Saturday, July 13, 2019

Ps 139 and the image of God

It's common for Christian ethicists and theologians to ground human rights and dignity in the image of God. And it's true that the image of God is something that sets man apart from other creatures. There are, however, problems with making that category the locus of human rights and dignity. For one thing, Genesis never defines the image of God, and it's not entirely clear what that refers to. Minimally it seems to mean that man is God's representative on earth. But that's a rather thin basis for human rights. 

One reason the image of God is made the go-to locus of human rights and dignity is that most ethicists and theologians don't try to define it exegetically. Instead, they begin with philosophical anthropology, and define the imago Dei by reference to distinguishing traits identified by philosophical anthropology, like reason and freewill.

Another problem with centering human rights and dignity on the imago Dei is that it leads to the neglected of better, richer prooftexts. The locus classicus for human dignity ought to be Ps 139, not the image of God. This is not to say the image of God doesn't figure in an overall account of human dignity, but overemphasis on that category, which is typically defined in terms extraneous to Scripture, sidelines Ps 139. But that's a much firmer basis for grounding human rights and dignity, instead of the rather elusive and slender category of the imago Dei. 

Schreiner on Revelation

Fred Zaspel at Books at a Glance has a good interview with Thomas Schreiner on Revelation.

Also, some might enjoy the Tom Schreiner and Greg Beale series "Unraveling Revelation".

Did God command genocide?

Genocide is the act of attempting to destroy a specific racial, cultural, and/religious identity. 
8:36 AM - 12 Jul 2019

Aaron Taylor
So would ordering all the Amalekites to be killed be classified as a call for genocide?

Yes. That's an instance of genocide by legal definition, as is the destruction of the tribes in Deuteronomy 20.
10:14 AM - 12 Jul 2019

i) Of course, somebody can always define a word a certain way, then say something in Scripture falls under that definition. That, however, says nothing about Scripture but how the word was defined. You could redefine "banana" to mean "God," then say that Christians worship a banana. 

ii) It's not as if we're required to submit to someone's tendentious or stipulative definition of "genocide". I didn't vote on that. I reserve the right to disregard tendentious definitions. You're not entitled to make me accept your definitions. 

iii) The definition is equivocal because the same word is used to denote three different concepts. It would be clearer to use a different word for each concept. 

iv) It becomes a loaded question. As defined, God commanded genocide in one respect but not another. Yet the word itself doesn't draw those distinctions–it's the same word for all three concepts. It is therefore inaccurate, even if you accept that definition, to say God commanded genocide–inasmuch as the definition is only partially true in regard to Scripture. The definition bundles together three different concepts. But it would be inaccurate to affirm the semantic bundle in regard to Scripture.

v) In addition, it means the odious connotations of one concept tar a different concept by association. Even assuming that it's intrinsically wrong to destroy a specific racial identity, there are situations where attempting to destroy a specific cultural or religious identity is praiseworthy. Take religions or cultures that practice human sacrifice, child sacrifice, torturing war captives, burning widows, honor killings, gang rape, sodomy, pederasty, female genital mutilation, &c. It isn't wrong to destroy those cultural and/or religious markers. To the contrary, their destruction makes the world a better place. 

vi) Notice that the definition doesn't say "violently" or "forcibly" destroy. But that would mean an intellectual critique of a specific cultural or religious identity is genocidal. That the attempt to discredit ideas through rational analysis is "genocide", even though there's nothing coercive about that exercise. 

vii) Suppose (voluntary) interracial mating became the norm. That would destroy specific racial identities. That might not be the intent, but it would have that side-effect. Does that mean interracial mating is genocidal? 

"Daddy wounds"

Driscoll's interview is getting some buzz:

Among other things, he says:

Reformed theology is, I have a dad who is powerful, he is in charge, he is non-relational, he lives far away, and don't make him mad because he can get angry really fast and hurt you…So almost every theological group within Christianity is somehow a rejection or projection of their earthly father, and the problem is they're starting with their earthly father and looking up; they're not starting with their heavenly father and looking down and judging their earthly fathers. I've gone so far as to say I think the whole young restless and Reformed movement…I don't hold to the five-points of Calvinism, I think it's garbage, because it's not biblical...God is father, but he's distant, he's mean, he's cruel, he's non-relational, he's far away. That's their view of their earthly father. So they may pick dead mentors–Spurgeon, Calvin, Luther–these are little boys with father wounds who are looking for spiritual fathers, so they picked dead guys who are not gonna actually get to know them or correct them. And then they join networks run by other young men so that they can all be brothers [because] there's no fathers, and they love, love, love Jesus because they love the story where the son is the hero because they're the sons with father wounds…the reason Jesus saves you is to get you to your dad. 

1. There's a grain of truth to some of what he says, but that's distorted by the way he combines it with Joseph Campbell, pop psychobabble, and hasty generalizations. His analysis is absurdly simplistic. 

Friday, July 12, 2019


1. I like how liberals and progressives frequently try to tar conservative social media and other projects as "far right", "alt right", and so on when they start up. By that logic, liberals and progressives should describe tech giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and the like, or even smaller but influential outfits like the supposedly politically neutral but really liberal Snopes, as "far left" and "alt left" for having members like AOC and Bernie Sanders as well as members sympathetic to Antifa and other extremists.

2. Also, liberals and progressives often attempt to co-opt language for their political ends. For example, when it comes to radicalism on the right, liberals and progressives tend to associate the terminology with the "right" as in "far right", "alt right", and so on. However, when it comes to radicalism among liberals and progressives, liberals and progressives tend to disassociate the terminology with their own side such as in Antifa's case. This makes Antifa seem like some "other" even though Antifa could easily be characterized as part of the left.

