Saturday, June 23, 2012

Baptist political correctitude

The trustee executive committee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, where Land serves as president, issued the reprimands today after conducting an investigation on comments made by Land during a March 31 broadcast.
In a press release published on the denomination's official media outlet, Baptist Press, the ERLC executive committee stated:
"We reprimand Dr. Land for his hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged words on March 31, 2012 regarding the Trayvon Martin tragedy. It was appropriate for Dr. Land to issue the apology he made on May 9, 2012 and we are pleased he did so. We also convey our own deepest sympathies to the family of Trayvon Martin for the loss they have suffered. We, too, express our sorrow, regret, and apologies to them for Dr. Land's remarks."

Land, who also serves as executive editor at The Christian Post, sparked controversy in March when he accused Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and President Obama of exploiting the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Martin, a 17-year-old African American, was shot dead on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, 28. The teen was unarmed. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense.
Denouncing the public's "rush to judgment" before all the facts were clear, Land called the two well-known civil rights activists "race hustlers who've made their careers and made their fortunes exploiting racism" and argued that some were using the case "for their own political ends."
Land further stated that the civil rights activists were "perpetuating their central myth" that "America is a racist and an evil nation." He later also stated that a black man is "statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man."
The statements drew criticism from the public, including fellow Southern Baptist pastors who called on Land to repent.

But everything he said is true.

Peter Enns and 'Myth' in Genesis 1

"Recent Challenges to the Doctrine of Inerrancy: Peter Enns and ‘Myth’ in Genesis 1" by John Yeo.

Should matter matter to matter?

In reply, notice two things. First, Hays refers to "what he [Lowder] regards as mistreatment of atheists" and "(alleged) offenses" without actually acknowledging the "mistreatment" is actual, not "alleged." Does he deny that these instances are mistreatment?

I’ve already responded to Jeff from one angle, but now I’d like to consider it from another angle. Jeff has also said:

Scientific evidence shows that human consciousness and personality are highly dependent upon the brain. In this context, nothing mental happens without something physical happening. That strongly implies that the mind cannot exist independently of physical arrangements of matter. In other words, we do not have a soul.

So, according to Jeff, a human being is merely an arrangement of matter. Indeed, a temporary arrangement of matter. Evolution programmed the human organism to self-terminate from aging or illness–like a snowman melting in the sun.

Not only is Jeff a physicalist, but an atheist. For him, not only is a human being just a packet of matter, but a fortuitous packet of matter.

How does Jeff think it’s possible to mistreat a packet of matter, much less a temporary, fortuitous packet of matter? Does he think a packet of matter has intrinsic worth?

Suppose one human arrangement of matter rearranges another human arrangement of matter by putting a bullet in its brain. Is that wrong? The packet of matter we call a bullet reorganizes the packet of matter we call the brain. Does Jeff think that’s wrong? If so, why so?

It’s true that some packets of matter form emotional attachments to other packets of matter. At least, that’s the folk psychological description. For instance, the arrangement of matter we call a two-year-old boy may become emotionally attached to the arrangement of matter we call a teddy bear. If his teddy bear burns up in a fire, the two-year-old may cry.

On the other hand, many packets of matter don’t engender the same affection. If the coffeemaker breaks, we toss it in the dumpster and buy a new one. We don’t weep over the coffeemaker.

Given Jeff’s secular anthropology, why does he think it’s even possible to mistreat the arrangement of matter we call an atheist? Does matter matter?

Immature Elders

A video has been circulating in which Francis Chan calls on Christians to make better use of the closing years of their lives. I've addressed the subject many times, and I agree with the general thrust of what Chan is saying. It's something that ought to be said more often. In fact, our society needs to radically change its standards for other stages of life as well, not just the elderly years. What we expect from the opening and middle decades of life doesn't make much sense either.
But there are some commenters in the thread linked above who are criticizing Chan. They mention the health problems that the elderly typically have. Why expect so much from the elderly when they have such bad health? One man comments, "I just love it when younger people tell me how much more wonderful they are than me." And so on.

Adam, Eve, and genes

Tomboy heroines

And there’s the problem that praising a girl for acting like a boy, commonplace as it has become, is not really the same thing as identifying and praising what distinctively belongs to girls.

But Merida is far from being a typical fairy-tale princess. Having flatly rejected the three suitors proposed by her family, she is apparently prepared to go through life quite happily without a husband, and we can imagine her in later years, a weathered and indomitable Amazon queen, sort of a Boudica for the Scots. "Brave" seems at a loss to deal with her as a girl and makes her a sort of honorary boy.

It doesn’t occur to politically correct Hollywood studios that the reason men rescue women in traditional stories is not because women are helpless, but because women like to be rescued by men. It’s not so much putting the woman in a situation where a man must come to the rescue, but putting the man in a situation where he must come to the rescue. Will he rise to the challenge? Will he prove himself a worthy suitor?

It’s a trial by ordeal to test a man’s mettle. Does he have what it takes? How devoted is he? How determined? How sacrificial?

It’s not that classic heroines are incapable of doing anything for themselves. Rather, this is how they choose a mate. How they size up a prospective husband. The brave, persistent, resourceful man gets the girl. That’s the kind of man she wants to spend her life with.

That’s also why you have stories about the underdog who gets the girl. He may be the kid from the wrong side of the tracks, or the gawky nerd. Unlike the rich kid in the sports car who expects women to fall into his arms at the snap of his fingers, the underdog has to work for the girl. Overcome obstacles. Outwit the competition.

This goes to show how much he values her, and the lengths he’s prepared to go to have her. That’s the point of the traditional plot. In fact, a woman might create a situation in which she has to be rescued.

The First Lady

For fans of Michelle Obama, here's a special on the First Lady:

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hope and hopelessness

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

In a material universe, that is a universe without a perfectly good Creator, Who in turn wills our existence and our ultimate good, there would really be no purpose to suffering, and no purpose to an existence with suffering. A Godless universe is basically an indifferent universe, I have heard my humanities professors use the term "Absurd Universe". Two books I read back then - Albert Camus’s The Stranger and Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Night Flight. The Stranger as the professor I had back then explained it to us was about the pointlessness of existence in the indifferent "Absurd Universe". Another professor, with whom I had a good rapport, explained to me that Night Flight was about the human effort to impose oneself against the indifferent universe. The effort, while heroic, didn't seem to be going anywhere as far as I could see because that's a fight no one in the book was winning. It seemed like a constant struggle with a tie rather victory as the best possible outcome. A Godless material universe leaves us in such a state. Suffering is in and of itself pointless. The end result is either stoic soldiering on in spite of having no real hope or falling into despair. Drs Conrad Baars and Viktor Frankl have both made the observation while imprisoned in a concentration camp, that while everyone suffered terribly, those prisoners who died (not those who were killed) were those who had lost hope and who had no purpose. The survivors all had found some purpose within themselves. Purpose, hope are not the properties of materialism. I have read somewhere that the purpose of suffering is to conform us to a Creator who suffered for us. This is possible only if there is a Creator who wills our existence and who wills our ultimate good.

