Monday, December 18, 2017

Jesus Was Born In Nazareth?

Newsweek had an article Saturday titled "Trump Didn’t Totally Ruin Christmas In Nazareth, City of Jesus' Birth, Mayor Says". But the article itself doesn't identify Nazareth as the city of Jesus' birth. It looks like somebody other than the author of the article wrote the headline. But whether it comes from the article's author or somebody else at Newsweek, it does reflect how liberal the media are, how ignorant they are of Christianity and other religious matters, or both.

For a collection of resources on the many lines of evidence that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, including some articles that argue against a Nazareth birthplace, see here. See, especially, the second half of the post here.

Crossing over

It's interesting how rivers evolved into an emblem for death and passage to the afterlife in Christian symbolism. In Revelation, the tributaries of Eden represent the river of life. Yet in subsequent Christian tradition, there's a river of death. 

That's because deep wide rivers form natural barriers and boundaries. They may be naturally impassable. Too deep to wade across. Too wide, or with a strong current, causing swimmers to drown. And some rivers have aquatic predators, like crocodiles, anacondas, and so forth. 

It's possible that the Edenic river was a natural boundary between the Garden and the wilderness beyond. But the primary inspiration is the incident of Israel crossing the Jordan river to enter the promised land. The Jordan river is one of the borders of ancient Israel. And it makes the Jordan river valley a an oasis in the desert. 

In Christian symbolism, the promised land is heaven, so the Jordan river represents the river of death. Death is the passageway from this life to the afterlife. 

Bunyan elaborates on this picturesque metaphor in Pilgrim's Progress: 

Then the pilgrims, especially Christian, began to despair in their minds. They looked this way and that, but no way could be found to escape the river.

Then they asked the men if the waters were deep everywhere all the time. They told them that sometimes the water was shallow, but that they could not guide them in that matter since the waters were deep or shallow depending upon their faith in the King of the place.

Then they waded into the water, and upon entering, Christian began to sink. He cried out to his good friend Hopeful, saying, “I am sinking in deep waters; the billows are going over my head, all his waves go over me! Selah.”

Pilgrim crosses the riverThen Hopeful said, “Be of good cheer, my brother. I feel the bottom, and it is good.”

Then Christian cried out, “Ah! My friend! ‘The sorrows of death have compassed me about.’m I shall not see the land that flows with milk and honey.”

With that a great darkness and horror fell upon Christian, so that he could not see ahead. It was then that Christian lost his senses, and his memory failed him, and he could not talk in an orderly fashion of any of those sweet refreshments that he had met with in the way of his pilgrimage. All the words that he spoke were filled with horror, and he feared that he should die in that river and never obtain entrance at the gate. He was greatly troubled by thoughts of his past sins, committed before and during his pilgrimage. It was also observed that he was troubled with apparitions of hobgoblins and evil spirits, which he continually spoke about.

It was everything that Hopeful could do to keep his brother’s head above water. Sometimes Christian, despite all Hopeful’s help, would slip down into the waters and rise up again half-dead. Hopeful continually tried to comfort him, saying, “Brother, I see the gate, and men standing by to receive us.”

But Christian would answer, “It is you, it is you they wait for. You have been Hopeful ever since I knew you.”

“And so have you,” Hopeful said to Christian.

Christian answered, “If things were right with me, He would now come to help me, but because of my sin He has brought me to this snare, and He will leave me here.”

Then said Hopeful, “My brother, you have forgotten the text where it is said of the wicked, ‘There are no bands in their death; but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.’ These troubles and distresses that you are going through in these waters are not a sign that God has forsaken you but are sent to try you, to see if you will call to mind all the goodness that you have received from Him. You are being tested to see if you will rely on Him in your distress.”

Then I saw in my dream that Christian was in a bewildered stupor for a while. Hopeful spoke to Christian, encouraging him to “Be of good cheer,” reminding him that Jesus Christ would make him whole. With that Christian shouted out with a loud voice, “Oh, I see Him again, and He tells me, ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.’”

Then they both took courage and crossed the river, and the enemy was as still as a stone. Christian soon found solid ground to stand on, and the rest of the river was shallow. So Christian and Hopeful crossed over the river and arrived on the other side. As soon as they came out of the river, they saw the two shining men again waiting for them. The men saluted the two pilgrims saying, “We are ministering spirits, sent here to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation.” Then they all went they along together toward the gate.

Glass door between two worlds

The Christian faith is centered on two events which lend Christianity unique appeal, compared to all other world religions: the Incarnation and the Resurrection. At Christmas, we commemorate and celebrate the Creator of the world entering the world he made to redeem it. God passing through the first stages of the human lifecycle. 

