Monday, January 23, 2006

Lack of Posting

While I suffer no narcissistic delusion whereby I imagine that people need a daily Pedantic Protestant posting fix or some sort of Mother Hen action by this blog, it might be a bit helpful to explain the lack of posting over the last month or so.

I'm not getting tired of blogging --- I always have opinions or things to say [whose value is up for debate], but I have been busy. If I have the time to do so, I don't have the mental juice to do so, since the mental juice has been expended on other things --- things that bring in a paycheck.

Right now, I'm playing the game of "Graduate Student" whereby I'm teaching myself a few programming languages, sitting in on two graduate courses, and reading up on some courses that I taught a few years back but, distressingly, have forgotten. It's an existence of pleasurable toil, so don't feel sorry for me. Recently, as well, I was picked up as a full-time consultant at a world-class consulting firm, and this will be my new life and career. I'm presently finishing up some part-time consulting projects that I had before this full-time consultancy came along. Again, I'm not frazzled and working 20 hour days or anything, but my time is fairly well-accounted-for.

To be honest, I don't know what will happen to PP in the near future. We may have dropped down from triple-digit glory to double-digit ignominy as far as readers go, and the lack of posting may have already driven part of the crowd away. Maybe I've driven everybody away, and I'm just talking to myself. Ah, but we won't open THAT can o' worms. :-)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Remember When.....

Do any PP readers remember when the R's and the D's were haggling over the federal budget surplus, whether real or projected? We needed [so said the R's] to elect R's so that those perfidious D's wouldn't spend it away. After all, a vote for an R is a vote for fiscal sanity, small government, and so on.

But the present federal budget deficit of hundreds of billions of dollars must [somehow] be the D's fault. After all, R's believe in small government and fiscal responsibility. That's what the R's claim for themselves, or at least some of them.

What's the solution? Obviously, we must elect more R's. When the deficit rises [if R habits continue] we can still blame the D's on this issue. They're against smaller government and they want to spend the way that other people breathe --- unlike the disciplined R party...

OK...this is just a mini-rant on my part. It is horribly general, but I'd contend the broad brushstrokes still hit the mark. What's a small-gov't guy like myself to do, apart from cloning Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and replacing the bodies of spendthrift R's with the Paul clones while hoping nobody notices?

The other question with which someone like myself must contend is: do people really want to be free to live their lives and make their choices [and live with the consequences], or do they want to make a claim on the wealth and labor of others for redistribution to their pet principles? I don't know the answer to this empirical question. Maybe other people don't feel so negatively about collectivist thinking, thinking nothing of demanding that others subsidize their lives [and having their wealth in turn redistributed according to the wishes of others]. Maybe we small-l libertarians or "classic liberals" [if I'm using the term correctly] are a very small minority, and we just have to accept that for the time being.

Oh well.

More Comments on Rom 9:5

The preceding post on Rom 9:5 received some good comments from the small but spunky group of PP blog readers. The comments, being interesting in their own right, should be put forth in a more prominent place. With cutting and pasting, it would be a crime not to do so.

(I) Jason Engwer of NTRMin fame makes the following interesting comments:


Ignatius, writing to Pauline churches in the early second century, repeatedly refers to Jesus as "God" and as uncreated, an attribute that only God has. Craig Keener writes:

“By the second century Jesus’ deity was widely affirmed by Christians (see Ign. Rom. 3; Eph. 7; Justin Dial. 68:9; Athenagoras 24; perhaps 1 En. 48:5; etc.).” (The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], n. 162 on p. 298)

If the relevant passages in Paul are to be considered inconclusive, I would say that the widespread early patristic references to the deity of Christ would favor interpreting Paul in a way that's consistent with that patristic view.

But, as you've shown, the Pauline evidence isn't inconclusive. I would add the following:

“Despite this difference of opinion [over whether Jesus is referred to as God in Romans 9:5], arguments in favor of taking ‘God’ as an appellation of ‘Messiah’ greatly outweigh those that support the alternative. Favoring a comma after ‘Messiah’ (and thus the first option) are several stylistic arguments. First, the words ‘the one who is’ are most naturally taken as a relative clause modifying a word in the previous context (see the similar construction in 1 Cor. 11:31). Second, Paul’s doxologies are never independent but always are tied closely to the preceding context. Third, independent blessings of God in the Bible, with only one exception (Ps. 67:19), place the word ‘blessed’ in the first position. Here, however, the Greek word for ‘blessed’ occurs after ‘God,’ suggesting that the blessing must be tied to the previous context. As Metzger points out, it is ‘altogether incredible that Paul, whose ear must have been perfectly familiar with this constantly recurring formula of praise, should in this solitary instance have departed from established usage.’ Fourth, as suggested above, the qualifying phrase ‘according to the flesh’ implies an antithesis; and Paul usually supplies the antithetical element in such cases, rather than allowing the reader simply to assume it. In other words, we would expect, after a description of what the Messiah is from a ‘fleshly’ or ‘this-worldly’ standpoint, a description of what he is from a ‘spiritual’ or ‘otherworldly’ standpoint; see especially Rom. 1:3-4….Paul almost certainly does call Jesus ‘God’ in one other text (Tit. 2:13). Second, the exalted language Paul uses to describe Jesus [Romans 10:13 and Philippians 2:6 cited] as well as the activities Paul ascribes to him [Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 4:4-5, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Colossians 1:16, 3:13, and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 cited] clearly attest Paul’s belief in the full deity of Christ….Connecting ‘God’ to ‘Christ’ [in Romans 9:5] is therefore exegetically preferable, theologically unobjectionable, and contextually appropriate. Paul here calls the Messiah, Jesus, ‘God,’ attributing to him full divine status.” (Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1996], pp. 567-568)

