Saturday, April 06, 2013

Old at heart

The ark of the covenant

Some Lutherans continue to take umbrage at an old post of mine:

Daniel Stinson

The Ark of the Covenant as a physical element did have the power to kill anyone who touched it with an unclean spirit within them or if they were sinning while touching it.

i) I believe he’s alluding to the scene in 2 Sam 6:6-7 (par. 1 Chron 13:9-10). To begin with, where does he come up with the notion that Uzzah was killed because he harbored an unclean spirit? There’s nothing in the text to support that interpretation.

ii) Yes, it was forbidden to touch the ark (Num 4:15). That doesn’t necessarily mean it was “sinful” to touch it. We’re dealing with ritual defilement, not moral defilement.

iii) Why does he imagine that the ark had the power to kill someone? The ark was an inanimate object. A gilded box. It had no inherent lethal properties.

The account says Uzzah died, not because the ark killed him, but because God killed him. The ark was a ritually sacrosanct object. A concrete symbol of God’s presence and holiness. There were special instructions for transporting the ark (Exod 25:12-15)–instructions which were flouted on this occasion.

iv) Ironically, the example of the ark undermines the Lutheran claim. The ark wasn’t sacrosanct because it contained God. It was possible to commit sacrilege because the ark was an emblem of divine presence and holiness, not because the ark was actually holy or actually localized God.

So even if we think Christians were becoming ill or dying in 1 Cor 11 because they were somehow defiling the communion elements, that would not imply the Real Presence. 

 Though I would argue beyond its physical aspects and take into account that it's in union with God as part of his covenant.

In what sense does he think the ark was in “union” with God? A hypostatic union, like the Incarnation?

I haven't seen you challenge the physical waters in baptism.

What is there to challenge?

Do the waters of baptism, lack the same level of authority…

Water doesn’t have authority. Water is just a liquid substance.

…as seen in your opinion of Christ's body and blood?

I haven’t said anything about Christ’s body and blood. Rather, I’ve discussed the bread and wine.

As far as Christ’s blood is concerned, the value of his blood lies in his shed blood, on the cross.

 Old Testament circumcision is a physical act, but a circumcision of the heart creates a covenant union with the Holy Spirit. God's free gift of his Spirit was given in circumcisions of the heart upon the 8th day of birth.

i) Really? Where does he come up with the notion that circumcision automatically conferred a new heart? In fact, the OT treats physical circumcision and circumcision of the heart as separable.

ii) Moreover, it’s not circumcision of the heart that created a covenant union; rather, a covenant union created circumcision of the heart (cf. Jer 33:33; Ezk 36:25-27).

Christian baptismal fonts to this day are octagon shaped.

And the relevance of that is what, exactly? Does he attack magical significance to an octagonal shape?

Do you want to know what's actually unimpressive?

How about Lutheran arguments for sacramental realism?

 The manner in which you are arguing out of doctrinal (scriptural?) ignorance and personal emnity. If you want to dialogue, keep it civil. This sort of dismissive hubris has no place in Christian conversation. Then again, if we Lutherans are as spiritually dead as you insist, perhaps this isn't a dialogue between Christians.

I haven’t said anything about the spiritual state of Lutherans. I do think Lutheran sacramentalism fosters dead formalism. But, of course, many Lutherans are genuine Christians.

There's nothing perfunctory about taking Christ's words, as conveyed in His Word, literally.

Actually, it is perfunctory to quote Scripture without making a good faith effort to exegete Scripture. To assume ahead of time that you know what it means.

 1 Corinthians 11 is quite clear about how the early church viewed communion.

True. Unfortunately, Lutherans lack the same clarity on what 1 Cor 11 means.

 As are the church fathers.


If it is merely a cracker and wine, why do those who take it improperly find themselves guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord? This is not perfunctory, it is literal.

i) In 1 Cor 11, if you bother to study the passage in context, Paul is concerned with the corporate body of Christ. Christians sinning against other Christians at the agape feast.

Paul is using a play on words, in which he trades of fluid symbolism, where the “body” can, by turns, stand for the literal/historic body of Christ, the figurative/eucharistic body of Christ, or the corporate/ecclesiastical body of Christ (cf. 10:16-17; 12:27-28). A Pauline pun.

Since, moreover, Christians are in union with Christ, to dishonor a fellow Christian dishonors Christ. That’s the association.

ii) The Eucharist is modeled on the Passover. The Passover was a symbolic rite. Unleavened bread represents haste. Bitter herbs represents the bitterness of the Egyptian captivity (cf. Exod 12:8,39; Num 9:11). That, in itself, is a cue that the Eucharist is symbolic.

iii) The blood (1 Cor 11:25) refers back to Christ’s shed blood on the cross, by which the new covenant was ratified, which–in turn–picks up on OT usage (Exod 24:8; Jer31:31). So that’s referring to a past event. An unrepeatable event. Not something that happens every time we take communion.

To transgress the blood of Christ (1 Cor 11:27) is to transgress the new covenant–which was ratified by the death of Christ. That’s the association.

Likewise, Christ shed his blood for Christians. To dishonor a Christian dishonors the atonement. That’s the association.

If you had read Luther, you would find the same doctrine derived from the same, extremely literal hermeneutic.

I don’t care what Luther took it to mean. I care what Paul took it to mean.


