Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Molinism, what is it?

Molinism is a system of thought seeking to explain and reconcile the sovereignty of God and the free will of man. Molinism, while at first a tad bit difficult to understand, is the most attractive view of the four main views of divine providence and it's very easy to see why. Rather than saying God's foreknowledge of man is a mystery, Molinism tackles the mystery and gives us the best answer possible.

I do not hold to one particular view on predestination or divine providence, rather I tell people about the best work on the subject and let them judge for themselves. Arminianism does not convince me at all nor does radical\hyper Calvinism (I hate to put his name on that view), but the two that are most convincing to me are the Reformed view and Molinism. How can that be? Well, where the Reformed view is quiet, the Molinist view is loud.

The founder of Molinism is Luis de Molina and today's most ardent defender of Molina's work is William Lane Craig.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia, Molinism

William Lane Craig, "Molinism and Romans 9."

Reasonable Faith Podcast, Four Views on Divine Providence

William Lane Craig's articles on Molinism and middle knowledge

Greg Koukl, What do you think of Molinism? 

The Providence of God by R.C. Sproul  Questions on Middle Knowledge

Middle Knowledge and Free Will

Middle Knowledge and Christian Particularism

Misconceptions about Middle Knowledge

Middle Knowledge and Divine Election 

Middle Knowledge and Hell

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why attack a straw man?

The straw man fallacy, why commit it? Why do people attack a straw man? Put simply, because it's easier. Why defend yourself against the original argument, when you can create a weaker version that has the appearance of the original argument, but not the guts of the argument? That is the beauty and the allure of the straw man. He sits there full of straw just waiting to make you look better! All the while though, the straw man actually makes you look weaker, unintelligent, and dishonest.

I propose three reasons why folks like to attack the straw man instead of the real man.

1. Lazy

Let's be honest on this one. Which is easier: to actually study your opponent's argument or to listen to your side's version of your opponent's argument? To go with the former! It takes far less time to listen to William Lane Craig's summarize materialism than it does to read books on materialism. However, which is actually better for you in the long run? Well, if you're going to dialog with a materialist, I suggest you actually read works on materialism so you don't attack a straw man in your conversation with the materialist. Laziness hurts your conversations with your opponent.

If I'm going to converse with a liberal about government, I'm not going to read conservative material alone, I'm going to read as much as possible on both sides before I engage in that conversation with the liberal. I'm not an expert in that manner, but I do have enough knowledge from studying both sides (surface material) to know that I agree with the conservative platform. Studying the other position for yourself will help you tremendously. Don't be lazy. Read your opponent's work. Doing so will not only help you avoid attacking straw men, but you'll also learn why you disagree with your opponent. That is very important. Why do you believe what you say you believe?

2. Easy

Attacking a straw man is easier than attacking the real man. When you attack a straw man you create the illusion that you've refuted the proposition without ever actually refuting the proposition. Refuting the true proposition takes work. We don't want to do that, so we refute a condensed version of the true proposition so the audience listening thinks you know what you're talking about. I'll give an example.

Bill: "I don't understand why 'so-called' Christians believe in three gods; that's heresy!"

Jane: "Are you talking about folks that believe God is a trinity?"

Bill: "Yeah, trinitarians believe in three gods: the father, the son, and the holy spirit."

As we know, the trinity is not a model for three gods, rather it's a model for the tri-unity of one God. The trinity is a monotheistic model, however, popular opinion is that the trinity is a model for three gods. Attacking the trinity by saying it's a belief in three gods is attacking a straw man because you're not attacking the trinity at all.

Did you also notice that Bill appears to know what he is talking about. He used the word trinitarian and father, son, holy spirit; most people know these terms and would have thought that Bill knew what he was talking about when he actually did not know what he was talking about. People like Bill, use rhetoric and attack straw men in an attempt to dismantle their opponents view easily, but one only has to light a match on the straw man to destroy it. Taking the easy way out, at least in debate, will not gain much ground for you. The only time attacking a straw man works is when you're not in a public debate and you're speaking to a crowd.