First Roman Catholic cleric/administrator convicted for hiding predator priests

First Roman Catholic Cleric convicted for hiding sexual predator priests

PHILADELPHIA—A former senior Roman Catholic Church official accused of failing to protect children from alleged molestation by priests was convicted of one count of child endangerment and acquitted of two other charges.

Amid the priest sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church over the past decade, Monsignor William Lynn is the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to be convicted of criminal charges. He served as secretary for clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, a job that included handling allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

The monsignor was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of children and with conspiracy with another priest to endanger the welfare of children. Msgr. Lynn wasn't accused of sexual abuse. He now faces a possible 3½ to 7 years in prison....

The trial opened a window on how one of the nation's largest Catholic dioceses grappled with the scandal as it shook the broader church in the U.S. and elsewhere. The case has underscored both the success and the shortcomings of the church's handling of abuse allegations.

The Philadelphia district attorney's office credited the diocese with referring some of the allegations at issue in the trial to prosecutors, under strengthened reporting policies the diocese adopted in the past decade.

But a grand-jury report last year blasted the diocese for allowing 37 priests to remain in active ministry despite having "credible" abuse allegations lodged against them. The diocese later placed a majority of the priests on leave as it investigated the allegations, and recently deemed some of them unsuitable for ministry. Msgr. Lynn also was placed on leave from his post as a parish pastor after he was charged last year.

Jurors heard nearly 10 weeks of testimony from more than 60 witnesses, including Msgr. Lynn and alleged abuse victims, and saw hundreds of confidential church documents.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Msgr. Lynn, 61 years old, learned in the 1990s of allegations that Father Brennan and another priest had engaged in inappropriate conduct with minors but failed to keep them out of assignments involving contact with children or to inform parishioners of the allegations. The two priests later sexually abused two boys in separate incidents, prosecutors contend.

The other priest, Edward Avery, pleaded guilty before the trial to charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, and was sentenced to 2½ years to five years in prison. Mr. Avery, who has since been defrocked, was accused of engaging in oral sex with a 10-year-old altar boy at a Philadelphia parish in the late 1990s....

Msgr. Lynn testified last month that he did his best to investigate allegations and recommend restrictions on the duties of accused priests. He acknowledged he never called police but that only his superior, the archbishop of Philadelphia, had the authority to remove or transfer priests. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who was the archbishop during most of Msgr. Lynn's tenure as secretary for clergy, wasn't charged. He died in January.

Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington told jurors that the monsignor was the "point man" for carrying out a plan by the Philadelphia diocese to keep in ministry priests accused of sexually abusing children, and to keep the public in the dark about the allegations.

"He and everyone else that protected those pedophile priests were murdering the souls of children," he said in closing arguments.

Msgr. Lynn's attorney, Thomas Bergstrom, told jurors in his closing argument that Msgr. Lynn attempted to improve the diocese's handling of sex-abuse allegations, and did more than his predecessors. "This man, who never touched a child but yet who documented the evil other men did, [prosecutors] want you to convict him for their sins," he said.

"Permissive theism"

I’m going to comment on this post:

Jeff Lowder quotes the following statement by Adolf Grünbaum:

One vital lesson of that analysis will be that, contrary to the widespread claims of moral asymmetry between theism and atheism, neither theism nor atheism as such permit the logical deduction of any judgments of moral value or of any ethical rules of conduct. Moral codes turn out to be logically extraneous to each of these competing philosophical theories alike. And if such a code is to be integrated with either of them in a wider system, the ethical component must be imported from elsewhere.

In the case of theism, it will emerge that neither the attribution of omnibenevolence to God nor the invocation of divine commandments enables its theology to give a cogent justification for any particular actionable moral code. Theism, no less than atheism, is itself morally sterile: Concrete ethical codes are autonomous with respect to either of them.

i) That’s long on assertion and short on argument.

ii) It’s true that you can’t “deduce” rules of conduct from a bare proposition regarding God’s “omnibenevolence.” But that just means Grünbaum is operating at the wrong level of abstraction. Even at that level, the existence and nature of God is still a way of grounding moral norms. That’s a distinct metaphysical issue from what specific norms are thus grounded.

iii) Apropos (ii), divine creation introduces teleology into nature. Atheism banishes teleology from nature.

But the introduction of teleology into nature means that there will be a way in which creatures ought to function or ought to behave, consistent with their design specifications.

…a suitably articulated form of secular humanism can rule out some modes of conduct while enjoining others, no less than a religious code in which concrete ethical injunctions have been externally adjoined to theism (e.g., "do not covet thy neighbor's wife").

That’s an assertion bereft of argument. Many secular philosophers are admitted moral relativists or moral nihilists.

Grünbaum then discusses the moral permissiveness of theism with respect to the problem of evil.

That’s funny. Atheists typically slam Christianity for its doctrine of everlasting punishment. That’s too harsh, too stern, too unforgiving–we’re told. But now we’re also told that Christian theism is too permissive!

Quoting Grünbaum again:

It is scandalous that Judaism is sufficiently permissive morally to enable some world-renowned rabbis to offer a Holocaust-theodicy at all with theological impunity: It attests to the moral bankruptcy of the notion of a theological foundation of Jewish ethics.

How does merely offering a Holocaust-theodicy attest the moral bankruptcy of theism? Grünbaum gives no reason to grant his contention. If successful, a Holocaust-theodicy would demonstrate the moral resources of theism.

Cain (and other apologists for Judaism) ought to be deeply embarrassed by this situation…


Clearly, I submit, precisely the statistics on the depth of the cleavage among the moral verdicts of Jewish theologians on so over-arching an occurrence as the Holocaust bespeaks the ethical bankruptcy of their theology.

I don’t agree with the particular Holocaust-theodicy offered by Jacobovitz and Schneerson. However, you’d expect Jews to have a variety of different reactions to the theological ramifications of the Holocaust. Judaism is far from monolithic. How does mere “depth of cleavage” on this issue bespeak the moral bankruptcy of their theology? Grünbaum keeps expressing his personal disapproval, as if that’s self-evidently true. He isn’t reasoning for his conclusions.

