Saturday, May 25, 2013

Did Matthew Write The Gospel Attributed To Him?

This is a typical way of downplaying the significance of Matthew's gospel:

"We do not know the name of its author: the title found in our English versions ('The Gospel according to Matthew') was added long after the document's original composition. It is true that according to an old tradition the author was none other than Matthew, the tax collector mentioned in Matt 9:9. This tradition, however, arose some decades after the Gospel itself had been published, and scholars today have reasons to doubt its accuracy. For one thing, the author never identifies himself as Matthew, either in 9:9 or anywhere else. Also, certain features of this Gospel make it difficult to believe that this Matthew could have been the author. Why, for example, would someone who had spent so much time with Jesus rely on another author (Mark) for nearly two-thirds of his stories, often repeating them word for word (including the story of his own call to discipleship; 9:9-13)? And why would he never authenticate his account by indicating that he himself had seen these things take place?…Since he produced his Gospel in Greek, presumably for a Greek-speaking community, he was probably located somewhere outside Palestine…Matthew, an anonymous Jewish leader of the Christian community (assuming that his strong literary skills, indicative of a higher education, gave him a place of prominence there), penned a Gospel narrative to show that Jesus was in fact the Jewish messiah, who like Moses gave the law of God to his people." (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament [New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012], 114-115, 132)

Friday, May 24, 2013

As The Church Drifts To Sleep

Earlier this month, I wrote a post about the intellectual negligence of Christians and many of their allies, such as political conservatives. A recent thread on homosexual marriage at Kevin DeYoung's blog, found here, is an example of what I was referring to. Notice the disproportionately high level of participation by defenders of homosexual marriage. Notice how few people, at a popular conservative Evangelical blog, have been speaking up in defense of the Christian position on the issue. Notice how many of the claims made by the pro-homosexual-marriage side go unanswered. Notice how many good arguments against their position, good arguments we've brought up at this blog many times, go unmentioned. Some of the Christian participants make good points, but the Christian side of the exchange falls well short of what it ought to be. The arguments of the pro-homosexual-marriage side can and should be answered persuasively and by a large number of people, given that the discussion is occurring at a popular conservative Evangelical blog. Yet, that hasn't happened so far. And the same sort of scenario has played out in other places many times, in many contexts. It happens frequently at Christian web sites, at conservative political web sites, on television programs, etc.

I'm glad that a tiny minority of Christians do study issues like homosexual marriage in significant depth and provide good arguments for the Christian position. And that tiny minority receives support from other Christians to some extent. In that sense, I wouldn't say that the church is asleep on this issue. But given the astonishingly small percentage of Christians who do the sort of work that ought to be done on the issue, it seems accurate to say that the church is drifting to sleep, even if we aren't asleep yet. The culture is rapidly declining around us, and we're still so apathetic.

The same is occurring with a lot of other issues, not just homosexual marriage. As I said in my post earlier this month, we need to adapt to the changes that are occurring. We're not living in an equivalent of the 1950s or 1980s. There's been a significant societal shift, and the vast majority of Christians, as well as many of their allies in some contexts, aren't acting like it. Quoting Bible verses, telling people that your view of something like homosexual marriage is "just obvious", etc. isn't enough.

I also wonder what's going on in the lives of Christian men. Why aren't they showing leadership? Where's their desire to fight? When they see something like that thread at Kevin DeYoung's blog, why don't they have a stronger desire to argue for the truth and defend it against counterarguments? Even if some of them are occupied with other worthwhile things, surely (for reasons like the ones I discussed earlier this month) that can't be said of everybody who's remaining silent in these contexts. There's something radically wrong with the church, especially men, when so many people are so silent so often, with so much at stake.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Church v. parachurch

I’m going to comment on this post:

But here's the problem. Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). Not the parachurch.

In what sense does Dan think Christ died for “the church”? In his post he seems to differentiate a church from a parachurch in terms of polity. So is he saying Christ died for church office? Did Christ die for eldership? Is that Paul’s point in 5:25?

