Saturday, March 14, 2015

“Pope Francis” on “being pope”: “Hard to get good pizza”

Pope Francis: “Cannot get out for pizza”
Pope Francis: “Cannot get out for pizza”
“In any event, I find a way” 
“Pope Francis” gave another interview, this one on “being pope”.

In the interview, he seems tired and washed up, not closing the door on a potential retirement. In fact, he says, “I have the feeling that my Pontificate will be brief: 4 or 5 years; I do not know, even 2 or 3. Two have already passed. It is a somewhat vague sensation.”

I am reminded of this blog post: “Killing Time with Good Pope Francis”: “After all the fudging and bluster of papal history, they don’t really know what is ‘essential to the mission’ of the papacy.”

In any event, on to the interview:

Q. “Do you like being Pope?”

A. “I do not mind!”

Q. “What do you like or do not like about being the Pope? Or do you like everything?”

A. “The only thing I would like is to go out one day, without being recognized, and go to a pizzeria for a pizza. That would be nice. No, I say this as an example. In Buenos Aires I was a rover. I moved between parishes and certainly this habit has changed... it has been hard work to change. But you get used to it. You find a way to get around: on the phone, or in other ways ...”

Friday, March 13, 2015

LGBT backlash

Should you have a "personal relationship" with Jesus?

It's often said that many men are turned off by church because many churches have become too feminine in terms of sermon content, "praise songs," and the like. In the same vein, I wonder how many men find the phrase about "having a personal relationship with Jesus" off-putting. 

Of course, the fact that something is off-putting doesn't make it wrong. But this isn't a Biblical formulation.

To be sure, a concept can be present absent a particular form of words. But is this "relational" language Biblical?

In fact, this is more than just a popular evangelical phrase. It's becoming a theological paradigm: relational theology–in contrast to Reformed theology and/or classical theism.

In fairness, I believe the "personal relationship" slogan was introduced to counter nominal Christianity or ritual piety. The notion that we relate to God primarily through the sacraments, or liturgy, or that church attendance makes you a Christian. It's a corrective to that outlook. 

But an on obvious problem with the "personal relationship" language is that it has the wrong connotations. Take a recent illustration by William Lane Craig:

You don’t communicate with another person through a third-person relationship. You enter into what has been called an “I-thou” relationship. You speak to another person, not just about that person. Your girlfriend or wife would be decidedly unimpressed if you rationalized never telling her “I love you” on the grounds that she already knows that! Anybody that obtuse is on his way to a break-up! Two people who are in love with each other want to speak to each other, to build an intimate relationship with each other.

A "personal relationship" has romantic connotations. Boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife.

At least in my experience, normal men wouldn't use "I want a personal relationship" in any context other than a romantic relationship. It's not something they'd normally say in reference to their father, mother, sister, brother, son, or daughter.

Imagine if one teenage boy told another teenage boy: "Ryan, I want to have a personal relationship with you!"

That's just not how two straight males communicate with each other. Even if the teenager in question wants to be friends with Ryan, that's certainly not how he'd put it. 

Also, many men express affection less by what they say to others than what they do for others. Love in action rather than love in words. Even if they want a personal relationship with a woman, this doesn't mean that's what they'd say to her. 

The incongruity is compounded by the fact that Jesus isn't God in the abstract, but God as male. The Son became Incarnate as a man.

We have that mental image of Jesus. To tell a normal man that he should have a "personal relationship with Jesus," when "Jesus" naturally evokes the image of an adult male, cuts against grain of how God created men to think about other men–at least in colloquial English parlance. 

Although Scripture uses marital theological metaphors, these are corporate metaphors. They were not designed to operate at an individual, one-on-one level. 

Another problem with that lingo is that God isn't ordinarily available to Christians in that tangible, audiovisual respect. God won't hug you. 

That linguistic conditioning can accentuate a sense of divine abandonment if you expect God to "be there" for you. It's not so much that God is absent in times of trial. For God was never present in that sense in the first place. It isn't physical. 

Up to a point, I don't think it's wrong for Christian men and women to have different ways of "relating" to God. Men and women are psychologically different from each other. A metaphor that's suited to one sex may be less suitable to the opposite sex. The problem is when a feminine paradigm gets imposed on men. That rankles. 

Does God suffer?

A number of avant-garde theologians promote the notion of a suffering God. Predictably, this has a candle-like attraction for mothy freewill theists. 

A suffering God is supposed to be an improvement over the "remote" God of classical theism, who lies behind the bulletproof glass of divine timelessness, spacelessness, aseity, and impassibility. 

Now, in fairness, the God of classical theism can indeed be remote. Classical theism isn't specifically Christian. It doesn't select for Bible history. Al-Ghazâlî was a classical theist. Maimonides was a classical theist. Leibniz was a classical theist. 

Classical theism is consistent with a number of variety theistic traditions. I think it's fairly consistent with Biblical theism–if you make allowance for anthropomorphic representations. When Classical theism is nested within the framework of Biblical theism, God is not remote. 

But a fundamental problem with redefining God as a suffering God is that while theologians can tweak their doctrine of God–especially if they don't feel constrained by Biblical revelation–they can't tweak the world we live in. At the stroke of a pen they can rewrite their doctrine of God (although that makes it a fictional God), but they can't rewrite the world we inhabit at the stroke of a pen.

