Saturday, May 09, 2020

James Anderson on presuppositionalism

Here's an outstanding exposition and defense of Van Tilian presuppositionalism: 

I'll venture a few observations:

1. Let's begin with some definitions:

As standardly conceived, transcendental arguments are taken to be distinctive in involving a certain sort of claim, namely that X is a necessary condition for the possibility of Y—where then, given that Y is the case, it logically follows that X must be the case too.

Transcendental arguments are partly non-empirical, often anti-skeptical arguments focusing on necessary enabling conditions either of coherent experience or the possession or employment of some kind of knowledge or cognitive ability, where the opponent is not in a position to question the fact of this experience, knowledge, or cognitive ability, and where the revealed preconditions include what the opponent questions. Such arguments take as a premise some obvious fact about our mental life—such as some aspect of our knowledge, our experience, our beliefs, or our cognitive abilities—and add a claim that some other state of affairs is a necessary condition of the first one. Transcendental arguments most commonly have been deployed against a position denying the knowability of some extra-mental proposition, such as the existence of other minds or a material world. Thus these arguments characteristically center on a claim that, for some extra-mental proposition P, the indisputable truth of some general proposition Q about our mental life requires that P.

2. Apropos (1), Anderson defines presuppositionalism partly in terms of presenting an internal critique of non-Christian worldviews. One way of putting this is that non-Christian worldviews lack the metaphysical resources to provide the necessary enabling conditions for coherent experience or the possession or employment of some kind of knowledge or cognitive ability. 

3. Is presuppositionalism circular? In a sense, but not viciously so. Take a transcendental argument which posits that knowledge/truth/human rationality possible, and Christian metaphysics provides the necessary enabling conditions. That's circular in the sense that it takes for granted the possibility of knowledge/truth/human rationality, but there's nothing fallacious or question-begging about that assumption. After all, what's the alternative? How would a critic argue that knowledge/truth/human rationality are impossible? Such a denial would be self-refuting. Although you can debate the degree to which knowledge is obtainable, or the degree to which human reason is truth-conducive, it would be self-referentially incoherent to deny those claims wholesale. 

4. Anderson classifies transcendental arguments as deductive arguments. Once again, let's provide a definition:

A deductive argument is an argument that is intended by the arguer to be deductively valid, that is, to provide a guarantee of the truth of the conclusion provided that the argument’s premises are true. This point can be expressed also by saying that, in a deductive argument, the premises are intended to provide such strong support for the conclusion that, if the premises are true, then it would be impossible for the conclusion to be false. An argument in which the premises do succeed in guaranteeing the conclusion is called a (deductively) valid argument. If a valid argument has true premises, then the argument is said also to be sound. 

An inductive argument is an argument that is intended by the arguer to be strong enough that, if the premises were to be true, then it would be unlikely that the conclusion is false. So, an inductive argument’s success or strength is a matter of degree, unlike with deductive arguments. 

Although inductive strength is a matter of degree, deductive validity and deductive soundness are not. In this sense, deductive reasoning is much more cut and dried than inductive reasoning. Nevertheless, inductive strength is not a matter of personal preference; it is a matter of whether the premise ought to promote a higher degree of belief in the conclusion.

Because deductive arguments are those in which the truth of the conclusion is thought to be completely guaranteed and not just made probable by the truth of the premises, if the argument is a sound one, then we say the conclusion is “contained within” the premises; that is, the conclusion does not go beyond what the premises implicitly require. 

Because the difference between inductive and deductive arguments involves the strength of evidence which the author believes the premises provide for the conclusion, inductive and deductive arguments differ with regard to the standards of evaluation that are applicable to them. 

5. This is often a sticking point between evidentialists and presuppositionalists. For instance, Bahnsen is highly critical of the fact that inductive arguments only yield degrees of probability. They fall short of certainty. But a basic problem with Bahnsen's position is that inductive and deductive arguments from Christianity differ in scope. Inductive arguments include the Resurrection, the canon of scripture, the argument from prophecy, the biographical accuracy of the Gospels, the reliability of the Greek/Hebrew text of Scripture. Christian apologetics can't afford to eliminate inductive arguments of this kind. Christian transcendental argument are limited in scope. So Christian apologetics requires a combination of inductive and deductive arguments. 

6. That may seem to leave a unsatisfying gap between the two kinds of argument. However, they're not essentially at odds or separate. Christian transcendental arguments provide the necessary backing for Christian inductive arguments. They justify the enabling conditions on which inductive arguments depend. So you can still have certainty at that foundational level. 

7. Finally, Anderson draws a distinction between knowledge and proof. Due to natural revelation, we intuitive know certain things independent of formal argumentation. So there's a kind of certainty that's not contingent on our ability to formulate sound arguments.