3. Not to suggest conservatives are perfectly innocent in that regard, but in general conservatives do try to draw distinctions. Such as between liberals and progressives as well as the left.

4. Anyway, it's all part and parcel of what George Orwell discussed in his works. Like "Politics and the English Language". Like the satirically brilliant appendix of 1984: "The Principles of Newspeak".

Cruz grills Google

I think it's great Ted Cruz is taking the fight to Google:

What is section 230?

The key issue here is section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The issue is over the distinction between a content provider vs. a content publisher. Put simply, a content publisher can edit or alter content, whereas a content provider is supposed to be neutral on content and not be involved in altering content in any way.

Google claims to be a content provider

Currently Google is legally regarded as a content provider under section 230, not a content publisher. As a content provider, Google enjoys certain legal immunities. For example, Google can't be liable for racism if their content is in fact racist because Google is a provider that doesn't have a hand in the content.

Google is really a content publisher

That's been shown by these documents and recordings from Project Veritas. If Google is a publisher, then Google will no longer enjoy legal immunities under section 230. Instead, Google could be liable for their content. Google could be open to law suits from multiple parties. These law suits could cripple Google.

Of course, this is exactly what Google wishes to avoid. Hence Google claims to be a neutral content provider, not a content publisher.

In fact, I suspect that's precisely why Google sent a mid-level executive (Maggie Stanphill) rather than a senior executive to be grilled by Cruz (where's Jen Gennai?!). What's more, Google sent a "user experience" director. That's a position that requires little (if any) technical knowledge about computer science and the like. If Google had sent someone with more knowledge or connections than this woman, then there could be more serious repercussions for Google.

However, in light of the documents and recordings from Project Veritas, Google deserves to have their section 230 immunities revoked.

What is Project Veritas?

Basically it's a muckracker organization that was founded by conservative James O'Keefe (B.A., philosophy, Rutgers University). Its purpose is to investigate and expose corruption in high places. You might know them for their work exposing Planned Parenthood selling aborted baby parts as well as their ACORN sting. And now Project Veritas' work against tech giants like Google.

Of course, no surprise, liberals and progressives hate Project Veritas as well as James O'Keefe. Ironically, liberals and progressives have long advertised themselves as the consummate muckrackers and whistleblowers. Too bad liberals don't appreciate it when conservatives do the same against corrupt liberal organizations and institutions.

In addition, what's O'Keefe doing that's in principle different from (say) the progressive filmmaker Michael Moore? As far as I can tell, the main differences are twofold. First, O'Keefe's work is factually-based in a way Moore's work is not. Moore heavily edited his films in order to spin them in favor of his liberal or progressive views whereas O'Keefe attempts to show the unvarnished truth. He attempts to show videos and audio recordings straight from the horse's mouth as it were. Second, Moore sometimes tries to hide behind satire, but Project Veritas' work isn't satirical but real.

More broadly, there are plenty of liberals or progressives who have used similar tactics against conservatives (e.g. pretending to be someone they're not, doxxing their opponents). However I don't see liberals or progressives decrying what their fellow liberals or progressives have done or are doing.

It seems to me liberals and progressives disagree with Project Veritas primarily due to political ideology and not Project Veritas' muckracking and whistleblowing work and exposes. By contrast, it seems to me many if not most conservatives disagree (even vehemently) with the political ideology of hacktavists like Julian Assange and Ed Snowden, but thees same conservatives still appreciate at least some of the good work that WikiLeaks has done.

Some conservatives disagree with Project Veritas' ethics. These conservatives believe Project Veritas uses unethical means to investigate and expose organizations like Planned Parenthood. That gets us into another debate. Personally, I don't necessarily see a problem with using unethical tactics (depending on the tactics) to expose crimes that can't be exposed otherwise.

All that said, I'm not suggesting I always agree with Project Veritas.

Cruz's showmanship

I'm sure Cruz knew he was dealing with an ignorant mid-level executive rather than a more knowledgeable senior executive. I'm sure Cruz knew this woman wouldn't be liable for much. Nevertheless Cruz grilled her. Cruz turned the hearing into something of a show.

Some might take issue with Cruz for doing this, but I don't have a problem with it. I don't think Cruz's goal was to make this woman answer for all of Google's crimes here and now or anything along those lines. (Not that he would've objected if that turned out to be the case!) Rather I think Cruz's goal was to inform the public about Google and other tech giants' strong political biases against conservatives (among other things) and thereby turn the tide against these tech giants. In short, it's political theater, but I don't think all political theater is unethical. Sometimes it helps to drum up public support for a worthy cause.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and open theism

On Facebook I got into an impromptu debate about open theism. It started out in response to a question about the binding of Isaac, but quickly developed into a discussion about open theism:

1. It was a counterfactual command, but to be a test, God couldn't let Abraham in on the secret.
2. To be a test of faith, it has to be something Abraham values. 
3. The ordeal is ultimately for the benefit of the reader. In a sense, the reader knows how the story ends before Abraham does. It gives the reader insight into God's trustworthiness, even when–or especially when, he makes apparently unreasonable demands. 
4. There are parallels between the ordeal of Abraham and the ordeal of Job.

The text suggests that the test/ordeal was for the benefit of God, to see whether Abraham feared Him and would be obedient to his command.

11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.

If you're an open theist. Is that your position?

Texts like this which suggest God learns lead me to lean in that direction.

Why are bright guys suckered by Catholicism?

