Friday, October 31, 2008

Success Rates

I'd planned to take a year off blogging - but John Loftus provides some low hanging fruit from which it's good to make a wider point or points:

Loftus writes:

If God sent Jesus to save the world by dying on the cross for our sins (the greater deed) then he should at least be as passionate as Christians are to help people believe (the lesser deeds). Why would God do the greater deed and not also do the lesser deeds? This doesn't make sense of an omniscient, omnibenelovent, and omnipotent God. The excuses given for the paucity of evidence reveal that the Christian expects way too little from the God they believe in.

1. Note how John assumes what he needs to prove, namely that Jesus died for "our" sins - defined by his Arminian upbringing as "everybody without exception.

2. Neither does he address the concept of "divine silence."

3. And he doesn't bother with telling us if this is an internal or an external critique.

a. If internal, this might be effective against some Arminians, but it doesn't begin to touch Reformed theology.

b. If external, he's given us no reason to accept his standards of critique, whatever they may be.

4. Indeed, what divine omniscience has to do with this isn't even stated.

First let's look at what one thinks (as he doesn't give any specific texts) would be a standard text, John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, so that all the ones believing may not perish but have eternal life.

A. God loves the world. No problem. But love is not God's only attribute.
B. For whom did Jesus come to die? All the ones believing. John 3:16 is a marvelous text for particular redemption.

Indeed, this text is followed by John 3:17, which merely recapituates 3:16. The world is condemned already. Jesus did not come into it to condemn it. Rather, he came to save it.

This is all stated to explain the illustration of the serpent lifted up in the wilderness. It may help Arminians in general to read that narrative.. How many people for whom the serpent was lifted up actually died, according to that text? None. The people who died had already done so. So, what's the point? The point is simple: Jesus came to redeem the cosmos by being lifted up for the believing ones. Their salvation through Him is the means of cosmic redemption, the same way that God saved the nation of Israel through the serpent being lifted up. The believing ones looked to it, and the nation was saved.

So, what does this mean for John's post?

Well, for starters, the target group isn't "the world" defined as "everybody." The target group of people in the world is the elect. All the elect will be saved, and by this the world is saved. God isn't in heaven wringing His hands hoping that people will all come to Christ. Sure, He offers some people who ultimately reject Christ salvation, but that's for their inculpation, and the call is general because God doesn't write a big "E" across the forehead of the elect, who are scattered in geography and history. The force of a gospel presentation generally is to call the elect and inculpate the reprobate, and God need not present the gospel to everybody anyway:

1. Divine silence is a judgment for sin.
2. People are condemned already. The reprobate are already condemned. In a sense not hearing the gospel is a mercy, for "to whom much is given, much is required."

Likewise common grace itself is indexed to the Noahic covenant...for the purpose of maintaining the world until God's purposes of redemption are accomplished...and that very covenant was made with Noah and his familo, so it too is indexed, ultimately, to the elect.

So, God is "passionate" about calling the elect. His "omnibenevolence" extends to "everybody" insofar as God's ultimate purposes are concerned, is being fulfilled. Love is not God's only attribute, and God certainly knows all things, for He's foreordained them. The great redemptive purposes of God are not a failure. The success rate is 100 percent (something that can't be said of Arminianism, given general redemption), and "divine silence" is not a testament against the truth of the Bible or the Gospel. Rather, it is proof of it. God did the "greater deed," by sending Christ to die for the elect, and He does the "lesser" by making sure each and every one of them is saved.

If this is the best John Loftus can do these days, we welcome it, for this sort of namby pamby argumentation does Reformed theology a great favor.

And the winner is...?

So who will win—Obama or McCain?

Short answer: I have no idea.

Reasons Obama may win:

1.He’s ahead in all the polls.

2.Voter fraud favors the Dems.

3.He has the best ground game money can buy.

Reasons McCain may win:

1.Polling methodology is circular. Since a pollster will only sample a tiny fraction of the electorate, he must guess at what constitutes a representative sample group. So the output corresponds to the input. If you oversample Democrats and undersample Republicans, the polling results will mirror the sample group—which may or may not correspond to the distribution of the actual turnout. The sampling self-selects for the results.

Indeed, pollsters will even adjust the numbers to “correct” for the results if they think the results are unrepresentative.

2.The “Bradley effect.” It’s possible that some respondents lie to pollsters because they’re sensitive to the charge of “racism.”

Whether there is a “Bradley effect” is debatable. And whether it’s in play this time around is inherently unpredictable.

3.While McCain doesn’t have the number of paid boots on the ground that Obama has, he may have a lot of invisible boots on the ground. By tapping Palin, he was potentially tapping into an informal network of homeschooling moms and other suchlike. That doesn’t show up on the radar screen. Indeed, values voters are generally invisible to the liberal media because the liberal media takes no interest in this demographic niche.

4.While McCain’s position on amnesty is anathema to many conservatives, it may play better to the Latino voting block in a key state like Florida. That, too, remains to be seen.

5.Younger voters favor Obama, but historically, they don’t turn out in droves. Whether this year is an exception remains to be seen.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if either candidate wins.

Does Increased Welfare Spending or Pro-Life Legislation Reduce Abortion?

Does Increased Welfare Spending or Pro-Life Legislation Reduce Abortion? by Michael J. New

Speaking on Their Behalf

Here's a new blog defending the life of the unborn: Ending Pregnancy by Terminating Life: Pre-Birth, Intra-Uterine, Homocide, by Eric Telfer, MD.

(HT: Alexander Pruss)

From The Horse's Mouth

There's been debate about what Obama actually has argued for concerning the born alive act. But we have his own words now. Below you can hear for yourself his questions and statements on the Illinois Senate floor. At the very least, he comes across quite irrational, exhibiting diminished critical thinking skills. He actually instantiates what philosopher Harry Frankfurt dubbed as "bull sh**t." A "bull sh**t" artist isn't a liar, they're worse. They just let fly whatever pops into their head regardless of whether it's true or not. A liar is at least concerned enough with the truth to conceal it, BSers don't care about the truth whatsoever. What they say could be true, or it could be false, but that doesn't matter since truth and falsity isn't on their radar.

Is Obama going to straighten out this country? That's a premature question, let's ask if the man can even think straight first.

November 1, 1950

In 1950, on the day after Reformation Day, Pope Pius XII vindicated the Reformation in his decree Munificentissimus Deus. The Pope, after referring to the bodily assumption of Mary as "a matter of such great moment and of such importance", goes on to make comments like the following, which reflect how weak the case is for this doctrine he was about to bind upon all of "the faithful":

"However, since the liturgy of the Church does not engender the Catholic faith, but rather springs from it, in such a way that the practices of the sacred worship proceed from the faith as the fruit comes from the tree, it follows that the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ's faithful....When this liturgical feast was being celebrated ever more widely and with ever increasing devotion and piety, the bishops of the Church and its preachers in continually greater numbers considered it their duty openly and clearly to explain the mystery that the feast commemorates, and to explain how it is intimately connected with the other revealed truths....Consequently it seems impossible to think of her, the one who conceived Christ, brought him forth, nursed him with her milk, held him in her arms, and clasped him to her breast, as being apart from him in body, even though not in soul, after this earthly life....Finally, since the Church has never looked for the bodily relics of the Blessed Virgin nor proposed them for the veneration of the people, we have a proof on the order of a sensible experience....Since the universal Church, within which dwells the Spirit of Truth who infallibly directs it toward an ever more perfect knowledge of the revealed truths, has expressed its own belief many times over the course of the centuries, and since the bishops of the entire world are almost unanimously petitioning that the truth of the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven should be defined as a dogma of divine and Catholic faith - this truth which is based on the Sacred Writings, which is thoroughly rooted in the minds of the faithful, which has been approved in ecclesiastical worship from the most remote times, which is completely in harmony with the other revealed truths, and which has been expounded and explained magnificently in the work, the science, and the wisdom of the theologians - we believe that the moment appointed in the plan of divine providence for the solemn proclamation of this outstanding privilege of the Virgin Mary has already arrived."

The Pope goes on to tell us that he hopes the doctrine will produce among the faithful "a stronger piety toward their heavenly Mother", which supposedly "redounds to the glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, to which the Blessed Mother of God is bound by such singular bonds". Then we're told:

"by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Hence if anyone, which God forbid, should dare willfully to deny or to call into doubt that which we have defined, let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith....It is forbidden to any man to change this, our declaration, pronouncement, and definition or, by rash attempt, to oppose and counter it. If any man should presume to make such an attempt, let him know that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."

Thank God for the Reformation!

You can read about some of the historical problems with the Assumption of Mary here and here.

