Saturday, March 30, 2013

Defective ecclesiology

More than any other criticism of AHA I find this one to be the most serious. Namely, I find AHA's existence and governance outside the authority of the Church to be more than a little disturbing. The attitude in the author’s argument demonstrates a seriously defective ecclesiology. Christ authorizes ministry through His Church and only through His Church. Moreover, godly leaders recognize the significance of formal structure and the importance of humble submission to their spiritual leaders. They do not adopt the typical American cowboy Christian idea that they are just going to go take care of business themselves.

Reminds me of something I read in the Gospels:

And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not wait for permission from his ecclesiastical superiors to pull him out?”

Cowboy Christianity

More than any other criticism of AHA I find this one to be the most serious. Namely, I find AHA's existence and governance outside the authority of the Church to be more than a little disturbing. The attitude in the author’s argument demonstrates a seriously defective ecclesiology. Christ authorizes ministry through His Church and only through His Church. Moreover, godly leaders recognize the significance of formal structure and the importance of humble submission to their spiritual leaders. They do not adopt the typical American cowboy Christian idea that they are just going to go take care of business themselves.

Here I must agree with Ed. If a Christian layman sees a toddler wander into a busy intersection, that hardly gives him an excuse to take it upon himself to go rescue the child. That’s cowboy Christianity.

What makes you think you have the right to do the right thing just because it’s staring you in the face? You need special permission to do the right thing. We have standards, you know! Before you’re authorized to rescue the child, you must fill out a 4404-QZ Intervention form, signed by your pastor, and witnessed by an elder.

After the paperwork is complete, you can go back to the intersection and peel the flattened toddler off the pavement. 

The power of empty gestures

Pope Francis is getting kudos for footwashing. Never underestimate the power of an empty gesture.

i) To my knowledge, footwashing is a standard feature of the Maundy-Thursday Mass. Hence, this doesn’t say anything about the pope’s humility. He does it, not because he’s humble, but because that’s a liturgical requirement (i.e. the pedilavium). It would be surprising if he refrained from doing it.

ii) Footwashing is hardly confined to the church of Rome. Several Protestant denominations observe footwashing on Maundy-Thursday.

In addition, some Protestant denominations practice footwashing on a regular basis. Not just once a year.  

iii) However, some commentators praise Francis for washing the feet of prisoners and AIDS patients. Well, what about that?

iv) To begin with, washing their feet while the cameras are rolling doesn’t strike me as an exercise in humility. That’s calling attention to yourself.

Ironically, it’s quite possible to pridefully perform a rite that signifies humility. Spiritual showmanship. Doing it to prove to others what a humble guy you are.

v) In addition, why can’t AIDS patients wash their own feet? Is it because they are too weakened by the ravages of AIDS to care for themselves? But if that’s the case, then an annual, ritual ablution hardly meets their needs. Shouldn’t we be praising the hospice orderlies who care for them on a daily basis?

vi) For that matter, why should a man in his mid-70s be washing someone else’s feet? If push comes to shove, shouldn’t the younger generation wash his feet? People his age often suffer from arthritis. It isn’t easy for some of them to wash their feet or clip their toenails.

vii) Someone might object that I’m missing the point. The point of footwashing is the symbolism, and not because people need other people to wash their feet. Well, what about that?

For starters, does footwashing pack the same symbolic punch in a culture where most folks wear socks and shoes, bathe or shower once or twice daily? Where many women have pedicures and painted toenails?

Perhaps the closest analogy to 1C footwashing would be washing the feet of a street person or diabetic with foot disease.

viii)Moreover, if we’re really serious about the symbolism, shouldn’t we consider cross-cultural equivalents? 

ix) Is Jesus only concerned with symbolism? Not only did he wash the feet of the disciples, but he died for them.

What about orderlies in hospitals and nursing homes. Or janitors? Or mothers caring for their babies? Or an elderly husband or wife who cares for his failing spouse?  Isn’t that closer to the spirit of footwashing?

"Loving gay couples"

The argument for “marriage quality” takes heterosexual pairing as the paradigm. But are they comparable? Do they really love each other?

From what I’ve read, homosexual men don’t appear to bond psychologically with one another the way men and women bond psychologically. Rather, homosexual men always seem to be on the lookout for fresh meant. Young new bodies to sodomize.

In addition, homosexual men don’t appear to bond emotionally with other men the way heterosexual men bond emotionally with other men (e.g. normal male friendship).

Some homosexual men have lifelong “partners,” but that seems to be platonic, even if it started out sexually. And that’s set apart from a steady stream of homosexual trysts and one-night stands with other men.

The closest analogy to the homosexual man is the womanizer. A heterosexual man who goes from one woman to the next. Yet even womanizers can become deeply or uniquely attached to a particular woman. A woman who’s the love of their life. But they lack impulse control. The womanizer suffers from some deep-seated insecurity or void which he’s always trying to fill. Rather like an alcoholic who’s dulling the pain or emptiness.

As for lesbians, that seems to be a sexual relationship that’s grafted onto female friendship. Since they reject men, then sex with women is their only fallback.

Marriage parody

Returning to the past

Liberals contend that the Gospels are historically unreliable because they were written so long after the events. Of course, that’s a circular argument inasmuch as it presumes the liberal dating (and authorship) of the Gospels.

But it also overlooks the fact that older folks frequently remember earlier events more clearly and distinctly than later events. Here’s an interesting anecdote from Warnie Lewis, fourteen months after the death of his famous brother:

Oddly enough as time goes on the vision of J as he was in his later years grows fainter, that of him in earlier days more and more vivid. It is the J of the attic and the little end room, the J of Daudelspiels and the walks and jaunts, the J of the early and middle years whom I miss so cruelly. An absurd feeling, for even had he lived that Jack had already died. Perhaps it has been sharpened by the fact that I am reliving something of the middle years by going through our old walking tours in my diaries, and I can see him almost as if he was visible, on a path in front of me, striding along with a stick and a pack in his shapeless old fisherman’s hat…Not that I idealize those days for they too had their hard times; but then they were bad times shared with J and that made all the difference.

Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis (Harper & Row 1982), 255.

Out of the wardrobe

Now that we know that June Freud (née June Flewett) was the inspiration for Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia, it’s interesting to go back and read about the impression that she made on Warnie Lewis (C. S. Lewis’s brother). It’s like walking back out of the wardrobe into the real world:

Tuesday 2nd January, 1945

Our dear, delightful June Flewett leaves us tomorrow, after nearly two years…She is not yet eighteen, but I have met no one of any age further advanced in the Christian way of life From seven in the morning till nine at night, shut off from people of her own age, almost grudged the time for her religious duties, she has slaved at The Kilns, for a fraction 2d. an hour; I have never seen her other than gay, eager to anticipate exigent demands, never complaining, always self-accusing in the frequent crises of that dreary house. Her reaction to the meanest ingratitude was to seek its cause in her own faults. She is one of those rare people to whom one can venture to apply the word “saintly.”

Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis (Harper & Row 1982) 180-81.

Blame it on the Jews

God is Raising Up "Noahs" in this Wicked Generation

How Are You Using Your Opportunities?

There's been a lot of talk lately about the high percentage of young people who support homosexual marriage. Think of how that percentage reflects on their parents, among other influences in their lives. Part of the reason why academia, the media, Hollywood, the music industry, and other sources have had so much influence on how young people view homosexuality is that parents and other alternative sources have had so little influence. How many men have been spending hours watching basketball this month, but haven't had a single discussion with their children about theological, political, ethical, or other more important issues, like homosexuality? How many fathers have never had such a discussion with their children about any such issue or have only done so rarely? We often hear about how important it is that parents spend time with their children. Fathers should attend a child's school play or take their son to a football game, for example. Or teach him how to cut the grass, how to shave, etc. Why is there so much emphasis placed on that sort of thing, but so little emphasis placed on the need for men to exercise intellectual leadership? Are you teaching your children not only what they should believe, but also why they should believe it, how to research an issue, how to respond to objections, how to interact with opposing positions, etc.? Are you setting aside time at the dinner table, during car rides, or in other contexts to do such things? If you don't shape the intellectual life of your children, who will?

Much the same can be said of how pastors influence congregations, how teachers influence students, etc. In other contexts, like with coworkers and friends, we have less of an opportunity to influence people, since we're not in a position of authority over them. Still, we have some influence. Whatever your context, are you making much of your opportunities to influence the people around you? Have you used the recent news stories about homosexual marriage to discuss homosexuality or this Easter season to discuss the evidence for Jesus' resurrection, for example? How many of these opportunities do you let pass by? Would we be seeing what we've seen with the cultural shift on homosexuality (as one example among many) if there wasn't widespread neglect in this area? Parents are the most guilty group of all, but there's a lot of blame to go around. Maybe you should be spending less time with basketball, television, and housework and more time doing other things.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A New Level of Utter Depravity in this Country  

"Alisa LaPolt Snow, the lobbyist representing the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, testified that her organization believes the decision to kill an infant who survives a failed abortion should be left up to the woman seeking an abortion and her abortion doctor."

This is the FIRST time ever that Planned Parenthood has come out and supported this—and without any shame.

This is their head lobbyist giving their official position. These people are monsters.

This is pure Satanic evil.

We are living in dark days.

Janie Moore & C. S. Lewis

I’m not a C. S. Lewis scholar. And I’m not a blind devotee of Lewis. However, I think it’s wrong to libel the dead.

I’m struck by the confidence with which some writers assume that Lewis had an affair with Janie Moore. I could certainly be mistaken, but I don’t find that very plausible.

To begin with, suppose he did. Since Lewis was an atheist back then, there’d be nothing shocking or scandalous about his indulging in premarital sex. No one expects a young unattached male atheist to be celibate.

That said:

i) It isn’t normal for a teenage boy to have an affair with the middle-aged mother of a friend.

ii) Moreover, why assume Lewis was so desperate that he had to settle for her? He was an eligible young bachelor. A student at Oxford. Surely there were available pretty single girls his own age.

Most of us have seen pictures of Lewis when he was baggy, balding middle-aged duffer, but as a young man he cut a sharper profile.

So I can’t think of any compelling reason why an eligible young bachelor would settle for the mother when he surely had more appealing options to choose from.

iii) I don’t think it was at all unusual back then for young bachelors to have older housekeepers.

iv) Lewis lived with his brother Warnie. So should we also assume that Warnie had an affair with Moore?

v) Although Lewis, as a young atheist, would have no moral compunctions about premarital sex, even he would realize that banging on the mother of your late best friend, who entrusted her to your care in case he died in action, would be reprehensible. Deeply dishonorable. A betrayal of the first magnitude.

vi) It’s also possible that Moore was a substitute mother figure, after Lewis lost his own mother at the age of 9.

vii) Seems more plausible to me that he was simply honoring the pledge he made with his wartime comrade that if one died, the survivor would care for the decedent’s parent.

viii) Perhaps some people think that’s just a cover story. But is there any reason to think comrades in the trenches wouldn’t make a pact like that? WWI had horrendous casualties. Seems likely to me that many comrades said to each other, “If I die, look after my mother (father, brother), but if you die, I’ll look after yours.” Surely those conversations weren’t unusual in the infantry.

Jesus Created the Institution of Marriage

“So the man named all the animals, the birds of the air, and the living creatures of the field, but for Adam no companion who corresponded to him was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he was asleep, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.  Then the man said, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family.” (Gen 2:20–24 NET)

New Research On The Shroud Of Turin

The Shroud of Turin has been in the news a lot lately, due to a new book that's come out claiming further scientific testing that dates the Shroud around the time of Jesus. See the March 28 entry here for an overview from Barrie Schwortz, including a discussion of some of the problems with Giulio Fanti's claims at this point. We'll have to wait to see how things develop. Dan Porter has been covering the story on his blog as well. There's already good reason to reject the 1988 carbon dating of the Shroud, such as Ray Rogers' work published in 2005. We'll see how much Fanti's research adds to that. From what I've read so far, I agree with the general thrust of Schwortz's comments. Fanti's work looks somewhat promising, but there are problems with it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why Gays Hate Jesus

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I am testifying about it that its deeds are evil.” —Jesus

"Marriage is a fundamental right"

Ted Olson argued (or asserted) before the Supreme Court that marriage is a “fundamental right.” From that premise, he reasoned that homosexuals are being denied that “fundamental right.”

But even if we agree with that characterization, the argument is equivocal in more than one respect.
Even if marriage is a fundamental right, that doesn’t make it a Constitutional right. Not all human rights or civil rights are enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution is a very limited document, and deliberately so. It’s a non sequitur to infer that if marriage is a fundamental right, then it must be a Constitutional right.

The Constitution is silent on many social issues. There’s a reason why we have Congress, as well as state legislatures.  

Dealing with doubt

The X-Files

Literal hermeneutics

One of the important matters I wanted to address with my series on Ezekiel’s temple is that of hermeneutics and their application in the interpretation of prophetic passages like Ezekiel 40-48.  I certainly acknowledge there are difficulties for my literal take on those chapters. However, there are also some profound difficulties for Reformed covenant folks who utilize a non-literal, more spiritualized view of the Ezekiel’s temple.

