Saturday, October 24, 2015

“Pope Francis” Disembowels the Teaching of “Pope John Paul the Great” on Divorce and Remarriage

“Pope Francis” has just rendered as meaningless something that
 “Pope John Paul the Great” emphasized so forcefully.
Earlier I wrote that “Pope Francis” is “decentralizing” the papacy. What that cashes out to in real life is the fact that local bishops have much more sway as to how they can run their little fiefdoms (“dioceses”) while still being officially “Roman Catholic”.

Some traditionalists are not happy with this arrangement. The recently concluded “Synod on the Family” has published a document, for example, that absolutely guts, disembowels, tosses out, ignores, throws away the language of a previous pope, “John Paul the Great”.

For example, John Paul II said:

Preempting Hitler

Some of this is pertinent to the argument from evil: the contention that a good God would prevent horrendous evils. What that overlooks is the hypothetical future which replaces the status quo. Each alternative may be better in some respects, but worse in others:

The cardsharp made me do it!

Molinist votary Dan Chapa has been commenting on this post:

I'll comment on some of his remarks here. 

I think some Arminians have boxed themselves in. Some Arminians are too orthodox for open theism. Some realize that simple foreknowledge is providentially useless. Yet the God of Calvinism is "a moral monster."

So Molinism is their last best hope. They have no other fallback. I think that accounts for the desperation of some Arminians, who will fight to the last drop of blood for Molinism. 

Craig says God had to play the hand he was dealt. ("God doesn’t create such a choice for Himself. The counterfactuals of creaturely freedom which confront Him are outside His control. He has to play with the hand He has been dealt".)

Instead of "the Devil made me do it," the Molinist God pleads "the cardsharp made me do it!"

Two statements by Chapa:

From the verse, we know the people of Chorazin didn’t repent, but the people of Tyre would have repented had the same might works been done there. Tyre was notoriously sinful, so the comparison is to shame the folks of Chorzin – they really had a great opportunity to repent, so their choice to remain in sin was more wicked than the folks of Tyre. Yet on Calvinism, God was not given the folks of Chorzin the one and only thing that He knew could enable and cause repentance: irresistible grace. This alone is problematic and seems disingenuous. 
This sounds like a case of will setting, wherein though habit or higher level commitments, a person cannot do otherwise (like when Luther said “here I stand, I can do no other”). Aristotle gave a helpful example to explain why we maintain moral responsibility in will setting. A person who throws a rock may regret doing so midflight, but is still responsible for the results. Likewise a person who freely forms his character, such that he abdicates his freedom in some actions, is still responsible for those actions.

In the first statement he says it's insincere for God to demand repentance from people who can't repent, and whom he refuses to enable to repent.

In the second statement, he says that due to will-setting, Pharaoh's obduracy is too engrained for him to be able to comply with God's demands. 

Well, why doesn't the explanation in the second statement cancel out the objection in the first statement? 

In addition, when Scripture speaks of "repentance," that's a pretty generic word. It's not synonymous with "repentance" in the technical, dogmatic sense of "evangelical repentance." 

For instance, the Ninevites "repented" in response to Jonah's oracle of judgment. They regarded that as a credible threat. And so they did what they could to assuage Jonah's God. 

That doesn't require regeneration or the effectual call. Pagans believe in divine judgment. They believe in punitive, even vindictive gods who must be appeased. 

God’s knowledge of Pharaoh should be grounded in Pharaoh, not His decree.

i) How a timeless spaceless agent knows about the creation is bound to be different than how an embodied agent knows about creation. The mode of knowledge is indexed to the nature of the agent.

Since Molinism, which Chapa subscribes to, is traditionally a variant of classical theism, and since Chapa considers himself a classical Arminian (a la SEA), he shouldn't object to that.

ii) In addition, Scripture grounds God's foreknowledge in his foreordination:

Isa 46:10-11
10 declaring the end from the beginning    and from ancient times things not yet done,saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’11 calling a bird of prey from the east,    the man of my counsel from a far country.I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;    I have purposed, and I will do it.

As one scholar notes:

Here the three participles make a direct link between predictive prophecy (declaring the outcome at the start) and divine intervention in history (calling from the east a bird of prey)…As several commentators (e.g. Young) have noted, the three participles move from general to particular to specific. In the first instance, God tells in general what will happen in the future. He can do so because the future is fully shaped by his own plans and wishes. This is the same point that was made in chap. 14 concerning Assyria (vv24-27). Assyria's plans for Judah were really of little import. It is the Lord's plans for Assyria to which that great nation should have paid attention (see also 22:11; 37:26). 
This thought is summed in the ringing affirmations of the final bicolon of v11…The repetition serves to emphasize the unshakable connection between promise and the performance, between divine talk and divine action…This parallelism underlines again that the reason God can tell what is going to happen is that what happens is only an outworking of his eternal purposes. John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66 (Eerdmans 1998), 236-37. 

BTW, I'm quoting a major commentator on Isaiah who also happens to be an Arminian OT scholar. Oswalt has taught at Asbury–the flagship of Arminian seminaries–on and off for many years.  

In the Exodus account there's a twofold divine dynamic that parallels a twofold divine strategy:

i) Left to his own devices, Pharaoh has no natural incentive to free the slaves. Indeed, he has a natural disincentive: the slaves are a major economic asset; a free mass labor force. 