Friday, May 08, 2020


Rodrick's boyhood was literally hellish. His parents were obsessed with sorcery and Satanism. That had a dire affect on Rodrick. It had the fringe benefit of giving him firsthand awareness of the supernatural, and making the dark side repellent to him. He was plagued by horrific nightmares. And during the day he felt that he was always shadowed by a malevolent presence. He couldn't shake it off. Like he was under round-the-clock surveillance. Rodrick desperately wanted to escape the life imposed on him by his infernal parents, but he seemed to be trapped.

Then in junior high he met a Christian classmate who had the gift for discerning spirits (1 Co 12:10). Ed was a kind of budding exorcist by vocation. Not just about casting out demons, but combating witchcraft and evil spirits in general.                                                                                                                 
Ed's parents were divorced. His dad had custody, but his dad was scientist of international renown scientist who frequently traveled to conferences, so Ed often lived alone when his dad was away from home. His dad never understood his son's interest in Christianity, but he let it slide. 

When Ed first met Rodrick, he instantly sensed an aura about Rodrick. Not that Rodrick was possessed or evil. Indeed, Rodrick seemed to be good natured. But he was surrounded by invisible evil. Choked by evil. Especially at night he often felt the suffocating prevalence of evil spirits. 

Ed offered to let Rodrick move in with him. In one sense that intensified the evil. Ed and Rodrick could actually catch a glimpse of the evil spirit following them. It was enraged by Ed taking Rodrick away from the coven.

Sharing a bedroom with a Christian, especially a Christian with Ed's particular gift, was a novel and liberating experience for Rodrick. To be in Ed's presence was like a buffer that shielded Rodrick from psychological invasion by the evil spirits. The ubiquitous, smothering sensation was gone. The spirits were unable to penetrate the screen of godliness. It was like an electric shock. 

He sometimes had bad dreams that began as hellish nightmares, but then Ed would pop into Rodrick's dreams and keep the monsters at bay.

Ed introduced Rodrick to the Bible. Taught him the Bible. Taught him Christian prayer. Taught him Christian hymns. 

Coming at it from the other side, Rodrick also had the antennae to detect evil spirits, but now he had the resources to fight back. Ed and Roderick formed a lifelong team.  

Hitech gulags

Like we're zoo animals being monitored

Ahmaud Arbery

I wonder how many people who profess outrage at the murder of Ahmaud Arbery believe his killers should be executed? Or do they oppose the death penalty? It's an easy call for me, but that's because I support capital punishment. The execrable Dylann Roof is still alive because, thanks to the political correctness  of the Obama DOJ, he was charged with hate crimes rather than murder. 

The Tempter as shapeshifter

1. One of the oddities of Gen 3 is how the Tempter is introduced with so little exposition or backstory, as if the original audience would be familiar with a character like the Tempter. The name of the Tempter is a pun or triple entendre, so it has a dual identity. There's the image it projects and then there's its true identity. This suggests the Tempter is an entity in the tradition of shapeshifters. Agents that alternate between identities. Agents that may appear to be animals but that's not their true identity or original identity. Conversely, agents that appear to be human, but they've undergone a transformation. 

2. The tradition of shapeshifters is ethnographically quite diverse. Two standard academic monographs are Montague Summers, The Werewolf in Lore and Legend (Dover 2003 reprint) and Sabine Baring-Gould, The Book of Werewolves (2002 Blackmask Online). There's also American Indian folklore about skinwalkers and totemic animal spirits among Plains Indians, desert southwestern tribes, as well as Algonquian tribes (e.g. Manitou). cf.

3. Shapeshifters are naturally impossible, but within the worldview of Christian supernaturalism and pagan witchcraft, they may be realistic. It's necessary to sift evidence for shapeshifters from different phenomena:

i) Orphaned feral children misidentified as werewolves

ii) Lycanthropy as a psychotic condition (e.g. Dan 4). 

iii) People who aspire to be animals (e.g. (Berserkers). They may aspire to be possessed by an animal spirit or actually be transformed into an animal. That, however, is a kind of playacting. 

iv) Distinguishing folkloric shapeshifters from literary and cinematic shapeshifters. 

4. The role of magic also requires sifting:

i) Witchcraft spawns lots of mythology and legend that have no basis in fact. Ingrown folklore that's passed on. 

ii) Defamatory accusations of witchcraft. 

iii) Conversely, cultivating a reputation for witchcraft can have propaganda value by making the individual an object to be feared and placated. 

iv) A distinction between having the ability to be shapeshift and the ability to hex others: S. Augustine declared, in his De Civitate Dei, that he knew an old woman who was said to turn men into asses by her enchantments. Sabine Baring-Gould, The Book of Werewolves (5).

