Saturday, June 15, 2013

American Evangelicals and Creation

Early returns from Iran’s presidential election

One commentator said: “If [Rouhani] becomes Iran's new president, the country could witness an age of moderation in the next four years.”

Early results from Iran's presidential election put the reformist-backed candidate, Hassan Rouhani, in the lead.

Official figures give him just over half the 16 million votes counted so far - well ahead of second-placed Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Mr Rouhani could win in the first round if he finishes with more than 50%.

Electoral officials said turnout was high among the 50 million Iranians eligible to vote on Friday for a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

His eight years in power have been characterised by economic turmoil and Western sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

Surge of support
Final results are expected later in the day.

Preliminary figures began to emerge early on Saturday after a delay of several hours.

Officials at the election headquarters said that with more than 16,716,937 votes counted so far - 16,166,392 of them valid:

Hassan Rouhani has 8,439,530 (50.5%)
Mr Qalibaf is in second place with 2,560,383
Mohsen Rezai lies third with 2,101,330, followed by Saeed Jalili on 1,890,462.

State TV channels said the winning candidate needed more than 50% of all ballots cast, including invalid ones, Reuters news agency reported.

Voting was extended by five hours on Friday evening to allow more people to cast their ballots. Iranian Press TV said turnout was 80%.

Although all six candidates are seen as conservatives, analysts say Mr Rouhani - a 64-year-old cleric often described as "moderate" who has held several parliamentary posts and served as chief nuclear negotiator - has been reaching out to reformists in recent days.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven

CHINA -- A Chinese woman almost lost her life savings recently when termites invaded a wooden drawer in which she kept a plastic bag containing 400,000 yuan: the equivalent of $65,000 U.S. dollars.


I Spy

Do science and Scripture conflict?

Secular scientists often promote methodological naturalism. Let’s begin with some examples:

Science by definition deals only with the natural, the repeatable, that which is governed by law (Michael Ruse).

By its very nature, science is obliged to leave out any appeal to the supernatural, and so its explanations will always sound naturalistic and purely physicalist (John Haught).

Because science is limited to explaining the natural world by means of natural processes, it cannot use supernatural causation in its explanations. Similarly, science is precluded from making statements about supernatural forces because these are outside its provenance (National Academy of Sciences).

Introducing supernatural explanations into science would destroy its explanatory force since it would be required to incorporate as an operational principle the premise that literally anything which is logically possible can become an actuality, despite any and all scientific laws; the stability of science would consequently be destroyed (Barbara Forrest).

If there is an omnipotent force in the universe, it would by definition be impossible to hold constant (to control) its effects. The reason that the ultimate statement of creationism cannot be tested is simple: the actions of an omnipotent creator are compatible with any and all observations of the natural world. (Eugenie Scott).

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen (Richard Lewontin).

The polemical advantage of methodological naturalism is that it furnishes a single principle that relieves the secular scientist from having to engage the arguments of fiat creationists, progressive creationists, intelligent-design theorists, paranormal investigators, and/or theistic evolutionists. At one stroke, all types of appeals to supernatural agency (e.g. God, angels, demons, ghosts) are summarily disqualified from scientific explanation.

That’s a very economical way of preempting theistic appeals in science. However, there’s a high price for that maneuver.

i) It’s a methodological appeal rather than an evidentiary appeal. It’s not the evidence of the natural record that yields a naturalistic explanation, but a methodological stipulation. And the appeal is circular. If you define science naturalistically, then, by definition, only naturalistic explanations will be scientific. But in that event, it’s not the evidence that selects for a naturalistic explanation. The secular scientist did not derive that interpretation from the evidence, but from his definition.

ii) Put another way, the objection to “creationism” is no longer that “creationism” is false, but methodologically illicit–based on a professional convention. It violates a scientific protocol. Scientists, especially secular scientists, have agreed to exclude supernatural considerations. But that reduces science to a vote.

In that case, the alleged conflict between Scripture and science is not a conflict between Scripture and scientific evidence, but Scripture and scientific methodology. Not objective facts, but manmade definitions.

iii) Another consequence is that methodological naturalism reduces scientific explanations to hypothetical explanations rather than true explanations. The secular scientist is merely claiming that, “This is how we reconstruct natural history if we exclude supernatural considerations.”

That’s not driven by the empirical evidence. That’s not reconstructing the past from the natural record alone. Rather, that’s a hypothetical narrative, which you arrive at by bracketing supernatural considerations.

If, however, supernatural agency does figure in the course of natural history, then the naturalistic narrative presents a false picture of what actually happened.

Within this framework, “creationism” and naturalistic evolution cease to be competing explanations of what really occurred, by following the evidence wherever it leads (as the saying goes), and become alternative models. But in that case, why prefer secular explanation over a supernatural explanation? The evidence ceases to be the tiebreaker. Rather, the evidence is secondary to the methodology you adopt going in.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prayerless Arminians

Christians used to think God controls nature. To take a classic example, a farmer would pray for rain.

