Saturday, March 04, 2017

Modern Evidence For Jesus' Deity

Steve Hays recently wrote a post about the deity of Christ and the significance of Christianity's prevalence in the world. I want to supplement his comments by noting that modern prophecy fulfillment is a form of evidence for Jesus' divinity. And since it's modern evidence, it's not susceptible to some of the criticisms often brought against appeals to the gospels and other ancient sources. Jesus' fulfillment of the opening verses of Isaiah's Suffering Servant prophecy is an ongoing phenomenon. Even some of the initial stages of it, in the earliest centuries of Christianity (in which we have evidence for the simultaneous rejection of Jesus by most Jews and his widespread and rapidly growing influence on the Gentile world, including Gentile rulers), involves post-Biblical evidence that's significantly less susceptible to some of the objections critics cite against the Biblical documents. Some of the Old Testament passages Jesus has fulfilled, like Isaiah 9:1-7 and the Suffering Servant prophecy, are most reasonably taken as referring to a figure who's God. Jesus' fulfillment of such prophecies, part of which has occurred in the post-Biblical era, is evidence for his deity. We can make a strong case for the deity of Christ from Old Testament prophecy, without relying on Jesus' statements recorded in the gospels, Paul's teachings about Jesus' divinity, etc.

For more about the kinds of prophecies I have in mind and references to the deity of the person who fulfills the prophecies in some cases, see here, here, here, and here. Notice how these prophecies largely involve the figure's prevalence in the world and in history, which dovetails with what Steve wrote about in his post linked above.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Picking and choosing our piety

I'm going to comment on two critics of the church calendar, beginning with Carl Truman:

What perplexes me is the need for people from these other groups to observe Ash Wednesday and Lent. My commitment to Christian liberty means that I certainly would not regard it as sinful in itself for them to do so; but that same commitment also means that I object most strongly to anybody trying to argue that it should be a normative practice for Christians, to impose it on their congregations, or to claim that it confers benefits unavailable elsewhere. 

I agree with him that there's nothing normative about the church calendar. 

I also fear that it speaks of a certain carnality: The desire to do something which simply looks cool and which has a certain ostentatious spirituality about it. As an act of piety, it costs nothing yet implies a deep seriousness. In fact, far from revealing deep seriousness, in an evangelical context it simply exposes the superficiality, eclectic consumerism and underlying identity confusion of the movement.

In many cases, I'm sure that's true. 

The imposition of ashes is intended as a means of reminding us that we are dust and forms part of a liturgical moment when sins are 'shriven' or forgiven. In fact, a well-constructed worship service should do that anyway. Precisely the same thing can be conveyed by the reading of God's Word.

That's reductionistic. For instance, many miracles of Christ are enacted parables. In John's Gospel, for instance, miracles function as concrete illustrations of something Jesus said. A way to convey the same message twice in two different media: both by saying and by showing. 

Or take a cinematic adaptation of a novel. Trueman's objection is like saying the movie is superfluous: just read the novel. But because novels and movies are different media, even if both have the same plot, dialogue, characters, and setting, each has a distinctive benefit, if done executed

There's more to communication than propositions. There's nonverbal communication. The Mosaic cultus was a tableau of object lessons. 

An appropriately rich Reformed sacramentalism also renders Ash Wednesday irrelevant. Infant baptism emphasizes better than anything else outside of the preached Word the priority of God's grace and the helplessness of sinful humanity in the face of God.   

Which overlooks the fact that infants are oblivious to the theological significance of their baptism.  

It's that time of year again: the ancient tradition of Lent, kick-started by Ash Wednesday. It is also the time of year when us confessional types brace ourselves for the annual onslaught of a more recent tradition: that of evangelical pundits, with no affiliation to such branches of the church, writing articles extolling Lent's virtues to their own eclectic constituency. 

When Presbyterians and Baptists and free church evangelicals start attending Ash Wednesday services and observing Lent, one can only conclude that they have either been poorly instructed in the theology or the history of their own traditions, or that they have no theology and history. Or maybe they are simply exhibiting the attitude of the world around: They consume the bits and pieces which catch their attention in any tradition they find appealing, while eschewing the broader structure, demands and discipline which belonging to an historically rooted confessional community requires. 

