Sunday, February 28, 2010

More theistic evolution, sorta

I would say that the conversation "continues" over at the blog of The Creation of an Evolutionist, but the author of the blog, Mike Beidler, did not really engage me.

Here's my response to him:

Mr. Beidler,

Yes, I most certainly understand your lack of lots of spare time. Don't worry about it. I myself plan to be overseas, doing mission work, in the near future and can't imagine blogging much if at all after making the move. I was referring mostly to the other commenters who had time to give you misplaced accolades w/o interacting with my critique.

AMW is quite correct when he criticizes the tone with which you present your arguments and disagreements.

Then I'd like to ask you the same question I asked him/her about the moral objectionability of addressing someone in a disrespectful tone.

(Your blog post "Theistic evolution really is dumb" being a case in point.)

Sorry you didn't like it, but I'm glad you read it. I'm more sorry you chose not to interact with most of my critique.

I was quite surprised to find that you're a former overseas missionary and love foreign cultures.

Well, I'm the kind of former (and future, God willing) missionary who takes the Word of God seriously and holds in contempt those who think they know better than God.

I would think that experience would open your eyes to different ways of thinking,

You know what they say - open your mind too much and your brains fall out. My mind is quite open enough to examine other points of view, and then reject them based on where they're wrong. If they're wrong. And the liberal "I accept the parts of the Bible I like and which my REAL authorities - modern scientists - don't contradict with their nearly-infallible studies" position is particularly bad - you attack the integrity of God's revelation to the church from within the church.

your cultural experiences are irrelevant to understanding Scripture.

Actually, my cultural experiences are what have driven me to love the Bible that much more and to hold in high priority its truth and finality. (I mean, since you're asking about me, rather than interacting with my critique.)

You really should take the time to better understand the cultures which produced the Bible

Sir, with all due respect, you know nothing about me, and you have made no logical connection between my better understanding the "cultures that produced the Bible" and my critique. Interestingly, this does reveal quite a bit about your position. You think the Bible is more or less only a manmade document. I think the only rational and coherent worldview possible is to take the Bible as the true and infallible revelation of an infinite and Almighty God. That's a big difference between us, and it enables me to understand how inconsistent you are in for some reason subjecting SOME of your sensibilities and morés to the Bible. Just not the parts that it might be embarrassing to have to defend before unbelievers, apparently.

I know you'll be disappointed when I tell you that I'm not going to respond to most of your challenges.

Yes, but not surprised. I've spoken to many liberals.

And by my inability to answer an impossible challenge, you see it as validation of your own theory, i.e., ex nihilo of every fossilized species in the geologic column.

Again with all due respect, you don't know what my position is, since I haven't told you. Do you consider it polite or proper debate etiquette to assume the other guy's position?
And yes, I do happen to think my challenge is impossible to answer, b/c I've pointed out the many assumptions that you could never hope to justify. Much better and much more rational that you ask the One Who was there and Who made it all happen, and go with what He said.

It's obvious to me that you really don't know what you're talking about

Where's the Tone Police when you really need them?

Why don't you tell me how accepting biological evolution makes me a functional atheist

With respect to THIS QUESTION? Where did God act? And how do you know?

So, because something is "well-meaning" means it's correct?

No, and I have trouble seeing why you think that question is relevant.

As for Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, I really can't reflect on how utterly ridiculous their latest books are.

Right, b/c you're apparently much more concerned about the evil and horrid effects that Focus on the Family projects will have on society...

BTW, you're rewriting of Romans 5:12 is pretty darn close to what I believe.

That, sir, is a shame. May the Lord be pleased to bring you to repentance.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Another errantist shows his stripes

OK, so I couldn't stay away. Having dissected part 5 of Mike Beidler's critique of the Truth Project yestuhday, I went ahead and read the other 4 preceding parts. Parts 1-3 weren't worthy of much comment, or not nearly as much as part 5. Part 4 had some interesting tidbits worth a good once-over, so here's the comment.

I wasn't going to say much as I've said quite a lot in part 5 of this series, but this piece is just too delicious to pass up.

Even though the authorship of the Torah is attributed to Moses by Jesus himself, is Tackett really willing to claim that Moses wrote of his own death and burial (cf. Deuteronomy 34)?'re OK with correcting Jesus, are you?
Could it just possibly be that Moses wrote that prophetically? You know, supernaturally aided by God to write something that would come to pass later? Kinda like half of Isaiah, most of Jeremiah, Joel, Habakkuk, Nahum, Obadiah, Daniel? Jesus even, with the whole "the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be killed, and then rise on the 3rd day" thing?
It seems that your mind is far too stuck in naturalistic categories. Why think along the lines of an atheist and thus be inconsistent with the Lord and Savior you claim, Who IS supernatural, Who DID and DOES supernatural things? What possible benefit could there be to this?

Even the concept of inerrancy runs into a problem: a phone book can be free of error, but such a quality says nothing about whether it was God-inspired.

So... to what verificatory process are you going to submit the revelation from the God of the universe? Does He need to show His ID before you so graciously let Him into your personal "You're OK" club? I'll bet He'd be thrilled if you did!

to restrict the Christian faith to an extremely narrow intellectual path

You know, that reminds me of something I read somewhere...
Ah, I remembered! Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
(That was Jesus, BTW. Was He too narrow for you, too? Not liberal enough?)


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Theistic evolution really is dumb

Ran across a blog called "The Creation of an Evolutionist" recently. Clever name. Given what I've read of him so far, fairly clever author, but of course his wit is misdirected. Recently he's been going over Focus on the Family's "The Truth Project", and given how he clearly isn't a huge fan of the consistency and coherence of the Bible, he's predictably not a big fan of TTP.
Anyway, I decided to leave this comment on Part 5 of his review, on "Science - What is True?"

Hi there!
I have to take issue with a few things, hope you don't mind.