5. It may not be coincidental that shapeshifters are often associated with the desert. That's the case in American Indian folklore, and it has biblical parallels. Consider the ambiguous references in Isa 13:21 & 34:14. And the further fact that the Devil tempted Jesus in the desert. 

6. Of even greater potential interest is whether Lev 16:8 and 17:7 allude to goat demons in the desert. Occultic shapeshifters.

This might resonant with to the original audience for Gen 3, because the Israelites were living in the desert at the time Genesis was written. So even though Gen 3 recounts an incident that happened millennia before, the idea of a malevolent shapeshifter may well be a recognizable entity in their experience. 

This also explains the fluid identity of the Tempter, not only in Gen 3 but Rev 12 and 20. An evil spirit (fallen angel) with an animal name and reptilian imagery or symbolism. 

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Year-long (or longer) moratorium on churches

Sola Fide In Acts 19

Acts 19:1-7 is a neglected passage in discussions of justification. And there's a neglect of the evidence for sola fide in the narrative portions of scripture in general. I want to post something I recently wrote in an email exchange, summing up the significance of the passage:

The reception of the Holy Spirit is associated with justification elsewhere, and Paul expects the Holy Spirit to be received at the time of coming to faith in Acts 19:2. The people he was addressing turned out to be in an exceptional situation, but Paul's question reflects what he considered normative.

I've discussed the passage further in previous threads, like here and here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Paul's eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection

From  a recently conversation:

Paul had not been a companion of Jesus prior to the crucifixion and hence cannot testify that this is a person he knows well whom he is seeing again...I admit to being astonished that anyone would find this controversial, much less offensive. Have we become so committed to "doing the resurrection argument through Paul" that we cannot even recognize what is obvious right on the face of the text? Paul openly asks Jesus who he is! He had not known him well personally while on earth. This is all intrinsic to the story. Disagree with me if you will about Jesus' "being in heaven" when Paul saw him. But if you try to insist that Paul verified that Jesus was risen from the dead in exactly the same way that the disciples verified it as reported in the Gospels and Acts 1, you're defending something that is utterly indefensible based on the nature and brevity of his encounter and his lack of previous personal acquaintance with Jesus.

Actually, a strong argument can be made that Paul knew Jesus by sight prior to the Resurrection:

Well, if he did, he didn't recognize him on the road! He has to ask who he is. And there is no evidence that he ever recognizes him in that encounter. (Unlike Mary Magdalene or Cleopas, who do eventually recognize him.) You can say that is because Jesus was shining and glorified. That's fine. But the fact remains that in that encounter he does not verify of his own knowledge that it is the same Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.

Paul is literally stunned by this unexpected encounter, and there's been a 3-year interval between the Resurrection and Paul's out-of-the-blue encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road. This quite different from Jesus appearing to the disciples a few days later.

Okay, if you insist that he knew him by sight, you can say that. I think it's an ad hoc attempt to hang onto the idea that he knew Jesus by sight, which is by no means a given. At best it's a conjecture. But even so, your theory there is a way of acknowledging the epistemological point I'm making--namely, that he doesn't verify Jesus' resurrection by way of the same type and quantity of evidence that the disciples had.

i) It's not ad hoc when I point you to a detailed academic monograph which makes that case. No, it may not be a given, but your self-confident denial, uniformed by Porter's scholarly argumentation, is hardly a given.

ii) I for one haven't indicated that I'm offended by you interpretation. And I realize you are pushing back against overemphasis on the testimony of Paul in 1 Cor 15 to the demotion of the Gospels. But in the NT, Paul's witness to the Resurrection is a major apologetic argument.

iii) There's a point of tension between your insistence that this must be a psychological vision, on the one hand, and you objection to Dale Allison appealing to "grief hallucinations" on the other hand as an alternative to a physical resurrection.

I don't know why people take offense at the word "vision." Real visions are a pretty big deal. Why insist that it was "much more than a vision"? Nobody is denying that Paul had a sensory experience. But isn't that why visions are called visions? Because you see something! If Jesus appeared to me tonight and gave me a message, that would be huge, but it wouldn't mean that I thought of him as physically present in the same sense that he was with the disciples.

I don't object in principle of psychological visions. However, you're quite critical of how Dale Allision proposes postmortem apparitions as an alternative to appearances of a physically resurrected Jesus, so there are contexts in which you think the distinction is all-important.

I answered that on the other thread. If all we had were Paul's experience on the Damascus Road, Allison would be in far better shape epistemically! It would still be weird, but Paul's experience was relatively brief and far less polymodal and unambiguously intersubjective than the disciples' reported experiences were. I'm critical of the way that people strip themselves of the capacity to respond to Allison!! The way we respond to Allison best is by emphasizing aspects of the disciples' experiences that are precisely those that go far beyond anything Paul experienced. These posts are in fact a continuation of my critique of any form of minimalism that is more vulnerable to Allison's type of approach. The distinction is very important. Extremely. That's why it's good that we have the other disciples' experiences and not just Paul's to go on!

