Saturday, January 04, 2014

Beale interviewed at SCRBPC 2013

A few video clips from an interview with G.K. Beale. Beale was recently the keynote speaker at the SoCal Reformed Baptist Pastors' conference.

Singling out homosexuality

"An oh-so-subtle twist" by Dr. Brian Mattson.

Brush fire

I'm going to comment on the Michael Brown/Benny Hinn imbroglio. I'll start with a personal anecdote. Years ago I was talking to a Messianic Jewess. She said the reason so many Messianic Jews were ordained in the Four Square denomination is that, back then, Messianic Judaism was still so exotic that most Protestant denominations didn't know what to do with a Jewish convert to Christianity. Four Square was one of the few denominations that would ordain them.
I don't know how representative that is, but it may explain how someone of Brown's vintage got into charismatic circles to begin with.  
Thanks, friends, for sharing your thoughts and concerns re: my appearing on the Benny Hinn show. While I’m quite aware that some of you feel he is the ultimate false teacher and charlatan while others believe him to be a wonderful man of God, I have actually not monitored his ministry over the years. When I received the invitation to appear on the show, I felt I was to take it and exalt Jesus the Messiah and expose hyper-grace (and exalt true grace) to millions of viewers. And since Pastor Hinn seems very desirous of further interaction with me, I would encourage those of you who have grave concerns about his ministry to pray that God would use me to be a blessing in his life.”) 
We've traveled in different circles over the years. Simple. And I don't watch Christian TV. 
Several issues here:
i) There's a cart-before-the-horse quality to this rationale. He admits that he was already aware of Hinn's notoriety. If he doesn't have an informed opinion about Hinn, would it not be more prudent for him to investigate Hinn before accepting the invitation? 
ii) He accused the Strange Fire conference of overgeneralizing about the charismatic movement. He countered with an appeal to his extensive personal knowledge of the charismatic movement. If, however, he can't render an informed judgment about Benny Hinn, because they move in different circles, then he's not as qualified to speak for the charismatic movement. He doesn't know how representative Hinn may be. 
iii) It seems odd that he wouldn't have an informed opinion about Hinn. Even if he hasn't taken time to read or listen to Hinn, given that Brown is a well-connected player in the charismatic movement, you'd expect him to have a certain amount of inside information based on back-channel conversations he'd had over the years with so many contacts and informants. Presumably, a man in his position doesn't need to read exposes by critics outside the movement, for he has his own sources. 
iv) Assuming that he belatedly confronted Hinn, is Hinn receptive to constructive criticism? Or is Hinn the kind of guy who will issue throwaway retractions under pressure, then revert to business as usual once the pressure is off? Temporarily recant, then resume his old tricks after the posse leaves town?
Let’s just say that Benny Hinn was as bad as some of you say. Why shouldn’t I reach his audience with gospel truth for five days, even if it means some people will be upset with me?
That's a legitimate consideration. There are tradeoffs.
i) On the upside, this would afford him an opportunity to give Hinn's audience a theological education. Something better than the usual fare they are addicted to. That's a plus.
ii) On the downside, heresy typically consists of half-truths rather than pure falsehoods. Hinn's audience could accept all the good teaching that Brown serves up, but simply add that to Hinn's buffet. If the menu has nutritious food as well as toxic food, it's just as hazardous.
Unless Brown explicitly contrasts his teaching to Hinn's, Hinn's audience will take the bad with the good. They need to be alerted to the poisonous dishes at the buffet. 
Finally, I've read the Pavlovian reaction on the part of critics who were gunning for Brown before this particular controversy erupted. They claim this just goes to show what the Strange Fire conference was saying all along. 
Ironically, that's like opportunistic gun-control fanatics who, every time a sniper shoots somebody, exclaim: "We told you so! That just proves the need ban guns." Of course, those who support the right to bear arms don't think these incidents prove the need to ban guns. That's a reactionary, unstable response rather than a reasoned position. 
Brown's lapse of judgment regarding Benny Hinn no more disproves charismatic theology than Richard Land's lapse of judgment regarding Ergun Caner disproves Baptist theology. Unfortunately, some folks convert from undiscerning charismatics to undiscerning cessationists. They are no wiser after the fact than before the fact. Just a weathercock, blowing in the wind.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Sneaky Calvinists

According to the following snippet from the NY Times, Roger Olson said:

Some non-Calvinists say that the rise of Calvinism has been accomplished in part through sneaky methods. Roger E. Olson, a Baylor University professor and the author of "Against Calvinism," is the Calvinists' most outspoken critic.

"One of the concerns is that new graduates from certain Baptist seminaries have been infiltrating churches that are not Calvinist, and not telling the churches or search committees who are not Calvinist," Professor Olson said. According to what he has heard, young preachers "wait several months and then begin to stock the church library with books" by Calvinists like John Piper and Mark Driscoll. They hold special classes on Calvinist topics, he said, and they staff the church with fellow Calvinists.

"Often the church ends up splitting, with the non-Calvinists starting their own church," Professor Olson said.

Olson has elsewhere said:

Due to the rise of what my friend Scot McKnight calls "neo-Puritanism" (what others have labeled "the new Calvinism" or just "resurgent Calvinism") TULIP Calvinism is popping up in places it does not belong. Especially young men are reading John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, even Michael Horton, and taking this new found theology "home" with them into the denominations they grew up in or have joined. Often those denominations are historically averse to Calvinism–such as Wesleyan-Holiness, Pentecostal and Anabaptist ones.

