Saturday, November 10, 2018

Were they never saved in the first place?

I brief exchange I had with a Roman Catholic on YouTube:

"But the Calvinist position on eternal security requires not just that this 'possibly' be the case. It requires that this ALWAYS be the case in such situations as when a person no longer fulfills the conditions by which a Calvinist regards another person to be regenerate and justified."

To some degree you and I are arguing at cross-purposes because we're making different points. There are critics of Calvinism who act as though the very idea that an apostate wasn't saved in the first place is a rationalization you'd only resort to if you have a fanatical precommitment to Calvinism. I'm making the point that as a matter of principle, that's not an artificial position or stopgap. Now, your objection isn't to the principle but to universalizing the principle. 

"My point was less that I think a No True Scotsman Fallacy is going on - if eternal security is true, then texts like 1 Cor. 10 HAVE to be read as if loss of salvation is impossible. My stance is that the bulk of such texts are reduced to nonsense if this effort is attempted. It is not so much the issue that I think a fallacy is being committed. I think that Calvinists are pre-committed to missing out on certain paradigms. Looking at a typological argument in such a way that you keep pointing out that not all the Israelites were saved might be how to salvage that text within the Reformed perspective, but it's just *not* the right methodology for exegeting the text in its own context. The text must be exegeted rightly within its own context alongside its compatibility and being rightly informed by and informing other texts. I do not believe that the Calvinist effort succeeds in this."

As far as that goes, I think 1 Cor 10:1-4 is counterproductive to Catholicism. Why does Paul draw a parallel between the experience of the Exodus generation and baptism/communion? Why does he say most members of the Exodus generation perished despite having an analogous experience? 

The only explanation I can see is that some Corinthians were treating baptism and communion as talismans that would protect them from certain kinds of harm. That false confidence made them indulge in risky behavior. Paul is warning against that brazen, superstitious mentality. Otherwise, I don't know the purpose of Paul's comparison. 

"Even if a Calvinist knows zero, zip, zilch about a person prior to the present moment, if the indications given in the present moment are that said person doesn't meet the 'salvation' criteria, then the Calvinist is *dogmatically* required to believe the person never met said criteria, even if the person believed that he did, and even if on the surface the person appeared to meet those criteria previously."

That's an issue of theological method. How do we deal with points of tension in Scripture? Can someone who's elect, regenerated, justified lose their salvation? If so, does that mean they lost their election, justification, and regeneration? If so, is there something they can do to regain their election, regeneration, justification? How you answer one question raises additional questions. There are different potential responses:

i) The Bible is contradictory. It contains divergent theological paradigms.

ii) It's all true but paradoxical and we have no way to resolve the tensions, so we must leave them as is.

iii) Harmonize the tensions. If so, in what direction? Do we harmonize "eternal security" passages in light of apostasy passages or vice versa? 

iv) This isn't just an issue in Calvinism. Take the role of election in Thomism and Augustinianism. Surely it's nonsensical to say that someone God eternally elected can end up in hell. 

v) Traditional Catholicism also makes categorical claims about humans without knowing anything about any human in particular. Take the doctrine that no one is sinless (except for Jesus and Mary). The doctrine that grace is a necessary preliminary (pace Pelagianism). 

"I am not so willing to think, as the nonbelievers do, that the faith of so many if it *seems* to come from social conditioning is ultimately a bit more superficial of a faith. Nonbelievers make this argument in order to try to and impress upon people that their religious beliefs are not particularly special and are just absorbed by them because of the peer group and/or culture into which they are born - the old "if you were born in India, you'd be a Hindu" argument. Don't you think that, by employing this sort of approach, you are going a little too far?"

I'm not claiming there's a universal correlation. But there's more than enough to establish my point that in principle, someone can believe in Christianity even though he hasn't experienced saving grace. As such, if he ceases to believe, he was never saved to begin with. 

"Sociologically, we believe a LOT of what we believe because Mommy and Daddy do. We don't even have to necessarily talk about peer group because I think familial belief is more fundamental - my impression, at least, is that one's peers have less to do with one's views on politics, morals, religious beliefs, etc., than one's parents. Most Protestants who profess, say, Sola Fide do so because it was taught to them by Mommy and Daddy and the church that Mommy and Daddy took them to and modeled listening to. Even so, I don't believe that the question before us is reducible to a sociological calculation. People convert. People choose to 'own' their religious beliefs after serious reflection, certain experiences, etc."

i) No doubt God uses social conditioning to foster Christian faith. But in the case of "true believers," that must be undergirded by saving grace.

ii) In addition, the exceptions are striking. On the one hand, people from non-Christian backgrounds who convert to Christianity. On the other hand, people from a Christian background who resist assimilation when put in situation hostile to Christian faith. That illustrates the hidden power of saving grace to counteract peer pressure.

Distrusting God

I'm going to comment on an essay by the late Richard Gale. He was one of the more competent philosophical atheist. In this essay his primary target is freewill theism: R. Gale, "Evil as Evidence Against God", J. P. Moreland, C. Meister, & K. Sweis eds. Debating Christian Theism (Oxford 2013), chap. 15.   

