Saturday, July 01, 2017

When in Rome, do as the modernists do

Ross Douthat Retweeted
Michael B Dougherty @michaelbd  Jun 30
Bracing to watch the Vatican undergo the sexual and cultural revolution of a century in the space of one pontificate

To zieself be true

Military service

i) On the face of it, military service seems to be morally problematic. Take volunteers. When you enlist, you sign a blank check. You don't know in advance what the foreign policy will be from one year to the next. You may disapprove of what you're ordered to do. Is it ethical to make an open-ended commitment like that? Especially given the moral stakes of warfare? The snap judgments. And so on. 

ii) However, that must be counterbalanced by another consideration. The justification for national defense is that national defense is a logical and necessary extension of self-defense. Sometimes we lack the individual resources to protect ourselves or our dependents. Say, if we're outnumbered or outgunned. Therefore, self-defense may necessitate pooling our collective resources to mount a common defense. That confers a general benefit.

Assuming that we have a duty to protect our dependents, and in some cases our neighbors, or even strangers, military service is an unavoidable–although not a universal obligation. 

iii) Hence, military service generates moral dilemmas. Conflicting duties or competing goods. Given the dilemma, I think men who find themselves in that predicament are in a situation of diminished moral responsibility. What would ordinarily be wrong is mitigated or exculpated by the moral dilemma. 

That's not carte blanche to follow just any order. It doesn't excuse atrocities. Some actions are intrinsically wrong. But there's greater moral flexibility in that situation than situations where you have one unimpeded duty.  

God's foundling

Traditionally, Calvinists focus on theological metaphors like the New Birth or death in sin to illustrate the helplessness of the lost. A neglected theological metaphor is adoption. Paradigm-examples include God's "adoption" of David and God's "adoption" of Israel. A graphic example is Ezk 16, where a newborn who was left to die is rescued by a passerby. The adoption metaphor may be related to the OT concern for orphans. And it's a major theological category in the NT. 

Take the scenario of an orphanage. The kids are neglected because they don't receive the kind of individualized attention and affection that normal kids do. They have no one to call their own. No one they belong to. No adult who's their frame of reference.

Suppose an orphan like that is adopted by a loving parent or parents. This is like a second life. Although they preexisted their adoption, there's a sense in which life truly begins for them after their adoption. Now they suddenly have the life they longed for. They are showered with blessings. 

In Arminian theology, the blessings of salvation flow from the headwaters of faith. Blessings contingent on the autonomous act of faith. 

In Reformed theology, the blessings of salvation flow from the headwaters of grace. Blessings contingent on the unilateral act of God. Adoption is an image which powerfully illustrates that difference. 

Unconditional election and infant salvation

From a Facebook exchange:

It is clear from the Institutes that Calvin taught double predestination. When, according to Calvin, does God predestine some to salvation and some to damnation? Would the predestined person's age have anything to do with anything? How could one consistently argue something different than double predestination from Calvin?

In and of themselves, election and reprobation are consistent with universal infant salvation. It's just up to God who he chose to elect or reprobate. That can't be inferred merely from the principle of double predestination.

Sounds like having your cake and eating it to. Either election is unconditional or it isn't. Seems to me you're wanting to make it conditional when it makes the doctrine more palatable.

Unclear what you think unconditional election means. The concept of unconditional election is not a restriction or imposition on God. What makes you think unconditional election means God can't elect all those who die before the age of reason, if that's what he wanted to do?

BTW, since you don't know my actual position, it would behoove you to avoid conspiratorial interpretations.

Completely true- God can do what He wants. I personally just find it inconsistent to hold to an unconditional election based solely on God's sovereignty, but then apply a condition to it (the age of reason).

The basic principle of unconditional election is that since all Adam's posterity will be guilty as well as unresponsive to spiritual good apart from grace, there's nothing to distinguish one human from another that accounts for God's choice. God could choose fewer or God could choose more. If everyone is in the same boat, choosing a particular subclass of the total (e.g. all who die before the age of discretion) is perfectly consistent with the unconditionality of election.

There's an ambiguity to how you're using "condition". To take a crazy hypothetical for illustrative purposes, suppose God elected all and only people with green eyes. Would that make it "conditional" election. If the notion is that having green eyes causes, constrains, or impels God to choose people with green eyes, then that would be conditional. If, however, the elect status of green-eyed people is the effect or result of God's choice, then that's not conditional.