Because my literal hermeneutics place my theology in a position of criticism in what I would consider important matters of atonement, Christ’s cross work, and human salvation, I think it is necessary to demonstrate internal, theological and orthodox consistency with my literalism.

I don’t think that’s the correct way to frame the issue. Amil interpreters (at least the astute, scholarly proponents) employ a consistent hermeneutic. They use the grammatico-historical method. They don’t shift hermeneutical gears when they come to Ezk 40-48.

For a comparison, take the Gospel of Matthew. A conservative evangelical scholar will interpret most of the Gospel factually, yet he will interpret the parables fictionally. However, interpreting the parables differently than the surrounding historical narrative doesn’t mean he suddenly flipped the switch to a different hermeneutic when he comes to the parables. He’s using the same hermeneutical principles throughout. And those principles make allowance for different literary genres.

Likewise, if he understands Mt 2:15 typologically, that’s consistent with his hermeneutical package.

Cold-Case Christianity

Some people may be interested: Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels is currently available for free on Kindle. I haven't read it though so I can't say whether it's any good.

Coalition Conscience

There are several helpful resources here.


I can't and don't vouch for everything on NARTH, but the website might be worth perusing:

NARTH is a professional, scientific organization that offers hope to those who struggle with unwanted homosexuality. As an organization, we disseminate educational information, conduct and collect scientific research, promote effective therapeutic treatment, and provide referrals to those who seek our assistance.

NARTH upholds the rights of individuals with unwanted homosexual attraction to receive effective psychological care and the right of professionals to offer that care. We welcome the participation of all individuals who will join us in the pursuit of these goals.

The Multi-Faceted Evidence For Jesus' Resurrection

The evidence for the resurrection is often framed in terms of the testimony of the resurrection witnesses and the empty tomb, as if any hypothesis about what happened only has to address those two lines of evidence. Sometimes the empty tomb isn't even included. We should keep in mind that there's a lot more involved, though. The New Testament documents often refer to the resurrection as a fulfillment of prophecy and refer to how the apostles were empowered to perform miracles by the risen Christ, for example. Then there's extra-Biblical evidence, like the Shroud of Turin. Jesus' resurrection not only is a good explanation of the testimony of the resurrection witnesses and the empty tomb, but also is a good explanation of Paul's acquisition of the ability to perform miracles, the image on the Shroud of Turin, and other evidence that isn't mentioned as often. The same skeptic who has to find a way to dismiss the testimony of resurrection witnesses like Peter and Paul and dismiss the empty tomb also has to find a way to dismiss the other lines of evidence. There are more than two lines to account for here. I believe most people who follow these issues closely are aware of that fact, but it's not acknowledged enough, and we need to keep it more at the forefront of our thinking. The resurrection evidence is broader and deeper than we often make it out to be. There's merit to taking something like a minimal facts approach toward the resurrection in some contexts. That approach can be taken too far, though, and can leave people with a false impression about how much evidence we have for the resurrection.

Homosexual Marriage: It's A Matter Of Who You Know

It's often said that people are more likely to support homosexual marriage, or the homosexual movement in general, if they know somebody who's homosexual and realize it. It's true that how you view homosexuality is largely a matter of who you know. It's not surprising if a nation deeply in love with sexual sin, and looking to ease its conscience by approving of other people who behave similarly (Romans 1:32), would keep broadening its definition of which sexual behavior is acceptable. We don't have much self-control. That's why we as a nation are more than sixteen trillion dollars in debt, have acquired more than 110,000,000 sexually transmitted infections, and have had tens of millions of abortions in recent decades, for example. Yes, it's largely a matter of who you know.

"You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also." (John 8:19)

End something

The homosexual marriage agenda

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Carrie acquitted!


(Reuters) - Today, in a packed courtroom, Carrie White and Liz Sherman were acquitted on charges of murder by arson.

Carrie was charged with incinerating her classmates on prom night, while her codefendant, Liz Sherman, was charged with incinerating staff and patients at the asylum where she was staying.

Lead defense attorney Robert Shapiro used the celebrated “Carrier” defense to get his clients acquitted. In a famous debate with David Marshall, Carrier denied that Jesus ever miraculously healed anyone. Carrier insisted that all his cures were “psychosomatic.”

Taking his cue from Carrier, Mr. Shapiro argued that his clients didn’t really incinerate anyone since pyrokinesis is, by definition, psychosomatic: mind over matter.

Apparently, that was sufficient to convince the jury, although some veteran courtroom reporters privately speculated that jurors were afraid of what Hellboy might to do them if they convicted his girlfriend.

Blind Christian leaders

Sam Logan, past president and chancellor of WTS, on homosexual marriage (Facebooks excerpts). Why are Christians who ought to know better so morally confused about morally unambiguous issues?

I think this is worth considering, especially the parts about all the damage that heterosexuals have done to the institution of marriage. And if you really want to know where THAT damage began, take a look at John Milton's, THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE, written in 1643 (at the very time the Westminster Assembly was meeting).
· 8 hours ago ·

  • Boz Tchividjian likes this.
  • Talbot Logan To reduce the legal issue to "access to basic rights" I think it not an accurate nor fair summation. There are currently in excess of 1000 Federal benefits that are denied to same sex couples including Social Security survivor benefits, the right to inherit from a spouse, mandated family medical leave, partner immigration protection, tax on health benefits etc. Federal benefits are even more important for military personnel and government employees whose same-sex spouses are not accorded the same benefits. That is why this is an important issue.
  • Talbot Logan There is not a call to ask any religious institution to change their views or their definitions of their tenets. But unfortunately, the government has already redefined marriage by offering specific protections under the law and it is that "meaning" that needs to change. And as a gay may, I deny the author's denial that "changing the meaning of the word will improve the acceptance of gays in society". Many social injustices have been corrected by taking words and phrases that have been exclusionary and even hateful and redefining and/or eliminating. I deny that the author, since he is not a gay man, can even understand that what I don't want is access to basic social “rights.” I want to be treated with the same dignity and respect and protection as every American. That I believe is a God-given and inalienable right and supports the greatest commandment of "love thy neighbor as thyself". Far from "basic".
  • Sam Logan Very good clarifications, my son. THANK YOU! I agree with you that what our government has done is "unfortunate." I agree that this needs to change and I support that change in every way that I can. I agree that, no matter what they think about gay marriage, evangelical Christians (starting with your father) need to be much more agressive and creative in "loving ALL of our neighbors" as ourselves. We/I have done a terrible job at that, not just with respect to gays but also with respect to the poor, to those of different races, AND to those of different religions (including Muslims, who probably are more discriminated against in our society than any other single group). And, as you will have note in my comments about this piece, I think its strongest point is what it says about how the greatest damage to the institution of marriage has been done by heterosexuals. So THANK YOU for your corrections and clarifications!