"they who are at Rome do not observe those things in all cases which are handed down from the beginning, and vainly pretend the authority of the apostles...But with respect to the refutation of custom which they [the Roman church] seem to oppose to the truth, who is so foolish as to prefer custom to truth, or when he sees the light, not to forsake the darkness?...And this indeed you Africans are able to say against Stephen [the bishop of Rome], that when you knew the truth you forsook the error of custom. But we join custom to truth, and to the Romans' custom we oppose custom, but the custom of truth; holding from the beginning that which was delivered by Christ and the apostles" (Firmilian, Cyprian's Letter 74:6, 74:19)

"And as if it were too little to have disturbed everything here, it [heresy] introduced a ship freighted with blasphemies into the port of Rome itself. The dish soon found itself a cover; and the muddy feet of heretics fouled the clear waters of the faith of Rome. No wonder that in the streets and in the market places a soothsayer can strike fools on the back or, catching up his cudgel, shatter the teeth of such as carp at him; when such venomous and filthy teaching as this has found at Rome dupes whom it can lead astray." (Jerome, Letter 127:9)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Modern theonomy


“Steve, I disagree. Clark is representing the view that I find most prevalent in 2K theologians (and, to me, the most sensible) - the idea that the government's responsibility is to enforce the second table of the 10 Commandments, and not the first table.”

Well, David, you obviously suffer from a very wooden caricature of the theonomic alternative. Theonomy is far more flexible and humane than truculent opponents like you make it out to be.

For example, let’s take the case of average idolater. By “idolater,” I mean someone who attends a church with candles, incense, stained glass, or pipe organs.

In a situation like that we’d give the idolater an opportunity to choose his preferred method of execution, whether by burning, boiling, disembowelment, dismemberment, drawing & quartering, flaying, impalement, sawing, or scaphism.

Further, culturally-sensitive accommodations could also be made. For example, a vegan might opt to be boiled alive in soybean oil rather than peanut oil.

Of course, such leniency only applies in the case of penitent idolaters. In the case of impenitent idolaters, we might find it necessary to resort to sterner measures.

The "fact" of evolution

Paul Nelson has been blogging a series in response to John Timmer's review of Explore Evolution. Here's the latest post.

Reppert Contra Mundum

“I am even less sure that I would know how to produce a good legal argument against Roe v. Wade, because in a legal context you have ways of blocking the sorts of ‘err on the side of life’ arguments that I would use if I were trying to talk someone I knew not to get an abortion. And I have even more serious doubts about the standard conservative attack on Roe: that it involved judicial activism. It seems to me that the right of privacy is constitutionally grounded.”

"The Supreme Court also, and very dramatically, decriminalized abortion in the famous case of Roe v. Wade (1973). Politically, this was--and remains--a bombshell. Legally speaking, the case rested on the constitutional right to privacy--a concept (one must admit) that has only the flimsiest connection with the actual text of the constitution." -- Lawrence Friedman (Marion Rice Kirkwood Professor of Law at Stanford University), A History of American Law, 3rd edition, 2005, p.570.

"It could be noted that to the 'Dirty Dozen' examples included here, we could have added many others. There is, for instance, the Supreme Court's highly controversial 1973 decision legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade, every aspect of which was faulty--the constitutional arguments, the bioethical arguments, and the historical arguments--as even many proponents of abortion rights acknowledge. (For instance, legal scholar John Ely, writing in the Yale Law Journal, condemned the Roe decision 'because it is bad constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be')." -- Thomas Woods (PH.D., Columbia) & Kevin Gutzman (PH.D., Virginia), Who Killed the Constitution?, Crown Forum, 2008, p.199

Jude, canon, and apocrypha

In his brand new commentary, Gene Green has an interesting angle on Jude’s allusion to OT pseudepigrapha:

“In each case, the incident recorded is tied intimately with some set canonical text. The angelic fall (v6) became a very common interpretation of Gen 6:1-4, and the dispute over the body of Moses (v9) was an interpretive tradition that developed due to the rather obscure reference to Moses’s death in Deut 34:5-6, which concludes ‘but no one knows his burial place to this day’ (NRSV). Jude’s reference is to the Assumption (Testament) of Moses, but it also evokes the words of Zech 3:1-2. The quotation of 1 En. 1:9 in vv14-15 draws on Deut 33:2, which was considered prophetic of the day of the Lord: ‘The Lord came from Sinai…with him were myriads of holy ones; at his right, a host of his own” (NRSV). Jude makes judicious and limited use of references to apocryphal literature and evokes only sources that tie into the canonical text and interpretive traditions surrounding it. Jude’s use of apocryphal texts is closer to canonical bedrock than is sometimes acknowledged,” G. Green, Jude & 2 Peter (Baker 2008), 32.

The "scientific" case for kinism

Recently, in response to something I wrote, a kinist presented a "scientific" argument against miscegenation. The same individual also made a negative, passing reference to Richard Lewontin.

Since Lewontin is still alive, and has an email address on his academic webpage, I decided to quote the "scientific" argument to him in case he'd like to comment on it. He was kind enough to respond (see below).


Dear Steve Hays,

Two comments on what you sent me:

(1) The idea of "genetic mismatches" has been made up out of the person’s head. There is absolutely no evidence of such "mismatches" with the implication that if I have [a] mixture of "racial" characters I am somehow debilitated. Moreover, the offspring of a mating between a West African and European does not have the skin color of one parent and the body shape of another. Indeed body shapes vary immensely both within and between groups. These characters, to the extent that they are inherited, are the consequence of a very large number of genes and if the parents were homozygotes for allelic variants of these genes, the offspring would be a heterozygote at all the gene loci involved. The offspring of this mating does not have the skin color of one parent and the body shape of another. It has a new, intermediate skin color unlike either parent and a new body shape.

[2] As to the argument about clustering in n-dimensional space, the statement that there are clusters is quite true (although of course the clustering has been much broken down with the history of matings between members of the original clusters). The clustering, as your racist implies, is hierarchical, with subclusters within clusters. If you want to call a cluster a "race" then you will do so, but where do you stop? Members of families will cluster within nation and tribe clusters, within geographical clusters, etc. More important, the proportion of all genes whose variation is reflected in such clustering is very small. Most gene variation (85%) occurs within local populations and another 6% between populations that would be assigned to the same race. I don’t have to be a geneticist to know that skin color variation has its variation mostly between classical "races". On the other hand the frequencies of different major blood group genes (ABO, MN, etc) do not contribute to this clustering but the variation is spread over all the so-called races. The question that is REALLY at issue is whether there are genes "for" things like intelligence, morality, various normal variations in psychology, etc. etc. Nobody has found these genes. If these genes are finally found, we could then ask whether there are differences in frequencies of different variants among geographical groups and whether there is a clustering in the gene frequency space corresponding to the clustering based on the few genetic characters that we know that do cluster geographically, like skin. If we can judge by the genes we do know the chance is 9:1 that there will be no significant racial clustering for any particular character. But occasionally we may find some interesting genetic case that does cluster. Nobody knows the answer to that question. We are certainly NOT in a position to say that there are such important cases or what they will be. When your racist person can cite such a case then he (she) will be entitled to talk about it.


Richard Lewontin

The two-kingdom theory

Lee Irons has posted a critique of Scott Clark:

It doesn’t surprise me that a smart, sophisticated guy like Lee can argue circles around Clark. Clark is simply not in the same weight division.

So I don’t find myself in disagreement with anything Lee says here. But what about his own version of the two-kingdom theory?

Let’s step back a few paces. Ancient Israel was a theocratic nation-state. As a consequence, its law code reflects both aspects of its hybrid identity.

Some of its laws reflect the cultic holiness of Israel. That’s unique and unrepeatable.

But its civil and criminal laws reflect the fact that Israel was also a nation-state. Like any nation-state, it needed civil and criminal laws. This is not distinctive to the otherwise unique role of Israel.

Now Klineans tend to treat the whole law code as if it were a preview of eschatological justice and judgment. Therefore, none of it applies today.

But this is frankly absurd. The Mosaic law code doesn’t have laws and penalties regarding national defense, statecraft, property crimes, sex crimes, violent crimes, and so on, because it’s a type of the final judgment. Any nation-state will have to have this sort of thing to uphold public justice and order. Otherwise, social life is impossible.

Some of the laws are obsolete because they codify a now-defunct socioeconomic system. But many of the laws exemplify generic norms that are still applicable to modernity.

The politics of moral indifference

Jason Stelleman has a peculiar post. Among other things, he says the following:

To hear the latest prognostications, we need look no further than Focus on the Family's "Letter From 2012 in Obama's America." If the Illinois senator is elected, we are told, we have the following events to look forward to: (1) The Boy Scouts will disband rather than being forced to let gay scout masters sleep in the same tents with young boys; (2) Not only "government schools" but private Christian schools will be forced to teach homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle; (3) In 2011 there will cease to be any Protestant or Catholic adoption agencies in the U.S. because they will refuse to place children in homosexual homes; (4) In 2009 Obama will force the military to recruit gays; (5) Public schools will be forced to disallow praying during, before, or after school; (6) Schools will be forced to stop allowing churches to use their facilities; (7) In 2011 all FCC restrictions will be lifted allowing pornography to be shown on all TV channels at every hour of the day; (8) In May of 2010 Al-Qaeda will recapture Iraq because of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country; (9) Beginning in 2009 terrorists will detonate bombs in two small and two large U.S. cities, due in part to President Obama stopping the wiretapping of our phone lines; and (10) Nationalized health care will result in long lines for surgery and no access to hospitals for people over 80.

