Saturday, May 04, 2013

Sports teams

In the past, the names of sports teams have often been racist, sexist, and homophobic–promoting a culture of violence.

Here’s a list of approved names (and corresponding mascots) for high school hockey, lacrosse, football, and wrestling teams.

The Battling Bambis

The Howling Chihuahuas

The Feisty Fawns

The Gutsy Guppies

The Scrappy Hamsters

The Killer Kittens

The Spunky Puppies

The Terrible Turtles

The Raging Teddy Bears

The Rabid Bunny Rabbits

Earliest Nomina Sacra

The image at right is from here.

The “Meta-Data” of Earliest Christian Manuscripts

The Continuing Debate:

The “nomina sacra”, a set of words given special treatment by copyists in ancient Christian manuscripts, continues to be a subject of debate about what the practice signifies and how it originated. The words in question are written in a unique abbreviated form with a curious horizontal stroke placed over the abbreviation. The earliest and most consistently treated words are the Greek words for “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” and “Christ. These words are written as nomina sacra in the earliest clear instances of them in Christian manuscripts, which take us as far back as the second century CE.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Bloodness martyr complex

Poor little Randal Rauser is suffering from a bloodless martyr complex. He’s covered himself in bandages, but when you peel back each bandage, there’s soft pink skin underneath.

If you’re going to cultivate a martyr complex, at least have the scars to show for it.

Over the past year I’ve been under attack by a handful of Calvinists who have attempted (among other things) to ensure that I lose my job. Their attacks have been characterized by quote-mining, misrepresentation, and outright deception.

I always appreciate the unintentional self-incrimination of defendants who say they’ve been “attacked” when you provide lengthy verbatim excerpts documenting their views in their own words, complete with links to the full text.

I’ve also been accused of denying substitutionary atonement simply because I don’t accept penal substitutionary atonement as a theoretical account of the mechanism of atonement. Sadly, my attackers are apparently unable to grasp such theological nuance or to conceive of thoughtful evangelicals differing with their Calvinist views.

If Calvinism is the last-standing theological tradition that still upholds penal substitution, then so much the better for Calvinism and so much the worse for all the others.

BTW, I happen to agree with Rauser. Like him, I don’t accept penal substitutionary atonement as a theoretical account of the mechanism of atonement. Rather, I accept penal substitutionary atonement as the teaching of Scripture.

And to cap it off I’ve been called things like “apostate” and “God hater”.

One mark of intellectual charlatans like Rauser is when they quote one or two-word conclusions without giving the supporting arguments.

For example, I’ve been accused of denying inerrancy even though I have explicitly endorsed inerrancy (properly defined) as in my article “Errant statements in an inerrant book.” (I know these attackers must be familiar with this article because they seem to document whatever I write with meticulous precision.)

Rauser’s “explicit endorsement of inerrancy” is pure sophistry. That may snooker credulous seminary administrators, but gullibility is not a theological virtue.

Once again, Rauser lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of those malevolent Calvinists. And to prove his point, here’s a review by a notorious Internet Calvinist:

But what about the Bible? Rauser’s defenses of Scripture are sure to leave some Christians dissatisfied. While it is true that he makes an effort to disabuse Loftus of his severely critical interpretations, his concessions with respect to the problem of Old Testament violence and biological evolution give the impression that there is something strange about holding to the authority of Scripture in this day of age. Why not just jettison it and search for a more adequate revelation of God? Rauser maintains that despite Scripture’s oddities, God is a supremely competent author, but if Loftus has achieved anything in this book, it is that he creates some prima facie reasonable doubt for this claim.

There you have it. A deceptive Calvinist who’s waging a personal vendetta against Rauser.

Wait a minute. Adam Omelianchuk is actually a critic of Calvinism. So you don’t have to be a Calvinist to see through Rauser’s sham inerrancy.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Tasmanian Devils at dinnertime

In the fetid atmosphere of militant atheism, there’s been a recent resurgence of efforts to deny the historicity of Jesus. There have been Christian works written to refute this retrograde trend. However, that’s almost superfluous considering how these works are trashed by their fellow infidels. It’s like watching Tasmanian Devils at dinnertime:

Natural law and homosexuality...

Ridgley on the Trinity

Universal preschool

In his State of the Union speech, Obama proposed universal preschool. Liberals are suckers for nice-sounding programs.

There are two ways of interpreting Obama’s motives. The most charitable reading is that he views this is an issue of fairness. It’s unfair that some kids have access to preschool, but other kids don’t. Liberals have a cookie-cutter view of fairness.

The less charitable reading is that this is a calculated effort to weaken the bond between parents and children. Effectively make all kids wards of the state. Another move to empower the almighty state. Make everyone a pawn on the statist chessboard, except for the ruling class, which gets to move the pieces.

Children between the ages of 3-5 don’t need preschool. They need parents and grandparents. They need unstructured playtime. They need the freedom to explore the world on their own.

However, preschool is appealing to working parents because it’s “free” babysitting. Of course, you still pay for it through the backdoor.

Liberals have a wonderful circular scam. They make the cost of living so high that both parents must work outside the home. That, in turn, requires childcare by someone other than the parents. It makes parents dependent on gov’t to supply an artificial need which gov’t created in the first place.

The illogical left

The long and short of it is this. Jason Collins still claims to be a Christian even though he is openly gay. ESPN asked Broussard to comment on Collins’ claim that one can be both gay and Christian. Broussard answered the question politely and boldly, and he did so as a Christian. In fact, I think he said pretty much what I would have said if I had been asked such a question. You can watch the exchange above, but here’s Broussard in his own words:

Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.

I’d just like to make an observation about the Broussard kerfuffle. Predictably, his statement elicited knee-jerk condemnation from the liberal establishment. Liberals react and emote rather than think.

What I’d like to point out is that the apoplectic response is irrational even on–indeed, especially on–liberal terms. Notice, at least from what I’ve that the question at issue wasn’t whether sodomy is wrong, but whether sodomy is Christian. Given Christianity, sodomy is wrong. Sodomy is incompatible with Christianity. The question was posed in terms of Christian theology and ethics. That was the frame of reference.

Keep in mind that this is something liberals, especially secular liberals, agree with. If they stopped long enough to wipe the spittle from their lips and think about it, they share Broussard’s view that Scripture condemns sodomy. Considered on Biblical grounds, homosexual behavior is opposed to Christian morality.