As a friend of mine pointed out:

Interestingly enough, James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal already rebutted this claim back on January 16th, by citing a correspondent:

You quoted Lisa Arnold and Christina Campbell as complaining that "more than 1,000 laws provide overt legal or financial benefits to married couples."

This is a false statement that has propagated through many news reports and opinion pieces. I can't be certain where Arnold and Campbell got it, but I'll bet it is based on a misreading of this report and its antecedents, widely and inaccurately referenced in Defense of Marriage Act arguments.

This document merely lists 1,138 "federal laws in which marital status is a factor." It includes entries for which marriage confers neither benefit or penalty, many in which marriage is penalized, and very few in which married couples get benefits. Here's a sample of entries in the document:

• Mail-order bride business (Category 6, Title 8, Part IX, § 1375)

• Eligibility under first-time home-buyer programs (two singles get $16,000 but a married couple gets $8000)

• Gold Star Wives of America

• Membership of Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday Commission

The fact is that taxes make marriage extremely expensive for almost all successful opposite-sex couples, more so if they have children, even more so under the new Obama tax rates. Income tax liability is generally lower (not higher, as Arnold and Campbell assert) for unmarried earners, and lower still for single parents than married parents.

The only notable exception to the marriage penalty is for same-sex married couples in community property states, who (thanks to DOMA) divide their income 50/50 and file single or single head-of-household returns--which always saves them a bundle compared to any other tax status.

Taranto comments: "Some of those gays may be in for an unpleasant surprise if the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA."


I’m grateful that Westminster Seminary is under new management.

‘Comical Stampede’ of Democrats Suddenly Supporting Same-Sex Marriage

Is Limiting Marriage to Unions of a Man and a Woman Discrimination?

I have six biological parents.

Carrier fumbles the argument from evil

David Marshall recently debated Richard Carrier. Among other things, Carrier deployed his own version of the argument from evil, which Marshall has posted:

i) A basic problem with Carrier’s argument is that he fails to distinguish between the internal argument from evil and the external argument from evil.

The existence of infant mortality isn’t even prima facie inconsistent with the existence of the Biblical God. It’s not as if the Bible depicts a world in which no child ever dies of illness, in glaring contrast to the real world where children die every day.

Death is a fixture of Bible history. In Scripture, everyone dies–sooner or later. Likewise, the Bible acknowledges the existence of disease. Indeed, Carrier appeals to the healings of Jesus to document that fact.

The Bible doesn’t depict a disease-free world. The Bible doesn’t depict a world in which everyone is immortal.

Therefore, there is no prima facie discrepancy between Biblical theism and human mortality. So why does Carrier think human mortality is an undercutter or defeater for Biblical theism? From a Biblical perspective, the coexistence of the Biblical God with human mortality is clearly compatible, for the obvious reason that Scripture acknowledges both.

It’s as if Carrier deployed the argument from water to disprove Biblical theism. Carrier cited statistics regarding the volume of freshwater in lakes, rivers, glaciers, icecaps, and aquifers. He cited statistics about snowfall and rainfall. He cited statistics about the volume of saltwater in the oceans.

He then triumphantly explained how the existence of water disproved the existence of Yahweh! But since the Bible doesn’t deny the existence of water, how would the existence of water be inconsistent with the existence of Yahweh?

ii) The Bible has a theology of death. There is a theological rationale for death. Carrier doesn’t even engage that argument.

Human mortality a divine curse. We live in a fallen world. Exposure to natural evils like disease and death are hallmarks of our fallen condition.

iii) Although death is a curse, death has fringe benefits. Many of us exist because others have died. Take replacement children. Or widows and widowers who remarry. Take war, which results in dislocation. That, in turn, results in men and women mating with different men and women than if they hadn’t migrated from the war zone. Same thing with famine. A fallen world has compensatory goods.

iv) Although death is a curse, immortality in a fallen world would be a curse. To live in sin century after century, millennium after millennium, to be trapped in a fallen world, to be unable to die, is no less punitive than death. Indeed, that’s what the Bible means by everlasting punishment.

Many unbelievers begin killing themselves long before their natural lifespan has run its course. Many unbelievers begin killing themselves in their prime. They drink themselves to death. Or escape into recreational drugs. Or commit suicide.

They can’t stand to be sober. They hate getting up in the morning. They dread the prospect of getting through another day. They are miserable, depressed. The emptiness of their godless existence is unendurable.

v) Death is the great reminder of how life without God robs us of everything we hold dear. In a fallen world, time is often our worst enemy. The thief of time. The passage of time devours our past. Steadily consumes everything that makes life worthwhile.

Coming face to face with the death of friends and relatives forces us to confront our desperate need for divine healing. Physical healing. Spiritual healing. Emotional healing.

vi) The Bible has a doctrine of immortality. That’s an eschatological promise. Although death is the Last Enemy, death won’t have the last word.

Having to wait for something makes it more precious than instant gratification. Dying makes eternal life more precious. Frequently we don’t know how good we had it until we lose it.

As an internal argument from evil, Carrier’s argument fails–badly.

vii) What about an external argument from evil? But from that perspective, why is infant mortality evil?

To begin with, Carrier supports abortion. So he’s shedding crocodile tears when he feigns indignation over the death of babies.

viii) In addition, from his Darwinian perspective, high rates of mortality for young offspring figure in the balance of nature. That’s a common phenomenon in the animal kingdom. Out of large litters, only a few survive to adulthood. Most offspring die to feed predators, scavengers, and detritivores. Carrier complains about germs and parasites, but that’s an integral part of the ecosystem. Has Carrier bothered to consider what would happen to life on earth if we eradicated all germs and parasites? Has it occurred to him that that would be detrimental to life on earth?

From a Darwinian perspective, the death of simian primate offspring is no different than the death of prosimian primate offspring (e.g. gibbons, lemurs, orangutan, marmosets). Of course, because it’s our own species, natural selection has programmed our brain to form emotional attachments for certain members of our own species, like offspring. But that has no objective significance.

ix) Carrier makes hay about Christ’s opposition to ceremonial handwashing. Is Carrier really that illiterate, or is he just playing to the galleries?

In context, this has reference to ritual cleansing, not hygienic cleansing. Ritual ablutions don’t use antiseptic soap and water. There’s nothing inherently sanitary about ritual ablutions.

x) Carrier said:

No. Jesus argued that we don't have to wash our hands before we eat, that washing is a human tradition, with no endorsement from God. And that nothing we put into us can harm us. And as he is claimed to have said in the Gospel of Mark, not even poison. Clearly, Jesus knew nothing about germs. Nor did he know that faith doesn't make you immune to poison, either.

a) Carrier is partly alluding to the Long Ending of Mark. But that’s probably a scribal interpolation.

b) In addition, Carrier is alluding to Mk 7:14-23 (par. Mt 15:10-20). Once again, is Carrier really that illiterate, or is he just playing to the galleries?

