Saturday, November 13, 2010


Scott Windsor is one of those nearsighted Catholic epologists who unwittingly does more damage to the case for Catholicism than I ever could.

“That being said, it IS a valid argument to say that Sts. Peter and Paul founded the Church at Rome - for they did bring the bishoprick to that city, which previously had small ‘mission’ or ‘home’ meetings for church.”

i) Except for the awkward fact that this concession represents a complete retreat from Windsor’s former position. He original said:

“Again with the straw man! Who here is claiming that St. Peter ‘founded’ the Church at Rome?”

ii) He also interpolates a distinction between the founding of Roman mission churches and “bringing the bishoprick” to Rome. But he doesn’t show where that distinction is drawn in the early church fathers–even if we were to assume the early church fathers were reliable on that score.

“Did Sts. Peter and Paul found the small, in-home mission churches? No, folks like Aquila and Priscilla did. Did they bring the hierarchy of the Church to Rome? Most certainly.”

It’s so easy to be a Catholic epologist. If you don’t have the historical facts to back up your key claims, you can simply invent whatever historical facts you need as you go along. Instant historical facts.

“Both views are correct - you’re looking at two parts of the same elephant.”

Well, Windsor is looking at a white elephant.

“If you feel I have misrepresented Catholic teaching in any way, please point such out and I will either explain myself or recant.”

Windsor is not the point-man for Catholicism. He’s just a wannabe.

“My point remains that St. Peter’s see is traced through Rome.”

Peter’s see is traced through Rome by Roman Catholic epologists. Nothing like a circular proof.

“However, the Antiochian see is also traced to St. Peter.”

Which undermines Roman primacy.

“Um, Mr. Hays - YOU started this discussion YOU framed it in Roman Catholic terms - so how does that make ME ‘begging the question?!’ Need I remind you of your own words?

Windsor can’t tell the difference between internal and external critiques. Sometimes I judge Catholicism by its own standards, and sometimes I judge Catholicism by my own standards. It varies depending on what I’m responding to.

“Now, did you or did you not use the terminology of ‘bishops’ and ‘popes’ here?”

Because there’s a basic difference between “bishop” in the Biblical sense and “bishop” in the papistical sense. (And, of course, Catholicism also uses “pope” as synonymous with “bishop of Rome”.) But Windsor can only keep one idea in his head at a time.

“In the first century we had Peter, Linus, Cletus and Clement (who took us into the second century).”

That’s a key contention which Windsor needs to prove. It’s hardly adequate to merely quote conventional papal lists. For one must also evaluate the conventional papal lists. These are not inspired records. Windsor needs to interact with scholarly analysis of these documents (e.g. Duffey, Eno, Lampe, Schatz).

“Aquila and Priscilla ‘presided’ over a mission church in their home - they did not preside over Rome…”

It’s true that Aquila and Priscilla didn’t preside over “Rome.” For that matter, neither did Peter. Rather, Caesar presided over Rome.

“…and did answer to the Apostles - who had not made it there yet.”

They were answerable to the apostles in general, not to Peter in particular.

“No, my statement of Peter’s bones being buried there is based in testimony, and the fact that those bones are actually there.”

Really? Windsor has a testimonial chain-of-custody beginning with those who saw Peter buried in Rome, along with a continuous testimony, year-by-year, decade-by-decade, and century-by-century, regarding the site of his grave, up until 21C Rome.

“...scientific testing has lent some credence to his assertion (they've been proved to belong to an older man; the bones of the feet are missing, as they would be from a man crucified upside down, as Peter is said to have been, etc.)”

Here he’s propping up one legend with another–the legend of Peter’s upside down crucifixion.

“Do I have a sample of St. Peter’s DNA to ID the bones? Again, silly question.”

To the contrary, when Windsor makes the unqualified claim that Peter’s bones are there (in Rome) “to this day,” it’s not at all silly to demand the only type of evidence which could validate that claim.

“And just what archaeological evidence did you provide regarding Aquila and Priscilla?”

If you’re really curious, you can answer your own question by reading the material I cited.

“You don’t seem to pay attention to the evidence provided even by yourself! There were several ‘in home’ churches and A&P hosted one of them. Wasn’t this part of what YOU provided?”

Windsor can’t follow the argument. The more individuals who simultaneously headed the 1C church of Rome, which was really a loose assortment of house-churches, the more that multiplicity destroys any claim that Peter founded the church of Rome, that there was a monarchical episcopate in the NT church of Rome, &c.

Windsor is trying to retrofit, then backdate a later ecclesiastical development in reference to the original church of Rome.

“As I pointed out already in the combox on Triablogue, the apostolic office IS that of bishop! If Judas Iscariot’s office was that of ‘bishoprick’ as Acts 1:20 tells us - then why wouldn’t the office of Sts. Peter and Paul have also been a bishoprick? It is not I who is making a “category mistake” here.”

i) That’s a classic semantic fallacy. As the standard lexicon on the Greek NT points out, “The ecclesiastical loanword ‘bishop’ is too technical and loaded with late historical baggage for precise signification of usage of episkopos and cognates in our literature, especially in the NT” (BDAG, 379b).

ii) The same point is made in standard commentaries on Acts 1:20, viz. “Literally ‘overseership,’ not in the technical sense. The meaning here (‘responsibility’) is much the same as that of diakonia in vv 17 and 25, and of apostole in v25” (Bruce, 1990:111); “’Take his place of leadership’ (episkopen is used in a nontechnical sense here)” (Peterson, 2009:125); “Here, as a rendering of the Hebrew and as used by Luke, it means simply office and contains no more indication of the nature of the office than readers of Acts may have brought to the text” (Barrett, 1994:1:100).

iii) In addition, Acts 1:20 is an OT quotation, from Ps 109:8, via the LXX (108:8). Needless to say, there was no episcopate or “bishoprick” in OT times.

So Windsor’s appeal is grossly anachronistic and acontextual. That’s because all he’s doing is to parrot traditional Catholic prooftexting rather than actually taking time to study the text in context.

iv) Apropos (iii), to apply Acts 1:20 to the papacy is ironically fatal the papacy, for as the text goes on to say, in 21-22, the qualifications for this office require the incumbent to a disciple of Jesus throughout his whole public ministry–from the baptism of John to the Ascension. Therefore, the “office” in question is unique and unrepeatable.

This is another instance in which a Catholic epologist is blindly reproducing traditional prooftexts without bothering to study the text in context. In the process, he winds up citing a “prooftext” which sabotages his case.

“Hmmm, in my first response to your silliness and admitted sarcasm, I not only included links to your articles, but also supplied several other sources, with links, supporting what I was saying.”

Let’s see…among other things, Windsor linked to a Wikipedia article, which illustrates the tremendous depth of his scholarship.

He also linked to a “Catholic News Agency” article. But isn’t that “preaching to the choir”? Why does he discount my sources if I cite a Protestant scholar, but he helps himself to Catholic sources–and quack sources at that?

“I didn’t use as many sources, but I did cite Scripture and a link (to a non-Catholic source) supporting what I said about Fr. Brown.”

Windsor cited a source which said “Fr. Brown held liberal, modernistic and revisionist ideas.”

That in no way deflects my argument. Did I deny Brown’s liberal credentials? No. Is that relevant to the case at hand? No.

The fact that Brown was a liberal Catholic scholar is hardly a problem for my argument. That’s an additional problem for Catholicism, not for me.

“Not true, Mr. Hays. The point is when you’re debating with a Catholic, and then you cite numerous Protestant only commentaries (which are not primary sources) you can’t expect any Catholics to be impressed. Of course, your ‘choir’ appreciates it - but you’re not scoring any debate points in merely preaching to the choir.”

i) Primary sources need to be sifted. They also need to be situated in their historical milieu. An English-speaking papist from the 21C (e.g. Scott Windsor) can’t jump straight into the church fathers without the requisite background knowledge.

ii) BTW, if he’s going to make a big deal about primary sources, does he read the church fathers in the original Greek and Latin? Does he use critical editions of the church fathers?

ii) Windsor simply disregards the arguments contained in the monographs and commentaries I cited.

iii) As you can see from his preemptory dismissal of Brown (as well as Fitzmyer, see below), Windsor equally dismissive of Catholic scholarship when it undermines his case.

iv) Windsor also relies on secondary sources. The difference is that I cite scholarly secondary sources whereas he cites pulp secondary sources.

v) No, I don’t expect anti-intellectual Catholics like Windsor to be impressed with genuine scholarship that challenges their dog-like faith in Mother Church.