Often these denominations did not have the foresight to expect this influx of "young, restless, Reformed" people and so never wrote statements of faith that explicitly excluded TULIP. Their whole, entire ethoses were contrary to TULIP, however, and "five point Calvinism" is completely foreign to their histories and theologies.

I receive e-mail all the time (too many to respond to) from pastors, lay people, and even theologians (college, university and seminary professors) informing me about this infection of Calvinism in their denominations and related institutions. Usually they want some advice about how to handle this.

Now, let's be clear about what I'm talking about and am NOT talking about. Many denominations are historically-theologically, confessionally Calvinist. Of course I'm not talking about them. They are where Calvinists belong!

  1. Pretty ironic. On the one hand, Olson has often professed to be "moderate" and "progressive" minded in the past. But on the other hand, he's arguing for the status quo here.

  2. A Catholic living during the Reformation might have responded to Olson's line of thinking by saying something like:

    The Reformation is popping up in places it does not belong. Especially young men are reading John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, and taking this new found theology "home" with them into the parishes they grew up in or have joined.

    Often those parishes are historically averse to Reformation theology. Often these parishes did not have the foresight to expect this influx of "sola fide, sola Scriptura, sola Christus, sola gratia, soli Deo gloria" Reformation people and so never wrote statements of faith that explicitly excluded Reformation theology. Their whole, entire ethoses were contrary to Reformation theology, however, and the five solas are completely foreign to their histories and theologies.

    I receive letters all the time (too many to respond to) from priests, lay people, and even theologians (college, university and seminary professors) informing me about this infection of the Reformation in their parishes and related institutions. Usually they want some advice about how to handle this.

    I suppose, though, that Olson is a notch better than this imaginary Catholic in that Olson would at least allow Calvinists to remain in their enclaves rather than root them out!

  3. Or take first century Israel. A Pharisee or Sadducee could respond in the same way Olson has responded:

    This Jesus is popping up in places he does not belong. Especially young men, fishermen, tax collectors, and other sinners are following him, and taking his new found theology "home" with them into the synagogues they grew up in or have joined.

    Point being, Olson has tied much of this to history, but history changes and, more importantly, history isn't indexed to biblical truth.

  4. What about all the open theists and moderate or progressive Christians like Olson infiltrating conservative churches? I'm not necessarily talking about Reformed or Calvinist churches. But many Arminian churches would not like to see pastors and other workers who share Olson's theology in their churches. Does Olson tell these progressive Christians to stick to where they belong too?

  5. Another issue is Olson's allegation that seminary graduates who bring Calvinist theology into non-Calvinistic churches are somehow behaving in a less than forthright manner.

    1. Sorry if I don't take Olson at his word on this.

      Olson makes it sound like this is a near epidemic. Maybe it is quite widespread. (I'd personally be pleased if so since Calvinism far better reflects what the Bible teaches than what Olson espouses. But that's another debate.)

      However, before we can reach this conclusion, let's note, for a start, that Olson's data about the Calvinist "infection" originate from emails with "pastors, lay people, and even theologians." How reliable are his sources? How objective are they, and how objective is Roger Olson? Wouldn't people emailing Olson who is quite a public and known and outspoken entity against Calvinism to complain about Calvinism in their churches potentially be fairly biased themselves?

      Another question we could ask. How representative are these emails? Has Olson taken into account emails that suggest their churches are non-Calvinistic churches? Or maybe all the emails are from a handful of churches or institutions.

    2. I'm curious if Olson's open theism and other "moderate" and "progressive" views would be accepted by his Baptist denomination. If not, then why's he complaining about Calvinist seminary graduates? If so, then his denomination could do with more biblical fidelity for starters.

    3. It's not clear to me if these seminary graduates are church frequenters or attendees or the like (laity), or if they serve in some leadership role such as are pastoral candidates or the like.

      If the former, then why is it a problem? What if an atheist attends their church? Is church attendance say on Sunday mornings only for people whose beliefs line up with the church's on every or nearly every point? (Of course, some churches require membership, but Olson hasn't drawn this distinction, I don't think.)

      If the latter, then it may be the seminarian hasn't been forthright about his theology, but it may also be the church hasn't bothered to vet a candidate. For instance, Mark Dever mentioned in the NYT article that the hiring committee for Capitol Hill Baptist didn't even ask him about his theology.

    4. What if these seminarians entered seminary as non-Calvinists, even while attending their same "home" church, but through their studies became convinced of Calvinism? They'd still be part of their local church even though their views changed. Are these the sorts of people Olson is talking about? We don't know, for Olson doesn't specify.

      Has Olson changed his mind on important theological points since he was accepted into his current denomination?

“Pope Francis“ learns what Martin Luther knew: “Be a sinner and sin boldly”

Pope Francis: “Sin Boldly”
Pope Francis: “Sin Boldly”
Roman Catholics never seem to tire of misquoting that famous Martin Luther quote, which came in a letter to Philip Melanchthon, in which he said, “Be a sinner and sin boldly”. Here is some context from that letter:

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner [LW 48:281-282].