Indeed, that’s one of the politically correct reasons that liberals and atheists reject the Bible. They say the Bible is “homophobic.” “Intolerant.” It has this “oppressive, backward code of conduct. They cite that as a reason to reject the Bible. They cite that as a reason to reject Christianity.

In substance, Broussard is saying the very same thing Richard Dawkins is saying.

Of course, there’s a difference: Broussard believes the Bible while Dawkins disdains the Bible, but they both agree on what traditional Christian ethics teaches regarding homosexual conduct.

So why the livid reaction to Broussard’s statement? Because liberals have a conditioned reflex when it comes to its mascotts. But by attacking Broussard, they unwittingly engage in self-condemnation. They are implicitly condemning liberals who condemn Christian ethics for the very reasons Broussard gave.

Helping Roger Olson Become (Even More) Irenic

Roger Olson is big on being irenic. Part of what's involved in being irenic is understanding your opponents position, and stating it charitably. When he talks about unconditional election, his inability or unwillingness to understand the position or state it charitably seriously impair his ability to be irenic. Since Olson claims his goal is to be irenic and properly represent his theological opponents, Triablogue would like to offer him help in that area. (So Roger, pay attention, this is for your good.) Olson writes,
Contrary to what one respondant claims, classical Calvinism does believe that God’s election of persons to salvation is absolutely unconditional.  To say it is not absolutely unconditional because it is based on God’s “good pleasure” does nothing to ease the problem. What causes God’s “good pleasure” to be found in electing one person and not another to salvation; I have read literally scores of classical Calvinist authors on this very subject (from Calvin to Piper) and found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another. The answer is always an appeal to mystery or something like “God has his good reasons” (without any suggestion what they might be) or “according to his good pleasure” which doesn’t even begin to answer the question. Jonathan Edwards was consistent in admitting it is an arbitrary choice on God’s part. I just wish more contemporary Calvinists would admit that.
1. Olson wants unconditional election to be absolutely unconditional. That is, conditioned on nothing. He seems to think that it can't be demonstrated that it's conditioned on something. It's trivial to demonstrate election is conditional on something. God elects according to his plan and for a purpose, and according to his will. Absent the plan and the purpose, there would be no election.

 2. Olson's response to (1) is that this "does nothing to ease the problem" because Olson has "found no hint of any answer to why God chooses one person and rejects another." But this (illicitly) shifts the issue from metaphysics to epistemology. Indeed, to the limits of human knowledge. The first question is: "Is there something election is conditioned on." We answer, "Yes; God's plan, purpose, and pleasure." Olson's response: "That doesn't answer the question. Why does God's plan, purpose, and pleasure select for one person over another." But that's a different question. Or does Olson hold to this principle:

 PRINCIPLE 1 = X is conditioned on (or grounded in) Y if and only if we know why or how X is conditioned (or grounded in) Y.

 Other than endorsing some strong form of anti-realism, or seriously overestimating the scope of our knowledge (cognitive arrogance), why believe PRINCIPLE 1?

 3. Olson seems to suggest that Reformed theology (I use 'Reformed' purposefully; I know Olson's qualms with it) has confessed only that God elects according to "his good pleasure," otherwise, "it's a mystery." First, a historical point. Unconditional Election, as presented in response to the Five Articles of Remonstrance, is at pains to say God does not elect based on any condition for salvation, such as foreseen faith or good works. Arminianism had endorsed the former, and is arguably logically committed to the latter. The main concern is God electing according to foreseen faith in the believer, or meeting some other condition of salvation.

 Second, let's look at two Reformed confessional statements. First from the Westminster Confession, second from the Canons of Dort:

  WCF notes the choice is made: “according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will.”

  Canons of Dort teach: “For Scripture declares that there is a single good pleasure, purpose, and plan of God’s will, by which he chose us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which he prepared in advance for us to walk in.”

 So why does Olson, Mr. Irenicism himself, always and only focus on "good pleasure"? These confessional statements also say God elected according to a "purpose" and "counsel" and "plan" according to which God choose us. To respond that the things God plans according to purposes and counsels give God pleasure does not entail that plans, purposes, and counsels collapse into, or are identical to, "good pleasure," where the latter is usually construed voluntaristically and lacking in any reason.

 Here's a question: How is election arbitrary? Can a choice that is planned, has a purpose, and was made through a counsel be arbitrary? Perhaps, it would be if one endorsed this principle:

 PRINCIPLE 2 = A choice made according to a plan, for a purpose, and through counsel is not an arbitrary choice in and only if we know the details of the plan, the exact purpose, and what the counsel consisted in.

 But why accept PRINCIPLE 2?

 So, since Olson now knows that Reformed theology states that God's choice to elect some sinner is based on a plan, has a purpose, and was made according to a counsel, he cannot continue to say Reformed theology always and only punts to good pleasure; otherwise, mystery. To be sure, there is some mystery, in that we don't know the reasons or details of the plan, or what the exact purpose is. But there is no mystery that God elects according to reasons, and for purposes. So, there is no mystery that there is a reason. There's a mystery as to the exact details. But a lot of things are mysterious in this way. We take a lot of things on the testimony of scientists, and it would be foolish for most of us to claim we know "the details" and "inner workings" of the theory or phenomena we believe is the case.

Francis Collins' testimony

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Our banana republican prez

Calling Islam...Islam

Gay Rites

Are Christians hypocritical to support the death penalty?

Final frontiers in marriage equality

Speak Up

It's not surprising when a liberal web site, like Slate, has mostly liberal commenters in its threads. I'd like to see more of a conservative presence there, but the dominance of liberals isn't surprising. However, you wouldn't expect most commenters to be liberal at a conservative site, like National Review. And I don't think most commenters there are liberal. But liberals do have a disproportionately high presence at many such sites. Some of the threads I've recently seen at National Review are what prompted me to write this post.

In one thread, a conservative there commented on how liberals had been bused in to post comments. Another poster said something to the effect that liberals on welfare have more time on their hands to do something like post in online forums. It's true that people often are bused in to online forums and other contexts. And it's true that welfare recipients and other people who are home a lot tend to be liberal. But I doubt that either explanation, or a combination of such explanations, even comes close to entirely explaining what's going on.