Good grief! You have addressed the proof texts, so they have no value?

They have great value when correctly understood.

 God's Word come second to your own, apparently.

Cuda is confusing God’s Word with his misinterpretation of God’s Word.

 You have not addressed the substance of Lutheran teaching, just set a straw man and knocked it down. Bravo. There is nothing sacred about putting one's faith in the Word of God and His promises?

Notice how, throughout his comments, he begs the question.

No one said they believed in a "cracker". When the Sacrament delivers Christ to you, how is trusting Christ "cut[ting]Jesus out of the picture?

Which assumes what he needs to prove.

When Baptism is Christ's work of forgiveness through His called servant, when is that cutting Jesus out of the picture?

Which assumes what he needs to prove.

You caricature Lutheran doctrine -- deceitfully -- and then present yourself as a theologian?

I haven’t presented myself as anything.

Clearly, your concept of salvation by faith through grace makes faith your work and the distinguishing thing between those who are saved and those who are not. That makes your work the saving thing - and you your own savior. All hail Steve!

Scripture does present faith as necessary precondition of salvation. Don’t Lutherans know that?

Friday, April 05, 2013

The Martyrdom Of The Apostles

There's been a discussion at the Stand To Reason blog about the martyrdom of the apostles. A skeptic who posted there wrote at his blog:

See the first writing we have regarding even a possible martyrdom is 1 Clement, traditionally dated to the early 90’s CE….

As you can immediately see—the stories themselves did not circulate amongst Christians in writing prior to the very end of the First Century!…

Further, 1 Clement does not explicitly indicate Peter and Paul died martyrs, Josephus does not indicate James’ death had anything to do with Christianity, and Acts only utilizes James, son of Zebedee’s death like a Star Trek Red shirt (as I previously pointed out.) Indeed it was not until the Second Century the martyrdom tales gained their legendary legs and took off with Acts of Peter, Acts of Paul, and Second Apocalypse of James. It wasn’t until the very end of the Second Century, perhaps the beginning of the Third, that Hippolytus gave us the deaths of the other disciples.

Is he representing the evidence accurately? I and some other Christians responded to him in the thread at the Stand To Reason blog, if anybody is interested in reading it. I didn't enter the discussion until late in the thread, but I did post a few responses.


Richard Thompson:
Okay, consider these axioms: 1. God can do ANYTHING, except sin.

That’s overstated. Sophisticated definitions are divine omnipotence are more nuanced:

 2. According to Calvinism, God chooses who will be saved or damned entirely according to His own plan, with human choice not figuring into the issue.


 3. Not everybody is going to Heaven. If I got any of those three axioms wrong, then please correct me. However, if they are all right, then God does NOT love everybody. Because a God who saved people regardless of their choices would save everyone He could, or everyone He loved, whichever is greater. And a God who can do ANYTHING would be able to save everyone He loved.

That’s simplistic. God can do anything consistent with his objectives. If his objective is to save everyone, then God can (and will) save everyone.

If, on the other hand, God’s objective is to demonstrate that sinners are hell-deserving by consigning some sinners to hell, then God can’t save everyone consistent with that objective.

Likewise, if God’s objective is to demonstrate the gratuity of grace by reprobating some sinners, then God can’t save everyone consistent with that objective. God could have different objectives, but given his objectives, universal salvation won’t be consistent with his objectives.

 But axiom #3--supported by John's Revelation--means that God isn't saving everybody. Which means that, according to Calvinism, there are people God doesn't love.


 So why SHOULDN'T you look down on people God doesn't love?

How does that conclusion follow from the preceding “axioms”?

i) For one thing, I’m not God. I’m a creature. As a creature, I have desires appropriate to my creatureliness. I may find some thing desirable that God does not, or vice versa.

Maybe I like the sensation of walking on a warm sandy beach barefoot, with the sun on my back and the breeze in my face. God doesn’t share my physical pleasure. So what?

ii) Assuming I’m elect, God doesn’t love me because I’m more lovable than the reprobate. God didn’t choose me because I’m better than the reprobate.

I don’t know who the reprobate are, but even if I did, when I saw a hellbound sinner, I’d logically say to myself, “That could just as well be me. I deserve the same fate!”

In WWI, C. S. Lewis had a buddy in the trenches: Paddy Moore. Paddy was killed, Lewis survived. Could just as well have been the other way around. Did Lewis look down on Paddy because he survived while his friend died?

Take Os Guinness. His parents were medical missionaries in China. His two brothers died in the Henan famine of 1943. Does he look down on his brothers because he made it and they didn’t?

What is it about the twisted logic of Arminians that they draw such perverse conclusions from the gratuity of grace?

Is privatizing marriage the answer?

How to make a valid secular case against cultural endorsement of homosexual behavior.

"I'll see you at the movies"

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes (James 4:13-14).

16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Lk 12:16-21).

On Tuesday, Roger Ebert had many plans for his future. Great plans for the life ahead of him. He had it all worked out:

I must slow down now, which is why I'm taking what I like to call "a leave of presence."What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me. What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.

And I continue to cooperate with the talented filmmaker Steve James on the bio-documentary he, Steve Zaillian and Martin Scorsese are making about my life.

At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it's like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you. It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness.

