Saturday, March 23, 2019

Patsy for Islam

The message she sends is that NZ has a PM who's a sob sister and patsy for the forces of sharia, jihad, and dhimmitude. If she really wishes to show solidarity with Muslims, she ought to take the next step and undergo female genital mutilation.

Should foot-washing be a sacrament?

i) It's just a matter of arbitrary ecclesiastical tradition that it's not a third sacrament (or church ordinance, if you prefer).

ii) It has been incorporated in the Maundy-Thursday services of some liturgical denominations. In addition, some Pentecostal and Anabaptist denominations practice foot-washing.

iii) It is possible to practice the rite pridefully. "We honor the Lord's command, unlike all those other disobedient denominations!"

iv) Strictly speaking, Jn 13:1-17 is not a direct command to Christians generally, but a command to the disciples in the Upper Room. Not all commands addressed to the disciples are applicable to Christians in general. On the other hand, it would be too facile to say that no commands addressed to the disciples have a broader application. 

v) A basic problem is the difference between modern foot-washing and the original event. Back then, pedestrians used to walk barefoot or with open sandals on dusty, muddy, and (literally) crappy streets and dirt roads. In addition, the action of Jesus was spontaneous. The disciples had no advance notice.

By contrast, Christians who attend a foot-washing service know what to expect. Presumably, most of them wash their feet at home beforehand. Trim their toenails. Wear fresh socks. Deodorize their shoes. And drive to church. So the situation is almost diametrically the opposite of foot-washing at the Last Supper. It loses the original impact. 

vi) So I think the way to honor the principle exemplified by foot-washing is to apply that analogously rather than mechanically (literally). To take a hypothetical example, suppose a young Victorian aristocrat has a valet. Suppose his valet contracts TB–at the time a fatal and highly contagious disease. 

Normally, he'd die in a sanitarium (a kind of quarantine) or simply be kicked out, to die on the streets. But suppose the young aristocrat decides to personally care for his ailing valet. The consumptive valet is allowed to sleep in his master's bedroom. Indeed, in his master's bed. His master sleeps on a cot.

The master feeds, and bathes his ailing valet. Takes him to the bathroom. Cares for his terminal valet until the valet dies of TB. Reads the Bible to him. And collects from the BCP. All the while assuming the risk that he will be infected by TB through so much physical contact with his consumptive valet. 

That honors the meaning of the rite in a way that attending a Maundy-Thursday service does not. (Although  Maundy-Thursday service may be worthwhile for other reasons.)

vii) Of course, that's a hypothetical example. And not very realistic in a modern American context. Here's another example: suppose, during a high school football game, a player is seriously injured. He lives with his mom. During his convalesce, he needs help doing certain things–private things which would be humiliating to have his mom to perform. So some players on the opposing team volunteer to go to his house twice a day (morning and evening) to help him out. That's not embarrassing because it's man to man. That's analogous to the significance of foot-washing at the Last Supper. We should cultivate the habit of thinking about how to implement the foot-washing principle creatively. 


I think the traditional arguments for infant baptism and believer's baptism are indecisive and basically cancel each other out. I think the strongest argument for infant baptism is sociological: Was there a 1C cultural presumption that the religion of (underage) children is the religion of their parents? A default ascriptive status. If so, ir carries the presumption that the rite of Christian initiation extends to children of Christian parents. Conversely, if believer's baptism was, in fact, the original position, then we'd expect the NT to be much more explicit since it would need to counter the cultural presupposition. I recently linked to a detailed exposition of that argument:

I find the sociological argument mildly persuasive, although it's not a knockdown argument. 

I think the best argument for believer's baptism goes like this: the church fathers began to view baptism as a rite that washed away the guilt of original sin. That development led to the complementary development of infant baptism. Dying unbaptized babies were damned because they died in a state of original sin. Given high rates of infant mortality, infant baptism was a preemptive measure to ensure the salvation of dying infants. 

I think that's a plausible historical reconstruction. Although patristics is not my bailiwick, I think it's easy to document that confluence of factors. 

However, it's possible that infant baptism was the original practice, with a different rationale. What happened wasn't the novel introduction of infant baptism, but the novel introduction of a new rationale that co-opted the original rationale. 

