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  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible
  • Archive for March, 2012

    Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

    Monday, March 26th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue

    “Elgin, it’s not default thinking. It’s empirical thinking. It’s responding to what works.”

    Yet the vast majority of your reply only further demonstrates the contrary. Since you are leaving the discussion I will simply respond to a few points. If you think I skipped something important just let me know and I will address it.

    “That’s right but the difference is that science can take the next step into application.”

    There are several key problems here with the word “application.” For one thing there are significant areas of science that have no application, at least not currently. In addition much, if not most of scientific knowledge precedes any application. Thus making application a prerequisite for any knowledge would invalidate at least parts of science.

    In addition it is unclear what are the limits this application. What kind of application must there be for knowledge to be consider legitimate? Then there are the areas of knowledge, such as history, which are commonly accepted as legitimate, but for which the concept of application is, at best, unclear. Can we legitimately say that Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States? What would be the application of such knowledge?

    The key difference between naturalism and my view is that I focus more on the method of knowledge. Thus applications confirm the usefulness of the method, not just the results. This is an important distinction for it allows me to talk about knowledge in areas such as history, where there is little or no application, but where the methods can still be applied.

    “It isn’t just that “God” is unproven, it’s unprovable according to all we know.”

    This goes back to my comments at the beginning of our discussion concerning the concept of proof. But in any event, the real point is that “to all we know” really means, “to all the naturalist believes” and is again a classic example of default thinking.

    ME: “Yet, I provided evidence, in the form of a rational argument,”

    YOU:” Because that’s not evidence. Read your statement again. Where’s the evidence?”

    This basically demonstrates my point. That which does not support you, you simply ignore. Whether you choose to accept it or not a rational argument is evidence. Reject this and you reject the core of the scientific method upon which your view depends. Your selective acceptance of reason, i.e., you accept it when it reaches the conclusion you like, is hardly a rational position, but instead just more evidence of the flaws within naturalism.

    Concerning your answer to the argument that you requested.

    “1. Knowing that cause and effect as we understand them lead to a seemingly inescapable paradox, you posit an answer based on a series of assumptions.”

    It is only a paradox for naturalism. There is no paradox at all for my view, and in fact this argument is quite consistent with my view. While they are clearly assumptions, they are the assumptions of naturalism, which is the point of the argument. The only real problem with this argument for the naturalist is that it points to a conclusion that naturalism refuses to accept.

    “Maybe there is something about the nature of space-time, and therefore causation that we don’t yet know,”

    I already pointed this out in an early note. While true, it is irrelevant to the point of the argument. The point of the argument is that the evidence we currently have points to something naturalism says cannot exist. Your refusal to accept what, in any other context would be an obvious conclusion, clearly demonstrates that naturalism is inconsistent. Naturalism claims to be empirical relying only on the evidence, but then rejects the current evidence in favor of some hypothetical future possibility. At this point the naturalist abandons the scientific evidence in favor of faith and hope. Faith that naturalism is true, and hope that some evidence that avoids this may be found in the future. Again this is fine. Naturalists would certainly not be the first people in history to hold on to their beliefs in spite of the evidence to the contrary, but it does show that your claims to be open to evidence to the contrary are clearly false, and so perhaps you will not be so quick to ridicule those who disagree with you in the future.

    “That’s a more likely explanation, since that has been the course of scientific discovery to date.”

    Actually the course has been the opposite. For 200 years, naturalist based science has consistently attempted to avoid any concept of a start to the universe, probably because of the implications. From early theories of a steady state universe, to more recent theories that postulated various form of a cycling universe, every attempt so far has had to be discarded as more evidence came in. The course has been opposite of the one you describe. In fact if we just go by the “course of scientific discovery to date” that would be a much better reason to call into question any new theory that the universe did not have a beginning. All previous attempts to make this claim were subsequently overthrown by the evidence, so why shouldn’t any new theory suffer the same fate?

    “2. Out of all the possibilities one could imagine, you settle arbitrarily on a conscious creator.”

    Once again you show that you cannot squarely face the argument as presented, but must instead change it into something you are more comfortable with. In this case so you can divert the argument onto your beliefs on the origins of religion, beliefs which, btw, cannot be verified. Again the argument says nothing about consciousness one way or the other, and so this attempt at refutation is no more valid than the last time you raised it. In short, you cannot refute an argument that does not mention consciousness, by talking about consciousness. You need to deal with the argument, not some straw man of your own creation.