Meanwhile, here is the context of Bishop Bergoglio’s remarks:

Priests, brothers, and sisters in Catholic religious orders around the globe should “wake up the world” by being “real witnesses” [they have been fake witnesses so far?] to a counter-cultural way of life that relies on generosity and self-forgetfulness, Pope Francis told a meeting of superiors general of religious orders in November.

Those religious, the pope also added, should also not be afraid of making mistakes or even committing sins.

“You should be real witnesses of a world doing and acting differently, “ the pope told some 120 leaders of male religious orders during a closed-door Nov. 29 meeting at the Vatican, according to a new account of the event released Friday by the Italian Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica.

“But in life it is difficult for everything to be clear, precise, outlined neatly,” the pope continued. “Life is complicated; it consists of grace and sin.”

“He who does not sin is not human,” said the pope. “We all make mistakes and we need to recognize our weaknesses. A religious who recognizes himself as weak and a sinner does not negate the witness that he is called to give, rather he reinforces it, and this is good for everyone.”

Maybe some day Rome will figure out what the Reformation was all about.

Denver Seminary's 2014 Bibliographies

Each year, some of Denver Seminary's scholars put together a list of recommended Biblical commentaries, books on textual criticism, reference works, etc. Their Old Testament and New Testament bibliographies for the year were just posted.

Calvinist revival

Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics

The editor of this recent reference work is a leading Arminian scholar:


The Historical Reality of Adam

Why science is not necessarily self-correcting


The ability to self-correct is considered a hallmark of science. However, self-correction does not always happen to scientific evidence by default. The trajectory of scientific credibility can fluctuate over time, both for defined scientific fields and for science at-large. History suggests that major catastrophes in scientific credibility are unfortunately possible and the argument that “it is obvious that progress is made” is weak. Careful evaluation of the current status of credibility of various scientific fields is important in order to understand any credibility deficits and how one could obtain and establish more trustworthy results. Efficient and unbiased replication mechanisms are essential for maintaining high levels of scientific credibility. Depending on the types of results obtained in the discovery and replication phases, there are different paradigms of research: optimal, self-correcting, false nonreplication, and perpetuated fallacy. In the absence of replication efforts, one is left with unconfirmed (genuine) discoveries and unchallenged fallacies. In several fields of investigation, including many areas of psychological science, perpetuated and unchallenged fallacies may comprise the majority of the circulating evidence. I catalogue a number of impediments to self-correction that have been empirically studied in psychological science. Finally, I discuss some proposed solutions to promote sound replication practices enhancing the credibility of scientific results as well as some potential disadvantages of each of them. Any deviation from the principle that seeking the truth has priority over any other goals may be seriously damaging to the self-correcting functions of science.

Source: "Why Science Is Not Necessarily Self-Correcting" (pdf) by John P. A. Ioannidis.

Canada, eh?

Leon Brown has been inveighing against Hostess inspired and other snack related racial stereotypes (e.g. see here).

But I submit the real danger lies in a different direction: North!

Specifically, the mighty maple leaf land we know as our friendly neighbourhood (translation: neighborhood) Canada.

I don't mean to say Canadians are the danger. Although in ice hockey and tuque themed headdress fashion shows that would doubtless go without saying. Canadians ask for no quarter, and no quarter is given. (Unless someone is in need of spare change, in which case I've found Canadians are more than happy to assist with a 25-cent piece caribou coin or more.)

Rather I believe Canadians are the ones in danger. They're the ones facing unjust discrimination for nothing more than being polite Canadians.

Whatever do I mean? Have I gone crazy? «Est-ce que j'ai des bébites dans ma tête? Mais non!» (Translation: "Enjoy our delicious poutine, or we'll separate from you!")

I move that the gentlefolk reading this post observe the second to last sentence in #7 (also see here):

Each Canadian resident who is a potential winner will be required to answer correctly a mathematical skill testing question without assistance of any kind whether mechanical or otherwise to be declared a Winner and be eligible to collect a prize.

It would appear Disney has not required other nationalities to do the same in order to win a family vacation to the happiest place on Earth. Why does Uncle Walt and company single out the kind Canucks? And with "a mathematical skill testing question" no less?

It's not as if potential American or British or South African or Singaporean or other winners have to calculate, say, the exact time down to the nth decimal point it takes light to travel from the Sun to Pluto (the astronomical object formerly known as a planet, not the pup) without so much as a piece of paper and pencil, right?

So, Disney, what's all this really aboot (translation: about)?


Patrick aka rice rocket Twinkiengineer, in solidarity with my True North brethren.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Lemon meringue pie

Responding to Leon Brown's recent allegations regarding "twinkles" in the PCA, Gene Cook interviewed Chuck Norris and Brock Lesnar on the Narrow Mind about the underreported lemon meringue pie syndrome. ("White on the outside, yellow on the inside.") Norris said he always wanted to play Hamlet at the Stratford festival, but as a six-time world karate champion, he was forever typecast as a lemon meringue pie. For his part, Brock Lesnar confessed for the first time why he really quit the UFC–after B. J. Penn kept waving a picture of a lemon meringue pie and pointing to Lesnar. "You have no idea what it feels like to be a 6' 3" 300 lb. lemon meringue pie," he exclaimed, wiping a tear from his eye. "Once a white guy gets a reputation for kung-fu, he can't shake the label!" Lesnar and Norris were both sporting T-shirts emblazoned with the defiant motto:
I am not a Lemon meringue pie!
Norris also mentioned a petition they were circulating, signed by Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Randy Couture, Steven Seagal, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, David Carradine, and George St-Pierre–all protesting their lemon meringue pie image.  

