Saturday, April 16, 2016

Matthew and Mark

i) A conventional objection to the traditional authorship of Matthew is that an apostle wouldn't make use of a secondhand source like Mark. There are several problems with that objection:

ii) According to Acts 12:12, Jerusalem was Mark's home town. So Mark may well have had firsthand knowledge of Jesus whenever Jesus came to Jerusalem. 

iii) Moreover, Mark hits many of the major points in the life of Christ. It's not as if Matthew is going to omit those events. Since these are key events in the life of Christ, we'd expect him to repeat them. And there's a rough chronology to the events, so why would Matthew make a special effort to change the plot? 

iv) But here's another factor that's overlooked. Mark's mother hosted Christian gatherings in her home. Peter knew the location of her home. Indeed, the slavegirl knew the sound of his voice (v13), so he must have been a frequent visitor. But then, it must have been known to the other apostles. It stands to reason that Mark had many opportunities to befriend other apostles, as long as he and they were in Jerusalem. 

So what if Matthew was one of his informants? If Mark writes about some things he didn't personally observe, what was his source of information? Given his access to some of the apostles, they'd be a prime candidates. 

Indeed, he may have gotten information from several apostles, but if only two of them wrote Gospels, that's our only basis of comparison. We wouldn't recognize the input from other apostles who never penned Gospels. 

Suppose he questioned Matthew about Jesus, and incorporated that into his Gospel. Later, Matthew reads Mark and thinks to himself, "Well, as long as Mark is using my material, I might as well write up my own recollections to include additional material that I didn't mention to Mark." Or something like that. 

Would Matthew be using Mark? It might appear that way, given the order in which they were published. But the Apostle Matthew can one of Mark's sources even though his Gospel was published after Mark's Gospel. 

In that case, Matthew isn't using Mark; rather, Mark is using Matthew. It's just that Mark published some of Matthew's material before Matthew got around to publishing his own material. To some degree, it was Matthew's material all long. Mark borrowed from Matthew before wrote his own Gospel. Indeed, Mark's Gospel may have given Matthew the stimulus to do his own. 

Incidentally, if Papias is right, it's possible that Mark made use of some catechetical material that Matthew originally produced in Aramaic. 

v) If that sounds convoluted, here's a comparison. Wayne Grudem is one of John Frame's students. Grudem published a popular systematic theology.

Over 20 years ago, Frame mentioned in class that reading Grudem's Systematic Theology was a bit of a deja vu experience because he noticed that Grudem had incorporated some of Frame's lecture material into his systematic theology. Years later, Frame began turning more of his own classroom lectures into hefty books. 

Now, a keen-eyed reader who compared the two, reading them horizontally, might be struck by parallels between Grudem and Frame. Since Grudem wrote before Frame, he might conclude that Frame borrowed from Grudem. But it's really the other way around. You can't infer the order of conceptual dependence from the order of publication. Grudem borrowed from Frame, not vice versa. 

vi) Incidentally, this can be a cause of bitter feuds in the history of math and science. The question of priority. A scientist or mathematician may have been the first person to discover something or formulate a theory. And he scribbled it down. But he didn't publish it right away. Sometimes he's scooped by another scientist or mathematician who got it published first. Sometimes that's an independent development, but sometimes the published scientist or mathematician got it from the unpublished scientist or mathematician in private conversation or private correspondence. Watch the fur fly when he steals his thunder. 

So I'm not making some outlandish proposal. This is a pretty commonplace distinction, both in principle and practice. 

Intuition, indoctrination, and malice

On Facebook, some people attempted to comment on my post ("Last plane out of Saigon"):

Bill Evans IMO while Calvinists claim that they believe that they firmly believe in God's grace, they spend a whole lot of time "looking down their noses" at those who live in an especially depraved manner. They act as though they have not "received" from God but as if they have earned it. This guy's article is the epitome of pride and self effort. His comparison of those people who have perpetrated heinous acts clearly points to the glory of man, not the Glory of God as they Calvinists so claim.

i) First of all, Evans is utterly oblivious the fact that he himself is looking down his nose at Calvinists.

ii) The point of the comparison is to test Jerry's appeal to moral intuition. Is it intuitively evident that God is required to love the wicked? Is that contention derivable from general revelation?

Sergey Koryakin "He acts as though it's a self-evident truth that God must love everyone"... Ha! smile emoticon. God even loves those who nailed God to the cross!

Does Sergey not know the difference between truths in general and self-evident truths in particular? The question is the role that intuition plays in Jerry's moral epistemology. 

Alex C Smith The author comes across as saying, "God couldn't possibly love this nasty person". However, I thought that no one is entitled to God's love, that everyone is nasty so God doesn't use that as a criteria for His love? Also surely a Calvinist isn't allowed to presume to know whether or not the nasty person example is one of the Elect?

So Alex is unable to follow the actual argument. The argument is not that "God couldn't possibly love this nasty person".

The argument, rather, concerns Jerry's contention that God's universal love is an intuitive truth. A deliverance of general revelation.

The question, then, is whether it's intuitively the case that God is required to love everyone, including people who commit especially horrific crimes. Do humans in general have that moral intuition? I'm simply responding to Walls on his own grounds. 

Sandy Mimi Pierce See my comments on the Triablogue site (signed with my WordPress Blog, The Mourners Bench)

Here's what she said:

A man repeatedly molested and eventually raped a 9 year old little girl with a door knob. I wonder if she shared Walls' moral intuitions that God must love her rapist? She absolutely does share Walls' intuition about the depth of God's love, because if it were not for the fact that God was capable of loving such a man who was so utterly undeserved of that gracious love, then I would not have ever been able myself to extend grace to such a disturbed and wicked man. Instead, I would have been condemned to hate, not only him, but filled with self-condemnation and self-hatred. How could I love such a man if God Himself could not love such a man. But, because my God is so loving and IS love that He so full of grace, enough even to cover a man such as this man who harmed me, I share in that very grace, the very same grace that He has shown to that man.

So she doesn't know how Jerry uses the word "intuition". As a result, she confusing intuition with indoctrination. 

She seems to believe in blanket forgiveness. If so, that isn't based on general revelation, but a theological tradition. 

Aaron Duvall So he can appeal to random stories as "proof" but you can appeal to your own?

i) Because she isn't actually appealing to intuition, but her Christian conditioning.

ii) I didn't appeal to random stories as "proof". Rather, I cited some counterexamples to test whether Jerry's appeal is intuitively compelling or persuasive. 

Sandy Mimi Pierce I started to reply with that very same thing, but he would never see it. He sensationalized those children's stories…

I simply quoted news reports. How can you "sensationalize" a story about a child who was raped and buried alive, or a story about a minor who was raped and mutilated? Isn't that about as bad as things can get? 