As a Zwinglian, I don't think either side has much to gain if they are right or much to lose if they are wrong. The real danger is when faith in the (alleged) efficacy of the sacraments usurps faith in Christ. It becomes important when people make it more important than it is. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

Flyover country

One argument for the Electoral College is to protect rural communities from subjugation by urban elites. There's an ironic asymmetrical dynamic between the two groups. On the one hand, rural communities supply the urban elites. So the urban elites are parasitic on roughnecks, viz. ranchers, farmers, loggers, miners, drillers. Not to mention natural resources (e.g. hydroelectric power). 

On the other hand, urban elites have contempt for cow country. Contempt for hunters. They disdain contact sports. It's like feminists who look down on men even though they rely on male technology and construction workers. 

The ethics of plea bargaining

I wonder about the ethics of plea bargaining. Suppose the accused is guilty of a serious crime. In that situation, it may well be in his self-interest to cop to a lesser charge.

However, even that is unjust. If he committed a more seriously crime, he shouldn't get off with a lighter sentence. Perhaps, though, that can sometimes be justified by the fact that in a less than ideal world, we must often compromise. It's better to settle for something then settle for nothing if you can't get everything you want. 

Be that as it may, there are more troubling scenarios. Take a case where the defendant is either innocent or guilty of a minor crime, but the prosecutor threatens him with indictment for a serious crime. That generates several major ethical problems:

i) It creates enormous opportunities for prosecutorial misconduct.

ii) If a prosecutor doesn't have the evidence to charge the accused with an actual crime, then he shouldn't be charged in the first place, or pending charges should be dropped. 

iii) It engineers a terrible dilemma for an innocent defendant. A fateful risk assessment. On the one hand, if the defendant refuses the deal and the prosecutor either drops the charges or fails to secure a conviction, then that's better than serving time. On the other hand, there's the risk of conviction for an even more serious, trumped up charge, if the defendant refuses the deal. That's quite a gamble. 

iv) It coerces innocent defendants to confess to a crime they didn't commit. Under duress, they are made to lie by admitting to a crime, when in fact they committed no crime. That's straight out of Kafka. 

v) A basic rationale for plea bargains is to incentivize the accused to implicate someone higher up the food chain. While there can be some merit in that strategy, it's offset by loss of credibility if the accused incriminates someone else to save his own skin. Is an extorted confession of guilt credible? 


His reply to my Quiz Show: Bible Contradictions post:

The fact that a kind of narrative glue CAN be applied so as to give some semblance of continuity or unity to texts that on their face contradict each other DOES NOT MEAN that the glue is valid, true, reasonable, acceptable, or plausible. The test is not whether or not some narrative bridge can be invented post-hoc so as to apparently reconcile contradictions, but whether or not the narrative bridge that is created has greater explanatory power than “Well, maybe it just got written down wrong or something.” It’s always possible that it got written down wrong, either by the original author, the first person to make a copy, the second person to make a copy, the first person to translate their copy into a new language, the fifth person to translate a seventh copy of a bad translation of a copy of a translation, a scribe who was tired when they made their copy, or an unskilled translator who did an incomplete job. Any of those people could have made an error which then got copied and copied and copied and came to be considered reliable and original. Historical textual scholarship is largely focused on understanding and detecting where and when these things happened. The fact that people have come up with narrative glue that is satisfactory to THEM does not mean, at all, that it is a better explanation than "Perhaps it just got written down wrong."
steve hays 
i) Unresponsive to what I wrote. Apparently, this is your stock reply, which you mechanically repeat regardless of the actual content of the rebuttal. ii) In general, my critique didn't appeal to scribal errors. I only brought that up in relation to numerical discrepancies, where that's sometimes a legitimate consideration, but even then I said that's probably not the entire explanation. I offered other, non-text critical explanations for numerical discrepancies. iii) Finally, you seem to labor under the illusion that modern versions of the Bible retranslate translations of the Bible. But anyone with a modicum of knowledge is aware of the fact that they are translated direct from Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.

