Thursday, October 27, 2016

What's a Trumpkin?

I'd like to make a brief point about my own usage. I sometimes use the term "Trumpkin". And I used that as a term of disparagement. That's intentional.

However, I don't use "Trumpkin" as a synonym for Trump voters in general. I don't use it for people who opposed Trump during the primaries, but reluctantly support him in the general election.

There are conservatives who will vote for Trump to block Hillary. It's not so much a vote for Trump as a vote against Hillary. I don't call them Trumpkins. 

Rather, I reserve that epithet for Trump primary voters, or for general election voters who minimize his faults, or praise his imaginary virtues. Who make delusional claims about his campaign promises. Things like that. 

Not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary

i) Trump supporters routinely say not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary. I've seen a lot of NeverTrumpers rankle at that equation. As a NeverTrumper myself, I'm not bothered by the claim.

Given certain assumptions, there's an obvious sense in which the equation is true. It doesn't mean NeverTrumpers are voting for Hillary in the sense of going into the voting booth and pushing the button next to Hillary's name. They're not casting a vote for Hillary in that direct sense. Rather, the point of the claim is that by declining to vote for the only candidate who can defeat Hillary, the side-effect is to help elect Hillary. And up to a point, that's a logical inference. 

ii) Mind you, that depends on certain conditions. It presumes that Trump is competitive with Hillary. If he's too far behind, then not voting for Trump doesn't make a difference. 

Likewise, if you live in a blue state, then even if you vote for Trump, that will be swamped by Democrat voters. 

iii) I think NeverTrumpers are too defensive on this point. It sounds bad to say not voting for Trump is a vote for Hillary because it's taken out of context. Considered in isolation, it sounds culpable to do anything that would contribute to Hillary's election. But there's more to it than that. The problem is that Trump primary voters backed the rest of us into a corner. 

To take a comparison, it's normally wrong to embezzle bank funds. But suppose bank robbers kidnap the family of the CEO or CFO of Citicorp, using the hostages as leverage to coerce the CEO or CFO to set up a Cayman account just for them, then transfer $10 billion from the City Corp account into the Cayman account, to secure release of the hostages. 

Indeed, you have movies with a dramatic premise like that. Take Harrison Ford's Firewall. (I haven't seen it, just read reviews.)

That puts embezzlement in a different light. The audience is supposed to be sympathetic to the CEO or CFO because the robbers put a gun to his head. That forces him to do things he wouldn't ordinarily do. There are attenuating circumstances that exculpate his actions. 

By the same token, NeverTrumpers feel they've been maneuvered into a situation where the acceptable options were taken away from them. It's not their fault that they refuse to choose between the remaining, unacceptable options. The chance for a good outcome was already nixed during the primaries. They aren't responsible for the dire consequences which irresponsible voters set in motion. The results of the NeverTrump position is mitigated by the situation into which they've been thrust, against their will. 

It's like someone pulling the pin on a grenade. Once he does that, it may be too late to prevent the ensuing damage. The only way to prevent the damage would be by not pulling the pin in the first place. But if that happens, there's no going back to the options you had before he pulled the pin. 

Blaming the GOP Are they a symptom or the cause of the mess we’re in?

Apologist for evil

I'm going to comment on this:

I'm primarily commenting on the article. Sometimes I supplement the article by listening to his lecture (available on YouTube).  

It was through relatives, students and former students who were gay, as well as people in committed, same-sex relationships, that Wolterstorff was drawn to more closely consider the traditional views he’d grown up believing.

i) That's such a cliche. 

ii) "Committed, sex-same relationships". Even many homosexuals admit that they are wildly promiscuous. 

iii) Naturally, the way they present themselves in public often puts the best face on homosexuality. It's gullible to presume that's representative of what happens behind closed doors. Not only rampant promiscuity but the high incidence of domestic abuse.

To take a comparison, consider straight couples whose marriage is on the rocks, yet they appear to be the happy married couple in social settings. No one suspects that they are on the verge of divorce. 

iv) However, that's really beside the point. Even if they were committed to each other, that's an immoral commitment. Take a committed incestuous couple, or a committed adulterous couple. From what I can tell, Eva Braun was deeply committed to the Führer. Members of the Mafia may be deeply committed to each other. Absolute family loyalty. A committed relationship is morally neutral. It can be virtuous or vicious, depending on the nature of the commitment. 

I’ve listened to these people. To their agony. To their feelings of exclusion and oppression. To their longings. To their expressions of love. To their commitments. To their faith. So listening has changed me.

i) "Feelings" of exclusion and oppression. Not reality, but "feelings".

ii) Moreover, this completely overlooks how empowering homosexuals leads to the oppression and exclusion of normal people. Indoctrinating school kids. Teachers and administrators who bully normal kids to affirm perversion. It overlooks how homosexuals exploit and oppress other homosexuals. 

iii) Not doubt homosexuals generally have the same emotional needs as everyone else. But that isn't satisfied by a drastic deviation from the natural sources in which we were made to find emotional fulfillment. 

iv) I say "generally," because homosexuals can become extremely hardened and sadistic or masochistic. 

He first established the commonplace view that sexuality is a continuum, and people may fall anywhere between homosexual and heterosexual in their sexual orientation. 

That's very misleading.

i) To begin with, it might be taken to imply that sexuality is essentially fluid. There is no normal, much less normative, frame of reference. 

ii) In addition, although there's a "continuum" of sorts from homosexuality through bisexuality to heterosexuality, the general public is overwhelmingly heterosexual. Even the politically correct CDC acknowledges that fact. The homosexual and bisexual part of the "continuum" represents the fringe end of the spectrum. 

He says homosexual "orientation" isn't chosen. That's simplistic. Even if the inclination is involuntary, the deveopment can be an acquired taste, Or an appetite that can become addictive and insatiable. For instance, some people don't choose to enjoy alcohol. They just do. For other people, it's an acquired taste. And for some people, it becomes addictive. 

He says there's no therapy. Of course, that piggybacks on his assumption that it's not chosen. Indeed, it's a "creational variance". So his conclusion is no better than the underlying assumptions. 

He cited the Classis Grand Rapids East study report on “Biblical and Theological Support Currently Offered by Christian Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage,” in which a non-heterosexual identity on the sexuality continuum is considered a creational variance, an aspect of one’s nature.

The CRC has been on the skids for decades. Wolterstorff is building on a false premise. An illicit argument from authority. 

Almost everybody agrees that no one is to be blamed for being on the homosexual end of that continuum. 

Well, that says a lot about the social circles in which he moves. Like the quip attributed to Pauline Kael: "I can't believe Nixon won! I don't know anyone who voted for him."

Homosexual attraction is blameworthy. That doesn't mean it's ipso facto damnable. But Wolterstorff is talking about proudly, defiantly impenitent sinners. Sinners who flaunt their sin. Who call evil good. 

For the homosexual person it matters a great deal — a very great deal — whether you say to him or her that their orientation is a disorder, a mark of the fallenness of creation, or whether you say that their location on that spectrum is a creational variance, like any other location on that spectrum.

You could say the same thing about a pedophile or psychopath. 

This stance veers away from the 1973 report of Synod on homosexuality, which defines same-sex orientation as a disorder.

Should have stuck with that. 

Wolterstorff then observed that a same-sex orientation does not break the love command, thus is not morally blameable. 

Does a consensual incestuous relationship between a mother and her teenage son, or father and his teenage daughter break the love command? Even if there's genuine affection, the fact (if it is a fact) that it's loving doesn't make it virtuous. People can be in love with evil. That takes many forms. 

Having established that same-sex orientation is neither a disorder nor morally blameable, he asked, “If accordingly members of the church are to accept such people as they are, then why is it wrong for people with that orientation to act on their desires?

There's a certain logic to that conclusion. But it's predicated on a false premise.

Wolterstorff minimizes the Biblical condemnation by commenting how rarely it's discussed. One problem that overlooks is how something is rarely discussed because it's rightness or wrongness is taken for granted. How often does Scripture forbid matricide or patricide? 

Likewise, the issue arises in occasional documents. Most of the time it isn't necessary to discuss it because there's a standing presumption against it. 

But what does Scripture say? Wolterstorff briefly examined each of the seven Biblical passages which concern homosexual activity. He stressed above all that these passages should be interpreted in context.
He quickly dismissed passages in Genesis 19 and Judges 19, which are about gang rape and, he argued, therefore irrelevant to a discussion of committed, covenantal same-sex relationships. 

i) Those aren't the first passages I'd turn to. However, they're not just about gay rape, but homosexual attraction. The original audience is supposed to be horrified by their homosexual attraction. To find that unnatural and repellent. In Scripture, homosexual activity is a hallmark of pagan immorality.  

ii) In addition, Wolterstorff skips over the paradigmatic case of Gen 1-2, which establishes the heteronormative standard of comparison. 

iii) "covenantal same-sex relationships" is a euphemism for covenantal anal sex, covenantal fisting, covenantal rimming, covenantal scat, covenantal golden showers.  

He similarly put aside Leviticus 18 and 20, where the holiness code has been cherry-picked and it would be “unfair to universalize that condemnation while ignoring everything else that’s forbidden.

i) That's contemptibly superficial. The relationship between Christian theology and OT theology is complex. At one heretical extreme is Marcion. That's the backstop against which orthodox alternatives operate. Any orthodox view of the relationship between Christian theology and the OT will acknowledge both continuity and discontinuity. Different theological traditions parse that differently. But it's not "cherry-picking". Much painstaking theological analysis goes into considering how the OT is fulfilled in the NT. 

And not just broad-based theological traditions. We also have closely-reasoned monographs on OT ethics by meticulous Christian scholars like Gordon Wenham, Richard Bauckham, James Hoffmeier, and Christopher Wright. Not to mention the definitive studies by Robert Gagnon. 

ii) The Mosaic code contains different kinds of laws. Some laws concern ritual purity. Those are somewhat artificial. They aren't grounded in nature. Rather, they're concerned with symbolic holiness. And from a NT standpoint, they've been superseded. 

You also have some laws that are tied to the socioeconomic structures of ancient Israel. An agrarian economy. Common property belonging to one's clan.

But you also have laws regarding social duties and social offenses that are grounded in our God-given nature. Does Wolterstorff really think it's just "cherry-picking" to treat murder as a different kind of law than the cultic sanctity of tabernacle furniture?

iii) Furthermore, Wolterstorff is the one who's guilty of artificially isolating the Levitical prohibitions from Biblical anthropology in general. These aren't atomistic data-points. Rather, there's a continuity of witness throughout the OT and the NT. 

iv) Finally, Judaism is not a dead religion. There are Orthodox Jews who take the kosher laws and other purity codes quite seriously. If it was politically feasible, they'd rebuild the temple and restore animal sacrifice. Now, I think that's defunct, but my point is that Wolterstorff's dismissive treatment acts as though the Mosaic code is obviously passé. Yet there are modern-day Jews who don't relegate that to the past. If Wolterstorff was speaking in an Orthodox synagogue, instead of playing to a sympathetic audience, would he be so flippant and cavalier? 

Wolterstorff quoted Levitical prohibitions about "uncovering nakedness" as if that's obsolete. He seems oblivious to the fact that, in context, that's a euphemism for incest. 

As for 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, he claimed that translational disagreements make the passages too ambiguous for an authoritative claim about same-sex relationships.

It's demonstrable that the terminology is a Greek counterpart to the Levitical terminology. So that represents carryover from  OT sexual ethics to NT sexual ethics in this respect. 

He spent the most time dissecting Romans 1:24–31, which describes a “truly, appallingly wicked group” from which we cannot generalize. “There is night and day difference between the people that Paul describes and the committed same-sex couples that I know.

Wolterstorff refuses to permit Rom 1 to apply to his homosexual students and relatives. He filters Rom 1 through his homosexual students and relatives, uses that to screen out the sweeping indictment of Rom 1 on homosexual attraction and homosexual activity. 

Wolterstorff denies that homosexual "orientation" is unnatural. But that begs the question. And it flies in the face of Paul's argument. Moreover, Rom 1 alludes to Gen 1. So Rom 1 is grounded in God's design for human nature. 

Wolterstorff appeals to Paul's statement that it's unnatural for men to wear long hair. But Paul's argument in Rom 1 doesn't turn on one word, just as Paul's argument in 1 Cor 11 doesn't turn on one word. 

Once one says that a homosexual orientation is no more culpable or disordered than a heterosexual orientation, and once one observes that Scripture does not teach that God says that homosexual activity is always wrong, I think we’ve left to conclude that justice requires that the church offer the great good of marriage both to heterosexual couples committed to a loving, covenantal relationship, and to homosexual couples so committed.

The conclusion of cumulative errors every step of the way. He's a sweet, softheaded old duffer who's easily manipulated and conned. 

Wolterstorff extrapolates from Biblical concerns about widows, orphans, and the poor to homosexuals. Homosexuals are analogous to the most vulnerable members of ancient Israel. They have been treated unjustly and dishonorably. So goes the argument. 

But the homosexual lobby is far from weak and defenseless. To the contrary, the homosexual lobby is powerful and punitive. The homosexual lobby is oppressive. These aren't victims, but aggressors. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Does Jesus know more than science?

I'll comment on this doozy by Peter Enns:

I believe that evolution explains human origins, even if there is always more to learn. I believe this for the same reason I believe the earth is round and billions of years old, the universe is immense and billions of years older, that there are atoms and subatomic particles, that galaxies number in the billions with billions of stars in each, that it takes light from the sun 8.3 minutes to reach us. And so on.

Even supposing that evolution is true, the evidence for evolution is quite different from the evidence for the rotundity of the earth, the existence of subatomic particles, or the speed of light. The direct reasons for believing these things are independent of each other. So they can't be the same reason. Not in terms of reasons for the claim itself. 

I believe that evolution is one of the things that science has gotten right, along with many other things we take for granted every day, because this is the resounding conclusion of the scientific community, including Christians trained in the sciences.

There's nothing inherently wrong with appeal to expert witnesses and the argument from authority. But secular science preemptively discounts divine agency as a legitimate explanation, even if that's the right explanation. So, by process of elimination, only naturalistic explanations are even considered. That's like proving all marbles are white by first removing all the black and blue marbles. Sure, that's what you end up with, by discarding evidence to the contrary. 

The stories of origins in Genesis (Chapter 1 and chapter 2) are not competing “data sets” to scientific models of cosmic and human origins. These stories were written somewhere between 2500 and 3000 years ago, and clearly reflect cultural categories older still. I don’t expect Genesis or any other Bronze or Iron Age text to answer the kinds of questions we can answer today through calculus, optical and radio telescopes, genomics, or biological and cultural anthropology.

That's very logical…if you're an atheist. If you deny the existence of a revelatory God. If you operate with a closed-system worldview. 

If, on the other hand, Gen 1-2 were revealed by a timeless God, then it doesn't matter how long ago it was written. What difference does the first or second millennium BC make to God? If God is outside time, and God is the source of Gen 1-2, then the antiquity of Gen 1-2 is irrelevant to its veracity. If God disclosed the origin of the world to a Bronze Age narrator, the narrator's time-frame is secondary to God's timeless perspective. 

However we define these terms, the Bible is not something dropped out of the sky. Rather these writings unambiguously reflect the various cultural moments of the writers. The Bible speaks the “language” of ancient people grappling with things in ancient ways, and therefore what the Bible records about creation or the dawn of humanity needs to be understood against the cultural backdrop of the biblical writers. Any viable notion of the Bible as inspired or revealed needs to address the implications of a culturally situated Bible.

That's such a canard. For instance, Warfield didn't think the Bible dropped out of the sky. He articulated the organic theory of inspiration. 

True, Jesus alludes to the Adam and Eve story (Genesis 2:24; see Matthew 19:5), and in doing so seems to take that story literally—at least some would argue that. I do not think this allusion establishes anything of the sort, but even if it did, Jesus’s words still do not trump (forgive the poor word choice 2 weeks before election day) evolution as being true.

i) Really? He honestly doesn't believe Jesus thought Gen 1-2 was historical? Christ's argument against lax divorce laws is based on a contrast between the Mosaic Law, which represents a postlapsarian concession–and the creation of Adam and Eve, which represents a prelapsarian standard of comparison. If, however, there was no first couple, then that cuts the ground out from under his argument. Christ is contrasting the status quo with the prototype. But if the prototype never existence, there's no basis of comparison. 

ii) Moreover, how can you argue for monogamy from evolution? Does Enns think hominids were monogamous? If evolution is true, surely our protohuman ancestors were promiscuous. Indeed, Darwinians are wont to say that men are naturally promiscuous while women are naturally monogamous. Men are programmed to mate with many women to up the chances that at least some of their offspring will survive to sexual maturity and repeat the cycle. Women are programmed to seek a dependable mate who will stick around to protect and provide for the mother and kids, as well as to helping raising them. So you have this tug of war between competing instincts. 

Expecting the words of Jesus to settle the evolution issue shows an insufficient grappling with the implications of the incarnation. Actually, it betrays how uncomfortable and “irreverent” (to borrow C. S. Lewis’s description) a doctrine the incarnation is—ironically, including for Christians.
For Jesus to be fully human means not abstractly “human” but a human of a particular sort, fully participating in the Judaism of the 1st century. The incarnation leaves no room whatsoever for the idea that Jesus in any way kept his distance from participating in that particular humanity. That means, among other things, that Jesus was limited in knowledge along with everyone else at the time.

i) I don't know if this is just tactical, or if Enns is really that dense. On the one hand, he may just be saying that to put faithful Christians on the defensive. Turning tables on them by pretending that they are the ones whose orthodoxy is suspect. It's a transparent ploy, but it's the best he can do.

On the other hand, maybe he's really that superficial and uncomprehending. It's funny how, when people like Enns talk about the Incarnation, they always talk about it in this one-sided fashion. But the Incarnation doesn't accentuate the humanity of Christ. According to the Incarnation, Christ is equally divine and human. So there's no differential stress one way or the other. The Incarnation doesn't emphasize the humanity of Christ while deemphasizing the divinity of Christ. It's not as if Jesus is two parts human to one part divine. 

The Incarnation doesn't mean Jesus has finite knowledge rather than infinite knowledge. Rather, it means both are true. Yes, in one respect the Incarnation means Jesus doesn't know everything, but in another respect it means Jesus does know everything! This is, after all, a divine incarnation. Enns singles out the human side of the Incarnation while blanking out the divine side of the Incarnation. But who or what became Incarnate? The divine Son. It isn't simply God Incarnate, but God Incarnate. God united to a body and a rational soul. The Incarnation entails something that's distinctively divine as well as something that's distinctively human. The result of the Incarnation will have properties of both. 

Is Enns so theologically inept that he doesn't grasp the rudiments of orthodox Christology? Even if he doesn't believe it, he should be able to accurately state the idea. 

ii) In addition, although the divine and human natures are metaphysically separate and compartmentalized, the two natures are not epistemically separate and compartmentalized. On the one hand the divine nature knows everything the human nature does. On the other hand, the divine nature shares some of its supernatural knowledge with the human nature. In the Gospels, Jesus sometimes exhibits superhuman knowledge. He has natural human knowledge, but even in his humanity he also has a degree of supernatural divine knowledge. He knows some things that only God would be in a position to know–even in reference to the human mind of Christ. That's because the divine mind imparts some of its supernatural knowledge to the human mind. (For convenience, I'm casting this in terms of a two-minds Christology. I've offered more detailed analogies elsewhere.)

So in that respect, they're not equally balanced. Rather, it tilts in a divine direction. 

iii) Incidentally, I'm not convinced that Enns even believes in the Incarnation or Resurrection. To begin with, why would he still believe in greater miracles when he rejects lesser miracles? How can greater miracles be believable when lesser miracles are unbelievable? If, moreover, he ceased to believe in the Incarnation and Resurrection, he'd have a lot to lose if he said so in public. 

That may sound irreverent or offensive, but it is an implication of the incarnation. Jesus wasn’t an omniscient being giving the final word on the size of mustard seeds…

It's striking how many people trip over that little mustard seed. Yet as Gundry noted in his commentary, "The mustard seed was the smallest seed of Palestinian seeds that could be seen with the naked eye and had become proverbial for smallness" (267). In his commentary, Keener supplies documentation from Jewish and Greco-Roman sources (387-88).

Does Enns think Jesus should reference an invisible seed to illustrate his point? How would a seed so tiny that no one could see it illustrate his point? They wouldn't know what he's talking about! 

Enns has no categories for hyperbole or proverbial expressions in his conceptual toolkit. Does he bring the same exquisite sensitivity to other comparative idioms like "light as a feather," "flat as a pancake," "a stone's throw," "a day late and a dollar short"?  

…mental illness

That's an allusion to Gospel accounts of Jesus as an exorcist. Enns insinuates Jesus was mistaken in believing that they were possessed. Yet the Gospels treat the exorcisms of Jesus as evidence of his messiahship. 

…or cosmic and biological evolution. He was a 1st century Jew and he therefore thought like one.

According to the Incarnation, although Jesus was a 1C Jew, he wasn't just a 1C Jew. He remained the antemundane Creator of the world. In one respect he thought like a 1C Jew. In another respect, he thought like God. 

Who does SBL Think It Is? Get Real and Get a Life SBL!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Stephen Law on animal suffering

Recently, Stephen Law and I mixed it up on Facebook. Doug Groothuis posted a video about a rescued dog. The dog was neglected and abused. Law used that as a pretext to launch into the problem of animal pain. I've rearranged some statements to improve the flow of argument. I've done a bit of additional editor for clarification or stylistic improvements.