Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sedevacantism and atheism

Paradoxically, one way to expose inconsistencies in a belief-system is to try to be consistent within that paradigm. Occasionally you have atheists who try to take naturalism to a logical extreme. Their effort to be ruthlessly consistent with the implications of naturalism exposes strains and self-negations within naturalism. 

In that respect, sedevacantism is similar. In a sense, the sedevacantist is more consistent than a post-Vatican II Catholic. But his effort to be faithful to the entirety of Catholic tradition unwittingly illustrates the incoherence of Catholic tradition overall. The Catholic paradigm is fundamentally flawed, and over time that becomes increasingly evident. Little seminal errors snowball. The belief system pulls in opposing directions. 

Puzzles of identity

Unitarian propagandists like Dale Tuggy act as though numerical identity presents a challenge unique to the Trinity. However, the relationship between personal identity and numerical identity is a source of ancient and perennial philosophical dispute. In that regard, the Trinity at best belongs to a family of similar puzzles. Insofar as there's a point of tension between personal identity and numerical identity, there are different strategies for broaching that issue. What gives? 

For instance, can the same object have incompatible properties? If an object undergoes change, it has incompatible properties at different times. But in that case, what makes it the same object? Or is it the same object?

Am I the same individual I was yesterday? Due to successive thoughts, my mental state is never the same from one minute to the next. 

Likewise, is it meaningful to speculate on what might have been? How would I be different if I was an orphan? Or if I am an orphan, how would I be different if I wasn't an orphan? 

By the same token, how do we finessed the mind/body problem? 

i) Most thinkers take personal identity as fundamental. If that's in tension with numerical identity, they make necessary adjustments to numerical identity. 

ii) Some thinkers like Hume and Buddhists relieve the point of tension by denying personal identity. They take the radical step of denying one side of the tension. That resolves the puzzle, but at a high cost, by relocating difficulty. 

iii) Some thinkers like McTaggart and Gödel relieve the point of tension by denying the reality of time and change. They take the radical step of denying another side of the tension. That resolves the puzzle, but at a high cost, by relocating the difficulty.

iv) Or take the vexed question of transworld identity. Some thinkers relieve the tension by denying the truth-value of counterfactuals. They take the radical step of denying one side of the tension. That resolves the puzzle, but at a high cost, by relocating the difficulty. 

v) Some thinkers resolve the mind/body problem by denying consciousness. They take the radical step of dyeing one side of the tension. That resolves the puzzle, but at a high cost, by relocating the difficulty. 

When it comes to the Trinity, I'm not doing anything unusual. I'm making the same move most thinkers make in relation to other puzzles regarding numerical identity. There's nothing exceptional about the Trinity in that regard. 

By contrast, unitarians like Tuggy are opting for the radical, eccentric strategy of Hume, Buddhists, McTaggart, and eliminative materialists by denying one side of the (alleged) tension. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Concrete beings

Once again, apostate Dale Tuggy saddles up Rocinante, in a jousting match with windmills:

As I (and many) use the term, “abstract” beings are by definition causally inert – they can’t be causes. Hays holds that each of these intentionally act, purposefully cause, so they must be “concrete” and not abstract. And for him, certainly, they are individual beings, not mere properties, events, states of affairs, numbers, sets, concepts, etc. 

i) Dale is confusing abstractness with Platonic realism, which is but one version of abstractness. By contrast, I'm using abstractness in the sense of what is timeless, spaceless, and multiply-instantiable. And it's easy for me to document that usage. 

In my view, God is timeless and spaceless. Moreover, some divine attributes (communicable attributes) are multiply-instantiable. 

ii) "Abstract" and "concrete" are mutually defining, as antonyms. Here's how one noted metaphysician defines concrete particulars:

They are all things that cannot be exemplified, but they all have or exemplify many attributes. Furthermore, they are things with temporally bounded careers: they come into existence at a time, they exist for a certain stretch of time, and then they pass out of existence at a time. Accordingly, they are all contingent beings, things that exist, but whose nonexistence is possible. They are also things whose temporal careers involve alteration or change: at different times in their careers they have different and incompatible attributes. They are also things that have, at each moment in their careers, a determinate position in space, and unless they are physical simples, they have physical parts that otherwise occupy a determinate region of space M. Loux, Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction (Routledge, third ed., 2006), 85. 

For this reason, I deny that God or divine persons are "concrete beings". Trinitarian persons aren't property-instances. Trinitarian persons lack a spatial and temporal mode of subsistence. Trinitarian persons aren't contingent entities whose nonexistence is possible. Rather, they exist necessarily. 

As a unitarian open theist and temporalist, Dale has a radically different concept of God than I have, but he's not entitled to foist his definition onto me. I reserve the right to define my own position. And I'm using standard definitions. 

(Never mind that Jesus was obviously in both time and space – that’s another post…)

That's so grossly simplistic. The body of Jesus subsists in time and space, the soul of Jesus subsists in time but not in space–while the divine nature or Son subsists outside of time and space. That may not be Dale's position, but that's my position. 

Right. So the “Persons” are in some sense parts or components of the Trinity, but are not parts of it like my body has parts. As you said, “The one God consists of three persons.”

That's such an uncouth notion of parts. It's like saying the Mandelbrot set has parts, or the number Pi has parts, or modus ponens has parts. 

Ironically, Dale's position is the mirror-image of Thomistic simplicity, according to which, for God not to have parts, he can't have any internal differentiation. Each attribute must be identical with every other attribute. But when we're referring to timeless, spaceless minds, the notion of parts has become so attenuated, so far removed from the original physical frame of reference, that it's worse than useless. 

Right – these “members of the Godhead” are thinking, conscious beings. In Cartesian terms, minds or souls, non-physical entities or beings or (as he says) “individuals” which have mind and will, able to intentionally act. Yep – beings! Three powerful realities, the sort I call “selves.”

Dale is too nearsighted to realize that I could easily recast my position in terms of "being". It's no contradiction to say God is one being and three beings, since "being" has both quantitative and qualitative senses. Dale can't anticipate how his own usage may be turned against his position. 

Now let’s get more specific. What else are each one of these three beings, in his view? Divine. What is the noun for a “divine being” or “being which is divine.” It is: “god.” Hence, his view is that “the Godhead” are three gods. His reply? It doesn’t matter, of course, whether tritheist Hays calls them “gods.” His Trinity theory straightforwardly implies that they are.

Once again, Dale is hopelessly simpleminded. Even if we went with the noun "god", there are, as I've pointed out on more than one occasion, different kinds of nouns: abstract, concrete, proper, common. 

In what sense, in his words, is he calling each of them “divine”?

By “divine” I mean having all the divine attributes.

Right – essential, defining features which any god must have, such as omnipotence and omniscience and eternity and uncreatedness. We get it. Whatever has all the features essential to being a god, is by definition a god.

Invalid inference. The persons of the Godhead don't each have a separate package of divine attributes, as if they instantiate a common nature. 

If A is a god, and B is a god, and they’re not the same god, yes, it does follow that A and B are different gods.

Which only follows from Dale's tendentious usage. He's shouting at himself in the bathroom mirror. 

Now it occurs to tritheist Steve to solve his problem by saying that only the Trinity is a god…

I said the Trinity is God, not the Trinity is a god. And that's something I've said for years now. 

so that none of the persons is a god, none of them is fully divine. Our tritheist needs to go back to the drawing-board, it would seem. 

Notice how Dale's mind works. He's incapable of addressing a contrary position on its own terms. Instead, he replaces the actual position with his counterfeit, then proceeds to disprove the counterfeit.  

He’s just denied the third claim in his own summary of his Trinity theory. It does work, to escape the tritheism of this theory, to switch to the view that only the Trinity is a god, though none of the “Persons” is a god. (Like me, then, he’d be denying that there are three fully divine).

Notice how Dale is utterly unable to distinguish what I actually said from his proxy.  

For those keeping an eye on the Bible – he’s now in the teeth of the NT, which plainly teaches that the Father is the one true God (i.e. the only god), and so implies that he must have all the features necessary for full divinity. Unfortunately, Hays (if he really commits to this escape), has demoted the Father to somewhat less than full divinity, in order to elevate the Trinity to unique and full divinity.

Isn't that droll? He asserts his unitarian interpretation of the NT, then imputes to me the consequences of denying the implications of his unitarian interpretation if that were true. Dale is such a bungler. A elementary qualification for a competent philosopher is having the critical detachment to differentiate his own position from opposing positions. But Dale chronically reframes the opposing position in terms of his own paradigm, then objects to the implications of the repacked position. But he's commenting on a bastardized position that isn't consistently his own position or the opposing position. It isn't possible to have a constructive exchange with an interlocutor as dense as Dale. 

Hays hopes that the three gods’ mental access to each others’ minds will somehow help, somehow breaking down the “dichotomy” that separates one mind from another. But still, his scenario of all-around telepathic access is described by him as involving three minds, each had by a different thinking being. So it seems to get nowhere.

Actually, I didn't say the Trinitarian persons have telepathic access to each other's minds. Rather, I used a comparison to establish a point of principle.

In ordinary human terms, three human minds are three self-contained minds, independent of each other. So that would be three different "beings". 

If, however, we consider the thought-experiment of total telepathy, then three minds blend into each other. At that juncture, the hardline distinction between three different "beings" begins to dissolve. On that thought-experiment, where does one mind end and another mind begin? Dale constantly resorts to simplistic false dichotomies. 

In my second post, I offered him an inconsistent triad, inviting him to explain which he denies and why. He declines to give a answer (despite his move above in the direction of denying 3). Instead, he concocts some sci-fi scenarios, and asks how they relate to my structurally parallel triad of claims, about dogs rather than gods.

He doesn’t say what his point is. Is it that he, absurdly, thinks that the three claims could all be true? Or is he trying to argue that we should doubt our judgment that they can’t all be true?

It’d be fun to discuss time travel and “parallel universes” some time, but I think here they’re a distraction from that fact that our tritheist needs to respond to this inconsistent triad

i) Philosophers routinely use science fiction scenarios to model philosophical issues.

ii) Dale's "inconsistent triad" is predicated on a rigid notion of numerical identity, but I'm presenting counterexamples–which he ignores rather than refutes. 

His desire to shift the conversation to sci-fi scenaries shows that he may not realize the weight of my point that the mere structure of these claims renders them such that they can’t all be true. 

To the contrary, Dale is laboring to shift the conversation from content to empty structure. But that fails, as my counterexamples illustrate. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

The incredible shrinking One True Church®

I’m sorry to inform you that my talks on “Clearing Up the Confusion and Controversy Concerning the Current Catholic Crisis” scheduled to take place Thursday night (May 24) at the Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City and Friday night (May 25) at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Mission Viejo have been forced to be CANCELED, with deep regret, due to inadequate numbers of pre-registrations. (The cancelation of Thursday's talk was already announced here yesterday.)

As I stated on my website (www.gerrymatatics/org), my public figure Facebook page (, and the hundreds of emails I sent out to everyone on my mailing list in California for whom I had an email address before leaving on my trip, any location that had received less than 25 pre-registrations by 48 hours before the scheduled time for the talk would unfortunately be canceled, so that the hotel would not charge me for the rental of the meeting space.

By their respective deadlines -- Tuesday night for the talks scheduled for Thursday, and last night (Wednesday) for Friday's talk -- we had not even achieved half the necessary number of pre-registrants, and are therefore forced to cancel.

Although deeply disappointed, I'm not entirely surprised.

Scripture repeatedly reminds us that the last days prior to Christ's return would witness a nearly universal apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3: the Greek word "apostasy" means both a "rebellion against" and a "falling away from" the true Catholic Faith) -- a disguised apostasy masquerading as a "modernized" Catholicism.

Even Vatican II "bishops" like (to name but two among many) Cardinal Burke and Bishop René Gracida -- the latter was one of dozens of cardinals, archbishops, and bishops I met and from whom I received glowing endorsements in my pre-sedevacantist days; he, like all the others, had me speak in his cathedral and elsewhere in his diocese of Corpus Christi --have been ever-so-slowly waking up to the fact that what "Pope" Francis is pushing is "unrighteousness." In fact, "Bishop" Gracida has even publicly stated that Francis' election may have been uncanonical, meaning that he is an antipope that should be removed from office. Imagine that!

The uncanonical and unCatholic rot, however, goes much deeper than merely the latest usurper of St. Peter's see -- as if removing Francis from office would thereby remove the cancer of counterfeit Catholicism from the Body of Christ! The rot goes back to Vatican II itself, with its false doctrines previously authoritatively condemned by the magisterium. It goes back to its sacrilegious "New Mass," its radically tampered-with (and probably invalidated, for the most part) sacraments, its immoral New Code of Canon Law, its new interfaith and syncretistic orientation.

