Monday, May 25, 2015

Daniel Remains A Major Problem For Skeptics

In late 2014, Carol Newsom, an Old Testament scholar at Emory University and president of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2011, published a commentary on the book of Daniel (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014). She takes the position that's now the majority view on the dating of Daniel, placing the composition of the closing chapters of the book in the middle of the second century B.C. John Collins, one of the foremost Daniel scholars of our day, calls Newsom's work "the first major commentary on Daniel of the twenty-first century" (front flap).

I've read the introduction and some other portions of the commentary, but I haven't read the large majority of it. So, these are my tentative first impressions. But I found it striking that "the first major commentary on Daniel of the twenty-first century", written by such a prominent Old Testament scholar, published just recently and with all of the resources of a scholarly majority behind it, has to concede so much to a traditional dating of Daniel.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The shadow church


Some civil libertarians fear a shadow government. Catholics have a shadow church: lay Catholic apologists who assume the Magisterial role of doctrinal gatekeepers and theological police:
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The blogosphere as it functions in Catholicism today is an adversarial system.  It’s a mirror of our polarized Church and polarized culture, where you have the Optimates on one side, and the populares on the other; and those populares (whoever they may be) are vile, evil sick beings who must be destroyed.  Engaging in argument and debate is not for the enrichment of the Church as a whole, but for one group of Catholics to stomp out another, even (and especially!) if such discussions have nothing to do with orthodoxy or heresy.
They don’t exist to win converts, they exist to play to their bases and shore up support.  That every blog is not like this, and some blogs are great is irrelevant to the greater point that the problem is real.  Yet if the problem is real, individuals will often limit the problem to those people over there.  What is needed is a transformation of the blogosphere, and that will only happen once bloggers are willing to start calling out their allies for the same sins their foes commit.  So far, this is the exception, not the rule.
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And I use their [Catholic Answers] resource as well. But they've also gone out on a limb a few times and had to walk it back because they were playing orthodoxy cop and headhunting other Catholics when they really had no reason to be. (The "Radical Traditionalism" Radio segment in 2013 that blew up in their faces is just one example.)
They thrive off the adversarial mindset, and that holds back what is otherwise a fine apostolate. When you don't have a bogeyman to kick around, you can't succeed, so you gotta dream up new bogeymen. I just think it's time to try a different approach, one less corrosive and less "us vs them" when the "them" is often faithful Catholics.

How Bart Ehrman bungles the burial of Christ



Were Eyewitnesses Alive for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to Consult?

http://gregmonette.com/blog/post/question-were-eyewitnesses-alive-for-matthew-mark-luke-and-john-to-consult

A Wicked Generation Seeks a Sign: Catholics and Private Revelation

From a conservative Catholic site:

http://www.catholiclane.com/a-wicked-generation-seeks-a-sign-catholics-and-private-revelation/

The comments are revealing as well.

The virtue of suffering


This chapter is a mixed bag. It comes elements of the freewill defense, a natural law theodicy, and a soul-building theodicy. But there's good material. I've excerpted what I think are the best parts:


It was certainly the first question that occurred to me in 1987 when I was told that my beloved wife Melissa, 34 years old and the mother of our two small children (Chris and Kevin), had cancer of the nose and sinuses, and in 1990 when we discovered that the cancer had recurred.

The cancer recurred two months after this surgery and I was terribly depressed for many years after her death. Since I am a pretty logical person, it never occurred to me to ask “does God really exist?” but I certainly wondered, “is God really good?”

I think most people who claim not to believe in God, say this not because of any shortage of evidence for design in Nature, but because it is sometimes so hard to see evidence that God cares about us, and they prefer not to believe in God at all, than to believe in a God who doesn’t care.

A wonderful little article in UpReach [Nov-Dec 1984] by Batsell Barrett Baxter, entitled “Is God Really Good?” contains some insights into the “problem of pain”...“As I have faced the tragedy of evil in our world and have tried to analyze its origin, I have come to the conclusion that it was an inevitable accompaniment of our greatest blessings and benefits.” In his outline, Baxter lists some examples of blessings which have, as inevitable consequences, unhappy side effects.

Much of an individual’s suffering is the direct or indirect result of the actions or misfortunes of others. Much of our deepest pain is the result of loneliness caused by the loss of the love or the life of a loved one, or of the strain of a bad relationship. How much suffering could be avoided if only we were “islands, apart to ourselves.” Then at least we would suffer only for our own actions, and feel only our own misfortunes. The interdependence of human life is certainly the cause of much unhappiness.

Yet here again, this sorrow is the inevitable result of one of our greatest blessings. The pain which comes from separation is in proportion to the joy which the relationship provided. Friction between friends is a source of grief, but friendship is the source of much joy. Bad marriages and strained parent-child relationships are responsible for much of the unhappiness in the modern world, but none of the other joys of life compare to those which can be experienced in a happy home. Although real love is terribly hard to find, anyone who has experienced it— as I did for a few short years—will agree that the male- female relationship is truly a masterpiece of design, when it works as it was intended to work.

As Baxter writes, 
“I am convinced that our greatest blessings come from the love which we give to others and the love which we receive from others. Without this interconnectedness, life would be barren and largely meaningless. The avoidance of all contact with other human beings might save us some suffering, but it would cost us the greatest joys and pleasures of life.”

