Saturday, October 06, 2018

Symmetrical or monarchical Trinitarianism?

According to Orthodox analytic theologian Dr. Beau Branson the right way to understand the Trinity is that the one true God is none other than the Father, although there are three divine persons. There is no triune God, no tripersonal God. In his view, this is the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Dr. Branson also explains what he calls the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father, which in his view, is a key to correctly understanding the Trinity. He also explains what he calls “egalitarian” or “symmetrical” views on the Trinity, which he contrasts with “monarchical” views.

I'm not qualified to say if this is the Greek Orthodox paradigm in every particular, although elements of it certainly reflect the Nicene paradigm, as I understand it. Unwittingly, this confirms my preference for a symmetrical model of the Trinity rather than a monarchical model of the Trinity. The Nicene paradigm leaves a foothold for unitarianism. Although "not made" and "consubstantial" rule out Arianism, the Nicene paradigm is an incomplete response to the unitarian alternative. By saying there is no triune or tripersonal God, by saying that only the Father is the one true God, that paradigm still has a unitarian center of gravity. It tries to finesse monotheism by making the Father the source. The Son and Spirit are reduced to projections of the Father.

A while back I was walking at a cemetery. The entrance is a high brick wall with cast-iron gates. When open, the gates are perpendicular to the wall. As I was exiting the cemetery before sunset, I saw an interesting phenomenon. The direction of sunlight low on the western horizon, in relation to the gates, at right angles to the wall, made the gates cast a shadow on the wall, as if there was a second gate, flat against the wall. Of course, that was an optical illusion. The second gate was just a shadow. If you put a barrier between the sunlight and the cast-iron gate, the image would instantly vanish. Only the iron-gate has positive existence. A shadow is merely the absence of light at that spot. A patch of nothing that only exists by virtue of light (and some opaque object in-between). That's what Branson's Trinitarianism amounts to. 

Punishment for abortion

As of Saturday night, just hours after the confirmation vote, Brett Kavanaugh has been sworn in as a Justice of the Supreme Court. It's not clear yet that he would vote to overturn Roe vs Wade (and turn the decision about abortion laws over to the states), but we can be certain that there will be howling about punishment for abortion, back-alley coat hanger abortions, etc.

There won't likely be any jail time at all for having an abortion, anywhere, but one thing we should do is to spread the word that for each person who procures an abortion, the thought that "I killed a living, growing human child for my own convenience" should be impressed upon them as a kind of life sentence. If any punishment is to be imposed, each person who participates in getting an abortion should at least live with that thought.

The Magus

The bastard son of a magus, Logan MacGaraidh was born in Aberdeenshire in the seventeenth century. He never knew his actual birthdate. The Old Religion maintained an underground presence despite the Christian overlay.

Logan was raised Catholic, which sublimated the witchcraft of his Pictish ancestors under the pious veneer of sacramental priestcraft. Yet the underlying affinity was clear: both were religions of magic potions, incantations, and enchantments. A magus in Catholic vestments. Although Logan was not a devil-worshiper, he inherited the powers of his shadowy father, whom he barely knew.

Logan adored the wild misty landscape: the lochs, bluffs, rivers, and coastlines. He hiked the length and breadth of Aberdeenshire.

It was a hazardous time to be alive, for Catholic and Covenanter alike. The balance of power shifted and shifted, with fatal results for the losing side–and each side lost.

Raised by his mother's kinfolk, they were massacred while Logan was hiking. When he returned to his hamlet, bodies and burning buildings were left.

Always something of an outsider, life in his beloved Aberdeenshire became unbearable with all his youthful friends and relatives dead. So he crossed the sea to Connecticut.

While not exactly tolerant, religious life in Colonial Connecticut wasn't a life-and-death affair. For the first time he was able to consider the Protestant faith with a certain detachment. In seventeenth-century Aberdeenshire, conversion would betray your kith and kin. Religious affiliation was as much more of a statement of clan solidarity and loyalty than doctrinal conviction. But with all his relatives dead, and living in a new land, he no longer had that duty to uphold.

He never took Catholicism seriously. A camouflaged version of his heathen ancestors. But Colonial Puritans presented a dramatic point of contrast. Reactionary, perhaps, but bracing.

For the first time he could see more clearly how sorcery fit into a larger narrative. His father represented a mutinous band of fallen men and fallen angels while Christ and his saints represent the winning side.

