Monday, May 31, 2010

Habakkuk Study, Part 5

Let's consider a 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.
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 2 Kings 22.
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.
The challenge for the questioner, then, is to demonstrate that there is indeed another source of divine revelation besides Scripture.

V 3 - You want me to act?  I will, but in my own good time. 
Cf 2 Peter 3:8-9, Isaiah 46:9-11
Is God's action any less certain just because it takes longer than we think it will or should?  How pathetic does that make me because of my lack of trust in Him, that I think of things on the basis of whether I see an answer in an hour or day?

v 4 - The man who trusts God will live and be righteous.  He who would call God on the carpet for not acting fast enough is proud, proud enough to correct Almighty God!  And his soul is obviously not properly oriented toward God.  Or do you think you know how to run the world better than He does?
So, speaking of which, how were people in the OT saved?

Notice that God is telling Habakkuk to trust Him that the Babylonians will be dealt with. But whom was He telling Hab just last answer that He'd be dealing with?  Judah!  It's not one or the other, as we often like to try and set up as a dilemma.  "God, don't deal with ME!  I'm not as bad as THAT GUY!" 
No, God deals with ALL sin, ALL lawbreaking, when He has decided to.  Not some of it, not only the really really bad stuff.  It's a both-and. 
And God's answer to Habakkuk is to take a wider perspective: don't try to tell Me how to run the world and enact justice - you should be more interested in living, and living is by faith.  "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" - Matt 16:26

v 5 - Like death itself, which doesn't stop until it takes 100% of life, even good men, little children, pastors, etc, these Babylonians are not satisfied with "home", ie, what God has given to them as their portion? 
Nebuchadnezzar of Daniel 4:28-30 - why does this king, this mortal man, think it is permissible for him to assemble a violent army to kill a bunch of people and take their stuff?  What does Neb say as to the reason?
And how is this any different from the modern idolater?  Tycoon banker? Drunkard?  Senator?  Drunkard Senator?  Gambling addict whose family loses out to the addiction?  

v 6 - the lesson is that your deeds will find you out, will bite back.  God will arrange punishments and sufferings for the Babylonians to endure as well.  Further, He'll arrange for them to be mocked and scorned.  Think about it - isn't the end of King Belteshazzar of Daniel 5 pretty pathetic and worthy of all the contempt and scorn heaped upon it for centuries? Especially the way he blows off the obvious miraculous sign, failure of his normal mystical aids, and accompanying prophecy? Only to be destroyed that very night?

BONUS if we have time:  Exegesis of Acts 13:13-41, in which Paul quotes Habakkuk 1:5.  

Like a kid with dynamite

This is what happens when you let skeptics, who have only a self-referential and thus completely inadequate worldview, loose with postmodern ideas.

What you all have quite ably and cleverly demonstrated in the long and drawn out discussion of rape in the OT (that has a occurred at a couple of sites) is that one can interpret ancient texts as one wishes. What you have proven is that when the documents in question are thousands of years old, one can conclude that they say whatever one needs them to say. Ken Pulliam is doing a nice job of demonstrating this with his series on slavery. And consider the Calvinists and the Arminians; after centuries of fighting, they are no closer to an answer or resolution then they were 500 years ago.

There are an almost infinite number of ways to interpret the ancient words, and if one knows how one wants things to come out, the proper interpretation can always be found. When confronted with reality, if extreme skepticism is required to save the day, then one will be an extreme skeptic. If extreme credulity is required, then one will believe whatever is necessary. If an independent test with physical evidence shows that the words are clearly flawed, then the words will be re-interpreted as needed and/or the outside evidence will be dismissed. One doesn’t need a degree in theology to see that it’s all a matter of what one chooses to believe at the start of the exercise.

I used to do as you do. I went to church every Sunday for over twenty years, and I learned most of the apologetics answers and the various kludges and workarounds for the various contradictions and other problems, starting with Genesis 1 and 2. Despite your repeated attacks on my intelligence, I’m not an idiot, and I learned my lessons well. Problem was, the list of excuses and rationalizations kept getting longer and longer and longer. It wasn’t that any one rationalization didn’t work, it was more the cumulative impact of the constant need to patch and fill and re-interpret. There’s an old clich√© about how if you’re working this hard, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, it’s possible to keep patching and filling and denying, but what if one dares to consider that there might be something fundamentally wrong here?

Some years back, I started thinking and wondering and looking at all of this as an outsider might look at it. How did all of this Bible stuff fit into the grand scheme of anthropology and human history, culture, psychology, biology, etc? How does fit into the whole human experience over tens of thousands of years and across a population that fills an entire planet? What did it mean that so many excuses and kludges were required to keep the whole thing from reaching critical mass? And one day, it occurred to me that this was all mostly bollocks. Think about it enough, dare to consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and it all falls apart.

Here’s a funny thing. Once you’re seen the man behind the curtain, you can’t get that image out of your head. I’m sure that you’re all happier not looking behind the curtain. Enjoy your wizards, I’m off to enjoy reality.
What you all have quite ably and cleverly demonstrated in the long and drawn out discussion of rape in the OT (that has a occurred at a couple of sites) is that one can interpret ancient texts as one wishes. 