What, in general, is an evil and what are the different types of evil? An evil is something that, taken by itself in isolation, is an ought-not-to-be, an "Oh, no!" Examples are physical and mental suffering by a sentient being, including lower animals, immoral action, bad character, and a privation in which something fails to measure up to what it ought to be, such as a human being born blind. The qualification "taken by itself" is important, since some evils are justified because they are so-called a blessing in disguise, being necessary for the realization of an outweighing good or prevention of an even greater evil. As members of such a larger whole, they are not an ought-not-to-be. 

In some respects that's a good definition. However:

i) To say congenital blindness is a natural evil is a teleological judgment. But naturalistic evolution rejects final causes. If there's no telos, there's no dysteleology. Congenital blindness is only a natural evil if the eyes were designed to see. But naturalistic evolution is a nondirective process rather than a goal-oriented process. Eyes have no purpose in naturalistic evolution. 

ii) How much mental and physical suffering do lower animals experience? And is that a natural evil? Notice how some animals deliberately seek out what looks like a painful experience. Like lions fighting for control of the tribe. If it's excruciating, why don't they avoid it? 

Using theology to solve engineering problems

Is Trump’s Rhetoric Responsible for Acts of Political Violence?

George Gilder: Human Creativity, Christian Capitalism and “Life After Google”

After the mid-term elections last week, I’m sure we will now find ourselves being cast hot and heavy into the 2020 presidential election. The Democrats are going to have two key areas of focus.

On the economic front, their focus is going to be “Democratic Socialism”. This is portrayed as a “kinder, gentler” form of Marxism – less caustic than Soviet communism, because, well, we’ve got the “kinder, gentler” left-wing Antifa/Resist/“you’re not welcome here” Democrats running the show.

And on the cultural front, their program is “Cultural Marxism”, which is their version of morality. It features Marxism’s classical “oppressor/oppressed” paradigm, supplemented by the aggregation and advocacy of various “victim groups”, and modified what’s known as “intersectionality” – that is, a hierarchy of “the oppressed”, whose opinions, depending upon how many victim identities that they can claim, carry more or less weight vs. the key class of oppressors, largely white men of European descent.

Both of these thought systems are related, and they operate according to well-defined methods, that many of us see, but have historically had difficulty opposing. I’m sure we’ll be writing more about both of these phenomena on the pages of Triablogue.

One key feature to note is that both of these programs have clearly articulated communications objectives, strategies, and even “talking points”. How many of you have been called a “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobe”, “Islamophobe”, “xenophobe”, etc.?

This name calling is no accident; rather, the names are the tip of the iceberg of communications efforts that have been borne in university programs, which are repeated ad nauseam by thinkers and politicians on the left, and echoed endlessly in the media.

Too often, this form of juvenile name-calling (which tends to work on the uninitiated, even some Christian writers, because many of us still carry with us our childhood fears of being rejected) is rarely opposed. This is not an accident – it is the predicted outcome of a well-defined strategic and communications program on the left.

Even those Christian writers who ought to know better, when faced with such truly baseless accusations tend to hem and haw and say, “erm, uh, no, we’re not”, and they go to great lengths to explain why Christians are not racists, sexist, homophobic xenophobes” – and in the process, they become “useful idiots” for those on “the Left”, describing how “we support social justice” etc.

For our part, Reformed Christians need not only to be advocating a positive political program and agenda of our own, which needs to feature conservative Christian principles for sure, but which will need to be articulated clearly and winsomely, using Christian language, and not being sucked into using the language of “social justice”, in which case, we would already be cast on the losing side and put on the defensive.

“Christian Capitalism” as an Economic program to espouse

We seem to have a clear vision on the cultural/morality side, which ranges among us somewhere between extremes characterized by “theonomy” and what’s been identified as “R2K” (the “R” standing, alternatively, for either “reformed” or “radical”, depending on who is doing the writing). The notion is that Christians can and should be working at some level to have a positive (and Christian) influence on the broader culture.

However, one thing we don’t seem to have a good handle on, and that’s the economic program that needs to oppose “Democratic Socialism”. We seem to keep that under the heading of “Conservativsm”, and we have tended to allow that to be the realm of the “country club” Republicans, but in the Trump era, that positive program seems to have shifted somewhat, and the messaging that used to clearly advocated as “conservative” has now become somewhat muddled.

Reformed Christians need to advocate a particularly winsome economic program that Christians can espouse and advocate. In not doing so, those of us on “the right” often tend not to have a cohesive communications message – a positive program that is easily articulated and one that Christians can understand, espouse, and more importantly, advocate.

I believe that George Gilder, as a writer on business and economics over the past 40 years, is a seminal thought leader who can provide language and ideas, based in Biblical, Christian morality and even language, that we can use in the public sphere, that can clearly and succinctly serve as messaging that we can use (and more importantly, that politicians can use) to craft counter-messaging to “the Left’s”.

I think that program can be called something like “Christian Capitalism” – a free-enterprise system that’s based on Biblical principles of private property, hard work, thrift, the deferment of rewards, and sharing – all values espoused by Calvin and re-articulated in the form of “the Protestant Work Ethic”.