Jeff then says:

In other words, if theism requires us to believe that no matter what evils occur in the actual world, God still exists and has some reason for allowing them, this empties all content from a theological foundation of ethics and shows how bankrupt the entire enterprise of theistic ethics really is.

If God has some reason for allowing them, then how does that expose the bankrupt of the entire enterprise of theistic ethics really is–much less empties all content from a theological foundation of ethics (whatever that means)? That’s an impressive string of words, but where’s the argument? How does the conclusion follow from the premise? Not having a reason would be morally bankrupt. Not having a reason would be morally vacuous.

Grünbaum and Lowder are asserting and emoting rather than reasoning for their position.

A murder of crows

I’m going to comment on Jeff’s updated post:

In reply, notice two things. First, Hays refers to "what he [Lowder] regards as mistreatment of atheists" and "(alleged) offenses" without actually acknowledging the "mistreatment" is actual, not "alleged." Does he deny that these instances are mistreatment?

Yes, I deny that. Thus far, the examples Jeff has given strike me as instances of political incorrectness.

Is he so opposed to atheists that he is unwilling to condemn mistreatment, even when he agrees it is mistreatment? Is there another reason?

Well that’s an odd accusation. Remember, I said these were “alleged” offenses. Since I don’t agree with Jeff’s characterization, there’s nothing for me to condemn.

Let’s take the current instance, which he finds so outrageous.  A blogger named Mariano Grinbank used the phrase “a murder of atheists.” To forestall misunderstanding, Mariano defined his usage. He said it was analogous to the idiomatic collective noun “a murder of crows”–which is the name of a movie, a rock album, a PBS documentary, and a Warcraft episode. Given his explanation, and the popularity of the idiom, I don’t see why Jeff finds that so shocking.

It’s not a phrase I’d use, but then, I’m not a young Argentinean-American Messianic Jew, or former practitioner of Reiki, Tai Chi Chuan, Chi Kung and the I'Ching., so that phrase doesn’t come naturally to me. My enculturation is different from Mariano’s.

Second, Hays seems (?) to assume that if two people (P1 and P2) accept contradictory normative ethical systems, but both systems agree that an action A is wrong (even if for different reasons), it's unreasonable for P1 to ask P2 to condemn A. I find that bizarre. If they both agree that A is wrong, even if for different reasons, then surely they can both condemn A. If P2 claims to believe that A is wrong, then P2 already has a reason to condemn; P2 should condemn A because P2 believes A is wrong.

Several issues:

i) The question at issue is not whether both of them can condemn it. The question, rather, is why Jeff wants Christians to condemn it.

ii) Likewise, there’s a difference between two people having different, but mutually consistent reasons for condemning the same thing, and two people having divergent reasons for condemning the same thing.

iii) Apropos (ii), most atheists I’m aware of are politically liberal. However, it’s possible for an atheist to be politically conservative. Some atheists are libertarians or Randians. Keith Burgess-Jackson is an example of an atheist who’s generally center-right.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Jeff is politically conservative. Let’s say he opposes affirmative action in college admissions. Maybe he opposes affirmative action because he thinks identity-politics is arbitrary, incoherent, socially destructive, and/or counterproductive.

Still, I doubt he’d be doing posts like Where is the Outcry from the KKK? or The Hypocrisy of Skinheads.

Even though white supremacist groups would share his opposition to affirmative action in college admissions, from Jeff’s standpoint they’d oppose affirmative action for the wrong reasons. Disreputable reasons. Indeed, I think he’d be at pains to disassociate his opposition to affirmative action from their opposition to affirmative action.

By the same token, why does Jeff want Christians to condemn alleged mistreatment of atheists if they are doing so for all the wrong reasons? From his standpoint, even when Christian ethics happens to be right, it is right for the wrong reasons. Right on the wrong grounds.

Why Michael Greiner is Not a Catholic

Why I am not a Catholic, Part 1

Why I am not a Catholic, Part 2

Why I am not a Catholic, Part 3

Why I am not a Catholic, Part 4

Roman Catholic Inferiority Complex

The Roman Catholic religion says (a) “we have the authority to tell you things that are different from Scripture”, and then they say (b) “but when there is an apparent contradiction, you have to trust our interpretation, rather than your own, because we are authoritative”.

As a Roman Catholic, you can’t really even trust your own instincts. So, it’s no wonder that for the Roman Catholic convert, the motivation seems to be one of warding off “buyer’s remorse”, of convincing oneself, “yes, I’ve joined the right club. All the right people are here, see? G.K. Chesterton. Lewis got away. But look at Bouyer and Scott Hahn “the Great” and Richard John Neuhaus. They’ve done this. That’s how I know I’ve done the right thing”.

But in those moments alone, in prayer, it always becomes, “Who are you Lord?” Do I understand you correctly?

For the Protestant, it always comes down to Paul’s question: “Who are you Lord?” And we trust the answers we find in the Scriptures.

The Roman Catholic is motivated by an inferiority complex, which is always looking to others for assurance. The Protestant looks to Christ alone, and makes sure he understands him aright. 

“The word of God is the foundation of the church”:

According to Bavinck:

“Scripture itself clearly teaches, accordingly, that not the church but the word of God, written or unwritten, is trustworthy in and of itself (autopistos). The church has at all times been bound to the word of God insofar as it existed and in the form in which it existed. Israel received the law on Mount Horeb; Jesus and the apostles submitted to OT Scripture. From the very beginning the Christian church was bound to the spoken and written word of the apostles. The word of God is the foundation of the church”:

Deuteronomy 4:1:  Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.

Isaiah 8:20: Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.

Ezekiel  20:19: I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Luke 16:29: Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

John 5:39: You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me …

Ephesians 2:20: … built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

2 Timothy 3:14: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it …

2 Peter 1:19: We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

“The church can indeed witness to the word, but the word is above the church. It cannot confer on anyone a heart-based belief in the word of God. That is something only the word of God can do by itself and the power of the Holy Spirit”:

Jeremiah 23:29: “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”

Mark 4:28: All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.

Luke 8:11: “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.”

Romans 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

1 Peter 1:23: For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

“And for that reason alone the church appears to stand on a level below Scripture. Consequently, the church and believers in general can learn to know the inspiration, authority, and canonicity of Scripture from Scripture itself, but they can never announce and determine these attributes on their own authority.”

From “Reformed Dogmatics”, Vol 1, pg 458

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Is Hank Hanegraaff Next?

