Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Strife is O'er

Good Friday/Holy Saturday

Angels at the tomb

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed (Mk 16:1-5).

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified (Mt 28:1-5).

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel (Lk 24:1-4).

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet (Jn 20:11-12).

1. The number of angels at the tomb is a familiar crux. Some readers chalk it up to legendary embellishment and/or divergent sources. Some readers don't think there were any angels at the tomb. Many inerrantists harmonize the accounts by saying that if there were two angels, then there was at least one angel, and so it's an issue of selective emphasis. 

However, this isn't just about inerrancy. If the Gospels get details wrong in the Resurrection accounts, that lowers confidence in the reliability of the reports. 

2. I'd like to approach this from a different angle: 

i) One potential problem is that readers all along the theological spectrum are bringing an unexamined assumption to the text. Ask yourself, from the viewpoint of Scripture, if you were at the tomb that morning, what you'd see. If angels were there, would you see them? Would everybody who went to the tomb see the same thing vis-a-vis angels? 

ii) Not necessarily, or even probably. In Scripture, angelic apparitions take different forms. Sometimes angels appear to be indistinguishable from humans. What gives them away is if they appear or disappear out of thin air, or reveal supernatural powers. Take the angels in Gen 19 who blind the Sodomites. 

ii) Sometimes angels have a radiant appearance. In that case, their luminescence divulges their supernatural identity.

iii) Sometimes angels assume corporeal form. These are physical apparitions. They are present as external objects to the observer. In that event, everyone would see the same thing. In that modality, if two angels were present, everyone would see two angels. The phenomenon involves an external sensory stimulus.

iv) Sometimes angels appear to people in dreams and visions. These are telepathic apparitions. Angels can access the minds of the human recipient. 

These aren't figments of the imagination. The cause originates outside the mind of the recipient, but it's still a psychological phenomenon. A telepathic projection. 

v) In the case of (iv), angels control the perception of the recipient. They are only seen by those to whom they reveal themselves telepathically. In that modality, if a group of people went to the tomb, they might simultaneously see different things. One observer might see no angels at all while another observer might see what appears to be an ordinary man, while another observer might see a radiant angel, while another observer might see two angels. 

As a result, they'd give different accounts of what they saw, or didn't see. Yet their reports would all be consistent in principle. Two observers can be present at the same place at the same time, yet angels might be detectable to one but indetectable to another. 

vi) That angels were seen by some witnesses in the cemetery doesn't imply that they were continuously present there. If one or two angels were seen by some witnesses inside the tomb, that doesn't entail that they sat in the tomb for hours. They might appear just to be seen by a particular witness, then disappear.

Not very reassuring

I'll comment on this:

A bit of background for those not already steeped in the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. Calvinists have often claimed that only their theology provides true assurance of salvation—because, in that theology, God does everything in our salvation. We contribute nothing and don’t even cooperate with God’s grace. So, many Calvinist have claimed that insofar as free will plays any role in salvation (Arminianism), assurance of salvation is undermined.

Really? What about this:

(1) The soul after regeneration continues dependent upon the constant gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, but is, through grace, able to cooperate with them.

(2) The sanctifying operations of the Spirit are supernatural, and yet effected in connection with and through the instrumentality of means: the means of sanctification being either internal, such as faith and the cooperation of the regenerated will with grace, or external, such as the word of God, sacraments, prayer, Christian fellowship, and the providential discipline of our heavenly Father. "Sanctification", “A. A. Hodge and revised by B.B. Warfield.”

In Calvinism, the elect don't cooperate in the libertarian sense, yet they are agents rather than passive spectators. 

“In Calvinism, when someone moves from professing faith in Christ and being a Christian worker to cynicism about the Bible and the God revealed there (specific examples come to mind)  we would say they have become apostate.

In response to the assurance question with an apostate believer, most Calvinists say they were never saved to begin with.  They were deceived on that point (usually accompanied with a citation from James 2:19).  This seems to be their least problematic response to that circumstance.

