Monday, January 23, 2017

"A sure norm for teaching the faith"

According to the late John-Paul II:

In 1986, I entrusted a commission of twelve Cardinals and Bishops, chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with the task of preparing a draft of the catechism requested by the Synod Fathers. An editorial committee of seven diocesan Bishops, experts in theology and catechesis, assisted the commission in its work. 

The commission, charged with giving directives and with overseeing the course of the work, attentively followed all the stages in editing the nine subsequent drafts. The editorial committee, for its part, assumed responsibility for writing the text, making the emendations requested by the commission and examining the observations of numerous theologians, exegetes and catechists, and above all, of the Bishops of the whole world, in order to produce a better text.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion.


So that's a thoroughly vetted text. But it turns out that it wasn't all that reliable after all: 

The Catechism says succinctly: "Lying consists in saying what is false with the intention of deceiving one's neighbor" (no. 2508). Despite this simple statement, there is a long historical debate about the actual meaning of the term.

Catholic moral theologian Germain Grisez has observed: "Although most Catholic theologians have considered the prohibition of lying a moral absolute, there is a lesser but significant school of thought holding that lying sometimes can be justified, particularly when it is a question of lying to an enemy, who has no right to the truth, in order to protect the innocent from harm" ("The Way of the Lord Jesus,"vol. 2, Franciscan Press, 1993).

These two ways of thinking are reflected in the editorial process of the Catechism, which was revised for the book's second edition. The earlier edition (1994) stated that to lie is "to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has a right to know the truth" (no. 2483, emphasis added). This definition, reflecting what Grisez calls the "lesser but significant school of thought," stems from the teaching of the 17th-century Protestant writer Hugo Grotius.

After the publication of the Catechism, many Catholic scholars wrote to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) about this paragraph. They asked for rectification of the text, which had abandoned centuries of Catholic teaching by accepting the position of Grotius. Fortunately, the paragraph was revised; the 1997 edition eliminates the words "who has a right to know the truth" (see also no. 2484).


So, despite the fact that the project was overseen by the Prefect for the Faith (Cardinal Ratzinger), despite the fact that it went through ten drafts, despite the fact that Pope John-Paul pronounced it to be a "sure norm" for teaching the faith, the original paragraph on the morality of lying had to be rewritten after the Catechism was published. And not due to a typographical blunder, but because it promoted an unethical position on lying. Yet this is supposed to be the church that has a divine teaching office. The church that God protects from ethical or theological error in its official teaching. 

O Little Town of Bethlehem

One pop atheist slam against Christianity is our fixation on a "Bronze Age" religion. Now, this is thoughtless trope that's copied from one atheist to the next. It is true, however, that this objection singles out something distinctive about the Judeo-Christian faith. It is rooted in the past. Rooted in historical events. Events that have an address as well as a date.

For Christians who observe the church calendar, it's striking to consider how modern-day Christians worldwide sing Christmas carols about Bethlehem. Western Christians, in what has been for centuries the power center of the world, turn their attention to a hamlet on the periphery of the Roman Empire. Even by 1C standards, Bethlehem was the antipode of Rome, capital of the then-greatest empire of the known world. 

If it weren't for Christianity, everyone would fixate the political, military, and economic power centers of the world. Big Western cities. Entertainment capitals. Pro sports. It's all about the winners.  

Unbelievers are obsessed with the present. Who has power. Who has status. Who's on top. Who's is currently the richest man in the world? Who is currently the most successful movie star or rock star? Who is currently the most successful quarterback, or basketball star, or soccer team? 

It's all about now. Unbelievers disdain the past. Disdain the backwaters of the world. 

The Christian frame of reference is entirely different from the humanist frame of reference. Even for Christians residing in the power centers of the world, that's not our polestar. That's not the standard of comparison by which we measure what's important.  

Of course, Christians think about the future, too. But it's a future that's rooted in the past. And it's a future set in the hereafter or the world to come. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Two-kingdom fascism

Darryl Hart is a leader of the 2-Kingdoms position. Here are some comments he left on a very long thread: 

