Saturday, June 06, 2015

Cousin Itt

The original transgender:

The virgin birth prophecy

I'm going to comment on Richard Carrier's discussion of the virgin birth prophecy:

i) It's striking that an unbeliever would imagine that Carrier a good person to ask about Isaiah 7:14. To begin with, since Carrier is an atheist, his naturalistic interpretation is a foregone conclusion. 

ii) In addition, Carrier is a Classicist, not a Hebraist or OT scholar. He has no expertise on Isa 7:14.

iii) One problem with a naturalistic interpretation of Isa 7:14 is that, even though an atheist denies inspired foresight, Bible writers, and ancient Near Easterners generally, did believe the future could be foreknown by supernatural means. When secular interpreters come to a passage like this, they confuse what they think is possible with what Isaiah believed. But when you interpret Isaiah, even if you don't believe Isaiah, you need to interpret his oracles as he understood them, consistent with his worldview. Even if you don't think his oracle could be genuinely prophetic, you must respect what he intended. That's what exegesis is all about. Ascertaining what the original author had in mind. 

I'll bet we have dozens if not hundreds of occasions where almah is used, in and out of the OT, where we can't know if the denoted girl was a virgin or not.

In other words, he hasn't actually studied the frequency of OT occurrences. This is just his seat-of-the-pants hunch. 

Moreover, the fact that the Hebrews saw a need to coin a word more definitely meaning 'virgin' (bethulah) implies that almah did not definitely mean virgin.

i) Carrier offers no evidence for that claim. Even a liberal scholar like Brevard Childs, in his commentary on Isaiah, says "it is very unlikely that a married woman would still be referred to as an almah…the preferred modern translation of 'young woman' (NRSV) is too broad a rendering since it wrongly includes young wives" (66). 

ii) Moreover, the exact rendering of almah is something of a red herring, for that fails to draw a rudimentary distinction between sense and reference. Even if almah doesn't mean "virgin," a virgin can be the referent.

For instance, Secretariat doesn't mean "horse," yet Secretariat refers to a horse. A horse is the designatum or denotatum of Secretariat. By the same token, a virgin can be the denotatum of almah even if that's not what the word means. 

iii) In addition, we need to distinguish between denotation and connotation. Even if almah isn't a synonym for "virgin," it can have presumptive virginal connotations in a culture where premarital sex was punishable. 

iv) Moreover, Carrier fails to take the larger context into account. The oracle is introduced as a "sign" or prodigy (v11). Compare that to the healing of Hezekiah–a promise attested by the prodigy of the sundial (Isa 38). A miraculous sign to portend a miraculous healing. That's the thought-world in which Isa 7 is moving.

v) Furthermore, it doesn't end with Isa 7. The career of this mysterious child continues to be charted in chaps 8-9, & 11. This is no ordinary child. His career extends generations beyond the exigent circumstances of Isa 7. 

…since Isaiah can be interpreted non-supernaturally even if he did mean virgin. After all, is it really unusual for a virgin to conceive? Say, on her wedding night? True, then she isn't a virgin anymore. But she was until she conceived (literally, not at that very moment, but the Bible is rarely so precise). Since conception does not always occur the first time it would still be significant to say that a virgin conceived, meaning only that she conceived the first time she was with a man.

In reference to the virgin birth of Christ, which is Carrier's real target, that's confused:

i) In principle, there's an asymmetrical relation between the virginity of the mother and the virginal conception of the child: 

The virginity of the mother entails the virginal conception of the child;

However, the virginal conception of the child does not entail the virginity of the mother. 

Even if the mother was not a virgin at the time, you could still have a virginal conception so long as that took place apart from sexual reproduction. 

A virginal conception doesn't require a virginal mother. It only requires that in that particular instance, the conception was not the natural result of a man impregnating a woman. In principle, you could have a virginal conception even if Mary was not a virgin. These are not mutual entailments.

ii) The primary function of Mary's virginity is to safeguard the fact that Jesus was conceived without a father. Although that's metaphysically possible even if Mary had had previous children by sexual reproduction, her virginity ensures that Christ's conception was virginal. Even though her virginity isn't a necessary precondition for the virgin birth, it renders certain the fact that Christ had a mother, but no (human) father.

In the providence of God, these separable elements (virgin mother, virginal conception) were combined to remove any ambiguity regarding the virginal conception of Christ. 

iii) In context, the virginity of Mary refers, not simply to the fact that she hadn't had sexual relations before then, but that she didn't conceive by means of sexual relations. 

Most Americans Don't Think Transgenderism Is Immoral

See here. If you go to the main article cited in the post, you'll find further details. For example, Protestants are significantly more opposed to transgenderism than Catholics are.

As I've said before, most Americans are highly persuadable on issues like these. But the large majority of parents, pastors, and others in positions of influence aren't making much of an effort to persuade people on these matters, if they even address the issues at all. Our priorities are desperately false, our time management is horrendous, and we're often intellectually apathetic, if not anti-intellectual.

"I want to be a woman"

Friday, June 05, 2015


The burning building

I'll comment on this:

First, the burning building narrative is an example of direct action. If children are at risk of dying in the burning building, our attempt to rescue them is direct action: physical action to intervene and save those at risk. The appropriate parallel would be to relate the narrative to the proper physical action that Christians should take when they know someone down the street intends to kill their preborn child. What physical intervention should be taken on behalf of children brought to the abortion clinic (killing center) to be destroyed? This is a very challenging question.

But having posed the question, he ducks the question. How does AHA answer that question? If he' thinks that's the right analogy, then what is he saying? That if we shouldn't physically intervene to protect unborn babies, then we shouldn't physically intervene rescue kids in a burning building?

Or does he think we should physically intervene in both cases? If so, what does that mean? AHA allegedly eschews violence. So what does he mean by physical intervention? Preemptive action or empty gestures? Action to prevent an outcome–or standing around with props (e.g. placards of aborted babies)? 

Abortion legislation is not direct action. Rather, it is indirect action that establishes the legislative framework for criminal behavior.

Simply drawing a distinction between direct and indirect action fails to show how that's morally germane to the issue at hand.

If one were to equate abortion legislation to the burning building analogy, the equivalent idea in the narrative would be the extent that laws criminalize the intentional setting of fires at orphanages.

That's not the equivalent idea. The burning building example isn't meant to illustrate direct action, indirect action, or physical intervention. It's meant to illustrate the principle of a forced option where you can't save all, so you have a choice between saving some or saving none. Those are the only two viable alternatives at the time.

To draw extraneous distinctions which the example was never intended to illustrate is irrelevant to the purpose of the illustration. He hasn't show how the example is disanalogous in reference to what it was meant to illustrate. 

Second, the narrative’s hero risks his physical well-being for victims in danger. But support for compromised legislation that limits, restricts, or regulates child sacrifice does not risk the supporter’s physical well-being.