Nevertheless, we cannot help but notice that some suffering is necessary to enable us to experience life in its fullest, and to bring us to a closer relationship with God. Often it is through suffering that we experience the love of God, and discover the love of family and friends, in deepest measure. The man who has never experienced any setbacks or disappointments invariably is a shallow person, while one who has suffered is usually better able to empathize with others. Some of the closest and most beautiful relationships occur between people who have suffered similar sorrows.

Of course, beyond a certain point pain and suffering lose their positive value. Even so, the human spirit is amazing for its resilience, and many people have found cause to thank God even in seemingly unbearable situations. While serving time in a Nazi concentration camp for giving sanctuary to Jews, Betsie ten Boom [ten Boom 1971] told her sister, “We must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

In a letter to our children composed after she realized she had lost her battle with cancer, Melissa wrote:

While I no longer feel physically normal...in an odd sort of way, I feel even more human. I have seen and felt more suffering by myself and others around me in the last few years than I probably ever would have. I have seen children still in strollers hooked up to IV chemotherapy and young children, my own children’s ages, with monstrous tumors bulging from their necks. In the face of this unjust tragedy, they still had a sweet innocent smile on their faces. I have talked with young women and men my own age who are struggling with the reality of leaving their young children and spouses long before their responsibilities of parenthood are completed. 
I have also discovered a deepness in relationships with others that I probably never would have otherwise cultivated.... I have seen the compassion and love of others towards me. I have witnessed how good and true and caring the human spirit can be. I have learned much about love from others during these times.

We might add that not only the person who suffers, but also those who minister to his needs, are provided with opportunities for growth and development.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Desert storm


I grew up on the shores of a lake. The weather fronts were normally on-shore systems. I could see dark clouds massing and approaching from the other side of the lake. Weather systems came from the coast. From the ocean beyond. 

I later moved to a state on the Eastern seaboard with a subtropical climate. This produced spectacular thunderstorms.

In addition, the weather fronts were normally off-shore systems. I could see them rolling down from inland. 

Sometimes, when I was heading home, I could see the storm ahead of me. Thunderbolts striking the road. I was driving right into an electrical storm. It was exhilarating! 

The only question is whether I'd get back before I was overtaken by the storm. 

When I read Ezekiel's description of the theophany, that's what it reminds me of. At a distance, the theophany resembled a desert storm. At least it looked more like that than anything else which Ezekiel had ever seen. That was his only frame of reference. 

But as it drew closer, like entering a storm, it became apparent that this was no ordinary storm. 

In his commentary, Horace Hummel compares Ezekiel's description of his first encounter with his second encounter. The description of the theophany in his second encounter is more lucid. Hummel thinks Ezekiel was too stupefied the first time around to clearly express himself. 

He had never seen anything like that before. It was hard for him to distinguish details or find the words to say what he saw. 

That's very realistic. If the accounts of the theophany were just hallucinatory or literary constructs, we'd expect them to be consistent. But Ezekiel had to become accustomed to the strange sight. 

In Out of the Silent Planet, the Malacandran landscape is so alien to Ransom that he's initially disoriented. Like a blind man who just received his sight. It takes him a while to adjust. To make out shapes. To restore his sense of perspective. What is he seeing? Is it near or far?

That was Ezekiel's experience. Confronted by something so unfamiliar, otherworldly, he was almost speechless. It took him a while to process what he saw. 

Hostage situation


Living in a fallen world often confronts us with forced options. by that I mean, we didn't create the situation in which we find ourselves. We didn't choose the alternatives. We can only choose between the alternatives which the situation imposed on us. We can't avoid making a decision. Both action and inaction have consequences. Moreover, the opportunities are frequently unrepeatable, and the consequences irreversible. We won't get a chance to do it again, or undo it.  
That supplies a moral backdrop in the debate over prolife philosophy. Suppose terrorists take a class of first-graders hostage. They demand the release of a Latin American drug lord. They threaten to kill a child a day unless and until their demands are met.
There are no good options in that situation:
i) The drug lord is already responsible for countless atrocities. If he's freed, his cartel will continue to commit additional atrocities.
Moreover, we don't know for sure that the terrorists will honor their end of the bargain. 
ii) We could attempt to rescue the hostages. That, however, is a high-risk gambit. The terrorists may start shooting hostages at the first sign of the raid. 
The raid may save all the kids, some of the kids, or none of the kids. The terrorists may kill all the kids before the rescuers can neutralize the terrorists. There's no guarantee that the raid will save all the kids–or any kids. 
iii) We can fold our arms and let the terrorists to murder all the children because we imagine it's too morally compromising to soil our pristine hands with the unpalatable alternatives. Yet our puritanical inaction makes us morally complicit in a predictable and preventable massacre.

A raid may get all the hostages killed, but doing nothing will certainly get all of them killed.
In a fallen work, you make the best of a bad situation. 