Like I said, I would think from an unconditional election point of view, that God is sovereign. He can do what He wants. Not really interested in what He might do. I think he has declared what He will do: he who believes is not condemned. 

Hypotheticals are a way of testing whether a generalization is true or false in principle.

There's an elementary difference between what an individual Reformed theologian believes, and whether his position is a logical implication of Calvinism. Put another way, a difference between what's consistent with Calvinism and what's entailed by Calvinism.

Traditionally, the original rationale for infant baptism was to remove the stain of original sin. Unbaptized babies who died were consigned to hell. That wasn't based on Calvinism. What was the position of Arminian Anglicans like John and Charles Wesley?

Friday, June 30, 2017

“Pope Francis” dismisses Cardinal Müller from top post at “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”

“Pope Francis” dismissed Cardinal Gerhard Müller from his position as “Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (the Inquisition) today – perhaps making sure he gets the right “interpretation” (or maybe, “the left interpretation”) on Amoris Laetitia and no doubt on some of his future doctrinal statements, should he live so long as to be able to make more of them, Lord willing.

This is “Pope Francis” letting go the top doctrinal man in the Vatican. No word as to where he’s going, or who he would be replaced with. Imagine if “Pope John Paul II” had let Ratzinger go after just five years, and replaced him with a liberal “theological watchdog”.

CORRISPONDENZA ROMANA and RORATE CÆLI have just learned that His Eminence Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith since July 2, 2012, has been dismissed by Pope Francis on the exact expiry date of his five-year mandate.

Cardinal Müller is one of the cardinals who sought to interpret Amoris Laetitia along the lines of a hermeneutic of continuity with Church Tradition. This was enough to put him among the critics of the new course imposed by Pope Bergoglio.

Does Molinism make sense?

On Facebook, some folks attempted to critique my post:

I'm not a Molinist, but neither of these are really problems for them. To the first, this is exactly what middle knowledge is meant to solve.

i) That may be what middle knowledge is meant to solve, but positing that God knows the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom is a stipulation rather than a solution. Big difference.

ii) Moreover, the problem is deeper than sheer assertion. As I discuss, Molinism creates an obstacle to divine knowledge of hypothetical or counterfactual choices. 

To the second, Molinism allows for God to determine everything other than free choices. This is presumably enough, since free choices aren't typically the only things that make up the circumstances of other free choices.

How can God determine circumstances that are contingent on choices that God can't determine?

First, what makes the knowledge middle is not its content (many views agree that God knows these counterfactuals), but its being true contingently and without being determined by God.

Now you're resorting to a semantic quibble. To begin with, "middle knowledge" is just a label. I wasn't discussing why the position is thus designated. And there's more to Molinism than middle knowledge.

However, the content is directly germane to the question of whether God can differentiate between possible worlds, on the basis of circumstances, in order to instantiate a world of his choosing. 

Second, theories by their very nature posit principles in order to account for the phenomena they wish to explain. The Molinist seeks to explain how a God could know the outcome of a libertarian free choice, and proposes a theory about the nature of certain counterfactuals to account for this. Sure, you might find their particular proposal indefensible in the long run, or think some other account does a better job (as I do), but you can hardly fault them for following the standard process.

I fault people for making exaggerated claims about the explanatory power of their theory. Molinism doesn't even attempt to explain how God can know the hypothetical/counterfactual choices of libertarian agents. Rather, it takes that possibility for granted. Yet that's a central issue in dispute. So it begs the question.

By directly determining the parts of those circumstances that are not free choices. To say a circumstance is contingent on free choices is not the same as saying it is contingent on only free choices.

If you have a chain of events where each successive event is contingent on a preceding event, and at each fork in the road it could veer off in two or more directions, how does God instantiate any particular trajectory? The circumstances at T1 don't pick out a particular outcome. Depending on how that goes, we come to T2. But the circumstances at T2 don't pick out a particular outcome. And so on and so forth, like a game of chess.

As to their failure to explain how God can have this knowledge, I think it gets ahead of where we are in the dialectic. You don't need to have an explanation for the explanation, before the latter is worth considering. The Molinist starts with the assumption (shared by almost everyone) that God knows all true propositions and guides free human choices. He then proposes that there a class propositions that if known, would enable God to guide our free choices.

i) To begin with, while we can grant the assumptions of an opposing position for the sake of argument, proponents of the opposing position are not entitled to stipulate that we must grant their assumptions. There are many situations in which it is right and proper to challenge the assumptions of the opposing position.

ii) Moreover, you're taking the extreme position that even granting their assumptions for the sake of argument, we are not allowed to challenge the coherence of their position. We must grant that their position is internally consistent.

Those are arbitrary restrictions. 

If the same circumstance could result in two different outcomes because of free choice, then the Molinist's claim is that it would only result in one.

If an agent can choose more than one course of action under identical circumstances, then the circumstances fail to yield a specific result. In that case, God is shooting blind when he instantiates a possible world. He has a range of possible/feasible worlds from which to choose, but circumstances are insufficient to differentiate one outcome from another. 

The knowledge of the counterfactuals was never under question

That's an issue if God is blindfolded when he chooses which option to instantiate, for circumstances are too indiscriminate to select for the desired outcome.

The ability to chose differently doesn't effect God's knowledge of what said creature would choose given the circumstances. Just like your ability to choose differently doesn't effect God knowing what you will choose.

i) I think you mean affect, not effect. If you're going to be patronizing, at least use the right word. 

ii) Actually, there are freewill theists of the Occamist stripe who say it does affect God's knowledge. Soft facts, backtracking counterfactuals.

Foreknowledge doesn't have any causal power.

Red herring.

For the question to work as an objection one would have to assume it does have a causal power - but that sort of theological determinism is (aside from being logically fallacious) exactly what the Molinist solution finds to be unnecessary. Like I said, if this guy would take the time to step outside of his deterministic assumptions and seek to truly understand the view, he wouldn't need to ask this kind of trivial question.

i) I'm always amused by people whose intellectual confidence is in inverse proportion to their intellectual competence. That's a common malady among internet atheists and internet freewill theists. 

ii) Molinism doesn't have a solution.

iii) My argument doesn't presuppose that foreknowledge has causal power (whatever that means). 

God knows all at once, by virtue of his middle knowledge, all the circumstances - those that would be created by free creatures and those that would not be, and then sovereignly chooses to create that world of free choices and circumstances that suit his ends. Thus all circumstances, no matter how they came to be, were chosen by God - all the while leaving libertarian freedom still possible.

That doesn't begin to engage my argument. Once more, if libertarian freedom is defined as the ability to do more than one thing under the same circumstances, then instantiating a particular set of circumstances won't suffice to instantiate a world with any particular set of choices, inasmuch as the choices are causally independent of the circumstances. A given set of circumstances cannot select for a particular outcome. The outcome is radically underdetermined by the circumstances inasmuch as the circumstances don't produce free choices.

This is also very easy to refute.

Behold the beauty of overconfidence. 

(i) That you could do otherwise in a circumstance does not entail that you would do otherwise.

Misses the point. God can only get the world he wants if a given set of circumstances ensures a corresponding set of choices. If, however, a given set of circumstances leaves the agent with more than one available course of action, in response to said circumstances, then how does actualizing circumstances pick out one outcome rather than another? 

(ii) Easy. If God breaks down a car, for example, He changes the circumstances. Lol.

Was that supposed to be clever? 

It's like a game of chess. The countermove depends on the previous move. Each move and countermove open up a new set of forking paths. If many circumstances are caused by free choices, then how can the choices be isolated from the circumstances that God instantiates?

No, I completely get the point. Except x circumstance will in fact lead to only one outcome: choice y. You can repeat that possible world ad infinitum and that outcome would still arise unless the circumstance changed. The choices are not isolated from the circumstances God instantiates, that's the point.

If the same outcome invariably follows from the same antecedent conditions, how do you distinguish that from determinism? On your view, there's no way to tell the difference between fair dice and loaded dice. Even if you roll the same dice a billion times, and get sixes a billion times in a row, that's consistent with fair dice rather than loaded dice.

So a pair of dice is analogous to personal agency how...?

If the dice are fair, each throw is causally discontinuous with the preceding or succeeding throw. Analogous to the freedom to do otherwise under the same circumstances.

A typical explanation of libertarian freedom involves two possible worlds with a shared past. Everything was the same up to the moment of choice, at which point it forks off in opposing directions. More prosaically, holding antecedent conditions the same, divergent outcomes are equally viable.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A map of the soul

Hidden In Plain View For $4.99

Lydia McGrew has written a good book on undesigned coincidences, Hidden In Plain View (Chillicothe, Ohio: DeWard, 2017), and you can preorder the Kindle version for $4.99. Here's her definition of an undesigned coincidence:

"An undesigned coincidence is a notable connection between two or more accounts or texts that doesn't seem to have been planned by the person or people giving the accounts. Despite their apparent independence, the items fit together like pieces of a puzzle." (12)

You can read about an example in the first paragraph of my post here.

