Saturday, June 18, 2016

False hope of sex-change surgery

The nullification of the faithful

Pope Francis recently said most Catholic marriages are null. The crisis management team at the Vatican has now issued a revised statement. 

The pope isn't saying anything theologically innovative. The valid reception depends on the right intention of the recipient. 

But the effect of his statement is to imply that most contemporary married Catholics who were married in the Church, are actually committing fornication. 

I'd add that the issue isn't confined to married couples. As we know, a significant percentage of the Catholic clergy are homosexual. Many of them are active homosexuals. When they took holy orders, they had no intention of abstaining from sexual relations. Doesn't that invalidate their ordination? And if they were invalidly ordained, then that nullifies their sacramental actions. 

If they baptize your child, that nullifies baptism. Nothing really happened. If they absolve you of sin, that nullifies absolution. Nothing really happened. If they celibates Mass, that nullifies transubstantiation. You're just eating bread. 

“‘Pope Francis’ Should Resign”

“His papacy has been a litany of confusing statements for the faithful on the most sensitive and delicate topics.”

That’s not a bad track record for a man who, as a “Successor of Peter”, holds a divinely ordained and protected office and who, “under certain conditions”, can “authoritatively interpret the ‘sources’ by which divine revelation is transmitted to us”.

Now Adam Shaw, who apparently is a Fox News political reporter, has called upon “Pope Francis”, with the message that he should resign. To borrow the words of one modern-day prophet, “‘ats funny right-dere”:

“Pope Francis” is not going to resign at the behest of a Fox News reporter. “Pope Francis” believes he has been called to effect the changes he's had in mind since before he was elected. In fact, he has said “I have the humility and ambition to want to do something”.

What is also funny is that the potential for such a “litany of confusing statements” is the very reason why C.S. Lewis gave for why he never became a Roman Catholic: “to accept your Church means, not to accept a given body of doctrine, but to accept in advance any doctrine your Church hereafter produces.”

To be sure, “Pope Francis” is becoming the new heart and soul of a “new and improved Roman Catholicism”.

Still, here is the complaint of Adam Shaw (and it's funny to see these words leveled about a pope):

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Late Date of the Book of Revelation

Christ and the Hindu Diaspora

Posted on June 13, 2016

Paul Pathickal.  Christ and the Hindu Diaspora.  Bloomington: WestBow Press, 2012.  See here to buy the book.

In Christ and the Hindu Diaspora, Paul Pathickal discusses ways that evangelical Christians can share the Gospel with Hindus in the Diaspora.  Pathickal provides background about the history and religion of Hinduism.  He also talks about reasons that Hindus have migrated to the West, their experiences as immigrants, and where many of them are religiously.  He bases his knowledge about where they are religiously on surveys.

Here are some of my thoughts about the book:

A.  The section that provided background information about Hinduism was helpful and interesting.  While I have learned about Hinduism from classes and reading, the information that Pathickal provided helped me to place what I knew in a context.  This was particularly the case with Pathickal’s discussion of three Hindu deities.  According to Pathickal, underneath the impersonal Brahman (ultimate reality, or universal spirit) are three deities: Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu.  Brahma was the creator, and afterwards he was inactive, so Pathickal states that Brahma is “the least worshiped of the three gods” (page 21 of the mobi version).  Shiva is a god of destruction, but he destroys to clear the way for new creation, and Hindu ascetics are devoted to him because they want their lower selves to be destroyed.  Vishnu is a beneficent god and (according to Hindu legend) has appeared in many incarnations throughout history.  This description corrected misconceptions I had about Hinduism, placed things I knew in a context, and helped me to understand Hindu beliefs.

B.  Pathickal states that, for a number of Hindus, many Hindu deities are not as powerful in the Diaspora as they are in India.  In the Diaspora, the belief goes, Hindu deities would have to compete with other deities on those other deities’ turf.  Pathickal talks as if this is a widespread belief among Hindus in the Diaspora, even though his own survey indicates that it is not the majority belief among the Hindus that were surveyed.  Pathickal may be saying this to argue that a significant number of Hindus in the Diaspora are not overly attached to the Hindu religion, and thus they may be open to something else (i.e., Christianity).

C.  Hinduism is often seen as a tolerant religion, one that believes that there are many paths to the divine.  One of my favorite quotes in the book is a passage that Pathickal actually argues against: “The firm soul hastes, the feeble tarries.  All will reach the summit snows” (page 116; Pathickal cites a work by Edmund D. Soper).  I was thus surprised  to learn from Pathickal’s book that many Hindus are against Hindus converting to Christianity.  They are open to including Jesus in the pantheon of gods, but they are against Hindus rejecting the Hindu gods to become Christians.  A factor that Pathickal mentions is the responsibility of Hindu firstborn to honor certain Hindu gods and to support the family’s ancestors.  According to Pathickal, many Hindus have a problem when the Hindu firstborn become Christian and no longer practice these rites.

Keeping up with the Mark Joneses

i) The most interesting, albeit abstruse, objection to the eternal subordination of the Son is the claim that this creates two wills in the Godhead, which is said to be antithetical to the unity and/or unicity of God. Mark Jones has been stressing this objection, although, ironically, I think he's taking his cue from Arminian Tom McCall.

ii) Although I don't subscribe to either eternal subordination or eternal generation, the question of whether two wills in the Godhead is incompatible with the unity and/or unicity of God is interesting in its own right.

iii) One problem I have with Jones is that he contents himself with expounding traditional distinctions, then leaves it at that. But if the truth of tradition is at issue, then that begs the question.

Mind you, there's nothing wrong with taking theological tradition as a starting point in some settings. That can be appropriate and necessary. Every ordination exam can't reinvent the wheel. The examiners are entitled to take for granted the truth of their creeds and confessions. They are entitled to treat these positions a settled doctrine.

However, that's not an absolute starting point. Belief in tradition ought to be justified belief. That preliminary step needs to be taken. Indeed, given conflicting theological traditions, we can hardly avoid the task of scrutinizing tradition. 

iv) I'd add that this is a very recondite debate. Exegetical theology won't settle the question of whether there are, or can be, two wills in the Godhead. That's a question for philosophical theologians to hash out. Jones approaches this from the standpoint of historical theology, which is fine up to a point, but that's mainly useful in explicating what the position is, not in evaluating the merits of the position.

v) Divergent wills in the Godhead are incompatible with the unity and/or unicity of the God. But on the face of it, it's hard to see how one and the same God can accommodate three persons, but not two wills. Is a person less than a will? Isn't the will as aspect of a person? 

vi) Perhaps we could show the compatibility of two wills in the Godhead by using something comparable that's easier to illustrate. Take mental states or viewpoints. Consider that in relation to diachronic identity.

Take my high school graduation. There's how I view that in advance. Then there's how I view that after the fact. 

My prospective mental state or viewpoint is different than my retrospective mental state and viewpoint. Moreover, even in hindsight, there can be additional differences in my respective mental states and viewpoints. How I view my high school graduation a month later, year later, 5 years later, 10 years later, 20 years later, 40 years later. I look back on the event from a different perspective given where I am in life. 

Is this one or many? In one respect, it's many viewpoints and mental states. In another respect, it's one and the same agent whose the source, possessor, or bearer of these viewpoints and mental states. Different viewpoints in relation to the event–differing perspectives on the same event, but the same in relation to the viewer. In each case, that's how I look back on my high school graduation (or look ahead, as the case may be). The same first-person perspective. 

vii) Perhaps someone might object that diachronic identity is a poor analogy for a timeless God. God doesn't have shifting mental states. 

But I don't think that's a problem. If identity-in-difference is coherent in the greater case of a changing agent, surely it's coherent in the lesser case of a changeless agent. 

That Hideous Strength

The “Catastrophic” remarks of “Pope Francis” on Marriage

The Tradition-minded Roman Catholics at Rorate Caeli (traditionalist and yet still “in communion” with the papacy) have called a recent interview by “Pope Francis” “a catastrophe”. What he says, in effect, is that most “sacramental marriages” (those performed by a Roman Catholic priest, under the guidance of “the infallible Church”), are not valid.

In a short but already overheated papacy littered as no pontificate before with an avalanche of papal words, Francis' remarks during his Q & A on June 16, 2016 are surely among the worst that he has spoken.

[NC: One important editorial note. This morning, the Vatican released a transcript of the papal talk, scandalously tampering with what was really said by the Pope. What the Pope said, and was recorded, and is available on video here (starts at 1:14:20), was, "una grande maggioranza dei nostri matrimoni sacramentali sono nulli" ("a great majority of our Sacramental matrimonies are null"). The transcript released by the Vatican says, "una parte", "a part/portion", instead of "a great majority".]

I. What the Pope said on sacramental marriages and cohabitation.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Street-level" Muslims

i) James White did a DL yesterday. He referred to me, among others. It's hard to interact with what he said because his remarks were completely unresponsive to my actual arguments. Frankly, it was a scatterbrained presentation on his part, as he bounced from one thing to another like a racquet ball.

ii) He suggested that because Omar Mateen was reportedly homosexual, "the whole ISIS thing was a cover". Perhaps. But doesn't that mean White thinks a true Muslim can't be homosexual? Therefore, Mateen's real motivation couldn't be religious?

If so, that's problematic for White's position. He keeps telling us that Islam isn't "monolithic". So why can't a true Muslim be homosexual? Is White claiming that Islam doesn't regard hypocrites as Muslims? 

Keep in mind, too, that homosexual impulses are distinct from beliefs. You can have beliefs that run counter to your impulses. A junkie can sincerely believe that his addiction is self-destructive, yet he's hooked. 

BTW, there is a tradition of homosexuality in Islam. It ordinarily takes the form of pederasty. But since pedophilia is currently illegal in the US, that's not a safe option for a homosexual Muslim. 

ii) Why aren't more Muslims jihadis? Several reasons: 

Many Muslims are nominal Muslims. Cultural Muslims. Or modernist Muslims. They go through the motions to get along, but they just don't believe in traditional Islam. The conviction is lacking. 

Many Muslims are ignorant of Muslim history and theology. 

Finally, it takes a lot of commitment to be a terrorist. You have a lot to lose. How many Muslims are prepared to take the risk? Stake it all on virgins waiting for them in paradise? 

iii) White said I had "lost my mind" by calling him a Muslim partisan. Problem is, he never got around to engaging my actual argument. I didn't just say he was a Muslim partisan. I explained what I meant. I illustrated what I meant.

When, in the wake of yet another jihadist attack, your first impulse is to defend Muslims and attack critics, that's the knee-jerk reaction of a Muslim partisan. Your reflexive response is to start making excuses for Muslims, and redirect to attacking their critics, as if their critics, who aren't killing anyone, are the real source of the problem.

White said nothing to refute that or defend his modus operandi. Presumably, because he can't refute it or defend his modus operandi. Instead, he went off on a tangent, attacking things I never said–as if that's an adequate substitute. 

iv) He keeps accusing critics of emotionalism. To begin with, that's a tactic to preemptively deflect and discredit criticism. It's always the other person who's guilty of confirmation bias. 

Moreover, anyone watching his DL presentations, where he goes to bat for Muslims, can see how overwrought he is. Couldn't be that he's the one who needs to get a grip on his own emotions. 

v) He said my credibility is down to zilch. That's a revealing characterization. Even if that were true, it's a category mistake. Credibility has nothing to do with it. I present evidence and make arguments. My personal credibility is irrelevant to the quality of the evidence and the soundness of the argument. 

vi) He say anyone who denies there's such a thing as cultural Islam is a glowing hypocrite. Unfortunately for him, he didn't quote me denying the existence of cultural Islam. 

vii) He said cultural Islam is "ugly"–whatever that means. That stands in contrast to what, exactly? Zealous Islam? I'd say zealous Islam is far "uglier" than cultural Islam. 

viii) He accused his critics of not knowing any Muslims. I, for one, have known many Muslims. It's revealing how he stereotypes his critics. 

ix) He then said that even if his critics do know Muslims, these are "street level" Muslims who "rarely read their own history". 

That's classic. First accuse critics of having no firsthand knowledge of Muslims. But in the next breath, summarily dismiss firsthand knowledge of Muslims. 

