Saturday, April 06, 2019

Hand shadows

I've made this point before, but I'm going to use a different illustration to make the same point. The Nicene paradigm is based on an asymmetrical relation between the Father, Son, and Spirit, where the Father is the source of the Son and Spirit. The exegetical basis for that is dubious (for reasons I've detailed elsewhere). 

Although the Nicene paradigm was developed in opposition to Arianism, the Nicene paradigm remains implicitly unitarian. By making the Father the unoriginate source of the Son and Spirit, the Father is the real God behind the Trinity. It reduces the Son and Spirit to hand shadows or shadow puppets. The Father is the light, the positive source, while the Son and Spirit are secondary, negative effects, like shadows cast by light. If there was a momentary interruption in the transmission, the Son and Spirit, like shadows, would instantly cease to be because their existence is totally derivative. The Nicene Trinity is a cinema in silhouette. The Father is the shadowgrapher while the Son and Spirit are silhouettes. 

God and gender

"Progressive Christians" object to using masculine pronouns for God. They resort to awkward neologisms like "Godself". The justification is that God isn't male. God is a discarnate spirit. 

Ironically, this debate has been overtaken by transgenderism. "Progressive Christians" champion the cause of transgenderism, yet that detaches gender from biology, so if they wish to be consistent, they must reverse their position on masculine pronouns for God.

But bracketing their intellectual schizophrenia, what about the original argument? Things that are biologically sexless can still be gendered. Take a Jane Austen novel (or Virginia Wolf novel, or short stories by Eudora Welty). The novel is not a female body. It doesn't have female chromosomes, hormones, or sexual anatomy. A Jane Austen novel is an inanimate object. 

And yet a Jane Austen novel is unmistakably feminine. Her novels are exemplifications of a feminine outlook. They reflect a feminine viewpoint.

The converse is true with respect to the Iliad or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Even if these writings were anonymous, and we knew nothing about the authors over and above the writing itself, we can tell that a Jane Austen novel is written by a woman while the Iliad or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is written by a man. In works like these, the reader sees the world through the eyes of a man or woman, even though the book itself has no biological sex. 

So gender is more abstract than sexual biology. Sexual biology and psychology are concrete exemplifications of those abstract properties. 

Friday, April 05, 2019

Dogs and babies

Compare this to women who "rescue" dogs from animal shelters, then have "dog mom" bumper stickers.

War on reality

Part of the reason for this is that once you deny God, then reality ceases to be normative. In naturalism, reality is arbitrary. A blind surd. So why not rebel against reality?

Naturalism and unitarianism

There's a striking parallel between naturalism and unitarianism. Naturalism is reductionistic. Naturalism prioritizes parsimony. So, for instance, naturalism prefers monism over dualism because monism is metaphysically simpler. Everything is reducible to a single substance. Matter and energy are the same thing in different states. And that's all there is. Naturalism labors to explain away the need for abstract objects or minds distinct from brains. Likewise, bigger things are composed of smaller things. The ultimate constituents of reality are utterly simple (elementary particles). 

Sometimes naturalists grudgingly allow for platonic realism or paradox because reality forces ineluctable complexity onto naturalism. Likewise, naturalists may posit a multiverse to evade the fine-tuning argument, or because that's one interpretation of quantum mechanics. But whenever possible, naturalism seeks maximal simplicity. Eliminative materialism is a limiting case of naturalistic reductionism. 

By the same token, unitarianism is reductionistic. Impatient with complexity. The unitarian God is preferable to the Trinitarian God because the unitarian God is simpler. A merely human messiah is preferable to God Incarnate because that's simpler. 

James White Confronts City Council

Thursday, April 04, 2019

The origin of the Easter Bunny

Image may contain: 1 person, text

– Wesley Huff

Is Heb 1 about the new creation?

A while back I asked a renown Bible scholar to comment on Dale Tuggy's idiosyncratic, "new creation" reinterpretation of Heb 1. Here's how the scholar responded: 

The point of the catena [in Heb 1] is to demonstrate Jesus's superiority to the angels - or. better, difference in kind from the angels. It does not have to all relate to the exalted Jesus, but works with the standard Jewish correlation of "God is the only Creator of all things" and "God is the only sovereign Lord of all things."

"The beginning" is virtually a technical term for the primordial time at the beginning of everything (Gen 1:1; Prov 8:22-23; John 1:1). 

"You founded [past tense]  the earth and the heavens ..." would be utterly unparalleled as a way of referring to the new creation. For the NT, the new creation of heaven and earth is still very much future (Rev 21; Acts 3:21). Only in the case of individual Christians can new creation be said to have already happened (2 Cor 5:17). 

The new creation, when it comes, will not perish (Heb 12:27).

Tuggy's exegesis is ridiculously forced and quite obviously special pleading.

The Song of Songs

i) Apparently, Lura is ordained in the ELCA.

ii) To the contrary, the couple seems to be bride and groom. And as one commentator observes:

The centerpiece of the book is a wedding scene that concludes with the consummation of their relationship. Iain Duguid, The Song of Songs: An Introduction and Commentary (IVP 2015), 41.

iii) It's artificial to isolate the sexual mores in the Song of Songs from Proverbs or the Mosaic Law.

iv) The "most literal reading"? This isn't a prosaic narrative, but a highly stylized set of love poems with a loose narrative thread.

v) Unfortunately for Lura, it's overwhelmingly heteronormative.

vi) I think the book is a fictional depiction of the sexual fantasies of a man and woman engaged to be married. Erotic poetry to celebrate the sexual passion and anticipation of the bride and groom. That accounts for the blurry, fluid, dream-like plot.

"No crying he makes"

"Away in a Manger" is a favorite Christmas carol. (I prefer the Kirkpatrick tune.) The line "no crying he makes" is often chided as Gnostic or Docetic. It's true that the sentiment may be unrealistic, although babies don't cry all the time. 

However, I think the criticism is overly censorious. The problem is that hymnodists must function within a very restrictive scheme of rhythm and rhyme. That severely limits the choice of words, since stanzas must be metrical with rhyming couplets. If one line ends with "awakes," then the next line must end with a rhyming word–preferably with the same number of syllables. The challenge is finding two rhyming words that can be used to form meaningful, contextual sentences. Once you write a sentence with "awakes" as the end rhyme of the first line, that commits you to whatever is available for the next line.  

Of course, if you can't compose a good matching sentence, then you should choose a different pair of words. However, the carol wasn't written by a master lyricist like Charles Wesley, so it's less rhetorically resourceful or theologically alert. In addition, the general theme of the carol limits the topical range of sentences at the disposal of a lyricist.

To chide the implicit Christology expressed in one line over-interprets the sentiment. It's just a way to round out the first line, consistent with poetic meter and rhyming couplets. There's no sinister theological agenda lurking behind the phrase. 

Functional Polytheism: A response to Dale Tuggy by Vladimir Šušić

Josephus, Synoptics, and the argument from silence

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Memoirs and memories

1. One objection to the historicity of the Gospels is the argument from silence. Here's an example:

The argument from silence can be a legitimate and powerful argument. It all depends on whether there's a reasonable expectation that if something happened, we'd have a record of that, or multiple records. There are different explanations for a writer's failure to mention a significant event he knew about, even if it's relevant to his writing. 

2. Paradoxically, a writer might not mention something, not because he's ignorant, or because it didn't happen, but because it did happen and he's knows all about it. For instance, no one knew Dante Rossetti better than his brother Michael. Yet, as I recall, Michael said that being his brother disqualified him from writing an autobiography of Dante. That's not because Michael didn't know enough about his brother, but because he knew too much, and he was protecting Dante's posthumous reputation. Likewise, Warnie Lewis is in invaluable source of information about his brother, but there are lots of sensitive details he left out of the public eye. 