People are understandably threatened by a talk which is able to demonstrate that the so-called "Second Vatican Council" is not in fact a valid council; that they ought not to be attending the New Mass, or even the so-called "Tridentine Mass" (nearly always the unauthorized 1962 revision thereof by demonstrable antipope John XXIII) when offered by priests of the diocese or religious orders accepting Vatican II, or the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, or the Society of Saint Pius X, -- or even when offered by "sedevacantist" clergy like those of the Society of Saint Pius V, the CMRI, etc etc.

When I expound these facts in my talks, people are understandably upset by the prospect that the billion-plus people belonging to the church of which Francis is the head (i.e., the Vatican II counterfeit church) -- or even the many tens of thousands who frequent the traditionalist chapels around the world professing to carry on "traditional Catholicism" -- may not in fact constitute the true Church in our day, as they would prefer to think they do.

But, unlike the modernist Scripture scholars whom the Vatican authorizes to teach previously-condemned views throughout the Vatican II church, I cannot change the teaching of Sacred Scripture, nor the many undeniable evidences of Vatican II's betrayal of Catholic tradition. I cannot change the truth. Nor will I water down or compromise my Catholic convictions in order to increase the popular appeal of my talks so as to be able to draw a greater number of listeners.
In Christ our Risen King and Mary Our Queen Mother,
Gerry Matatics

Reading Genesis Well

This should be the best exegetical defense of old-earth creationism:

Wasting seed

Gen 38:8-10 is a traditional prooftext against "artificial" contraception (and masturbation). But what exactly is Onan's sin? According to one interpretation, "wasting seed" is a grave or mortal sin. To put this in Thomistic natural law terms, "wasting seed" thwarts the natural telos of seminal fluid. There are, however, problems with that interpretation:

i) V9 adds a qualification. Not merely "wasting his seed", but for a particular reason. So intent is a necessary condition.

ii) If wasting seed per se is sinful, then that drastically restricts licit sexual intercourse. Having intercourse with a postmenopausal wife is "wasting seed". Having intercourse with a manifestly pregnant woman is "wasting seed".

Even during ovulation, only one, or rarely, two sperm will be able to fertilize the ovum. Most sperm are "wasted". They never reach the goal. 

iii) Ironically, if wasting seed per se is sinful, then this is a prooftext against "natural family planning". The husband is deliberately wasting his seed by intentionally limiting intercourse to infertile periods during his wife's cycle. By design, the couple is frustrating the natural teleology of semen.  A calculated effort to subvert and circumvent the biological goal of seminal fluid. What could be more wasteful than that? So this is a highly counterproductive text to defend "natural family planning" as the licit alternative to "artificial" contraception. 

The next world

9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” (Gen 37:9-10). 

Scholars find the reference to Joseph's mother puzzling since by then she had died in childbirth (Gen 36:16-20). One explanation is that Jacob is referring to a female relative (e.g.Leah, Bilhah) who assumed the maternal mantle.

Perhaps, though, Jacob doesn't assume that Joseph's dream must come true in this life. Perhaps he's thinking of a reunion in the afterlife.  

It's natural for commentators to interpret the dream in light of subsequent developments in the Joseph Cycle, but Jacob didn't have that retrospective frame of reference. And even if the dream is largely fulfilled in Joseph's lifetime, that doesn't preclude a fulfillment extending beyond this life. Unlike Jacob, his mother died before having a chance to see what he did as an adult. A family reunion in the world to come would round that out. 

Perhaps, then, Jacob's statement bears witness to patriarchal belief in life after death. If the terms of the dream can't be completely realized in this life, then that carries over into the next world. 

Golden parachute

Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler collaborated to reclaim the SBC from liberal drift. That's been more successful at the level of SBC seminaries than colleges. 

Unfortunately, there's a historical pattern of insurgents who become (or always were) as corrupt as those they supplant. Turning parts of the SBC into personal fiefdoms and piggybanks for self-aggrandizement. That happened at First Baptist Dallas under W. A. Criswell, as documented by Joel Gregory, and it's happened again under the tenure of Paige Patterson at SWBTS:

A subplot in this squalid drama is whether Pressler is a closet sodomite who hit on men:

If so, did Patterson cover for him over the years? 