…and diminished them by pretending to speak for them.

No, I didn't speak for them. Rather, I raised the question of whether they'd agree with Walls. Is there any presumption that they'd share his (alleged) moral intuition about how God would not be good unless he loved the men who raped them, mutilated them or buried them alive?

…which is why I spoke up. But, this is a man who clearly has never experienced the saving grace of Christ.

Notice the attitude that Arminians habor towards Calvinists. 

Tully Borland I'm just wondering if Steve thinks that "The Starry Night" was painted by Gogh.

Was that supposed to make a meaningful contribution to the discussion? Or is it just another snide remark? 

Why are Arminians like these unable to track the actual argument? Given the palpable enmity which they exhibit,  their reflexive animosity towards Calvinists predisposes them to substitute a malicious caricature for what was actually said. They have a narrative about Calvinists. When they read something a Calvinist says, they automatically retranslate that into their odious preexisting narrative. So you end up with a spiteful, uncomprehending take on what was actually said. It's like the filter that atheists bring to debates between atheists and Christian philosophers and scholars. 

It's a revealing and disturbing window into the kind of piety and mentality that the Arminian community cultivates. It doesn't foster charity or critical discernment. Rather, the moment they encounter a Calvinist, that rubs their fur the wrong way and they bristle and bite and scratch and snarl. Instead of "bearing with one another in love" (Eph 4:2), they bare their canines. 

I'm not suggesting that's unique to Arminians. But It gives the lie to their self-image, to their professions of universal charity. 

There's a certain parallel between Muslims and Arminians. When people say Islam is a violent religion, Muslims protest the allegation by resorting to violence! They are too blind to realize that their reaction corroborates the original charge.

When I point out that Arminianism is not as loving as its proponents make it out to be, loveless Arminians respond with anger and abuse. It's really kind of funny, in a sad sort of way. 

Nonnegotiable moral intuitions

On Facebook, a commenter (Steven Nemeș) attempted to respond to my post on "Last plane out of Saigon":

The belief that God is love is not a piece of a priori theologizing, but revealed through the self-sacrifice of Jesus on behalf of all (1 Jn 2:2, 4:7-10). Steve ignores that you based your contention with Calvinism on the biblical affirmation that God is love, not your a priori moral intuitions.
It becomes (subjectively) morally abhorrent once your intuitions have been informed by the revelation of God in Christ. 1 John 4:7-10 comes first, then the intuitions.

That's not how Walls defines intuition. Nemes is substituting his own moral epistemology for Jerry's. Evidently, Nemes never read Good God, by Jerry Walls and Dave Baggett. Here's some of what they say:

We think of our argument as unapologetically appealing to general revelation… (67).
Whereas biblical authority trumps in the realm of theological norms, there are more basic philosophical processes at play that hold logical priority in the realm of basic epistemology (67).
The Bible is taken as authoritative in the realm of theological truth. But before we can rationally believe such a thing, as human beings privy to general revelation and endowed with the ability to think, we must weigh arguments and draw conclusions, that is, do philosophy (68).
At a minimum, for example, scripture must be understood in a way that's consistent and coherent, not just internally, but also with what we know outside of scripture (76).
What violates our reason or nonnegotiable moral intuitions in contrast, is beyond the pale and so irrational to believe (77).
If the Bible did indeed teach such a doctrine [i.e. "unconditional reprobation"), wouldn't it be more rational to believe that it's not morally reliable? (78)?

So we see Jerry Walls appealing to "nonnegotiable moral intuitions". He says they derive from general revelation, not Scripture or the atonement.  

For Walls, a sine qua non of divine goodness is that God loves everyone. That's grounded in his moral epistemology. He deploys his (allegedly) intuitive preconception of what constitutes divine goodness as a standard of comparison to assess revelatory claimants. So his moral intuitions are independent of Scripture and ultimately superior to Scripture in that regard. A priori moral intuitions that are separable from Scripture. 

And he's run this kind of argument in the past to try to prove that God doesn't have to love everyone.

No, I've just said you can't appeal to conflicting intuitions to prove that God has to love everyone, when there's clearly no intuitive consensus to that effect. I don't use it to prove that God doesn't love everyone. Rather, I use that to show that the appeal doesn't point in one particular direction. 

It hardly negates the point to refer to some cases of bad sinners! 

It certainly negates the facile appeal to moral intuition if, in fact, many people's moral intuition balks at the notion that God is required to love these perpetrators.

A basic question this raises is what counts as evidence for the general revelatory status of his belief about God's universal love. How does Jerry know that's a moral intuition? Two potential lines of evidence suggest themselves:

i) If moral intuitions must derive from general revelation, you can establish that these are intuitive by process of elimination in case you are able to exclude other possible sources for the belief.

I've never seen Jerry even attempt to do that. Maybe I just missed it. 

And obvious problem with that line of evidence is that, to my knowledge, the only people who believe God is required to love everyone are people in certain Christian theological traditions. But that's hardly a promising avenue to prove these derive from general revelation. To the contrary, that strongly suggests the belief is the product of indoctrination rather than intuition.

ii) Another possibility is consensus. If it can be shown that this belief is a cultural universal, that would be prima facie evidence that it derives from general revelation. 

But to my knowledge, it isn't remotely the case that most people at most times and places believe such a thing. For instance, surely that's not something most pre-Christian pagans believe. 

Indeed, there are Christians who say Christ's command to love our enemies is "revolutionary"! And, of course, if you can love your enemy, you can love anyone. 

They think his command was a radical, novel idea to most people in the ancient world. But in that event, universal love is counterintuitive. It cuts against the grain of human nature, whether in reference to the notion of universal divine love or universal human love which mirrors the former. 

iii) In theory, Jerry might postulate that due to the "noetic effects of  sin," this intuition has been suppressed or eradicated in many cases. However, while that might be able to show how the lack of evidence is consistent with claim, there's no justification for the postulate unless we already have evidence that such an intuition exists! Jerry still needs to furnish some positive evidence that belief in God's universal love is a moral intuition, grounded in general revelation. 

The second problem is that he always, always conveniently fails to mention his own conviction that those evils took place because a logically and causally prior decision on God's part that they occur, for some reason only he knows and from which not everyone will ultimately benefit—and yet somehow this will not morally objectionable to everyone with properly functioning moral faculties who hears it. It's always the same spiel.

i) That's either ignorant or dishonest. I often discuss ethical objections to predestination. So is Nemes intentionally misrepresenting me? Or is he uninformed? 

ii) At the same time, I notice the Arminian tactic of deflecting any criticism of Arminianism by changing the subject. Let's rehash stock objections to Calvinism! But that's a backdoor admission that they can't directly defend Arminianism. 

Do Arminians love Calvinists?

