Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Atheists make me laugh

While I prepare for my next entry in my on going series with blues guitar playing commie anarchist, Chaz, check out how Steve Hays exposes the folly of atheism in a recent rant against a hand wringing secularist afraid of Christians taking over the world.

Prepare to laugh. Out loud.

Logan's Run

Monday, May 29, 2006

Were B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort Apostate New Agers?

Examining the Arguments of King James Onlyism [pt. 8]

It has been a while, but I wished to return to exploring the arguments of King James onlyism.

As a quick review, KJV only advocates teach that the King James Bible, also known as the Authorized Version, is the only translation, English or otherwise, that accurately contains the Word of God as it was revealed by God through His prophets and Apostles. The KJV translation is considered to be perfect; with out any error either in the original language documents used in its translation or in the English translation itself. Additionally, the translators are said to be the greatest scholars the world has ever known, and it is argued God used these men to preserve once and for all His Word to humanity.

It has been my endeavor when time permits to review and critique what I believe to be 6 key, foundational arguments used to defend KJV onlyism. I have considered the first three, and before I move on to examining the fourth argument, I wanted to do a quick excursus on two claims relevant to the third KJV argument, the textual argument.

When KJV advocates build their case for their understanding of textual criticism, they will generally raise two additional arguments: Heretics are responsible for corrupting the manuscripts used in translating modern day versions like the NASB or NIV and Westcott and Hort, the two 19th century British textual critics responsible for the Revised Version published in 1881, were heretical men involved in all sorts of diabolical wickedness. With the last article, I reviewed the claim that heretical men corrupted the biblical manuscripts used in translating the modern versions, and with this post, I would like to examine the claims leveled against Westcott and Hort.

Before I do that, let me answer two important questions: who were these men and what did they do to earn such negative attention from KJV advocates? Drs. Brooke Foss Westcott (see picture above) and Fenton John Anthony Hort were two Cambridge Greek scholars who labored 28 years together on organizing and refining the principles used for weighing the value of textual manuscripts.

Their work built upon that of previous textual scholars, but in addition, they included the recent findings of the Alexandrian manuscripts, Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. They printed their work in a two-volume edition called The New Testament in the Original Greek. Later, their research was instrumental in the publication of the first major English translation since the King James, the Revised Version.

Both men were conservative, Anglican churchmen who wrote extensively against the anti-theistic higher criticism coming from the European seminaries, particularly Germany. Dr. Westcott later became the Bishop of Durham. KJV advocates vilify Westcott and Hort because their Greek text was a break away from the Received Text used in the translation of the KJV and included what they consider to be heretical manuscripts from the Alexandrian family.

All KJV only literature will have an extended section detailing the alleged heresies of these two men. They are in a sense the key theological villains in the KJV only mythology. Their work on NT textual criticism is proclaimed to be practically satanic: an attempt to corrupt the NT documents and replace them with a sinful, demonically inspired production designed to destroy the souls of men. They are blamed for the shift away from the Textus Receptus and the embracing of a modern, eclectic Greek text used for the translation of all modern versions of the 20th century. They are also accused of being the root of every theological woe and doctrinal deviancy we experience in our modern Church. No KJV advocate ever treats them with the least bit of kindness or sympathy. Even the tamest KJV onlyist will hurl contempt upon their character.

For example, Bible For Today president and KJV advocate, D.A. Waite, writes (with bold letters, mind you) that "these two men were apostates, liberal and unbelievers" (Defending the KJB, pg. 41). He has even compiled a booklet titled The Theological Heresies of Westcott and Hort, in which he allegedly cites extensively from five of their books in order to demonstrate his charge of heresy. He charges them with denying the deity of Christ and rejecting the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible among other things.

Another KJV proponent, William Grady, claims to have read their biographies and in his book titled Final Authority, he devotes an entire chapter to them called Vessels of Dishonor. He writes that Westcott and Hort were "a pair of unsaved liberals, whose open Vatican sympathies cast them as the consummate Jesuit priests."

In truth, the research of both these men, as well as that of an entire choir of KJV advocates who distort the lives of Westcott and Hort, is basically a hodge-podge of citations ripped from their contexts, along with the ignoring of fact and the concealment of the truth, all interpreted through a rigid, legalistic modern day fundamentalism.

Probably the absolute worse to slander their character, however, has to be Gail Riplinger. It could be argued that she has set the unsurpassable standard for bashing them. Mrs. Riplinger has no training in the original, biblical languages, nor any understanding of genuine textual criticism; yet, in her book New Age Bible Versions, she devotes three chapters totaling 66 pages where she selectively cites from the collective works of Westcott and Hort in order to manufacture lies against them. In fact, her fabricated falsehoods she presents in these chapters are enough to destroy what ever amount of credibility she had as an author and expose her as being a false teacher if anyone were to check her research against what is known to be true.

Mrs. Riplinger writes about their alleged theological heresies, but in addition to charging them as being doctrinal apostates, she claims these two men were heavily involved with the occultic underground in London where they involved themselves in seances and the channeling of demonic spirits. She further alleges that the purpose of their Revised Version was not to present a fresh English translation based upon the newest research in the field of textual criticism, but to produce a new age Bible designed to supplant the true Christian faith. She attempts to link them, particularly Dr. Westcott, with the Theosophy Society in England and one of its main founders H.P. Blavatsky. This contrived connection convicts him as a anti-Christ new ager and the reason why all Christians should throw out their modern Bible translations and return to reading the KJV alone.

It would be an immense chore to track down and refute every one of the scurrilous charges leveled against Drs. Westcott and Hort. Dr. Westcott usually receives the greatest attention from KJV only zealots because of his notoriety as an Anglican bishop and the fact he wrote more extensively than Dr. Hort. I would commend the research of Mr. James May who has done the Bible believing Church a great favor by pouring over some 4,000 pages of Dr. Westcott's writings and shown the manufactured revisionism against this Christian scholar on the part of KJV onlyists. His papers can be downloaded at the KJV only site and much of my material for this post is drawn from them.

With this introduction in mind, I would like to answer the two most distorted accusations made by KJV onlyists against these two men, especially Dr. Westcott.

1) Drs. Westcott and Hort were liberal unbelievers who denied essential Christian doctrine.

It is claimed by KJV onlyists that these men denied the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, the Inspiration of the scriptures, and a host of other essential doctrines that identify the Christian faith. Generally, KJV onlyist selectively cite from their works, weaving together cherry picked quotations so as to devise their heresy. The habit of KJV apologists to simply make up a dissenter's beliefs if no true guilt can be found is reason enough to read with extreme caution and serious discernment any of their work.

I will let the readers benefit from Mr. May's excellent work in the matters of Dr. Westcott's orthodoxy. But for our purposes here, the example of his affirmation of Christ's deity will suffice to show how he was a theologically sound Christian.

James May writes in the introduction to his study on this subject that,

B.F. Westcott asserted the deity of Jesus Christ so many different times, in so many different ways, under such a variety of headings, that writing a paper to prove his position may appear to be an exercise in the obvious ... It is so plain that Westcott believed in the deity of Christ that all who read Westcott's writings (or profess to read them) have no excuse for claiming otherwise.

All anyone has to do is just read through his two major commentaries, Hebrews and the Gospel of John, and it will become quickly apparent that Dr. Westcott affirmed the divinity of our Lord. Note these citations with my added emphasis:

He who was God became flesh: He who was with God tabernacled among us (comp. 1 John i:2) He who was in the beginning, became (in time), (Gospel of John, p. 2)

No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word, (Gospel of John, p. 3).

They offer the fullest view which man can gain of the Person of the Lord in its absolute unity, truly human and truly divine, (Epistles of John, p. 128)

He [Christ] is at once Creator and Heir of all things, (Hebrews, p.7).

Let us cling to our faith in Him, Whom we openly confess, as truly human, truly divine, (Hebrews, p. 106).

These are just a smattering of quotes; many more can be presented, but space does not allow. It is clear, just with the reading of this handful of quotations, that Dr. Westcott was no closet, occult loving Gnostic heretic. He both affirmed and defended the divinity and the humanity of Jesus Christ. To suggest otherwise is to bear false witness.

2) Westcott and Hort were both actively involved with the underground occult in London.

Out of all of the lies perpetrated against these two men, the most outlandish are the charges they were heavily involved in the secret occult in London. A good portion of Mrs. Riplinger's book is her absurd conspiracy theory that attempts to tie together in a piecemeal fashion her speculations as to how Westcott and Hort were members of all sorts of sinister, Lucifarian organizations. Her charges, however, are products of her warped imagination and have no basis in reality.

In one instance, she foolishly misidentifies B.F. Westcott with a W.W. Westcott, a man who was involved with occultic organizations, but is no relation to the NT scholar and Bishop of Durham. I have discussed this reckless comparison in my introductory article to this series, so I direct the reader to it.

Mrs. Riplinger also attempts to make a connection with two college societies where Westcott was a member. As an aside, it must be kept in mind how campus societies are ubiquitous in high, academic college, so membership in these societies or clubs would be commonplace. There is nothing necessarily sinister with being associated with a variety of academic societies.

KJV apologists always discuss two clubs in which Dr. Westcott was a member during his days in college: The Hermes Club and the Ghostly Guild. Allow me to look at each one of them in turn.

First is the Hermes Club. In 1845, while at Cambridge as an undergraduate, Dr. Westcott was a part of an essay reading club that started under the name of The Philological Society. The club had as its primary purpose to read and discuss topics concerning classic Greek and Latin literature. Sometime at a later point, the club took up the name of Hermes until it was disbanded in 1848.

KJV only apologists desirous to find some dark, nefarious goings-on with this group capitalize upon the change of name from The Philological Society to the Hermes club. Mrs. Riplinger titles the section of her book detailing this society as Hermes: Alias Satan. It is wrongly assumed by KJV only fundamentalists, who are generally unlearned in classic subjects to begin with, that the name Hermes automatically equates to Satan. This is not the case at all. Hermes was considered the god of eloquence, the chief speaker for all the other gods of the Greek and Roman pantheon. This is even seen in the narrative of Acts when the people of Lystra identified Barnabas as being Zeus and Paul, who did most of the talking, as Hermes (Acts 14:12). The KJV obscures the Greek Hermes by using the Latin translation, Mercurius.

Moreover, Dr. Wescott s son, Arthur, who was his biographer, lists the titles of the essays he presented to the society in the first volume of his father's biography:

The Lydian Origin of the Etruscans

The Nominative Absolute

The Roman Games of (or at) Ball

The so-called Aoristic Use of the Perfect in Latin

The Funeral Ceremonies of the Romans

The Eleatic School of Philosophy

The Mythology of the Homeric Poems

The Theology of Aristotle


In their entirety, there really is nothing sinister at all with the subjects presented by Dr. Westcott. In all honesty, one would conclude that they are boring unless one has an interest in classical Greek and Latin. Yet, KJV onlyists pick and choose the most ominous sounding and attach the charge of "Satanism" to them. This accusation is simply dishonest and is a desperate attempt to find witches when none even exist.

The second is the Ghostly Guild. The more evil sounding of the two "satanic" clubs in which Drs. Westcott and Hort were members, is the Ghostly Guild. In 1851, they were invited to join a club whose purpose was to investigate first hand accounts of supernatural phenomena and determine if any of it was real or false. The primary motivation for the club had to do with the then cultural popularity with spiritualism, seances, and other bizarre supernatural occurrences.

The spiritualism movement began in 1848 when a farmer in the rural New York state town of Hydesville began experiencing what he claimed were intelligent rappings. No one could explain the rappings and many thought it was the dead attempting to communicate with the living. (Apparently, no one thought it could be a hoax). The farmer, Mr. J.D. Fox, had two daughters, Kate and Maggie, who claimed to have intimate connections with the dead and from this point on, they began their sucessful careers as spiritualist mediums. Spiritualism grew rapidly so that by 1853 there were ten periodicals dedicated to the subject with millions of enthusiasts.

There is not a whole lot of information about the Ghostly Guild and what it accomplished, if anything. Thus, it is foolish speculation on the part of KJV onlyists to suggest to their readers that its members were into wearing sheep leggings and dancing around a sacrificial altar while communing with the dead. If anything, the club was more of a debunking group of skeptics. It would be similar today if a group of Christians decided to investigate the claims of UFO abductees or Benny Hinn's faith healings.

Two interesting postscripts come to us about Westcott's involvement with the Ghostly Guild.

First, his son Arthur tells us in his biography that his father ceased to be interested in the club and believed the pursuit of spiritualism only led to no good. Then secondly is a letter from the hand of Dr. Westcott himself in response to a new spiritualistic publication called Borderland. Before the magazine went to print for the first edition, the publisher, William Stead, sent out a circular requesting testimonials about any supernatural phenomena from the various Anglican bishops and B.F. Westcott just happened to be one of those bishops. He, however, wrote back an interesting reply that was published in volume 1, number 1 of Borderland in July 1893:

Many years ago I had occasion to investigate spiritualistic phenomena with some care, and I came to a clear conclusion, which I feel bound to express in answer to your circular. It appears to me that in this, as in all spiritual questions, Holy Scripture is our supreme guide. I observe, then, that while spiritual ministries are constantly recorded in the Bible, there is not the faintest encouragement to seek them. The case, indeed, is far otherwise. I cannot, therefore, but regard every voluntary approach to beings such as those who are supposed to hold communication with men through mediums as unlawful and perilous. I find in the fact of the Incarnation all that man (so far as I can see) requires for life and hope. (emphasis mine).

In closing, I hope one can see that the charges of new age apostasy against B.F. Westcott and F.J.A. Hort is pure fantasy. In a word, it is deperate fiction. In order to salvage what little credibility their KJV only apologetics have for arguing in favor of God preserving His revelation only in the KJV, they have to attack the character of the two men used of the Lord to further modern day textual criticism. They are Satanists involved in secret, new age societies.

It is true Drs. Westcott and Hort held to theological convictions modern day fundamentalist, independent Baptists would find odious, like infant baptism and baptismal regeneration. However, to make up lies against their personal character just to try and convince people their research is unworthy to be respected is sinful.

Drs. Westcott and Hort did have contemporaries who disagreed with their textual conclusions. Both Dean John Burgon and H.C. Hoskier were critical of their methods of weighing the Alexandrian readings over and against specific Received Text readings. They wrote extensively against their work, as well as the work of the other men involved in the translation of the Revised Version of 1881. There is room for academic disagreement with their work. Yet, never did any of Westcott and Hort's contemporary detractors ever charge them personally with apostasy from the Christian faith or level accusations against their secret society affiliations. The silence of these strong opponents in these two areas is deafening.


Friday, May 26, 2006

RAMBO II: Adventures in Amateur Textual Criticism

Self-proclaimed "expert" on NT textual criticism, early Christian history, and amateur Islamic apologist, Rambo, has got himself a blog site and is feverishly attempting to rescue Shabir Ally's woefully inconsistent arguments against James White.

You may recall that during the first week of May, James White debated Shabir Ally at BIOLA over whether or not the NT as it exists in our modern day is truly the inspired Word of God. I posted my review of the debate on the following day.

Immediately, an Islamist who went by the name of "Rambo" began posting his criticisms of my review of a debate he never attended.

Oddly, his primary annoyance with me was my description of the Muslims hassling James during the break as being loud talking finger wagging Arabs. Rambo pretty much gave up posting comments and claimed to be waiting for the debate to be released on MP3 so he could "judge for himself." I later wrote out a separate post interacting with some of Rambo's charges.

Well, Rambo, who supposed real name is Assalam Alaikum, has gotten himself a hold of a blog page he calls, Answering Missionaries. I guess I am suppose to be one of the missionary he is answering.

Anyhow, he has downloaded the debate and has posted a long, tedious review of his own titled, Tackling the Butler and White Team. Now, before I move on, I must say I am amused and honored all at the same time to even be listed as an equal in the same blog title with the likes of James White. I am honored because James is one of my favorite writer-teachers. I am amused, because I have only met James on rare occasion, through Phil Johnson generally, and each time I meet him, I always have to remind him of who I am, usually by dropping Phil's name.

The encounter sort of goes like this:

Me: Hi, James, my name is Fred Butler.

James: ...umm, Hi, nice to meet you.

Me: I am friends with Phil Johnson; I have met you a few times out a Grace to You.

James: Oh yeah. Ok, sure, sure, sure.

I should be categorized as a fanboy, not a team member with James; as if we are some sort of WWF wrestling duo.

At any rate, I have only given Mr. Rambo's article a cursory glance, so I cannot speak to everything he has written. In fact, it is not a high priority of mine to really respond to him, so I may or may not come back to it. I will see. Maybe if there is a slow blog week or something. Steve Hays has saved me a lot of time and has done a much better job of responding to Rambo's general Islamic-anti-NT apologetics by skillfully eviscerating his comments against him.

As to his team Butler-White post, however, I will venture some predictive guesses as to what Rambo did write:

He declares Shabir Ally the hands down winner over James White.

He attempts to defend Bart Ehrman as the worlds greatest NT scholar ever to live on the planet, and his criticisms of the NT should be taken without question as if infallible and coming from God almighty Himself.

He will ball baby and call me mean spirited and hateful because of my "Arab culture" comments.

Someone can leave a comment to tell me if I am vindicated.

Let me hit each one quickly in turn:

1) James clearly demonstrated that Shabir has a surface knowledge of textual criticism, and even that knowledge is inadequate because a) he doesn't know the original languages as James poignantly revealed during cross examination, and b) he is ignorantly dependent upon crank scholars like Ehrman as his go to authority. Ehrman is working from a bias. He is not some neutral critic who had to sadly come to the conclusions he did as Rambo would have us believe. He has theological hang ups with the authority of God's Word upon his life, and I would venture a guess and say there are some personal moral issues at stake, even though I admit speculation on my part. People running from God don't tend to like what God has to say about them running away. In a word, he is more akin to Salmon Ruskie.

2) Please. I am sick of people throwing out the name of Bart Ehrman as if he is the end all of NT textual scholarship. He is not. What exactly makes Ehrman the world's greatest textual scholar in people's minds any ways? Because he went to Princeton? Because he is pandered to by the fawning liberal media who are always on the look out for those "scholars" who will say all the bad things about Jesus they want to hear? Dan Phillips has a fun and truthful rant about the popularity of Mr. Bart, by the way.

For Shabir, or any Islamic apologists, to quote folks like Ehrman with out interacting with the equal, if not greater criticisms of Ehrman's criticism, shows a lack of a consistent argument. It would be like me constantly citing Irshad Manji, the spike haired Muslim lesbian apostate as my source on all things problematic with Islam. If I were always appealing to her as an unquestioned authority, I am sure ole Rambo would have problems. He might even write up a whole separate post.

3) Ball baby as much as he likes, what happened at the break as I reported it, happened. Anyone telling Rambo differently is spinning the truth, or dare I say, lying. I guess I can let it slide if Muslims define in your face loud talking as being respectful. Perhaps they do. If that is the case, then they aren't lying.

I have to run for the weekend. I have in mind a follow up post for next week.


Top Fifty Conservative Songs

National Review Online has listed what they think are the top fifty conservative rock and roll songs of all time. I was particularly pleased that Rush, my favorite rock band, received two plugs: For one of the greatest rock songs ever, The Trees, and their classic Red Barchetta.

I'm curious how many of these bands will be bugged their work is identified as "conservative." I have noticed that when a movie or band is well received by conservative, right wingers, the film makers and artists attempt to come out with a clarification unless they become taboo among their leftist buddies. A good example I can think of off the top of my head was the movie Forrest Gump. When conservatives praised the movie for promoting conservative values like friendship, faithfulness, honor of country, and so forth, and showed the evils of 60s hippy radicalism, Tom Hanks immediately went into spin control to explain away the obvious conservative themes, like he was ashamed he even remotely came across as conservative.

The article links to I Tune downloads, so you can I pod them if you wish.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Just to Clarify

In case anyone is wondering, yes, I do plan to return to both my King James series and my review and critique of Chaz, the God hating anarchist. Other things pop up in life that need my immediate attention, so unfortunately, they get shuffled around on the back burners. I have a post in the works for each subject.

In the mean time, I have received enough personal email regarding my post from a week or so ago outlining my views of child training that I needed to clarify a couple of points:

Point One: First, I never claimed that my particular methods were fool proof and one hundred percent guaranteed. A few email contacts were troubled that I was suggesting any failure in child rearing, even by the most dedicated, loving parents, is just lazy parenting in disguise. I apologize if my post came across in this manner. My primary reason for posting my article was two-fold:

1) I wished to emphasize to the Christian believers the utter seriousness with raising our children. God has given us as parents the awesome responsibility to shepherd our children in godliness. This is a responsibility we cannot blow off or take lightly, yet sadly, in our society, parents do. Children are treated as trendy accessories like a hand bag, or perhaps a new fangled robot that entertains us. Christians cannot think like the world; we must think like redeemed saints (Romans 12:1,2).

2) Even though we may be thinking biblically with raising our children, there are some areas of practicality where young parents need to be encouraged. I know for my wife and I, we had a lot of theoretical knowledge when it came to raising kids, but we lacked in our understanding in how to implement that knowledge, to move it from the theoretical to the practical. My desire was to exhort parents in the practical area.

Now, so that no one misunderstands, let me emphasize once again that I recognize that not all kids are alike and each individual child will respond to practical child rearing techniques in varying degrees. Some will be compliant and respond well with parents, while others (from the very same parents) will be hardheaded, and may ever appear to be in a sustained pattern of rebellion. My exhortation is to stick with it, don't give up. One commenter suggested I came across as having all the answers and have mastered parenting in three years. This is absurd, of course, but I do know what works and I wish to pass along that information to other like-minded believers who are in the same station of life as my wife and I with raising their babies right.

Believe me when I tell you that we don't have it all figured out and we are both constantly working to raise our kids. For example, we are wanting to train our kids to sit still for a period of time, so that we can bring them into Church. They pretty much stay still during the music and the congregational singing, but once the pastor hits the pulpit, they are turning upside down in the pew hanging their heads down under the seat. Obviously, we can't switch them in public. I can give them a little pinch on the flabby part of their underarm, but they scream out as if I cut a finger off. I believe it is rude to keep a squaling child in the room while everyone else has to suffer listening to him while contemptuously watching the mom or dad do that bouncy pacing back and forth at the rear of the class or sanctuary. Thankfully, our Church is equipped with a lovely fountain area and is located in the U.S. where there is year around good weather, so we can sit outside if need be. However, I don't want that to be the solution to a needful training point in my children's lives. We are still working on that, so we have our failings, too.

Point Two: Then one last point of clarification. I had a handful of people contact me and express alarm that I would even read the Pearl's book, To Train Up a Child, let alone recommend it to anyone as a legitimate manual on raising kids. Let me say now that my mentioning of their book as being helpful for my wife and I is not a blanket endorsement of all that the Pearl's teach. I thought I made it clear in my post that any person using the Pearl's needed to use caution and discernment to weed out their kooky ideas. However, just so I can be clear:

WARNING: Though the little book written by Michael and Debbie Pearl, To Train Up a Child, has some helpful suggestions on implementing basic training and discipline for your children, the Pearl's are theological crackpots. PLEASE KEEP IN MIND: The Pearl's teach a warmed over view of Pelagianism, the 4th century heresy which denies original sin, they are KJV only cranks, and they advocate perfectionism, the Wesleyan Arminian heresy that says a person can obtain complete and entire sanctification and sinless character in this life. CAUTION: I tell you these things so that you, the parental reader, can be aware of these false teaching and filter them out. I trust that you have that ability and leave it to your discretion to use or reject the information contained in this book. Please know that my endorsement of the practical points does not equate my endorsement of the theologically lameness as found in the Pearl's book, To Train Up a Child. If you believe you have no ability to discern, PLEASE LEAVE THE BOOK ALONE!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

DVD Review: Paperclips

My wife and I recently had the opportunity to watch a delightful documentary entitled Paperclips. It chronicles the unique way that the middle schools students in the rural, south eastern Tennessee town of Whitwell decided to study about the Holocaust. In order to grasp the scope of the atrocities committed by the Nazis during WW II, they took up the task of collecting one paper clip for every one of the 6 million Jews killed.

The project began in the 98-99 school year when a student wondered aloud to his friends about what the number "6 million" looked like. Thinking it would be a special way to remember the Holocaust, the students asked their teachers if it would be possible to try and collect 6 million of some object. They agreed, only if the object was something meaningful to the subject of the Holocaust. The students discovered that office paperclips were worn by Norwegian citizens as a protest against the Nazi occupation, so they decided to collect 6 million paper clips.

The project went slow at first, but after some time, it caught the attention of the national media and paperclip donations began pouring in from all over the world and soon the students had several million paperclips, way more than their stated goal of 6 million.

Once they collected the paperclips, the question was asked: "What do we do with them all?" Someone suggested finding a cattle railcar similar to the ones used to re-locate the Jews to Nazi concentration camps and build a memorial. Some European friends of the school were able to do one better. They located a genuine cattle railcar that was used for transporting Jews during WWII. The documentary then follows its delivery from Germany all the way to the U.S. and then to the Whitwell middle school where it is now used to house the millions of paperclips collected.

Running underneath the unfolding of the project is the theme of prejudice and intolerance, and it is moving to watch the kids, and even the teachers, come to terms with their own personal attitudes of prejudice. One precious example is the story a teacher tells of his prejudice towards blacks growing up in the rural south. He recalled with tears the slurs he would utter, even in the presence of his black friends. Participating in the paperclip project with his middle school students convicted him of his prideful attitude.

At the same time, however, the theme of personal intolerance understates the gravity of what happened in Nazi Germany. This is due in part, at least in my mind, because the paperclip participants seemed to equate individual, personal prejudices as being one and the same with the eugenic racism promoted by post-World War 1 Prussian Germans. The implication in the documentary was that the petty intolerances middle school children experience between social groups like the "jocks" and the "metal head" was the same type of intolerance motivating the Nazi's to exterminate Jews and other groups they saw as inferior. This conclusion of course understates the worldview driving Nazi racism and trivalizes the atrocities they committed.

Also, there was one portion of the film which really annoyed me. When the paperclip project gained the notice of the national media, several of the large East Coast newspapers like the Washington Post and the NY Times ran stories on the project. While chronicling the project's exposure on a national scale, the filmmakers interviewed a woman reporter from the Washington Post. She recounts how when she heard about the project she expressed incredulity, because rural TN is the place of fundamentalists Christians who gave us the Scopes "Monkey" Trial in 1925. At the very moment she mentions the fundamentalist Christians and the Scopes Trial, the film cuts away to stock footage of Klansmen burning crosses and other scenes of racism stereotypical of southern culture. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but the comparison undermines the theme of tolerance the filmmakers are wishing to get across.

Then one last constructive criticism I thought would have really added to the film. During the documenting of the railcar coming to Whitwell, the filmmakers follow it from Germany, to New York City and then its travel across the Eastern part of the country and into Tennessee. The railcar arrived in New York on September 9th, 2001. During its travel to Whitwell, the events of 9-11 happened. I thought it would had been a great addition to the discussion of intolerance and prejudice to have witnessed the students reaction to the terrorist attacks and listened to some discussion about intolerance in the context of what they were learning and the anticipation of the arriving railcar. Perhaps in future special editions of the film.

Overall, Paperclips is an enjoyable and inspiring film. I was delighted this was a rural, southern middle school who took up this project for the world to see. When it started, none of these kids had even met a Jew, but it is clear that their experience with collecting millions of paperclips had a positive impact upon their view of the world.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Open Theists to Warn God About This Year's Hurricane Season

AP - Open Theists will be gathering this weekend in St. Louis at the I-40 Best Western conference room for a prayer meeting to officially give God the "heads up" about this year's hurricane season.

Moved by a federal report published Monday predicting that the
2006 hurricane season could yield anywhere from 4 to 6 big storms this year, Open Theist leaders thought it would be wise to make God aware of the report so He could be prepared to avoid another Katrina-like disaster of last year.

"Because God cannot see the future," theologian and keynote speaker Clark Pinnock stated matter-of-factly, "He really can't be blamed for last years New Orleans disaster." "He just didn't see it coming and wasn't prepared to use His heavenly powers to move the Hurricane away from the Gulf Coast or send it hurling into the Communists in Cuba." "This time, we can put Him ahead of the game."

Grieved that many
skeptics and atheists used Katrina last year as an occasion to mock God's ability to prevent natural disasters and human suffering, Open Theists began organizing an effort to warn God about possible future events that could potentially cause mass human suffering and personal property damage.

"We have a group of dedicated volunteers who watch the world for what could be the next global catastrophe," explained Open Theist leader Gregory Boyd. "If something happens to catch our attention, our volunteers send out a mass email so we can all pray together in unison and get God's attention about any possible trouble brewing." "We consider ourselves God's burglar alarms."

The report from the
National Hurricane Center doesn't say the U.S. will experience anything like the 27 major storms of 2005, Katrina being the most disastrous, but coastal state residents should be prepared nonetheless.

Open Theists plan to tell God about the report at 9 AM this Saturday and then will travel to nearby Six Flags Over Mid-America for the afternoon.

At press time, Pat Robertson was unable to reach God for comment.

Friday, May 19, 2006

My Interview with a Crackpot

My Church is occasionally besieged by a variety of kooks, some more notorious than others, who are troubled by something my pastor said, or taught, or doesn't teach firm enough; or whom he fellowships with or doesn't fellowship with, or refuses to separate from.

Generally these assortment of nuts are lone crusaders, but sometimes there may be two or three. They may picket with ugly, hand made signs expressing their criticisms of why our Church or pastor offends them, but it seems as though all of them hand out literature allegedly "documenting" the "bad" teaching coming from the pulpit. Now mind you, I am not talking about small, little tracts, but detailed, term paper length screeds. Many of them are copiously footnoted with three or four citations in just one sentence. Bible verses are also piled upon each other to provide a "spiritual" foundation to why our pastor or Church is wrong. I just marvel at how they have the money to run off 500 copies of a 15 page document.

The last few Sundays, one of these self-appointed "watchmen" has been handing out a paper claiming among other things:
  • Grace Church has been infiltrated by the Church Growth philosophy
  • Our small group Bible studies are promoting Marxist ideology
  • The leaders of the various small groups use secret "buzz" words used to brainwash people to think in Marxist-Hegelian, Dialectic and Praxis terms
  • Folks in these small groups don't quote enough Bible verses when they interact with each other
  • Al Mohler is a U.N. agent who is secretly working to bring in the new world order and the reign of the Anti-Christ.
What a combination! The first 3 complaints are so unbelievable that it is fall to the ground laughable. The 4th is a matter of personal opinion and no where reflects the reality of our small groups at Grace. The complaint about Al Mohler being in league as an agent for the U.N. and a one world government truly intrigued me. I have met Christians bugged by Al's membership on the board of directors of Focus on the Family, as well as his connection with the Billy Graham Crusades, but I had yet to meet anyone who charged him as being a diabolical U.N. agent.

Apparently, according to the detailed research found in the literature I was handed, Al Mohler is a founding fellow for the For Faith and Family, a Southern Baptist ministry of the Ethics and Religious Liberty. The ERLC is on the list of the United Nations Non-Governmental Organizations. If you discerningly connect the dots (and I am sure there is a money trail to follow somewhere, too) it is clearly documented that Al Mohler is an agent for the U.N. Paige Patterson and Carl Henry are also founding fellows, so they must be agents as well.

I was so amazed by this protester's charges, as well as annoyed with his slander of some of my friends he names in his report, that I had to speak with him on a recent Sunday afternoon.

I quickly learned his name was Bob and he is from Rhode Island. He likes John's ministry, but has grave concerns over how the leadership is destroying John's ministry by bring it down with the use of church growth philosophy. The following is my interview with Bob as best as I can reconstruct it:

Me: I read your paper and I found it to be slanderous and absurd.

Bob: Really?! It thoroughly document and I name all my sources. Where do you think I am being absurd?

Me: Well, for one thing, you claim [my pastor friend] is involved with teaching church growth philosophy. I know him well - for at least 10 years or more and I know for a fact that is a lie.

Bob: Well, I attended the fellowship group he pastors and I can tell you with out a doubt it is saturated in church growth philosophy.

Me: How many times did you attend?

Bob: Once. But it was enough to see the church growth philosophy taking over.

Me: You were able to ascertain that with one visit?

Bob: Oh yes, and the small group Bible study is filled with dialectic teaching trying to get all the people to think the same way.

Me: You men like being unified in the faith like Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 exhorts we should be as Christians?

Bob: Well.... It wasn't like that. They never even used Bible verses.

Me: Really? Just how many Bible verses is a Christian to use in his or her conversations during the day?

Bob: Well... They should at least open the Bible.

Me: So, are you telling me that this pastor is lying as to his true agenda of what he is all about?

Bob: Oh, sure he is. There's no doubt.

Me: But the Bible says a Christian is known for continual truthfulness. If this pastor is lying, that means he is intentionally deceiving the congregation as to who he is and is essentially an unbeliever. Are you saying this pastor is an unbeliever.?

Bob: I didn't want to go that far, but now that you mention it, perhaps he is.

Me: So tell me. Do you really think Al Mohler is a U.N. agent?

Bob: Oh yes, he is a false teacher who is trying to bring in the one world government. I fully document this in my paper. Just double check the links I provide. You will see this clearly.

Me: Oh, I am sure I will.

Bob: Hey you don't know anything about me, so don't have an attitude! Just check my research, it speaks for itself.

Me: Well Bob, are you of the opinion that the world will be under one government in the end times and that the anti-Christ will rule over the world from that government?

Bob: Oh, yes. That is what Revelation teaches.

Me: And do you believe the rapture of the church will take place before that government comes to power?

Bob: Oh, yes. That is what the Bible teaches.

Me: If that is the case, Bob, then would it not be better to work to hasten the day of the rapture, so if Al Mohler is working to create a one world government, we should be helping his cause. The faster the one world government gets into place, the quicker the Lord comes, right?

Bob: Some one else asked me that earlier.... it doesn't work that way.

Me: In your paper you claim the elders told you you could not ask Al Mohler any questions during the Shepherd's Conference, is that right?

Bob: Oh yes. All questions would be screened so they have something to hide.

Me: But you do realize Al Mohler walked all over the campus during the conference and anyone could approach him and ask him questions if they wanted, right?

Bob: Oh no, that is different. He needs to be asked publicly in front of all the attendees.

Me: Why?

Bob: Because, he needs to take account of his lies publicly.

Me: Why do you think no one else sees through Al Mohler but you and some other folks you list in your paper?

Bob: I guess they don't study; they don't want to see the truth.

Me: So you think all of those guys at the Shepherd's Conference were totally blinded to the truth of who Al is and what he stands for?

Bob: You said it, not me.

Me: Where do you attend Church, Bob?

Bob: To be honest, I haven't found a good congregation to worship with.

Me: Why am I not surprised?

Bob: Hey! If you can tell me were there is a good Church to join I would do it immediately!

Me: In your paper, you claim [local LA pastor] is one of the few pastors who is teaching the Word and telling it like it is against the church growth movement. Why don't you attend his church?

Bob: Because his Church is not in downtown L.A. I don't have transportation, so it has to be close enough to where I can get to it easily.

Me: But Bob, if you live in downtown L.A. how did you get here to Grace to hand out literature?

Bob: I took the bus.

Me: Why then can't you take a bus to this pastor's church? It can't be any longer to get there than it was to get here?

Bob: You know bud, I have answered your questions. You are falsely accusing me. Just read my research and see for yourself if what I am saying is true or not.

Maybe some of you readers out there would like to help me see the truth for myself. I must be such a spiritual dullard, that I have been blinded, or something.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Church According to Hank

"I just want to find a normal Church."

If I am not mistaken, I believe I saw this linked on Fide-O or maybe Purgatorio, but I happened across it again today at a blog called According to This Jim and gave it a look. I don't know who writes for "King of the Hill," one of my favorite must-see-TV shows when I had access to cable, but who ever he is, he has had some experience with today's American evangelical Christianity, especially as it pertains the schemes of the Church growth movement.

Any how, if you have a slow internet connection and things take a bit to down load onto your computer, this one is worth the wait and time invested.

King of the Hill - Church!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Other People's Children

Recently, my wife and I took our three boys to eat breakfast at Mimi's. It is one of our more favorite places to have breakfast. As we were gathering up our things to leave, the waitress who served us was walking by our table and she says,

"Your boys are sooo good. They were so well behaved. I wish I could trade you for mine, they won't mind me for anything."

On another occasion, my wife was attending a ladies Saturday morning Bible study with some friends, so I took my two older boys to Denny's (alone, mind you) for some pancakes. As we were eating our food, a young woman passes our booth and in a loud, Southern California brogue exclaims,

"Like ohhh my gawd, you have to be like, so busy! Like, how old are they?!"

After we exchanged pleasantries, she looks over at her two year old daughter standing in the booth behind us and says in the loud talking voice,

"Like do you see how these two boys are sitting still!? Do you see how they're eating with their forks!? They're not making a mess with they're food and they're not yelling!"

The daughter flashed an impish smile and then returned to gnawing on her crayon.

When my wife and I find ourselves in these conversations, we of course beam with humble, parental pride and thank the person for the compliment. We even make our boys thank the person, too. But afterward, as we drive home, we both turn to each other and say, "Do these people think our boys were just born to us well behaved?"

Since being parents now for three years or more, my wife and I have become increasingly aware of those parents with the mind set of the waitress or of the loud taking woman: either my kids will be well behaved or they won't. It is like these folks believe they accidentally stumbled into the wrong cabbage patch or something when they went to pick out their kid. Or maybe the stork missed a house. Never do these folks place the blame for disobedient, ill behaved children where it really belongs: their lazy, do nothing parenting. Rarely do they ever think their child's disobedience is due widely in part to them. Even worse, many of them are the type of person who becomes passionately indignant when their lazy parenting is exposed.

A good example is the reaction to the current movement among several cafe owners across the country to post signs telling parents to control their children while they are in the cafe. These cafes tend to be located in well to do areas like Berkeley or Santa Monica, where the enlightened, social liberal crowd congregate on Sunday mornings to eat their organic oatmeal and homemade granola muffins. Apparently, there has been a growing problem with obnoxious children running riot through the cafe, while the aloof parents sit in the corner booths eating their oatmeal and exchanging Bush bashing anecdotes. When they are indirectly called lazy, good for nothing parents by the sign asking for them to watch their children, they express a scornful disdain, as if the cafe owner has personally offered their kids a cigarette.

As a parent, I can confess being annoyed with people in public who are unwilling to long suffer just a bit with fussy babies or rambunctious children. I can remember once when we took our first boy to Olive Garden. I believe he was around 6 months at the time. Something disturbed him and he began crying and refused to be comforted. While my wife tried helplessly to quite him down, I happened to gaze over to a nearby table where I saw a woman with her elbows up on the table and her head in her hands staring blankly into space. I caught her the moment she says to the man sitting with her, "I can't believe these stupid babies!" Her and the man she was with had that "We teach world literature and political science at the local community college" look to them, so more than likely, the only thing they have actually raised has been pure bred pugs, but I was bugged at her impatient thoughtlessness none the less.

Yet, at the same time, I can understand how kids are a nuisance. An unruly child can quickly turn a pleasant evening of eating out in to a big downer; even worse, a 3 hour flight to Dallas into a hellish nightmare. The unruly child is bad enough, but the mousy parent or parents who respond to the child in the same manner the U.N. responds to religious genocide in the Sudan beats all.

So, what is to be done? Does my wife and I have some magical words to keep our kids under control?

The first thing is that we as parents approach child rearing with a biblical Christian worldview. This is not to say non-Christians can't raise good, well-mannered children. Anyone with enough patience and fortitude can bring their kids to being outwardly well-behaved. Our Christian faith, however, provides us an advantage not experienced by non-Christians, because we start out with a mindset to please God with our parenting and a desire to utilize biblical principles in the process of raising our children. Where as non-Christians see the Bible as outdated, or maybe one wholesome approach among many parenting models, my wife and I believe scripture provides the only wise model in which to raise our boys.

Along with that mindset, we have encountered a couple of published resources that have helped shape our parenting. Tedd Tripp's Shepherding a Child's Heart and the Pearl's book, To Train Up a Child. Tripp's book provides a theological grounding as to what parents are dealing with in children, particularly their sin nature and how to shepherd heart issues rather than just shaping outward behavior. The Pearl's book provides some practical ideas to help implement parental training in a loving manner.

Now, just so you have a heads up, Tripp is more biblically sound than the Pearls. The Pearls are KJV onlyists and advocate perfectionism, so I leave it to the reader to exercise discernment and not be surprised or think I have gone off the deep end when you come across Michael Pearl's kooky ideas.

Put together, we approach parenting with training and discipline in the following manner:

1) We recognize that it is our God giving responsibility to raise our kids in godliness. This is a command from scripture. We are to teach them the law of the Lord and not provoke them to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Additionally, God has established my wife and me as our children's authority. In a manner of speaking, were are the enforcers and dispensers of God's law in our boys' lives. We are to uphold God's authoritative revelation before them and hold them accountable to it. We treat this as a major responsibility for us. We don't want them to merely obey us for the sake of sparing us public embarrassment when they active disruptively in a restaurant. They are to obey us because God's command has said for them to honor mother and father. We hold them to that standard.

2) We believe what the Bible reveals about the sin nature in children. God tells us that in the heart of a child is bound up foolishness. Biblically defined, foolishness is more than just goofing around and getting into trouble. Pslam 14:1 explicitly states that a fool has said in his heart, there is no God. That doesn't mean the fool hasn't found any compelling evidence to prove God exists, but it means he refuses to submit to the reality of God's existence that he knows is true. Thus, the fool lives his life without submitting to the authority of his creator.

3) We are responsible to shepherd our children's heart in the truth of God's Word. This inherent sin nature orients a child downward to selfishness, so that if he is left to himself, he will grow up with a worldview in rebellion against God. It is our duty as parents to recognize this downward orientation and bring to bear upon our children the Word of God. We are to hold our children accountable to the Word of God and enforce it in their lives.

Now obviously, we cannot assume quoting a bunch of Bible verses at a kid will bring about his or her salvation. This is where the tender shepherding comes in to play. We as parents need to confront the disobedience, bring the child to scripture and demonstrate how what they did, regardless of how innocent it may seem to a child, is disobedience to God and not just mommy and daddy. And for those who think a young child does not understand such shepherding, believe me, children know way more than what we often give them credit for understanding.

How much a child understands when you are training him or her raises an important question: How exactly do you convey biblical truth to a one year old or younger?

To some degree, you are limited as to what you can convey to a young child, but they can quickly come to learn your parental authority over their lives when you tell them simple things like "no touch." You establish authority by training them to respect your authority. How exactly do you do that?

By training them to listen to your voice with a little switch to the hands.

Yep, you read that right the first time: Teach them to listen to your voice by switching their little hands. Notice I did not say, smash their hand, or cut their fingers off their hands, or paddle their hands, or any other number of torturous horrors fantasized by anti-spanking kooks.

A child must learn quickly there are consequences to disobedience. A sting on the hand reaching for a knife is one of those consequences quickly learned. I made a little switch out of a glue stick cut long ways into quarters. One glue stick can yield 4, foot long switches when cut properly with a razor or box cutter. The little sticks are flexible, don't leave any marks, and provide just the right amount of sting to get a reaction from the child.

Now, let me explain how we implement our training in this area. My wife and I have been at several dinner parties where a couple with a 9 month old will clear a semi-circle swath on the table to prevent their child from reaching for utensils, glasses, napkins and other interesting items for a 9 month old. All through the dinner, you have to keep any personal items out of the "no-grab" zone or you risk injuring the child or having your tea spilled.

My wife and I never did this. We intentionally put every table utensil imaginable in front of our children. In fact, my wife set up an entire place setting. As soon as you sit the child in the seat, he will immediately go for the shiny stuff like forks, spoons or glass. We gently, but firmly speak "no touch" and then lightly switch his hand with a homemade switch. Of course you have him pulling back the hand, puckering the lip and getting mad, but you are training him to respect your authority when you set the boundaries of what he can or cannot touch.

In order for this to be effective, we as parents have done the following:

i) Maintain consistency. In other words, don't change the rules after you have establish the law. If you tell a child "no touch" but then don't switch until after the third or fourth command, you are not being consistent. This also applies for older children. Don't threaten discipline unless you plan to follow through with it and make sure your children understand the terms of the discipline so they don't take your response as being capricious.

ii) Don't give up. I have heard frustrated parents proclaim they try to train their children but it didn't work. The problem more than likely is that they were not consistent, as I mentioned above, and they gave up too soon. You can't give up after telling your child just 8 times not to touch the fork and your kid is still reaching for the fork. You have to stick with it UNTIL he gets it, and believe me, he will. Some children are more stubborn (I think they call it "strong willed" these days) than others. But you must establish the authority of your will over that of your child's and that is by being consistent and not giving up.

iii) Say it once, don't give second chances. We tell our boys that delayed obedience is disobedience. In other words, if you have to give instructions to your children several times, you are training them to do what you ask when they want to do it. At first, you will have to tell the child "no touch" and give the switch. Eventually, you will move to just telling the child "no touch" and he will comply; however, some temptations may prove too strong and as soon as you say "no touch" he will keep on reaching for it. No matter what it is, say it once.

iv) Don't raise your voice. There is no need to become emotional or shouty with a child. Begin early with training them to listen to the words, "no touch." If you get emotional and raise your voice, you are training them to listen to the intensity, not the actual command. Hence, they will learn to obey when you raise your voice, not when you issue the command for obedience.

v) Be long suffering and prayerful. That is obvious. Kids are kids and they are experiencing life for the first time. Things look so inviting to touch and it is important we keep that in our minds as we train our children. Most importantly, true obedience comes from the heart, and true obedience can only come when God does a work in the heart of a child. Keep up the training and bringing them to the Word, but also before the throne of God in heaven. We pray daily for God to change the hearts of our children and to draw them to Himself. This is a priority all Christian parents should pursue.

Also, keep in mind you may want to do your training with the curtains closed and with the minimal amount of attention being drawn to your family. There are mental patient activists out there in the world just waiting to turn over Christian parents to the authorities who genuinely love their children and merely want to raise them according to God's revelation. They hate correction of any kind, especially anything involving spanking or switching. With out sounding paranoid, I certainly recommend looking out the windows to see if any neighbors are watching before you do anything like what I laid out above.

Paul writes that obeying parents in the Lord will allow the child to live long and well upon the earth. He lives long, because the parents have taught him to discern properly, but he also lives well, in that others will speak well of him for his obedience. Believe me, if you parent God's way, you will certainly see the fruits of this promise.

Friday, May 12, 2006

You Be the Judge

Who is this suppose to be?

A) Could it be Grizzly Adams?

B) Abolitionist John Brown?

C) CCM Artist, Keith Green?

D) Jesus Christ, our Lord?

If you guessed D, you are correct!

Gardener Martin Gregory was re-potting an asparagus fern when he noticed something miraculous: the roots and soil look just like Jesus.Gregory exclaimed, "It looked so much like Jesus that it took my breath away." He went on to say, "It hasn't made me religious, but it could be something supernatural linked to the abby." The Blessed Virgin was unavailable for this particular appearing. She was scheduled for a water stain under a bridge in Mexico.

No word if Martin plans to sell tickets.

What A Meta!

Due to being plugged by James White at his site and getting a mention on the Dividing Line as well, the debate review post is the first blog article ever on Hip and Thigh to receive 20 or more posts in the combox. Now, I realize that is no where near Frank Turk, Team Pyro or even Fide-O territory, but I count that as one of my personal best.

This new record mark is primarily a result of a Muslim who goes by the net name of Rambo (unless of course that is his real name) who took umbrage to some of my comments concerning the debate. I finally had a little time to ponder the exchanges.

I truly found Rambo's remarks about Bart Ehrman being one of the greatest NT scholars next to Metzger to be just precious. He was obviously bothered by my description of him as being the current go to darling for the media when some investigative TV reporter wants to do a smear piece against biblical Christianity. There is a reason why they tap him for these in-depth interviews instead of D.A. Carson, Wayne Grudem or Daniel Wallace, men of equal if not greater NT scholarship: Ehrman has as his goal to pillory fundamental, biblical Christianity.

It is not like this guy has any original thought about NT criticism. Anyone who is even remotely familiar with the field of textual criticism realizes there have been a share of anti-supernaturalist cranks occupying the discipline. Yet, Ehrman (who by the way strikes a resemblance to Al from Home Improvement) has the so-called academic credentials that provides some sense of respectability for those uninitiated in the realm of textual criticism, plus he is going to say what the NPR/CNN/MSNBC reporters wants him to say: The Jesus of right-wing Republicans is sorely exaggerated.

What I find humorous is how individuals like Rambo, so eager to quote Ehrman in favor of their non-Christian presuppositions, ignore the vast body of work by those scholars who have dismantled Ehrman's arguments years ago. Daniel Wallace, whose books Ehrman probably had to read when he was in graduate school, has posted a review of his recent book Mis-quoting Jesus, and clearly shows it is all biased liberal window dressing with no true substance. Wallace is the executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, where he handles, photographs and catalogs the many NT manuscripts used by folks like Ehrman who claim they have been intentionally altered. Wallace has direct contact with the manuscripts in dispute; he says Ehrman is prone to overstatement and argumentation not sufficiently nuanced; why does Rambo ignore him? It is quite simple: Wallace doesn't support his presuppositions; Ehrman does. Reading Wallace's works may help improve Ally's presentation the next time he debates.

Even more precious is Rambo's assertion that the "consensus" of NT scholarship accept the fictitious "Q" document as being real. First, majority rules doesn't automatically equate truth. The consensus of the members of the National Academy of Sciences adhere to pure atheistic Darwinianism when they interpret scientific evidence, yet none of them have demonstrated the reality of descent with modification. They pretend to, but in real life it hasn't happened. So it is with the majority of NT scholars. They can pretend all they want about "Q," but until they produce one fragment, it is still fantasy. Pretending unicorns exist doesn't make them real, either.

Then lastly, in spite of all of these other points, the one issue Rambo kept coming back to was my comments about the group of Muslim guys who were hammering James during the intermission. Without rehashing the entire thread, Rambo seems to imply I was manufacturing an incident with Mohammed cartoon rioters preparing to burn down the gym. He was quite agitated by my description despite the fact he read into it. The way he responded with his comments, you could say he was talking loudly and waving his hands. I think what set him off was my analogy to Middle Eastern culture and haggling for figs. I guess I can understand how people can become sensitive to others pointing out the quirks in one's culture. I know I have suffered from hill billy references in the past, references, by the way, that are generally based in reality.

P.C. sensibilities cross national boundaries these days. Rambo suggests that I am ignorant of his kin folk from that part of the world, but that just goes to show you he is reacting from emotion. I know way more than he thinks I do about Middle Eastern culture, hence the reason I can use an anecdotal illustration of what I saw during the break. If he can't appreciate the light humor with what I wrote, my suggestion is to wake up to himself and where he is from.

Yet, regardless of my best efforts to clarify what I wrote about the "intermission incident," if we can call it that, Rambo, who was not present at the debate or even in the state of California for all I know, has been relying upon contacts who were eye-witnesses to what I saw who tell him I am sucking the whole thing out of my thumb. I wish to be accurate with details in all that I do, and even though other folks who were there have confirmed my description of the events, I emailed James and asked him if I was hallucinating what I saw. He wrote me back and gave me permission to post the following:

Fred: Thanks for your note.

Yes, I saw "Rambo" appear on your blog. Now you see why I don't have comments! There is a never ending supply of folks out there who have all the time in the world and a chip on their shoulder. I was going to comment on his reviews, both on your blog and elsewhere, when I realized once again the futility of such an attempt. Here is a man (I assume) who has not seen or heard the debate. He is going on second hand information at best, and yet, despite that, has already concluded that I am wrong about just about everything I had to say. To say the man is biased is to engage in understatement. Prejudice is closer, blind bigotry may well be right on. Hard to say.

But one thing is for certain: I gave up worrying about mud-slingers like Rambo many years ago. When I was young I would have stayed up half the night taking his arguments apart piece by piece. Maybe at the time that was a good thing. But as I have gotten older, I have come to realize that there are far more important things in life---like the book I need to get done over the next few weeks, the articles due next Monday, arrangements for future debates that will impact many thousands, not just one hot-head.

Now, you asked specifically about the group of young Muslims who rudely decided to ambush me during the break. I say it is rude since...it is. I was clearly working on organizing my notes and materials for the next portion of the debate. At other debates the moderator has asked folks to leave the debaters alone during the break so that we can get a drink, organize ourselves, etc. That didn't happen here, so I had a guy standing at my desk wanting to monopolize my time almost instantly. I had to ask him to leave. Others started coming. The feeding frenzy was about to begin. I know many of these folks are Christians, but they are Christians who don't think about what is best for the debate and the debaters, only that they have a question and my whole duty in life is to answer it for them. So I had to get some of my Biola student friends to come up and keep them at bay.

Well, anyway, I do not recall exactly how it came about, but a group of young Muslims, led by a little older fellow (older as in his 20s) came up and less than quietly began demanding that I quote from memory for them the references to the beating of ibn Mas'ud. I told them they could track it down easily enough by Googling the name at answering-islam.org. They became abusive at that point, for they know the site, and evidently don't believe that you can find an accurate reference to anything therein. I quickly discerned that they had no interest in the truth, only argument and mockery, and dismissed them. I then took a moment to pull up a reference from my Tablet PC and insert it into my notes, thinking I would take a moment in my closing to read it for their benefit. However, Shabir raised the issue (I wonder if they spoke to him? I saw the leader of the group talking to Shabir after the debate was over) during the student questions so I had the opportunity of reading a reference at that point. Many were witnesses to that encounter, and, after the debate, the same leader came up and wanted to try to salvage the Mark 14/Matthew 24 issue by attacking the RSV rendering of the texts that had led Shabir astray. When he would not admit to any variations in the pre-Uthmanian manuscripts, despite the MOUNTAIN of evidence on the topic, I ended the conversation as being meaningless.

Now, Rambo claims he is going to write a long, formal rebuttal exposing me as being a big racist, so I look forward to it. However, I can only wonder that his comments will be wildly out of context and will come no where near representing anything true as to who I am as a person. But, I guess we will have to see.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Sound of Chicken Wings Flapping

Scott McClare alerts us to a sad situation happening with the Queen of all KJV onlyism, G.A. Riplinger. This is this same G.A. Riplinger whom God used mightily in my life to set me on my journey away from KJV onlyism.

According to a recent post on a Yahoo! discussion group, Mrs. Riplinger has recently suffered from a couple of strokes. She is on the mends according to her husband (she is married?!), but those familiar with her firebrand accusations against anti-KJV "heretics" and her conspiratorial mumbo jumbo linking Westcott and Hort to devil worship and necromancy, have to smirk.

As Scott points out, Mrs. Riplinger attempted to document divine moments when KJV critics were supposedly "silenced" by God for criticizing the beloved King James. The most famous is the claim Dr. Don Wilkins lost his voice during a taping of the John Ankerberg Show on the issue of KJV onlyism. But such nonsense has been refuted by eye-witnesses to the event. I do not wish harm upon Mrs. Riplinger, but if I were to take her view of divine intervention, can I then conclude she is being silenced by God with a stroke for her terrible slanders she levels against the saints of God? Not to mention her deplorable research and ridiculous use of ellipsis?
This could be the judgment chickens coming home to roost.

Monday, May 08, 2006

White and Ally Debate Review

This last Sunday evening (May, 7) I had the privilege of traveling with two buddies down to BIOLA to sit in a stuffy gym and watch James White debate Shabir Ally on the transmission of the New Testament. It was my first time watching James debate live. I have listened to many of his other debates via MP3 and watched a couple on DVD, so I was a bit excited. Moreover, I knew I was going to expect a debate, not just a discussion between two guys nodding their heads in agreement and never really coming to any understanding as to what the truth really is. Additionally, I was looking forward to extensive cross examination, something often skipped in the dialog style debates.

The question discussed was: Is the New Testament as it exists today the inspired Word of God.

Shabir Ally went first with his opening statement. Overall, Ally seemed to be a nice guy. He had a gentle disposition about himself. He didn't come across as arrogant or cocky, and at one point during the cross examination, he even admitted his error to one of James's question. I appreciated his humility. However, that is not saying much for his fans who attended (more about that in a moment). I also thought he handled himself well during his talk. He stayed on topic and didn't go bounding down some odd ball rabbit trail.

Basically, his main thesis was that the NT as it exists today is partly inspired, but mostly a product of man. He appealed heavily to redaction criticism and apostate research by such men like media darling Bart Ehrman and the writings of the Jesus Seminary cranks to prove his point. For those not familiar with redaction criticism, it is the idea that the NT was a product of zealous Christians scribes exaggerating the stories of Christ over time so that the Jesus we see today is a product of later Christians embellishing the life of Christ, and in no fashion does the NT today reflect at all the real Jesus. Scribes have modified the text to such a degree, as Ally argues, that the true Jesus, the one presented in Islam as just a prophet from Allah, has been lost, or at least clouded over. Again, for those who have been following my sporadically posted KJV articles, I was reminded of how many KJV only advocates argue in a similar way by saying the biblical documents have been corrupted by heretical men and Christians need to depend upon one English translation that is alleged to have preserved God's Word accurately, but I digress.

Ally further appealed to the priority of Mark and the Q document theory. He believes Mark was written first before all the other gospels, and then Matthew and Luke wrote their gospels by depending upon Mark and a mythical (meaning it doesn't exist) document called "Q" to fill in the information found in Matthew and Luke, but not found in Mark. Ally assumes this theory as a presupposition because the bulk of liberal NT scholarship does. Sadly, he did point out how many conservative Christians are slowly adopting some of these higher critical beliefs, including some professors who teach at BIOLA.

James then got up and with his opening statement gave a direct and frank presentation as to why we can trust the NT and the higher critical claims used by Ally against the NT are both flawed and inconsistent. He began by establishing that Islam and Christianity are two monotheistic religions who teach God can and does reveal Himself with human language, so the issue of inspiration is not really a question under consideration. What is at stake is whether the NT as we know it today still contains that inspired Word from God.

James then moved into addressing how the Qur'an assumes the inspiration of the entire Christian Bible and cited how Mohammed directed people to the Bible to check if what he was saying was true. Thus, if the Muslim is going to claim the NT is corrupted, then at what point was it corrupted? Mohammed lived 600 years after Christ and all of the NT documents were written long before his time. Why then would Mohammed, an alleged inspired prophet, call Muslims to believe a corrupted book?

Then James addressed the inconsistent use of textual criticism by Muslim apologetics. On the one hand, Muslims use liberal scholarship like Ehrman to discredit the NT text, but will defend the Qur'an using conservative scholars. Why then is there a switch and why doesn't the Muslim use textual criticism consistently across all boundaries, both NT and Qur'anic? He also gave a fine overview of how the NT was preserved and transmitted down through the ages as compared to the Qur'an being standardized by Utman by finding all those Qur'ans agreeing with him and burning all rivals.

I truly appreciate how James sets a standard of excellence with his debates. He spends the work getting to know his opponents arguments. I think at one point during the debate he talked about reviewing nearly 100 hours of lectures and debates presented by Ally for preparation. Moreover, he has the ability to talk really fast and articulate his words at the same time allowing him to cram a lot of information into the 20 minutes of time he is given.

Those who are listeners to the Dividing Line (why isn't it podcasted so I can take it home on my ipod!?) may have heard how in his last debate with the KJV only anti-Calvinist, James was able to utilize some computer laptop gizmo (sorry Geeks, I don't have the exact name of the thing on me) that allowed him to write notes on the screen and then it would transpose those notes electronically into a word document for him to read. I managed to snag a picture of it during the intermission. It looks like some sort of thing Captain Picard would use.

I would probably say the one weak spot in his main presentation was that James did not spend a lot of time addressing why he knows the NT is inspired. Ally pointed this out during his first rebuttal. James did mention during his rebuttal time the self-authenticating nature of the NT scriptures in 2 Peter 1:20 and 2 Timothy 3:16. Perhaps it is a matter of preference, but I thought it would had been better to present his position about inspiration in his opening statement, instead of dealing with it later after his opponent chided him for ignoring it. James did a fine job of explaining why we can confidently know the NT we have today is the same one written by the apostles, but lacked in explaining why it is inspired in the first place.

During the intermission we had about 10 or 15 minutes to get up and walk around. As soon as the moderator announced the break, both Shabir Ally and James were surrounded by people. James had his hands full with a vocal (and loud) group of Muslims yelling at him about some of the things he had brought out in his opening statement and his first rebuttal. I didn't hear exactly what they were pestering him about, but they were emotional and animated in that Middle Eastern Arab way if you know what I mean: Voices were raising and hands were waving. It was as if we were all of the sudden at a bazaar in Damascus listening to a group of men haggle over the price of figs. As you can see by the picture, James did a good job holding his ground. The group was dismissed by a large staffer who muscled his way between James and the Muslims yelling at him. He hollers out, "Everybody back!" and the crowd was immediately dispersed. He stood by his table for the remainder of the intermission shooing away trouble makers. The picture is dark, but you can sort of make out the guy standing by James. That was one of the more amusing moments.

The cross examination came next. I thought Ally floated whiffle ball questions to James that only allowed him to clarify Christian orthodoxy even more. James asked questions of Ally that further exposed what one could call a consistent use of inconsistency with textual criticism.

Some of the highlights and overall good points made by James:

During his opening statement, James discussed the use of "telescoping" by biblical writers. In other words, where there are two accounts of one story, the example cited being Jairus's daughter in Matthew 9:18, 19 and Mark 5:21-24, one gospel writer may not go into as great of detail as another gospel writer. In the case of Matthew, he "telescoped" the events the girl being raised from the dead. Critics read all sorts of wild speculations into parallel passages like this one and view them as an example of inspiration being weakened. In reality, as James pointed out, it merely is the way a writer choose to convey the information he deems relevant for his audience and purpose. We do it all the time in daily life, argued James. Later, with Ally was speaking, he would summarize various gospel narratives and then caught himself by saying, "I guess I am telescoping the story." To which James replied, "My point exactly, and you don't have an agenda to modify the text." Ally did this untentionally at least 3 to 4 times, with each time catching himself and driving James's point further.

When asked about why people gravitate toward liberal scholarship and how do we distinguish between good scholarship as opposed to the bad, James spoke about the move in our society to pure skepticism due in part to postmodernist leanings. He made an excellent plea for a return to a biblically informed view of our world.

Then he closed out his debate by challenging the Muslims in the audience to consider their own claim that the Qur'an replaces the Bible as God's revelation. He said basically (and I am "telescoping" here) "Mohammed was a man who lived 600 years after Christ lived and the apostles wrote and who knew little to nothing about Christianity. He and his followers mis-represent the scriptures and Christian theology. For a Muslim to claim that Mohammed is God's final messenger and the message he revealed is to replace the Jewish and Christian scriptures, is like asking a Muslim to believe a man living in 1200 AD, who claimed to speak for Mohammed and Allah, but mis-represented Islam, should be followed and his teaching must replace the Qur'an." I truly loved the illustration.

I think the one thing my friends and I took away from the debate is the need for Christians to be informed about the transmission of our Bible and a general working knowledge of textual criticism. That may be asking a lot of Christians these days with the glut of pocket sized devotional thoughts being sold in Wal-mart. As a result, know one is giving any serious consideration to the importance of knowing not only the content of our Bible, but why we believe it is inspired, infallible and preserved. This debate motivated us all to shore up our minds in this area.


James finally gave his fuller report on the debate, along with sending me some love with a shout out to my blog. I appreciate that. He also has more pictures. His are much closer to the action and more personal; mine look more like stalker photos.

And Patrick Chan gave a good complimentary synopsis as well.