“Is Paul actually calling Christ God here [in Romans 9:5]? The question hinges on punctuation. There is no question but that it is better Greek to regard the ho on which follows ‘the Christ’ as referring back to Christ rather than forward to theos, ‘God.’ Furthermore, whenever we find a doxology elsewhere, including in Paul, it begins with ‘blessed’ or some similar term, not with ho on. Those who want to find an independent doxology to God here are hard-pressed to explain why the doxology does not follow this normal pattern. In fact, the one real objection to Christ being called God here is that Paul supposedly does not do so elsewhere. But this is not true. He does do so in equivalent terms in Phil. 2.5-11, and furthermore when he calls Christ ‘Lord,’ he is predicating of Jesus the divine name used for God over and over in the LXX. We find Jesus called divine Lord, indeed confessed as such in Rom. 10.9, and then an OT passage (Joel 3.5 LXX) in which God is called ‘Lord’ is applied to Jesus at 10.13. Paul has christologically redefined how he understands monotheism, and 9.5 is just further evidence of the fact.” (Ben Witherington with Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2004], pp. 251-252)

“Those who dissent [against seeing Jesus as God in Romans 9:5], noting that this is not Paul’s usual terminology, nevertheless concur that a doxology to Christ as ‘God’ remains the most likely interpretation of the grammar (Hunter, Romans, 90; idem, Paul, 62-63).” (Craig Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Vol. 1 [Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003], n. 196 on p. 302)

“when the early Christians called Jesus kyrios, one of the overtones that word quickly acquired, astonishing and even shocking though this must have been, was that texts in the Greek Bible which used kyrios to translate the divine name YHWH were now used to denote Jesus himself, with a subtlety and theological sophistication that seems to go back to the earliest days of the Christian movement….In 1 Corinthians 8.6 Paul takes the Shema itself, the central daily Jewish prayer and confession of monotheistic faith (‘YHWH our God, YHWH is one’), and gives the two words YHWH (kyrios) and ‘God’ (theos) different referents, so that theos refers to ‘the father, from whom are all things and we to him’ and kyrios refers to ‘Jesus the Messiah, through whom are all things and we through him’….Paul elsewhere takes particular texts which refer to YHWH and uses them, without apology or even much explanation, as texts about Jesus. [Romans 10:13 cited]…Likewise, the whole theme of ‘the day of YHWH’ in the Old Testament has been transposed, in Paul and elsewhere in early Christianity, into ‘the day of the kyrios’, i.e. of Jesus, or into ‘the day of the Messiah’. [Acts 2:20, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:14, Philippians 1:6, 1:10, 2:16, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10]…The first letter of Peter (2.3) speaks of ‘tasting that the Lord is good’, quoting, in relation to Jesus, what Psalm 34 had said about YHWH. In 1 Peter 3.15 we find a quotation from Isaiah 8.13 in which ‘the Messiah’ has been added to ‘Lord’ to make it clear that what was spoken of YHWH in this Old Testament passage is now to be understood of Jesus the Messiah….He [Paul] had, in the senses we have explored, a different kind of meeting with Jesus, but he quickly came to the conclusion which the others, too, had arrived at: that in this Jesus, now demonstrated to have been Israel’s Messiah all along, Israel’s one true god had been not merely speaking, as though through an intermediary, but personally present.” (N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2003], pp. 571-572, 576)

**** END ENGWER ****

As a rejoinder to Jason's comments, I'll offer the following points:

(1) I bought the ten-volume Ante-Nicene Fathers set from Hendrickson [get it cheap via Christian Books Distributors] either my last year of grad school or my first year as an academic specifically to see what the early fathers thought of Christ relative to his divinity. Ignatius was quite prolific in referring to Christ as "God" --- not that he identified Christ with the Father, but he upheld Christ's full deity without confounding Christ with the Father.

(2) I for myself don't see this gradual evolutionary development in "the consciousness of the church" [whatever THAT means!] regarding the full deity of Christ. Even as a young boy in Baptist school, I viewed Christ as God. Being a little boy, I didn't have anything resembling Trinitarian orthodoxy [I viewed the Trinity as a three-headed man as a boy], but even then, on my own, I saw the full deity of Christ. This fact is mentioned to explain why I have this particular aversion to the whole dialectic view of church history regarding the deity of Christ.

(3) Related to (2), one of the reasons why the words "Biblical scholarship" don't necessarily impress me is because even a superficial reading of the NT texts puts forth Jesus Christ as God, and as man. This isn't something hidden in the nuances of textual criticism, aorist participles, or in some deep recess of scholarship. It is there for all to see, ponder, believe, or reject.

(4) Jason makes some good points in the quotes above about things that were applied to Yahweh being applied to Christ.

BTW --- if anybody cares to know how I'd debate the deity of Christ with a Unitarian, Watchtower person, Mormon, etc, my approach would be to be as direct as possible: put forth the texts where Christ is explicitly called God and shoot down the objections to them. [There's a reason why the New World Translation of the Watchtower alters John 1:1 and 8:58 and denies the deity of Christ in Titus 2:13 and II Peter 1:1.]

(II) Steve Jackson, who, by the way is a top-500 reviewer at Amazon [last time I checked], contributes the following comment as well:


Larry Hurtado has written some books on how worship to Jesus as God developed (I haven't read them, but they are supposed to be good).

Even Ray Brown in his Introduction to New Testament Christology takes Romans 9:5 to be referring to Jesus as God.

**** END JACKSON ****

My only reply is that I have no problem with a "development of worship." My bone of contention is with anybody who denies that, say, a first century Christian could [at least] say "Jesus is Lord" with the understanding that Jesus was, somehow, himself fully divine. Whether they could express this in dogmatic language or the appropriate terminology is not of concern to me.

As for Dr Brown, he is an interesting fellow. I respect his scholarship and learning, but his NT Introduction hardly presents the conservative case regarding authorship, integrity, and dating, when compared to something like a Guthrie, which I'd contend puts forth both positions.

It also speaks of so-called Roman Catholic orthodoxy when Brown is a member of the PBC. I thought all of those self-appointed Roman internet apologists were always talking about how Rome didn't capitulate to modernism unlike rogue Protestantism. Hmmm....

(III) Another commenter named Dan makes the following point:

**** BEGIN DAN ****

Larry Hurtado's "Lord Jesus Christ" is his most complete and scholarly debunking of "high Christology can't be 1st Century" meme. His new book, "How Jesus Became God" looks like a more popular presentation of the same theme, but I have not read it. I do strongly recommend reading "Lord Jesus Christ" as it is more accessible than most scholarly works on this level, and it comprehensively obliterates the widely accepted view of "high Christology=late. The new book my be just as good, but I haven't read it.

Hurtado's book is extraordinarily important, in my view, as it notonly answers the high Christology question, but it also shows that in spite of assertions thast early Jewish Chrisitans (including Jesus !) would never have claimed to be on the same level as God, htey certainly did in the earliest sources we have. He has not gotten as much attention as N. T. Wright, but he deserves much more.

**** END DAN ****

I haven't read any of the books mentioned [and won't be able to in the near future for very happy reasons], but it is worth passing his comments along in a more conspicuous place than a comment box.

Anyway, I hope that these comments are of interest to any readers here at PP.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

A Quick Note on Rom 9:5

Does St Paul refer to Christ as "God over all" in Romans 9:5?

For a summary of the arguments that Paul is referring to Christ as "God", the reader can see the excellent summaries of arguments in such works as

(i) Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, International Critical Commentary, Vol II, pp 464-470.

(ii) Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, pp 486-489.

(iii) M. J. Harris, Jesus as God. This book of mine is boxed up, so I don't have the page numbers. The book is published by Baker [Academic].

(iv) Metzger et al, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd Ed., United Bible Societies.

That Christ is called "God" by St Paul is, I'd contend [based on the above arguments], nearly certain.

What is the main argument against the ascription of full deity to Christ?

Based on my studies of Romans, the argument against full ascription of deity by Paul to Christ is not based on any actual empirical evidence put forth, but by the following assumptions:

(a) Viewing Christ as God was something that evolved over the early centuries.
(b) Paul could not have called Christ "God" so early on.

I note that the UBS Textual Commentary has a majority of its scholars taking the position that Christ is not called "God" because, in their own words, "nowhere else in his genuine epistles does Paul ever deisgnate [Christ] as [God]."

But the Granville Sharp rule [correctly] applied to Titus 2:13 shows that Paul referred to Christ as our "great God and savior." And Titus, we might add, is a Pauline epistle. [I note that a commentator of no less than Cranfield's stature seems to be unaware of just how certain the construction is in Titus 2:13 --- see p. 468.]

On the contrary! exclaims a footnote in the UBS Textual Commentary [p 461] --- Titus is not generally regarded as Pauline, but is deutero-Pauline.

But why is Titus viewed as deutero-Pauline?

Interestingly, one such reason I've seen advanced against Pauline authorship of Titus is that the Christology is too high for a first century writer!

Thus, if this is one of the decisive points against Pauline authorship of Titus, then we seem to have a pretty vicious circle of thinking:

Rom 9:5 does not refer to Christ as God because [despite the positive evidence] Paul does not refer to Christ as God elsewhere in his epistles. Titus has a passage referring to Christ as God, but Titus is deutero-Pauline, not Pauline, because the high Christology of Titus makes it something that couldn't have been written in the first century. Therefore, nowhere in the genuine Pauline epistles, we don't have a specific instance of the full deity of Christ.