The problem is that you're undercutting Paul's testimony to the Resurrection to build up the testimony of the Gospels. You're treating Paul's testimony as secondrate. Yet in Acts and the Pauline epistles, Paul's encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road has always been a fixture for Christian belief the in the Resurrection. You're now pitting these against each other, where the price of the testimony in the Gospels is to downgrade Paul's testimony.

The church and social distancing

As I noted in another post, the ancient church didn't practice social distancing:

Of course it didn’t. It couldn’t refrain from meeting in the same physical geographical area and be obedient. There was no other way to meet or minister to the sick. Likewise, they likely didn’t take more precautions with the sick because they had no concept that illness was spread through viruses and bacteria. This is simply an “is-ought” fallacy. Because people in church history didn’t do X, we ought not to do X. According to what? The authority of a tradition that had no alternative means available to them. If there is only one means to be obedient, then there is no choice to between options. There are no options.

1. That's a very revealing response. This isn't simply about the practice of ancient Christians in general or ecclesiastical tradition but the NT church. This is a divine command. So Hodge is saying the command is predicated on a faulty, prescientific understanding of disease transmission. 

2. In addition, he misses the point. Prayer doesn't require physical compresence. You can pray for someone without praying with them or over them. You can pray by remote control. The efficacy of prayer is normally independent of time and place in that regard. You don't have to be there to pray about it.

Yet the command enjoins elders to go to the sick and pray for them on site. Indeed, make physical contact by anointing their skin with oil. skin on skin contact. A hands-on ministry. 

That's the polar opposite of the social distancing measures that Hodges thinks we have a duty to practice. Evidently, Hodge thinks this is a command that elders ought to defy. Indeed, if they knew then what we know now, this is a command that should never have been obeyed. It was a fallible, misbegotten command from the outset. 

Strategic priorities in apologetics

These can each be resolved by simply setting aside Biblical inerrancy.1 A saved liberal Christian is better than nothing, so reserve the above sub-topics for later.

Let me add that you have a virtual responsibility to ensure that your interlocutor knows that one can be a Christian while accepting evolution.

1. This reflects an unfortunate trend among some younger generation apologists. They don't think like theologians. Yet Christianity is a religion, so it's necessary to think like a theologian. 

2. Although the Bible contains many historical narratives, the Bible is divine revelation. It's not just a historical record of events, but theologically interpreted events. God raises up prophets and apostles to speak to and through them. A supernatural process. Consider the altered conscious states of seers like Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and John the Revelator. Or consider the theological interpretations of Paul, the author of Hebrews, &c. Or how the Gospels integrate history with theological interpretation. 

3. Is there such a thing as "saved liberal Christian"? Or is that someone with a fundamentally unmodified secular outlook who's tacked on some Christian sentiments? 

How is that better than nothing rather than worse than nothing? If he's satisfied with a bad answer, a wrong answer, he has no incentive to seek a better answer. He took a wrong turn and keeps going in the wrong direction. It's not as if a "saved liberal Christian" is doing God a favor. 

4. Many unbelievers will rightly see it as intellectually evasive when Christian apologists duck objections to the inerrancy of Scripture. That doesn't mean a Christian apologist is obligated to individually run through every objection to the Bible. There are lots of good resources we can point a critic to, 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); John Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths (Zondervan 2009); Vern Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels (Crossway 2012); Peter Williams, Can we Trust the Gospels? (Crossway 2018). If the critic is one of those frivolous people who recycles canned objections but is too apathetic to examine the answers, that's not the responsibility of a Christian apologist. 

5. If evolution is contrary to the Biblical revelation of organic origins, a Christian has no duty to say one can be an inconsistent Christian. While it's possible to be an inconsistent Christian, there's no obligation to commend or recommend intellectual or theological inconsistency. It's not as if a "saved liberal Christian" is doing God a favor. 

A Christian apologist lacks the authority to tell people what biblical teachings they must believe and which they are free to disregard. There can be debates about what Scripture teaches, but the principle is to accept all of divine revelation. 

3 things that would make Jesus Yahweh

Dale Tuggy Retweeted


3 thing [sic.] that would make Jesus YHWH
•1)Complete Superiority 
•2)Immortality that wasn't given
•3)Without Beginning
Acts 3:13 "God has glorified his SERVANT Jesus"
1 Cor. 15 "Christ DIED for our sins"
John 3:16 "He gave his only BEGOTTEN son"

1. Once again, unitarians keep demonstrating that they have no idea how to argue with folks who don't think like unitarians. They never leave their bubble. 

If the aim is to show that Trinitarian, Incarnational theology is inconsistent with Scripture, then the onus is on the unitarian to show that the Trinitarian, Incarnational theology can't be harmonized with Scripture given the assumptions and resources of Trinitarians. You must assume the opposing viewpoint for the sake of argument, then explain how that's contradictory on its own grounds. Why is Dale unable to grasp that elementary burden of proof? Why does he plug Ryan Prott's incompetent objection? Is this social promotion for unitarians? 

2. Jesus isn't merely Yahweh but Yahweh Incarnate. Yahweh Incarnate can undergo demotions or promotions in his status.

3. Immortality has reference to Jesus as Yahweh Incarnate. Biological mortality/immortality, and not immortality in the divine sense of aseity and timeless eternality. God is not physically mortal or immortal. He's not that kind of being. But God Incarnate assumes a body which can be mortal or immortal. 

4. Dale must be aware of the fact that most modern-day NT scholars and lexicographers don't think monogenes means only-begotten, but unique, one of a kind.

5. Jesus has a point of origin in time: the Incarnation. The Son has no beginning. Jesus is a composite being. The Son in union with a human body and soul. 

What if we tried a real quarantine


A modest proposal

A modest proposal. Every year, about 50,000 people die of the flu. Another 50,000 die from automobile accidents, and another 30,000 from workplace accidents. We could prevent many of these deaths by placing America in lockdown six months of every year (from now on). Almost all the flu deaths occur in the winter months, and so I propose a total lockdown from October through April every year. This will save something like 30,000 (flu) + 25,000 (reduced auto accidents) + 7500 (reduced workplace accidents), for a total of over 60,000 lives every year. It would cost a great deal less than $11 trillion a year. If you oppose my idea, you value economic gains over human lives. Shame on you!

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Could there be design in evolution?

YouTuber apologist Michael Jones is promoting theistic evolution: "Could there be design in evolution?"

Several issues:

1. The idea of theistic evolution has been kicking around since the 19C. The idea that evolution could be guided or directed is nothing new.

2. A fundamental issue is whether theistic evolution is consistent with Biblical revelation regarding the origin of life. Theistic evolutionists typically reduce Gen 2-3 to fiction.  

3. Another issue is whether scientists even have a workable model of evolution.

4. A further issue is the relationship between theistic and evolution. Does evolution have the mechanisms to succeed on its own. Or does it require divine intervention to shore it up?

5. From what I've read, Jones is a metaphysical idealist. But you can't combine metaphysical idealism with belief in a physical external world with organic biological processes like evolution. Those are divergent paradigms. If reality is mental from top to bottom, then the the physical world is an illusion. A psychological projection. 

Paul's Christophany

What did Paul experience on the Damascus Road? Was it psychological vision of Jesus or a physical Christophany? We can't say for sure, but here are some considerations. This is my side of a recent conversation on the topic:

It's important to distinguish "heaven" in the atmospheric/astronomical sense of the "sky" from heaven in the theological sense of where God, the saints, and angels reside.

In the Ascension account he levitates above ground a certain distance in midair, then disappears into the Shekinah cloud.

Yes, he left in some sense and he could return in some sense, short of the Parousia.

I agree with you that the Christophany to Paul isn't the same as the Lk 20; Jn 20-21 incidents. That said, there's still a categorical difference between "heaven" in the sense of "sky" and "heaven" in the sense of where God, saints, and angels reside. The sky is the location of sun, moon, stars, solar/lunar eclipses, rain, hail, meteor showers, &c. And it extends down to the air, where birds, bats, insects fly, and some seeds are blown by the wind. By contrast, there are no meteorological events in heaven in the sense of God's abode. So Jesus could appear to Paul from the sky (overhead) without appearing to him from heaven (in the theological sense). In a way it's similar to the Transfiguration, which has the Shekinah, but the location is in the low atmosphere.

I'd add that Paul's traveling companions could be facing in a different direction than Paul in relation to Jesus, which accounts for why they didn't see the same thing. Or Paul could be further along the road, over a hill, or some other physical obstacle, that blocked the view with respect to his traveling companions.

I never suggested that Jesus left footprints. The upper room isn't directly comparable because an indoor setting presents fewer opportunities for different spatial configurations and visual obstacles than an outdoor setting. Finally, there's a well-documented collection of Christophanies in church history This is also instrumental in the conversion of some Jews. And it's a source of revival in the contemporary Muslim world. Of course, these could all be psychological visions. But that's one of the interpretive issues.

It's possible that Paul's experience was a psychological vision, but his traveling companions also experienced something, albeit different, which suggests something more than a psychological vision.

At the Transfiguration there was some other entity floating in the sky above the heads of the disciples: the Shekinah cloud. And the Father may have been speaking from within the Shekinah since that sometimes functions as a chariot theophany for God's portable throne.