What Tackett does not mention is that our primordial ancestors didn’t require a complex blood clotting system since their circulatory systems didn’t require the high-pressure system that we do.

How does that solve the problem? Seems like that makes TWO problems to figger for the adherent of Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (TENS).

Evolutionary biologists are quick to point out that the various structures of the flagellum likely performed different functions

Have you ever stopped to think about how "talk is cheap" applies to this kind of 'rebuttal' from the TENS side? How is "this likely performed diff functions" not a just-so story? Why should we believe what the TENS ppl say? How DID it happen? Precisely?

Tackett asks whether Darwin’s theory “stacks up against reality.” Tackett’s answer is that it does not.

Has you ever stopped to think about the massive edifice of assumption that has created a "storyline" of fossils out of thin air? Read Henry Gee's "In Search of Deep Time" in which he explores this question - not as an authority, but b/c the argument is good.
In short, I'd like to see some evidence that any one fossil in our possession was definitely the descendant of any other.
For that matter, I'd like some evidence that any one fossil definitely had any offspring at all.
And if you can't evidence that, why would any reasonable person buy into the storyline?
And, for whale evolution, you point to a wikipedia article? Oooh, I wanna play!

The mechanisms of evolution, as random as they might seem because of our limited perception and knowledge, are still subject to the laws of nature that govern the universe;

What laws, precisely? How have scientists known they are laws?

Even Tackett should recognize that even the results of a “random” roll of the dice are known by an omniscient God (cf. Proverbs 16:33).

This is a pitiful failure to expose an internal inconsistency in Tackett's position. HE is not an evolutionist, my friend. Remember?

Why should the natural laws God designed be insufficient to create life from non-life?

1) B/c He told us how it went down - in Genesis. That's one good reason.
2) But let's say I concede #1 - just give me some evidence that life just suddenly banged into existence from non-life and let's talk. Evidence. Please.

In the end, it is Intelligent Design, not evolution, that actually limits God’s power and creativity.

This is just stupidity. Explaining how God did something doesn't "limit" His power or creativity. Neither of them do. But TENS leaves no room for God to TELL US HOW HE DID IT, b/c He already did tell us and you don't accept it. That's not His fault.

if I had known beforehand that accepting the evidence for evolution would automatically make me a functional atheist

In what way does it NOT make you a functional atheist with respect to THIS QUESTION?

Science shouldn’t have a philosophical side, Mr. Tackett! As much as you want there to be, there shouldn’t.

Are you even listening to yourself at this point, sir? How can you define science...scientifically? Show me the experiments that created "science". What volume of which elements were used? At what pressures? What molarity? What temperatures? What did science smell like? Is it toxic? If not, how did you test it?
Then make sure to refrain from any metaphysical or philosophical speech when you interpret the experiments. Thanks!

As a counterpoint to Tackett’s logic, I could highlight the use of the Bible to justify slavery

If you don't think there's an obvious argument for a logical progression of thought from Darwin to racism and racial superiority, as opposed to a MISuse of the Bible to support a system of slavery in which slaves have virtually no rights and can be abused at will, you're very ignorant, and that's sad.

As an evolutionary creationist, I still believe that humanity possesses a sinful nature and that we are still in need of a Savior.

Oh, OK. So, when was the first sin? Any idea? How developed was the animal that did sin?
Tell you what - let's examine how some Bible psgs SHOULD have been written.
Matthew 19: 3Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?"

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one metaphorical man, sin metaphorically entered into the world, and only spiritual death through sin (since physical death is the way all life had evolved since the first time that life coalesced out of rocks), and so spiritual death spread to all men, because all sinned (once they had evolved enough to arrive at moral awareness, of course)— 13 for from the time of evolution of moral awareness until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless spiritual death metaphorically reigned from Adam until Moses (of course, what really happened was that once humans had evolved enough, they brought some instincts over from their animal origins even though they totally shoulda known better), even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of the metaphorical Adam (even though they had no idea that Adam was a metaphor, since he never really existed - 'Adam' is a historical construct created by Old Testament Jews who needed a way to explain the origin of sin. Or something), who is a type of Him who was to come (and I mean "come" in real, physical truth, honest. Not like the way "Adam" "came", see?).
15 But the free gift is not like the metaphorical transgression. For if by the metaphorical transgression of the one the many spiritually died, much more did the metaphorical grace of God and the metaphorical gift by the grace of the one metaphorical Man, Jesus Christ, metaphorically abound to the metaphorical many.

Here's hoping you can see the errors you've propounded here. I can think of a LOT better ways to spend your time than dissecting the very well-meaning Truth Project. Maybe reflect on how utterly ridiculous Richard Dawkins' last three books have been? Hitchens? Sam Harris?


You are not nearly as cool as you think you are

Ed Young Jr, that would be you.

This is beyond ridiculous. The worst thing is that ISTM that he just barely didn't make it over the top enough to make me think he meant this to be a joke.

1 Timothy 3:1 It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. 2 An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money...7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Titus 1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion. 7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

Oh, you mean like refute heretics like the Oneness Pentecostal TD Jakes? The Word of Faith wolf Brian Houston? The always-smiling "This is my Bible. I hold it up at the beginning of my sermon and then never mention it afterwards" moron Joel Osteen?

You know, that's funny. This reminds me of a question I heard earlier about how we figure out who is approved...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reflection on the Sola Scriptura Debate #1

From John, EO commenter:

Rhology, in my final statement: Also sounds alot like Reformed Baptists - visible unity which faces occasional division. Does David display any recognition of this fairly-obvious fact?

