CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here.]


[Note: the previous entry ended with the questions, "So why can there not be grounds stretching on forever with no end, no Final Fact? Why can there not be an infinite regression?"]

For what it is worth, I don't think it is possible to prove that an infinite regress does not exist--nor that it does exist. So I will presume each of these two mutually exclusive options; and then check to see if either or both of the options crash.

Let me presume, for purposes of argument, that an infinite regress is real. What advantages does a proposed system of thought have, when based on this presumption?

None! If an infinite regress is true, then we have no means of reaching valid conclusions.

This is because we habitually presume, when we offer explanations or arguments, that somewhere 'behind' or 'under' the explanation (metaphorically speaking) is an actual reality that just is. This reality provides us the standard by which to explain other things; it cannot be explained the same way, in terms of something more fundamental than itself.

Now I grant that we humans are very good at turning our analytical 'spotlights' onto our presumed grounds and discovering that those grounds can, after all, be explained in terms of something else. But then the 'something else' becomes in effect the ultimate ground. Perhaps it, too, can be explained in terms of 'another something else'. That would be fine: as long as the next 'something else' doesn't turn out to be one of the earlier 'somethings', because then we have a circular argument and all the conclusions reached along that train of thought collapse!

We can keep doing this for as long as it is non-contradictory, and non-circular, to do so. But every time we do this, we must presume that we have reached a stopping point. We may eventually discover that we really had not reached the last stopping point; but that is very different from proposing that there is no stopping point!

We (usually) explain the existence of 'something' in regard to a more foundational 'something else'. But an infinite regress means that there can never be 'something else' which stands as a proper explainer to the 'something'.

Put another way: if there could be such a thing as a bottomless pit, you would never be able to answer the question "How deep is it?" Replying "It is infinitely deep" would be one way of saying the deepness is real but cannot be quantified: and "How deep?" asks for quantification. Yet in the case of an ultimately infinite metacosmic regress, this would apply to every question, and not merely in regard to quantification.

The infinite regressor may not be bothered by this. "Why, I can answer all sorts of questions!" he may snort. "I can add 2 + 2 and get 4 just like anyone else!" Yes; but you do this by presuming there is an unalterable characteristic of reality which cannot be 'explained away' or 'explained in terms of something else', which the math expression (and, for that matter, the logical 'law of noncontradiction') reflects.

"No, I pretend for purposes of convenience that there is a stopping point." Yes--because you know perfectly well that the statement will be reduced to absurdity if there is no stopping point! Yet, by saying there is (in fact) no stopping point, you concurrently assert that the proposition 2 + 2 = 4 is in fact (all possible appearances to the contrary) an ultimately unreliable statement! Furthermore, any arguments and conclusions you may draw with an infinite regress as your ultimate presumption, are rendered equally nonsensical.

"Christianity and similar theisms are false", you may say, "because in fact there is an infinite regress." [Footnote: This attempt could, of course, be made against atheism by counter-atheists, too; perhaps by a certain class of positive pantheists. But in my experience it’s more likely to be applied the other way around.] But this statement has been rendered as moot as the statement 2 + 2 = 4. The only 'explanatory power' an infinite regressor has, is borrowed by him from the position of his direct opponents: the people (atheists, theists, etc.) who do propose an IF of some kind. A position that must borrow all of its strength (even if only for purposes of convenience) from a presumption that its opposition must be correct, can only be an untenable position.


In other words, infinite regression has an ultimate and inescapable problem, which I think sinks it as a viable alternative to an Independent Fact: no one can possibly believe in an infinite regression.

'What!? Are you telling me I do not really believe my own position?'

Do you propose that there really is an infinite regress?

'Yes, of course!'

Then you have proposed that there is, in fact, an unalterable, final characteristic of reality: there is an infinite regress.

'So?'

So you are proposing that it is impossible to explain an infinite regress in terms of "something else" which is itself not an infinite regress.

'Naturally; otherwise I would be saying there is ultimately no infinite regress!'

But an infinite regression requires precisely that everything can be explained in terms of "something else" forever! You must make a tacit exception against the infinite regress itself, to even seriously propose it is true; thus immediately contradicting your own position!

Even if I tried to accept a so-called 'infinite regress', I would necessarily be putting it into some type of ultimate framework which cannot itself be explained in terms of something else--and this immediately undercuts the whole point to proposing an infinite regress.

I therefore conclude, that although I may assert I believed an 'infinite regress' to be true, I would have to be mistaken; I would actually be proposing an Independent Fact in order to try to propose an infinite regress, and I would have been misled in my labeling by not considering one of the chief properties of an infinite regression: it must be what it is, and so not be fully explainable (in principle, even if not in practice) in terms of something which is not an infinite regress. But then I would no longer be proposing an infinite regression philosophy.

I find myself and everyone else (including the infinite regressors!) already presuming that an IF of some sort must in principle exist; so either an IF exists or we might as well treat reality as if it did. To do otherwise leads us precisely nowhere, even if it was possible to consistently (or even coherently) presume otherwise (which I think is impossible).

So an Independent (or Interdependent) Fact should be formally presumed to exist. For all practical purposes I should even believe it must exist; and all metaphysics and philosophy should center either on discovering what we can about it, or else on working out what must be true given presumptions about it (including the necessary presumption we all evidently make--whether we express it or not--that it in fact exists).


But the infinite regressor has one more bolt in his crossbow: the IF must be something that we cannot say is 'caused' by something else, or 'derives from' something else, or is a 'piece of' something else that 'includes' it. It is what it is (or even "I AM THAT I AM!") and absolutely no further reductive explanation is possible.

But some people find this intolerable, especially among opponents to supernatural theism. "To explain the origin of Nature," an atheist may say, "by invoking a supernatural Designer, is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer." This is a common and not altogether unreasonable type of complaint. But if we really accepted the use of this principle, then to explain the origin of the DNA-replication process (for instance) by invoking a blindly automatic Nature would also be to explain precisely nothing!--for it would also leave unexplained the origin of the Nature.

"Aha!" says the infinite regressor. "Now you see why I propose an infinite regress!" But there is no escape by that route; I can ask the exact same question about the infinite regress: how did it "come to be"?

So whatever philosophy we propose (and apparently whyever we propose one), we seem, at first glance, to be either explicitly or implicitly requiring the existence of an ultimate Fact that does not have to be caused.

"Hah!" barks the infinite regressor (and perhaps some of my earlier targets in this book). "That which is uncaused, does not exist! Here is a contradiction! Eat your own sword!"

I agree; so I should modify the statement to remove the contradictory proposal:

Whatever philosophy we propose (and whyever we propose one), we will explicitly or tacitly be requiring the existence of an ultimate Fact that sustains its own existence.

It is not, strictly speaking, uncaused: I agree, that would be a contradiction. It causes itself; as the Final Fact it must do so eternally. [See first comment below for a footnote here.]

I am intentionally contrasting this with the proposition that it merely exists without cause. In fact, this will be very important to part of my forthcoming positive argument. However, for the moment, let us stay with the conclusion that we must necessarily presume a self-causing IF to exist. To presume otherwise leads us to nonsense. I think that the notion of a self-causing Independent Fact is, at least, self-consistently coherent.

So I find, whatever I do, that I am necessarily presuming an IF exists. I would feel nervous about this, except (as I've already noted) I think virtually every philosopher does this already, whether they spell out the implications or not. [See second comment below for a footnote here.]

For most people, this shouldn't require anything like a jolting revelation. If I go to an atheistic naturalist and ask her, "Does Nature really exist and is it dependent on anything but itself for its existence?" she would probably answer Yes to the first part, and certainly answer No to the second. [See third comment below for a footnote here.] If I go to a certain type of pantheist (one who is not a 'negative' pantheist in the sense that everything must be illusion, although he might perhaps say that most things are illusion) and ask him whether the Absolute exists and if it depends on anything else, he will also say Yes and No respectively. If I go to a Muslim and ask him if Allah exists and if anything created Allah, he will also say Yes and No to those questions.

All of these people (I would fall into the same basic class as the Muslim) are affirming the existence of what I am calling 'the IF'. [See fourth comment below for a footnote here.] They will be assigning different properties to the IF; but they are still talking about an IF.

This raises my second topic for this chapter: could all three of these people (the naturalistic atheist, the positive pantheist and the Muslim theist) be correct, and if so to what extent?


[Next time: in question of infinite possibilities]

What should be the starting assumption regarding God's existence in discussions about the existence of God? Should the starting assumption be that God doesn't exist? Is the starting assumption that God does exist? Is the starting point that we don't know whether or not God exists?

Apparently, the response to this question was considered the highlight of a debate between atheist Richard Foley of the University of Missouri and theist Grant Sterling of the Eastern Illinois University -- at least, the article in the Journal-Gazette Times-Courier article about a debate begins with Dr. Foley's answer. The article, entitled Debate fails to settle question of God's existence, by Amber Williams, gives Dr. Foley's answer in the form of an analogy quoted from Dr. Foley wherein he claims that the starting point should be that God doesn't exist.

Facing a question from an audience member on why he believes everyone should start out in life thinking like an atheist, Richard Foley offered an analogy.

A professor of philosophy at the University of Missouri, Foley told the audience to imagine they were told of the existence of space aliens on the campus of Eastern Illinois University.

Everyone in attendance would start at the assumption the aliens did not exist until it was proven otherwise, Foley said.

Thinking about God should be the same way, Foley said.

"Agnosticism is not a starting point — it would have to be an achievement," Foley said. "I haven’t been moved that far."

Actually, Dr. Foley's analogy is much farther down the road than he thinks. Let's examine his analogy with a bit more depth, shall we? He is saying that a person should automatically discount the idea that space aliens exist when being told that space aliens can be found on Dr. Sterling's campus. But why should anyone do that? I mean, if you were told of the existence of illegal aliens (as opposed to space aliens) on the campus of Eastern Illinois University, would you automatically discount that until proven otherwise? Why should the first be automatically rejected while the second would be almost universally accepted?

The reason, quite obviously, is because we have additional information that goes into our acceptance and rejection of facts that are already part of our thinking before ever hearing about the aliens. We know that illegal aliens exist. We know this to be true either because we personally know one or more illegal aliens, or because we have seen hundreds of news stories that talk about the number of illegal aliens (aka undocumented workers) in the United States. We also know that (the arguments of UFOlogists notwithstanding) there is no compelling evidence to conclude that space aliens actually exist -- or, at least, there is insufficient evidence to believe that space aliens would come to Earth and hang out at Eastern Illinois University. (After all, everyone knows that if the aliens ever did come to Earth, they'd go to New Mexico -- the Best Place in the Universe.)