Trinity undefeated

Apostate Dale Tuggy attempted to critique my position:

I have often pointed out how, in his heresy hunting adventures, he nearly always skates by without actually taking a stand for any Trinity theory. Happily, he has decided to pony up, saying just what the thinks “the doctrine of the Trinity” is.

I've indirectly stated my position many times, but in response to unitarianism, rather than a stand-alone piece. 

The Strength Of The New Testament Text Without First-Century Manuscripts

There's been a lot of discussion lately about the fragment of Mark that some people had dated to the first century. It's important to keep in mind how much evidence we have for the New Testament text even without any first-century manuscripts. That includes a lot of evidence that's seldom discussed (how the transmission of the documents would have been monitored by the authors, corroboration of the text from early non-Christian sources, etc.). See here.

Definitive report on the “First Century Gospel of Mark”

Update: an earlier version of this article had noted that Brill Publishing played a role in establishing the identity of this manuscript fragment; it has been updated to note that the overseeing publisher is the Egypt Exploration Society. In addition, the image has been removed at the request of the publisher (via Mr. Hixson).

In addition, there is a large and growing comments thread at the Hixson blog post that offers far more relevant detail about the history and ownership of the fragment than I can provide here. In short:

The EES (Egypt Exploration Society) confirms that the Mark fragment comes from Grenfell and Hunt’s excavation at Oxyrhynchus, probably in 1903 (on the basis of the inventory number), and that it has never been for sale, whatever claims may have been made arising from individual conversations in the past.

* * *

Daniel Wallace and Elijah Hixson (and the publisher of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, the Egypt Exploration Society) have confirmed that the papyrus fragment that has at various times in the past been reported as “the First Century Gospel of Mark” (by Wallace himself and Josh McDowell) has actually been confirmed to be a “(later) second or (earlier) third century” fragment of the Gospel of Mark.

From the Hixson article:
In summary, it looks very much like:
* FCM (the “First Century of Mark Fragment”) is finally being published as P.Oxy. LXXXIII 5345.
* The fragment is very small. It has only parts of six verses from Mark 1.
* The fragment tells us nothing about the famous textual variants in Mark 1:1, Mark 1:41 or the Ending of Mark.
There’s more intrigue in the articles, but a lot of the rest of it is not so spectacular.

While there is some disappointment that it’s not the first-century fragment that was reported, it is still the earliest (or one of the two earliest) fragments of the Gospel of Mark that is available.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The invisible security guard

Imagine you are a woman who is told your apartment [is] protected by an invisible security guard. An intruder breaks into your apartment and rapes you. The guard is nowhere to be found. You ask the landlord, "Where as your security guard? Either he doesn't exist or is weak or evil or incompetent."

One of your neighbors studies 'invisible scrutiny guard apologetics'. He overhears your conversation. He says, "But if a-guardism is true, there is no security guard. You can't consistently argue against the guard's existence without presupposing his existence."

If you understood why his answer to you completely misses the point, you'll understand why it misses the point for theists to claim that the atheistic argument from evil presupposes theism".

i) This is a hobbyhorse of Jeff Lowder. His point is that an atheist can deploy the argument from evil even if the atheist denies moral realism. In that case, the argument from evil will take the form of an internal critique. Showing that theism or Christianity in particular is inconsistent on its own grounds.

ii) That's technically true, but there's the question of why a moral nihilist cares about the problem of evil. If there are no epistemic duties, why is it important to disprove Christianity?

iii) In addition, an atheist who deploys the argument from evil assumes a burden of proof. Since he's raising the objection, he shoulders a burden of proof to make an argument. Moreover, he needs to take standard Christian theodicies into consideration, and show how those are wanting. It's up to him to make the first move. It's not incumbent on the Christian to recycle standard Christian theodicies. Since those are already on the table, an atheist needs to build that into his initial formulation.

In fairness, that doesn't mean a Christian apologist has no corresponding burden of proof. But an atheist can't shift the burden of proof onto the Christian by simply exclaiming, "How can an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God permit evil!" Atheists are often lazy in that regard.

iv) The parallel is ill-conceived. If you posit that the apartment is protected by an invisible security guard, then that's his sole job, so if the tenant is attacked, then on the face of it "either he doesn't exist or is weak or evil or incompetent." But the comparison breaks down since protecting humans from harm is not God's only job. Unlike the security guard, God may have a number of priorities. So the analogy is vitiated by disanalogies.

v) And even on its own terms, maybe the security guard was sick that day. Maybe his car broke down. Maybe the landlord failed to get a temporary substitute. Or maybe the security guard had a family crisis which took precedence over his day job. Invisibility doesn't make him omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. So that's a very poor example to illustrate the point.