John, commenter: Its not clear to our side how disputes within Reformed baptists could show "who are approved may become evident'. When we resolve disputes it does in fact tell us something because we recognise the one unity. (sic) (source)

What could this possibly mean? It is amazing how Sola Ecclesia-ists like John don't get it. Is John a cradle EO who has simply never troubled himself to peer with any degree of depth into the way Sola Scripturists live and do church? Has he never read any blog like Al Mohler's blog? Kevin DeYoung's blog? Green Baggins? TeamPyro? Bueller?
What about Josh Harris' books about the church? 9Marks books? John MacArthur's books? What about catechist resources such as the Westminster Shorter Catechism? Even the Baptist Faith and Message 2000? Maybe my pastor's book on church discipline would be a good place to start. ANYthing, really.

Or perhaps John is a convert who turned to EOC b/c he saw the illusion of greener grass on the other side. He never saw the way that people who really for real believe the Scripture operate to find out just who is approved, but he figured that those guys in EOC who talk a good line about never having problems with unity, never fighting amongst themselves or going into schism over a tiny little issue like what calendar one uses or whether one uses leavened or unleavened bread in the Eucharist, never squabbling over church land or finances. None of that - all that stuff is restricted to the Protestant world. Those idiots, those guys who just split and call each other heretics at the drop of a hat!

See, the EO has to choose which way he wants to take the objection. If he wants to make it "Eastern Orthodoxy vs Protestantism", he's making a category mistake, comparing one church to hundreds. Of course that one church is going to look better, just as if I compared United Methodist unity to that of Rome, the Copts, Maronites, Eastern Orthodoxy, Nestorians, etc.
If he wants to make it "Eastern Orthodoxy vs Reformed Baptists", then how does his church come out a clear victor in the unity department? Again, visible unity which faces occasional division, just like EOC. If he wants to make it "Sola Scriptura churches vs non-Sola Scriptura churches"... never mind, he doesn't want to do that.

So, how is it actually done? Read the Bible with understanding, interpret it properly, and subject any and all teaching, tradition, action, etc, to it. To help with boiling it all down to bite-size chunks, the easier to examine and keep all in one place, use helpful documents like catechisms, confessions of faith, etc (which you subject to the Scripture at all times, if there's a question). To quote John from above, when we resolve disputes it does in fact tell us something because we recognise the one unity - the unity is SPIRITUAL, in the Gospel, and that spiritual unity is imperfectly but still substantially represented and reflected in the visible church.

The objector might challenge us that the Scripture is insufficiently clear for this. Why? B/c of the "33000 denominations" problem. Fail. What he really means is that he doesn't understand the role of the Scripture and the role of the church. If the Scr is unclear, then so is any other text. Why single out the Scripture for your challenges of insufficient clarity? I've read some church writers from the 2nd and 3rd centuries - they're LESS clear than the Scripture most of the time. I've read some John Cassian, read some John Damascene, some other stuff here and there. Why are they magically easier to understand and more conducive to unity among believers than God-inspired Scripture? I certainly didn't think they were.
The answer, of course, is not that when God breathes something out, it's automagically obscure and beyond understanding. The answer is that the Scripture convicts our EO friends of sin and disobedience, and instead of facing up to that fact, they throw out the "it's unclear!" smokescreen.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Lutheran who just can't grasp the Hypostatic Union

I've been in conversation with Lutheran Edward Reiss recently about my monophysitism argumentation. Here is his latest offering.


The problem for you is this: Calvinism teaches that when the Logos became man a new person came to be--Jesus Christ the God-man. And because of this, the human nature of the God-man is not really God at all, but a mere human nature, as your claims here have amply brought out. This is why Calvinists do not give a simply "yes" answer to the question: Is shaking Jesus' hand shaking God's hand? It is always qualified, as Steve Hayes stated in his blog entry--shaking Jesus' hand is to shake a human hand. So, part of the person is not divine, period, while another is divine. Indeed, his human nature has no special qualities at all, again as is amply brought out by your comments, and to maintain it does have special qualities is to become "Monophysite".

So I would ask, if Jesus Christ is in only one place at any given time, how is "he", i.e. the person Jesus Christ, in any meaningful way God since omnipresence is a quality of God? If, as you say, the person is in two natures, (and I agree BTW), how can you maintain the divinity of the person if you assert that his divinity is present where his humanity is not and not therefore divide the person?

This is why I say you deny the divinity of the person of Jesus Christ. You may say that his divinity is God, but that is a useless tautology. Just repeating the words "Jesus is God" is not good enough, because even Arians claimed that, though with qualification.
It's a neat summary of the way he has only in small part actually engaged the question at hand and how little he either understands or can intelligently and correctly reproduce the viewpoint I've been advocating, which is really pretty simple. Jesus has always been God, always had a divine nature. Jesus is God and has a divine nature now. Jesus always will be God and always will have a divine nature.
At the time of His Incarnation, Jesus took on a human nature in addition to the divine nature He has always had. He has a human nature now, and thus He is a man now. He will always have a human nature and will always be a man. Thus, from the time of His Incarnation unto eternity, He has been, is, and will forevermore be the God-man.
Now, let's take that into account as we examine Edward's statements.

when the Logos became man a new person came to be--Jesus Christ the God-man

I doubt that "Calvinism" teaches that, but at any rate that is definitely NOT what I've been saying.
Totally wrong.

the human nature of the God-man is not really God at all, but a mere human nature

Correct. What part of "HUMAN nature" communicates "God" to you? This is indeed monophysite.
But you're switching terms AGAIN. We're talking about Jesus - the God-man. A person.

Is shaking Jesus' hand shaking God's hand? It is always qualified

Of course it is, b/c it's a terrible question. Shaking Jesus' hand is shaking Jesus' hand. Jesus is the God-man. It is just as correct to say "You're shaking a man's hand" as it is to say "you're shaking God's hand", but both are incomplete. You seem not to grasp the Incarnation or the Hypostatic Union very well at all.

if Jesus Christ is in only one place at any given time, how is "he", i.e. the person Jesus Christ, in any meaningful way God since omnipresence is a quality of God?

1) Why put "He" in quotations? Jesus is a He. I don't even know why you'd do that if you weren't very confused.
2) He is God in a meaningful way since --wait for it-- He's God. Jesus the person (hypostasis) has always had a divine nature, has always been God, a 'member' of the Trinity. Always has been, always will be. He also has a human nature, now, since the Incarnation.

If, as you say, the person is in two natures, (and I agree BTW), how can you maintain the divinity of the person if you assert that his divinity is present where his humanity is not and not therefore divide the person?

I DON'T say that His divinity is present where His humanity is not. YOU DO. You do because you say that His human nature is somehow divine b/c it's dang near omnipresent. I don't b/c I say that Christ the person is in ONE place at ONE time, ALL the time, from the time of His Incarnation unto eternity.

Just repeating the words "Jesus is God" is not good enough, because even Arians claimed that, though with qualification.

Well, good for them, but I say "Jesus is God" WITHOUT qualification.
It's just that "Jesus is God" is not the only correct and substantive thing to say about Jesus. There was this little thing called the Incarnation and Hypostatic Union...

Sola Scriptura Debate with DavidW - Index

In chronological order:

My opening statement
DavidW's opening statement (written without responding to my opener, as is proper)

My first rebuttal
DavidW's first rebuttal

My second rebuttal
DavidW's second rebuttal

My first question to DavidW
His answer

DavidW's first question to me
My answer

My second question to DavidW
His answer

DavidW's second question to me
My answer

My third question to DavidW
His answer

DavidW's third question to me
My answer

Final Statements - posted simultaneously

(Link to comment repository)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sola Scriptura Debate - DavidW's closing statement

Find it here.

We arranged that each closing statement be posted simultaneously, and I think it was close enough. The point is that neither of us read the other's closing statement before writing his own.
This concludes the debate. I will be posting an index guide to all the posts in chronological order soon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sola Scriptura Debate - Final Statement

Thanks again to DavidW for engaging in this debate. It's been quite enjoyable.
In review...

In my 1st rebuttal, I quote him saying "Scripture forbids that Scripture be interpreted individually" in his opener. He never came back to it, but as I noted, this cuts the throat of his own position, yet did he ever deal with the implications which I identified? Did he ever recognise how this leads to the necessity of presupposing the truth of a church, and to the impossibility of testing said church by the Scripture?

From his 2nd rebuttal - "Paul here assumes a visible unity which faces occasional division ('that those who are approved may become evident'); sounds a lot like the Orthodox Church." Also sounds alot like Reformed Baptists - visible unity which faces occasional division. Does David display any recognition of this fairly-obvious fact? Does he recognise the tautological nature of his affirmation that his church has unity except when it doesn't?

Does he ever "prove, not assume, as he did with 2 Thess 2:15, the existence and God-breathed nature of some other alleged revelation" (my 2nd rebuttal)? From his 2nd rebuttal - "I don’t have to 'prove' anything here; the word 'or' between 'word of mouth' and 'our epistle' does that for me." Any exegesis to disprove my point that "or" means "or", that Paul expects the same message be preached orally as is written?

In his criticism of my canon1/canon2 distinction, did he ever substantiate his concerns, or prove his claim that this leads to an infallible church, over and against my position that canon2 - our knowledge of God's chosen canon - was sufficiently known by the church, and we can know that b/c we trust God?
Or respond to my constant pointing him back to the way God dealt with His people before the coming of Christ? In my 1st rebuttal's discussion of the Canon, for example? When he asks me about the "Great Apostasy" in his 2nd cross-ex answer, as though he were completely unfamiliar with the consistent and constant REMNANT motif all throughout the Old Testament?! What if an idolatrous Jew had asked Jesus that question about the people all the way through Israel's history, from the Judges to the Kings up to the Exile? After all, those who didn't bow down to the Baals were in the tiny minority, even sometimes completely invisible to history!

Did he ever deal with the point I commonly make to atheists, that "If God has not spoken clearly, sufficiently, and in a way understandable to people, then let us eat, drink, and be merry, for neither today nor tomorrow do we know anything about God, eternal life, atonement, sin, judgment, resurrection, or moral law. Indeed, I'd argue we have no basis for ANY objective epistemology or metaphysics."(1st rebuttal)?

Did he ever give us a Canon of all authoritative, infallible tradition from EOC? Judge for yourself whether his 1st and 2nd cross-ex answers even get close.

Did he ever answer my challenge in my 1st rebuttal: "But how do new concepts equal 'once handED down'"?

Did he ever correct his terrible reasoning with respect to 2 Peter 1:20? When he says "The question that Rhology must now answer in regards to Athanasius is this: whose beliefs more closely match those of Athanasius, Orthodox or Reformed Baptist? Obviously, the answer is Orthodox; and, since Rhology has chosen to quote Athanasius on this matter, he must admit, then, that Scripture is 'sufficient above all things' in teaching the Orthodox Faith," in his 1st rebuttal? Or his bizarre "Jude cites non-Scriptural books!" or "Christ celebrated Hanukkah!" argumentation? Or his atrocious handling of Matthew 19:7?

Does he ever show any recognition of the fact that we are both supposed to agree that Scripture is the Word of God? Why then his ridiculous countermaneuver in his 1st rebuttal trying to restate my argument with the Church judging between competitors such as the Book of Mormon, the Koran, etc?

Does David ever respond exegetically to my point that the Scripture expects disunity? Or does he simply play the very popular (if you're into Sola Ecclesia) counter-prooftext game? "Oh yeah? Well Scripture says you're supposed to be unified!!" As if that responds in any way to my point. Both are true, but does he show any recognition of that?