Disapproving approval

Over at The Secular Outpost, Jeff Lowder has been calling on Christians to denounce what he regards as mistreatment of atheists. But it’s unclear why Jeff thinks we should do this. Does he think we ought to condemn these (alleged) offenses because they violate Christian ethics? Yet Jeff doesn’t believe in Christian ethics. It’s as if Jeff approves of Christians expressing disapproval on the basis of an ethical code that Jeff disapproves of.

5 Problems with Unconditional Forgiveness

The Place Of Textual Updating In An Inerrant View Of Scripture

Papal shiites

The mainstream Papacy taught that by a special charism granting infallible authority in matters of faith and morals, the Pope in the exercise of his teaching office is exempt from this common human condition, and had a true intuition of natural law and a true ability to infallibly formulate its dicta propositionally. This view owed a great deal to the Shiite imamology, which taught that the Imam is sinless, infallible, and thus able to be a perfect heir of prophethood, which for Muslims (both Sunni and Shia) has a politically architectonic office.[4]

[4] Classic expositions of the idea are to be found in al Farabi’s Tahsil as sa’ada, and ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah. For the Papacy’s reception of the same, see Sten Gagnér, “Boniface VIII and Avicenna,” Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Stephan Kuttner and J. Joseph Ryan , eds., S. Congregatio de seminariis et studiorum universitatibus, Vatican City, 1965.

The Last Enemy

A friend recently asked me some questions. Here's my reply:


1) Regarding Ecclesiastes, we have to step back and consider the interpretive framework we should use for this book.

i) The perspective of the book is explicitly and predominantly descriptive and empirical. The narrator speaks from the viewpoint of a keen observer. This viewpoint is expressed in the constant refrain regarding that he’s “seen under the sun.” Although personal experience is a source of knowledge, it’s very limited. You hit a wall. You can only see so far.

ii) Put another way, the observer can only judge by appearances. Hence, the book stresses the inscrutability of divine providence. It often seems so random (e.g. 9:11).

iii) Yet that’s not all there is to it. There’s a contrast between appearance and reality. Not that appearances are illusory, but misleading. Incomplete. They don’t tell the whole story.

Take the climactic theme of divine judgment in 12:14 (cf. 3:17-18; 11:9). Appearances notwithstanding, what we do in this life does make a difference in the long run. 

iv) Some liberals think the epilogue was tacked on by a pious editor to salvage the orthodoxy of the book. But epilogue isn’t an anomaly or afterthought. The book is studded with reverent references to God, including the “fear of the Lord” motif (3:14; 5:7; 8:12; 12:13).

There’s a doctrine of providence (3:1-14). 12:13-14 moves in the same ambit as 5:1-7.

So this is part of the book’s dialectical contrast between appearance and reality. Between the limitations of observation on our side of the sun, and the Maker of the sun–whose intentions elude human inspection or detection.

12:13-14 reflects the final viewpoint of the narrator. What he’s been building up to.

v) Consistent with this general approach, the narrator describes the fate of the dead from the standpoint of the living. What appears to be the case when you die. But that must be counterbalanced by eschatological judgment: 3:17-18; 11:9; 12:13-14.

2) Regarding Job:

i) In narrative theology we need to distinguish between the normative viewpoint of the narrator and the perspective of the speakers or characters within the narrative.

ii) A Biblical narrator has various techniques for obliquely expressing his viewpoint. A contrast between apparent and hidden plots. A contrast between normative and foil characters. Dramatic irony.

iii) Everything a given speaker or character in the Jobian narrative says isn’t presumptively true. Indeed, a major purpose of the book is to expose the falsity of what certain speakers say. To disprove Satan’s contention. To expose the shallow outlook of Job’s friends.

iv) Job himself was sick and grief-stricken. Men in that condition often make intemperate statements.

In the course of the book there’s some progression in Job’s understanding, but there’s an ebb and flow. Moments of lucid insight before he sinks back into bafflement and despondency. He briefly rallies, then reverts–in a recurrent cycle. His exclamations often express moods rather than truths. We must interpret the narrative in light of the prologue and epilogue.

3) Concerning Isa 38:18, the speaker is Hezekiah, not Isaiah. A king, not a prophet. It’s an expression of Hezekiah’s gratitude. Thankful to be delivered from the jaws of death, given his palpable fear of death.

But there’s no presumption that Hezekiah has any particular insight into the nature of the afterlife. He’s not God’s mouthpiece. He’s just a Jewish monarch.

4) Concerning Ps 88 and other psalms:

i) Ps 88 starkly expresses a sense of divine abandonment, and uses picturesque imagery to illustrate that theme. That’s subjective. How he felt at the time.

iii) But objectively speaking, God did not forsake him. Indeed, I doubt the psalm was written in the midst of his ordeal. Although the psalms use passionate language, that doesn’t mean they were written in the white heat of passion. The psalms are highly artistic literary productions. It requires a certain level of composure to write them. A certain distance or detachment from the immediacy of the event. You have to be able to collect your thoughts.

Ps 88 was probably written in retrospect. A commemoration and mediation on what he went through.

iii) When OT saints are under conviction of sin, in conjunction with a life-threatening illness, they express doubts about what awaits them. Will they face divine judgment? Will they be in a position to praise God? Or will they be shamed? Will they suffer the lot of the wicked?

On their deadbed, or what they take to be their deathbed, the saints are often apprehensive. As they look back over the life they led, they become acutely aware of their cumulative transgressions. Death becomes a forbidding, foreboding prospect–not because they doubt God, but because they doubt themselves. Not because they fear oblivion, but because they fear punishment. Will they die out of favor with God? All their buried insecurities rise to the surface. Guilt. Long-forgotten sins. Lost opportunities to make things right. Too late to make amends. 

It takes faith to overcome our fears. We must consciously and constantly remind ourselves of God’s promises. Cling to the promises. And that’s harder for some believers than others. That’s exacerbated when we are physically weak. When we feel vulnerable. Is sickness itself a mark of God’s disfavor? These misgivings can afflict God’s people in their extremity. Especially in their extremity.

Modern Bible readers may find it harder to identify with these sentiments because modern medical science buffers us from our mortality. Most illnesses aren’t terminal illnesses. And we’re often insulated from death. Many people die in hospitals or nursing homes. We don’t live among death the way our forebears did. We don’t have that constant reminder.

Paul: on authority: “They added nothing to my message” (Gal 2:6)

What follows here is my response to comments by Michael Liccione and Bryan Cross, probably two of the more significant thought leaders among the “Called to Communion” gang, on the topics, roughly, of “Scripture and church” or “authority” or “apostolic succession and New Testament canon”.