D. G. Hart says:
Nero did not violate God’s law if he executed Christians who obeyed God rather than man. If Paul continued to preach after the emperor said he may not, then Nero was doing what God ordained government to do. Christians don’t get a pass from civil law just because they follow a higher law. 
The question wasn’t whether Nero should light up his gardens with Christians. It was whether Nero executed Christians. 
That is what God ordained the magistrate to do, right? Just because a believer has a special relationship with God doesn’t let the believer disobey the magistrate’s laws. Christianity is not a license for civil disobedience. 
If a law is unjust or if we must obey God rather than men, then we suffer the consequences of disobedience. That’s what the apostles did. They didn’t form political action committees to overturn Roman laws.
Paul doesn’t mention justice. He doesn’t mention God’s law. He doesn’t qualify the magistrate’s authority. They are God’s ministers – period. 
So you disobey God’s word. You refuse to do what Paul says. Submit to the unjust emperor. 
I am saying that I follow what Paul said in Rom 13. God wants his people to submit to those in authority, those whom he has established. 
If I break the civil law, I should be punished. God gave us authorities to uphold the law and maintain order and peace. It’s disorderly and unpeaceful if you think you can pick and choose which laws to obey because you have Jesus in your heart. 
https://oldlife.org/2017/01/04/is-donald-trump-mainstreaming-apostasy/

i) That's the reductio ad absurd of 2K. Hart's fascist interpretation of Rom 13 represents a moral inversion of Rom 13. 

ii) As I've pointed out in the past, it's naive to suppose that in Rom 13, Paul is stating everything he thought about the issue at hand. Paul is writing to Christians in the capital of the Roman Empire. What if his letter was intercepted by the Roman authorities? For the sake of Roman Christians, he has to be guarded in what he says. That doesn't mean he says things he doesn't believe, but it does mean he probably leaves some things unsaid. 

iii) In addition, that's more than sheer speculation. He was a firm believer in the OT. He surely didn't believe Ahab, Jezebel, and Athaliah had a civic duty to punish Jews who refused to worship Baal. And he certainly didn't believe Jews had a civic duty to submit to the idolatrous edicts of Ahab, Jezebel, or Athaliah. Likewise, Paul would surely endorse the civil disobedience of the Jewish midwives (Exod 1). So there are unstated caveats in Rom 13.

iv) Hart acts as though the divine institution of government means God has delegated absolute, autonomous authority to the state, so that rulers are entitled to do whatever they see fit. Hart has an amoral conception of civil authority, by separating law from justice. 

But in Paul's understanding, the duty of the civil magistrate is to punish wrongdoers, not simply lawbreakers. The civil magistrate isn't merely or primarily a law enforcer, but an agent of justice. As such, he has no duty to act unjustly. Indeed, he has a duty to act justly and refrain from injustice. 

v) Hart says "Paul doesn’t mention justice. He doesn’t qualify the magistrate’s authority. They are God’s ministers – period."

How could Hart miss that? Perhaps Hart is committing the word-concept fallacy. Does he imagine that if Paul doesn't use the word "justice," then the idea can't be present? Yet Paul says the role of the magistrate is to reward or facilitate those who do good and punish those who do wrong. What is that if not the essence of justice? 

vi) Paul doesn't say or imply that Christians have a duty to submit to rulers in virtue of their sheer, unconditional authority. To the contrary, Paul specifically qualifies the legitimate mandate of civil authority. 

vii) In addition, as one commentator notes:

The authority is a servant of God, but it has the purpose of serving its constituents in the accomplishment of their good actions (Rom 13:4)…The authority is a servant for the constituent so that the person can accomplish what is good. This reconceptualizes authority…[It]  has the just purposes not of perpetuating its own power and authority but of serving its constituents by enabling them to do what is good. S. Porter The Letter to the Romans (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015), 246.

The fact that God ordained government is not a blank check for any specific exercise of power. Hart's inference is like saying God ordained sex, therefore any kind of sexual activity is divinely sanctioned. In Hart's Looking Glass world, God ordained the magistrate to execute those who are doing God's will, as if God is acting at cross-purposes with himself. 

vii) Does Hart think Christians have a divine obligation to commit evil if the state commands what God forbids? He makes statements to that effect. Does he think 1C Christians had a divinely-imposed duty to submit to emperor worship? 

viii) Perhaps Hart would concede that there are situations where Christians have a higher obligation to break the law. If so, Hart seems to be saying the magistrate has a duty to punish Christians for breaking a law which Christians have a duty to break. 

To take a concrete example, Hart either thinks German Christians had a duty not to protect their Jewish neighbors, or if they had a duty to protect their Jewish neighbors, Nazi authorities had a duty to punish Christians who sheltered Jews. 

ix) Of course we need to be prepared to face the consequences of civil disobedience. But that's beside the point. That hardly means the state has a right or duty to punish civil disobedience when the state commands what God forbids or forbids what God commands. 

Does Hart think the state is supposed to punish people in situations where people are supposed to defy the state? How coherent is that? 

