Friday, November 28, 2014

The New and Improved Balance of Power in the Middle East

George Friedman of Stratfor has written an insightful article describing the new balance of power among the regional powers in the Middle East. With the rise of the “Islamic State”, in parts of territorial Syria and Iraq, the new reality of having the “Islamic State” in their backyards has caused a new dynamic among virtually all the nations in the region.

The Islamic State Reshapes the Middle East:

Christmas Resources 2014

For several years, I've been posting a collection of resources for each Christmas season:

Children of the Corn

Many ancient, primitive societies practiced human sacrifice. And I've read that pagan cults still practice human sacrifice in pockets of African and Latin America. 

Due to Christianity, human sacrifice has been outlawed in the Western world. Yet the impulse still exists. It simply expresses itself in a somewhat muted form. 

I notice that every so often, the Establishment has an urge to destroy someone. As if it needs to get that out of its system. Periodically, the Establishment picks on somebody or some group, which it hounds mercilessly. 

To take a few examples, a generation ago you had the recovered memories fad. It was a classic witch hunt, only this time it was a secular witch hunt. The lives of innocent men, women, and children were forever destroyed by charges of imaginary sexual or ritual Satanic abuse. It was eventually discredited. Burned itself out. But not before leaving devastation in its wake. 

Right now there's the "campus rape culture" frenzy. This is hysterically overblown. The accused are denied elementary due process. 

Eventually, lawsuits will bring this to an end. Some innocent students have rich parents who can afford to fight back. College administrators will reverse course. But not before ruining the reputation of many male students on trumped up charges.

The Establishment also likes to elevate certain people, then tear them down. At one time Britney Spears was a huge pop star. But when she faltered, the Establishment took delight in covering her downfall. Same thing with Michael Jackson. Same thing with Bill Cosby.

My point is not whether these were ever admirable people in the first place. But the Establishment has this quixotic quality. It loved them until it turned on them. Every so often, the Establishment sets out to destroy one of its own. "We made you and we can break you!"

It's like Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, or The Wicker Man, or Children of the Corn. As if the Establishment the needs a sacrificial victim to appease the gods. This goes in cycles. After satiating its vindictive impulse, it moves one. Things return to normal for a while. Deceptively calm. But that's followed by another collective psychopathic outbreak. No one is safe. You never know who will be next. 

Swimming with sharks

Unbelievers take offense when Christians say atheism is dangerous. They respond that you don't need God to be moral. Just look at all the virtuous atheists!

Christians reply that this misses the point. The issue is, in the first place, whether atheism has a basis for morality. Moreover, there's naturally a disconnect between how Christians view atheists and how atheists view themselves. For instance, we don't think abortion, after-birth abortion, and euthanasia are virtuous. 

There is, however, another point to be made. There are two forms of moral restraint: internal and external. Conscience or a personal honor-code exerts self-restraint. 

In addition, law and social approval or stigmatization restrain behavior. So the real test of atheism is twofold: what happens to atheists when there's nothing on the outside to shore up what's missing on the inside? 

Take the assassination of Trotsky. Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky were atheists. But unlike your next-door atheists, they were the law. There was no law to tell them what they could or could not do. They made the rules. A law unto themselves.

There was nothing between the atheists and each other. No moral buffers, internal or external. In that morally denuded setting, their philosophy reduces to "Do unto others before they do unto you."

It becomes a game of chicken. Should you try to kill your fellow atheist before he tries to kill you? There's a risk either way. If you try and fail, you're a marked man. But if you wait for him to make the first move, it may be too late. Even if they didn't plan to kill you, why take the chance? 

Any vulnerability is an invitation to be murdered by your comrades. Once Trotsky began to slip, he was doomed. Out of power, it was safe to kill him. Indeed, it was prudent to kill him. Kill or be killed.  

Lenin was weakened by stroke, but there was some value in keeping him alive as an inspirational figurehead, while Stalin consolidated power behind-the-scenes. 

The French Reign of Terror is another case in point. Close your eyes and imagine a world where there's nobody you can trust. A friendless world. 

Now open your eyes. This isn't just a hypothetical exercise. It happens. It happens when a moral void on the inside meets a moral void on the outside. Only power fills the void. The will to power. 

We use metaphors like "back-stabbing" and "watching your back." But when atheism is in the ascendent, these are realities rather than metaphors. 