Shekinah clouds aren't normal natural phenomenon in the first place. They are preternatural phenomena. God making emblematic use of natural media in theophanies. There are different kinds of theophanies, some using overlapping media, viz. incandescent clouds, fire, thunderstorms, chariots. To say "It is not scientifically explanatory, in natural terms, of the sound that they heard. Nor is such an explanation necessary. There is, for example, no mention of any such cloud in John 12, nor do clouds normally produce or convey words. Nor does the Father need a Shekinah cloud in order to produce auditory sound. It's not like a cloud is God's voice box," completely misses the point. God doesn't need the chariot theophany in Ezekiel 1. But the value lies on the theological symbolism of these physical manifestations.

We already have precedent in the Ascension account for Jesus floating in midair, visible to observers. So there's no antecedent objection to a similar event on the Damascus Road.

He "returned" in the Rev 1 Christophany. Indeed, Revelation refers to Jesus threatening to return to remove the lampstand of some waning churches in Asia Minor. But that's not the Parousia. There's a difference between the once-for-all-time Second Coming of Christ and Jesus appearing to individuals in the course of church history.

Tips on apologetics

Christian apologetics is primarily the purview of bachelors. Once they have to juggle wife, kids, and full-time job, they no longer have the same leisure time for apologetics. 

I've been doing apologetics for many years, and it isn't possible to have an intelligent, constructive dialogue with some people. So I simply avoid arguing with certain kinds of people. 

1. Hobbyhorses

Some people have a hobbyhorse like creationism or cessationism or a millennial position or even geocentrism. In their eyes, you can be right about everything else, but if you're wrong  on that particular issue, that nullifies everything else you believe. They're obsessed with their hobbyhorse. That's their litmus test. That's all they want to talk about. And if you let them, they will make their hobbyhorse your hobbyhorse. 

Life is short. You have to pick your fights. You need to have your own priorities. 

2. Convince me!

There are unbelievers who imagine Christians have a duty to convince them. I don't. I have a duty to give you my reasons for what I believe and respond to objections. That's where my duty begins and ends. I'm not responsible for what you believe. That's on you. I really don't care what you do with your life, especially if you live in willful disbelief. If you're just uninformed, I'm happy to correct that. 

3. Illuminati

Many laymen believe the Holy Spirit is their teacher. He gives you the correct interpretation of Scripture. The Bible doesn't actually promise that. It's folk theology. But it's impossible to have a reasonable debate with someone like that. They view themselves as God's oracle. To disagree with them is to disagree with God. 

4. Onion peelers

Some unbelievers have faulty assumptions that go layers deep. Every time you correct or clarify one of their faulty assumptions, there's another layer underneath. It's just too time-consuming to peel back all the layers. And they're usually not listening anyway. Don't invest time in people who are a waste of time. 

5. Self-selected consensus

Some unbelievers appeal to consensus. It's a self-selected consensus where they preemptively disqualify anyone who doesn't think alike. For instance, you're not a real Bible scholar unless you're committed to methodological atheism. It's not possible to have a rational discussion with someone who appeals to a circular standard of consensus. 

6. Loaded questions

There are unbelievers who ask loaded questions. Questions that beg the question by framing the issue in prejudicial ways. That build contested assumptions into the formulation of the question. Often they don't even recognize that they are asking loaded questions. If you refuse to answer their loaded question, they think you're being evasive. But the proper response to a loaded question is not to answer the question but to challenge the question. Point out that the question assumes the very thing that needs to be proven. 

7. Foils

In public debate, the objective isn't generally to persuade your opponent. However, some people are worth debating because they are good spokesmen for the other side. You debate them, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of lurkers. 

8. Burden of proof

Some disputants fail to appreciate that both sides have a burden of proof. They imagine that you only have a burden of proof if you affirm or assert something. But that's a fallacy. To deny something is also a truth claim. Likewise, to be noncommittal is to say the evidence is insufficient. 

9. Spoonfeeders

Some unbelievers say there's no evidence for God or the Bible or miracles. The Bible is full of contradictions, scientific and historical blunders. The problem of evil sinks Christianity. OT ethics is abhorrent. And so on and so forth.

When you point them to accessible resources to consult, they refuse to study the resources. They demand that you spoonfeed them examples and arguments. But it can't mean more to you than it does to them. If they refuse to do the most elementary research, if they refuse to study the evidence when you refer them to good resources, then you've done your job. You're not responsible for their intellectual frivolity. 

10. Moving the goal post.

Some unbelievers will raise an objection. When they lose the argument, they simply change the subject. They raise a new objection. So it's unclear what their real reasons are for their disbelief. The reasons they give don't seem to be their real reasons because it makes no difference to their position when the reason they give is debunked. They just keep moving the goal post. 