On legality, morality, and abortion


One of the challenges to creationism is explaining similarity between different species. 

The evolutionary explanation is generally that they are similar because they share a common ancestor. Mind you, the evolutionary inference is not that straightforward since evolutionists also believe that some similarities developed independently. 

Alternative creationist explanations include common design and common function. Both have some explanatory value, but they are too generic to account for certain kinds of similarities. 

Between about 20-33 min. in this presentation:

Todd Wood reviews the stock explanations, then offers a different proposal. He draws an analogy between genomic modularity and language. 

If you compare two texts in same language, they will share many similarities. Is that because they have a common ancestor? Generally, that's not the explanation.

The reason, rather, is that a language has limited characters (alphabet) and limited vocabulary. Likewise, it has a standard syntax. As a result, two texts have many repeated words and grammatical forms. 

By analogy, genomic modularities are not homologies. Not intermediates but mosaics.

Wood uses a linguistic analogy, but we could also use a musical analogy. Two composition by different Baroque composers will have many similarities because they employ the same rules of musical composition. A common scale, notation, instruments, musical forms, &c.  

Recentering the "freewill" debate

The most salient change I would make, although perhaps not the philosophically most important one, is that I would not now use the phrase ‘free will’. In fact, I would not use even the adjective ‘free’—I would not speak of free actions, free agents, or free choices. Nor would I use the adverb ‘freely’ and the noun ‘freedom’. In my view, these words have little meaning beyond that which the philosopher who uses them explicitly gives them, and yet philosophers persist in arguing about what they do or should mean. They enter into disputes about what “free will” and “free choices” and “acting freely” and “freedom” really are. These philosophers have fallen prey to what I may call verbal essentialism. That is to say, it is essential to their discussions that they involve certain words: ‘free’, ‘freely’, ‘freedom’. … It would be impossible to translate their discussions into language that did not involve those words. Peter van Inwagen, The Harvard Review of Philosophy (2015), 22:16-17.

Calvinist/Arminian debates often go like this: Arminians say they believe in freewill, and they deny that Calvinists believe in freewill. Calvinists typically reply that they believe in freewill, too, they just have a different concept of freewill. But should we frame the debate in terms of freedom, viz. Can agents whose actions are determined or predetermined be "free"?

The problem with that framework is that what philosophers are typically after in this debate is a different question. Not, "Are we free?" but "Are we morally responsible?" 

Now, libertarian freedom is often invoked as a necessary condition for praiseworthy or blameworthy actions. I'm not suggesting that we can avoid the issue of freedom in debating the nature of moral responsibility. 

Yet for analytical clarity, we should distinguish between the primary issue and secondary issues. Whether or not we're morally responsible is the primary issue, the starting-point, while the question of what conditions are necessary and sufficient for an agent to be morally responsible, is secondary inasmuch as explanations are attempts to ground it–unless it is groundless (i.e. uncaused). Casting the issue in terms of freewill gets us off on the wrong foot. We need to recenter the debate. 

Because "freedom" is a cipher, both sides explicate the concept of freedom. For instance, libertarians unpack that in terms of ultimate sourcehood and/or ability to access to alternate possibilities, &c, while Fischer appeals to regulative control and guidance control. 

But in that event, "freedom" does no work. That's just a verbal placeholder. It's the underlying categories that do the work. So why not  drop the ambiguous or opaque word "freedom" and go straight to examination of the categories?

An exception would be the relation between freedom and foreknowledge, where the primary issue isn't moral responsibility, but something else. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Abortion is wrong even if the fetus is not a person

Voodoo zombies

i) One argument for human evolution is encephalization: the development of larger brains over time. That's also used to date the emergence of humans. Skulls with a braincase large enough to accommodate a human-sized brain. 

ii) Now, it may indeed be legitimate to infer brain size from cranial size, although oftentimes we only have skull fragments. Indeed, there's a difference between brain size and internal complexity.

iii) But suppose, for the sake of argument, that we discovered a perfectly preserved hominid corpse in a peat bog. Suppose conventional dating techniques indicate that the specimen is 200K years old. Suppose it had an intact brain the size of a human brain. And it had the same internal complexity of a human brain. And suppose the specimen was bipedal with opposable thumbs. 

A theistic evolutionist or old-earth creationist might conclude that dates to at least 200K BC. But is that a valid inference?

iv) The reservation I have with that inference is the assumed correlation between mind and brain. This raises the perennial issue of the mind/body problem. There's some evidence that's consistent with the proposition that the brain produces the mind. Stock examples include how alcohol, hallucinogens, traumatic head trauma, brain cancer, brain atrophy, and Alzheimer's temporarily or permanently impair cognition. 

v) However, even that's consistent with the receiver/filter model of the mind/body problem propounded by thinkers like William James, Aldous Huxley, and Mario Beauregard.

vi) In addition, there's multiple lines of philosophical and empirical evidence indicating that the mind is essentially independent of the brain (e.g. terminal lucidity, apparitions of the dead, veridical near-death or out-of-body experiences, demonic possession, psi, the hard problem of consciousness). 

vii) If true, this means the correlation between a human brain and human intelligence is contingent rather than necessary. Suppose, for the same of argument, that a human mind requires a brain of sufficient complexity to express itself. (Even that is questionable. John Lorber's hydrocephalic patients seem to present a counterexample.)

Even on that assumption, there's an asymmetry between minds and brains. In principle, you could have a living human body with a functioning human brain without human intelligence. Unless the body has a soul, it will lack human intelligence, regardless of the condition of the brain. Like a voodoo zombie. 

At best, the brain is a necessary but insufficient condition for the presence or expression of human intelligence. And that's an overstatement. There can be mindless brains and brainless minds. 

For a body to possess or express human intelligence requires ensoulment. A body must be paired with a soul. The mind uses the brain. 

Unlike some theistic evolutionists, I'm not suggesting that God produced humans by the ensoulment of preexisting primates. My point, rather, is that even as a matter of principle, you can't date the origin of the human species based on fossil skulls. You couldn't even do that if you had an intact brain, as per my hypothetical peat bog specimen. 

viii) Some people might complain that my objection is special pleading. I'm raising an objection that renders my position unfalsifiable. 

But it's not ad hoc. To begin with, the inference is simply fallacious inasmuch as the evidence for physicalism is equally consistent with substance dualism (v). In addition, we have positive evidence that the mind is not reducible to the brain. Indeed, situations in which the mind functions independent of the brain (vi).

The ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Inflationary cosmology

André Marie Ampère: A Fascinating Genius and Devout Christian

Creationist biology

Why I'm still a creationist

Why did God allow the Fall?

How does God get the world he chose?

One description I've read of Molinism is that God can't directly instantiate the choices of free agents, for that causes their choices, which God cannot do if they are to be the free choices of the agents in question. Rather, God indirectly instantiates their choices by instantiating the circumstances in which they make their choices.

Two problems:

i) On a stock definition of libertarian freedom, the agent could choose differently under the very same circumstances. But in that case, how does God get the world he chose? Instantiating the circumstances has no predictive value, since the same circumstances are consistent with divergent choices. The choices are independent of the circumstances. 

It's like choosing between five different Christmas presents, only you're choosing blind because you don't know what's inside each box until you choose one, remove the wrappings, and open the box.

ii) Except for the initial conditions, circumstances are often the product of choices that agents make. So how can God even instantiate the circumstances? 

Character witness for the Devil

1. One thing I found striking about the White/Spencer debate was the spectacle of White defending Yasir Qadhi. And he's not alone in that. Because White defends Qadhi, White supporters feel compelled to defend Qadhi. If White defends Qadhi, then defending White commits you to defending who or what he defends. That's a corrupting development. 

I don't have a problem with a church hosting a Muslim/Christian debate or dialogue (so long as that's an apologetic debate/dialogue rather than an ecumenical debate/dialogue).

Protestants aren't supposed to be superstitious about religious furniture. The new covenant doesn't have sacred spaces. The fact that the dialogue between White and Qadhi took place within the four walls of a church is of no intrinsic importance.

I don't even object to Christian apologists debating or dialoguing with Muslim spokesmen who are in bed with terrorists. Terrorism is endemic to Islam. That's the nature of the beast. We should be prepared to witness to Muslims with terrorist associations. 

Where White gets into trouble is defending the bona fides of Qadhi. That makes White a tool. And unfortunately, I find his supporters following his lead.

2. One White/Qadhi defender said: "in this case, the specific evidence about Yasir Qadhi is that he is anti-terror, not pro-terror."

That's not the evidence I've seen. The evidence I've seen is that he supports the principle of jihad. Moreover, he has his foot in several jihadi front organizations. For instance:

Qadhi is a sharia scholar and works inside the Muslim Brotherhood’s Movement calling for the implementation of sharia and an Islamic state here in America.