If this is how ANE peoples (e.g. the Israelites) conceived of cosmology...

...then not only would the sun have cast a shadow on the Earth, but couldn't the sun have likewise cast a shadow backwards against the firmament? If so, then couldn't this shadow be discernible at least at certain locales and/or at certain times of the day or year?

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I've been reading Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, Hand Madueme and Michael Reeves, eds. It's an uneven collection of essays. For now I'd like to focus on the scientific question. Mdueme puts his finger on one difficulty with theistic evolution and/or old-earth creationism:

One weakness, however, is the potential of an Adam-of-the-gaps fallacy. Paleontology, paleoanthropology, and associated disciplines are judged basically reliable as sources of truth and they provide the main story; the task of the theologian is then to find a way to identify the historical Adam within that story (237).

That certainly looks like an ad hoc amalgam of two divergent paradigms. Young-earth creationism doesn't have that problem. But it trades that problem for a different problem: challenging the science that drives old-earth creationism and theistic evolution. 

1) Let's some general observations about the scientific method. All things being equal, an operating assumption of scientists is that the past produces the future. Antecedent conditions effect subsequent conditions. 

The same physical causes produce the same physical effects. In that respect, past and future resemble the present.  Therefore, taking our knowledge of the present as a frame of reference, we can extrapolate forward and backward. 

For instance, dating techniques presume constancy in the rate of natural processes. Likewise, evidence for human evolution based on population genetics (e.g. the "bottleneck") presumes constancy in the rate natural processes. 

Physical causes operate with mechanical regularity. They do whatever they were programmed to do–no more and no less. 

2) Up to a point, that's a reasonable assumption. And it has some theological warrant. We call this ordinary providence.

So, for instance, a Christian goes to the doctor, under the assumption that diseases typically have physical causes which are physically treatable. 

3) However, that's qualified. If nature takes its course, a terminal cancer patient will die. 

Sometimes, however, a terminal cancer patient undergoes remission in answer to prayer. In that situation, past conditions don't produce or predict for future conditions. In that case, the outcome doesn't belong to the chain of events (i.e. physical causation). 

That's because physical causes are not the only causes. Not even the only causes of physical effects.

That, however, interjects a degree of unpredictability into the presumption of continuity between past, present, and future. 

The history of the world contains singularities. Outcomes discontinuous with prior states. Indeed, the world began with a singularity: fiat creation.

In addition to that macrocosmic singularity, the history of the world is punctuated by microcosmic singularities. Miracles which bypass the causal continuum. 

All things being equal, linear extrapolations from the present into the past are reasonable. But that means bracketing kinds of mental agency which produce immediate physical effects. By "immediate," I mean apart from an intervening physical medium. Candidates include God, angels, demons, ghosts, and human psi. 

Because God usually operates behind the scenes, working via physical means, it's easy to ignore God when we do science. God is like a necessary background condition. Unobtrusive. We don't expect God to intervene at any particular time and place, so our default policy treats the course of nature as the norm. 

But it's precisely because divine intervention is unpredictable that scientific prediction or retrodiction is unreliable to some imponderable degree. We can't quantify when or where God (or other agents) will interrupt the course of nature. That interjects an unstable element into historical reconstructions. The scientific method is arbitrary in that respect. It's true–except when it's false. 

That's why pious Christians have a two-track policy. We presume ordinary providence, but we also pray.

Nature is like a machine. It has a default setting. But it also has a manual override. God can break the cycle in answer to prayer. 

4) Moreover, this isn't just hypothetical. There's more to human history than ordinary providence. There's special providence. And miracles. And answered prayer. And the occult. 

Let's consider some of the putative evidence for human evolution:

i) Comparative anatomy. There are fossil remains of creatures that have a humanoid appearance. Hands. Skulls. Bipedalism. 

There are, however, problems with that line of evidence:

a) Ostriches and kangaroos are bipedal. But that doesn't relate them to man. Some bats, marsupials, and chameleons have opposable digits. But that doesn't relate them to man. 

b) Moreover, bipedalism is unrelated to cognitive ability. 

c) Modern humans coexist with apes and monkeys. We share morphological similarities, yet there are drastic cognitive differences. Why think fossil "hominids" must be anything other than extinct apes and monkeys? 

ii) Apropos (i), some "hominids" use tools, yet that, by itself, isn't probative. There are animals that use tools, viz. crows, sea otters, green jays, trapdoor spiders, and woodpecker finches. 