Likewise, if you were about to be overtaken by a tornado or hurricane, you would pray that God spare you and your family. If there were wildfires threatening your neighborhood, you would pray for divine protection. In the same vein is the pious belief that God can heal.

By the same token, if you were spared, you gave thanks to God for answering your prayer.

Recently, however, some high-profile Arminians have removed natural evils from God’s jurisdiction.

So, at the end of the day, anyone who says a natural or man-made disaster, calamity, catastrophe is from God must be thinking either that it was an arbitrary act of God, done for no particular reason other than perhaps to create fear (which still doesn’t explain why that particular place), or that it was in some sense God’s judgment.

That particular but pervasive understanding of God’s sovereignty is what might be called “meticulous” (or “exhaustive”) sovereignty. In regards to this subject, there are only two real options: either God determines everything (meticulous sovereignty) or God does not determine everything. A well-known example of meticulous sovereignty can be found in various statements made by notable evangelical leaders in the wake of natural disasters, such as hurricanes from Katrina to Sandy. If one affirms meticulous sovereignty, then one must also believe God decided, desired, and carried out the weather conditions, the speed and direction of the winds, the deluges of water, and precisely which homes would be destroyed and which homes would escape.

The first point immediately confirmed in my heart was theological: God did not do this to my child. God is not the author of evil. God does not terminate sweet lives with a pulmonary embolism. Pulmonary embolisms are a result of the bent nature of this world. As Ann kept repeating, "God is not the problem; he is the solution."

One primary reason I am not a Calvinist is that I do not believe in God's detailed control of all events. Why? First, because I find it impossible to believe that I am more merciful or compassionate than God. Second, because the biblical portrait shows that God is pure light and holy love. In him there is no darkness, nothing other than light and love. And third, the words, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away," from the lips of Job (1:21), are not good theology. According to Job 1, it was not God but the Devil who took away Job's children, health, and wealth. God allowed it to happen, but when Job said these words, as the rest of the story shows, he was not yet enlightened about the true nature of the source of his calamity and God's actual will for his life. God's will for him was for good and not for harm.

As you can also see, their position is cast in explicit contrast to Calvinism. The motivation is, of course, to exempt God from the problem of evil.

However, your doctrine of providence runs in tandem with your doctrine of prayer. If God isn’t responsible for drought, then presumably a farmer shouldn’t pray for rain. That’s not God’s department.

If God isn’t responsible for tornadoes, hurricanes, or wildfires, then we shouldn’t pray for divine protection. And if we do escape, we shouldn’t be grateful to God. We just got lucky. God had nothing to do with it.

Likewise, if a friend or relative is deathly ill, we shouldn’t pray for healing. That’s none of God’s business.

Did they really exist?

Assault rifles should be banned–except for IRS agents!

Six Things to Understand About the Leftist Mentality

The Trinity

Praying for rain

Last month, Scot McKnight plugged a new book he’s written, attacking Calvinism:

Here are some comments I left on his post:

Dr. McKnight said:

“If God determines everything (as in the meticulous sovereignty approach), then God not only permits but must determine that some young girls and boys will be abused while others will be spared, that some adults will suffer more in this life while others will suffer less. For this essay’s purposes, it is not relevant how tragic situations are explained (e.g., that we are all sinners who deserve these tragedies and even worse; or that God wants to make an example of humans as depraved). What is relevant is that—in this understanding of divine sovereignty—God determines everything, that God can do otherwise but chooses to bring about awful conditions and events.”

How does Dr. McKnight distinguish between the morality of God permitting child and God determining child abuse?

God knows that if he intervened to stop a child abuser, the child would not have been abused. Absent divine intervention, the child will be abused. Therefore, divine inaction ensures the abuse.

How, then, is ensuring the outcome morally distinct from determining the outcome?

Dr. McKnight said:

“That particular but pervasive understanding of God’s sovereignty is what might be called ‘meticulous’ (or ‘exhaustive’) sovereignty. In regards to this subject, there are only two real options: either God determines everything (meticulous sovereignty) or God does not determine everything. A well-known example of meticulous sovereignty can be found in various statements made by notable evangelical leaders in the wake of natural disasters, such as hurricanes from Katrina to Sandy. If one affirms meticulous sovereignty, then one must also believe God decided, desired, and carried out the weather conditions, the speed and direction of the winds, the deluges of water, and precisely which homes would be destroyed and which homes would escape.”

i) Jesus said God sends sunshine and rain (Mt 5:45). Doesn’t that mean God controls the weather?

ii) God answered Elijah’s prayer to end the drought by sending rain (1 Kgs 18:42-45). Doesn’t that assume God controls the weather? Indeed, doesn’t v.1 explicitly attribute the rain to God?

iii) According to Scripture, some natural disasters are divine judgments. Noah’s flood, as well as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, are paradigm-cases.

Confining ourselves to the subset of natural disasters that are divine judgments, does Dr. McKnight deny that God was behind these particular events? Presumably he doesn’t think the natural disaster which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah was just accidentally punitive. Doesn’t its function as a divine judgment mean God was responsible for when and where that happened? That God directed the outcome?

