Saturday, September 18, 2010

"The Atonement under Fire"

"The SBJT Forum: The Atonement under Fire," SBJT 11.2 (2007), 112–14.

BTW, Carson's contribution to the same is also available here (PDF).

The elvesdidit

A Review of Who Was Jesus? by Acharya S
By John W. Loftus at 9/01/2007

Who Was Jesus?: Fingerprints of the Christ, by D.M. Murdock (a.k.a Acharya S) is a provocative look into what we can know about Jesus...In what I consider the best chapter of her book, Murdock spends 41 pages dealing with the “Questions About the Gospel Story.” She deals with such questions as the implausibility of certain miracles in the gospel stories like the purported virgin birth of Jesus, failed prophecies, chronological discrepancies, erroneous interpretations, and historical errors like Quirinius’ census, "Abiathar or Ahimelech," Mosaic authorship, and so forth. Then in the next chapter she effectively deals with Christian apologetic attempts to deal with these problems.

I'm gratified to learn that John Loftus and Acharya have such high standards of plausibility. Speaking of which–when I mouse over to her website:

• Phantom ships and sailors appear and disappear on lakes and the open seas.
• Cultures around the world claim to be descended from or taught by "sky people," reflecting that ancient man had the capacity to fly.
• Eskimos claim to have been brought north in "metal birds."
• Men dressed in black, often in the style of the day, have been reported for centuries. They sometimes seem quite malevolent or alien, or speak unintelligibly and do bizarre things like eat cigarettes.
• Giants, elves and alien creatures of all sorts have been reported for millennia to have descended from the skies or appeared out of the ground or from the ocean.
• Tiny, intricate artifacts such as spears and coffins are found that appear to have been made by elves.

"Restorative justice"

According to JD Walters:

But what if the following conditions held: suppose the perpetrators of genocide were to become fully aware of the enormity of their crimes and were overwhelmed with remorse (again not just because they were caught but because they realized how deeply they wronged and violated their victims), all the hurt and suffering of the victims were completely erased so that the dead came back to life and wounds healed, including their memories so that they did not even remember the pain and anguish of their persecution, and a new society appeared in which it would be impossible for any further abuses to take place? Would we still demand that the perpetrators suffer?...In such a condition, the only compensation that those who lose a loved one to murder can get is the satisfaction of knowing that the murderer is being punished. And in order to maintain its authority, the state has no choice but to uphold the law and mete out punishment. Note however that this is only partial compensation: it is not justice, because the loved one is still dead, and the murderer may still be unrepentant. True justice would be for things to be made right: the dead loved one restored to life, and the murderer repentant.

Suppose a mad scientist kidnaps children and tortures them to death. Every time he tortures them to death, he feels sorry for his crime. Every time he dismembers them, he weeps.

So he brings them back to life, repairs the physical damage, and erases their memories of the ordeal. Then he repeats the cycle ad infinitum.

Is the fact that he restores the status quo ante each time true justice? Is the fact that he feels bad about his crime true justice?

Are you washed in the blood?

According to JD Walters:

“But when we really think about it, although we feel that punishment should be meted out for wrongdoing, is it true that justice has actually been done? So the Nazi officers who were tried and sentenced to death at Nuremberg got what they deserved...but their victims are still dead, and the survivors traumatized. The husband of a murdered wife may feel a sense of satisfaction watching the murderer go to the electric chair, but the wife is still gone, and nothing, not even the satisfaction of seeing punishment meted out can fully compensate for that loss.”

i) Of course, this confuses mundane punishment with everlasting punishment. Mundane punishment was never meant to be adequate. That’s what hell is for.

ii) It also assumes that the only rationale for retributive punishment is pragmatic. If it compensates for the wrong. But this overlooks the fact that justice is worthwhile in its own right.

iii) What is JD’s notion of adequate compensation, exactly? Is this a time-travel scenario whereby God turns back the clock to prevent the original crime?

“I suggest that what really lies behind our desire for justice is not for punishment to be meted out, but things to be made right.”

Which assumes that punishing the wicked is not a part of making things right.

“Let me illustrate with a less dramatic example. Suppose a thief breaks into my house and steals a priceless heirloom. The thief is caught without the heirloom ever being found, and is sentenced to pay a fine or goes to jail. Yes, that may be appropriate, but what I really want is my heirloom back. The punishment of the thief does not compensate for the loss of the heirloom. Now imagine that a thief steals the heirloom, but feels guilty about it (and really guilty, not just worried that he might be caught, but guilty because he realizes he's done me wrong) and returns it to me with sincere apologies. Is there any need for me to report the incident to the police? If I am impressed with his remorse and have recovered the heirloom, why should any further punishment be necessary? And even if I don't recover the heirloom, but the thief comes to me in remorse and promises to do whatever is in his power to make it up to me, why should I not forgive him? The thief's remorse might even be the opportunity for us to become friends, to be reconciled and no longer at cross purposes.”

But that’s a fairly trivial example.

“But what if the following conditions held: suppose the perpetrators of genocide were to become fully aware of the enormity of their crimes and were overwhelmed with remorse (again not just because they were caught but because they realized how deeply they wronged and violated their victims), all the hurt and suffering of the victims were completely erased so that the dead came back to life and wounds healed, including their memories so that they did not even remember the pain and anguish of their persecution, and a new society appeared in which it would be impossible for any further abuses to take place? Would we still demand that the perpetrators suffer?”

i) That’s a false dichotomy. I can imagine many victims who desire both retribution and restoration. They want their loved ones back. They want to feel whole again. But they also want to see the perpetrators punished. It isn’t one or the other, but both.

ii) What does JD think his hypothetical corresponds to in real world terms? Does he think God reunites all survivors and victims? Does he think God erases traumatic memories?

iii) Do survivors and victims want to share eternity with the perpetrators? Even if Josef Mengele were contrite, does this mean his victims want to spend eternity in the company of a penitent Josef Mengele?

iv) An obvious problem with JD’s scenario is that heinous crimes can also have some consequences which the victim or survivor doesn’t wish to reverse. Suppose a woman’s fiancé is murdered. As a result, she marries another man, has children by another man.

In one respect she’d still like to have her fiancé back. But not if the cost of restoring the status quo ante means undoing the life she had with her husband and kids.