How God turns a French atheist into a Christian theologian

Why Sci-Fi Is the Last Bastion of Philosophical Writing

Lead, follow, or get out of the way

I'm going to comment on this post:
By way of preliminaries, there are leaders and then there are managers. There are men who function well in ordinary times, but fall apart in a crisis. And there are men who function well in a crisis, but find it hard to lead an ordinary life. A crisis is a winnowing process that sorts the leaders from the managers. 
From what I've read, Patton was a great general while Eisenhower was a great manager. Patton was a natural leader. In a crisis, he could rise to the challenge. Seize the moment. He was an extraordinary man for extraordinary times. Stonewall Jackson is another example.
Not surprisingly, he was a poor administrator. Impatient with weakness. 
There are Christians like Trevin Wax who are probably good managers. They have what it takes to function in ordinary times. But they lack the qualities of a real leader. Not only do they fail in a crisis, but they simply get in the way. They pour cold water on the efforts of those who do know how to function in a moral emergency.  
It’s been a couple weeks since the brouhaha, enough time to get a little perspective on the controversy. 
Notice the patronizing perspective. He's the voice of reason. Those who supported Robertson are hotheads. Wax had to allow for a cooling off period before calmer heads could prevail. Now that the laity have doused their torches and put away their pitchforks, we're read to listen to sanity.
Meanwhile, fans flocked to Twitter and FaceBook to express their support of the show and the Robertson family.
Why equate supporters of Robertson with fans of Duck Dynasty?
First off, let’s not be melodramatic. It’s hard to make Phil Robertson out to be a martyr and when there really are such things as martyrs.If anything, the debacle simply shows us how unpopular it is to say that homosexuality is a sin, but also how unpopular it is to suspend an outspoken, self-proclaimed Bible-thumper for, well, thumping the Bible.
Unfortunately, this is a typically clueless evaluation. No, Robertson was not a martyr. That misses the point. 
Here's the point: if the homosexual lobby is brazen enough to take down somebody as popular as Robertson, then ordinary Christians are far more vulnerable. 
The popularity of Duck Dynasty is a double-edged sword for evangelicals. The show reinforces the stereotype that devout Christians are a bunch of backwards rednecks.
Actually, I think it tends to stereotype Southerns as hicks and rubes. 
So, even if I’m glad that Duck Dynasty has an audience, and that this family is seeking to remain faithful to their religious convictions, I would still caution evangelicals against making Phil Robertson our spokesman. He’s a brilliant marketer and businessman, but he shouldn’t be our mouthpiece.
i) I'd caution evangelicals against making Trevin Wax our spokesman. He shouldn't be our mouthpiece.
ii) Notice how Wax imputes an attitude to Robertson's supporters, then reproves them for the role he cast them in. 
First off, he was unnecessarily crude in his remarks.
What was "crude" about Robertson's remarks? He didn't use street slang. He used standard medical terminology. 
If Christian pundits like Wax are such fainting violets that they wilt at words like "anus," how are they in any position to oppose homosexual activities like…you know…anal sex? 
Secondly, he minimized the pervasiveness of sin in the way he commented on the issue.
Another blind objection. I assume Robertson focussed on homosexuality (although he mentioned other sins as well) because that's what the power elite is fixated on at the moment. The power elite has decided to make homosexual hegemony the great moral cause of our time. Now, it's odd that they've made that their hill to die on. Can't they come up with something more inspiring to rally around than rimming or letting "transgender" boys hang out in the girls locker room? But that's where they've decided to draw the line. 
Third, though Robertson talks about salvation through Christ without mentioning baptism, he belongs to a church that believes baptism is essential for salvation.
That's worth discussing, but it's a red herring in this particular controversy.
In the end, let’s take a deep breath and get some perspective. 
And in this case, many Christian laymen have greater moral clarity than nearsighted pundits like Wax. 
We don’t pin our hopes to a television show, no matter how popular. 
Is his grasp of the situation really that superficial?  
Celebrity television stars come and go; it’s the Word of the Lord that stands forever.
Thankfully, some TGC pundits come and go, too. 

The Closing of the Scientific Mind

The Virgin Birth: what did Mary provide?

"White on the inside"

