Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Some talk on assurance and sola fide

David Bryan has been taking some time out of his busy schedule to interact with me on the issue of assurance of salvation.  Here are his latest comments, and here is my reply:


we will to do good but can’t accomplish it, so God has to come in and bring us to where we can, yes?

Ehhhh, kinda.  The HS within us desires to do good, but we fight Him.  We end up with sinful actions and giving into evil temptations.  We'll never get to a perfect state until God finishes the job, when we die or when He returns.

Well, our understandings of 1 Jn 5.13 are obviously very different

See, I wouldn't argue with the statement that you ALMOST made - that ASSURANCE of eternal life is (partly) contingent upon our performance of a godly life.  You said that your ACTUAL POSSESSION of eternal life is contingent upon your works, which makes me sad b/c you seem to have an overinflated sense of personal goodness and an underrated view of God's holiness, that you could ever get close enough to do anything of yourself to fulfill any conditional goodness so as to be with God in Heaven.
Anyway, outworkings of God's grace is part of one's ASSURANCE on my position, but it's not the only one.

God knows what we will do; that’s a huge leap from God’s causing what we will do.

My point was that skeptics can bring the same charge - if God knows what's going to happen and does nothing to stop bad things from happening, He's open to the charge that "He's not all-good, then" and garbage like that.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Eastern Orthodox humanist

John, "Eastern Orthodox"/humanist commenter:
By restricting perspicuity to some small spiritually determined group you blow your own legs off.
1 Cor 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

Why am I surprised at the disdain you show to the Word of God? After all, you're just a humanist dressed up in icons and incense.
In my view, *God* is the standard of truth and error. In yours, man is. Humanism. It's not very far from there to Soviet humanism, you know - no coincidence what's the majority religion in Russia...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

DavidW on Gnosticism and Calvinism

I've been interacting some on DavidW's blogpost about his comparisons of Gnostic predestination and Calvinistic predestination.  He swears up and down that Calvinism is dressed-up Gnosticism, and I already corrected him on his point, told him:
My response is basically that you're committing a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Alot of EOC doctrines resemble Mormonism; that doesn't mean they're related. Looking at it the other way, all the ancient heretics held to doctrines that EOC would accept as well - that's what makes heretics so dangerous. They creep in, sound the same in almost everything, but secretly introduce destructive heresies, subtly, drawing away disciples after them. So this point of yours in principle proves too much. Otherwise stated, it proves nothing. 
 DavidW today laid out 5 questions on this topic he'd like me to address.  Let's see how well he did.

1) No, it's not a tu quoque. I don't grant that Calvinistic predest is of Gnostic derivation, remember? Rather, I derive Calv predest from Scr, which preceded Gnosticism. So, that's wrong.

2a) "early church writer" means "someone in the early church who wrote". Nothing more or less.
The entire reason I use that term is to point out your question-begging distinction between "Church Fathers" and "heretics". You test everythg by the church; well, what if those whom you now identify as heretics had won the struggle? Then the men you now identify as CFs would be heretics, to you.
This is the problem with the Sola Ecclesia position; the only way you can judge the heretics of old to have been wrong is b/c the modern church is the group that won out, that won the power struggle. Not so for me - I can and must judge anyone and everyone and their teaching by the Word of God, which does not change.

2b) at least one early Church Father who believed in predestination
I've given you three many times - Jesus, Peter, Paul.
This business about early church writers and the dissent that existed between them is an internal critique of the EO position. It doesn't have any bearing on Sola Scriptura.

3) I've identified your arguments as committing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (and am still waiting for a rebuttal). I can demonstrate that my doctrines are drawn from Scriptural exegesis. The ball's in your court.
You said:
If the Gnostic doctrine is not the same as the Calvinist doctrine, surely you should be able to explain how they are different.

Gosh, let's see. Oh, I know - one's Trinitarian and Christian, the other isn't. One's drawn from Scriptural exegesis, the other isn't.
From your own post:
their own selves (who are saved by nature)

Nope, saved by the grace of God. Fail #1.

Faith, then, is no longer the direct result of free choice, if it is a natural advantage.

Define "direct", "result", "free", and "choice".
Besides, Calvinism teaches that the regenerate man DOES freely choose - he chooses God b/c his nature has been changed and he's been given a new heart. Before that, he always freely chooses death and sin, b/c his nature is dead in sin and he hates God, his Enemy.
Fail #2.

Ye are originally immortal

Yet Calvinism teaches we are born dead in sin, and w/o God's intervention we will go to Hell forever.
Fail #3.

he also, similarly with Basilides, supposes a class saved by nature

It's so funny how you want to equate the Trinitarian God of the Bible with the Gnostic "nature". Why would you do that?
Fail #4.

In this way also they make a twofold distinction among souls, as to their property of good and evil

And yet the Bible teaches, and Calvinism of course affirms, that "there is no one good, no, not one." Fail #5.
(BTW, why are you citing the heretic Tertullian?)

For this reason it is that they neither regard works as necessary for themselves, nor do they observe any of the calls of duty, eluding even the necessity of martyrdom on any pretence which may suit their pleasure.

1) Calvinism teaches that God works thru means. Fail #6.
2) Calvinism teaches that man is responsible and called to "be holy as your Father in Heaven is holy". I am obligated to follow the entire law of God. Fail #7.

a rigidly deterministic scheme

Perhaps you're confusing Calvinism with HyperCalvinism? I'm pretty sure you've been corrected on that before, but you seem not to be a big fan of taking correction. Fail #8.
Now that, friends, is a lot of fail.

4) Irenaeus says They have also other modes of honouring these images... Seems like he's not a big fan of ANY honoring of images. I can certainly see where he's coming from - why not honor Christ? If you say "we already do", are you denying you could do so more? Or have you honored Him enough already? Let someone else get their snout in the trough, as it were.

(Please leave any comments at the BeggarsAll cross-post.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Irony in Patristics

I haven't read a ton of patristic writing, I freely admit.  About 200+ pages starting from page 1 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and taking notes the whole way, so far.
But I can apply logical argumentation to common Eastern Orthodox argumentation in regard to the way they view patristic support for their position, and thus perform an internal critique of Eastern Orthodoxy.  Now, given that the Scriptures are the way they indeed are, it makes very little difference to me whether the entirety of those who identify themselves as "The Church®" over the course of history stand in opposition to what the Scripture teaches - "Let God be true and every man a liar." 

But of course, anyone who's familiar with patristic writings to a more than surface-level extent will know that the early church situation is not nearly that simple.  The questions of who was in schism from whom, who agreed with whom, who contradicted whom, who contradicted himself, who properly represented the actual position of most of the people in the church at his time, etc, are fundamental questions, and far too often our EO and RC friends simply assume that they are unimportant, assume that their church is The One True Church® and thus the default position, and any dissenter from such necessarily has all the burden of proof to defend his dissent. 
Let's take a look, for a case study, at DavidW's blog in which he likens Calvinism to Gnosticism.  I dropped by and dropped an Irenaeus quote from Jason Engwer:
"They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world that is to say, with the images of Pythagoras, and Plato, and Aristotle, and the rest. They have also other modes of honouring these images, after the same manner of the Gentiles." (Against Heresies, 1:25:6) It seems likely that Irenaeus was part of the ante-Nicene consensus against the veneration of images. (source)
DavidW has responded, I replied, and DavidW once more.  I encourage you to read what he said, and here I relate my own rebuttal.

approach Orthodoxy on its own terms, free of such confutation.

Do you venerate images?  Bow down to them? 
What substantial differences can you name between EO practice and RC practice, besides that they use statues and you don't?

the book explores the supposedly iconoclastic references that Protestants cherry-pick from the Church Fathers

The existence of which is evidence in support of my position.  I don't think the early church writers had a consistent consensual position, remember?  I judge ALL THINGS by Scripture.

it's a case of looking at the Fathers on their own terms and in their fulness, as you are unwilling to do.

Hahaha, that makes me laugh, that you who ignore early church writers who dissent want to "look at the Fathers on their own terms".  Whatever, man.

3. How do they know Epiphanius' letter is a forgery?
The very existence of ppl who'd like to forge such a letter shows that there did exist such an iconoclastic strain of tradition.  Which, again, is my position.