Born of water and the Spirit

I consider "water" in Jn 3:5 to be a metaphor for the Spirit's agency in regeneration. 

1. Ironically, the Catholic interpretation contradicts Catholic theology. If Jn 3:5 refers to water baptism, then the rite of baptism is a sine qua non of salvation. Yet at least since Trent (i.e. "baptism of desire"), Catholic theology denies that you must be baptized to be saved. Indeed, modern Catholic theology leaves the door open for the salvation of non-Christians or even atheists. 

The problem here is that the traditional Catholic interpretation predates reversals in Catholic theology that contravene the traditional interpretation. 

2. As many scholars note, John's Gospel deemphasizes the sacraments. 

3. The Catholic interpretation is anachronistic. Jesus upbraids Nicodemus for failing to understand something which he ought to be able to grasp. If, however, Jesus is alluding to the Christian rite of baptism, that's not something Nicodemus could be expected to know.

For some interpreters that's not a problem because they think the speeches and dialogues in John's Gospel are fictitious. They favor the baptismal interpretation of Jn 3:5 because they think the narrator fabricated a backstory to retroactively validate a later Christian rite. 

So the baptismal interpretation sacrifices the historicity of the account. The same problem afflicts the eucharistic interpretation of Jn 6. 

4. A recurring motif in John's Gospel is the spectacle of listeners who misunderstand Jesus because they mistake his figurative usage for literal usage. That should warn us against assuming that Jn 3:5 is literal.

5. John's Gospel makes abundant use of theological metaphors, viz. light/darkness, sheep/shepherd/sheepgate/wolf, wheat, vine, sleep, birth, bridegroom, lamb, thief. 

It would therefore be surprising if Jesus is speaking literally in Jn 3:5. In that event we'd expect a broad clue that he's speaking literally rather than figuratively. 

6. That's especially the case if, according to the baptismal interpretation, the rite of baptism is a prerequisite for salvation. For if no one can be saved apart from baptism, we'd expect Jesus or the narrator to dispel any ambiguity regarding such a momentous issue.

7. The OT uses aquatic metaphors. An oft-cited parallel is Ezk 36:25-27. Likewise, the "outpouring" of the Spirit (Isa 44:3; Ezk 39:29; Joel 2:28) is an aquatic metaphor linked to the Spirit. 

Another possibility is that Jn 3:5 evokes the water-from-the-rock motif. That would be consistent with the way in which Exodus narratives are often a subtext in John's Gospel. 

8. Furthermore, the association with OT theological metaphors would dovetail with Christ chiding Nicodemus, since he ought to be familiar with that OT background information. 

9. Following Keener, I think water=Spirit is a hendiadys, in which "Spirit" is epexegetical of "water". 

Moreover, that has a parallel in Jn 7:38-39, where the life-giving work of the Spirit is likened to a spring or stream.

10. That's my preferred interpretation. My fallback interpretation is "water" as amniotic fluid. For a defense of that interpretation, cf. Richard Bauckham, Gospel of Glory (Baker, 2015), chap. 5. 

Shall we gather at the river?

I'll comment on an interesting post by Bnonn:


I believe that to a great extent, Bnonn is channeling Michael Heiser in this series. Bnonn makes some interesting connections with the Book of Job.

Regarding the identity of the Temper in Gen 3, I agree with Bnonn, but I'd like to anticipate an objection. The OT sometimes uses "folk etymologies" or puns. 

Some people might object that "folk etymologies" are incorrect, but that misses the point. It's like saying a pun is incorrect. But the function is to trigger associations. That communicates. The meaning we attribute to word is arbitrary, in the sense that words mean whatever the linguistic community assigns to certain phonemes. The objective is successful communication. 

Now I'd like to comment on Bnonn's position that the Garden of Eden was the meeting place for the divine council. He offers the following corroborative evidence:

  1. A garden. Most obviously, the divine council was thought to meet in a garden—which is what Adam was created in.
  2. Rivers. In Genesis 2, we learn that Eden was the source of four rivers. If you recall the codewords I listed in the previous installment, this was another common motif for divine council meeting places; in Ugarit, for example, El’s divine council met in a lush garden at the source of two rivers.
  3. A holy mountain. This garden meeting-place was also held to be on a holy mountain; and the Bible explicitly names Eden as such [Ezk 28:13-17).

Here I'm afraid I must demur. 

1. Although I think OT scholars like Heiser and John Walton can be useful, I disagree with their liberal use of comparative mythology. I favor realistic interpretations of OT historical narratives. 

