! Try Prov 17:27-28 & Eccl 7:9.
James 2:23 - it was reckoned to him as righteousness follows1 Macc. 2:52 - it was reckoned to him as righteousness.Wrong! Try Gen 15:6.
James 3:13 - James' instruction to perform works in meekness followsSirach 3:17.That’s a standard ingredient of OT theology.
James 5:3 - describing silver which rusts and laying up treasure followsSirach 29:10-11.Wrong! Try Isa 50:9 (cf. 51:8), & Ezk 7:19.
James 5:6 - condemning and killing the "righteous man" followsWisdom 2:10-20.Once again, that’s a standard OT theme.
1 Peter 1:6-7 - Peter teaches about testing faith by purgatorial fire as described inWisdom 3:5-6 and Sirach 2:5.Once more, the fiery figure of speech to signify spiritual purification is a stock feature of OT usage.
1 Peter 1:17 - God judging each one according to his deeds refers toSirach 16:12 - God judges man according to his deeds.Yet another routine OT theme.
2 Peter 2:7 - God's rescue of a righteous man (Lot) is also described inWisdom 10:6.Wrong! Try Gen 19.
Rev. 1:4 – the seven spirits who are before his throne is taken fromTobit 12:15 – Raphael is one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints before the Holy One.
  1. Wrong! Try Zech 4:2-7.
  2. Rev 1:4 is not a reference to seven angels. Rather, it’s a reference to the work of Holy Spirit, subdivided by John’s septunarian numerology.
Rev. 1:18; Matt. 16:18 - power of life over death and gates of Hades followsWis. 16:13.See above (on Mt 16:18).
Rev. 2:12 - reference to the two-edged sword is similar to the description of God's Word inWisdom 18:16.Wrong! See above (under Heb 4:12).
Rev. 5:7 - God is described as seated on His throne, and this is the same description used inSirach 1:8.Wrong! Try Ps 47:8, Isa 6:1, & Dan 7:13.
Rev. 8:3-4 - prayers of the saints presented to God by the hand of an angel followsTobit 12:12,15.Wrong! Try Exod 30:1-10, Lev 16:12-13; Ps 141:1-2, & Isa 63:9.
Rev. 8:7 - raining of hail and fire to the earth followsWisdom 16:22 and Sirach 39:29.Wrong! Try the 7th Egyptian plague: Exod 9:13-35 (cf. Ezk 38:22).
Rev. 9:3 - raining of locusts on the earth followsWisdom 16:9.Wrong! Try the 8th Egyptian plague: Exod 10:1-10.
Rev. 11:19 - the vision of the ark of the covenant (Mary) in a cloud of glory was prophesied in2 Macc. 2:7.
  1. The association of the Shekinah with the tabernacle and its contents is a conventional OT motif, viz. Exod 40:34-38; 1 Kgs 8:10-11; Ezk 10, & 43:1-5.
  2. Dyer needs to defend his fanciful Marian typology.
Rev. 17:14 - description of God as King of kings follows2 Macc. 13:4.Wrong! Try Dan 4:37.
Rev. 19:1 - the cry "Hallelujah" at the coming of the new Jerusalem followsTobit 13:18.This is a standard refrain in the Psalter.
Rev. 19:11 - the description of the Lord on a white horse in the heavens follows2 Macc. 3:25; 11:8.Wrong! This evokes the OT motif of the divine warrior, viz. Exod 15:1-18; Isa 63:1-6; Zech 1:8, & 6:1-8.
Rev. 19:16 - description of our Lord as King of kings is taken from2 Macc. 13:4.See above (under Rev 17:14).
Rev. 21:19 - the description of the new Jerusalem with precious stones is prophesied inTobit 13:17.Wrong. Try Exod 28:17-21 (cf. 39:8-14), 1 Kgs 6:20-22; Isa 54:11-12, & Ezk 28:13.
Exodus 23:7 - do not slay the innocent and righteous -Dan. 13:53 - do not putto death an innocent and righteous person.What is this supposed to mean? Does Dyer imagine that Susanna antedates Exodus? Even its own fictitious setting situates this tale during the Babylonian exile.But if Dyer admits the priority of Exodus, then how would an allusion to Exod 23:7 in Susanna be relevant to the canonicity of the OT apocrypha?
1 Sam. 28:7-20 – the intercessory mediation of deceased Samuel for Saul followsSirach 46:20.Really? When does Dyer think that Samuel was written? Tsumura dates the final edition of Samuel to the 10C BC.17 How does a document from the 10C BC allude to a document from the 2C BC?
2 Kings 2:1-13 – Elijah being taken up into heaven followsSirach 48:9.The same problem with Dyer’s backwards chronology. Does he believe in retrocausation?