At Easter we commemorate and celebrate the hope of immortality, and reunion with departed loved ones. A better life in the world to come, where all tears are wiped away. 

Compare that to a unitarian Christmas: although the messiah has a unique role to play in redemptive history, the person who plays that role is interchangeable with any other human being. There's nothing special about the messiah, just his particular mission. For that matter, Adam, Noah, Abraham et al. each had a unique part to play in redemptive history as well. 

The Incarnation has a two-sided character. There's the physical, this-worldly side of the Incarnation. Then there's the divine, other-worldly side of the Incarnation. Like a door between two worlds. We see the door facing into our world. But on the other side, the door faces into the Godhead. The Incarnation is a glass door through which we see God on the other side. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Honor and suffering

I'd like to sketch a neglected theodicy. This isn't a standard theodicy in apologetics or philosophical theology. I think the reason for this is twofold: (i) It's alien to the outlook of many western Christians, and (ii) it's not a general theodicy, but focussed on Christian suffering in particular.

Let's begin with a comparison: In the Gospels, Peter and Judas both betray Jesus, but in different ways. Judas betrays Jesus in a very direct way, by collaborating with his enemies to have him arrested. 

In the case of Peter, it's more subtle. A moral betrayal. Peter betrays a friendship. 

Peter's fear is very understandable. If the authorities arrest Jesus, then that puts his disciples at risk by association, because the authorities may well view his disciples as coconspirators. Jesus is the ringleader. If he's guilty, they're guilty because they're his followers. They belong to the very same seditious movement.

So there are two aspects to this: innocent suffering for a worthy cause, when you could evade suffering, is honorable. It's a reflection of virtue when someone is prepared to suffer unjustly for a noble cause. 

Take Christians who, during the Third Reich, sheltered Jews at great risk to themselves. The natural reaction would be to dissociate themselves from their Jewish friends and neighbors, to shield themselves from hostile scrutiny by the authorities. But these Christians did just the opposite. They endangered their reputation to protect the innocent. They took the risk of suffering the same fate as those they sheltered. 

And some of them paid the price. Some of them were arrested, imprisoned, and/or executed. But in the long run, their courage is a badge of honor in the eyes of posterity. We admire their sacrificial bravery. Indeed, it puts us to shame. 

A somewhat different example is honoring someone else by suffering for them. Suppose your best friend is falsely accused. That may put you in a bind. On the one hand, you have a duty to your innocent friend. On the other hand, if you defend him, then that draws unwanted attention to yourself. The authorities may view you as complicit in the alleged misconduct of your friend. Yet it's an honor to have the opportunity to stand by your friend in his hour of need, rather than allowing him to suffer alone.

For instance, consider the FBI's anthrax investigation, in the wake of 9/11. The Bureau had a theory about domestic terrorism. And they had a suspect. I remember one of the suspect's friends defending him on camera. But that was a brave thing to do, because a suspect's circle of friends may become suspects by association, especially if they stick up for him rather than disowning him. If the FBI questions you about your friend, the natural impulse is to distance yourself from your friend, to elude legal jeopardy. 

Another example is someone falsely accused, who could exonerate himself, yet he refuses to furnish exculpatory evidence because he'd have to betray a confidence in the process. So he allows himself to fall under suspicion or even disgrace, to protect a confidence. He's prepared to sacrifice his own good name to protect the good name of another. That's an acid test of friendship. 

Of course, many of us can relate to the principle instinctively. And it only takes a few examples to illustrate that principle. But it hasn't been developed to the same degree as other theodicies. There are stock examples like martyrdom, which carries a specific evangelistic witness. But I'm considering something more generic. Coping with the evils of life in a fallen world. Yet I think this theodicy has more immediate resonance in parts of the Third World.

From a theological standpoint, Christian suffering is a witness to fellow believers as well as unbelievers. Grace under fire. Their example can steel other Christians to persevere. And it can be very impressive to unbelievers. To be "counted worthy" of the opportunity to honor our Lord is both humbling to self and inspiring to others. In that respect there's a reciprocal dynamic, where God honors us by giving us a platform to honor him. 

That's a running theme of Hebrews 11. And it culminates in Heb 13:12-13, which trades on the paradox of enduring dishonor for an honorable cause. Christians must share in their Lord's disgrace (Heb 12:2). The Virgin Mary had the same burden. She was called upon to suffer the reproach of an outwardly scandalous pregnancy. 

Sproul on suffering

Is hell empty?