George Gilder: An Introduction

George Gilder is a prolific writer in the field of business, economics, and technology. I hadn’t heard of him until just recently, having read his work “Life After Google”.

He was a writer for Forbes Magazine, and also a thing called “Forbes ASAP”, which I had never checked out. It always seemed like an add-on to the real thing. Later he had his own technology newsletter, “The Gilder Technology Report”, his own publishing firm, and he later became a venture capitalist.

He is a co-founder of “The Discovery Institute” – yes, THAT same Discovery Institute that advocates for Intelligent Design (Stephen Meyer) and other leading conservative thinkers are represented (Michael Behe, William Lane Craig, Michael Medved, Nancy Pearcey, Bill Walton, and others).

Gilder writes on the business and technology side of that organization. Below are some brief descriptions of his works.

Wealth and Poverty

Gilder’s 1981 book “Wealth and Poverty” (which was not his first book, by a long margin) “advanced a practical and moral case for supply-side economics and capitalism during the early months of the Reagan administration and made him Ronald Reagan's most quoted living author”, according to Wikipedia (citing the publisher of the work, and probably echoing “a study of presidential speeches”).

I don’t own the book, but here is a YouTube video on “Wealth and Poverty” that has been edited down to provide the high points. These include such notions as “Capitalism was not simply a practical success. It is the supreme expression of human creativity” – it is not simply an efficient way to allocate goods and capital. It is “a moral good”.

Gilder explains:

Capitalism is ultimately altruistic; capitalists begin with an imaginative response to the needs of others. They have to forego their own consumption and save to assemble resources to deploy for a process, the outcome of which is determined not by themselves, but by customers and investors, neither of whom are under the control of the entrepreneur himself. The entrepreneur has to collaborate; the entrepreneur follows “the golden rule”. He wants others to succeed. Any business is completely dependent on the success of all the other around it. (adapted from the video).

On the other hand, while “greed” is often mis-attributed to Capitalists (who often become wealthy, but who more frequently see their businesses fail), is better attributed to socialism and the welfare state, where:

They seek comfort and security first. They collaborate with government to get special privileges and contracts (“crony capitalism”) and seats at the public trough … (adapted from the video).

From what I’ve read, Reagan purchased copies of this book and handed them out as gifts to many of his senior advisors. Here is a positive review of the book. Citing Gilder:

“Capitalism offers nothing but frustrations and rebuffs to those who wish because of claimed superiority of intelligence, birth, credentials, or ideals to get without giving, to take without risking, to profit without sacrifice, to be exalted without humbling themselves to meet the unruly demands of others in an always perilous and unpredictable life. It is not surprising therefore that the chief source of the misunderstanding of capitalism is the Intelligencia, one of the many aristocracies that preen themselves on the contempt for bourgeois or middle class values and that refuse to acknowledge the paramount role of individual enterprise in the progress of the race.”

Men and Marriage

In 1992, his “Men and Marriage” (which I have not read yet), some part of which Swindoll had cited approvingly, Gilder makes the following comments:

The crucial process of civilization is the subordination of male sexual impulses and biology to the long-term horizons of female sexuality. The overall sexual behavior of women in the modern world differs relatively little from the sexual life of women in primitive societies. It is male behavior that must be changed to create a civilized order…

In creating civilization, women transform male lust into love; channel male wanderlust into jobs, homes, and families; link men to specific children; rear children into citizens; change hunters into fathers; divert male will to power into a drive to create. Women conceive the future that men tend to flee; they feed the children that men ignore. George Gilder. Men and Marriage (Kindle Locations 160-165). Kindle Edition.

In this 2010 interview of Gilder at, Gilder summarizes his beliefs about the destructive nature of feminism:

the woman holds in her very body a link to the long term future of the race. Her sexuality determines her long term goals. As a very physiological consciousness, she knows she can bear and nurture children. She has a central role in the very perpetuation of the species. The man is estranged from this process; his sexuality arises merely as a compulsive drive to pleasure. It’s short term by nature. It’s predatory and quickly gratified.

The Women’s Movement tragically reduces female sexuality to the terms of male sexuality. When this happens, she reduces herself to the male level of recreational sex. Paradoxically, when that happens the woman loses all her power over men and the reverence and respect toward the procreative potential of woman is lost. And that really destroys the family. But if the power of “choice” is given up, the woman actually ascends to a higher level of sexuality and her body attains an almost mystical power over men.

See also his more recent National Review article, “The Feminist Economy

I haven’t noticed that Gilder cites Scripture, but he certainly advocates a robust Christian morality. Here is a summary of Christianity and the family:

Giving, beginning within the family and extending outward into the society, is the moral center of the system. It does not succeed by allowing the leading capitalists to revel in riches; if they hoard their wealth the system tends to fail. It succeeds by inducing the capitalist continually to give his wealth back to the system in the form of new gifts and investments. George Gilder. Men and Marriage (Kindle Locations 2363-2365). Kindle Edition.

The Israel Test

In his “The Israel Test”, Gilder suggests that Israel is hated (and anti-Semitism exists) not because the Jews have been dishonest or have dealt unfairly with the global culture at large, but because of the jealousy and envy of those who fail to put in the efforts to duplicate Israel’s successes.

… Israel represents one of the most extraordinary transformation stories in the history of economics. Just over sixty years old, with a population slightly over seven million, and located in a hostile region, Israel is home to more high-tech start-ups per capita than any other nation on earth and has surpassed the combined venture capital investment of France and Germany…

In a decade, Israel went from being a nondescript industrial economy to one of the world’s leaders in research and technological creativity on a per capita basis. Then-senator Joseph Lieberman, from Gilder, George. The Israel Test: Why the World's Most Besieged State is a Beacon of Freedom and Hope for the World Economy. Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

Gilder himself posits the difference:

The central issue in international politics, dividing the world into two fractious armies, is the tiny state of Israel. This central issue is not a global war of civilizations between the West and Islam or a split between Arabs and Jews. These conflicts are real and salient, but they obscure the deeper moral and ideological war. The real issue is between the rule of law and the rule of the leveler, between creative excellence and “fairness,” between admiration of achievement versus envy and resentment of it. Gilder, George. The Israel Test: Why the World's Most Besieged State is a Beacon of Freedom and Hope for the World Economy (p. 1). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.

“Life After Google”

Life After Google” is Gilder’s most recent work (very impressive, given that Gilder is now 78 years old), describing both the limits of Google and the new technologies in its wake.

In the work, Gilder first provides a history of Google, its ideas, its pseudo-religious underpinnings; then he shows the weaknesses of the system, the ways in which it is “maxing out”, and finally, he points to emerging technologies (such as virtual reality and blockchain) which are already in growth mode, and in which entrepreneurial Capitalists are creatively devising a new “distributed” computer architecture that is going to be more secure and more equitable than the mountainous system where all roads lead to Google.

Google has certainly had an impressive run. They have pushed existing technologies to their limits, and in the process, they have not only created the second wealthiest company in the world (with market capitalization second only to Apple’s), but they have also created what Gilder called “a new system of the world”, which supplanted the old (monetary-based) system, to create a system “where everything is free, you are the product” for sale, in the form of your privacy and the accumulated data they own on you, which is sold to advertisers.

On a deeper level, the world of Google—its interfaces, its images, its videos, its icons, its philosophy—is 2D (compared with a 3D world). Google is not just a company but a system of the world.

And the Internet is cracking under the weight of this ideology. Its devotees uphold the flat-universe theory of materialism: the sufficiency of deterministic chemistry and mathematics. They believe the human mind is a suboptimal product of random evolutionary processes. They believe in the possibility of a silicon brain. They believe that machines can “learn” in a way comparable to human learning, that consciousness is a relatively insignificant aspect of humanity, emergent from matter, and that imagination of true novelties is a delusion in a hermetic world of logic.

They hold that human beings have no more to discover and may as well retire on a guaranteed pension, while Larry Page and Sergey Brin fly off with Elon Musk and live forever in galactic walled gardens on their own private planets in a winner-take-all cosmos.Gilder, George. Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy (Kindle Locations 129-136). Gateway Editions. Kindle Edition.

All of these notions may be challenged, and in the process, Gilder deals with them. The foil for this kind of dull and deterministic technology is one that is distributed, entrepreneurial, and dependent more on human inventiveness and entrepreneurial creativity and generosity. My hope is to provide some overview of this vision in the near future.

Is George Gilder the C.S. Lewis of Christian Capitalism?

C.S. Lewis was an original thinker. But more than that, he characterized the Christian faith in ways that, even though he was a brilliant scholar, virtually anyone could understand what he was talking about.

The economic system that we live in has always had tendencies toward “Christian Capitalism” (with a “C”) – this is inherent in Calvin’s views of biblical wisdom, thrift, saving, and perhaps reinvestment – via “the Protestant Work Ethic”.

I think that because Gilder writes primarily in the Business/Economics space, folks in our circles (Reformed Christianity) haven’t run into him a lot, but there are cross-overs.

Gilder takes difficult financial and technological topics and explains them in relevant ways. He views human beings (“man”) as created in the image of God, and human creativity to be an analog to God’s creativity via, among other things, the mechanism of science:

Real science shows that the universe is a singularity and thus a creation. Creation is an entropic product of a higher consciousness echoed by human consciousness. This higher consciousness, which throughout human history we have found it convenient to call God, endows human creators with the space to originate surprising things. Gilder, George. Life After Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy (Kindle Locations 1579-1581). Gateway Editions. Kindle Edition.

I believe that Gilder’s work gives us the kind of language that Reformed Christians can use in the public sphere, and to which we can attribute the various attributes of God (and to God Himself). Lord willing, I’ll be writing more about this in the coming weeks and months.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Grasping for miracles

Clint Eastwood Reads Praise Song Lyrics

Calvinism and Arminianism compared

I'll comment on a post by Roger Olson:

What is Calvinism? A) Belief that God foreordains and renders certain everything that happens without any exceptions; everything that happens in creation is designed, ordained and rendered certain by God; B) Belief that God alone decides, unconditionally, who will be saved, that Christ died only for them (“the elect”), and God saves them without any cooperation on their part (“irresistible grace”). “A” is called “meticulous providence,” “B” is called “double predestination.”

