Saturday, June 24, 2017

Am I dying?


Choosing is paradoxical. In the nature of the case, choices are future-oriented. It's too late to make choices about the past. So we deliberate and decide with a view to the future.

However, our actions in striving to achieve the goal impact the very future we aim for. We're reaching for a goal, yet the act of reaching for the goal disturbs the goal. Like apple-bobbing, where the very effort to pick an apple pushes the apple way.  

So the future becomes a moving target. By perturbing the future, the future we end up with isn't the same future we began with. 

A tale of two journeys

Nicene subordinationism and unitarian subordinationism

The core of Clarke's subordinationism is as follows. Certain names or titles in the Bible, including “God”, always are nearly always refer to the Father, giving him a kind of primacy among the three. The word “God” is used in higher and lower senses, and in his view the former always refer to the Father. The God of Israel, the one true God, just is the Father of Jesus. Further, he is the main and the primary and ultimate object of Christian worship and prayer, and as the sole recipient of the highest kind of worship. In his view, the Son of God has all the divine attributes but one, that of existing a se that is, existing and not being in any sense derivative of or dependent on anything else. To the contrary, “The Father Alone is Self-existent, Underived, Unoriginated, Independent” (Clarke, Scripture, 123). It is contradictory to suppose that something has this property in any sense because of another thing. In his view the Son and the Holy Spirit (like the Son, a personal agent or self distinct from the Father) exist and have their perfections because of the Father. Both are functionally and ontologically subordinate to him, and in the Spirit is at least functionally subordinate to the Son. What sort of dependence relations are these? The Son and Spirit derive their being from the Father as from a “Supreme Cause”, but we are not to infer from this that the Father existed before them. The Bible doesn't enlighten us on the nature of this dependence relationship, but seems to presuppose that it always was (i.e., that infinitely back in time, the Son and Spirit existed in dependence on the Father). Thus, “Arian” subordinationists (see section 3.1 above) are speculating groundlessly when they say there was a time when the Son didn't exist. And if a “creature” must at some time begin to exist, then neither Son nor Spirit are creatures. Still, Clarke thinks that we should affirm with some of the early church fathers that this derivation of the Son from the Father is “not by mere Necessity of Nature, (which would be in reality Self-existence, not Filiation;) But by an Act of the Father's incomprehensible Power and Will” (141, original emphases). Clarke argues that the New Testament teaches the eternal existence of the Son, and that he is (co-) creator of the world.

1. What's striking about Clarke's position is how Nicene subordinationism and unitarian subordinationism (a la Clarke) share a common platform. There's not much difference. In both cases, the Father is the fons deitas. The Father is unoriginate while the Son is originate. The Son has divine attributes derivatively. 

We might say unitarian subordinationism is a modification of Nicene subordinationism or Nicene subordinationism is a modification of unitarian subordinationism. I'm referring to their logical relationship, not chronological relationship. 

That's one reason I reject Nicene subordinationism, The scheme is inherently unstable. A gateway drug to unitarianism. By contrast, I take the same position is B. B. Warfield, John Frame, John Feinberg, and Paul Helm (among others).

2. On a related note, it's common for Catholic apologists to claim that you can't derive the Trinity from Scripture alone. Orthodox Christology and Orthodox Trinitarianism are postbiblical developments. Only the authority of the church can bridge the gap.

It wouldn't surprise me if some modern-day unitarians are lapsed Catholics. They agree with Catholic apologists that the Trinity can only be warranted by the makeweight of the magisterium, but having lost confidence in "the Church", they lost confidence in the Trinity. So Catholic apologetics is another gateway drug to unitarianism. 

Don't Extraordinary Claims Need Extraordinary Evidence?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Kinder gentler Islam

During the debate between Robert Spencer and James White, White said:

The question becomes, if we're using laws of abrogation to come up with all of this type of interpretation to begin with, what do you do with the people that you live with today who look at the stories of Muhammed and they emphasize the stories when he was a minority prophet, when he himself was seeking religious freedom, upon what basis are those abrogated and if they do believe those things to be relevant to their faith today, do you say to them, you're not a true Muslim, or do you just simply say, well historically the large portion of your leaders in the past have not taken the same perspective that you have (21-22 min.)

Presumably, White is using that as a hypothetical example of how Muslims could legitimately develop a nonbelligerent version of Islam, given the range of sources available to them. Or perhaps he's appealing to his anecdotal experience of individual Muslims who actually say they take that approach. 

But there's a fundamental problem with his paradigm-case, because it plays straight into Spencer's argument that there's a progressive strategy in Islam: 

First phase:       tolerance, 
Second phase:  defensive jihad, 
Third phase:     offensive jihad 
(7-8 min.)

Muhammad's irenic message when he was a minority prophet was a tactical pose. When you're outnumbered by potential adversaries, you advocate religious freedom. You bide your time until you gain the upper hand. Once the balance of power shifts in your favor, you drop the pose and switch to jihad. Since that example is just a cynical stratagem, that's not a genuine alternative to the jihadist interpretation of Islam. To the contrary, that's a softening up exercise. Lulling potential adversaries into a false sense of security, then striking when it's too late for them to strike back. How does Muhammad's ruse de guerre present a genuine, irenic alternative to the jihadist tradition? It doesn't. Just the opposite.

Critical race theory

Arian and humanitarian unitarianism

To my knowledge, there are roughly two kinds of unitarians: Arians and humanitarian unitarians.

(In this post I'm excluding Muslim and Jewish unitarians.)

1. Arian unitarianism

Arians regard the Son as the first creature. God made the Son, and the Son made everything else. Arianism is dualistic. 

A tactical advantage of this position is that Arians can more easily accommodate many NT passages that describe the Son as preexistent. 

A serious disadvantage is that by making a creature God's all-purpose agent, they blur the difference between God and creatures. Everything the OT says about Yahweh is transferrable to the Son, even though the Son is merely a creature. A creature co-opting all the classic monotheistic texts. 

2. Humanitarian unitarianism

Humanitarian unitarians regard Jesus as merely human. He didn't exist at all priori his conception. Some humanitarian unitarians are physicalists. 

A tactical advantage of this position is that humanitarian Arians can more easily maintain a distinction between God and Jesus.

A serious disadvantage is that humanitarian unitarians must someone reinterpret all the NT passages pointing to the preexistence of Christ (e.g. John 1:1-5; 8:58; 12:41; 17:5; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:2,10-12; 

So unitarians face a conundrum regardless of which option they select. 

Memory wipe

In responding to universalist Thomas Talbott, Craig floated the hypothesis that God might wipe the recollection of lost loved ones from the memories of the saints.  That way, the saints could enjoy eternity, since they'd be oblivious the hellish fate of their lost loved ones.