Faint with fear


12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:12-17).
I'd like to give a bit more attention to the interpretation of this passage, in reference to Alan's post: 
i) What's the relationship between the initial earthquake and subsequent events? Is there a consistent cause-and-effect relationship? Does the earthquake directly trigger these events?
To a modern reader, there's no causal relationship between earthquakes and shooting stars. Perhaps, though, someone would argue that if ancient people believed in the three-story universe, then an earthquake might shake things loose from the sky. The land would be equivalent to the floor or foundation, and the sky to the roof or ceiling.
If so, one problem with that argument is that there's no correlation between earthquakes and shooting stars. Earthquakes occur without shooting stars and shooting stars occur without earthquakes. Ancient people were keen observers of the natural world. So there's no reason to think they'd connect the two. Indeed, there's reason to think they wouldn't connect the two, given the absence of any correlation. In their experience, earthquakes didn't trigger meteor showers. 
ii) There's the question of what the second clause in v14 envisions. With reference to mountains, it seems to suggest landslides. The earthquake leveled mountains.
Islands can also be shaken by earthquakes. Question is whether the verb means "moved" or "removed." As we know, earthquakes can generate tsunamis and tidal waves. It's possible that that's alluded to here, although text doesn't say that or imply that. 
Islands can also be susceptible to volcanic destruction. The Minoan eruption is a famous case. The Mt. Tabora eruption is another case in point. Likewise, the Krakatau eruption.  Once again, though, the text doesn't say that or imply that. It's just a wild guess. 
iii) Then there's the question of whether we should construe the imagery literally or figuratively. 
a) On the one hand, the OT records God using actual natural disasters in divine judgment. So it's certainly possible, perhaps even probable, that natural disasters will figure in the final judgment.
b) On the other hand, Beale has documented that stars, mountains, and islands can symbolize human and heavenly powers. In addition, the same end-of-the-world imagery recurs in subsequent chapters. But, of course, the world can only end once.
Furthermore, I assume any earthquake of sufficient magnitude to level mountain ranges would annihilate life on earth. 
c) In addition, v14 is literally inconsistent with vv15-16. If the earthquake leveled the mountains, then people couldn't take refuge in the mountains after the earthquake. By then the mountain ranges would be heaps of rubble. Vv15-16 presume that the mountains are still intact (pace v14). So the imagery is flexible.
d) However, it's possible that the choice between literal and metaphorical is a false dichotomy. Maybe the specific imagery is figurative, but that's used to as placeholders to indicate real natural disasters. In other words, perhaps the text employs stock imagery for natural disasters. These don't describe the natural disasters. Rather, they are conventional synonyms for natural disasters. Paradigm examples of familiar kinds of natural disasters. So there could be real natural disasters, but not necessarily the specific catastrophes denoted by the stock imagery.
It's hard to say if the language refers to actual physical cataclysms. Only time will tell.
iv) Contrary to Alan's interpretation, the text doesn't say the people were terrified by the natural disasters. Rather, they were terrified by Jesus returning in judgment. 
Indeed, they are so horrified by the prospect of facing him that they'd rather be buried alive in collapsing caves and crumbling mountains (cf. Lk 23:30). Although the natural disasters are undoubtedly horrendous, they pale in comparison with Jesus himself, as the eschatological judge.
v) Another problem with Alan's interpretation is that if these cascading disasters were triggered by volcanic activity, why would they head for the hills? Why take refuge in mountains to escape volcanic activity when volcanoes are mountains? Would they not be motivated to put as much distance as possible between themselves and nearby mountains or mountain ranges? Do people who fear the forest fire seek refuge in the forest? 
vi) Incidentally, both Aune and Koester document how Greco-Roman literature identified the solar/lunar imagery with solar/lunar eclipses, and attached ominous significance to these phenomena. So that would be a natural association for the original audience to make.

The Potential For Apologetics Is Enormous

I've cited polling showing that a majority of Americans can't name the four gospels. That's how ignorant they are of the Bible and related subjects. I've also cited polling showing how ignorant Americans are about homosexual issues, even as they're in the midst of changing their moral standards, altering marriage, and rearranging the legal landscape of the nation on those issues they're so ignorant about. Most Americans think homosexuals make up at least twenty percent of the population.

Those are just a couple of examples among many others that could be cited. (See the first link above for more examples.) One thing we should take away from such statistics is that most Americans ought to be highly persuadable on topics like these. Their beliefs aren't based on much. They haven't done much research. Their views can change rapidly and without much intellectual effort on the part of the people seeking to persuade them. On a lot of controversial issues, most Americans aren't prepared to put up much of a counterargument to the Christian position. Even among the minority of Americans who are more informed, there's a lot of ignorance. On many issues, being more informed than the average American isn't much of an accomplishment.

Changing people's views isn't just an intellectual matter. But it does involve the intellect, to different degrees with different individuals. And intellectual substance isn't all that moves people. So does intellectual reputation. If you don't put up much of an intellectual fight, people will doubt your position even if the evidence is on your side and even if they don't have much of an understanding of the issues involved. That's part of the reason why Christians and their allies have been losing the battle over homosexual issues. A small minority (e.g., Robert Gagnon, Michael Brown, James White) have addressed homosexual issues with a lot of depth and persistence, but the large majority of parents, churches, radio programs, television programs, etc. have been silent or have addressed the issues in an astonishingly shallow way.