For example, there will often be a thread with, say, ten people commenting. Four of them are liberal. Even if those four were bused in, are welfare recipients, etc., it's not as though outnumbering four people by a large margin should be difficult for conservatives to do in a context like the National Review web site. Yet, it frequently doesn't happen. Often, to make the situation even worse, the conservatives who do post aren't posting as often, aren't making as much of an effort to argue for their position, and so forth. In the thread with ten participants, the four liberals will say more than the six conservatives and will make more of an effort to argue for their position. Or one conservative will make a significant effort to support his side of the argument, but the other five won't. Or something like that. It isn't just a matter of liberals being so active at a site like National Review. It's also a matter of conservatives being so inactive relative to their potential.

I've seen a lot of explanations offered for the sort of tendency I've described above, and there's some merit to those explanations. I've already mentioned some of them (busing in efforts, liberals tend to be home more). Another explanation often put forward is that liberals are more concerned about politics. They tend to be less religious, so politics is some sort of equivalent to religion for them. Liberals put the sort of effort into politics that conservatives put into other aspects of life, like religion. Though explanations like these do have some merit, they're insufficient.

Take the last explanation I mentioned. Yes, liberals are less religious, and that does explain the tendencies I'm describing to some extent. But why do the same tendencies show up in so many other contexts? For example, I often see threads at Christian apologetic web sites that are an equivalent of what I've described above regarding National Review. Five people are posting in a thread, and two of them are atheists. Or, worse yet, four of the five are atheists. The fact that only five people are posting is part of the problem. And, apparently, all of the Christians who aren't posting think it's not a problem for them to be uninvolved while they let a small handful of other Christians do all of the work. I frequently see threads at apologetic and other religious web sites, not just at political sites and in other less religious contexts, where Christian participation is absurdly low and highly disproportionate to the level of participation by non-Christians. Why?

The problem isn't just that liberals, atheists, and others who are wrong are so active. There's also a problem with conservatives, Christians, etc. being so inactive.

Apparently, one of the reasons why the Democrats did so well in the 2012 election was that they were so active online (contacting people on Facebook, sending out emails, buying ads at popular web sites, etc.). The Republicans didn't make as much of an effort, even though many of the potential voters were so open to being influenced. It's even more appalling when Christians allow themselves to be outperformed. More is at stake.

Part of the problem is that conservatives, including conservative Christians, have tended to overestimate their position in society. They've been complacent with their majority status, or they've thought of themselves as a majority when they haven't actually been one. Minorities often fight harder. Being cornered sometimes has that effect on people. Even as liberals become a majority on some issues, like homosexual marriage, they retain some elements of the minority mindset. And their conservative opponents keep thinking like a majority in some ways, a majority that's largely presumptuous, apathetic, complacent, and lazy.

Then there's the problem of being too slow to adapt to changing technology and social expectations. A Christian web site will give itself a facelift, perhaps improving its appearance and starting to have a Twitter account, for example. But the behavior of the site's owners doesn't change much. They're still too slow to notice societal trends, too shallow in how they address issues, too unwilling to interact with opposing positions in depth, etc. Their web site's facelift doesn't amount to much.

Part of what we need to do to adapt to the changes occurring in the world around us is to get more active online. That's where the technology is headed, and that's where people are. Complaining about it doesn't make it go away. If you'd prefer to spend more time offline, then too bad. God placed you in the twenty-first-century world, with its technological advances and unprecedented access to information. I suspect that the large majority of you live in a wealthy nation with a lot of technology, political freedom, and other advantages. You have opportunities that people living in other times and places haven't had. To whom much is given, much is required. Our responsibilities are largely of an intellectual nature. We have such easy access to information through books, web sites, etc. In addition to being involved in praying, reading the Bible, and other common Christian disciplines, you should be participating in online forums frequently (discussion boards, blogs, Twitter, and whatever else). Do you regularly make an effort to participate in such things? When you see a thread at a political web site about homosexual marriage, and the liberal participants have a disproportionately high presence in the discussion, do you just remain silent? Or do you speak up? When you see a Christian at an apologetics web site carrying on a discussion with an atheist (or two, three, or four atheists at once, as often happens), do you just sit back and watch? Or do you get involved? Do you help your fellow Christians carry the burden, or do you just let them do all of the heavy lifting? Why don't you give up some of the time you spend on sports, movies, housework, etc. in order to do more important things, including spending more time in online discussions about issues that are significant? Since so many of the most important issues in life are discussed online more than they are offline, and people are spending more time online than they used to, shouldn't your behavior change accordingly?

Tebow and Collins


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Assessing AHA

In this post I’m going to give my impressions of AHA. I don’t have an in-depth knowledge of AHA, so this is very provisional.

As abolitionists, we make no compromises, nor do we adopt a moderate or incrementalist position when it comes to the abolition of human abortion. We believe abortion is the most vicious act of dehumanization and oppression ever practiced in human history, and we advocate for its immediate and total abolition. We do not believe that the planned-and-paid-for-murder of an unborn human being is ever morally justified. Abortion is never the right choice, never the only option, and never the best solution to any situation.

This statement bundles two claims into one, so we need to distinguish them to assess them separately.

i) One is a claim concerning strategy and tactics: “nor do we adopt a moderate or incrementalist position when it comes to the abolition of human abortion…We advocate for its immediate and total abolition.”

ii) I’m inclined to disagree with this position. Given the current and foreseeable political climate, I don’t think the immediate and total abolition of abortion is politically feasible. I wish it were so, but it’s not. So I think an incrementalist strategy is the only realistic strategy.

However, I think AHA distinguishes between thinking that incremental results are likely going to be the way it goes, and incremental changes being our aim.

iii) I’m also concerned that the “uncompromising” strategy of AHA will lead to disillusionment, just as some conservatives surrendered on the cultural wars when the Reagan Revolution and the Moral Majority failed to achieve its goals. If you set the bar too high, people give up.

iv) We also need to distinguish between “compromise in reference to process and compromise in reference to principle. Compromising on strategy and tactics is not a moral compromise. Strategy and tactics are means to an end, not an end in themselves. These are inherently pragmatic and adaptable.

v) I don’t think the prolife movement should set targets, viz. targeted goals, where you specify what you expect to achieve or aim for. Problem is, you don’t know in advance what is doable until you try to do it, so I think it’s better to just do as much as you can rather than aiming for an abstract target. The goal should be do accomplish as much as you can every year.

vi) But in fairness to AHA, some things can be said in favor of their strategy/tactics.

