Saturday, January 25, 2020

The provincial universal church

A revealing window into how provincial a denomination which claims to be the universal church has been for nearly its entire history:

Authentic Catholicism

1. I've often said that most Catholic apologists present an inauthentic version of Catholicism because most of them are evangelical converts to Catholicism. In general, they have a far more conservative view of Scripture, which is a carryover from their evangelical past. By contrast, here's an example of a Catholic apologist who's the real deal. This is what a standard Catholic college and seminary education will get you:

2. Evidently, Casey was only exposed to one side of the argument: mainstream Catholic Bible scholarship. Many of his examples could be resolved by consulting evangelical commentaries on the Bible, as well as standard monographs on the inerrancy and historicity of the Bible, viz. Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the New Testament (B&H Academic 2016); D. A. Carson, ed. The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans 2016); James Hoffmeier & Dennis MaGary, eds., Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? (Crossway 2012); Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans 2003); Vern Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels (Crossway 2012); Andrew Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology (Concordia 2011).

3. Unfortunately, when he talks about "smoothing over stories and performing tremendous mental gymnastics," he shields his own position from correction by preemptively discrediting attempts to harmonize Scripture or defuse allegations of error. He's not open to that possibility. He's convinced himself that even making the effort is an exercise in special pleading. 

4. A basic problem with his mind is that once you adopt that view of Scripture, you begin to see mistakes and contradictions everywhere. There's no longer any presumption that what the Bible say is true. No distinction is drawn between differences and contradictions. Critics of inerrancy sometimes allege that inerrancy fosters a house-of-cards mentality, yet the denial of inerrancy becomes a mania to compulsively presume error. 

5. In addition, Casey's view of Scripture is a universal acid that dissolves historical theology. For the same reflexive skepticism can be extended with even greater ease and plausibility to the so-called development of doctrine. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Impeachment legalities

How amazing is Randi?

A few of quick observations:

1. Scientist Rupert Sheldrake is less enthusiastic about Randi's debunking bona fides:

2. While a magician has a useful skill set for exposing certain types of charlatans, there's a lot of evidence for the paranormal that's not easily reducible to parlor tricks. For instance, has Dembski studied the research of Stephen Braude? 

3. Finally: 

Randi is an equal opportunity skeptic. He has no specific animus toward Christianity. To him, Christian belief is no more realistic or defensible than any other supernatural claim. 

While I'm sure Randi is hostile to religion in general, there's a difference between generic theism and Christianity. The Christian faith includes sexual ethics. Randi is an active sodomite. So I expect he does harbor personal animus towards Christianity. It's not an abstract philosophical construct like perfect being theology, but a living religion with personal ethics, social ethics, and social policies for the church and culture.

Is the Trinity brute fact?

1. I suspect many Christians affirm and defend the Trinity because they're supposed to, but not because they find any intrinsic value in the doctrine. The Trinity is often presented as an impenetrable paradox. You have a pious duty to check that box, but it it wasn't a revealed truth, how many Christians would miss it, or even breathe a sign of relief that they no longer had to defend it. Is the Trinity a chore, a nuisance, and intellectual embarrassment? In this post I'll offer a few philosophical musings. 

2. In historical theology there are different models of the Trinity:

i) In Greek Orthodox theology, the Trinity is like a tree trunk with two branches. The Father is the trunk, while the Son and Spirit are offshoots. The Father directly causes the Son and Spirit to exist (albeit eternally and necessarily).

ii) In Latin theology, the Father causes the Son directly and the Spirit indirectly via the Son (the Filioque). So that's a linear conception. Greek Orthodox theologians complain that the Filioque destroys the unity of the Trinity by positing two causes for the Spirit rather than a unified cause for Son and Spirit alike. 

iii) Those are pre-Reformation paradigms. A more recent position repudiates the hierarchical model. Instead it posits that each person is autotheos or God in himself. In Latin and Greek Orthodoxy theology, by contrast, only the Father is autotheos. 

3. Proponents of the Nicene paradigm claim it protects the unity of the Godhead. The Son and Spirit share a common essence with the Father. However, that by itself doesn't have much explanatory value:

i) At best it amounts to generic unity rather than numerical unity. Human beings share a common nature, yet they are separate entities. 

ii) In addition, if the Father can generate at least one divine person, additional to himself, why is there any upper limit on how many he can generate? How does that select for a total of three persons rather than two or four or forty?