11. What's your best argument for Christianity?

Some unbelievers demand that you provide your best argument for Christianity. But that's simplistic. That assumes there's one best argument for Christianity. But there are many good arguments for Christianity. Many independent lines of evidence for Christianity. And some people find certain kinds of evidence more appealing than others, viz. historical, philosophical, scientific, personal religious experience. Christianity would be apologetically impoverished if the case for Christianity was reducible to one best argument. 

12. Give me your best example of miracle

By the same token, some atheists demand that you provide your best example of a miracle. But that assumes there is one best example. Yet that's unreasonable. The argument from miracles is a cumulative case argument. A collection of well-documented case-studies. That allows for a margin for error. The argument doesn't rise or fall on one particular example but a wide-range of credible reports. 

13. Hypotheticals

Some unbelievers evade the actual evidence by raising hypothetical objections to Christianity. Hypothetical defeaters or undercutters. How can you be certain? 

14. Psychology

Some unbelievers focus on the psychology of faith. What are your motives to be a Christian rather than what are your reasons to be a Christian? 

15. Personal testimony

Some unbelievers demand that you give personal examples. While there can be a place for that, it's only as credible as the witness. An advantage of public testimony is that it may include corroborative evidence. 

16. Anecdotal evidence

By contrast, some unbelievers automatically discount anecdotal evidence.  But while it may be fallacious to generalize from anecdotal evidence, anecdotal evidence can be perfectly legitimate to establish that certain kinds of things happen or exist. You just can't extrapolate beyond the sample.  

17. Dictionary fallacy

There are people who imagine you can resolve a philosophical dispute by consulting a dictionary definition. One problem with that appeal is that dictionaries simply describe popular usage. In addition, many philosophical debates use technical jargon. The words have a more specialized meaning. And it's about more than the meaning of words. It's about intricate concepts. Even at that level of analysis, an encyclopedia of philosophy doesn't tell the reader which position is right. 

18. Pseudointellectuals

Many critics who are not intellectuals raise intellectual objections to Christianity, or Calvinism, or the Trinity and the Incarnation, or the Protestant faith. Although they raise intellectual objections, they lack the aptitude to understand an intellectual explanation. They raise a philosophical objection, but they can't follow the explanation. It sails over their heads.

So they're not listening. They tune out the explanation. They just wait for you to stop talking, then launch into their flashcard objections. 

On a related note, some people are able to grasp the explanation if they gave themselves a chance, but they don't think you have anything worthwhile to say. You must be wrong. So if you present a sophisticated explanation, they screen that out. They dismiss that as a snowjob. You're just trying to hoodwink them with a blizzard of evasive technicalities. They're too suspicious to think you could possibly be right. So they don't seriously consider what you have to say. Even though they raise rational objections, they lack the rational patience to process and assess the answer. 

19. Authority-mongers

Many Catholics reduce every issue to authority. By what authority do you justify the Protestant canon? By what authority to you justify your interpretation of Scripture. It never dawns on them that the appeal to religious authority is regressive. At some stage in the process they must fall back on their fallible personal judgment. 

20. Low standards

Many people get their arguments from lightweight popularizers. They don't study the best their own side has to offer. For instance, they imagine that Leighton Flowers is a competent critic of Calvinism and competent exponent of freewill theism. They don't study serious Bible scholars on their own side like I. H. Marshalll or Brian Abasciano. They don't study philosophers of libertarian freedom like Robert Kane of Kevin Timpe. They don't study philosophical freewill theologians like Alvin Plantinga, Alexander Pruss, Peter van Inwagen, or Richard Swinburne. And they don't study the best the opposing side has to offer, in terms of exegetical or philosophical theology, viz. Don Carson, Ramsey Michaels on John's Gospel, Tom Schreiner on Romans, Steven Baugh on Ephesians, P. T. O'Brien on Hebrews, Karen Jobes on 1-3 John, Greg Beale on Revelation; Paul Helm, James Anderson, Greg Welty, Paul Manata, and Guillaume Bignon on philosophical objections to Calvinism. 

A parallel example is Catholics who get their information, not from reading Catholic academics, Bible scholars, and church historians, but outfits like Catholic Answers. 

Likewise, many atheists get their arguments from hack atheists. 

Monday, May 04, 2020

OT "slavery"

Ending of Mark

James Anderson presuppositional apologetics interview

What is sola scriptura about?

Catholic apologists routinely raise uncomprehending objections to sola scriptura. In fairness, this isn't entirely their fault. During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, both sides were making things up on the fly, so there's room for improvement. We can refine our positions and tighten our formulations.

1. Sola scriptura is a two-stage principle: the fundamental principle concerns the primacy of divine revelation. Nothing is higher than or equal to the authority of divine revelation/communication.