American evangelicals are past masters at appropriating anything that catches their fancy in church history and claiming it as their own, from the ancient Fathers as the first emergents to the Old School men of Old Princeton as the precursors of the Young, Restless, and Reformed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer as modern American Evangelical. Yet if your own tradition lacks the historical, liturgical and theological depth for which you are looking, it may be time to join a church which can provide the same. 

Of course, that's part and parcel of Trueman's "Confessional Calvinist" schtick. What he fails to appreciate is that tradition is, itself, eclectic. Traditional theological packages are in some measure historical accidents. Take a Presbyterian package that includes Calvinism, covenant theology, infant baptism, amil/postmil eschatology, and presbyterian polity. Compare that to a Baptist package that includes Arminianism (plus eternal security), dispensationalism, credo baptism, premil eschatology, and congregational polity. But these are packages containing disparate elements. The elements comprising each package are logically independent of each other. You could disassemble each package, and recombine some elements from each into a third package. And the third package would be no more or less eclectic than the "traditional" packages. 

It isn't a choice between "picking and choosing" your piety or not picking and choosing your piety, but who does the picking and choosing. Trueman simply delegates the picking and choosing to his adopted theological ancestors. 

Now let's turn to Nick Batzig:

As Roland Barnes notes: 

"The Liturgical Calendar can be spiritually stunting insofar as it asks believers to suspend their living in the light of the finished work of Christ as they march along from incarnation to resurrection and ascension throughout the calendar. The Reformed observance of the weekly sabbath and the regular practice of expository, Christocentric preaching emphasizes that we are now living in the full realization of the finished work of Christ. Each Lord's Day we celebrate the fact that 'He is Risen!' We live each Lord's Day in the light of the triumph of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus."2

To prove this point, I'll share a story. A number of years ago, I was rebuked by a strict proponent of the Liturgical Calendar for preaching a passage of Scripture on the birth narrative on the first Sunday of Advent. His response to hearing that I had done so was, "Not yet!"

That's a good example in which tradition becomes a straightjacket. 

Alongside this phenomenon lies the ever present willingness of many professedly Protestant churches to embrace, either in part or whole, the liturgical calendar for the structuring of their worship services. One can see the apparent appeal. After all, many have suggested that the Liturgical Calendar offers a recognition of the organic unity of Scripture centered on the redemptive-historical nature of Christ's saving work and participated in through the corporate worship of God's people. But is this actually the case? Does the Liturgical Calendar enhance or undermine the redemptive historical nature of Christ's saving work? 

Not surprisingly, many Anglicans--at one and the same time–acknowledge the lack of biblical support for a liturgical calendar while insisting upon a pragmatic adaptation of it. For instance, N.T. Wright suggests:

"There is nothing ultimately obligatory for a Christian about the keeping of holy days or seasons. Paul warns the Galatians against adopting the Jewish liturgical calendar (Gal. 4:10)...However, many churches have found that by following the liturgical year in the traditional way they have a solid framework within which to live the Gospels, the Scripture and the Christian life. The Bible offers itself to us as a great story, a sprawling and complex narrative, inviting us to come in and make it our own. The Gospels, the very heart of Scripture, likewise tell a story not merely to give us information about Jesus but in order to provide a narrative that we can inhabit, a story we must make our own. This is one way we can become the people God calls us to be."1

While adherents of the liturgical calendar frequently insist that it aids our experience of the redemptive historical nature of Christ's work, the opposite actually proves to be the case. When we subject ourselves to a temporal recapitulation of Jesus' life and labors--from incarnation to baptism to wilderness testing to death to resurrection to ascension and to Pentecost--we end up undermining the full, rich implications of the once-for-all nature of that saving work. We run the risk of bifurcating the work of Christ. 

Sorry, but I think that's silly. It's like saying you only need to read the Gospels once. After all, the earthly life of Christ is a thing of the past. That's over and done with. Never look back! Even more retrograde is reading the OT! 

If anything, I think it would be a good idea to expand the church calendar. Suppose we had a rotating, three-year church calendar based on the plots of Matthew, Luke, and John. Each week would track and highlight a significant incident in the life of Christ, in roughly chronological order. It's good for Christians to make the plot of each Gospel a part of their mental furniture. To have a mental outline of what Jesus said and did in each Gospel. By the same token, it might be good to include some highpoints of OT history. 

In doing so, we can also illegitimately make the Gospel something that we do rather than something done by Christ for us and received by faith alone. 

Maybe some high-church Christians are guilty of that, but I don't see that observing a church calendar in itself fosters that mentality. Rather, it's basically a pedagogical device to internalize the story of the Gospels. 

“Pope Francis” faces credibility issues on clergy sex abuse

Pope Francis and Sex Abuse
Yes, these are the liberals who love “Pope Francis”. There’s trouble in paradise on the left, too:

The resignation of Marie Collins from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is a turning point in Pope Francis’ pontificate. It cannot be seen any other way. For all the hope and promise that we find in Francis and his vision for the church, we believe his pontificate teeters on the brink of failure on the issue of sexual abuse by the clergy.
For three and a half years, Francis has promised to take real action to bring accountability to the highest structures of the church and to help heal survivors. Now the commission he created to do that must confront serious questions about its credibility.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Did Jesus claim to be God?

A perennial question that some people raise is whether Jesus claimed to be God. The skepticism underlying the question is that while NT writers claim divinity for Jesus, that's not a claim he made for himself. In other words, he was just human, and a divine Jesus reflects legendary embellishment on the part of NT writers. 

Now, in one respect, I think the question is unimportant. I mean, if Jesus is God Incarnate, then we'd expect him to indicate that fact, but what I mean is that Jesus didn't write anything, so if someone is skeptical about the historicity of the Gospels or the NT generally, they will be just as dismissive of accounts in which Jesus claims to be God. They will say the Gospel writers put those words on Jesus' lips. So when the question has that frame of reference, it's futile to distinguish what Jesus said about himself from what NT writers said about Jesus. Since we don't have an autobiography of Jesus, there's no point attempting to prove to a "skeptic" that Jesus claimed to be God. If they distrust the historicity of the Gospels, they'd say statements attributed to Jesus are reducible to what the Gospels authors said about him rather than what he said about himself. To that extent, I think a "quest for the historical Jesus" that labors to isolate his statements from the narrator's statements is pointless. 

There is, though, a more interesting question. How would Jesus prove that he's divine? It's not enough to claim divinity. After all, some people claim to be God, but we typically dismiss them as crackpots. 

So it's less about Jesus saying he was God than Jesus showing he was God. Mind you, saying that he was God would help to prep the observer, but that needs to be reinforced by corresponding actions. Doing things that are associated with divine action.

However, that, of itself, is not without ambiguities. For instance, God is not the only agent who can perform miracles. 

Now normally, when a crackpot claims to be God, that doesn't pose a threat to the true religion since most folks don't take him seriously. Indeed, the claim itself is sufficient reason for them to discount him as either delusional or a charlatan.

If, however, a person made a credible claim to be God; if he garnered an enormous following; if, indeed, that became the dominant religion, then it would pose a threat to the true religion unless either the claimant is, indeed, what he claims to be, or else God intervenes to discredit him. 

Take the cliche of the blasphemer who dares God to strike him dead. Normally, there's no lightning bolt that calls his bluff. But that's because the garden-variety blasphemer is not that important. God won't give him the satisfaction. God can't be compelled. 

If, though, a religious impostor was so successful that he'd lead the faithful astray, then it's up to God to safeguard his name and to protect the faithful from mass deception and apostasy. The OT talks about how God is "jealous" about his name, which some readers might find a bit theatrical or egotistical, but it's in the context of heathen idolatry, where you had pagan religions holding humanity in their thrall. 

Debating transgenderism

There are two ways to argue against transgender accommodation policies: on the merits or procedural grounds. From what I've seen, conservatives routinely neglect the second approach and focus on the first. 

I think that's because transgender apologists typically frame the issue in moral terms (as they see it), and conservative critics typically respond to them on their own terms. Up to a point, there's nothing wrong with that, but there's the danger of failing to challenge a false premise. 

Secular progressives typically believe that if some group ought to be a protected class, if people ought to have a civil right, then the judiciary ought to discover that right in the Constitution, or the Executive branch ought to "interpret" preexisting law to extend legal protections to that new group. Secular progressives just assume that if something is a good idea (as they see it), then it's the duty of the courts or the Executive to make that a matter of public policy.

Problem is, that's diametrically opposed to our system of government. And it's not just a technicality. Empowering unelected bureaucrats with irrevocable job security to make social policy for the nation subverts popular sovereignty. That subverts the democratic process, according to which voters elect lawmakers to express the will of the electorate. And lawmakers are answerable to voters. Consent of the governed is predicated on rule by elected representatives who are ultimately accountable to the people who elected them.