Or take beehives and spiderwebs. If apes and monkeys did that sort of thing on a larger scale, Darwinians would chalk it up to simian brainpower.  

Most fossil artifacts aren't uniquely human in that regard. Cave paintings and musical instruments are unmistakably human. But much of the other "evidence" is quite ambiguous. 

iii) Another line of putative evidence is the alleged correlation between cultural evolution and encephalization. That, however, is tricky to parse. 

a) To begin with, the relationship between minds and brains is somewhat baffling. For instance:

b) Knowledge is cumulative. Knowledge builds on knowledge. And the rate of progress can accelerate. We see that in the rapidity of technological advances. It takes a long time to get to the tipping point. After that, the rate of progress picks up pace. Crossing that threshold is the hard part. 

Gen. Curtis LeMay reputedly said we should bomb the Viet Cong back to the Stone age. Suppose something like that happened to human civilization.

As long as modern know-how survived, we could probably get back to where we were in a few decades. If, however, the knowledge was lost or forgotten, then it would take centuries or probably millennia to start from scratch. 

You can't have a Newton without a Kepler. You can't have an Einstein without a Riemann or Mach. If Einstein was born before Riemann or Mach, he wouldn't develop Relativity. 

And it's a matter of space as well as time. If Linus Pauling, Paul Dirac, or Claude Shannon were born in the Amazon jungle, and never made contact with the outside world, their genius would go to waste. 

In addition, some scientists, like Newton or von Neumann have a unique skill set. If we had to start all over again, you wouldn't have a Newton, Einstein, or von Neumann. You'd have other geniuses with different skill sets. 

Although we might make the same scientific breakthroughs, we wouldn't make them in the same order. It might be sooner or later. You might have scientific theories which overlap with the theories we have, but the pieces would be rearranged. The pieces would come together in different ways at different times.     

Thanksgiving and Puritan Geopolitics in the Americas


The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation's small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England's successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England's place in it unsure. Moreover, England was going through a period of internal instability that would culminate in the unthinkable — civil war in 1642 and regicide in 1649. England's colonies were born from this situation, and the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and the little-known colony of Providence Island in the Caribbean were part of a broader Puritan geopolitical strategy to solve England's problems.

More Early Opponents Of Mary's Perpetual Virginity

Tertullian and Helvidius are often named as early opponents of Mary's perpetual virginity, but other opponents of the concept seem to be mentioned less often. I've discussed some of them in recent posts, namely Hegesippus, Irenaeus, and Victorinus. What I want to do in this post is cite some other examples.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Video Of A Recent Shroud Of Turin Conference

I just saw Dan Porter link a collection of videos of the recent Shroud conference in St. Louis.

Is the United States a “Christian Nation”?

From Stephen Wolfe:
In the next few weeks or months, I plan to review the book The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution, chapter-by-chapter. It is written by Gregg Frazer, a Master’s College professor of history and political science. The book has caused a stir among those who have an interest in the United States being a “Christian nation” and those on the other side who claim that it is a “secular nation.” His central thesis is that most of the Founders were religious yet unorthodox. The dominant view among the Founders was what he calls “theistic rationalism.” …

* * *

In my own study, I’ve noticed that the shift from Calvin’s more conservative understanding of social and political inequality, gave way in England to an emphasis on equality and social contract, leading ultimately to John Locke and Algernon Sidney. The shift, to my mind, concerns reason and revelation. Calvin, in his Institutes, argues that revelation, far from being opposed to reason, is a further accommodation to man’s fallenness. In other words, revelation is, in a sense, right reason. Revelation serves as spectacles to show what ought to have been in the world through reason alone. In this sense, revelation is not to be privatized in a secularized state. It is not to be relegated to personal, individual opinion. Revelation gives us principles for a pubic (or political) theology.

Part 1 is here.

What’s “Bergoglio’s Gig”? Even the Experts Throw Their Hands Up

In the Church, at all levels, criticisms of the pope are no longer being silenced. They are voiced openly:

ROME, November 24, 2014 - The tempestuous October synod on the family, the appointment of the new archbishop of Chicago, and the demotion of Cardinal Raymond L. Burke have marked a turning point in the pontificate of Pope Francis.