The church in the book of Acts is often held up as a Christian ideal. But we're rarely encouraged to emulate that church's apologetic work, even though it's such a major theme in Acts. If we want revival, and we want to be more like the church of Acts, one of the things we ought to do is repent of our intellectual neglect.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thumbs down for John Loftus

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2015/05/22/another-terrible-atheist-debate-performance/

The Heroes And Villains Of History

I just heard Michael Medved discussing a recent study about who people consider the best and worst figures in history. The study involved about seven thousand students, with an average age of 23, from a few dozen countries around the world.

Jesus was ranked as the sixth best historical figure. George Bush was ranked as the fourth worst, even worse than Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung.

The study divided the respondents into four groups. The article I linked above comments:

"The only figure that all four groups disliked was Bush, the study found."

I think the study results reflect more negatively on the respondents than on Bush. The results also reflect poorly on the sources who have been misinforming these students, like the mainstream media and Hollywood.

Keep this study in mind the next time you hear about how much more intelligent the people in other nations are and how we should heed what they tell us about how bad people like George Bush are, how bad capitalism is, etc. If students in other nations, as well as many in this country, have such a severe case of Bush Derangement Syndrome, why should we trust their judgment? And the study results are absurd even if you ignore the ridiculous treatment of Bush.

Faithless Christians lock their doors!


In this response to Abolitionist John Reasnor's Opening Statements on incrementalism, Clinton Wilcox of Scott Klusendorf's Life Training Institute once again demonstrates that he doesn't believe the Gospel is the answer to abortion. This isn't a debate over political strategy, but the Gospel and how Christians should view sin and repentance.


That's like saying, Clinton Wilcox locks his doors, which once again demonstrates that he doesn't think the Gospel is the answer to car theft and house-burglary. 

The Gospel is the answer for people who believe the answer. For people who believe the Gospel.

But what about people who don't believe the Gospel? 

Dark skies


This is a surrejoinder to Alan's rejoinder:

But to answer Steve's question, no, it would not automatically connote a lunar eclipse since I presume ancient people could easily distinguish between a lunar eclipse that causes a reddish color and something more dramatic such as a nearby volcano causing severe atmospheric conditions.

To begin with, most ancient people never witnessed a volcanic eruption. You must live where there are active volcanoes. And even then, volcanic eruptions are rare. By contrast, a lunar eclipse is far more common. 

The biblical description—and this was a point in my article—conveys a cluster of heavenly and terrestrial events happening in conjunction with each other (e.g. Joel 2, Mt 24, Luke 21, Rev 6). Not piece meal. Which explains why it terrifies the wicked. Meteorites, volcanoes, and perhaps some other catastrophe most certainly will cause this.

i) On what exegetical basis does he conclude that volcanoes (in conjunction with other phenomena) "most certainly" will cause this. None of his prooftexts specifies volcanos. At best, that's a possible way to explain the imagery. 

ii) Moreover, none of his prooftexts says the wicked are terrified by volcanic eruptions (in conjunction with other phenomena). 

this is not some normal eclipse that lasts mere moments or minutes,

A lunar eclipse can last for 100 minutes, not "mere moments" or a few minutes. 

it conveys a universal phenomenon, not a local region

A volcanic eruption is a local, regional phenomenon–not a universal phenomenon. 

At best, Alan can postulate a supervolcanic eruption with global atmospheric effects. But that's reading something into the text rather than reading something out of the text. At best, that would be consistent with the text, not an implication of the text. 

"Then the kings of the earth…"

i) To a modern reader, "the earth" will trigger a planetary perspective, but it would be anachronistic to impute that outlook to John's audience.

ii) In addition, taking refuge in mountains and caves indicates a local, regional perspective. Many parts of the world don't have mountains or caves. 

iii) Another problem with taking a global perspective is that endtime prophecy is typically set in the Mideast. What was the known world to the original audience.

If, however, we're going to broaden that out to include North America, South America, Japan, Iceland, Indonesia, &c., then why assume the Middle Eastern locale for endtime events is literally intended? Why not view that as a placeholder for events which may, in fact, occur in different capitals, with different superpowers? There's that tension in dispensational hermeneutics. 

But volcanic ash can cause the moon to have a reddish color.

But in that event an observer would seen the sun as well as the moon. Indeed, the sun would be more clearly visible than the moon-give the superior brightness of the sun. 

Steve is assuming some constant effect as well as only being perceived in a single, local region. The way the sun and the moon will appear to someone in say America will likely be perceived at a greater or lesser degree in Europe.

I don't see how that rescues Alan's argument. If the volcanic ash is thick enough to obscure the sun, it will be thick enough to obscure the moon. If, conversely, it's thin enough to emit filtered moonlight, then it's thin enough to emit filtered sunlight. Although the effect may be localized, it will be the same effect depending on the locality. If the fallout is think in that region, it will obscure sun and moon alike. If it's think in that region, it will filter sun and moon alike. 

Indeed, it could filter sunlight but opaque moonlight since moonlight is dimmer than sunlight–whereas Alan's theory requires the reverse. That's his quandary. 

Sure it did, at least the sun. 