1) What the Intelligent Design vs evolution debate has quite ably and cleverly demonstrated in the long and drawn out discussion of evolution vs ID (that has a occurred at many sites) is that one can interpret ancient facts as one wishes.
What the white supremacist vs non-white supremacist debate has quite ably and cleverly demonstrated in the long and drawn out discussion of racial facts (that has a occurred at many sites and over the course of, you know, a couple of wars) is that one can interpret ancient facts as one wishes.
2) There's nothing distinctive about the difficulty of interpretation of these ancient texts over and against, say, your own comment here. I guess if I were simply to "interpret" your comment to mean that Jell-O has furtherly bones and the bluer they fly the much, and if I were to stubbornly continue to "interpret" it that way, you'd conclude that what we'd have quite ably and cleverly demonstrated in the long and drawn out discussion of whether your comment was totally nonsensical is that one can interpret modern texts and your comments as one wishes.
IOW, this is an utterly useless throwaway comment, devoid of meaning. Thanks for wasting everyone's time with such inanity.
Look, if you don't want me making low estimation of your intelligence, give me a reason. This is not a good start.

One doesn’t need a degree in theology to see that it’s all a matter of what one chooses to believe at the start of the exercise.

One could say this about ANYTHING. Again, totally useless.

I learned most of the apologetics answers and the various kludges and workarounds for the various contradictions

1) I doubt that. Not just b/c I haven't seen the fruit of that in your own discussions with me, but also b/c most American evanjellyfish don't actually learn all that much about how really to give Jesus all the glory He deserves.
2) Presumably, you've learned why those answers to "contradictions" don't work. I'd like to invite you to give me your 5 best contradictions, and we'll see if they stick.

Think about it enough, dare to consider the possibility that you might be wrong, and it all falls apart. 

Think about it enough, dare to consider the possibility that evolution/atheism/skepticism/whatever-your-position-is might be wrong, and it all falls apart. Thanks for another throwaway comment. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Habakkuk Study, Part 4

Today we will study Habakkuk 2:2-20 - God's 2nd answer to Habakkuk

v2 - Record the vision, inscribe it on tablets.
I'll bet he'd've been glad to have a laptop.  That's going to take a while.
Of course, it's worth it - it's not every day you get a big-time revelation from God that's meant to be preserved unto all perpetuity for all of God's people to read. 
Notice that this is another example of God's pattern of WRITTEN communication to His people. 
Think about this with me - what if someone asked you in what year the Church entered its "normative state" and Sola Scriptura become possible?  When did the church have enough Scripture to practice the biblical teaching that the Scripture alone is the final rule of faith for God's people?
Let's consider 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.

Read Ephesians 2:19b-21.

2 things to note here:
1) The church of Jesus from this early time already had Scripture from God
Acts 17:10-12, 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? Bothbecause 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. 
No, these letters and books that would become the NT books, 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?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Habakkuk Study, Part 3

Let's read Hab 1:5-2:1.  We'll focus today on 1:5-11 today. 
A probable contemporary of Habakkuk is Jeremiah.  Let's see what the inhabitants of Judah were saying around the same time as these prophecies of doom were reaching their hearing.
Jeremiah 7:1-15.  Note that this refers to the same coming punishment as Habakkuk (and Deut). 
So we can see that Jeremiah mocks those who say "well, that couldn't happen here.  We have the temple of the Lord!" and tries to correct them unto repentance.  Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and many other prophets throughout the history of both nations tried to warn the people about coming judgment, but those warnings were at best only partially and temporarily successful. 

What do we call it when people assume too much about how good it's all going to be here on Earth?  We could call it many things, but in general we could term it an over-realised eschatology. That is, sort of expecting the benefits and joys of the Eschaton here and now, and a neglect of the already and the not yet.  Who are some of the worst offenders on this count these days?  Liberals, humanistic utopianists, Emergents (but I repeat myself), and Word of Faith-ers, to name a few.  The first three ppl tend to concentrate on making THIS EARTH into Heaven, bringing (their ideas of) justice to bear everywhere, making sure everyone lives in a communist utopia.  And WoF-ers tend to concentrate on God as Fairy Godmother, who will be compelled to give you whatever you ask for with sufficient faith (or, more precisely, God is not even involved - speaking stuff into existence with the power of faith-filled words is a universal principle) (I only wish I were kidding).  See how this all plays into the over-realised eschat?

Thus "the temple of the Lord".  God is all about blessing and happiness, daisies, and kittens.  No way does He have a law that we are obligated to know and obey, no way does He care much about holiness or justice. 
Finally, notice the superstitious nature of "the temple of the Lord", as if the temple were a lucky rabbit's foot, that bad luck couldn't touch you if you had one, or you won't get a speeding ticket if you have a fish magnet on your car. 

Rather, what is the cry of the NT?
1 Cor 16:22 - Maranatha.  
Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Maranatha).
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
Romans 8 answers:
19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. 

The Jewish Passover Seder includes 4 cups of winejuice that you drink at various times during the ritual.  The 3rd is called the Cup of Redemption, and this is probably the cup that Christ held up at the Last Supper.
Matt 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. 29 “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” 

He left the 4th cup undrunk - the Cup of Praise, signifying the completion, the Eschaton, as He says - "in My Father's kingdom".  Why undrunk?  His task was not yet complete, and neither is ours, neither is the Earth's.  God will end it, but not yet.  Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus! 

