Saturday, September 29, 2018

Reformed exclusivism

Critics of Calvinism regard Calvinism as an especially harsh version of exclusivism. They castigate unconditional election and they criticize the Reformed position that regeneration is causally prior to faith. The point of this post is not to defend those tenets directly, but to consider a potential fringe benefit. 

i) In traditional evangelical exclusivism, premortem faith in Christ is a prima facie prerequisite of salvation. But there are caveats. That's usually confined to mentally competent individuals. Exceptions are often made for those who lack the cognitive faculties to exercise Christian faith. People below a certain age. People with severe congenital brain damage. 

Christians who become senile. Christians with brain cancer. The latter two lose their faith, but they don't lose their salvation. Rather, they lose the cognitive faculties to believe. 

That's not necessarily the same thing as declaring all those groups to be heavenbound. Because Scripture doesn't give definitive answers to the salvific status of special cases, some evangelical theologians suspend judgment while others stake out the universal salvation of all who die before the age of reason (to take one example). 

ii) Although Scripture attributes salvation to faith in Christ, Scripture also attributes salvation to regeneration. It's lopsided to focus on saving faith to the exclusion of saving regeneration. 

iii) According to evangelical freewill theism, faith causes regeneration. According to Calvinism, regeneration (in tandem with the Gospel) causes faith. In Calvinism, regeneration is causally and sometimes temporally prior to saving faith. There can be a chronological gap between regeneration and saving faith. For instance, God can regenerate someone as a young child or even in the womb, but they may not come to faith until they reach the age of reason or later. Likewise, in Calvinism, election is logically/teleologically prior to conception (indeed, prior to time). 

iv) Suppose (ex hypothesi) that God regenerates a Muslim with a view to the Muslim coming to Christian faith, only God regenerates the Muslim several years before he comes to faith in Christ. At that stage in the process, the Muslim hasn't been exposed to the Gospel. But suppose the effect of regeneration is to make him doubt or lose faith in Islam. At that stage he lacks an alternative. But regeneration broke through the social conditioning which made Islam unquestionable prior to regeneration. And suppose that prompts him to search for religious alternatives–until he discovers a Bible. Regeneration planted a seed that eventually germinated in faith. But there was some delay.

v) In principle, God might elect or regenerate someone who's killed in a traffic accident before coming to faith in Christ. I wouldn't press that. In general, God coordinates election and regeneration with the Gospel. 

That said, I'm not sure how we can rule out the possibility that God elects and regenerates some people who die before coming to Christ. Their faith will be postponed to the afterlife. Indeed, many Calvinists already believe that happens in special cases (see above). Is salvation a matter of lucky timing? If you die a minute before, you're damned? 

Ironically, something freewill theists find so objectionable in Calvinism has the potential to make it more magnanimous than traditional evangelical freewill theism. Not something to bank on, but an open question in Reformed theology.  By contrast, faith and regeneration are chronologically inseparable in traditional evangelical freewill theism, resulting in a harsher version of exclusivism. 

Why take the risk?

Sorry to keep posting on Kavanaugh, but the controversy opens up a range of ethical issues over and above Kavanaugh. 

One objection I've run across goes something like this: Kavanaugh isn't the only fish in the sea. Trump could withdraw Kavanaugh (a damaged candidate) and nominate another candidate with a conservative judicial philosophy. This isn't a criminal trial where the defendant faces imprisonment if convicted. No one has a right to be a Supreme Court Justice. Why take the risk of elevating an attempted rapist to the Supreme Court? 

That's a good question. What's the answer?

i) It sets a terrible precedent to disqualify someone based on unverified allegations of wrongdoing.

ii) Secular progressives are bent on punishing political opponents or ideological dissenters with loss of employment or even imprisonment. 

iii) Democrats are hoping to kill this nomination and play out the clock so that Trump won't get a second chance. Indeed, they're using the process to poison voters agains the GOP come November. 

iv) If, moreover, a nominee can be derailed by leveling an unverified allegation, then Democrats will repeat that tactic for every GOP nominee. 

v) There's always the risk that a political candidate or presidential nominee has undiscovered skeletons on his closet. For all we know, nominees generally may have done something disqualifying but we have no evidence of wrongdoing. Ford presents herself as a reluctant accuser. Suppose she never came forward.  

Suppose a judge accepted a bribe. The judge is nominated to the Supreme court. But suppose no witness comes forward. Indeed, we wouldn't expect a witness to accuse him if the accuser is the same person who bribed him. It's a crime to offer a bribe as well as a crime to accept a bribe, so there's an element of mutual blackmail. The witness can only accuse the judge on pain of self-incrimination. So there's always the risk that we might be voting for a candidate or nominee whom we'd vote down if incriminating evidence were to surface. That hypothetical would preemptively disqualify every nominee. We couldn't risk voting for anyone, since there's always the abstract possibility that they're hiding something that ought to bar debar them.  

vi) In addition, there's a difference between a merely hypothetical risk and having good evidence that the individual in question is actually compromised.  

vii) Finally, some risks are riskier than others. Taking giving a Muslim-American a high security clearance. So it depends in part on the potential for harm. 

Classical apologetics

A few observations about classical apologetics:

In my anecdotal experience, Calvinists who oppose Van Tilian presuppositionalism often take R. C. Sproul as the standard-bearer of classical apologetics. But there are some basic problems with that:

1. Sproul isn't the most competent exponent of classical apologetics. He's a generalist and popularizer. Winfried Corduan, W. L. Craig, Richard Swinburne, and Stephen Davis are more adept exponents of classical apologetics than Sproul. 

From an earlier generation, I'd classify Warfield as a classical apologist, although there are many current topics that he doesn't cover. 

There's a kind of Reformed chauvinism that latches onto someone simply because he's a fellow Calvinist–one of us–so we first turn to representatives of our own position. However, the fact that Sproul is a Calvinist is completely unrelated to his philosophical competence as an exponent of classical apologetics.  

Another well-known proponent of classical apologetics is Norm Geisler. Geisler has mentored a generation of protégés. However, Geisler spreads himself very thin, and he's not a topnotch. 

In fact, Corduan is a Calvinist! Although Corduan generally writes for popular consumption, he's more sophisticated than Sproul. 

Sorry if this comes across as elitist, but apologetics is an intellectual field. We're up against the best minds that secularism and non-Christian rivals have to offer. So it's necessary to have a standard of comparison. 

2. Theologically, Craig, Corduan, Swinburne, and Davis range along a continuum. Swinburne is the least orthodox while Corduan is the most orthodox. 

And that draws attention to another point. Classical apologetics uses a two-stage argument: the first step is to use natural theology to establish God's existence while the second step, building on the first step, is to establish Christian theism. That means there's no integral relationship between classical apologetics and Christianity, or any particular Christian tradition. A classical apologist can be a Calvinist, Thomist, Molinist, open theist, Lutheran, Wesleyan, Catholic, Muslim, or Orthodox Jew. Because the first step isn't Christian, a Christian second step isn't entailed by the first step. Although the second step is inseparable from the first step, the first step is separable from the second step.

Because the first stage of the argument is compartmentalized in that regard, the initial stage is not and cannot be informed by Christian theism. The second step can't feed back into our understanding of the first step, which is theologically neutral in a sectarian sense. 

That's another reason why it's arbitrary for a Calvinist to reach for Sproul as the go-to guy on classical apologetics. There's no internal relationship between Calvinism and classical apologetics. 

Notice that thus far I haven't offered a value judgment on classical apologetics. I'm just offering some clarifications. 

3. There's a sense in which truth is circular: a system of logically implicated truths and causally implicated facts. Contingent truths and necessary truths. That gives rise to the cliche that "all truth is God's truth". 

But in that event, there's no necessary starting-point in apologetics. You can break into the circle at any point. 