Arminians believe that Jesus loves everybody. Indeed, they think that's why Jesus died for everybody.

What is more, Arminians think Jesus commands Christians to love everybody. To be a Christian is to be Christ-like in that regard. To emulate Jesus. If he loves everyone, then Christians are obligated to love everyone. That's part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. "If you love me, you will keep my commands".

But what does it mean to love everyone? There's a paradoxical sense in which you don't have to love everybody to love everybody. What do I meant by that?

The acid test of loving everyone isn't that you love everyone, but that you love the unlovable. Anyone can love the lovable. You don't need to be commanded to love the lovable, for that's what we naturally do anyway. No one loves the lovable in obedience to a command. 

Rather, loving the unlovable is the tough part. Just as loving the lovable comes naturally, loving the unlovable cuts agains the grain of human nature. Our reflexive inclination is treat people we like better than those we dislike. 

Suppose 99% of humanity was lovable, and 1% was unlovable. In that event, loving 99% of the human race wouldn't come close to loving everyone, because the 99% aren't the crucial test of what it means to love everyone. Rather, the 1% are the proving ground.

If you love the 1%, it goes without saying that you love the other 99%. That's a given. But loving the 99% doesn't incline you to love the remaining 1%. Indeed, the very thing you like about the 99% is what you find so lacking in the 1%.

There's a reason God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. It would be so much easier for Abraham to sacrifice one of his servants. 

Do Arminians love Calvinists? Here's a simple test: how do Arminians talk about Calvinists compared to how they talk about Arminians? How do Arminians talk to Calvinists compared to how they talk to Arminians? 

There's usually a difference. A dramatic difference. 

If a neutral party, an outsider, was listening in, he'd exclaim: "Arminians really don't like Calvinists, do they!"

This isn't the occasional lapse. This is standard operating procedure. 

In general, internet Arminians never attempt to obey Christ's command to love everyone. Internet Arminians don't even try to overcome the natural inclination to treat those they dislike worse than those they like. 

And yet Calvinists especially are the very group Arminians should make an extra effort to be kind and gracious to because that's a litmus test of universal love. That's the one group they have a unique aversion to. It's easy to love the lovable. That's effortless. That's not a test of obedience. 

Calvinists represent the antithesis of what Arminians represent. And I don't say that from a Reformed perspective. I say that from an Arminian perspective. Take SEA. It singles out Calvinists and Calvinism. Not atheism. Not Islam. Not Catholicism. 

Suppose God created Calvinists just to give Arminians someone on which to practice universal love. In my experience, internet Arminians almost invariably flunk that test. 

Suppose Calvinists deserve what they get. But universal love is about treating everyone the same way despite what some of them deserve. Better than they deserve.

Many Arminians say the Calvinist God is a moral monster. Worse than Hitler. Worse than Satan. Unworthy of worship.

That doesn't give them much to fall back on come judgment day if it turns out that God is, in fact, a Calvinist. 

But suppose Jesus is an Arminian. In my experience, most internet Arminians should be absolutely terrified at the prospect of meeting Jesus face-to-face when they die. They have as much or more to fear from an Arminian Jesus than a Calvinist Jesus.

Jesus will ask them, "Did you obey my command? Did you love everyone? Did you love the unlovable? Or did you only love your own kind? Did you think my command was optional?" 

They will have on excuse. 

Internet Arminians operate with a mob mentality. Crowds lower inhibitions. People do things in a crowd because they lose their sense of individual accountability. The crowd is anonymous.

When police arrest a dozen gang members, there's lots of bravado so long as they remain together. But the police separate them. Put them in different interrogation rooms. That instantly changes the dynamic. Now they feel exposed. No one has their back. 

Suppose Jesus returned incognito. Suppose the Arminian Jesus came back in the guise of a Calvinist to test whether his Arminian followers love everyone. How would the average Internet Arminian treat Jesus, if they didn't know who he was? If they thought he was just a Calvinist? Imagine the dramatic irony that would generate.

In my experience, most internet Arminians unconsciously think that because they have a theology of universal love, that's a proxy for having to actually love everyone. It's like rich liberals with private jets. They don't have to have a green lifestyle so long as they talk environmentalism and buy carbon offsets. 

Now, I realize most Arminians reading this post will reject it out of hand because it was written by…a Calvinist! If so, that proves my point. How you treat the outsider is an acid test of universal love. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Physician-assisted death

"Six questions about physician-assisted death, from a conscientious objector" by Dr. Ewan Goligher.

When tests detect birth defects, babies can still be born healthy

"New research suggests women who terminate their pregnancies because of an abnormal prenatal test may be aborting perfectly healthy babies" (source).

Enter at your own risk

Peter van Inwagen is a leading freewill theist. In his book on The Problem of Evil (Oxford, 2006), he presents a theistic evolutionary version of original sin (85ff.). I'll quote some statements, then comment on them:

Natural evil, according to the expanded free-will defense, is a special case of evil that is caused by the abuse of free will; the fact that humans are subject to destruction by earthquakes is a consequence of an aboriginal abuse of freewill (90). 
As regards physical suffering and untimely death, rebelling against God is like disregarding a clearly worded notice, climbing a fence, and wandering about in a mine field. If someone does that, it's very close to a dead certainty that sooner or later something very bad will happen to him. But whether it's sooner or later, when and where it happens, may well be a matter of chance. In separating ourselves from God, we have become, as I said, the playthings of chance (103).

i) I think there's an element of truth to this. Although I think some natural evils are second-order consequences of sin, I don't attribute all natural evils to the Fall. Rather, I think the Fall removes the providential protection from natural evils that humans would otherwise enjoy.

ii) As a Calvinist, I don't think anything happens by chance. That said, Inwagen's position is problematic on freewill theist grounds:

iii) Regarding the metaphor of someone who disregards a warning sign, the problem with that comparison is that it's too individualistic. If, indeed, everyone suffered because each of them disregarded the warning sign, then Inwagen's illustration would be apt. However, Inwagen is moving within a framework where some humans innocently suffer as a result of what other humans did wrong. Everyone doesn't climb over the fence. Rather, many humans are born within the fenced-in minefield. It's not about getting in, but getting out. 

And the notion of collective punishment is problematic for freewill theism. How is it fair to suffer for the misdeeds of someone else? I should only suffer the consequences of my own free choices. I should not be made to suffer the consequences of someone else's misguided decisions.  

Put another way, if a freewill theist grants the justice of collective punishment, then it's much harder to see how he can attack Calvinism. 

iv) It also depends on who climbs over the fence. If an inquisitive 10-year-old boy climbs scales the fence, we don't normally think he deserves whatever he gets. We make every effort to rescue him before he steps on a land mine. So are we comparing the fence-jumper to an adult or a child?

