Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter to Those Who Will Rise with Him . . .

. . . Just another day in the grave to those who will not.

Believe and come out of the grave! He is risen!

Unbelief Makes People Irrational

I've had quite a few religious conversations with unbelievers in my life, and it always amazes me, not just that someone doesn't believe (I can understand that), but the utter lack of cognitive thinking skills that seem to decay in those who do not believe. It's almost like an attempt to justify the unjustifiable causes one to adopt fallacious arguments on the one hand and a posturing attitude that makes claims to great rationality on the other. In other words, it is almost like the dumber these apostates and atheist apologists get, the more they boast about how intelligent they are. Now, if an argument, a real one, accompanied these people, it would be fine. We would just disagree about the subject, but not be capable of even reading your opponent's argument, not be capable of acknowledging a fallacious reasoning method, continue dodging questions that clearly refute what is being said, to change the subject when one is not winning an argument, and then to act as though it's the believer that is the intellectually challenged one is just plain pathetic. I weep for the oncoming generation, as it is filled with these cookie-cutter, brainwashed people. It will only mean the death of wisdom and all of her children.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Loving the White Whale: God, Pain, and Man's Creation

Most of us have read, or at least know the story found in, the novel, Moby Dick. A bitter sea captain has pursued a white whale across the abyss in order to kill him for taking away his leg. The white whale represents God in the story, white due to His purity and holiness, which Ahab tells us he hates. The lost leg becomes a symbol of suffering and pain in the world that God made. The captain, then, becomes a representative of all who have suffered and hate God for it. But the pursuit to remove the white whale only destroys Ahab. It doesn't kill the whale.

In the book, it is Ahab who assigns evil intentions to the whale. He ignores the voice of reason that says, "Moby Dick seeks thee not. It is thou, thou, that madly seeks him!" In his quest to kill the whale, he only kills himself and almost everyone around him. His hatred for the whale can be summed up in his expression:

“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

There is a great lesson in the book that I think is very biblical. The idea that God has made and placed us in a world filled with pain and loss. It is a world of suffering. And as we go through life, we will have a choice to make with every bit of suffering we encounter. We can either assign evil intentions to God, hate Him for it, and seek to kill Him (i.e., either by exchanging Him for a false god or ridding our lives of any belief in deity at all), or we can believe the Bible, submit to His plan, and love Him for loving us.

Now, you may ask, But how is this love? But that is the point to be made by the Bible. We could all wish that God would have just picked up Adam and Eve in their neutral state and placed them directly into a heavenly state, or that He would just take every fallen man since and immediately place him in His presence. But we would be morally neutral, or even wicked, creatures just the same. There would be no transformation that comes from a daily experience of choosing right and wrong, making decisions concerning how we are to do good in this or that evil situation. Evil and suffering are the fires by which a man is either burned up, like Ahab, or refined into gold.

And that is important to remember. Genesis says that God rested on the seventh day, but that is an expression of God's sovereignty, not a relation of His ceasing to create. The truth is that we are in the midst of creation out of chaos. We are in the transitional period while God makes humans into the image of His Son--which was always His purpose in making humanity. God is making us good, godly, like Christ, and it is only through the challenge of suffering and pain that one can make the choice to become like Christ and love God for His goodness or to shrink from becoming like Christ and hate God for what would have been considered as a loving act had we not been made insane by our bitterness.

The atheist and the false prophet are one in this, as they seek to kill the real God through either anti-religion or false religion. But the believer anchors his hope in God's love, and He sees the world as a place made for him--that he might become what he was meant to become, what is good and everlasting.

This is hard for us to see. Life isn't all rainbows and butterflies. In the end, death takes us all. We lose everything. But if we believe the Bible, we have a light in a very dark place to direct our hope and cultivate our love for God and fight the temptation to hate Him for lovingly creating the necessary conditions of our deliverance from moral neutrality and evil.The whole of the fall and all of the suffering and evil since have been a part of His plan all along. This is His doing. And it is good, not an evil, work.

In this life, you will have to choose which path to take, what person you will be. Will you be one who is drowned in the abyss of bitterness while you seek to erase God from the earth, or will you be one who acknowledges God's right to have taken your leg and His love for doing so? The devil works hard now to convince the world to become the former. May the Spirit of God prevail among His people that they may become the latter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism

What Picture Does Theopneustos "God-breathed" Reference?

Many errantists try to argue against the clear understanding of theopneustos in 2 Timothy 3:15 as "God-breathed" in the sense that God has spoken by speculating (without much evidence btw) that maybe it means "God breathed into" like He breathed into Adam or that God blows people over with His Word. Hence, one can just conclude with the errantist that maybe not all Scripture is actually God's direct words, but instead are just dead texts, some accurate and some inaccurate, that are used by God for pedagogical purposes.

Of course, the text doesn't say "God breathed into," which is kind of obvious; but I thought this following article was very good in bringing out the background of this type of speech. I saw this comment on James McGrath's blog where he posited the former idea (an idea posited by Rogers and McKim long ago and even by Thom Stark in his book---did McGrath not read Thom's book?). In any case, the comment drew my attention as being far more studied and accurate than the other suggestions.

Outside of Christian literature, θεόπνευστος is used in the Moralia of pseudo-Plutarch (12.61) – the author of which relates the opinion of the 4th century BCE physician Herophilos, who contrasts dreams that are θεοπνεύστους with dreams δὲ φυσικούς ('of natural causes').
The association of breath and the spoken word is natural - cf. Psalm 33.6, in which God makes the heavens by his 'word' (דבר/λόγος), and its host from his breath (רוח/πνεῦμα). In the ancient Near East (esp. the Amarna letters), there was the idiom of the "(sweet) breath" (šaru ṭabtu) of the king. This was also something that could be _heard_ (EA 297).
In a blog post - - I wrote about the very early precedents of textual 'inerrancy'...which really go back to the earliest ANE literature. The _word_ of the king/god/prophet is important here – "You shall neither change nor alter the word of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria" (cf. also Deut. 13.1 [=12.32]; Revelation 22.19, “if anyone takes away from the words…”).
Of course, this doesn't conclusively show that that's what the author of 2 Timothy had in mind here. But I don't think it precludes it, either.

Warren Jeffs and Muslim Polygamists for Marriage Equality

Polygamists and Pedophiles want to know . . .

When will love, rather than sexual propriety, define marriage?

Polygamist and pedophile rights are human rights!

Love is not a gender, a number, or an age.

Our love isn't a political agenda!

God made us ALL equal!

Stop the bigotry and let ALL people get married.

Brought to you by CIDASGM, the Center for Insanely Dumb Arguments Supporting Gay Marriage.

How the Wrath of God Manifests Itself on an Idolatrous People

Someone suggested that the Canaanites were no different than any other nation, so why is it that God chose them for annihilation above others? Of course, the obvious answer might be that judgment comes to them because they are a threat to Israel who are entering the land. But, as I've argued before, it is not merely that they are a threat to Israel, both spiritually and physically, but also because their sin had been filled up.

Other nations, including Israel, are also destroyed by God for their sins, but all of it is when they have "filled up" their sin, a phrase God uses to express that He has let the sins of the people reach a climax before He completely destroys them.

But what does this destruction look like? It seems, from Scripture, that destruction takes place through the very choices of the people first. As Romans 1 indicates, they suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness and give honor and glory to gods more easily manipulated to accommodate their sin. It thus begins with the purposeful belief in one or more distorted deities, an antigod or antichrist who replaces the real God in one's worship. We can view this as the rejection of the seventh day of creation, where God rests in His cosmic temple as exalted above all creation.

So we are told, as a result, that God gives them over to begin a path of self destruction. He does this by reversing the next six days of creation, and the first step in creation's reversal is to engage in unproductive sexual acts. This is because unproductive sexual acts are the opposite of God's command in creation to "be fruitful, multiply, fill up the earth, subdue and rule over it." Unproductive sexual acts reduce population rather than multiply it. It goes counter to creation, which has its pinnacle goal in filling up the earth with humans who represent God's sovereignty over chaos/disorder/"uncreation."

Hence, we see that the Canaanites not only worshiped other deities, but that their sexual practices were characterized by unproductive sexual acts (Lev 18).

Once these practices come to a climax in a society, it seems that the remaining creation days are reversed. Famine instead of fruit trees, disease from animals instead of a healthy balance to the ecosystem, war instead of a submission of chaos all bring a society to disorder and ultimately annihilation/nonexistence.

This is why and how the destruction of the flood occurs. This is why and how the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah occurs. This is what happens to the Canaanites, and it is also what happens to the Israelites. We could go on to look at great Empires like Greece and Rome, but the point is that the wrath of God is not immediate fire from heaven. It is a slow and patient reversal of creation within a society and it begins with distorting who God is and the practice of anticreational sexual behaviors.

It is therefore true that a culture participates in its own destruction long before it is devastated by war, famine, disease, or fire from heaven. And it seems that God does not destroy a people immediately, but only when these things have come to a climax.

Hence, the Canaanites, after thousands of years, had come to their breaking point. The Bible portrays them as a people who were filled with idolatry and sexual depravity (even killing their own children in sacrifice, which is the ultimate symbol that the creation mandate was in full reversal within the culture). God merely completed the self destruction they started among themselves, and we are told that he did so because such a self corruption and annihilation is cancerous and spreads to suicidal mankind that is addicted to the pleasures of its own demise.

The scary thing is not the historical Canaanites, however, but the world as it exists today. We have become an idolatrous people, who distort who God is in order to accommodate our own sin. He is easily controllable with our making Him a God of acceptance and licentiousness rather than the God of love and grace that hates chaos and that which produces it. We are a people of unproductive sexual acts, well on the road toward our own annihilation. We sacrifice our children for the prospect of a better life. We are not only the Canaanites, we are the Canaanites who have had more warning and revelation than even the Israelites had. And that is scary, precisely, because it seems that the more revelation a society has, the faster disobedience speeds it to destruction--the faster the process of creation's reversal comes to its conclusion.

With the church enthralled in its battle against homosexuality, it must look to its own idolatry and sexually unproductive practices in repentance. Perhaps, abortion, gay "marriage," nuclear weapons from N. Korea, terrorist threats from Islam, economic collapse, etc. are merely the results of our own sin more than those of the unbelieving culture. Perhaps, we have sped up this process, and the fact that we are looking out at a Canaanite world is because we became Canaanites ourselves.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why Most of What Liberals Think They Know about Israelite History from Archaeology Is Wrong

By the term "archaeology" I mean to say "material culture" apart from the texts that are found by archaeology. Here's my basic argument.

Liberal historians of ancient Israel currently employ a methodology of skepticism toward the Bible's record of history. Anything that is not proven by either material culture or extrabiblical texts is doubted. In many cases, material culture is interpreted in such a way as to contradict the biblical text. It would be interpreted to contradict the biblical text en toto, but extrabiblical texts have helped support the existence of these events and people more often than not. But herein lies the problem.

It is clear that when extrabiblical texts are removed from verifying biblical history in some way, the material culture is almost always interpreted in a way that contradicts the biblical history. So when historians talk about the patriarchal period, the exodus, the conquest, etc., since we have no texts, other than the Bible, that support this history, the material culture is used to say that these things did not happen in the way the Bible describes. In fact, the very existence of the events and people is called into question.

But this was/is also true for those people and events when only current skeptical theories using the material culture was applied apart from extrabiblical data that proved otherwise. Before Tel Dan, many scholars who applied this methodology did not believe in a united monarchy or in the person of David. Some minimalists still believe the concept of an Israelite nation was made up by Jews in the Persian period, and they interpret the material culture accordingly. This methodology thus verifies for them that there was no historical Israel before the exile.

The problem is that when we actually have texts, i.e., things that speak and can tell us if we are wrong about the existence of certain events and people, they contradict this conclusion.

So here is my argument. If the texts contradict the conclusions of the current methodology of inquiry, and the texts are more reliable than contemporary theories and guesses about potherds and burn layers, then the conclusions brought about from that particular methodology are wrong even in the periods dealing with people and events where we don't have extrabiblical texts informing us of their errors.

Now, that doesn't mean that all of the biblical persons and events are proven to exist. It just means that the current methodology and ideology has no way of figuring that out apart from text. Hence, we are back to the oldest extant text commenting on those persons and events, and that would be the Bible in many cases. It contradicts an obviously flawed methodology, and I have no reason, therefore, to reject it based on the conclusions of that obviously wrong methodology.

To put it plainly. When X concludes Y, but Y is shown to be false by Z, then when X concludes Y, and Z is not present, there is no warrant to trust X.

If Adam Was a Gatekeeper . . .

The Serpent (to Eve): Did God really say that you would die if you ate of the tree?

Adam: Yes, He did. I don't care for your undermining His authority.

The Serpent: Hey Man, I'm just asking questions. What are you so afraid of?

Adam: No, you're undermining God's Word with your dogmatic statements in the form of "questions."

Eve: Adam, we should really be more open to questions. We might drive away a friend.

Adam: No one who undermines God with his questions is our friend.

The Serpent: Dude, you are such a fundy. Stop trapping God in a box with your "dos" and "do nots." "God is this." "God is that." "God doesn't like this." "God doesn't like that." Maybe God is so much bigger than that.

Adam: God is the one who gave us those "dos" and "do nots."

The Serpent: Did you ever think that maybe if you eat of that tree that you will understand God even more than that "Word" you think you heard from Him allows? Maybe if you stop being such a gatekeeper and be more open to let people ask questions, you'd get God a lot better. Beside, you're not the only one that God made. He made all of us, so everyone should be allowed at the table.

Eve: What if he's right, Adam? We could be missing out on knowing and understanding God and life by limiting ourselves to a narrow interpretation of what we think God has said.

Adam: Not listening to God will limit our understanding of Him because we'll be latching onto lies that take us further from that understanding. Now, get away from that tree, Eve. I'm going to kill that snake.

So death came into the world by Adam. It was the last death to occur in the world. And men lived eternally.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

God and the Holocaust

I think when we speak about events that occur in the Hebrew Bible that others seem to think are "troubling," we need to ask what these same people think about God and more current troubling events. How one answers the following questions may help understand how he approaches these passages in Scripture, as it indicates his theology of who God is and how He is related to events in the world.

So I'm going to attempt to ask this question, which I realize is likely a dangerous one, concerning God and the holocaust. One could ask the same about tsunamis, earthquakes, shootings, wars, etc.

In relation to the holocaust was God:

A. All-powerful and evil and orchestrated the holocaust because He wanted humans to suffer.

B. All-powerful and good and orchestrated the holocaust because He wanted to accomplish a greater temporal or eternal good.

C. All-powerful, did not orchestrate the holocaust, but chose not to stop it due to His apathy toward those dying.

D. All-powerful and good, did not orchestrate it, but chose to go ahead and use it later for some good (making the lemons that humans gave Him into lemonade), so He chose to let it continue until men put a stop to it.

E. Not all powerful, so although He did not orchestrate it, and hated it, He had no ability to stop it. Hence, He wept helplessly at this event along with everyone else who was helpless.

F. All-powerful and good, but didn't know the holocaust was going on because He was on vacation when it happened.

Obviously, we could put an "G" here for the atheist who believed that God was not existent, so it took place apart from His interaction, but my point here is to draw out one's view of God and how He works in the world.

Christian answers throughout history have waxed between B and D, but when we look to the Bible, option "D" is not what we find. Instead, we see option "B" all over the place, which makes more sense with God's abilities and nature.

When I say "orchestrates," of course, I don't mean He wants evil to be performed by anyone, but only that He directs evil and suffering, which is already in the world to destroy, to accomplish a greater goal that saves people in some way rather than destroys them. But this means that some people are, in fact, destroyed that others might be saved and live. The holocaust was surely a great evil performed on the part of human beings, but it brought about a great many goods in terms of how we think about violence toward other people purely because of their ethnicity. It also brought about the restoration of the Jews to their own homeland (although some don't consider this a good). It also brought about a lot of sympathy and second thoughts about how the Jews should be treated while they live in other nations. Those are just some of the good things we can see. There may be countless other goods that have come about from this event that, without which, may have never occurred. In essence, it may be that a future extermination of the Jewish people that would have been completely successful was thwarted by the occurrence of the holocaust. Who knows?

The point is that if God orchestrates these things by necessity of His nature and goals, then God orchestrates tsunamis, wars, and other destructive events for His ultimately good purposes. What that means is that when we approach whether God orchestrated the Canaanite conquests, biblical tribal wars, etc., the answer must be, Yes. What that means even further is that the biblical picture of God and His orchestrating those events verbally is closer to reality than assuming that ancient people just made it up to justify their evils.

Now, of course, one would have to argue that what these humans did was not evil on other grounds (namely, that God verbally and directly ordered these events as opposed to merely directing evil to its own destruction through them). The Nazis are guilty of horrendous crimes for which they will be judged by God. They were not ordered by God to do them. Hence, a direction of evil is not the same as ordering a good that others may view as evil. There is nothing evil about just war that defends and preserves human lives against destroyers. There is nothing evil about a civil war that is waged to stop a racist and abusive slavery. Hence, there is nothing evil about entering into a dark event and even directing it there in order to secure a greater good. The question is whether God can be divorced from any event at all, and if He cannot be, how He is linked to it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Tale of Two Life Goals

Listening to all of the rhetoric that surrounds the gay marriage debate today, it's interesting that the focus of those who accept it, at least the ones speaking most loudly today, seems to be on what makes people happy.

Now, this is the goal of the unbeliever. It is the goal of every self-worshiping religion on the planet, which is every religion beside historic Christianity. What one sees as the ultimate goal in life will ultimately dictate what behaviors one finds acceptable (that is, if he or she is consistent).

If the goal of life is to be happy, then you can fulfill that goal through any means necessary. If homosexual activity makes you happy, then go for it. If leaving your husband and children to pursue a new adventure in life makes you happy, then happy journeys. If drugs and alcohol make you happy, then shoot up, drink up, or shut up. Whatever makes you happy.

Worship the god you want, have sex with the object you want, take whatever you want, or give to the poor if that makes you happy. Whatever. If the ultimate goal is happiness, then these people can continue to argue this way, but if we all know that such would be wrong, then we need to ask whether it is true that happiness is the ultimate goal of life.

And we all know that it is wrong. I can't murder because it would make me happier to remove certain people from the world. I can't go on a stealing spree because I want everything to make me happy. And I can't just seek whatever sexual relationship I think might make me happy.

Why? For two reasons really.

The first is that we are under a sin-induced delusion that teaches us that happiness is to be found in things that are actually going to leave us unhappy in the end. We're are told that ultimately, only having a restored relationship with the God of the Bible through His Son, Jesus Christ, is the key to our happiness. So our delusions, ironically, lead us to pursue happiness in death.

But second, the ultimate goal of life isn't our personal happiness. It isn't the stimulation and exaltation of the self over others. The ultimate goal of life is to worship and exalt God by glorifying Him in our life choices. This, ironically, in return does bring us happiness, as love of God rejoices in His glorification and honor.

Because of these two things, the question can no longer be, "Doesn't this person deserve to be happy?" or even "If it makes me happy, why can't I pursue it?" Instead, it must be, "Does it glorify God in the truth He has revealed by loving Him and others over myself?" "Does it kill the Self in order that Christ and His Word might live in me, so that I might glorify God?"

If this latter trend is the line of questioning rather than the former, then you cannot argue for your alcoholism, drug addiction, murder, sexual abuse, false religion, neglect of your marriage and kids, or homosexuality as being rooted in the pursuit of happiness, as it is obvious that such is not the ultimate goal in life, since if it were, all of these would be legitimate pursuits, regardless of what oppressive laws or societal taboos might say contrary to the matter.

A Review of The Violence of Scripture

It's What Happens When You Sympathize with the Destroyers

CNN's coverage of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape verdict involving a pair of high-school football players is being harshly criticized for its focus on the rapists rather than the 16-year-old victim.
"I've never experienced anything like it," CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow said live outside the juvenile court in Steubenville. "It was incredibly emotional—incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart."
Harlow continued:
One of the young men, Ma'lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to me, "My life is over. No one is going to want me now." Very serious crime here. Both found guilty of raping this 16-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August, alcohol-fueled parties. Alcohol is a huge part in this.

Many liberals are outraged, but isn't this the way that they would cover most of the biblical verdicts upon the wicked?

"I've never experienced anything like it," Professor Joe Liberal said outside his university office. "It was incredibly emotional—incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these Canaanite child murderers that had such promising futures, star senet players, very good farmers, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart."
Professor Joe Liberal continued: One of the young men, Ma'lik bin Richmond, when that sentence came down from God, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his priest, Balaam. He said to me, "My life is over. No one is going to think well of me now." Very serious crime here. His culture was found guilty of violence against humanity for thousands of years. Tribal culture is a huge part in this.

The True Nature of a Legalist

You may think  that legalists are strict about obeying the Word of God. That is certainly the caricature. Of course, that means that Christ is a legalist and the Pharisees are actually bastions of grace. This isn't the case, however, as the legalist is not one who desires that you obey the Word of God. Instead, he desires that the Word of God is undermined. He doesn't want you to obey the law of God, because he wants you to obey his own law.

Unregenerate men do not only want to be a god, they want to be your god. And when you don't approve of their rules, rebuke them for attempting such a game of hubris, and call them to submit themselves to the Word of God instead, you will surely feel their wrath.

And that is the true nature of the legalist. He may speak all about grace, but only because he wishes to undermine the holiness of Christ to which all are called to be conformed. And this is merely done so that he may insert his own behavioral ideals in their place, not because he needs necessarily obey his own ideals, or that he is even consistent with them, but rather, again, that you may be subject to his rules as his devoted followers.

This is why Paul warned the Ephesians to adhere so intently to what he had taught them, because savage wolves, not sparing the flock, will come because they seek to draw disciples after themselves. They replace Christ with themselves, and hence, they replace His law with their own. The true nature of a legalist, then, is not someone who wants to obey Christ, but rather one who wants you to obey antichrist, because his antichrist is himself.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Making God Believable to the Jews and the Greeks

Paul said that the gospel doesn't make sense to the Jews and the Greeks in their unregenerate state. He said that the Spirit is needed to give the gospel explanatory power to people.

This gives me a thought to all of those who want to make Christianity resonate with our modern/postmodern generation. If the problem is that evangelicalism doesn't have much explanatory power among the current generation, does that mean that evangelicalism isn't Christianity? Does it mean that it is only a type of Christianity, although legitimate for its own generation, that no longer works for ours (assuming that Christianity can be assimilated to culture by chopping off particular elements that were historically seen as necessities of its truth)? Or does it simply mean that we are dealing with the same situation with which the apostles were dealing, mainly a culture of disbelief that must have the Spirit of God to produce belief within them?

The first question is an obvious, No. It would be a non sequitur for one, and it clearly follows from what Paul says that no unbeliever, or false believer for that matter, would find the gospel, and therefore much else in apostolic Christianity (see 1 John) for that matter, as making much sense to him.

If the first question is answered negatively, that means that there is no way to judge the legitimacy of the second question's claim, except by how much it looks like the apostolic Christianity that the world rejects by virtue of its inability to receive the things of the Spirit. One can always edit apostolic Christianity to become more believable to the unregenerate and disbelieving, but that's not Christianity that has been applied, but Christianity that has been rejected and an adapted or hybrid religion that incorporates elements of Christianity into it. Hence, Christianity really isn't adaptable, and when one attempts to do so, he merely supports the unbelieving in their unbelief.

The last question is the unpardonable question among those opposed to historic Christianity, as it will not want to ponder the point that perhaps all of these people are void of the Spirit. That's because it's really a modern liberalism that assumes an over-realized eschatology, where every professed Christian is Spirit-filled, and have no need to concern themselves of that question. They also have no need, due to this over-realized eschatology, to fear that God may be displeased with them lopping off doctrines that are seen by the Bible as necessary to understand the true God, Jesus, and the gospel.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why Scholars Need to Pick Fights with Scholars and not Pastors or Laymen

The title pretty much introduces what I want to say here. I'm getting pretty tired of what I see as scholars on the internet always picking laymen or pastors or parachurch leaders as their opponents in an argument, all the while, the scholars who represent those same positions more accurately and with better arguments are ignored.

It reminds me of Shelley's poem, "Ozymandias," where an inscription from his broken statue lies in the desert wasteland as a monument of the claims he made concerning his greatness as a victor over all other opponents. Long dead from his defeat, all that remains is this inscription and the shattered visage of his statue, because he overestimated his abilities to conquer greater enemies.

Attempting to build your ego by winning arguments against lesser foes is much like trying to win a fight with an entire family by picking on the littlest child of that family while the others are not around. It's bullying, not a desire to enter a fair fight. The bully is strangely silent when the big brother comes around.

In the same way, these scholars like to pick on laymen and pastors, frankly, because they're not as educated in the area as a real scholar would be. They can say all sorts of stupid things about archaeology or what the majority of scholarship says without much opposition, simply because the layman or pastor doesn't know any better. Try pulling that nonsense at SBL. Try it in a debate with a real scholar. It's not going to work. You're going to have to make real grown up arguments if you want to see how your ideas really fare.

That's why one needs to look to address the best arguments in a debate, not the worst. He needs to look for the best proponents of an argument, not the mediocre or even the worst simply because he or she is famous or the one who gets your goat that particular day.

Laymen almost never present the arguments that well. They almost always are more assertive and certain in what they say. Have some patience and let it go. I realize if someone comes knocking on your front door looking for a fight, you need to address it accordingly ("answer the fool . . ."), but if that's all you ever do, you are only building a fortress of ego that is built out of straw, and strawmen guard it.

Look to fight Goliath and the smaller Philistines will flee if you beat him, but perhaps many don't face him, precisely, because they would be the ones who lay bloodied and beaten on the battlefield instead. Their shattered visage all that remains of their great claim concerning the domination of their enemies.

Another Thing to Ponder about Pacifism and the Sermon on the Mount

There is something else to consider when looking at Jesus' teaching concerning loving your enemy. If Jesus is teaching a governmental pacifism then of course that contradicts the Old Testament. However, if that were true, it would be the only one of Jesus' teaching here where he is contradicting an Old Testament passage rather than a traditional misinterpretation/misapplication of Scripture or expanded custom.

In other words, Jesus is contradicting the tradition of the elders/Pharisees in their view of righteousness. He isn't contradicting the Old Testament, as many a modern interpreter has superficially concluded. They're all traditions or speculations concerning what Scripture does say, but Christ tells them that their traditions are wrong. He never does contradict the actual Old Testament.

Hence, if the pacifists were correct, this would be the only place in His entire Sermon, out of all of the examples given, where He outright contradicts the Old Testament itself, and this even after He explicitly says He did not come to do away with a single jot or tittle of it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5 Non-Objections to the Doctrine of Original Sin in the Old Testament

I've thought lately that I should just call this blog, "Rethinking Rethinking Biblical Christianity," but I really don't want to get into a war with a former professor, one whose teaching style I really enjoyed in seminary, and who I originally supported in the whole Westminster thing. However, since he has taken it upon himself to address issues that are apart of my lifelong study and the orthodoxy that I think is true and life-saving, I feel that I should address a lot of what he says that I feel are not as accurate as they should be coming from a professor who has been, at least, somewhat exposed to ANE and OT studies.

Today, we deal with original sin. Of course, there is no discussion of what it is, which I think is kind of important if you're critiquing a view. What view of OS are you addressing? He says that there are certainly effects from Adam's sin that can be drawn from the narrative, but in what way? Some views of OS are just effects. In any case, we'd have to get that issue straight before understanding what it is that Dr. Enns is actually addressing here. But here are some things to consider nonetheless.

1. Inherited sinfulness is not one of the curses on Adam.

Actually, it is. The problem is that this is one of the assumptions of the ANE reader. Dr. Enns is reading within an anachronistic individualistic framework, and hence, it doesn't assume the same things when reading it. The context of the ANE reader is one where he assumes communal/familial/patriarchal federalism (i.e., the individual is one with the collective whole). Hence, the ANE reader would have immediately assumed that the sin and curse of the first human (whether as progenitor or as king of the larger group) would be a sin and curse for all humans.

2. True obedience to God is both expected and doable.

This is a Pelagian argument that has been refuted for centuries, and it's refuted quite easily by the fact that it makes a huge mistake: it confuses two different questions, one dealing with the cause and one dealing with the effect. Obedience is expected and doable. That has nothing to do with under what circumstances can obedience be expected and doable. Historic Christianity doesn't say that obedience isn't doable. It says that it is only completely doable if one repents and enters a salvific/covenant relationship with God. Otherwise, it isn't doable. In other words, the author of Genesis would have believed that if one repents, the curse is no longer his. His participation in the curse is only because he is born of Adam, a sinner's, family and therefore he will either share in Adam's judgment if he remains as he is, or he can break that by repenting and doing otherwise. In other words, this objection addresses a different question than the one the premises support. The two questions would be, Can men obey a command that God gives? and How/Why can men obey a command that God gives? The objection is of the former but pretends to address the latter.
3. With one exception, Adam disappears after Genesis 5.

This is an odd objection, and I've addressed this before. Adam, nor the story, is necessarily known by most biblical authors of the OT. I've argued before that there is likely some tradition of Adam seen in the use of the eponym for mankind, since the term 'adam does not mean "mankind"; but does Dr. Enns really think that if the Adam story and curse were true that God would have revealed it to every author in Scripture? Or that every book in Scripture must address the subject if the authors did know of it? It's ancient history, and it wasn't even a history known to most people (in fact, primeval history isn't known, which is why it is often described in mythic terms). I'm not quite sure why this objection has much force. The Book of Genesis is written after most of the Old Testament Scripture, so why would it necessarily be mentioned? Is there a book that is a full doctrinal treatise on sin and original humanity in the OT that I don't know about? The Adam story brings the entire OT together, but it doesn't have to be known by the entirety of OT authors and works. I find this objection to be without much weight.

4. Adam is not blamed for Cain’s act of murder.
5. Likewise, Adam is not blamed for the flood.

 These two objections are really the same. They essentially argue that if the Bible taught that people sin because of some adamic curse, then it would have explicitly attributed the sins that follow to Adam and his misdeed.
Again, I can only ask, Why is this an assumption on Dr. Enns' part? Do we really have any reason to expect narrative to lay out explicit ideas like this for us? Narrative works literarily through the implicit as much as the explicit (perhaps even more through the implicit). We have nothing explicit in Genesis to suggest that God makes all of these people. We do have something to suggest He makes the original couple and Cain through His mother, but we just let the narrative work its magic by letting us assume that God made all of these other people through their mothers and fathers too (we also assume implicitly that God made Cain through his mother AND father without the narrative having to tell us that explicitly). There is definitely nothing in Genesis that explicitly says that God loves the humans He made either, but again, that is implied by the narrative, and perhaps, to be found in the assumptions of the ANE reader as well as he reads about God creating and making covenants with men.
However, my other objection to this objection would be that the ANE individual's understanding of sin is that, although he may have inherited it from his father/community, he must choose to deal with his own sin (cf. Ezek 18). He can choose to remain in that line of sinners or repent and break from that group. Hence, no one is to blame for his sin but he himself. The issue is how he got in the position of being a sinner to begin with, not whether he is to blame for his own sin. Of course he is to blame. "Adam made me do it" is a ridiculous argument. I made me do it. Adam just cursed us by rejecting God's rule of his life for his own rule. We all wake up in this life within that godless ideal to rule ourselves. But can we turn to God in repentance because God provides a way back to Him? Of course. And, for that reason, all men are to blame for their own sin. Why in the world would the Bible emphasize Adam's sin over my own? When the Israelite kings sin in the likeness of their fathers, they are each individually judged, but they also amass for themselves the sins of their fathers, simply because they, by continuing their rebellion, display their unity with their fathers. The judgment of their fathers' sins comes upon them as well. They are one with their fathers, but they are always judged for their own sins, and told to repent of their own sins in order to break with their fathers (at least for their part). But their children may also continue the evil of their fathers even if a generation or two are skipped due to repentance.
Even Dr. Enns admits that the story of Adam parallels the story of Israel, and yet, if that is true, then the same understanding of familial sin needs to be understood in both stories.
Hence, if God wants to warn Cain to break from Adam's sin, He wouldn't blame Adam. He would tell Cain to deal with the evil in his own mind and turn away from it. If He wanted to judge mankind in the flood, He would emphasize that its thoughts were evil even from a young age, not the reason why its thoughts were evil even from a young age. That's implicit in the narrative. One can consider it bad logic in our day, but literature works off of that fallacy that says, "What follows is a result of what preceded." That's how literature makes its argument. Hence, the fact that the situational reason as to why all of these individual sins would have come into the world are understood as resulting from what Adam had done is already in the narrative. Dealing with sin, however, would always be immediately with the individual's choices, not the reason why he might not choose rightly.

I think this objection, therefore, misunderstands the ANE reader's assumptions, the way that narrative works, and the emphasis on the solution to sin rather than its ultimate cause.