I'll also be able to review classics for my "Great Movies" collection, which has produced three books and could justify a fourth.

So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies.

Two days later, he was dead.

Every one of us is just a stroke, blood clot, aneurism, pulmonary embolism, homicide, heart attack, traffic accident, natural disaster away from a looming, forking eternity.

For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them (Eccl 9:12).

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man (Mt 24:36-39).

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour (Mt 25:1-13).

Proof that Islam Will Win Over Secularism

Google knows nose

A couple of new Google products available:

HT: Denny Burk.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sequester is a Pimple Compared to What Obamacare Will Be

Here are my random thoughts.

-Those who have Obamacare will be turned away because clinics will not be paid enough by the government.

-America will learn a new meaning of "shortage."

-Rationing will be as certain as I am writing this.

-We will have to wait a month or two months or longer to see a doctor.

-Hospitals, starting with non-profit, will refuse more medicare patients.

-Health care companies are eliminating spouse coverage.

-Premiums in my home state of Wisconsin is going up 80%.

-More people will be on Medicare, and Obama just came out and actually said that he will lower disbursements.

-Doctors will leave the business because they will not be able to afford to stay in business.

-The red tape/bureaucracy for Obamacare will skyrocket costs.

-There was no health care crisis before Obama became president, but there will be now.

-For liberals this is not about providing health care, it is about controlling people's lives.

-Nobody will have health care in the near future.

-Socialism never works.

-This disaster is intentional by Obama.

-All you senior citizens who voted for Obama will be turned away when you have cancer, you were warned, but you did not listen.


The Roman Catholic cult

I’m reposting some comments I left at Denny Burk’s blog in response to Bryan Cross:

steve hays April 1, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

Proponents of SSM can’t reject an argument that hasn’t even been made. The point is not to assert that homosexual acts are immoral, but to present an argument to that effect. I think Burk’s point is that many proponents of traditional marriage have withdrawn the argument from public consideration.

    Bryan Cross April 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm #


    The argument has been made, but it isn’t available for use by those [such as yourself] who think that masturbation and artificial contraception are morally licit, because it rules out such things as well. Damon Linker’s recent article “How gay marriage’s fate was sealed more than 50 years ago” lays out the problem:

    In the peace of Christ,

    - Bryan
        steve hays April 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

        You’re assuming those are linked. Those are only linked in Roman Catholicism.

steve hays April 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

Bryan Cross

“This use of the “self-authentication” thesis loads bullying right into the nature of the consequent ‘dialogue,’ because it gives you the green light to pound the table repeatedly with your ‘self-authenticating’ Bible verses, even when your interlocutor doesn’t accept their truth or believe they have divine authority. In my opinion, this violates the Golden Rule.”

i) That’s ironic coming from a Catholic apologist who interjected his opposition to artificial contraception into this thread. What if Bryan appealed to natural law to justify his position on artificial contraception, and his opponents said:

“This use of the “natural law” thesis loads bullying right into the nature of the consequent ‘dialogue,’ because it gives you the green light to pound the table repeatedly with your ‘natural law” claims, even when your interlocutor doesn’t accept their truth or believe they have moral authority. In my opinion, this violates the Golden Rule.”

ii) What if (ex hypothesi) the Bible is self-authenticating? Would it still violate the Golden Rule to invoke Biblical authority?

iii) BTW, Jesus often cited the OT to validate his positions. Did Jesus violate the Golden Rule?

“I would find that uncharitable, arrogant and off-putting. And I’m guessing that you would too, if someone were to treat you in this way.”

Why does Bryan resort to the emotive rhetoric of the Far Left?

steve hays April 3, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

Bryan Cross

“The Obery Hendricks piece [and the 1,749 comments that follow it] are a good example of the inability of Scripture alone to resolve the question. When the interpretation of Scripture is left to private judgment, as entailed by Protestantism [as such], then Scripture can be interpreted any which way, depending on the presuppositions one brings to Scripture.”

i) How do you derive your conclusion from 1749 comments? 1749 comments don’t represent 1749 different interpretations, or 1749 different arguments.

ii) Are you saying the pro-homosexuality interpretation is just as plausible as the anti-homosexuality interpretation? Do you place all arguments and counterarguments on a par?

iii) To say Scripture alone is unable to resolve the question is ambiguous. Do you mean Scripture alone is unable to make everyone agree? But if that’s what you mean, the Magisterium is unable to make everyone agree.

iv) How does the Church “determine” the meaning of Scripture? Do you mean the Church recognizes the true meaning, or the Church assigns meaning?

steve hays April 1, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

“If and when the church of Rome chooses” to discipline them? That’s a great all-purpose escape clause.

BTW, the so-called ” pervasive interpretive pluralism” has been addressed.

steve hays April 1, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

Bryan’s church is a hermetically sealed abstraction.

steve hays April 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    “I’m not sure exactly what you mean by ‘all-purpose escape clause,’ but what I said is true, i.e. that the Catholic Church can discipline such persons.”

    You originally said “if or when.” You denomination can do it, or not do it. Heads you win, tails you win.

    “…and often she does do so (typically in very quiet ways), even if not on our preferred time-table.”

    “Preferred time-table”? That’s euphemistic. More like no time-table. For decades, high-profile Catholic gov’t officials have supported abortion with absolute impunity from your denomination.

