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

Friday, March 30, 2007

Big Honking Whale Sharks

Why are these sorts of things in other countries? Can't we have something cool like this in Santa Clarita, or maybe Little Rock, Arkansas? Come on now, this has Bass Pro Shop written all over it.

I never thought about it, but from the top, a whale shark looks a lot like a giant catfish.


Transpolar Commercial Flights

Here's an expose' on transpolar commercial airline flights.

Let's just say in the event of an emergency water landing at the North Pole, there ain't gonna be any flotation device that can help you. You're pretty much doomed.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Next time, study.

The kind of stuff you wish you had put on your tests in school.

Interestingly, most of these are from math tests.


Answering the Socinian (Pt. 1)

The frequent reader of my blog more than likely missed it, but Dan Mages, apostate unitarian and curator of the Hunger Truth website, left a lengthy comment under one of my posts directed toward him and some of his cronies addressing their heretical beliefs. When I say "lengthy," I mean his comment is five full pages when printed out.

He left the comment back toward the beginning of February and much of it is statements of complaint against what he believes to be my mis-characterization of his person and beliefs, and his attempt to defend his departure from biblical Christianity. A lot of the rhetoric he uses comes straight from the current emergent church play book where it is suggested that I, as a detractor and critic of Dan's heresy am, a) judging him from a position of theological hypocrisy because my own reformed fundamentalist theology has many problems I ignore, and b) due to my traditional blinders, I have misunderstood his sincerity in his honest pursuit of God.

Now, when I initially read his comment, I wasn't planning to respond. I felt as though my posts addressing Dan and his unitarian pals were a sufficient reply. Plus, other blogging interests occupied my mind at the time. Later, as I mulled over Dan's comment, I thought I would turn out one post as a brief response, however, as I thought about it, Dan's objections to biblical Christianity he outlines and the arguments he employs to defend them I figured could be encountered by other Christians who may be unprepared to answer.

So, I thought that over the next few weeks I would post an answer to a handful of his points I believe deserve a thoughtful response. I will begin with the first one,

Does John MacArthur's change in his understanding of Christ's eternal sonship justify Dan's departure from orthodox Christianity and his denial of the Deity of Christ?

In his comment, Dan mentions John MacArthur changing his once held view concerning Christ's eternal sonship. He writes,

Even John MacArthur changed his view regarding whether or not Jesus was God's eternal son. If he can change his view concerning the Godhead, so can you, so can I, and so can any of us.

You say John MacArthur has merely refined his theology, implying that there is not real change here, as if he just made less sophisticated perspectives fine-tuned. Please, what he once believed was true, he now believes is false. The eternal sonship issue is big, as you know, he almost lost his credentialing because of it.

Dropping John's name is Dan's way of finding solidarity with a well known Christian pastor who has changed his understanding on a key aspect of Christ's divine title, just as Dan, too, has changed his position on the Deity of Christ. Thus, any one of us could change our beliefs if someone like the well-known, popular radio Bible-teacher, John MacArthur, can change his.

Let me provide a bit of background so that everyone reading this knows what I am talking about. And, by the way, I have verified the facts with Phil Johnson for the sake of accuracy.

Back when John was preaching through the book of Hebrews, he was attempting to understand and explain the passage in Hebrews 1:5 which says, You are my son, today I have begotten you.

His conclusion about the title son as applied to Jesus Christ was that it is a divine title given to the second Person of the Trinity when God became flesh in space and time and took on the role as the Messiah. John writes in his commentary on Hebrews,

This passage presents to its Jewish readers the awesome truth of Christ as God's incarnate Son. As was noted, Son is an incarnational title of Christ. Though His sonship was anticipated in the Old Testament (Prov. 30:4), He did not receive the title of Son until He was begotten into time. Prior to time and His incarnation He was eternal God with God. The term Son has only to do with Jesus Christ in His incarnation. It is only an analogy to say that God is Father and Jesus is Son - God's way of helping us understand the essential relationship between the first and second Persons of the Trinity.

The Bible nowhere speaks of the eternal sonship of Christ. When His eternity is spoken of in Hebrews 1:8, God says to the Son, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." When talking about Christ's eternity, the title "God" is used; only when talking about His incarnation is He called "Son." (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Hebrews, Moody Press, 1983, pg 27)

It is important to take note that John is not denying the Deity of Christ. His argument is simply that when the second Person of the Godhead became the man, Jesus Christ, God the Father granted Him the unique and special title of "Son of God." John explains further in his printed statement describing his change,

My earlier position arose out of my study of Hebrews 1:5, which appears to speak of the Father's begetting the Son as an event that takes place at a point in time: "This day have I begotten thee"; "I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son" (emphasis added).

That verse presents some very difficult concepts. "Begetting" normally speaks of a person's origin. Moreover, sons are generally subordinate to their fathers. I therefore found it difficult to see how an eternal Father-Son relationship could be compatible with perfect equality and eternality among the Persons of the Trinity. "Sonship," I concluded, bespeaks the place of voluntary submission to which Christ condescended at His incarnation (cf. Phil. 2:5-8; John 5:19).

My aim was to defend, not in any way to undermine, Christ's absolute deity and eternality. And I endeavored from the beginning to make that as clear as possible.

After John's commentary on Hebrews was published, he received severe criticism from a variety of individuals. Though some of the criticism was genuine, in my opinion, I personally believe much of it was nit-picking from other independent fundamental Baptist already critical of John's teaching ministry who were looking for a means to discredit him as a pastor. They made the unfounded charge that John was denying the Deity of Christ in spite of his clear statements in his printed commentary.

As a result of his view on Incarnational Sonship, as well as some other positions John held, the Independent Fundamental Churches of America, the organization that ordain John, invited him to explain his views publicly in 1989. The transcript of the session can be read here (Part 1) and here (Part 2), all though the portion where John defended his view of Incarnational Sonship has been removed since his reversal.

This must be what Dan means in his comment when he writes that John was in danger of loosing his credentials, but this was hardly the case. Additionally, it is important to recognize that the IFCA affirmed John's teaching on the subject and cleared him of the fallacious charge of denying the Deity of Christ.

So, the comparison Dan attempts to draw between John's change in his view of Christ's Eternal Sonship and his descent into Arian heresy of denying Christ's full Deity, is a convenient dodge, but a false one. John has always maintained a firm belief in Christ's full Deity. The issue with sonship had to do with the semantics of how we understand biblical descriptions of Christ's person and work and nothing to do with His essential nature and attributes as the second Person of the Trinity. So, where as John MacArthur moved toward a clearer, more concise understanding of Jesus Christ's role as the Son of God, Dan Mages moved to a complete denial of the biblical revelation concerning Jesus Christ as the Son of God.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool (pt 13)

Does Christianity depreciate the natural world?

Allow me to continue once again examining the anti-theistic claims of Chaz Bufe, the blues guitar playing anarchist. Remember, Chaz has compiled a list of 20 reasons why Christianity must be abandoned, though, as I have been noting over the course of this series, Chaz is reacting against his woefully misinformed and twisted view of Christianity and not genuine, Bible based Christianity.

This particular reason is short,

13. Christianity depreciates the natural world. In addition to its morbid preoccupation with sex, Christianity creates social myopia through its emphasis on the supposed afterlife—encouraging Christians not to be concerned with "the things of this world" (except, of course, their neighbors’ sexual practices). In the conventional Christian view, life in this "vale of tears" is not important—what matters is preparing for the next life. (Of course it follows from this that the "vale of tears" itself is quite unimportant—it’s merely the backdrop to the testing of the faithful.)

The Christian belief in the unimportance of happiness and well-being in this world is well illustrated by a statement by St. Alphonsus:

"It would be a great advantage to suffer during all our lives all the torments of the martyrs in exchange for one moment of heaven. Sufferings in this world are a sign that God loves us and intends to save us."

This focus on the afterlife often leads to a distinct lack of concern for the natural world, and sometimes to outright anti-ecological attitudes. Ronald Reagan’s fundamentalist Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, went so far as to actively encourage the strip mining and clear cutting of the American West, reasoning that ecological damage didn’t matter because the "rapture" was at hand.

James Watt? Does Chaz realize how antiquated his paper is if he is invoking James Watt, former Secretary of the Interior under Ronald Regan? James Watt would had been relevant to Chaz's argument about unsympathetic Christian environmental mismanagement 25 YEARS AGO!

At any rate, the charge put forth is that because Christians are taught by their church leaders to value eternal things above all else, they neglect the present world where they currently live.

Now, I will readily admit that Christianity doesn't value the physical world in the same way Chaz probably does. The key reason is because Chaz and his atheist friends have imposed upon themselves a limited perspective of reality. Atheism is a foundationally selfish worldview because the atheist has chosen to reject and suppress the reality of eternity. Thus, atheistic secularists live only for the moment, indulging in all the pleasures they can heap upon themselves.

Christians recognize our world is disposable. God designed it to yield its resources to men. Additionally, a spiritual person realizes his life is short. A lifetime, even if a person lives to be 80 years old or more, is temporal in light of eternity, so it is true Christians who have been awakened to spiritual truth and reality value eternity more so than the secular atheist. This doesn't mean Christians should be careless and wasteful of the resources our God created on the earth, or that they shouldn't pursue conservation. It is just that our mindset is not only on the here and now.

Yet, would Chaz have us all embrace the non-sense junk science of the modern-day environmental global warming movement? Seeing that he so readily draws our attention to James Watt from 25 plus years ago, has Chaz forgotten how the same people who are presently arguing for radical social change to combat global warming used almost the same argumentation 30 years ago to promote radical social change to combat global freezing?

In order to build their case for a global ice age, they argued that man-made particle emissions from vehicles - rather than causing global warming - would collect in the atmosphere to block out the sun and significantly cool the earth. They even appealed to similar "scientific" research as their current day counter parts and drew the same conclusions that the global ice age would conveniently happen some hundred or so years in the future, far beyond any of their lives so as not to be held accountable if they were wrong.

As much as Chaz wishes to charge Christians with messing up the environment with their lack of sympathy for earthly things, modern day environmentalist are much more unsympathetic to the plain folk their kooky ideas, supported by governmental regulations and legislation, will harm. The hand-wringing officials willingly pass these restrictive laws prohibiting personal freedoms, and in an ironic twist, a professed "free thinking," law hating anarchist like Chaz promotes their socio-political view point that in turn is so detrimental to his beliefs advocated on his website.

But more importantly, unlike the Christian's lack of concern about his world, the environmental legislation being passed these days from state to state has real world significance and is unwittingly cruel to regular people. For example, where I live in California, the state representatives wish to pass a massive tax (what they redefine as a "fee") on mini-vans, SUVs and other large, multi-passenger vehicles. The idea behind this "fee" is that multi-passenger vehicles give off more carbon emissions than smaller vehicles, plus the excessive "fee" is an incentive to invest in hybrid model cars.

Essentially, the "fee" proposed by the California state legislature is a tax upon bigger families, but will also impact disabled persons who need such large vehicles for wheel chair access, construction workers and farmers who use them to carry their tools and equipment they need for their jobs, and ironically, those people who use larger vehicles to carpool (wow, a tax on carpooling!). This is the working class at risk here; the very group Chaz's communist values are meant to protect.

Oh, but there is more. These environmental laws even impact the mundane areas of life that will in turn increase the cost of living for everyone, especially in the area of health care.

I am asthmatic. My condition is generally caused by allergies. Thankfully, modern medicine in the form of inhalers help me, along with millions of other asthma suffers, to control the condition so I can function in life. You know, run around, be active out doors, play with the kids. The simple things we all take for granted.

Right now my asthma medication is around 20 bucks, and that is even without health care. But, my asthma inhaler apparently has a negative effect upon the environment. That is because the compressed gas that pushes the medication out of the little bottle into my lungs doesn't meet environmental standards designed to off set global warming.

Think a moment: A gas I breathe into my body and doesn't get released into the atmosphere.

Thus, in order to comply with the new regulations being imposed, the companies that make these inhalers had to come up with a new means to release the medication from the bottle. As a result, the cost of the new inhalers will triple, maybe even quadruple. Thus, a poor person who may not have insurance will be forced to go without medication because of Chaz's "sympathetic" view of the natural world.

Now, I am sure Chaz will argue this is the very reason we need universal, across the board, government paid health coverage. But why should my visit to my doctor have to turn into a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles or any other bloated governmental bureaucratic office? The quantity of health care will be there, but not the quality. I don't want to wait four months to get a CT scan. And all because to safe guard the environment based upon emotional, highly unscientific, chicken little style, misinformation about man-made global warming. Who's being unsympathetic here?

Christians may depreciate the natural world, but at least we are not defending it at the expense of the livelihood of people based upon a child-like naivete in unworkable utopian principles.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

When Bad Exegesis and Goofy Religious Traditions Mess up Your Life

When I was a kid, my family lived in the little Missouri town of Salem - population (at the time) of roughly 4,200 people. On occasion, my family would travel to Rolla, a bigger town - population (at the time) of about 8,500, give or take a few thousand - about half an hour northwest of us.

Rolla had a McDonalds, so after we endured my father's hours long visits to the hardware store to pick up supplies for his electrical business, we would head over to the McDonalds, which for a 9 year old, was the finest dining to be had anywhere in the world.

Every once in a great while, as we were out and about in Rolla, we would come across these strangely dressed people. The men always wore black slacks and a white shirt and some of them had beards with no mustache. The women wore long, concentration camp style dresses with something like an apron tied around the front, but even more strange was the little white hat pinned to their hair that reminded me of those classic nurses hats you see in old time Life magazine advertisements. I remember the family would ride together in a lite yellow butter colored Plymouth Valiant.

My parents would just tell me, "Their Mennonites, they believe different things, don't stare."

Much later in life I learned the Mennonites were a sect formed out of the Reformation that had their connections to an Anabaptist founder named Menno Simons. The Quakers and Amish also have roots with Simons and his Anabaptistic beliefs. Primarily they are known as the more liberal version of the Amish. I think they let their teenagers stay out as late as seven PM on Fridays and they drive cars, albeit ugly cars. They are also pacifists.

One of the more nutty beliefs held by some of the Mennonites is the idea that photographs are sinful. That is because they believe taking a picture of someone steals their life force and holds their soul captive.

No. I'm just kidding. I had to throw that in.

They believe photography violates the second commandment of making no graven image (Exodus 20:4). In other words, if a Mennonite has someone take his picture, he is essentially making a graven idol for worship. Such a belief is utterly absurd, because the prohibition is against making an image that represented the true and living God for the purposes of worshiping it. There is nothing in scripture that prohibits the painting of pictures or creating sculptures of people, or even taking a family portrait. If a person read the Bible carefully, it becomes apparent that God has no problem with images for the sake of images, because He gives specific directions as to how the tabernacle was to be constructed, including the furniture, and the furniture is ornately engraved. For example, the golden images of cherubim sitting on top of the Mercy Seat.

On the surface, it is terrifically bad exegesis that doesn't necessarily harm anyone that tourists to Amish and Mennonite areas of the country may find quaint in the same way a National Geographic writer may view the superstitions in a village of half-naked pig spearers. However, eventually, what appears to be quaint superstitious religious convictions may bring the person holding those convictions smack dab into the wall of reality. Then the decision must be made to either hold on to the silly, utterly indefensible tradition at the risk of incurring personal difficulties, or recognize the silly, utterly indefensible aspect of the tradition and reform your Christian conviction to become more biblical.

For example, the shunning of photographs can be a problem if you like to drive a car that you must be licensed to operate. It used to be that states accommodated the silly little beliefs like this of religious sects who hold them, but more and more in our technological age, especially one where security is necessary, this is coming to an end. A good example of this Mennonite belief running head long into the wall of reality is currently in the state of Missouri where they are now requiring all drivers licenses to have a photo I.D.

Mennonites to move over photo I.D.s

This has caused a big stir among the Missouri Mennonite sects, so much so, that several families choosing to adhere to their silly traditions are pulling up shop and moving to Arkansas or other states so as not to have to comply with the new law.

I am sure there are a handful of well-meaning Christians who wish to cheer these dear Mennonite folks on for staying true to their convictions. But, if their convictions are derived from sloppy exegesis and application of the biblical text and is counter the truth of scripture concerning these matters, all the cheering is going to do more harm than good.

Just a closing question. We do live in a more technological age where security cameras are nearly ubiquitous. Does the Mennonite believe he is involved with graven image making if his picture is taking at Wal-Mart or in any other area where there is a high concentration of video cameras? Just wondering.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Butler Family's Favorite Children's Books

My oldest boy turned 4 last November and my middle boy just turned 3 this February. Early in their lives my wife and I have attempted to provide them both with a love for books. One of our more special times as a family is reading two or three books before bed time. Both of our boys know their letters and the oldest is beginning to recognize words.

As a parent, I am excited about this because I believe reading is a vitally important discipline that must be taught early to children, as well as learned early by them. However, reading to my kids has caused me to exhume some long ago, buried bones from my early elementary school education.

I was a slow reader. I also lacked the confidence to read out loud in class. I think I may have received a "U" for "unsatisfactory" on my report card up until 3rd grade. It wasn't that I didn't comprehend reading, I just read slow because I liked to savor what I was reading and the thought of people listening to me read out loud was to me like kryptonite to Superman. Moreover, if the reading was accompanied by pictures, I would linger even longer over my reading and completely zone out from what was happening immediately around me in the class room. This was especially true if those pictures were snakes, lizards, dinosaurs, and Bigfoot.

I remember once in second grade, our teacher had the class pass around a picture encyclopedia to show us an elephant. This particular book was "D-E" and when it came to me, I accidentally flipped to the "D" section and found the "dinosaurs." I sat transfixed at the pictures of the tyrannosaurus rex fighting a triceratops. After ten minutes of me gazing at what I believed to be one of the most glorious spectacles I had ever seen, our teacher asks, "What happened to the book?" Shelia Stewart, who sat next to me, shot up her hand and proclaimed in a loud voice, "Freddy has it and he's looking at the dinosaurs, not the elephants!"

Shelia Stewart was one those prissy girls who lived for being a teacher's pet, and from my vantage point, a large portion of her self-appointed position was to inform our teachers (and our class) when I lagged behind in my academic skills, especially my reading.

For example, again in 2nd grade, our teacher would break the class up into reading tables and number the tables 1-8 with #1 being next to her and #8 toward the back of the room. The goal was to move up to the # 1 table depending on how well a student read out loud before the entire class room. So, if a kid was sitting at the #4 table and he or she read the assigned sentence well, the kid moved up to the #3 table and continued until he or she moved up to the honored #1 table. The kids already sitting at the #1 table had to defend their spot and if any of them messed up, that kid was sent back to the #8 table and started to process over.

The real cool, popular kids always sat at the #1 table, where as all the class misfits sat at the #8 table. For some reason, on this particular day, our teacher started me out at the #1 table and I couldn't had been more excited and nervous all at the same time. It mainly had to do with the company I was keeping. There was Brent and Sean, the playground sports stars, and then Elizabeth, Julie, and Angela, the school supermodels, and then me, and Shelia Stewart.

The class read through one story and some of the kids at the #2-#7 tables moved up or stayed where they were. Then we came to the second story called "Little Dog Lost" about a Scottish terrier who gets lost in a park. The teacher says, "Freddy, please read the name of the story." I sat up straight in my seat and with all the firm confidence of an 8 year old, said loud and clear,

"Little Dog Loosted"

Silence filled the room. All that I could hear was Shelia Stewart's heavy, audible sigh. I will never forget the soul crushing words that came from my teacher, "Oh, I'm sorry Freddy, that's wrong" and then the final blow still echoes in my ears to this day:

Go to the back table... back table... back table... back table... back table...

As I got up from my seat, Shelia leans over to Julie and whispers, "Freddy can't read." I hung my head and shuffled toward the back table, the "zip-zup, zip-zup" of my brown garanimals corduroy pants cruelly mocking me as I went.

As I sat down, across from me sat Michael, who was drawing crude tattoos on his arm with a green, ball point pen. Next to him was Ronald carving up a pink eraser with a pocket knife. To my left was Davina, who was always giggling at the most inappropriate times, giggling at me, and Gilbert sat to my right. Gilbert was the only 8 year old I knew who smoked. He turned to me and says in a raspy, Larry King like voice, "How yah doin'."

Sorry about that. I was having a flashback.

At any rate, we have exposed our children to many fine books and for the sake of the cathartic story I told above, I thought I would share with you all our top ten most requested books.

So here are the Butler family's favorite books in no particular order.

Owl Moon - Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr

The story of a dad taking his young daughter on her first owling hike on a full moon night in the woods of Connecticut. The water color illustrations are exceptional and really bring this sweet story alive.

Good Night Moon - Margret Wise Brown, illustrations by Clement Hurd

My boys absolutely adored this book when they were first able to sit on our laps and have us read it. They particularly loved finding the mouse in each frame. I am thankful they are too young now to be effected by the New York Times scandal concerning the illustrator, Clement Hurd, surrounding old photographs of him smoking and the anti-smoking, hand-wringing busy-bodies photoshopping out the cigarettes in his hand.

Anthony Gets Ready for Church - Mary M. Landis

This is a Mennonite book written and drawn for Mennonite kids. The mother in the book, for example, has the standard Mennonite "nursing" outfit on. When we ordered books from the Staff and Rod ministries, the fine folks included a set of free tracts promoting pacifism with our purchase. I laughed. Regardless, my boys love the simple story of young Anthony cleaning himself up and getting himself dressed for a Church service.

The Waterhole - Graeme Base

Graeme Base's books are pretty awesome. Not only is he a superb illustrator, but his pictures contain hidden pictures within them. So, for example with The Waterhole, you learn to count to ten with the animals from around the world, but also camouflaged with in the picture, in a Bev Doolittle style, are ten other animals native to whatever area of the world is being considered.

The Big Hungry Bear - Don and Audrey Wood

Cleverly drawn and well illustrated book explaining why you cannot hide strawberries from bears.

The Doorbell Rang - Pat Hutchins

With each ring of the door bell, a new group of kids arrive for a visit, thus diminishing the number of cookies each child can have to eat. I just wouldn't answer the door.

That's Good, That's Bad - Margery Cuyler, illustrations by Davit Catrow

A series of serendipitous events that appear good on the one hand, yet bad on the other, brings a boy lost at the animal park back to his parents.

Smokey - Bill Peet

Peet was one of the original storyboarders and animators for Disney back when they did cell-cartoons. He eventually took his talent to writing and illustrating children's books. Old Smokey is a train engine who escapes his junk yard demise. The fact that it is about trains is enough to entertain my boys. I happen to like the political incorrect section about a group of whooping Indians who "misread" his smoke "signals" and give chase after him.

Chrysanthemum - Kevin Henkes

A little girl grows up loving her first name, Chrysanthemum, until her first day of school when all of her classmates inform her that she is named after a flower which lives in dirt and it contains 13 letters, half the letters of the alphabet.

Old Bear - Jane Hissey

The friends of old bear devise a scheme to release him from his attic confines.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Arrow of Time

Monday, March 19, 2007

Apologetics in Action

Visiting with the Secular Humanists Pt. 2

Here is Sye TenBruggencate's, curator of the Proof the God Exists website, third and fourth report about his visit with the secular humanists. The first two can be read here.

The reports have only been slightly edited for format purposes and to protect the "innocent."

Report #3

My 3rd meeting with the humanists was rather uneventful. It was nice for me though, as Johan (the pastor from my church) joined me at that meeting.

The scheduled speaker was sick so instead they showed the video "Can Man Be Good Without God," another CBC documentary. During the question period, most of the responses to the video by the humanists were straw-man arguments about all the bad things that religions and religious people have done. They asked me what I thought about that and I said "It has nothing to do with me, my question is: what IS goodness without God?"

Again there were more straw-man arguments, but no one answered my question. At the end, the head of the humanists did say that their '12 principles' were a foundation for goodness. I said that anyone could come up with 12 principles and that theirs were totally arbitrary. The fellow joked that theirs were the right ones.

Johan also participated in the general discussion and in some side discussions. The girlfriend of the 'agnostic' fellow attended this meeting. She is from a Russian background and commented that being good out of fear of going to hell was not a good reason for being good. I responded to her that that was not why I tried to be good. I said that I was a sinner and that Christ paid for my sins on the cross, so I try to be good out of thankfulness for what was done for me. My statement was met with the usual 'I'm not a sinner' mumblings, but it was nice to be able to say that in front of that group. All in all the meeting was rather mild, so I did not think that I would be writing any more updates as the group seemed to be calming down and getting used to my presence. I was wrong.

Report #4

What a difference a month makes. Wow. This month the topic was "Superstition and Enthusiasm in Hume's Account of Religion." There were about 25 in attendance. The speaker was late so I jokingly offered to take his place. One of the managers of the group, who was sitting beside me, said that he did not bring any tomatoes or eggs. I said that they would also have to rot first. That's about where the joviality stopped though.

The speaker finally did arrive and spent much of his time speaking about how Scottish philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), discounted the 'superstitious' (i.e.Roman Catholicsim), and 'enthusiastic' (i.e. Reformed Protestant) religions in favour of a scientific approach to the psychology of religion.

Now, I have not studied a lot of Hume, but I did know that he had difficulty reconciling science and the inductive principle. When it was my turn to ask a question, I pressed the speaker on this. I tried to lay the question out in such a way that the majority of the group could understand it. I said that Hume discounted religion in favour of science, but that all of science is based on induction, or 'the uniformity of nature,' and could not be done if the future were not like the past. I asked how Hume as an empiricist (all of knowledge is based on our sense experiences) could see into an unknown future and make predictions based on the past, or in other words, what did Hume think of the inductive principle. To my surprise the speaker said that Hume thought induction was irrational. I replied: "And therefore the science which he based all his findings on was also irrational', to which he replied (to my amazement): 'Yes.' He tried to ease the impact of that statement by showing that Hume relied on human nature in order to make sense out of inductive reasoning, but the point was already well made.

Next a fellow remarked that his sister always said that he was going to Hell whenever he visited her and wanted to know what he could say to her to shake her of her beliefs. The 'scientist' from the other meetings (who was moderating the questions) said that he believed that these irrational beliefs were hard wired, and that there was no sense trying to reason logically with such a person.

I couldn't help it, I burst out laughing. Needless to say, I was the only one. The scientist said that he felt insulted, so I apologized for laughing and said that it was in response to his claim that one couldn't use logic with Christians, when all of my questions were based in logic. He suggested that I not come to the next meeting. I said that I certainly did not want to be where I was not welcome, and said that if he'd like to take a vote, I'd be glad to adhere to the outcome. At that point one of the other elderly gentleman said "I vote that he stays." They did not take a vote, and there were a few more questions after that, but there was definitely a buzz in the air. Right after the meeting an elderly lady approached me and said that she felt that the 'scientist' was being rude, and she hoped that I would come to the next meeting.

I approached the speaker after the meeting, thanked him for his talk, and gave him the card for my website. I said that many Christian apologists (defenders of the faith) use Hume's difficulty with induction in their arguments for the truth of the Christian faith. He replied that he indeed knew of people throughout history who came to faith after reading Hume. I said : "I hope you're one of them."

On my way out, the head of the humanist group, also an elderly man, asked why I attend their meetings. I said: "I see a room full of lost souls." It certainly was not my intention to get this sort of reaction, but my statement infuriated him. He said that my faith was nothing more than superstition and was not at all logical. I asked him how he accounted for the laws of logic in his worldview.

He replied, "They were part of the human evolutionary process."

I said, "So the sun could have been both the sun and not the sun at the same time and in the same way before humans invented the law of non-contradiction?"

Then he said that there were many things we did not know about the universe and its origins.

I said "So you accept them on faith."

This served only to enrage him further. He said, "I don't know what you are talking about."

I again asked him how he accounted for the laws of logic, like the law of non-contradiction, that my car could not both be in the parking lot and not in the parking lot at the same time and in the same way. He said, "That's just how the world is, we don't know why it is like that." Again I said, "you accept it on faith." That was the final straw, he blasphemed (again) and stormed off.

The man who 'voted' that I stay, came up to me and indicated that he was happy I was there and that he hoped I would come again. He said that he felt that I would have won the vote if one was taken. I seriously would not have minded a vote, even if I lost, for that would have been an interesting thing for 'free thinkers' to have to deal with.

I felt so blessed to have been shown the presuppositional form of argumentation, and honoured to be able to use it in such an educated group and have the power of the gospel shine through. I also thank those of you who have been praying for me in these meetings. Trust me, it's working, I'm not that smart :-)


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stupid Irony

The KJV-only Naturalistic, Non-neutrality Argument

When I was a practicing King James only apologist, I would often tell my detractors that if they didn't adhere to the KJV-only view of textual criticism, then they were not treating the text of the Bible with God-honoring faith. I would point out that in reality they were practical secular humanists applying naturalistic opinions toward the inspiration and preservation of the Bible.

I took this idea from the writings of Edward F. Hills who was a defender of the "traditional text" and thus the KJV as a translation. For example, Hills writes in the opening chapter of his well known work, The King James Version Defended,

Thus, there are two methods of New Testament textual criticism, the consistently Christian method and the naturalistic method. These two methods deal with the same materials, the same Greek manuscripts, and the same translations and biblical quotations, but they interpret these materials differently. The consistently Christian method interprets the materials of New Testament textual criticism in accordance with the doctrines of the divine inspiration and providential preservation of the Scriptures. The naturalistic method interprets these same materials in accordance with its own doctrine that the New Testament is nothing more than a human book. (KJVD, Christian Research Press edition, pg. 3).

The remainder of Hill's book is devoted to contrasting these two methods. His contention is that modern day textual criticism is a product of the naturalistic method which has its roots in the Enlightenment period, a time known for the rise of modernism, unbelief, and the rejection of the supernatural. The naturalistic philosophy born out of the Enlightenment treats the Bible as being "just any other book," thus stripping the Bible of its importance as a revelation from God. It is no longer treated as being inspired, infallible, and inerrant.

Additionally, Hills argues that this naturalistic philosophy removes any hand of providential preservation for the Bible through the sea of time. Rather than God affirming the preservation of His Word by the consistent use and transmission of a specific textual tradition by orthodox believers throughout the course of Church history, naturalistic textual criticism believes the "original readings" of the scripture are determined by evaluating and weighing the relevance of important manuscripts. Even though those important manuscripts may had only been used on a small scale as opposed to a wider usage of those manuscripts found in the Traditional Text preferred by the consistent Christian method, they are considered to be the best manuscripts. That is because they are, according to "naturalistic principles," much closer to the originals and contain better readings of the biblical text itself.

Hills further claims that this naturalistic approach to textual criticism begins with the fallacious notion of a neutral starting point. Rather than a person starting his thinking about textual criticism presupposing the truth of Christianity and the infallibility of the Christian worldview, the person appeals to man's reason to find common agreement concerning the validity of certain textual critical principles. The false notion of a neutral starting point on the part of well intentioned evangelical conservative Christians, argues Hills, really submits the person's faith entirely to modernistic, naturalistic thinking, which in turn promotes an illogical inconsistency. For on one hand, the Christian presupposes the truthfulness of the Christian worldview when it comes to other areas of biblical studies, but abandons this presupposition for naturalistic reason when it comes to textual criticism.

According to Hills, the consistent Christian method not only acknowledges the fact of divine inspiration and inerrancy for the biblical text, but also recognizes divine, providential preservation for the transmission of that text. Over the course of 244 pages, Hills attempts to demonstrate that the consistent Christian method, what he calls the logic of faith, will affirm that the true text God preserved is the Traditional Text that was published by Erasmus, used by the Reformers, and eventually translated and is now contained in the King James Version.

Later, when I was exposed to the reformed apologetic theology of Cornelius Van Til, I felt as though my conviction concerning my view learned from Edward Hills of the logic of faith, textual criticism, and the King James Bible, was correct because Van Til and his followers argued rather persuasively against the so-called myth of neutrality. Van Til noted that all men view their reality from a set of unquestioned, biased presuppositions. There is no person on the planet who ever lived who was unbiased as it were. All people have a filter through which they judge, make decisions, accept something as true or false, and essentially live out their lives. Because, as the Bible reveals, men are fallen in sin, separated from God, and opposed to His sovereign authority, man's biases are going to be at odds against God so that all sinners will attempt to interpret their world in order to justify and excuse away their rebellion.

Now, even though I believe Van Til is correct about the myth of neutrality, I believe KJV-onlyists are inaccurate when they employ the concept in their attempt to build their defense for the Traditional/Received Text/ King James Bible. A Christian is not abandoning a presuppositional apologetic of scripture and thus falling into the trap of acting autonomously apart from God's authority if he rejects the KJV-only view of the Bible's transmission.

In a recent blog post by a pro-KJV traditional text apologist at the Jackhammer page an attempt is made to wed King James onlyism to presuppositionalism. The author even cites from Greg Bahnsen in support of his claim, one of Van Til's premier students who popularized his apologetics for our current generation in written books, lectures, and some key public debates. Additionally, another Jackhammer contributor, Kent Brandenburg, made similar claims in the comments of my post interacting with some comments he and others made to me on his site.

Because this is a foundational argument put forth by more sensible KJV supporters like our detractors at Jackhammer, I believe they, as well as Hills, are worthy of a brief response.

The naturalistic philosophy Hills criticizes as the key element of his argument actually began much earlier than the Enlightenment period. Historically speaking, the tendency of Christians to appeal to man's reason as an arbiter for determining truth began with Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval Roman Catholic theologian. He was the one who formulated the classic apologetic proofs for God's existence appealing to logic and reason alone, apart from scripture. He is the godfather of the type of evidentialism Hills (and the Jackhammer boys) claims is foundational for modern-day textual criticism, and his theology/apologetics were derived from Aristotle's Greek philosophy.

This is an important point to ponder because Erasmus, who edited the text that would eventually carry the name of the Received Text some hundred plus years later, was a Roman Catholic soaked in Aquinas's theology. This is clearly seen in his written debates against Martin Luther in which he argued in favor of man's free-will cooperating with God in order to save himself. If anyone is guilty of naturalistic reasoning when doing textual criticism, it is Erasmus.

Hills' logic of faith also engages in similar inconsistencies like the ones he accuses those who adhere to modern textual criticism. For example, on writing about the preservation of the NT, Hills states,

The special providence of God is particularly evident in the fact that the text of the Greek New Testament was first printed and published not in the East but in Western Europe where the influence of the Latin usage and of the Latin Vulgate was very strong. Through the influence of the Latin-speaking Church Erasmus and his successors were providentially guided to follow the Latin Vulgate here and there in those few places in which the Latin Church usage rather than the Greek Church usage had preserved the genuine reading. Hence the Textus Receptus was a further step in the providential preservation of the New Testament. In it the few errors of any consequence occurring in the Traditional Greek Text were corrected by the providence of God operating through the usage of the Latin-speaking Church of Western Europe. (ibid., pg. 107).

On the one hand, Hills is saying that the Traditional Greek Text, that family of manuscripts represented in the Byzantine text, the very ones he and other KJV defenders argue faithfully represent God's Word preserved, gathered errors at various places within the text along its history of being transmitted by copying. Yet, on the other hand, the Latin Vulgate, the one translation often dismissed as viable by KJV advocates, was used by Erasmus to correct those errors in the Traditional Text.

A few questions are at hand:

How did Erasmus determine these corrections? Did he do it unwittingly and his decision is chalked up as being directed by providence? Or did he make autonomous, wise choices between competing textual variants and thus sided with the ones he thought were the best, again having his choice chalked up to providence? If that is the case, marking such decisions up to "providential preservation" due to hindsight is a convenient way to prove someone's theory, in this case, the logic of faith.

Additionally, if the Traditional Text is the one true text affirmed by Hills' logic of faith, why are any corrections necessary? Is Hills suggesting God providentially preserved His Word across a wide spectrum of manuscript families and translational traditions? How come I could not conclude divine providential preservation was at work at the publication of Westcott and Hort's Greek text in the late 1800s? I could very easily argue God used the Anglican Church to preserve God's Word, but then Westcott and Hort were guided by providential preservation to correct those errors in the Received Text that had accumulated over time, just as providence guide Erasmus to use the Vulgate to correct the Greek text.

A second notable objection to Hills' argument is that he doesn't explain why the principles of naturalistic textual criticism are naturalistic to begin with. For example, Hills points out in his book that the principle of preferring the most simplistic reading of a textual variant is naturalistic. But how exactly is that principle "naturalistic" and treating the Bible with neutrality? If there are a handful of variant readings of a particular verse in a variety of textual and translational traditions, all of which have been utilized by Christian believers, then how is a person to make a determination which reading is correct one when he is editing a textual apparatus for translating work ? How does the providential guidance work in cases like this? Hills seems to suggests that no one should make any choice in favor of a variant reading if it goes against the reading found in the Traditional Text. The only one who had the authority was Erasmus in the case of preferring certain Vulgate readings to correct the "errors" of the Traditional Text up until that time.

Consider my previous point above. Both the so-called Traditional Text favored by Hills, and the Latin Vulgate, were used extensively by Christians over many centuries. But even Hills admits that Erasmus sided with the Vulgate over the traditional text in certain places. However, when Erasmus chooses a reading over another one, it is called divine preservation, but if a modern textual critic makes the exact same choice based upon sound principles, he is considered being naturalistic. Why?

The appeal to, and evaluation of evidence, is not incompatible with presuppositional apologetics nor is it solely naturalistic. The Christian faith is not fidelistic. In other words, it is not a blind faith. Though it is most certain Christianity is a revelational faith, meaning its foundation is what God has revealed to us through His prophets and apostles and especially in the person of Jesus Christ, God does demonstrate the affirmation of His revelation.

For instance, God made specific covenant promises to the children of Israel. The OT is a record of God keeping those promises. He demonstrated His covenant faithfulness in space and time and His actions were witnessed by a multitude of people. Also, in Luke 2, the angel tells the shepherds about Christ being born in Bethlehem, and then those shepherd's witnessed a spectacular angelic display of praise to God in the highest. When the angels left, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened" (Luke 2:15), and the revelation given to them by the angels was verified by finding the nativity just as they were told.

It is not that Christianity objects to and rejects evidence for the sake of evidence because it is "naturalistic." The point about the myth of neutrality being made by Van Til and Bahnsen, and presuppositionalism as a system, is that evidence must be interpreted. The Christian interprets any evidence in light of God's revelation, because God has determined the meaning of our reality. When we fear Him and submit to the knowledge of God, we interpret evidence correctly. However, As I noted above, the Bible tells us that fallen men are at enmity against God and no matter how compelling any evidence may be in favor of God's existence or the Bible's infallibility, they will suppress the truthfulness of that evidence and re-interpret it to excuse away their rebellion against their creator.

When a non-KJV-only Bible-believer comes to the textual evidence, he too begins with the faith commitment revealed in scripture that God's Word is true, all scripture is God-breathed, and God will preserve His Word. However, when he examines the entire body of manuscript evidence left for us today, he further recognizes that God was pleased to use fallible men to copy and transmit His infallible revelation. The "fallible" men include both sincere, God-fearing individuals and not so sincere "Christian in name only" individuals.

It is true members in the second group do believe the biblical text is just like any other book and mishandle textual criticism in order to make the claim the Bible cannot be trusted as an infallible revelation. But, those who are in the first group have recognized the integrity of the biblical documents in spite of the variants, copying mistakes, and translational errors. Their handling of the textual evidence with the use of sound textual critical principles demonstrates God's faithfulness to keep His Word. Hence, through out Church History the vast members of the priesthood of believers have affirmed the Bible's preservation apart from the manner in which Traditional Text/KJ-only proponents say it was preserved, and that confidence not at all naturalistic.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Those Wacky Japanese

They do pranks differently over in Japan and it provides for some spectacular humor.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

World Famous

So this morning before I started work, I checked my email, hit a couple of blogs I check regularly, then reviewed my site statistics. I had nearly 187 visitors over the course of the last 24 hours.

I usually have a few world visitors. You know, those folks outside the U.S. Generally, they are from Canada, eh,' or the U.K., Australia, and a few from other European countries like Sweden or Norway.

However, one visitor yesterday evening really stuck out to me. Who ever the person was, he or she was from Tehran, Iran - yep, that Tehran, Iran. He or she apparently was doing a Yahoo! search for pictures of women's thighs. Go figure. In a manner of speaking, the search terms are rather quaint, knowing the culture the person lives in. Its like who ever this is searching for pictures of women's ankles or elbows.

Any ways, the three search words of "picture," "girl" and "thigh" brought him to my site, specifically the debate review I wrote last year on the James White/ Shabir Ally debate at BIOLA. Who ever this individual is, he/she clicked around on my site for at least 11 minutes while scanning my articles on various Islamic subjects. (Which are few by the way in spite of recent complaints to the contrary).

All I can say is that I am stunned in an honored way that my site made it all the way across the other side of the planet to a person in Iran of all places. I am curious if this is a government official. The reason being is I figure Internet access is probably limited, if not out right banned, to the common man over there.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Apologetics in Action

Visiting with the Secular Humanists

As a brief introduction to what you are about to read in this post, I believe it is important for Christians to develop a consistent apologetic framework in order to offer not only a defense of the Christian worldview before an unbelieving world, but also to engage unbelievers personally with the gospel. This conviction is what I have been attempting to outline in my series on apologetic evangelism.

(Those interested in the series can find it by scrolling down the page and locating it in the sidebar).

Additionally, I believe the apologetic principles outlined in what is commonly called presuppositional apologetics are the only ones exegetically derived from scripture, capable of defending the Christian faith, and shaking loose the unquestioned faith commitments shaping the epistemological foundations of the unbeliever's view of reality.

That being stated, talk of exegetically derived presuppositionalism and epistemological foundations can be esoteric philosophy to the average church going Christian. In a nutshell, when they hear words like presuppositions and epistemology, they glaze over and assume a blank appearance that is like staring into the eye of a chicken.

"Whatever happened to just telling sinners that Jesus loves 'em and has a wonderful plan for their lives?"

It is helpful to be able to move apologetic methodology out of the realm of the philosophical and theoretical and into real world of the practical. In order to help this transition, I wish to post testimonies of individuals who have put their apologetics into action. The first examples I will post come from Sye TenBruggencate from Canada who runs the Proof that God Exists website. He has been attending the monthly meetings of his local secular humanist club and writes up his encounters in a brief news letter he sends out to a list of friends. I have been both encouraged and informed as I have read his reports, so I asked him if I could have permission to post them on my blog and he graciously said yes.

There are currently 4 reports. I will post the first two in this post, and the next two sometime in the future, maybe next week. Except for the removal of personal names so as to protect the "innocent" as it were, and a few style additions to make them look good, I have left them unedited. I believe Sye's encounters provide an excellent example of one modeling the employment of presuppositional apologetics.

Report #1

Well I just got back from my first "Humanist Association" meeting. It was interesting. There were about 30 in attendance, and I think I was the youngest. Most were seniors.

The topic was "Religion and Prejudice: Cause or Cure."

Well it was quite apparent from the outset that both the speaker and the group felt that fundamentalist religion was the cause of prejudice. Surveys were presented that bore out the position of the speaker. I interjected and asked if it wasn't true that the surveys were based on the presupposition that all religions were wrong and that the position of the survey makers was right. I stated that if the people who took the survey were wrong, then their view towards other religions could certainly be construed as prejudiced.

There was a quote in the flyer they handed to me: "Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." - (Denis Diderot).

I read this to them (with a slight twist) and asked if that would not be considered a highly prejudicial statement in their group: "Men will never be free until the last atheist is strangled with the entrails of the last humanist." The leader of the group appeared shocked until I revealed the source of the quote. The point being that their own group was just as prejudiced, if not more, than the groups they were calling prejudiced.

I also got into a few discussions with some of the attendees during the coffee break, and after the lecture, including one with the presenter. I have no doubt that it was the first time they were presented with the idea that they all held logic, science, and human reason on blind faith. One fellow I was talking with (he said he was a scientist) stammered for quite some time after I confronted him with that proposition, until finally saying, "Well our faith is nothing like faith in God." To which I replied: "I agree with you, it's far worse, it's blind."

Anyhow, that's a brief summation of the meeting. I managed to make a few points throughout the night, and it sure appears that those in attendance have never been confronted with their own arguments turned back on them. I hope that some seeds were planted, and I look forward to the next meeting. The people were quite cordial and did invite me back.

Report #2

Tonight I attended my second 'Humanist Association' meeting. They meet monthly, and I thought it would be a good idea (not to mention my calling) to bring them a Christian perspective. I mentioned the first meeting to a number of people, and interest was expressed in the goings on there. There were about 40 in attendance tonight and the ages were more spread out than the largely senior group of last month.

At tonight's meeting parts of a television special on Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion (among other books), was shown. Needless to say, I took a lot of notes. The special began with Dawkins' claim that faith was 'non-thinking,' and that there was 'no well demonstrated reason to believe in God.' Much of the rest of the special was tearing down the extremism of religion and building up evolution.

I knew from the last meeting that I would not be allowed to ask many questions in the Q & A session, so I tried to get right to the heart of the matter. I stood up and thanked those present for inviting me back to their meeting, and for the kindness they showed to the lone Christian (as far as I knew) attendee.

I addressed the group and asked if they agreed with Dawkins' statement that 'faith' was non-thinking. They did (nods and a few yeses). I then asked since their view is that faith was non-thinking, what should a worldview be built on if not faith?

One fellow answered "evidence."

I said: "You mean evidence and the human reasoning which interprets this evidence?"

Again, there was agreement.

Next I asked, "What is the evidence that your human reasoning is valid?"

Then it started :-)

One fellow (the 'scientist from the last meeting) said: "You're playing tricks on us." To which I answered, "No, I just want to know how you know that the basis of your worldview, your human reasoning, is valid." There were a bunch of non-answers about all that science has done for humanity, but no answer to my question.

I said, "I believe that science is valid as it is a gift from God, as is our human reasoning, I just wanted to demonstrate that you all accept the validity of your human reasoning on blind faith." I further stated that their human reasoning was not the only thing they accepted on faith, there was 'matter coming from non-matter,' 'life coming from non-life,' 'intelligence from non-intelligence,' and 'morality from non-morality,' to name a few. I closed by suggesting that before they condemn faith as the foundation for a worldview that they examine the faith within their own humanistic worldview.

Naturally there were a few jeers, but I was pleased that the meeting took a decidedly different turn, wherein the leader of the group even spent some time mentioning all the good that came from Christianity. He even went so far as to state that the best thing for Christianity was the Protestant Reformation.

I had a few interesting side discussions at the break, and after the meeting a number of people gathered around a discussion I was having with a professed agnostic fellow. He asked why I believed in Christianity. I said, among other things, that Christianity is the only religion that can rationally account for the preconditions of intelligibility and rationality itself. I said that the laws of logic are universal, invariant, and abstract entities, all of which can be accounted for in the Bible and nowhere else.

The fellow thanked me for coming and asked why I would go to a meeting like this. I said that here people cannot duck my questions, and that it was my calling to be there. He thanked me for coming and said that if Christians in fact believed that Hell was real that they should be attending meetings like this to convert those in attendance. I told him that I couldn't convert anyone. He did not understand where I was going with that but he did mention that I could provide guidance for people there to make their own choices. I thought rather than get into a debate on Calvinism, I would leave it at that. I gave him, and several other people the business card for my website www.proofthatgodexists.org

During my conversation with this fellow, the 'scientist' interjected. I asked him, the scientist, if he believed that evolution was true, and that our thoughts are mere by-products of the electrochemical processes in our 'evolved' brains. He did. I presented the 'Doug Wilson' argument of cans of pop. I said if evolution were true, than our thoughts would be like shaking 2 cans of pop and opening them. The fizz being the by-product of the chemical reactions of the pop. I said if our thoughts were like that, then his brain simply 'fizzed humanism is true,' and my brain fizzed 'Christianity is true,' and that arguing as to which fizz was 'right' would be senseless as we could no more change our thoughts than the pop could its fizz. He stated that he indeed did not believe in 'free will,' to which I answered, "then why are you arguing?" He left the conversation and the agnostic fellow said, "That's a good argument" (referring to the pop argument).

Anyhow, I did feel that my presence was less welcome at this meeting then the last, but I enjoyed the opportunity to be there and the hope that seeds were sown.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Readings from Paul Johnson #2

Continuing with selected citations from Paul Johnson's masterful work, The Birth of the Modern: World Society from 1815-1830

The Resurrectionists

There was no effective form of anesthesia until C.W. Long of Jefferson, Georgia, used nitrous oxide gas in 1842. Hence surgeons in the early decades of the century had to operate rapidly, and to acquire this skill they needed real bodies for practice. In Britain, two acts of Parliament (1726 and 1751) made the bodies of executed felons, hitherto hung in chains, available for medical dissection. But the supply dwindled as juries, judges and the system of royal pardons united to reduce the number of executions. In the 15-year period 1805-20 they averaged only 77 a year. Hence the rise of body snatching. Great surgeons like Sir Astley Cooper needed fresh bodies for their own work an, still more, to train their students, and they willingly cooperated with the gangs of criminals who supplied them. Bransby Cooper, in his life of his father, gives biographical sketches of these "resurrectionists": Ben Crouch, Bill and Jack Hartnett, Tom Light, Hollis, Daniel and Butler. The gangs were usually in league with the badly paid caretakers of the burial grounds that were raided.

Edinburgh, where more British doctors and surgeons were trained than anywhere else, was also a center for body snatching, and in the 1820s the demand seems to have exceeded the supply. In 1827 and Irish canal-navvy, William Burke (1792-1829), took room at Log's lodging house in Tanner's Close, Edinburgh, an establishment kept by an Ulsterman, William Hare. In November, Donald, a friendless old pensioner died in the house, and Burke and Hare, instead of burying the body, sold it to a well-known surgeon, Dr. Robert Knox, who kept a school of anatomy in the city. They were paid 7 pounds, 10 shillings. Their greed thus aroused, the two men, assisted by their wives, murdered at least 15 persons during the next 10 months by luring them into the house, making them drunk, suffocating them - so as to leave no marks on the body - and then selling the corpses to Dr. Knox. In November 1828 the police were alerted and found one of the bodies in Knox's cellar. Hare turned King's Evidence, and Burke was tried, convicted and hanged.

The full extent of the various rackets associated with body snatching was never established. A House of Commons committee reported (1828) that in one winter a gang of six sold 312 bodies at an average price of four guineas. But a corpse could fetch up to 40 pounds. So great was the fear of resurrectionists in the 1820s that various security devices were manufactured, such as Bridgeman's Patent Wrought Iron Coffin, advertised as "The only Safe Coffin." (Birth of the Modern, pgs. 744, 745)


Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Gnashing of a 1,000 figurative teeth

My pastor, John MacArthur, is no stranger to theological controversy. It seems as though throughout his preaching career there has always been some group irritated with him at one time or another. They didn't like something he said, or didn't say, or said too hard, or whatever.

For example, in the 1970s, John spoke out against charismatic theology and rankled the charismatics. Then he made the feminist angry because he advocated that women should stay home and raise families. He wrote The Gospel According to Jesus during the 80s and upset the non-lordship, easy-believism fundamentalist Baptists. A whole bunch of IFB folks didn't like the way he explained the atonement of Christ and they claimed John taught a "bloodless" gospel, whatever that is. In recent years, John has annoyed the Purpose-Driven Life advocates with choice comments against their view of preaching, and presently, the entire emergent church crowd are bugged by John's recent release, The Truth War, which takes them to task for being squishy on absolute truth.

So, continuing his trend as everyone's favorite gadfly, John opened the 2007 Shepherd's Conference with a message aggravating the amillennialists. The working title of the message is something like, Why Every Self-respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist. Without going into the entire message (a summary can be reviewed here and here), I believe I am on firm ground when I say, as in the biblical vernacular, it has caused no small stir.

Amillennialists all around blogdom are reacting with varying degree of emotion. From saddened head wagging dismay, garment rending lament, to outright disgust, as if John had proclaimed all wives of amillennialists to be fat and their children ugly. There are some folks who are not even at the conference providing their criticisms of John's message.

Allow me to weigh in on John's remarks both pro and con.

First, I believe many amillers are over reacting to John's message and taking it a wee bit too personal. I noted some friendly jabs at amill belief, but I never thought John went beyond that to be ridiculing and mocking as some have suggested.

Additionally, anyone who is remotely familiar with John's preaching ministry knows his stance on eschatology. He has several written books on the subject, including a two volume commentary set on the book of Revelation, so I can't understand why folks are reacting surprised as if they had never known this about John. They are carrying on as if he revealed some dark, scandalous secret about himself.

Moreover, there are at least two or more seminars addressing eschatology, Israel and the Church, and rapture positions every year at the Shepherd's Conference, so that's nothing new either.

Are these amillers (and postmillers as well) of the opinion that John should never express his convictions on these matters at the conference he hosts just to protect the sensibilities of those individuals who may be a slight minority in attendance?

On the other hand, I believe the subject could had been broached in a manner that was not as surprising and unexpected by the conference participants. I don't know how that could had been accomplished apart from a written announcement before hand, but it may had been helpful with heading off any ill spirit.

I also thought John mischaracterized amillennial theology to some degree. Jason at Fide-O has been pointing that out, even though I think some of his comments are driven a bit by emotion. None the less, I think he has room to complain about his position being misstated. Premillennialists do not like to be mischaracterized by their detractors, so they should do their best to respect the amillennialists by representing their beliefs accurately. I cringe just as equally when a amiller misstates premillennial hermeneutics, as when a premiller calls amillennialism replacement theology. In the end, I think there is room on both sides for learning how to frame the discussion properly, with accuracy and fair representation to the other.

I will say that I thought John's comparison of how amillennial hermeneutics tend to spiritualize too much the prophetic narratives, with the manner in which theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists spiritualize the book of Genesis, was right on. I do not think it is a coincidence that the long-age, frame-work theology that puts millions of years into the Genesis narrative are for the most part Reformed in their theology, (M. Kline for instance), and thus their hermeneutics.

But, I do think John will be better served when discussing this issue if he will take the time to interact with modern apologists and thinkers in Amillennialism like Kim Riddlebarger, rather than older writers who are now deceased.

Both sides will serve each other and the Lord if we put aside our condescending attitudes and proud spirit.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Do You Know Religion?

I linked over to a MSNBC quiz that test a person's religious knowledge.

There are 15 basic questions asking about primarily Christianity, but a few other world religions.
I missed one. Number 8. Apparently, I am not too keen on the primary Hindu scriptures. Bummer.

I wasn't sure about number 7 that asked about the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. I took a wild stab and guessed correctly.

The 12th question is amusing. It asks about polygamy in Mormonism.

There are a few questions that are tricky because of the way they are worded, so beware of them.

Go take the quiz and then come back and tell me how you did.


Textual Preservation and MVOs

I believe I have gotten myself into a spot of trouble. You see, last week I was wandering around on the Internet and happened to find myself on a blog called Jackhammer. The contributors to this blog have written a series of posts arguing for the preservation of the scriptures in the vein of KJV onlyism, though they deny being straight KJV onlyists.

Under the most recent post on this subject written by Kent Brandenburg called, Multiple Versions Only (MVO): No Scripture, So Invent a Fake History, I was compelled to leave a comment in response to some comments Kent left for another commenter.

It was like I had taken a broom handle and made a swipe at a wasp nest, because I received a stinging post from Kent himself. In fact, I was wounded by his opening paragraph where he told me, a Van Tillian presuppositionalist none the less, that my position on the Bible is not based on a scriptural doctrine of preservation, but on evidence. Whoa! Kent truly knows how to hurt a guy.

Now, I will say at the outset that I tend to like Kent. He has left a handful of comments under the various posts I wrote examining the arguments of King James onlyism. Though he may not claim to be a full fledged KJV only apologist, by all practical purposes he is; but I believe he is a level headed KJV onlyist. Kent attempts to deal with the textual issue itself and not a full on, fidelistic defense of the KJV text based upon crazy Gail Riplinger style conspiracy theories and historical revisionism.

I thought my interaction with his comments was worthy of bringing to the forefront of my blog so that a wider audience can benefit from the exchange.

I will highlight my original comments in GREEN, Kent's original comments in BLUE and my present comments in BLACK

(Fred) Was the Holy Spirit guiding the churches to accept with all agreement the Latin Vulgate for 1,000 years? Seeing that the use of the Latin Vulgate was uninterrupted for 1,000 years and served Bible believing Christians well, why would God need to direct the Christians to adopt a newer translation? Sounds rather subjective.

“The Italic or pre-Waldensian Church produced a version of the New Testament which was translated from the Received Text by the year A.D. 157.” Fredrick Henry Scrivener, A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament, 1874

“The Bible translation of the Italic Church came to be known as the Itala translation. The point of all this is that the Itala Bible was translated from the Received Text.” Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, 1859.

(Fred) A few comments are needed:

First, It would had been nice if Kent provided us a specific page number for these citations. I spent an hour or so on Saturday in the library combing through these two books looking in vain for these specific quotations. Regrettably, I couldn't find them.

Second, I find it a bit surprising that both Scrivener and Kenyon would confuse the Received Text with the Majority Text. The Received Text is the textual apparatus originally edited by Erasmus and utilized by the King James translators to translate the KJV, where as the Majority Text, or Byzantine text, is that group of manuscripts from where the Received Text was edited. There is a stark difference between the two. I am also surprised Kent equates them as being one and the same.

Third, to suggest that the Italic translation and the pre-Waldensian Church used the Received Text is absurd, seeing that the Received Text is a 16th century production. One can attempt to argue that the Italic, or Old Latin translation, is based upon similar readings found in the Received Text, but this is also not true. Even Kenyon and Scrivener admitted as much in the chapters outlining the development of the Old Latin. The Italic translation contains readings that are Western in origin, as opposed to Eastern, or from the Byzantine. Any similarity between them doesn't imply a similarity in family as it demonstrates a overall uniformity between all the biblical manuscripts and the subsequent translations which means these families didn't diverge from each other as much as KJV onlyists insist they do.

Under constant persecution, for one thousand years the Waldenses, Albigenses, and other groups of Christians rejected the Catholic Church and their Latin Vulgate, and copied the Received Text as used for the Itala Vulgate.

The “Waldensian,” or “Vaudois” Bibles stretch from about 157 to the 1400s A.D. The fact is, according to John Calvin’s successor Theodore Beza, that the Vaudois received the Scriptures from missionaries of Antioch of Syria in the 120s A.D. and finished translating it into their Latin language by 157 AD. This Bible was passed down from generation, until the Reformation of the 1500s, when the Protestants translated the Vaudois Bible into French, Italian, etc.

(Fred) A couple of thoughts:

First, it is also disingenuous to claim the Waldensian Bibles were translated from the Old Latin, just as it is to claim the Old Latin is based upon the Received Text. All historical evidence points to the fact that the Waldensian Christians utilized the Latin Vulgate. Doug Kutilek has an article outlining this error.

Secondly, independent fundamentalist Baptists will often appeal to groups like the Waldensian and the Albigensian Christians as their fundamentalist fore-fathers, as if these persecuted groups were proto-IFBs. But it is important to note that probably the only thing independent Baptists like Kent and his Jackhammer crew hold in common with these type of medieval groups is their rejection of the Roman Catholic Church as an authority. Other than that, they virtually have nothing in common theologically and doctrinally with these groups.

Peter Waldo, for example, who was the founder of the Waldensian movement, believed in a mystical view of spiritualism similar to that of Francis of Assisi. He saw poverty as a virtue that gained spiritual favor with God. The Albigensian movement was more of a pseudo-Christian cult that held to Gnostic-Arian views of the Christian faith.

These factors do not justify the persecution brought upon these groups by the Roman Catholic Church, but I would not appeal to them as the sole keepers of God's true, received Word during the period of Roman Catholic domination. In fact, of the two groups, only the Waldensians produced alternative translations of the Bible, specifically the NT, but again, it wasn't from the Old Latin as Kent asserts, but the Latin Vulgate.

There was the Syriac Peshitta, a translation into Syrian from the TR in AD150 by the Bible-believing churches around Antioch where believers were first called Christians. Peshitta is a Syrian word meaning “common,” a word parallel with the term “Received Text.”

(Fred) Again, the TR (Received Text) is a 16th century production, and it is anachronistic to claim it existed before Erasmus's work. I am guessing that Kent and his friends have redefined the idea of a "Received Text" to mean something along the lines of "that text received and read by all Bible-believing Christians," rather than the common use of, "that textual edition published by Erasmus."

It is also important to note that most of the Greek copies that have existed throughout history are no longer with us today. Several well known Christians mention Greek texts that contained 1 John 5:7 that existed in their days centuries ago. Among these are Theodore Beza, John Calvin and Stephanus. Beza remarks that the reading of 1 John 5:7 is found in many of their manuscripts; Calvin likewise says it is found in “the most approved copies”; and Stephanus, who in 1550 printed the Greek text that bears his name, mentioned that of the 16 copies he had 9 of them contained 1 John 5:7. John Gill, who also believed in the inspiration of this verse, likewise mentions in his commentary that nine of Stephanus’ sixteen manuscripts contained this verse.

(Fred) If it is true that 1 John 5:7-8 is a part of the original epistle John wrote, then why didn't God preserve what would sure to be without question one of the most single disputed passages in all of scripture among Christians? Additionally, we have here a passage that affirms the Trinity without a doubt, and none of the orthodox quoted it during the Arian controversy. As to the claim by Kent that these various men believed 1 John 5:7-8 was originally part of John's first epistle, but none of these important manuscripts are no longer with us today (because I reckon God didn't preserve them) much of the claim is speculative at best. "There could have been copies," or "It may had been in the originals but dropped out" doesn't cut it. I am sorry, but that is too important of a verse for it to accidentally "drop out." To speculate that certain copies contained it is purely hear-say and doesn't prove anything.

(Fred) The science of textual criticism was practiced in the day of Erasmus when he edited his first editions of what would become to be named the TR. Of course it was textual criticism in its infancy, because the original languages were just being re-discovered by Christians. It took a while for the discipline to develop, but it was with in the 50-75 years after the KJV was published, not 350 years later.

Philip Schaff, certainly no perfect preservationist wrote at least three times, once each during the history of the reformation: “The science of textual criticism was not yet born…” You won’t find the words “textual criticism” for centuries after the KJV.

(Fred) This is another example where it would be nice to have some citation for Schaff's comments. If we mean to say the "science of textual criticism as we know it today in its fullness was not yet born," then that is true. However, all of God's people who transmitted the biblical text through copies and translations practiced a form of textual criticism regardless of how infantile it might had been.

Erasmus was constantly checking his work against newer textual finds. Hence the reason why there were 4 to 5 editions of his text during his life time. The same with Tyndale and his translations, and even the King James translators. Moreover, by the end of the 17th century, Christian scholars were beginning to discover more and more ancient manuscripts to help sharpen our accuracy of the original text of the Bible. Johann Bengel, for example, was a German born Christian who spent a good deal of his life combing through many Greek manuscripts and identifying specific reading that showed a similarity among textual families. It is believed he was the first textual critic who identified the Alexandrian family. He was also the individual who wrote out basic principles of textual criticism that many Christians had been utilizing years before him and that are foundational to modern day textual criticism. So, for Kent to imply the "science of textual criticism" was not born until centuries later does not honestly recognize the historical facts.

Now, just a couple of final thoughts before I close this up.

First off, the Jackhammer guys identify those non-KJV only people, like myself, as Multiple Version Onlyists. A MVO. In other words, I am suppose to believe, according to my Jackhammer detractors, that God's Word is preserved in a multitude of versions, not just one. Hence, when pressed to identify God's preserved Word, I don't have a copy to point to.

However, that description doesn't accurately portray my true position on the matter.

Though I would believe God's Word is preserved in those translations as far as they accurately translate the original text, I would admit that not all translations are equal in accuracy of translation. In other words, not all modern translations are equally good. There are some better translated than others and those better ones are to be preferred over the lesser ones.

A better description of my position, and I think the biblical position, is original autographs only. Meaning, God's perfect, infallible and inerrant Word is to be found only in the original autographs.

Ahhh Haaa! screams my preservationist critic, we don't have any original autographs. They have all been destroyed and gone to the sea of time. "Where's your perfect, infallible and inerrant Word of God now?" I will be asked.

I believe, along with the biblical writers and including our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, that God has preserved those original autographs in the multitude of copies made from those original autographs.

Those copies of scripture are viewed with as equal authority as the originals, even with all their human mistakes and variant readings, and is the way God preserved His written revelation from true corruption and tampering. The thousands upon thousands of copies that spread out across the ancient world in Asia Minor, North Africa, and the Near East, protected God's revelation from being gathered up and either destroyed, lost, or messed up. Then, God raised up men over the years to collate and piece together what we know to be the Word of God in a textual apparatus used for translating. As more and more manuscripts have been found, textual critics have been able to sharpen our understanding of what the original said.

Secondly, as I noted at the first, Kent's comments suggest that if a person is a true presuppositionalist in his approach to the authority of God's Word, well then that person will recognize what the Bible says of itself regarding its own preservation. In fact, Kent even contributed to and edited a book on the subject called, Thou Shalt Keep Them, in which he, along with a handful of other men, argue this point.

One of Kent's Jackhammer cohorts, Dave Mallinak even wrote an article invoking Greg Bahnsen as his support that their view of preservation is the purely presuppositional approach. Any other viewpoint falls into the category of man determining truth autonomously, apart from the fear of God.

I would agree with him that the Bible affirms its own preservation. Even I take that as an authoritative presupposition. I just understand scripture's preservation taking place in a different manner than the one defended by the Jackhammer guys, and I do not believe my position is in any fashion my own autonomy seeking to displace God's authority.

Now, what would had been helpful for our discussion is not Dave quoting Greg Bahnsen's from his book on general apologetic methodology, but from his article in the book Inerrancy that was edited by Norman Geisler. Dr. Bahnsen contributed an excellent article to that massive book entitled The Inerrancy of the Autographa (pgs 151-193) that addresses the very subject of preservation under debate here from a Reformed presuppositional perspective, yet, his article concludes affirming my position on preservation, not the Jackhammer boys.

For example, after Bahnsen explains the importance of inscripturation, or the written form of God's revelation, he writes,
Yet this admirable feature of inscripturation itself generates a difficulty for the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy - a difficulty that we must now face. A written word may have great advantages over oral tradition but it is not immune from what Kuyper called "the vicissitudes of time." The spreading of God's Word by textual transmission and translation opens up the door to variance between the original form of the written word and secondary forms (copies and translations). This variance requires a refinement of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, for now we must ask what constitutes the proper object of this inerrancy that we attribute to Scripture. Does inerrancy (or infallibility, inspiration) pertain to the original writings (autographa), to copies of them (and perhaps translations), or to both? [Inerrancy, p. 155]
Dr. Bahnsen then goes on to document that the common conviction among Christians through the centuries has been that inerrancy of the Scripture pertains only to the text of the original autographa.

He then notes,
The time-honored and common-sense perspective among Christian believers who have considered the inescapable question raised by the inscripturation of God's word (viz., do inspiration, infallibility, and/or inerrancy pertain to the autographa, to copies of it, or to both?) has been that inerrancy is restricted to the originals, autographical text of Scripture. [ibid., pg 157]
Dr. Bahnsen then moves on to demonstrate from the text of scripture that the biblical attitude toward the autographa and the copies of those autographa is that "the copies were deemed adequate to perform the purposes for which God originally gave the Scripture" [ibid pg. 159].

After providing a couple of pages of documentation, Dr. Bahnsen comments,

These illustrations show that the message conveyed by the words of the autographa, and not the physical page on which we find printing, is the strict object of inspiration. Therefore, because that message was reliably reflected in the copies or translations available to the biblical writers, they could be used in an authoritative and practical manner ... the exhortation and challenges based on the copies of Scripture pertain to the conveyed message and tell us nothing about the extant texts per se. Much less do they demonstrate that the biblical authors made no distinction between the original text and its copies ... Because Jesus raised no doubts about the adequacy of the Scriptures as His contemporaries knew them, we can safely assume [or, presuppose - fred] that the first-century text of the OT was a wholly adequate representation of the divine word originally given. Jesus regarded the extant copies of His day as so approximate to the originals in their message that He appealed to those copies as authoritative. [ibid., pg. 161]
I do not wish to weary the reader, but if the person will take the time to read the entire article which is available on line, Dr. Bahnsen documents clearly that the true presuppositional approach is the one that recognizes what Jesus did, that is, the faithfully preserved copies and the translation of those copies, in spite of their transmissional flaws, variant readings, and copying mistakes, are as authoritative as the originals themselves, and are adequate in and of themselves to reflect to us God's divine revelation.