How ironic. He's dismissing "street level" Muslims. Apparently, they aren't representative of "true" Islam. Does White think only Muslim scholars like Fazlur Rahman and Seyyed Hossein Nasr can be authentic spokesmen for Islam?

If so, isn't that a backdoor admission that there is a standard of comparison? That historically informed Islam represents true Islam? But isn't that precisely what the jihadis appeal to? White's appeal sabotages his own argument. 

On the one hand he insists that we should judge Muslims on a case-by-case basis, as individuals. Not "lump" them together. On the other hand, he disqualifies the vast majority of Muslims as merely "street level" Muslims who rarely read their own history. On the one hand he insists that if a Muslim tells us he deplores a jihadist attack, we should give him the benefit of the doubt. On the other hand he indicates that the average Muslim is too ignorant to speak for Islam. 

x) White says the founding source documents are inconsistent. But he doesn't cite any founding source documents that promote a tolerant, peace-loving version of Islam.

xi) White has a funny way of pulling rank. He says he knows "ten times more" about Islam than I do. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. I don't see the value of bragging about how much you supposedly know. If you're that knowledgable, you don't need to brag about it–your knowledge will speak for itself. Conversely, if you feel the need to brag about it, that's a sign of intellectual insecurity. 

This isn't the first time he's drawn an invidious contrast between his alleged expertise and the alleged ignorance of his critics. Since he keeps playing that card, I guess we have to be blunt: from what I can tell, White is basically self-taught when it comes to Islam. He doesn't have a degree in Islamic studies. He doesn't have an institutional position. He doesn't have the credentials of scholars like Albert Hourani, Kenneth Cragg, W. Montgomery Watt, Daniel Pipes, D. S. Margoliouth, Bernard Lewis, Michael Nazir-Ali, Marshall G. S. Hodgson, &c. So it would behoove him to refrain from flaunting his nonexistent credentials. It's not as if he's an acknowledged world authority on Islam. He has an MA from Fuller, and he got his "doctorate" from a diploma mill. So spare us the constant condescension. You're in no position to pull rank. 

This morning he posted a follow up:

But even if we were to limit our examination of "peace" to external conflict, it is painfully obvious that the meaning of terms like "jihad" does differ within the Islamic community. Attempting to deny this requires a tremendous effort at redefinition that mainly takes the form of, "Well, if a Muslim disagrees with MY definition of what THEY mean by jihad, they are not REALLY a Muslim."

Well, what about Ibn Khaldun's definition of jihad:

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force...It is (for them to choose between) conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death. (Muqaddimah, chapter 3.31). 

Isn't Ibn Khaldun a paradigm Muslim thinker? 

But one must be blind, or bigoted, or just willfully dishonest, to not see that the history of Islam as a whole is not just one massive bloodbath. There have been times of peace and stability where a progressive culture was created that produced philosophers and mathematicians and scientists.

That's pretty euphemistic. After military conquest and subjugation, there are periods of peace and stability. 

But the fact remains that, by God's common grace, a higher-order Islam has existed, and continues to exist through to this day. I KNOW, personally, Muslims who remain faithful to the central tenets of their faith who would never accept any definition of their faith that would lead them to murder their fellow men. Argue that they are not Muslims all you want: all you are doing is demonstrating why the conflict exists in the first place.

Are these the "street level" Muslims who "rarely read their own history"? Didn't he tell us in the podcast that we should discount their testimony, given how ignorant they are of their own religious tradition? 

But demanding that this corrosive form be taken as the ONLY representative of Islam is to make the very same mistake the secular world does in demanding I answer for the Westboro Baptists and Steven Andersons and Walid Shoebats of the world.

Once again, that comparison is vitiated by disanalogy. White doesn't think the position of Westboro Baptists and Steven Andersons of the world are Biblically justifiable. By contrast, he concedes "the toxic, self-destructive forms, which I have always said have deep and ancient roots in the Islamic tradition itself." Therefore, Muslims are answerable for jihadist massacres in a way that Christians are not answerable for Steven Anderson and the Westboro Baptists. 

White keeps using illogical arguments. Yet he's a professional Christian apologist. Is it asking too much that he be logically consistent?

Scapegoating Christians

I'm going to comment on two posts by Keith Parsons. Keith is a militant atheist and philosophy prof.

First thing I'd note is that it's well worth reading Jayman's responses to Keith in the combox. Jayman tries to talk sense to Keith. Those are worth reading in their own right. Back to Keith:

In the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, young activists went into the Dante-esque netherworld that was the state of Mississippi to register African-Americans to vote. For a hundred years, racist goons, often wearing the uniforms of police or state troopers, had used violence and intimidation to prevent black people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote. Three of the activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, were abducted and murdered in Neshoba County by members of the Ku Klux Klan, aided by a Neshoba County Deputy Sherriff. Chaney was a black man from Mississippi and Goodman and Schwerner were whites from New York City. 

That raises an interesting question. In the wake of the Orlando massacre, many liberals pivoted to gun control. Well, imagine if black communities south of the Mason-Dixon line had been armed to the teeth during the Jim Crow era. Wouldn't that give the KKK pause? Wouldn't lynching drop precipitously? How many homicidal Klansmen would venture into a black community, knowing the residents were willing and able to repel assailants with lethal force? Cowards attack soft targets. Cowards attack the defenseless. 

After yesterday’s massacre in Orlando, which obviously targeted gay people, we need a new Dave Dennis to stand up and get mad and damn us if we do not get mad too. We need someone to point fingers at every purveyor of homophobia and bigotry and make them squirm in the hot light of our anger. 

I'm supposed to squirm under Keith's disapproving glare? It's so comically self-important for him to imagine that his disapproval means anything to Christians. 

In addition, casting the issue in terms of "homophobia" and "bigotry" begs the question. If mere disapproval is equivalent to "hatred" and "bigotry," then the Secular Outpost is a hate group. 

We must point to every foaming, lowbrow, knuckle-dragging hater as well as to the pious, mealy-mouthed hypocrites that claim to hate the sin while loving the sinner. 

Suppose parents have a drug-addicted son or anorexic daughter. Can't they love their child but hate the harmful behavior? 