I don't think there's anything necessary wrong with the idea that God might erase certain traumatic memories. However, in the case of parents, siblings, spouses, and kids, we're not talking about fairly isolated memories, but the time we spend with them day in and day out for decades. So many other memories are necessarily entwined with the life we shared in common. It would be like people with senile dementia who suffer from huge gaps in recalling their life. 

“The true danger for Catholics is bad Catholics”

From here:

The true danger for Catholics is bad Catholics


D.A. Carson writes the following in his book Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation (pp 161-165):

In 2 Corinthians 4:16–18, Paul writes, "Though outwardly [lit., in "the outer man"] we are wasting away, yet inwardly [lit., in "the inner man" - exactly the same expression as in Eph. 3:16] we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal." Paul's body, his "outer being," is wearing away under the onslaught of years and of persecution; the "inner being" is what is left when the outer man has wasted completely away.

Most of us in the West have not suffered great persecution, but all of us are getting older. In fact, sometimes we can see in elderly folk something of the process that Paul has in mind. We all know senior saints who, as their physical strength is reduced, nevertheless become more and more steadfast and radiant. Their memories may be fading; their arthritis may be nearly unbearable; their ventures beyond their small rooms or apartments may be severely curtailed. But somehow they live as if they already have one foot in heaven. As their outer being weakens, their inner being runs from strength to strength. Conversely, we know elderly folk who, so far as we can tell, are not suffering from any serious organic decay, yet as old age weighs down on them they nevertheless become more and more bitter, caustic, demanding, spiteful, and introverted. It is almost as if the civilizing restraints imposed on them by cultural expectations are no longer adequate. In their youth, they had sufficient physical stamina to keep their inner being somewhat capped. Now, with reserves of energy diminishing, what they really are in their inner being is coming out.

Even for those of us who are still some distance from being senior citizens, the restrictions and increasing limitations of the outer being make themselves felt. My body is not what it was twenty years ago. Every time I take a shower, a few more hairs disappear down the drain never to be seen again. I have arthritis in two or three joints; I have to watch my intake of calories; my reaction times are a little slower than they used to be; in a couple years I shall need reading glasses. And some day, if this old world lasts long enough, I shall waste away, and my outer man will be laid to rest in a hole six feet deep. Yet inwardly, Paul insists, in the inner being, we Christians "are being renewed day by day."

The Christian's ultimate hope is for the resurrection body. But until we receive that gift, it is our inner being that is being strengthened by God's power. In a culture where so many people are desperate for good health, but not demonstrably hungry for the transformation of the inner being, Christians are in urgent need of following Paul's example and praying for displays of God's power in the inner being. In short, Paul's primary concern is to pray for a display of God's mighty power in the domain of our being that controls our character and prepares us for heaven...

Picture a couple carefully marshaling enough resources to put together a down-payment. They buy their house, recognizing full well that it needs a fair bit of work. They can't stand the black and silver wallpaper in the master bedroom. There are mounds of trash in the basement. The kitchen was designed for the convenience of the plumber, not the cook. The roof leaks in a couple of places, and the insulation barely meets minimum standards. The electrical box is too small, the lighting in the bathroom is poor, the heat exchanger in the furnace is corroded. But still, it is this young couple's first home, and they are grateful.

The months slip past, then the years. The black and silver wallpaper has been replaced with tasteful pastel patterns. The couple has remodeled their kitchen, doing much of the work themselves. The roof no longer leaks, and the furnace has been replaced with a more powerful unit that also includes a central air conditioner. Better yet, as the family grows, this couple completes a couple of extra rooms in the basement and adds a small wing to serve as a study and sewing room. The grounds are neatly trimmed and boast a dazzling rock garden. Twenty-five years after the purchase, the husband one day remarks to his wife, "You know, I really like it here. This place suits us. Everywhere we look we see the results of our own labor. This house has been shaped to our needs and taste, and I really feel comfortable."

When Christ by his Spirit takes up residence within us, he finds the moral equivalent of mounds of trash, black and silver wallpaper, and a leaking roof. He sets about turning this residence into a place appropriate for him, a home in which he is comfortable. There will be a lot of cleaning to do, quite a few repairs, and some much-needed expansion. But his aim is clear: he wants to take up residence in our hearts, as we exercise faith in him.

When people take up long-term residence somewhere, their presence eventually characterizes that dwelling. The point was well understood by Jean Sophia Pigott when in 1876 she wrote a poem addressed to Jesus...

Make my life a bright outshining
Of Thy life, that all may see
Thine own resurrection power
Mightily put forth in me.
Ever let my heart become
Yet more consciously Thy home.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Truth decay

I'd like to make another point about the debate between Spencer and White:

White repeated a couple of things he's said on several occasions:

i) Due to inconsistencies in early sources of Islam, as well as alternative interpretive grids, there is no one true expression of Islam. Every version of Islam is an artificial package in which some traditions are arbitrarily prioritized at the expense of others.

ii) Apropos (i):

When someone yells "Allahu akbar", yes, you need to recognize that this person is claiming an Islamic understanding of what they're doing, but then you also have to be honest and go look when a Christian does something, don't we want to be able to ask the question how much this person really know, how well studied were they, what perspective are they coming from…we want to have that kind of freedom and we need to extent that freedom to the other side (31-32 min.)

But there's a fundamental flaw in that comparison: his argument from analogy only works if White goes onto say there's no one true expression of Christianity. Hence, an adherent of one Christian tradition may credibly and justifiably disassociate himself from words or actions by adherents of other Christian traditions on the grounds that their behavior or theological interpretation doesn't reflect his own faith-tradition. 

Problem is, that's theological relativism. On that view, divergent theological traditions within church history are like poker games: Omaha, Taxas hold'em, and Seven-Card Stud are all poker games. None is more authentic than the others. Each plays by different rules.

Likewise, that would amount to saying Arianism, Arminianism, Gnosticism, Catholicism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, Mormonism, Swedenborgianism et al. are simply different expressions of Christianity, none is more or less true than the others. 

But White wants to be able to say more than just "Don't blame me for the priestly abuse scandal–because that doesn't represent my own faith tradition!" (for example). He wants to take a far stronger position. He wants to be able to say that some Christian traditions are much truer than others. That there's an absolute standard of comparison. And along the spectrum of truth and falsehood, Roman Catholicism (to take one example) suffers from many fundamental falsehoods. So his analogy is vitiated by equivocation, because the parallel breaks down at the critical point of comparison. 

A Conditional Problem for Adherents of Universal Divine Love

Handicapping the Spencer/White debate

I'd like to comment on the recent radio debate between Robert Spencer and James White, hosted and moderated by Michael Brown:

1. The larger context of this debate is the current political situation in the Mid-East, Africa, Europe, the UK, and the USA, where Muslims are a source of violence and oppression. Apologists for Islam claim that critics are misrepresenting Islam. 

The burning question is whether the very nature of Islam is the source of the problem. Does Islam pose an existential threat to Jews, Christians, and democratic societies?

Is terrorism an authentic expression of Islam? Indeed, a more authentic expression of Islam?

2. One weakness of the debate was a myopic focus on terrorism or jihad. But that's not the only expression of Islamic violence. You also have honor killings, gang-rape, &c. 

3. White takes the position that Islam can develop in tolerant as well as intolerance directions. No particular development is more authentic or legitimate than another. In addition, he said his aim is to reach people where they are, reach them with what their beliefs are rather than enforce something on them.

Let's take a comparison: both Catholicism and Mormonism have undergone dramatic development. But certain kinds of development are inconsistent with the prophethood of Joseph Smith. There comes a point at which an intellectually honest Mormon should stop tweaking the Mormon paradigm and admit the paradigm is fundamentally flawed because Joseph Smith was a charlatan.

Likewise, there comes a point at which an intellectually honest Catholic must admit that post-Vatican II theology can't be squared with a divine teaching office. What we have is not a continuous logical development, but a dramatic break with the past. Compare the Pius IX's Syllabus of Errors, positions taken by the BPC under Leo XIII, or Pius X's Oath Against Modernism, with subsequent positions. Compare Unam Sanctam (ratified by two ecumenical councils) with subsequent positions. Compare the Tridentine anathemas with subsequent developments. 

Protestant apologists rightly point out that these developments are illegitimate in the sense of sabotaging the notion that the Roman Magisterium enjoys special divine guidance and protection from serious error. 

Presumably, James White agrees with that. By parity of argument, certain developments in Islam would be incompatible with the prophethood of Muhammad. There's a point beyond which you can't keep tweaking the same paradigm. If the paradigm needs that much tweaking, then that's a flawed paradigm from the get-go. You need to scrap the paradigm. White either believes that Islam raises parallel issues or not. Does he take a different approach to Islam than Catholicism or Mormonism? 

4. White said Spencer's approach can lead to one of two things. Do we want to actually try to argue to Muslims that to be a true Muslim you need to become violent?

i) We need to distinguish between pragmatics and principle. People can relieve a dilemma in one of two directions. It's better that Muslims be inconsistent than consistent. 

ii) However, Christian apologists routinely take an opposing position to a logical extreme as a wedge tactic. Consider atheism. Christian apologists routinely contend that consistent atheism is logically committed to moral and existential nihilism. In theory, an atheist could be persuaded by the argument, then choose the nihilistic horn of the dilemma. Do we want an atheist to become a psychopathic killer? No.

But surely White doesn't think we should avoid pressing an atheist on the logical consequences of atheism. How else can we argue against atheism?

5. White said he can't look into people's hearts and minds to divine their intentions. True, but so what? In many situations, we're entitled to draw reasonable inferences about people's motivations. That's unavoidable. White is a culture warrior. He routinely comments on the ideology that's driving secular progressive and social justice warriors. 

6. White suggested that Spencer's position is inconsistent because Spencer is skeptical about the existence of the historical Muhammad. 

i) Spencer responded by comparing Muhammad to Macbeth. A fictional character can have a clearly identifiable profile. 

ii)  In addition, there's an elementary distinction between an outsider's perspective and an insider's perspective. Historians, philosophers, and Christian apologists are supposed to practice critical detachment. They have their own view of an ideology or religion, but they may also adopt the opposing viewpoint for the same of argument to evaluate it from the inside out. 

Obviously, Spencer doesn't have the same view of Islam that devout Muslims do. But the question at issue is how Muslims view Muhammad. Assessing Islam on its own terms. The inner logic of Islam given Muslim presuppositions. Even if Spencer thinks Muhammad is a legendary figure, Muslims do not. 

7. Is there a presumption in favor of taking Muslim disclaimers at face value? Do Muslims engage in dissimulation? White cited the example of Yasir Qadhi. That, however, raises the question of whether White is being played by Qadhi. For instance:

Unitarian body-snatchers

Continuing my response to a hapless unitarian:

Given that these beings are called gods, and they were called “god” by Yahweh, the word of God came (γνετο—it’s the aorist tense, meaning this happened in the past) to them…

That's a popular misunderstanding of the aorist. 

The aorist-tense form predominates in narrative or when events are spoken of as complete….Although it is often used in contexts where an English past tense (e.g., "he want," "she bought") is required in translation, it is not limited to an English past tense. Sometimes the aorist tense is used to refer to present action, general truisms, or even timeless truths…More important is how the aorist tense-form depicts the event from the standpoint of the speaker or writer as a complete event. Stanley Porter, Jeffrey Reed, & Matthew Porter, Fundamentals of New Testament Greek (Eerdmans, 2010), 38-39.

Evidently, Montero hasn't studied verbal aspect theory. 

In “the father is one” … a phrase that doesn’t come up at all; anytime the Shema is invoked it uses the actual language of the Shema (God and Lord); so you’re speaking hypothetically about something which didn’t happen and thus can’t really be a frame of reference. 

Why can't hypothetical cases furnish a frame of reference?

However even so, the “one” in the phrase “the Father is one” would be the masculine ες, and refer not to “unity”, but rather to what it means in the Shema, a Unique personal identity, Yahweh is one, he alone is the God of Israel, that’s what it means. In John 10:30 “one” is the neuter ν and refers NOT to unique personal identity but to unity—thus the word doesn’t mean the same thing, it’s in a different form and has a different meaning. So no, it doesn’t evoke the Shema at all, because not one word is the same, and the one word that IS the same is in a different form and has a completely different meaning.

i) Since Deut 6:4 wasn't written in Greek, why does Montero insist that a Greek translation must use a particular synonym for "one"?

ii) Moreover, is he suggesting that ες means "unique personal identity"?

Why wouldn’t the Unitarian interpretation provoke that reaction? How many first/second century messianic pretenders died violent deaths? I have the answer, all of them.

Is Montero suggesting they were all executed on a charge of blasphemy? 

You’re assuming by the way that they are saying he makes himself “God” and not “a god” …. There is nothing in the text to warrant that assumption.

Here's a unitarian dilemma. On the one hand, they say the anarthrous construction means "a god" rather than "God". And they say that's not blasphemous because it's is used in the OT for human kings as well as angels. On the other hand, the Jewish establishment accused Jesus of blasphemy, even though, on the unitarian interpretation, that's not blasphemous. 

They ended up killing him for claiming he was the “son of man” (never interpreted in Judaism as being Yahweh), so there are plenty of reasons.

Actually, they convict him of blasphemy for calling himself the "son of God". 