That's largely true but misleading:

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Wingnut cessationism

I'm going to comment on a post by Fred Butler:

David Platt gave a missions report to the IMB. The highlight, when the audience erupted in thunderous applause, is when he told of how Muslims are having spiritual dreams that allegedly bring them to salvation. The story Platt recounts tells how a Muslim man had a dream over the course of three nights of a man wearing white who told him he knew the way to salvation for his family. The Muslim man then encountered some SBC missionaries the next day,

When GTY hosted the Strange Fire conference back in 2013, attendees were given the opportunity to write out questions for the presenters to answer during the Q&A times. One of the frequently asked questions was about the alleged reports of Muslims all across Islamic countries who were coming to faith in Christ after having a dream about a man in white (or in some cases, Jesus Himself) directing them to a missionary who presents the Gospel.

Those dream testimonies are offered as evidence that God is actively working among Muslims in Islamic nations where Christianity is strongly opposed or completely outlawed and where Christian missionaries are in grave danger with the threat of death. But are those dreams legit? What is a biblically-minded Christian to think of them? Is God really bringing revival to Islamic lands in this fantastic manner, outside the means He ordained to bring the Gospel?

The New Testament consistently teaches the God-ordained means of proclaiming the Gospel is through human preaching [Mt 28:19-20; Rom 10:14-15; 1 Cor 1:21-24]...Those texts indicate that God has ordained the proclamation of the Gospel message by human preachers who declare biblical and theological truth from Scripture.  Those who hear the message choose either to reject it or to believe it by God’s grace.  

Fred is doing a bait-n-switch. They aren't converted by revelatory dreams rather than the Gospel. Revelatory dreams don't take the place of the Gospel. Instead, revelatory dreams make them receptive to the Gospel. 

If a man in white was directing appearing to Muslims in dreams and visions to direct them to the Gospel, would not God be contradicting what He has clearly ordained in Scripture regarding the legitimate means of Gospel proclamation in this age?

No, because Fred's argument is fallacious. This is Fred's inference:

If Scripture says X is the case, that means X is only the case.

Compare that to: if a Gospel says one angel appeared at the tomb of Jesus, then only one angel appeared at his tomb. But Fred needs to show that his prooftexts are logically exclusionary. As it stands, his inference is invalid.  

To say God has ordained the human preaching of the Gospel to save sinners doesn't entail that God only uses the human preaching of the Gospel to save sinners. 

If we trust that God is sovereign over all nations (cf. Acts 17:26) and is the author and finisher of salvation (cf. Hebrews 12:2), then is it biblical to believe He is able to accomplish His will in those Islamic nations according to the ordained means of human preaching?

Consider the Book of Acts. That's the official record of NT evangelism and missions. How the NT church was initially planted. Is it just through the human preaching of the Gospel? I don't think so. 

Peter's miracles and exorcisms (Acts 3; 5; 9).

Paul's miracles and exorcisms (Acts 13; 14; 16; 19; 20; 28).

Ananias, Sapphira, and Herod Agrippa struck dead (Acts 5; 12)

Miraculous jail breaks (Acts 5; 12; 16)

Angelic apparitions (Acts 5; 8; 10; 12)

Christophany (Acts 9)

Revelatory dreams and visions (Acts 2; 7; 10; 16; 18)

Prophets/prophetesses (Acts 11; 21)

In Acts, God employed a variety of supernatural means to enable evangelism and to provide a supernatural witness to the Gospel. Consider the angelic apparition to Cornelius. That was instrumental in his conversion to Christianity. 

Even if we say the supernatural accoutrements to evangelism and missions are now defuncts (a la cessationism), they don't contradict God's ordination if he employed supernatural accoutrements to further the Gospel in the 1C. 

Suggesting that God must now resort to sending mysterious dreams to Muslims implies God’s power to save certain sinners is curtailed by evil men and His chosen method of evangelism revealed in Scripture now needs adjusting because of the unforeseen problem of radical Islam. 

The Bible is chock-full of dreams and visions, miracles and angels. Does the fact that God resorts to a diversity of supernatural means and agents to convey or certify the message impugn his omnipotence or omniscience?  

That also raises the question, does God only give dreams and visions to Muslims? What about Hindus and Buddhists or other members of world religions that live in countries hostile to Christianity? Or those in China, or North Korea who are are so utterly anti-religious the government kills them? Do people in those closed cultures have similar dreams that bring them to a missionary who gives them the Gospel? Maybe they do, but I am unaware of their stories.

i) North Korea is a closed country, so I wouldn't necessarily expect reports to leak out.

ii) By Fred's logic, we ought to deny that God was doing supernatural things in ancient Israel and the 1C Roman Empire unless he was doing similar things in other parts of the world. 

What do Bible-believing Evangelicals like Platt do with Catholics reporting similar events happening with their missionaries? Many Catholics claim Muslims have dreams of a man in white, or in their case, the virgin Mary, that supposedly brings the Muslims to encounter priests or missionaries. See HERE for example. That raises the serious question as to why God would reveal Jesus to these individuals only to bring them to a false Gospel.