“Your accusation of me only accepting pre-approved in-house authors is patently false.”

To the contrary, his treatment of Brown and Fitzmyer corroborates my allegation.

“Again, the point would be if you’re debating with a Mormon - you should cite SOME Mormon sources. If you were going after Mormonism and merely supplying Protestant commentary, you would be (fairly) criticised for that as well.”

i) To the contrary, if a Protestant monograph was well-argued, then it makes no difference. Windsor is committing the genetic fallacy.

ii) Moreover, he’s too simple-minded to realize that “Protestant commentaries” can (and often do) quote and interact with Catholic sources.

iii) But the dumbest thing about his objection is that Priscilla’s social status is not a Catholic/Protestant issue, per se. There’s nothing in Catholic dogma which opposes the notion that Priscilla was a Roman noblewoman who married a Jewish freeman.

Indeed, why does Windsor appeal to alleged archeological evidence for Peter’s bones on Vatican Hill, but waves away archaeological evidence regarding her social status from the Titulus Priscae, the Catacomb of Priscilla, and other ancient sources (e.g. Tacitus, Dio Cassius)?

But, of course, Windsor suffers from acute self-reinforcing ignorance. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, because he preemptively discounts any and all Catholic and Protestant scholarship to the contrary.

“Just because you picked one who is noted to be contrary to orthodox Catholic thought, even by non-Catholics (such as the source I quoted and cited)…”

If Brown was heterodox, then why did two popes elevate him to the Pontifical Biblical Commission? Is the papacy also contrary to “orthodox Catholic thought”?

“Get over yourself.”

That’s rich coming from a Catholic layman who credits himself with sounder discernment than two popes. As usual, we’re treated to the reductio ad absurdum of a papist defending the claims of the papacy by simultaneously derogating the competence of the papacy.

“So now you move to Fr. Brown’s PARTNER in the Jerome Bible Commentary so what are you expecting to accomplish here? Yes, he’s just as liberal minded as Fr. Brown!”

That’s true, although I wasn’t referencing the Jerome Bible Commentary. Rather, I was referring to Fitzmyer’s commentary on Romans in the Anchor series.

“Sometimes I think some Protestant apologists knowingly point to known liberal Catholics for two reasons: 1) they say what you want them to say; 2) when a more orthodox Catholic tells you they hold to liberal theology then you attack the more orthodox Catholic for the disagreement - as a red herring/distraction tactic and never deal with the FACT that these ‘scholars’ are liberals.”

Windsor is one of those shortsighted epologists who punches holes in the hull of Rome, then spends the remainder of his time frantically bailing water.

To keep accentuating the fact that Rome sanctions the liberal scholarship of Brown, Fitzmyer et al., is unwittingly damaging to the very institution he professes to defend.

Who are the “more orthodox” Catholics? Why shouldn’t we judge Catholic orthodoxy by the policy of the Magisterium? It’s not as if Fitzmyer has been disciplined by his bishop. Or the Vatican.

Yet he’s a famous, influential scholar. So it’s not as though his religious superiors are ignorant of where he stands, or his impact on Catholic thought. The same could be said for other prominent liberals like John Meier, Luke Timothy Johnson, and Jerome Murphy-O’Connor.

“And all you’ve ‘cited’ from them is their commentary - that’s not ‘evidence.’”

The evidence is contained in the body of the text, as well as the footnotes.

“All you’ve done is shore up your protesting opinion with the opinion of a liberal who himself is at odds with orthodox Catholicism.”

Notice how Windsor must malign the judgment of the popes who appointed Brown to the Pontifical Biblical Commission–as well as religious superiors who gave Brown the imprimatur on various publications.

Brown is not a religious rogue. Windsor is the religious rogue. Like Catholic epologists in general, Windsor is a Catholic dissident. He can only defend the “true” faith by dissenting from the way in which his religious superiors administer the affairs of the church.

“As I pointed out in the combox, St. Irenaeus perspective is on the founding of the hierarchical structure of “The Church” in Rome, not the founding of home-hosted mission churches.”

Although Windsor pays lip-service to the “primary sources,” you notice that he doesn’t exegete that crucial distinction from the text of Irenaeus.

“So why did cities like Jerusalem and Antioch get bishops and hierarchy, but your argument is that Rome got ‘nothing above and beyond the informal founding.”

i) In the 1C, there was no Catholic “hierarchy” in the Jerusalem church. You had apostles, elders, and deacons. Elders were a carryover from Judaism, while deacons were an afterthought.

ii) Moreover, the church of Jerusalem was, itself, informally organized. Sometimes they gathered in the temple precincts, at other times they met in house-churches (e.g. Acts 12:12). Even the church of Jerusalem, which was the mother church of Christendom, had no official “founding.” It was simply a strategic base camp. They improvised as they went along (e.g. the institution of the deaconate in Acts 6).

“So when did Rome get a real bishop? Who was that first real bishop?”

i) The 1C Roman church never had a “real bishop” (a la the monarchical episcopate). Rather, it had a number of church leaders (e.g. Priscilla and Aquila, Philologus and Julia, Asyncritus) who individually oversaw the autocephalous house-churches under their patronage. There was no bishop over the various Roman house-churches.

If you want names, then those are the earliest names we have for Roman church leaders.

ii) But if you’re asking about the historic origins of the Roman church, then that probably goes back to the early thirties, when Roman Jews came home after their Pentecostal pilgrimage to Jerusalem (Acts 2:10-11,41), to form the nucleus of the Christian community in Rome. That would antedate Peter’s itinerate ministry by about a dozen years (Acts 12:17). For a more detailed reconstruction, cf. J. Fitzmyer, Romans, 25-38; R. Jewett, Romans, 59-74.

“Through whom are ALL the successors of the Bishop of Rome traced through - bar none.”

If you’re referring to the papacy, in contradistinction to the NT church of Rome, then Pope La Bête was the inaugural pontiff.

“Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church that has found mercy in the transcendent Majesty of the Most High Father and of Jesus Christ, His only Son; the church by the will of Him who willed all things that exist, beloved and illuminated through the faith and love of Jesus Christ our God; which also presides in the chief place of the Roman territory; a church worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of felicitation, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and presiding in love, maintaining the law of Christ, and bearer of the Father's name: her do I therefore salute in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father. Heartiest good wishes for unimpaired joy in Jesus Christ our God, to those who are united in flesh and spirit by every commandment of His; who imperturbably enjoy the full measure of God's grace and have every foreign stain filtered out of them.”

Unfortunately for Windsor, this quote is counterproductive:

i) Ignatius clearly describes the Roman church as a local (or regional) church–not the one, true, universal church. It only presides over the imperial capital, or, at most, central Italy. So much for Roman primacy or catholicity.

ii) In addition, he says nothing about the bishop of Rome. Nothing about a Roman episcopate, much less a monarchical Roman episcopate. And he doesn’t even greet the bishop of Rome by name–which is not surprising, since that position didn’t exist back then.

iii) It is the Roman church, and not the Roman primate, which is said to “preside” over the city (or region).

“Pope Clement I, writing about circa 80-95ad speaks of the need for apostolic succession:”

He doesn’t explain how he comes up with an 80 AD terminus ad quo for 1 Clement.

“Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry.”

Of course, that’s fatally equivocal, for there’s no textual evidence that Clement is using these ecclesiastical terms in the specialized sense that Roman Catholicism defines them. Another semantic anachronism.

“So again I ask, who was the first Bishop of Rome?”

Coming from a Catholic, the question is equivocal–for the papacy evolves over time. There’s no date when the pope became the pope. It’s still developing at Vatican I, still developing at Vatican II. The papacy defines and redefines itself throughout church history, according to its ambitions and exigencies.

“When did this ‘official establishment’ take place in your allegedly non-mythical view?”

When is a usurper is officially established?

“Irrelevant? You proposed that they were the first bishops of Rome! You proposed they should rightly be called the first pope and popessa of Rome. It is wholly relevant to demonstrate that they were MISSIONARIES and not holding the office of bishop, as your satire alleges.”

Peter was also a missionary. So was Paul. As well as John.

