Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A convergence of our two positions

NAL (from the Atheist Experience) has made an astonishing assertion:

The evidence for evolution does not depend, even a little, on observing macroevolution directly.
This is a brilliant escape hatch. I keep asking for observed evidence that would support Darwinism and all I get is references to the fossil record and assumptions that natural selection and mutations could over time cause lizards to turn into birds. I mean, hey, after all, mice evolve thicker fur over time!

So I'm gratified to see this admission. Science requires observing stuff happen, experimenting on it, and then trying to draw justified conclusions based on those observations. Maybe others disagree, but hey, NAL has an atheist blog and is apparently among the most fundamentalist of atheists! What do you got?

And it's great that NAL and I both agree that Darwinism is unscientific. It's always nice to find common ground.

Naturalism as alchemy

Yep, it's another comparison post, this time with G-man.

Tell you what, G-man - We need to take an example and examine the role/bounds of science based on it.
Example: The resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I don't know what you think about the various counterexplanations of that event, but IMHO they are all worse than lame. But they all have one thing in common - they strive to provide a naturalistic explanation for an event that is supernatural.

Science and God:

If science just concerns itself with physical phenomena, then seeking any explanations other than naturalistic ones would be overstepping boundaries.

Here's the deal - science should concern itself with physical phenomena AND NOTHING ELSE. But the problem we have is not scientific, it's philosophical.
Scientists can't run a lab experiment on the question of science's limits. It's a metaphysical question.
So I don't have a problem if science seeks naturalistic explanations, since that's all it can do! But I reject scientism, where science is seen as the only way to discover truth, or even the best way. It may be the best way to discover SOME truths, but in other arenas it's worse than worthless.

A theist might approach a particularly puzzling case and trumpet the folly of "assuming" a naturalistic explanation exists.

You wouldn't catch me doing that.
The exception is when God has said He did something. Like the resurrection, or the creation of the universe and life on earth in its fully-developed form. Try to apply pitifully limited naturalistic methodologies and instrumentation in order to "find the truth" (translation - prove God wrong), then we have a problem.

Trusting science: (slightly out of order)

Rhology seems to think this is childlike faith. It strikes me as a solid foundation.

What I'm saying is that I'd describe my own faith the same way.

In the past, murder mysteries have had natural explanations.

Of course, nobody's disputing that murders are performed by people or by rare bizarre (natural) accidents.
This is a terrible example since it's not under dispute.
Let's talk in terms of the Resurrection. Bring forward your best naturalistic explanation for it and let's see how well it does.

Alchemy has been shown to be not-valid.

Agreed, but you refuse to make the application, which is amazing.
A naturalistic theory of origins is alchemy, yet you don't think it's been proven invalid. Given enough time and the mix of the right chemicals, non-life becomes life. Medieval alchemists thought that, given enough time and the right mix of chemicals, tin becomes gold. What's the difference? Naturalism requires MUCH more complicated accomplishments, but at least there's several billion yrs to work with.

Life arising from non-life is not a case of values turning "into their opposites,

Ah, so "life" and "non-life" are not opposites? Come on.


He will find many answers to abiogenesis-related questions

Looked over your link. Pathetic. You're still ASSUMING it can happen; you've never observed it.
There's "complex organic molecules" and there's life. This is what I mean when I say promissory materialism.

A connect-the-dots puzzle begins to form if a link is hypothesized from amino acids to RNA to DNA etc

That's a huge assumption. And another example of alchemy - here you posit that randomness can become complex, specified order, just given enough time. You're cracking me up here.

"Lab science is also unqualified to make judgments on things that happened in the past, but that fact hasn't stopped it from doing so."
Direct your attention, please, to the Talk Origins response to this (apparently typical) claim.

Yes, read it. It doesn't even address my question. Maybe G-man linked to the wrong article.

The single biggest problem for "intelligent design," I would argue, is its vagueness.

ID makes no statement on the identity of the Designer.
To say it does is an egregious strawman. It is a methodology to detect the marks of design.

A hypothesis that is supported by every potential evidence does not help us narrow down what the real explanation might be.

Blow up ID's ideas about irreducible complexity and provide detailed Darwinian pathways for the formations of some of their prime examples and you're there - you've falsified it! Won't happen, but have fun trying. Many already have; I'm not impressed by what I've seen thus far.
And natural selection is much better described as a hypothesis that is supported by every potential evidence.

Occam's Razor:

Consider two theories of planet movement: Rhology proposes that God moves the planets

God is the fundamental cause, but He uses natural means, forces, momentum, centripetal force, etc, to accomplish this.
But He is the "uniter" of all of those forces. Your worldview has to believe in these massively unlikely coincidences - and all agree that they are unlikely, as opposed to trying to assign likelihood to the statement "God exists", which is bogus.

I side with Isaac Newton.

Who was a theist.

The problem with proposing the supernatural is that it is separate from the natural.

Begging the question in favor of naturalism. Occam's Razor proposes nothing of the sort.

Evolution and mutation:

A more commonly accepted theory is that dinosaur-like animals evolved into birds.

Fine. Dinosaur-like animals, lizards, close enough. Dinosaur = "terrible lizard". Can we please just continue the conversation?

I pointed out that the process of microevolution is an accumulatory process.

And it's never been observed to turn one kind of organism into another kind.
Oh, but it will!!!! I'm sure of it. Otherwise the Darwinian Bible would be wrong, but we all know that's impossible!