4. To contend that each person is autotheos doesn't mean the persons exist independent of each other. Just that one doesn't cause the other two. These don't represent three different points of origin. On this model, they have no causal origin. So they aren't separate in that regard. 

5. Is it a brute fact that God is three persons, no more and no less? It might be an epistemological brute fact. Perhaps the explanation for why there are just three persons is way over our heads. 

Even if that's the case, it doesn't imply that the Trinity is a metaphysical brute fact, in the sense that it's arbitrary. Rather, it's a brute fact in the qualified sense that nothing outside of God explains what God is like. Indeed, we could argue that God is not a brute fact:

i) The existence of a creature is arbitrary because creatures are contingent. A creature could exist or not exist. There could be one more creature or one less creature. In that respect, creatures have a brute factuality that God does not. God's nonexistence is impossible. Moreover, one thing must exist necessarily for anything else to exist. 

ii) Another angle is the perfection of God. God is the way he is because God is perfect, so anything different would be less perfect or imperfect. That's not arbitrary, but represents the culmination of an axiological principle.  

6. These (admittedly) sketchy explanations operate at a higher, more generic level. But do they explain why God is a trinity rather than a binity or quadrinity? Again, this may be out of reach of human reason, but it's worth exploring the question to see how far we can take it. 

7. In physics and ancient philosophy, there's a strong bias towards reductionism. Where the most fundamental component of reality is one. Monadic units. You get down to something ultimately simple and discrete. Absolute unicity is the philosophical ideal.

The Trinity challenges that prejudice. According to the Trinity, relations are more fundamental than units. According to the Trinity, ultimate reality already has structure. It's not organizing isolated units into structures. Rather, reality has structure at rock bottom. So one is not the most fundamental reality. Three is fundamental. 

8. Considered strictly as a number, 3 has some striking properties: 

3 is the only integer which is the sum of the preceding positive integers (1+2=3) and the only number which is the sum of the factorials of the preceding positive integers (1!+2!=3). It is also the first odd prime. A quantity taken to the power 3 is said to be cubed.

To be sure, that's a pure number rather than a numbed object,  but it's still interesting to consider. 

9. A relation is conceptually richer than a unit. And a trinary relation is richer than a binary relation. A binary relation is more elementary. 

10. Thus far the analysis is rather abstract, but suppose we try to visualize it. A reflection is a relation. It takes at least two elements to generate a mirror-image. 

Consider three mirrors arranged in a triangle. They reflect each other. They contain each other.  You couldn't tell which is a reflection of which without a frame of reference. And the mirror images are self-enclosed within the triangle. Internal to that configuration. 

Compare that to arranging four mirrors in a square. In one respect that's more complex because it has an added element, a fourth element. Yet the reflection pattern is simpler because the mirrors stand at right angles to each other, so the reflections are only generated by mirrors directly facing each other. Even though there are four mirrors, they only generate paired reflections, wheres three mirrors capture all three, in a circular reflection. Three mirrors can reflect each other in a way that four mirrors can't. 

So the trinary relation is more ontologically parsimonious, yet more conceptually fecund. Which constitutes a more elegant pattern because it combines superior economy with superior complexity. Hence, there is a containment principle for why more is less and less is more. The binary relation is both ontologically and conceptually simpler. The trinary relation gives you more with less while the quaternarian relation gives you less with more. In that respect the trinary relation is more perfect than a fewer or greater number of constituents. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

How strange is the Trinity?

Is the Trinity an apparent contradiction? Let's take a comparison. It's natural for humans to reason counterfactually. Indeed, the ability to contemplate hypothetical scenarios is part of what makes human intelligence human.

That includes self-referential counterfactuals. I can say I'd turn out differently if I grew up on a ranch rather than the big city. Or if I grew up in France or Italy instead of the USA. Or if my mother or father died when I was ten. Or if I was an only child instead of having two brothers. Or if my brother committed suicide when we were teenagers. And so on and so forth.

Changing key variables in my past changes the kind of person I will be come. But that in turn raises questions of personal identity and numerical identity. Am I the same individual under these counterfactual scenarios? Do the same individual experience these alternate past scenarios? Is it one of me or two of me or three of me? Are these variations on what a given individual could be? Alternate versions of me? It doesn't seem reducible to yes or no. 

This, of course, is the stuff of science fiction. I travel through a wormhole and meet the other me in a parallel universe. Which is the real me? Are we one and the same individual? Are there two of us? 

On the one hand, as we spend more time together, we find out how much alike we are. How much we have in common. On the other hand, we also find out how unalike we are. 

It's not just a case of me taking one fork in the road, then taking the other fork in the road. For which fork in the road is taken changes the traveler. Not just the road traveled but what it does to the traveler. I'm the same when I begin at the fork in the road. But am I the same at the end of the journey if I go left rather than right? Do I come out the other end the same individual who went in, compared to taking the road not taken? 

My immediate point is that when you think about counterfactuals and parallel universe scenarios, the Trinity no longer seems so alien to reason. I'm not saying the Trinity is directly parallel to transworld identity. Rather, I'm saying they raise similar issues regarding the complexities of personal and numerical identity. 

Why is the Spirit the "Spirit"?

Why is the Spirit of God called the "Spirit"? I've discussed this before, but I'd like to be a bit more discriminating this time. Seems to me that "ruach/pneuma" trades on several connotations, all of which are germane to this member of the Trinity:

1. In Biblical usage, a spirit is:

i) A personal agent

ii) A discarnate agent

So one reason for the designation is to indicate both the personality and incorporeity of the Spirit. The Spirit is not a power or force. And the Spirit is not a physical being like the humanoid gods of the heathen pantheon. Put another way, Yahweh is incorporeal. 

In this regard, the designation connotes the essential identity Spirit. The name has a metaphysical or ontological connotation. 

2. It has life-giving connotations. The breath of life. So the name indicates that the Spirit is the source of biological life.

3. Apropos (2), by extension, it also connotes the Spirit as the source of inner renewal or regeneration. Figurative life as well as  biological life.

4. Finally, it has connotations of divine speech. The spoken word is breath. So it signifies the role of the Spirit as the source of inspiration, revelation, and agency of Scripture. 

In that regard, the designation connotes the economic identity of the Spirit. The name connotes his creative and recreative activity in the world, as well as his revelatory role. 

Tooting his own Horn

Catholic apologist Trent Horn has a running commentary on Mike Winger's critique of Catholic authority:

Horn is one of the best younger-generation Catholic apologists, so he's a good foil. I'm going to selectively comment on Horn's responses. For several reasons I won't comment on everything Trent says. The arguments of Catholic apologists are repetitious. I've been over this ground many times before. I wrote a partial review of Horn's book (The Case for Catholicism). Winger sometimes frames issues in ways I don't. 

1. Like Catholic apologists and theologians generally, Horn commits the fallacy of casting the fundamental issue in terms of authority. But it just isn't possible, in principle or practice, always to begin with authority for what you believe, because the logic is regressive. Horn is a convert to Catholicism. Catholic authority wasn't and couldn't be the starting-point at that stage of the argument, because that is what needed to be established. Given Catholic authority, he can say this is my authority for what I believe, but that only pushes the question back step: by what authority does he believe in Catholic authority? If you always require some authority to justify what you believe, then the requirement extends backwards ad infinitum. It's self-refuting for Catholic apologists to insist that every interpretation of Scripture, or the case for the canon of Scripture, must be backed up by authority. That's a condition which the Catholic apologist will be unable to consistently meet. It's necessary that we be able to establish some positions independent of authority to make any progress at all. The warrant for these positions isn't authority but reason and evidence. Positions based on argument rather than authority. That can include an argument for authority, but you can't always fall back on authority and argue from authority, because what you take to be your authority is in itself a key issue in dispute. 

2. Apropos (1), he says the special divine guidance which Rome enjoys is negative rather than positive protection (53-54 min.). God doesn't inform the Magisterium to interpret the whole Bible but to shield it from disastrous misinterpretations. In his response to Winger, Horn frequently corrects what he takes to be Winger's misinterpretations or invalid inferences from Scripture. But by his own admission, Horn has no authority for his own interpretations. His alternative interpretations of Winger's prooftexts aren't superior because they are authoritative interpretations. Rather, Horn appeals to the wording of the text, and the context–as he understands it. In addition, he accuses Winger of inconsistency. So most of this debate falls outside the framework of authority. 

As such, it's confused for Horn to accuse Winger of making himself his own authority when he interprets the Bible. That accusation backfires. Protestants aren't guilty of doing the same thing they accuse Rome of doing. If you're going to act like every time a reader interprets the Bible, he is making himself an authority, then that will sabotage any attempt by the Catholic apologist to correct a perceived misinterpretation or make his own case for Catholicism. Interpretation is not inherently an exercise of authority, and authority isn't necessary to validate the interpretation.

3. Apropos (2), the demand for authority is bound up with the demand for certainty. But even if that's ideal, it's unobtainable by falling back on authority all the time, since that reflex just relocates the same demand: what makes you certain of your authority source?  So the whole strategy is self-stultifying. That doesn't mean certainty is necessarily unattainable, but not by acting like you must invariably start with authority. 

4. "historical pedigree in connection with apostles"

That's a Catholic criterion. It's understandable that a Catholic apologist will appeal to a Catholic criterion, but it begs the question when debating Protestants inasmuch as we operate with a different theological paradigm. We don't need to have historical pedigree in connection with the apostles. Historical pedigree is irrelevant. We just need to be faithful to apostolic teaching. 

In fairness, I'm not suggesting a Catholic apologist shoulders the sole burden of proof. It begs the question if a Protestant simply asserts his alternative paradigm when debating Catholics. Both sides have a burden of proof. It's incumbent on both sides to argue for their respective positions. 

4. "When did sola scriptura come into effect? Give me a date. The doctrine has never been in effect."

i) That's loaded question. A fallacious way to frame the issue because it runs afoul of the sorites paradox. It's unreasonable and unrealistic to demand dates for many historical developments. History is a continuum with transitional phases. 

Indeed, Horn's demand is self-destructive given the doctrine of development. Many of these doctrinal innovations evolved over time. They gradually went into effect. The process was incremental.

ii) Horn fails to appreciate the underlying principle of sola scriptura, which is the supremacy of divine revelation. Scripture is the mode or medium of divine revelation. During the era of public revelation, divine revelation had an oral as well as written mode, but that stage of redemptive history is behind us. 

In response to Winger, Horn raises stock objections to sola Scriptura which, among other places, I recently addressed:

5. 2 Thes 2:15

Horn accuse Winger of construing this passage too narrowly:

i) To begin with, if you're going to use this as a prooftext, then you ought to restrict yourself to what Paul actually says. Now, what he says here may be consistent with other things he doesn't say. But you can't use it to prooftext things he doesn't say. 

ii) It's possible to derive more general principle from what Paul says, but that will have to operate at the same level. If you sat under the feet of St. John, the same principle would apply. You can't expand what Paul says to a different principle. 

iii) Paul isn't appealing to apostolic tradition, in the customary sense of tradition. The concept of tradition connotes a chain of transmission with links in the chain. But that's not what Paul is describing. He's explicitly referring to direct oral teaching, from Paul to his immediate audience. There are no intervening links. Not what Paul taught a second person who passed it along to a third person who passed it along to a fourth person. That's not what Paul has in view. Rather, hold fast to what Paul taught you in person. Face-to-face transmission from an apostle to a Christian. The principle is restricted to Christians with firsthand knowledge of Paul's oral teaching. 

iv) That doesn't necessarily invalidate a chain of custody. Some historical traditions are reliable. But 2 Thes 2:15 isn't making that claim. 

6. Mt 18:15-18

Where does the Bible say that the church is just all the people who love Jesus? That is the church in one sense, but when you read through Scripture it is very clear that the church has an authoritative hierarchy composed of a three-tiered system of deacons, presbyters–from which we get the word priests–and bishops, the overseers, the episcopate. So when you look for example in Mt 18:15-18…then he says to the apostles whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Bring it to the church, not to your church, because it's not like oh okay well if that church disagrees with me and condemns me I'm going to join this other church over here. No, rather, when you look in the NT it's very clear that it talks about the church in Rome, the church in Antioch, the church in Jerusalem…It refers to the fact that there is one church and that church has to have authority, and you're going up the chain of authority–especially if you bring two or three with you, what does it mean to take it to the church? Do you just get every other Christian around and you're like a mob of thousands of people? No, you're going to something authoritative that has apostolic succession behind it in order to resolve the dispute. That's the highest level for you to do to (27-29 min).

1. It's a semantic fallacy to suggest that because the word priest derives from presbyter, therefore 1C church presbyters were priests in the sacerdotal sense. In Catholicism, it acquires a technical sense according to Catholic ecclesiology. But it's anachronistic to read that back into NT polity and usage. 

2. He assumes that "bishop" and "presbyter" are separate church offices, with the episcopate as the higher office. Which disregards the arguments of Bible scholars that NT usage is fluid and interchangeable. These are variant designations for the same church office. NT polity hadn't hardened into the more specialized usage and hierarchical structure of Roman Catholic eccesiology.

3. Horn acts as though Mt 18:15-18 envisions an appellate process like the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. But in context the setting is a local church, and a judgment of excommunication is rendered by the congregation, not higher clergy in particular. 

John – The Man Who Saw

Abusing Peter's Weaknesses To Establish A Papacy

I want to expand on Steve's recent discussion of Luke 22:32 and the papacy.

The passage is addressing Peter's restoration after a fall, not some sort of strength he had as a Pope. The work Peter is described as doing, in strengthening his brethren, not only is common to all of the apostles (Acts 18:23), but is common to individuals of a lower rank in the church as well (Acts 15:32). It's not something unique to Peter, much less is it papal.

Much the same can be said of John 21:15-17, another passage often abused to argue for a papacy. John 21, like Luke 22, is addressing Peter's need for restoration, as reflected in the parallel between the three affirmations of love for Christ and Peter's previous three denials of Christ. And, as with Luke 22, what Peter is called to do in John 21 is not only common to the other apostles, but also to individuals of a lesser rank (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2).

Neither Luke 22 nor John 21 suggests that Peter had papal authority, much less that he would pass on such authority exclusively to a succession of bishops in Rome. It's perverse to take these passages about Peter's weakness and need for restoration and use them to claim that he was being given papal authority.

The Catholic abuse of Isaiah 22 is of a somewhat similar nature. I won't repeat everything I've said in past discussions about the passage. See the comments section of the thread here. As I explain there, if Catholics were consistent in their appeal to Isaiah 22, they would have to conclude that neither Peter nor his supposed successors have the attributes Catholics allege. So, whereas seeing a papacy in Luke 22 and John 21 involves unverifiable speculation, seeing a papacy in Matthew 16's use of Isaiah 22 is even worse, since papal authority isn't just absent from Isaiah 22, but is even contradicted.

What we have with these three passages is a couple that refer to Peter's need for restoration after a fall (Luke 22, John 21) and another that would give Peter and his successors sub-papal authority if the passage were applied consistently (Isaiah 22). In that sense, all three passages are about the weaknesses of Peter, but are being abused to argue that he has the strength of a Pope. The common thread is that some of the terminology and concepts used in each of these passages can be made to sound papal if taken out of context. But none of the passages imply a papacy when interpreted as we'd normally interpret a document.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Eternal sonship

1. I recently ran across the question of whether it's consistent to affirm the eternal sonship of Christ but disaffirm the eternal generation of Christ. To which I'd answer: yes!

2. Both sonship and generation are related metaphors, and so it might seem illogical to affirm one but disaffirm the other. But they're not identical metaphors. In addition, theological metaphors are analogies, and so the question is always how much to include in the analogy and what to exclude. What is the metaphor designed to illustrate? How far does the metaphor extend?

3. As I've discussed before, I think the significance of the sonship metaphor in reference to Christ is representational, in two related ways:

i) It's a way to indicate resemblance. Two things that could not be more alike but still be distinct. No one is more like a father than is son, or vice versa.

(Twin brothers might be a similar metaphor, but the father/son relation is far more dominant in the ancient world.) 

Which carries the implication that they are two of a kind. And, indeed, the NT often uses the sonship of Christ as a divine title.  The unique sonship of Christ implies the deity of Christ.

ii) If (i) is a metaphysical claim, that in turn has a practical aspect. Because they're so alike, there's a sense in which one can substitute for the other. A son can naturally act as his father's agent. Acting in on his behalf, in his place, with his authority. So (i) grounds (ii). Because the Son represents the Father ontologically, he's uniquely qualified to represent the Father in action. 

3. Turning to eternal generation, one asymmetry between eternal sonship and eternal generation is that the concept or metaphor of generation doesn't entail a son. Fathers beget daughters, too.  

Although generation is a male sexual metaphor in reference to the begetter, it is not a male sexual metaphor in reference to the begotten. Men father daughters as well as sons. And it would be inapt to say no one is more like a father than his daughter, pace the father/son relation. So that's one limitation of the metaphor or analogy. 

4. Unlike eternal sonship, eternal generation takes the metaphor a step further, as a theory of derivation. Eternal generation is a more radical and ambitious claim. In a sense, an attempt to explain the origin of the Trinity. On this view, the Father causes the Son and the Spirit to exist.

This is distinguished from creation in the usual sense inasmuch as they are eternally and necessarily caused to exist. Moreover, they share the Father's essence. 

Whether that's adequate to distinguish God from a creature is disputable. By that logic, the Father could be eternally and necessarily caused to exist by a super-deity who stands behind the Trinity, transmiting his essence to the Father. Indeed, the logic of the principle seems to extend backward with no stopping-point. 

Of course, some folk's ecclesiology commits them to creedal statements regarding eternal generation. I appreciate the fact that the Nicene paradigm squeezed out Arianism, but I regard eternal generation as a theological compromise or halfway house that degrades the deity of the Son and Spirit. In that respect I side with theologians like Alexander Röell, B. B. Warfield, Paul Helm, and John Frame who reject a hierarchical model of the Trinity. 

Strengthen your brothers

Luke 22:31-32 records Jesus telling Peter "Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren". The original Greek in the passage shows that Satan demanded to sift "you", or all of the apostles, but Jesus prayed specifically for Peter and his faith not to fail. 

Jesus singles out Peter and prays for him so that his faith may not fail and he would strengthen his brethren (Lk 22:31-32). Peter will be a leader, but one who serves others instead of being served. Trent Horn, The Case for Catholicism (Ignatius 2017).

1. To begin with, this passage says nothing about the papacy or the pope strengthening the Roman episcopate. It's not a promise to the papacy. It's not a general promise. It's very topical. 

2. Peter is singled out, not because he outranks the other disciples, but because he will betray Jesus. The prayer anticipates his denial. Jesus prays for Peter's restoration in advance of his betrayal.

3. As a matter of faith, Peter's faith did fail. He lost his nerve and publicly renounced Jesus. That's a paradigmatic act of infidelity. 

In context, the meaning of the statement is not that his faith will be unwavering, but that his failure won't be permanent. Jesus prays that Peter won't abandon the cause. Having betrayed Jesus, he will repent of his betrayal and renew his commitment. 

4. The text doesn't say how Peter will strengthen his fellow. The most immediate explanation, in context, is that the example of Peter's restoration will strengthen the other disciples. The source of encouragement is not something Peter will do, but something Jesus did for Peter. If even Peter can be forgiven and restored, after publicly disowning Jesus, that's an encouragement to the other disciples, as they face persecution in the years ahead. Indeed, one reason Jesus tells Peter, in the presence of the other disciples, that he has prayed for him, is so that when Peter is contrite and rejoins the movement, that outcome will be attributed to the prescient and efficacious intercession of Jesus rather than Peter's fortitude naturally rebounding. 

5. Finally, there's the fallacy of inferring that if Peter is said to strengthen the other disciples, this carries the implication that the other disciples won't strengthen each other. Catholic apologists act as though statements like this imply a contrast, where affirming something in reference to one person disaffirms the same thing in reference to anyone else. But the statement is not logically exclusive, as if only Peter can play that role. What makes Peter special in this passage is not his leadership but his failure of leadership. He buckled under pressure and set bad example. The proleptic prayer of Christ is to rectify Peter's dereliction, not to promote him.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Puberty blockers

"I used to be an anti-LGBTQ Evangelical"

I'm not sure this is worth commenting on:

However, the liberal media is pursuing a strategy of redefining Christianity so that "true" Christians, or the only socially-acceptable version of Christianity, will be LGBT-affirming. Part of the strategy is to parade self-styled evangelicals or ex-evangelicals who finally saw the light and became progressives. 

Growing up watching the popular 1980’s sitcom ”Growing Pains,” I found myself going starry-eyed every time heartthrob Kirk Cameron appeared on the screen. When I learned that Cameron was an evangelical Christian, just like me, I admired him even more ⁠— there weren’t many people in Hollywood willing to speak out in the name of their faith, but Cameron was unashamed to do so.

Maybe that teenybopper intro has some pull for female readers, but it bounces right off normal male readers.

In 2012 I watched Cameron tell talk show host Piers Morgan that he believed homosexuality is “unnatural,” and just for good measure, he added, “It’s detrimental and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.”

Good for him!

Naturally, Cameron received backlash from the LGBTQ community and its allies because of his public comments. But many evangelicals, myself included, rushed to defend him and his views. 

She was right the first time. 

But my most popular blog posts were the ones that offered my take on controversial topics like the value of purity, submitting to your husband and why I didn’t believe women should use birth control.

Was she a member of the Quiverfull movement? If so, she's lurched from one reactionary position to another. 

After Cameron discussed his thoughts on gay marriage and homosexuality on CNN, I felt it was important to show my support for him. I posted a status on my personal Facebook account that read, “It’s important to watch the entire interview when looking at Kirk Cameron’s (and many conservative Christians’) view on gay marriage. I’m so proud of Kirk for saying what he believes, instead of brushing aside this important topic for fear of the very real controversy.” What I didn’t realize at the time was how harmful that single post would be.

How "harmful"? How many of the world's seven billion people even know that she exists? Tells you something about Brianna Bell's inflated sense of self-importance.

After my post I (rightfully) received blowback from LGBTQ friends…

At the time she still identified as evangelical. So what did it mean for her to have LGBTQ friends? What were the terms of the friendship? Was she required to affirm and celebrate their lifestyle as a condition of friendship? If not, why would they be "pained" and "alienated" by her support for Cameron? 

BTW, part of being a good friend to someone is to discourage their destructive lifestyle choices, viz. drug addict, compulsive gambler. 

Then, on June 12, 2016, I woke up to the news of the horrific mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub, an LGBTQ bar in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were killed and 53 others injured by a lone gunman. Despite my feelings about the LGBTQ community, I could not fathom anyone doing something so evil. That day was a wake-up call for me, and it marked the first time I truly recognized just how much hatred ⁠— and violence ⁠— the LGBTQ community faces. 

Really? The shooter (Omar Mateen) was a gay Muslim who used to hang out at gay bars and nightclubs. That's gay-on-gay crime. How is a gay Muslim shooting up a gay nightclub supposed to be a wakeup call for evangelicals? 

I explored the victimization of the LGBTQ community and read about the abuse that many in the queer community have faced and continue to face.

What about the way homosexuals abuse each other? High rates of domestic abuse. The damage of anal intercourse. High STD rates. Not to mention AIDS?

What about the way homosexuals abuse children? The abuse scandals in the Catholic church and Boy Scouts. Puberty blockers, chemical castration, and mutilation of normal boys and girls.

Last summer, a writer and queer friend of mine was attacked online by a group of mostly male bullies, many who claimed to be devout and loving Christians, for writing an article about a Pride parade. I watched as my friend was torn apart online for her writing and her activism, as conservative evangelical strangers attempted to silence her and do harm to her with their words. This woman was called a pedophile by some, while others suggested that her children should be taken away from her because she dared to claim that Pride celebrations were appropriate ⁠— and even fun! ⁠— for children. 

Because, as a matter of fact, it's derelict parenting to expose innocent children to the debauchery of gay pride parades. 

As I’ve evolved and shed many of my conservative view, I’ve had to wrestle with how to abandon an old ideology while remaining committed to my faith. While I am still a devoted Christian, I’ve had to work to untangle myself from doctrine that is harmful and strive to adopt an intersectional and inclusive theology.

A cautionary tale of theology based on tearjerkers rather than God's design for human nature.

The stats don’t lie: Most LGBTQ Americans experience harassment, LGBTQ youth contemplate suicide at a rate three times greater than heterosexual youth, and a national epidemic of fatal transgender violence plagues America. 

Actually, the stats often lie since there's a cottage industry of fake hate crimes. 

In addition, it doesn't occur to her that high suicide rates among LGBTQ youth might be due to the fact that homosexuality and transgenderism are intrinsically depressing conditions 

I cannot stand in the shadows anymore, knowing that to do so is to perpetuate stigma and continue shaming the queer community. 

Because it's so brave to switch sides when you have the wind to your back. 

Jesus himself commands, “Love each other as I have loved you,” and that is exactly what I intend to do. 

In context, that's about how Christians are obliged to love other Christians. It's not a statement about unbelievers.

Moreover, the way to love others is not to support their self-destructive lifestyle. And you don't love the innocent by empowering the LTBT lobby to harm the innocent. 

Was Jesus self-deceived?

Tentative Apologist
I had a nice exchange with @RTB_FRana but I was disappointed to learn that he holds Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. That thesis is to biblical studies as young-earth creationism is to geology. When Christian apologists endorse fringe views they weaken their credibility.

James Anderson
Replying to @RandalRauser @RTB_FRana
Yeah, it's so embarrassing when Christians endorse the sort of fringe views that Christ himself held!

Tentative Apologist
Tentative Apologist Retweeted James Anderson
James should try this out at the Society of Biblical Literature. That will surely put all those liberal "scholars" in their place.

Tentative Apologist
Replying to @proginosko @RTB_FRana
I suppose you also think the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds?

James Anderson
Replying to @RandalRauser @RTB_FRana
I think whatever Jesus affirmed about the mustard seed is true. I also think whatever Jesus affirmed about the OT scriptures he quoted is true. Moreover, I believe I have good rational justification for these beliefs, despite what the fine folk at SBL might think of me.

Tentative Apologist
Jesus said the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds (Matthew 13:32). So it's settled for you then?

James Anderson
If Jesus affirms p, I take that as decisive grounds to affirm p. Does that shock you? Of course, there's a reasonable question here about what p is in the case of Matthew 13:32. I take it that "all" is qualified by the conversational context.

1. Wow. Rauser actually trots out the mustard seed objection to inerrancy, as if that's comparable to Mosaic authorship. The mustard seed statement is proverbial or hyperbolic. It's not erroneous to use hyperbole or proverbial sayings (e.g. "a fish rots from the head down").

And it's not remotely analogous to the question of Mosaic authorship.

But this also goes to Rauser's kenotic Christology, where Jesus, as a child of his times, unwittingly taught falsehood. 

The issue is whether the target audience recognizes hyperbolic or proverbial expressions. Then analogy would then be whether the same audience recognized that Mosaic authorship was just a conventional attribution. There the comparison breaks down. 

I'm sure Rauser's real position is that 1C Palestinian Jews believed in Mosaic authorship, but modern scholars know better. 

2. While Jesus may have held false beliefs qua his human nature, that's in union with the divine nature, and in his capacity as a teacher, the divine nature would inform, correct, or censor false beliefs of the human nature/mind when it came to teaching others.

One issue is whether the divine nature would function, among other things, as a screen or quality control mechanism, to preempt Jesus from unwittingly misleading billions of Christians over the centuries. It's serious business to say Jesus was an unintentional deceiver, due to his fallibility.

But if anything, it's worse than that since on Rauser's theory, Jesus is self-deceived. If he's fallible in the way Rauser says or allows for, then he could be self-deluded about his mission, about his understanding of God, about who he himself is, about salvation and damnation. 

3. Regarding Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch:

i) If the Pentateuch was actually compiled during the Babylonian Exile, how did the entire Jewish community forget the origins of the Pentateuch? Is social memory that weak? How did Mosaic authorship ever become the unquestioned tradition in 2nd Temple Judaism?

ii) The most natural assumption is that Genesis-Chronicles are written in chronological order. It's a continuous history, so you'd expect books recounting later events to be written later than books recounting earlier events. But if the Pentateuch was compiled during the Babylonian Exile, then doesn't that push the composition of the other books into the Intertestamental period? It really bunches up, like a log jam.

iii) What were pre-exilic prophets talking about when they indict Israel as covenant-breakers and threaten the curse sanctions of Deuteronomy if, in fact, the Pentateuch was compiled after the fact?

iv) If the Pentateuch is pious fiction, why say the Israelites are carpetbaggers who invaded Palestine from Egypt, and ultimately go back to a progenitor from Babylon? Why not just make the Israelites indigenous to Palestine? 

v) For that matter, if the Pentateuch and Historical Books were really written during the empires of neo-Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Alexander, and Republican Rome, why people them Canaanite adversaries?