Monday, March 19, 2018

3 Reasons I’d (Still) Let My Sons Play Tackle Football

Let kids be kids

Presuppositional Catholicism

In my experience, Bryan Cross never begins with evidence; rather, he always begins with his preconception of what "the Church" must be like. By definition, "the Church" must be such-and-such. He has an unfalsifiable paradigm. Kinda like Barth's concept of suprahistory, where Christian essentials safely exist in a Never-never land sealed off from the risk of empirical or historical disconfirmation.

Even if he occasionally appeals to the church fathers, I suspect that's filtered through his Catholic paradigm. The Roman Magisterium has the "final interpretive authority" regarding the consensus patrum. So there is no independent evidence for Catholicism, only value-laden evidence that takes the Catholic paradigm for granted. It's a kind of Catholic presuppositionalism. An axiomatic system in which the "the Church" is axiomatic, but the axioms are indemonstrable. 

The address of the "visible" Church is Shangri-La. Although you can't find it on the map, it's oh-so visible–unlike those hapless Protestant denominations. 

Resurrection Witnesses Lived More Than Half A Century

Resurrections, both in the sense of resuscitation and in the higher sense of transformation into an immortal state, are often considered the greatest of the miracles attributed to Jesus and the apostles. But the documents that attribute those miracles to them are often dated to the closing decades of the first century or later. I've argued elsewhere that three of the gospels and Acts were written in the mid sixties or earlier. But even if we dated them to later decades, would their testimony about resurrections be too late to be credible? One way of approaching that issue is to ask how many resurrection witnesses would still have been alive in those later decades.

The claims of resurrection come from a large number and variety of sources, and the claims are placed in highly public settings. There's no effort to explain a lack of evidence by claiming that the resurrections were more private. Jesus' reputation as somebody who raised the dead in Matthew 11:5 comes in the midst of a context unlikely to be made up (the doubts of John the Baptist) and is often considered early Q material. (See the discussion in Craig Keener, A Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1999], 333-34, where he mentions that most scholars accept the historicity of Jesus' comments in Matthew 11:5-6.) The raising of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) is highly public. Its public nature is mentioned frequently and emphatically (7:11-12, 7:17-18, 7:24). Paul refers to hundreds of witnesses of Jesus' resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). And so on.

Quandary ethics

Arminian theologian Roger Olson recently did a predictable post on "torture": 

1. Before getting to my main point, I'm going to comment on his arguments (such as they are):

Here, for purposes of this particular argument, I am not going to appeal specifically to Christian ethical norms; I will only say that if I were pastor of a person who engaged in torture of another human being (or even of an animal) I would confront him or her and ask him or her to stop, repent, and undergo a restoration process. Torture is so obviously contrary to Christian love that it cannot be justified under any circumstances. 

It's true that waterboarding is an unloving way to treat the terrorist, but that misses the point. The overriding duty is to protect innocent lives from harm. Waterboarding is unloving in reference to the terrorist, but loving in reference to the innocent. For instance, consider the Boston bombing, where runners were killed or maimed for life due to jihadis. 

However, in addition to Christian love, there are excellent, powerful secular reasons why torture is always, unconditionally wrong and even evil.

First, however, something else needs to be pointed out about this specific action (as described above). That the CIA had to use “secret prisons” set up in countries where, apparently, torture is not illegal, to “interrogate” American prisoners (by which I mean people taken into custody by Americans—wherever, whenever) demonstrates a lack of concern for U.S. law. It was a way around it; a circumventing of the clear social contract that we Americans have among ourselves and with our government.

I agree with Olson that different rules apply to American citizens. Citizenship confers certain due process rights and immunities. That's why we should deport Muslim foreign nationals and have a moratorium on Muslim immigration, since once Muslims are naturalized, they game the system. 

Second, and getting more to the point, torture (including “enhanced interrogation techniques” which is just a euphemism for torture) is always wrong because one can never know with absolute certainty that the person has the information in his or her head that the torturer wants. It is an extreme measure for attempting to gain needed, perhaps even necessary information, that assumes the person being tortured knows that information. It is simply impossible ever to know that with absolute certainty.

i) I agree with Olson that "enhanced interrogation" is a euphemism. I prefer the term "coercive interrogation". That's more accurate. 

Notice, though, that just as the Bush administration used a euphemism to defend its policy, critics use a dysphemism to attack its policy. The actual issue which gave rise to Olson's post is waterboarding. Have you observed that critics of waterboarding always change the subject? Instead of talking about waterboarding in particular, they invariably recast the issue in terms of "torture". Rather, that discuss waterboarding, they substitute a dysphemism. They characterize waterboarding  as "torture" because that has pejorative connotations, so it prejudges the issue. Euphemisms and dysphemisms have the same polemical function in that regard. 

ii) Apropos (i), a problem with (re-)classifying waterboarding as "torture" is that you're substituting a less accurate category for a more accurate category. Waterboarding is a specific technique. Why not discuss that, since that's what we're really talking about, rather than "torture"? The word "torture" evokes a wide range of methods and motivations, most of which are irrelevant to the use of waterboarding to compel information from high-value terrorists. Rather than clarifying the analysis, it deliberately obscures the analysis by interjecting and triggering many associations that are extraneous to the specific context under review. Ironically, it's unethical for critics of waterboarding to recast the issue in the name of morality. They're intentionally trying to discredit the opposing position through the fallacy of guilt by association. It's a smear. And if waterboarding is wrong, it should be possible to demonstrate that point on its own terms, without resorting to sophistry.  

iii) "Absolute certainty" isn't a sine qua non for coercive interrogation. The individuals were leaders of terrorist networks. Given their position in the organization, of course they'd have information about future plots as well as operatives. 

iv) Notice Olson's admission that this may be "necessary information". He's conceding that even though, or even if, this is necessary information to thwart a terrorist attack, it's morally forbidden to extract that information by waterboarding a terrorist. 

Third, torture is always wrong because it is simply barbaric, a crime against humanity. Almost all civilized countries of the world have known this for a very long time and have outlawed torture to protect and preserve themselves from falling into the same barbarity of the person(s) they want to interrogate.

Of course, that simply begs the question. And it deliberately ignores necessary moral distinctions regarding methods and motivations. Not all methods or motivations are morally equivalent. If say, a terrorist suffers from arachnophobia, and the interrogator exploits that to extract information about terrorist plots and terrorist sleeper cells, that's hardly equivalent to electric shock torture. Likewise, that's hardly equivalent to sadistic torture, torture to extract a criminal confession, or torture as a deterrent to keep citizens under the heel of a totalitarian state. 

Fourth, torture is always wrong because the person being tortured will always say whatever he or she thinks the torturers want to hear. In other words, there is no way to know if the person being tortured is giving the right needed information or whether he or she is simply succumbing to the pain of torture and offering up false information.

Of course there's a way to find out. You follow up on the lead. Does their answer check out? If it turns out to be a false lead, then the interrogation process resumes until the terrorist gives honest answers. 

Fifth, torture is always wrong because…it steps over a line into territory at the top (or part-way down) of a slippery slope that could very well justify much worse. Explanation: What if the person being tortured does not give the information being sought by the torturers—even under the worst torture? What if “time is of the essence” to avoid some catastrophe and the suspect is not forthcoming? Torturers could eventually (and I predict will eventually) give up torturing the individual and bring in his family—wife, children—and torture them in front of him.

You say “Well, that hasn’t happened.” I say “Once you step over that line into justifying torture as evil but necessary you make that justifiable. And I’m sure it has happened somewhere, at some time.

i) That only follows if the justification for coercive interrogation is purely utilitarian. However, there's no logical connection between subjecting a high-value terrorist to coercive interrogation and doing the same to innocent relatives or kids. The terrorist, by virtue of being a terrorist, has forfeited certain prima facie immunities which, by the same token, an innocent relative or child has not. 

ii) Likewise, I agree that there are certain universal norms regarding the treatment of human beings, however evil. A threshold below which we shouldn't go–regardless of the consequences. But waterboarding a terrorist doesn't qualify. That exploits the gag reflex. That exploits an involuntary reaction which people find unbearable. It's a pity we have to resort to that to force information out of a terrorist, but that's only if the terrorist is unwilling to volunteer the information. Sorry, but I have no sympathy for a terrorist. 

Finally, torturing people WE suspect of having needed information gives our enemies and everyone permission to use torture as well—even against our own citizens captured by them. It is simply duplicitous for us to say “We can use torture, but you cannot.” And the “you cannot” will be ignored.

That's so willfully obtuse on several grounds:

i) The bad guys don't wait for permission. They don't play by the rules. If we refrain from coercive interrogation, that doesn't mean they will reciprocate. Is Olson really that childishly naive?

ii) This isn't about "torture" in general, but using the least coercive techniques necessary to compel information from an unwilling terrorist. 

iii) And motivations are a morally salient considerations. There's a world of difference between coercive interrogation to save innocent lives and sadistic torture, deterrent torture, or judicial torture. 

2. But that's all preliminary to my main point. Olson's position is incoherent. For Olson takes the position that Christians, or human agents generally, are sometimes confronted with genuine moral dilemmas, where you can't do the right thing. Whatever you do will be morally wrong. For instance:

I respect pacifists, but I know I’m not one. How do I know that? Because I know I would use deadly force to protect my granddaughter or grandson from a would-be rapist or murderer. On the other hand, I also believe it would be a sin. And, yet on the other hand, again, I believe God understands our frailty and the condition of our world and the need to protect the helpless innocents. I do not think Christ expects his followers in this time between the times to eschew all violence; sometimes violence is a necessary evil and, when it is, God forgives.

i) That's just one example. He's said that sort of thing on multiple occasions. Suppose, for the sake of argument, we grant Olson's contention that coercive interrogation is unconditionally wrong. But by Olson's own admission, human agents generally, as well as Christians in particular, sometimes find themselves in situations where wrongdoing is unavoidable. There are no morally licit options. 

ii) BTW, it's not coincidental that Olson is a freewill theist. Freewill theism generates irreconcilable tension between deontology and moral dilemmas. In freewill theism, God lacks sufficient control over the necessary variables to ensure that human agents will always have a morally licit alternative available to them. 

Since by Olson's own admission, we sometimes find ourselves in a moral predicament where there is no sinless course of action, that applies mutatis mutandis to the ethics of "torture", like ticking timebomb scenarios. He subscribes to "quandary ethics". We sometimes have conflicting intrinsic duties. We can't do both. So he can't forbid "torture" under all circumstances any more than he can forbid lethal force under all circumstances. His ethical and theological conundrum applies with equal force to coercive interrogation. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Carrier's allegorical method

i) In this post I'm going to quote and comment on chap. 10 of Richard Carrier's On the Historicity of Jesus (Sheffield 2014). He keeps daring critics to read his book. And he did that with me on Facebook. Fine. I'm happy to meet the challenge. 

That said, responding to his book is tedious because it's a jungle packed with dead wood. You have to carpet-bomb his book with Agent Orange to clear out all the dead wood, and once the defoliant has done its job, you discover that it was nothing but dead wood. 

Although I've read other chapters, I'll comment on chap. 10 because that's the central chapter of his magnum opus for Christ mythicism. The excerpts constitute representative samples of Carrier's methodology. I may do another post as a mopping up operation, but this post will focus on chap. 10. 

If the four Gospels are true accounts, then at one stroke that proves Christianity and disproves atheism. That moots everything else in Carrier's overstuffed book. 

ii) One preliminary observation. Carrier routinely assumes that if various features or incidents in the life of Christ have OT parallels, that goes to show that the Gospel rewrote an OT story to make it a story about Jesus. Carrier acts as though OT parallels ipso facto disprove the historicity of the Gospels. 

This is amusing because Christians have always made a point of documenting OT parallels. It's not as if Carrier is drawing our attention to something neglected or damaging. 

iii) The fact that Jesus fulfills OT prophecy confirms rather than undercuts the historicity of the Gospels. In addition, typology is based on the principle that there's a God who directs the course of history, a God who prearranges some events to foreshadow later events. The similarities are by design. As an atheist, Carrier rejects that, but typology is entirely consistent with historicity. There's nothing about typology which implies that the antitype is fictitious. That's not an implication of typology, but atheism. Given atheism, then we wouldn't expect history to have these mirror images. 

vi) I'd add that even apart from typology, if OT prophets performed miracles, then it's to be expected that Jesus will perform similar or greater miracles. If Jesus is the Son of God, he's not going to do less than OT prophets. So it's consistent with the historicity of the Gospels that Jesus perform the same kinds of miracles as OT prophets. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

John Lennox on Stephen Hawking

What is the "Rock" in Matthew?

Much Of The Resurrection Evidence Comes From Former Critics Of Christianity

A helpful way to think about the evidence for Jesus' resurrection and Christianity more broadly is to notice how much of the New Testament was written by former opponents of the Christian movement. Even under a very liberal view of New Testament authorship, more than a quarter of the documents were written by a former enemy of Christ. Under more moderate or conservative views of New Testament authorship, as much as 55% of the documents were written by people who had been opponents of the religion (Paul, James, Jude).

Note, too, that even under a highly liberal view in which only seven letters were written by an opponent of Christianity, and only one opponent (Paul), the fact remains that other prominent church leaders and resurrection witnesses were former enemies of the religion (the brothers of Jesus). That includes two of the most prominent leaders, Paul and James (as reflected in Acts 15 and Galatians 1-2, for example). Whether you look at this issue from the perspective of New Testament authorship, early church leadership, or both, much of the testimony we have for Jesus' resurrection comes from people who had previously been opposed to Jesus and his movement.

Stopgap Adam

On Facebook I had this exchange with a theistic evolutionist:

C. S. Lewis argued for a different approach, by which Adam is not a genetic event, but the physical ancestor of all modern humans who was the first anthropoid endowed by God with nous. Lewis' theory would not be reflected in a sharp genetic ancestor (and so is not historically demonstrable), but is a perfectly plausible historical possibility.

But the "historical Adam" of biological evolution is hardly equivalent to the Adam of Gen 2-3 and Rom 5/1 Cor 15.

Your claim here is ambiguous. If you're saying that the scientific description of the historical Adam is not the same as the ANE story of Adam or the typological description of Adam by Paul, well of course! That's not big deal. However, if you are saying that the referent of the historical Adam is not the same as the referent of the biblical character of Adam ... why not? I see no obvious reason why the same historical individual cannot play both the scientific role and the biblical role.

Well, I wasn't discussing the "scientific" description of Adam, but an evolutionary description. More to the point, an evolutionary narrative of Adam bears no resemblance to the Gen 2 narrative of Adam's origin.

This isn't just a conservative Christian view of theistic evolution. Peter Enns makes the same point in a book review: 

In the long run, however, I am not convinced that all—or even most—of these readers will feel comfortable following Collins. Collins's synthesis requires an ad hoc hybrid "Adam" who was "first man" in the sense of being either a specially chosen hominid or a larger tribe of early hominids (Collins is careful not to commit himself to either option). Although I am sympathetic to Collins's efforts to blaze such a path (and he is not alone), I do not see how such an ad hoc Adam will calm doctrinal waters, since the Westminster Confession of Faith leaves no room for anything other than a first couple read literally from the pages of Genesis and Paul, and therefore entails a clear rejection of evolutionary theory. Further, this type of hybrid "Adam," clearly driven by the need to account for an evolutionary model, is not the Adam of the biblical authors. Ironically, the desire to protect the Adam of scripture leads Collins (and others) to create an Adam that hardly preserves the biblical portrait. Evolution and a historical Adam cannot be merged by positing an Adam so foreign to the biblical consciousness.

An evolutionary narrative is describing Adam's history and origin with respect to his biological and material past, while the biblical narrative is describing Adam's history and origin with respect to his relationship to God and the spiritual teleology of creation. The referent is the same, but the contexts of description are dramatically different. That's because the evolutionary story and the biblical story do not compete, but complement.

No, they're not coreferential or complementary but divergent accounts. Gen 2 describes the absolute origin of Adam (and Eve). God making Adam from inorganic material, then animating the pristine corpse. Adam didn't exist at all prior to that action. 

Gen 2 describes the origin of Adam and Eve as the direct product of special creation. 

Genesis describes all humans descending from a single breeding pair (Adam and Eve). 

By contrast, the evolutionary narrative is an undifferentiated continuum. You can't shoehorn Gen 2 into an evolutionary narrative. These are independent and incommensurable explanations. Theistic evolution is a slapdash pastiche of disparate explanations. 

A truly incarnational theology…

The Incarnation is a unique, unrepeatable event. It's chic silly-putty to stretch that into some broader principle. 

There the claim is simply that a careful understanding of our evolutionary past does not show that there was no Adam and Eve.

Of course it does. There is no unique Adam and Eve in the evolutionary narrative, but hominids and humans with separate genealogies. At best there's a last universal common ancestor, but that's hardly equivalent to Adam and Eve in Genesis.

Your remark sort of reminds me of those people who try to redefine marriage to suit their own moral desires contrary to God's vision.

How very droll given your Orwellian redefinition of Adam and Eve.

The biological history of the human species is the current scientific framework for talking about Adam's material and biological origins.

If you take macroevolution/universal common descent as a given, then that's a framework for excluding Gen 2-3,5; Rom 5; 1 Cor 15. 

or a deliberate attempt to sow confusion and discord in the Church so as to discredit Christians who are working within contemporary scientific disciplines to demonstrate the reliability and truth of the Bible's claims.

i) More of your Orwellian double-talk where you pretend that a narrative of human origins which is completely at variance with Gen 2 demonstrates the "reliability" and veracity of biblical claims. 

When BioLogos was founded, it immediately went on the attack against both young-earth creationists and intelligent design theory, even though ID theory is compatible with theistic evolution. So which side is sowing discord in the church? 

ii) BTW, there are different versions of theistic evolution. Using Gerald Rau's taxonomy (Mapping the Origins Debate), which do you subscribe to: nonteleological evolution, planned evolution, or directed evolution?

Genesis 2.7 reads in the ESV, "Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." This lone sentence does not say how God made man. "Formed" is not a description of a process, it's not an explanation, but a claim about who is the author of the process that brought Adam into being (who did the "forming"). God is that author."

i) You erect a false dichotomy between who did it and how it happened. The text says both. 

ii) I never suggested the verb alone carries the whole semantic weight. The text doesn't merely say that God "formed" Adam but describes the process. 

Saying "God formed me from my mother's womb" (Is. 49.5) does not mean I did not gestate 9 months through natural processes nor that I did not grow up through adolescence the natural way.

i) Completely different context. Gen 2 is a creation account whereas Isa 49:5 takes the existence of ordinary procreation for granted. 

ii) Moreover, Isa 49:5 explicitly refers to the process of gestation. So your analogy is vitiated by drastic disanalogies

In the same way in Genesis 1.25 scripture says that God made all the beasts of the earth, without saying how God made these creatures. Scripture does illuminate the "how" in the previous verse, where God says, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." We see that in the actual process of creation, living creatures evolved out of the earth, though again without further specifying how (perhaps out of the plants that evolved out of inorganic matter in v.12?). Yet the fact that the earth brought all life forth does not make it any less God's action. God is still the creator of all things.

i) Your interpretation is grossly anachronistic. You're filtering the ancient text through the theory of evolution, but the original audience didn't have that interpretive frame of reference. 

ii) Gen 1 describes the origin of aquatic organisms in relation to bodies of water and terrestrial organisms (plants, land animals) in relation to the surface of the earth, since that's the habit in which these organisms reproduce. Likewise, ancient Jews could see wild vegetation emerging from the earth, and Gen 1 narrates the origin of that cycle. Seeds produce fruit-trees, which in turn produce more seeds. A continuous alternation. 

So Genesis 2.7 tells us that God is the author of man and has made him to be possessed of God's own spirit. It does not tell us how God has made man, but we can see from 1.12 and 1.24 that an evolutionary process as the how of Adam's creation does not in any way negate God as the author of Adam's being.

i) You're reinterpreting a more detailed creation account of man (Gen 2) by reference to a less detailed creation account of man (Gen 1). That's retrograde. It's the more detailed account that qualifies the less detailed account, not vice versa.

ii) Your statement is equivocal. Ruach has more than one meaning, which is context dependent. In Gen 2:7, it's about making a lifeless corpse alive by breathing into it. That's not infusing the Spirit of God, but has reference to biological life.

You propose instead to read Genesis 2.7 as: "God making Adam from inorganic material, then animating the pristine corpse." This is the so-called "literal" reading of the text. It strikes me as a picking and choosing from the text. For to follow it through you'd have to also believe that God has a physical body who used his hands to physically crafted the pristine corpse out of dust by molding the soil as a potter molds the clay. And you'd also have to believe that God has a physical mouth and physically breathed into Adam's nostrils as if doing CPR and thus brought him to life (again, how? What was the process by which breath animated the corpse?) Do you also believe that this physical God performed surgery on Adam, and similarly made woman with the bone and nearby soil? Going to scripture, we see that God is a spirit, and in both Genesis 1 and John 1, he creates through his Word, not through a body. This Word produces natural processes that serve God's commands, and through those natural processes all that God creates is produced. If you reject the heresy of God having a physical body, then I must ask why, if you don't read those portions of Genesis 2.7 literally, do you read the rest literally?

What you overlook is Pentateuchal angelology, including the Angel of the Lord. According to the Pentateuch, God does sometimes assume human form (or angelomorphic form) to physically interact with earthly surroundings. There are several theophanic angelophanies in the Pentateuch. 

Evolutionary biology agrees that God made Adam from inorganic material, just not directly.

Evolutionary biology says nothing of the kind. Rather, you're reinterpreting Gen 2, then gluing that onto a theory of evolution. 

All life began with inorganic compounds, and then evolved from simple bacteria and plants to human life. Adam was indeed made of the dust of the ground, and he does indeed have God as his author. Evolutionary biology agrees with your further remark that 'Adam didn't exist at all prior to that action [of God breathing in his spirit].' Indeed, Adam did not precede whatever pre-human anthropoid received the image of God to know that God exists and has a purpose for Adam. Adam was the first human, because Adam was the first humanoid to stand in a relationship with God as his image-bearer living under covenant. He was no mere beast of the field, but a new creation, something unlike ever living creature around. Adam was both the first human in the biblical sense and the first to stand in covenant with God.

In Gen 2, God doesn't select a hominid from preexisting hominids, on whom he confers the image of God. You're interjecting stuff from outside the text. You're creating gaps in the text that are not in the text, then filing in the artificial gaps with extraneous postulates foreign to the narrative viewpoint. That's not how to exegete an ancient text. 

"Special creation" is nothing more than the claim that at one moment of time Adam did not exist, and at another moment of time Adam did exist, with God as the ultimate cause of Adam's existing. If you further claim that between those two moments, there were no natural processes by which God created Adam, you have read into the text something it does not say. Does the text say that on Day 4 of creation, God made the sun and moon and stars with no natural processes?

i) You repeat the same hermeneutical blunder when you simplify Gen 2 by reducing it to a more general creation account (Gen 1). 

ii) In addition, there are critical disanalogies between the origin of man and the origin of other creatures. Gen 1-2 doesn't dissolve them into a single common process. 

Or does it just say that he made them, allowing us to affirm all that General Revelation testifies about how God made them, through the evolution of galaxies and solar systems?

When interpreting an ancient text like Gen 1-2, the only general revelation that's pertinent is the prescientific information available to an ancient observer. You're methodology is like a urologist who reinterprets Ezk 1 in terms of flying saucers and extraterrestrials. 

For all truth is God's truth.

Which doesn't tell us what is true. Only that if something is true, it's part of God's overall truth.

What amazes me is that all of this stuff has long been settled in the Church universal. Why continue to be a stumbling block to people accepting the Gospel by insisting that they must choose between the best science of General Revelation and a particular exegesis of Genesis 1-2? John Stott, probably the greatest instrument of God in the last century second only to Billy Graham for proclaiming the Gospel, wrote the following excerpt back in 1970, nearly fifty years ago! How slow we are to learn!

If you wish to make John Stott your pope, that's your prerogative. But he's not the voice of the "church universal". And funny how you appropriate the "church universal" in the same breath as you preemptively discount how Gen 1-2 was understood for centuries and millennia prior to Darwin.

What has been the historic Christian doctrine with respect to the relationship between the testimony of God's creation and the testimony of God's written word (e.g. Augustine's doctrine of creation, Aquinas' doctrine of primary and secondary causation...

One problem is that you commit a level-confusion. Science isn't general revelation. Science is a fallible human interpretation of nature. In addition, scientists make assumptions about induction and the uniformity of nature, while some take that a step further by making methodological atheism axiomatic for the scientific method. Those are assumptions they bring to the study of nature, not assumptions they derive from the study of nature. 

Calvin's doctrine of accommodation in the books of Moses.

That's widely misunderstood. For a corrective:

Do you not listen to those God calls to teach you?

Why should I presume that God called Aquinas to teach me?

Do you set yourself up as an authority to judge everyone else?

As opposed to what? Blindly submitting to a teacher? I'm directly answerable to God for what I believe. I don't have the right to contract that out to a second party.

Calvin, Aquinas et al. are entitled to a respectful hearing, but their opinions are only as good as the supporting arguments they adduce in defense of their opinions. Their opinions and reasons must be open to scrutiny. 

That responsibility varies according to the aptitude and opportunities of Christians. 

It isn't even possible to submit carte blanche to any particular teacher since Christian philosophers, theologians &c. disagree with each other. 

Well, unless you believe in the infallibility of the church (are you a Roman Catholic?), traditional interpretations have precedent but they are not guaranteed to be without error…Steve, do you defend a geocentric model of the solar system? The geocentric view of the universe was more widely held by the historic church than any particular interpretation of Genesis 1-2, understood to be the correct interpretation of a large number of scripture passages, not least of all Joshua 10. And as Sproul is at pains to show, it was scientists studying God's creation that corrected our interpretation of scripture. Why is it okay for the Church universal to change its historic understanding of Joshua 10 on the basis of scientific inquiry into the world, but it's not okay for the Church two hundred years later to improve its understanding of Genesis 1-2 on the basis of scientific inquiry into the human past?

You need to keep track of your own argument. You were the one, not me, who make the alleged witness of the church universal a criterion to justify theistic evolution. I pointed out that your appeal was wildly unrepresentative. That's responding to you on your own grounds. That doesn't commit me to your standard. Rather, it shows that you're inconsistent by your own standard.

Can you accept that Christians can reasonably disagree about whether or not biological evolution conflicts with scripture?

Why should I presume to vouch for the bona fides of theistic evolutionists in general?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Is secular moral realism defensible?

Milestones: Sowing and Reaping

A life-long pastor friend of mine once told me, “John, it’s good that you have a secular career to support your theology work. There’s no money in theology”.

To be sure, when the secular work becomes interrupted, the theology gets interrupted as well.

On Tuesday (March 13), quite by chance, I achieved two major milestones in my life. Of course, I don’t believe in “chance”, but two things came together nicely.

Early in the morning, I passed a certification test that will enable me to be employable for at least several years to come – this is good because I’m 58 now, and my career focus in the technology world has shifted from “I want to be a rising star” to “hold on and be useful for a little while longer”.

And later in the day, I also received a copy of my first article to be published in a theological journal. (I’m hoping that this part of my work-life expands, even as the first part recedes).