“…just because Scripture does not say explicitly that Peter went to Rome.”

i) It wouldn’t matter if Peter went to Rome. No doubt he went to a variety of places after he became a refugee.

ii) Windsor is too dim to appreciate a basic asymmetry between Catholicism and Protestantism on this issue: while Peter’s presence in Rome is essential to Catholicism, Peter’s absence from Rome is inessential to Protestantism.

iii) Since, however, he keeps harping on the issue, and since he also cited 1 Peter 5:13 as a “code word” for Rome, it’s worth noting, as scholars like Kelley, Achtemeier, and Jobes have pointed out, that “Babylon” in 5:13 forms a synonymous parallel with “Diaspora” in 1:1. Hence, “Babylon” is probably a synonym, not for Rome, but for the exilic status of ex-pat Christians like Peter. Cf. K. Jobes, 1 Peter, 322f.

“What evidence?! Mr. Hays presented a bibliography and added his own comments, and didn’t quote the commentaries/opinion pieces (as if that is valid ‘evidence’) at all!”

i) Why should I manually transcribe material which Windsor can always read for himself? Go to the library.

ii) Besides, Windsor’s demand is two-faced. He preemptively excludes any Catholic or Protestants scholarship that’s injurious to his blind faith. So what’s the point of my detailing evidence that he will instantly discount?


The extrabiblical evidence that Priscilla married a Jew is complemented by the biblical evidence of gentiles who were drawn to the Jewish faith. That’s highly relevant. Not my fault if Windsor is too dim to perceive the connection.

“Again, I have not disputed the potential resources gained from the family business…Again, I have not questioned the resources of the family business.”

That’s the opposite of what I said. It’s her hereditary wealth that probably subsidized the house-churches in Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus–not the family business. (Indeed, not just a house-church, but a title-church in Rome.)

“I have not challenged her pedigree - I only stated from what Mr. Hays has presented thus far, we have no evidence other than she was married to a Jewish tentmaker. Comments on commentaries don’t count as evidence.”

They don’t count as evidence for those who refuse to read the evidence, for those who dismiss the evidence unread– because it comes scholars who don’t meet with Windsor’s prior approval.

However, it’s not Windsor’s prerogative to tell us what counts as evidence, especially when he presumes to disqualify scholars in good standing who belong to his own denomination.

“The identity of St Prisca is uncertain. One tradition claims that she is identical with Priscilla, who is mentioned in the New Testament, another that she was the daughter of Aquila and Priscilla.”

Here Windsor is quoting from Wikipedia again. In terms of our respective source material, I’m in the Grand Masters while he plays putt-putt golf.

“You try to pass yourself off as presenting scholarly material, but you haven’t. I’m sure “the choir” just accepts your commentary on commentaries of other Protestants - but pardon me for not bowing to your bibliography.”

Aside from his anti-Protestant bigotry, he also speaks with a forked-tongue, for as we’ve seen, he’s just dismissive of Catholic scholarship whenever it threatens to undercut his position.

“Missionaries are seldom the ones ‘in charge.’”

A missionary like St. Paul would surely beg to differ.

“Hmmm, where was St. John given this title? Even if that were so, which it is not, the ‘Vicar of the Churches in Asia Minor’ cannot be equivocated to the ‘Vicar of Christ.’”

The apostles were agents of Christ.

“Do the math. St. Peter is there with the rest of the Apostles and Jesus singles out St. Peter and in a threefold command the Good Shepherd has told St. Peter to feed His sheep. In short, He was passing on the reigns.”

No, Jesus doesn’t tell Peter to shepherd the sheep in opposition to the other disciples, as if he forbad the other disciples to do so. Jesus doesn’t use antithetical language to contrast Peter’s role with the role of his fellow disciples. If Christian elders are duty-bound to shepherd the sheep (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-4), then surely the other apostles, who outrank Christian elders, are also duty-bound to shepherd the sheep.

“You’re begging the question! The title of “pope” or “papa” comes later, so let’s not try to argue that anachronism. The fact is though that title is given later, it is given to the one who occupies the same office as St. Peter.”

Except for the awkward little fact that there’s nothing about a Petrine office in your papal prooftext (Jn 21:15-17).

“Sts. Aquila and Priscilla never held the office of bishop, as St. Peter did.”

Actually, Pauline missionaries and church-planters had to carry out the functions of a Christian elder. Consider Timothy and Titus.

“My ‘rank’ - or lack thereof - does not affect the TRUTH (or lack thereof) in what I’ve SAID. Mr. Hays would do well to study up on what constitutes a valid argument and avoid the pitfalls of the common fallacies in rhetoric.”

If Windsor thinks there’s no connection between the messenger and the veracity of the message, then he just relegated the entire Roman Magisterium to the status of a genetic fallacy.

Catholics typically think it makes quite a bit of difference who is doing the talking. Is it the pope? An ecumenical council? Hans Küng? Martin Luther?

Since, however, Windsor insists that we enjoy direct, independent access to the truth, we can now eliminate the middleman of the Roman episcopate and papacy.

“The objective reader who was paying attention (and hasn’t given up by this point) will note that Mr. Hays explicitly stated that Fr. Brown was both ‘Priest and Bishop’ - which I challenged him to show us when and where Fr. Brown was elevated to the office of the bishoprick. He is mute on that question.”

Yet another example of Windsor’s self-reinforcing ignorance, as well as his basic illiteracy. The fact that (in my post) I both capitalized and italicized the parenthetical reference to Priest and Bishop would cue a literate reader to the fact that I was citing the title of a book–just as I did with the other titles I cited in my post. I never said that “Brown” was a priest and bishop. Rather, he wrote a monograph by that title.

Of course, if Windsor weren’t such an ignoramus, he’d recognize the title. This is as good an example as any of what passes for scholarship in Catholic pop apologetics.

“Second, my conceding that the “smoke of Satan has entered the Church” in AGREEMENT with Pope Paul VI does not mean I admitted to the pope (or two of them) being ‘counterfeit shepherds.’ Again, Mr. Hays uses the invalid non sequitur here. Pope Paul VI recognizing that the “smoke of Satan has entered the Church” does not make him a fake or counterfeit! The fact that he may have been duped into allowing Fr. Brown on the Pontifical Biblical Commission does not make him any more (or less) duped than Adam and Eve were when they listened to the serpent in the Garden of Eden.”

So, according to Windsor, Pope Paul VI and John-Paul II were duped by Fr. Brown. And Windsor knows this because, unlike the dupes who occupied the papal throne, Windsor is more discerning than the “Vicar of Christ.”

When a papist has so little faith in the papacy, how can he expect a Protestant to have more faith in that institution than he has? Once again, we witness the self-defeating spectacle of a Catholic epologist who must declare the papacy incompetent, then have it involuntarily committed to the loony bin for its own safety.

Remember that a good shepherd is supposed to protect the flock from the wolf (Jn 10; Acts 20:28-29). Windsor has assured us that Fr. Brown was a wolf in sheepish attire. Yet he also tells us that Brown managed to hoodwink two gullible popes into appointing him to the Pontifical Biblical Commission. So, yes, that makes them counterfeit shepherds.

Catholic apologists constantly allege that Protestantism makes every man his own pope. Yet Windsor has clearly cast himself in the role of Superpope. Überpope. The Super-Duper-Überpope. He dashes into the telephone booth to save the papacy from the pope.

“By Mr. Hays logic, God Himself is a counterfeit for allowing that serpent to be in the Garden of Eden!”

i) God wasn’t shepherding Adam and Eve in Gen 3. That was never his intent. Rather, he was doing in Gen 3 much what he does in Job 1-2.

ii) By Windsor’s logic, God himself was duped by Old Scratch.

iii) God ordained the fall in the furtherance of a greater good (Rom11: 32). Is Windsor saying that Brown’s scholarship contributes to the greater good?

“No, he presented us with virtually nothing and then has the audacity to throw ad hominem insults my way! One way to judge who is losing a debate is to see who reduces their arguments to invalid ad hominem.”

In that event, Leo X lost the debate with Martin Luther. Just look at all the ad hominem insults he hurls:

Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause. Remember your reproaches to those who are filled with foolishness all through the day. Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod. When you were about to ascend to your Father, you committed the care, rule, and administration of the vineyard, an image of the triumphant church, to Peter, as the head and your vicar and his successors. The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.

Against the Roman Church, you warned, lying teachers are rising, introducing ruinous sects, and drawing upon themselves speedy doom. Their tongues are fire, a restless evil, full of deadly poison. They have bitter zeal, contention in their hearts, and boast and lie against the truth.