To say that God suffers with us doesn't make God answer desperate prayers more frequently, doesn't make God prevent personal tragedies more frequently. It's just a rhetorical construct. It does no work.  

To take a comparison: suppose you have a teenage jock who's impatient with the elderly and the handicapped. He's in a hurry. He likes to do things at his own brisk pace. He parks in the disabled parking slot for convenience, rather than walk a few extra yards. 

But then he has a terribly accident that leaves him partially paralyzed. Through physical therapy and dogged determination, he regains his mobility. 

But now he's considerate to the elderly and the handicapped. He knows what it's like. 

If that were the effect of divine suffering on the God of these theologians, it would have some benefit for humans. But in reality, it doesn't change the world we live in. It makes no practical difference to our own challenges. It doesn't alleviate our suffering. 

It's like a fictional character in a movie who undergoes redemptive suffering. That may be inspiring for 90 minutes. But then you exit the theater for the mean streets of reality. 

Of course, Christianity has a suffering God-Man. A suffering Savior. An empathetic Redeemer. But over and above that is the need for to be delivered from our condition:

Perhaps the best way to try to understand the nature of this problem is to take a familiar modern analogy--that of doctor and patient. Someone lying in a hospital bed does not want to be solely treated by a machine, which functions regardless of the pain it might inflict. Rather, the patient wants to be treated by someone who understands what he or she is going through, and who will sensitively adjust his approach. For this, a human being is essential, and any good doctor knows that his or her bedside manner is at least as important as any medicine. But having said that, what patient wants the doctor to climb into the bed next to him or her and start making groaning noises, as if to indicate that the doctor, too, is experiencing the same pain? This is not the kind of "empathy" desired, because the fundamental reason the patient wants the doctor is not to receive sympathy from him or her; the patient can get that just as easily from any medically unskilled visitor. What the patient wants is to be cured. Understanding pain is all very well, but overcoming it is what all sufferers really want. God is impassible, not because he is uncaring (he is in fact far more compassionate than any human being ever could be), but because he is strong to save. Unlike human doctors, who are available only at certain times and who are occasionally "off sick" themselves, God is always ready and able to help. The impassibility of his nature is, therefore, a guarantee that he will always be there.

CNN On Mary's Perpetual Virginity

An upcoming program in CNN's Finding Jesus series is going to be about James, the James Ossuary, and whether Mary had children after Jesus. You can find a lot of material on the perpetual virginity of Mary in the thread here. Keep in mind that not only does the New Testament contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary, but so do most of the earliest sources of the patristic era who comment on the subject: Josephus, Hegesippus, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, etc.

The Lost World of Genesis One in review

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Whose side is he on?

An old story that needs to get more attention:

Demon seed

i) There are three variations on the angelic interpretation of Gen 6:1-4:

a) Fallen angels morphed into human males. I've discussed that variation.

b) Fallen angels reanimated human corpses. Aside from B horror flicks about voodoo zombies, I don't know of any real-life cases. 

c) Fallen angels took possession of human males. 

Let's briefly consider (iii). Given the frequency of possession in some parts of the world, both past and present, the odds are that some children were conceived by demoniacs. Are they giants? Do they have superior athletic prowess?

I expect that many missionaries in Africa and Asia can tell stories of demoniacs and their offspring. 

ii) Offhand, I'll give one example. I should begin by explaining how I approach this material:

a) It could be that Nicky Cruz is exaggerating or confabulating. Sensational conversion stories can jumpstart a career. Moreover, that's is not uncommon in charismatic circles. So I make allowance for that possibility.

But with that caveat in mind, I'm prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt:

b) Given the prevalence of the occult in Latin America, I think it plausible that his parents were deeply involved in the occult.

c) I could be mistaken, but from what I've read, his life and ministry has been scandal-free since he converted, over 50 years ago. Given the temptations of a celebrity convert, charismatic superstar, and televangelist, the fact that, to my knowledge, he's avoided scandal suggests to me that he's not a charlatan. He seems to have a solid Christian character. (That's not to vouch for his theology.)

iii) Even if we consider his account to be credible, there's still the question of how best to interpret the phenomenon. 

One issue is whether possession is a permanent state, or something that comes and goes. Alternately, is the alien personality always present, but only surfaces a certain times?  

With those considerations in mind:

Well I’m so happy that I know Christ as my personal savior. My life was very sad. I was born in Puerto Rico. I was born in a witchcraft home. My mother was a witch; I was planted in the womb of a witch. My father was a satanic priest. 
for many years I lived in a curse, my generation, my father and for so many generations there were involved in sacrifice of animals, the drinking’s of animals Santeria, witchcraft, black magic, that was my, I was elusive in that kind of environment.  
So then when I tried to commit suicide when I was nine years old, hanging myself from a mango tree.

Seances, satanic worship, animal sacrifices… they were all a normal part of his parent’s lives. 
“I saw my mother possessed by the devil many times,” Nicky recalls. “My mother had to eat everything when she was under the influence of Satan. So did my dad. All those animals sacrifice, all the blood, all the blood that was shared and the smell was so repulsive and the spirit used to manifest. It was scaring.”