The disquiet, the doubts, the critical judgments are coming out more and more into the light of day and are becoming ever more explicit and substantiated….

The following are three testimonies of the new climate.

Whereas Cardinal Burke was visibly and symbolically demoted, the conservative Cardinal Francis George retired – and was replaced by someone at the opposite end of the conservative/liberal spectrum. George writes:

"He didn't deserve to die"

Over at Pyromanics, Frank Turk has an oddly reasoned post on the Ferguson affair:

You can't have it both ways: either the system is working, or it is not working. 

Actually, I can have it both ways. Sometimes the system works, and sometimes it doesn't. It would be simplistic and inaccurate to stake out a uniform position on whether or not the system works. I can point to instances where it works as well as instances where it doesn't. 

What if we start here: it doesn't matter what Trayvon Martin  Michael Brown was doing in that neighborhood.  He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger; he didn't deserve to die.  Until and unless you are willing to say that out loud -- and I don't care which side of the argument you are on here -- if you can't say that Trayvon Martin Michael Brown did not deserve to die, you frankly have no place in this discussion. Your moral compass and your real empathy for other people are both broken.  You can't do anything to make this or the future better until you deal with that.

Whether or not he "deserved" to die is a red herring in this situation. The question of just deserts is only germane to punishment. 

But according to the defense, Wilson's action wasn't punitive. Wilson didn't shoot Brown to mete out justice. 

Rather, according to the defense, Brown was trying to seize Wilson's gun. Assuming that's true, Wilson acted in self-defense. 

In that situation, the moral justification for potential use of lethal force isn't predicated on whether the assailant deserved it. Maybe he did and maybe he didn't. That has no bearing on the moral justification.

Rather, when an assailant puts someone else's life in jeopardy, he puts his own life in jeopardy. By his action he forfeits the prima facie right not to be harmed by another. If he commits a life-threatening action without due cause, the would-be victim has a right to repel the attack by any means at his disposal. The assailant has forced his hand.

Keep in mind, too, that he has forced the would-be victim to make a snap decision. You can't put someone in that situation, then blame them for making a split-second judgment call. It's your fault for putting them in that predicament in the first place. 

So Frank's argument is morally confused. 

If you're going to challenge Wilson's action, the proper way to do so is to challenge the facts of the case. Did he have good reason to fear for his life and safety? 

Now, in response to comments, Frank amplifies or amends his original claim:

Michael Brown, whilst walking down the street, was not putting anyone's life in danger.
That is where this incident started. Officer Wilson did not come upon a fight or a robbery: he came upon two men walking in the street. That's where this started, and to see it otherwise is not excessively clever.
i) I agree with Frank that police shouldn't accost citizens engaged in lawful conduct. 
ii) However, that's a euphemistic description in this case. Hadn't Brown just committed strong-armed robbery? Wasn't that caught on the security camera? 
iii) He wasn't shot because he was walking in the street. According to the defense, he was shot because the situation rapidly escalated to the point where the officer's life was in danger. That's why he died. 
You can try to challenge Wilson's version of the events. But that's a different issue. 

Cops shoot white folks too

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christian Mathematicians

Mary Isn't The Only New Eve

"To how small a degree Mary as a holy person forms the centre of interest can be realized from the fact that the comparison with Eve must by no means be concentrated on her alone. 'Generally speaking, every woman who plays a part in the salvation of God's people can be understood exegetically as a type of the new Eve'. Even in Hippolytus, for example, the women who go to the grave on Easter morning are similarly contrasted with Eve - a kind of view that lasts into the fifth century - and Origen compares the two 'holy women', Elizabeth and Mary, with Eve. Ambrose parallelizes Eve and Sarah, and emphasizes that there were many Marys before the one Mary brought the great fulfilment....Again and again it is a question here of the 'woman' or 'the women' as such, who thus receive their due. Nothing like that would have been possible if the Eve-Mary typology had had only a 'Mariological' meaning from the outset." (Hans von Campenhausen, The Virgin Birth In The Theology Of The Ancient Church [Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2011], 45-6)

The media lynch mob

A quick observation about the liberal establishment. On the one hand, the liberal establishment gives blacks like Rodney King, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown every benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, the liberal establishment presumes the guilt of blacks like Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, and Bill Cosby.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Victorinus And The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary

Not much of what Victorinus of Pettau wrote is extant. But he apparently made some comments relevant to the perpetual virginity of Mary in his writings that didn't survive. In response to Helvidius, who argued against Mary's perpetual virginity, Jerome commented:

Drawing the lines

On the one hand, Abolish Human Abortion refuses to cooperate with Catholic prolifers on theological grounds.