That's another irrelevant distinction. The point of the example is not to illustrate moral heroism. What makes saving innocent lives good isn't that the rescuer is risking his own life. Saving innocent lives would be just as good if that was risk-free. The action itself is virtuous apart from the motivations of the rescuer. Once again, his parallel is beside the point. 

If the rescuer engagers himself in the process, that says something good about him. His courage is commendable. But the goodness of the action is independent of what motivates the agent. It would be good to save innocent lives even if his intentions were malevolent. Does AHA think we have no duty to save innocent lives unless we endanger ourselves in the process? If we can do so safely, should we not do so? Should I only save an innocent life if that puts my own life at risk? 

Incremental abortion legislation leaves some children with zero protection from murderers.

And opposing even incremental legislation leaves all children with zero protection from murderers. Does AHA think we should repeal restrictions on abortion? Have unfettered access to abortion unless or until it can be banned in toto? 

Persecuting Jewish-Americans

It's no longer just Christian-Americans who are persecuted–indeed, prosecuted–for exercising their First Amendment rights:

Judging Jenner

Here is a classic example of foolish reasoning around the Jenner episode. Needless to say, the commentator (a certain Benjamin Corley) is ironically passing judgment on those who "judge" Jenner's actions, which is to say that he is making a determination about what is right and what is wrong and warning us all not to declare that Jenner is sinning against God and man. It is not possible to be moral without regularly making judgments about right and wrong, which is why the Scriptures are full of laws and moral exhortations that underscore this point.
What is particularly sad is that Corley has two masters degrees from Gordon Conwell Seminary, is working on a Ph.D. in missiology at Fuller Seminary, and has already published a book, called "Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus" (published by a press I never heard of before: Destiny Image in Shippensburg, PA). This is Christianity 101 and he should know it. Doubtless he would respond that he once "knew" it and now has rejected it as a misrepresentation of Jesus; but in asserting such he would be wrong.
Almost half of Jesus' sayings in the Synoptic Gospels are accompanied by judgments and warnings about being excluded from the coming kingdom of God if certain behaviors are not discontinued. Even the Sermon on the Mount ends with a triplicate of judgments/warnings regarding those who merely hear Jesus' words but do not "do them" -- in the same chapter, incidentally, that begins with the statement "Do not judge lest you be judged" (7:1). Go here for a whole series of Jesus' judgment sayings found in the Synoptic Gospel (not counting material found only in Matthew's Gospel where the ratio increases to 60%): (pp. 6-12). John the Baptist, the man who baptized Jesus, "judged" Herod Antipas' marriage to his brother's wife to be a violation of Levitical incest law and reproved him for it. I'm quite sure Herod thought he was doing God's will. And what, pray tell, was Jesus doing when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers and drove out the animals with cords? Holding judgment in abeyance?
Jesus' very outreach to tax collectors (economic exploiters) and (sexual) sinners was premised on the judgment that, sans such an outreach to them replete with call to repentance, they would not inherit the very Kingdom he was proclaiming. Jesus excoriates judgment that majors in minors (Paul makes a similar observation in Romans 14:1-10 regarding matters of ethical indifference) or judgment that shows no desire to recover someone for the kingdom of God, not judgment per se. He does not direct his followers to disregard the Scriptures and his own teachings in making moral judgments about right and wrong. His remarks about church discipline (Matt 18) and about rebuking those who sin and calling them to repent (Luke 17:3-4) requires a "judgment" of right and wrong. His instructions to the disciples to go out with his message "Repent!" (Mark 6:12) is another case in point, among many.
Corley's statement, "Love is not simultaneously possible while we are judging someone" is ridiculous. Indeed, it is not possible to love apart from such judgments. Parents cannot truly love their children without making regular judgments about the rightness and wrongness of their behavior. The context for Lev 19:18b, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself," includes the command "you shall reprove your neighbor, lest you incur guilt for failing to warn him" (Lev 19:17). To fail to reprove Jenner is an act of functional hate that consigns him to self-delusion and the judgment of God.
Yes, contra Corley, we can know with confidence that transsexualism is wrong (and citing Pat Robertson's verdict is hardly a compelling case otherwise). The malakoi ("soft men") condemned in 1 Cor 6:9 are a close analogue: men who actively feminized themselves to attract male sex partners, seeking to erase the marks of their masculinity. For the very reason that homosexual practice is wrong, transsexualism is all the more wrong because it is an even greater complaint against God for the way that one is made. See further:…/TranssexualityOrdination.pdf (pp. 5-6).
Nor is it the case that one must "know with absolute certainty that Caitlyn [sic: Bruce] simply chose to be transgender of her [sic: his] own free will, as an act of rebellion against God." Of course Bruce Jenner chose to mutilate his male body. No one had a gun to his head and the state has not yet declared him to be insane or mentally incompetent. I'm quite confident that Bruce made the choice of his own free will, thinking (erroneously) that he was doing God's will. That is the nature of sin.
The incestuous man at Corinth doubtless thought he was doing God's will. When Paul in context declared, "Stop deceiving yourselves," and reminded the Corinthians that "sexually immoral persons ... will not inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 6:9-10), he was not giving the incestuous man a pass if the offender thought he was complying with God's will. Paul never reverses the principle that if someone thinks something to be sin it is sin to such a one (Rom 14:14). He never asserts (for it would be ludicrous for him to do so) that if someone doesn't believe a sin to be a sin it is no sin to such a one.
In fact, an exasperated Paul asks the rhetorical question, "Is it not those inside the church that we are to judge?" (1 Cor 5:12), by which Paul means not just judging per se but, as the context indicates, imposing church discipline. He is not precluding determinations that the pagans are living godless lives. Such a view is a matter of course with him, as when Paul states to the Thessalonians that in their sexual lives they are not to live like Gentiles (pagans) who do not know God (1 Thess 4:5).
Romans 1:18-32 is all about humans becoming warped in their thinking but nonetheless being held accountable by God for their actions because, although they had evidence all around them from "the things made" that their actions were wrong, they chose not to recognize the evidence as such. In their idolatry, sexual immorality (including homosexual practice), and an array of other sins (1:28-31) they were quite simply "without excuse." In 1 Thess 5:14 Paul exhorts his readers not to stop passing judgments on immoral conduct but rather to tailor the force of the correction to the degree of resistance: "admonish the disorderly, speak soothingly to the discouraged, hold on tight to the weak."
I could go on but by now the point ought to be obvious. As I have noted often before, Augustine said it well: "Do not imagine that . . . you then love your son when you do not give him discipline, or that you then love your neighbor when you do not rebuke him. This is not love, but mere feebleness. Let love be fervent to correct, to amend. . . . Love not in the person his error, but the per-son; for the person God made, the error the person himself made. (Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John 7.11; NPNF, slightly modified). Mr. Corley is still young. May he profit from Augustine's words, and what is more, from the teachings of Jesus and his apostles.

Christian snitches

I will comment on a part of this:

On the positive side, pastor Pruitt makes some excellent points. I also appreciate the fact that unlike the ostrich posture of a Darryl Hart, Pruitt understands the importance of the culture wars.

