Saturday, March 16, 2013

Calvinists and their familiars

I’m going to comment on a recent post at SEA:

Keep in mind that this isn’t just the eccentric opinion of an individual Arminian commentator. Rather, SEA is treating this as a representative statement of the Arminian outlook.

    A humble and hungry disciple is a wonderful thing in God’s kingdom…But these same qualities can also make them a target for demonic deception. Satan is a master manipulator, and as natural children are easy to manipulate in their innocence and ignorance, so are spiritual children. Zeal can make them hasty, and humility can make them naïve.

Chapman just leveled a very dangerous accusation. You see, the familiar spirits (e.g. Screwtape, Wormwood, Alichino, Barbariccia, Cagnazzo, Calcabrina, Ciriatto, Draghignazzo, Farfarello, Graffiacane, Libicocco, Malacoda, Rubicante, Scarmiglione) who bedevil Calvinists generally like to stay off the grid. It’s easier for them to deceive unsuspecting converts like me if they conceal their tentacles. 


Once Rosemary gives birth the Devil Incarnate, and the Calvinist Antichrist assumes the throne of one-world government, it will be safe for all the familiar spirits who delude Calvinists to come out into the open, but until that time, they prefer to operate under cover.

That’s why my own familiar spirit got so mad when he read Chapman’s exposé. He bitterly resents the fact that Chapman blew his cover. As a result, my familiar spirit forced me to pronounce a horrible hex on Chapman. If freak accidents begin happening to Chapman, that’s the source. 

The hungry disciple believes that God loves everyone and wants all people to come to repentance.

Notice how Chapman presumes to impute Arminianism to “hungry disciples,” as if that’s the default belief of all converts.

So a teaching that says God does not want everyone to be saved makes no sense to them.

Really? Chapman has it backwards. The Bible treats God’s grace as something surprising, unexpected, even counterintuitive:

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life (Rom 5:6-10.

Back to Chapman:

They have hope for people and sincerely believe that if they labor and pray for souls to come into the kingdom, they will. So the doctrine that says God has already determined how many will be saved and absolutely nothing can change that number, seems unbelievable to them.

Actually, it’s because God predestined the elect to be saved through faith in the Gospel that Calvinists have confidence that their evangelistic labors and prayers for the lost will result in sinners passing from kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.

But sooner or later they read a passage in the Bible that shocks and confuses them. They read something like, “Before the twins were born, God loved Jacob and hated Esau” (Rom. 9:13). Then their heads begin to spin. They can’t make heads or tails of it.

What’s shocking or confusing about that statement?

 At this point they usually ask their mentor what it means and accept whatever explanation that is given, whether it makes sense or not.

I didn’t have a mentor when I became a Christian, and I didn’t have a mentor when I became a Calvinist.

One of the common defenses of Calvinism’s converts goes something like this, “I didn’t accept Calvinist theology because I wanted to. In fact, I hoped that it wasn’t true. I only accepted it because I couldn’t ignore what the Bible plainly teaches.”

That may well be true in many cases. On the other hand, faith leads to understanding. The first step in learning to appreciate God’s wisdom is to accept what he teaches.

This confession carries with it a subtle accusation, whether the Calvinist brother is aware of it or not. It says, “You don’t follow the Bible, but your desires. You want the Bible to teach that God loves everyone equally, so you refuse to submit to the truth of God’s word.” This accusation often has its intended affect on the sensitive conscience of the humble follower of Christ.

This accusation brings the disciple into self-doubt and prepares his heart for the errors of Calvinism. By accepting the subtle accusation that his Spirit renewed conscience is actually just human reasoning, he is stepping into dangerous territory.

It’s dangerous to believe in predestination. Scary stuff. Like a horror film.  

He hastily accepts the apparent meaning of certain verses, not because it is confirmed by the rest of scripture, but because it is the quickest means of proving his devotion to God’s word and silencing the accusations assailing his heart.

How many converts to Calvinism has Chapman interviewed? What makes him think the average convert to Calvinism is trying to prove his devotion to God by affirming predestination? Or is this just a prejudicial exercise in armchair psychology?

 He is afraid to allow his conscience to influence him. He forgets that when he repented of his sins and became a Christian his conscience had been molded by the testimony of the Gospel message.

Well, appealing to “conscience” and the Holy Spirit is a popular rationalization rejecting various “offensive” teachings in Scripture.

The Calvinist’s confession also carries with it a strange assumption, again, usually without his awareness. The assumption is, “If something is hard to accept, accepting it must prove a sincere devotion to God.” This reasoning is similar to that of the Catholic monks of the middle ages who believed fasting almost continually, taking vows of poverty and even beating themselves with whips, somehow revealed the depth of their devotion to God’s glory. Calvinism’s convert makes a similar error. By submitting to a view of God that is distasteful to his understanding of justice and mercy he feels reassured that he is devoted to God’s word.

Chapman keeps imputing that motive to Calvinists. Once again, does he have any polling data to indicate if what he imputes to Calvinists is, in fact, representative of what motivates Calvinists?

Speaking for myself, I don’t espouse Calvinism to prove my devotion to God.

Moreover, the ascription is ambiguous. Does he mean proving something to God, or proving something to ourselves? I’ve never tried to prove myself to God. God knows everything about me. He can see right through me. He knows me far better than I know myself. Attempting to prove my bona fides to God would be silly.

As for proving something to myself, well, Scripture does admonish Christians to engage in self-examination. So there’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

The disciple is now eager to prove his devotion to God’s truth. In this state of mind he turns to Romans 9:20 and reads, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’”

Well, as a matter of fact, Paul does say that in response to those who impugn God’s redemptive discretion. So there’s nothing wrong with citing that passage.

    The Calvinist’s testimony, whether he knows it or not, has been used to accuse and manipulate his brother in Christ…With this sincere commitment his fate is sealed. The error of Calvinism has taken hold of his conscience, and it will not easily loosen its grip.

That’s very disappointing. Here I was, right on the verge of becoming an ardent Arminian, but now Chapman tells me that my fate is sealed. I’m doomed to be a Calvinist. Seems a bit odd that an Arminian would take such a fatalistic attitude, but who am I to take issue with his grasp of Arminian theology?

    Calvinism comes to deceive and manipulate the sincere devotion of the spiritual children in God’s kingdom.

That’s very instructive. Not only are Calvinists demonically deceived, but we’re demonic deceivers! Two for the price of one! I never knew that about myself until I read Chapman’s exposé. I was like a Cylon sleep agent. 

The demon of Calvinism kept me in the dark regarding my true identity. Crafty devil! (pardon the pun).

Calvinism is like a manipulative elder brother influencing his little brother into a sinful action. The elder brother doesn’t have to say, “Steal that CD or I will hit you.” He has a more foolproof way of getting his little brother to do his dirty work. Instead of direct intimidation he uses simple psychology. He says, “You are too little to be here with us big boys. Go home!” To this the younger brother predictably replies, “I am big!” “Ok,” the elder brother continues, “then steal that CD to prove it. But I know you will not do it. You’re a chicken! You’re too small to do it!” It is not hard to guess what happens next. The little brother promptly steals the CD…This is the strategy of Calvinism’s irresistible error.

So not only is Calvinism erroneous, but an “irresistible” error. Yet if that’s the case, then I’m less than clear on what Chapman hopes to accomplish. I can’t help myself. I’m irresistibly sucked into the vortex of Calvinism.

Calvinism boasts that it has a monopoly on devotion, just as the monks of the Middle Ages did.

I’m not aware of any Reformed creeds or major Reformed theologians who say Calvinism has a monopoly on devotion.

It is the hardest philosophy to swallow, so it must be the most God-glorifying theology on the market. After all, it says that God is everything and that Man is nothing?

Is that what it says? How can God save nothing? There is nothing to save.

 God is the only participant in salvation and mankind does nothing to “help” God save him.

Does Chapman think sinners have to lend God a helping hand?

Feigning fraternal love and respect

Calvinist leader Justin Taylor has published on his blog a great post that really captures the attitude and approach of the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA) regarding Calvinists and Arminians receiving one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and treating one another with love and respect despite our sharp disagreements.

Let’s compare this sentiment with how SEA actually approaches Calvinists. Here’s another recent post at SEA:

A humble and hungry disciple is a wonderful thing in God’s kingdom…But these same qualities can also make them a target for demonic deception. Satan is a master manipulator, and as natural children are easy to manipulate in their innocence and ignorance, so are spiritual children. Zeal can make them hasty, and humility can make them naïve.

The Calvinist’s testimony, whether he knows it or not, has been used to accuse and manipulate his brother in Christ…With this sincere commitment his fate is sealed. The error of Calvinism has taken hold of his conscience, and it will not easily loosen its grip.

Calvinism comes to deceive and manipulate the sincere devotion of the spiritual children in God’s kingdom…Calvinism is like a manipulative elder brother influencing his little brother into a sinful action. The elder brother doesn’t have to say, “Steal that CD or I will hit you.” He has a more foolproof way of getting his little brother to do his dirty work. Instead of direct intimidation he uses simple psychology. He says, “You are too little to be here with us big boys. Go home!” To this the younger brother predictably replies, “I am big!” “Ok,” the elder brother continues, “then steal that CD to prove it. But I know you will not do it. You’re a chicken! You’re too small to do it!” It is not hard to guess what happens next. The little brother promptly steals the CD…This is the strategy of Calvinism’s irresistible error.


The evangelical left

Nowadays we have professing Christians on the evangelical left (for want of a better term) who brazenly reject the inspiration of certain OT commands they deem to be too harsh. So-called “texts of terror.” This usually begins with their repudiation of commands involving “genocide” or “ethnic cleansing.” From there this may extend to commands involving war brides, POWs, shotgun weddings, indentured servants, and whatever else the evangelical leftist deems to be too harsh or horrific for God to command.

However, there’s another set of passages presenting the polar opposite. For not only does the Bible contain commands that are allegedly too brutal and barbaric, but the Bible also contains commands which look like they are too ivory-tower. I’m alluding to the Sermon on the Mount.

On the face of it, the Sermon on the Mount is hopelessly idealistic. If the Mosaic law is too dystopian, the Sermon on the Mount is too utopian.

Historically, the Sermon on the Mount has posed a problem for Christians, because it appears to be too unrealistic to put into practice. The Amish pride themselves on taking the Sermon at face value, but even they are quite selective. They seize on the passages about nonviolence, but the Sermon on the Mount goes beyond that. What about private property?

If Christians obeyed the prima facie meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, that would reduce us to naked, homeless beggars. Defenseless street people, dependant on handouts to survive.

If someone demanded our shoes, we’d have to give them our shoes. If someone demanded our house, we’d have to vacate our house. If someone demanded our wages, we’d have to hand over our greenbacks, credit cards, debit cards, &c. If they demanded our glasses or contacts, we’d have to give them our glasses or contacts. If they demanded our car, we’d have to give them our car. If they demanded our bicycle, we’d have to give them our bicycle. If they demanded our bus pass, we’d have to give them our bus pass. If they demanded our wheelchair, we’d have to give them our wheelchair. If they demanded our wristwatch, we’d have to give them our wristwatch. If they demanded our cell phone, we’d have to give them our cell phone.

It would be impossible to hold down a job. Impossible to maintain a family. Impossible to feed and clothe your family. Impossible to put a roof over their heads.

We could never plan for the future. Never make preparations. Carpe Diem. Live for the moment, with no forethought for the morrow.

On the face of it, the Sermon on the Mount appears to be utterly Pollyannaish. Francis of Assisi was one of the few Christians who made a good-faith effort to consistently put that into practice. He took it far more seriously than Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Stanley Hauerwas, or John Howard Yoder.

Indeed, critics of the Mosaic law often like to quote the Sermon on the Mount. But I dont see them doing everything it ostensibly commands. Not by a long shot. They dont even try.

So why are evangelical leftists so vocal in attacking the Bible when it’s (allegedly) too harsh, but fall silent when the Bible is (apparently) too otherworldly? Why be so outspoken when the Bible is (allegedly) too mean, but suffer from instant laryngitis when the Bible is (apparently) too starry-eyed? Too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly use. Shouldn’t evangelical leftists be more consistent? Shouldn’t they attack the Sermon on the Mount with the same superior attitude as they attack the Mosaic law?

The Heretic

Pope Francis: “I Want a Poor Church for the Poor”

NBC News is reporting that Pope Francis, in his first address to the media, said: “I Want a Poor Church for the Poor”. Here is how that went:

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis said Saturday he wanted "a poor church for the poor" in his first remarks to the media since he was elected leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

Wearing simple white robes and plain black shoes, he explained how he decided to name himself after St. Francis of Assisi: When he reached two-thirds of the vote in the conclave, a fellow cardinal embraced him and said, "Don't forget the poor."

"That's when I thought of Francis of Assisi," he said. "And that is how the name came to me: Francis of Assisi, the man of poverty, of peace."

He added: "This is what I want, a poor church for the poor."

That brought to mind for me one of the writings of another Pope, “John Paul the Great”, whose encyclical letter, Veritatis Splendor, relates and expounds this passage:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

The question is, just how much does Pope Francis I now want “a poor church”? How much interest does he have in selling all the Roman Catholic Church’s possessions, and giving the money to the poor?

Who “Ruined” the Roman Catholic Church?

Peggy Noonan, the syrupy WSJ writer (and former Reagan speech writer) who famously coined the phrase “John Paul the Great” (whom Neuhaus predicted would usher in “the Catholic Moment”), now throws that hopeful papacy and the Ratzinger one under the bus and signs onto the “Church-in-ruins” model that Francis of Assisi was asked to fix:

One of the most famous moments in St. Francis's life is the day he was passing by the church of St. Damiano. It was old and near collapse. From St. Bonaventure's "Life of Francis of Assisi": "Inspired by the Spirit, he went inside to pray. Kneeling before an image of the Crucified, he was filled with great fervor and consolation. . . . While his tear-filled eyes were gazing at the Lord's cross, he heard with his bodily ears a voice coming from the cross, telling him three times: 'Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling into ruin.'" Francis was amazed "at the sound of this astonishing voice, since he was alone in the church." He set himself to obeying the command.

Go and repair my house, which is falling into ruin. Could the new pope's intentions be any clearer?

But after the great hopefulness of Vatican II, and the long and “great” papacies of JPII (with Ratzinger as the “doctrinal watchdog”) and then Ratzinger the great theologian, how in the world is “my house” [in this metaphor, the “One True Church”] falling into ruin?

Ruin is a very strong word. In this way, the convert-hopefulness of John Richard Neuhaus, exemplified in his work “The Catholic Moment” and the very founding of the journal “First Things”, is in “ruin”. But never mind that.

She continues:

The Catholic Church in 2013 is falling into ruin. The church has been damaged by scandal and the scandals arose from arrogance, conceit, clubbiness and an assumption that the special can act in particular ways, that they may make mistakes but it's understandable, and if it causes problems the church will take care of it.

What were JPII and Ratzinger doing for the last 35 years? Who were the “arrogant”, “conceited” “clubby” “insiders” who, while promising such hope, in the meanwhile, “shepherded” Christ’s “one true church” into ruin? Where is the “true church” if not in this “visible hierarchy” that was so promised to give the kind of “epistemological certainty” that Roman Catholic converts know to rely on?

It’s not “the liberals” who ruined things. It was the last two popes, the last two “shepherds”.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Olson Slips Further

Putting Pope Francis to the test

Pope Francis has an opportunity to draw the line by denying communion to pro-abortion dignitaries at the inaugural Mass. That would send quite a message. Let's see what happens:

See how humble I am!

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mt 6:1-4).

Bryan Cross has a photo gallery to illustrate how humble Pope Francis is:

Of course, there’s always something a wee bit paradoxical about flaunting your humility. Now, in fairness to Francis, he can’t prevent folks from snapping pictures.

However, some of these appear to be public events, staged photo ops. Situations that invite a camera crew to follow him around.

Why can’t he just take a couple of priests with him to do after-hours hospital visitation? Out of the limelight. Away from the paparazzi.

Keep in mind, too, that in Catholicism, good works are meritorious. This isn’t disinterested humility. So there’s always that little catch.

A Good Reason to Homeschool Your Kids

They will learn about the Ides of March.

Unlike those who attend illiterate, multicultural public schools:

Pope Francis and Óscar Romero

I lived through the news coverage leading up to and including the assassination of Archbishop Óscar Romero. Although Jorge Bergoglio is touted as an advocate for the poor and oppressed, he played it safe compared to Romero. While he’s critical of the current Argentinean regime, he didn’t stick his neck out in riskier times, the way Romero and some other Latin American priests did.

As the weeks and months wear on, I assume there will be comparisons between Romero and Pope Francis, comparisons that aren’t especially favorable to the new pope. 

Assessing Pope Francis

Here are my preliminary thoughts on Pope Francis:

1. He has a reputation for being more down to earth than many Catholic prelates. That’s an improvement.

But at best that means he’s a humble man in an arrogant job. An emperor can be a personally modest man, but he’s still the emperor. The papacy is fundamentally hubristic.

2. There’s a lot of talk about how he will be an advocate for the poor. But is that just a euphemism for the boilerplate “social justice” message we’re used to hearing from Catholic prelates like the USCCB? The message that helped get Barack Obama elected and reelected? Baptized distributive justice, a la John Rawls?

3. There’s also a lot of talk about his Christocentric, gospel-oriented piety. But Catholic piety isn’t Christocentric. Catholic piety is centered on the seven sacraments, the Rosary, cult of the saints, as well as the personality-cult of the papacy itself.   

It also depends on how you define the work of Christ. Roman Catholicism defines the work of Christ very differently than the NT.

4. As a Latin American prelate, he may well use the papacy to launch a new counter-reformation against evangelical mission in Latin America.

Pope Francis and Argentina's dirty war

I'm not personally vouching for this article. I'm no expert on Latin American politics. But it does raise questions:

The pope and the junta

Wet Willie TV

You'll want to expand this to "full screen" to get the full effect of it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


First Clement And Pope Francis

In light of the selection of a new Pope, this would be a good time for those who don't know much about church history to do some research. One step to take would be to read First Clement. It's one of the earliest extra-Biblical Christian documents we have, and it represents early Christianity in the city of Rome. It has a lot of relevance to the claims of Roman Catholicism.

I've written about some of the inconsistencies between First Clement and Catholicism in the past. See here, here, and the quotations below regarding the papacy, for example. On justification, see here. Or here on Purgatory. Other examples can be found in my collection of articles on Catholicism here or by searching the Triablogue archives in general.

"Some scholars anachronistically saw in the epistle [First Clement] an assertion of Roman primacy, but nowadays a hermeneutic of collegiality is more widely accepted." (Thomas Halton, Encyclopedia Of Early Christianity, Everett Ferguson, ed. [New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1999], 253)

"This [the literary genre of First Clement] is a form of address that is identified in rhetorical handbooks and found in other texts that are contemporary with 1 Clement. It is used by those who wish to persuade others to reach for themselves a successful resolution to difficulties that they face, not to force them to submit to those who offer them this counsel….He [Clement] hopes to persuade because he cannot compel or command, and he knows that he cannot take it for granted that those whom he addresses will welcome and act on the counsel that he gives. He avoids the use of the imperative, and speaks instead in the second person plural….The second corollary is confirmation that this letter [First Clement] offers no evidence for the primacy of Rome at the time of its composition. The church at Rome writes to the church at Corinth of its own free will, but the form in which it does so makes clear that it could not take for granted that its counsel would be either welcome or in any way binding at Corinth. Nowhere does the Roman church demand obedience to its own authority, but only to that of God, as revealed in the Greek Bible and in certain Christian texts and traditions." (Andrew Gregory, in Paul Foster, ed., The Writings Of The Apostolic Fathers [New York, New York: T&T Clark, 2007], 26-28)

Memes, Demons, and Dawkins

It is not entirely clear how it is that positing unseen and undefined entities that infect human minds by unassessed processes involving the entities’ own quest for transmission and that cause people to do things that transcend their genetic imperatives is fundamentally different from medieval demonology or, in any case, qualifies as an empirically grounded explanation in terms of natural causes.

Jeffrey Schloss & Michael Murray, eds., The Believing Primate: Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Reflections on the Origin of Religion (Oxford 2009), 24.

Our Grandmother Who Art in Heaven

I’m going to comment on a post at SEA. The fact that this was posted at SEA means it isn’t just the eccentric opinion of an individual Arminian blogger, but is being treated as a representative statement of the Arminian outlook:

After the passing of Kim Jong-Il, Calvinist leader Justin Taylor did a brief post highlighting how diabolical he was.

It is simply baffling that Calvinists can decry the diabolical, heinous actions of Kim Jong-Il (and others like him), and yet they hold that God first conceived in his own divine heart every one of the man’s wicked actions, thought them up without any influence outside of himself, and unconditionally and irresistibly decreed them without any influence outside of himself, resulting in the man doing them all without any chance, power, or ability to do anything else. It’s madness I tell you! Madness!!

This is in part a hackneyed objection to predestination (“unconditionally and irresistibly decreed them…resulting in the man doing them all without any chance, power, or ability to do anything else.”).

I’m going to pass on that objection because I’ve dealt with it so many times before. Moreover, philosophical developments in the compatibilist/incompatibilist debate continue apace.

Instead, I’d like to focus on what this objection says about the current Arminian position on God’s omniscience, or lack thereof. This isn’t just a question of what God does, but what God knows, and how he knows it (or doesn’t know it).

Notice how the Arminian poster describes the Reformed position:

They hold that God first conceived in his own divine heart every one of the man’s wicked actions, thought them up without any influence outside of himself…

That is stated in implicit contrast to the Arminian position. Hence, according to the Arminian position, God is literally innocent, in the old-fashioned sense that God can’t anticipate or imagine the wicked actions of his creatures on his own. God lacks the mental ability to contemplate those possibilities. If creatures never committed evil, God would have no idea of what evil is.

This denies the intrinsic omniscience of God. Evil is inconceivable to God, not in terms of what he does, but what he thinks. God depends on outside influences to find out, not only what’s going on, but what’s logically or conceptually possible with regard to sin and evil. 

The motivation for this position seems to be that God is too pure to be able to think of evil all by himself. God can only imagine good scenarios. God requires an external stimulus or propter to become aware of evil possibilities. Apart from sinners, God wouldn’t have a clue.

This protects the holiness of God by making God naïve. Left to his own devices, God is too naïve to be aware of evil hypotheticals which his creatures might commit. God is too innocent to consider evil in the abstract. God would have no concept of evil unless there were evil creatures. God discovers the unimaginable possibility of evil from his wayward creatures. We teach God. God is a student of the world. God has no independent cognizance of evil apart from evildoers. “You mean, that’s what sinners do? I can hardly believe my ears!”

God is a babe in the woods, shocked by what his creatures are capable of doing. A child God who has to learn the ways of the world from his creatures.

This also raises the question of how God can learn from creatures before they exist. How can God be “influenced’ by nonentities?

I suppose this is one way of protecting God’s honor, but it’s a very grandmotherly notion of God. A sweet spinster. A gold-hearted church lady. The “old dear” whom mischievous boys exploit. She always opens her purse to them whenever they solicit contributions for their “charities” (such “good boys”), never suspecting that they actually spend the donations on peep shows.

It says something about the cloying world of sugary Arminian devotion that they can work themselves into this mindset. But it’s not the kind of piety that wears well when life does its worst to you or your loved ones.

Killing Time with Good Pope Francis

Over at the Heidelblog, Sean Moore, a Reformed believer who had once studied for the Roman Catholic priesthood, commented:
The roman curia got some concession, [given that the new pope’s] father was an Italian immigrant to Argentina. There was no way the curia was gonna get their guy with Ratzinger still in the city and having copy of the dossier. He’s supposedly not as liberal as most Jesuits in Latin America (liberation theology) but he did modernize the perception of the church down there. He advocates for the poor and is very pointed in his criticisms of economic inequalities. He’s a half-measure with the demands of modernity.
The new pope is a “half-measure”. That’s a label that has some bite to it.

With the election of “Good Pope Francis”, it seems clear that the powers that be are merely biding their time, “killing time”, until they can figure out what comes next. They clearly don’t know. A vote like this one makes one think “the Church” wants to put the papacy on hold for a few years, while the Italians try to regroup.

We Have a Problem

This is an hour-long radio program that deserves the broadest possible audience among the Reformed and evangelical churches:

Habemus a Problemo: Thoughts on the Papal Election

Fiction & Literature

So long, and thanks for all the feeds

Don't panic.

Then again, I think fish is nice, but I also think Google isn't evil, so who am I to judge?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis


Reactions to the election of Pope Francis were mixed. Hans Küng expressed profound disappointment because “the conclave missed a historic opportunity to bring the Church into the Third Millennium by failing to elevate Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza or Rosemary Radford Ruether to the papacy.”

Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, was ecstatic, saying, “I can hardly wait to kiss the new pope’s slippers!”

Baptist Pastor Scott Meadows said “This marks a historic transfer of power from one Antichrist to another Antichrist.”

Sedevacantist Gerry Matatics said “This marks a historic transfer of power from one Antichrist to another Antichrist.”

Dave Armstrong, speaking from the Papacy in Exile (locally known as the Greater Detroit Pontificate), said he could come to terms with the new pontiff “as long as Pope Francis understands who’s really in charge!”

Berny Belvedere said, “Any man whos an avid fan of the San Lorenzo de Almagro soccer team cant be half bad!”

Robert Sungenis said the new pope’s “first order of business is to crush the archheresy of heliocentrism.”

Speaking at a séance, Francis of Assisi said the election of Pope Francis “was enough to make me role over in my grave.”

In honor of the new pope

In the spirit of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, I'd like to take this occasion to extend an olive branch:

“Pope Francis”

Brent Donoho

Brent Donoho probably doesn't need me to plug his work. But for those of you who don't know, he's a very talented Christian graphic artist:

Profiles in apostasy

Apostates come in different flavors.

i) There are apostates who keep quiet about their loss of faith. Losing their faith doesn’t become a new cause to live for.

ii) There are apostates who appreciate to some degree the emotional and moral cost of apostasy. Ruskin is a good example.

However, the apostates we generally run across nowadays don’t merely lose their faith. They do so with great fanfare. For them, losing their faith isn’t merely a negative act of deconversion, but a positive act of converting to something else.

This type of apostate exhibits classicc conversion syndrome. Converts tend to be generically zealous about their new-found cause, whether its Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hare Krishna, Veganism, environmentalism, &c.

Where apostates to atheism are concerned, they tend to fall into one of two camps:

iii) There are apostates who act as if atheism is a wonderful discovery, like finding the fountain of eternal youth. And they are eager to share their exciting, newfound faithlessness with others. They act as if they discovered something better than what they left behind. 

Of course, this is incongruous, for atheism, if true, would be a horrific discovery rather than a wonderful discovery. Why are apostates to atheism so oblivious? A couple of reasons:

a) They transfer their residual Christian idealism to atheism.

b) They are joining a new social network. Making new friends in the community of godlessness. It’s similar to infatuation. A high school crush. But after the initial thrill wears off, it may cool.

Apostates like this can become irate when those they witness to don’t reciprocate their enthusiasm for the sheer wonderfulness of sugarcoated nihilism. 

iv) Then you have apostates who are furious from the word “go.” They don’t become enraged when their missionary atheism falls on deaf ears. No, they are furious from the start.

They act like investigative reports who unearthed a cover-up, like a company dumping toxic waste into the water system. Their nostrils flare with holy indignation.

They also get really mad at you if you treat them like the monkeys that Darwinism says they are. Although they embrace Darwinism and excoriate creationism, they don’t really think of themselves as apes behind the eyes. They still act as if they should be treated just like creatures made in God’s image.

I think part of this is due to the intolerance of youth. Apostates are often twenty-something college students. They are very judgmental about the real or perceived foibles and failings of their elders. When, however, they have their own kids, when they find themselves in the same situation as their parents, they are apt to lower their standards. Funny how that happens. 

Cheap grace

18 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all (Act 19:18-19).

The second season of Once Upon a Time has been flailing around for good stories. Thus far, the best storyline involved a subplot in which Mr. Gold left Storybrooke to go in search of his long lost and estranged son.

By his own admission, Mr. Gold is a coward. He turned to black magic to protect his son, but black magic made him evil and repellent to his son.

When he devised the curse, he made sure he’d take his magical powers with him into Storybrooke, in self-defense. His magic is stronger than Regina’s.

However, when he leaves Storybrooke, he has to leave his magic behind. Magic exists in Storybrooke, but not beyond the city limits. At this point he becomes very fearful. He’s relied on magic for decades to feel safe. Now he’s just another ordinary, vulnerable human being.

Incidentally, the show euphemistically calls Regina the “Evil Queen.” Twenty years ago, she’d be the “Wicked Witch.” But, of course, it’s politically incorrect to say bad things about witches.

Although this is fiction, it has a real-world counterpart. Pagans resort to defensive and offensive witchcraft. When pagans became Christians, they had to renounce their sorcery.

At one level, that was obviously a good thing. They were emancipated from occult bondage. However, by renouncing sorcery, Christian converts were disarming themselves. At that point they had to trust in divine provision and protection. Christianity left them very exposed. They could no longer resort to fortune-telling and hexes to protect themselves or their friends and relatives. No longer could they pronounce a malefice on their enemies.

They become ordinary. Had to live by faith and prayer. Face persecution and martyrdom.

Another theme in Once Upon a Time is cheap grace. Because the series avoids Christian theology, the screenwriters have to decide how we should judge evil characters. This is framed in terms of whether bad people can change. Can villains like Cora, Regina, Mr. Gold turn around? Do they still have a spark of goodness within them?

Now, Mr. Gold isn’t a pure villain. Rather, he’s a tragic character, a conflicted character.

The screenwriters seem to take the position that if Cora and Regina repent of their evil deeds, then all is forgiven. This is despite the fact that Cora and Regina are mass murderers. As long as they say they’re sorry and turn a new leaf, other characters should let them put their past behind them. The victims don’t matter.

Although this is fictitious, it, too, has a real-world counterpart. Penal substitution has come under increasing attack from the evangelical left (e.g. Joel Green, Randal Rauser, Scot McKnight, Steve Chalke). I don’t think it’s coincidental that contemporary attacks on penal substitution are coming from the Arminian camp.

This is a classic case of cheap grace: remission without redemption. Forgiveness without vicarious blood atonement.

The screenwriters create a moral dilemma for Snow White. Should she kill Cora? But what if Cora still has some embers of goodness in her? The notion that Cora should be die, not only because she is dangerous, but because she deserves to die, doesn’t register with the screenwriters. The show has no category for sin.

At an artistic level, the show also suffers from the fact that Snow White and Prince Charming are central characters. But these are boring characters, played by boring performers.

The screenwriters try to spice up Snow White by making her a warrior princess, but Jennifer Goodwin isn’t the kind of actress who can pull that off. There are actresses who can convincingly play tough gals (e.g. Barbara Stanwyck, Sigourney Weaver, Samantha Ferris), but Goodwin isn’t one of them. And Josh Dallas is hardly a tough guy actor.

Making the cut


Here’s the familiar scenario. The “best and brightest” students in Evangelical seminaries work hard and are encouraged and aided by their professors to pursue doctoral work. Many wind up going to some of the best research universities in the world.

This is a feather in everyone’s cap, and often they are hired back by their Evangelical school or elsewhere in the Evangelical system.

Sooner or later, these professors find out that their degree may be valued but their education is not.

Either that or they bury their academic and spiritual instincts for fear of losing their jobs.

This is what happens to the “best and brightest” Evangelicals.

In one seminary I know a former student, now professor, felt ill-prepared by his seminary at the initial stages of his doctoral work. He had gotten straight As in seminary and done stellar work in his language classes.

It is, rather, an indication of the inadequacy of the Evangelical system, where the best Evangelical minds trained in the best research institutions have to make believe they don’t know what they know.

Peter Enns is understandably concerned that dogmatic commitment to inerrancy is alienating the best and the brightest. Evangelicalism is losing the crème of the crop.

If we were hemorrhaging the second-best and the less than brightest, that wouldn’t be anything to lament. If we were losing waitresses, valets, janitors, dishwashers, elevator operators, security guards, taxi drivers, 7/11 cashiers, hospital orderlies, short order cooks and so forth, that wouldn’t be anything to weep over. Its not like theyre a feather in anyones cap.

But when you begin to lose the best and the brightest, now that’s a real crisis. It’s time to sit up and take notice.

After all, God chose Israel because Israelites were the best and the brightest, right?

Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people (Deut 9:6).

After all, God chose Christians because we’re the best and the brightest, right?

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor 1:26-29).

Reminds me of a recent story:

“When you have a kid with substantial disabilities [Down Syndrome] you have to think a lot about their future,” his father, Keith Harris, told ABC News. “We were very motivated for Tim to have as normal as life as possible. Our philosophy as a family was to push the envelope as much as we could toward independence, so that one day when my wife and I are no longer in the picture, Tim will be settled and have his own life.”

From the start, it was clear that Tim’s Place was something special. In addition to standard American and Mexican breakfasts and lunches, Harris serves hugs, and lots of them. So far, he’s doled out up to 32,4750, according to a “hug counter” on the eatery’s website.

Giving hugs “is my favorite part of the day,” said Harris, who arrives at work every morning between 7 and 7:30 and leaves around 2 pm every day except Tuesdays, his day off. “I come to work and I have my shirt untucked. I get my breakfast, and when I’m done, I’ll tuck in my shirt and get into work mode.”

Needless to say, Tim Harris isn’t the best and the brightest. He wouldn’t be good enough to make Team Enns. Not even close. 
Reminds me of Henry James Sr., who let his ordinary sons go off to war, while keeping his genius sons (William and Henry) out of the fray.

We should be grateful that Peter Enns has such high standards. We need to maintain strict quality control. We can’t have average (much less below average) Christians rubbing shoulders with Harvard graduates like Peter Enns. Christianity is for a special breed. A class apart from the common rabble. Only the brights need apply. 

Has a familiar ring to it

We report, you decide:

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction (Rev 17:8).

The second Presidential Inauguration of Barack Obama was held in Washington DC on Monday, January 21, 2013. A week of festivities included the Presidential Swearing-in Ceremony, Inaugural Address, Inaugural Parade and numerous inaugural balls and galas honoring the elected President of the United States.

A relaxing day on the golf course went south when Mark Mihal a mortgage broker from the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, found himself 18 feet underground on the 14th hole.

Mihal, 43, and his friends were golfing at the Annbriar Golf Course in Waterloo, Ill., a course that Mihal had played  several dozen times over the past 10 years, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“I was standing in the middle of the fairway,” Mihal told the Post-Dispatch Monday. “Then, all of a sudden, before I knew it, I was underground.”

Russ Nobbe, the general manager of Annbriar, told ABC News he was standing right outside the pro shop when the golf pro came running outside to tell him that a player had fallen into a 10-foot-wide sinkhole.

“Hopes for the rescue of a man sucked into a sinkhole were dimming Friday as authorities tried to determine whether the ground nearby was stable enough for a rescue operation,” the Tampa Bay Times writes.

The Times also has a harrowing account from Jeremy Bush, who survived, of his brother Jeffrey's disappearance into the sinkhole:

    "Jeremy said he had just gone to bed when he heard a loud noise coming from this brother's room.

    “Jeremy opened the door and saw that Jeffrey's bed and dresser had been sucked into the hole.”

“A sheriff's deputy plucked a man from an expanding sinkhole Thursday night, but neither was able to save the man's brother from being sucked into the rubble, authorities said,” the Tampa Bay Times writes.

As the Times writes, “although it has proven somewhat common for sinkholes to open in Central Florida and swallow cars and houses, it is not at all common for people to become trapped in them.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Just a friendly neighborhood reminder:

"We have a Pop!"

L’Osservatore Romano

The first day of the conclave was a boisterous affair. There was frenzy in St. Peter’s Square when the BBC erroneously reported the election of a new pope. The report quickly spread to other news outlets, and went viral on Internet within seconds.

A half hour later, the BBC retracted the claim. According to the retraction, a Swiss Guard thought he overheard Cardinal Dolan exclaim “Habemus Papam!” during lunch break. As it turns out, Cardinal Dolan actually told a caterer, “I’ll have a pop.”

In another news, an imposter was ejected from the conclave. According to Italian authorities, the imposter was a man named Dave Armstrong from Detroit, Michigan. Authorities found a receipt from a Roman costume shop in his pocket.

Mr. Armstrong aroused suspicion in the conclave when he addressed various cardinals in Pig Latin and spent inordinate amounts of time gazing at himself in a cosmetic mirror.

Mr. Armstrong was quite irate as police handcuffed him and hustled him off into a nearby paddy wagon, shouting to the throngs in St. Peter’s Square, “I am the pope! I’m the real pope! Let’s make it official!”

To top it off, police discovered Cardinal George, bound, gagged, and attired in his long johns, in the basement of Meryl Streep’s Salisbury, Connecticut residence.

According to her maid, Miss Streep, an outspoken feminist, was plotting to infiltrate the conclave and get herself elected the first female pontiff in a thousand years. Her recent role as Sis. Aloysius Beauvier was preparatory for the top job.

Knowing Steep’s thespian ability to impersonate anyone, Vatican officials asked TSA to loan them full body scans to forestall a disastrous replay of the Pope Joan mishap. 

Empirically equivalent

The following is from Alister McGrath's The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (pp 36-37):

[L]et's consider a statement made by Dawkins in his first work, The Selfish Gene.

[Genes] swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence.

We see here a powerful and influential interpretation of a basic scientific concept. But are these strongly interpretative statements themselves actually scientific?

To appreciate the issue, consider the following rewriting of this paragraph by the celebrated Oxford physiologist and systems biologist Denis Noble. What is proven empirical fact is retained; what is interpretative has been changed, this time offering a somewhat different reading of things.

[Genes] are trapped in huge colonies, locked inside highly intelligent beings, moulded by the outside world, communicating with it by complex processes, through which, blindly as if by magic, function emerges. They are in you and me; we are the system that allows their code to be read; and their preservation is totally dependent on the joy that we experience in reproducing ourselves. We are the ultimate rationale for their existence.

Dawkins and Noble see things in completely different ways...They simply cannot both be right. Both smuggle in a series of quite different value judgments and metaphysical statements. Yet their statements are "empirically equivalent." In other words, they both have equally good grounding in observation and experimental evidence. So which is right? Which is more scientific? How could we decide which is to be preferred on scientific grounds? As Noble observes — and Dawkins concurs — "no-one seems to be able to think of an experiment that would detect an empirical difference between them."

Devolutionary tree of life

I'm dismayed the field of phylogenetics doesn't ever appear to have seriously considered this novel, cutting-edge interpretation:

(Click on image for larger view.)

The Pop-Tart terrorist

Soda Ban and the Government Leviathan

Do Atheists Really Believe in God?

Nature and nature's God

Ryan Mavis is a militant apostate who went on the rampage over at Michael Patton’s blog. Since Michael decided to protect Ryan from me, I’ll post my final responses here. (I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to do it over there.)


By repeatable, I mean another scientist can either recreate the experiment OR can examine the data him/herself and come to the same conclusion given what we know. You are slow to catch on, man, and I tire of this one-upmanship game of winning some random online argument.

Ryan routinely makes indefensible statements, then when he can’t defend them, says I’m slow to catch on. Seems more like he’s the one having to constantly revise his hyperbolic claims.

No, but another researcher can follow the same line of reasoning another researcher uses, examine the same relevant evidence, and see if his conclusion matches the other researchers. Someone who experiences a miracle can't have someone else follow their chain of reasoning in this way. Isn't that obvious?

Experiencing or witnessing a miracle is no different than experiencing or witnessing a non-miraculous event. Same limitations when sifting testimonial evidence for a past event, be it miraculous or non-miraculous. Some historical events have one witness, while others have multiple witnesses. Some miraculous events have one witness, while others have multiple witnesses.

Physicists around the world need not be at the Large Hadron Collider to conduct the experiment again. They can review the data collected and verify the findings of the scientists who originally made the claim. The Higgs Boson event was a Sigma five event, which means the probability that it was due to chance is extraordinarily small. But you knew that, right, with all your non-scientific, keyboard warrior activities that you engage in?

Ryan’s problem is that he fails to anticipate objections to his claims. Then he gets miffed when he’s caught overstating his claims.

Moreover, he’s changing the argument. His original argument wasn’t about the probability of the claim, but a “select few” witnesses.

You asked the following: if only a select few witnesses observed a meteorite impact, would it be scientific to identify the cause as a meteor? I responded by reminding you that science isn't just based on first-hand eyewitness testimony, but on uncovering patterns of causation. We know what meteorite impact sites look like, how fast they travel, what sort of blast radius they leave (like you mentioned). So, the failure on your part was your inability to recognize that it doesn't matter how many people observe an event. What matters is if large numbers of scientists can reliably - and in ways that can be repeated by other researchers - establish a causal pattern based on what we know.

Let’s see. Ryan original said:

So, a methodological naturalist could witness a supernatural event, and identify the supernatural as the cause. Nonetheless, he couldn't use the cause to inform our scientific body of knowledge. The cause would have to be repeatable, observable to more than just a select few…

Now, however, it suddenly becomes a failure on my part to realize that it “doesn't matter how many people observe an event.”

Seems like Ryan is reversing himself without admitting it. 

It would. But when I mentioned observed by only a select few, I mean we can only rely on those few individuals and just take their word for it.

Actually, for historical knowledge, that’s precisely the situation in which we often find ourselves, like oral histories. And keep in mind that this overlaps with scientific knowledge. Scientists rely on testimonial evidence for some natural events, like historic weather conditions at a particular time and place (e.g. the fate of the Donner-Reed Party on the California Trail).

We can't replicate the conditions that produced the cause, or verify it ourselves. Is that clear now?

So how does that concession affect your objection to miracles? For that applies to historical and miraculous events alike.

We'd still die in our thirties or forties if you had things you're way and we based action on reason alone and not on experience.

Well, it’s nice to see you admit that Christian faith is reasonable. However, it’s not as if Christian faith doesn’t have a place for experience. You’re the one who’s preempting experience with miracles, answered prayer, &c. What about the argument from religious experience?

What if the gravitational acceleration constant changed suddenly tomorrow? What if mathematical laws changed tomorrow? It could happen, so if you try to establish criteria for determining mathematical or physical laws, I can rightly say that your criteria is false because of some imaginary scenario I dreamed up that could possibly happen? Give me a break. You sound like a lunatic.

i) You’re confusing truths of fact with truths of reason. Mathematical truths are necessary truths, whereas gravity is a contingent fact. At best, the gravitational constant is nomologically necessary, not metaphysically necessary.

ii) Actually, naturalism has a problem grounding the necessity of math. That’s why naturalists resort to fictionalism, intuitionism, constructivism, Platonism.

Not the kind of wild, implausible thought experiments that say: What if all natural laws changed tomorrow??

i) Miracles don’t require “all natural laws” to change.

ii) You’re also prejudging what kind of world we live in. If miracles happen, then that doesn’t entail any change in the status quo. Rather, the status quo allows for miracles. If miracles happen, then that’s one of the ways in which the world operates. Nothing has changed, for that’s the kind of world God made. God doesn’t have to alter the world to perform a miracle. It’s not as if he first makes a clockwork universe where miracles can’t happen, then has to smash the clock every time he wants to perform a miracle. It was never a clockwork universe in the first place.

You aren’t engaging the case for miracles on its own terms.

 What then? What if God really exists and turned water to wine, told Abraham to kill his son…

Does God’s command to sacrifice Isaac violate a law of nature?

…crammed Noah and his family and all animals on earth into a large ark while the earth was flooded.

Notice how that objection is inconsistent with Ryan’s own view of Scripture. From Ryan’s perspective, the ancient narrator knew nothing about China, India, Indonesia, Northern Europe, Russia, North and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, Japan, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, &c. That didn’t fall within his purview.

When Ryan (re-)interprets the descriptors in Gen 6-9 in global terms, he’s unconsciously supplementing what the ancient narrator knew with what we know. At best, he’s taking the narrator’s understanding as a starting-point, then extending that based on what we think the world is like. Based on our modern knowledge of world geography and biogeography.

But that replaces the original frame of reference with our modern frame of reference, which stands in contrast to the original frame of reference. For interpretive purposes, the frame of reference is not what we (the modern reader) happen to think the world is like, but what the author and his target audience thought the world was like.

To take a comparison:

Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth (Gen 41:57).

Does this mean the narrator is telling the reader that people from Honolulu, the Yukon, or the Amazon River basin, made a trek to Egypt to buy grain? No, that would be anachronistic. Rather, it refers to neighboring countries.

…let a talking snake seduce Eve into eating the apple.

Actually, I agree with scholars who think the narrator is trading on ophiomantic symbolism, viz., B.C. Hodge, Revisiting the Days of Genesis (Wipf & Stock, 2011), 111-18.

None of this sounds like myth. None of this is the sort of thing anthropology can better explain than just taking the writings at face value.

I don’t think the occult, the paranormal, and the miraculous is at odds with comparative anthropology.

Of course we can never know if the supernatural exists. But we shouldn't have anything to say about it, because it's above nature, it's beyond our power to observe closely and scrutinize.

Mind is above matter. That doesn’t mean we can’t observe or scrutinize the effects of mind on matter.

No. You should have quoted my entire comment, Fox News. I said it would probably or at least could have a natural mechanism behind it. If it didn't, then it couldn't be used in science. Why? Because it's effect would be different every time, and thus unpredictable. What would science say? When witchcraft happens, anything happens?

i) Your contention is circular. You’re redefining everything that happens in naturalist terms. You deny that witchcraft happens because that’s supernatural. But if witchcraft is real, then you postulate some natural mechanism behind it. You’re not allowing experience to inform your worldview. Rather, you begin with a stipulative worldview that filters experience.

ii) Moreover, your inference is illogical. Why would the effects of witchcraft be different every time? To the contrary, wouldn’t there be a correlation between what the adept intended and what happened?

iii) Why do you say, when witchcraft happens, anything happens? How did you arrive at that conclusion?

Witchcraft involves finite agents with finite abilities. Limited creatures.

iv) Suppose witchcraft did introduce a degree of unpredictability into nature? So what? How does that consequence count as evidence against witchcraft? What if nature is not fully predictable?

Your methodology is aprioristic rather than empirical. You begin with the way you think the world ought to be. You posit a fully predictable, mechanistic world. But what if that is not in fact the way the world works? What if mental causation is a factor in natural events?

And who are you to know the mind of God…

If God reveals his will.