In my experience, freewill theists typically compare humans to children in relation to God. 

v) Finally, it's arguable that disclaimers like "use or enter at your own risk" aren't necessarily exculpatory. If an adult disregards the warning, he's responsible for his own actions. That, however, doesn't mean the person who created the hazard is therefore off the hook. 

Take human hunting. Suppose an enterprising businessman creates a hunting range in which men pay to hunt one another. Say these are big game hunters who are bored with hunting animals. That's no longer a challenge. They wish to take it to the next level. The fact that it's voluntary hardly exonerates the businessman of wrongdoing. 

Richard Carrier has more waffles than IHOP

Richard Carrier has made another comment about my post. Before I respond to his latest comment, observe his evolving claims. He originally said:

And all specialists on John agree this was written in the early to mid second century, by authors unknown (yes, plural: John 21:24).

Subsequently, in response to my post, he said:

Richard Carrier saysApril 13, 2016 at 4:11 pm
I especially like how he insists there are specialists on John alive today who date it before 100 AD. And then doesn’t name a single specialist on John alive today who dates it before 100 AD. 
I will assume he means fundamentalists. I don’t count fundamentalists as reliable scholars. Any more than I count astrologers as reliable astronomers.

Notice how his comment moves the goalpost–twice!:

i) He now restricts his claim to specialists "alive today."

ii) He now restricts his claim to "specialists" who aren't "fundamentalists". 

Today he made an additional comment:

Richard Carrier saysApril 14, 2016 at 2:31 pm
(P.S. I should allow that some non-fundamentalist specialists do at least allow the possibility John was written in the 90s. But not as a definite conclusion. And they generally all agree John used Luke as a source, so the specialist dating now of Luke to the 90s puts John unlikely so early.)

i) Notice how this moves the goalpost yet again by his belated concession that all specialists on John don't agree that this was written in the early to mid-2C. So he's now reversed himself. Carrier has more waffles than IHOP.

And let's consider some other things he added:

ii) Since the internal evidence doesn't contain any data that would allow us to date it definitively, it comes down to a range of plausible dates. Given present evidence, the date will be inconclusive. However, we can rule left field dates like the mid-2C. One problem with Carrier's 2C date is that John accurately depicts the conditions of Jerusalem before the fall. That requires the narrator to be in touch with living memory. 

iii) How can scholars "generally all" agree? If it's generally, that falls short of all, and if it's all, that's more than generally. This is an indication that Carrier is just winging it. He doesn't actually have fix on which scholars say what. 

iv) To say the specialists date Luke to the 90s is a serious overgeneralization. Many Lukan scholars assign a pre-70 date to that Gospel. 

v) To say the scholars "generally all" (whatever that means) agree that John used Luke as a source is another serious overgeneralization. 

vi) There are some striking coincides between Luke and John. But it doesn't follow that John used Luke as a source. After all, right in his prologue, Luke says he used informants. Well, what if John was one of his informants? In that event, John's Gospel might sometimes seem to echo Luke, not because his Gospel is dependent on Luke's Gospel, but because Luke (the author) was dependent on the Apostle John for some of his information. Even if John's Gospel is later than Luke's Gospel (which I take to be the case), the Apostle John can be a source of information for an earlier Gospel (i.e. Luke's Gospel). Carrier fails to distinguish between a literary source and a personal source. 

Immigrant English

I'd like to say a bit more about Bart Ehrman's oft-repeated contention that the traditional authorship of the Gospels is wrong because they were written in literary Greek, which would be impossible for Aramaic-speaking peasants to emulate. Ehrman also uses the example of Josephus, who learned Greek later in later, to write books for his Roman patrons. Yet Josephus also admitted that he needed assistance. 

One of Ehrman's many problems is that he doesn't stop to consider obvious counterexamples to his claims. He lacks a flexible mind.

Consider the immigrant experience in America. Take the stereotypical case of adult foreign speakers (parents, grandparents) who move to America. Sometimes they bring little kids with them. Sometimes their kids are born here. Or both.

Adult immigrants often struggle with the language of the host country. They may speak broken English. That's in part because many of them are too busying working (which is admirable) to have time to study the language. But the primary reason is that it's very hard to master a new language in adulthood. 

By contrast, young kids sponge up languages. If their kids are born here, or come here at an early age, they can learn English just by listening to TV shows and hanging out with Anglo playmates. 

Kids of immigrants typically speak fluent, idiomatic, unaccented English. Their command of conversational English is flawless. 

Now, that's not the same thing as literary English. However, I daresay that if you have a native command of the spoken tongue, it's much easier to learn literary or academic English. You have that foundation to build on. 

Ironically, the Jewish uppercuts education that Josephus received was an impediment to his learning literary Greek. From what I've read, Jews of his station didn't consider Greek to be a prestige language. After all, they had Greek-speaking slaveboys. 

By contrast, a Jew who learned street Greek growing up would actually be in a much better position to learn literary Greek later in life. Keep in mind that for many Diaspora Jews, Greek was their mother tongue. And some of them moved to Palestine. Take Barnabas, a native of Cyprus, who was the uncle of John Mark. 

Perhaps Matthew was a tax collector because he was bilingual (or polyglot). Surely that would be a marketable skill for a tax collector in Palestine. 

Finally, although Matthew's Greek is a notch above Mark's Greek, it's not fancy Greek. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Last plane out of Saigon

Lotharson: And what about four-point Calvinists rejecting limited atonement?
Jerry Walls: That is only because it is rather embarrassing to admit you don’t really believe “God so loved the (whole) world” and gave his Son for all. But that is only a feeble attempt to mask the hard reality that the Calvinist God does not truly love all persons.  
Such claims make shambles of the claim that God is love. 
Jerry Walls: Calvinists are skillful at employing the rhetoric of love and most people do not really understand what Calvinists are saying. So Calvinism maintains credibility by way of misleading rhetoric about the love of God that their theology does not really support. 
Jerry Walls: The idea of unconditional election to salvation and damnation is morally abhorrent, and applying it to your own children only makes it more graphic. But that is Calvinist piety at its best. You sacrifice not only your child but also your moral intuitions in the name of worshiping a God whose “goodness” is utterly at odds with the normal meaning of that term.

This is typical of what Walls has said in many books, articles, and live presentations. What's arresting about Walls is his officious self-confidence in his indubitable moral intuitions. He acts as though it's a self-evident truth that God must love everyone. To deny that God loves everyone is morally abhorrent. Unless God loves everybody, God's goodness is "utterly at odds" with the "normal" meaning of the term. Jerry presumes that, deep down, every person shares his moral intuitions. You can only disagree with Walls on pain of sacrificing your moral intuitions. 

My immediate point is not to debate the factual question of whether God does or doesn't love everyone. I'm just dealing with Jerry's authoritarian appeal to his unquestioned moral intuitions. It's a kind of natural theology. 

Part of the superficial appeal lies in resorting to faceless abstractions or one-sided examples. But let's put some faces on his moral intuitions:

In 1978, Singleton raped 15-year-old Mary Vincent, cut off her forearms and left her naked in a ditch near Modesto to die.

According to Walls, to deny that God must love Lawrence Singleton violates our moral intuitions. It would be morally abhorrent for God not to love the man who raped an adolescent girl, chopped off her arms, and left her for dead in a ditch. I wonder if Mary Vincent shares his moral intuitions. 

A 9-year-old girl [Jessica Lunsford] was raped, bound and buried alive, kneeling and clutching a purple stuffed dolphin. 

According to Walls, unless God loves John Evander Couey, God's goodness is "utterly at odds" with the "normal" meaning of the term. If we could interview the dead 9-year-old victim whom he raped and buried alive, I wonder if she'd share his moral intuitions. 

Mengele promoted medical experimentation on inmates, especially dwarfs and twins. He is said to have supervised an operation by which two Gypsy children were sewn together to create Siamese twins; the hands of the children became badly infected where the veins had been resected. (Snyder, Louis. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich Marlowe & Co., 1997.)

According to Walls, it would be morally abhorrent for God not to love Josef Mengele. You can only deny God's universal love for men like Mengele by sacrificing your moral intuitions. I wonder if the Gypsy twins who were the guinea pigs in Mengele's experimentation would resonant with Jerry's moral intuitions. Unfortunately, they're unavailable for comment. 

Victims were reportedly skinned alive, scalped, "crowned" with barbed wire, impaled, crucified, hanged, stoned to death, tied to planks and pushed slowly into furnaces or tanks of boiling water, and rolled around naked in internally nail-studded barrels. Chekists reportedly poured water on naked prisoners in the winter-bound streets until they became living ice statues. Others reportedly beheaded their victims by twisting their necks until their heads could be torn off. The Chinese Cheka detachments stationed in Kiev reportedly would attach an iron tube to the torso of a bound victim and insert a rat into the other end which was then closed off with wire netting.

According to Walls, God isn't good in any recognizable sense unless he loves the men who perpetrated these atrocities. But if you were to interview the victims, would they share Jerry's moral intuitions?

It's striking how Walls arrogates to himself the right to speak on behalf of everyone else's moral intuitions. Although I've read and seen lots of his material, I don't recall Jerry ever making a systematic effort–or any effort at all–to investigate the viewpoint of people who were on the receiving end of hidious evils. He talks like a man who's lived a charmed life. A sheltered life. 

Let's compare Jerry's presentation of freewill theism with another freewill theist:

If the story is true, much of the evil in the world is due to chance…It could well happen that a woman was raped and murdered only because she yielded to a sudden impulse to pull over to the side of the road and consult a map. There may be, quite literally, no more to say than that in response to the question, "Why her?".  
According to the story I have told, there is generally no explanation of why this evil happened to that person…It means being the playthings of chance. It means living in a world in which innocent children die horribly, and it means something worse than that: it means living in a world in which innocent children die horribly for no reason at all. It means living in a world in which the wicked,through sheer luck, often prosper. 
But whether a particular horror is connected with human choices or not, it is evident, at least in many cases, that God could have prevented the horror without sacrificing any great good or allowing some even greater horror. 
No appeal to considerations in any way involving human free will or future benefits to human beings can possibly be relevant to the problem with which this case [Auschwitz] confronts.  
There are many horrors, vastly many, from which no discernible good results–and certainly no good, discernible or not, that an omnipotent being couldn't have achieved without the horror; in fact, without any suffering at all. Here is a true story. A man came upon a young woman in an isolated place. He overpowered her, chopped off her arms at the elbows with an axe, raped her, and left her to die. Somehow she managed to drag herself on the stumps of her arms to the side of the road, where she was discovered. She lived, but she experienced indescribably suffering, and although she is alive, she must live the rest of her life without arms and with the memory of what she had been forced to endure. No discernible good came of this, and it is wholly unreasonable to believe that any good could have come of it that an omnipotent being couldn't have achieved without employing the raped and mutilated woman's horrible suffering as a means to it.  
If the Mutilation had not occurred, if it had been, so to speak, left out of the world, the world would be no worse than it is. (It would seem, in fact, that the world would be significantly better if the Mutilation had been left out of it… 
If the expanded freewill defense is a true story, God has made a choice about where to draw the line, the line between the actual horrors of history, the horrors that are real, and the horrors that are mere averted possibilities, might-have-beens. And the Mutilation falls on the "actual horrors of history" side of the line. And this fact shows that the line is an arbitrary one; for if he had drawn it so as to exclude the Mutilation from reality (and had excluded no other horror from reality), he would have lost no good thereby and he would have allowed no greater even. He had no reason for drawing the line where he did. 
In the bright world of good sense, this is why God did not prevent the Mutilation–insofar as there is a "why". He had to draw an arbitrary line, and he drew it. And that's all there is to be said. P. van Inwagen, The Problem of Evil (Oxford, 2006), 89,95,97,105,108.

Inwagen doesn't indulge in Jerry's invidious comparisons between Calvinism and freewill theism. Inwagen doesn't adopt the unctuous tone of moral superiority that Walls constantly resorts to. 

But Inwagen's presentation puts freewill theism in a very different light than Walls. Why didn't the freewill theist God intervene to prevent Mengele from sewing the Gypsy kids together to create Siamese twins? Because God had to draw an arbitrary line, and they happen to fall on the wrong side of the line. Don't take it personally! It's just the luck of the draw! 

It reminds me of when we evacuated the US embassy in Saigon. Many South Vietnamese were utterly desperate to escape. They were terrified of what awaited them when the Viet Cong took over. But there were only so many helicopters. Only so many seats. 

If 9-year-old Jessica Lundsford is raped and buried alive, that's because all the seats were taken. Tough luck, kid! 

The freewill theist God could have added more seats, but the number of seats is arbitrary, so the cutoff between that extra seat which would have saved Jessica Lundsford or Mary Vincent or the Gypsy twins is random. A few are rescued, but the rest of left behind–to be scalped, skinned alive, burned alive, boiled alive, buried alive, eaten alive, and so forth, for no reason at all. God had no reason for drawing the line where he did, but hey–he still loves you! He's so good, compared to that awful Calvinist God. 

Although I disagree with Inwagen's theodicy, my intent is not to come down hard on his position. He can only play the hand he was dealt, and the problem of evil is a tough hand for any Christian to play. (The problem is much worse for atheists.) I'm simply drawing attention to the contrast between Jerry's rose-tinted commercial for freewill theism, and the far starker, bleaker, franker version of Inwagen. Walls is always defaming Calvinists about our "deceptive" rhetoric, but he's hardly forthcoming in how he packages freewill theism.   