Racial inclusivism

i) The liberal establishment scapegoats white men for being white. Scapegoating innocent white guys for being white has the ironic effect of pushing some of them into the arms of white nationalism. And they are then attacked for being racists. It's both a vicious cycle and self-fulfilling prophecy.

ii) At present, a lot of white men have a legitimate grievance, because they are at or near the bottom of the intersectional spoils system. A system that discriminates against white men. That harms innocent white males. That should be opposed. 

iii) I'd like to segue from that to a related issue. Historically, the white evangelical church (in America) was, for the most part, on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. Nowadays it's done a 180. And that's generally for the best, although some segments of the evangelical church are overcorrecting for the past. 

iv) Which brings me to the main point. I suspect white supremacists think human beings naturally prefer to be with "their own kind". When modern-day evangelicals go out of their way to be racially inclusive, I suspect white supremacists think that's a case of theology suppressing what we really feel. And that's a reason for them to reject Christianity. They don't believe white evangelicals feel that way deep down, but misguided piety forces them to adopt that attitude because they think that's how they are supposed to feel about other races. White nationalists think that's well-meaning B.S. 

I don't know enough about the Alt Right or modern white nationalism to say that for a fact. It's just a hunch. But assuming that's the case, I'd like to address it head-on. Is evangelical racial inclusivism inauthentic? Are we sublimating our true impulses? Do we naturally prefer the company of our own race?

v) Many people live in racially homogenous enclaves. It's natural to feel more at ease with the people you grew up with, the people you spend most of your time with. And if that's an ethnic or racial enclave, then you're apt to feel more at ease with members of your own race or ethnicity. 

On a related note, we're more at ease with people who speak our language. If speaking a second language is effortful, then that has a somewhat distancing or alienating effect. Since it's easier to speak our own language, easier to communicate with people who speak the same language. 

In that regard, we can multiple examples in which people prefer to be with "their own kind". However, that's deceptive. In that context, do they prefer their company because they share the same racial/ethnic identity, or is that a contingent and incidental effect of living in a racial enclave? If your social circle is the same ethnicity or race, then the side effect is to prefer members of your own race since you've been saturated in that social environment. That's your conscious, as well as subconscious, frame of reference. 

Furthermore, language cuts across racial lines inasmuch as members of the same race frequently speak different languages while members different races frequently speak the same language. 

vi) If, however, you grew up in a racially heterogenous community, then social bonds might cut across racial lines. For instance, people tend to be more at ease with members of the same social class. But that's not a racial category. Members of different ethnic groups can and often do belong to the same social class–be it upper class, middle class, or working class. They have more in common at that level of comparison. Conversely, there can be antipathies between different social classes. 

vii) To take another example, if you have a multiethnic sports team, that's a setting in which men naturally become friends. The same dynamic occurs in military units. In those settings, racial differences are secondary.

viii) Consider guys who like the same movie genre (e.g. science fiction). Or play the same video games. Or the same sports (e.g. football, ice hockey, martial arts). That gives them a common domain of discourse. That transcends race. 

ix) In addition, we have natural rapport with some individuals. That's a basis of friendship. We click with certain people. That has far more to do with temperament or common interests than race. Conversely, there are folks who rub us the wrong way. And these are often members of our own race or people-group. For instance, it's not like being white automatically makes you simpatico with other whites. 

x) Even at the fundamental level of the family, there are people who prefer their friends to their relatives. Likewise, teenage boys and young bachelors naturally hang out with each other. Maturation includes an independent streak. You seek out and form attachments to people other than your relatives. 

xi) The ironic upshot is that white nationalism is artificial. I don't think we're naturally closer to members of our own race. And even if that were true as a default generality, many factors can neutralize that default generality. Christian racial inclusivism isn't a foreign veneer. Race doesn't run that deep. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

On the go with nowhere to go

In-between writing, I go for walks. I walk later when sunset is later. I'm struck by the number of cars on the road well after rush hour. It's striking how many people are on still the road when they don't need to be. They aren't driving home from work. Although some drivers pick up a few items at the supermarket after work, I see lots of cars on the road later than that. 

And that's just the work week. As a night owl, I also have some awareness of drivers coming home or leaving home at midnight, 1AM, 2AM on Friday and Saturday nights. 

