Monday, September 22, 2014

The Quran, the Bible, and the Islamic Dilemma

The Cartesian theater

More pearls of wisdom from the Rational Skepticism Forum:

Ven. Kwan Tam Woo » Sep 22, 2014 6:01 am
The fact of the matter is that, so far as this debate is concerned, he is on the same side as those Muslim terrorists.

i) An allegation which he hasn't even attempted to demonstrate.

ii) But since he wants to talk about terrorism, what's his position on ecoterrorism, viz. ALF, ELF, SSCS, Earth First? Aren't their members typically adherents of naturalistic evolution?

The idea that atheism leads to moral relativism and nihilism is as fallacious as it is offensive

That's an idea I got from prominent secular philosophers, viz. Michael Ruse, Joel Marks, Alex Rosenberg, Quentin Smith, J. L. Mackie, Massimo Pigliucci.

You want religious justifications for extremist acts?

Pretending to answer a question I didn't ask.

So bombing clinics “after hours” is okay is it?

Here we have an atheist who's so intellectually challenged that for him, distinguishg what is less worse from what is far worse is equivalent to "okay." If I say burning a human alive is far worse than burning a dog alive, does that mean burning a dog alive is "okay"?

You have to wonder: is he an atheist because he's that obtuse–or is he that obtuse because he's an atheist?

Well now he knows how narcissistic psychopaths feel! I hope I never run into this guy in a dark alley! First he suggests that it’s okay to bomb abortion clinics “after hours”, and now this.

Notice how he's admitted in a roundabout way that atheism is dangerous. It isn't safe to be an atheist if you take it too seriously. It is dangerous to be a consistent atheist. Dangerous to think it through to its logical conclusion. And especially dangerous to act on it.

No it’s not. It’s an adaptation-oriented description.

He used the word "fulfill." That's a teleological concept.

Simply put, natural selection gives the illusion of brain evolution moving towards a particular goal.

If natural selection generates illusions, how would he be in any position to detect the illusion? His brain is a product of that delusive process.

Re serial killers: the question was why we value things, *not* whether it is right or wrong to value certain things.

Which is a problem for his position inasmuch as atheism is unable to bridge the gap between moral psychology and moral ontology.

Perhaps the author could enlighten us as to why his “loving” God has seen it fit create serial killers who derive pleasure from wanton murder?

I've discussed theodicy on many occasions. Try asking a question I haven't answered already.

How does it beg the question?? The evidence that thought arises from neurological activity is overwhelming. Those “eminent” philosophers (I assume he means people like Chalmers?) are pulling assertions out of their arses.

Which does nothing to refute their arguments.

Well at least he is admitting that he’s motivated by fear, that’s a start.

No, I used the word "suppose." That's a cue that I'm speaking hypothetically. For the sake of argument.

His fear is not an effect of “physical determinism” (which I never mentioned), rather it is a product of his own religious baggage. No one is “blaming” brain chemistry for anything. Yes you can in fact influence what your brain tells you, but in order to do that you have to understand and accept how the brain works first.

Notice that he's captive to the Cartesian theater. He's a physicalist, yet he acts like he's an independent observer of his neurological outputs. As if he's a homunculus who's watching the action and assessing the action. But if physicalism is true, there is no "he" distinct from his brain. His claim is circular: to say "you can influence what your brain tells you" translates into "your brain can influence what your brain tells you." As though your brain can peer over its shoulder and correct what your brain is doing.

No, that’s a straw man. It is a causal, selective, and adaptation-driven process in which complexity builds upon itself.

To say it's "causal, selective, and adaptation-driven" doesn't contradict the fact that it's a blind, undirected process.

To take a comparison, suppose I throw dice to bet on horses or play the stock market. Is that a reliable method to pick horses or pick stocks? No, because there's no intelligence behind the outcome. Like a brain that's the product of naturalistic evolution. A roll of the dice.

What I’m asking is how does he explain the origin and functioning of the mind of his god?

Only contingent entities have an origin. So his question is a category mistake.

The emotional effects are real whether you are consciously aware that the story and characters are fictional or not. If you can just switch them off by reminding yourself that it’s not real, then the movie makers haven’t done their job properly.

I appreciate his frank admission that an atheist finds it hard to distinguish between fiction and reality. That goes a long way towards explaining why he's an atheist in the first place.

Whither the Canaanites?


One thing some students of the Bible find puzzling are apparently conflicting statements about the actual scope of the destruction of the Canaanites. On the one hand we have unqualified statements about the decimation of the Canaanites (e.g. Deut 7:2; 20:16-17; Josh 10:40-42). On the other hand, we have statements acknowledging the continued presence of Canaanites in the Holy Land (e.g. Judges 1-3).
This also crops up in debates over the historicity of the accounts. Does the archeological record confirm or disconfirm the extent of the conquest in biblical narratives? 
i) Many scholars say the Biblical language is hyperbolic. Hyperbole was a stock literary convention of ANE conquest accounts. And I think that explanation may well be valid. 
There are, however, one or two alternative explanations:
ii) To begin with, we need to distinguish between commands and compliance. You could well have discrepancy between the scope of the command and the degree to which that was carried out. That doesn't mean the record is inaccurate. Rather, that means the Israelites were not consistently faithful in implementing the command. 
iii) Finally, Scripture indicates more than one way in which the Holy Land was cleared of Canaanites. Mass execution was one means. But Scripture also refers to expelling the inhabitants (e.g. Exod 23:28-30; Lev 18:24; Num 33:51-56; Deut 7:20; Josh 24:12).
Now, to the extent that many Canaanites were driven out, that means they were still alive. So even if they self-evacuated, they–or their descendants–could stage periodic raids or military incursions. Attempt to reestablish their presence. Retake land which they previously occupied. 
Ancient Israel had porous borders. It's not as if there was an electrified fence to secure the boundaries of the Holy Land and keep intruders at bay. An area which might have been free of Canaanites in the time of Joshua might be reoccupied by Canaanites in the time of Judges–absent constant vigilance by the Israelites. 

Remember the Reformation

Over at my Reformation500 blog, I’ve been working through Richard Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics series. I’ve acquired this set through Logos Bible Software, and while it was costly, it was every bit worth the price.

Over there, I’ve been working through Volumes 1 and 3 (“Prolegomena” and “Doctrine of God”). Those deal a lot with epistemology and metaphysics and how the Reformers dealt with the Medieval discussions and how the “Reformed Orthodox” really tried to clarify the Medieval discussions from a truly Biblical perspective.

Muller’s Volume 2 deals with “the Doctrine of Scripture” – and I think that’s a good thing to review in the light of some of the things that are going on in our day. Of course it may be said that “this was all from a pre-critical era” and that’s true, but it’s still important to see how the individuals from this era of “Reformed orthodoxy” worked their best to understand all of the history of the church before them.

Muller’s central thesis is something like this:

Reviews Of Debates On Jesus' Resurrection

Here are links to our reviews of some resurrection debates over the years:

William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman (2006) (reviewed by Steve Hays)
William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman (2006) (reviewed by Jason Engwer)
Mike Licona vs. Bart Ehrman (2008)
Gary Habermas vs. Arif Ahmed (2008) (see, also, the further comments here and in the Stand to Reason thread linked there)
Richard Carrier vs. William Lane Craig (2009)
Mike Licona vs. Bart Ehrman (2009)
Mike Licona vs. Evan Fales (2014)

You can find archives of our posts on resurrection issues here. The e-books linked on our sidebar on the right side of our homepage contain several hundred pages of material on Jesus' resurrection. Steve's This Joyful Eastertide alone has a few hundred pages on the subject. You'll find lengthy interactions with Robert Price, Richard Carrier, Jeff Lowder, John Loftus, and other individuals. If you're interested in responses to people whose debates we haven't reviewed, you might find responses to them in the other resources I've just mentioned.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pure genius!


I used to think Dawkins was just a science writer rather than a working scientist. Not a great scientist. Or even a very good scientist. Not a theoretical or experimental scientist of any distinction. Just a flashy popularizer. But now I take it all back. He's made a novel and hitherto unsuspected discovery: "We are going to die!"


Why did it take science so long to stumble onto that elusive fact? I think Dawkins should be awarded a Nobel prize in biology for his stunning new discovery. This catapults him to the ranks of Newton, Einstein, Dirac, and Pauling.

Saving babies

I recently got into an impromptu Facebook exchange on infant salvation:
  • Steve Hays Moore's criticism is illogical. If someone is born with total depravity, that doesn't mean he dies with total depravity. If God choses to save a dying infant, he regenerates the infant. Justifies the infant. Sanctifies the infant. Glorifies the infant. Total depravity makes people liable to hell, but saving grace counteracts total depravity.
  • Steve Hays 
  • John Moore "You are born a sinner, you will always be a sinner even if regenerated (Westminster Confession), and the only way to be free of sin is when you die and are rid of your sinful flesh (body)" is the most damnable doctrine ever to seep it's way up from the pits of hell and into the church and the hearts of men!"
  • So is Moore a perfectionist? That's hard to live up to! Calvinism doesn't locate sin in "the body." By itself, there's nothing sinful about the body. It's what you does with your body that can be sinful. It's the mind that's sinful. The body simply does what the mind directs.

  • Steve Hays
     
  • Joel Tay Onan Coca, "I would say that it is inconsistent, since the issue is where we get the idea that a baby can be saved apart from a justification by faith--and whether a person can be elected apart from faith."
  • In Calvinism, election is unconditional. It's traditional Arminianism that espouses conditional election (i.e. election based on foreseen faith). In Calvinism, every elect person is elected "apart from faith." God doesn't elect someone on account of their faith. Faith is not the basis of election.
  • Rather, faith is an indirect result of election. Those whom God elects, he graces with other spiritual blessings–including the gift of faith. You might say faith is one *goal* of election. 
  • In Calvinism, moreover, regeneration is the cause of faith. So regeneration is more ultimate than faith. The elect can be regenerate before they exercise faith. 
  • Biblical commands about the necessity of faith are addressed to adults. Many biblical commands are specific to a particular class of individuals. Circumcision is addressed to males, not females. So you can't just assume that the necessity of faith is applicable to everyone, regardless of their cognitive status (i.e. babies, the developmentally disabled, senile Christians, comatose Christians, Christians with brain cancer).
  • Finally, if God saves babies, they presumably mature in the afterlife. They will reach the age of discretion, at which point they will be able to exercise faith.
  • Keep in mind, too, that it depends on the definition of faith. There's a sense in which, according to Scripture (e.g. Hebrews, 1 Corinthians), faith is supplanted by sight in the world to come. 
  • Therefore, the salvation of dying infants is not inconsistent with Calvinism.

  • Steve Hays
    Joel, are you attempting to interact with what I wrote? If so, your response is very incomplete. To begin with, even if the elect *will* believe, that fails to address the timeframe. When or where will they believe? In this life or the afterlife? In addition, you're sidestepping much of what I said. Is that because you don't have a specific counterargument?

  • Steve Hays
    Let's take a comparison, which I already hinted at, but you ignored. As a rule, those who die in a state of unbelief are hellbound. But does that apply to Christians who cease to believe due to brain cancer or senile dementia?

    Steve Hays
    So, Joel, are you asserting God never regenerates anyone below the age of discretion? If so, what's your basis for that blanket claim?

  • Steve Hays
    So are you saying babies exercise faith? Babies believe the gospel? What do you mean when you deny an age of discretion? Do you mean humans undergo no cognitive development from conception and/or birth to maturity? Does a 2-year-old have the same cognitive ability as a 20-year-old?

  • Steve Hays
    BTW, what's your evidence that regeneration immediately issues in faith, regardless of age?

  • Steve Hays
    If there's no such thing as an age of discretion, then what does this passage mean? 
  • "15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted" (Isa 7:15-16)?

  • Steve Hays
    Your response suffers from multiple confusions:
    • i) To begin with, you don't seem to grasp what the phrase "age of discretion means." You act as if it's synonymous with the "age of accountability." Is English your second language? Actually, "age of consent" is "synonymous with "age of reason." "Discretion" has primary reference to intellectual aptitude/awareness, not responsibility. The imputation of Adam's sin is irrelevant to the age of discretion inasmuch as the age of discretion is not synonymous with the age of accountability. 
    • There is, of course, some connection between intellectual development and moral development. If a 2-year-old steals a toy from the store, and a 20-year-old steals a Rolex from the store, one committed a crime and the other did not. The law rightly draws that distinction. 
    • ii) LIkewise, the imputation of Adam's sin is irrelevant to the question of infant salvation inasmuch as infant salvation, in Reformed theology, takes the imputation of Adam's sin for granted. Although babies are guilty in Adam, elect babies are redeemed by the blood of Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. 
    • iii) You also have difficulty following your own argument. I introduced the age of discretion in relation to the issue of faith. You're the one who keeps harping on faith. So I'm responding to you on your own terms. Faith presupposes a certain level of cognitive development. To require doctrinal faith from a 1-year-old is contrary to nature. The age of discretion is entirely relevant to the intellectual capacity or incapacity to exercise faith. Try to keep up with your own side of the argument.
    • iv) You miss the point about Isa 7:15-16. The passage indicates that below a certain age, a human lacks the cognitive development to know the difference between good and evil. By parity of argument, a human below a certain age lacks the cognitive development to exercise doctrinal faith. That's the connection.
    • I didn't introduce the verse to establish that dying children go to heaven. Rather, I cited the passage to establish the age of discretion–a phrase which seems to confuse you.
    • v) If you don't see why a baby can't believing the gospel, then you're not trying very hard. Do babies understand doctrinal propositions? Are babies simply tiny adults? Adults in baby bodies?
    • The Lukan text about the prenatal Baptist doesn't say he assented to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. 
    • vi) "The idea that a baby can be justified apart from faith is nothing more than a denial of sola fide." You're repeating objections I already dealt with. That's a tacit concession your part that you lost the argument. 
    • vii) I actually haven't discussed whether all or even some dying infants go to heaven. You've forgotten what the issue was. The question at issue is whether infant salvation is consistent with Calvinism. At this point I'm not discussing whether Calvinism is true or whether infant salvation is true. Rather, I'm merely discussing the original issue, which is one of internal consistency. 
    • Perhaps you reject Calvinism, but that's beside the point. The issue is whether the possibility of infant salvation is logically incompatible with Calvinism. Whether Calvinism is true is a separate issue. Whether infant salvation is true is a separate issue. At the moment, the issue on the table is the logical relation between these two propositions. 
    • You seem to be conditioned to respond to position that's not actually on the table at the moment. You need to adapt to new challenges.
    • viii) Infants are a special case because infants naturally lack a certain level of cognitive development necessary to believe doctrinal propositions. From a Christian standpoint, infant mortality inevitably raises the question of their eternal fate.

    J.B. Lightfoot's Commentary On Acts

    It's available for preorder at Amazon. It's based on some previously unpublished manuscripts of Lightfoot's work on Acts recently discovered by Ben Witherington. If you want to know why the book is significant, read the description and endorsements at Amazon.

    Shooting blanks


    The Rational Skepticism Forum has been commenting on a post of mine:
    These are rank-and-file atheists. The lay atheist, compared to the high priesthood (e.g. Harris, Hitchens, Stenger, Dennett, Dawkins). Let's evaluate some of their responses:

    Saturday, September 20, 2014

    Raëlians at Qumran


    Art Boulet recently graced my blog. He's a Peter Enns loyalist, who follows his master from behind, to carry the royal train of his hero and mentor. 
    To judge by his profile, Art has an impressive resume–as Editor of the Princeton Dead Sea Scrolls project. His stated interests include Hebrew, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Aramaic.
    Yet this is paradoxical. To begin with, why should we care about the DDS? Why should we care about ANE languages and literature?
    Well, one justification is that this helps us to understand the Bible. And, with due qualifications, that's true. 
    But that only pushes the question back a step: why should we care about understanding the Bible? Why should that merit out attention?
    The conventional answer is a theological rationale: the Bible is God's word. That's why we take a particular interest in ANE history and archeology. 
    Problem is, after you reject the inspiration of Scripture, after you reject the revelatory status of OT Judaism and NT Christianity, the theological rationale slips off its foundation. 
    The logical alternative is a naturalistic explanation. The Bible is not God's self-disclosure to man, but man's opinion of God. Not the inspired record of what God is really like, but the fallible, only too human record of what primitive Christians and Jews imagine God is like. An essentially secular outlook. A world without divine revelation or intervention. A world in which "God" is not a divine self-revelation, but a human self-projection. Mind you, Enns lacks the courage of consistency. But if you take his position to a logical extreme, that's where it terminates. 
    Once you remove the theological rationale, the resources devoted to the DDS, Second Temple Judaism, or biblical archeology is vastly disproportionate. Why should we care what a little Jewish breakaway sect believed? Why pour over their writings? Why try to reconstruct the history of their sect? Fight over alternate interpretations?
    What if the community at Qumran is the ancient equivalent of Scientology, Raëlism, the Order of the Solar Temple, or the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn? One of hundreds of long-forgotten cults and splinter groups which, through an accident of history, had some of its homegrown scriptures preserved and discovered?
    Because what survives the ravages of time is so happenstance, it often receives attention out of all proportion to its historical or intrinsic significance. 
    Suppose Princeton was facing a budget crisis. Had to slash some programs. How would Boulet justify the DDS project? Would he try to justify the project on theological grounds? 
    As secularism and pluralism progresses, how can you defend this disproportionate investment in ancient Christian and Jewish literature? Due to its historical value? But why is that more important than Mesoamerican history and archeology (e.g. Incan, Mayan, and Aztec history and archeology)? Are Mayan hieroglyphics less interesting than the Amarna letters or the Nuzi tablets? 
    Same applies to Harvard and Yale Divinity schools. From a secular and/or pluralistic standpoint, that's terribly provincial and retrograde. 
    Why devote so much attention to a book you don't believe? Surely not for the purely literary values.  

    A Review Of The Licona/Fales Debate On The Resurrection

    A few days ago, I linked to a video of a debate on Jesus' resurrection between Mike Licona and Evan Fales. I don't have much familiarity with Fales' material. I don't remember ever reading any of his articles or books, though I'd heard of him before and had read some excerpts of what he'd written. But I want to respond to what he said during the debate. He repeats a lot of common objections to the historicity of Jesus' resurrection, in addition to arguing for some uncommon views.

    Unlike many critics of Christianity, Fales acknowledges a high level of honesty and intelligence among the early Christians. He makes some especially positive comments about the apostle Paul. However, he thinks the New Testament authors were often writing in a non-historical genre that modern Christians (and many non-Christians) are mistakenly interpreting in a historical manner. He focuses on the gospels, especially Matthew, for most of the debate, but he addresses Paul to some extent during the Questions and Answers segment at the end. He argues that the New Testament authors didn't intend to claim that Jesus rose from the dead in the physical, historical sense Christianity has traditionally maintained.

    In response:

    Fallen idol

    And here I thought all the misogynists were Bible-thumping fundies:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/18/richard-dawkins-sexist-atheists-bad-name/print

    Friday, September 19, 2014

    On God genes and extra estrogen vibes


    I also asked Harris at the event why the vast majority of atheists — and many of those who buy his books — are male, a topic which has prompted some to raise questions of sexism in the atheist community. Harris’ answer was both silly and then provocative. 
    It can only be attributed to my “overwhelming lack of sex appeal,” he said to huge laughter.
    “I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.” 
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2014/09/12/can-atheist-sam-harris-become-a-spiritual-figure/

    Open letter on Doug Green


    I'd like to briefly comment on this open letter:
    The fact that former members of the WTS administration like Barker and Logan signed it might be impressive to some readers. 

    But I think it's a reminder that they were in charge when the WTS OT dept. was liberalizing, and they did nothing to counter that trend. They were complicit in the very situation which the current administration is attempting to redress. They were part of the problem rather than the solution.

    BTW, I can't helping thinking that Logan's lament about the current direction of WTS is related to his liberal politics and his homosexual son. Consider what he said on Facebook a while back. Consider his obsequious exchange with his dictatorial son (who apparently came out of the closet at some point in the past).

    There's a logical connection between theology and ideology. People who are theologically conservative are usually politically conservative. People who are politically liberal are usually theologically liberal. 

    Logan also seems to lack the necessary firmness of character to redress the straying OT dept. at WTS

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

    I think this is worth considering, especially the parts about all the damage that heterosexuals have done to the institution of marriage. And if you really want to know where THAT damage began, take a look at John Milton's, THE DOCTRINE AND DISCIPLINE OF DIVORCE, written in 1643 (at the very time the Westminster Assembly was meeting).



    • Boz Tchividjian likes this.
    • Talbot Logan To reduce the legal issue to "access to basic rights" I think it not an accurate nor fair summation. There are currently in excess of 1000 Federal benefits that are denied to same sex couples including Social Security survivor benefits, the right to inherit from a spouse, mandated family medical leave, partner immigration protection, tax on health benefits etc. Federal benefits are even more important for military personnel and government employees whose same-sex spouses are not accorded the same benefits. That is why this is an important issue.
    • Talbot Logan There is not a call to ask any religious institution to change their views or their definitions of their tenets. But unfortunately, the government has already redefined marriage by offering specific protections under the law and it is that "meaning" that needs to change. And as a gay may, I deny the author's denial that "changing the meaning of the word will improve the acceptance of gays in society". Many social injustices have been corrected by taking words and phrases that have been exclusionary and even hateful and redefining and/or eliminating. I deny that the author, since he is not a gay man, can even understand that what I don't want is access to basic social “rights.” I want to be treated with the same dignity and respect and protection as every American. That I believe is a God-given and inalienable right and supports the greatest commandment of "love thy neighbor as thyself". Far from "basic".
    • Sam Logan Very good clarifications, my son. THANK YOU! I agree with you that what our government has done is "unfortunate." I agree that this needs to change and I support that change in every way that I can. I agree that, no matter what they think about gay marriage, evangelical Christians (starting with your father) need to be much more aggressive and creative in "loving ALL of our neighbors" as ourselves. We/I have done a terrible job at that, not just with respect to gays but also with respect to the poor, to those of different races, AND to those of different religions (including Muslims, who probably are more discriminated against in our society than any other single group). And, as you will have note in my comments about this piece, I think its strongest point is what it says about how the greatest damage to the institution of marriage has been done by heterosexuals. So THANK YOU for your corrections and clarifications!

    Legal technicalities


    16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins (Exod 22:16-17). 
    23 “If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 
    25 “But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26 But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27 because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her. 
    28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days (Deut 22:23-29).
    i) I'm going to comment on a controversial OT law (Deut 22:28-29). Atheists routinely take this to mean a rape victim is required to marry her rapist. Atheists don't bother to exegete the offending text. Rather, you have atheists quoting other atheists quoting other atheists. This is a polemical tradition, handed down without question.
    ii) As I've often noted, atheists have no basis to attack OT ethics inasmuch as atheism can't justify objective moral norms. And many secular philosophers admit it.
    iii) We need to consider the legal rules of evidence. The Mosaic law must address the challenge of potential crimes for which there's no direct evidence. Take the comparison with murder in Deut 22:26b. Often, there are only two witnesses to a murder: the murderer and the murder victim. The murderer won't incriminate himself while the victim can't incriminate his killer.
    So the Mosaic law sometimes resorts to circumstantial evidence. The burden of proof. The Mosaic law will sometimes assign a technical presumption of guilt or innocence depending on the circumstances. That's different from actual guilt or innocence. 
    Take the case of a sexual encounter in the countryside, where there are no third-party witnesses. It could be consensual or coercive, seduction or rape. There's no direct evidence. In that setting, the law simply gives the woman the benefit of the doubt. Both parties could be guilty, but that can't be determined as a matter of fact. 
    iv) Penalties have a deterrent value. If a single man can engage in sexual activity with no strings attached, then he has no incentive to refrain from so doing. If, however, premarital sex obligates him to pay a fine or provide for the woman, then that's a disincentive. So that protects the woman.
    However, deterrents may carry a tradeoffs. When the deterrent works, that's better for the innocent party. It prevents the crime. The innocent party is never victimized in the first place. But when the deterrent fails, it may worsen the situation for the innocent party (i.e. the accused). Laws are often a compromise. 
    Take the case, alluded to in v16, where the law infers criminal intent (cf. Deut 19:4-13). That has deterrent value. That's better for the potential victim. But if in fact the belligerent neighbor is innocent, that's far worse for him.  
    v) Deut 22:28-29 is ambiguous in several respects. It isn't clear that this is a case of rape. It uses a different word (tapas), and a weaker word ("handle," "take hold of") than the word (hazaq) in v25. Although this might be a synonym, if both cases refer to rape, it's odd that the second case uses a different word and a weaker word. Scholars differ on the connotations of the word.  
    vi) Keep in mind that Deut 22:28-29 is a hypothetical case. For hypothetical purposes, the man is presumptively guilty. But that's abstract. 
    In a real-life situation, the man may be innocent. The law doesn't specify how the couple were "discovered." Does the woman cry out? Does someone happen to walk in on them? If they were "caught in the act," a witness doesn't know how that was initiated. Is it consensual or coercive? 
    So we're dealing with an allegation. Even assuming this law refers to rape, this is an accused rapist. But that doesn't mean the defendant is guilty. 
    vii) Moreover, the law may be addressing a question of seduction rather than rape. If so, who seduced whom? How should the law deal with he said/she said allegations?
    In either case, the onus is technically on the accused. That's potentially unfair to the defendant, if in fact he's innocent. But because the law must deal with uncertain situations, it sometimes resorts to technicalities. Balancing one potential injustice against another potential injustice. 
    viii) There's also the question of whether Exod 22:16-17 deals with the same situation, or a similar situation. Scholars disagree. Even if Exod 22:16-17 only deals with a similar case, that may still have interpretive value in how we construe the details of Deut 22:28-29.
    ix) The details may be fuzzy in part because case law is illustrative. It gives a judge general guidelines for adjudicating certain kinds of situations. But the law doesn't address every conceivable situation. So case law often leaves loose ends. OT Judges must exercise discretion. 
    x) Assuming that Exod 22:16-17 parallels Deut 22:28-29, the woman is not obliged to marry the accused. But the man is required to pay the equivalent of a fine. Financial compensation. In ancient Israel, deflowering a virgin outside of marriage greatly reduced her eligibility. So whether or not it was consensual, it is still a crime. And the penalty also has deterrent value, reducing the incidence in the first place. 

    Thursday, September 18, 2014

    What's so bad about dictation?


    Theological liberals try to lampoon plenary verbal inspiration as the "dictation" theory of inspiration. That's despite the fact that classic exponents of verbal plenary inspiration like Warfield champion the "organic" theory of inspiration. To caricature plenary verbal inspiration as the dictation theory is either an ignorant misrepresentation or malicious misrepresentation. 
    That said, what's so bad about a dictation theory of inspiration? Consider the following:
    1:11 “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” 
    19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.  
    2:1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:  
    8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:  
    12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:  
    18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:  
    3:1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: 
    7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:  
    14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  
    21:5 “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
    Looks like a dead-ringer for a dictation theory of inspiration to me. Christ casts John in the role of scribe or stenographer. Christ dictates seven letters to John. In addition, the specter of John taking dictation extends more broadly in 1:19 and 21:5 to the entire experience.
    So, there's nothing intrinsically unfitting about a dictation theory of inspiration. On the face of it, here's a prime example. 
    Now, some scholars might dismiss this as a literary convention. Possibly. But if Christ speaks to John in a vision, why wouldn't he tell John to transcribe what he says? Unless you think the vision itself is a literary convention, why assume the dictation is a literary convention? For speakers are a fixture of the vision. And the only reason to classify the vision itself as a literary convention is if you reject visionary revelation outright.
    I'd add that even if you deny divine revelation, it's a fact that some people have visions. You might try to explain that away naturalistically, but since visions are a common religious phenomenon, there's no reason to automatically classify a visionary account as a literary convention. Although that's a convention in some instance (e.g. 1 Enoch), that doesn't squeeze out records of real visions.
    My point is not that dictation is the only, primary, or even usual mode of Biblical inspiration. But when theological liberals burn this in effigy, it's worth noting that a dictation theory of inspiration is not outlandish. And, in fact, it's not just a "theory," anymore than verbal plenary inspiration is just a "theory." Scripture bears witness to both modes of inspiration.  