Hab 1:5 - often taken out of context, like Jeremiah 29:11, but this is worse.  This is a promise of destruction. 
1:6 - what if He said "I am raising up the Islamic jihadists"?  Or "...the Iranians" or "...the Chinese"? 
1:7 - their justice and authority SHOULD originate with God, but these are idolaters, self-worshipers. 

Basically, so far God's response to Habakkuk's prayer has been "Yes, I know", and "you ain't seen nothing yet". 

1:10 - they mock at kings like Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, their puppets.  And they mock at the once-mighty kings of Assyria, whom they wiped out utterly, fulfilling similar prophecies made about Assyria in books like Nahum and Jonah.  Even high city walls they conquer by just building a big ramp.

1:11 - "they whose strength is their god" - could this possibly describe any parts of modern American evanjellyfish-dom?  Rah, rah, American military!?  The often-unquestioned unity of neo-conservative American politicomilitary pursuits with the agenda of the Bible-believing churches of America? 
God gives a teaser to information He'll give later - "they will be held guilty".  

Friday, May 28, 2010

Two skeptics, one testable prediction

David said:
"My position is that God wrote the Bible in conjunction with these ancient tribesmen."
As you would say, prove it.
I love it.  As *I'd* say?  Notice how I'm the one demanding evidence in this thread.  Me, the Christian fundy Bible-thumper.  And the skeptics, the "freethinkers" are whining about my always demanding evidence.  There's some irony, some poetic justice in that.  Can't put my finger on it...

Anyway, I do so by the impossibility of the contrary.

OTOH, since we're discussing which worldview accts for morality and rape and all that, it's unnecessary for me to adduce proof for my position. We're comparing which worldview can best acct for whether rape is evil.
Besides, I've repeatedly asked you to prove empiricism, and you, um, haven't even tried.

Walter said:

The Qur'an also purports to be the word of God; what methodology do you use in determining that the Qur'an is simply a human book while the bible is a not?

I test its internal consistency first, and if it does have internal consistency on the major points of it, I'd move on to other tests. But I don't have to move on, for it very obviously lacks internal consistency.

unless I can positively refute your fantastical claims, then they must be true.

Don't be so dense. You made a negative statement. I asked you to prove it, knowing you can't. Now you're whining b/c someone called you on making an indefensible statement.
I'm saying you should change your statement if you can't substantiate it. Something like "I've seen no evidence that God exists".
At which point I'd ask you how you could be so sure you hadn't seen it but just missed it or refused to accept it.
At which point you'd backtrack again and say that you can't think of any evidence for God's existence that you accept as compelling.
At which point I'd snicker b/c you'll have so far made 2 indefensible statements, and then go on to ask you if you can think of any evidence for evidence's existence that you accept as compelling. You'd then no doubt retreat yet further to a blind faith position - "but, but, but...if we can't use evidence, we're lost!!!!1" And I'd respond with "Exactly, now please tell me why I should accept your argument from undesirable consequences". At which point you'd change the subject.
I've made a testable prediction. Prove it wrong.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I absolutely believe in global warming

The theogenic kind:

2 Peter 3: 10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A prayer to our Blessed Mother, from us, poor children of Rome

We on the Beggars All team have recently been having some second thoughts about the content we produce, especially given a few posts that have come before along these lines (link 1) (link 2). With that in mind, we got together to adapt the following prayer to reflect our newfound discoveries, that distinctive Roman dogmaactually are found in the Holy Scripture:

Preserve me, O God, Mary, and ye saints, for I take refuge in you. I said to Blessed Virgin, “You are my mediator and rescue; I have no good besides you.”

As for the saints who are in the earth and those who have passed on to the heavens (to the latter of whom I speak daily), They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

The joys of those who have bartered for another object of piety will be multiplied; I shall indeed pour out their drink offerings of Messiah's blood, Surely will I take their names upon my lips.

The Blessed Mother is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

I will bless my Blessed Mother and the saints who have counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

I have set my Mother continually before me; Because she is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely.

For she will not abandon my soul to Sheol, only to Purgatory (for what are mere billions of years in comparison to eternity?); Nor will she allow her Holy Son to undergo decay.

You will make known to me the path of life; In your presence is fullness of joy; In your right hand there are pleasures forever.

(Hat tip:  Psalm 16)

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

NEWS FLASH - Scientists demonstrate Intelligent Design!!!!

See it all here -
Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome

Our good friend ERV has comments on it, which are refined and coherent, true to form.  Strangely, she leaves out the obvious, that the creation of this bacterial cell was due to ****INTELLIGENT DESIGN****. Gosh, I wonder why she might leave that out...

A fun, developing dialogue

I linked over from Pharyngula (which I certainly don't categorically recommend, but them's the facts) to a blog called "Former Fundy", by one Ken Pulliam.  I decided to comment on his post entitled "The Christian Delusion: Chapter Thirteen--Christianity Does Not Provide the Basis for Morality".