Tinfoil hat bureaucrats

Paranoid Government -->

The Quest of the Inner Ring

I have made a conscious, intellectual decision to accept the overwhelming consensus of demonstrably knowledgable and trained scientists across the world and for several generations.

This reminds me of something C. S. Lewis once wrote. As Lewis would put it, Peter Enns is pining to be inside the Inner Ring. He’s terrified of being left outside.

I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside. This desire, in one of its forms, has indeed had ample justice done to it in literature. I mean, in the form of snobbery. Victorian fiction is full of characters who are hag-ridden by the desire to get inside that particular Ring which is, or was, called Society. But it must be clearly understood that “Society,” in that sense of the word, is merely one of a hundred Rings, and snobbery therefore only one form of the longing to be inside.

My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it—this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing—the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an “inner ringer.” I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in—one way or the other you will be that kind of man.

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.

Prism break

Opt out of PRISM.

“Superior General” Bergoglio: Not a “collegial” pope, to the alarm of some

He calls himself “bishop of Rome” and goes by his family name “Bergoglio”. He even expressed some reluctance to be pope.

However, thinking that these things showed him to be in favor of “democratization” in the church is “a blunder”, according to the Chisea

But that publication is clear to say that Bishop of Rome Bergoglio operates like the “Black Pope”, the “Superior General” of the Jesuits:

Bergoglio is also a Jesuit, and by now his actions have made it clear that he intends to apply to the papacy the methods of governance typical of the Society of Jesus, where the superior general, nicknamed the “black pope,” has practically absolute power.

Of course, I had written about this phenomenon back on April 15, but as this “papacy” unfolds, some folks seem none too comfortable about it.

Not only did Bergoglio bypass the standard operating procedure for how everyone thought the Curia ought to be reformed:

If he had followed the suggestions of the preconclave, he would have found the “council of the crown” nice and ready. All he had to do was to call around himself the twelve cardinals, three for each continent, elected at the end of each synod and therefore of the last as well, in October of 2012. Elected by a secret vote and representative of the elite of the worldwide episcopate, containing almost all of the influential names of the last conclave: cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York, Odilo Scherer of São Paulo, Brazil, Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Peter Erdö of Budapest, Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle of Manila.

But no. Pope Francis wanted his eight advisors to be chosen by himself alone, not by others. Called to answer only to him, not to an elective assembly as well.

But he’s brought in an outsider, “a guru from McKinsey to design that reform of the curia”:

His name is Thomas von Mitschke-Collande, he is German and was the manager of the Munich branch of the most famous and mysterious company of managerial consulting in the world.

In matters of the Church, he knows his stuff. Last year he published a book with a title that was hardly reassuring: “Does the Church want to destroy itself? Facts and analyses presented by a business consultant.”

The eight Cardinals who have also been named in the “reform the Curia” project will not ever form a commission to discuss this project. They will individually advise this pope as to what they think is best. Then the pope will decide. “Alone”:

But this is exactly what happens in the Society of Jesus. Bergoglio was one of its provincial superiors and assimilated its style. In the leadership of the Society the assistants who surround the superior general, appointed by him, represent their respective geographical areas. The decisions are not made collegially. Only the superior general decides, with direct and immediate powers. The assistants do not need to agree with one another and with him; they advise the superior general one by one, in the greatest freedom.

It’s definitely not the “collegial” model. The Cardinals in the conclave didn’t know it then, but as C.S. Lewis said, a vote for Bergoglio “is like being asked to agree not only to what a man has said but also to what he is going to say.”

Why C.S. Lewis Never Became a Roman Catholic

The Roman Catholic writer Fr Dwight Longenecker recently asked and answered the question “Why Didn’t C. S. Lewis Ever Become Catholic?

In doing so, he relied on the Joseph Pearce work “C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church”. And in doing so, he re-articulates the author’s argument:

Pearce explores Lewis’ family background and agrees with other commentators that Lewis had a blind spot when it came to Catholicism. To understand the blind spot, we first have to understand the politics of Northern Ireland…. A deep and abiding distrust of all things Catholic was thus bred into him from generations of Protestant ancestry.

But as a reviewer of that book contends, this explanation “borders on insult”:

This is not a new theory but it is one that Lewis himself denied in Surprised by Joy and most people no longer regard seriously. Pearce also goes on to say that Lewis "kowtowed" to his ancestors and their anti-catholic prejudices. All in all, he draws a portrait of Lewis, in this particular regard, that borders on insult…. It often seems Pearce is trolling for anything he can find that will suggest that Lewis was a conflicted, not a committed, Anglican--a thing that is certainly not true.

Lewis, in fact, gave his own reasons for why he never did, and in fact, could never become Roman Catholic:

“The real reason why I cannot be in communion with you [Catholics] is not my disagreement with this or that Roman doctrine, but that to accept your Church means, not to accept a given body of doctrine, but to accept in advance any doctrine your Church hereafter produces. It is like being asked to agree not only to what a man has said but also to what he is going to say.”

“Christian Reunion”, in Christian Reunion and Other Essays, edited by Walter Hooper, London: Collins, 1990, p. 17-18.