“It seems to me that retributive justice is an accommodation to our fallen condition. Jesus said that it was because of the hardness of the Israelites' hearts that Moses allowed people to divorce (Matthew 19:8), and it seems that the same is true for the whole scheme of retribution.”

That’s not a real argument. Just bathos.

“In this fallen world we are often confronted with wrongdoers we don't know are truly repentant (or that we do know actually aren't), the majority of crimes cause harm which cannot be taken back, undone or made up for…”

i) It’s true that retributive justice presupposes the fall. But so does what JD is pleased to call “restorative justice.”

ii) Why does JD think we live in a fallen world to begin with? Was that a divine mistake? Is God working overtime to rectify the accidental fall?

Yes, retributive justice presupposes the fall, but the fall was a divinely intended event. Indeed, that supplies the necessary backdrop for mercy and justice.

“In such a condition, the only compensation that those who lose a loved one to murder can get is the satisfaction of knowing that the murderer is being punished. And in order to maintain its authority, the state has no choice but to uphold the law and mete out punishment. Note however that this is only partial compensation: it is not justice, because the loved one is still dead, and the murderer may still be unrepentant. True justice would be for things to be made right: the dead loved one restored to life, and the murderer repentant.”

That simply begs the question of what constitutes “true justice.”

“And in fact, due to our sinful condition, retribution itself can become an injustice, when the desire for revenge demands punishment out of all proportion with the crime.”

i) But that’s a straw man. The question at issue is divine justice. The Day of Judgment.

ii) Moreover, Scripture doesn’t regard the demand for retribution as inherently sinful. Consider eschatological setting of Rev 6:10.

iii) Furthermore, Scripture doesn’t treat forgiveness and retribution as mutually exclusive. To the contrary, God forgives the redeemed because he exacted punishment on the Redeemer. Penal substitution lays the foundation for divine forgiveness.

“What is surprising then is that throughout history the chief proponents of restorative justice have also been the ones that experienced the most horrific injustices.”

I don’t see many survivors of the Holocaust or Killing Fields, &c., penning books on universalism.

“Because he [Martin Luther King] was convinced that God was a God of justice and love, he had the courage to bear injustice without striking back, just as Jesus did as he was going to his death. He was convinced that ultimately love and reconciliation would prevail.”

i) Jesus is the Judge (2 Thes 1) as well as the Redeemer. The Lamb of God’s wrath (Rev 6) as well as the paschal lamb.

ii) In Scripture, divine forgiveness is contingent on repentance and retribution. We don’t have unconditional forgiveness in Scripture, where God forgives the impenitent.

iii) In my observation, I don’t see JD actually following in the footsteps of King. He helps himself to that touchy-feely rhetoric, but in real life he holds grudges. He doesn’t extend blanket forgiveness to those who have (allegedly) slighted him.

Roman Catholic Suicide

James Swan recently posted the following quote from John Martignoni:

I personally believe, based on my experiences, that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Protestant denominations, and the main reason for this is sola scriptura.

Most Catholic critics of Protestantism don't place the number of denominations that high. But Martignoni's comments reflect a common Catholic sentiment, though in a heightened form.

One of the problems with that sentiment is that it undermines Catholicism. Catholics often argue for the Roman Catholic Church by first arguing for Jesus. Supposedly, Jesus founded the Roman Catholic Church and taught, directly or by implication, that it has the authority it claims to have. But that sort of argument for Catholicism requires the Catholic to argue for, or depend on others who have argued for, Jesus' existence, His identity, what He taught, the meaning of what He taught, etc. And there are many differing and contradictory interpretations of Jesus and His historical context. Consider, for example, all of the views of Jesus you come across on the web and in modern scholarship, including Catholic scholarship. The Catholic appeal to the historical Jesus as an argument for Catholicism depends on our being able to sufficiently discern the historical Jesus. If we can do so, despite all of the disagreements that exist on the subject, why should we think the same isn't true with regard to the Bible and sola scriptura? Much the same can be said about all of the disagreements concerning the existence of God, the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, the apostle Paul, the church fathers, etc.

Catholics should ask themselves what would happen if they were to apply their arguments against Protestantism to their own belief system. It seems that they often don't do that.

One way to answer the Catholic who cites a large number of Protestant denominations is to cite the large number of views of Jesus. Or the large number of views of the origin of the universe. Or the authenticity of the writings of Ignatius of Antioch. Or the meaning of what Irenaeus wrote. Or the validity of particular claimants to the papacy. Etc.

Maybe Catholics wouldn't use so many suicidal arguments so often if they were more involved in Christian apologetics. Evangelicals have been at the forefront of that work, while Catholics have been more concerned with other things. And it shows.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Right of privacy

Wes White and Lane Keister have been accused of misconduct for passing along some “private” information. Since the issue of privacy often crops up on the Internet, it’s worth discussing the issue in general.

1. The paradox of privacy

Suppose someone says to you, “If I tell you a secret, will you keep it?” How should you respond?

Questions like this can generate a dilemma: since you don’t know what they’re going to say before they say it, you’re in no a position to give informed consent. If you knew you in advance what they were going to say, perhaps you’d rather not hear it.

2. The seal of the confessional

At one end of the spectrum is the Catholic tradition. If a serial killer confesses to a priest that he’s murdered 20 women, and he plans to murder the 21st victim right after he leaves church, the priest is honor-bound to keep his secret.

The obvious problem with this tradition is the assumption that a speaker has the right to impose silence on the listener, regardless of what the listener hears. Is that a justifiable demand?

The short answer is no. One party doesn’t have the unconditional right to bind the conscious of another party. In the respect he does not enjoy the expectation of privacy.

By sharing this information with the second party, the first party thereby makes the second party complicit. And that that point the second party has his own responsibilities. Either way, he is responsible for what he does with this information.

The second party is no longer in the same moral position he was before he came into receipt of this information.

3. The whistleblower

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the whistleblower. A whistleblower has inside information. Indeed, he’s frequently an insider. That’s how he is in the know.

Most of us recognize that there are situations in which it is not only permissible, but obligatory to leak the incriminating evidence. By definition, a whistleblower doesn’t seek the permission of the guilty party to release this information.

4. Private media

i) Some information is technically private in the sense that the medium which stores or transmits the information is technically private. Such information is “private” even though the information may already be available in the public domain.

ii) There are also situations in which it’s possible to publicize “private” information while preserving the confidentiality of the source, viz. anonymous sources.

5. Private content

By contrast, some information is inherently private in nature. I don’t think there’s a mathematical formula for discerning this. It’s just a matter of common sense.

6. Harm

i) As a rule, we should avoid harming the reputation of others. A breach of confidence is illicit when that harms the reputation of another without due cause.

ii) On the other hand, not everybody is entitled to have a second party protect their reputation. Some people richly deserve to have their reputation ruined.

iii) In addition, harm can cut in more than one direction. Harming one individual may shield another individual from harm.

Take a con man. He makes his living by harming others. If you expose him, you harm the con man–but that’s justifiable since by so doing, you shield the innocent from the harm he would do them.

Or, to take a different example, a witness may know that the defendant is innocent, yet the witness refuses to come forward for fear of reprisal. If the witness remains silent, the defendant will be harmed by his “guilty silence.” On the other hand, if the witness is identified, or compelled to speak, the witness may come to harm.

Right now I’m not discussing what should be done in that situation. It varies. I’m just drawing attention to certain complexities and tradeoffs.

7. Friends and strangers

i) As a rule, we have greater obligations to friends than strangers. If a friend shares something with you in confidence, and you violate his trust or betray his confidence, that is generally wrong precisely because he was your friend. He had an expectation of privacy. You owed it to him to keep his secret.

And this applies to analogous cases, viz. siblings, spouses, parents and children.

ii) But at presumption admits two caveats:

a) On the one hand, a friend doesn’t have the unconditional right to swear you to secrecy regardless of what he says.

b) On the other hand, we also have some universal obligations to strangers.

iii) On a related note, a third party, who is not a party to the confidential arrangement, may come into receipt of that information. The third party doesn’t have the same obligations to the first party as the second party.

That’s not to say a third party is a liberty to divulge just anything he happens to learn about the first party. But that’s not the same thing as a violation of trust, for the first party never took the third party into his confidence. The third party was never a confidant. And the third party may have no standing obligations to the first party.

8. Tact

People will often say things in private that they won’t say in public. Sometimes that’s deceitful or cowardly. At other times that’s tactful.

Once again, I don’t think there’s a mathematical formula for discerning the right course of action. It requires a sense of discretion.

9. Prima facie duties

All things being equal, a party is entitled to privacy where there’s an expectation of privacy. Put another way, there’s a moral presumption against divulging this information.

All things considered, there are other considerations which sometimes override that expectation.

10. Historians

Historians or biographers frequently publish private letters and diaries of famous men and women. I doubt the average reader gives that a second thought, even though this material was never intended for public consumption. What should we make of that practice?

Pray for all men

1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:1-5).

Traditionally, Calvinists interpret v5 as denoting all kinds of men. Calvinists justify that interpretation by interpreting v5 in light of vv1-2, where they say the prayer for all men denotes all the different kinds of men, viz. representatives from different social classes.

Arminians regard this interpretation as a subterfuge. To construe v5 that way violates the “plain sense” of the passage, and illustrates the desperate lengths to which the Calvinist will go to salvage his unscriptural belief-system.

For now I’m not going to assess the merits of the traditional Reformed interpretation. Instead, I wish to briefly explore the Arminian alternative.

If prayer for all men doesn’t mean prayer for all kinds of men, then what does it mean? How does Timothy pray for all men, exactly? And what, exactly, does he pray for? Likewise, how does a modern Arminian pray for all men? And what, exactly, does he pray for?

i) On the Arminian interpretation, if prayer for all men doesn’t mean prayer for representative sample groups, then, presumably, the Arminian alternative means that we (or Timothy) pray for every individual.

ii) Suppose Timothy prays for two minutes. How does he pray for every individual in the course of his 2-minute prayer? To begin with, some people are born (or conceived) every minute while other people die every minute (and pass onto to heaven or hell).

So Timothy can’t pray for the same individuals in the course of his 2-minute prayer, can he? Every individual he prays for at the outset of his prayer doesn’t belong to the same set of individuals as every individual he is still praying for at the conclusion of his prayer. For in the duration of his 2-minute prayer, there has already been some turnover in the overall referents. He ends with a slightly different set of referents than he began with.

And, of course, modernity exacerbates the fluidity of the intended referent, for the rate of turnover is even higher in the 21C than it was in the 1C.

iii) How does Timothy pray for every individual when he doesn’t even know how many individual human beings exist at the time he received Paul’s letter? How does he pray for individuals in Alaska or Hawaii or other corners of the globe when he doesn’t even know that there are people living in Alaska or Hawaii? How can he pray for individual Hawaiians if he doesn’t know that Hawaii exists?

And even in modern times, estimating the population of the world at any given time is just an educated guess, not an exact figure by any means. How can we pray for every individual when we don’t even have a net figure? How can we pray for every individual if we don’t know how many individuals we are praying for? In what sense is that an individualized prayer?

iv) If Timothy prays for every individual, what does he prayer for? Does each human being have the same needs? Is there one generic prayer that we should pray for everyone? And, if so, what would that be?

Should we pray that God saves everyone? If so, is that a sincere, meaningful prayer?

Should we pray that God saves St. Paul? But don’t we have good reason to think that’s a done deal by now? Hasn’t God already saved St. Paul? Isn’t St. Paul safely in heaven by now?

Conversely, we know that God doesn’t save everyone. So isn’t it hypocritical to ask God to do something even though we know that God has no intention of answering our prayer?

Or, suppose, for the sake of argument, that God will save everyone sooner or later. But even if universalism were true, or especially if universalism were true, then someone’s salvation can’t very well depend on whether or not I pray for him. If I didn’t pray for him, would he be damned? But if, ad arguendo, God will save everyone, then that can’t be contingent on my prayer, can it? To the extent that it were contingent on somebody’s prayer, there would have to be a backup system in case I fail to pray for that individual. Another supplicant must take up the slack.

But if we’re not to pray for everyone’s salvation, then what are we to pray for–assuming that we’re obligated to pray for every individual? What exactly, and I do mean “exactly,” is the content of that prayer?

Or is the Arminian contention that while we ought to pray for every individual, we don’t pray for the same thing in each case? Very well, then. But if we don’t know each and every individual, then how can we pray for different things for different men, women, children? How can our prayers differentiate between different individuals? How can we know what’s suitable for anonymous individuals?

v) Or does this mean that we pray certain types of prayers, which automatically apply to whatever individuals happen to fit the terms of the prayer?

But if that’s what it really amounts to, then isn’t that equivalent to praying for different kinds of individuals? Different types of prayer whose typical content corresponds to different types of individuals? Individuals in roughly those circumstances?

If so, how does that distinguish the Arminian interpretation from the Reformed interpretation? Isn’t that praying for different kinds of people–according to the general nature of their particular situation? Where the sort of situation self-selects for the sort of individual in question?

vi) I’ve been discussing v1 rather than v5, but since the meaning of v1 is a premise for the traditional Reformed interpretation of v5, and since Arminians attack that premise, that is what I’ve chosen to focus on.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"33,000 Protestant denominations"

One of the most popular objections to sola Scriptura among Catholic epologists is the allegation that sola Scriptura is a “blueprint for chaos.” The Protestant rule of faith has generated “33,000” mutually contradictory Protestant denominations–or so goes the argument

However, this objection poses a dilemma for the Catholic epologist. If these are mutually contradictory denominations, then in what sense are they all “Protestant”? You can’t very well classify them under the same rubric unless all “33,000” denominations share a core identity.

So the very objection to Protestant diversity tacitly assumes that all Protestant denominations have a common denominator. They must have something essentially in common that makes all of them “Protestant.”

So the Catholic epologist needs to begin with his general definition of “Protestant.” If, however, there’s a general definition of “Protestant,” then whatever diversity there exists among Protestant denominations can only be measured against the benchmark of their fundamental unity as “Protestant” denominations.

Evolutionary syncretism: a critique of Biologos

The following linked article is an excellent critique of the agenda of Biologos by Lita Cosner, researcher for Creation Ministries International. Biologos is an organization that attempts to integrate a theologically liberal view of Scripture with theistic evolution in order to create a new version of evangelicalism that is palatable to the unbelieving masses: Evolutionary Syncretism: a critique of Biologos.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Carrier's foot-in-mouth disease

This is what Richard Carrier said back in April when he was summarizing the argument of Hector Avalos in the TCD:

Next are two chapters proving the Old Testament God is evil. And both do so in a novel way. So if you think you've heard it all before, you'll love these. First Dr. Hector Avalos eviscerates Paul Copan, exposing his incompetence and delusional distortion of the facts in his already-absurd attempt to justify genocide and every other unconscionable brutality as 'alright if God says so'. You heard that right. The new Christian tactic now is not to deny that God commanded evil, horrible things, but to argue that evil, horrible things are okay. Well, good luck with that marketing strategy. Christianity is doomed if that's all they've got now. Avalos further shows how unremarkable the Old Testament laws are in their cultural context, no better or worse than (and suspiciously very much the same as) the manmade laws of surrounding civilizations, dispelling any belief that the OT was inspired by anything but ordinary, ignorant human beings.

But here's what he said this September when he was summarizing the argument of Hector Avalos:

Here is their argument analyzed formally:

1. Avalos is a moral relativist.

2. Avalos concludes the Christian God is morally evil in respect to Christianity's own moral ideals.

3. A moral relativist cannot consistently argue another moral system is inconsistent with itself.

4. Therefore, Avalos' conclusion is inconsistent with his moral relativism.

Here Premise 3 is false. The conclusion is therefore unsound. Which makes this yet another irrational objection to what is actually a soundly proved conclusion: that God is evil by Christianity's own standards. Avalos is simply arguing that Christianity is delusional because it is internally incoherent. Moral relativism makes no difference to whether that conclusion is true. Even if moral relativism is true, Christianity is still internally incoherent, and continuing to believe what has been soundly and validly shown to be internally incoherent is still delusional.

i) Question: was Carrier reading the same book both times? How do these two summaries describe the same argument–which he imputes to Avalos?

Obviously his initial summary is a malicious distortion of the Copan’s position. Copan certainly doesn’t argue that “evil things are okay,” or that evil is “alright if God says so.”

But even if, for the sake of argument, that were an accurate characterization of Copan’s position, how would that prove that God is evil by Christianity’s own standards?

If, an arguendo, Copan were a theological voluntarist, for whom something is right or wrong merely because “God says so,” then these commands would be consistent with Copan’s understanding of the Christian value-system.

ii) But, of course, to say “evil” things are “okay” or “alright” if God “says so,” is not, in fact, a summary of Copan’s position. Rather, Carrier is the one asserting that what God commanded was evil, not Copan. That represents Carrier’s viewpoint.

iii) Moreover, how did Avalos actually demonstrate that God is evil by Christianity’s own standards? Carrier tells us that Avalos did that, but Carrier doesn’t show us how Avalos did that.

In fact, Avalos said Christian morality is tautologous. But even if that were the case, in what sense is a tautology incoherent? Aren’t tautologies truths? Indeed, aren’t tautologies true by definition?

So even if, ex hypothesi, Avalos succeeded in proving that Christian morality is tautologous, how would that begin to prove that Christian morality is inconsistent with itself? How can a moral tautology fall short of its own ideals? Is it incoherent to say that single men are bachelors?

One of Carrier’s many problems is that he’s not nearly as clever as he thinks he is. When he tries to be clever, he painfully exposes his lack of cleverness.


Jeremy Pierce: "There's a particularly bad argument against those who accept the biblical prohibitions against same-sex sexual acts, and I think I've just realized something new about the argument." Keep reading here.

Arminianism in Time

There is a common claim in Arminian internet circles that God’s foreknowledge of all future events is consistent with the idea that man still has free will. The argument generally goes like this: “God knows what a man will freely choose. If the man chooses X, God knows that the man will choose X. But if the man would have chosen Y, then God would have known that the man chose Y instead. Therefore, the man’s choice is still free and self-determined, despite the fact that God knows what it will be.”

Now I maintain that this position inevitably leads one to Open Theism where God cannot actually know what a person will choose until after said person has done so. Indeed, you can see this in the very language of the argument above. God knows a decision based on what the one who makes the decision actually does. That is, God only knows after (in the logical sense) the decision has already been made.

The only reason the Arminian argument can even get off the ground is because of the confusion most people have between a temporal “before” and a logical “before.” Most often, we are considering future events—that is, future from our perspective. And therefore, they have not temporally arrived. Now we all say that God knows the future. In fact, we would say that God is not temporal at all. That is not in dispute amongst Arminians and Calvinists. But that is also where the subtle shift in thought comes in, which causes the problems for the Arminian, for he confuses temporal sequence with logical sequence.

Let me try to give an example. Tomorrow, I either will or will not read any portion of the local newspaper. I do not know which I will do, for I do not even know if I will be alive tomorrow. But God does know. Now the Arminian claim is this: God knows because if I freely choose to read the newspaper then God has already seen that from His perspective and thus knows I will freely choose to read the newspaper. If I freely choose not to read the newspaper, then God has already seen that from His perspective and thus knows I will freely choose not to read the newspaper. Thus, the claim is, I freely choose and God still knows what I will do now, before I get to the future.

Yet the above requires that I actually choose before God knows what I choose. Just shifting it into the future from our perspective does not change the fact that from God’s perspective this choice has already occurred. In other words, the claim that “if you would have chosen otherwise, God would have known otherwise” is no different from saying “God doesn’t know what you will do until after you already do it.” The only difference is that we say God did all of this in our future. But our future is not God’s future, for He is not stuck in time with us.

There is another point that buttresses my argument. Even if we grant the Arminian view for the sake of argument, we are left with a determined future. It cannot be other than it is, for God knows what the future is. The distinction, says the Arminian, is that our choices are self-determined rather than determined by God. Let us go with that concept. If my choice to read a newspaper tomorrow or to refrain from reading a newspaper tomorrow is self-determined, then until my “self” exists to make that choice, then the choice has not been determined. That is, if I am the determining factor, such that I can say this choice is self-determined, then the choice cannot logically be determined before I, myself, determine it. So, in the end, if tomorrow’s choice to read or not to read is self-determined, then it cannot be known before I make the decision.

Simply shifting me into the future doesn’t help. For even if we say it is my future self that determines this choice, God can only know what that choice will be after my future self makes that choice. For until I actually exist to make that choice then the choice must be undetermined, else I am not the determiner of that choice.

Again, do not get caught up in the time aspect. All of these things can happen instantly from God’s perspective, yet He still cannot logically know what I will do until after I have done it, if I am the determiner of the action. Therefore, in essence, God functions little better than someone who watches a DVD he has seen before and knows what the next scene will be before the characters in the movie do; but he only knows that next scene because he’s already watched the movie at some point in his past. That means at some point in that past, the characters already acted out the scene. Thus, the characters’ actual future has already been completed in his past, and the observer has merely rewound time to see it again. This is hardly foreknowledge.

And this brings up problems similar to the time travel paradox. See, we know that God has intervened in time. He has given prophecy of things that will come to pass. Here’s the problem. If we determine our actions, then God has to logically wait (again, not temporally wait) until after we have made those decisions, and then He can intervene in our past to tell us what the result of those actions will be for us. Yet when we first made those decisions, we made them without God’s intervention. God could not have intervened at that point, for He did not know what our actions would be yet to tell us what would happen.

That means the universe we occupy after God informs us of what our future will be is no longer the universe we were in when the original decisions were made; thus, after telling us what the future (from our perspective) will be, God no longer knows what that future will be! He has to logically wait until we have made decisions based on our new information, and then He will know what that future will be once more. And if it’s still not what He wants it to be, He has to rewind and intervene yet again and the process repeats.

But here’s the real kicker. Consider the “you” that existed the first time God “ran the universe” under these implications. That you self-determined some action without God’s intervention. God decides to intervene instead. Now, the you that existed the first time God “ran the universe” no longer exists, for now you know something on this run-through that you didn’t know the first pass. As a result, what you self-determine could be completely, radically different—and indeed, what other reason would there be for God to intervene? If He’s not trying to change things, then there’s no need to intervene. But if He does change things, then the future is no longer what He saw and He has to let it play out again so He can know what the future has changed to.

But here’s the real mind-bending question: what is the difference between this you and that you as far as the subjective experience of the “you” is concerned? It appears to me that you would exist and you would have a specific history and then suddenly, poof, it’s gone (and you wouldn’t remember it, of course). You’re back in time and moving forward once more, but now God tells you something you didn’t know the first time. Everything after that point is affected by your new knowledge, and is not identical to the first pass through. The implication?

You could be on that false, original path right now and you would never know it.

For example, Christ promised to return having conquered death itself; but if we have actions that are self-determined, then He has to see how those will play out. Even though He intends a specific outcome, He has to logically wait to see what we will do in order to know what He would do. And though that takes no time from His perspective, from our perspective it does take time. So if we exist to make these choices, and if it turns out that our self-determined choices actually cause Satan to win, then God can go back in time (from our perspective) to intervene and change things, and all that we are right now will cease to exist. But that means that while we exist right now, God’s promise that Christ will return triumphant is actually a lie. He has to wait to see what we will do, then change it, and keep doing so until He finally gets the outcome He wants, but for all of those “false start” time threads, God is a liar. That we cease to exist and go down an alternate path later without remembering it doesn’t change the fact that now, as we are on that false path, God is a liar. This means this position cannot be Scriptural either.

So to summarize, if our actions are self-determined, then God must logically wait for us to determine our actions before He will know what we will determine. Saying, “If we would have chosen otherwise, then God would have known otherwise” actually proves this, for it explicitly states that God knows what we will do only because we have already, in God’s time, made the decision. But that isn’t foreknowledge (it is post-knowledge, for it is in God’s past even if it is in our future) and opens all kinds of problems with the flow of time. In other words, the Arminian position here is untenable pretty much any way you look at it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is Fred Phelps a Calvinist?

Scurrilous opponents of Calvinism sometimes try to tar Calvinism by associating Calvinism with the infamous Fred Phelps. But keep in mind that according to Calvinism, it's quite possible to profess the doctrines of grace without possessing the grace of the doctrines. So even if he were a professing Calvinist, that wouldn't mean his life is a reflection of his creed.

But according to his estranged son, Nate Phelps, this is what Fred Phelps believes:

This doctrine is very important to understanding the Westboro Baptist Church. My father, and those who follow him, are not preaching to try to convince people of their truth. Unlike street evangelists, who are trying to convert people, my father has no intention of converting anyone, since conversion is impossible. You’re either chosen, or you’re not. To illustrate, in the mid 90’s my father was a guest on a radio talk show hosted by a popular Christian apologist named Rich Buehler. Mr. Buehler suggested that my father’s failure at bearing any fruit from his evangelizing efforts might point to some error in his theology. With typical aggresion my father barked back at him: “That’s not the test!! The test is fidelity in preaching!”

Needless to say, that's not Calvinism–that's textbook Hyper-Calvinism.

Big Bang of the Gaps

[Paul Davies] So is that the end of the story? Can the multiverse provide a complete and closed account of all physical existence? Not quite. The multiverse comes with a lot of baggage, such as an overarching space and time to host all those bangs, a universe-generating mechanism to trigger them, physical fields to populate the universes with material stuff, and a selection of forces to make things happen. Cosmologists embrace these features by envisaging sweeping “meta-laws” that pervade the multiverse and spawn specific bylaws on a universe-by-universe basis. The meta-laws themselves remain unexplained - eternal, immutable transcendent entities that just happen to exist and must simply be accepted as given. In that respect the meta-laws have a similar status to an unexplained transcendent god.

Roger Penrose on cosmic purpose

[Roger Penrose] I’m not sure that the word “purpose” one might use in connection with the universe or the laws of physics is quite the same as the way we use the word in a personal sense: when we intend to do something. But there is a certain sense in which I would say that the universe has a purpose. It’s not just there by chance.

Some people take the view that the universe is simply there and it runs along–it’s a bit as though it just sort of computes, and we happen by accident to find ourselves in this thing. I don’t think that’s a very fruitful or helpful way of looking at the universe. I think there is something much deeper about it, about its existence, which we have very little inkling of at the moment.

S. Hawking & G. Stone, eds. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time: A Reader’s Companion (Bantam Books 1992), 142.

Kline, 2K, and Judaism

A debate has broken out in the Reformed blogosphere over the 2-kingdoms view. Meredith Kline is the modern father of this movement.

I’m going to pose a question that I’ve never seen discussed in relation to his intellectual development. I wonder if Kline's Jewish background wasn't a factor in his radical church/state separatist ideology. He once told to me that as a boy, he attended synagogue with his dad. He seemed to indicate that his dad was a nominal Jews. Just going through the motions. But it’s possible that I misunderstood him. I’ve also read that his granddad was a pious Jew.

This raises the question of whether his Jewish upbringing may not have been an influential consideration in the formation of his views on Christian statecraft.

To my knowledge, Jews have a historical antipathy to state churches because they were often persecuted by the Christian establishment. And I don't think it's coincidental that church/state separatist outfits like the ACLU and People for the American Way have such a heavy Jewish representation.

I think many Jews harbor conscious or subconscious fears of "Christian theocracies." This is deeply ingrained. Something that conservative Jewish pundits like Michael Medved and Dennis Prager must constantly push up against. It's more emotional than intellectual.

I also suspect that's one reason so many Jews go into the field of law. That's a preemptive defensive maneuver.

Although Kline was a devout Christian, his political views may have been haunted by ancestral memories of anti-Semitic state churches. Historically, Jews faired poorly at the hands of Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Eastern Orthodox.

(Ironically, the Reformed tradition is exceptionally philo-Semitic by contrast.)

Neglected Evidence For The Gospels

Some of the earliest and best evidence for the gospels is often underestimated or even ignored. See here.

"The Presbyter used to say…" (Papias, cited in Eusebius, Church History, 3:39)

"Many of them [Christians just after the time of the apostles]…took up the work of evangelists, eager to preach the message of faith to those who had never heard it and to provide them the inspired Gospels in writing." (Eusebius, Church History, 3:37)

"Clement [of Alexandria] gives the tradition of the earliest presbyters, as to the order of the Gospels" (Eusebius, Church History, 6:14)

"Marcion, on the other hand, you must know, ascribes no author to his Gospel, as if it could not be allowed him to affix a title to that from which it was no crime (in his eyes) to subvert the very body. And here I might now make a stand, and contend that a work ought not to be recognised, which holds not its head erect, which exhibits no consistency, which gives no promise of credibility from the fulness of its title and the just profession of its author." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4:2)

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Heresy Of Orthodoxy

I recently finished reading The Heresy Of Orthodoxy (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2010) by Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger. It's about unity and diversity in early Christianity, such as the claim that we have no way of validating orthodox Christianity against its heretical competitors in the early centuries of church history. It's largely a response to critics of Christianity like Walter Bauer and Bart Ehrman. The book has been widely recommended, and I want to add my own recommendation. I disagree with some parts of it, but it gets so many things right. It makes a lot of significant points that aren't often made about early Christian unity, the New Testament canon, textual transmission, and other issues. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Antiochus Epiphanes

Paul Tobin says, “Modern scholars are now in agreement that Daniel was written a year or two after 167 BCE. Why did the author of Daniel do this? Obviously the answer is that if he could present some of his ‘postdictions’ as accurate, people would give more credence to his book and to its predictions of the future. The one ‘real’ prediction in it that could be verified–the location of the death of Antiochus IV [Dan 11:45]–has been shown to be completely off the mark,” TCD, 165.

John Loftus says, “Sparks argues that when we consider the prophecies in the book of Daniel, it becomes clear that they are ‘amazingly accurate and precise’ up until a certain point where they ‘fail.’ He wrote: ‘Scholars believe that this evidence makes it very easy to date Daniel’s apocalypses. One merely follows the amazingly accurate prophecies until they fail. Because the predictions of the Jewish persecutions in 167 BCE are correct, and because the final destiny of Antiochus in 164 BCE is not, it follows that the visions and their interpretations can be dated sometime between 167 and 164 BEC,’” ibid. 341n37.

Let’s compare these breezy assertions with some real scholarship to the contrary:

“Most critical scholars as well as a few evangelicals interpret [Dan] 11:36-45 as applying to Antiochus. According to this interpretation, 11:36-39 depicts in general terms Antiochus’ religious hubris. Then 11:40-45 is an attempt by the Maccabean-era author of Daniel to write genuine predictive prophecy concerning the end of Antiochus’ reign. Since 1:36-45 does not mention Antiochus’ eastern campaign in 165 BC, the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem in 165, or Antiochus’ death in 164, critics often hold that this passage’s unsuccessful attempt at accurate predictive prophecy serves to date Daniel 10-12 to about 165 BC,” A. Steinmann, Daniel (Concordia 2008), 536.

“Yet there are several problems with a simple identification of the king in 11:36-45 with Antiochus IV. First of all, there is no indication that Antiochus exalted and magnified ‘himself over every god,’ did ‘not favor the god of his fathers,’ or honored ‘a god whom his fathers did not know’ (11:36-38). Antiochus had his coins inscribed “King Antiochus, God Manifest,” so he did claim to be a god. However, at the same time, some of these coins bore the likeness of Zeus on the reverse, while other coins depicted Apollo, so he venerated some other gods. Moreover, Antiochus was known for his devotion to the Greek gods in general, and in Jerusalem he most likely had erected a statue of Olympian Zeus and ordered sacrifices to be offered to it. He also promoted the worship of Dionysius in Jerusalem (2 Macc 6:7). Polybius reports that (in 166 BC) Antiochus held a festival at Daphne where he honored ‘all the gods or spirits mentioned or worshipped by people.’ In addition, Apollo was honored on the festival’s coinage,” ibid. 536-37.

“Second, there is no agreement by critics as to what the phrase ‘desire of women,’ refers (see the second textual note on 11:37). Critics generally take it to refer to one of the pagan gods whose cult was especially popular with women. Since the late nineteenth century, critics have tended to view this as a reference to Tammuz/Adonis (cf. Ezk 8:14), although some have claimed Dionysius was intended. The problem with this is that there is no evidence that Antiochus ever discouraged women from expressing their natural affection for men or suppressed the cult of either of these gods. He promoted Dionysius in Jerusalem itself 2 Macc 6:7),” ibid. 537.

“Given these problems, a recent critical commentator [John Collins] has claimed that the author engaged in ‘deliberate polemical distortion, to depict the impiety of the king in the most extreme terms possible’ and was ‘probably indulging in polemical exaggeration.’ However, that ‘solution’ raises a problem of its own. If the text is an inaccurate distortion or exaggeration, how can we know that is what the author intended and that the modern interpreter is correct in assuming that the text was about Antiochus? Could it be that instead of the text distorting the facts about Antiochus, it is the modern interpretation that is wrong and that distorts the text?” ibid. 537.

“An evangelical scholar [Joyce Baldwin] who holds that these verses are about Antiochus admits: ‘Although the chapter finds its first fulfillment in the character and reign of Antiochus IV, the matter does not stop there.’ However, this too raises another problem. If the text is not adequately fulfilled by Antiochus, could it be that this ‘first fulfillment’ is more in the perception of the interpreter than the intention of the author of Daniel? How can we assume that the author has engaged in hyperbolic polemic that only partially applies to Antiochus when it is also possible that there is no extreme distortion or exaggeration in the text and that it instead refers to someone else? How does one distinguish between some type of double application intended by the author and a mistake by the interpreter in attempting to have the passage apply to more people than the author intended?” ibid. 537.

“It is most likely that the author never intended 11:36-45 to be about Antiochus. Even scholars who apply these verses to Antiochus admit that 11:40-45 do not fit what is known about Antiochus from other historical sources. So it is very probable that it is the Antiochene theory, and not some distortion of him by the author of Daniel, that is the cause of these problems. The attempt to rescue the Antiochene interpretation of 11:36-45 by resorting to the theory that extreme polemics distort its depiction of Antiochus is more special pleading than reasoned exegesis. The author accurately predicts historical facts about other Greek rulers in his polemics against them elsewhere (e.g. 11:11-12,17-18 about Antiochus III). Those other polemics do not distort the depiction of the other kings so as to make the identifications of those kings problematic for scholars of any stripe. Even though Antiochus IV was the most reviled Hellenistic king among Jews because of his blasphemous actions and sacrilegious policies, the polemic against him in 11:21-35 does not distort the portrait of him. The identity of the king of the north in 11:21-35 clearly was Antiochus IV, as all scholars easily conclude,” ibid. 538.

“The traditional Christian interpretation understands 11:36-45 as applying to an eschatological king, which in NT terms is the Antichrist or ‘the man of lawlessness’ (2 Thes 2:3-13)…There are two plain indications in the text that the king who is the focus in 11:35-45 is not the same as the king of the north in 11:21-35. First, 11:35 ends with the notice that the persecution of Antiochus will refine God’s people ‘until the time of the end.’ From that, it is reasonable to infer that the prophecy will begin a discussion about ‘the time of the end,’ in keeping with the catch-concept organizing principle which is evident elsewhere in this fourth vision (chapters 11-12). In fact, three more times in the final part of the vision the timeframe is called ‘the time of the end’ (11:40; 12:4,9). Nowhere else besides these four verses (11:35,40; 12:4,9) does the fourth vision refer to ‘the time of the end.’ Earlier examples of a sudden shift to a later time support this view of the shift between 11:35 and 11:36. Earlier the prophecy skips from a Persian emperor who stirred up Greece to a Greek king (11:2-3) and from the breakup of the Greek Empire into four kingdoms (‘toward the four winds of heaven’) to only two of those kingdoms and their kings, the king of the north and the kind of the south (11:4-6),” ibid. 538-39.

“Second, 11:36 introduces the king in a unique way. He is simply referred to as “the king.” No Hellenistic king prior to 11:36 is ever referred to simply as “the king,” even when he has been recently mentioned. For example, 11:25 refers to the northern king’s designs ‘against the king of the south’, and then the next clause in the same verse does not refer to the southern king as “the king,’ but instead as ‘the king of the south’ again. Alexander the Great is called ‘a warrior king.’ Various Seleucid kings are always called ‘the king of the north’ (11:6-8,11,13,15). Various Ptolemaic kings are always called ‘the king of the south’ (11:5-6,8,11,14,25 [twice]),” ibid. 539.

“Therefore, there are good indicators that there is a change of both timeframe and subject between 11:35 and 11:36. When ‘the king’ is introduced at 11:36, it is after the transition to the end times (11:35b) and he is introduced in a unique, dramatic way. This signals that this king is not a Hellentistic king, but an eschatological king who will arise at ‘the time of the end’ (11:35,40; 12:4,9),” ibid. 539.

“But what about the verbal ties between the king in 11:36 and the descriptions of Antiochus in chapter 8 and earlier in chapter 11? As this commentary suggests elsewhere, Antiochus is depicted throughout the visions in Daniel as foreshadowing the Antichrist,” ibid. 539.

Echoes of God

Because Gen 1 has become a battlefield, we tend to interpret the text with an eye on modern science, one way or another. It takes a certain conscious effort to detach the text from modern controversies and listen to the text on its own terms.

One of the striking features in Gen 1 is the interplay between the divine “senses.” The interplay between divine speech and divine sight. In Gen 1, God’s speech is creative while his sight is evaluative. His speech is prior to the effect of his verbal fiat, while his sight is subsequent to the effect of his verbal fiat. He commands and commends. He commands something into being, then commends the outcome.

It’s instructive to compare and contrast this view of the world with Plato’s famous allegory of the Cave. Plato views the sensible world of time and space as echoes and shadows of a more ultimate and perfect reality. For him, time and space are inferior copies of timeless, invisible archetypes.

In Gen 1, there’s also a sense in which the sensible world is an echo of God’s spoken word. But in Gen 1, there is no discrepancy between generic exemplars and approximate exempla. Rather, there’s a perfect match between God’s creative command and the creative effect. For the effect is fully obedient to his command. Thus, the sensible world is “good” in its own right-–even “very good.”

In a fallen world, time is by turns our friend and our enemy. Too much sameness is tedious and monotonous. We need some variety for life to remain interesting.

But too much change is depressing and maddening. For we keep losing the things we love. We can never savor the moment. Linger.

As Bible writers put it:

Ps 90

3You return man to dust
and say, "Return, O children of man!"
4For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

5You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

9For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Isa 40

6A voice says, "Cry!"
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
7The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the LORD blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Eccl 1

2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.

11There is no remembrance of former things,
nor will there be any remembrance
of later things yet to be
among those who come after.

Yet Scripture also has a doctrine of the New Eden. Cosmic eschatological renewal. A doctrine of the Palingenesis, where in some sense the future restores the past, the end renews the beginning (Isa 35:1-10; 65-66; Ezk 47:1-12; Mt 19:28-29; Acts 3:21; Rom 8:18-23; 2 Pet 3:10-13; Rev 20-22).

But not in a cyclical sense (“the myth of the eternal return”). Not mere repetition or recapitulation. But preserving and improving on the best of the past. The good without the bad. The good made better.

What form that will take exactly remains to be seen. That’s part of the adventure. The Christian hope of things unseen.

James White's Debate With Robert Sungenis On The Assumption Of Mary

I recently listened to James White's debate with Robert Sungenis on the assumption of Mary. It took place last Friday, and you can listen to it here.

White said most of what needed to be said. I don't have much to add, but I will make several points and recommend some resources.

Sungenis maintains that Mary's assumption is alluded to in scripture, but isn't directly or explicitly taught in scripture or by any extant extra-Biblical source in the earliest centuries of church history. He claims that the doctrine should be accepted anyway, largely on the basis of church authority. But he didn't produce much of an argument for that church authority during the debate. He claimed that some exercises of authority recorded in scripture, such as the rulings of the Jerusalem council mentioned in Acts 15, are examples of church authority. However, he didn't demonstrate that post-apostolic decisions should be assigned the same significance as decisions made by the apostles. And even if we were to assume the continuation of such an authority in post-apostolic times, he didn't demonstrate that the authority in question is to be found in Roman Catholicism. During White's cross examination, Sungenis said that we would be "up the creek" without such a post-apostolic authority. But he didn't demonstrate that having the Bible alone or some other authority structure different than that of Roman Catholicism would be unacceptable.

He also appealed to Marian apparitions. (See our thread on that subject here.) During White's cross examination, Sungenis claimed that Mary couldn't come back to earth bodily unless she had been bodily assumed to Heaven. But how does he know that Mary returned to earth bodily during the apparitions in question? And how would such a bodily appearance prove a bodily assumption in the first century A.D.? For example, some angels in the Old Testament era were given bodies while visiting earth without having been bodily assumed to Heaven earlier.

Sungenis suggests that some people believed in Mary's assumption or discussed it during the earliest centuries, even though they didn't leave any traces of those beliefs or discussions in the historical record. The possibility that such people existed doesn't give us reason to think their existence is probable. And see here and here regarding contexts in which an assumption of Mary could have been mentioned in the early centuries, but wasn't.

Sungenis also notes that people didn't know where Mary's grave was and were ignorant of other facts surrounding her death. He suggests that such ignorance has implications supporting Mary's assumption. But the early Christians were ignorant about the deaths and graves of other individuals as well, and we don't conclude that those individuals were bodily assumed to Heaven. See, for example, my quotes of Eusebius and John Chrysostom here.

Remember, Pope Pius XII, in his decree Munificentissimus Deus, refers to the assumption of Mary as "a matter of such great moment and of such importance" (11). He says to the individual who opposes the doctrine, "let him know that he has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith" (45). He claims that the arguments for the doctrine are so good that it "seems impossible" (38) to avoid the conclusion that Mary was bodily assumed. The Pope refers to the assumption as "this truth which is based on the Sacred Writings, which is thoroughly rooted in the minds of the faithful, which has been approved in ecclesiastical worship from the most remote times" (41).

Though the debate was about the assumption of Mary, Sungenis commented on other subjects along the way, like the canon of scripture. He said that the church decided on the canon in 382, but that the canon wasn't "formally dogmatized" until Trent. See here for a discussion of some of the problems with that argument. And since Sungenis raised the issue of how Evangelicals justify their canon, see here on that subject.