So there you have it, America: Vote Obama and, to tweak Pedro Sanchez's campaign slogan, "all your wildest nightmares will come true."

My point is not to contest the likelihood, the goodness, or the badness of any of these predictions. My only observation concerns just how frantic and nervous American evangelicals become when threatened with a diminishment of their power.

Employing such scare tactics may indeed rally the troops, we'll have to wait and see. But more serious than what these tactics communicate to the faithful is the message they send to the world, namely, that Christians are so in love with and invested in earth that we will not sit passively by and accept such a demonic agenda as one that offers free health care for everyone and tarnishes the nobility of all of our wars by letting openly gay soldiers fight in them.

Several issues:

i) Why does he impute the worldly motives to men like Dobson? Dobson is not a prosperity preacher, is he?

ii) Why equate a concern for the wellbeing of children with a deep investment in the earth?

Put another way, why assume that Dobson’s concern is selfish? This is not about Dobson’s personal stake in the world. Rather, this is about Dobson’s concern for the wellbeing of others. Dobson is a pediatrician and child psychologist by training.

iii) Why is Stellman so smug and cavalier about the harmful effects of gov’t policies? Is he indifferent to child rape? Or abortion? Infanticide? Euthanasia?

What’s the least bit pious about his callous attitude toward the innocent victims of ungodly public policies?

Men like Stellman deserve Obama. But it would be nice to see him exhibit a more merciful attitude towards those who don’t.

Political Hypercalvinism

I notice that some Christians are taking a nonchalant attitude towards the outcome of the presidential election on the grounds that, whatever happens, God is on the throne.

That’s true, but that’s no excuse of passivity or inaction. God was also on the throne during the genocidal rampage Rwanda and Burundi—when neighbors attacked each other with machetes or buried each other alive. If that happened to your family, I doubt you’d be so nonchalant about the consequences.

Christianity is not interchangeable with fatalism. It does make a difference what we do or refrain from doing.

Yes, God is on the throne no matter what happens. And nothing can dethrone him, since he is immune to the consequences of our actions or inactions. We, however, are not immune to the consequences of our actions or inactions. So it does make a difference to us.

The Seeking Disciple

The seeking disciple said...

“Charlie, you have no proof that Arminians have ever persecuted Calvinists other than debates. Not one Arminian theologian has ever argued by word or deed for the death of Calvinists.”

To my knowledge, Archbishop Laud was a militant Arminian who persecuted his theological opponents.

Therefore, if Calvin’s persecution of Servetus discredits Reformed theology, then Laud’s persecution of Puritans discredits Arminian theology.

“Again no logical Calvinist can excuse John Calvin's actions with Servetus. Simply admitting that Calvin was wrong on this issue is the only ethical way. To argue that Calvin was a product of his environment or the time period will not excuse his actions.”

i) To begin with, seeking disciple is apparently ignorant of the distinction between an extenuating circumstance and an exculpatory circumstance. An extenuating circumstance mitigates guilt rather than absolving guilt. When we make allowance for Calvin’s social conditioning, that isn’t the same thing as “excusing” him or claiming that his actions were “justified.”

ii) And the reason we take his social conditioning into account is that unscrupulous partisans like seeking discipline are try to single out Calvin and make him an example to discredit Reformed theology in particular, even though there’s nothing theologically distinctive about Calvin’s conduct.

He begins with an ad hominem argument which he then turns into guilt-by-association smear. To attack Reformed theology on such sophistical grounds is both illogical and unprincipled.

“Should we not argue as the anabaptists did that people should be free to think, act, and live what they believe.”

i) Seeking disciple is being duplicitous. He is not an Anabaptist. Rather, he’s an Arminian. At least, I seriously doubt that he’s an Amish blogger. To my knowledge, the Amish aren’t big on computer science. So he’s not entitled to co-opt the Anabaptist position.

ii) It’s also inane to say, without further qualification, that people should be free to think, act, and live what they believe.

What about suicide bombers? What about Muslims who practice honor killings, female genital mutilation, child marriage, and—what is more—try to impose their immoral customs on the rest of us?

Up to a point, people should be free to practice their faith, but that doesn’t give them a carte blanche to do whatever their religion dictates regardless of whether the practice is moral or immoral.

“There is still no justification for the actions of Calvin or any other ‘Christians’ of that era. You can argue that the state/church was one, the time period, etc. but these still are no justification for killing others in the name of Christ.”

Another absurd overstatement. I don’t think we should execute heretics. However, there are many situations in which we are justified in killing others in the name of Christ.

Christian citizens have a right to defend themselves. Christian magistrates have a right to execute criminals and wage defensive wars. This is warranted by Christian ethics.

“This is simply against the Word of God (1 John 4:8).”

That’s a ridiculous appeal. God often rains down judgment on idolaters.

“In fact, ‘Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life ab abiding in him’ (1 John 3:15).”

Another absurd appeal. The apostle John is writing against heretics. John would hardly regard Servetus as a fellow Christian.

“We are to followe Jesus' example in Matthew 5:43-48 no matter what.”

Once again, this is irrelevant to the case of Servetus. Servetus wasn’t Calvin’s personal enemy. And he wasn’t a hostile, gov’t official. Seeking disciple is ripping this passage out of context.

I agree with him that we shouldn’t execute heretics. But his prooftexts are either irrelevant or counterproductive.

The seeking disciple needs to do more seeking, and less speaking.

A law unto themselves

steve hays said,
October 28, 2008 at 11:51 am

Foolish Tar Heel,

At what level does your objection operate? Are you equating the divinely inspired Torah with Sharia law? Or do you simply object to how some theonomists would apply the Torah to modern penology?

steve hays said,
October 28, 2008 at 11:53 am

tim prussic said,
“Changes: The Constitution of the United States would have to be rewritten, if a Reconstructionistic paradigm were to hold sway. For starters (and every Christian should hoist their pint to this), the preamble should include that the Absolute Monarch who rules this Republic is Jesus Christ, the everliving Lord of the whole universe.”

I disagree. The Establishment Clause prohibits a national church. But the states were free to have established churches—and some of them did.

steve hays said,
October 28, 2008 at 11:57 am

Todd said,
October 28, 2008 at 9:57 am
“I never understood how theonomists can look at history and say to themselves; I know what we should do - ensure that Christianity is state sponsored and enforced! Let’s see - we have the Holy Roman Empire, Cromwell’s England, the Spanish Inquisition, the American Puritans torturing, imprisoning, and at times executing Baptists, Quakers and Catholics.”

Cromwell was pretty tolerant by the standards of the day, and the American Puritans generally represented the Reformed and Presbyterian tradition. We’re free to evaluate and reject various aspects of that tradition, but this is a Reformed and Presbyterian blog.

steve hays said,
October 29, 2008 at 7:54 am

Jeff Cagle said,
“The Puritan system in Massachusetts started from a far greater advantage than we. The median knowledge of Scriptures was great; the cultural assumptions were more amenable to Christian thought; the church was generally trusted. And yet, the Puritan experiment failed miserably, if we measure by the relative density of Gospel-preaching churches in New England today. On a societal level, the fruit of Puritanism was apostasy (I’m not speaking of their writings, which are of great value; I’m speaking only of the cultural trending: Harvard, Yale, the Old Lights who became Unitarian, the New Divinity of Dwight, etc.).”

i) Do you think it’s reasonable to judge Colonial Puritanism by contemporary New England? Most Christian institutions liberalize over time, including Reformed institutions. Reformed colleges, seminaries, and denominations tend to liberalize over time.

ii) How do you judge the current status quo? Is that a success or failure? Is modern-day New York or Boston or Berkeley CA a resounding success or a miserable failure in your book?

steve hays said,
October 29, 2008 at 8:08 am

Todd said,
“I never understood how theonomists can look at history and say to themselves; I know what we should do - ensure that Christianity is state sponsored and enforced! Let’s see - we have the Holy Roman Empire, Cromwell’s England, the Spanish Inquisition, the American Puritans torturing, imprisoning, and at times executing Baptists, Quakers and Catholics. Please show me where this idea has worked and/or lasted more than one or two generations?”


Foolish Tar Heel said,
“Wow, some of this really scares me. From a sociological point of view, how exactly is what you advocate (Daniel and, perhaps, Tim P.) different than the most radical caricatures of Islamic fundamentalist regimes? What, are your ideas and goals different because you are ‘right’? Funny how every extremist person and group so legitimates their practices and ideal practices…”


Luke Evans said,
“My goodness, what a reminder of how disturbing and troubling consistent Theonomy is.”

One of the problems I have with these moralistic objections to theonomy is that critics could (and do) raise the same objections to OT ethics generally. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens love to attack the Christian faith through whatever they find objectionable in the OT.

Now, even if we take a pure Anabaptist position of total discontinuity between the Testaments, there was a time when OT ethics did apply. This was a divinely inspired and divinely mandated code of conduct. Christians need to come to terms with that.

If we subscribe to the inerrancy of Scripture, then we need to uphold the morality of the OT system—even if we think it doesn’t apply to us.
I wonder how some critics of theonomy view OT ethics on its own terms. Do they affirm its essential justice?

steve hays said,
October 29, 2008 at 9:51 am


You’re using your version of typology to erase the totality of OT ethics. Your all-or-nothing argument fails to draw traditional and elementary distinctions between the moral law, civil law, and ceremonial law.

For example, Reformed theology according to the Westminster Standards still regards the Decalogue as applicable to men and women living in the church age.

Likewise, standard Reformed and Presbyterian arguments against abortion typically appeal to OT prooftexts as well as NT prooftexts to make their point. And they go beyond the Decalogue to do so.

As Liefeld points out in his commentary on the Pastorals, 1 Tim 1:9-10 is a summary of the Ten Commandments (in Deut 5:6-21). It is therefore illicit for you to invoke “typology” as an exegetical shortcut to disqualify OT ethics in toto.

The purpose of the law is not to dispense eschatological justice. That’s a straw man argument. Try again.

Finally, the textual authenticity of Lk 23:34 is quite debatable. You need to find a more secure prooftext to establish your contention.

steve hays said,
October 29, 2008 at 11:56 am

Foolish Tar Heel said,
“Steve Hays,_You have dismissed but not answered my sociological question. It is not, as it were, a charge, but a question. It only becomes a ‘charge’ if you assume several things, both about the question and the implications of certain answers. The fact that I do assume such thing is immaterial, however, to my desire to hear your answer. How, from a sociological standpoint, are some of the versions of ideal-Theonomy articulated here different from the most over-the-top caricatures of radical Islamic regimes and society? Is your answer simply that Theonomy is ‘right.’ Then I give you another sociological-anthropological-and ethnological question, do you realize that all (what I will call) ‘extremist’ cultural-producers and ‘groups’ so legitimate themselves? How might such realizations impact this discussion.”

i) If you think that people are merely “caricaturing” Islam, rather than accurately representing it’s teaching, then it’s unclear why you also think your comparison between Islam and theonomy is even problematic.

Any comparison would be fatally equivocal if it’s based on a caricature.

ii) That aside, why should I submit to your sociological framework? Unless you think that OT ethics is morally equivalent to Sharia law, how is that a comparison? And how is it the least bit relevant to someone who respects the moral authority of Scripture? You’re shifting the issue from normative questions to popular opinion. How is that germane to Christian ethics?

steve hays said,
October 29, 2008 at 8:20 am


I have a question for you. Back in 1971, the 38th General Assembly of the OPC issued a report on abortion (which is posted at the OPC website). I’m sure you’ve seen it.
It staked out a strong prolife, antiabortion position. I believe that became the official position of the OPC. I believe this report was also influential on other Reformed denominations as they had to formulate their own position on abortion.

In making its case for a prolife/antiabortion position, the report relied heavily on OT ethics.

Question: Do you agree with the methodology of the report? Do you think it was appropriate for the committee to anchor so much of its argument in OT ethics?
Do you think it would be possible to present an equally strong, exegetical argument against abortion if we excluded all of the OT prooftexts from consideration?
Depending on how you answer the question, how does that affect your evaluation of theonomy?

steve hays said,
October 29, 2008 at 11:46 am

greenbaggins said,
“Let me ask these questions: first of all, how does one determine which judicial laws are of general equity and which are not? How does one determine which judicial laws relate directly to the moral law as case law and which do not?”

Good question. There’s no precise answer to that question, although ethics is often imprecise (e.g. borderline cases)—so that’s nothing new.

In chap. 19 of his classic commentary on the WCF, A. A. Hodge lays down some criteria.

Likewise, Gordon Wenham, in Story as Torah, lays down some criteria. Those would be two good places to start.

“Most treatments of the judicial law that I have read (which are admittedly non-theonomic) argue that ALL the judicial law is application of the Ten Commandments in one way or another.”

I don’t think that’s necessary. Some case laws are timebound injunctions, tied to the specific, socioeconomic conditions of the ANE.

Other case laws, while culturally conditioned to some degree, involve timeless principles which are applicable to a modern situation as long as we abstract the generic norm and modernize it accordingly.

The process isn’t fundamentally different from the way we analogize from NT ethics to contemporary situations. There’s always an element of recontextualization when we apply Biblical ethics to modernity.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mr. Muddle

“I am even less sure that I would know how to produce a good legal argument against Roe v. Wade, because in a legal context you have ways of blocking the sorts of ‘err on the side of life’ arguments that I would use if I were trying to talk someone I knew not to get an abortion.”

This illustrates Reppert’s chronic inability to reason like a philosopher. The “err on the side of life” argument is not a legal argument against Roe, but a moral argument against abortion.

The legal argument is quite straightforward: the Constitution is silent on abortion.

There is no stated right of abortion in the Constitution. There is no implicit right of abortion in the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution, as well as subsequent amendments, did not intend to confer a right to abort. The states which ratified the Constitution, as well as subsequent amendments, did not intend to confer a right to abort.

Therefore, it’s quite possible to support abortion, but oppose Roe v. Wade.

There are some additional problems with the reasoning of Roe, such as the antiquated and philosophically suspect appeal to viability.

“And I have even more serious doubts about the standard conservative attack on Roe: that it involved judicial activism. It seems to me that the right of privacy is constitutionally grounded.”

Yet another example of Reppert’s chronic inability to reason like a philosopher. Even if there is a Constitutional right to privacy, that doesn’t begin to entail a Constitutional right to abort.

“All you have with any political leader is their professions of Christian conscience.”

A hopelessly naïve statement. What we have is a paper trail or track record for various candidates. What have they said and done in the past?

“The pro-life position is appealing in the sense that you don't get stuck with the problem of accounting for how fetal life comes to acquire the full rights of personhood. But to go from there to the conclusion that there is no moral difference between taking the life of a zygote and taking the life of a two-year-old looks like a stretch to me.”

“Looks like a stretch” is not an argument. Where is the argument?

i) Isn’t Reppert a dualist? Does Reppert now take the position that mental events are reducible to brain-events?

ii) Moreover, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that a zygote is not a person. How does that justify abortion on demand—or even infanticide?

At most it would only warrant early term abortions—not abortions at any stage of gestation. There would still be a threshold in prenatal development. So restrictions (on late term abortions) would still be in place. Would Reppert kill his newborn baby?

“I think some of the considerations that support the right to life are some of the same ones that push me in the direction of the Democratic Party, the concern for the defense of the weak and disadvantaged against the powerful. (Probably the strongest moral theme in all of Scripture).”

Reppert is incapable of distinguishing between rhetoric and reality. The fact that the Democrat Party claims to be concerned with the weak and disadvantaged does not begin to imply that it’s actual policies benefit the weak and the disadvantaged.

“Perhaps after what I anticipate will be Obama's election victory, my post will be entitled ‘An Open Letter to Barack Obama’ urging him to take fetal life seriously and to move away from the sort of Planned Parenthood party line we are so used to hearing from Democrats.”

That’s like writing an open letter of condolence to a murder victim when you could have intervened to prevent the homicide in the first place.

“I really think that neither political party has enough power, with our two-party system, to push through a change in the Supreme Court sufficient to overthrow Roe and get us to the place where abortion is illegal in many states. So long as there is a partisan deadlock on this issue, no progress will be made.”

Is there some reason that Reppert is perpetually dense? Even if we can’t overturn Roe v. Wade, we can restrict Roe v. Wade. If, however, we elect Obama, then all state restrictions will be swept away.

And the abortionists attack the prolifers on other fronts to, like trying to shut down crisis pregnancy centers.

“I find this whole issue extremely difficult, and I have never tried so hard to me intellectually honest in all my life.”

In that case he clearly lacks the competence to teach philosophy. His position is a tissue of fallacies from start to finish.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


In his new commentary on Genesis, Bill Arnold has an interesting interpretation of the dietary laws in the Noahic covenant, which he evidently borrows from Edwin Firmage:

“However, the new order is not altogether the same as the old, since it also involves an alteration of the food chain (9:3). Many readers assume this text implies something inherently virtuous in vegetarianism, since it was the original cosmic order (“plan A”), or inversely, something innately blameworthy in meat-eating. Others have assumed the change in human diet is a concession to humanity’s weakness. But in reality, the only implication of the text is that the new order is also accompanied by a change in the animals’ relationship to humans (9:2). The fear of humanity is new, since pre-flood animals enjoyed a primitive fellowship with humans, now lost in the new natural order of things. Rather than placing value on either vegetarianism or meat-eating, this supplement of Noah’s diet with meat is part of a biblical progression toward holiness for humanity. By incremental steps, the biblical dietary laws bring humans from vegetarianism, to unrestricted meat-eating, and finally, to a dietary law that distinguishes Israelites from their neighbors (Lev 11). ‘[T]he dietary law represented the culmination of a progression in holiness, by which God had brought a people by steps to enjoy unprecedented proximity to himself’” Genesis (Cambridge 2009), 109.