“The Roman Church where it differs from this universal tradition and specially from apostolic Christianity I reject. Thus their theology about the Blessed Virgin Mary I reject because it seems utterly foreign to the New Testament; where indeed the words “Blessed is the womb that bore thee” receive a rejoinder pointing in exactly the opposite direction. Their papalism seems equally foreign to the attitude of St. Paul toward St. Peter in the epistles. The doctrine of Transubstantiation insists on defining in a way which the New Testament seems to me not to countenance. In a word, the whole set-up of modern Romanism seems to me to be as much a provincial or local variation from the central, ancient tradition as any particular Protestant sect is. I must therefore reject their claim: though this, of course, does not mean rejecting particular things they say.”

June 16, 1945
Letter of C. S. Lewis to H. Lyman Stebbins, “The Boldness of a Stranger”

Research by Ken and originally posted at Beggars All Reformation and Apologetics.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


So-called “taboo” issues, like incest, infanticide and cannibalism

Atheists often resent the popular perception that they are morally untrustworthy. With that in mind, Richard Carrier is plugging a new atheist blog. Somehow the blogger’s social agenda doesn’t reassure me that atheists are morally trustworthy:

Tauriq Moosa writes on ethical matters in the news. He writes a regular blog at [Against the New Taboo] on so-called “taboo” issues, like incest, infanticide and cannibalism, examining whether evidence matches outrage.

Militant atheists in drag

In commenting on my last blog, Lyaeus 10 pointed out how serious the problem has become with the introduction of supernatural ideas into the classroom: "I live in a state that just passed laws to 'teach the controversy' in regards to controversial sciences which is rather obviously a way to get special creation and flood geology and other such hypotheses of no relevant intellectual value into the classrooms."

What is the best way to deal with such intrusions into science education?

The conventional approach has been to circle the wagons around mid-19th and mid-20th century ideas (Darwinism and neo-Darwinism). This approach has not been successful. One reason Darwinism has failed to convince skeptics may be that it ignores over 60 years of molecular science.

Thirty years ago, I was at a conference in Cambridge, England, to celebrate the centennial of Darwin's death. There, Richard Dawkins began his lecture by saying, "I will not only explain that Darwin had the right answer, but I will show that he had the only possible right answer."
Hearing this (and knowing that alternative explanations inevitably arise in science), I said to myself that the Creationists have a point. They are dealing with a form of religious belief on the "evolution" side. Dawkins' transformation into an aggressive proselytizer for his undoubting and absolutist version of atheism confirms this conclusion.

One of the Creationists' main tools is the argument that evolutionists are simply militant atheists in drag, who care more about dissing religion than about understanding evolution. Dawkins' ill-considered crusade just bolsters their position.

Rather than accept that evolution science is always a tentative work in progress, conventional evolutionists make absolutist statements like "all the facts are on my side." Making obviously inflated and unrealistic assertions is hardly likely to convince anyone who has serious questions.

Is Snowden in the crosshairs?

“Everybody’s worried about him and what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to convict him of treason, and how they’re going to kill him, but what about the people who destroy our Constitution?” the former Texas Republican congressman asserted. “What kind of penalty for those individuals who just take the Fourth Amendment and destroy it? What do we think about people who assassinate American citizens without trials and assume that that’s the law of the land? That’s where our problem is.”

Paul said that “our problem isn’t with people who are trying to tell us the truth about what’s happening” as in the case of Snowden, and he fears that the U.S. government may try to kill the former contractor.

“I’m worried about somebody in our government might kill him with a Cruise missile or a drone missile,” Paul said.

i) I’m not worried about Snowden’s fate. I don’t care about him personally.

ii) I think it highly unlikely that we’d dispatch a predator drone to Hong Kong. That would create an “international incident.”

iii) I don’t think our gov’t is motivated to assassinate him. Rather, our gov’t is motivated to apprehend him and interrogate him. If he were going to defect, that might be a motivation to assassinate him, but Ron Paul rules that out.

iv) Apropos (iii), I’m guessing he went public, after taking refuge in Hong Kong, because–ironically enough–he may feel much safer now that he’s world famous. Since US intelligence agencies could probably track him down sooner or later, anonymity would make it easier for the authorities to whisk him away to a black site in Bulgaria. No one would be the wiser. This way, anything that’s done to him will have to be under the spotlight of the international news media.

The fate of unbaptized infants

This is a continuation of a debate I had on the Amazon discussion board, occasioned by JD Hall’s book for kids:

Part 1 is here:

Nelson Banuchi says:

Now the kid will have nightmaresnot being chosen and being so bad, not even God wanted him.

keystone says:
Actually, the fear that God won't choose someone because they are too bad dovetails with the classic Arminian doctrine of conditional election, whereas unconditional election isn't based on how good or bad the sinner is. So thanks for shooting yourself in the foot. Conditional election would give a kid nightmares.

keystone says:
Nelson Banuchi says:

"That's the point of 'unconditional election'. It has nothing to do with merit or demerit."