The conversation is developing nicely with some interesting exchanges so far, so feel free to check it out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Mainstream than Baptist

And here's a lovely piece at ERV on an atheist's best friend - Dr Bruce Prescott, the Mainstream Baptist, of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and a member in apparently good standing of a church in my area where at least two (not close) friends are also members. 
You know, let me propose a rule of thumb for your consideration - if you're a "Christian" and yet blasphemous atheists love you and think your work and organisational affiliations and opinions are awesome, you might want to reconsider your life's path. What makes you "Christian", exactly, sir?  You have a bland confession of faith, you say "Jesus" sometimes; bravo.  Do you really think you're better off with a worldview that puts you in the good graces of mockers and blasphemers, not merely of the Gospel, but of the very existence of the Savior and Lord you claim to love and serve?  Theology doesn't matter much, as long as you're "loving" people, giving them handouts and making sure the government is taking as much money as possible from evil rich people and Marxing it to welfare queens and enablers of racial profiling? 

Interestingly, I'm not the only one to notice this either.  Somehow during the vagaries of blogging, a pastor in Cleveland decided to have some conversations with Dr Prescott, some years ago.  Apparently he experienced the same thing I've experienced with Prescott - a strict moderation policy and deletion of comments once one comments more than, say, twice on any post and more than 5 times total on his blog.  It's suspiciously like he doesn't want to debate people.  His blog is apparently simply for posting thoughts and whining, and then getting his jollies when sycophants give him high-fives in his combox.  Typical liberal - I've experienced comment moderation at a very high level from numerous liberals (ie, left-wingers, for those of you in the UK) and thus frequent quashing of intelligent debate.  Why?  Because liberals have to know somewhere in their guts that it's best that they just...not...debate.

The faithful skeptic strikes back

The fun continues with David, a faith-full skeptic who likes to make big solid claims for the awesome solidity and certainty of naturalistic science, and then when challenged retreat to agnostic claims that resemble more than a little what you might hear from an LDS missionary's testimony about how he knows the Book of Mormon came from God.  It's amazing to watch this guy dance.

His three comments begin here.


you then turn around and claim that the rules don’t apply to you. Turns out, you can’t know what you claim to know either.

Oh no, not at all!  They DEFINITELY apply to me.  What's great about my position is that Jesus tells me many things of which I can't help but be ignorant, and that includes these ultimate questions of epistemology and existence.  Jesus can see them, and lets me know in the Bible.  That's why they don't apply to me in the final equation.  But you have no such recourse, no such foresight, available to you.

You can claim “self-justification”, but your claims are no better supported then.

I don't just CLAIM it. I've demonstrated it. 

Ok, so we’re equally ignorant. Fair enough.

Now comes the part where  you admit that your position is based on faith just as much as mine. 
(I'll go on to demonstrate, as I've been doing, that yours requires MORE faith, but a statement of equivalence from you will be fine.)

but others seem to be a pretty good description of how the natural world works

You mean they SEEM to.  Until they're proven wrong.
And "seem to be" is nothing close to the solid basis you claim when nobody's poking around and asking tough questions.  You see how squishy your claims have become?
And "seem to be" is totally dependent on the as-yet-unproven claim that evidence is a good way to discover truth and that your cognitive faculties function properly.  So you stack faith upon faith. 

Turns out, you have much the same confidence in science that I do,

Well, not totally the same, no.  I have general confidence in it to do what it can do in its realm.  I also, however, recognise its inherent fallaciousness and its inability to comment outside its bailiwick.

“sold-out, on-fire, zealous for your faith” in science. (By the way, who was it that was so annoyed when I engages in “unjustifiable psychoanalysis”?)

I'm just calling it like I see it.  Besides, you could label me sold-out, on-fire, zealous for your faith in JESUS, and I'd wholeheartedly agree.

Ever taken an antibiotic? If so, then you were expressing faith in the logically fallacious conclusions of science.

OK.  Now prove to me that the NEXT time I take an antibiotic, it both will work and won't transport me to Neptune.  PROVE it, don't just assume it. 
Besides, you didn't read my article, did you?  If you had, you'd know that science is in fact generally reliable b/c the God of the Bible holds the universe together to run according to physical laws and more or less universal regularity.  So medicines can be trusted, usually, b/c of that, rather than to transform us into lizardmen, despite the same chemical structures. No such guarantee on naturalism.

Would I rather live in a world in which slavery was accepted and women were denied full rights and our rulers thought they were placed on their thrones by gods, etc

Would Jeffrey Dahmer rather live in a world where his cannibalistic murders were prosecuted?  Probably not - he'd prefer to eat people in peace. 
You're both people.  Now tell me who's right and how we can know. 

Ceremonial laws, moral laws, heard it all before. Doesn’t change the fact that the laws changed.

Oh, so your ignorance is intentional.  I don't think that makes you look any more rational, tbh.

Umm, I don’t get it. This is an argument? You do think that your church has the one true truth and hasn’t changed in 2000 years, yes?

Umm, I don’t get it. This is an argument? You do think that naturalistic science has the one true truth and hasn’t changed ever, yes?

The message is essentially inseparable from the interpretations.

So Jell-O has no bones and the further they fly the much? 
Or wait, I read that wrong.  You're saying that you've bowed the knee to Jesus and want to become a fundamentalist?  Cool!  Mind sharing your testimony with us?