Once more, I'm going to comment on this post:
In the nature of the case, I have to resort to some generalizations. No doubt there are many exceptions.
i) What does Leon mean by "white on the inside"? To begin with, I think there's something we might call the immigrant work ethic. Immigrants are motivated to succeed in the new country. That's why many of them move here in the first place. To get ahead. By the same token, they motivate their kids to succeed. 
To the extent that many Asians are recent immigrants, they may have more of an immigrant work ethic. A strong incentive to move up the social ladder. 
Is that "yellow on the outside, but white on the inside"? Are they acting white? Or is this a case of acting American? Adapting to the new culture? 
Assimilation is a common feature of immigrant kids. If you come here at an early age, you learn to blend in. Master the social skills you need to survive and excel in the new culture. 
If, by contrast, you're born here to immigrant parents, then you're not acting American. You really are bicultural. That's second nature. 
ii) By contrast, take Cuban Americans in S. Florida, especially the first generation who were escaping the Castro revolution, after Battista was overthrown. Were they acting white? Were they even acting American? Or was it just a case of the Cuban business class relocating? They transplanted their preexisting entrepreneurial culture to America.
Same thing with Jewish Americans. Are they acting white? Or does this reflect Old World values? European values? Jews already value education. Academic excellence. Lucrative jobs. 
iii) By contrast, many black and white Americans have been here for generations. They don't have to adapt. And there's not the same sense of having to start from scratch, on the bottom rung of the social ladder. They were born into a certain social status. Say, if they were born to middle class parents. Socioeconomic stasis may be sufficient. They don't necessarily aspire to a higher standard of living. They already have what they need. It's a matter of doing just enough to maintain their lifestyle. 
A more analogous comparison would be Americans born poor who resent poverty, who work their way up the social ladder. Pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. Phil Robertson and Mike Huckabee are two examples. 
iv) To the extent that the Asian-American culture values social mobility, I doubt "acting white" carries the same stigma as it does in segments of the black community, where that has invidious connotations with the national mythos of the master/slave relation. 

Nature is a picture book

Can we cheat fate?

Nowadays, fate is generally reserved for fantasy and science fiction movies. On one scenario, the protagonist has a dream about the future. But that poses a dilemma. If he can truly foresee the future, then that seems to mean the future was written in advance, in which case there's nothing he can do to alter the future. Usually, though, the protagonist is defiant. He views the premonition as a challenge or opportunity to deflect the foreseen outcome.
But what about real life? Is there such a thing as fate in real life? 
i) Epistemological fate
Some events are inevitable due to our ignorance of the future. Our ignorance of the causes leading up to the outcome. Take a fatal traffic accident. In principle, that's easily avoidable. Usually, a traffic accident is all about timing. Change a single variable in the chain of events, and you escape. If the driver leaves the house a minute sooner or a minute later, he avoids the accident. If he stops at the yellow light rather than speeding through the yellow light, at the intersection three blocks from the scene of the impending accident, he avoids the accident. If he turns left instead of right, he avoids the accident. If he stops to buy his wife flowers, he avoids the accident. He never crossed a line of no return. Every step of the way there was an out. 
Starting with the accident, we can systematically trace it back through a series of links in the chain. From the moment he left home (or left work for the return trip), he was fated to die in the traffic accident. But that's something we can only see after the fact. Because he can't see it coming, it's too late for him to step out of the way. 
ii) Ontologial fate
Some events are inevitable despite our knowledge of the future. Medical science may be close to telling you ahead of time if you will develop an incurable degenerative illness, like Parkinson's, Huntington's, or multiple sclerosis. That's very much like fate in the Classical sense. You are doomed. You know you are doomed. And there's nothing you can do, short of suicide, to avoid it. 
This also raises the question of whether it's better to know your medical fate, or remain in blissful ignorance. That's a dilemma, for there are tradeoffs on both scenarios. 
On the one hand, if you knew that you were going to develop a degenerative illness, then you might well make better use of your time. Make the most of your opportunities. Not take friends and family for granted. Not fritter away your best years on trivia. 
On the other hand, knowing how the story ends, if it ends badly, casts a shadow over your life long before you develop the disease. It robs you of hope. It's hard to enjoy the present when you know what awaits you just around the corner.  Lurking in the shadows.

CSI on the fly

A few days ago, Steve linked to RD Miksa's post on the reliability of eyewitness testimony. It's well worth the read. I agree with and appreciate most of what Miksa said on eyewitness testimonial evidence.

I'd also like to add what little I can to what Miksa said about eyewitness testimony often trumping scientific evidence.

Roman Catholicism as a misinformation campaign

Roman Catholicism: How Myth Becomes Dogma
Roman Catholicism: How Myth Becomes Dogma
Roman Catholicism as a whole is a misinformation campaign of incredible proportions. In fact, a close study of Roman Catholicism, and especially its apologetic methods since the Reformation, shows precisely how myths (many myths, in fact) become dogma and become etched in the popular belief system surrounding it.

In my last blog post, on the topic of The Roman Catholic “Eucharist”: Accretions, Equivocations, and Anachronism, I cited Paul Bradshaw, a Professor of Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, from his work “The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship” (Second Edition, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, ©1992, ©2002). Bradshaw, an Anglican professor of liturgy at Notre Dame, was very clear about the state of the evidence:

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

"Calvinism and the First Sin (Again)"

"Calvinism and the First Sin (Again)" by Prof. James Anderson.

The Affordable Hair Act

The Washington Post
March 13, 2017
Last year, as readers may recall, President-for-Life Barak Obama introduced the Affordable Hair Act to improve the availability of wigs and toupees for aging rock stars and transgender individuals. All Americans 18 years old and above were required to purchase gov't approved hairpieces. 
Youth groups initially objected on the grounds that teens and twenty-somethings with full heads of hair shouldn't be required to buy wigs and toupees, but as Kathleen Sebelius patiently explained, it was necessary for those who didn't need them to invest in the follicular risk pool to make hairpieces universally available for those who might need them. She also shamed youthful dissidents as freeloaders. What if, 40 years from now, they needed a wig or toupee? 
Under the Affordable Hair Act, the Consumer Products Safety Commission recalled wigs and toupees manufactured before 2016 which failed meet the stringent new standards. Americans were required to turn in substandard hairpieces at collection stations around the country or face stiff fines and jail time. 
Today, acting on a tip from the NSA, an M1 Abrahms convoy of ATF agents descended on Polly Parton's estate to confiscate contraband wigs. Escaping through the back door, Miss Parton was kneecapped by a domestic drone. After handcuffing the country music star, she was airlifted to GITMO. 

What's a genius?

From what I've read, Ramanujan is a contender for the greatest math genius who ever lived.  Contemporary mathematicians are still playing catch-up with his insights.
What's striking is that he himself didn't take personal credit for his insights. He attributed his insights to religious dreams. A devout Hindu, he said the Hindu gods gave him visions of mathematical formulas. When he awoke, he simply jotted down what he remembered. He was just a scribe of the Hindu muses (as it were). And, in fact, he only wrote down a fraction of what he saw in his dreams, because that's all he remembered.
This raises the question of how we should interpret his claims. On the one hand, we might consider a naturalistic explanation. Discount his self-testimony. On this view, mathematical intuition operates at a subliminal level. But because Ramanujan has internalized his religion, his mathematical intuition manifested itself in these cultural categories. That's how he tapped into his subconscious. Dreams are part of our subconscious mental life, which intersects with intuition.
On the other hand, we might take his explanation more seriously. What if he really was tapping into a superior mind? What if the Hindu "gods" did, in fact, reveal these insights? 
Of course, from a Christian standpoint, we'd say that's occultic. But it's possible that his mathematical discoveries were, indeed, supernatural in origin. Perhaps he was truly "inspired." The supernatural isn't confined to the divine. And the notion that genius is a type of possession is a very old notion. 
Assuming that's the case, then he wasn't a genius after all. He may have been a man of average or even below average intelligence who was channeling the dark side. A medium. His own contribution was merely instrumental. 

Maybe The Gospels Weren't Anonymous After All

Here's a thread in which James McGrath, a liberal New Testament scholar, and some commenters question the widespread claim that the gospels originally circulated as anonymous documents. There are many reasons to reject the notion that the gospels were initially anonymous. Anybody who's interested can search this blog's archives for my posts on the subject. When people like McGrath and his commenters are so critical of the anonymity of the gospels, that's significant.

The issue of why Matthew would use Mark's material repeatedly comes up in McGrath's thread. I've written on the subject elsewhere, like here. The theory that the fourth gospel was written by some John other than the apostle also comes up. I've addressed that argument many times, such as here.

Biblical "fatalism"

Many commentators find Ecclesiastes puzzling. For centuries, they've found it puzzling. Different commentators offer different interpretive strategies.

They reach for different adjectives. Is Ecclesiastes "cynical"? "Pessimistic"? "Hedonistic"? 

I'd suggest that, in a qualified sense, Ecclesiastes is fatalistic. Fatalistic in an epistemological rather than ontological sense. Ecclesiastes has a strong doctrine of providence. Everything happens for a reason. 

But from a human viewpoint, life often seems to be pointless or perverse. Judging by appearances, there often seems to be no logic or pattern to events. 

The attitude Ecclesiastes seeks to foster isn't resignation in the face of the inevitable, but resignation in the face of the inscrutable. 

i) One of the book's themes is the cyclical nature of life. Nothing lasts. The same kinds of things recur over and over again. The younger generation replaces the older generation.  Things reach a certain point, then start all over again. We are quickly forgotten. Time erodes our sand castles. Nothing we do in this life makes any ultimate difference in this life. That's "fatalistic." 

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?

Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever (1:3-4).

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again (1:9).

No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them (1:11).

The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.
 Then I said to myself,
“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
    What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
    “This too is enigmatic.”

For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die! (2:14-16).

Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
    and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
    that they can carry in their hands (5:15).

for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart (7:2).

ii) Another theme is the apparent randomness of life. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Some good people have bad luck while some bad people have good luck. 

Life is unpredictable. You can plan. Make preparations. Take precautions. But it only takes one unforeseeable accident or illness or natural disaster for all your fond hopes to end in tragedy. That, too, is "fatalistic"–you can't avoid it.  

Since no one knows the future,
    who can tell someone else what is to come? (8:7).

There is something else enigmatic that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is enigmatic (8:14).
So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them (9:1).
I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
    or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
    or wealth to the brilliant
    or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.
 Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come:
As fish are caught in a cruel net,
    or birds are taken in a snare,
so people are trapped by evil times
    that fall unexpectedly upon them (9:11-12).

14 There was once a small city with only a few people in it. And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siege works against it. 15 Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man. 16 So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded (9:14-16).

iii) This outlook seems despairing, and if that's all we had to go by, it would be pretty bleak, but even if we make allowances for the mundane outlook, there are some things it has to teach us. This outlook can be liberating. 

There are people who are very future-oriented. Very goal-oriented. They have great discipline. They sacrifice many opportunities to enjoy the present because they are aiming for a big payoff in the future. 

And there's a measure of wisdom to their approach. Living for short-term pleasure can lead to long-term misery. A measure of patience is a good thing. A measure of self-denial is a good thing.

But because life is unpredictable and sometimes fickle, you may forfeit both present and future happiness by a single-minded focus on a future that will never be. If you burn today to light tomorrow, you may lose both. 

There are two extremes to avoid: being so future-oriented that you neglect the present; being so present-oriented that you neglect the future.

Take parents who are very ambitious for their children. They push their children to be overachievers. They miss out on many opportunities to just enjoy their children when they are young. But what happens if your teenager dies of bone cancer or leukemia? You didn't plan for that. And you can't make up for the lost years. What happens when you watch your grown child waste away from drug addiction? 

There are men who slave away at a job they hate for the pension. Everything is put off for retirement. But what happens if they lose their pension because their company is bought out? Or because the pension fund was mismanaged? 

What happens if you have to take early retirement due to Parkinson's disease? That's not something you planned for. 

This is where the author's carpe diem passages come into play. Where possible, take time to enjoy the moment. Don't just look ahead–look around. 

12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God (3:12-13).
Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this enigmatic life that God has given you under the sun—all your enigmatic days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun (9:9).
You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment (11:9).

Likewise, consider all the ruinous revolutions or social programs by idealistic do-gooders who are determined to improve the world. Yet when the dust settles, things are no better than they were before. Sometimes worse. Or just as bad in a different way. 

iv) Ecclesiastes is a book that cries out for a doctrine of the afterlife to set things right. It just hints at this, with its reference to final judgment. 

Although there's not much we can do to make the world a better place, there are things we can do to prepare some people for a better world. Raising your kids in the Christian faith. Practicing friendship evangelism. Nothing we do in this life makes any ultimate difference in this life, but it may make all the difference in the next life. Preparing for the world to come. 

By all means plan ahead–way ahead. 

Naïve Presuppositionalism

Hear the word

Happy New Year, everyone!

A good way to kick off the year is to acquaint oneself with the Bible to acquaint oneself with its Author.

With this in mind, Christian Audio is offering the ESV on audio for free. Please see here.

Also, Justin Taylor has several Bible reading plans to help.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

For the great day thyself prepare

"The Message of Ecclesiastes - Living Presently" by Paul Helm.


I'm going to comment on this post:
What is yellow on the outside but white on the inside? If you guessed a "banana," though the inside appears more cream than white, you would be close. The answer is, a twinkie. Have you eaten one? They are fairly inexpensive and only about 135 calories. If you eat too many you might get a stomachache. There is definitely not enough sugar in these bite-size snacks to give you a significant energy boost like Red Bull or Starbucks coffee. Nevertheless, they are fairly tasty. Eat them. Yes! Use that term to describe people. No! 
In response to my brief blog post titled, "Listen Up White America," a dear friend responded to me by email. He described some of his experiences as a Korean Presbyterian pastor. He said that the black experience in Reformed and Presbyterian "churches are very similar to what I have experienced. The most interesting part of it is that those racial experiences didn't happen to me until I arrived at [said seminary] and entered the larger (i.e., outside of the Reformed Korean-American community) Reformed circles. [M]any people at [said seminary] assumed I didn't speak English. It was ridiculous."
He went on to say that he believes Asians, though he can intimately speak as a Korean, are seen either as twinkies (i.e., yellow on the outside, white on the inside) or non-English speaking asians," what he called, "F.O.B.," which means "fresh off the boat." He said, "Most would initially identify us as the latter. It's sad, but it's the truth…But I see changes... [Asians are] slowly shedding the image of kung-fu kicking Bruce Lee out of people's heads..."

Let's begin with some definitions. According to the Urban Dictionary:

OreoA racist slur and schoolyard name based on racist stereotypes wrongly assuming that intelligence, articulateness, dapperness, and manners are traits of whites and not blacks. Therefore, a black who possesses these traits is an oreo, white on the inside and black on the outside. A corollary slur is banana, yellow (Asian) on the outside and white on the inside.
twinkieAn asian person who is either adopted or living in a white community. Hence, yellow on the outside and white on the inside.
twinkyAn asian who acts like a white person, hangs out with white people, dresses like a white person, etc. Basicly, yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Used as an insult.
oreoA insulting termed often used by blacks to derogate other blacks as "Black on the outside, white on the inside." White on the inside meaning anything from speaking proper english, getting good grades, liking music that isn't hip hop, rap or R&B and having a diverse group of friends.
oreoTerm for African Americans that the black community is generally offended with for betraying their roots usually for dating caucasion girls, dressing too white, talking too white, etc. The term is branded OREO since they are "Black on the outside, White on the inside"
oreoA Black African American person who, because he/she has the desire to make a success of their life, has gained the wrath of foolish Black African Americans who have decided to make a shambles of their own. Often OREO's are educated, intelligent, and the respect of the business community. Thus, in the eyes of the dominant Black African American community, they are "guilty" of being "White" on the inside.
oreoA stereotype created by blacks to be used for other blacks who are "black on the outside, white on the inside". Black being their skin color, and white meaning to display characteristics of a "white" person, therefore "betraying their black roots". 
These characteristics being (but not limited to), raised in an environment that's NOT the projects, speaking proper english/very limited use of slang, having an eclectic taste in music, having a diverse group of friends, being well-educated, being legitimately employed, not abusing the welfare system, being well-mannered and civilized, saves money for college instead of bling and cheap grills, and wearing nice clothes that are not Roca Wear, Sean Jean, Baby Phat and so on. 
Most blacks confuse the "oreo" stereotype to being "bourgie", which is a very rude, stuck-up black, who thinks they are more "high-class" than they really are. 
This stereotype is stupid, and apparently stems from the fear most nigg3rs have of success. Blacks believe that unless you are a talentless rapper, a professional athlete, or "gangsta", it is impossible to be successful without being an "oreo". 