Isn’t 5:25 just a variation on 5:2: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

According to 5:2, isn’t it equally true to say that Christ died for Christian members of parachurches?

Christ is the Head of the church (Eph. 5:23), not of the parachurch.

Is 5:23 an antithetical statement? Does it mean Christ is the head of the church to the exclusion of other spheres of dominical headship?

But in 1:20-22, doesn’t Paul teach the universal headship of Christ? Christ’s headship of the church is a special case of his general headship over all things. So don’t parachurches come under the universal headship of Christ?

 He gave pastors and teachers for the equipping of saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:11).

Actually, 4:11 says “he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers.”

As a cessationist, Dan has to skip over “prophets.” Does Dan think a local church has to have prophets, as well as pastors and teachers, to be a real church?

What about evangelists? On the one hand, many “churches” have pastors, but no evangelists–while many parachurches have evangelists, but no pastors. So, according to 4:11, which counts as a church?

Likewise, many parachurches have Christian “teachers.” So does that make them churchly?

The church is created for, founded upon, and united in, its allegiance to the person of Christ who exercises His headship through the specific truths of God's Word (Jn. 8:31-32; 17:17, 21, 23; Eph. 4:4-5). The task of enlisting and cultivating students of Christ has been entrusted to it (Matt. 28:18-20).

Except that Mt 28:18-20 doesn’t say anything about “the church.” So why assign or confine those tasks to “the church”?

Let me rephrase that last thought as a question, and come at it from a different angle. Do you feel the need for instruction, for equipping for service? Do you see how much more there is to learn of Christ, of His person and work, of His will for your life? Are you boggled by the maze of differing and competing views, and longing for guidance and guarding amidst them? Christ already thought of all that, and more. He already made provision for those needs (Eph. 4:7ff.). The provision He made is men who are pastors and teachers, His personal ascension-gifts to His church.

But that’s selective. Eph 4:11 isn’t confined to pastors and teachers. In addition, we have a more extensive list in 1 Cor 12:4-11,28. So is Dan saying every local church, to be a real church, must have each category represented?

Likewise, consider Paul’s greetings to leaders of Roman house-churches (Rom 16). Paul greets 9 women (as well as 17 men). But I doubt that Dan classifies the women were elders or church officers. Were these house-churches not true churches unless they had pastors? Do we even know if all 7 or 8 house-churches in Rome had pastors?

BTW, I’ve discussed Heb 13:7,17 elsewhere.

So where do parachurch personnel come in? Well, that's the problem. Their leaders may or may not be (or be qualified to be) pastors.

And what if their leaders are pastors, or qualified to be pastors? Does that make them churches according to Dan’s criteria?

Can anyone see a parachurch organization in the NT?

I guess that depends, in part, on how we define a “church.” Does Dan think all these gifts must be exercised under the same roof to be a church?

If, by contrast, the “church” consists of variously gifted individuals, then shouldn’t we define the church distributively? Whenever or wherever gifted individuals exercise their spiritual gifts, they are doing the work of the church. The church is wherever gifted individuals happen to be exercising their spiritual gifts.

Isn’t that a logical take on Ephesians, which is referring to the universal church rather than the local church? The universal church must have all these categories represented–not every local church or Christian organization.

It looks as though Dan began with his desired conclusion, then cast about for prooftexts–instead of letting his conclusion arise from the prooftexts.

Those deleted tweets

Tony Reinke has written a post wherein John Piper explains his tweets.

Catholicism gone catholic

According to Il Papa:

[Pope Francis] told the story of a Catholic who asked a priest if even atheists had been redeemed by Jesus.

"Even them, everyone," the pope answered, according to Vatican Radio. "We all have the duty to do good," he said.

"Just do good, and we'll find a meeting point," the pope said in a hypothetical reply to the hypothetical comment...

Of course, if Jesus has "redeemed" "everyone" including atheists, then why is doing good a "duty"? Why bother to do good?

Or are we all redeemed, but some are more redeemed than others?

If so, then I suppose one can do good to merit a bigger mansion in heaven. Or a place closer to the throne of God.