He didn't see the need to renounce his powers. All power ultimately derives from God, and he figured that he could use it for good.

Owing to his natural affinity with the aboriginal heathens, he became a missionary to the Mohegan, Pequot, Nipmuck, and Narragansett tribes. At his first encounter he was attacked by Pequot braves, but he extended a finger to draw a ring of fire around the charging braves. Encircled by the wall of fire, glowing in the twilight, the assailants were subdued, and escorted him to their village. Rumor made him an instant legend among the tribes.

Yet he was still an outsider. Colonial Connecticut never felt like home. His alienation was less about place than time. He left Scotland because it was too late to feel at home there, after the loss of his kinfolk. And he was now a stranger in a strange land.

Rather than moving in space, he began to move in time–traveling into the future. He could always make a living as a history teacher, drawing on his firsthand knowledge of the past–although he had to disguise his source of knowledge.

Finally, out of curiosity, he returned to Connecticut in 2020. Apart from a few historic buildings, the populated areas were unrecognizable. He went back to a historic cemetery.

There he met an archeologist and historian. As luck would have it, Effie had Celtic coloring–emerald eyes and flaming hair–which reminded him of pretty girls he knew from his long-lost homeland.

She never felt at home in her own century, which is why she became a historian with a personal interest in Colonial America. Which is why she was poking around this cemetery.

Many of the original graves were covered over, but from the remaining graves Logan could tell where to find the hidden graves. He pointed to a spot of ground, gave names and dates.

Scraping away the layers revealed the forgotten graves and flattened tombstones. She was puzzled by his uncanny knowledge. He also explained how one family was related to another. At first she was incredulous, but as she followed up on his leads in historic records, she received confirmation.

Eventually he let her in on his secret, which would be unbelievable were it not for his inexplicable knowledge of the past. Not the past in general, but pockets of the past. Deep rather than wide. Provincial but detailed.

A romance blossomed. Effie asked him if he was homesick for the Aberdeenshire of his youth. Did he ever hanker to return?

He said he no longer felt at home there after all his kinfolk were massacred. It was a ghost town.

She asked him if he could take her back into the past. Back to the Aberdeenshire, but during a more peaceful time. There they could both start afresh. Make a life together.

And so they did. They led a quiet life, so as not to unweave the future from whence she came. And when they died, they were buried unto a Celtic cross, to await the resurrection of the body.

Hotbed of sodomy

The Kavanaugh controversy has shed light on the infiltration of the gay mafia into elite Catholic educational institutions. Not surprisingly, the media downplayed that dimension of the controversy. Once again, we're witnessing the absolute collapse of Catholic institutions. Not through lack of oversight by the hierarchy, but sympathy with that development:

Friday, October 05, 2018


Recently, I happened to be thinking about the sound track of a movie I saw years ago. Then, when I was at a pizzeria a few days later, I heard the same sound track in the background. 

Now, it was probably a coincidence, although this isn't a recent or famous film, so it's rather unlikely that they'd play that particular soundtrack. And I haven't heard it before at that pizzeria. A coincidence is an apparently significant convergence of causally independent events. 

A naturalistic explanation is that if I hadn't been thinking about the movie in the first place, I wouldn't even register what music was playing. It only stood out for me because I was already primed.  

And there's a causal asymmetry. Hearing the music reminded me that I'd been thinking about that very film. By contrast, thinking about the movie didn't cause that music to be played at the pizzeria, when I was there. That would only be possible if I have psychokinetic abilities–which I don't.  

But suppose every time I went to that pizzeria, it played music I happened to be thinking about a few days before. The reason can't just be that I notice it because I already had that on my mind. If it keeps happening, that can't be random. So the naturalistic explanation is quite limited. 

But here's another possibility: suppose God sometimes gives Christians little signs. Not unmistakable signs, but just enough to get your attention. You can't rule it in or out. But maybe that's just enough to give you a pat on the back, a bit of timely encouragement, to nudge you along. Get you through another day, another week. 

Something you didn't pray for. Something unexpected. A pleasant surprise. Maybe it's just a fluke–but maybe not. Less then a miracle but more than a wish. Because it's not a directive, nothing you must act on, it needn't be unambiguous. We can live with uncertainty but we can't live without hope. 