Which directly contradicts what you previously said: "Now the kid will have nightmaresnot being chosen and being so bad, not even God wanted him."

"Conditonal election would not give nightmares for the Arminian can truthfully tell the child God loves him..."

But according to Arminianism, God's love doesn't prevent anyone from going to hell.

"...and will save him; all he need do is trust Christ."

But according to Arminianism (especially Wesleyan Arminianism), you can trust in Christ, be saved, then lose your salvation.

"If the Calvinist were honest..."

You're very fond of that phrase. But you should start learning how to be an honest Arminian before you point fingers. Try to put a damper on your spiritual pride and take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. You're just another Arminian partisan.

keystone says:
Nelson Banuchi says:

"1. Well, the contradiction is not due on my part but to theological double-think of Calvinism."

You said that according to reprobation, God might not choose to save someone because they were too bad to be saved. Demonstrate how that's an implication of (or even consistent with) reprobation.

"2. Arminian theology does not prevent anyone from damnation. Again, that comment shows you have no correct understanding of Arminian theology."

Quote where I said what you impute to me.

"On the other hand, God does prevents many from going to heaven and by creating them to choose them, without any reference to deserts, for hell."

Actually, the Arminian God does prevent many from going to heaven. If we have the libertarian freedom to do otherwise, then there's a possible world where I choose Christ and go to heaven as well as a possible world where I reject Christ and go to hell. That means if someone goes to hell in the actual world, God prevented him from going to heaven by creating the possible world where he is hellbound rather than the possible world where he is heavenbound.

"As far as losing salvation (a) some Arminians believe in 'eternal security';"

I specified Wesleyan Arminians. You're not paying attention.

"(b) Calvin (in his Institutes) taught that God gives some a temporary faith or grace in order to take it away and damn them in the end and there would be no outward difference between the counterfeit believer and the genuine believer (which seems to make it hard to figure out if you're one or the other)."

Your argument is fallacious. Figuring out which you are wouldn't depend on "outward" differences, but inward differences. The unregenerate don't have the same gracious experience as the regenerate.

keystone says:
Nelson Banuchi says:

"1. I didn't argue it was. I only mentioned that if there is a contradiction, it is on the Calvinist side as I made my comment based on Calvinist presuppositions. Calvinism teaches both that God elected to eternal damnation whomsoever he chose to damn without any consideration of their moral character; and, simultaneously, Calvinists assert that those whom God damned deserved it. Since I do not espouse Calvinism, I am not required to explain the contradiction."

You confuse unconditional election with reprobation. The fact that election is unconditional does not entail that reprobation is unconditional. Reprobation is unconditional in the qualified sense that if sin was a sufficient condition of reprobation, then everyone would be damned. However, sin is a necessary condition of damnation.

"God's love does not prevent the person who receives his love demonstrated on the Cross through faith from salvation; salvation is conditional. In Arminianism, if one goes to hell, it is by his own choice."

Which paraphrases what I said. Therefore, you've failed to demonstrate that I misrepresented Arminianism.

What makes you think conditional salvation is more loving than unconditional election?

"Not interested in philosophical speculations re: possible worlds so, respectfully, here you're talking to the wall. Show in the Bible where Arminian theology is flawed, and then we can discuss it. And, again, respectfully, you demonstrate a misunderstanding what Arminian theology is."

This is how Jerry Walls defines the Arminian concept of freewill:

"As he makes the choice, the agent has the power to choose A and the power to choose not-A."

That means there's a possible world (A) in which the individual accepts Jesus as well as another possible world (not-A) in which the individual rejects Christ.

Yet the Arminian God only creates one of those possible worlds. And in many cases, he creates the world in which the individual rejected Christ rather than the alternative world in which the individual accepted Christ.

Therefore, the Arminian God prevents countless individuals from ever being saved-or even saveable.

That's a logical consequence of your theological system.

"In any case, again, it is Calvinism that teaches God prevents many, many people from being saved because it was God's choice to eternally damn many, many people; and that is the ultimate reason for the damnation of men and not notions of demerit."

And the Arminian God prevents many, many people from being saved because it was his choice to create the timeline in which they reject Christ rather than the timeline in which they accept Christ.

You need to learn how to think through the ramifications of your own position, instead of adopting a purely reactionary stance.

"You did not `specify Wesleyans.'"

To the contrary, I did just that. I said "especially Wesleyan Arminians."

And if you're going to defend eternal security, you need to explain why we must have libertarian freedom to accept the faith, but not have libertarian freedom to stay in the faith. How is that not an artificial bifurcation?

"As I understand the reading, that there is practically no outward difference was Calvin's point (regardless of how it is doctrinally explained)."

You keep missing the point. Outward differences are irrelevant. The salient distinction involves internal differences (e.g. whether or not the individual is in a state of grace).

Is Calvinism despairing?

Some comments I left over at Justin Taylor’s blog:

steve hays
June 6, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Daniel Wilcox

“There is despair, (certainly in the case of Russell and Dawkins), but then there is worse despair…
‘a World with God’ who wills in his hidden will for most humans to be foreordained to eternal damnation (John Calvin, John Piper of ‘two wills’ in God, etc.)…where many in the world have no hope because of TULIP.”

