Saturday, September 29, 2012

Divine intervention and evil

One of the stock objections to Christian theism is the claim that if God existed, he’d prevent many of the (allegedly) gratuitous evils we see in the world around us.

But other issues to one side, this speculation raises an intriguing conundrum. Most of us have grown up on science fiction stories–in books, movies, and TV dramas. One popular SF plot involves time travel. A catastrophe in the recent past has blighted human existence. It’s too late to undo the damage, but it’s not too early to undo the damage. The protagonist travels back in time to a time before the catastrophe, to prevent it.

However, a paradoxical effect of his mission is that, if successful, changing the timeline will instantly and utterly erase the record of the previous timeline. No one will remember the catastrophe he averted. Even he won’t remember what he did, for the counterpart who went back in time doesn’t exist in the new timeline that takes the place of the old timeline. He saves the world, but he gets no credit of his feat.

By analogy, for each (allegedly) gratuitous evil that God prevents, there will be no historical record of his intervention (or contravention). So, for all the infidel knows, God has, in fact, preempted many (allegedly) gratuitous evils. In the nature of the case, doing so will leave no trace of the preempted evil.  

Inerrancy again!

I’m going to comment on this post:

Bill Vallicella is a brilliant philosopher, as well as an astute critic of liberal ideologues. However, whenever he turns to the Bible, his objections are amateurish.

The following is from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous but who wants me "to hear a different perspective on the matter than that of the Calvinists who comment on your blog: I don't want you thinking they are the ones rightly interpreting the Christian texts."

It’s flattering to think Calvinists have cornered the market on the inerrancy of Scripture, but that’s not quite fair to some other theological traditions. For instance, confessional Lutherans (e.g. WELS; LCMS) also affirm the inerrancy of Scripture.  So do “fundamentalists.”

It’s true, though, that other groups like Arminians are not committed to the inerrancy of Scripture. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Repealing the First Amendment

The visible/invisible church

King Obama

Obama has been mum about his intentions, if reelected. However, I was able to obtain a leaked draft copy of his second term agenda:

11 These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12 And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15 He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Obama voters

No, I don't normally listen to Stern. This is just something I ran across on Facebook. But it confirms what we've been repeatedly told: liberals are clearly smarter than conservatives.

Christian miracles

There is also evidence concerning Christian miracles from more recent times. Well-documented miracle accounts can be found in the following biography of the Lutheran pastor and theologian Johann Christoph Blumhardt:

Dieter Ising, Johann Christoph Blumhardt: Life and Work: A New Biography, Translated by Monty Ledford, Eugene 2009.

In the following excerpt from another biography of Blumhardt, written by his friend Friedrich Zündel (1827-1891), we find a description of the miraculous events surrounding Blumhardt’s work:;id=2;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Echristiancadre%2Eorg%2F

Emergent abomination

Debunking the Defeasibility Test

Progressive covenantalism

I already did a little post on Kingdom through Covenant:

But this book has proven to be unexpectedly controversial, so I’m going to spend more time interacting with some of the arguments.

The book has even been boycotted in some quarters. I think that’s unnecessary. The position of the authors is a respectable position. And they make a case for their position. So even if you disagree with them (as I do), their argument ought to be taken seriously.

The authors label the old covenant as the “covenant with Israel” (635). The implication of this designation is that the new covenant is not a covenant with Israel. Yet their OT prooftexts for the new covenant consist of passages in which God is speaking to Israel. Where God is making promises to Israel. For instance, Ezk 36:22-36 is explicitly and specifically addressed to Israel. In terms of the historic setting, moreover, God is addressing the Jewish exiles in Babylon. God is evidently referring to their postexilic restoration.

As noted above, the old covenant has a built-in tension. God demands obedience from Israel, yet they disobey. The law holds out life, but due to sin it cannot ultimately save. There is nothing in the law-covenant that changes the human heart, which is what the people desperately need (639).

But don’t we see the same tension in the NT church? Don’t many NT epistles bear witness to a similar tension?

Isn’t this tension inevitable in a fallen world? In inaugurated eschatology, we have a foot in both the fallen world order and the new world order.

