Friday, March 29, 2013

Special Creation is a Key Part of the Gospel - not a "Taint"

Special Creation is a Key Part of the Gospel - not a "Taint" (to build on my previous post). Special creation is something frequently mentioned by both apostolic-era preachers and apostolic era-books.

Stephen's Sermon
Acts 7:48-51
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

Judged by the standard of short-term pragmatism, one might argue that Stephen's sermon was not very effective (he was killed at the end of the sermon). Then again, Paul (then Saul of Tarsus) apparently was there witnessing it and was later converted.

And Paul himself made special creation a prominent part of his messages:

Paul's Sermon in Lycaonia
Acts 14:15
And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:

Paul's Sermon on Mars' Hill
Acts 17:24-26
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

And Paul did not hesitate to mention it in his letter to the Corinthians:

Paul's Letter to the Corinthians
1 Corinthians 8:6
But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Moreover, the doctrine gets top billing in both John's Gospel and the book of Hebrews:

Book of John
John 1:3
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Book of Hebrews
Hebrews 1:1-2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Hebrews 2:10
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Hebrews 11:3
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.


Martyrdom of Polycarp

The work called "The Martyrdom of Polycarp," is a story of martyrdom that is itself more historical fiction than historical account. That is not to say that Polycarp was not martyred. Rather it is to say that many of the details of the story are not accurate.

In The Myth of Persecution, Dr. Candida Moss makes several interesting observations, but one that particularly struck home (pp. 103-04):
In a similar way, the author describes religious devotional practices that didn't really take hold until the third century. At the conclusion of the piece, after Polycarp's body is burned for a second time, the Christians steal the fragments of bone and ash that remain and deposit them in an appropriate place for safekeeping. This is not just a concern for proper burial; the author describes Polycarp's remains as "more valuable than precious stones" and says that the remains were placed somewhere that Christians could gather to remember the saints and prepare themselves for their own martyrdom. The situation envisioned here is the veneration of relics.

... Apart from the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the practice of collecting and venerating the bodies of martyrs is completely unparalleled in the second century. Our next earliest references to relics are from the third century and are much less developed. They may not even be firm references to relics so much as references to the distribution of mementos. In contrast, the Martyrdom of Polycarp does not just refer to relics; it provides an explanation for why the church in Smyrna doesn't have the whole body. That it was necessary to apologize for the absence of relics again presupposes a situation in which relic veneration was already booming. It's difficult to imagine the need to offer this explanation, if the audience wasn't expecting more, and it's difficult to imagine that the audience would have expected more before the third century.
Dr. Moss has a full paper on the dating of "the Martyrdom of Polycarp," which can be accessed for free (at this link). Ultimately, Dr. Moss concludes that the current version of the story was probably composed in the early third century.

For people looking for examples of the kinds of problems that readers of patristics face, I encourage people to check out Dr. Moss' paper. The work should also help confirm our position on the reliability of the New Testament itself, which is not subject to the same textual transmission difficulties as the story of Polycarp's end.

I think it is worth noting that Dr. Moss dates the work earlier than some of the scholars whose work she is addressing. That said, as Dr. Moss notes in the paper (p. 19): "To my knowledge, no scholar who has regarded MPol as a forgery has ever been convinced that the extant version was written in the middle of the second century."

All the above dove-tails with a point I was noting to someone (in the comment box at GreenBaggins, if I'm not mistaken) that the cult of the dead was not part of the apostolic tradition and only arose later. Even by the time of Augustine in the 4th and 5th centuries, it was not so highly developed as it was in later centuries, such as under King Philip II of Spain (1527-98), who apparently housed 8,000 relics (and over 1,000 paintings) within his palace, el Escorial (see discussion here).


Some of the Counsel of God is a "Taint" to the Rest?

Michael Patton seems to be continuing his downward spiral. In a new post, he writes:
The historic message of the Bible needs to take precedence over the theological nature of the Bible. And here is where I feel we Evangelicals, in our zeal and love for the Bible, taint the Gospel with unnecessary additions. These additions, more often than not, drag us down rabbit trails where we can end up losing Jesus altogether as we defend against thousands of claims of Bible contradictions.
This is really unbelievable. The theological nature of the Bible, outside some core represents a "taint" that risks "losing Jesus"? Contrast that with:

Acts 20:27
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

Deuteronomy 8:3
And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

Matthew 4:4
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Psalm 119:160
Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.

2 Timothy 3:16
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Luke 24:27
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

And what do the Scripture teach about Jesus?

Hebrews 1:1-2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Much more could be added, but inspiration and special creation are two of the things that Scripture teaches us about Jesus Christ. So, Patton should not consider these theological points either "unnecessary additions" or a "taint."


Status vs. Behavior

OLSON: Well, you've said in the cases decided by this court that the polygamy issue, multiple marriages, raises questions about exploitation, abuse, patriarchy, issues with respect to taxes, inheritance, child custody, it is an entirely different thing. And if you—if a state prohibits polygamy, it's prohibiting conduct. If it prohibits gay and lesbian citizens from getting married, it is prohibiting their exercise of a right based upon their status.
Amy Hall has some good thoughts about this (link), but I want to point something else out - actually three things, the first of which is:

When the government prohibits marriage to already-married people, it is prohibiting "exercise of a right" (assuming marriage is a right) based on their status of being married. It is prohibition that is explicitly based on the status of the person. In fact, if getting a marriage license were like getting a job, they wouldn't be allowed to ask if you were already married. Prohibition of polygamy is about status. That's my main point.

The second is much more nuanced. When two people of the same sex seek to be "married" to each other, they are not being prohibited from "exercise of a right" - even if marriage is a right - because they don't want marriage as that term is defined. They want something that isn't marriage, which they want to be called marriage and treated as marriage.

The third point is that calling marriage a "right" is odd, given that in America single people apparently don't have this right unless someone else voluntarily consents to it. Can you imagine if your right to free speech depended on the people hearing you consenting to it? I'm pretty sure the pro-abortion folks wouldn't think a woman has a "right to choose" if she has to get someone else (like whoever procreated with her or the child) to voluntarily consent.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Called to This Communion?

Roman Catholic Michael Voris has a new video railing against Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Wuerl because they admit to communion those who Voris thinks should be excluded - especially Voris' Vice President, Joe Biden. Here's the video:
If you are a Roman Catholic who disagrees with Voris, you are a "Dolanite." Ironically, Voris' own bishop has forbidden him from using the term "Catholic" to describe his own activities (link).

Voris tries to appeal to Pope Francis' supposedly hard line against pro-abortion politicians, but Biden was also given communion at Pope Francis' inaugural mass together with Nancy Pelosi (as reported here).

And the folks at "Called to Communion" want me to join this communion with the supposed benefit being visible unity? No thanks.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Mr. Patton, Your Anecdotes don't Provide a Biblical Argument

Sadly, Michael Patton has decided to double down on his attack on the fundamental importance of Special Creation and Inerrancy with a new post titled "FORGET ABOUT EVOLUTION AND INERRANCY (FOR A MINUTE)."

Patton doesn't offer any Biblical or even logical argument for his position. He just provides two anecdotes of people who were allegedly persuaded to set aside their concerns about evolution or inerrancy and consequently became Christians. Patton writes:
These two stories are illustrations of the importance of keeping to the “make or break” issues of our faith when sharing the Gospel. The issue of origins and inspiration and inerrancy are very important. We eventually need to discuss them. But they are not ”make or break issues.” And they can be used to sidetrack the Gospel into endless and fruitless debate. They can often keep you from getting to Christ. The two people above may have never really heard an actual argument for the Gospel. They were both intellectual types who were ready to debate so many things that did not matter. I don’t need to convince an unbeliever that the Bible is inspired or inerrant. The issue of evolution does not matter if it is only keeping you from sharing the Gospel. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people will have legitimate hang-ups about these and other things that need to be dealt with. But sometimes we need to deal with them by explaining that they have no bearing on whether Jesus rose from the grave. Once we establish Christ’s resurrection, you can get back to those things. But in our apologetics, we need to do everything we can to get to the historicity of the resurrection.
That's very clearly an appeal to expediency and pragmatism. But the argument lacks the necessary foundation to be anything more than an assertion and two anecdotes.

For example, Patton hasn't provided any revelation from God in support of his conclusion that special creation and inerrancy aren't make-or-break issues.

Likewise, Patton has not actually engaged in scientific experiment - providing controlled comparisons between consistent, uncompromising evangelism and evangelism of the kind that Patton seems to prefer.

All that said - as with the previous post, not everything Patton says is wrong.  It can be useful to get people to stop focusing on the excuses they are making for not addressing the central gospel issues of creation, sin, and redemption (accomplished and applied).

In fact, there are non-compromising ways of handling those excuses.  I recall reading Eusebius responding to an objection that Jesus was raised from the dead too soon - the sign of Jonah was "three days and three nights," whereas Jesus was risen before Sunday night.  He simply and quickly identified the absurdity of the objection (see how), without setting aside things like Biblical inerrancy.


Everlasting Contempt

In my debates on hell, I didn't mention the following verse:
Daniel 12:2
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Perhaps I should have, as it helps to make clear one of the verses I did cited:
Isaiah 66:22-24For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, [that] from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD. And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
The point of this is not specifically to make clear that the punishment of hell will include torment of the damned. After all, that aspect of hell is abundantly clear from verse like the following:
Luke 16:28
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Revelation 14:11And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
Rather the point of citing Daniel 12:2 in connection with Isaiah 66:22-24 is that the condition of the wicked is a permanent condition. It won't cease, either for salvation or annihilation. Instead, it will be a perpetual memorial to God's justice and power.

Daniel 12:2 also confirms the general resurrection, which we see more clearly in the New Testament.
John 5:29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Acts 24:15And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
People might find my reference to Isaiah 66 surprising, because on its face it is not clear that these corpses are people who are alive in some sense, even while being dead in another and important sense.

But the second death is spelled out more clearly in Revelation 20:
Revelation 20:7-15
And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Notice that the lake of fire is a place of eternal torment, and it is the second death.

And ultimately, the reason why the "traditional view" of hell is the view of hell that we will continue to hold is because it is the Scriptural view - represented not only by the above verses, but most especially by
Matthew 25:46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
That punishment will generally be the wrath of God, and will particularly involve both torment and also specifically shame and contempt.