According to Bishop Barron:

This isn't official Catholic teaching as of yet. And it may not become official Catholic teaching. In general, when Rome changes course, there's a softening up process. But this has been in the works for some time:

 Von Balthasar was John-Paul II's favorite theologian, which is why he made him a cardinal. To my knowledge, hopeful universalism is gaining ground in Catholic circles, although it's largely underground at this time.

Even if it's not official teaching, it's no longer treated as heresy. Catholic prelates in good standing can openly promote it. It's now an acceptable option in Catholic theology. 

We need to stop and consider what a radical departure from traditional Catholic theology this represents. In a nutshell, traditional Catholic theology follows this basic narrative: due to original sin, humans are born damned. Born in a state of mortal sin. Infant baptism changes your condition from a state of mortal sin to a state of grace. However, you can, at any time, relapse to a damnable state of mortal sin. Therefore, a lifelong maintenance program of absolution and communion is required to keep you in a state of grace. Even that's not a sure thing. It just raises the odds that you're still in state of grace. Then, on your deathbed, you receive last rites to make it more likely that you will die in a state of grace. But there's no assurance of salvation this side of the grave.

Universalism can't be grafted onto that framework. Rather, universalism represents a drastic paradigm-shift. If universalism is true, then the sacramental system is superfluous. Salvation is independent of baptism, absolution, communion, and last rites. The sacrificial system doesn't even make salvation more likely if everyone is heavenbound regardless. 

In addition, in traditional Catholic theology, valid sacraments require a valid priesthood. On top of that is the cult of the saints, with the intercession of Mary as paramount. 

But if universalism is true, then the priesthood is superfluous. So at one stroke, universalism nullifies the rationale for the Catholic sacramental and sacerdotal system. That's an immense relict of a defunct paradigm. And the cult of the saints suffers the same fate. 

In addition, this takes the sting out of denunciations against abortion. If universalism is true, then everyone who performs an abortion or facilitates an abortion is going to heaven. 

Consider all the nonconformists who were tortured for "soul-murder". Yet now there's no such thing. Sorry about that! Don't take it personally! 

Finally, consider Bishop Barron's statement that:

Therefore, if there are any people in Hell (and the church has never obliged us to believe that any human is in that state)...

Catholic doctrine is that Hell exists, but yet the Church has never claimed to know if any human being is actually in Hell.

This invites complete theological skepticism. The church of Rome, throughout the centuries, has assiduously cultivated belief in damnation. It milked the fear of hell as a powerful disincentive to motivate Catholics to throw themselves at the mercy of Mother Church, because there was no salvation outside the Church. Saving grace was confined to the sacraments. 

To say this was never official teaching, and is probably false, means the Catholic church constantly fostered a false impression. It said and did things that were bound to deceive the faithful. It did nothing to correct that misconception until beginning in the late 20C. How can you trust anything the Catholic church says? 

And this isn't a theological quibble. The afterlife is central to the nature of religion. This life is brief, wracked by suffering and injustice. Religion is fundamentally about taking the long-range view. What happens to you when you die? Do you pass into oblivion? Will you be punished? Will there be a reversal of fortunes? Will things get better or worse? Will you be reunited with your loved ones? 

If, indeed, the church of Rome has never taken an official position on this position, then Catholicism is derelict. This is the most important issue is all of religion. If the Catholic church refuses to take a stand one way or the other, but plays coy and plays it safe by remaining noncommittal, then it doesn't even claim to know the answer to the one question that any religion worth its salt must be competent to answer. Why would any rational person look to Rome if it can't give a straight answer to that question? 

A tale of two Hitchens

Catholic prooftexts

Over the years I've commented on stock prooftexts for Catholicism. In this post I'm going to collate my various responses. To a great extent this will repeat what I've said before, but it's useful to consolidate my interpretations in one place. 

There are two kinds of Catholic prooftexts. One set concerns prooftexts for specific Catholic doctrines, viz. apocrypha, synergism, transubstantiation, baptismal regeneration, cult of the saints, relics, auricular confession, absolution, Purgatory, indulgences, indissolubility of marriage, Marian dogmas, contraception, lying. 

Although I've discussed many of those issues before, I won't rehearse them in this post. For one thing, it would make it too long. That covers many of the loci of systematic theology and Christian ethics, with complex historical and hermeneutical arguments. 

In addition, some of these beliefs aren't that distinctive to Catholicism. In theory, Catholicism could be right about baptismal regeneration or the real presence but still be false. Catholicism is a take-it-or-leave-it package. So it isn't necessary to disprove every Catholic essential or distinctive to disprove Catholicism. While it's useful to attack Catholicism on multiple fronts, that's overkill. 