What’s the point of saying that there’s a “static” message if no one knows what it is

Who said no one knows it?

I understood that this is from the Bible, but what does it matter?

B/c it's God saying it, not me.

So, if I can’t prove that the writers were definitely NOT inspired, that means that this is the Word of God?

Now you're shifting the goalposts AGAIN.  Do you really think your position is helped by this kind of dancing?

Can you definitely prove that the sacred writings of other religions were not inspired? 

Yes, by demonstrating
1) internal inconsistencies in them
2) that the Bible is in fact true.  And the Bible rules out other religions as false.

I could mention the errors in the Bible (global flood, anyone?)

Oh, so you  have a time machine and can tell exactly that the flood didn't happen?  How did you make it?  What time period did you examine?  How did you escape aging while you were observing?
Or is this just another statement of faith on your part?

Huh? What? Outside universe?

Yes, the universe outside of you.  You have two options:
1) Prove it exists, and thus show your position epistemologically superior to mine, OR
2) Take it on faith, and thus emasculate all your "that's just faith" critiques of my position.  Pick your poison.

The reality is that we don’t know what happens after death.

YOU don't.  I do, b/c a highly trustworthy authority told me what happens. 
And yet YOU are the one who apparently feels qualified to make solid statements about it and then mock dissenters from it.  Then when challenged, you retreat to agnosticism.  This is why I don't find your approach very satisfying or very innocent.

David:  I’ve read all the apologies for the Trinity. It’s still tritheism
Rhology: "I’ve read all the apologies for atheism. It’s still river fairy worship."
David now:  Wow, now that was a searing rebuttal. River fairy worship? What’s that?

It's where you worship fairies that live in rivers.
Now, if you point me to "real atheist writings" that rebut that or that never mention that, I'll just do like you did and ignore them.  "Sorry, I’ve read all the apologies for atheism. It’s still river fairy worship."

Reason, empathy, reciprocal altruism, the creations of codes for “domestic tranquility”, desire to live, desire to see our children live, etc., etc., are all “objective” and the basis for what we call moral codes and “good and bad”

Fine.  Now prove that reason is good.  That empathy is good.  That altruism is good.  That creating codes to cooperate are good. 
I'd link this article to you, but I'm not confident you'll actually read it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A compendium of resources on Eastern Orthodoxy, so far

James Swan, the head honcho at Beggars All, was contacted by an acquaintance inquiring about Eastern Orthodoxy, because he was alarmed at the rate of conversion to EOC among seminarians with whom he is familiar.  James (perhaps unwisely) forwarded him on to me, and I gave it my best shot.  I'd like to reproduce a distillation of our brief correspondence here, for future reference.  May the Lord use this information for His glory.


I'm a coblogger/underling on James' blog, and in my blogging career, I've written on EOC and interacted a significant amount with EOdox.  That is mostly b/c a close friend of mine with whom I grew up in the faith, after some 6 years as a Bapticostal and a student at ORU in Tulsa, converted to EOC.  I was alarmed, of course, and tried to stop him, and our discussions actually for a time had me on the ropes.  I was unprepared for the things he'd already thought through a few steps ahead, and so for a time I felt my own foundations shaking.  Then, however, I was able to get on top of things with the help mainly of James White lectures and debates on Romanism (which is in many ways, especially in terms of authority and religious epistemology, very similar to EOC) and on Sola Scriptura, a couple of books by Eric Svendsen, and the 3-volume set "Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith" by Webster and King.

That started me down the road of being able to deconstruct the arguments that EOx put forward, and with all that behind me now, I can say with confidence (Lord willing) that EOC is totally off the table as a live option for piety toward God.  My further interactions with knowledgeable EOx, both in person and in the blogosphere, both have convinced me further of the folly of EOxy and have helped me develop even more powerful arguments against it.

I'd encourage you to learn a little about EOC.  A good place to start is Timothy Ware's "The Orthodox Church", but unfortunately it's a pretty sanitised version of EO theology.  All the really heretical and "red flag!  Danger, Will Robinson!" stuff is removed out of its presentation of EO theology, but not a bad place to start.  If nothing else, someone will ask you if you've read anything, and you can tell them that.  It might help satisfy them that you're not just shooting in the dark.
I've read a fair amount of "dialogue" and "conversion" stories, but most of them weren't any good, weren't helpful.  Two I think would be helpful would be:
--Conversion-themed stuff written by Peter Gillquist
--My friend's conversion story
Also, I'd recommend this short e-book/long pamphlet from a Romanian who is quite familiar with EOC theology and especially the more unsavory elements and sayings from their "church fathers".  I just finished reading it and recommend it because of its lengthy quotations and evaluations of what you might call "EOC's source documents" - the church writers who have gone before.  Point these pagan and Platonic ideas out to those who are wavering, and if they respond with "but that's not what the Church itself believes!", ask them on what basis these same early church writers are cited sometimes to back up EOC's authority and are sometimes cast aside as "speaking only as a private theologian".  It's a fatal epistemological flaw in EOC, and one that is, if nothing else, sort of fun to exploit, to watch the dancing and writhing commence.

Now, as for refuting EO assertions, I'd recommend, just like with a Romanist or a Mormon, majoring on the majors, and that would be the question of authority. I think you'll have a fairly difficult time if  you try to go at it from any other position than Sola Scriptura.  That is to say, the 3/4-legged stool I've heard expressed in certain Protestant contexts will not serve you well in this arena, but perhaps that's not where you're coming from.
Anyway, you can start with my recent debate on Sola Scriptura with a knowledgeable EO blogger.  It's maybe not the best ever done, but I think it was quite good, it raised a lot of good issues, and it was accessible, not super super long.

In other blogging arenas, a great deal of superior material has been delivered on the Triablogue.
I am in awe of these men's abilities and output.  I would encourage you not to unwisely confuse earnestness and gladness to know and be able to communicate the truth with nastiness.
My blog also has a lot of material on EOxy, so here you go:

My most fundamental recommendation would be, as I said, on the topic of authority.
Here are some posts I'd encourage you to focus on:

You'll probably also find that EOx will challenge you with "But there are so many denominations in Protestantism!"  Don't let them get away with it!


The correspondent replied:  I have been shocked and saddened by the number of seminarians turning Orthodox.  It seems to be the cool, sentimental thing to do.

I responded:  Yes, it is the cool sentimental thing to do.  It's embracing "ancient" faith, "the church of the church fathers", "the early church", with liturgy and all that stuff.  It looks mystically attractive.  It's much more sensibly rich than a Protestant service.  I can relate to the attraction.  But the false Gospel, you know...sorta spoils it for me.
And that is, of course, the bottom line - does this church preach the Gospel?  Does it teach that the filthy, spiritually dead, enemy of God, God-hating sinner can be reconciled to God and have peace with God by God's grace alone by repentance and faith alone in Christ alone as mediator for the forgiveness of sins?  Ask any Eastern Orthodox, and make the question specific enough so as to eliminate wiggle room, and you'll find that the answer is a very clear no.  Which makes the answer to the question, "Should I join this church?" pretty clear as well.

Friday, May 14, 2010

On theodicy and God's plan, with an atheist

David over at bossmanham's blog has been making some noise about the goodness of God and the existence of evil.  Same song, different verse.

David said...

The providence of God? Is that the same thing as “wizard”?

“The concept that we could thwart God's plans is silliness at its best.”

Silliness? I’m confused. I’m constantly hearing that if a given human takes a given action, that’s going against God’s plan for their life and is sinful. And yet, people will take the given action and go against the alleged plan. Not only is the concept not silly, but when people thwart God’s plan, they’re to be tortured for all eternity.

Or do human actions have no effect on the plan? If a human doesn’t follow God’s plan, it doesn’t thwart the plan in any way? If going against the plan has no effect, if we can’t thwart God’s plan, then why does it matter if one follows the plan or not? If the plan can’t be thwarted, that suggests that the script of history is already written, and there goes your “free will defense” designed to excuse God for the evil in the world.

“It's evil for the individual to do it. It's not evil for God to allow it. There are two wills at work here. Get with the program.”

It’s not evil to allow an evil act to occur? That’s a clever excuse. But this is not what I think of when I ponder an all-powerful good and perfect god. How can a perfectly morally good entity fail to act to prevent evil? What would you think of a human who failed to act to stop and evil deed from happening? Would we accept “well, I didn’t do the evil act myself” as an excuse? At a minimum, it makes God awfully passive.

Ok, so now you’re saying that the murder of would-be-Hitler is evil and that this is not a righteous kill. But on the other hand, this act saved the lives of many would-be victims, and you emphasized that there is a “morally sufficient reason to allow that murder”, and so it would not be wrong to allow it. Saving lives and “morally sufficient reason” suggests that the murder is a good thing, not an evil thing. If it’s not morally wrong to allow it, that suggests that the act itself is good, not evil. Had the murder been stopped, many others would have died. So, is the murder a good thing or a bad thing?

And why would God ever use evil acts to bring about good things? Why is evil an essential part of the good God’s plan? This is totally unnecessary and contradicts the notion of a good God. Why use evil humans and their evil deeds to accomplish something good when you have the power to reach the same goal without any evil act at all? All you have to do is glance in the direction of would-be Hitler and…instant heart attack. Instead, you have to sit back and allow evil acts to occur to accomplish the goal of taking out would-be Hitler? Or was there never a plan to take out would-be Hitler, and it was just a lucky break than an evil human happened to kill would-be Hitler? And why didn’t God take out actual Hitler with a heart attack? This is an “all-powerful, perfect, always good, never evil” god?

“Thus David appeals to ridicule again.”

Not ridicule at all. I’m appealing to reality. This is how theology really works. I’m convinced that you lack the cognitive skills to see reality. Ridicule is useful for identifying things that are ridiculous.


The providence of God? Is that the same thing as “wizard”?

No.  Not even close, really.
In fact, naturalistic forces and theories share a lot in common with magic.
The only thing a "wizard" and God share in common is that they do supernatural things.  The mechanism, the source of the power, the means of accessing it, etc are all totally different.
Further, you're poking fun partly b/c you apparently think the God explanation is ad hoc, and yet the Bible's been around 2000+ years.  Nothing ad hoc about a static text like that.

