Theology Archives



More Specifically: Atonement (2) Bible (89) Christology (5) Church Dogmatics (20) Ecclesiology (4) Grace/Predestination (12) Hyper-Reformation Theology (2) Justification (1) Mysticism (1) Original Sin (1) Scripture and Tradition (7) Soteriology (5) The Eucharist (5) The Trinity (6)

December 25, 2013

A Thought for Christmas

The King of the Universe born in a stable can mean nothing less than the total subversion of the established social order. As I was contemplating this point this morning, I was reminded of a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: as King Arthur rides by, one peasant says to another, "look! It must be a king." When the second peasant asks, "how do you know?" the first responds, "he's the only one who hasn't got [dung] all over him." The image of the king is of the clean, the privileged, the wealthy, the insider. But the story...
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November 19, 2013

Some Historical Context to Locke on Faith and Reason

Most debates about faith and reason in the Western tradition carry the background assumption that 'faith' is or involves believing the teachings of the Bible. This gives rise to a rather obvious strategy for resolving any apparent conflicts between faith and reason: reinterpret the Bible. Much of what Locke says in "Of Faith and Reason, and their distinct Provinces" (EHU 4.18) depends crucially on this assumption, and this is why, in the 4th edition, Locke saw fit to add a chapter "Of Enthusiasm" (4.19) against those who claimed a direct revelation from God not mediated by language. In this post,...
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September 5, 2013

Quote of the Day: Childs on Miracles

[I]n the Old Testament a miracle is not some purely supernatural event, but rather something that evokes surprise and astonishment by which God is revealed as its source.

- Brevard S. Childs, commentary on Isaiah 29:13-14


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March 13, 2013

Quote of the Day: Enns on Religious Fear of Evolution

At present there is a lot of fear about the implications of bringing evolution and Christianity together, and this fear needs to be addressed head-on. Many fear that we are on a slippery slope, to use the hackneyed expression. Perhaps the way forward is not to resist the slide so much as to stop struggling, look around, and realize that we may have been on the wrong hill altogether.

- Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam, p. 145


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January 11, 2013

The Bible as Dialogue?

Over the holiday, I read Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation. (Enns also writes an excellent blog.) I have also been reading Brevard Childs' commentary on Isaiah. These two books have set me off on an interesting train of reflections. I'll first summarize the relevant points from each book, then proceed with my own reflections. The central point of Enns book is a familiar but important one: the Bible simply isn't the sort of book the fundamentalists want it to be. That is, fundamentalists (and, interestingly, certain atheist polemicists) have a certain a priori conception of what a revelation from God...
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November 6, 2012

Quote of the Day for Election Day

Woe to those enacting crooked statutes and writing oppressive laws to keep the poor from getting a fair trial and to deprive the afflicted of my people of justice, so that widows can be their spoil and they can plunder the fatherless. What will you do on the day of punishment when devastation comes from far away? Who will you run to for help? Where will you leave your wealth? - Isaiah 10:1-3, HCSB In the present American context, this passage demands to be combined with 1 Peter 4:17: "the time has come for judgment to begin with God's household."...
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July 26, 2012

Leibniz, Lewis, and Freedom to Break Laws/Divine Decrees

In his classic paper, "Are We Free to Break the Laws?", David Lewis argued that although we are not free to break the laws of nature, we are free to perform certain actions such that, if we performed them, a law would have been broken. This is supposed to allow compatibilists to secure alternate possibilities: it's true that in order for me to raise my arm right now, either the past or the laws of nature would have to have been different, but it's not true that if I raised my arm right now I would thereby alter the past...
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June 13, 2012

Quote of the Day: Augustine on Bad Science and Bad Biblical Interpretation

In fact, it often happens that even a non-Christian has views based on very conclusive reasons or observations about the earth, heaven, the other elements of this world, the motion and revolutions or the size and distance of the stars, the eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of years and epochs, the nature of animals, of plants, of rocks, and similar things. Now, it is very scandalous, as well as harmful and to be avoided at all costs, that any infidel should hear a Christian speak about these things as if he were doing so in accordance with...
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April 6, 2012

Quote of the Day For Good Friday

The body of the Word, then, being a real human body, in spite of its having been uniquely formed from a virgin, was of itself mortal and, like other bodies, liable to death. But the indwelling of the Word loosed it from this natural liability, so that corruption could not touch it. Thus it happened that two opposite marvels took place at once: the death of all was consummated in the Lord's body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished. Death there had to be, and death for all, so...
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February 15, 2012

Dropping My Tagline

For several years, this blog has been labeled with the tagline "The Evangelical libertarian philosopher." For some time now, I've been dissatisfied with this label, both as a description of my views and as a description of what this blog is about. I've hesitated to drop it primarily because I think that blogs of non-famous people, such as myself, should have some kind of descriptive name or tagline rather than just the author's name, and I couldn't think of another short, catchy, descriptive phrase that would nicely fill that bit of screen space. (I toyed with: "Berkeley's metaphysics, Nozick's politics,...
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January 26, 2012

Ross's Theory of Omnipotence Entails Double Predestination

Let E (for 'election') be the proposition which says de re of each person who will in fact be saved that he or she will be saved. That is, E is the longest conjunction of the form 'John will be saved, and Mary will be saved, and Lois will be saved...' which is true. Let R (for 'reprobation') be the proposition which says de re of each person who will in fact be damned that he or she will be damned. The doctrine of predestination is the doctrine that God, from eternity, has issued an efficacious decree of election -...
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December 19, 2011

Christmas in Platonic Context

The important cultural background to the rise of Christianity includes both the Hebrew context of the Old Testament and the context of the Greek culture which was dominant in the Eastern Roman Empire at the time. From the Christian perspective, Athens has quite a lot to do with Jerusalem. I believe there is adequate evidence for this (admittedly controversial) claim in the New Testament; if one is sufficiently traditional to allow the testimony of the Greek Fathers of the early church, then the matter should be beyond any doubt. Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation, of God becoming man...
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October 14, 2011

Berkeley on Miracles and Transubstantiation

It was the custom among 17th and 18th century English philosophers to take as many potshots at the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation as possible. Sometimes it almost seems that a desideratum for a theory of metaphysics is that it should be inconsistent with that doctrine. This desideratum is, of course, easily satisfied: most theories of metaphysics are inconsistent with transubstantiation. All versions of the doctrine require that it be metaphysically possible for flesh to exist under the 'species' of bread, and a conservative interpretation of the doctrine popular in the early modern period further required that numerically the same...
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May 16, 2011

Quote of the Day: Polkinghorne on the Creation Story

The Bible is often rightly said not to be a book but a library. It contains a great variety of different kinds of writing: poetry and prose, history and story, letters, laws, and so on. Very great mistakes can be made, and much disrespect shown to Scripture, if a reader carelessly confuses one genre with another. Those who attempt to read Genesis 1 and 2 as if these chapters were divinely dictated scientific texts, kindly provided by God to save us the trouble of attempting to read the book of nature for ourselves, are committing just such an act of...
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February 19, 2011

Berkeley and Leibniz Should be Friends

In his 1733 Theory of Vision Vindicated, commenting on the prevalence of the deist and free-thinking movements in England and Ireland, and justifying his association of these views with outright atheism, Berkeley writes: That atheistical principles have taken deeper root, and are farther spread than most people are apt to imagine, will be plain to whoever considers that pantheism, materialism, fatalism are nothing but atheism a little disguised; that the notions of Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibnitz [sic], and Bayle are relished and applauded; that as they who deny the freedom and immortality of the soul in effect deny its being, even...
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December 19, 2010

Quote of the Day: Leibniz on True Religion

One cannot love God without knowing his perfections, and this knowledge contains the principles of true piety. The purpose of religion should be to imprint these principles upon our souls: but in some strange way it has happened all too often that men, that teachers of religion[,] have strayed far from this purpose. Contrary to the intention of our divine Master, devotion has been reduced to ceremonies and doctrine has been cumbered with formulae. All too often the ceremonies have not been well fitted to maintain the exercise of virtue, and the formulae sometimes have not been lucid. Can one...
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August 18, 2010

Divine Freedom and Worship

This is the first substantive post in my discussion of Sobel's Logic and Theism. The first chapter of Sobel's book focuses on the question of what people disagree about when they disagree about whether God exists. There are a lot of interesting metaphysical and linguistic issues here, like the meaningfulness of negative singular existentials, but this is all really preliminary to the real purpose of evaluating beliefs in God and the reasons for them, so, although these issues are interesting, I'm going to keep discussion of them to a minimum, and focus on what I take to be the first
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August 10, 2010