On the other hand, AHA views itself as heir to the anti-slavery theorists and activists. Yet abolitionists like Louisa May Alcott, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimké, Thomas Paine, Theodore Parker, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry David Thoreau, and Theodore Weld were by no means theologically orthodox. 

By the same token, the men who effectively abolished slavery in America (e.g. Lincoln, Sherman, Grant) were by no means theologically orthodox. 

Ironically, AHA's position is the mirror image of the Confederate theologians who opposed the abolitionists because they were heterodox. 

Fahrenheit 451

This is a sequel to my earlier post, from comments I left at Beggars All:

steve said...
Notice Guy's faithless response to Luke and John. He openly scorns the assurance they give the reader. He refuses to credit what they say on their own terms.

He's a rank infidel with a bit of borrowed religiosity.
steve said...
"I don't deny the assurances of Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James,Jude, Matthew or Mark. I know the books associated with them are God breathed because I have it on the authority of the Church established by Christ."

The passages I quoted don't condition their assurance on your extraneous putative authority. Rather, the assurance they proffer is predicated on their own writings, as is. It's self-contained.

You refuse to accept the claims of Luke and John on their own grounds.

They say that by reading and believing what they wrote, a reader will have certainty about the life of Christ and saving knowledge of his person and work.

You directly contradict what they say. You look them square in the eye and say: "No, I don't believe you!"

You don't believe Luke and John. You only believe Pope Francis.

"Steve, without an infallible Church, you don't even know what the Bible is."

Suppose I'm stranded on a deserted island. Suppose I never heard of "the Bible" or "the church."

Suppose a copy of Luke's gospel or John's gospel or 1 John washes ashore.

If I read it and believe it, do I have the certainty, the saving knowledge, that they promise the reader?

If you deny that, then you're an infidel.
steve said...
i) You disbelieve what Luke or John say on their own merits. You deny that what they claim is obligatory or authoritative in its own right.

This despite how them themselves frame the issue. Luke grounds the assurance he gives a reader, not in Pope Francis signing off on what he wrote, but on the quality of his own sources. His personal research is the stated basis for the assurance he gives.

John grounds the assurance he gives a reader, not on the approval of Pope Francis, but on John's firsthand knowledge of Jesus, and inspired recollection.

What if Pope Francis told you not to believe Luke's Gospel or John's Gospel, or 1 John? Evidently, you take his word over theirs.

ii) If Luke is true or John is true, then its truth does not depend on my ability to prove it. If it's true, then even if I fail to prove it, it is still true.

Suppose John's Gospel washes up on the beach of my deserted island. I have no idea where it comes from. Do I have life in Christ's name by believing what John recorded (Jn 20:31)?

Suppose I'm walking along the beach of my deserted island and I find a copy of Luke's Gospel on the shoreline. I'm not familiar with the author. By reading and believing it, do I true and certain knowledge of what Luke recorded (Lk 1:1-4)?
steve said...
"Steve, without an infallible Church, you don't even know what the Bible is."

That's an empty-headed trope you mechanically repeat–like pulling a string on a doll.

It disregards internal evidence. It ensnares you to a vicious infinite regress. And it reflects your double standard.

steve said...
If a book contains false divine promises (i.e. promises falsely attributed to God), then believing them doesn't make them true. If, however, a book contains true divine promises, then God will do for the reader what he promised in the book independent of any corroborative evidence.

Is it a fact that by reading the Gospel of Luke, a reader can acquire sure knowledge about the life of Christ? Is it a fact that by reading the Gospel of John, a reader can acquire saving knowledge?

steve said...
"I don't deny the assurances of Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James,Jude, Matthew or Mark. I know the books associated with them are God breathed because I have it on the authority of the Church established by Christ."

You invoke a secondary (alleged) authority while disowning the direct authority of the writers themselves.

Luke doesn't predicate his Gospel on the authority of "the Church," but the evidence his own investigations.

Likewise, when John says "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life" (1 Jn 1:1-2), he's not appealing to the authority of "the Church," but his personal authority as an intimate eyewitness to the public ministry of Christ.