Regular readers here will recognize many of the themes I’ve written about in the past. But what I’ve put down here for the first time is something I’ve had in mind for a long time, but have not till this point been able to articulate it succinctly enough. Indeed, what follows here is rough, but it is the thing I’ve had in mind from the moment that I decided I could no longer be Roman Catholic. This is where the battle is, and must be joined. This is where the battle for Jason Stellman’s heart and mind and soul is occurring. It is where Joshua Lim goes wrong.

What follows here is what makes the Reformation [warts and all] the most worthwhile thing that could have happened in church history.

You will note that this is necessarily incomplete. What follows has been submitted in an even rougher form as a series of comments in this Called to Communion thread. Lord willing they will let my comments be published, and it will lead to further discussion.

Given the incompleteness of what I write here (I’ll call it an “outline” of my primary argument against Roman Catholic authority), I do need to thank Dr. Michael Kruger and his work Canon Revisited, for closing the circle. For completing the “authority of Scripture” loop. It is my intention to “tear down” the Roman Catholic authority structure, and that’s what I do in this piece. But Dr. Kruger builds and rebuilds. He shows, in detail that I have not yet covered here, the reasons why the New Testament canon stands alone. I think a lot of people will be eternally grateful to Dr. Kruger for his work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What is evidence?

Drones and privacy

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays on behalf of David Gadbois.)

Here are a few of my thoughts on the recent criticisms of the increasing operations of unmanned aircraft conducting surveillance in U.S. airspace. I came across this article. That's a photo of a Predator B UAV in the Department of Homeland Security/Border Patrol's livery at the top of the article. Other conservative and libertarian pundits that I respect, such as Charles Krauthammer, have made similar criticisms as Mr. Cooke. And I notice that a lot of folks outside of my work have expressed their concerns to me personally on this issue in the past few weeks. I don't know where your political sympathies lie on privacy issues, but here is my take.

All of the information I mention here is public knowledge.

  1. While I do work for an unmanned aircraft manufacturer, at this time sales to domestic law enforcement make up a very small fraction of the UAV market. The U.S. and foreign militaries are still the biggest customers in the market by far. I'm not particularly worried that this issue would affect my livelihood one way or another.

  2. I think I have fairly good street cred (amongst those who know me) as a small-government guy, residing in a political orbit somewhere between National Review (conservative) and Reason (libertarian) magazine. I'm generally wary of government overreach, especially by the federal government in breach of its constitutional limitations.

  3. Technical issues

    That being said, I'm not sure why people consider unmanned aircraft to be fundamentally more intrusive than manned aircraft that routinely fly and surveil in national airspace. Most current UAV systems are operated by a pilot and sensor operator in a ground station, connected either via line-of-sight or satellite wireless data links. The police-operated helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft that have been around for decades likewise require a pilot and camera/spotlight operator for the routine law enforcement operations that most don't object to. Very few UAV systems are autonomous (i.e. don't require pilots in the loop).

    The main driver behind law enforcement's adoption of unmanned systems is cost. It is simply cheaper to have unmanned aircraft as your eyes in the sky per hour vs. a manned aircraft. The only relevant operational advantage of UAVs (that I can think of) is the fact that they tend to be harder to detect audibly or visually (especially when compared to conventional helicopters), but this is not an inherent advantage. For aircraft that share roughly the same gross weight and flight envelope, one can design a manned aircraft to operate as silently as, say, a Predator UAV, and with a similar visual footprint.

    There are, however, classes of UAVs that are smaller than classes of aircraft that would be sizeable enough to conceivably carry humans. These are usually referred to as micro-UAVs. Even smaller craft exist (think hummingbird size), and are known as nano-UAVs. However, the performance and utility of optical sensors diminishes as you scale down to sizes that can be flown on these platforms. The level of capability varies wildly given different sizes and classes of aircraft and corresponding payloads, and I'm not sure what specifically most people picture as being an insidious threat to their freedom.

    Mr. Cooke is concerned that UAVs can provide footage with similar detail as the CCTV cameras that are prevalent in Britain, but that surely isn't right. A UAV loitering at several thousand feet in altitude simply cannot provide this kind of resolution. I haven't seen any classified or proprietary footage, but all of the video I have seen from Predators is only clear enough to identify the presence and general behavior of men on the ground. You could discern that someone is planting an IED, for instance, but you would never get a facial recognition. One could more plausibly raise a constitutional objection to certain uses of infrared sensors (that can image the thermal signatures of humans and provide a general, silhouetted shape), as those are capable of seeing through the walls and ceilings of homes and other buildings. But again, law enforcement has had that capability on manned platforms for many years, so it is hard to see how the situation with unmanned aircraft is fundamentally different. Who cares if this is being done from a Cessna as opposed to a Predator?

    One could rightly point out that some UAV platforms, in the micro or nano class, can and do operate at altitudes of dozens or hundreds of feet rather than thousands, but these become easy to detect at such close ranges, and as mentioned their smaller sizes limit the performance of their optical payloads. There are fundamental limitations in play- the laws of physics as pertains to optics give an upper bound of the performance of any optical device of a given, fixed size.

  4. Moral and constitutional issues

    I think some of my civil libertarian friends are seeing "emanations", "penumbras", and other hallucinagenic artifacts in the Bill of Rights that simply aren't there when they assert that the 4th Amendment provides a general right of privacy. The idea that there are restrictions and requirements on how the government may conduct search and seizure is conceptually much more narrow. Perhaps there is a moral case to be made that there ought to be a legal right to privacy, but that ought to be debated in a democratic society and established either by amendment to the constitution or else via conventional legislation passed in Congress. Any amount of serious reflection on the issue would reveal that it would be very difficult to define the nature of (and limits of) a general right to privacy with sufficient philosophical and legal precision and rigor. Also, as a Christian, I cannot think of a biblical principle that would necessarily underwrite an individual right to privacy in relation to the government, so if this right exists I would have to put it into a subservient category of rights (such as "no taxation without representation"), in other words, it would not be a fundamental moral right, even if important.

    Concerning the 4th Amendment, even the most restrictive reading of the text would certainly not prohibit the operation of an unmanned aircraft for the purpose of surveillance per se, it would only require that a warrant be obtained on the basis of probable cause to authorize its use. This seems to be the aim of Rand Paul's bill that requires a warrant prior to the deployment of a UAV, qualified by a handful of exceptions (and, sadly, employing the morally ludicrous exclusionary rule).

    I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that mere observation and photographic documentation of a person in a public place does not constitute a "search" of his person or intimate possessions, and as such aerial surveillance does not inherently constitute a search that is subject to the amendment at all. The situation gets a little stickier if the person being observed is on his own (or someone else's) private property, but if the person is in an "open field" (i.e. not in a home structure or, perhaps, the curtilage) then they are subject to search under the Open Fields doctrine. I don't know enough to say how legitimate this principle is constitutionally speaking, but it was codified by the Supreme Court's interpretation of the 4th Amendment in 1924 (Hester v. U.S.).

    More interesting is the school of thought that contends that searches are permissible without a warrant as long as they are "reasonable". No less a light than Judge Scalia has advocated this view, thus placing more emphasis on the first clause of the Amendment. Others put more weight on the second clause (the Warrant Clause), insisting that warrants are always required barring only a few exceptions. Interestingly, I consulted the Heritage Guide to the Constitution, and it mentions both views without explicitly endorsing either:

    Until recently the Supreme Court said that warrants were required for all searches and seizures, save those that fell within some exception to that requirement....Today, the Court uses different language, emphasizing not the second half of the Fourth Amendment's text, but the first (the ban on "unreasonable searches and seizures"). See Indianapolis v. Edmond (2000)

    Even Richard Epstein remarks:

    The amendment speaks with a forked tongue. On the one hand, it is clear that the right of all people to be "secure in their persons" looks as though it is "violated" by either pat-downs or body scanners. On the other hand, the use of the law’s most indispensable weasel word, "unreasonable," suggests that only some searches are "unreasonable," leaving it to the fine art of constitutional interpretation to decide which ones those are....That pesky word "unreasonable" has worked its way into our constitutional heritage through the text of the Fourth Amendment. We are thus duty-bound to make sense of it by asking what kinds of searches the government can properly undertake.

    In my view, the grammar and syntax of the Amendment establish a prima facie reading of the text that understands the first clause as having independent meaning from the second clause. In other words, I would side with Scalia's view that there is such a thing as a "reasonable search" that would not require a warrant (as opposed to the view that the first clause is merely a preamble that justifies second clause [the Warrant Clause]). It might be that the language of the 4th Amendment underdetermines the issue, and ought to be amended and clarified one way or the other.

  5. In saying these things I do not deny that unmanned aircraft can be potential tools to facilitate government overreach, abuse, Big Brotherism, anti-constitutional encroachments, or outright tyranny. And yes, if there is a drone hovering ten feet outside of your house, peering into your bathroom window with its camera, I would consider it morally to be intrusive, reprehensible, as well as an abridgement of the 4th Amendment's protections. You can make a slippery slope argument if you wish, but this is simply not the situation we are in at present by merely allowing UAVs to aid in domestic law enforcement operations. The existence of a tool, that can admittedly be used for good or evil, does not automatically plunge us in to Orwell's 1984. And if the tool is not intrinsically evil, on what basis can we impose a blanket prohibition?

The faith of the faithless

Ewen must have an odd idea about what "reason requires." In my view, reason requires that you at least consider the arguments for the other side before issuing such pronouncements.

Let’s look at some of the “scholarship” Parsons relies on:

Crossan, J.D. (1998), The Birth of Christianity. San Francisco: Harper.

          _____. (1995). Who Killed Jesus? San Francisco: Harper.

Huxley, T.H.. (1893), "The Value of Witness to the Miraculous," in Selected Works of T. H. Huxley: Science and the Christian Tradition. New York: D. Appleton.

Lüdemann, G. (1995), What Really Happened to Jesus? Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

Mack, B.L. (1993), The Lost Gospel. San Francisco: Harper.

          _____. (1995), Who Wrote the New Testament? San Francisco: Harper.

Martin, M. (1991), The Case Against Christianity. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Paine, T. (1974), The Age of Reason. P. S. Foner, ed. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press.

Ranke-Heinemann, U. (1988), Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality, and the Catholic Church. New York: Doubleday.

Spong, J.S. (1994), Resurrection: Myth or Reality? San Francisco: Harper.

Wells, G.A. (1996), The Jesus Legend. Chicago: Open Court.

          _____. (1989), Who Was Jesus? La Salle, IL: Open Court.

In fact, his bibliography doesn’t contain any major evangelical scholars. By his own yardstick, Parsons is irrational, for he’s failed to consider the arguments for the other side.

In fact, it’s amusing to see a philosopher with so little independent judgment. He reads the liberal side of the argument, and that’s it. Childlike faith in whatever liberal scholars say.

Just suppose

According to militant atheist Keith Parsons:

Let’s try a thought experiment: What would a contemporary account of Jesus have looked like had it been written by a historian with the resources, aims, and methods of a modern critical historian?… Now, of course we do not know what our imaginary historian would have concluded, but it should be abundantly clear that his product would be very different from the Gospel records.

Of course, that’s a wholly artificial comparison. We don’t measure ancient historians like Julius Caesar or Dio Cassius by that anachronistic yardstick. Ancient history will be written according to period conventions.

So let’s try a different thought experiment. Imagine that you’re an atheist. But suppose, for the sake of argument, that Jesus really was the Son of God Incarnate. Suppose he really did live and die in 1C Palestine, perform miracles, rise from the dead, and return to heaven.

Suppose four biographies were written about him. Suppose one was written by a Jewish disciple and a member of his inner circle (John). Suppose one was written by another Jewish disciple (Matthew). Suppose one was written by a younger contemporary who was a native of Jerusalem (Mark). Suppose one was written by a gentile Godfearer who had extensive contacts with members of the 1C church (Luke).

How would we expect these ancient biographies to differ, if at all, from the canonical gospels? Wouldn’t we expect their biographies to reflect the literary conventions of Biblical and Hellenistic historiography? Wouldn’t we expect them to link the life and ministry of Christ to OT prophecies? Wouldn’t we expect them to adapt their presentation to their target audience? Wouldn’t we expect them to reflect differences in their individual background and personal experience? Wouldn’t we expect them to record miracles of Christ? Wouldn’t we expect them to alternate between a chronological presentation and a topical presentation? In sum, what would be different if it were true under the circumstances?

Where is Robert Bellarmine?

I mentioned in my previous blog post that “it’s impossible to get English translations of Bellarmine’s polemical works, unless you consult a source such as Turretin”.

The reason for this, I believe, is that Rome certainly did not have its act together at the time of the Reformation. An image that comes to mind is one of Keystone Cops running around trying to decide what to do about Luther [given that they did not have an easy way to kill him].

Here, from the Reformation historian Patrick Collinson, is an example of how Rome dealt with “uncomfortable” information in that era:
In 1543 a little book was published in Venice with the title Trattato utilissimo del beneficio di Giesu Christo crocifisso i cristiani (A Most Useful Treatise on the Merits of Jesus Christ Crucified for Christians), written by an elusive Benedictine monk called Benedetto da Mantova (dates of birth and death unknown, but his surname seems to have been fontanino) with some help from the humanist and poet Marcantonio Flaminio (1498-1550), a popular work of piety that was translated into several languages including Croat. At first sight this may appear to be a piece of native Italian Christocentrism, part of a Pauline and Augustinian renaissance known to have been nourished by a Spanish humanist and biblicist, Juan de Valdes (1500-1541), whose pious circle in Naples had included Flaminio. But the Beneficio can be read in more than one way. It proves to have been made up from a number of transalpine Protestant texts, and especially the 1539 edition of Calvin's Institutes. Whether or not Benedetto had come across Calvin in his monastery on the slopes of Mount Etna, which seems unlikely, the Institutes was known to Flaminio.

It is hard to distinguish between the theology of the Beneficio and Protestantism. "Man can never do good works unless he first know himself to be justified by faith." Other scholars insist, however, that the Beneficio is an expression of Evangelism, a movement that was not generated by Protestantism and should be distingueshed from it. What is certain is that the Beneficio was placed on the Index and so successfuly repressed by the Roman Inquisition that of the many thousands of copies of the Italian edition that were once in existence only one is known to survive, discovered in the library of a Cambridge college in the nineteenth century. That sort of successful repression was the Counter-Reformation. (The Reformation, a History, Patrick Collinson, (c)2003, pgs 105-106.)
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that “official Rome” was embarrassed by many of the things its own apologists were saying, and it certainly had the ability to deal with embarrassing information.

Blind Roman Guides

I’ve commented briefly at Called to Communion, just simply having made a recommendation of Canon Revisited. In the very next comment, someone named Randy said “It seems like it suffers from the phantom argument fallacy”.

He also referred me to Tom Brown’s article on the Canon Question as sort of a model of how someone ought to treat arguments. Before I get into detail on the meat of the argument, I’d like to point out something that Tom Brown slips in, as if it were an established fact, which impugns Calvin where Calvin most likely is correct.

The Called to Communion guys are fond of saying things like “remember one of the cardinal rules in ecumenical inquiry: Don’t get your Catholic theology from Protestant hearsay–and vice versa. Go to the source, if you want to learn the truth”. This is certainly wise advice, especially if one is tempted to listen to Roman Catholic hearsay about John Calvin from a Roman epologist like Tom Brown. Brown cites Calvin, of course, just to appear to be above board:

“But a most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. . . . For they mock the Holy Spirit when they ask: Who can convince us that these writings came from God? . . . . Who can persuade us to receive one book in reverence but to exclude another, unless the church prescribe a sure rule for all these matters?”20

The footnote (20) is to “John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, book I, ch. 7, sec. 1.” That’s fine as far as it goes. Then Brown says matter-of-factly, “As an initial matter, Calvin misstates the Catholic position by stating that, according to the Catholic Church, Scripture has its authoritative weight accorded to it by the Church. Rather, the Catholic position is that Scripture has divine authority because it is God-breathed, the Holy Spirit having inspired the texts’ authors. That is, Scripture has divine authority because of its divine author, not because of the role of God’s Church in producing it…”

But the Battles version of Institutes footnotes this statement, [among other references] to “John Eck, Enchiridion (1553), ch i., fo. 4a-6b”.

Now, it’s true that Eck was not an “official” source of Roman teaching at the time, but one might assume that, given his position as a papal emissary, he’d be a pretty good source. Someone might also suggest that Calvin has misrepresented what Eck was saying, but that’s not likely. First, Calvin was fairly scrupulous about getting his opponents arguments correct. And second, Battles himself translated the Eck document from which he cites.

I’m not going to spend the $35.00 at this point to see what Eck says. But I’d be willing to surmise that Battles wouldn’t have spent the time translating this work if there weren’t something in it that he wanted to show.

I’ll suggest further, that a Reformed writer like Battles translated an Eck document, simply because Rome wanted to hide what its Reformation-era apologists were saying.

After all, wasn’t someone like Robert Bellarmine the great champion of Roman Catholic doctrine at the time of the counter Reformation? And yet, it’s impossible to get English translations of Bellarmine’s polemical works, unless you consult a source such as Turretin.

If any Roman Catholic thinks that this is just a bit too skeptical, consider the “Dialogus de Potestate Papae” of Silvester Prierias (1518). Bernhard Lohse, in his 1999 “Luther’s Theology” (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press) notes of this writer and this work:

[Prierias] was a member of the Roman Commission entrusted with introducing canonical proceedings against Luther in the spring of 1518. He composed the Dialogus as an expert opinion for the commission in the spring of 1518, and may have submitted it as early as April or May 1518. On August 7, 1518, Luther received the Dialogus together with the summons to defend himself in person at Rome on suspicion of heresy. The Dialogus, obviously, cannot be regarded as a particularly brilliant theological treatise on the papacy. Still, as evidence of the view then dominant in Rome and of the aggravation it caused in Luther’s dispute, it has a significance scarcely to be overestimated. Here we see how those who set the tone at Rome thought of the church and the papal office, above all what they had to find fault with in Luther.  (107-108).

James Swan has reproduced portions of this document, and in fact, he discusses the whole issue of question “the Holy Scripture receives its authority or power from the Roman see” from Luther’s perspective. So you can get the flavor of how “official Rome” represented itself at the time of the Reformation:
1. Essentially the universal church is the assembly in divine worship of all who believe in Christ. The true universal church virtually is the Roman Church, the head of all churches, and the sovereign pontiff. The Roman Church is represented by the College of Cardinals; however, virtually it is the pope who is the head of the Church, though in another manner than Christ.

2. As the universal church cannot err when it decides on faith and morals, so also a true council cannot err if it does its best to know the truth, at least not in the end result—and that I understand under the inclusion of the head. For even a council can initially be mistaken so long as the investigation of the truth is still in process; indeed a council has sometimes erred: nevertheless it finally knows the truth through the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, the Roman Church and the pope cannot err when he in his capacity as pope comes to a decision, i.e., when he comes to a decision in consequence of his office and thereby does his best to know the truth.

3. He who does not hold the teaching of the Roman Church and the Pope as an infallible rule of faith, from which even Holy Scripture draws its power and authority, he is a heretic.