Okay, but still, what's wrong with the atheist who says, "Well, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin in this world, and have a lower place in heaven, thankyouverymuch"?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Caught in the cosmic machinery

When seconds count, police are minutes away

Britain has tough gun control laws, unlike us trigger-happy Americans. Leave it to the authorities to keep us safe:

Is Adam just a symbol?

Difficult Scriptures: Romans 5:12-17
16 May by Jeff Dunn

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:12-17, NLT)

So, we have Paul writing that Adam is a symbol of Christ who was yet to come. Does this symbol have to have been real? Does our faith hang in the balance as to whether or not we believe in a historical Adam?

I normally don’t answer my own Difficult Scriptures question, but today I will, and then stand aside to hear your thoughts. To give my answer, I will have to lean heavily on what I learned from Michael Spencer about reading the Bible.

The Scriptures were given us for one reason, and one reason alone: To point us to Jesus. When we try to use the Scriptures to prove other points, we are going outside of the scope of its purpose. The story and symbol of Adam show us “little Adams” to be sinners in need of redemption. Redemption comes in Christ’s death and resurrection. If I focus on whether or not Adam is/was real, I take my eyes away from what God intends me to look at: Jesus. So I guess I’m saying it does not matter to me whether or not Adam was really real. The story of Adam points me to a very real Jesus.

Now, your thoughts?

This is one of the dumber things I’ve read lately, and the competition for dumb is ferocious. I don’t know if Jeff Dunn normally reasons at this level, or if he felt the importance of the issue merited a special kind of stupid.

i) To begin with, he apparently hangs his argument on a pop English translation. But typos doesn’t mean “symbol.” A type denotes an OT person, place, institution, or event that prefigures a counterpart in the Messianic age. A factual relation.

ii) However, even if it did mean “symbol,” that’s ambiguous. Even though all metaphors are symbolic, not all symbols are metaphorical. A symbol can be a real spacetime object. It’s not just a literary device.

iii) As for “pointing us to Jesus,” if that’s all that matters, why does Jesus need to be real? After all, you can point someone to a fictitious superhero.

iv) If all that matters is looking at Jesus, then who needs the Christian afterlife? As long as you were looking at Jesus when you died, you can pass into oblivion looking at Jesus.

v) Notice Jeff doesn’t make an effort to seriously exegete Rom 5:12-21. Instead, he superimposes an extraneous grid on the passage. Disregard the specific claims of the text and retreat into the mock piety of “looking at Jesus.” This is just an obvious rearguard maneuver by someone who’s lost faith in historical revelation. 

Protective mothers and abortive mothers

This is what motherhood is supposed to be:

Is John Piper the next Pat Robertson?

John Piper’s recent tweet on the Oklahoma tornado has provoked a knee-jerk response. There’s even a malicious effort to create a defamatory narrative about Piper as another Pat Robertson.

Now, I don’t think it’s necessary for Piper to comment on every natural disaster that comes down the pike. It would make more sense for him to have a general treatment which he refers people to when tragedies like this take place. After all, natural disasters happen repeatedly, so it’s not as if you’re going to have something new to say about every new catastrophe.

Likewise, I don’t think Twitter is the best medium for commenting on natural disasters. And quoting Job without context invites ambiguity.

That said, I don’t share the outraged reaction to his tweet.

On his Facebook wall, Jeremy Pierce is making some customarily judicious observations on this manufactured controversy. There are also some judicious comments on Denny Burk’s post.

All Scripture is God-breathed

The part of 2 Tim 3 that everyone likes to quote and that becomes the bedrock of their doctrines of scripture is, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction…”

Scripture is God-breathed. Yes!

But wait! There’s more!

Or, perhaps better put–wait, you forgot a part!

The verse before this presents a significant qualification: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

Did you see it?

Scripture isn’t just “good.” Full stop. It is good for a particular purpose. That purpose is Christological. Scripture is not rightly read as scripture when it is given its historical, scientific, or critical meaning. It is not rightly read as scripture until it is read as a witness to, or cultivating a wisdom that inclines us toward, the crucified and risen Christ.

In Romans, Paul says similar things: the righteousness of God (in the crucified and risen Christ) is borne witness to by the Law and the Prophets; Christ is the end/goal of the Law.

Paul is faithful in what he says about Adam, not because he rightly identifies Adam as the biological precursor of all subsequent humanity, but because he sees in Adam a way to understand how the crucified and risen Christ is the beginning of God’s plan for a new humanity at the acme of new creation.

What did God breathe? Words of wisdom. Words of wisdom that lead to salvation. Words of wisdom that lead to salvation through faith in Christ.

If we read and find only words of science or dogma or ethics or history, the Bible has not yet become for us the living and active and inspired word of God.

Before commenting on the specifics, I’d like to make some general observations about 2 Tim 3:15-16:

i) It’s often thought that because v15 refers to the OT, v16 must have the same referent. However, there may be a progression in Paul’s argument, where v16 is more general than v15.

ii) Apropos (i), Paul evidently uses “Scripture” in 1 Tim 5:18 to designate a saying from the Gospel of Luke. Moreover, Paul regards his own teaching as divinely inspired and divinely authoritative (e.g. 1 Cor 2:13; 14:37; 1 Thes 4:2). Therefore, there’s no reason to think Paul is restricting Scripture in v16 to OT Scripture.

iii) Of course, liberals generally deny the Pauline authorship of the Pastorals (Luke Timothy Johnson is a notable exception). But that creates a dilemma for the liberal. If the Pastorals weren’t written by Paul, but by a later author, then wouldn’t that be even more reason to think v16 might include NT writings as Scripture? After all, the liberal argument is that the Pastorals, being so much later, reflect a more advanced ecclesiastical and/or theological outlook. So that would fit with a retrospective canonical consciousness.

If, on the one hand, Paul wrote the Pastorals, then we know Paul regarded his own Gospel as direct divine revelation (e.g. Gal 1). But if (ex hypothesi), on the other hand, Paul didn’t write the Pastorals, then these would reflect further theological development–in which case there would be nothing anachronistic about the author treating NT writings as Scripture.

iv) There’s a question about whether pasa should be rendered as “all” or “every.” But it makes no ultimate difference whether Paul is attributing inspiration to Scripture collectively or distributively, for it amounts to the same thing.

v) There’s a question as to whether the clause should be rendered “Every Scripture is God-breathed, and useful for…” or “Every Scripture that is God-breathed is useful for…”

Major commentators like Mounce, Marshall, and Towner argue for the former construction.

vi) What does Paul mean by the compound “God-breathed”? I can think of two related reasons:

a) It triggers associations with the Spirit of God as the agent of revelation and inspiration.

b) It evokes Scripture as divine speech. The spoken word, committed to writing.

As for Daniel Kirk’s contentions:

i) To say that Scripture is useful for leading readers to salvation is not to say that Scripture is only good for that particular purpose. It’s not an exclusive or contrastive claim.

ii) The doctrine of the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture isn’t confined to a single prooftext like 1 Tim 3:16. Rather, it’s a theological construct, with many lines of evidence.

iii) The fact that in the Pastorals, Paul appeals to historical precedents like the Exodus, the life of Abraham, and Korah’s rebellion, explodes Kirk’s false dichotomy between historical knowledge and soteriological knowledge.

iv) Paul sets his teaching in contrast to his opponents, who retail in “myths” (1 Tim 1:4; 2 Tim 4:4; Tit 1:14). As Towner explains:

The term “myth” has a long history of use prior to the NT, through which it comes to mean a fable or far-fetched story, often about the gods; most importantly, it can stand as a category meaning essentially falsehood (109).

So it would run counter to the polemical perspective of the Pastorals to treat the account of Adam as a fictional story.

"Retributive violence"

Peter Enns has a blind post:

But what about God’s retributive violence–where God exacts swift judgment in the form of physical brutality against his own people for disobeying?