That is at least how I understand the argument put forth.

What about the passages in Philippians and Colossians that pretty much predicate properties of the Godhead to Christ without calling him God? These seem to be downplayed in liberal-critical arguments against the thesis that Paul was not referring the title of "God" to Christ.


On another note, the evolutionary view seems to this student to be a priori silly. Why would it take centuries for the "collective consciousness of the early church" --- whatever that abstraction really means --- to come to knowledge of the humanity and full divinity of Christ? Is it really safe to assume that, say, the apostles --- those who were intimates of Jesus for over two years and saw him do things that could only be predicated of God --- did not realize in time that they were dealing with the incarnation of the Yahweh of the Hebrew writings?

We may also consider St Paul. If, as reported in the Acts, he really was specially called and converted by a very singular sort of experience where he directly interacted with the risen Lord, why would it be noteworthy that he perceived, knew, and understood the full deity of Christ?


I'd note that there seems to be such a mass of evidence for the deity of Christ that whether or not we admit Rom 9:5 as evidence for the deity of Christ has no bearing on the question. But, it was interesting to review the UBS Textual Commentary and perceive what I see to be a vicious circle in liberal-critical scholarship.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Best Seat is in Your Own House

Here's an interesting article/op-ed on movie theaters.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Why PP Doesn't Engage in Sports Betting

I had Washington over Seattle.

I had New England over Denver.

I had Indy over Steeltown.

I had Da Bears over Carolina.

This was a perfect weekend in the Bizarro-world sense.

PP Pix:
(i) AFC Championship --- Denver over Pittsburgh
(ii) NFC Championship --- Seattle over Carolina

You heard it here first. Now go bet on the Steelers and Panthers.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bucky Bucks Failure

A man was born in the late nineteenth century. This man was kicked out of college not once, but twice. He worked in a textile mill and as a meatpacker during this time. After a stint in the First World War, he tried to have success with a company dealing in affordable and light-weight housing. This failed.

At this time, it was the dark height of the Great Depression --- the early 1930's. He was bankrupt and unemployed, living in a certain degree of squalor with inferior tenement housing in Chicago. His daughter died of pneumonia, and our yet-unnamed protagonist felt as if he were the responsible agent --- if he had been a better provider, he could've provided a better home, and perhaps she wouldn't have caught the pneumonia. He then turned to the bottle, which exacerbated his depression and sense of being a total failure.

This is where my memory goes a bit fuzzy. I believe he was standing one winter's night on a bridge somewhere in Chicago, and was ready to end it all. He was, after all, a failure in business, a failure in education, a failure in being a husband and father [at least in his mind]. He was a capital-F Failure in every sense of the word.

At the last minute, for reasons that I do not know, he recanted his suicidal urge. Since he had nothing to lose, for he had not succeded in any tangible way, he decided instead to turn himself into a human guinea pig --- "Guinea Pig B" was how he later described himself. The experiment was to be a lifelong experiment: "to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity."

What could such a loser --- indeed, a loser who had nearly committed suicide --- do in the grand human scale of things?


This little PP blog isn't the place to list everything he's done, but we can attempt to list a few of this man's accomplishments [in no special order].

(1) The geodesic dome, which encloses the greatest amount of [cubic] space relative to a given material weight.

(2) The Dymaxion Car, which, so far as I know, is not in any sort of production, but which had a then unheard-of fuel efficiency.

(3) A personal favorite of mine is the Dymaxion Map. I hope that people's browsers let them see the animation from this page. The point of the map is that it avoids the distortion in landmass size for landmasses far away from the equator, such as the extreme distortions given to Greenland and Antarctica by the standard Mercator cartographic projection map.

(4) The Dymaxion House [also the "Bucky House"]. A lightweight, inexpensive, and fairly functional sort of housing or sheltering. Again, I do not personally know if these are in any sort of production anywhere.

When I was a junior-high kid in 8th grade [in the glorious 80's] my mother, for reasons unknown to me, bought me two books by our as-of-yet-unnamed protagonist: Synergetics and Synergetics 2. Those books are boxed up [along with most of my life] in a storage unit nearby, but a perusal of those books shows that the man had some very deep perceptions into the nature of space and the universe, particularly with [I'm struggling for words here] the "tetrahedralness" of many natural phenomena. [That is my neologism.] Despite having a PhD in a mathematical science, I believe that going through his books in the present would still be a real grind-out affair on my part.

I also read his Spaceship Earth, also known as Operating Manual to Spaceship Earth. If I'm remembering the right title, I remember reading one page and thinking that he was a socialist, but then I'd be overwhelmed at his broad visionary thinking. I don't know if his ideas would work in practice regarding transportation, city design, etc, but one should appreciate the fact that he can think through such things.

I've only read a few of his books, so I claim no special expertise in him, merely an appreciation based on what I read over the years [and tried to understand].


Can you guess who our Man of Mystery is WITHOUT an internet search? Who is the man who went from suicide attemptee to full professor in Art and Design, a world-famous man with several honorary doctorates?

Answer: he was known as "Bucky." More formally, he was none other than Richard Buckminster Fuller, or, as he wrote, R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). He was the "Guinea Pig B" --- Bucky the Human Guinea Pig --- in his experiment as mentioned above.

What's the point of this post? There is no hidden point, but I thought it would be interesting to make note of somebody who, by all accounts, was a miserable failure into his thirties, but you'd never know it based on his accomplishments afterwards. You'd think he was groomed for success and fame from day one.

Hopefully, this post is interesting enough to make up for a slow posting week!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Apologetics Quote from the Past

But I speak to a great many who have no difficulty on this head, being fully satisfied that the gospel of Christ is a divine revelation. What concern have they with the investigation before us? "Much every way." The question for them to ask, is, on what grounds are we satisfied? Are we believers in Christianity because we were born of believing parents, and have always lived in a Christian country; or because we have considered the excellence and weighed the proofs of this religion, and are intelligently persuaded that it deserves our reliance? I am well aware that there are many truly devoted followers of Christ who have never made the evidences of Christianity their study, and in argument with an infidel, would be easily confounded by superior skill and information; but whose belief nevertheless is, in the highest degree, that of rational conviction, since they possess in themselves the best of all evidence that the gospel of Christ is "the power and wisdom of God," having experienced its transforming, purifying, elevating, and enlightening efficacy upon their own hearts and characters. Did such believers abound, Christianity would be much less in need of other evidence. Were all that call themselves Christians thus experimentally convinced of the preciousness of the gospel, I would still urge upon them the duty and advantage of studying as far as possible the various arguments which illustrate the divinity of its origin. I would urge it on considerations of personal pleasure and spiritual improvement. There is a rich feast of knowledge and of devout contemplation to be found in this study. The serious believer, who has not pursued it, has yet to learn with what wonderful and impressive light the God of the gospel has manifested its truth. Its evidences are not only convincing, but delightfully plain; astonishingly accumulated, and of immense variety, as well as strength. He who will take the pains not only to pursue the single line of argument which may seem enough to satisfy his own mind; but devoutly to follow up, in succession, all those great avenues which lead to the gospel as the central fountain of truth, will be presented, at every step, with such evident marks of the finger of God; he will hear from every quarter such reiterated assurances of: "this is the way; walk thou in it ;" he will find himself so enclosed on every hand by insurmountable evidences shutting him up unto the faith of Christ, that new views will open upon him of the real cause and guilt and danger of all unbelief; new emotions of gratitude and admiration will arise in his heart for a revelation so divinely attested; his zeal will receive a new impulse to follow and promote such heavenly light.

---- Charles P. McIlvaine, The evidences of Christianity; in their external, or historical, division: exhibited in a course of lectures, published [I think] in 1861 or so. [I think the book originally appeared in 1832.]

[Taken from Lecture I]

My friend Tim McGrew recommended McIlvaine's Evidences, having just finished reading them himself. The site at which the link to the book appears has five chapters so far online. It is enjoyable reading --- food for the mind for those who enjoy thinking about such questions.

Twenty Leaky Buckets --- Part 5

The exigencies of real life have kept me away from my little 10-20 minute blogging sessions as of late, but I have a little bit of time to blog away, so we proceed.

My last "serious" sort of posting was on a pamphlet titled 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. This pamphlet was chosen because a friend referred it to me, and the sort of arguments presented therein are the sort of arguments put forward in popular culture and by people who affect the pose of modern enlightened thinking.

The pamphlet 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity is here.

Part One, a general discussion, is found here.

Part 1.5 consists of some comments on general village atheist themes and is found here. I enumerated five fallacies that are common to most of the arguments in the pamphlet.

Part 2 gives some quick comments as to why reasons one through five really aren't arguments that cause me, a conservative Evangelical, to think twice. That link is here.

Part 3 deals with arguments six through ten. That link is here.

Part 4 deals with arguments eleven through fifteen. That link is here.

I did a little excursus on the whole affair about two weeks ago.

Let me quote myself to save some time:


Please keep in mind that the pamphlet gives reasons to abandon Christianity. My question throughout this mini-series is this: are any of the reasons anything to give somebody like myself any sort of pause? Presumably, the pamphlet is written in an attempt towards deconversion, or, to put it positively, anti-Christian evangelism. The intended audience therefore appears to be people who all themselves Christian.

I'm a classical card-carrying evidentialist [and you should be too!]. That means, among other things that the way to attack the historical and evidential basis for Christianity is to argue that the evidence for the supernatural phenomena that undergird the Christian religion is poor, or not as good as that of some other competing worldview. My apologetic is at home with the great English, Scottish, and Irish divines who defended the Resurrection and the veracity of the gospels against the humanists and the deists in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Personally speaking, I have little patience with what I understand Reformed epistemology and presuppositionalism to be.

Let's return to the pamphlet. So far, I've argued in Parts 2 and 3 that all we're presented with is a laundry list of sociological claims reflecting nothing more than the pamphleteer's dislike of things. Pointing out that some Christians do things of which the pamphleteer is displeased is not any sort of an argument against Christianity. Imputing the behavior of a subset of self-proclaimed Christians to that of the entire religion and then castigating the religion on this imputed global behavior is likewise a non-argument. Discussing the political differences between Christians and the pamphleteer on issues such as, say, abortion, is a non-argument. Asserting that Christianity does not allow for full sexual fulfillment is also a non-argument relative to an evidentialist like myself.


So, reasons one through fifteen are nothing more than the pamphleteer's self-righteous little rant. Are the remaining arguments any better?

Arguments sixteen and seventeen basically make the claim that Christianity is misogynistic and homophobic, respectively. People can click on the pamphlet link and read these arguments. I wish to make a few general comments in no special order:

(1) Let's assume that the author's claim that Christianity is misogynistic. Somebody like myself [a card-carrying "classical evidentialist," remember] then asks the following questions:

(a) Does this affect the evidence positively or negatively for the empty tomb or the veracity of the gospels?

(b) Does this add to or subtract from the body of evidence for the empty tomb or the veracity of the gospels?

The answer to (a) appears to be in the negative, and the answer for (b) appears to be in the negative unless some sort of argument can be given that the sociological claims made by the argument [which we are assuming as true for argument's sake] have some sort of bearing on the existing body of evidence. No such argument is given.

(2) As a side venture, let's see what scriptural insights the pamphleteer gives to support his claim about misogynism.

(a) Passages like Eph 5:22-23, Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 11:9, and 14:34; and 1 Timothy 2:11–12 and 5:5–6 are cited as evidence of misogynism.
These passages all deal with the roles of women, either functionally or ontologically, in relation to men and to God. The pamphleteer simply doesn't like the fact that these passages represent a breach of concord with modern-day egalitarianism and feminism, and this outrages him. But, as with other arguments-by-outrage, the pamphleteer merely makes his first-world Western modern view of women the standard of comparison and then judges everything by this standard. He is welcome to do so, but without any sort of argument for why his standards are correct he merely begs the question.

(b) The citation of Rev 14:4 and Job 25:4 are demonstrations of the pamphleteer's incompetence when it comes to basic literacy and context.

(i) Rev 14:4 doesn't deal with the status of women. Depending on what commentaries one peruses in the interpretation of the symbols, defiling one's self with women can mean such things as the pursuit of sexual lusts above all things, or the adoption of pagan belief systems [my view].

(ii) Job 25:4 talks about being born of a woman in the sense of one's being born into sin. All humans are born unto sin: "born of a woman" here seems to be "having human nature coming from the normal course of affairs." This is hardly misogynistic.

The abuse of scripture --- the failing to note context, allusion, and other basic literary devices, the failing to consider the various interpretations and defenses of those interpretations put forward, etc, are all part and parcel of the village atheist mentality.

(c) It is hard to see what the point of the OT citations [Numbers 5:20–22 and Leviticus 12:2–5, 15:17–33] are in terms of arguing the misogyny claim. The only thing that can be said about these is that they again cause outrage in the pamphleteer, but, then again, who cares as far as an argument goes?

(3) Given that I don't base my theology or worldview on what others in the past have written, the evidence for Christianity is unaffected [so far as I'm concerned] even if the point is made that some early writers were misogynistic.

Summary of the sixteenth argument: there is nothing here that makes me view the evidence for the empty tomb and veracity of the gospels any differently than before. This argument, like the others, is another non sequitur, expressing merely the outrage that the Bible does not conform to our modern enlightened sensitivities. But it doesn't get to the heart of things, namely, the actual evidence for the truth or falsity of Christianity.

Let's now turn to the seventeenth argument: Christianity is homophobic.

This argument, like the first sixteen, is itself a non-sequitur relative to the evidence. That is, the evidence for/against the empty tomb and veracity of the gospels is unaffected by the author's outrage that the authors of the various Biblical writings do not have views in accord with first-world secular modern Western culture.

Again, all the pamphleteer has done is to assume his position as the standard of comparison without giving any sort of supporting argument. The idea of the pamphlet is to deconvert Christians --- people like myself --- but as with the first sixteen arguments the pamphleteer has failed to get to the heart of the issue. The pamphlet should be entitled instead What I Don't Like About Some Christians to reflect its sociological emphasis.

BTW --- you have to love the sweeping generalizations given in that paragraph about Christians in general. The implicit claim is that most Christians want State-sponsored execution for sodomy, yet no numbers supporting this claim are given. Ah, but then again, who needs evidence when you're the courageous village atheist pamphleteer who is here as Mother Hen to show we benighted folks the light of Reason?


I'm stopping at the end of the seventeenth argument and before the eighteenth because I can only take so much inanity [and it has been 20 minutes or so of blogging --- time to get back to real work].

So far, the pamphlet is, by my count, oh-fer-seventeen in making somebody like myself think twice about the evidence for Christianity. We have seventeen arguments that do not carry any water. They'll sound great at a Freethinker's meeting and the person making such arguments can feel courageous and truly enlightened, but as far as actual content goes, "there isn't a there there."

The last three arguments of the pamphlet will be dealt with in the next installment here. Again, we'll ask the question of just how the evidence for Christianity is affected --- if it is affected at all --- for these three remaining arguments.

[Y'all can wake up now...]

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Loving Lost

Well, the other night I stayed up far too late watching the first two DVD's of Lost. I have never watched the show on television --- I have watched very little television since the mid-1990's --- but walking past the Lost DVD's every time I walk into a Blockbuster store put the idea of renting the DVD's in my mind.

To put it simply: now I see why many people are marking out over the show.

(1) The show is quite addictive --- interesting story, plenty of mystery, tight writing, and characters about whom you're captivated but simultaneously suspicious.

(2) Already after six shows, I have my own theories about the island. Following the suggestion of somebody, I wonder if the people are already dead and in "the next life." There are too many arguments against this though.

(3) "Jane" is somebody about whom I have to know more --- exactly what did she do? In the miracle of Hollywood, somehow, being marooned on an island for a week has helped her complexion.

(4) Mr Locke [I don't know if this is spelled correctly] is probably my favorite character. He says he "looked the island square in the eye" and what he saw was, in his words, "beautiful." There is something rather mystical about him --- he was a cripple but now he walks, and is sort of the survivalist/"bad dude"/quiet hero of the bunch. I still don't know much about his past beyond the flashbacks in the six episodes.

(5) Mr Sawyer embodies self-loathing and situational ethics. I hope he gets what is coming to him.

(6) I'm not really into the Korean couple, the pregnant Aussie, or the black man with his son.

(7) It is nice to see a show without a latent political agenda [so far based on the first six episodes]. I don't want to be lectured on right- or left-wing politics when I'm watching something for the purpose of quality veg time.

(8) It will be difficult to, after watching all of Season One quickly, without commericials, to catch up on Season Two while seeing one episode a week, with commercials. The show really makes you always want more, but, I'd contend that it does so without having to try too hard.

Side note --- I went to go rent the other DVD's of Season One at my local Blockbuster, but they were out. So, I did something I've never done before --- drive to another Blockbuster to secure the DVD's. That means that I'm totally into the show.

The fear of getting into the show is that all of the presently loose ends will not be tied together in a coherent fashion. Some examples of disappointment in my life:

(i) The Prisoner was one of my favorite shows of all time, but the final episode where No. 6 finds out who No. 1 is made very little sense and was such an anticlimax to the show.

(ii) X-Files became progressively more incoherent in its last few years.

(iii) Nowhere Man was cancelled after one season back in '95 on the then-fledgeling UPN network. I totally loved that show. I loved the plot, and it looked tightly written. It made me think. But it would be cancelled.

(iv) I have heard that Arrested Development will not be continued on FOX.

Oh well, I suppose that one should be grateful for the good entertainment that exists without acting as if one has a right to more.

This post has been nothing more than an excuse to procrastinate on some studying, so I'd better get back to work.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Other Foot

I used to give three hour lectures when I was an assistant professor. [The classes met one evening per week.] The people who took my courses were professional evening students trying to add an MA degree in mathematics or statistics for various reasons. They'd work a full day, then come for the 5:45-9pm lecture. That's a long lecture.

I've been sitting in on some graduate courses to learn some new things in statistics [my academic field] for an assualt on consulting, industry, or private business, and to keep myself mentally sharp. I notice that I get squirmy --- like a little boy on a long car drive --- about 30 minutes into things. And that is with material in which I'm interested.

Thus, being a student in outlook for the first time since the mid-nineties, I have the nagging feeling that I would not be able to tolerate one of my lectures, even with breaks scattered here and there. I gave good lectures and was reasonably interesting [so I'd say], but in retrospect, those people who survived the full 5:45-9pm lecture watching me throw up all sorts of mathematical statistics items on the board surely deserve some sort of medal, especially if they found me or the material [or, alas, both] boring. I wonder how I'd do in my own course, if such an experiment could be arranged.

Another interesting thing of note: even though I'm in the department where I received an MSci and PhD back in the nineties, I still feel like a graduate student when I'm there. Much like the oft-reported phenomenon of visiting one's parents and feeling like one is a child [instead of an adult], I find myself still unconsciously thinking like I'm 20 years old and just starting out again as a grad student. Nobody treats me like one there, but it is my default mental outlook. Of course, grad school was a very happy time of life [barring a few exams here and there], so perhaps this is some unconscious attempt to recreate Eden.

On a side note, posting may be light for another week or so.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Thrilling Life of a Pedantic Protestant

I should've finished up the Twenty Leaky Buckets mini-series a few days back, but, frankly, events have changed somewhat.

I got a Blockbuster card, and, of course, I just had to use it. So, in the evenings, when I get home from the gym, instead of showering and then sitting down for the pleasurable toil of twenty or so minutes of making a weblog entry, I've found that, after showering, the DVD player and the big comfy chair have called out to me.