Jesus is discussing “defilement,” not hygiene. “Defilement” is a cultic category. It refers to ritual impurity, not unsanitary conditions.

Moreover, Jesus is contrasting manmade purity codes (concocted by the Pharisees) with actual sin. Moral evil. Moral pollution, not physical pollution. 

xi) Carrier makes tendentious claims about the healing miracles of Jesus, as well as post-biblical healing miracles. He says it’s all psychosomatic.

Really? Raising Lazarus from the dead after three days in hot tomb is psychosomatic? Why doesn’t Carrier visit the county morgue and test his theory on the cadavers.

Of course, Carrier would deny the historicity of that event, but that’s different than classifying it as “psychosomatic.”

He also disregards evidence to the contrary. For instance:

R. Gardner, Healing Miracles (DLT 1987)

C. Keener, Miracles (Baker 2011)

B. Palmer, ed. Medicine and the Bible (Paternoster 1986)

M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil (Simon & Schuster 2005)

G. Twelftree, Jesus The Miracle Worker (IVP 1999)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Substitute Jesus

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:13-15).

Somewhere along the way, Michael Patton lost sight of a simple, vital truth. Christians are called upon to put their faith in the Jesus of the Gospels, not the Jesus of the scholars. In the Jesus of the Evangelists, not the Jesus of the apologists.

That’s how Christ chose to make himself known to posterity. These are the authorized biographies.

We are required to put our faith in the canonical Jesus of St. Matthew, not the reconstructed Jesus of Matthew Brook O’Donnell; in the canonical Jesus of St. Mark, not the reconstructed Jesus of Marcus Bockmuehl; in the canonical Jesus of St. Luke, not the reconstructed Jesus of Luke Timothy Johnson; in the canonical Jesus of St. John, not the reconstructed Jesus of John Meier.

Jesus is not a scholarly construct. If that’s the only Jesus you trust, your Jesus is an idol. The projection of a scholar’s redacted imagination.

I appreciate the work of Christian scholars who defend the historical Jesus. I appreciate the world of Christian apologists who defend the Resurrection. If that’s an aid to faith, fine.

But God gave us the four Gospels. There’s where we encounter Jesus.

The Gospels aren’t raw ore to sift for nuggets of the historical Jesus. God didn’t give us the Gospels to take apart, edit, then reassemble in some residual digest. That’s a substitute Jesus. 

The Gospels are interpretive histories, and rightly so. Facts without context are deceptive. 

In unus plus unus

I used to be a convinced Protestant.  A contented Protestant. Then I was overtaken by a fatal doubt.

One day, as I was reading through 1-2 Corinthians, a terrifying question swept over me: What if I’m miscounting?

I mean, sure, they’re numbered in our editions of the NT. But that’s an editorial addition. In the original Greek of 1 Corinthians & 2 Corinthians, it doesn’t say that Paul wrote two letters. Rather, you read one letter by Paul to the Corinthians and another letter by Paul to the Corinthians.

Now, I kept counting and recounting. And every time I counted 1 & 2 Corinthians, they always added up to two letters. I never got three or four.

But then I remembered, as Bryan Cross is wont to say, that for me to add them was making myself my own arithmetic authority.

Sure, Paul wrote one letter to the Corinthians, and another letter to the Corinthians. Paul said he wrote each letter. But he never said he they were two letters.

How could I be infallibly certain that I hadn’t added wrong? For me to infer or deduce that if Paul wrote one letter to the Corinthians, and another letter to the Corinthians, he wrote two letters to the Corinthians–that these were exactly two letters, rather than five–was quite a leap of faith. A bridge too far. What if I’m a butterfly who dreamt that I read 1-2 Corinthians?

I mean, sure, other Protestants have also done the math, but what if they miscalculated?

It was only when I read the ex cathedra encyclical In unus plus unus ("On one plus one") by Pope Numerus III that my heart was calmed.

I honestly don’t understand how Protestants can live with the unbearable anxiety of having to number books of the Bible.

Father, Son, and Holy Writ

I’m going to comment on this post:

The problem with many Evangelicals is that we can come dangerously close to worshiping the Bible. As Evangelical theologian James Sawyer once said in jest, we worship the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Bible.

So, in our best moments, we will condemn anything that smells of idolatry concerning the Scriptures. We know that the Bible is not the fourth member of the Trinity.

I am really saying nothing new or extraordinary here.

I agree with Michael. He’s not saying anything new or extraordinary. Rather, he’s recycling a stock rhetorical smear tactic which liberals use to slander Bible-believing Christians. If you’re a Bible-believing Christian, liberals accuse you of bibliolatry. You bow down to a paper pope.

It’s striking that Michael would resort to that impious, underhanded tactic.

Now, let me cease with the self-deprecation for a moment.

I don’t see any self-deprecation in Michael’s post. Rather, I see him deprecating Bible-believing Christians.

The historic message of the Bible needs to take precedence over the theological nature of the Bible. And here is where I feel we Evangelicals, in our zeal and love for the Bible, taint the Gospel with unnecessary additives. These additives, more often than not, create red herrings where we can end up leaving Jesus out altogether as we defend against thousands of claims of Bible contradictions. Further, I believe that this defense needs to be exclusively concerned with the historicity of the resurrection of Christ (“Resurrection Apologetics”). If Christ is risen from the grave, Christianity is true, no matter how many contradictions one thinks they have found. And if Christ did not rise from the grave, Christianity is false, no matter how harmonious the Bible shows to be. In short, I don’t have to convince anyone of the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture in order to introduce them to my Savior. I just have to make a case that the historicity of the story of Christ contained in the Bible is reliable enough to warrant their belief.

i) The “additives” that Michael excoriates are Biblical teachings. Teachings that he himself acknowledges to be Biblical. It’s interesting to see him characterize Biblical teachings as “additives.”

ii) An evangelistic message needn’t be centered on the Resurrection, or even mention the Resurrection. Typically, an evangelistic message is centered on the cross. An evangelistic message stresses our sinfulness, and desperate need for a Savior. Of course, we need a Risen Savior. A dead Savior won’t do. But that’s a presupposition of an evangelistic message.

iii) When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus (Jn 3), did he focus on the Resurrection? When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well (Jn 4), did he focus on the Resurrection? When Jesus spoke with the blind man (Jn 9), did he focus on the Resurrection? When Jesus delivered the Break of Life discourse (Jn 6), did he focus on the Resurrection?

iv) It’s one thing to say we should emphasize the Resurrection, quite another to say we should give both believers and unbelievers a list of optional Bible teachings.