What makes you think that according to Calvinism, God wills for most humans to be damned? That certainly wasn’t the position of B. B. Warfield, to take one prominent example.

“Then there is the Good News of John 3:16 ‘so loved the world’!”

As commentators like Andrew Lincoln point out, “world” has reference, not to the number of people God loves, but the kind of people God loves. Not how many, but how bad.

“No,TULIP denies the Good News of God’s loving to save the whole world!”

Well, if you believe in divine foreknowledge and eternal punishment, then God never intended to save everyone.

“In this theology God only loves to save a limited number of humans and Jesus only died to save those limited number:-(”

Love that makes an actual difference, rather than helpless, ineffectual love.

“No there is NO hope in Calvinism.”

There’s hope for the elect–absolute hope.

“All the rest of us–millions upon millions were foreordained to eternal damnation, according to John Calvin and every Calvinists I have talked with in 50 years.”

If you define freewill as the freedom to choose between alternate possibilities (and that’s how Arminians typically define freewill), then that commits you to the belief that there’s a hypothetical timeline in which someone accepts Jesus and goes to heaven as well as a hypothetical timeline in which the same person rejects Jesus and goes to hell.

So if anyone goes to hell, that’s because God actualized the timeline in which that individual freely rejected Christ rather than the timeline in which that individual freely accepted Christ. Therefore, God foredoomed that individual to hell. He never had a chance of getting to heaven. God preempted that outcome by actualizing the alternative timeline. God decided in advance which of those two choices would stick.

“This is why John Wesley wrote that he would rather be an Atheist than believe in the Calvinistic concept of God. I agree with him completely.”

John Wesley believed that unbaptized babies were damned, whereas B. B. Warfield believed that all dying infants were saved.

“It would appear that Calvinism teaches that Satan and evil happen because of God’s secret will.”

According to Calvinism, bad things happen for a good reason. You think it’s better to say that God allows horrendous evil for no good reason?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trust but verify

Defenders of the NSA surveillance programs draw a distinction between metadata mining and PRISM. On the one hand, the NSA maintains a universal phone log, but doesn’t normally eavesdrop on the content. On the other hand, PRISM does eavesdrop on the content, but that targets suspected terrorists, requiring a FISA warrant.

But there are several problems with this distinction in practice. To begin with, given the secrecy of the operations, what’s to keep the NSA from secretly breaking the law?

In addition, there’s a strident contradiction in the way NSA programs are defended. On the one hand, we’re giving assurances that the NSA will respect the legal distinction between metadata mining and PRISM. On the other hand, Edward Snowden is excoriated for compromising national security.

But in that event, Snowden is a vivid illustration of how the system breaks down. The defenders of the NSA programs are simultaneously critics of Snowden. They don’t think he could be trusted to safeguard NSA secrets. But if a flunky like Snowden can easily breach NSA protocols, then the NSA can’t be relied on to protect sensitive information about private citizens.

Keep in mind, moreover, that all we know about NSA is either based on leaks or what they tell us. They only tell us what they want us to know. And they lie. Take James Clapper’s lie to Congress.

Now, I don’t think it’s always wrong for officials to lie about counterintelligence. Eisenhower was caught in a lie about the U-2 incident. But even though some national security lies are justified, that still means you can’t automatically believe their promises.

And that’s even before we consider a thoroughly corrupt regime like the Obama administration, which has zero credibility going into the debate.

God, Blame, and Incompatibilism, with Oodles of Theological Speculation

Final post in the series.


I expect that for many people, maybe most people, their concept of heaven centers on reunion with their departed loved ones. Of course, just because that’s the popular concept of heaven, that may not be the correct concept of heaven. Heaven may not be what they’re hoping for. Indeed, many people who assume they are going to heaven will be in for a rude surprise. Heaven is for Christians (as well as OT saints).

It’s striking that although Scripture has a fair amount to say about heaven, it doesn’t have much to say specifically about reunion. So is this just wishful thinking? Is there any Scriptural basis for this popular belief? For this ardent hope?

Here’s one text that has implications for reunion:

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:8-10,13-15).

That’s just a sample. I could quote more from the same chapter. But that’s enough to make my point.

If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are on the same journey, and they complete the journey, then they will arrive at the same destination. They will arrive at different times, but if they are taking the same route, they will wind up in the same place.

That’s reunion. Not all at once. You have to wait your turn. Some get there sooner, some get there later. Some ahead, some behind. But everyone who stays on the right path will end where the path ends. That’s reunion.

Can I unfriend the NSA?

Facebook has new privacy settings:
just friends and the NSA
just me and the NSA
just the NSA

Unethical ethicists

Global poverty rate cut in half, 1990-2010

Economic growth fuels drop in global poverty

How did this happen? Presidents and prime ministers in the West have made grandiloquent speeches about making poverty history for fifty years. ... The impact of such [official governmental] initiatives has been marginal at best.