No mechanism exists to halt or reverse the changes

None that you know of. But you can't prove such a negative statement. And it's far more reasonable to assume one is since such changes have never been observed.

Until such a mechanism is proposed, we must believe the changes accumulate over time and result in new species.

Yes, I know you must believe it. It's just sad to see such blind faith. But I'll give you this - at least you don't blow up buildings for your faith. OTOH, you naturalists generally give the all-clear for murdering babies, and alot of them at that! Come to think of it, you don't get any credit for that.

Mutations occur each generation. Most mutations are neutral; some are harmful. The harmful mutations kill off those with the mutations.

Great, that's just wonderful. Now provide some evidence that they cease being MICE at some point.

New species eventually become new families; "lizards" become birds.

I love the absolutely tremendous leap performed here. I hope you stretched out and warmed up before you attempted that!
Let me attempt a similar one - I've observed that my bosom burns from time to time while I'm thinking spiritual thoughts. Joseph Smith must be a prophet!!!!!!

I wish I knew what exactly he was referring to, because this is such a big issue.

DNA is a volume of information on how to build an organism that is not just a mass of useless tissue. You assume that this developed from unordered randomness. Alchemy.

His stance in the comment I'm responding to suggests he thinks of fossils as mere dusty bones. However, fossils have growth rings.

Henry Gee's In Search of Deep Time disagrees with you. I'd commend it to you. I believe the sr editor of Nature mag before I believe an anonymous blogger.

In closing, G-man would have us believe that naturalism will one day find all these answers. He would have us hold to patently absurd ideas and alchemy. Order comes out of non-order, given enough time. Life comes out of non-life, given enough time. Birds come out of lizards, given enough time. His naturalist compatriots like to have laughs at the expense of blind foolish fundies. I'll go ahead and enjoy a few of my own at the bizarre doctrine that is modern naturalism.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Promissory materialism is not falsifiable

Let me give credit where credit is due for this very interesting statement:

...you may argue with an atheist about something such as the intricacies of an information usage, storage, retrieval, and reproducible system such as DNA. You may point out that such as system has never been seen to spontaneously appear in nature, nor gradually develop in nature, nor in laboratories. They will respond that given enough time such a system could develop. Thus, given enough time anything can happen.

They will also conjure a non-disprovable concept that states that since materialism is true, given enough time scientists will, no doubt, be able to explain everything by materialistic means. This means that they feel free to claim that science now means that they can believe in something for which there is no proof because they have faith that someday it will be proven true—in a year, a decade, a century, a millennia, etc.
Materialists like to make a big deal out of making sure that statements are falsifiable. Well, is the boldfaced statement falsifiable? How?
If not,
1) it knocks down the priority of falsifiability for these types of metaphysical statements, and
2) the "God of the gaps" argument is diminished in its power.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Flying Lizards with Big Beaks that Eat Seeds

I've been asked why I don't accept peppered moths or finch beaks as evidence for Darwinian mechanisms.
There are quite a few reasons for the finches. Maybe I'll talk about the moths some other time.
First, though, I'd like to note that talk.origins (an oft-referred-to resource for Darwinism online) discusses the finches, so let's look at some representative quotes:

A) Darwin's Finches remain one of the best examples of adaptive radiation in the literature of evolutionary biology.

Let's see how much they beg the question. This admission is pretty funny to me.
The evidence better be impressive, since there's all this overwhelming evidence, as we all know.

B) the Galapagos finches were a new group strictly confined to the Galapagos

For this to be worth any explanatory power, it would have to assume that the finches diverged from a different population at some point in history. What's the argument for that, I wonder?

C) if the droughts had continued, say one every ten years, then a trend of increased beak size due to selection would be predicted.
That's a big "if".
And you don't know where the beaks were originally or what the finches looked like beforehand.

D) The climate of the Galapagos has not remained stable over the last 50,000 years.

Geological strata and such can only tell you so much about weather patterns.
Again, you don't know where the finches started.
What about before that?
If it wasn't stable, why wouldn't we think that there would be an effect that swings back and forth but usually tends to return back to the equilibrium?

E) We can see from this, coupled with what we know about how fast selection can influence beak size, that there was more than enough time for significant directional change to occur.
This is a huge assumption - the Darwinian modus operandi. I love it.
For one thing, I'm pretty sure that not all Darwinians agree that such would be nearly enough time.
The big assumption is that more than beak size would be affected over a greater amount of time, that the finches with huge or tiny beaks would eventually evolve into, I don't know, a mammal or something. But the argument for how that occur and the evidence that it HAS occurred is sorely lacking. What we have here is a change in BEAK SIZE.

F) Are species defined "strictly by inability to interbreed"? Not by any species concept commonly used today.
But there is no one agreed-upon definition of "species", so I don't see what the objection to what the ID scientist said could be.

Now, for a few what I would call admissions in the article:

-In fact, the climate seems to oscillate between drought and plenty of rain, creating a kind of equilibrium.