However, I think the analysis goes a bit haywire under point #3, when he says:

The church and Christian families must never tolerate or in any way seek to cover up sexual abuse. Among Christians, sexual sin which does not violate the law can and should be dealt with through the means of church discipline (Matt 18; 1 Cor. 5). Illegal sexual activity, however, is never an in-house matter for the church. Christians are to be subject to the governing authorities. That means Christians are accountable to God to report any sexual abuse to those authorities God has entrusted to administer justice (Rom 13:1-7). A failure to do so is a sin both against God and the victim. 

There's some truth to this, but it's overstated. It needs to be more qualified:

i) As evangelicals, it's our duty to avoid the kind of stonewalling that's occurred in the Catholic abuse scandal. That said:

ii) We need to distinguish between genuine sexual abuse and technical infractions. Feminism is redefining sexual harassment in elastic, subjective terms. It becomes a fill-in-the-blank definition. It's all in the eye of the accuser. 

Consider the DOJ guidelines (under Holder's tenure) to universities. That's not about genuine sexual assault, but weaponized ideology. 

iii) Apropos (ii), we need to distinguish between just and unjust laws. The secularization of the political class has led to a proliferation of unjust laws. I don't think it's the duty of Christians to report violations of unjust laws to the authorities. 

iv) Apropos (iii), under our system of gov't, private citizens aren't gov't flunkies. It's not our civic duty to spy on our neighbors or report them to the authorities. We're not the police. We're not gov't informants. We're not agents of the state. 

That's what you get under totalitarian regimes, where everyone spies on everyone else. Where loyal citizens are expected to report "subversive" activity to the authorities. But that's the paradigm of a police state, not a free society. 

There are, of course, situations where it's appropriate to report illegal activity to the authorities. But that's when it serves the public interest. The state works for us, not the other way around. 

v) We should make allowance for the fact that Paul probably had various caveats in the back of his mind, but didn't include these in his letter. I doubt it's coincidental that he said this in a letter addressed to Christians living in the capital of the Roman Empire. He wants Christians to be good citizens, to the extent that's possible under a pagan regime. He wants them to avoid unnecessary provocations.

However, Paul was a firm believer in the OT. So he presumably viewed Rome in much the same way he viewed Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. Yet he has to be discreet about what he says in a letter addressed to Roman Christians. What if that was intercepted by the authorities? What if that contained statements deemed seditious by the authorities? The recipients would suffer.  

So we need take into account the fact that Paul is being tactful in what he says about the Roman state. Although he says what he believes, there are other things he's leaving out. He says less than what he thinks. There's certainly more to be said about a pagan state than he lets on in a letter to Roman Christians. In that sensitive context, he's not going to say what OT prophets say about Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon. What he says will be true so far as it goes, but there are implicit qualifications–given his larger frame of reference, which remains in the background. Of necessity, his statement is circumspect. 

Contraceptive intent

According to Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe:

For it was obvious that if a woman just happened to be in the physical state which such a contraceptive brings her into by art no theologian would have thought the fact, or the knowledge of it, or the use of the knowledge of it, straightaway made intercourse bad. Or, again, if a woman took an anovulant pill for a while to check dysmenorrhea no one would have thought this prohibited intercourse. So, clearly, it was the contraceptive intention that was bad, if contraceptive intercourse was: it is not that the sexual act in these circumstances is physically distorted. This had to be thought out, and it was thought out in the encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Here, however, people still feel intensely confused, because the intention where oral contraceptives are taken seems to be just the same as when intercourse is deliberately restricted to infertile periods. In one way this is true, and its truth is actually pointed out by Humanae Vitae, in a passage I will quote in a moment. But in another way it's not true.
The reason why people are confused about intention, and why they sometimes think there is no difference between contraceptive intercourse and the use of infertile times to avoid conception, is this: They don't notice the difference between "intention" when it means the intentionalness of the thing you're doing - that you're doing this on purpose - and when it means a further or accompanying intention with which you do the thing. For example, I make a table: that's an intentional action because I am doing just that on purpose. I have the further intention of, say, earning my living, doing my job by making the table. Contraceptive intercourse and intercourse using infertile times may be alike in respect of further intention, and these further intentions may be good, justified, excellent. This the Pope has noted. He sketched such a situation and said: "It cannot be denied that in both cases the married couple, for acceptable reasons," (for that's how he imagined the case) "are perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and mean to secure that none will be born." This is a comment on the two things: contraceptive intercourse on the one hand and intercourse using infertile times on the other, for the sake of the limitation of the family.
But contraceptive intercourse is faulted, not on account of this further intention, but because of the kind of intentional action you are doing. The action is not left by you as the kind of act by which life is transmitted, but is purposely rendered infertile, and so changed to another sort of act altogether.
There's all the world of difference between this and the use of the "rhythm" method. For you use the rhythm method not just by having intercourse now, but by not having it next week, say; and not having it next week isn't something that does something to today's intercourse to turn it into an infertile act; today's intercourse is an ordinary act of intercourse, an ordinary marriage act.

I already commented on this once before, but now I'd like to make a more specific criticism of her argument:

i) A basic problem with her argument is that even if you accept her abstract distinction, there's no practical distinction in the case at hand. What motives a Protest couple to practice artificial birth control? (a) the desire to have conjugal relations; (b) the desire to avoid conception.

What motivates a Catholic couple to practice natural family planning? (a) the desire to have conjugal relations; (b) the desire to avoid conception. 

At the level of intent, their intentions are identical in both cases, whether they practice artificial birth control or natural family planning.

ii) Now, it may be that Anscombe is using "intent" in the technical sense of double effect theory, where the agent did not intend the bad effect insofar as that was an incidental and undesirable effect of what he positively willed. But even if we accept that distinction, it fails to salvage Anscombe's argument:

a) Avoiding conception by exploiting a woman's infertile period isn't an undesirable side-effect of their action; rather, that's a primary motivation. They want to avoid conception. That's their direct intention. And successfully evading procreation is the desired result.

Moreover, their action is a means to that end (pace double effect theory). 

iii) Furthermore, she switches arguments. She begins by distinguishing between different kinds of intent, but then shifts to different kinds of actions. 

Sex change regret

They're made out of meat

A classic SF story by Terry Bisson:

The real women-haters

Many unbelievers think the Bible is misogynistic. That's based, in part, on their ignorant misunderstanding of Scripture. But it's also based on the fact that their value-system, such as it is, is incompatible with Christian ethics. By the same token, many unbelievers think Christians are misogynistic. 

There are, of course, some cases of abuse in conservative Christian circles. The combination of sin and power inevitably results in some abuse of power. And that's true in feminism and complementarianism alike.

But who are the real women-haters? I knew my grandmother for about 20 years, from her 70s to her 90s. To judge by pictures, she was pretty as a young woman. But by the time I knew her, that had faded. She wasn't unattractive. She just looked her age. She looked like an old woman–because that's exactly what she was.

I adored by grandmother. She was a strong godly woman. A woman of faith. A woman of prayer. 