I’m constantly hearing that if a given human takes a given action, that’s going against God’s plan for their life and is sinful.

either they misunderstand the term "God's plan" or they mean God's COMMANDS for their life.  In the former they think they can access more of God's secret will than they really can, but the latter is perfectly reasonable.  For example, God says "Don't sleep with your boyfriend".  If you go ahead and sleep with your boyfriend, you're going against God's plan for your life and you're sinning.

when people thwart God’s plan, they’re to be tortured for all eternity.

ALL people "thwart God's plan" in that they disobey many of His commandments.  And we'll all be punished for all eternity if we do not accept His forgiveness for that.

Or do human actions have no effect on the plan?

They do, but God foresaw everything and has taken all human actions into acct.  'Cause He's smart.

then why does it matter if one follows the plan or not?

B/c God told us to, and obeying God is an objective good.
One wonders why you vote (if you do vote); your vote will literally have no effect on the outcome whatsoever.  So why do it?  Obviously for some other reason than "my vote will change the future", b/c it won't.  If you think it will, you're naive.  Sorry.

that suggests that the script of history is already written, and there goes your “free will defense” designed to excuse God for the evil in the world.

Bossmanham and I aren't in agreement about this, but I think (hopefully he'll correct me if I'm wrong) that he'd say that God's foreknown plan does not exclude free will choices.  It's mysterious, sure, but not logically incoherent any more than my watching a recording of last year's Super Bowl means Drew Brees didn't have a choice to throw X number of times to Marques Colston.
Now, I don't think that libertarian free will exists, apart from the decree of God, and so my answer is a bit different.  Which is why I don't defend the free will defense.  Just for your education.

It’s not evil to allow an evil act to occur?

Please define how you can objectively identify evil.  Does objective evil exist? How do you know?  How do you recognise it?

But this is not what I think of when I ponder an all-powerful good and perfect god.

And if this thread were all about "Does David think ____ when he think of 'an all-powerful good and perfect god'", then I guess we'd be done.  But it's not.

How can a perfectly morally good entity fail to act to prevent evil?

For one thing, b/c He has a better good in store by allowing this evil now.
For another, b/c you don't get to define what's good and evil.  He does.

So, is the murder a good thing or a bad thing?

The murder would be a bad thing for the human, b/c the human doesn't know what the future holds for the victim.  If it just so happens that the victim would grow up to be Hitler, I can't know that but God does.  God might arrange for him to die, maybe even thru being murdered, and thus prevent him from growing up to be another Hitler.  But only God knows that.  Further, God has the right to kill anyone or command that anyone be killed at any time.
People die every second of every day. Man is fallen and sinful, and the penalty for sin is death - Romans 3:23 and following through the end of chapter 5. It is only thru God's forbearance and mercy that I or any other person draw the next breath. And the next, and the next. And of course, it is only thru His mercy in Christ's death and resurrection that eternal Hell is not everyone's final destination.

Murder is defined as the unjustified taking of human life.
Yet, as every man, woman, and child is sinful and bears the guilt of the sin of Adam, all are subject to the death penalty. This also includes the various peoples of Canaan, whom God commanded the OT Hebrews to put to death after hundreds of years of giving them time to repent of their perversions. This includes the millions of babies that die every year in the womb (re: Sam Harris' correct and yet wrongheaded and amazingly morally blind assertion that God is the greatest living abortionist). God is fully justified in putting anyone to death at any time thru any manner or agency He chooses.

And why would God ever use evil acts to bring about good things?

B/c it glorifies Him.
See, by this point you're just taking the Eddie Tabash/Chrissy Hitchens approach, asking a lot of questions that are in effect arguments from personal outrage.  But you need to give us a reason to think these questions matter.  Like in what way you're a moral authority to express such outrage, and why anyone else should imitate your outrage.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sorry I've been out

After what was to me a prolific explosion of creative power in blogging through late March - early May, I've sort of petered out recently.  Partly it's because I'm very busy these days and partly I just haven't had any ideas.  But I have been engaging in some threads on some other blogs, so I link them here.

Brennon's Thoughts - Bossmanham's blogpost entitled "Where Many of the Insufferable Atheists Congregate", in which I riff a bit off of Bossmanham's freewill theodicy and engage a denizen of the WeAreSmrt forum in a discussion on the compatibility of the existence of the God of the Bible with the existence of evil.

The Catholic Champion blog - "James White/Robert Price Debate: Price Narrowly Wins the Battle for the Bible", in which I expose some of Matthew Bellisario's biases, which leads him and others on his blog to be the brittle people they are, in which I tweak said brittle people, as I sometimes do, and in which he and others reveal themselves to have approximately zero understanding of sarcasm and how they look to outsiders.

Catholic Nick's blogpost - "Sola Scriptura is Unscriptural", in which I demonstrate how ~½ of his post is nonsensical and urge him to remove or at least rework those parts, and in which he refuses for no good reason and simply tries to get me to answer the other ½, which I don't consider particularly strong.  But of course, like always, let the reader judge.

JohnMark's blogpost - "Faith Alone and World Religions", in which I interact with a knee-jerk Romanist named Jae about sola fide.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Shroud of Turin and evolution

Umm, right, so Pope Benedict XVI, the Vicar of Christ on Earth, has spoken out in "favor" of the Shroud of Turin, basically saying that it is authentic, that it really is the shroud in which Jesus was wrapped after His crucifixion. 
From here:
Benedict focused in his meditation on the message that the blood stains conveyed, saying the Shroud was "an icon written in blood; the blood of a man who was whipped, crowned with thorns, crucified and injured on his right side.
"The image on the Shroud is that of a dead man, but the blood speaks of his life. Each trace of blood speaks of love and life," Benedict said.
The Vatican to date had tiptoed around the issue of just what the Shroud of Turin is, calling it a powerful symbol of Christ's suffering while making no claim to its authenticity.
 I have two thoughts on this incident.

1) So the Pope is more than happy to come out in support of the theory of evolution because "the scientists" think it's true, and yet when scientists present evidence using very similar methodologies (ie, radiocarbon dating) that the Shroud of Turin is actually only around 800 years old, he ignores it and leads his people in acts of piety that express dissent with the scientific opinion?
And don't try to play the "but there's debate within scientific circles on the Shroud" card.  There's plenty of debate in scientific circles about evolution as well, not to mention a ludicrous amount of logical argumentation against it.  The Pope went with the scientific "academy" then, why the inconsistency now?

2) These and other news articles are careful to say that Benedict "all but endorses its authenticity".
It is mind-boggling to me that this man would do such a disingenuous thing as to hold a "meditation" in front of this object, modeling meditation on the Cross of Christ, when there's plenty of reason to doubt that it actually is the shroud that wrapped Christ's body for a time.  Further, all the reason to doubt aside, could not the Pope make a pronouncement that it either is or isn't authentic, for sure?  Why dance around the issue?  Does it matter whether the shroud actually wrapped Christ or doesn't it?  When the Pope speaks infallibly, is he right even when the contemporary "scientific establishment" disagrees or not?
It seems very comparable to the RC practice of bowing down and performing acts of religious and worshipful piety in front of and directed toward pictures of dead people.  Outside of icons of Christ Himself and a few specifically-identified elect angels, such as Gabriel and Michael, the RC worshiper has zero guarantee that the dead person to whom he's praying is actually in Heaven.  S/He might be in Hell, or s/he might be in Purgatory.  The Magisterium could clear all that up, but chooses not to, chooses not to get involved in such trivial matters as truth in worship and spiritual meditation.
It's pathetic, really. How is this the action of a church that is the self-proclaimed "pillar and support of the truth"

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

Monday, May 03, 2010

The incoherence of Word of Faith theology with respect to God's creation

The god of Word of Faith (WoF) theology is said to have, when he created the heavens and the earth, spoken "faith-filled words", exercising his well-developed command of the force of faith, and thus caused the heavens and earth and universe to be created.  It was through the exercise of faith that the WoF god created.

Kenneth Copeland explains:

God framed the worlds by faith. Everything God made, He made by faith. Everything He does, He does by faith.  For you and me, it’s no different. What works for God will work for us...We receive divine health and supernatural healing by faith. We receive our spouses, our children, our homes, our food—all our earthly needs and desires—by faith. Our faith is an opening through which God can save us, deliver us, baptize us in His Spirit, anoint us for ministry...So faith comes by hearing the Word of God—and when it is released from our hearts with our mouths, it brings the fulfillment of God’s promises. 
Notice that "when it is released, it brings..."  You release faith by speaking it, just like the WoF god did. It's just that he's achieved a very high level and understanding of the principle of faith, and so can speak things into existence with more frequency and quality than most of us can.  But with practice, you can get better at it, more like the WoF god!

Copeland continues:

Again, looking to God as our Guide, we find in the book of Genesis that faith is released with words. Faith words demand results of whatever they say...The reason God released all that Word into the earth was to give substance for when the time came for Jesus—the ultimate Word given by God—to appear in the flesh. He brought Jesus into the earth by His Word!
What was that substance? Faith...Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith is the heavenly materiality, or tangibility, of those things for which you and I hope...Remember, “God said...and it was so.” God’s act of speaking released faith, or heavenly materiality, to that which He believed. When He said, Light be! He fully expected light to be. His faith took action. It spoke.
Examples like this could be multiplied, but the summary is that the WoF god had faith in his faith, and used the principle of faith to speak the universe into existence.
WoF teachers unwisely claim to hold the Bible as their foremost authority, though it's probably better for them that they do, given that most evanjellyfish don't bother to read their own Bibles very closely either.  In the long-run, a cost-benefit analysis would lead the shrewd WoF teacher to go ahead and pretend the Bible is their authority rather than lose access to the evanjellyfish market and thus cost themselves $millions.  However, the Bible gives us an excellent reason to leg-drop the WoF doctrine of positive confession and the principle of faith.

The WoF god brings the universe into existence by speaking faith-filled words, invoking the power and substance of faith to make it happen.  The principle of faith and positive confession is an eternal principle; obviously, since the WoF god made use of it to make the creation happen.  So, did he create the principle of faith or has it always existed?

If he created it, how did he do so without speaking in faith?
If the latter, how is Colossians 1:15-16 correct?

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
It says that the God of the Bible created all things.  If the WoF god is the God of the Bible, how is the principle of faith, which is clearly extraneous from the WoF god and of which he makes use to create and to do anything, not part of the WoF god's creation?