Specifically, Qadhi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).  Qadhi is also the Dean of Academic Affairs and an instructor at the al Maghrib Institute, which has produced a large number of jihadis over the years including Tarek Mehanna, Ramy Zam Zam – the leader of the “Virginia 5,” Daniel Maldonado, Nuradin Abdi (founder of the Al Maghrib’s Ohio Chapter), and others.

Yasir Qadhi has been the keynote speaker at numerous prominent Muslim Brotherhood organizations (eg ICNA), works closely with terrorist organizations like Hamas and its leaders and has a long track record of publicly defending known terrorists such as:  convicted terrorist leader Sami al Aria, convicted terrorist Ali al-Timimi, American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh, convicted Al Qaeda terrorist Aafia Siddiqui, Tarek Mehanna, and others.

Yasir Qadhi was a trustee at the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas’ Islamic Society of Boston founded by Al Qaeda financier Abdurahman Alamoudi. This is the same ISB which nurtured the Boston Marathon bombers.

Maybe White will dispute the accuracy that characterization. The point, though, is why stick your neck out to vouch for Qadhi's bona fides? White can dialogue with Qadhi without taking any public position on the sincerity of Qadhi's disclaimers regarding jihad. At the very least, would it not be more prudent for White and his supporters to withhold judgment? Why in the world are we supposed to give Qadhi the benefit of the doubt?

3. There's a basic principle of risk assessment. One can be mistaken either way. One can be mistaken in believing a Muslim cleric's disclaimers and one can be mistaken in disbelieving his disclaimers. However, the two mistakes don't have equitable consequences. Take the adage that counterterrorists have to get lucky every time whereas terrorists only have to get lucky once.

Suppose a convicted embezzler applies to be church treasurer. Says he's turned over a new leaf. I could be mistaken if I believe him and I could be mistaken if I disbelieve him. But each mistake has different consequences, and one mistake may have graver consequences than the other.

I have no duty to believe the disclaimers of Muslim cleric. To the contrary, I have a duty to be skeptical, given the track record and the mortal danger. 

In addition, generalizations can be a legitimate consideration in formulating public policy. Take recalls for defective products or contaminated food. The defective products or contaminated food may be a fraction of the total, but the recall is broad to make sure the truly dangerous subset doesn't slip through. Or take a rancher who's required to euthanize all his cattle if one steer is discovered with mad cow disease. 

4. One White/Qadhi defender said "Dr. Qadhi and those in the west agree that live in the west, because of visa agreement and contracts (& citizenship is considered a contract/agreement that a Muslim must follow, as is American citizen)"

And White made the same claim during the debate, citing Qadhi's stated position that Muslims are "under contract...covenant...take an oath of loyalty to a nation".

One issue this raises is the credibility of Muslim religious leaders. Should we take their claims at face value? 

That depends. When they make a statement that's consistent with Muslim tradition, that's credible. When, however, they make a statement at variance with Muslim tradition, then that's not credible unless they are taking a personal risk by making that statement. 

In the debate, White defended Qadhi's sincerity on the grounds that he "has to protect his family because ISIS wants him dead". 

And another White/Qadhi defender made the same argument: "Qadhi had 2 death threats from ISIS against him. Dr. Qadhi is an example who has spoken out against it, as did Shabir Ally and other Islamic scholars have written books refuting Isis, Al Qaeda, etc."

But as Spencer pointed out, that does't mean Qadhi's not committed to jihad or spreading sharia; rather, there are rival jihadist groups. He belongs to a different group. Each group wants its own Caliph. So they play a rhetorical shellgame about the Caliphate. They reject ISIS because they want their own Caliphate. 

Denouncing a rival group doesn't by any means imply a renunciation of commitment to jihad or sharia. There's bitter competition for dominance in the Muslim world. Which side has the controlling vision. That doesn't begin to suggest that Qadhi or Shabir Ally are any less militant in their own outlook. It's just that they want their own side to win.