Rebuking them, in violation of your teaching, instead of imploring them, he is not ashamed to assail them, to tear at them, and when he despairs of his cause, to stoop to insults. He is like the heretics "whose last defense," as Jerome says, "is to start spewing out a serpent's venom with their tongue when they see that their causes are about to be condemned, and spring to insults when they see they are vanquished." For although you have said that there must be heresies to test the faithful, still they must be destroyed at their very birth by your intercession and help, so they do not grow or wax strong like your wolves.

Other errors are either heretical, false, scandalous, or offensive to pious ears, as seductive of simple minds, originating with false exponents of the faith who in their proud curiosity yearn for the world's glory, and contrary to the Apostle's teaching, wish to be wiser than they should be…Therefore we, in this above enumeration, important as it is, wish to proceed with great care as is proper, and to cut off the advance of this plague and cancerous disease so it will not spread any further in the Lord's field as harmful thornbushes.

A Review Of Michael Licona's The Resurrection Of Jesus (Part 2)

Modern Miracles

Some people object to Jesus' resurrection on the basis of an alleged absence of modern miracles. If miracles don't occur today, why believe they occurred in ancient times?

Licona addresses the issue in his book. He mentions his own experiences with the paranormal (n. 75 on p. 491), and he cites Craig Keener's experiences with the miraculous (n. 18 on p. 139) and an upcoming book by Keener that discusses and documents modern miracles (n. 31 on p. 143). He also mentions some of the evidence for apparitions of the dead in the process of responding to a book on the resurrection by Dale Allison (pp. 625-629, 634-637). He quotes Keener's reference to the "anecdotal" nature of some of the evidence for modern miracles and "the unfortunate dearth of academic works cataloguing such claims" (n. 18 on p. 139).

While there is value in citing such anecdotal evidence, citing an upcoming book by Keener, mentioning Licona's own experiences with the paranormal, etc., I don't understand why Licona doesn't cite some of the relevant material that's already been published and widely discussed and is supported by better evidence. What about the paranormal research done by Stephen Braude, for example, as discussed in books like Immortal Remains (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003) and The Gold Leaf Lady (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2007)? Or see this thread on our blog from a few years ago, in which another scholar who's researched the paranormal, Michael Sudduth, mentions some other sources. To get some idea of the nature of the evidence, see Sudduth's PowerPoint presentation on the mediumship of Leonora Piper here. Licona's mentor, Gary Habermas, often cites the example of near-death experiences. There's so much that Licona could have cited, but didn't, and his references to "anecdotal" evidence and a "dearth of academic works cataloguing such claims" could lead some readers to a misimpression that the evidence is far less than it actually is. The evidence for modern miracles is significantly better than Licona suggests.

The Significance Of Groups

Licona gives a lot of attention to the historical significance of individuals like Paul, Josephus, and Polycarp. He doesn't say as much as he ought to about groups, such as the audiences to whom men like Paul and Polycarp wrote.

Even if Ignatius wasn't a disciple of any of the apostles, some of the churches he wrote to had recently been in contact with one or more of the apostles. And Ignatius' church was itself an apostolic church. When Ignatius refers to the historicity and physicality of Jesus' resurrection in his letters, we shouldn't just ask how close of a relationship Ignatius had with the apostles and other resurrection witnesses. We should also ask how close of a relationship his church and the churches to whom he wrote had with those witnesses of the resurrection. The fact that such an early bishop of an apostolic church would write to other apostolic churches with the assumption of a common belief in Jesus' historical and physical resurrection is significant.

One of the primary reasons why churches like Rome and Ephesus were so prominent in the early patristic era was their historical relationship with one or more of the apostles. When the Roman church writes to the Corinthian church in the late first century, as we see in First Clement, we're getting information about two apostolic communities shortly after the death of some apostles who had been in contact with those churches. As Clement of Rome notes, there were old Christians still alive who had been in the Christian communities of that day from the time of their youth (First Clement, 63). The churches and some individuals within them had historical relationships with the apostles, even if some extant patristic authors, like Ignatius, didn't.

Along similar lines, it's significant when Irenaeus cites Jesus' "resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh" as core beliefs accepted across the Christian world (Against Heresies, 1:10:1). Irenaeus tells us that some heretics rejected some New Testament documents (3:11:7), but that most "do certainly recognise the Scriptures; but they pervert the interpretations" (3:12:12). The fact that documents relevant to the resurrection, like the gospels and the writings of Paul, were so widely accepted, even accepted by most heretics, is significant.

Similarly, it's significant when Celsus attributes to Christians in general the belief that Jesus rose from the dead in the same body that was in the tomb (in Origen, Against Celsus, 3:43, 8:49). Celsus is aware of exceptions (5:14), but he seems to think that a resurrection of the body that died is the mainstream Christian view (as opposed to a non-physical resurrection or one involving an exchange of bodies rather than a transformation of the body that died).

We need to look beyond individuals like Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Celsus to see the larger groups they're reflecting. Majorities can be wrong, but the more widespread a traditional Christian view of Jesus' resurrection was early on, the more difficult it is to argue that so many people misunderstood or rejected what the resurrection witnesses taught. As Irenaeus notes concerning the time when Clement of Rome lived, "there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles" (Against Heresies, 3:3:3). Such people would have had a significant role in shaping the beliefs of early Christianity. We don't need to know many of their names or possess many of their writings in order to make such judgments about their likely influence. I don't think Licona gives enough attention to group testimony and the significance of the widespread nature of the Christian claims about the resurrection. He touches on some of these points at times, but the argument could be developed much more than Licona develops it in his book.

Hostile Corroboration

I agree with Licona that it would be good to have "a few documents dating to the period between the 30s and 60s written by Roman and Jewish authorities describing their take" on matters relevant to Jesus' resurrection (pp. 587-588). What we do have from non-Christian sources isn't as good as what we'd like.

But it's good enough to warrant more attention than Licona gives it. He discusses sources like Thallus and Suetonius, who don't tell us much about Christianity, let alone the resurrection in particular. Yet, Licona says little or nothing about many of the relevant early arguments against Christianity reflected in the gospels, Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho, and Origen's Against Celsus, for example.

While the lateness of such sources diminishes their evidential weight, it doesn't eliminate their significance. Just as Christians would tend to pass down arguments from generation to generation, so would non-Christians. It's not as though the enemies of Christianity would have waited until some time in the late first or early second century to start coming up with arguments to use against the religion. If Jewish opponents of Christianity in Matthew's day and in Justin Martyr's day acknowledge that Jesus‘ tomb was found empty, that's most likely because earlier Jews believed the same, which is what Matthew tells us (Matthew 28:15). Even if Licona didn't want to address the evidence for the empty tomb, he could have said more about the larger principle involved.

That larger principle is that we do have some significant information about how the early enemies of Christianity viewed the religion, as reflected in sources like the gospels and Justin Martyr. It seems that there was early hostile corroboration of Christian claims on issues like the empty tomb and New Testament authorship. See here for some examples.

I don't fault Licona for noting that the state of the evidence from non-Christian sources is far from ideal. And it's understandable that he would give more attention to material like 1 Corinthians 15. But the evidence from these non-Christian sources warrants more consideration than Licona gives it.

He writes that Celsus "shows familiarity with the Gospel narratives, which appear to be his source. Accordingly, Celsus provides no independent material" (p. 246). But Celsus also uses material outside of the New Testament. And his acceptance of the historical genre of the gospels and his acceptance of so much of what the gospels report are significant facts, even if he doesn't go much beyond what the gospels tell us. For a non-Christian to repeat what the gospels tell us has a different type of significance than the repetition of gospel material by a Christian source. It's one thing for Irenaeus to affirm a gospel account. It's something else for Celsus to do it.

Christians were interacting with their opponents from the time of the New Testament onward. We can learn a lot about the beliefs of those opponents from those interactions: what they were claiming about the authorship of the gospels, the genre of the gospels, how the early Christians defined resurrection, the empty tomb, etc. Licona largely neglects that evidence.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Review Of Michael Licona's The Resurrection Of Jesus (Part 1)

I recently finished reading Michael Licona's The Resurrection Of Jesus (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2010). It's a great book. The scholarly endorsements speak for themselves. I'm only a layman who occasionally reads articles and books about the resurrection, so I'm not as qualified to judge the book as others. But the same is true of most of those who will read it. Even though I've had an above average interest in the resurrection for years, and have read however many thousands of pages of material on the subject, I found Licona's book to be a goldmine of new and rare information. I also think it treats some of its subject matter better than any other source I'm familiar with.