    Getting People More Interested In Church History

    James White recently delivered a series of presentations on church history. I've only listened to the first one so far, but it's good, and I suspect the same is true of the others. The series would especially be good for those who don't know much about church history or don't have much interest in it. The first presentation addresses some of the reasons why we should be interested in the subject.

    Courage, corporality, and the ghost in the machine

    http://www.nationalreview.com/node/388335/print

    God-breathed


    According to Arminian theologian Roger Olson:

    Nowhere does the Bible say, nor does Christian tradition require, that God literally "breathed out the very words" of the Bible. That's the dictation theory (sometimes called "verbal plenary inspiration). "Theopneustos" can and should be interpreted as "breathed into by God." 
    http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/what-is-marcionism-my-response-to-a-ludicrous-accusation-.jpg

    It's impressive to see how much error Olson can squeeze into two short sentences:

    1) Verbal plenary inspiration doesn't presume that God "literally" breathed out the very words of Scripture. Verbal plenary inspiration doesn't require divine lung-power or a divine respiratory system. Divine "breath" is a metaphor for inspiration. 

    I assume Paul uses this metaphor in 2 Tim 3:16 for one or two reasons:

    i) Both in Greek (pneuma) and Hebrew (ruach), the words are synonyms for "breath" and "spirit." To say Scripture is "breathed by God" trades on one connotation to attribute Scripture to the agency of God's Spirit.

    ii) In addition, it trades on the other connotation to associate Scripture with the spoken word: Scripture as divine speech.

    3) What makes Olson suppose that verbal plenary inspiration is equivalent to dictation? What does he even mean by that? Does he imagine that plenary verbal inspiration has God actually dictating a speech to the authors of Scripture, like a king dictating a letter to a royal scribe? Does he really think plenary verbal inspiration is that anthropomorphic? 

    Or is he using "dictation" as a metaphor? Does he think verbal plenary inspiration is equivalent to dictation? If so, how so? Does he mean the process is equivalent? But if "dictation" is metaphorical, then the actual process is clearly different. Or does he mean it's functionally equivalent? The effect is as if God dictated the message? If so, what's wrong with that?

    Keep in mind that this is how Scripture distinguishes true prophets from false prophets. True prophets speak the very words of God. They deliver God's message. 

    4) Perhaps Olson's underlying objection is that plenary verbal inspiration violates libertarian freewill. If God controls the process from start to finish, that infringes on the libertarian agency of the speaker or writer by preventing him from making mistakes. Of course, it's because humans are normally fallible that inspiration is a necessary safeguard against error.

    In that case, it's a question of theological priorities. What gives: libertarian freedom or verbal plenary inspiration? 

    5) Olson offers no lexical evidence that theopneustos means God "breathing into" rather than "breathing out" or simply "breathed." Standard lexicons (BDAG) and commentaries on the Greek text (I. H. Marshall) define the compound word as "God-breathed." 

    As far as the metaphor goes, since the context concerns the effect of divine agency, where Scripture is the effect of divine "breathing," then exhalation would be more consistent with the metaphor. Or, more precisely, verbalized breath. A divine utterance. 

    Sailing under false colors


    Let's briefly compare some statements by Peter Enns:

    scripture doesn’t line up very well with the conservative paradigm of scripture (some form of inerrancy). That’s why the paradigm needs constant tending and vigilant defending in order to survive. 
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/06/i-was-always-taught-the-bible-says-x-but-i-just-dont-see-it/ 
    That happened over 20 years ago, and the memory is still vivid. 
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/06/aha-moments-biblical-scholars-tell-their-stories-1-me/ 
    I taught at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) from 1994-2008. 
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/about/

    According to his own timeline, he lost faith in the inerrancy of Scripture before he started teaching at Westminster. He didn't change his mind during his tenure at Westminster.

    Which raises an awkward question: did he take the job under false pretenses? It's hard to avoid the inference that he was sailing under false colors the whole time.