Behind the home, about a hundred yards into the woods, still stood the large round building–the place that so frightened me as a child and now sent chills to the center of my being. As a boy I knew it only as the “Spirit House,” the place where my mother and father went regularly to summon the healing spirits. The town was convinced that they knew what went on here, and rumors ran thick throughout Puerto Rico, but few had seen it up close and personal. They suspected evil and talked of the hideous things going on inside the infamous Spirit House; I had seen it firsthand. 
As I stood staring at the large round building framed by trees, the memories began to rise to the surface. Memories of strange and unexplainable things that happened here on a regular basis–things that I still resist speaking of, all these years later. 
My father was a spiritist–some say the most powerful in all of Puerto Rico–and my mother was a medium. So many times I watched helplessly from outside the window as their bizarre séances raged out of control. People inside would wail and moan and scream, summoning the spirits of the dead to awaken in their presence. Sometimes these spirits would take over my mother’s body, turning her face white and her eyes violently yellow. Once I saw an evil spirit come upon her with such force that it catapulted her through the air. Though she was a small woman, it took four or five men to contain her.  
Another time I saw my father become possessed by a spirit he couldn’t control. He grabbed my youngest brother, put a rope around his neck, and tried to hang him from the limb of a tree. It took the combined strength of the whole family to hold him down as my brother slipped free. Later my father had no memory of the ordeal. In his right mind he would never have done such a thing to his children. 
Even at a young age I understood the dangers of dabbling in the occult. Yet I found myself living in a home that did far more than dabble. We were known throughout the island as the home of El Taumaturgo (the Wonder Worker, the Great One). The place you go to find the warlock and the witch of Las Piedras.

Dropping the bomb

I'm going to comment on the ethics of nuking Japan. This is one of those perennial issues that America-bashers constantly raise. There are two extremes we need to avoid: "my country right or wrong," and "blame America first." 
For me the war has a personal dimension. My late father was a WWII vet who served in the Pacific theater. He was radio operator in the Air Force. His squadron conducted reconnaissance over Japan. He had some interesting stories to tell:
i) He trained on B-17s in Alaska, then flew on B-29s in Florida. 
ii) Our pilots discovered the jet stream. They exploited the jet stream as a tailwind, making the planes fly twice as fast. The Japanese figured we must have some secret technology to make our planes so fast. 
iii) One time their plane crash landed on lift-off.  The cause was sabotage. 
iv) One time he saw ball-lightning form on the outside of the plane. 
v) One time a window blew and the gunner was sucked out of the plane.
vi) My father knew a day before that we were going to drop the A-bomb on Japan. Not because he was in the loop. He was a lowly staff sergeant. It was accidental. He and some buddies were joking with a high-ranking officer on base about dropping that new-fangled A-bomb on Japan. The officer's reaction was horrified–not because it was in bad taste, but because he was in the know. Because his facial reaction as a dead giveaway, he went ahead and told them that, as a matter of fact, they were planning to nuke Japan the very next day. Of course, my dad and his comrades were severely admonished to keep that to themselves. 
I'll begin by reviewing the standard argument for nuking Japan:
In World War II the Japanese military fought with a ferocity that made al-Qaeda look casual and uncommitted. In Okinawa, the Japanese hurled more than 1,000 kamikaze suicide bombers at the American fleet, and tens of thousands more kamikazes readied to defend the Japanese home islands. Japan still held huge swathes of Chinese territory, where unrelenting war and mass-scale atrocities had already cost more than 10 million Chinese lives.Just as disturbing, recent American experience in Saipan and Okinawa had illustrated the extent to which the Japanese civilian population would suffer in any further close combat. By some counts, up to one-third of the total civilian population of Okinawa died during the American invasion, many by suicide as parents killed children, then themselves, rather than fall into allied hands. At Saipan, Japanese civilians committed suicide by the hundreds — sometimes cutting their own children’s throats — persuaded by Japanese propaganda that Americans would commit unspeakable atrocities against civilians. Assuming similar behavior during an invasion, estimates of additional Japanese casualties ran into the millions — with American casualty estimates wildly varying but certainly no less than hundreds of thousands.Faced with the twin realities of inevitable Japanese defeat and staggering civilian and military casualties, the allies did the right thing: On July 26, they issued a surrender demand, the Potsdam Declaration.  The Japanese rejected it, the atomic bombs followed roughly two weeks later, and the war ended.As the horror of World War II begins to fade into distant memory, it’s imperative that we not let the Left control the narrative. Already in pacifist Christian circles, I’ve seen historically illiterate professors and pundits condemn the Hiroshima bombing with greater ferocity than they condemn the rape of Nanking, much less Japan’s years-long reign of terror in China.
I'll also quote a few statements by Curtis Lamay which gives an idea of how military advisers at the time viewed the conflict:
  • We’re at war with Japan. We were attacked by Japan. Do you want to kill Japanese, or would you rather have Americans killed?
  • From his autobiography, also requoted in Rhodes, 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb', p. 596

  • As far as casualties were concerned I think there were more casualties in the first attack on Tokyo with incendiaries than there were with the first use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The fact that it's done instantaneously, maybe that's more humane than incendiary attacks, if you can call any war act humane. I don't, particularly, so to me there wasn't much difference. A weapon is a weapon and it really doesn't make much difference how you kill a man. If you have to kill him, well, that's the evil to start with and how you do it becomes pretty secondary. I think your choice should be which weapon is the most efficient and most likely to get the whole mess over with as early as possible.
  • The World at War: the Landmark Oral History from the Classic TV Series
  • , p. 574

From early on he argued that, "if you are going to use military force, then you ought to use overwhelming military force. Use too much and deliberately use too much... You'll save lives, not only your own, but the enemy's too."