-(Jonathan Wells, an ID proponent) also notes: "Some sort of long-term trend would have to be superimposed on the back-and-forth oscillations to produce long-term change."
(exactly my point)

So in the final analysis, the finches are pitifully bad examples of Darwinian mechanisms because:
1) Variations in the beak sizes over time were observed. Bigger to smaller to bigger to smaller.
2) The finches are still FINCHES. The evidence for which I'm asking would be more along the lines of "We have evidence that amoebae evolved into finches" or "We have evidence that finches evolved into rodents" or whatever silly thing birds are supposed to be evolving into these days. I don't see why assuming that these changes might lead to a different kind of animal in the future is warranted, especially since no such thing has ever been observed. I'm just trying to keep science pure science here, people.
3) I wonder where evidence for these miraculous and essential (and virtually non-existent) naturally-occurring beneficial mutations that will cause the big jump into non-finch-hood is?
4) Hybrid "species" occur in the wild as well.
5) All of the facts that talk.origins or anyone else I've seen so far wants to count as evidence for their Darwinian position are accounted for just as well (if not better) in a Young-Earth Creation model, global flood or no global flood. I'm looking for something that would shoot down a YEC model in favor of, for example, Darwinian ideas, not something that's shaky in a Darwinian framework and easily explainable in a creationist framework. I think you've got it backwards there.

"Yeah, that's right, ya stupid fundie! Goddidit!!!"

Perhaps you could make an argument for why "naturalisticDarwinianmechanismsdidit!!!" is a better answer.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Two Creation Stories in Genesis

On the last installment of a webradio show featuring a presuppositionalist apologist (Gene Cook of Unchained Radio) debating an atheist, AntonBatey, on the existence of God, I thought I'd throw in one of those tiny little YouTube comment responses to Batey's assertion that the two creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 are contradictory.

Keep in mind how YouTube comments are - there is a character limit so no comment can be very long. It's frustrating because you can't really get anything useful done in such a format, but it can lead to larger things like a blog entry. Not much larger, but there's not much of a character limit here.
I'll tackle two types of contradictions I've heard alleged in the past, one of which appears in our conversation.
Once finished I'll probably go ahead and post a link to this on AntonBatey's YouTube user page. I'm not sure how well posting a link on vid comments works on YouTube.
First, the passage in question:

Genesis 1:11And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth." And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.


20And God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens." 21So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.

24And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. 25And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
27So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
...And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 2:
1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
The Creation of Man and Woman
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created,in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.

5When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.
18Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." 19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

Alleged contradiction #1 - follows this conversation.

AntonBatey: ...The Bible is not historically accurate either, as the first two chapters of Genesis contradict each other.
Me: How do they contradict each other? Would you be interested in a brief blog conversation on that topic?

AntonBatey: The order of creation is contradictory. Chapter 1 says animals were made first, then humans simultaneously, then Chapter 2 says clearly that Adam was make, THEN animals, and then Eve die to Adam's boredom. (No, I don't know what he means by that last phrase.)
Me: Where does the text rule out the animals in Chapter 2 just being one animal per kind, created *again* for Adam to name?

AntonBatey: Because it doesn't say that, lol. It's pretty clear. Chapter 1 says in verse 24 that "THEN God" made the animals, and verse 26 says "THEN God" made man and woman simultaneously, and then Chapter 2 comes along and claims in verse 7 that God took the dust from the ground and made man, verse 18 says "THEN " God made "every wild animal", and verse 22 says, "the LORD God THEN" made Eve. It's clear, man.
Me: So the answer is "it doesn't rule it out," then?
What makes your 'clarification' necessarily the case? Why couldn't it go either way?

AntonBatey: No, it does rule it out. Notice it kept saying "THEN", an adverb that indicates order. Well, the "order" is contradictory. So no, it's not possible what you proposed.
Me: Great, it says THEN. But the stories are different, different foci.
The narrative doesn't continue on to Chapter 2.
And you still haven't proved that these animals in Ch 2 aren't just MORE animals.

AntonBatey: But Chapter 2 says "every" animal.
Me: "Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man"
So He did it again, after the 1st creation.
Good try, thanks for playing.

AntonBatey: So was there two Adam and Eves then too? By your line of reasoning, there would have to be. Also, you're clearl just making up what you're saying, and you're aware that the text doesn't say what you're saying.
Me: eh, this is too short a format. I'll post a link tomorrow.

AntonBatey: You can't sum it up? The text is very obvious. They give two different accounts.
AntonBatey: And as you quoted, Chapter 2 says "every" animal was created, which means Chapter 2 is reverting back to creation.

Before I delve into these, I remind the reader of the rules for proving a contradiction: here and this:
Those who would point out a "contradiction" in the Bible usually forget a couple of things:
1) NO harmonisation can be possible for the scenario to qualify as a contradiction.
2) An author doesn't often completely lose his total train of thought just a few chapters later after writing something.
The account in ch 2 is a telescoping and amplification of certain elements of the account in ch 1. It focuses on different things, different aspects of the issue, as I argued above.

Apart from the unintentional and ironic humor of an atheist attempting to exegete Scripture, does Anton's argument answer the resolutions I raised? Does the "then" in ch 2 necessarily mean a contradiction?
V. 7 describes the formation of the man, on Day 6.
Vv. 8-9 describe the creation of the garden and the trees in it.
Vv. 10-17 describe the location of the garden and the command not to eat of certain trees.
Vv. 18-20 describes God bringing the animals before Adam.
But look at the vagueness of the text: "And out of the ground the LORD God had formed" or "...the LORD God formed..." It says nothing about WHEN they were formed. Why would this necessarily have to be an action that directly followed the creation of the man? It doesn't.
Even if I granted that it did have to be thus, this does not rule out a 2nd act of creation out of dust, God bringing the animals created in the 2nd go-round before Adam (as opposed to rounding up all the animals that He had created the day before or whenever this was - the text doesn't tell us on what day the events in ch 2 occur besides the creation of man).