Two Concepts of Justification

In my comment on Uncommon Priors the other day, I distinguished between two different problems I might need to be saved from: (1) I deserve to be punished for my actions, and (2) if there is a God, he will probably punish me for my actions. These, in my view, are two different problems. That is, the fact that I deserve punishment is a terrible thing in itself, independent of whether I will ever actually be punished. Because of this, we can see our need for salvation, even before we believe in God. This might be important...
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July 9, 2010

Authority, Authoritativeness, and Objectivity

I've just finished reading John Foster's new book, A World For Us: The Case for Phenomenalistic Idealism. Foster had previously defended idealism in his 1982 The Case for Idealism, and many of the basic arguments are the same, though I think the structure is cleaner and easier to grasp. (I've also just finished reading the restored version of Stranger in a Strange Land, so every time I write 'Foster' I'm thinking of the archangel - but that's beside the point.) The main motivation behind Foster's idealism, all the way back to 1982, is the thought that if anything is to...
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July 6, 2010

Implicature and the Interpretation of Foreign Language Texts

I've just read Grice's "Logic and Conversation" (ch. 2 in Studies in the Way of Words) for (I'll admit) the first time. Something that struck me while reading it, which Grice does not explicitly recognize, is that his model helps to explain a phenomenon that causes a lot of trouble when one tries to interpret texts (or speech) in a language in which one is not fully fluent. Grice's basic model works like this: sometimes a speaker says something which, taken in its perfectly straightforward sense, seems quite odd. The oddness (at least in the cases in which Grice is...
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June 20, 2010

Quote of the Day: Theological Warfare

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe. He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.     - Hebrews 1:1-3, HCSB When therefore [the author of Hebrews] would show that [the Son] is...
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May 27, 2010

Three Substances, One Property-Instance: A Trinitarian Speculation

I've been using the beginning of my summer to make some progress on some theology books that have been awaiting my attention on my bookshelf. So far, in honor of Pentecost, I read St. Basil On the Holy Spirit, and I am also making some progress through St. John of Damascus' Concise Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. The latter is pretty dense and technical (that comes from being 'concise'); I started it quite some time ago and my progress has been slow. Anyway, as a result of this reading, and also the always interesting discussions on Dale Tuggy's Trinities Blog,...
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May 11, 2010

Leibniz + Adams = Calvinist Theodicy

As I have said before, it is my belief that revealed theology cannot resolve the Calvinist-Arminian debate. Both views (at least in their moderate forms) are both plausible and orthodox; any reason to prefer one to the other will be a philosophical reason, a conclusion of fallible human reason. With this understanding of revealed theology in mind, I reject Calvinism on philosophical grounds, one of which is that I think Calvinism has an extremely difficult time with the problem of evil. In a recent post, The Problem of Evil 101, at Reason From Scripture, Nathanael Taylor presents a 'Reformed' response...
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April 2, 2010

Quote of the Day for Good Friday

In honor of Good Friday, I offer the following original translation of some excerpts from the Gospel of John: In the beginning Reason was - Reason was directed toward God, and Reason was God. He was directed toward God in the beginning. All things came about through Him, and none of the things that came about came about apart from Him. In Him was life, and the life was the light of human beings. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not grasp it. ... [Reason] was the true light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every...
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February 24, 2010

Biblical Literalism as Hyper-Perspicuity

Last night I was at a lecture on science and religion at USC's Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. (Evidently, we have an Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies. Who knew?) In the course of a lecture with which I otherwise mostly agreed, Fr. Paul Heft connected radical Biblical literalism with the Reformers. This is, of course, strictly false: the Reformers were not literalists in anything like the sense in which twentieth century fundamentalists were. However, it got me thinking about what connection the doctrine of perspicuity, which I was recently discussing on Called to Communion, might have to radical literalism...
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February 3, 2010

Soteriological Inclusivism

Jeremy has an interesting discussion of soteriological inclusivism up on his blog. He argues, without necessarily endorsing inclusivism, that this view can be best accommodated by a Calvinist understanding of salvation. I want here to first clarify how we should understand inclusivism and why we should take it seriously, and then challenge the assumption that Calvinism is the best way to accommodate the view within a Christian framework. Soteriological inclusivism, as I understand it, is an attempt to endorse both of the following claims: (1) There is only one way of salvation. (2) Some who do not explicitly/consciously/intentionally follow this...
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January 25, 2010

Evaluating the Traditional Arguments for God

Kant famously classified traditional arguments for the existence of a divine being into three categories: ontological, cosmological, and teleological. Very few, if any, philosophers today think that any of these forms of argument is conclusive. However, some philosophers do believe that a cumulative case for the existence of a divine being can be made out from these arguments. Atheist colleagues often respond that "three leaky buckets won't hold water any better than one." However, this reply assumes that the traditional arguments don't show anything at all. Specifically, those who respond this way are often assuming that the arguments are straightforwardly...
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December 21, 2009

The Mystery of the Incarnation

As we are nearing the end of Advent, I hope that we (Christians) have all been pondering the mystery of the Incarnation. For myself, I have been doing some speculating, connecting the Chalcedonian Definition with some issues I have been studying in Greek philosophy. I mean, in particular, the argument which some scholars have made to the effect that Greek ontology is primarily concerned with the 'is' of predication (see section I of "The Homonymy of Predicative Being"). I have been considering this for some time but have not been confident enough to post it. However, I have just finished...
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November 9, 2009

What Caused God?

In comments to my post on Dawkins and the Philosophers, atheist blogger Jonathan West has been pushing back against Michael Ruse's claim that Dawkins' prominent use of the "what caused God?" question is, as Jonathan puts it, 'fatuous.' Jonathan has also pushed this point in a recent blog post which considers this question in light of Swinburne's 'necessary being' arguments in The Existence of God. I will first make a few remarks about Swinburne's work in this area, and then proceed to show why the "what caused God?" question is indeed confused. To be fair, I admit...
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October 2, 2009

Quote of the Day: Leibniz Against Hyper-Calvinism

If there are people who believe that election and reprobation are accomplished on God's part by a despotic and absolute power, not only without any apparent reason but actually without any reason, even a concealed one, they maintain an opinion that destroys alike the nature of things and the divine perfections. Such an absolutely absolute decree (so to speak) would be without doubt insupportable. But Luther and Calvin were far from such a belief: the former hopes that the life to come will make us comprehend the just reasons of God's choice; and the latter protests explicitly that these reasons...
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August 31, 2009

Quote of the Day: Nadler on Arnauld on the Church's Authoritativeness

I have recently been involved in an interesting discussion on the authority/authoritativeness of the Church over at Called to Communion. In light of this, I thought I would post a selection I came across today on the position of Antoine Arnauld, the French Jansenist theologian and Cartesian philosopher, on this question: Like all Jansenists, [Arnauld] was accused of Calvinism and political subversion. In 1656 he was excluded from the faculty of the Sorbonne for his refusal to submit to the Church on the issue of five propositions condemned as heretical in the encyclical Cum occasione (1653), and which the Pope...
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August 23, 2009

The Biblical Origin of Hobbes's State of Nature Theory

Thomas Hobbes is famous for his pessimistic state of nature theory. According to Hobbes, the 'state of nature' (i.e. anarchy) is a "warre of every man against every man" (Leviathan, p. 63 of the 1651 'Head' edition). The concepts of justice or injustice are, according to Hobbes, not applicable in this state of war. This is because injustice is defined as "the not Performance of Covenant" (p. 71). However, "If a Covenant be made, wherein neither of the parties performe presently, but trust one another; in the condition of meer nature ... upon any reasonable suspicion, it is Voyd"...
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July 28, 2009

Correlation, Causation, and Salvation

The New Testament uses a number of criteria to identify the 'saved' (in this post, I won't be concerned with what exactly 'saved' means, though I will be assuming, somewhat controversially, that its meaning is more or less consistent). For instance, the saved are identified as: Those who 'bear fruit' (Matt. 7:16-20), where this seems to involve undergoing some kind of general change of character (Gal. 5:22-25). Those who perform particular good or loving deeds (Matt. 7:21, 1 John 1:6, 2:3-6), especially care for the poor (Matt. 25:31-46). Those who abstain from particular evil or hateful deeds (1 John 2:9-11)....
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June 29, 2009

Quote of the Day: If the Septuagint was Good Enough for Abraham, It's Good Enough For Me!