All the Dyer has succeeded in proving is his culpable and monumental ignorance of Scripture.

IV. 39 Square Wheels

By my count, Dyer quotes from 39 church fathers and other early church sources on the canonicity of the OT apocrypha. But there are several problems with his facile appeal:
  1. When marshalling evidence for the canon, Protestants cite the church fathers as potential historical witnesses rather than authority-figures. As such, we sift the testimony of any given father based on when he was born, where he lived, and who he knew—with a view to what he was in a position to know about the authorship of Scripture. We don’t treat every church father the same way since every church father is not the same with respect to his opportunities to render an informed judgment on this question.

    When, for example, Dyer’s sources range, according to his own dating scheme, from the latter 1C to the latter 8C, I don’t know why he thinks this timespan is supposed to impress a Protestant reader. It’s not as if a 700 year interval is indifferent to the quality of a historical witness. Historical, as well as geographical distance, can make all the difference in what a historical witness was in a position to know.

  2. By contrast, Catholic and Orthodox believers do treat the church fathers as authority-figures. And this generates a problem when one authority contradicts another authority on the scope of the canon—among other things. It doesn’t pose the same problem for a Protestant scholar since he is using different criteria. Time and space matter when sifting historical testimony.

  3. By the same token, the church fathers are of more potential value in attesting the scope of the NT canon than the OT canon. Gentile Christians would be dependent on Jewish sources for their initial acquaintance with the OT.

  4. Likewise, a modern scholar, with the benefit of Biblical archeology, is in a much better position to evaluate the historicity of the OT apocrypha than your average Greek or Latin Father.

  5. Why should I, as a Protestant, care what a church council happens to believe about the scope of the OT canon—or even the NT canon? It’s not as if a church council is privy to otherwise unobtainable evidence regarding the authenticity of the OT apocrypha.

  6. I don’t know why Dyer quotes from Jerome when Jerome was a proponent of the Hebrew canon.

  7. Why does Dyer put so much stock in the testimony of Origen? Doesn’t he regard Origen as a damnable heretic?

  8. I don’t know why Dyer dates Barnabas so early (AD 74). Dyer likes to cite McDonald’s monograph on the canon, but McDonald also coauthored a NT introduction with Stanley Porter, and in that work they date Barnabas to c. AD 130.18 Dyer also dates 1 Clement to AD 80, whereas they date it to c. AD 96.19 And he dates the Didache to AD 90, although other scholars date it as late as AD 120.

    I suspect that Dyer is trying to date these Christian documents as early as possible to create a chronological overlap with the NT canon so that he can then challenge a Protestant to explain where he draws the line.

    Of course, even if we accepted his dating scheme, we already know that first and second-generation Christians were contemporaneous with some of the Apostles. And not just the Christians. Yet this doesn’t mean that if we had the letter of Claudius Lysias to Felix, we’d canonize that historical document.

V. Quest for the Chimerical Alexandrian Canon

2 Tim. 3:16 - the inspired Scripture that Paul was referring to included the deuterocanonical texts that the Protestants removed. The books Baruch, Tobit, Maccabees, Judith, Sirach, Wisdom and parts of Daniel and Esther were all included in the Septuagint that Jesus and the apostles used.
Dyer continues to dissemble about a mythical Alexandrian canon, although he’s been corrected on this point several times now.20

VI. Tilting at Windmills

The Protestants attempt to defend their rejection of the deuterocanonicals on the ground that the early Jews rejected them. However, the Jewish councils that rejected them (e.g., School of Javneh (also called “Jamnia” in 90 - 100 A.D.) were the same councils that rejected the entire New Testatment canon. Thus, Protestants who reject the Catholic Bible are following a Jewish council that rejected Christ and the Revelation of the New Testament.
  1. This grossly understates and oversimplifies the Jewish witness to the Palestinian canon.21 Beckwith only devotes two consecutive pages to Jamnia, and that is only to dismiss it.22

  2. According to Beckwith, the OT apocrypha wasn’t even up for discussion at Jamnia. The only books in dispute were the OT books of Canticles and/or Ecclesiastes.