We know that space aliens are almost certainly not on the campus of Eastern Illinois University because we have seen insufficient evidence that aliens exist or, at least, we have insufficient evidence that space aliens have been coming to visit any part of the Earth -- including Eastern Illinois University.

This is the problem with Dr. Foley's analogy: the only reason that the analogy is facially compelling is that we're being told that something that people generally believe doesn't exist (space aliens which visit Earth) exists! It is the fact that we have come to the conclusion that space aliens either don't exist or don't visit the Earth prior to and independent from being told that they exist on the campus of Eastern Illinois University that leads us to reject the idea out of hand. But if we hadn't already made up our minds that space aliens didn't exist, or if we accepted the UFOlogists' evidence that is used to support claims that space aliens actually regularly visit the Earth, then it wouldn't be unreasonable to look at this claim in a completely different way than Dr. Foley wants, i.e., to see it as a possibility that needs to be investigated as opposed to something that should be dismissed out of hand as impossible.

In other words, for Dr. Foley's analogy to work, we already have to have been taught and to have accepted the idea that God doesn't exist or that His existence is highly unlikely. Without the prior acceptance of that position, there is no reason to treat the claim that God exists or did something on the same level as the claim that space aliens are hanging out on campus.

So, his underlying claim must be that if someone claims that God is somewhere or did something we should know implicitly that such claims are highly suspect and deserving of strong skepticism. Note that this is not a skepticism that is based on "we don't know if God exists, so show me." He has rejected this idea by saying that agnosticism is "an achievement." Rather, he is saying that when someone makes a claim it should be rejected unless sufficient evidence is presented to overcome this gut-based mental rejection. In other words, he is almost certainly saying that one should start cemented to the belief that God doesn't exist and only be moved from that position . . . well, one shouldn't be moved from that position.

This is not a way to arrive at truth. This is the way to become an a-religious zealot.

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here.]


In the previous chapter (i.e. the previous few journal entries), I brought to the forefront a term I have already begun to use here and there in this book: the IF, the Independent-or-Interdependent Fact. Now I will discuss this concept directly, not only because I will be using it with increasing frequency as I continue, but because I think its existence must be accepted to avoid nonsensical positions. [Footnote: the acronym for Independent or Interdependent Fact happens to be the English word 'if'; but this is only coincidental.]

I have just finished explaining why I reject the position that God must be an abstract generality (and thus can have no particular aspects, even in principle, to be discovered). My reply was that in my experience the abstract describes the real (or, more accurately, we use 'the abstract' to describe the real) as opposed to being the real; and that consequently the abstract cannot be the foundation or ground for other realities.

I used observations of Nature to bolster this point. Nature apparently exists in an actual fashion; or, if it does not 'actually' exist, then we can know nothing including that Nature does not exist in that fashion. I did not mean by this that the material of Nature must be such that we can describe it with ultimate and total accuracy--evidently we cannot in fact do so. Our inability to completely describe the 'physical' in terms of the 'physical' may simply be a practical manifestation of what amounts to our attempt at a circular proposition: we may be reaching the level where Nature simply 'is' and so our categories of description based on what Nature does as a complex must necessarily break down when we try to cogently describe what Nature does at its most particular.

This is not quite a contradiction in terms; rather, it would be a contradiction in terms if we could accurately describe the ultimate particular physical units in terms of their group behaviors. If Nature is the only level of reality, then we could expect it to repel our probing (as composite entities ourselves) in this fashion.

Some people conclude that because the data we find fits this hypothesis (as far as I have carried it, anyway), the hypothesis must be true: Nature is the Independent Fact (or IF) of reality. In one sense, everything depends upon it and it depends upon nothing; yet, because Nature (on this hypothesis) is the only level of reality, then Nature essentially means 'everything' in total, and so strictly speaking there is nothing 'to depend upon' it. Nature (in total) might therefore also be usefully described as the Interdependent Fact.

Either way, it would be the most complicated, minutely articulated, particular Thing; and 'everything else' would only be parts of it, considered to be 'dependent' or 'separate' from Nature (where Nature is proposed to be a one-system total of everything) only for convenience of discussion.

What I am describing here is philosophical naturalism, as distinct from philosophical supernaturalism. It need not be equal to atheism, although (as it happens) most atheists are also naturalists in this sense: one and only one level of reality exists, and it is the system we call Nature.

The natural system itself, then, is one candidate for an IF. As I noted above, some people would argue that because (or if) our data fits this hypothesis, then Nature must be the IF. But this is not a deductive argument; it is inductive. Even if it is successful (and I will have much more to say about naturalism later), it only establishes a viable contender. It does not necessarily exclude other hypotheses from being true--thus the conclusion of 'must' would, for this specific argument, be unwarranted.

On the other hand, if the exclusive alternative--commonly presented as 'God', although properly it would be 'Supernature' (which could itself be atheistic)--must be a generality or pure abstraction; and if (as I have argued in the previous chapter) such a view is tantamount either to a denial of Supernature's existence or at best to an ungrounded assertion with no attendant strength; then a successful inductive naturalistic argument of this sort would be part of an exclusively naturalistic conclusion: not because the positive (though inductive) naturalism argument excludes the Supernature hypothesis, but because (given Supernature must be a pure abstraction) the Supernature hypothesis excludes itself from contention.

This would be a reasonable, and even reliable, conclusion--I can easily imagine myself accepting it--given that Supernature (be it God or otherwise) must be a generality about which nothing in particular can be true. After such a conclusion, any co-presented inductive conclusion to naturalism would be virtually incidental. [Footnote: Essentially, in this case Supernature would be deductively removed from contention by the combination of its proposed characteristics ('Supernature must be general' and 'generalities are not actuals'). Any inductive argument in favor of naturalism would be purely secondary.]

But as I have argued in the previous chapter, we quite literally have no reason to presuppose that God (or even an atheistic Supernature) must be only a generality; and I cannot think of valid arguments to that conclusion. Rather, I think the situation is reversed: if God (or rather a Supernature of whatever kind) does not exist, then it would be true to say that this Supernature is only, at best, an abstract principle; but if Supernature does exist, as the IF, then that Supernature, as the IF, must be the most detailed, real, actual, 'concrete' entity in existence. If everything derives its existence from an ultimately most-real Fact, then that Fact is still the most particularly detailed Thing that exists--whether the Fact is sentient or not.

In a way, this is a restatement of a (generalized) variant of what is known as ‘the Ontological Argument'. A person proposing this argument, in theistic apologetics traditionally, attempts to infer that if anything really exists, then either God must exist, or at least we have good inductive reason to believe God exists.

All positive apologetics may thus be considered variants of the Ontological Argument: if A really exists, then we may infer the existence of B. Variants would occur by being more particular about A and its characteristics. So, for example, a popular theistic variant would be the philosophical Cosmological Argument: if Nature exists, then we have reason to believe God exists. The Kalam CosA focuses this to a scientific inference from the characteristics of the universe, such that if the universe does not eternally exist, then we have reason to believe God exists.

However, I am not talking right now about inferences from the existence and characteristics of anything other than “existence” itself--thus, this would be considered a broadly ontological argument.

But, neither do I take this argument so far as to infer that God (per se) exists; or even that supernaturalism is true! I think the Ontological Argument (along with many of its ‘cosmological’ variants) has only a limited use, one which works just as well for the atheist or positive pantheist: if anything real exists, then whatever the foundational Fact is that cannot be 'gotten behind' and upon which 'anything' and 'everything' (even itself) depends, the Fact must itself be ultimately real and ultimately complex. In whatever sense it is possible to say that 'derivative entities' 'really' exist, they must by necessity be less 'complete' or less 'detailed', or even (in a sense) less 'real', than the IF.

As I have said, though, this does not mean the IF must be sentient, or even supernaturalistic. The ontological arguments I have seen, including many cosmological arguments, have only reached such a supernaturally theistic 'conclusion' either by a flat (and unjustified) leap, or by applying to other argument far more particular than the Ontological (or even Cosmological) Argument itself.

But why does there have to be a stopping point at all? Why must there be an IF (whether it is sentient or non-sentient, supernatural or natural)? We are talking about something that is, for all practical purposes at the very least, infinite; correct? So why can there not be grounds stretching on forever with no end, no Final Fact? Why can there not be an infinite regression?


[Next time: in question of infinite regression]

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here.]


What is a 'generality'?

The answer to this question can be horribly complicated; but I think the basic answer (upon which all other more advanced answers must be based) is that a generality is a description: it is about something, as distinct from being something. It is like a reflection in our minds of a pattern of what has happened, or can happen, or will happen. The pattern does not exist as a particular entity; it is about entities.

[Footnote: Or, to be more specific, the pattern of 'aboutness' does not itself need to be the entity being described by the 'aboutness'. Obviously, there will be a few exceptions, such as when we think about thinking: yet the principle must still hold. Not everything I say with my tongue is 'about' my tongue, or about tongues; but I could also say something about tongues with my tongue. This would not obliterate the distinction between a description and an existent entity.]


This can be hard to understand, but try thinking of it this way: the word 'pink' is an adjective, a word that describes a property (hypothetical or actual) of the behavior of particular objects. 'Pink' is not a photon; 'pink' is not even (in the rigorous sense) a photon vibrating at a certain frequency. It is our way of describing that photon's vibratory state--its behavior or characteristic. Given such-and-such preconditions (which need not necessarily ever come to pass) any photon may be accurately described as 'pink'. 'Pink' implies that these conditions have (whether by hypothesis or in actuality) been met: that the photon has conformed to such-and-such a pattern.

Perhaps you may understand the 'abstractness' of such events if you consider that I can represent the event to you in an imaginary manner by asking you to think of a pink turtle, without a real pink turtle (per se) already existing or popping into existence. It is a placeholder; it describes what will happen given certain preconditions.

The 'laws of Nature' are a special sort of generality that describes what particles of energy or matter shall do in certain circumstances. The principles of 'double-entry accounting' are another commonly used set of generalities. [Footnote: We call these regular behaviors 'laws' as a convenient shorthand metaphor, because the particles seem to 'obey'. Such an expression does not necessarily indicate the existence of, or even a belief in, a Chief Executive.]

The practical definitions of 'general' and 'real' repel and self-attest one another. The 'general', is the pattern a given 'real' thing may correspond to. The 'real', is that which falls into (and/or creates) 'general' patterns: you could say the 'real' is that which can be described. I do not mean that everything which can be described is necessarily real, or even potentially real. I only mean, that in order to discuss 'real' entities, we must use 'abstract' descriptions: the descriptions are not the thing itself.

The descriptions do not equal what actually happens; they communicate or record what actually happens. The two categories--'happening' and 'description of happening'--are distinctive, and we recognize one by in effect denying it is the other.

Maybe I can help make this clearer by borrowing an old example from Lewis. The 'laws' of accounting do not themselves accomplish anything; they describe what will happen if you put money into the system. You can do 'accounting' until doomsday without generating a cent; in fact, if you are learning to be a professional accountant, your instructors will require you to work hypothetical accounting exercises to ensure you know what you are doing before someone entrusts 'real' money to you.

Similarly, the 'laws of aerodynamics' are abstract; you can do calculations all day and nothing especially 'aerodynamic' will happen. But they describe what real airplanes will do in given situations; and before anyone entrusts you with the real thing, they will require you to be familiar with the generalities.

This is how I find the interaction between the 'real' and the 'abstract' playing out in the world around me; and it doesn't take much effort for me to derive some principles from this.

When I turn to questions about God, and I am told by a generaleist (for whatever reason he may give) that God must be an abstract entity or a generality, then to me this is the same as saying that God does not really exist. God (under this plan) is the way something real would behave if it could be induced (or if it could induce itself) to do so. God would only be a potentiality, and not an actual. Perhaps this is true, but then let us stop talking of God really existing, and admit atheism. However, I don't think we are quite in that strait just yet.

Nature (after we have bothered to 'pick at it' for a while) seems pretty clearly to be a set of 'real' things going through 'events' according to 'generalities'; all of which we may perhaps discover. (Or, if we cannot discover a particular fact, we should be able to discover why we cannot do so and thus learn something else true and useful about the entity in question.) I think virtually any atheist today will agree with me on this; so would a pantheist of a certain sort (what I call positive pantheism). Either of these people would claim, and understand, that the thing from which everything else derives, is the most real, concrete, and (in its own way) minutely articulated thing in existence.

Actually, I think the most rigorous of either type of philosopher (positive pantheist or atheist, insofar as either of them accepts philosophical naturalism) would say that strictly speaking there is no 'thing' upon which 'everything else' is based; but that the whole reality must be considered as itself, with all evident entities equally interdependent upon every other entity. The system is what it is, and there is an end to it. But they would agree the system is real and 'concrete' (as opposed to being an 'abstraction') and if we considered the system as a whole it would, of course, have ultimate complexity.

These people would therefore be in agreement with me, that the abstract neither can nor does produce the real; at least, I think if they considered the base-bottom of their beliefs they should agree with me: the atheist (naturalistic or otherwise), the supernaturalistic theist, and a certain variety of pantheist (i.e. a certain variety of naturalistic theist) stand together on this. [Footnote: even so, it is very easy for people who agree the abstract does not produce the real, to slide by accident into proposing that abstractions are producing realities.]

But some generaleists also would agree with me (and the atheist and the positive pantheist), in principle, that the abstract cannot be the foundation or producer of the concrete. Therefore, those generaleists would conclude there can be nothing real or 'concrete'--everything, including us, must be abstract as opposed to real. [Footnote: I have in mind the basic principles of some types of 'illusionary' pantheisms, but any generaleist might try this tactic.]

This position has the neat advantage of being as unassailable as its adherent wishes: in the last resort he can always deny that his opponent really exists!

But I have a similar problem with this as I had with some earlier positions: if it was true, the adherent could not have discovered it because he himself does not really exist, either.

This is one of those places where a self-reflexive test really hits home. The extreme generaleist might reply that of course 'he' does not exist; 'he' is under an illusion that 'he' exists, and in fact 'he' should escape from this illusion.

I am certainly strongly in favor of escaping from illusion as a practical goal (including as an ethical obligation), but I think this only puts the problem back another stage: the belief of this generaleist that he must be an illusion, must itself (under this extreme position) also be an illusion. To me, this says pretty clearly that a mistake has been made somewhere!

And, to where are we supposed to be 'escaping'? Is it not also a generality, a pattern without content? Then the escape is to nowhere: meaning either annihilation or that the escape does not in fact happen.

Again, some generaleists would agree with this as well. No matter, they would say: we deserve to be annihilated! Even if I granted this, these same people will also tell me that morality is relative and all things are equally good and evil (and equally illusory); so it would be useless to say that I 'deserve' annihilation. I am quite certain, in any case, that I cannot profit by annihilation; in what sense can 'I' be said to be profiting if 'I' cease to exist? 'I' must still exist for it to be 'better for me'; but the extreme generaleist will deny this existence as well.

Some of them would say I am to be absorbed into the Absolute (and that I may call this 'God' if I wish). But the Absolute must then be actual; for if it is a phantasmal generality, then what exists for me to be absorbed into?

And the whole notion avoids the question of how it is even possible to recognize the concept of an 'illusion', without some frame of reference to compare it to an 'actual'.

In the end, the generaleist's position, no matter what philosophical flavor he takes or how far he goes, leads to massive internal contradictions; and I have already rendered my opinions about that.

No doubt, there are many intricate edifices built on this type of foundation. But if the foundation requires constant underpropping from contradictions (or 'worse', underproppings from theism--or 'worst', if the foundations are ultimately as illusory as everything else!) then I think I am safe in concluding that whatever reality is, it must not be like that.

At the very worst, short of a flat 'faith-not-reason' assertion to the contrary (let my allies note that heresy strikes again from this quarter), all appearances tell me that actual things exist. Therefore, I might as well stay with the gameplan and try to figure out particular characteristics about an actual reality, including foundational reality (or realities). A generaleist may assert that I should free myself from such an illusion; but then he proceeds to undercut any methods by which I could do so, other than by sheer denial. It seems to me that a person in sheer denial of the possibility of reality (including his own reality) is a person building (or already in) a hell; and this will be especially true if reality meanwhile keeps whacking him on the head.

And--what if reality never stops doing this?

So, I think the best plan is for me to continue with an attempt to discover particular things about basic reality: the Final Fact (or Independent Fact, or Interdependent Fact perhaps--either way you may call it an 'IF') that is the, or a, bedrock of our existence. I will either assume that particular facts are discoverable about It; or... well, there is no 'or', because (as I argued several chapters ago) everyone presumes that something distinctive can be discovered about It--or else they say nothing to the purpose and cut themselves off not only from an effective ability to convince (and help?) other people, but also from their own conscious attributes.

This leads me to the option 'b' group whom I noted several pages back: the people who would agree, "Yes, whatever the IF is (and many of us agree we can call it God), it has an infinite number of particular characteristics--but this means everything anyone can say about It must be true, so there isn't really much point for you to continue!"

This 'b' position is also linked topically to the question of infinite regression: in other words, "Hey, what is this IF thingy? Why does there have to be a 'Final' Fact? You're talking about the 'infinite', aren't you? Doesn't infinity keep on going without reaching a finality?"

These are important questions to discuss. So, on to the next chapter!

[Next time: an introduction to independence]

Often neglected in genre studies is the Gospel of John. Present scholarship tends to view Matthew and Mark as examples of ancient biographies. Luke is also often placed in this genre, though some point to its connection with Acts and see the two works as representative of ancient historiography. The Gospel of John, to the extent it is discussed, is usually mentioned along with Mathew and Mark as an example of ancient biography. The link is not usually dwelled on because many commentators view the fourth Gospel as much more concerned with theology than history.

Leave it to Richard Bauckham to directly challenge such a dismissive approach to the Gospel of John. In his recent book, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple, he looks through fresh eyes at the Gospel of John and seeks to understand what genre influences exerted themselves on the fourth Gospel. Bauckham’s conclusion is that “far from appearing the least historical of the four Gospels, to a competent contemporary reader John’s Gospel will have seemed the closest to meeting the exacting demands of ancient historiography.” Id. at 95. His conclusions rest on six relevant characteristics.

Topography

Though often not realized in practice, ancient historians were expected to demonstrate “thorough knowledge” of the places where the events of their narrative occurred. As Bauckham notes “the case for regarding [the Gospel of John] as the most geographically reliable of the Gospels has been very persuasively made.” Id. at 96. Although the Gospel of John has fewer distinct events than the other three Gospels, it recounts them with greater geographical specificity.

Chronology

The Gospel of John reveals a number of chronological pinpoints, such as Jewish festivals and specific references to numbers of days related to events in the narrative. “Since a large part of the action takes place either at named temple festivals or in strict relation to the last of them, a large part of the Gospel’s whole narrative is very precisely dated.” Id. at 100. Only the Gospel of Luke has any comparable interest in pinpointing its narrative by time references. This is reminiscent of ancient historiography.

Selectivity

Ancient historians were expected to exercise appropriate selectivity when choosing what to write about. Bauckham believes this explains to a large degree why the Gospel of John is so different from the Synoptic Gospels. John, for example, narrates only eight miracle stories, though doubtless many more were available to him. There are also fewer incidents of Jesus teaching than in the Synoptic Gospels. This allows John to emphasize what he considers the most important of the accounts and the teachings of Jesus. “While John’s selectivity is doubtless guided by judgments of relative importance, it also secures the desirable historiographical goal of variety.” Id. at 104.

Narrative Asides

As defined by Bauckham, “[n]arrative asides are intrusions of the narrator’s voice into the narrative, commenting on the story or telling about the story rather than telling the story.” Id. Although the count of narrative asides is difficult to precisely pin down, it appears that the Gospel of John has about ten times as many as the Gospel of Luke (the highest among the Synoptics). Although more investigation needs to be done, this indicates a greater affinity with ancient historiography.

Eyewitness Testimony

The use of eyewitness evidence was considered an important part of ancient historiography. In Bauckham’s view, all of the gospels place great importance on their use of eyewitness testimony. John, however, explicitly claims to be written by a disciple of Jesus.

Discourses and Dialogues


This is Bauckham’s longest section, which is necessitated by the complex labyrinth of opinion and background related to the use of speeches in ancient historiography. In essence, ancient historians were, at a minimum, expected to recite speeches that were “appropriate” for the speaker and setting. According to Bauckham, the Gospel of John is faithful to this principle. “Just as he has selected a small number of events in order to give them far more extended treatment than such events receive in the Synoptics, so he has selected a small number of traditional sayings or usages of Jesus and played them out much more extensively. This is his way of meeting the historiographical requirement of speeches that are appropriate on the lips of the pre-Easter Jesus.” Id. at 112.

Conclusion

In many respects – the preface being an obvious exception – the Gospel of John has striking similarities with the defining elements of ancient historiography. This does not mean that the Gospel of John can be defined only in those terms. Rather, Bauckham concludes that the “historiographical characteristics discussed [in this section] align John closely with those ancient biographies that display some features typical of historiographical best practice and most closely resemble works of historiography.” Id.

[Introductory note from Jason Pratt: the previous entry in this series of posts can be found here. The first entry can be found here.]



As I follow my line of thought through these chapters, I am finding that certain issues which will be developed more clearly at the beginning of my second section are coming to the forefront now--and must necessarily do so. I worry about this, because I do not want to presume my later conclusions here in an unfair manner--for which I, as a sceptic, would be keeping a sharp and (rightfully) suspicious watch!

Furthermore, I suspect some of my Christian (and other theistic) brethren will be taken aback at the strong criticisms I have leveled at certain people on 'my side of the aisle'. I do think such criticism is necessary; and I have tried to explain why I think this, as I bring up the topics. Yet I would not blame such brethren for being suspicious, at this point, about where exactly I am going with all this.

Keeping these prudent suspicions in mind, let me take a moment before I forge the next link in my topical chain, to try to reassure both audiences.

To my sceptical readers: nothing I have written thus far, argues that God exists. I have of course introduced hypothetical instances where, to make my point, God must be presumed to exist; but these are not conclusions that He exists, and I have not treated them as such. A hypothetical discussion is one that does not need to be true, nor be accepted as true. For instance, given Robert Jordan's cosmological structure in his Wheel of Time series, readers of his books (like myself) can sit around all day working out his metaphysical logic (such as it is) without ever once believing that his works necessarily reflect our ultimate reality. I think my sceptical reader could treat my chapters up to this point in the same way: you could (and I hope do) agree with my logic so far, without accepting the reality of some of the topics I have discussed with (and for the sake of) my allies. Put another way, I think I am still fulfilling one of my key goals for this section: if I was an atheist (for instance), I would still be making these exact same points. I will not deny that I am, in certain respects, refuting some kinds of philosophical claims; but I am not yet replacing them with a particular set of religious beliefs. I have said this whole book is my testimony to why I believe Christianity to be true; you could say this first section would be my testimony to the kind of sceptic I would be if I nevertheless rejected the Christian philosophical position. [Footnote: I am not directly analyzing Christian historical positions in this book, though I do have something to say about them in my final section.] I would not be 'this' or 'that' type of unbeliever; and this is why. I think I am doing a fair enough job, so far, as an analytical sceptic.

"Yes, a 'damnably' good job!" the theist may snort. Well, that's the way my argument has gone so far, so I can hardly blame that sort of response. I can only ask you to hang on, because (as I know from hindsight) I will be getting back eventually to a fully supernaturalistic theism, with all the attendant philosophical details (including those specific to Christianity). I think I can even set up the argument so that many of my theistic-yet-non-Christian brethren (such as Jews and Muslims) will be able to follow along in agreement pretty far, and thus will find my book useful (up to those points, at least) for their own positions. I am not abandoning the faith. I am trying to clear it up by pointing out aspects of the faith as the faith has sometimes been presented which I consider hazardous; and I have tried to explain why I think this. I do indeed affirm many specific proposals which shall be entirely familiar to my theistic audience (including my specifically Christian audience), and toward which I am slowly working. Which leads me back to the topic for this chapter!


One potential objection to the type of argument I will be attempting, beginning in Section Two, is that God does not have particular characteristics to discover. He is, instead, an abstract generality.

The people who would make this objection might be pantheists or nominal deists or cosmological dualists. However not every adherent to these three ideas (which I will be discussing more fully later, in various places) would agree that God is an abstract generality. Therefore, I will artificially break such proponents into their own subgroup according to this common belief of theirs, and call them 'generaleists'.

A generaleist may have any of several grounds for believing God to be an abstract generality; and very often generaleists intend to render honor to Him (or perhaps I should say 'to the idea of Him') by expressing, through this concept, that God transcends discursive thought.

I do not deny that if God exists, He transcends, in some fashion, our ability to think about Him. But as I have already indicated, there is more than one way for God to transcend our thought. Do the generaleists have the correct, or at least the best, interpretation of this concept?

I think there are at least three ways to interpret this transcendence, and the first two are generaleistic positions:

a.) nothing we say about God can be true;

b.) everything we say about God can be true;

c.) what we can say about God can be true or false, and there are (effectively) an infinite number of topics concerning God which may be described this way.

[Footnote: even atheists are not left out of option (c): "God exists" is something we can say about God, and may, as far as I've gone, be false.]

Of these concepts describing God as 'transcending discursive thought', the first two do so by negating discursive thought. I do not consider 'transcending' and 'negating' to mean the same thing; so I am immediately suspicious about whether options 'a' and 'b' are viable.

Furthermore, I have been discussing variations of option 'a' already; and the key problem remains for me here: if option 'a' was true, then at best it would be something we never could have discovered, and at worst it refutes itself for it posits at least one 'true' thing we may say about God.

Calling such a situation a 'divine contradiction' does not help matters (as I argued in the [two entries of the] previous chapter) because such a tactic destroys its adherent's ability to propose one thing and not another as being true about God; which, despite appearances, is exactly what the generaleist does, although he may not have intended it.

If he claims that nothing we say about God can be true, he is concurrently denying that I can possibly be correct in discovering particular characteristics of God. But this proposed indescribability of God is one characteristic, and not another; which is precisely what the generaleist denies can be posited (or argued or discovered or whatever) about God.

Or, if he embraces this position as a contradiction, then he has no way of denying (short of flat assertion) a refuting position from me.

In the end, this strategy seems to me to lead away from rational thought altogether; I will not follow that route because it leads literally to nowhere. Thus, in a way, I have already argued against this position.

But I have a further qualm with generaleism that is specific (please pardon the pun) to the claims of its proponents: I do not think a generality can produce the concrete. This notion has quite a few links to some common misunderstandings of 'natural laws', so I will also try to defuse this potential landmine as I pass near it.

[Next time: particular problems with generalism]

According to a brief report in World Science entitled Brain may prepare decisions in advance, human beings may not have free will because the brain makes decisions about 10 minutes before the person making decisions is consciously aware that the decision has been made.

Cer­tain pat­terns of brain ac­ti­vity pre­dict peo­ple’s de­ci­sions up to 10 sec­onds be­fore the peo­ple are aware of them, ac­cord­ing to new re­search that casts fresh doubt on wheth­er we have free will.

The an­cient de­bate over free will cen­ters on wheth­er it’s an il­lu­sion to be­lieve our thoughts and de­ci­sions are in­de­pend­ent, since our brains really con­sist of atoms bounc­ing around ac­cord­ing to their own rules.

The new study sug­gests the ques­tion­ing may be jus­ti­fied.

Re­search­ers tracked brain ac­ti­vity while peo­ple viewed a stream of let­ters on screen, and then pressed a but­ton. Each par­ti­ci­pant was asked to de­cide freely which of two but­tons to press and when to press it.

Scan­ning the brains with a tech­nique called func­tion­al mag­net­ic res­o­nance im­ag­ing, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors used a sta­tis­ti­cal meth­od known as pat­tern rec­og­ni­tion to ex­am­ine brain ac­ti­vity as­so­ci­at­ed with each choice. Ac­ti­vity in two brain re­gions, called the pre­fron­tal and pa­ri­e­tal cor­tex, pre­dicted which but­ton the per­son would press, they found. These ar­eas have pre­vi­ously been linked to self-re­flec­tion, se­lec­tion amongst choices and ex­ec­u­tive con­trol.

This ac­ti­vity oc­curred up to 10 sec­onds be­fore sub­jects were con­sciously aware of hav­ing made a de­ci­sion, ac­cord­ing to the re­search­ers. The find­ings, they added, sug­gest high-lev­el con­trol ar­eas start to pre­pare an up­com­ing de­ci­sion long be­fore it en­ters con­scious awareness.

The first comment that comes to mind (or, at least, appears to come to my mind although the question apparently was decided in my prefrontal and parietal cortex regions of the brain about 10 seconds before I realized that I had a comment) is that the scientists only concluded this because their prefontal and parietal cortex regions of the brain told them to do so. That would naturally leave no reason for me to believe that they actually said anything meaningful -- or, at least, my prefontal and parietal cortex regions of the brain made me decide that they had nothing meaningful to say.

More seriously, I don't see where this changes a thing in the debate about free will from those who believe that human beings are free moral agents who can actually exercise free will in making decisions. All this study does is demonstrate, in part, how the brain operates in arriving at decisions. Christians don't hold to the view that the mind is totally independent of the brain. The brain is not the mind, but the two interact with each other. Problems with the brain can certainly affect the thinking process, but it does not mean that the thinking of the mind is totally a physical activity. The mere discovery by these scientists that the prefontal and parietal cortex regions of the brain are involved in the thinking process does not mean that thinking is the result exclusively of atoms and electrical impulses bouncing around in the brain.

At least, that's what my prefontal and parietal cortex regions of the brain tell me to say.

How can we as apologists, a term that describes all who defend the faith and stand for truth, use the gifts God has given us? I think there's many different ways we can use our knowledge of Christianity effectively in shaping our culture for Christ. Below is a list of these way:

  • Blog/Write on websites and in print
  • Discussion lists
  • Email public officials and let them know what you think on different issues
  • Call radio stations
  • Talking with influential people that shape culture
  • Publishing

We all have different gifts in apologetics. Surely nobody has mastered everything. If your gift is historical studies, concentrate on using that for God's glory. If it's natural theology, don't be be afraid to call a radio show and discuss arguments for God's existence. The important thing to remember is that we, as apologists, stick to the few topics for which we either specialize in or are well acquainted with when we do the things listed above. Not everybody has to do all of them though. But it's good to have a working knowledge of many fields of study in case the need arises for an apologetic. Just a few thoughts...

Just how far can skepticism go in the study of the New Testament? Many people are shocked at the idea that the existence of Jesus could reasonably be doubted. Thanks to the Internet and Youtube the views of Earl Doherty and other Jesus-mythers like Acharya Sen have become widely known. But few people know that another famous figure of early Christianity has come in for similar criticism over the years: the apostle Paul. There is a school of NT studies, with its roots in Tubingen under F.C. Baur and the Dutch Reformed Church, which denies the existence of the historical Paul or at least denies that he wrote any of his famous letters: Dutch Radical Criticism (even though this was not a label that its scholars applied to themselves, they soon positively appropriated it). This school included scholars such as Bruno Bauer, A.D. Loman, W.C. van Manen, and G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga. Their most scholarly expositor and defender today is Hermann Detering, whose views I will be interacting with extensively in these posts (N.B.: scholars such as Robert Price and Darrell Doughty embrace certain insights of the radical critics, but instead of wholesale falsification they propose a complicated redaction history of Paul's letters with many layers of interpolations before reaching their canonical form. Nevertheless they raise arguments which are relevant to evaluating Dutch Radical Criticism and they will be cited as appropriate).

Most NT scholars know that F.C. Baur, the founder of the Tubingen school, only accepted 4 Pauline letters as authentic: Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans. His radical predecessors, however, thought he had not gone far enough in his skepticism. The question naturally arises, if one accepts only a few letters as authentic, on what reasoning this judgment was reached and whether it could equally be applied to the uncontested letters. Scholars such as Bauer, Loman, van Manen, etc. did just that, and arrived at the conclusion that all of Paul's letters date to the 2nd Century, even as their views diverged on who the real author of the epistles was (most, including Detering, propose Marcion or his followers), how the epistles have come to us in their present form and why the epistles were written in Paul's name and not someone else's (nobody really gives a satisfactory answer to this question, as we will see later on).

My aim here is not to give a history of the Dutch Radical movement. Those who are interested can consult the excellent article by Detering himself from whom I draw most of this information. I want rather to subject some of their arguments to critical scrutiny, to see whether they deserve the serious consideration which Detering complains has been lacking in the academy (he repeatedly insists that their work is 'scholarly' and that the radicals had a "sovereign command of the scholarly craft of the historical-critical method"). Because whatever our estimation of these scholars' arguments, it is undeniable that, as Detering insists, "the problems that [the radicals] raised and dealt with are certainly not marginal questions of New Testament scholarship, but lie at its very center." NT scholarship almost universally takes for granted that the epistles of Paul (at least the 7 'uncontested' ones) give us a sure point of contact with the Jesus movement of the mid-1st Century. Even Earl Doherty, the Jesus-mythicist, assumes as much (although the number of interpolations he recognizes in the epistles continues to mount; see here). But there are a number of thorny problems with the reception of Paul's letters in the 2nd Century which mainstream scholars rarely if ever deal with, so that the historical Paul ends up being a much more vulnerable target for skepticism than the historical Jesus. In the end I think their views suffer from a number of debilitating flaws, but this must be demonstrated, not simply assumed because of the marginal status of the Dutch Radicals.

Since I am not focusing on the history of the school, I will focus only on the explicit arguments put forward by Hermann Detering himself, in his article on the history of Dutch Radical Criticism and his book (available online; see bibliography), Falsified Paul: Early Christianity in the Twilight. I will give a brief summary of these arguments in this post, and then in later posts delve into them more extensively.

The arguments can be conveniently divided into argumenta externa, having to do with the external attestation for Paul's letters, and argumenta interna, which delve into the literary features of the letters themselves:

1. Argumenta externa
a) Detering points out that the reception of Paul's letters in 2nd Century Christianity is very curious given Paul's status as the great apostle to the Gentiles. Scholars have found "problematical not only the conspicuous absence of literary testimonies that would prove the influence of Paulinism in the early post-apostolic period, but also the striking circumstance that the first definite traces of Paulinism are to be found among the circles of the Gnosis and heretical Christianity." There seems to be a literary 'silence' regarding Paul in the early 2nd Century. Justin Martyr, for example, in his Dialogue with Trypho raises many issues which were already debated by Paul, yet nowhere mentions him explicitly. The earliest Church Fathers seem to have been suspicious of Paul because of the popularity of his epistles with the heretics. Did they suspect the authenticity of his letters for a long time before they were accepted (Detering points to Tertullian's curious statement that Marcion 'discovered by chance' (nactus) the epistle to the Galatians)?
b) Dutch Radical scholars were convinced that the earliest assumed witnesses to Paul and his letters, 1 Clement and the Ignatian epistles, along with Polycarp, are complete forgeries. If they are to support the traditional view of the 1st-Century letter-writing apostle, their authenticity must be re-examined.

2. Argumenta interna
a) There seem to be a number of anachronisms in the implied historical setting of the epistles which would better fit the 2nd Century:
-the continuing controversy (as attested by Justin Martyr) over Faith vs. Law
-the issue of the repudiation of Israel, e.g. in Romans 9-11, which most scholars would say arose with urgency after the two Jewish wars
-references to persecution of Christians for which there is no evidence until the 2nd Century
-doctrinal issues such as proxy baptism for the dead and the Pascha conflict reported by Eusebius
-"The implied theological level of the congregations of the Pauline Epistles assumes a longer period of incubation and could not possibly have been arrived at within two decades."
b) There are a number of points where Paul seems to betray a docetic or Marcionite theology, such as where he says that Jesus came down "in the likeness" of sinful men, rather than as a full human being (i.e. Romans 8:3), or where in Ephesians the removal of one little word makes a verse refer to the mystery of salvation being hidden 'from' the creator (i.e. demiurge) God rather than 'in' God (Ephesians 3:9).
c) Darrell Doughty points out that the letters as we have them seem to betray a number of seams where the apostle's train of thought inexplicable diverges, he begins to contradict himself, or where the apostle seems to be combating views which did not arise until the 2nd Century. Scholars have been unable to locate a coherent center to Paul's theology.
d)There may even be allusions to 2nd Century apocryphal literature (such as 1 Corinthians 15:32 where Paul mentions having fought 'wild beasts at Ephesus', a scene which appears in the Acts of Paul and Thecla).

All these arguments will receive examination in subsequent posts. That Detering highlights exegetical issues of real importance cannot be denied. Whether they are enough to warrant radical skepticism about Paul's epistles is another matter. Michael Williams, a scholar who has read some of Detering's work, concludes that it is mostly rubbish and a case of "a little bit of truth mixed with a boat load of fiction." (personal communication) Judge for yourselves whether that judgment is justified.

Bibliography on the Dutch Radicals (and Pauline skepticism in general)

-Hermann Detering, The Falsified Paul: Early Christianity in the Twilight
-Hermann Detering, The Dutch Radical Approach to the Pauline Epistles
-Hermann Detering, 1 Clement and the Ignatiana in Dutch Radical Criticism
-Eduard Verhoef, Van Manen and the Dutch Radicals

-Darrell J. Doughty, Pauline Paradigms and Pauline Authenticity
-Robert M. Price, The Evolution of the Pauline Canon

The only apologetic review of Detering's work that I am aware of is JP Holding's (I take a certain pride in having convinced him to do it myself:): Falsified Paul: Lunacy in a Package It's written with his trademark sarcasm, but he scores some devastating points and many of them will be made in subsequent posts.

Since Marcion is so important for the Dutch Radicals, it would be worth reading the following excellent articles on various aspects of his teaching and legacy in early Christianity:

-Christopher Price: Marcion, the Canon, the Law and the Historical Jesus
-Peter M. Head: The Foreign God and the Sudden Christ

As of Friday April 18th, I have started back up on my 'progressive synthetic metaphysics' entries; the current series of which is "How Should I Be A Sceptic".

Rather than just plopping the next entry unannounced out of nowhere, I decided to provide a handy link sheet this Friday for readers to catch up where I am in the series. (Not only is it a complex series, but it moves along from point to point building on prior points as it goes. Thus, a 'progressive synthetic' metaphysic.)

As I mention in the first entry, the whole work represents one very large book I wrote for my own critical exercise back in late 99/early 2000. Last summer (2007), I posted up almost all of the fourth volume in a series of entries titled "Ethics and the Third Person". This winter, I went back to the very start and began posting entries in a series titled "How Should I Be A Sceptic".

So: here are links to the currently existent entries (updating as I post new ones), sorted by section (of the original book), chapter (of the original book), and specific entry (I tend to break chapters into two or more journal entries).

[UPDATE!! -- an index page for the 3rd edition of the "How Should I Be A Sceptic" material can now be found here at the EU forum. The material linked to below, here on the Cadre, is 2nd edition. The differences aren't hugely great, so I probably won't be going to the trouble of reposting or editing up the Cadre Journal entries.]

[UPDATE 2!! -- links to new chapter postings will now be provided at the new contents page here at the Cadre Journal.]

How Should I Be A Sceptic (Section One)
Chapter 1 -- Preliminary Clarifications
preliminary clarifications

Chapter 2 -- Presuppositionalism and Negative Agnosticism
a first question of feasibility
presuppositionalism vs. progression to a worldview


Chapter 3 -- Reason and Faith
one brief history of the reason/faith dichotomy
an important recognition about religious faith


Chapter 4 -- Belief and Reason
belief and reason
a question of external validation of reasoning
belief without reason?
religious belief and reasoning


Chapter 5 -- Against Contradictions
contra contradictions
paradoxes and contradictions


Chapter 6 -- Can God be an abstract generality?
an introduction to generaleism (or final abstraction)
particular problems with generaleism


Chapter 7 -- In Question of Infinite Regression and Infinite Possibilities
an introduction to independence
in question of infinite regression
in question of infinite possibilities


Chapter 8 -- In Question of Multiple IFs
in question of multiple IFs

Chapter 9 -- God and gods
God and gods

Chapter 10 -- SIF/n-SIF vs. ??
theism and atheism?
theism or atheism


Chapter 11 -- 'On' Metaphors
thought and imagination
an unwanted level of religious complexity?


Chapter 12 -- Evidence and the Supernatural
evidence and the burden of proof
a sieve of curious similarities
evidence from reasonable scepticism to reasonable belief


Chapter 13-- The Leveled Playing-Field
a summary of results
the leveled playing-field



Meanwhile, here are the links to the section of chapters I put up last summer:

Ethics and the Third Person (Section Four)
Chapter 30 -- An Introduction to the Question of Ethics
distinctive categories
an introduction to rationally invented ethics
an introduction to discovered non-rational ethics


Chapter 31 -- The Problem with the Third Explanation of Ethics
a summary of the first two problems
monotheism and the third explanation
the fatal problem with ethical theism


(the next two entries were not originally in the book; think of them as chp 31-1/2)
a return to secular ethical grounding?
the final problem and piece of the puzzle


Chapter 32 -- The Solution to the Question of Ethics
a return to the God of Justice
questions of relation


Chapter 33 -- A Necessary Aspect of God's Relationship to Man
procession and the overarching system
an introduction to the Holy Spirit


Chapter 34 -- The Role of the 3rd Person of God
some requirements for personal interaction
the minimum standard


Chapter 35 -- An Introduction to the Concept of Sin
contradiction and ethical failure
the choice of the Good, and other choices


Chapter 36 -- The Consequences of Sin
the waging of sin
the argument from evil


Chapter 37 -- Death
sin and death
the death of sin, and other deaths


Chapter 38 -- The Highest Death
the highest death

Chapter 39 -- The Fall
the fall of me
the fall of man


Chapter 40 -- A History of the Fall
the original sinners (and I)
results of the fall
a question of salvation


(further chapters and entries past chapter 40 have not been posted; though a summary of sorts for Section Four up through the end of chp 40 can be found here)

J.P. Moreland has recently written a brief article for True U giving a brief summation of his argument from consciousness, entitled (coincidentally enough) The Argument from Consciousness. In the article, J.P. Moreland notes:

I believe those who argue for consciousness by theistic explanations are correct, and in what follows, I shall say why. As a preliminary, I shall assume a commonsense understanding of mental states, such as sensations, thoughts, beliefs, desires, volitions and the very selves that have them. Understood in this way, mental states are in no sense physical, since they possess five features that physical states do not:
  1. There is a raw, qualitative feel or a "what it is like" to have a mental state such as a pain.

  2. Many mental states have intentionality — ofness or aboutness — directed towards an object.

  3. Mental states are inner, private and immediate to the subject having them.

  4. Mental states require a subjective ontology — namely, mental states are necessarily owned by the subjects who have them.

  5. Mental states fail to have crucial features (e.g. location) that characterize physical states and, in general, cannot be described using physical language. For example, a thought that lunch was good isn't, say, two inches long, but the brain state associated with the thought is.

This is a pretty good summary and I commend it to others to read through it.

Introductory note from Jason Pratt:

Early in 2004, for purposes of taking a winter break from book editing elsewhere, I decided to research and write up a harmonization study of the canonical Gospels.

For Lent season, Easter 2007, I posted up roughly the last half of that study, one per day, on the Cadre journal; and then, beginning shortly before Christmas 2007, I began posting up the first half, ending around Easter 2008.

This index page sorts the entries by Gospel/chapter/verse, and sorts the Gospel/chapter/verses by journal entry. Hyperlinks have been created for ease of navigation between entries, and for help in locating where particular Gospel elements ended up in my harmonization efforts.


My primary method was to study pericope forms, classifying each pericope as to whether the author included very specific time/place cues; included no time or place cues at all; or fell somewhere on a paradigm line between those two extreme. (A pericope is like a small chapter telling a particular small story or situation in the text.) My first goal was to test to what extent these time/place cues fit together or, alternately, excluded one another.

As a general observation, I found that where multiple authors reported the same thing in different ways (or at different places in the story), one of them would have a more specific timing/place cue and the others would be more general. When I combined these results together with single-attested pericopes (where those had time/space cues), I discovered that a decent chronological framework resulted, with few serious problems and several intriguing solutions to otherwise obscure or problematic time/place questions. This study could be done without presupposing historicity behind the texts, while inductively pointing toward a significant and substantial amount of single-story evidence predating the canonical Gospels.

Put another way, these results pointed toward either a more complex and coherent original narrative (oral or written) behind the four canonical texts, and/or to substantial historicity behind the texts (which would naturally be both coherent and, by expectation, more complexly nuanced than a set of ancient and somewhat polemical texts could be expected to fully reproduce.)


My secondary method (though still highly important) was to hypothetically assume coherent historicity behind the texts, and then to check for narrative clues within the pericopes that might suggest historical synching, especially when factoring in independently attested historical data (whether or not that data occurs in the pericopes). The results not only synched reasonably well in themselves, and not only synched reasonably well with my time/space cue pericopal analysis, but also suggested resolutions to remaining problems in the pericopal analysis results. This result lends probative weight toward abductive confirmation of the hypothesis (distinct from deductive confirmation, which would be circular and thus fallacious.)

My tertiary method was to check within the links being forged through primary and secondary methodology, for thematic cues, suggestive of unity between various pericopal data. This also yielded promising results, generally dovetailing with the framework being built and polished through the other methodologies.

This process did not register flagrantly disjunctive alterations in commonsensical inferences from the texts: the basic thrust of the life of Jesus in all four canonical texts remains unaffected. (An unreasonably disjunctive result would have been evidence either of bad methodology, poor execution, or seriously problematic narrative contradictions between canonical sources.) It did however result in some surprising suggestions and (perhaps more importantly) some clarifications as to where various authors shifted data around for topical conveniences of their own.


While these results cannot of themselves deductively establish confirmation of core historicity behind the pericopal material, they do tend to inductively lend weight toward both historicity and generally good fidelity to the historical sourcing behind the resultant texts, keeping in mind that chronology might be less important than topical structuring to these authors, though always within reasonable narrative limits. For example, some scholars have occasionally suggested that the Transfiguration or the walking on water are post-mortem Appearance scenes placed out of order in the texts; but narrative and thematic structuring around them is very solid, as are timing cues for the walking on water scene. These facts point strongly away from the anecdotes being mere topical porting in disregard of chronological order. Moreover, the water-walking sequence in itself, not even counting its connections to the Feeding of the 5000 in all accounts or the subsequent Capernaum discourse in GosJohn, demonstrates stereoscopic qualities: the story elements, put together, reveal a curious detail that fits surrounding narrative contexts in other regards but easily gets lost when one or another account is read by itself. At the very least this is strong evidence of dependence on a complexly nuanced core narrative of some sort, for all three Gospels using the account; and it would be a textbook example of independent reports of an otherwise unattested historical event--except for the whole “water-walking” thing!


And now, a list of other relevant eccentricities (so to speak) in my presentation:

1.) I'm doing a comparative translation from several English and Greek texts, including with reference to the standard UBS Greek NT used by practically all scholars across the board. (Actually they would use the Nestle/Aland to get the full apparatus, but when every single remote variation doesn't have to be referenced, only the ones that might possibly be relevant to meaning, the UBS is the way to go.)

2.) I aimed for reproducing the text in a rhythmic English prose. (This is for flavor purposes, but also helps get across the mnemonic construction found in a number of the sayings.)

3.) Occasionally I go with connotations in the translation, and sometimes I translate things a bit more literally than usual (when it seems interesting or perhaps important to do so.) This includes rendering the grammar a little more accurately (than usual in translations) to the Greek; which looks a bit freaky in English (which is why translators typically avoid doing it), but does give it a more exotic taste. If you see me seeming to switch past and present tenses for no good reason, for example, that’s why.

4.) Seven periods simply represent topical breaks of my own.

5.) Remarks in normal parenthesis (like this) are contextual remarks of my own, and aren't found in the source texts. (Of course, some English words in translation aren't found there either; that's just part of moving from Greek to English.) Remarks in square brackets [like this] are more like footnotes. Soemtimes I drop lengthier footnotes into comments for the entries; but sometimes I just take a break in the middle of the text for [Plotnotes], too.

6.) For flavor purposes, and to avoid contention/complexifying over authorship claims, I call the authors the Disciple, the Follower, the Scholar and the Evangelist (Matt, Mark, Luke, John).

For the record, I think GosMark and GosLuke are written by their respective attributants (with Luke using various written and interview sources including other Gospel texts); GosJohn also is written by its attributant (though I differ from various majority opinions by strongly suspecting John Mark as the author of this text, too) but following a more personal and less official strand of authoritative report from a largely different set of people; and GosMatt is written either by the Apostle or a disciple of his, following the official standard material used by church authorities (often represented in GosMark and GosLuke, too) but including unique testimony.

Mostly, though, those issues can be set aside for my current purposes; I practically never had authorship-issues in mind while doing the compositing. (Though the results of the compositing were what originally gave me the idea of John Mark being the author/redactor of GosJohn.)

7.) This is still a work-in-progress, and shouldn't be treated as final results (much less as sacred text!) Nor (I will emphasize again) should it be considered some kind of proof of historicity. At best, plausible harmonization of sources suggests historicity in original sourcing, especially where doing so helps add to an understanding of situations (per a hypothesis of historical sourcing). But the inference is abductive and shouldn't be treated otherwise, nor apart from a larger and more comprehensive analysis.

I hope this work will be interesting and helpful for all students of the canonical Gospel texts, whatever side of the ideological aisle you may be on.

Jason Pratt
April 7, 2008


Index 'A' (entries by book/chapter/verse)
---------------------
---------------------


A Prologue of Prologues

John 1:1-18


The Messengers of the King

Matthew 1:18-25a
Luke 1:1-79


The Birth of the King

Luke 2:1-20


Blood of Kings and Children

Matthew 1:25b
Matthew 2:1-23
Luke 2:21-51


The Forerunner of the King

Matthew 3:1-17
Matthew 4:1a
Mark 1:1-12a
Luke 1:80
Luke 2:52
Luke 3:1-18
Luke 3:21-22
Luke 4:1b


First Adversaries

Matthew 4:1b-11
Mark 1:12b-13
Luke 4:1a
Luke 4:2-13
John 1:19-34


First Disciples

John 1:35-51


First Sign

John 2:1-11


The Teacher of the People

John 2:12-23
John 3:1-21


The Final Witness of the Forerunner

John 3:22-36
John 4:1-3


The Woman at the Well

John 4:4-44


The (semi-)Triumphant Return

Matthew 4:12
Matthew 14:3-5
Mark 11:14
Luke 4:14-30


The Nobleman and the King

Matthew 4:13a
Matthew 4:17
Mark 1:15
John 4:45-54


First Night in A New Home

Matthew 4:13-16
Matthew 4:18
Matthew 4:20-22
Matthew 8:14-17
Mark 1:16-17a
Mark 1:18-39
Luke 4:31-43


Actions and Consequences

Matthew 8:2-4
Mark 1:40-45
Luke 4:44
Luke 5:12-14
Luke 11:37-41
Luke 11:45-46a
Luke 11:52-54
John 5:1-15
John 7:53
John 8:1-11


Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace

Matthew 4:19
Matthew 9:2-26
Mark 1:17b
Mark 2:1-22
Mark 5:22-43
Luke 5:1-11
Luke 5:17-39
Luke 7:36-50
Luke 8:1-3
Luke 8:41-56


The King of the Sabbaths (a two-part entry)

Matthew 4:23-24
Matthew 8:18-22
Matthew 11:2-30
Matthew 12:1-15a
Matthew 13:54-58
Mark 2:23-28
Mark 3:1-7a
Mark 6:1-6a
Luke 5:15-16
Luke 6:1-11
Luke 7:18-35
Luke 9:57-62
Luke 10:13-15
John 5:16-47
John 6:1


Knights

Matthew 4:25
Matthew 5:1
Matthew 7:7-11
Matthew 8:1a
Matthew 8:5-13
Matthew 9:27-33a
Matthew 10:1-4
Matthew 12:15b-21
Mark 3:7b-8
Mark 3:11-19
Luke 6:12-16
Luke 7:2-10
Luke 11:1-13


The King Declares the Kingdom (a two-part entry)

Matthew 5:2-48
Matthew 6:1-18
Matthew 6:22-23
Matthew 7:1-6
Matthew 7:12-29
Matthew 8:1b
Matthew 9:33b-34
Matthew 12:22-50
Matthew 18:8-9
Mark 3:9-10
Mark 3:20-35
Luke 6:17-38
Luke 6:39-40
Luke 6:41-49
Luke 7:1
Luke 8:19-21
Luke 11:14-36
Luke 14:34-35


Parables of the Kingdom

Matthew 13:1-53
Mark 4:1-34
Luke 8:4-18
Luke 13:18-21


Enemy Forces

Matthew 8:23-34
Matthew 9:1a
Mark 4:35-41
Mark 5:1-20
Luke 8:22-39


Knights and King, Errant

Matthew 9:1b
Matthew 9:35-38
Matthew 10:5-16
Matthew 11:1
Mark 5:21
Mark 6:6b-13
Luke 8:40
Luke 9:1-6
Luke 10:25-37
Luke 13:10-17
Luke 14:1-24
Luke 17:20-21
Luke 18:9-14


Passings Over (a two-part entry)

Matthew 14:1-2
Matthew 14:6-36
Mark 6:14-56
Luke 9:7-17
John 6:2-71
John 7:1


Blind Sheep, Blind Shepherds, and the Door of Life

Luke 7:11-17
John 7:2-13
John 9:1-41
John 10:1-21


The Good Portion

Matthew 15:1-20
Mark 7:1-23
Luke 10:38-42


Of Light and Water... and Tenting Among Us

John 7:14-52
John 8:12-59


The Death of the Year

John 10:22-42
John 11:1-54


Administrations

Matthew 6:24
Luke 14:25-33
Luke 15:1-32
Luke 16:1-31


To the 'Puppies'

Matthew 15:21-39
Matthew 16:1-12
Mark 7:24-37
Mark 8:1-21


The Resolution of the King

Matthew 16:13-28
Matthew 17:1-21
Mark 8:22-38
Mark 9:1-29
Luke 9:18-45


The Salting In Capernaum

Matthew 17:22-27
Matthew 18:1-35
Mark 9:30-50
Luke 9:46-50
Luke 17:1-4


The Sending through the Kingdom

Luke 9:51-56
Luke 10:1-12
Luke 10:16-24
Luke 17:11-19


Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)

Matthew 6:19-21
Matthew 6:25-34
Matthew 10:29-33
Matthew 19:1-30
Matthew 20:1-28
Mark 10:1-45
Luke 12:1-32
Luke 12:54-59
Luke 13:1-9
Luke 18:15-34
John 11:55-57


Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)

Matthew 20:29-34
Matthew 26:6-13
Mark 10:46-52
Mark 14:3-9
Luke 18:35-43
Luke 19:1-28
John 12:1-11


The King's Triumphant Entry (5 days until the end...)

Matthew 21:1-11
Mark 11:1-11
Luke 13:22-33
Luke 19:29-44
John 12:12-19


The Scourging of the Rebellious Figs (4 days until the end...)

Matthew 21:12-22
Mark 11:12-26
Luke 17:5-10
Luke 19:45-48
Luke 21:37-38


With All His Understanding... (3 days until the end...)

Matthew 21:23-46
Matthew 22:1-40
Matthew 22:46b
Mark 11:27-33
Mark 12:1-34
Luke 20:1-40


The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...) (a two-part entry)

Matthew 10:17-28
Matthew 10:34-42
Matthew 22:41-46
Matthew 23:1-39
Matthew 24:1-51
Matthew 25:1-36
Matthew 26:1-5
Matthew 26:14-16
Mark 12:35-44
Mark 13:1-37
Mark 14:1-2
Mark 14:10-11
Luke 11:42-44
Luke 11:47-51
Luke 12:35-53
Luke 17:22-37
Luke 18:1-8
Luke 20:41-47
Luke 21:1-36
Luke 22:1-6


The Hiding of the Bread (the day before the end...)

Matthew 26:17-25
Mark 14:12-21
Luke 22:7-14
Luke 22:21-30
John 12:20-50
John 13:1-30


The Body and the Blood (the night before the end...)

Matthew 26:26-29
Mark 14:22-25
Luke 22:15-20
John 13:31-37
John 14:1-31


Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)

Matthew 26:30-35
Mark 14:26-31
Luke 22:31-38
John 13:37b-38
John 15:1-25
John 16:1-33
John 17:1-26
John 18:1


The End Begins

Matthew 26:36-56
Mark 14:32-52
Luke 22:39-53
John 18:2-12


Into The Trials

Matthew 26:57-75
Matthew 27:3-10
Mark 14:53-72
Luke 22:54-65
John 18:15-27


The King of Trials

Matthew 27:1-2
Matthew 27:11-30
Mark 15:1-19
Luke 22:66-71
Luke 23:1-25
John 18:28-40
John 19:1-16
John 19:19-22


The Passing

Matthew 27:31-54
Mark 15:20-39
Luke 23:26-44
John 19:17-18
John 19:23-37


And On That Day He Rested

Matthew 27:55-66
Mark 15:40-47
Luke 23:48-56
John 19:38-42


Anastasis

Matthew 27:53
Matthew 28:1-15
Mark 16:1-8
Luke 24:1-8
John 20:1-18


Returns

Matthew 28:16-20
Luke 24:9-53
John 20:19-31
John 21:1-25
Acts 1:1-14
Acts 2:1-15
Acts 2:22-36




Index 'B' (book/chapter/verse, by journal entry; (f)=final verse of chpt)
---------------------
---------------------


The Gospel According to Matthew
-------------------------------

Matthew 1:1-17; skipped (the ancestor list)
Matthew 1:18-25a; The Messengers of the King
Matthew 1:25b(f); Blood of Kings and Children
Matthew 2:1-23(f); Blood of Kings and Children
Matthew 3:1-17(f); The Forerunner of the King
Matthew 4:1a; The Forerunner of the King
Matthew 4:1b-11; First Adversaries
Matthew 4:12; The (semi-)Triumphant Return
Matthew 4:13a; The Nobleman and the King
Matthew 4:13-16; First Night in A New Home
Matthew 4:17; The Nobleman and the King
Matthew 4:18; First Night in A New Home
Matthew 4:19; Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Matthew 4:20-22; First Night in A New Home
Matthew 4:23-24; The King of the Sabbaths
Matthew 4:25(f); Knights
Matthew 5:1; Knights
Matthew 5:2-48(f); The King Declares the Kingdom
Matthew 6:1-18; The King Declares the Kingdom
Matthew 6:19-21; Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Matthew 6:22-23; The King Declares the Kingdom
Matthew 6:24; Administrations
Matthew 6:25-34(f); Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Matthew 7:1-6; The King Declares the Kingdom
Matthew 7:7-11; Knights
Matthew 7:12-29(f); The King Declares the Kingdom
Matthew 8:1a; Knights
Matthew 8:1b; The King Declares the Kingdom
Matthew 8:2-4; Actions and Consequences
Matthew 8:5-13; Knights
Matthew 8:14-17; First Night in A New Home
Matthew 8:18-22; The King of the Sabbaths
Matthew 8:23-34(f); Enemy Forces
Matthew 9:1a; Enemy Forces
Matthew 91b; Knights and King, Errant
Matthew 9:2-26; Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Matthew 9:27-33a; Knights
Matthew 9:33b-34; The King Declares the Kingdom
Matthew 9:35-38(f); Knights and King, Errant
Matthew 10:1-4; Knights
Matthew 10:5-16; Knights and King, Errant
Matthew 10:17-28; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Matthew 10:29-33; Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Matthew 10:34-42(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Matthew 11:1; Knights and King, Errant
Matthew 11:2-30(f); The King of the Sabbaths
Matthew 12:1-15a; The King of the Sabbaths
Matthew 12:15b-21; Knights
Matthew 12:22-50(f); The King Declares the Kingdom
Matthew 13:1-53; Parables of the Kingdom
Matthew 13:54-58(f); The King of the Sabbaths
Matthew 14:1-2; Passings Over
Matthew 14:3-5; The (semi-)Triumphant Return
Matthew 14:6-36(f); Passings Over
Matthew 15:1-20; The Good Portion
Matthew 15:21-39(f); To the 'Puppies'
Matthew 16:1-12; To the 'Puppies'
Matthew 16:13-28(f); The Resolution of the King
Matthew 17:1-21; The Resolution of the King
Matthew 17:22-27(f); The Salting In Capernaum
Matthew 18:1-35(f); The Salting In Capernaum
Matthew 19:1-30(f); Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Matthew 20:1-28; Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Matthew 20:29-34(f); Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)
Matthew 21:1-11; The King's Triumphant Entry (5 days until the end...)
Matthew 21:12-22; The Scourging of the Rebellious Figs (4 days until the end...)
Matthew 21:23-46(f); With All His Understanding... (3 days until the end...)
Matthew 22:1-40; With All His Understanding... (3 days until the end...)
Matthew 22:41-46a; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Matthew 22:46b(f); With All His Understanding... (3 days until the end...)
Matthew 23:1-39(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Matthew 24:1-52(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Matthew 25:1-36(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Matthew 26:1-5; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Matthew 26:6-13; Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)
Matthew 26:14-16; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Matthew 26:17-25; The Hiding of the Bread (the day before the end...)
Matthew 26:26-29; The Body and the Blood (the night before the end...)
Matthew 26:30-35; Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)
Matthew 26:36-56; The End Begins
Matthew 26:57-75(f); Into The Trials
Matthew 27:1-2; The King of Trials
Matthew 27:3-10; Into The Trials
Matthew 27:11-30; The King of Trials
Matthew 27:31-54; The Passing
Matthew 27:53; Anastasis
Matthew 27:55-66(f); And On That Day He Rested
Matthew 28:1-15; Anastasis
Matthew 28:16-20(f); Returns


The Gospel According to Mark
----------------------------

Mark 1:1-12a; The Forerunner of the King
Mark 1:12b-13; First Adversaries
Mark 1:14; The (semi-)Triumphant Return
Mark 1:15; The Nobleman and the King
Mark 1:16-17a; First Night in A New Home
Mark 1:17b; Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Mark 1:18-39; First Night in A New Home
Mark 1:40-45(f); Actions and Consequences
Mark 2:1-22; Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Mark 2:23-28(f); The King of the Sabbaths
Mark 3:1-7a; The King of the Sabbaths
Mark 3:7b-8; Knights
Mark 3:9-10; The King Declares the Kingdom
Mark 3:11-19; Knights
Mark 3:20-35(f); The King Declares the Kingdom
Mark 4:1-34; Parables of the Kingdom
Mark 4:35-41(f); Enemy Forces
Mark 5:1-20; Enemy Forces
Mark 5:21; Knights and King, Errant
Mark 5:22-43(f); Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Mark 6:1-6a; The King of the Sabbaths
Mark 6:6b-13; Knights and King, Errant
Mark 6:14-56(f); Passings Over
Mark 7:1-23; The Good Portion
Mark 7:24-37(f); To the 'Puppies'
Mark 8:1-21; To the 'Puppies'
Mark 8:22-38(f); The Resolution of the King
Mark 9:1-29; The Resolution of the King
Mark 9:30-42; The Salting In Capernaum
Mark 9:43-50(f); The King Declares the Kingdom
Mark 10:1-45; Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Mark 10:46-52(f); Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)
Mark 11:1-11; The King's Triumphant Entry (5 days until the end...)
Mark 11:12-26; The Scourging of the Rebellious Figs (4 days until the end...)
Mark 11:27-33(f); With All His Understanding... (3 days until the end...)
Mark 12:1-34; With All His Understanding... (3 days until the end...)
Mark 12:35-44(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Mark 13:1-37(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Mark 14:1-2; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Mark 14:3-9; Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)
Mark 14:10-11; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Mark 14:12-21; The Hiding of the Bread (the day before the end...)
Mark 14:22-25; The Body and the Blood (the night before the end...)
Mark 14:26-31; Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)
Mark 14:32-52; The End Begins
Mark 14:53-72(f); Into The Trials
Mark 15:1-19; The King of Trials
Mark 15:20-39; The Passing
Mark 15:40-47(f); And On That Day He Rested
Mark 16:1-8(f); Anastasis


The Gospel According to Luke
----------------------------

Luke 1:1-79; The Messengers of the King
Luke 1:80(f); The Forerunner of the King
Luke 2:1-20; The Birth of the King
Luke 2:21-51; Blood of Kings and Children
Luke 2:52(f); The Forerunner of the King
Luke 3:1-18; The Forerunner of the King
Luke 3:19-20; The (semi-)Triumphant Return
Luke 3:21-22; The Forerunner of the King
Luke 3:23a; The (semi-)Triumphant Return
Luke 3:23b-38(f); skipped (the ancestor list)
Luke 4:1a; First Adversaries
Luke 4:1b; The Forerunner of the King
Luke 4:2-13; First Adversaries
Luke 4:14-30; The (semi-)Triumphant Return
Luke 4:31-43; First Night in A New Home
Luke 4:44(f); Actions and Consequences
Luke 5:1-11; Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Luke 5:12-14; Actions and Consequences
Luke 5:15-16; The King of the Sabbaths
Luke 5:17-39(f); Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Luke 6:1-11; The King of the Sabbaths
Luke 6:12-16; Knights
Luke 6:17-49(f); The King Declares the Kingdom
Luke 7:1; The King Declares the Kingdom
Luke 7:2-10; Knights
Luke 7:11-17; Blind Sheep, Blind Shepherds, and the Door of Life
Luke 7:18-35; The King of the Sabbaths
Luke 7:36-50(f); Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Luke 8:1-3; Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Luke 8:4-18; Parables of the Kingdom
Luke 8:19-21; The King Declares the Kingdom
Luke 8:22-39; Enemy Forces
Luke 8:40; Knights and King, Errant
Luke 8:41-56(f); Days of Courage and Turmoil and Peace
Luke 9:1-6; Knights and King, Errant
Luke 9:7-17; Passings Over
Luke 9:18-45; The Resolution of the King
Luke 9:46-50; The Salting In Capernaum
Luke 9:51-56; The Sending through the Kingdom
Luke 9:57-62(f); The King of the Sabbaths
Luke 10:1-12; The Sending through the Kingdom
Luke 10:13-15; The King of the Sabbaths
Luke 10:16-24; The Sending through the Kingdom
Luke 10:25-37; Knights and King, Errant
Luke 10:38-42(f); The Good Portion
Luke 11:1-13; Knights
Luke 11:14-36; The King Declares the Kingdom
Luke 11:37-41; Actions and Consequences
Luke 11:42-44; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Luke 11:45-46a; Actions and Consequences
Luke 11:46b-51; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Luke 11:52-54(f); Actions and Consequences
Luke 12:1-32; Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Luke 12:35-53; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Luke 12:54-59(f); Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Luke 13:1-9; Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Luke 13:10-17; Knights and King, Errant
Luke 13:18-21; Parables of the Kingdom
Luke 13:22-33; The King's Triumphant Entry (5 days until the end...)
Luke 13:34-35(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Luke 14:1-24; Knights and King, Errant
Luke 14:25-33; Administrations
Luke 14:34-35(f); The King Declares the Kingdom
Luke 15:1-32(f); Administrations
Luke 16:1-31(f); Administrations
Luke 17:1-4; The Salting In Capernaum
Luke 17:5-10; The Scourging of the Rebellious Figs (4 days until the end...)
Luke 17:11-19; The Sending through the Kingdom
Luke 17:20-21; Knights and King, Errant
Luke 17:22-37(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Luke 18:1-8; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Luke 18:9-14; Knights and King, Errant
Luke 18:15-34; Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
Luke 18:35-43(f); Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)
Luke 19:1-28; Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)
Luke 19:29-44; The King's Triumphant Entry (5 days until the end...)
Luke 19:45-48(f); The Scourging of the Rebellious Figs (4 days until the end...)
Luke 20:1-40; With All His Understanding... (3 days until the end...)
Luke 20:41-47(f); The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Luke 21:1-6; The Greater Condemnations (2 days until the end...)
Luke 22:7-14; The Hiding of the Bread (the day before the end...)
Luke 22:15-20; The Body and the Blood (the night before the end...)
Luke 22:21-30; The Hiding of the Bread (the day before the end...)
Luke 22:31-38; Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)
Luke 22:39-53; The End Begins
Luke 22:54-65; Into The Trials
Luke 22:66-71(f); The King of Trials
Luke 23:1-25; The King of Trials
Luke 23:26-44; The Passing
Luke 23:48-56(f); And On That Day He Rested
Luke 24:1-8; Anastasis
Luke 24:9-53(f); Returns


The Gospel According to John
----------------------------

John 1:1-18; A Prologue of Prologues
John 1:19-34; First Adversaries
John 1:35-51(f); First Disciples
John 2:1-11; First Disciples
John 2:12-23(f); The Teacher of the People
John 3:1-21; The Teacher of the People
John 3:22-36(f); The Final Witness of the Forerunner
John 4:1-3; The Final Witness of the Forerunner
John 4:4-44; The Woman at the Well
John 4:45-54(f); The Nobleman and the King
John 5:1-15; Actions and Consequences
John 5:16-47(f); The King of the Sabbaths
John 6:1; The King of the Sabbaths
John 6:2-71(f); Passings Over
John 7:1; Passings Over
John 7:2-13; Blind Sheep, Blind Shepherds, and the Door of Life
John 7:14-52; Of Light and Water... and Tenting Among Us
John 7:53(f); Actions and Consequences
John 8:1-11; Actions and Consequences
John 8:12-59(f); Of Light and Water... and Tenting Among Us
John 9:1-41(f); Blind Sheep, Blind Shepherds, and the Door of Life
John 10:1-21; Blind Sheep, Blind Shepherds, and the Door of Life
John 10:22-42(f); The Death of the Year
John 11:1-54; The Death of the Year
John 11:55-57(f); Lawyers and Second Comings (8 and 7 days until the end...)
John 12:1-11; Dinners and Proposals (7 and 6 days until the end...)
John 12:12-19; The King's Triumphant Entry (5 days until the end...)
John 12:20-50(f); The Hiding of the Bread (the day before the end...)
John 13:1-30; The Hiding of the Bread (the day before the end...)
John 13:31-37; The Body and the Blood (the night before the end...)
John 13:37b-48(f); Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)
John 14:1-31(f); The Body and the Blood (the night before the end...)
John 15:1-25(f); Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)
John 16:1-33(f); Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)
John 17:1-26(f); Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)
John 18:1; Through the Shadows of Death (the night before the end...)
John 18:2-12; The End Begins
John 18:15-27; Into The Trials
John 18:28-40(f); The King of Trials
John 19:1-16; The King of Trials
John 19:17-18; The Passing
John 19:19-22; The King of Trials
John 19:23-37; The Passing
John 19:38-42(f); And On That Day He Rested
John 20:1-18; Anastasis
John 20:19-31(f); Returns
John 21:1-25(f); Returns


The Acts of the Apostles
------------------------

Acts 1:1-14; Returns
Acts 2:1-15; Returns
Acts 2:22-36; Returns

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