CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Polygamy and Gay Marriage
What Americans United for the Separation of Church and State says.

Today, as the House of Representatives debates and takes a roll call vote on the Marriage Protection Amendment. The constitutional amendment limits marriage to one man and one woman, and is clearly designed to end the practice in some states of sanctioning or licensing same-sex marriages. As I have previously said, I don't believe that same-sex marriages should be sanctioned by the government, but it is not a hill that I would die on. If the governments do sanction these marriages without requiring churches who object to the practice to accept them, then I have no problem with the matter. But there's the rub: How can a church that legitimately believes that the Bible condemns homosexual relations (including marriage) not be sued for violations of civil liberties if it declines to recognize a gay marriage if such marriages are legal?

Of course, there are many reasons to believe that gay marriage are not simply an "alternative lifestyle" but damaging to society and to the gay people involved. One listing of potential problems can be found in an article published by the American College of Pediatricians entitled Homosexual Marriage: Is it Time for a Change?

Another reason that has been raised on many occasions is an argument that the same arguments that are being used to justify homosexual marriages can also be used to justify polygamous marriages, i.e., we shouldn't stand in the way of two people wanting to share a committed relationship with each other. I have previously posted on the fact that someone has filed action against the State of Texas arguing that refusing to permit polygamous marriages is discriminatory in an essay entitled Polygamy is a Constitutional Right? I think that anyone who supports gay marriages but does not support polygamous marriages has to show why the arguments are different such that the first should be allowed while the second ought not.

Well, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (an organization I personally believe holds absurd positions) has taken up he gauntlet (not at my suggestion, unfortunately--I don't have that much clout), and has made an argument for differentiating the two on their website. Were they successful? Let's look.

Doesn’t the country need this amendment to avoid opening the door to polygamy?

A. U.S. courts have long recognized that the government does not have to permit religious practices that are dangerous, that expose people to injury or that foster the suppression of fundamental rights. In countries where polygamy is practiced, women have been denied basic human rights. Many are forced into plural marriages against their will at young ages. The oppression of women spawned by polygamy, courts have ruled, is a compelling reason to ban the practice. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1879 that states may ban plural marriage, and more recent efforts to win legal sanction for it have failed.

Moreover, unlike a ban on polygamy, the marriage amendment is clearly designed to discriminate against a particular American minority group, namely gay and lesbian Americans and their families. Indeed, proponents of the amendment base their concerns on recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have invalidated laws that targeted gay and lesbian Americans for discrimination. Americans United believes that it is unacceptable to insert legally endorsed discrimination of any kind into America's founding document.

The Federal Marriage Amendment: Some Questions And Answers from the Webpage of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Wow, where do I start? I guess I'll start with the idea that "U.S. courts have long recognized that the government does not have to permit religious practices that are dangerous, that expose people to injury or that foster the suppression of fundamental rights." First, did you notice that they are saying that marriage is a religious practice? This is an interesting admission. But second, I think that the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State ("AUSCS") would be some of the last people to take a stand that would argue that long-standing rulings are somehow inviolable. Aren't they the ones who argue that it was right to overturn the long-standing practice of permitting the recitation of prayers in the public schools? Oh, I guess that constitutes "suppressing fundamental rights" even though one could equally argue that Christians are having their fundamental rights stripped in the public square so that some non-Christians are not offended.

What's next? "In countries where polygamy is practiced, women have been denied basic human rights. Many are forced into plural marriages against their will at young ages. The oppression of women spawned by polygamy, courts have ruled, is a compelling reason to ban the practice." So? Does that mean oppression will happen here? Surely they can do better than that. Without some evidence that oppression is occurring in households where men have multiple girlfriends (or women have multiple boyfriends), shouldn't we not assume the worst? After all, there have been many red flags raised about problems that will result from same sex marriages, but the proponents are forever arguing that there is no evidence of such problems (despite the studies noted by the American College of Pedatricians). If we can give the benefit of the doubt to same sex couples, why not polygamous threesomes (or foursomes or fivesomes . . . . )

"Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1879 that states may ban plural marriage, and more recent efforts to win legal sanction for it have failed." The idea that the AUSCS would argue for long-standing precedent is laughable. They, like many other liberal civil liberties organizations, have very little respect for long-standing principles or Supreme Court rulings.

"Moreover, unlike a ban on polygamy, the marriage amendment is clearly designed to discriminate against a particular American minority group, namely gay and lesbian Americans and their families" If you assume that gay and lesbian people are a "particular" (and by that, I think the writer means "distinct") minority group. Not every offbeat characteristic that a person has puts them into a distinct minority group. Skinny people are a minority, but they are not a distinct minority group, for example. Why should I buy into the idea that gays and lesbians are in a distinct minority group while polygamists are not?

Nope, I don't see a reason in what AUSCS says to differentiate between same sex marriages and polygamous marriages. Do you?

Relativism Results in What?
Frank Peretti visits the issue in a young adult book

My nephew recently passed along to me a copy of a young adult book by Frank Peretti entitled Nightmare Academy. For anyone not familiar with Mr. Peretti, he is the author of some of the best selling fiction works in Christian literature such as This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness (now available in a single volume) and The Visitation. His books have a very Christian world view, and are enjoyable reads by anyone with a view of an active supernatural (specifically, heavenly) realm.

Nightmare Academy is the story of a family of investigators (known as the Veritas Project), and specifically Elijah and Elisha, the two teenagers in the family, who are retained to find out what happened to a runaway child who turned up with an almost completely blank mind. Their search leads them to a place called the "Knight-Moore" Academy which takes in runaways for the purpose of seeing what will happen to people who are put into a completely relativistic environment. The runaways are told that they are making their own environments, that there are no rules, and that there is no truth.

While the book is obviously fiction, the book makes a few really good observations about the failings of relativism. For example, in one scene early in the book, one of the students, Charlene, stole Melinda's Walkman, and Melinda felt that she had been wronged. Of course, the idea that someone could do "wrong" to another is anathema in a relativistic universe. So the moderator, a man named Mr. Easly, takes Melinda (the owner of the Walkman) to task for being so possessive, and suggests that the problem isn't with Melinda's taking of the Walkman, but with the idea of personal property ownership. To understand part of the conversation, you need to know that Melinda didn't originally buy the Walkman, but she found it herself. Easly says:

"Well now, come on, let's not get into either/or here, as if either Charlene or Melinda is right. Maybe both Charlene and Melinda are right. Maybe the real problem is private possessions. Charlene believes that all the world is community property and everybody owns it, right? * * * But it looks like Melinda agrees with you--at least she did when she, uh, found the Walkman, didn't you Melinda?"

Melinda got a little flustered and looked at the ground as she replied, "I don't know, I just wanted it, that's all."

"Nothing wrong with that," said Ramon.

She turned to him. "Yeah, so how would you like it if somebody ripped off your stuff?"

"Oooooohh," the group reacted, mocking her anger.

Easly tossed both girls a coin and then held up a hand to calm things down. "Okay, now Melinda's asked Ramon the big question: How would I like it? Well, that's up to each of us, isn't it? If I'm being selfish with things, then sure, I'm going to get upset if someone else needs what I want to keep for myself. Melinda, did it ever occur to you that perhaps you are being too selfish with things? Do you think it's fair for you to have a Walkman when somebody else doesn't?"

"Yeah, Melinda," piped up some others, "what about that?"

"You could look at it this way: You're actually sharing; you just don't know it. I think that's the whole point here: If nobody owns anything, then how can anyone steal it?"

Melinda looked around the group, still angry and suspicious. "Well if that's the way you want to say it, then whoever's sharing my Walkman, I'd like it if you'd share it back again."

"All right," said Mr. Easly. "See? Both Melinda and Charlene are right."

I have always believed that the best response to a person who is a true relativist is to take the advice of Greg Koukl: Steal their stereo or something else that is important to the relativist. Well, apparently for Easly, this wouldn't solve the problem. He opines that the reason that such stealing is not wrong is because of the notion of private property. We are too selfish, and that's why the stealing of the stereo isn't wrong in any sort of absolute sense.