The point isn't that we necessarily agree with him, but in assessing the morality of nuking Japan, as well as the morality of those responsible, we need to take their intentions into account–instead of simply imposing our own viewpoint onto the issue.  
i) There were some notable critics of the war. Eisenhower and MacArthur opposed dropping the bomb. However, Ike was a political rival who ran against the Truman administration, and MacArthur had an ax to grind with Truman. 
ii) The problem with alternate history is that, as a matter of fact, we never get a chance to find out how that would have played out. Since the counterfactual alternatives were never tried, we don't know how well or badly they would have fared in comparison with what we actually did. 
Even if successful, the alternatives would still prolong the war effort, leading to more American dead and wounded. Even in a best case scenario, how many US soldiers should we sacrifice to spare Japanese civilians? And, of course, you could have a worse-case scenario for American soldiers and Japanese civilians alike. 

iii) I also expect that Hirohito had a very sheltered upbringing. That would leave him terribly out of touch with reality. It would take something spectacular to shock him into awareness. I'm reminded of The Last Emperor in the Forbidden City. True, that's China rather than Japan. But I presume that in both cases, the royal family had little exposure to the outside world, much less the modern Western world. 

iv) One fresh perspective comes from John Wheeler, the renown physicist who worked on the Manhattan project:
When Wheeler learned the news, he was devastated. He blamed himself. “One cannot escape the conclusion that an atomic bomb program started a year earlier and concluded a year sooner would have spared 15 million lives, my brother Joe’s among them,” he wrote in his memoir. “I could—probably—have influenced the decision makers if I had tried.”
What's striking about Wheeler's lament is that he essentially reframes the discussion. He thinks we should have dropped the bomb sooner! He laments the fact that we didn't develop it faster and deployed it sooner so that we could have ended the war earlier. The sooner WWII ended, the more lives that would save for all parties concerned.

Moreover, that seems to shift the hypothetical to possibly dropping the bomb on Germany. At least for starters. 

Obama Enacting His Religion As President

David French has an article for National Review on Barack Obama's religious views. There's a lot of significant information there, but here are some good portions that have implications beyond Obama:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The extent of the atonement in Paul's theology

Antonio Lombatti's Claims About The Shroud Of Turin

Antonio Lombatti has written an article reviewing CNN's recent program on the Shroud. Even though the article has a lot of problems, Jim West is promoting it and claiming that Lombatti is "the Turin Shroud expert". Good to know that Lombatti outranks all of the scientists, archeologists, and other scholars who have studied the Shroud firsthand, served as Vatican consultants on the Shroud, etc.

Let's take a look at some of Lombatti's claims. I responded to his assertions about a Shroud nail wound in another post. And you can find responses to other claims he's made by running some searches here and here. If you run a search on the weave of the cloth at Dan Porter's blog, for example, you come across this thread and many others. Read the comments sections of the threads as well, since some of the most significant information is found there. Now, here's Lombatti:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sharia and theonomy

How to cure Pakistan of its Islamist cancer

Why liberals deceive

Vicarious repentance

Articles like these on Ref21 therefore really irritate me. Such smacks to me of assuaging white guilt rather than solving racism. Speaking of which, how often must a group of people apologize before everyone can move on? As for dealing with racism explicit or implicit, why the continual dichotomy as if only whites and African-Americans are present? What about the various Asian groups? Or is Sean Lucas only interested in affirmative action just to *prove* he is not racist (and so practice reverse racism in the process)?

Why Christians Should Influence Government

The clarity of Scripture

1 Pet 3:19-20

Monday, March 09, 2015

Conflicting accounts

Whenever Bible history is thought to conflict with extrabiblical historical sources, unbelievers just assume the Bible must be wrong. Can't be the extrabiblical sources.

In this post I'm going to briefly discuss two conflicting accounts regarding the semantic origins of information theology. It's a question of no great intrinsic importance, but it nicely illustrates the difficulty, in the case of conflicting accounts, of determining which account is correct–or if both accounts get some things right and some things wrong. How does a historian sift through conflicting evidence? 