2. Apropos (1), what exactly is the divine council? Michael Heiser says: 

The term divine council is used by Hebrew and Semitics scholars to refer to the heavenly host, the pantheon of divine beings who administer the affairs of the cosmos. 
http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/

Unfortunately, that's ambiguous. Is the heavenly host synonymous with angels?

In a previous installment, Bnonn says:

The Old Testament seems to distinguish angels—mere messengers—from the sons of God—the royal family; and in doing so it follows Ugarit, which had two tiers of gods: the sons of El, who ruled certain districts and provinces, and a larger group of lesser gods who acted as messengers and warriors.

So this suggests that the divine council consists of aristocratic angels. 

i) In a pagan context, the "sons of God" would the literal offspring of high gods and goddesses. Divine princes. 

Now, that might be tolerable as mythopoetic picture language, but it can't be more than that in OT monotheism. 

ii) Apropos (i), why would God have a terrestrial meeting place with angels? It's understandable that God appears to Adam and Eve on terra firma. That's because Adam and Eve are earthlings. But surely God doesn't need a physical meeting place to communicate with angels. In the case of Ugaritic mythology, that might well be taken literally, just like Greek mythology locates the dwelling place of most high gods in a palace on the summit of Mt. Olympus. But surely that's not a realistic interpretation of OT historical narration. At best, that would be using human social metaphors which depict God as a king with his retinue of princes and courtiers. 

iii) It's possible that Ezekiel's mountainous depiction of Eden is figurative. That may trade on the Mt. Zion motif. 

However, it's possible or even probable that Eden was actually located in the high country. For one thing, there's a natural link between rivers and mountains inasmuch as mountains are a major source of rivers. The melting snowpack produces mountain streams which swell into rivers. Moreover, Eden is located somewhere in Mesopotamia. Possibly the highlands of Armenia. 

But in that event, Eden isn't associated with a mountain because that's the location of a divine council. Rather, it's based on physical logistics. Mountains and rivers naturally go together. 

iv) Apropos (iii), that, in turn, dovetails with a river and a garden. It's logical that man's ancestral home would be a garden with fruit-trees. That's supplies a natural human foodstuff. Likewise, the garden provides grazing land for livestock (and possibly game animals). So, once again, Eden isn't associated with a garden because that's the location of a divine council. Rather, it's based on provision for human subsistence. 

v) Apropos (iii-iv), that pans into the riverine locale. Humans typically settle near bodies of water–a spring, well, lake, river, ocean. Rivers are especially valuable because humans can do so many things with a river:

• Irrigation for farming

• Fruit trees and garden plots along the moist river banks

• Fishing

• Waste disposal

• Transportation

• Bathing water

• Cooking water

• Drinking water (for humans)

• Watering hole for livestock and game animals

• Driftwood 

So, once more, Eden isn't associated with a river (or rivers)  because that's the location of a divine council. Rather, that's for the benefit of human inhabitants. The implicit rationale is very practical, very down-to-earth. Providing for the physical needs of human creatures. That's of no earthly use to a divine council. Angels don't need a mountain retreat or garden resort to hang out with God. Angels don't need bodies of water to survive and thrive. If you push that, it pushes you into a mythological conception. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Make America Great Again!

I've seen critics take issue with Trump's signature campaign slogan: Make America Great Again! They say compared to what? Then they trot out paradigm-cases of injustice.  

They complain that Trump is appealing to a nonexistent golden age which he promises to restore, but such nostalgia is misplaced considering American history viz. Jim Crow, Japanese-American internment, the Trail of Tears, &c. 

I'll make a two brief observations:

i) Campaign slogans are designed to fit on a bumper sticker. They are catchy, simplistic, and sometimes utter nonsense. Take Bill Clinton's reelection slogan: Building a Bridge to the 21C–as if the 21C wouldn't arrive unless we returned him to office. Time would be forever frozen in the late 20C. 

I don't take campaign slogans seriously one way or the other. 

ii) That said, I presume the implicit contrast in Trump's slogan isn't American history in general, or even 20C American history, but Obama's tenure. Make America great in relation to the previous administration. The target is the preceding eight years. That's the tacit comparison. The early 21C. Not 20C America, or 19C America, or 18C America, or 17C America. I think it's a willful or obtuse distortion to recontextualize the slogan as if the frame of reference is American history in general. It's obvious that he was running against some of Obama's controversial policies. 

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night

I expect the political climate for the next 4-8 years will be at least as polarized as it has been under Obama. On the one hand, liberals will define themselves by their lockstep opposition to all things Republican. That will make them feel virtuous. That will be an article of faith. 