The metaphysics of original sin

I'm going to revisit the issue of whether original sin is fair. It's a topic I've discussed from various angles. For instance. 

1. In the Genesis narrative (Gen 2-3), as I construe it, humans are naturally mortal but with a potential for immortality, contingent on access to the tree of life. When Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, they lose their shot at immortality. And that's a lost opportunity for their posterity as well. To be born outside the Garden is to be consigned to morality, as the default state of humans, absent the tree of life. 

For Adam and Eve, the lost opportunity of immortality is punitive. But is it punitive for their posterity, or is that merely a side-effect of what their ancestors did?

To take a comparison, suppose a businessman becomes rich through hard work, but squanders his fortune through compulsive gambling. As a result, his kids inherit nothing. But they aren't being punished for their father's gambling debts.

Now, a common objection is that it's unfair for humans to suffer the dire consequences of what was done by a second party (Adam and Eve), without their consent. But whether that's unfair depends on whether humans are entitled to immortality. 

To revert to my comparison, it's not a miscarriage of justice if the kids of the impoverished rich man inherit nothing. They didn't earn the money. It wasn't theirs to lose.

The question is whether the imputation of Adam's guilt is directly punitive, or more in the nature of a hereditary liability, for something humans never had a claim on in the first place.

Likewise, the question of whether original sin is damnatory, or whether that's reserved for actual sin.

2. Is it fair to be born with a sin nature? Not only do kids inherit physical traits from their parents, they inherit psychological traits from their parents. And I think that's evidence for traducianism. I'm a Cartesian dualist traducian.

If alcoholism runs in your family, you may have a chemical or genetic predisposition to alcoholism. That's unfair, but you wouldn't even exist if the deck was reshuffled. 

Likewise, you might inherit a bad psychological trait. Suppose your dad has a short temper, which you inherit. You might say that's unfair, but you wouldn't even exist without the father you had. That's part of your psychological makeup, and your origination depends on it. Some psychological traits can be modified or eradicated, but that's after the fact. They can't be eradicated in advance without eliminating you! 

Must we earn the right to be heard?

In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Tim Keller said:

Because the church has got so many of its own skeletons and so much coverup of sexual abuse and so on, I don't know how we can adjudicate…right now we don't have any kind of credibility for a lot of reasons…As the church tries to speak publicly to social issues…we have to do it with repentance.

That's true at the level of public perception, which makes it necessary to correct that misperception. I disagree with how Keller frames the issue. Christians don't need to apologize for "the church". I'm not "the church". I don't speak for "the church". And I shouldn't be saddled with what "the church" did before I was born. Moreover, I don't control "the church". I'm just one guy. 

It suffers from a fallacy of personification, as if the church is just one thing, as if the church is identical in time and space, so that whatever was done at one time or place somehow transfers to "the church" at another time or place.  

"The church" is an an abstraction. That's a necessary abstraction for ease of reference, but it's becomes an overgeneralization when individual distinctions in time, place, and person are swallowed up by an indiscriminate category. 

I don't speak and act as a representative of "the church". My positions should be evaluated by whether they are right or wrong, true or false, backed by reason and evidence, rather than fallacious guilt-by-association, which is a lazy anti-intellectual shortcut. 

The situation is rather different with Catholics since they do acquire a corporate identity in a way that Protestants don't. Catholicism is fundamentally and pervasively institutional in a way that the Protestant faith is not, so Catholics can't disassociate themselves from what their denomination does in the same way Protestants can disassociate themselves from institutional Protestantism. 

Thursday, October 04, 2018

The argument from numbers

However, if it’s a divine idea, then we could all be talking about the same idea, God’s idea. Divine ideas would have to be relevantly different from our own. They’re at least different in that they can secure the infinity and necessity of numbers. 

It could be that God would always have had the ideas of 2 and 4, and it could be that God would always have had the idea that 2 + 2 = 4, no matter what. But perhaps it could be that God would not necessarily have the ideas. Why should he have them? If God could have had quite different ideas (or none at all), it would be a cosmic coincidence for him to choose just those ideas, no matter what.

Let’s focus on the main subject of Leibniz’s argument first: the necessary truths of mathematics. Whenever we try to ground some domain in the divine, there’s a Euthyphro-style dilemma lurking. A comparison here between morality and mathematics might be illuminating. The traditional Euthyphro dilemma: Does God command it because it’s obligatory? Or is it obligatory because he commands it? If the former, then there’s some morality independent of God’s say-so. If the latter, then God could with as much reason command murder as he could forbid it. Does God think that 2 + 2 = 4 because 2 + 2 = 4? Or does 2 + 2 = 4 because he thinks it? If the former, then the truth is independent of God’s say-so. If the latter, then God could with as much reason have decided that 2 + 2 = 5.

Does God have the idea of 2 because it exists? Or does it exist because he has the idea? If the former, then the number is independent of God’s intellect. If the latter, then God could with as much reason never have had the idea of 2, so that it never existed.

But I wonder: Why would God’s rational nature ensure that 2 + 2 = 4? Unless there’s something intrinsically rational about 2 + 2 = 4, unless there’s something about the numbers that God’s rationality is tracking and that isn’t up to anyone, God could have dreamt up something else. But, if God’s rational nature is tracking something, then that is what mathematics is about. That is where the numbers live. It might be a luminous Platonic realm. It might be next to nothing at all. There might even be something divine about it.

This poses some interesting challenges to the theistic foundations of math. 

1. I don't know what he means by saying God might not have certain ideas. 

2. Suppose we can't explain what makes mathematical truths necessarily true. That would still leave intact an argument based on God to embed mathematical infinities. 

If, likewise, numbers are ultimately mental entities, and only a timeless divine mind can ground them, then that argument remains whether or not we can explain what makes mathematical truths necessarily true. 

3. Is 2+2=4 necessarily true in isolation, or in relation to an interlocking system of mathematical relations? If the latter, then it's necessarily true within that system. 

4. Maybe there's no room for 2+2≠4 because the interlocking system is exhaustive. An infinite, transfinite totality that edges out any alternatives. Divine reason takes that as far as it can go, to ultimate internal closure. 

In order for 2+2≠4, that requires a systematic readjustment to all other equations. Maybe there can be no structure in which 2+2≠4 because there's no infinitely consistent, mutually entailing alternative. 

5. Suppose there is an alternate system, like non-Euclidean geometries. The equations would be necessarily true within those alternate system, rather than contingent or arbitrary. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Calvinism meets Street Epistemology

Recently, Leighton Flowers linked to an exchange between apostate/Street Epistemologist Douglas Letkeman and lay Calvinist Chris Williams:

Flowers prefaced the link with the following claim:

Soteriology 101
This video demonstrates how one’s Calvinistic theology negatively impacts their Apologetic methodology. This Athiest [sic] is able to make the Calvinist appear completely irrational and contradictory. This only hurts our evangelistic and apologetic efforts as a church and I believe it’s the reason Calvinism always dies back out after it resurges. It can’t hold water against an honest critique and must eventually be abandoned by objective and rational Bible believers who desire to engage the unbelief of others.

To begin with, it's easier to ask questions than answer questions. That format puts the atheist at a tactical advantage. If Flowers bothered to watch other video exchanges between Street Epistemologists and garden-variety Christians, the same imbalance would be on display. That's equally true when the Christian respondent is a freewill theist. 

Creationism and idealism

Here's a striking example of a philosopher of science who rejects young-earth creationism but subscribes to theistic idealism to explain quantum mechanics. That's quite ironic since idealism is far more antirealist than mature creation.

The Boltzmann brain paradox

Last Thursdayism is a famous thought-experiment by Bertrand Russell:

There is no logical impossibility in the hypothesis that the world sprang into being five minutes ago, exactly as it then was, with a population that "remembered" a wholly unreal past. There is no logically necessary connection between events at different times; therefore nothing that is happening now or will happen in the future can disprove the hypothesis that the world began five minutes ago.

Of course, most folks, including most philosophers and scientists, don't think those skeptical scenarios are realistic. However, Last Thursdayism has a counterpart in modern physics: 

It could be the weirdest and most embarrassing prediction in the history of cosmology, if not science.

If true, it would mean that you yourself reading this article are more likely to be some momentary fluctuation in a field of matter and energy out in space than a person with a real past born through billions of years of evolution in an orderly star-spangled cosmos. Your memories and the world you think you see around you are illusions.