Anton then argued that it would mean that there were 2 Adam and Eves. I don't know why he'd say 2 Eves, but why can't the ch 2 account amplify the more barebones account of ch 1? Such does not necessarily follow from the text, so the attempt to prove a contradiction has failed. Again.
Perhaps Anton would let us know why he thinks there would have to be 2.

Alleged contradiction #2 - On Day 3, God created the plants and such in Ch 1, but it says "no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up" in Ch 2, and then the man is created.

Answer: The context informs us that ch 2 is speaking of bushes and plants of the field. The text continues: "for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground" (emph mine).
The plants that had sprung up by that time were wild plants, not of the kind that would require cultivation by a man. Whence came those cultivated plants later on? The text doesn't say, but that is irrelevant to the charge of contradiction. Perhaps they were adapted to require intensive efforts of cultivation after the fall, where God cursed the ground, causing man to have to eat his bread "by the sweat of his brow".

Please consider the combox restricted to discussions of the text ONLY. Comments related to off-topic issues will not be deleted, just ignored.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Two more Scriptural thoughts on worship

1) We've already seen that David Bryan believes it's wrong to murder someone, even if you have good intentions in doing so. Quite so.
He explains why:
No, because there's no way to kill an innocent man honorably. There's no way to worship a false god righteously. There is, however, a way to bow down to mere humans and honor them in righteousness, as attested to by Scripture, without it being a sin.
Deuteronomy 4:15-18

15"So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire,
16so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
17the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky,
18the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth.

What's the definition of a graven image here? "The form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth."
Presumably, something like this, which David Bryan linked to.

2) Numbers 21:6-9

6The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
7So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people.
8Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live."
9And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
2 Kings 18:1-6

Hezekiah the son of Ahaz king of Judah became king.
2He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem; and his mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.
3He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done.
4He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan (ie, a piece of bronze).
5He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.
6For he clung to the LORD; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the LORD had commanded Moses.

God commanded that bronze serpent be constructed, for a good reason, to save and to serve as a figure of Jesus Christ, to which Jesus Himself alluded.
Yet it became the object of religious piety for the Israelites, and God commended its destruction by Hezekiah, mentioning it in the same breath as the destruction of the high places and the Asherim.

-But Rhology, the Israelites' intentions were not pure, while ours are!

Just like in the example of the golden calf, something that God meant for good is twisted to evil by man. It's a common tale.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some Scriptural thoughts on intention

A few more thoughts on God directing how He shall be worshiped:

Isaiah 8:19-20
19When they say to you, "Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter," should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?

20To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.

1) Why would we assume that these who would consult mediums and spiritists did NOT have good intentions?
2) Note God does not refer the people to "their God and His holy ones who have died" or anything of the kind. This would have been a perfect time.
3) "Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?" is a fairly general, blanket statement. The answer is of course no - we should consult God. Which is the position I'm advocating.

Exodus 32:1-10

1Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

2Aaron said to them, "Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me."

3Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.

4He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt."

5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD."

6So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

7Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.

8"They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'"

9The LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.

10"Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation."

1) The people's intentions as stated were not to forsake the Lord, just Moses who had disappeared for a while.
2) Note the golden calf is referred to as "your god, O Israel, who brought you up..." It's representing God.
3) Note Aaron says that the next day would be a feast day unto the Lord.

Leviticus 10:1-3

1Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.

2And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

3Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying,
'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,
And before all the people I will be honored.'"
So Aaron, therefore, kept silent.

Exodus 25:10-15

10"They shall construct an ark of acacia wood two and a half cubits long, and one and a half cubits wide, and one and a half cubits high.

11"You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and you shall make a gold molding around it.

12"You shall cast four gold rings for it and fasten them on its four feet, and two rings shall be on one side of it and two rings on the other side of it.

13"You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold.

14"You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, to carry the ark with them.

15"The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be removed from it.
Here God gives instruction for how the Ark of the Covenant shall be transported. And the consequence of disobeying with good intention:

2 Samuel 6:2-7

2And David arose and went with all the people who were with him to Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the Name, the very name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned above the cherubim.

3They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart.

4So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark.

5Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals.

6But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it.

7And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God.

Uzzah's intention appears to have been to steady the ark and to keep it from falling. What a terrible thing to have the ark fall over!
And yet the Lord struck out in anger and wrath over the breaking of His instruction, despite the good intentions of David, Uzzah himself, no doubt the guys who lent the oxen and cart, the people in the procession, etc.


I asked: Then why act like you are [worshipping the icon]?

David Bryan said: Actually, we're simply honoring a man worthy of honor--something St. Paul tells us to do--in a way that was perfectly acceptable and normal for someone in St. Paul's day. We just happen to be using a tool (and that's all it is) to help us to do this bodily.

David Bryan said: Take it up with OT Israel, who gave "worshipful actions" to King David. Intentions, sir, are everything. As Orthodox has said, "What you can distinguish outwardly is not the issue."

