Saturday, April 11, 2015
It is not our goal to establish “make-a-better-choice” pregnancy help centers that attempt to stem the tide of child sacrifice on demand, while tacitly accepting the continued practice as an unfortunate but permanent societal fixture. While we are dissidents in this culture of death, our primary aim is not to shut down grimy abortion mills through protest and while we actively seek to rescue children being carried into these mills by the thousands we do not consider “clinic ministry” to be the front lines of the battle against the evil of our age.
The material on the Quirinius census should change forever the way this topic is dealt with by scholars. The problem is well known: Luke presumably made a mistake when he stated that Quirinius (Cyrenius) was governor of Judea when a census was taken that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. However, it is “known” from Josephus that Quirinius did not come to Judea until A.D. 6. The approach of FATP is once again to start by examining the text. Luke does not strictly say that Quirinius was governor; the verb used means that he had governmental authority, not necessarily that he was the official governor of the province. After establishing the proper understanding of the text, Roman records are cited that are consistent with an empire-wide census taking place in 3 B.C. More significantly, Josephus gives contradictory information regarding Quirinius. He dates the coming of Quirinius to Judea just after the exile of Archelaus (A.D. 6) in Antiquities 18.1,2 (18.1.1) and 18.26 (18.2.1), but these passages also say that one of the acts after his coming was to depose the high priest Joazar from office. Joazar was installed by Herod the Great a few weeks before his (Herod’s) death in response to the golden eagle crisis, because Joazar cooperated with authorities in the matter of a census, and with Herod regarding his handling of the golden eagle incident. This made Joazar extremely unpopular with the people, and after the death of Herod they demanded that Joazar be removed from the high priesthood. This was done within a few months of Herod’s death, which means that Joazar, Quirinius, and the census are all associated together in the time shortly before the death of Herod and the time immediately thereafter, contradicting the A.D. 6 date for the coming of Quirinius to Judea. The internal contradictions of Josephus in these matters were pointed out years ago by Zahn, Lodder and other scholars, but new insights that help in unraveling the contradictory accounts of Josephus have been given by Dr. Steinmann’s colleague John Rhoads. FATP devotes 11 pages to sorting out the correct order of events and explaining why Josephus made the mistakes that he did in dating Quirinius and the census. These pages may require several readings to understand all the issues, but once this is done it is clear that the preponderance of evidence favors the enrollment associated with Quirinius to have been in 3 B.C., and perhaps continuing into early 2 B.C.
Friday, April 10, 2015
In order of original publication, the articles are as follows:1986. "Divine Meaning of Scripture," Westminster Theological Journal 48:241-279.
1988. "God's Lordship in Interpretation," Westminster Theological Journal 50/1: 27-64.
1988. "Christ the Only Savior of Interpretation," Westminster Theological Journal 50/2: 305-321.
2007. "The Presence of God Qualifying Our Notions of Grammatical-Historical Interpretation: Genesis 3:15 as a Test Case," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50/1: 87-103.
2014. "Dispensing with Merely Human Meaning: Gains and Losses from Focusing on the Human Author, Illustrated by Zephaniah 1:2-3," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 57/3: 481-499.
A more extreme form of that view comes from activists who see rape as a metaphor, its definition swelling to cover any kind of oppression of women. Rape, seen in this light, can occur not only on a date but also in a marriage, not only by violent assault but also by psychological pressure. A Swarthmore College training pamphlet once explained that acquaintance rape "spans a spectrum of incidents and behaviors, ranging from crimes legally defined as rape to verbal harassment and inappropriate innuendo."
Out of this contention was born a set of arguments that have become politically correct wisdom on campus and in academic circles. This view holds that rape is a symbol of women's vulnerability to male institutions and attitudes. "It's sociopolitical," insists Gina Rayfield, a New Jersey psychologist. "In our culture men hold the power, politically, economically. They're socialized not to see women as equals."
