Monday, 31 December 2018

Monday quote

People who see themselves as the center of their solar system, often get enraptured by their own terrible but also delicious suffering. People who see themselves as a piece of a larger universe and a longer story rarely do.

David Brooks

Monday, 24 December 2018

Monday quote

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?

Gilbert K. Chesterton.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Monday quote

Secularists propose that religion and science need not conflict so long as religion is defined their way. Essentially they are saying, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that Caesar says he can have."

Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Monday quote

The truth is that moral values and the belief that life is meaningful are borrowed capital for the atheist, borrowed from the very thing the atheist aims to demolish—belief in God.

James S. Spiegel, The Making of an Atheist.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Monday quote

No man pretended to love his neighbour, but every one said he knew that peace and quiet behaviour was the best thing for himself, and that, he said, was quite as useful, and a great deal more reasonable.

George MacDonald. The Princess and Curdie.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Monday quote

It is frequently a sin to give offense. It is always a sin to take it.

Douglas Wilson

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Self-interest and selfishness

It could be argued that selfishness is a vice of the individual. But it is self-interest that is an individual trait, and selfishness can only be a vice in community.

Self-interest is inherently a virtue and not a vice. It is natural and normal to care for one's well-being. To lack care for one's self is associated with a range of unsavory behaviours ranging from neglect to self-harm. It is right to care one keeps warm, and sated, and free from thirst. And one can seek these things in private as much as he can in community. A hermit looks to care for himself.

Of course a man can care too much for himself, but that is because he has weighted his desires incorrectly: he loves food more than avoiding starvation, and thus becomes fat. Though obesity is hardly in a man's self-interest. The man needs to avoid the idolatry of his passions. Self-control contributes to self-interest.

But selfishness is a vice that one can only exhibit in a community. Those are selfish who care more about themselves than others. The problem is not that he had a second piece of pie, it is that there were others who had none. He may well have 3 pieces of pie at his own table, but not at a gathering where the provision was sub-optimal.

Selfishness is intrinsically a problem of community but self-interest is irrespective of community. Therefore self-interest need not detrimental to society. Selfishness is always bad, self-interest is problematic when it is idolatrous, or when a man is also selfish. But we have seen that all men have self-interest but not all men are selfish.

In order to serve others we must reject selfishness, though that need not mean rejecting self-interest. Service to others may involve going against self-interest, this is the path of Christ who walked towards death in order to give us life. Going without so others can have; giving away our time, property, money; fasting and praying for others. That we have self-interest does not mean we always need attend to it.

But we can also serve others by helping in areas that bring us pleasure. We differ in gifts but also desires. It is no virtue to insist that gardening and visiting and baking and teaching all be performed by the very men who dislike these activities. It may be in a necessity, but we can serve others in ways that also feed our enjoyment. It is not self-interest which damages community, it is selfishness.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Monday, 12 November 2018

Monday quote

We cannot be certain of being right about the future; but we can be almost certain of being wrong about the future, if we are wrong about the past.

GK Chesterton.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

On intelligence quotient and race

I wrote this as a comment on IQ and racial differences some months ago.

I think that IQ is real in that it measures a form of intellectual prowess. We all know people who are more and less intelligent and IQ seems to correlate with that. IQ almost certainly does not measure wisdom (knowing what is good and right).

I also think that an IQ difference between races is feasible. Certain tribal groupings differ in height, weight, eye colour, hair shape, on average.

However it seems to me that IQ likely is associated with many more genes than these other features. I also suspect that IQ is influenced by education despite claims otherwise. There is also evidence of IQ changes over time within a racial group. Therefore I very much doubt that there are significant, if any, differences between races.

So my position is there could be an IQ difference but there probably isn't. IQ does not measure morality. Having a higher IQ is a benefit, probably like being tall, or running fast. Racial differences are averages and do not apply to an individual. And IQ is only one metric, so it cannot be used for a general claim of racial superiority. We are equal before God because of our imago Dei, not because of our skills. And the man who is strong or fast or smart should never boast in this, but boast in the Lord.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Monday quote

I would suggest that God gave us emotions to enjoy and to alert us to pleasures, dangers and the condition of our inner man—not for the purpose of making decisions. For decision-making, He gave us the capacity to reason in order that we might objectively identify the right thing to do on the basis of God’s Word and then discipline the heart to follow after. Under discipline, the heart follows the direction set by a redeemed mind. Left to themselves, emotions generate delusion. Will we think with our feelings or with a Holy Spirit–inspired capacity to reason?

R. Loren Sandford

Monday, 29 October 2018

Monday quote

The main lesson of Dr Baron’s book, however, is that not everyone is a born writer. This is not to say that his little volume is without value. As Doctor Johnson might have put it, he who would be a writer must read bad books in order to be able to discern the virtues of good books. Dr Baron fails to distinguish between the memories that are important to him personally and those that might interest a reader. In writing, excision is next to godliness; and so his book reads like an extended and rambling speech of thanks for the presents kindly given to him at his retirement.

Theodore Dalrymple.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Monday quote

We know we understand an opposing view only when we are able to articulate it and receive the affirmation of our opponent that we have accurately represented his position. Only then can we proceed to argue against it. It does not take a big man to push over a straw man—little men are up to this simple task. Nor is it enough to say that our brother is wrong, or silly, or that his arguments make no sense; we must be prepared to demonstrate such claims. Some argue that they do not need to demonstrate such claims. Some argue they do not need to understand opposing views. But they cannot expect to engage people who disagree with them.

Robert R. Booth, Children of the Promise.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Monday quote

That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.

Dorothy Sayers

Monday, 8 October 2018

Monday quote

You can’t pray too much any more than you can love too much.

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Monday quote

When an organization has more of its decisions made by committees, that gives more influence to those who have more time available to attend committee meetings and to drag out each meeting longer. In other words, it reduces the influence of those who have work to do, and are doing it, while making those who are less productive more influential.

Thomas Sowell

Monday, 24 September 2018

Monday quote

Atheism is not the result of objective assessment of evidence, but of stubborn disobedience; it does not arise from the careful application of reason but from willful rebellion. Atheism is the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequence of immorality. In short, it is sin that is the mother of unbelief.

James S. Spiegel, The Making of an Atheist.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Monday quote

The Bible says that love covers a multitude of sins. This is good because hospitality frequently uncovers a multitude of them.

Douglas Wilson, My Life for Yours.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Monday quote

John Wesley said when he was told that there are a handful of things a minister must know in order to be a servant of Jesus Christ: How to share his faith, how to study the Bible very carefully, how to get his prayers answered, and fourth and finally, philosophy.

JP Moreland.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Monday quote

He grew at this time faster in body than in mind—with the usual consequence, that he was getting rather stupid—one of the chief signs of which was that he believed less and less in things he had never seen. At the same time I do not think he was ever so stupid as to imagine that this was a sign of superior faculty and strength of mind.

George MacDonald, The Princess and Curdie.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Monday quote

Androgyny occurs in the late stages of culture.

Camille Paglia (1947–)

Monday, 20 August 2018

Monday quote

While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the conscience of others, ever considering that God alone is the judge of the hearts of men, and to Him only in this case are they answerable.

George Washington, Letter to Benedict Arnold.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Monday quote

Advice is like cooking—you should try it before you feed it to others.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Monday quote

One cannot have superior science and inferior morals. The combination is unstable and self-destroying.

Arthur C Clarke (1917–2008).

Monday, 30 July 2018

Monday quote

Judgment [discernment] is the precondition of all enjoyment.

Roger Scruton

Monday, 23 July 2018

Monday quote

I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.

Wernher von Braun (1912–1977)

Monday, 16 July 2018

Monday, 9 July 2018

Monday quote

The Bible has always linked sex to covenant rather than consent.

Richard Beck, Reviving Old Scratch.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Outline of Revelation

Introduction and blessing
Vision of Jesus
Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. (1:19)
Letters to the 7 churches
Letter 1. Ephesus
Letter 2. Smyrna
Letter 3. Pergamum
Letter 4. Thyatira
Letter 5. Sardis
Letter 6. Philadelphia
Letter 7. Laodicea
Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this. (4:1)
Throne in heaven
Sealed scroll
Slain Lamb

7 seals
Seal 1. White horse (conqueror)
Seal 2. Red horse (war)
Seal 3. Black horse (poverty)
Seal 4. Pale horse ridden by Death and Hades (war, famine, pestilence, wild beasts)
Seal 5. Martyrs appeal
Seal 6. Earthquake, black sun, red moon, stars fall, sky rolls up, men hide
144,000 sealed from Israel
Multitude of the nations clothed in white gathered before the throne
Seal 7. Silence in heaven

7 Trumpets
Trumpet 1. Hail and fire with blood. Burned a third of earth, third of trees, all grass.
Trumpet 2. Burning mountain into sea. Third sea became blood, third sea creatures die, third ships destroyed.
Trumpet 3. Star Wormwood falls on waters. Third waters wormwood (bitter) and men die.
Trumpet 4. Third sun, moon, stars struck. Third light removed. Third of day and night lose light.
3 Woes
Trumpet 5 (Woe 1). Star fallen from heaven open abyss. Dark smoke and locusts of Abbadon. 5 months of torment.
Trumpet 6 (Woe 2). 4 Angels bound at Euphrates released to kill a third of men. Plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur.
Refusal of men to repent
Mighty angel with little scroll

7 Thunders
Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down. (10:4)
In the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled. (10:7)
John eats scroll. Tastes of honey but bitter to stomach.
Court measured
Nations trample holy city for 42 months
2 witnesses prophesy for 1260 days
Beast kills witnesses. Witnesses revived. Witnesses ascend to heaven.
Earthquake. 7000 die.
Trumpet 7 (Woe 3). Kingdom of earth becomes kingdom of heaven. Temple in heaven opened.
Signs in heaven: woman then dragon. Woman flees for 1260 days.
War in heaven. Satan cast down.
Dragon pursues woman. Woman protected for time, times, and half a time. Dragon pursues the rest of the woman's offspring.
The beast from the sea. Beast exercises authority for 42 months.
The beast from the land.
Number of the beast 666

The Lamb on Mount Zion with 144,000
3 angels
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on (14:13)
Harvests of earth and vine

7 bowls (plagues)
Bowl 1. Painful sores
Bowl 2. Sea blood
Bowl 3. Rivers and springs blood
Bowl 4. Sun scorches men
Bowl 5. Beast's kingdom darkness
Bowl 6. Euphrates dries up for kings from the East. Dragon, beast and false prophet have unclean spirits come from their mouths. Battle at Armageddon.
Bowl 7. Earthquake, city split, hailstones.
Great prostitute
Seven mountains and seven kings
Fall of Babylon
Rejoicing in heaven
Marriage supper of the Lamb
Rider on the white horse
Beast and false prophet thrown into the Lake of Fire
Angel binds Satan 1000 years
Martyrs raised and reign with Christ
Satan released. Deceives nations. Destroyed by fire from heaven. Cast into Lake of Fire.
Great White Throne
New Heaven and Earth
New Jerusalem
River of Life
Jesus promises to return

Monday, 2 July 2018

Monday quote

But if [someone] agrees with you and you threaten to punch that [person] for not agreeing with you exactly the right way, that might be an oversized reaction.

Scott Adams

Monday, 25 June 2018

Monday quote

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

H.G. Wells (1866–1946).

Sunday, 24 June 2018

The dark side of young earth creationism

This comic was shared as a reason to reject creationism. Old Earth Ministries (OEM) exists,
to help the church understand they are following a false teaching, and abandon young earth creationism in favor of accepting the scientific truth that our world is billions of years old. 
The comic presents claims by a creationist which are refuted by an Old Earth advocate. The setup is an enthusiastic but naive and ignorant creationist who repeats creationist teaching and is refuted by an knowledgeable and calm rationalist. The creationist is increasingly angry until he becomes an apostate.

The rhetorical effect is one of creationism being both false and dangerous regardless of whether the actual arguments contained in the comic have any merit. But it must be remembered that falsehood is falsehood regardless of whether or not you keep your cool (or, as often the case, you are actually passive aggressive). Man's anger is to be avoided but so is sowing discord among brothers. You don't get a free pass from God by avoiding wrath if you still bear false witness. Character matters, but so does truth.

The claims of the tract are as follows
  1. Scientific theories by creationists are not science but propaganda. Creationism is not scientific
  2. Creationism is not taught in the Bible.
  3. The Hebrew word "yom" means any time frame, not a normal day.
  4. The earth bringing forth fruit is not God doing a miracle thus the time must be longer than a day.
  5. Numbering "day" does not make it literal.
  6. Putting "evening and morning" does not make it literal.
  7. God referring to creating in 6 days and resting on one is not literal because we have other Sabbath patterns.
  8. The sun was not created on day 4 it appeared.
  9. Human death did not exist before the Fall, but animal death did.
  10. If the world is no longer very good then Romans 1:20 cannot be true.
  11. God cannot give us meat if carnivory comes from sin.
  12. God fixes laws so creation cannot change.
  13. If creation changed with Adam then the gospel is diminished.
  14. Creationism stared with John Milton's Paradise Lost.
  15. Creationism is dangerous because when Christians come to understand it is false they abandon Christianity.
14 of these claims are definitely false. And #9 probably is.

Creationists have written on all of them in detail. My summary will be brief. But it is worth mentioning a common feature through the comic. Creationists believe what they do because they read the Bible in a straightforward manner. They are what many would describe as literalists. Creationists take many of the statements in Genesis as narrative and historical. Though they do not think every verse in the Bible is literal. Creationists allow for a range of genres including fable, poetry, and apocalyptic. They recognise grammatical features such as hyperbole, generalisation, rhetoric, etc. What is problematic in the protagonist is that he refutes plain readings of Scripture by giving hyper-literal meanings to other passages. Including appealing to more poetical passages.

To the arguments.

Scientific theories by creationists are not science but propaganda. Creationism is not scientific.

Except that creationism is applying the scientific method to the world around us using different presuppositions. We assume that history is correct as recorded in the Bible and apply that to the world. The presuppositions of Evolutionists are just that. The evidence is the same, but we read it through different perspectives. And it matters what those perspectives are.

As an aside, much of what is called science is actually history. And the historical story of evolution is far more history than it is science. Forensic science is legitimate, but it is not operational science and should not be confused with it.

Creationism is not taught in the Bible.

It depends a little on what is meant here, but the idea that the world is currently ~6000 years old has a long history. It seems ridiculous that an idea that many men have concluded from Scripture over millennia is not suggested by Genesis. Now these interpreters could be mistaken, but only if you claim a straightforward reading is mistaken. This is a little ingenuous. You really have to show why this interpretation is incorrect rather than stating it is absent from the text. 

The Hebrew word "yom" means any time frame, not a normal day.

This is just plain false. It can mean a time frame longer than a usual day, much like the English word. But it has usual meaning and less common meanings. And its meaning without any contextual qualifiers is that of a normal length day.

The earth bringing forth fruit is not God doing a miracle thus the time must be longer than a day.

The logic seems to be that God told the earth to bring forth fruit thus the length of the day must include that time that it takes for a fruit tree to grow fruit. This is utter nonsense. The idea that this is not a miracle because it is indirect is folly. Further, the same is said about the earth bringing forth animals and yet the earth does not normally do this directly or indirectly. Also, it is unlikely that the passage even says this. The earth is to bring forth trees which bear fruit.
God said, “Let the earth produce green plants that will bear seed—fruit trees bearing fruit in which there is seed—according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. And the earth brought forth green plants bearing seed according to its kind, and trees bearing fruit in which there was seed according to its kind.

Numbering "day" does not make it literal.

Except that it does. Hosea 6:2 is not an exception.
He will revive us after two days;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live in his presence.
Even if this means a short time (rather than 2 and 3 days), it means this by virtue of a symbolic comparison. The literalness of the 2 and 3 days is needed so that there can be a figurative understanding of a short time. If "day" does not mean a literal day here, then where is the meaning of a short time? If the passage could mean 2 aeons and 3 aeons then the implied meaning is this will happen after an extremely long time.

Putting "evening and morning" does not make it literal.

This is an interesting argument because creationists do not say that evening and morning mean a 24-hour period (though it often does), rather they argue that the association of evening and morning with the term day makes the day literal. So the example of Psalm 90 is irrelevant. The use of evening and morning here is meant to imply a short time. Again, like in Hosea, it is this literal meaning which shows the Psalmist is claiming how short things are. Grass blossoms and withers in a day, meaning quickly. Similarly men, in God's sight, have short lives.

God referring to creating in 6 days and resting on one is not literal because we have other Sabbath patterns.

This gets things back to front. The example of the creation is an example for men to follow. It is a direct comparison. God did this and you do the same. God created in 6 days and rested on the 7th day therefore you are to work for 6 days and rest on one day. In Exodus the term "day" appears in the command and the example of God. Other Sabbaths such as Sabbaths of years are modeled on the week. There is not comparison of God working for 6 years. Rather the example of 6 on 1 off is the Sabbatical type. (And there is no Sabbath of months.)

The sun was not created on day 4 it appeared.

There can be a difference between "create" [bara] and "make" [asah] but one must be careful not to overly distinguish synonyms. It could mean appoint. It is questionable that the sun existed before this, although the parenthetical comment about making the stars could mean they were made either then or had been made earlier. One should be cautious about getting an exact chronology from Job. As mentioned the stars could have antedated the sun. Either way, "stars" in Job 38:7 is likely to poetically refer to angels.

Human death did not exist before the Fall, but animal death did.

It depends a little on what is meant by "animal." Humans did not die before the Fall. Prior to the Fall Adam and Eve had access to the Tree of Life and death was a result of the Fall. Humans were to eat plants. The fact that God also gave plants to the animals and birds is highly suggestive that carnivory is a result of the Fall. God can then provide for animals if they subsequently become carnivorous. He gave men meat after the Flood and yet we still see God's hand in this provision.

If the world is no longer very good then Romans 1:20 cannot be true.
For from the creation of the world, [God's] invisible attributes, both his eternal power and deity, are discerned clearly, being understood in the things created, so that they are without excuse.
This claim seems a little odd. If the world is no longer very good (because of the Fall and animals eating other animals), then why would this passage not be true? We can see these attributes of God in the world even if it is broken. Why do we need a perfect created world to see God's handiwork?

God cannot give us meat if carnivory comes from sin.

The argument seems to be that if God gives us something then it must be good. If it is good then it cannot be a result of the Fall which came from sin. But this seems like an unusual argument as we know God gave us meat after the Flood and we know that God only gave plants before the Fall. Carnivory was something that occurred after creation. It was not how things were set up when God made humans. So it must have occurred for a reason.

The protagonist argues that carnivory cannot be due to sin because God gives us meat, but God can bring about good from evil. There are many examples in Scripture where something good comes from evil: Joseph and his brothers, Hosea and his wife, water from a rock, salvation through the murder of Jesus.

God fixes laws so creation cannot change.
Thus says the Lord: "If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them."
This says nothing about whether creation can change as a result of the Fall. And we know that it did because Paul tells us:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

If creation changed with Adam then the gospel is diminished.

This takes us away from creationism into whether God foreknew or caused the Fall. Regardless, the Fall occurred and God promised a redeemer in the curse. The idea that a plan B diminishes anything for God is not borne out in Scripture. It is frequently the case that God does even greater things when we fail.

Creationism stared with John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Mention is made of Milton and 4 other creationists. Milton wrote Paradise Lost in 1667 and 1674. It is almost certain that any concepts related to creationism reflected not only his beliefs but those of Christians during that time. No mention is made of many other creationists such as Kepler (1571–1630) or Newton (1642–1727). Creationism clearly antedates Paradise Lost.

Creationism is dangerous because when Christians come to understand it is false they abandon Christianity.

There are several reasons to question this. Firstly, there are a large number of beliefs which are held by a variety of Christians around the world. Many who change what they think about a particular doctrine do not abandon the faith. Most of us have modified at least one aspect of what we think about various Christian doctrines. Do we all abandon the faith every time we modify a belief?

Secondly, it is the experience of many creationists that Christians who have abandoned evolution they were taught and embraced a creationist understanding of Genesis and the Bible are even more enthusiastic about he things of God. It was the theory of evolution that hamstrung their faith.

Thirdly, what are we to say of other Christian beliefs that act as a stumbling block? Professed Christians abandon Christianity claiming that they have come to realise one of their beliefs is wrong. Do we deny the virgin birth, the coming of Jesus in the flesh, the love of God, because if someone abandons this belief they could end up abandoning Christianity? The truth is that people abandon Christianity for a range of reasons, not all because of struggles with doctrine. Even so, someone who wishes to walk away will often blame a belief he struggles with. (This may even be the case when the real reason is that he struggles with a sin that he does not wish to abandon.)

Regardless, it is important to believe the truth. If creationism in true then it is better to teach it in the church and better for Christians to hold this doctrine. Irrespective of what happens to men who abandon a true doctrine, we are better to think rightly about the world, the Bible, and God.


I find it interesting that creationism is portrayed as dangerous in this cartoon. It seems to me that the author rejects a straightforward reading of Genesis but in doing so he reveals that he does not understand the rest of Scripture that he brings to his defense.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Monday quote

Imagine a town with a certain level of crime. You divide the crimes into serious ones and less serious ones. Over a period of time, the rate of serious crime increases by 20% and the rate of less serious crime increases by 40%. This is clearly a development for the worse. But although more people are exposed to serious crime and more people are exposed to less serious crime as well, a trickster would say that, as there are now relatively fewer cases of serious crime, the situation has improved.

Peter C Gøtzsche

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Cosmological argument

Alexander Pruss proposes 2 versions of the cosmological argument:
  1. There are no infinite causal regresses or causal loops.
  2. Every ordinary entity has a cause.
  3. So, there is an extraordinary entity.
  1. There is a causal explanation why there are any ordinary entities.
  2. Causal explanations are not circular.
  3. So, there is an extraordinary entity.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Monday quote

As regards sexual morality, we have reached a point at which it is no longer sufficient for us to criticize modernity’s poor answers. Like our Lord in the gospel narratives, we must also correct its terribly impoverished questions.

Michael W. Hannon

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Papias and John the Elder

We have little of what Papias wrote, and all of it indirectly from others quoting him. Quotes can be accessed in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library here. Papias makes comments about authorship and date which have been variously understood. Lacking the original we lack context, and because other authors quote him we are reliant on their interpretation of Papias' words.

Papias lived c. 60–130 AD. He was the bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia and a contemporary of Polycarp (69–155). Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. Iranaeus (130–202) was a disciple of Polycarp. We have fragments of Papias from the writings of Iranaeus and Eusebius (c. 260–340).

In Church History chapter 39 Eusebius writes,
1. There are extant five books of Papias, which bear the title Expositions of Oracles of the Lord. Irenaeus makes mention of these as the only works written by him, in the following words: “These things are attested by Papias, an ancient man who was a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book. For five books have been written by him.” These are the words of Irenaeus.
2. But Papias himself in the preface to his discourses by no means declares that he was himself a hearer and eye-witness of the holy apostles, but he shows by the words which he uses that he received the doctrines of the faith from those who were their friends.
3. He says: “But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself.
4. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders,—what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.”
5. It is worth while observing here that the name John is twice enumerated by him. The first one he mentions in connection with Peter and James and Matthew and the rest of the apostles, clearly meaning the evangelist; but the other John he mentions after an interval, and places him among others outside of the number of the apostles, putting Aristion before him, and he distinctly calls him a presbyter.
6. This shows that the statement of those is true, who say that there were two persons in Asia that bore the same name, and that there were two tombs in Ephesus, each of which, even to the present day, is called John’s. It is important to notice this. For it is probable that it was the second, if one is not willing to admit that it was the first that saw the Revelation, which is ascribed by name to John.
7. And Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings. These things we hope, have not been uselessly adduced by us.
8. But it is fitting to subjoin to the words of Papias which have been quoted, other passages from his works in which he relates some other wonderful events which he claims to have received from tradition.
9. That Philip the apostle dwelt at Hierapolis with his daughters has been already stated. But it must be noted here that Papias, their contemporary, says that he heard a wonderful tale from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that in his time one rose from the dead. And he tells another wonderful story of Justus, surnamed Barsabbas: that he drank a deadly poison, and yet, by the grace of the Lord, suffered no harm.
10. The Book of Acts records that the holy apostles after the ascension of the Saviour, put forward this Justus, together with Matthias, and prayed that one might be chosen in place of the traitor Judas, to fill up their number. The account is as follows: “And they put forward two, Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias; and they prayed and said.”
11. The same writer gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other more mythical things.
12. To these belong his statement that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth. I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures.
13. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Irenæus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views.
14. Papias gives also in his own work other accounts of the words of the Lord on the authority of Aristion who was mentioned above, and traditions as handed down by the presbyter John; to which we refer those who are fond of learning. But now we must add to the words of his which we have already quoted the tradition which he gives in regard to Mark, the author of the Gospel.
15. “This also the presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.” These things are related by Papias concerning Mark.
16. But concerning Matthew he writes as follows: “So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.” And the same writer uses testimonies from the first Epistle of John and from that of Peter likewise. And he relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. These things we have thought it necessary to observe in addition to what has been already stated.
Specifically Eusebius quotes Papias as saying,
But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders,—what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.
Eusebius then states that Papius is referring to two distinct Johns—the disciple (Apostle) John and John the Presbyter (Elder). Gundry argues otherwise in The Old is Better: New Testament Essays in Support of Traditional Interpretations. Gundry translates the relevant passage thus,
And by way of guaranteeing their truth to you [sg.] I will not hesitate to concatenate for the Expositions [of the Lord's Oracles] both as many things as I once learned well from the elders and [as many things as] I remembered [or 'noted down'] well. For I was not delighting in those who were saying many things, as the majority [of people were delighting in them]. Rather, [I was delighting in] those who were teaching the truth. Nor [was I delighting in] those [who were remembering] the commandments given to the faith by the Lord and deriving from the truth itself. And if somewhere anyone who had followed the elders happened to come, I was examining the words of the elders, what Andrew or what Peter had said, or what Philip or what Thomas or James or what John or Matthew or any other one of the Lord's disciples [had said], and what things Aristion and the elder John, the Lord's disciples, are saying [with reference to the time when Papias was examining these reports]. For I was not assuming that the things from books would benefit me so much as the things from a living and surviving voice.
Another modern translation,
But I will not shrink back [from telling] you even as many things as I have already well learned from the elders—and [as many things as] I have ably remembered to arrange systematically by interpretation, while [at the same time] confirming the truth concerning them. For I was not pleased with those who say many things (even though such is popular with the masses), but with those who teach the truth. Nor was I pleased with those who remember the other commandments, but [only] with those who [remember the commandments] from the Lord which have been given in faith and which come from it in truth. But if somewhere someone would come who has heeded the elders, [let it be known that] I [too] have often examined the words of the elders—[namely,] what Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples had said, even what Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were presently saying. For I did not entertain [the idea that] the words from books would benefit me nearly as much as those from a living and abiding voice.
Now the existence of a second John does not imply that the Apostle John did not write Revelation (if we only consider Papias' words). However if these two references to John are the same John then we do not have another John who could have written Revelation. That is, two Johns is not evidence against a single author for the Gospel and Revelation (and the letters) but one John is evidence for it.

A reason to consider that there is only one John is that Papias is talking about different times.

Papias calls the following elders [presbuteron]:
  • Andrew
  • Peter
  • Philip
  • Thomas
  • James
  • John
  • Matthew
and adds "or [what] any other of the Lord’s disciples had said. Note he is referring to them as disciples as he contrasts them with other disciples. He is also specifying previous words of theirs.

Next Papias specifies these two as the Lord's disciples
  • Aristion
  • the elder John, 
and refers to what they "are saying." We do not otherwise know who Aristion was. The Johns mentioned are both called disciple and elder. But Papias is discussing how he was interested in examining the words of what the former group had said in times past and examining the words of what the latter group were saying currently. It is possible that at the time Papias was examining such words, many of the former group had died. Yet the Apostle John was likely still living. In fact Eusebius mentions that Papias had handed down traditions of Aristion and the Elder John which may imply Papias had heard these two directly. Elsewhere Eusebius says that Papias was a disciple of John. From Jerome's translation of Eusebius' Chronicles,
Bishop Irenaeus writes that John the Apostle survived all the way to the time of Trajan: after whom his notable disciples were Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch. (Chronicles)
If Papias had heard them directly this explains why their current sayings are distinguished from the earlier sayings of the disciples. Irenaeus also documents that Papias has heard directly from John.
Now testimony is borne to these things in writing by Papias, an ancient man, who was a hearer of John, and a friend of Polycarp, in the fourth of his books; for five books were composed by him. (Against Heresies 5:33)
Others also claim that Papias heard John. Jerome writes,
Papias, the pupil of John, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia, wrote only five volumes,... (Illustrious Men)
If John was still alive at the time of Papias, and moreover if Papias had listened to John in person, then it seems reasonable, even likely, that he is referring to John the apostle in this passage: both mentions of John refer to the same man.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Monday quote

The philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has observed that there is now so little common ground shared by the various schools of thought that rational ethical debate has been reduced to exclamatory cheering sections that, faced with an ethical proposition, erupt into “Hurrah!” or “Boo!”

Professors in countless classrooms in many different disciplines report that students have already been well taught that, when they are faced with any moral proposition, the proper response is, “That’s just your opinion.” They are resistant, then, to resolving disagreements by reasoned arguments. They aver, “You choose your good, and I’ll choose mine.” Reasoned debate is replaced by naked will. I choose. Don’t ask me to give reasons—I just choose.

Michael Novak

Monday, 28 May 2018

Monday quote

Envy is always at the bottom of every discontent.

Douglas Wilson.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Monday quote

Political Correctness is not merely false, it is moonbat-barkingly, outrageously, openly, in-your-face false.

John C. Wright.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Monday quote

The question isn’t “If God is perfectly loving, why would he allow all those people to die?”. Rather, we should marvel at the amazing love of God to save anyone, especially when the price was the death of the Son of God.
Lita Cosner.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Monday quote

Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.

Michael Ramsey

Monday, 30 April 2018

Monday quote

If our rationality and morality do not come from God they come from chance permutations of some basic stuff or from the working of mindless forces. In either case, they have no validity.

R.L. Purtill

Monday, 23 April 2018

Monday quote

If we believe in the Bible’s authority, then shifts in public opinion should not matter. The Christian faith will always be offensive to every culture at some points.

Tim Keller.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Monday quote

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

Rick Warren

Sunday, 15 April 2018

The infinities of God

It is common to say that God is infinite or that his attributes are infinite. He has infinite knowledge and infinite strength.

The problem with this is that actual as opposed to ideal infinities do not exist in the material. It is not apparent to us that infinities can actual exist in God.

There are also things God cannot do by virtue of them being illogical, against his nature, or definitionally irrelevant to God.

It seems preferable to say that God has no limits, which does not seem to mean the same as God is infinite (other than metaphorically).

For example, there may not be a limit on the size of the universe (assuming no logical problems with this) God could choose to create, at the same time it also be impossible for God to make an infinite universe.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Monday quote

God is supremely rational, and the human being is also rational, being created in the image and likeness of God. Hence religion, which is the expression of the deep relationship between God and humankind, cannot be but rational.

Johannes Kepler

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Did the Hebrew day begin in the morning or evening?

Modern Jews start a new day at sunset. It is thought that this calendar convention also existed at the time of Jesus although there may have been more than one calendar at that time with different sects giving preference to one over another.

Genesis 1 describes the completion of each day's creative acts by God with the words: there was evening and there was morning, the nth day. Some commentators have argued that the day began at evening and Genesis is saying that the beginning of the day is at evening, then morning occurred, and the day therefore ended at the next evening. This sounds strained. Evening and morning occur after the creative act. It seems more logical to read the verses as saying that the creative acts occurred during the daylight followed by evening after the creative acts have finished* followed by night followed by the next morning which is the terminus of the day.
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. (Gen 1:20-23)
The day begins at dawn, then God creates the fish and birds, then the evening comes, and then the day completes with a new morning.

I suspect that this was the case at creation and was still in place at the time of the Exodus. That is, the Hebrew day started at dawn and finished the following dawn. A transition to a calendar where the day commences at dusk occurred sometime later: prior to the current era, possibly before the time of Jesus; perhaps around the time of the Exile to Babylon. There is evidence of a different possible calendar change at the time of the Exile: the year start switched from the first month (Nisan) to the seventh month (Tishri).

If the day started at dawn, at least from the time of creation to the exodus, there could be evidence of this in Scripture.

I would argue that the instructions concerning Passover and Unleavened Bread make the most sense if the day commenced at dawn. I will call a day commencing at dawn a dawn-day. That is, at dawn when the sun comes up a new day begins. Likewise dusk-days commence in the evening.

English Bibles often use the term "twilight" whereas the literal text uses the phrase "between the evenings". There is considerable debate about what this phrase means. It may be that the first evening occurs when the sun goes down and the second evening when it gets dark. Or from sundown to midnight. Or from noon until sundown. Perhaps even between noon and midnight. For the passages we will discuss the interpretation does not significantly affect our calculations.

There are three instructions concerning the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. These occur in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. These instructions were all given during the same epoch which means that the time the day began was almost certainly the same for all three episodes. This is unless Exodus uses an Egyptian calendar which changed after the Hebrews left Egypt.

God gave Moses instructions for the Passover,
Yahweh said to Moses and to Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month [Abib, Nisan] will be the beginning of months; it will be for you the first of the months of the year. Speak to all the community of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month, they will each take for themselves a lamb for the family,...

“You will keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and all the assembly of the community of Israel will slaughter it between the evenings... And they will eat the meat on this night;...

“And I will go through the land of Egypt during this night, and I will strike all of the firstborn in the land of Egypt,...

“And this day will become a memorial for you, and you will celebrate it as a religious feast for Yahweh throughout your generations; you will celebrate it as a lasting statute. You will eat unleavened bread for seven days. Surely on the first day you shall remove yeast from your houses, because anyone who eats food with yeast from the first day until the seventh day—that person will be cut off from Israel. It will be for you on the first day a holy assembly and on the seventh day a holy assembly; no work will be done on them; only what is eaten by every person, it alone will be prepared for you.

“And you will keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because on this very day I brought out your divisions from the land of Egypt, and you will keep this day for your generations as a lasting statute. On the first day, on the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you will eat unleavened bread until the evening of the twenty-first day of the month. For seven days yeast must not be found in your houses, because anyone eating food with yeast will be cut off from the community of Israel—whether an alien or a native of the land. You will eat no food with yeast; in all of your dwellings you will eat unleavened bread.” (Exo 12)
Passover was on the fourteenth day of Nisan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was for seven days. They were to start eating the unleavened bread on the evening of Nisan 14 and continue until the evening of Nisan 21.

In Leviticus God gives further instructions,
These are Yahweh’s appointed times, holy assemblies, which you shall proclaim at their appointed time. In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month at the evening is Yahweh’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of this month is Yahweh’s Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day there shall be a holy assembly for you; you shall not do any regular work. And you shall present an offering for Yahweh made by fire for seven days; on the seventh day there shall be a holy assembly; you shall not do any regular work. (Lev 23:4-8)
This reiterates the command in Exodus but clarifies that Passover is on Nisan 14 and the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on Nisan 15. Exodus states that unleavened bread is to be eaten from Nisan 14, that is from Passover proper; yet they are to eat it for 7 days. Leviticus states that the Feast of Unleavened Bread proper starts on Nisan 15.

Again, in Numbers, at the end of 40 years of wandering, God commands,
On the fourteenth day of the first month is the Passover for Yahweh. On the fifteenth day of this month is a religious feast, unleavened bread must be eaten for seven days. On the first day there will be a holy assembly you will not do any regular work.... On the seventh day you will have a holy assembly you will not do any regular work. (Num 28:16-18,25)
These passages give similar commands. What is notable is that while all three give 7 days as the duration of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Exodus specifies that this is to be from the evening of Nisan 14 to the evening of Nisan 21. There is also to be a holy assembly on the first and seventh days of Unleavened Bread.

Using dawn-days we have Nisan 14 starting in the morning and the passover lamb being killed between the evenings (ʿereb) and eaten that night (layil). Unleavened bread would be eaten that evening with the Passover meal (Exo 12:8,18). The following morning starts the next day: Nisan 15. Nisan 15 is the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread when they have a holy assembly with the attendant sacrifices. Nisan 16 is day 2 of the feast, Nisan 21 is day 7. There is a holy assembly that day also. In the evening the feast ends and unleavened bread only needs to be eaten until that evening (Exo 12:18).

DateTimeFeast dayComments
Nisan 14morning

eveningPassover sacrificeunleavened bread begins
Nisan 15morningFeast Day 1holy assembly


Nisan 16morningFeast Day 2


Nisan 17morningFeast Day 3


Nisan 18morningFeast Day 4


Nisan 19morningFeast Day 5


Nisan 20morningFeast Day 6


Nisan 21morningFeast Day 7holy assembly

unleavened bread ends
Nisan 22morning

Using dusk-days the entire feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread must last 8 days. Nisan 13 changes to Nisan 14 at dusk. The lamb is slaughtered and eaten that night along with unleavened bread. In the morning it is still Nisan 14 which is still Passover day. The Feast of Unleavened Bread does not start until that evening Nisan 15 (Lev 23:6). The holy assembly occurs that day but not until the following morning because they were not to work and the sacrifice of the first day of Unleavened Bread occurs at the same time as the morning sacrifice (Num 28:23).

Nisan 15 is the first day of the feast and Nisan 21 the seventh day. Nisan 21 starts in the evening but the evening of Nisan 21 is also when the the consumption of unleavened bread ceased. From the evening of Nisan 21 the Israelites were no longer required to eat unleavened bread even though the Feast of Unleavened Bread still had one day to go. The following morning they had the holy assembly on the final day of the feast. If unleavened bread was to be continued to be eaten until the end of Nisan 21, just before Nisan 22 started, then the command to eat for seven full days (Exo 12:19) is actually eight full days. 

DateTimeFeast dayComments
Nisan 14 evening Passover sacrifice unleavened bread begins


Nisan 15 evening Feast Day 1

holy assembly
Nisan 16 evening Feast Day 2


Nisan 17 evening Feast Day 3


Nisan 18 evening Feast Day 4


Nisan 19 evening Feast Day 5


Nisan 20 evening Feast Day 6


Nisan 21 evening Feast Day 7 unleavened bread ends

holy assembly
Nisan 22 evening

All three passages concerning Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread make sense if the Israelites were using dawn-days. Dusk-days imply that there is a morning after Passover begins prior to the holy assembly, and that the second holy assembly occurs after the time of unleavened bread ceases.

*This may not be the case on day 2.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Monday quote

God wants to give us a gift, and we want to buy it.

Jennifer Herdt

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Why does the Easter date vary so much?

In the Western church (Catholic and Protestant churches) Easter occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Spring equinox occurs around March 21 but can occur a day earlier. For the church's purposes the equinox occurs March 21. The full moon can occur from March 21 and up to 29 days later.

The Eastern* church (Orthodox church) uses a similar formula but follows the older Julian calendar, and defines certain days. Thus "full moon" occurs on the 14th day of the month, not when the moon is full.

Jesus died at Passover. Passover begins Nisan 14† which is during the first month of the Jewish year. The Jewish calendar is lunar-solar which means that the months all begin at the new moon. Months are 29 or 30 days long. Because there are more than 12 lunar months in a year the Jewish year occasionally has an extra month. The Jewish New Year starts about the time of the spring equinox (northern hemisphere).

So Jesus was crucified on a Friday during a full moon. The Easter date is designed to have Good Friday and Easter Sunday land close to the first full moon after the spring equinox (which approximates the Jewish New Year) while maintaining the days of the week so that every year the crucifixion and resurrection days land on Friday and Sunday respectively.

*Some Eastern churches use the Western date.
†Modern Jews use Nisan 15.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

What day was Jesus crucified?

Exodus specifies when the passover lamb was to be eaten.
Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight.

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. (Exo 12:5-8)

And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day, throughout your generations, as a statute forever. In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening (Exo 12:17-18)
Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28 likewise instruct the Hebrews concerning Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were intimately connected. Passover refers to the angel passing over the Israelite dwellings. Yet the lamb was to be eaten with unleavened bread from the first day. God gave instructions about the passover lamb and the unleavened bread but the festival was a single festival. As such both the term "Passover" and the term "Feast of Unleavened Bread" were somewhat synonymous.

The synoptic gospels make it clear that the Passover was celebrated by Jesus and his disciples on Thursday evening which would have been Nisan 14. He was crucified on the Friday which was still Nisan 14 (sunset to sunset reckoning). The only difficulties with this position concern John's chronology and the term 3 days and 3 nights. I have argued that the latter phrase is an idiom. Were we to take this as a literal time frame of 72 hours we are left with the problem of Jesus rising on the third day.

Concerning John's chronology he writes
Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the governor’s residence. Now it was early, and they did not enter into the governor’s residence so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. (Joh 18:28)

Now it was the day of preparation of the Passover (Joh 19:14)
Previously I have suggested that Day of Preparation is 6th day of the week, the day that the Jews prepare for the Sabbath. The phraseology sounds like it is a day for preparing for the Passover. However Passover is a synonymous with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Note how Luke says,
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is called Passover, was drawing near. (Luk 22:1)
It appears that John is using Passover to refer to the week long feast. Day of Preparation is our Friday. To paraphrase, John is saying that it was about the 6th hour on Friday of Passover week.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Monday quote

I find liberals tend to have a very loose understanding of a “contradiction” [in the Bible].

Matt Flannagan.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Monday quote

Some think that sin is so great that grace can't deal with it. Others think that sin is so trivial that not very much grace is needed. Both disparage the greatness of the grace of God.

Douglas Wilson, Hebrews Through New Eyes.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Monday quote

Moderns believe in genetics only because it is not fashionable to believe in astrology.

John C Wright.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Letter to the Galatian church

Galatians has a theme running through the letter which is important to recognise in order to understand the epistle rightly. Paul's concern is that the Galatians wish to enforce the Mosaic Law on Gentile Christians. This is problematic because not only is it incorrect and unnecessary, it denies the essence of the gospel. By trying to enforce this the Judaisers were denying salvation through faith in Christ alone. Paul begins his letter identifying this very issue:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (Gal 1:6).
What follows in the letter is an extended treatise on how Christ supercedes the Mosaic Law.

Paul states that there is only one gospel; that all other gospels are false; that anyone who preaches otherwise should be accursed; that Paul did not get this gospel from man but directly form Christ himself; that this is evidenced by his conversion from a persecutor of the church to a preacher of the gospel to the Gentiles; and that he confirmed with the apostles that the gospel he taught to the Gentiles was the true gospel.

It was evident to the apostles that just as they had been entrusted the gospel to the Jews, Paul was entrusted the gospel to the Gentiles. From this background Paul speaks against Gentiles having to obey the Mosaic Law. The Judaisers claimed that the Gentiles coming into the church had to obey the Mosaic Law including becoming circumcised. Paul therefore uses circumcision to refer to Jews and uncirumcision to refer to non-Jews. He proves his position first by referring to the situation in other churches and then by appeal to Scripture.

Concerning the situation in other churches Paul states that Titus the Greek was not compelled to be circumcised. He also notes that Peter was eating with Gentiles even though Jews do not eat with Gentiles. It was only after Judaisers infiltrated the church that Peter stopped eating with Gentiles, others followed suit. Paul labels the Judaisers the circumcision group, and not only did they persuade Peter but other Jews as well. Paul states that such behaviour is hypocritical and points out that he, Paul, had to rebuke Peter for trying to get the Gentiles to obey the Mosaic Law. If Peter, though a Jew, was permitted to behave like a Gentile, how much more so were Gentiles allowed to do so, That is, Gentiles do not have to behave like Jews: they do not have to obey the Mosaic Law.

It is uncertain what Paul is saying next. Translations differ as to whether Paul's rebuke to Peter ends at verse 14 or verse 21. If the quote ends at verse 14 then the subsequent discourse could be a development of Paul's rebuke of Peter or a new argument. If the quote ends at verse 21 then it must be a development of the rebuke. Of greater consequence is whether Paul means that Jewish Christians are found to be sinners (that is sinning) or to be among sinners (with Gentiles). Either way these Jews are "sinning", but the former position is sinning against the Law and against God, yet if the latter, Paul is implying a "sin" against the Law but not a sin against God.

Assuming the former, that is Jews are found to be sinners (against God), Paul is saying that he and others are Jews by birth, not Gentiles, not so-called sinners. Even so, as a Jew, as someone belonging to the group that God gave the Mosaic Law to, Paul knows that it is not obedience to the Law which justifies him but faith in Christ. In fact in it impossible to made right with God through obedience to the Law. Yet what about a Jew who is not trying to be made righteous through the Law but is trying to be made righteous in Christ? Such a person will inevitably disobey the Law at some point and is therefore identified as a sinner. Paul asks, because they are a sinner, even though they have faith in Christ, does that make Christ himself a servant of sin? That is, Jews are sinners because they disobey the Law yet are righteous because of faith in Christ; and if Christ is making  righteous those who are otherwise sinners, is Christ himself facilitating sin?

Assuming the latter, that is Jews are found among sinners, Paul is still saying that the Jews, who are not so-called sinning Gentiles, are not made righteous by obeying the Mosaic Law but through faith. However Paul then goes on to say that Jews are seeking to be justified by Christ while at the same times they are found to be with sinners, that is, eating with Gentile sinners. And if eating with Gentiles is sinful then is Christ facilitating sin?

The answer to either question is: Absolutely not!

Paul then illustrates why Christ is not facilitating sin.
For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. (Gal 2:18 ESV)

For if I build up again these things which I destroyed, I show myself to be a transgressor. (LEB)

If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. (NIV)
The LEB and ESV are saying that if a person tears down something then at a later stage rebuilds it, the fact of rebuilding shows that the person now knows that they were wrong to destroy it initially. Rebuilding is an admission of guilt. The NIV assumes the same but with the added implication that because rebuilding would prove transgression, Paul is in fact not rebuilding. Going with the LEB and ESV Paul says that Christ is not facilitating sin because the transgressor is the sinner not Christ. Going with the NIV Paul is saying that Christ is not facilitating sin because the charge of being a sinner is false and Paul is not rebuilding what he tore down.

It is difficult to decide between the two options. Paul elsewhere makes it clear that even as Christians we are not without sin. And he uses somewhat similar arguments in other letters (Romans 6:1; 7:13). But the connection of the argument with Paul's rebuke of Peter gives credence to the second view: Paul is not rebuilding what he broke down, it is not sinful to eat with the uncircumcised, and Christ is not facilitating sin. It also implies that those who would rebuild the barrier between Gentiles and Jews are admitting guilt and are the sinners.

Either way, through the law Paul died to the law so that he might live for God (Gal 3:19).

How did Paul die through the Mosaic Law. He says,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Elsewhere he says that anything that hangs on a tree is cursed (Gal 3:13). Christ died under the Law and Paul died with Christ. Paul died through the law just as Christ did. And now he lives for Christ.
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal 2:21)
Paul tells the Galatians that not only can righteousness not be obtained through the Mosaic Law, were it able to be thus obtained, then Christ died for nothing. Because Christ did die and he died for us, then by his death we know that righteousness through the Law is impossible. Further attempting to obtain righteousness through obeying the Law is tantamount to denying that Jesus needed to die. It is a denial of the gospel!

Paul now explains further why the Mosaic Law no longer holds: the Law was temporary while waiting for God's promise. God promised Jesus who is our righteousness. God gave the Law while we waited for Jesus to come.

The sons of Abraham are not those who are descended from Abraham but those who have the faith of Abraham. Covenants are final once ratified. No one can change them or annul them (Gal 3:15). God made a covenant with Abraham and this cannot be changed or annulled by any person. This covenant was a promise to Abraham concerning Abraham's seed. While seed can be a collective singular (Gal 3:29), Paul specifies that seed here refers to a single descendant, not all Abraham's descendants. The Mosaic law came after the promise and it cannot change or annul the promise. The promise to Abraham was Christ and it remained Christ until he came, even during the time of the Law. If this is the case then why did Moses give the Law? God gave it because of transgressions (Gal 3:19). It was given to regulate sin until the promise came through Jesus.

Paul develops the giving of the Law in an interesting way.
[The law] was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
More than one what?
  1. One party? God being one party and the Israelites being the other. 
  2. More than one Israelite? The Israelites needed a representative who was their intermediary.
Paul then asks if the Mosaic Law is opposed to God's promise. In other words, if the promise is primary, and the law is temporary and given to regulate transgressions, then is the law contrary to the promise? No. If there were a law that could bring life then it would be given. There is no law that can bring life which is why the promise was given, and why Jesus had to die. Scripture imprisoned everything to be a slave to sin. We were imprisoned and held captive under the Law. God did this so that the promise could come to those who believed God, until the revealing of faith.

The law is like a guardian. It exists until we become heirs of the promise through Christ. But faith has now come, we are no longer under the guardianship of the law. Christians do not need to defer to the Mosaic Law. Differences that were previously apparent: Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, are no longer present. We are one in Christ and we are Abraham's seed because we belong Christ.

We are heirs of the promise in Christ. The heir while he is a child is like a slave. A child under a guardian is as a slave. Before Christ we are slaves under the law. Slaves to elementaries. Elementary principles or elementary spirits.

Prior to knowing God they were enslaved to that which by nature are not gods. This could mean principalities and powers: elementary spirits. Now they are turning back to special days and seasons. This could mean elementary principles. Paul may be appealing to both meanings. Note that Paul is not averse to describing spiritual beings as gods (1Co 8:5) though they clearly are false gods and not God (1Co 10:20-21). Satan is the god of this age (2Co 4:4). Elementary principles may be the preferred reading.

Then to reiterate that promise has priority over the Law. Paul uses the example of Hagar and Sarah. The birth of Ishmael came via the normal method which is analogous to the Law. And Hagar was the maidservant of Sarah, which represents the slavery under the Law. Sarah was made fertile after menopause as a result of a promise of God. This is analogous to the promise of faith in Christ. Sarah, the free woman, is the mother of the faithful. Jerusalem corresponds to Hagar, the Jews who do not know Christ, the Law. In Christ we are no longer residents of the Old Jerusalem, we are children of the promise, residents of the New Jerusalem. We are free in Christ. To be circumcised is to revert to the Law, to become a slave again, to reject salvation through Christ. And the only way you can have salvation is to keep every last regulation of the Mosaic Law without a single mistake. It is Christ or the Law, you cannot have both.

Throughout Paul appeals to the Galatians that they may hold to the truth. Paul refers to Judaisers as false brothers (Gal 2:4). He entreats them to listen to him because of their love for him (Gal 4:14,15) and his concern for them (Gal 4:19). Others do not care for them and use them for their own purposes (Gal 4:17). They only want to boast in their own flesh (Gal 6:12) and in the flesh of those they persuade (Gal 6:13). Paul wishes that those who draw the Galatians away from Christ would emasculate themselves (Gal 5:12).

Christ is freedom from the Law. And if anyone is tempted to sin, Paul reminds them that because faith supercedes the Law, then if we have Christ we can live by the Spirit. Walk in obedience to the Spirit who now dwells in you. Fleshly desires are contrary to the Spirit. But if you obey the Spirit you are not under the Law (Gal 5:18), there are not even any laws against the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23).

Paul warns the Galatians concerning sins to avoid and how to help others caught in sin. He reminds them to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh. And finally,
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Gal 6:15)
Paul was persecuted by the Jews for this teaching. Those promoting circumcision wanted to avoid persecution. But Paul would not deny the gospel even though that meant persecution. God gave a promise. That promise meets its fulfillment in Christ. The Law was never the promise, it was temporary because of sin. One can try and obey every law but there was no Law that could bring salvation. Or one can trust in the promise and put his faith in Christ.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Monday quote

Ignoring the meaningless propaganda about "the college experience," parents and students can experience a tremendous amount of financial freedom by picking local schools, especially ones that offer in-state tuition benefits. Some Christians unwisely automatically dismiss this as "delayed adulthood," but I can assure that what happens in most university dorms bears not even a passing resemblance to adulthood.

Samuel James.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Monday quote

If you're going to speak authoritatively about the Christian "God," you should at least try to show some knowledge of what the Christian tradition means when it says "God." In short, know your opponent; else you may end up bringing the proverbial knife to a gun fight. Doug shows how Dawkins has come to this showdown with a rubber band and a paper clip.

Joel McDurmon, The Deluded Atheist.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Monday quote

It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, and fewer still to ignore someone completely.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Monday quote

Belief that a man is born in a prison cell is distinct from the belief that the man is incapable of acknowledging that he is in a prison cell and accepting help to escape when it is clearly offered.

Leighton Flowers.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Monday quote

Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don't know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields.

Thomas Sowell.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Monday quote

We want to receive forgiveness dispensed from a fire hose, and we want to ladle it out with a teaspoon. But Jesus came to save us from our parsimonious selves.

Douglas Wilson, Hebrews Through New Eyes.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Restating our opponent's perspective

Social media has been abuzz about an interview of Jordan Peterson by Channel 4 News in the UK. This kind of thing would usually frustrate me but the interviewer so often misrepresented and mischaracterised Peterson it made the whole think farcical and therefore amusing. Perhaps the funniest comment was by John C. Wright,
Please count the number of times in this video the female interviewer says the words “so what you are saying is” and then count the number of times the male interviewee agrees and says, “Yes you have understood me exactly.”

By my count, the first number is infinite, and the second is zero.
Though I agree with some things that Peterson says and disagree with others, it seems that Cathy Newman was not even interested in understanding his position, whether that be because of ignorance or intentional distortion. There are things to be learned from this episode such as claims of subsequent threats against Newman were generally false and therefore we need to be suspicious of many claims by the media. Or that requesting your allies to refrain from bad behaviour will be used by your enemies as justification that such behaviour is occurring. But there was a comment made in the Atlantic which is worth highlighting. Conor Friedersdorf writes about an interview technique that he sees used increasingly frequently: where the interviewer restates the interviewee's response in his own words,
Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.
After going through several examples Friedersdorf comes to this conclusion,
Newman repeatedly poses as if she is holding a controversialist accountable, when in fact, for the duration of the interview, it is she that is “stirring things up” and “whipping people into a state of anger.” 
Exactly. The divisive person paints his opponent as divisive. This is the problem many have with the left. It is not just that we disagree with their position, it is the dishonesty combined with the fact that they are being divisive at the same time claiming that their opponents are the divisive ones. It is rank hypocrisy.

Creating dissension for the sake of it is a tactic of the evil one. It is to be avoided. Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to get along (Phi 4:2). Elsewhere he says to warn a divisive person twice before having nothing further to do with them (Tit 3:10).

Now I have left leaning friends that are very honest, and I grant that many people on the left and right genuinely believe things that happen to be false. Further, this tactic is wrong when those on the right (or purported to be so) use it. But the use of this technique is evidence that the media (predominantly the left learning) are biased against righteousness: they use tools of the Devil. I am not saying here that the left are against truth because they are often wrong (though I think they are), I am saying that they are the most guilty of deliberately mischaracterising their opponents to justify their own narrative.

Friedersdorf concludes that he  wrote his article as,
an argument that the effects of the approach used in this interview are pernicious.
Exactly. We restate our opponent's perspective so that they may clarify whether or not we understand them. Not so that we can put lies in their mouths, lies that they do not even believe.

One may argue, what of rhetoric? Is not rhetoric the same kind of method we use in debates to win arguments?

In short, no. The point of rhetoric done well is to appeal to emotion in making an argument. But the man of God is only to use rhetoric in pursuit of the truth. Showing the consequences of an opponent's argument is not the same as saying he holds to premises that he most certainly does not.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Saved through childbearing

The interpretation of "saved through childbearing" in Paul's first letter to Timothy is enigmatic with a surplus of suggestions as to its meaning. Is Paul talking about Eve here, or a woman, or all women? Why does he change from the singular to the plural? Paul writes,
Likewise also the women should adorn themselves in respectably, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, but with good deeds which are fitting for women who profess godliness. A woman must learn in quietness with all submission. But I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was deceived, came into transgression. But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control. (1 Timothy 2)
A common interpretation is to see the salvation through childbearing to be a reference back to Eve, and then incorporating all women if they continue in faith, love and holiness with self-control. The childbearing would refer to Eve being the ancestor of Jesus and the promise of deliverance in the curse on the serpent. That Eve will be saved (future tense) seems slightly unusual although it may be that this is used because of its application to other women that Paul then makes. But why just women? Surely men are also saved through Jesus and must continue in faith.

The following is a possible solution. The Greek word gyne is usually translated "women" in this passage. Were the term to mean "wife" in this context this could modify how we read Paul here. The passage would read,
Likewise also wives should adorn themselves in respectably, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, but with good deeds which are fitting for wives who profess godliness. A wife must learn in quietness with all submission. But I do not permit a wife to teach or to exercise authority over her husband, but to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but [his] wife, because she was deceived, came into transgression. But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control.
Thus when Paul talks of "saving through childbearing," he may be referring back to this sentence: "I do not permit a wife to teach or to exercise authority over her husband". If so, then it makes sense for him to use the singular "she": the wife of her husband. But when Paul adds the qualification to continue in faith, this qualification refers to all wives, not the exemplar wife Paul was specifying in his original instruction.

What does Paul mean by saved through childbearing? Childbearing may well be a synecdoche for raising children. The curse in Genesis is likely a synecdoche as conception is hardly painful. That is, a wife can and will be saved in the role of motherhood even if such a role may seem less prominent in the church. Of course a wife who raises children must still remain faithful to Christ in that role and Paul specifies this.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Monday quote

If your life is Christ, then your death will be only more of Christ, forever. If your life is only Christlessness, then your death will be only more Christlessness, forever. That's not fundamentalism, that's the law of non-contradiction.

Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Monday quote

Few are so conformist as rebellious youth.

Theodore Dalrymple

Monday, 8 January 2018

Monday quote

The standard for how fast and in what direction the car should go cannot be how fast and in what direction the car is currently going.

Douglas Wilson, The Deluded Atheist.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Monday quote

Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.

Jaroslav Pelikan.


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