    If Pelosi and Biden were disciplined privately in the past, that clearly didn’t take.

    Anyway, this is another example of your fanatical commitment to Catholicism. If pope Francis publicly disciplined them, you’d defend that. If he privately disciplined them, you’d defend that. If he chose not to discipline them, you’d defend that.

    “Imagine Chris Matthews interviewing (think split-screen) Denny arguing that Scripture opposes SSM and Obery Hendricks on the other side of the screen arguing that Scripture doesn’t oppose SSM. Hendricks wins before even opening his mouth, by the very fact that he represents [by his very presence there] a ‘plausible’ opposing interpretation, and neither has greater interpretive authority than the other.”

    When two people disagree, that simply means one or both are wrong.

    BTW, are you saying Obery’s pro-homosexuality interpretation of Scripture is just as reasonable as Denny’s anti-homosexuality interpretation, which is why we need the Magisterium to play tiebreaker?

    “This is an example why, in my opinion, for Scripture to have public authority, the Church must have interpretive authority.”

    Of course, Bryan, if you think that’s a problem, then your solution only relocates the same problem. Imagine Chris Matthews interviewing (think split-screen) G. B. Caird or F. F. Bruce arguing that Scripture and history oppose the claims of Rome and Cardinal George on the other side of the screen arguing that Scripture and history support the claims of Rome.

steve hays April 1, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

                You rig the answer by framing the question in terms of authoritative interpretations rather than true interpretations. Authoritative interpretations can be false, while true interpretations can be unauthoritative.

                You also have an unscriptural view of Scriptural authority. When, for instance, the Apostle John wrote 1 John to squash heresy, his opponents wouldn’t be entitled to say, “Well, you may interpret 1 John as condemning Docetism, but we don’t. Therefore, his letter has no intrinsic adjudicative force.”

                “…I wouldn’t applaud or defend a decision by a pope not to discipline persons who ought to be disciplined, unless I had reason to believe that they knew something I didn’t regarding the persons in question.”

                You’re being sophistical, for you take your cue on who ought or ought not to be disciplined from who your church does or doesn’t discipline. You disclaim exercising your independent judgment on the matter.

                “The existence of a magisterium does not merely ‘relocate’ the same problem, because the debate you imagine does not presuppose the acceptance of any authority, but concerns the location of ecclesial authority.”

                Both Catholic and Protestant positions presuppose the acceptance of *an* authority. So, in fact, my comparison is apt.

Jason Stellman’s failure as a prosecutor led to the Leithart acquittal

I know there is a lot of disappointment among PCA members over the what essentially is the decision to let a lower-court verdict stand.

Over at the Green Baggins discussion of the Peter Leithart case, Ron DiGiacomo is clearly making the most lucid comments:

To suggest that the SJC should have taken into account any evidence other than the trial itself is to undermine one’s right to a trial. In other words, evidence is never to be considered so incriminating as to allow for an immediate conviction without a trial. Accordingly, it would have been inappropriate for the SJC to arrive at a guilty verdict based upon arguments not formulated by the Presbytery. To have done so would have been for the SJC to try the case without having to undergo rebuttal and cross-examination, a clear violation of Leithart’s rights.

The failure is Jason Stellman’s failure as a prosecutor:

[Peter Leithart] essentially denied on the stand what FV has gone on record affirming. All that is left to do at that point is to pepper the defendant with questions regarding inconsistency in view of previously written (or stated) Roman Catholic tendencies. That did not happen and that was Jason’s job. Consequently, the SJC was left with too many uninterpreted brute particulars that were not fleshed out with formal argumentation. Again, to have drawn their own conclusions based upon arguments that were never formulated would have been to put PL on trial without the right of a defense attorney. We’re Presbyterian not papists.

Harvard MBA

Phew! Looks like we've got all the bases covered now.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Dubious stats

This is getting some buzz:

But surely there’s something fishy about an alleged 13% drop in one year. It’s not as if archeologists discovered the tomb of Jesus in the interim, and found his skeletal remains. Nothing has happened since last year to cause a loss of faith in the Resurrection. No disconfirmatory evidence has been unearthed.

So the report raises more questions than it answers. Was the same group of respondents asked the same question both times?

Are these people who believed in the Resurrection a year ago? Are these people who simply came about of the closet? Is this just part of the radical chic Obama fad?

Greater than, equal to, less than

Jason Engwer and I recently got into a debate with self-described "Christian Fundamentalist," "Socialist," and same-sex marriage proponent Curt Day. Here's my latest response.

Curt said:

Please understand that I am only arguing for the society's acceptance of same-sex marriage, not the Church's.

Hm, okay, but this contradicts what you said above: "Same sex marriage is an evangelical issue, not a legal one."

What's more, it's duplicitous because you've already argued: "if we have religious liberty, the [sic] Christianity's definition of marriage cannot necessarily prohibit same sex marriages."

Plus in your current comments, which I'll now respond to you, it becomes quite clear you are in fact "arguing for" the church's "acceptance" of "same-sex marriage" given how you keep chastizing Christians like us for not subscribing to your "arguments" for "equality" and the like.

Though the Declaration of Independence has no 'legal' authority...

I don't know why you put "legal" in scare quotes since it's not as if there's a special meaning to the word you're attempting to highlight, is there?

But in any case thank you for conceding the point.

the equality that is emphasized in the Declaration are presupposed, however imperfectly, in the Constitution

This is pretty vague! One could easy say a lot of things are "presupposed, however imperfectly, in the Constitution." God is "presupposed, however imperfectly, in the Constitution." So according to you would there be recourse to argue for a theocracy?

This is indicated by the Supreme Court decisions that undid the systematic inequality that existed in many of the discriminatory laws from our past.

1. While we're on the topic, Jefferson wrote at length about judicial tyranny. Likewise Lincoln (who, as I'm sure you know, is the person most credited with ending slavery) had some choice words to say about judicial tyranny (e.g. check out his first inaugural address). And of course a lot of people today including conservative scholars have said or written quite a bit about judicial tyranny.

2. Are you referring to "the systematic inequality" as far as African-Americans and other ethnicities? How is what you're arguing for analogous to racism?

3. Are you referring to "the systematic inequality" as far as gender inequalities? How is what you're arguing for analogous to sexism?

4. How are homosexuals discriminated against in our society? Homosexual citizens have all the rights every other citizen has within the same bounds every other citizen has. It's not as if homosexuals don't have the right to free speech, free assembly, the right to bear arms, due process, etc.

5. Also, to my knowledge, there's no law disallowing homosexuals to marry. They can marry any man or woman they please so long as their spouse-to-be is of marriageable age, so long as it isn't an illicit consanguineous relationship, so long as they aren't married to more than one partner at the same time, and so long as they are of the opposite sex or gender. These are the same laws for every citizen.

6. If you're referring to changing gender restrictions in the law for homosexuals, why should homosexuals be given special, preferential treatment, different from everyone else in our society, such that we have to redefine marriage to accommodate homosexuals?

7. If we give homosexuals special, preferential treatment when it comes to marriage, then it's potential grounds to give others in society special, preferential treatment when it comes to marriage too. Say if the polysexual wish to marry both a man and a woman at the same time. Or say if the polyamorous wish to marry multiple partners all with their explicit consent.

8. Besides, if this is what you're arguing for, then what you're really arguing for is a redefinition of what constitutes marriage. If so, then it's not just a purely legal matter alone.

Of course, if you want to argue that gays cannot practice same-sex marriage because heterosexuals are superior and thus are the only ones who deserve the right to marry, be my guest.

Nope, sorry, that's not what I'm arguing.

Just remember what you are associating with the Gospel when you do that.

The same could be said of you. You're associating the gospel with your social values.

So why should Christians accept the moral argument of equality? Again, don't and see what you are associating with the Gospel. Do you really want people to think of Christian domination of society when they hear the Gospel?

Why are you more concerned with what society thinks of you than what God thinks of you?

Of course, there is another problem. That problem is that us Christians have difficulty in distinguishing what morals should be binding in the Church alone from those that should be binding in society as well. The cause of that inability to distinguish may not be religious or philosophical but psychological. Those who engage in too much all-or-nothing thinking struggle to make necessary distinctions.

Oh, dear. I guess you're speaking for yourself in this little psychoanalysis, and/or perhaps attempting to turn this into a didactic therapy session as if what grates your conscience is or should also be what grates other Christians as well. Ho hum.

We have a society whose laws are based on equality and respect. That means that none of us should be treated with preference before the law. Likewise, the law should not favor any group.

So why are you arguing for preferential treatment of homosexuals with regard to marriage, per what I've written above?

What some fellow Christians don't know what they are advocating when they want Christianity to determine the laws of the land is that they are asking for a place of preference in society. When a religious or ethnic group does that, they are not asking for democracy, which is the rule of all people, they are asking for an ethnocracy where one group has a position of advantage in making and living before the law over other groups.

Once again, how is this analogous to racial/ethnic discrimination? Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn't. But you still haven't made an argument for it.

As I asked earlier, "equal" in what respect? Under the law of the land? But homosexuals are equal under the law of the land.

Or, for example, one could say, in order for x to be equal y, there needs to be a commonality z shared between x and y. So what is z with regard to your argument about "equality"? Is it that they're both minorities? But how is being a minority inherently deserving of special rights with regard to marriage? Should we allow male Muslim minorities polygyny, up to four wives?

I was pointing out the similarities between Luther's treatment of the Jews later in his career with our treatment of gays. Certainly we are not as severe with gays as Luther was with the Jews. But the justification for society acting against a specific group is the same.

1. If you're attempting to draw a this is to that as that is to this sort of parallel, as in Luther:antisemitism::modern Christians:our purported anti-homosexuality, then for starters you'll have to explain rather than simply assume or assert how modern Christians are discriminating against homosexuals in terms of marriage (which would include you addressing our aforementioned questions such as the ones about "equality") as well as how antisemitism is analogous to compelling Christians to accept a redefinition of marriage to include same-sex marriages.

2. As far as I'm aware, there are no laws against being homosexual, and in fact laws protecting homosexuals. Likewise there are no laws against being of a certain race or ethnicity, and in fact laws protecting minority ethnicities or races. However, whereas there are no moral or immoral consequences directly due to the color of a person's skin, there can be moral or immoral consequences directly due to a person's sexual behavior.

3. And, of course, what you say here cuts against what you said at the very beginning of your comment: "Please understand that I am only arguing for the society's acceptance of same-sex marriage, not the Church's."

Pedophilia equality

A logical extension of "marriage equality":

Rice Christians

"A Working Class Manual On How To Reach The Middle Classes With The Gospel Of Jesus" by Mez McConnell.

Debating abortionists

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Are we in a recovery?

Ridgley on the Trinity

Darrell Bock on Pope Francis

Darrell Bock posted the following video this afternoon on Facebook, a discussion of the new pope and Roman Catholicism with Bock, Dr. Lanier Burns, Dr. Scott Horrell, and Dr. Leopoldo Sanchez (a Lutheran):

It’s kind of a milquetoast treatment. They did take care to locate the origin of the papacy after Augustine and more specifically with Gregory I. At least there are Protestant seminary professors who've got this on the radar screen.

After listening to the program, I left the following two comments in response:

Darrell you mentioned the “relationships among the institutions” -- Protestants who tend to this pope as a man tend to forget the institution -- at an official level, evangelical churches are not and cannot be called “churches in the proper sense” but “ecclesial communities” lacking “apostolic succession of orders”. See this official document:

As well, modern Protestants tend to forget about the recent history of negotiations with other churches. Recall the happiness over the "Joint Declaration on Justification", but it was not long afterward that Rome disavowed key elements of that document, and the chief ecumenist John Richard Neuhaus was expressing "Setback in Rome":

What Philistinism Looks Like

Telling ourselves lies

Flight from normality

I am re-reading Our Village [by Mary Russell Mitford]: with the possible exception of Cowper, I don’t know anything in the language which so vividly expressed the sheer joy there is to be got out of the little apparently trivial things of life…Any educated person can appreciate the “de luxe” scenery or weather, but it is not so easy to keep tuned up to the Mitford pitch of finding beauty in the ordinary countryside on every day of the English year. I never read this book without acquiring a keener eye for the attractions of whatever part of the country I’m living in. Brothers and Friends: The Diaries of Major Warren Hamilton Lewis (Harper & Row 1982), 64-65.

After supper I began [William Morris’s] the Glittering Plain; it is really unfair to both to compare Tollers [nickname for Tolkien] and Morris, as the Inklings so often do. The resemblance is quite superficial. Morris has his feet much more firmly planted on the earth than Tollers; Morris’s world is an agricultural and trading one, Toller’s is one in which (except for a little gardening), the soil is not the source of life, it is scenery: then again, Tollers is an inland animal, whereas you can’t wander far in Morris without hearing green waves crashing on yellow sand (ibid. 206).

Warnie Lewis was the older brother of C. S. Lewis. Although he’s overshadowed by his more famous, more gifted brother, he was a scholar in his own right, and a regular at meetings of the Inklings (frequented by Tolkien and Charles Williams, among others).

Here, Warnie talks about savoring and cherishing the mundane. Cultivating an appreciative eye for the good in the ordinary experiences of life. Natural, daily blessings.

It’s striking to compare that attitude with so much contemporary film and TV fare. There’s an increasing proliferation of films and TV dramas involving vampires, werewolves, zombies, witches, wizards, aliens, time travel, parallel worlds, serial killers, botched supersoldiers, mutant superheroes, &c.

Perhaps it’s not coincidental that at the very same time the power elite is promoting homosexuality and transexuality.

Mind you, we’ve always had movies and TV dramas on these themes, but I don’t recall a time when there was such a concentration of movies and TV dramas on these themes.

It seems as if there’s a popular flight from normality. That many American consumers of pop entertainment don’t find normal human existence interesting or satisfying.

Compare this to how many Americans lived a hundred years ago. Many Americans lived in small towns or farming communities. They lived on farms, ranches, or tree-lined neighborhoods where everyone was within walking distance of everyone else.

They had large families, with several brothers and sisters. They had extended families living together or living nearby, viz. aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. They had friends they knew from the cradle to the grave.

They went hunting, fishing, and swimming. They married their high school sweetheart or the girl (or boy) next door. They played intramural sports. They went to church. They found personal fulfillment in the little things in life.

I wonder if many contemporary Americans have forgotten what it means to be normal. With nuclear families, broken homes, blended families, a transient lifestyle, I wonder if many Americans don’t even remember what it’s like to have a natural, normal lifestyle. Don’t know what they’re missing. Don’t find normality satisfying because that’s an alien experience to their generation. A loss of cultural memory.

There’s nothing wrong with the life of the imagination. Nothing wrong with fiction. Nothing wrong with a dash of escapist recreation. But it seems as if many contemporary Americans suffer from a deeper discontent or alienation.

The argument from nonexistent evil

Some recent comments I left at Victor Reppert’s blog:

steve said...

    An obvious problem with Parsons's position is that an argument from evil presupposes evil. Yet many secular philosophers are moral relativists or moral nihilists (e.g. Michael Ruse, Alex Rosenberg, Quentin Smith, J. L. Mackie, Massimo Pigliucci).

    Because Parsons is an apostate, he retains a residual sense of morality, which is a carryover from his long lost Christian faith.

steve said...

    BeingItself said...

    "That makes no sense. If Alex Rosenberg tried to run an argument from evil, you would have a point. But the fact that there are Alex Rosenburgs is not a problem for Parson's position."

    It's a problem for Parsons if even his fellow atheist philosophers admit that they can't justify a necessary premise in the argument from evil.

    Before Parsons can disprove Christianity, he has to disprove atheistic amorality.

Evil is a key premise in the argument from evil. Well, if many atheist philosophers deny moral realism, then Parsons can't take that premise for granted in his argument.

Rather, it is incumbent on Parsons to argue for his premise before he can use that premise.

steve said...

    BeingItself said...

    “False. That evil exists is a premise of Christianity. The argument tries to show that a certain type of theism is internally inconsistent.”

    What makes you think Parsons is merely assuming the existence of evil for the sake of argument? If you’ve read much of his stuff, he has fits of moral indignation on a regular basis.

    Moreover, why would a moral relativist or moral nihilist care whether a certain type of theism is internally inconsistent? After all, they’re in no position to say it’s morally wrong to be inconsistent, or intellectually virtuous to be consistent. So even if the argument could succeed on purely internal grounds, that’s a pyrrhic victory.

    That reduces atheology to a crossword puzzle. Just a way to pass the time.
steve said...

    BeingItself said...

    “False. That evil exists is a premise of Christianity. The argument tries to show that a certain type of theism is internally inconsistent.”

    Well, that's obviously false. When atheists deploy the argument from evil, they typically cite paradigm-cases of gratuitous evil to illustrate their premise.

    That, however, depends on their interpretation of what counts as evil. So the atheist is applying his own yardstick.

steve said...

    BeingItself said...

    "You are getting sillier and sillier. All that is needed is for Parsons and the Christian to agree that there is evil in the world."

    Thanks for illustrating your jejune grasp of the issues. The existence of evil is a presupposition of Christianity, not a disproof of Christianity. In fact, the nonexistence of evil would disprove Christianity.

    The atheist requires something far more specific than the bare existence of evil. Usually, his premise requires the existence of gratuitous evil. And that's something that many Christians don't concede.

    Moreover, some Christians don't consider the existence of gratuitous evil to be a defeater for their version of Christian theism.

    You also dodged the issue of why a moral relativist or nihilist would even care about the problem of evil.

steve said...

    im-skeptical said...

    "I've always found it difficult to understand why this is so hard for most theists to grasp. I think it's much more likely that you will hear atheists speak of 'gratuitous suffering' than of 'gratuitous evil'."

    You keep swinging and you keep missing. There's a reason it's called the argument from evil rather than the argument from suffering. For unless suffering (or a particular type of suffering) is evil, there is nothing even prima facie incongruous about the existence of suffering in relation to God's goodness.

steve said...

    im-skeptical said...

    “You don't even understand the argument from evil. Go back and read what BI and I said, which has obviously gone right over your head.”

    Yes, you’re repeating yourself. That’s because you shot your wad the first time around.

    I responded to your confused objection. Sorry that sailed right over your head.

    “The argument from evil is not in any way predicated on what atheists believe. It's predicated on what YOU believe. You haven't presented any argument at all. You don't even know what you're arguing against.”

    In order for the argument from evil to get off the ground, the atheist must identify examples of evil. And not just any evil will do. After all, the bare existence of evil is not a prima facie defeater or undercutter for Christianity, inasmuch as evil is a given in Christian theology. A fixture of Christian theology.

    That gives the atheist two options. On the one hand, he can cite empirical examples which he deems to be evil by his own standards. However, that will require him to justify his value system. Since many atheists reject moral realism, they disqualify themselves from venturing objectively true moral judgments. Therefore, an atheist can’t take moral realism for granted.

    Conversely, he can try to identify examples which the Christian deems to be gratuitously evil. The problem with that tactic is that, by definition, a Christian wouldn’t be a Christian unless he thought God had a morally sufficient reason for the evils he causes and/or permits. So his attempt to mount an internal argument from evil is abortive from the outset.

steve said...

    im-skeptical said...

    “Obtusity abounds.”

    Thanks for your candid self-admission.

    “I think it's pointless. Leave it to Steve to mindlessly repeat the same old lame objections that don't address the problem: ‘the atheist must identify examples of evil’. No, evil is YOUR problem, not mine. That's what the argument is about.”

    Take Rowe’s famous hypothetical about Bambi dying in a forest fire. Rowe considers that an example of gratuitous evil. That presumes the atheist’s interpretation of the event.

    Sorry you’re chronically unable to draw elementary distinctions.

    “That's the crux of the biscuit. You're OK with it because 1: you haven't given it serious thought, or 2: you just don't care as long as all this bad stuff doesn't happen to you. And I doubt you ever will.”

    Even if your armchair psychology were correct, that’s irrelevant to your claim that the problem of evil demonstrates the incoherence of Christian theism.

On dealing with doubt

I recently left some comments in response to this post:

steve hays

[Jeff Lowder] I have to confess I find myself slightly amused by the very expression, ‘dealing with doubt.’ As opposed to what? Dealing with evidence?…If that strikes you as odd, well, that’s exactly how I feel when I read the words, ‘dealing with doubt.’ It seems to me that any viewpoint which struggles with how to ‘deal with doubt’ is already admitting a defeat of sorts; it comes across as emphasizing the importance of belief over truth.

Sorry, Jeff, but that strikes me as socially naïve. Aren’t you aware of the fact that people can harbor doubts for emotional reasons as well as intellectual reasons?

If the wife of a medical researcher leaves him for another man, he may become very depressed. He may doubt the value of his life’s work.

He doesn’t entertain doubts because he discovered new evidence that undermines his theories. Rather, his doubt is due to his emotional state, which is due, in turn, to what’s going on in his life.


Are you taking the position that people can't suffer from misplaced doubts? Take people who suffer from self-doubts because they had a father who made them feel like failures at whatever they did.

Or what about someone who, due to low self-esteem, doubts that his (or her) spouse truly loves him (or her).

steve hays

Actually, the OTF is a patently one-sided test which persuasively indicates the extent to which atheists like Loftus only play lip service to the rationality of their own beliefs.

By definition, your test is one-sided inasmuch as it's an outsider test of faith rather than an outsider test of belief. It only tests religious beliefs, not beliefs generally.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Just "Celebrating" Their Heritage?

Stealth Wear

Social conservatives fight back

Victims of Fort Hood Shooting Denied Purple Hearts

Why is gov't in the marriage biz?

Promissory presuppositionalism

Choosing Hats did a recent podcast:

I believe Joshua Whipps was the speaker. It was a scattershot, stream-of-consciousness affair, in which he took issue with a wide-ranging cast of characters, viz. Baptists, dispensationalists, Arminians, evidentalists, W. L. Craig, J. P. Moreland, Sean Choi, David Byron, Paul Manata, Fred Butler, Dan Phillips, and last as well as least, yours truly.

i) He seemed to say Baptists weren’t real Calvinists or truly Reformed because they aren’t confessional. I find that bizarre considering the fact that according to his bio at Choosing Hats, he classifies himself as a Reformed Baptist who subscribes to the London Baptist Confession of Faith. Go figure.

ii) He seems to regard Scott Oliphint and Lane Tipton as true-blue Reformed/Van Tilian apologists. But are they confessional by his stringent standards? Do Oliphint and Tipton espouse six-day creation, like the Westminster Divines? Do they think the pope is the Antichrist–which, in turn, commits them to a historicist reading of Revelation? Do they espouse the Confessional position regarding the duties of the civil magistrate? Do they subscribe to the Westminster Directory of Worship?

iii) From what I can tell, the folks who are moving the heavy lumber in apologetics at WTS these days are in the NT department (e.g. Gregory Beale, Vern Poythress) rather than the apologetics department.

iv) I have issues with evidential apologists. However, I prefer working apologists to navel-gazers. Also, not to put to sharp a point on it, but compare the apologetic output (both in quality and quantity) of William Lane Craig to Scott Oliphint. Age-wise, I believe they’re about 7 years apart.

v) Whipps says a dispensationalist can’t be a Calvinist or Van Tilian apologist. But that raises a number of issues:

a) Van Tilian apologetics is no more traditional than dispensationalism. If we date dispensationalism to the 19C, then Van Tilian apologetics dates to the 20C. Van Til was consciously bucking the Old Princeton school of apologetics (e.g. Warfield).

b) Moreover, to my knowledge, “covenantal apologetics” represents a synthesis of Van Til and Meredith Kline. So that’s even more recent and innovative. 

c) Both dispensationalism and covenant theology have undergone various developments. On the one hand you have progressive dispensationalism. On the other hand you have the contretemps between John Murray and Meredith Kline. You also have mediating versions of covenant theology by O. Palmer Robertson, Bruce Waltke, and Thomas McComiskey (to name a few). What version of covenant theology is Whipps comparing to what version of dispensationalism?

vi) It’s a problem when we shift our focus from the important question of truth to the semantic question of definition. This obsession with defining who’s in and who’s out vis-à-vis Van Tilian apologetics is eerily similar to the way in which atheists try to discount evidence for miracles. By definition, scientists and historians must operate with methodological naturalism. By definition, historians and scientists can’t acknowledge the occurrence of a miracle. Instead of dealing with reality, the debate is diverted to preemptive rules.

vi) Whipps doesn’t specify what he’s been reading of mine, but he seems to be alluding to my mini-series responding to Nate Shannon. Shannon published a critique of James Anderson and Greg Welty on the theistic foundations of logic. Let’s stop and consider what was missing from Shannon’s treatment. If a Van Tilian apologist were serious about laying the theistic foundations of abstract objects, he’d present a two-step argument:

a) Present a detailed model of his Christian alternative.

b) Carefully expound and critique the rival positions, viz. conceptualism, constructivism, fictionalism, intuitionism, logical nominalism, modal realism (e.g. David Lewis), &c.

Is that what Shannon does? No. He just reissues the usual, dog-eared IOUs. Promissory presuppositionalism. Trust us: the check is in the mail.

vii) Whipps made glancing reference to my discussion of simplicity and analogy in reference to Shannon. However, he didn’t bother to say what, if anything, was wrong with my discussion. In fact, he even admitted that he wasn’t going to argue the point.

He made a passing reference to my alleged position on innate knowledge/acquired knowledge, but there was no follow up.

At some point your bookie is going to collect on the IOUs. You can’t keep assuring your bookie that you’ll make it back in the next game. At least where Whipps is concerned, Choosing Hats needs to doff the top hat and don the hard hat.

(BTW, my comments are directed at Joshua Whipps, not Chris Bolt or Justin McCurry.)