This line of reasoning has led some women, especially radicalized victims, to justify flinging around the term rape as a political weapon, referring to everything from violent sexual assaults to inappropriate innuendos. Ginny, a college senior who was really raped when she was 16, suggests that false accusations of rape can serve a useful purpose. "Penetration is not the only form of violation," she explains. In her view, rape is a subjective term, one that women must use to draw attention to other, nonviolent, even nonsexual forms of oppression. "If a woman did falsely accuse a man of rape, she may have had reasons to," Ginny says. "Maybe she wasn't raped, but he clearly violated her in some way."
Catherine Comins, assistant dean of student life at Vassar, also sees some value in this loose use of "rape." She says angry victims of various forms of sexual intimidation cry rape to regain their sense of power. "To use the word carefully would be to be careful for the sake of the violator, and the survivors don't care a hoot about him." Comins argues that men who are unjustly accused can sometimes gain from the experience. "They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. 'How do I see women?' 'If I didn't violate her, could I have?' 'Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?' Those are good questions."
Taken to extremes, there is an ugly element of vengeance at work here. Rape , is an abuse of power. But so are false accusations of rape, and to suggest that men whose reputations are destroyed might benefit because it will make them more sensitive is an attitude that is sure to backfire on women who are seeking justice for all victims. On campuses where the issue is most inflamed, male students are outraged that their names can be scrawled on a bathroom-wall list of rapists and they have no chance to tell their side of the story…Those who view rape through a political lens tend to place all responsibility on men to make sure that their partners are consenting at every point of a sexual encounter.
It would be easy to accuse feminists of being too quick to classify sex as rape, but feminists are to be found on all sides of the debate, and many protest the idea that all the onus is on the man. It demeans women to suggest that they are so vulnerable to coercion or emotional manipulation that they must always be escorted by the strong arm of the law. "You can't solve society's ills by making everything a crime," says Albuquerque attorney Nancy Hollander. "That comes out of the sense of overprotection of women, and in the long run that is going to be harmful to us."
Thursday, April 09, 2015
In the debate (1:27-30), Cavin makes much of the fact that we don't know where Paul got the information he discusses in the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15. But, like so many of Cavin's other arguments, his evaluation of 1 Corinthians 15 is focused in the wrong place. The origin of Paul's information is less significant than his maintaining it. Cavin briefly refers to Galatians 1-2 and speculates that Paul might not have made much of an effort to look into the information he had on the resurrection, even though he met with individuals like Peter and James. But most of Cavin's attention is focused on the origins of Paul's material in 1 Corinthians. What about how that information was maintained after it originated?
For roughly two decades leading up to the writing of 1 Corinthians, Paul believed what he outlines in the opening of 1 Corinthians 15. During that time, he repeatedly, and in a wide variety of circumstances, interacted with individuals like Peter and James and churches like those in Jerusalem, Antioch, and Rome. He kept up with developments enough to know that most of the more than five hundred resurrection witnesses were still alive, though some had died (15:6). He knew enough about the other apostles' backgrounds to contrast his history to theirs (15:9). He knew enough about the other apostles' labors to comment on how his efforts compared to theirs (15:10). He knew enough about the other apostles' teachings to affirm that all of them were in agreement about the gospel message Paul had just summarized (15:11). Not only were Paul and the other apostles maintaining the information described in 1 Corinthians 15, but so were Christian communities like the one Paul was writing to in Corinth.
The idea that Paul and these other people would have gone through these experiences I've just described for so many years, but without any significant reason for believing that the information in 1 Corinthians 15 was true, doesn't make sense. You can't write a passage like 1 Corinthians 15 without having a lot of knowledge about a lot of highly significant evidential issues pertaining to the resurrection. To suggest that the appearance to more than five hundred was just a rumor Paul heard one time, that he'd never had any discussions with Peter about the resurrection, or that those discussions always just happened to avoid all significant evidential issues, for example, is implausible. Why would Paul follow the lives of the more than five hundred resurrection witnesses enough to know approximately how many were still alive, at a particular point in time about twenty years after Paul's conversion, if he was unconcerned about the details or hadn't looked into these matters in a long time, for example? Or how would Paul have known that the other apostles were teaching the same message he was if he'd never heard from them about these subjects? These are the kinds of issues critics like Cavin ought to be addressing. To focus, instead, on issues like where the information in 1 Corinthians 15 originated, while ignoring matters like the ones mentioned above, is an exercise in misdirection.
iv) Of course, if Paul was a freewill theist, he could easily parry the accusation by stating that we are able to resist God's will.