3. Here's another reason a writer might fail to mention something significant. When I was about 40, I wrote a memoir. It was a way to take stock of my life up to that point. Paradoxically, it's quite possible, when writing an autobiography, to inadvertently leave out significant incidents, not because you forgot, but because you remember too much. Our memories are stored in the subconscious. Although we can summon memories to conscious awareness, it's impossible to be conscious of more than a tiny fraction of what we remember. So when you're writing a memoir, it can be difficult to screen out the plethora of memories you don't want to write about in order to focus on the memories you do want to write about. There's no direct way to filter the search parameters so that you just pull up the memories you want to write about. There's a huge amount of mental sifting and sorting required to write an autobiography. It's very easy for significant incidents to slip your mind in the writing process, because human powers of concentration are so limited. 

4. In addition, some memories aren't just a matter of direct recollection, but inferential reconstruction. I'll take an example from my own life. As a boy, I had a dog I was very fond of. I vividly remember the day I got her, and I vividly remember the day I had her euthanized. I have no direct recollection of the date, month, or year for either event. 

Because memory is associative, the trick is to link a memory with another memory that has some datable or broadly datable information. I have a rough idea of when I euthanized my dog, because that was after a trip to Europe. 

I remember that I got my dog on a summer day. My parents drove to a residential neighborhood in Seattle. My dog was in the front yard. As I recall, this was near Cornish. 

And that makes sense because my mother may well have gotten the dog from one of her teaching colleagues. She founded a school for the fine and performing arts on the Eastside, and the teachers she hired would naturally be drawn from Cornish and the UDub. 

But what about the year? I still don't know for sure, but I have a ballpark idea. It took me years to get a bead on that.

Recently, I remembered that even though my grandmother was not a dog person, she appreciated my dog because my dog was very protective. That's back when my grandmother was living in town and came to visit us every so often.

But around the time I started junior high, she moved across the mountains to Yakima. And how do I know when that happened? Because I later read some dated correspondence between my mother and my grandmother that mentioned a time when we went to visit her. That means I must have gotten my dog at least a couple of years before I started junior high. 

Yet it's just a fluke that I have enough random, contextual bits of information to piece it together. That illustrates how hard it can be to nail down the chronology of naturally memorable events we know from firsthand experience. 

5. I'd add that the Internet has made it easier to pin down or flesh out certain details in our recollection. But, of course, biographers and autobiographers didn't have that supplementary source of information for most of human history. 

6. The historicity of the Gospels is frequently defended on the grounds that the writers were deliberately selective. And that's no doubt true to some degree. But for reasons I've just given, eyewitness testimony can be inadvertently selective as well. Silence, per se, carries no presumption that the writer wasn't a firsthand observer. Ironically, he may unintentionally omit significant incidents because recollection is so indiscriminate. 

Do The Resurrection Accounts Fabricate Evidence?

It's often suggested that the New Testament accounts of Jesus' resurrection or the sources they're based upon faked some of their details to make the resurrection seem more credible. Matthew or his source fabricated the account of the guard at the tomb to prevent people from thinking that Jesus' body had been stolen. Luke and John made up stories to further the notion that the resurrection appearances were of a physical nature rather than something like a hallucination or vision. And so on.

Notice the irony in the fact that many of these same critics will object to the brevity of the accounts in Matthew and Mark. That sort of brevity doesn't sit well with the idea that the authors or their sources were trying to pad their case with fake evidence. Even the passages in Luke, John, Acts, and elsewhere are relatively short. The resurrection was so central to all of the gospels that they all conclude just after it, and it's treated as a foundational event in other ways, yet the resurrection accounts only take up a small percentage of the documents.

More significantly, think of the large amount of material they could have included, but didn't. There's no description of the resurrection itself. The empty tomb is discovered by some of Jesus' female followers rather than other witnesses who would have been considered more appropriate and more credible. There's no narration of the appearance to James, even though every gospel portrays him as an unbeliever, which makes his conversion after seeing the risen Jesus so important. (For documentation that all of the gospels portray James as an unbeliever, see Eric Svendsen's Who Is My Mother? [Amityville, New York: Calvary Press, 2001].) None of the gospels include the appearance to Paul. If the appearance to more than five hundred mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:6 is narrated by anybody, it's done without mentioning that so many individuals were involved. Matthew's reference to the physicality of Jesus' body in 28:9 is incidental, and Matthew, Luke, and John's accounts of physicality are accompanied by accounts of people doubting or not recognizing Jesus (Matthew 28:17, Luke 24:16, 24:37-38, John 20:15, 21:4). Ancient Jewish literature frequently portrayed resurrected individuals and other exalted figures in glorious terms (Daniel 12:3, 2 Maccabees 15:13, Matthew 13:43), yet the gospels don't describe the resurrected Jesus that way.