Watching a Pro-Abortionist Self-Destruct

Zach Moore is trying everything he can to discuss everything and anything besides the actual argument I've presented to him. I know he'd like me to sink to his level and see who can cram the most smarmy witticisms into a blog post. He'd like me to have to defend against his repeated swipes at "Reformed apologetics." He wants to paint me with the "anti-science" brush, hoping I'll move the debate to that area. He is even virtually wearing the cyber knees of his cyber pants through by begging that the discussion be moved over to a debate about whether the human fetus is "fully human." But unlike the teenagers on Christian discussion forums that Moore is used to debating, I'm not going to budge from the original argument and allow Moore to move the discussion to areas he finds more comfortable. Since Moore wants to run real far real quick from his original claims, I'm forced to spend my time constantly calling attention back to the actual issue at hand. Despite his wishes to the contrary, I'm afraid this post of mine will be more of the same. I will simply reiterate the actual issue up for debate, drilling the point home. I'll be a Mr. Miyagi to Moore's Danielson: Ah ta ta ta, focus, Daniel-san!"

In this post I will lay out, again, the actual argument I've put forward, and thus the one Moore needs to concern himself with. I will try to illustrate how my argument works, showing that Moore's pro-abortion argument leads him into the unenviable position of trying to defend two principles which, in effect, cancel the other out. This results in something of a malfunction, circuitry overload. It will be shown that Moore must end up blowing a head gasket, not unlike Norman from Star Trek's memorable "I Mudd" episode.

It might have struck some first time readers as strange what I said above about Moore wanting to focus the debate on whether I could argue for the "full humanity" of unborn humans. "Isn't that precisely what a pro-lifer must prove?", you ask. Now, as most readers here know, I've engaged that debate here numerous times. I have read widely in the field. I have shown in the past that I have no problem engaging in that debate. Most interlocutors have left befuddled after that particular debate. The reason why that debate is "immaterial" here is because of the very reason I responded to Moore in the first place. The reason it is immaterial is since Moore claims that his pro-choice arguments works regardless of whether or not the unborn is fully human. It may help to see this point made more explicitly. Here's Moore's Conclusion:

[MC] It is morally acceptable for women to have abortions at any time up to and until the unborn human fetus (fully?) emerges from the woman's vagina (or stomach, if it's a c-section birth)

Now, Moore has claimed that he can get to [MC] from either of these Proposition below:

[P*] The unborn human fetus is not fully human

[P**] The unborn human fetus is fully human

That is, Moore has claimed that his argument for [MC] works even if [P**] is true.

Now, of course Moore never laid any of this out as precise, but that's his stated position.

Now, getting back to whether or not I need to "prove" (not sure what criteria of 'proof' is being assumed) that it is the case that the unborn human fetus is "fully human", it should be fairly obvious that I shoulder no such burden. Rather than me having to prove [P**], Moore has claimed that his arguments goes through unscathed even given the truth of [P**]. Note the word "given." That is, Moore has given me the truth of [P**], hypothetically. So I've done nothing more than to take Moore at his word. I have simply contradicted Moore at one point of his argument. I have denied that his argument goes through if the unborn human fetus is fully human.

So, Moore claims [MC] goes through even if we grant [P**]. I claim that [MC] does not go through if [P**] is granted. Formally, my argument looks like this:

[1] If [P**], then not-[MC].
[2] [P**].
[3] Therefore, not-[MC].

Since this is simply an instance of modus ponens, there should be no question about the argument's validity. [P**] has been granted for the sake of the argument. If [1] is the case, then the argument is sound, and the conclusion follows necessarily. So, as should now be painfully obvious, I do not have to prove [2], I just have to offer reasons for assuming [1] is true. Call those reasons that I've given so far, [R's].

As is now clear, arguing for [2] doesn't factor into the debate. If my [R's] work, then [1] is established, and the argument goes through. Therefore, any rejoinder to this post that grounds its substance in requiring that [2] be proven, rather than undermining [R's], will be insufficient as a cogent reply. At this point, Moore has chosen to focus in on getting me to argue for [2] when what he needs to be doing is undermining [R's]. Thus given Moore's incessant insistence that I prove a proposition he's granted (an absurdity in itself!), the reasonable conclusion to draw is that Moore recognizes the quick sand that is his original claim and is struggling to move to more solid ground. He made the positive claim, I questioned it, and now he wants to pretend as if I am making a positive claim about the full humanity of the unborn human fetus that needs defending. Despite Moore's insistence to the contrary, this has nothing to do with "Reformed apologists loath[ing] to argue for their own position." As should be obvious by now, I have been arguing for my position. Moore finds it necessary to recast my position into more manageable, bite-sized pieces that he feels more comfortable chewing on.

Now, it could be possible that Moore is not so devious as to be consciously trying to change horses mid-stream. Perhaps he's simply confused about what his position and my position is. If so, hopefully the above helped to untangle Moore's thoughts. Having disentangled any confusions about what has actually been stated, and what is actually being argued, I'll move on to the next important feature of the debate (sorry to those who have actually read my posts, but the recapping is unfortunately necessary given Moore's willful or unwillful ignorance).

Moore's "Primary Argument" for [MC] is:

[PA] All human beings are sovereign over their own bodies. Thus, anything growing inside my body stays there only by my own approval (assuming that I have the available medical technology to remove it at my discretion).

The term 'sovereignty' in the above is a specific kind of sovereignty I have dubbed 'Moore-Sovereignty'. 'Moore-Sovereignty' states:

[MS] The right all humans have to decide what things stay in or on one's body and what things stay out.

Now, I could act like a Moore and claim that "Moore has not argued for [MS] even though it is "crucial to his argument," and I could point out that I gave numerous reasons to suppose [MS] obviously false, but since Moore hasn't bothered arguing for [MS], or undermining my arguments against [MS], I take it that this is yet another aspect of the argument Moore doesn't want to go near to with a ten foot pole. So in addition to the above, I have also argued that [MS] renders [MC] false. This is due to the fact that Moore granted us [P**]. Granting the truth of [P**], then [granting the truth of] [MS] implies, by the logical inference of subimplication, the truth of the Fetus's Sovereignty principle:

[FS] Human fetuses have full sovereignty over their body (where 'sovereignty' is defined along the lines of [MS].

To make all this more specific, let's make another inference from [MS], this time just dealing with women:

[WS] Women have full sovereignty over their body (where sovereignty is defined along the lines of [MS]).

At best, Moore is caught in something like the position Norman the android gets himself into with Kirk and Mudd. Mudd and Kirk pose something like the liar paradox to Norman. Mudd says that he is lying and Kirk says that everything Mudd says is a lie. Upon pondering this most difficult of paradoxes, Norman malfunctions and shuts down.

I will attempt to show how Moore must malfunction given the explicit or implicit propositions of his position. The below is simply an illustration of the general problem I've located in Moore's thinking on this issue.

Now, I take it that [MS] includes Applications (MSA's) like the one below, for instance:

[MSA*] Due to [WS], Moore-sovereignty implies that a human woman can choose to have a human fetus expelled from her body by means of a saline abortion.

Saline abortion induces death by salt poisoning. In a saline abortion, the baby breathes in the saline solution, death occurs within a few hours, and not without dehydration, brain hemorrhaging, organ failure, and burned skin. But [MS] also implies another more general application:

[MSA**] Moore-sovereignty implies that any human can decide whether s/he wants to breathe in saline solution and die by means of saline poisoning.

By the logical inference of subimplicaton [MSA**] implies:

[MSA***] Due to [FS], Moore-sovereignty implies that a human fetus can choose to decide whether s/he wants to breathe in saline solution and die by means of saline poisoning.

One can make similar applications with e.g., aspiration, D and E, and D and X abortion methods.

Now assume this highly plausible proposition, call it the Preservation Principle:

[PP] Generally, any living human that is not insane or suffering some other mental disorder would not want to end their life by means of saline solution and, if they could tell us, they would tell us that they do not want their life to end that way.

Among other reasons, [PP] is justified by asking any mentally healthy individual if they would have wanted to have ingested saline into their body when they were a fetus, thus causing their death. Most people, even those living in depressed conditions, are happy that they are alive because, as is fairly obvious, it is better to exist than not to exist. Despite what angry teenagers dressed in black may claim, even they are not killing themselves despite the occasional yelling at mom, "I wish I were never born!"

As we can see, then, while [MSA*] (recall that there are strong reasons to suppose [MS] false) may justify a woman getting an abortion even if her baby is fully human, [MSA***] justifies the baby's sovereign decision not to have saline "in" her body. And that she wouldn't, if she could tell us, is supported by [PP]. Indeed, living humans who cannot speak at the moment have a right to have someone with their best interest in mind speak for them. Any action that lowers the quality of life, or ends the life, is, prima facie, an action not in their best interest.