I have doubts about Alan's interpretation of the NASA pictures:

i) To begin with, what they clearly show is not the sun or moon, but a landscape floodlit by red illumination.

ii) Alan doesn't point to what he has in mind, but I guess he identifies the fireball directly above the volcano as the sun. If so, I question that identification. To begin with, it would be unusual for the sun to rise or set right over a mountain. If a mountain is located in the north or south, it will never be in the vicinity of sunrise or sunset. 

And even if a mountain is located in the east or west, it would only be during a few days of the year that the sun might rise or set right over the mountain. 

iii) Volcanos generate plasma clouds and St. Elmo's fire. They eject fiery particles into the atmosphere directly above the volcano. 

In addition, clouds above the volcano will be underlit by the lava and magma in the crater. That's not the sun. Rather, that's a reflection. 

iv) Moreover, the pictures don't' show the moon at all. 

Further, the thicker the clouds of ash, the more it would block out the moon, the lighter the more likely to give it a red tint.

Again, though, Alan's dilemma is that sun and moon are paired prophecy. Ash that's thick enough to block sunlight will block moonlight, while ash that's thick enough to filter moonlight will filter sunlight. So he needs to explain how his theory is consistent with reddish moonlight but opaquing sunlight. 

Lunar eclipses do not cause the reaction we see in the Bible from the celestial disturbances (notice the plural). 

That's not an exegetical conclusion. Alan is projecting what he thinks the observer will find fearful. 

God's eschatological harbinger will not be an atomized luminary event—it will be a cluster of events warning the wicked of his impending wrath.

You can have a cluster of events involving a meteor shower, solar eclipse, and lunar eclipse. You can have a sequential solar and lunar eclipse.

Not sure what Steve's point is. Ancient as well as modern people regard them as ominous. 

Modern observers don't typically regard a solar or lunar eclipse as an omen. 

I am sure Steve is not a preterist. I am almost certain he interprets the celestial disturbances in Mt 24 happening in the future. So not sure how "ancient people" is relevant since this is a prophetic description of a future people's reaction.

i) When we interpret an ancient text, we must consider for what that would mean to the original audience. 

ii) Moreover, even prophecies about the distance future are couched in imagery familiar to the ancient audience, viz. calvary, archers, warhorses, fortified cities, siege warfare. So that's the interpretive point of entry. 

John saw a vision of a harbinger that God will use to warn the world of his impending wrath. This harbinger is obviously nature, where John uses imagery to describe a unique cluster of heavenly-terrestrial events that will happen just before the day of the Lord.

If the imagery is symbolic, then we must ask what it stands for. For instance, what about Zechariah's vision of a lying scroll and winged women (Zech 5:1,9). Does Alan think that's literal?

What about Joseph's dream of the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to him (Gen 37:9). Does he think that's literal?

I think it's useful to explore how eschatological imagery could be physically realistic. But I don't regard that as the default meaning. There's no presumption that it must be physically realistic. That's just one of the interpretive options.

Steve selectively left out eyewitness accounts of seeing a reddish moon caused by volcanic ash. 

Alan keeps evading the conundrum of moonlight without sunlight. How does volcanic ash obscure the sun without obscuring the moon? 

So my point is that no one can read the biblical accounts of the harbinger in Joel 2, Mt 24, Luke 21, and Rev 6 and walk away thinking that there is going to be a single, isolated lunar eclipse. 

No doubt the eschatological imagery is far more varied. 

Most Republicans Think Homosexuality Is Acceptable

Here's a Hot Air post on a Gallup poll to that effect. Notice this line in the post:

"It may be that, even among GOP skeptics of gay marriage, the normalization of gays in the media over the past 15 years has caused their moral opinions of homosexuality to change if not their belief that marriage, as a religious institution, should remain one for heterosexual couples only."

There it is: "in the media". Poor time management is a major problem in cultures like the United States. It's worse than abortion, neglect of the poor, and other moral problems people often cite when asked what's wrong with a culture. Americans spend far too much time on trivial and vulgar television programs and movies, following sports, and the like. Their priorities are desperately wrong, and their time management is awful. Click on the Time Management label at the end of this post, and you can see an archive of posts I've written on the subject. I've cited a lot of polling data and other research that's been done. One of the reasons why parents, pastors, teachers, and other people in such positions of influence don't adequately address the problem with time management is that so many of them are a significant part of the problem.

Hot Air also has a post on how most Americans think that at least 20% of the population is homosexual. Where did they get that idea? Largely from the media they spend too much time with. The Hot Air post refers to "visibility in celebrity culture" and how "gays and gay-rights issues seem to be everywhere in media and on the news". Why are people following celebrity culture and depending on the mainstream media so much to begin with? And why didn't their misconceptions about homosexuality get corrected by more accurate sources they were spending time with? Because they aren't spending much time with more accurate sources. Even if they were, they probably wouldn't want to spend the time needed to do further research, think through the issues sufficiently, etc. Americans have more important things to do with their time, like watching sitcoms, going to baseball games, doing unnecessary housework, and reading romance novels.

The Most Plausible Apocalyptic Skies

 I want to reply to Steve's critique of my post:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2015/05/supervolcano.html 

He writes:
Here's a provocative post:
That's very interesting. However, I don't think the scientific or exegetical evidence justifies the conclusion:
i) To ancient readers, wouldn't a blood red moon automatically connote a lunar eclipse? Isn't that the association it would ordinarily trigger?
First, Steve does not mention the point of my post, which impinges on his critique. Instead, he focuses on a single aspect of it which distorts my actual argumentation. My point was to explain the plausibility of a scenario of the biblical description of the celestial harbinger to the return of Christ over above Mark Biltz's isolated lunar eclipse theory.