4. The Roman Church can establish something with regard to faith and ethics not only through word but also through act. And there is no difference therein, except that the word is more suitable for this than the act. In this same sense custom acquires the power of law, for the will of a prince expresses itself in acts which he allows or puts into effect. And it follows that as he is a heretic who wrongly interprets Scripture, so also is he a heretic who wrongly interprets the teaching and acts of the Church in so far as they relate to faith and ethics.

Corollary: He who says in regard to indulgences that the Roman Church cannot do what she has actually done is a heretic (Michael Tavuzzi, Prierias (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997, p.111).

Lohse concludes, “Prierias not only represented the view of infallibility to which some gave expression toward the close of the Middle Ages, but with his third proposition actually set the Roman church over Scripture”. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

God and Holocaust

In short, the Calvinist account of God’s sovereignty given earlier in this chapter inevitably makes God the author of sin, evil, and innocent suffering (such as the children of the Holocaust) and thereby impugns the integrity of God’s character as good and loving. The God of this Calvinism (as opposed to, say, revisionist Reformed theology) is at best morally ambiguous and at worst a moral monster hardly distinguishable from the devil. R. Olson, Against Calvinism (Zondervan 2011), 84.

One would like to think Olson is exaggerating. But, unfortunately, his allegations are easy to document.

I’m afraid some recent apologias for the Holocaust from some Reformed quarters have been nothing less than obscene. In a 2007 sermon, John Piper, asserted that the Nazi Holocaust was divine punishment for the apostasy of the Jewish people in rejecting their Messiah.

And John Piper is hardly alone in the view that the Holocaust was divinely sanctioned. O. Palmer Robertson sees the Holocaust as God's punishment for Jewish covenant-breakers:

Calvinists did not experience any crisis of faith or of theology when confronted with the absolute evil of the Holocaust. Their response to the Holocaust was directed, then, not at God for having decreed the Jews to be murdered but at faithless Jews.

Not to be outdone by Piper and Robertson, Roger Nicole gave his own twist to the vindication of the Holocaust. He said that, in permitting the Holocaust, God cut off the gangrenous arm of the Jewish people to preserve a faithful remnant. On this basis, Nicole concludes, the Holocaust was a good thing, because without it, the entire Jewish people would have perished.

For his part, Cornelius Van Til goes Piper, Nicole, and Robertson one better in his discernment of the hand of God, which he deems patent in the Holocaust: "Yes, without a doubt, the guidance of history by God is perceptible even to our limited gaze. The sense of justice is palpable. Especially is the Holocaust a proof of God’s justice, coming as a long-awaited climax after two thousand years of impenitent infidelity.

As you can see, this confirms an Arminian’s worst suspicions about Calvinism. If anything, it’s even worse that he could imagine.

Okay, now I have an admission to make. John Piper, Roger Nicole, O. Palmer Robertson, and Cornelius Van Til never said what I just attributed to them. I took a statement about what some other folks said, and redacted it. Here’s the actual, verbatim passage:

Worse, some recent apologias for the Holocaust from some Jewish religious quarters have been nothing less than obscene. In a 1987 article (The London Times, May 9, 1987), Lord Immanuel Jakobovitz, the Chief Orthodox Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, asserted that the Nazi Holocaust was divine punishment for the apostasy of the German Jews who founded assimilationist Reform Judaism. "This idol of individual assimilation," he wrote almost gleefully, "exploded in the very country in which it was invented, to be eventually melted down and incinerated in the crematoria of Auschwitz."

Rabbi Jakobovitz is hardly alone in the view that the Holocaust was divinely sanctioned. As reported by the noted Israeli scholar Amos Funkenstein, the ultra-orthodox Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum--who lives in Jerusalem but regards the Jewish secular state and government in Israel as sinful--sees the Holocaust as God's punishment for the Zionist founding of a Jewish state in advance of the promised arrival of the purported new Messiah. As Avishai Margalit just pointed out ("The Uses of the Holocaust," The New York Review of Books, vol. XLI, no. 4, February 17, 1994, p. 7):

The ultra-Orthodox did not experience any crisis of faith or of theology when confronted with the absolute evil of the Holocaust. Their ... response to the Holocaust ... was directed, then, not at God for having allowed the Jews to be murdered but at the Zionists.

Not to be outdone by Rabbis Jakobovitz and Teitelbaum, the ultra-orthodox Brooklyn Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who was even hailed as the new Messiah by his disciples, gave his own twist to the vindication of the Holocaust. In his 1980 book Faith and Science (Emunah v' Madah), this revered sage of orthodoxy opined that, in permitting the Holocaust, God cut off the gangrenous arm of the Jewish people. On this basis, this man of God concludes, the Holocaust was a good thing, because without it, the entire Jewish people would have perished.

Sidney Hook explained why he rejects theism, including Judaism, the religion of his ancestors, in favor of atheism. In a response, the orthodox Chicago Rabbi Yaakov Homnick (Free Inquiry, Fall 1987) indicted Hook's rejection of his heritage as "a far greater tragedy than all of the physically maimed children in the world." Indeed, Rabbi Homnick goes Buber, as well as Rabbis Jakobovitz, Teitelbaum, and Scheinfeld one better in his discernment of the hand of God, which he deems patent in the Holocaust: "Yes, without a doubt, the guidance of history by G-d is perceptible even to our limited gaze. The sense of justice ... is palpable ... Especially is the Holocaust a proof of G-d's justice, coming as a climax of a century in which the vast majority of Jews, after thousands of years of loyalty in exile, decided to cast off the yoke of the Torah."

These are some rabbinical interpretations of the Holocaust. Notice how the rabbis insist that God was behind the Holocaust. God orchestrated the Holocaust as a divine judgment on the Jewish people.

Now, I’m not quoting this material to endorse their interpretation. But compare their statements with Olson’s. On the one hand you have an Arminian theologian who takes it for granted that divine complicity in the Holocaust would be diabolical. On the other hand you have rabbis who unblinkingly assert divine complicity in the Holocaust. These aren’t Calvinists. These are Jews. Their relatives were on the receiving end of the Holocaust. Yet they regard God’s sovereign instigation of the Holocaust as just and praiseworthy.

Once again, my point is not to endorse their particular interpretation of the Holocaust. That's a very in-house affair. But it doesn’t even occur to Olson that some of the people most directly affected by the Holocaust–survivors–might take a position diametrically opposed to his own. He doesn’t even bother to consult Jewish opinion on the Holocaust. (Admittedly, Jewish opinion is hardly monolithic.) 

Methodological Triangulation in the Analysis of Terrorist Networks

The minimal facts model

Skip the post. What’s worthwhile are the comments by Anselm, Nathaniel, and McGanahan/ Gene Callahan.