However, she's not the kind of woman who'd every appear on the cover of Vanity Fair. She didn't look the part or act the part. 

Now, one reason I continue to call Jenner Bruce rather than Caitlyn is because it's profoundly demeaning to women to pretend that he's a real woman. That cheapens the meaning of womanhood. 

Bruce Jenner does not and cannot epitomize what is good and distinctive about womanhood. He’s a parody of a woman. A travesty.

To praise his "transition" makes you a woman-hater. It means you don't value real women. You don't value what is good and distinctive about womanhood.  You accept a cheap imitation. A simulacrum. Surface without virtue. You act as if an obvious ersatz substitute is equivalent to the real thing. 

Surgical sex

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The real Bruce Jenner

At the risk of overdosing on the Jenner circus, compare this face to the Vanity Fair cover. This is the face of a 65-year-old. Gives you an idea of how much digital enhancement went into the Vanity Fair cover.


10 Reasons Why the Amillennial Concurrent-Recapitulation Framework of the Book of Revelation Does NOT Work

Alan Kurschner itunes 600

In part 2, I gave about 10 reasons against the concurrent-recapitulatory interpretation of the book of Revelation while arguing for the consecutive-progressive framework.


Seals, Trumpets, Bowls – At the Same Time or One After the Other?

The prewrath position interprets a sequential chronological framework for the seals, trumpets, and bowls. That is, the seal-trumpet-bowl septets (sets of seven) will happen in a consecutive-progressive fashion with each septet consecutively following each other. For example, the trumpet septet cannot begin until the seventh seal is opened; and the bowl septet cannot begin before the seventh trumpet is blown. The last judgment element of the day of the Lord’s wrath will be the seventh bowl. Accordingly, the seventh seal and the seventh trumpet serve as transitions to the next set of God’s climaxing judgments, culminating with the seventh bowl.
  prewrath, seals, trumpets, bowls.001
Posttribulationists (and Amillennialists) subscribe instead to a concurrent-recapitulation framework with the septets occurring at the same time with the judgment elements giving different emphases or perspectives. For example, it is said that the sixth seal, sixth trumpet, and six bowl describe the same event from a different angle. Accordingly, the last element in the day of the Lord’s wrath describes the seventh of each septet; thus, the seventh seal, seventh trumpet, and seventh bowl is the same event from different perspectives. And there are those posttribulationists who hold that it does not describe the exact same event, but they affirm that the three elements occur roughly at the same time. For all practically purposes, the main point is that both of these posttrib interpretations do not view the trumpets and bowls occurring after the seventh seal is opened.
posttribulationism, seals, trumpets, bowls.001

I should note that this debate does not hinge on whether each judgment element within the septets succeed each other; that is not the issue. The main question is: does each of the three septets themselves succeed each other (consecutive) or do they simultaneously unfold (concurrent)? My aim is to demonstrate that the concurrent view is flawed. I will also argue for the consecutive nature to the three septets, showing that the seventh seal does not depict the culmination but the introduction to the day of the Lord via the seven trumpets and culminating in the seven bowls. The following reasons are now given against this concurrent-recapitulatory framework of the septets, while at the same time, I will show the consecutive-progressive structure is the most natural interpretation.
The Seventh Seal Prepares for the Trumpets
"Now when the Lamb opened the seventh seal there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them." (Rev 8:1–2 emphasis mine) In this passage, there is an explicit cause and effect action between the opening of the seventh seal and the introduction to the seven trumpets. It is difficult how any interpreter can read the trumpets happening before the seventh seal is opened. It is a clear contradiction according to Revelation 8:1–2. The opening of the seventh seal prepares for the trumpets. In addition, when the seventh seal is opened, there is a moment of silence functioning to contrast with the ensuing booming sounds: “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it on the earth, and there were crashes of thunder, roaring, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” (Rev 8:5). Jauhiainen makes an excellent point regarding the silence:
The recapitulation theory would be more convincing if the sixth seal were silence and the seventh the ‘end’, and not vice versa, as John has them. Beale (Revelation, 125, 446–54) attempts to address this problem by claiming that it is ‘clear from repeated references to silence in the OT and Jewish apocalyptic writings’ that silence is ‘a figurative expression of judgment’ (125). He is correct in seeking a link between silence and judgment in the primary OT background texts he adduces, Hab 2:20, Zeph 1:7 and Zech 2:13. However, the contexts of these references to silence suggest that silence is not ‘an expression of judgment’ but rather something that precedes judgments and/or the Day of the Lord. Thus in Zephaniah the reason for silence is given in the same verse: ‘for the day of the Lord is near.’
Therefore, the opening of the seventh seal is the last condition for the scroll to be opened, encompassing the ensuing trumpet judgments (cf. Rev 8:1–6).
The Septets Increase in Intensity and Scope
The narrative of the seals, trumpets, and bowls conspicuously intensify. The seals exhibit “natural” events: wars, famine, plague, and bloodshed; while the trumpets and bowls exhibit “supernatural” events such as hideous demonic creatures torturing the wicked, massive divine devastation on the earth, etc. Further, the scope of activity progressively intensifies; for example, the fourth seal mentions a quarter of the earth, the trumpets a third of the earth, and the bowls affect the whole earth. In addition, the seals encompass believers and unbelievers, with the trumpets targeting specifically the ungodly. And while the bowls are also directed to the ungodly, its focus is on the beast’s kingdom and his subjects (e.g., bowls 1, 3, 5, 6). These factors demonstrate the septets do not recapitulate the same events; instead, they exhibit three separate consecutive series of judgments: the seals function as precursors to the day of the Lord’s wrath, the trumpets initiate his wrath, and the bowls execute the completion of his wrath.
Confirmation from Jesus
Jesus’ teaching on the beginning of birth pangs, great tribulation, the celestial sign, and the gathering of the elect corresponds with the seven seals (see this chart). Jesus warned not to confuse the end with the beginning of birth pangs. He taught the great tribulation will happen before his return signaled by the celestial disturbance. This supports that the seals should be distinguished from the wrath in the trumpets and bowls.
The Fifth-Seal Martyrs
The fifth-seal martyrs cry out to God for justice and implore him to avenge their blood: “How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev 6:10). This clearly shows the day of the Lord’s wrath has not begun; thus to place any trumpet or bowl judgments before the fifth seal is contradictory. In addition, the prayers of the martyrs are about to be answered after the seventh seal is opened through the trumpet judgments (Rev 8:1–4), connecting it back to their supplications in the fifth seal.
The Sixth-Seal Celestial Event
The sixth seal signals the impending wrath of God, not the culmination of it. Joel’s parallel passage reads, “I will produce portents both in the sky and on the earth—blood, fire, and columns of smoke. The sunlight will be turned to darkness and the moon to the color of blood, before the day of the LORD comes—that great and terrible day!” (Joel 2:30–31). This celestial disturbance causes the ungodly in the sixth seal to flee to the caves because they recognize the impending wrath of God (Rev 6:15–17). Luke also narrates the wrath of God ensuing the celestial event (Luke 21:25–36; cf. Matt 24:29–30). Therefore, it is mistaken to place any trumpet or bowl judgments before the sixth seal.
Destruction of the Earth Happens After—Not Before—the Seventh Seal
In Revelation 7 there is an interlude portraying two groups being delivered-protected, one on earth and the other in heaven. The group on earth are seen to be 144,000 Jews. A seal is given on their foreheads as protection from the coming wrath: “Do not damage the earth or the sea or the trees until we have put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God” (Rev 7:3). This verse should put to rest any doubt the trumpets and bowls happen before the seventh seal. Notice the earth, sea, and trees are not destroyed up to this point before the seventh seal is opened. It is only when the seventh seal is opened the first two trumpet judgments begin to destroy the earth, sea, and trees: The first angel blew his trumpet, and there was hail and fire mixed with blood, and it was thrown at the earth so that a third of the earth was burned up, a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up. Then the second angel blew his trumpet, and something like a great mountain of burning fire was thrown into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, and a third of the creatures living in the sea died, and a third of the ships were completely destroyed. (Rev 8:7–9) It is a contradiction to claim otherwise. Moreover, the fifth trumpet describes demonic-locust creatures being commanded, “not to damage the grass of the earth, or any green plant or tree, but only those people who did not have the seal of God on their forehead” (Rev 9:4). This trumpet judgment has in view the protective seal on their forehead; thus, it is a contradiction to place the fifth trumpet before the seventh seal! (Rev 7:3).
Woe! Woe! Woe!
The last three trumpets are identified ominously as three woes (ouai): “Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying directly overhead, proclaiming with a loud voice, “Woe! Woe! Woe to those who live on the earth because of the remaining sounds of the trumpets of the three angels who are about to blow them!” (Rev 8:13). The three woes convey the finality and intensity of God’s wrath, along with the devastating painful effects upon the ungodly. The temporal language in Revelation 9:12 also shows past action (“The first woe has passed”) and future action (“but two woes are still coming after these things”). This demonstrates two things: (1) the trumpet judgments follow a sequence, and (2) they show uniqueness distinguishing them from the seals and the bowl judgments. Thus, the trumpet judgments are not the seals and bowls “expressed from different perspectives.”
Incompatible Depictions
The concurrent theory points out similarities between the septets, especially the trumpet and bowl septets. For example, it is argued, since the fourth trumpet and the fourth bowl relates to the sun, they must refer to the same event, or at least occur at the same time. But a closer look shows they are divergent elements. In the fourth trumpet, the sun is partially darkened; in contrast, the fourth bowl depicts heat scorching the ungodly (Rev 8:12; 16:8–9).
Theophanic Lightning, Thunder, Earthquake
The climactic theophanic judgment in the seventh bowl reads: “Then there were flashes of lightning, roaring, and crashes of thunder, and there was a tremendous earthquake—an earthquake unequaled since humanity has been on the earth, so tremendous was that earthquake.” (Rev 16:18) There are two other similar theophanic statements in Revelation 8:5 and 11:19 (three if you count Revelation 4:5). Concurrent interpreters argue that these instances represent the same event because of their similarity. But similarity does not equal identity. A closer reading shows in each instance the theophanic depiction intensifies and anticipates Revelation 16:18, which is the most intense theophany of them all, the consummation of God’s judgment. It is also not clear how a recapitulation could be valid with Revelation 4:5 portraying the throne room happening before any seals are opened! All of this leads Jauhiainen to comment:
Granted that 8:5 and 11:19 anticipate 16:18–21, this intensification would seem to indicate that the consummation of temporal judgments is approaching, and not that it has already been reached in 8:1 and then recapitulated twice. Thus, in 8:5 the formula heralds the coming of God in judgment, symbolized by the trumpets.[…] and 11:19 looks forward to the pouring out of the bowls. The last bowl in 16:18–21 completes the judgments, together with an emphasis on the uniqueness of the final earthquake and with the voice from the throne saying, ‘It is done!’
God’s Wrath is Finished
Revelation 15:1 reads: “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished” (ESV). This verse contains a sequence of God’s wrath, which says the seven plagues (bowls) are “last” (eschatos). This strongly implies the trumpet septet precedes the bowls because “with them the wrath of God is finished (teleō).” In other words, the bowl judgments will fulfill God’s final purpose in the day of the Lord. Thus, it is unnatural to interpret the bowl septet happening at the same time as the trumpet septet. The natural reading, instead, conveys the bowls following the trumpets.
The Imagery of the “Bowl”
The trumpet judgments require a substantive time to unfold; for example, the fifth trumpet lasts five months. In contrast, the nature and purpose of the bowl judgments occur rapidly. The New Testament mentions at least fifteen different vessels, jars, bowls, baskets, and other containers in antiquity. In our instance, the term for “bowl” is phialē, meaning a “broad, shallow bowl.” This choice of imagery of “broad and shallow” is not arbitrary since is connotes a swift judgment, for the pouring out of God’s final wrath will happen quickly. This imagery also evokes a salvo of bowls being emptied like a grand finale to a fireworks display, in contradistinction to the imagery of the trumpet judgments.
The collective reasons above establish that the book of Revelation intends a consecutive-progressive framework. The concurrent-recapitulatory theory fails because it forces the trumpets and bowls to unfold before the seventh seal is opened. The opening of the seventh seal does not culminate the day of the Lord's wrath—it initiates it. The posttrib presupposition that the second coming begins in Revelation 19 with Christ in the sky with his armies causes a strain in the natural reading of Scripture; in this case, collapsing together the seals, trumpets, and bowls to make the resurrection event in Revelation 7 happen in association with the Armageddon event in Revelation 19. Further, it is a contradiction, as argued above, to place God's wrath before the seventh seal is opened, as well as before the resurrection in Revelation 7. Prewrath takes the event of Christ in the sky with his heavenly armies preparing for the battle of Armageddon as one of the last judgment events after the trumpet and bowl judgments. The parousia does not begin with Armageddon; it begins between the sixth seal and the seventh seal, when God's people receive their resurrected bodies and enter the Father's presence as portrayed in Revelation 7.

Links mentioned:


Gendered souls

Faithful Christians regard transgenderism as a denial of God's design for human nature. In this post I'll field a potential philosophical/theological objection to that position. I haven't actually run across this objection. But if it was raised, it might leave some Christians stumped, so I will take a whack at it. 

Traditionally, Christian theologians have been dualists. That's in large part due to the traditional understanding of the intermediate state. On this view, when a human dies, what that really means is their body dies. But they have an incorporeal soul which survives. And the soul is the "seat" of human personality (mind, consciousness). 

Depending on the philosophy that sponsors it, you have varieties of Christian dualism. Augustine was more Platonic, Aquinas was more Aristotelian. I myself am a Cartesian interactionist. 

Now here's the challenge: a "progressive Christian" might object that if the soul is the essence of the person, then our body doesn't define our gender. If substance dualism is true, then gender is either grounded in the soul rather than the body, or vice versa. In either case, they are separable. 

If gender is psychological, then the body is incidental. Conversely, if gender is physical, but the soul is your core identity, then gender is incidental to who you reallyare. 

So this poses a prima facie dilemma for Christian dualism. Let's scrutinize that argument:

i) Some professing Christians are physicalists. For them, gender is either physical or socially constructed. If the former, then if a human is identical to his body, that relieves the dilemma. If the latter, that, too, relieves or relativizes the dilemma.

However I think physicalism is false. There are theological, philosophical, and scientific objections to physicalism. I won't rehearse them. My point is simply that I don't think that's a viable solution to the proposed dilemma. 

ii) There's some ambiguity over what it means to be "essentially" human. For instance, I used to be a teenager. That was a temporary state. But while it lasted, that was a genuine part of who I was. And that was an important part of who I was.

This goes to the ambiguities of personal identity. How can I be the same person if I change? 

When I was a teenager, that was a defining aspect of my identity. Even though I can still be me after I lose that property, that doesn't mean it was extrinsic to who I was at the time. To be a teenage boy is, among other things, to experience the world as a teenage boy, perceive the world as a teenage boy. To feel a certain way. To have that particular viewpoint. Although it's temporary, it's just a real, runs just as deep, as being a middle-aged man. 

By parity of argument, even if (ex hypothesi) gender identity is separable from who we are, that doesn't make it extrinsic to who we are.

ii) Apropos (i), one could argue that even if (ex hypothesi) gender is grounded in the body, so long as we are embodied agents, that's a natural, basic part of who we are. To be an embodied agent is to be a gendered agent. For a human to be a disembodied agent, although that's metaphysically possible, is an artificial condition. A defective condition. 

iii) Suppose that gender is grounded in the soul. Each soul is innately gendered. Even though gender has a physical expression, gender also, or fundamentally, consists of character traits. Stereotypically masculine or feminine character traits. 

That model might seem to grant the dilemma. If that's the case, then gender isn't defined by genetics or anatomy. 

Mind you, as I've already endeavored to demonstrate under (ii-iii), that's simplistic. But there are other difficulties with that conclusion:

That carries the tacit admission that there's something wrong with gender dysphoria. A mismatch between psychology and physiology, viz. a man who feels trapped inside a woman's body. That's an aberration. That's not the way it's supposed to be. 

Even though it's not morally wrong, it's like a genetic defect or mental illness. It may not be culpable, but it can be a glitch. Not a design flaw, but flawed execution. 

However, transgender apologists refuse to concede that. Rather, they wish to say transgender identity is a legitimate variety along the gender spectrum. Admittedly, there are tensions within the trans community. After all, folks who undergo hormone therapy, plastic surgery, and/or sex-change operations to relieve their sense of gender dysphoria clearly think there's something amiss.

On the other hand, transgender apologists are like people who resent being classified as disabled. For instance, you have members of the deaf community who  oppose cochlear implants because that suggest there's something wrong with being deaf. Even though it isn't wrong in the moral sense, they still bristle at the implication that their condition is "defective."

iv) I'd add that this can have a moral dimension. Here we need to distinguish between morality and blame. Suppose a brain cancer patient develops sociopathic urges. Even though we don't think he's blameworthy for his sociopathic urges, it's still the case that what he wants to do to other people is objectively evil. 

Likewise, people with senile dementia may say or do inappropriate things. Even though, in their state of diminished responsibility, we don't consider their conduct blameworthy, it is still inappropriate.

v) In addition, even if (ex hypothesi) the soul is innately gendered, that doesn't mean the body is a secondary consideration is the assignment of gender. To the contrary, we'd expect God to design human nature such that gendered souls have matching bodies. It is fitting for a masculine soul to have a masculine body; fitting for a feminine soul to have a feminine body. Body and soul are complementary. 

As embodied agents, our bodies are the primary medium through which we express ourselves. A masculine soul will have a corresponding physical expression, while a feminine would will have a corresponding physical expression. A male body that exemplifies masculine character traits or a female body that exemplifies feminine character traits. You put a racing car motor in a racing car body. 

vi) To take a comparison, suppose you had an alien species with a particular artistic sensibility, for music or the fine arts. It would be fitting for God to give them a visual system or auditory system suited to their psychological appreciation for certain sounds, colors, and combinations thereof. 

vii) Now let's consider the alternative. What if souls are initially genderless. Gender-neutral. A blank slate, gender-wise.

That doesn't mean gender is grounded in the body. That doesn't mean gender is inessential to our psychological makeup.

Rather, that might mean gender is an acquired characteristic. When the soul is united to a male or female body, that begins to condition the soul. The soul experiences the world via a male or female body. That's how the soul perceives the world.

Even if gender is initially a physical property, yet as a result of psychological conditioning, that becomes a psychological property as well. Saturation exposure to a gender-specific embodied experience fosters corresponding character traits. You think like a man or woman. 

viii) Moreover, this can be permanent. It becomes integral to your personality. Some experiences are transformative. To be a parent or a spouse can effect an irreversible change in your personality. 

ix) When you die, when the soul is "separated" from the body, those acquired characteristics carry over. That's indelible imprinted on the soul (as it were). Who we are is the result of nature and nurture. 

x) Likewise, the intermediate state is not the final state. It's temporary. We were meant to be embodied agents, and we will resume our physical experience at the general resurrection. So that's not ancillary to who we are. Rather, that's an essential feature of human destiny-for better or worse.  

Man or muppet?

Some allege there's a biological basis for transsexualism due to the "fact" that there's an area of the brain responsible for gender identity which in MF transsexuals appears to display female patterns.

Let's say we can alter the area of a person's brain supposedly responsible for their identity to physically resemble the neuroanatomy of a chicken, and that this would thereby make the person believe they are indeed a chicken. Does this mean the person is really a chicken? What about everything else that's human about the person?

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Brody has two mommies!

The transgender fad generates some intriguing conundra for atheism. Militant atheists like Richard Carrier have been riding that bandwagon. It advances their own agenda to hitch their caboose to the steam engine of the power elite.
Unsurprisingly, Carrier is a critic of the virgin birth. But how does that mesh with his endorsement of the transgender ideology? 
If transgender ideology is true, then there's a sense in which Brody Jenner is the product of a virginal conception–or the functional equivalent. Brody has no daddy, but he does have two mommies (Linda Thompson, Caitlyn Jenner)! He wasn't fathered by Caitlyn, since a woman can't father a child. Only a transphobic bigot would presume to say that Brody was fathered by Bruce Jenner.
As GLAAD instructs us, coming out as transgender is retroactive:
DO refer to her as Caitlyn Jenner. DON’T refer to her by her former name. She has changed it, and should be accorded the same respect received by anyone who has changed their name. Since Caitlyn Jenner was known to the public by her prior name, it may be necessary initially to say "Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner…" However, once the public has learned Jenner's new name, do not continually refer to it in stories. 
DO use female pronouns (she, her, hers) when referring to Caitlyn Jenner. 
DO avoid male pronouns and Caitlyn's prior name, even when referring to events in her past. For example, "Prior to her transition, Caitlyn Jenner won the gold medal in the men's decathlon at the Summer Olympics held in Montreal in 1976." 
AVOID the phrase "born a man" when referring to Jenner. If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender, consider: "While Caitlyn Jenner was designated male on her birth certificate, as a young child she knew that she was a girl."
So Brody never had a father. He's literally fatherless. He's the product of trans parthenogenesis. 

Transgender Etiquette

"Contraception and chastity"

Here's an oft-quoted statement by Catholic philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe:
If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery (I should perhaps remark that I am using a legal term here - not indulging in bad language), when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)? It can't be the mere pattern of bodily behaviour in which the stimulation is procured that makes all the difference! But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example. I am not saying: if you think contraception all right you will do these other things; not at all. The habit of respectability persists and old prejudices die hard. But I am saying: you will have no solid reason against these things. You will have no answer to someone who proclaims as many do that they are good too. You cannot point to the known fact that Christianity drew people out of the pagan world, always saying no to these things. Because, if you are defending contraception, you will have rejected Christian tradition.
The entire essay is currently available here:
A few preliminaries:
i) I believe her primary audience is Catholic. She's writing to and for Catholics. As such, she sometimes mounts an argument from authority which is legitimate when addressing a Catholic audience, but begs the question in reference to a Protestant reader. 
ii) Then there's the question of terminology. I don't know the intended distinction between sodomy and buggery. These are often used a synonyms. However, buggery may be broader category, which includes both oral and sex. 
iii) Assuming that's the intended distinction, it doesn't ipso facto follow that if one is wrong, both are wrong. In principle, anal intercourse could be intrinsically wrong whereas oral sex could be morally permissible under some circumstances. To condemn both requires a supporting argument, which she doesn't furnish. She just takes for granted that oral sex is morally equivalent to anal intercourse, both of which are morally equivalent to contraceptive intercourse. That's understandable when addressing a Catholic audience, where certain things are taken for granted. It's more a question of why be Catholic. But given Catholicism, you can simply punt to the authority of the Magisterium–at least in principle. However, that appeal has no sway for a Protestant reader.
iv) Conversely, is she using "sodomy" as a synonym for homosexuality, or a synonym for anal sex? 
v) In addition, there's a potential moral distinction between oral sex involving a heterosexual married couple and a homosexual man performing fellatio on another man. What would make it wrong is not the act itself, but by whom and on whom it's performed. 
To take a comparison, erotic kissing between a man and a woman is morally permissible, whereas erotic kissing between two men is morally impermissible. In both cases it's the same act. What makes it licit in one case and illicit in the other concerns the parties to the act and not the act itself. My purpose is not to argue that point, but simply draw attention to distinctions which she fails to make.

Consensual incest is another example. Copulation between a parent and a grown child involves the same sex act as copulation between a man and wife, yet that doesn't make them morally equivalent. The moral differential factor is not the nature of the act, but the nature of the parties to the act. 
vi) The same issue arises in the case of "mutual masturbation." In principle, that could be homosexual or heterosexual. If the latter, that could be marital, premarital, or extramarital. To say it's wrong in general demands a supporting argument. The fact that homosexual, and heterosexual pre/extramarital mutual masturbation is wrong doesn't entail that heterosexual marital mutual masturbation is wrong. 
Suppose, for instance, a married couple uses that as foreplay. Or suppose, for some reason, that a married couple can't engage in sexual intercourse. Is mutual masturbation wrong in that situation? If so, Anscombe needs to supply an argument. 
To ask, even rhetorically, "what objection could there be after all to…sodomy…when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable…it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse" is very slack reasoning. Normal copulation refers to heterosexual copulation. If that's impossible or inadvisable, how does it follow that homosexual alternatives would become unobjectionable? If the context begins with heterosexual conjugal relations, how do impediments to that suddenly shift the sexual repertoire to sodomy? Perhaps she's using "sodomy" as a sexual technique (anal sex) rather than sex with a partner of the same gender (man on man). If so, that would keep all the examples within the confines of heterosexual relations. 
vii) There are at least two moral objections to anal intercourse:
a) It's unpleasant to the recipient.
b) It's hazardous–especially to the recipient. 
c) I'd add that there's a potential objection to oral sex on the same grounds: is it hazardous? 
viii) If, however, she's using "sodomy" as a synonym for homosexuality, the insinuation is that once you decouple sex from procreative intent, there's no moral distinction between homosexual and heterosexual activity. But that's not a straightforward inference. There are several moral objections to homosexual activity:
a) It is hazardous. Male and female bodies are sexually complementary in ways that two bodies of the same gender are not. That results in physically destructive behavior as well as diseases that are either unique to homosexual activity or aggravated by homosexual activity. 
b) Humans of the same gender are psychologically unsuited to form erotic emotional bonds with each other. It's a kind of mental illness. 
There are "solid reasons" for (vii) and (viii) alike. It's intellectually irresponsible for Anscombe to say otherwise. Indeed, that's inconsistent with her larger position. There are natural law arguments against anal intercourse and homosexuality. And she herself resorts natural law ethics. 
ix) Then there's the meaning of the phrase "copulation in vase indebito." That's a quaint technical term in Catholic moral theology. I don't know if she's using it to denote anal sex or "Onanism" (i.e. coitus interruptus). If the latter, that begs the question, since the very issue in dispute is whether contraception is morally licit or illicit. If the former, see above. 
Furthermore, while one doesn't have to be learned (nobody has to be learned) or able to give a convincing account of the reasons for a teaching - for remember that the Church teaches with the authority of a divine commission, and the Pope has a prophetical office, not a chair of science or moral philosophy or theology - all the same the moral teaching of the Church, by her own claims, is supposed to be reasonable. Christian moral teachings aren't revealed mysteries like the Trinity. The lack of clear accounts of the reason in the teaching was disturbing to many people. Especially, I believe, to many of the clergy whose job it was to give the teaching to the people.
That exposes a dilemma for Catholic apologists like Anscombe. The argument from authority won't work, even if you acknowledge the religious authority in question, because moral theology is grounded in natural law, and natural law reasoning must rise and fall on the merits of the argument from proper function. The argument should work on its own terms, within the natural law framework. It should be sound apart from appeals to religious authority. The arguments must be reasonable on their own grounds. 
As a Catholic apologist, Anscombe must play the hand she was dealt. But what if her denomination's position on birth control is ad hoc? Then her supporting arguments will be ad hoc. Ultimately, the supporting arguments can't be better than the underlying position they are deployed to defend. 
Again, with effective contraceptive techniques and real physiological knowledge available, a new question came to the fore. I mean that of the rational limitation of families. Because of ignorance, people in former times who did not choose continence could effect such limitation only by obviously vile and disreputable methods. So no one envisaged a policy of seeking to have just a reasonable number of children (by any method other than continence over sufficient periods) as a policy compatible with chastity. Indeed the very notion "a reasonable number of children" could hardly be formulated compatibly with thinking at once decently and realistically. It had to be left to God what children one had.
With society becoming more and more contraceptive, the pressure felt by Catholic married people became great. The restriction of intercourse to infertile periods "for grave reasons" was offered to them as a recourse - at first in a rather gingerly way (as is intelligible in view of the mental background I have sketched) and then with increasing recommendation of it. For in this method the act of copulation was not itself adapted in any way so as to render it infertile, and so the condemnation of acts of contraceptive intercourse as somehow perverse and so as grave breaches of chastity, did not apply to this. All other methods, Catholics were very emphatically taught, were "against the natural law".
The substantive, hard teaching of the Church which all Catholics were given up to 1964 was clear enough: all artificial methods of birth control were taught to be gravely wrong if, before, after, or during intercourse you do something intended to turn that intercourse into an infertile act if it would otherwise have been fertile.
The new knowledge, indeed, does give the best argument I know of that can be devised for allowing that contraceptives are after all permissible according to traditional Christian morals. The argument would run like this: There is not much ancient tradition condemning contraception as a distinct sin. The condemnations which you can find from earliest times were almost all of early abortion (called homicide) or of unnatural vice. But contraception, if it is an evil thing to do, is distinct from these, and so the question is really open.
i) Which is a backdoor admission that artificial contraception doesn't really contradict tradition. It's anachronistic to prooftext opposition to contraception from church fathers or scholastic theologians, for given their primitive scientific understanding, they were unable to distinguish between abortion and contraception. So even if you think we should defer to the wisdom of church fathers and scholastic theologians, you can't invoke their opinion in this case, for it involves a more specialized question than they were in a position to consider at the  time. 
ii) And, of course, this has no cachet for Protestants. It's not that we should simply disregard tradition. Rather, tradition has no inherent authority. We should give the church fathers and scholastic theologians a respectful hearing. But it comes down to the quality of their arguments. They are not authority figures. 
We have seen that the theological defence of the Church's teaching in modern times did not assimilate contraception to abortion but characterized it as a sort of perversion of the order of nature. The arguments about this were rather uneasy, because it is not in general wrong to interfere with natural processes.
That's a very significant caveat, which she doesn't pursue. To oppose contraception along those lines, you'd need to present and defend a principle according to which interfering with natural processes is generally permissible, but wrong in this particular (or analogous) instance. However, having raised the issue, Anscombe fails to develop that line of thought. Perhaps because that's a dead-end. So she must look elsewhere to bolster her position. But she just leaves it hanging out there. 
At this point she draws hairsplitting distinctions regarding intent. Perhaps that's the principle which distinguishes licit from illicit interference with natural processes–at least in this case:
For it was obvious that if a woman just happened to be in the physical state which such a contraceptive brings her into by art no theologian would have thought the fact, or the knowledge of it, or the use of the knowledge of it, straightaway made intercourse bad. Or, again, if a woman took an anovulant pill for a while to check dysmenorrhea no one would have thought this prohibited intercourse. So, clearly, it was the contraceptive intention that was bad, if contraceptive intercourse was: it is not that the sexual act in these circumstances is physically distorted. This had to be thought out, and it was thought out in the encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Here, however, people still feel intensely confused, because the intention where oral contraceptives are taken seems to be just the same as when intercourse is deliberately restricted to infertile periods. In one way this is true, and its truth is actually pointed out by Humanae Vitae, in a passage I will quote in a moment. But in another way it's not true.
The reason why people are confused about intention, and why they sometimes think there is no difference between contraceptive intercourse and the use of infertile times to avoid conception, is this: They don't notice the difference between "intention" when it means the intentionalness of the thing you're doing - that you're doing this on purpose - and when it means a further or accompanying intention with which you do the thing. For example, I make a table: that's an intentional action because I am doing just that on purpose. I have the further intention of, say, earning my living, doing my job by making the table. Contraceptive intercourse and intercourse using infertile times may be alike in respect of further intention, and these further intentions may be good, justified, excellent. This the Pope has noted. He sketched such a situation and said: "It cannot be denied that in both cases the married couple, for acceptable reasons," (for that's how he imagined the case) "are perfectly clear in their intention to avoid children and mean to secure that none will be born." This is a comment on the two things: contraceptive intercourse on the one hand and intercourse using infertile times on the other, for the sake of the limitation of the family.
But contraceptive intercourse is faulted, not on account of this further intention, but because of the kind of intentional action you are doing. The action is not left by you as the kind of act by which life is transmitted, but is purposely rendered infertile, and so changed to another sort of act altogether.
There's all the world of difference between this and the use of the "rhythm" method. For you use the rhythm method not just by having intercourse now, but by not having it next week, say; and not having it next week isn't something that does something to today's intercourse to turn it into an infertile act; today's intercourse is an ordinary act of intercourse, an ordinary marriage act. 
i) The problem with this argument is that it falls short of what she needs to prove. It is not enough to draw distinctions between one kind of contraceptive intent and another kind of contraceptive intent. For that, by itself, fails to explain what makes one licit and the other illicit. So she needs to take it to the next step by explicating why that's a morally salient distinction. Yet she simply drops the analysis at that crucial juncture of the argument. 
ii) Her omission is striking. She was a very capable philosopher. What is more, she was married to a very capable philosopher. Both were pious Catholics who wrote in defense of traditional moral theology. If, despite putting their heads together, she's unable to explain and defend why "artificial" contraceptive intent is wrong–unlike "natural" contraception intent–then the prospects for making that argument must be pretty dim. This is about as good as it gets. Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Geach were the power couple of Catholic philosophers. 
iii) And remember that by her own admission, it should be possible to mount a purely rational justification for the moral teaching of the church. A rationale that's independent of the church's authority. So she fails to solve the problem she posed for herself, as she herself framed the terms of success. 
A severe morality holds that intercourse (and may hold this of eating, too) has something wrong about it if it is ever done except explicitly as being required for that preservation of human life which is what makes intercourse a good kind of action. But this involves thoroughly faulty moral psychology. God gave us our physical appetite, and its arousal without our calculation is part of the working of our sort of life. Given moderation and right circumstances, acts prompted by inclination can be taken in a general way to accomplish what makes them good in kind and there's no need for them to be individually necessary or useful for the end that makes them good kinds of action. Intercourse is a normal part of married life through the whole life of the partners in a marriage and is normally engaged in without any distinct purpose other than to have it, just as such a part of married life.
A problem with that comparison is that some of our food consumption is purely for pleasure. It has no practical justification. Take deserts. We don't do that for the nutritional value. And the pleasure isn't a side-effect of nutrition. Rather, pleasure is the only motivation, and not an incidental consequence. Some deserts may have a bit of nutritional value, but we'd consume the desert absent nutritional value. That's not even a secondary consideration, much less the primary consideration.