If Jesus said he was from the Father, the unique agent of the Father, and that he was the Christ—and then he was contradicting what the religious leaders said, is it a surprise they wanted to kill him? Is it a surprise that someone who they thought of as a heretic who claimed to be the messiah and speaking on behalf of God would be seen by his enemies as committing blasphemy?

That's quite surprising–indeed, highly incongruous–on unitarian assumptions. On the unitarian interpretation, there's nothing heretical about those messianic claims. So there's this internal contradiction in the unitarian explanation of the Jewish allegation. 

Right but John was written in Greek and it quoted the LXX when it quoted the Hebrew Bible. 

I don’t really understand your point here, why then do the gospel writers constantly use the LXX in regards to scripture quotations? 

Where does Montero come up with that notion? For instance, in his standard commentary on the Greek text, Nolland documents how often Matthew, when quoting the OT, translates straight from the Hebrew text, producing translations that are independent of the LXX. Cf. J. Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans, 2005), 29-33.

Likewise, Keener says:

John's eclectic use of Hebrew and LXX text-types suggests either knowledge of Hebrew or a memorized, strongly Palestinian tradition. C. Keener, The Gospel of John (Hendrickson, 2003), 1:173.

Montero is overgeneralizing about use of the LXX in the Gospels. 

Everything attributed to Jesus you claim necessitates him being Yahweh in the flesh was also attributed to figures in the OT. Hebrews talks about how Moses took Israel out of Egypt, countless passages in the OT say that it was only Yahweh who took them out of Egypt—does that mean Moses is Yahweh? No. The OT says salvation only comes from Yahweh, yet it calls various kings and judges saviors of Israel, are they Yahweh? Common now.

Here's another central dilemma for unitarians. On the one hand, they vehemently deny that Jesus is Yahweh. On the other hand, when the NT repeatedly attributes Yahwistic claims to Jesus, they say that's possible because an agent can act on Yahweh's behalf. Ironically, their creaturely Jesus becomes interchangeable with Yahweh because there's nothing left to distinguish Jesus from Yahweh. Everything the OT says about Yahweh to set him apart from false gods is transferrable to Jesus. If a creature can always step into Yahweh's shoes, then there's nothing uniquely divine about Yahweh. Let's take a few examples:

i) Yahweh is the Creator of the world

This is one of the defining features of OT theism that differentiates the true God from false gods. The foundational text is Gen 1, yet Jn 1 identifies Jesus as the Creator God of Genesis.

Another striking example is Ps 102, which depicts the God of Israel as the eternal, preexistent Creator of the world. Yet Heb 1:10-12 identifies the Son as the Creator God of Ps 102. 

ii) Yahweh is the eschatological judge

This is another defining feature of OT theism that differentiates the true God from false gods. Jer 17:10 is a good example. Not only does that describe Yahweh's role as the eschatological judge, but what qualifies Yahweh to exercise that prerogative is his omniscience. 

Yet Rev 2:23 ascribes this passage to Jesus. Not only does Jesus assume the role of eschatological judge, but he can discharge that role because he enjoys the divine attribute of omniscience.

iii) Yahweh is the first and last

That occurs in a locus classicus of OT monotheism (Isa 41:4; 44:6, & 48:12). That's a distinction which demarcates the true God from false gods. Yet that's applied to Jesus in Rev 22:13.

iv) Obeisance proper to Yahweh

In a locus classicus of OT monotheism, Isa 45:23 describes the obeisance due to Yahweh alone. Yet that's applied to Jesus in Phil 2:9-11. 

v) Vision of Yahweh

Isa 6:1-5 describes Isaiah's overwhelming vision of Yahweh's incomparable holiness and glory. Yet Jn 12:41 says Isaiah actually saw the Son on that occasion. 

vi) The Shema 

Deut 6:4 is the fundamental creed of OT monotheism. Yet 1 Cor 8:6 is a binary Shema making the Father "God" of the Shema and Jesus "Lord" of the Shema. 

Unitarianism is like Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, where Jesus replicates everything that makes God God. He is said to be a creature, yet he's a duplicate of God. 

Jesus is distinguished from Yahweh, Yahweh acts THROUGH Jesus, not vice-versa

Once again, appealing to agency to salvage unitarianism is self-defeating. In that event, Yahweh is not the Creator of the world. At best God made one creature, and the first creature made everything else. Yahweh is not the eschatological judge. That's delegated to a creature. Yahweh is not the recipient of unique obeisance. That's reassigned to a creature. And so on and so forth. Unitarianism strips Yahweh of everything that makes him Yahweh. A creature co-ops every Yahwistic role, attribute, and prerogative.  

So those to “whom the word of God came” are called gods, does that mean that the readers of the prologue are called gods? 

John's readers aren't characters in Ps 82, so that's a non sequitur. 

Also the “distinction” between Yahweh and the other gods of Psalms 82 is that the other gods die … Jesus died, if that was Jesus’s point then that’s a very contradictory point.

On the mythopoetic interpretation, the gods in Ps 82 don't actually die since they don't actually exist. That's a satirical fiction.

Outer darkness

Jesus uses "outer darkness" (Mt 8:12; 22:13; 25:30) as one of the images for hell. What is that image supposed to conjure in the minds of readers?

The light/darkness, inside/outside contrast may trade on the metaphor of a fortified city. If you arrive after the city gates close at night, you will be stuck outside. You will be exposed to the elements as well as the dangers associated with the night (e.g. nocturnal predators). 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

James White v. Robert Spencer: Is True Islam Always Violent Islam?

During second hour, Michael Brown hosts a debate between James White and Robert Spencer:

“Pope Francis” Brings Doctrinal Anarchy, Leads People Astray

“Pope Francis” Brings Doctrinal Anarchy
“Pope Francis” Brings Doctrinal Anarchy
The National Catholic Register is probably one of the most mainstream Roman Catholic publications that there is in the US. No one can claim that it’s either liberal or progressivist. They are purely the milquetoast EWTN Catholics. And now they have come out with the headline “Doctrinal Anarchy” in association with the fact that Bishops’ conferences around the world are coming up (as “Pope Francis” intended) with conflicting “interpretations” of the Amoris Laetitia statement.

Since the publication last year of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family Amoris Laetitia, a “doctrinal anarchy” that was feared and predicted at the synods on the family is becoming apparent.

Belgium’s bishops have become the latest to read the exhortation as giving — under certain conditions but with an emphasis on the primacy of conscience — access to the Sacraments for some civilly remarried divorcees without an annulment.

They follow the bishops’ conferences of Malta, the Philippines and Germany, as well as some bishops from other countries who have issued similar guidelines and statements for interpreting Amoris Laetitia’s controversial Chapter 8.

