Tuesday, December 31, 2013

For the great day thyself prepare

"The Message of Ecclesiastes - Living Presently" by Paul Helm.


I'm going to comment on this post:
What is yellow on the outside but white on the inside? If you guessed a "banana," though the inside appears more cream than white, you would be close. The answer is, a twinkie. Have you eaten one? They are fairly inexpensive and only about 135 calories. If you eat too many you might get a stomachache. There is definitely not enough sugar in these bite-size snacks to give you a significant energy boost like Red Bull or Starbucks coffee. Nevertheless, they are fairly tasty. Eat them. Yes! Use that term to describe people. No! 
In response to my brief blog post titled, "Listen Up White America," a dear friend responded to me by email. He described some of his experiences as a Korean Presbyterian pastor. He said that the black experience in Reformed and Presbyterian "churches are very similar to what I have experienced. The most interesting part of it is that those racial experiences didn't happen to me until I arrived at [said seminary] and entered the larger (i.e., outside of the Reformed Korean-American community) Reformed circles. [M]any people at [said seminary] assumed I didn't speak English. It was ridiculous."
He went on to say that he believes Asians, though he can intimately speak as a Korean, are seen either as twinkies (i.e., yellow on the outside, white on the inside) or non-English speaking asians," what he called, "F.O.B.," which means "fresh off the boat." He said, "Most would initially identify us as the latter. It's sad, but it's the truth…But I see changes... [Asians are] slowly shedding the image of kung-fu kicking Bruce Lee out of people's heads..."

Let's begin with some definitions. According to the Urban Dictionary:

OreoA racist slur and schoolyard name based on racist stereotypes wrongly assuming that intelligence, articulateness, dapperness, and manners are traits of whites and not blacks. Therefore, a black who possesses these traits is an oreo, white on the inside and black on the outside. A corollary slur is banana, yellow (Asian) on the outside and white on the inside.
twinkieAn asian person who is either adopted or living in a white community. Hence, yellow on the outside and white on the inside.
twinkyAn asian who acts like a white person, hangs out with white people, dresses like a white person, etc. Basicly, yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Used as an insult.
oreoA insulting termed often used by blacks to derogate other blacks as "Black on the outside, white on the inside." White on the inside meaning anything from speaking proper english, getting good grades, liking music that isn't hip hop, rap or R&B and having a diverse group of friends.
oreoTerm for African Americans that the black community is generally offended with for betraying their roots usually for dating caucasion girls, dressing too white, talking too white, etc. The term is branded OREO since they are "Black on the outside, White on the inside"
oreoA Black African American person who, because he/she has the desire to make a success of their life, has gained the wrath of foolish Black African Americans who have decided to make a shambles of their own. Often OREO's are educated, intelligent, and the respect of the business community. Thus, in the eyes of the dominant Black African American community, they are "guilty" of being "White" on the inside.
oreoA stereotype created by blacks to be used for other blacks who are "black on the outside, white on the inside". Black being their skin color, and white meaning to display characteristics of a "white" person, therefore "betraying their black roots". 
These characteristics being (but not limited to), raised in an environment that's NOT the projects, speaking proper english/very limited use of slang, having an eclectic taste in music, having a diverse group of friends, being well-educated, being legitimately employed, not abusing the welfare system, being well-mannered and civilized, saves money for college instead of bling and cheap grills, and wearing nice clothes that are not Roca Wear, Sean Jean, Baby Phat and so on. 
Most blacks confuse the "oreo" stereotype to being "bourgie", which is a very rude, stuck-up black, who thinks they are more "high-class" than they really are. 
This stereotype is stupid, and apparently stems from the fear most nigg3rs have of success. Blacks believe that unless you are a talentless rapper, a professional athlete, or "gangsta", it is impossible to be successful without being an "oreo". 

Note is that "twinkle," "banana," and "oreo" are intraracial epithets.  This isn't, in the first place, how whites characterize certain blacks or Asians. Rather, this is in-group slang. How some members of a racial or ethnic group view fellow members of the same racial or ethnic group.

For some reason, Leon and his Korean friend turn the tables. They project this attitude onto whites. They imagine that when whites view black or Asian professionals, whites seem them as "twinkles" or "oreos." 

I'm curious as to why Leon and his friend make this assumption about what whites are thinking. Is this based on anecdotal conversations? Sociological polling data? 

ii) Why assume that whites in general even indulge in these comparisons? Why assume that if a white sees a black or Asian professional, his automatic reaction is to mentally compare that individual to whites? Why assume that whites in general are that racially self-conscious? Why assume whites in general spend a lot of time thinking about what it means to be white–in contrast to other ethnicities? 

iii) I'm curious as to what Leon and his Korean friend think it means to be "white on the inside" or act white. If Yo-Yo Ma plays Classical music, does that make him white on the inside? If so, from whose perspective? Do Asians think Yo-Yo Ma is a "twinkie"? If so, isn't that a problem within the Asian community?

iv) Classical music originates in England and Europe. So Yo-Yo Ma usually performs white composers.  