The other set concerns prooftexts for the authority structure of Catholicism. This post will focus on that set. Many Catholic doctrines aren't derivable from Scripture. They require the deus ex machina of the magisterium to validate them. So a decapitation strike is more efficient than blow-by-blow rebuttal (which, however, is valuable in its own right. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Scholasticism and the Gospel

Rome's house of cards

I'd like to remark on a neglected argument for the Protestant faith. Or, to put this in reverse, a neglected argument against Catholicism. 

The primary objection to the Protestant faith is Protestant diversity. "Interpretive pluralism." The "scandal" of denominations. Sola scripture is a "blueprint for anarchy". 

However, we can flip that around. Even if we say Protestant pluralism is a point of weakness, that's simultaneously a point of strength. Mind you, I think it's nonsensical to say the truth is a point of weakness, but for the sake of argument, let's say Protestant pluralism is a point of weakness. Yet that's also, and equally, a point of strength. 

Here's what I mean: Traditionally, since the time of Trent, Catholicism has been a tight package. A take-it-or-leave-it package. The entire package must be true. If any Catholic dogma is false, then that falsifies the whole package. 

This means Catholicism has an extremely high burden of proof. Or, to put it in reverse, a very low threshold for disproof. It can't afford to be wrong at a single point. You must check every box. 

Because traditional Catholicism is so inflexible, that makes it highly vulnerable to falsification. It has no give. Every Catholic essential and distinctive must be true for Catholicism to be true. 

So Catholicism has many exit points. And a Catholic apologist has to block every single exit. 

To put this another way, from a Catholic standpoint, if Catholicism is false, then Christianity is false. According to Catholicism, the church of Rome is the One True Church, directly founded by Jesus, 2000 years ago. This means that from a Catholic standpoint, if Catholicism is false, then there's no Christian fallback option. Christ was a false messiah. Or he was misrepresented by the NT, church fathers, and church councils. 

By contrast, the very flexibility of the Protestant faith makes the burden of disproof far higher. For instance, from a Presbyterian standpoint, if Presbyterianism is false, it doesn't follow that Christianity is false. Within the Protestant faith, there are lots of Christian fallback options. Like the principle of redundancy in engineering, the Protestant faith has many backup systems. I'm not saying that's intentional. Rather, it's a fringe benefit. 

Ironically, what Catholic apologists single out as a strength of Catholicism and a weakness of evangelicalism is, in fact, a fatal weakness of Catholicism. Puncture the hull at any point and the ship sinks. 

Now, I say "traditionally" because Catholicism, since about the time of Pius XII, has been undergoing drastic change–a trend accelerated by Pope Francis. So it's unclear, after the dust settles, what Catholicism still represents. I pity someone attempting to write an introduction to the Catholic faith under the pontificate of Francis. That may be out of date before the ink is dry. Catholics must consult the daily newspaper to know what they're still supposed to believe. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Toolkit for problem of evil

Chemically-castrating kids

Outcome-based voting

Selective, misplaced outrage

One Lord, one faith, one baptism

3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph 4:3-5).

This is a Catholic prooftext, so I'd like to discuss it:

i) The source of basis of unity isn't the church, the papacy, the magisterium, but the Holy Spirit. Of course, Catholics will say that's channeled through the magisterium, but they can't get that from this text (or any text!)

ii) Even in the mid-1C, when this letter was written, there were many local churches, so a plurality of churches in consistent with "one body".

In addition, the unity stands in contrast to pre-Christian divisions. Ancient tribal and ethnic rivalries and animosities. The 1C church was geographically and demographically diverse. Christians in Israel, Syria, Greece, Rome, &c. Jews, Gentiles, patricians, plebeians, slaves, men, women, &c. The Christian faith incorporated these disparate and competitive people-groups and social classes into the family of faith.

iii) "One Lord" refers to Jesus. All Christians have the same Lord. Incidentally, "One Lord" applies the Shema to Jesus. A prooftext for the deity of Christ.

iv) "One faith" could either denote objective faith or subjective faith. If the former, it refers to the apostolic kerygma. All Christians share that common frame of reference.

If the latter, it refers to the exercise of faith. But there's no much practical difference between the two inasmuch as the object of faith is the apostolic kerygma.

v) "Baptism" is ambiguous. It could denote water baptism. But unlike the Gospels and Acts, where the narrative setting clarifies the reference to water baptism, passages about "baptism" in the epistles usually lack that context.

It might denote Spirit-baptism (e.g. 1 Cor 12:13). That's something all Christians share in common.

Or it could be a metaphor (e.g. 1 Cor 10:2). At this early stage in Christian theology, we should guard against the anachronistic assumption that "baptism" was already a technical term for the rite of initiation. Usage may not have hardened yet.