Almost all of the fall in the poverty rate should be attributed to economic growth. Fast-growing economies in the developing world have done most of the work. Between 1981 and 2001 China lifted 680m people out of poverty. Since 2000, the acceleration of growth in developing countries has cut the numbers in extreme poverty outside China by 280m. How that growth is distributed matters too. In a country where income inequality is high, each percentage point of GDP growth will do less work than the same growth would in a more equal place.

This is great news. Unfortunately, taking the remaining billion people above the threshold will be harder. The next country that should move millions of people across the line will be India, whose economy has slowed. Then it will be the turn of sub-Saharan Africa. By 2030 two-thirds of the poorest will be in fragile states like Congo and Somalia, where they will be hard for domestic governments or foreign agencies to help. Still, shifting people above the threshold that marks dire poverty has begun to look achievable within a generation.

It seems to me that this data is fairly supportive of the notion that future government initiatives (anywhere in the world) that are interested in “eliminating poverty” ought to be initiatives that favor economic growth rather than almost anything else that governments like to do.

Which, on balance, means laissez faire when it comes to business. Lower taxes. Fewer regulations.

But will governments anywhere pay attention to this sort of thing?

[Photo: the Ghost of Ronald Reagan.]

One man's whistleblower is another man's traitor

i) I’ve been reading some of the feedback on NRO articles regarding the NSA programs. The feedback seems to be dominated by libertarians, even Paulbots. Admittedly, I don’t know for a fact that they are libertarians or Paulbots. That’s just my impression–based on stereotypical language and arguments. It’s sounds like standard fare at It’s also reminiscent of things I’ve heard from John Lofton. So I could be mistaken, but with that disclaimer in mind, I’ll proceed under that assumption.

ii) I think one of the grievances of commenters is the NRO generally represents “establishment” Republicans who are out of touch with the concerns of grassroots conservatives. And I think there’s some truth to that.

We might ask why so many NRO pundits automatically backed the NSA programs. One reason is that former Bush operatives feel vindicated by Obama’s continuation and escalation of Bush’s counterterrorism policies. And I can understand how they’d derive moral satisfaction from Obama eating his own words.

Conversely, the antagonism of Paulbots to Obama policies is a carryover from antagonism towards Bush policies.

In addition, conservatives are traditionally hawkish, so their default position is to support national security initiatives. Of course, that assumes the NSA programs genuinely advance national security.

iii) Some libertarians (or Paulbots) have already crowned Snowden as a folk hero, on par with Bradley Manning.

Although I think Snowden has performed a public service by exposing NSA spying on millions of private citizens, I’m not prepared to make him a hero–much less Manning.

Snowden has been issuing self-serving, self-gratulatory statements about his motives. But, of course, we’d expect him to say that. We don’t expect him to impute unworthy motives to his conduct. I’m sure that Kim Philby felt morally justified in his own actions.

If you take his statements at face value, Snowden is a disillusioned Obama supporter. Well, I don’t respect people who voted for Obama.

iv) Alan Dershowitz has an ironic article on the NSA scandal. Among other things, he says:

The initial revelation was made by a man named Glenn Greenwald, who wrote about them in The Guardian and has been all over the media taking a victory lap. Greenwald is the personification of the paranoid streak in American politics. He is more of an ideologue than a reporter. He has long been an apologist for terrorism—a word he believes serves only as an excuse for violence and oppression by America and its allies. He has pushed false stories that his paper was forced to backpedal on, such as an AP report blaming the incendiary video “The Innocence of Islam” on an Israeli Jew living in California. He is Chomsky-like in his willingness to blame most of the world’s ills on the United States, Israel, the Obama administration, and liberals who do not buy into his radical worldview.

Now he is pushing the view that the Obama administration’s surveillance program is not really designed to prevent terrorism but rather to gather information for less salutary purposes. Greenwald’s hard-left conspiracy theories are attractive to far-right talk-show hosts and bloggers who share a common suspicion of liberal government. This suspicion has been nurtured by the recent IRS scandal and the Justice Department’s overzealous pursuit of journalists.

Of course, it’s unintentionally comical to see Dershowitz attacking the far left.

But that aside, Dershowitz makes a valid point. Some of the leakers don’t have the best interests of Americans at heart. We need to take their own agenda into account.

v) An NRO article that elicited a predictably hostile reaction was one by John Yoo (“Prosecute Snowden”). Now, just as I’m not prepared to treat Snowden as a folk her, I also don’t share Yoo’s indignation.

That said, some of the commentators attacked Yoo as the author of the famous or infamous (depending on your viewpoint) “torture” memos.

Ironically, I think this is one area in which some libertarians or Paulbots (if that’s what they are) become the flipside of the Obama administration. On the one hand, libertarians rightly fault the Obama administration for failing to distinguish between ordinary Americans and our real enemies.