Bart Ehrman Is Wrong About Papias And Justin Martyr

During his recent debate with Richard Bauckham, Bart Ehrman argued that the documents Papias refers to as having been authored by Matthew and Mark were different than the gospels we have today. He also suggested that Justin Martyr may have attributed the gospels to authors other than the traditional ones and that the Gospel Of Peter was part of Justin's collection of gospels. I've responded to such arguments in the past. See my post at 11:18 P.M. on 9/19/06 in the comments section of the thread here. My comments there include a discussion of the evidence that Papias addressed John's gospel and its authorship, not just Matthew and Mark. On Justin's alleged acceptance of the Gospel Of Peter, see Lydia McGrew's comments on the subject in a response she wrote to Ehrman last year.

The more Ehrman proposes that sources prior to Irenaeus had a different collection of gospels, the worse of an explanation he's providing for why there's such widespread agreement about the four canonical gospels from the time of Irenaeus onward. Why do the different gospel collections that allegedly were accepted earlier leave no explicit trace in the historical record and so few allegedly implicit traces?

Carrier's limp reply

Richard Carrier attempted a brief response to my post:

I don't know if he was responding just to me, or if his reply took in some of my commenters. For comparison, let's recall his original claim:

And all specialists on John agree this was written in the early to mid second century, by authors unknown.

Now for his new comment:

Richard Carrier saysApril 13, 2016 at 4:11 pm
Wow. That’s weak. They actually aren’t embarrassed that’s their rebuttal?

So Carrier's own views are dictated by fear of embarrassment. That's very revealing. 

I especially like how he insists there are specialists on John alive today who date it before 100 AD. And then doesn’t name a single specialist on John alive today who dates it before 100 AD.

Notice that Carrier didn't name any "specialists" who date John to the mid-2C. 

Also observe how he's now scaled back his original claim by saying "alive today". Why does he add that belated qualification? 

Ironically, his own radical dating scheme is a throwback to old dead liberals like Bruno Bauer, W. C. van Manen, and Alfred Loisy, so his restriction to living scholars is selectively inconsistent.  

Since he didn't define "specialist on John," I'll provide own definition. That would include authors of scholarly commentaries on John and scholarly monographs on John. That would also include scholars who write NT introductions that necessarily give specific attention to sifting the evidence for dating the NT documents. Some scholars write both. By that definition, specialists who date John's Gospel before 100 AD include:

Craig Blomberg (80s-90s), D. A. Carson (80s), E. E. Ellis (c. 80), Donald Guthrie (90s or sooner), Donald Hagner (90s), Craig Keener (90s), Andreas J. Köstenberger (mid-80s-early 90s), Joseph Lightfoot (90s), J. Ramsey Michaels (any time within the latter half of the 1C), Leon Morris (60s), Stanley Porter (90s), J. A. T. Robinson (60s). Theodor Zahn (80s).

I will assume he means fundamentalists. 

Which he doesn't define. Does he mean anyone who doesn't superimpose the filter of methodological atheism onto John's Gospel? 

I don’t count fundamentalists as reliable scholars. 

And I don't count secular fundamentalists like Carrier as reliable scholars. His conclusions are foreordained by motivated reasoning. 

Incidentally, notice how he makes himself the standard of comparison ("I don't count…"), as if his mere approval or disapproval is the arbiter of truth. 

Any more than I count astrologers as reliable astronomers.

An argument from analogy minus the argument.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


The core issue, as I indicate above, is how to account for the claims of Jesus’s postmortem appearances. I think that they are accounted for in much the same way that we account for UFOs and alien abductions, sightings of Bigfoot, homeopathic “cures,” and the innumerable visions, epiphanies, theophanies, visitations, possessions, hauntings, and so forth reported in all cultures throughout history.

When Parsons lumps together these disparate phenomena, an implication of his statement, although it may be an unintended implication, is that it's arbitrary for Christians to privilege Biblical miracles but reject Bigfoot, alien abductions, &c. Although Parsons might not have had that in mind when he wrote it, I'm sure that's what he believes–given his general outlook. But that's confused.

1. To begin with, we need to distinguish between natural kinds of phenomena and supernatural (or paranormal) kinds of phenomena. If Bigfoot or extraterrestrials exist, these would be physical beings that are subject to natural constraints. When we consider claims about these types of entities, we rightly evaluate such claims in light of what's naturally or physically possible or probable–given their ostensible identity. 

By contrast, ghosts, theophanies, demonic possession, angelic apparitions, and miracles like the Resurrection are supernatural phenomena. Some of them aren't natural or physical phenomena at all, while others are natural or physical effects of supernatural agency. 

If these kinds of things exist or occur, they aren't subject to the same natural constraints. Hence, when we consider claims about them, we can't evaluate them in light of what's naturally or physically possible or probable unless we know that the only sorts of actual phenomena are physical or natural in character. But that's circular, since that's the very issue in dispute. 

Therefore, a Christian can properly distinguish between different types of claims. To pick up on some of his examples:

2. A stock objection to intergalactic space travel is that, according to contemporary physics, superluminal travel is either impossible or results in backward time-travel. Of course, if we had direct evidence of extraterrestrials visiting the earth, that would be reason to revise our understanding of physics. 

3. Another problem is that even if superluminal travel is possible, how would spacecraft traveling at that speed avoid a disastrous collision with interstellar debris? Surely it's moving too fast to detect the debris and change course. And at that speed, wouldn't a collision with even small debris be catastrophic? 

If you dive into a water from ten feet above, no harm done. If you dive into water from a mile above, you might as well be falling onto pavement. 

4. Take Bigfoot. One stock objection is that for there to be a minimum viable population, there ought to be enough individuals in the woods that if Bigfoot existed, hunters would have killed or captured a specimen by now. That's not a knock-down argument, but it's one reason to be skeptical.

5. In addition, what evidence we'd expect to find (or not) depends on what kind of creature Bigfoot would be, if it exists. For instance, if it's an giant ape that crossed the Bering land bridge during the last Ice Age, then that creates one set of expectations. If, on the other hand, it's supposed to be a hominid, then we might expect it to live in villages with huts, tools, weapons, and campfires. 

6. A potential line of evidence is American Indian lore about Bigfoot. However, that's complicated:

i) The stories I've read aren't confined to Bigfoot but include tales about skinwalkers, Stone Giants, the Windigo, &c. That doesn't refer to natural creatures, but legendary, mythological, or paranormal beings.

Some stories could be campfire tales to deter kids from wandering into the woods unaccompanied, where they might get lost or be attacked by predators. 