    “We naturalists aren’t in a quandary, as you claim. We merely observe that there are questions we can’t answer yet”

    This is not only a statement of hope, it is a statement of denial, as the only way to not be in a “quandary,” or at least think that you are not, is simply to ignore the argument. Yet this is inconsistent with the principles of naturalism as you have stated them. You can ignore the problem the argument reveals, but that does not make it go away, it just demonstrates your claim to simply follow the evidence is false.

    “if you do, we naturalists will listen and alter our views based on the new evidence – if that ever happens. Y’all refuse to do the same, which is intellectually dishonest.”

    Except that when I demonstrated that the assumptions of naturalism are inconsistent with the best scientific evidence we have, you ignore the evidence and hope things will change in the future. You talk about evidence and reason, but have repeatedly show that you will quickly discard them when they do not support your belief in naturalism. So who is being intellectually dishonest?

    “I don’t mean to be rude but what you’re doing is not interesting or productive.”

    That is fine, as there really is no place left for the discussion to go. I and others have pointed out a number of fallacies and errors in your claims, which for the most part you have just ignored. To move forward, you would need to actually address these fallacies and errors, providing either explanations for why they are not fallacious or in error, which for many would not be possible; or attempt to restate the arguments so as to remove the fallacies and errors. However, instead of refuting or correcting them, you have basically denied that naturalism can be rationally evaluation. This not only conflicts with your claim on the importance of verification, but make further discussion difficult at best, unless you resort to repetition of previously refuted argument, which you have done.

    The only other way to more forward would be for you to face the implications of the argument based on origin I cited, but to do this would be to acknowledge the fatal flaw in naturalism, which you clearly cannot do, for to do this would be to abandon naturalism. Instead you have appealed to hope. This is fine, but it against precludes further discussion because I cannot know what may or may not be discovered in the future, and you have again precluded naturalism from being evaluated. But realize that this is a hope that runs contrary to you claims, and is in fact exactly what you are so critical of others for doing.

    But, in any event, I do what to thank you for an interesting discussion.

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:20-21

    Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 23:  Mar 11, 2012

    Having just contrasted the position of his reader with that of his opponents, John returns to comforting his readers by clarifying why he is writing to them.

    Study

    f.        Why John Writes (2:21-27)

    i.      Premise: You Know all things (2:20-1)

    20 – You have an anointing from the Holy One and know all things.[1]

    an anointing

    -          John returns his focus back to his readers by point out how they are distinctive.  But exactly what does he mean by anointing?   The Greek word here (χρῖσμα)  is a noun and it only occurs here and in verse 27 in the NT.  The verbal form is found in several places.   In Luke 4:18, Acts 4:27, 10:38, and Heb 1:9 it refer to Jesus being anointed by God.   In 2 Cor 1:21-22 it is used in relation to us.  Now the one who makes us—and you as well—secure in union with the Messiah  and has anointed us is God, 22who has placed his seal on us and has given us the Spirit in our hearts as a down payment. The word literally means to, mark or touch lightly will oil to indicate some calling.   Louw Nida gives the meaning of the noun form of the word as an “assignment. ”  While in the Greek translation of the OT it is used in 1 Sam 9:16 where Saul is to be anointed King.

    -          As to what John means, unfortunately, this is where our lack of knowledge shows.  We know that later Christians and Gnostics both had ritual anointing with oil.   Later Gnostics claimed they had a special anointing (again tied by to their secret knowledge), but there is no evidence of this during 1st century.   As for the other mentions of  “anointing” in NT,   The Greek word in these cases  is ἤλειφον not χρῖσμα and refers to the physical application of perfume or oil as in the following:

    • to care for the body  – Mt 6:17 – when fasting
    • the sick – Mk 6:13, James 5:14,
    • to prepare the dead for burial  – Mk 16:1
    • to honor a Guest –  Lk 7:38, Lk 7:46, Jn 11:2, Jn 12:3

    The use by John here is most likely figurative. It is possible that John is using a play on words as the word Christ (Χριστός) is related and literally means the anointed one.  In which case, the antichrists then would be the anti-anointed ones.

    -          In terms of the overall meaning of the verse, there are some strong parallel to the Gospel of John

    1 John 14:17 –  He is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. But you recognize him, because he lives with you and will be in you.

    2 John 15:26 – When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.

    3 John 16:13 – Yet when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own accord, but will speak whatever he hears and will declare to you the things that are to come.

    -          So this leaves us with the following options:

    1 This is referring to a ritual that was performed. Again there is no evidence for such a ritual in the first century.   But there is a deeper problem here.    Those who left would have done the same ritual. So this would not really set them apart.

    2 Because of the parallels with Gospel of John , many conclude that the anointing is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    3 Others see this as the word of God, i.e., the teaching handed down by the apostles and prophets that was stressed at the beginning of the letter.   This fits the broader context nicely – i.e. that it teaches us the truth (v27).   It also has the advantage of being objective, i.e., we can test by the Word of God.

    4 Finally it is possible to see this as a combination of 2 and 3.   It is God’s Word, not as preached, but as receive by the work of the Holy Spirit.

    -          My view:

    While 4 has a lot of merit, I believe that the focus on the identity of the anointing somewhat misses John’s point.  Many commentators see John as still arguing against his opponents and this is yet another argument.  But I don’t believe that the main issue here is distinguishing Christians from those who left, but the security of salvation.

    In context, John has just said that those who left were never part of us.  This shows that the security of salvation was an issue.   After all, a new Christian who had just seen the church split might very well wonder if it could happen to them, maybe it could happen to them.  Maybe they are not really part of the church either.  It is this context that John mentions the anointing.   It is interesting to note alone these lines that the only other use of χρῖσμα apart from Christ occurs in 2 Cor 1:21-22, a passage  which also is focused on the security of the believer.  While the others left, showing that they were not really believers in the first place, John’ reader remained.    John 14:23-24   If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. Then my Father will love him, and we will go to him and make our home within him. 24The one who does not love me does not keep my words.

    from the Holy One

    -          While this could be God the Father, it is more likely Jesus following the pattern of John 6:69 where Peter says, “Besides, we have believed and remain convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

    and know all things.

    -          There is a minor textual issue  at this point with some manuscripts reading  and know all things. (πάντα)  while others have and all of you know (πάντες)

    1 In favor of and know all things is that this reading has a little broader textual evidence.  The problem is that it results in an incomplete sentence for “to know” requires an object (i.e, what is known).  The NIV handles this by supplying the world “truth” drawing it from the context of the next verse.

    2 In favor of and all of you know is that it is a complete sentence and it is the slightly older reading.

    Still the evidence is pretty balanced and it comes down to which you think was more likely, that a scribe thought that  “and all of you know”  needed something as in “… all of you know _______”  and changed this to .. and know all things. Or, is it more likely that a scribe though that to “and know all things” made us too much like Christ and changed this to read “and all of you know.”

    As is always the case with such issues, there is no real theological point at stake, only how we understand this particularly passage.  This is abundantly clear when we realize that the reading and know all things is very similar to  2:27  while and all of you know is similar to  2:21.

    -          Either way John is making a statement about our position.

    1  You know lies are not in the truth

    21 – I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because lies don’t come from truth.

    -          John again emphasizes that that his condemnations are not directed at them, and he affirms there standing in the faith.  This is emphasized in both a negative and then a positive fashion.  What they know is the truth.   Flow of the argument over the last two verses is:

      1. They have an anointing of the Christ
      2. This anointing have given them knowledge
      3. Lies do not come from the truth.
      4. What they know is the truth.

    Questions and Discussion

    The discussion this week centered on the role of evidence.  If the anointing is understood as simply the Holy Spirit, there is the problem of subjectivity.   For example, Mormons when ask about their faith routinely talk about their testimony which centers on a subjective experience.  They believe this experience to be the Holy Spirit.  The problems with this immediately appear when their testimony is compared to the testimony of others that conflicts with theirs.  How could anyone know they were correct?  Mine, is an example of a conflicting testimony.  While their testimony says that Mormonism is true, mine is that it is false.   We cannot both be correct, and thus at least one of us must be wrong when it comes to what we think the Holy Spirit is telling us. This is where the word of God comes in, for it is an objective measure by which we can compare.

    When we do compare, Mormonism to the teaching of the Bible, it quickly falls short, and thus  it is no wonder that Mormons have to fall back on dubious claims that  parts of the Bible have been removed or changed so as to obscure the teachings they think should be there.  Unfortunately for the Mormons, the text is very  well known and the minor difference that do exist among the thousands of manuscript are like the ones discussed in this week’s class and are not even close to the types of changes that their theories would need.

    The bottom line is that Christians need not fear as we have a mountain of objective evidence that supports our beliefs and the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


    Footnotes:

    [1] 2:20 Other mss. read and all of you know

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:18b-19

    Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 22: Mar 4, 2012

    We left off last time in the middle of John’s discussion of his opponents and what was meant by his use of the term “the last hour.”

    Study

    e. Their Position (2:18-27)

    i. Antichrists a sign of the time (2:18-19)

    18 – Little children, it is the last hour. Just as you heard that an antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour.

    Just as you heard that an antichrist is coming,

    – The word Antichrist is a source of great confusion. The problem is not in translating from Greek to English as antichrist is simply a transliteration of ἀντίχριστος (antichristos). The problem is in translating from the 1st century to the 21st. John is the only one to use this term in the New Testament. Jesus warned about False Christs (ψευδόχριστοι – Mk 13:22; Mt 24:24) and he spoke of the abomination of desolation (Mk 13:14). Paul warned about the the man of lawlessness (ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας — 2 THess 2:3). It is also possible that the Book of Revelations had already been written with its references to the Beast and/or False Prophet (Rev 13:19-20). Whatever the reference, John is referring to an antichrist that will to come at some time in the future.

    so now many antichrists have appeared.

    - Just as there will be an Antichrist, now there are many antichrists. The view is that these will be lesser ones leading up to the real antichrist. They share the same spirit and these antichrists will be the precursor to the real thing. But this is where the problem begins. Over the last 2000 years we have added a lot of baggage to the term antichrist, particularly once Hollywood jumped and made movies like The Omen. But little if any of this was in John’s mind or the mind of his readers. So we must try to understand the term as John intended, which refers to those against or opposed to Christ.

    This is how we know it is the last hour.

    - It is the presences of the antichrists that tells us we are in the last hour. Returning to last week’s question about the meaning of “the last hour” we can note the following:

    • It cannot be the very last hour, because then it would be the real antichrist instead of the precursors.
    • The presents of the antichrists must be exclusive of the time period “the last hour.”

    Given this, what makes these unbelievers different from the unbelievers in other times? There have always been unbelievers that have denied and/or rebelled against God. But unlike others, these unbelievers claim to be followers of Christ, when in reality they oppose him and in that they corrupt the faith. The “last hour” then is that period of time where some unbelievers will cloak there unbelief by claiming to be true followers or Christ.

    Looking at the options from last week, John it would seem, meant either Option A (that age from the ministry of Christ to the Second Coming) or possibly C (referring more the quality of the age rather than the time period). It is important to note that John is not talking about WHEN the second coming will happen, he is talking about the period of deception leading up to it and he is point out that this period had already started.

    i. They Left us (2:19-20)

    19 – They left us, but they were not part of us, for if they had been part of us, they would have stayed with us. Their leaving made it clear that none of them was really part of us.

    They left us

    - John’s readers have known who he was talking about from the very beginning, now we find out. The Greek is ambiguous (ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξῆλθαν) . This could refer to origin – us being the place they were from, or it could refer to membership –they had belonged to us. But either way this was a church split. They were once a part of the church but they left.

    First century churches were normally small and close so the split certainly involved friends, and very likely family members. This was the event that sparked the letter, and it helps us to understand the context that stood behind the it. These people has been in the middle of this so there was no need for John to have mentioned this at the beginning of the letter. They already knew exactly what was going on.

    - It is important to note that they were not thrown out, they left. While disputes and disagreements were common in the early church people did not leave the faith. For example, in Gal 2:11 Paul wrote about his disagreement with Peter. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly wrong. In Act 15:39 the disagreement between Paul and Barnabus was so sharp that they parted ways. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. Yet while they parted ways, neither left the faith. In Rom 14: 13 Paul gives the following instruction to those who were in disagreement Therefore, let’s no longer criticize each other. The disputes in Romans 14 were over questions that still arise in the church today such as what day to meet, and what you can eat and drink. It is interesting that Paul did not seek to settle these issues, but instead told us not to be critical of those who make different choice than we do.

    But in the chruch John was writting to, there was something far more fundamental than a dispute over which day we should worship on. These people departed over core doctrine—They had left the faith. But this immediately raises the question that if Christians can abandon their faith, what does that say about eternal security?

    they were not part of us

    - John address the issue by refuting the premise, they did none loose their salvation because never were in the faith. He does this by first making a claim, and then gives a logical argument to support it.

    - Technically his argument is a hypothetical syllogism of the form Modus Tollens. This is a deductive argument, which means if the premises are true, the conclusion is guaranteed. If we put it into classical form:

    If they had been part of us, then they would have stayed with us.
    They did not stay with us.�
    Therefore they were not part of us.

    Questions and Discussion

    The discussion this week centered a lot on the term antichrist and how applicable it is to groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Here we much be careful. As John intended the term, i.e., referring to those who claim to be follows of Christ when they really oppose him, the term would be accurate. However, that is not the common meaning of the term today. To say that Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses are antichrists would really be inaccurate without a lot of qualifications about exactly what is meant by the term. It may be accurate in the way that John used the term, but it would not be accurate given the modern understanding.

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.

    The Epistles of John: Living in Truth and Love. 1 John 2:16-2:18a

    Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

    Week 21: Feb 26, 2012

    We left off last time in the middle of John’s commandment to believers not to love the world. In verse 16 John expands on what he means with this commandment.

    Study

    d. Our Position (2:12-17)

    ii Warning: Do not love the world (2:15-17)

    16 – For everything that is in the world—the desire for fleshly gratification,[1] the desire for possessions,[2] and worldly arrogance—is not from the Father but is from the world.

    - John now goes on to explain what he means by not loving the world with three examples. The first two of these are marked by the word desire (επιθυμια), which refers to a strong impulse or desire (Freberg). The word is not inherently negative as it is used here, it is neutral. It can just as equally refer to a desire to do good as it does in Heb 6:11, But we want (επιθυμουμεν)each of you to continue to be diligent to the very end, in order to give full assurance to your hope.

    - for fleshly gratification

    The first clause is literally: The desire of the flesh. It can refer to sexual desire, but could be anything the flesh desires. The Jewish sense of this concept was for desires that focused on the self. It is putting yourself and your wants first.

    As a side note: This is one of the reasons works cannot earn Salvation. Working to earn salvation is grounded in a desire for self, i.e., to earn salvation. You are working to earn benefits for yourself. Such works cannot please God. Works that are pleasing to God come from Love, love of God and Love of others, whereas working to earn salvation is grounded in love of self.

    - for possessions

    The second clause is literally: of the eye. It refers to a desire caused by what one sees and is ultimately desire for things: See it – Want it. The problem is that it puts things ahead of people.

    - worldly arrogance (η αλαζονεια του βιου)

    The third clause is literally: false pride of life. It refers to a false pride (αλαζονεια) or arrogance that is unfounded, taking a false or exaggerated sense of pride. This is not, for example, taking pride in your work. Here the pride refers to a false pride of life, or the things of life. It is a pride that forgets that everything we have comes from God. (1 Cor 11:12) If we are boasting about how good we are, how smart we are, how good our house is, or about just about anything, without recognizing that fact, we have a false pride of life.

    - As noted last week, verses 15 and 16 need to be read together. The focus of these two verses is not so much on these things per se, but on the love of these things. We may have desire for fleshly gratification or possessions, or worldly arrogance, but what is our attitude about it? While this may at first seem strange, consider what Paul said in Rom 7:15 I don’t understand what I am doing. For I don’t practice what I want to do, but instead do what I hate. We might not be able to always control that we have improper desires, but we can control if we love them. We can choose to be like Paul, we can hate what we do, and strive to follow God, even if we fail from time to time.

    17 – And the world and its desires are fading away, but the person who does God’s will remains forever.

    - John now gives another reason why we should not love the things of the world. This world is temporary, while God is forever. If we are going to love something, we should love that which will last.

    e. Their Position (2:18-27)

    i. Antichrists a sign of the time (2:18)

    18 – Little children, it is the last hour. Just as you heard that an antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour.

    Little children, here this phrase marks a change of thought. Having made our position clear, John now turns to the position of his opponents.

    it is the last hour

    - This is the only place this phrase occurs in the NT and this raises the question of what does John mean by it is the last hour (εσχατη ωρα εστιν)

    Option A: This is the final period of History, i.e., from the ascension to the second coming. John 4:23a Yet the time is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. This phrase is thus similar to the phase “the last days” such as in Heb 1:2a has in these last days spoken to us by a Son

    Option B: This is the final part (hour) of the last days, i.e., John is saying that they are very near the tribulation. According to Marshall this is the position held by most commentators. It is hard, but not impossible, to reconcile this view with the fact that it is now 2011, and this “hour” has lasted over 2000 years. John’s view can be seen as expressing the idea that Christ could come at any time. Or it is possible that John had a different view of time, a view of time that any time after the ascension is the final hour.

    Option C: The phrase is referring to a quality of the current age as opposed to a time period. Along these lines it should be noted that there is no definite article (the) in the Greek text, and this could also be translated as: It is a last hour, an age marked by anticipation by Christians, and rebellion by the world.

    Before we can make a decision concerning what John meant we need to look at the how John expands on this in the latter part of the verse and that is where we will pick next week.

     

    If you have question or comments about the class, feel free to send me an email at elgin@hushbeck.com and be sure to put “Epistles of John” in the header.

    See here for references and more background on the class.

    Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version®. Copyright © 1996-2008 by The ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission. www.isv.org

    Note: Some places I have modify the text from the ISV version. Passages that I have modified have been noted with and * by the verse number and the ISV text is included in a footnote.


    Footnotes:

    [1] 2:16 Lit. for the flesh

    [2] 2:16 Lit. of the eyes