The iconoclasts of the 8th century picked up their iconoclasm from the Muslims.
Even Muslims get stuff right, you know.  I sorta picked mine up from the OT Jews.

You ASSERT that Tertullian doesn't represent early opinion. Prove it.
Professor Jeffrey Macdonald, a professor of early Christian history

OK, I listened to it, thank you. 
Macdonald:  "He's not technically a Church Father" - begging the very question at hand.  Who decided that?  Why isn't whoever decided that himself in schism, himself unreliable with respect to what is authoritative and normative in church history?
"He wrote a lot" - yup.  And yet you judge him wrong on many counts.  How is that any diff than what I do with what you claim about CFs that you DO agree with?  Why do you get to disagree with an early church writer and I don't?
"He did not remain in the Orthodox Church" - so he schismed?  So he was Protestant before there were Protestants? 
"Gnostics wanted Christians to live under extra rules" - that's very interesting. You mean like necessitating works like baptism on top of faith for salvation from sin?
"most of the CFs tried to work thru Greek philosophy, that meant to Tatian's crew that they were apostatising" - doesn't sound like there's a ton of unity and agreement in the early church, now was there?  There sure seems to be a big diff in the way you EOx talk to Protestants and the way you talk to each other.  Kinda like how Yasser Arafat would say "Peace, peace" in English to the Western goober politicians, then go say "War, war" in Arabic to his own ppl (though obviously less violently).
"Tertullian is not reflecting the reality of early Christianity, he's reflecting a particular position" - What a dumb thing to say!  Of COURSE he was reflecting a particular position.  EVERY writer "reflects a particular position".  Sheesh.

Now, around minute 48-49, Macdonald has a very interesting extended quotation:

"The church has a tradition that the married women did this, and the girls, I guess, they didn't wear veils.  So he makes the statement:  'Whatever favors the opposition to truth is heresy, even if it's ancient custom'.  And he says that in a number of places where he's contrasting the tradition of the church, he rejects the tradition of the church, in favor of the prophecies of the women.  And it stuck in my mind b/c Cyprian, who comes after him in Carthage, makes almost the same statements; for Cyprian, to him he's not a Montanist, but he always refers, Tertullian for him is the only church father b/c he wrote in Latin, and he refers to Tertullian as 'a master', but he makes that statement in regard to the rebaptism, b/c the church was not rebaptising people from heretical groups but was receiving them by chrismation and Cyprian says 'well, ancient custom is just ancient error', you know, so it's this ultimately, the church disagreed with Cyprian on that and have the canons and everything, but this attitude of rejection of the church tradition.  And we will say that OK, not everything that every early Christian ever did is necessarily Gospel, but the consensus of the church and the tradition of the church's practice is part of what Irenaeus is referring to, when he says 'What's to separate us from the Gnostics, who make up their errors?  Each Gnostic is just making stuff up.  That our teachings go back and are continuous back to Christ' and that's what distinguishes the church from a heretical group.  For Tertullian and later Cyprian, they both say 'no, that the church's practice is no indication of what is true,' particularly Tertullian.  And of course, he's coming at it from the idea that these Montanist teachers were in fact revelations of the Holy Spirit."

There is a lot to catch there, but notice how Macdonald says Saint Cyprian treated Tertullian, a guy who was headed to heresy according to the EOC.
Notice how Macdonald even characterises Cyprian's view that Tertullian was the only church father.
Notice how these two early witnesses seem to be treating "church tradition" just like I do - easily prone to error, and in the case of the doctrine under dispute, just a mistaken tradition that got accepted by enough people, handed down enough, and eventually crystallised into unshakable "Sacred Tradition".  And yet these two men disparage it as merely "ancient error".  So what is the EO antidote to this problem?  More appeals to more so-called Sacred Tradition?  As if that's not the very problem at hand?  Why not appeal to what God has said?  Oh no, they've got more important things!  Like preserving their Sola Ecclesia presuppositions, their pet authority. 

Questioner - "It's not like he did a flipflop." 
"That's not surprising.  Alot of his writings, when he's writing against the church he's also contradicting his own early writings, when he was in the church...Tertullian sort of took exception with the decision of the Roman church and ultimately decided, even in his pre-Montanist writings, you start seeing, not the earliest ones, but the period about 204 on, he starts adopting Montanist ideas and then 207 he leaves..."
So...Tertullian takes exception to what a bishop (the one in Rome) defined.  And yet 1800 years later, the Reformed are roundly criticised for following his example.  (Macdonald clarifies that this dissent by Tertullian took place in 197, BTW.)
And I have said in the past that a strong case can be made that church fathers contradict themselves in their own writings over the course of time.  Of course, I catch flak for that kind of statement from RCs and EOdox, but I bet Macdonald won't catch any.  Oh no, b/c he's one of the boys. 

DavidW continues:
Historians don't have polling data; we work with what we have

And then you assume that's what the early church believed.  So you DON'T have any polling data, yet you take ~50 writers who wrote variegated things on a wide variety of topics with some disagreement between them and frequent disagreement between writings from any one of them over the course of his life, and from THAT you decide what the early church believed?  No, you decide after the fact. That's always been my point.  You, the modern EOC, decide which views out of the sparse info that you have from the past you're going to follow.  Sola Ecclesia.
Pardon me, but I don't want to follow such circular self-referential reasoning, such begging of the very question at hand.  I follow what God has most surely said - the Scripture. 

Okay: I say that aliens came to earth, enslaved all people, and set up a kingdom that was only finally overthrown in the 6th century by St. Justinian the Emperor. It's okay, though, lack of documentary evidence doesn't mean it's not true
You're exactly right - that doesn't mean it's not true.  ANYthing could conceivably be true; that's the problem of induction at work (since you mentioned logic).  You have faith on the modern EOC's interp of archaeology and historical data, despite when we show you that your view of history is flawed. You are a humanist at the core.  I have faith in God's Holy Word. 

Right -- he was a heretic. He did become a Montanist, you know?

Yes, I know that, and you're begging the question to claim that joining a Montanist sect means that he was necessarily wrong or out of step with the church.  Prove that most ppl weren't in fact part of the Montanists.  Polling data. 

Irenaeus is not talking about my position because my position is the same as Irenaeus' and I sincerely doubt that Irenaeus is calling his own position Gnostic.
Wow.  That was a naked assertion of epic proportion.  How about you actually deal with what he said?

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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Answering the Skeptical Rationalist's questions

The Skeptical Rationalist has been assuming and naked-asserting his way through some dialogue on my recent post on science and the problem of induction. Along the way, he accused the Bible of containing contradictions.  I issued my customary challenge to him that I give to any visitor to the blog - give me your 5 favorite candidates for "contradiction" status, I'll examine them, and if they fail to be substantial, I will no longer consider any further suggestions from that person that the Bible contains contradictions.  By which I mean that I will mercilessly mock any further attempt or intimation and remind them of their failure to make their Top 5 stick.

The SR, for reasons I can only guess at, decided not to give me 5 "contradictions", but rather gave me 5 questions, which I will take as an admission of defeat on the question.  Since I'm a nice guy, however, I'll have a go at his questions, with the reminder to my readers that I see no evidence that SR has gone to the extraordinary lengths of looking up his questions in standard commentaries, for example.

1. Why is there no penalty for murder in Exodus 21:20-21?
20 “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. 21 “If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.
CARM says:
God permitted slavery to exist in both Old and New Testament times. But this does not mean that slavery was a God-ordained system. Slavery was an invention of fallen man, not of God. Nevertheless, God allowed it to exist the way He allows other things to exist that He does not approve of: murder, lying, rape, theft, etc.
God also works within the system of fallen man and makes allowances for the freedom and failures of mankind within that system. We see this, for example, in Jesus saying that God allowed divorce because of the hardness of peoples' hearts (Matt. 19:8). The fact is, people are sinners and do things contrary to the will of God. But, even though people have murdered, lied, raped, and stolen, God has still used people who've committed these sins to accomplish His divine will. Moses murdered an Egyptian but was used by God to deliver Israel. David committed adultery but was promised to have the Messiah descend from his seed. This is proof that though God desires that people not do much of what they do, He permits them their freedom, yet uses the system and the people according to His divine will.
In the case of a slave being property, that is simply the way things were done back then. As I said, God worked within the fallen system of man and put limits and guidelines concerning the treatment of slaves.