By contrast, Poland’s bishops’ conference last week became the first national conference to declare that Amoris Laetitia has not changed Church doctrine on Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried, and that they continue not to have access to the Sacraments as the Church considers them to be living in an objective state of adultery.

I found this article (and a related one) among Jerry Walls’s Facebook posts. Regarding the “doctrinal anarchy”, he asks the question, “are conservative Roman Catholics now accusing their own Church of what they normally accuse Protestants?”

One writer there, Mark Daviau (a recent “Catholic Convert” who seems to be representative of such folks), apparently gave a response to the effect that “It’s no big deal; the pope wasn’t speaking ex cathedra and no dogma was changed”. For many Roman Catholic converts, this is their stock-in-trade. For them, the fact that “Roman Catholic Dogma” is not changed, is 100% of the reason for their “faith in the Church”. Nothing else matters. Never mind it is the case that Rome adds layer upon layer of obfuscation as time goes on, which, in reality, does change Roman Catholic dogma.

As Raymond Brown has said, “Essential to a critical interpretation of church documents is the realization that the Roman Catholic Church does not change her official stance in a blunt way. Past statements are not rejected but are requoted with praise and then reinterpreted at the same time” (Raymond E. Brown, “The Critical Meaning of the Bible,” New York, NY: Paulist Press ©1981, Nihil Obstat and Imprimitur, pg 18 fn 41).

Francis Beckwith, the took issue with this, noting (as in the screen capture nearby), that the real issue is (assuming Rome’s definition of “marriage” is correct) that Amoris Laetitia allows people to live with sin that’s equally as culpable as if they were to “watch pornography and miss Mass” on Sundays (both mortal sins if done with the knowledge that they are such).

What “Pope Francis” seems to be doing is creating a public mood in which, more and more Roman Catholics accept the practice, leading to a situation in which the sensus fidelium is that such things are all right. Some years down the road, some other pope or council will then recognize this practice as being part of “The Tradition” – the old doctrine will be “requoted with praise and reinterpreted at the same time” to give the appearance that it was always a part of Roman teaching. It existed in the teaching of the Apostles in “seed form”.

This is the same way that the Marian dogmas of 1854 (“Immaculate Conception”) and 1950 (“Assumption of Mary”) were given credibility.

"From Sleep Paralysis to Spiritual Experience: An Interview with David Hufford"

From Sleep Paralysis to Spiritual Experience: An Interview with David Hufford by John W. Morehead.

David Hufford has been pursuing research on the "Old Hag" sleep paralysis phenomenon for quite some time. Perhaps his best-known work on this is The Terror That comes in the Night: An Experience-Centered Study of Supernatural Assault Traditions (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press; 2nd ed, 1989). Hufford joined the faculty of the Penn State College of Medicine in 1974 in the Department of Behavioral Science. When he retired in 2007 he held a University Professorship and was chair of the Department of Humanities with appointments in Departments of Neural and Behavioral Science, Family & Community Medicine, and Psychiatry. Hufford is now University Professor Emeritus at Penn State College of Medicine, Senior Fellow for Spirituality at the Samueli Institute, and Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Hufford is also a founding member of the Editorial Boards of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing and Spirituality in Clinical Practice.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Placement, order, and dating of Pauline epistles

Philando Castile

I've seen mixed reaction to the Philando Castile verdict:

i) I don't have an informed opinion to offer. I didn't follow the case. There are about 1000 fatal police shootings every year. Obviously I don't have time to investigate them. And since I don't have time to investigate all of them, or most of them, or many of them, why should I only follow the ones that the "news" media decides to cover? The "news" media only covers the story when a white cop kills a black "suspect". So I have no obligation to have an informed opinion about police shootings in general. 

ii) Mind you, it's good that some conservatives are well-read on sensational cases. That's necessary to correct a popular and damaging narrative. So I'm not criticizing conservatives who focus on that. But it's not where I put my time.

iii) Pressure groups like Black Lives Matter are counterproductive. Because they, along with the liberal media, are so scurrilous, I think some conservatives overreact. They feel the need to compensate by backing whatever the police do. That's understandable, but misguided.

iv) Some cop shootings are justified while other cop shootings are unjustified. There's no abstract presumption that a cop shooting is justified or unjustified. That can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

v) I suspect many Americans automatically side with police because they fear the criminal element more than the fear police. Once again, that's understandable, but morally indefensible.

vi) Some conservatives regard the Philando Castile verdict as a miscarriage of justice, and they may be right. What this shows you is that contrary to the liberal stereotype, you have principled white conservatives who welcome the opportunity to side with blacks. Just give them something they can defend. Give them a good example. 

Twilight of the gods

Unitarian Roman Montero has attempted another response to me:

So tell me what your argument is for asserting that Jesus is alluding to the Shema.

Several reasons. For instance:

i) Suppose Jesus said "The Father is one". Even unitarians would recognize an allusion to the Shema. After all, they think the Father is Yahweh. So "the Father is one" would be equivalent to "Yahweh is one". How could that fail to evoke the Shema? If so, what about "the Father and I are one"?

ii) You have the reaction of the Jews, who prepare to stone Jesus (v31). What would provoke that reaction? If they sense that Jesus has made himself the Lord of the Shema, that would explain their indignation. That's reinforced by v34: "we are going to stone you for blasphemy because you, being a man, make yourself God." If they take his statement in v30 to reference the Shema, where he audaciously incorporates himself into the Shema, their reaction makes perfect sense–since they think he's just a man. By contrast, the insipid unitarian interpretation would not provoke that reaction. 

iii) Finally, I don't interpret this pericope (Jn 10:22-39) in isolation. Rather, this is a resumption of an ongoing debate between Jesus and the Jewish establishment, beginning in chap 2 (e.g. vv19-21). It escalates to a breaking point in passages like 5:17-18 and 8:55-59, as well as here, where, not coincidentally, Jesus makes Yahwistic claims. So I construe Jn 10:30 as another case in kind. 

Now, I understand Jesus and his enemies were not speaking Greek; but I don’t have the original Aramaic text and neither do you, what we have is what John gave us.,,Claiming that ν in John 10:30 means something different then ες in the Shema (the former being conceptual and latter being individual) only proves my point.

i) Needless to say, Deut 6:4 doesn't use ες. Deut 6:4 was written in Hebrew, not Greek. This is Montero's predicament. He keeps leaning on a distinction that only exists in Greek, yet Deut 6:4 wasn't written in Greek, and the conversation in Jn 10:22-39 wasn't conducted in Greek.  

ii) It's hardly unusual for NT speakers and writers to paraphrase OT verses or offer interpretive summaries. 

The question was about whether or not Jesus was the Christ, not whether or not Jesus was Yahweh Incarnate.

Montero is constitutionally unable to engage the argument. What does it mean to be messiah? What are the properties and prerogatives of messiah?  