It's striking in part because lots of people say they hate fighting traffic, yet they spend so much time on the road when they don't have to. It seems as though many people just can't stand to be still. Even in an age with so much home entertainment (music, movies, TV shows, video games), they are fidgety. They have to get in the car and go somewhere, at all hours of the day and night. They have to be on the move. They need the distraction. They have more hours in a day than they know what to do with.

These appear to be people who have nothing better to live for. Driving is filler. Hopping into the car and going somewhere, anywhere, is a way to kill time.  They can't stand to be alone with their own thoughts. They require constant physical activity. Not to mention the opiate of smartphones.  

Ironically, if they were diagnosed with cancer, most of them would undergo any treatment, however painful, however poor the odds of survival, to eke out another five or ten years of life. Yet look at what they do with the time they already have. Just driving and going places to pass the time. If they had another ten or twenty years, they'd squander the extra time on the road to idle away the extra hours. 

I understand that some folks have to be on the road at odd hours of the day and night. But in my anecdotal observation, it seems to be more prevalent than that. Insatiable restlessness. 

Abolish the Capitol Police!

Before Bernie Sanders sponsors a bill to ban/confiscate private ownership of "assault rifles" (whatever that means), he should sponsor a bill to abolish the Capitol police. Surely he doesn't think Congressional Democrats should enjoy a gov't funded security detail while ordinary Americans are disarmed. An alternative is for Bernie to sponsor a bill to provide armed guards for all Americans, to parallel the protections enjoyed by Congressional Democrats. 

NZ gun ban

I, of course, assume that the Prime Minister of NZ doesn't have her own security detail. Surely she doesn't have armed guards to protect her at the same time she disarms Kiwi citizens. Banish the thought! 

Making the world safe for snipers, one gun confiscation at a time

Because 49 people were gunned down in a gun-free zone, the blindingly obvious solution is to extend gun-free zones by disarming New Zealanders so that snipers will have more targets of opportunity. Only progressive politicians could come up with such a brilliant response. 

BTW, aren't these the same brain-donors who protest police shootings? But only police should have guns, right? 

The women at the tomb

I discussed this recently in combination with some other things, but I'd like to discuss it separately so that it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. A common objection to the Resurrection accounts is alleged discrepancies in the women at the tomb. Oftentimes, objections to the accuracy of Scripture depend on hidden assumptions. In this case there's the unspoken assumption that a single group of women went to the tomb. But is that a reasonable assumption?

i) I don't think the Gospel writers would be in a position to know if one group or more than one group of women went to the tomb. They didn't accompany the women. They got information from some of the women after the fact, but if Salome shares her experience with Matthew or Mark while Mary Magdalene shares her experience with John, the Gospel writers wouldn't know from that whether one or more than one group of women went to the tomb. They'd simply know that a group of women went to the tomb, but they wouldn't know which was which in case more than one group went there.

ii) And this is more than just hypothetical. Surely the women who went to the tomb lived in different neighborhoods. So that complicates the logistics. They had to walk from different locations, more or less distant to a common rendezvous. It's not as if they all agreed to reconnoiter at Salome's house at 6AM sharp. They didn't have Rolex watches. 

So if we try to visualize the process, you'd have women leaving their house at somewhat different times, walking for longer or shorter distances to arrive at a common rendezvous, then traveling together to the tomb. 

Would women normally travel alone at twilight, or would we expect at least two women from each home to make the trek together for safety? So there might be additional unnamed women. 

It also seems like they were in a hurry to get to the tomb as early as light conditions permitted. So did they wait for everyone to arrive? Did they even know who all would show up? That might be difficult to synchronize. When they went to the tomb would depend on the sky brightening and how deserted the streets were. 

Did some go ahead? It's easy to imagine groups of two or more women going to the tomb. There's no presumption that it had to be coordinated. Or have a single rendezvous. If two or more women nearby, it would be natural for them to reconnoiter at one of their homes, then travel to the cemetery from that rendezvous. That would be more convenient than having one rendezvous for everyone. The rendezvous would vary according to the neighborhood where they resided. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Saving the life of the mother

Image may contain: 1 person, sleeping and baby

People are talking about the medical necessity of abortion to save the mother's life. I was one of those mothers.
I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer that was cutting off my airway at 20 weeks of pregnancy. I will never forget when the first doctor, an oncologist, mentioned abortion. We had gone thru years of infertility to get pregnant. I knew I would rather die and give birth. Then I met with another doctor who listed all of the problems the baby would have if I did not terminate. I stood my ground and refused. He said, "That is ok. The baby will probably spontaneously abort anyway."
I searched and found good doctors that supported me, and I gave birth to a healthy baby at 34 weeks.
I will be celebrating 10 years cancer free in May. I have a healthy, beautiful, bright, precious 10 year old daughter who is a living reminder that doctors do not know everything.

Law enforcement priorities

Ufology: the religion of technocrats

Quiz Show: Bible Contradictions!

Normally I wouldn't bother commenting on something this sophomoric: 

But considering the fact that it's approaching 2.5 million views, with over 32,000 comments and 95,000 upvotes, I'll make an exception. 

Do you find my videos offensive?

Actually, atheists should be embarrassed by the intellectual quality of his videos. If anyone ought to be offended, that would be atheists, not Christians. It makes atheism looks bad. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tribalism in traditional Catholic theology

In the past, when a theologian practiced theology as a member of a religious order, that is, as a member of a congregation formed according to a certain spirit distinguished from that of other orders, this theology bore the distinct and tangible imprint of the theology of that order. The major orders such as the Benedictines, the Dominicans, the Franciscans, and the Jesuits each had their own style of theology, a fact that was acknowledged then. Each order cultivated its own specific theology and each distinguished its theology from that of other religious orders. They were proud of their respective theological traditions and they even had their own officially recognized doctors of the Church as well as key figures in the various theological “schools.” In all of this, there is nothing objectionable provided, of course, that these differences do not degenerate into stubborn conflicts along party lines—something that occurred quite often in the past. Nowadays I think this is no longer the case. As far as legislation of my order is concerned, I ought to teach, for example, the so-called scientia media and consequently should oppose and reject the Thomistic theology of grace as expounded in the Baroque era. Karl Rahner, S.J. "Experiences of a Catholic Theologian," Theological Studies 61 (2000), 10. 

Abolish the Senate!

Seeing as the Senate is even less representative than the Electoral College, since each state gets equal representation regardless of population, shouldn't Warren's first priority be to abolish the Senate? And shouldn't she lead by example by resigning from that highly undemocratic body?

Steinmann on Genesis

Prolific OT scholar and Confessional Lutheran Andrew Steinmann has a commentary on Genesis due out later this year. Although not as detailed as some, it does clock in at 420 pages:

Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
by Andrew E. Steinmann
FREE Shipping by Amazon
Pre-order. Available August 20, 2019

Time travel filicide

1. Wouldn't the same logic justify eugenic abortion?

2. Since Rauser is fond of thought-experiments, here's a test-case: suppose a couple has three kids. The first kid has a congenital untreatable disease which will result in the child's painfully slow death in a matter of weeks or months. His younger siblings are healthy. 

Suppose a time-machine is invented. The couple can travel back into the past and erase the first child from the original timeline. But that action will automatically erase their two younger children from the original timeline. All three children never existed in the new. Would it be wrong to do that to their healthy kids? Would that be tantamount to filicide? 

Did Jesus’ mother and the beloved disciple stand at the foot of the cross?

Decorated sepulchers

This is interesting on several levels:

i) Nowadays, most Catholic apologists parachute in from Evangelicalism. So they see Catholicism from the outside before they see it from the inside. And even after conversion, their experience is quite limited compared to cradle Catholics educated at Catholic institutions. So this presents an insider perspective you rarely get from Catholic apologists.

ii) It's a devastating exposé of the sodomite subculture in the Catholic priesthood and hierarchy, both from sociological studies as well as the author's anecdotal experience.

iii) It illustrates the duplicity of Michael Liccione. He used to be a regular contributor to Called to Communion. Although he wasn't formally affiliated, since the official members are converts from Calvinism, whereas he's a cradle Catholic, he used to write very long comments interacting with other commenters. Along with Bryan Cross, he provided most of the intellectual heft. Yet here he presents a side of Catholicism I never saw him detail when he was shilling for Catholicism. But to present only half the evidence, the more sales-worthy have, is devious. Like selling a house without informing prospective buyers that the house is infested with termites. 

iv) Finally, he says: 

Specifically, I was the victim who was blamed even as he was being recruited. Fear that such a sick game would continue is why, a few years after my reversion, I stopped exploring a priestly vocation and decided soon thereafter to marry. Apparently solid and reputable priests had given me good reason to believe that I would undergo a similar experience in seminary or novitiate. That was why it took me decades to realize that I had had no such vocation regardless. I wanted to blamegay priests rather than get real about myself...