In the New Testament, it is clear that the new covenant texts are applied to Christ and the church (cf. Lk 22:20; 2 Cor 3; Hebrews 8, 10). Even though the new covenant is made with the “house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Jer 31:31)…the NT applies it to the church through the mediatorial work of Jesus Christ (645-46).

i) The authors spend a lot of time exegeting the OT. But they need to show how their application arises from their OT prooftexts.

ii) It’s one thing to say their OT prooftexts apply to the church, quite another to say their OT prooftexts include the church to the exclusion of Israel, even when their OT prooftexts have specific reference to Israel. How can they use their OT passages to erect an antithetical contrast between Israel and the church despite the setting and the wording of the very passages they adduce? Even if you say Israel typifies the church, those are not polar opposites. And from a Presbyterian standpoint, “the church” is another phase in the history of the God’s people.

Their OT prooftexts don’t single out the church to the exclusion of Israel. It wasn’t given as a promise to the church rather than Israel. At least, that’s not something you can derive from the OT passages on their own terms.

iii) The mediatorial work of Christ can apply to Israel as well as the church. That’s not a differential factor that uniquely selects for the church. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, as well as the Savior of the nations.

iv) They appeal to Heb 8-10, but that’s arguably a Jewish church. A messianic congregation. That’s how many scholars and commentators classify the audience. Because the members of that church were messianic Jews, they were tempted to revert to Judaism (i.e. the Mosaic covenant) in the face of persecution. Unlike Christianity, Judaism was a religio licita.

It’s counterintuitive to invoke Heb 8-10 as a way of contrasting Israel to the church when that very letter was addressed to Jewish Christians.

[The new covenant] will indeed have a (human) covenant mediator, namely Jesus Christ, who is prophet, priest, and king in one person. In the old covenant community, these covenant mediators sinned and the community suffered because of faulty mediators. In the new covenant, however, our covenant mediator is without sin and as a result, the community will never suffer because of a faulty mediator (510).

i) But this fails to distinguish the Baptist position from the Presbyterian position (e.g. WCF).  Presbyterians can draw the same distinction.

ii) In addition, this distinction can stand on its own. It doesn’t need to be grounded in a theory of immediate revelation.

Under the new covenant all will know the Lord, not in a mediate but in an immediate fashion, and all will have the law written on their hearts and will experience the full forgiveness of sin (649).

It’s unclear what the authors mean by this:

i) Christians don’t enjoy innate knowledge of the gospel. Knowledge of the Gospel is mediated by the written word (i.e. the NT). And that’s something the new covenant shares in common with the old covenant.

Indeed, why to the authors spend so much time prooftexting their position from Scripture if the Holy Spirit gives Christians direct knowledge of the gospel? Their methodology contradicts their argument.

ii) Inscribing the law on the heart is a picturesque metaphor. They seem to think it denotes regeneration (649). Does that mean they think regeneration was mediate under the old covenant, but immediate under the new covenant? Surely they don’t believe Levitical priests mediated regeneration.

Therefore in the new covenant community there will no longer be a situation where some members urge other members to know the Lord (510).

Really? Christian parents shouldn’t urge their kids to know the Lord? A pastor shouldn’t urge his parishioners to know the Lord? We can just take that for granted?

The newness of the new covenant, at its heart, is found in the promise of complete forgiveness of sin (650).

That’s unclear. Weren’t OT saints completely forgiven? Are the authors suggesting the old covenant only offered partial forgiveness whereas the new covenant offers full forgiveness? If OT saints weren’t completely forgiven, did they go to hell when they died?

Fact is, the sacrificial system didn’t actually confer forgiveness–not even partial forgiveness. Rather, it symbolized forgiveness, and prefigured forgiveness. It’s not a difference of degree. OT saints were fully forgiven through the retroactive merits of Christ.

The church, unlike Israel, is new because she is comprised of a regenerate, believing people rather than a “mixed” group. The true members of the new covenant community are only those who have professed that they have entered into union with Christ by repentance and faith… (685).

i) Profession, regeneration, and faith are not mutually inclusive. It’s possible to be regenerate, yet lack conscious faith. It’s possible to have conscious faith, yet lack profession. Consider infants, the retarded, or the senile.

ii) How does their claim operate at a concrete level? As a rule, families form the core constituency of churches. Nuclear families or extended families. “Tribal groupings.” This is no less true in Baptist churches than in Presbyterian churches. And it’s often the case that some family members are pious while other members are impious. This gives rise to a distinction between the invisible church and the visible church.

There are ways of finessing this distinction in practice. A church can reserve communicant membership for those who make a credible profession of faith.

iii) It’s unclear how our authors define membership. Do they mean formal church membership? A public rite of initiation (e.g. baptism)? Or do they mean what God does to constitute members of the covenant community, irrespective of what we do by way of membership ceremonies?

Under the new covenant, what was true of the remnant (elect) within Israel will now be true of the entire covenant community and in greater ways (688).

Remnant themes aren’t confined to the OT. The same themes are sounded in the NT. Cf. G. Hasel, “Remnant,” ISBE 4:134; M. Elliot, “Remnant,” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 725.

First, the “mixed” community interpretation of the warning passages assumes that the nature of Israel and the church is basically the same, but this begs the question (692).

i) It doesn’t require that assumption. For passages like Heb 6:4-6 & 10:26-39 have reference to the church. That doesn’t necessitate comparing the church to Israel. Rather, that stands on its own two feet.

ii) But as a matter of fact, the author of Hebrews does compare NT apostates to OT apostates. He begins with OT apostates (Heb 3-4), then draws a parallel with NT apostates. So the old covenant community and new covenant community are analogous in that respect. It supplies an ominous precedent.

To the extent that they differ, it’s a difference of degree, not of kind. NT apostates are even more culpable than OT apostates.

Second, this interpretation contradicts biblical teaching regarding the nature of the new covenant church (692).

That rejoinder begs the question. The nature of the new covenant church is the very issue under review. And the apostasy passages are part of the evidence we use in defining the nature of the new covenant community.

No one disputes the fact that apostasy takes place in the new covenant age. What is at dispute is the status of those apostates. Should they be viewed as “new covenant breakers” (assuming they were once full covenant members) or, as those who professed faith, who identified with the church, but who, by their rejection of the gospel, demonstrated that they were never one with us? (692-93).

i) That’s a false dichotomy.

ii) Doesn’t the author of Hebrews describe the would-be apostates as covenant members on the brink of becoming covenant-breakers (e.g. Heb 6:1-5; 10:26,29)? If that’s not the language of covenant incorporation, what terminology would he use to describe covenant incorporation?

When apostasy takes place, we reevaluate the person’s former profession and thus their covenant status (693).

Why bundle those together? Certainly we reevaluate their former profession, but must we also reevaluate their covenant status? The authors assume what they need to prove.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scholarship and Scripture

In responding to Catholic spooftexting, Protestants like me emphasize the grammatico-historical method. But this raises a question: what about Protestants who lived and died before biblical archaeology shed so much new light on Biblical languages, customs, and historical allusions?

To begin with, Scripture has a macro meaning as well as a micro meaning. The micro meaning consists of individual words and sentences. But over and above that are larger units of meaning, viz., the flow of argument or narrative arc. You can often get the gist of a story even if certain culturally coded references elude you.

Likewise, much of Scripture was written to be heard, and the spoken word is more redundant than the written word. So even if you miss certain things, repetition often compensates for the loss.

But there’s another point to be made. In commenting on a book like Daniel, Calvin or Matthew Henry lack the specific knowledge that someone like Terence Mitchell would bring to bear. In some respects their interpretation will be less precise, less detailed, than a scholar with a better knowledge of the period.

Yet that can be offset by another consideration. Daniel deals with themes like tyrannical government, official idolatry, and religious persecution. And these are things which men like Calvin and Matthew Henry experienced firsthand. In certain respects, their historical situation was analogous to the situation of Daniel. They understood what it was like to be a persecuted religious minority. Calvin understood what it was like to be an exile. They personally knew what it felt like to remain faithful in the face of a hostile regime. To some degree, their experience recapitulates the experience of a man like Daniel.

In that regard they can identify with aspects of Daniel better than a scholar who has a more accurate knowledge of the period. Up to a point, they are living out the message of the book. Their situation is comparable. So their situation automatically contextualizes the interpretation. These are tradeoffs.

Christian divorce rate

New York Times story, “Jesus Wife Fragment,” judged to be a fake

Not sure how many of you are continuing to follow the story about the “Jesus’s Wife” fragment, first published in the New York Times. That now has been judged to be totally fake.

Mark Goodacre, on his academic “NT Blog”, has carried four stories by Francis Watson that pretty much definitively debunk the story.