However, it also creates a bigger issue for them.  They are saying it is quite possible in Calvinism to live for years believing you have saving faith, professing Christ, and being affirmed as an evangelical believer in Christ (or even a Christian worker/leader) while being unsaved and completely deceived. Logically, therefore, no one could be assured they are not currently living in a deceived state unless or until they died still professing faith.  That is no assurance for the living, walking believer and would violate 1 John 5:13 and other passages that speak to our ability to have confidence now.

According to Arminianism, it's quite possible for churchgoers to live for years believing they are heavenbound, while being unsaved and self-deceived. Much of the evangelistic ministry of John and Charles Wesley was directed at spiritually complacent churchgoers who suffered from a false confidence about their state of grace. Indeed, John and Charles thought they themselves suffered from the false assurance of dead formalism until their own awakening. 

By contrast, if people truly have both a choice in, and a choice out (I don’t believe that people apostate due moral sinning [sic]-2 Timothy 2:13, but rather due to failure to remain in their faith-Colossians 1:21-23), then they would always have confidence and assurance of where they stood with Christ.  If I am depending on Christ alone, then I have confidence that Jesus will embrace me. If I have changed my mind and “moved past” that belief, I have rejected Christ as my savior and would know that I have no assurance if it turns out that Jesus is actually the only way to God.  This is ultimate assurance.  I would never be confused.

Thus, Calvinism leads to no assurance in this life until the moment of death, while a view that affirms free will imparts complete assurance through every stage of the human condition.”

i) But according to Arminianism, you can only enjoy the assurance of salvation from one day to the next. For you may drop out of the race before you cross the finish line. 

ii) In Arminianism, you're not depending on Christ alone. You rely on your willpower. 

iii) Likewise, there's no confusion in Calvinism, for if you change your mind, if you subsequently recant the Christian faith, then you don't continue to believe that you're to be saved if it turns out that faith in Christ is a sine qua non for salvation. 

iv) In Calvinism, the elect and reprobate, regenerate and unregenerate, don't have the same spiritual experience, so just because a nominal Christian might be self-deluded doesn't mean a born-again Christian is in the same epistemic situation. To the contrary, a born-again Christian enjoys the witness of the Spirit. 

In Calvinism, some born-again Christians lack the assurance of salvation, not because they lack the relevant experience, but due to emotional, intellectual, and theological impediments. It's not a matter of layering assurance onto saving faith, but scraping layers away that impede the spontaneous sense of assurance.

v) Finally, an oldie but goodie:

Friday, March 30, 2018

The "virgin birth" of Perseus

The Egyptian Neith’s literally spontaneous, totally virginal birthing of the God Ra, for example, well known across the Empire at the time the Gospels were written, had already likewise inspired attributing magical insemination by spiritual forces in other virgin goddesses, such as Danaë, inseminated by God’s golden rain, or Olympias, inseminated by God’s celestial bolts, or Nana, inseminated by touching a magical almond. Which adaptations are not meaningfully different from God’s insemination of Mary by a magical fluid called the Holy Spirit. She was “found with child by the Holy Spirit” (ek pneumatos hagiou: Matthew 1:18), as even said by the Lord’s angel to Joseph (in Matthew 1:20), or to Mary (in Luke 1:35): “the Holy Spirit shall come on thee” (epeleusetai epi se) “and the power of the Most High shall cover you” (episkiasei soi) and that’s why “the Holy Thing you give birth to” will be “called the Son of God.” The obsessive removal of any literal implication of sex is the Jewish addition to the adopted mytheme. Yet even that had precedent—in Egypt’s Ra, most clearly, a culture neighboring Judea’s; but even in Olympias, where a bolt of lightning is not in ancient religious conception any meaningfully different from a magical dove flying into Jesus. Either way, it’s just a manifestation of “the power of the Most High” entering in to transform the blessed. And when the one entered is a virgin, and remains so even unto birth (as with Danaë and Nana), the parallel is sufficiently complete.

But even the absence of sex is attested in pagan mythology. Most famously, in the case of Perseus, a golden shower (drops of gold falling from the ceiling into his mother’s vagina) is far closer to Mary being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (just as magical a substance, which just as surely went into her womb to impregnate her).

Perseus was most famously conceived by golden rain falling from the ceiling into the womb of the virgin Danaë, who remained a true virgin, never penetrated by any sexual organ anywhere, all the way to the god’s birth. 