Of course, this raises another question: why is it wrong to be selfish? If it is a truly relativistic universe, isn't the decision to be selfish just as "right" as the decision to be altruistic? This is, of course, the problem with pure relativism. If there is truly no right or wrong, then there is no reason to believe that one's preference for selfishness is any more or less noble than one's preference for altruism. In a truly relativistic universe, it is equally legitimate to work to pollute the environment as it is conserve the environment. We could go on and on.

Interestingly, Peretti doesn't attack the conversation on this point, but on the point that Easly's solution is not really a "both/and" but another "either/or". How did he do that? Well, I guess I will solicit suggestions from readers to see what "either/ors" they may see and I will give Peretti's "either/or" later.

When did traditions recording Jesus' teachings
and deeds begin to be formed?


It is often assumed that traditions about Jesus' teachings and actions did not begin to be collected until after his death and reported resurrection. Support for this is sometimes seen in Paul's obvious focus on Jesus' death and resurrection and the fact that the Passion Narrative expressed by all four canonical gospels seems to have been one of the first traditions to be become gathered together.

But there is good reason to doubt this picture. Jesus had a public ministry that lasted around three years. He traveled throughout Galilee and Judaea during this time, teaching to various crowds. But in addition to the speaking to crowds, Jesus had his followers. The Twelve Disciples are the best known, but there were many others. And it seems clear that Jesus' followers did more than just follow Jesus around and listen to what he said. They were charged with their own missions to spread the message of Jesus independent of his presence. In Mark 6:7-13 and Luke 9:1-6 (as well as Matt. 10:16), Jesus sends out the Twelve in pairs to preach his message to various villages and audiences. Their teachings and deeds echoed Jesus, for "they went out and preached that men should repent." Mark 6:12-13. Luke records that they went forth to "proclaim the kingdom." Luke 9:1-2. They went forth and were "preaching the gospel everywhere." Luke 9:6. They also performed exorcisms and anointed people for healing.

In Luke we also have the sending out of the Seventy. Luke 10:1-20. The Seventy went before Jesus into the places he would go, apparently prepping those places for his arrival and ministry. They were told to teach that the "kingdom of God has come near you." Luke 10:9, 11. Additional evidence that the disciples of Jesus ministered apart from him is found in Mark 9:14-22 and Luke 9:40 . While Jesus was away with Peter and John, the rest of the disciples had been attempting to perform an exorcism. They had been unsuccessful and Jesus had to dispatch the evil spirit himself. Yet another example of Jesus' disciples engaging in independent ministry.

Jesus' ministry, therefore, was not just engaging in his own preaching and deeds. It was about training others to spread his word and perform similar deeds. Obviously, they had to be taught what to teach and preach and how to perform exorcisms. This teaching was implemented during Jesus' ministry by independent missions conducted by his disciples. No doubt they learned the contents of their teaching from Jesus, and perhaps from the Twelve as Jesus' inner circle.

Furthermore, the evidence indicates that this was an ongoing activity. Training disciples and followers in Jesus' message and sending them out to propagate it themselves was central to Jesus' own ministry. Thus, formal training and tradition formation began while Jesus was alive. And the scope of such training seems to have been rather broad--with many followers being trained in Jesus' teaching and deeds. Moreover, their learning did not end at hearing, it became sharpened and set by repeated preaching and teaching to different towns and audiences.

But perhaps the most important point is this: the earliest formation of Jesus' teaching traditions was overseen by Jesus himself--not by some of his followers after his death trying to remember words spoken years before. This suggests that scholarship should probably have a higher degree of confidence that many of the teachings ascribed to Jesus by the canonical gospels were established during Jesus' ministry and under his oversight. It may also explain why there were independent sources of Jesus' teachings and deeds, such as became part of Mark, Q, the special L material, and the special M, material. Perhaps even the Gospel of Thomas.

Abortion and the Incarnation of Jesus

I just finished reading a book by Michael J. Gorman on abortion--Abortion & the Early Church: Christian, Jewish & Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World. You can read my full review here. It's a small (101 pages) but excellent introduction to early Christian attitudes on abortion and its relationship with Jewish and Pagan views on the same subject. One point that Gorman made near the end of his book struck me as a point I had not yet considered on the abortion issue. He sees in the incarnation of Jesus further Biblical support for the pro-life view that human life begins at conception:
"The Scriptural affirmation that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit is not without significance (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35). For Jesus to become incarnate, to become truly human, entailed his participation in the full range of human experience--from conception through death." Jesus' humility in the Incarnation sanctified and dignified not only humanity as a whole but also the unborn child.
Michael J. Gorman, Abortion & the Early Church, page 97.

For Christians, this should be a significant point. Afterall, Jesus did not have to incarnate at conception. He could have appeared on earth as an adult -- as Marcion insisted occurred. He could have appeared as a baby or a child. That he chose to do so at conception, and go through all the phases of human development is a powerful indication of the value God places on the unborn.




What did the earliest Christians preach?

Kerygma is a Greek word which means “proclamation, announcement, preaching.” Kerygma has, however, become something of a technical term in New Testament studies. Professor C.H. Dodd, in his influential book The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development, used the term kerygma to describe the earliest “preaching” (i.e., public proclamation) of Christians. He distinguishes it from didache, which is doctrine (or, perhaps anachronistically stated, Sunday School). Whereas kerygma is meant to bring converts into the church, didache is meant to train people who have already converted.

What were the earliest Christian “proclamations” intended to attract new converts? According to Professor Dodd, the earliest kerygma can be found in Acts. Among the most important references:

• Acts 2, Peter is recorded as giving a speech on the day of Pentecost;
• Acts 3, Peter’s speech after healing the lame man;
• Acts 7, Stephen’s speech before his martyrdom;
• Acts 10, Peter’s speech to the gentile Cornelius.

No doubt there could be the usual arguments about the dating and authorship of Acts. Given that I accept a dating in the 70s and authorship by a companion of Paul who visited the Jerusalem Church himself, I find these objections unpersuasive. But even if we suppose a later date and nontraditional authorship for Acts, there is still reason to think that the material is early:
Scholars have discovered that the language used in speaking about Jesus in these early speeches in Acts is quite different from that used at the time when the book was compiled in its final form. It is also quite different from even the letters of Paul, which were certainly written long before the book of Acts. So we may be reasonably certain that here we have very early sources.
Dr. John Drane, Introducing the New Testament, page 99.

C.H. Dodd notes a negative and positive reason for concluding that these speeches are largely based on early material:
(a) Negatively, there are few, if any, ideas or expressions introduced which might arouse suspicion because of their resemblance to writings emanating, like the Acts, from the Gentile Church in the late first century; nor are there any echoes, even in turns of speech, of the distinctively Pauline theology, though the author, whoever he may have been, must have been associated with the Pauline wing of the Church.4. To suppose that this is due to deliberate archaism is to attribute to the author of Acts a modern view of historical writing.

(b) Positively, the speeches in question, as well as parts of the narrative in which they are embedded, have been shown to contain a large element of Semitism. Nor is this Hebraism of the kind which results from an imitation of the translation-Greek of the Septuagint, and which can be traced in other parts of the Lucan work. It can be shown to be Aramaism, of a kind similar to that which we recognize in the report of the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels. There is therefore a high degree of probability that the author was laying under contribution an Aramaic source or sources, whether written or oral, and whether the work of translation had already been done, or whether he translated it for himself.

In short, there is good reason to suppose that the speeches attributed to Peter in the Acts are based upon material which proceeded from the Aramaic-speaking Church at Jerusalem, and was substantially earlier than the period at which the book was written.

http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=539&C=606

The message of these first speeches is so consistent that Professor Dodd believed that they consisted of a regular pattern of statements that were made about Jesus from the earliest times. These statements included:

1. The age of fulfillment of God's salvation plan has dawned.

Acts 2:15-22 (“But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel ....”). See also 3:8, 24.

2. This fulfillment is occurring through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Acts 2:22-24 (“Men of Israel, hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst...whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it . . . . This Jesus God was raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”). See 3:13-14, 15, 22; 4:10.

3. Through his resurrection, Jesus has been exalted in heaven.

Acts 2:33 (“Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out whish which you now see and hear.”). See also 3:53; 5:31.

4. The Holy Spirit has been given to the church as a sign of Jesus' continuing presence.

Acts 2:33 (see above).