Putting "1C fragment of Mark" in perspective

Gag rule

The debacle about the "1C fragment of Mark" raises questions about the wisdom and ethics of nondisclosure agreements in scholarship. How widespread is this practice? Is there a danger that scholars will be required to sign nondisclosure agreements to function in the guild? What if a scholar signs a nondisclosure agreement, then has second thoughts or changes his mind as he becomes aware of new evidence, but is not at liberty to publicly revise his position due to the gag rule? 

This damages Wallace's credibility while giving Bart Ehrman an unmerited boost:

Craig Evans put his reputation on the line as well:

Evans spearheaded a Fragments of Truth documentary. Does the "1C fragment of Mark" figure in that documentary? 

Murder mystery

Some folks love reading murder mysteries. Swiss-Reformed theologian Roger Nicole was a big fan of murder mysteries. I don't read murder mysteries, although I've seen my share of movies and TV dramas based on the genre.

In general, the challenge of a murder mystery is to make the real killer a plausible candidate, so that when he's finally identified, that will be logical, but to throw readers off the scent by making other characters appear to be more plausible candidates. Sometimes the writer makes the reader initially focus on the real killer, to eliminate him from further consideration. Other characters are decoys, false leads, to confuse the reader. Distract the reader from the identity of the real killer.

Columbo was an exception to the formula. Each episode began by showing the crime in progress, so the audience knew the identity of the killer from the get-go. The fun part was the cat and mouse game between Columbo and the killer.

One variation on the murder mystery is where it's not just a past event, but an ongoing threat. For instance, you may have group of friends or classmates who spend vacation on a remote resort island. That's only visited by boat once a week. After they're there, there's a power outage, so they can't contact the mainland. It then turns out that there's a serial killer on the island. Is he from the island, or is he a member of their group? 

They begin to suspect each other. And they begin to reflect on motives. Did they mistreat a member of their party which would motivate him or her to exact revenge? Candidates for the killer are eliminated by process because they die! Increasingly intense when it's down to three survivors. When it's down to two, the remaining characters know who the killer is, since one of them is the killer, and one of them is not–although the audience may not yet know. 

In a well-written Whodunit, once the reader learns the identity of the real killer, that forces him to revise his interpretation. He had a shifting interpretation as he was reading the story (or watching the movie), but now that he knows where the truth lies, that causes him to reinterpret the story from the outset. He can now see how his first impressions were mistaken. Reaching the end requires him to reconsider the beginning, reconsider each step leading up to the end. For the ending may revolutionize what he thought the prior action was leading up to. 

Some Bible stories are like a Whodunit. Job is a classic example. The reader knows something Job doesn't. Same thing in Exodus, where the reader knows something Pharaoh doesn't. 

Likewise, in Gen 22, the reader is told that this is a test. But Abraham doesn't know that. He's in the dark. 

God's command to Abraham is a temporary deception. Isaac is never actually in danger, but for the test to be effective, Abraham must believe that everything is on the line. The stakes couldn't be higher. Structurally, it's like a murder mystery where the truth is postponed through misdirection. 

Sometimes the walk of faith is like a Whodunit. Deliberately confounding. It may only be at the end that it all falls into place. And that will force us to rethink everything that happened before. Maybe we thought we knew what it meant, or maybe it seemed to be pointless. But now it finally makes sense. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Who are the creationists?