The question that is as old as the Christian faith is: “How does all this square with how Jesus speaks of God?” The key word here is forgiveness. The issue is not simply that Jesus says we should forgive each other. Rather, by forgiving each other we reflect the heart of God.

Of course, for both the Old and New Testaments, there are other examples we could look at. But the point remains: If Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), how can we hold all this together? How can these two views of God be reconciled? Are they even supposed to be reconciled?

One answer will not do, and we need to nip it in the bud: “God can do whatever he wants to, and that includes mercilessly punishing sinners among his own people by killing them.” That misses the entire point. The issue here is how God himself is portrayed differently in the Old Testament and then in the New.

What’s blind about this supposed dichotomy is that, on the one hand, the OT has a great deal to say about God’s mercy, compassion, and loving kindness, while–on the other hand–the NT (including the Gospels) has a lot to say about God’s retributive eschatological judgment. So the dichotomy between a merciless God of the OT and a merciful God of the NT is illusory–and obviously so.

The Failure Of Naturalistic Theories To Explain The Shroud Of Turin

Here's a thread discussing the failure of various naturalistic theories to explain the Shroud of Turin. We don't just need to explain how the image could have been produced, but also why it happened with Jesus in particular and not with other individuals, the timing of the image formation (around the time when other evidence suggests Jesus was resurrected), and how the removal of the body from the Shroud didn't do more to disturb the bloodstains and damage the cloth. I think that Jesus' resurrection is the best explanation for the totality of the phenomena. But what I want to highlight here is something Barrie Schwortz wrote in the comments section of the thread linked above. Schwortz is an advocate of the view that the Shroud image formed as a result of a Maillard reaction, and Ray Rogers held the same view, yet Schwortz writes:

Ray Rogers told me personally that he believed, “Something else was at work with the Maillard reaction,” but he didn’t know what that was and didn’t live long enough to explore it.

Keep in mind, too, that the Shroud would still have high evidential significance for Christianity even if some natural process, like a Maillard reaction, explains the Shroud or part of it. The cloth would still give us evidence for Jesus' existence, the accuracy of early Christian accounts of his death, etc.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rogue government

Obama's Kulturkampf

Center for A-Lincolnism Studies

Where are the “sexual outliers” now?

From infant theologian Nathan Rinne:

Polygamy is no longer an outlier for many social scientists, and much serious work has already been done laying the groundwork for its defense (see here, as well as this recent Slate article arguing for it).  Polygamy, however, is small potatoes.  Polyamory, the idea that many persons sexually involved with one another should be able to accrue government support, benefits, and legal structure to assist in their lifestyle, has a serious academic following (see here and here ; also note it’s happening in Brazil here).  And what about the many “gay marriage” advocates in academia who admit that they want to get rid of – move “beyond” –  traditional marriage altogether? (see here and here)  What about those in the gay rights movement – not a small number – who believe the “next step” should be to help straight people get over their obsession – the hypocritical obsession! – with monogamous marriage?  (see here and here and here).  And what about the fact that for many, their conception of “civil rights”, grounded on just what I do not know, is the card that would trump all factual reality?  In other words, whether or not children in general do better with a mom and a dad, to take one example, is irrelevant (see here – so what is the point of insisting that conservatives provide evidence that pornography is harmful?).  Jerry Sandusky aside, pedophilia has been gradually losing its stigma – as long as it is done ethically of course! – and there have been serious academic books written defending it (see here and here; interesting related links here and here).

Non-Christian Support For Christian Claims

Here's an index of Triablogue posts on what ancient non-Christians said about topics related to Christianity, such as Jesus' existence, the miracles of Jesus, the empty tomb, the authorship of the gospels, the death of the apostles, and the textual transmission of the New Testament.

We've also written about hostile corroboration of Christianity in modern times. See, for example, this post about hostile corroboration of modern miracles.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tree of life and life of trees

Variable radioactive half-lives

Young faint sun

Is 2 kingdom 2 queer?