Moore may complain about my chosen example, but that does no good. Moore must grant [MSA*] because [MSA*] is implied by [WS] which is implied by [MS]. Moore can't weasel out of [MSA*] as an abortifacient. But then [MSA***], which Moore must also grant, since it is implied by [FS], which is also implied by [MS]. Thus my example, picked because of how easy it was to illustrate Moore's problem, shows how Moore's "primary argument", [PA], for abortion rights, leads directly to a head on collision between the fully human woman and the fully human fetus's sovereignty. Thus Moore's argument for abortion induces a paralysis of monumental proportion rendering Moore absolutely impotent to speak on matters having to do with abortion rights. Moore, like Norman before him, is headed toward an inevitable meltdown.

So, that's what's been argued by me over the last three posts. Moore has chosen, for a third time, to avoid my argument, as well as all the other important sub-arguments I made undercutting his position. The above was laid out with care and precision detailing how and where, exactly, More needs to focus his energies if he ever hopes to extricate himself from the original argument I leveled at him. At this stage in history, it does not good to play the Wizard of Oz and tell your reader(s) to "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." We've all seen the movie and are far too incredulous to fall for those sorts of things. I have simply pointed out that the king has no clothes, parading around in one's birthday suit, pretending to be fully clothed, isn't the proper way to handle yourself in debates such as these.

Having stayed the course for a third time, remaining undeterred by the attempts to get the discussion on a more comfortable track for Moore, and remaining uninterested in having a contest over who can slip the most smarm and pejoratives into a post, I'm afraid Moore's bluff has been called and now he is in the unenviable position of having to actually defend his shoddy case for abortion. But if past behavior is an indicator of future behavior, we can all be fairly sure that Moore will take his next opportunity to pontificate about matters irrelevant to the challenge actually laid at his feet. But, we can always hope...

Before I continue on, I should briefly show one more example of the muddled thinking Moore is exhibiting. He seems virtually unable to track with the logic of his own position. Besides the above, his struggles are elsewhere evident in how he responded to my claim that [MS] allows one to place bombs inside their body and detonate them in public areas. Moore responded, “ "I am not talking about things people do to each other with their bodies." But since we've granted the full humanity of the fetus, you are, in fact, "talking about things people do to each other with their bodies." Since the fetus is a human, then it can't be the body of the woman's that is getting killed but the body of another human. So Moore fails to show how my argument from analogy is off.

Now that I've, again, set the debate on the right track for all involved, I'll finish off a mop-up job on some of the comments Moore made in his latest post.

Apparently he thinks that simply by virtue of quoting me verbatim at length, he somehow can't be blamed for ignoring my statements and trying to put arguments in my mouth. For example, his clumsy assumption that my reference to "one organ among others" was the fetus, rather than the uterus. Without an effort at reading comprehension on his part it's no wonder there are so many blunders; I would spare myself the tedium of correcting him point by point unless I thought it would achieve anything useful.
But obviously those who read my post are aware that I did more than simply "quote at length"; rather, I quoted at length and applied fairly detail analysis (like I did above) to Moore's claims. No one is buying Moore's sophistic attempts to get around my arguments. And it’s hard to see how even he can be persuaded by the types of responses he’s offering.

But as for his specific example, if Moore is correct rather than saving-face, the problem is entirely his fault. No one was talking about what a woman does with a uterus, we have been talking this entire time about what a woman does with the fetus inside her uterus! The context of the entire discussion, as my quotes above make clear, is that Moore had been arguing that [MS] implies that a woman can "determine what things stay in and what things stay out of her body." Perhaps Moore is unaware, but abortions don't remove "the uterus." Furthermore, what Moore is referencing is an argument I made that shows that if we assume the fetus is fully human, then it is not an organ. Even if we overlook Moore's unclear statement, he's picking on something that is materially inconsequential to the argument I was making. This is fairly obvious and if Moore doesn’t know that then that's even more reason to suppose rational argumentation will not work on him. If Moore is aware that he's picking on a throw-away issue, totally irrelevant to te argument being made, then he's guilty of being dishonest.

Moreover, even granting all Moore says here, it's easy to see how Moore is simply being a sophist.

Moore's point about the "organ" was based on his unargued assertion that my denial of a woman's right to abortion was based on "special pleading." He wrote: "Paul, by special pleading against the complete sovereignty of women, would have us believe that one organ among all others is arbitrarily off-limits."

But in the post he's responding to, I wrote,

"I am not guilty of special pleading, Moore is. I do think I have a right to remove tumors, and I think women have a right to remove tumors. The fetus, to quote Ahnold, "Is not a tumah." I do not think that I have the right to murder a fetus if, ex hypothesi, I could carry one. So I also, quite consistently, do not think that women have the right to murder their fetuses. These distinctions seem all rather elementary to me. There's not so much as a case for special pleading on my end. Indeed, (v) showed that Moore was guilty of special pleading."

But as is his wont, rather than tackle a substantive rejoinder, Moore opts for the easy way out and picks on incidentals by invoking sophisms and then pretending that his example is representative of the rest of my post thereby allowing him to avoid actually having to engage in a substantive response.

Continuing on...

Moore then acts as if Craig Sowder asks the same question Moore is wondering. Never mind that I showed above that that question is, per Moore's own grantings, irrelevant to the debate, Craig asked about personhood and I spoke of "humanity." Moore further misses the point in that my post never said my arguments were limited to scientific evidence. I said science was "on my side." And to finish this out, Moore uses another sophistic tactic by assuming that I claimed that if some entity, E, had human DNA, then that is sufficient to establish the full humanity of E. Moreover, Moore apparently has no idea what "unified" means as I used it. Add to this that Moore is also tackling a comment I made to a person sympathetic to my position and was not attempting to argue for the full humanity of the fetus. Lastly, Moore has no business saying that what I listed is simply necessary and not sufficient for being a human and not sufficient since Moore stated that he had no idea at all what makes something "fully human." If Moore thinks that he has some property that non-arbitrarily makes him "fully human" while the not the fetus, I'm all ears.

Of course all of this must wait until after we've moved past the original argument that Moore, up until now, as totally failed to address. I know he'd love to not defend his claims and turn the discussion to my argument for the full humanity of the fetus, but as Moore has told us, that is irrelevant to his argument, tghe one under the microscope. So, let's see if Moore can think straight first before we go to where, eventually, Moore will be forced to go: "Aboritons are acceptable only if the fetus is not a human being." Or, he can change his sovereinty principle to the ad hoc claim that "All humans except humans in wombs have sovereignty." And of course these are all positive claims Moore has to not only assert but likewise defend.

I have my doubts that he can do so.

But if he thinks he can, "I'm your Huckleberry."

Life under Calvin

“When you compare the lives of John Calvin, James Arminius, and John Wesley you find many differences. However, Calvin's life stands out above Arminius and Wesley as a life of power and a life devoted to protecting and defending his theology even if that meant killing others who opposed him. Neither Arminius or Wesley even offered death as a sentence for opposing their theology. Neither Arminius nor Wesley ever demanded that heretics be killed. Neither Arminius or Wesley ever asked that their followers defend their theology to the death with their lives and swords. Even Arminius who opposed the Anabaptists did not want them to suffer any harm and he further wanted them to have religious freedom as well as protection. Wesley was opposed by many Calvinists of his day yet Wesley never once asked for one person to be put to death for their opposition to him or for views contrary to his own. Wesley in fact promoted anti-slavery laws in England and wanted complete religious freedom for all.”

Someone like Turretin Fan might be better equipped to discuss this than me, since historical theology has always been of secondary interest to me, but I’ll say a few things:

1.A Calvinist is under no obligation to defend everything that Calvin ever said or did.

2.Wesley was in no position to persecute his opponents even if he wanted to. However, he was an Anglican priest. There’s a reason it’s called the Church of England. It was a state church. The church of Archbishop Laud. The church of the Act of Uniformity, as well as the oaths of Allegiance and Abjuration. Anglicans persecuted Catholics. Anglicans persecuted Puritans. They persecuted nonconformists generally. Wesley was a party to this system. He was a gov’t employee.

As for Arminius, he was, like Wesley, in no position to persecute anyone even if he wanted to. But Holland also had a state church. Arminius was a gov’t employee. He was party to this system.

3.The Calvinist John Newton was an opponent of the slave trade. The Calvinist Samuel Hopkins was an opponent of slavery. In 1818, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church adopted an anti-slavery plank. Conversely, Southern Methodists were slaveholders.

4.It’s true that Arminianism is generally more tolerant than Calvinism. Whether you think that’s good or bad depends on what side of an issue you come down on. For example, there’s no doubt the UMC is more, in some ways, tolerant than the OPC or PCA. Whether that’s good or bad turns on whether you’re a social/theological liberal or social/theological conservative.

5.At the same time, contemporary Methodists tend to be social activists who lobby to see far left liberal political agenda enacted into law. And that would, in turn, entail discrimination against anyone who dissents from their policies. For example:


Capital punishment, legalized killing by the state, has always been a deeply troublesome issue for religious and non-religious people alike.

Well-meaning people of faith weigh in on both sides of the debate. Some argue the death penalty deters crime and protects society. Others contend that it has not proven to be a deterrence, is biased against the poor and African Americans, and isn't something Jesus would "do." The death penalty is currently legal in 38 U.S. states.

The United Methodist Church, in its Social Principles, officially opposes capital punishment and urges its elimination from all criminal codes. The church's General Conference, a delegated body representing members around the world, meets every four years and is the only entity that can take official positions for the denomination. Those statements are included in the church's Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions. On many issues addressed by the church, individual members hold a wide range of viewpoints, including outright opposition to denomination policy.

The United Methodist Church has held this position for 50 years. At the 1956 General Conference in Minneapolis, delegates first passed legislation that put the church officially on record as opposed to the death penalty.

Each Methodist and United Methodist General Conference since that time has reaffirmed its opposition to capital punishment.

WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church was a founding member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice in 1973, and
WHEREAS, the General Board of Church and Society and the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries are currently members of the Religious Coalition, along with national organizations from 14 denominations, including the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalism, Reform and Conservative Judaism, and
WHEREAS, these Coalition member organizations hold a wide variety of views regarding policies relating to specific issues of reproductive choice such as when life and personhood begins but, nevertheless, share common religious values, have official pro-choice policies, and are committed to working together to ensure reproductive choice for all persons through the moral power of religious communities, and
WHEREAS, the Religious Coalition supports the right of all persons to have access to a wide range of reproductive health services including sexuality education, family planning services, contraception, abortion services, affordable and quality health and child care, and
WHEREAS, the Religious Coalition's All Options Clergy Counseling program trains clergy of many faiths to assist women in discerning the course of action that they believe is best in a case of unintended pregnancy, and
WHEREAS, internationally, the Religious Coalition is an accredited non-governmental organization with the United Nations Department of Public Information which supports international family planning services in such areas as South Africa where the Coalition works with churches on HIV/AIDS education and prevention, and
WHEREAS, the Coalition's efforts help counter attempts to enact restrictive legislation that would impose specific religious views about abortion and reproductive health on persons of all faiths, and
WHEREAS, factions within the United Methodist Church whose stated goal is to have the General Conference go on record in opposition to all abortions regardless of the reason are working towards the goal of severing all United Methodist ties with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice;
Therefore, be it resolved, that the United Methodist 2004 General Conference go on record in support of the work of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and
Be it further resolved, that the 2004 General Conference affirm the continued membership of the General Board of Church and Society and the Women's Division of the General Board of Global Ministries in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

More recently, the United Methodist General Conference held in Pittsburgh in 2004 passed resolutions:

• Calling for a full investigation of the alleged abuse of prisoners of war in Iraq and for adherence to the rules of the Geneva Convention.
• Promotion of better relationships between Christians and Muslims based on understanding and respect for one another's beliefs.

The Board of Church and Society, charged with the task of "seek[ing] the implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements of the General Conference on Christian social concerns," has issued public statements calling for peace and withdrawal from Iraq, along with urging people to take action in support of H.J. Res 55. This bill, sponsored by Reps. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), is the first bipartisan effort to begin the process of bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq.

God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It God's Politics offers a clarion call to make both our religious communities and our government more accountable to key values of the prophetic religious tradition.

Basis: The United States of America, a nation built on equal rights, has denied the right of homosexuals to actively serve their country while being honest about who they are. Meanwhile, The United Methodist Church is moving toward accepting all people for who they are. The United Methodist Church needs to be an advocate for equal civil rights for all marginalized groups, including homosexuals.

Conclusion: The U.S. military should not exclude persons from service solely on the basis of sexual orientation.

See Social Principles, ¶ 162H.

From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church — 2004.

An answer for Green Baggins

I know that I have at least two theonomists who regularly read my blog, and so this is a question addressed to them. The sin of idolatry, in the Old Testament, was punishable by death. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Hindus, and many other religions practice idolatry. One can even make the case that Muslims and Jews are idolaters, since they do not worship Jesus Christ as God.

America was founded on a principle of liberty of religion. The issues get complicated in a hurry, of course, but my question is this: if Christian Reconstruction were to win out in America, does that mean that the members of these other religions should be executed? Or is the principle of death for idolatry changed in the NT, according to theonomists?

Let’s divide up the answer into exegetical theology and historical theology:

Exegetical Theology

1) The population of ancient Israel wasn’t confined to observant members of the covenant community. It included a certain number of resident aliens or foreign nationals. Within certain limits, their presence was tolerated. Within the Mosaic code itself, some laws applied to all persons living in Israel, circumcised or not (e.g. Exod 12:19,48-49; Lev 16:29; 17:15; 18:26; 24:16, 22; Num 9:14; 15:16,30). But Gentiles were excluded from the worship of Israel unless they converted to the true faith.

2) Whether the sin of idolatry would be a crime under theonomy depends on how we should classify it according to the traditional threefold rubric (civil/moral/ceremonial law).

We could make a case for subsuming it under the civil law. Whether that’s binding today would still depend on whether the civil law coincides with the moral law at this particular juncture. Idolatry obviously has a moral dimension.

On the other hand, we could also make a case for subsuming idolatry under the ceremonial law. Religions offenses were criminalized in large part due to the cultic holiness of Israel. And that is arguably distinctive to the Old Covenant rather than the New Covenant.

3) Even in the case of capital offenses, we need to draw two additional distinctions:

i) The fact that a particular crime was a capital offense doesn’t mean, ipso facto, that all convicts were sentenced to death. For one thing, OT law distinguishes between penitent sinners (e.g. Lev 6:1-7) and impenitent sinners (e.g. Num 15:30-31). And case law is illustrative rather than exhaustive. It doesn’t cover every conceivable contingency.

ii) Apropos (i), some capital offenses could be commuted:

“[Milgrom] argues that any intentional sin could be reduced to a sin of ignorance by genuine repentance. Whenever a guilty person too this path, he lowered his sin to the level of an unintentional sin and gained the possibility of expiating his wrongdoing through presenting a reparation sacrifice,” J. Hartley, Leviticus (Word 1992), 85.

This may be a bit of an overstatement since it’s hard to believe that every crime, however heinous (e.g. rape), was subject to commutation. Nevertheless, it is fair to suggest that Lev 6:1-7 presents a special case of a larger principle. At least in some cases, contrition or restitution could reduce the sentence.

Historical Theology

Samuel Rutherford, who is quite intolerant by modern standards, nevertheless draws an important distinction:

“The question is not whether religion can be enforced upon men by the magistrate by the dint and violence of the sword, or only persuaded by the power of the word. We hold with Lactantius that religion cannot be compelled, nor can mercy and justice and love of our neighbor commanded in the second table, be more compelled than faith in Christ. Hence give me leave to prove two things: [i] That religion and faith cannot be forced on men; [ii] That this is a vain consequence, religion cannot be forced but must be persuaded by the word and Spirit, Ergo the magistrate can use no coercive power in punishing heretics and false teachers.”

“The sword is by no means of God to force men positively to external worship or performances. But the sword is a means negatively to punish acts of false worship in those that are under the Christian magistrate and profess Christian religion, insofar as their acts come out of the eyes of men and are destructive to the souls of these in a Christian society; Tis even so (& not otherwise punishable by the magistrate)…nor does it follow that the sword is a kindly means to force outward performances, for the magistrate as the magistrate does not command these outward performances as service to God, but rather forbids the omissions of them as a destructive to man…so doth the magistrate not directly command going to Church as a worship to God, so as his commands have influence on the conscience as the pastors commands have, but he commands going to Church and hearing so as the omission of hearing hurts the society whereof God hath made him a civil and politic[al] head,” A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience (1649), 50-52.

We may or may not agree with how Rutherford applies this principle, but it does introduce an important distinction.

I’ll finish by quoting some excerpts from an essay by William Young, a PRC pastor, who discusses the traditional Presbyterian position on statecraft in relation to our contemporary situation:


The fundamental thesis here presented is what William Cunningham termed “the lawfulness of some union or friendly connection between church and state” (Presbyterian Reformed Magazine, volume VI, number 1, p. 25). The thesis is a purely abstract one. To be realized in practice, there must be presupposed a Christian state, with Christian magistrates ruling over a substantially Christian body of subjects. Where such an ideal state does not exist, the question of the union of the state with the Christian church does not arise. This is obvious in the case of an anti Christian government that persecutes those who profess loyalty to Christ. It is also true that the principle in question does not mean that a nominally Christian state may establish a church, to be used as an instrument to further its secular purposes. Under such circumstances, faithful servants of the Head and King of the Church have preferred to operate as a Free Church, independent of the state. This does not imply a renunciation of the principle under discussion. In this matter Chalmers and Cunningham were wiser than Dr. Abraham Kuyper. Furthermore, in a truly Christian state, there need not be a preference granted to one denomination over others. In this matter I find the change made by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in the Confession’s chapter XXIII, article 3, to have been unnecessary. The modified form of the Confession adopted by several Presbyterian denominations in this country still maintains the fundamental principle of the right and duty of the civil magistrate in religious matters, and contemplates in fact a predominantly Evangelical Christian nation. The original Confession may, I believe, be fairly understood as applicable to that situation, although the Westminster Assembly in the nature of the case did not contemplate the plurality of denominations of Evangelical Christians. What is implied is that a Christian government will employ its legitimate authority in furthering the interests of Christianity, in restraining public blasphemy and Sabbath desecration, as well as gross evils by way of violation of the second table of the Decalogue. The confessional doctrine does imply that the civil magistrate is the guardian of both tables of the law. The sense of the doctrine will be clarified by the removal of misunderstandings that prevail among many who maintain opposing views.