Trump is such a wild card that many alternate plot endings are possible. If the economy comes roaring back under his watch, that alone may make him, and the GOP, quite popular. And if America is once again seen to be walking tall in the world, that will bolster his popularity among a major segment of the electorate.

On the other hand, his cronyism and business ties are a scandal waiting to happen. And everyday has the potential for him to set brushfires. 

Because George W. Bush was subject to so much relentless, irrational criticism from the Left, that made conservatives spend an inordinate about of time defending Bush. Ironically, if the Left hadn't been so mindlessly, reflexively, and implacably hostile to Bush, conservatives might have been more critical of some Bush policies. But the Left didn't give them the opportunity to put much distance between themselves and the titular leader of the GOP and the conservative movement.

Unfortunately, the same dynamic may repeat itself under Trump. He's such a lightning rod–a role he relishes–that conservatives may feel the need to be defend his policies against knee-jerk opposition and distortion, when, were it not for the Left, they could maintain more critical detachment in relation to Trump. It will be challenging to strike the right balance. 

Collectives

The scope of "all" figures in debates over the extent of the atonement. In Rom 5, Paul alternates between "all" and "many". That's striking because those aren't really synonyms. They don't have the same meaning. Yet he's using that terminology as if they have the same meaning.

That's in large part because he's constructing rhetorical parallels, where he compares and contrasts X of something with Y of something else. In that context, I'd say "all" is a way of denoting collectives. 

It's like comparing one of something to one of something else, only these are aggregates, so he needs a referring term that indicates a class of individuals. 

Collectives needn't include every individual in kind. They can be a representative sample. 

But it's necessary in human discourse to be able to refer to groups or make general statements about people, so I think "all" is a linguistic device to make statements of that sort. We need a word for that type of referent. How else would Bible writers be able to talk about collectives, if not to say "all" or "many". 

Indeed, in that context, "all" may be a misleading translation. If Paul is using a Greek word to denote collectives, then the English word "all" has the wrong connotations. 

This really isn't discussed in commentaries or lexicons, because it's not in the first instance about the meaning of particular words, but something back of that. More about the function of verbal tokens and referring expressions to denote groups or sample groups, collectives, and representative classes. The concept is more philosophical than the meaning a particular word. It's about how to categorize reality. English has a larger vocabulary of specialized terms than Koine Greek to choose from. 

Long live Hirohito!

Some converts to Rome, such as Called to Confusion, act like the legendary Japanese MIA who stumbles out of the jungles of Bataan 50 years later, still convinced that he is on the winning side, loyal to the emperor right up to his last dying breath. But it's revealing to see some of the more intelligent converts/reverts to Rome becoming very skittish about Francis. Their reaction presents a Catholic conundrum. How can there be a bottom-up criticism of the Magisterium departing from dogma and irreformable tradition when the Magisterium is supposed to be the authoritative interpreter of what constitutes dogma and irreformable tradition in the first place? 

Jay Wesley Richards is a convert/revert to Rome, yet at The Stream, he's posted articles siding with the critics of Francis on the admission of remarried divorcees to communion. 

Likewise, Douthat has been pretty outspoken in his criticisms. And as he indicated back in this 2014 article:


He's a convert for "contingent" reasons. His commitment to Rome is conditional rather than unconditional. 

Then there's a long post by Feser in which he leaves his options open, even though he's tipping his hand in the direction of the pope's critics:


It's clear to me that he's laying the groundwork to disassociate himself from Francis, if that becomes absolutely necessary. 

Then, on the comment thread, is this comment by Catholic ID theorist Torley:



Vincent Torley said...Hi Ed, 
Thanks for this post. Just a few quick questions: 
(1) Who, in your opinion, is in a position to judge whether a Pope's teachings and/or writings are compatible with: (a) the infallible extraordinary magisterium of the Church; and (b) the infallible ordinary magisterium of the Church? 
Laypeople? (But that presumes that laypeople are sufficiently competent to read a papal document and figure out either (i) what its author really meant or (ii) what its "plain meaning" is - which is highly doubtful, in both cases.) 
Theologians? (But they're not teachers of the faith. And who counts as a theologian, anyway?) 
Bishops? (Yes, but how many, and do they have to meet first, before issuing a judgement?) 
An ecumenical council convened without the Pope's approval? (That sounds like an oxymoron to me.) 
(2) No disrespect intended, but given that your return to the Catholic Church took place in 2001 [mine was about four years later], it follows that you've only been a well-informed Catholic for 15 years. Pope Francis is 80. Are you really in a position to be judging the orthodoxy of his pronouncements? 
(3) As a Catholic, you'd be the first to ridicule the Elizabethan notion of the "plain meaning" of Holy Scripture. What makes you think you're capable of figuring out the "plain meaning" of a papal document? 
(4) You mention the four cardinals, 45 theologians and "new" natural lawyers who have taken issue with Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia . Just as a layperson, upon hearing experts disputing the mainstream scientific view of global warming, might argue that it's safer to stick with the consensus, likewise a lay Catholic might appeal to the consensus of bishops and theologians applauding Pope Francis' document, Amoris Laetitia, and conclude that it must be right after all. How would you argue with such a person? 
(5) Pastor Hans Fiene, one of the contributors to "Lutheran Satire" (great Website!), has written an interesting article in The Federalist, titled, "8 Steps The Catholic Church Could Take To Approve Gay Marriage Like Tim Kaine Expects" at https://thefederalist.com/2016/09/14/8-steps-catholic-church-take-approve-gay-marriage-like-tim-kaine-expects/ . What are your thoughts? (On the bright side, Fiene thinks that liberalism in the Church has reached its apogee, as the liberals are getting old, and the millennials remaining in the Church are more traditional. I'm not so optimistic: surveys show that young Catholics are much more in favor of gay marriage than older ones. See http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/16/young-u-s-catholics-overwhelmingly-accepting-of-homosexuality/ .) 
(6) Tough but brutally honest question: you returned to the Church under Pope St. John Paul II. I returned under Pope Benedict XVI. Do you think you would have returned to the Church had Francis been Pope? 
(7) Do you think there is any possibility, however faint, that Pope Francis might be right after all on the issue of whether some Catholic couples who have divorced and remarried are eligible to receive Communion, even though their current relationship is not a celibate one? 
For my part, I have very mixed feelings about Pope Francis' pronouncements over the years - some strike me as very charitable, others as confused. Nevertheless, I completely agree with you that Pope Francis needs to address the questions that have been put to him by the four cardinals. Cheers. 
December 19, 2016 at 7:13 AM 
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/12/denial-flows-into-tiber.html?showComment=1482160435622#c8190188148519856886
And here's a follow-up post in which Feser takes a tougher line:


Friday, January 20, 2017

Yes, Molina, There Could Have Been a Santa Claus

"Yes, Molina, There Could Have Been a Santa Claus" by Prof. James Anderson.

IS IT IMMORAL TO BELIEVE IN GOD?

http://www.equip.org/PDF/JAF7384.pdf

Celestial orphanage

Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated, and saved by Christ, through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth: so also are all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word (WCF 10:3).

i) From time to time I discuss the question of the salvation of those who die before the age of reason. I mention that presumably they continue to mature psychologically in the afterlife. Now I'd like to flesh out the "logistics" of how that might occur. Obviously, what I say will be speculative. However, the speculation is an extension of things we know.

ii) In this post I'll confine myself to heaven for those who die before the age of reason. By "heaven", I mean the intermediate state for the saints. A disembodied condition for those dying in a state of grace. 

iii) The Bible contains visions of heaven. Now, these may be symbolic, so that doesn't necessarily tell us what heaven is really like. Perhaps, though, the question of what heaven is really like might be the wrong way to frame the issue. It's like asking what a dream is really like. To take a comparison, consider the Colonial or Antebellum squares in Savanna, Georgia. We can say what these are really like because they are physical spaces with physical objects (e.g. trees, buildings). They have an objective, durable subsistence. Trees and buildings are located in relation to each other in fixed positions. 

By contrast, I think heaven is like a very vivid, inspired collective dream. A dream has a simulated setting (dreamscape). The dreamer has a simulated body. Other characters in the dream have simulated bodies.

By the same token, people in heaven can have simulated bodies. And that's consistent with heavenly visions in Scripture. Likewise, heaven can have a simulated landscape, or cityscape, or seascape, &c. Heaven can be compartmentalized into a variety of different settings. There's no one way it has to be. 

iv) Apropos (iii), children die in different historical periods. They die in different countries and ecoregions. Some live around mountains, or rivers, or lakes, or oceans, or jungles, or forests, or deserts, or cities, or villages, &c. Some died in the Ice Age. Some died in the ancient Near East. Some died in the Middle Ages. Some died in the 20C. And so on. 

v) Let's pick an age group out of thin air for illustrative purposes: say children between 5-10 years of age. Let's say they go to heaven when they die. 