This bizarre picture is the outcome of a recent series of calculations that take some of the bedrock theories and discoveries of modern cosmology to the limit. Nobody in the field believes that this is the way things really work, however. And so in the last couple of years there has been a growing stream of debate and dueling papers, replete with references to such esoteric subjects as reincarnation, multiple universes and even the death of spacetime, as cosmologists try to square the predictions of their cherished theories with their convictions that we and the universe are real. The basic problem is that across the eons of time, the standard theories suggest, the universe can recur over and over again in an endless cycle of big bangs, but it’s hard for nature to make a whole universe. It’s much easier to make fragments of one, like planets, yourself maybe in a spacesuit or even — in the most absurd and troubling example — a naked brain floating in space. Nature tends to do what is easiest, from the standpoint of energy and probability. And so these fragments — in particular the brains — would appear far more frequently than real full-fledged universes, or than us. Or they might be us.

Lately, Sean Carroll has tried to debunk the Boltzmann brain paradox, but his solution is questionable:

This poses quite a dilemma for atheists–if naturalism and modern physics commits them to a scientific version of Last Thursdayism. 

From a traditional Christian standpoint, one way to relieve the dilemma is to deny physicalism. Minds aren't brains.

In addition, why would a benevolent God make ephemeral conscious beings? Beings with our mental complexity, emotional life, and memories–if that's a trick? False memories–like the malevolent aliens in Dark City. But atheists don't have those countervailing resources. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Plantinga on the life of faith

Outside my study window at home there is a kind of ravine with lots of beautiful trees in it and birds flying around and the like. Those things I think are used by God to sort of help us see his presence, and the like. God sometimes also comes to people–for example Jonathan Edwards, seems often to have a very vivid appreciation of a very vivid sort of personal relationship with God. And people often talk about a personal relationship with God. I think for many people,  though, there isn't a whole lot of that. It isn't that you just sort of do anything like perceive God–maybe under some relatively rare circumstances–but during much of one's life, it seems to me, you sort of coast on a kind of momentum. You've got this strong inclination to believe in God, which is much stronger on some occasions than it is on others for many people, including myself. But there are these dry periods that many Christian saints have talked about. Periods when the heavens are as brass and when it seems God isn't present. And this shows up in the Psalms, "God, why are you so far from me?" and the like. It seems to me there's a kind of persistence that a believer in God needs, a kind of living on past capital, so to speak.

The experience of reading the Bible is for me crucial. I mean, reading the Bible–maybe not every part, but many parts–is a powerful impetus to belief in God, to renew belief in God, and the like. And also going to church and listening to sermons. Sometimes sermons work in the wrong direction…but I think such things as regular Bible reading, regular prayer, regular church attendance, regular talking if you can with other Christians and the like. J. Walls & T. Dougherty, eds. Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God (Oxford 2018), 458-59.

The Effect of Naturalism on the Church

Monday, October 01, 2018

The Case against Kavanaugh Is Collapsing

On the interpretation of dreams

I'd like to revisit this issue:

This post is really about the hermeneutics of Revelation, but I'll back into it. Dreams have always fascinated humans. And that includes the interpretation of dreams. Traditionally, that's because dreams were thought to be premonitions, which gave rise to oneiromancy. 

Although some dreams are premonitory, most dreams are imaginary. Yet even imaginary dreams may be very interesting to the dreamer. After all, dreams tap into our personal memories and imagination. They represent the subconscious projection of the dreamer. Sometimes they allegorize what happened during the day. Sometimes they allegorize our fears or yearnings. 

So even though most dreams aren't premonitory, they may still hold personal significance. And that raises the question of whether they are worth interpreting. Does the symbolism have any real meaning–albeit a private encoded meaning, unique to each dreamer? Do dreams have their own logic? Is it just a case of finding the key?

In addition, since humans share a common nature, do dreams have some collective significance? Do some dreams embed transcultural symbolism?

Conversely, perhaps there is no logic to a dream. It epitomizes  imagination untethered to reason. Consciousness imposes logic on the subconscious. On that view, there's no hidden meaning. Nothing to interpret. 

Some dreams, while they last, have a narrative structure, while other dreams have abrupt scene changes. Some directors experiment with nonlinear narrative to evoke or mimic dreaming. We find this episodic quality in visionary revelation like Zechariah. 

Do discontinuous dream sequences have an inner logic, or is this just the mind at play? This issue crops up in commentaries on Revelation. Is it primarily linear or nonlinear narration? Premil scholars think it's primarily linear while amil commentators think its primarily cyclical. Idealists think it's entirely cyclical–like Finnegans Wake. 

Is there a third approach? Suppose discontinuous dream sequences exhibit spacial logic rather than chronological logic. They unfold in space rather than time. Architectural structuring. 

What I mean by that is this: suppose dream scenes are like opening doors to rooms. Each room is different. Abruptly shifting from one scene to another is like opening the door to a new room and walking inside. 

In a sense, a house is one big room, one large space, subdivided into smaller rooms. There's an internal relationship between different rooms within the same house. Or different stories. Perhaps an attic and basement. So it's not entirely random. 

In addition, there can be rooms within rooms. A walk-in closet in a bathroom in a bedroom. 

There's another distinction between inside and outside. You can open doors inside the house–to rooms, closets, and hallways inside the house–or you can open a front door, side door, or backdoor to go outside. 

Furthermore, the yard might be walled in, so that you can subdivide "outside" into space between the house and the wall–as well as space beyond the wall. Likewise, in Roman, monastic, and Islamic architecture (e.g. domus, cloister, Getty Villa, Alhambra), there might be inner courtyards as well as outer courtyards. Paradoxically, there's an outside inside the building. A microcosm of the macrocosm. 

Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress uses linear space (a road story) while The Holy War uses nonlinear space (a fortified city). For his part, Dante combines both. 

Suppose the layout or floor plan of Revelation is architectural. Rev 1-18 is more like inside space. Alternating rooms. Heaven, earth, netherworld. Rev 19-20 are transitional while 21-22 are more expansive. Suppose, as we read the Apocalypse, we visualize moving in space–like moving from room to room, or going outside. 

Sometimes divine revelation is like opening a door to the past or future. Normally those doors are locked. But the seer is allowed to open those doors and go inside. Perhaps time itself is more like that.  

Freewill theism and induction

A natural law theodicy is a standard theodicy in freewill theism. According to that theodicy, moral agents require a stable environment for their deliberations and choices to have predictable consequences. Absent that, they can't be held responsible for their actions. 

I'd mention in passing that Calvinism can use that theodicy, too. Calvinism has a doctrine of ordinary providence. And there's value in having a world where actions generally have predictable choices. That's not unique to freewill theism.

If true, a natural law theodicy has the fringe benefit of grounding induction. On this view, God made a world in which, all things being equal (ceteris paribus proviso), the future resembles the past. That makes it possible to justifiably extrapolate from the past to the future. 

But here's a snag: a standard definition of libertarian freedom is leeway freedom: an agent can opt for two or more courses of action under the exact same circumstances. So there are ever so many different and divergent ways to complete the future. Given the same past, and billions of free agents, there are countless ways the future might turn out. Moreover, the choices of multiple free agents interact with each other or counteract each other. In addition, this impacts natural events inasmuch as humans often manipulate natural process to yield desired results. 

On the face of it, this renders the future utterly unpredictable, and destroys any basis for induction. Anything that's naturally possible could happen. 

In Calvinism, by contrast, although God had the freedom to choose between alternate timelines, yet having settled on a particular outcome (predestination), the outcome is fixed. By virtue of the decree, there's only one pathway from past to future. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Reverse image

Anyone who's seen me has seen the Father! (Jn 14:9).

Every so often you see a photograph in which the image has been reversed. It shifts from a left-handed perspective to a right-handed perspective, or vice versa. You've seen the photo before. But this time you're viewing the mirror image. 

That raises a question: which is the original and which is the copy? You can't tell, by comparing them, which one represents the actual scene, and which is copy in reverse.

Suppose you could go back to the time and place where the picture was taken and stand in same position as the photographer, facing the scene. Then you could tell what was really on the left or right. Then you could tell which was the original and which was the copy by comparing both to the actual scene. 

Or could you? Suppose there's a multiverse in which the right-handed scene exists in one universe while the left-handed scene exists in a parallel universe. You now have three possibilities:

i) The left-handed picture is a copy of the right-handed original.

ii) The right-handed picture is a copy of the left-handed original. 

iii) Both pictures are originals. Both pictures represent actual scenes. 

In one respect they picture the exact same scene. Same composition. Same details. Each detail positioned at the same distance in relation to everything else–including the viewer.

If you've seen one picture, you've seen the other. You recognize each picture in its counterpart. You exclaim, "I've seen that before!" 

Yet there's still a difference. Everything on one side of one picture is on the other side of the other picture, like butterfly wings. 

These are coequal representations. Exhaustive point-by-point correspondence. 

No prophet could say John 14:9. No angel would say John 14:9. 

So you think you’re smarter than the church fathers?

One Catholic objection to the Protestant faith goes like this: "So you think you’re smarter than the church fathers?" 

Rhetorically it's meant to be a no-win question. If you answer, yes, then that just goes to show how conceited and arrogant you must be. 

But not all the church fathers are equally intelligent or outstanding. I reckon that Origen, Augustine, and Philoponus are the intellectual cream of the church fathers. We might add Boethius. And technically, only Augustine is a church father.

It's not as if the ancient church cornered the market on brilliance or genius. There are Protestant scholars and theologians as gifted or more gifted than most church fathers. And even if they're not smarter than the very smartest church fathers, they may well be as smart. 

Suppose you could ask the church fathers if they think they're smarter than every Protestant scholar or theologian. If they answered, yes, why would that be conceited and arrogant? 

If you answer, no, then that just goes to show that you ought to submit to their superior wisdom. But that doesn't follow.

A physics major doesn't have to be as smart as Newton to have a far better understanding of physics than Newton. The physics major may not even be on the same IQ continuum as Newton. He only needs to be smart enough to learn what the great minds in modern physics discovered. 

Since, moreover, the church of Rome increasingly diverges from the church fathers, we could turn the question around. 

"I stopped believing in God after pastoring a megachurch"

I don't know if this is worth commenting on, but it's getting lots of buzz:

A bit more background:

I didn't know anything about her or her husband until I saw the video. I don't move in that world. 

There's a reason she's a successful entertainer. She's very charismatic. 

Her story reminds me of Into the Wild (2007). The movie about an idealistic young guy who thought it would be a great idea to live in the Alaskan outback. He had no survival skills. Did no research. Didn't ask the locals for advice. So he died in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness. He died in the unforgiving Alaskan wilderness.

Lisa Gungor and her husband have been on a journey without a map. No theological foundation. Just coasting on emotion and music. 

Well, life can be very unkind to people who are unprepared. It helps to have answers before you need them. 

Their bad theology, the make-believe and wishful thinking, wasn't up to the challenge of real life. Life can be brutal. 

You need to lay a solid foundation in theology and theodicy. Lisa and her husband were just reacting to events. Their beliefs change when events change. They had no benchmark. 

A Quick Note on the Kavanaugh Accusation


A brief exchange I had with Robert Gagnon on Facebook:

I agree with you that Kavanaugh may well be lowballing his party boy activities in high school and college. But I'm puzzled by why you (and some others) expect him to load a revolver and hand it to his enemies. It's one thing to evade fair questions, but another thing to evade unfair questions. Ever since Bork, who was punished for giving good honest answers, confirmation hearings have been a poker game in which nominees bluff their way through the proceedings by giving slippery answers to tripwire questions. Unfortunate, but realistically, do they have a duty to step on a land mine in plain view? Rather than hold that against the nominee, why not hold that against unscrupulous interrogators?

It's the repeated drinking to excess that makes possible (I didn't say likely) the sexual assault allegations."

True, but inebriation is a wild card in many respects. It makes is more than possible that the sexual encounter (if any) is consensual. It makes it more than possible than participants have clouded recollections about what happened. So that cuts against the accuser as well as the accused. The role of alcohol has a mutually canceling effect.

I don't agree that it has a mutually canceling effect for alleged perpetrator and alleged victim.

Why not? Rape or attempted rape requires nonconsent. If both parties are intoxicated, that removes inhibition If both parties are intoxicated, who's to say which one took the initiative? Assault or seduction? Not to mention that it renders the memories of both participants unreliable.

The suspicion that someone might have attempted to rape another in a state of heavy intoxication is not comparable to the suspicion that someone allowed another to have sex with her.

What makes one suspicion more reasonable than another if there's no presumption that both were sober? What's the justification for the lopsided suspicion?

As you know, this comes up in debates over affirmative consent. If both are drunk, there's no presumption that one party was forcing himself on the other party, or vice versa.

I'm not saying that the suspicion is necessarily greater but rather that what one is suspicious of is greater.

But mutual intoxication renders that imponderable.