Under our system of gov't, voters cede some power to the state, but it's a conditional grant of power. Voters can rescind it. Under our system of gov't, the Executive is not in the driver's seat, or the judiciary, or even the legislative branch, but the electorate.    

The alternative is a dictatorship in which unelected judges with lifetime tenure and unelected bureaucrats with lifetime tenure impose their social vision on the masses. 

Now, we should also challenge transgenderism on the merits, but my point is that, to some degree, that's a red herring. In principle, you could agree with the transgender claim on the merits, but still oppose bureaucrats in the Executive branch unilaterally rewriting statuary law through creative reinterpretations. If you think we need to create a new protected class, the proper procedure is to pass a new law. 

It's important for conservatives to challenge the conditioned mindset that if something is (supposedly) a good idea, then it's a good idea to circumvent the legislative branch and impose that on the nation by judicial or Executive fiat. 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Is consciousness an illusion?

From one atheist philosopher to another:

This is significant because the standard atheist paradigm is committed to physicalism. And if physicalism entails eliminative materialism (i.e. consciousness is an illusion), then that's a defeater for the standard atheist paradigm.

In principle, an atheist can be a substance dualist, platonic realist, or even an idealist, but atheists resist that for good reason. Physicalism, if true, automatically disproves Christianity at one stroke. No God, angels, demons, souls, precognition, or miraculous action at a distance. 

Conversely, opening the door a crack for discarnate minds is a divine foot in the door. 

Secret meeting with NeverTrumpers

Hearing voices

Some people claim that God has spoken to them in an audible voice. But how can you know that's the voice of God–or can you? 

For the record, I've never had this experience, so I'm not discussing this to defend an experience I had. 

Obviously, that's an issue which divides cessationists from continuationists. However, even if you're a cessationist, it's still a theologically or philosophically significant question inasmuch as many people in the Bible claim that God spoke to them. How could they tell? There are different ways we see and hear things in our mind's eye (or ear):  

1. In dreaming, that's involuntary, the product of our subconscious imagination. (Except for lucid dreams.) 

2. In silent reading, that's involuntary, but there's an external stimulus. Still, we know the "voice" is subjective.

3. I can consciously imagine a voice if I want to. For instance, I'm familiar with some opera singers, and I can imagine the sound of their voice. In that case it's voluntary, but still subjective. Based on my memory of what they sound like. 

I know it comes from me in part because I must put my mind to it to imagine something audible or visual. The moment I cease that mental effort, the effect ceases. 

4. But suppose, when I'm awake, I hear an audible voice where there's no external stimulus (pace [ii]) and which I didn't consciously, voluntarily summon (pace [iii)? Unless I'm psychotic, that must come from a supernatural agent. Same thing with visions. 

(1)-(4) are all psychological phenomena, but (4) requires a source external to myself.

5. Another question is how much authority we should ascribe to an audible voice. What's a person's responsibility to act on his experience? That poses a potential dilemma:

i) A divine revelation enjoys divine authority, especially insofar as it has directive force. Divine authority is the highest authority. The ultimate authority. To defy divine authority is superlatively culpable.

ii) But by the same token, to attribute divine authority to something without sufficient warrant is reckless or dangerous. To treat something as having divine authority, and act accordingly, as if it's divine revelation, if in fact that's not the case, is uniquely egregious precisely because you're ascribing supreme authority to something that doesn't merit that authority. Indeed, that usurps divine authority.

6. It also depends on what the putative revelation requires of us. If it's something that would normally be immoral or foolhardy, then I'd discount it. How much confidence we put in the divine source of the voice must be balanced by the content. But someone might object, what about the "sacrifice" of Isaac? Actually, I discussed that just recently:

But I'd like to make an additional point: Abraham lived at a much earlier stage of redemptive history, so he didn't have the same expectations or standard of comparison that we have. For instance, the Mosaic law forbids human sacrifice, but Abraham antedates the Mosaic law. Abraham had a heathen background, in which it would not be unusual for the gods to demand human sacrifice. Likewise, we know how the story ends (Gen 22). Abraham's viewpoint was prospective, but ours is retrospective. Therefore, we're entitled to certain reservations that he couldn't entertain. 

7. Someone might ask, aren't there situations where it's better to question your sanity than believe the audible voice? And I indeed grant that there are situations like that. Problem is, if you really are delusional, then you're in a poor condition to assess your soundness of mind! So there's a certain paradox, where you're more likely to question your sanity if you're in your right mind, and less likely if you're not! 

8. An audible voice differs from a revelatory dream. 

i) In general, nonverbal communication isn't true or false. So it can't be fallible or infallible. Propositions can be true or false, but images can't be. 

ii) There's a further distinction between theorematic dreams, where the future is depicted as it will happen, and allegorical dreams, where the future is depicted by an analogical scene. Dreams and visions may require interpretation. More so in the case of allegorical dreams.

iii) In addition, there may be a paradoxical quality to prophetic dreams. In other words, if you have a premonitory dream, it may seem like an ordinary dream at the time. It's only in hindsight, when the dream comes true, that you realize it was premonitory or revelatory. 

Suppose I'm scheduled to travel by plane today. Suppose, in an audible voice, that God, or who I take to be God (who else would it be?), tells me to skip my flight. Suppose I heed the admonition, and the plane I was scheduled to fly on crashes, killing all aboard. We'd only know that a dream "comes true" after the fact based on correspondence between the dream and reality. But that's true (or false) in a more roundabout way than a proposition. 

In the case of a theorematic dream, that would be "true" in the sense of photographical realism. Resemblance. An accurate visual depiction. The future unfolds just like you saw it in the dream. In the case of an allegorical dream, it's one step removed, with dissimilarities as well as similarities. 

9. In principle, even verbal revelation may not be true or false. To recur to my hypothetical, suppose an audible voice, with no visible source, tells me "Don't go"–when I'm about to hitch a taxi to the airport. 

A command or prohibition isn't strictly true or false. It doesn't assert or deny anything to be the case. 

Sign language can be equivalent sentences or propositions, because specific meaning is ascribed to particular gestures. Or, say, road signs. But that's different than the hypothetical case of a premonitory dream. 

10. In his autobiography, opera singer Jerome Hines claims that God sometimes spoke to him. Indeed, that was instrumental to his conversion. He was a scientifically trained atheist. When he first heard the audible voice, he demanded that it prove itself by doing certain things. Hines wanted to rule out hallucination. 

11. From a Christian standpoint, an audible voice needn't be God's. Other candidates include angels, demons, or ghosts. So that's another consideration in assessing the authority of the voice. I don't see how someone has a divinely-imposed responsibility to obey a  dream or audible voice if the divine pedigree of the ostensible revelation is ambiguous. Unless an ostensible revelation is unambiguously from God, it would be impious to give it your unconditional assent. 

Sex and gender

Gender realism/essentialism considers gender to be primarily a matter of biological sex, although there can be cultural variations in how to define, express, and encourage masculinity and femininity. Fundamentally nature with some nurture overlay. Gender nominalism views gender as a product of social conditioning. Nurture rather than nature. At least, those are the rough-cut definitions I'm using.

Another approach by the transgender lobby is to define gender as a psychological rather than physical condition. Gender is in your mind. There's a grain of truth to that, but it's supposed to be correlated with our bodies. Otherwise, it's delusional.

Since so many of the finespun distinctions which the transgender lobby draws are imaginary, the definitions are endlessly protean, since they're not constrained by biology, but ideology.

There's extensive anecdotal as well as sociological data that men and women stereotypically have distinctive interests and cognitive abilities. Overlap doesn't eliminate the distinctives. It just means men and women belong to the same natural kind: humans.

There's the feminist/transgender theory that it's all socially conditioned, but despite aggressive efforts to "level the playing field" and overcompensation, the stereotypical differences remain.

I've probably read two or three liberal writers who used to believe boys and girls were naturally psychologically interchangeable. The differences were due to sexist socialization. That's until they had kids of their own, and the stereotypical differences began to surface with a vengeance, so they changed their mind.

From  theological perspective, gender is grounded in God's natural design for manhood and womanhood. We could also add the possibility of naturally gendered souls. Indeed, I suspect that has a basis in fact. However, embodied experience in a male or female body will also have a conditioning effect on the mind or soul (I presume).

Muhammad on the psychiatric sofa, part. 1

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Deconstructing the regulatory state

The trans cult

The current system is stacked against boys. The cultural elite presents that girls can do whatever boys can do. To that extent I don't object to boys playing against girls, not because I think it's right, but because that's the best way to show it's wrong. The best way to expose the propaganda as bunk is to force the issue. Right now we have a double standard that discriminates against boys. With that disclaimer out of the way, here are three good recent treatments: 

Evolution is a channel, not a canal

I recently had an impromptu debate with an atheist on Facebook:

I've often read the claim that rape is about power rather than lust. How many rapists were interviewed? I've only seen that claim from feminists and feminists sociologists. At best, seems like a false dichotomy.

BTW, rape isn't confined to male rapists. Consider the Nazareth House scandal, involving nuns and orphaned girls under their care.

You attack Christian ethics. What's your alternative? Secular ethics? Is that your standard of comparison? If so, evolutionary ethics is a major secular alternative. And there are plenty of evolutionary biologists who claim that rape conferred a survival advantage.

You're a recruiter for the suicide cult of secularism. You wants to save us for moral nihilism, existential nihilism, and oblivion. What a deal! What a steal!

"Solipsism, your smart enough and evolved enough to know not to hurt others."

What if I'm a smart, highly evolved sadist? Virtue is boring. 

"pro social constructs such as empathy, us all knowing what it is like to be hurt."

But that's the fun part. I'm sadistic with impunity because I can always count on softheaded dupes like you not to treat me in kind. I'm a wolf in the puppy kennel. 

"We aren't even hurting each other for survival of the species, we do it over petty differences in our beliefs of non existent entities in the sky."

No sophisticated Christian believes that God actually lives in the sky. 

"As I understand it the 'sophisticated christian' view is that god is somewhat akin to an intangible ether that permeates everything?"

No, the sophisticated Christian view is that God subsists outside of space and time. "Omnipresence" is a spatial metaphor for the fact that God's knowledge and field of action aren't limited by space and time.

"how pathetic, this is what I mean when I say you are smart and evolved enough not to need this."

I can only do what my evolved brain tells me is real, and if my brain tells me God exists, then I was hardwired to believe it. Physicalism is such a bummer! Naturalistic evolution is such a bummer! 

"while we are on hypotheticals. Imagine there is an all powerful being in the sky. but it was all in your head. and people are killing each other over it."

And since, according to people like you, the mind is reducible to the brain, what's all in my head is indistinguishable from reality. Welcome to the secular Matrix! 

"hello keeper of the secular matrix I would have eaten the pill where there was no notion of a god but I had the wrong pill shoved down my throat since birth. The brain is not hardwired only from evolution, humans learn a remarkable amount during which they happen to be vulnerable"

Your social conditioning is filtered through your primate brain, which is the byproduct of a mindless evolutionary process.

"The mind is reducible to the brain/ nervous system etc is it not, if not then how?"

To take one analogy, brain is to mind as Virtual Reality machine is to operator. Or, if you prefer, as computer is to operator.

"I guarantee our species would do much better if we reinvested our military spending."

If only everyone was a pacifist. They're not. 

"Human reason is horribly unreliable"

You're certainly doing your best to illustrate that point through personal example.

"pro social constructs such as empathy, us all knowing what it is like to be hurt."

That's what makes sadism so enjoyable. Because I have firsthand knowledge of what physical and psychological suffering feels like, I know how to torture others.

A while back, Christian apologist David Wood debated atheist Michael Shermer. Shermer was appealing to empathy. 

Problem is, Wood is a diagnosed sociopath. He served time for a heinous crime. 

As he said in the debate, he has no natural empathy. He's not wired that way. 

And, of course, naturalistic evolution repudiates natural teleology, so you can't say he's defective. There is no way biological organisms are supposed to be. They're the product of the "blind watchmaker" (as Dawkins would say).

"As for penetrance of sociopathy in a population, that is a statistical matter, a lot of christians supported putting one in the white house however."

You mean progressive Christians who voted of Hillary?

"Biology is nothing but defective organisms doing the best in their environments."

"Defective" is a teleological concept. Means adapted to ends. Purpose. Foresight. Planning. Goal-oriented outcomes. Naturalistic evolution bans teleological explanations in nature.

"Steve, evolution is a very slow and uncertain process, but adaptation does occur towards a purpose, those which are less defective in the given environment have selective advantage."

You fail to grasp basic concepts. Naturalistic evolution is nonpurposive. The fact that certain adaptations have selective advantage doesn't mean it occurs "towards" (weasel word) a purpose. Rather, it's just that through dumb luck repetition, some things work. If you play horseshoes blindfolded, sooner or later you will ring a stake by accident. 

"Defective" is a normative concept. Naturalistic evolution has no room for that. It's just that some outcomes are incidentally advantageous to survival. Another example would be the way runoff creates water channels. That isn't purposeful. That's just a combination of gravity and terrain. 

Since you're hopelessly confused on this issue, let's elaborate on my illustration. Compare a canal to a natural water channel. Say engineers dig a canal to drain water. So the purpose of their canal is to drain water. 

Runoff naturally creates water channels by erosion. And once a water channel is established, runoff may naturally use that preexisting channel. 

Both the channel and the canal have the same effect, but only the canal has the function of draining water. A natural water channel has a direction, but no goal. Both the cannel and the canal may terminate in a body of water (lake, ocean), but that's not the purpose of the channel. It has no purpose. It doesn't drain water by design. The end-result is unintended. 

A water channel that fails to have an outlet isn't "defective". Rather, the combination of gravity and terrain causes runoff to go in different directions until it hits an outlet. 

Naturalistic evolution is like a channel rather than a canal.

"Are you guys talking from a position of acceptance of evolution, or from a creationist view?"

I've been discussing naturalistic evolution from the viewpoint of naturalistic evolutionists. I granted that for argument's sake, then began to point out the sceptical, nihilistic implications.

"I get it your analogy now, though it falls short in that 'your social constructs are filtered through your ape brain'. in the creationist view this is not the case because everything would have had to have been learnt. so what it means to be masculine is not innate as evolved, but as is shown."

You still haven't figured out that I'm not arguing from a creationist view but from a naturalistic evolutionary view. Just because, for all you know, I'm a Christian, doesn't mean I have to argue from my own viewpoint to argue for my own viewpoint or to argument against yours. I can assume the opposing viewpoint for the sake of argument, then explore the self-defeating consequences of that position.

Moreover, I don't know where you come up with the nutty notion that on a creationist view, masculinity and femininity must be acquired rather than innate. True, it's not Innate "as evolved". Rather, it's innate by design.

What Christian philosophers, theologians, Bible scholars, scientists, or even preachers have you read or heard? What's your frame of reference when you tell us what Christians believe?

"Steve, it's pretty all pervasive in our society the beliefs of Christians. I am not one because I understand it, not as you do as I choose not to mince words to make myself a comfortable narrative. I know it from what you lot write here with all its implicit judgements you will not acknowledge for fear of losing face. I'm telling you what your beliefs are without you bias. Surely with my own but you gotta at least know."

i) So that's your backdoor admission that you have no systematic knowledge of Christian theology. You haven't studied Christian philosophers, theologians, Bible scholars, &c. Instead, your understanding, if we can call it that, is ad hoc and hearsay. 

ii) Yes, you don't mince words when you presume to make uninformed pronouncements. That's why it's so easy to make mincemeat of your words. 

iii) For some odd reason, you think I'm supposed by impressed by your chest-thumping rhetoric. Sorry, but your intellectually hairless, anorexic performance leaves me undaunted. Keep the shirt on. Your fortune cookie wisdom ("fear of losing face") is a sorry substitute for reason and evidence.

You keep repeating your tendentious assertion that Christians believe in a nonexistent deity, as if your sophomoric pronouncement is supposed to carry weight in itself. 

I suspect your lifestyle selects for your atheism.

"No just trying to show a brother the light."

Your notion of "showing a brother the light" is the glowing lava at the bottom of the abyss.

"Steve please take the plunge, you can be saved."

Take the plunge! Dive into the bottom of the volcano!

Monday, February 27, 2017

"If I can't love Hitler, I can't love anybody"

Eric Reitan As AJ Muste said in an attempt to explain the nature of Christian love, "If I can't love Hitler, I can't love anybody."

Eric Reitan is a prominent pacifist, while Muste was a Marxist pacifist. However, this does encapsulate, in a dramatic way, how freewill theists conceptualize Christian love. So let's scrutinize the claim:

1. Clearly there's no logical contradiction in selectively loving some people rather than all people. If I love some people, but don't love other people, that's logically consistent. 

Notice I'm not making a value judgment on the propriety of that attitude. I'm just making the observation that this statement is false from a logical standpoint. 

2. Just as clearly, it's psychologically possible to selectively love some people rather than all people. And that's not just in principle. I daresay that's universal human experience. It's nonsense to say that if I can't love Hitler, then I can't love my parents or grandparents or siblings or spouse or kids or friends.

Notice, once again, I'm not making a value judgment on the propriety of that attitude. I'm just making the observation that this statement is false from a psychological and sociological standpoint. 

It's important to draw these distinctions in part because, in my experience, internet freewill theists are prone to indulge in virtue-signaling. They engage in self-congratulatory comparisons that have no basis in reality. Back-patting rhetoric. 

3. At best, then, the statement is mean to express an ideal. What ought to be the case.

And it's true that Scripture commands Christians to practice love in general. Love our neighbors. Love our enemies. 

4. That, however, also turns on the definition of love. Consider two candidates:

i) An emotion. Affection.

Certainly that's a valid definition of love, but is in applicable in this context? For instance, there are currently about 7 billion humans on the planet, but I don't have affection for most of them because I don't know that most of them exist. I don't know who they are. The figure is just an abstraction. I know that they exist in the sense that there must be that many individuals to comprise that total, but I don't know them all as individuals. I can't have the same affection for them that I have for someone I know. 

On that definition, not loving someone doesn't mean hating them. If I don't know you exist, I don't love you, hate you, like you, or dislike you. I have no feelings about you whatsoever. 

ii) An action. Acting in someone's best interest.

That's a common alternate definition. And I think it's often valid. 

That distinction makes it possible to distinguish affection from compassion. I don't have to have affection for someone to have compassion for someone. Compassion can be more abstract. Imagining myself in their situation. 

5. But in a fallen world, it isn't possible to love everyone in the sense of (4). I can't simultaneously act in Hitler's best interests and Jewish best interests, because those are diametrically opposed. Hitler posed an existential threat to Jews. I can love Hitler at the expense of Jews, or I can love Jews and the expense of Hitler, but I can't do both at the same time. Take the plot to assassinate Hitler. 

So this aphorism ("If I can't love Hitler, I can't love anybody") turns out to be an unwitting reductio ad absurdum not only of universalism but Arminianism. 

The conflict thesis

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Allen Ross on the OT

Some useful freebie material by evangelical OT scholar Allen Ross:

Plague of blood

15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 19 And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’”20 Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh's heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile 25 Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile (Exod 7:15-25).

A couple of preliminary points before I get to the main point:

i) Hebrew has the same word for blood and the color red. Therefore, it's prejudicial to say the Nile transmogrified into hemoglobin. 

ii) Some well-meaning people attempt to defend the historicity of the plagues by construing them naturalistically. But although some miracles employ natural mechanisms, some of the plagues are designedly discriminating in a way that defies a naturalistic explanation. The plague of blood is case in point. Consider v19. The implication is that the plague extended to water that was collected prior to the plague. There's no natural process by which water in separate containers could become contaminated after the fact. That's independent of what happened to the Nile. 

iii) V24 is intriguing. Unbelievers think Exodus is pious fiction. Even if they think it contains a kernel of historical truth, they believe it's mostly legendary embellishment. And the miracles are, from their perspective, paradigm examples of legendary embellishment. 

But why would a narrator writing pious fiction invent v24? Doesn't that circumvent the miracle? Even if it was understandable for Egyptians, in their desperation, to dig down to groundwater to find potable water, we wouldn't expect the narrator to let them succeed. Rather, if even water in containers was contaminated, we'd expect the groundwater to be contaminated. Why would the narrator invent that loophole? 

This is the kind of niggling detail that only makes sense if the account is factual. God allowed Egyptians to find drinkable water because it wasn't his intention to make all the Egyptians die of thirst. Rather, the point of the plague was to send a message: to show that Yahweh was the true God, a God with awesome control over natural forces and natural elements. A God who could best the Egyptian pantheon on their own turf. 

Perhaps the groundwater was naturally filtered. so that it escaped the effects of the plague. God didn't make the plague extend to groundwater. The miracle didn't impede the normal filtration process that purifies polluted surface water from potable groundwater. But that's a realistic detail you wouldn't expect if the account is pious fiction.