When you only accept what Bible writers say on the authority of your sect, you disrespect their stated truth-conditions and substitute an alien rationale.

"Why didn't Christ just leave us a book like the Koran or something?"

Given your ecclesiolatry, we could turn the question around. Why did God give us a Bible at all? Who needs a book when you have the living oracle of Mother Church to answer all your questions?

steve said...
"I know the books associated with them are God breathed because I have it on the authority of the Church established by Christ."

You don't have an authoritative church–although you do have an authoritarian church. All you really have is the authority of your own individual opinion. Your fallible personal opinion that your particular denomination is infallible. Your "infallible external authority" is your private judgment in disguise. You postulate an infallible external authority.

John says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands…"

Pope Francis is in no position to say that.

The author of Hebrews says the message "was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard" (Heb 2:3).

Pope Francis is in no position to say that.

Luke says, "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you" (Lk 1:1-3).

Pope Francis is in no position to say that.

"I also can say the same for the OT including those 7 books you don't have."

And the Ethiopian Orthodox church can say the same for the books you don't have. And the LDS church can say the same for the books you don't have.

"There were Church councils, presided over by Catholic bishops, ratified by popes, that decided which books stayed and which books didn't."

Because, for you, the word of God has no inherent authority. If the Pope gives thumbs up to the Gospel of Thomas, then it's in. If the Pope gives thumbs down to the Gospel of Matthew, then it's out.
steve said...

By your own admission, you don't begin with an infallible church–because you can't. Rather, you posit an infallible church. You begin with your fallible postulate of an infallible church.

It is viciously circular for you to retroactively validate your fallible option by reference to an infallible church, when that's nothing more than your fallible postulate in the first place. Your endpoint can't rise higher than your starting-point.

"Reasonable" and "infallible" are not synonymous. Not even close.

steve said...
i) Guy's demand for an "infallible external authority" generates an infinite regress. If we can't be certain of anything without reference to an external criterion, then by what additional criterion do we test our external criterion? 

This approach fails to distinguish between first-order knowledge (knowing that) and second-order knowledge (knowing how we know, or proving what we know).

To halt the vicious regress, some knowledge must be immediate.

ii) In addition, Guy shows contempt for Biblical assurances based on the witness of the Spirit.

iii) Let's take a comparison. Suppose Calvinism is true. Suppose God intends someone to be a Christian. One way God can do that is to predestine that person to be raised in a Christian church. Perhaps that's all he's every known.

Now, considered in isolation, believing something just because you were raised that way is not a good reason to believe it.

If, however, Christianity is true, then what this man believes is true. Moreover, it isn't just a historical accident that he believes it. Rather, God put him in that belief-forming environment to foster faith in Scripture.

So he's right to believe it. It's the right thing to believe, and he was conditioned to believe it by a reliable belief-forming mechanism–God's special providence. God prearranged the events in this man's life so that he'd be exposed to the truth. God regenerated him to make him receptive to the truth. He isn't mistaken, and under those circumstances, he cannot be mistaken.

However, because Guy despises Calvinism, he's cut himself off from that providential source of justified true belief.

steve said...
Keep in mind that there was never a church of Rome. Rather, there were churches of Rome. A variety of house-churches, under different leaders. That's on display in Rom 16. There was no church of Rome in the 1C. Just a number of neighborhood fellowships scattered across the far-flung city. No one church of Rome. No singular church.
steve said...
"Do you mean the burning in the bosom experienced by every schwarmer?"

Even though the word of God appeals to the witness of the Spirit, Guy considers that equivalent to Mormonism. Further evidence that Guy is a hardened infidel.

For Guy, the Bible has no more authority or credibility than the book of Mormon.

"Boys and Girls, Let's put our thinking caps on."

That would be a radical change in Guy's modus operandi:

"Before around 1450, when Gutenberg invented the printing press and printed a Catholic Bible, your foundational belief of 'Bible Only' was a physical impossibility."

Evidently, Guy thinking cap is out of order. Before the invention of the printing press, there were no mass copies of papal encyclicals, conciliar proceedings, Scholastic theologians, or church fathers.

Guy's alternative is no more or less dependent on the printing press than the Protestant rule of faith. The church of Rome also disseminates its dogmas in writing.

"Really? Have you ever been to Rome?"