If selling a gay couple a wedding cake means a "christian" baker participated in their marriage, does selling a gun to a murderer mean a "christian" gun store owner participated in the murder?
If I discriminate against or criticize you, it's called "Religious Freedom"
If you return the favor, it's called "Persecution"
According to Matt. 4:8-10:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'"
Imagine if Christ had bent his knee to the devil. Imagine if our Lord had bowed his heart to Satan, pledging an oath of fealty, not to his Father but now to the Adversary.
Nothing would have delighted Old Scratch more than to see Christ strike out on his own path, the autonomous God-man, away from the love of his Father, in rebellion against his Father.
Moreover, Christ would've ultimately paid homage to Lucifer, for how can one take up arms against God without at the same time acknowledging the Archfiend in his insurrection against God was "right" (exchanging the truth for a lie)? Or perhaps, would it not have been logical for the defiant insurrectionists to join arms and forces under a single leader (e.g. to avoid divide and conquer)? In any case, I expect the Father of lies, the first apostate, would welcome all other subsequent liars and apostates as their Prince of Darkness and the god of this world.
However, if this had actually happened, what would've transpired next? The Godhead would have been divided. As such, I imagine the whole of creation would've collapsed. Surely "he [who] upholds the universe by the word of his power" (Heb. 1:3) would do so no more.
If this had occurred, would Satan have won? Yet he would've "won" by destroying all...including himself. It would've been worse than a Pyrrhic victory.
Nevertheless, I suspect this is what he most wants, this is his end-game: the destruction of all things even if it means his own destruction. Some just want to watch the world burn.
Of course, we thank our Lord he never succumbed to sin and rebellion. We thank our Savior who defeated and triumphed over the devil and evil. Still, I don't doubt the deceiver and thief of souls would be more than willing to take a consolation prize or two in destroying the souls of those who turn away from God. Therefore: "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8).
From Victor Davis Hanson:
Read the rest here.
Modern American universities used to assume four goals.
First, their general education core taught students how to reason inductively and imparted an aesthetic sense through acquiring knowledge of Michelangelo, the Battle of Gettysburg, "Medea" and "King Lear," Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," and astronomy and Euclidean geometry.
Second, campuses encouraged edgy speech and raucous expression — and exposure to all sorts of weird ideas and mostly unpopular thoughts. College talk was never envisioned as boring, politically correct megaphones echoing orthodox pieties.
Third, four years of college trained students for productive careers. Implicit was the university's assurance that its degree was a wise career investment.
Finally, universities were not monopolistic price gougers. They sought affordability to allow access to a broad middle class that had neither federal subsidies nor lots of money.
The American undergraduate university is now failing on all four counts.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Imagine yourself, then, as a prospective parent shortly before the birth of your first child. And suppose that someone has offered you the following choice. On the one hand, the child will be one that, without any effort on your part, will always and automatically do and be exactly what you want it to do and be, no more and no less. The child will have no feeling of being constrained or controlled; nevertheless, it will spontaneously carry out your wishes on any and every occasion. Or, on the other hand, you can choose to have a child in the normal fashion, a child that is fully capable of having a will of its own and of resisting your wishes for it, and even of acting against its own best interest. You will have to invest a great deal of effort in the child's education, with good hopes to be sure, but without any advance guarantee of success. And there is the risk, indeed the near-certainty, that the child will inflict on your considerable pain and suffering, as you strive to help the child become all that he or she can be and ought to be. Which would you choose?
It is my hope that many readers–perhaps even a strong majority–will agree with me in saying that it is far better to accept the challenge of parenting a child with a will of its own, even at the price of pain and possible heartbreak, than to opt for an arrangement in which the child's choices will all really be my choices made for it, its life a pale reflection of mine lived through the child. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, M. Peterson & R. VanArragon, eds. (Blackwell 2004), 222-23.
Tuesday, April 07, 2015
The four types of theodicies considered so far all appeal to beliefs and evaluative claims that the theodicist thinks should be acceptable, upon careful reflection, to anyone, including those who are not religious. But if one thinks that one’s religious beliefs are ones that it is reasonable to accept, what is wrong with a theodicy that appeals to some of one’s religious beliefs? Of course, if the religious beliefs to which one appeals, taken together, entail the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person, such a theodicy would be question-begging.
The religious theodicy in question is as follows. First, human beings, rather than having arisen through a process of natural evolution, were brought into existence by the creator of the universe. He placed the first two human beings in a perfect world, free of suffering and death. Those human beings, however, freely chose to disobey a command of the creator, and the result was the Fall of mankind, which meant not only that the first two humans became subject to suffering and death, but that all of their descendants did so as well. The creator, however, lovingly engaged, several generations later, in a rescue operation, in which he, in the person of his son, became incarnated as a human being, and by undergoing a sacrificial death, made it possible for the creator to forgive every human who accepted this sacrifice, and who would then enjoy eternal beatitude living in the presence of the creator.
It is not, of course, a full theodicy, since it does not account for the suffering of non-human animals, at least before the Fall.
So let us focus on it simply as offering an account of God’s justification for allowing human suffering. Thus viewed, how successful is it? To be successful, a theodicy must appeal only to beliefs that it is reasonable to accept.
Do the beliefs involved in the above story qualify? It would seem not. First of all, among the crucial beliefs is the belief that human beings, rather than coming into being via a natural process of evolution, were specially created. In setting out the story, I have not specified how that was done. Traditionally Christians believed, either that Adam and Eve were created ex nihilo, as the story of creation in Genesis 1 seems to say, or else, as the creation story in Genesis 2 says, that Adam was created out of the dust of the earth, and then Eve was formed, sometime later, out of one of Adam’s ribs.
There are very good reasons for rejecting both of these accounts, since the evidence that humans are descended from earlier primates is extremely strong indeed. Especially impressive is the evidence provided by DNA studies, described by Daniel J. Fairbanks his book Relics of Eden, and which includes such as things as the evidence that human chromosome number two resulted by fusion from two primate chromosomes, together with facts about (1) transposable elements, including retroelements, (2) pseudogenes, and (3) mitochondrial DNA.
In the light of such evidence, it is not surprising that many Christian philosophers have accepted the hypothesis of common descent, and have adopted some form of theistic evolution, in which the creator intervened at some point to transform some earlier primates into members of a new species, Homo sapiens. But while this version of special creation is an improvement, given the very close relations between human and chimpanzee DNA, and the fact that known mechanisms of chromosome rearrangement render the transition from some non-human species to Homo sapiens not at all improbable, the postulation of divine intervention at that particular point does not seem plausible.
It would be a different matter, of course, if humans had immaterial minds, but there is very strong empirical evidence against that view, including such things as the effects of a blow to the head and brain damage of different sorts, the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the decline of mental capacities with aging, the relations between the mental development of children and the growth of neural circuitry, the inheritance of personality traits, the different correlations in the case of identical twins versus fraternal twins with regard to such traits as intelligence, the effects of psychotropic drugs, such as Prozac, and so on (Tooley, 2012, 42–4).
Secondly, the story postulates not just a special creation, but also a special creation in which humans, initially, were not subject to suffering or death. Given, among other things, that that period was a very short one, one cannot offer positive historical evidence again the existence of such a short period that involved only two humans. But the belief is surely a remarkable one that can be viewed as likely only if it is supported by evidence. The evidence that can be offered, however, consists entirely of the creation story in Genesis, so that question is, how reliable is such evidence? To answer that question, one can see what other stories one finds in Genesis. One striking story is that of Noah—who apparently lived around 4500 years ago—according to which there was a worldwide flood that killed all animals on Earth, except for those that were on the ark. But there are excellent reasons for believing that such a story is very unlikely to be true, both in the light of the number of animal species that currently exist, and in the light of the evidence—attempts by authors such as Whitcomb and Morris in their book The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications (1966) to argue otherwise notwithstanding—that there has not been any world-wide flood in the past 5000 years.
In addition, those who view Genesis as a source of important truths do so because it is part of the Bible. So one can also ask about the reliability of the Bible when it testifies to remarkable events. In many cases, of course, there is no way of checking whether those remarkable events actually took place, but when there is, one finds that there is good reason to believe that the event in question did not take place. Thus, for example, there is the story of the sun’s standing still for about a day during Joshua’s battle at Jericho, the story of the slaughter of all of the Egyptian first-born children, and the story of the graves being opened and the dead walking around the city at the time of Jesus’s death (Matthew 27: 52–53). One would surely expect non-Biblical records of such events if they had really taken place, but there are none.
Finally, the religious theodicy that we are considering also involves a number of very problematic moral claims. First, we are asked to believe that there is nothing morally problematic about a morally good deity making it the case that if one of the first two humans disobeys some command, all of the many billions of descendants of that human will, as a consequence, be subject to suffering and death to which they would not otherwise be exposed. Secondly, we are also asked to believe that a morally good deity is unable to forgive people their misdeeds unless he becomes incarnate in the form of his son and suffers a sacrificial death. Thirdly, while, according to this story, those who accept the sacrifice made on their behalf have all their tears wiped away and enjoy eternal happiness in the presence of God, those who do not accept the sacrifice fare considerably less well, and suffer eternal torment in hell. So we are being asked to believe that such eternal punishment is not morally problematic.
i.) I remain convinced by Scripture and conscience that lying is always sinful, and thus is always impermissible for Christians.
ii.) Scripture does not approve of lying.
iii.) Christ didn't lie, and Christians are called to imitate Him.
iv.) Christ never broke any of God's commands, and since He was "in every respect tempted as we are, yet without sin", it's not possible for Heb. 4:15 to be true if Christians will face situations where they are forced to disobey one of God's commands (a "lesser" command) in order to obey another (a "greater" command), or else Jesus would have been faced with such a situation too.
But since I'm not God or God Incarnate, I must play the hand I was dealt. I'm not the dealer. I didn't shuffle the deck.
b) Likewise, if I had the miraculous powers of Jesus, there'd always be alternatives to lying since I'd be able to supernaturally override the circumstances.
In addition, God is never in a position where he must choose between protecting the innocent and telling the truth.
The same, however, can't be said for feeble creatures in a fallen world.
A chilling example of secular medical ethics. Josef Mengele would be proud:
PT: One of the aspects of your philosophy that is most galling to some people is that you don't view human life as sacred. According to you, since a person in a vegetative coma is a being without self-awareness, he or she should be accorded fewer rights than a fully-aware chimpanzee. Needless to say, you've enraged a bunch of religious and disabled folk.
PS: But you really have to question human superiority What justifies the things we do to animals? What justifies keeping a person in a vegetative coma alive? There are two basic views that support cruelty to animals: either you accept the Aristotelian view that the universe has a purpose and the less rational are here to serve the more rational, or you believe the Judeo-Christian view that God has given us dominion over the world. But once you get away from those two worldviews, there just isn't a basis for drawing a sharp moral boundary between us and them.
PT: But you are still drawing a boundary. Why draw one at all? Aren't you still guilty of human arrogance in saying apes deserve human rights, when other animals don't? Who are we to decide?
PS: That's absolutely true, and what we really have is an infinite range of gradations of awareness. But if you are trying to shape policy, you need to draw lines somewhere.
PT: Let's take a specific case. Research on chimpanzees led to the hepatitis B vaccine, which has saved many human lives. Let's pretend it's the moment before that research is to begin. Would you stop it?
PS: I'm not comfortable with any invasive research on chimps. I would ask, Is there no other way? And I think there are other ways. I would say, What about getting the consent of relatives of people in vegetative states?
PT: That would cause a riot!
PS: Well, if you could really confidently determine that this person will never recover consciousness, it's a lot better to use them than a chimp. I agree, it doesn't go over well, and people throw up their hands in shock and horror. But I'd like them to explain why it's better to lock a fully-conscious, self-aware chimp in a seven-foot cage in solitary confinement than to experiment with someone lying unconscious in a hospital ward.