During this meeting, Tribus queried Shannon as to his reason for choosing to call his information function by the name ‘entropy’, the details of which were first made public in Tribus' 1971 article “Energy and Information”, wherein he states: [4]
“What’s in a name? In the case of Shannon’s measure the naming was not accidental. In 1961 one of us (Tribus) asked Shannon what he had thought about when he had finally confirmed his famous measure. Shannon replied: ‘My greatest concern was what to call it. I thought of calling it ‘information’, but the word was overly used, so I decided to call it ‘uncertainty’. When I discussed it with John von Neumann, he had a better idea. Von Neumann told me, ‘You should call it entropy, for two reasons. In the first place you uncertainty function has been used in statistical mechanics under that name. In the second place, and more importantly, no one knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage.” 
Tribus, in his 1987 article “An Engineer Looks at Bayles”, recounts his discussion with Shannon on this question as follows: [5]
“The same function appears in statistical mechanics and, on the advice of John von Neumann, Claude Shannon called it ‘entropy’. I talked with Dr. Shannon once about this, asking him why he had called his function by a name that was already in use in another field. I said that it was bound to cause some confusion between the theory of information and thermodynamics. He said that Von Neumann had told him: ‘No one really understands entropy. Therefore, if you know what you mean by it and you use it when you are in an argument, you will win every time.” 
1. Tribus, M. (1998). “A Tribute to Edwin T. Jaynes”. In Maximum Entropy and Bayesian Methods, Garching, Germany 1998: Proceedings of the 18th International Workshop on Maximum Entropy and Bayesian Methods of Statistical Analysis (pgs. 11-20) by Wolfgang von der Linde, Volker Dose, Rainer Fischer, and Roland Preuss. 1999. Springer.
2. (a) Jaynes, E. T. (1957) “Information theory and statistical mechanics”, (PDF), Physical Review 106:620.
(b) Jaynes, E. T. (1957) “Information theory and statistical mechanics II”, (PDF), Physical Review 108:171.
3. Tribus, Myron. (1961). Thermostatics and Thermodynamics: an Introduction to Energy, Information and States of Matter. Van Nostrand.
4. (a) Tribus, Myron and McIrving, Edward C. (1971). “Energy and Information”, Scientific American, 225: 179-88.
(b) Ben-Naim, Arieh. (2010). Discover Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: a Playful Way of Discovering a Law of Nature (pg. 12). World Scientific.
5. Tribus, Myron. (1987). “An Engineer Looks at Bayes”, Seventh Annual Workshop: Maximum Entropy and Bayesian Methods, Seattle University August, in: Foundations (editor: Gary J. Erickson) (pgs. 31-32, etc.), Springer, 1988.

Thermodynamics and entropy; cryptography 

Shannon:Well, let me also throw into this pot, Szilard, the physicist. And von Neumann, and I’m trying to remember the story. Do you know the story I’m trying to remember?
Price:Well, there are a couple of stories. There’s the one that Myron Tribus says that von Neumann gave you the word entropy, saying to use it because nobody, you’d win every time because nobody would understand what it was.
Price:And furthermore, it fitted p*log(p) perfectly. But that, but then I’ve heard . . .
Shannon:von Neumann told that to me?
Price:That’s what you told Tribus that von Neumann told that to you.
Shannon:[laughs – both talking at once]
Price:Bell Labs too, that entropy could be used. That you already made that identification. And furthermore in your cryptography report in 1945, you actually point out, you say the word entropy exactly once in that report. Now this is 1945, and you liken it to Statistical Mechanics. And I don’t believe you were in contact with von Neumann in 1945, were you? So it doesn’t sound to me as though von Neumann told you entropy. 
Shannon:No, I don’t think he did.
Price:This is what Tribus quoted.
Shannon:Yeah, I think this conversation, it’s a very odd thing that this same story that you just told me was told to me at Norwich in England. A fellow —
Price:About von Neumann, you mean?
Shannon:Yeah, von Neumann and me, this conversation, this man, a physicist there, and I’ve forgotten his name, but he came and asked me whether von Neumann, just about the thing that you told me, that Tribus just told you, about this fellow. . .
Price:That was Jaynes, I imagine the physicist might have been [Edwin] Jaynes.
Shannon:Yes, I think it was, I think so. Do you know him?
Price:Well, he’s published in the same book as Tribus, you see. This is a book called The Maximum Entropy Formalism. You’ve probably seen that book, but they have chapters in it, and Jaynes, the physicist —
Shannon:Now, I’m not sure where I got that idea, but I think I, somebody had told me that. But anyway, I think I can, I’m quite sure that it didn’t happen between von Neumann and me.
Price:Right. Well, I think that the fact that it’s in your 1945 cryptography report establishes that, well, you didn’t get it from von Neumann, that you had made the p*log(p) identification with entropy by some other means. But you hadn’t been —
Shannon:Well, that’s an old thing anyway, you know.
Price:You knew it from thermodynamics.
Shannon:Oh, yes, from thermodynamics. That goes way back.
Price:That was part of your regular undergraduate and graduate education of thermodynamics and the entropy?
Shannon:Well, not in class, exactly, but I read a lot, you know. 

i) In the first account, Myron Tribus says Claude Shannon told him that von Neumann advised him to choose the word "entropy." 

In the second account, when Shannon was queried on that story, he denies it. So who is right?

ii) Consider the abstract possibilities:

a) Shannon misremembered

b) Tribus misremembered

c) Shannon misspoke 

d) Shannon misunderstood the question (by Tribus)

e) Tribus misunderstood the answer (by Shannon)

f) Shannon lied

iii) Even though these two accounts conflict, they also intersect. The interview mentions Edwin Jaynes as somebody who asked Shannon the same question.