So there's nothing in this passages that's at odds with Protestant theology or denominations. 

Catholic apologists might complain that this is just my private interpretation, and the ambiguities of the passage, which give rise to multiple interpretive options, demonstrate the need for a divine teaching office. To that I'd say two things:

i) Assuming the magisterium, you could, in theory, appeal to the magisterium to resolve these ambiguities–but it's premature at this stage of the argument to invoke the magisterium when this is supposed to be a prooftext for the magisterium. It would be viciously circular for a Catholic apologist to appeal to magisterial authority at this preliminary juncture when he's using this text to establish magisterial authority in the first place. 

ii) To my knowledge, Rome has never even purported to present an official interpretation of this passage. 

I'm writing you

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Tim 3:14-15).

i) V15 is a traditional Catholic prooftext, much used by contemporary Catholic apologetics. A basic problem with their appeal is quoting the verse out of context. A pitfall of chapter and verse division is that Christians sometimes read a particular verse while failing to place that verse in the flow of argument. They don't consider what comes before or after. 

Catholic apologists say, "See, Paul doesn't say "Scripture" is a pillar of truth, but "the Church". Yet they completely ignore the preceding verse. Paul is directing Timothy to what he wrote.  Look at what I just wrote you!

ii) Moreover, he wrote Timothy so that Timothy would know how to conduct himself in church, based on Paul's written instructions. If, however, the church is the source of truth, then that's superfluous. Yet Paul points Timothy to Paul's explicit, written directives. That's the benchmark. 

iii) Syntactically, v14 refers back to the preceding section (2:1-3:13). But the principle extends to the rest of the letter. Since Paul can't instruct Timothy and the congregation in person, the letter is a stand-in, which serves that purpose.

iv) By Paul's own admission, his letter takes the place of Paul's face-to-face teaching. Catholic apologists claim we need a "living voice". An infallible interpreter. Yet the function of an apostolic letter is to instruct the faithful in the apostle's absence (cf. 2 Cor 13:10).

It would be insubordinate to say, that's only a text, so we can't know what Paul really meant. That's why we have apostolic successors like Timothy, to infallibly expound the deposit of faith.

Yet Paul takes for granted that his written instructions should suffice in his absence. And even if we anachronistically classify Timothy as a bishop, Timothy has no independent authority. Timothy can't say, by virtue of his "office", how Christians are supposed to behave in church. That's based, not on Timothy's teaching authority, but on Paul's teaching authority, in written form. Timothy simply transmits what he was taught by Paul. There's nothing here about the necessity of an infallible teaching office to interpret the deposit of faith, even though Paul is nearing the end of his career. He will soon pass from the scene. He will have to hand off the work to the next Christian generation. 

v) Even if Timothy received oral instruction from Paul in the past, the letter is an aid to memory. 

R.C. Sproul, From Dust To Glory

To add to what Steve Hays has posted, John Piper has a good article on Sproul. He was an unusually good communicator who held such a high view of God and of scripture, and he was willing to fight a lot of battles that needed to be fought. Since Sproul communicated so many important truths so well, you could cite so many examples of how good of a teacher he was and why he'll be missed. Here are a few that stand out in my mind at the moment, and I'll probably think of a lot more later.

On how he'd explain to his mother the difference between a Protestant understanding of justification and the Roman Catholic view.

On imputed righteousness.

Shortly after my father's death in 2012, I watched the conclusion of Sproul's Dust To Glory series with my mother. During the closing minutes, he discusses God's glory in heaven. I initially watched this with my father in mind, but it's applicable to R.C. Sproul as well.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mohler on Sproul