I'd add a few things:
1) It says "he shall be punished", and that punishment is left up to the discretion of the judges.  They could very well inflict the death penalty if they wanted to.
2) The master who strikes his slave so harshly that the slave might die is a fool and is behaving counter to his own purposes. I wouldn't expect him to last very long as a master.
3) The master would be punished additionally thru the loss of work and profit that his slave can't produce while s/he is recovering from the blow.
4) First, the fact that a servant survived a day after the beating shows that the master was not doing it out of malicious spite, or the servant would not have survived so long. After that, the part that explains it is the last phrase 'for he is his property'. As a general rule, men do not destroy their own property. Because of this, it is assumed that the injury or death of the servant was an honest mistake made by the master in a legitimate act of discipline, for which God does not deem it necessary to punish (source).

2. Why is payment of a fine the penalty for murder in Exodus 21:22?
22 “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23 “But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
See the answer at Tektonics.
3. Is it appropriate, if the Bible does not directly address a controversial topic, to find passages whose context is only indirectly or peripherally related, and from these to approximate a doctrinal answer? For example, I don't know that the bible addresses health care, or the environmental conservation. How are disagreements among such to be resolved?
The Westminster Confession, Chapter I, Article VI:
“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture…”
So the answer is yes - the Bible not only gives direct guidance but also principles by which we can live and apply to other situations.  Usually it's not nearly as hard as those who oppose the biblical position make it sound, b/c they have a vested interest in muddling the waters.  Abortion, for example, is not expressly mentioned in the Bible, but anyone who might claim that the Bible is unclear on the matter is a fool.  The hardest matter I've ever encountered in terms of moral questions is euthanasia/when it's permissible to unplugg the terminally ill and really old patient.  That doesn't mean the Bible is unclear on all of those situations or even most of them, but on a few, yes.  Terri Schinder-Schiavo, for example, represents a case where the answer is very easily obtainable; it still amazes me that the courts got it so wrong.

4. How did Abraham determine whether the demand to sacrifice his son was a command of God, a deceit of Satan, or a delusion of his own mind? How would you, if you were in his position today?
Here you go.
A revelation from God Almighty is self-authenticating; there is no asking God for His ID.  No higher authority, whether moral or epistemological, to which to appeal.  Further, there is plenty of information to ascertain between God and Satan - the Bible.  Abraham had quite a bit less, but I see no reason to assume that God wouldn't have provided some way for Abraham to know for sure, given that he didn't have the Bible, but that's not a question that I have to answer today, fortunately. 

5. What biblical contradiction do you find most difficult to reconcile, or most instructive for study in doing so when challenged?
I assume you mean which difficulty is the hardest for me, and the answer is the Incarnation of Jesus, hands down.  How does God become contained in a human body?  How does God mess His diaper, and how does He "grow in grace and knowledge and in favor with God and man?"  How does God become the God-man?  How does God Himself mask His glory and walk around with camel poo splattered on his ankles?  How does He get nailed to a cross?  I have answers, sure, but the whole thing still blows my mind.  It is a great, great mystery, but I see no reason to assume that that which transcends my reason, that which is too great for me to wrap my mind around, is necessarily incorrect.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

CNN - All the news that's not news at all

One of the headlines at CNN.com this morning was an article about an "Evangelical leader" who was critical of Glenn Beck due to Beck's statements on what the Bible has to say about helping those in poverty and various other things related to that.  The social 'gospel', basically.
What really caught my eye was that the appended image was of a church placard with a message saying something like "Sorry Mr Beck, Jesus preached social justice", but the church was a United Church of Christ!  So my first reaction was "CNN thinks that the UCC is 'evangelical'?!"  I guess that's not necessarily the case, but it certainly drew me in.
The Evangelical leader in question is Jim Wallis, which brings me to my curiosity over why CNN made this a central headline. Glenn Beck is a conservative; Jim Wallis is a liberal.  One of the most obvious points of contention between conservatives and liberals (fiscally speaking) is that the former think that, as the article quotes Jerry Falwell, Jr as saying, "Jesus taught that we should give to the poor and support widows, but he never said that we should elect a government that would take money from our neighbor's hand and give it to the poor," and liberals believe in gov't that forces you to give them lots of your money, and then gives it to other people, a great deal of whom are poor for a reason - many are addicts, lazy, uneducated, not very intelligent, or some combination thereof.  Not all, certainly, but many.
Liberals want a gov't that will force me on pain of death to give them money to pay for what turn out to be low-quality one-size-fits-all services, such as publyk skrewel edjamakayshunn, welfare, and DHS.  Think about it - if I refuse to pay all the taxes I owe the gov't, they will attempt to garnish my wages, by force.  If I find a way around that, they will send the police to my house to imprison me.  If I resist them b/c I don't think that they should be able to force me to give them as much of my money as they demand so they can waste it, I'll be forcefully assaulted and restrained.  If I fight too much, they'll kill me.  Simple as that.

So, the only reason I can think of to headline this is b/c CNN and its liberal constituency don't like Beck b/c he and FoxNews beat CNN in the ratings and b/c they turn up their noses at grassroots efforts that Beck likes and supports such as the Tea Party. But why would this be news to me, that a liberal would criticise a conservative for thinking the gov't should have less control over the lives of its citizens?  Has CNN just now discovered what Ronald Reagan generally thought?

Moving on to the content of the article:
Social and economic justice is at the heart of Jesus' message, Wallis says.
Matthew 16:25 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.

Mark 14:6 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7 “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8 “She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9 “Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Actually, Mr. Wallis, it sounds like the salvation of sinners is at the heart of Jesus' message.  But a liberal can't accept that, since it clashes with his naturalistic paradigm and his presupposition that all people are good at heart. 

Is he willing to talk with someone who he doesn't agree with?"
That's rich, coming from a proponent of big gov't.

"If we all did as Jesus did when he helped the poor, we wouldn't need the government," says Falwell, the son of the late evangelical leader, the Rev. Jerry Falwell.
 That's exactly right! And answering the challenge "but not enough people do enough" with "so we need the gov't to force you to give up more of your money so that it can spend it much less efficiently than virtually any private charity" is not the answer, especially since "not enough people do enough" is far more applicable to a large amount of the recipients of social welfare. Would Jesus have had any concept of such a gov't structure as that?  Did He ever address the gov't when He talked about the poor, or did He talk to individuals?

For other Christians, practicing economic and social justice also means trying to change the conditions that cause people to be poor or unemployed. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. subscribed to this definition of biblical justice.
1) Note the subtle bait and switch.  This is implicitly cited in support of Wallis' big-gov't paradigm, when " chang(ing) the conditions that cause people to be poor or unemployed" implies nothing of the sort.  This is either an example of dishonesty or just clumsy ignorance.
2) Another bait and switch occurs when they mention "Christians" and Martin Luther King.  MLK, though many of his actions are to be commended highly, was no Christian, but rather a heretic idolater (as well as a serial adulterer).
I note that it gives me no pleasure to say that, but I must speak the truth.
3) How very postmodern of the author to restrict the question to what "some Christians" believe!  Why didn't he ask what the Bible teaches? I wonder.

He is now regarded as a hero for some evangelicals because he applied his faith to the economic and social justice issues of his day, Duren says.
Which is relevant to the government, how?

"The Old Testament is replete with examples of God threatening to judge a nation because of a lack of justice or carrying out that threat of judgment against a nation,'' Duren says.
The Bible is also quite concerned with people simply going through the motions without heart involvement.  If the gov't forces you to do something that your heart is not in, how does that please God?  These men are asking the wrong questions.

Wallis, who counts King as one of his faith role models
King, who denied the Trinity, the inerrancy of Scripture, and the substitutionary atonement, is Wallis' role model for faith?  This says alot about how deep Wallis is in the Bible. 

Meanwhile, Wallis says he's waiting for that public debate with Beck. "I'll have it," Wallis says, "anywhere he wants."
Ah, the debate that nobody wants to see, between a liberal who makes the Bible say whatever he wants it to say and ignores it when he can't make it fit, and a Mormon.  I'm sure that'd be loads of fun, and I'd set the over/under bet for "Bible psgs quoted in proper context" at 4 for the entire debate.