It's particularly good on historiography, the Pauline evidence, and the evidence against naturalistic explanations for the resurrection appearances (hallucinations and related phenomena). As Licona notes, the Pauline evidence is commonly considered "the strongest brick in [the resurrection hypothesis'] foundation" (n. 471 on p. 603). His treatment of that evidence is superb, especially concerning 1 Corinthians 15. The book would be highly significant even if it consisted only of his comments on that one passage. And his material on hallucination theories is the best I've seen. I've often recommended Gary Habermas' article on the subject written several years ago, but Licona's treatment is better. Unfortunately, though, it's broken up into different places in the book, so it isn't as organized and easy to think through as Habermas' article. Hopefully, Licona will eventually pull all of his material on the subject together into something like the article by Habermas.

Any book on the resurrection has to be highly selective in what it covers. The subject can be approached from so many different angles. Licona distinguishes between conclusions accepted by nearly all scholars and conclusions that aren't as widely accepted. He first judges between hypotheses by the most widely accepted conclusions. He then goes to what he considers secondary conclusions, ones less widely accepted, if a judgment can't be made by means of the primary ones. He takes the minimal facts approach further than William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas. He doesn't even include the empty tomb among the core facts by which he evaluates the competing hypotheses. He comments on the widespread scholarly acceptance of the empty tomb, but he doesn't make a case for its historicity. He argues for the superiority of a resurrection hypothesis without making appeal to the empty tomb. Though he mentions that some scholars argue for the traditional authorship attributions of the gospels, and he cites some of the relevant sources, he doesn't argue for any of those attributions himself. He sometimes argues for the historicity of some portions of the gospels, but his focus is on a core set of facts that isn't dependent on the gospels. He isn't arguing for the inerrancy or harmonization of the Biblical material. A lot of the evidence that could be cited in support of the resurrection isn't discussed much or at all.

There are tradeoffs involved in any approach. I don't think Licona's approach has the best overall balance. But there is some merit to it. One advantage is that he'll probably get a wider academic audience for his book, as its endorsements suggest. A case for the resurrection that focuses to such an extent on such widely accepted conclusions is likely to get more of a hearing in some circles. His approach also simplifies the controversy in some ways, and it highlights the evidential significance of the core facts he focuses on. There are some disadvantages to his approach. I agree with putting the most emphasis on the facts supported by the best evidence, and I agree with highlighting the facts that are the most widely accepted among scholars. But I think the lesser facts (lesser in terms of evidence and lesser in terms of scholarly acceptance) should be more prominent than they are in Licona's work (and Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig's, for example). I see the reasoning behind putting more emphasis on the creed of 1 Corinthians 15 than gospel authorship, for example, but I wouldn't give gospel authorship as little attention as people like Licona and Craig give it. We should recognize that alternatives to Licona's approach involve tradeoffs as well, though. They have their own weaknesses. Licona's approach is unique or unusual in some ways, and I think it accomplishes some good things, though it's not the approach I would take.

There's a lot of valuable material in the book that I'll be using in the future. But in the coming days, I want to discuss some of my disagreements with the book, what it doesn't cover and where I think it's wrong at some points. The book is around 700 pages long. I can't address every agreement or disagreement I have with it. But I do want to explain some more of the concerns I have. All of my criticisms will be of a minor or moderate variety. I don't have any major disagreements with the book. After I've discussed some examples of my disagreements, I'll have a lot more that's positive to say, including some quotes from some of the best parts of the book.

Aiming at the wrong target

I ran across an old post by Dean Dough. For those who don't know, he's a "modernist Christian," having moved from the right end of the theological spectrum to the left end. Anyway, he said:

The stimulus for this post was a series of exchanges I had with Steve Hays et. al. on Triablogue here and here regarding methodological naturalism in scientific investigation.

When I asked him for examples of scientific investigation that avoided the pitfall of methodological naturalism, he directed me to Rupert Sheldrake and Stephen Braude. I took some time to learn about Rupert Sheldrake.

Sheldrake himself insists that he is working on accumulating evidence to back up his theories. The experiments posted on his website are meant to gather data that will support the idea that there is some kind of collective "memory" or "field" shared by all members of a given species and that information gathered by one member is shared with all via transmission through this "field." Steve Hays pointed to Sheldrake's experiments as an example of how one could do science without relying on methodological naturalism. In fact, Sheldrake's experiments do no such thing. His theory may be wacko mystical nonsense, as Wolpert claims, but his intent is to accumulate enough data to build an explanatory framework that conforms to the requirements of methodological naturalism. He appears to believe, for instance, that we will eventually be able to detect and measure "morphic fields" directly.

But Dean commits a basic blunder: I wasn't referring to Sheldrake's theory of morphic causation. Rather, I was explicitly referring to his (as well as Braude's) investigations into the paranormal. Here is what I said:

Dean Dough said...

"Yes, a case of purported demonic possession would be a good one to work with. Yes, the idea is to get the right answer. So, how do you know when you have the right answer? What criteria do you use? What kinds of evidence count and how much? What theoretical framework(s) will you use to relate your data? You are absolutely correct to focus on individual cases. But you wouldn't rethink the entire issue from the ground up each time. You would have some rules of thumb at least. That's what I'm interested in."

i) One can use standard diagnostic methods to screen out cases with detectable natural causes. That's a preliminary step.

ii) There's also the question of whether the patient responds to conventional therapies.

iii) There's the further question of whether the patient exhibits paranormal abilities.

However, I'm not impressed by your affectation of ignorance. Take critics of Rupert Sheldrake's experiments. Sheldrake has very specific criteria.

The underlying objection to his experimentation is not the lack of protocols, but philosophical resistance to the paranormal.

Same thing with Stephen Braude's investigations into the paranormal. He's also quite meticulous about the criteria.

I don't mention that to vouch for their conclusions, just to make the point that this pretense about not knowing what the alternative would look like is just that–a pretense.

4/14/2010 7:13 AM

Not-so Grand Design update

Just a quick note to say I've updated a past post with a couple of articles critical or at least not entirely supportive of Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow's The Grand Design (e.g. David Tyler's post).

Please feel free to add any other useful ones I've missed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ed Bozinski

Let’s begin with some gems from Bozinski’s blog:

Geocentrists remain hopeful even in this heliocentric age because as Gerardus Bouw (Ph.D. in astronomy, president of the Association for Biblical Astronomy and the country’s leading proponent of geocentrism) puts it: "I would not be a geocentrist if it were not for the Scriptures.”… "Both the anthropocentric theory of inspiration and the phenomenological-language theory are forms of accommodation where God is said to accommodate his wording to the understanding of the common man.

Which reminds me, Evangelical theologian Ben Witherington wrote this in Bible Review in 2003:

"In the late 1960s, my car broke down in the mountains of North Carolina, and I had to hitchhike. . . . I was picked up by an elderly couple driving an ancient Plymouth. After a little conversation, I discovered they were 'Flat-Eathers [sic.],' by which I mean they did not believe the world was round.


"I pressed them on this and asked, 'Why not?'

"The elderly man's response was, 'It says in the Book of Revelation that the angels will stand on the four corners of the earth. The earth couldn't have four corners if it was round.'"

1. Now, anyone with a functioning brain could see what is wrong with this type of argument. But Bozinski is blind to the fact that this type of argument contradicts his underlying argument.

i) Bozinski has argued that Bible writers teach an obsolescent view of the world. And they teach that antiquated view because they lack the scientific resources to know any better. All they could go by back then were appearances, and on the face of it (so goes the argument) they seemed to be living on a flat, stationary earth.

ii) However, when Bozinski cites modern geocentrists like Bouw, Sungenis, Selbrede, &c., they don’t subscribe to geocentrism because they think their senses select for geocentrism. Rather, they subscribe to geocentrism because they think that is what the Bible teaches.

iii) Moreover, they don’t subscribe to geocentrism because of their scientific ignorance. Rather, they subscribe to geocentricism in spite of well-known scientific arguments for heliocentrism, as well as scientific arguments against geocentrism.

iv) Furthermore, notice how Bouw explicitly opposes geocentrism to a merely “phenomenological” description. Yet, according to Bozinski, the phenomena are exactly what Bible writers and ANE writers were going by. All they had were the bare phenomena, which allegedly single out geocentrism.