I think one objective of AHA is to force nominally prolife politicians who pay lipservice to the prolife cause by casting free votes and rhetorically posturing to actually do something that makes a difference. Take effective action.

vii) I believe AHA also thinks the incrementalist strategy fosters a complacent attitude which results in some prolife organizations becoming irrelevant self-perpetuating self-employment agencies that take in donations to pay the staff, but have little to show for the investment in terms of concrete progress.

I’m not qualified to comment on that negative assessment. And I don’t think prolife organizations like the Life Training Institute are a waste of time and money. It’s doing important work by intellectually equipping believers.

I respect both Scott Klusendorf and Alan Maricle. I feel no need to choose one over another. Both are doing fine work.

Like any coalition, the prolife movement has internal tensions. Joining forces with prolife Catholics is a double edged-sword. By refusing to allow for artificial birth control, Catholics make the public case against abortion far harder. Evangelicals who are joined at the hip with Catholics suffer accordingly.

viii) The aggressive tactics of AHA is doubtless a turnoff for some people. However, I suspect that AHA is borrowing a page from other activists, agitators, and pressure groups. Jewish, Black, and Latino activists, LGBT activists, feminists, environmentalists, animal rights activists, and food police employ confrontational, in-your-face tactics which may be off-putting, but are also quite successful in advancing their respective causes.  So AHA may feel the same basic approach should be deployed in the interests of the babies.

Many Americans have no moral center. Just as they can be bullied into taking the wrong position, they can be bullied into taking the right position. It would be preferable if they did the right thing for the right reason, but it’s better to do the right thing for the wrong reason than doing the wrong thing.

ix) Beyond the process issue is the question of whether abortion is wrong under all circumstances (“Abortion is never the right choice, never the only option, and never the best solution to any situation”). I myself think abortion is justifiable in cases where both the mother and child would die absent medical intervention. I think the double effect principle is a valid ethical distinction. In addition, you have hard cases like anencephalic infants.

But elsewhere, AHA does make allowance for therapeutic abortions, narrowly defined:

So I probably agree with AHA.

x) In politics (as well as other situations), it’s often prudent to demand more than you expect to receive. That gives you some bargaining room. In politics, you usually get less than you demand, so if you demand less, you get less than if you demanded more. If you demand more, you will get less than you demanded, but you will still get more than if you demanded less at the outset. At least, that’s how it often works out.

xi) AHA has been branded “anti-Catholic.” To begin with, I can hardly fault AHA for being too evangelical or evangelistic.

xii) Moreover, Francis Beckwith is both a leader of the prolife movement as well as an aggressive proselytizer for Roman Catholicism. Well, if Catholics can combine prolife activism with proselyzing for their faith, why not AHA?

xiii) Furthermore, I’ve read accounts in which Catholics were using the Rosary as a weapon to shout down AHA street evangelism. Here’s a reported example:

Well, tolerance is a two-way street. If Catholic critics of AHA have weaponized the Rosary, then they are in no position to complain about AHA. And I seriously doubt their bishops would approve of their obnoxious conduct. 

The new Shepherding Movement

In this post I’m not taking sides on AHA controversy. I’m just commenting on an objection to AHA.

Below is a guest post from Justin Edwards. Justin was one of the leaders of the Abolitionist Society of North Carolina, a chapter of the larger AHA movement. Justin is married to Jennifer, and they have three children.

So to anticipate one objection, yes, I am still an abolitionist, but no, I no longer endorse or support AHA.

AHA claims to be under the authority of the local church, yet the church many of them are a part of is not a local church ruled by, led by, taught by, or equipped by elders, which Jesus Christ has appointed to shepherd His Church realized in the local church (Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:17). Nor is this a church plant that was established under the authority of another local church, nor are the members at Door of Hope sent out to do any work of the ministry they claim to be doing. This is where their orthodoxy affects their orthopraxy in a negative way. They are in no way “subject to the elders” (1 Peter 5:5) and in no way can they “obey their leaders” (Hebrews 13:17) because they have no leaders (elders).

What is the scope of elder authority? If a Christian prolife organization must be authorized by church elders, what other things must their elders authorize? Did elders arrange Justin’s marriage to Jennifer? Does Justin require permission from his elders for the number of children he’s allowed to have?

The blanket appeal to elder authority which critics of AHA resort to reminds me of the Shepherding Movement. We’ve been down that road before. It doesn’t end well.

Honor the emperor

In this post I’m not taking sides on AHA controversy. I’m just commenting on an objection to AHA.

Below is a guest post from Justin Edwards. Justin was one of the leaders of the Abolitionist Society of North Carolina, a chapter of the larger AHA movement.

So to anticipate one objection, yes, I am still an abolitionist, but no, I no longer endorse or support AHA.

AHA claims to be under the authority of the local church, yet the church many of them are a part of is not a local church ruled by, led by, taught by, or equipped by elders, which Jesus Christ has appointed to shepherd His Church realized in the local church (Hebrews 13:7, 17; 1 Peter 5:1-11; 1 Timothy 5:17). Nor is this a church plant that was established under the authority of another local church, nor are the members at Door of Hope sent out to do any work of the ministry they claim to be doing. This is where their orthodoxy affects their orthopraxy in a negative way. They are in no way “subject to the elders” (1 Peter 5:5) and in no way can they “obey their leaders” (Hebrews 13:17) because they have no leaders (elders).

As long as he’s quoting 1 Peter, what about the second chapter:

13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 18 Slaves, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

Does Justin obey the emperor? I don’t mean, does he obey the President of the United States. Is he in submission to an emperor? Isn’t that what Peter commands? Submission to an emperor?

The authority of a US president is hardly equivalent to the authority of a Roman Emperor. Not on paper.

In no way can he obey the emperor because he has no emperor to honor.

Does Justin obey his slave-master? Isn’t that what Peter commands?

In no way can he honor his slave-master because he has no slave-master to obey.

On the face of it, isn’t Justin guilty of selectively prooftexting 1 Peter?

If contemporary Christians are obligated to institute elder-led churches, are contemporary Christians obligated to reinstitute slavery and reinstitute imperial government? 

Why does Justin tacitly assume that what Peter says about elders is transcultural, but what Peter says about emperors, slaves, and slave masters is culturebound?

Grace in winter

"Difficult but Necessary: Relinquishing Leadership in Winter to Renew in Another Season of Ministry" by Michael A. Milton.

Finding God at Harvard

"The Atheist's Dilemma" by Jordan Monge.

An unborn child

But the unborn child is more than a rock, tree or animal. In a perfectly ordinary sense requiring no elaborate argument, he is human. There are some who would argue that he is only a part of his mother’s body, and not an independent life. But even if he is “only” a part of his mother’s body, he is human — no less human than her arms and legs. Since he is human, he is in the image of God; for the “image of God” in the Bible includes every aspect of man, soul, body, and all parts. The Scripture tells us that we do not have power over our own bodies to do with as we please (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:4, a passage dealing specifically with the sexual function). Be­cause we are made in the image of God, the shedding of human blood (except, of course, in situations where such bloodshed is authorized elsewhere in Scripture) is wrong (Genesis 9:6). In view of these considerations, the abor­tion of an unborn child may never be undertaken casually, and may never be considered except for the weightiest reasons.


Knowing God

The word “knowledge” bears several senses, and it can take different kinds of objects. You can know persons, skills, or propositions (a proposition being an item of information). When we say we “know that” something is the case, we’re talking about knowing propositions, as when I say I know that Phoenix is in Arizona. When we say we “know how,” we’re talking about knowing skills, as in “I know how to play lacrosse.” When we say we “know him,” we’re talking about knowledge of persons, which is usually a matter of friendship (or perhaps enmity), rather than just the knowledge of facts. Someone may know a lot of facts or information about Colin Powell without being able to say that he knows Colin Powell. To know Colin Powell is to have a personal relationship with him in friendship or enmity.

In the Bible, the most important kind of knowledge is the knowledge of persons, or, I should say, one person in particular. In John 17:3, Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” In Phil. 3, Paul states the great goal of his life: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead.”

Knowing God, knowing Christ; is that the center of your life, the center of your quest for knowledge? It ought to be. And that should mean that all other knowledge is knowledge in relation to God. On the first page of his Institutes, Calvin says that he can’t know himself apart from God—or, significantly, God apart from himself. The most important part of knowing anything is knowing how that thing is related to God. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.


The whole Bible is apologetic

"The whole Bible is apologetic," in that in every chapter of every book God is trying to persuade us to change our thinking or our way of living. So if you're preaching the word of God faithfully, every sermon will be apologetic, or will have an apologetic aspect. So the preacher needs to ask of every text, "What is God trying to persuade us of here, and on what grounds?" That is, of course, a perspective on preaching, but not the only perspective. Scripture performs other functions too.

In preaching you may also need to persuade your congregation that (1) the treatment of your text by radical Bible critics is wrong, (2) the modern alternatives to the biblical teaching are false and incoherent, (3) modern man actually can believe in the Biblical God, and (4) without the biblical God, there is no coherent way to think or live.


God's presence in the wilderness

I'd recommend Iain Duguid's sermons here and here.

The myth of “church unity” in the early church

Steven Wedgeworth is just simply awesome.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Calvinism and the “Leviticus Principle”

Augustine and Aquinas on suicide

I’m going to examine some traditional objections to suicide.

Augustine argued that suicide was self-murder, as a logical extension of the fifth commandment:

God’s command ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ is to be taken as forbidding self-destruction, especially as it does not add ‘thy neighbor’, as it does when it forbids false witness, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor’ (City of God, book I, chapter 20).

This is an argument from analogy, based on the perceived symmetry between taking someone else’s life and taking one’s own life. The argument has a lot of superficial appeal, but is overstated.

i) The reasoning is potentially reversible. After all, the Mosaic law includes cases of justifiable homicide (e.g. capital punishment, the laws of war). Homicide is not conterminous with murder. Although all murders are homicides, not all homicides are murders.

By parity of argument, if there are cases of justifiable homicide, then there are cases of justifiable self-homicide.

I’m not saying that’s a sound argument for suicide. I’m just saying that based on how Augustine framed the issue, his argument invites that counterargument.

ii) There’s another problem with the analogy. Let’s compare the analogy to some counterexamples:

a) If taking someone else’s life is murder, then taking one’s own life is self-murder:

b) If withdrawing money from someone else’s bank account is theft, then withdrawing money from one’s own bank account is theft.

c) If reusing someone else’s work without attribution is plagiarism, then reusing one own work without attribution is plagiarism.

Seems to me that Augustine’s analogy is overly facile. At best, Augustine needs to supply a missing premise.

iii) Is taking your life always murderous? On 9/11, we saw office workers trapped in the upper stories of the Twin Towers. Some of them chose to jump to their death rather than burn to death. I wouldn’t say that was self-murder. I wouldn’t even say that was wrong.

iv) Of course, that’s an exceptional case. Many or most cases of suicide may well be self-murder. But if some cases are not, then Augustine can’t argue that suicide is murder in principle. He can’t argue that suicide is intrinsically murderous.

Aquinas presents additional objections to suicide:

I answer that, It is altogether unlawful to kill oneself, for three reasons. First, because everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being, and resists corruptions so far as it can. Wherefore suicide is contrary to the inclination of nature, and to charity whereby every man should love himself. Hence suicide is always a mortal sin, as being contrary to the natural law and to charity.

But this is overstated. Did the office workers on 9/11 kill themselves because they hated themselves? No.

Secondly, because every part, as such, belongs to the whole. Now every man is part of the community, and so, as such, he belongs to the community. Hence by killing himself he injures the community, as the Philosopher declares (Ethic. v, 11).

i) There’s some truth to this, but it depends on how broadly we define “community.” Does this mean individuals belong to the State? That would be totalitarian.

ii) Moreover, the argument could potentially backfire. If a murderous dictator kills himself, the community benefits from his demise. Far from harming the community, the community is better off.

ii) It would be better to narrow the definition. Suicide generally harms the friends and family members who are left behind.

iii) However, some people commit suicide because they are old and lonely. They have no friends and family who mourn their loss. The Thomistic argument doesn’t anticipate that contingency.

iv) In addition, it suggests your life isn’t inherently valuable, but only valuable insofar as your life is valued by others. Peter Singer could redeploy that as an argument for euthanasia.

Thirdly, because life is God's gift to man, and is subject to His power, Who kills and makes to live. Hence whoever takes his own life, sins against God, even as he who kills another's slave, sins against that slave's master, and as he who usurps to himself judgment of a matter not entrusted to him. For it belongs to God alone to pronounce sentence of death and life, according to Deuteronomy 32:39, "I will kill and I will make to live."

i) This is a promising argument, but it needs to be refined. As a rule, a “gift” implies transfer of ownership. If I give you something, then I relinquish claims on it. But on that definition, a man does have the right to take his God-given life by his own hand.

In fact, freewill theists so emphasize human autonomy that suicide might be generally defensible on libertarian assumptions. Of course, a Calvinist would demur.

ii) Mind you, even on that definition, it’s possible to abuse a gift. If, in his will, a renown violinist bequeaths his Guarneri del Gesù to his star student, and his student then sells the violin to buy a strip club in Reno, the student has dishonored his mentor.

iii) It is also possible to place conditions on a gift. A donor or grantor can designate the grant or donation for a particular purpose.

iv) Some would say a gift you can’t refuse is not a real gift. However, that’s overstated.

The victim of a traffic accident who’s wheeled into the ER unconscious can’t refuse live-saving treatment, but would we say it’s not a gift?

Likewise, someone who’s mentally ill can’t refuse psychotropic drugs that would restore his sanity, but would we say it’s not a gift?

v) A better argument would be to say, not that life is a gift from God, but that life is a loan from God. We’re like tenants. God is the landlord.

On that view, suicide is wrong because we’re taking (or destroying) something that doesn’t belong to us–without the owner’s permission.

Of course, there are situations in which one can rightly dispose of someone else’s property. So the argument would have to take into account God’s unique prerogatives.

v) We can also think of life, not simply as a “gift,” but a privilege. We should be supremely grateful for the privilege of life. We owe God a debt of gratitude we can never repay.

My Favorite Marcion

rogereolson says:
April 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I think I’ve made clear here that there are portions of the OT I cannot make sense of and have given up trying. I see them as Hebrew literature. God chose to include them in our canon. Jesus sometimes contradicted them. There is much wisdom in the OT but also much that is dark and impenetrable.

Incidentally, denigrating “Hebrew literature” is the classic position of Nazi theologians like Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emmanuel Hirsch.

"God can't stop it!"

rogereolson says:
April 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I think our disagreement must lie in our perspectives about divine permission. I see God as sometimes (perhaps often) permitting evil because he cannot stop it–not due to any lack of power but due to what I can only call (for lack of a better term) rules that only he knows.

rogereolson says:
April 25, 2013 at 12:43 pm

But, speaking only for myself now, I agree that “all this is inexplicable” except by appeal to 1) the fallenness of the world due to sin (Romans 8), 2) rules God knows, understands and abides by, and 3) the particularities of situations that no one but God fully understands (that determine when God can and cannot intervene). Again, I’ll suggest a good book for you to read: Evil and the God of Love by Christian philosopher Michael Peterson. Philosopher Keith Ward has also written much on this subject. C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain is also helpful.

rogereolson says:
April 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Imagine a world exactly like ours except that God gives clear warnings to everyone who might be affected by evil or calamity. Then read C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain. Also, stop thinking of God’s foreknowledge as providentially advantageous–as if foreknowing something is going to happen makes it possible for God to change what is going to happen.

rogereolson says:
April 25, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Well, we see things differently. What else is there to say? We’ve discussed this here many times. I’m not sure you understand what is meant by a “non-whimsical world.” It’s a world where human actions have somewhat predictable consequences. Where, for example, gun don’t turn to putty every time someone aims one at an innocent person. It’s a world where moral actions, including incompetent ones, have consequences.

rogereolson says:
April 25, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Well, you already said what you think. If you ask me, the “cause of the curse” is not God but, as you imply throughout, us. It is the natural consequence of our racial disobedience (distancing ourselves) from God.

There are three fundamental problems with Olson’s theodicy of natural evil.

i) On the one hand, Olson invokes a natural law theodicy, of the sort popularized by C. S. Lewis. According to this argument, God can’t routinely interfere with the laws of nature because human existence requires a high degree of stability and predictability.

If, however, accidents and natural disasters are intrinsic to the natural-law structure of the physical world, and God can’t meddle with the uniformity of nature, then in the world to come, humans will continue to die from accidents and natural disasters. Yet that conflicts with the eschatology of Scripture, according to which the saints will not be subject to death and in the world to come. 

Perhaps Olson would postulate that the world to come may have different natural laws, but in that event, it isn’t naturally necessary for people to die from accidents and natural disasters here and now, if God can coherently change the laws of nature.

ii) On the other hand, Olson also attributes accidents and natural disasters to the fall. But if accidents and natural disasters are due to the fall, then that’s not intrinsic to the natural law structure of the physical world. If accidents and natural disasters are the result of the fall rather than creation, then God can prevent accidents or natural disasters without suspending natural laws or destabilizing the natural order.

iii) Apropos (i-ii), Olson is trying to ride two horses at once. He can’t consistently say accidents and natural disasters are built into the physical, causal structure of the world and also attribute the same phenomena to the fall. 


Antivivisection arose in Victorian England among members of polite society. This was due in large part to the fact that animal experimentation was performed without anesthetic.

Question: aren’t some standard abortion techniques vivisection? If it’s immoral to vivisect an animal, why is it moral to vivisect a baby?  

Picturing abortion

A familiar tactic of prolifers is to carry graphic signs of aborted babies. This is controversial. Some people find that offensive. Of course, there’s a sense in which this is intentionally offensive.

I’d simply point out that animal rights activists do the same thing. Organizations like PETA have lurid videos showing animal cruelty. They do this to stir up public opposition to industrial meat, animal experimentation, &c.

So one question is whether showing pictures of cruelty to animals is acceptable, but showing pictures of cruelty to babies is unacceptable.

A nation of promiscuous prudes

"Postmodern Prudes" by Victor Davis Hanson.

How God is good for the soul

"How God Is Good for the Soul by Eric L. Johnson.

The Trinity and the Christian Life: Why a Triune God Makes All the Difference

Here is the latest issue of CREDO Magazine.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Catholic and evangelical ecclesiology in a nutshell

Catholic: we come to God through the church

Evangelical: we come to the church through God

[I’m paraphrasing Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Crossway 2012), 671.]

The Leviticus Principle

I’m going to comment on this post:

It is part of the essence of Calvinism that there are two distinct groups of individuals in God’s overall economy: the elect and the non-elect. The elect are the grateful recipients of God’s irresistible, unmerited grace and are thereby saved. The non-elect, by sad contrast, receive no such grace; they are passed over. Consequently, they are damned for all eternity.

To be damned for eternity is hardly unique to Calvinism.

Now even Calvinists admit that this scenario makes it at least appear that God is being unjust or unfair.

No, I don’t grant that this scenario makes it at least appear that God is unjust or unfair.

After all, why not just give irresistible grace to both groups?

In that case, they wouldn’t be two groups.

First recall that according to the Calvinist story, God gives irresistible grace to some (the elect) but not others (the non-elect). If that’s the case, then some individuals are shown favor that others are not. The question at once arises: Is this just or fair?

Arises for whom? Arminians?

Notice that in asking this question, we’re not asking whether it is just of God to punish those who deserve it. Of course it is. Nor are we asking whether it is generous of God to bestow grace on those who don’t deserve it. It most surely is. Rather, we are asking whether it is just or fair for these two (spiritually) qualitatively identical groups—i.e., the elect and the non-elect—to be treated differently.

The standard answer is that it is just to treat spiritually identical individuals differently if both parties have no rightful claim to better treatment. 

If two debtors owe me money, I can justly forgive the debt of one but not the other. I owe them nothing: they owe me something. Since both of them are in debt to me, I’m not wronging one of them if I require him to pay me back. 

But there is a further, truly fatal difficulty. The Calvinist proponent of (3) faces the following dilemma. Either God has a basis for his differential treatment of the elect and non-elect or he doesn’t. If there is no basis, then God’s decision to award irresistible grace to the one but not the other of these groups is wholly arbitrary; in which case God is a reckless, unprincipled decision-maker–a conclusion which is at once both manifestly unfair (to the non-elect) and theologically appalling.

i) To begin with, the inference is fallacious. Even if God’s discrimination were “wholly arbitrary,” that wouldn’t make it unjust.

ii) Moreover, unconditional election doesn’t entail that God has no basis for choosing to save one sinner rather than another.

a) For instance, God might save one sinner but not another, even though it’s within his power to save everyone, to demonstrate the sheer gratuity of grace. What better way to demonstrate that he’s under no obligation to save anyone than by only saving some rather than all?

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8-9).

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Rom 4:1-5).

b) God might also reprobate some sinners to manifest his justice. If God is good, then it is good for God to reveal his nature.

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction (Rom 9:22).

iii) God might reprobate some to illustrate the fact that, left to their own devices, sinners love evil.

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed (Jn 3:19-20).

iv) If God saved everyone, then some people who would go to heaven in this world won’t go to heaven in that world, for they won’t exist in that alternate world–where everyone is saved.

The elect make different choices in life than the reprobate, and vice versa. Lead different lives. That alters the course of history, including who is born.

Like time-travel stories which involve changing the past, the earlier in time you change the past, the more you change the future.

Many heaven-bound sinners exist due to various choices the reprobate made upstream. If everyone upstream were elect, that would change the course of events downstream.

If God elected everyone, he would be erasing many who are otherwise elect in this world. Saving everyone in that counterfactual future would come at the expense of the elect in a world where everyone is not elect.

Each scenario has tradeoffs. If everyone is elect, many people miss out. For that comes at the cost of another world with a different set of elect sinners.

If you don’t think it’s appalling, just ask yourself how you’d like it if your professor used a similar method to grade your term paper. Without a doubt, this horn of the dilemma is squarely on the broad road leading to destruction.

If it was a fair test, and several students flunked the test, the professor could justly discriminate. It would not be unjust for the prof. to give some, but not all, failed students a second chance.

Arminians never appreciate the culpability of sin. They treat sin as misfortune rather than guilt. Bad luck rather than just desert.

Well, let’s suppose instead that God does have a basis for his differential treatment of these groups. Then according to the Leviticus Principle, it must be contextually relevant. Now the context for giving or withholding irresistible grace is spiritual or salvific. Therefore, according to LP2, it will be just or fair for God to favor the elect over the non-elect only if God’s basis for doing so is a spiritually relevant one. By hypothesis, however, there is absolutely no spiritually relevant difference between the elect and the non-elect: they are all dead in their sins; they are all incapable of recommending themselves to God. On this horn of the dilemma, then, God has favored the elect but on a purely context irrelevant basis. By LP2, therefore, he has acted unjustly.

Here’s their prooftext:

Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly (Leviticus 19:15).

The Leviticus Principle is that (ceteris paribus) a judge ought treat the guilty as guilty and the innocent as innocent. If the poor are innocent, they should be acquitted; if the great are guilty, they should be convicted.

It follows logically and inescapably that God’s treatment of the elect and non-elect is either arbitrary and unprincipled or it’s contextually irrelevant. Either way, the unhappy outcome is that God has unfairly and unjustly favored some with irresistible grace while withholding it from others. But given the Leviticus Principle, the elect and non-elect should have (i) all received an installment of irresistible grace, or (ii) no one of them received an installment of irresistible grace. That’s what biblical justice or fairness demands.

The Leviticus Principle is dealing with defendants. Guilty defendants ought not be acquitted: innocent defendants ought not be convicted.

It’s dealing with strict justice rather than mercy or grace.

And since God, if he exists, is essentially just and fair, but Calvinism implies that he’s not, it follows that Calvinism actually entails atheism: the non-existence of God.

If Calvinism entails atheism, then atheism has gotten a bump rap.

That’s why we’re not Calvinists; it’s because we’re theists.

Not Christians–just theists?

The solution, of course, is simple. We must recognize that because God is supremely fair and just, the grace he gives is universal but resistible. This explains why although God wants everyone to be saved, some aren’t. It’s not because God passes over some poor, wretched souls, refusing to give them the irresistible grace they so desperately need.

According to Arminianism, some sinners are born with every spiritual advantage while other sinners are born with every spiritual disadvantage.

Some sinners are born to wonderful Christian parents. They hear the Gospel under the most propitious circumstances.

Other sinners are born under circumstances which poison them to the Gospel. Even if they had a chance to hear it, their personal experience has conditioned them to be very hostile to the Gospel.

Universal resistible grace doesn’t level the playing field. According to Arminianism, both the son of Charles Hodge and the son of the Grand Ayatollah have universal resistible grace. But the formative experience of A. A. Hodge predisposes him to accept the Gospel whereas the formative experience of the Grand Ayatollah’s son predisposes him to reject the Gospel.

Likewise, a child of wise and kind Christian parents has been given a far more appealing introduction to Christianity than the child of hypocritical, legalistic churchgoers.

Universal resistible grace doesn’t erase damaging memories, doesn’t reverse prejudicial social conditioning, doesn’t nullify cultural deterrents.

"Hearing God"

I’m going to comment on Moreland’s argument:

Sometimes I am asked to provide a biblical case for my belief that everyday believers can regularly hear God speak to them in various ways.

That’s equivocal. Moreland’s contention isn’t merely that everyday believers can regularly hear God speak to them in various ways, but that Christians must cultivate the ability to hear God’s voice through trial-and-error and practice.

Thus, the examples of God speaking to people (including ordinary people—Gen 25:23, Acts 6:5, and 8:6, Acts 19:1-7, esp. v. 6) throughout both Testaments are meant to teach us how we can expect God to speak (without, of course, expecting God to continue to give authoritative scripture to the whole church).

i) God doesn’t speak to anyone in Acts 6:5 and 8:6. Why is Moreland so careless?

ii) God doesn’t speak to anyone in Acts 19:6. Rather, they prophesy and speak in tongues. Perhaps Moreland considers that equivalent to God speaking to them.

But even if some Christians prophesy in Acts 19:6, that hardly warrants the “belief that everyday believers can regularly hear God speak to them in various ways.” Even in Acts, every Christian is not a prophet.

iii) Rebekah is not an “ordinary person.” Rather, she’s a key link in the chain of redemptive history.

Moreover, the oracle in Gen 25:23 isn’t only or primarily for her benefit. That oracle figures in the narrative arc. And it is there for the benefit of the reader, so that he can track God’s unfolding plan.

God speaks to us to give us guidance (Isaiah 30:21, John 10:3,4,16,27, Acts 13:2, 16:6, James 1:5).  In the John texts, Jesus says his sheep hear his voice.  Some have understood the context to imply that this means that the unsaved hear God’s effectual call to come to salvation.  But this has the odd result that we can hear God’s speech/drawing/prompting before we are saved but not afterwards.

i) Jas 1:5 doesn’t say God speaks to Christians. Why is Moreland so careless?

ii) Acts 16:6 doesn’t say God spoke to anyone. It doesn’t specify how God restrained them. Why is Moreland so careless?

And even if it were a word from God, God speaking to Paul hardly warrants the “belief that everyday believers can regularly hear God speak to them in various ways.” Ditto: Acts 13:2.

iii) Moreland seems to be assuming that Isa 30:21 denotes the unmediated voice of God. But God normally speaks through prophets. Indeed, Isaiah is a case in point: God conveys this promise through the mouth of his prophet Isaiah.

iv) Moreland seems to think Jn 10 denotes literal divine speech. But in context, that’s part of the parable. The sheep hear the shepherd calling to them.

There’s no more reason to take the voice literally than taking the sheep or shepherd literally. That’s all a part of the parabolic world story.

Jesus explicitly says that we will do greater works than he did (John 14:12). 

How does that comparison apply to his claim that “many believers are mistaken about what exactly is God’s biblical speech”? Was Jesus mistaken about what exactly is God’s biblical speech? Did Jesus have to perfect hearing God’s voice through trial-and-effort and constant practice?

God sometimes speaks by placing impressions in our minds (Nehemiah 2:12) and through a still small voice (I Kings 19:12).

i) There’s more than one way to render Neh 2:12.

ii) The fact that God made his will known to Nehemiah hardly warrants the “belief that everyday believers can regularly hear God speak to them in various ways.”

iii) Likewise, the fact that God “whispered” to Elijah hardly warrants the “belief that everyday believers can regularly hear God speak to them in various ways.”

These are individual descriptions, not general promises.

Regarding the claim that when God speaks, it is clear and we don’t have to learn to hear his voice, (A) it seems that Samuel needed to learn to distinguish/hear God’s voice (I Sam 3:1-21);

I’ve discussed this before, but I’ll say a bit more:

i) There’s no justification for extrapolating from this case to believers in general. It’s not a promise. And Samuel was not an “everyday” believer.

ii) In this account, God initiates contact with Samuel. And God intensifies contact until Samuel recognizes God. God first speaks to Samuel, then appears to Samuel–in what I take to be an angelophany.

This has nothing to do with Samuel having to cultivate the ability to hear God’s voice. The success of the divine communication is not contingent on Samuel. God unilaterally controls the transaction. God determines the outcome. And this is true of Moreland’s other examples.

(B) there was a school of prophets in the Old Testament and, among other things, it would seem natural to think that they were learning to discern/hear God’s voice;

Moreland offers no reason to agree with his claim.

 (C) In the NT, prophesy is a gift that, as will other gifts like teaching or evangelism, grows and develops with time and experience as one learn to enter more fully into the practice of that gift.

Moreland offers no reason to think prophecy is the sort of gift that grows and develops if you practice that gift. Why think prophecy is something you can “practice”? Do we dictate to God when, where, and how often he reveals himself to us?  Do we compel God?

That is why there were tests of prophesy (I Cor 14:29, I Thes 5:19-22), viz., that as people learned to hear God, they sometimes made mistakes and gave words sincerely though they were mistaken.

That’s equivocal.

i) Does it mean knowing whether God has spoken?

ii) Does it mean God is unclear even when he speaks?

iii) Does it mean we are unclear on how to apply a prophecy?

(D) We have to learn God’s most authoritative speech, the Bible, through hermeneutics, exegetical practice and so forth, and many believers are mistaken about what exactly is God’s biblical speech (in debates in textual criticism and differences between Catholics and Protestants about which books belong in the canon). If God has allowed there to be differences about what belongs in Holy Scripture and we have to work hard to learn to rightly divide it, why can’t there be differences about whether a personal communication was/was not from God and effort needed to learn how to understand such communication?

Catholics and Protestants don’t differ over the scope of the canon because it’s hard to rightly divide it. Rather, they differ over the scope of the canon because Catholics have a dogmatic precommitment to whatever their denomination formally teaches–evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.