But to answer Steve's question, no, it would not automatically connote a lunar eclipse since I presume ancient people could easily distinguish between a lunar eclipse that causes a reddish color and something more dramatic such as a nearby volcano causing severe atmospheric conditions.
ii) In principle, there are different things that can block sunlight. However, when sun and moon are paired, with unusual optical effects attributed to both, surely that would suggest a solar and lunar eclipse.
The biblical description—and this was a point in my article—conveys a cluster of heavenly and terrestrial events happening in conjunction with each other (e.g. Joel 2, Mt 24, Luke 21, Rev 6). Not piece meal. Which explains why it terrifies the wicked. Meteorites, volcanoes, and perhaps some other catastrophe most certainly will cause this. 
And that's an accurate description of both. In a solar eclipse, the sun turns black (except for a fiery halo or annulus), while the moon turns red. 

See my comments above. Moreover, the biblical description conveys (1) that this is not some normal eclipse that lasts mere moments or minutes, and (2) it conveys a universal phenomenon, not a local region (e.g. "Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free...” Rev 6:15)
iii) As for volcanic eruptions, how would volcanic ash have a differential effect on sunlight and moonlight? It would block out both, right?
Yes, of course, which is interesting that Matthew's account has the moon "not to give its light." But volcanic ash can cause the moon to have a reddish color. Heavenly-terrestrial catastrophes will not last for a mere moment. The biblical description conveys that this is an unprecedented event, lasting more than a moment.
iv) Even assuming, moreover, that it had a differential effect, if it's thick enough to block out sunlight, it will be more than thick enough to block out moonlight. The sun is far brighter than the moon, so what blocks sunlight will certainly block moonlight–which is dimmer to begin with. And if it's thin enough to let some light filter through, that would be sunlight rather than moonlight.
Steve is assuming some constant effect as well as only being perceived in a single, local region. The way the sun and the moon will appear to someone in say America will likely be perceived at a greater or lesser degree in Europe.
v) Although the NASA pictures are spectacular, they don't show a blackened sun and a reddened moon.
Sure it did, at least the sun. Further, the thicker the clouds of ash, the more it would block out the moon, the lighter the more likely to give it a red tint. And this gets me back to my point in my article. Lunar eclipses do not cause the reaction we see in the Bible from the celestial disturbances (notice the plural). God's eschatological harbinger will not be an atomized luminary event—it will be a cluster of events warning the wicked of his impending wrath.
vi) Didn't ancient people regard solar and lunar eclipses as very ominous (in both senses of the word). They took celestial prodigies seriously.
Not sure what Steve's point is. Ancient as well as modern people regard them as ominous. (1) I am sure Steve is not a preterist. I am almost certain he interprets the celestial disturbances in Mt 24 happening in the future. So not sure how "ancient people" is relevant since this is a prophetic description of a future people's reaction. (2) Again, the harbinger is a cluster of celestial-terrestrial events, not a isolated blimp on the radar.
vii) Perhaps Alan's unstated objection is that it's physically impossible to have a solar and lunar eclipse simultaneously, inasmuch as sun, moon, and earth must occupy different relative positions respectively:
My stated objection is what is more plausible:

"It is phenomenological language— that is, from our human perspective. So, what will be the exact nature of these celestial events? It is likely that the falling stars refer to meteors and the moon turning blood red and the sun darkening will be caused by an earthly cataclysmic disaster, possibly volcanoes (or worse, a singular super volcano). In any case, it will not be a single celestial event. It will be multiple events functioning together as a salvo of havoc, signaling the day of the Lord as unmistakable (page 63)."
In a solar eclipse, the moon comes between the sun and the earth: sun>moon>earth
In a lunar eclipse, the earth comes between the sun and the moon: sun>earth>moon
But that just means the imagery isn't realistic. It's stock, eschatological imagery. Indeed, John saw this in a vision. 
John saw a vision of a harbinger that God will use to warn the world of his impending wrath. This harbinger is obviously nature, where John uses imagery to describe a unique cluster of heavenly-terrestrial events that will happen just before the day of the Lord.
viii) Finally, I'll conclude with some eyewitness accounts of volcanic ash:
Steve selectively left out eyewitness accounts of seeing a reddish moon caused by volcanic ash. 

So my point is that no one can read the biblical accounts of the harbinger in Joel 2, Mt 24, Luke 21, and Rev 6 and walk away thinking that there is going to be a single, isolated lunar eclipse. Yet Mark Biltz popularizer of the blood-moon theory wants us to think so. 



Mere evangelical conditionalism

https://analytictheologye4c5.wordpress.com/2015/05/21/mere-evangelical-conditionalism-1/

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Incrementalism Debate Opening Argument

http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2015/05/incrementalism-debate-opening-argument.html

Abolish moral confusion


I will comment on this "review":


He didn’t address the problem that we are not to do a little evil that good may come. Or at least he begged the question that legislation that dehumanizes groups of people, those exceptions such as victims conceived in rape, is not evil. You cannot just assume it isn’t evil you have to show that it isn’t.