Same thing with a flat earth. They supposedly believed in a flat earth because the earth appeared to be flat. That’s what they had to work with.

Yet when Bozinski tries to fortify his underlying argument by citing modern geocentrists (or even flat-earthers), they stake out that position in defiance of mainstream science and mainstream theology alike.

Even the hillbillies he cites via Witherington don’t believe the earth is flat cuz it looks just plain flat. That’s not the reason they gave. Rather, it’s based on how they interpret the Bible.

v) By parity of reasoning, if Bible writers taught geocentrism or the flat-earth, that would be despite, and not because of, the prima facie evidence. So Bozinski has upended his initial argument.

2. Let’s take another example of Bozinski’s fried circuitry. He appeals to writers like Bouw and Walton as if their positions were equivalent or complementary. Ye even if they both think the Bible teaches geocentrism, they have divergent rather than convergent reasons for that common conclusion.

Walton thinks that Christians ought to take the Bible at face value. However, what he has in mind is what would be the face-value meaning of Scripture to the original audience (as he understands it). He’d fault Bouw for reading the Bible through the tinted lens of Bouw’s blinkered fundy tradition, rather than recovering the lens of the original audience.

For Walton, “face value” is culturebound. What’s the face-value reading for one culture isn’t interchangeable with the face-value reading for another. For what we take to be the face-value meaning of Scripture is deceptively value-laden. We often bring unconscious assumptions or filters to the interpretive process.

My immediate point is not to evaluate Walton’s own position, but just to point out that superficial agreement between Walton and Bouw conceals incommensurable hermeneutical strategies. You can’t intelligently cite both Bouw and Walton to prove Biblical geocentrism (or flat-earthianity), for any similarity is strictly adventitious.

But, of course, that would require Bozinski to be a rational rationalist.

Mutually debunking debunkers

Unfortunately for them, Paul Tobin and Ed Babinski are more successful at debunking each other than they are at debunking Christianity. A fundamental problem is their adherenece to mutually contradictory standards of evidence.

On the one hand, Tobin preemptively debars “Fundamentalist” scholarship from consideration. For instance:

Paul Tobin

Perhaps this would be a good time to explain why the word ‘scholarship’ cannot be used when referring to evangelical literature[9] and why people like Hays are mistaken in placing their trust in such works.

The mark of scholarship is its dependence of evidence and reason regardless of where it leads….How can honest scholarship be done when one is already adhering to a position of inerrancy?

We do not find this in mainstream biblical scholarship, where debates and differing positions are taken based on how each scholar marshals the evidence. When a consensus is reached by such a boisterous group of scholars–it tends to mean that the evidence for such a consensus is strong. Thus when we say that 80% to 90% of such scholars agree that the pastorals were not written by Paul, we can be certain that the reason for such a consensus must be compelling.

A “Consensus” among evangelicals however, comes not from the result of arguments and evidence but from their “statements of faith.” In other words, such “consensuses” among evangelicals come from the unquestioned presuppositional biases.

By contrast, Babinski’s standard of evidence is the polar opposite of Tobin’s. Babinski is utterly indiscriminate in the sources he cites to substantiate his claims. He hardly confines himself to “mainstream” or “critical” scholarship or scholarly “consensus.” To the contrary, he often goes out of his way to cite individuals on the far right fringe of the theological spectrum. For instance:

Edward Babinski:

But before diving headfirst into ancient Mesopotamian writings or hardcore fundamentalist defenses of the location of hell…Beginning with some "King James Only" inerrantists…SELECTIONS FROM THE PLACE OF HELL by Terry Watkins, Th.D. Watkins only follows the King James Bible but seems adept at deflating the views of rival inerrantists, just as geocentrists are adept at pointing out to their young-earth brothers the verses that most embarrass their heliocentric view.

Geocentrism remains a minority opinion but a lively one among some creationist Christians…Geocentrists remain hopeful even in this heliocentric age because as Gerardus Bouw (Ph.D. in astronomy, president of the Association for Biblical Astronomy and the country’s leading proponent of geocentrism)…

Deep in history

steve said...
James Swan said...

"Out of curiousity, where exactly does 'Deep in History' end up?"

That terminates somewhere between the Quarternary and the Cretaceous.

Geologists are still scouring the fossil record for missing links connecting Peter to the Roman "primates." Experts differ on whether Pierolapithecus was a pope or antipope.

"To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."

- John Henry Newman

"To be deep in history is to be deep in trilobites."

- Stephen Jay Gould

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to play a weak hand

From Catholic philosopher and apologist Michael Liccione:

Generally, though, one can’t get Orthodox and conservative Protestants to agree that that’s what the Catholic Magisterium does. They still hold that the Catholic Church has “invented” doctrine because they point out, with some justice, that distinctively Catholic doctrines cannot just be logically deduced from the early sources. Unless, therefore, one antecedently accepts the claims of the Catholic Magisterium for itself, one cannot present such doctrines as binding on the faithful.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

OT hell

I'm reposing some comments I left over at Rhoblogy:

steve said...
John said...

“Let me ask you: have you ever known an atheist to speak at a funeral about how the deceased is ‘nowhere’?”

So you’re admitting that atheism is not something we should talk about in settings where it actually makes a difference.

“They just released a new version of Saw. You should go watch it.”

I don’t keep up with the various installments of the Saw franchise. So that says more about your viewing proclivities, not mine.

“It features people getting ripped open, flayed, burnt, stabbed, gouged, etc.”

From a secular standpoint, what’s wrong with that?

“But they rarely address the vexing difficulty that, despite the Old Testament revelation, no one seemed to know about eternal hellfire for thousands of years. People were dying and going to perdition in droves while the prophets warned people about comparatively trifling dangers on this side of the grave -- pestilence, captivity, etc.”

i) To the contrary, the prophets do mention hell (Isa 66:24; Dan 12:2).

ii) That’s also implicit in certain Proverbial statements regarding the divergent fate awaiting the righteous and the wicked.

iii) But even if the OT were silent on the subject, that doesn’t mean no one knew about it. It could just as well mean everyone knew about it. Some things aren’t mentioned because they’re so familiar that everybody takes them for granted.

steve said...

i) You're shifting the goalpost when you introduce the qualification of everlasting "torture."

And that's an atheistic caricature of hell.

ii) You also disregard alternative explanations of Ecclesiastes, such as we find in Waltke's OT theology.

iii) Dating Daniel (or Isaiah) late won't salvage your contention since liberals also date Ecclesiastes late. So even if (ad arguendo) we interpret Ecclesiastes your way, chronology doesn't save your theory.

iv) You're also shifting the goalpost from first insinuating that the OT is silent on the topic to your fallback claim that the OT speaks with more than one voice on the topic.

steve said...
Brabble Frabbitz said...

"Again, neither you nor Steve have shown that the OT suggests the wicked dead go to a place of never-ending torments after death."

The Isaian imagery of unquenchable fire and immortal maggots graphically suggests eternal misery. If the dead were consumed by fire and maggots, the fire would go out and the maggots would starve.

I'd also add that the imagery is distinctly unpleasant–and intentionally so.

Likewise, the Danielic language of everlasting shame and contempt clearly enunciates eternal misery.

Your quote from Spurgeon is a bait-and-switch since the question at issue is not what a Victorian Baptist believed, but what the Bible teaches.

Moreover, Spurgeon hardly speaks for Christian tradition generally on this issue. Consider Turretin's metaphorical treatment of hellfire.

steve said...
Brabble Frabbitz said...

“Immortal maggots, eh. The text doesn't call for that.”

Indeed it does. If the maggot never dies, then the maggot is immortal–in which case the human host shares in the immortality of the maggot.

“Nor does your assertion about unquenchable fire prove anything. If a group of firemen are incapable of putting out a fire, it "cannot be quenched." But that certainly doesn't mean the fire burns on for all eternity.”

If you wish to gloss the fire/maggot imagery after the manner of the annihilationist would, then it’s nonsensical for you to turn around and blame God for failing to warn sinners of everlasting “torture.” For on your own interpretation, the operative terms don’t demand unending duration. Likewise, your interpretive approach would also apply to NT imagery, which carries over the stock imagery of OT judgments.