Imagine attending a church pastored by St. John or St. Paul where the ushers distribute a brochure of Biblical teachings you can disbelieve and still be a “committed servant of God.”

Can Michael point to any place in the Gospels, Book of Acts, NT Epistles, or Revelation, where we’re told we can disregard various teachings of Scripture?

v) Speaking of which:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught (Lk 1:1-4).

Does Luke say it’s okay if you only believe an “essential” core of his Gospel?

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (Jn 20:30-31).

Does John say it’s okay if you only believe an “essential” core of his Gospel?

Michael likes to drape himself in the mantle of the gospel and the Resurrection, which sounds very devout, and makes his critics look legalistic by comparison, but notice the glaring contrast between his approach and NT Christianity.

"The danger of inerrancy"

In his post I’m going to document Michael Patton’s position rather than evaluate his position. Patton has accused his critics (“watchblogs”) of missing the point he was trying to make. But it looks to me like Patton himself has muddied the waters regarding his position. Patton is making at least two different points rather than one.

Apologetic/evangelistic methodology:

These two stories are illustrations of the importance of keeping to the “make or break” issues of our faith when sharing the Gospel. The issues of origins, inspiration, and inerrancy are very important. We eventually need to discuss them. But they are not ”make or break” issues. And they can be used to sidetrack discussions of the Gospel into endless and fruitless debate. They can often keep you from getting to Christ. The two people above may have never really heard an actual argument for the Gospel. They were both intellectual types who were ready to debate so many things that did not matter. I don’t need to convince an unbeliever that the Bible is inspired or inerrant. The issue of evolution does not matter if it is only keeping you from sharing the Gospel. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people will have legitimate hang-ups about these and other things that need to be dealt with. But sometimes we need to deal with them by explaining that they have no bearing on whether Jesus rose from the grave. Once we establish Christ’s resurrection, you can get back to those things. But in our apologetics, we need to do everything we can to get to the historicity of the resurrection.

Here Patton is talking about how to witness to unbelievers. He’s talking about how people come to the faith, how to bring them to the faith. This is directed at outsiders.

And he’s asserting that in those situations, inspiration, inerrancy, the historicity of Gen 1-11, are inessential.

Fallback position:

It is my argument that often – far too often – conservative Christians become identified with issues that, while important, do not make or break our faith. This creates extremely volatile situations (from a human perspective) as believers’ faith ends up having a foundation which consists of one of these non-foundational issues. When and if these issues are significantly challenged, our faith becomes unstable. I have seen too many people who walk away from the faith due to their trust in some non-essential issue coming unglued.

One of the first things that I have to teach my students this: The Christian faith is not a house of cards.

Most assuredly, there are foundational issues of the faith that, if taken away, will destroy Christianity. Issues like the existence of God (there is no such thing as a “Christian atheist”), the resurrection of Christ, the reality of God’s judgment and grace through Jesus Christ, and Christ’s atoning death on the cross. However, there are many details of the Christian faith that can suffer adjustments without destroying the entire faith. Christianity is not like a house of cards where you can take any one card away and the rest fall.

I have seen many people leave the faith and the catalyst of their departure was a rejection of inerrancy (the belief that the Bible does not have any errors, historic, theological, or scientific). I have seen others leave because they felt they had to adjust their view of the early chapters of Genesis, creation and the flood. I have seen others who thought that if there was any redacting (editing by the authors) of the Gospel narratives, their faith was destroyed. Still, I have actually been in contact with one who was shaken to the point of petrification because he was starting to consider the multiple author theory for Isaiah. These are issues to be sure. But they are not issues which can cause any harm to the essence of Christianity in any way.

It is normally those who are brought up in rigidity who are susceptible building this house of cards theology and to letting non-cardinal issues crash their faith. This is why you see so many who are “former fundamentalists.” Fundamentalism feeds on unnecessary rigidity and therefore, unfortunately, is quite a seedbed for graveyards of Christians. As well, this type of thinking makes education—true education—virtually impossible.

While I believe strongly in many issues that are of non-cardinal value, I don’t hold on to these too tightly. This is a fundamental philosophical precursor to dealing with so many theological problems today. The inability to identify, isolate, and distinguish between essentials and non-essentials often causes the entire house of cards to fall.

Greg Jones was an evangelical Christian, active in his church, a regular preacher, teacher and served on the elder board. He says that he was addicted  to fundamentalism. He slept, ate, and drank the truths of Christianity. After a decade of faithful service to the church, he is now a professing atheist who rejects the naivety  of all that he held to so dearly. Why? Well, as he tells the story, he says that he was awakened out of his slumber of fundamentalism through many encounters with the truth. Chief among these encounters was when he finally realized that the Bible was full of errors. 

This description is a common testimony of many who have  walked away from the faith.  But this blog is not about  walking away from the faith  per se, but with the dangers of the doctrine of inerrancy.

Here he’s talking about staying in the faith. This is directed at insiders. To those who are already in the faith (in some sense), but at risk of losing their faith.

And he’s asserting that in those situations, inspiration, inerrancy, the historicity of Gen 1-11, are inessential.

So he’s claiming that many Biblical teachings, which he himself considers to be Biblical, are equally expendable in evangelism, apologetics, and discipleship.

Fact-checking Carrier

Is the flood of Noah a parabolic legend?

I’m going to comment on Paul Seely’s classification of the flood account as a “parabolic legend.” I’ll be quoting from parts 1-2 of his 3-part series at BioLogos, as well as his WTJ article:

“Noah’s Flood: Its Date, Extent, and Divine Accommodation,” WTJ 66 (2004): 291-311.

Before commenting on Seely, I’d like to make a general observation. There are scholars like Bill Arnold and Peter Enns who engage the flood account at a purely textual level, as if this is just a story. A literary construct with no real world correlative.

But why think ancient people took no interest in natural disasters? Why think ancient people didn’t have a cultural memory of natural disasters? They led precarious lives, at the mercy of natural forces that could, and sometimes did, wipe them out.

Take this passage of Scripture:

The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake (Amos 1:1).

Amos is using a major earthquake to date his calling. He takes for granted the fact that his audience remembered the event. That this was an unforgettable experience for those who lived through it.

Take St. Lucia’s flood in 1287. Take the volcanic destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD. Take the Antioch earthquake in 115 AD. Take the Minoan eruption (c. 1600 BC), which may have inspired the legend of Atlantis. 

Why assume ancient people just invent stories about natural disasters?

Data from various scientific disciplines provides a clear indication that Noah’s Flood did not cover the globe of the earth.