Folks should also understand that Muslims don’t necessarily have a problem with Jesus. He is a large part of Islam and even has an important role to play in their eschatology according to Islamic theology.  What matters is the right Jesus — the True and Living Jesus who rose from the dead and is the only way to God and who is God Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity. Is that the Jesus Muslims are directed toward when they see the man in white appear in their dreams?  Why would God send dreams to Muslims that only converts them to a false form of Christianity?

i) That's a legitimate issue. Again, though, it parallels Hume's objection that reported miracles in one religion cancel out reported miracles in another religion. By Fred's logic, if we discount Marian apparitions, then we should discount biblical reports of angelic apparitions, theophanies, or the risen Jesus. 

ii) Keep in mind that Protestants exist because early "Catholic" missionaries proselytized Europe and Great Britain. Their theology was defective, but further down the line that made the Protestant Reformation possible. 

If many Muslims are having dreams and vision that bring them to Jesus, why aren’t their immediate cultures changed by their conversion? In other words, I would think that with scores of Muslims having dreams that brings the Gospel to them, there would be an “awakening” of sorts taking place in these hostile places like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan; but there isn’t really. Where is the visible proof of the revival that should be taking place if Christ is breaking into the hearts and minds Muslim people through their dreams?

Did miracles in the 1C church instantly transform the Roman Empire? 

Why the need to resort to subjective dreams and visions? How are modern day Islamic cultures (or any anti-Christian culture, for that matter) any more hostile than the pagan ones encountered by first century Christians and then later when missionaries took the Gospel to remote areas like Briton, Norway, and India?

i) Miracles and exorcisms in the ancient church were instrumental in the conversion of pagans to the Gospel. And that pattern is often replicated on the mission field. So Fred's objection boomerangs. 

ii) Does Fred think dreams and visions are inherently subjective? Are biblical dreams and visions subjective. What about veridical dreams and visions? Corroborated dreams and visions? 

The caravan

What would Jesus say to "Caitlyn" Jenner?

I'll comment on two related posts by Arminian theologian Randal Rauser:

This leads me to the second point: as I said, framing our social interaction with members of an outgroup in a neutral fashion allows for the question to be framed as a matter of hospitality. 

One basic problem is that Rauser is neutering moral categories. Reclassifying moral issues in antiseptic terms to make something immoral sound innocent. Suppose we applied his tactic to "members of the outgroup" like neo-Nazis or suicide bombers or serial killers? 

The reason is that we already widely recognize the general propriety of this kind of compulsion to hospitality. Consider, for example, a policy that requires people to use the preferred title for female members of the community. Now imagine a male employee who insisted on only using titles for his female colleagues which reference their marital status (i.e. Mrs., Miss) even when they explicitly request that he instead use the neutral Ms. That man likely wouldn’t last long in that community and for understandable reasons: the good ole boys need to conform or move on. Since people widely recognize the licitness of this kind of compulsion in principle, I simply do not share Anderson’s principled concern about being “made to care.”

Here he uses a similar tactic by reframing the issue at a very high level of abstraction. But it depends on the example. 1C Christians were considered inhospitable because they boycotted civic activities involving the imperial cult or idolatry. 

Finally, I don’t agree with Anderson’s claim that being compelled to use a gendered term that does not match the individual’s birth sex is equivalent to compelling another person to lie. Clearly, there is no deception here, only an accommodation (whether of hospitality or compulsion) to a request.

i) Compelled speech is not deceptive in the sense that there's no presumption a speaker believes what he says at gunpoint. However, compelled speech creates a culture of deception where truthfulness is punished. 

And a culture that's intolerant of reality is dangerous, because reality doesn't conform to make-believe. A culture that denies and defies reality is a bug on a collision course with a speeding windshield. 

ii) Rauser completely glosses over the harmfulness of the progressive agenda:

Rather, I see him calling us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to invite the stranger in, to give clothes to the naked, to nurse the sick, and to visit those in prison (Matthew 25:35-6).

It's striking how people like Rauser routinely misinterpret Mt 25:35-36. That's about caring for persecuted Christian. Rauser turns that on its head by empowering those who persecute Christians. 

The church’s outgroup today includes many: secularists, Muslims, atheists, and yes, members of the LGBTI community.

That may be the church's "outgroup" but they belong to the power elite. The ruling class either consists of such members or makes them social mascots. 

Are you repulsed by the thought of a homosexual or transgender friend?

i) Actually, there is something repulsive about a drag queen.

ii) It's less about Christians befriending LGBT types than whether LGBT types can stand to have real Christian friends. 

iii) Notice, moreover, that Rauser is very selective about hospitality. He only extends hospitality to representatives of chic causes and not, say, the plight of many working-class white males. 

This brings me to the second problem with loving the outgroup. I find that often Christians are worried that extending love and acceptance of a person entails love and acceptance of the choices that person makes in life. But of course, that isn’t true.

Rauser is duplicitous. It's highly unlikely that he thinks homosexual behavior is inherently wrong. This is a softening-up exercise to mainstream homosexuality in the church.