For some odd reason, it doesn't even occur to Don that both sides, both debaters, have a burden of proof to discharge. What makes Don imagine the onus lies exclusively on the prolifer? 

He himself is begging the question by presuming that this amounts to "doing a little evil that good may come." But it's incumbent on him to show how that's the case.

Because there are some positive results from something does not necessarily make it right.

Same problem. He just leaves that dangling in mid-air. It's true that positive results don't necessarily make an action right. Conversely, it's equally true that positive results don't necessarily make an action wrong.

So he can't just leave it hanging there. He needs to offer some criteria for when that's right and when that's wrong. 

Take military ethics. Unless you're a pacifist, you believe that some actions which are ordinarily wrong become morally permissible or even obligatory in extreme situations. 

But at the same time I supported legislation and candidates that said otherwise. They were the lesser of evils as I saw it.But the problem with this you don’t really find this in the bible. In fact you see the opposite.

Many people are confused about the word "evil" in "the lesser of two evils." But that doesn't mean choosing between a lesser wrong and a greater wrong. Rather, that's choosing between bad and worse.

If I can't saving everyone in a nursing home that's on fire, I have a choice between bad (letting some die) and worse (letting all die). It's not immoral for me to rescue those I can. It's not a lesser "evil" in that sense.

And as the old saying goes, our actions speak much louder than our words. 

Not to mention how the inactions of AHA speak much louder than their hifalutin rhetoric.

I would say that the incrementalist strategy is a strategy that is without faith. It assumes that God will not act, it ignores the biblical norm we see, and it allows for the person to take on actions that send a message to the world that is inconsistent with God’s word. I think that is faithless. 

Honestly, that's just so dumb. It's like Christian parents who refuse to take a gravely ill child to the doctor because God can heal their child. 

It's like a Christian farmer who says, "I won't plant any crops this spring because God can make food miraculously materialize on my dinner table!"

Imagine if every pro-life leader in this country said, “No more compromise!” Imagine if everyone who calls themselves “pro-life” said, “I will not support anything or anyone that does not call ALL abortion sin and call for its immediate and total abolition!” Imagine if we just said to all those who opposed immediate and total abolition, “You can throw us in the furnace if you want to but I will not bow down to your idol for I know that God can save us and even if He didn’t we will worship only God.”

"Imagine" is the operative word. Imagine if everyone was nice to each other. Imagine if all Muslim militants became pacifists tomorrow. Imagine if all military dictators suddenly renounced violence. Imagine if all Latin American drug cartels became Christian charities. Imagine if all "abortion providers" changed their minds overnight. 

It's so hopelessly Pollyannaish. 

Selling evolution


Writing in Nature ("Selling Darwin"), Coyne has conceded:
[T]ruth be told, evolution hasn't yielded many practical or commercial benefits. Yes, bacteria evolve drug resistance, and yes, we must take countermeasures, but beyond that there is not much to say. Evolution cannot help us predict what new vaccines to manufacture because microbes evolve unpredictably. But hasn't evolution helped guide animal and plant breeding? Not very much. Most improvement in crop plants and animals occurred long before we knew anything about evolution, and came about by people following the genetic principle of 'like begets like'. Even now, as its practitioners admit, the field of quantitative genetics has been of little value in helping improve varieties. Future advances will almost certainly come from transgenics, which is not based on evolution at all.

"We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be"


"We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained," said Gates, who as U.S. secretary of defense helped end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that barred openly gay individuals from serving in the military. 
http://www.aol.com/article/2015/05/21/boy-scouts-of-america-president-says-ban-on-gay-leaders-unsustai/21186025/

That's confused on two or three basic levels:

i) Although we must deal with the "world" as it is, not as we might wish it to be, the BSA is hardly the "world." Rather, that's a free association. A private organization.

In the nature of the case, a free association can be whatever the members wish it to be. A free association is selective. A subset of like-minded individuals who come together based on common concerns or shared interests. Take a chess club.

ii) Moreover, even though we must deal with the world as it is, there are many instances in which we can and ought to influence the world. Those who came before us impacted the world we received at their hands. We can do the same. Although we begin by playing the hand we were dealt, we can reshuffle the deck. 

iii) Furthermore, his statement is self-refuting. To say the status quo can't be sustained means the state of "the world" is not a given. It changes, for better or worse. And we can be agents of change. Our influence is limited and unpredictable. But we should do what we can. We can make a difference. Sometimes great, sometimes small. But every bit helps someone. 

Supervolcano


Here's a provocative post:


That's very interesting. However, I don't think the scientific or exegetical evidence justifies the conclusion:

i) To ancient readers, wouldn't a blood red moon automatically connote a lunar eclipse? Isn't that the association it would ordinarily trigger?

ii) In principle, there are different things that can block sunlight. However, when sun and moon are paired, with unusual optical effects attributed to both, surely that would suggest a solar and lunar eclipse.