There are, of course, evangelical scientists who field stock objections to a global flood. For instance:

Leonard Brand & Arthur Chadwick, Faith, Reason, and Earth History: A Paradigm of Earth and Biological Origins by Intelligent Design (Andrews University Press; 3rd ed., 2016)

Jonathan Sarfati, The Genesis Account: A theological, historical, and scientific commentary on Genesis 1-11(2015)

Andrew Snelling, Earth's Catastrophic Past: Geology, Creation, & the Flood (2014)

Kurt Wise, Faith, Form, and Time: What the Bible Teaches and Science Confirms about Creation and the Age of the Universe (2000)

Before considering that data, however, we must first determine a rough earliest probable date for the Flood. If the Flood is an actual historical event, it must touch down in the empirical data of history somewhere. We can make a rough approximation of its date from the two genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11. At one end is Adam, whose culture is Neolithic and therefore can be dated no earlier than around 9,000 or 10,000 B.C. At the other end is Abraham who can be dated to approximately 2000 B.C. In both genealogies the Flood occurs in the middle of these two ends, and therefore roughly at 5500 or 6000 B.C. An even clearer indication of the Flood’s date is implied by the statement that shortly after the Flood, Noah planted a vineyard. This implies the growing of domesticated grapes, which do not show up in the archaeological record until c. 4000 B.C.1 The biblical Flood is therefore probably not earlier than 4000 or maybe 5000 B.C.

The genealogy in Gen 5 begins with Adam, who is clearly described as a farmer in a garden (Gen 2:15) and who after his expulsion from the garden continues to do the very same kind of work (Gen 3:23 and 2:5,15). Genesis 4:1,2 in the light of 4:25 imply that Cain and Abel were contemporaries of Adam. Since Adam and Cain were farmers and Abel a shepherd, and neither domesticated crops nor domesticated sheep or goats appear in the archaeological record until c. 9000 B.C., Adam's earliest possible date is c. 9000 B.C.' Adam's probable date, however, appears to be later. Genesis 2:8 tells us that God planted a garden (see 9:20; 21:33; Lev 9:23) that had fruit trees (2:9, 16; 3:2, 7). The implication of the words "plant" and "garden" are that the fruit trees are domesticated fruit trees. Adam has to "work" the garden (2:15), but he does not have to domesticate wild trees.

i) Notice that his entire argument hinges on a Neolithic date for Adam. That’s the terminus ad quo. All his subsequent arguments build on that pivotal assumption.

ii) A Neolithic dating scheme usually assumes a chronological progression, where human culture passes through a series of stages, viz.,

Copper Age
Bronze Age
Iron Age

This is subject to further subdivisions, viz. Neolithic prepottery.

Neolithic culture is characterized by bone and stone implements, primitive husbandry and horticulture. 

iii) There are problems with using this classification scheme to date Adam. For one thing, Gen 2 says precious little about Adamic technology. Moreover, nothing in Gen 2 requires farming or the domestication of animals. The garden animals were already tame. Moreover, the garden already had edible wild vegetation.

Indeed, life in Eden stands in contrast to conditions outside the garden. That’s one reason the expulsion from Eden was a physical hardship (Gen 3:17-19).

iv) In addition, it’s my impression that many cultures subsist in a state of technological stasis, absent some external stimulus. Cultures don’t automatically undergo technological progress. A lot depends on the natural resources which their particular locale provides. There’s not much incentive to develop more technology than you need to survive or flourish. Some environments are more hospitable than others. Life is easier in some places than others.

For instance, Mesopotamians were motivated to develop flood control technology. But unless you live in a flood zone, there’s not the same incentive.

Likewise, competitive military technology can be a spur to innovation (e.g. metallurgy). If your enemy uses spears, it behooves you to develop long bows. If your enemy uses long bows, it behooves you to develop crossbows. If your enemy uses bronze weaponry, it behooves you to develop iron weaponry. If your enemy uses swords, it behooves you to develop muskets. If your enemy uses fortified cities, it behooves you to develop cannons. And so on and so forth.

Take North America, South America, and South Pacific Islanders before contact with Europeans. Didn’t many “Indians” operate at a roughly Neolithic level for centuries on end? If European colonization hadn’t jump-started their culture, wouldn’t many of those cultures remain at a Neolithic level indefinitely?

To take another comparison, weren’t some Mesoamerican Indian cultures (e.g. Maya, Inca, Aztec) more “advanced” than many North American Indian tribes (e.g. Iroquois, Plains Indians)?

The fact that a particular culture is technologically primitive doesn’t strike me as a reliable chronological indicator. Even in the 20C, we’ve discovered “stone age” tribes in the Amazon jungle.  

iv) Seely also confuses technological innovation with cultural diffusion. Technological innovation only requires a smart inventor. But technological innovation could be quite localized. Archeological evidence assumes fairly widespread practice. After all, given how little evidence survives the ravages of time, there had to be a large initial sample to have trace evidence millennia later. The first datable evidence we happen to have for a particular custom is hardly concomitant with when the custom was first introduced. We’d expect the custom to antedate our residual evidence.

When tells in the Near East which date from 5000 to the time of Abraham are examined, no evidence of a global flood is found. In fact, overlapping layers of occupation, one on top of the other, often with the remains of mud-brick houses in place, are found intact spanning the entire period. No matter what specific date one might put on the flood after 5000 B.C., there were sites in the Near East at that date where people lived and remained undisturbed by any serious flood. In other words, not only is there no evidence of a flood that covered the Near East, there is archaeological evidence that no flood covered the Near East between 5000 and the time of Abraham.

In fact there are continuous cultural sequences which overlap each other from 9500 to 3000 B.C. and down into the times of the patriarchs and later.

Let’s grant that contention for the sake of argument. It’s only as good as his Neolithic starting point. What if the flood took place before then?

So, there is an objective basis for an actual biblical Flood. Why then do I title this post “Barely Local?” The answer is that neither the flood of 2900 B.C. nor any other actual local flood, such as the Black Sea flood, nor the melting of ice caps at various historical points closely fits the biblical description. Local flood theories do not fit the biblical account with regard to secondary issues such as lasting one year and destroying all the birds (even in a local area).

The fact that all birds died in the Flood, leaving alive only Noah and those with him on the ark (Gen 7:21-23) makes it clear that the Flood was not local. In a local flood a small minority of birds might die, but most of them would fly away to dry land.

i) Which assumes the birds were brought on board to preserve them from the flood. But a local flood doesn’t require that rationale. Rather, ravens and homing pigeons were used in ancient maritime navigation to locate land.

ii) Keep in mind that even in a global flood, some waterfowl could presumably survive on carrion, driftwood, &c.