Likewise, the Indian stories I've read treat Bigfoot as a being with supernatural abilities. So that testimony won't mesh with theories about Old World primates, or hominids. 

By the same token, some stories depict Bigfoot as having humanoid intelligence. Even superior to human intelligence. But if that were the case, shouldn't we expect corresponding evidence of cultural artifacts? 

ii) Another complication is dating the source material. To my knowledge, most Indian tribes were originally preliterate, oral cultures. So that makes it hard to assess the antiquity of some of these stories, or how much legendary embellishment they may have undergone as they were handed down by word-of-mouth.

Related to that is the cross-pollination of Indian traditions with Caucasian culture. Modern-day Indians are acquainted with the science fiction and horror genre popularized by Hollywood. Likewise, some tales have a suspiciously apocalyptic or environmentalist motif. So there's the question of how much contact with the white man and modern western culture might "contaminate" Indian lore about Bigfoot. 

iii) In addition, American Indians traditionally practiced pagan witchcraft. If you believe that can tap into genuine occult power, then some of these stories may have a basis in fact. But that involves a different paradigm than primates and hominids.  

7. Finally, the Resurrection is infinitely more consequential than Bigfoot. If we discovered that Bigfoot exists, that would be very interesting, but it doesn't affect human destiny. By contrast, the Resurrection is all-important. Therefore, there's incomparably more reason to have an informed opinion on the Resurrection than Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or even alien abductions. In terms of what to study, that takes absolute precedence. 

Pejorative epithets

Transgender activists say we should call people what they call themselves. Refusing to do so is disrespectful. An example would be "Caitlyn" Jenner. To continue to call "her" Bruce is bigoted. 

i) Although that's sometimes true, I'm under no obligation to cooperate with your agenda, and you have no right to coerce me into endorsing your agenda by making me adopt your propagandistic designations. 

ii) In addition, from what I've read, there are gay standup comedians who sprinkle their routines with pejorative epithets about homosexuals. Likewise, there are black standup comedians (and hip-hop performers) who use pejorative epithets about blacks. By the same token, some black pundits use derogatory epithets about black conservatives or black Republicans like Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice.

Does the self-usage of blacks and homosexuals in that case authorize whites to repeat the same derogatory epithets? 

Papias on Matthew

Eusebius quotes Papias saying "Matthew put together the oracles [of Jesus] in the Hebrew [Aramaic?] language, and each one interpreted [or translated' them as best he could."

i) The conventional objection to this is that our Gospel of Matthew doesn't read like "translation Greek". For reasons I've given, I think that's a bad argument:

That doesn't mean I think our Gospel of Matthew was translated from an Aramaic original. I'm not taking a position on that. I just think the conventional objection is ill-conceived. 

ii) Given that the church was originally composed of Aramaic-speaking Jews as well as Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles, it would hardly be surprising if someone wrote an Aramaic account of Jesus' life and teachings. That wouldn't have to be on the scale of our canonical Gospels. It might outline the life of Christ, include some miracle stories, a collection of his sayings, and highlight key events, especially the Passion week and Resurrection.

If so, one might ask why that didn't survive. The obvious explanation is that, to survive, it would require scribes who knew Aramaic. In addition, it would require a sufficient constituency to justify the continued preservation of this text.

However, the church rapidly became almost entirely Gentile. You had an irreparable breach between the church and the synagogue. Moreover, Palestinian Judaism suffered massive destruction and dislocation after waging three disastrous, losing wars with the Romans. 

Jewish scribes preserved Jewish writings, in Hebrew and Aramaic (e.g. OT, Mishnah, Aramaic) while Christian scribes preserved Christian writings, in Greek. A Christian writing in Aramaic would fall through the cracks. 

iii) Finally, if Matthew was bilingual, it's quite possible that he initially produced a shorter, simpler edition of the life and teachings of Christ, in Aramaic. Then wrote a later, more expansive treatment in Greek, corresponding to our canonical Gospel of Matthew. If need be, he might have had assistance from educated, Greek-speaking Christians.

That edition would supplant the Aramaic edition. It would be more complete. And it would have a larger, more stable constituency to perpetrate it. 

Sitting in God's lap to slap him in the face

From Brian Seagraves:



It's common today to hear statements like, "God can't exist because there's too much evil in the world. God wouldn't allow such a thing, so he doesn't exist," or how about this? "Christians don't treat other people that are different than them with dignity. They don't treat LGBTQ individuals with the worth they are due," or a third example. "From science we've been able to determine that God does not exist," or, "We've been able to determine some other claim that contradicts Christianity." All of this could be put in the category of sitting in God's lap to slap him in the face. Now, I didn't coin this term. I would be proud if I did. I heard apologist, Frank Turek use it several years ago. What's being described here is that this other person is borrowing something from God in order to then argue against him. They're borrowing something that only fits in the Christian world view to then argue against that world view, which is actually kind of a circular argument.

Now, I want to give you three examples, and they're those three we started out with. Evil, dignity, and what I'm going to call rationality.


How is it contradictory for someone to say “there's too much evil in the world, so God does not exist?” There are many ways to address this, like “how much evil is too much? Would you be satisfied with a little less?” Now, I'm not being glib there. There are multiple ways to address the problem of evil, but what I want to do today is suggest a way to not even have to deal with the problem of evil. To put the question back on the person and say, "What do you mean by evil?" Let's say they're not a Christian. Let's say they're an atheist. Where does evil fit in your world view? How is evil a thing in a world view that has no immaterial realities, that has only things that are physical? Because a consistent atheist isn't going to believe in God. They're not going to believe in objective morality (That's morality grounded outside of what I think about it. That's the same for everyone in a given set of circumstances and time).

They're not going to believe in those types of things, so when they complain about evil, they're actually complaining about something that doesn't even have a category or a place in their view of the worldview if they're consistent. That last part is key. We often talk in settings like this on podcasts or in books, like an atheist is consistent, or like Christians are consistent. All too often, we are not consistent with our beliefs. We hold contradictory views.

One of the processes and steps in growing up and maturing as a Christian, is to constantly be refining, constantly be reforming our views, and hopefully getting rid of the ones that are poor and don't fit, and harmonizing more and more aspects of how we view the world, how we view God, how we view scripture.

One of these is evil, and Christianity best explains the existence of evil and why people know there is evil. When someone starts complaining about evil, just ask them what they mean by that. “What does that mean? Do you think there's objective right and wrong? Has it always been wrong to, let's say murder someone? Would it be wrong if no one thought it was wrong?” If the atheist is consistent, they're going to have to say, "Well, if people didn't think it was wrong, then it wouldn't be wrong." What they've just shown is, is that the "evil in the world" is just a matter of human opinion. What they're really complaining about is something that goes against their preference or the preference of a large group of people, because actual, objective evil doesn't fit in their world view. They're having to borrow the existence of evil, which fits in a theistic world view from Christianity, in order to then argue against Christianity, argue against God by saying evil isn't compatible with God.