Habakkuk Study, Part 2

Is it too harsh to charge Habakkuk with some amount of pride or bad judgment, getting too big for his britches, in that he seems to be correcting Almighty God?
Or is it better to see his prayer as the earnest inquiry of a believer who is distressed by all the evil around him and crying out to God for healing for his nation?
How does his prayer compare with many we pray today in modern evanjellyfish-dom?  How about in our specific local church?  In our own lives?

Take all the things Hab is complaining about and let's keep them in mind as we read Deut 29.  Share background of Deut 29 and its purpose.  Skim Deut 28 and let's see the basic outline of it:

IF you follow the Lord's Law herein:
-Blessed in city and country
-Children, livestock, crops
-Military victory
-Everywhere in everything.

If you DON'T follow the Law:
-Cursed in city and country.
-Cursed in children, livestock, crops
-Cursed in food
-Military defeat
-No rain, impenetrable ground for crops
-All sorts of other horrible judgments
-You will be taken to another country in judgment
-v67 “In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see.

What is all this a type and shadow of if not the fate of the unredeemed sinner?  And all of this, horrible as it is, pales in comparison to the eternal judgment and torment of the unredeemed unrepentant sinner. 

Now let's read Deut 29 aloud.
Interestingly, God predicts in Deut 30 that they WILL turn away and be exiled, and then their hearts will be turned back to Him and they'll return.  Like with Nehemiah.

Further discussion:
What questions have you asked God?  That you thought were good and worth not repenting over?  That sincerely grieved you?  Etc.
Did God give a clear answer? 
Review the end of Job - what kind of answer did God give Job?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Habakkuk Study, Part 1

In the Sunday School class that I teach, we've been going through what is probably my favorite book of the Old Testament - Habakkuk.  The notes I prepare each week for the class are not stripped-down so that I have a "teacher's copy" and the others in the class have something else.
Anyway, they may be terrible notes, but I'm going to post them here just in case anyone else out there likes Habakkuk.  The extent of the notes will reflect how far my class got that particular Sunday.
I think the class will go 8 or 9 weeks total, so I'll post 8 or 9 posts in this series.

Here's week 1.

Read Habakkuk chapter 1 aloud.
Where is this taking place?  Judah - the prophet's own country.  Not Nineveh, not Egypt, not Edom or Moab or anywhere else, though possibly we could guess he'd say the complaint is relevant with respect to those places as well. 
Let us review the timeline and where this is.
Kings:  Saul - David, under these two kings the nation of splintered tribes becomes a nation, when they specifically asked God and Samuel for a king (and God and Samuel warned them that they wouldn't particularly like having a king).  
Solomon - Israel rises to the height of peace and prosperity, as well as territory.  Israel is literally a world power under Solomon.
Rehoboam - an idiotic decision leads to 10 tribes splitting off and forming their own nation in the north - Israel, leaving the other 2 tribes to Judah, in the south. 
Each nation experiences ups and downs over the course of ~250 years; Judah has some good kings and the majority bad.  Israel has no good kings, ever, and goes into sin quicker.  They are eventually destroyed and exiled by Assyria.  The Assyrian invasion reaches into Judah as well, under Hezekiah.  God miraculously spares Judah and the Assyrians return home.
Hezekiah's son Manasseh, however, who was king ~55 years, was probably the worst king of any, and his reign and leading the nation into gross sin seals Judah's fate; they have no hope of escaping God's punishment thru Babylon.  King Josiah comes soon after and his excellent reign postpones their destruction, but after he dies in an ill-advised battle with Egypt, it's all over.  This is around when Habakkuk is writing. 

What is happening? Let's make a list of all the things he's complaining about.  v 1-4
What words would we use to describe the state of mind, heart, spirit, emotion of someone who is making a complaint to God like this? 
Does "agony" describe it?  What can we learn from the fact that this book exists, given the prophet's state of mind, heart, spirit, etc?

What does Habakkuk assume here?
-That God can do something about the evil.  ie, He is sovereign.
-That God hates sin.
-That sin is contrary to God's character and commands.
-That God is yet allowing the sin to take place.

It would appear that Habakkuk is familiar with the Law.  For a long time before the middle of Josiah's reign, the Law had been lost to Judah; no one knew it or read it, or apparently even possessed it.  In 2 Kings 22, they happen to find a scroll of the Law as they're renovating the Temple, and it's read to Josiah, and he tears his robes.  Never heard it before!  The Law then made its way around the people, and the nation engages in short-lived revival.  Perhaps Hab got his knowledge of the Law that way.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One of my favorite watchblogs overreacts - part 2

Continued from last time, dealing with this post and combox.

A commenter at Defending.Contending specifically challenged me on some statements I made, then one of the blog authors, Pilgrim, left a long comment detailing various generalised defenses of his position and arguments against Driscoll supporters.  I got the feeling he was talking to me, though I could be wrong.  If he was, he is wrong to do so, as I've never advocated letting MD off the hook for his actions and sins.
I'd like to note that Vox Veritatis attempted to leave a comment in their combox, and it never appeared there, so I have reason to believe my own latest comment will not make it past their moderation either.  So I reproduce it here:

DavidW, (not the same DavidW as the EO blogger with whom I've had many recent discussions)

If the Gospel is objective, then why are you going down that road? You go on to take that back in your long paragraph! MD preaches the Gospel. He also disqualifies himself from being a biblical pastor/elder and even from being a very good witness for Christ thru his OTHER behavior. BOTH ARE TRUE. If the Gospel is objective, then be consistent with that. As it stands, it's not I who am overbiased and beating a golden calf; it's y'all.
How many times do I have to say that MD's behavior is extremely serious and that he's disqualified himself from being a biblical pastor? Would it help if I said it yet again?

You are, however, totally wrong to say that MD preaches another Jesus.
Worldly? Where?
Fleshly? Um, you do realise that Jesus was a man, right?
A brawler? MD was unwisely referring to his shtick of the 'manly Jesus'. Wrongly, probably, but Jesus WAS manly! He was a man! He took a whip to a bunch of moneychangers in the Temple and threw down their tables, twice!
A sexual deviant? Now you're just being stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. Maybe you're too old to understand that kind of humor, maybe you're just unwilling, but that was a JOKE, for the sake of comedic effect. That does not excuse the disgusting, unholy, and perverse nature of the joke, but seriously, if you thought your case is that strong, there'd be no need to engage in this kind of ridiculous caricaturing. If you're going to bust MD's chops, stick to what he's done, not to what you imagine he's done.

And that changes his “gospel” from the one true Gospel to a perverse or “another gospel”.

And I'm saying that is incorrect. Can you really not distinguish telling dirty jokes from intentionally redefining an essential element of the Gospel? You cite Galatians 1 as if it's a coverall; were the Judaisers making immature, dirty jokes? Is that why Paul got after them? Or was it b/c they intentionally added works to the Gospel?

Thus this is not a case where someone may have personal faults and sins, yet preaches the true Gospel

Sorry, I have to disagree. I have made it clear that this is exactly what we're dealing with. I wish that Pilgrim would be a bit more specific and circumspect when he speaks about "MD supporters" (read: shills).


I'm sure the MD shills are out there, but I'm not one of them. I have made specific arguments, been very clear what I think about MD, and been very explicit that this is not about MD at all; it's about what standards you use to separate fellowship with other believers.

I am sorry that you didn't find it necessary to address:
1) my point about guilt by association
2) Phil Johnson's blogpost on that very thing, which I've reminded you of now three times
3) my asking you NOT to ignore MD's good stuff
4) my question which doses of error from Driscoll are “deadly”
5) whether other men of God named/endorsed on either CARM or Monergism has ever done anything you believe to be an unbiblical teaching or practice? None? Not VanTil’s fairly well-known saying that God is both Trinitarian and Unitarian? Postmillennial brethren? Continuationist brethren?
6) why you'd use time on Driscoll that you could be using on someone who DOESN’T preach the Gospel AND IS ALSO widely accepted in the church of Jesus
7) Will you stop endorsing everyone who endorses someone who endorses someone who you think doesn't preach the Gospel? (Since I specifically told you that I was wrong when I said "don't dislike Driscoll", remember? Or are you going to hold my mistake over me the same you're holding CARM's and Monergism's over them?)

Why avoid these major points of mine unless you felt they damaged your position?

I'd add to that list the question: why jettison fellowship with someone or endorsement of someone's ministry just b/c we differ on whether one should take/leave the whole man rather than, here's an idea, use our discernment if/when we listen to him?

You said:
Yet you wink and nod at Drsicoll, giving him a pass for doing likewise because he comes cloaked as a Calvinist and speaks “sound words” most of the time.

See, that's where I'd like you to be specific. I've never winked and nodded at him. And he DOES speak sound words most of the time! Maybe you could present evidence that shows that at least 50% of his words in any group of, say, 5 or 10 sermons are unsound, and then we can talk (though I'd grant you his Song of Solomon series, but I have reason to believe that the low quality of that exposition was atypical of MD). But you haven't proved he doesn't preach the Gospel. So you disendorse sites that endorse a very imperfect guy who preaches the Gospel. Got it. You've gone too far.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More discussion of the title of "heretic" for early writers

My opponent in my recently-concluded debate on Sola Scriptura, DavidW, has had some interesting things to say afterwards, and it has provoked some (what I hope are) helpful thoughts, which I'd like to share here.

I thought I'd sort of broken his spirit and will to debate any more, but it doesn't appear that is completely true, so oh well.
(That's mostly a joke, about me breaking his spirit, just FYI.)

OK, so DavidW likes to assert that I hold to some kind of great apostasy in the early church not long after the apostles died, and that I think the early church 'fathers' were heretics. I wrote this post to correct him, and then Viisaus made some very good comments in the combox and PilgrimsArbour a good one as well.
DavidW lastly left a thought-provoking comment, trying to bring the discussion to a concrete level and then accusing me of "distorting and ignoring the evidence and the historical facts".
So, here is my answer.

But were they points of controversy with respect to what the biblical position actually is? Was the biblical position represented? That's the big question.
As we've discussed numerous times before, I don't grant that "Augustinianism" didn't exist before Augustine. Paul, Peter, and Jesus all taught what I teach today with respect to soteriology, predestination, hamartiology, etc. But at least some of it was forgotten by at least some people in the early church. Since this is a difficult thing for you to remember, apparently, please note that "some" does not mean "all". Got that?

Now, as for your three:
1) A. So they were proto-monophysites, is what you're saying. That's a problem. (For you.)
B. I don't know why you think that I think that a sacramental understanding of the Eucharist is heresy. Do you think I consider Presbyterians or Lutherans heretical?
C. You know, there's plenty of reason not to grant that point to you at all. But even if I did grant it, I'd have to ask whether the writers whose writings are still extant ever wrestled with the issue as it is defined biblically. Did he have an opportunity to be corrected by someone correctly interpreting the Scripture? Remember how I made resistance to correction a big deal in the post?
D. To say nothing of the question-begging nature of such appeals to "the early church" on your part, as if you knew anything about said early church masses beyond what a handful of people said that they themselves believed and, less commonly, said what others of their time believed. If you want to substantiate your claims that "the early church" believed what you believe, show me the polling data.

2) James White has admitted that all of the Fathers held to Baptismal Regeneration

I'd like to see that quote, actually.
And obviously Clement of Rome didn't, as he held to sola fide. Further, there's reason to think that Mathetes, Polycarp, and Tertullian didn't hold to such.
It occurs to me that quoting these early writers against your assertion that they "all... held to Baptismal Regen" actually weakens my point in the post, though it's worth it as it is just one more example of how wrecked and untenable your "early church consensus" position is.

3) Not holding to Calvinistic predestination is not heresy.

OK, moving on:

and you still claim that Calvinism isn't Gnosticism?

Yes, I still claim that it is not, unless you're willing to claim that EOdoxy is Muslim, since both hold to monotheism, prophets and supernatural revelation, angels, etc. Just waiting for some non-fallacious inferences from you. Apparently I'll be waiting a while.

which would be that you are condemning yourself, your Scriptures, and the Apostles in the process?

The idea that you or I could "condemn" the Scripture or Apostles is laughable.
This further begs the question at hand, both that the early extant church writings do in fact represent unbroken and uncorrupted DOCTRINAL transmission from the apostles, and that the Scripture does a worse job than those other writings of teaching us apostolic doctrine.

The Fathers of the early Church largely sorted the Apostolic from the apocryphal in their collation of the New Testament by deciding based on whether or not it agreed with their Faith.

1) Taken in isolation, that's certainly quite commendable. Reminds me of some town in Acts 17 that begins with "Bere" and ends in "a".
2) This raises an interesting point.
Let's say I grant that the extant early church writings express more or less EO doctrine.
Given other facts, such as that the Scripture is God-inspired and sufficiently clear to communicate what it intends to communicate, and that the Scr does not teach more or less EO doctrine on these points of contention between us, I don't see why I wouldn't be fully justified in positing with certainty either that either the entire church of the time was in serious, serious error or that these men didn't properly represent the beliefs of the church at large. In the absence of any data to the contrary (such as polling data from the laity and other church leaders from the time periods in question which I've repeatedly requested and you've repeatedly been unable to provide), my position has logical consistency in affirming the latter.
Yes, I know you'd dispute the statements about the Scripture, but as we've seen over and over again, your position just can't get there, sorry. And I think you know that, which is why you slip in these little jabs at Scr's reliability, whether in affirming its errancy when you want to, or in moving away from it towards early church writers, or in doubting its clarity and ability to communicate sufficiently. Or I could be wrong; as we saw in our debate, your exegesis of most every Scr text you tried to deal with was horrific, so I guess that could be it too.

They did not have access to the same historical and archaeological methods as we do, and so this was the rule of which they made use.

1) And so much the worse for them. I thought you'd want to make arguments that help your position...
2) Though my own arguments for the Canon to which I subscribe are primarily theological.

If the Faith of the early Church was as deeply flawed as you allege that it is, your New Testament is also apparently deeply flawed.

Back to the old myth that I hold to some universal apostasy after the 1st century.

Error does not produce truth.

This is equivocation between the TEACHING and the TEACHER. We need to be more careful than that.

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

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Flying Spaghetti Monster

I've been meaning to write up a little something on the Flying Spaghetti Monster for some time now. Finally getting around to it.

You can see some background here at the FSM's official website. Knock yourself out. The FSM is basically a sort of spoof (sprinkled with a lame attempt at wit) on the Intelligent Design's "unknown Designer" to the tune of "You believe God is the designer, but I think that this Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world in 4 slightly-hungover days, and I believe it because he touched me with his noodly appendage".  However, it also has applicability to the sort of presuppositional argument (ie, the TAG) I usually use in arguing for the justification of presupposing God's existence.
An interaction in which the FSM is mentioned usually includes "Why can't I presuppose the existence of the FSM?" or "I believe the FSM is the designer!" Here's a recent example, even:

PChem said: At some point you have to explain why the universe is here. This is a basic philosophical question that a valid world view should be able to handle.

Dr Funkenstein said: well the invisible pink unicorn would 'explain' it as well as the Christian God, but all that shows is that simply putting forward a content free explanation (and one in itself that would also require an explanation) for the sake of having one is not always better than admitting ignorance.

So here are some principal rebuttals to the existence of the FSM. If you've been linked to this page, you need to answer ALL of these challenges in order for your claim to believe in the FSM to be taken seriously. If you can't or are unwilling, I have nothing more to say to you until you own up to what you actually believe (everyone knows you don't really believe in the FSM), since I'm not interested in discussing stupid fairy tales. Also, you should know that Dick Dawk cites this argument all the time, and it's more than amusing. The guy is completely in over his head when he tries to make philosophical statements. He likes to say "there's as much evidence for a designer as there is for the Flying Spaghetti Monster". Little does he realise (since he's not a particularly deep thinker) that there's as much evidence for evidence, or other minds, or the reliability of one's senses, as there is for the Flying Spaghetti Monster - none.

Challenges for the Pastafarian to answer:

How does the FSM account for the origin of the universe?
The FSM is supposedly made of...spaghetti and meatballs. Did it precede the creation of space in which to exist? How does matter, specifically a delicious Italian meal, exist without space to occupy?

Since the FSM's nature is not timeless, how does it solve the problem of entropy or infinite regress?
If the FSM is supposed to be eternal and since it is composed of matter, how does it escape the problem of entropy? Whence does it derive its energy? How is it that all its energy was not used up an infinite amount of time ago? If it has infinite energy, how do you know that and how does limited matter contain it? If you answer that "it has infinite energy", why does that sound suspiciously like the God of the Bible?
How does it solve the problem of past infinite regress, where if matter and time have always existed (meaning that an infinite number of seconds have already transpired), continuing to exist into the future means that we are continually adding to infinity? (This is, of course, the exact same argument one uses in arguing against the past eternality of the universe itself. It's the Pastafarians' fault for positing a 'god' composed of matter.)

How is the FSM sufficient as a foundation for all reason and intelligibility?
What is the FSM's relationship to the laws of logic and of mathematics?
Does the impossibility of the contrary exist for Pastafarianism? If so, what is your defeater for Christianity?
Speaking of which...

Why is it that enough questioning of Pastafarians or approximations thereof always leads you back to a clear imitation of the God of the Bible?
See a post I did on this a while back.
The idea here is that the FSM is supposed to be an obviously false satire of the God of the Bible, and in showing that one can muster the same kind of argumentation for the FSM as one can for tGotB, show that tGotB is irrational. But what one finds is, if one asks enough questions, the Pastafarian always ends up stealing ideas and theology from the Christian God. Alternatively, when one presses enough, one finds the Pastafarian positing internally inconsistent dogma about the FSM, leading to incoherency. Multiple examples exist in the just-cited post.

There is no serious self-revelation of the FSM. Thus, how can anyone know anything about the FSM?
This is a question I'm always asking of non-Christians - how do you know? The God of the Bible has revealed Himself, in the Bible. If He had not revealed some things about Himself, there would be no way for any human to have access to knowledge about God. He is not composed of matter and is therefore beyond the reach of science. He is not composed of energy per se and is transcendent, so cannot be measured or manipulated and His repeatable effects reliably studied. He is generally invisible, does not generally speak audibly, etc. Any philosophical exercise or thought experiment has no basis with which to begin, and so would have no guarantee of reaching any detailed result or confidence in the accuracy thereof.
The way we know about Him is that He has spoken through prophets and through the God-man, Jesus and His apostles, and this God-man predicted He would be killed and rise from the dead, and then did it. He predicted that worship of Him would arise from within a fiercely nationalistic and fiercely opposed religious context and have success all over the world, and here today is the church.
What is the comparable revelation from the FSM? How can we know it is actually revelation from the FSM? What verification, such as miracles or fulfilled prophecy, has been advanced from the Pastafarian side?

Does the FSM provide any foundation for any objective morality?

Should I believe that the FSM exists? Why?
Should I hunt down and kill all Pastafarians and their children? Why not?
How do we know unless the FSM provides some overarching prescriptive standard in comparison with which we can determine good/bad and right/wrong value judgments?
(Yep, same argument as the commonly used one against atheism.)

What precisely has the FSM done?
Why is it that the FSM blog is full of man-made drawings and representations of the FSM with nothing else? When this supposed higher being supposedly exists, why is the only "evidence" things that humans have done? What sets the FSM apart from other imaginary deities like Vishnu or the sprite in yonder large oak tree?
The answer is obvious - this is a made-up spoof, a satire. Satire, when done well, can stay with someone for a while. When done poorly, it's worth a smirk; then one moves on. This is the latter kind.
And no, I don't want to hear some throwaway "the God of the Bible hasn't done anything either!" Bring a decent rebuttal to the resurrection of Jesus, a rebuttal to the growth and existence of the Christian church, an explanation of the masses of people who preferred painful, messy deaths to denying something they were in a position to know for sure was wrong, an explanation of the origin of time, space, energy, and the universe, an explanation for the origin of life, an account for the diversity of life that doesn't beg the question in terms of the fossil record and by trying to demonstrate unguided processes by means of intelligently-guided experimentation, and that would be a good start.

Why are the claims made by the FSM "religion" so incoherent?
For example:
It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel.
It's times like this when I wonder why I'm wasting my time. I thought you SAW the FSM, and felt it "touch you" with its "noodly/noodley (depends on which Pastafarian is writing, I suppose) appendage". Did the FSM create itself? How does that work, exactly?

But what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage.
This is obviously meant to be a swipe at creationism, but it's very poorly done. Satire has to be precise, else it's a strawman, and this is a strawman. Further, this raises serious questions about the reliability of ANY observation in the FSM-verse. And how does the Pastafarian know this about the FSM? Further, given how much of a strawman this is, why can't the FSM correctly represent or bring its followers to correctly represent competing worldviews, such as Christianity?

Why is the founder of the FSM "religion" so incoherent?
Have a look at Venganza's FAQs:
There are plenty of good Christians (and Muslims, and Buddhists, and Hindus), and plenty of bad ones.
No explanation how he knows good from bad. It's a pretty important question!

Dogma is bad for everyone.
1) That's a dogmatic statement. I guess he didn't really mean it, then. Or he's a sociopath. Or none too bright.
2) This is nothing short of an open admission that the FSM is not to be taken seriously. If the founder doesn't take it seriously, why should anyone else?
3) On what basis, then, does he presume to tell anyone else what the FSM is and isn't? I mean, he NAMED it the FSM! What right does he have to tell me what to call that thing, or to draw it? Don't I have freedom of expression too? Can't I show you a blank piece of paper and say to him, "That thing you call the FSM I have reproduced on this sheet of blank paper, and this is just as valid as yours, since dogma is bad for everyone. Further, it's not actually the FSM; I believe this is my pet Sterrance, who is either visible or invisible, as you like."? Of course, since dogma is bad.

Which leads me to:

Why so much Jon Stewart-like disingenuousness and inconsistency with respect to whether Pastafarianism is satire or not?
Whenever it suits the FSM people, the FSM is real. Whenever you get too close to inflicting a fatal wound on the FSM position, alluvasudden "it's just a spoof on you stupid ID people!"
Why do so many Pastafarians pretend to play "FSM is my god" when convenient and go back to professing atheism or agnosticism on their days off?

What is the FSM's answer to the problem of evil?
It's funny to me that skeptics like to bring up the problem of evil pretty often, but then on the other hand cite things like FSM or paganism or something that have no chance of bringing forth any decent theodicy. Does the FSM define evil? Is there a law to which humans must conform? If so, what is the remedy for the lawbreaking? If not, isn't it the case that it's completely unimportant and inconsequential if I don't believe in the FSM? Or the truth?
Is there any resolution to the suffering we see in the world? How did it all begin? Is human life meaningful at all? If so, on what basis? If not, why believe in the FSM at all, and along those lines, why "evangelise" about it?

Why do so few people believe in the FSM?

Does the FSM ensure the continual consistency of observed physical laws, thus ensuring the utility of scientific inquiry and experimentation? The God of the Bible is explicitly said, in the Bible, to hold the universe together, and to have promised that the world will continue as is until the Eschaton. Atheism labors under the problem of induction, specifically that the patterns observed in the recorded past are in no way certain to continue into the future, even one more second. How does the FSM solve this problem, and how does the Pastafarian know?

If Pastafarianism is true, what explanation does it give for the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
And why are the arguments against the resurrection of Jesus so poor?

All that to say, those who cite the FSM as some kind of decent argument have not done nearly enough heavy lifting in terms of establishing the boundaries and content of the concept they're proposing. They seem not even to realise the necessity thereof, and that willful ineptitude reveals how seriously they take the FSM as a viable concept - they don't. These questions have been dealt with for centuries by Christian thinkers, both clergy and laypeople, and even intellectual dwarves like myself. Where has similar treatment been given to these vital issues from the Pasta side?

See also Mariano's (of True FreeThinker) treatment of this issue. The FSM (like its idiot cousins the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the Ethereal Cosmic Catfish, and all other variants) was funny the first time I heard it, but how funny is a bad joke the 50th time around? Dick Dawk and his friends could also stand to learn that it's in bad taste to laugh at one's own joke all the time.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

So let's just kill 'em

Seems like marhaban, the only non-troll on my post regarding my unpleasant interaction with the irrational and highly insulting PMLS has it all figured out.  Only not.


But having a child also can cause  severe psychological  harm.

1) So let's just kill them!
2) If you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, why choose to murder the child?  You need to answer this.
3) Of course, one is natural (childbirth) and has been going on for quite some time. A few decades, at least, women have been giving birth to children. 

All the more reason to support good healthcare and mental healthcare benefits for all people.