If heaven has simulated spaces and places, they might to go a "part" of heaven that resembles the time and place they're familiar with. If, however, they grew up in a slum (to take one example), they'd go to a much nicer place. Maybe urban or rural. 

Or childreen might go to a playground or amusement park. Or a meadow. They might live in simulated houses. There might be simulated wild animals as well as simulated pet dogs and cats and horses and whatever. The possibilities are endless.

vi) Children in heaven might be grouped according to age, language, culture, and ethnicity. At least initially. By that I mean, suppose you had pre-Columbian children who lived and died in the Amazon River basin. Maybe in heaven they are grouped together because they have so much in common, which eases the transition. That makes it less initially disorienting. But as they mature, they can branch out to explore other parts of heaven. Meet other kids (now teenagers) from different times and places. 

Or maybe communication is telepathic, so they don't need to speak the same language. 

vii) Heaven is full of men and women who died as adults. Men and women who were parents and grandparents in this life. They could be foster parents to the children. Not only do they have experience in child-rearing, but in heaven they are sinless. They aren't under the stress of life in a fallen world. So they could do a better job of parenting than they did in this life.

On this view, children could mature very normally, because their (simulated) physical and social environment is similar to what they knew before they died, only so much better.  

In the case of children who had a Christian parent or parents, they will be reunited with their parents when their parents die. But at that point they will be grown children. 

viii) Maybe children in heaven interact with angels. In addition, perhaps they get to meet Jesus or even see him on a regular basis. Although Jesus is physical, he can interface with disembodied souls the way a dreamer has a simulated body that enables him to interact with the dreamscape or dream characters. And because it's simulated space, he can be in two or more places at once.

ix) Their education could be individualized in a way that isn't feasible on earth. 

x) Perhaps they can do things in heaven, like flying, that we can only do in dreams. Likewise, skindiving without having to breathe. 

xi) On earth, children pass through adolescence. Hormones not only change them physically, but psychologically. Will there be something analogous to that in heaven? Hard to say. Perhaps that awaits the resurrection of the body.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Living under an unfit president

I'll make a few comments on this:


I agree with most of what Piper says. In addition, just because Trump won doesn't mean Christians should instantly fall in line. We need to maintain our standards. We need to maintain our distance. 

That said, there are some odd things about Piper's lengthy statement. I agree with him that Hillary's position on abortion is morally disqualifying. That, however, is an understatement. There's a long list of things that make Hillary morally unfit to be president. 

Conspicuous by its absence was any reference to the outgoing president and his lawless administration. Surely Obama was morally unfit to be president. So was Bill Clinton. So was LBJ. So was JFK. So was Nixon. 

Moreover, whatever we might say about his personal morality, Jimmy Carter lacked the wisdom to lead the nation or the free world. 

Which makes me ask: does Piper have a policy of speaking out on the moral fitness of a US President, or is he making an exception in Trump's case? 

On a related note, isn't this a day late and a dollar short? Why not express his public disapproval during the primary season? Why wait until the game is over? It's way too late to change the numbers on the scoreboard. 

Finally, public figures rarely make good role models. It's misplaced idealism to have any expectation to the contrary.

Devil may care

For reference, here's Lieberman's background:


LIEBERMAN: I’ve never believed in ghosts or that stuff, but I’ve had a couple of cases, one in particular that really just gave me pause. This was a young girl, in her 20s, from a Catholic family in Brooklyn, and she was referred to me with schizophrenia, and she definitely had bizarre and psychotic-like behavior, disorganized thinking, disturbed attention, hallucinations, but it wasn’t classic schizophrenic phenomenology. And she responded to nothing,” he added with emphasis. “Usually you get some response. But there was no response. We started to do family therapy. All of a sudden, some strange things started happening, accidents, hearing things. I wasn’t thinking anything of it, but this unfolded over months. One night, I went to see her and then conferred with a colleague, and afterwards I went home, and there was a kind of a blue light in the house, and all of a sudden I had this piercing pain in my head, and I called my colleague, and she had the same thing, and this was really weird. The girl’s family was prone to superstition, and they may have mentioned demon possession or something like that, but I obviously didn’t believe it, but when this happened I just got completely freaked out. It wasn’t a psychiatric disorder—you want to call it a spiritual possession, but somehow, like in The Exorcist, we were the enemy. This was basically a battle between the doctors and whatever it was that afflicted the individual.

ME: Do you completely disregard the idea of possession?

LIEBERMAN: No. There was no way I could explain what happened. Intellectually, I might have said it’s possible, but this was an example that added credence.