This morning, Dan Wallace published this news:

Jesus’ Wife fragment judged a fake
Posted by Daniel B. Wallace on 26 September 2012

“News flash: Harvard Theological Review has decided not to publish Karen King¹s paper on the Coptic papyrus fragment on the grounds that the fragment is probably a fake.” This from an email Dr. Craig Evans, the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia University and Divinity College, sent to me earlier today. He said that Helmut Koester (Harvard University), Bentley Layton (Yale University), Stephen Emmel (University of Münster), and Gesine Robinson (Claremont Graduate School)–all first-rate scholars in Coptic studies–have weighed in and have found the fragment wanting. No doubt Francis Watson’s comprehensive work showing the fragment’s dependence on the Gospel of Thomas was a contributing factor for this judgment, as well as the rather odd look of the Coptic that already raised several questions as to its authenticity.

This episode, in my opinion, shows the power of the Internet as a tool that can be a servant of the truth: and New Testament scholars as a (rather disparate group) used it as a tool to quickly respond to a piece of information that has “news media” glitz. I wonder if these results will be trumpeted as loudly by the NY Times as the first story was? The world of academic New Testament scholarship responded very quickly to debunk this “discovery”. It’s true that anyone can do anything and anyone can say anything to get their five minutes of fame in the Internet age. But a group of people intent on knowing the truth and disseminating the truth have the ability to respond quickly and with certainty and to just as quickly tamp down the media glitz.

It’s a kind of “truth serum”, if honest people will only use it that way.

* * *

Update: Wallace has now published a quasi-correction:

After I posted the news which I received from Dr. Craig Evans that HTR was not going to publish the fragment because it had been judged to be a fake, I then got news that HTR was going to publish it. Here’s the link that gives the data: ...

* * *

Update 5:15 am September 27:

Hurtado and Wallace have both linked to further updates which eventually lead to a Huffington Post column by Jaweed Kaleem where the conclusion is a bit more muddy.

Hurtado says “According to the article, a number of Coptologists are raising doubts about the authenticity of the item (and it’s significant that they’re Coptologists, not theologians)”. But King (the Harvard scholar who made the initial announcement) says there will be “ongoing studies about the ‘scientific dating and further reports from Coptic papyrologists and grammarians.’” Hurtado says “It’s too bad that the tests in question, however, weren’t conducted earlier.”

The bottom line here seems to be that King (and the New York Times story) jumped the gun with the announcement. It still seems to me that Evans, Watson, et. al. responded appropriately in their rapid response to the news story that something significant had happened.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Savonarola: A Reformer Prior to Luther

On January 13, 1495, Girolamo Savonarola, who was a reformer before Luther, preached a sermon entitled, “The Renovation of the Church”. This describes the state of the church just prior to the Reformation:

Now, let us begin with the reasons that I have cited to you in the several years that have passed until now, which demonstrate and prove the renovation of the church. Some of the reasons are probable and can be contradicted; some are demonstrable and cannot be contradicted, for they are based on Holy Scripture.

The first is propter pollutionem praelatorum [because of the pollution of the prelates]. When you see a good head, you know that the body is well; when the head is wicked, woe to that body. However, when God permits that there be at the head of government ambition, lust and other vices, believe that God’s flagellation is near…. Therefore, when you see that God permits the heads of the Church to be weighed down by evils and simonies, say that the flagellation of the people is near. I am not saying that this condition is found in the heads of the Church, but I am saying, “when you will see it.”

The second is because of the assumption [i.e. the death] of the good and the just. Every time that God takes away saints and good people, say that the flagellation is near…. Behold the number of men that can be found today who can be called just and good! Say, therefore, that the flagellation is near, and that the wrath and the sword of God are in motion.

The third is per exclusionem iustorum [through the exclusion of the just]. When you see that some lord or head of government does not want good and just men near him, but drives them away, because he does not want to hear the truth, say that the flagellation of God is near.

The fourth is propter desiderium iustorum [because of the desire of the just]. When you see that all good men desire and call for the flagellation, believe that it is soon to come. See whether there is anyone today whom you think is calling for the flagellation! Believe me, Florence [Italy], that your punishment would have already come, were it not for the prayers and sermons of the good. Believe me, today you would have been a garden.

The fifth is propter obstinationem peccatorum [because of the stubbornness of sinners]. When sinners are stubborn and do not want to turn to God and do not value or appreciate those who call them to lead good lives, but always proceed from bad to worse and are obstinate in their vices, say that God is angry. And yet, Florence, wait for the flagellation, for you know how long it has been said to you that you should mend your ways, and you have always been obstinate. And it has also been said to you, Rome, and you too remain obstinate; yet you wait for God’s anger.

The sixth is propter mulititudinem peccatorum [because of the multitude of sinners]. It was because of David’s pride that the plague was sent. See if Rome is full of pride, lust, avarice, and simony! See if in Rome the wicked are not always multiplying! And then say that the flagellation is near and that the renovation of the Church is near.

