Friday, December 05, 2014

Do we have the original text?

"Black thugs make cops stop good blacks."

"Never support a law you're not willing to kill to enforce."

BLACK FEMALE Police Sergeant Supervised Eric Garner’s Deadly Arrest

What You Should Know About the Eric Garner Case

Historical apologetics bibliography

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Heavenly rewards

But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish (Lk 16:25). 
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom 8:18). 
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Cor 4:17).
The reversal of fortune is a common biblical motif. The aforementioned verses scratch the surface. However, I'm going to briefly consider an objection to eschatological compensation from a prominent atheist:

Keith Parsons
In one of my two debates with William Lane Craig I addressed his claim that heavenly bliss will compensate for earthly suffering. I used the example of an eccentric billionaire who would randomly choose victims, beat them bloody, but then compensate them with a ten million dollar check. My point was that even if the victim later agreed that he was better off after the beating plus the ten million than he would have been with no beating and no ten million, the beating was still, obviously, unjustified. My point was that future rewards, however lavish, and however deserved, do not make an injustice right…In principle, NO degree of compensation can make a wrong right. To think otherwise is like thinking that a lie can be made true if the liar is perfectly honest the rest of his life.

There are several glaring problems with this argument:

i) He's using an example of gratuitous evil. A sadist who chooses innocent victims at random because he gets his kicks by inflicting pain on others. But that's disanalogous to Biblical theism. In Scripture, the suffering of the innocent has a worthy purpose in the plan of God. And God is well-motivated, not ill-motivated. 

ii) There's a failure to distinguish between being wronged and suffering wrong. Even if I am wronged, that doesn't entail that God wronged me. Joseph's brothers wronged him by selling him into slavery. Their motivation was sinful. They resented him. But God's motive in orchestrating the chain of events was quite different than theirs.

iii) I can imagine situations where compensation is a justifying factor. Suppose a hostile state launches an unprovoked war of aggression against a neighboring state. The neighboring state has a right, indeed, an obligation, to defend itself. A duty to protect its citizens against attack.

Suppose a citizen of the neighboring state has a strategically valuable property. The neighboring state seizes his property, both to keep it out of enemy hands, and to use it as a base of operations. The value of the property is degraded due to warfare. However, after the neighboring state wins the counteroffensive, the citizen is generously compensated for his loss.

It was unjust, yet justifiable, to seize his property, then compensate him. Seizing his property was necessary to defend the country against the aggressor. So even though the citizen suffered an injustice by losing his property, the seizure was justifiable under those circumstances. Even so, justice demands restitution for his loss. 

I'm not saying that's exactly parallel to eschatological compensations. Rather, I'm using this to illustrate the fact that, as a matter of principle, heavenly rewards can rightly compensate for earthly suffering or injustice. 

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

What if we had a real ebola crisis?

Blame Democrat food Nazis

A Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, who died after a confrontation with the officer involving an apparent choke hold caught on video. 
ERLC President, Russell Moore, responds to this case.
“I’m stunned speechless by this news. We hear a lot about the rule of law—and rightly so. But a government that can choke a man to death on video for selling cigarettes is not a government living up to a biblical definition of justice or any recognizable definition of justice. We may not agree in this country on every particular case and situation, but it’s high time we start listening to our African American brothers and sisters in this country when they tell us they are experiencing a problem.
Moore starts out on a good note, but then the paragraph goes south:
i) To begin with, it's not just black Americans who are "experiencing a problem" with law enforcement. There's a pattern of lawless law enforcement in this country. And it's accelerated under Obama's watch.
ii) Moreover, it's not rightwingers who are obsessed with  tobacco. The "crime" in this case is thanks to liberal food Nazis like Major Bloomberg and current CDC director Tom Frieden:
If blacks are outraged by what happened to Garner, then stop voting for Democrats. It's Democrats who made it a "crime" in the first place. And it's Democrats who need a police state to enforce their social engineering experiments. 

Do We Live in a "Golden Ratio" Universe?


I haven't followed this case closely. It didn't receive the same hoopla as Ferguson 

This might be a much more clear-cut case of police homicide or manslaughter than Ferguson. But we suffer from the boy who cried wolf syndrome. Because the race-baiters reflexively cry police brutality in every situation, people tend to tune out. Even a chronic liar tells the truth sometimes, but given his reputation, no one believes him. 