Frame on Sproul

R. C. Sproul and I were born two months apart, in the same city, Pittsburgh. Both of us were profoundly influenced by John Gerstner. RC went to Pittsburgh Seminary to study with Gerstner; I went to Westminster to study with Gerstner’s teachers. But I visited Pittsburgh Seminary a few times. Once in Gerstner’s class, there was a young fellow who dominated the class discussion. A friend later introduced the student to me as “Bob” Sproul. Later that year I visited the Wheaton Philosophy Conference, and again there was Bob, going at it with the other conferees. Those meetings were sufficient to pick up my ears when I heard Bob’s name. I remember hearing of him working with Jerry Kirk in Cincinnati, teaching at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and other ministries. Then came the Ligonier Valley Study Center. I spoke at one of the early conferences— on inerrancy— and for the first time I was able to say I knew RC— formerly Bob.
We could have been good friends, I think. We were the same age, Pittsburghers, Calvinists, and most of all disciples of Jesus Christ. But alas, we belonged to different clubs. I followed Van Til, Gerstner’s teacher, but Gerstner did not follow Van Til, and RC followed Gerstner. I always felt his heart and mine were in the same place. From time to time I saw, or thought I saw, hints of Van Tillian presuppositionalism in RC’s writings. I think of his exegesis of Rom. 1, which was very much the same as Van Til’s. And he once, at Westminster, described himself as a “proto-suppositionalist.” I took that to mean that whatever you think about apologetic method Scripture must always have the final say. I too am a protosuppositionalist. And in the final analysis that’s all there really is to presuppositionalism.
But RC was nevertheless in one club, and I was in a different one. So we never actually had a good talk, even about old times in Pittsburgh.
But I greatly admired dear RC, and I ranked him as the best communicator of Reformed truth in my time. So now I lean over the wretched boundaries between our respective clubs, and I pray God’s comfort in Jesus to his family, his church, and his great movement. And I pray God’s prosperity on all of these wonderful brothers and sisters. For our love far transcends the boundaries of our clubs.

Who picks the referee?

I listened to Bishop Barron's argument for Catholicism. 

It's hardly an original argument. 

i) I agree with him that the Holy Spirit doesn't interpret the Bible for readers. 

ii) Notice the a priori nature of the appeal: "If God saw fit to do X, then we'd expect him to do Y." 

An armchair prediction, rather than evidence.

iii) As I've mentioned before, one problem with the "living voice" argument is that a primary purpose for NT letters is to settle disputes when an apostle couldn't be present to revolve the dispute in person. The written word was authoritative.

Imagine someone responding to 1 John or Galatians or Hebrews or Colossians by exclaiming, "Well, that's only a text! It's can't resolve anything without an infallible interpreter!"

But that reaction subverts the function of those letters. 

vi) Finally, although Barron's referee analogy is superficially appealing, it only pushes the issue back a step. If we need a referee, then who picks the referee? By what authority to we determine who should be the referee? Suppose there's a disagreement about who should be the referee? Then we need a referee to broker the disagreement. We need a referee to choose a referee. 

So that solution fails to solve the problem it posed for itself. It's necessary to exercise independent judgment to settle on a referee, before a referee can settle anything else. But why is independent judgment necessary and reliable when selecting the referee, yet unnecessary and unreliable once the referee is chosen? 

One would still need to be able to examine the Bible and church history apart from the referee to determine if a referee was God's will for the church. But doesn't that nullify the necessity of a referee in the first place? 

R.C. Sproul (1939–2017)

He didn't waste his life:

Consequentialism for me but not for thee

Even though the Alabama senate race is now at thing of the past, I'll make another observation, because the same issues repeat themselves in future race. 

Do Moore’s defenders not realize the extent to which religious freedom in this nation depends on a host of progressive judges and government officials complying with lawful court orders? For example, the ability to hire and fire pastors according to the dictates of the church and not the federal government was only recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. What if some state judge, somewhere, disagrees? If you accept Moore’s behavior on the bench, you must accept that any judge can defy the Supreme Court whenever he sees fit.

it's important to recognize that the main lesson we should learn from this article is that the secular left is watching us, watching to see if we really believe what we say we believe and then will translate that into what shows up even in the voting booth. The world is watching us.

Notice what the objections of David French and Albert Mohler share in common. They object to voting for Moore because it will have bad results. In the case of Moher, he thinks that sends a bad message. It's a bad Christian witness to the secular left. In the case of French, it's because, if socially conservative judges can defy the Supreme Court, then so can progressive judges. 

Now what's ironic about this appeal is that when some Christians defend voting for Moore (or Trump) by appealing to the dire results of allowing the Democrats to win, that's branded as consequentialism. But then, why aren't Mohler and French guilty of consequentialism when they resort to the same type of reasoning? 

Do scientists assume their conclusions?

A brief exchange I had on Facebook. In context, McRae is responding to a young-earth creationist:

Steve McRae 
A real scientist doesn't assume their conclusion, they go where the evidence leads them. No scientist should EVER start with a conclusion. That is just bias and not how science is done.

Steve Hays
Wasn't Relativity inspired by thought-experiments and mental pictures long before Einstein had empirical confirmation? What about Pauli's dreams. Or Dirac's mathematical intuition, based on "beauty"? What about Newton's bucket and Newton's canon?

Actually, a basic function of scientific theorizing is to go beyond the available evidence by making predictions. In many cases, a scientist wouldn't need to make a prediction in the first place if he already had the evidence in hand. Predictions are not simply ways of testing a theory, but discovering new evidence. A theoretical prediction points scientists in a particular direction. They look for evidence where the theory predicts they should find it. Sometimes that confirms the theory, sometimes that discomforts the theory. 

Take Bell's theorem. That was formulated well before the equipment existed to test the theoretical experiment. 

McRae is operating from a simple-minded positivism.


Reposting a recent exchange I had on Facebook. Minor edits:

It will be interesting to see if this is the beginning of the end for virtue-signalers like Russell Moore. It's one thing when they just talk, but if they handed the election to the Democrat, then that's different.

It's a blow for trump because him and moore are both sexual predators.. Simple as that

Different issue.

Different issues how? Both carry the mantra of 'fake news' in order to discredit their accusers. Both are pervy old men

You're changing the subject from whether Russ Moore, David French, Al Mohler may be harmed by this to your own hobbyhorse. And whether the allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore were true is hotly contested.

Trump was a known quantity long before he ran, so that doesn't change his image one way or the other.

"We knew trump was a pervert before he ran, but we voted for him anyway "- the 'christian' party ... The cognitive dissonance needed to vote for men like trump and moore is astounding .. Not surprising though, unfortunately.

Once again, you've changed the subject. Are you just unable to maintain the train of thought?

Moreover, you simply parrot a popular trope rather than bothering to engage the argument of the opposing side. That may make you feel good, but it's unpersuasive to someone who doesn't already agree with you.

You disagree with me. So you think its ok to vote for sexual predators ? 

i) You keep imputing your own viewpoint to another people. Try learning a modicum of critical detachment. People who supported Moore over the Democrat don't grant the assumption that he was a sexual predator. There were allegations based on inconclusive evidence. 

ii) In addition, elections aren't about just considering one candidate in isolation, but a comparison between a given candidate and his/her opponent. The moral assessment isn't compartmentalized.

It's a question of balancing what are sometimes competing concerns. Comparing the policies of rival candidates.

I guess to some, being democrat is worse than pedophilia.

i) Dating teenagers isn't pedophilia. Get a grip. 

ii) In addition, smart voters elect a candidate based on what he will do, not what he is. Voting for a Democrat is voting for a package which nearly all Democrat politicians will promote, including abortion, after-birth abortion, euthanasia, the transgender agenda (e.g. chemical castration of adolescents, puberty blocks that do irreparable damage–not to mention sex-change operations), homosexual adoption, the war on boys, fining/firing anyone who doesn't cooperate with the social agenda of the secular progressives, repudiation of parental rights, denial of school choice, repudiating the Bill of Rights (esp. 1st, 2nd, 4th amendments), &c.

I'm sorry, but it sounds to me like you are OK with him dating teenagers .

No, I'm not okay with him dating teenagers, although a 19-year-old is psychologically quite different from a 13-year-old. But the immediate issue is your rubbery use of the word "pedophile".

Steve , I understand you may not trust Democrats , the same way I don't trust Republicans (and Democrats to a lesser degree ) , but I think a politicians morality should be important , especially in regards to something as serious as the allegations.

Oh, I do trust Democrats. That's the problem. I trust Democrats to aggressively execute the agenda of the secular progressives. Democrats have been doing that quite consistently.

A politician's personal morality is less important than his policies. The policies of secular progressives, empowered by the Democrat party, is already doing great harm, and will do immensely greater harm, to tens of millions of innocent Americans. That's why prudent voters vote strategically. 

BTW, why makes you think the morality of Moore's opponent is any better than Moore's? One way of judging a politician's morality is by their policies.

Can we at least all agree that we should try not grant political power to sexual predators, regardless of party?

What about granting political power to secular progressives? What makes Moore worse than that?

What's so bad about secular progressives ?

That question tips your hand.  And I listed some examples of the secular progressive agenda.

I'd rather secular progressives run this country rather than evangelical Christians who refuse to recognize the separation of church and state

We are not a theocracy , Steve. A theocracy is a bad idea

There is no Constitutional separation of church and state.

Wow what about the first ammendment ?

First Amendment doesn't mandate separate of church and state. Learn some Constitutional history.

Read the first amendment!

Since you're historically challenged on this issue, here's a quick explanation: the first amendment forbids the establishment of a national church. That's it. The First Congress appropriated funds for Christian missionaries in Indian territories. For some basic background:

Many of the examples you offered are ridiculous. The "war on boys" don't make me laugh. 


Although I do agree that gays should be allowed to adopt because a stable home is much better for a child than an orphanage/ foster care .. But I'm sure you're homophic so debating that topic would be a lost cause

Gay relationships are notoriously unstable. 

You should be more concerned with paedophobia than homophobia. Kids are entitled to good role models. Not something they get when immersed in the homosexual culture. 