In addition, Pharaoh is a proud absolute monarch and "god" who would never willingly submit to the demands of his social inferiors. 

ii) Therefore, something must be done to motivate Pharaoh to free the slaves. And that's the plagues. That incentivizes Pharaoh to accede to Moses's demand.

Left to his own devices, Pharaoh would free the slaves well before plague #10. 

iii) However, God (temporarily) counteracts that divine incentive with a divine disincentive: he hardens Pharaoh to resist freeing the slaves. 

Why does God do that? Because God has two objectives:

a) Free the Israelites

b) Discredit the "gods" of Egypt

God wants Pharaoh to free the slaves, but not too soon, for if Pharaoh relents right away, that will short-circuit (b). 

After all, if this was just about delivering the Israelites from Egypt, God could simply teleport them straight from Goshen to the border of Canaan.

But God has an additional aim: this is a direct confrontation between Yahweh and the "gods" of Egypt. Who is the true God?

By restraining Pharaoh, so that plague after plague piles up, with cumulative damage, Yahweh demonstrates the utter impotence of the Egyptian "gods." 

Divine hardening delays the emancipation of the slaves. By motivating Pharaoh to release the slaves while simultaneously putting the brakes on that process, that intentionally drags out the denouement to maximize the abject humiliation of the state religion. 

One final point: Arminians sometimes claim that the Hebrew word doesn't mean "harden." But that's a red herring.

Even if we didn't know what the word meant, we could retroengineer what God did to Pharaoh via the effect. Yahweh says he will do X to Pharaoh. We solve for X by seeing what happens. How Pharaoh reacts is the direct result of what Yahweh did to Pharaoh. So "X" is Yahweh causing Pharaoh to respond that way. 

Exod 3:19-20 is not a case of God acting/planning on the basis of what he knows, but God knowing on the basis of his action/planning. 

We're dealing with a domino effect, where Pharaoh acts a certain way as a result of God acting a certain way. Pharaoh acts as he is acted upon (by God).

So God knows the end-result of God's actions. He knows what Pharaoh will do or would do because he causes Pharaoh to do it, via divine hardening. 

I don’t see how that plan would give God knowledge that Pharaoh won’t release Israel unless God sends the plagues. Granted, divine hardening could account for such knowledge, but the divine hardening doesn’t start until Exodus 7 and isn’t mentioned in the Exodus 5 account of Pharaoh’s refusal to release Israel.

That's so inept. That confuses when a plan is made with when it is executed–not to mention that a plan may be executed in stages.

When divine hardening is said to begin in the course of narrative is a red herring: The point is that we have programmatic statements in Exodus which lay out God's game plan in advance of the play. That supplies the interpretive grid for what follows. (It functions like the prologue in Job 1-2.) The reader is supposed to refer back in his mind to those programmatic statements. Everything Pharaoh does is to be construed in light of divine agency. He's a pawn on God's chessboard. 

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go" (Exod 4:21). 

3 But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them (Exod 7:3-5).

What works here works there

One of the stock arguments for "gun control" (euphemism for confiscation and blanket bans) is the comparison between the US and other (cherry-picked) countries. If it works there, it ought to work here.

Putting to one side the question of how well that really works in other countries, consider the operating assumption: what works here works there, or vice versa.

Pres. Bush had that philosophy. He thought we could import democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan If it works here, it ought to work there. 

Influenced, perhaps, by his Methodist theology, he had a theory of human nature:

When it comes to the desire for liberty and justice, there is no clash of civilizations. People everywhere are capable of freedom, and worthy of freedom. This much we know with certainty: The desire for freedom resides in every human heart. Over time, and across the Earth, freedom will find a way.
But as he belatedly learned through sorry experience, what works for one country may not work for another country.

Fibbing for Rome

There's a controversial report that Pope Francis has brain cancer:

I don't have an informed opinion to offer on that claim. Time will tell.

However, Vatican spokesmen used to lie about John-Paul II's Parkinson's disease, even though the whole world could see his drastic deterioration. 

Last year, at the Synod, Cardinal Kasper was caught in a lie when he made dismissive remarks about conservative African bishops.

Likewise, many bishops, or their spokesmen, have lied about the abuse scandal. 

Recently, a private letter which some ranking bishops wrote to Pope Francis, expressing grave concerns about the direction of the Synod, was leaked to the press, as a result of which the signatories began to issue disclaimers. 

It's striking how high-placed representatives of Rome resort to lies whenever it's convenient. Striking because, according to their very own denomination, lying is intrinsically immoral. According to the catechism:

2464 The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth. Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant. 
2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord. 
2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech, whereas the purpose of speech is to communicate known truth to others. The deliberate intention of leading a neighbor into error by saying things contrary to the truth constitutes a failure in justice and charity. The culpability is greater when the intention of deceiving entails the risk of deadly consequences for those who are led astray. 
2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. It affects his ability to know, which is a condition of every judgment and decision. It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.

Yet Vatican spokesmen and Catholic bishops lie with the same abandon as the White House press secretary, State Dept. officials, or spokesmen for totalitarian regimes (e.g. Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea). For instance, when a dictator is ailing, spokesmen reflexively deny that he is sick. 

Even for Christians like me who think lying is sometimes permissible or obligatory, Rome doesn't lie for good reasons. It doesn't lie to protect the innocent. Sometimes it lies to protect the guilty. 