What would Jesus say to Caitlyn Jenner?


Demographics of the midterms

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Case studies in terminal lucidity

Provides some empirical evidence for dualism:

Hindu miracles

The argument from miracles is a traditional line of evidence for Christianity. One way atheists try to deflect the argument from miracles it to cancel out reported Christian miracles by raising the specter of reported non-Christian miracles. In my experience, atheists rarely give any concrete examples. It's just hypothetical. 

But occasionally they do gesture at reported Hindu or Muslim miracles. In my experience, controversial Hindu guru Sathya Sai Baba is the usual culprit. Keep in mind that non-Christian miracles are consistent with the truth of Christianity. Miracles are not a sufficient evidence to validate a religion. But they do eliminate naturalistic claimants. That said, how credible are the miracles attributed to Sathya Sai Baba? Commenting on Modern Miracles: Sathya Sai Baba, a Modern-Day Prophet by Erlendur Haraldsson, reviewer Brian Steel makes the following observation:

One aspect of the parapsychological phenomena that might have rewarded investigation is the increasing tendency in the past three decades, under the intense scrutiny of larger and larger darshan audiences and of camera zooms and videocameras, for SSB’s public materialisations to be largely confined to vibhuti, small items of jewellery, and necklaces, as well as the occasional dubious Shiva lingam (and the aborted lingam session caught on camera by the BBC in their 2004 documentary, Secret Swami). Also, is it not worth consideration that there have been no reports of spectacular phenomena like trances, bilocations, or ‘Lazarus-like resurrections’ in SSB’s final decades of life? JSPR Volume 79.2 Number 919 April 2015. 

Looks like parlor tricks to me. He seems to be a classic charlatan. If that's the best candidate for documented Hindu miracles, it's hardly impressive or persuasive. Nothing comparable to the well-documented Christian miracles. 

Our myth, their lie

"The Myth of an Afterlife"

I'm going to comment on two chapters from Michael Martin & Keith Augustine, eds. The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2015). Much of the book consists of "scientific" arguments against Cartesian dualism, near-death experiences, and out-of-body experiences. There's lots of empirical evidence they disregard on that front, as well as philosophical objections to physicalism. But I'll bypass that discussion and focus on the objections of Michael Martin (chap 20) and Theodore Drange (chap 12), beginning with Martin. 

I must say that for professional philosophers, I find their objections stupefyingly obtuse. They are completely lacking in philosophical imagination.

Senate beachhead

The Kavanaugh effect

And the Word was God

Here's a brief exchange I had on Facebook regarding Jn 1:1. 

Samuel Watkinson A Unitarian reading of John's prologue, I would argue, makes far much more sense and is more faithful to the original Jewish context than the simple, and indeed illogical and impossible in context, "Jesus is YHWH" equation. Even Colin Brown, who is a Trinitarian (although he exposes its flaws honestly in many places), in "Trinity and Incarnation: In search of Contemporary Orthodoxy", Ex Auditu (7), 1991, has said this: "It is a common but patent misreading of the opening of John's Gospel to read it as if it said: 'In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was with God and the Son was God' (John 1:1). What has happened here is the substitution of Son for Word (Greek logos), and thereby the Son is made a member of the Godhead which existed from the beginning. But if we follow carefully the thought of John's prologue, it is the Word [the divine utterance of God, not necessarily a personal being] that pre-existed eternally with God and is God. The same Word that made all things and is the light that enlightens human kind 'became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father' (John 1:14; cf. vv. 3 and 8)." 

Many NT scholars are now convinced that John's prologue is heavily influenced by Jewish wisdom traditions (biblical, e.g. Proverbs 8:22-36, and also in texts a century or so before the NT such as Ben Sira and Wisdom of Solomon), rather than any later pagan influence of a redeemer myth or something. 

Steve Hays Several problems:

i) One shouldn't adduce more background material than is necessary to explain the text. The Prologue clearly alludes to Gen 1, and that's sufficient to explain Jn 1:1-4. The motifs of God at the beginning, making the world by divine speech, creating light and life, in contrast to darkness. The later wisdom stuff is unnecessary to explicate the text.

ii) The Logos stands for the creative speaker in Gen 1. The divine Creator is the speaker. So John is saying the Logos is the God of Gen 1. The Logos is the divine creative speaker.

iii) The Logos is an alternative designation for the Son. John introduces the reader to Jesus by giving the backstory for the Son. The Son is the divine creator/divine speaker in Gen 1. So, contextually, the Logos and the Son *are* intersubstitutable (pace Brown).

iv) That identification is reinforced in vv14,18. 

v) That identification receives additional reinforcement in 17:5, where the Son resumes his original role. The same divine individual.

Election recap

• Dems retake House. Not a blowout. They needed to flip 23 seats to regain control and got 27-seat pickup (although that number may rise). Still, that stalls any legislative agenda. 

Not unusual for the party out of power to do well in midterms.

• Walker lost in Wisconsin by a squeaker. Sad news.

• Cruz won reelection, but by a narrow margin against an empty suit candidate in what's supposed to be a deep red state. Concerning. 

• GOP held Senate and picked up 3 seats. Senate more important than House. Trump, McConnell, and Federalist society have effective alliance to steamroll GOP judicial nominees. That will continue. 

• Florida now has GOP governor and two GOP senators. Big deal for Trump's reelection bid. Also flips the FL Supreme Court. 

• GOP governor in Ohio. Big deal for Trump's reelection bid. 

• Brian Kemp ran well among Latinos in GA.

• CA elects female Korean-American candidate.

• Kavanaugh hearings backfired on Dems in senate races. As one pundit noted, Four of the "Big 5" vulnerable Senate Democrats lose or losing tonight: Donnelly, Heitkamp, McCaskill, Nelson. All four voted against Kavanaugh. The one that did vote for Kavanaugh, Joe Manchin, prevails.

If this election was a referendum on Trump, the Dems underperformed. 

The Choking Incidents In The Enfield Case

Before I get to the main topic of this post, I want to provide an overview of where I am in my research on the Enfield Poltergeist. I'm a little more than halfway through Maurice Grosse's tapes. The digitization of Guy Playfair's tapes was recently completed, and I should have the digital version soon. Once I finish Grosse's tapes and listen to all of Playfair's, I'll have a lot more to say about the Enfield case. When I'm done with all of the tapes, I intend to write summaries of my findings on some of the issues involved. Since I don't expect to finish listening to the tapes until sometime next year, probably during the first half of the year, I expect most of my Enfield articles about my initial reactions to the tapes to be posted sometime in 2019. It takes a long time to go through the tapes, not only because there are so many hours of audio on them, but also because I'm often replaying sections, taking notes along the way, etc. There's a vast amount of significant material on the tapes, much of which has, as far as I know, never been discussed publicly before. So far, my impression is that the tapes substantially strengthen the argument for the authenticity of the case. It seems highly unlikely that anything in the remainder of the tapes or elsewhere would overturn that conclusion. However, there's also evidence on the tapes of some faking of phenomena by the Hodgson children, material that leads me to disagree with Grosse and Playfair on some issues, etc. I intend to write about topics like those next year as well. On balance, it's extremely probable that the case is authentic, with the tapes adding a lot of weight to that conclusion. However, it's much more difficult to judge some of the details within those general parameters.

Having said all of that, I'll move on to the primary topic of this post. In his book on Enfield, Playfair briefly discusses some incidents in which the poltergeist choked Janet. Those events haven't been discussed much over the years, and they're associated with some other subjects worth discussing, so I want to address them here. I'll quote some of Playfair's comments as an introduction:

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Help Dasha and Tito

Preservation of the saints

The last point is called "the perseverance of the saints", and the emphasis is upon the truth that those who have been won by the grace of God will not lose out but will be preserved by God's grace to ultimate salvation. It means that it is not possible for one who is truly regenerate so to fall out of the reach of divine grace as to lose salvation altogether and finally be lost.

The advantage of this formulation is that there is, indeed, a human activity in this process. The saints are active. They are not just passive. In a true sense they are called upon to persevere. 

But there is a devastating weakness in this formulation in that it suggests that the key to this perseverance is the activity of the saints. It suggests that they persevere because they are strong, that they are finally saved because they show that kind of stability and consistency which prevents them from turning back into their original wickedness. 

This is never the case. The key to perseverance is the preservation by God of his saints, that is, the stability of his purpose and the fixity of his design. What is to be in view here is not so much the perseverance of those who are saved, but the perseverance of God with the sinners whom he has gloriously transformed and whom he assists to the end. We ought to talk about "God's perseverance with his saints". That is the thing that we need to emphasize. Roger Nicole, "Calvinism: the five points," Standing Forth (Mentor 2002), 434-35.

Do We Need God to be Good?

The theological foundations of modern science

Dark theology

Many professing Christians reject Calvinism because it has some sharp edges. And I agree with them that that makes Calvinism somewhat disturbing. However, that mirrors the kind of world we live in. Reality is disturbing. If the world is harsh, then that is, in some measure, a reflection of the God who made it. You can't logically say the world is harsh without saying God is harsh. 

Freewill theism is just as harsh as Calvinism. The difference is that freewill theism tries to camouflage the sharp edges. But even if you think God merely permits terrible things to happen for a morally sufficient reason, the fact that he allows things he could prevent tells you something about his character and priorities. A softer God would step in. The difference between Calvinism and freewill theism is illusory in that regard. Freewill theism drives a wedge between theology and reality, faith and experience. It projects a soft God onto a hard world. 

Having said all that, it's important not to exaggerate the sharp edges. What's most striking about life in a fallen world is the stark contrast between good and evil, beauty and ugliness. It's very two-sided. As such, it's simplistic to say God is harsh. But there's an undeniable element of severity to God's administration of the world. Many readers of the OT are taken aback by Yahweh's severity. Again, that's one-sided. Yahweh is often gracious, merciful, long-suffering. That's the other side. 

I have a darker theology than I used to–not because I'm a Calvinist, but because the longer you live the more you experience, and it gets darker. In a way, that contrast makes the light brighter by comparison. The chiaroscuro of weal and woe, blessing and bane.