3. Uninformed

This reason is not aimed at the philosopher or politician, rather it's aimed at the man on the street that uses arguments he has heard on TV or read in a magazine or book. This man simply repeats what he has read or heard and doesn't know the other side's view. This reason might sound like reason 1, but it is different in that this man is trusting. Reason 1 was aimed at a person that knows better, that would rather attack a straw man because he is lazy than to read his opponents arguments for himself. Reason 3 refers to the folks that have a devoted trust to a news network or man and that has a very trusting personality; I guess you could say the weak. I hate to use that word, but it's best fitting for this reason.

Some people are very trusting, i.e., gullible and susceptible to half-truths. If the half-truths come from a respectable, seemingly intelligent person then most usually the gullible will follow him/her and believe the words coming from the "intelligent" and "honest" person. So, the gullible person doesn't see any reason to check the facts on both sides and inadvertently attacks a straw man during conversations with other folks on the street. I would say this reason affects the most people.

Those are my reasons for why people commit the straw man fallacy and I would be interested to hear more reasons (if any). I can't think of another reason at the moment for why a person commits the straw man fallacy other than what I mentioned above. The uninformed can sometimes be a combination of the three reasons. I don't think every uninformed person is a gullible person blindly following the rhetoric of say, TBN or MSNBC, sometimes a person is uniformed because of reason #1, laziness.

I hope this has been beneficial and if you can think of another reason why a person commits the straw man fallacy comment below.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Have you been labeled at work? Here's the remedy!

[h/t TechRepublic]

Labels, they're everywhere and aren't leaving anytime soon; like that obsessive friend of yours that needs more work than the Federal Government's budget, labels will stick with you even when you don't want it. So, the question is, how do you get rid of your label? Maybe you've been falsely labeled, it's possible. If you've been labeled as a good worker, great, but if you've been labeled as a bad worker, that's not so great (fail).

Here is a list from Toni Bowers on how to deal with the label that you've been given.

"If the label is bad, it’s very hard to get rid of. At work, it can cost you business opportunities and job promotions. Here are some ways suggested by eHow on how to deal once you suspect you have inadvertently earned a label at work:

  1. Assess the substance of the bad reputation. Is there any truth to it? Or are you the victim of jealousy or whiners?
  2. Seek a second or third opinion from trusted colleagues to determine if there is any validity to your bad reputation.
  3. Reconsider your managerial style if you are in a position of leadership. Could you make subtle changes? Are you a good communicator and listener? Do you give clear instructions? Are raises overdue?
  4. If you determine that you need to improve a personal attribute, make a commitment to yourself to change your ways. Perform one act every single day that counteracts your bad reputation."
This post is from the Career Management blog at TechRepublic.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What is reformed theology?

What is Reformed theology? Are there some questions about it that are unanswered for you? Are the things you know about Reformed theology only things you've heard from its opponents? Let R.C. Sproul teach you about Reformed theology in this free 12 part teaching series available in video and audio at Ligonier.org.

Teaching Series Overview:

1. Introduction
2. Catholic, Evangelical, and Reformed
3. Scripture Alone
4. Faith Alone (part 1)
5. Faith Alone (part 2)
6. Covenant
7. Total Depravity (part 1)
8. Total Depravity (part 2)
9. Unconditional Election
10. Limited Atonement
11. Irresistible Grace
12. Perseverance of the Saints

You can watch (or listen) to the entire series online for free, but you can't download the video or audio for free. You have to pay to download it, but it's free when viewed online.

What is Reformed Theology? teaching series.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Unions, Tucson shooting, and mental health

DISCLAIMER: The following viewpoints are not those of the blogger, but a friend of his. If this point of view upsets you, you may vent, but don’t yell at the person who posted them. Start a discussion, express and opinion, but don’t yell at the person who didn’t write it, that is just senseless… These writings are the intellectual property of me, the Author, with permission granted to the blogger who is positing them. They may not be reposted or used in any form without express written consent by either myself or the blogger of Reformed Seth.

Well, for those who enjoy my writings or ramblings, I am back. I do apologize for the length of time I was away from the blog, holidays are hard for me, and it took a little longer to get it together again.

I was going to write about the Shooting in Tucson, and the aftermath, and to what I saw as the real problem that caused it, which to me are public unions. You know, those people who work for the state or the county, or city, who say they are there to help and to do the things that need to be done, to make YOUR life better, and easier, but it seems, they actually hate doing their job, and doing what is expected of them, to actually make YOUR life easier.

Public unions have been taking money for as long as they have been in existence. And they aren’t always good. In fact, having been in two different unions, I pretty much despise them, and find they serve no real purpose. At one point and time, they were required, business owners were too busy taking all the profit, and making the workers have deplorable working conditions. That is a sad fact of our history, and unions brought things to a better understanding to those in the work force, as to what should be right for the worker.

Now of course we have the NFLPA, National Football League Players Association, who are demanding half of the profits up front. Not taking into consideration that out of the profits that the owners have to pay salaries for players, coaches, front office, stadium up keep, etc. No, they just want the cash, and they make plenty of it to start with. How would T.O. Chad Johnson, or Peyton Manning do working at McDonalds, 8 dollars an hour?

Well, as I was looking up the cost of public unions, and how they suck so much money out of a state budget, because you have to promise people that you will take care of their retirement needs, after giving them a decent paycheck to start with. So, with a longer life expectancy, those benefits go for a long time…

And they take away from other areas that are needed, like Mental Health Care. Like the care that the shooter in Tucson should have had, should have been forced into getting.

So, as I was looking into all of this, ready to just slaughter unions for their existence, I asked a friend of mine who teaches psychology, and was a clinician for over 20 years, and asked if my premise had legs. He said NO! That isn’t the real problem; the real problem exists because we, the general public, don’t know what can be done to get people the help. We don’t know what to do when we see someone going around the bend, to get them help.

I was asked if I knew how to get someone help here in the place that I live, and I said no. I know how to in California, call a peace officer, tell them someone is going off the deep end, and they can call a 5150. That is an automatic 72 observation in a mental facility. And that fact has been known even BEFORE Van Halen put out an album with that as the name, 5150.

So, that kind of killed the rant in mid rant. As much as the liberals want to say it is wrong for people to have firearms, which is a right, 2nd Amendment, and they continue with the attitude and name calling that incites people to wonder who they think they are, we as a nation need to look to those who fall in between the cracks in our society. Those who seem to be talking to themselves, which IS preferable to talking to a liberal, but those who talk to walls, which has a higher I.Q. then MOST liberals, but you the reader know who I am referring to, you see them on the street, at a Burger King, sitting alone, thinking that no one cares. We as a nation need to show that we do care. We need to show love, as Jesus shows us love, concern for one another. We ARE our brothers’ keepers, and can’t keep dumping it on other people.

Take time to meet someone who looks a little off, show some kindness to someone who kind of scares you, take that chance, that step to show that there are people out there who are willing to stand up and help those who fall flat, and think there is no way out.

If someone had done that in Tucson, they could have seen that there was someone in trouble, and found a way to get them help. And there wouldn’t have been a 9/11 child who didn’t get to see her 10th birthday.

I challenge the readers of Reformed Seth to find out in your towns, states, countries, what needs to be done to get someone the help that they need. Take that step, be that person, be to others how you would like them to be to you.

These are my thoughts, and how Mark C’s it.

2011 cloud predictions and how the cloud affects IT pros

Cloud, cloud, cloud - the lingering doom hanging over us, the IT department, but is it such a bad thing? How is the cloud going to affect us? An article by Colin Smith at TechRepublic titled How will cloud computing change the IT pro's job in 2011 and beyond? has some answers for us.

"There is no question that cloud services are gaining momentum in many sectors. One of the interesting aspects of the uptake in cloud services is the number of small organizations that are moving to cloud services. Traditionally, IT innovations have seen early adopters in large organizations where economies of scale can help justify the initial cost of a new technology. Small organizations have typically been late adopters as they wait for the players to consolidate and technologies to become mainstream. Not so with cloud services. The fastest growing segment is small business.

It makes sense since cloud services give SMBs some of the economies of scale previously unattainable. Consider how much it would cost in hardware, software, backups, and human resources for a 15-user organization to implement Exchange, SharePoint, and Office Communicator, and Live Meeting in house. I don’t think it would be a stretch to suggest that it would cost at least $10K if not more over a three year period. My lowball costs are $5k in hardware, $2k in software, $1k in backups, and $2k in services. That works out to about $275 per month.

For the same 15 users, you could use Microsoft BPOS at a cost of $10 per user per month. That’s $150 per month. Of course there are less expensive options available from other vendors, but this is a direct comparison based on a brand new installation with no sunk costs.

The dramatic cost savings is the main appeal of small organizations that want to focus on their core competencies and minimize IT budgets."

Aha, cost savings. Yes, the cloud will decrease IT related expenditures greatly. OK, how does this affect the typical IT pro? Colin says it depends on the type of organization the pro works for.

"All organizations

The cloud provides flexibility and scalability not only to organizations but also to IT pros. With the ability to connect to cloud based services from more locations and devices, IT pros will find that they can do more remote work and the “office” will be wherever (and whenever) they can get a connection.

As cloud-based services homogenize the application landscape with fewer large players providing the majority of services, this will increase the mobility of IT pros, and the ramp up time associated with a move between employers will be shortened.

While this flexibility has some advantages like reduced commuting and real estate costs, it can also mean longer work hours that are not necessarily tracked or compensated.

Organizations that help employees achieve a healthy balance between work and other activities will see lower turnover. While also true in a non-cloud environment, the increase in employee mobility should be a concern for HR departments."

What I took from this section was "...longer work hours that are not necessarily tracked or compensated." I don't mind working over my regular 40 hours a week; I've done that many times, but within the cloud the extra hours worked will be hard to track because your availability will be anytime and anyplace. You'll be available anywhere there is a connection. The cloud has benefits, but so far the disadvantages are outweighing the advantages. Let's read on.

"Small organizations

Small organizations might find that they no longer need as many (or any) full time IT pros. IT might become a part-time role for somebody with another function and a proclivity for technology."

Less IT jobs it seems. In my experience, the employee with a proclivity for technology usually makes the technical problem worse; chalk up another negative for the cloud.

Small managed service providers

"The most immediate implication is for small outsourcing and managed service providers. The value-add that they provide is eroded significantly when compared with cloud services. As larger organizations providing cloud-based solutions attract more small business customers, small IT shops will lose customers, margin, and traditional service opportunities.

This is also an opportunity for those service providers that are agile enough to transform themselves into cloud partners. What I mean by this is that there are opportunities to help small businesses take advantage of cloud services and save money either through migration services or cloud service reselling. The sales pitch is easy but the margins are low. In order to have a viable business model, volume is key. This means that small managed service providers will need to grow their customer base significantly to maintain sustainability.

So what does this mean for the IT pro at a small outsourcing shop? I would expect that there will be far less hands-on technical work and much more menial administration across many more customers. There will also be an increase in network architecture and management requirements as connectivity to the cloud will increase in importance compared to local connectivity."

Say goodbye to your local computer support/sales shop. This is another negative of the cloud. Why? Because people, usually, like choose the local computer support shop for the better price of support and for the face-to-face interaction. This isn't a strong argument against the cloud, but it is one that hits home to many individuals and businesses. Also, so far, all I've noticed as benefits of the cloud are business benefits; where are the technical benefits of the cloud?

"Large organizations will see a splintering of their IT workforce. There will be a split between those who end up building and operating the internal private cloud and those who manage their organization’s use of cloud services (both private and public).

The private cloud team will build depth in the requisite technologies (e.g. virtualization, fabric computing, grid computing, etc.) for providing internal cloud services.

The team that manages the use of cloud services will have the more orthogonal shift in job description. They will have much less focus on operations. Their technical depth will decrease while more emphasis will be placed on technical breadth."

What about security? How secure will the cloud be? I don't think security is the goal here, but I do think money is. Cheaper cost is the mirage in desert of "expensive" technology. At least networks are secure right now! In my opinion, if you plunge your network into the cloud then the story down the road will be of someone's cloud being tapped for credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc. and find out that it has been happening for years. "The cloud" will not be so sexy anymore.

I know there are benefits to the cloud, but I can't help seeing that the only benefits are sales benefits which don't really matter when the situation is the security of customer and business data. How secure will that data be in the cloud? I'm thinking not very secure. I'll need to be convinced of this before I jump on the "Hey the cloud is so freaking cool" boat.

Read the full article by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Williamson's recap of his debates with Bill Craig and Michael Horner

Recently, George Williamson debated William Lane Craig and Michael Horner in Regina and Saskatoon on the topic: Does God Exist? I haven't watched or listened to these debates yet, though I have listened to Craig's first debate with Williamson (it was OK). Given my impression of their first debate, I'm not all that interested in listening, but I'm sure I will soon. Williamson has wrote a review of both of his debates with Craig and Horner that can be read by clicking here.

His review is an interesting read mostly because he actually admits that his first two arguments are weak! Of course he didn't admit that in his debates. Williamson says that his giving the first two arguments (though admittedly weak) could lead to a more extensive case that everything we know in the universe points to the absence of a god.

This is a good read. You can check it out by clicking on the following link below.

George Williamson's reflections on recent debates

George Williamson vs William Lane Craig debate audio and video

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are Gun Laws Effective?

Ann Coulter's article What Liberals Don't Know About Guns, Chapter 17 explores (succinctly) the effectiveness of infringing on our second amendment rights. Correctly, she notes that strict gun laws are not effective in controlling crime or shootings, however there has been one policy that deters mass murder: concealed-carry laws.

She writes:

"There's only one policy of any kind that has ever been shown to deter mass murder: concealed-carry laws. In a comprehensive study of all public, multiple-shooting incidents in America between 1977 and 1999, the highly regarded economists John Lott and Bill Landes found that concealed-carry laws were the only laws that had any beneficial effect.

And the effect was not small. States that allowed citizens to carry concealed handguns reduced multiple-shooting attacks by 60 percent and reduced the death and injury from these attacks by nearly 80 percent.

When there are no armed citizens to stop mass murderers, the killers are able to shoot unabated, even pausing to reload their weapons, until they get bored and stop. Some stop only when their trigger fingers develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

Consider just the school shootings -- popular sites for mass murder because so many schools are "gun-free zones." Or, as mass murderers call them, "free-fire zones."

At Columbine High School, two students killed 12 people before ending the carnage themselves by committing suicide. They didn't need high-capacity magazines because they were able to stop and reload.

At the Amish school shooting in 2006 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the deranged killer murdered five little girls and then committed suicide.

In 1998, two students in Craighead County, Arkansas, killed five people, including four little girls, before the killers decided to stop and attempt an escape.

And in 2007, a deranged student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech -- 30 of them in a very short period of time in one building. He didn't need high-capacity magazines because he had two guns and reloaded.

There was no one to stop him.

School shootings that have been halted were almost always stopped by the happenstance of an armed citizen on school property.

In 2002, an immigrant in Virginia started shooting his classmates at the Appalachian Law School in Grundy. Two of his classmates retrieved guns from their cars, forcing the killer to drop his weapon and allowing a third classmate to tackle him.

Three dead.

In Santee, Calif., in 2001, when a student began shooting his classmates, the school activated its "safe school plan" -- as the principal later told CNN -- by sending a "trained campus supervisor" to stop the killer.

Possibly not realizing that he was in a gun-free zone, the killer responded by shooting the trained campus supervisor three times. Fortunately, an armed off-duty San Diego policeman happened to be bringing his daughter to school that day. With a gun, he stopped the killer and held him at bay until more police could arrive.

Two dead.

In 1997, a student at Pearl High School in Pearl, Miss., had already shot several people at his high school and was headed for the junior high school when assistant principal Joel Myrick retrieved a .45 pistol from his car and pointed it at the gunman's head, ending the slaughter.

Two dead.

In 1998, a student attending a junior high school dance at a restaurant in Edinboro, Pa., started shooting, whereupon the restaurant owner pulled out his shotgun, chased the gunman from the restaurant and captured him for the police.

One dead.

See the pattern?

In response to Columbine, schools adopted "anti-bullying" policies; in response to Virginia Tech, eBay ceased selling magazines online; in response to the Tucson shooting, liberals want to ban the particular magazine Loughner used.

And then the next killer will come along with a different arsenal and a different motive, and the only way to stop him will be with an armed citizen with a gun."

Read the full article by clicking here.

This article was taken from Human Events.

Objections to the moral argument. Reasonable Faith question

Reasonable Faith's Question of the Week, #199, is Objections to the Moral Argument.


Hello Dr. Craig,

I attended your debate with Dr. Williamson at the University of Saskatchewan last night, and I was surprised to hear you use the example of child rape being universally viewed as wrong as evidence of objective morality coming from God. This is not to say that I disagree with you that child rape should be universally condemned - of course I do - but if you are to say that objective morality comes from God, and if, as a Christian, you believe that the Bible is the revealed word of God, as you seem to regarding the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, then how do you find child rape so abhorrent when there is nothing in the Bible condemning it? Indeed, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT says that if a woman (regardless of age) is raped, the rapist must pay her father 50 silvers and marry the woman, which hardly seems a punishment to the rapist. This, of course, excludes engaged women, for whom the punishment for being raped is death if they don't cry for help (Deuteronomy 22:23-24 NAB). The only instance in which it is only the rapist who is punished is if the victim is engaged (possible but not likely if they are a child), and they cry for help (again, a child would very likely be intimidated into not calling for help, and therefore, by Biblical law, be killed). This is of course to say nothing regarding the sexual abuse of male children, for whom it seems that Leviticus 20:13 would dictate that a molested boy be put to death for the crime of being a rape victim. Therefore, your objection to child rape can not come from the Bible. Therefore, how can you argue that this sense of pedophilia's objective immorality, as well as the sense of the immorality of other acts that the Bible does not discuss, comes from God? If it is due to the personal experience of God achieved by opening your heart, as you argued in the debate, what of those of us who have not been fortunate enough to receive this personal relationship with God, but are still morally repulsed by pedophilia?

Thank you,


Dr. Craig responds:

I’m glad you came to the debate, Spencer (though the tone of your question leads me to think you were cheering for the other side!). It was a substantive and entertaining exchange, wasn’t it?

I’m afraid that you’ve seriously misunderstood me, Spencer. Here’s the moral argument for God that I defended:

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

The argument is logically valid; so if you want to deny the conclusion, you must reject one of the two premisses. So which one do you deny? Although you present your reservations as worries about (2), it’s evident that you agree that (2) is true, for you say not only that you are “morally repulsed” by child rape, but that you think “child rape should be universally condemned.” I agree. So if you deny that God exists, you must reject (1). But do you reject (1)? There’s nothing in your letter that suggests that you do.

So how am I to understand your worries? Perhaps as follows: you’re wondering what warrant there is for affirming (2). You seem to think that the justification I offer for (2) is biblical revelation, which you think is inadequate as a justification for (2). If this is not your concern, then I simply don’t understand your worry.

But it should be obvious that this worry is wholly unfounded. I never appealed to biblical revelation as a justification for affirming (2). On the contrary, Spencer, I affirm (2) for probably the same reasons you do! As I put it in my opening speech, “In moral experience we apprehend a realm of moral values and duties that impose themselves upon us. There’s no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world.” I like the way Louise Anthony put it in our debate of the foundations of morality: “Any argument for moral scepticism will based upon premises which are less obvious than the existence of objective moral values themselves.” Hence, moral scepticism can never be justified.

Spencer, you show that you have completely missed the thrust of my argument when you go on to ask, “how can you argue that this sense of pedophilia's objective immorality, as well as the sense of the immorality of other acts that the Bible does not discuss, comes from God?” It was no part of my argument that God is necessary to explain our moral sense of right and wrong, good and evil. Over and over again in the debate I carefully distinguished between moral ontology (questions about the reality of moral values) and moral epistemology (questions about how we come to know moral values), and I said that my argument is solely about the objective reality of moral values, not how we come to know them. I’ll appeal to all the same mechanisms that you appeal to in order to explain how you know that (2) is true. In point of fact, Spencer, I don’t think that we need to appeal to God at all to know that objective moral values and duties exist, so you’re just barking up the wrong tree insofar as I’m concerned.

As for the personal experience of God, you’re conflating the moral argument with my sixth point in the debate that we can know that God exists wholly apart from arguments through personally experiencing him. I do not believe, nor did I suggest, that a personal experience of God is the way one comes to know that (2) is true. Nor, for that matter, did I suggest, as you intimate, that the justification for (2) is universal consent.

So since I don’t appeal to the Bible as justification for (2), why is all this stuff about Old Testament ethics crowding into the discussion? You say that my argument regarding (the resurrection of) Jesus shows my belief in the Bible as the revealed Word of God. Again, Spencer, you’ve failed to understand that my argument regarding the historical credibility of Jesus of Nazareth treats the New Testament documents as we would any ordinary historical documents, not as revealed, much less inerrant. You’re wholly off track here. My argument neither presupposed nor sought to prove that the records of Jesus’ life were anything more than ordinary, fallible records of antiquity, which are reliable, at least, with respect to the three facts I mentioned.

At most, then, your argument from the inadequacies of Old Testament ethics would call into question the infallibility of the Old Testament, which is just irrelevant to the cogency of the case I presented for Christian theism.

But do your examples even do that? The immorality of rape is immediately given in the seventh of the Ten Commandments “You shall not commit adultery.” Any sexual intercourse outside the bounds of marriage is proscribed by the Bible. So rape is always regarded as immoral in the Bible. That puts a quite different perspective on things. What your complaint really is is that the penalties for rape in the passages you cite seem unduly lenient. You think that the criminal laws against rape needed to be even stronger than they were in ancient Israel. Well, maybe you’re right. What does that prove? There’s no claim that Israel’s laws were perfect or adequately expressed God’s moral will. Jesus himself regarded the Mosaic law on divorce as inadequate and failing to capture God’s ideal will for marriage (Matthew 5.31-2). Maybe the same was true for rape laws. Israel’s criminal statutes were not timeless truths for all societies but were intended for Israel at a certain specific time in its history. Moreover, these statutes are examples of case law: if such-and-such happens, then do so-and-so. These were idealizations which served as guides and might admit all sorts of exceptions and mitigating circumstances (like a child’s being afraid to cry for help).

In any case, Spencer, how much effort have you really made to understand these laws in the cultural context of the ancient Near East? None at all, I suspect; you probably got these passages from some free-thought publication or website and repeat them here with little attempt to understand them. By contrast, Paul Copan in his Is God a Moral Monster? (Baker: 2010) deals with these passages in their historical context, thereby shedding light on their meaning (pp. 118-119). Copan observes that there are three cases considered here:

1. Consensual sex between a man and a woman who is engaged to another man, which was a violation of marriage (Deuteronomy 22.23). Both parties were to be executed.

2. Rape of a woman who is engaged to another man (Deuteronomy 22.25). Only the rapist is executed; the woman is an innocent victim.

3. Seduction of a young woman who is not engaged to another man (Deuteronomy 22.28; cf. Exodus 22.16-17). The seducer is obliged to marry the young woman and provide for her, if she will have him; otherwise her father may refuse him and demand payment of the usual bridal gift (rather like a dowry) anyway.

In short, rape was a capital crime in ancient Israel. As for Leviticus 20.13, this verse prescribes the death penalty for consensual sexual intercourse between two men; that you interpret this passage to condemn a child who is assaulted by a pedophile only shows how tendentious your exegesis is.

If anything, then, the Bible is far stricter in its laws concerning sexual behavior than we are today. So even though appeal to the Bible is no part of my argument for (2), what the Bible teaches about the immorality of rape is right in line with my claim that objective moral values and duties exist.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Providence of God series by R.C. Sproul

Ligonier Ministries offers free teaching series on their website. Some series can't be downloaded, but can be listened to online for free, like this series titled The Providence of God. There is a study guide to go along with the series that can be downloaded for free and then you can print it out (48 pages) or just follow along on your computer.


The Providence of God series by R.C. Sproul

The Providence of God study guide