I'm fond of reminding people that long before there was KJV Only-ism there was LXX Only-ism: a great many early Christian writers (though probably not a majority) not only thought that the LXX was inspired, but that the Hebrew texts had been subsequently corrupted. (LXX, the Roman numeral for 70, is the abbreviation used for the Septuagint, and ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament made a few centuries before Christ.) A few even went so far as to claim that they had been intentionally corrupted by a Jewish conspiracy. Really, nothing is new under the sun. An example which...
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May 13, 2009

Quote of the Day: Stillingfleet on the Natural Immortality of the Soul

You [Locke] say, That all the ends of Religion and Morality are secured barely by the Immortality of the Soul without a necessary Supposition that the Soul is Immaterial. I am of the opinion that the great ends of Religion and Morality are best secured by the Proofs of the Immortality of the Soul from its Nature and Properties; and which I think can prove it Immaterial. I do not question whether God can give Immortality to a Material Substance; but I say it takes off very much from the evidence of Immortality, if it depend wholly on God's giving...
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May 7, 2009

Quote of the Day: Leibniz on Survival of Death

One of the quandaries I ran into in writing my paper on Berkeley on resurrection is the question of what the 'revealed' Christian doctrine is supposed to be. In particular, there is the question of natural versus miraculous immortality of the soul. Some writers who seek to defend the Christian doctrine of survival of death assume that it is part of the doctrine that this survival is miraculous. (For a recent example, see Lynne Rudder Bakker's "Persons and the Metaphysics of Resurrection" which appeared in Religious Studies in 2007; James Ross also brought this up in his criticisms of my...
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April 12, 2009

Quote of the Day: Athanasius on the Destruction of Death

A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Saviour has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those...
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April 7, 2009

Repenting For Fear of Hell

Paul Gowder is discussing a recent case in which a man by the name of Elwin Wilson who used to be a violent racist and KKK member has changed his ways and gone around apologizing to the people he harmed or otherwise offended. Paul wants to know how we ought to respond to Wilson's repentance, given that Wilson states that he changed his ways out of fear of hell. Brandon's comments on that post are insightful (he notes, among other things, that the article gives another reason for Wilson's repentance: Wilson evidently believes that there will be blacks in heaven)....
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January 7, 2009

'Contemning the Shame'

I was reading Hobbes today, and came across a word I'm not sure I've ever seen before. At Leviathan 1.6 (p. 24 of the original edition), Hobbes writes: Those things which we neither Desire, nor Hate, we are said to Contemne: CONTEMPT being nothing else but an immobility, or contumacy of the Heart, in resisting the action of certain things; and proceeding from that the Heart is already moved otherwise, by other more potent objects; or from want of experience of them. The word I am talking about, 'contemne' (which was later spelled 'contemn' - I will use this spelling...
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December 24, 2008

Valicella on Private and Public Morality

Bill Valicella of The Maverick Philosopher has an interesting discussion on the distinction between private and public morality. Valicella supposes that there is an inherent tension between any Socratic, Platonic, or Christian ethics and the requirements of a stable state. A couple years ago, in my post on rights, obligations, and abortion (which continues to be one of the most popular posts on this blog) I argued that there was no inherent contradiction, or even tension, between the idea that I have a libertarian right to retaliate for an offense against me, but an obligation of private morality not to exercise that right...
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November 25, 2008

What the ESV is Good For

It's been a long time since I wrote much about Bible translation, but I thought I'd step up on this one. There has recently been a long series of posts on Better Bibles Blog containing a paper Mark Strauss presented to the Evangelical Theological Society entitled "Why The English Standard Version Should Not Become the Standard English Version." There is now a brief response from Bill Mounce, the New Testament Chair of the ESV translation committee. I, on the one hand, agree with Strauss that some of the ESVs decisions make for misleading or awkward English text. On the other hand...
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October 22, 2008

"Can Berkeley's God Raise the Same Body, Transformed?'

My paper "Can Berkeley's God Raise the Same Body, Transformed?", which is to be presented at the Society of Christian Philosophers, Pacific Division conference next week is now available on the conference web-site. I would greatly appreciate any comments or criticisms.
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October 8, 2008

Baber on the Real Presence

Some of the papers to be presented at the Society of Christian Philosophers, Pacific Division Conference have now been posted. Mine isn't up yet, but I will provide a link when it is. For now, I want to point readers to a paper by the University of San Diego's Harriet Baber which she has entitled simply "The Real Presence". We have previously discussed here the difference between transubstantiation and real presence. Baber describes this quite nicely in her introduction...
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September 2, 2008

"Streams of Living Water"

«ἐάν τις διψᾷ, ἐρχέσθω πρός με καὶ πινέτω. ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμέ, καθὼς εἶπεν ἡ γραφή, ποταμοὶ ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ ῥεύσουσιν ὕδατος ζῶντος.» - John 7:37b-38

"If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him." - John 7:37b-38, HCSB

"But where hath the Scripture said that 'rivers of living water shall flow from his belly'? Nowhere. What then meaneth, 'He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture saith'? Here we must place a stop, so that the, 'rivers shall flow from his belly,' may be an assertion of Christ." - St. John Chrysostom (tr. Philip Schaff), Homily on John 7:37-44

I just read this in Chrysostom, and I don't think I've ever seen this resolution anywhere...
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August 30, 2008

Quote(s) of the Day: A Pair of Responses to van Inwagen's "Body Snatching" Account of the Resurrection

Peter van Inwagen famously argued in his 1978 paper "The Possibility of Resurrection" that the only way God can bring a dead person back to life is to raise the very same body. However, if the body has decayed or been cremated, then it doesn't exist to be raised. Therefore, van Inwagen reasons, if Christianity is true, God must, at the moment of death (or immediately prior) surreptitiously remove the dead/dying body and spirit it away somewhere, replacing it with a simulacrum. Otherwise, there could be no afterlife. Unsurprisingly, this has met with some "incredulous stares." Here are a couple...
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March 20, 2008

Quote of the Day: A Hymn for Maundy Thursday

At the Lamb's high feast we sing
Praise to our victorious King,
Who hath washed us in the tide
Flowing from his pierced side;
Praise we him whose love divine
Gives his sacred blood for wine,
Gives his body for the feast,
Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest.
...

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March 7, 2008

Quote of the Day: Chrysostom on Private Scripture Reading

I desire to ask one favor of you all, before I touch on the words of the Gospel; do not you refuse my request, for I ask nothing heavy or burdensome, nor, if granted, will it be useful only to me who receive, but also to you who grant it, and perhaps far more to you. What then is it that I require of you? That each of you take in hand that section of the Gospels which is to be read among you on the first day of the week, or even on the Sabbath, and before the day...
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March 3, 2008

"'Trust' without action is dead"

I was listening to a sermon on James 2 last night, and I was thinking about how much clearer the passage would be if pistis and it's cognates were translated consistently by "trust" and its cognates rather than by "faith" in the noun form and "believe" or "have faith" in the verb. Let me demonstrate. Here is my translation of vv. 14-25: What good is it, my brothers and sisters[1], if someone claims to trust, but does not perform [any] actions? Is that 'trust' able to save him? If there exists a brother or sister and they[2] are naked and...
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February 18, 2008

A Moderate and Plausible Arminianism, Based on John 6:40 and Romans 8:29

My position on the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism is that the more moderate forms of each are both plausible and orthodox. Hyper-Calvinism can slide into the heresy of fatalism, or the denial that God loves all people; hyper-Arminianism slides, of course, into Pelagianism. It is only the moderate forms of each which are, I say, plausible and orthodox. These moderate forms, I hold, represent two different man-made philosophical and theological systems designed to uphold the same doctrines revealed in Scripture. I believe that when the disagreement actually reaches all the way down to Biblical hermeneutics, rather than staying in...
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January 14, 2008

Christian Carnival CCVI

This link is a little late in coming (my apologies), but Jeremy has included my post on hyper-Reformation theology in Christian Carnival CCVI (that's 206 to you barbarians) at Parableman.
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January 7, 2008