David Bryan said: Because the distinction is made within the heart of the Christian. No Orthodox I've ever met thinks we're worshiping the wood and paint, period. We do these things, basically, because it's a physical, bodily way in which we can honor the one depicted. We do these things to the image because the one depicted is not there as s/he was in this life to receive the honor.

Acts 10:24-26
24On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends.

25When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him.

26But Peter raised him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am just a man."

Revelation 22:8-9

8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.

9But he said to me, "Do not do that I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God."

Equivocating on iconic terminology

That's the theme of our EO-dox friends' latest set of defenses for their practice of praying to dead people.

Orthodox appears to want to put us in a situation where we are to tell God that the distinctions He makes in His revealed Word are to be judged relevant or irrelevant based on a more modern vocabulary.
I'd like to see the argument for that, 1st of all.

The reason that such distinctions are made in the 1st place is to justify the behavior of rendering worshipful actions of religious piety to someone other than the One True God. As a monotheist, it stands to reason that one would need to come up with a reason why such is not prohibited, especially since Exodus 20:5 makes it clear that we are to bow down to no one other than God, and yet here they are bowing down to someone other than God.

Ex 20:5 - you shall not worship (bow down to) them nor serve them.
God discusses His wrath and visiting the iniquity on children, etc.
In Heb, shachah is "worship" or "bow down" and `abad is "to serve".

Yet the LXX translates `abad as latreuo and douleo (out of which come latria and dulia in Latin) both. So here we are forbidden to "`abad" anyone other than God.

Let's see some other psgs where that is the case.

Ex 23:33 - they shall not live in your land... for if you serve their gods, it will be a snare
`abad here is LXX douleo.

Deut 28:64 - there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, etc
`abad here is LXX douleo.

Judg 10:10 - we have served other Baals
`abad here is LXX douleo. Would anyone argue that this is not idolatry?
I can hear it now: "Lord we didn't give latria to the Baals, we just gave them dulia."

In the Heb mindset, you can't worship him whom you don't serve.
You can't separate it out biblically. That's why the LXX doesn't just use latreuo or douleo; the Hebrew term is richer than that.

1 Sam 7:3 - remove the foreign gods... serve Him alone
`abad here is LXX douleo.

1 Kings 9:6 - serve other gods and worship them
Both appear.

Ex 4:23, Ex 12:31, Ex 23:24, Deut 4:19, the list goes on.

The NT likewise shows no hint of the distinction.
Rom 14:18 - does service to Christ not involve worship? douleo
Gal 4:8 - when you did not know God you were slaves to those which by nature were no gods. douleo
So these Galatians were not involved in idolatry? It would've been OK to serve those gods, just not worship them?

Col 3:24 - it is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Is this less than latria?

1 Thess 1:9 - you turned from idols to serve a living and true God. douleo
Is he not saying you turned from idolatry to true worship?

The disturbing part of all this is the attempted separation of what Orthodox is defending and what Scripture teaches is wrong.
I'll illustrate by way of comparison:

Exodus 20:15 - you shall not steal.

In Hebrew, the word is "ganab".
In the LXX, ganab is translated "foneuseis" and these words have a similar usage to "klepto" in Grk, which is often used by the NT to express the same idea.
Several 100s of years after the time of Christ and the time of the writing of the NT, the argument could go like this:
"Yes, the property 'belonged' to a brother in Christ, but you know, we all hold all things in common like the book of Acts says. I didn't steal it from him, you see. He may want it back and accuse me of stealing it from him, and yes, I have it and he never explicitly gave me permission to remove it from his property, but that's OK. We're all free in Christ, and we don't use the word 'steal' the same way anyway."

I'd like to know the difference between the two situations.

As I've said before, when you ask a dead person to pray for you, you light candles, kneel and prostrate yourself before an icon, kiss the icon, burn incense, and pray at the icon. These are worshipful actions. These are actions that God has reserved for Himself in the Old Testament. Is man left up to the task of determining what is right worship before God, or does God determine that for us?
It is simple ad hoc equivocation to say that one can "proskuneo" before an image of a dead person, light candles, burn incense, and pray to them. Prayer is a worshipful action. Bowing down is a worshipful action, as in Exodus 20:5.

It has been argued from 1 Chronicles 29:20 that one can "shachah" King David as well.
The context of the passage is a worshipful action to the LORD Himself. The very next verse says:

"And they sacrificed sacrifices unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings unto the LORD, on the morrow after that day, [even] a thousand bullocks, a thousand rams, [and] a thousand lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel..."

The LORD is set apart as divine. Bowing down to the king is normal practice for rulers of those times, who were ALIVE. It's just showing honor to him, much like 1 Peter 2:17 tells us to do.
Is there so little separation between the divine and the human?

Orthodox said:
They were smart enough to know which is which, and give each his own due, yet outwardly to the casual bystander couldn't see any difference.

Of course they knew the difference. But why didn't they just go ahead and sacrifice bulls and calves to the king as well? Why didn't they build an altar to the king as well and sprinkle it with the blood of sacrifices, and offer burnt offerings to him as well? I mean, they would've known the difference, right?

Orthodox said:
Gen. 25:23 "And the older shall serve(dulia) the younger.”

Is the context the worship of God vs idolatry in Genesis 25?

How is it relevant that the king is alive?

B/c it is customary to honor the king like that.
The Bible leaves no room to doing the same to DEAD PEOPLE. The only way dead people can be "contacted", it is thought, it spiritually. Yet spiritually is where God wants our devotion and has delineated the limits for spiritual activity. Why not just follow those limits?

-Do you ask Christians to pray for you, wasting time that could have been spent praying to God directly?
-What about "Brother Fred, please pray that God provides for my family"?
-Of course the word "pray" is simply the English word for a request.
-"Alan, I entreat you to make intercession for me". "Alan, I pray that you make intercession for me". "Alan, I pray that you pray for me".
-There, I just prayed to you, and no worship was involved. Oh, and I did it silently by candlelight.
-I think Alan WAS praying to a living saint, as he wrote this. We are living saints, and he prayed to us.

This is a brilliant set of equivocations from our EO-dox friends.
The issue is clear and you're playing word games with the word "pray".
The question is: Do you do ALL OF the things to another human who is LIVING that you do to DEAD humans? I know you don't, please don't insult my intelligence. Why don't you do all of these things to LIVING members of your church?

I ascribe non-human abilities to my dog. It doesn't mean I worship my dog.

More equivocation. As if ascribing less than human abilities is the same as ascribing MORE than human abilities.

I turn on lights all the time. Doesn't mean I'm worshipping something.

More equivocation.
I think the savvy reader can see what's happening here. Is flipping a light switch in your home comparable to going to church, bowing before an icon of a dead person, lighting a candle, and praying inaudibly to them, expecting them to hear?

The priest burns incense for the living all the time.

That's not what I said, though. I said "burning incense TO them", not "for" them.

RHOLOGY: 3) From your perspective, what changed after Christ's coming, that people began to be able to intercede for others though dead?

ORTHODOX: As Hebrews says when speaking of the Old Testament Saints, "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40). In Hebrews 12, it goes on to contrast the nature of the Old Covenant (12:18ff) with that of the New (12:22ff)—and among the distinctions he makes, he says that in the New Covenant we "are come unto... the spirits of just men made perfect (12:22-23). In Matt. 27:52 "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised".

I'll leave it to the reader to decide how relevant that is.
Did no one rise from the dead in the OT?

David Bryan offered his thoughts as well:
there's no way to kill an innocent man honorably.

I think we've seen that there's no way to give worshipful action to anyone other than God in a religious context honorably as well.
That was the point.

There's no way to worship a false god righteously.

I'd really like to know this: Why not?

intention plays no part because the action itself is always sinful.

But what if I intend good by murdering or by worshiping the false god?
(I'm not trying to be a jerk here, I really do think this is relevant b/c assertions like these beg the question of whether dulia-ing dead people is sinful or not.)

We just happen to be using a tool (and that's all it is) to help us to do this bodily.

That's not all, though.
I have a real problem with your arguments, b/c the main part of the problem with bowing down to dead people is the CONTEXT in which you do it. Removing the context from it to argue that it's OK doesn't really address the question.

R: Could an OT Israelite have used this same defense?

DB: No, because the mercy seat in the Temple was empty.

Hmm, but only the priests could see that.

God was invisible

God the Father is still invisible - 1 Tim 6:16.
And I'm not talking about icons of CHRIST here, I'm talking about icons of DEAD PEOPLE.
Your explanation misses the point, I'm afraid.

this is not what we do when we honor beloved members of Christ's body

You never ask for insight from any dead person? Seriously?

If he sees this image as being in and of itself worthy of worship as a divine thing, or of Moses as worthy of worship as a divine person in and of himself, he needs to be condemned.

The OT doesn't make the distinction you make, though.

Nor is there one in my icon corner.

There are quite a few in your churches.

But at least acknowledge that there's a difference between intercessory prayer and tearing down the enmity between God and man in your very flesh and blood…

OK, point taken. This point may be more relevant to a RC, who believes in the thesaurus meritorium and Mary as Co-Redemptrix and such.

But, again, that's a one-sided conversation; it's not like they're going to start prophesying through the icon if we do…

You believe they do other things, though.
This claim seems a bit disingenuous.

God didn't make death. Man separated himself from his Life. Death was the natural consequence of this and has been healed eschatalogically through Christ.

But we're not in the end state. You forgot the "not yet" of the already/not yet of the resurrection and the eschaton.
You don't want to make the same mistake as the Full Preterist!

We don't expect corpses to talk, though. So that's odd you'd mention it.

Of course not. The person is DEAD. There's a separation that occurs.

4) proscribed communication with the dead.

Which is why we simply petition them.

More equivocation.

there is no such thing as a "living saint," because he's still alive and capable of apostasy. So that's a moot point.

Such an explanation is at great odds with the New Testament usage of the word.

How did he know they were still lost? For that matter, how did Abraham know about Moses and the Prophets if those in heaven are so completely cut off from earthly goings on?

He could have just assumed it. Who knows how long after death this conversation occurred?
The point about Abraham is possibly a good one, though.
My initial reaction is that the place where Lazarus was is called "Abraham's bosom", implying Abraham had some responsibility over it or something like that. And of course Moses and the Prophets are dead already at that point as well and God's revelation is eternal and will, I have little doubt, be part of the contents of the praise songs that heaven-dwellers will sing to God for all time.

I guess you could say that it's not so much a question of "are the departed really dead" as it is a question of "is a Christian in this world really 'alive'?"