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, understood in antiquity to be a magical substance, the pneuma, that could enter and fill people, and effect changes in the world. What material element the god used to effect the conception could not be a relevant distinction. The conceptions are otherwise effectively identical.

A better example is Alexander the Great, whose “mythical” conception came either by a snake (in presumably sexual fashion) or in the form of lightning from heaven, striking the virgin mother Olympias as she slept before her groom consummated their marriage, a decidedly sexless conception, and one much closer in model to Justin’s idea of Mary being impregnated by “the Spirit and Power of God,” a description assignable to a thunderbolt, since lightning is an ephemeral substance like the pneuma, and a very manifestation of the power of god. But here, though we have sexless conception, Olympias is not a virgin by the time she gives birth. So we only have half the idea in place. Similarly in the myth of Io’s impregnation by a “light touch and breath” from Zeus (Aeschylus, Suppliants 16-18), a sexless conception, though still of a non-virgin (although curiously this is exactly the same way Jesus impregnated the Disciples with the Holy Spirit: John 20:22, 25, 27).

Ra, Hephaestus, and Perseus thus remain the most secure exemplars. And Perseus was the most familiar, which is why Justin names him as his prime example of a widely known virgin birth before Jesus. Apart from the method being golden raindrops rather than an infusion of pneuma, all the elements are identical: the mother conceives sexlessly and is a virgin still when she gives birth to the god.

So much wrong. Where to begin?

i) Jesus "impregnated" the Disciples with the Holy Spirit? Carrier has a very strange mind.

ii) Carrier admits that Olympias doesn't count since she wasn't a virgin. In addition, wouldn't she be electrocuted rather than impregnated by a thunderbolt?

iii) The dove flew "into" Jesus? Where does Carrier come up with that interpretation? What does it even mean to say the dove flew "into" Jesus? The text never says that. 

iv) The Holy Spirit is "magical fluid?" Carrier has such a peculiar mind.

Evidently, the source of Carrier's bizarre identification is his wooden grasp of figurative speech. Scripture uses a variety of metaphors to describe the Holy Spirit and his activity, viz. wind, breath, fire, bird, oil, pouring, filling, washing, new birth, temple, fruit-bearer. 

v) Apropros (iv), Carrier's biblical illiteracy blinds him to the fact that when Luke says the Spirit will "overshadow" Mary, he's alluding to the Shekinah (e.g. Lk 9:34-36; Exod 40:34-38; Num 9:18; 10:34; Isa 4:5; Deut 33:12 [LXX]). It resembles a incandescent cloud. 

Ear on the ground

51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked (Mk 14:51-52).

This is a curious anecdote. Readers puzzle over the identity of the anonymous figure. One conjecture is that he might be living in a house on the garden grounds, and went outside to see what the commotion was about (Lagrange)

A more interesting conjecture is that Jesus celebrated the Lord's Supper at the home of John Mark. That's a good candidate for the site of the Lord's Supper (Cf. Lk 22:11-12; 24:33,36; Jn 20:19,26; Acts 1:13; 12:12).

Maybe Judas led the posse to Mark's house in case Jesus was still there. That awakened Mark, who hastily dressed and tailed them (Lane, Gundry). 

(BTW, this may indicate that Mark's family was wealthy. Most homes in Jerusalem didn't have an upper room. And if his family was wealthy, that says something about his education and literacy, pace Bart Ehrman.)

But modern readers are in the dark. And that's the point. This is one of those incidental details which indicates how close Mark's Gospel is to the events. His cryptic aside takes for granted that readers in his immediate social circle will recognize the referent. But once you get a two or more generations out, the allusion is lost on later readers. It's very topical information. 

God Is Dead, Let’s Play Pokémon

Sex change doesn't change sex

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Francis: Being The Change He Wants

Interim report card on Trump administration

Unless you're a news junkie, it's easy to loose track of what the Trump administration has accomplished thus far. Here's an interim report card: 

Ancient literacy

The shadow

1. In this post I'm going to venture some comments on Jordan Peterson. 

Peterson deservedly has a huge following. To his credit, he's is a brave man who stands his ground. Pushes back against the social engineers and social justice warriors. He fearlessly attacks feminism and speech codes. He attacks political correctness (e.g. "Islamophobia", "toxic masculinity"). He expounds and defends innate differences between boys and girls, men and women. He marches to the beat of a different drummer. 

Of course, that could be said of many libertarian/conservative pundits, but he's caught on in a way they haven't. In particular, he's tapped into the plight of disaffected young men who've been marginalized and vilified by identity politics. He exposes a weakness on the part of many evangelical "leaders" who are too concessive, too meek and mild. Who let the secular progressives to define the terms of debate. 

By contrast, Peterson is confrontational. He stands up to bullies. He challenges assumptions. He says things many people know are true, but are afraid to say. In a time of crisis, he's the kind of guy who rises to the occasion. 

2. There are, however, people who make good critics, good insurgents, but they are deficient when it comes to presenting a constructive alternative. They know what's wrong, but they don't know the solution. They can identify problems but their correctives point people in the wrong direction. Many revolutionaries succeed, but are then at a loss to make things better, because their vision is defective. That's Peterson's limitation. I'm going to comment on two aspects of Jordan's teaching in particular. 

3. I've seen several different clips in which he harps on the same theme. To be successful, you must strike a balance between your geniality and your shadow side. You need to get in touch with your dark side. Cultivate your capacity for evil. Develop your inner psychopath. Not that you should normally act on those impulses, but keep them under control–like a guard dog. 

This is something he gets from Jung. We have an alter-ego, like an evil twin. And that's the source of our strength. Our capacity for evil is what makes us tough and decisive. 

A successful individual must integrate those two sides of his personality. The potential for pathological evil is necessary to have strength of character. It's something we should foster, but channel and discipline. Be a monster, but a civilized monster. That's what makes anti-heroes appealing. 

Dropping the metaphors, I assume he's alluding to his belief that humans are animals who evolved from predators. And human males in particular still have those dark powerful instincts. A propensity for pitiless violence. A capacity to commit atrocities. Making your mark in the primordial primate dominance hierarchy.

For Peterson, evil is a necessary good, so long as that is properly harnessed. Without it, people take advantage of you. 

If that's a correct interpretation, then Peterson's recipe is radically at odds with Christian theology. In Christian theology, evil in moderation is not a necessary good. A capacity for sadistic cruelty and wanton mayhem, however bridled, is not an instrumental good. 

That doesn't mean Christian men are supposed to be soft. That's a harmful stereotype. But Christian masculinity isn't grounded in amoral predatory instinct. Peterson's prescription is dangerously false. It fosters a Fight Club mystique that's appealing to alienated young men, but a self-destructive fantasy. 

4. Given his view of the shadow, I don't see how Peterson can avoid having contempt for Jesus. Christ doesn't have a dark side. Jesus doesn't harbor sociopathic tendencies. Jesus doesn't have an alter ego. Jesus doesn't derive fortitude by tapping into his capacity for evil.That's not the source of his inner strength. Peterson's paradigm is intrinsically hostile to the Christian exemplar. 

5. The second thing I'd like to comment on is Peterson's mythological paradigm. And the bottom of this post I have post copious excerpts from his Maps of Meaning to document how he interprets and appropriates comparative mythology. My assessment is based on what he says in that programmatic statement of his reference frame. 

There are different kinds of atheism. On the one hand, there's the hard, cold, fatalistic atheism of Schopenhauer, Hedda Gabler (Ibsen), The Damned (Visconti), Long Day's Journey Into Night (O'Neill), Jean Genet, Rainer Fassbinder, &c. Fleeting moments of happiness are decoy birds. We're only in a position to appreciate the best things in life after we've lost them. 

By contrast, there's the heroic atheism of Buddha and Camus. We're all losers–doomed before we begin. But we can postpone defeat. Eke out a little satisfaction on our the way to the guillotine. 

It's clear to me that Peterson is a secular humanist. He subscribes to heroic atheism. Don't go gently into night. Go down fighting. Rage against the dying light.  

His outlook is like a POW camp. If the enemy wins, the POWs will die in that wretched camp. Die from illness, exposure, malnutrition, or old age–if the survive. They will never be released. But if the enemy loses, the commandant will spitefully execute them before the camp can be liberated by the victors. Either way, the POWs will never leave that wretched camp.

But they can make the most of the situation. Befriend the guards. Smoke, swear, drink, play cards, tell the same old stories–until they die there, one by one. 

6. I take Peterson to mean that paradigm myths are psychologically true. Paradigm myths are psychological and sociological allegories. They encode perennial aspirations and ideals. Even though mythology is literally false, it can be a useful guide to self-understanding because mythology still insightful regarding human nature and the human condition. 

But a problem with the inspirational value of mythology, given his secular outlook, is that human psychology (and corresponding behavior) boils to brain chemistry, which was cooked up in the laboratory of the evolutionary mad scientist. So there's nothing good about it. When you peel back the layers, idealism has no basis in reality. 

7. Peterson treats the Bible as an anthology of paradigm myths, no different in principle from world mythology. The only difference is that biblical mythology has been the dominant mythos of western civilization for centuries. But that's an arbitrary difference.

He views Jesus as a fictional variation on a stock mythotype. Whoever the historical Jesus was, the Jesus of the Gospels is just one of many masks donned by the ubiquitous hero of cross-cultural imagination. 

8. Mythical archetypes have their basis in objective experience. There are positive archetypes: the good mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, mentor, spring, summer, sunrise, daytime, youth, health, prowess, beauty, fertility, orchard, oasis, river valley, rescue, deliverance, homecoming, reunion.   

That has its counterpart in negative archetypes: the abusive mother/father, adulterer/adulteress, faithless son, tempter/temptress, tyrant, false prophet, outcast, drifter, winter, sunset, darkness, disease, disability, decrepitude, excrement, desert, wasteland, storm, natural disaster, snakes, predators, monsters, starvation, betrayal, disgrace, desertion, exile, lostness.

There's nothing essential fictional about these motifs, because they constantly recur in real life, which is why they become stock characters, settings, and plots. So there's no presumption that Jesus is just another imaginary hero because he happens to correspond to some fictional tropes. 

Some archetypes like death, the trickster, and the warrior are positive or negative depending on the culture. 

9. Not only is there heroic atheism, but heroic faith. To revert to my illustration, there are Christians like Eric Liddell and Jane Haining who died in concentration camps by choice. They had a chance to elude capture, but they had a Christian servant ethic. 

In Peterson's secular outlook, when you die, that's it. But from a Christian outlook, the death camp has an invisible back door. When Eric Liddell and Jane Haining died in captivity, they went to heaven–like releasing a bird from a cage. Because Peterson lacks that otherworldly perspective, his secular humanism is valium. 

10. Peterson has no solution to human evil. Evil people can't fix themselves. They're not good enough. That's the dilemma. Humanism is like a dying patient with Ebola who takes a syringe, draws some of his own blood, then injects himself with his own blood to infuse himself with antibodies. But they're the same inadequate antibodies. Fallen creatures require outside intervention: moral and spiritual renewal. 

Likewise, once you do something evil, you can't step into the time machine and become innocent again. You can't turn the clock back and make it right.

Fallen creatures need forgiveness, predicated on redemption. Vicarious atonement. Penal substitution. 

Here's a representative sample of Peterson's mythological paradigm:

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The sorry state of evangelical political theology

Boys will be boys


I was asked to comment on this essay:

for the most part I find the questions posed by both YEC and OEC advocates to be somewhat puzzling, because both positions appear, to me at least, to be asking thoroughly modern questions of a completely ancient text. I simply cannot understand how anyone believes that the author of Genesis had the hydrologic cycle of the early earth in mind when writing about the separation of the waters above and the waters  below in the 2nd millennia BCE.2

the best understanding of Genesis 1 is not as a scientific account of creation (a la YEC or OEC), nor is it a kind of demythologized and wholly non-historical plagiarism of other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) creation myths (a la Delitzsche, Gunkel, or Enns); but rather, it is a purposeful, literary, and polemical taunting of the religious and cultural foes of the early Israelites as they were about to enter the land of Canaan in order to steer them toward religious fidelity to YHWH alone.

That's a strawman. Sure, Gen 1 is not a scientific description of cosmic and biological origins. It uses prescientific language. But that's beside the point. The point, rather, is whether this is a factual description of cosmic and biological origins. A scientific interpretation is a second-order exercise. 

The waters above

1. In Gen 1, there are three divine actions of separation: (i) separating light from darkness and (ii) day from night. Those are interrelated. And (iii) separating the waters above from the waters below. 

2. Many "scholars" think the waters above allude to a celestial reservoir, which the "solid dome" of the sky held back. One problem with that identification is that ancient Israelites were aware of the fact that rain comes from rainclouds. Indeed, depending on you physical vantagepoint, you can see rainclouds emit rain. Moreover, did ancient observers never notice that it only rains when skies are cloudy rather than clear? Did they never notice that it's dry on a clear day, then watch a cloud approach and dump rain? Were they that inattentive to the natural world around them? How would they survive?

3. But we might also consider the symbolic significance of "waters above". Ancient people associated "up there" with God, gods, and angels–while "down below" was the human realm. 

Both sunlight and rain are necessary to sustain human life. In addition, rainwater is drinking water. Very pure. 

Moreover, collected rainwater is safer than venturing down to the riverbank or watering hole, frequented by predators. 

The fact that life-sustaining water comes from above is emblematic of the fact that life and death depend on God's provision. The God "up there" discharges the waters "up there" to make life possible here below. Drought and famine occur in the absence of rain. And even lakes and rivers begin to dry up after a prolonged drought. Water for cooking, drinking, irrigation, game, and livestock becomes scarce. And the Middle East is an arid region to begin with. 

It's natural for ancient people to associate rain with God's celestial abode. God sends rain, or God withholds it. The terrestrial realm relies on the celestial realm to survive and flourish. 

Proxy baptism for the dead?

Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? (1 Cor 15:29). 

This is a famously cryptic statement. I'll take a stab at it. There may be two semantic ambiguities in the text which commentators typically overlook. 

i) Conventional translations render the preposition in this passage as substitutionary: "for, on behalf of". Although that's certainly a legitimate meaning of hyper, the preposition has other senses in Greek. For instance, it can also mean "because of, in view of" (e.g. Louw & Nida, 89:28). 

ii) Suppose we plug that into the text. What might it mean to say Christians are baptized with a view to the dead? Well, in context, Paul is defending the afterlife (i.e. resurrection of Christ, resurrection of the just). Perhaps he means baptism is a witness to the hope of life beyond the grave. The resurrection of the just. Death is not the end, but a portal to a better life on the other side of the grave–for those who die in Christ. 

iii) Then there's the question of how best to render baptizo. Conventional translations render that sacramentally. But at this early stage in Christian Greek usage, were the noun and verb already technical terms for the rite of initiation? It doesn't mean "baptize" in secular Greek. How long did it take for the word to acquire the specialized sense of "baptize/baptism" in Christian Greek? I don't think we can simply assume that's the default meaning of the word at the time of writing (c. 55 AD). 

Suppose, instead, it's a metaphor for ritual purification. And suppose we combine that with the alternative rendering of hyper. What might it mean to say Christians were washed with a view to the dead? 

Here's one possibility: in the ancient world you often had a cult of the dead. Fear of the dead. Fear of ghosts. A felt need to placate ancestral spirits. Provide ritual libations at the grave. Magical relics. Necromancy. And so on and so forth. 

Perhaps 1 Cor 15:29 is a figurative way of saying Christians have been liberated from such anxieties and superstitions. 

Admittedly, both these interpretations go beyond what the text says or implies, but any interpretation of this passage must read between the lines because we've lost the background information which Paul's original audience had at their fingertips. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Adam and the Genome review

Evidence for the empty tomb

Gun stuff


i) I'm ambivalent about commenting on the Stormy Daniels kerfuffle. The only reason I do so is the need to constantly reframe the issue to prevent the liberal establishment from defining the issues. Since accusations are habitually hurled about the "hypocrisy" of evangelicals who supported the Trump candidacy or support his presidency, it's necessary to speak for ourselves rather than letting the enemy speak for us. Not that the critics are listening, but you sow seed. Keep in mind that I didn't vote for Trump. 

ii) I've been studiously avoiding the Daniel's coverage. I don't take my cue from the priorities of the liberal media. I have my own priorities. The controversy is gossipy and irrelevant. Virtually everything I know about it I got from watching Ben Shapiro's analysis of the 60 Minutes interview. That's all it deserves. I'll grant the accuracy of his presentation for discussion purposes.

iii) The exchange consisted of one degenerate interviewing a second degenerate about a third degenerate. Sodomite Anderson Cooper interviewing porn star Stormy Daniels about horndog Donald Trump. Two debauchees denouncing the sex life of another debauchee. It's funny to see the liberal establishment feign disapproval over Trump's Hollywood/Upper Manhattan sexual mores when the liberal establishment has identical sexual mores.  Have you ever noticed that the people who attack Trump's licentiousness are the same people who mock Pence for following the Billy Graham rule? The ruling class increasingly resembles the pagan Roman aristocracy. 

iv) Apparently, Daniels had a consensual tryst with Trump in hopes of getting a slot on The Apprentice. So it's mutual exploitation. 

v) This might be damaging to Trump if there was a smoking gun. Problem is: Trump has brandished the smoldering revolver for decades. He's a braggadocio about his playboy lifestyle. He marries trophy wives. So none of this moves the needle from where it was during the campaign, or before the campaign. Trump was a known quantity in that regard going in. That's one reason among many that some of us supported other candidates during the primaries. But that's water under the bridge. 

And Democrats can never seize the high ground in this debate because they have accommodations in the same bordello. This is like a morality play in which all the characters are pimps, hookers, and madams. And that's not just metaphorical–unfortunately. Post-Christian culture reverts to Saturnalia. 

Who among us hasn't had unprotected intercourse with a porn star & playmate while wife #3 (the one you had intercourse with while still married to wife #2, the woman you slept with while still married to wife #1) was home nursing child number five? #StormyDanielsDay

Is promiscuity contrary to secular ethics? I guess Richard Carrier didn't get the memo:

I’ll be doing an event in New York in May. And traveling with one of my girlfriends. We’re interested in knowing if anyone has a guest room to put us up for three nights.

Jesus' Fulfillment Of Psalm 22

Isaiah's Suffering Servant prophecy gets more attention than other Easter prophecies, as it should. But one that ought to get more attention than it does is Psalm 22. I wrote about it a couple of years ago. And here are links to the audio and video of a recent discussion James White and Michael Brown had about the psalm.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered,
Was all for sinners' gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
But Thine the deadly pain.
(O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)

Skin-deep faith

I'll comment on a post by Arminian theologian Randal Rauser:

When I was growing up, I learned to read biblical narratives as historically reliable accounts of past events. Whether the issue was the death and resurrection of Jesus, the curious maritime journey of Jonah, the Exodus from Egypt, Samson’s killing a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass, or Adam and Eve talking to a serpent in the Garden of Eden, all these stories were accepted with equal conviction as accurate accounts of past events.

Unlike Rauser, I attended mainline denominations as a child, so I never had that point of contrast. I moved right while Rauser moved left. 

Then I went to university and that “historicity assumption” began to be eroded. 

Such a cliche. How many times have we seen that rerun? 

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Society of Evangelical Post-Arminians

Friday Files, 16 Mar 2018

March 16, 2018, posted by K.W. Leslie
[12 Mar 2018] Reviewing Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism, Rishmawy defends the idea that God kills children in tsunamis… but admits it’s not the best thing to tell the grieving.
i) Apparently, Arminians now believe natural forces like tsunamis have libertarian freedom. God has no control over when and where a tsunami strikes. Does SEA stand for the Society of Evangelical Animists? Does SEA subscribe to panpsychism? Are natural disasters are personal agents with a mind of their own? 
ii) It's ironic that Arminians attack Calvin's distinction between proximate/remote causation, but then act as though natural forces can't be traced back to divine agency. 
iii) Evidently, if Charles Wesley applied for membership to SEA, his application would be rejected since he attributes natural disasters to divine judgment:
Poor Wesley is too Arminian for SEA. What used to be traditional Arminian theology has now been reclassified as Calvinism. Perhaps SEA should be renamed the Society of Evangelical post-Arminians. 
Wesley now finds himself in the same company as Groucho Marx regarding the merits of  club membership.