Speaking of counterprooftexting, didn't he do that with Athanasius?
From his 1st rebuttal - "In the quote, he is saying that the Scriptures are 'sufficient above all things' to show the falsity of the Arian heresy. A couple of sentences earlier, Athanasius states the exact same thing about the Council of Nicaea."
So which is it? Is the council sufficient above all things? Or is the Scripture? My position has plenty of room to allow for when early church writers are inconsistent or wrong. Does his, beyond judging all things by the standard of his modern church and ignoring that which doesn't mesh? David accuses me of misunderstanding Athanasius (his 2nd rebuttal), but if two different things are sufficient above all things, what other conclusion can the reasonable reader draw?

Does he ever respond to my treatment of Mark 7 in any satisfactory way? From his 2nd rebuttal - "confusing the issue here as being one of oral versus written, while it is a conflict between the 'commandments of God' and the 'traditions of men'" - this does not address my point, does it? His 1st cross-ex answer tries again, gets halfway there, then just collapses when he cites Vincent de Lérins.

He lamely attempts an analogy in his 3rd cross-ex answer: "There is also a textbook; this is the Bible. The textbook is the center and guide of the learning that goes on in that classroom, but it is not an authority over the classroom. To say that the textbook has authority over the classroom is nonsense; on the contrary, the textbook was written just for this classroom and has meaning only within this classroom." Did David go to a postmodern school or something? In my school, the textbook had many roles, one of the most important of which was the repository of the answers to test questions! If I wanted to know the truth about the topic (and how to pass the test), the textbook certainly was in authority in the classroom.
Also, don't you just love how he emasculates God's authority? The Bible only has meaning within the classroom? Tell that to Jesus, Who set the example and commanded us to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to the whole evil, nasty, unfaithful, sinning world!

In his 2nd cross-ex answer, he says: "A testimony to the reliability of this rule for maintaining the Faith is found in a comparison of the three most ancient Churches: the Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, and the Assyrian Church of the East....Each of these Churches utilizes the same method for maintaining the Faith... yet, other than those points on which they departed from each other 1500 years ago (the Miaphysitism of one; the Nestorianism of the other), they maintain exactly the same Faith..."
Oh, so apart from the heresy espoused by each, it's no problem? The heresy (Nestorianism) that EOdox like incessantly to accuse the Reformed of holding?

2nd cross-ex answer: "First, we do have "well-defined grounds for corrective authority;" in fact, we have several of them, including our Bishops, our historical Faith, and each and every Orthodox Christian." Notice the circular self-referential appeal. Did I ask whether he had bishops or a hierarchy, or did I ask him how he knows his church is in line with what God has commanded?
Yet more circularity: "And the most important point: the robber council departed from the Faith of the Fathers" - yet his evidences and the typical EOdox answer is that a council is known to be œcumenical only a posteriori. Did the church after the council accept it as holy and good? Given the pocked nature and inconsistent opinions of church writers down thru history, and since the "real" 7th council also departed from the faith of some before it in its iconolatry, this is a simple expression of blind faith as well as a tautology on David's part.
To quote my 2nd cross-ex answer: He cites Vincent de Lérins with all confidence and then, when questioned about it, retreats...: "It's not really ALL when it says 'all'". Or "a church council is ecumenical and infallible when the church comes over time to accept its conclusions". So, which is it? Descriptive or prescriptive? How can it be a command...when its acceptance by the people whose behavior and doctrine it's supposed to define is the determining factor of its alleged authority?

Bottom line - did DavidW give the believing Christian any reason to think there exists an authority parallel to God's Word? May such an execrable proposition perish before its adherents do!

(Word count: 1490)
(Link to comment repository)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Some advice on how to get started in apologetics

A Facebook acquaintance asked me how I might advise them to get started into the realm of apologetics, and this is a person with two small children and who isn't flush with cash. Here's what I told them.

There are several different angles you can take it from. Here's a book that would describe my favored approach well:

Basically there are two veins you can take - 1) the data gopher, memorise a bunch of stuff and regurgitate as necessary (which is most apologetics you hear today); 2) recalibrate your mind to always look at the presuppositions behind what the other person is saying, and what what they are saying says about what they really believe. The latter is my general approach, and I believe it to be the approach most often taken by our biblical exemplars.

I know how it'd be tough to work your way thru a book like that with two young boys, so there are other ways to bone up.
Make it a routine when you sit down to read on the Internet to check up on a few apologetics sites.
My favorite two are:

I advise you, BTW, to find the groove that suits you in terms of tone, and not to pass judgment too quickly (if at all) on the way certain believers conduct themselves in apologetics. Save your condemnatory attitude for when you've spent some time dealing with and contending for the faith in the face of the worst that the Internet (which is the very worldwide community) has to offer, and see how they're targeting the internal contradictions and faulty assumptions that the unbelievers make.

Others to consider are: (neither are blogs, more like a resource site) (my other blog, obviously aimed at Roman Catholicism mostly and also Eastern Orthodoxy)

Also, podcasts are a great way to get your mind thinking about that stuff even in the midst of multitasking around the house or whatever. has a free one (not on iTunes though, he just blogs it as he records them, usually biweekly), and many, many useful debates for sale for cheap.
The Narrow Mind podcast on iTunes, or
The CARM podcast
Fighting for the Faith podcast - deals mostly with decay WITHIN the church, heresy, and bad theology

Finally, a good way to get real-world experience is to get familiar with an argument or two and then go use it, on blogs or bulletin boards/forums, like the ones at I gained a lot of useful experience with the Roman church when I spent a significant amount of time at a Roman Catho forum some years ago. In that context, you'll also hear alot of things you've never heard before - don't let it bother you, take the thing, research it, ask others as necessary, and come back stronger. How many 100s of times have I been challenged with sthg I had no idea about? Just find about it, and this is the most important - ask the challenge its own questions, challenge it with its own challenges and see how good an account of itself it can give. That's what I spend most of my time doing - turning the question back on the questioner.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Index of recent argumentation regarding the Real Presence as monophysitism

I'd be lying if I said I didn't expect to provoke a lot of anger and vexation over my recent post: Is transubstantiation a Monophysite doctrine? But it was so much fun to write! And it's been even more fun to watch:
1) how fired up certain interlocutors became
2) how bad their arguments generally were
3) how little they actually interacted with the fundamental point - that Jesus, as both God AND man, is not multilocational but is, rather, always in one place at one time
4) how it made bedfellows out of practitioners of otherwise fairly hostile systems, such as Scott Windsor, loyal son of Rome, and Edward Reiss, fairly conservative Lutheran.

This index post is to serve as a collective reference point to see all the conversation that has gone down over this point.
First came Steve Hays' Anti-Incarnational sacramentalism.
I'd had my post written for some time but was waiting for a good time to post it, and figured that I should go ahead and strike while the iron was hot. So then came my post, which has accumulated more than 120 comments.

Scott Windsor added Transubstantiation Question, and I interacted a lot there.
Later he posted Transubstantiation Question II, and I interacted some there as well. Read these if you want a lot of strawmen and a failure on Windsor's part to even understand what I was saying.

And then you can see Matthew Bellisario post barely-relevant quotations from Thomas Aquinas over at his post: For Those Confused About Transubstantiation..., in which combox I interacted some.
As one philosopher (apocryphally) said: if you speak nonsense in Latin, you can write many books; if you speak nonsense in Saxon, you are found out at once.

Perry Robinson aka Acolyte4236 interacted extensively with me in the combox of my post, starting here.

Edward Reiss jumped in with How Jesus' body--even before the resurrection, is not "Just like ours", then Calvin's framing of the question about the Incarnation--i.e. Jesus' body, is flawed, as if I appealed to Calvin or care particularly what he had to say about this issue if it's irrelevant. Find a great deal of interaction there between us.
Later, Jesus as a "Spiritual reality", since it really seems that the monophysitism proponents in this discussion have a hard time admitting that the spiritual is real. Strange for someone who confesses to be a Christian, but you know.
Later, If St. Peter can do it, Jesus' miracles don't tell us anything special about Jesus as a man..., in which he attempts to assert that Jesus' status as God-man makes Him more buoyant, more cooperative with the surface tension of water than my status as regular man makes me.

Finally, Steve Hays had numerous helpful things to say in his posts:
The Styrofoam Jesus, in which he mocks the buoyancy argument.
A Lutheran's unresponsive response
Lutheran cartoons
The Heisenberg compensator
The Real Presence of the Big Mac, a specific response to some of the comments from Perry Robinson, Acolyte4236 in the combox of my post.
Why Lutherans deny the empty tomb, a reductio on the Lutheran view Edward Reiss has been defending (and by extension, the Roman view).

Overall, a very interesting and satisfying exchange. It's good to be Reformed. Sort of funny how I'll be teaching through Eric Svendsen's curriculum on the Lord's Table starting pretty soon in my Sunday School class.

(Please leave any comments at the Beggars All post.)

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Is transubstantiation a Monophysite doctrine?

CrimsonCatholic and Perry Robinson participated a few months ago in a fairly technical but somewhat interesting discussion at David Waltz's blog.
CrimsonCatholic made a very interesting statement:

The key feature of Chalcedonian theology is that Christ's nature is exactly the same as ours, so what happens to the human nature in Christ happens to everyone who is "in Christ Jesus" (to use St. Paul's term) by grace, including the sharing of the divine glory.

I'd like to ask a few questions, if we're going to take this consistently with the rest of our theology.
So Christ's nature if exactly the same as mine. My nature is human. Part of being human (as opposed to being divine) is to be limited to a particular physical location at any one time, is it not? My body cannot be in more than one place at any one time. That's obvious.

Now, Christ Himself, at the time of His Incarnation, took upon Himself a human nature and a physical body. At the time of His Resurrection, His body became glorified and immortal; He doesn't necessarily have blood anymore, but He retains flesh and physical tangibility, among other properties. He can perhaps walk through walls, or perhaps not; John 20 simply says, "when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'" Maybe He created a key and let Himself in; maybe He knocked and they let Him in; maybe He passed through the door via "teleportation"; the text does not tell us. Obviously He can perform miracles such as walking on water and perhaps passing through walls, disappearing right in front of two disciples at dinnertime on the road to Emmaus, etc, but we never see Christ in more than one place at any one time.

CCC 1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."

1377 The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist. Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ.

1378 Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. "The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession."

1379 The tabernacle was first intended for the reservation of the Eucharist in a worthy place so that it could be brought to the sick and those absent outside of Mass. As faith in the real presence of Christ in his Eucharist deepened, the Church became conscious of the meaning of silent adoration of the Lord present under the Eucharistic species. It is for this reason that the tabernacle should be located in an especially worthy place in the church and should be constructed in such a way that it emphasizes and manifests the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

1412 The essential signs of the Eucharistic sacrament are wheat bread and grape wine, on which the blessing of the Holy Spirit is invoked and the priest pronounces the words of consecration spoken by Jesus during the Last Supper: "This is my body which will be given up for you. . . . This is the cup of my blood. . . ."

1413 By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).

On any given Sunday, or really most any day of the week, Mass is performed at thousands of churches across the globe. On any given Sunday morning, to be sure, the Eucharistic host is transubstantiated in multiple locations, at the same time. How well does this match with the conception of Christ's body's substance? It is supposed to be of human substance, yet here it displays a trait better assigned to divinity, that of omnipresence. Christ's human body, it turns out, is NOT "exactly the same as ours", as I don't think CrimsonCatholic has ever been at two or more places at once. I know I haven't, much as I'd like to be; I could get a lot more accomplished!