More importantly, no local flood theory agrees with the biblical account at the most critical points: landing the ark in the Ararat mountains, covering the entire Near East (Genesis 9:19, “all the earth” = Genesis 10),

The statement of Gen 7:19 that water covered "all the high mountains under all the heavens" contextually includes the high mountains under the heavens of the country of Ararat (Gen 8:4), ancient Urartu which centered around Lake Van. Since the country of Ararat was thought to have been located at the northern extent of the earth (Gen 10:2; Ezek 38:6) at the "the nether end of the known world," it is not just Mesopotamia but the entire extent of the earth as it was then conceived that is in view.

i) Notice that Seely distinguishes between a worldwide flood and a local flood which covers the known world. In his opinion, the narrator is describing what is actually a local flood, but global from the blinkered perspective of the ancient narrator.

ii) But if, by his own admission, the flood was actually local, then what would localize the flood are natural barriers like mountains.

iii) What about the Lake Van area?

The “mountains of Ararat” of 8:4 most likely refers to the foothills where the Mesopotamian plains in the north yield to the highlands near the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. B. Arnold, Genesis (Cambridge 2009), 105.

The plateaus around the lakes are about 1.6 km. (1 mi.) above sea level, surrounded by even higher mountains. “Urartu,” The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology, 463.

According to Seely’s own depiction, the land of Ararat marks the outer limits of the flood. And what, exactly, would prevent the floodwaters from extending beyond that region? Presumably the mountain range.

So the mental picture this generates is rising water submerging the plateaus or foothills, but contained by the mountain range behind it. Like water in a saucer. That would be consistent with the landmarks that Seely educes.

In addition, although the ark is said to come to rest on the "mountains" (plural) of Ararat rather than on a particular peak like Mt. Ararat, Gen 8:3-5 implies that the ark landed very high up in the Ararat mountains, because after the ark grounded the water had to recede for another two and a half months before the tops of the surrounding mountains became exposed. It is perhaps possible that the ark did not land on what is now called Mt. Ararat, but it must have landed on some higher-than-average mountain in Urartu or else the tops of the surrounding mountains would have been exposed much sooner. Genesis 8:3-5 thus implies that the water was even deeper than 8000 feet.

It’s not clear to me how Seely is visualizing this process.

i) Seems to me that where the ark ran aground would depend on whatever the ark happened to be floating above at the time floodwaters were receding. From what I’ve read, the land of Ararat is a hilly region with many narrow valleys. So, for instance, the ark might be caught in the eddy of a steep mountain cove. The walls of the cove would ring the ark, like a toy boat in a bathtub after you pull the plug. The elevation would vary, depending on the location of the cove. 

ii) If the ark came to rest in a steep mountain cove, Noah wouldn’t be able to see above or around the surrounding hillsides. Indeed, that would be a good reason to release the raven and the homing pigeon.

That the Bible is describing the Flood as covering the entire earth as it was then conceived is perhaps most conclusively seen in the fact that the primeval ocean of Gen 1:2, half of which was placed above the firmament on the second day of creation (Gen 1:6, 7) and half of which was placed around and under the earth on the third day of creation (Gen 1:9, 10; Job 26:10; Pss 24:2; 136:6; Prov 8:27b) comes back from above the firmament and from below the earth (Gen 7:11; cf. 8:2) to again cover the earth with water."

Of course, the flood is not a literal de-creation. It is analogous to creation in reverse.

Given the probable date of the Flood, we can also ask the question. Is there any archaeological evidence for a Flood in the Near East between 4000 (or 5000 at the earliest) and 2300 B.C.? The short answer is that the only evidence of serious flooding in the Near East during that time period is from riverine floods.

And since the biblical account is describing a flood much more extensive than that, we have no archaeological evidence for the Flood as it is described in Scripture.

In addition, since even local riverine floods normally leave some evidence by way of silt layers, a year-long flood (Gen 7:11; 8:13-14) covering all the high mountains (Gen 7:19) from around Sardinia to Afghanistan and from the Black Sea to the Gulf of Aden (Gen 9:19; 10:32) would certainly have left physical evidence in the tells of the Near East. These tells should all show a silt layer or at least a sterile layer dating to the same time period throughout the Near East.

The walls of mud brick buildings, which are found on most sites, should show serious water erosion, and this erosion should appear at the same time period throughout the Near East. Also, if the Flood destroyed all but eight people, most of these tells should show a long period of vacancy following their silt or sterile layer, while the population regrew and expanded.

i) This objection piggybacks on Seely’s dubious timeframe.

ii) Also, although I’m no expert, I don’t see why we’d expect evidence for an ancient flood to be coextensive with the scope of the flood. Wouldn’t the evidence tend to be intermittent, even if the flood was more widespread? Depending on local terrain and precipitation, spring melt, wouldn’t some silt layers be washed away? Wouldn’t subsequent water erosion erode some of the flood deposit?

From these passages in Ezekiel, Gen 49:25, and Deut 33:13 along with ancient Near Eastern parallels, OT biblical scholars, including the consensus of evangelical OT scholars, agree that the "fountains of the great Deep" which supplied the water for the Flood were fresh water terrestrial fountains drawing upon a subterranean sea.

Ground water and soil moisture, which would be the modernized counterpart to the subterranean ocean that supplied the water for the tree in Ezek 31, the agricultural crops in Gen 49 and Deut 33, and the terrestrial fountains of Gen 7:11, constitute just 0.615 percent of all water on earth. If 100 percent of it flowed out upon the earth, it would flood the earth to a depth of less than 60 feet. It is obvious then that if they are transmuted into modern terms, the "fountains of the great Deep" are completely inadequate to cover all the high mountains of even the Near East.

Let’s grant that contention for the sake of argument. If, according to Seely’s own analysis, the narrative doesn’t identify adequate water reserves to flood the whole world or even the entire ANE, then, on internal grounds, why is that not an argument for a local flood from the viewpoint of the narrator?

Most telling is the fact that Noah is treated in Gen 9 as a new Adam, a new beginning for mankind.

But that would be consistent with a local flood that’s anthropologically universal. And some of the narrative landmarks dovetail with that particular outlook.

Gen 2:10-14 situates Eden somewhere in Mesopotamia. So that would be the epicenter of human population. Man would migrate from that focal point.

And the ark lands in northern Mesopotamia (Gen 8:4). That would be consistent with a flood that originates in Mesopotamia. The diluvial point of origin would correspond to the human point of origin. The scope of the flood would correspond to the biogeography of human dispersion at that stage of human history, where man radiates out from Eden, but is still confined to the ANE–which would also be consistent with the Table of Nations (Gen 10).

I conclude that Seely’s objections to the local flood interpretation are fallacious. Moreover, he doesn’t engage the most astute proponents of the global flood interpretation. So his argument fails on both counts.