5. One White/Qadhi defender said "Dr. Qadhi and those in the west agree that live in the west, because of visa agreement and contracts, they can only do Jihad of the pen and mouth. (preaching and writing)". 

i) But isn't that a euphemism for incitement to commit terrorism? Laying the groundwork? Recruiting? For years I've been reading reports about "radical clerics" (the stock designation) in England who foment animus towards the host country, while the authorities turn a blind eye. 

ii) Furthermore, once Muslims have a foothold in the USA, why can't they practice "defensive jihad" which doesn't require permission from the Caliph. For years I've read about how Saudi Arabia uses its vast wealth to plant mosques across the USA to seed our land with Wahhabism. Once there are sizable Muslim communities in the USA and other Western countries, can't that beachhead be a pretext to initiate defensive jihad? It doesn't require authorization from the Caliph. Embedded in the host country, they can say they're now surrounding a culture that's hostile to Islam, so they need to do whatever is necessary to protect their values.

Sure, I've heard Muslims denounce the killing of "innocents," but that's a term of art. In defensive and offensive jihad, what counts as a civilian? 

6. White recently said:

James R. White
April 17 · 

OK, folks, warning up front: profanity, strong profanity here. That's what you get when you talk to the Zombies of the Culture of Death. And folks, these people will vote for others who will imprison you and execute you. When you worship death, you care nothing for liberty. You will silence those you hate. Remember. They tried that with Jesus.

And he's right about that. But that's not the only demographic seeking to imprison you and execute you. Guess what–Muslims do that, too! White is acutely aware of the threat posed by secular progressives, yet he soft-pedals the threat posed by Muslims. Why the double standard?

Moreover, the prospect of SJWs imprisoning and executing Christians in America is hypothetical, whereas Muslims in America are actually murdering people in jihadist attacks and honor-killings. 

6. In his debate with Spencer, White defended Qadhi on the grounds that White can't read hearts and minds. He can't divine intentions. yet White's scruples are very selective in that regard. Remember this statement from last year:

There is a more than 70% chance he has never met this father. In all probabilities he has no guidance, has no example. He is filled with arrogance and disrespect for authority. He lives in a land where he is told lies every day—the lie that he cannot, through hard work and discipline, get ahead, get a good education, and succeed at life. He is lied to and told the rest of the world owes him. And the result is predictable: in his generation, that 70% number will only rise. He may well father a number of children—most of which will be murdered in the womb, padding the pockets of Planned Parenthood.

Based on this one-time encounter, lasting about a minute, White produces an instant criminal profile. He has no hesitation to stereotype the teenager, but what about the stats on Muslim terrorism?

Or, a year before that, remember his comment on a public meeting about plans to build a new mosque in Spotsylvania, VA:

Ignorance and bigotry is ugly, no matter who the ignorant bigot is. Here's a video of what happens when you combine ignorance, bigotry, fear, and with one guy it seems, way too many roids…You see, when someone can look at the video I posted and listen to a man who is clearly not interested in anything but rage and anger…you took the identification of plain ignorance (when some fellow is saying, "Muslims is evil," well, the poor fellow can't even speak the English language.

Based on one video snippet, White has the speaker pegged. He assumes the worst about the speaker. Why is he so quick to make snap judgments about some people, when he admonishes us to practice a different standard in reference to Muslims? 

Morality requires a god, whether you’re religious or not

Monday, June 26, 2017

Before the Son of Man comes

Lightly edited exchange I recently had with an unbeliever on Facebook:

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Mt 10:23).

Christians, how might you respond to this? It seems to me there are only two reasonable interpretations.

1) Either those being spoken to at that time would see the son of man come before their own individual death


2) The towns in Israel would not have seen christianity spread to them all long before the son of man comes again.
So obviously, both one and two have been fulfilled for well over 1,700 years and probably more like 1,850 years.

Isn't this hard evidence of a failed prophecy?

A few points:

i) There's the question of how the narrator (Matthew) understood the prediction. Even if we date the composition of Matthew fairly early, to the 60s, and the original saying was uttered c.30, would it not be easy to visit every town in Israel in the intervening years, with time to spare? Sure 30+ years is more than enough time to do that. All the towns in Israel could be canvassed in far less time than that. 

On that window, if it's a failed prophecy, that would already be evident long before the narrator wrote his Gospel. But how realistic is it that the narrator recorded what he himself believed to be a failed prophecy by Jesus? 

ii) Many readers automatically assume that any reference to Jesus "coming" most be an end-of-the-world prediction. But what about Jesus appearing to people in dreams and visions? That happened to Paul (Acts 9). That happened to John (Rev 1). That's reported throughout church history. We can discount some of those reports, but we don't need to dismiss all of them out of hand.