And the situation seems to be even worse than that. Take a look at this from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
On the contrary, He continues His Eucharistic Presence even in the consecrated Hosts and particles that remain on the or in the ciborium after the distribution of Holy Communion.
Thus the red candle/light that one often sees perpetually lit on the altar of a Roman church - one or more transubstantiated hosts are still there. The real and substantial body of Jesus Christ is enclosed there. In many hundreds or thousands of churches across the world, simultaneously.

So, taking the doctrine that CrimsonCatholic has expressed and applying it consistently across the board, we run into a serious snag in the doctrine of the Eucharist. It would seem that, if transubstantiation is true, then the RC position leads to a denial of the true human nature of Christ, because the substantial, real human body of Christ is simultaneously in thousands of different places, thus applying a divine trait to Christ's human nature. Not Chalcedonian at all, then; more like Monophysite.

(Please leave any comments at the post at Beggars All.)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

No need to impute failure, you've got it covered

bossmanham has been giving it the old college try, attempting to help our EOdox friends over at the other thread understand the Substitutionary Atonement and get their heads around how God's ignoring His Law means that, you know, His Law gets ignored. Funny how that happens. Oh, but somehow, they assure us, that doesn't mean that God is unjust! Man can ignore the Law of God and that's evil and makes you a bad guy, but when God ignores it... party!!!!

Anyway, not to interrupt bossmanham's demolition of the EO position for too long, but I'd like to note a few things:

1) bossmanham is an Arminian, a pretty full one if I'm not mistaken. I am a (baby-eating) Calvinist. Yet we have the same Gospel, if this thread (which I just finished reading all the way thru) is any indication.

2) I just LOVE this exchange:
bmh: "you keep talking of Jesus as if He's not God and as if He Himself isn't laying His own life down"

John: I only do that to give you as much leeway as I can. I could point out that paying off yourself or punishing yourself to assauge your own wrath is even more absurd when put in those terms.

This is EXACTLY what Muslims, Jehovahs Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Mormons, atheists, and liberals argue. I mean exactly. It's so funny how this makes 2 major veins in which the EOdox share major soteriological points with Islam! And John doesn't even deny it, which I find even funnier.

3) As I've noticed and mentioned many times in recent memory, this breed of EOdox clogging up my blog claim to be converts from Calvinism and/or know Calvinist theology, but they almost never get it right. Note the zillions of strawmen they've constructed, especially John. My friends - just b/c I write a blogpost extolling one important and powerful aspect of the Cross of Christ doesn't mean that's all there is to the Cross of Christ. Fail, fail, and yet more sparkly fail.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Sola Scriptura Debate: My third cross-examination answer

(Question here)

To quote myself from my opening statement: "Given Matthew 4:4, it would behoove us to determine what words have indeed proceeded out of the mouth of God." Of course, given ANYthing, it would so behoove us.

DavidW is fishing for some kind of definite date, while neither he nor I believe that any kind of formal church-wide process took place to set in stone our respective canons. Mine, of course, being one in number - Scripture; and his being two in number - 1) the canon of Authoritative For-Sure Teachings® of the EOC, and 2) the canon of Scripture. Neither of his is delimited with any certainty, as we've already seen. So why does he think that this kind of question should cause difficulty for my position? Why is it relevant? Does EOC have an answer for similar questions related to its own founding documents, and if so, is it any better? My guess is that he hopes to impugn Sola Scriptura by showing that the apostles could not practice it, and thus obviously we should follow their example by also not practicing it. Are the situations, the contexts, of our position in redemptive history vis-à-vis the apostles' position, comparable so as to make this a point in EOC's favor?

The situation in the apostolic era
The Lord Jesus and His apostles came on the scene with the ability to speak directly prophetic and authoritative messages from the Lord, just like OT prophets could. The apostles were the shaluach of the Lord Jesus (otherwise known as God), whom He granted the authority to speak on Jesus' behalf with all the authority and backing of God Himself. He also granted the spiritual gift of prophecy to various men in the church at that time, and they could utter prophecy just like an OT prophet, as "Thus says the Lord". He used these spiritual gifts already dispensed to provide the start for His church as He founded it and provided for it to take root and begin to grow.

"...God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord..." (Ephesians 2:19b-21).

Three things to note here:
1) The church of Jesus from this early time already had Scripture from God.

"As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men" (Acts 17:10-12).

"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

Luke here commends thru inspiration of the Holy Spirit the Bereans' practice of subjecting the apostle Paul's authoritative words to the examination of the Scripture they already had. And yet others in Acts commendably receive the words of Paul straight up and believe the Gospel. So which one is the way to go? Both, because the message of each is the same. One builds on the other, yet the latter is deducible straight from the OT. A great example of that is the way Paul demonstrates the truth of justification by grace alone thru faith alone apart from works in Galatians 2-4, or the way the author of Hebrews exegetes the OT atonement system as a foreshadowing of Christ, each with extensive quotations from the OT. This fact, incidentally, puts a bullet in the head of any notion that "The Church is the mother of the Scripture" or "The Church preceded the Scripture".

2) The earliest church did not have Twitter or even email.
When the apostles spoke at this or that local church, they couldn't live-blog it so all could read, or put an mp3 of the sermon and Q&A on their server within 10 minutes of its closing. If an apostle or prophet wrote a letter to a local church or even all the local churches, he couldn't blog it and tweet the URL to all the pastors and their dog. No, these letters, when and if they reached the intended destination, would then be painstakingly copied by hand multiple times and then sent by human courier to another church, at which point the process would repeat itself. Writing materials, especially that which you wrote ON, were expensive and Christians weren't usually wealthy. This means it takes a while, and there are 27 books in the NT, that God intended (though as always in His own timing) for the church at large to have.
And yet life and Christian living must go on - what is one to do? One lives by the word from God that one has, and one trusts God with the rest. Christians in many parts of the world to this very day live like this - with one or two precious pages of Scripture hidden in their house or cell, that they read and memorise and trade furtively with other brethren as they have opportunity, to then cherish and take to heart that next page.
Does this translate to an effective, obvious, or clear-cut start- or stop-date for thousands of local churches spread over thousands of miles between which communications require months at a time?

3) Is this any different from the way that "tradition" circulated?
In what way would DavidW's system solve the problem, if indeed he's positing a problem?

Comparison from the entire scope of the Old Testament
The OT itself is a story of God's progressively revealing what He wanted to His people when He wanted. When a prophet speaks, you are obligated to listen, simple as that. Generations of believing Hebrews lived and died with only Genesis in oral tradition, then later generations with only Genesis in writing, then more generations with only Genesis in writing and some of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers orally passed down. More and more progressively committed to writing, and yet other oral traditions - not inspired - being passed down as well, like 2 Kings 1:18 - "are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?", an inoffensive one like Hanukkah, or an anti-biblical one like that condemned by Jesus in Mark 7:1-13. Two categories - Scripture and not-Scripture. So much the worse for EOC and DavidW, who make no hard and fast distinction between the two, and thus elevate human tradition to the level of Scripture, a novelty in the history of God's covenant people.
God sets the time for speaking, God provides for His people before, during, and after, in His way. Who is the man who will put God in the dock and say "Why have You done this?"

A specific example - King Josiah
King Josiah's story begins in 2 Kings 22. Having succeeded the short-lived son of the worst king in Judah's history - Manasseh - he apparently had no clue about the law of God, and yet while renovating the Temple, the book of the Law was discovered and Josiah had it read to him. What followed was a magnificent example of repentance and correction, in which Josiah destroyed idolatry and restored YHWH worship to Judah in an unprecedented way. Why? Because he read the Scripture and it illumined his heart. Neither tradition defined in a vague and self-serving way like EOC's nor the "consensus of the people of God" did it.

The Council of Nicæa
In what year did the church enter its "normative state" with respect to Nicene Trinitarianism and the consensus of the church turn entirely away from Arianism? Especially given that the saying Athanasius contra mundum sprung up for a reason? If DavidW can't name that year, would we be justified in rejecting the conciliarist structure that is fundamental to EOC?

The point is simple - when God decides to send His Word to His people, we trust Him to make it known, and to provide for its communication to the people to whom He wanted to communicate it, all in His timing. Just because it's messier than we might like it doesn't mean we are justified in ignoring it. My position follows in a straight line from the way God instituted the rule of faith among the OT covenant community of God. No need to run off to a novel approach to the question like EOC when I'm already following the far more ancient way.

The challenge for the Sola Ecclesist is to demonstrate that there is indeed another source of divine revelation besides Scripture. Has DavidW shown us any such source? Has he not simply said "trust this church, this one over here, not those others"? Should not a people rather trust their God to tell them how to test and distinguish between the many so-called "churches" vying for our devotion?

(Word count: 1561)
(Link to comment repository)

Thursday, February 04, 2010

On the limits of science

From the interaction of Vincent Cheung with fundy atheist Derek Sansone:

Sansone: Technology has provided sufficient data that can be examined by scientific experiment and repeated, this works for me...

Cheung: What technology? How do you know that the technology is reliable to test something if you need the technology to test that something in the first place?

"Sufficient data"? Sufficient according to whom? Sufficient according to you? If so, then your standard is subjective, but you said that you depend on "objective evidence." What objective evidence defines that there is "sufficient data"?

So you trust "scientific experiment"? But I have shown in my books that the method of experimentation commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent. That is,

If X is true, then Y is true.
Y is true.
Therefore, X is true.

But this is a fallacy because it may be that A, B, or C causes Y to be true, not X. To repeat experiments is only to repeat this fallacious procedure over and over again.

As even the atheist Bertrand Russell admits:

All inductive arguments in the last resort reduce themselves to the following form: "If this is true, that is true: now that is true, therefore this is true." This argument is, of course, formally fallacious. Suppose I were to say: "If bread is a stone and stones are nourishing, then this bread will nourish me; now this bread does nourish me; therefore it is a stone, and stones are nourishing." If I were to advance such an argument, I should certainly be thought foolish, yet it would not be fundamentally different from the argument upon which all scientific laws are based.

And Karl Popper writes:

Although in science we do our best to find the truth, we are conscious of the fact that we can never be sure whether we have got it….In science there is no "knowledge," in the sense in which Plato and Aristotle understood the word, in the sense which implies finality; in science, we never have sufficient reason for the belief that we have attained the truth.…Einstein declared that his theory was false – he said that it would be a better approximation to the truth than Newton's, but he gave reasons why he would not, even if all predictions came out right, regard it as a true theory.

...See also "Is Science Superstitious?" by Bertrand Russell. Near the end of this essay, he writes, "The great scandals in the philosophy of science ever since the time of Hume have been causality and induction....Hume made it appear that our belief is a blind faith for which no rational ground can be assigned....This state of affairs is profoundly unsatisfactory...We must hope that an answer will be found; but I am quite unable to believe that it has been found."

Monday, February 01, 2010

Eastern Orthodoxy boiled down

ME: Ah, so God annihilates His holy law. Yes, that makes your position a lot less blasphemous.

DAVIDW: And what am I supposed to say to this? Yes, God is merciful beyond measure -- whether you like it or not. (source)


JOHN: Is it really forgiveness when God took his pound of flesh?

ME: Yes, b/c the offender is forgiven, and Jesus out of love took the punishment. God's law and justice are preserved in integrity and truth, His holiness is unimpeded, the elect get the benefit, and Jesus pays the cost out of His generosity.
Contrast that with the EO system in which the law turns out to be no big deal at all.

JOHN: I don't know where you get this idea. Christ died to abolish the law. How does that make it no big deal? (source)


Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE".(source)
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (source)
"But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail." (source)