To be exact, I've been going through Curb Your Enthusiasm season-by-season. After that, I got hooked on Arrested Development.

Actually, I find Arrested Development to be a truly clever show. The characters are simultaneously funny, exasperating, and pathetic, and the one straight man ["straight" as in the comedy "straight guy"] holds together all of the goofy characters. I liken the interplay of the characters on that show to a nice four-voice fugue. It's completely twisted humor, but it isn't scatological...if I can make up terms as I go along, it is a pleasantly subversive show.

Watching those DVD's is infinitely preferable to saying "This is a non-argument that has nothing to do with the evidence for the veracity of the gospels" or "Sociological observations today do not impinge on historical claims of the past" or some other sentence that, if articulated at a cocktail party, will ensure that one will have plenty of space around him while the ladies flock to the guy who brags that his house has tripled in value over the last few years since he put in granite-top counters.

A Blockbuster card might as well say "You are simply not going to get done what you thought you would" on it, because you are simply not going to get done what you thought you would after you walk through a Blockbuster.

Next on the plate: Season One of Lost, if I can squeeze it in.

Anyway, I, uh, need to get, yeah, back to work, yeah, that's, uh, right...back to work....

Monday, January 02, 2006

Non-Christian-Exclusivity of Possible Miracles

I mentioned this in passing in an earlier thread, but it deserves a thread of its own.

In discussions over the years with those skeptical of Christian truth claims, both live and email, I've run into a certain sort of behavior. The behavior is exemplified in a quote like follows [it comes from an atheist who went to the NTRMin board:]

My first question to you to begin this phase is: What other source of ancient religious propaganda, outside the bible, do you accept as being a report of facts only and containing not the least bit of embellishment or untruth, as you view the New Testament? Your answer will tell me whether your view is based on analysis of the data, or whether you are committing the fallacy of special pleading by asking that we accord the religious propaganda of the NT gospels the special place of "facts-only-reporting" and refusing to grant this huge leap to other non-biblical ancient religious propaganda.

The attitude seems to be that the person who is [in the atheist's mind] truly consistent with the evidence has to admit the high probability of non-Christian miracles having occurred. Usually, this is accompanied by an attitude of "that would be fatal for the Christian."

By way of reply, I'd like to make the following points.

(1) The evidence for the bodily Resurrection of Jesus is not contingent on accepting or denying the high probabilities of pagan miracle claims. Neither the number of eyewitness, nor the veracity of their testimony, are affected by the existence of some body of evidence for a pagan miracle.

(2) More generally, an evidential examination of the Christian worldview does not hinge on the existence of lack of miracles in other worldviews. The high or low probability of the Christian worldview is unaffected by, say, the quality of the evidence for Vespasian's alleged healing of the blind.

(3) Steve Hays adds the following commentary to what I've said:


I have a few comments on Eric’s helpful remarks.

a.There is not automatic relation between miracle and dogma. If a Tibetan monk were able to levitate, that wouldn’t prove the law of karma or reincarnation or the Buddhist theory of evil. It would be completely unrelated.

b.By contrast, a number of Biblical miracles are parables in action or natural metaphors for a particular teaching or doctrinal claim. In that case, the miracle is a direct attestation to the doctrine which it illustrates.

In order for non-Christian miracles to offer any warrant non-Christian doctrine, there would have to be that kind of internal relation.

c.Likewise, miraculous attestation is, at most, a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of revelation.

d.Scripture doesn’t deny, but rather affirms, that the dark side has some preternatural power. So extra-biblical prodigies, even if ungodly, are consistent with Scripture.

e.Some religious, like Islam, have no miracles. Muhammad laid no claim to be a miracle worker.

f.Other religions have finite gods. Even if their gods were real, they would not be omniscient.

g.The old pagan religions are dead religions. If their gods were true gods, why did their gods allow these old pagan religions to die?

h.In Scripture you sometimes have a prophecy which is fulfilled by a miracle. This would multiply its evidentiary value.

****END QUOTE****

(4) Despite all of the bluster that accompanies Freethinker and skeptical arguments against the major miracle claims of Christianity, I have as of yet to see an actual alleged miracle [versus a hypothetical] put forward that has on par with the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

In case anybody is curious what the general thrust of the evidence is, a crude outline of a good portion of it goes something like this:

(a) It was in the Roman and Jewish authorities' interest to produce the body of Christ, but no body was produced.

(b) There was no immediate advantage to proclaiming the risen Lord. On the contrary, there was great social disadvantage.

(c) The risen Lord spent a good amount of time post-Resurrection with the disciples, who were hardly the credulous bunch. [See: St Thomas.]

(d) The apostles and intimate followers of Jesus often died horrible, grisly deaths, not on account of something that they merely thought was true [but could be possibly mistaken] but on account of something for which they possessed first-hand knowledge.

None of this proves anything, but, it does provide strong probability to the truth of the historical claim.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Boo Hoo

You go 10-6, you miss the playoffs. That's cruel. If only KC hadn't had that stinker at Buffalo, if only KC got to play a third game against the Raiders...