Hyper-Reformation Theology

I am increasingly of the belief that one of the biggest problems - and the root of many other problems - with contemporary Evangelicalism is what I call "hyper-Reformation theology." I don't mean hyper-Calvinism. I use the term "Reformation theology" to refer to five points which are far more fundamental to the Reformation that the points of Calvinism: namely, the five solas. By the term "hyper-Reformation theology," I mean a collection of exaggerated caricatures of these essential doctrines which are currently popular among Evangelicals. The most visible of these is "hyper-sola scriptura", which I have discussed before...
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January 3, 2008

Quote of the Day: Some People Will Believe Anything

Sometimes the claims invented to support a theory in trouble are just rationalizations. I recently met a lively group of people standing in the aisle on a flight from London to Toronto. They said hello and asked me where I was coming from, and when I told them I was returning from a cosmology conference, they immediately asked my view on evolution. "Oh no," I thought, and proceeded to tell them that natural selection had been proved true beyond a doubt. They introduced themselves as members of a Bible college on the way back from a mission to Africa, one...
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December 26, 2007

Aristotle and Transubstantiation (Some More)

Tim Troutman (formerly known as "The God Fearin' Fiddler") of The God Fearin' Forum has responded to my latest discussion of Eucharistic theology and Aristotle. Perhaps I have not been very clear. Whatever the case, Tim persistently misunderstands both my claim and my argument for it. I am going to try to make what I am claiming very clear here:
The doctrine of transubstantiation, as expounded by Trent, is rendered incoherent by any system of metaphysics sufficiently different from Aristotle's.
This should not be confused with any of the following claims, which I do not make...
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November 5, 2007

What's Wrong With Evangelicalism?

A lot actually. I don't want to start making a list (I might not stop). Regular readers may wonder why I still use the title so prominently, given my concern for history and tradition, and frequent attempts to distance myself from many elements of popular Evangelicalism. The answer is that I agree with the statements of faith of all the major Evangelical para-church groups, including their view of Scripture (my increasingly great respect for tradition has not altered that), and I continue to believe (perhaps more strongly than before) in "generous orthodoxy" - the view that the collection of doctrines...
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November 4, 2007

Patristic Carnival V

Patristic Carnival V is up at The God Fearin' Forum, with a link to my post on "Dionysius". It is a truly ecumenical venture, and I recommend that you all check it out. Notable posts include: A collection of quotes on the Eucharist at The Byzantine Anglo-Catholic...
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November 2, 2007

Transubstantiation vs. Real Presence

The God Fearin' Fiddler has a post up on the historical significance of transubstantiation which has led to some interesting discussions. The principle problem with this post and the discussion that follows it, however, is that no one seems to understand the difference between transubstantiation and the Real Presence. Unfortunately, I'm not an expert on this either, but I do think I know enough to clear up some historical and metaphysical confusion. I am going to use two principal sources - session 13 of the Council of Trent, and the relevant article from the Catholic Encyclopedia - to explain the historical development and specific content of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and then attempt to show two things...
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October 9, 2007

"Dionysius" on God-Talk

A collection of writings have come down to us under the name "Dionysius the Aereopagite" (after Acts 17:34) which effectively form the foundation of the tradition of Christian mysticism. Most scholars today believe the writer lived in Syria, c. 500 AD. The general consensus is that he couldn't have written earlier than this because he seems to have been influenced by 5th century Neo-Platonists. All this by way of background; I don't have any particular opinion as to when the writer lived or by whom he was influenced. The principle work of "Dionysius" is only a few pages long and...
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September 21, 2007

On Theological Method

Last night, I had a brief friendly debate with some Calvinists, which has me thinking about theological method. Briefly, I approach the issue of Calvinism and Arminianism from the perspective primarily of philosophy rather than revealed theology. That is, I argue that libertarian free will, which is incompatible with most (but, surprisingly, not all) versions of Calvinism, but is central to Arminianism, is a philosophically attractive thesis on grounds of, for instance, human moral responsibility, the problem of evil, and the phenomenology of choice. (I don't claim that Calvinists can't provide accounts of these things, I simply claim that Arminians...
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August 17, 2007

Why Believe the Bible?
Part 4: The Church's Witness to the Scriptures

Here it is, finally! Almost exactly 13 months after the last post, I am finally continuing my series. For those of you who have forgotten (probably most of you), in May of 2006 I outlined a proposed series providing an argument for belief in the Bible. I'm going to give a fairly detailed recap here because it has been so long since my last post. In Part 1: Plan of Attack I outlined the argument I intended to give. The basic claim of the argument is that historical investigation renders the idea that the canon of Scripture as we have it is divinely inspired a live option...
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Part 4: The Church's Witness to the Scriptures"

August 15, 2007

logikos Doesn't Mean "Spiritual"

John at Locusts and Honey is wondering where the NASB's translation of 1 Peter 2:2 ("long for the pure milk of the word") came from, as compared with the NRSV which has (like many other modern translations) "long for the pure, spiritual milk." The NASB translation led John to suppose correctly that some reference to logos was present in this verse, and I'm sure that's exactly what the NASB translators intended in translating logikos as "of the word." This is precisely what the Greek suffix ikos (from which we get "ic") does: it forms an adjective meaning "having to do with." Now, the thesis of this post is that that word doesn't mean "spiritual." ...
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August 13, 2007

Original Sin-Original Guilt, Christ's Righteousness-Imputation of Righteousness

Peter Kirk has posted a discussion of the Latin text Augustine was familiar with and its effect on his doctrine of original sin. The claim is, effectively, this: Augustine believed in the doctrine of original guilt because of an ambiguity introduced by an excessively literal Latin Bible which persists in the Vulgate and later theologians have a propensity to read original guilt into the text of Scripture because Augustine did. The passage in question is the end of Romans 5:12. The English translations are pretty much all the same: "in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned." But Augustine's translation says...
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July 16, 2007

Four Aspects of Ecclesiology

While listening to a sermon on Colossians 1:24-29 yesterday, I had some thoughts about the nature of the Church. In particular, I am thinking of four ways of looking at the Church which, as it turns out, are very tightly interwoven. I call these somatic ecclesiology, apostolic ecclesiology, evangelistic ecclesiology, and eucharistic ecclesiology. Somatic ecclesiology is based on the idea of the Church as the "Body of Christ," which is one of the most common descriptions in Scripture. Apostolic ecclesiology is based on the idea of the Church as that structure which has the apostles and prophets as its foundation...
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July 7, 2007

On Worship and Veneration

Some time ago, I posted on icons and discussed my attempt to understand the difference between what Catholic and Orthodox believers call "relative worship" or "veneration" and the "true worship" which belongs to God alone. I mostly failed to understand any real difference here. Today, I did something I should have done a long time ago: I read the decree of the Second Council of Nicea (the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which reinstated the veneration of icons). I found something interesting. In the Greek, the council makes a distinction between veneration and worship, as is to be expected. However, the words used are the Greek...
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June 26, 2007

Theological Implications and "Scientificness"

It is popularly believed that if a theory has theological implications, then the theory is somehow "unscientific." A post (NOTE: MovableType won't let me link directly to this post because the URL contains an unescaped ' contrary to the HTTP spec so the above link goes to the daily archive) at the Florida Student Philosophy Blog challenges this claim. I think the article is unnecessarily long and involved, but I'm quite impressed with the insight. The argument is a reductio that works more or less like this...
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June 6, 2007

Discussions on Scripture and Tradition

Just a couple quick links: John Fraiser of Chaos and Old Night discusses the attitude Evangelical Protestants ought to take to Church tradition in his post, Sifting Through Church Tradition. Fraiser argues that we need to recognize the influence tradition has on us, and we ought not to try to escape from that influence, but, at the same time, we need to recognize that it is Scriputre and not tradition which is authoritative. I mostly agree with what Fraiser said...
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May 24, 2007

Quote(s) of the Day: Selections From Berkeley's Letter to Sir John James

In the course of a bit of research on Berkeley's views on the epistemology of religion, I have just come across a little letter Berkeley wrote to one Sir John James, dated June 7, 1741. James was, apparently, an Anglican living in Boston who was considering converting to Roman Catholicism. While for some reason (perhaps because he was Irish) Berkeley is often mistakenly believed to have been a member of the Roman Catholic Church, he was, in fact, a member of the clergy of the Church of England, and wrote against Roman Catholicism on a number of occasions, this being...
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April 24, 2007

Quote of the Day

"We now have almost as many definitions of heresy and orthodoxy as there are denominations ... Now I can be fundamentalist, orthodox, heretical, and an atheist all at the same time. Just ask my critics!" - Henry Neufeld
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April 19, 2007

Calvinism and Arminianism: On Making the Right Objection

I want to make an important point about something that is either a reasoning mistake (if done accidentally) or an underhanded rhetorical trick (if done intentionally). I've seen it a lot (and done it myself, accidentally) in debates between Calvinists and Arminians (mostly on a popular level, but sometimes even in the writings of philosophers and theologians), so I'm going to use this debate to provide examples ... The issue is this: all of us believe implicit contradictions, because we are unable to determine all the consequences of our beliefs. This means that there is a big difference between rejecting a belief p and accepting a belief q which, unbeknownst to you, logically entails not-p. So, if you believe ...
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April 18, 2007

On Methodologies of New Testament Textual Criticism

Not long ago, I was finally able to read the debate between Gordon Fee and Zane Hodges, which took place in a series of articles in the March and June 1978 editions of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. (Fee's article, Hodges' response, Fee's rejoinder, Hodges' "surrejoinder") The debate concerns the general methodology of New Testament textual criticism. Fee supports a method known as "reasoned eclecticism," whereas Hodges supports what is known as the "majority text method" or some such. (Contrary to the charges sometimes leveled against it, the majority text method is not just a rationalization for...
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April 11, 2007

Translating Revelation 11:15

In Revelation 11:15, a loud voice from heaven says something which the HCSB translates as "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever!" The other translations I had handy (NKJV, NIV, NASB, KJV, RSV) were all very similar. The agreement of the translations makes me wonder if I'm missing something, because it appears to me that there is another reading, which actually seems to me to deal with the grammar better. I would translate this reading as: "The Kingdom of the Universe, [the Kingdom] of...
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March 31, 2007

Protestant Mariology

The God Fearin' Fiddler has a post up on why Protestants are offended by Mariology. This was one of the issues that came up in our previous debate, so I would like to address it briefly here. Before I do so, I want to make a few preliminary remarks. The first is that the assertion that Mariology is offensive to Protestants contains a terminological mistake, but it is a mistake that is also made by many Protestants. "Mariology" is the branch of theology that deals with Mary. Protestants are not offended by this subject of study. In fact, there is...
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March 23, 2007

1 Timothy 2:12

Over at Better Bibles Blog, Suzanne has been doing a series on Bible passages relevant to women in leadership. 1 Timothy 2:12 is of course an important verse to deal with on this subject. She hasn't actually got to it yet, but it came up in the comments to the post on 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, and I felt that I needed to say more about it than could reasonably be said in a comment, so here it is: 1 Timothy 2:12 is a very difficult verse. When taken with the following few verses it appears at first glance to make some argument like...
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March 21, 2007

Sola Scriptura in Augustine

As previously promised, this post will treat the presence of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in Augustine. First, let me state that by Sola Scriptura I do not necessarily mean a particular formulation by Luther or Calvin or any particular church, but rather I mean to show that the cluster of doctrinal positions into which all of these fall exists in the early church. So I really mean the doctrines (plural) of Sola Scriptura, and not some particular doctrine. I define these as follows: A teaching is a Sola Scriptura doctrine if and only if it asserts that the contents of the canonical books of Scripture possess divine authority and/or sufficiency...
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Catholicism and Church History

I have recently been participating in a little debate over at The God Fearin' Forum on some of the issues of Church history (primarily history of doctrine) that are significant to Protestant-Catholic (and Orthodox!) disagreements. I encourage you all to head over and read the debate so far, and perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I will jump in! Later today (if I have a chance) I'm hoping to get a case put together for the historical foundations of Sola Scriptura...
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March 19, 2007

Rational Atheism Entails Rational Solipsism?

In the Fourth Dialogue of Berkeley's Alciphron, Alciphron the "Free-Thinker" challenges Berkeley's spokesman, Euphranor, to present a proof of the existence of God. Alciphron, however, lays down some quite stringent conditions: First then, let me tell you I am not persuaded by metaphysical arguments; such, for instance, as are drawn from the ideas of an all-perfect being, or the absurdity of an infinite progression of causes. This sort of arguments I have always found dry and jejune; and, as they are not suited to my way of thinking, they may perhaps puzzle, but never will convince me. Secondly, I am...
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March 17, 2007

The Historicity of the Doctrine of Inerrancy

Jeremy Pierce of Parableman has an excellent post refuting the claim that the doctrine of inerrancy was invented in the 19th century as a response to theological liberals. I intend someday to get back to my long-stalled Why Believe the Bible? series, and when I do some of what Jeremy says here will be important for the next post, which is supposed to be on the witness of the Church to the Scripture. My one complaint about this post is that, in a fashion that is unfortunately typical of my fellow Protestants, it jumps through Church history from the New Testament, to Augustine, to Luther and Calvin, as though there was nothing in between...
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February 28, 2007

Quote of the Day: Augustine on Reading the Bible in Translation

An important antidote to the ignorance of literal signs is the knowledge of languages. Users o the Latin language - and it is these that I have now undertaken to instruct - need two others, Hebrew and Greek, for an understanding of the divine scriptures, so that recourse may be had to the original versions if any uncertainty arises from the infinite variety of Latin translators ... There are certain words in particular languages which just cannot be translated into the idioms of another language. This is especially true of interjections, which signify emotion rather than an element of clearly...
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February 11, 2007

Degrees of Literalness in Bible Translation

Jeremy Pierce's review of Leland Ryken's book Choosing a Bible, has me thinking about degrees of literalness in Bible translation, and I want to offer a few comments on that subject. The first thing I want to say about degrees of literalness is that this is a spectrum. It is not a modal; that is, it is emphatically not the case the every Bible translation is either "essentially literal" or "dynamic equivalence" and all the translations within a category are the same. Let me illustrate ...
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January 27, 2007

Scripture and Tradition in Protestantism

At the new blog Metaphysical Frameworks, Johnny-Dee (also of Fides Quaerens Intellectum fame) discusses the meaning of sola scriptura in its application to the practical methodology of Protestant theology. His suggestion is that "protestants consider the Bible to be like the Constitution, and the theological tradition to be like legal precedents from the Supreme Court." In other words, the determinations made by previous generations of Christians as to the teaching of Scripture are to be given great weight and not overturned lightly, but, ultimately, they are interpretations of Scripture and it is Scripture that is ultimately authoritative. Therefore, as much...
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January 15, 2007

Pub Theology

For all of our Irish Catholic friends (and anyone else who thinks beer and theology go well together), Paul Cat of Alive and Young explains why hypostatic union is like a black and tan. HT: Siris
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January 1, 2007

Plato on Homosexuality

A month or so ago, I published a post which has been rather popular on Christianity and Homosexuality. In it, I discussed Paul's statements on homosexuality in contrast to the "received view" in Greco-Roman "polite society." I referred then to Plato's Symposium and Phaedrus, early and middle dialogs, respectively, which contain useful information on the practice of pedaresty in classical Athens. (If you are interested in interpreting Paul, it is important to note that classical Athens is some 400 years earlier...
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December 22, 2006

Philosophical Language in Hebrews 11:1

Over at Better Bibles Blog, Wayne Leman is discussing the difficulties involved in producting coherent English from Hebrews 11:1. I want here to produce some considerations on the use of a couple of unusual (in the NT) words in this verse that will hopefully help us to produce a better translation of the word. Wayne made it clear that his post was primarily about the coherence of the English. However, I think part of the reason we have difficulty rendering this verse in English is that we're not totally clear on what we are trying to communicate...
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November 30, 2006

Christianity and Homosexuality

In the very first Carnival of Citizens, there is a post at HeartFulls (a blog with which I was not previously familiar) in which the author wants to know how Christians deal with homosexuality. She seems to be particularly concerned with the question of gay marriage (which is presumably why this post was included in the Carnival of Citizens). She cites a few Scripture passages that are commonly used in arguments, but doesn't present a clear picture of how and why these arguments cause Christians to hold the positions they do (presumably, she doesn't know quite how these passages are interpreted, which is why this is part of her "I want to know" series). In this post, I will try to explain how these verses are interpreted, and how they should influence Christians' actions, especially in the political realm...
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November 15, 2006

On Synergism

Gerald has a piece on Augustine and the synergism/monergism distinction up at Iustificare. Gerald believes that the real question is not about synergism vs. monergism, but rather about the resistability of grace. I think he is probably right about this, but I question his definition of synergism, since synergism is working together, but he seems to interpret it as simple concurrence. If I want God to do something, but have no power in myself to make it happen, it's not clear that this is synergism. However, Jesus does say "this is the work of God: that you believe in the One He has sent" (John 6:29). So let's suppose that believing or willing is a "work" (ergon) for the purpose of synergism. I have two points to make...
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Neurological Study of Glossolalia

An article in the Penn Almanac reports a neurological study on glossolalia (speaking in tongues). The researchers reported that brain activity observed while subjects speak in tongues suggest that they "are not in control of the usual language centers during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control" ...
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Topic(s): Penn , Science , Theology
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November 1, 2006

Quote of the Day

ALCIPHRON: ... But what apology can be made for nonsense, crude nonsense? ... Look here, said he, opening a Bible, in the forty-ninth Psalm : ... "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the wickedness of my heels shall compass me about?" The iniquity of my heels! What nonsense after such a solemn introduction! EUPHRANOR: For my own part, I have naturally weak eyes, and know there are many things that I cannot see, which are nevertheless distinctly seen by others. I do not therefore conclude a thing to be absolutely invisible, because it is so to...
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September 17, 2006

A Quick Note on the Particle de in Titus 1:1

I'm quite busy right now and haven't had much time for blogging, but I wanted to give a quick note about an issue I found that troubled me today. The first line of the book of Titus reads Paulos, doulos theou, apostolos de Iesou Christou kata pistin kai epignosin aletheias tes kat' eusebeian ep' elpidi zoes aioniou. The particle de is a bit troubling, as it ordinarily has at least a slight adversative meaning. That is, it sets up at least some slight opposition between what comes before and what comes after. It is true that Matthew and many other...
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September 6, 2006

Biblical Studies Carnival IX

I've just discovered that my post on dealing with OT quotations in NT translation was spontaneously assimilated (at least I don't remember submitting it) into Biblical Studies Carnival IX at Hypotyposeis!
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August 21, 2006

Dealing With Old Testament Quotations in New Testament Translation

One of the great difficulties in translating ancient and Medieval works is dealing with quotations. The rules and conventions of quotation we have today were developed relatively recently, so it is sometimes difficult to say what is and isn't a quote, and it is even more difficult to figure out how to mark these in a modern translation with modern punctuation. In New Testament translation, the issue gets even more complicated, because New Testament translations are generally bound together with Old Testament translations, and one must decide whether to harmonize them (that is, whether to translate quoted passages identically, even...
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August 16, 2006

Inerrancy of the Autographs: Does it Matter?

A common argument levelled against Evangelicals (most recently by Neal in the comments to my post on Jesus' witness to the Hebrew Bible) is that if, as most Evangelicals believe, it is that autographs of the Biblical books that are inerrant, then the doctrine of inerrancy is irrelevant since the autographs no longer exist ... What this amounts to is the claim that the inerrancy of the autographs is irrelevant because there is uncertainty about what the autographs in fact said. This is very similar to the claim that inerrancy is made irrelevant by the uncertainty in our interpretation. Both of these arguments are seriously flawed in precisely the same way. What I hope to do here is, by making some very simple applications of the Bayesian probability calculus...
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August 5, 2006

In Defense of Moderate Complementarianism

Peter Kirk at Speaker of Truth (also of Better Bibles Blog fame) has recently completed a fascinating six-part series on "Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible." The series begins with a discussion of Al Mohler's ("fundamentalist") claim that permitting female elders and deacons contradicts the "clear teaching" of Scripture. Taking the fundamentalist approach, Peter says, we take a few verses as our standard, without seriously inquiring into their context, call the most obvious interpretation of these few verses (in English, out of context) the "clear teaching of Scripture," and then find creative ways to explain away every verse that seems to contradict this teaching. Peter goes on to compare this with a scholarly interpretation of Titus 1:6, and argues convincingly (he convinced me, at least) that in context and with proper lexicography and hermeneutics, this verse has little or nothing to do with the gender of overseers, and doesn't necessarily preclude women from taking the position. Peter rightly points out that those he calls 'fundamentalists' often refer to various doctrines as "the clear teaching of Scripture" when they are anything but clear, and I would not charge Peter, who is a gender egalitarian, with denying the authority of Scripture or ignoring its teachings. This is a complicated issue, and there is room for some disagreement. However, I do think that the teaching of Scripture is, on the whole, clear enough for the Church to base its structure on, and I will argue here that that teaching is in favor of what I will call a moderate complentarian position...
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July 24, 2006

William Lane Craig on the Historicity of the Resurrection

Over the course of this summer, I've been forming an argument for belie in the Bible. Part 2 of my argument was critically depndent on the claim that "if we accept ... [the] postulate ... that a very powerful being is trying to get our attention, then the most coherent ... [explanation] ... is that ... Jesus did in fact rise from the dead." This is, of course, a fairly modest claim, as it explicitly presupposes a pretty substantial chunk of theology (there is a God, he actually cares what we think/do, he wants us to know about him, etc.). However, some would still dispute it. Some time ago, after reading this post on The Prosblogion, I downloaded the transcript of the debate between William Lane Craig and Bart D. Ehrman on the historicity of the resurrection, and I've just now got around to reading it...
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July 22, 2006

Ekklesia and the Etymological Fallacy

Not long ago, I wrote a post suggesting that the New Testament may have consciously made use of the language of Athenian democracy, especially in its usage of the words ekklesia and kerux. JollyBlogger has now posted on the etymological fallacy in our understanding of the ekklesia (HT: Parableman). The etymological fallacy occurs when an interpreter uses a piece of information about the history of a word which was unknown to the author or, at least, which the author was not thinking about in his usage of the word...
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July 18, 2006

Why Believe the Bible?
Part 3: Jesus' Witness to the Hebrew Bible

Here, finally, is part 3 of my series on divine revelation. The story so far: part 2 argued that the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth constitute a self-revelation of God to mankind, and that the New Testament documents, and especially the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), constitute generally reliably historical sources as to the content of that revelation. These points will be assumed to have been established (but feel free to comment on the previous post if you want to contest them), and I will now argue that the entirety of the Hebrew Bible is included by reference in this revelation...
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Part 3: Jesus' Witness to the Hebrew Bible"

July 12, 2006

Infallible vs. Irresistable Grace

Gerald at Iustificare has written several posts on grace and free will in recent weeks. The latest post, a discussion of Augustine's treatment of the issue, introduces an interesting distinction I had not heard before: the distinction of infallible vs. irresistable grace. Gerald describes the distinction as follows: Infallible grace is �grace that always accomplishes it purpose� �nothing more or less. Infallible grace can be resisted, but is not. Infallible grace can fail, but does not...
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July 11, 2006

The Wall Street Journal on the Influence of the KJV

The Wall Street Journal recently published an editorial on the cultural and linguistic influence of the King James Version. It's a very interesting read and a topic I've been writing about for some time now...
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June 27, 2006

Tradition Essay Posted at the Sergius Bulgakov LiveJournal

My essay "Tradition as the Platonic Form of Christian Faith and Practice", which I posted on my writings page a few months ago, was published online today at the Sergius Bulgakov LiveJournal, a blog devoted to the 20th century Russian Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov, whom I cited in the essay. It looks like there are some other interesting materials up at the site as well. I reccomend checking it out. Also, this seems like a good time to remind everyone that all of my writings on this site are released under Creative Commons licenses. There are different licenses for this...
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June 21, 2006

PCUSA on the Trinity

Update (6/22/06, 9:17 PM): A fascinating post at Siris discusses the use of 'Mother' and 'Womb' langauge in the tradition of orthodox trinitarian theology. The considerations Brandon brings up are such that the PCUSA statement makes less rather than more sense because of them. GetReligion reported yesteday on the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly's vote to 'receive' (but not 'approve') a paper suggesting liturgical use of new trinitarian language. Alternate formulations mentioned in the paper include "Rock, Redeemer, Friend;" "Lover, Beloved, Love;" "Creator, Savior, Sanctifier;" and "King of Glory, Prince of Peace, Spirit of Love," but the formulation everyone is...
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June 18, 2006

Hebrews 2:2

I'm leading a Bible study this summer on the book of Hebrews, and I've just switched to using the HCSB as my primary Bible translation, so right now I'm studying Hebrews in preparation, and comparing the HCSB (and some other translations) with the Greek. There will probably be more posts related to the translation of Hebrews over the course of the summer. Today, I want to deal with Hebrews 2:2, and maybe some of you can help me figure out what it means! The HCSB renders vv. 2-3a as "For if the message spoken through angels was legally binding, and...
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June 17, 2006

"He did not consider it robbery..."

In the New King James Version, Philippians 2:6 says that Jesus, "being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God." Because of having seen the NIV translation, which says that he "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped," and because of the relations of the clauses in my English translations, I always thought that the idea here was that Jesus, even though he was "in the form of God" did not try to take advantage of his inherent equality with the father, but instead took on a subordinate role while...
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June 6, 2006

Why Believe The Bible?
Part 2: The Life and Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth

Welcome to part 2 of my promised series on divine revelation! My apologies for the long delay (it's been over a month since I first posted my plan of attack), but I've been very busy moving here there and everywhere, and I still don't have all my books and stuff unpacked (nor do I have a desk). According to the plan of attack, this part of the argument "will argue in a manner based heavily on Swinburne that there is good reason to suppose that the life and teachings of the historical person Jesus of Nazareth represent a revelation of...
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Part 2: The Life and Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth"

May 31, 2006

HCSB Review at This LAMP

Rich Mansfield of This LAMP has finally begun his long awaited series on his top ten Bible versions with a thoughtful and detailed review of the Holmann Christian Standard Bible. It's a good read. Something I didn't know: the HCSB began as a personal project of Arthur Farstad, who was involved in two of my other favorite Bible projects, the New King James Version and The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text. (A digression on the majority text: most of the textual criticism articles I've seen have been from a pro-Byzantine perspective, and I got the impression that...
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May 21, 2006

Translating epieikes in the New Testament

I went today to the evening service at Tenth Presbyterian Church here in Philadelphia (not my normal church), and one of the evening's readings included Philippians 4:5. Tenth Pres. uses the ESV, which renders the beginning of this verse as "let your reasonableness be known to everyone." Now, I've definitely read Philippians several times, and never came across anything about letting your 'reasonableness' be known, so this immediately stuck out to me, and I looked it up in the NKJV New Testament I had with me. NKJV reads "let your gentleness be known to all men." Are gentleness and reasonableness...
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May 18, 2006

On Icons

The other day I was walking through Plaka (a region of Athens) and I saw a really fantastic icon. It was a large picture of Christ clothed in a purple robe, prominently displaying his wounds. This is good already, but I did a double-take on the text: around the image it said, in Greek, "o nymphios tes ekklesias" - "the bride-groom of the Church." I was actually very moved by this depiction, and its connection of Christ's wounds with the marriage of the Church. I can give a few other accounts like this, from having been in Greece, surrounded by...
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May 10, 2006

Opheilema in Matthew 6:12

Wayne Leman is aksing the question should we forgive our debtors? As those of you who have spent some time in different churches will have noticed, there are a wide variety of translations of Matthew 6:12 used in the Lord's Prayer as recited in various congregations and traditions. The most common seem to be "debt" (from KJV), "trespass" (from Tyndale), and "sin" (some more recent translations). Which of these is correct? Well, as usual in Bible translation debates, none of the major translations is flat out wrong, but some are more accurate than others. Which should we use? Well, to...
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May 4, 2006

Why Believe the Bible?
Part 1: Plan of Attack

There has been a lot floating around about the doctrine of inerrancy recently. I posted on this subject not long ago, responding to a post at World of Sven and a lengthy series at Chrisendom. Since then, there has been a second World of Sven post, and also a post from the No Kool-Aid Zone about just how important inerrancy is. This is a problem that I've been thinking seriously about for some time. Actually, I started by asking the question "just why do I believe in the Bible?" then realized that the answer to that question would have a...
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Part 1: Plan of Attack"

May 2, 2006

"Three Persons, One Substance" - Paradox or Solution?

I seem to have opened quite the can of worms in my post on Church dogma the other day when I said: There seem to be some clear (to me) cases of Christian dogma that are not obviously uniquely deriveable from Scripture. For example, consider the formulation of the trinity as three persons (Greek hupostaseis and/or prosopa, Latin personae) in one substance/essence (Greek ousia, Latin essentia and/or substantia). This type of formulation is extremely common in the Christian tradition, and is derived primarily from the Chalcedonian Creed. However, I don't think we can say that it is obviously uniquely deriveable...
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April 26, 2006

Church Dogma

I've been thinking for some time now about dogma, and so I wanted to write a post to outline just what dogma is, and give some questions (but no answers!) about what it's content ought to be and where it ought to come from. First, dogma is not dogmatism. I positively despise dogmatism. Dogmatism is the practice of holding to one's beliefs in such a way as to utterly ignore alll evidence and arguments to the contrary. Dogmatism is the death of intellectual growth, and of Christian faith. A faith that does not allow itself to be challenged, or that...
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April 18, 2006

A Quick Note on Church Government

Suzanne has posted some brief comments on my post on The Language of Athenian Democracy in the New Testament, wherein I have learned that the Exclusive Brethren denomination has used similar arguments for their decision not to name elders. I don't have time to deal with Church government in great detail right at the moment, but I do want to point out that I did not intend to deal with that question in my previous post on the 'democratic' nature of the Church. What I did mean to point out was that the early Church accepted everyone regardless of their...
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April 17, 2006

Quote of the Day

"For tell me, if you saw any two persons, one naked, one having a garment, and then having stripped the one that had the garment, thou wert to clothe the naked, wouldest thou not have committed an injustice? It is surely plain to every one. But if when thou hast given all that thou hast taken to another, thou hast committed an injustice, and not shown mercy; when thou givest not even a small portion of what thou robbest, and callest the deed alms, what manner of punishment wilt thou not undergo?" - St. John Chryosostom (Patriarch of Constantinople, c....
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Biblical Inerrancy

Update (4/17/2006) There seem to have been some errors in my post on inerrancy. (How ironic!) I would like to take some steps to correct these. First: the Council of Nicaea did NOT proclaim that canon of Scripture. This is a widely circulated myth (google it, and see esp. this article). In fact, the canon of Scripture we have was never proclaimed by any ecumenical council, and several books continue to be disputed (see the Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Canon of the New Testament". I'm still working on what this means theologically. Second: as you can see from the comments,...
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April 13, 2006

Translation v. Transliteration: Hypocrites!

A repeated issue on this blog has for some time been the difference between translation and transliteration and the way that the vast majority of Bible translations have failed to actually translate a large number of critical words, simply writing out the original Greek words instead. One such example that I've been thinking about recently is the word 'hypocrite.' Unlike the other words I've been discussing, this one was not first introduced into English in a Bible translation, but it remains the fact (or so I am convinced) that the English word 'hypocrite' does not have the same meaning as...
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April 12, 2006

The Language of Athenian Democracy in the New Testament

So I've just given a presentation on the workings of the ancient Athenian ekklesia at the Pnyx, and I thought I'd use up a little precious time which I ought to use reading about Plato and Aristotle on the role of tragic theater in society discussing the appropriation of the language of the Athenian democracy by the early Church, including the authors of the New Testament. There are two particular words I am thinking of here: ekklesia and kerux. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that these words are consistently translated one way in 'Bible Greek' and another way in...
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March 15, 2006

"Tradition as the 'Platonic Form' of Christian Faith and Practice in Orthodoxy"

I have just posted on my writings page a new essay, "Tradition as the 'Platonic Form' of Christian Faith and Practice in Orthodoxy." This served as my mid-term essay in my class on the Greek Orthodox Church here at DIKEMES in Athens where I am studying this semester. I have attached a short preface explaining the relationship of the views presented in my essay (realizing that the essay is supposed to explain the teaching of the Orthodox Church) to my actual beliefs and my reasons for deciding to publish the essay. Please post here with any comments or objections. If...
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'Third Language' Idioms and the Goal of Translation

Wayne Leman is blogging on translation of Luke 1:34. He notes here that the ESV departs from strictly literal translation here and is more accurate as a result. What I find interesting in his note is that the idiom in the Greek of this verse is imported from Hebrew. Call this the use of a 'third language' idiom (Hebrew being a third language in addition to the source language - Greek - and the target language - English). In translations, should we treat third language idioms differently than source language idioms? I think that there is good reason to suppose...
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March 2, 2006

Wayne Leman on ESV and HCSB

A while ago I posted some preliminary thoughts on evaluating the Holman Christian Standard Bible. At the time I was only able to look at a few NT verses, and I compared it to the NKJV and the Greek. Recently, Wayne Leman at Better Bibles Blog has posted a comparison of the HCSB with the ESV. Wayne's conclusion is that the two translations are very similar in terms of their degre of literalness and consistency, but the ESV retains the stylistic conventions of the Tyndale-KJV tradition, whereas the HCSB substantially departs from it. This departure is one of my favorite...
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February 14, 2006

J.I. Packer on the NIV

Better Bibles Blog has a segment from Suzanne McCarthy's recent interview with Dr. J. I. Packer regarding Bible translations. In it, Dr. Packer states quite nicely the problem that I have always had with the New International Version: [The NIV] is an in and out version, when a literal translation is clear they give you a literal translation. When they think they are confronted with a form or words which, if literally translated, or should I say, directly translated, wouldn�t communicate very well, without warning of what they are doing they go off into paraphrase. The NIV tends to give...
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February 10, 2006

Reevaluating Genesis

For some time now, I have been curious about the fact that, although I have been taught, and it always seemed to me, that the most straightforward interpretation of Genesis 1-3 was that God created the earth in 6 astronomical days (I never understood why they necessarily had to be 24 hour days, but whatever), many commentators, both Jewish and Christian, writing before the development of the modern scientific theories which Evangelicals often accuse of prejudicing intepreters, have adopted a "day-age theory" understanding of the text. Augustine and Nachminides are supposed to be good examples (I haven't read the primary...
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Topic(s): Bible , Theology , Torah
Posted by Kenny at 1:28 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

February 7, 2006

How Did Early Christians Interpret 1 Corinthians 11:10?

1 Corinthians 11:10 is a rather controversial verse. The classic KJV renders it "For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels," but the NKJV team seems to have determined, quite correctly, that this doesn't make any sense to modern speakers of English, and so gave the modern rendering, "For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels." HCSB, a translation I've recently been evaluating, gives the translation, "This is why a woman should have a symbol of authority on her head: because...
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January 30, 2006

"Theism and Mechanism in Leibniz"

I've just posted a new paper to my writings page, entitled "Theism and Mechanism in Leibniz." This is a topic that I've discussed quite a bit in the past few months, and this may be the end of it for a while. An earlier version served as a term paper for Professor Karen Detlefsen's undergraduate seminar on Leibniz at Penn last semester. It has undergone slight revision based on her comments. Please feel free to offer any responses or discussion you have in the comments section of this post. Any revisions made will be documented in the comments here as...
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January 14, 2006

Tying Up Some Loose Ends: Greek Musterion in the New Testament

I've been meaning for some time to write a post tying together two topics that I had previously discussed. The items in question are my discussion of translation and transliteration and my suggestion in this post that Pagan religion might have had an influence on the New Testament's mode of expression. The common tie? The word "mystery." This word, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is first attested with the definition "A religious truth known or understood only by divine revelation; esp. a doctrine of faith involving difficulties which human reason is incapable of solving" in the Wyclif Bible of...
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December 30, 2005

Are Linguistic Facts Theologically Significant?

Gerald at iustificare has recently been doing a series on the theological consequences of "gender neutral" Bible translations. Gerald holds that the use of "male-representative language" - that is, the use of male terms to designate mixed gender groups - is significant to the Bible's view of God. Commentors (primarily the authors of Better Bibles Blog) have repeatedly pointed out that the male-representative language found in the Bible is simply the normal way of saying things in Greek and Hebrew. Gerald acknowledges this, but continues to believe that male-representative language is theologically significant, and therefore should continue to be used,...
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December 25, 2005

Meditations on the Incarnation

We will all, I'm sure, be hearing the story of the birth of Christ read from Matthew's or Luke's Gospel in the near future (most likely, in fact, we'll all be hearing Luke's account of the birth of Christ and the events preceding it, and Matthew's account of the visit from the Magi). These stories are wonderful, traditional, and inspirational (and also, importantly, TRUE). However, these are, in important ways historical accounts of the coming of Christ, and as such, at least for me, they fail to impart the true magnitude of the event. They are tip-of-the-iceberg Ernest Hemingway types of accounts and it requires long hard consideration for us to even begin to understand their import. On the surface, Matthew and Mark tell a simple story of a peasant girl giving birth to her peasant son in a barn in a backwater province of the Roman Empire in the first century AD. Other children have been born in barns in backwater provinces. Sure, Matthew and Luke record various signs and portents surrounding the birth, but history claims the same for such figures as Alexander the Great. What is so special about the birth of this Jesus of Nazareth fellow? For years, I believed that Christmas was greatly overemphasized in the church. I often stated quite explicitly that Christmas was important only insofar as it was a necessary prerequisite for Easter. I no longer believe this; I believe that this event of the Incarnation is deeply meaningful in its own right, independent of the further important events in the life of Christ. This realization could, I'm sure, have been made by a deeper reading of Matthew and Luke in the broader context of Scripture, but, for me, it came through John's account ...
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December 22, 2005

Let's Make Creation Science Not Suck

Nearly a month ago, I posted without commentary a Leibniz quote about materialism and supernaturalism. At the time I was busy with classes and didn't have time to really address the issue I saw the quote raising, but now that finals are over, I'd like to take a minute and look at this. When I read this quote, I immediately thought of "creation science." Leibniz here describes what he sees as two false extremes: the one is represented today by the likes of Peter Atkins, the Oxford Chemist who insists that in order to properly follow scientific methodology one must...
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November 29, 2005

Quote of the Day

"We know that while there have been, on the one hand, able philosophers who recognized nothing except what is material in the universe, there are, on the other hand, learned and zealous theologians who, shocked at the corpuscular philosophy and not content with checking it's misuse, have felt obliged to maintain tha tthere are phenomena in nature which cannot be explained by mechanical principles; as for example, light, weight, and elastic force. But since they do not reason with exactness in this matter, and it is easy for the corpuscular philosophers to reply to them, they injure religion in trying...
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November 28, 2005

Can The New Testament Be Both Influenced By Plato and Inspired by God?

The God Or Not Blog Carnival is a cool idea. It happens once or twice a month. For each carnival, there is a theme and the carnival host selects an approximately equal number of posts on that theme by atheists and theists for inclusion. The theme of the December 12 carnival is miracles. I have dealt substantially with miracles on this blog in a general way already, and so I've decided to post on applying my views to one very specific miracle which is central to the claims of Christianity and especially Evangelicalism: the inspiration of Scripture. The story so...
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October 12, 2005

Leibniz on "Efficient" vs. "Final" Causes in Physics: Its Application to God, Science, and Miracles

So I'm taking this class on Leibniz this semester (for those of you who may be unfamiliar, that is Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the 17th century philosopher/scientist/mathematician, and the "other" discoverer of calculus), and I was reading his Discourse on Metaphysics today and came across this fantastic passage in section 19: Moreover, it is unreasonable to introduce a supreme intelligence as orderer of things and then, instead of using his wisdom, use only the properties of matter to explain the phenomena. This is as if, in order to account for the conquest of an important place by a great prince, a...
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August 31, 2005

Ecclesiology in Swinburne's Revelation

I've just finished reading Richard Swinburne's Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy, in which he strives to create a rational foundation for belief in (a particular understanding of) "the Christian revelation" (which, on Swinburne's account is not exactly equivalent with the Bible, but we'll get there). The beginning of this book is very good. Swinburne argues forcefully that if the God of traditional Western monotheism exists, then there is good reason to expect that He would reveal Himself to mankind, and, of course, if we have an a priori expectation that there is probably a revelation out there somewhere, then much less evidence is required to identify some specific item as that revelation than if we had a view of the world which makes such a revelation unlikely (note that Swinburne establishes the authority of the Bible on the basis of the existence of God, not vice versa). However, as one moves on further in Swinburne's book, into the specifics of his theory of revelation, his statements become increasingly problematic (read: false). Swinburne's departure from sound doctrine is not due to flawed philosophical reasoning, but rather to correct reasoning from a false premise. The departure occurs at a very definite point and comes from a very definite cause: the horrible ecclesiology assumed, not argued for, in chapter 8...
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