Saturday, September 13, 2014

Was Cruz right?

Luke's genealogy

Matthew's focus is on the royal throne succession (he follows the OT list of the kings of Judah down to the exile), whereas Luke traces Joseph's ancestry not through Solomon the king but through another son of David who did not become king. Is Luke's then more a biological genealogy, as against an official throne list presented by Matthew, the two lists coming together briefly in Shealtiel and Zerubbabel and then again with Joseph? R. T. France, Luke (Baker 2013), 57. 

Taking belated credit for someone else's sleuthing

Now while the Team Pyro folks have surely been consistent in their public critique of Driscoll, and they have gotten some credit for having said "We told you so" about Driscoll in the last decade, no, they didn't.  Let's put it this way, were they on Driscoll's case over the last ten years about how carefully he gave credit where credit was due?  Nope.  They didn't say jack about plagiarism or the consolidation of power in the executive wing behind the scenes because it wasn't about those things for that crew, it was about Mark cussing and about Mark being too charismatic.

Alien Antichrist

In this post I'm going to discuss the perennially popular topic of the Antichrist. I will be speculating, but everyone who opines on the identity of the Antichrist has to speculate, so that puts me in good (as well as bad!) company.
For purposes of this post, I will stipulate that there's a personal Antichrist (in contrast to the Antichrist as an influence, movement, principle, or institution). And I will stipulate that the Antichrist is a future figure. He hasn't come and gone. 
What's a realistic scenario for the Antichrist? By "realistic," I mean, taking modern times, into the foreseeable future, as the frame of reference. And including Christian supernaturalism. 
For instance, what is realistic for a modern Antichrist isn't realistic for a medieval Antichrist, or vice versa. We'd expect a medieval Antichrist to reflect and exploit medieval historical conditions.  
The Biblical concept of the Antichrist is a composite. The Antichrist has the following job description:
i) A world ruler
ii) A sorcerer 
iii) A false prophet or deceiver who misleads unbelievers and nominal Christians
iv) A persecutor of the faithful
v) A figure who demands and receives universal worship
(Rev 13 subdivides the composite into two distinct figures: the beast and the false prophet. Whether or not we take that literally would have some affect on the job description.)
Those are large shoes to fill. Thus far, no historical figure was up to the challenge.
Let's consider some features of our own culture which might predispose or socially condition most people to accept the Antichrist if he appeared in that typecast role:
i) Many unbelievers worship at the altar of science. They revere great scientists. They revere famous physicists (e.g. Hawking, Einstein) or biologists (e.g. Darwin, Dawkins). 
ii) By the same token, many unbelievers venerate genius. Since they deny the existence of an omniscient God, human genius is the next best thing. For unbelievers, genius is godlike. That's why, for instance, they automatically value the opinion of somebody like Stephen Hawking on religion, even though Hawking is quite ignorant of theology. But because he's reputed to be one of the smartest men alive, and a scientist to boot, they just assume that anything he has to say about anything must be deeply insightful.
iii) In some science fiction films (e.g. Stargate, Prometheus, 2001: A Space Odyssey), gods and angels are really ancient astronauts. Extraterrestrials who came to earth millennia ago and jumpstarted human civilization.  
iv) Another science fiction theme is aliens who save us from ourselves. Humans are on the verge of self-destruction until benevolent aliens intervene. Aliens with superior technology and superior intelligence. 
v) This isn't just science fiction. Carl Sagan's SETI program is an attempt to contact alien civilizations. And the film Contact reflects his yearning for an extraterrestrial Savior. Astrobiological messianism.  
Yes, that's still science fiction, but there are people–including some scientists–who think that's a realistic scientific enterprise. 
vi) On a related note, many unbelievers are ufologists. 
vii) Transhumanism seeks immortality and apotheosis through bioengineering. 
viii) Many unbelievers think religion (or "fundamentalism") poses a dire threat to the survival of the human race. 
ix) Many unbelievers are terrified by "climate change." 
Here's a suggestion: suppose the Antichrist will be a human sorcerer (empowered by Satan) who uses witchcraft to impersonate a benign alien. According to Arthur Clarke's third law, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." But that's reversible. Magic is indistinguishable from advanced technology.
Suppose the Antichrist uses magic to simulate alien technology. An optical illusion. He descends over Manhattan, Jerusalem, or the White House in the Mother Ship. His "spacecraft" is invulnerable to NORAD. Imagine the reception he'd get from the general populace.
This might even dovetail with astronomical signs of the endtimes, if we update or reinterpret the imagery in terms of space-age technology. Likewise, the Antichrist might perform celestial portents and prodigies to convince doubters (cf. Deut 13:1-2). 
Suppose he used his magic, disguised as alien technology, to heal incurable diseases. Or manipulated weather systems to stabilized "climate change." It's easy to imagine that he'd have the whole world groveling at his feet in no time. A quasi-religious cult would immediately coalesce around his person and image. One-world religion. Ecumenists would applaud the dissolution of acrimonious religious divisions. Churches would be emptied by a great apostasy as nominal Christians flocked to the Antichrist. 
Of course, devout Christians would be the holdouts. So he'd task the authorities to persecute Christians. 
Once he consolidated his power, he could drop the benevolent pose. And he himself is just a puppet or frontman for the devil. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The gates of hell shall not prevail

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pitand a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 

What does the binding of Satan stand in contrast to? How does Satan unbound behave compared to Satan bound? Well, in one respect, Satan bound can't "deceive the nations." But what does that amount to?

According to 20:7-8, to "deceive the nations" means to recruit an army against "the saints." His deceptive ability enables him to rally the troops. That's consistent with premillennialism. 

But it's also consistent with amillennialism. Notice that v8 depicts the assault on a global scale. A worldwide military campaign. 

During the church age, Satan is bound in the sense that he's unable to mount a concerted attack on global Christianity. He can wage and win regional battles. But although the church is dying in some localities, it is spreading to other localities. And even persecution can backfire. An underground church movement may be bigger, more vigorous than fair-weather churches. He loses by winning. Satan can attack the Christian community at different times and places, but he can't snuff it out. 

How Jesus viewed the OT

i) Some critics of inerrancy claim that Jesus corrected the OT. Therefore, Jesus didn't subscribe to inerrancy. Of course, if inerrancy is false, how do they know for sure what Jesus really said? But let's bracket that for now. 

ii) The most often-cited passage to prove their contention is Mt 19:8. But there are some basic problems with that appeal:

a) If would be circular and counterproductive for Jesus to use Genesis to correct Deuteronomy. How can Moses correct himself? Christ's appeal to Gen 1-2 still assumes the authority of the Pentateuch. 

b) Marriage is a creation ordinance. Divorce is not. So the two lack equal standing. 

c) Although divorce was a concession to human hard-heartedness, that doesn't mean Deut 24 was mistaken or uninspired. There's a fundamental sense in which the entire old covenant is a divine accommodation to sinners. Same thing with the new covenant. Strict justice demands immediate retribution. The fact that God provides lesser penalties, temporary remedies, or simply forgives sin, is a merciful concession to our moral and spiritual plight. Gen 1-2 presents the ideal. Deut 24 fell short of the ideal. But that's true of God's dealings with his people in general. God doesn't punish us as we deserve. 

iii) Sometimes critics cite the so-called antitheses in Mt 5 ("You have heard, but I say"). But that doesn't mean Jesus is correcting the Mosaic law. In context, Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees. Criticizing the oral Torah. Something he did on other occasions as well. Pharisaic casuistry was, by turns, stricter and laxer than the Mosaic law. 

iv) Finally, critics appeal to how Jesus would sometimes break the Sabbath. However, the Sabbath was never an end in itself, but a means to an end. Higher obligations supersede lower obligations. 

Likewise, the ceremonial law was never a moral absolute. It was inherently temporary: meant to foreshadow something greater and more enduring.  

v) Moreover, we need to consider Christ's overall view of the OT. As Warfield documents:

     (3) John 10:34-35. How far the supreme trustworthiness of Scripture, thus asserted, extends may be conveyed to us by a passage in one of Our Lord’s discourses recorded by John (John 10:34-35). The Jews, offended by Jesus’ “making himself God,” were in the act to stone Him, when He defended Himself thus: “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), say ye of him, whom the Father sanctified (margin “consecrated”) and sent unto the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” It may be thought that this defense is inadequate. It certainly is incomplete: Jesus made Himself God (John 10:33) in a far higher sense than that in which “Ye are gods” was said of those “unto whom the word of God came”: He had just declared in unmistakable terms, “I and the Father are one.” But it was quite sufficient for the immediate end in view—to repel the technical charge of blasphemy based on His making Himself God: it is not blasphemy to call one God in any sense in which he may fitly receive that designation; and certainly if it is not blasphemy to call such men as those spoken of in the passage of Scripture adduced gods, because of their official functions, it cannot be blasphemy to call Him God whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world. The point for us to note, however, is merely that Jesus’ defense takes the form of an appeal to Scripture; and it is important to observe how He makes this appeal. In the first place, He adduces the Scriptures as law: “Is it not written in your law?” He demands. The passage of Scripture which He adduces is not written in that portion of Scripture which was more specifically called “the Law,” that is to say, the Pentateuch; nor in any portion of Scripture of formally legal contents. It is written in the Book of Psalms; and in a particular psalm which is as far as possible from presenting the external characteristics of legal enactment (Psalm 82:6). When Jesus adduces this passage, then, as written in the “law” of the Jews, He does it, not because it stands in this psalm, but because it is a part of Scripture at large. In other words, He here ascribes legal authority to the entirety of Scripture, in accordance with a conception common enough among the Jews (cf. John 12:34), and finding expression in the New Testament occasionally, both on the lips of Jesus Himself, and in the writings of the apostles. Thus, on a later occasion (John 15:25), Jesus declares that it is written in the “law” of the Jews, “They hated me without a cause,” a clause found in Psalm 35:19. And Paul assigns passages both from the Psalms and from Isaiah to “the Law” (1 Cor. 14:21Rom. 3:19), and can write such a sentence as this (Gal. 4:21-22): “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written ....” quoting from the narrative of Genesis. We have seen that the entirety of Scripture was conceived as “prophecy”; we now see that the entirety of Scripture was also conceived as “law”: these three terms, the law, prophecy, Scripture, were indeed, materially, strict synonyms, as our present passage itself advises us, by varying the formula of adduction in contiguous verses from “law” to “scripture.” And what is thus implied in the manner in which Scripture is adduced, is immediately afterward spoken out in the most explicit language, because it forms an essential element in Our Lord’s defense. It might have been enough to say simply, “Is it not written in your law?” But Our Lord, determined to drive His appeal to Scripture home, sharpens the point to the utmost by adding with the highest emphasis: “and the scripture cannot be broken.” This is the reason why it is worth while to appeal to what is “written in the law,” because “the scripture cannot be broken.” The word “broken” here is the common one for breaking the law, or the Sabbath, or the like (John 5:187:23Mat. 5:19), and the meaning of the declaration is that it is impossible for the Scripture to be annulled, its authority to be withstood, or denied. The movement of thought is to the effect that, because it is impossible for the Scripture—the term is perfectly general and witnesses to the unitary character of Scripture (it is all, for the purpose in hand, of a piece)—to be withstood, therefore this particular Scripture which is cited must be taken as of irrefragable authority. What we have here is, therefore, the strongest possible assertion of the indefectible authority of Scripture; precisely what is true of Scripture is that it “cannot be broken.” Now, what is the particular thing in Scripture, for the confirmation of which the indefectible authority of Scripture is thus invoked? It is one of its most casual clauses—more than that, the very form of its expression in one of its most casual clauses. This means, of course, that in the Savior’s view the indefectible authority of Scripture attaches to the very form of expression of its most casual clauses. It belongs to Scripture through and through, down to its most minute particulars, that it is of indefectible authority.
     It is sometimes suggested, it is true, that Our Lord’s argument here is an argumentum ad hominem, and that His words, therefore, express not His own view of the authority of Scripture, but that of His Jewish opponents. It will scarcely be denied that there is a vein of satire running through Our Lord’s defense: that the Jews so readily allowed that corrupt judges might properly be called “gods,” but could not endure that He whom the Father had consecrated and sent into the world should call Himself Son of God, was a somewhat pungent fact to throw up into such a high light. But the argument from Scripture is not ad hominem but e concessu; Scripture was common ground with Jesus and His opponents. If proof were needed for so obvious a fact, it would be supplied by the circumstance that this is not an isolated but a representative passage. The conception of Scripture thrown up into such clear view here supplies the ground of all Jesus’ appeals to Scripture, and of all the appeals of the New Testament writers as well. Everywhere, to Him and to them alike, an appeal to Scripture is an appeal to an indefectible authority whose determination is final; both He and they make their appeal indifferently to every part of Scripture, to every element in Scripture, to its most incidental clauses as well as to its most fundamental principles, and to the very form of its expression. This attitude toward Scripture as an authoritative document is, indeed, already intimated by their constant designation of it by the name of Scripture, the Scriptures, that is “the Document,” by way of eminence; and by their customary citation of it with the simple formula, “It is written.” What is written in this document admits so little of questioning that its authoritativeness required no asserting, but might safely be taken for granted. Both modes of expression belong to the constantly illustrated habitudes of Our Lord’s speech. The first words He is recorded as uttering after His manifestation to Israel were an appeal to the unquestionable authority of Scripture; to Satan’s temptations He opposed no other weapon than the final “It is written”! (Mat. 4:4,7,10Luke 4:4,8). And among the last words which He spoke to His disciples before He was received up was a rebuke to them for not understanding that all things “which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and psalms” concerning Him—that is (Luke 24:45) in the entire “Scriptures”—“must needs be” (very emphatic) “fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). “Thus it is written,” says He (Luke 24:46), as rendering all doubt absurd. For, as He had explained earlier upon the same day (Luke 24:25-27), it argues only that one is “foolish and slow of heart” if he does not “believe in” (if his faith does not rest securely on, as on a firm foundation) “all” (without limit of subject-matter here) “that the prophets” (explained in Luke 24:27 as equivalent to “all the scriptures”) “have spoken.”

4. Christ’s Declaration That Scripture Must Be Fulfilled

The necessity of the fulfillment of all that is written in Scripture, which is so strongly asserted in these last instructions to His disciples, is frequently adverted to by Our Lord. He repeatedly explains of occurrences occasionally happening that they have come to pass “that the scripture might be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49John 13:1817:12; cf. 12:14Mark 9:12,13). On the basis of Scriptural declarations, therefore, He announces with confidence that given events will certainly occur: “All ye shall be offended (literally, “scandalized”) in me this night: for it is written ....” (Mat. 26:31Mark 14:27; cf. Luke 20:17). Although holding at His command ample means of escape, He bows before on-coming calamities, for, He asks, how otherwise “should the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Mat. 26:54). It is not merely the two disciples with whom He talked on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:25) whom He rebukes for not trusting themselves more perfectly to the teaching of Scripture. “Ye search the scriptures,” he says to the Jews, in the classical passage (John 5:39), “because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me; and ye will not come to me, that ye may have life!” These words surely were spoken more in sorrow than in scorn: there is no blame implied either for searching the Scriptures or for thinking that eternal life is to be found in Scripture; approval rather. What the Jews are blamed for is that they read with a veil lying upon their hearts which He would fain take away (2 Cor. 3:15-16). “Ye search the scriptures”—that is right: and “even you” (emphatic) “think to have eternal life in them”—that is right, too. But “it is these very Scriptures” (very emphatic) “which are bearing witness” (continuous process) “of me; and” (here is the marvel!) “ye will not come to me and have life!”—that you may, that is, reach the very end you have so properly in view in searching the Scriptures. Their failure is due, not to the Scriptures but to themselves, who read the Scriptures to such little purpose.

5. Christ’s Testimony That God Is Author

Quite similarly Our Lord often finds occasion to express wonder at the little effect to which Scripture had been read, not because it had been looked into too curiously, but because it had not been looked into earnestly enough, with sufficiently simple and robust trust in its every declaration. “Have ye not read even this scripture?” He demands, as He adduces Psalm 118 to show that the rejection of the Messiah was already intimated in Scripture (Mark 12:10Mat. 21:42 varies the expression to the equivalent: “Did ye never read in the scriptures?”). And when the indignant Jews came to Him complaining of the Hosannas with which the children in the Temple were acclaiming Him, and demanding, “Hearest thou what these are saying?” He met them (Mat. 21:16) merely with, “Yea: did ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou has perfected praise?” The underlying thought of these passages is spoken out when He intimates that the source of all error in Divine things is just ignorance of the Scriptures: “Ye do err,” He declares to His questioners, on an important occasion, “not knowing the scriptures” (Mat. 22:29); or, as it is put, perhaps more forcibly, in interrogative form, in its parallel in another Gospel: “Is it not for this cause that ye err, that ye know not the scriptures?” (Mark 12:24). Clearly, he who rightly knows the Scriptures does not err. The confidence with which Jesus rested on Scripture, in its every declaration, is further illustrated in a passage like Mat. 19:4. Certain Pharisees had come to Him with a question on divorce and He met them thus: “Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh? .... What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” The point to be noted is the explicit reference of Gen. 2:24 to God as its author: “He who made them .... said”; “what therefore God hath joined together.” Yet this passage does not give us a saying of God’s recorded in Scripture, but just the word of Scripture itself, and can be treated as a declaration of God’s only on the hypothesis that all Scripture is a declaration of God’s. The parallel in Mark (10:5 ff) just as truly, though not as explicitly, assigns the passage to God as its author, citing it as authoritative law and speaking of its enactment as an act of God’s. And it is interesting to observe in passing that Paul, having occasion to quote the same passage (1 Cor. 6:16), also explicitly quotes it as a Divine word: “For, The twain, saith he, shall become one flesh”—the “he” here, in accordance with a usage to be noted later, meaning just “God.”
     Thus clear is it that Jesus’ occasional adduction of Scripture as an authoritative document rests on an ascription of it to God as its author. His testimony is that whatever stands written in Scripture is a word of God. Nor can we evacuate this testimony of its force on the plea that it represents Jesus only in the days of His flesh, when He may be supposed to have reflected merely the opinions of His day and generation. The view of Scripture He announces was, no doubt, the view of His day and generation as well as His own view. But there is no reason to doubt that it was held by Him, not because it was the current view, but because, in His Divine-human knowledge, He knew it to be true; for, even in His humiliation, He is the faithful and true witness. And in any event we should bear in mind that this was the view of the resurrected as well as of the humiliated Christ. It was after He had suffered and had risen again in the power of His Divine life that He pronounced those foolish and slow of heart who do not believe all that stands written in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:25); and that He laid down the simple “Thus it is written” as the sufficient ground of confident belief (Luke 24:46). Nor can we explain away Jesus’ testimony to the Divine trustworthiness of Scripture by interpreting it as not His own, but that of His followers, placed on His lips in their reports of His words. Not only is it too constant, minute, intimate and in part incidental, and therefore, as it were, hidden, to admit of this interpretation; but it so pervades all our channels of information concerning Jesus’ teaching as to make it certain that it comes actually from Him. It belongs not only to the Jesus of our evangelical records but as well to the Jesus of the earlier sources which underlie our evangelical records, as anyone may assure himself by observing the instances in which Jesus adduces the Scriptures as Divinely authoritative that are recorded in more than one of the Gospels (e.g. “It is written,” Mat. 4:4,7,10 (Luke 4:4,8,10); Mat. 11:10; (Luke 7:27); Mat. 21:13 (Luke 19:46Mark 11:17); Mat. 26:31 (Mark 14:21); “the scripture” or “the scriptures,” Mat. 19:4 (Mark 10:9); Mat. 21:42 (Mark 12:10Luke 20:17);Mat. 22:29 (Mark 12:24Luke 20:37); Mat. 26:56 (Mark 14:49Luke 24:44)). These passages alone would suffice to make clear to us the testimony of Jesus to Scripture as in all its parts and declarations Divinely authoritative.

Reformation era background to the discussion of archetypal and ectypal theology

Stop Exaggerating The Temptation To Pornography

The more secular a society becomes, the more likely it is to become more trivial and more vulgar as well. That's the fruit of secularism.

Yesterday, Tim Challies linked a BreakPoint story about recent Barna research on pornography use. You can find a summary of the study's findings here. Among other statistics, a majority of married men say that they view pornography at least once a month. The numbers are broken down into age groups, and there's sometimes a significant difference from one age group to another. But in almost all of the age groups of both men and women, less than 10% say they never view pornography. Given that "never" is ambiguous, since it could allow for past pornography viewing among people who haven't been viewing it more recently, the percentage who have never viewed pornography at any point in their lives probably is even smaller than the percentage who selected the "never" answer.

The Anabaptist dilemma

Anabaptism is fashionable among the Evangelical Left these days. A safe, abstract Anabaptism. Not the stuff of martyrs.

There's a striking tension in traditional Anabaptist theology. On the one hand, Anabaptists deplore "Constantinian Christianity." They deplore "Christendom." 

They think Christians should eschew politics. That's too compromising. A Christian in government is inevitably complicit in the Constantinian paradigm. The use of force, coercion. The acquisition of power. Punishing wrongdoers. National and institutional self-preservation. 

On the other hand, they think we should be merciful to our enemies. Love our enemies. 

For them, affirming the latter means disaffirming the former. The Constantinian paradigm and the Sermon on the Mount (as they understand it) are antithetical. 

So where's the point of tension? Well, by eschewing political office, Anabaptists are reduced to individual acts of mercy. Little deeds of charity. A Christian should love his enemies. Be merciful to his enemies. 

But when you think about it, that's a very small scale enterprise. Very piecemeal. At best, that only affects a smattering of enemies. 

Ironically, the only people who are actually in a position to show mercy to enemies on a massive scale are people in authority. Individuals who wield great power over others. Heads-of-state. Generals. To exercise mercy on a large scale requires commensurate authority. 

By absenting themselves from government and the military, Anabaptists forfeit the opportunity to be benevolent or forbearing to the enemy in large numbers. They cede the prerogative to others. 

For instance, I'm sure Anabaptists deplore the nuking of Japan by the Truman administration. But, of course, by refusing to serve in government at all, much less high office, Anabaptists leave that decision in the hands of policymakers who don't share their sentiments. 

Or take Gen. Sherman. After the Civil War, he turned his attention to the Plains Indians. Presumably, Anabaptists would be appalled by his policies. But only a man in Sherman's position would be in a position to adopt a more humanitarian policy. That takes power over others. By disempowering Christians, Anabaptists lack the power to show mercy on a grand scale. They can only show clemency to mere handfuls of people. 

The Moral Poverty of Evolutionary Naturalism

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Loving myself as my neighbor

After immersing myself in Ron Sider, Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Philip Yancey, and Stanley Hauerwas, I've decided to become a social justice advocate. My epiphany came as I was meditating on the logical implications of loving my neighbor as myself. It dawned on me that if I'm obliged to love my neighbor as myself, then, by converse logic, I'm obliged to love myself as my neighbor. 

Therefore, after much soul-searching and agonizing, I've decided to buy this house–the better to love myself as I love my neighbor:

The cost of discipleship impels me to make this sacrificial move. Social justice demands no less. 

Armageddon redux

Premils read Rev 19-20:1-10 chronologically. Christ returns. Followed by a battle. Followed by the binding of Satan. Followed by the Millennium. Followed by another, more decisive battle. 

One prima facie problem with that deceptively straightforward reading is that both battles have their common background in the same battle in Ezk 38-39. John split a single battle into two separate battles–as if part B is the delayed effect of part A–then intercalated the Millennium. 

That raises the question of how we should understand the sequence of events. If John bifurcates one battle into two, then inserts the MIllennium between them, as a kind of buffer zone, is that still meant to be a linear series of events? Or is his flexibility in recasting the original scene an indication that the sequence is schematic rather than literal? Is the two-part battle a framing device to inset the Millennium? 

In theory, there are different ways to explain this: (i) It's possible that John began with Ezk 38-39, and reworked it. That would be literary. (ii) It's possible that God gave John the same vision that he gave Ezekiel, which John redacted to make room for an intervening Millennium (which John also envisioned). That would be editorial. (iii) And it's possible that God revealed a two-part battle, with a millennial intermezzo. Obviously, we're not in a position to reconstruct the original experience. 

Time dilation

In Scripture, visionary revelation is aa standard mode of divine revelation. This consists of dreams and waking visions. The difference between ordinary dreams and revelatory dreams is the difference between uninspired and inspired dreams. Ordinary dreams are the product of the dreamer's imagination whereas revelatory dreams are the product of divine inspiration. But the process is similar. The experience is similar. 

One familiar feature of dreams is the difference between dream time and real time. The passage of time is different in dreams. For instance, many of us have had the experience of waking up at night, glancing at the clock, where we see the time, on the illuminated digital readout. We then fall asleep, have a dream that involves a lengthy narrative, wake up again, only to see that just a few minutes have passed in real time, although hours (or more) passed in dream time. Dream time doesn't synchronize with real time. The rate at which events happen in a dream doesn't match real-world events outside the dream. Given that John was a seer, it's not surprising that Revelation reflects this time dilation. 

Although debates about Revelation often focus on how such visions relate to the world of time and space, it is important to ask how these scenes relate to each other, creating a narrative world in which the ordinary constraints of time and space do not apply.
The combination of elements can best be pictured as a forward-moving spiral, which repeatedly leads readers through scenes of threat and back to the presence of God, even as the broad storyline moves forward to the new creation. Vision cycles both overlap and progress, with individual sections tracing the movement from conflict to victory that shapes the book as a whole.  
Time has multiple dimensions in Revelation. John's visionary experience occurs on the Lord's Day, when Christians gathered for worship (1:9). Although John is presumably alone when the visions come, he locates the experience in "worship time"… 
Next is the flow of time within the visionary world. The main period begins when Satan is thrown down after the Messiah's birth and exaltation, and concludes when Christ returns and Satan is bound (12:1-17; 19:11-20:3). Revelation says that this period of conflict with evil is "short" (12:12) and lasts for three and a half years, which equals forty-two months (13:5), 1,260 days (12:6), and "a time and times and half a time" (12:14). But in the visionary world this "short" period extends from Christ's first coming until his final return. Visionary time does not correspond to chronological time in the readers' world. Revelation was written decades after the death of Jesus, yet the entire period of the church's conflict with evil fits within the three and a half years of visionary time (11:2-3). 
A major question is what "soon" means, and Revelation's history of interpretation has often focused on this question. John does not say that "the end" must soon take place. The idea is more complex. The messages in 1:9-3:22 warn that without repentance, Christ will come "soon," not to end the present age but to discipline each congregation (2:16). Later visions continue to complicate the sense of what "soon" means, since the scenes in the middle of the book do not unfold in a linear fashion but repeatedly interrupt the movement toward the end so that people can be sealed (7:1-17) and John can prophesy (10:1-11). 
The interpretive problem is that visionary time has no straightforward connection to chronological time in the readers' world. Visions show the Christian community's conflict with evil lasting for three and a half years (12:6; 13:5); yet this period begins when Christ is exalted to heaven and Satan is thrown down to the earth (12:5,7-9), and it ends when Christ returns and Satan is bound (19:11-20:3). So the time that Satan rages is "short" in the visionary world (12:12), but chronologically it encompasses the entire span between Christ's first and final comings…The book's imagery, interrupted sequences, and symbolic use of time means that readers cannot determine what "soon" means chronologically. 
In the visionary world, the three and half years encompass the entire time between the Messiah's exaltation and final return…Time in the visionary world is not equivalent to time in the readers' world. By the time Revelation was composed, many more than three and half years had elapsed since the end of Jesus' ministry. The writer does not use the traditional period of three and a half years in a simple chronological sense. Rather, it is his way of characterizing his own time as the end of the age…Time does not function in the same way in the visionary world as it does in the ordinary world. 
The approach taken here is that John's readers would have seen themselves living in the time when Satan and the beast were at work, and not in the millennial age after the beast was defeated and Satan was bound. For them, the end of evil remained a future hope. But this approach also recognizes that the visionary world does not outline a chronological sequence of events that can be correlated directly with the readers' world.
Tracing a series of events in the visionary world does not mean that the scenes correspond to a series of distinct events in the readers' world. First, there's the fluidity in Revelation's use of the OT…John does not assume that there is a one-to-one correspondence between an OT prophecy and its fulfillment in an eschatological  event. C. Koester, Revelation (Yale 2014), xiv, 115, 120-121, 222-223, 562-563, 782, 789.

Stop & seize

More About “Knowing”

For those who are following along:

Warfield on Calvin on Special and General Revelation.

From Richard Muller:
Echoes of Scotus, Ockham, and Eck in the Reformed Orthodox discussion of faith and reason

Lessons From Nabeel Qureshi's Book

I recently read Nabeel Qureshi's Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2014). It's the story of a Muslim layman's conversion to Christianity, written for the general public, so it addresses the issues in an introductory to intermediate way. Since Qureshi's conversion involved a vision and some dreams that apparently were miraculous, he provides eyewitness testimony to some Christian miracles. The book is interesting, moving, and well written. If you want to read more about it, there are hundreds of reviews of the book at Amazon alone. What I want to do in the remainder of this post is highlight some portions of the book that stood out to me on subjects other than Islam.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Loving our neighbors as well as our enemies

Pray at your own risk

1) Open theists contend that petitionary prayer is otiose if Calvinism is true. If our prayers are predestined, then our prayers have no effect.

I've discussed that objection on more than one occasion, so I won't repeat myself in detail. I'd simply point out that this objection is confused. Predestined prayers are efficacious in the counterfactual sense that, absent prayer, the outcome would be different.

2) But to shift to the main point of the post. What about the open theist alternative? Let's start by listing presuppositions of prayer:

i) We should pray for the best

ii) We don't necessarily know what is for the best

iii) It would be bad for God to grant our request unless it's for the best

iii) God knows best

iv) In case we pray for the wrong thing, we hope that God will grant the request we would have made had we known better

3) Now compare that to open theism. In open theism, God doesn't know what is for the best. Because God doesn't know the future, he cannot know ahead of time what is for the best.

He doesn't know what we are thinking before we think it. I may do something risky. I may do something that endangers somebody else. Since God can't foresee the consequences of our indeterminate choices, he can't act in advance with our best interests in view. He can only react. But that's often too late. 

In open theism, God is the first responder. He's the fireman who shows up after your home is already engulfed in flames. He's the paramedic who arrives on scene as the gunshot victim is bleeding out on the street. 

4) If open theism is true, then it's dangerous to pray to God. It's hazardous to ask God to intervene when God might unwittingly make the situation that much worse. There's only so much damage a human can do. But a shortsighted God can do far more damage, with the best of intentions. 

Prayer in open theism is like the law of unintended consequences. You're safer not to ask God for help. 

Pacifism and open theism

Over the last several weeks I’ve received some form of this question almost every day. In some cases the question is asked rhetorically, as though the very question exposes the absurdity of suggesting we are to love this terroristic group. Other times the question is asked with a pragmatic twist. One person recently said to me: “If everyone just laid down their arms and loved ISIS, America would before long be under their barbaric rule. Is that what you really want?” I assured him that it was not.
To begin, it’s first important to remember that the teaching of Jesus, Paul and the rest of the New Testament about never retaliating and about instead choosing to love, bless, pray for, and do good to our enemies is emphatic, unambiguous, and never once qualified (e.g. Mt 5:21-6, 38-48; Lk 6:27-36; Rom 12:14-21). Indeed, Jesus goes so far as to make our willingness to unconditionally love enemies the pre-condition for being considered a “child of your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:44-5; Lk 6:35-6). While this radical mandate may violate our core intuitions about justified violence, and while it certainly flies in the face of many people’s pragmatic concerns, if we confess Jesus as Lord, I submit that this simply means there must be something amiss with our intuitions and pragmatic concerns. If Jesus is in fact Lord, faithfulness to his teaching and example must trump all other considerations. Otherwise we must face Jesus’ pointed question: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say” (Lk 6:46)?
Second, it’s important to note that the pragmatic concern about what would happen if everyone obeyed Jesus and therefore loved ISIS is a Christendom-type concern, for it presupposes that part of the job of Christians is to run the world. 
- See more at:

That sounds very pious. But does it withstand scrutiny?

i) Boyd rejects the inerrancy of Scripture. So even if we grant his interpretation, why assume the Sermon on the Mount is the teaching of Jesus rather than the teaching of the anonymous redactor who composed Matthew? Given his repudiation of inerrancy Scripture, why not assume Jesus is just a character in the Gospel, for whom the redactor made-up speeches which reflect the views of the redactor rather than the historical Jesus?

It's funny how compartmentalized people like Boyd can be. He acts as if he can reject Biblical inerrancy, but keep everything else in check. As if, having denied Biblical inerrancy, he can go right ahead and prooftext his theology. 

ii) Up to a point, I agree with Boyd that if his interpretation is correct, then Christians are duty-bound to take our lumps. 

iii) His misrepresents the opposing argument. Military opposition to ISIS is not about a "Christendom-type concern." It's not about Christians "running the world." 

Rather, it's about protecting persecuted Christians. It's about self-defense. 

Now, as a pacifist, Boyd rejects that. But my point is that he's burning a straw man. Wanting to protect your loved ones from Muslim terrorists is hardly equivalent to running the world.

iv) There is, though, a deeper problem with Boyd's position. This isn't your grandfather's Anabaptism. This is a synthesis of pacifism and open theism. That's a different animal.

v) Jesus isn't Lord in open theism in the same sense that Jesus is Lord in Calvinism, classical theism, or even classical Arminianism. You can't just swap out one theism, swap in another theism, but leave everything else intact. It's like the Mormon Jesus. 

vI) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that open theism is true. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Jesus taught pacifism. Should we obey Jesus? Should we submit to Jesus?

Before answering that question, let's take a comparison. In Calvinism, God acts in the best long-term interests of his people. He doesn't always protect his people from harm, not because he is unable to, but because, in his inscrutable wisdom, it's sometimes better to let Christians suffer. God can be trusted to care for our ultimate welfare, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. We submit to God because he's trustworthy. He has our best interests at heart. 

vii) Now contrast that with open theism. In open theism, even if God means well, there are many situations in which God can't protect you. He forfeited the ability to protect you when he chose to endow creatures with libertarian freedom. 

But in that event, there are many situations in which God has left us to fend for ourselves. We can't count on God to look out for our wellbeing. God is not in control. He ceded control to the vicissitudes of chance. 

In addition, God doesn't even know what's in our best interests. If you don't know the future, you don't know what's best for you. 

It's like a game of chess. Chess is a series of moves and countermoves. What's the best move? That's not something you know in advance. Your next move depends one what your opponent does. You have to wait and see what move he makes. Only then are you in a position to judge the best move to counter the his move. The next move depends on the last move. The best move in relation to the last move. 

The God of open theism doesn't know if Ted Bundy will escape. He doesn't know what free creatures intend to do before they themselves intend to do it. In freewill theism, our intentions are not the causal result of prior mental states. 

Even if he knows that Bundy is planning to escape, he doesn't know if that will succeed. For the success of Bundy's plan depends on the failure of other free agents (e.g. prison guards). And that's unpredictable.

Even if Bundy escapes, God doesn't know what Bundy will do next unless Bundy knows what he will do next. God doesn't know if, when, where, or who Bundy will murder next. 

But in that event, why should we obey God? Why should we obey a God who can't protect us? Who doesn't know what's best for us?

If open theism is true, then God has put us in a situation where we can't rely on him. He's essentially undependable. At best, he means well. But that's ignorant and ineffectual. God can't be trusted to do right by us. 

We are vulnerable. God is not. To be blunt, the God of open theism doesn't have the right to tell us to disarm. He can't protect us. And he doesn't know ahead of time if the unforeseeable outcome will turn out for our good. And after the fact, it's too late. He cut us adrift. 

viii) This isn't like Arminians who say the God of Calvinism is unworthy of our worship. I'm not judging open theism by my own standards. Rather, I'm taking the yardstick which open theism hands me, and returning the favor. Measuring open theism by its own yardstick. 

Is history written by the winners?

To my knowledge, this popular adage has two related meanings:

i) The losers never get to tell their side of the story. History books are written by the winners, from their own slanted perspective. Their self-congratulatory version of events is the official story. 

ii) The winners cast themselves as the heroes and the losers as the villains. The winners depict themselves in the best possible light, and the losers in the worst possible light. 

This adage is used to preemptively discredit historical knowledge. Used to discredit Bible history and church history. But is it true?

i) The Bible doesn't portray Jews and Christians in a very heroic light. The Gospels depict the disciples as obtuse, incredulous, and cowardly. The NT letters generally present churches in a state of moral and/or doctrinal crisis. The OT depicts the Jews as incorrigibly corrupt. Constantly backsliding into paganism. There's a righteous remnant, but that's in the distinct minority. 

ii) Josephus wrote two very influential history books. Was he one of the winners? To the contrary, he was defeated by the Romans. He wrote to rehabilitate the image of the Jews in Roman eyes.

iii) There's a difference between not allowing the "losers" to tell their side of the story, and not preserving their side of the story. Christian monks weren't motivated to copy and recopy books by heretics. But that's not the same thing as suppressing their literature or destroying their literature. 

iv) Let's take another historical comparison: the Civil War. Certainly, the winners wrote accounts of the war. For instance, both Sherman and Grant wrote accounts of the war. 

That, however, doesn't mean the losers were prevented from telling their side of the story. For instance, in the 1880s, Jefferson Davis wrote two accounts of the Civil War. So it's not as if the Confederates were censured. 

Likewise, perhaps the classic history of the Civil War was penned by Shelby Foote, a Southern novelist. Admittedly, that was long after the event. 

v) On the other hand, it's striking that Lee never wrote an account of the Civil War. But that's not because he forbidden from doing so, had he so chosen. 

To some extent we can only speculate on why some participants wrote about the Civli War and others did not. 

a) It's more fun to write about winning than losing. What would Lee write about? How I Lost the Civil War? Not very inspirational. 

b) Dabney wrote two books about the war effort, but that was during the war. That was to kindle support for the war effort. 

c) From what I've read about Lee, I think one reason he didn't write about the war was that he was too demoralized. In addition, he probably had his fill of war. 

d) I expect Davis wrote about the war to rehabilitate his tarnished reputation. To my knowledge, he didn't have much respect from either side. He was viewed as a weak, ineffectual leader. 

By contrast, Lee was lionized by Southerns and respected by many Northerners (although Frederick Douglas had a decidedly less exalted view of Lee). So he didn't need to rehabilitate his image. 

The larger point is that losers often have a chance to tell their side of the story. Whether they do so is up to them. And in the case of Bible writers, the self-portraiture is often far from flattering. 

Aquinas gets this wrong, and much confusion follows

The New Testament Text Before The Earliest Manuscripts

Muslims, atheists, and other critics often suggest that our manuscript evidence for the New Testament text isn't good enough, since the text may have been corrupted prior to the earliest copies we have. Here's a series I wrote a few years ago on the subject: part 1, part 2, part 3. The third post discusses corroboration of the reliability of the New Testament text from early non-Christian sources. That's an issue seldom addressed in discussions of textual transmission, but it's highly significant.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Little ripples make big waves

"Sometimes, I wonder about the impact..." by Peter Pike.

Feser on Olson

Given his emphasis on what he claims we would come to think about the divine nature “just reading the Bible,” you might suppose that Olson’s objections are sola scriptura oriented.  However, in a combox remark he says: “I didn't say it's not true just because it's not in the Bible.  My argument was that it conflicts with the biblical portrayal of God…” (emphasis added). So, what arguments does Olson give to show that there is such a conflict?  None that is not fallacious, as far as I can see. 
Consider Olson’s populist appeal to what the “ordinary lay Christian, just reading his or her Bible” would come to think.  I certainly agree with him that the average reader without a theological education would not only not arrive at notions like divine simplicity, immutability, etc., but would even reject them.  But so what?  By itself this is just a fallacious appeal to majority.  Moreover, Olson does not apply this standard consistently.  The average reader might also suppose that God has a body -- for example, that he has legs with which he walks about the garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8), eyes and eyelids (Psalm 11:4), nostrils and lungs with which he breathes (Job 4:9), and so forth.  But Olson acknowledges that God does not have a body.  Since Olson gives us no explanation of why we should trust what the ordinary reader would say vis-à-vis divine simplicity, etc. but not trust him where divine incorporeality is concerned, we seem to have a fallacy of special pleading.  
One of Olson’s readers points out that Olson himself “repudiate[s] much of the biblical portrayal of God,” such as God’s “commanding capital punishment,” and asks how Olson can do so given his appeal to consistency with scripture.  Olson’s response is: “Surely, if you've read me very much, you know the answer -- Jesus.”  But of course, that is no answer at all, since whether Jesus would approve of Olson’s position (vis-à-vis capital punishment or classical theism) or that of Olson’s critic is itself part of what is at issue, so that the reply begs the question.  (Olson also tells the reader -- who, quite rightly, wasn’t satisfied with Olson’s response -- that the reader intends only “to challenge and argue and harass” Olson and lacks a “teachable spirit.”  What Olson does not do is actually answer the reader’s objection.)

Boyd on ISIS

In this light, there is no need for Jesus followers to worry about what would happen if “everyone put down their weapons and loved ISIS.” The number of those willing to actually follow Jesus’ teachings and example has, unfortunately, always been relatively small, even among professing Christians. And, as Jacque Ellul so profoundly argued in is book, Violence: Reflections From A Christian Perspective, as long as there are nations and governments, there will be people who are more than willing to engage in violence, for no national government can rule its people and survive outside threats without being willing to engage in violence. - See more at:

i) To begin with, ISIS isn't state-sponsored. It's the other way around. An effort to create an Islamic state: restore and expand the Caliphate. 

ii) Boyd's pacifist appeal to Ellul is quite ironic, considering the fact that Ellul was a member of the French Resistance. 

White privilege and black privilege

Tremper's temper tantrum

Tremper LongmanSeptember 7 at 1:41pm In a word, the present administration insists on a “single meaning” hermeneutic centered on the conscious intention of the human author. Otherwise, they claim, the Old and New Testaments are not really held together.
And this brings us to the pragmatic reason for Doug’s “retirement.” Here we do well to remember then dean of the faculty Carl Trueman’s public statement (even gloat) about the tactics (which I consider manipulative and cynical) of “taking over” the seminary that I posted earlier.
So pragmatically, we are hearing nothing because they are hoping to hunker down and weather the storm.
So what is the take home message from this sermon? I love the history of WTS and what it used to stand for. But I for one, say “don’t support it in any fashion.” They have the right to take the seminary any direction they want, of course. But if you disagree with the direction and even if you do if you find the tactics disgraceful like I do, then don’t give your money, don’t encourage students to go there, don’t support it in any way.
Westminster Theological Seminary is a toxic environment for the training of future pastors. But there is one thing you should do for it… PRAY. Pray that God will save the seminary.
Please feel free to share this post wit anyone, but especially with anyone on the board, faculty, or administration of the seminary.

i) I have it on good authority that Carl Trueman has been on Sabbatical since January, so he wasn't party to this particular action. Now Longman will have to find another actor to play the villain in his melodrama. Maybe Christopher Walken is available. Or perhaps Mads Mikkelsen could reprise his role as Le Chiffre. That would necessitate WTS relocating to Montenegro, but we mustn't let logistics get in the way of a promising thriller. 

ii) I don't know for a fact why Green was ousted. But I think Longman et al. are acting like babes in the woods to assume it was just a matter of fine-grained hermeneutics. Green has a nearly nonexistent paper trail, so I seriously doubt it was based on his publications. 

Rather, I assume it was based on his classroom teaching. And I figure his views were sufficiently similar to those of Enns to merit the same treatment. I could be wrong about that. But it wouldn't be the first time a WTS prof. developed a reputation based on what he said in class.

iii) I wouldn't say a seminary that has Vern Poythress, Gregory Beale, and Iain Duguid is toxic. WTS is stronger in some departments than others. But that just means no one seminary has all the best scholars. 

Of course, toxicity is relative to one's species. In science fiction, aliens often find earth's atmosphere toxic. So I understand why progressives find the air of orthodoxy unbreathable. They can't survive outside their secular space suit. 

Dissembling Arminians

The issue here, that I have raised for consideration and discussion, has never been whether the Old Testament or any portion of it is inspired. The issue is and has always and only been hermeneutics—how best to interpret portions of the Old Testament. Christians have always disagreed about that—going back to the early church fathers themselves (not including Marcion who was not a church father). Origen and Tertullian both wrote against Marcion, but neither interpreted the whole Old Testament literally. Especially Origen interpreted much of it allegorically (as did the unknown Apostolic Father who wrote the “Epistle of Barnabus”).

That's Olson's bait-and-switch, to deflect attention away from his real position. And it's a hoary liberal ruse. Pretend that this is about the interpretation of Scripture. But, of course, that's not the real issue. And Olson himself has make it abundantly clear that that's not the real issue. 

As he himself usually frames the issue, when he's not on the defensive, the question at issue isn't how the "texts of terror" should be construed, but whether they are true. When they ascribe these actions or commands to Yahweh, is that attribution true? Did God in fact say what the OT says he said? 

That's the real issue, and on many occasions, Olson is upfront about his real position. He himself has admitted on multiple occasions that he repudiates the inerrancy of Scripture. So this isn't about the meaning of Scripture, but the veracity of Scripture. 

Apparently, Olson now feels the need to backpedal a bit, at least rhetorically. To confuse the issue. Olson's dissimulation is just as revealing as his moments of candor. 

Critics of inerrancy like to belittle inerrancy by suggesting it's reflects an obsession with names and numbers. But even though the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture necessarily includes the minutia, it's hardly confined to that. Olson renounces OT theism. He refuses to believe that Yahweh is the one true God, if indeed Yahweh said what the OT says he said. And by renouncing OT theism, he renounces NT theism, for Jesus and the NT authors constantly reaffirm OT theism. 

So Olson is advocating a different religion altogether. And it's not coincidental that he's Arminian. He clearly senses a parallel between Reformed theism and OT theism. He's consistent. 

I have never advocated expelling any part of the Old Testament from the Christian canon. 

Of course not. He doesn't need to. He simply demotes the offending passages to irrelevance by denying their veracity. 

The difference between “What God Knows” and “What He Reveals”

What is “theology”? Richard Muller shows how the Reformed Orthodox began to define the term in using some pre-existing categories; in doing so, he also fleshes out the difference between an epistemology of Thomas Aquinas and that of other writers.

A. To “define theology”: Muller writes:
The theologies of the Reformers, particularly those that took the form of loci communes, did offer a finely conceived approach to the extraction of topical materials from Scripture and to the gathering of these materials into the topics or loci and did offer a refined sense of method and order for the organization of the loci, in accord with the humanist models of the era.

Still, there remains a formal difference between the large scale theologies of the second generation Reformers and the major dogmatic compendia of their successors, a difference identifiable in part by an increasingly detailed theological definition of the task of theology.

Whereas all of the writers just mentioned devoted some attention to the issue of the human knowledge of God and to the issue of scriptural revelation, none of them saw fit to discuss the character of theology as an intellectual discipline set in the context of a finite world and accommodated to the forms of human knowing: none, in short, define theologia (Muller, R. A. (2003). Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise And Development Of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 1: Prolegomena To Theology (2nd ed., pp. 221–222). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic).

Read more.

¿Jesús Mencionó Al Sacerdote Equivocado?

Monday, September 08, 2014

Living death or merciful death?

At the risk of exhuming a horse carcass to flog it some more, I'd like to make a further observation. Some critics of the OT say it was unnecessary to execute the Canaanite kids along with the adults. Adoption was an alternative. They assure us that that would be more merciful than mass execution.

I have to wonder how much thought they've given to that. Imagine you're a Canaanite child of 7, 8, 9. You watch an Israelite soldier put your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older siblings to the sword. He then adopts you.

Is it really more merciful for a 9-year-old (give or take) to witness his whole family cut down while he alone is spared, to be raised by the executioner? Not just being the sole survivor, but being raised by the very person or people who did that to the rest of your family?

From time to time the news reports an accident which killed the parents, leaving their children orphaned. I can't help thinking that it many cases it would be more merciful for families to die together, rather than being torn apart like that. 

I'm not saying that's the ipso facto justification for the OT commands. I'm just responding to critics on their own grounds, when they say the OT commanders are "merciless," and when they offer a more merciful alternative. I don't think they've made a serious effort to project themselves into the mind of a child. Sometimes death is more merciful than life. 

Fact is, it's not hard to destroy a person by killing the one person (or persons) they can't live without. They linger on. But at that point it's a living death. 

Aha moments

Peter Enns has been hosting a series of deconversion testimonials ("aha" moments) about losing faith in the inerrancy of Scripture. Presumably, these anecdotes are more than personal interest stories. Rather, it's an argument from authority. If the Bible scholars in question give these reasons for rejecting the inerrancy of Scripture, then that's why you should too! So let's scrutinize their "aha" moments:

Michael Pahl

I was taught that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, that Deuteronomy’s account of his death and mysterious burial was an instance of prophetic foresight.

How is the fact that Deut 34 is a posthumous obituary incompatible with the inerrancy of Scripture? It doesn't say it was authored by Moses, even though wasn't.

Indeed, vv6,10 clearly imply a posthumous addition. Something written after his demise ("to this day," "not since"). 

Among other things, the posthumous obituary clearly functions to validate the succession from Moses to Joshua (v9). Moreover, it's a transitional pericope, which rounds out the Pentateuch while it leads into the next installment (the Book of Joshua). 

I was taught that Jesus’ words in the Gospels were word-for-word what Jesus said. 

How does that disprove the inerrancy of Scripture? Is inerrancy incompatible with Gospel writers paraphrasing Jesus?  

I was taught that Paul’s gospel was all about how individual sinners get saved, so that after death we can escape hell and enter heaven. 

What, exactly, is wrong with that? I suppose he's alluding to N. T. Wright. What if Wright is mistaken instead? 

I was taught a bunch of things “the Bible says” that I no longer believe the Bible says.

Notice his failure to distinguish between what Scripture teaches and what he was taught Scripture teaches. Why is he unable to draw that elementary distinction?

Michael Ruffin

Me: “That Moses didn’t write everything in those books.”Dad: “Really?”Me: “Yes, really.”Dad: “Huh. Well, I always wondered how Moses managed to write about his own death.”

Here we go again. How is this postscript at odds with the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch in general

Daniel Kirk

One example: does Jesus go into the temple to cast out the moneychangers as the climactic moment of his “triumphal entry” (Matthew)? Or does he wait until the next day (Mark)?
For that matter, does Jesus curse it before going to the temple for the clearing incident (Mark)? Or after (Matthew)?Details, details, right?

Why is Kirk assuming that inerrancy entails strict chronological reportage? 

Another: Does the fig tree whither immediately upon being cursed (Matthew)? Or does the withering happen overnight (Mark)? 

i) This assumes that Matthew means instantaneous. That it had to happen all at once. But parachrema simply means a very short interval (cf. Louw & Nida, 67.113).

The point is that it didn't wither naturally. Rather, it withered and died at a miraculously accelerated pace. 

ii) For that matter, It's not as if Mark says the fig tree didn't shrivel up in a few minutes. Even if it had, the disciples didn't have occasion to witness the result until their return-trip. 

But then there are potentially more troubling questions: did Jesus have his last meal with the disciples on Passover (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? Or was Jesus killed on the day when the Passover Lamb was slaughtered, such that the religious leaders were scrupulous to keep themselves pure for the feast that would take place that night (John)?

I've discussed that issue here:

One of the most compelling things about landing at Fuller Seminary six years ago was finding myself in a Bible Division practically devoid of inerrantists, and yet brimming with Evangelical colleagues who affirm that the Bible is the word of God, who seek it for divine guidance, and who seek God as a direct and active participant in the lives of God’s people.

Really? Elsewhere, Kirk takes the position that we can disregard what Scripture teaches about homosexuality and the historicity of Adam. 

John Byron

The problem, however, as I pointed out to my teacher, is that Jesus got it wrong. The story in 1 Samuel 21 relates how David fled from Saul alone. When he stops at the tabernacle and asks Ahimelek for help the priest enquires why David is alone. David seems to lie when saying that his men well meet him later (v. 2).

To begin with, that fails to distinguish between Jesus accurately describing what 1 Sam 21 says, and whether 1 Sam 21 is, itself, an accurate description of events. Even if, in his (Byron's) opinion, 1 Sam 21 is misleading, that doesn't mean Jesus was wrong when he accurately summarizes the account. Why is Byron unable to draw that rudimentary distinction?

Moreover, Mark has the wrong priest. In 2:26 Jesus states that the priest was Abiather, but 1 Samuel 21 clearly states that it was Ahimelek.

i) If he thinks Jesus was obviously wrong, why didn't Mark quietly correct the mistake rather than drawing attention to the mistake by reproducing the (alleged) misidentification? Presumably, Byron believes the Gospel writers were not above redacting the words of Jesus. Why not save face in this instance?

ii) Surely this was a well-known story in 1C Judaism. So confusing the actors would be surprising.

iii) Treating the two names as interchangeable evidently goes all the back to the source. As one scholar notes, commenting on 2 Sam 8:17, "Also in 1 Chr 24:3,6,31. It seems likely that the order of the names has been transposed because elsewhere Abiathar is consistently said to be the colleague of Zadok," J. Vannoy, 1-2 Samuel (Tyndale 2009), 314.

In that event, Jesus is simply following conventional precedent. If the author of Samuel himself uses these two names interchangeably, it's hardly a mistake for Jesus to emulate the practice of the very source he's alluding to. 

iv) Moreover, it's not hard to see how this would occur. The close association is only natural given the combined fact that you have both a direct genealogical succession as well as a direct priestly succession. As a result, the author of Samuel, as well as the Chronicler, already feel free to substitute one for the other: treating the two men (father/son, fellow priests) as if they were one. 

Byron himself says "In 2 Samuel 8:17 the father/son relationship is reversed and Abiathar is said to be the father of Ahimelech. The same thing happens in 1 Ch 24:6."

He chalks that up to confusion, just as he chalks up Mark's statement (or Christ's statement) to confusion.  Why is "confusion" the first and only explanation he reaches for? If, by his own admission, the intersubstitutability of the names reflects a pattern, why does he assume that's due to confusion rather than intentional? Why not infer that Mark, Samuel, and Chronicles deliberately do that as a way of linking the two figures? What if that's a literary strategy? 

He needs to add some new tools to his explanatory toolkit. His repertoire is too limited. "Confusion" is not the only explanation, much less the best explanation.  

Perhaps Byron never understood inerrancy in the first place. Inerrancy doesn't preclude literary conventions–or intentional theological associations, as a way of connecting two things. 

Chris Tilling

So, yes, I’ve come from a theologically conservative background. Ken Ham this, dinosaurs-lived-with-humans-as-seen-in-Job that.

That's not the background I come out of. And I think Job is referring to chaos monsters, not dinosaurs. 

Even at University, because of that fear, I didn’t make the most of my studies. Rather than downing Barth, Sanders, etc., I stuck to my safe and sure Ken Hams, Benny Hinns, Reinhard Bonnkes, and Josh McDowells.

Why is he making Benny Hinn et al. the standard of comparison for the inerrancy of Scripture? 

Instead, he argued, an inductive approach, one which refused the deductively logical wringer of inerrancy, allowed the Bible itself to shape our doctrine of Scripture. 

That's such a musty old chestnut. Does he even have any firsthand knowledge of how writers like Warfield proceed? Warfield's method is inductive, not deductive. He begins with the self-witness of Scripture. 

One particular “aha” moment came when listening to a Walter Brueggemann lecture on “The character of God in the OT.”Brueggemann pointed out that the Bible could say some astonishingly strange things about God, for example:

  • the contrast between what Deuteronomy 23:1-3 and Isaiah 56:3-5 have to say about who God says can be admitted to the assembly,
Why does Tilling imagine that contradicts inerrancy? The Mosaic cultus was temporary by design. Isa 56 is looking forward to a new era, after the Mosaic cultus served its purpose. 
  • Jeremiah 20:7 and God “overpowering” Jeremiah,
  • 1 Kings 22:20-22, where God’s actions seem devious,
How is that inconsistent with the inerrancy of Scripture? Does it conflict with Tilling's preconception of what God is like? If so, then Tilling is operating with a "deductive" theological methodology. He begins with his preconceived idea of what God ought to be like. If Scripture challenges his preconception, then he rejects the Scriptural depiction. 
  • Exod 4:24, where God “tried” to kill Moses.
i) To begin with, it's not clear that Moses is the target. The Hebrew text doesn't specify the referrent. Some scholars think it refers to the firstborn son of Moses.
ii) More to the point, the reason that God only "tries" to kill Moses is to give Zipporah time to intervene. It's like oracles of doom, which are implicitly conditional. A threat which gives the audience an opportunity to repent and thereby avert disaster.  
Anthony Le Donne

So I looked for the gist of God’s words through Ezra. The underlying message—it occurred to me—was that interracial marriage is sinful and disastrous to the purity of bloodlines. This teaching seemed remarkably similar to my grandmother’s disapproval of my parents’ relationship because my father was dark-skinned.I’m not claiming that my 16-year-old exegesis was all that sophisticated. But any way you slice it, Ezra 9-10 is deeply troubling—especially so to folks with an owner’s manual view of the Bible.

Ezra isn't about racial purity. Why is Le Donne unable to distinguish between interracial marriage and interfaith marriage? 

Sure, he was only 16 at the time, but the problem is that he hasn't thought better of his misinterpretation in the intervening years. For him to repeat it at this stage is downright dumb. 

Christopher Keith

Second, I was astonished at how (some) defenders of inerrancy and the like treated those who held alternative views.When they went through their lists of heroes and villains in class, almost all their villains were other Christians, and usually other conservative Christians.  Their language for them was sometimes vitriolic, always patronizing, and almost always de-humanizing.
It seems that, in their Bibles, Jesus said that we should love our enemies unless they disagree with us theologically or hermeneutically, in which case it’s alright to mistreat them. 

Notice Keith's hyperbolic characterization of his theological opponents. 

Carlos Bovell

An inerrantist historical Jesus scholar, for example, is not able to say that the early church put words into Jesus’ mouth in various portions of the Gospels or that a number of events recounted in the Gospels never really took place, being made up by a later generation of well-meaning disciples. Evangelical philosophy will already have decided these matters ahead of time. 

Notice the conflict between Keith and Bovell. Keith faults inerrantists for (allegedly) disregarding the statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. By contrast, Bovell faults inerrantists for reaffirming the statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels. Well, you can't have it both ways. If Bovell is right, then Keith is wrong to naively cite statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels.

Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept Keith's tendentious interpretation and application, did Jesus say we should love are enemies? Or are those words which the early church put into his mouth–a la Bovell? 

Christopher Skinner

This meant that despite my misgivings, there had to be a way to reconcile the conflicting genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3.From Abraham to Jesus, Matthew lists only 41 names while Luke lists 57. At the time I thought Matthew’s omission of names must be some kind of rhetorical device. However, more problematic for me was the realization that of the 41 names Matthew and Luke should have had in common, they agree on only 17.

Why should they have 41 names in common? Are they not allowed to have different selection criteria? 

Christopher Keith

I suppose I could trot out the traditional fare concerning the realities of Scripture that produced “aha moments”:  the day of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Synoptic Gospels and John;

Been there, done that (see above)

 David’s census in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21; 

See below.

Paul’s Hagar allegory in Galatians 4; 

How is that a problem for inerrancy? Is Keith's unstated objection that Paul's "Hagar allegory" violates the original intent of Genesis? But even if that's the case, of Paul's treatment is intentionally allegorical, then how does that conflict with inerrancy? 

Keep in mind, too, that some scholars regard Paul's treatment as typological rather than allegorical. Moreover, it's an argument from analogy. So the question is whether his comparison is logically invalid. 

the sexual violence and erotic language in Judges 19, Ezekiel 23, and Song of Solomon.  Let’s include in that mix the stories of Tamar and Onan, which somehow never made it into youth group talks.

Notice how he lumps these together without any explanation or discrimination:

i) Does he think erotic language per se conflicts with inerrancy? If so, how so? Is sex evil? 

ii) Does he think it's wrong for Scripture to depict sexual violence? Does he think historians condone everything they record? Is he unable to distinguish between the narrator's viewpoint and what the narrator relates? 

iii) Does he think it's wrong to use graphic language to depict graphic sin? Does he think the Bible should be like the Hallmark channel? 

When one text says God made David take a census and another says Satan did, well, we call that a contradiction in any other realm of communication.

We do? Truman is often faulted for bombing Hiroshima. Yet Truman didn't drop bomb. Paul Tibbets did. Truman didn't pilot the Enola Gay. 

It is contradictory for critics to attribute that event to Truman when Tibbets was the real culprit? Since Truman gave the order, is it wrong to finger him as the agent ultimately responsible for that event? Assuming that was a blameworthy decision, is it not logical to blame Truman? Even if you think Tibbets was culpable to some degree, is it not logical to assign primary blame to Truman? Had he not given the order, it would never have happened.

My point is not to debate the merits of bombing Hiroshima. My point is that, far from calling that a contradiction in any other realm of communication, we routinely distinguish between direct and indirect agency. Examples could be multiplied ad infinitum. 

For me—like so many others have done—all I needed to do was read the first two chapters of the Bible, the creation accounts in  Genesis 1 and 2.Genesis 1 presents the world as created in six days. If we take the sequence literally, things are created in this order: light, sky, earth, plants, stars and sun and moon, aquatic animals, birds, land animals, and, finally humans in large number. In other words, humans—and many of them—are created last.But when we come to Genesis 2, the one human (Adam) is created first, even before plants had grown (Gen 2:5). After the human is made, God sows a garden and plants begin to sprout. After this, God begins the process of identifying a suitable companion for the human.

i) To begin with, the sequence of Gen 1 only contradicts the sequence of Gen 2 on the assumption that both accounts describe the same event. If, by contrast, they describe different events, we wouldn't expect them to synchronize.

ii) Apropos (i), Gen 1 & 2 aren't separate accounts or coincident accounts. Rather, they overlap. Gen 2 doesn't describe the creation of plants and animals in general–unlike Gen 1. Rather, Gen 2 describes the creation of the garden, the creation of plants and animals in and for the garden, in preparation for Adam and Eve, as their original home. And it details the creation of Adam and Eve.  

iii) And even if, for the sake of argument, the sequence of Gen 1 differs from the sequence of Gen 2, that wouldn't impugn the inerrancy of Scripture unless you assume Bible writers must narrate events in their historical order, or that this was the narrator's intention. 

Frankly, the contributors which Enns recruited for his series lack basic thinking skills. 

Christopher Hays

2 Peter 2:15 mentions false teachers who have gone astray like Balaam, the prophet from Numbers 22:5 who was hired by King Balak to curse the Israelites. Some manuscripts of 2 Peter 2:15 called him “Balaam son of Beor” (which is what Numbers 22:5 calls him); other manuscripts of 2 Peter 2:15 call him “Balaam of Bosor,” which, as we’ll see in a moment, makes no sense at all.
“Beor” is a person’s name; it was the name of Balaam’s dad (his patronymic). Bosor is the name of a city (a.k.a. Bosorra). The problem is: the older, better manuscripts called him “Balaam of Bosor,” but Balaam wasn’t from anywhere near Bosor, which is in the land of Gilead. According to Numbers 22:5, Balaam was from “Pethor, which is on the Euphrates, in the land of Amaw.”

That fails to draw an obvious distinction between where someone was born, where he grew up, and where he resides. That can represent three or more different locations.

The name Beor actually occurs in a genealogy (a king-list) that is copied three times in the Old Testament (Gen 36.33; 1 Cor 1.44; Job 42:17c [LXX only]). That genealogy mentions a king whose name was “Bela son of Beor,” who in turn was succeeded by a guy from the city of Bosorra (Bosor). And in one version of the genealogy (the LXX of Job 42), the king “Bela son of Beor” is actually called “Balak son of Beor”.
Now the King Balak son of Beor in this genealogy is a different King Balak (of Moab) than the one that hired Balaam son of Beor in Numbers. But you can see how people might get confused: same patronymic, similar sounding first names. You’re probably confused already! And so were some ancient Jews.
In fact, when you read the genealogy in ancient Aramaic translations of the Old Testament (the “targums”), which were already popular at the time of Jesus, you can see that they sometimes actually changed the name of King Bela/Balak son of Beor to Balaam son of Beor.
Since there was already a history of confusion over the Balaams and Balaks and Beors in the Numbers story and the genealogy, it seemed really understandable that the author of 2 Peter would be caught up in the flow and reproduce the same mistake.

i) Assuming for the sake of argument that that's why Peter calls him Balaam of Bosor, why would that be a mistake? If, by Peter's time, that designation was a literary tradition, how is Peter in error for repeating that convention? Is it erroneous to call New Orleans the Big Easy or New York the Big Apple? For that matter, Is it erroneous to say New York rather than New Amsterdam, which was the original designation? 

Christopher Hays has an artificial notion of naming. If enough people call a place by a certain name, that becomes the correct name, even if that's not the original name. Charleston has a suburb that used to be called St. Andrew's Parish. But people began calling it West Ashley. So that became the new name. 

ii) In addition, Christopher Hays disregards alternative explanations. Most commentators (e.g. Richard Bauckham, Peter Davids, Michael Green, Douglas Moo, Tom Schreiner) think this is a play on words. They think Peter is punning the Hebrew basar to make Balaam a "son of flesh," trading on the pejorative connotations of carnality. As Schreiner notes, Peter has a penchant for ironic punning. 

iii) One exception is Gene Green, who questions that interpretation, wondering why Bosor would be used instead of Basar, the transliteration of the Hebrew word for "flesh."

But do we know how Greek and Hebrew were pronounced in the 1C? In fact, Davids says of basar that "the first 'a' can be read as a short 'o' in some circumstances" (242n51).

Consider how Yankees pronounce New Orleans compared to the locals. Or consider how South Carolinians pronounce Beaufort. Pronunciation is highly variable in time and place. 

Likewise, many American cities have Indian names. But the Indian names are Anglicized. A "corruption" of the original word, phrase, or pronunciation. Yet that's the correct designation. 

iv) Even so, Green doesn't think Peter is mistaken. After discussing Num 22:5 & 23:7, he concludes that this "could, in fact, come from someone who knew the region and the whole Balaam story quite well (289). 

So these are the intellectual luminaries whom Enns showcases to disprove inerrancy.