As a matter of fact, I have–several times.

More to the point, I'm discussing 1C Rome, not 21C Rome

Notice, though, how Guy blows right past Rom 16. He doesn't even know what it means. Try reading Fitzmyer's commentary on Rom 16. A Jesuit commentator. Notice what he says about the house-churches referenced in the text, with different leaders.

"Kephas, the wicked high priest, uttered infallible prophecy in virtue of the office he was holding.:

That's Guy's bare assertion. To the contrary:

"( Pssst! Kaiphas/Cephas )."

Guy robotically reiterates the same refuted claims. I already corrected him on that. He offers no counterargument.

"Suppose black was white and up was down."

Notice that Guy has no counterargument.

"I won't bore you again with my 'amateurish' description of Richard Whately's method of argumentation which says we can trust our powers of observation and the testimony of history when it comes to Christ"

Guy has yet to demonstrate how that method of argumentation yields infallible conclusions.

Let's try one more time:

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 Jn 5:13).

Does Guy agree or disagree with that promise? If a reader believes what John wrote, does he thereby know that he has eternal life?

Is that a true or false promise? The promise isn't conditioned on believing in Pope Francis or an infallible church, but on believing what John wrote.
steve said...
"You reject the Church that predates your Bible, the Church you are totally dependent on for that Bible."

Catholic apologists imagine that church history is on their side, yet they make utterly unhistorical claims about how the church of Rome gave Christians the Bible. That's because Catholic apologetics is really based, not on church history, but an a priori methodology.

They begin with their conclusion: the alleged necessity of an infallible church. Then they stipulate whatever is necessary to yield their foregone conclusion.

There are many excellent treatments of the canon. For instance:

OT Canon:

Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church.

Andrew Steinmann, The Oracles of God: The Old Testament Canon.


David deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance.

NT Canon:

E. E. Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents.

C. E. Hill, Who Chose the Gospels?

Michael Kruger, Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books.

–––––, The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate.

Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance.

Stanley Porter, How We Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, Translation.
steve said...
"Tell me more about the trustworthiness of that 'Inner Witness of the Spirit' you said you rely upon to know if you are reading inspired scripture or not."

I didn't make a personal claim. And I didn't propose the witness of the Spirit is a canonical criterion. Rather, I made an observation about how Scripture appeals to the witness of the Spirit as a source of Christian assurance.

"Do you get all misty eyed and choked…"

Your comments on the Biblical witness of the Spirit are sacrilegious. What possesses you to mock what Scripture says about a source of spiritual assurance? What is it about Catholic piety that makes you blaspheme the work of the Spirit?

"I know I am a Christian.
I have the Baptismal certificate to prove it although I have no recollection of the event.
I know my sins are forgiven when I hear the priest say, 'Absolvo te'.
I know I have the Holy Ghost because I was Confirmed."

Yes, I understand your faith in priestcraft. And if you were Sikh, you'd have faith in its Gurus. Your faith begins and ends with externals. Pure ritualism.

"On your trips to Rome, did you ever consider investigating any ancient places of worship? Evidently not."

Do you always make ignorant assumptions about your opponents? I've visited such ancient Roman churches as Santa Sabina and Santa Costanza–among other sites.

"Steve, since day one, the Church has had a highly organized structure for transmitting the Faith to the laity called the "hierarchy". For centuries, only the Catholic clergy could read."

Why did they need to read unless the Catholic religion depends on writings to disseminate the faith?

"Before Gutenberg, the principle of SS did not/could not exist."

Which undercuts your appeal to the church fathers, church councils, &c. Can't have it both ways.

"Anticipating your oft repeated question about how do I know the priest who absolved, Confirmed or Baptized me had the right intention,all I need to know is whether or not proper form was used. The intent is presumed if the form is used."

What about Simony? What about idle European noblemen who sought ordination for the sole purpose of collecting ecclesiastical preferments? Absentee bishops who had no intention of performing religious duties? Just gaming the system for money.

"If you doubt me, ask EA…He wouldn't be so brash as to be on this blog shooting his mouth off on things beyond his area of expertise."

What's your area of expertise, Guy? Do you have a degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University?

steve said...
"Ea, You need to repent. I don't know how much of a Catholic you were, but if you were raised and Confirmed in the Faith, your problem is probably not intellectual but emotional and spiritual. Soaking up a bunch of anti-Catholic propaganda is the last thing you need. Go get the healing you need. Talk to a priest."