5. Men and women who hear the message should respond to it.

Acts 2:38 (“Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”).

Much of this kerygma is confirmed by another early source, Paul's writings. In 1 Cor. 15:3-4, he remarks "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,...." Here obviously is God's salvation plan unfolding ("according to the scripture"), by means of Jesus' death and resurrection. In Gal. 1:4: "who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Jesus' death is seen as effecting God's salvation plan. See also Rom. 4:9, 8:9, 31-34; . There is also an emphasis on Jesus' coming in power (1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Thess. 1:10). As well as Jesus being exalted in power after his resurrection. (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom 8:31-34; 1 Cor. 15:25). Thus, Paul's writings -- our earliest Christian ones -- confirm the central core of early Christian proclamation.

Just as Billy Graham’s crusade appeals should not be taken as exhaustive of evangelical Christian beliefs, Professor Dodd’s list should not be taken as an exhaustive list of early Christian beliefs. But it does provide us with important information: these are the earliest and most central beliefs of the young Christian movement. And common to all of them is the death and resurrection of Jesus as symbolic of God's unfolding salvation plan, by which Jesus brought with him the dawn of a new age in history. (Acts 2:22-24; 3:13-15; 7:56; 10:39-40; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Gal. 1:4; Rom. 4:9, 8:9, 31-34).

This is all very Jewish and focuses directly on God's intervention in historical events. Through Jesus, God intervened in human history in order to fulfill the promises of salvation He had provided through his prophets and the Hebrew scriptures. As noted by I. Howard Marshall, "[t]he kergyma contains reference to the historical Jesus." I Believe in Jesus, page 82. Helpfully, Marhsall refers to "an important book by Graham N. Stanton, Jesus of Nazareth in New Testament Preaching [which demonstrates] that in the preaching of the early church the historical Jesus occupied an important plain; and that this is true not just of the later period but of the earlier period also." Ibid.

There are a number of implications to Dodd's persausive analysis. First, there is no room in early Christian proclamations for a mythical Jesus. The earliest teachings of Christians was that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected amongst us. He was then exalted into heaven. His life, death, and resurrection has inaugurated God's salvation age. Second, it demonstrates that the core of Paul's teachings was very similar to that of the Jerusalem Church. This is hardly surprising given that Paul himself tell us in Galatians that he laid his gospel before the Jerusalem Church for their approval, and received it. Yet the idea still faces opposition. Third, the author of Acts has managed to preserve very early traditions about the early Christians. Whether a companion of Paul or not, he had access to excellent sources and intended to pass them along to us (just as he says in his prefaces). Finally, it provides further evidence that the author of Acts followed the more conservative ancient historical school on reporting speeches. They should follow as closely as possible the essence of what was actually said. I've written a related article on the subject of the speeches in Acts here.

Is 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 an Interpolation? No.

1 Corinthians 15:3-11 is an important passage because therein Paul provides the earliest written evidence of Jesus' resurrection. Notably, Paul recounts how he had "passed on" on this tradition that "he had received." The tradition explains that Jesus died, was buried, and appeared alive to Peter, the Twelve, John, the Apostles, the Five Hundred, and finally to Paul. Obviously, the tradition preexists Paul's own ministry and was given to him by other Christians. Moreover, Paul had the opportunity to discuss the tradition with at least some of the witnesses cited within it (Peter and James). Thus, the earliest tradition about the resurrection and appearances of Jesus pre-date those in the canonical gospels by decades and the tradition was espoused by someone who had the opportunity to discuss it with others who had experienced Jesus' resurrection. Pretty good historical evidence.

No doubt it is because of the value of the evidence that a few have questioned its authenticity, despite the manuscript traditions' unanimous attestation of its origins. Most who question this passage are hyper-skeptics on various internet forums whose pet theories do not fit with Paul's reliance on tradition and early attestation of the resurrection and appearances. In fact, only one "scholar" that I am aware of has come to this conclusion -- the fringe figure of Robert Price. Gathered here are the various objections I've seen raised to this passages' authenticity.

First, it is argued that the passage contains non-Pauline language. Of course, because the passage represents to be an inherited tradition this is hardly surprising. Whether preexisting tradition or interpolation the different linguistic characteristics would be explained.

Second, there are supposed incongruities between this passage and the canonical gospel's resurrection accounts. But these incongruities indicate authenticity, not interpolation. A Christian author familiar with the predominant Gospel stories is going to reflect them more than Paul, who wrote before the gospels were widely circulated.

Third, the passage refers to an appearance to "the 500" but the Gospels do not. But the 500 are not named and the emphasis is on many of them still being alive. (15:6). Some commentators have observed that the Gospels, written decades later, had less interest in recounting anonymous appearances -- especially when consulting those witnesses was much less practical (if possible at all). Other scholars have associated the appearance to the 500 with the ascension recorded in the first chapter of Acts or believe that it was the source of out which Acts' depiction of Pentecost developed. Others have placed it in Galilee. Whichever explanation is correct, if any, we cannot simply assume that the Gospel authors had no reason to leave it out -- especially given that they do not mention the appearance to James (perhaps they were connected with James or emphasized Jewish Christianity in some way). In any event, if any suspicion is cast on v. 15:6, the argument that all of vs. 3-11 must be interpolated as well goes far beyond the evidence. The evidence, if taken as such, only casts doubt on 1 Cor. 15:6. Nothing more.

Fourth, some have argued that because there is no Old Testament source for v. 3's reference to "three days according to the scripture", that the passage must be an interpolation. This argument proves too much. If there was no possible source in the OT for this reference for Paul, then there is no possible source for anyone -- even a later Christian interpolator. In any event, there was OT ammunition for Paul or a later Christian writer, such as Hosea 6:2, "After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." Another possible reference is to the story of Jonah, of which the Gospel of Matthew makes explicit mention (1:17). (See also Gen. 42:18; Ex. 19:16; Josh. 2:22; Ezra 8:32; and Esther 5:1).

Fifth, some have argued that the inclusion of vs. 3-11 create an incongruity in the passage. This is a subjective argument with little to commend it. Reading the chapter with or without vs. 3-11 indicates that it makes more sense with the passage in than without it. So too with New Testaments scholars.

Finally, it has been argued that Paul's reliance on an established tradition in 1 Cor. 15:3-11 is incompatible with his statement in Galatians 1:12 that he did not receive his gospel from any man. This is Robert Price's argument, and he sees (or will suffer) no other explanation. But Price gives no regard to the different arguments being made. In Galatians, Paul is defending himself against Judaizers likely emphasizing their connection with the Jerusalem Church. He had to show his independence and the superiority of the message -- regardless of who preached it. (Gal 1:8). In Corinth, Paul faced a different problem. He was trying to convince a congregation that overly favored personal revelation to remember the traditions that had been passed on to them. He responded to them by stressing that what he had preached before was based on the common experience of all of the Apostles. (1 Cor. 15:8, 11).

And if we look closer, we realize that even in Galatians Paul admits that he learned about the gospel from other men. At the very least Paul was familiar with the faith while he was persecuting it. Paul stresses that his gospel is the "same" faith as he used to persecute. (1:22-23). He also emphasizes that he lived with Peter for more than two weeks and "submitted" his gospel to the Jerusalem leaders -- who approved it. Finally, as Dr. Thompson demonstrates, Paul's use of traditional, preexisting material is scattered throughout his letters -- thus belying any claim that he was adverse to such reliance. MB Thompson, 'Tradition,' in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, page 944. In short, it appears that Price has exaggerated Paul's reluctance about relying on tradition in Galatians while ignoring or deemphasizing Paul's use of tradition elsewhere in his letters.

Now that we have seen that the case for interpolation is weak, we will explore additional reasons to accept the passages' authenticity.

First, as we discussed above, the manuscript tradition universally attests to the genuineness of this passage. It seems unlikely that all of the manuscript traditions would have accepted an interpolation that differed so substantially from the established texts and which appeared to contradict the gospels. In any event, the burden of proving an interpolation is certainly on the advocates. As noted above, that case fails to meet the burden.

