Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Loftus Delusion

In response to the charge that his co-opted-from-pluralists-and-unoriginal-argument the Outsider Test for Faith is based on the genetic fallacy, Loftus says:

"This charge is also false. I allow that a religion could still pass the OTF even despite its unreliable origins . . . "(The Christian Delusion, 99, emphasis original).

In response to Victor Reppert's claim that he took and passed the "outsider test for faith," Loftus says:

"But has he? I don't think so at all. I don't think any revealed religion can pass the OTF. . . .[Believers] CANNOT all be exceptions! Believers are simply in denial when they claim their religious faith passes the OTF" (103, emphasis original).

Flat earth or flat head?

Ed Babinski is a man on a mission. His godless-given mission in life is to recruit as many professing Christians as possible to share his pointless outlook on life. After all, there’s no point to a pointless life unless you can get others to share your pointless point of view.

That’s what gives meaning to his meaningless existence. To be is to be meaningless. And his meaningless beingness would be utterly vacuous unless he could convert some others to bask in their equally meaningless beingness. That way, everybody can pool the collective nullity of their sorry existence, of which no greater nullity can be conceived.

Why, isn’t that enough to make you brave the tropical rainforests in search of headhunters who labor in darkness without your gospel of godlessness to illumine their lives?

Pursuant to his glorious mission in life, I see that Ed left one of his core dumps over at Hip & Thigh:

Edward T. Babinski said...
Hi guys.

I disagree.

Young-earth creationism is accommodationism. YECs attempt to accommodate whatever modern scientific titbits they can dig up with whatever verses in the Bible sound vaguely like they could match up with them. They are being creative and not giving themselves the credit for being so creative.

This is Ed’s little attempt to be clever. To turn tables on the YECs. Unfortunately for him, Ed’s analogy suffers from a fatal equivocation. As Fred stated in the original post, “However, the position presented by Peter Enns and John Walton and utilized by theistic evolutionists that God used accommodating language to reveal His purposes to primitive minded men create some significant theological difficulties.”

That, however, is a very different definition of “accommodationism” than Ed’s lame comparison. Moving along:

For instance, YEC Russell Humphries imaginatively tries to make Genesis 1 scientifically accurate by positing the following:

"The 'waters above' [the firmament] are beyond the most distant galaxy our telescopes have detected, at least 12 billion light years away (1 light year = 6 trillion miles). . . From my interpretation of the Pioneer data, at that distance the waters would have a total mass of about twenty times the mass of all the stars."

See Humphries' ICR article:

On the "pillars of the earth" question, I suspect something similar is going on, i.e., an imaginative attempt to try and match up the ancient "pillers of the earth" notion with the modern notion of "cratons." But is that what the ancients themselves had in mind? They undoubtedly suspected SOMETHING held the earth above the waters, and being flat earthers there's NOTHING SUPERNATURALLY SURPRISING that flat earthers would consider the idea of "pillars" supporting the earth. Other ancient views included an earth that was established/set above the waters and above the land of sheol directly by divine power. Both of those ideas appear in both the Bible and pre-biblical writings.

(Also take at look at the modern idea of "cratons." They extend to a depth of approximately 200 kilometers. But modern science also reveals that the mantle that supports the cratons extends to a depth of 2,890 kilometers, and there's still 3,470 more kilometers beneath the mantle till you reach the earth's center. So cratons only make up about 3% of what supports the earth.

Several problems:

i) Even if some YEC scientists are at times guilty of fanciful exegesis, that is not distinctive to YEC science. Is Ed claiming that OEC scientists (i.e. Hugh Ross) and TE scientists (e.g. Alister McGrath) are guiltless to fanciful exegesis to square the Bible with science?

ii) In addition, it’s hardly fair to compare YEC scientists with OT scholars. The correct comparison would be to compare different representatives within the same field, viz. compare YEC OT scholars (e.g. Hasel, Currid) with OEC OT scholars (e.g. Kline, Youngblood) and TE scholars (e.g. Waltke).

Also, notice that the Bible never speaks about what supports the oceans or what supports the earth's crust as a whole. The existence of a primordial ocean at the very beginning of creation was simply assumed.

i) To begin with, we wouldn’t expect the Bible to address that question. The Bible is written to, for, and about, land-dwellers. Fallen human beings. Not undersea explorers, &c.

ii) Is “the existence of a primordial ocean at the very beginning of creation was simply assumed”? That depends, in part, on how we construe the syntax of Gen 1:1 in relation to the remainder of the passage.

Furthermore, in the Bible and other ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts the earth does not move except during an earthquake.

One incidental consequence of that claim is that Bible verses about the immobility of the earth are irrelevant to the old geocentric/heliocentric controversy. For the motion in view is not the motion of the earth in relation to other celestial bodies, but seismic activity.

Divine power in both cases has both established/set the earth that it may not move, and also is able to move the earth via earthquakes. So, both the immobility of the earth and the occasional earthquake were viewed as signs of direct divine intervention and exhibitions of power.

How would that makes them signs of “direct” divine “intervention”?

And note that in Genesis 1 before the creation of heaven is announced, a raqia has to be created so that heaven might appear at all.

That’s a rather wooden way of handling the sequence. Isn’t creation of the raqia itself a creative means by which the sky made (i.e. creation by division)?

In summation, the imaginative interpreting is being done by YEC's who are the true accommodationists. They attempt to interpret some isolated verses by playing imaginative match up games with only some things that modern scientists have discovered. And they ignore the ancient milieu in which Genesis 1 was originally composed and the primary concerns and worldviews of the ancients who first wrote and read Genesis 1.

Among other things, we need to distinguish between creation science and interpretations of Gen 1 which treat the sequence as calendar days. For example, there’s a sense in which John Currid’s commentary on Genesis is written from a YEC standpoint, yet Currid is writing as an OT scholar, not a creation scientist.

YECs also assume that Gen. 1 was the earliest truest story when there is no evidence it was either.

Since that’s nothing more than a vague assertoric denial, it doesn’t merit a response.

Enns, Walton and other Evangelical OT scholars view Genesis in its milieu, instead of imagining that God spinkled hidden nuggests of modern scientific knowledge here and there throughout the Bible, and that "our job" is to find titbits from modern science that we can use to try and "match up" to such isolated verses.

Why classify Enns as an “Evangelical” rather than a standard-issue liberal? Is this Babinski’s attempt to give Enns more street cred with conservative Christians? But anyone who has witnessed his performance over at BioLogos can see that Enns no longer takes the inspiration of Scripture at all seriously–assuming he ever did.

Also, Walton clearly has a far higher view of Scripture than Babinski. So isn’t that appeal a two-edged sword? Remember, Babinski isn’t arguing for OED or even TE. Babinski is a militant apostate.

Noel Weeks isn't an expert in ancient cosmologies.

Here’s his CV:

“Dr Noel Weeks earned a B.Sc. (Honors in Zoology) from the University of New England, Armidale (Australia), a B.D. and Th.M. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. (Mediterranean Studies, dealing with some of the Nuzi texts) from Brandeis University, Massachusetts. He is a Senior Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Sydney, and is an Associate of their Department of Classics and Ancient History, with an interest in the Ancient Near East, specializing in Mesopotamia and Israel, and the Akkadian Language."

What are Babinski’s credentials?

Moving along:

Experts agree the 3-tier view was held for thousands of years in both ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. See, Wayne Horowitz, Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1998), and John A.Wilson, “Egypt,” Before Philosophy, ed. H. Frankfort (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1967).

I also heartily suggest Mark S. Smith's new book, The Priestly Origin of Genesis 1.

And, Othmar Keel's works:

Creation: Biblical Theology in the Context of Ancient Near Eastern Religion (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, Forthcoming Spring 2010).

The Symbolism of the Biblical World: Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Book of Psalms (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997).

Several basic problems:

i) To my knowledge, Mark Smith never wrote a book entitled The Priestly Origin of Genesis 1. Smith has written a book entitled The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1.

The fact that Babinski apparently got the title wrong raises the awkward question of whether he ever read the book.

ii) According to a book review, “Building off the scholarly consensus that Genesis 1 is a creation text of the sixth century written from a priestly perspective, Smith explores the significance that lies behind this priestly vision and how it functions as a part of the larger biblical witness to the creative activity of God.”

So Smith’s priestly angle is only as good as his 6C sitz-im-leben.

iii) Babinski also refers to a forthcoming book by Keel. That’s a revealing window into Babinski’s evidentiary standards. First make up your mind, then wait for confirmatory evidence.

iv) With reference to Keel’s other book, let’s make allowance for the genre of the Psalms. The Psalter contains a lot of poetic imagery.

v) Do “experts agree the 3-tier view was held for thousands of years in both ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia”?

a) According to Keel, “As indicated above, the world can be described not only as the sum of two parts, but of three or more as well,” The Symbolism of the Biblical World, 35.

Sounds pretty flexible to me. Also makes me wonder if Babinski actually read the book.

b) According to Horowitz, “Enuma Elish includes seven cosmic regions…When considered by themselves, the Heavens, Esarra, the earth’s surface, and Apsu/Esgalla provide a cosmography of two heavens and two earths that may be compared with the three heavens and earths of KAR 307,” Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography, 123.

So instead of a 3-tier universe, that would give us, by turns, a 4-tier universe, 6-tier universe, and 7-tier universe. Once again, that sounds pretty flexible to me. And, once again, I have to wonder if Babinski actually read the book.

vi) There is also the question of whether these ANE cosmologies represent popular belief. For instance, this is what Walton has to say about the Enuma Elish:

“Enuma Elish recounts Marduk’s emergence as the head of the Babylonian pantheon. He is patron of the city of Babylon and begins his rise to prominence early in the second millennium…Whatever cosmic associations Marduk may have had, they were subordinate to his political role, which did not reach its climax until the Kassite period or the second dynasty of Isin (12th century),” Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 337-38.