If they waited for better examples to come along, they'd get more of a hearing. But they blow their capital on dubious examples.

I'd add that even if this is a case of police homicide, that doesn't mean it was racially motivated. 

The decline in social morays

Problems With Hugh Ross' Explanation Of The Bethlehem Star

Hugh Ross just published a new article on the star of Bethlehem. He suggests that the star was a recurring nova, a position he argued for previously, but he updates his argument with some recent research.

I think every astronomical attempt to explain the star fails, for reasons like the ones I explained here. (The post I just linked also addresses what evidence we have for the star, so anybody interested in that subject may want to read the post as well.) Here's Ross' two-sentence dismissal of the view that the star was a supernatural entity, which is my position:

Historians and Miracle Claims

Luke's Credibility On Jesus' Childhood

Luke's general credibility is relevant to his credibility on matters pertaining to Jesus' childhood in particular. Here are links to some recent posts concerning Luke's credibility:

Acts' Authorship
The "We" Passages In Acts
The Gospel Authors Were Named Early And Credibly
The Dating Of Luke/Acts
Acts' Genre
Acts' Historicity
Acts And The Criterion Of Embarrassment
Luke's Use Of Sources

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Check your privilege

Do I, as a white man, enjoy "white privilege"? Let's begin with some definitions. Surfing the net, the definition of "privilege" in "white privilege" denotes any unearned advantage, opportunity, benefit, or head start.

Hence, "white privilege" would denote any unearned advantage, opportunity, benefit, or head start by virtue of being caucasian.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm the beneficiary of various unearned advantages, opportunities, &c. When, however, I think about the major unearned advantages that I've enjoyed, none of them are white distinctives. 

i) I was raised in a stable two-parent home. That's a "privilege," (according to the definition), yet it's not a white distinctive. Many Jews, Asians, and Latinos were raised in stable two-parent homes. Moreover, many blacks of my generation were raised in stable, two-parent homes. 

ii) I had two college-educated parents. That's a "privilege" from a socioeconomic standpoint. But it's not a white distinctive. And I expect college education is more highly represented among Jews and Asians than caucasians. 

The current value of a college education is debated. But to the extent that a college education is less beneficial than it used to be, that's not a white distinctive one way or the other. 

iii) I'm a babyboomer. That was economically advantageous. But that's not a white distinctive. Rather, that's a generational distinctive. 

iv) I'm American. That's advantageous compared to many other countries. But that's not a white distinctive.

v) I was born into a middle-class home. Whether that's "privileged" is debatable, but in any case, that's not a white distinctive. 

vi) Some of my close older relatives were devout Christians. That was spiritually beneficial to me. But that's not a white distinctive. 

vii) I'm the beneficiary of vaccination, antibiotics, electrification, transportation, telecommunications, &c. But those aren't white distinctives.

viii) Suppose I have above-average intelligence. That's an unearned advantage, but that's not a white distinctive. 

None of the most important "privileges" I enjoy are by virtue of my caucasian ancestry.

I'd also add that even though I didn't earn these benefits or advantages, white scientists and businessmen have done a great deal to create the privileges from which both white other ethnic groups benefit. It's not as if caucasians are just on the receiving end of these privileges. If you're going to turn this into a racial comparison, consider how caucasians pioneered many breakthroughs in medical science, and technology.  

Sola scriptura before Gutenberg

In this post I'm responding to a stock Catholic objection to sola scriptura, to wit: you couldn't have sola scriptura before the printing press (or the completion of the canon). I'm going to discuss the issue from both hypothetical and practical angles. There will be a bit of repetition in this post. For sake of completeness, I've collating various things I said on the subject–a few of which I've posted before–but much of this will also be new. 

I. The Catholic alternative

A basic problem with the Catholic objection is that if it's valid against the Protestant rule of valid, then it's valid against the Catholic rule of faith inasmuch as you can create parallel objections to the Catholic rule of faith, based on the same principle. For instance:

i) Before the invention of the printing press, there were no mass copies of papal encyclicals, conciliar proceedings, Scholastic theologians, or church fathers. 