Aristotle's naval battle

Dale Tuggy's primary objection to the Trinity is that it (allegedly) violates the logical law of identity. However, one problem with his objection is that Tuggy is an open theist. 

Open theism raises ancient philosophical questions, stretching back to Aristotle's naval battle, about whether propositions regarding the future (or future contingents) have truth value. There are two, perhaps related, issues:

i) In open theism, there is no actual future. The future does not yet exist (pace the B-theory of time).

ii) There is no one future. Rather, there are multiple possible futures. No particular alternate timeline is privileged in advance. 

Considered either in isolation or combination, that raises the question of whether an open theist can make true statements about "the future". 

If the outcome is open-ended until it eventuates, can statements about "the future" be either true or false? Like Schrödinger's cat, it could go either way.  

That's not a problem for Calvinism. A Calvinist could be an A-theorist about time. Even if the future isn't real (as of yet), the future is still determinate. But in open theism, the future is indeterminate. 

Some philosophers attempt to circumvent the problem by denying the law of bivalence. They espouse multivalent logic, viz. Łukasiewicz.

Perhaps that's Tuggy's position. If so, where does that leave his logical objection to the Trinity? 

Stuck in a rut

I just noticed that last week, apostate unitarian Dale Tuggy attempted to critique one of my posts:


As best I can tell, he’s never really had a developed view of the matter. 

I've presented detailed models of my position. Dale's problem is that he can't adapt to categories outside his blinkered repertoire of conceptual resources. 

Unfortunately, these aren’t sufficient for a trinitarian theology.

I never suggested otherwise. To the contrary, I prefaced that as a "crude" formulation. Why is Dale forever unable to follow the trail of bread crumbs?

One can easily interpret these sentences in a unitarian way, or in a modalist / Oneness way. Where’s the tripersonal god part? (He’s assuming that i-v imply it… but just look at them!)

I'm sorry, but Dale comes across as a incorrigibly dim. My purpose is to present that crude formulation as a foil. As it stands, that formulation is inadequate. That's a given. That's the point. It requires further explication and clarification. Why is Dale forever unable to follow the trail of bread crumbs? 

So i-v seem contradictory on the assumption I start this paragraph.

Now he's paraphrasing what I said, as if he uncovered something. As if he exposed something I didn't intend to say. Which, typical of Dale, misses the point. 

And that assumption is implied my trinitarian traditions on which each “Person” alone “is God” or is fully divine, e.g. the “Athanasian” creed.

Except that "is God" and "is fully divine" aren't interchangeable ideas, although they are certainly related ideas. 

BTW a mere verbal contradiction (e.g. “I’m tired but I’m not”) isn’t the same as a formal contradiction (e.g. P and not-P). The first is supposed to have to do with the surface, grammatical structure, while the latter is supposed to be about the deep or true formal structure of the propositions expressed.

Actually, I was using "formal" in implicit contrast to "material". A "material" contradiction would be substantive, whereas a "formal" contradiction is merely verbal–like a rhetorical paradox (e.g. "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there").

But I think he’s gesturing at the point that not every apparent (formal) contradiction really is one…

Correct, although I wasn't "gesturing" at that. 

This move, I think, is confused. “Divinity” is not a meaning of “God” by itself. Rather, “is God” can express “is divine.”

True to form, Dale utterly misses the point. As an abstract noun, "God" is qualitative; as a concrete noun, "God" is quantitative. 

I never suggested "divinity" is a meaning of "God" by itself. Rather, I pointed out that "God" can have more than one meaning. For instance, the difference between "God" as an abstract noun and "God" as a concrete noun. 

But Dale never misses a chance to miss the point. Forever stuck in a rut. 

The Son, etc. can’t be numerically identical to a property.

Beside the point. Divinity is what the persons share in common, not what differentiates them.

Moreover, divinity is only "a property" in the sense that it's a singular noun. But, of course, singular nouns can function as collective nouns, &c. "Divinity" in the sense of the divine nature is an umbrella term for a set of attributes.

i) There is one God.

ii) The Father is divine.

iii) The Son is divine.

iv) The Spirit is divine.

v) The Father is not the Son, &c.

Has this eliminated any appearance of incoherence? No!


To the contrary, that clearly eliminates the "appearance" of incoherence. 

But then ii-iv entail that each is a god. 

No, it entails that each person has the divine nature or divine attributes. 

Finally, Steve admits what I pointed out at the start – that i-v don’t fully express any trinitarian theology.

Notice that Dale has things backwards. He writes as if I'm responding to something he wrote, when he's responding to something I wrote.