Second, the patristic evidence gives no hint of any controversy over this passage. Rather, it shows that it was widely accepted and attested early. Around 110 AD, Ignatius quotes from 1 Cor. 15:8-9 in his Letter to the Romans (9:2). Thus, if verses 3-11 were interpolated it must have happened sometime between 54 AD and 110 CE. But even this window seems too wide because Paul continued to keep tabs on his churches until at least 62 AD and Ignatius assumed a position of leadership no later than the 70s. It appears, then, that the window is even smaller. Furthermore, Marcion's version of 1 Cor., circa. 130 AD, also has the passage. Not only is this attestation early, it is hostile. If Marcion had any reason to doubt a passage that so strongly affirms the humanity and death of Christ, as well as Paul's reliance on a tradition from Jewish Christians, he would have chopped it out as he did so many other Pauline verses.

Third, as admitted by Robert Price, the passage employs technical language used by Pharisees to denote the oral transmission of tradition. The use of technical Rabbinic language is much more likely to come from Paul's hand than a later, almost certainly Gentile, Christian interpolator.

Fourth, as discussed above, the variance between the Gospels and this passage point to authenticity. Later Christian scribes writing after the dissemination of the Gospels would likely attempt to conform the account to known tradition. Thus, the lack of a reference to an empty tomb, Paul's failure to mention the women's witness to Jesus' resurrection, the Gospels' failure to mention any appearance to James, and Paul's reference to the "Twelve" when the Gospels make it clear that Judas was dead, all indicate that the passage was written by Paul.

All told, the evidence is overwhelming that the passage is genuine. Indeed, there is simply no good reason to believe that its spurious. Arguments to the contrary are merely attempts to remove an unpleasant obstacle to some fringe theories.

Good News for Lutherans
Beer is good for you.

Beer, a health food? That's what some Canadian researchers report. A study from the University of Western Ontario finds a brew could be good for you. The researchers say beer has antioxidant boosters that could help fight cancer, heart disease and diabetes. But the key is moderation. The researchers found three beers would have the opposite effect.

Beer in Moderation Could Be Good for You

As a Lutheran, this is good news for me. I enjoy a good Wicked Ale on occasion. So, I guess that I am being consistent with nutrition in my moderate drinking (as long as I don't overdo it). But I have always wondered whether enjoying a beer is being "given to wine" in violation of I Timothy 3:3. I know Martin Luther didn't consider it a stumbling block. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

Can We Finally Consider This issue Dead?
At least until someone tries to add a codicil to their will

Having sex with corpses is now officially illegal in California after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill barring necrophilia, a spokeswoman says.

Schwarzenegger outlaws sex with corpses

Still, I wonder what would happen if the corpses consent to the sex in their wills prior to their deaths? Would this law be an unconstitutional violation of the two consenting adults right to privacy?

The Miracles of Jesus: A Historical Inquiry
A new in-depth essay

Layman, one of our members and bloggers, has just had an essay he wrote on the Miracles of Jesus posted on Christian Origins. You can find it here. Here is a portion:

What I intend to provide in this article are good reasons for believing that Jesus, his contemporary followers, and his contemporary enemies, believed that he was a miracle worker. I also happen to think that—if we can set naturalistic assumptions aside—this article provides enough justification to explore the life and works of Jesus in more detail to see whether there is a possibility that Jesus in fact performed inexplicable deeds. Such an inquiry would need to be much more extensive than this one.

It is well worth the read.

Hate Laws threaten Christian Evangelism
Problems in Reaching out to Muslims

One of our contributors, Nomad, recently posted an essay about hate crimes and the risks associated with them. His post can be found here. Now the same issue is coming up in Britain where Parliment is considering putting in place legislation which makes it a crime to "ban incitement to religious hatred." Personally, I don't know anyone who wouldn't agree that we shouldn't incite religious hatred, but the problem with these laws is the vagueness as to exactly what "inciting religious hatred" consists of.

Barnabas Fund, a UK-based charity working with Christians in Islamic societies, has now launched a campaign to raise concern about the measure.

It noted that Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain - a mainstream umbrella body - said during a BBC radio program that defaming the character of the prophet Mohammed should be illegal under the proposed new law because it was an insult to Muslims.

"But the religion Mohammed taught is based on specific rejection of Christianity," Barnabas Fund said in a document. "It is impossible to protect both these belief systems from 'insult' simultaneously."

Christian Group Troubled by UK Religious Hate Law Proposal

When a law makes it impossible to reasonably discuss something because it may be considered an "incitement to hate" we have a problem. And before any skeptics say "well, that doesn't concern me", you had better consider the problem of what happens if it is considered "incitement of religious hatred" to say that Christians are "extremists" or "fundamentalists" or "hateful." This is a dangerous law.

Terri Schiavo's Faith May Save Her
Tangibly, that is.

I would guess that everyone is familiar with the story of Terri Schiavo, the brain damaged woman in Florida who is at the center of another storm--a storm about the right to end another's life. Her husband, being the loving sensitive type, wants to starve and/or dehydrate her to death because she is in a chronic vegetative state. Her parents, also being loving sensitive types, have offered to care for her in order to keep her alive. The courts in Florida have sided with the caring husband over the caring parents and have ordered her feeding tube withdrawn. The legislature in Florida, in conjunction with governor Jeb Bush, is fighting to protect her life. At the moment, the Florida Supreme Court is trying to decide whether the latest actions taken by the legislature to keep her alive are appropriate exercises of the legislative power.

Well, it turns out that Ms. Schiavo's parents may have come up with a trump card: Ms. Schiavowas a Roman Catholic and therefore euthanasia is against her firmly held religious convictions. In a new memorandum of points and authorities filed by Ms. Schiavo's parents concerning "substantial change in circumstances that the court must consider" in the case, they argue that her religious beliefs would not have permitted her to accept the withdrawal of her feeding tube.

The new circumstances directly involve Terri's lifelong religious beliefs as a Roman Catholic and her fundamental right to freedom of religious belief and expression.

Lawyers for Terri's parents Bob and Mary Schindler say given a "significant development" in the church's moral teaching that patients in a so-called "persistent vegetative state" should be provided food and water, the court's 2000 decision that Terri would choose to end her life can no longer stand.

In a March 20, 2004 address, Pope John Paul II, head of the Roman Catholic Church, said, "I should like particularly to underline how the administration of food and water, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use...should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory..."

The Schindler attorneys say given the "overwhelming evidence of Terri's life-long faith and devotion to the Church - which she proclaimed only hours before her collapse - she would never willingly defy the Holy Father's teaching by consenting to conduct that is now morally forbidden by the Church."

"Terri Schiavo's Parents File Memo Citing 'Substantial Change' in Case"

So, it appears that faith may save Ms. Schaivo regardless of what skeptics believe.

Sorry, I've been otherwise occupied

Sorry about the delay in posting. I have been very busy and haven't had the time needed to update this page. That should end today.

Fully God, Fully Man
Is this like a square circle?

A skeptic once told me that the concept of “fully God, fully man” is equivalent to a “square circle” in that it is not logically possible for something (or someone) to be “fully God and fully man” at the same time. After thinking about it, I concluded that the comparison to a “square circle” is incorrect.

The “fully God, fully man” concept, as I understand it, is not difficult. It springs from the Christian belief that all men are born with a soul which animates them and makes them more than simply biological machines. When we die, according to Christianity, our souls go to heaven. In Jesus’ case, He was not born with a soul which was created at birth. Rather, the spirit of Jesus became the soul which animated Jesus’ body. Thus, in all respects He was human--he had a human body, he required air, he had a heart, etc. Anything that one can think of that is a "necessary" attribute of humanity, Jesus had. However, the soul which He carried was the spirit of the second person of the triune God. Thus, He carried the full aspects of diety--He was divine, he was eternal, etc. Thus, Jesus was fully man (flesh, blood, etc.) and fully God (spirit).

A "square circle" is irrational because a square and a circle are definitionally different. A square, by definition, has to have four equalatrial sides and four right angles, whereas a circle, by definition, can have no sides or no angles. It is not possible that they something can both have a quality and not have the exact same quality. In other words, a square cannot both have the properties required to be a square and not have those properties at the same time and in the same way because it is those properties which define what it means to be a square.

The comparison to the square circle (which I agree to be a logical impossibility in our euclidean universe) is errant because the word “fully” does not mean exclusively in the Christian teaching. A more accurate analogy would be to say that a person can be fully Asian and fully male at the same time without violating any logical rules. To put it another way, the properties that are definitionally required to be "human" do not exclude the possibility that the human can carry within him the necessary attributes to be defined as "God".

Is there anything inconsistent about being both God and human? Unless a skeptic is able to present a clear statement of what is definitionally required to be God and what is definitionally required to be human, and then show that there is a direct conflict between at least one attribute for each, there is no reason to believe that the definitions contain any terms that are mutually exclusive (such as can be found for a square circle).

One could argue that as a human Jesus certainly did not appear to be omniscient, omnipresent or ominipotent. Two responses can be made to that objection. First, when Jesus became human, the Bible says that he humbled himself and became flesh. He temporarily surrendered certain aspects of being God while he was on earth to do the will of the Father. Thus, for example, He said that some things were not known to Him but only known to the Father. This admission is consistent with the fact that when He became man he surrendered certain aspects of Himself to carry out the plan of the Father.

However, beyond that point, the question becomes exactly where does it say that "omniscience, omnipresence or omnipotence" are necessary attributes required to be God? Certainly, it is our experience that God has these attributes and the Bible teaches that God has these attributes, but are they necessary attributes to claim to be fully God? What is it at the most fundamental lever that makes God God? If God were not omnipotent but just really, really powerful would he no longe qualify to be God? If God were not omniscient but just really, really smart would he no longer qualify to be God? We need to be careful in determining exactly what is definitionally required to make God God.

Second, and equally important, Christianity teaches that God is triune. Jesus is fully God, but he is God with the Father and the Spirit. Even while Jesus lived as a human being on earth, the Father and the Spirit--the other two persons in the eternal Godhead--continued to maintain the full omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence that we expect God to have.

Let me try to give an analogy for this (recognizing that no analogy is perfect or it would be an identity). Consider a person (call her "Lisa") who is a member of a three person partnership with Clair and Fred engaged in business. While Lisa is on the job, she is fully involved in the decision making with Clair and Fred (even though each of them may have a different function within the partnership). Lisa, Clair and Fred are each "fully partners" in the partnership. Now, suppose Lisa gets called in for jury duty for a week. She decides that since she will not be in the office, she will surrender part of her day to day decision making in the partnership to Clair and Fred. Does the fact that she is temporarily out of the office and not participating in the day to day activities of the partnership mean that Lisa is no longer fully a partner in the partnership? Does the fact that Lisa is temporarily not there mean that the Clair and Fred can no longer do the business of the partnership and exercise all of the powers of buying and selling and hiring and firing that it had when Lisa was present? The obvious answer to both of these questions is "no."

Similarly, Jesus was called to duty as a human. In doing so, He knew He would be temporarily out of the same type of communion and interaction He normally enjoyed with the other two persons in the Godhead. Thus, He temporarily surrendered some of the attributes of being part of the Godhead, but the Father and the Spirit still retained all of the authority and powers that the Godhead had always exercised and which people normally attribute to God. Does that mean Jesus is not "fully God" even though he is, in a sense, temporarily out of the office? Isn't His status as a fully member of the Godhood unchanged much like Lisa's status as a full member in the partnership unchanged?

Jesus, Hell, And The Argumentum Ad Baculum
Is Christianity a fallacious appeal to force?

I recently received a response to one of the CADRE posts which made a claim which I have seen on many occasions. The anonymous poster (*sigh*--always annonymous) said:

A classical argumentum ad baculum, my friend. But what else could one except, since Christianity as a whole is one big argumentum ad baculum?

For those of you who are a bit rusty on your logical fallacies, the “argumentum ad baculum” is the “appeal to force” or, more precisely, “the argument to the cudgel.” As described in Fact Index, a person engages in the agumentum ad baculum “when one points out the negative consequences of holding the contrary position.” In other words, if an employee says “I disagree with the war in Iraq,” and a second employee counters “if you hold that view you will be fired” as a means of changing the mind of the first employee, then the second employee has clearly used the argumentum ad baculum.

I really do sympathize with this position. Some Christians attempt to evangelize skeptics by saying such things says “if you don’t believe in Jesus, you are going to hell.” If I were a skeptic, I would certainly have my doubts about such an approach since the Christian appears to be saying “believe in Christianity or else!” The Christian is pointing out to the skeptic the “consequences of holding the contrary position,” i.e., if you don’t believe in Jesus you are going to end up in hell. What could be a clearer appeal to force? The Internet Infidels website certainly thinks the warning about hell is an appeal to force. Consider the following from that website:

An Appeal to Force happens when someone resorts to force (or the threat of force) to try and push others to accept a conclusion. This fallacy is often used by politicians, and can be summarized as "might makes right." The threat doesn't have to come directly from the person arguing. For example:

"... Thus there is ample proof of the truth of the Bible. All those who refuse to accept that truth will burn in Hell."
So, is it true that Christianity “as a whole is one big argumentum ad baculum”? No, actually it's not for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, the real problem with the argumentum ad baculum is that it uses possible ulterior reasons to indirectly change someone’s opinion, but does not directly address the arguments for changing the opinion. As noted by the Nizkor Project:

It is important to distinguish between a rational reason to believe (RRB) (evidence) and a prudential reason to believe (PRB) (motivation). A RRB is evidence that objectively and logically supports the claim. A PRB is a reason to accept the belief because of some external factor (such as fear, a threat, or a benefit or harm that may stem from the belief) that is relevant to what a person values but is not relevant to the truth or falsity of the claim. For example, it might be prudent to not fail the son of your department chairperson because you fear he will make life tough for you. However, this does not provide evidence for the claim that the son deserves to pass the class.

Contrary to the view held by some skeptics (and reinforced by some well-meaning but misguided Christians), Christianity does not primarily rely on the “believe in Jesus or go to hell” argument. Rather the historic approach to proselytizing has been to make arguments for Jesus’ divinity and the existence of God, i.e., it principally provides rational reasons to believe (RRB). It does so in a number of ways: the arguments from morality, teleology, cosmology, ontology and history, are just some of the RRB that are used by Christians to make their case for Christianity. Yes, I admit that there are questions that arise about each one of these arguments (hence, the existence of lively debates on these arguments), but the existence of these discussions demonstrate that the principle reason to believe in Christianity arises not from the threat of hell, but from well-articulated arguments and evidence.

But even those whose evangelism includes a warning that there are consequences for not believing—-specifically, going to hell—-are not necessarily engaging in the argumentum ad baculum. Not every appeal to consequence is an appeal to force. If I were to see Johnny standing in the middle of the highway and see a truck bearing down on him , I would yell to Johnny: “Get off the road or you are going to get hit by that truck.” I have just made an argumentum ad baculum according to the Fact Index since I have just articulated to Johnny the “consequences of holding the contary position.” But I haven’t engaged in an argumentum ad baculum because I am merely warning Johnny of the danger of standing in the roadway when a truck is coming.

Consider the following: in 1994, the Major League Baseball players were locked out by the owners in the longest work stoppage in major league history. The lockout continued into the Spring of 1995, at which time the owners decided to bring in other baseball players to play the games since the players union refused to negotiate an end to the lockout. At that time, Brett Butler was the player representative for the Los Angeles Dodgers. When he learned that non-union players and union players willing to cross the picket line would show up to play, he made a statement to the effect of (paraphrasing): “If these ‘scabs’ show up and play, they will be vilified by the baseball players who are standing with the union and refusing to play.” My friend, Kurt, contended that what Butler said was a horrible threat to the ‘scabs’, and therefore constituted an argumentum ad baculum. I countered that since the origin of labor unions, it is a fact that people who cross the picket lines are hated and vilified by the workers who didn’t cross on their return to work. Thus, Butler wasn’t making a threat, he was merely stating a fact. Does that constitute an argumentum ad baculum? Again, the answer should be no for the same reason that the previously-mentioned warning to Johnny doesn’t constitute a fallacy: merely stating the facts about what is going to happen to them for doing (or not doing) something is not an improper appeal to force. It is informing them of what the speaker believes to be fact.

From these two examples, we can see that there is a distinction between an improper appeal to consequences and an appropriate statement of consequences. If there is no warranted connection between the consequence warned of and the acceptance of the course of action or the acceptance of the claim, then there is an argumentum ad baculum. However, if the circumstances of a situation are such as to warrant the belief that the speaker is simply stating what he or she believes to be fact, or that he or she is stating a warning that he or she believes to be well founded, then the argument is not a fallacious appeal to force.

If a Christian says that a person who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to hell, then that person is making a statement connecting non-belief with hell. Is such a statement warranted? I am sure that my skeptical friends are saying shouting that it isn’t, but there are two ways that such a statement can be made which overcomes the objection. First, it could be stated merely as fact, much like Butler did in the baseball example, above. If the Christian is merely stating what he or she believes to be true, and they are not saying it as a means of changing the mind of the listener, then there is no fallacious appeal to force. I know that I rarely speak of hell when speaking with skeptics, but if I am asked about it I acknowledge that it is true that one must receive forgiveness of Jesus Christ to be saved. Have I made an improper appeal to force by saying that? No, because the statement of a fact (especially in response to a specific question) is not an improper appeal to force. Otherwise, one could never state what the consequences of actions and thoughts may be without engaging in a fallacy. This is clearly not appropriate.

Second, the statement may be used as a warning similar to “Johnny, if you don’t get off the highway you will be hit by a car!” The appeal by some Christians to hell is like saying “Johnny, if you don’t change your ways, you will go to hell.” The statements are very similar. One could argue that the first is more believable because we all can agree on the danger of standing on the highway but we don’t all agree with the danger of being a non-Christian. I have two responses to that comment. First, the validity of the warning does not turn on how many people would agree that it is true. If I were the only one to see the truck driving right at little Johnny, it doesn’t make my warning to Johnny any less of a warning and not an improper argumentum ad baculum. If the car is going to hit Johnny and I am the only one who sees it, then I believe the warning to be well founded and it falls outside of the bounds of the fallacy. Likewise, even if I am the only one who sees the connection between non-belief in Jesus and hell, it is still not an argumentum ad baculum to warn someone that there is a hell awaiting them if they don’t receive forgiveness.

Second, it is reasonable for the Christian to believe that the unforgiven faces hell based on authority. The authority in this case is Jesus Christ who spent a great deal of time speaking of hell. Since there are reasons to believe that he is an authority on spiritual matters and the afterlife (and we can discuss those later), then if I were to warn someone that they are going to hell if they don’t receive forgiveness, I have a foundation for doing so. In other words, it becomes a warranted belief.

While some people do use the warning about hell as a means of arguing around the issues to have someone convert to Christianity, I don’t agree that Christianity is “a whole is one big argumentum ad baculum.” Christianity presents arguments for belief independent of the “believe or go to hell” argument. Moreover, not every mention or warning about hell constitutes an argument ad baculum for the reasons expressed above.

Well-known Atheists
A clarification of an earlier comment.

I have been taken to task in a couple of places for a comment I made about the best known atheist thinkers. I wanted to take a moment to respond and clarify what I said (which seems to be a legitimate means of proceeding since Antony Flew was permitted to clarify some statements he made that led some people to believe that he was no longer an atheist). Here are my original comments:

I have to admit that I don't keep up with the latest spokesmen for atheism--mainly because I don't care who they are or what they say. I have learned a few names such as Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, and Steven J. Gould, but I couldn't even begin to tell you the names that may be touted as the latest advocates for non-belief.

At the risk of misinterpreting the comments, some people have suggested that this shows that I am in some way narrow minded or even close-minded for not being willing to consider atheistic thought. Let me clarify:

Several years ago, I regularly engaged in debating skeptics on the Internet about the truth of Christianity. I still do so occasionally, but my experience has made me rather impatient with the tactics that were all too commonly exercised by skeptics on the Internet discussion boards (and before anyone objects: I am not saying that Christians never engaged in similar tactics--I just didn't experience them because I was debating against atheists, not Christians) so I don't go on discussion boards as much as often. In the course of these discussions, I read and had to respond to the arguments advanced by a large number of skeptics on a large number of topics relating to the truth of Christianity. In responding, I did a lot of research and thinking about the claims and the objectinos, and this experience served only to strengthen my resolved that Christianity is true (not just true for me, but as stated by Francis Schaeffer, "true truth").

I did not know, but suspected strongly, that a lot of the arguments I read were simply reformulations of what the most outspoken atheists (perhaps, the "atheist spokesmen") had to say. At that time, I begin reading articles and essays by these authors that were available on the Internet. If you want to see a pretty good collection of these articles, I would recommend the Internet Infidels which, it is my belief, has a pretty good sampling of skeptical thought. I found, true to my suspicions, that these atheists were not saying anything that I had not seen before in the course of my discussions. I found myself reading their writings and saying "yeah, I've heard that, so what?" or "no, that's not true," or "that's a straw man", etc., etc.

I also borrowed and began reading Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. With all due respect to Mr. Russell, I thought that many of the on-line atheists I had debated made better arguments for non-belief than Mr. Russell. I didn't finish the book because I thought it was so tedious and wrong that it wasn't worth the time it was taking me to read it all the way through.

I have tried other books by people who I would guess would fall within the category of "famous atheists." For example, I started reading George H. Smith's Atheism: The Case Against God, but found it incredibly tedious and not well reasoned. Like the Russell book, I gave it up before the end (but I read much further into Russell's book because Smith's book was just plain tedious). I also remember reading the first few chapters of Kai Nielsen's Philosophy and Atheism. Again, I found myself so frustrated with what I thought was his missing of the obvious that I put the book down after the first four chapters to read works that I felt were more interesting and challenging. I am sure that I started reading other skeptical works, but I don't recall the titles--but that doesn't mean I haven't read portions of their arguments in other forums or reworkings of their arguments. Quite to the contrary, by the time I read all three of these books, I found that there was very, very little that was new to me. It was all simply restatements of what I had read before (which may, of course, have been restatements of what these authors were saying).

When I wrote that "I don't care who they are or what they say", I meant it. But I certainly was not intending to diss all skeptical thought. I was referring to the main propositors of skeptical thought who, in my view, have nothing of interest to say that I haven't already seen and found to be either refuted or not well reasoned. I don't know the complete list of the most famous atheist thinkers, and I don't care because I can't see myself reading their books. If someone wants to educate me on what they say by making the argument in their own words, I certainly would listen (and, in fact, I do so quite often).

So, contary to those who suggested that I my decision to not waste my time discovering the names and thinking of the foremost skeptical proponents, I welcome an interesting discussion (key on "discussion") with skeptics about whether God exists or whether Christianity is true. But don't bother asking me to read something written by Kai Nielsen, Antony Flew, Bertrand Russell, or any other well known skeptic. If you want me to hear their argument, you make the argument as your own. Otherwise, why should I waste my time reading the writings of people whose views I don't accept where my sampling of their writings have resulted in nothing more than a waste of my time?

(Edited 9/7/04 at 3:51 p.m. PDT to correct typographical error)

Does the Left Hate Bush because he believes in God?
Youngstown's Democratic mayor thinks so.

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Democratic mayor of Youngstown told Republican convention delegates today that he supports George Bush and that some of his fellow Democrats don't like the president because he believes in God.

From WTOL-TV, "Democratic Ohio Mayor Addresses GOP Convention"

Wow. I think it takes a lot of guts to say something like that. However, he is not alone. Consider the following from political commentator Cal Thomas in an article entitled "Black eye for the Bush guy" where he details the reasons that he believes liberals hate George Bush:

The third and perhaps most important reason Bush is hated is his faith, which is genuine. Bush believes God exists objectively and that He has spoken unambiguously to those who would pay attention. Unlike Clinton, who puts on religion when it helps him politically but takes it off when it interferes with his appetites, Bush wears his faith in his heart.

He is humble about it, always noting how far he falls short of the ideal to which he subscribes. I remember a lunch we had in the governor's mansion in Austin the year before he announced for president. I had heard he read through the Bible once a year, and I asked him to quote from memory some of his favorite verses. He quoted three, and not the most familiar ones. That is the mark of a person who takes faith seriously.

The mostly secular or theologically squishy left doesn't mind one being "religious" so long as that religion underscores a secular agenda. A religion that constantly "baptizes" the liberal catechism of bigger government, higher taxes, more abortions, same-sex marriage and anything else the secular left wishes to promote is the kind of "faith" it will tolerate.

But someone who believes God is not an idea of Man, but rather Man is God's idea and He gets to make the rules, is viewed as harmful to those who wish to create their own version of heaven on earth through the secular god of big government and the capitulation to our lower nature.

Cal Thomas and Mayor McGreavy of Youngstown are not alone in believing that the left does not like people who take the Bible and God seriously. Consider the following from "Why Liberals Hate God" by Doug Hagin:

Yet Liberals continue in their fervent desire to erase any mention of God, the Bible, or Christianity in our nation. Why do they campaign so eagerly for God to be escorted out of our schools, government, courtrooms, and public places? Simply put God is not only our Creator but also the source of all liberty, and the source of our nation’s founding. The Founders made all this very, very clear. And this scenario my friends just does not match the Liberal utopian fantasy the Left wants America to be.

In Liberal think government, run by Liberals of course, is the sole source of liberty and the judge of how much liberty the people can be trusted with. God gets in the way of this since He is the true source of our freedoms. So Liberals must first push God out of the way before they can establish their god, government, as the Supreme Being. Hence the steady campaign by the Left to remove God as far as possible from as many places as possible.

Or, consider the following from "Liberals Hate Christians" by Mark K. Lewis:

Liberals' obvious hatred of (their understanding of) Christianity in our country today proceeds from their belief that Christianity has been a hindrance to progress and has resulted in much evil. Rather than liberals reading the New Testaments and trying to comprehend what the religion of Jesus Christ really is, they prefer to look back in history and recall cruelties, immoralities, and butcheries done by those who really have no close connection to the truth and label that Christianity.

This idea has had a tremendous effect in our country, indeed, it underlies the entire educational system. Dr. John Dewey, who is known as the father of modern American education, was no friend of Christianity. Indeed, he was a very good liberal:

The objection to supernaturalism is that it stands in the way of an effective realization of the sweep and depth of the implications of natural human relations. It stands in the way of using the means that are in our power to make radical changes in these relations.

In other words, Christianity is a hindrance to liberal ideas of progressive social relations. It must be removed. This is a cardinal tenet of liberalism today, and it is clear why there is no desire among the left to promote the Christian faith, why they defend abortion, homosexuality, pre­ and extramarital sex, and almost every other vile crudity that pervades our country: men must be "free," and Christianity is the greatest obstacle to that freedom and does all sorts of evil to prevent people from being "free" In the liberal mind, "freedom" equals "progress," so, Christianity must be eliminated, or at least relegated to a non­influential role in society's affairs.

Now I want to clarify something here: I believe that these writers all cast too big of a net. I know many a Christian who are certainly liberal, who are not for George W. Bush as president, and yet they are people who I would consider to be every bit as trusting in God as I am. I think that the writers quoted above are referencing the people on the far left--people (some atheists or agnostics, and some who are nominally Christian) who really do hate the God represented by the Bible since it infringes on their rather, shall we say politely, warped world view. Unfortunately, as I just noted, some of these people go under the name of Christian.

For example, in an article entitled "Two political preachers stake out foreign policy extremes for the 2004 campaign" by Richard N. Ostling, AP Religion Writer, he describes an Episcopal preachers' outspoken opposition to the U.S. President.

‘‘Why Bush Must Go: A Bishop's Faith-Based Challenge'' is by radical liberal Bennett J. Sims, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church's Atlanta Diocese and a clergy counterpart to Michael Moore. His work is recommended by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bishop John Spong and the Rev. William Sloane Coffin.

* * *

Sims turns paranoid regarding Sept. 11, seeing a "rising tide of suspicion" that the Bush administration was guilty of "calculated neglect of danger" and purposely disregarded intelligence warnings about what was coming. "There may be no way short of revolution to dislodge the fierce force of apocalyptic right-wing ideology" that controls America, writes apocalyptic left-wing ideologist Sims.

Sims' main theme is that Bush endangers the environment and human survival by resorting to "unilateral war-making" and "imperialist violence," as in Iraq, rather than the feminist-inspired "international peace-seeking collaboration" the bishop favors. Ronald Reagan also takes some lumps but Bill Clinton is exempt from criticism.

Sims was an officer on a U.S. Navy destroyer during World War II but turned pacifist regarding America's use of military power. It's unclear whether he thinks violence by enemies of America and Israel is ever justifiable.

He sees moral equivalence between radical Muslims and "Christian-Zionist" America, depicted as "two snarling and self-righteous religious fundamentalisms" that both promote holy war. As he retells ancient history, peaceful paganism was supplanted by the Old Testament Israelites with their "violence-prone male dominance." The result is "a presumed 'divinely biblical' blueprint for a predatory modern Israeli takeover of Palestinian lands," he charges.

Here is a preacher, identified as a "left wing ideologist" whose work is recommended by the "Christian" Bishop John Shelby Spong (whose writings I consider to be a blight on Christian thought, but I will save that for later.) Rev. Sims' "interpretation" of the state of the world is, in my view, extreme and out of touch with reality. His "interpretation" of the Bible is the same. Thus, while he is nominally a Christian, I really wonder whether we are talking about the same religion or the same God.

In summary, I guess I would reword what the Youngstown mayor said. I think I would have said it more like this: "On both sides of this race there are good and faithful men and women of faith. They can legitimately take up different sides in this election and should not be labelled as being 'against God' as the result. If I may paraphrase the statement of John Kerry at the Democratic National Convention where he took a line from an earlier speech by George W. Bush, God is not on the side of one party or the other, but we should be concerned that we are on God's side.

"Having said that, it is my belief that there is a significant number of people out there on the left--some even claiming to be Christian--who are not truly interested in what God wants. They abuse or misuse His Word to further their own radical aims. They are working hard to make sure that our nation is a truly secular nation where God is emasculated as any type of intellectual force in the policy of our nation unless it fits their otherwise secular viewpoint. It is these people that hate George W. Bush because he is a man of faith who takes that faith seriously and is not afraid to voice his belief in the traditional tenets of the Bible. It is these people we need to watch out for. They want a purely secular state devoid of God in any meaningful way. George W. Bush is a threat to their views, while John Kerry is not. I leave it to you to ponder why that is."

I certainly acknowledge that I may be wrong, but given the polarization of our society, it certainly explains a lot.

Anglicans are testing the limits of tradition

I am saddened by what is happening in the Anglican Church, especially here in North America, espcially as it must be impacting those who have long served within this church community, and now see it abandoning more and more connections to the historic Christian faith.

The article below by Fr. de Souza is in today's National Post, and will be replaced in a few days, so I offer it in its entirety. I expect that it will appear later at Fr. de Souza's home page with his other articles found at http://www.newmanhouse.ca/desouza.shtml and needless to say, I recommend this page highly as well, as he often imparts words of great wisdom.
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http://www.canada.com/national/nationalpost/news/comment/story.html?id=0cd6fe4a-4f86-43e4-9a7c-bb745899c13e
Father Raymond J. de Souza
National Post
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

An important conference concludes today in Ottawa which might reconfigure the shape of the Anglican Church in Canada. Though closed to the media, it is no secret that the 700 gathered delegates are asking whether they have a future in a communion which shares less and less in common. The participants in the Anglican "Essentials" conference believe that in choosing to bless homosexual relationships, their Church has abandoned the ancient faith.

Canadian Anglicans are wrestling with competing ideas of morality, authority and tradition. The issues engaged are of interest far beyond the Anglican Church.

"Essentials" is a movement of Canadian Anglicans whose declared "vision is to be the theological and spiritual rallying point for historic Christian orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Canada." The members of Essentials believe that the Anglican general synod's decision in June to affirm "the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships" does not square with historic Christian orthodoxy.

On this there can be little dispute. Teaching that what was heretofore considered a serious sin is now something holy is a reversal, plain and simple -- something which is conceded even by supporters of the change.

Can a Church do that? It depends on how morality is understood. Does the Church teach that something is morally wrong because it is in fact wrong, or is something wrong because the Church says so? Doctrinal innovators would argue the latter, the Essentials group would argue the former. The division goes to the heart of what a Church is. Is it a body of believers who seek to give witness to the truth, or is it a body of like-minded members who organize themselves in pursuit of shared goals?

Again, the Essentials group would opt for the former.

That position is articulated often by Catholics when faced with demands that the moral teaching on this or that issue be reversed. The Church often responds that it has the authority to teach, but it is does not have the authority to teach whatever it likes. That teaching authority applies, but does not create, the moral law. It is reported that during the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI proposed that the section on the papal office should say that the pope is accountable to no one -- highlighting his supreme governance. That formulation was rejected because while the pope has no earthly superiors, he is in fact accountable to the truth, the scriptures, the Christian tradition and the witness of the saints and martyrs.

It is ironic that in the current Anglican disputes, the general synod takes a view of authority that is much farther reaching. The Anglican synod acts as a body which is the master of truth, scripture and tradition, able to reject or amend it as it wishes. The more modest approach to authority advocated by the Essentials group -- or the Catholic Church for that matter -- places today's authority in the context of a tradition which develops over time, but never repudiates itself.

Tradition, according to Christian orthodoxy, is not an artificial constraint from the past. Rather it is the wisdom of centuries of saints, received and applied to the new things of today. Tradition is supposed to be a humbling force, checking the temptation to impose recent innovations or contemporary fashions on the faith of the ages. It requires a measure of historical arrogance to assume that late-20th century preoccupations ought to be normative for a tradition that has endured for two millennia.

Delegates at the Anglican Essentials conference contend that the Anglican leadership in Canada has placed itself outside of that tradition. The leadership understands itself to have changed the tradition, according to its own authority.

Are there limits to how far that tradition can be changed before it will break? The Anglican Church has always cultivated a certain sensibility, rather than defined itself wholly in doctrinal terms. Part of that sensibility has produced the justly celebrated liturgical and biblical texts that have elevated and ennobled the English language. Another part of that sensibility was a willingness to remain in communion with each other, leaving ambiguous points of doctrinal disagreement if necessary. But it is difficult to maintain that communion when parties disagree whether one and the same thing is to be considered sinful or holy.

On the question of Anglicanism, I have to admit my bias. While the sundering of England from Rome by Henry VIII was a tragic wounding of the Church to be deeply regretted, Anglicanism went on to become a harbour of fine liturgy, cultural gentility and a certain conviviality.

It is to be lamented that we are in danger of losing that.
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Amen.

Antony Flew's Tantalizing Letter
Is he seeing the wisdom in ID?

I have to admit that I don't keep up with the latest spokesmen for atheism--mainly because I don't care who they are or what they say. I have learned a few names such as Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, and Steven J. Gould, but I couldn't even begin to tell you the names that may be touted as the latest advocates for non-belief. One of the few names I am familiar with is Antony Flew. Mr. Flew (I don't believe he has a doctorate--only a Masters) has been an outspoken atheist for nearly fifty years. He is the author of such works as Darwinian Evolution, Crime, Punishment and Disease in a Relativistic Universe and Atheistic Humanism. He has debated William Lane Craig about the existence of God (and the debate has been preserved for us in a book entitled Does God Exist?: the Craig-Flew Debate). Certainly, he has to be included in any list of the premiere atheist thinkers.

It appears that around 2000 or 2001 he made some statements that led people to start spreading the rumor that he had converted to atheism. Apparently, the rumor rose to the level of needing Mr. Flew to respond, and he did in an article published on the Secular Web as Sorry to Disappoint, but I'm Still an Atheist! In the article he stated:

Those rumors speak false. I remain still what I have been now for over fifty years, a negative atheist. By this I mean that I construe the initial letter in the word 'atheist' in the way in which everyone construes the same initial letter in such words as 'atypical' and 'amoral'. For I still believe that it is impossible either to verify or to falsify - to show to be false - what David Hume in his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion happily described as "the religious hypothesis." The more I contemplate the eschatological teachings of Christianity and Islam the more I wish I could demonstrate their falsity.

(Of course, it is a little troubling that he thinks you cannot verify or falsify religion, but he wishes he could falsify it. Seems as if he has a little spiritual issue with which he needs to deal before I would consider him objective.)

Interestingly, Mr. Flew then made a comment about the fine tuning of the universe that suggested that he was leaning towards the idea that intelligent design has legitimacy. Noting that this quote is what probably led the rumors about his conversion to start, he described his comments this way:

We negative atheists are bound to see the Big Bang cosmology as requiring a physical explanation; and that one which, in the nature of the case, may nevertheless be forever inaccessible to human beings. But believers may, equally reasonably, welcome the Big Bang cosmology as tending to confirm their prior belief that "in the beginning" the Universe was created by God.

Again, negative atheists meeting the argument that the fundamental constants of physics would seem to have been 'fine tuned' to make the emergence of mankind possible will first object to the application of either the frequency or the propensity theory of probability 'outside' the Universe, and then go on to ask why omnipotence should have been satisfied to produce a Universe in which the origin and rise of the human race was merely possible rather than absolutely inevitable. But believers are equally bound and, on their opposite assumptions, equally justified in seeing the Fine Tuning Argument as providing impressive confirmation of a fundamental belief shared by all the three great systems of revealed theistic religion - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For all three are agreed that we human beings are members of a special kind of creatures, made in the image of God and for a purpose intended by God.

In short, I recognize that developments in physics coming on the last twenty or thirty years can reasonably be seen as in some degree confirmatory of a previously faith-based belief in god, even though they still provide no sufficient reason for unbelievers to change their minds. They certainly have not persuaded me.

Now let me get this straight: Mr. Flew is agreeing that the universe appears fine-tuned, but he says that it is not sufficient to make him believe that there had to be a designer. Okay, I'll accept that even though I think he is already suffering a serious disconnect.

Fast-forward to 2004. Antony Flew writes a letter to Philosophy Now Magazine. Once again, he appears to accept the notion of intelligent design, but this time in the area of genetics and biology. He states:

But the evidential situation of natural (as opposed to revealed) theology has been transformed in the more than fifty years since Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize for their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism. (Emphasis added.)

Once again, Mr. Flew seems to suggest that there is a design in the universe that cannot be explained by natural processes. He then recommends two books by believers of Christianity and Judaism. One of the books is Gerald L Schroeder's The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth (Touchstone; New York 2001). This book presents a case that the scientific discoveries over the past 50 years have provided extraordinary evidence pointing to the existence of a designer--but not necessarily the God of the Bible. Here is part of the review of Dr. Schroeder's book from Reasons to Believe:

Schroeder's theological perspective--one strongly influenced by the kabala (a form of Jewish mysticism)--prevents The Hidden Face of God from being useful as a Christian apologetic resource. From Schroeder's perspective, just as scientists discover the metaphysical by deeply probing the natural realm, kabalists seek God's hidden face by peeling back layers of hidden meaning in the biblical text. Instead of demonstrating harmony between the Bible and science based on sound and rigorous interpretative methodology, Schroeder makes the integration of science and religion a mystical enterprise.

Does his reference to this pseudo-Christian work mean that Mr. Flew has become, at a minimum, a design advocate? Is he advocating a designer who is not the God of the Bible? Has he become a deist or a pantheist? Has he, by chance, come all the way to the truth of Christianity? Where exactly does Mr. Flew stand? His last paragraph is tantalizing:

Anyone who should happen to want to know what I myself now believe will have to wait until the publication, promised for early 2005, by Prometheus of Amherst, NY of the final edition of my God and Philosophy with a new introduction of it as "an historical relic". That book was a study of the arguments for Christian theism, first published in 1966 in various editions in both hardcover and paperback in both the USA and the UK. My own commitment then as a philosopher who was also a religious unbeliever was and remains that of Plato's Socrates: "We must follow the argument wherever it leads."

His earlier work an "historical relic"? He will follow the evidence where it leads?

I know where the evidence naturally leads--it naturally leads to a belief in a designer who is very powerful, very intelligent, and very creative. In short, it leads to the God of Christianity (even though ID will never prove that since that is a leap from what ID can prove to the implications of what it does prove). While I doubt that Mr. Flew will agree (especially since his book is going to be published by Prometheus press--the world's most-renowned publisher of openly-atheist thought), I wonder what wonderful mental gymnastics he is going to perform to get around the obvious.

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