Now, we also need to be able to address the problem of evil: How is it that God exists and evil exists in the world? We'll tackle that another day, but my point is that often the person bringing this up doesn't even have a category in their world view for the very thing they're complaining about. This is an example of sitting in God's lap to slap him in the face.


What about dignity? How is this an example of the same type of principle? Well, just to put a little context on it, we often hear “equality,” or you see that equals sign on someone's social media icon. What they're really saying is we should treat everyone the same. I think in general there's a good principle there. We should treat same things the same way. Now, we disagree on what a same thing is. I think all men should be treated the same when it comes to what bathroom they could use. I also think that what makes someone a man is their anatomy, their genetics you could even say. We should treat all men the same way. We should treat all women the same way. We do not treat men and women the same way in areas where their sex actually is a meaningful factor.

Now, all of that to say, when someone comes along and says, "Well Christians are not treating everyone fairly. They're not treating everyone with dignity. They're denying someone the right to have a cake made for them, for their same sex wedding." Or, "They're denying a transsexual person the ability to use a certain restroom. They're denying their dignity. They're disrespecting them." To which I'm going to ask, "Are you a Christian?" They're going to say, "No." I would reply, "Well what do you mean by dignity? How do people have dignity? Is that conveyed to us by a majority? By our opinions? By the Supreme Court?" (Some people do think the Supreme Court's job is to bestow dignity. That actually came up this past summer in the Obergefell decision.)

Nonetheless, I'm going to ask, "Where does dignity fit in your world view? What is dignity to you?" More importantly, how can a creature that's just simply a little more evolved than other creatures have this kind of transcendent thing called dignity? Well, I doubt the person's going to have satisfactory answers to these questions. The reason for that is dignity actually doesn't fit in a world view without God. If we are not created, we do not have dignity. Cats do not have dignity in spite of them preening themselves, and acting, and holding their head up at you and pretending like they're better than you when you just want to pet them. Cats do not have dignity. Animals do not have dignity. Humans have dignity because they're created in the very image of God. If that is not true, then men and women do not have dignity and don't need respect in the way we talk about respect. This is an example of borrowing something from the Christian world view -- that people have dignity -- all the while denying the source of the reason for that dignity, which is that we are created in the image of God, as Genesis 1:26 and 27 says.

This is another example of arguing against Christianity based on a principle that's good. I think it's a designed feature that everyone has this instinctive knowledge that people are worthy of dignity and respect. That is an actual feature of being created in the image of God. Now, can that be effaced? Can that be kind of trained out of us over time? I think so, but nonetheless, that's what it means to be created in the image of God. However, you don't have to believe in God to still have that designed feature, to still believe people are worthy of dignity. What it does mean, is you can’t account for why. You can't answer the why question. Just like you can't answer the what is evil question unless God exists. You can't answer the “why does man have dignity” unless God exists.


The third example of sitting in God's lap to slap him in the face is rationality. Now, this might be a little more difficult to track with. We don't often think about thinking, but I encourage you to try and make it through this section. It's not going to be that bad.

Science is based on a few things. We're not going to get into all of them today, but one of them is that you can observe and repeat an experiment, and if you actually do it well, then you will get meaningful data. Now, that data needs to be interpreted, and all that type of stuff, but the fact that the universe is orderly, that things will always work the same way in the same circumstances, doesn't make sense if everything came about randomly. Why would everything that came about by random chance then work orderly and non-randomly? Well, I don't think that fits.

That's one aspect where science pre-supposes things are orderly, but can't explain for why they're orderly. They're borrowing from the Christian world view, which says, "God created everything and therefore it's orderly." They're borrowing the orderly part. Then they're using that to somehow say, "Well science in some area says that God can't exist," (which is something it can't actually do as we've discussed before, but nonetheless people will make that claim.) My point is that the idea that things are orderly doesn't even fit outside of a theistic world view.

There's another aspect of doing science, that doesn't fit apart from the existence of God. That's that we can analyze data and come to meaningful conclusions. If you are consistent as a naturalist, as someone who doesn't believe there's a God, you have to say that everything is just molecules in motion. There's no mind, there's no soul, there's no in-material self, however you want to explain that. We are kind of, to borrow another Frank Turek term, "meat machines." We are no different than a computer, except better at some things and worse at others.

If that's true, then what does it actually mean to make a decision, to exercise the will, to look at data and come to a conclusion? Well, if everything is just predetermined, it's molecules in motion, it's just a really complicated version of a pool table, well then there is no such thing as making a decision, making a determination, having choice. None of that exists unless men and women have an immaterial self, have a soul. In other words, unless they're created in the image of God.

The ability to do science and come to conclusions is actually based on the idea that man is a creature that has a will, that isn't just a predetermined set of chemicals and a biological bag of skin and bones.

Now, there's so much more that could be said about these three categories, but I want to start you thinking in this way of how does a world view actually explain the different features and facets of reality, and does it fit together? Are you having to borrow something from someone else in order to then argue against them? Are you borrowing some scientific principle or experiment, which could only work in a universe God created to then argue against God? Or, are you saying that evil exists and is a problem for God's existence, but your world view doesn't even have a category for evil? What about dignity? Do you think people need to be treated well, as a bedrock principle, and that's based on nothing in and of themselves.

Well, if that's true, then you're borrowing once again from the Christian world view. You're sitting in God's lap to slap him in the face. What you will often find in conversations with people who have thought about these things, is in an intellectual way, they may be fine saying, "Well actual objective, evil doesn't exist," or, "Man is actually ... Yeah, he's just an animal. He doesn't have intrinsic dignity." What's interesting is people may give intellectual, they may give verbal ascent to that, but when it actually comes to how they live their life, how they treat their kids, what they complain about in the world, they act and indeed cannot deny the fact that objective evil exists. Men and women have intrinsic dignity, and are worthy of respect. They can't help but live that way. They can't help but live in contradiction to their world view.

I would encourage you to pay attention when people make statements about evil, or dignity, or rationality, or science, or thought, and see if you can pick up on their world view. Maybe use some questions to draw them out as I've kind of modeled here, in order to get a conversation going, to point them hopefully to the fact that their world view has some contradictions. Internal inconsistency and contradictions are the sign of a world view in trouble. There's something that doesn't fit and the person should want to address it. Who wants to have an incorrect picture of reality? I don't.

I hope you're a little more equipped to address world view concerns on a higher level when we don't always have to get into the weeds and the nitty-gritty, though we should be prepared to do that too.

Well, I look forward to spending this time with you next week on Unapologetic.