What about jazz? Is jazz a black art form? Many jazz musicians are Jewish. Are they Jewish on the outside, but black on the inside? 

v) What about something more abstract? Many great mathematicians are Caucasian. Does that make math a white thing? If a Chinese or Japanese mathematician is a math prof. at Harvard, Princeton, or MIT, is he acting white?

For that matter, many great mathematicians are Jewish.  Does that mean an Asian math prof. is acting Jewish? 

What about Srinivasa Ramanujan. From what I've read, he's typically considered to be the greatest natural mathematician. The most naturally gifted mathematician who ever lived. How would Leon classify him? Is he East Indian out the outside, but something else on the inside? Or is mathematical aptitude race-neutral in Leon's classification scheme?

vi) BTW, isn't Leon overgeneralizing about Asian pigmentation? What about South Asians? 

vii) To the extent that whites associate Asians with kung-fu, isn't that a case of racial self-stereotyping? Don't Asian actors and directors promote that image?

Moreover, that's not a negative image, is it? Isn't martial arts widely admired in segments of the white community? 

I've only read three things by Leon, but thus far it's almost the mirror image of how David Duke might divide up the world. All these racial boxes. Which box is the right box for you? 

In the coming months I hope to write a 6-part series on some of the issues surrounding ethnicity in (broadly speaking) Reformed and Presbyterian circles. On the one hand, I am fully aware that many people do not believe there are any problems. I normally receive this response from those in the majority. Though I overstate my case for the purposes of this illustration, to say there are no problems is like the slave owner telling the slave, "Everything is okay." The slave owner is not aware, or perhaps suppresses, the myriad of issues surrounding the establishment because he is the superior; he is the majority. From the slave's perspective, however, issues abound. I do not categorize whites in Reformed and Presbyterian Churches today as slave owners nor do I classify African-Americans (or non-whites) in the aforementioned circles as slaves. However, based on personal study, numerous conversations, and personal experience, I think it is clear that we look through a different lens much like the slave and slave owner.

Well, if he insists on framing the issue that way, it would be easy to recast it. Obama is Baby Doc Duvalier. Eric Holder, Susan Rice, Todd Jones, Valerie Jarrett, and Ayo Kimathi are the Tonton Macoutes.

This is your brain on Barth

I'm going to comment on this post by Steven Nemes:

I believe Nemes is currently a Barthian universalist. There are many problems with his analysis of John:

i) He ignores Johannine dualism, which is present in both the Gospel of John and 1 John. We can depict this in terms of three overlapping circles. In the center is the world. The elect intersect with the world on one side, while the reprobate intersect with the world on the other side. 

Nemes is oblivious to the subtleties of kosmos in Johannine usage. He seems to think this is a universal expression. Yet that fails to take into account the way John often sets "the world" in antithetical contrast to believers. But if the world encompasses everyone, then there's no room for contrast.

ii) As we see in the prologue, Christ enters a world that isn't open to the Gospel, or even neutral. Rather, the world of the Jews and Gentiles is already hostile to its Creator. In the Fourth Gospel, Christ has many personal encounters, both with individuals and groups. The reaction to Christ exposes a preexisting rift, a predisposition to shrink from the light and withdraw into the shadows. The open revelation of God in Christ has a hardening effect on many. 

iii) But some individuals respond in faith. Their positive response also exposes a preexisting mindset. The differential factor is the Father's choice and the Spirit's renewal. 

Both faith and disbelief are effects of something more ultimate. Unbelievers reveal their diabolical paternity while believers revealed their divine paternity. Children of God and children of Satan. 

Left to their own devices, everyone would be under the spell of Satan. Only the Spirit can break the diabolical spell. 

As the Good Shepherd, Christ comes to rescue lost sheep who were marked out for salvation by the Father antemundane election. Like branded sheep who've strayed. The Son comes into the world from outside the world, to implement a redemptive plan which conceived outside the world. Before creation.  

Cf. A. Köstenberger, A Theology of John's Gospel and Letters, 458-64; J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, 40-42. Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, 46-47. 

The hidden hypotheses behind the Big Bang

The following is from the book Progress in New Cosmologies: Beyond the Big Bang:

The evidentiary value of eyewitness testimony

In addition to the body of the text, Miksa and Jayman both makes useful remarks in the comment thread:


The red shift


Human guinea pigs

Sheldrake: In theory science does portray humans as just machines, computers, “lumbering robots” in Richard Dawkins’s phrase, with no free will. From this point of view our minds are merely the activities of our brains. On the other hand, most scientists subscribe to secular humanism, which says we should do everything we can to improve human welfare, stop suffering, and so on. So there’s a conflict there. If you consider humans machines, then you should treat them the same way science treats animals, which is what the Nazi doctors did in the death camps; the same experiments long carried out on animals were applied to humans there. There’s nothing in science that tells us humans are special and shouldn’t be treated this way. That idea comes from secular humanism, which is a kind of quasi-religious faith. 

