Sunday, April 30, 2017
People often ask why the family didn't move, if there actually was a poltergeist in the house. Note, first of all, that the objection isn't consistent with the usual skeptical claim that the girls were playing tricks. The primary individual who would have made a decision to move would have been Peggy Hodgson, not the girls. If Peggy and her boys had wanted to move, it's doubtful that the girls would have been able to have overridden their desire. Second, they did leave the house at times. But, third, the poltergeist activity would often occur in locations outside their house. A distinction is sometimes made between hauntings and poltergeists. A haunting centers around a location, whereas a poltergeist centers around a person or group. The Hodgsons had evidence that the poltergeist wasn't confined to the house, even though it was there more than anywhere else, so its existence outside the house undermined the motive to change locations. Fourth, they had lived in the house for more than a decade, without previous poltergeist activity, and moving would have taken them away from friends and family in the area (THIH, 8-9). Furthermore, they had two SPR investigators working with them (Grosse and Playfair), who had access to other people who could help and other resources, and those investigators would often stay in the house with the Hodgsons and help them in other ways. Moving would risk losing or diminishing that sort of support, which would be problematic if the poltergeist followed them where they went. Fifth, even if the poltergeist had been limited to the house, there would still be some merit to wanting to resolve the situation by seeing it through. In fact, Playfair had a conversation with Peggy on one occasion in which she said that she wanted to persevere through staying in the house to "get to the bottom of this" (THIH, 83) rather than trying to run away from the problem. She was concerned that the problem would return if it wasn't addressed thoroughly (ibid.). Sixth, the Hodgsons were a low-income family living in public housing, and trying to get moved to another house on the basis of an alleged poltergeist would arouse suspicion. Early on in the case, one of the ways in which George Fallows, a reporter at the Daily Mirror, tried to gauge the sincerity of the family was by asking if they wanted to get moved to a different house. Peggy's opposition to moving was an indication that the family at least wasn't making up the poltergeist claim in an effort to get moved to a better location.
Saturday, April 29, 2017
According to classical Arminianism it is an operation of the Holy Spirit that frees the sinner’s will from bondage to sin and convicts, calls, illumines and enables the sinner to respond to the gospel call with repentance and faith (conversion).
Friday, April 28, 2017
Whatever poltergeists actually are, they often behave like a lunatic with supernatural power. One moment, they'll be calm, rational, or even helpful or humorous. Another moment, they'll be destructive, irrational, vindictive, or disturbing. That may be because poltergeists are "dissociated fragments of the personality or consciousness of the focus person", as Playfair puts it (THIH, 211). Or they may be manifestations of a spirit - a living human, a deceased human, a demon, or whatever - with a mental illness or some equivalent. They may be manifestations of multiple spirits, which could explain some or all of the inconsistencies involved. They may be the faltering efforts of a spirit to communicate in contexts the spirit is inexperienced with or in contexts in which any spirit would have difficulty communicating. And so forth. Whatever is going on, if a paranormal scenario like one of the ones described above is involved, we may not be able to make sense of it, at least not all of it. We should try. But as we try, we should keep in mind that we may be attempting to make sense out of something that's senseless.
Our expectations have a lot to do with how we judge a poltergeist case. Critics of a case, whether Enfield or some other one, often don't know much about the explanatory options or are overly influenced by movies, fictional literature, or some other source that distorts their expectations. We have ideas about how a demon, deceased human, or some other entity should communicate in a poltergeist or some other context, and we make judgments accordingly. If some phenomenon doesn't conform to our expectations, we may be overly critical of that phenomenon and not critical enough of our expectations.
We should keep these things in mind as we consider one of the most criticized aspects of the Enfield case, the voice phenomena. Over several months, three of the Hodgson children (mostly Janet, but sometimes Margaret or Billy) would occasionally speak in a "harsh male voice" (THIH, 115) often representing itself (when it identified itself at all) as a deceased human. The voices claimed to be different individuals at different times. Most of what they said was trivial or nonsensical, and they often seemed to have the interests and other characteristics of Janet. Playfair writes of how, on one occasion, "it became clear that the Voice was not going to talk about anything except girls' periods…The idea that a dead old man would be obsessed with the details of menstruation was a bit too much for me" (130). Add to this the fact that if you pull up a video about the voice phenomena on YouTube, it's easy to see how a skeptic listening to a brief clip of the voice would come away with the impression that it's something a child could easily fake. In the documentaries I linked earlier in this series, the people being interviewed would often express incredulity about the voice and dismiss it without much or any argumentation.
But that's not the full picture. Other factors have to be taken into account as well. The voice phenomena have to be judged by the totality of the evidence.
Thursday, April 27, 2017
19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21 Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them”…2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, 3 and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth (Gen 6:19-21; 7:2-3).
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
I thought it might be helpful to share some of my (layman's) notes on the cursus honorum (primarily). How a Roman becomes a senator. Of course, the Senate was the body of men that ruled the Roman republic.
A few preliminaries:
- The context for my notes is the Republican period.
- Rome was a militaristic society and culture (e.g. Romans believed military aptitude meant political aptitude and vice versa, and their highest offices combined political and military roles e.g. a consul or praetor leading legions to battle).
- One gained lifetime admission to the Senate after serving as a magistrate for one year. A magistrate wasn't a judge like we might think today but an elected official. I suppose we'd simply say a politician.
- The Senate originally had 100 members, which kept increasing over time. The Senate was 300 up to Sulla, then 600 shortly before the time of Spartacus, then 900 under Julius Caesar, then over 1000 under Augustus Caesar. However, Augustus Caesar eventually reduced the number to 600.
- Although estimates can vary widely, at its height (i.e. during the Roman Empire) I believe the total population was around 75 million, and the city of Rome around 1 million, with the contemporary world population around 300 million. I've heard (but never verified) that no city in the world ever rivaled the population of Rome until the Industrial Age.
- Order of speaking in the Senate: first, the current consul who called the Senate to meet; then the princeps senatus; then current consuls; then ex-consuls; then current praetors; then ex-praetors; then current aediles; then ex-aediles; then current quaestors; then ex-quaestors. In general the Senate met from sun up till sun down. It would be rare for those below the praetor level to ever speak.
Now the path to the Senate:
- Tribune (military). 24 positions per year. Tribune was often (though not always) the first step for a young man aspiring to the Roman Senate to take.
- Quaestor. 20 positions per year: 14 to provincial governors to serve as their deputies, 2 to consuls, and 4 to Rome's treasury. Quaestors were usually lowly bureaucrats with limited political power and no military power.
- Aedile. 4 positions per year in Rome: 2 plebeian aediles and 2 curule aediles. Their role was public works such as ensuring "temple" upkeep where "temple" included religious and social institutions. For example, the Temple of Castor and Pollux was the Senate house, the Temple of Saturn was the treasury, public baths were like modern shopping malls, etc. Aediles also helped maintain aqueducts and thus the water supplies to Rome, they stored and distributed grain, they maintained roads, among others. However, the most prominent role of the aedile was festivals and holidays such as the gladiatorial games. If done well, aediles could win over the commoners or plebeians. That's what Julius Caesar, for one, did.
- Praetor. 8 positions per year. Praetors were essentially judges. But not merely judges as in our modern conception of judges. Since the Romans united military and political into a single role, praetors had vested in them military powers (e.g. commanding a legion) as well as judicial powers. Imperium.
- Consul. 2 positions per year. Traditionally each consul would alternate between their roles and responsibilities every other month (i.e. "holding fasces"). Consuls had the power to open debate in the Senate, propose laws, veto, call the public assembly, oversee elections, wage war, implement martial law, read or interpret omens. Consuls were the height of Roman political achievement.
- Proconsul (or propraetor). Basically a governor of a Roman province. It was what praetors and consuls usually wished to do after serving as praetors or consuls. Some provinces were more desirable than others. In general due to how lucrative it would be for the proconsul to govern the province. Judea was not a province at this time. It held no promise of wealth. It had too many rabble rousers to control. Its main value was it lay at the crossroads between the eastern trade routes as well as Syria and Egypt, two affluent provinces.
- There were other magistrates or political positions (e.g. censor, tribune of the plebs, pontifex maximus), but they aren't officially part of the cursus honorum, as far as I'm aware.
All this said, I'm no ancient Roman historian or classicist so I'm open to correction.
Excerpted from Colin Hemer's paper "The Name of Paul" (1985):
It is generally recognised that Paul, as a Roman citizen, must have possessed a full Roman name, in fact the tria nomina (three names). 'Paulus' was his cognomen, but his praenomen and nomen are quite unknown to us. When a provincial was enfranchised, as when a slave was freed, he automatically assumed the praenomen and nomen of his patron and transmitted it to his descendants...
According to Acts 22:28 Paul was born a Roman citizen. If his family bore the names of a Roman benefactor, the origin must be sought in a previous generation, presumably in the person of a famous Roman who had favoured Tarsus, and bestowed citizenship on some of its leading citizens. If we cannot explain Paul's citizenship in this way, we can only confess our total ignorance of the circumstances.
The three eminent Romans associated with the East and with Tarsus in particular in the preceding period were Pompey, Caesar and Antony, the two latter especially being linked favourably with Tarsus. There is then the possibility - we can say no more - that Paul might have been Cn. Pompeiu Paulus, C. Julius Paulus or M. Antonius Paulus.
The purpose of this note is to draw attention to an inscription from Naples which illustrates the question of Paul's name and identity at three separate points...
'To the spirits of the dead. L. Antonius Leo, also called Neon, son of Zoilus, by nation a Cilician, a soldier of the praetorian fleet at Misenum, from the century the trireme "Asclepius", lived 27 years, served 9 years. C. Julius Paulus his heir undertook the work [of his burial]'...
Paul was both Hebrew and Roman by birth, and operated under either name (Saul or Paul) according to context. It is a neat example of the 'undesigned coincidences' of Acts and Epistles that Paul's Hebrew name is known only from Acts, and his tribe (Benjamin) only from an acknowledged epistle (Phil. 3:5): he was named after the most famous member of his tribe...
Leo's heir bears exactly the name which may possibly have been Paul's own. If he was Leo's near kinsman he may also have been a Cilician, and Tarsus was the capital and dominant city of Cilicia. The form of his name makes it probable that he or his ancestor was enfranchised by Caesar...
The name 'Paulus' itself was a common cognomen, occurring also in the variants Paullus, Polus and Pollus, and meaning 'small', whether in origin pejorative or affectionate. It may sometimes have been confused with an obsolete rare praenomen, usually spelt 'Paullus', which was occasionally revived as an archaizing fashion, as in the names of Paullus Aemilius Lepidus (consul suffectus in 34 B.C.) or Paullus Fabius Maximus (consul in 11 B.C., proconsul of Asia in 9 B.C.; IGRR 4.438, etc.). In Paul' case, as in that of enfranchised provincials generally, the cognomen will have been his ordinary personal name in the Gentile world, his formal designation by praenomen, nomen, father's praenomen, Roman tribe and cognomen being reserved for official documents and remaining unknown to us.
[The amillennial] approach does not fit the literary movement of Revelation. John pictures the period between Christ’s exaltation and return as the time of Satan’s banishment from heaven to earth, where he deceives the nations and persecutes the saints (Rev 12:1–17). By way of contrast, in 20:1–3 Satan is confined in the abyss, which means that he cannot deceive the nations “anymore” (eti), just as defeat in heaven meant that he had no place there “any longer” (12:8) and Babylon’s fall mean that life was not found there “anymore” (18:21–23). Satan does not deceive anyone during the millennium (20:4–6), but deception resumes afterwards (20:7–8; Mounce; Osborne). If the vision of Satan persecuting the faithful in 12:1–17 shows the present character of earthly life, the vision of Satan’s binding assures people that the present situation is not the final one. Evil will be defeated in ways that are not now evident (Boring; Giesen; Murphy) [Craig R. Koester, Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, 785.]
In the Incarnation–at least during his state of humiliation–the Logos allowed only those facets of his person to be part of Christ's waking consciousness which were compatible with typical human experience, while the bulk of his knowledge and other cognitive perfections like an iceberg beneath the water's surface, lay submerged in his subconsciousness (ibid. 611).
…the Logos contained perfect human personhood archetypically in his own nature. The result was that in assuming a hominid body the Logos brought to Christ's animal nature just those properties that would serve to make it a complete human nature…Such an interpretation of the Incarnation draws strong support from the doctrine of man created in the image of God…in being persons, [humans] uniquely reflect God's nature. God himself is personal, and inasmuch as we are persons we resemble him. Thus God already possesses the properties sufficient for human personhood even prior to the Incarnation, lacking only corporality. The Logos already possessed in his reincarnate state all the properties necessary for being a human self (ibid. 608-09).
On a May 28, 1999 BBC radio program, Richard Wiseman remarked that most criticism of the Enfield case boils down to saying that the girls in the home where the poltergeist activity occurred, Janet and Margaret Hodgson, were playing tricks. (Start listening around 11:30 in the audio here.) In the time since Wiseman made those comments, Enfield skepticism hasn't changed much. For some recent examples of skeptics attributing the phenomena to cheating by the Hodgson girls, see here, here, and here.
There were five people in the Hodgson family, a mother, Peggy, and her four children: Margaret (age 13), Janet (age 11), Johnny (age 10), and Billy (age 7). Why do skeptics focus on the two girls?
Billy was too young, doesn't seem to have been the sort of person who would do what skeptics are alleging, and was never caught faking anything, as far as I know. Johnny was a few years older, but he also doesn't seem like somebody who would have done the faking in question, he was often away at boarding school when the events occurred, I don't think he was ever caught playing any tricks, and he died of cancer in 1981 without ever renouncing the family's claims about what they experienced. Peggy, the mother, died in 2003, and she never retracted her claims about the poltergeist. (You can watch a video of Maurice Grosse interviewing Peggy and Margaret Hodgson several years before Peggy's death here.) In one of the documentaries I linked in my first post, the SPR's Mary Rose Barrington refers to how impressed she was by Peggy (see here until 1:04:50). Guy Playfair writes: