Saturday, January 31, 2015

Phylogenetic trees


One increasingly popular objection to the historical Adam is based on comparative genomics. But from what I've read, comparative genomics skewers many traditional phylogenetic trees by reconnecting the dots in a different order. So comparative genomics is forcing Darwinians to rewrite various chapters in their backstory of evolution (i.e. phylogenetic trees). And as we continue to map ever more genomes of ever more species, I assume that revisionism will only expand. 

Before the advent of genomics, phylogenetic trees inferred from comparative anatomy and reconstructing the fossil record. Fossils and homologies. 

But as a result of comparative genomics, we're told that some species which were previously thought to be more closely related to each other are now thought to be less closely related to each other while some species which were previously thought to be less closely related to each other are now thought to more closely related to each other. In other words, I believe that comparative genomics is quietly rewriting the story of what's an ancestor to what. That what used to be considered a common ancestor is in fact more distant. 

So even though the "headline" trumpets new evidence for evolution, comparative genomics is challenging the narrative behind-the-scenes. 

Punching the clock

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy (Exod 20:8-11).
This is a classic prooftext for YEC/the calendar-day interpretation. However, I think there are nuances which interpreters usually miss.
i) The command was initially addressed to Israelites in the Sinai desert. (Of course, the command isn't confined to that setting.)
ii) Working for six days before taking a day off doesn't mean working 144 hours straight. Humans need to eat and sleep. So in this context, a "day" is shorthand for the daylight hours. People used to work outside from first light until dusk. 
a) That's in part because they needed sunlight or daylight to see what they were doing–especially when working out of doors.
b) That's in part because it was more dangerous to be outside after dark. Nocturnal predators were on the prowl. Likewise, you could accidentally step on a venomous snake. 
c) Not to mention how frighteningly easy it was to become lost in the dark. You could be a few hundred years from home, but be unable to find your way back in the pitch black darkness. 
iii) A campfire could provide some illumination, although that's quite limited. Even in the age of electrical lighting, most folks don't work outside at night. 
iv) Then there's the question of indoor lighting. Firelight can provide indoor lighting, but firelight generates smoke. So you need ventilation, especially in a small, one-room dwelling like a tent. I don't know if ancient tents had a smoke flap, like a teepee. But I'm sure they didn't have a fireplace with a chimney. 
v) Another issue is the availability of firewood or lamp oil. I expect these were in short supply in the Sinai desert. 
So my operating assumption is that the wilderness generation didn't work at night.
vi) What makes the Sabbath special, what make the Sabbath sacrificial, is that an Israelite is taking the whole day off. These are the most productive hours of the day. Not just when most of the work gets done, but the only time when most of the work can be done. 
vii) The interval between dusk and dawn varies with the season and the latitude. Long winter nights, short summer nights. In extreme northern latitudes you can have weeks of continuous daylight in the summer along with weeks of continuous darkness in the winter. So the duration of a "day" is variable in that respect. Depends on where you live. 
viii) Turning to the counterpart in Gen 1:1-2:3, I don't think this means God worked nonstop for six days. Creation is a daytime occupation. The daylight hours are the business hours. God punches the clock, closes shop after dark, then resumes the morning after. 
ix) That, in part, explains the function of the evening/morning refrain. I think that's more accurately rendered dusk/dawn. It demarcates the interval between sundown and sunup. In other words, it denotes "night." 
x) In addition, there was already divine "rest" between each working day. Nighttime marks the temporary cessation of God's creative activity. The reason the evening/morning refrain is conspicuously absent from the seventh day is not because that never ends, but because, on the seventh day, God takes a whole day off–in contrast to knocking off work after dark. Every night, God takes a break–but on the seventh day, the entire day is a day off. 
ix) And that explains why the creation of light is the first divine fiat. A builder needs light to see by. Both Gen 1:1-2:3 & Exod 20:8-11 turn on the availability of sunlight to work outside. 
x) This means Gen 1:1-2:3 is fairly anthropomorphic in that regard. As if God is subject to the limitations of a human being, who lacks nocturnal vision. So Gen 1:1-2:3 reflects divine accommodation. 
xi) However, that's ambiguous. Divine accommodation can mean different things:
a) It can mean Scripture uses anthropomorphic depictions because it isn't literally possible for God be in that condition. For instance, Scripture attributes organs and body parts to God (eyes, ears, arms). Of course, God doesn't literally see and hear. But they symbolize omniscience. God doesn't literally have a mighty, outstretched arm. But they symbolize omnipotence.  
Even in this case, we're dealing with analogies. 
b) Or it can mean God actually behaves as if he's limited. There's nothing that prevents God from producing things in the daytime, but refraining from creative action at night. So that could be literal. Or it could be anthropomorphic. 
It's not only, necessarily, or even primarily, about the timeframe or the temporal sequence, but about working conditions–which require sunlight. Not just about chronometry, but natural illumination. Not so much about the measurement of time or timekeeping, but about a precondition for labor: visibility. I think interpreters tend to overlook that because they fail to project themselves into that primitive environment. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Did God command genocide in the Bible?

Merritt is hardly the best choice for an interviewer, and it's a so-so interview, but this is a hot button topic:

http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2015/01/12/god-command-genocide-bible/

Why try?


Fate is usually thought of as a predetermined course of events beyond human control. A typical response to a belief in fate is resignation—if we can’t change destiny, then why even try? Whatever happens, happens, and we can’t do anything about it. This is called “fatalism,” and it is not biblical. 
The Bible teaches that Man was created with the ability to make moral choices and that he is responsible for those choices. The Fall of Man was not a predetermined event in which Adam and Eve were hapless victims of a Puppet-Master God. 
http://www.gotquestions.org/fate-destiny.html

I'd just point out that this is a clueless objection even on its own terms. If every thing that happens is predestined, is the logical response to exclaim: "Why even try?" No. 

i) If you were predestined not to try, then you couldn't try even if you wanted to. Indeed, You'd be predestined not to want to try. In that event, you couldn't begin to try. The inclination would be absent.

ii) Conversely, if you were predestined to try, then you're able to try. In that event, you are bound to try. 

iii) If you were predestined to try and fail, then you will fail.

iv) Conversely, if you were predestined to try and succeed, then you will succeed. 

v) The very fact that you can contemplate trying to do something means predestination didn't prevent you from considering the attempt. In that case, you were predestined to contemplate the attempted action. 

Since you don't know in advance the predestined course of events in any particular instance, the way to find out what you are able to do is to give it a try. 

Is Goddidit unfalsifiable?


i) We're living at a time when Christians are under increasing pressure to accommodate the Bible to the scientific establishment. The scientific arguments are complex and often highly technical. And the ground keeps shifting in light of new developments. Here's one way to simplify the debate. 

Unbelievers frequently raise two contradictory objections to creationism. I'm using "creationism" loosely, because unbelievers use "creationism" loosely to designate YEC, OEC, intelligent design, and/or the historicity of Gen 1-9. 

A. Science falsifies creationism

Take human evolution. Many books and websites say there's overwhelming evidence for human evolution. Creationism has been falsified by multiple lines of evidence from comparative anatomy, comparative genomics, and the fossil record. 

Obviously, this triumphalist claim hasn't gone unchallenged by creationists. Indeed, sometimes you have skeptics of the standard evolutionary paradigm within secular scientific establihsment itself. 

However, that's well-trodden ground. What is more striking is to compare this objection with the next objection:

B. Creationism is unfalsifiable

Let's quote a few representative examples:

Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.  
http://www.drjbloom.com/Public%20files/Lewontin_Review.htm 
The appeal to supernatural forces, whether divine or occult, is always available because we can cite no necessary constraints upon the powers of supernatural agents. This is just the picture of God that Johnson presents. He says that God could create out of nothing or use evolution if He wanted (JDT p. 14, 113); God is "omnipotent" (JDT p. 113). He says God creates in the "furtherance of a purpose" (JDT p. 4), but that God's purposes are "inscrutable" (JDT p. 71) and "mysterious" (JDT p. 67). A god that is all-powerful and whose will is inscrutable may be called upon to explain any event in any situation, and this is one reason for the methodological prohibition against such appeals in science. Because of this feature, supernatural hypotheses remain immune from disconfirmation.  
It is not that supernatural agents and powers could not explain in principle, it is rather that they can explain all too easily. As such we may think of them as the explanation of last resort, since, like the Greek god in the machine, they can always be hauled down to "save the day" if every other explanation fails. 
https://www.msu.edu/~pennock5/research/papers/Pennock_SupNatExpl.html 
Nye’s position relies upon the scientific method, summarized by the phrase “evidential evaluation of falsifiable hypotheses.” In other words, science aims to disconfirm its hypotheses and uses evidence to do so. This falsification process is a powerful way to eliminate bad ideas, and nothing proves an idea false better than its disagreement with reality…By contrast, faith—and theology more broadly—does not possess or employ a mechanism for falsification and appears only incidentally interested in observation.  
https://richarddawkins.net/2014/01/creationism-faith-and-legitimizing-bad-ideas/
The basic contention here is that science requires an unbroken chain of physical cause and effect. But once you make allowance for an omnipotent, interventionist God, a God who can instantly bypass natural processes to produce a physical effect apart from antecedent condition, then creationism is unfalsifiable–for anything in nature, anything pattern of evidence is explicable by appeal to this Deus ex machina. It severs the links in the chain of cause and effect, past and present. 
ii) Now, what's interesting about B is that it cancels A. These two objections can't both be true. 
Moreover, these are asymmetrical objections. B can rule out A in a way that A is impotent to rule out B. For if B is true, then nothing counts as evidence for A. 
Ironically, this is a secular objection to creationism. But if we take the secular objection seriously, it destroys secular science. In their effort to shoot down creationism, the bullet ricochets on their own position. 
Of course, they regard this as an unacceptable consequence of theism. But to claim that theism has this consequence in no way invalidates or undercuts the unwelcome consequence. 
In this respect, Christians don't need to produce any evidence to refute A. We don't need to mount our own independent argument to refute A. We can simply redeploy an argument that secular scientists keep repeating. If, according to secular scientists, methodological naturalism is a necessary presupposition of science, then by their own admission, the existence of an omnipotent interventionist God nullifies all their evidentiary objections to creationism. 
That's not some ad hoc argument that Christians concoct to deflect the scientific evidence. Rather, that's a tacit concession which the secular scientists are making. All we need to do is agree with them, thank them for pointing that out, and kindly showing them that their objection backfires. 
iii) From a theological standpoint, B is fairly overstated. According to Biblical theism, God hasn't made an Alice in Wonderland world where effects routinely materialize out of the blue. Every possibility is not a plausibility.To the contrary, Biblical theism has a doctrine of ordinary providence. 
However, that observation does nothing to support A or undermine creationism, for that's a theological restriction. It presumes a theological framework. 
iv) Finally, if creationism is unfalsifiable, that doesn't make it unverifiable. And that doesn't mean naturalistic evolution is unfalsifiable. Once again, these are asymmetrical positions. Naturalistic evolution can still be falsifiable on its own terms. 
By contrast, creationism isn't falsifiable on its own terms–given the limitless explanatory power of an omnipotently resourceful God. Conversely, if some biological events are inexplicable apart from superhuman intelligence, then the evidence selects for theism rather than naturalism.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Behind every great man is a great woman

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/stephen-hawkings-first-wife-jane-wilde-prayed-god-he-would-live-he-mocked-her-faith-1484522

Evangelicalism and OEC


Yesterday, Justin Taylor did a post questioning the calendar day interpretation of Gen 1. To judge by reactions I've seen, this generated some shock waves.

Some people seem to think this represents a sinister shift away from the status quo ante. Now, I don't think Justin made a very strong case for his position.

But I'm struck by how many people seem to find his position surprising or even shocking. Yet OEC has been pretty mainstream in evangelism, including Calvinism and/or Dispensationalism, for generations.

The SBC is noncommittal on YEC. Reformed denominations like the OPC, PCA, and URC are noncommittal on YEC. Likewise, most prominent Reformed seminaries are noncommittal on YEC, viz. WTS, RTS, WSC, Covenant Seminary, Knox Seminary. 

An exception is GPTS, which represents Old School Southern Presbyterian theology. But even R. L. Dabney, in his old age, promoted the ruin-reconstruction theory in his epic poem ("The Christology of the Angels").

Likewise, I don't believe that DTS, the flagship of Dispensational seminaries, has ever been committed to YEC. And many venerable Dispensationalists espouse the gap theory/ruin-reconstruction theory, or the day-age theory.

So Justin's position doesn't represent a novel trend or sudden defection from the status quo ante. Why do some critics act so surprised or shocked? Are they just unacquainted with modern church history?

Keep in mind that this is distinct from evaluating his proposal. I'm just struck by how many of his critics find this startling.

One reason may be if this is seen in the context of concerted efforts like BioLogos, John Walton, and Peter Enns to redirect the church and redefine Christian theology. But to my knowledge, there's no evidence that Justin is part of that agenda. To the contrary, I believe he's behind the publication of recent books defending the historicity and inerrancy of Scripture. 

When to Doubt a Scientific Consensus

https://stream.org/doubt-scientific-consensus/

Left Behind?

I'm republishing this Stratfor article as an analysis of what's going on within the Muslim world, being fully cognizant that Islam itself is its own big problem. With that said, Islam is going to be a reality that Christians need to understand and to deal with in our real world today. -- JB

From StratforBy Jay Ogilvy

The Charlie Hebdo attack and its aftermath in the streets and in the press tempt one to dust off Samuel Huntington's 1996 book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Despite the criticisms he provoked with that book and his earlier 1993 article in Foreign Affairs, recent events would seem to be proving him prescient.

Or was he?

High school diva


This is of interest for documenting the double standards of Rachel Held Evans, who reminds me of the high school diva in teen dramas. The classic queen bee mentality:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Demon possession and allied themes : being an inductive study of phenomena of our own times

http://anglicalpentecostal.blogspot.com/2014_05_16_archive.html

https://archive.org/details/demonpossessiona00nevi

Literal Antichrist

http://www.alankurschner.com/2015/01/28/5-reasons-the-bible-teaches-a-literal-personal-antichrist-not-figurative-impersonal-ep-22/


Prelude to the Parousia

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thes 2:3-4).
I'm going to discuss a neglected interpretation of this passage, but I will summarize some alternative interpretations before getting to that particular interpretation:
1) According to the preterist interpretation, this refers to events concerning the Second Temple in Jerusalem. But there are problems with a that identification:
i) According to our sources, nothing happened between the time of writing and the fall of Jerusalem that matches Paul's description in 2 Thes 2. 
It's possible that our sources are deficient, but if so, that's an admission that there's no supporting evidence for this interpretation.
ii) If this was fulfilled c. 70 AD, then there's a sense in which it's much too soon to be a useful precursor to the Parousia. After all, it's now 2000 years down the pike. If the interval between the prelude to the Parousia and the Parousia is that distant, it loses significance.
iii) If this was fulfilled c. 70 AD in a symbolic sense, then it's hard to see what grave error Paul is correcting. If the return of Christ is symbolic, what difference does it make to say he came back in the 40s or the 70s of the 1C? In any event, it's business as usual. All the same moral and natural evils continue as before. 
3) Commentator Gene Green thinks it denotes the imperial shrine in Thessalonika, dedicated to Julius and Augustus Caesar. But there are problems with that identification:
i) Would Paul refer to a pagan shrine as the "sanctuary of God"?
ii) From Paul's perspective, why would it be wrong for the Antichrist to oppose the imperial cult? 
iii) Green says "the apostle describes a cult center where people go to offer worship" (312), but I don't see where Paul in fact says that. Green's statement is far more specific.
iv) What historic event does Green think fulfilled this identification? It can't be the imperial cult, itself, for that wasn't opposed to other heathen devotions. 
v) Surely it's awfully provincial to say that Jesus could not return unless and until something happened at the imperial shrine in Thessalonika. 
4) Premils think it refers to the rebuilt millennial temple. But given that the Second Temple in Jerusalem was still intact and functioning at the time of writing, it's hard to see how such a labyrinthine allusion would be intelligible to the original audience. 
5) Commentator Greg Beale believes the "temple" is a synonym for the church. I think that interpretation has much to commend it, although it needs to be fleshed out. 
6) But let's consider a final identification:
It has also been thought by some patristic and modern commentators that Paul is referring to the heavenly temple, where God sits (Ps 10:4: "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord, his throne is in heaven": cf. Isa 66:1; Mic 1:2; Hab 2:20; 1 En 14:17-22; 2 Bar 4:2-6). A. Malherbe, The Letters to the Thessalonians (Yale 2000), 420.
This doesn't mean the Antichrist literally usurps the throne in the heavenly temple. Rather, Paul would be trading on ancient "war in heaven" motif. The Antichrist is an agent of Satan–the archetypal irreligious rebel. The "god of this world" (2 Cor 4:4). So this would be a colorful way of depicting the Antichrist's insolent impiety. 
It has the advantage of allowing for a future fulfillment, as well as bringing the signs of the Parousia into closer conjunction with the Parousia itself. 

Mormonism and homosexuality

The LDS church views itself as the One True Church. It also likes to package itself as a family values faith. But it, too, is caving in:

http://www.dennyburk.com/there-will-be-no-grand-bargain-with-sexual-revolutionaries/#more-29778

A Refresher on “Apostolic Succession”

Thomas Hobbes said “The Papacy is not other than the Ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned upon the grave thereof”.

History has borne out this statement. The question of “authority” is at the heart of every discussion between Protestants and Roman Catholics since the time of the Reformation, and yet the Church of Rome (“Roman Catholicism”) bases all of its claims to authority upon “apostolic succession” … the notion that there was an unbroken succession of “successors” from the time of the Apostles till now.

Bryan Cross has said “The Church always had the concept of apostolic succession.”, but that is an equivocation of terms, and it is based upon another, older, different equivocation of terms.

For a long time, Roman Catholicism claimed a direct succession from Peter, through a line of popes. However, the study of history has turned that “direct succession” story into a puff of smoke. More recently, the doctrine suggests that “the Apostles were a ‘college’, and this ‘college’ had unnamed successors – but the real authority of the Apostles”. That, too, is bankrupt.

We actually have a speech from Paul, in his address to the elders in Acts 20, that describes what the earliest church understood “succession”. Does he say, as the CCC says, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time”?

There is not a hint of “continuous line of succession until the end of time” in Acts 20. Instead, what we have are admonitions to “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock ...” This is an admonition that is set aside any time a Roman Catholic makes an appeal to suggest that Protestants are “Donatists”...

Paul continues “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from your own selves [‘those of you “within”, who have positions of teaching’]” will arise men speaking twisted things.”

The “twisted things” are clearly shown over and over again among Roman Catholic doctrine and practice.

“The word of his grace” is able to “build you up” -- but this is not a guarantee of “a continuous line of succession until the end of time”. It is a warning to be diligent, for ministers to “work with their hands” ...

This shift of both concept and language from “pay careful attention to yourselves” to “continuous line of succession for all time” has its foundations in the Gnostic concept of “διαδοχἡ” (“succession”). That is not a biblical word, and Ratzinger equivocates by first equating the non-biblical “διαδοχἡ” with the biblical “παράδοσιν” (“paradosis” or “tradition”).

In truth, the concept of “διαδοχἡ” (“succession”) becomes swapped for “παράδοσεις” (“tradition”) in the Roman Catholic view – it is an unexplained and unexplainable (from extant sources) swap that merely duplicates the method that the Gnostics of the day were already using.

As Hans Von Campenhausen pointed out, “it is the Gnostic Ptolemaeus (who died prior to the time Irenaeus wrote) who provides the earliest evidence known to us of this new, theologically oriented usage. In the Letter to Flora he speaks explicitly of the secret and apostolic tradition (παράδοσεις) which supplements the canonical collection of Jesus’s words, and which by being handed on through a succession (διαδοχἡ) of teachers and instructors has now come to “us”, that is, to him or to his community. Here the concept of “tradition” is plainly used in a technical sense, as is shown particularly by the collocation with the corresponding concept of “succession”.

That is an illegitimate way to twist the language. The apostles gave no concept of “succession of persons” to the early church – especially not “a continuous line of succession until the end of time”.

But that illegitimate illusion is the focal point of the only explanation that Rome has for its own claims to authority today.

Michael Brown interviews Kurt Eichenwald

For those who still care:

http://www.lineoffireradio.com/2015/01/21/dr-brown-interviews-newsweek-journalist-kurt-eichenwald/

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DEA dragnet surveillance

http://www.nationalreview.com/node/397303/print

Raoul Wallenberg and AHA


I'm going to comment on this:


AHA opposes the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (HR36).

And during this time, we’ve passed over 200 so-called “pro-life” laws, but they all discriminate in one way or the other, against our neighbors who are still in the womb. As Christians, we have absolutely no business abandoning any of our neighbors. Think about what we’ve done and how ridiculous we’ve been. Although we know that ALL are created in God’s own image, we’ve passed laws saying that if you are in certain areas, and as long as the mother has seen an ultrasound, then she can murder her baby. But, if the mother travels to another location, she may not need to see an ultrasound, but might have to wait 24-72 hours before murdering her child. 

Take a comparison: During WWII, Raoul Wallenberg made heroic efforts to save as many Hungarian Jews as he could. And he succeeded in saving upwards of 100,000 Jews from the gas chambers.

But by AHA logic, Wallenberg had blood on his hands. His efforts were "discriminatory." He only tried to save Hungarian Jews. And even then, he was only able to save a fraction of the Hungarian Jewish population. 

By AHA logic, he "abandoned" other European Jews. By AHA logic, unless he had a strategy to save every European Jews, he ought to refrain from saving any European Jews. Let the Nazis kill them all.

By AHA logic, Wallenberg should have made hoodies, beenies, lapel pins, and T-shirts with inspirational slogans instead of issuing protective passes to Jews and creating safe houses for Jews. 

Although we know that ALL are created in God’s image, we’ve written laws saying that the person’s rights can be violated, as long as their mother murders them under certain conditions. How can we, as Christians, consider this a step in the right direction? We cannot. We know that ALL are created in God’s image. In creating these acts, laws and restrictions, we are in effect telling the culture that, as long as certain conditions are met, it is OK to go ahead and murder your child. As we continue doing this, doing the same thing over and over and over again, we are pouring more and more blood on our hands. We are all guilty.

AHA has a groupthink quality. It creates in-house narratives which it imputes to prolifers. It invents fictional stories about pro-lifers. These in-house narratives assume acreedal status in AHA. 

Take the assertion that "we are in effect telling the culture that, as long as certain conditions are met, it is OK to go ahead and murder your child." What actual evidence do they have that that's how the general public forms its views on the morality of abortion? 

It is very simple. God told us not to murder. “Thou shall not murder.” He didn’t say that you could murder, as long as you counseled the mother about breast cancer. He never said that you could murder, as long as you have your parents' consent. He said “Thou shall not murder.” That’s it.

HR36 doesn't mandate abortion. Abortion already exists. It's legally protected. HR36 chips away at preexisting laws. The point of HR36 is not to authorize abortion, but to prevent abortion. It falls short because prolifers are not omnipotent. 

One of AHA's chronic moral confusions is its failure to distinguish between process and principle, methodology and ideology. A law restricting abortion is a means to an end. A process is a means to an end, not in end in itself. The law itself is not the principle, but a method of achieving a desired result. It is not a moral compromise to do less good when that's the most good you can do at the moment. 

Unconditional submission


I'm going to respond to some remarks a commenter made at Beggars All:

Cletus Van Damme said...
You've moved the goalposts. guy's point is not that all catholics actually submit or never dissent, but that RCism, by the nature of its claims, allows for an actual change after submission - there is no such change allowed by Protestantism by nature of its claims. That's Devin's point which James and Svendsen are missing - everything remains under "private judgment" in Protestantism and perpetually so - because of the very nature of its claims. NT believers had to use private judgment in submitting to Christ/Apostles authority claims - that did not make those claims superfluous or meaningless (let alone worthy of rejection/indifference as Protestantism does in rejecting any body claiming divine authority/infallibility).

i) Private judgment is perpetual in Catholicism. The difference is that Catholics transfer private judgment from the laity to popes and bishops. Instead of laymen exercising private judgment, they submit to the private judgment of popes and bishops. But make no mistake: it's private judgment through and through.

ii) The difference is that Catholics arbitrarily relinquish the private judgment of the laity. It's an exercise in wishful thinking. Make-believe. They follow their private judgment to up a certain point, then suddenly act as if the private judgment of their religious superiors is unerring.

Is it really so difficult to see that a revealed religion demands, from its very nature, a place for private judgment and a place for authority? 


Protestant theology has that. The place for authority is occupied by God's written revelation. 

A place for private judgment, in determining that the revelation itself comes from God, in discovering the Medium through which that revelation comes to us, and the rule of faith by which we are enabled to determine what is, and what is not, revealed. A place for authority to step in, when these preliminary investigations are over, and say "Now, be careful, for you are out of your depth here....these and a hundred other questions are questions which your human reason cannot investigate for itself, and upon which it can pronounce no sentence, since it moves in the natural not in the supernatural order. At this point, then, you must begin to believe by hearsay; from this point onwards you must ask, not to be convinced, but to be taught." Is it really so illogical in us, to fix the point at which our private judgment is no longer of any service?"

That's a familiar paradigm. We see that dynamic in cults. You submit to the wisdom of the cult leader. You submit your decisions to him. He tells you how many wives you may have, how many kids you may have. If he orders you to assassinate his rival, you carry out his command without question. Nothing is more dangerous than unconditional submission to the judgment of another sinful, fallible man. 

No, the problem is such teachers and teaching are always subject to error (where error is defined as conflicting with my current provisional interpretation of Scripture) - hence semper reformanda and the ever-conditional authority of confessions and the like.

That's why everything remains subject to private judgment as I said above - there's no actual "submission" to such teachers (how can there be, given the nature of Protestant claims in the first place and rejection of the types of claims RCism and other bodies make).


This is where Catholics pretend that merely probable evidence enjoys the same warrant as certainty. Even though their private judgment in trusting Rome in the first place is admittedly uncertain, once they arrive at that uncertain conclusion, they posit certainty for the "divine teaching office" of the magisterium. But the actual state of the evidence, by their own admission, falls well short of warranting that confidence. 

(And, of course, Protestants deny that there's even probable evidence for the claims of Rome. Rather, there's impressive evidence that the claims of Rome are false.)

This might carry more weight if Scripture predated the church. 
It did. It's called the Old Testament.
But the church was operating for decades before Scripture was complete - the identification of the canon was based in part on the life of the church.
We could turn that around. Scripture was complete long before the church was complete. Indeed, the church of Rome is still a work in progress. Periodically redefining or reinventing itself.

Except the identification of the extent/scope of Scripture is not guaranteed to be free of corruption by your own principles.

i) Even if that were the case, so what? We have to accept the situation God has given us rather than invent a fictional ideal more to our liking.

ii) And if God intends to secure the scope of the canon for his people, he can ensure that result.

As said above, Scripture came out of the church which was operating with their successors before Scripture was completed. Therefore, they left behind both, not just one.

Scripture came out of individual Bible writers.

Now this is interesting. James [Swan] keeps on asserting Devin is assuming what he needs to prove, and yet what proof do we have that the model/precedent set by the Jerusalem council was a one-off thing that would no longer be followed once the final word of Scripture was penned? Granting sola scriptura, I would think that would have to be pretty explicitly stated in Scripture to be consistent.

Well, one reason it's a "one-off thing" is that it included apostles and a stepbrother of Jesus. But that's unrepeatable.

Similarly, you and James seem to agree apostolic preaching/practice of the faith preceded inscripturation. So at a minimum it seems Tradition and inscripturation were operating in parallel until the last sentence of the last book was written correct? So why assume that pattern and the rule of faith suddenly changed and shifted in essence in terms of transmission and operation when the last inspired word was penned – would it not be more reasonable to assume the pattern continued by default (especially when the church was already operating for decades) unless there was strong evidence to the contrary?

It's equivocal to equate apostolic preaching with "tradition." "Tradition" is something that's handed down from generation to generation. That's hardly equivalent to temporary oral communication. 
And given your rule of faith, such evidence would have to exist in the writings/Scripture themselves correct?
Sola scriptura doesn't exclude extrabiblical supporting evidence.
But if your rule of faith was not operating during inscripturation (as James [Swan] notes), I fail to see how that can even be possible, let alone probable since any appeal to support SS would violate the original meaning/intent of the words.
What words is he even referring to?

Because you only agree with those councils solely because they happen to agree with your interpretation of Scripture.

What's wrong with that?
You are telling me that a rule of faith that has infallible preaching/practice (i.e. Tradition) alongside infallible Scripture is not contradictory to Sola Scriptura. That would mean there are 2 infallible authorities, not one, which is contradictory to SS. 
i) That confuses a mode of communication with the content of communication. 
ii) Moreover, apostolic preaching isn't "tradition" (see above).  

Rabbity Catholics


Papal lackey Dave Armstrong has been defending the pope's statement about Catholic who breed like rabbits. What's striking is the pushback from normally loyal Catholics. The pope's remark hit a sore nerve among the faithful:

wfee said...
I appear to be one of those "irresponsible parents". My wife has had 7 c-sections.
I agree with your facebook visitor.

Multiple C-sections are grave matters and should be considered carefully -- but in many cases the "danger" statistics are overhyped.

Examine your wikipedia statistics:
13 per 100k c-sections result in death -- That means that 99,987 did not die. Yes it is mathematically 3x worse chances, but it still a small chance.

On our firstborn, my wife experienced a partial accreta. Thank God we had a very expert OB/GYN who was able to effectively dig it out. We were warned every time that the odds were increasingly worse to have this occur with each subsequent pregnancy -- the likely fix would be a hysterectomy. 6 additional c-sections later... no accretas.

Your Wikipedia statistics say we were up to a "6.74% [chance of accreta] after six or more. " That's still 93% chance of no problems.
The chance of a car accident on the way to the hospital is probably higher. (Maybe not higher than the chance of a deadly accident, but you'd have a pregnant lady in the car...)

Our OB/GYN would portray these statistics in such a manner that would scare my wife all the time -- If I followed the verbal math she gave us, by the 3rd c-section we had a 175% chance of accreta and certain death. Of course we were offered sterilization options with every c-section.

If I told you that I had a financial investment that promised a slow growing return of 20 years that would cause you to lose all of your investment only 3% of the time would that scare you away? What about 7% of the time? If you still invest it at at 7% risk are you financially irresponsible? Of course not, there is still a 93% chance of good return. Those are significantly good odds of everything going well.

I disagree with the appeal to medical knowledge & statistics here. The culture I witnessed going though this scenario for real was that the medical facility wanted to sterilize us so that we couldn't have children after the very first c-section.

I disagree with having multiple c-sections being characterized as a "mistaken perspective". Your facebook friend is correct -- the pregnant woman & her husband's reasoning is very much required to determine "irresponsibility".
JT WIlson said...
If I'm following this reasoning, there is a significant risk of mortality with the woman's c-section, making in it wrong for her to bear another child. What happens when that logic is applied to prior centuries?

In the 1850s, a British woman's chance of death in childbirth (forget limiting to c-section) was 5/1000. Should any woman in prior centuries have risked more than one child? Certainly there was a great risk of orphaning the first. Looks like a population problem to me.

David L Alexander Uh, if that is indeed what he [Pope Francis] did, and given what little he could possibly know of the circumstances … probably not.

Jesus Perez Dave. Interesting article. Is your contention that the simple fact of having 8 C-sections [is] irresponsible parenthood or that plus a number of other factors? I have difficulty with this.

Michael Liccione Even granted that the Pope's view of that particular woman’s choices is correct, I think it was an error to cite a particular individual. Doing that only caused some women with many children to sympathize with her and resent the Pope's remark.

Jesus Perez This is a tough one Dave. My wife has had three c-sections and we were told not to have more children after our second child. I don't think we're being irresponsible. We want to have more, and we know many faithful couples who've had multiple c-sections.

David L Alexander Dave: "It's not about having eight children, but about having eight c-sections. The two scenarios are vastly different from each other. But …" … but those are medical judgments, not strictly moral ones, and the Holy Father risks being outside his area of competence, much less his authority. Thus it is no surprise if "that only caused some women with many children to sympathize with her and resent the Pope's remark."

David Palm Scott and Kimberly Hahn have six children and I think all of them were born via c-section.

David Palm Were the Hahns irresponsible to have six children via c-section?

David L Alexander Dave: My son from a prior union was born via c-section, and his mother had three miscarriages (one before, at least two after that we know of), and any subsequent births would most likely be c-section, as she was of small stature. We were in consultation with more doctors than I could shake a stick at. 

I question that such public displays are an appropriate venue for such rebukes, whether it's the Pope, or the pastor who lives down the lane. That it was indelicate and ill-mannered is my argument. I don't need to copy and paste from medical journals, and I don't need schooling from you on the risks involved. I had a ringside seat, and saw lives and a marriage ruined. Including mine.

Brendan Malone Dave, I love your work, but I've got to disagree with you on this one - as others have already said here, the issue is whether or not it was appropriate to actually publicly utilise that woman, and that specific scenario as an example of parental irresponsibility.

Surely her human dignity demands more than to be treated as an object lesson in irresponsibility for all the world's media?

Brendan Malone One other thing - I know of two very responsible and faithful local Catholic families who have been really hurt by the fact that Pope Francis used their specific family situation as an example of parental irresponsibility in front of the world's media.

Earlier today the wife of one of those families posed an important question on Facebook: 

"Everyone talks like NFP works all the time. It doesn't. I'm thankful for that cos I wouldn't have had all my kids if it did! But what if the woman highlighted by the pope HAD used it and was still in the same situation? Irresponsible then too?"

Paul Croarkin "There are many thousands of pro-life doctors". BS. Try finding one who won't prescribe contraception.

Paul Croarkin So, what was our option? Abort? V-bac was out of the question.

Rachel LaPointe I have to disagree with your comment a few up about whether nfp working or not has to do with this. In a way, it has everything to do with it. If NFP is unreliable, then responsible parenthood becomes extremely difficult for those who need to not have more kids. Say a young couple has six kids, by way of csection, can't risk another, but she's only 35. Do they have to abstain completely for the next 15-20 years, due to unreliable NFP? If you can't rely on NFP then you are risking a whole host of other issues.

Rachel LaPointe Paul, I know several people who have tried every modern method, and all have failed to correctly identify the fertile window. For most women, one method will work at least, whether creighton, Marquette, sympto thermal or billings (or any of the others). But I know at least one person, who right now is considering leaving the church because no method works and she can't justify using contraceptives or being sterilized and remaining in the church.

Rachel LaPointe And diocese support is crap in so many places. Excuse my language, but I've known too many people to get zero support. Some areas may be good, but many are not.

Rachel LaPointe Dave you can have unreliable signs. Constant mucus screws up lots of methods. Unreliable temps is easy to obtain for any mom if there's a sick kid or any other disturbance. And methods that rely on hormones can miss peak leaving you in unending highs and never ending abstinence if you struggle with cycles of varying lengths. 

This isn't the norm that I'm talking about. But never-ending abstinence when constantly hoping you might get one or two days every month or two is destroying marriages and faiths. The church teaches us that sex is important for marriage right? Celibate marriage is NOT the norm.

Rachel LaPointe Her husband is involved. It's a big burden for both of them.

Mary Ellen Wilhelm DeLong The pope chose a poor example to to make his point.. He should have chosen a woman with cancer who ABSTAINS as an example of responsible parenthood or an impoverished family with no means to sustain themselves or a mother with a serious heart condition etc. The example he used was subjective and poorly chosen.

Rachel LaPointe What if the woman in the example was perfectly following an NFP method, and had a method failure?

Rachel LaPointe I'm going to point out some hurdles to the advice given (all of which she's heard before, and I won't be pointing out again). 1. Money. NFP doctors aren't cheap, and insurance coverage can vary. 2. Every method has a method failure rate. It is possible that a woman could have such varying signs, without major underlying health issues, where she would fall into the category of none of the current methods working. 3. At some point, after numerous methods have failed to be accurate, there is a distinct lack of trust. Part of this stems from what I consider to be a normal response to nothing working. Another large part stems from a general vibe in the NFP community that something will just work or you aren't doing it right, or you aren't holy enough, or whatever. I doubt that those vibes are intentional, but the people who have issues ARE shot down and told they are imagining or it's otherwise their fault. That's "gaslighting" and is an abuse tactic. I'm part of a fairly large group of friends who have experienced these things, it's not an isolated experience of just a small handful of people.

I'm also only saying all this in an effort to bring our stories to light. We're all in the minority of people who do practice NFP. We don't want church teaching to change, because we see the wisdom in it. We love JP2 and the theology of the body. But that doesn't discount the trials, and I think when we are just told "suck it up" it's not enough, because that could mean life or death, or a baby coming that we can't afford or any number of very serious things. Not everyone is able to be like St Gianna. 

For this group, we were excited with the pope's remarks.. to us it was a pat on the back of "You are doing the right things by being prudent and avoiding pregnancy". It wasn't a "Well, if you get pregnant in life or death circumstances, you'll be happy anyway because NFP makes you open to life" (a common common thing to hear on certain very large NFP groups here on facebook). The NFP offices seem to put an emphasis on the "rainbows and butterflies", which makes anyone who experiences major struggles feel abnormal. Most of us probably don't look like the happy couples on the brochures. And combine that with experiences of people who get shot down when they ask for help, well, there's an issue. It's much larger than what I could put in a facebook comment, and it is something dear to my heart.

Benjamin Baxter Part of the problem is that this explanations adds suppositions which, while plausible, Pope Francis isn't mentioning. He's leaving a lot to guess at. It is certainly a failure of communication (as a remark made to everyone.) Pope Francis is not a good public speaker. He's a personal communicator, one-on-one. Trouble is, he's speaking publicly. 

Now, being a good communicator is not a requirement for sanctity. However, being a good communicator has been a quality of the papacy for the last thirty years. People listening to the pope and expecting that are understandably distressed. 

Bottom line: The role of someone who "gets the Pope" is not to condescend or assume hostile motives but first to recognize that someone is angry and, more likely than not, has a very understandable reason for it. 

Someone I know talked about these remarks as brilliant. They aren't. They're likely interpersonally effective in the moment but they are publicly scandalous because they are shared around the world. If someone is going to speak to "the little ones" about Pope Francis, recognizing the genuine distress is a huge first step, and recognizing it as a legitimate distress is the most important second step.

Kathy Jones When I was growing up , our family doctor (a wonderful Catholic guy) and his wife had 11 children......all by c-section. All healthy, beautiful etc. I can see the Holy Father's point....still he picks his spots to say "Who am I to judge."

John D. Lewis How many c-sections is responsible then?

John D. Lewis How many natural births is responsible then? (I ask this because I think the same logic can be obtained perhaps; for example, as teacher of NFP, my wife and I would usually flippantly say something like "The Church calls us to 'responsible parenthood' which means, most likely, God does not want us to have 0 or 1.3 children nor 25 children." But having just thrown that big 25 number out there, now I'm wondering what a truly "irresponsible" number would be? And how would one distinguish between "irresponsibility" and "providentialism" I wonder? I would think that having 0 children due to selfishness would be the worse sin than having 25 children due to irresponsibility. Am I wrong there? In conclusion, one thing I think we can all agree upon is that whether it's the 3rd or 13th c-section, when one looks at that precious new LIFE smiling at ya, you'd have to say "Oh happy fault!!!!"

Playing hooky


This is a sequel to a post I did several years ago:


As the Superbowl approaches, some pastors are decrying Christians who skip church to watch the Superbowl. A few quick observations:

i) i agree that many Americans have skewed priorities when it comes to sports. (And not just Americans. The same holds true for Europe, the UK, and Latin America.)

That said, unless you think professional sports is sinful, a prudent pastor should pick his battles. No point attacking something that's popular unless it's sinful. That's a lost cause. 

In cases like that, it's best to take advantage of the situation.

ii) At the risk of stepping on some toes, most church services are eminently forgettable. How many church services in your experience ever made an indelible impression? If you attended one less church service per year, what difference would that make? Would you remember the service if you hadn't played hooky that Sunday? 

iii) Don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that watching football is more important than attending church. Mind you, that depends on the kind of church you attend. There are situations where you'd get more from reading a good Bible commentary. 

iv) Someone might object that this isn't a fair way to assess church attendance. The value of church attendance is cumulative and fairly subliminal. A form of spiritual maintenance. A regiment or discipline which helps to keep you from drifting. 

If that's the argument, I agree. But by the same token, skipping one service has negligible effect. 

v) A better question is what we do in our spare time generally. It's not enough just to complain about how many churchgoers fritter away their leisure time on trivia. They need advice on how to make better use of their free time.