There are some very smart converts to Catholicism (as well as some very smart cradle Catholics). What's the appeal? If Catholicism is gravely mistaken, why can't they see through it? In my observation, there are at least four factors–which doesn't mean every bright convert exemplifies all four motivations:

1. Catholicism has a very rich, wide-ranging intellectual and artistic heritage that's naturally appealing to the religious-minded intelligentsia.

2. Many Catholic intellectuals are Thomists. Thomism presents a much less inviting target for atheists than a Bible-centered faith. Thomism is abstract and abstruse. Most atheists know nothing or next to nothing about Thomism, so they have no line of attack. If, by contrast, you have a Bible-centered faith, that instantly gives them hundreds of openings since there's a cottage industry of stock objections to Scripture.

3. Catholicism requires converts to make fewer accommodations to unfashionable beliefs. Take the facile way Bishop Barron relegates "problem passages" in the OT to pious fiction or allegory. They can leave "embarrassing" beliefs behind while retaining "respectable" beliefs they share in common with their secular counterparts. A Bible-centered faith doesn't have the same loopholes. It must stand and fight. 

4. Finally, if you're smart enough, you can defend almost anything, and you may revel the challenge. Here I think there's an element of divine irony or divine justice. High IQ confers a completive advantage, but that's offset by the fact that it can also be a snare or a source of self-deception. The temptation to flex his ingenuity plays to his intellectual pride. Coming up with clever, erudite defenses of Roman Catholicism is an opportunity to indulge in self-flattering showmanship. I hasten to add that it's by no means confined to Catholicism. There's a special kind of folly that bright guys are prey to. Their strength is their weakness. 

Someone might object that there's a certain tension between #4 and #'s 2-3. However, I think all these motivations are observable. People can be inconsistent. Psychology isn't logicality. Moreover, as I said at the outset, a convert doesn't have to check all four boxes. 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Brave new world

Thanks to Steve for pointing out "The drugging of the American boy". Some off the cuff comments for now:

The deniable Darwin

By the way, this is David Berlinksi's third interview with Peter Robinson at Uncommon Knowledge. His previous interviews are "Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions" (2011) and "David Berlinski on Science, Philosophy, and Society" (2014).

Determined to Come Most Freely

Clean hands!

NeverTrumper: I didn't push the old lady in front of the oncoming bus: I just didn't pull her out of the way. Therefore my hands are clean. 

(I'm referring to NeverTrumpers heading into the 2020 election, not 2016 primary voters)

Catholic cessationism

Both sides of the Catholic intramural debate are half-right and half-wrong. RadTrad/sedevacantists are right to point out that modern Catholicism has reversed itself on "settled" Catholic dogma and ethics. It's just not consistent over time.

But RadTrad/sedevacantists are like Catholic cessationists who wish to freeze revelation with Trent and antimodernist popes (making allowance for the Marian apparition du jour). Yet many Catholic dogmas/doctrines and moral positions have nothing to justify them over and above raw ecclesiastical fiat. If ecclesiastical authority warrants Trent, then it doesn't stop with Trent. You can't accept the product but reject the source. 

The Incoherence of LGBT

How Transgender Ideology Has Infiltrated Pediatrics and Produced Large-Scale Child Abuse

Translating the Bible

There are different Bible translation philosophies. These go by different labels. For instance:

Major Bible translations typically reflect one of three general philosophies: formal equivalence, functional equivalence, and optimal equivalence. Formal equivalence is called a word-for-word translation and attempts to translate the Bible as literally as possible, keeping the sentence structure and idioms intact if possible. The NASB and KJV are representatives of this camp. Functional equivalence is typically referred to as a thought-for-thought translation. This is an attempt to translate the text so it has the same effect on the current reader as it had on the ancient reader. The NLT exemplifies this theory. Optimal equivalence falls between the former approaches by balancing the tension between accuracy and ease of reading. While striving for precision in translation, it also seeks clarity to the modern day reader. The ESV leans toward the formal equivalent translation philosophy. The NIV tries to balance these approaches and may lean toward a functional equivalence theory. The HCSB is an optimal equivalence translation.

Here's an approach I haven't seen discussed (which doesn't mean it hasn't been discussed). Suppose I'm translating the Bible into English. (I'm using English as an illustration because that's my mother tongue, but the approach I'm suggesting is applicable to receptor languages in general.) I'd ask myself, if Ezekiel, Jeremiah, St. Paul, or a Psalmist was a native English speaker, how would he express himself in idiomatic English? If he wasn't speaking or writing in Greek or Hebrew, if English was the original language, how would he speak or write in English? Instead of treating Greek or Hebrew as the original, and rendering that into a receptor language, suppose we imaginatively put Bible writers in a time machine and transport them to our own time and place. What words would they use? Rather than viewing the process in terms of translation from one language to another, we might switch that around by viewing the process as if the Bible writer was, in fact, speaking in our own language. If, say, he was a 20C American. Put yourself in that mindset. 

Now, what I just said is deceptively simple. There are complications to that hypothetical. There are different periods in English usage, so the answer would vary depending on whether we recast the Bible writer as a 17C English speaker, or 18C, 19C, 20C, 21C English speaker. Likewise, if even I confine myself to American examples, there's literary English, working-class English, Black English, Southern English, colloquial English, and so on. So the choice of English might depend on the target reader instead of a generic English translation.

If I was translating Ecclesiastes, the Psalter, or poetic sections in Isaiah, I'd use literary English. At the opposite extreme, if I was translating Ezk 18 & 23, I'd use street English or slang. Because that's how Ezekiel would talk if he was speaking English.  

Keep in mind that Bible translations never replace the original. We always have the Greek and Hebrew text to refer back to, as the theological benchmark. 

Hard truths

Why I'm a Wesleyan

i) Before getting to my main point, BW3 makes two claims that lie in tension with each other: we can't be more loving than God, and love must be freely given and freely received. Yet it's child's play to come up with examples in human affairs where our love isn't limited by the receptivity of the beloved. Take an autistic child who lacks the capacity to reciprocate parental love. Or a baby. Or a teenage drug addict who resents his parents' interventions. Or a senile parent who can't grasp how grown children are acting in their parent's best interests. Or a patient in a coma. 

It's funny how Arminians make blanket claims about the nature of love ("freely received") as if that's self-evident. They make no effort to consider the most obvious counterexamples to their sweeping overgeneralizations. 

ii) In addition, BW3 is selective about the divine attributes. He acts like God's nature is to be loving, which overrides divine justice. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

14 generations

In Matthew’s list, some names have been omitted. The 14-14-14 pattern is only achieved through means of those omissions. If we add in the missing individuals, the symmetry (and divisibility by seven) disappears...The difficult questions, though, are a) on what principle does Matthew omit the particular individuals that he does (or, conversely, include the others) – is it arbitrary, or is there some scheme in it...

I'm not going to offer a solution to the crux. Instead I'll use a comparison to illustrate a general principle. As of 2019, there have been 45 US presidents. Suppose someone listed the US presidents, but the list was incomplete. There might, however, be a pattern to who's included and who's excluded so that that total isn't randomly selective. For there are different ways to group US presidents. For instance, wartime presidents or peacetime presidents, Yankee presidents or Southern presidents, Republican presidents or Democrat presidents, Baptist Presidents or Presbyterian presidents, Presidents who served in the military, and so forth.

So there might be an unstated selection criterion, if you know what to look for. The reason for the selectivity wouldn't lie on the surface. Rather, it would have a coded significance to readers in a position to register the subtextual affinities. Perhaps Matthew's selection criterion is too in-house for readers who donn't share a 1C Palestinian Jewish frame of reference. Perhaps we've lost the key to unlock Matthew's numerology. 

It's like Dante scholars who find some of Dante's historical allusions in the Divine Comedy to be inscrutable because we lack the topical background knowledge he took for granted. Yet that doesn't mean Dante was writing nonsense. 

Did Matthew miscount?

Here's one explanation for an alleged numerical discrepancy in Matthew's genealogy:

However, I'd like to discuss the issue from a different angle. Suppose someone says the obvious explanation is that Matthew made a computational error, and inerrantists are guilty of special pleading when they flail about for face-saving explanations. Let's play along with that alternative for argument's sake and consider how plausible it is.

i) Even from a naturalistic perspective, it's unlikely that Matthew miscounted. This isn't some off-the-cuff computation. Matthew's numerology is carefully worked out. So it would be surprising if Matthew miscounted. This isn't something he dashed off in haste.

ii) But suppose, for argument's sake, he did commit a computational blunder. Let's take it to the next level. What should we expect in that event?

Even if Matthew didn't catch his oversight, some of the initial readers of the first run of Matthew's Gospel would notice the error. We'd expect word to get back to Matthew regarding his embarrassing blunder. And it would make sense for Matthew to issue a corrected edition–if for no other reason than to spare himself the public embarrassment. It's not like the first run of his Gospel had a wide circulation. It had to be informally copied. It's not like modern publishing where there are, say, 5,000-10,000 initial printings, and if that runs out, the publisher issues another batch of printings.

No, I believe the process would be more like Matthew dictates his Gospel to a scribe, then Christians make private copies. The initial distribution is tiny. 

At most, this would result in two different manuscript traditions, where there were copies of the erroneous ur-text along with copies of the corrected edition. But on that scenario, I think it more likely that only a few copies of the erroneous ur-text would be made, so those are less likely to survive. What would survive is the manuscript tradition preserving the corrected edition, which wouldn't contain the apparent numerical blunder.

But that's not what we have. So I think it's implausible to impute a computational error to Matthew. If that happened, I'd expect there to be a different manuscript record. 

iii) Notice that I'm not proposing a solution to the crux. I'm doing something different. I'm pointing out that on closer scrutiny, the naturalistic explanation is implausible. We don't need to know what the right explanation is to eliminate the naturalistic explanation. 

A den of angry Calvinists and misanthropes

To my knowledge, this is (at least) the second time that Rauser has played the "angry Calvinist" card.

i) How does he know what mood I'm in when I do posts about his stuff? Is he a mind-reader? What is his evidence that I'm angry when I do a post about him? Is that a projection based on what his own mood would be if he did a similar post? Is he an angry, misanthropic progressive? 

ii) Likewise, consider the manifest fallacy of presuming that because someone is a Calvinist, whatever they say is motivated by Calvinism. 

iii) It's revealing that Rauser's chosen allies are atheists and heretics (e.g. Dale Tuggy). That's his center of gravity. That's where his sympathies lie. 

iv) Rauser is a fashionable bigot. He indulges in sweeping stereotypes he couldn't begin to prove. It's funny how "progressive Christians" like Rauser lack any capacity for self-criticism. They picture themselves as tolerant, unbiased, open-minded thinkers, but in reality they are the mirror image of the Manichaean outlook they impute to fundamentalists. A stark, black-and-white polarity between the good guys and the bad guys. They cast themselves in the hero role in their own movie while casting religious and political conservatives as dastardly villains. All Rauser needs is a cape and Batmobile to complete his self-image. 

Playing church

Now, of the anti-Catholic Protestants blogs out there, they all seem to attack the Church from different angles.  Steve seems to like to constantly beat the drum of modernism in the church.  With Taylor Marshall’s book out(which I reviewed on my last post), he naturally used this as an opportunity to bring up the liberal and sodomite control of large portions of the Church.

But why do I stay when my church is full of liberal and sodomite clergy?  Let me use a Biblical analogy since you’re a believer in Sola Scriptura.  In the Old Testament, we read about the Kingdom of Israel in the time of Elijah.  We know that at one point there were only 7,000 of the Israelites who kept the faith.  

Can you imagine an Egyptian passing through the land and talking to one of these 7,000?  He would probably ask the Israelite why he continues to follow the religion of Moses since 99.9% of the nation didn’t believe in it anymore.  Well Steve, I should point out that the Israelite and I would have the same answer for why we stay in our respective faiths.  I’m sure that Israelite didn’t like the corruption and false teachings floating around his faith anymore than I do.  I think you’ve figured out the reason by now.

Several issues:

i) Catholicism is a target-rich environment. There are so many defeaters for Catholicism. I myself critique the Catholic church from multiple angles. 

ii) To judge by his recommending reading list, as well as his glowing review of Taylor Marshall's Infiltrated, Ruhl is a RadTrad or sedevacantist:

Look at how retrograde his recommended books are. Nothing by modern popes, modern Catholic theologians or mainstream Catholic Bible scholars. One recent book by Pitre, which relies heavily on Protestant schlarship.  He's out of step with where his denomination is. He's clinging to a defunct version of Catholicism. 

iii) Before we get to his analogy, there are principles that are much more directly germane to evaluating his denomination than OT analogies. For instance, consider what the Pastoral Epistles have to say about the moral and theological qualifications for church office. By that standard, priests and prelates who fail to meet the moral and theological qualifications for church office are thereby disqualified. If so, where does that leave most of the contemporary priesthood and hierarchy?

iv) In Rev 2-4, Jesus threatens the remove the light, the Menorah, from churches that stray too far. If you study the descriptions of the threatened churches, they are certainly no worse that the contemporary Catholic church.

v) What about his OT analogy? If, on the one hand you have a denomination dominated by liberals and sodomites while, on the other hand, you have one or more denominations that don't suffer from that pernicious dominance, you'd naturally regard the 7,000 faithful as members of the denominations that don't suffer from that pernicious dominance rather than the denomination which does. So his comparison backfires. 

vi) In OT times, the Mosaic Covenant was the touchstone. And the Mosaic Covenant was unalterable. By contrast, Catholic dogma/doctrine and ethics don't exist in airtight containers hermeneutically sealed off from the theology and lifestyle of the hierarchy. To the contrary, the members of the magisterium are moral and doctrinal policymakers. If you have a denomination that's increasingly controlled by liberals and sodomites in key leadership positions, they will change church teaching to realign it with their theology and lifestyle. And that process has been going on for about 80 years in the Catholic church, beginning with the pontificate of Pius XII. 

What are the faithful supposed to be faithful to? In Catholicism, the magisterium is the final arbiter of moral and doctrinal fidelity. The laity can't routinely act in defiance of the pope and episcopate.  In Catholicism, the laity aren't supposed to be autonomous. The hierarchy occupies the driver's seat while the laity occupy the back seat. They go whoever they are driven. If they open the door and jump out because they disapprove of the direction the hierarchy is taking the church in, they've abandoned the institutional church. In Catholicism, you can't be independent of the institutional church and still be a good Catholic. The hierarchy is the ultimate interpreter of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. 

vii) Like many RadTrad or sedevacantists, he's smitten by the mystique of Catholicism rather than the reality–like neo-Confederates who pine for the Antebellum South. The cult of the "noble lost cause". The cult of Robert E. Lee. RadTrads are playacting in a period piece, like dressing up in Confederate uniforms and reciting hortations by Jefferson Davis. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2019


Plato's legend of Atlantis, in the Timaeus and the Critias, captured the imagination. It's popular among New Age gurus. It may well be a myth of Plato's own devising.

However, it's intriguing to consider that one of the two candidates for the location of Eden is lower Mesopotamia, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Perhaps it's just coincidental, but maybe the legend of Atlantis is a dim memory of Eden, now submerged in the Indian sea. Likewise, it may just be coincidental that the Persian Gulf is a source of pearl oysters, but perhaps that's reminiscent of Gen 2:12.

The other candidate for the location of Eden is upper Mesopotamia, around Armenia or Anatolia.

All be one

that they may all be one (Jn 17:21).

That's a Catholic prooftext I've discussed a more than one occasion. Some additional observations:

i) Catholics mentally translate this into a prayer that all Christians be (or become) Roman Catholic. But on the Catholic construal, not only has Christ's prayer gone unanswered for 2000 years, Catholicism has lost ground over time. For instance, Europe, Quebec, Great Britain, Latin America, and the USA are far less Catholic than they used to be. 

ii) Furthermore, what hinders the Father from granting the Son's request? If it is God's wish that every Christian be Roman Catholic, God could greatly facilitate his wish by providing unmistakable evidence for Roman Catholicism in Scripture and church history. Instead of Catholic apologists laboring to piece together a case for Roman Catholicism from isolated prooftexts and quote-mining church fathers, God could have inspired the Bible to make very explicit statements about Roman Catholic theology, to establish a Roman monarchal episcopate from the get-go, and to give Roman Catholicism a monopoly on miracles. 

What does sola scriptura mean?

i) It's become a Catholic trope to say that sola scriptura is self-contradictory, and I've seen Protestant apologists struggle with that charge.

ii) First thing I'd point out is that you can rule out certain options before you know the right answer. You can sense that a proposed answer is wrong before you know what the right answer is. 

iii) The historic target of sola scriptura is the papacy and post-apostolic church councils. Sola scripture is the claim that there are no infallible post-apostolic church councils. Likewise, that God didn't institute the papacy. The pope is not a divine mouthpiece.

iv) Apropos (iii), suppose a Catholic apologist asks us where do we find that in the Bible? But that's the point–we don't find the papacy in the Bible. And we don't find divine promises to inspire post-apostolic church councils in the Bible. We find promises to the apostles. But we don't find comparable promises to bishops or post-apostolic church councils.

v) Catholics sometimes appeal to the "ordination" of Timothy (1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6) as an example of holy orders. Suppose, for argument's sake, we agree that the ceremony conferred a "charism" on Timothy. But Paul officiated at that ceremony. So that provides no precedent for "bishops" who aren't handpicked deputies of the apostles. For "bishops" on whom apostles did not lay hands.

vi) Moreover, Paul isn't Peter. At best, the case of Timothy establishes Pauline succession, not Petrine succession. So that's hardly precedent for the papacy. Indeed, that's at odds with the exclusive claims of the papacy. That example is counterproductive to Catholic claims. 

vi) It's not that we don't find sola scriptura in the Bible, in the sense of a direct statement about sola scripture. That's a confused way to frame the issue. Sola scriptura is defined by the point of contrast. The historical alternative. 

We don't find what sola scriptura opposes in the Bible. We don't find a divine mandate or promise regarding the infallible authority of post-apostolic church councils. We don't find a divine promise to protect post-apostolic church councils from error. And we don't find a divine mandate or promise regarding a Petrine succession, where bishops of Rome are oracles of God.

For Catholic apologists to ask or exclaim, "Where do you find that in the Bible?" proves our point. We don't, and that's the problem–for Catholicism. 

vii) Moreover, it's not just an argument from silence. We've seen Roman Catholicism in action. We'd seen how the claimants to special divine guidance perform. We've seen popes and Catholic church councils in action. That doesn't make the Catholic alternative plausible. To the contrary, that brings the Catholic alternative into disrepute.

viii) Catholics appeal to Acts 15, but apostles along with a sibling of Jesus were participants. So that's no precedent for post-apostolic church councils. 

ix) Moreover, Catholics distinguish between local councils and ecumenical councils. But we don't find that distinction in Scripture. There's no divine promise regarding ecumenical councils in contrast to local councils.

x) Sometimes the debate is framed in terms of cessationism v. continuationism, but that separable. It's true that cessationism rules out the kind of divine guidance and protection from error that Rome lays claim to, but so does continuationism inasmuch as continuationism, if true, is not a promise or expectation directed at the papacy or Roman bishops in council. Rather, continuationism, if true, applies to the laity in general. 

xi) There are, of course, Catholic prooftexts regarding the papacy, tradition, apostolic succession, and "the Church", but that's different from the allegation that sola scriptura is self-contradictory. And Protestants regard the Catholic prooftexts as bogus. 

xii) Catholic apologists might objection that it begs the question to say Catholic prooftexts are bogus. "By what authority" do we make that value judgment? Yet it must be possible to assess Catholicism independent of Catholicism–otherwise, nobody would ever be in a position to convert to Catholicism. Likewise, it must be possible for cradle Catholics to assess Catholicism independent of Catholicism. After all, the fact that you were born into a particular religious (or irreligious) tradition carries no guarantee or even presumption that you were born into the "right" religious tradition–inasmuch as people are born into different, competing religious (or irreligious) traditions. 

Monday, July 08, 2019

Stain remover for bootlickers

Rauser is such a bootlicker. His tongue is black and brown from shoe polish.

Yes, there are secular theories of moral realism. That doesn't mean they are successful. 

"Funny internal feelings"

I recently saw an interview with David Anders:

In particular, I watched the first 13 minutes where he tries to refute sola scriptura. He's an evangelical convert to Catholicism, and a charter member of Called to Communion. He has a BA from Wheaton, MA from TEDS, and a doctorate in Reformation history from Iowa U. A few general observations:

1. He equivocates between Protestant tradition and Sacred Tradition. But when Protestants reject Sacred Tradition, that's consistent with Protestant epistemology. Sacred Tradition is a technical term in Catholic theology. It's not analogous to Protestant traditions. In Protestant theology, tradition is not intrinsically authoritative. 

2. He has the confused notion that sola scriptural is inconsistent with the role of inference in Protestant theology, as if only the "express" teaching of Scripture is authoritative. But that's a demonstrable straw man. 

3. He regurgitates the Catholic trope that sola scriptura is self-refuting. But as I pointed out recently, that depends on how sola scriptura is formulated. For instance:

i) Believe and obey divine revelation

ii) Don't elevate non-revelation to the status of divine revelation

iii) Disregard whatever is contrary to divine revelation

Scriptures teaches these propositions. That's sola Scriptura in a nutshell.

4. Apopos (3), sola scriptura is analogous to saying the Bible is our only infallible map. Would it make sense of a Catholic apologist to counter: "Where is the map on the map?" 

But a map is not about itself. It makes no sense to say the map is defective because you can't find the map on the map. That's not the function of a map. A map is not self-referential. The purpose of a map is not to locate the map on the map, but to locate your destination on the map, and a route to your destination. 

5. Where does his dismissive attitude towards "funny internal feelings" ("Holy Spirit vibrations", "God zaps them," "Holy Spirit Geiger counter") leave Catholic mystics like Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, St. Bonaventure, Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis de Sales, and Anne Catherine Emmerich? How did they know they were experiencing God in their mystical encounters? What did they have to go by apart from their "funny internal feelings"? So his objection discredits the religious epistemology of Catholic mysticism.

6. It's ironic that he never considers the illative sense, with its stress on the central role of intuition in human knowledge and Christian faith. Newman is the most influential Catholic thinker in modern times. 

7. Protestant theology doesn't have a monolithic epistemology. And there's more than one line of evidence for the inspiration of Scripture as well as the canon of Scripture. 

8. Many Christians simply find the Bible compelling on its own. And that's unavoidable. Most Christians don't have the aptitude or opportunity to formulate a strong philosophical or historical case for Scripture. So God must be able to cultivate faith by other means. 

9. Then there's the problem with his alternative. Even if we grant Catholic assumptions, they face an insuperable dilemma. To climb the ladder to the "infallible magisterium," you have to start at the first rung of the ladder. But how do Catholics inerrantly determine that there is One True Church, and how do they inerrantly determine that it corresponds to the Roman Catholic denomination? They can't begin with the top rung of the ladder (the infallible magisterium). To reach the top rung, they must begin with their fallible judgment. But in that event they never put their fallible judgment behind them. It's inescapable. 

10. Called to Communion resembles men sitting around a table in a burning church. Flames are licking the walls. Flames are licking the ceiling. Smoke is filling the sanctuary. Yet they sit with the backs to the fire, chatting with each other about the glorious architecture. The Catholic church is becoming engulfed in the conflagration of sodomy and modernism, yet they turn their backs to the raging fire that's consuming their adopted denomination, oblivious to the encroaching destruction all around them. The contrast between their hypothetical Catholicism and the pervasive reality is morbidly fascinating to the detached observer. 

Unworthy communicants

Let's consider two related Catholic positions:

1. Traditional Catholicism practices closed communion. That's to protect unworthy communicants from physical and spiritual harm. Based on 1 Cor 11:27-30, priests have a duty to fence the table because unworthy communicants expose themselves to illness, including mortal illness, as well as endangering their souls. To be a worthy communicate you must be in state of grace at the time of communion. 

That's why Pope Francis's Amoris laetitia is so controversial. It allows divorced and remarried Catholics to take communion. But if marriage is indissoluble, then divorced and remarried Catholics are living in sin–the sin of adultery. This means they are in a state of mortal sin when they received communion. 

2. Protestant communion is invalid. They don't receive the Host. The bread and wine (or grape juice) never becomes the True Body and Blood of Christ. The communion elements remain bread and wine (or grape juice).

I see Catholic apologists make this argument. I haven't read a Catholic theologian make this argument, but I'm guessing the logic goes something like this: for communion to be a valid sacrament, the communion elements must be consecrated by a validly ordained priest. To be validly ordained, the officiant must be in apostolic succession. But when Protestants broke with Mother Church, they ceased to be in apostolic succession. Here's one example: 

Moreover, Anglicans have a stronger historical claim to be in apostolic succession than Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, &c., so if even Anglican ordination is null and void, where does that leave candidates with a poorer claim to apostolic succession?

3. Assuming that's an accurate representation of traditional Catholic theology, let's consider these two positions in combination. 

i) On the one hand, it follows that as a rule, Protestant communicants can't be unworthy communicants. They fail to satisfy a necessary condition to be an unworthy communicant. So long as they confine themselves to Protestant communion, they can't be unworthy communicants because the Protestant eucharist was never a valid sacrament in the first place. They aren't receiving the Host unworthily. The Host isn't present in the Protestant eucharist. 

Protestants can only be unworthy communicants if they attend Mass and receive the sacrament at Mass. Say a Protestant married to a Catholic who attends Mass to accommodate the spouse. 

ii) The flip side is that only Catholics are in danger of becoming unworthy communicants, since only Catholics receive the Host. 

4. This generates a striking risk-assessment dilemma. On the one hand, the risk to Protestants is to miss out on the benefit of sacramental grace in the eucharist.

On the other hand, the risk to Catholics is to contract illness, even fatal illness, and worse yet, imperil their immortal soul. 

Ironically, this means Catholics have more to lose than Protestants. While Protestants miss out on a channel of sacramental grace, Catholics endanger their physical wellbeing and even–or especially–their eternal wellbeing. Protestant communion is safe whereas Catholic communion is Russian roulette. A cost/benefit analysis discourages the Catholic option. 

5. Finally, this invites an actuarial comparison. If the Catholic position is true, then the morbidity rate for Catholics ought to be much higher than for Protestants. Given the number of unworthy communicants at Mass, Catholic communicants should be dying like flies, well above the replacement rate. You'd be safer in a snake-handling service than attending Mass. But is there any comparative statistical evidence that Catholic communion is far more hazardous than Protestant communion? 

I don't accept the Catholic paradigm. I'm just playing along for the sake of argument to examine the implications of the Catholic paradigm on its own terms. 

Police Officers Involved In The Enfield Case

An aspect of the Enfield Poltergeist that's impressed a lot of people is that some police officers reported witnessing paranormal events on the case's opening night. That auspicious start to the case is so formidable that even Enfield's most prominent critic, Anita Gregory, admitted its force and went to a lot of trouble to try to undermine it. I've responded to her arguments elsewhere (here and here), and I won't be reinventing the wheel in this post. Rather, I want to supplement what I wrote earlier with some material I've come across since then, while listening to Maurice Grosse and Guy Playfair's Enfield tapes.