As such, you’ve backed yourself into a dilemma:

You can’t say that God failed to warn sinners of everlasting “torture” unless there’s some reason to postulate everlasting “torture” as the otherwise unspoken fate which awaits them.

But if, on the one hand, Scripture does, indeed, teach everlasting “torture,” and cognate language is employed in both the OT and NT alike to denote that fate, then God did indeed forewarn them.

If, on the other hand, you relativize all this terminology, then you remove the basis for asserting a dire fate which God failed to reveal.

Hence, your objection is incoherent.

“There are temporal judgments mentioned in the Old Testament that involve ‘unquenchable fire.’ I'm always amazed at how theology so predisposes people to see things that aren't there.”

i) Off-hand, the only specific OT verbal parallel I can recall would be Jer 17:27. Yet you insinuate that this usage is fairly common.

ii) In any case, an obvious flaw in your argument is the context of temporal judgments. It’s the context that delimits the force. But the viewpoint of Isa 66 is eschatological.

“Remember, we're looking at dead bodies in this text, not souls or imperishable resurrection bodies. You may want to read it over again, because you seem to have sailed right past that point. And this is your proof! Dead bodies being eaten by worms -- enough flesh to ensure they don't die -- somehow proves souls writhing in eternal torment for eternity?! (Complete with immortal maggots to provide a touch of ambience.)”

i) You disregard the parallel between the fate of the righteous and the wicked in Isa 66.

ii) You also overlook the association of the Hinnom valley with the netherworld via the cult of Molech, a god of the underworld (e.g. Isa 57:9), in whose name and place the valley was defiled by child sacrifice.

iii) And (ii) is reinforced by the eschatological perspective of Isa 66.

“As for Daniel, you know as well as I that there are many places in which the wicked become a hissing and a byword forever -- objects of never-ending shame. We have plenty of precendent for this idea being at least possible for the Daniel text. Nothing demands fire or torments. Certainly not immortal maggots.”

Well that’s silly. I wasn’t proposing that you transfer the imagery from one text to another.

steve said...
Paul C said...

"This doesn't make any kind of sense, but I suppose that's only to be expected. Tell us, Steve, how the immortality of a maggot magically confers immortality on its human host?"

They never die because they never run out of a food source. That's the thrust of the imagery.

Is it wrong to pray for Hitchens?

I’m going to comment on a recent post by Bill Vallicella:

“Hitch has lived his life as if God and the soul are childish fictions. As a result, he has done none of the things that might earn him him immortality and fellowship with God, even assuming he wanted them. This suggests that it is not just strange, but incoherent to pray for Hitch's metanoia. For that would be like praying that he win the lottery without playing, without doing the things necessary to win it.”

From a Christian standpoint, the obvious problem with this objection is his assumption that salvation is something we must earn. That might be good Buddhist theology, but it’s poor Christian theology.

“Hitch does not want salvation of his soul via divine agency, and he has reasons that seem good to him for denying that there is such a thing. And he presumably believes (though I am speculating here) that survival of bodily death and entry into the divine milieu would not be desirable. For one thing, his brilliance would be outshone by a greater Brilliance which would be unbearable for someone with the pride of Lucifer, the pride of the light bearer. It may also be that he believes, as many atheists and mortalists do, that the meaning of life here below, far from requiring a protraction into an afterlife, is positively inconsistent with such an extension. ‘How boring and meaningless eternity would be, especially without booze and cigarettes and (sexual intercourse with) women!’"

This is a stress-point in freewill theism. God is supposed to respect our choices–even when we make the wrong choices.

But from a Calvinistic standpoint, it’s merciful when God disrespects our foolish, self-destructive choices. Hitchens’ basic problem is his failure to act in his best interests. As such, a Calvinistic prayer for his salvation would be coherent with Reformed theism, although it might well be incoherent with freewill theism.

Health care and the midterm elections

A synopsis of what's in store for health care reform in light of the midterms.

Is Hitchens' cancer divine punishment?

In one of his recent articles, Christopher Hitchens broaches the question of whether his cancer is divine punishment for his militant atheism.

He has his own answer, of course, but how should a Christian answer that question?

1. In principle, there’s nothing outlandish or outrageous in suggesting the possibility that a given natural evil may reflect divine judgment. Certainly there is ample Biblical precedent for that. So we should remain open to that possibility.

2. But by the same token, Scriptural precedent is disanalogous, for Scripture identifies certain natural evils as divine judgments. It also rejects that facile identification in other cases.

Only God knows what he intends to accomplish for any event. And he may intend to accomplish more than one thing. A single event has different short-term consequences as well as different long-term consequences. These may be beneficial to some, but harmful to others.

So it’s well-nigh impossible for human beings to discern God’s ulterior purpose. Indeed, that’s one of the challenges confronting the evidential argument from evil. Even single events have multifaceted consequences. And we only know the effects of a past event in relation to the present, not the future.

3. In addition, you have other prominent atheists like Bertrand Russell and W. V. O. Quine who lived long, comfortable lives. So we certainly don’t see a divine policy of immediate retribution in this life.

4. I’m no oncologist, but from what I’ve read, Hitchens falls into a high-risk group for esophageal cancer (e.g. out of shape hard smoker and hard drinker). As such, his cancer doesn’t call for any special explanation–as if he was singled out for divine retribution. Rather, there’s a general connection between this type of cancer and his lifestyle.

Cracks in the granite façade

Before he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Christopher Hitchens used to cultivate the superior nonchalance concerning his own mortality which is part of the militant atheist mystique. But now that his mortality looms large and near, there are cracks in the granite façade:

So I get straight to the point and say what the odds are. The swiftest way of doing this is to note that the thing about Stage Four is that there is no such thing as Stage Five. Quite rightly, some people take me up on it. I recently had to accept that I wasn’t going to be able to attend my niece’s wedding, in my old hometown and former university in Oxford. This depressed me for more than one reason, and an especially close friend inquired, “Is it that you’re afraid you’ll never see England again?” As it happens he was exactly right to ask, and it had been precisely that which had been bothering me, but I was unreasonably shocked by his bluntness. I’ll do the facing of hard facts, thanks. Don’t you be doing it, too. And yet I had absolutely invited the question. Telling someone else, with deliberate realism, that once I’d had a few more scans and treatments I might be told by the doctors that things from now on could be mainly a matter of “management,” I again had the wind knocked out of me when she said, “Yes, I suppose a time comes when you have to consider letting go.” How true, and how crisp a summary of what I had just said myself.

(On a related note, John Loftus churns out blistering, blustery attacks on his former faith. Yet the sudden death of Ken Pulliam shook him to the core–in his own words.)

I’m not suggesting that a deathbed conversion is in the offing. Especially for the high profile atheist, losing face is a fate worse than hell. Mustn’t let the team down.

There’s another reason, beyond the dire prognosis, that Hitchens has lost some of his swagger. Back when he was able-bodied, it was easier to live in denial because he kept himself so busy. What with his reading and writing, interviews, speeches, debates, and far-flung travels–he was a perpetual-motion machine. That made it easy to keep the bark of death at bay.

But due to the effects of cancer, as well as the side-effects of cancer therapy, he is forced to contemplate his mortality every day and every hour.

I feel a natural bond with members of my own generation. The kids I grew up with. We came of age together at the same time and place.

But I also feel a certain bond with the generation before me. Sometimes I go back and watch an old TV show I saw as a kid in the 60s. One thing I’m instantly reminded of is the ubiquitous character actors who used to satellite in and out of so many different TV shows back then. “Ah, yes, I remember him (or her)!” I say to myself.

Yet, at the same time, I also know, as I watch these instantly recognizable actors, that most of them are long gone. And for members of the younger generation, they would be unrecognizable. So quickly forgotten. So missable.

People aren’t discrete, self-contained units. We come in packages. Packages of time and space.

If you don’t have God, you don’t have anything.

Brian Auten's Recent Interview With Michael Licona

Brian Auten has posted an interview with Michael Licona about his new book on the resurrection of Jesus. He's interviewed Licona before, but the interview he just posted is a new one.

I'm about 400 pages into the book. I'll have a lot to say about it here once I'm finished reading it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The counterfeit shepherd


“Again with the straw man! Who here is claiming that St. Peter ‘founded’ the Church at Rome?”

Irenaeus, for starters:

“Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.”

But if you wish to dismiss the testimony of Irenaeus, that’s fine with me.