Republicans tried to impeach Clinton over a CONSENSUAL blowjob, but are perfectly fine with roy moore, who pursued and ASSAULTED underage girls, just because he claims to be Christian and is Republican. This kind of hypocrisy is the biggest reason why I mistrust right wing christians. The republican party is Christian in name only , they do not actually practice the teachings of Christ. The hypocrisy is disgusting.

You evangelicals can rationolize your hypocrisy all you want, good luck defending your support for trump when you get to the pearly gates

If you're going to hurl charges of hypocrisy, you need to master the concept. Hypocrisy involves people acting contrary to their own standards, and not to your standards. You keep imputing your interpretation of the facts of Moore supporters, then accuse them of hypocrisy. That's hopelessly confused.

You need to explain how strategic voting is hypocritical. You need to explain how opposing the vastly greater threat posed by secular progressive policies is hypocritical.

You are a hypocrit if you support a sexual predator , and claim Christianity

Try turning your assertions into something resembling a reasoned argument.

Reasoned argument : 
1. Sexual assault is agaisnt Christianity 
2. Roy Moore and donald trump have both likely committed sexual assault
3. You support both becuase they are Republican

Conclusion : you are a hypocrit

Bad argument. This seems to be your implicit argument: if a candidate did something wrong, then it's wrong to vote for him.

But that transference doesn't work. To take a comparison: suppose an ER physician is an adulterer. That's wrong. Is it therefore wrong for me to let him save my son's life? What kind of logic is that? 

1. You've cast the issue in terms of hypocrisy. I don't even grant that that's the best way to cast the argument. After all, hypocrites can do the right thing from time to time.

It would be hypocritical for Jephthah to make an exception for his daughter. But murdering his daughter is worse than breaking his vow. 

2. But even if I grant your framework for discussion purposes, by casting the issue in terms of hypocrisy, you're assuming a burden of proof. Indeed, a threefold burden of proof. 

3. As a preliminary, I remind you that the benchmark for hypocrisy isn't the criterion of the accuser, but the criterion of the accused. 

i) You need to demonstrate that Christian supporters of Moore think he's a sexual predator. Whether you think he's a sexual predator is irrelevant, since the yardstick for hypocrisy isn't the viewpoint of the accuser, but the viewpoint of the accused. You're accusing Christian. But do Christian supporters of Moore share your assessment of Moore?

ii) Even assuming they think Moore was a sexual predator 40 years ago, you need to demonstrate that it's hypocritical for them to vote for him given their own criteria. 

For instance, they may think that's justifiable based on the lesser-evil principle. To show that they're hypocritical, it's incumbent on you to demonstrate that the lesser-evil principle is incompatible with their belief-system.

iii) To put it more concretely, they may believe that the harm of voting for the Democrat outweighs the harm of voting for Moore. It's irrelevant whether you think the Democrat is worse than Moore, or vice versa, since your opinion is not the standard of comparison. Rather, you have to show that by their own standards, voting for Moore does greater harm than the net effect of voting for his opponent.

I know that's a loaded question, but basically what I mean is this... If you don't believe in gay marriage, don't get one. there's no need to organize politically in attempt to outlaw it. If you don't believe in recreational marijuana, don't smoke it, but why not let your neighbor smoke? just a couple examples off the top of the head

Funny how secular progressives don't have the same libertarian attitude about other things: if you don't like trophy-hunting, don't do it. If you don't want health insurance, opt out. If you don't believe in transgenderism, don't use transgender pronouns, &c.

That's the selling-point that gay marriage was just a private arrangement between consenting adults. Wouldn't impact anyone else. But the reality is using that as a foot in the door to destroy dissent.

It's really not like that at all.. most of us just really think gays should be allowed to married... simple as that. I am truly baffled by so many Christians who really believe their religious liberties are being impeded on. You guys just have to accept that you are sharing this country with non Christians. This country does not belong to Christians

Those are entirely different issues. Most of us see the gay rights issue as a civil rights issue. Trophy hunting is an environmental issue. Nobody is trying to make the pronoun thing a law, at least to my knowledge. I explain the pronoun thing like this: you don't have to use a transgender persons preferred pronouns. nobody is forcing you too. However, they are likely not gonna want to be your friend and probably think you're an a hole if you don't.

In California law, people can now be imprisoned for the crime of using the "wrong" pronoun.

i did some research.. nobody in california is going to jail for using the wrong pronoun


Likewise, take the Oxford teacher who faces formal discipline for "misgendering" a student.

It's about the first amendment in general. Freedom of speech, religion, and association. Not just a Christian thing. Businesses being shut down by gov't. For instance: