Thursday, April 17, 2014

Taking shortcuts on miracles


I've often documented the way MacArthurites ape the arguments of secular debunkers to discount miracles which conflict with cessationism. Indeed, they are often hostile to miracles which are consistent with cessationism.

Here's another parallel. Instead of evaluating miracles case-by-case, Hume tried to short-cut the discussion by impugning the credibility of anyone reporting a miracle. He uses a circular argument: miracles are reported by unreliable witnesses. And what's the evidence that they are unreliable? Why, because they report miracles!

In my experience, MacArthurites resort to the same tactic. Instead of sifting the evidence that Keener (and others) has amassed, they search for a few examples which, in their estimation, show that Keener lacks discernment. Having established to their own satisfaction that he's undiscerning, that somehow absolves them of the need to address the totality of the evidence.

Frank Turk uses a similar short-cut: 

My opinion is that because Keener is advocating for some iteration of the AoG view of miracles today, he is going to have to wear that jersey until he explicitly does something to separate himself from the pack.[sarcastic] Keener is has nothing to do with the AoG and therefore is not trying to let their Statement of Faith ride on the coat-tails of his small sample of documented miracles.
Notice that Frank is concocting a narrative of what really motivates Keener. Supposedly, Keener is retroactively proving the AoG Statement of Faith. 
Having imputed this hidden agenda to Keener, that somehow relieves Frank of responsibility to consider the specific, detailed, concrete evidence that Keener has assembled. 
But even if, for the sake of argument, you think Keener lacks discernment, or that Keener is blinded by his ulterior motives, how does that discredit the various witnesses he cites to reported miracles? How does that discredit medical verification?
This is a typical exercise in misdirection on the part of MacArthurites who loudly proclaim the absence of credible evidence for certain kinds of modern miracles, but resort to shortcuts to duck the actual state of the evidence. A policy of avoidance to dodge what they can't disprove. 

Shilling for radical feminism


Fred Butler ‏@Fred_Butler 2hRT @triablogue: Steve Hays defends the guy who props up the cranks who gave us Todd Bentley. 
Fred Butler ‏@Fred_Butler 11hIt truly is a tragedy to see Triablogue become shills for the likes of Sid Roth & Heidi Baker,

What's ironic about this guilt-by-association smear is how easily it could be turned against John MacArthur and his acolytes.

Phil Johnson talks MacArthur into using the NIV2011 as the text for his study Bible. Of course, the NIV2011 is a trojan horse for feminism in the church. Therefore, that makes Phil Johnson a shill for Katharine Schori and Rachel Held Evans.

Just follow the bread crumbs. Phil Johnson defends John MacArthur, who props up the crank NIV translators (e.g. Gordon Fee, Jeannine Brown, Ken Barker, Bruce Waltke, Mark Strauss, Instone-Brewer) who gave us the unisex NIV2011. 

Secular Self-Deception About the Value of Life

http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2014/04/secular-self-deception-about-the-value-of-life.html

Theism and scientific antirealism

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/2014/04/theism-and-scientific-non-realism_1548.html

Life in the compound


Fred Butler ‏@Fred_Butler 2hRT @triablogue: Steve Hays defends the guy who props up the cranks who gave us Todd Bentley. 
Fred Butler ‏@Fred_Butler 11hIt truly is a tragedy to see Triablogue become shills for the likes of Sid Roth & Heidi Baker,
Frank Turk ‏@Frank_Turk 1h@Fred_Butler @BibChr What do you think has happened there, Freddy?
Fred Butler ‏@Fred_Butler 1h@Frank_Turk @BibChr It's mystifying. I have no idea. Maybe Steve was pulled up into heaven recently.

Within the paranoid compound of MacArthurville, Craig Keener is the enemy. 

Imagine that. Keener has become the premier apologist for the historical Jesus, NT miracles, and the historicity of the gospels. But from the paranoid viewpoint of MacArthurville, he's the real enemy. He's dangerous. They must impeach his credibility at all cost. 

Hence, anyone who offers even a partial defense of Keener against ankle-biters like Lyndon Unger is the enemy, too. 

If Michael Kruger writes a positive review of Keener's defense of miracles, that makes him a shill for Todd Bentley. If Craig Blomberg writes a positive review of Keener's defense of miracles, that makes him a shill for Sid Roth. If Richard Bauckham or Craig A. Evans endorse Keener's defense of miracles, that makes them shills for all the worst charlatans. 

This is how the world looks when you peer out the shuttered windows of the MacArthurville compound.  

Now, a reasonable person would be more judicious and discriminating. For instance, a reasonable person reading Keener's defense of miracles might say: "Keener has marshaled a tremendous amount of evidence. Some of his examples are stronger than others. Overall, he makes a credible case."

However, because MacArthurites are doctrinaire cessationists, they must find some way to destroy Keener's defense of miracles. Even if they're theoretically open to some kinds of modern miracles, they can't allow for that in practice because that would also allow the wrong kinds of miracles to slip through the sieve. Even if Keener frequently defends the right kinds of miracles, that's inadmissible because it leaves the door ajar for the wrong kinds of miracles to creep in. 

So they cast about for any way to discredit his monograph in toto. Their philosophy is: better to discard a 1000 genuine miracles than to admit a single miracle, however well-attested, that's incompatible with cessationism. 

Their tactic is to hunt for what they deem to be Keener's weakest examples. They then use the weakest examples (in their estimation) to discredit the strongest examples. 

2 hrs · Twitter ·
Retweeted Fred Butler (@Fred_Butler):It truly is a tragedy to see Triablogue become shills for the likes of Sid Roth & Heidi Baker, http://t.co/dmnYuIi2xb
Triablogue: Fragging Craig KeenerMary Elizabeth Palshan I actually thought Triablogue was sound at one time. Then I see an article endorsing the book Heaven Is For Real. What's up with that?


Presumably, she's alluding to this post:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/01/heaven-is-for-real.html

Did I endorse the book? Just the opposite: I was very critical of the book. 

But MacArthurites see the world through their tinted glasses, so a critique of Heaven is For Real becomes an endorsement. 

Dan Phillips It was sound at one time. It was dedicated to opposing enemies of the Christian faith. Now it's something different.

I've been consistent in my defense of miracles. What I've noticed is that MacArthurites recycle the same objections used by the atheists I've debated over the years.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

God's not Dead

http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2014/04/film-review-gods-not-dead.html

Is Easter pagan?

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=36206

http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=36208

Fossil remains

http://blog.drwile.com/?p=12362#more-12362

Coming to faith in Christ

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/april-web-only/how-god-became-jesus-and-how-i-came-to-faith-in-him.html

Fragging Craig Keener


Fred Butler attempts to mount a first strike:
The review is long and exhausting, but it is worth reading every word, because Lyndon, in my mind, totally lays to waste the idea that Keener is some sort of trustworthy expert on the charismatic movement and modern day miracles.
Nicely illustrating Fred's confirmation bias. 
It has always baffled me why otherwise sound-thinking people would latch onto Keener as the go-to “scholar” just because he wrote a 2 volume work on miracles.
Jason Engwer and I have both quoted many different sources on miracles. We were doing that before Keener published his monograph. And we continue to quote various sources in addition to Keener.
But if someone wants a recommendation for a single work that collates a great deal of material, along with trenchant analysis, Keener's monograph is a great place to start.
The first volume has some positive things to say against anti-supernaturalism, but as I have argued, and as Lyndon also argues in his latest review of Keener’s appendix, cessationists are not anti-supernatural. Never have been. Just because cessationists aren’t convinced some guy with a sore neck was healed at a tent revival doesn’t mean they are anti-supernatural.I realize a number of folks Steve Hays will complain that Keener’s research involves much more than recounting anecdotal stories about people, their sore knees, and getting healed at a tent revival, but honestly, that is exactly what Keener does. It’s a joke, really, and a waste of 40 bucks if you purchase the 2 volumes thinking he has documented some awe-inducing scholarly evidence proving modern day faith healers walk among us.
Notice the inability to even make an honest attempt at seriously characterizing the evidence presented in the book.
As Lyndon demonstrates in his review, the fact that Keener is willing to give a pass to the most outrageous and ridiculous charismatic nonsense is worrisome. His dismissal of the profound problems with African prosperity gospel charismaticism as being non-existent is also troubling, if not demonstrable of his naive, Pollyannish view of Pentecostalism in third world countries.
Does Keener dismiss the problem as "nonexistent"? Once again, notice the inability to even make an honest characterization.
Yet even more disturbing is how apologetic ministries like STR and even Triablogue, with whom I have gone a few rounds regarding charismaticism (and will more than likely respond to this very post), are so supportive of the guy as if he is unanswerable with rock solid argumentation.
i) Fred initially posted a few responses, before retreating into silence (except for sniping comments on Twitter) when the argument didn't go his way.
ii) Unlike MacArthurites, for whom cessationism is the all-important litmus test, I don't have to agree with everything a scholar says to find him useful. Unlike MacArthurites, I can be evenhanded.
iii) William Lane Craig has the reputation for being the premier Christian apologist of his generation, and up to a point, he's earned that distinction. Yet he's also been chided, not without some justification, for subordinating Scripture to philosophy.
By contrast, Keener is defending the Bible in a way that Craig does not. He's written mammoth commentaries on Matthew, John, and Acts, which uphold their historicity with great erudition. He's written a massive, erudite book defending the historical Jesus (The Historical Jesus of the Gospels). And his monograph on miracles (Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts) is a well-documented defense of NT miracles in the face of the methodological naturalism that infects broad swaths of Biblical scholarship. That's in addition to scholarly articles on the same topics. That's a tremendous service to the church. 
Just as Muslims love to cite Bart Ehrman on the NT, it's a pity to see Fred Butler and Lyndon Unger become hired guns for militant atheists.  

Blown about by every wind of doctrine


Lyndon Unger (aka "Mennoknight") has posted a critique of an appendix Craig Keener wrote for inclusion in Michael Brown's Authentic Fire:


I don't normally read Unger's stuff. That's because he's a buffoon. He acts like he got his MDiv from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. 

And that's ironic. Cessationists criticize charismatics for their anti-intellectualism. And many charismatics are, indeed, anti-intellectual.

Yet Unger operates at the level of a birthday party clown. He plasters every post with funny pictures. I don't mean one or two. It's wall-to-wall slapstick.

Keep in mind that Unger is a contributor to the Cripplegate blog, which is informally associated with Grace Community Church and the Master's Seminary ("our ministries"). And there are plans to republish the entire multipart review (by Fred Butler, Lyndon Unger, et al.) at Cripplegate. 

Why do they think cessationists can't read a straight review of Authentic Fire? Why do they think cessationists have such a childish attention span that they need to be entertained with a barrage of slapstick pictures? 


Dr. Keener opens the appendix stating that the appendix is being written before the book or the conference (there is a single footnote linking to his review of the Strange Fire book).  He’s writing in a book that’s a response to a book/conference spearheaded by John MacArthur and shows an amazing lack of familiarity with every position John MacArthur holds on all the relevant subjects…Dr. Keener seemingly didn’t care much about interacting with the Strange Fire conference or book since he didn’t really address any of the specific beliefs or statements made in either the book or the conference…I’m kinda surprised that Dr. Keener is contributing to a response to a specific book and openly admits that he hasn’t even read the book. 
i) Unger faults Keener for failing to hit a target that Keener never aimed at in the first place. But, of course, Keener can't very well miss what he wasn't even aiming at. 
ii) I happen to know that Keener was reluctant to get drawn into the Strange Fire controversy because he does his own research. He doesn't have staffers to respond to critics, unlike MacArthur, who can let Phil Johnson, Fred Butler, Nathan Busenitz, Mike Riccardi et al. run interference for him. 
iii) Unger's complaint is petty and silly because Keener subsequently published a mammoth review of MacArthur's Strange Fire book:
Johnson and John MacArthur have openly discussed this at Strange Fire (they’re open to the possibility but recognize that 99.99% or more of claimed modern miracles don’t fit the biblical definition, and miracles are incredibly infrequent, even in the scripture).Dr. Keener spends around a third of his chapter talking about opponents of miracles in general…which wouldn’t be so bad except that he admits that cessationists generally accept the possibility of miracles…and we do (in fact, I don’t know of anyone in the cessationist camp that doesn’t).  Christians are, by nature, supernaturalists…it’s just that some of us aren’t suckers.  We look for a little more than the “like, for reals!” level of evidence often provided.
i) That's a throwaway concession. They are hypothetically open to modern miracles, but unless they inform themselves by reading the best literature, the allegation that "that 99.99% or more of claimed modern miracles don’t fit the biblical definition" is viciously circular. An exercise in self-reinforcing ignorance.
ii) They also manipulate definitions to artificially and preemptively restrict what counts as a miracle. That's another circular exercise.  
iii) To say miracles are "incredibly infrequent" begs the question. 
Not a single reference.  He quotes a whole bunch of stuff (Moreland, studies, etc.) but we don’t get any way to track down and verify anything he has said…so I’m suspicious of all his claims.  I seriously doubt Dr. Keener is a liar and I’m not suggesting that he is, but he’s hardly an unbiased observer. 
Unlike Unger, who's obviously unbiased. 
I will suggest that I don’t believe any of what he’s said, not because of a personal or moral flaw with him but because he hasn’t given me any reason to (like an actual citation).  I don’t take his word for it because, in matters of truth, no man is a trustworthy and unbiased authority.
That's not a very smart thing to say. On the one hand he says, "I don’t take his word for it because, in matters of truth, no man is a trustworthy and unbiased authority." On the other hand he says "Not a single reference.  He quotes a whole bunch of stuff (Moreland, studies, etc.) but we don’t get any way to track down and verify anything he has said."
But if "no man is a trustworthy authority," then it wouldn't matter how many references he gave. For Unger would still be taking the word of referenced sources. 
No serious interaction with scripture.  He opens up the chapter with “The main reason that I could never embrace cessationism, however, is that I am convinced that the biblical evidence is uniformly against it” (Kindle Locations 4858-4859), glosses over 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, and then proceeds to tell stories for the rest of the appendix.  The entire chapter has a shining 27 references to the scripture at all, and 18 of those references (that’s 66%) are in the 9 paragraph section where he discusses when the gifts will pass (namely 1 Cor. 13:8-12), but he doesn’t actually spend any time in any passage at all.  
Is Unger really that dull? Keener has made his exegetical case elsewhere. Since he's just contributing an appendix to someone else's book, he doesn't repeat his exegetical arguments. There's no room for that, and it's redundant.
The appendix is essentially all testimonial evidence.
Well, if the question at issue is whether miracles still occur in the modern world, testimonial evidence is the primary line of evidence. Isn't that self-explanatory? 
Dr. Keener may claim to be convinced by the scripture, but he sure doesn’t write like a man who came to his conclusions based upon the scripture.
Is Unger just monumentally ignorant of what Keener has written on the subject?
This entire section is entirely irrelevant to the issues around Strange Fire.  Nobody is opposed to miracles in general.  I’m open to the miraculous. 
Except that MacArthurites say that with fingers crossed behind their back. 
As for all the testimonials and statistics, I simply don’t doubt that people experienced what they claim, but I question their interpretation of their experience.  
i) That's a necessary distinction in assessing reported miracles. If, however, that's your automatic fallback to dismiss reported miracles out of hand, then you're a theoretical supernaturalist, but a functional naturalist. 
ii) Keep in mind, too, that atheists are more than happy to deploy that distinction against Biblical miracles. 
Someone may have prayed and God may have miraculously healed in response to prayer, but that doesn’t mean that the person who did the praying has the gift of healing (or even that a “biblical quality” healing actually occurred).  It’s far more biblically reasonable that God simply answered their prayers.
Let's take a hypothetical comparison:
i) Someone with the gift of healing lays hands on a patient, prays for them, and they are miraculously healed.
ii) Someone without the gift of healing lays hands on the patient, prays for them, and they are miraculously healed. 
What's the big difference? 
Why does nobody seem to be able to answer why I don’t see or hear about events like Acts 3:6-10 or John 9:1-34 happening anywhere?  
I've discussed that sort of thing repeatedly on my own blog.
I’m not talking about people praying and the sick getting healed; as a cessationist I expect that.  I’m talking about people who claim to have the gift of healing in the same sense that Jesus and the apostles did.  I’m talking about divinely selected people being given the gift of healing and using that gift to instantaneously heal objectively verifiable physical infirmity (i.e. wounds or paralysis)…and not with mysterious strangers that nobody can ever track down.  I’m talking about cripples that everyone knows and dozens can vouch for.  I’m talking about instantaneous, complete, public, irrefutable and documented (or documentable) healing that doesn’t involve prayer (if you look in the New Testament, neither Jesus nor the apostles ever prayed before healing people).  I’m talking about God healing through an individual at the discretion of that individual.
Take this promise:
12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it (Jn 14:12-13).
Notice here that miracles ("greater works") are specifically indexed to prayer. Keep in mind, too, that cessationists confine this to the apostles. 
But, then, it's not an autonomous gift. Rather, apostolic miracles are granted in answer to prayer. That's the programmatic statement in Jn 14:12-13, as cessationists themselves construe it. 
I’m talking about someone yelling “rise up and walk” and a cripple hopping to their feet and doing the moonwalk.  Jesus did it all the time and so did the apostles. People cry “foul” when cessationists ask for an example of someone, anywhere, going and cleaning out a cancer ward.  Jesus and his apostles did that regularly (Matt. 4:24, 8:16, 12:15; Mark 3:10; Luke 4:40, 6:19; Acts 5:16, 8:7).  Jesus healed people of blindness, paralysis, open wounds that were years old, leprosy, etc. and every wheelchair that goes into a healing crusade comes out the other side.  
i) Really? What about this?
And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them (Mk 6:5). 
17 And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able” (Mk 9:17-18). 
and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus (2 Tim 4:20).
ii) Or take this passage:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope (1 Thes 4:13).
Why didn't Paul just raise the dead? 
iii) Furthermore, Unger's claim is self-refuting. On the one hand he says, "cessationists ask for an example of someone, anywhere, going and cleaning out a cancer ward.  Jesus and his apostles did that regularly."
On the other hand, he says, "miracles are incredibly infrequent, even in the scripture."
But in that case, we wouldn't expect a Christian healer to regularly clear out a cancer ward. After all, miracles are "incredibly infrequent"…"even in scripture." 
As for his claims about “a majority of conversions” in the third and fourth centuries, he’s simply making unsubstantiated claims that I’m ignoring as nonsense…and it’s interesting how he needs to pull out Catholic saints like St. Boniface (whose most famous miracle was cutting down a tree).  That seems really desperate.
i) To begin with, he's written a 2-volume monograph on miracles, with copious documentation.
ii) If you're going to demand evidence for miracles throughout church history, then, of course, that will include pre-Reformation Christians. 
As for his citation of J.P. Moreland and how “up to 70 percent of that growth involves ‘signs and wonders’” (Kindle Locations 4998-4999), I simply say “so what?”  The Chinese think they’re experiencing miracles en masse.  So what?  That doesn’t mean that what they think is happening is actually happening.  Their interpretation of their experience is possibly wrong.
True. But if you're going to apply that to preemptively discount the testimony of thousands or millions of Chinese Christians, then you react with the same reflexive disbelief as secular debunkers like Paul Kurtz, Martin Gardner, and James Randi.   
Let me be clear on this:  I don’t care if Dr. Keener himself teleports to the Republic of Nauru, preaches a sermon in their native tongue, heals a whole cancer ward and the whole nation proclaims faith in Jesus.  That’s not proof that God has always done miracles in the past or that his miracle is itself an act of God.  Only the scriptures interpret our wild and crazy experiences, including what appear to be astounding miracles, and a surface-level proclamation of faith is not divine verification of what seems to be divine miracles (just saying “I’m a Christian” doesn’t make anyone a Christian).  If he preaches a false gospel (not assuming he would but only hypothetically speaking), his astounding miracles would be an astounding work of Satan.
That sounds very pious, but it's self-contradictory. According to cessationism, miracles enjoy priority over Scripture. Scripture doesn't validate miracles; rather, miracles validate Scripture. According to cessationism, we only believe the messenger (Jesus, apostle, OT prophet) because his message was corroborated by sign-gifts. 
There might be prophets around today (since “the perfect” in 1 Cor. 13:8-12 is most likely the second coming)
That's quite a concession. 
Dr. Keener has never met one (i.e. a prophet with 100% accuracy who speaks God’s words in the place of God) and his fortune cookie examples show it clearly.
Are all (or even most) of his cases "fortune cookie" examples? 
With regard to his comments on tongues, it’s strange how he seems to hold to multiple definitions of tongues.  He quoted Del Tarr and discussed how Mr. Tarr has witnessed people speaking unknown earthly languages, but then Dr. Keener talked about his own experience with ecstatic speech and even mentioned prayer languages.  I don’t know if he thinks that there are two or three different types of tongues, but I’ve written two posts (number one and number two) on the definition of “tongues” in the apostolic period and would suggest that Dr. Keener is confused as to the definition of tongues.
i) To begin with, cessationists define glossolalia as xenoglossy. Assuming for the sake of argument, that that's correct, Keener just gave an example of modern xenoglossy. And he gives additional evidence in the first volume of his commentary on Acts. So that's meeting the cessationist on his own turf. Yet when their demands are met, they fluff it off. 
ii) And notice how conceited Unger is. If Keener disagrees with Unger, then Keener must be confused. 
Oh boy.  Dr. Keener’s argument here boils down to “I know more about African Christianity than Conrad Mbewe because I married an African and lived there for a while…”  Just the very thought that he’s more widely exposed to African culture or can somehow speak from a position of greater authority on Africa than Conrad Mbewe, an African pastor who has traveled the continent preaching and ministering for decades, is laughably arrogant.
That's a malicious misrepresentation of Keener's argument. To begin with, although Keener is less expert than Mbewe, he's more expert than Unger. He has more direct, firsthand knowledge of African Christianity than Unger.
Moreover, although Craig Keener is less expert than Mbewe, is there any reason to think Médine Keener is less expert than Mbewe? Likewise, is Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu less expert than Mbewe? 
I have dozens of friends (pastors, bible college professors, laypeople) who are currently in (or come from) all over Africa and the consistent story I get is that the church all over Africa is overrun by the prosperity gospel, word faith teaching and a dozen other obscene heresies.  
As if Keener doesn't have dozens of African contacts? 
If Unger were intellectually responsible, he's acknowledge his limitations at this point. Since he isn't qualified, he should reserve judgment. 
In this section, Dr. Keener just uses irrelevant argumentation.  His response to the charge of syncretism in the Africa charismatic movement was along the lines of “well, Pentecostals aren’t the only ones doing it…and at least they’re preaching the gospel!”  Talk about unconvincing.
Another malicious misrepresentation. Indeed, it's contradicted by what Unger earlier quoted:
Dr. Keener responds:“Although false claims do abound, they are hardly limited to some Pentecostals. Indeed, the caricature of the vast majority of African Pentecostals as not being Christian is also a false claim. In some places, in fact, Pentecostals and charismatics are the least syncretistic, and in at least some places they are the only people preaching the Christian message of salvation” 
Is that the same as “well, Pentecostals aren’t the only ones doing it…and at least they’re preaching the gospel!” 
And his story about his efforts to write a book addressing the prosperity gospel that was turned down since “no one believes in prosperity teaching anymore” (Kindle Location 5275)?  He says it was around a decade ago, which would mean post Y2K.  What planet does Dr. Keener live on again?
Compare that with Unger's earlier summary:
Dr. Keener recalls how a decade ago he almost wrote a book on prosperity teaching but the publisher turned it down since “no one believes in prosperity teaching anymore”
Unger acts as if Keener is out of touch. But it wasn't Keener who said “no one believes in prosperity teaching anymore.” Rather, that was Keener's publisher. Indeed, the very fact that Keener proposed a book-length assessment of the prosperity gospel, only to be turned down by his publisher, shows that he himself did think it was a live issue, and an important one at that. The better question is, what planet did his publisher live on?
But this is completely mangled in Unger's recounting.
So he worked with people who he admits believed the prosperity gospel but he somehow thinks that the prosperity gospel was “incidental to their faith?”  It appears that either Dr. Keener doesn’t have the same definition of “prosperity gospel” as the rest of us or he’s talking about something entirely different. 
People can be taught something, but it's peripheral to their own life and thought. Students are taught many things. Even if they believe what they were taught, much of it is filed away in the back of their minds. 
Also, the charismatic line regarding how when Africans say “prosperity gospel” they actually mean “daily provisions” is simply a lie. 
So Médine Keener is a liar. And Unger knows that because he has more personal expertise on African Christianity than she does.  
Dr. Keener then goes back to talking about naturalism, which apparently is the source underlying anything beyond milquetoast cessationism.  Also, his whole suggestion that cessationists choose the position out of some sort of fear of fighting the wider skepticism of the culture would have a shred of credibility if not for all the cessationists fighting liberalism (i.e. the culturally popular form of religion) in all its various manifestations for the past 200 years. 
Yet what he actually quotes Keener saying is "Antisupernaturalism first advanced its case based on earlier forms of cessationism, which was an overreaction against false medieval claims." 
Like many ex-charismatics I've encountered, Unger is a weathercock, blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14). An incurable reactionary. He went from being an undiscerning charismatic to being an undiscerning cessationist. 

Boyd on inerrancy


Someone asked me to comment on Gregory Boyd's view of Biblical inerrancy. I've excerpted some relevant statements from his series:




At the outset, I'd note that Boyd's position has several presuppositional layers, so you have to peel back the layers. He derives a conclusion that's premised on an assumption he takes for granted. The conclusion in turn becomes the premise for another conclusion. If, however, you reject one or more of his presuppositions, then the multistoried argument collapses. 

Boyd is, of course, a pioneering open theist. Since the God of open theism is fallible, the Bible can't very well be infallible. According to open theism, humans have libertarian freewill, which renders them unpredictable. In that event, God can only make an educated guess about what we will do next. So in that respect it's only logical that an open theist will deny inerrancy. Indeed, open theism is a more consistent version of freewill theism. Consistent to a fault. 

In fact, it seems to me that the “Christocentric” label is often close to meaningless inasmuch as it doesn’t meaningfully contrast with anything. If a “Christocentric” perspective doesn’t conflict with the portrait of God commanding his people to murder every last woman and child while threatening to punish anyone who shows mercy, then honestly, what does the label even mean? To remedy this, I proposed that we adopt a cross-centered approach, arguing that this sharper focus is justified inasmuch as the cross is the thematic center of everything Jesus was about.
I’d now like to begin unpacking some of the implications of this cross-centered approach to Scripture. And a good place to begin is with the genocidal portrait of God I just mentioned. While some may imagine that a Christocentric view of God doesn’t rule out God commanding the merciless murder of women and infants, I submit that a cruciform portrait of God certainly does. Jesus reveals a God who chose to refrain from using his power to crush enemies and chose instead to give his life for them. And he reveals a God who taught us, and modeled for us, a completely non-violent, loving, servant way of responding to hostile enemies.

i) God didn't command the Israelites to "murder" the Canaanites. That libels God. Does Boyd think killing a human being, regardless of the circumstances, is murder? If so, his position is contrary to Scripture. Moreover, it reflects a lack of basic ethical discrimination on his part.

ii) God didn't command the execution of the Canaanites because they were his enemies, but because they were Israel's enemies. The Canaanites pose no threat to God. He's invulnerable. But the Canaanites were a clear and present danger to Israel. God was protecting the chosen people from their mortal enemies.  

iii) Does Boyd seriously think ancient Israel could unilaterally disarm and still survive? 

iv) Boyd fundamentally misunderstands the cross. The purpose of the cross is not to model nonviolence. Rather, the Incarnate Son underwent crucifixion because "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb 9:22). 

The reason Christ didn't fight back is because that would thwart the atonement. Christ provoked his arrest, conviction, and crucifixion. He deliberately played into the hands of his enemies. That was part of the plan. That was predicted. Naturally, Christ is not going to scuttle the plan of salvation by resisting arrest. 

v) Blood atonement, penal substitution, and human sacrifice bespeak a far "harsher" view of God than Boyd's pacifist God. And it's quite consistent with the OT view of God. 

But this immediately presents us with a problem. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus expresses absolute confidence in the OT as the Word of God. In fact, a number of scholars have argued that this conviction lies at the heart of Jesus’ self-understanding. While I don’t believe Jesus was omniscient while on earth, I find it impossible to confess him as Lord while correcting his theology, especially about such a foundational matter. He once asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord’ when you don’t do the things that I say?” I think he could have made a similar point by asking, “Why do you call me ‘Lord” when you don’t believe the things I teach?” And one of the things Jesus taught was that the OT is the Word of God!
So I find myself awkwardly caught between two seemingly contradictory yet equally non-negotiable truths. On the one hand, I feel compelled to confess that God looks like Jesus, choosing to die for enemies and at the hands of enemies rather than use his power to crush them. On the other hand, I feel compelled to confess that all Scripture is God-breathed, including its portraits of God that look antithetical to the God who died on a cross for his enemies.

Unless I missed something, in his subsequent posts I don't see where Boyd solves the problem he posed for himself. 

Evangelicals typically ground the credibility of their faith on the inspiration of the Bible. If they were to become convinced that the Bible was not inspired, their faith would crumble. I think this posture is as unwise as it is unnecessary.

There are nominal Christians who don't believe Christianity is a revealed religion, yet they still go to church, sing hymns, participate in the church calendar. It's play-acting. 

If the reason you believe is anchored in your confidence that Scripture is “God-breathed,” then your faith can’t help but be threatened every time you encounter a discrepancy, an archeological problem, or a persuasive historical-critical argument that a portion of the biblical narrative may not be historically accurate. Your faith may also be threatened every time you encounter material that is hard to accept as “God-breathed” — the genocidal portrait of Yahweh I discussed in my previous blog, for example. 

That only follows if you think there's a standing presumption against the inspiration of Scripture which Scripture must constantly overcome. 

When biblical inspiration is made this important, people are forced to go to extreme and sometimes even silly lengths to explain each and every one of the “encyclopedia” of “difficulties” one finds in Scripture (I’m alluding Gleason Archer’s apologetic book, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties).

i) To begin with, I don't that's fair to Archer. His book is uneven. He was an OT scholar, so he's better on the OT than the NT. And some of his explanations are flat-footed. But there's a lot of good material in his book. It's a useful resource.

ii) There are, moreover, more hermeneutically sophisticated defenders of inerrancy than Archer, viz. Beale, Bock, Blomberg, Carson, Stein.

iii) It isn't necessary to explain every difficulty in Scripture. Given the historical distance between the modern reader and Scripture, we'd expect difficulties to crop up. But that's consistent with the inerrancy of Scripture.  

iv) Finally, denying the inspiration of Scripture leads to superficial exegesis. Every time you run into a problem, you conclude the Bible is wrong, and move on. Your first impression carries the day. You already know it must be a mistake. You've prejudged the interpretation before you even read the text.  

As has happened to so many others, throughout my seminary training this foundation became increasingly shaky and eventually collapsed. I know a number of former-evangelicals who completely lost their faith when they experienced this. One is Bart Ehrman, who I’m sure many of you recognize as one of Christianity’s most well-known contemporary critics. He and I were in the doctoral program at Princeton Seminary at the same time, and we fell through our crumbling Scriptural foundation at roughly the same time and for many of the same reasons.

It's a useful winnowing process. It weeds out nominal Christians. Better to have a tested faith than an untested faith. 

I have a lot of reasons for believing in Christ, but the inspiration of Scripture is not one of them. I don’t deny that there are a handful of fulfilled prophecies about the coming Messiah that are rather compelling (e.g. the suffering servant of Isa. 53 and the pierced Lord of Zech. 12:10). But I also think evangelical apologists are misguided when they try to use this as the rational foundation for the Christian faith. When Gospel authors say Jesus “fulfilled” an OT verse, they don’t mean that the OT verse predicted something that Jesus did or that happened to Jesus. If you check out the OT verses Jesus is said to have “fulfilled,” you’ll find there is absolutely nothing predictive about them. The Gospel authors are rather using a version of an ancient Jewish interpretive strategy called “midrash” to simply communicate that something in the life of Jesus parallels and illustrates a point made in an OT verse.
In any event, if the intellectual credibility of your faith is leveraged on the prophecies that Jesus is said to have “fulfilled,” I’m afraid your faith will be literally incredible.

That's a common allegation. It says a lot about Boyd, and little about Scripture. There are several fine monographs on Bible prophecy. How the OT is fulfilled in the NT. Many good commentaries address these. 

As a conservative evangelical who accepted the “inerrancy” of Scripture, I used to be profoundly disturbed whenever I confronted contradictions in Scripture, or read books that made strong cases that certain aspects of the biblical narrative conflict with archeological findings. Throughout my college and graduate school career, I spent untold hours and no small amount of anxious energy trying to figure out ways to reconcile Scripture’s many contradictions, harmonize problematic narratives with archeological data, and refute a host of other “liberal” views of Scripture (e.g. the documentary hypothesis, the late dating of Daniel, etc.). 

If you begin with the presumption of guilt, a "hermeneutic of suspicions," then your faith will be insecure. If you think the onus is always on Scripture to prove its innocence, then your faith will be insecure. But why think that's where the burden of proof ought to lie? 

At least twice during this period I came dangerously close to abandoning my faith because, despite my best efforts, I could not with intellectual honesty find my way around certain problems.

I'd say he left his faith behind long ago. He just doesn't know what he lost. 

In my previous blog, I expressed one of the reasons why these things do not bother me anymore. The ultimate foundation for my faith is no longer Scripture, but Christ. I feel I have very good historical, philosophical, and personal reasons for believing that the historical Jesus was pretty much as he’s described in the Gospels. I also feel I have very good reasons for accepting the NT’s view that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, the definitive revelation of God, and the Savior of the world. I, of course, can’t be certain of this, but I’m confident enough to make the decision to put my trust in Christ, and live my life as his disciple. I continue to believe in the inspiration of Scripture primarily because Jesus did, and his Church has done so throughout history. But because the intellectual feasibility of my faith no longer hangs in the balance, I simply don’t need to get bent out of shape if I conclude that it contains contradictions, historical inaccuracies, or other human imperfections.

One of the problems with that position is that it fails to appreciate the significance of inspiration. Inspiration is a major instance of God's activity in the world. The God of Scripture is a God who speaks and acts. A God who speaks to and through others. 

When you deny the inspiration of Scripture, that drastically subtracts from God's activity in the world. Put another way, if you deny the inspiration of Scripture, then it's unclear if there is a God who speaks and acts. Is there a God who speaks to and through others? Or is God just a projection of the Bible writer's overwrought religious imagination? 

I find that if you accept that God is real, and accept the possibility of miracles, the arguments for highly skeptical views of Scripture tend to be surprisingly weak. 

He's right about that. 

But the more important point is that I no longer feel I need to end up on the conservative side of things (for on certain matters, such as the dating of the book of Daniel, I actually don’t). I don’t any longer feel that anything of great consequence hangs in the balance on where these debates end up, for my faith is anchored in something much more solid than what either side of these debates can offer.

If Daniel was written after the fact, if it's pious fiction, then God was not in fact active in the lives of the exilic community, as Daniel narrates. On that view, Daniel testifies to the miraculous intercession of a God who, in reality, did not intercede. And why draw the line with Daniel? Boyd's position is the thin edge of a secular wedge. 

In any event, there’s a second and more recently discovered reason why these flaws no longer bother me. I simply no longer see any reason why God’s infallible Word should exclude human flaws. In another blog, I shared why I believe the cross expresses the thematic center of everything Jesus was about. God was most perfectly revealed when, having become a human in Christ, he bore our sin and our curse on the cross. On this basis, I argued that our theology must not only be Christ-centered; it should be, from beginning to end, cross-centered.
If we accept this perspective, it fundamentally changes the way we think about the nature of biblical inspiration (as well as a host of other things). If the ultimate revelation of the perfect God took place by God making our imperfections his own – that is by, in some sense, becoming our sin (2 Cor. 5:21) and our curse (Gal 3:13) – on what grounds could anyone assume that the process by which this perfect God reveals himself in his written Word must exclude all human imperfections? I would think a cross-centered approach to biblical inspiration would lead us to the exact opposite conclusion. Think about it. If the cross reveals what God is truly like, it reveals what God has always been like, in all of his activities.

i) That's arbitrary. The cross does not express "everything" that Jesus is about. The cross doesn't reveal what God is truly like in contrast to the Exodus, Final Judgment. The cross isn't more fundamental than the Incarnation, Resurrection, Ascension and Session, or return of Christ. 

ii) Moreover, Boyd is trying to create a loose analogy between the weakness of Scripture and the weakness of God on the cross. But that fails on two accounts:

a) Jesus isn't modeling divine weakness on the cross. Rather, he'd practicing vicarious atonement. Of course, in order to be sacrificed, he must permit himself to be sacrificed. But assuming a defenseless posture is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

b) His voluntary weakness is not analogous to errors in Scripture. Indeed, it's not a mistake that Jesus refused to defend himself. That's deliberate. By parity of argument, Scripture is inerrant. 

Does this mean that we must reject biblical infallibility? It all depends on what you mean by “infallible.” “Infallible” means “unfailing,” and for something to “fail” or “not fail” depends on the standard you are measuring it up against. 

That's an idiosyncratic definition of infallibility. "Infallibiity" means without possibility of error. 

So when you confess Scripture is “infallible,” what standard are you presupposing? If your standard is modern science, for example, I’m afraid you’re going to have a very hard time holding onto your confidence in Scripture, because last I heard, scientists were pretty sure the sky wasn’t a dome that was “hard as a molten mirror” (Job 37:18) as it held up water (Gen.1:7) with windows that could be opened so it could rain (Gen. 7:11). 

i) Examples like that no doubt explain why Boyd rejects inspiration. He comes down on the side of the critics. Naturally, if you think Scripture is mistaken, you will reject the inerrancy of Scripture. But that merely shows us how Boyd interprets Scripture. 

ii) It's funny how liberals like Boyd impute selective rationality to Bible writers. On the one hand, this is how they think the ancients reasoned about rain:

Water comes down from the sky. So there must be a source of water up there. Indeed, the sky is blue–like water! But there must be something to restrain it from coming down all at once. So the sky must be solid. But how can water get through a solid barrier? There must be windows in the sky.
But if the sky is solid, how can we see the blue water? It must be made of something transparent or translucent, like crystal. 

So they think the ancients did give serious consideration to the logistics of rain. On the other hand, they don't think the ancients asked elementary questions like: 

If the source of rain is a reservoir above the sky, why do we see rain coming from clouds below the sky? Likewise, why don't we ever see it rain on a clear day? After all, if clouds are not the source of rain, if it's really that cosmic ocean above the firmament, why does it only rain on cloudy days? 

Liberals like Boyd think the ancients were smart enough to draw logical inferences as long as they were constructing a false view of precipitation, but their rationality and powers of observation abandoned them when it came to scrutinizing common sense problems with a false view of precipitation. He also ignores evidence that the ancients were aware of the water cycle (Eccl 1:7). 

Back to Boyd:

So too, if your standard is perfect historical accuracy, or perfect consistency, you’re going to sooner or later run into trouble as well for similar reasons. In fact, I would argue that you’re going to run into problems if your standard is even uniformly perfect theology. For example, we instinctively interpret references to Yahweh riding on clouds and throwing down lightning bolts to be metaphorical (e.g. Ps. 18:14; 68:4; 104:3). But ancient biblical authors, along with everybody else in the Ancient Near East, viewed God and/or the gods as literally doing things like this. They were simply mistaken. 

i) That anthropomorphic image is literally inconsistent with the invisibility of God. Yet OT piety stresses the essential invisibility of God. 

ii) It's a poetic depiction of the Sinai theophany. But the Israelites didn't literally see God riding on a cloud.

iii) In addition, it's polemicizing against Baal, who was a pagan storm god. Baal is vanquished by Yahweh. 

For detailed exegesis, cf. A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms: 1-41 (Kregel 2011), 1:466.

Eastern Orthodoxy: Same as all the other Eastern religions

Jacob Aitken relates one key weakness of Eastern Orthodoxy (and of Roman Catholicism as well):

The commenter known as “Anti Gnostic” asks a perceptive question:

What does Orthodoxy offer that other communions don’t?

He gets the standard cliched answer:

“What Orthodoxy offers is the promise of communion with the incarnate God, and theosis, leading to the salvation of the eternal soul…”

He responds,

So does Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. And Wiccanism, if I bothered to check. So tell me, why should I believe Orthodox Christianity over any other belief system?

All metaphysical religions die on this field.

Jacob writes frequently (though not nearly as much as I’d like) on the topic of “chain-of-being” metaphysics. That’s the neo-platonic metaphysics that crept into “the Catholic Church” after Augustine through the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, and were systematized into Roman Catholicism by Thomas Aquinas, in part, because he mistakenly thought that “Pseudo-Dionysius” was genuinely the Dionysius from Acts 17.

This is one reason why Roman Catholicism needs to do more than just “apologize for the sins of the children of the church”. It needs to take stock and ‘fess up to all the erroneous doctrinal nonsense that it has incorporated into its system, erroneously calling it “Christianity”.

But instead, it buckles down, and says, things like “the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ”.

In doing so, it bears false witness of God's word.

Neo-platonism is not God’s word. Eastern religions are not God’s word.