My citations of the tapes below will use "MG" to designate a tape from Grosse's collection and "GP" to designate one from Playfair's. So, MG7A is tape 7A in Grosse's collection, and GP40A is tape 40A in Playfair's.

In her doctoral thesis, Gregory writes:

"She [Carolyn Heeps, one of the police officers who visited the Hodgsons' house on the opening night of the case] may also, and this is purely speculative though quite reasonable, have had to contend both with Sgt. Hyams, the colleague who was with her, who was apparently unmoved, and with her own original case notes for the events of the early hours of 1 September 1977." (191)

I've already discussed some of the problems with Gregory's speculation in my responses to her linked above. For example, Hyams is standing next to Heeps in the video of their BBC interview, and it makes far more sense for Hyams to stand next to Heeps if the two agree about at least most of what's being said. It's doubtful that they were fundamentally contradicting each other, yet were standing together for the interview, with Heeps doing all of the talking. And I discussed the interview with Stewart Lamont, the reporter who conducted it, a couple of years ago. In that discussion, Lamont told me that Hyams' comments didn't add anything substantial to Heeps', so they only aired Heeps' remarks. And the Enfield tapes give us more reason to reject Gregory's hypothesis.

US women's soccer

The US women's team won the Women's World Cup today. Apparently this is the US women's fourth World Cup victory since the dawn of the Women's World Cup. That's the most titles of any nation.

Riding this wave, it appears women are demanding equal pay in soccer because apparently women make significantly less than their male counterparts in soccer.

I admit I haven't followed the equal pay issues in women's soccer in significant depth so I don't know if what I'm about to say is on target. Here are my remarks:

  1. First, congrats to the women's team. Megan Rapinoe is the media darling and MVP, but Rose Lavelle looks like the real breakout star of the team in terms of athleticism.

  2. Do women in soccer deserve to make the same money as men in soccer? I don't know that "deserve" has anything to do with it. I don't know that it's an ethical issue. Rather I presume salary largely reflects viewership, sponsorship, and advertising. If a sport can get tons of viewers, sponsors, and advertisers interested, then the sport will have more money, and I presume players can get paid more. Isn't that normally how it works in sports? Why should it be different for women's soccer?

  3. If we're judging simply by athleticism, I imagine it's not as fun to watch women play soccer as it is to watch men play soccer. To be frank, as good as our women's professional soccer team is, and I don't wish to take anything away from them, nevertheless they look more like amateurs playing soccer in comparison to a low tier male professional soccer team let alone a world class team like Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, England, Portugal, etc. I imagine that's the case for most men's vs. women's sports, not only soccer.

  4. I presume sports like women's tennis and volleyball are popular at least as much (if not more so) for the female athletes' appearances as for their athleticism. That's not to suggest it's fair.

  5. I don't have a problem if women are paid equally or even more than men in the same sport. Perhaps women's soccer can bring in as much if not more viewership, sponsorship, and advertising than men's soccer in the US. Especially in light of this latest World Cup victory. If so, then women could very well be paid on par with or even more than men. I don't have a problem with that.

  6. My problem is if women are paid on par with men by dictum presumably due to political, social, or cultural pressure to pay women more simply because they're women. That seems sexist. And women shouldn't wish to get paid more simply because they're women any more than men should wish to get paid more simply because they're men. How is that empowering?

  7. Take men's soccer in the US vs. England. To my knowledge, the English Premier League (EPL) tends to pay their players more than the Major League Soccer (MLS) pays their players. I presume that's because the EPL has more viewers, sponsors, and advertisers involved than the MLS does. However it'd be laughable if someone argued men's soccer players in the MLS should get paid on par with men's soccer players in the EPL, not because the MLS is bringing in the same viewership and money and so on as the EPL, but simply because they're paid lower and deserve to be paid more, or perhaps because the "potential" for viewers in the MLS is greater than the "potential" in the EPL.

  8. I don't know if it would help or hurt if transgendered "women" make it onto the women's national soccer teams. I guess it'd improve the athleticism, but won't many viewers find that unfair or offputting in some way? At best, wouldn't it be like watching a low-rent men's soccer team? Who would want to watch that?

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The next pope

L'Osservatore Romano

At a news conference today, Pope Fiammeggiante announced a long-awaited  change in Vatican policy regarding clerical celibacy. Under the new policy, priests would be allowed to marry...other men. As the Holy Father explained, this was a development of doctrine. In Catholic chess, queens and bishops are interchangeable. Furthermore, the vestments of popes, cardinals, and bishops would make Liberace green with envy. 

However, the traditional ban on priests having wives would remain in place. Asked if that wasn't unfair to heterosexual priests, the Holy Father said the mental image of priests married to women was "icky"–stifling an involuntary shudder. Besides, as Fiammeggiante went on to say, the question of straight men in the priesthood was purely academic. The last straight priest was Padre Alberto Cutié, who left the priesthood for a woman. 

In related news, the Holy Father told reporters that the Church was going to auction off the Madonnas of Botticelli, Raphael, and Velázquez, because they were "yucky". The Vatican would be commissioning a new line of Madonnas for our time. Asked what he thought the Madonna ought to look like, he said Caitlyn Jenner was pretty ideal. 

At Catholic Answers, Trent Horn said that while the new policy was going to take a little getting used to, this wasn't the first time or the last time that the development of doctrine had the trajectory of a pretzel.