Note is that "twinkle," "banana," and "oreo" are intraracial epithets.  This isn't, in the first place, how whites characterize certain blacks or Asians. Rather, this is in-group slang. How some members of a racial or ethnic group view fellow members of the same racial or ethnic group.

For some reason, Leon and his Korean friend turn the tables. They project this attitude onto whites. They imagine that when whites view black or Asian professionals, whites seem them as "twinkles" or "oreos." 

I'm curious as to why Leon and his friend make this assumption about what whites are thinking. Is this based on anecdotal conversations? Sociological polling data? 

ii) Why assume that whites in general even indulge in these comparisons? Why assume that if a white sees a black or Asian professional, his automatic reaction is to mentally compare that individual to whites? Why assume that whites in general are that racially self-conscious? Why assume whites in general spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be white–in contrast to other ethnicities? 

iii) I'm curious as to what Leon and his Korean friend think it means to be "white on the inside" or act white. If Yo-Yo Ma plays Classical music, does that make him white on the inside? If so, from whose perspective? Do Asians think Yo-Yo Ma is a "twinkie"? If so, isn't that a problem within the Asian community?

iv) Classical music originates in England and Europe. So Yo-Yo Ma usually performs white composers.  

What about jazz? Is jazz a black art form? Many jazz musicians are Jewish. Are they Jewish on the outside, but black on the inside? 

v) What about something more abstract? Many great mathematicians are Caucasian. Does that make math a white thing? If a Chinese or Japanese mathematician is a math prof. at Harvard, Princeton, or MIT, is he acting white?

For that matter, many great mathematicians are Jewish.  Does that mean an Asian math prof. is acting Jewish? 

What about Srinivasa Ramanujan. From what I've read, he's typically considered to be the greatest natural mathematician. The most naturally gifted mathematician who ever lived. How would Leon classify him? Is he East Indian out the outside, but something else on the inside? Or is mathematical aptitude race-neutral in Leon's classification scheme?

vi) BTW, isn't Leon overgeneralizing about Asian pigmentation? What about South Asians? 

vii) To the extent that whites associate Asians with kung-fu, isn't that a case of racial self-stereotyping? Don't Asian actors and directors promote that image?

Moreover, that's not a negative image, is it? Isn't martial arts widely admired in segments of the white community? 

I've only read three things by Leon, but thus far it's almost the mirror image of how David Duke might divide up the world. All these racial boxes. Which box is the right box for you? 

In the coming months I hope to write a 6-part series on some of the issues surrounding ethnicity in (broadly speaking) Reformed and Presbyterian circles. On the one hand, I am fully aware that many people do not believe there are any problems. I normally receive this response from those in the majority. Though I overstate my case for the purposes of this illustration, to say there are no problems is like the slave owner telling the slave, "Everything is okay." The slave owner is not aware, or perhaps suppresses, the myriad of issues surrounding the establishment because he is the superior; he is the majority. From the slave's perspective, however, issues abound. I do not categorize whites in Reformed and Presbyterian Churches today as slave owners nor do I classify African-Americans (or non-whites) in the aforementioned circles as slaves. However, based on personal study, numerous conversations, and personal experience, I think it is clear that we look through a different lens much like the slave and slave owner.

Well, if he insists on framing the issue that way, it would be easy to recast it. Obama is Baby Doc Duvalier. Eric Holder, Susan Rice, Todd Jones, Valerie Jarrett, and Ayo Kimathi are the Tonton Macoutes.

This is your brain on Barth

I'm going to comment on this post by Steven Nemes:

I believe Nemes is currently a Barthian universalist. There are many problems with his analysis of John:

i) He ignores Johannine dualism, which is present in both the Gospel of John and 1 John. We can depict this in terms of three overlapping circles. In the center is the world. The elect intersect with the world on one side, while the reprobate intersect with the world on the other side. 

Nemes is oblivious to the subtleties of kosmos in Johannine usage. He seems to think this is a universal expression. Yet that fails to take into account the way John often sets "the world" in antithetical contrast to believers. But if the world encompasses everyone, then there's no room for contrast.

ii) As we see in the prologue, Christ enters a world that isn't open to the Gospel, or even neutral. Rather, the world of the Jews and Gentiles is already hostile to its Creator. In the Fourth Gospel, Christ has many personal encounters, both with individuals and groups. The reaction to Christ exposes a preexisting rift, a predisposition to shrink from the light and withdraw into the shadows. The open revelation of God in Christ has a hardening effect on many. 

iii) But some individuals respond in faith. Their positive response also exposes a preexisting mindset. The differential factor is the Father's choice and the Spirit's renewal. 

Both faith and disbelief are effects of something more ultimate. Unbelievers reveal their diabolical paternity while believers revealed their divine paternity. Children of God and children of Satan. 

Left to their own devices, everyone would be under the spell of Satan. Only the Spirit can break the diabolical spell. 

As the Good Shepherd, Christ comes to rescue lost sheep who were marked out for salvation by the Father antemundane election. Like branded sheep who've strayed. The Son comes into the world from outside the world, to implement a redemptive plan which conceived outside the world. Before creation.  

Cf. A. Köstenberger, A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters, 458-64; J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, 40-42. Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, 46-47.