Especially in the stated context of persecution, Jesus might appear to suffering, threatened Christians to encourage them. Our conceptual resources are too limited if we assume that "Jesus coming" must invariably refer to a one-time, end-of-the-world event. Jesus can come to individuals in need, at different times and places. There's prima facie evidence that happens. Take modern-day Muslim converts to Christianity who say Jesus appeared to them in dreams. Likewise, Anglican bishop Hugh Montefiore was a Jewish teenager when he had a vision of Jesus, which precipitated his conversion to Christianity.

On point 1: Fairly likely actually. All empirical evidence shows that the most common reaction to failed prophecies being realized is MORE passionate preaching and more conviction. Oddly enough, end of times predictors react in this way very consistently.

i) Bad comparison. If there's a record of a "failed" prophecy, then it's too late to deny it, so reinterpretation is the only pious course of action. But here the question at issue is why record it in the first place? Why preserve it for posterity if it's manifestly wrong?

ii) A common reaction to failed prophecy is disillusionment. Many people drop out of the movement.

2) there is little cross textual reasoning to suspect any other meaning than the second coming.

Now you're moving the goal post. Moreover, the other passages you allude to don't have the same specific benchmark, so it's dubious that you can just extrapolate from this passage to others that lack that benchmark.

Jesus appearing in dreams or visions wouldn't require moving towns.

You seem to be conflating two different issues: disciples evangelizing Palestine, and Jesus "coming". Jesus "coming" isn't a substitute for their task and duty. Rather, that can be an encouragement to beleaguered missionaries.

1) I don't see how that is a meaningful difference. The author of mathew could well have already felt it was failed (recognized this) and yet his conviction grew (or hers). Thus the writing is as stands despite a failed prophecy. That's not just unlikely. It's more likely than not if the prophecy was seen as failed."

What would motivate Matthew to perpetuate a failed prophecy in case it would be quickly forgotten otherwise? Remember, this only occurs in one of the Synoptics. 

Ironically, you're the one with an unfalsifiable theory. You've concocted an ad hoc explanation to save face, not for the prediction, but for your theory that it must be a failed prophecy.

There's no benchmark lacking in the others either. That's simply not so.

Sure there is: "You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel…"

The other passages you allude to don't have that benchmark.

His coming is supposed to solve persecution

Based on what?

but the moving is supposed to buy time until then.

They're not simply or primarily on the move to buy time, but to spread the message throughout Palestine. 

Not the leaders. The leaders usually don't fall out.

Once again, you're moving the goal post. You originally said: "All empirical evidence shows that the most common reaction to failed prophecies being realized is MORE passionate preaching and more conviction. Oddly enough, end of times predictors react in this way very consistently."

Now, however, you've drastically scaled back your original claim, yet you act as if that makes no difference. Once more, you're the one who's resorting to ad hoc explanations to patch up your original allegation. Rather ironic, I'd say.

i) Once more, because you can't prove your point using Mt 10:23, even though that was your showcase example, you change the subject to include passages in Luke and Paul. But that just begs the question in reference to those cases. 

ii) The other passages don't have the same benchmarks, so why assume Mt 10:23 must be referring to the same event as they are?

iii) According to v21, some will be martyred before Jesus "comes", so his coming doesn't save them all, or even most of them, from death at the hands of their persecutors. 

iv) Apropos (iii), why infer that "whoever endures to the end will be saved" refers to salvation in this life rather than salvation from this life? Matthew has a doctrine of the afterlife. Indeed, that's the primary encouragement to Christians. Everyone dies sooner or later. The question is what happens to them after they die: "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Inference, method, and history

The History Of Belief In Biblical Inerrancy

Here's something I just posted on the subject on Facebook. It's in response to some recent comments by a New Testament scholar, Richard Burridge. The post cites a lot of resources on the history of the doctrine of inerrancy.

He chose poorly

For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Cor 11:29).

There are churches that fence the table because this is supposed to protect reckless communicants who deny the real presence. But if their interpretation is correct, shouldn't there be empirical consequences for communicants who deny the real presence? Why doesn't this ever happen?

If true, some interpretations will have observable effects. Some interpretations predict for certain results. If that doesn't happen, it ought to call the interpretation into question. 

This isn't melodramatic. Consider what happens to some sinners in the OT, viz. Gen 19:26; Num 12:10; 16:32; 26:10; 2 Sam 6:7. Or Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Or the fate of Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:23).

Out of Egypt I called my Son

What's it like to live under sharia?

Anecdotes from people who have lived in Muslim nations (warning: some bad language):

"[Serious] People who have lived under Sharia law, what was it really like?"