And the first account includes several references to Jaynes, including a tribute to Jaynes by Tribus.

It seems likely that Tribus told Jaynes what he thought Shannon told him. In other words, Jaynes is not an independent source. This isn't multiple attestation. Rather, Jaynes was apparently dependent on Tribus for that information–or misinformation (as the case may be). 

iv) Another oddity is that Shannon did, of course, use "information" to label his theory. So it's not as if he used "entropy" as a preferred alternative to "information." Both were used.

v) Did he lie? Was he too proud to give von Neuman any credit? Seems unlikely. This isn't like giving credit or sharing credit for a scientific theory or scientific discovery. Rather, this is just a question of what to name it. Shannon's reputation doesn't rise or fall one the purely semantic issue.

Moreover, Shannon admits that he may have gotten the idea from somebody else–just not von Neumann. 

Unless there was bad blood between the two, there's no reason Shannon would lie about it–that I can see.

vi) Did Shannon misremember? Suppose he was becoming forgetful at the time of the interview.

vii) To begin with, there are two different issues:

a) Did he learn about the word from von Neumann?

b) Did he choose that word to label his theory on advice from von Neumann?

It seems clear that he knew the word before he ever met von Neumann. "Entropy" was a commonly used word in his field of studies.

viii) The question of whether he misremembered is complicated by the fact that he recalls a much earlier conversation (with Jaynes) on the very same subject. Even if he was forgetful at the time of the interview (which may or may not be the case), presumably he wasn't forgetful years earlier when that prior conversation took place.

If he misremembered, it wasn't due to the aging process. Rather, he didn't remember the original conversation (with Tribus) correctly in the first place. Not that the details become fuzzy in the intervening years. 

ix) Assuming that we've eliminated some possibilities, it's harder to narrow down the list any farther. At least, based on what I quoted, I don't know who is right. Clearly there was some confusion somewhere along the line, but the evidence is insufficient to say which account is correct. 

At the time of writing, Tribus is still alive. In principle, one could ask him to clear it up. However, he's in his 90s. He's now much older than Shannon was during the interview. And his recollection hasn't improved with the passage of time. 

Of course, I don't think Scripture is ever in doubt. My point, though, is that even if we bracket inspiration, the partisan bias of the critics is unwarranted. At the very least, they should suspend judgment.  

Jude, 1 Enoch, and 2 Peter

i) Jude's use of apocryphal material in v9 & vv14-15 raises a familiar conundrum, which I've often discussed. I'll take a someone different tack in this post. 

This post will be organized like those movies that begin with a cliff-hanger ending, then–through a series of flashbacks–show the audience how the action got to this point, before resolving it.

I'm going to work through a series of positions I reject. By process of elimination, I will arrive at my own position. 

ii) A critic might contend that it's special pleading for Christians to canonize Jude, but refuse to canonize 1 Enoch and the Assumption of Moses. If Jude makes positive use of these sources, and we venerate Jude, then we ought to share his high view of these sources. 

Conversely, if we think the sources are unreliable, then we should downgrade our view of Jude. If it was right to canonize Jude, then it would be right to canonize 1 Enoch and the Assumption of Moses. Conversely, if it would be wrong to canonize 1 Enoch and the Assumption of Moses, then it was wrong to canonize Jude.

iii) And the argument (such as it is) logically extends to 2 Peter. Inasmuch as Peter makes positive use of Jude, he is, for better or worse, implicated in the fortunes of Jude. 

iv) Let's consider the first horn of the alleged dilemma. Even if (ex hypothesi) the church should have canonized Jude's sources, that's no longer a viable option at this late date.

a) There are no extant copies of the Assumption of Moses. And the Testament of Moses only exists in translation in one 6C Latin MS. Moreover, the relationship between the Assumption of Moses and the Testament of Moses is difficult to untangle, given the fragmentary state of the evidence.

b) We don't have 1 Enoch in the original. The full text of 1 Enoch exists in a Ethiopic translation of a Greek translation of an Aramaic original. There are some Greek fragments, as well as some Aramaic fragments. 

How can the church trust the reliability of a translation of a translation? Moreover, the textual transmission of 1 Enoch is ferociously complex. 

c) A related complication is how much of 1 Enoch we're supposed to canonize. 1 Enoch is a composite book. Even within that anthology, the Book of the Watchers is a composite work. 1 Enoch has a very complex editorial history.  

Even if the church should have canonized 1 Enoch, that's a lost opportunity. It's too late to rectify that judgement call. 

v) Let's consider the second horn of the alleged dilemma. Suppose the church was mistaken in canonizing Jude? 

a) It won't do for Catholics to exclaim: "We told you so! This is why the Protestant canon is so unstable. That's what happens when you don't have a Magisterium."

But on the hypothetical I'm discussing (for the sake of argument), the church of Rome made the same mistake. So either Rome never had a divine teaching office or the man in charge was asleep at the switch.

b) In principle, Christianity could certainly survive the loss of Jude. In terms of historical theology, Jude is a marginal book. The same could be said for 2 Peter. Neither book supplies the backbone of historical Christian theology.

c) At the same time, that's too facile. The problem is not so much with the loss of Jude (or 2 Peter), but whether the entire canon would begin to unravel once we begin to tug at certain threads. 