“I, for one, have explicitly DENIED he did!”

You don’t speak for Rome Catholicism. You merely speak for Scott Windsor.

“AS I SAID BEFORE TOO: St. Peter's first see was likely at Antioch, but we don't trace THE Apostolic See (of the Vicar of Christ) to Antioch, but to Rome …”

Roman Catholics trace it through Rome. What a surprise!

“But NONE of it says these two were called ‘bishops’ or even ‘overseers.’”

They don’t have to be bishops. You’re framing the issue in Roman Catholic terms, which begs the very question at issue.

“ALL we have as FACT is that they held church in their house.”

Yes, a Roman house-church. That’s all the 1C church of Rome amounted to. The pope didn’t preside. Peter didn’t preside. Aquila and Priscilla did.

“The rest of your conclusion is pure speculation.”

i) Any historical reconstruction involves an element of speculation. Your assertion that Peter’s “bones” are there (in Rome) “to this day” is pure speculation. Do you have a sample of Peter’s DNA to ID the bones?

ii) My conclusion was far from “pure speculation.” That is based on exegetical and archaeological evidence. You don’t even attempt to refute the evidence.

“Based on the ‘evidence’ provided here (Mr. Hays) we have nothing more to go on than they too were ‘missionaries’ who established a ‘mission church’ at Rome.”

In which case it wasn’t founded by Peter (pace Irenaeus). Rather, it was headed by Aquila and Priscilla.

“It is quite plausible that Sts. Peter and Paul were the first bishops to arrive at Rome.”

Peter and Paul were never bishops. They were apostles. You commit a category mistake.

“As for the comment about (Fr.) Raymond Brown being a ‘mainstream Catholic scholar...’ he WAS ‘mainstream’ during a VERY liberal era for the Church, but he can HARDLY be considered ‘mainstream’ when we look at the big picture here. He was a modernist and a revisionist and his commentaries, IMHO, are relatively worthless to one seeking orthodox Catholic teaching. Of course, NON-Catholics flock to his dissenting and revisionist views, so it's no surprise that we find him lauded in this forum.”

He was appointed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission by two successive popes. It’s counterproductive for you to defend the papacy by distancing yourself from the papacy. But, of course, you’re hardly the first Catholic epologist who labors to save the papacy from the pope.

11/08/2010 7:08 AM

On the one hand:

"The rest of your conclusion is pure speculation."

On the other hand:

"It is quite plausible that Sts. Peter and Paul were the first bishops to arrive at Rome."

Nothing like pure speculation.

“Mr. Hays seems to think that if he uses lots of names (mostly, if not wholly, Protestant commentators) that we will be impressed.”

i) I gave author, title, and pagination to back up my claims. That’s the responsible way to argue for one’s position–unlike Windsor.

ii) If Windsor is going to dismiss scholarship just because it’s Protestant, then he’s not a real apologist. He refuses to engage the argument. At best, he only accepts preapproved, in-house authors.

Imagine a Mormon rejecting Protestant scholarship against Mormonism simply because it’s Protestant.

iii) But, of course, Windsor also rejects Catholic scholarship unless it already agrees with his position.

So he’s just a fake apologist.

iv) For that matter, Jesuit scholar Joseph Fitzmyer, in his commentary on Rom 16, corroborates Lampe’s exegesis at that juncture.

v) Moreover, I didn’t cite these scholars as authority-figures. I cited them for the evidence which they adduce.

“As I stated in my initial response to him - we don't claim St. Peter ‘founded’ the Church at Rome - but he is the first Bishop of Rome.”

Windsor may not, but Irenaeus did, and the claims of Irenaeus are certainly a fixture in the standard Catholic apologetic for Roman primacy.

If, however, Windsor wants to drop Irenaeus from the Catholic arsenal, that’s fine with me.

“There we agree! And if we slip in the word ‘informally’ then we could also use the word ‘formally’ - and validly claim the ‘formal’ formation of the Church of Rome was when the bishops, Sts. Peter and Paul, arrived there. Then it went from a ‘mission’ community to a ‘formal’ church.”

That’s an institutional myth. There was nothing above and beyond the informal founding of the Roman church.

Indeed, there was no one church of Rome in the 1C. Rather, you had a number of independently founded house-churches. These were at best loosely affiliated, and there is evidence that some of them were rivals (i.e. Paul’s shadowy Jewish opponents).

“And again, this would appropriately describe a MISSION community, where several MISSION churches/chapels were established prior to officially establishing the Church hierarchy at Rome as was done in other cities.”

Yes, the mythical, backdated “official establishment” of the Roman church.

“They left due to the edict and didn't return until after Claudius' death. Then some historians have it that they left again for Asia on more MISSIONARY work, and were martyred there.”


“They were Jewish tentmakers, hardly a position of ‘nobility’ in Rome! Now, amongst Jews they may have had some stature and/or financial stability, and perhaps those resources assisted them in attaining a household in Rome large enough to host church meetings (or perhaps they met in a tent!), but to jump to ‘Roman noblewoman’ seems quite the leap here. I can't prove she wasn't of Roman nobility, so if Hays, et al, wishes to make that leap, sobeit.”

i) It’s a “leap” because he’s too lazy and intellectual insecure to study the evidence which scholars like Lampe and Jewett (among others) present.

ii) If she married down, she would acquire her husband’s business through marriage. It would thereby become a family business.

iii) This dovetails with the Lucan theme of Godfearers and proselytes who are drawn to the true faith via their contacts with the Jewish people.

iv) It explains how they could afford to maintain establishments in Rome, Corinth, and Ephesus.

v) It would explain how she was in a position to intervene on Paul’s behalf with the Roman authorities (cf. Rom 16:4).

vi) It would explain how they could afford a house-church in the upscale Aventine district.

vii) It would explain why Santa Prisca is named after her rather than Aquila. She held the title-deed.

viii) Through ignorance, Windsor disregards the evidence of her noble Acilian pedigree.

“All this ‘probably’ and ‘may have been’ is pure speculation - all we ‘know’ is he was a Jewish tentmaker who did missionary work for St. Paul.”

Missionaries planted churches. Who was in charge? The missionary. Not the pope.

“THEN to jump to ‘vicars of the heavenly head (Christ)’ is taking it (again) WAY too far!”

I’m recasting the issue in Catholic terms for the sake of argument.

“Jesus Christ Himself selected His vicar in St. Peter - ALONE - in John 21:15-17.”

That would come as news to the author of John, who was the “vicar” of the churches in Asia Minor.

“No, Jesus was singling him out to be the lead Shepherd to "feed (His) sheep" after He ascended into Heaven.”

i) Jesus doesn’t single out Peter as the “lead Shepherd.”

ii) Anyway, Peter isn't the pope or vice versa.

“So, Mr. Hays admits to building this straw man - and then he proceeds to knock it down. Does he really think he's convincing anyone here (besides the choir)?”

It’s not a straw man to engage the opposing view on its own grounds for the sake of argument.

“I realize the Protestant need to throw the ‘if’ in there... they wish to deny that St. Peter ever even went to Rome in their fear of the papacy.”

Peter may well have visited Rome–among other places. If he was ever there, his presence there is no more or less significant than any other apostle who paid a visit to Rome.

“I hope the readers have noticed the bait and switch here which has reduced his argumentation to ad hominem (invalidity). What difference to the substance of what these Catholics say is affected by whether or not they are laity and/or converts? He seems to think that if one is a layperson or a convert that they have a lesser voice in apologetics. What it boils down to is that he is trying to minimize what is levied against him through character attacks (ad hominem).”

i) Since the Roman church is hierarchical, and Windsor isn’t a member of the hierarchy, then by definition his lay status makes him a lesser voice.

Moreover, it’s not as if the hierarchy put him on some papal commission. He has no institutional standing in a hierarchical institution.

“The fact that Fr. Brown held liberal, modernistic and revisionist ideas is not unknown to the Catholic faithful, even this short bio ( by a non-Catholic source admits he has his critics - especially in Catholic circles. I am also wholly unaware of his ascension to the bishoprick! When did this happen?”

Notice Windsor’s implicit admission that the pope is a counterfeit shepherd. Even though it’s the duty of a shepherd to protect the flock from wolves, two successive popes allowed the wolfish Fr. Brown to infiltrate the fold, and prey upon the sheep, by appointing him to the Pontifical Biblical Commission.