In the context of sola scriptura, divine revelation means public revelation. Revelation for the church. Obligatory for God's people. As distinguished from private topical revelation.

That by itself isn't sola scriptura. There are phases in redemptive history where revelation was oral as well as written.

2. Sola scriptura is an extension of the primary principle (the primacy of public revelation): the era of public revelation is past. The record of public revelation is only found in Scripture. Indeed, Scripture was written for posterity. Certain things committed to posterity because we no longer have public revelation and memory is too unreliable and subject to manipulation.

3. Notice that sola scripture is an abstract principle. Sola scriptura is a claim about the status of the Bible but not a claim about the content of the Bible or how we know the content of the Bible. It could be expressed in conditional terms: If the Gospel of John is Scripture, then it outranks uninspired sources.

4. We might compare sola scriptura to the rules of poker. The rules of poker are about the nature of poker, but they're not about a particular game of poker. They don't describe or predict any particular game of poker. The rules of poker are norms that dictate what's permissible or impermissible in poker, but they don't tell you how many cards are still in the deck halfway through the game or which players hold which cards, or which players have a winning hand or losing hand or if a player has a gun up his sleeve.

5. To illustrate the point, imagine a parallel universe in which all the books of the canon are different. But that wouldn't invalidate the principle of sola scriptura since the principle operates at a more abstract level: the primacy of revelation. In a parallel universe, the revelatory books might all be different from the Protestant canon, but the principle remains the same. It's just that the parallel universe has an alternate religious history.

DOJ intervenes against communal worship restrictions

Annihilation and infant damnation

There are roughly three positions on hell:

A. Infernalism

On this view, eschatological punishment is never-ending. The damned suffer conscious eternal misery. 

B. Universalism

On this view, hell has a back door. Everyone will be saved in this life or the afterlife, although some may have to suffer remedial posthumous punishment to be saved.

C. Annihilationism

The impenitent will cease to exist. In principle, they could simply pass into oblivion when they die and that's it. That would dovetail nicely with physicalism. 

However, the Bible has a doctrine of the general resurrection, so annihilationists need to tack that on somewhere. The solution is to say the impenitent will be physically restored at the general resurrection, then annihilated. It's an ad hoc harmonization but the best they can do given the hand they dealt themselves. 

1. A related issue is the final fate of those who die below the age of reason. Because Infernalism is historically the dominant position, there's a traditional debate about whether some who died below the age of reason experience eternal misery.

However, as annihilationism gains grounds in nominally evangelical circles, that raises a parallel question in annihilationist eschatology regarding those who die before the age of reason. For instance:

Blake Giunta “Does Paul think all Jews who stay Jews are judged sinners and condemned to hell?” I answer: YES. Does this commit me to saying all children are likewise condemned? No. (Long discussion.) Moreover, I’m an annihilationist so I don't really mind saying they go to hell–i.e. punishment unto outer darkness. (E.g. I suspect my 6 month old would go to hell. It’s just that, unlike sinful adults who will first consciously suffer God’s just punishment/wrath prior to annihilation, innocent children like my son Luke would simply and immediate go right back to non-existence without pain. On my model, God has good reason to do this, and does no wrong because God does not owe Luke any more existence than he was already gifted.) 

2. That raises a number of questions. Blake doesn't seem to view annihilationism for those who die before the age of reason as punitive. The principle, rather, is that God never owes them existence in the first place, so God doesn't wrong them by not prolonging their existence. 

3. Does Blake think this is what happens to everyone who dies before the age of reason? It isn't punitive with a view to what they'd do if they grew up? It's not about their counterfactual future. 

4. God may have no obligation to initiate their existence, but having done so, does he assume a responsibility to and for rational creatures if he makes them? For instance, I may have no obligation to father a child, but having fathered a child, do I not thereby assume a parental duty to the child I fathered? Is there a duty to carry through with what I  began? 

Let's say I don't own my son existence, but I father a son anyway. At that stage, do I have the prerogative to make him revert to prenatal nonexistence, as if he never existened in the first place? 

One problem is that it isn't really a rollback the status quo ante, but a positive loss. My son now had the experience of conscious existence. So he has something to lose.

5. It seems to mean human existence has no inherent value. They don't exist, then they do exist, then they cease to exist. Their existence or nonexistence is entirely arbitrary. Like putting them in a time machine and sending them back to before they existed. Like flipping a coin. 

6. It seems to make creation gratuitous, as if there's no purpose for their existence. Like evolutionary dead-ends. Take the child who dies in a spontaneous miscarriage. On the annihilationist view, his existence simply terminates at that point. There's no intermediate state. No general resurrection for him. It was just a glitch. It arbitrarily ends at that point.