Luke's gospel provides a good illustration of the sort of restraint I'm referring to. Given the earliness of the resurrection creed cited in 1 Corinthians 15 and Luke's close relationship with Paul, Luke probably knew about the appearances to James, Paul, and the more than five hundred. He portrays James as a believer and an apostle in Acts, and he narrates the appearance to Paul there. So, he seems to know about the resurrection appearances to James, Paul, and the more than five hundred, even though he only narrates one of them and waits until several chapters into Acts to do it. Jesus' body and general appearance are described in glorious terms in Luke's accounts of the Mount of Transfiguration and the resurrection appearance to Paul in Acts. Even the angels at Jesus' tomb are described in glorious terms (Luke 24:4-5). But the resurrected Jesus isn't described that way at the close of Luke's gospel or the opening of Acts. I could mention other examples, but these are more than enough to illustrate my point.

The impression given by the gospels and other early sources is that they had a large amount of resurrection evidence to draw from, but were satisfied with citing some representative examples. John 21:25 just about says that.

The rest of church history illustrates what I'm referring to. Even after Matthew's gospel became widely accepted, for example, the guards at the tomb weren't often brought up when Christians were arguing for their religion or the resurrection in particular. The guards offer a significant line of evidence for the resurrection, but they're just one significant line among many others. When I discuss the evidence for the resurrection, sometimes I cite the guard account, and sometimes I don't. Matthew probably included it because of its relevance to Judaism and the leaders of Judaism, to whom he was responding to such a large extent in his gospel. The other gospel authors had no need to include that material and thought that what they did include was adequate.

The earliest Christians don't seem to have been so desperate for resurrection evidence that they were making up stories about guards at the tomb, people touching Jesus' resurrection body, etc. Rather, many modern critics want to dismiss every such detail in the accounts, even if the details are offered so sparingly and surrounded with so much restraint. The early Christians were biased, but their critics have biases of their own.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019


This is a rhetorical riposte to "snowflakes". A way to put younger men who chafe at political correctness on the defensive. 

i) The snowflake category isn't just a rightwing perception. Increasingly, there are liberal outlets that express concern about "snowplow parents." Snowplow parents are so overprotective and meddling that their kids never develop the coping skills they need to function in adult society. That's a real problem. 

ii) Although "broflake" is clever rhetorical tactic, it isn't very smart for progressives to keep antagonizing and writing off major voting blocks. There are lots of men who aren't socially conservative, who naturally vote Democrat, but when the party keeps snubbing guys for being guys, that's half the potential electorate right there. 

iii) I'm not "offended" by progressive attitudes or policies. And I personally probably haven't been hurt by such policies, in part because the culture wars were far less advanced when I was younger, and in part because I had a certain margin that a lot of guys don't have. It was easy for me to make the cut, even though I'm naturally an underachiever. 

But we have policies that are very harmful to men. That's not something to make fun of–unless you just hate half the species. 

When a child says she's trans

The lynching of Jesse Washington

Notice Rauser's sympathy for the damned rather than sympathy for victims of the damned. To take just one example, consider the lynching of Jesse Washington. A developmentally disabled teenager was convicted of murder, without legal representation, in a kangaroo court. A mob was waiting for him outside the courthouse. They chained him and hauled him off to torture him to death. Cut off his ears. Castrated him. Repeatedly raised and lowered his body into a bonfire so that he'd slowly burn to death. When he tried to climb up the chain to escape the flames, they cut off his fingers. 

That's an extreme example, but I use it to establish a point of principle. What punishment does Rauser think is suitable for the lynch mob? 