It doesn't seem to occur to him that this is a dilemma confronting many straight, idealistic novitiates. They take vows that commit them to forego a normal family life, yet that's premature. After the youthful idealism rubs off and unforgiving experience kicks in, they belatedly realize that they never were cut out for that life. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Devil's Redemption

Given longstanding Christian opposition to universalism, how has it gained so many adherents in recent times?

The change was a long time coming. As I show in my book, from the time of Origen onward there were individual Christian thinkers who held to some version of Origenist universalism. In Orthodox Christianity, however, universalism was never affirmed as an official or public teaching of the church. One might call it instead a tolerated private opinion. I found that Orthodox attitudes toward Origen through the centuries were double-sided and ambivalent (as my own attitude is), acknowledging Origen’s undoubted contributions to Christian theology and spirituality but finding fault with his speculative excesses. Western esotericists, who were outside of traditional churches or hovering about its fringes, maintained a robust universalism from around 1700 up to the mid-1900s.

Yet until that point, few official church teachers in Protestant Germany, Britain, or North America publicly affirmed universal salvation—even though privately some may have been universalists. Something changed in the 1950s, and I believe it was Barth’s affirmation of universal election that allowed universalism to come out of the shadows. From the 1950s through the 1970s, universalism was most closely associated with modernist Protestantism. Prior to Vatican II, one finds some private musings on the possibility of salvation for all among certain Catholic intellectuals, even though no official Catholic spokespersons affirm universalism.

The next step in the process occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, as Catholics discussed “the unchurched” and evangelicals debated “the unevangelized.” A book from the Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope?, initiated a turn toward “hopeful universalism” among Catholics, leading into more overt affirmations of universalism later on. Similarly, the tentative suggestions by the British evangelical John Stott regarding conditionalism or annihilationism triggered intra-evangelical debates over the final scope of salvation.

Even though we tend to shy away from the term heresy these days, it is correct to describe universalism as heretical?

Universalism isn’t just a theological mistake. It’s also a symptom of deeper problems. In a culture characterized by moralistic therapeutic deism, universalism fits the age we inhabit. As I argue in the book, universalism is the opiate of the theologians. It’s the way we would want the world to be. Some imagine that a more loving and less judgmental church would be better positioned to win new adherents. Yet perfect love appeared in history—and he was crucified.

Universalism seems, then, to be fundamentally out of sync with the New Testament narrative of God’s loving initiative in Christ provoking some to faith and others to offense and even hatred. Because of its incongruence with the gospel narrative, universalism is, to my mind, not the first step off the path of orthodoxy, but perhaps—in Kevin DeYoung’s words—“the last rung for evangelicals falling off the ladder.”

What keeps them in?

Nearly all Catholic apologists are men (with all due apologies to Amy Welborn ), including the evangelical converts to Rome. They stress devotion to the Eucharist as the main thing that keeps them in. But I suspect that for devout female Catholics, the main thing is Marian piety. I assume they strongly identify with the cult of Mary. That's why keeps them in. Just my hunch. 

Do Catholic apologists speak for Catholics?

In Christian apologetics, the debate over Catholicism is conducted by and between theology junkies. Most Catholic apologists are converts to Catholicism. They converted because they found the traditional arguments for Catholicism convincing. So the debate typical revolves around arguments and counterarguments, prima facie evidence and counterevidence. Both sides approach it from an intellectualist perspective.

There's nothing wrong with that. Ideally, that's the proper way to assess religious truth-claims. And that approach is largely unavoidable.