  3. There is also the patently fallacious structure of Dyer’s argument. It’s on the same level a saying: If Christopher Hitchens hates broccoli, and you hate broccoli, then that makes you complicit in atheism!



3 Fitzmyer, J. Tobit (Walter de Gruyter 2003), 3.

4 Ibid. 4-5.

5 Cf. Weeks, S. et al. eds. The Book of Tobit: Texts from the Principal Ancient and Medieval Versions: with synopsis, concordances, and annotated texts in Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Syriac (Walter De Gruyter 2004).

6 Ibid. 32-33.

7 Ibid. 37.

8 Ibid. 52.

9 Ibid. 55-56.

10 By my count, it comes to about 77 citations, although his tabulation is not without its ambiguities or idiosyncrasies.

11 “The historical books know nothing of the return of the Temple vessels (1:8-9) or of the presence of Baruch in Babylon (1:1). There is something of a contradiction between the prayer itself, which presumes that the Temple is in ruins (2:26), and the introduction, which presumes that the Temple is standing and that normal worship is carried on there (1:10,14),” R. Brown et al eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice Hall 1990), 563.

12 Garland, D. 1 Corinthians (Baker 2003), 234; A. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans 2000), 1248.

13 Longman, T. & R. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Zondervan 2006), 172-73.

14 Archer, G. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Moody 1994), 318f.

15 Winston, D. The Wisdom of Solomon (Doubleday 1979), 23.

16 DeSilva, D. Introducing the Apocrypha (Baker 2004), 157f.

17 Tusumura, D. The First Book of Samuel (Eerdmans 2007), 31f.

18 McDonald, L. & S. Porter, Early Christianity and Its Sacred Literature (Hendrickson 2000), 75.

19 Ibid. 521.


21 Beckwith, R. The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Eerdmans 1986).

22 Ibid. 276-77.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Aborting Downs Syndrome babies is a moral obligation?

Introduction: I was recently forwarded this news article from a contributor to the Triablogue. In this article, UNC Chapel-Hill biology professor Albert Harris argues,

"In my opinion, the moral thing for older mothers to do is to have amniocentesis, as soon during pregnancy as is safe for the fetus, test whether placental cells have a third chromosome #21, and abort the fetus if it does. The brain is the last organ to become functional."

And why does he say this is the moral thing to do?

"I know somebody who had a child like this, and it ruined their life,"

My translation of what Dr. Harris is saying in light of both comments above is as follows:

"If a physically or mentally defective pre-born child [i.e., a Down Syndrome child] can potentially 'ruin' your life, then you should not only have the moral right to kill it but you are morally obligated to kill it in order to avoid 'ruining' yourself and your immediate family."

So, we should have the right to murder certain types of pre-born babies because they can potentially "ruin" us? In other words, if a pre-born child has the potential to economically and emotionally inconvenience our family, that therefore gives us justification to not only have the right to murder it but makes us morally obligated to do so? Ignoring for the moment that Dr. Harris' conclusion doesn't follow from his premises,
let's take the opportunity to reduce his position to absurdity.

A Scenario: My 83 year old grandmother just sustained a Colles fracture after getting into a nasty car wreck that was her fault two weeks ago. She was in the hospital for treatment for the fracture and observation for possible complications associated with cardiac tamponade about a week and had episodes of delirium due to the strong pain medications she was on. As a result of the delirium, she was extremely difficult to interact with, at times was very nasty to my family and at least once that I know of, security was called because she was physically fighting with the nurses. She was out of control. Not to mention that her health is declining overall and the medical bills are becoming very costly and the time needed to care for her is becoming increasingly taxing to my family. In sum, this has been very emotionally and economically inconvenient to my family and while this is taxing our own wallets because my grandmother does not have the money to pay her part, it is also taxing the economic resources provided by the federal government's Medicare system.

Thus, my grandmother has emotionally and economically burdened our family, and could potentially "ruin" our family (or already has according to some) and along with millions of other dear American grandmothers, is taxing the federal healthcare system.

Questions: (1) So, if I am morally obligated to murder my pre-born baby because it can potentially "ruin" me, why stop with pre-born babies? (2) Who gets to decide when they, their family, and even the federal healthcare system have been "ruined" and who gets to objectify for the rest of society what it means to be "ruined"? (3) If an individual or family decides that they have been "ruined", then why is it acceptable to be able to murder a pre-born child to avoid being "ruined" but I can't murder my grandmother for the same reason? (4) What's more, if having a functional brain is the implied criteria for personhood [per Dr. Harris], upon what objective basis is it officially declared "functional"?

Conclusion: If we not only have a moral right but a moral obligation to murder pre-born Down Syndrome babies then it would follow that we have a moral obligation to murder anyone who can potentially "ruin" us via emotional and economic hardship; and that could be just about anybody from our banker and financial planner to our little ole' grandma. Worse yet, the definition of "ruin" at this point is left to the subjective whim of the person being "ruined". And so, if the pre-born physically and mentally defective child will surely bring grief and "ruin" (however that is defined), then why can't I kill grandma too? After all, the only real differences between the pre-born Down Syndrome child and grandma are size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. Just as Christians (and most other sane people) would consider it immoral and evil to murder granny because she has a shrinking cerebral cortex and associated intermittent dementia concomitant with her Alzheimer's diagnosis that is severely taxing the family both emotionally and financially, so we would also be unjustified in murdering our pre-born Down Syndrome child because she may "ruin" us financially and emotionally. We don't murder innocent people because they are physically and mentally inconvenient to us; unless of course, you prefer to deny them the usual, legally mandated rights and protections associated with "personhood" that are granted to every other living human being in the U.S. post January 1973 simply in the name of "choice". This isn't the first time the U.S. did this; for the first finely documented instance of this happened to our black neighbors in 1857. How ironic.

In brief sum, the Christian's objective basis for not murdering demented grannies and pre-born babies is ultimately based upon the clear, foundational declarations of Scripture, not upon the inconsistent and autonomous reasoning of sinful, unregenerate men. Take special notice of the first-person pronouns being used by the Holy Spirit through the pen of King David regarding his own human personhood before he was born,

NAU Psalm 139:13-16 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

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Captain Kangaroo

Some Preliminaries

"I want to dig a little deeper and get into what I believe to be an inconsistency within Calvinistic monergism."

Okay, let's get out our shovels and dig.

"I want to dig a little deeper and get into what I believe to be an inconsistency within Calvinistic monergism. Before I do that I want to say that I don’t believe monergism vs. synergism is the proper way to frame the debate. These terms are too ambiguous, and often misunderstood (especially synergism), and I believe that Arminianism has both monergistic and synergistic elements so it is not proper to call Arminianism entirely synergistic. For me the debate is best described as a disagreement over whether or not salvation is conditional or unconditional."

He better disambiguate the term since one can't show a logical ‘inconsistency’ if his terms are ambiguous. We're not getting off to a good start. This isn't atypical with these guys; sorry to say.

Second, by ‘salvation being conditional’ does he only mean ‘If you believe, then you will be saved.’ As he says, that's just a quote from the Bible. So he just means we read statements that have the logical form of a conditional? Well, no Calvinist denies this. So is he saying there is no debate? His best way of describing the debate is to parse it out in terms the Calvinist doesn't debate.

Third, we'd have to bring in qualifiers. Sometimes 'salvation' is spoken of in terms of just regeneration, or just justification, or just sanctification (progressive or definitive), or just glorification, or the whole package. Or, another qualification: in what sense do we speak of ‘conditions?’ Are we speaking of conditions in any sense whatsoever? Well then why think the Reformed theologian believes any of the items in the ordo are not wrought with conditions attached? Election is a condition for regeneration. Jesus’ resurrection is a condition for ours. Etc.

Perhaps he just means ‘conditional’ on exercising faith?’ Well then, on this scheme, regeneration isn't 'conditional,' for example. On the other hand, ‘if you have faith, then God will justify you,’ comes in the form of a conditional. That is, in the form of an if-then statement. But it is not conditional in the sense of, say, Adam's conditions for remaining in the garden. The faith we have is in something outside of us. In someone who did all the work required. Thus the faith we express trusts and rests in the alien work of Christ. But we must express faith. Faith is the instrument of justification. This faith is also a gift, it is not wrought by our own power apart from God's Spirit in our lives. So, in this sense faith is instrumentally conditional.