If verse 30 is an allusion to the Shema, how does it fit with the rest of the text? The entire point of the rest of Jesus’s answer is that he perfectly obeys his father and does the work of his father—because his father’s sheep have been given to him by the Father. This makes sense if the question he is answering is the actual question asked him i.e. are you the Messiah—it makes no sense if he decided to answer another question about whether or not he is Yahweh incarnate.

i) Where does the imagery of Jn 10:27-28 come from? Let's compare two passages:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (Jn 10:27-28).

7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice... (Ps 95:7).

Notice the specific parallels. Jn 10:27-28 is directly modeled on Ps 95:7. Yet in Ps 95, Yahweh is the shepherd. This means Jesus is reprising the role of Yahweh. So vv27-28 are a prooftext for the deity of Christ.

ii) Of course, a unitarian will say, no, that just means Jesus is Yahweh's agent. But that strategy is self-defeating. If a mundane agent can assume all of the roles of Yahweh, then there's no differential factor distinguishing the creature from Yahweh. Everything the OT says about Yahweh, to differentiate Yahweh from false gods, is take over by messiah. 

Here’s the point, instead of just making a claim, for goodness sakes—Make an actual argument for your claim.

Montero wouldn't know an argument if it slapped him in the face.

Let’s move on to the accusation and Jesus’s response. You assume two things here: that the opposers are claiming that Jesus calls himself Yahweh, the text doesn’t say that, it only says that they accuse him of making himself god (which can mean a number of things)

It can't mean number of things in the context of stoning a speaker for blasphemy. 

and that their accusation is valid—there is absolutely no reason we should think that the opposers understand Jesus correctly, or are making a valid accusation; all over the place in John the opposers misunderstand Jesus and slander him, why should we assume that in this one place they are perfectly lucid, rational and correctly understand Jesus and are correctly applying the Jewish law? It makes no sense to just assume that.

I don't just "assume" that. Rather, I notice how often Jesus reinforces their interpretation of his claims and actions. 

As for the title “son of God”. First of all, they considered it blasphemous for him to invoke Psalms 110:1 and Daniel 7:13–14 for himself, not to call himself the “son of God” (if that were a divine title, then all the angels, King David, King Solomon, Adam, and so on would all be Yahweh). 

That's so simplistic:

i) It's necessary to distinguish between the connotations of the singular and the plural. 

ii) It's necessary to take the context into consideration. How do normative characters and foil characters in the narrative respond?

iii) It's necessary to consider how usage varies from one Bible writer to another. For instance, John doesn't call Christians "sons of God". John reserves that appellation (in the singular) for Jesus. He uses a different term for Christians. 

Second of all the text doesn’t tell us why it is blasphemous, it could be any number of things: if could be that he used the divine name out loud (which would explain why Matthew replace Mark Yahweh, not with κριος, as would be normal, but with δύναμις), it could be that they thought it blasphemous that someone who they considered unrighteous or unworthy would call himself God’s messiah, it could be that it was (gasp) a false charge, it could be any number of things.

Montero is casting decoys hither and yon to deflect attention away from the fact that the Gospels specify the words and actions of Jesus that his enemies found blasphemous. 

Also, what I consider to be blasphemous or not (Jesus being a god, in the sense of a divine creature) has no bearing on what the opponents of Jesus considered to be blasphemous.

I appreciate his concession that unitarian interpretations have no bearing on the issue at hand. 

So how about Jesus’s reply. So in your reading is this supposed to be a historical account? If yes then how on earth does you reading make sense? So Jesus, in your reading, responded to a charge of blasphemy by citing Psalms 82, and then saying “those to whom the word of god came were called ‘god’” and in saying that he was citing the prologue of John—which didn’t exist yet, by the time it was written almost everyone in that conversation would have been dead—but then saying that they are called gods? I still don’t understand your exegesis, where in Jesus’s reply is any thing regarding the not-yet-written prologue? 

i) Montero suffers from severe reading incomprehension. Did I say Jesus was citing the Prologue? No. In fact, I denied that. 

ii) What does "the word of God" refer to in this verse? It's a standard hermeneutical procedure to look for comparable usage in the same book when you wish to know what an author meant by a particular phrase. And, indeed, the Prologue is an interpretive guide for readers. That's why the narrator introduces his Gospel with that programmatic statement. 

iii) By contrast, people within the historical account found out who Jesus really is by seeing him and hearing him. They experience the truth of the Prologue. Is that such a foreign concept to Montero? 

Who are the god’s he is referring to? In Psalms 82 they are divine beings; to whom the word of God came (God was speaking to them in Psalms 82, it doesn’t matter who the text was written for, in the text God’s word came to them).

i) On one interpretation, Ps 82 is a satirical reference to the Canaanite pantheon. Polemical theology. 

On another interpretation, these are national guardian angels. That's a later Jewish gloss. A pious midrash. I think some Jews were uncomfortable with any suggestion that heathen deities exist. They had a tin ear for the satirical tone of Ps 82. 

On another interpretation, the "gods" are human (Jews). That's based in part on the fact that the "gods" in Ps 82 are mortal. However, in pagan mythology, the gods are not indestructible. Although they can't die of old age, they can be slain. 

ii) On the mythopoetic interpretation, what's the occasion that reference to the "word of God" harkens back to? In Ps 82, you have a contrast between the true God and false gods. And that fits the Christology of Jn 1, where the divine Logos is the creator of the world. The Creator God of Genesis. That's in opposition to pagan polytheism.  

And in the course of his public ministry, people discover what readers of the Prologue know. Jesus is Yahweh Incarnate. 

iii) The Prologue is paradoxical in the sense as it was written after the fact, yet in another sense the reader already knows something participants in the narrative do not, because, from the sequential viewpoint of the narrative, participants experience the past as future while readers experience the future as past. That's true of historical writing in general. We know how the story ends. But at the time, participants did not.  

iv) On the angelic interpretation, the Son is the Logos who made the angels. 

I’m getting quite bored of having claims thrown at me but no exegesis, no argument, not actual coherent reading of the text—let’s go there and then we can actually have a basis on which to discuss the meaning of the text. Once we do that, we can move on to other things, but you need to stop dodging the issue and actually give a proper exegesis and argument for your exegesis, otherwise you’re just playing pattycake and getting nowhere in getting to the bottom of John 10:24–39 … 

Montero is not my standard of comparison. I'm not writing for his benefit. He's just a foil. 

Soldier of Christ

Monday, June 19, 2017

Blasphemy and Jesus

The unitarian attempted another response:

I don’t really understand your point here, why then do the gospel writers constantly use the LXX in regards to scripture quotations? 

Montero keeps swinging and missing. Jesus isn't quoting the Shema in Jn 10:30. Go back and read what I actually said. Try responding to that for a change.