The charge has been brought against the Westminster Confession that its teaching on church and state is Erastian… The alleged contradiction is resolved by the distinction of the authority of the magistrate CIRCUM SACRA (“about sacred things”) and his authority IN SACRIS (“in sacred things”). The former is asserted and the latter denied. The magistrate may enact and enforce laws about religious practice, always subject to the teaching of the Word of God, but he may not in any way take to himself the authority of officially expounding the word or exercising church discipline. His authority in the matter is on the level with that of the Christian individual or head of a family, not the authority that Christ has delegated to his church.

The apparent contradiction between the magistrate’s duty toward the church, and the denial that he has jurisdiction in religious matters is dissolved when attention is paid to the language of the Confession of Faith. “He hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace is preserved in the church,” etc., simply states what he may and ought to aim at as an end. Every Christian ought to aim at the preservation of the unity and peace of the church. Hence this should also be the end envisaged by the Christian magistrate in the exercise of his office. The Confession of Faith says nothing at this point as to the means to be employed to accomplish this end, except for the previous denial of the specific functions of preaching, administering the sacraments, and exercising church discipline. The matter of calling synods will require separate consideration. It should be clear that, thus understood, chapter XXIII, article 3, is consistent with itself, and exemplifies the caution with which the Westminster divines skillfully avoided disputable points, while they firmly and clearly set forth the whole counsel of God in all things necessary.

A most serious charge against the confessional teaching is that it is guilty of propounding intolerant and persecuting principles. Before reply is given to the allegation, an observation should be made as to the character of the language commonly used. Here is an unhappy instance of emotive language being used to excite prejudice, rather than a serious cognitive formulation serving to clarify the difficult issues that are involved. It is necessary first of all to dispose of the ambiguity found in the charge of intolerance and persecution. These words call up frightful images of the Spanish Inquisition, the fires of Smithfield and the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. It might be simply asked in reply where in the history of Scottish Presbyterianism has there been a parallel to such atrocities, except in the treatment of the Covenanters by the Prelatists? The doctrine of the Reformers and the Puritans has never borne such gruesome fruit. The substantial element underlying the charge concerns the principle that the civil magistrate may and should adopt the entire divine law as the norm to which he must conform in making and enforcing laws. His actions should be directed toward the public observance of the precepts in both tables of the decalogue. The specific means to be used are not prescribed by the general principle, but they must fall within the limited province of the authority delegated by the sovereign God to human governments. Laws with respect to the Sabbath involve nothing of intolerance or persecution more than laws prohibiting murder, adultery or theft. The limits of the authority of the civil magistrate require a restriction with respect to the second table of the law as well as the first. The government cannot enforce the tenth commandment, for the duties required and the sins forbidden are purely spiritual, being located in the inner recesses of the heart, over which no human government, not even the visible church has jurisdiction. It goes without saying that the spiritual or inward requirements of the first table of the law fall outside the province of the civil magistrate. But outward displays of idolatry, public blasphemy and Sabbath desecration may be subjects of legislation, and will be in a Protestant nation.

The Westminster Assembly was itself called by the English Parliament to consult and advise. And the exercise of lawful authority by the magistrate was instrumental in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. The Westminster Confession simply acknowledges the conformity of such actions of civil government with the revealed will of God.

But it must be confessed that liberty of conscience is not that license to act contrary to the moral law. It is admitted that the civil magistrate may proceed against those who violate the prohibitions of murder, adultery and theft, and that there is no infringement of liberty of conscience in his doing so.

That the civil magistrate has a concern with religious matters is witnessed by nature itself. Not only is it a matter of fact that human governments have in all times and places exercised authority in religious matters, but it is inherent in the nature of the state that this should be the case. Since the persons over whom the civil magistrate has authority are also those who engage in religious activity, that authority is not relaxed when they perform acts of a religious nature. The thugs of India cannot justify robbery and murder on the ground that these acts are part of their religion. The civil magistrate must condemn their religion in condemning the crimes involved in it. Neither an atheistic government nor one professing religious neutrality is a counterexample. Atheistic governments plainly deal with religion in opposing it, while the government that professes a separation of church and state is either inconsistent, as our government was through the early decades of this century, or increasingly opposes the Christian Church while inculcating contrary religious views, as the present tendency is. Willy nilly the civil magistrate involves himself in matters covered by the first four commandments, and it is the part of wisdom to recognize the fact, while pointing out the limits of the magistrate’s authority—which he tends to ignore in a democracy as well as in a monarchy or aristocracy.

With respect to the New Testament it has been objected that the Scripture no longer teaches the close connection between church and state that is so pronounced a feature of the Mosaic economy. In reply, it may be pointed out that there is a good reason why this should be the case. In the first century the Christian church faced opposition to the point of persecution from hostile magistrates, both Jew and Gentile. Divine revelation has taken account of this and has given the church direction on this subject primarily in the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

I would conclude with the mention of a conversation of Professor John Murray with a Mennonite student at Westminster Seminary. The student had stated that he held the Anabaptist position of the absolute separation of church and state. The two had nothing in common and nothing to do with one another! Prof. Murray then asked what room would there be for the state in a community where everybody held that view. The student replied: “In South Africa we Mennonites have such a community, and there the church is the state.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Gary North School of Prognostications

I do not know what is going to trigger the end of America. It may be a nuke, a biological attack, war with Iran, a collapse of the derivative market, or something unlooked for. But something is coming. And soon. When it comes, you had better have prepared for it.

Posted by MRB @ 7:33 pm on September 11th 2007

While I’m not one to make specific predictions, Edgar J. Steele warns, “something big is in the offing,”

He gives eleven warning signs:

“1. The impending and unprecedented Air Force Stand-Down ordered for this Friday, together with numerous civil defense “drills” scheduled during the coming week throughout America, not to mention war drills scheduled throughout the world.

“2. The cancelled El Al (Israeli) flight schedule for Friday through Sunday (yes, the front end of the Jewish high, holy days, but that is not the point or the cause, rest assured).

“3. The mysteriously meandering nuclear missiles that illegally flew cross-country suspended under wing on a bomber, not just as freight, which our government now claims was the result of an error (yeah, right, an error involving 5 nuclear missiles … or was that 6 and now one is missing, as some claim?).

“4. The Fed meeting scheduled for next Tuesday where discount rate cuts almost inevitably will be announced (if not sooner because of the ever-expanding mushroom cloud rising up over the collapse of America’s housing and mortgage industries).

“5. That just-released, already-proven-phony Bin Laden videotape (yes, Virginia, he died several years ago, just as then was reported upon extensively in the Arabic-language press but suppressed in the West, as so much is suppressed here).

“6. That “accidental” emergency alert triggered in Illinois this morning.

“7. Bush straining with everything he’s got to get the American public on board with his “kill Iranians for Israel” plans.

“8. Israel claims, suddenly, to have discovered nuclear installations in Syria.

“9. Oil is about to breach $80 per barrel.

“10. Dick Cheney’s “gut feeling” that America’s next terrorist attack ‘will be nuclear.’

“11. Michael Chertoff’s “gut feeling” that America ‘will soon be hit hard.’”

Just think about 10 and 11. Why would the arch neocon VP and Talmudic Homeland Security Czar think their “gut feelings” worthy of public disclosure? Believe what you will, but they are psychologically programming the goyim to go along with their already-planned response (domestic and military) when their “gut feelings” prove true.

Comment by MRB — September 14, 2007 @ 9:50 am

Revelation gives the distinct impression that its prophecies are on the verge of fulfillment: It is set entirely in terms of “shortly,” “soon,” and “quickly.” I will say this much: I wouldn’t send any non-preterist interpreter of those verses out for hot sandwiches.

Looks like we wouldn't send Mike Butler out for hot sandwiches either.

I'm with stupid

No day would be complete without Victor Reppert’s latest imbecility.


But, you say, Obama is a pro-choice extremist and won't listen? Try him (if he is elected). Appeal to the Christian conscience he says he has. If people try it and it doesn't do any good, and there isn't a reduction in abortions, you can come back to me and say "See, I told you so."

But, you say, he’s an identity thief who will rip me off? Try him. Give him your credit card numbers and bank account numbers. Appeal to the conscience he says he has. If people try it and go broke, you can come back to me and say, “See, I told you so.”