And this is what another leading scholar has to say:

“The central figure is Marduk, chief god of Babylon; however, in the early part of the first millennium when Assyria rose to become the dominant power in the world, an Assyrian scribe apparently replaced Marduk with his own god, Ashur, and made a few changes to let the story fit its new hero,” T. Jacobsen, Treasures of Darkness, 167.

“It is a mythopoeic adumbration of Babylon’s and Marduk’s rise to rulership over a united Babylonia, but projected back to mythical times and made universal…Thus was the world established as a state, a well-run paternalistic monarchy with permanent king, capital, parliament, and royal palace in Babylon,” ibid. 191.

So here we’re dealing, not with popular, perennial belief–but with a political document which fabricates a backstory to legitimate the current regime.

Of course, this doesn’t prove that various cosmographical details couldn’t be more primitive or widespread. However, it ought to caution us against assuming that official accounts represent a cultural consensus. These are polemical instruments which could be manipulated at will to serve a sectarian or partisan political agenda. Rival factions have rival etiologies to justify their superior pedigree.

Experts also agree that animism was probably the earliest religion. The earliest human artworks feature animal images and carvings, and sometimes humans with animal heads (and Rubenesque female figurines).

Playboy magazine also contains voluptuous women.

For more information please see my article, "The Cosmology of the Bible" in The Christian Delusion. Some of it may be available for viewing online via's "look inside feature." One may also order the book via interlibrary loan.

In other words, this whole thing is just a way for Ed to hawk his new book.

All and all, Ed’s exercise says less about the Biblical shape of the earth in than it does about the shape of his head (think: Kryten 2X4B-523P).

The gates of hell shall not prevail

Michael Liccione has left some comments over at CTC (, which helpfully compare and contrast Catholic and Protestant methodology, as he understands it. Let’s evaluate his statements:

Michael Liccione May 25th, 2010 3:09 pm :

Prior to the assent of faith in the Catholic Church’s claims for herself, the most that the sincere, objective, but uncommitted inquirer can do is study the dataset and reach an opinion about which version of Christianity it best supports. If one forms the opinion that the dataset best supports the claims of the Catholic Church for herself, then one has good reason to make the assent of faith in them. Even so, that is not the same as intellectual compulsion, as though one could only hold such an opinion as something perfectly obvious. The assent is a free choice which, as such, is not compelled by the dataset itself or by any particular interpretation of it.

i) One problem with this statement is the vagueness of the “dataset.” For surely one of the preliminary issues is just what dataset represents the most relevant dataset. There are rival candidates for the relevant dataset.

ii) Beyond the identification of the relevant dataset, there is also the question of one’s hermeneutical approach to the dataset. Do we interpret the dataset according to original intent? Or do we interpret the dataset diachronically and retrospective, as a developing trajectory?

iii) It’s also unclear what he means by the “asset of faith.” Is that synonymous with merely believing the claimant? Or does this represent a stronger conviction and/or commitment?

Yet, once said assent is made, one cannot but see the dataset as making said assent more reasonable than the alternatives. For by making the assent, one has ipso facto adopted what is, in effect, a hermeneutical paradigm (HP) within which all the relevant data are altogether explicable in Catholic terms. Prior to the assent of faith, the Catholic HP only appears as one opinion among others that also have a certain plausibility; after the assent, the Catholic HP can no longer appear just as an opinion, but as a way of understanding the dataset that, in certain areas, is divinely protected from error. That’s what it means to adopt the Catholic HP.

i) It’s hard to see how his bootstrapping methodology can avoid a vicious circle or vicious regress. It’s true that once you adopt the package, you are committed to the entire package. If you accept an authority source, then you accept whatever the authority source may authorize.

Yet this is contingent on your personal assessment of the evidence. On your interpretive procedures. The edifice can’t overbuild on the foundation.

Even if you now view the evidence through the prism of the Magisterium (or “Catholic HP”), that is only as solid as the underlying, non-magisterial prism which supports it. So Liccione needs something over and above this linear progression to get beyond mere “opinion” (as he puts it).

To take a comparison, suppose I need to pick an oncologist. I do some research in Best Doctors. I pick the oncologist with the best credentials.

Having done so, I may now take his word for the best course of treatment. I trust his judgment. He’s an authority in the field.

Yet my faith in him is still no better than his credentials. No better than my own research.

ii) It’s also artificial to claim that by making this assent, “all the relevant data are altogether explicable in Catholic terms.”

Either the dataset appear to be altogether explicable in Catholic terms or they don’t. It’s not as if they suddenly fall into place the moment you make the asset of faith (whatever that means). The assent of faith can’t alter appearances. They are what they are.

A Protestant as such always reserves to himself the right to judge the orthodoxy of something called “the Church” (in light of Scripture and whatever he also takes to be normative) even when he has joined what he takes to be either “the” Church or some branch thereof. Choosing to be Catholic means surrendering that putative right. If and when one comes to see the Catholic Church as the Church, and makes the corresponding assent of faith in her claims for herself, then one has chosen to have one’s orthodoxy is measured by her teaching, not vice-versa. Accordingly, a Catholic cannot see the definitive teaching of the Church as just one set of opinions over against others; nor can he see “Rome” as just one denomination or sect among others. Choosing to be Catholic means abjuring the very idea that religion is a matter of opinion, because choosing to be Catholic means joining what one has come to see as the Body of Christ, sharing in his teaching authority as her head through the bishops in apostolic succession, and thus as divinely protected from error when teaching with her full authority.

i) But this still suffers from the bootstrap methodology. For his level of commitment is underdetermined by the level of evidence which led to his membership in that organization. Frankly, it’s an exercise in make-believe. He will act as if this organization warrants a higher claim on his allegiance than the evidence warrants.

ii) It’s also hard to distinguish this from the unconditional and unfalsifiable loyalty of a cult member. What if Liccione backs the wrong horse? On his methodology, there’s no backing out. The initial asset of faith is immune to correction, even if it happens to be dead wrong.

Accordingly, the key premise of Bryan’s argument in the above post is, in effect, that the object of Catholic assent is fundamentally different in kind from the object of Protestant assent, even if the process of inquiry leading up to the assent is otherwise very similar in form and diligence. To put it in succinct technical form: the terminus ad quem is radically different even when the terminus a quo is the same. The terminus ad quem here is ecclesial infallibility, which is the pivotal feature of the Catholic HP, and requires as a correlate that some visible body is “the” Church outside of which there is no salvation. If and when one adopts that HP, then one is committed to rejecting any interpretation of the data that would falsify the Catholic Church’s claims for herself. That is the stance which various Reformed critics are reacting against when they accuse Catholics like Bryan and me of “presuppositionalism” and of trying to make Catholicism “unfalsifiable.”

Which is a valid concern.

What such critics take to be the intellectually respectable alternative to our stance as Catholics is tantamount to treating religion as ultimately just a matter of opinion; for on the Protestant HP, nobody’s teaching or profession of faith is admitted as infallible, hence all are provisional and open to future revision—by the individual, if not by the institution itself.

That oversimplifies the Protestant alternative (see below).

Epistemically, what distinguishes Catholicism from Protestantism is the sort of assent each involves. Since the Protestant recognizes no individual or ecclesial authority as infallible under any conditions, even when he considers Scripture inerrant (which not all Protestants do), the Protestant must inevitably regard as provisional any assent he might render to doctrinal statements, whether those statements are offered as mere expositions of Scripture or go beyond that. If he considers Scripture inerrant, he will of course say that his assent to the truths contained in Scripture is absolute not provisional. But to the question what the truths we can extract from Scripture actually mean or imply for doctrinal purposes, he can answer only by citing expositions and interpretations that represent his own or others’ opinions. Affirming that Scripture is inerrant, therefore, affords the Protestant as such no basis whatsoever for saying that we know what, exactly, God is revealing to us through Scripture in a manner that can be expressed by doctrinal statements. He might of course glean, from his own reading of Scripture and the work of his preferred scholars, a pretty fair idea of what the human authors of Scripture intended by their words. But given his rejection of infallible interpretive authority, the Protestant leaves himself in no position to distinguish reliably between de fide doctrines—i.e., the doctrines to which God calls for our assent—and the theological views of both authors and interpreters. Hence the Protestant as such has no way in principle to distinguish clearly the assent of faith, which is a divine gift involving assent to statements made with divine authority, from mere human opinions about what various “sources,” primarily Scripture, actually transmit to us as divine revelation.

i) One problem is this is the way that Liccione simply begs the question. He frames this as if it were a problem for the Protestant faith. But even if his characterization were accurate, where’s the supporting argument to show that this consequence is unacceptable?

ii) At the risk of repeating myself, how does this situation differ from the situation of God’s people in OT times or the Intertestamental Period?

This means, among other things, that the Protestant sees something called “the Church” in a fundamentally different way from Catholics. Given how he conceives assent to divine truth, the Protestant cannot see something called “the Church” as a sure guide to discerning it. Since “the Church” is fallible under all conditions, her orthodoxy is to be judged by what this-or-that person or group takes to be the doctrinally correct interpretation of Scripture (and other sources too, on some accounts), rather than vice-versa. Ultimately, the Protestant’s assent involves submission not to “the Church” but to himself as his most reliable guide to discerning divine revelation. “The Church,” from this point of view, is simply the set of people who ascribe to the “correct” interpretation of the sources, where what’s “correct” is what the individual believer provisionally accepts as such.

Well, that’s overstated. “The Church” doesn’t have to get everything right to be “the Church.” Consider the situation of Jews in the time of Jesus. Was there any one Jewish party which got everything right? No.

The claims of this-or-that church to a certain kind of authority thus form no part of the deposit of faith; rather, what counts as “the Church” depends on its conformity to the deposit of faith, when said deposit is understood in a manner logically independent of any ecclesial claims to authority.

And that’s what enables us to distinguish a church from a cult.

Thus “the Church” is not strictly necessary for knowing Truth himself. It might be educationally useful for some, and is certainly pastorally useful for many. But that’s about it. In principle, it’s quite possible to read the Bible alone in a room and thereby learn all that God wants us to know for our salvation.

And what’s wrong with that, exactly? What about Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist living in a country where there is no church? Is it possible for him to come to a saving knowledge of God by reading the Bible all by himself?

Of course that sort of thing yields a variety of opinions whose holders like to call “doctrines” given by the Holy Spirit. Many of those opinions are, of course, mutually incompatible. That’s why we have more Protestant denominations and sects than anybody, including Protestants themselves, can agree on how to count.

But there was great diversity in 1C Judaism. Indeed, the diversity was probably greater than our fragmentary records preserve.

When the Catholic, on the other hand, makes his assent of faith, he is among other things assenting to the claims made by a visible, historically continuous body that it is the Body of Christ on earth, authorized by him as her Head to teach in his name and thus, when speaking with her full authority, protected by his Spirit from requiring belief in propositions that are false. Accordingly, the Catholic does not, because as such he cannot, claim to know the deposit of faith in a manner logically independent of the claims the Church makes for herself. He does not, because he cannot, claim to know the “true doctrine” from the sources without depending on the authoritative certification of the sources as such by the Church, and the authoritative interpretations thereof by the Church. Thus for the Catholic, faith in the risen Christ, acceptance of the Bible as the Word of God, and faith in the teaching of the Church as that of the Body of Christ are logically inseparable from each other. And so the Catholic does not judge the orthodoxy of the Church; rather, he submits to the Church as, among other things, the judge of his orthodoxy.

What prevents a Mormon from constructing a parallel argument?

We are now in a position to address the question why the Catholic mode of assent should be preferred to the Protestant’s. But we cannot settle that question just by learning the historical dataset and deciding, with our own human judgment, whether it best supports Catholicism or some version of Protestantism. Most people are in no position to take in all the relevant data, and even those who are in such a position disagree on how to interpret it for the purpose at hand. From a historical point of view, the question is which hermeneutical paradigm to adopt for the purpose of interpreting the data: the Catholic, or some Protestant version.

i) But didn’t Liccinone originally indicate that this was a necessary, preliminary step in the process?

ii) And if most folks are in no position to take in all the relevant data, then what’s wrong with the suggestion that a man can come to saving faith by merely reading the Bible on his own?

Now the question which HP to adopt cannot be answered by appeal to the dataset itself, for the question is precisely which manner of interpreting the data is preferable. The question can only be answered, I believe, by asking ourselves which HP is better suited to distinguishing the propositionally expressible content of divine revelation itself—assuming there is such a thing as divine revelation—from mere theological opinions, and thus to facilitating the assent of faith as distinct from that of opinion. Now as you say, if Catholicism is true, the answer to that question is obvious. But if Catholicism is false, we are left only with provisional opinions. And if we are left only with provisional opinions, then we have no reliable way to distinguish from human opinion that which God actually wants us to believe.

But why is that the right question to ask? Has God told us that this is the all-important question to ask?

Doesn’t this boil down to Liccione’s personal, individualistic criterion? All he’s done is to relocate the right of private judgment.

That result is the epistemic aspect of the Protestant HP. History amply demonstrates that it doesn’t leave us with any single, self-consistent body of doctrine; it yields a variety of mutually incompatible ones. Now on the assumption that there is such a thing as a definitive divine revelation, and that even (or especially) the simple person can identify and assent to it by faith, such a result is hardly satisfactory. One would only feel obliged to accept it if one were convinced there was no alternative but to accept the idea that the Christian religion is just a matter of opinion. But there is such an alternative: Catholicism. And that fact, by itself, is a good reason to prefer Catholicism’s epistemic stance to Protestantism’s.

Notice how often Liccione talks like a deist. As if God made the world, then withdrew.

i) But what any individual believes is ultimately the result of what God causes him to believe, by giving him his unique personality and life-experience. What I believe is ultimately dependent on my personal aptitude and opportunities. My cultural conditioning. My psychological make-up. My formative experiences. My social network. My intellectual resources. And all that is ultimately traceable to God’s providence.

ii) If God wants my opinions to be revisable, then he will create, arrange, or rearrange the variables to occasion me to revise my opinions. Or if God wants my opinions to be unrevisable, then he will arrange the variables to reinforce my opinions.

iii) Revisability isn’t either good or bad, per se. Considered in isolation, revisability is neutral. If you happen to be right, then revisability is disadvantageous. If you happen to be wrong, then revisability is advantageous.

iv) Suppose I don’t come to faith in Scripture through Liccione’s schematic methodology. Suppose that God directly granted me the faith to believe in Scripture? Is that mere opinion?

I agree that Matt 16:18 does not mean that each and every bishop will remain “faithful to the principles” of the apostolic church. In fact, nobody ever said it does mean that. What it does mean, among other things, is that whichever communion of churches was once the OHCAC will always, by divine promise, remain faithful as a whole to the principles of the apostolic church–a church which, it cannot be denied, was itself the OHCAC.

i) Is that what the promise of Mt 16:18 means? How could it possibly mean that? To interpret Mt 16:18 according to the Nicene marks of the church is clearly anachronistic. That can’t very well be what it meant to Matthew’s target audience.

ii) The meaning of the Matthean/dominical terms would have to be rooted in the past, not the future. In pre-Christian Jewish usage, not 4C conciliar usage.

iii) In addition, Liccione’s inference is fallacious. For it turns on a particular definition of the church.

Liccione is defining the church in process terms, like a copy machine. Once the copy machine is put in place, it replicates the same product. Likewise, if you define the church in terms of apostolic succession, then the promise must apply to every stage of the process.

iv) But why should we define the church in process terms? Is that how Matthew or Jesus define it?

Suppose we define the church as the faithful–in union with Christ? To what does Mt 16:18 then apply?

Clearly it’s not the same bunch of people from one generation to the next. There’s a steady turnover rate, as some of the faithful die while others take their place. So the promise follows the faithful. God’s promise goes wherever his people go. And his promise keeps them faithful.

The promise is not attached to lineage, like a succession of bishops, who reproduce their own kind through ordination. Liccione’s inference would only follow if Mt 16:18 referred to a chain of incumbents, where every link in the chain is covered by the promise. But that is hardly something that Liccione can exegete from his prooftext.

So, if we can identify some later, visible communion of churches as the OHCAC, we know that that visible communion is continuous with the apostolic church and has remained faithful as a whole to its principles. But as a Protestant, such a move is not open or even, apparently, conceivable to you. You cannot first identify some visible communion of churches as the OHCAC and then, citing Matt 16:18, infer that that communion has remained faithful to the principles of the apostolic church. No, you first have to determine for yourself what those principles are, then you have to decide which church is faithful to them, and then you infer that that church is the OHCAC. (That’s assuming, of course, that you can specify any visible body or communion as “the” OHCAC, which I’ve never seen you do, despite having been asked more than once by more than one of us.)

i) To begin with, I reject Liccione’s operating framework.

ii) But let’s adapt his question. Suppose I were a pagan, living in contact with the Jews, sometime between the Mosaic era and the 1C. Suppose I were to ask myself, where can I find the true faith? Where can I find the true God?

Is there one place I should go? Well, there are times when I could go to the temple or synagogue to find the true faith. On the other hand, there were times in Jewish history when the religious establishment was corrupt. Unreliable.

Yet I could still find the true faith among the faithful. In private homes and villages. On the lips of the faithful. In the lives of the faithful.

And, of course, there was always the written revelation of God–from Moses onward. The “church” is far more decentralized, in time and place, than Liccione’s monolithic paradigm allows for.

Fiddler under the roof

Overheard on Evangel:

David Paul Regier:
Perhaps the imprecatory psalms should be accompanied by the accordion in the presence of one’s enemies.
David T. Koyzis:
David, your comment recalled to mind this old Far Side comic.

Alternatively, a fiddle might substitute for an accordion:

ברית לדוד

HT: Evangel.

Psaume 47 chanté par les pèlerins du pays de Montbéliard

HT: Evangel.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Does the Arminian Argument from Authoring Evil Backfire?

Here's one reason to think so.

Arminians seem to (I say "seem" because this whole business of "author" is terribly confusing, it's not even clear that they know what they're claiming; not only that, they use stipulative definitions of the term, and also change their definition of the term mid-debate, all of this is very confusing) claim that authoring some X means determining that X, originating that X, being the ultimate source of that X, and removing any responsibility an agent who did what was authored has, i.e., the act is not his own. Here's some quotes from arminian epologists:

The term ‘author‘ as employed by Arminians/Synergists in this case, is used in an originative sense to describe where the evil ultimately arose from. If we can identify, “whose idea was this?“, then we’ve found the author.

It always ends up being unconditionally due to God’s decree. Clearly, all the rhetoric about sin proceeding from man’s evil motives is simply an evasion of the real issue, since to the high Calvinist, even the evil motives themselves don’t come from man’s abuse of his independent will, but irresistibly arise from God’s decree


"So, by alleging that Calvinism makes God the "author of sin," I am insisting that Calvinism teaches that God "puts the initial conditions in place" for every event, so that whatsoever comes to pass does so because of God's foreordaination, decree, will and pleasure. Absolutely nothing comes to pass that was not at God's initiation. And due to this, God is the author of sin."

[When it comes to "author of sin"] "Grudem naturally assumes that people understand what he is trying to convey by using terms such as God "causing" everything that comes about in the world, or "causing" the evil actions that people do, or that God might be "responsible" for sin, etc."

"Still, it is insisted, God is not the author of sin. He is not responsible for bringing about all of the things which He brings about. He is not culpable for influencing the desires and decisions of people. God is not the author of sin. Why? Because Calvinists say so."

"How any reader cannot clearly understand how Calvinism makes God the author of sin is beyond good reason. In Calvinism, God is the Ultimate Cause behind every action, since every action was specifically suited and foreordained for each individual in just the way that God pleased by His decree."

I've also been told (by Bossmanham, for example), that if God authors an evil intention, it is his intention, he had an evil intention.

So it seems somewhat clear that if God authors your sin that means he determined it, controlled everything, ordained it, decreed it, originated it, was the cause behind it, was his idea or plan that the agent would do it, set the intitial conditions in place, etc.

But what happens to Arminianism when we look at, say:

1 Corinthians 14:33
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Hebrews 5:9
And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,

Hebrews 12:2
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

It would seem, then, that if Arminians are going to remain consistent, they need to become Calvinists! The faith they profess (that which God supposedly foresaw and then based his decision to elect on) is actually caused by God, originated in God, is God's faith, decreed by God, God planned that they would have it, God masterminded the whole thing (that they would have it), it was God's idea that they would have faith, God set up the initial conditions, etc.

We can do the same with peace and salvation. If "author" means what Arminians say it means, then they should become Calvinists. They should deny that God foresaw their faith apart from his decree, plan, origination. God masterminded their salvation, planned their salvation, caused their salvation, and set the initial conditions in place for their salvation to follow as a consequent.

If they are peaceful, they should deny that they are peaceful. They are not responsible for their peaceful disposition. If an Arminian is peaceful, he is a robot.

I suppose that the Arminian can claim that it is consistent with God's authoring their faith, peace, salvation, etc., that man has responsibility, that man originated the act in the morally relevant sense (e.g., it is really their faith, they are responsible for having faith, for "reaching out with a weak hand and accepting God's gift," etc). It is consistent that God didn't cause it, mastermind it, or have the faith in himself. That man can originate the foreseen faith in the relevant sense (to save their view of election). But if so, then they must admit the same for Calvinism. If authoring per se is consistent with this, then Arminians need another argument than the mere chanting of the mantra that Calvinism makes God the author of sin. But if they had that, they wouldn't need the author of sin argument. It would be superfluous.

I guess they can also say that authorship doesn't mean what they've been claiming, then they'd lose "the definition" of authorship and with it their argument against Calvinism. They'd need to go back to the drawing board.

Anyway, I guess I just don't get their argument, try as I might.

God is light

1 Jn 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Thibo has been quoting this verse to bludgeon Steven Names. Thibo quotes this verse to disprove the notion that God could be in any sense the source of evil. There are, however, two basic problems with Thibo’s glib, skin-deep appeal to Scripture:

1. John is using metaphors (“light” and “dark”). If Thibo is going to press the logical implications of these natural metaphors to score metaphysical points, then has he, in fact, been consistent in his inferences?

This verse compares God to a luminary. Probably the sun. A solar metaphor. Or the equivalent.

Since the sun is a luminary, it has no darkness in itself. All is light and bright within the sun. Especially the corona.

Keep in mind that I’m not describing the sun from the standpoint of modern astronomy and physics. Rather, I’m describing the appearance of the sun, and the effects of the sun, from the standpoint of 1C Jew, like the apostle John.

So the sun is a source of light. However, the sun can also cast shadows (e.g. Isa 38:8). In that respect, the sun “causes” shadows. Shadows would not be possible without sunlight.

Therefore, the fact that the sun is a source of light doesn’t preclude the possibility that the sun is also a source of darkness. For the sun can inumbrate as well as illuminate.

You could say that the sun is not the sole source of shadows. A shadow involves a relation between a luminary and some opaque object that occludes full illumination. But the sun is still a necessary condition or partial cause of shadows.

2. The standard Arminian commentary on John was written by I. H. Marshall. This is how he interprets 1:5:

“The point is not so much that God did not create darkness [“John does not raise the question of the origin of the darkness,” n3] but rather that living in the darkness is incompatible with fellowship with God,” The Epistles of John (Eerdmans 1984), 109.

Ironically, the interpretation of 1 Jn 1:5, by the leading Arminian NT scholar of his generation, directly contravenes Thibo’s appropriation of this prooftext. I’d add that Marshall’s interpretation of this verse is quite consistent with Reformed theism.

That, in turn, raises some awkward issues for Thibo. Apparently, Thibo doesn’t really care what Scripture teaches. He merely quotes the Bible for polemical purposes. He doesn’t bother to exegete his key prooftext.

And, apparently, he didn’t bother to keep up with the best Arminian scholarship on the issue at hand. Or if he is conversant with Marshall’s interpretation, he chose to suppress that information in his debate with Nemes.

Evolved Irony

As I looked through the local used bookstore yesterday, I found a copy of Jerry A. Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True ((2009). New York: Viking). The jacket flap contained praise from Edward O. Wilson, Christopher Hitchens, Steven Pinker, and Richard Dawkins, all assuring me that this book is extremely brilliant and devastating to those who would deny evolution. If you are familiar with the boasts of Darwinists, you’ll know how empty those promises are. But I figured it was only $9.98, so I might as well look at it.

While I have only just started it, the book has thus far been underwhelming. The introduction simply asserts repeatedly that evolution is true and only fundamentalists don’t believe it. For example (all italics mine):

What [Dover trial Judge] Jones had done was imply prevent an established truth from being muddled by biased and dogmatic opponents (xiii).

But evolution is far more than a “theory,” let alone a theory in crisis. Evolution is a fact (xiii).

…this volume gives a succinct summary of why modern science recognizes evolution as true (xiv).

Evolution gives us the true account of our origins, replacing the myths that satisfied us for thousands of years (xv).

But it is more than just a good theory, or even a beautiful one. It also happens to be true (xvi).

Indeed, if ever there was a time when Darwinism was “just a theory,” or was “in crisis,” it was the latter half of the nineteenth century, when evidence for the mechanism of evolution was not clear, and the means by which it worked—genetics—was still obscure. This was all sorted out in the first few decades of the twentieth century… (xvii).

True, evolution is as solidly established as any scientific fact (it is, as we will learn, more than “just a theory”), and scientists need no more convincing (xvii).

In 2006, for example, adults in thirty-two countries were asked to respond to the assertion “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals,” by answering whether they considered it true, false, or were unsure. Now, this statement is flatly true… (xviii).

Why teach a discredited, religiously based theory, even one widely believed, alongside a theory so obviously true? (xix).
My first through reading all that was: “The gentleman doth protest too much.” But the above isn’t why I wrote this post. Instead, I want to move on to one of Coyne’s analogies. Coyne writes:

Starting with the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1635, biologists began classifying animals and plants, discovering that they consistently fell into what was called a “natural” classification. Strikingly, different biologists came up with nearly identical groupings. This means that these groupings are not subjective artifacts of a human need to classify, but tell us something real and fundamental about nature. But nobody knew what that something was until Darwin came along and showed that the nested arrangement of life is precisely what evolution predicts. Creatures with recent common ancestors share many traits, while those whose common ancestors lay in the distant past are more dissimilar. The “natural” classification is itself strong evidence for evolution.

Why? Because we don’t see such a nested arrangement if we’re trying to arrange objects that haven’t arisen by an evolutionary process of splitting and descent. Take cardboard books of matches, which I used to collect. They don’t fall into a natural classification in the same way as living species. You could, for example, sort matchbooks hierarchically beginning with size, and then by country within size, color within country, and so on. Or you could start with the type of product advertised, sorting thereafter by color and then by date. There are many ways to order them, and everyone will do it differently. There is no sorting system that all collectors agree on. This is because rather than evolving, so that each matchbook gives rise to another that is only slightly different, each design was created from scratch by human whim.

Matchbooks resemble the kinds of creatures expected under a creationist explanation of life. In such a case, organisms would not have common ancestry, but would simply result from an instantaneous creation of forms designed de novo to fit their environments. Under this scenario, we wouldn’t expect to see species falling into a nested hierarchy of forms that is recognized by all biologists (pp. 9-10).
Of course, Coyne’s entire premise is false. First off, it is not at all surprising that biologists tend to classify animals similarly when you realize that they are classifying animals for similar reasons. After all, Coyne makes a big deal about how you can sort matchbooks by “size” or “color” seeming to forget that there’s nothing stopping biologists from arranging animals by size or color too. But biologists don’t do that. Why? Because when they begin their classification, they start with the assumption that the animals are related, and then sort based on those assumptions. They are not looking to classify by size; they are looking to classify by how organisms are related.

I daresay that if you hand several matchbooks to various random collectors and tell them, “These are all related to each other and we want to see if you can find out how” they will come up with many arrangements that are similar to each other. Similarity in organization does not, as Coyne claims, prove these classifications “are not subjective artifacts of a human need to classify.” That would only be true if each person came to classification without any prior concept of how they should be classified and still classified everything the same way. Furthermore, there are lots of dissimilarities in various classification schemes that are simply glossed over here by Coyne.

Coyne is also in error when he says “we don’t see such a nested arrangement if we’re trying to arrange objects that haven’t arisen by an evolutionary process of splitting and descent.” Has Coyne never seen a fractal, used a computer, or examined the management of a corporation? We see hierarchical sorting and nested arrangement all the time in intelligently created processes and objects.

Consider computer programs in more detail. With the advent of object oriented programming, the structure of all but the simplest of programs must be hierarchical. It is the most efficient means of writing complex programs across multiple platforms by hundreds of different programmers.

Furthermore, computer programs will often use the exact same libraries. Not because one program evolved from another, but because someone designed a bit of code that performed a specific function useful in many different applications, so the code snippet gets put in a library for other programmers to use. Entire modules can be created in the same way, and various different programs assembled from these modules. If someone was not aware that the programs were designed that way, it would be quite facile for someone to imagine the programs came about by descent with modification instead of being tailor made from bits of previously designed code. The evidence would seem compelling, but only because one starts off with the assumption that intelligence is not involved.

Coyne also has the following endnote that damages his matchbook analogy:
Unlike matchbooks, human languages do fall into a nested hierarchy, with some (like English and German) resembling each other far more than they do others (e.g., Chinese). You can, in fact, construct an evolutionary tree of languages based on the similarity of words and grammar. The reason languages can be so arranged is because they underwent their own form of evolution, changing gradually through time and diverging as people moved to new regions and lost contact with one another. Like species, languages have speciation and common ancestry. It was Darwin who first noticed this analogy (endnote 2, p. 235).
That’s right, after telling us that the nested arrangement proves that species were not created, Coyne shows a nested hierarchy of language. Yes, language. One of the indicators of intelligence. Talk about evolved irony!

Even if we agree with Coyne that language shows a “form of evolution” that form of evolution is most certainly NOT Darwinist. There are no random mutations followed by survival of the fittest; there is instead intelligent agents tinkering with their language. To the extent that language is an analogy of evolution, it is an analogy of theistic evolution, not Darwinism.

Thus far, Coyne’s arguments are far from persuasive. Indeed, Coyne seems to operate from a very simplistic viewpoint. He seems to believe that anything that indicates evolution must be proof of Darwinism, when in fact Darwinism is not the only theory of evolution (indeed, no one believes in Darwin’s Darwinism these days). Furthermore, Coyne seems to think that anything that looks like evolution cannot be equally explained by intelligent design either. Both of these flaws render his arguments considerably less than sound.

Perhaps he will improve as I get further in the book. But given past experience reading all the other “definitive” books on Darwinism, I won’t be holding my breath.

Selective intuition

Steven Nemes has been single-handedly debating several Arminians over at Arminian Perspectives. I’m going to quote some representative statements by his Arminian disputants, then comment.

J.C. Thibodaux, on May 25, 2010 at 10:01 pm Said:

And again, you aren’t dealing with what the scriptures say: 1 John 2:16 and 1:5 plainly contradict your idea of all evil originating from within God. When one’s philosophical viewpoints contradict scripture, it’s time to toss said viewpoint out.

Several Arminians have resorted to this fallback appeal after they lost the philosophical argument with Nemes. However, appealing to Scripture in this context is duplicitous:

i) The Arminian disputants are also using intuitive appeals and philosophical justifications, both to oppose Calvinism and defend Arminianism. Therefore, it’s hypocritical for them to do an about-face and wrap themselves in the mantle of Scripture when their philosophical tactics backfire.

ii) Libertarian freewill is a philosophical construct. As such, it is entirely proper for Nemes to respond in kind.

iii) Quoting Scripture in this debate is just a diversionary tactic. For the question at issue is not the correct interpretation of Scripture, but the inner logic of Arminian theology. For an Arminian to quote Scripture does nothing to negate the logical implications or logical tensions in his belief-system.

Given what Arminianism teaches about divine creation, omniscience, omnipotence, and providential concurrence, can Arminians insulate God from responsibility for sin and evil?

Moreover, can they insulate God from culpability given the logical implications of Arminianism, on the one hand, and what they find reprehensible in Calvinism, on the other?

J.C. Thibodaux, on May 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm Said:

Just as in a sting operation scenario, creating a situation with a known outcome based upon another person’s independent choices doesn’t constitute the one who made the scenario authoring his crime for him.

But one of Thibo’s definitions for “author” is “mastermind.” Yet whoever planned a sting operate was the mastermind behind the sting operation.

And, of course, a sting operation is a classic set-up. It creates the initial conditions for the commission of a crime. Indeed, it instigates the commission of a crime.

So if that is Thibo’s analogy to divine providence, then it backfires.

bossmanham, on May 26, 2010 at 10:44 pm Said:

If God is not the cause of sin, then we wouldn’t hold Him blameworthy. If He is the cause, why wouldn’t we? We blame Him for the creation of the universe, because He caused it.

i) For starters, notice the essentially intuitive or philosophical character of Brannon’s contention. But even though we may all begin with a pretheoretical notion of causality, Brennon will need to define his terms in order to show that Calvinism is causal while Arminianism is noncausal. Or else that Calvinism and Arminianism are both causal, but in different ways–which inculpate Calvinism and exculpate Arminianism.

ii) Furthermore, it’s child’s play to come up with intuitively plausible scenarios in which I could be both responsible and even culpable for a situation I didn’t create.

Suppose I see a little boy fall off the dock. If I don’t jump into the water and rescue him, he will drown. Am I blameless if I do nothing?

Suppose I witness a traffic accident. A car is on fire with a screaming passenger inside. She is trying to get out in time.

It is within my power to save her at no risk to myself. Am I blameless if I do nothing?

bossmanham, on May 28, 2010 at 2:34 am Said:

This is your direct causation through secondary causes, which is exactly what we are saying determinism has God doing for every act on earth. It’s totally disanalogous to an independent creature choosing to do something.

“Direct” causation through “secondary” causes is utter nonsense. If direct, then it sidesteps secondary causes–and if it uses secondary causes, then it’s indirect.

Arminian, on May 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm Said:

Has not Steven basically conceded JC’s point that Calvinism does make God the author of evil? His response seems to be, “but that’s no big deal and I think Arminianism makes God the author of evil too.”

Steven, you responded, “I don’t think I am a hyper-Calvinist.” But how can you say that when you are arguing that God is the author of evil and that that’s ok? The belief that God is the author of sin/evil is standardly regarded as a hyper-Calvinistic, heretical belief. As states (adjectives’s), most Calvinists reject as deplorable the hyper-Calvinistic and destructive belief that God is the author of sin and of evil.

Of course, this is all equivocal.

i) To begin with, Thibo was constantly redefining his terms in the course of the debate. What “author of sin” actually meant kept evolving. When one definition failed him, Thibo switched to another.

ii) ”Arminian” would also have to show that is defining the phrase in the same way that Thibo did.

iii) Nemes didn’t necessarily “concede” anything. Rather, he was arguing with Thibo (and others) on their own assumptions. It’s a perfectly legitimate move point out that Arminianism suffers from the same basic problem it imputes to Calvinism. The point of that move is to make the Arminian reconsider his objection.

iv) Even if Nemes did “concede” Thibo’s allegation that Calvinism makes God the “author of sin,” that’s a pyrrhic concession, for Nemes may not regard Thibo’s homegrown definition as morally serious.

Remember that “author of sin” is a cipher, a metaphor. The phrase itself is morally neutral. Whether or not that ascription is morally invidious all depends on how you define it, along with a larger set of ethical and metaphysical assumptions which underwrite your use of the term.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Word of God is the Word from God

From John Frame:
It may seem that we have been on a long, strenuous journey through the steps listed in Chapter 33: copying, textual criticism, translations, editions, teaching, preaching, sacraments, theology, confessions, creeds, traditions, human reception, interpretation, and understanding. It may seem that we can barely perceive the autographic text through the fog. And it may seem that with every step we lose assurance. For at every step, errors enter the picture. Can we be sure that our Bible is based on accurate copies, a proper textual tradition, sound teaching, interpretation, and so on?

But believers understand that reading the Bible is not like this. It’s not like a slog through a jungle in which we have to hack away at thousands of pieces of underbrush before we reach our destination. Rather, it is very much like listening to our father talking to us. As in Abraham’s case, we hear in Scripture a personal word from God.

If the problems of text, translation, etc. are so difficult that we can never identify the voice of God, then, of course, our faith is an illusion. Faith in Scripture is precisely hearing the voice of God, believing, obeying, and participating in his words (Chapter 39). Abraham is the primary model of Christian faith in the New Testament (Rom. 4:1-25, compare John 8:56; Gal. 3:6-29; Heb. 6:13-20; 11:8-22; Jam. 2:21-13). "He believed the Lord, and (God) counted it to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6) is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; Jam. 2:23). We too are to believe Christ, and our faith in the promise of his free grace is the instrument of our salvation.

It will not do to say that revelation is something nonpropositional, perhaps an occasional mystical experience. That is not the kind of revelation Abraham heard. God gave him commands, and an intelligible promise. Our salvation is grounded in that promise. Without it, there is no hope.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul expresses amazement that some in the church have come to deny that the dead are raised. He replies:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:12-19)
If there is no resurrection for human beings, then not even Christ has been raised. We know that Christ has been raised, so certainly there is a resurrection for all believers. But how are the Corinthians to be sure that Jesus was actually raised from the dead? The answer is that they have learned this in a personal word from God:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Cor. 15:1-12)
Now apologists often quote this passage as a list of evidences for the resurrection, and it certainly is that. Paul lists resurrection appearances to apostles, even one appearance to five hundred brothers at once, some of whom are still alive and therefore, we should assume, capable of testifying. But the Corinthians, most of them, had not personally witnessed the resurrection. Nor had they (or would they) individually cross-examine the witnesses. For them, the knowledge of the resurrection comes from another source, namely the preaching of Paul (verses 1-3, 11-12). Paul’s primary argument is that the resurrection of Christ was part of the apostolic preaching, the preaching God used to plant the church. To doubt that is to doubt the whole gospel. To reject the resurrection is to reject Paul’s preaching as "vain" (14) and faith itself as vain. And if our faith is futile, we are yet in our sins (17).

Paul’s preaching was like the promise to Abraham: a personal word from God. Our faith too is based on this personal word. If we have no personal word, our faith is futile, and we are yet in our sins. And if we cannot identify God’s word (despite the history of textual and interpretative problems), then we have no hope. Christianity is a sham.

However, we have seen that God intends to speak personal words to his people. He acknowledges no barriers that can keep him from communicating with us successfully. And believers throughout the centuries have been assured that God’s word is true. They have found that word to be trustworthy enough to build their lives upon it, to trust it as their only comfort in life or death, to believe and obey it no matter what the unbelieving world may say.

How is such assurance possible? For one thing, it is not at all difficult for God. Abraham’s case was also problematic. Humanly speaking, it is hard to understand why he would accept God’s word. His reason and emotions must have questioned the notion that he should leave his home to dwell in a new and strange land (Gen. 12:1). Even more, his instincts must have rebelled against the idea that God would want him to sacrifice his beloved son, the son of the covenant (Gen. 22:2). Any of us would have been inclined to say that the voice asking him to do such things could not have been the voice of God. But God somehow managed to identify himself. Abraham was assured that this was the word of God. It was the highest assurance, because it came from God himself. Similarly, God gets through to believers today. The unbelieving world, the academic establishment, and our own rebellious inclinations, pose a thousand reasons why we should not accept Scripture as humble servants. The problems of text, interpretation, and theology often seem insuperable. Nevertheless, many still believe, and their number increases. It is hard to account for this. However, it is God at work.

Subjectively, it works like this. When someone believes God’s word with true faith, he or she does not accept it through autonomous reasoning, through the consensus of scholars, or through an independent examination of evidences. We do not believe God because we have subjected God to our tests and the tests of others. Rather, God’s word is the foundation of our thought.[1] God’s word is the ultimate criterion of truth and right. It is the judge of what reasoning is valid and sound. The ultimate test of a scholar is whether his work agrees with Scripture. And Scripture determines what evidences are to be believed.

It is God himself who enables us to accept his word as our foundation, our presupposition.

To say this is not to deny that Scripture presents problems to us. Often, it is not easy to know what Scripture is saying, or to answer the objections that arise in our hearts. So there is much in the Bible of which we do not have assurance, even when we seek to trust God’s word as our presupposition.

But the Christian life is a journey, a movement from faith to more faith (with, to be sure, ups and downs along the way). This is both a journey toward better understanding and toward overcoming our unbelief (Mark 9:24). The latter process is called sanctification. The former process is also related to sanctification: our level of understanding is related to our level of trust and obedience.[2] But our lack of understanding is also related to our finitude, our inability to resolve all the questions that the phenomena of Scripture pose to us.

But every believer begins with certainty. When we trust in Christ, we "know" that we have eternal life (1 John 5:13), and we "know" that he hears our prayers (verse 15).[3] As I mentioned earlier, if we have faith at all, we know that Christ has been raised from the dead. It is our fundamental confession that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God (Matt. 16:16; compare John 6:69). Such facts become our presuppositions, the foundations of knowledge.

These presuppositions are the ultimate criteria of truth for a Christian. All other ideas must be consistent with them. They form the foundation on which all our other knowledge is to be built. When someone raises an objection that conflicts with one of these presuppositional beliefs, we know that objection is false, whether or not we can otherwise refute it.

But there are things in the Bible we do not understand well enough to affirm them with this kind of assurance. My former colleague Richard Pratt uses a diagram called the "cone of certainty" to illustrate this problem. It is simply a cone with the narrow end at the top and the broader end on the bottom. At the narrow end of the cone are those beliefs we are sure of: say, the existence of God, the deity of Christ, his resurrection, salvation by grace through faith, and so on. At the bottom of the cone, there are matters in Scripture of which we are very unsure: Where did Cain get his wife (Gen. 4:17)? Why did Jephthah keep the vow to make his daughter an offering (Jud. 11:29-40)? Why was it such a serious crime for somebody to gather sticks on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36)? At the bottom of my cone is God’s reason for bringing evil into the world, and the timing of the millennium. We may have views about such matters, but we are not sure of them.

In between the bottom and the top are matters one which we may have opinions, but we would not claim they are absolutely certain. For me, these would include the mode and subjects of baptism, the frequency of the Lord’s Supper, the biblical pattern for church government, and the nature of Jesus’ ignorance (Matt. 26:36).

As we grow as believers, there is movement through the cone. Some things of which we were once very certain become uncertain. Other things of which we have been uncertain become certain. But the overall progression, I think, is toward greater certainty. Scripture values certainty; and therefore our sanctification moves toward that goal, as part of the holiness God seeks in us.

The Bible often tells us that Christians can, should, and do know God and the truths of revelation (Matt. 9:6; 11:27; 13:11; John 7:17; 8:32; 10:4-5; 14:17; 17:3; many other passages). Such passages present this knowledge, not as something tentative, but as a firm basis for life and hope.

Scripture uses the language of certainty more sparingly, but that is also present. Luke wants his correspondent Theophilus to know the ‘certainty’ (asphaleia) of the things he has been taught (Luke 1:4) and the ‘proofs’ (tekmeria) by which Jesus showed himself alive after his death (Acts 1:3). The centurion at the cross says ‘Certainly (ontos) this man was innocent’ (Luke 23:47, ESV).

The letter to the Hebrews says that God made a promise to Abraham, swearing by himself, for there was no one greater (6:13). So God both made a promise and confirmed it with an oath, ‘two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie’ (verse 18). This is ‘a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul’ (verse 19). Similarly Paul (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and Peter (2 Pet. 1:19-21) speak of Scripture as God’s own words, which provide sure guidance in a world where false teaching abounds. God’s special revelation is certain, and we ought to be certain about it.

On the other hand, the Bible presents doubt largely negatively. It is a spiritual impediment, an obstacle to doing God’s work (Matt. 14:31; 21:21; 28:17; Acts 10:20; 11:12; Rom. 14:23; 1 Tim. 2:8; Jam. 1:6). In Matthew 14:31 and Romans 14:23, it is the opposite of faith and therefore a sin. Of course, this sin, like other sins, may remain with us through our earthly life. But we should not be complacent about it. Just as the ideal for the Christian life is perfect holiness, the ideal for the Christian mind is absolute certainty about God’s revelation.

We should not conclude that doubt is always sinful. Matthew 14:31 and Romans 14:23 (and indeed the others I have listed) speak of doubt in the face of clear special revelation. To doubt what God has clearly spoken to us is wrong. But in other situations, it is not wrong to doubt. In many cases, in fact, it is wrong for us to claim knowledge, much less certainty. Indeed, often the best course is to admit our ignorance (Deut. 29:29; Rom. 11:33-36). Paul is not wrong to express uncertainty about the number of people he baptized (1 Cor. 1:16). Indeed, James tells us, we are always ignorant of the future to some extent and we ought not to pretend we know more about it than we do (Jam. 4:13-16). Job’s friends were wrong to think that they knew the reasons for his torment, and Job himself had to be humbled as God reminded him of his ignorance (Job 38-42).

So, Christian epistemologist Esther Meek points out that the process of knowing through our earthly lives is a quest: following clues, noticing patterns, making commitments, respecting honest doubt. In much of life, she says, confidence, not certainty, should be our goal.[4]

I agree. But in regard to our knowledge of God’s word, certainty should be our goal. We should not be complacent with doubt, but we should use all the abilities God has given us to advance in knowledge of his word. Besides following clues, noticing patterns, etc. we should employ our spiritual resources: prayer, sacrament, teaching. In all these, God comes through to us. That is to say, as we obey the revelation of which we are certain, God grants us certainty about other things.

To speak of this journey toward certainty is to speak of the workings of the Holy Spirit, the subject of the next chapter.[5]


[1] It should be obvious to those who know about such things that I am not asserting "foundationalism" in the sense that it is usually criticized today. For some observations on the subject, see DKG, 128-29, 386-87. I do not believe that all human knowledge should be deduced from Scripture, as Descartes tried to deduce all human knowledge from his foundational argument. But I do maintain that all human knowledge must be reconcilable with Scripture.

[2] See DKG, 40-49.

[3] I am describing here the faith of normal adults. God is able to make special provision for those who are unable to understand propositional content. See WCF 10.3.

[4] Esther Meek, Longing to Know (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2003).

[5] The present chapter may be usefully compared to my article, "Certainty," available at

The divine inciter

slw, on May 27, 2010 at 8:00 pm Said:

The Bible makes it quite clear that God is, in fact, not the author, promoter, inciter, or anything other than the judge of sin. Therefore, Calvinism is an unbiblical system, and not true.

2 Sam 24:1,10

1 Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah."...10But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly."


slw, on May 27, 2010 at 8:00 pm Said: The Bible makes it quite clear that God is, in fact, not the author, promoter, inciter, or anything other than the judge of sin. Therefore, Calvinism is an unbiblical system, and not true.

Here's one unfortunate conclusion we can draw from the above:

  • Therefore, God is not the forgiver of sin.

Skipper of a sinking clipper

J.C. Thibodaux, on May 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm Said:

God isn’t obligated to stop humanity from destroying itself, His omnipotence & omniscience don’t change this fact.

Thibo is like a sailor in a squall who rips out planks from the keel to lighten the ship. But even though ripping planks from the keel does, indeed, lighten the ship, it also has the unfortunate side effect of swamping the ship from below.

One plank of Arminianism is the omnibenevolence of God. In order to defend Arminian theism against the argument from evil, Thibo already torn that plank from the keel.

Another plank of Arminianism is a direct correlation between ability and responsibility. According to Arminians, degrees of inability mitigate responsibility. Total inability is exculpatory.

But Thibo now rips this plank from the Arminian ship as well. He has reversed the Arminian principle. What we now have is an inverse correlation between ability and responsibility. For him, the agent with the greatest ability (God) has the least responsibility.

But if there’s no correlation between ability and responsibility, then what becomes of the Arminian objection to predestination?

Since Thibo is determined to scuttle his own ship, the Calvinist might as well take a dockside seat and watch it sink at the hands of the Arminian captain.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ophidian Arminians

J.C. Thibodaux, on May 20, 2010 at 6:06 pm Said:

The sovereign God holds power of life and death for His creations, and therefore has no obligations to stop evil from being committed or prevent His creations from destroying each other, and is therefore not responsible for their actions in any moral sense.

J.C. Thibodaux, on May 23, 2010 at 6:46 pm Said:

Then I would have to conclude that definition of moral responsibility can’t be applied to God for allowing evil. He isn’t an eligible candidate for blame simply by His allowing the event to occur regardless of His reasons, as He has no obligation to keep it from occurring, and hence there’s no basis on which He can be blamed.

It's ironic to see what Arminians must resort to to construct a libertarian theodicy. The standard appeal of Arminianism is that God is so loving and caring and equitable.

But in order to defend their conception of God against the argument from evil, Arminians are now taking the position that God has no moral obligations to his rational creatures. That's reminiscent of Medieval voluntarism and nominalism. The very thing that Calvin inveighed against.

In so doing, they have done a 180 from the sales' pitch of Arminianism. Indeed, this makes supralapsarian Calvinism positively cuddly by comparison.

In fact, they are casting God in the role of viviparous snakes that abandon their young at birth to fend for themselves. "You're on your own now, kiddies! I'm outta here! If you're eaten before you make it to your first birthday, tough luck!"

Verminous theodicy


"I still don't understand the need for mosquitos."

God made them for hell. They were created to make life a bit more stimulating for the damned.

However, the day of judgment has yet to arrive, so they are having a temporary layover on earth before they proceed to their final destination.

Eli the priest

Robert, on May 26, 2010 at 8:21 pm Said:

Steven (2) makes some very good points which the determinist Steven[Nemes] completely ignores and refuses to deal with….Steven (2) also makes the biblical point that the parents are not responsible for the sins of their children: each is responsible for his own actions and his own sins. Determinists such as Steven [Nemes] seem to ignore this biblical truth clearly presented by the Ezekiel passage which Steven (2) cites.

1 Sam 2:12-17,27-36

12Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. 13The custom of the priests with the people was that when any man offered sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come, while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand, 14and he would thrust it into the pan or kettle or cauldron or pot. All that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is what they did at Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15Moreover, before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, "Give meat for the priest to roast, for he will not accept boiled meat from you but only raw." 16And if the man said to him, "Let them burn the fat first, and then take as much as you wish," he would say, "No, you must give it now, and if not, I will take it by force." 17Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the LORD, for the men treated the offering of the LORD with contempt.

27And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, "Thus the LORD has said, 'Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh? 28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel. 29Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?' 30Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: 'I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,' but now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 31Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house, so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32Then in distress you will look with envious eye on all the prosperity that shall be bestowed on Israel, and there shall not be an old man in your house forever. 33The only one of you whom I shall not cut off from my altar shall be spared to weep his eyes out to grieve his heart, and all the descendants of your house shall die by the sword of men. 34 And this that shall come upon your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, shall be the sign to you: both of them shall die on the same day. 35 And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. 36And everyone who is left in your house shall come to implore him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and shall say, "Please put me in one of the priests’ places, that I may eat a morsel of bread.'"

Rogue Romanism


“1) As background, there are real limits to what the Church hierarchy can do with Notre Dame both legally and canonically. And since at least the Land O' Lakes Declaration in the 60s, ND has made it clear that it isn't going to be docile about accepting pastoral oversight.”

i) Last time I checked, the president of ND is a Catholic priest. Is Heschmeyer telling us that the Vatican, or the Diocesan Bishop, has no control over the actions of its priests?

Yet Catholic apologists fault Protestantism because we lack an accountability system. We’re a law unto ourselves. Freelance agents. “Ecclesial deism” and all that good stuff.

If, however, Catholics priests are also freelance agents, who are canonically at liberty to defy their religious superiors, then Catholicism suffers the same systemic problem that it imputes to Protestantism.

ii) Isn’t it circular to excuse the hierarchy because there are “canonical” limits to what the hierarchy can do to rein in a “stubborn” priest? After all, isn’t the Vatican the source of canon law in the first place? So if there are “real limits,” then these are self-imposed limits. Why not rewrite canon law?

“If you're arguing in good faith here, you presumably want the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to enforce orthodoxy on the abortion issue. That's exactly what they tried to do here. There was a small and recalcitrant group legally in charge of deciding whether or not to honor Obama. They refused the exhortations of literally dozens of Catholic bishops.”

So the hierarchy can only “exhort” a “stubborn” priest to do the right thing? If a priest disobeys his religious superiors, is he not subject to ecclesiastical discipline?

“You can determine this pretty empirically. Look to the first-responders to the abortion issue, trace who's given the most money, who's got the most volunteers praying and protesting, who makes up the overwhelming majority of March for Life marchers, however you want to measure it. The Catholic Church manned the pro-life cause virtually single-handedly prior to the early 1980s.”

Of course, Catholic politicians have also been in the vanguard of legalizing abortion. If we want to determine this “empirically,” we could begin with all the proabortion Catholics in Congress. Or what about the late Justice Brennan, who was instrumental in legalizing abortion. What about proabort Catholic governors? And big city mayors?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Before I offer specific replies, I’ll make a general observation. As I’ve noted before, one of the ironies of life in a fallen world is that a righteous man is often friendless in his time of need while wicked men are rarely at a loss for friends who rush to their defense.

We see this is the Catholic abuse scandal. Once again, just compare the running series that Beckwith has done defending the Catholic establishment with the whistleblowers over at (to take one example).


"Steve is making a gross stereotype of the Catholic church priesthood as being entirely made up of pedophiles."

A fallacious inference.

"Sorry Steve. I think you misrepresent the Catholic church when you refer to it as a 'pedophilic institution.'"

An assertion in search of an argument.

The Roman Magisterium has been facilitating clerical pederasty for decades. It only began to back down after the conspiracy of silence was broken and the lawsuits began to mount.

One doesn't have to be a pederast to be complicit in pederasty. A businessman can operate an "escort" service even if he doesn't personally sample the goods.

But typically, for morally-challenged individuals like you and Beckwith, you're far more concerned with protecting the abusive institution rather than the abused minors.


"Fallacious inference Steve and an ad-hominem to boot."

To merely say something is fallacious doesn't make it so.

And in Biblical ethics, what we do, or fail to do ("ad hominem") matters just as much as logical validity.

Misconduct, both on the part of the Catholic clergy and her shameless defenders, is very much the issue.

"When did I say, we shouldn't protect minors from pederast priests?"

That's just a throwaway line. You don't care about that. That's not what you spend your time on. Rather, you spend your time defending an abusive institution.

"My claim is that you are misrepresenting the Catholic church by calling it an 'pedophilic institution.'"

Calling something a misrepresentation doesn't make it so.

"Please stick to the topic at hand."

When you defend the goats rather than the sheep, you put yourself in the goats' column. Remember that before you die, lest you find out the hard way.

"That's true, but to say that the entire institution of the Catholic church was complicit, like the image of the businessman you use, would be an incorrect assessment of the church"

I judge a hierarchical institution by the conduct of the hierarchy. That's the nature of the beast.


“I think that Steve is referring to this link on Beckwith's blog:”

Wrong. I wasn’t alluding to just one post by Beckwith. Beckwith has been posting a number of things defending the Catholic establishment against critics of the abuse scandal. That’s just one of several.

“In it Beckwith merely tells his readers to consult a post by Trent Dougherty, a colleague of his. If you read Dougherty's post carefully, it will show Triablogue readers that Mr. Hayes' charges on this blog are borne of bigotry and not reason.”

i) The “bigotry” charge is becoming a popular trope among Catholic epologists. Of course, social liberals return the favor by accusing the Roman church of bigotry, sexism, homophobia, &c., for it’s restriction of the priesthood to men. So it might behoove Catholic epologists to avoid wielding a double-edged sword in case it slips and cuts them to death.

ii) This is also related to the victim card which Beckwith and other Catholic epologists are wont to play these day. But to cast the Roman church in the role of victim is no more convincing than attempting to victimize Al Capone. The church of Rome is a vast, multinational operation with a battery of lawyers who run interference for malfeasant clergy. It has often been in bed with the political establishment, and exploited those connections to shield itself from legal accountability.

iii) The language of “bigotry” is the language of intimidation rather than persuasion. And effort to silence the critics by shaming then rather than arguing them down. The last resort of the scoundrel.

“As Dougerty points out, there were are bad priests, but their numbers are on average lower than what goes on in Protestant congregations as well as the teaching profession.”

From what I can tell, that simply regurgitates the John Jay Report. What are we to make of that?

Well, as one Catholic reviewer notes:

• Even as the reports were released, the Bishop Accountability website listed eight priests facing civil suits for child molestation who continued to serve in parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

• As Philip Lawyer, editor of The Catholic World Report noted, Archbishops Weakland and Sanchez – confessed offenders – continue to function as Prelates, “performing Confirmations and receiving the full dignity of the office they disgraced” (CWR, April 2004).

• Since the release of the reports, more new and grave allegations against ecclesiastics have risen. To mention only several cases involving Bishops, investigations are underway on the alleged pedophilia of Bishop Dupre of Springfield (who incidentally has resigned), and Bishop Howard Hubbard faces accusations of sexual misconduct and covering for an Albany ring of homosexual priests.

The report that intended to close the question on pedophilia in the clergy had some essential weak points.

First, the John Jay report lacked the major requirement of impartiality necessary for an objective study. To be impartial, the results must be issued by a person or organ that enjoys the prerogative of independence – with no links to either party in the trial, be they links of blood, money, or any other kind; no external pressures; no personal interests. Although its name suggests an official organ of justice, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice is not independent. It is just a private company hired by the Bishops to make a survey about themselves. That is, the Bishops were paying the bill.

Second, it also fell short in another important requisite for its findings, which is objectivity. The data for the survey were furnished by the Bishops themselves, without any guarantee that they were giving all the information they should. That is to say, it gave the results the Bishops wanted to give to issue findings against themselves - something enough to silent the general indignation.

Here’s another instance of slippery stats:

Let’s take a quick look at his claims:

260 reports of sexual abuse of minors per year by Protestant “church-related folks (not specifically ministers)


228 reports of sexual abuse of minors per year by Roman Catholics “clerics” (he doesn’t specify whether that includes deacons)

His use of raw numbers is interesting. The raw numbers are about the same, but there are about twice as many Protestants as Roman Catholics. Guess what that means … it means that on a per capita basis the abuse rate is twice as high.

Also note that he’s comparing reports made to insurance companies (not only those that are “credible reports”) with “credible reports” as determined by the church whose servants the alleged perpetrators are. The goal of this apples and oranges comparison is clear.

And that article is just one of many deceitful defenses of Rome’s clergy.

“By focusing only on Catholics and ignoring his own tradition and its crimes, Hayes shows himself to be a bigot of the first order.”

i) Needless to say, it’s fallacious to compare just one denomination (the Roman Church) with a number of other denominations (Protestant churches).

ii) My tradition is the Reformed tradition. Feel free to cite reputable stats that Reformed pastors in, say, the OPC, PCA, and/or URC seduce underage boys at the same rate as Roman Catholic clergy; that their superiors shuttle the abusers from one church to another, &c.

iii) The comparison is fallacious in another respect as well. I, as a Protestant, don’t swear my unconditional fealty to any particular denomination–unlike the Roman Catholic.

Although Protestant theology can be institutionalized, Protestant theology is not an institution. Protestant theology is portable.

iv) Keep in mind that for the loyal Catholic, the percentages are irrelevant. 95% of the priesthood and episcopate could be active pedophiles, but that wouldn’t make a dent in the allegiance of the loyal Catholic. For the claims of Rome are unfalsifiable.

“Mr. Hayes has a right that critique Catholicism or any other religion that he thinks is mistaken. I speak for many who would defend his liberty to make his case.”

Well, things are looking up since the halcyon days of the Holy Inquisition and the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

“But he has no moral right to slander the innocent.”

Notice this single-minded preoccupation with defending the Catholic establishment rather than underage children.


“Beckwith posted his (or more accurately, Trent's) ‘blunt Q & A,’ which provides substantial arguments. I'm not saying the arguments all irrebutable, but they're arguments.”

Yes, in Catholic polemics, a bad argument is just as good as a good argument. Even better.

“The argument is facially silly. First, it's not true, as Steve claims, that 'the Roman Magisterium has been facilitating clerical pederasty for decades,' in a meaningful sense of that sentence. The Magisterium is the teaching authority of the Church. The bad bishops in question failed in their pastoral responsibilities, but that's not a Magisterial function, even though it's an episcopal function…Your erroneous invocation of the Magisterium suggests the depths of your ignorance on this subject.”

Well, according to Cardinal Dulles, “The term ‘Magisterium’ designates not only the function of official teaching but also the body of persons who carry on this function, the official teachers,” Magisterium: Teacher and Guardian of the Faith (Sapientia Press 2007), 3.

But that evidently suggest the depths of the good Cardinal’s lamentable ignorance on this subject.

“The only way you could say with any degree of honest that the Magisterium was at fault is if the Catholic Church taught that pedophilia was ok, which of course, it doesn't. The opposite, of course, is true.”

Which of course is vintage Pharisaism. Only judge us by what we say and never by what we do.

By contrast, God doesn’t issue a perpetual lease to the religious establishment: “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Mt 21:43).

It’s fine with me if Catholics want to stake out that position. That’s just one more reason not to be Catholic.

"Are all taxpayers responsible for the abuses and scandals caused by politicians, since their tax dollars "enable" the government, and thus, somewhere along the line, pay a minute portion of the salary of the politican?"

Taxation is compulsory. Belonging to the church of Rome is not. No one was forcing Beckwith to join (or rejoin) the Roman church. And the Roman church is hardly the only wheel in town. It’s not as if he lacks better alternatives.

"Apply that logic to any other situation."

And your blanket dismissal would make it impossible for anyone to ever be complicit in the crimes of the organization to which he voluntarily belongs and and actively participates.

“Finally, the entire tone of the piece is entirely unbecoming to a Christian.”

i) No doubt defensive Catholics would prefer that I confine myself to antiseptic euphemisms. However, the Bible is never afraid to use graphic language to characterize sin (e.g. Isa 57:3-9; Ezk 16; 23; 43:7-9; Jer 2:20,23-24; 3:1-23; 13:26-27; Rev 14; 17-19).

But I realize that from a Catholic standpoint, Biblical candor is entirely unbecoming to a Christian.

ii) Once again we have a Catholic apologist who is offended by graphic words rather than graphic deeds.

“Steve calls the victims of pedophlia ‘butt-boys.’”

I use a graphic word because that graphically denotes the way in which underage males were used by pederasts in the Catholic clergy. HESCHMEYER waxes indignant at the use of a word, and not the practice to which it corresponds. No wonder he defends Beckwith. One moral blind man vouching for the morality of another moral blind man.


“Steve: You're far from logical. You exhibit all the characteristics of a bigot blinded by hatred. Did you read the article that Beckwith linked to? If not, you're an intentional ignoramus. (The fact that you don't link to it here reveals your fear of being called out for your idiocy). Dougherty skewers the stupidity and bile you are spewing here.”

i) So a paragraph laden with invective (“bigot,” “blinded,” “hatred,” “ignoramus,” “idiocy,” “stupidity,” “bile,” “spewing” represents your Catholic standards of logicality. Thanks for leading by example.

ii) In fact I do respond to the article in question (see above).

“You are committing several fallacies: Guilt by association.”

There can be genuine guilt-by-association. If I’m a Klansman, I’m complicit even if I never personally lynch a black man. If I’m a consigliere, I’m complicit even if I never ordered the hit.

For somebody who prides himself on logicality, logic is not your strong suit.

“Just because Mr. Jones is a Catholic and defends Catholicism does not mean that he should be saddled with every bad thing other Catholics do…”

When Catholics attack the Protestant faith, they fault it for being individualistic. But when Catholics defend Catholicism against charges of institutional corruption, they appeal to individualism. Mustn’t tar the institution for the actions of individuals, however high up the food chain.

“Especially when Catholic moral theology FORBIDS the practice.”

As long as you verbally forbid the practice, you’re blameless if you facilitate the practice. That disclaimer would come in very handy for career criminals.

“The Catholic Church is the only Christian group that has consistently resisted the cultural corruption of the Far Left.”

I guess Nancy Pelosi didn’t get the memo. Where’s her bishop?

“Who issued the first real salvo against modernism? Piux [sic] X: 'PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS.'

So why does the Vatican sanction theistic evolution? Why does the Vatican appoint liberals like Raymond Brown and Joseph Fitzmyer to the Pontifical Biblical Commission?

“If it's not the Council of Trent, it's purgatory, or the Council of Florence mentioning Jews.”

Thanks for pointing out that Catholicism is a target-rich environment. A veritable buffet of ethical and theological decadence. One must keep going back for seconds and thirds just to sample the sheer variety of error.

“You're like a communist who reads the Wall Street Journal.”

If I were a commie, I’d find more congenial reading material by perusing the “Social Justice Issues” at the USCCB website.

“It is really, really obvious, and embarrassingly clownish…Ad hominem. Name-calling is wrong if it is a cover for good arguments (or in this case, any argument). Steve, are you a gown up?”

Thanks for reminding me that name-calling is wrong–“bigot,” “blinded,” “hatred,” “ignoramus,” “idiocy,” “stupidity,” “bile,” “spewing,” “communist,” “clownish,” &c.