BTW, it doesn't occur to Parsons that branding Christians as "foaming, lowbrow, knuckle-dragging haters" is, in itself, a textbook example of bigoted hate speech on his part.

We should scornfully disdain those who pretend to hide their hatred behind a banner of “religious freedom.” Voters need to repudiate elected degenerates and demagogues who attack transgender persons by screaming about voyeurs and pedophiles in the women’s room. 

But transgender policies do give voyeurs and pedophiles entree to the women's room. 

Moreover, it's not just the "foaming, lowbrow, knuckle-dragging haters" who object, but many ordinary women and girls. 

Likewise, what about girls who understandably object to boys "transgender girls" (i.e. biological boys who self-identify as girls) competing with girls in intramural sports? 

We must make absolutely clear that the real perverts are the sanctimonious jerks who are obsessed with controlling other people’s sexuality. 

Is he saying voyeurs and pedophiles aren't real perverts? 

Insofar as religion promotes or justifies bigotry, we have to identify religion as one of the guilty parties, and not try to blame it all on social, economic, or political causes. 

Insofar as atheism promotes or justifies bigotry against Jews and Christians, we have to identify atheism as one of the guilty parties. 

Homophobia is deadly. It kills people. We have known that for many years, and the Orlando massacre only adds exclamation points…Yet such incidents have happened many, many times all over the world. ISIS recently threw gay people off the roofs of buildings. 

Christophobia is deadly. It kills people. Keith's post is boiling over with paroxysms of Christophobia. Why is he silent about the martyrdom of Christians all around the world? 

Atheism is deadly. It kills people. Look at the body count of Maoism, Stalinism, the Khmer Rouge, &c. Look at how secularized countries in Europe are euthanizing the elderly, developmentally disabled, or clinically depressed. 

So, we should be angry at the purveyors of murderous hate. But doesn’t anger preclude dialogue, and isn’t dialogue what we need? No. Dialogue assumes that you are dealing with a rational agent who is willing to listen and change if convinced by reason. Homicidal hatred is not amenable to cure by dialogue. We have to chase it from its hiding places and into the bright, hot light of public shame. We must refuse to hear its unctuous excuses and call it by its rightful name. For instance, we have to make it crystal clear that state legislators who sponsor bogus “religious freedom” bills are merely trying to make the world safe for haters. 

Well, it's easy to turn the tables on that policy, is it not? No point dialoguing with atheists. Dialogue assumes that you are dealing with a rational agent who is willing to listen and change if convinced by reason. Militant atheism is not amenable to cure by dialogue. We have to chase it from its hiding places and into the bright, hot light of public shame. We must refuse to hear its unctuous excuses and call it by its rightful name. For instance, we have to make it crystal clear that militant atheists like Keith Parsons, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and Sam Harris are merely trying to make the world safe for haters. 

Father, Son, man and woman

I'd like to comment on a subset of complementarians who ground their position in the eternal subordination of the Son, which, in turn, is grounded in eternal generation. For discussion purposes, let's stipulate eternal generation.

i) The direct way to underwrite complementarianism is to say that while men and women are alike in many ways, and can do the same things in areas where they are alike, men and women are naturally dissimilar in certain significant ways, and social structures ought to reflect and respect those differences. Men and women have certain physical and psychological differences which, at least in part, undergird complementarianism. 

ii) The question, then, is whether these natural differences are sufficient or insufficient to justify complementarianism. If sufficient, then the eternal subordination of the Son is superfluous to complementarianism. The natural differences between men and women are adequate to warrant different treatment. Treat like things alike, and unlike things unalike. That's a stand-alone justification for the position. It requires nothing else.

iii) But suppose the natural differences are deemed to be insufficient. In that event, appeal to the eternal subordination of the Son functions as a makeweight. If, however, the natural differences are insufficient to justify complementarianism, then it's hard to see how invoking the eternal subordination of the Son will shore up that deficiency. 

On this view, what accounts for the eternal subordination of the Son lies in the intrinsic difference between Father's mode of subsistence and the Son's. The Father is ingenerate while the Son is generated. The Father is inordinate while the Father originates the Son.

But even if that's true, how does that contribute to the argument for complementarianism? How is the relationship between men and women analogous to eternal generation? Take this classic formulation:

The role of a father is “to beget,” just as the meaning of sonship is “to be begotten.” The Father, therefore, is unbegotten, but is origin and progenitor of the Son, who himself does not beget, for there is no “Son” in the Godhead other than himself. That is to say, the whole reality of the Father is to beget, to generate, to give all that he has, namely, his whole divine nature, to the Son. And the whole reality of the Son is to be begotten, to be generated, to receive all that he has, namely, his whole divine nature, from the Father...The life of the Father is an eternal giving of himself whole and entire to the Son. The life of the Son is an eternal receiving of the Father whole and entire.

That strikes me as a lucid definition or exposition of eternal generation. But surely the relationship between men and women isn't comparable to that. 

Even if the subordination of the Son is intrinsic to the Godhead, that would be extrinsic to men and women unless it has a parallel in human nature. How can something extrinsic to men and women undergird complementarianism? How can something about the Father and the Son help to underwrite complementarianism unless it has a parallel in human nature? 

iv) But suppose, for the sake of argument, that it does have a parallel in human nature. If so, then that's what undergirds complementarianism–not something about the Father and the Son, but the analogue in human nature. Yet in that event, the eternal subordination of the Son is superfluous to the case for complementarianism. That principle does no work. It's something about the essential constitution of men and women that's the differential factor, and not something about the essential constitution of the Godhead. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

SBC votes to formally admit defeat in the Civil War

Into the dream

A standard knock against mature creation is that it implicates God in web of deception. It represents a potpourri of illusion and reality.

I've discussed this objection many times. I'd like to take another whack at it.

i) Unless we're careful, the objection to mature creation can easily become an objection to miracles in general. There are atheists who think miracles are cheating. Christians don't play by the rules. We have this ace up our sleeves. Some atheists think miracles are unethical. If nature isn't lawlike, if there are exceptions, then God can't be trusted. I think that's childish, but I'm just pointing out that the objection to mature creation is similar.

ii) Let's illustrate the objection. Take a supernova. Given their distance in lightyears, some supernova generate a paradox: if young-earth creationism is true, then the supernova is older than the universe that contains it. The supernova must predate the universe. But that's incoherent. 

A way around that is to say God created starlight in transit. And up to a point, that's a consistent explanation, but it only works for prehistoric supernovae. Supernovae that were created with the universe.

But in the case of historic supernova, which appear after the universe was made, I don't think that explanation will work. If stargazers record the appearance of a supernova, which wasn't visible in that part of the sky prior to their time, then you can't trace it back to the moment of creation. Compare it to stars that humans always saw. 

This raises the theoretical possibility of an empirical test. If you could take a spaceship to the site of transmission, would you find a supernova there, or just a play of light? 

According to mature creation, although the light source may be localizable, that's not the point of origin. Rather, a supernova is the effect of God's direct fiat. If you follow the stream of light to the source, you will find a luminous image or afterglow with no underlying physical cause. Just a shiny surface, like a hologram. Or will you? 

Some people think that's deceptive. For my part, I think it would be very interesting to live in a universe like that. 

iii) Is there anything analogous to mature creation in human experience? Consider dreams. We dream about two kinds of things: real people and places, as well as imaginary people and places.

On the one hand we dream about familiar people and places. People we know. Friends. Dead or living relatives. Places where we live. Places from our past.

On the other hand, we dream about strangers. We dream about strange places. We dream about places we've never been in real life. We see people in dreams we never saw in real life. We encounter people in dreams we never met before, whom we will never meet again.

You have to wonder where all this is coming from. Sure, you can say it's our subconscious. But how can our subconscious instantly produce this detailed alternate reality?  

Another striking thing about this experience is that within the dream, real people and places are indistinguishable from imaginary people and places. Within the dream, imaginary characters look real and act real. We have conversations with the imaginary characters in our dreams–just like we have conversations with friends and relatives in our dreams. Within the dream, you can't tell the difference. It all seems equally real. It's a bit unnerving, if you think about it. 

Although there's a sense in which dreams are unreal, there's another sense in which dreams are real. Dreams are mental states. Mental states are real. In that respect, dreams are just as real as our waking states. 

There is, of course, a critical difference. When you're awake, you're aware of a world that's objective to yourself. You're interacting with a world that's independent of you. In a dream, by contrast, the dream is the product of your awareness. 

Yet when we dream about remembered people and remembered places, reality is breaking into the dream, like a shaft of light in the darkness. In that respect, the dream is a composite of reality and illusion.

Mature creation may seem ad hoc if we think of "apparent age" as little bits of illusion intruding into reality. But when we dream about remembered people and places, it's little bits of reality intruding into the illusion. So it depends on your frame of reference.

iv) In addition, it's striking how mature creation anticipates virtual reality. Take scifi fare like Harsh Real, The Matrix, and Tron: Legacy. Scifi buffs find those scenarios very appealing. They wish they could do that sort of thing in real life. 

Moreover, it's not just science fiction. As we continue to make strides in VR technology, we are making a mature creation parallel, where real people interact with a simulation. Where do you draw the line? 

The shadow God

In light of the recent dustup over eternal subordination, I'd like to briefly recap and illustrate my own position:

1. When the Bible uses the theological metaphor of sonship for the second person of the Trinity, I think that metaphor is meant to evoke the principle of representation rather than derivation. 

Representation involves two related concepts:

i) Resemblance

Like father/like son. A son is the same kind of being as his father. In addition, a son is more similar to his father than anyone else. In a sense, a son reproduces his father. You can see the father in the son. Not just at a physical level (family resemblance), but in terms of psychological commonalities. 

ii) Agency

A son can speak for his father. A son can act on his father's behalf. 

(i) and (ii) are interrelated. Because a son is like his father, he's uniquely qualified to be his spokesman or agent. To act on his behalf and in his stead. 

It's easy to document both these features in the mission of Christ. 

2. Aside from the fact that I think the dogma of eternal generation lacks exegetical warrant, my theological objection to eternal generation is that it reduces the Son (and Spirit) to a shadow God.

Imagine a chain link fence on a sunny day. The sun is to my back. I put my left hand behind the fence. That casts a diamond-mesh pattern on my hand. I put my right hand in front of the fence, blocking the sunshine. The pattern on my left hand instantly vanishes.

That's like the Father producing the Son. The resultant pattern is entirely dependent on the source. Cut the transmission, and there's nothing left. 

Suppose you say, to play along with the illustration, that the sunshine is uninterrupted. The sun necessarily shines on the fence, thereby casting a constant shadow on my hand. 

But that doesn't change the absolute contingency of the shadow's existence. The radical asymmetry and irreversible directionality of the relation. 

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that eternal generation (and eternal procession) makes the Father the real God, while the Son and Spirit are secondary effects. 

I've discussed the exegesis of divine Sonship in detail, so I'm taking that for granted.

3 questions for moderate Muslims

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Rome's moral clarity

How would we ever manage without Rome's moral clarity?

Judgment fell–or did it?

1. This will be a follow-up to my previous post on James White:

You gotta love Steve Hays over at Triablogue. Only he can do long-distance mind-reading. He can take an announcement about an upcoming program that really contains NOTHING about what I'm going to actually say, and write an entire article refuting me...before I even say anything! Says VOLUMES about his prejudice, to be sure.

i) His reaction is so bizarre. I quoted him verbatim, then commented on what he said. He responds by claiming I did "long-distance mind-reading" by refuting him "before [he] ever said anything".

I replied to the content of public statements he made. That's a matter of public record. His response is utterly at variance with reality. I was explicitly responding, not to the DL before it aired, but to something he posted in the public domain. 

Moreover, what I replied to wasn't simply an announcement of an upcoming program. Rather, his statement contains substantive content. It's as if he doesn't remember what he himself said, and didn't bother to go back and reread what he said before dashing off his off-the-cuff remark to me. Once again, here's what he originally said:

Watching all the standard emoting going on this evening (expression of emotions without the exercise of rational thought), as expected. But seeing a lot of the standard "lump all the Muslims together, this guy was mainstream, he was just doing what Islamic law says to do," blah blah blah. Then the Steven Anderson video comes out and the same folks are, "Well, he sure doesn't represent me! He's a radical and..." blah blah blah, without anyone stopping to say, "Whoa...I just really engaged in a double standard there, didn't I? I mean, if I want the freedom to demand I be differentiated from Steven Anderson, then, by all logical standards (as if anyone concerns themselves about such things anymore), I need to extend that right to others, including Muslims who are horrified by a guy mowing folks down in a night club as if he were the hand of Allah or something." But hey, I'm a dinosaur and don't really feel very at home in today's Western society so please feel free to ignore me.

ii) Moreover, this is not an isolated statement. This has become part of his shtick. He's taken to accusing Christian critics of Islam of hypocrisy. So his statement has a larger context, as part of an ongoing allegation. It's a continuation of allegations he's made in the recent past. 

Evidently, White has developed such a hair-trigger reaction to any breath of criticism that he instantly reacts to substantive criticism without bothering to pay attention to what the critic actually said. And it's not the first time he's done this. On another occasion, on the same topic, he got what I said exactly backwards. He's too negligent to carefully read what I actually say. Fine. That's his problem, not mine. But it would behoove him to be more careful so that he doesn't publicly embarrass himself with demonstrably false allegations.

iii) Furthermore, he's become impervious to logical or factual correction. I've explained both here and in previous posts how his purported analogies are fallacious. He doesn't even attempt to engage the argument. 

iv) White's problem is that he's become a Muslim partisan. In the wake of yet another jihadist attack on American soil–and these have been piling up during Obama's tenure–his first impulse is to defend Muslims and attack their critics. 

That's exactly what the liberal establishment does. When Muslims attack, the liberal establishment responds by defending Muslims to forestall a feared backlash against Muslims. It's a win/win for jihadis. No matter how often Muslims do wrong, Muslims are always in the right and their critics who are always wrong. We saw this in the aftermath of 9/11, when the education establishment responded by indoctrinating American students on how Islam is a religion of peace. 

If Muslims firebomb a synagogue, expect the authorities to respond by protecting mosques. Must be ever vigilant against that impending backlash against Muslims. Never protect non-Muslims from Muslim aggressors; rather, always protect Muslims from the imminent chimerical backlash against Muslims. 

We see this bias in White. He's become so personally identified with his Muslim pals that his first impulse is to defend Muslims and attack their critics, when Muslims commit murder and mayhem. 

Perhaps he thinks this gives him street cred with Muslims. They will view him as an honest broker. An evenhanded referee. Something like that. Unfortunately, it makes him a tool for Muslims. 

v) Apropos (iv), It's no longer enough for White to be a Christian apologist who debates Muslims. Rather, he's become a self-promoted liaison between Muslims and non-Muslims.  He's now the go-between who defends Muslims against the alleged hypocrisy of Christian critics. 

One problem with that posture is that shifts the burden of proof. The onus is not on Christians to defend how peace-loving most Muslims supposedly are. Rather, the onus is on Muslims, if they are, in fact, peace-loving, to disassociate themselves from the militants. There are various ways to do that, such as expelling militants from mosques. Shunning militants in their community. 

2. Since he brought it up, I'll make some comments on the DL show:

i) First part of the show was a rehash of fallacious accusations he's made before about Christian double standards. 

ii) Later on, he corrected the misuse of Rom 12. Some Christians quote that out of context as a command that we should mourn incidents like the Orlando massacre. He pointed out that the Pauline injunction is to, for, and about members of the Christian community. That's a salutary corrective. 

iii) He made a valid point about how the so-called LGBT "community" is a misnomer. 

iv) He used a good illustration about how, if workers were killed in a math lab explosion, there wouldn't be the same public reaction to their demise. 

v) He made the valid point that the gay nightclub was a "den of iniquity". 

All those points are a good counterbalance to political correctness, both in the media and among "progressive" Christians.

vi) However, he used that as a setup to suggest that we should view the shooting rampage as God's wrath against sin. Judgment fell. 

He said traditionally, Christians would interpret humanitarian disasters like raging fires in cities as providential judgment against sin. He said God determines when he's going to cut people off. 

vii) Problem with his position is that it consists of half-truths. Yes, God determines when he's going to cut people off. But that hardly validates the inference that a humanitarian disaster ipso facto represents divine judgment. On the one hand, Scripture says some humanitarian disasters are acts of divine judgment. On the other hand, Scripture warns us not to turn that into a general principle (e.g. Job 1-2, Jn 9:1-3; 11:1-4).

viii) Why would the Christian God use a Muslim terrorist as a messenger? Isn't that sending mixed signals? 

ix) Another obvious problem with inferring that any particular humanitarian disaster is an act of divine judgment concerns the apparently random distribution of humanitarian disasters. Consider how many gay nightclubs there are worldwide. How can we validly infer that someone shooting up a single gay nightclub represents divine judgment? If gay nightclubs were routinely struck by lightning, if sinkholes opened up beneath gay nightclubs and swallowed them whole, if freak accidents beset gay nightclubs at a statistically improbable rate, then we'd have good reason to conclude that God was sending a message. 

On the face of it, humanitarian disasters that strike unbelievers don't seem to be any more discriminating than humanitarian disasters that strike Christians, viz. Christians who die in house fires or church fires or traffic accidents. From a human standpoint, there is no discernible pattern. There's no basis to automatically correlate a humanitarian disaster with divine judgment. It's too haphazard.

From a theological perspective, everything fits into a larger design, but we aren't privy to the larger design, so we can't use that as a frame of reference to evaluate any particular humanitarian disaster. 


I don't know much about Steven Anderson, and I don't care to know much about Steven Anderson. He seems to be the successor to the Westboro cult. The media loves to showcase him to taint all Christians. 

However, this does raise a question: he says homosexuals should be executed because homosexual activity was a capital offense in the Mosaic law. That can make it tricky for Bible-believing Christians to distance themselves from Anderson–or from Muslims to kill homosexuals. So what should we say about that?

i) This position is most often associated with theonomy. It's a legitimate hermeneutical issue. 

ii) When Christians point out that Muslims execute homosexuals, that can be a tu quoque argument. It's responding to liberals on their own grounds. Liberals want to fine or boycott Christian businesses that refuse to cater to homosexuals weddings, boycott states that refuse to knuckle under to transgender demands regarding public restrooms, locker rooms, and intramural sports–yet they are silent on the execution of homosexuals in Muslim countries, or even do business with such countries. So it's a way of highlighting liberal duplicity. 

iii) Since homosexual activity was a capital offense in the Mosaic law, Bible-believing Christians can't say that's intrinsically wrong. But what about Christian ethics? What about the new covenant?

Because ancient Israel was a nation-state, it had to have a civil and criminal law code. That would be true even if there was nothing special about Israel. As a nation-state, it had to have laws concerning violent crimes, sex crimes, and property crimes.

But over and above that, Israel had an emblematic significance. To some degree it symbolized the holiness of Yahweh. And to some degree, it prefigured the work of Christ. In addition, the purity codes made some activities sinful that are not intrinsically sinful. In the Mosaic law code, we need to distinguish between ceremonial impurity and ethical impurity. 

As a result, more sins were criminalized than would be the case if Israel didn't have that emblematic significance. Indeed, in the case of the purity codes, some activities were sinful because they were criminal, rather than criminal because they were sinful. 

iv) In addition, the physical presence of covenant-breakers defiled the land. The death penalty was a way of cleansing the land by eliminating offenders whose physical presence was a profanation to the cultic holiness of Eretz Israel.

Assuming that analysis is correct, under the new covenant, not as many sins are crimes. In addition, not as many crimes should carry the death penalty inasmuch as there is no longer a holy land to defile. 

Although the Bible undoubtedly regards homosexual activity as intrinsically wrong, this doesn't imply that homosexual activity ought to be a felony, much less a capital offense. For the fact that it had that legal status in the Mosaic covenant may be owing to the cultic holiness of Israel. Likewise, the fact that it was a capital offense in the Mosaic law may be because execution was a way of maintaining the ritual purity of the land. In other words, a number of sins and crimes in the Mosaic law may have carried the death penalty because the physical presence of the offender desecrated the holy land. In the purity codes, ritual defilement is spread by contact. If, by contrast, the offender is executed, and his body is ritually disposed of, that action reconsecrates the land. 

But the new covenant doesn't operate within that framework. That's not a part of Christian ethics.

v) If every sin was a capital offense, then everyone would be liable to summary execution. But that would have the ironic consequence of decriminalizing murder. Yet that's clearly not what Scripture intends. It's not open season on every sinner. There'd be no one left in that event. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Importing jihad

In wake of the jihadist attack in Orlando, Obama said:

But here’s what we do know -- is organizations like ISIL or organizations like al Qaeda, or those who have perverted Islam and created these radical, nihilistic, vicious organizations, one of the groups that they target are gays and lesbians because they believe that they do not abide by their attitudes towards sexuality.

That's not a "perversion" of Islam. Rather, that's traditional Islamic ethics and jurisprudence. Mainstream Islam. 

It is one that is particularly painful for the people of Orlando, but I think we all recognize that this could have happened anywhere in this country.

It can (and will) happen anywhere you have jihadis. 

As far as we can tell right now, this is certainly an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been so concerned about for a very long time.

Obama's immigration policies are importing jihad into the US. His policies are creating and aggravating this situation.  He's importing Muslim terrorist into the US. It's almost as though he want's to foment a civil war as a pretext to confiscate guns. 

Muslims and dinosaurs

James R. White 
Watching all the standard emoting going on this evening (expression of emotions without the exercise of rational thought), as expected. But seeing a lot of the standard "lump all the Muslims together, this guy was mainstream, he was just doing what Islamic law says to do," blah blah blah. Then the Steven Anderson video comes out and the same folks are, "Well, he sure doesn't represent me! He's a radical and..." blah blah blah, without anyone stopping to say, "Whoa...I just really engaged in a double standard there, didn't I? I mean, if I want the freedom to demand I be differentiated from Steven Anderson, then, by all logical standards (as if anyone concerns themselves about such things anymore), I need to extend that right to others, including Muslims who are horrified by a guy mowing folks down in a night club as if he were the hand of Allah or something." But hey, I'm a dinosaur and don't really feel very at home in today's Western society so please feel free to ignore me.

1. That's a very Obamaesque response. For White, like Obama, the problem isn't the attitude that Muslims harbor towards non-Muslims, but the attitude that non-Muslims harbor towards Muslims. Muslims don't need to change: non-Muslims need to change to accommodate Muslims. 

2. Apparently, White's logic faculty is on the fritz. Hope it will be repaired soon.

Take the fallacious Steven Anderson comparison. I assume White is alluding to Anderson's statements about hating homosexuals, and advocating their execution homosexuals. It's similar to the Westboro cult. 

i) On the one hand, White concedes that seminal, authoritative sources of Islam justify jihad. However, he thinks there's diversity in the seminal, authoritative sources of Islam. You can quote equally early, authoritative sources to the contrary. 

ii) On the other hand, White presumably believes the Bible doesn't justify Anderson's position. White doesn't think there's diversity in Biblical teaching, which warrants Anderson claiming one side of the disparate and divergent Biblical witness. 

Therefore, White's comparison is equivocal. 

Unfortunately, White is now parroting the liberal establishment. He refuses to name the problem. Islam is not the problem. No, the problem is how non-Muslims view Islam. 

3. Notice, too, that White has no recommendations about any domestic or foreign policy changes that public officials should consider to make us safer in relation to jihadist attacks on the home front. Instead, he diverts attention to alleged hypocrisy on the part of critics. It's just an attitudinal problem. 

Keep in mind that White is a culture warrior. He doesn't hesitate to wade in on social policy issues regarding homosexuality and transgenderism. But when it comes to social policy issues regarding Muslims in America, that's not his priority. Homosexuality and transgenderism pose a threat, but the infiltration of Islam into American culture does not. 

Gays v. Muslims

I'm waiting to see if the jihadist attack on the Orlando gay nightclub changes the political dynamic. This is a jihadist attack on a liberal protected class. Although the liberal establishment is responding with its push-bottom gun-control comeback, the LGBT "community" may take issue with that generic repines. What we now have is a clash in the liberal pecking order. Both Muslims and homosexuals are social mascots of the liberal establishment. Which ranks higher in the pecking order? We're about to find out. If the LGBT "community" makes this an issue about the need to be protected from Muslim immigrants, then that will be a wedge issue for the Democrat coalition. Which pressure group has more political clout–the LGBT "community" or CAIR? 

More Early Sources On Whether Mary Was Sinless

A decade ago, I put together a collection of patristic and medieval sources, including some Popes, who denied that Mary was sinless. See here and here. What I want to do in this post is add several more examples.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Jihad Triangle

David Wood on Orlando jihadist massacre

Gender and Trinity

This is a sequel to my previous post:

1. There are some interesting patterns to this debate, in terms how to classify the way people line up on different sides of the issue:

i) To some extent it looks like a debate between Baptists and Presbyterians. Baptists like Denny Burke, Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem et al. v. Presbyterians like Carl Trueman, Scott Clark, Mark Jones, and Liam Goligher.

However, that's complicated by the fact that you have Baptists on the other side of the issue, viz. Richard Barcellos, Stefan Lindblad, Tom Chantry, Sam Waldron.

Likewise, Arminians (e.g. Fred Sanders, Tom McCall), Barthians (e.g. Bobby Grow), and Anglicans (e.g. Robert Letham, Roger Beckwith, Michael Bird) have weighed in on this debate.

ii) Some commentators have framed the issue as an intra-Calvinist debate. But that's questionable. For instance, Bruce Ware is an Amyraldian Molinist who denies divine impassibility. Likewise, I don't know if all the various contributors to One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life are Calvinists. By the same token, I don't know if Denny Burke is a Calvinist. 

iii) In addition, I suspect many or most contemporary NT scholars reject eternal generation (and eternal procession) because they reject the traditional interpretation of the standard prooftexts for eternal generation (and eternal procession). If so, Calvinism is not the differential factor. 

iv) One common denominator seems to be that many opponents of Grudem et al. fall into the Confessional Calvinist camp. They object to the position of Grudem et al. because it rejects the eternal generation of the Son, pace historic creeds and confessions. 

2. Part of the appeal of the traditional paradigm is to supply a unifying principle for the Trinity. The persons of the Trinity are said to be one God because they share one nature, and they share one nature because the Father is the common source of the Son and the Spirit. 

However, a basic problem with that argument is that it's consistent with tritheism. To take a comparison, all men share a common human nature. That's what makes us human. But each of us is a property instance of a generic human nature. Separate exemplifications of the same nature. So that argument doesn't even work on its own terms. 

3. To my knowledge, it's common in Reformed theology to say the Son became incarnate rather than the Father because it was "fitting" for the Son to become incarnate rather than the Father. It was "fitting" for the Father to send the Son, rather than vice versa, because the Father generates the Son. 

If, however, you're going to argue that it would be unfitting for the Father to become incarnate, that there's no possible world in which the Father became incarnate, then that seems to commit you to a necessitarian principle of intra-Trinitarian subordination. A metaphysical hierarchy in which the Father must be the sender while the Son must be the sent.

With that in mind, I don't see that critics of Grudem et al. who subscribe to eternal generation (and eternal procession) are in any position to denouce the notion of eternal subordination. If they think there's an order in the Trinity which requires the Son rather than the Father to be sent, then what is that if not eternal subordination? I think their Confessionalism blinds them to the parallel. 

4. Perhaps part of the objection is to the connotations of "eternal" subordination. Maybe, when some people see that adjective, they think that means the Son qua Son is constantly submitting to the Father qua Father, whereas they allow for a one-time economic submission. If, however, God is timeless, then eternal subordination doesn't mean the Son is always submitting to the Father. That "one-time" economic submission is eternal or timeless. 

5. As someone who's debating many Catholic apologists and not a few Orthodox apologists, I'm struck by the unguarded way that Confessional Calvinists default to the Nicene creed as an unquestionable benchmark. I wonder how their appeal to patristic authority and conciliar authority would fare if they ever got into a debate with a Catholic or Orthodox apologist. Where do they draw the line? Their selective deference to church councils represents an unstable mediating position. It paves the way to Rome or Constantinople. 

6. Apropos (5), Barthian Bobby Grow unwittingly illustrates the dilemma when he says:

...they are at some level repudiating the confessional position of the historic orthodox church, provided voice, in particular, in the ecumenical councils of Nicaea-Constantinople-Chalcedon, and attempting to innovate in a way that violates the very mind of the church. It is one thing to work constructively within the boundaries of the ecumenical grammar on the Trinity, as Karl Barth does, which Hunsinger labels the ‘chalcedonian pattern’; but it is altogether another thing to work outside of those norms in order to bolster one’s position on a social issue such as complementarianism.

But that's special pleading. Although I don't agree with Grudem's position, the "mind of the church" didn't terminate with the church fathers or Greek Orthodox councils. Modern-day Baptists like Wayne Grudem, Denny Burke, Jim Hamilton et al. have at least as much claim to represent the "mind of the church" as our distant theological forebears. There's no magic cutoff, as if pre-Reformation theology represents the mind of the church while post-Reformation theology does not. 

7. In the same post, Grow supplies this quote:

Khaled Anatolios says it this way when commenting on the patristic church and its understanding of God and revelation: 
As Creator, God is both radically other than his creation and positively related to it. The difference between God and world is such that creatures can only know God through his free self-revelation. Any attempt by creatures simply to infer the nature of the divine on the basis of creaturely realities will inevitably amount to a projection of created features onto the divine and will thus amount to a mythology (Athanasius).

i) That does address a genuine danger. When we extrapolate from creatures to God, there's a serious risk of failing to make due allowance for the disanalogies between God and creatures. Indeed, I think Grudem et al. are guilty of that. By the same token, I think Christians who infer eternal generation from fatherhood/sonship metaphors are equally guilty of the same error.

ii) That said, the Bible uses many theological models and metaphors for God that are drawn from creation. This presumes some degree of analogy between God and creatures. Although, in the order of being, God is prior–in the order of knowing, analogues drawn from the created order are a necessary bridge to forming concepts about God. Scripture itself does that all the time.

iii) So this becomes a question of theological method. Scripture makes statements about God's transcendent nature that delimit the boundaries of these theological metaphors.