Monday, April 01, 2019

Me, myself, and I

i) A stock objection which unitarians raise to Trinitarian theology is that in the Gospels, Jesus talks to the Father or prays to the Father. Unitarians point to that and exclaim: "Ah ha! Jesus and the Father must be different! How silly to think God is talking to himself!"

ii) Now, at one level, that's a brainless objection because Trinitarian theology requires the Father and the Son to be different in a fundamental respect. So that's hardly inconsistent with Trinitarian theology. To the contrary, that's what we'd expect if it's true.

iii) But here's another point: there's nothing necessarily incongruous about the same individual addressing himself or talking to himself. Suppose a time-traveler in the future writes a letter to himself in the past. In contains important information. Reading the letter will avert a disaster. Based on his advance knowledge of how the past will eventuate, he plants the letter at a time and place where his younger self is sure to find it.  

Whether or not time travel is incoherent, there is nothing incoherent in principle about sending a message to yourself. There's nothing contradictory about the idea of doing that. This is just a graphic way to illustrate that principle. 

iv) Or, to take a more prosaic example, suppose you keep a diary because you don't want to forget what happened to you, from day to day. Even though daily incidents might seem to be insignificant at the time, some might prove to be highly significant in retrospect. 

Every so often you review earlier entries in your diary. The diary was written by the writer to the writer. The diarist is both writer and reader. Although it's possible for someone else to read your diary, the reason you kept a diary was to remind yourself of things that happened to you. The diarist is the intended reader of his own diary. 

v) Or take a two-way correspondence between you and your counterpart in a parallel universe. Suppose the multiverse is real, and it's possible to communicate with yourself in the alternate timeline. So you and your counterpart in the parallel universe exchange messages, back and forth. 

Even if there is no multiverse, or even if, assuming there is a multiverse, communication between you and your counterpart is technically impossible, there's nothing contradictory about the idea of doing so. Once again, this is just a graphic way to illustrate that principle. 

vi) I'd add that (v) raises tricky issues about personal identity. Yet that's no different in principle from counterfactual scenarios generally. Many philosophers, unless they are diehard reductionists, make allowance for a certain amount of give in personal identity to accommodate the truth-value of counterfactuals. The price for denying that is extremely high. 

Chronological time

1. Readers might find my title redundant. What other kind of time is there? Isn't time necessarily chronological? Depends on what you mean. 

Let's distinguish between chronological time and biological time (or physical time). According to Christian eschatology, God will rejuvenate believers at the resurrection of the just. The saints will have youthful, ageless bodies. 

Let's say the optimal age of a human body is 20. Strictly speaking, I'm not sure the human body has an optimal age. From what I've read, different body organs and systems mature and age at somewhat different rates. In glorification, the optimal age would have to synchronize these rates. For convenience, let's stimulate age 20.

So an immortal saint could be a billion years old, but have the body of a 20-year-old. Chronologically he's a billion years old, but biologically he's only twenty years old. Biologically, he stays the same age while chronologically he continues to age indefinitely. 

2. That parallels a distinction drawn by Philip Henry Gosse. Normally, physical and chronological time coincide, but Gosse had the insight to appreciate that, in principle and possibly in practice, these can be split apart. It's a profound insight, equal to McTaggart's distinction between the A-series and the B-series. The difference is that McTaggart is hailed as a great philosopher of time because he was an atheist, whereas Gosse is mocked because he was a creationist who devised and utilized his distinction to rescue traditional creationism. 

3. Finally, this involves a limitation on divine omnipotence. God can create a father who is biologically younger than his son, but God can't create a father who is chronologically younger than his son. For instance, God could rejuvenate Abraham, but refrain from rejuvenating Isaac. If so, Abraham would be biologically younger than his own son.

However, even an omnipotent agent can't make Abraham chronologically younger than Isaac because chronological time requires relative chronology. A father, to be a father, must preexist his son. It's a cause/effect relation, and the direction of causality, like time's arrow, is linear. 

I'd add that it's useful to recognize certain limitations on divine omnipotence because that's an important consideration in theodicy. There are some things even God can't do. 

"We don't know what Jesus looked like"

In my experience, there are roughly three objections to "pictures of Jesus". One invokes the 2nd Commandment. That's an important objection, which raises a number of complex issues. I think it fails, but it needs to be taken seriously. 