People barely notice this. It's expected. There's what it says on paper, then there's the reality–which makes the official position a joke. A bad joke. 

The dissolution of Rome

A sympathetic lament that still draws blood:

Two quick issues:

i) One reason Catholics don't take the divorce policy seriously is the annulment policy. Indeed, Francis just fast-tracked the annulment process. Unsurprisingly, many Catholics think the official position is a distinction without a difference.

ii) Seems to me Francis is just attempting to formalize informal policy. Make official what's been going on at ground level for many years. Surely the average priest routinely gives communion to parishioners he knows are divorced. It would be a big news story of a priest refused communion. 

The average priest isn't going to take a bullet for the Vatican on this issue. For one thing, the Vatican doesn't have his back. He will be the fall guy. Look at how the Vatican deserted the Archbishop of San Francisco when he tried to hold the line on a related issue. 

Moreover, in big city parishes, with the priest shortage, I doubt most priests even know many of their communicants well enough to say who's divorced or not. 

Some quotes from the article:

As I write I do not know what the final synod report will say. One of the drafters described it as being more questions than answers. “The questions will be clear,” said Oswald Cardinal Gracias of Mumbai at a press briefing Thursday. “The answers will not be so clear.” So, after a two-year rollercoaster ride toward this synod, the Church may be left embracing more questions than answers, which is to say issues that have been considered closed for 2,000 years will likely remain open questions in Catholic life for the foreseeable future. Absent a strong intervention from Pope Francis to affirm the Catholic teachings, the result is likely to be a profound dislocation in the authority structures of the Catholic Church. We know that many synod fathers made powerful arguments in favor of the unbroken, distinctive Catholic teaching on marriage, drawn straight from the words of Christ and affirmed by Saint Paul. We now also know, thanks to the modern world, of the many bishops and cardinals who really wish to give Communion to people living in second marriages while their first spouse still lives. We cannot un-know what was on display... 
We know from polls and from parish life that many, many ordinary churchgoing Catholics do not support many Catholic teachings. Dissent is not shocking; it has been normalized. A study from the Austin Institute found that on Mass at any given Sunday in the U.S., 40 percent of those in the pews describe themselves as “traditional Catholics,” 40 percent say they are “moderate Catholics,” and the remainder are “liberal” or “other” Catholics. There has been, in America at least, a massive collapse in the transmission belt of basic Catholic teachings, and not only about sex. We now know, as a result of the frankness Pope Francis encouraged for this synod, that a substantial chunk of Catholic bishops do not believe in indissolubility. Not really, except as some kind of ethereal ideal divorced from the “mess of reality.” 
This brings the idea that a variety of views on these issues are acceptable within the Catholic identity to a new level, which is to say, it makes the Catholic Church as an authoritative community challenging to believe in a new way. I’ve begun to suspect that this may be part of Pope Francis’s point. I am not sure the Holy Father understands what it will mean to so many of us to have kicked out from under us the last vestiges of that sense that we had the unbroken authority of Rome at our backs. 
Could it be that Pope Francis’s time in the streets of Argentina has given him Protestant envy and a hunger for a new model of Catholic engagement that unleashes the laity, the promise of Vatican II?

Friday, October 23, 2015

The role of the founders

TFan did a post comparing and contrasting the founding fathers with church fathers:

i) I agree with him that the founding fathers didn't have monolithic political views. 

Another complication is the nature of the Constitution as a consensus document, rather than a one-man vision. It doesn't codify the views of any particular individual. So we need to make allowance for that. Compromises went into the final draft of the Constitution. 

We can also distinguish between the founders as political theorists and the founders as politicians. Once some of them became officeholders, they might take positions inconsistent with their prior writings. 

ii) Mind you, none of that is problematic for my position. 

There's a difference between monolithic support for something and monolithic opposition to something. Suppose the founders lack a unified vision on the role of the judiciary. In that event, you can't say any particular view of the judiciary represents the original vision of the founders. No one view represents the authentic position.

But even dissension would undercut appeals to judicial supremacy, for in that event there was no unanimity on the subject.

iii) In addition, it's easier to say what they were against than what they were for. They were against monarchy, mobocracy, and a national church. They were anxious about any one branch of gov't becoming autocratic. 

iv) In what respect are the founders authoritative? I don't think later generations are obliged to obey the founders. I don't think one generation has the right to tell later generations what do think or do. Their idea of what is good or bad isn't binding on later generations. 

But they enjoy interpretive authority when it comes to their own writings. As a rule, an author has a better idea of what he meant than anyone else.

That's not absolute. There's a subliminal element to the creative process. An author may not be aware of various influences which unconsciously shape his thinking. Even so, if you have access to an author's interpretation of his intentions, that's usually where to start. That's the best we can do. 

Is the moon made of green cheese?

Reposting some comments I left on Facebook:

Steve Hays Olson says:

"I argue that belief in double predestination is simply logically incompatible with the claim that God is good—unless “good” is emptied of all meaning so that it is a useless cipher for something we don’t know."

Problem is, he doesn't argue that. He asserts that. 

"But belief that God “designs, foreordains, and governs” hell for the reprobate who are unconditionally chosen by God for hell for his glory without regard to any truly free choices they make undermines belief in God’s goodness."

Where's the the supporting argument?

