Friday, December 31, 2010

Charity for me, but not for thee!

A lot of people are up in arms at the moment about a paragraph in William Lane Craig’s answer to Question 193 “Overweening Ignorance.” Facebook, blogs, twitter and message boards are abuzz with Christians angrily attacking Craig with the charge that this paragraph shows he either does not hold to the doctrine of original sin or that he thinks it is not essential to Christianity.

i) How does Matt know that we are “angrily” attacking Craig?

ii) If we are angrily attacking Craig, does this mean that Matt is angrily defending Craig?

The conclusion we are supposed to draw is that Craig is denying the truth of these passages and views these as “optional.”

Where did I indicate that Craig was denying the truth of these passages? How does Matt derive that conclusion from what I wrote?

In “Hollywood Squares” Hays draws a ejusdem generis parallel between Craig’s paragraph and the writings of liberal scholars like Spong, Bultmann and The Archbishop of Canterbury.

I didn’t identify them as liberals. I find it shocking that Matt would angrily attack Craig by comparing him to a bunch of liberals. He should be more charitable.

Are miracles improbable?

Here's my take on the meaning of the slogan: Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence. (I don't know if other nonbelievers would agree with this.) An extraordinary claim is a claim that an improbable event occurred. An example is a miracle. Since a miracle is a violation of a law of nature it does not happen very often, possibly never. We can estimate a highest possible value for the probability of some miracle occurring e.g one in a billion for a person rising from the dead. (Say if approximately out of every billion people that have died there is one alleged claim of resurrection.) Extraordinary evidence for an extraordinary claim would be evidence which if the claim were not true, then the probability of the evidence itself would be a lot lower than that of the extraordinary claim being true. For example if testimony to a miracle was given and the likelihood of such testimony occurring was say one in a trillion if the miracle did not actually occur. (Thus a believer might argue that approximately out of every trillion false claims made there is at most one which is endorsed by a person willing to die for the claim.) If the probabilities involved cannot be compared then no case can be made.
By Peter Hawkins on The onus of miracles on 12/31/10

Is it improbable that a poker player had five royal flushes in a row? Well, that’s highly improbably if the deck is randomly shuffled. If, on the other hand, the dealer is a card sharp, then it may be highly probable (even inevitable) that the player had five royal flushes in a row.

So you really can’t say, in the abstract, what is probable or improbable. That depends on other variables, known or unknown.  

How Significant Is A Lack Of Documented Resurrections?

Last month, I posted some of Michael Licona's comments on the hallucination theory, taken from his recent book on the resurrection. A few days later, a skeptic posted a response, and I didn't see that response until just recently. I replied to him, and he responded again.

The discussion is primarily about whether the regularities of nature are as problematic for supernatural theories as they are for natural theories. In other words, if the evidence suggests that people don't naturally rise from the dead and that they don't naturally have the sort of hallucinations skeptics often attribute to the resurrection witnesses, then are those facts equally significant to the respective theories in question?

It should be noted that comment moderation is active in that thread, since the thread is so old. Once a thread reaches a particular age, comments coming from people who aren't part of the Triablogue staff have to go through moderation. (Otherwise, people can post in old threads without our knowing about it, which used to happen frequently.) If you post in that other thread, be aware that your post will have to go through moderation before it appears on the screen. Don't try posting your comments more than once. Just wait for your post to go through the moderation process.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Secular superstition

As infidels are wont to tell us, people in Bible times were gullible and superstitious. The same holds true for Christians today–unlike modern, skeptical, science-minded infidels. Or so they tell us.

On the other hand:

According to a survey of 1,003 adults conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University...But the experts were quite surprised by other trends found among the UFO witnesses. People who have attended church recently and who identify themselves as born-again Evangelical Protestants are much less likely to have seen UFOs or to believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence than people with little or no involvement with organized religion.

Catholic laxity

According to Nick, the Catholic epologist:
Steve, The fact Protestants cannot agree on whether the day(s) of worship are essential or not is, in itself, proof of the failure of Sola Scriptura.

I do have to wonder if Nick is really that dense. Perhaps his is.

That would only evidence the failure of sola Scriptura if it is God’s will that all Christians worship on a particular date, but Scripture is unclear on that obligation.

Put another way, Scripture would only be inadequate if that was a divine obligation, but the testimony of Scripture was insufficient to apprise us of our divine obligation. But if the issue is adiaphorous, then we wouldn’t expect the Bible to stipulate a particular day of worship.

So, to show that sola Scriptura is a failure, Nick first needs to show that Christians have a divine obligation to worship on a particular date, but Scripture is unclear on their obligation. Needless to say, Nick hasn’t done that.

The mere phenomenon of Protestant disagreement on this issue doesn’t show, either that Scripture is unclear or insufficient.

For one thing, it’s quite possible for professing Christians to reject the clear teaching of Scripture. Indeed, Roman Catholicism is a case in point.

For another thing, Nick’s reasoning is reversible. Assuming that Scripture doesn’t specify a Christian day of worship, then the silence of Scripture renders that question inessential. That’s how you know it’s inessential. That’s how you know it’s a point of liberty.

At the moment I’m not affirming or denying that assumption. Rather, I’m simply drawing attention to the real nature of the argument, since Nick is too dense to grasp the issue at hand.

As a vassal of the pope, Nick tacitly begins with his Catholic assumptions regarding the day of worship, then alleges that Scripture is insufficient because it fails to ratify his operating assumptions.

But, of course, that’s confused. That wouldn’t show that sola Scriptura is a failure on Protestant grounds. For he has smuggled a Catholic assumption into the argument. At most, this only shows that Scripture is a failure on Catholic grounds. But, of course, that does nothing to advance the argument. Indeed, that doesn’t even amount to an argument. Rather, it begs the question.

All he’s done is to cite what he deems to be an unacceptable consequence of sola Scriptura, then conclude that sola Scriptura is unacceptable. But he hasn’t begun to justify his own standards. And he hasn’t begun to show that sola Scriptura is insufficient by Protestant standards.

The prevailing 'lax' attitude is of more recent origin, where virtually everything save "Jesus is Lord" is reduced to non-essential.

There’s nothing “lax” about taking the position that Scripture is indifferent to this issue. Laxity has reference to the enforcement of a policy, and not the policy itself. If you have a policy which you don’t enforce, then that’s a lax attitude. But not to have a policy on some issue or another is not, itself, symptomatic of a lax attitude. You may have good reason for thinking that such a policy would be unwarranted.

Again, I’m haven’t said that Scripture is or isn’t indifferent to this issue. I’m just documenting Nick’s intellectual limitations in framing the issue. 

This is in contrast to the more "conservative" days when Protestant denominations fought bitterly on such subjects.

Of course, we could also contrast the laxity of modern Rome with the more “conservative” days when it was far stricter in enforcing religious policies. If Nick were smart, he'd avoid an objection which invites such an obvious counterexample. But he isn't that smart. 

How mere is "mere Christianity"?

William Lane Craig recently defined Christian essentials as those doctrines to which all Christians subscribe. Conversely, if Christians don’t agree on some doctrine or another, then that’s inessential to the Christian faith.

So he seems to be using Christian consensus as his criterion for Christian essentials. And he’s not the only one to do this. You have people who cite something like the Apostles’ Creed as their common denominator. Christians are defined by their agreement with the Apostles’ Creed. That’s the frame of reference. If it’s not taught in the Apostles’ Creed, then it’s nonessential.

But there’s a basic problem with this criterion. For those who use Christian consensus as their criterion aren’t really using consensus as their criterion. You see, to say that Christian essentials are defined by whatever all Christians believe, you already have to have an idea of what makes them Christians in the first place. For you are claiming that this is something Christians believe in. So Christians aren’t simply defined by their common belief in this or that doctrine. For it has to be Christians believing it that makes it a Christian essential.

So those who appeal to Christian consensus are tacitly going behind the consensus. They actually begin with a preconception of who is or isn’t a Christian. If Christians believe something in common, then that makes it a Christian essential.

The fact that non-Christians disagree on some doctrine or another doesn’t render it inessential. Rather, the fact that Christians disagree on some doctrine or another renders it nonessential.

So consensus isn’t really the criterion. It has to be Christian consensus. In which case, it’s not consensus that defines a Christian, but Christians who define consensus.

Suppose you take the Apostles’ Creed as your frame of reference. Of course, there are people who disagree with one or more articles of the Apostles’ Creed. If you say their dissent doesn’t count because they’re not Christian, then, of course, you have to operate with a preconceived idea of what makes a Christian a Christian. You’ve defined the Apostles’ Creed as a Christian Creed. And you’re measuring Christian profession by that yardstick.

But once again, if that’s the case, then it’s not the consensus of Christians that determines Christian essentials. Rather, you’ve make a prejudgment concerning the status of the Apostles’ Creed, and you thereby judge Christian profession by whether or not a given individual affirms the Apostles’ Creed. That’s the bare minimum.

So folks like Craig don’t begin with consensus. Consensus doesn’t select for the Christian essentials. How would he know what Christians agree on unless he already knows who the Christians are?

But, of course, professing believers represent overlapping beliefs. Some professing believerss agree on premillennialism, but disagree on infant baptism–among many other examples.

So professing believers can be subdivided into many different overlapping groups. They are members of many different Christian subsets. The premillennial Christians or the amillennial Christians. The paedobaptist Christians or the credobaptist Christians. And so on and so forth.

So how does someone like Craig decide which subset represents the relevant unit of consensus? He can’t simply appeal to Christian consensus, for there is no one body of beliefs which represents Christian consensus.

Rather, you have a variety of overlapping positions. But this doesn’t mean they all intersect at the same point. And even if they did, that might be so minimal and incidental that it would hardly amount to a credible profession of faith.

Even something like the Apostles’ Creed is deceptive, for when Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants (to take three examples) profess the Apostles’ Creed, they don’t necessarily mean the same thing by the same terms. Clearly they don’t all mean the same thing by the “church” or the “communion of saints.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Outsider Test for Catnip

If Billy Graham was a kitten, he’d be crazy about catnip. But if Billy Graham was a mosquito, he’d be repelled by catnip.

So his love or loathing of catnip is an accident of birth. The statistical data is indisputable.

Therefore, Billy Graham ought to take the Outsider Test for Catnip.   

The irrelevance of evidence to atheism

According to Richard Dawkins:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser, a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Dawkins evidently spent a fair amount of time with a rhyming dictionary to craft this sentence, and he’s undoubtedly pleased with the result.

Other village atheists like John Loftus, Christopher Hitchens, Hector Avalos, and Robert Ingersoll also accentuate the dastardly character of the Biblical God, as they see it. And this also holds true for Park Avenue atheists like David Lewis and William Rowe.

However, one of the ironies of the moralistic objection to God’s existence is that it renders moot most other arguments against God’s existence.

Atheists attack the argument from prophecy. The argument from miracles. The ontological argument. The cosmological argument. The teleological argument. The argument from consciousness. The argument from religious experience. Biblical archeology. And so on and so forth.

You’d think from all this that they reject God’s existence, either because they think God is inevident, or because the evidence is stacked against him.

But suppose the Lord arranged the stars to spell out “God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

Would they suddenly bow before the incontrovertible evidence of his existence and become devout believers? Would they love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength? Would they glorify God and enjoy him forever?

Not if they think such a God is a moral monster. In that case, no amount of evidence, however compelling, would change their jaundiced view of God. For they have already decided that such a God is wholly unworthy of worship.

So the alleged lack of evidence, or counterevidence, is irrelevant to atheism. At least the type of atheism which rails against Biblical theism.

Birds of a feather

Michael Liccione

I am Catholic because I believe that “Rome’s claims are true.”...Aside from that epistemological issue, even if I were to become a Protestant, Calvinism is the last version of it I would consider. As I see it, TULIP depicts God as an arbitrary ogre and men as misshapen puppets.

Harry Emerson Fosdick

Nevertheless, if you were in charge of the universe, would you dare to take from man his freedom of choice and make him a mere puppet, a marionette mechanically pulled by the strings of circumstance, with no liberty to shape his own conduct, no power to make decisions? Well, when I think of Gene Neely and millions like him, I am sure that I would take the calculated risk which the Creator took when he gave man power to choose between good and evil.

Rabbit ears

Steve Hays posted the following quote from WLC and a few Bible verses here. Alan Kurschner reposted those citations, with attribution at the bottom. This morning, Rich tells me a bunch of people have been complaining who 1) either missed the attribution at the bottom or 2) were claiming WLC was being taken out of context. Now I will allow Steve or Alan to respond to the second assertion, however, I wanted to point out that this is the exact point I criticized WLC on in one of his debates with Shabir Ally, so this is not the first time WLC has made this statement. I have said repeatedly that WLC's theology is way too hobbled to support biblical Christian theism, which is why he has to produce a much smaller theism to defend. And this is one of the manifestations of starting with philosophy and then crafting a theology to match your philosophical opinions. ---JRW

In response to the complainants:

1. Not only did I quote WLC verbatim, but I gave the link. Anyone can follow the link back to the full text and read WLC in context.

2. What does it mean to quote someone out of context?

i) Quotes are frequently and necessarily selective. They excerpt a statement from the surrounding context. When NT writers quote the OT, they excerpt a small part of what was said.

ii) To quote someone out of context is to quote him in a misleading way. To misrepresent what he said by restricting the cited material in a way that creates a misimpression of what he meant.

However, if you read the quotation in the larger context, it doesn’t change the force of what I quoted. It adds some information which may having a bearing on Craig’s personal beliefs, but it doesn’t affect the point he was making.

Here is what I quoted:

As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you.

And here is the surrounding context:

As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you.What is essential to Christian faith is that all men are sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness and redemption. I’m sure you’d recognize your own moral shortcomings and failures, Luke. So don’t get hung up on Adam’s sin. It’s your own sin you need to deal with. (As for the doctrine, its viability will depend on the viability of imputation. We often know of cases where one person is held responsible for the actions of another because the one person represents the other or serves as a proxy acting on the other’s behalf. Maybe Adam was our representative before God.)

i) In the excerpt I cited, Craig denies that original sin is essential to the Christian faith. Does that excerpt convey a false impression of his actual position? In the surrounding context, does Craig say something additional to indicate that, my quotation notwithstanding, he does, in fact, regard original sin as essential to the Christian faith? No.

He makes a gesture at defending original sin. But that doesn’t change his classification of original sin as a nonessential doctrine.

ii) The larger problem is his hubristic presumption. He takes  upon himself the right to tell people what parts of the Bible they are obliged to believe, and what parts of the Bible they are free to disregard.

iii) If Craig himself didn’t think the Bible teaches original sin, then that would be different. That wouldn’t be telling someone that it’s okay to disbelieve Scripture. But the surrounding context indicates that Craig does, indeed, think Scripture teaches original sin (however he understands that teaching).

So even though, apparently, he thinks the Bible teaches original sin, he is telling a correspondent that you don’t have to believe what the Bible teaches about original sin.

When Craig does this he is literally playing God. Indeed, he is playing the role of a rival God. He is acting as if God lacks the wisdom or discretion to tell people what they need to believe.

So Craig comes along and says, “Sure, God may have said that, but you’re not bound to believe whatever God tells you. Leave it to me to clarify just how much or little of God’s word you’re obligated to believe.”

My quotation didn’t distort Craig’s point. And, in fact, the surrounding context makes his statement all the more damning.

He’s trying to usurp too much control over the conversion process, as if he has to protect people against God’s word. As if God’s word is toxic in large doses. And so he assumes the self-appointed role of giving people permission to disbelieve certain Biblical teachings which constitute a “stumbling block” to their conversion.

He makes a V-sign behind God’s head when God is speaking (the rabbit-ear gesture), and with a wink and a nod, assures the audience that it doesn’t have to take this or that divine statement too seriously.

The Christian Sabbath


Pick up any classical Reformed or Lutheran Protestant confession on Sunday Worship and you'll never see the "it doesn't really matter" attitude on display. See WCF 21:7f, for example.

Several problems:

i) I’m not Lutheran.

ii) For that matter, I don’t begin by asking myself “what’s the classical Reformed position?” on this or that issue. Rather, I begin by asking myself, “what does God command, forbid, or permit?”

iii) The “classical Reformed position” is actually rather varied. For instance, see Francis Nigel Lee’s historical overview:

iv) Over and above the “classical Reformed position,” Reformed theology has also pioneered redemptive-historical theology. Applied to the Sabbath, that lends the Sabbath a fundamentally eschatological orientation. For instance, see Richard Gaffin’s analysis:

v) I didn’t evince the “it doesn’t really matter” attitude. Whether or not it “really matters” is contingent on whether or not it really matters to God, according to his revealed will.

Antecedently speaking, it really matters that we make a good faith effort to ascertain the Lord’s revealed will. Whether or not it still matters as a result of our study is a subsequent issue.

It “really matters” that we ask the question, and direct our question at the right source to answer the question. The answer will then determine if it still matters.

The whole attitude of "everything except Jesus-is-Lord is non-essential" is a joke and mockery of Christianity and nothing short of a sign that Protestantism on it's last legs.

Needless to say, my post didn’t  display the “everything except Jesus-is-Lord is non-essential” attitude. That’s a slanderous characterization of what I wrote.

“The classical Protestant approach is that the moral principles behind the 10 Commandments are to be a guide for Christian life, and the 4th Commandment touches upon the Sabbath day and it's basic precepts. From there it is argued that the Mosaic Sabbath being fulfilled in Christ, the "New Sabbath" is Sunday.”

What we have is an issue of theological method.

i) On the one hand, the Sabbatarian starts with the presupposition that the Sabbath is a creational ordinance. He begins with the terminus of the creation account in Gen 2:1-3. Strictly speaking, this has reference to divine rest, not human rest. A divine Sabbath.

However, that foreshadows the Mosaic injunctions concerning the Sabbath–where human rest is grounded in the divine exemplar. So the Sabbatarian interprets Gen 2:1-3 through the lens of later Pentateuchal statements. And since the Pentateuch is a literary unit, with intertextual connections, that’s a legitimate procedure.

That supplies the Sabbatarian benchmark against which other Biblical statements are measured and harmonized. And that’s a fairly strong argument.

ii) On the other hand, what I’ll loosely term the Baptist position begins with certain programmatic statements in the NT (Rom 14:5-6; Gal 4:9-11; Col 2:16-17; Heb 3:7-4:13). He views these passages as indicating a break with the status quo ante as we pass from the promissory stage to the era of fulfillment. That, too, is a legitimate procedure. That, in turn, supplies the Baptist benchmark against which other Biblical statements are measured and harmonized. And that, too, is a fairly strong argument.

These are both respectable arguments.

But there are other refinements:

i) A day of worship isn’t synonymous with a day of rest. In principle, a day of rest could be different from the day of worship.

Indeed, there’s a danger of turning Sunday into just another workday. A religious workday, bustling with religious activities instead of mundane activities.

ii) It’s meaningless to speak of a Sabbath “day,” as if we could identify a particular day in isolation. For a Sabbath day is inherently relative. Relative to a larger temporal sequence. The basic pattern is, of course, six days work followed by a day of rest.

So the fundamental unit is not the day, but the week. A cyclical sequence.

iii) Apropos (ii), even if you shift the sequence forward or backward by a day or so, you still preserve the sequence, as well as the symbolic significance of the sequence.

iv) The “1st day” or the “7th day” has no intrinsically religious calendrical significance. For what constitutes the “1st day” or the “7th day” is relative to whatever calendar you’re using. That’s a calendrical convention.

v) Apropos (iv), in the NT calendar, the 1st day is significant precisely because it stands in contrast to the status quo ante of the 7th day as the preexisting Sabbath.

But once you make Sunday the Christian Sabbath, then by shifting the entire sequence a day you thereby lose the original point of contrast. You lose the original framework which made the 1st day significant in the first place.

vi) As such, the significance of the date is something which must be assigned, not by the calendar, but by God, or by the understanding of the worshippers. If they worship on Sunday to commemorate the Resurrection, it is not the calendar alone which confers that symbolism. Rather, that’s an association which God or Christians must ascribe to their day of worship. And that’s true of symbolism generally.

Take communion bread. Communion bread is indistinguishable from any other bread. The symbolic significance of communion bread is something that Christians ascribe to the bread by situating the bread in a theological narrative.

vii) Or take Easter. Most Christians celebrate Easter. But there’s nothing special about the date. For the date of Easter is variable. What makes Easter significant is not the day on which we happen to celebrate Easter, but the event which that (variable) day commemorates.

viii) Ultimately, we can never worship God excessively. Everyday should be worshipful.

But since the church has a corporate life, we need to set aside times of public worship.

And it’s also edifying to set aside times of private worship, where we can give God our undivided attention.

“Now, you're free to say these Westminster folks didn't have the Holy Spirit and thus couldn't really understand what Scripture was saying (which is what you're almost forced to say), but you surely realize where that put's you.”

That’s another straw man. I have never taken the position that the Holy Spirit whispers the correct interpretation of Scripture in our ear.

“It's nothing short of Luther's ‘Here I stand,’ perpetuated throughout Protestant history, each time eroding away more and more of the heritage that came before it until there was truly nothing left to call Christian heritage and society.”

i) Well, I’m not interested in preserving a heritage for its own sake. What’s important is to honor God in our lives, according to his revealed will.

But, of course, papists like Nick reduce piety to playing-acting. He will dutifully play whatever role his denomination assigns to him.

ii) As far as that goes, many papists lament the loss of the Tridentine Mass. That was their heritage.

Disinviting Islam

Lydia McGrew: "Disinviting Islam: Part I--the need" and "Disinviting Islam: Part III--Christian Charity".

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bible-optional Christianity

William Lane Craig

As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you.

Paul of Tarsus

12Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
 15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
 18Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom 5:12-21
21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
45Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 1 Cor 15:21-22,45-49.

Hollywood Squares


Who made the following statement?

As for your two moral objections, the first is an objection to the doctrine of original sin. But once more, that doctrine is not universally affirmed by Christians and is not essential to the Christian faith. So don’t let that be a stumbling block for you.

a) Rudolf Bultmann
b) John Spong
c) Harry Emerson Fosdick
d) The Archbishop of Canterbury
e) William Lane Craig 

Before I forget

Liberals typically date the canonical Gospels to sometime after 70 AD. They also contend that since the Gospels were written decades after the event, they are unreliable.

There are several objections to this position. Their late dating schemes are quite vulnerable to criticism. In addition, they simply deny the inspiration of the Gospels, but if the Gospels were divinely inspired, then, of course, they don’t rely on the fallible recollections of the authors or their informants.

However, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Gospels were written sometime after 70 AD. And let’s bracket inspiration.

By standard reckoning, Jesus’ public ministry took place around 30-33 AD. So if a canonical gospel was written around 70+ AD, that’s about 40 years or so after his public ministry.

One of the advantages of being middle aged (I'm now 60) is that I can evaluate these liberal claims from personal experience. Let’s take one example.

When I was in grade school, my parents had a school for the fine and performing arts. It moved to different locations, but for now I’m going to reminisce about one location in particular. We were at that location from about the time I was in kindergarten until fifth grade, give or take. Based on other things I know or recollect, I can narrow it down to that general timeframe. The exact timeframe is not essential to my argument.

The basic point is that I haven’t been inside that building since I was about 10 years old (give or take). I’m currently 51. So that’s comparable to the interval between the death of Christ at the composition of the canonical Gospels if we date them to sometime after 70 AD.

Of course, that depends on how much later we date them. However, I don’t see that’s terribly pertinent to my argument, for I doubt my memory of the school will be significantly different at 65 than it was at 45. There are lots of things we forget right away. But if we remember them years later, then we continue to remember them unless we become senile.

So this is what I remember about the school–despite the fact that I haven’t been back there since I was about 10. Indeed, the school was torn down after we left.

The school was set back from the sidewalk. You walked up to the porch. You went up a few steps to the front door. When you walked through the front door, this is what you saw:

On the first floor there was a reception room to the right. It had a sofa and chairs against the exterior wall. Back issues of The New Yorker Magazine were strewn about.

Across the room was a handsome wooden desk where my dad used to sit when he got off work.

Behind the desk was a partition. Behind the partition was the dance studio.

To the right was a side room with a wooden round table.

Let’s go back to the front door.  Straight ahead was a hallway. To the left was a staircase. And a bathroom underneath the stairwell.

At the end of the hall was a big farmhouse kitchen. At the left rear corner of the kitchen was a pantry, with a door to the alley.

To the right of the kitchen was the art studio, at the back of the building, behind the dance studio.

If you went upstairs, a piano studio lay directly ahead. To the right of the piano studio was the performance hall, which extended from the front to the back of the building. It had a wooden floor with a floor register for the furnace. I also remember the fire escape. 

Facing the street, between the staircase and the performance hall, was a side room with a Victrola. 

Outside, on one corner of the lot, was a tree with a fork in the bough. (The tree was later cut down.) Along one side of the lot were blackberry bushes. A Mustang often parked on the street, just below the school. 

I remember the oboe teacher, one of our piano teachers (a jazz pianist), and one of our art teachers. The art teacher collected exotic cars as a hobby. He once took me for a ride in his three-wheeler.

I could mention some other details of the neighborhood, from when we were there. Over the years the neighborhood underwent drastic gentrification. (We didn’t live there. We just commuted to the school and back.)