Let's see. Hans Küng is still a priest. So I guess EA should talk to Küng about papal infallibility. Thanks for the recommendation, Guy!
steve said...
"You are in the hot seat on this point."

I have asbestos padding.

"Before Gutenberg, the principle of SS did not/could not exist."

You don't know what the principle is. Take a Fahrenheit 451 scenario. Suppose ownership of Bibles was punishable by death. Not only you, but every family member–as a deterrent.

Suppose a Protestant community evades the ban by memorizing the Bible. Different members commit different books of Scripture to memory–before they destroy their copies to avoid detection. That community is still governed by sola Scriptura, even though it has no physical copies of Scripture.

The content of a book can be orally transmitted. Many people can memorize the same copy. A one-to-many relation.

Indeed, that's more than hypothetical. You have people like Alec McCowen and Max McLean who do that sort of thing.

That's different from oral history or oral tradition, where it's word-of-mouth all the way. By contrast, this is controlled tradition, because it has a written frame of reference. One can double-check memory against the exemplar. The standard exists.
steve said...
According to Trent: 
"Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle."

Notice that this is based on certain authorial attributions. Moreover, that view was maintained at least through the pontificate of Leo XIII.

However, the modern magisterium no longer demands assent to those authorial attributions. But in that case, the Tridentine list is obsolete. The modern Magisterium has relaxed the presuppositions on which the list was originally and logically based.
steve said...
Once again, Guy advertises his chronic incapacity for rational discourse. He doesn't grasp the nature of hypothetical arguments. My hypothetical was a limiting case (another concept which eludes Guy) concerning what is or is not consistent with sola scripture in *principle*. That, of course, sailed right over Guy's head.

Every Christian doesn't need direct access to the Bible to be governed by sola Scriptura. That confuses content with the mode of dissemination.

If, say, the Bible was read aloud in public worship to a congregation of illiterate Christians, that would be consistent with sola Scriptura.

Soggy crunch time

Abolitionists call for the immediate and total abolition of abortion (with no exceptions or permissions) and we work for this end daily, seeking to accomplish it as soon as possible. And we know that this could take a long time and likely will not happen overnight. But the fact that we must fight this battle for a long time and seek to save lives on a daily basis should not modify the manner in which we fight for abolition in our overall strategy. 
Abolitionist think the fight against abortion will be a long one and we are prepared to fight on real fronts all along the way but we are not interested in creating battles that forestall the real debate with the pro-abortion side (whether elective abortion is ever permissible).

This suffers from two related problems: On the one hand, Prolifers are also in this fight for the long-haul. Indeed, prolifers have demonstrated their tenacity. Shown their dogged dedication to the cause, in the face of tremendous obstacles. It takes great commitment to stay in the fight year after year. Abolitionists have yet to demonstrate the time-tested same resolve.

On the other hand, how can abolitionists attack prolifers because they've been at this for 40 years when abolitionists allow themselves such an open-ended timeline for success? How can they take consolation in saving however many babies in the meantime when they attack prolifers for doing the very same thing? 

Yes, they say they differ in terms of strategy, but my point is that they don't differ in terms of time allotment. 

When the perfect is the enemy of the good

Dear Christian: We have been commanded by our Lord to love our neighbors as ourselves. He didn’t follow this up with any exceptions, so we can only assume this means ALL of our neighbors, correct? So knowing this, how can we continue supporting bills, legislation and restrictions which only protect some human beings?
i) During WWII, some Catholics and Protestants, at grave personal risk, sheltered Jews from the Nazis. Famous examples include Miep Gies, Corrie ten Boom, and Hugh O'Flaherty. 
But by AHA logic, they didn't love their neighbors because they only saved the Jews they could.
ii) Suppose I'm sunning myself on the riverbank on a fine summer day. A mother and her two young boys come paddling down the river, but their canoe capsizes. The mother, a weak swimmer, can barely get herself ashore.
As for the boys, there's one of me and two of them, so I can't save them both. If I divide my efforts, I can't save either one. So I have to make a terrible choice. I rescue the one closest to me, and perform CPR. The other is carried downstream and drowns. Tragic, but unavoidable.
According to AHA, should I refrain from saving either boy unless I try futilely to save each one–thereby condemning both to death?