Another objection is the "Nestorian" charge. That's a silly objection, and it could be countered by accusing opponents of Monophysitism.

The third objection is that we don't know what Jesus looked like. Here I'll make four brief observations:

i) Christians need to be careful about referring to Jesus in the past tense. Certainly there are contexts in which it's correct to refer to him in the past tense. When we talk about what Jesus said and did during his 1C ministry. It is, however, striking how often Christians automatically slip into the past tense when referring to Jesus, even though we believe he's alive. So even if the objection were correct, it should be expressed in the present tense: "we don't know what Jesus looks like," rather than "we don't know what Jesus looked like."

ii) I'd add that if Jesus continues to appear to people, then there's a sense in which they do know what Jesus looks like. I'm referring to reported visions of Jesus or heavenly near-death experiences. However, that's not something I'd emphasize because even if some of these are genuine, Jesus may be adapting his appearance to the viewer's cultural expectations to be recognizable to them.

iii) If the Shroud of Turin is authentic, then we have a body-length (front and back) photograph of Jesus. Indeed, a photographic reproduction with 3D information. 

I don't have a firm opinion regarding the authenticity of the Shroud. I just haven't kept up with the research. My point, though, is that it's not a given to say we don't know what Jesus looks like. 

iv) Finally, the objection is arbitrary. We don't know what biblical figures in general looked like. But in my experience, Christians who object to "pictures of Jesus" don't object to movies about Noah, Moses, King David, King Solomon, St. Paul, or the Patriarchs, &c. 

The Most Reluctant Convert

Atonement by crucifixion

Historically, many Arminians reject penal substitution. They agree with Calvinists that if Jesus died to satisfy God's justice on behalf of the redeemed, then all the redeemed must be saved, since there's no judicial basis for them to suffer eschatological punishment. In addition, progressive theologians like Randal Rauser find the idea of penal substitution repugnant.

Proponents of penal substitution quote and exegete the standard prooftexts. And I think those carry the day.

There is, though, a neglected, but straightforward argument for penal substitution that doesn't rely on the standard prooftexts. Hidden in plain sight is Christ's voluntary death by crucifixion. 

It can't be seriously doubted that the Gospels (indeed, the NT generally) present the Crucifixion in vicarious, sacrificial terms. If, however, Jesus didn't die a penal substitutionary death, then why did he choose death by crucifixion? Why did he undergo a type of death that's emblematic of vicarious sacrifice? If penal substitution is false, why did he die a violent death at all? If penal substitution is false, why did he have to undergo any kind of death? Whatever the alternative to penal substitution, it doesn't require death, does it? Much less a death with vicarious, sacrificial connotations.

Perhaps opponents of penal substitution will attempt to drive a wedge between vicarious atonement and penal substitution. If so, in what respect is his voluntary vicarious death not punitive in character?

A last-ditch argument might be to claim that Jesus never intended to die by crucifixion; rather, he was overtaken by events. His death, or mode of death, was due to unforeseeable circumstances.

But in the Gospels, Jesus deliberately and repeatedly provokes the authorities, knowing full well that he is courting execution. Moreover, he eludes the lynch mobs. He eludes death by stoning. So Jesus is very single-minded about how he will die. 

Likewise, at his trial, he makes statements that are incriminating from the viewpoint of his accusers and judges. And he refuses to defend himself before Pilate. So, by process of elimination, he leaves the authorities with no other recourse. He systematically engineers his death by crucifixion.  

But if penal substitution is false, he was sending a very confusing message to onlookers. How else could the disciples be expected to interpret his death? 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Progressive Christianity

Is God incoherent?

The NYT recently published an attack on Christian theism by a secular philosopher:

Before considering the specifics, there's a general flaw running through Peter Atterton's attack. He appears to be making words like "omniscience," "omnipotence," and "all powerful," "all-knowing" his his frame of reference. He seems to think that because the words have unlimited connotations, if he can show that there are in fact some codicils on God's knowledge and power, it follows that the concepts of divine omniscience and omnipotence are self-contradictory. But that's semantically jejune. 

Words like "omniscience," "omnipotence," and "all-powerful" are merely shorthand labels. You can't derive the concept from the label. The label is just a convenient designation for ease of reference. So even if it turns out that the concepts of omniscience and omnipotence are inconsistent with the surface-level meaning of the words, that doesn't begin to demonstrate conceptual incoherence. 

First consider the attribute of omnipotence. You’ve probably heard the paradox of the stone before: Can God create a stone that cannot be lifted? If God can create such a stone, then He is not all powerful, since He Himself cannot lift it. On the other hand, if He cannot create a stone that cannot be lifted, then He is not all powerful, since He cannot create the unliftable stone. Either way, God is not all powerful.

i) For reasons I've discussed elsewhere, I think the stone paradox is a pseudotask. The alleged paradox is incoherent. For instance:

ii) It is, however, true, that there are some things God can't do. But that doesn't make the concept of divine omnipotence incoherent inasmuch as the concept of divine omnipotence in philosophical theology is routinely qualified in certain respects. So, yes, there are limitations on divine omnipotence, but since the concept of divine omnipotence isn't standardly defined as absolutely unlimited, giving examples in which God's ability might be limited in some respect doesn't ipso facto contradict the nature of the attribute. 

Can God create a world in which evil does not exist? This does appear to be logically possible. Presumably God could have created such a world without contradiction. It evidently would be a world very different from the one we currently inhabit, but a possible world all the same. Indeed, if God is morally perfect, it is difficult to see why he wouldn’t have created such a world. So why didn’t He?

The standard defense is that evil is necessary for free will... However, this does not explain so-called physical evil (suffering) caused by nonhuman causes (famines, earthquakes, etc.). Nor does it explain, as Charles Darwin noticed, why there should be so much pain and suffering among the animal kingdom.

Is Atterton simply uninformed about the range of theodicies? Moreover, it's not as if any one theodicy has to be a silver bullet. It's not as if there has to be a single explanation. We can combine several theodicies.  

What about God’s infinite knowledge — His omniscience? …If God knows all there is to know, then He knows at least as much as we know. But if He knows what we know, then this would appear to detract from His perfection. Why?

There are some things that we know that, if they were also known to God, would automatically make Him a sinner, which of course is in contradiction with the concept of God. As the late American philosopher Michael Martin has already pointed out, if God knows all that is knowable, then God must know things that we do, like lust and envy. But one cannot know lust and envy unless one has experienced them. But to have had feelings of lust and envy is to have sinned, in which case God cannot be morally perfect... But if God doesn’t know what we know, God is not all knowing, and the concept of God is contradictory. God cannot be both omniscient and morally perfect. Hence, God could not exist.

Here Atterton repeats the same schoolboy error. Since God is a categorically different kind of being than human creatures, that means God's knowledge is not absolutely unlimited, in the sense that God's mode of knowledge is necessarily different from creatures. And since, by the same token, God is not a creature, he can't directly experience what it's like to be a creature. However, that's not contradictory inasmuch as the concept of divine omniscience makes allowances for those divergences. 

Escaping from the Hornets’ Nest

I found this letter (pictured) while looking through some old papers, and I thought it was too rich not to share it.

The letter is a response to me by Donald Wuerl, who now is the disgraced Cardinal Archbishop of Washington DC, having forgotten that he knew about Cardinal McCarrick’s homosexual abuse of minors and Roman Catholic seminarians, but who then (1984) was the rector of St. Paul’s Seminary in Pittsburgh.

I had apparently written to him requesting information about admission to the Seminary, and in this letter, he referred me to the “Vocations Director” for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. By the end of that year, I had applied for and was accepted to this seminary program, and I remember having attended a small lunch at the Seminary, for incoming students, that was hosted by then Father Wuerl. That’s where I met him.

Most people know me as someone who knows Roman Catholicism in a very thorough way. My Protestant friends look to me for advice when they interact with Roman Catholicism in one way or another. Some Roman Catholics know me as an apostate, and some (Dave Armstrong Google Alert) consider me to be a bitter anti-Catholic.

But this letter reveals my bona-fide credentials as a genuine Roman Catholic, back in the day.

To make a long story short ...