In principle, Christianity could still survive. It would have to contract into a core canon. The core canon would be defended on evidentialist grounds. The books which have the best claim to historicity. Testimonial evidence. 

But if God allowed every Christian denomination to mistakenly canonize Jude, then that would introduce a serious degree of uncertainty into the Christian faith. It wouldn't be the end of the world, but it would be damaging. 

Again, these are counterfactuals. I propose them to dispose of them. 

vi) I think a key lies in the relationship between 2 Peter and Jude. Most scholars think Peter uses Jude. I won't rehearse the evidence.

Assuming that's correct, it's instructive to compare and contrast the parallel passages where Jude is clearly using apocryphal sources. 

a) 2 Pet 2:11 paraphrases Jude 9, but eliminates the identifiable references to the Testament/Assumption of Moses by recasting the statement in more generic terms.

2 Pet 2:18 repeats the boastful motif in Jude 16, but eliminates the quote from 1 Enoch (in vv14-15) which forms the lead-in to the boastful motif. 

A number of scholars think Jude 6 alludes to 1 Enoch, and 2 Pet 2:4 parallels and paraphrases Jude 6. If, however, Jude is alluding to 1 Enoch, that's far more oblique than the sources in v9 & vv14-15. So Peter doesn't need to omit that or recast it in generic terms, since the underlying source is already pretty obscure.

Mind you, I agree with Daryl Charles that this is not an allusion to 1 Enoch. 

vii) To judge by how Peter edits Jude, Peter suppresses the references to apocryphal literature–by paraphrase or outright omission. How are we to interpret his redactional practice?

a) One possibility is that he's correcting Jude. However, I think that's implausible. If he though Jude was so lacking in critical discernment, why would he make such extensive and positive use of Jude in the first place? 

b) Another possibility is that he thinks Jude's sourcing would be misleading for Peter's audience. Peter may have felt that if he simply quoted Jude, Peter's audience would draw a false inference regarding the authority of the apocryphal sources. So he protects his audience from treating 1 Enoch and the Assumption of Moses as inspired scripture. 

Jude's letter may have been a very in-house affair. Jude may be manipulating this material for polemical purposes. His audience understood that. But in shifting to a different audience, the ad hominem context might be lost sight of.

viii) Assuming this explanation is correct, then Peter validates Jude without validating his sources. Peter intentionally distinguishes Jude, which he reaffirms, from his apocryphal sources, from which he distances himself. 

In that case, it is not inconsistent for Christians to grant the canonicity of Jude even though they disassociate themselves from Jude's sources–except in the polemical vein that Jude may have exploited them. 2 Peter set the precedent. 

ix) If so, that's analogous to how Matthew and Luke sometimes edit Mark. Assuming that Matthew and Luke are literarily dependent on Mark for some of their material, they sometimes redact Mark. There are various reasons. To polish the language. To say the same thing in fewer words. To adapt the material to their own audience.

But in some instances, it seems to be a case where they thought Mark's way of putting things might be misleading. To forestall confusion, they reword it. That doesn't mean the were critiquing Mark. But in using and reusing a source, they enjoy the license to edit the source. Every historian does that. 

Why I'll never regret being a Calvinist

I appreciate SEA reminding me why it makes no sense for me to regret being a Calvinist. If I'm ever tempted to regret my Calvinism, I'll just remind myself that that's nonsensical.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Atheist hypocrisy

Enochic Judaism

More point/counterpoint:

I do, of course, think that Peter and Jude are referring to angelic sin. That much is obvious. Referring to it as an angelic fall seems to bring far more theological baggage to the text than is warranted.
If the text refers to a drastic shift from their original status, how does that not describe an angelic fall?
The point being that writers don’t usually introduce new material without explaining it. Since Peter and Jude don’t trouble themselves to explain their references—as evidenced by the puzzlement most Christians evince over these passages—they are evidently making a high-context allusion. The question is, to what? And the first place to look is for prior scriptural accounts. But the only plausible candidate is Genesis 6:1-4.
i) Actually, both texts (2 Pet 2:4/Jude 6) have affinities with Isa 24:21-22.
ii) Moreover, belief in fallen angels was already in the air. The existence of such popular beliefs is attested in Intertestamental literature. 
I think they are alluding to Genesis 6:1-4—but they are doing so in a cultural context which understood that passage as referring to an angelic fall.
Yet he just admonished us that this "brings far more theological baggage to the text than is warranted." So which is it?
I take a fall, theologically, to be an initial sin from a sinless state.
Don't 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6 contrast the initial state of angels with their subsequent defection? 
For example, it is in principle possible that some angels were on the fence in Genesis 3, but then fell in Genesis 6.
Even if that distinction is valid, how is that consistent with the Enochic interpretation of 2 Pet 2:4 & Jude 6 which Bnonn champions? Does 1 Enoch draw that distinction? 
I think, of the sons of God who were going to go bad, they probably all went bad between Genesis 2 and 3. Reading between the lines, the angelic fall occurred when some of the sons of God, incited by Satan, got their noses bent out of shape that a lower being (Adam) was given dominion over the earth rather than being put under their authority.
i) To begin with, that has an ironically Miltonian cast–ironic given that he imputed Miltonian conditioning to me.
ii) Moreover, that's a different narrative, with a different timeline, than the Enochian angelic fall. There's a lack of consistency in Bnonn's use of sources. He takes a little here and a little there to produce his own idiosyncratic harmonization. But that's a very different hermeneutic than the claim that Peter and Jude use Enoch as an interpretive filter to gloss Gen 6:1-4. 
Supposing Jude and Peter take the Enochian view of Genesis 6, neither of them link that to a “fall” in the theological sense. That’s not a biblical gloss.
But that illustrates the unstable tension in Bnonn's approach. If they take the Enochic view of Gen 6, then that synchronizes the angelic fall with the ramp-up to the flood. 
No, it's not a biblical gloss. Rather, it's an Enochic gloss. Yet Bnonn says that's the interpretive prism which Peter and Jude are using for Gen 6.  
Paul’s situation in Acts 28 seems unusual for a prisoner. Compare Peter’s imprisonment in Acts 12. The normal mode of incarceration—as today—was not at home, but in a prison. It is special pleading to interpret a passage about incarceration with reference to extraordinary, rather than ordinary, forms of such.
What's the historical or exegetical basis for that cocksure statement? To my knowledge, Roman law had roughly three forms of pretrial custody: custodia liberia, custodia militaris, and custodia publica. Cf. Brian Rapske, "The Purposes and Varieties of Custody in the Roman World," The Book of Acts and Paul in Roman Custody (Eerdmans 1994), chapter 2.
Custodia publica (e.g. state prison, stone quarry) was the most restrictive and onerous. 
Custodia liberia was the least restrictive. Recast in modern terms, it would be equivalent to posting bail, or release on personal recognizance.
Custodia militaris lay somewhere in between. That, itself, had variations. It could involve confinement to a military camp or barracks. Or it could take the form of house-arrest. Recast in modern terms, it would be equivalent to an ankle monitor. 
From what I've read, there's nothing "extraordinary" about the terms of Paul's custody. He wasn't given exceptional treatment. It was a standard form of Roman custody. And it was less lenient than custodia liberia
It's funny for Bnonn to accuse me of special pleading in this regard, since–from what I can tell–he's pulling his assertions out of thin air rather than Roman law. 
Apropos (8), your interpretation simply ignores the meaning of the words that Peter and Jude use. If we were to take their language and ask which kind of imprisonment it seems to represent—Acts 12 or Acts 28—which would it be? The angels in 2 Peter and Jude have been “cast into” Tartarus (“held captive” as the NET puts it), where they are kept in eternal chains or possibly pits, under utter darkness and gloom. This is dungeon language. Tartarus in Greek mythology was a subterranean dungeon of torment lower than Hades, where divine punishment was meted out—a belief which largely extended to Israelite apocalyptic theology too. Now, even if we think it is not literally under the earth, and even if we think it is a holding cell rather than a place of punishment, clearly it is a dungeon. It is separated from the world of man. Reinterpreting Peter and Jude to be making a metaphorical comment that God “has the demons’ number” simply doesn’t take the text seriously. It defies the meaning of the words they use to argue that these beings are afforded considerable freedom, given that the precise point of the phraseology is that they have no freedom. They are, in fact, in prison. Whatever that means for a spiritual being, it can’t be so loosely understood as to mean the opposite.
i) To begin with, that suffers from a terribly crude approach to metonymic metaphors. 
ii) Some Biblical passages depict evil spirits as captives. But other Biblical passages depict evil spirits as having considerable freedom of action. Now, a liberal would say these reflect conflicting traditions. 

If, however, we're concerned with harmonizing the data, if we appreciate the fact that the physical confinement of discarnate spirits is necessarily figurative, and if we appreciate the period legal distinction between pretrial custody and final punishment, then I think my explanation integrates the data based on the available evidence and the poetics of narratology. 

iii) Furthermore, we have a striking illustration:

"What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" (Mt 8:29). 

That's a good example of custodia liberia. The evil spirits are doomed, but in the mean time they have a fair amount of freedom. Like a distinction between conviction and sentencing, where you can't leave town. You must turn in your passport. Because demons pose no flight risk for God, they have that temporary window of freedom. 

Postulating that the Enochian interpretation goes back further than the second century BC is speculative. But so is postulating otherwise. So calling it a late Jewish innovation begs the question. 
i) Actually, I was holding Bnonn to his own standard of comparison. I was responding to his previous statement that "we can only work with the evidence available."
Now, however, he abandons the available evidence and resorts to the conjecture of Enochic-style interpretations which antedate our extant sources. 
ii) Moreover, from what I've read, it isn't just coincidental that the Enochic literature arose at that time and place. Rather, it's a response to Hellenism (e.g. Seleucid, Hasmonian, and Roman rule). Its cosmography is Hellenistic. And Enoch's netherworld explorations reflect Greco-Roman nekyias. It is, by turns, syncretistic and reactionary.