However, it can also be misleading since most Catholic probably don't operate at that level. It's too elitist to be representative of how many Catholics think. A debate between members of the Catholic and evangelical intelligentsia. But most Catholics are Catholic for sociological reasons, so spokesmen like Scott Hahn, Trent Horn, Bryan Cross, Ed Feser, Michael Liccione, Thomas Joseph White et al. are quite unrepresentative of cradle Catholics. To some degree, they may be the public face of Catholicism, but they don't speak for Catholics in general. 

That's why the abuse scandal is so damaging. Catholic apologists have their escape clauses. They can say they're not Donatists or Novatianists. And you can render any belief-system unfalsifiable if you introduce enough escape clauses. So Catholic apologists can argue that any amount of corruption is consistent with the claims of Rome.

But for Catholics who don't think in such abstract terms, it's down-to-earth issues like the abuse scandal that can be the deal-breaker. To illustrate the difference:

Simon K 
Trent Horn is the kind of Roman Catholic who is a Roman Catholic because he is convinced it is the most correct church, and the only one specially approved by God.

There is another kind of Roman Catholic, a kind I am more familiar with, the kind of Roman Catholic that I am. I'm not convinced the Roman Catholic Church is the most correct church, nor that God has given it some special approval which the others lack. Catholics like me are Catholics fundamentally for cultural and pragmatic reasons – it is the faith of our parents, our grandparents, the faith we were raised in. I went to Catholic schools as a child, and now my children are going to Catholic schools too. Following in the religious footsteps of my ancestors makes me feel connected to them.

I don't know for sure, but I strongly suspect my kind of Catholic is a lot more numerous than Trent's.

That's not to say I don't think the Roman Catholic church is more right about some things than Protestants, I really do – e.g. the Biblical canon, purgatory and prayer for the dead, intercession of the Saints, the rejection of sola scriptura – but, I think the Catholic church just happens to be right about those things, as opposed to thinking the Catholic church is right about these things because it possesses some special divine guarantee of correctness.

In that respect, support for Roman Catholicism among the laity may be quite soft. 

Infant Baptism in the First-Century Presupposition Pool

Iron-man dualism

Jesus, Skepticism, & the Problem of History

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Release date October 2019

Mr. Nobody

The film is a useful illustration of the theodical principle that every alternate timeline (or possible world) may have tradeoffs. There's no one best possible world:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Is Christian ethics unnatural?

1. Christian ethics has the damaging reputation for being unnatural. For making demands that run contrary to human nature. I expect many men never give the Christian faith serious consideration because they think it's so unnatural. But it's my contention that Christian ethics is natural, rational, and liberating. 

2. That's not entirely a stereotype. Some Christian ethical traditions are quite unnatural. The pacifist tradition is quite unnatural. Thankfully, that never caught on. 

School discipline

Here's a good example of what's wrong with many inner city schools:

However, I'd like to discuss something else. To my knowledge, life in the Hood fosters a macho culture. You have to be tough to survive, or you have to act tough to survive. Now, the education establishment already despises natural masculinity. The objective is to psychologically emasculate boys. In addition, the culture of the education establishment means that many male teachers are progressive pansies. If the education establishment is already ill-equipped to deal with natural masculinity, it has no idea how to cope with machismo. You're going to have limp-wristed male teachers whom the boys can't take seriously as real men. And if they don't respect the men, they sure won't respect the women. Moreover, many teachers fear the more aggressive male students, and students can see that. 

It's my impression that in tough schools, the only teacher male students look up to is the coach. My father was a WWII vet. During his career, teaching junior high, I assume many of his male colleagues were WWII vets, Korean war vets, or Viet Nam vets. Ay the risk of overgeneralization, I expect men with that kind of background tend to carry themselves differently than nancy boys with teaching certificates. 

Tinted lenses

That's an overreaction. Although there's a sense in which biblical exegesis ought to be disinterested, the fact is that readers can bring vested interests to the sacred text which blind them to the message of Scripture when it cuts against the grain of their vested interests. For instance, under slavery and Jim Crow, black Americans were able to recognize some biblical themes about justice, oppression, and liberation which the ruling class turned a blind eye to. In general, Southern Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians had a filter that screened out those biblical themes, in their application to the contemporary situation. I expect Victorian Christians suffered from the same blinders in relation to British imperialism in India. 

And within the Bible itself, the Apocalypse reflects the outlook of persecuted Christians in relation to oppressive elites. The Book of Daniel is an analogous example. For that matter, the social status of the Jewish establishment had a prejudicial effect on how most elite Jews in Jerusalem viewed Jesus. Having a personal stake in the message if the message poses a threat to your dominance can distort the interpretive process.

So there's a grain of truth to what Mika says. The problem isn't with the general principle. Rather, the problem is due in part to self-anointed victim groups who've deluded themselves into believing that they are oppressed. Moreover, casting whites as the villains in their self-flattering psychodrama. Not only is this harmful to innocent white Americans, but harmful to some minority groups by conditioning them to believe they can't succeed. Ironically, Mika is oblivious to his own tinted lenses. He's the mirror image of what he decries. 

Toward a Reformed demonology

The ideology of snipers

Has anyone kept a running tally on how many mass shootings are committed by atheists (as well as Muslims)? Imagine how these massacres would be covered by social media or the news media if professing Christians were the snipers. How many snipers have an anti-Christian ideology? Also, I'm using "mass shooting" as a synecdoche for massacres generally, by whatever means. 

Dumb atheist alert

This was retweeted by Jeff Lowder at the Secular Outpost, so he evidently thinks there's something admirable about the gesture of his fellow atheist, Dean Murphy. Maybe this is intended to polish the public image of atheists.

i) Is there any statistical reason to think western mosques in general are danger zones? Are attacks on western mosques prevalent? 

ii) In what sense was he guarding the mosque? Was he packing heat? If he was unarmed, how would an unarmed guard be any match for a well-armed sniper? So isn't this a vacuous feel-good gesture? It doesn't actually protect any Muslims in the mosque. It's just a theatrical stunt. 

iii) Since Muslims are supposed to pray 5 times a day, does Murphy and his fellow infidels plan to guard western mosques 5 times a day, 7 days a week, for the foreseeable future?

iv) Mosques are sometimes used as cover for jihadists to plan terrorist attacks. It's not just about worship. 

v) If devout Muslim immigrants come to power in the west, they will persecute atheists like Murphy. He's a patsy for his sworn enemies.  

Confused comparisons

Normally I wouldn't comment on anything this stupid. Atheists say so many dumb things that there's not enough time to comment on even a fraction of their thoughtless output. However, this was retweeted by Jeff Lowder at The Secular Outpost, so he evidently thinks there's something insightful about the comparison. And that reveals something about the level at which the average atheist thinks.

i) I guess the implication of the juxtaposed images is that lay Southern Baptists are hypocritical because they protest homosexual marriage but they don't protest child molestation by priests. Really? How much thought did atheist Dean Murphy put into that comparison?

ii) To begin with, SBC clergy are overwhelmingly straight, so there's no parallel with the RCC.

iii) Likewise, it's not as if SBC laymen have any direct influence over the selection process or behavior of the Catholic priesthood.

iv) The Supreme Court is directly germane to homosexual marriage because 5 justices invented an imaginary Constitutional right for homosexuals to marry each other.

How is that comparable to child molestation by Catholic priests? What is the role of the Supreme Court in that situation?

vi) On the other side is a pic of French demonstrators protesting against homosexual marriage, with a scene of the same street empty.

On the one hand, church attendance in France is about 5%. On the other hand, France has a 10% Muslim population. So what's the imagined connection between Christianity and protesting homosexual marriage in France?

What are we supposed to think about the Roman Catholic Church?

I haven’t commented much about Roman Catholicism lately, although that has always been the primary thing that I have written about. There is a saying attributed to Napoleon that I find useful at times like these: “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.

The official Roman Catholic Church has been making a number of them … the “official” “Church” being heavily constituted by that hierarchy which, according to Vatican II, is integral to “the Church that Christ Founded”:

Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body [emphasis added].

In other words, “the ”visible hierarchy” is to the Roman Catholic Church what Christ’s flesh was to the person of Christ”: a strong analogy to the flesh, the “assumed nature”, of “the divine Word”. In the same way, this “visible hierarchy” is (IS!) “vivified” by the Spirit of Christ.

There is no way any Protestant apologist could do more damage to Rome, than Rome is inflicting on itself these days.