Monday, March 30, 2015

Catholic Acknowledgment Of The Solas Before The Reformation

James Swan has a good post citing a Catholic Answers broadcast in which "Steve Weidenkopf, a lecturer of Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College", acknowledges that the concepts of sola fide and sola scriptura were advocated prior to the Reformation. The post recommends some other resources on the subject, and so does one of the commenters. Here's a post I've written on the subject of sola fide before the Reformation, and here's my archive of posts on Evangelical doctrines in general prior to the Reformation.

Hysterical anti-Christian bigotry

The Cary Grant syndrome

Cary Grant was five times married and four times divorce. When asked why, he said his ex-wives thought they married Cary Grant. They were in for a rude surprise.  
They married the image, not the man. They wed Cary Grant, but woke up to Archie Leach.
Catholics, especially converts to Rome, reflect this mentality. They don't convert to the church of Rome; rather, rather, they convert to an idea. They don't convert to the Roman Catholic church; rather, they convert to Roman Catholic theology.
They begin and end with an idea. And they stay inside their idea. That's why Catholicism is appealing to philosophically-minded types like Bryan Cross, Philip Blosser, and Michael Liccione. 
By the same token, that's why they're impervious to factual disconfirmation. Philosophy is all about ideas. Abstract ideas. They superimpose their idea on the institution. 
It makes no difference how great the mismatch between the ideal and the real, for the idea always matches the ideal, and it's the idea of Catholicism that's etched on their spectacles. They don't go to church; they go to their concept of church. They attend their mental construct.

The Pink Mafia

I will be quoting from Alberto Cutié's exposé: Dilemma (Celebra 2011). "Padre Cutié" was a celebrity priest who left the Roman church to marry a woman:


The rigorous academic discipline wasn't the only new thing for me. This was also the very first time I ever had to share a room with other men. I grew up with two sisters, but since I was the only boy at home, I'd never had to share a room. My first roommate at the seminary was a man twice my age. He had lived with a girlfriend for yeas before having a conversion experience at a spiritual retreat, which caused him to decide the priesthood was his calling. He often spoke to me like a father giving advice to his inexperienced son, and I learned to appreciate his authentic concern for me.

One morning, my roommate saw me shaving at the sink we shared in our common room. I was wearing my boxers and considered it natural to shave dressed that way.  He said, "What are you doing?"

I was startled by the alarm in his voice. "Why, what's the matter?"

"In this room, you can dress like that with no problem, but don't get used to it," my roommate warned. You have to take care of yourself with the environment around here."

I had no idea what he meant. It was only later in the year that I realized my roommate was referring to the presence of a number of promiscuous gay men in the seminary.

The first time I ever heard any of these young gay seminarians use slang words and expressions of a homosexual nature, I had to ask around to find out what they meant. I really had no clue! I soon discovered that they had nicknames for everything and everyone, including a bishop who was sexually involved with some of his seminarians. Years later, that bishop would be removed and sent to live quietly in a monastery after Church officials couldn't hide his behavior any more. That was all very awkward for me. 

It isn't difficult for homosexual men in seminaries and religious houses to act out sexually. For one thing, it's easy to hide your relationship in these all-male environments; for another, they have role models in priests who have been getting away with it for a long time, when the institution at all levels turns a blind eye to it. 

I used to hear stories about priests and seminarians and their sexual conduct, both homosexual and heterosexual, but I never really believed them–or maybe I just did not want to believe it was possible. It probably would have been too painful for me, an idealistic eighteen-year-old convinced that the institution was all about God, to admit that the Church could ever engage in or protect such dishonesty. At that stage of my life, I had a very romantic concept of the institutional Church. 

Yet, as time went on, I began to realize that a lot of what I did not believe was possible was actually true. A number of people I had come to know and trust were actually very involved in that inappropriate stuff. 

Among all of the outrageous things I heard in my seminary days, I will never forget the day that our rector looked up from a newspaper article and said to a group of us nearby, "I wonder what cardinal this guy f-ed to get there."

We were standing in front of the community board right in the main hallway of our seminary building…One of the recent postings stood out like a sore thumb. It announced the new position of a former seminarian who had been thrown out a couple of years earlier for sexual misconduct. He had found a way of being accepted to another seminary, in another country, and was now ordained. That young man had become a priest–and a prominent one.

How did this happen? I wondered. Information about seminarians usually follows them from place to place, and the reasons for dismissal from a seminary are usually part of a required report, in case you apply to a new diocese or seminary. In this case, not only did the candidate get ordained, but he was actually tapped for an important job at the highest levels of the Vatican. 

There is, of course, no way of knowing exactly how many gay priests are working worldwide or how many of them actually observe celibacy. In his book The Changing Face of the Priesthood, Father Donal Cozzens suggests that at least 60 percent of all American priests are gay. Whatever the exact numbers, a significant number of active homosexual priests continue to be ordained, but they are forced to be cautious, repressed and mostly closeted homosexuals–unless, of course, those priests are in Rome. One recent article in the Italian weekly magazine Panorama points out that the sight of courting priests is hardly an anomaly; for that particular investigative piece, a reporter posed as the boyfriend of a man running in gay clerical circles, and caught the sexual escapades of priests on tape. He also discovered that male escorts and transsexual prostitutes in Rome regularly rely on priests as regular customers.

Those Roman Catholics who do not want to accept homosexuals among their clergy are way too late. There are so many homosexuals, both active and celibate, at all levels of the clergy and Church hierarchy that the Church would never be able to function if they were really to exclude all of them from ministry. As one of the most prominent pastors in a parish near where I grew up used to say in jest, "If they get rid of us queens, they won't have too many people left to do the work!"

The oldest seminary in the country, St. Mary's in Baltimore, was at one time called "the Pink Palace" by a number of priests, seminarians, and laypeople associated with it. In the 1980s, promiscuous homosexual activity was actually very commonplace in seminaries…

At my own seminary, at least one of the rectors and a number of priests on staff had been involved with seminarians in totally inappropriate relationships, but many of those men went on to big, wealthy parishes, positions in the Curia, or professorships. They all continued in ministry with few repercussions for their well-known promiscuous behavior. A group of laypeople once wrote a novel to try to expose their pastor and others in the hierarchy, but he was well protected by the powers that be.

The question remains: How can the Church condemn homosexuality so forcefully in public, yet continue to cover it up in a number of its own leaders? 

A young Franciscan friar I once worked with…used to tell me, "I live with a bunch of gay guys who don't really understand me."

I'm just pointing out that the Church speaks out of both sides of its mouth. The institution that calls homosexual activity intrinsically disordered…is the same one that ordains, promotes, and places closeted homosexuals in positions of power. That's no secret to those of us who have dealt with the institution at every level, from the local parishes to the Vatican. 

I knew one young seminarian in Latin America who was called into the cardinal's office because he was "spending too much time" talking to a young novice (a religious sister in training)…When the young man explained that he and the young sister were just friends, the cardinal said, "If you were to have that type of relationship with a man, it would be easier to hide and we could avoid criticism, but we cannot protect you if you are involved with a girl." 

The John Jay Study report, as well as my own anecdotal evidence, leads me to believe that many of the priests accused of being child abusers are in fact closeted gay men. A great majority of their "abuses" were homosexually oriented, with boys in their late teens.

Priests will tell you that there is a sort of Pink Mafia in the Roman Catholic Church; this is the term describing the significant number of closeted homosexuals who live within the Church and occupy the hierarchy at every level of this institution. Those in the Pink Mafia actively promote their own, regardless of ability or credentials, though many prove to be very resourceful and know how to work the system.

I was aware of a great number of gay priests and bishops who appeared to be pretty open about it–and had partners–some even living promiscuous lives. 

In response to the Church's sex abuse crisis, the Vatican put out an official "instruction," basically stating that homosexuals would not be allowed in seminaries…What makes this rule even more impossibly hypocritical is that the very office in Rome that issued that document is staffed by some of the most flamboyantly homosexual clergy. One day, while filming a documentary on the Vatican, I visited several offices in the Curia in Rome. I'll never forget how I was taken off guard when some of the members of the crew asked me, "Father, who are these guys?" referring to the number of visibly effeminate men in Roman collars and long cassocks walking around. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

“Pope Francis”: Business as Usual in the Sex Abuse Scandal

Look at the fine print beneath the photo. This time, some editor at Patrick Buchanan’s “The American Conservative” let that one slide for use with this pope. For Buchanan, “the 1950’s were ‘The Catholic Moment’”

This time, it’s Rod Dreher who’s sounding the alarm on this particular “moment”. Buchanan’s age has certainly passed. But here Dreher, a convert to Roman Catholicism some years ago, who converted back out of it (to Orthodoxy) some years ago (because he couldn’t stomach defending the sexual abuse scandal), cited an AP article at length:

Several members of Pope Francis’ sex abuse advisory board are expressing concern and incredulity over his decision to appoint a Chilean bishop to a diocese despite allegations that he covered up for Chile’s most notorious pedophile.

In interviews and emails with The Associated Press, the experts have questioned Francis’ pledge to hold bishops accountable and keep children safe, given the record of Bishop Juan Barros in the case of the Rev. Fernando Karadima.

[Here comes the ever present Roman Catholic disclaimer]: The five commission members spoke to the AP in their personal and professional capacity and stressed that they were not speaking on behalf of the commission, which Francis formed in late 2013 and named Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley to head.

“I am very worried,” said commission member Dr. Catherine Bonnet, a French child psychiatrist and author on child sex abuse. “Although the commission members cannot intervene with individual cases, I would like to meet with Cardinal O’Malley and other members of the commission to discuss a way to pass over our concerns to Pope Françis.”

Another commission member, Marie Collins, herself a survivor of abuse, said she couldn’t understand how Barros could have been appointed given the concerns about his behavior.

“It goes completely against what he (Francis) has said in the past about those who protect abusers,” Collins told AP. “The voice of the survivors is being ignored, the concerns of the people and many clergy in Chile are being ignored and the safety of children in this diocese is being left in the hands of a bishop about whom there are grave concerns for his commitment to child protection.”

Dreher’s payoff: “The AP story goes on to say that as archbishop of Buenos Aires in neighboring Argentina, Francis would have known well the Karadima scandal when it broke in 2010. This is not a case in which a remote pontiff knows next to nothing about a local problem, and is getting advice from people who are misleading him. He can’t possibly not know what’s going on.”

The point: This pope knows, and he’s not worried about it.


One of the stock challenges to a global flood is biogeography. How did animals disperse from Armenia to their present locations? I'd simply point out that that's not a problem unique to young-earth creationism. It's a problem for secular science as well:

And don't even get me started on the weird history of biogeography.  The weird thing in biogeography are the disjunctions - places where very similar species are separated by an ocean.  Sometimes the species are on islands, and sometimes on separate continents.  One explanation was vicariance - animals and plants got their modern distribution on land masses that are no longer there.  In Darwin's day, this was the favorite explanation of a guy named Edward Forbes.  He speculated that land bridges used to connect continents (like Europe and North America) so that species now separated by oceans used to have a much larger range on land that sank into the ocean.  Then Darwin argued that Forbes was wrong and instead championed the occasional lucky dispersal across oceans to account for these disjunctions.  Darwin even did experiments like floating seeds in saltwater to see how long they could go and still germinate.  Then came plate tectonics and suddenly vicariance got some new life.  There weren't land bridges, but the continents used to be all connected.  Then plate tectonics and biogeography developed to the point where scientists decided that many disjunctions were much younger than the continental split, and so we're back to the occasional lucky dispersal as Darwin hypothesized.  Today it's sort of a mix.  Vicariance and dispersal are both invoked depending on the situation.  I could go on and on.  Madagascar is fascinating case study.  You should look it up some time. 

Nephilim sighting!

Michael Heiser's identification of the Nephilim has received scientific confirmation! Although David slew Goliath, there's astronomical evidence that Nephilim still exist!

Roman bishop buckles to the homosexual lobby

Good thing the One True Church® is a bulwark against the vandals at the gates. Well, maybe not...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Quest for nihilism

Later on in life, I would experience a few more crises of faith. The most painful one occurred during my doctoral studies. I came to realize that all of my previous bouts with doubt ended when I found the answers I was looking for. In other words, I had been looking for ways to confirm the truth of my Christian faith. This time, I wanted to engage in a most sincere quest for truth, no matter where it led. I wanted to take a thorough look at whether Jesus rose from the dead. I would not avoid any difficult question or troubling issue. And I would, in a sense, document my journey for others to view and criticize. That’s why the book that resulted ended up being so large.
The notion of embarking on a quest for truth, "no matter where it leads," is a popular axiom. But that's a dubious way of framing the issue.
To begin with, it doesn't surprise me that Licona is a cradle Christian. The notion that we have a duty to pursue truth wherever it leads is very idealistic, and many people raised in the faith share that idealistic outlook.
That, however, can be very ironic. What if your idealistic quest for truth terminates in nihilism? What if you begin with idealism but end with nihilism?
Suppose that pursuing truth no matter where it takes you eventually leads you to atheism. And what, in turn, if atheism leads to moral and existential nihilism? Indeed, that's not just hypothetical. A number of secular thinkers candidly admit that implication.
Logically, that's not a two-way street. For a nihilist has no obligation or motivation to pursue truth no matter where it leads. 
But if nihilism could never function as your starting-point (except for the sake of argument), then why should it function as your (potential) end-point? The quest for truth is self-defeating if the destination nullifies the very value of truth and truth-seekers. Why begin the journey if that's where the journey ends? It becomes a worthless intellectual exercise in which you have nothing to gain and everything to lose. 
This way of casting the issue is short-sighted and naive. It's foolhardy to imagine that intellectual honesty requires you to maintain that everything is up-for-grabs.
Moreover, that's not even possible. A quest for truth presupposes criteria. You can only question some things if you take other things for granted. Something must furnish a standard of comparison. Everything can't be questionable, for something can only be questionable in relation to something unquestionable or less questionable. 
Both in principle and practice, we should take atheism off the table. No position that conduces to moral and existential nihilism even merits consideration. And that greatly narrows the remaining options. 
It really comes down to religious options. And it's easy to narrow down the religious options. In Eastern religion, the divine is essentially unknowable. 
In the West, most religious traditions attempt to ground their claims in the Bible. It may be part of the Bible, or the Bible plus their supplements. But that provides a common standard of comparison. That provides a criterion. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Is there development in the Passion accounts?

Shooting stars

In Apocalyptic Writings. The conception of fallen angels—angels who, for wilful, rebellious conduct against God, or through weakness under temptation.thereby forfeiting their angelic dignity, were degraded and condemned to a life of mischief or shame on earth or in a place of punishment—is wide-spread. Indications of this belief, behind which probably lies the symbolizing of an astronomical phenomenon, the shooting stars, are met with in Isa. xiv. 12 (comp. Job xxxviii. 31, 32; see Constellations).

The writer seems to be saying that the tradition of fallen angels has its origin in the personification of meteors. Ancient observers saw shooting stars. By process of legendary embellishment, they interpreted that phenomenon as gods or angels who, having lost the war in heaven, were cast down to earth. 

Now, it's true that Scripture uses meteoric imagery to depict or illustrate the fall of angels. But that can be used to explain how belief in fallen angels developed in the first place?

Let's begin by citing some other material:

Primitive man everywhere used meteoric iron in the earliest stage of his mental culture…The Sumerian name for iron was an-bar, meaning "fire from heaven." The Hittite ku-an has the same meaning. The Egyptian name, bia-en-pet, has been variously translated; probably the first meaning of bia was "thunderbolt," and pet stands for "heaven," so there was have plain intimation that the earliest iron was of celestial origin. A Hittite text says that whereas gold came from Birununda and copper from  Taggasta, iron came from heaven. Likewise the Hebrew word for iron, parzil, and the equivalent in Assyrian, barzillu, are derived from barzu-ili, meaning "metal of god" or "of heaven." Even today the Georgian name for a meteorite is tsis-natckhi, meaning "fragment of heaven." T. A. Rickard, "The Use of Meteoric Iron," The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, vol. 71, no. 1/2 (1941), 55.

The most ancient name for iron was 'Metal of Heaven.' In the hieroglyphic language of the ancient Egyptians it was pronounced ba-en-pet, meaning either stone or metal of Heaven. 
This ancient history of iron is also found in the cuneiform language of Assyria and Babylonia, pronounced par-zillu. It is the same in the language of Sumeria and Chaldea; barsa, barsal and barzel, and again in the Hebrew language where the name is the same as it is in the Assyrian. All of these translate to mean 'Metal of Heaven.' We can say the first iron was undoubtedly meteoric, as is shown by these ancient names. 
Even across the globe, evidence of iron in prehistory was found when Spanish explorers discovered the Aztecs in the 1500s. They found objects made with this iron-nickel alloy as well. When asked, the Aztec claimed the metal fell from the sky. For centuries afterward, farmers and rural folk had claimed to have occasionally come across metallic rocks made mostly of iron that fell from the sky, and for centuries 'rational' scientist dismissed these claims as superstitious. We now know these objects as meteorites. G. F. Zimmer, The Antiquity of Iron (1915).

When Cortez enquired of the Aztec chiefs whence they obtain their knives they simply pointed to the sky.  
The peoples of the ancient Orient in all probability shared similar ideas. The Sumerian word, the oldest word designating iron, is made up of the pictograms "sky" and "fire." It is usually translated "celestial metal" or "star-metal." Campbell Thompson renders it "celestial lightening (of meteorite)."  
The term, "iron from heaven," or more exactly, "metal from heaven," clearly points to their meteorite origin…We find the same situation with the Hittites: a fourteenth-century text declares that the Hittite kings used "black iron from the sky." 
The "celestial" origin of iron is perhaps attested by the Greek sideros, which has been related to sidus,-eris, meaning "star." M. Eliade, The Forge and the Crucible (U of Chicago 1978), 21-23.

There's the danger of the etymological fallacy. But in this case, since the designations are factually accurate, it seems reliable. Meteoric iron was given these names because it did, in fact, fall from the sky. 

Considered in isolation, one might speculate that ancient people identified shooting stars with gods or angels who lost the war in heaven. Since, however, we have diverse lines of evidence that ancient people associated iron with shooting stars, the angelic interpretation is untenable. Iron meteorites aren't godlike or angelic. Rather, these are inanimate objects, which were hammered into weapons. 

What they thought fell from the sky wasn't gods or angels, but metal chunks. Same thing with stony meteorites. Even if an aeroite became a cult object (e.g. Acts 19:35), at best it represented celestial beings. It was not, itself, divinity. 

Doing business with Red China but not Indiana

What you should know about the RFRA

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Questions of Reading and Writing in Ancient Israel

Apologetic issues in the OT

The Richard Carrier train wreck continues

It's instructive to see Richard Carrier's "scholarship" skewered by people on the left. These are people who share his secular outlook, but find his scholarship devious and shoddy. James McGrath is a leftwing NT scholar:

"Christian Zionism and American Evangelicalism"

Arminian Bible scholar Scot McKnight quoted a boilerplate attack on Israel by former Sojourners' editor, "journalist," and "social justice" activist Ryan Rodrick Beiler:

This, in turn, elicited two corrective comments from a reader:

Scot, I was on the tour (mentioned in the article) that visited Alex Awad in Bethlehem. One of the things that the article missed is that while many of the people in my group could agree with Alex on points of theology i.e.. Jesus fulfills the need for a sacrifice, etc. The nationalism that permeates much of the Palestinian Christian church turned a lot of people off. It is a complicated conflict, but if Christians are going to argue for a Palestinian state they need to do so on the basis of basic human rights. Unfortunately, those human rights are absent from the Palestinian Territories apart from anything Israel might be doing. The PA has promised that a future state would be based on Sharia. It regularly intimidates journalists who challenge the corruption within the leadership. The PA has also promised a future state would not permit Jews to live there. So it is difficult for me to see how one can argue about justice for a people that promises to be unjust to its own people. Please [be] more thoughtful. 
To your question, within the Palestinian Christian community there are several key groups. One group is the old churches like the Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran churches. This group is largely nationalist and very influenced by Palestinian Liberation Theology,ie "Palestinians are crucified every day..." type rhetoric. The second group would be the Evangelical churches that are evangelistic to a degree, but are reluctant to criticize the PA and are very anti-zionist. The third is the Evangelical churches that are overtly evangelistic and are not anti-Israel. There is a surprising number of these churches. The most famous among those of us that engage in this stuff is Bethlehem Baptist Church. As you might imagine those groups do not get along well. 
When my groups went to Bethlehem we met with leaders from the two Evangelical camps. It was a stark difference that my group picked up immediately. The anti-zionist Evangelicals spent a lot of time talking about their struggle with the occupation (which I accept is significant) while the evangelistic Evangelical church talked about his outreach to the community, the small groups and small businesses they were trying to assist. So the issue was less theological and more political. The less political the church, the more pressure they receive from their own side (if you are soft on Israel you are seen as a collaborator), but the gospel is changing hearts. By nationalism I am meaning that sense you get when the political seems to be the priority focus and the gospel is used as a political tool. 
I could go on... The situation is very complex and deserves more than all Christian Zionists are heretics and all Palestinians are terrorist type rhetoric. If you can avoid that stuff you will help greatly.

Should Christians support a Palestinian state?

Mystery for me but not for thee

When I push this “button” on Calvinism to a Calvinist he or she usually retreats into voluntarism—the idea promoted by Duns Scotus and Ulrich Zwingli (among others) that God is above all law, meaning our intuitions about “the good” do not apply to God at all, and whatever God does is good simply because God does it.

I always wonder who these nameless Calvinists are. Somehow I doubt he picks on Reformed philosophers. 

My frequent, almost constant, experience has been that, under such questioning, most Calvinists eventually wither and either simply appeal to “mystery” or “paradox” (admitting they don’t know what “good” means other than “what God does”) or give up and adjust their Calvinism to the point of disappearance (as in so-called “evangelical Calvinism”). Or, in many cases, they ponder and then, after a time, admit they can no longer embrace Calvinism. The few that steadfastly remain classical, high Calvinists (i.e., “TULIP” Calvinists) usually admit that they really embrace divine voluntarism—that God has no eternal, governing, moral character but does whatever he chooses to do and that whatever he choose to do is good just because he does it. What they rarely, if ever, admit (but must admit if they are to believe coherently) is that, in that case, “God is good” is only a tautology and therefore meaningless.

Once again, nameless Calvinists. 

And he accuses "most" of them in his "almost constant" experience of retreating in to mystery or paradox. 

But having said that, notice how he responds when a sympathetic questioners puts him on the spot:

Roger Olson 
Thanks, Tim. This raises the age old question of theodicy. I struggle with it mightily, very deeply. It troubles me all the time. I do lose sleep over it--especially when I see (on television or in the news) children being kidnapped, tortured, killed, abused, etc. I have sought help with this. The best help I have found is in Greg Boyd's "Spiritual Warfare Worldview." The best guide to that (because it does not rely on open theism) is his book Is God to Blame? Maybe it won't work for everyone, but it certainly has helped me. I think that when it comes to evil and innocent suffering (e.g., children) God is always doing the best that he can given the circumstances. But only God knows the rules; he has not chosen to reveal them to us but simply asked us to trust in his goodness. I do that. If God is not good, then he might be the one harming the children. If God is not omnipotent, there is no hope for a better world (as ours is getting worse all the time). I believe (with Greg) that God has given us prayer as our means of helping God help the victims. We are also called, of course, to take direct and indirect action to help free them from oppression and harm. But God has chosen not to do this (for now) all by himself. And human sinful rebellion has pushed God away so that this world is not as God wants it to be and will remake it to be in the end. I know of no better answer. All the other answer I have considered fall short either with regard to a moral order of the cosmos, God's goodness, or God's omnipotence. In short, the answer lies somewhere in God's self-limitation in relation to creation.

In other words, it's okay for Arminians to play the mystery card, but if a Calvinist plays the same card, that's cheating!

Prediluvian history

I'm going to repost some comments I left at Lydia McGrew's blog reviewing Walton's book on The Lost World of Adam and Eve. My comments are not directly in response to her review, but in response to other commenters.
Some professing Christians have an oddly compartmentalized plausibility structure. For instance, I've read things by Stanley Jaki on Genesis, Lourdes, and Fatima. Jaki rejects the traditional interpretation of Gen 1-3 on naturalistic grounds, yet he takes Lourdes and Fatima very seriously. What makes Lourdes or Fatima credible, but Gen 1-3 incredible?
Posted by steve hays | March 24, 2015 2:30 PM
"Presumably the available evidence."
That raises a host of interesting questions:
i) Many times, we have no evidence for a historical event over and above historical accounts of the event in question. Sometimes there may be independent corroborative physical evidence, but oftentimes not.
What's our evidence for the Battle of Waterloo? Historical accounts.
Depending on one's view of Scripture, the account of Gen 2-3 is, itself, evidence for the occurrence of what it records.
ii) There are people who think Gen 2-3 is literally ridiculous, but implicitly believe that a consecrated wafer contains the entire body, blood, soul, and deity of Christ. Seems like an oddly segregated belief-system to me.
iii) Normally, humans are the product of a human male impregnating a human female. But if the Virgin Birth is true, then that's an exception–just as the creation of Adam and Eve would be exceptional.
Now, if you did a full medical workup on Jesus, I assume he'd be indistinguishable from someone conceived by procreation. If, however, God bypassed ordinary natural processes in the conception of Jesus, the available evidence will be consistent with either a natural or supernatural origin. Both interpretations are empirically adequate and empirically indistinguishable–but only one is right.
Suppose I arrive late at the feeding of the five thousand. I see a crowd eating fish and bread. I assume fishermen caught the fish in the nearby lake, while bakers produced the loaves of bread. And that's a reasonable operating assumption, given my limited evidence.
If, however, Jesus miraculously multiplied fish and bread, then my inference was wrong. It didn't take that factor into consideration.
iv) Apropos (iii), how we evaluate the evidence depends, in part, on presuppositions that we bring to the evidence. Presuppositions that lie outside the evidence proper–although there may be evidence for our presuppositions.
If the effect is the end-result of allowing nature to take its course, then that's one thing. If the effect is the immediate result of supernatural agency, that's another thing. And it may not be possible to retroengineer the cause from the effect. We may be able to retrace the process provided that it was a normal process. But what's the evidence for the proviso?
To take a comparison: in robotics it's possible to make a robot that can make other robots like itself. Most robots will be made by other robots. But the initial robot in the series must be designed and constructed by an engineer.
From a scientific standpoint, I don't believe that either heliocentrism or geocentrism is true. These are relative reference frames concerning relative motion.
Now, if you take it to the next step by asking about the underlying causes of their respective motion(s), like gravity, then the physics will be very different.
Posted by steve hays | March 21, 2015 11:12 PM
[Wittgenstein] once greeted me with the question: "Why do people say that it was natural to think that the sun went round the earth rather than that the earth turned on its axis?" I replied: "I suppose, because it looked as if the sun went round the earth." "Well," he asked, "what would it have looked like if it had looked as if the earth turned on its axis?" E. Anscombe, An Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus (Harper & Row, rev ed.,1965), 151.
Posted by steve hays | March 22, 2015 12:30 PM
I think we need to draw some distinctions, or at least make some implicit distinctions explicit:
i) We should distinguish between what Gen 1-3 means, and whether its meaning is normative for Christians.
ii) Apropos (i), some theologians do it backwards. They begin with what they think is true, then interpret Gen 1-3 accordingly. They discount interpretations which they think are false.
Problem is, they don't let the text speak for itself. They often begin with their modern scientific understanding. That's their standard of comparison. They then use that as the interpretive grid. But, of course, that's anachronistic.
iii) Apropos (ii), exegesis typically seeks to ascertain original intent or authorial intent. The text means what the author intended to convey by his choice of words.
An exegete consciously avoids imposing his own preconceptions onto the text. Rather, he attempts, if only for the sake of argument, to assume the viewpoint of the author. For instance, a Dante commentator will view the text through the Dante's cultural lens. Not what makes sense to the commentator, but what would make sense to Dante–given Dante's time, place, and outlook.
iv) One potential objection is that, given the dual authorship of Scripture, what is normative is divine intent, not human intent. Indeed, Walton tries to salvage inerrancy by recourse to speech-act theory. For him, the narrator's locutions are errant, but the divine illocutions, behind the locutions, are inerrant.
However, an obvious problem with that dichotomy is that we can only access the illocutions via the locutions. Typically, an author uses certain locutions to express his illocutions.
God communicates truth through the instrumentality of the human author. Hence, the human intent expressed in human locutions can't be at cross-purposes with the divine intent or divine illocutions.
v) A theistic evolutionist can be a theist for philosophical reasons and an evolutionist for scientific reasons.
The problem, from a Christian perspective, is when there's an effort to make theistic evolution intersect or coordinate with Scripture. That characteristically results in hybrid interpretations. The "Adam" of theistic evolution isn't the Adam of Genesis. At best, the "Adam" of theistic evolution is a makeshift construct. Equally artificial from both an exegetical and scientific standpoint.
vi) In principle, one can bypass that stopgap compromise by sidelining Scripture altogether. However, Christianity claims to be a revealed religion. Biblical revelation can't be sidelined if the result is to remain Christian.
If, however, the correct interpretation is theologically normative, then evolution can't be permitted to leverage either the interpretation of Scripture or the content of Christian theology.
Posted by steve hays | March 21, 2015 11:45 PM
Let's provide a baseline standard of comparison–between the Adam of Genesis and the Adam of theistic evolution (of which there are various models).
In Gen 2-3:
i) Adam has no animal, human, or prehuman ancestry.
ii) Adam is directly created from inanimate raw materials.
ii) Eve is directly created from organic matter (i.e. a tissue sample supplied by Adam).
iii) All humans, past and present, are descendants of Adam and Eve.
iv) Humans die because Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, which cut them off from the tree of life.
Posted by steve hays | March 22, 2015 12:03 PM

Saudis vs Iran; Sunnis vs Shia

According to Stratfor, Yemen’s deteriorating security situation has created another Saudi-Iranian geopolitical struggle “that will last for the foreseeable future”.

From a geopolitical perspective, I think that the adversaries are lining up in a way that will enable “the west” to avoid military entanglements in that region of the world. To be sure, I believe that the US should continue to keep a watchful military presence “around the edges” of this struggle. But we have heard that the problems related to Islam are internal problems – largely Sunnis vs Shia, and within those groups, those who are radicals vs those who are deemed “not radical enough”.

Now we are seeing the geopolitical lines take shape in such a way that all of these groups who are natural enemies are fighting among themselves, and largely leaving the rest of the world alone. The Washington Post has already noted, for example, that radicalized Muslims are traveling en masse TO Syria to participate in the Jihad.

This frees up the rest of the world (to a degree, and for the time being) from having to contend with “terrorists” who are distributed around the globe. This intramural fight is one that Islam needs to have, and it’s one that they need to have until they decide it’s not worth it any more.

The “First Century Gospel of Mark” Fragment Seems to Be in Good Hands

Michael Holmes
Michael Holmes
Some of you may recall that Michael Holmes, a scholar of early Christian writings (recently of Princeton Theological Seminary) and the translator and editor of The Apostolic Fathers in English and The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, had been named executive director of The Green Scholars Initiative, and will be overseeing the Museum of the Bible’s research projects around the world.

Holmes recently issued this statement on the question of “How Soon Will It Be Published?”, that is, “when will we know more about the alleged First Century Gospel of Mark?”:

With regard to any ancient artifact, answering questions such as these requires one to balance several complementary and sometimes competing interests. These interests include the need: (1) to acknowledge the privacy and ownership rights of the owner of the artifact; (2) to minimize distractions for the researcher investigating the artifact; and (3) to satisfy the legitimate curiosity of the scholarly community and other public audiences …