MS-13 "animals"

i) Last week, Trump generated a keruffle by calling MS-13 gang members "animals". The media waxed indignant. This plays into Trump's hands. He says things normal people think, the media freaks out, which reinforces popular impression that the media is hopelessly out of touch with normal people. 

ii) Some critics object that calling MS-13 animals dehumanizes the gang members. However, the figurative use of animals in reference to humans imputes bestial traits to some humans. A moral analogy. It doesn't imply that they are actually subhuman, but that they kill without compunction, like savage animals. 

iii) It is, of course true, that humans are moral agents in a way that animals are not. Behavior that's immoral in humans is amoral in animals. That, however, is the point of the comparison. Some humans are so morally callous that they've become like animals in that regard. They have no conscience. 

iv) Of course, there's still a difference. Animals, however vicious, aren't sadistic, whereas MS-13 goes out of its way to be cruel. But that's pedantically parsing an offhand comment. 

v) Scripture uses animal metaphors or similes for humans. These may be metaphors with positive connotations (e.g. dove, lion), ambiguous connotations (e.g. sheep), or pejorative connotations (e.g. wolf, dog, snake, pig, cow).

vi) The reaction is ironic because we live in a time when progressives regard pets as people. When animals enjoy protections denied to babies. When evolutionary theory says humans are animals. So once again we witness the reflexive intellectual schizophrenia of so many pundits. 

Clustered miracles

Accounts of the virgin birth occur in two of the four Gospels. That's not surprising, considering the fact that only two of the four Gospels even have nativity accounts. 

The virgin birth has a litmus test of orthodoxy. Unbelievers regard the virgin birth has a transparent cover story for a prenuptial scandal. 

I presume most of Mary's relatives and neighbors were initially skeptical. But the credibility of the virgin birth doesn't occur in isolation. Suppose you were one of Mary's skeptical in-laws. You think she had premarital sex. Indeed, that's what Joseph thought. He intended to divorce her.

But then Joseph abruptly changes his mind. He tells you about a revelatory dream he had. 

Then Elizabeth becomes pregnant, even though she's well past childbearing years. After Zechariah recovers his speech, he talks about an angelic apparition. 

Then shepherds say angels appeared to them, heralding the birth of Jesus. 

Later, the Magi arrive. 

Maybe you notice the odd behavior of a "star". 

Then Joseph claims to have another revelatory dream, warning him of danger, so he skips town with Mary and the Christchild. Shortly thereafter, soldiers sent by Herod massacre all the young boys. 

Maybe you near rumors about Anna and Simeon in the Temple.

Finally, Jesus grows up to be a renown exorcist and miracle-worker.

Mary's explanation, which struck you as initially highly implausible, becomes highly plausible in light of so many other miracles clustering around the person of Jesus. 

Is Jesus Lady Wisdom?

“Pope Francis” Names 14 New Cardinals

“Pope Francis” has named 14 new Cardinals, 11 of whom are of voting age, and may vote for his “successor” in the event of the death of this current pope. For whom will they vote?

It is said that the Roman Catholic Church thinks in terms of centuries, not in years. So, we might consider that a lot of the bickering back-and forth among the Traditionist, conservative, and progressivist Roman Catholics is just so much tempest in a teapot – a lot of sound and fury, signifying absolutely nothing, because it’s “the Church” and especially “the Magisterium”, and especially “the Papal Magisterium” that sets the direction of things.

But that doesn’t mean that the current crop of Church officials won’t have their shorter-term agendas. As I’ve written before, “Pope Francis” is in a kind of horse race now, to have named enough Cardinals of his stripe, to assure the election of another liberal pope once he’s gone. Here’s what that looked like just about a year ago (May 25, 2017):

At the present time, the number of voting totals in the Ratzinger/Wojtyla block is 72 – there is no guarantee that all 72 of those would “vote conservative” in any event (many of them likely voted for Bergoglio in the first place – that’s how he won). On the other hand, the Bergoglio total is 44 now, going up to 49 by June 28. That’s a difference of only 23 in favor of the Ratzinger/Wojtyla side. Fully 30 of the voting-age Cardinals are 75 or older, which means that over the next five years, almost half of the Ratzinger/Wojtyla Cardinals will become ineligible to vote (at age 80).

The liberal-leaning “National Catholic Reporter” has helpfully given us the following tally:

The June 29 ceremony adding the new cardinals will mark the first time in his five-year papacy that Francis has appointed a plurality of the prelates who will one day choose who succeeds him as head of the global Catholic Church. After the ceremony, Francis will have named 59 of 125 cardinal electors. Forty-seven of the remaining electors were named by retired Pope Benedict XVI; 19 by John Paul II.

So that breaks out:




“Pope Francis”






As we can see, “Pope Francis” is still just about seven Cardinals behind – but again, as I’ve noted, there’s no guarantee that any of the 66 JP2+BXVI Cardinals wouldn’t have voted for him anyway.