When Lee Irons posted Misty's now infamous case for homosexual marriage on his church website, he eventually lost his job over the ensuing firestorm. Now, years later, here's what Horton has to say:

Third, in my own wrestling with the political debate, love of neighbor looms large. Some on the right may offer arguments that reflect more the same demand for special rights as those on the left of the issue. The legal aspects of that are beyond my pay-grade—and they are important. Others may treat this issue as irrelevant: “Look, it doesn’t affect me. I just don’t want to live next door to some creepy home like that.” However, in terms of specifically Christian witness, love of neighbor (as God’s image-bearers) should be front-and-center. We have to care about our non-Christian neighbors (gay or straight) because God cares and calls us to contribute to the common good.
The challenge there is that two Christians who hold the same beliefs about marriage as Christians may appeal to neighbor-love to support or to oppose legalization of same-sex marriage.
On one hand, it may be said that if we can no longer say that “Judeo-Christian” ethics are part of our shared worldview as a republic, then the ban seems arbitrary. Why isn’t there a campaign being waged to ban providing legal benefits to unmarried heterosexual couples? Or to make divorce more difficult? It just seems more symbolic than anything else: it looks like our last-gasp effort to enforce our own private morality on the public. On the other hand, we might argue that every civilization at its height, regardless of religion, has not only privileged marriage of one man and one woman but has outlawed alternative arrangements. Same-sex marriage means adoption, which subjects other human beings to a parental relationship that they did not choose for themselves. Are we loving our LGBT neighbors—or their adopted children—or the wider society of neighbors by accommodating a move that will further destroy the fabric of society?
I take the second view, but I recognize the former as wrestling as much as I’m trying to with the neighbor-love question. Legal benefits (“partnerships”) at least allowed a distinction between a contractual relationship and the covenant of marriage. However, the only improvement that “marriage” brings is social approval—treating homosexaul and heterosexual unions as equal. Although a contractual relationship denies God’s will for human dignity, I could affirm domestic partnerships as a way of protecting people’s legal and economic security.

What's the substantive difference between civil marriage and civil unions/domestic partnerships? Why was Lee (rightly) drummed out of the OPC (although he only lost by one vote) while Horton's compromise position is acceptable?

Wesley was a bad husband; therefore, Arminianism must be false

I originally linked to JD Hall’s bedtime stories as a lark. However, some humor-impaired Arminians revealed their true character.

1.0 out of 5 stars A Book to Give Nightmares, May 18, 2013
By Nelson Banuchi "atdCross"

This review is from: Help! Arminians are giving me nightmares again! (Paperback)
I apologize. The decription is enough to give me the heebee-jeebees. Didn't buy or read the book; don't intend to. Since only a very few are chosen for salvation and many, many will go to eternal damnation (along with all and every infant), the chances of my grandchildren being those for whom God intended to save is awfully slim. Don't want to give them Calvinistic nightmares.

keystone says:
What's your evidence that according to Calvinism, only a few are elect? What's your evidence that Calvinism espouses universal infant damnation?

Nelson Banuchi says:

1. Few saved: Calvin Institutes, 3.24.8.

2. Infant damnaton: Calvin Institutes, 3.23.6; Institutes, Book 2.1.8.

keystone says:
You said "all and every infant." Does Calvin teach universal infant damnation?

BTW, Calvin isn't Calvinism. For instance, Warfield thought most humans would be saved-based on his postmil eschatology in combination with his belief in universal infant salvation.

Have you read B. B. Warfield's articles on "Children," "Christ's Little Ones,'" "The Angels of Christ's 'Little Ones,'" or "The Development of the Doctrine of Infant Salvation"?

According to John Wesley, in his Treatise on Baptism, unbaptized babies who die are normally damned.

1.0 out of 5 stars Paranoia and Arrogance at a Whole New Level, May 19, 2013
Craig Alan Loewen "Craig Alan Loewen"
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Help! Arminians are giving me nightmares again! (Paperback)

Unfortunately, the author forgot to mention that if anybody disagrees with you, following John Calvin's shining example you should either obtain from them a confession of guilt under torture and then behead them (Jacques Gruet - 1547) or burn them alive (Michael Servetus - 1553).

I think we need to be more afraid of Calvinists who can do nothing more than create exaggerated straw man arguments against a theological system that he clearly demonstrates he is completely ignorant about.

keystone says:
I think we have more to fear from devout Arminians like Harry Blackmun, who's responsible for about 56 million (and counting) dead American babies.

Craig Alan Loewen says:

And where did you come up with this little tidbit of information? And what relevance does it have to the fact that the individual who crafted your theology was a tyrant who killed or exiled people who disagreed with him and that his tyranny was a logical result of his skewed theology?

And point, please, to one writing, just one simple, succinct sentence, from Blackmun who said that it was his Arminian theology (as if he followed any theology at all) that compelled him to draft Roe vs. Wade?

Bottom line: Evangelical Christians stand united against the horror of abortion, both Arminian and Calvinist. Deal with it.

keystone says:
Craig Alan Loewen says:

"And where did you come up with this little tidbit of information? "

You need to bone up on your own theological tradition.

"And what relevance does it have to the fact that the individual who crafted your theology..."

You mean Isaiah, St. John, or St. Paul?

"...was a tyrant who killed or exiled people who disagreed with him..."

Did he kill 56 million innocent babies?

"...and that his tyranny was a logical result of his skewed theology?"

For which you present no argument.

"Bottom line: Evangelical Christians stand united against the horror of abortion, both Arminian and Calvinist. Deal with it."

Deal with Harry Blackmun-who's one of your own.

B. Henshaw says:

How can you say he was a "devout" Arminian? Is it just because we was a Methodist? What kind of Methodist? He was considered one of the most liberal judges ever to sit on the Supreme court. So do you mean a liberal Methodist? Liberal Methodists aren't really all that concerned about doctrine or Arminianism for that matter.

But anyway, I don't think the comments about Calvin were that helpful or relevant either. The problem I have with books like this is they leave so much out of the "Calvinist" worldview, all the ugly parts. And, as the reviewer rightly noted, this book is based on a horrible caricature of Arminianism. That is problematic to me, regardless of the actions of John Calvin or Harry Blackmun (and no doubt they will both answer to God for their deeds).

keystone says:
The UMC has close ties to Asbury Seminary. Do you think Asbury is not Arminian either? Is this the No True Arminian fallacy?

keystone says:
B. Henshaw says:

"this book is based on a horrible caricature of Arminianism."

That's certainly possible. However, none of the reviewers shows any evidence of having actually read the book-much less shown how it's a horrible caricature of Arminianism.

keystone says:
Craig Alan Loewen says:

"And what relevance does it have..."

Simple: guilt by association cuts both ways.

"the individual who crafted your theology was a tyrant who killed or exiled people who disagreed with him..."

Does that mean you agree with Servetus or Gruet?

"...and that his tyranny was a logical result of his skewed theology?"

Construct a logical syllogism to demonstrate how TULIP entails the execution of Servetus.

keystone says:
Craig Alan Loewen says:

"Wow. You really are new to the whole science of debate, aren't you."

Wow. You really are brimming over with spiritual pride. So much for Arminian sanctification.

"As I said, Guilt by Association is a logical fallacy."

A logical fallacy which you committed when you attempted to discredit Calvinism by citing something Calvin did.

"In any formal debate, you would be laughed off stage."

So by your own admission, you should be laughed off the stage.

"But there is a deeper problem in your response. By bringing up a non sequitor [sic] response..."

Actually, my response was a tu quoque response.

"And I don't need to to demonstrate how TULIP entails the execution of Servetus. John Calvin, the origin of your theological system either was directly responsible or approved of his death and 57 others. (Encyclopedia of World Biography)."

You said: "that his tyranny was a logical result of his skewed theology?"

So you need to demonstrate how TULIP logically entails the execution of Servetus.

"(you think I'm Methodist for some reason. I'm not.)"

You're confused.

keystone says:
Craig Alan Loewen says:

"keystone, you are not very talented at the art of debate are you?"

Craig, you are not very advanced in the grace of humility, are you?

"You are indulging in one called Guilt by Association assuming the actions of one person represent the actions of the whole."

Which is precisely what you did when you tried to tar Calvinism with something Calvin did.

"However, you may say, isn't Guilt by Association what you are doing with John Calvin? Well, close, but no cigar. John Calvin is the author of what is known as Calvinism. My charge is that Calvin was a bloodthirsty tyrant and under his leadership in Geneva from 1541 until his death, fifty-eight people were executed and seventy-six were banished."

No, that was not your charge. You said: Calvin's "tyranny was a logical result of his skewed theology?"

I'm still waiting to see your argument.

"If God in His mercy had not ended Calvin's life in 1564, Calvin would have given history a run for one of the bloodiest tyrants in history."

For a corrective:

keystone says:
Craig Alan Loewen says:

"John Calvin is the author of what is known as Calvinism. My charge is that Calvin was a bloodthirsty tyrant..."

And John Wesley was a bad husband. Therefore, Arminianism must be false.

1688 Years Ago on This Date

The Council of Nicaea opened on this day, May 20, 325 AD.

Post traumatic paedobaptist syndrome

Were Early Non-Christians Apathetic About The Gospels?

It's common for critics of Christianity to suggest that non-Christians were highly apathetic about the religion in its earliest years. Christians were able to make up stories about Jesus and early church history, and largely get away with it, due to the apathy of the surrounding culture. Or when early opponents of the faith corroborate a Christian claim, it's suggested that they did so for no good reason, that they were uncritically accepting what the Christians of their day told them. I've responded to that sort of objection in the past. See here regarding the alleged apathy behind Jewish corroboration of the empty tomb, for example. Or here regarding apathy more generally. Something other than apathy, such as contempt, could be appealed to. Whatever motive is attributed to the early non-Christians, they supposedly were inactive in contexts in which they could have opposed Christianity. I'm referring to that inaction in general as a matter of apathy, though other factors could be involved as well.

There's an element of truth to the apathy objection. Many people in the ancient world, as in the modern world, would have been apathetic to some extent. Early on, a lot of people would never have heard of Christianity or would have heard of it, but dismissed it without much research. And so on. But the objection is often pressed too far. Take Bart Ehrman, for instance:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Help, Mom! There are Arminians Under My Bed!

Treatment for a common childhood phobia:

Without God, everything is permitted

Not surprisingly, the land of fruits and nuts is taking the logic queer marriage a step further:

Once you deny God’s design for men and women, anything goes. Nothing is too perverted to be out of bounds. Case in point (beware: bad language ahead):

The only love that counts

From his Facebook wall:

Jerry Walls

There is no nightmare like that of dreaming you are not elect…

Sure about that, Jerry? What about dreaming that you could lose your salvation tomorrow? Even if you’re a born-again Christian, there’s no guarantee, or even probability, that you won’t wind up in hell. Present assurance carries no presumption of future salvation. As Ben Witherington is wont to say, you are not eternally secure, until you are securely in eternity.

…and God has never loved you in the only sense that matters.

And what sense would that be, Jerry? Oh, you mean God’s love for the damned? The love that couldn’t save you from hell? The love that made no difference in the end? 

Ask Cowper...

Well, since Cowper has been with the Lord for 213 years now, I expect he’d have pretty nice things to say about unconditional election.

Keep in mind that Cowper suffered from mental illness. Does Jerry think that Arminian theology inoculates you from the possibility of mental illness?

Thankfully for him, Cowper’s salvation did not depend on his willpower, but God’s willpower. Did not depend on his spirit, but God’s spirit. That’s the only love that counts.

Theological Determinism and the Standing to Blame

Poker in a burning casino

Atheists don’t know the stakes. They play poker in a burning casino. They keep score as fire encircles the perimeter, blocking their exits. They keep score as flames lick paint off the walls. They keep score as the ceiling is engulfed in flames. They keep score as the carpet smolders. They keep score as chips begin to melt. They keep score as cards begin to curl. Even when they win at the tables, they lose at life.