Did John NOT know that Jesus was referring to the Shema? If he didn’t then what are we even talking about? 

Indeed, what is Montero even talking about? 

If he did why didn’t he give some indication in the text that this is what Jesus was referring to? He certainly could have used the masculine form of “one”, he could have given some clues in the text. Jesus could have actually used words (other than one) that actually referred to the Shema.

Which tendentiously assumes there is no such indication. 

John wrote his gospel, presumably, to be understood by people. Had Jesus referred to the Shema in verse 30 and John wanted people to know it, he would have done something to let people know; he didn’t.

Based on what? A unitarian standard of comparison? 

Some readers do see an allusion to the Shema (e.g. Bauckham, Köstenberger).

I’m not disregarding the historical setting, what evidence is there that the Shema would be associated with the term “me and the Father”? I’m also not disregarding the fact that John wrote his gospel to be understood by people who read Greek and knew the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

As you said, Jesus didn’t speak in Greek, we don’t’ know the exact wording he used, all we know is what John wrote down for us, and John wasn’t an idiot, if Jesus referred to the Shema John would have made that clear in the text somehow, he didn’t.

i) John must be an idiot if he doesn't express himself to Montero's satisfaction. 

ii) Montero's objection is based on a distinction that, at best, only works in Greek, yet he's forced to admit that the original conversation didn't take place in Greek. 

Unless of course you just think anyone any form of the word “one” is used it’s a reference to the Shema, which I don’t think you do.

Try considering how words are used in context. 

Of course there isn’t just one LXX, but do you have ANY example of the Shema being written in Greek using ν? It can be in the New Testament as well … go ahead and show me, maybe I missed one.

Since I don't grant how Montero has framed the issue, that's a specious challenge. 

Now this is confusing. Ok, let’s break this down, The Shema refers to one individual, yes, (by the way the masculine form can also be used for abstract concepts For example 1 Thess. 5:11, ες τν να, refers to a corporate group…

i) That's an idiomatic phrase. It doesn't follow that if you detach a word from an idiomatic phrase, that it will perform the same function.

ii) Moreover, Montero is equivocating: ες τν να differentiates one individual from another ("one on one", "one to one") whereas Jn 10:30 combines two individuals. So it's not "corporate" in the same sense. 

and the feminine μία also often refers to concepts) but that’s the point? 

Of course, the feminine gender would be unsuitable in denoting male referents (father, son, Jesus). 

Now if Jesus changed it to the neuter to express and abstract idea, such as him and the father are one in some way (similar to the way the apostles are to be one in John 17), then we are no longer dealing with the Shema at all, the word “one” doesn’t mean the same thing—So then where is the connection to the Shema?

It reformulates the Shema like Paul's reformulates the Shema in 1 Cor 8:6. 

So what? A reference to the Shema is still a reference, in John 10:30 there was no context where the Shema should come up. 

The context is who Jesus is. If Jesus is Yahweh Incarnate, then that's quite germane to the context. We see similar debates in Jn 5 and Jn 8.

The Fourth Gospel records disputes between Jesus and Jewish opponents regarding his nature and mission. This is just one case in point. 

(the Shema isn’t a messianic verse)…

The Shema is germane to the nature of messiah. 

so if the language used by Jesus is a reference to the Shema (it isn’t), then why shouldn’t John 17 be?

Different context.

Montero then appeals to 17:11, but that segregates the Father and Son, on the one hand, from Christians, on the other. So it's not interchangeable.

How do you know? Blasphemy is not just “calling yourself Yahweh”, in fact I don’t think you can find precedent for that anywhere … 

Is Montero operating with the simplistic notion that blasphemy requires the speaker to explicitly call himself "Yahweh"? Is that the source of his confusion?

In the Gospels, the Jewish opponents of Jesus accuse him of blasphemy for exercising divine prerogatives or using divine appellations. That's tantamount to claiming to be Yahweh.

At the trial of Jesus, his accusers regard "son of God" as a divine title. And since they think Jesus is merely human, they regard the ascription of that title to Jesus as blasphemous (cf. Mt 26:63-65; Mk 14:61-64; Lk 22:67-71; Jn 19:7). That's not a Trinitarian understanding of the title, but a Jewish understanding of the title. 

It's not synonymous with the plural form, as a designation for angels, or a corporate, adoptive metaphor for Israel. 

There is NO indication that they are using Θεός (without the article mind you, had John wanted to make it clear that they were referring to Yahweh surely he would have included the article, especially given Jesus’s response) as a synonym for Yahweh. 

This is one of Montero's chronic confusions. He acts as though the only way to claim to be God is to use a proper name for God. He suffers from a mental block, as if a speaker can't imply that he's Yahweh by using divine titles or exercising divine prerogatives. 

Just because they say it’s Blasphemy doesn’t necessarily mean that at all, the charge could refer to any number of things.

The Jesus opponents of Jesus are clear on what they mean. They infer that he's "making himself God". Equivalent to "making himself equal with God" (5:18). 

You don’t know that it is a synonym for “Yahweh”, you’d have to argue for it. I don’t know why you write off, a priori, the idea that Jesus is setting himself up as “a god” and that, to them, is blasphemy.

Montero himself doesn't think it would be blasphemous to use "god" in a lesser sense.

The “word of God” also came to heavenly beings, that’s what Psalms 82 IS, it’s God’s word to these heavenly beings.

Within the parabolic scene in Ps 82. But that's a literary device. Ps 82 is the word of God to Israel. The Psalms are addressed to Israel. 

Yahweh isn't literally speaking to the nonexistent heathen deities. That's a theatrical depiction. Addressing an imaginary audience or interlocutor. 

So let’s break down your argument … When talking about verse 30 you insist that we have to think about the text as Jesus talking to his interlockers (which gets you out of the obvious linguistic problems with your claim about the Shema) … Now you are saying Jesus, in response to a charge, is referring to something which his interlockers never could have possibly heard of, the prologue to John, which was written decades after this encounter? So basically Jesus was talking complete gibberish, it was nonsense. So his argument was “if you read the prologue of a Book that will be written decades later about my life you’ll read that I am the Logos, so I made the divine beings talked about in Psalms 82” …. Where are you getting any of that in the text?

Montero is conflating two different things. The readers should remember the Prologue when they hear 10:35. The Prologue provides an interpretive grid for readers, by giving them advance notice regarding the nature of what will unfold in the course of the narrative. 

By contrast, figures within the historical narrative must discover the truth of the Prologue through the words and deeds of Jesus. 

I don’t reject prophesy, they refer to the historical kings as well as the future messiah … But a typology only works if there is some similarity between the type and anti-type in function or form or something like that. These passages refer to the historical kings in their role as agents of God, subservient and obedient creatures of God … If that isn’t the same reference to Jesus then what is the point of that typology? It wouldn’t make any sense to use those references for Jesus if Jesus was Yahweh in the flesh.

To the contrary, typology operates on the principle that the antitype is superior to the type. Like the relationship between shadow and sunlight. 

The Father/son succession is your point, but when it comes to “God’s Son” in the old testament, that isn’t how it’s used, it isn’t used for succession at all, no angels called “Sons of God” are spoken of as succeeding Yahweh, no Kings are either, nor is the nation of Israel; that isn’t how the term is used. 

Montero still hasn't figured out what I'm saying. He's obsessed with the occurrence of certain words. But that confuses words with concepts. 

"Father" and "son" don't have to be used in royal succession narratives or motifs. That's a given. As a rule, a prince is a son of the king. A father/son relation is already implicit in a king/prince relation. Moreover, kings and princes are typically the same kind of beings. 

It is used for people who rule oh behalf of God though, but that isn’t the same thing as succession.

i) Once again, Montero is befuddled. To begin with, I'm not discussing literal succession, but a theological metaphor. 

ii) In both OT and NT theology, you have the motif of a messianic figure who ascends to the throne of God, as coregent.  

How is “sonship” a divine title in the same way Yahweh is divine? It IS divine in the sense that the son is called “mighty god”, but it isn’t divine in the same that he is in the same camp as Yahweh; since this whole thing is accomplished by Yahweh himself (the giving of the son and the growing of his authority)—so no, it isn’t “divine” in the same way Yahweh is divine.

Many unitarians lack critical sympathy. That's the intellectual ability to assume the opposing viewpoint for the sake of argument, then assess the consistency of the opposing viewpoint on its own terms. Instead, unitarians raise objections that recast the issue in unitarian terms. 

But in Trinitarian, Incarnational theology, it is not inconsistent for the Son Incarnate to "grow in authority". That's not about the intrinsic authority of the Son qua Son, but the Son in union with a human nature, fulfilling the role of Adamic and Davidic kingship. 

Ok, here is the problem; Questioning whether or not he is the messiah is merely a question about whether or not his identity includes the position of Messiah. The question was not “are you the Messiah, oh and what else are you?” It was only about his messiahship. Had Jesus responded, “I am God”, or “I am a human”, or “I am an angel”, or “I am an extraterrestrial alien”, he would not have been answering the questions; all of those would be answers to a question about his true identity, but not answers to the actual question at hand. The question is related to his identity, at least part of his identity, but it is not a question about his “true identity” in the broad sense, it was a question about his identity as Messiah.”

Montero suffers from this blinkered notion of what's messianic. But the question at issue is the nature of the messiah. What does that category stand for? What are the characteristics of the messiah? 

Ok first of all, it isn’t a semantic fallacy. The concept of messiah (separate from the etymological or idiomatic meaning of the word) still includes the idea of the messiah being anointed by Yahweh for a special purpose.

Does Montero mean he thinks God must literally anoint the messiah with oil? "Messiah" is just a label. A placeholder. What it means to be the messiah is determined by multiple lines of evidence in the OT. There's an unfolding messianic expectation.  Emerging messianic motifs, embodied in a single individual, viz. second Adam, second David, second Solomon, prince, priest, conqueror, the coming of Yahweh. 

Second, If Jesus had a different concept of the messiah than his listeners did he would have made it clear, or there would be some indication.

Depends on the context. His accusers are right about what he's claiming to be. Where they err is to deny what he claims to be. Indeed, Montero's objection backfires, for if his accusers misinterpret his claims, Jesus often fails to correct them–leaving the impression that their charges were true. 

Not really, can you give an example of a concept of the Messiah that identifies the Messiah as Yahweh outside the New Testament in Judaism?

Does Montero think NT Messianic Judaism is deficient? 

Not really, since the Word was the agent of creation, not the greator, thus the use of the term διά. 

If the Word is the agent of creation rather than the Father, then the Word is the actual Creator. Yet the OT repeatedly views the act of making the world as something that differentiates the true God from false gods. 

This is a direct reference to the Logos theology of Philo and Platonism. Both of which have the Logos as the agent of creation.

No, it's a direct reference to creation by the spoken word of God in Gen 1. The creation account represents divine speech as  having creative power. Jn 1 is riffing off of that depiction. 

Right, it’s identifying God, the God, Yahweh. The second θες designates the type of being that the logos is, but it is not the same being as the God that the logos is with.

It would be extremely misleading and counterproductive for the narrator to use θες twice in the very same sentence, back-to-back, if the referent in the second occurrence is categorically different and inferior to the referent in the first occurrence.  

Why could the Philonic Logos never become incarnate? Where are you getting that from?

The whole point of that framework is to create a series of buffers. God can't create the world directly because contact with matter would be contaminating or unworthy of divine dignity. So that must be delegated to a Demiurge. And the Demiurge is an intermediate figure, above the world but below God.  

It’s actually not a concept alien to Biblical theism, because both the Pauline epistles and John use διά in reference to Jesus’s relationship to creation, things are created διά him.

This is one of the dilemmas for unitarians. When you point to how, according to the NT, Jesus embodies divine attributes, performs divine actions, and wields divine prerogatives, unitarians respond by saying that's just a creature acting on God's behalf, in his stead. As a result, Yahweh has no unique attributes, actions, or prerogatives. These are all transferred to messiah. Everything the OT says to distinguish God from mundane agents is delegated to messiah. 

Philo wrote a lot for non-Jews (much like Josephus), which is why he used platonic language (as did John).

Philo wrote for elite Gentiles in Alexandria, in sophisticated philosophical Greek. John's audience is far lower on the pecking order. 

He approaches Yahweh, and receives things from Yahweh, which kind of excludes him from being Yahweh.

i) Once again, this illustrates the chronic inability of unitarians to engage the Trinitarian position on its own terms. They act as though depictions that are inconsistent with a unitarian paradigm falsify the Trinitarian paradigm. 

ii) To begin with, passages like Dan 7 resort to anthropomorphic depictions, where heaven is like a throne room with a humanoid king and humanoid courtiers. If you take that literally, then the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man are physically separate individuals. 

But if we make allowance for picture language, that's consistent with Trinitarian theology. Yahweh Incarnate, in the person of the Son, appears before Yahweh, in the person of the Father. 

God is not a physical being. He doesn't occupy space and time. Trinitarian distinctions don't entail physical or spatial separation. 

iii) There's a distinction between the eternal status of the Son, and the evolving status of the Son as he condescends to assume a human nature, and play the role of a crown prince who will be enthroned after completing his mission. 

Unitarians don't believe that, but the immediate problem is that unitarians typically fail to understand the position they presume to critique. As such, their objections always miss the target.