Saturday, November 14, 2009

New Testament Standards Applied To Other Fields

Chris Price writes:

I have seen varied criticisms of the methodology of New Testament scholars ranging from attacks on the criteria as unique to New Testament studies to claims that their application of historical methodology lacks the vigor or sophistication of that of classical historians. Some have dismissed their efforts as mere apologetics. While the limitations of such historical methodology should be explored, it has not been my experience that New Testament scholars are less zealous or sophisticated in their application of the tools of historical methodology. To the contrary, New Testament scholars seem to obsess about the use of formal methodology more than classical and other historians. Nor is it true that the tools employed by New Testament scholars are unique to their field and unemployed by classical and other historians. While many of the historians I have read do not employ these tools as often or with the rigor as do New Testaments scholars, there are many instances where these non-New Testament historians consider the number of sources (multiple attestation), the fit of the account with more established accounts (coherence), the inclusion of facts that are not well-suited to the author's goal (embarrassment), the impact of genre, and the "vividness" of accounts to evaluate historical probabilities.

Strauss' discussion of the historicity of Sinnicus is an example of a classical historian employing some of the same tools as New Testament histories on a questioned episode.

You can read the rest of his article here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Scripture and scientific realism

Over and above the argument from evil, I suppose the most popular and “respectable” objection to Christianity or Scripture is the scientific objection. This can target specific examples, like the creation account and the flood account, or it can be more general, like the filter of methodological naturalism.

The specific objection takes the position that Scripture doesn’t fit the facts. Biblical descriptions are contradicted by the scientific evidence. They don’t match up with the world of empirical observation.

Of course, Christians of various stripes (e.g. YEC, OEC, ID-theory, theistic evolution) present specific counterarguments. But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that all these Christian counterarguments misfire. Suppose we had no alternative explanation. Would that be a defeater for the inerrancy of Scripture?

Ironically, one basic problem with scientific objections to Scripture is internal to science itself. And that involves the role of the scientific observer. Here is how one philosopher describes the epistemic situation of the percipient:

“First of all, our sense organs by themselves reveal nothing. They work in conjunction with our brains, and it is our brains that convert the information they accumulate into our experience of colors, tastes, sounds, and so on. Without brains we would have no experience, no consciousness, at all. In the second place, our brains convert this information from the senses into the kind of experiences they do because our brains are structured the way they are. If our brains were constructed differently, they would convert that information into different kinds of experiences…If our brains were built differently we might experience light waves of various frequencies differently than we do. We might experience a wider or narrower range of colors, or no colors at all. Instead of experiencing light waves as color we might experience them as various kinds of tingles, or heat, or in some way we can’t even imagine (as people blind from birth can’t imagine colors). In short, the world as it appears to us through the senses is not the world as it is in itself but rather a consequence of the world as it is in itself interacting with sense organs and brains like our own. In addition, our senses detect only some aspects of that world. Unlike electric fish, we don’t sense objects entering electric fields. Unlike bees, we don’t directly sense ultraviolet light. This means that a deep knowledge of the physical world requires getting beyond the way the world discloses itself to us in perceptual experience. The goal of physics is to describe the world that underlies perception and the world to which we have no perceptual access at all,” M Philips, The Undercover Philosopher (Oneworld Publications, 2008), 18-19.
“But even in this world our brain produces a world of experience that goes well beyond the information presented to the brain by the senses. The brain ceaselessly edits and elaborates on that information. What we see, for example, is always both more and less than what meets the eye. This is true not only when we hallucinate, but also in normal perception,” ibid. 19.
“For one thing, the brain is highly selective…The brain also makes corrections and fills in missing information. If it simply reproduced the information recorded on the retina, we would see the world upside down, and have a big black hole in our visual field (the blind spot). The brain also sees to it that the color of objects we see remains relatively constant despite big changes in the color of the light in which we see them. A leaf looks green to us at midday, when the illumination is white sunlight, and also at sunset, when the illumination is mainly red (a phenomenon called ‘color constancy’). The brain also fills in color at the periphery of our visual field…the fact that we see color at the periphery is the result of the brain filling in on the basis of the information it has,” ibid. 20.

1.On the face of it, this generates a dilemma. For Philips’ analysis of the percipient would seem to lead to very skeptical conclusions concerning the possibility of scientific knowledge. Something close to phenomenalism. All we know are appearances. The way things appear to us. We can never bridge the gap between appearance and reality.

But in that case, even if you had a mismatch between a scientific description and a Biblical description, the scientific evidence is only phenomenal evidence: evidence of how things appear to us. It doesn’t put us in touch with the underlying facts.

As such, a description might be true to reality even though it doesn’t correspond to what we perceive–or scientifically reconstruct.

Take a videogame. To play the game, you need a user interface, viz. a game controller or input device, like a keyboard or joystick, steering wheel, &c., along with an output device.

For instance, in a racing simulator you use a pedal, clutch, and steering wheel. This includes simulated effects like sound reproduction and force feedback.

Of course, this isn’t a real steering wheel, even if it looks like one. It’s just a way of telling the computer what to do.

The empirical phenomena of an input or out device don’t reveal anything about the electronic hardware generating the simulation.

By the same token, while there’s a correlation between what you do and what happens, that doesn’t give you a window into how it happens. You don’t see the electronic hardware in action. You only see the simulated effects of the electronic hardware.

You can win the game without knowing how the gizmo works. You can manipulate the joystick and successfully navigate the virtual world without discovering the real machinery.

I’d add that this hiatus is exacerbated in case our brain is the byproduct of a mindless evolutionary process.

2.If anything, Philips understates the problem. Appealing to physics won’t bridge the gap. Although physics may go beyond naked eye observation, it can never go behind sensory perception or the structure of the brain. A physicist is just as dependent on the converter-box of the brain as an ancient stargazer.

3.Of course, a Christian might take issue with Philips’ physicalism. Since, however, physicalism is one of the usual operating assumptions in scientific objections to the Bible, then there’s no reason, at this stage of the game, to challenge that piece of the package. For if physicalism undermines the possibility of scientific knowledge, then that, in turn, undermines scientific objections to Scripture. So a Christian can grant that assumption for the sake of argument and then let the atheist suffocate on his stifling assumptions.

However, there is a potential, if partial, comeback to this sort of objection. As one philosopher puts it:

“This line of defense appears to crash, however, on the example of a cognitively disabling pill–call it DISABLEX. This is a pill that terminally disables one’s cognitive faculties, so that none is any longer reliable. How can you right now be sure that you have never taken any such pill? Appealing to the present deliverances of your faculties would seem vicious, since these are of course deliverances that would be made misleading by your having taken the pill,” E. Sosa, “Natural Theology and Natural Atheology,” D. Baker, ed. Alvin Plantinga (Cambridge 2007), 104.
“Does DISABLEX pose a problem for us? Well, consider right now the possibility that we did once take such a pill. How do we properly get to assume that we did not? How so, if not just by relying on our faculties in the sort of default way in which we normally do? But by so relying, we manifest our commitment to the claim that our faculties are indeed reliable, our commitment to this shown at least in our intellectual practice,” ibid. 104.

“For the claim that you have taken the pill is a self-defeating claim. Both believing that you have taken the pill and even suspending judgment on that question is epistemically self-defeating. The contrary claim, that you have taken no such pill, follows logically from what is epistemically obligatory and self-sustaining, namely, the commitment to the reliability of your faculties. Therefore, it is hard to see how you could possibly go wrong epistemically not only in affirming the reliability of your faculties but also in affirming anything you can see to follow logically from that, including the consequence that you have never taken any such pill,” ibid. 104-05.
“And the same goes for Plantinga’s evolutionary argument. Again, believing that our faculties are unreliable is self-defeating, as is even suspending judgment on that question. On the question whether your faculties are reliable, you have no rational choice but to assent, therefore, and so you would be within your rights to draw the further conclusion that if your origins are evolutionary, then such origins cannot make your faculties unreliable,” ibid. 105.

However, there are several basic problems with Sosa’s comeback:

1.It equivocates over the concept of “reliability.” The fact that we may rely on something doesn’t render that reliable. A man with brain cancer must still rely on his unreliable brain (unless he has friends who compensate for his mental impairment). A drunk driver must still rely on his inebriated brain.

But his doesn’t change the fact that his perception of reality is seriously distorted. Sure, it may be self-defeating for the affected party to claim that he is mentally impaired. If he’s mentally impaired, then he may be in no position to bear witness to his own state of mind. But, of course, this creates no presumption that the affected party is not severely impaired.

2.Apropos (1), the fact that a Darwinian must rely on his brain doesn’t presume that his brain is reliable. It only means that this is all he has to work with. Philips analysis is simply a description of how the brain appears to the brain. We have to use our brain to examine our brain, and compare our brain with the brains of other animals. We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

But this doesn’t presume the reliability of the underlying process. It may be an accurate description of an unreliable process. The end-result looking in the mirror. A man who’s high on acid can accurately describe his hallucination. His impressions of reality may be misimpressions, but he can provide a trustworthy description of an untrustworthy perception.

3.Furthermore, even if the testimonial claim is self-defeating, we need to ask what makes it self-defeating. It may not be the testimonial claim in itself. Rather, it may be the logical implication or probable consequence of an incoherent scientific position. In that case, the inconsistency hardly shows you have no rational choice but to affirm the very position which generates that tension.

The question at issue is not the reliability of our faculties, per se, but the reliability of our faculties given certain theoretical preconditions. If an atheist or Darwinian posits certain initial conditions which undermine rationality, then that doesn’t undermine rationality, per se. Rather, it undermines the postulate.

3.Moreover, this is a best-case scenario. And that’s the conundrum. Even if you assume the brain is sufficiently reliable to describe itself, the result of that description yields a skeptical conclusion.

And if that’s the conclusion we derive from the assumption that our brain is reliable, then the alternative assumption would yield an even more skeptical conclusion. You end up with radical skepticism however you slice it. Different degrees of radical skepticism.

4.There is another equivocation as well. The brain could be quite reliable, but also be quite selective. That is to say, it could be quite reliable in doing just what it’s supposed to do, but its range is very restricted.

For example, a human eye has poor nocturnal vision. This doesn’t mean the human eye is generally or intrinsically untrustworthy. It doesn’t mean the human eye is defective.

It merely means the human eye is not designed or adapted to function as well at night–compared a feline eye. That’s not a design flaw. Within its intended parameters, it may be quite efficient. It accurately samples what it was made or meant to sample.

Of course, if you think the brain (or its sensory extensions) is the byproduct of an undirected process, then all bets are off. In that case, there’s nothing the brain is supposed to do.

5.From a Christian standpoint, the way out of the fly-bottle is the presupposition of God’s creative and providential control. Even if our mind, brain, and senses are highly selective, and even if they fall short of letting us know what the sensible world is like without our sensory filtering device, they are reliable within their intended parameters. The sample is representative.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The cosmic roulette table

To forestall possible misunderstanding, permit me to say at the outset that this post is not a counterattack on Reppert’s (non-)attack on Calvinism. Rather, my post is non-counterattack on Reppert’s non-attack on Calvinism. Any resemblance to a real counterattack, living or dead, explicit or implicit, is purely coincidental.

“Steve Hays seems to have thought that my most recent posts about Calvinism are implicit attacks, and that my disclaimers are phony. Even though most people know that I don't accept Calvinism, my project was descriptive rather than argumentative.”

Victor Reppert seems to have thought that my most recent posts in response to his most recent posts about Calvinism are implicit counterattacks. Even though most people know that I accept Calvinism, my response to Reppert was descriptive rather than argumentative.

“I think choosing a world in which some people suffer eternally over a world in which they don't would appear wrong in most human contexts, and the only thing that can save the Calvinist is a greater good which is a function of God's unique status.”

But, as a libertarian, Reppert also believes in different possible worlds. Or so I assume.

If he thinks the ability to do otherwise is a necessary precondition of praise or blame, then there must be one or more possible worlds in which human agents freely and invariably do right.

If he doesn’t think that human agents have that freedom, then I don’t know what on basis he can object to compatibilism.

If he imputes such freedom to human beings, then God was presumably in a position to choose a world in which no one suffers eternality.

Of course, Reppert is quite sympathetic to open theism. And he once suggested that God can’t foreknow the counterfactuals of freedom.

So perhaps his position is that while there is at least one possible world in which human agents always do right, God can’t predict which world that is. If that’s his position, then the plurality of possible worlds resembles the layout of a roulette table.

God doesn’t foreknow which pocket is a winning pocket or a losing pocket. Our world may be a losing bet.

This raises the question of whether a God who gambles with the eternal fate of human beings would appear to be a wrongdoer in most human contexts.

Perhaps, though, Reppert is a closet annilationist. If so, then this raises the question of how a God who annihilates one or more of your loved ones would be viewed in most human contexts.

Offhand, those are the only remaining alternatives I can thinkof, after Reppert eliminates Calvinism, universalism, and eternal retribution. But perhaps I’ve overlooked something.

“If I had the power to prevent the Holocaust and could do so in a way that was perfectly consonant with the all parties involved having free will in whatever sense of free will you are willing to recognize, then I would be considered acting wrongly if I failed to prevent it.”

i) Of course, the Holocaust is a tremendously complex event with enormous ramifications. So that gives Reppert plenty of escape routes.

ii) Suppose, then, we take something less ambitious. Does Reppert think that God had the power to prevent just one less Jewish family from dying in the Holocaust? Does the value of libertarian freedom outweigh the value of saving just one Jewish family?

Keep in mind that Reppert is a deontologist. As he often reminds us, it’s wrong to use people as means rather than ends.

If so, then what inhibits God from saving at least one Jewish family who perished in the Holocaust? Would that conflict with some higher divine priority? If so, then isn’t God treating that family as a means rather than an end? Can God be said to be acting in the best interests of the victims?

iii) As we know, some Christians, at great risk to themselves, tried to shelter some Jewish neighbors from the Nazis. And I assume Reppert regards their action as morally commendable.

If so, then why does he think it’s proper for human beings to shelter Jews from the Nazis, but improper for God to shelter Jews from the Nazis?

Remember, Reppert is accentuating the commonality between divine and human duties. According to him, Calvinism is dubious because it distances the two.

“And the claim that God's chief praiseworthy characteristic is holiness rather than goodness was taken straight from Bnonn.”

Well, Bnonn can speak for himself. And he can more than hold his own. But, of course, one preliminary question is whether you’re both defining the same terms the same way.

“What you seem to deny is that human beings ordinarily know how to apply the term ‘good,’ and that the statement ‘God is good’ means something based on some kind of commensurability between goodness as we apply it in human contexts and goodness as we apply it in theological contexts.”

To reiterate two things I deny:

i) Report is invoking the putative existence of a universal neutral moral norm. By “neutral,” I mean that he views this norm as noncommittal on the existence or nonexistence of God. The norm must neutral in that respect inasmuch as Reppert is using that norm to evaluate the veracity of Christianity or other theistic claimants.

And I deny the possibility of any such norm for reasons I gave in my previous response. Morality can never validate or invalidate the existence of God, since God is the exemplar of morality. As such, only God can validate the existence of morality.

Atheism has no basis for moral absolutes. And I can readily quote a number of secular thinkers who admit that.

If God does not exist, then there are no moral absolutes to be known.

ii) Due to natural revelation and common grace, I believe it’s possible for human beings to have some innate sense of right and wrong.

However, human beings also have a well-developed capacity for moral self-deception. And that’s more developed in some individuals or cultures or subcultures than others.

As such, we require an extrinsic standard of right and wrong to confirm or correct our intrinsic sensibilities.

“Most moral theories, and even most moral codes, seem to include some requirement on our part to promote the happiness of others, although some put some people in the ‘not my neighbor’ class.”

i) Of course, the “not my neighbor” exception is no small exception. Indeed, that’s pretty prevalent throughout human history, from what I’ve seen and read.

ii) Moreover, it’s ironic and all too typical of Reppert to cast a moral issue in such an amoral fashion. Moral discrimination requires us to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.

There is no obligation on our part to promote the happiness of the wicked.

“It seems to me that you a moral skeptic can get rid of 1 by saying that we don't have the kind of moral knowledge to identify gratuitous evils, either in this life or in eternity.”

I don’t have to be a moral skeptic to deny that. What may appear to be an unmitigated evil in the short term may be mitigated in the long term–if only we could see that far into the future. It’s easy to come up with both real and hypothetical examples.

“We may dislike the fact that certain people are damned, especially if they are near and dear to us, but we can't use that as a reason to doubt God. This is what I mean by claiming that Calvinism invariably leads to the problem of evil being treated as a pseudoproblem.”

i) That takes for granted a particular epistemology of Christian faith. Reppert is apparently treating Christianity as a type of hypothesis. Inference to the best explanation, or something along those lines. Christianity has some explanatory power, but for all we know it may also be false.

Now, I don’t necessary object to using that framework as an apologetic strategy. But I don’t regard Christianity as a hypothesis. As such, I don’t regard Christian faith as potentially doubtful or defeasible in that sense.

Psychologically speaking, it is, of course, possible for Christians to suffer from doubts. But I don’t regard that as a criterion or truth-condition.

ii) In addition, your objection generates a peculiar conundrum. For you seem to think a successful theodicy reduces the problem of evil to a pseudoproblem. If so, then you repudiate the very possibility of a successful theodicy. But, in that event, you have no counterargument to the argument from evil.

“Not every Calvinist is the moral skeptic you are.”

I have no polling data on that question. What I will say is that every intelligent Calvinist I know of regards God as the source and standard of morality. While a Calvinist might well grant the existence of “general moral concepts,” he would not oppose those to the existence of God–as if the distinction of good and evil were indifferent to the existence or nonexistence of God.

Moral norms are not autonomous, free-floating platonic universals. Moral obligations presuppose the existence of a person or persons who can obligate us. And our Creator is the personal absolute in whom moral absolutes inhere. At best, our moral concepts exemplify the exemplary character of God. For God is the infinite property-bearer of finitely good property-instances.

“It seems to me that almost every time you sit down to your word processor you want to make some polemical point.”

That’s because I’m responding to polemical fire from the other side. I’m returning fire.

Arminians can run, but they can't hide

Robert said...

“I have to say that I have greatly enjoyed discussing things and seeing Steve Hays’ responses here. I believe Hays to be extremely knowledgeable concerning Calvinism…”

A flattering overstatement. But men like Richard Muller and Roger Nicole (to name a few) know far more about it than I do.

“So the arguments he presents for this false system of theology will be second to none and represent the best that they can muster.”

Another flattering overstatement. But lots of other Calvinists could do a better job than I do. I’m just a pitch-hitter.

“The issue is not about the act of damning someone **at the final judgment**, which is what Hays refers to here. Both calvinists and non-calvinists believe that at the final judgment when God sends a person to hell that it is an action of justice rather than mercy.”

Of course it’s germane. Damnation expresses divine intent regarding the fate of the damned. Is that intent loving or not?

“The issue is **before** the final judgment: did God love those who end up in hell?”

Since, according to Arminianism, God foreknew the outcome, his intent is prior to the outcome. Therefore, the before/after distinction is irrelevant to divine intent. Whatever happens afterwards is the expression of God’s premeditation.

“Did God demonstrate this love clearly by giving his Son for these people on the cross?”

There’s nothing inherently loving about a mere demonstration. Indeed, a mere demonstration could be cruel.

“In fact Hays’ system must negate clear bible passages such as John 3:16.”

I can quote non-Reformed scholars who construe the key terms and concepts consistent with Reformed theology.

“Justice relates to dealing with something that **has been done**.”

If, according to Arminianism, God foreknows the outcome, then he doesn’t have to wait until something has been done.

“Non-Calvinists see the unbeliever who is sent to hell as a person who has lived a lifetime of rejection of God despite opportunities to be saved, despite God having mercy on them through the cross, so the person is sent to hell only **after** their lifetime of rebellious actions.”

i) In Arminianism, God didn’t have to create the hellbound in the first place. So how is it loving to create them with their hellish fate in full view when the consequence was wholly avoidable?

ii) Moreover, in Arminianism, the hellbound have heavenbound counterparts in another possible world. Wouldn’t it be more loving for God to create that alternative instead?

“In contrast in Hays’ view God decides **before** the person has done anything (good or bad) that that person will be sent to hell.”

So, by converse logic, Robert must believe that God doesn’t make up his mind what to do with a sinner until the moment he dies. Is Robert a closet open theist?

“THAT is not **justice**, that is Calvinistic reprobation: condemnation before you exist, before you have done anything. To condemn a person before they have done anything is anything but justice.”

That’s only plausible from a human viewpoint since we don’t know the future. But Arminianism subscribes to divine foreknowledge. Therefore, Robert’s complaint makes no sense even on Arminian grounds.

“This again brings out the differences: for the non-Calvinist God loves even those who reject him and demonstrates this love to that person before the final judgment.”

i) False dichotomy. In Arminianism, no one is forcing God to create people who reject him in the first place.

ii) Moreover, if human beings have the freedom to do otherwise, then there’s a possible world in which they reject him, and another possible world in which they accept him. Therefore, God had the option of creating their heavenbound counterpart rather than their hellbound counterpart. Which is more loving?

“For Hays God damned the ‘reprobates’ before they existed before they had done anything. He never ever loved them with a salvific love…”

In Arminianism, God’s love for the damned is just for show. He knows all along that they will reject the gospel. So it’s an empty gesture.

“He never ever desired for them to be saved.”

If, according to Arminianism, human agents have the freedom to do otherwise, then God can save each and every one he desires to save while respecting their libertarian freedom of choice. If they reject him in one possible world, then all he has to do is instantiate another possible world in which they did otherwise.

Arminians keep harping on the freedom to do otherwise. Well, what do they think this means? If there are two (or more) alternate courses of action, two possible outcomes, then there are at least two possible worlds in which each alternate future plays out.

It’s meaningless to keep harping on different possible scenarios (having “real choices”) unless you believe in a plurality of possible worlds that match your hypothetical opportunities. But in that case, what hinders God from instantiating the heavenbound possibility rather than the hellbound possibility?

It’s not delimited by the choice of the free agent, for if agents have the freedom to do otherwise, then there’s no one choice the agent makes. Rather, he makes different choices in different possible worlds.

Once choice is just as “real” or unreal as another at this stage of the game. In the realm of possible worlds, they are metaphysically on a par.

If an Arminian tries to salvage his position by introducing transworld depravity, then he pays for that move by imposing ad hoc restrictions on libertarian freedom.

“I will say it again because Hays refuses to accurately and fairly represent the non-Calvinist view: the best thing that can happen to a person is to be in a saving relationship with God.”

And by creating a multitude of individuals whom God foreknew would not be in a saving relationship with him, God is not acting in their best interests. That conclusion follows from Arminian premises.

Conversely, the Arminian God could always create individuals who subsist in a saving relationship with him. For there’s a possible world in which that’s the case.

“In the Arminian view God desires THAT…”

Which stands in conflict with other Arminian commitments.

“And intends THAT for every human person.”

If God intends an outcome which will never enventuate, then God was mistaken. Is Robert a closet open theist?

“Now some may freely choose to reject his love and the provided atonement in Christ, but that says nothing about God’s love for them.”

If God knew that by creating them he would send them to hell, then that says something about God’s attitude.

“A father out of love and celebration may invite many people to a celebratory feast.”

What about a father who fathers a child foreseeing that his child will go to hell when he dies. That the father will sentence him to hell. That the father had the option of fathering a counterpart who goes to heaven when he dies.

“Cf. Matt. 22:1-14; Lk. 14:16-24).”

i) Citing Scripture is irrelevant to whether Arminianism can make consistent use of its prooftexts.

ii) Moreover, Arminians don’t hold the copyright on these verses.

“How is it ‘largely ineffectual’ if it goes EXACTLY according to God’s plan?”

So, according to Robert, the outcome goes exactly according to God’s plan. Thus, if someone is damned, God planned it that way. God planned to damn him.

“God’s plan is that He provides an atonement for all but that appropriation of this atonement is conditioned upon the person freely choosing to trust Him.”

And if, a la Arminianism, human agents have the freedom to do otherwise (i.e. to accept or reject the Gospel), then there’s a possible world in which that condition is met. So why doesn’t a loving God (as Arminians define it) instantiate the possible world in which that condition is met, rather than the possible world in which the condition went unmet?

“The atonement is perfectly ‘effectual’ to all who believe just like God promised it would be (‘that whoever believers may in Him have eternal life’) and planned for it to be. It is only ‘ineffectual’ for those who reject it and refuse to trust the Lord.”

Which corroborates my point. An Arminian atonement is ineffectual in many or most cases. (That’s how Billy Birch does the math.)

“Again, Hays injects his manure into my water…Stop trying to put your manure (your false Calvinistic premises) into my water (my view).”

Keep in mind that Robert is one of those Arminians who says we should always speak respectfully to believers and unbelievers alike. Robert ought to spend less time in the Arminian barnyard. It’s rubbing off. Time to take a shower. Use some deoderant.

“The fact Hays has to keep substituting his premises for mine and claiming his false premises are my premises shows desperation on his part and again that his arguments are extremely weak.”

Robert is responding to this statement of mine:

“If God foreknows that by creating Judas (to take one example), God will have to damn Judas, yet God creates him anyway, then God didn’t sincerely desire the best for Judas. I’m simply arguing from Arminian premises.”

But Robert offers no counterargument. Instead, he tries to shift the issue to what Calvinism stands for. Yet even if his sloppy description were accurate, finding fault with Calvinism does nothing to rebut my description of what Arminianism logically entails. It’s just a stalling tactic by someone who lost the argument.

“Again Hays misses the point that human descendants involves human procreation, God does not populate the world with people, we do. God set up the process in the beginning and told **them to propagate** to fill the earth (this is something that we do not God). God does not populate the world with ‘hellbound unbelievers’ (people in a fixed state of unbelief, that is **again your manure**, your false premise that we do not operate by).”

i) He made a world containing hellbound unbelievers. It wouldn’t exist, and they wouldn’t exist, apart from his creative fiat.

ii) And setting up a process of human procreation hardly entails the propagation of sinners, unless Robert takes the position that sin is unavoidable. But if sin is unavoidable, then human agents lack the freedom to do otherwise–pace Arminian action theory. What happened to their sufficient grace? Or the principle of alternate possibilities?

“And again when Hays speak of it being in ‘his power to spare them that fate’ he is **again** reading in his Calvinistic premise that salvation is a ***monergistic power game*** where God simply exercises his omnipotence in order to save a person (but this leaves out any cooperation of the human person with divine grace, this leaves out the non-Calvinistic view which Hays is well aware is SYNERGISTIC).”

Once again, Robert seems to be too dim-witted to follow the argument. When I say it was within God’s power to spare them that fate, this is predicated on Arminian assumptions, not Reformed assumptions.

i) God could spare all of them that fate by not creating them at all. Remember, Arminians ascribe libertarian freedom to God as well as man. So it’s not as though God’s hand was forced.

ii) Moreover, unless Robert thinks that sin is unavoidable, in which case he denies the libertarian freedom of human agents, then in choosing which possible world to create, God was hardly limited to a world containing sinners. If sin is avoidable, then there’s a possible world in which sin is avoided.

“His argument here is that if God foreknows an event will occur and allows it though he could have prevented it, then the outcome is one which he INTENDED (‘he foreintended that exact result’). We don’t’ buy that ‘logic’ (again it is Hays’ own premises not ours).”

i) I wouldn’t expect Robert to buy the logic of his own position. The sticker price is prohibitive. But, unfortunately for Robert, he’s stuck with the tab whether he likes it or not. Logic has that inexorable quality to it.

ii) It Robert denies that God intended the outcome, then the only logical alternative is to say the outcome reflects the law of unintended consequences.

But that would only make sense if Robert either denies that God foresaw the outcome, or that while God foresaw it, he was unable to prevent it.

If, however, this outcome was both foreseeable and avoidable, then God intended it to happen that way.

Indeed, God actively and positively contributed to the outcome by creating the world in which that foreseeable outcome takes place.

“Apply Hays’ logic to an evil such as abortion or child molestation or whatever (if God foreknew the abortion would occur and could have prevented it but did not do so, then God intended for that abortion to occur; if God foreknew the child abuse would occur and could have prevented it but did not do so, then God intended for that child abuse to occur; if God foreknew X would occur and could have prevented X but did not do so, then God intended for X to occur). Hays’ logic makes God into an immoral monster who intends every evil and sinful event.”

i) That does nothing to invalidate the conclusion which I derived from Arminian assumptions. All Robert has done is to express his outrage that the consequence. So what? How does his indignation disprove the consequence? It doesn’t. In the absence of a counterargument, Robert is reduced to venting.

ii) Indeed, Robert has given us a backhanded admission that Arminianism, when carried to its logical extreme, makes God an immoral monster. (I’m not sure if that’s better or worse that a moral monster. Seems a bit redundant.)

This also highlights the fact that a consistent Arminian is a closet atheist.

iii) On Arminian assumptions, God didn’t have to make a world with that foreseeable consequence (of abortion or child molestation). Indeed, it lay within God’s power to create a world without that foreseeable outcome. And God could do that without infringing on the libertarian freedom of his creatures.

If human agents have the freedom to do otherwise, then a molester or abortionist has the freedom to do otherwise. So why doesn’t God instantiate their alternate choice?

Commitment to the principle of alternate possibilities generates a serious dilemma for the

“Our view is that God foreknows all events and some events God allows though he neither intends nor desires for them to happen.”

This is pure assertion. Robert has made no effort to rationally defend his disjunction. Sure, he can verbally deny that God intends the outcome, but where’s the argument?

“The best example of this is sin. God foreknows it and allows it but does not intend it or desire it.”

i) If God permits the outcome, then he intends to permit the outcome, in which case he intends the consequence of his permission. He intended the “allowable” outcome, did he not?

Or did it happen despite the fact that he never intended that to happen? But under that scenario, God has lost control of the world. Things just happen in spite of God’s desire to the contrary.

ii) Moreover, in Arminian theology, God does a lot more than merely “allowing” the outcome. God’s creative fiat is a necessary precondition for a world with that foreseeable history to exist. God is not a passive spectator. It’s not as if the outcome would occur all by itself unless God intervened to prevent it. There’s nothing automatic about the existence of a world with that specific outcome. At the very least, God must initialize the preconditions. And once he does so, the outcome is inevitable.

“On Hays’ ‘logic’ if God foreknows a sinful event and allows it, then God INTENDED THAT SINFUL EVENT, GOD DESIRED FOR THAT SINFUL EVENT TO OCCUR.”

i) That doesn’t follow from *my* logic. That follows from any logic.

ii) BTW, I haven’t cast the issue in terms of “desire.” We could go into that as well. But, for now, “intent” is quite sufficient for the argument to go through.

“This is why our view does not lead to God being the author of sin while Hays’ view most surely does so.”

Once again, his denial is pure assertion. But shouting and stamping his feet doesn’t rebut the argument.

“God does not **make** people hellbound persons in eternity when they do not even exist, rather they make themselves into hell bound persons by their own freely made choices.”

i) To take a comparison, consider the traditional Arminian doctrine of conditional election. God elects those who will come to faith based on God’s foresight of their faith. Yet conditional election isn’t based on their actual existence. That’s why it involves “foreseen faith.” Their faith lies in the future. Indeed, their very existence, as believers, lies in the future. Yet God is making a decision about their fate prior to their actual existence.

Even if he does so on the basis of “their own freely made choices” (construed in libertarian terms), their choices are future to God’s conditional election. Their very existence is future to God’s conditional election.

ii) And I didn’t even say that Arminianism makes them hellbound persons in eternity. Rather, I said that by creating individuals with this foreseeable fate, God makes hellbound individuals. That’s trivially true.

They are hellbound individuals. God made them. Ergo, God made hellbound individuals. Introducing libertarian action theory into the transaction doesn’t change the equation.

“Here it is again: Hays rejects our view which is that God foreknows some events/outcomes which he neither intends to occur nor desires to occur (the two best examples being sin and persons ending up in hell).”

I reject that view because it’s illogical, and Robert gives me no reason to accept it. He hasn’t begun to show that this conclusion fails to follow from certain Arminian assumptions. A naked denial is not a disproof.

A serial killer may vehemently deny that he murdered anyone. His mere denial is irrelevant.

“And again Hays misses our view that people not God make themselves into hellbound persons…”

False dichotomy. On Arminian assumptions, no one is coercing God to make agents who make themselves hellbound sinners. It’s not as if God is acting at gunpoint.

They didn’t bring themselves into being. God brought them into being. Apart from God’s creative fiat, they wouldn’t even exist.

Even on Arminian assumptions, they don’t make themselves hellbound sinners all by themselves. For they didn’t make themselves in the first place.

“(A simple and clear example of this that Hays is familiar with is the non-Calvinist interpretation of the ‘vessels of wrath’ in Rom. 9:23 in which some argue that a middle is involved so it does not say that God makes them into vessels of wrath, rather, they make themselves into vessels of wrath, that is what non-Calvinists believe which Hays repeatedly and intentionally misrepresents).”

Is Robert as dense as he sounds? My argument doesn’t turn on a Reformed reading of Rom 9:23. I haven’t introduced any Reformed assumptions into my argument. Arminian kindling supplies all the firewood I need to burn it down.

“C. S. Lewis wrote about this and supposedly Hays has read Lewis, so why does Hays keep misrepresenting the non-Calvinist view?”

I’m not discussing “non-Calvinist views” in general, now am I? I’m discussing the specific implications of Arminianism, given certain Arminian assumptions. And a vague reference to Lewis is a lot of nothing.

“Again he twists my view. I believe that God created this world knowing that his plan of salvation would be one in which though salvation is offered to all, He would only save those who trust Him. He would give all the opportunity to be saved (contra Calvinism) while at the same time they would **only** be saved if they freely chose to trust Him (contra universalism).”

But on Arminian assumptions, God could do more than give everyone an opportunity to be saved. For there’s a possible world in which libertarian agents freely avail themselves of that opportunity. If you deny that, then you deny their freedom to do otherwise. You deny that they were able to either accept or reject the Gospel.

“God desires the salvation of all ACCORDING TO HIS TERMS which is to trust in the atonement of Christ which he provides for them all.”

Well, that’s rather vacuous. I could offer you a million dollar reward on condition that you run a one-minute mile. But if the condition is an insurmountable obstacle to receiving the reward, then what does my desire amount to?

Robert first posits a universal provision, but he then sets up moats and hurdles to impede its realization.

“If they choose to reject they have only themselves to blame…”

That’s irrelevant to whether God acted in their best interests.

“But this kind of unbelieving thought rejects what God has explicitly declared, namely that He loves the world and because of his love for the world (Jn. 3:16) provides His Son Jesus as an atonement for sin, for that **whole world** (cf. 1. Jn. 2:2). God gives the greatest possible gift of Jesus on the cross and people like Steve Hays come along and QUESTION AND MOCK this evident and real universal love on the part of God.”

No, I simply mock the Arminian harlequinade.

“Now if you held to ‘limited atonement’ then you would legitimately question whether God has a universal love for people (because in that false view Jesus was given only for the preselected elect, God had ***no salvific love for the world***, He limits his love only to some, the lucky ones). But Arminians and other non-Calvinists do not hold to ‘limited atonement’ they hold instead to unlimited atonement.”

Arminianism is deeply committed to the luck of the draw. You’re one of the lucky ones if God chose to instantiate the possible world in which you accept the Gospel. You’re one of the unlucky ones if God chose to instantiate the possible world in which you reject the Gospel–bypassing another possible world in which your counterpart accepted the gospel.

“The non-Calvinist believes that God truly desires that all be saved and so intends for Christ to be an atonement for all of them.”

And he believes in other things which logically conflict with that belief.

“The non-Calvinist also believes that sometimes God desires something, and His will is frustrated, his intention is not fulfilled.”

Why would that be? The actual world is not the only world available to God. If he finds one possible world “frustrating,” if one possible world thwarts his intentions, then he has others to choose from.

Remember, Robert subscribes to the principle of alternate possibilities. So God has a plurality of possible worlds from which to choose.

That’s what it means to say the outcome could go either way. If the outcome is truly open-ended, then there’s a possible world (or world-segment) for each alternative.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"God's Priorities in Phil 1:9-11"

From Jeremy Pierce.

It takes a village of village atheists

The Christian Delusion

Table of Contents
Foreword (Dan Barker)
Introduction (John Loftus)

Part One: How to Think About and Test Your Faith

1. The Cultures of Christianities (Dr. David Eller)
2. Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science (Dr. Valerie Tarico)
3. The Malleability of the Human Mind (Dr. Jason Long)
4. The Outsider Test for Faith Revisited (John Loftus)

Part Two: Why the Bible is Not God’s Word

5. The Cosmology of the Bible (Edward Babinski)
6. The Bible and Modern Scholarship (Paul Tobin)
7. What We’ve Got Here is a Failure to Communicate (John Loftus)

Part Three: Why the Christian God is Not Perfectly Good

8. Yahweh is a Moral Monster (Dr. Hector Avalos)
9. The Darwinian Problem of Evil (John Loftus)

Part Four: Why Jesus is Not the Risen Son of God

10. Jesus: Myth and Method (Dr. Robert Price)
11. Why the Resurrection is Unbelievable (Dr. Richard Carrier)
12. At Best Jesus Was a Failed Apocalyptic Doomsday Prophet (John Loftus)

Part Five: Why Modern Society Does Not Depend on Christian Faith

13. Christianity Does Not Provide the Basis for Morality (Dr. David Eller)
14. Atheism Was Not the Reason Hitler Killed So Many People (Dr. Hector Avalos)
15. Christianity Was Not Responsible for Modern Science (Dr. Richard Carrier)

In other words, The Christian Delusion is new book by a hack village atheist editor (and contributor) who has rounded up a number of other hack villages atheists to form a literary village of hack village atheists. On top of that, the hack village atheist editor has also rounded up some additional hack village atheists to write glowing blurbs for a book by, to, and for hack village atheists.

This is a truly monumental breakthrough in the history of hack village atheist publications.

Mock eulogy

Remarks by the President at Memorial Service at Fort Hood

“This is a time of war.”

Then it’s time to name the enemy.

“Yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great state and the heart of this great American community. This is the fact that makes the tragedy even more painful, even more incomprehensible.”

There’s nothing the least bit incomprehensible about a jihadist murdering Americans. And it’s liberals like Obama who give them the entrée they need.

“Their life's work is our security, and the freedom that we all too often take for granted.”

Speak for yourself.

“Neither this country -- nor the values upon which we were founded -- could exist without men and women like these 13 Americans.”

Values which Obama vehemently opposes.

“It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy.”

The logic is quite lucid, given the Islamic premise.

“But this much we do know -- no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts.”

To the contrary, we know that Islam is a faith which specifically and habitually justifies these murderous and craven acts.

“No just and loving God looks upon them with favor.”

True. But Allah is not a just or loving God.

“For what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice -- in this world, and the next.”

Really? Does Obama believe in hell? Does he believe in the afterlife at all?

“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis.”

“Extremists?” Once again, he refuses to name the enemy. Did Churchill or FDR simply refer to Nazis as “extremists”? Did Truman or Eisenhower simply refer to Communists as “extremists”?

“As we face these challenges, the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon.”

Except that Obama is fighting against our core values.

“In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility.”

Selfishness…as in the Obama’s personal lifestyle, you mean?

“In an era of division, they call upon us to come together.”

Of course, Obama is nothing if not divisive.

“In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.”

Yes, we’re American and you’re anti-American.

“We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.”

If we will surely see that he pays for his crimes, then isn’t due process just an empty formality (not that I object)?

“We're a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses.”

At present, we’re a nation that guarantees the freedom of worshipful Muslims to murder American soldiers while we crack down on Christian expression.

“And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.”

What God does Obama pray to?

“And we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality.”

Unless you’re a liberal Democrat, in which case you’re on the side of tyranny.

“That's who we are as a people.”

Spoken by an anti-American president who slanders his country whenever he travels abroad.

“They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and all stations.”

Of all faiths–like Major Nidal Malik Hasan.

“So we say goodbye to those who now belong to eternity.”

What does that actually mean to Obama?

“We press ahead in pursuit of the peace that guided their service.

The pursuit of peace–or appeasement?

“May God bless the memory of those that we have lost. And may God bless the United States of America.”

Which God would that be?

Why Obama has healthcare right

Because I think Obama has health care right, the economy right, Iraq and Afghanistan right, and for a number of other reasons, I do support him for President.

On Nov. 2, the Congressional Budget Office estimated what the plans will likely cost. An individual earning $44,000 before taxes who purchases his own insurance will have to pay a $5,300 premium and an estimated $2,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, for a total of $7,300 a year, which is 17% of his pre-tax income. A family earning $102,100 a year before taxes will have to pay a $15,000 premium plus an estimated $5,300 out-of-pocket, for a $20,300 total, or 20% of its pre-tax income.

In addition to reducing future Medicare funding by an estimated $500 billion, the bill fundamentally changes how Medicare pays doctors and hospitals, permitting the government to dictate treatment decisions.

The medical home is this decade's version of HMO-restrictions on care. A primary-care provider manages access to costly specialists and diagnostic tests for a flat monthly fee. The bill specifies that patients may have to settle for a nurse practitioner rather than a physician as the primary-care provider. Medical homes begin with demonstration projects, but the HHS secretary is authorized to "disseminate this approach rapidly on a national basis."

A December 2008 Congressional Budget Office report noted that "medical homes" were likely to resemble the unpopular gatekeepers of 20 years ago if cost control was a priority.

Sec. 1114 (pp. 391-393) replaces physicians with physician assistants in overseeing care for hospice patients.

Sec. 1161 (pp. 520-545) cuts payments to Medicare Advantage plans (used by 20% of seniors). Advantage plans have warned this will result in reductions in optional benefits such as vision and dental care.

Why Obama has the economy right

Because I think Obama has health care right, the economy right, Iraq and Afghanistan right, and for a number of other reasons, I do support him for President.

Both the number of unemployed persons (11.6 million) and the unemployment rate (7.6 percent) rose in January.

As the unemployment rate surged to 10.2 percent in October, reaching double digits for the first time in 26 years, it suddenly seemed possible that the nation might yet confront the worst joblessness since the Great Depression.

Broader Measure of U.S. Unemployment Stands at 17.5%

He was for it before he was agin it

When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights...I will end this war in Iraq responsibly and finish the fight against Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.


Because I think Obama has health care right, the economy right, Iraq and Afghanistan right, and for a number of other reasons, I do support him for President.


In defense of a withdrawal from Afghanistan

The law above law


“Do you think anyone who doesn't have access to Scripture has any knowledge of what is right and wrong? What do you make of C. S. Lewis's argument that everyone recognizes a moral law which they know themselves to have violated, and that Christianity comes in not to tell us what the law is (we know that, in broad outline already) but to provide us a way of being right with God given the fact that we know ourselves to be moral failures?”

Several issues:

1.The basic problem with your position is that you’re trying to bootstrap a moral criterion to judge Christianity (and other religious claimants). In order to do this, you have to bracket or suspend any Christian commitments.

You are approaching Christianity from the viewpoint of an honorary atheist. You may not be an atheist. You may be neutral on that question at this stage of the game. But to judge Christianity, you assume the viewpoint of an outsider. An unbeliever.

But the problem with that framework is that if you approach the question from an atheistic point of view, then there’s no reason to abode any confidence in your moral intuitions. To the contrary, there’s every reason to distrust or simply discount your moral intuitions.

Consider the source. From a secular standpoint, our moral sensibilities are the end-result of amoral natural selection and/or amoral social conditioning.

As such, our moral “intuitions” fail to intuit moral absolutes. In that worldview, there are no moral absolutes to intuit.

Consider your Kantian axiom about treating people as ends rather than means. If I were an atheist, why in the world should I take that seriously? Wouldn’t it make far more sense to lie, cheat, and steal (as long as I could get away with it)?

2.In consequence, while it’s possible to mount a moral argument for the Christian faith, it’s not possible to mount a moral argument against the Christian faith. The argument can only be confirmatory, not disconfirmatory.

For there’s a fundamental asymmetry. A moral argument presupposes moral absolutes. But a godless world can never yield or justify the operating assumptions you need to feed into a moral objection. So that standpoint is a non-starter.

3.Apropos (1-2), Christianity lays the foundation for your moral intuitions, such as they are.

4.As a Christian, I think that God has given us a conscience (although that’s subject to various caveats). However, I can’t step out of my Christian faith and retain my moral intuitions intact. If I lose my Christian bearings, I also lose my moral bearings. Morality is the first casualty of atheism.

5.Even from a Christian perspective, our moral intuitions are unreliable. This doesn’t mean they’re always wrong. They may often be right.

But since our moral intuitions are wrong some of the time, we can’t rely on them. We need some objective criterion to sort out the hits from the misses. Moral intuition is useful, but inadequate. It must be corrected and supplemented by something more reliable.

6.From a Christian standpoint, nature is not a purely amoral process. It can be a moral medium. Likewise, from a Christian standpoint, cultural transmission can also be a moral medium. But once again, we need an independent criterion to distinguish between moral effects, amoral mechanisms, and immoral conventions.

7.Unlike Lewis, I don’t regard all cultures and societies as having a least lower threshold below which they will never sink. Common grace varies in time and place. From person to person.

I think God turns over some individuals and entire societies to utmost depravity to remind us of just what fallen humanity is like when left to its own devices, without divine restraint.

We can find many examples of this, both in Bible history and world history generally.

So, unlike Lewis, I don’t think we can abstract a universal norm from cross-cultural analysis. To the contrary, I think cross-cultural analysis uncovers many cases in which individuals, subcultures, and entire societies are in a state of moral freefall.

Blame the brass?

In the wake of the jihadist attack on Ft. Hood, we see a predictable pattern of finger-pointing. At the moment, it looks like there’s an effort by the powers-that-be to shift blame onto the armed forces for dropping the ball.

Now, it’s quite possible that Hasan’s superiors were negligent. In every bureaucracy you have time-servers who never miss an opportunity to overlook their oversight.

However, the Pentagon is not an autonomous body like the Obsidian Order or the Tal Shiar. It’s under civilian control.

If men in uniform, of whatever rank, live in fear that alleged “hate speech” against Muslims will lead to demotion or dishonorable discharge, then that creates an insurmountable disincentive to calling a spade and spade and taking suitable preemptive measures.

And, in the wake of the massacre–we still see gov’t officials, abetted by the media, covering for Muslims. That mentality perpetuates the problem.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Good grief

What should a pastor or Christian friend tell grieving parents who lost a child to miscarriage or leukemia? What, in general, should he say to those who fear a loved one may be forever lost?

Sometimes we overlook the obvious. But we need to remind ourselves that God knows all about our feelings. Indeed, directly or indirectly God gave us our feelings. He understands. It’s not as if he’s oblivious to our plight. We wouldn’t have these feelings it the first place if it weren’t for him.

In the case of his people, God has taken our feelings into account. One way or the other, he will take care of our heart. That’s all we know for sure. And that’s all we need to know.

It’s one of those simple truths we need to repeat to ourselves. Sometimes the simplest truths are the easiest to forget or neglect. But we need to repeat them and live them until we grow into them, and they in us.

Thank God for godly affections. For those emotions that God sanctions and sanctifies. Thank God in advance that we can trust him to heal our broken, emotional life–as only he can do.

And what about unbelievers? This promise is not for them. But not all unbelievers remain unbelievers. This is something we can share with them in their bereavement, too. Something available to them in case they avail themselves of the Lord.

We are not amused

Victor Reppert said...

The Calvinist has to say not merely that our conduct is sinful, but that our natural understanding of what is right and wrong is so badly tainted by sin that what we would ordinarily think of as bad really good if it is claimed that God has done it.

i) This is one of Reppert’s conceited blindspots. In his furry little mind he imagines that deep down, in their heart-of-hearts, all Calvinists share his moral intuitions. Yet they’ve suppressed their moral intuitions to knuckle under the brute authority of Scripture, as they understand it.

But, speaking for myself, I don’t share his moral intuitions on a wide range of issues.

ii) I’d also say that somebody who votes for Barack Obama doesn’t have a terribly firm grip on moral clarity. Not to mention his continued advocacy of Obama’s social vision. That’s a good test-case of how Reppert’s moral intuitions cash out. Has all the cash value of Confederate currency.

In ordinary human contexts, moral goodness/righteousness/holiness is centered around, among other things, the minimization of the suffering of others, or maximizing the benefit of others.

In order to preserve continuity of meaning between the conception of good as it is applied to humans and that which we apply to God…

i) Observe Reppert’s fond resort to the royal “we”–as if he’s the spokesman-at-large for the human race. I don’t recall voting for that ticket.

Moreover, I can’t help noticing that Reppert’s ethical intuitions correlate to a high degree with what we’d predict for an American academic who came of age during the Sixties. Is that intuition, or is that social conditioning camouflaged as intuition?

Suppose Reppert were born in Iran. Supposed he were sent to the local madrasah at the age of 4. What would be his “ordinary” concept of goodness in that event? What would “continuity of meaning” with respect to God and man amount to in that case?

ii) One of the fundamental differences between Reppert and me is that I’m a moral skeptic. Sure, I have moral intuitions, too. But if I were an atheist rather than a Christian, I wouldn’t put any stock in my moral intuitions. I’d chalk that up to social softwiring or evolutionary hardwiring. I might feel every so strongly about right and wrong, but as an atheist I’d consider the source. Which would be illusory. A powerful illusion, but illusory all the same. Nothing beneath the circuitry except natural selection or social brainwashing.

Reppert is (allegedly) a Christian because he’s a moralist. I’m a moralist because I’m a Christian.

iii) On a related note, I’m far more cynical than Reppert is. Always have been. To me, he’s a familiar, simpering stereotype. The softheaded dupe who never learns from experience. The kind of guy who plays the chump for every sociopath with a good sob story. If Reppert were a juror in the Menendez trial, he’d have to bring a fresh box of Kleenex to court every day.

As a result of (ii) & (iii), he and I have no common ground. He’s shouting across a chasm. The only thing he hears back is the echo of his own tinny voice.

If we can dismiss any idea that there are some actions that would render God bad if (per impossible if God is necessarily morally perfect) God were to do them, then the concept of God's goodness doesn't tell us anything about what we can expect God to do.

The acrid odor of a straw man going up in flames.

By making the claim that God primary praiseworthy characteristic is holiness rather than goodness…

Another flaming straw man. Someone should teach Reppert not to play with matches.

The luck of the draw

At the risk of drawing a premature conclusion, there seems to be an incrementally emerging body of trace evidence, albeit subtle and piecemeal, to suggest that Victor Reppert may not be a supralapsarian Calvinist. There is even the outside chance that Reppert may not be an infralapsarian Calvinist.

Apparently, Calvinism offends his moral sensibilities. However, while he has a great deal to say in objection to all things Calvinistic, he has far less to say about his alternative. So what would that be? And how is his alternative “intuitively” superior?

In some ways, Reppert appears to be a default Arminian. However, he finds the notion of everlasting retribution intuitively repugnant. But, in that event, it’s hard to see how he can subscribe to eternal damnation.

He recently stated his disagreement with universalism, so he’s taken that option off the table. What’s left?

Perhaps he takes the position that God keeps the damned alive indefinitely in hopes that sooner or later, a hellion may think better of his plight and express remorse.

If so, I don’t see that this has much intuitive plausibility. For one thing, does this mean a hellion is repenting under duress? But isn’t that a coerced response? Isn’t that at odds with Reppert’s commitment to libertarian freedom?

Likewise, assuming for the sake of argument that postmortem repentance is even possible, it seems to me that prolonged damnation would harden rather than soften the damned. Surely whatever makes hell unbearable would take less than a million or billion or trillion years to dawn on the damned.

But perhaps Reppert is a closet annihilationist. But, if so, is annihilationism intuitively satisfactory? Suppose God annihilates your loved ones. Is that clearly superior to whatever Reppert finds so abhorrent in Calvinism?

Reppert has also stated his deep sympathies for open theism. But in open theism, God is the cosmic gambler. Since he can’t anticipate the counterfactuals of freedom, then whether we draw a winning hand or a losing hand is the luck of the draw. God knows all the possible combinations, but he doesn’t know the actual sequence of the deck. He doesn’t know, when he deals us a hand, whether that’s a winning hand or a losing hand.

Dropping the metaphor, he doesn’t know if the possible world he chooses to instantiate is one where we’re heavenbound or hellbound. A world where good triumphs over evil, or evil triumphed over good.

If it turns out badly, the best he can do is to annihilate the losers. Don’t take it personal. God lost the bet. Just your bad luck to be the losing hand in a blind draw.

The sound of a loud ticking timebomb

Fort Hood gunman had told US military colleagues that infidels should have their throats cut.

The Bible as autobiography

I. Introduction

i) This post will be something of an annotated bibliography of some worthwhile books, essays, and articles regarding internal evidence for the canon of Scripture. It’s just a sampling of the literature. It can be supplemented by other sources (e.g. commentaries, Bible introductions, monographs). The arguments are subject to various refinements.

But the material I cite here gives a good overview of the issues. A good way to frame the issue.

ii) The Bible is partly a history and biography other people and events But it’s partly autobiographical well inasmuch as it not only tells a story about other people and events, but it also tells a story about itself. About its writers. About their life and work. For they wrote as they lived. And when we consider the evidence for the canon of Scripture, we should include the internal evidence for the canon of Scripture–in addition to the external evidence.

iii) In Catholicism, the internal evidence is irrelevant, for what ultimately counts in Catholicism is the external verdict of the church. Of the various contenders, the church had to determine which candidates to include or exclude.

iv) Ironically, Bart Ehrman begins with the same premise as Catholicism. He regards the canon as an arbitrary collection. The product of power politics in the church.

v) The Catholic argument generates a dilemma. Either these particular books belong together or they don’t. If they belong together, then you shouldn’t need an ecclesiastical fiat to constitute or justify that collection. Conversely, if you need an ecclesiastical fiat to constitute or justify that collection, then it must be fairly arbitrary.

vi) Another problem with the Catholic orientation is that it directs us away from the Bible to church history. We’re no longer looking at the primary source material. Yet the canon of Scripture is, itself, a primary source datum for the canon of Scripture. It contains within itself a certain amount of internal evidence regarding its own composition and codification.

vii) Yet another problem with the Catholic orientation is that tradition doesn’t speak with one voice on the scope of the canon. The deliberations at Trent simply reopened old questions. Although it handed down a verdict, that was a split decision.

viii) We might expect the principles of canonicity to be somewhat different for the OT and the NT. The books of the NT were composed by first or second-generation Christians. By contrast, the OT was written over a span of many generations.

ix) Something as apparently superficial as the order of the books might also be a historical witness to the date and/or identity of the canon as a whole. Take the OT. In principle, there’s more than one way to arrange the books. Different organizing principles could be employed. Still, even if the sequence of the Hebrew canon is somewhat artificial and traditional, this raises the question of when that convention was standardized. If, say, it was standardized well before NT times, then that pre-Christian canon would be the default canon used by Jesus and the Apostles. And any evidence we have for the identity of that pre-Christian canon would also be evidence for the OT canon of the NT speakers and writers.

II. The NT witness to the NT canon

1) Ellis, E. The Making of the New Testament Documents (Leiden: Brill, 2002).

i) His basic thesis is that all 27 books of the NT can be grouped under four coordinated missions, each headed by a leader of the NT church:

Petrine Mission

Gospel of Mark
1-2 Peter

Pauline Mission

Gospel of Luke
Book of Acts

Johannine Mission

Gospel of John
1-3 John

Jacobean Mission

Gospel of Matthew
Letter of James
Letter of Jude

ii) Ellis uses the Book of Acts as a lynchpin to identify and synchronize the key players.

iii) He also defends the traditional authorship of the NT books.

So Ellis does a good job of considering both the individual units and collective dynamics of the NT canon.

2) Porter, S. “Paul and the Process of Canonization,” C. Evans & E. Tov, eds. Exploring the Origins of the Bible (Baker 2008), 173-202.

As Porter summarizes his own argument, in somewhat understated fashion: “[Paul] would have been the only person, apart from his few closest associates, who would consistently have access to the many copies produced by his scribes and companions. The only other person or persons who would have had such access would probably have been his closest followers, such as Luke, or possibly Timothy. If Paul were not the initiator of the collecting process, and if there were not copies of the letters readily available, then the act of instigating the Pauline collection must have fallen to one of these close companions…Thus, the collection process must have involved a close follower or advocate of Paul, who perhaps undertook such action near the end of Paul’s life, possibly when he was in prison in Rome, or very soon after his death. Luke is the most likely figure for such a scenario, on the basis of the internal Pauline evidence (Col 4:14; Philem 24; 2 Tim 4:11), church tradition regarding Luke’s relation to Paul (especially in Acts, but also in Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.23.1; 3.10.1; 3.14.1; etc.), and even much critical scholarship regarding the authorship of Acts. In any case, there is reasonable evidence to see the origin of the Pauline corpus during the latter part of Paul’s life or sometime after his death, almost assuredly instigated by Paul and /or a close follower or followers, and close examination of the early manuscripts with Paul’s letters and of related documents seems to support this hypothesis,” ibid. 201-202.

You’d have to read the entire essay for the detailed, supporting evidence, but that gives you the basic idea.

Porter’s essays is concerned with the specifics of the Pauline corpus, but that has some general relevance to other literary subsets which combine to form the NT canon.

III. The NT witness to the OT canon

Beale, G. & D. A. Carson eds. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker 2007).

The NT canon is a witness to the OT canon. This monograph is not specifically about the OT canon. However, a fringe benefit of this monograph is the way in which it documents the OT canon of the NT writers. And it does this at two levels:

i) A descriptive level, at which it identifies the various NT citations and allusions to the OT.

ii) A normative level, at which examines the way in which NT writers make use of OT literature. And the way they use the OT supplies testimonial evidence for the divine authority as well as the specific identity of the OT.

This doesn’t settle every possible question. But it’s a very important line of evidence.

IV. The OT witness to the OT canon

1) G. Goswell, “Order of the Books in the Hebrew Bible,” JETS (December 2008).

Goswell discusses the way in which the OT canon is put together. While his article is not attempting to make a case for the Hebrew canon, his analysis furnishes a lot of documentary evidence which is applicable to that question. To quote a few examples from his article (available online):

“The ordering of books can be classified according to a number of principles. These principles need not be mutually exclusive but one may reinforce another, and there may be more than one possible principle reflected in a particular order. Unless stated by the author or editor, it is left to the reader to surmise what rationale is at work in the ordering of the literary blocks that make up a larger whole. It is not necessary to know or decide how deliberative the process of ordering was,3 for the focus of this study is the effect on the reader of the order, not its historical production.4 It is not my aim to second-guess what was in the mind of those responsible for the ordering of the biblical books. The following are some possible principles of order as inferred by the reader after an examination of the biblical material:

(1) Size of the book, e.g. the sequence: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Book of the Twelve (= Minor Prophets) in the Babylonian Talmud (B. Bat. 14b) may be arranged according to decreasing book length.
(2) Chronological setting, e.g. Ruth 1:1 (‘In the days when the judges ruled’) would seem to explain the LXX placement of this book following Judges, seeing that it is set in the same era of Israelite history.
(3) Common authorship, either stated or assumed, e.g. Jeremiah-Lamentations in the LXX, though the text of Lamentations does not explicitly name Jeremiah as its author.
(4) Storyline thread (e.g. Joshua-Kings), with successive books narrating what happened next, remembering, however, that it is the next significant thing that happened which is featured, not just the next thing, given the necessarily selective nature of narrative.
(5) Genre, e.g. the bringing together of different books into a prophetic corpus, and the collecting together of Wisdom books (though a convincing definition of what is ‘wisdom’ is notoriously difficult).
(6) Thematic considerations, though any book is likely to have a number of major themes, so that alternative placements are possible on this basis, e.g. Proverbs followed by Ruth (BHS) with the figure of Ruth providing a real-life example of the ‘good wife’ described in Prov 31:10-31.
(7) Literary linkages, e.g. by means of catchwords, such as used in the Book of the Twelve (as Hosea-Malachi is viewed in the Hebrew canon).”;col1

“The liturgical character of the Megillot is an appropriate arrangement in a section leading up to the book of Chronicles (or beginning with Chronicles as in Aleppensis and Leningradensis) and consists of five festal scrolls. The five scrolls are connected to the five main festivals (following the festal order, assuming the year starts with the month Nisan): Song of Songs (Passover), Ruth (Weeks), Lamentations (the ninth of Ab), Ecclesiastes (Tabernacles or Booths), and Esther (Purim).”

“The books that follow Chronicles, that is, the Psalms73 and Proverbs, are directly connected with the founding dynasts, David and Solomon. Chronicles followed by Psalms gives the poetic pieces of the Psalter a liturgical setting in the musical cult (re)-organized by David (cf. 1 Chronicles 23-27; 2 Chr 7:6; 8:14; 23:18; 29:2530; 35:15), and a number of psalmic titles help to cement such a connection (e.g. the titles of Psalms '42-50, 62). 74 Ruth may be treated as a ‘Davidic biography,’ since Ruth and Boaz are the great-grandparents of David (Ruth 4:18-22). Song of Songs (e.g. 3:11) and Qoheleth (read as royal autobiography75) each have connections with Solomon. The liturgical role of the Megillot also suits the Chronicles frame. Esther provides a happy ending to the Megillot, especially when read after the tragic expressions of Lamentations.”;col1

“With regard to the order(s) of the books that make up the Hebrew Bible, the following may be said by way of summary. The ordering of books according to storyline would seem to explain the sequence of books in the Pentateuch and the Former Prophets. The books of the Latter Prophets also are ordered according to chronology, whether the sequence is Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve, or Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Twelve. The highs and lows of the covenant relationship between God and Israel are thereby plotted through time. The order of books in the Writings may in part reflect (presumed) order of composition, with Davidic and Solomonic works at the beginning and Persian period compositions at the end (Esther onwards). It is not true, therefore, that only the Greek OT has a dominating historical principle.”

“The placement of Joshua-Kings after the Torah and in the section labeled ‘Former Prophets’ suggests an understanding of these four books as illustrating and applying the teaching of the Pentateuch, and so, too, the prophets whose oracles are recorded in the Latter Prophets are viewed as preachers of the Law.”

“The reader also perceives that the grouping of books according to common genre explains the enjambment of Psalms-Job-Proverbs and this has the effect of declaring the Psalter to be a wisdom book. So, too, juxtaposing Daniel-Esther-Ezra/Nehemiah suggests that all three books are being read as court tales. Thematic considerations explain those lists that put Ruth before Psalms or have Ruth following Proverbs, and the pairing of Ecclesiastes with Lamentations or of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. The fact that there are alternative orders reminds the reader that book order is a paratextual feature, and that different orders suggest alternative ways of reading the same book.”

“The placement of either Chronicles (1 Chronicles 1-9) or Ezra-Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9) at the close of the Hebrew Bible implies that these books recapitulate and evaluate (from certain viewpoints) the entire sweep of biblical history. In almost every case, the location of a biblical book relative to other canonical books, whether in terms of the grouping in which it is placed, or the book(s) that follow or precede it, has hermeneutical significance for the reader who seeks meaning in the text. Consciously or unconsciously, the reader's evaluation of a book is affected by the company it keeps in the collected library of Scripture.”;col1

2) Freedman, D. The Unity of the Hebrew Bible (University of Michigan Press 1995); “The Symmetry of the Hebrew Bible,” Divine Commitment and Human Obligation: Selected Writings of David Noel Freedman (Eerdmans 1997), 1:496-520.

Before presenting some of Freedman’s case, I’ll make a few preliminary comments:

i) Unlike the other scholars I’ve cited, Freedman is a liberal. However, to somewhat oversimplify our classification, there are two kinds of liberals. On the one hand, there are copycat liberals who simply regurgitate the latest fad in Bible criticism. On the other hand, some liberals are genuine scholars. They know their way around the primary sources. They do their own research. As a result, they may stake out iconoclastic positions which buck the liberal groupthink. Freedman is that kind of liberal. A fairly independent and very erudite scholar.

ii) From what I can tell, his work on the OT canon has been rather neglected. My best guess for this neglect is that his assumptions are too liberal for conservatives while his conclusions are too conservative for liberals.

iii) In assessing his case, we need to distinguish between the raw data which he presents, and the historical reconstructions by which he attempts to explain the data. The data stand alone–apart from his historical reconstruction.

iv) Apropos (ii-iii), it’s quite possible to agree with his general conclusions even though you disagree with some of his explanations or operating assumptions. You can present an alternative explanation to account for the same data.

v) Even some of his operating assumptions are harmonious with conservative presuppositions. For example, here is one of his working principles:

“In the Bible, historical narratives generally come down to the time of the author(s); therefore the latest episodes recorded are roughly contemporary with the writers(s)of the stories. Put another way, the work is composed or completed shortly after the last of the stories is finished, and the work may be dated accordingly. A significant burden of proof rests with those who wish to extend the period between the end of the narrative and the composition of the work,” The Unity of the Hebrew Bible, vi.

a) This principle is quite reasonable. Even conservative. If applied consistently, it would lead to the early dating of various books which liberals typically date much later.

b) It does, however, suffer from one oversight. Given his methodological naturalism, Freedman is unable to make allowance for the possibility (much less actuality) that a work might also record an episode before it occurs. But dating a book of Scripture must take into account the prophetic dimension.

Freedman also says: “the work of the final editor was mainly in organizing and arranging already existing books and even larger collections certainly not in composing any books, and perhaps only to a very limited extent in what we would call editing of manuscripts. The symmetry of the two parts is thus all the more remarkable, for the compiler was working with a whole set of already completed pieces…The tools available to the compiler were limited essentially to the selection and arrangement of the constituent units and perhaps a modicum of editorial adjustment of particular passages,” "The Symmetry of the Hebrew Bible," 507.

Once again, this quite consistent with conservative assumptions.

I’ll address the more liberal aspects of his presentation in a separate excursus (see below).

vi) Freedman’s basic thesis is that the entire OT canon, exclusive of Daniel, was codified by Ezra and Nehemiah c. the 5C BC. Much of his supporting evidence involves the bilateral, chiastic symmetry of the Hebrew OT, which is patterned after the acrostic numerology of some OT Psalms and other poems. (e.g. Pss 25; 34; 37; 119; 135; Prov 31:10-31; Lam 1-4) As such, the OT canon forms a carefully and delicately balanced, literary unit. He also draws attention to various correlations between one book and another.

The only monkey wrench in Freedman’s analysis is Daniel, which throws the numerical symmetry out of balance. I’ll address that issue separately (see below).

I can’t reproduce all of Freedman’s supporting arguments, but here’s a sampling of summary statements or representative claims:

“Ezra [Neh 8] is reading from the first books of the Bible, which reflects that the Bible is not only the story of the people of the Bible, i.e., Israel, but that it is also the story of the Bible itself,” The Unity of the Hebrew Bible, 1-2.

“The similarities between Jeremiah (in its present form) and the D-work [Deuteronomy thru Kings], on the one hand, and between Ezekiel and the P-work [Genesis thru Numbers] on the other, have long been noted,” ibid. 46.

“I also think that First Isaiah was associated with this reform and that the first C-Work [Chronicles] and the first Book of Isaiah were connected in that fashion. First Isaiah, while a denunciatory prophet in the tradition of Amos (and possibly his disciple), nevertheless was remembered in the tradition as the one who collaborated with the King, Hezekiah, in the salvation of Jerusalem,” ibid. 49.

“We can thus line up the Major Prophets with the major historical works of the Hebrew Bible as indicated. In the case of Isaiah…we have two points of contact: First Isaiah with Hezekiah and the First Chronicler’s Work…Overall, we find numerous points of agreement in both works, especially in the emphasis on Jerusalem, the Temple, the dynasty of David, and the continuous commitment and support of Yahweh,” ibid. 49-50.

“Third, I wish to purse the matter of literary associations a little further and at the same time include in the overall picture the collection of Minor Prophets. First of all, I think we can link groups of Minor Prophets with Major Prophets, just as we have tried to show a significant connection between the Major Prophets and the major historical narratives in the Hebrew Bible. Thus, in the final form of the Book of the Twelve, we can recognize certain groupings with natural affinities…Thus the last three books of the Twelve belong to the postexilic period…Fourth, with regard to the rest of the Minor Prophets, we can assign the three 8C prophets to the domain of First Isaiah…namely, Hosea, Amos, and Micah. This group balances the association of the last three,” ibid. 50-51.

“The reverse order places Ezra-Nehemiah first, followed by Chronicles, thus producing an odd circular effect if the books are read consecutively. In this present order, the Chronicler’s Work begins with the account of the Edict of Cyrus, in which the Jews in captivity were not only permitted but encouraged to return to their homeland in Judah and also to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The narrative continues to the end of Ezra-Nehemiah; then it begins all over again at the beginning of Chronicles with Adam the genealogies derived from the Book of Genesis. The whole history of the people is covered once more, with particular emphasis on Judah from the time of the accession of David until the end of the kingdom. Then the last entry in Chronicles repeats the Edict of Cyrus to the Jews in captivity with which Ezra-Nehemiah began, thus forming an envelope around the whole work and echoing an even of central importance to the author or editor,” ibid. 76.

“Instead of being at the end of the Writings, Chronicles is at the beginning of this whole unit, thus making Ezra-Nehemiah the last book of the section and of the Bible itself. The Chronicler’s Work, therefore, forms an envelope around the Writings, encompassing all of the other books previously mentioned and constituting a unifying and ordering framework for them. At the same time, the connection between the two is stressed by the repetition of the paragraph that comes at the end of Chronicles…At the beginning of Ezra-Nehemiah, we find the same paragraph as an echo, reminding the reader that Ezra-Nehemiah is the sequel to or continuation of the book with which the section opened. The idea inherent in this arrangement–namely, that the Chronicler’s Work encompasses the interior works–is also appropriate with respect to their contents and themes. Thus, the Chronicler’s Work covers the whole span of the Hebrew Bible, from the beginning to the present day (the time of Ezra-Nehemiah), and everything within the framework fits into that time span. More than this, the major themes and emphases in the Chronicler’s Work are exemplified in the other associated works,” ibid. 77.

“What these numbers [e.g. word counts] show beyond any question is the precise built-in symmetry the whole work, including its major and minor parts. I call the underlying pattern bilateral symmetry; by this I mean that the whole Hebrew Bible is divided into two equal halves, and these in turn are subdivided into relatively equal or proportionate parts, with further subdivisions also exhibiting similar patterns,” "The Symmetry of the Hebrew Bible," 496.

“The symmetry we posit is not only bilateral but also chiastic. We begin therefore with the Prophetic collection, consisting of two parts, Former and Latter Prophets, each containing four books,” ibid. 503.

“To summarize, briefly, we interpret the numerical data to mean that the Hebrew Bible as we know it, with the single exception of the book of Daniel, existed in its present form as early as the end of the 5C BCE, and consisted of two precisely symmetrical halves, which in turn were made up of four subsections of five and four books respectively, matching parts in chiastic order, with a supplement of five more small books to make the numbers come out evenly…” ibid. 505.

“The crucial fact for me is the lack of any historical account after the time of Nehemiah. That is a prime indicator of the end of the literature, as it is hard to imagine that the Jewish community could live through the times of the late Persian kings, the coming of Alexander, and the massive changes all over the Near East without referring to them at all. Only the book of Daniel bridges the gulf between the Persian period Bible and the new age of tumult and ferment, from the Persians to the Romans,” ibid. 506.

“Whatever the origin of the division of the Torah into five books, this number clearly has a leading role in the selection and arrangement of the books of the Writings. Thus there are five major books: Chronicles (which comes first in the major medieval manuscripts, including the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex), Psalms (which itself is divided into five books, doubtless to correspond to the five books of the Torah), Job, Proverbs, and Ezra (including Nehemiah; they are each on book in the Hebrew Bible). To these are added the five Megilloth: Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Esther,” ibid. 508.

“As just mentioned, in the great medieval Manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible the Writings begin with Chronicles and end with Ezra-Nehemiah, which together constitute a single continuous narrative and thus form an envelope around this whole division of the Bible,” ibid. 508.

“We conclude that the compiler settled on the number twenty-three to juxtapose the fours and fives of the two halves, to emphasize the association with the alphabetic numbers, i.e., 22 and even 22+1=23, and to reinforce the alphabetic principle. The use of successive numbers, especially in Hebrew poetry, both for parallelism and for enhancement, is well known,” ibid. 514.

“We affirm that there is a connection between a presumed Hebrew Bible containing twenty-three books in the Persian period, and that it was correlated with the ‘augmented’ Hebrew alphabet reflected in at least two alphabetic acrostic Psalms (25 and 34). We argue that the 23-book Bible already existed in that arrangement in the latter part of the Persian period (around 400 BCE) and was organized with the augmented alphabet in mind,” ibid. 516.

“We attribute the conception and execution to the Scribe Ezra and the Governor Nehemiah, who may have worked partly in tandem, but also in sequence, with Ezra responsible chiefly for the conception and Nehemiah for the execution and completion of the project. The separate memoirs of these men were attached to the end of the work, thus ending and completing the whole work,” ibid. 517.

V. The OT witness to the NT canon

It’s natural for us to think of the NT as a witness to the OT. But that cuts both ways. If the OT is prophetic, and if the NT represents the literary fulfillment of the OT, then the OT is also a witness to the NT. Some of the best authors on OT prophecy are T. D. Alexander, Derek Motyer, O. P . Robertson, and John Sailhamer.

VI. Excursus

i) Although Freedman subscribes to the pseudonymity of Daniel and “Second Isaiah” (as well as “Third Isaiah”), he makes some statements along the way which undermine that contention:

a) ”The pseudepigraphic material was never as popular as the old writing and only by accident or dissimulation was it accepted into the canon. Daniel is in fact the only genuine pseudepigraph in the Hebrew Bible,” Divine Commitment and Human Obligation, 276.

But if, by his own admission, Jews rejected the canonicity of pseudepigraphic materials, then how did Daniel slip through the net?

b) ”Chronicles ends with the Edict of Cyrus (2 Chron 36:22-23) and Ezra-Nehemiah beings with it (Ezra 1:1-4). These are the only two works in the Hebrew Bible that speak of Cyrus at all (apart from Daniel, which does not enter into consideration for various reasons),” The Unity of the Bible, 48.

But if the Book of Daniel was written in the 6C by a Jewish exile who served under Cyrus (Dan 1:21; 6:28; 10:1), then we’d expect him to mention that fact.

c) ”It is widely agreed by scholars that, in its canonical form, this book [Daniel] is a product of the Greek or Hellenistic Age, dating from about 165/4 BCE, although it undoubtedly incorporates older materials,” ibid., 78.” (Cf. “Because doubtless is incorporates some older sources,” 95.)

But if it “undoubtedly” incorporates older sources, then why be so sure of the Hellenistic provenance?

d) ”With Daniel, we enter into the world of apocalyptic visions, coded messages, revelations through dreams, and angelic interpreters,” ibid. 96.

But there’s nothing distinctively Hellenistic about such phenomena.

e) ”Taking both works [Isaiah; 1-2 Chronicles] in their present forms, we can point to the fact that both are postexilic in date, and both make much of the return from the exile in the reign of Cyrus the Great. While I believe that the event itself is still in the future in the so-called Second Isaiah (chaps. 40-55), it is clearly expected, and the role of Cyrus is very important (see chaps. 44-45),” ibid. 48.

It’s fascinating that a liberal like Freedman nevertheless accepts the Isaian oracles about Cyrus as genuinely predictive rather than vaticina ex eventu. But, in that case, why not accept the 8C date of Isaiah in toto?

f) ”Second Isaiah is a throwback to the earlier period of poetic prophetic oracles,” ibid. 55.

Wouldn’t be simpler to say he reflects an earlier period because, in fact, he lived back then?

g) ”In any case, however, it is striking that Jeremiah and Ezekiel supply precisely the information lacking in [Second] Isaiah provides the framework within which the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel can best be understood,” ibid. 60.

But if Isaiah is preexilic, whereas Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak from their exilic experience, then we’d expect them to fill in the general framework with topical details.

ii) Freedman also commits a basic fallacy. He seems to infer that if the 5C edition of the OT canon didn’t include Daniel, then Daniel must have been written some time after the 5C. But that hardly follows.

Suppose that Daniel was written before Ezra and Nehemiah (allegedly) codified the OT canon. This doesn’t mean we’d expect Daniel to be canonized a century later. Since Daniel contains a number of prophecies, Jews might have taken a wait-and-see attitude. Postponed the canonization of Daniel until they had a chance to tell whether or not some of his predictions came true. Considering the prophetic character of the book, such a delay, to give his futuristic oracles some shakedown time, is completely understandable.

iii) There are alternative explanations for the exact placement of Daniel in the canon. Goswell accounts for that by noting the motif of palace intrigue (involving Jewish exiles at the mercy of pagan rulers) that Daniel shares in common with the adjacent writings:

“Daniel is in this position because of the court tales (Daniel 1-6) that connect with similar tales in Esther and Ezra-Nehemiah.76 Daniel following Esther (in the Talmud the order is reversed) provides a theological explanation for the confidence expressed in the book of Esther concerning the survival of the Jewish race, with the lesson of that book put in the mouth of Zeresh, the wife of Haman the archenemy of the Jews (Esth 6:13: ‘If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him’).”;col1

iv) Moreover, there are glaring problems with giving Daniel a Maccabean date. As one scholar explains:

“Finally, we may look at that section of the book which more than all others raises the question of its dating. It is the majority view that the long, detailed prophecy of chapters 10-12 must be, and is, largely a vaticinium ex eventu. By creating the impression that all these historical events, which his readers would know had actually taken place, had in fact been predicted in detail and fulfilled inexorably to the letter, the author aimed, on this view, to produce in his readers overwhelming confidence in his few, but
major, real predictions. These were that Antiochus would make a third invasion of Egypt, this time very
successfully, but that on his return journey he would suddenly meet his end, when encamped between
Jerusalem and the sea; that there would then follow a time of unprecedented trouble for Israel, out of which nonetheless they would be delivered; that then the resurrection of the dead would take place, and thus the End would have arrived; and that all this would take place within a period of about 3 years measured from Antiochus' setting up of the abomination of desolation."

"But this last event, according to the majority view, must have already taken place before the book was
written and published (for had the book been published before that event, the prediction of it would have been a genuine predictive prophecy). How long after the setting up of the abomination of desolation it took our author to compile this book with its remarkably complex structure the majority view does not tell us; nor how long it took to get it published and into circulation."

"Practical sense suggests that by the time it was written and published, a considerable part of the 3 years must have gone by. The book would now be promising that the End would occur within an even shorter time than 3 years. Fortunately, when the book was published, Daniel's reading public, close-knit though they must have been, never realized who the author was - the publisher never spilt the beans - and took the book for an ancient book without wondering why they had never heard of it before. They believed its vaticinium ex eventu to have been a genuine prophecy, and put their faith in the author's prediction, were very encouraged by it, and prepared to meet the End. Unfortunately, of course, nothing happened. Antiochus did not invade Egypt again. He did not encamp between Jerusalem and the sea. He died, but not there: he died in fact far away out east. There was trouble for Israel as always, but nothing unprecedented. And the resurrection of the dead did not take place. The other things which other chapters in Daniel had promised would happen at the End, did not take place either: all Gentile imperial power was not everywhere removed, and universal dominion was not given to Israel.26 The only thing that took place within the time was the deliverance and cleansing of the sanctuary."

"Nevertheless the faithful having discovered the predictions to be false were not discouraged. They still accepted the predictions as genuine predictions and the whole book as authoritative; and they carefully preserved it and quoted it (e.g. 1 Macc. 2:60). Later they canonized it.”

v) Finally, Sailhamer has interacted with Freedman's position on Daniel. Sailhamer's treatment furnishes a useful corrective to Freedman's defective analysis at this juncture. Sailhamer demonstrates the pivotal significance of Daniel to the OT canon. Cf. J. Sailhamer, The Meaning of the Pentateuch (IVP 2009).