Fourth, Calvinism has 'monergistic and synergistic' elements too it as well. For example, monergism with respects to regeneration and justification. But take progressive sanctification. Many protestants have called this synergistic in the sense that it is really we who battle our sin. I am an active participant in the fight. I actively partake of the means of grace. I don't 'let go and let God,' as it were. And of course none of this can be accomplished without the work of the Spirit in our lives.

Fifth, it is not necessary for final, complete salvation that one be progressively sanctified. God can regenerate a soul, justify that person, and strike them dead that minute. Thus a monergistic work is the only thing necessary for salvation (e.g., the thief on the cross might not have been progressively sanctified. If so, we can think of others who might die 1 second after justification, say).

Thus with his sloppy categorizing, nothing interesting follows from the above. Given the vague and ambiguous way he's using terms, a Calvinist might agree with everything he's said. Once wonders why all the hubbub. Since there is hubbub, we should cast a suspicious eye on the way he has framed the discussion so far. Many a disaster has started because of being unclear. I recall a the child's joke we had when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. It went like this: 'No, I meant I wanted a Bud light.' (For those that remember the old Bud light commercials.)

"When I say that Arminianism is both synergistic and monergistic I mean that the Arminian sees salvation as a work of God alone. God alone forgives. God alone regenerates. God alone sanctifies. We are not capable of removing our own sin or making atonement for ourselves. We are not capable of creating new life within us. We are not capable of making ourselves holy. All these are monergistic acts of God. When the Arminian says that one needs to believe in Christ to be saved we are just echoing the testimony of Scripture that says that faith is the condition that God requires be met before He will save."

When Scripture speaks of if you believe then you will be saved, it is speaking about justification. But this faith isn’t a 'working' it is a 'receiving.' No 'working together,' then. No 'synergism.' And, we are not saved by faith. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone. And, of the above, God does not of it unless our Arminian first has faith. All of it, then, is conditioned on his faith. Thus it is incorrect to say that he only thinks justification is conditioned on his faith.

"God has sovereignly determined to make salvation conditioned on faith. He could have made salvation unconditional but He chose instead to make it conditional. That salvation is conditioned on faith does not mean faith is a work or a contribution to salvation. It is just the meeting of a condition and the nature of that condition disqualifies it from being something one can boast in before God."

Yes, the promises come in the form of a conditional, but Reformed theology teaches that Christ has met any and all conditions man must meet in order to have everlasting life--either by his work, or by securing for us what we need. So, in regards the former, Christ lived a perfect life in our place, he met that condition for us. In regards the latter, he did not have saving faith for us. But, he purchased, or acquired them for us. The Holy Spirit then applies this all to us. Thus Reformed theology can agree with the conditions of salvation, it's just that we see Christ fulfilling or acquiring them all for us. If it may be called a condition, it is not something we must do, it is something that has been done for us. Our faith is not the ground of our salvation, but is but an instrument for receiving all of Christ. Thus we are not saved by faith, at all. Since we are not, then this Arminian has failed to show any synergism in his only admission of synergism. In fact, the Bible nowhere says that we are saved by faith. So, yes, in history, in this historical administration by which we travel the road of the covenant of grace unto completion, we must exercise faith. Thus I would rather call faith the sole instrument in justification, rather than the 'condition' of justification. But, I can grant that in the Bible we see a hypothetical statement, technically called a 'conditional.' At any rate, we are not even justified by 'faith' qua 'faith' but, rather, faith in Christ. It's not that we have 'faith' it's who are faith is in. The problem with all of this is that the Arminian views faith as a prerequisite to all the rest. He performs a positive action, in turn God gives him the rest. This is much different that the Reformed conception of God's monergistic work being the prerequisite for faith. And even so, this faith is not a positive work on our end, but a passive reception. A naked and weak hand receiving all the benefits of Christ. It's not a head-on meeting of an condition, but rather a passive receiving of something. Our view is Christocentric, his is Anthropocentric.

"By faith we recognize our inability to save ourselves and cast ourselves on God’s mercy. Faith is surrender to God. It is giving up on ourselves. It is abandoning our own works and clinging to the work of God. If there is one element that is synergistic in salvation it is faith. God enables the depraved sinner to respond in faith, but the sinner must do the responding. God does not believe for us and God does not cause faith in us irresistibly. That is the only synergistic aspect of Arminianism. The rest is monergism. The synergism of faith is the only area where one could say that the sinner in a sense “saves himself”, but that is only in the context of re-positioning oneself in God’s favor through faith and repentance (Acts 2:40)."

None of this could be done if it were not for God's prior, and monergistic work of regeneration. A dead men doesn't "recognize our inability to save ourselves and cast ourselves on God’s mercy." But, yes, the Reformed would agree that men actually do the believing. We don't think God believes for us. And we agree that the normal operations are that if a man never places his faith in Christ, he will not be justified (I say normal operations to make room for the infants and the mentally disabled. There is some debate whether they exhibit faith or not. But mere exceptions don't refute). The main difference, again, is in the priority between faith and regeneration and the nature or character of faith. Is it a 'meeting' or a 'receiving?' This Arminian's conception is of a man who, without regeneration and thus a dead sinner, throws up his hands, declares that he can't do it on his own, and so lets God do his work. But he must allow God into his life in the first place. God waits for mans permission to work. And, as I pointed out above, since faith doesn't save, it's impossible for our Arminian to think he has shown any soteriological synergism!

"Yet, Calvinists still insist that faith is a work of merit if it is not irresistibly caused."

No, if it is something we must do in order to be saved. That is, if we are justified by having faith. In that sense it would be a work. And since you concede, you admit of a works based salvation. You 'meet' God halfway there. Justification couldn't be accomplished if it wasn't for your initiation. Your movement forward. Your 'meeting.'

"Some Calvinists will go so far as to say that Arminians believe that man has the capability to save themselves."

No, you have the capacity, as you admit, to 'meet' the lifeguard part way there. The Reformed view is that you are dead. Dead men don't 'meet' people anywhere. God must administer CPR. Without CPR you could not breath that first "thank you." If a man can even breathe a little, he needs no CPR. Our view isn't that an Arminian can't be consistent, it's that an Arminian can't be consistent if he wants to be faithful to all the teaching of the Bible. Given your assumptions, you may not have any problems. The only time a problem arises is when you try to say that your view is fully consistent with all the biblical witness.

"I have often heard Calvinists point to intercessory prayer as a problem for Arminianism. The argument says that in Arminianism prayer would be pointless since God will not irresistibly save the sinner. If our prayers cannot guarantee conversion, then they are pointless. As long as free will exists intercessory prayer cannot really be effective."

No, we just point out that if a man freely chooses to remain in his sins, then if God desires that he does not, God can't secure a salvation. On your view, man must meet God, and God cannot make sure man will do this. That is, the Calvinist can pray that if it is God's will, save so and so. And, God can answer this. The Arminian, on the other hand, cannot with confidence say that if God so wills, so and so will be saved. That is, if it is God's will he can actually answer our prayer. On the Arminian scheme, if is God's will then this isn't enough to secure a positive answer. So and so must take the first step; he must 'meet' God. So, we don't say that it is 'pointless' for the Arminian to pray, but we note that many times he prays as if he were a Calvinist. The Calvinist can pray knowing that God will answer his prayer, if he has so decreed that so and so believe. The Arminian cannot. We also at times see inconsistencies in your prayers. For example, Falwell said,

"He will not force you against your will to come to the cross."

and this,

"Do not let one person say ‘no’ to your precious will. Save the lost."

During the same prayer. What could it possibly mean, on an Arminian scheme, for God not to 'let' someone say 'no' who freely chooses to say 'no?' Take a person S. If S says no, that's it. God cannot make sure that S enters the kingdom. A Calvinist, on the other hand, can pray that God not let S say "no." If God has chosen to save S, he will not let S say 'no.' And so at the very least you must admit that you only have fellow Arminians to blame for these confusions. In other words, the saying: 'Clean up your own backyard,' is applicable here.

"It does not follow that if intercessory prayer cannot guarantee a result, then it is pointless. Arminians believe that God works persuasively on the human heart through the gospel to bring about a faith response. Prayer can have a profound effect on that process. The Arminian can pray for more opportunities to witness. He or she can pray that God will use circumstances to bring the sinner to a point of desperation. We can pray that God will continue to reveal Himself to the individual. We can pray that God will remove obstacles and barriers to unbelief. All of these things will increase the chance of conversion."

The Arminian prays for barriers to be removed so that it is easier for the lost to 'make that first move.' But the road can be clear of everything down to the last pebble, and if the lost decide to stay where they are at, all the prayer in the world will change nothing. On the Calvinist scheme, if God chooses to save the lost person, he will climb over all the barriers, and then administer life-giving serum to the dead sinner. This effects a new life and results in the completion, for what good work God begins in the man he will see it to the end. The Calvinist knows that no matter what barriers stand in the way, if God has so chosen, he will save the sinner.