Moreover, unlike a two-step apologetic, which is unilinear and irreversible, a circle runs clockwise and counterclockwise. One set of truths will illuminate another set of truths, in no particular order. For reality is holistic. If Christian theism is true, then that truth permeates truth in general. If Christianity is true, then reality is Christian in general–in which case you can't artificially isolate a non-Christian starting-point from a Christian conclusion. 

Rather, there's an emerging pattern. The pattern was always Christian, but that may be inevident until more of the pattern is on display. 

Classical apologetics is defective in that regard. That's one reason I'm a presuppositionalist rather an a classical apologist. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Technology is a beautiful thing (in the right hands)

Judicial temperament


I've see a few Christians object to Kavanaugh's confirmation, not because they think his youthful indiscretions are disqualifying, but because he lied about them. I'm discussing this because it raises some general ethical issues over and above the Kavanaugh psychodrama. 

A terminological clarification before I proceed. I use "disqualifying" as shorthand for conduct deemed to disqualify someone from certain types of employment. Although "youthful indiscretion" is sometimes a euphemism, I'm using it, not in a minimizing sense, but to classify misbehavior that's not deemed to be serious enough to be disqualifying. Misbehavior that's disqualifying is more serious than a youthful indiscretion. 

For people who take the aforesaid position, I have the following question: 

If a youthful indiscretion isn't disqualifying, why is lying about a youthful indiscretion disqualifying? 

Let's consider some possibilities:

1. Perhaps they think lying is intrinsically wrong. Therefore, while the youthful indiscretion is insufficient to be disqualifying, lying in itself is disqualifying. 

i) On that view, even if the individual committed no youthful indiscretions whatsoever, lying would preemptively disqualify him from further consideration.

ii) Although I don't have any scientific stats at my fingertips, it's my impression that most people lie some of the time. If lying is permanently disqualifying, that would result in massive unemployment. Or is it only disqualifying for certain kinds of jobs? If so, what kinds of jobs? 

2. Perhaps they think that while the youthful indiscretion is insufficiently disqualifying in its own right, and lying is insufficiently disqualifying in its own right, the combination crosses a threshold. 

3. Does lying automatically mean a person is dishonest? Some people are habitual liars. Other people are truthful if you don't threaten their family or livelihood. Many people will lie in predictable situations. Whether lying is always wrong is different from whether lying makes the liar generally dishonest or untrustworthy. Those are separate issues.

Sometimes people can get into trouble for doing the right thing. Suppose I know that someone won't cover for me if I'm at risk of getting into trouble for doing the right thing? Paradoxically, his honestly would make him untrustworthy in that situation. I know he won't lie to protect me, even though I did nothing wrong. 

Once again, that doesn't settle the question of whether lying is ever morally permissible (or even obligatory). But it does complicate the issue of what make someone a friend you can rely on in pinch. If they're so honest that they'd expose you to harm for doing the right thing, are they friendship material?

4. Suppose a person is questioned under oath as part of a background check. Supposed they're asked if they ever engaged in sexting. Suppose they did engage in sexting when they were a teenager, but they outgrew that. But the question poses a dilemma:

i) If, on the one hand, they lie, that might be a crime. If, on the other hand, they tell the truth, that might be confessing to a crime. On the one hand they risk perjury while on the other hand they risk self-incrimination.

ii) Suppose it wasn't a crime. Even so, that's asking them to divulge embarrassing information that could still be used against them. And it may be completely irrelevant to the job they're seeking. 

Why should they be required to answer unfair questions on pain of perjury? Why should they be punished for lying in response to a question that the investigator had no right to ask in the first place? Why should they be disqualified for lying when the question is unfair and harmful to them, while there's nothing in their past conduct that will be harmful to others in the future? 

Even–or especially–if you think lying is intrinsically wrong, then entrapment is wrong. Pushing someone to the limit, then blaming them for the situation you put them in. They wouldn't do that if you didn't corner them. If you induce them to lie, who's at fault? They wouldn't lie if you didn't ask them unfair, damaging questions.

I'm not talking about someone who already did something gravely wrong, and you're questioning them to find out more. Rather, I'm talking about a scenario in which the interrogation itself is threatening to the respondent, quite apart from past behavior. 

Kafka now

I appreciate how Democrats keep proving that they can't be trusted with power. Their Kafkaesque standard that the accused has a duty to invite a gov't agency to investigate him. I keep reading the witless claim that an innocent person has nothing to fear from a criminal investigation. Are these people even thinking?

An innocent person is assuming a gratuitous risk if he requests a criminal investigation. The risk that he will be imprisoned on a process crime. Suppose the interrogators ask him prying questions it would be embarrassing to answer. Not about criminal behavior, but just embarrassing behavior. Suppose he lies to avoid the humiliation. Now they will nail him for perjury, even though it was none of their business to ask him questions about embarrassing, but legal behavior. 

In addition, he doesn't even have to lie to be indicted for perjury. The same agency that interrogates him determines if his answers are truthful. He can give honest answers but still do time for perjury because it all depends on their interpretation. 

If he didn't agree a criminal investigation, he wouldn't put himself in legal jeopardy. It's safer for an innocent person not to agree to that potential trap. No one in their right mind will ambush themselves by requesting a criminal investigation. Why should they cooperate with their enemies? 

That's one reason the burden of proof is on the accuser. Why should an innocent person concede that there's anything that needs to be investigated? That concession is a tactical blunder. It gives his enemies a foot in the door. 

Stop Being So Deferential To Christine Ford

Republicans and other supporters of Brett Kavanaugh need to stop being so deferential to Christine Ford. The evidence still suggests that she's been lying about Kavanaugh's alleged assault on her and other, related matters. The verisimilitude of her facial expressions, tone of voice, and such at the hearings yesterday is far outweighed by the other evidence suggesting her untrustworthiness. As David French noted in an article yesterday that, unfortunately, is too deferential to Ford:

Moreover, we also often have this mystical faith in our own ability to discern the truth by examining tone, demeanor, and likeability. She was “real.” He’s been “wooden.” These things impact us far more than we’d like to admit. Yet if there is one thing we know from our modern re-examinations of the impact of witness testimony on case outcomes, our faith in ourselves is deeply misplaced. We’re not very good at determining who’s correct and who’s mistaken by watching people talk. That’s one reason why innocent people go to prison, including for rape….

She has made her claim, there are no corroborating witnesses. No one else can place the two of them together at the party — not even the witnesses she’s identified. She is inconsistent or forgetful on a number of key points. She can’t even identify who brought her to the party or who took her home. He’s denied the claims and will deny them again.

That’s thin — very thin — evidence of sexual assault. The evidence is no stronger this afternoon than it was before Dr. Ford testified. When this controversy began, I said that her claims were serious enough that, if true, Kavanaugh should not be confirmed. Further, I said [that] she should only have to carry the lowest burden of proof — to establish that her claims were more likely than not. If you step back, look at the totality of the evidence and consider that she has brought no new evidence to the committee, I still don’t believe she has met that minimal burden.

For those who think the verisimilitude of Ford's testimony yesterday equals or outweighs the evidence against her claims, how do you explain the verisimilitude of Kavanaugh's testimony later in the hearing? We can think of possible scenarios in which both individuals are sincere (drunkenness distorting memories, etc.). But the issue is what's probable, not what's possible, and these alternative scenarios have problems of their own. The explanation that best fits the totality of the evidence is that Ford has been lying. Stop being so deferential to her, especially when she just recently has been caught making so many dubious claims, repeatedly contradicting herself, acting as if she doesn't have certain political motives that the evidence suggests she does have, etc.


Is Kavanaugh's indignation at the character assassination at odds with judicial temperament? Take a couple of cliche counterexamples:

It's routinely said that a lawyer shouldn't represent himself if the lawyer is accused. That's because a lawyer will lack the same detachment when he's a defendant. That doesn't mean  he lacks detachment when representing a client.

Likewise, it's routinely said that a doctor shouldn't treat his own family for a dangerous medical condition because he's too emotionally invested in his own family to make dispassionate medical judgments. That doesn't mean he lacks the critical detachment to treat patients who aren't that close to him. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018


1. One argument (if you can call it that) for not confirming Kavanaugh is that he's been "tainted" by the coverage. To the contrary, that's a reason he ought to be confirmed.

Here's what I mean: Democrats/secular progressives rely on intimidation rather than truth, reason, and evidence. They dare you to confirm a nominee who's been "tainted". 

And that's a reason he should be confirmed, to incapacitate that tactic. To show that we're not hostage to their approval or disapproval. To show that we're not afraid to confirm a "tainted" nominee.

That tactic is nothing more than psychological coercion. So it's necessary to call their bluff. We must demonstrate that we're not afraid of their name-calling. We don't care. That won't stop us. We'll go right ahead and vote for candidates they say are "tainted". That has no power over us.

He's not "tainted" due to probative evidence of wrongdoing. No, the mere uncorroborated allegation is supposed to leave a candidate or nominee with "a cloud over his head". That tactic must be opposed. That must be ignored. That tactic must be rendered impotent. 

2. In addition, there's the double standard. Female politicians and female accusers can say anything they want any way they want. They can be emotional, angry, aggressive, patronizing. If, however, the accused (a man) is aggressive or defiant in response, that's mean. It makes it almost impossible for a man to defend himself. (Indeed, that's the strategy.) That double standard needs to be relentlessly challenged.

3. Finally, proving a negative is often far harder or simply impossible than proving a positive. If something happened, there may be evidence. But what's the evidence that nothing happened? Well, nothing is evidence that nothing happen. A nonevent leaves no trace.

There are instances in which it's possible to prove a negative. But in many instances that's not the case.

That's why the burden of proof is on the accuser, not the accused. This isn't just an artificial technicality. The burden of proof is different for proving a positive than a negative. 

A pig satisfied

Yes you say, but what is the alternative? What about the troubles with atheism? Probably the biggest worry about atheism–leaving aside now truth or falsity issues–is that it seems such a cold and unfriendly sort of business. You may eke out a life, but given atheism, you can hardly have a very joyous life, and any sense of a life with some kind of meaning seems impossible entirely. If there is no God to make sense of things–if death is death and there is no hereafter and eternity–is anything worthy anything? "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Who cares about standards! That is to play the Christian's game. Just enjoy yourself, or at least indulge your senses to and beyond the full. That is meaning enough to life. When you are dead, you are dead. The ethics of belief really don't come into the equation because either you were right that there is a hereafter or you were wrong and it no longer matters…You might as well start drowning your sorrows in alcohol before you slip off to Belgium to have yourself put down. 

Let us grant that you can have a worldview that is not religious in any sense. Does subscribing to such a view mean leaving behind much that makes life worthwhile and renouncing the world rather like a Cistercian monk entering a monastery of a virtually spartan kind? John Stuart Mill's answer would be that even if this is so, if you really believe there is no God, you have no choice but to go this way. "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. 

I don't mean there won't be times when you are overcome by the existential worthlessness of it all…Don't kid yourself, If you become a nonbeliever, then you have left the security of your childhood. There is no ultimate meaning. And secular attempts to find a substitute, like relying on progress, simply aren't going to do it. It's gone forever. M. Ruse, Atheism: What Everyone Needs To Know (Oxford 2015), 236-237, 243-45.

Ruse says other things to soften the crash landing. Personally, he seems to be an affable guy, but lots of people can be nice when it doesn't cost them anything. Would you trust him in a survival situation? That's an acid test. Given his outlook, if it hurt him to help you or helped him to hurt you, what would you expect–if he's consistent? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Engaging Islam

Mortal combat

As if uncorroborated allegations are self-validating. Behold the beauty of circular justification: an allegation taints him by virtue of the allegation itself, and not whether it's true, not whether there's any solid evidence. 

Notice the strategy: if one uncorroborated allegation doesn't sink his confirmation, then the cumulative weight of multiple uncorroborated allegations, increasingly surreal, is supposed to sink his confirmation.

It would be dishonorable to throw Kavanaugh over the back of the sled to save ourselves. Moreover, it's counterproductive. This tactic poses a threat to all men. We need to watch each other's back. We can't permit a culture in which men are presumptively guilty.

The Democrats have made this a fight to the death. So we need to respond in kind. If they're going to turn confirmation hearings into mortal combat, we can't afford to back down.

The elusive God

A more recent argument for atheism, the divine hiddenness problem, contends that if God existed, he'd make his existence more manifest. Consider the problem of unanswered prayer. Likewise, why doesn't God perform more miracles? 

i) As I recently noted, there are tradeoffs between divine intervention and stability:

God intervenes often enough to remind us that we're not alone, but not so often as to obliterate any continuity between past and future. He intervenes frequently enough to show us that the universe is not a snow globe. There's a greater reality beyond the physical universe. There's hope beyond the grave. But he doesn't obliterate the future by constantly resetting the timeline in answer to prayer.

ii) Job and Joseph are paradigm-examples where God is never more present than when he seems to be most absent. Joseph has two prophetic dreams, but after that his life goes haywire. From Joseph's vantage-point, God seems to be absent as Joseph suffers one misfortune after another. Likewise, at the low point of his life, God seems to abandon Job. In the midst of his ordeal, God is silent. In the midnight hour, where was God? Of course, readers know how the stories end. God as working behind-the-scenes all along. 

Or course, unbelievers don't think these are real-life stories, but that's not essential to the argument since the objection is about the consistency of certain ideas. Is the idea of God consistent with divine hiddenness? 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The altar

Catholic apologist Erick responded to my post:

In addition, some Catholics on Facebook also had feedback. This post is a rejoinder to both. 

This is a strange bifurcation created between “Christianity” and “Christ’s Church”. All who partake of Christ in a saving manner are “members of His body” (1 Cor 12), and thus in the Church. 

That's why you don't have to go on a quest to find Christ's church. If you became a Christian, that automatically makes you a member of Christ's church. I appreciate Erick unwitting endorsement of my ecclesiology! 

And since the Church has origination in Christ, I see a problem with this idea of not wanting to be a part of the “original Church which Christ founded”. 

I didn't suggest Christians shouldn't wish to be a part of the “original Church which Christ founded”. Rather, all true Christians are already a part of that church by virtue of salvation. 

But I prefer to give SH the benefit of doubt and assume he means here that there is no single visible institutional Church which has been comprised of a visible and unbroken hierarchical succession since the Apostles, with one single membership rite. 

As a low-church Protestant, I don't define the church Christ founded in terms of "unbroken hierarchical succession since the Apostles." Isn't that self-evident? 

Protestant scholars who have studied the Patristic data will admit that the early Church Fathers understood “the holy Church” as one visible hierarchical society which requires external unity in faith, sacramental economy, and governmental solidarity. Any break in these three essential elements would create 2 different communities, one false claimant to being the “una sancta” of the Creed and the other being the true and authentic una sancta of the Creed. Period. 

Church fathers aren't my touchstone. Period. 

As a Protestant, it is strange that SH would deny that there are real contenders to the claim of ecclesiality since I am sure he would discount Mormonism, Jehovah Witnesses, and Unitarians from being an authentic Church. He would prove it by giving criteria of falsification. 

Since heretics aren't Christian, they don't belong to the church. That's entirely different from the claim that Christ's church is confined to one ecclesial community among myriads of false claimants–which you must isolate by process of elimination. And not only don't I regard the Roman Catholic church as the one true church, I don't regard that sect as a part of Christ's church. It's a nominally Christian denomination. 

The Apostles and Nicene Creed has had all Christians in history profess "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church". There aren't denominations and it isn't a difficult search. What Steve is testifying to is that he doesn't believe in any denomination, any specific church, as in none of them are orthodox nor historic, but rather all inventions of men. 

1. Since the Apostles' creed and Nicene creed are fallible, uninspired documents, that's not my criterion. Uninspired creeds can be true, but the criterion is revelation, not tradition. 

2. At the risk of stating the obvious, all Christians in history don't profess "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church". 

i) They couldn't profess articles of those creeds before those creeds were promulgated.

ii) Not all evangelical churches have a liturgy with those creeds. 

iii) At what point were those creeds incorporated into the Latin liturgy?

iv) How could illiterate, non-Latin speaking (not to mention non-Romance speaking) peasants recite a creed in Latin? How would they know what they were saying?

v) The fact that many churchgoers recited a script someone else wrote for them is an illicit argument from authority.

3. Historical continuity isn't a prerequisite to be an expression of Christ's church. Catholics operate with a priest-sacrament paradigm. Protestants operate with a Word-Spirit paradigm. 

4. Many Protestant denominations are far more orthodox than Roman Catholicism. 

5. In God's providence, denominations reflect historical contingencies. They develop in relation to the circumstances God puts Christians in, which vary in time and place. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Swelling reverberations

On his blog, Vincent Torley has posted a massive attack on the Resurrection accounts. This summarizes an even larger, self-published book by autodidact Michael Alter. 

I don't know much about Torley. He is (or was) a contributor to Uncommon Descent. He's a convert to Catholicism (from what, I don't know).

The main problem with Torley's attack is that it's just a basket full of musty chestnuts. Most of these a very stale objections.

I'm not saying old arguments are necessarily bad arguments. Old arguments can be good arguments. 

But these objections have all been discussed in evangelical commentaries, monographs, and periodical articles. I myself have been over this ground, sometimes quoting other scholars and sometimes offering my own explanations. 

Torley's attack is rather one-sided. He seems to be better read in infidelity than in conservative scholarship. And his rosy assessment of liberal critics lacks discrimination.

What one person finds convincing another person may find unconvincing. There's such a deja vu quality to Torley's attack. Right now I don't feel like posting a repetitious rebuttal to repetitious objections. There are so many layers to peel away, and it's all been done before. How many times must we peel the same onion? 

However, I will reiterate one point: the evidence for Christianity isn't confined to ancient documentary evidence. Christianity is a living faith. Christians prayer to Jesus, or pray to the Father in Jesus' name. Countless Christian prayers have been answered. How is a dead Savior answering their prayers? If Jesus was just a man who ceased to exist when he expired, who is answering prayers addressed to and through Jesus?

Likewise, contemporary dreams and visions of Jesus are instrumental in the conversation of many Muslims. How is a dead Savior, a mortal who passed into oblivion 2000 years ago, appearing to them? Same thing with Christian visions of Jesus. For instance:

I'm not saying we should believe every testimony. That needs to be sifted on a case-by-case basis. 

Yet this isn't simply about something that, if it happened, happened in the past, and that's all behind us–but about something that continues to happen as a result of that past event. Supernatural reverberations. And they aren't fading reverberations, but swelling reverberations. The bell rung 2000 years ago gets louder, not softer–filling the earth. 


A scurrilous allegation against Kavanaugh: 

But suppose for argument's sake that as a Yale student, Kavanaugh exposed himself to a female student. Why do secular progressives act like that's a big deal? For instance, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are both members of the Judiciary committee. And both of them rose to power in San Francisco political establishment. They don't seem to think that obscene, pornographic gay pride parades are morally disqualifying. For that matter, Feinstein's predecessor, Harvey Milk, was a notorious queer pederast. 

What universities with coed dorms, coed bathrooms, and coed locker rooms? That includes state universities in California and Hawaii (which Senate Judiciary committee member Mazie Hirono represents) as well as Yale. Liberal college administrators have made it nearly impossible for students not to expose themselves to members of the opposite sex. So do they really think flashing is wrong? What about Yale sex week?

Don't all the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary committee support transgenderism? So they don't have a problem with anatomical men exposing themselves to women and vice versa in public restrooms and locker rooms. 

Either Kavanaugh's critics are brazen hypocrites or else they were so deranged that one part of their brain doesn't remember what the other part of their brain believes. 

Turmoil in Chicago

Roman Catholic Priest “Off the Grid and On the Run” to escape official retribution from Cardinal Blaise Cupich

I apologize to those of you who tire of the Roman Catholic scandals. I follow them fairly closely, and the tangle of names of all the different Cardinals and Bishops from all the different countries around the world can become tiresome, and I have a hard time following them myself.

But the shenanigans go on and on, and I think these are illustrative of how the Roman Catholic Church sees itself … some sort of trans-governmental government of its own, still relying on Medieval tactics to “get the job done” (i.e., to make sure that “the gates of hell” do not prevail) in its own neurotic, sociopathic ways.

Given that overarching “method” of Roman operation (likely left over from the early middle ages, if not from ancient Roman government itself), we now have some battle lines being drawn, fairly clearly, within the confines of that neurotic system.

In the process, a conservative priest who allowed his parishioners to burn a "gay flag" (superimposed on the cross of Christ) has been summoned to undergo psychiatric counseling. He refused to submit, and now he is on the run. I find this video to be both sad and entertaining.

P.S. Edit: Cupich is one of Pope Bergoglio's first and most visible appointments in the US.

The sacrifice of the Mass

A friend asked me to comment on this post by a Catholic apologist:

I'll confine my observations to what I take to be the meat of his argument. 

Christians throughout the world who are actively seeking to join the original “Church” which Christ founded are confronted with the myriad of communities and denominations which compete with each other.

That's a Catholic solution to something that's only a problem if you grant Catholic ecclesiology. In my 42 years as a Christian, I never sought to join the original “Church” which Christ founded. What about joining Christianity? That's a better starting-point.

I don't think there's a one-to-one matchup between "the original Church which Christ founded" and particular instantiations of the church. I'm not looking for a needle in a haystack, because I don't need to eliminate all the contenders. I don't view Christian denominations as a zero-sum game. It's not mortal combat, where you have to kill off all the competition. I don't subscribe to a Hunger Games ecclesiology. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The presumption of innocence

There's currently a debate about whether Kavanaugh ought to enjoy the presumption of innocence.

1. The presumption of innocence is an artificial legal standard. In our system of justice, it's better for a guilty man to go free than for an innocent man to be convicted. That's a good legal standard. For one thing, a defendant has so much to lose in a criminal trial. In addition, the state has resources that most defendants don't. 

2. However, I wouldn't say there's an abstract or general presumption of innocence outside the courtroom. Rather, it depends on the evidence. If there's insufficient evidence one way or the other, the responsible attitude is to suspend judgment.

3. The mentality of secular progressives, exemplified by affirmative consent and campus kangaroo courts, is that when a woman accuses a man of sexual harassment, assault, or rape, the woman is presumptively innocent and trustworthy while the man is presumptively guilty and untrustworthy. 

That's a sexist attitude, and it disregards reality. Sometimes men lie, sometimes women lie. When you throw alcohol into the mix, the accuser or the accused can sincerely misremember. 

There's no justified general presumption, no presumption in the abstract, that a female accuser is the innocent victim, is telling the truth, while the accused is the perp. That can only be assessed on a case by case basis. It depends on specific evidence, or lack thereof. 

4. At this point I support Kavanaugh's confirmation, not based on the presumption of innocence, but because I haven't seen any convincing evidence that he's guilty. I make allowance for the possibility that her story is true. The fact that Kavanaugh hung around Mark Judge makes it likely that he attended some of the same drinking parties. 

But that doesn't make the allegation true or even probably true. What if she was under the influence? What if they were both under the influence? That clouds judgment. 

5. The closest thing to independent evidence is the polygraph. But that's dicey:

i) From what I've read, polygraph results are just slightly better than chance.

ii) We don't know what questions she was asked.

5. In addition, there are holes in her story. 

6. It's important that we not let Democrats win using these tactics. 

The Euthyphro Dilemma - Matt Flannagan vs Jason Thibodeau