The seventh is propter excussionem primorum, scilicet, charitatis et fidei [because of the driving out of the chief virtues, that is to say, charity and faith]. In the time of the primitive Church one lived only with complete faith and complete charity. Look, how many there are in the world today who live thus! You, Florence, also seek your ambition, and everyone exalts himself. Believe, there is no cure except in repentance, for the flagellation of God is near.

The eighth is propter negationem credendorum [because of the denial of the articles of faith]. Look, today it seems as though no one believes and has faith, and everyone says: “What will happen afterwards?”

The ninth is propter perditum cultum divinum [because of the ruin of sacred worship]. Go, see what is done for the churches of God and what devotion is there, for the worship of God seems and is today lost. You will say: “Oh, there are so many religious and so many prelates, more than there have ever been!” Would that there were fewer of them! O tonsured ones, tonsured ones! per te orta est haec tempestas [through you this tempest has arisen]! You are the cause of all this evil! And nowadays everyone thinks he is holy, if he has a priest in his house; and I say to you that the time will come when it will be said: “Blessed is that house that does not have a shaved head!” [Referring to the tonsure].

The tenth is propter universalem opinionem [because of universal opinion]. Look at everyone who seems to be preaching and waiting for the flagellation and tribulations; and to each one it seems that it is a just thing that the punishment of so many iniquities must come. The abbot Joachim and many others preach and announce that this flagellation is to come at this time.

It is for these reasons that I have preached the renovation of the Church…. [From John C. Olin, The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatius Loyola, New York, NY: Fordham University Press ©1969, 1992, pgs 5-6]

The author of this work notes, “The climactic act of his life’s drama is his contest with the notorious Borgia Pope then reigning, Alexander VI (1492-1503), whose immoral life stands in startling contrast to that of the saintly friar. Defiant of this Pope and overcome by his enemies at home, he was arrested, tried, and brought to the scaffold in the spring of 1498” (pg 3).

Kasich vs Romney? (subscription required).

During the 33 years he’s spent in political office, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been blamed for a lot of things. However, he’s probably never stood accused of contributing to a Republican presidential candidate’s defeat, and by a member of his party no less.

But such was the case on Friday when House Speaker John Boehner suggested Gov. Kasich was undercutting the Romney campaign in Ohio, perhaps the most significant state this election. “One of the things that probably works against Romney in Ohio is the fact that Gov. Kasich has done such a good job of fixing government regulations in the state, attracting new businesses to the state,” said Mr. Boehner, who’s represented Ohio in Congress since 1991.

“Our unemployment rate in Ohio is lower than the national average as a matter of fact, I think it’s a full point lower than the national average,” he added. “So as a result people are still concerned about jobs in Ohio but it certainly isn’t like you see in some other states.”

Mr. Boehner isn’t the first Republican to suggest that reformist governors’ successes could be hurting Mr. Romney in key states like Ohio and Florida. The thing is, there’s no evidence to back up that theory. Mr. Romney has trailed President Obama in most swing states since the rising class of Republican governors took office nearly two years ago. His performance, however, has slipped universally in recent weeks, regardless of states’ economies….

Monday, September 24, 2012

Porter on the "Gospel of Jesus’ Wife"

Augustine, Pelagius, and lost councils

Following up with my previous post, “How the early church lost its understanding of grace”, I’m picking up with Bavinck’s discussion of Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, from Chapter 9, “The Order of Salvation”, of Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ.

Pelagius (ca. AD 354 – ca. AD 420/440) strayed much farther from the doctrine of grace than any of his predecessors; he abandoned the Christian foundation on which all of them still based themselves and renewed the self-sufficient principle of pagan philosophy, specifically that of the Stoics. Not only did he sever all connections between Adam’s sin and ours, so that neither guilt nor pollution nor even death was a consequence of the first transgression, but Christianity itself lost its absolute significance. Salvation was not bound to Christ but could also be obtained by following the natural law (lex naturae) and positive law (lex positiva). Hence, in Pelagius’s theology there could be no internal grace, no regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit which not only illumined the mind but also bent the will (508).

Here is where we begin to see some resemblance between Pelagianism and Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism holds that human nature “is wounded in the natural powers proper to it”, compared with the Reformed doctrine of “total depravity”. Not that this resemblance with Pelagianism is causation. There is some more history here, and Bavinck captures it well.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints

This is a friend of a friend of a friend. 

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15 (ESV)

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:55

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kingdom Thru Covenant rejoinder

Bock on Kingdom Thru Covenant

Chronos and cloning

One of the staple objections to young-earth creationism is the allegation that God would be guilty of deception if he made a world that appeared to be younger than it really is. I’ve responded to this objection before, but now I’d like to consider the issue from another angle.

Medical science may well be nearing the point where it can clone replacement organs. Suppose you’re going blind due to glaucoma or macular degeneration. Or suppose you’re congenitally blind. In 10-20 years, science may be able to clone you a brand new pair of eyes. An eye transplant based on your own DNA.

Of course, normally, adult eyes take years to develop, from conception through gestation and maturation. Yet your “instant” eyes might only take a few weeks to clone in the laboratory. Would the medical profession be guilty of deception under those circumstances? Should we discourage the development of cloned replacement organs on ethical grounds because the cloned organs appear to be fully mature organs which only took a tiny fraction of the normal time to cultivate?

A "spiritual resurrection"

Orthodox Christians take the position that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then Christianity is false. To put it more graphically, unless the tomb of Jesus is empty, Christianity is false. If we discovered the skeletal remains of Jesus, that would disprove the Christian faith at one stroke.

However, some unbelievers argue for a “spiritual resurrection.” They do that to discount postmortem appearances of Jesus. They chalk these up to subjective visions or hallucinations.

But there’s a catch. If you use that argument, then even if you discovered the skeletal remains of Jesus in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, that wouldn’t falsify the Christianity faith. That wouldn’t even falsify the resurrection of Christ. So that argument poses a dilemma for the unbeliever.

What would it take to lose your faith?

David Marshall recently had an abortive exchange with militant atheist Peter Boghossian:

Boghossian’s attitude is irrational. He acts as if it’s useless to debate someone unless your opponent is open to persuasion. But public debates aren’t about convincing your opponent. Marshall is a published Christian apologist who’s debated other atheists. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that Marshall is a fideist, if Boghossian had debated him and demonstrated that Marshall’s faith is irrational, that would be a notch in Boghossian’s belt.

Be that as it may, I’d like to address Boghossian’s challenge. He said:

Answer this question: What would it take for you to lose your faith?

This does not answer the question. Please answer the question or this will be our last communication.  What reasons would have to be mistaken? Give me an example of a reason and how you know it would be mistaken. What would this look like?

But that’s a deceptively simple question.

i) For one thing, professing Christians can lose their faith for emotional reasons rather than intellectual reasons. Disappointment is a common factor.

ii) Presumably, Boghossian’s is getting at the issue of whether Christian faith is falsifiable. And there’s a qualified sense in which, hypothetically speaking, Christianity must be falsifiable. Christianity can’t be true and still be made consistent with just anything. Christianity is not constantly redefinable. If Christianity is true, then some other things are false. And if some other things are true, then Christianity is false. For instance, if Islam were true, that would falsify Christianity.

iii) Also, from a Reformed standpoint, faith is something only God can give, and something which, by the same token, God can take away.

iv) However, some beliefs are more far-reaching than others. Let’s alter Boghossian’s question:

What would it take for you to cease believing in other minds or the external world?

Now that’s not a question which is easy to answer. Indeed, the question may be unanswerable. That’s because belief in other minds or the external world are beliefs by which we evaluate other beliefs. But if you ask me to consider what reality is like assuming that my friends, parents, siblings, spouse, and kids are computer simulations, that my memories are implanted, then that’s a question I can’t answer, for at that point I have lost any frame of reference. I have nothing left to go on.

v) Perhaps Boghossian would say that’s an extreme case, which is hardly analogous to losing your Christian faith. But is it? Actually, a godless world is even more reductionistic than the scenario I just outlined. Consider some implications of the Christian faith:

a) Our minds, memories, and senses are trustworthy in performing what God designed them to do.

b) There’s objective morality.

c) There’s a good reason for everything that happens.

But suppose you deny Christianity, and thereby deny those implications. If you go down that road, you begin to lose your bearings. You can’t find your way back. Deny (a-c), and what’s left? What’s your standard of comparison? 

vi) Which brings me back to (ii). Hypothetically speaking, Christianity is falsifiable. Yet even falsification takes certain truth-conditions for granted. But what if denying Christianity ends up denying the ability to evaluate anything?

Boghossian’s question is superficial. It fails to take the alternative into account.