And that's an accurate description of both. In a solar eclipse, the sun turns black (except for a fiery halo or annulus), while the moon turns red. 

iii) As for volcanic eruptions, how would volcanic ash have a differential effect on sunlight and moonlight? It would block out both, right?

iv) Even assuming, moreover, that it had a differential effect, if it's thick enough to block out sunlight, it will be more than thick enough to block out moonlight. The sun is far brighter than the moon, so what blocks sunlight will certainly block moonlight–which is dimmer to begin with.

And if it's thin enough to let some light filter through, that would be sunlight rather than moonlight. 

v) Although the NASA pictures are spectacular, they don't show a blackened sun and a reddened moon.

vi) Didn't ancient people regard solar and lunar eclipses as very ominous (in both senses of the word). They took celestial prodigies seriously.

vii) Perhaps Alan's unstated objection is that it's physically impossible to have a solar and lunar eclipse simultaneously, inasmuch as sun, moon, and earth must occupy different relative positions respectively:

In a solar eclipse, the moon comes between the sun and the earth: sun>moon>earth

In a lunar eclipse, the earth comes between the sun and the moon: sun>earth>moon

But that just means the imagery isn't realistic. It's stock, eschatological imagery. Indeed, John saw this in a vision. 

viii) Finally, I'll conclude with some eyewitness accounts of volcanic ash:


Susan La Riviere, Yakima 

Once the new year of 1980 hit, seismologists and volcanologists became alerted to steam coming out of Mount St. Helens’ dome. Small earthquakes were noted and citizens were warned that there might be a volcanic eruption within the year. Here in Yakima, we were not warned about emergency precautions to take if an eruption happened. Although volcanic activity was part of our conversations, no one seriously considered that the mountain would explode. 

On Sunday morning, May 18, 1980, I was on the phone talking long distance to my parents who were visiting relatives in south Louisiana. I said, “It looks like a terrible dust storm is coming from the west. The sky is black in that direction and it isn’t yet noon. I also heard some thunder so we might get ... Mom? Dad? Are you there?” All phone connections were cut off. I heard a loud clap of what sounded like thunder, the windows shuttered and a storm of darkness surrounded the house. We could not see the street lamp at the corner of Barge and North 36th Avenue.

The television was not working, but KIT radio announcers came in clearly with news about the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens. We were told to fill the bathtub with water because it was unknown if the ash was radioactive. Farmers were warned to shelter their animals, and owners of domestic animals were instructed to bring all the pets into the house. The sky rained sand the rest of May 18. 

Water did not wash the sand from roofs. Instead, the sand absorbed the water and the combined weight caused many roofs to collapse. Yakima was buried in sand and the sky was filled with powdered ash for many months.

Glenn Rice, Yakima


On May 18, 1980, my family was on the way to a summer home in the Cascades. As we approached the “Y” at the intersection of Highway 12 and State Route 410, the sky became dark with clouds, wind, dust, thunder and lightning. This was different because the air also smelled of sulfur. I said, “Turn the radio on; something is happening.” And indeed it was! We turned around, and it took an hour and a half to return to Yakima because of poor visibility. The sun seemingly set in the east, it was dark, the streetlights came on, the birds were silent and the crickets were out.

Ramona Murray, Selah

May 18, 1980, looked like the beginning of a beautiful spring day in the Wenas Valley. The hay fields looked good on our cattle ranch and our cattle were grazing on the other side of the hill.

Suddenly, the sky turned black with red and green lightning and something was falling from the sky. We thought it was rain, but it was ash. Mount St. Helens had erupted.
The sparrows clustered by our rooftop near the porch light. Thank goodness the power stayed on and radio station KIT kept us informed.
In the afternoon, my husband, Austin, and our son Dave tied kerchiefs over their noses, took flashlights and left in the pickup to see about our cattle. The cattle had broken down the fence and were coming home. One cow died. 

My daughter Valerie and I went to bed for a while. At about 7:30 p.m., the ash stopped falling and the sky was light. We stepped outside. It smelled like a chemical lab and it looked like the moon. Everything was gray. A red tailed hawk was searching in the sky, cawing. The little bantam rooster was crowing. These were welcome sounds.

Nancy M. Burgess, Yakima

I went out to take the covers off the tomatoes, and when I went in, I told my wife, “There’s a big storm coming. A really black cloud in the southwest is heading our way.”
Later, at church, we were sitting in the choir, and the ash started falling like rain on the slanted window above us. Our priest told us not to worry. He had been in Italy during World War II and Mount Vesuvius had erupted. He said this was not nearly as bad. He was the only one who didn’t make it home.

When we got home, I went next door to check on my 80-year-old mom. I was worried she would be frightened. Instead, she had set out all of her candles and filled the bathtub with water.

My sister in New York told me later that she had tried to call our mom when she heard about the eruption. The operator told her that all circuits were down and that Yakima had been wiped out. She was frantic before she finally got through to me.

I was in the State Patrol. It was my day off, but all off-duty personnel had been called in to work. They sent me out to the Naches junction to turn back any cars heading up toward the mountains. We stopped one car, and the man said his kids were camping up that way and nobody was going to keep him from going to find them. We let him pass.
Lightning was flashing all around us, but it wasn’t like it usually is. This lightning flashed horizontally. The hair on our heads was standing straight up. It was really pretty scary. We finally went into the gas station to get out of the ash and wind.