Guerrilla atheism

Although this article concentrates on Rupert Sheldrake and paranormal researchers, it documents a broader strategy on the part of militant atheists to infiltrate and manipulate Wikipedia. Make no mistake: this is an ideological war. Like Ho Chi Minh, militant atheists are fanatically determined opponents who take no prisoners:


Monday, December 30, 2013

Pope Francis Alienates his LGBT Base of Support

Jorge “Pope Francis” Bergoglio, the LGBT “Person-of-the-Year”, is said to have “stunned” his followers when he himself “reportedly was ‘shocked’ by a bill that would allow gay couples to adopt children in Malta”.

HuffPo carries the shocking story:

Pope Francis reportedly was "shocked" by a bill that would allow gay couples to adopt children in Malta….

The Holy See's reaction may come as a surprise to those who have viewed him as progressive on gay rights. LGBT magazine "The Advocate" even named him their person of the year, citing his comments about homosexuals. "Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?" he told reporters in Italian in July….

Despite his July comments, the pope has a long history of being against gay rights. He has come out strongly opposed to same-sex marriage and called it "a destructive attack" on God's plan.

More Evidence That Republicans And Democrats Are Significantly Different

Advocates of third parties, supporters of Ron Paul, and other people often make the absurd claim that there's no significant difference between the Republicans and Democrats. It's often suggested that neither party is more Christian than the other, as if a person's Christianity shouldn't motivate him to be a supporter of one party rather than the other. Here's another example of how inaccurate such claims are:

The survey also revealed remarkable divisions along political and religious lines when it comes to belief in evolution. Far more Democrats believe in it than Republicans, for example, and disbelief among the GOP is rising rapidly.

Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67 percent) and independents (65 percent) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43 percent). And belief in the theory of evolution fell from 54 percent in 2009 to 43 percent today, the survey found. Opinion among both Democrats and independents has remained about the same.

The wording used in the poll seems problematic. Still, that wording would have been problematic across the board, regardless of whether the participant was a Republican, Democrat, or something else. On so many issues, this one just being one example among many, there are significant differences between the parties, with the Republicans aligning far more closely with Christianity.

Corporate pride


Under the thumb

The following are from or related to Nobel laureate molecular and cell biologist Randy Schekman:

Many of you can recount similar stories where an investment in basic science has resulted in a direct application to medicine and technology. And yet we find a growing tendency for government to want to manage discovery with expansive so-called strategic science initiatives at the expense of the individual creative exercise we celebrate today.


Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine this year and receives his prize in Stockholm on Tuesday, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals, Nature, Cell and Science.

Schekman said pressure to publish in "luxury" journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash....

Schekman criticises Nature, Cell and Science for artificially restricting the number of papers they accept, a policy he says stokes demand "like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags." He also attacks a widespread metric called an "impact factor", used by many top-tier journals in their marketing.

A journal's impact factor is a measure of how often its papers are cited, and is used as a proxy for quality. But Schekman said it was "toxic influence" on science that "introduced a distortion". He writes: "A paper can become highly cited because it is good science - or because it is eye-catching, provocative, or wrong."...

Sebastian Springer, a biochemist at Jacobs University in Bremen, who worked with Schekman at the University of California, Berkeley, said he agreed there were major problems in scientific publishing, but no better model yet existed. "The system is not meritocratic. You don't necessarily see the best papers published in those journals. The editors are not professional scientists, they are journalists which isn't necessarily the greatest problem, but they emphasise novelty over solid work," he said.

Springer said it was not enough for individual scientists to take a stand. Scientists are hired and awarded grants and fellowships on the basis of which journals they publish in. "The hiring committees all around the world need to acknowledge this issue," he said.


Which Republicans defended Phil Robertson?


Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Sen.Ted Cruz (R-TX) emphatically defended Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson from the moment he was suspended by A&E for supposedly anti-gay remarks. The suspension provoked a relentless outpouring of support online, which pressured A&E to reinstate Robertson on Friday.

Palin, Jindal, and Cruz's support was in contrast to the silence of the Republican establishment, its leadership, and the Republican National Committee. The latter focused instead on Kwanzaa and promoting amnesty, which the Congressional Budget Office determined would lower the wages of working class Americans, many of whom make up the bulk of the Duck Dynasty audience....

"The reason that so many Americans love Duck Dynasty is because it represents the America usually ignored or mocked by liberal elites: a family that loves and cares for each other, believes in God, and speaks openly about their faith," Cruz wrote.

Palin, Cruz, and Jindal were repeatedly mentioned in stories in the mainstream media about Robertson. In contrast, the Republican establishment organizations and D.C. figureheads were ducking for cover and nowhere to be found, reinforcing the suspicions of the "Teavengelical" base that has always suspected that the Republican elite on the coasts and in D.C. disdains them and their "flyover country" values.

Bugging your computer


Faithful Saints

Just click on the names, under the table of contents:


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Swimming the Tiber

I don't normally recommend that folks convert to Roman Catholicism, but I suppose that even that denomination has it's uses. For instance, I think the PCA should invite Peter Enns to swim the Tiber, where he'd clearly be more at home:


Pope Osteen

Why has the church of Rome changed its position on issues like the fate of suicides or unbaptized babies? Why is the Vatican currently poised to lift restrictions on receiving communion for Catholics who openly flout church teaching on divorce, abortion, &c.? 

The face-saving explanation is that, somehow, this reflects a greater understanding of human nature than we had in the past. But there's a more plausible explanation.

Back when the church of Rome has a religious monopoly in Western Europe, when it was the state religion, when it had the patronage of the ruling class, when it was a crime to buck the religious system, Rome could get away with taking unpopular positions. It's like a company town where you have to buy overpriced goods from the company store. That's the only store in town. 

But with the loss of Rome's hegemony, it's becoming a Pander Bear. Pope Francis is like a Catholic Joel Osteen or Robert Schuller. Inclusion. Happy-talk. 

Catholic apologists have touted Rome holding the line on issues like contraception, unlike those compromising Protestant denominations. But if Rome keeps softening its position, where will that leave the argument?  

Vatican shakeup


Was the Septuagint the Bible of the Early Church?

Among other things, this is germane to debates over the scope of the OT canon:


"Same-sex attraction"

John Piper's old outfit has sponsored a couple of articles on "same-sex attraction." This may be catching on. I notice a PCA pastor who plugged it, saying:

Roen believes there is a distinction between experiencing temptation and engaging in sin. I believe this is a helpful and, most importantly, biblical distinction. Our Lord was tempted in every way as are we yet without sin. Certainly, since we are fallen and "groaning" (Rom 8) we know what it is for temptation to give way to lust which then gives birth to evil deeds. But this does not change the fact that being tempted is not the same thing as being carried away by our lusts. Indeed, to equate the experience of temptation with sinful lusts and evil deeds is to place a burden upon our brothers and sisters that Scripture does not.  

It's good for Christian churches to have outreach ministries to the homosexual community. That said, the analysis by both parties suffers from serious confusions:

i) I'm struck by the "same-sex" as  a substitute for "homosexual." Is this a studied euphemism to avoid the more invidious connotations of "homosexual"? Should Christian churches accept this euphemism?

ii) How can Pruitt say homosexual attraction isn't equivalent to sinful lust? Homosexual attraction is contrary to God's design in a way that heterosexual attraction is not. Therefore, we're dealing with something intrinsically perverse, whether or not you act on it.  It's not the way you're supposed to feel. 

iii) Likewise, how does Pruit distinguish between sexual temptation and lust? Is he using "lust" in a specialized sense, which he differentiates from sexual attraction or erotic desire? If so, is that hairsplitting dichotomy psychologically plausible? 

Perhaps hovering in the background is a particular interpretation of Mt 5:28. I happen to think D. A. Carson's interoperation makes the most sense. Cf. REBC 9:184.

iv) How does it place an undue burden on Christians to say homosexual attraction is sinful? What's wrong with stating that some Christians struggle with homosexual impulses. Those impulses are sinful. However, all Christians struggle with sinful impulses. As long as we are contrite, as long as we resist temptation, as long as we seek daily forgiveness, we are faithful, heavenbound believers? 

v) It's true that feeling tempted isn't necessarily sinful. And resisting temptation is virtuous. However, to say feeling tempted isn't always sinful doesn't mean feeling tempted is never sinful. To begin with, sin isn't confined to what we do. Sin includes thoughts and feelings. Indeed, a sinful act is commonly (but not necessarily) the outworking of a sinful desire. 

vi) Apropos (vii), some desires are innocent, but it would be sinful to act on them. I don't think finding someone's spouse desirable is sinful. But acting on that desire would be sinful. 

By contrast, pedophilia is not an innocent desire. An adult shouldn't feel that way about prepubescent children in the first place. That reflects a twisted inclination or disposition. 

vii) Pruitt's appeal to Heb 4:15 needs to be qualified. The statement is hyperbolic. The point is not that Jesus felt tempted by everything that Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer found desirable. Some sinful desires are an acquired taste. Second-order desires which presuppose sinful indulgence. You have to be hardened to find that appealing. 

Conversely, Jesus was subject to some unprecedented temptations. Temptations unique to his redemptive mission–a distinction which the author of Hebrews expounds in some detail. 

We also need to distinguish between "tempted" and "tested." In the social context of Hebrews, with its focus on Christian persecution, the author's point is that Jesus doesn't call on his followers to suffer anything he didn't suffer. Indeed, he suffered more than they ever will, and suffered in ways which will spare them ultimate suffering. 

Logos or wisdom?

Dale Tuggy has taken issue with Bnonn's post on the deity of Christ. A few quick observations are in order:

There are many crippling problems which beset Dale's appeal to Prov 8 as the background for Jn 1:

i) There's the question of wisdom's identity in Prov 8. This is a personification of divine wisdom. But in Jn 1, the Logos is not a personification, but a real person. Not a literary device, but a personal agent.

ii) Jn 1 uses logos rather than sophia.

iii) The primary background for Jn 1 is Gen 1. That's clear from pervasive parallels: (a) the "in the beginning" preface; (b) the creation context; (c) creation by means of God's spoken word; (d) the repetition of other leitworte (e.g. life, light, darkness), as well as other Pentateuchal allusions from Exodus (e.g. the tabernacle, the invisible God, the giving of the Law).   So the predominate usage comes from the Pentateuch rather than Wisdom literature.

iv) Dale is resorting to the Arian interpretation and application of Prov 8. But that's at odds with Dale's humanitarian universalism. If Jesus was just a man, then he came into existence in the 1C. By contrast, if we identify the Logos in Jn 1 with Wisdom in Prov 8, then even if Wisdom is the first creature, it came into existence at the time of creation, not 1C Palestine. 

v) There's also the problem of pressing the poetic imagery. Taken literately, this would mean God lacked wisdom before he made wisdom. Wisdom would be the product of an initially unwise God. 

vi) As Waltke points out, this is just a metaphor for the wisdom of Solomon. His divine inspiration participates in God's primordial, creative wisdom. 

His appeal to Heb 1:1-2 is off the Mark. In that passage, the point of contrast lies, not between OT Christophanies and the Incarnation, but between OT prophetic writings and the Incarnation.

Likewise, Hebrews 1 doesn't distinguish "God" from "Jesus." Rather, it distinguishes the Father from the Son. Dale constantly equivocates. 

Regarding Christophanies, I did a post on that last year:

Since Mike Gantt is a fellow unitarian (just a different toxic flavor), he naturally rushes to the defense of Dale. 

The Roman Catholic “Eucharist”: Accretions, Equivocations, and Anachronisms

This is not the Lord’s Supper
This is not the Lord’s Supper
Roman Catholicism is a bankrupt system in many ways. In recent years I’ve written extensively about the nonexistent early papacy and the relative lateness of “apostolic succession”. One of the other really big themes upon which Roman Catholicism hangs its hat is “the Eucharist”. However, I’ve been reading about that topic recently, and I hope to publish more on it in the near future.

While Roman Catholicism confidently asserts that it offers “the fullness of the faith” in these matters, more likely it is offering accretions from the fourth century, equivocations on words, and historical anachronisms, void of any real connection with the teachings of the New Testament.

To be sure, Rome made many of its confident claims at a time when any real historical understanding of the earliest church was lost. The right thing to do would be to say “oops, we goofed”, and to move on with it. However, Rome’s confident assertions were made “infallibly”, and so, a mere apology is not workable. Instead, there are claims of “development” and still more different kinds of dissembling.

In essence, the Lord’s Supper (the “agape” meal) from New Testament times probably through the fourth century was based on “common meal traditions” of the Roman empire of that time period, and as it was observed, it probably looked more like a Baptist pot-luck dinner than a priest doing a “consecration” and lines of sour-faced “communicants” waddling down the center aisle to get their little white chips (This latter model was a much later invention.)

The eternal nada

"Do Atheists Exist?"

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The three Martini pope

I think it's premature to draw final lessons on where this pontificate is heading. It's still too early to say. But there seems to be an emerging pattern. Only time will tell. 

A feminist defense of masculine virtues

"Camille Paglia: A Feminist Defense of Masculine Virtues"

The domino effect

So A&E blinked first. That was predictable. Indeed, what's striking about this whole debacle is how predictable it was, yet A&E and the homosexual lobby couldn't see it coming. It's like watching a row of dominoes.

i) It was predictable that Phil Robertson would answer the question the way he did. He's an elder at a fundamentalist church. He's said the same thing back in 2010, only that time he quoted/paraphrased Rom 1 rather than 1 Cor 6.

It's predictable that he'd express himself in blunt, lowbrow terms. That's in character.

ii) It was predictable that the homosexual lobby would go ballistic. In the past, the homosexual lobby has been pretty successful in stifling dissent. And with Obama in office, they feel the wind to their back.

iii) It was predictable that out-of-touch TV execs would react they way they did. Among the cultural elite, that's the reflexive response. They imagine that's how you're supposed to respond.

And they expect celebrities who've committed a politically incorrect faux pas to contritely retract the statement, go on the talkshow circuit and grovel for absolution.

It's possible they feared the loss of advertisers. They had their sights set on everyone except the…audience. That's a problem when corporate execs don't buy the product. When they forget it's the audience, not pressure groups, who sign the paycheck.

A problem when they belong to the social class of the power elite rather than the audience.

iv) It was predictable that Phil wouldn't back down. That would be out of character. He has too much self-respect. Although he cares about his reputation, the people whose opinion he values aren't TV execs or GLAAD.

At 67, he's not climbing the career ladder. And he doesn't need the supplementary income.

v) It was predictable that his sons would back him up. It's my impression that working class Southerners have a strong sense of kith and kin. If, moreover, his sons turned their back on their dad, Duck Dynasty fans would turn their back on the sons.

vi) In the end, it was predictable that A&E would fold. Phil held all the high cards. A&E had far more to lose by canceling Duck Dynasty than losing GLAAD. The Robertsons had far less to lose.

GLAAD failed to learn the Chick-Fil-A lesson.

You can pick on something small and popular. You can bully a small Christian business. Even if it's popular, it lacks the resources to fight back.

You can occasionally pick on something big and unpopular. Pressure groups have had some success with the tobacco industry.

They've been less successful with oil companies. Although oil companies are unpopular, their product is necessary–unlike cigarettes. Nobody has to light up, but most folks have to tank up–like it or not.

What you can't expect to do is to intimidate something big and popular.

GLAAD miscalculated. It's become overconfident.

I've read that occasionally a Roman senator would propose a dress code for slaves. Put slaves in their place. Make it clear who's who.

But that proposal was shot down. Why? Because slaves outnumbered Roman aristocrats and plebs by 10-1. A dress code for slaves would suddenly expose the fact that the ruling class was dangerously outnumbered.

The homosexual lobby has clout out of all proportion to its numbers. When it takes on something big and popular, it reveals its essential impotence for all the world to see.

You can bluff people into surrendering if they think you have a vast army just over the hill. The illusion only works as long as you don't let them see how weak you really are.

Mind you, this is just a temporary win for Christians. The homosexual lobby will regroup. It's been bloodied, but not defeated.

Christians need to build on this win, not revert to complacency.

Bearing false witness to our fine feathered neighbors

Well, if you ask me, this raises serious ethical questions. Surely it's a flagrant violation of the 9th Commandment to deceive a mallard by using duck call? 

Duck Commander ~ Triple Threat ~ Duck Hunting Call New by Duck Commander

Duck Dynasty - A&E

Check out Duck Dynasty, a show about the family that runs the duck call fabrication business. 

My cult's better than your cult!

Dale says: 
There are many theological, ethical, and practical problems with the JWs, as testified to be an endless stream of thoughtful, God-fearing people leaving that group, often at great cost…If you google around, you’ll find them talking about leaving. I do encourage you to leave the Watchtower behind. They are just one of many cultish groups who gain credibility by pointing out that the Trinity, and other things common in various catholic groups, are not taught in the Bible...Beware of various legalists, like those who try to go quasi-Jewish... 

It's gratifying to see that anti-Trinitarian apostate Dale Tuggy hasn't lost his theological standards. You see, for Dale, it's not good enough to belong to just any ol' Christ-denying cult. You gotta belong to the right Christ-denying cult. The One True Christ-denying cult. Thankfully, we have Dale to separate the sheepish cult-members from the goatish cult-members. Heresy has its own outcasts. 

My cult's bigger than your cult,
My cult's purer than yours.
My cult's better 'cause he gets Tuggy Ration,
My cult's better than yours.

"How Jesus Became God"

Apostate atheist Bart Ehrman has a forthcoming book. Since it hasn't been published yet, I'll just comment on the blurbs:

“How did ancient monotheism allow the One God to have a ‘son’? Bart Ehrman tells this story, introducing the reader to a Jewish world thick with angels, cosmic powers, and numberless semi-divinities. How Jesus Became God provides a lively overview of Nicea’s prequel.”
“ In this lively and provocative book, Ehrman gives a nuanced and wide-ranging discussion of early Christian Christology. Tracing the developing understanding of Jesus, Ehrman shows his skills as an interpreter of both biblical and nonbiblical texts. This is an important, accessible work by a scholar of the first rank.”


This suggests that Ehrman is basing his conclusions on Second Temple Jewish literature and Hellenistic Judaism. If so, that's not Ehrman's field of expertise. 

Also, is Ehrman a "scholar of the first rank"? Due to his association with the late Bruce Metzger, and I think some people treat him as Metzger's successor. But he's certainly not in Metzger's league. 

Finally, Paula Fredriksen has her own ax to grind. For instance, she was an outspoke critic of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Cutting Jesus down to size suits her interfaith agenda. 

The Fruit Of Neglecting Apologetics

There have been some news stories lately about polling showing a decline in belief in the historicity of the infancy narratives. A local newspaper interviewed some pastors about how they address such doubts:

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus Christ: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal

Classic article by the late Bruce Metzger:


To tatt or not to tatt


I kept forgetting what all six reasons were, so I had them tattooed on my arm as a mnemonic device to help me remember the six reasons not to tattoo the six reasons on my arm as a mnemonic device.

Back to normal

I appreciate the distinction that Todd makes in this post:

And I appreciate his taking a public stance, as well as coming down on the right side of this issue.  But I would like to comment on one statement:

We have brothers and sisters in Christ who, while struggling with same sex attraction, persevere faithfully in God-honoring chastity recognizing that homosexuality is a sin. 

This creates the impression, whether intentional or not, that celibacy is the only option for Christians who struggle with homosexual impulses. Here I think we need to avoid two extremes:

One extreme is giving such people false hope. Assuring them of an instant or total cure if they just pray enough, receiving the baptism of the Spirit, or undergo reparative therapy. God will take away their homosexual urges. That typically leads to bitter disillusionment and apostasy. They are worse off than before, because false assurance has made them cynical. 

The other extreme is to give them no hope of recovery in this life. Seems to me that we should be encouraging them to work towards heterosexual marriage. Make that their goal, rather than lifelong celibacy. Of course, celibacy is a moral requirement for every single Christian. And there are circumstances under which a life of self-denial is the only option. 

But there is evidence that some homosexuals can recover their natural heterosexual impulses:

Holding out that possibility spares them from falling into despair. 

Seems to me that we should treat homosexuality like any other addiction. Addictions can be notoriously difficult to break. Yet society is extremely sympathetic when it comes to drug rehab, despite the rate of recidivism. Why should we demand a higher success rate for homosexuals? When recovering alcoholics fall off the wagon, we don't say that's a reason to stop treating alcoholism. 

Catholicism and suicide

The church of Rome has reversed its position on a number of very significant issues. These include salvation outside the church, capital punishment, and biblical inerrancy. Here's another example:

In earlier times a person who committed suicide would often be denied funeral rites and even burial in a Church cemetery.  
Canon law no longer specifically mentions suicide as an impediment to funeral rites or religious sepulture. 
In most cases, however, the progress made in the study of the underlying causes of self-destruction shows that the vast majority are consequences of an accumulation of psychological factors that impede making a free and deliberative act of the will. 
Thus the general tendency is to see this extreme gesture as almost always resulting from the effects of an imbalanced mental state and, as a consequence, it is no longer forbidden to hold a funeral rite for a person who has committed this gesture although each case must still be studied on its merits. 

How can you trust a denomination to be a safe spiritual guide when it reverses itself on such fundamental issues? If it changes it's position, then that means either of two things: if it got it right now, it got it wrong then; if it got it right then, it got it wrong now.

Also, why has Rome changed its policy? People commit suicide for the same reasons they always committed suicide. It's not like we've discovered new evidence. 

Why are so many Catholic oblivious to how this renders their denomination unreliable? Several reasons suggest themselves:

i) Ignorance. For younger Catholics and converts, the new policy may be the only policy they ever knew. We know the present better than the past. We experience the present, whereas we must study the past. 

ii) We're not inclined to criticize a change if we think it's a change for the better. If that's an improvement, then we think the change is a good thing.

But that misses the point. What does that tell you about the lack of institutional foresight?

iii) And, of course, you have a lot of Catholics who just don't think. 

iv) There's always the out of saying Rome never addressed the issue authoritatively. For instance, Limbo for unbaptized infants was never dogma. Yet, for centuries, Rome left Catholics to believe that was the fate of unbaptized infants. Even if that's not a formal error, it is misleading the faithful. Misdirecting them rather than guiding them into the truth. 

Giving the devil his due

Dale Tuggy:

Ye olde qua-move. Sigh. Just pushes the bump (contradiction) under the carpet. It would seem that what can die as/because it is X, can die (full stop). So, he can and he can't. :-( 

Tuggy's committing the fallacy of the complex question. 

We should be afraid to foist that kind of view onto Mark.

To the contrary, I'm just letting Mark speak for himself. He depicts Jesus as both human and divine.

Right. So, one and the same Jesus has divinity, and properties incompatible with divinity. (Ditto with humanity.) D'oh!

It's not inherently contradictory to say the same thing can and can't be. Black can't be white, or vice versa. But black and white can inhere in the same subject, viz. a black cat with white spots or a white at with black spots. It's contradictory to ascribe the property of blackness to the property of whiteness, and vice versa, but not contradictory to ascribe both properties to a common property-bearer.

You might try positing two different subjects in Christ, one which, e.g. is omniscient, the other not. But that seems a disastrous read of the gospels, I think you'll agree. Another option would be to say the features are, respectively, omniscient-as-divine and omniscient-as-human - Jesus has the first, lacks the second. Such features, one may think, are not obviously contrary. But those are wierd features, and besides, why don't they entail plain old omniscience and non-omniscience (in this one subject who's both divine and human)?
Unless you can spell out how it helps, I'm afraid the qua-dodge is just a dodge. 

Notice that Dale oscillates between two opposing criteria. On the one hand he says we should just read Mark on his own terms. On the other hand, he says we must be able to philosophically harmonize Mark's complex representations of Jesus. 

The Incarnation is unique. As far as philosophy goes, we may be able to gain some insight through analogies. Of course, analogies are only partial models. 

As far as analogies available to Mark, you have the category of Spirit-possession, where (in the case of OT prophets) the Spirit takes psychological control of a human host. Consider visionary revelation, like an inspired dream, where the seer or dreamer's mind is the vehicle, yet he's processing information from another mind. In that altered state of consciousness, the visionary is both aware and self-aware, his own (human) mind is operative, yet another (divine) mind is accessing his mind, and vice versa. 

On a related note is the phenomenon of telepathy or mind-reading, where you have the mingling of two minds. In principle, this can either be unilateral (where one mind accesses another without tipping off the subject who's mind is being monitored) or bilateral. That, too, has biblical precedents, including the Gospels.

These are analogies or partial models which would be available to Mark and his readers. The Markan Jesus exceeds those paradigms. But it's a bridge. 

If you're going to say it's a holy mystery, just go straight for that - bite the bullet without delay. 

A mystery is not synonymous with a contradiction. 

Problem is, though, you now have to insist that what seems a self-contradictory reading of Mark is overall the best one. 

That begs the question. 

Mark is just a reporter. He's reporting what Jesus said and did. 

I'd also add that if Tuggy demands a reductive harmonization, that doesn't single out a unitarian harmonization. As far as reductionism goes, it could just as well be a Docetic harmonization, viz. Jesus as a divine epiphany. That would be familiar to Mark's gentile audience.   

Is Jesus just a man with godlike traits? Or is Jesus just a God slumming as a man, like a king who plays a peasant to catch his subjects off-guard? There's OT precedent for that "entertaining angels unawares" motif (e.g. Gen 18; Judg 13). And that has counterparts in Greco-Roman mythology (e.g. Baucis and Philemon), which would be recognizable to Mark's Hellenistic audience. 

Do I think that's correct? No. I'm just responding to Tuggy on his own grounds. 

Yes, in your view, Chalcedonian language "summarizes" points not grapsed for hundreds of years by mainstream Christians. Looks anachronistic. 

It's no more anachronistic to speak of a divine nature and a human nature than to speak of divine omniscience or divine omnipotence. So, no, I didn't read the Chalcedonian formulation (which is fairly extensive) back into Mark. 

As a Protestant, you would be more wary of such errors.

As a philosopher, Dale should be more wary of his semantic fallacies.

Thanks - I see you concede my point that the reader of Mark reasonably assumes that Satan is tempting Jesus to sin, as in the other gospels. 

You don't get belated credit for my distinction. I drew a distinction you failed to draw. I'm hardly conceding your point when you adopt my point after the fact. Nice try. Try again.

Now, is Satan that dumb - to try to tempt a being to sin, who he ought to know, can't possibly have a motive to sin? That'd be like trying to find the corner of a perfect sphere, or trying to find the fourth side of a triangle. It's conceivable, to be sure, but strange to think about a foe who is supposed to be a fearsome adversary. In your view, does Satan somehow fail to see that Jesus is God (making his temping activity pointless), or does he fail to know that God can't sin (making Satan an idiot)?

Well, I realize that as a hellbound Christ-denier, Dale naturally takes umbrage at aspersions cast on the wisdom of his infernal Master. That said:

i) Smart people can believe dumb things. The list is long. Paul Krugman comes to mind. 

ii) Brilliant individuals, even geniuses, can suffer from mental illness, viz.  Swedenborg, Kurt Gödel, Georg Cantor, Virginia Woolf, Bobby Fischer, Ted Kaczynski.

Satan is a good candidate for criminal insanity. 

iii) Brilliant minds are susceptible to certain intellectual obsessions. Conspiracy theories are a snare for smart guys, viz. Ray Griffin is a 9/11 Truther. Likewise, numerology or gematria is a snare for great minds. For instance, Isaac Newton was obsessed with Biblical numerology. The quest to crack a hidden Bible code. 

iv) Revenge is often taken to irrational lengths, where the obsessed avenger is prepared to destroy himself in hope's of destroying the object of his vengeance in the process. Satan is a good candidate for a crazed avenger.

v) You also have twisted idealists who find something noble about fighting for lost causes. It's very futility is heroic. They think that has a supreme purity of motives because their supererogatory efforts will go unrewarded.

vi) Tuggy's objection doesn't even make sense on unitarian grounds. Even if Jesus were merely human, he's a proxy for God. Satan's guerrilla warfare against God is doomed to fail.

vii) And there's a fatalistic quality to Satan's opposition. The means by which he labors to scuttle God's plan is the divinely-appointed means by which God's plan is realized. Divine irony. Poetic justice.