"So does belief that God “passes over” some he could easily save (because election to salvation is unconditional and saving grace is irresistible), damning them to hell, for his glory."

Where's the supporting argument?

"There is no conceivable analogous human behavior that we would call “good.” The very concept of “good” rules out such behavior."

I keep waiting for Olson to back that up with a supporting argument. 

His entire case hinges on a key premise which he never defends. He assumes the very thing he needs to prove.

"To say nothing of Jesus’ own goodness and the New Testament’s commands for us to love our enemies and do good to them."

Hmm. Isn't Jesus the eschatological judge who consigns the wicked to hell? Is that doing them good? 

"My point is, of course, that there exists a contradiction between two Calvinist beliefs…"

Except for one persistent little omission: he never gets around to giving the reader a reason to grant his key premise.

Jez Bayes Ok.
Point 1.
The argument, rather than assertion, is that it is incompatible with conventional notions of 'good' to propose that any character who would willingly select humans from birth to be consciously tormented forever, could be seen as good.

Annihilationist views may get off this hook.

Point 2:
Any character able to save others from certain ultimate pain, whether passing or eternal, but who chooses not to, while choosing other equally undeserving characters to be rescued, cannot be seen as good by normal criteria.

It is the behaviour of a psychotic untrustworthy despot and torturer.

Given that he is so repetitive that he should say less according to the OP, read further to find the supporting arguments.

Steve Hays Jez Bayes: 

"Point 1. The argument, rather than assertion, is that it is incompatible with conventional notions of 'good' to propose that any character who would willingly select humans from birth to be consciously tormented forever, could be seen as good."

That's just another assertion in lieu of an argument. 

"Annihilationist views may get off this hook."

Even if that's the case, Olson didn't invoke that escape clause.

"Point 2: Any character able to save others from certain ultimate pain, whether passing or eternal, but who chooses not to, while choosing other equally undeserving characters to be rescued, cannot be seen as good by normal criteria."

Once again, that's an assertion in search of an argument. With all due respect, don't you know the difference?

You need to state what constitutes "normal criteria." You need to explain why we should regard your criteria as normal–much less normative. 

You need to give reasons for why it's wrong to treat equally undeserving people unequally. 

"It is the behaviour of a psychotic untrustworthy despot and torturer."

Which begs the question.

In addition, Olson's contention backfires. The Arminian God refuses to intervene in situations where a virtuous human would step in. If a human refused to intervene in such situations, even though he was able to do so, we'd regard his inaction as culpable.

Therefore, the character of the Arminian God is disanalogous to human behavior we'd call good. The very concept of "good" rules out such inaction. To claim that the Arminian God is good empties "good" of all meaning so that it is a useless cipher for something we don't know.

Jez Bayes Meanwhile, this is a good piece on sovereignty:

Holley-Hull Lecture “A Relational View of God’s Sovereignty”

Steve Hays In that lecture, Olson indicates that he prefers a risky or open view of providence. A God who takes risks.

Problem is, we typically regard it as culpable for an agent to endanger other people. As a rule, if I risk your life to protect myself, that's blameworthy; if I risk my life to protect you, that's praiseworthy. It's one thing for me to assume a personal risk for the benefit of others, quite another to put others at risk. 

Olson's God is taking chances with the lives of human beings. How is that commendable?

According to Olson's criterion, God's behavior would not be analogous to human standards of good.

Jez Bayes Steve Hays, if on the other hand you think double predestination is not incompatible with God's goodness, what's the supporting argument for that assertion?

Steve Hays These aren't symmetrical positions. It's not incumbent on me to argue that double predestination is compatible with God's goodness. It's not as if there's a standing presumption to the contrary which I must overcome. I'm not the one who's raising the objection. If you think double predestination is incompatible with divine goodness, the onus is on you to demonstrate your claim.

Jez Bayes That's a neat get out.

I'm interested, I'm asking the question, so now in this conversation the onus is on you....See More

Steve Hays It's not my job to make your argument for you. Unless there's a reason to think double predestination is incompatible with God's goodness, there's nothing for me to disprove. I have nothing to work with.

Too many Arminian critics are intellectual freeloaders.

Jez Bayes I think double predestination is incompatible with God's goodness.

If combined with a concept of Hell that includes eternal conscious torment, then that makes God out to be a sadistic tyrant....See More

Steve Hays Groundless assertion #1:

"I think double predestination is incompatible with God's goodness."

Groundless assertion #2:

"If combined with a concept of Hell that includes eternal conscious torment, then that makes God out to be a sadistic tyrant."

Groundless assertion #3:

"Biblically, God is Love, so you need to show how you can hold to d p and a God of love."

Groundless assertion #4:

"For me, they are incompatible."

Which circles right back to #1.

You haven't provided a single argument to support your claims. All you've done is to posit that they are incompatible. You haven't even attempted to show how they are incompatible. 

"If every one refused to justify their position because their own views made perfect sense to themselves, we would never exchange views and learn from each other."

I can't refute a nonexistent argument. Unless and until you put an actual argument on the table, there's nothing for me to evaluate. 

All you've done is to treat me to your question-begging opinions. You don't begin to show how one thing follows from another by logical implication. It's assertions and gaps. 

Thus far, all you've succeeded in demonstrating is that your position is indefensible.

Jez: The moon is made of green cheese.

Steve: That's an assertion. Where's the supporting argument?

Jez: The moon is made of green cheese because the moon is composed of green curdled milk.

Steve: That's circular. 

Jez: If you deny that the moon is made of green cheese, where's your argument to the contrary?

Steve: Since you've given me no reason to believe the moon is made of green cheese, it's hardly incumbent on me to disprove a contention for which you offer no argument or evidence.

Jez: That's a neat get out. I'm asking the question, so the onus is now on you to show that the moon isn't made of green cheese.

Steve: There's no presumption that the moon is made of green cheese. The burden of proof is not on me to justify my disbelief in a groundless assertion. It's not my job to first make your own argument for you, then refute it.

Jez Bayes Steve: "Because I believe something and it appears true to me, it must be self evidently true, and to state the opposite is a groundless assertion which allows you to play rhetorical games rather than engage in actual dialogue with someone who is genuinely interested in reviewing aspects of faith and belief.

Calvinism is self evidently true and requires no explanation.

Arminianism is a groundless belief based on circular argumentation, akin to believing the moon is made of cheese.

Anyone drawn to see this the other way round is a lesser being more worthy of mild ridicule than serious dialogue."

Jez Bayes 1: "Double predestination is incompatible with God's goodness."

2: "Double predestination is compatible with God's goodness."

As stated, both are groundless assertions.

You may not be impressed with my arguments in favour of 1, and I don't claim to be a highly skilled theologian, philosopher or logician, so I don't doubt that your conclusions about my statements are correct.

Meanwhile rather than actually attempt to support statement 2 you would rather come across as evasive and ridiculing.

Steve Hays 

"Steve: 'Because I believe something and it appears true to me, it must be self evidently true…'"

I never said that or implied that. I'm simply responding to you own your own terms. 

"…and to state the opposite is a groundless assertion."

As a matter of fact, all you've done thus far is to repeatedly assert the truth of your opinions. What makes it "groundless" is the lack of supporting argumentation.

"…which allows you to play rhetorical games rather than engage in actual dialogue with someone who is genuinely interested in reviewing aspects of faith and belief."

Pointing out that you still don't know the difference between an assertion and an argument is not a rhetorical game. Pointing out that I'm under no obligation to refute unjustified claims is not a rhetorical game. Rather, I insist on minimal standards of rational discourse. Too many Arminians, you included, take crucial intellectual shortcuts. I don't let you get away with that any more than I'd let an atheist get away with that. 

"Calvinism is self evidently true and requires no explanation."

Which I didn't say or imply.

"Arminianism is a groundless belief based on circular argumentation, akin to believing the moon is made of cheese."

In my replies to you I didn't take any position on the groundlessness of Arminianism in general, but with reference to your own statements.

"Anyone drawn to see this the other way round is a lesser being more worthy of mild ridicule than serious dialogue."

Serious dialogue begins with serious arguments. I'm still waiting for you to give me reasons to justify your opinions about double predestination.

Steve Hays 

"You may not be impressed with my arguments in favour of 1"

It's not that I'm unimpressed with your arguments in favor of 1. Rather, you have't presented any arguments in favor of 1. Instead, you've expressed your disapproval of double predestination. You've paraphrased your assertions. And you've used pejorative adjectives to characterize double predestination.

None of that amounts to a reasoned argument. There's no argument for me to be unimpressed with. 

Likewise, there's nothing for me to "evade." You've expressed your personal disapproval of double predestination. That's an autobiographical statement of your feelings. There's nothing for me to respond to at that level. It's like telling me you find spinach icky.

Jez Bayes Meaning that if you see it one way, you tend to think the other perspective is groundless, and ultimately it's impossible to prove one way or the other?

Steve Hays Meaning "groundless" because you have yet to present a bona fide argument for your perspective. You just give me repackaged assertions. 

This isn't a trick. Arminian critics (of Calvinism) need to master the difference between assertions and arguments. Arminians need to become aware of their unexamined assumptions. Arminians need to learn that just because something *seems* to be wrong to them, that creates no presumption that their perception is correct. Arminians need to become cognizant of how often they beg the question. 

Roger Olson and Jerry Walls are serial offenders in that regard. They usually shield themselves from scrutiny by playing to a sympathetic audience or airing their views in a controlled setting (which they themselves moderate). They don't usually risk direct engagement with opponents in their own weight class. And for good reason.

Jonathan Parsons 

1. A necessary condition for love is desiring the well-being of others with no ulterior motive 
2. If damnation is eternal conscious torment, then damnation does not promote the well-being of anyone who is damned 
3. If damnation does not promote the well-being of those who are damned, then any being who knowingly damns others does not desire their well-being with no ulterior motive 
4. If damnation is eternal conscious torment, then any being who knowingly damns others does not desire their well-being with no ulterior motive (2,3) 
5. Any being who knowingly damns others does not love those who are damned (1,4) 
6. Assume: God loves all beings 
7. God does not knowingly damn any beings (5,6) 
8. If God loves all beings, then God knowingly damns no one (CP) 

There you are, Steve.

Steve Hays 

i) That's not an argument against double predestination. At best, that's an argument against everlasting punishment. 

ii) You suggest that God knowingly damns no one. Does that mean God damns no one, or that God unknowingly damns some people? Does God damn people without knowing it? Does God accidentally damn some people? 

iii) You say God loves all "beings," rather than all "human beings." What does that mean? God loves all bacteria? 

iv) You need to provide a supporting argument for #1. If you mean to suggest that, by definition, love is disinterested, then husbands and wives never love each other, since men and woman are motivated to seek a mate to satisfy a natural need.

v) Why do you begin with divine love rather than divine justice? Justice is no less an essential attribute of God than love.

Moreover, justice can take precedence over love. If my son murders a coed, it's my duty to turn him into the authorities. All things being equal, loving my son is primary. If, however, he commits a heinous crime, then he forfeits preferential treatment. In that event, the murder victim and her family deserve justice. That becomes the new priority.

Gareth McNab This was hard to read. I'd like to know where in the scriptures the rule about the onus being on the dissenter from prevailing opinion etc. Our Father invited Isaiah to come and reason together - really disappointed that despite jez's best efforts to ask questions and listen to answers, he was provided with none and worse, was ridiculed for not playing by the made up rules. Bullies at school do that to my five year old daughter.

Steve Hays Gareth, you are infantilizing Jez.

Jez Bayes Steve, re-read what Gareth wrote and work out whose behaviour he was describing and critiquing. 

Just to reassure you, I didn't feel infantilized.

Gareth McNab Steve - that is an assertion and not an argument. Stop being an argumentative sonuvawotsit and please engage in actual discussion so we can all be enlightened.

Steve Hays Gareth, I'm responding to you on your own terms. You used the "bully/5-year-old" comparison, not me. By definition, that's infantilizing.

Jez Bayes Ok, you're correct, but he's not describing me, he's describing you as like someone who would bully a 5 year old. 

If you want to use a term like infantilizing, then he's infantilizing you rather than me.
Personally, I think you're insulting Gareth and being deliberately evasive of a direct question.

Steve Hays He's casting you in the role of a 5-year-old schoolgirl who's bullied by me. So, yes, that infantilizes you. 

It's funny that you think I'm the one who insulted Gareth when he compared me to a schoolyard bully. But I've come to expect that kind of cliqish partisanship from Arminians. 

Unable to furnish even prima facie reasons for your objection to double predestination, you fall back on verbal abuse. Always nice to see Arminian love and ethics in action.

Packing heat

I'm reposting some comments I left in two different places:

You begin by saying "It's really hard for me to understand where my American Christian friends are coming from when they oppose any sort of greater restrictions on guns."

When, however, I respond to you on your own terms, suddenly you "don't have time."

To me, that's symptomatic of somebody who's not asking a serious question. To say you stopped reading is a way of saying you stopped listening. 

Do you want to know the other side of the argument or not? 

And, yes, I think Australia's gun ban/confiscation was a mistake. From an ethical standpoint, the right of self-defense is a fundamental human right. At best, the police are a supplement, no

Steve Hays To piggyback on one of Lydia's points, by definition, if you confiscate enough guns, you may have fewer shootings. But that’s a deceptive comparison. That doesn’t mean you less violent crime.

Gun bans and gun confiscation can lead to a spike in crime. There’s a loss of deterrence. In addition, citizens can no longer defend themselves or their property. That gives crooks a green light.

It’s not enough to compare a drop in gun violence with a drop in gun ownership. You need to compare that with overall crime stats .

Steve Hays "Steve, please provide for me the evidence that suggests that there will be more violent crimes. I'm not convinced that introducing more guns (in law-abiding hands) in Australia is going to help us reduce our rates of violent crimes."

Several issues:

i) In one of the links, C’zar Bernstein cites evidence regarding the deterrent effect of private gun ownership. But you couldn't be bothered to read the links.

ii) I don't accept you shifting the burden of proof as if the onus lies exclusively on me. You have your own burden of proof to discharge. It's not all on my shoulders.

iii) Likewise, although you are, of course, at liberty to frame the issue according to your own priorities, you can't impose that on me. In addition to stats, there are ethical issues:

iv) I believe in the right of self-defense. Therefore, even if (ex hypothesi) private gun ownership didn't reduce violent crime overall, there's more at issue than the sum total. There's the right of individuals to protect themselves and their dependents. 

Other people may choose not to take advantage of that option. But that ought to be an option. 

Take a woman who's endangered by the stalker ex-boyfriend. Or a woman who lives in a seedy part of town because that's all she can afford at the moment. It's a high crime area, so she carries a gun for self-protection.

Now, whether or not the availability of guns lowers violent crime generally is, I'd say, irrelevant to her right to protect herself. She's a person, not a statistic. The fact that it prevents some crimes which would otherwise occur is sufficient justification on moral grounds alone. Innocent people have a standing right to protect themselves. That's an individual right. It's not counterbalanced by the right not to be protected in some utilitarian calculus.

In addition, guns are always available to the criminal class. It's not as if disarming private, law-abiding citizens disarms robbers, muggers, rapists, house-burglars. 

Anti-gun laws are irrelevant to the criminal class because they break the law, including laws against gun-ownership. Indeed, there's a lucrative black market in gun-running. That's an entrepreneurial opportunity for enterprising crooks. Disarming her doesn't make her safer from would-be assailants. Not to mention that it doesn't take a gun to assault a woman. 

v) Likewise, there's the principle of limited gov't. Beyond a certain point–and we reach that point very fast–the more you empower gov't, the more you disempower the governed. As a rule, I think the least gov't is the best gov't. The power that can be used for good can be used for evil. A gov't that has a monopoly on violence is a gov't with a police state apparatus. That's a recipe for a totalitarian state. 

BTW, this isn't hypothetical. The vice is tightening on Christians Down Under:

Psychiatric treatment is not a panacea. You can’t fix a broken mind the way you can fix a broken clock.

Certainly some people benefit from psychiatric treatment. In some cases, psychotropic drugs keep mentally ill/unstable people sane and functional.

However, psychotropic drugs can backfire. People can do crazy things on psychotropic drugs. Do it because of the meeds.

Moreover, the psychological/psychiatric community is full of secular quackery.

Furthermore, we don’t want to make it easy for the state to involuntarily commit someone. Not only is that, in itself, easily subject to abuse, but there’s the additional potential abuse that occurs given involuntary commitment.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the insanity plea is a classic way of shifting blame away from the perpetrator. So we need to take those claims with a grain of salt. For instance, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dylann Roof’s lawyer mounts an insanity defense, based on Roof’s use of psychotropic drugs. Point is, people needn’t be crazy to commit atrocities–they need only be evil.

Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Molinism

How many stars for Star Wars?

i) Last summer, Jeremy Pierce had an interesting thread on Facebook regarding the Star Wars prequels. Summarizing his position, he thinks critics have a double standard. The prequels have similar strengths and weaknesses as the original Trilogy. He suggests that, to some extent, their double standard is due to the fact that viewers remember the original Trilogy through the rose-tinted lens of nostalgia, based on when they saw it. Having see it first, at the right age, that's their gold standard. 

In this post I will use Star Wars as a launchpad to opine about cinematic art. Movies are the major popular art form in 20C, and going strong in the 21C. I should say at the outset that I'm not a Star Wars geek. 

ii) I don't think the original trilogy is better than the prequels. I don't think Return of the Jedi is better than the prequels. Rather, I think the first two installments (Star Wars Episode: A New Hope; The Empire Strikes Back) are better than the prequels.

I don't hate the prequels. Rather, I think they represent wasted potential. All that great CGI without any of the basic elements of good storytelling, other than exotic settings. For instance, The Phantom Menace has a great underwater city. That's the sort of thing Lucas excels at. But it can't redeem the lack of good storytelling. 

iii) When I first saw Star Wars: A New Hope, it had wince-inducing moments. The main reason I give the first two installments a pass despite noticeable flaws is because I think they have compensatory virtues lacking in the prequels and Return of the Jedi

Let's take an example of what I mean by compensatory virtues. In The Cincinnati Kid, the film is centered on a poker game. However, you can't stretch a poker game into a feature length film. So it has a longish prologue. You could lop of the first third without much loss. 

The memorable part of the film is the poker game. Poker has its own drama. But what makes it truly enjoyable is the cast, with Steve McQueen as the Kid, Edward G. Robinson as the Man, Joan Blondell as Lady Fingers, and Karl Malden as Shooter. That's what makes it a great film of its kind. And that's despite the fact that the film is uneven. Gets off to a banal start. 

But you don't really care about that. It's a boring, forgettable set-up for the main course. 

Take another example: I suspect the reason the Star Wars franchise has a certain amount of juvenile humor is not because Lucas is writing with juvenile viewers in mind, but because his own sense of humor is juvenile. 

Compare that to Iron Man. One of the refreshing things about Iron Man is that, in some respects, it has a genuinely grown-up viewpoint. That's rare in a film market that's geared to youth.

Take the banter and rapport between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. That works so well because Robert Downey and Gwyneth Paltrow are both talented performers who don't look like high school students, and who clearly enjoy working with each other. They really hit it off. 

And there are some other witty scenes in the film, sans Paltrow. But I think formulaic confrontation near the end is boring. And the scene of Stark chanced by F-22 Raptors is boring. Nevertheless, the film is enjoyable in spite of that because of other, better scenes. 

iv) Which brings me to general criteria. There are some common criteria by which I judge any film, viz. plot, dialogue, characterization, setting, ideas, acting. 

Of course, no director, however talented, is equally good at everything. Every great director has a unique skill set. 

In addition, some of these criteria are more important than others, depending on the kind of film. Which brings me to the next point:

I also judge a film by the standards of genre, viz. action, comedy, Western, war, horror, film noire, science fiction, coming of age. Whether it's great, good, average, or bad depends in part on the requirements of the genre: what a film of that genre is supposed to do. What it can do. The potentials and limitations of the genre. Whether it hit the target it was aiming for.  

v) Apropos (iv), consider three films with Humphrey Bogart: The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, and Key Largo. People who love classic films typically love those films. 

Yet, if you think about it, those are preposterous films. In terms of plot, dialogue, and characters, they are wildly implausible. 

Yet that's a large part of what people like about them. Classy escapism. Sometimes we like realistic films, and sometimes we like surrealistic films. 

These three films are hokey as hell, but that's part of the fun. The juicy acting, quotable dialogue, outlandish characters, outlandish plots. It's not the least bit lifelike, and therein lies the appeal.

That's only a flaw if a film is supposed to be realistic. If the subject matter is supposed to be lifelike. 

vi) To consider another criterion, take the flawed masterpiece. By that I mean an artistic failure by a great director (or novelist). But here's the catch: a lesser film by a greater artist may be a greater film than a better film by a lesser artist. 

Even if a great director falls short of what he was aiming for, he can still reach heights that a lesser artist cannot begin to attain. It may be a very uneven film, but it will have arresting scenes. The parts will be greater than the whole. Flashes of greatness will offset the weaker material. 

vii) Apropos (vi), from start to finish, Casino Royale is a very successful film of its kind. Careful, consistent , detailed craftsmanship. No weak links. That kind of discipline is rare in cinematography. So many movies, even big budget movies, are pretty slipshod. 

Yet Casino Royale can only be as good as the genre. A Bond film has a hard ceiling of excellence. With all the loving effort in the world, A Bond film can only rise so high. Classy, but shallow and ephemeral. 

Now compare that to Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. It gets off to a very slow start. You could lop off the first third of the film. It only picks up interest when we get to Bodega Bay. Except for Jessica Tandy, the actors are merely serviceable. 

The film centers on three great set-pieces: three bird attacks. (There's an upstairs scene I could analyze, but these three are sufficient to illustrate the point.)

In the first case, Lydia visits a neighbor. As she enters the kitchen, the audience can see a row of chipped teacups hanging on the cupboard. That foreshadows what she will find in the bedroom: her neighbor with his eyes pecked out.

The chipped teacups is a masterstroke by a great director. A simple, subtle, ominous cue. A way to build suspense.

A third scene takes place in and around a restaurant. There a know-it-all ornithologist delivers an unctuous homily on how the rumors about dangerous birds is alarmist scare-mongering. But her timing is unfortunate, for it is followed by a devastating bird attack.

Then you have a second scene, the most memorable, at the school. Inside, the kids are singing a song. Reflects the innocence of child. Outside, Melanie is waiting impatiently for school to end so that she can warn the teacher. Distracted, as she smokes a cigarette, Malanie oblivious to birds amassing behind her on the jungle gym. But the audience is facing the jungle gym. It's viewpoint is literally opposite hers. The audience can see what she can't–the looming threat. That's a classic example of dramatic tension, where the audience knows something a character does not. 

Finally, Melanie observes a bird approaching. She follows it with her eyes as it circles around her. At that point she suddenly sees the massed birds. There's the juxtaposition of a few simple elements to generate this classic scene. 

In fairness, Hitchcock needed to space these out to maximize the impact. If he ran them together, it wouldn't have the same effect. The fact that the rest of the film isn't on the same plane is to some degree a necessity. Some things can only be in high relief if the rest is flat. 

Compared to a well-oiled production like Casino Royale, The Birds is very uneven. Yet a few scenes like this elevate it to a class part from Casino Royale. With a few deft strokes and pacing, Hitchcock created an unforgettable experience. Images that forever stay in the mind. 

viii) Returning to Star Wars, the prequels get bogged down in exposition. How Anakin Skywalker became evil. 

Now you might say that's the point of the backstory. It's suppose to fill in the details. 

But that goes to the question of how seriously we're supposed to take Star Wars. A franchise can ruin the original idea when it becomes self-important. 

You can do serious. There's nothing wrong with that. Take Blade Runner. But that illustrates the problem with the prequels. Blade Runner works on its own level. But it's a different kind of film. Star Wars will collapse under too much gravitas. It becomes silly and boring at the same time. 

ix) To put it another way, much of what's enjoyable in the first two installments was the vicarious appeal. Especially for a male audience, it would sure be fun to go places like that and do stuff like that. This is why some young men join the Air Force (to fly fighter jets) or join the Navy (to see the world). 

By contrast, I think the prequels lost most of that vicarious appeal. They are too stuffy, too pedantic, too bureaucratic. 

In the prequels, I never forget that this is CGI. Yet in good storytelling, CGI shouldn't call attention to itself as CGI. 

x) Why do fans hate Jar Jar Binks? Aside from the fact that they just dislike the character, their antipathy was magnified by the further fact that Lucas carried it over into two more installments, just to show that he didn't care what his fans thought. A typical director is more responsive to fans. If they like a minor character, he may make that a major character. Take C-Man in the X-Files. Conversely, if they hate a character, the director will phase it out.

Now, a director has no obligation to cater to his constituency. It's easy to imagine creative artists who don't work with a particular audience in mind. For instance, C. S. Lewis once said he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia for his younger self–the kinds of stories he himself wanted to read as a young boy.  

In that sense, a creative artist can be his own audience. He does it to please himself, not to please others. If others like it, too, then he can make a living that way. 

The fact remains, though, that Lucas is a businessman in the entertainment industry. He's entitled to do whatever he likes in his films, but by the same token, the consumer is entitled to pick and choose. 

xi) Why do fans dislike Hayden Christensen so much? I don't think it's simply or primarily because he's a bad actor. Rather, I think it's because he's a pretty boy, and his bad acting draws attention to the fact that Lucas chose him purely as chickbait. 

The core audience for SF is male. Normal males don't go to movies to see pretty boys. There's a visceral, instinctive revulsion to that. And it's even worse when a dandy is miscast as an action hero. By contrast, Mark Hamill is a Navy brat. For all his limitations as an actor, he's a cut above Christensen. 

It's possible for an actor to rise above that. Brad Pitt was a pretty boy, but he often played against type, and he has the talent as an actor and director to play interesting roles and make interesting films.