So the Catholic alternative is no more or less dependent on the printing press than the Protestant rule of faith. The church of Rome also disseminates its dogmas in writing. 

ii) A basic problem with claiming that sola scriptura couldn't be the rule of faith because the complete canon of Scripture didn't exist in the 1C, or because every Christian didn't own a private copy of the Bible, is that a parallel objection applies to the Catholic alternative. 

The papacy, in its present form, didn't exist in the 1C, or early centuries of church history. Indeed, the papacy has undergone continuous internal development.

Consider medieval conciliarism. Consider ultramontanism. 

The relationship between the papacy and the episcopate was still a matter of heated debate during Vatican II. And "collegiality" continues to be debated in post-Vatican II theology. 

If you're going to say sola scriptura can't be true because the canon didn't exist or wasn't accessible in the first century or first few centuries of the church, the very same logic applies, perforce, to the Catholic rule of faith. 

II. What's the underlying principle of sola scriptura?

i) There's an obvious sense in which you didn't have sola scriptura during the era of public revelation. Protestants grant that. That's not inconsistent with the Protestant rule of faith. We're not living in OT times or NT times. 

ii) There's a certain equivocation concerning whether or not sola scriptura was operative in the OT or NT era. 

What was always operative was the primacy of divine revelation. Moreover, sola scriptura was operative during the Intertestamental period. 

The principle of sola scriptura was always operative inasmuch as the principle of sola scriptura is the primacy of divine revelation. The primatial authority of revelation is constant common denominator. 

During the period of public revelation, you had prophets and apostles who spoke (as well as wrote) the word of God. But revelation, in that sense, is now confined to past revelation, committed to writing. 

III. Limiting cases

Now I'm going to consider some hypothetical limiting cases. This is an argument from the greater to the lesser, as well as an argument from principle. If, in principle, sola scriptura is feasible even under these conditions, then it's feasible under less extreme conditions. For instance:

i) Take a Fahrenheit 451 scenario. Suppose ownership of Bibles was punishable by death. Not only you, but every family member–as a deterrent. 

Suppose a Protestant community evades the ban by memorizing the Bible. Different members commit different books of Scripture to memory–before they destroy their copies to avoid detection. As a matter of principle, that community is still governed by sola Scriptura, even though it has no physical copies of Scripture.

The content of a book can be orally transmitted. Many people can memorize the same copy. A one-to-many relation. 

Indeed, that's more than hypothetical. You have people like Alec McCowen and Max McLean who do that sort of thing. 

That's different from oral history or oral tradition, where it's word-of-mouth all the way. By contrast, this is controlled tradition, because it has a written frame of reference. One can double-check memory against the exemplar. The standard exists. 

ii) Now let's use an argument from analogy, in response to the objection that until copies of Scripture were readily available to the laity, it's not a workable principle. Let's take a comparison. This will be a limiting case, where I'm arguing from the greater to the lesser.

We don't have the original letters of Paul. By that I mean, we don't have the autographa. What we have are copies. Copies of copies.

The traditional aim of textual criticism is to retroengineer the urtext from our extant copies. By comparing and contrasting Greek MSS, by taking into account the types of mistakes which scribes make when they copy a text, we product a critical edition that approximates the original.

Even though the original no longer exists, the original is still the standard. That's the ideal in reference to which textual criticism proceeds. Because there was an original, that's the standard of comparison. That's the frame of reference in relation to which we retrace the process of transcription to arrive at the original wording. Even though the autographa are nonexistent, they remain the standard which is guiding the textual critic. That's the target. 

Now, that's an extreme example. In the case of sola scriptura, Scripture exists. Copies of Scripture were always obtainable for some Jews and Christians. Moreover, Scripture was generally accessible via the public reading of Scripture. You didn't have to read it for yourself to hear it read aloud.

Now, if a nonexistent standard (i.e. the autographa) can still be a functional standard, then in the lesser case of an extant standard (Scripture), sola scriptura can be a functional standard even in situations where availability is limited.

IV. Reciting Scripture

Now let's shift from the principle of sola scriptura to the actual dissemination of Scripture before the printing press. Individual Jews and Christians didn't need to own private copies of the Bible to know the Bible. That's because a written text can be disseminated orally. Scripture was available to the masses vis the public reading of Scripture. 

This could also be communicated by word-of-mouth. For instance, Timothy began learning the Bible at the knee of his Jewish mother and grandmother. Either they read Scripture to him, told him Bible stories, or both. 

Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient (Exod 24:7).  
when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing (Deut 31:11). 
There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them (Josh 8:35). 
And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law (Neh 8:3). 
Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him…Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? (Mt 12:3,5). 
Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female (Mt 19:4). 
Have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Mt 21:16). 
Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? (Mt 21:42). 
Have you not read what was said to you by God (Mt 22:31). 
So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) (Mt 24:15). 
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read (Lk 4:16). 
After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent a message to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, say it” (Acts 13:15). 
For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him (Acts 13:27). 
For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues. (Acts 15:21). 
And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea (Col 4:16). 
I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers (1 Thes 5:27). 
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well 2 Tim 1:5).
and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings (2 Tim 3:15).
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture (1 Tim 4:13). 
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near (Rev 1:3).  
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things, Justin Martyr, First Apology, 67. 

V. Early Christian publication and distribution

Finally, let's consider how Scripture was copied, published, distributed in the early church:

The letters of Paul to his communities, the earliest extant Christian texts, were dictated to scribal associates (presumably Christian), carried to their destinations by a traveling Christian, and read aloud to the congregations. But Paul also envisioned the circulation of some of his letters beyond a single Christian group (cf. Gal 1:2, "to the churches of Galatia," Rom 1:7 "to all God's beloved in Rome"–dispersed among numerous discrete house churches, Rom 16:5,10,11,14,15), and the author of Colossians, if not Paul, gives instruction for the exchange of Paul's letters between different communities (Col 4:16)… 
To take another case, the Apocalypse, addressed to seven churches in western Asia Minor, was almost surely sent in separate copy to each. Even so, the author anticipated its wider copying and dissemination beyond those original recipients, and so warned subsequent copyists to preserve the integrity of the book, neither adding nor subtracting, for fear of religious penalty (Rev 22:18-19). The private Christian copying and circulation that is presumed in these early writings continued to be the means for the publication and dissemination of Christian literature in the second and third centuries.  
It can also been seen when Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, had the letters of Ignatius copied and sent to the Christian community in Philippi, and had copies of letters from them and other churches in Asia Minor sent to Syrian Antioch (Phil 13). it is evident too in the scribal colophons of the Martyrdom of Polycarp (22:2-4)… 
From another angle, the physical remains of early Christian books show that they were produced and disseminated privately within and between Christian communities. Early Christian texts, especially those of a scriptural sort, were almost always written in codices or leaf books–an informal, economical, and handy format–rather than on rolls, which were the traditional and standard vehicle for all other books. Also distinctive to Christian books was the pervasive use of nomina sacra, divine names written in abbreviated forms, which was clearly an in-house practice of Christian scribes. Further, the preponderance in early Christian papyrus manuscripts of an informal quasi-documentary script rather than a professional bookhand also suggests that Christian writings were privately transcribed with a view to intramural circulation and use. 
It deserves notice that some early Christian texts appear to have enjoyed surprisingly rapid and wide circulation. Already by the early decades of the second century Papias of Hierapolis in western Asia Minor was acquainted at least with the Gospels of Mark and Matthew (Eusebius, H.E. 3.39.15-16); Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, and Polycarp of Smyrna were all acquainted with collections of Paul's letters; and papyrus copies of various early Christian texts were current in Egypt. 
The brisk and broad dissemination of Christian books presumes not only a lively interest in texts among Christian communities but also efficient means for their reproduction and distribution…Books were nevertheless important to them virtually from the beginning, for even before Christians began to compose their own texts, books of Jewish scripture played an indispensable role in their worship, teaching, and missionary preaching.  
…larger Christian centers must have had some scriptorial capacity…Absent such reliable intra-Christian means for the production of books, the range of texts known and used by Christian communities across the Mediterranean basin by the end of the second century would be without explanation.  
Just as the missionary proliferation of text-oriented Christian communities during the second and third centuries provided ample incentive to the production and copying of Christian books, the close relationships and frequent contacts that were cultivated between those communities provided efficient means for their dissemination. This circumstance hastened and broadened the circulation of early Christian literature, giving it a vitality and reach that seem extraordinary for books moving through private networks. Harry Gamble, "The Book Trade in the Roman Empire," Charles Hill & Michael Kruger, eds. The Early Text of the New Testament (Oxford, 2012), 32-35. 

"It's a zip code thing"

Here’s the more complete truth: People commit crimes in their own neighborhoods against their neighbors. The statistics don’t reveal a “race” thing; it’s largely a zip code thing. Since the country’s poor neighborhoods are still pretty segregated by income and ethnicity, that means both whites and blacks disproportionately commit crimes against their fellow poor whites and blacks, respectively. It’s not innate criminal tendency or deep social pathology as the stereotype and bad statistical statements suggest. A significant contributor is zip code.
The problem with that explanation is that it fails to account for why black males kill each other at far higher rates than other racial or ethnic groups:
...blacks and Hispanics commit crime at much higher rates than whites as well. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17, for example, commit homicide at ten times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined; if Hispanics were taken out of the equation (which federal data makes it difficult to do), the disparity between the white and black homicide rates would be even higher.
Not to mention the underreported incidence of black-on-white crime. 
If it's "largely a zip code thing," then the rate of intraracial crime ought to be comparable across ethnic groups. 
Now, to my knowledge the problem is not with blacks in general. It's not with black women in general, or middle-aged black men in general, or middle and upper-class black men in general.
Rather, it's concentrated on young black men–especially in urban settings. 
I wonder if angry, violent hip-hop music isn't a contributing factor. I'm not talking about hip-hop music generally. I'm mean hip-hop music that's full of angry lyrics about women, whites, police, the system, &c. 
If you immerse yourself in that music, I imagine it gets young men ginned up for confrontations. Music is a powerful, mood-altering medium. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

Blacks stereotyping blacks

I'm going to make two quick observations about  this post:

i) Ironically, their analysis amounts to blacks stereotyping blacks. Moreover, it's a very pernicious stereotype. 
They say Black Americans in general suffer from "internalized racism." This, in turn, fosters a "propensity for violence."
Let that sink in for a moment. The four black pundits who coauthored this article are telling us that black Americans are psychologically damaged. They are telling us that young black men are ticking timebombs.
They are telling whites, Latinos, Asians, and police, that when you see a black man, you should prejudge that person. When you see a black man, you should say to yourself: "He's dangerous!"
Ironically, their position is the mirror image of the KKK and Neo-Nazis. 
If law enforcement agreed with them that blacks suffer from internalized racism, which makes them prone to violence, then they are giving law enforcement  justification to engage in racial profiling. 
ii) Their reaction also demonstrates why it takes courage for blacks like Voddie Baucham to speak out against this destructive narrative. Blacks like Baucham are immediately denounced as traitors. It takes great strength of character for men like Baucham to take an independent stand. I expect there's a percentage of blacks who agree with him, but keep silent because it is't worth it to be demonized and ostracized for swimming against the tide. 

Luke's Census Didn't Involve Ancestry

It's often claimed that Luke 2:4 is referring to a requirement that all participants in the census be enrolled in a place of their ancestry. Sometimes it's even claimed that the ancestry had to be traced back about a thousand years, since that's the approximate amount of time separating David and Joseph. And critics often argue that such a requirement in a census is implausible, especially if the ancestry had to be traced back something like a thousand years. Why would the Romans require such a thing? How many people would be able to trace their ancestry back so far? Why don't we have any record of other censuses being conducted that way? And so on. Thus, Luke's account probably is unhistorical.

But it's doubtful that Luke was saying that the census had such an ancestry requirement. Here's why:

Vices and virtues

"Vices and Virtues" by Paul Helm.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cops and bodycams

Some civil libertarians are demanding that cops wear bodycams. In general, I think that's a good idea. However, I have some technical questions.

How or where is the footage stored? Is it stored in the camera, or is it wireless? Is there a live feed? 

Who has custody of the footage? The police dept? Or will this be contracted out to independent, private firms?

The reason I ask is that if the police, or the police alone, have custody of the footage, then they can preserve evidence in cases where that benefits the officer, but "accidentally" lose, erase, or edit, evidence in cases where the officer was in the wrong. 

“Pope Francis”: “Yes, yes” and “No, no” in the same breath
“Marriage is between a man and a woman”. “Unborn life is as precious and unique as any life”. “Euthanasia is an unwarranted abuse of human freedom”. “Adoptive children have the right to have a father and a mother”. These are standard Roman Catholic positions on various hotly debated moral issues of our generation. So what’s the fuss about it? They were spoken and argued for by Pope Francis in two different speeches over the last few weeks. After months of confusing messages sent by him about homosexuality (“Who am I to judge?”), the good in every “loving relationship” be it married or not, the need for the Church to stay away from the heat of present-day ethical debates, his uneasiness towards anything “non-negotiable”, Pope Francis has finally said things “Catholic”…

Where does the Pope really stand on these issues? How do we account for this apparent U-turn? Who is able to grapple with what he has in mind? And, more generally, do we really know where he stands on a number of key doctrinal and pastoral points? … He appears to be close to everyone. The evidence, however, is more complex. He is certainly capable of getting close to all, calling anyone “brother” and “sister”, but how many people know what lies in his heart? He is certainly able to combine evangelical language, Marian devotions, and “politically correct” concerns, while retaining a fully orbed Roman Catholic outlook. Do we really know Pope Francis? How much of this complexity is the result of him being a Jesuit? How much do we know about the depth of his theology and the all-embracing nature of his agenda?

The Bible wants our communication not to be trapped in a “yes” and “no” type of language at the same time (2 Corinthians 1:18-20) but to speak plainly about what we have in our hearts. Pope Francis’ language tends to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” with the same breadth. The Word of God also urges us “to speak truthfully” (Ephesians 4:25) and to avoid “twisted words” (Proverbs 4:24)...

I’m willing to say, this “complexity” is almost completely the result of his being a Jesuit. As I’ve written in the past, what Rome gives with one fork of its tongue, it takes away with the other.

Here is Roman Catholicism, with its non-existent, self-serving heart and soul, all rolled up into one man.

Dante was half right

Unbelievers typically rail against hell as a "torture chamber." That, in turn, makes God a "cosmic sadist" and "worse that Hitler." And so on.

I've argued that this greatly oversimplifies the Biblical view of damnation. For instance:

That said, I think some people richly merit eternal punishment by "torture." Take this example, recounting the policies of the Bolsheviks:

At Odessa the Cheka tied White officers to planks and slowly fed them into furnaces or tanks of boiling water; In Kharkiv, scalpings and hand-flayings were commonplace: the skin was peeled off victims' hands to produce "gloves"; The Voronezh Cheka rolled naked people around in barrels studded internally with nails; victims were Dnipropetrovsk; the Cheka at Kremenchuk impaled members of the clergy and buried alive rebelling peasants; in Orel, water was poured on naked prisoners bound in the winter streets until they became living ice statues; in Kiev, Chinese Cheka detachments placed rats in iron tubes sealed at one end with wire netting and the other placed against the body of a prisoner, with the tubes being heated until the rats gnawed through the victim's body in an effort to escape.

Admittedly, this is Wikipedia, but my argument doesn't depend on the accuracy of this particular claim. I'm using it to illustrate a principle. As long as things like that happen, my argument goes through. 

As far as I'm concerned, people who do that to others richly deserve to have that done to them. If they did it repeatedly to others, they deserve to have that done repeatedly to them. That doesn't offend my moral intuitions in the slightest. If anything, I'd be offended if they got off easier. 

(Mind you, I'm referring to sadistic cruelty. Inflicting pain for the sake of pain.)

There are, of course, annihilationists and universalists who'd disapprove of my attitude. Of course, they say that at a safe distance–not having experienced what victims of the Red Terror endured. I'm not interested in persuading them. 

My point is that even though the "torture chamber" model of hell is greatly overused, I still think that has a morally viable place within the spectrum of eschatological punishments. Not for all the damned. Maybe not for most of the damned. But this would be just deserts for some of the damned.