The Alleged Inconsistency

"The underlying assumptions of Calvinist theology make a mess of intercessory prayer. Calvinism teaches that one is saved or lost on the sole basis of an eternal and irrevocable decree. Nothing can effectively change that decree. It is fixed. It is permanent. The decision was made for us before we were born. The decision was made before the universe was created. With this in mind the problems of intercession within Calvinist thought become quickly apparent."

Now we're at the meat of the post.

"The Arminian contends that intercessory prayer within a Calvinistic framework is pointless. Our prayers cannot have any effect on the eternal destiny of any individual. That destiny was fixed from eternity. No lack of prayer can prevent God from saving the elect and no amount of prayer can help the reprobate. Worse yet, the believer might waste countless hours praying for a reprobate who has no chance at heaven without realizing it."

Sure they can, as means. So, if God has decreed that S will be saved by means of X, then if X doesn't obtain, S wouldn't be saved. It is a package deal. Thus it is false to say what you say.

But you address this response below. So let's move on.

"The Calvinist objects on the basis that God decrees the “means” as well as the “ends” and intercessory prayer may well be the means that God uses to bring His elect to repentance. Let us then call on the Calvinist to define “means”. Do “means” have reference to the process by which God accomplishes something? If it does then the Calvinist must still admit that believers contribute to the salvation of the elect by way of intercessory prayer. Their prayer is part of the means and therefore a contribution. If that is the case, then salvation is not monergistic as Calvinism defines it. The only way that I can see to avoid such a conclusion is to deny that intercessory prayer is truly a means to an end (albeit God ordained). The moment that is admitted, we are right back to the problem of intercessory prayer serving no real purpose within Calvinist theology."

I would think the concept fairly simple to understand. If you want your friend to give you a bite of his tasty burger, you must communicate somehow. The end is the ingesting the burger, the communication of that desire was a means. Or, take when God parted the red sea. He used a strong east wind as a means to accomplish the end of allowing the Israelites to pass through the sea on dry ground.

Now the inconsistency is drawn out.

(1) If a believer's B prayer is a means to the end, a sinner's S salvation, then B is 'involved' in the salvation of S and thus the salvation of S isn't monergistic.

(1) rests on an assumption:

(1*) No one can be involved in salvation in any sense of the word 'involved,' no matter how broad, or else said salvation is not monergistic.

With rests on a broader assumption:

(1**) If anything is involved, no matter how broadly construed, in any operation, then that operation was done by two things and not one.

Having drawn out this assumptions, it will be child's play to show the errors in the argument. I'll list them off:

i) It should be stated first that Reformed theologians don't deny that other people are involved in a very broad sense of the word.

ii) Take the parting of the red sea. Since God used wind, it is no longer technically correct to say that God parted the red sea. Rather, God + wind parted the red sea. Or, take a violinist. Since the violin was 'involved' in a masterpiece performance, one cannot tell the violinist that she played beautifully. According to (1**), the masterpiece was done by two and not one.

iii) Notice that we are 'involved' (in a broad sense) in all of our salvation. Indeed, there must be a person to be saved. Without my involvement (broadly involved by the act of my existing) in glorification, there would be no glorification since no one would be there to be glorified. Similarly, if there is no party standing before the court then there is no one for God to declare righteous and thus justify. So, I am involved (in a broad sense) in my justification. Our Arminian friend must grant all of this, and so when he mentioned those parts of 'salvation' that were monergistic, he must retract according to his implicit assumption in (1*) and (1**). So, then, we 'contribute' to our justification by just being there. If we didn't 'contribute' in this way, there would be no justification since there would be no one to justify.

iv) Our prayers are not the ground of salvation, Christ's alien work is. His life and death is. So, it isn't even technically correct to attribute our prayers a soteriological synergism.

v) So, I haven't needed to deny the means answer, and I've shown that the argument against it is absurd and even turns against the very admissions of monergism the Arminian allows. Given his very broad conception of 'involved' or 'contribute' it would be hard to demarcate my instances of 'involvement' as relevantly different than his. Since my means answer is still in tact, then he cannot show any inconsistency, and so his entire argument, as stands, crumbles.