Fine!  Yes!  Stop acting like this is a good excuse to allow baby murder, please!  Sheesh.  That's not the topic, OK?  Stop bringing it up, and focus on the issue.  Stop. Breathe. Focus.

As a parent who adopted my kids from the foster care system, I can tell you from experience that the system is a mess.

So let's kill the babies we don't think will live "good" lives.  Let's assume we can define "good" for someone else.  Let's assume we know that NOT ONE CHILD that we murder will actually overcome obstacles and live a life that s/he finds to be good.  Let's assume that EVERY CHILD, if s/he'd reached adulthood, would've preferred that s/he'd have been murdered in the womb. 
Are you ready to make those assumptions for someone else, let alone millions of others?  On whose authority?

This option may be great for healthy white babies, but not as great for minorities or kids with any issues such as HIV positive parents, drug or alcohol exposure, etc.

So let's just kill those ones, the ones with more obstacles in their way.  They'll never overcome them anyway.

I'm not saying that they won't end up succeeding in spite of this,

Actually, if you're arguing for the permissibility of murdering the children in the womb and using these statements as excuses for it, you are absolutely doing just that. 

I don't claim that it is better to kill the child. I claim that it is a difficult choice to make.

Why precisely is it a difficult choice?  I don't have all the money I want, but it's not a difficult choice for me to decide NOT to mug the rich guy downtown tonight.  Why?  B/c murder is not an option.  Why is that so hard for you to grasp?

I won't pass judgment on those who do

Do you pass judgment on Ted Bundy?  Charles Manson?  Adolf Hitler? Just curious how consistent you're willing to be.  Please let me know.

How will making abortion illegal help?

If I had my way, it would put every single abortician out of business, and if the abortician performed one more abortion after abortion was outlawed, he'd be summarily executed after a very swift trial.  That's how it would help.

Rich people could get them easily enough.

1) Didn't you just finish tell me how hard off most people with unwanted pregnancies have it b/c they're NOT rich, and therefore seek abortions?  Your consistency could use some work.
2) Let them get them, and their children's blood be on their own heads, but not in the US.  I can't control what goes on outside my country's borders.
3) You know what?  Let's just not outlaw grand larceny and fraud, and murder.  I mean, the people with the means to commit those acts will just do them anyway.  That's what your argument amounts to.

Poor people were stuck with unsanitary schmuck "doctors"

1) Do you have any idea how unsanitary most abortuaries are RIGHT NOW?  You need to educate yourself. 
2) Are you arguing that we should pander to those who'd prefer to murder children for the sake of their own circumstances?
3) If we imprison, try, and execute aborticians, shmuck or not, they won't be stuck with them at all.  There won't be any.

Abortion should stay an option, because the consequences of it not being an option also suck.

Thus spake marhaban.  Sorry, but you need to actually make an argument before you can just summarily pronounce judgment. 

Friday, March 05, 2010

The title of "heretic" for early writers

This I write in response to DavidW's assertion here.

All I want to say here is that it makes a difference at what point in history certain things are discussed.  Context, you know?  If there wasn't a great deal of discussion about a certain topic beforehand or contemporarily for a given writer and he makes some comments that, if placed in someone's mouth today, AND if that person today had been educated from the Scripture and refuted from the Scripture and then refused correction, then the label "heretic" would certainly apply.  So it has to do with what people had a responsibility and opportunity to know, and in what capacity.  "From the one to whom much is given, much will be demanded" - Luke 12:48.  It also has a lot to do with resistance to correction.
For example, I can share the Gospel with some total unbeliever, let's say a Muslim.  He hears the Gospel, is pricked to the heart, is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, repents of his sin and places his full faith and trust in Christ.  We then start walking to a place so I can teach him about the Bible a bit and set up times to meet later so I can disciple him, "teaching him to observe all that I commanded you" (Matt 28:20).  On the way, I get run over by a truck.  Said just-converted man knows the name of Jesus, that He is the Savior, that He was crucified for our sins and raised to bring us eternal life, that he himself is a sinner and needs to have a growing friendship with the Savior...and that's it.  And it just so happens he doesn't meet another Christian for quite some time, during which time he reads the Bible and reaches the correct conclusion, say, that "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28) and thus that he will never perish, which is a great encouragement to him.  He also forms the erroneous position that God is a unitary being with three various modes of self-expression.  Then he meets another Christian, finally, who knows the Bible better than he.  Shall that Christian, upon learning that this man holds to modalism and learning of his story of faith, then harshly rebuke the younger believer for his heresy?  No!  He'd teach him the true Scriptural position of the Trinity.  A mark (not a cause, but an effect) of a regenerate heart is a proper response to biblical correction.  This guy, being for the sake of argument (from our "omniscient view" as the narrators of the story) a true regenerate adopted child of God, not self-deceived or playacting, would inevitably submit himself to correction.  In the real world, you never know for sure what's in someone else's heart, so you have to watch for the fruit.  Stubborn resistance to biblical correction on essential doctrine is a great sign of an unregenerate heart, but auto-downloads of the entire corpus of knowledge in the Scripture into the brain is not to be expected.  So the amount of knowledge beyond a bare minimum is not a sign of that; refusing biblical correction is

So, having said all that, I am not going to put these early church writers in the position of forcing their words into commenting on issues they didn't know much about nor had experienced much discussion of.  Just as much of the formal and conciliar formulations of Christian doctrine were hammered out in response to the rise of large movements of support for doctrines that, it would turn out, were incorrect and of central importance to the Gospel and the nature and identity of God Himself, just as Roman anathemas "don't work retroactively", I don't expect these early church writers to have the opportunity of exposure to the breadth and depth of theology and reflection on every single issue that I have opportunity of exposure to.  I have every reason to expect that these men, being adherents to the idea that God-inspired Scripture was to be held to on a higher level of authority than non-Scripture, would hold to MY positions, were they alive today.  Hope that helps clear this up.  It will thus be dishonest of you to continue saying things like "You don't see the problem with stating that the early Christians, many of whom sat at the feet of Apostles and listened to them speak, who gave us the New Testament we know today and without whom Christianity would have ceased to exist, were all heretics?"
So I hope you will stop.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

One of my favorite watchblogs overreacts

Defending.Contending. is usually a good read, and they often have useful and discerning stuff about the zillions of shades of heresy and heterodoxy that are always popping up in the church of Jesus.
However, recently they announced that they are no longer going to endorse two massively helpful websites - CARM and Monergism - because they endorse Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.  Happily, the author of D.C. will be contacting each ministry to let them know of his concerns and his removal of his endorsement for what it's worth, and no doubt asking them to reconsider their endorsement of Driscoll.  I would hope Monergism and CARM (read: Matt Slick) would go ahead and heavily qualify any endorsement of Driscoll that might remain, because that's the right thing to do.  But to go so far as this?  Here in order is the 1st comment I left, the response, and my reply.

Brothers, I’m a bit concerned.
I love your site and always have ever since I heard of it and read it.
In this case, I wonder if you’re not going a bit far when you decide to stop endorsing such sources as CARM and especially Monergism just b/c they don’t dislike Driscoll. Not everyone can spend all the time you guys do on discernment type stuff. I’ve listened to Matt Slick interview Driscoll on his show, and comment on Driscoll a few other times on his radio show, and IIRC his approval of Mars Hill is based on ONE visit to Mars Hill in which Driscoll preached a good sermon on the Penal Substitutionary Atonement. He frequently reminds his listeners (I listen sometimes to his show) that he’s just one guy and doesn’t have a really extensive team, or at least not nearly as extensive as he’d like or need, to do all the research he wants. He pulls no punches on Pagitt and Tony Jones, calls them out by name, calls out McLaren, calls out The Shack both directly to the author and indirectly to his audience. He drops the heretic-bomb on each of them. He’s far from perfect, he’s not omniscient, but he’s not afraid, he’s not compromising.
My educated guess is that Slick just hasn’t had the time to research EVERYthing that Driscoll has said, and Driscoll has said alot of good things as well as bad things.

Could I ask your reaction to those comments and also to these comments?

Grace and peace,

Dear Rhology:

It’s not a matter of ceasing my endorsement of these sites “just b/c they don’t dislike Driscoll.”
That is a very shallow commentary on our stand, suggesting this is like a high school dispute when in reality it’s a matter of eternal death or life.

Both CARM and Monergism don’t merely tolerate or have no opinion of Mark Driscoll, they both openly ENDORSE the blasphemer. And because of this we cannot and will not endorse them.

I know we will not ‘make friends’ when we draw lines in the sand like this (and we’ll even lose friends), but we must draw lines in spite of the myriad of voices saying we’ve “gone too far,” we’ve “cried wolf one too many times,” or any other attempts to persuade us to “all hold hands and forget our differences.”

I will continue to refuse to endorse anyone endorses those who mock our Lord. And I have not demonized CARM or Monergism, as they may not be aware of the issues with Driscoll, as you suggest. But what happens when they are made aware and yet refuse to stop endorsing him? Then what? Does that change anything?

I have contacted both sites to make them aware of the issues with Driscoll, but please understand, neither you nor the many others who wish to have us deviate from our commitment to separate from the profane will cause us to budge. Regardless of how many comments we get urging us to not be so radical, we understand that this path we’re on is a very lonely one paved with much ridicule, but with God’s grace we are willing to go it alone if we have to.

- The Pilgrim

Sorry Pilgrim, I did not mean to communicate that I thought your stand was shallow. Please excuse me.
You said:
it’s a matter of eternal death or life

Is it, really? Do you really consider that Driscoll does not preach the Gospel?
Yes, I fully recognise that he tells dirty jokes, at very unwise times. Yes, his mouth is quite dirty and I am not at all sure he should be in ministry w/o cleaning all that up, and I am VERY sure that he should not be put up on the pedestal that he is. But you really think this is a matter of Gospel vs non-Gospel?

But what happens when they are made aware and yet refuse to stop endorsing him?

Yes, that certainly changes things, but I just wonder whether that would simply represent an acknowledgement on their part that Driscoll preaches the Gospel. Yes, he has tons of bad baggage. Yes, you can hardly ever mention the man without a “…BUT”. But…Gospel, you know?

separate from the profane

Are you not separated from the profane already? You actively call out Driscoll for his many sins, and that’s great, and needed. But did you read Phil Johnson’s piece that I linked to in my last comment, about guilt by association? Why use time on Driscoll that you could be using on someone who DOESN’T preach the Gospel AND IS ALSO widely accepted in the church of Jesus? I know you do that, and you do it a lot, and that’s awesome. But surely you have plenty of stuff to say on plenty more people who fall into that category. Why not spend more time on them rather than on criticising faithful brothers who think that Driscoll preaches the Gospel, because Driscoll preaches the Gospel?

Again, with great respect.

Grace and peace,

Monday, March 01, 2010

The product of an Ivy League law school

So on my friend "Mac"'s Facebook page, he posted a link to a book that he describes in the first comment. Then his friend, who eventually revealed herself as a law student at an Ivy League university, and who later revealed herself to be incapable of rational dialogue with those who disagree with her, and who around the same time evidenced a pretty unladylike vocabulary, began to "engage" him, and when I started asking HER some questions, well, you can see what happened.

Of note are the numerous complaints from our Potty-Mouth Law Student that *I* acted insultingly toward her, my numerous challenges to her to quote me saying sthg insulting, and her resulting silence.

Be warned, her language gets fairly coarse.

(Names changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.)

: This is interesting because this Former abortionist tells of the false propaganda that was used to convince the Supreme Court and America that abortion on demand should be legal. All kinds of falsified polls and statistics, when in reality Most Americans were not in favor of it. How sick. All of you "pro-choice" people out there who aren't afraid of the truth take a gander at this.
February 15 at 10:32am

Potty-Mouth Law Student
Please, more bias information..
February 15 at 10:48am

How is it biased? Did you check the facts or just assume that? I think this Dr. who performed thousands of abortions probably knows more about it than you do, don't ya think?
February 15 at 10:51am

Why don't you check out the history of Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood. If she had it her way you wouldn't be here because you are an inferior race.
February 15 at 10:51am

Did you read the article, the Dr. said that he isn't a religious man, he was convinced by the science of it, or did you not read it but just comment out of assumption?
February 15 at 10:53am

Are you trying to paint with a broad brush pro lifers becuase a few have taken justice (and it was justice) into their own hands rather than leaving room for vengeance to God? I am one to judge that murder is wrong, because everyone knows it is wrong and because it is a universal law of wrong, your conscience tells you that. You in the same way judge others who have murdered. If someone murdered your child or friend you would say "hey you murderer that was wrong" to which he would reply, "Hey, who are you to judge me?" Yes I refute your right to murder other human beings, we do not give anyone the right to kill already born humans, and we shouldn't give the right to anyone to kill pre-born humans either. Look at the evidence don't just hang on to some self centered humanistic view of life. Don't return to your tired argument of what murder is defined as by the "current" system of law, since the law is ever changing and at one time it would have been lawful for me to buy you and then kill you if I had wanted. You keep finding yourself at a dead end in this debate because you just argue in circles "here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush..."
February 15 at 2:19pm

And here I always thought the definition of 'bias' was making conclusions based on prejudices about which you have no actual knowledge or information. Silly me!
February 15 at 8:18pm ·

Potty-Mouth Law Student
right silly you, as I recall I was talking to Mac. Furthermore, i find his info to be bias as in one sided. I am quite familiar with the definition hence, this is a on going conversation between him and I so thanks.
February 15 at 11:22pm

Wouldn't calling his info biased w/o reading it be biased on your part?
February 16 at 8:05am ·

Potty-Mouth Law Student
Did I say I did not read it? Where did I publish that I had not read the material?
February 16 at 8:45am

More on science and the problem of induction


I'm sorry to say, I think that so far you're not entirely following what I'm trying to say, and that's possibly b/c I'm not explaining myself well.
When I said I'm running reductios, what I mean is that the naturalistic worldview has a dire and unresolved epistemological weakness - the problem of induction. Related to that is the problem of sense perception. You don't know that your specific observations, of which you can make a few hundred on a given topic per year out of quintillions of actual events, reliably lead you to understand the universal, the way the world is. You ASSUME it. Similarly, you ASSUME that your senses accurately observe the outside world, then you ASSUME that the senses properly report that data to your brain, then you ASSUME that the data arrives correctly, then you ASSUME that your brain properly interprets the data, then you ASSUME that you then act properly on that data. But why assume it? B/c the alternative is distasteful - solipsism - but not b/c you have an argument or evidence that your assumptions are true. You HOPE they are, and hey, you ASSUME they are, but you can give no reason for me to think they actually are true.
Further, you have no reason to think that the natural processes you think you observe around you are in operation everywhere. You have no reason to think they have always, or at least since a very long time ago, been in operation. You ASSUME these things are true, but you can't even start to prove it.
This is the massive problem with any naturalistic worldview. That's what I've been riffing off of in my comments to you.

I don't have that problem, since my fundamental basis of knowing things is not observation at all. Nor is it human reason or thought. I can know anything b/c God has spoken and He has assured me that my cognitive faculties are generally reliable though certainly not infallible, since I am made in the image of God. He has promised that in general He holds the universe together, and cycles of seedtime and harvest will remain, the Earth will remain in orbit around the sun, life on Earth will continue and my responsibility is to live for Jesus and proclaim the Good News of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name to everyone, until the Eschaton. I have the unflinching and unchanging promise of the omnipotent Creator God. You have nothing, since you have chosen to distrust Him. But you can always turn back.

Notice that to overturn my argument, you're going to need to give me some argument that your senses and cognitive faculties are in fact reliable AND how you can know that with certainty. Don't assume it, prove it. You're then going to need to solve the problem of induction and let me know how you can know that your pitifully small numerator of things you think you've observed and experienced add up to some meaningful amount given the vastly huge denominator of total events in the universe, and how that ratio informs you with any degree of certainty as to the truth of the universal law you think your observations inform you of. It's a big job, so let's not waste time with "Junior"; you need to start doing some heavy epistemological lifting.

Notice, finally, that even if you were able to give some reason to think you're right, besides your bare assumptions, you still haven't gotten anywhere with respect to the actual question of your overlaying your story over the fossil "record". Even if the fossils were all once organisms, and even if they had parents, that doesn't tell you anything about the parents since you don't know who the parents were or what they were like, what traits they had, what genetic code they had. You don't know anything, but you want to pretend like YOU'RE the guys with the truth on your side?