On the other hand, when libertarians fault the Bush administration for failing to accord full due process rights to foreign-born terrorists, they are guilty of the very same attitude in reverse. They, too, are failing to distinguish between American citizens and our real enemies.  So I think some libertarians need to stop emoting and starting developing a coherent position. The way some libertarians or Paulbots (if that’s what they are) are talking is often indistinguishable from the rhetoric of rag-tag bans of anarchists and ecoterrorists who riot against Wall Street, the WTO, &c.

vi) Then there’s another inconsistency. On the one hand, libertarians are decrying “secret law.” On the other hand, they also decry lack of judicial oversight during the Bush administration.

Yet that generates a dilemma. I share the libertarian fear of a shadow gov’t. But if you demand judicial oversight of covert operations, then you’re going to get a covert court system. Counterterrorism does require a measure of secrecy. That means judicial rulings about classified programs will be classified rulings.

vii) Now, I think this may be a false dilemma because it goes back to the general failure to distinguish between citizens and terrorists (although those two groups sometimes overlap). Offhand, I don’t think we need judicial oversight of programs that target foreign nationals, for I don’t think non-citizens should enjoy the same panoply of civil rights as citizens.

And let’s not forget that you can still have Congressional oversight without having judicial oversight. Congress holds closed-door briefings on counterterrorist programs. 

If you don’t like secret courts, don’t insist on judicial oversight for secret programs targeting terrorists.

Of course, some terrorists are citizens. In the case of Muslims, that’s because we’re so lax about naturalizing Muslims. The solution is to tighten up screening procedures for applicants. Likewise, we shouldn’t be letting all these Muslims flood into the US. There are solutions that could eliminate the need for FISA. Or so it seems.

viii) Another problem is how the Obama administration selectively and cynically prosecutes leakers. For instance, a Navy Seal is facing criminal prosecution for publishing a book that sets the record straight on the Bin Laden operation. Yet the very same administration is guilty of leaking classified details of the Bin Laden operation for political advantage. So the Obama administration uses classification and declassification as a political weapon. The Obama administration is, itself, guilty of compromising national security.

ix) There’s also the naïveté of imagining that programs on the scale of the NSA programs could be kept secrete indefinitely. But surely the scope of the programs requires too many participants, both inside gov’t and outside of gov’t (e.g. telecommunications companies) for that to remain a secret for the duration.

x) BTW, I’m not clear on why we even need the NSA. When we already have the FBI, CIA, and military intelligence, why do we also need the NSA? Isn’t that duplication?

xi) Finally, I’d like to comment on the rise of a hacktivist subculture. This can be good or bad depending on the issue. For instance, a few months ago a “newspaper” decided to out gun owners by publicly mapping their location and identity. It didn’t occur to the shortsighted journalists that gun owners could retaliate by outing the journalists (although I don’t if  hacking was involved). I doubt a future news outlet will repeat that mistake.

Likewise, hacktivists threatened to out Westboro Baptist cult members. That’s poetic justice.

At its best, hacktivism can be a counterthrust to illicit gov’t snooping. But hacktivism is no better than the ideology which motivates any particular hacktivist.

The Religious Beliefs Of Scientists

It's common for atheists and other critics of Christianity to point to the irreligiosity of scientists as evidence against religion. In a recent thread at this blog, an atheist commenter claimed that atheists make up 93% of the scientific community in the United States. William Lane Craig addressed such claims during the June 2 edition of his Reasonable Faith podcast. Also, see Paul Manata's comments on pages 42-44 of The Infidel Delusion.

Monday, June 10, 2013

President of the World

When you trade liberty for security, you lose both

Back to storks and babies


Apologetics on Twitter?

I had the following conversation on Twitter last week:

Tim Enloe relaunches “Societas Christiana”

Societas-Christianas-Header-2Tim Enloe has re-launched his Societas Christiana blog, a primarily historical treatment of what he calls “the Christian society” of the Middle Ages.

Tim is a student of the middle ages and all things Medieval, and I believe that knowing this period will be helpful in all kinds of ways for those interested in learning more about the Reformation and applying its lessons to our own times.

What is “Societas Christiana”? (Part 1): Some Basic Terminology

What is “Societas Christiana”? (Part 2): A Survey of Medieval Diversity

If he gives a theme, it may be found in the first link:

This new iteration of the blog will be dedicated exclusively to re-engagement with issues of Medieval history and culture, with an eye towards what we as Modern Christians can learn from our brethren in the past.

In his first posts, he provides definitions of “Christian society”, “Christian”, and “society”. In the second post, he works through a number of the unique features of “the Middle Ages”, including a broad-brush treatment ranging from patristic questions about how the church should interact with the government and society:

in which apologists and theologians formulated four distinct positions on the locus of authority in Christian society. The four positions held then were: (1) “What has the Emperor to do with the Church?,” (2) “The Church is in the Empire,” (3) “The Empire is in the Church,” and (4) “The Church and Empire are separate, but cooperative.”

The history of the Middle Ages (and indeed, the history of our own time) can be seen as a struggle among those basic kinds of positions. Tim’s summary:

[T]he key point [is] that Medieval thought about societas Christiana was fantastically diverse, and that there is likely much we can learn from it for our own attempts to think about and live out the societal implications of the Christian gospel.