There's a reason, though, why the Bible refers to physical death as "death".
The separation is a true separation. God is the One Who said not to communicate across its threshold from our side to theirs. Whether they communicate from their side is another question.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Icons continued

Well, since David Bryan linked to a recent post on icons not long ago in his return to the blogosphere, I'll go ahead and get back on the topic since I have some time and a little motivation, borrowed from God-knows-where.

Orthodox said:
How does our differentiating the two (latria and dulia) excuse you for lexical fallacies?

B/c the transparent teaching of the OT is NOT to fall down before images. You do so. Your excuse partly consists of pleading a difference between latria and dulia. The lexical differentiation is disproved by the OT itself. It's idolatry.

We differentiate the two because we believe they should be differentiated

But you're *supposed* to hold to beliefs that are in harmony with Scriptural teaching. Since the OT does NOT differentiate, what is your explanation for the differentiation?

MAYBE you would have an argument if you related it to the PRACTICE, not to the words.

Your problem is that your practice is undistinguishable from the pagan idolatry condemned in the OT. The words are YOUR refuge, not mine.

I'm not aware that we can force the saints in heaven to stand on a pedestal.

The icons are on pedestals and hung on walls.

it's quite common for the priest or bishop to pray from a small pedestal.

Do you pray TO the priest? Inaudibly? At the expense of time you could be spending praying to God?

I fail to see how the communication method is indicative of worship or not worship.

1) Ascribing non-human inabilities to these dead people (ie, hearing you when you pray silently)
2) Falling down before them
3) Lighting candles to them
4) burning incense to them
5) addressing THEM in prayer
God reserves the right to define how He will be worshiped. He has condemned such things, so why not stick with what is not condemned? I'm not even arguing for the Regulative Principle of Worship or anythg, just don't commit idolatry!

I'm communicating to you inaudibly right now, it doesn't mean I worship you.

You're typing and I can read.
This kind of equivocation does not inspire confidence that your argument is very strong.

They represent my prayers to God.

Brilliant, except you're not praying TO GOD. That's the problem.

Lots of ancient cultures communicated by light messages. Light a fire on a mountain top and send morse code.

Equivocation again.

Well, incense is burnt to the living during the church service while we pray. That counts, right?

That's its own question.
You're trying to communicate with dead people.

what exactly are the situations you would "ordinarily pray to God", but would NOT ask other Christians to pray for you

"Oh God, I repent of my sin."
"Oh God, please provide for me and my family."
I pray everything ***TO*** God. What I pray to God I don't ask from humans. I might tell them what I'm praying some or many times. It's not the same.
I'm not talking about asking people to pray for you. You're praying TO these dead people.
Equivocation again.

I guess because in OT times they were not yet able to intercede for us.

1) Your appeal to "tradition" doesn't do a lot for me.
2) Especially since the OT stands against it.
3) From your perspective, what changed after Christ's coming, that people began to be able to intercede for others though dead?

Do you follow all the OT laws?

How is that relevant?
I don't bow down to images or serve them, that's for sure.

David Bryan,

Good to see you back in the blog o' sphere, my friend.
It'll make me have to be more on my toes though. :-\

David Bryan said:
Because the distinction is made within the heart of the Christian.

Can I kill an innocent man w/ premeditation b/c my heart was pure?
Can I worship the Buddha even though my intentions are good?

No Orthodox I've ever met thinks we're worshiping the wood and paint, period

Then why act like you are?
Could an OT Israelite have used this same defense?

(skipping down a bit for a moment...)
He was not worshiping him; he was consulting him for information.

Hey, this is MY thought experiment! :-D He is INDEED worshiping the image. So, what do you say?

I've never asked the Theotokos for information about the future, other people's plans, prophetic insight, etc. I just ask her, as a member of the Body of Christ, to pray for me to God.

This is the exact defense that the OT Israelite gives in the thought experiment - he was dulia-ing his ancestor, not latria-ing him.
Is it your position that he would be exonerated? Should he be?

Same idea as why it's OK to honor the king as king with a bow

Said king is typically alive when you bow to him, isn't he?

1 Chronicles 29:20

But the king is ALIVE here, and nobody disputes the usage of the idiomatic "worship" for certain humans in authority.
But the image of a dead person, is that not the central question? There's not one in this psg.

Are you aware of any teaching in either the Roman or Eastern Church that states that a saint has...ontologically bridged the gap between the two, formerly-estranged natures?

I don't want to turn this into a debate on theosis, but no I'm not aware of any.
Nor do I honestly think that's very relevant, or more pointedly I'd say that it strengthens my argument either way.
I doubt you'd deny that you are praying TO this person, and then expecting this person to intercede for you with God. QED, and since these people are not God, it's even a more offensive notion.
'Course, if you thought they WERE God, you'd have another problem that starts with the letters L, D, and S...

Mediators in sense of some other hypostatic union? No.

You're just defining it away, but since God is the One Who defines how He shall be worshiped, I don't see why that should stand.
I'm not claiming you think these are God-men. You insist, however, in rendering to dead people what is due to God only - worshipful actions.

They are alive in God (Luke 20:37-38),

With respect, this is equivocation. You think God didn't know when He breathed out Deut 18 that dead people were alive in God? He still said it.

and we don't "call them up" expecting answers, which was the issue in the Old Testament.

You don't expect them to do anythg for you?
You don't expect the prayers to reach God, Who will then act out of love and generosity to answer?

Why should death, then, be a reason why one part of the Body cannot pray for another?

It's a separation put in place by God Himself.
1) made physical death a separation between living and dead people.
2) made it so that a corpse doesn't talk to a living person.
3) made it so that corpses appear to be asleep. And start rotting after a few days, much more quickly than the rot when I don't shower for a month.
4) proscribed communication with the dead.

They may be alive to God, but physical death DOES change a lot, you know. Once my wife dies, I am forbidden to have sexual intercourse with her corpse, right (not that I'd want to)? Once she dies, we're not even married, right?
If I pray to a living saint RIGHT NOW, by hanging an image of them in the church, lighting candles to the image, burning incense to the image, prostrating myself before the image, and asking the living saint thru the image to intercede with the Father for me inaudibly, is that OK? Why or why not?

In what way can Christ be said to have trampled down death by His death if this is the case?

B/c death is the last enemy and WILL BE conquered fully and finally at the Last Day.
Then all will be made fully alive with no difference, with imperishable bodies, and there will not be the appearance of separation in the Body of Christ. That hasn't happened yet and God has said that such activities are not licit forms of worshiping Him.

did you ask the person if he was doing these things as to a god or to a man?

In the middle of the EO Divine Liturgy? No, that wouldn't have been appropriate or respectful.

how would it be "bad" if God granted them this

This is like asking "Well, couldn't God have used evolution if He wanted to?"
Of course He "could" have, but I'm more interested in what He *has* said.

how is that "stealing God's thunder," since the "ability" comes from God?

B/c God is more interested than anything else in His own glory. Praying to others in a worshipful context apparently diminishes this. I can see why He thinks so.

I usually ask folks to pray for me while in church

This is equivocation.
I stated the conditions, describing (hopefully) nothing more nor less than what you do, and you're dicing it up and saying "Heck yeah, I do that." Do you do ALL THAT to the living? If not, why not?

Those departed this life are aware of what goes on down here

What is your evidence for that?

In Christ's tale of Lazarus, Abraham knew of Moses, who came after him, and the rich man knew his brothers remained lost on earth.

That proves that the rich man had memories of how it WAS, that he HAD brothers. Not that he knew events on earth that had occurred after he died.
Besides, this guy was in TORMENT, not in heaven, so that's very different than what you're trying to prove.

the martyrs under the altar are aware that their blood has not yet been avenged.

B/c the end had not come yet. That's not rocket science to them. ;-)

rejoice that the Holy Spirit would reveal to their holy hearts that I had unspoken burdens that are harming my soul and that they would, in response, pray for me

Fine if the *Holy Spirit* does that - He has not revealed in Scripture whether He does or doesn't. But you are forbidden from calling up the dead.

rejoice that God has seen fit, in his mercy, to assign me intercessors who, in addition to my own prayers to God, will lift theirs up to Him with me

No one's arguing that they are definitely not interceding for us. I'm saying that committing worshipful actions to them and communicating with the dead is proscribed. It's a fairly focused point; I was trying to be careful in this post.

Thanks for the time. Happy New Year!

Atheism is the usurpation of God's rule

Atheism leads to the man being his own little god. Reminds me of the maxim "Pantheism is atheism." It would seem that the converse is true as well.

I can't recall a better illustration of this than this comment from the anonymous atheist commenter.

I had asked:
-This brings up a question, Anonymous, if you're still around - how do you know who deserves to live and who doesn't?

He responds:

Simple. If you care about the person, the person deserves to live. Let those people who deserve to live, live. As for the rest of the people you do not care, they do not deserve to live. Let these people do whatever they want.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A scenario, continued

In my last post, I asked a question that was deliberately provocative (raping and murdering little girls is about the worst thing I can think of, especially given that I am a father of a little girl). I did so in order to ensure that the question would not be misunderstood and also to provoke the greatest possible chasm to appear between worldview and the instinct/liveability of said worldview.

What did we get as responses?

1) G-man tripped all over himself trying to explain Desire Utilitarianism.
He's right that more explanation would be required.
Maybe I'll break down his recent post on the subject soon. I *am* growing a little thin on blogpost ideas, so that'd be a needed shot in the arm.

2) Anonymous said:
-As an atheist I would say:

*Is* what he is doing wrong ?

Awesome - you and I are thinking on the same wavelength, given atheism. Now just go ahead and try to live that out, my friend. It'll be a LOT harder to live that out in real life than to say "no" in a blog combox.
Besides, ANY time you protest anyone else's rights (or, arguably, even your own) not to be oppressed or something similar, you show that you don't really believe this.

Then he says:
-Some people deserve to live. Most people don't.

By this he shows that he can't live it out. And he didn't even make it past one short combox comment!
This brings up a question, Anonymous, if you're still around - how do you know who deserves to live and who doesn't?

3) John Morales asked about circumcision.
He offered no explanation in the slightest but just asked me another question. Hopefully he'll decide to explain, given a 2nd call-out.

4) merkur begged the question in the following way:
-it is worth noting that some things are of course "more wrong" than others. This mutilation of which you speak, for example, is less wrong than raping little girls

Thereby showing that he can't live out Anonymous' claim either.
But maybe he doesn't believe it.

Then he says:
-A secular moral system can explain this

That's the question I keep asking.
Why is it I answer questions posed to me, but a substantial amount of atheist commenters here won't? Here's hoping for another try.