Monday, 15 September 2014

Monday quote

It is often the case that when someone says, “Thank God!” they actually mean, “Finally, I’m getting what I deserve.” So instead of humble thankfulness, this phrase indicates bitter entitlement.

Scott Jamieson.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Monday quote

If your cause is just and good, argue that it is just and good, not just inevitable.

Michael Brendan Dougherty.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Monday quote

You don't avoid tyranny by putting a king with no bloodlust on the throne. You avoid it by removing the throne's ability to extract blood.

Hans Fiene

Monday, 25 August 2014

Monday quote

The social order always involves trade-offs. Every strategy has pros and cons. For this reason, we can always find some particular problem which remains in, or is exacerbated by, or is even created through any social, economic, or political policy. Thus, driven by my own pet concerns, I am perfectly capable of condemning as a failure (and even as an immoral failure) a system which is wildly successful except for the one thing that concerns me.

Jeff Mirus.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Authors of the New Testament

A significant amount of the New Testament was written by Luke and Paul. This is what I think the best evidence points to concerning authorship, and approximate date.

Author Book Date Comments
The apostle Matthew, also called Levi Matthew 42
(John) Mark, assistant to Barnabas, Paul and Peter Mark 45 Possibly at the behest of Peter
Luke the physician, associate of Paul. Luke 55

Acts 62

Hebrews 67 Possibly the author of Hebrews. If so, likely the scribe. Co-authored, possibly with Paul.
The apostle John John

1 John

2 John

3 John

From Patmos
The apostle Peter 1 Peter

2 Peter 64 Jude possibly the amanuensis
The apostle Paul Romans 57 Tertius amanuensis

1 Corinthians 55

2 Corinthians 56

Galatians 48

Ephesians 60

Philippians 60

Colossians 60

1 Thessalonians 50

2 Thessalonians 50

Philemon 60

1 Timothy 57 Luke possibly the amanuensis

Titus 57 Luke possibly the amanuensis

2 Timothy 60 Luke possibly the amanuensis
James, the brother of Jesus James 44
Jude, the brother of Jesus Jude 64

Monday, 18 August 2014

Monday quote

The merit of any dissent is dependent upon what the dissenter is dissenting from—and why.

Jonah Goldberg, (1969–), The Tyranny of Cliches.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Monday quote

What if I have been a good girl all my life? That doesn’t make me better than anyone else but I am pretty sure it doesn’t make me worse either.

Amy Spiegel

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Michael Gungor and what Christians believe

I have seen a couple of comments about Michael Gungor recently. I have never heard of the guy or his music. He made a comment in his blog earlier this year that is apparently controversial,
I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories.
Now the context is that he doesn't think he can choose his beliefs, which I disagree with, but is important to understand this paragraph.

In places he sounds like someone leaving a hyper-literalist background,
So if up and down aren’t real, then what do we mean by God being “up” in Heaven? And why do so many worship leaders stare at the lights of the sanctuary and reach their hands into the sky as though trying to reach somebody “up” there? Up where? Towards which planet? Which galaxy? Because if it’s in some direction that we are supposed to think about God, that direction would be constantly changing. Sometimes the congregation should be gazing down and to the right or reaching their hands straight out behind them.
Though elsewhere he makes some reasonable comments,
Give me the samaritan. The heretic. The outsider who may have the ‘wrong’ ‘beliefs’ in words and concepts but actually lives out the right beliefs by stopping and helping me. That’s the kind of belief I’m interested in at this point.

There is much that one could comment on in this post, I'll address one: moving away from orthodox belief is often a dangerous sign.

In the orthodoxy-orthopraxy debate the upper-hand probably goes to orthopraxy. God calls us to obedience. As much as I desire and enjoy defending the truth, our faith needs boots. We need to do the things Jesus did and love like he did which means love in action.

And even though his comments are being labelled controversial, many Christians think the world is billions of years older than 6000 years, some of these people even subscribe to the general theory of evolution. Such beliefs (while incorrect) do not keep them outside the kingdom. I know many Christians that hold to one or both of those beliefs and who are more godly than me.

Now that I have defended orthopraxy and acknowledged godly Christians with heterodox beliefs, let me say that any move away from orthodoxy needs to be watched closely. This is partly because Christianity is a centred set: over time we should become more like Christ in our beliefs and behaviour.

It is the case that some abandon true beliefs without abandoning Christianity: some Christian evolutionists become creationists and some creationists become evolutionists yet only one of those positions is correct. Similar could be said about other doctrines such as paedobaptism and credobaptism. But in general, if we are truly following Jesus we should become more and more like him. Thus abandonment of true beliefs may be the beginning of one leaving the kingdom.

Right beliefs over time often lead to right actions. We may not desire such actions, we may do them out of duty and only come to love them with the practice of obedience; nevertheless, believing the truth is more likely to lead to right behaviour than believing falsehood. If we want to do what is right then we tend to do what we think is right. On balance, heterodox belief is more likely to lead to heteropraxy than orthopraxy. So while orthopraxy may be preferable to orthodoxy if one is to choose, when one abandons orthodoxy how long is it before one's behaviour is no longer the orthopraxy that is being lauded? And how long before one is justifying heterodoxy?

Progressive Christians are fond of reminding conservatives to love sinners outside the church. This is indeed true and they are right to do so—though they often are slow to offer such love to those that they disagree with within the church. Note also that addressing heathen sin is not intrinsically hateful. But I often observe that such a pathway that starts with denying orthodoxy and approving heterodoxy—because what matters is right behaviour—ends up approving wrong behaviour.

Gungor finishes with an appeal to James 2,
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
What we are seeing here is not the man with works addressing the man with faith—orthopraxy versus orthodoxy—rather the man with faith and works addressing the man claiming to have faith. Jesus, after all, did show the Samaritans the living water and Rahab abandoned idolatry to worship the Lord.

But what actually piqued my interest; the statement that I wished to address, was a comment Gungor made in response to all this controversy,
But now that I am a songwriter, I see this whole thing as absolutely absurd. Genesis is a poem if I’ve ever seen one.
Which I will write about anon.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Monday quote

In constructing theological statements, you start first with passages in the scripture which address or involve explicitly the topic under study. You don't start with oblique passages and try to infer aspects about the subject from it, and then use these less-certain constructs to 'constrain' the more-certain and explicit statements in the more germane passages.

Glenn Miller

Monday, 28 July 2014

Monday quote

In a free society the state does not administer the affairs of men. It administers justice among men who conduct their own affairs.

Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), An inquiry into the principles of the Good Society, (1937).

Friday, 25 July 2014

Acting against our convictions

While there are arguments concerning the public and private funding of health, I would like to pick up on the more sinister aspects around recent court rulings that many on the right and some on the left have seen: concerning to corporations funding contraceptives. Note that some oppose contraceptives because they view artificial contraception as immoral, others do not oppose contraception in principle but believe that certain contraceptives destroy embryos and thus destroy human life.

Julian Sanchez who does not personally oppose contraception or contraceptive abortifacients notes that the ruling (not to fund contraception) is cost neutral for various reasons including that pregnancy cover is more expensive than providing free contraceptives. He shrewdly comments,
In light of this, the outraged reaction to the ruling ought to seem a bit puzzling. If what you are fundamentally concerned about is whether women have access to no-copay contraception, then there’s no obvious reason to invest such deep significance in the precise accounting details of the mechanism by which it is provided. You might even be heartened by a ruling that so centrally turns on the premise that accomodation for religious objectors is required when no women will lack such coverage who would have enjoyed it under a mandate.

The outrage does make sense, of course, if what one fundamentally cares about—or at least, additionally cares about—is the symbolic speech act embedded in the compulsion itself. In other words, if the purpose of the mandate is not merely to achieve a certain practical result, but to declare the qualms of believers with religious objections so utterly underserving [sic] of respect that they may be forced to act against their convictions regardless of whether this makes any real difference to the outcome. And something like that does indeed seem to be lurking just beneath—if not at—the surface of many reactions. The ruling seems to provoke anger, not because it will result in women having to pay more for birth control (as it won’t), but at least in part because it fails to send the appropriate cultural signal. Or, at any rate, because it allows religious employers to continue sending the wrong cultural signal—disapproval of certain forms of contraception—when sending that signal does not impede the achievement of the government’s ends in any way.
He states that opponents contraceptive coverage are undeserving of respect and therefore it is viewed as acceptable to force them to act against their convictions.

In my mind the 2 concepts are not logically associated. One can have no respect for an idea or a person without compelling behaviour. Lacking respect is frequently justified. But my lack of respect (if warranted) means that I can disregard a person's foolish claims, not that I can force him to adopt my preferences. You do not get to force people to act against their convictions because you do not respect them. You do not even get to do that if you are correct and they are mistaken. Making a man act against what he strongly believes is to coerce him into sin. It is making him do something that he believes will offend God. Regardless of whether he discerns the issue rightly or wrongly, to make him offend God is forcing him to blaspheme.

I suspect many people including Christians fail to recognise how diabolical—and I choose that word intentionally—forcing men to blaspheme is. Such a man does not care for the opinion of God for if he did he would not try and make another do something he thinks offends God. It is akin to idolatry, though of the very worst form that tries to make others idolaters as well.

Damon Linker classifies himself as liberal: seemingly in both the modern and classic sense. I am not so certain he fully apprehends the issue, but he gets aspects of it.
On a range of issues, liberals seem not only increasingly incapable of comprehending how or why someone would affirm a more traditional vision of the human good, but inclined to relegate dissenters to the category of moral monsters who deserve to be excommunicated from civilized life — and sometimes coerced into compliance by the government.
And why might this be? Linker suggests,
From the dawn of the modern age, religious thinkers have warned that, strictly speaking, secular politics is impossible — that without the transcendent foundation of Judeo-Christian monotheism to limit the political sphere, ostensibly secular citizens would begin to invest political ideas and ideologies with transcendent, theological meaning.

Put somewhat differently: Human beings will be religious one way or another. Either they will be religious about religious things, or they will be religious about political things. 
Thus secularism (presumably left or right) tends toward idolatry.

Blasphemers often claim their demands are reasonable. Just a little incense to Caesar and you can worship your God the rest of the year.

Requests to affirm Islam (a false God), or provide health (and cover the cost of murder), or just bake a cake (affirming the goodness of sodomy); are all considered by many as competing claims against God. As I have written previously, forcing men to blaspheme is amongst the most grievous of sins. Not only must we avoid such coercion, we must oppose our ideological allies when they support such measures.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Repentance and remorse

Roy Ingle wrote a post on repentance recently that I had been meaning to comment on. He writes,
a mere recognition of sin is not enough to qualify as biblical repentance
and he goes on to list several examples from the Bible: Pharaoh, Balaam, Achan, King Saul, Judas. (I am not certain I agree concerning Ahab.)

This is important because repentance is not just a sense of sorrow, as important as that may be. Repentance means to turn away; to cease sinning and start behaving righteously.

We don't just need worldly sorrow for our actions, we need to repent: we need to cease sinning and instead walk in obedience to God. For the stubborn man rebuked several times will suddenly be destroyed (Proverbs 29:1).

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Defining terms and assuming the argument

I have written on choice of terms in framing a debate previously. Here are 2 further examples.

Calvinists use the term "doctrines of grace" to refer to Calvinism. They may think that they are stronger on grace though I dispute this. Such nomenclature is unhelpful and clouds the argument. This is because although "doctrine of grace" has a specific meaning it sounds like a belief in grace as opposed to, say, works. Yet Christian theology generally is a theology of grace and not works, or at least claims to be. (Others have suggested that a better term may be "doctrines of irresistible grace").

An example from a position I hold may be helpful. I hold to Young Earth Creationism (YEC). This term is a little unwieldy (and 6000 years is hardly young). Young Earth Creationists (YECs) have suggested the term "biblical creationism". Now I happen to think YEC is more biblical than the alternatives but that is kind of beside the point. "Biblical creationism" is needlessly disparaging when trying to debate what the Bible teaches. Non YECs may claim that their position is variably biblical.

Use terms that are moderately accurate, and don't use terms that assume you argument: don't beg the question.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Monday quote

A huge part of intellectual honesty is meaning the same thing when you use a term twice.

Cameron Harwick

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Civilian casualties in the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict

During a previous Israeli/ Palestinian conflict I wrote on civilian deaths in war. One cannot solely tally the number of deaths, one needs to consider intention.
Intention is important. One can argue whether or not an army deliberately targeting civilians is legitimate in war. The West generally condemns this action as morally wrong. While I am in general agreement with this, one could make an argument that it may be dependant on the choices "enemy" civilians make. But if we accept that intentional targeting of civilians is immoral then those who do so carry the guilt even if they are unsuccessful in their intent. That is, if they miss the target or strike the target but it has been evacuated such that no one is killed, the intent and attempt at civilian death is present. They should be thought of and treated similarly to any other group which accomplishes intentional civilian massacre. The lack of achievement of their goals does not remove their culpability.
Addressing civilian deaths in the current conflict,
Both [UN Secretary-General] Ban and the Obama administration took Israel to task for the mounting civilian death toll in Gaza.
This is misguided. This is a superficial approach looking at actual deaths and not intent.

Israel targets Hamas rockets thus minimising civilian death of its own population. It also uses various strategies to decrease Palestinian civilian casualties such as warning to stay out on an area, announcing targets ahead of time, using accurate targeting, agreeing to ceasefires for aid.

Hamas policy is to target civilian areas without warning thus attempting to maximise Israeli civilian death. It has also conducted military action in ways that are likely to increase Palestinian civilian casualties or encourage the use of human shields.

The greater number of Palestinian civilian casualties is due to more effective Israeli defence and their greater firepower. Israel is attempting to minimise civilian casualties on both sides and Hamas is attempting to increase civilian casualties on both sides. Ban and the Obama administration's complaints are directed toward the wrong side.


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