Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pacifism and total war

Gen. Curtis LeMay made some hair-raising statements about war. Among other things, he's credited with saying:

If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting. 
Killing Japanese didn't bother me very much at that time... I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.... Every soldier thinks something of the moral aspects of what he is doing. But all war is immoral and if you let that bother you, you're not a good soldier. 
As far as casualties were concerned I think there were more casualties in the first attack on Tokyo with incendiaries than there were with the first use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The fact that it's done instantaneously, maybe that's more humane than incendiary attacks, if you can call any war act humane. I don't, particularly, so to me there wasn't much difference. A weapon is a weapon and it really doesn't make much difference how you kill a man. If you have to kill him, well, that's the evil to start with and how you do it becomes pretty secondary. I think your choice should be which weapon is the most efficient and most likely to get the whole mess over with as early as possible. 
If you are going to use military force, then you ought to use overwhelming military force. Use too much and deliberately use too much... You'll save lives, not only your own, but the enemy's too. 
I had blood upon my hands as I did this, but not because I preferred to bathe in blood. It was because I was part of a primitive world where men still had to kill in order to avoid being killed, or in order to avoid having their beloved Nation stricken and emasculated.

I haven't bothered to verify these quotes from primary sources because the objective of this post is not to assess Gen. LaMay's character. I cite them because they express a certain outlook which I'd like to assess.

What's ironic about these quotes is that LeMay shares the same premise as the pacifist. Both agree that war is immoral. But LaMay takes that in the opposite direction. For LaMay, war is both immoral and inevitable: an unavoidable evil. Given that dilemma, the best way to wage war is to get it over with as soon as possible. Use overwhelming force. Don't hold back. By taking more lives in the short-term, you save more lives in the long-term. 

His position is not amoral. He believes that since there are no moral options in this situation, the best course of action is to win by any means necessary so that it doesn't take any longer than necessary. The sooner it's over with, the better for all parties concerned. 

From what I can tell, Gen. Sherman had the same philosophy, although I think he liked killing more than he let on. 

The extremes of pacifism and total war meet in Curtis LaMay. Pacifism generates an ethical dilemma. If you tell a man like him that warfare is intrinsically evil, then the effect is not to restrain him, but to remove any moral restraint whatsoever. He infers that since there is no right thing to do in this situation, ruthless efficiency is the tiebreaker. It's a short step from pacifism to pragmatism. 

The argument from Biblical miracles

This is a brief sequel to my previous post:

The question at issue is whether it's viciously circular to cite Biblical miracles to evidence Christianity. Insofar as Biblical miracles presume the veracity of the source, aren't we begging the question? 

There are different ways of responding to that objection. But let's consider this example:

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works (2 Cor 12:12).
Should we believe Paul wrought miracles because he says so? Put that baldly, the appeal would be circular. But that's not the actual form of Paul's claim. 
Paul is reminding the Corinthians of the miracles he performed in their presence. So that's not reducible to circular attestation. 
Would Paul make a claim like that unless it was true? It's a highly exposed claim. For if it's false, the Corinthians would simply retort: "Au contraire!"
Notice that the credibility of Paul's claim doesn't even presume that he's honest. It only credits him with the mother-wit not to make imprudent claims that will be shot down, and instantly expose him as a fraud. 
Put another way, the credibility of the claim depends less on addresser than the addressee. A claim like that puts Paul at the mercy of the Corinthians. For if the claim is false, they'd say: "No, Paul–you did no such thing!" 
Now, even though the modern reader wasn't there to see for himself whether or not Paul performed miracles, that doesn't alter the logic of the claim. So long as this is an authentic letter, Paul's claim is compelling. If Paul wouldn't make a claim like that unless it was true–given the audience–then the fact that a modern reader is not in the position of the Corinthians is irrelevant. 

Is the argument from miracles circular?

Attempting to use the evidence of miracles in this way presents two serious problems. One problem is the need to avoid circularity in argument. By the "Christian Revelation" Clarke presumably means the Bible or at least central parts of the Bible. But the evidence for the authenticity of the Christian Revelation cannot be drawn from the pages of that revelation itself without circularity. For one would be appealing to the authenticity of the revelation, the accurate account it proves of miracles, to authenticate it as a revelation, actually and immediately sent to us from God.  
But perhaps a distinction could be made between the revelation as immediately sent from God, and the revelation as historically trustworthy. If the Bible could be established as historically trustworthy, and if its historical trustworthiness could be initially granted then, it might be argued, its account of miracles can be taken as giving additional authentication of itself as a divine revelation. Paul Helm, "The Miraculous," Science & Christian Belief, 3/1 (1991), 82.

There are various problems with the charge of circularity:

1. As a rule, narrated miracles aren't cited to attest the narrator. If the narrator cited his own miracles to validate his claims, that would be circular. Mind you, even in that case, there's a distinction between vicious and virtuous circularity. 

Typically, narrated miracles attest a character within the narrative, not the narrator himself. At that level there's not even prima facie circularity. 

2. It isn't viciously circular to judge a witness by his own testimony. Take a witness whose testimony is so dubious that we conclude that he can't be trusted. Before he opened his mouth, we had no opinion regarding his character. If self-testimony can undermine a witness's credibility, it can enhance his credibility. 

3. Moreover, the evidence for miracles isn't confined to testimonial evidence. There are men, women, and children who claim to have personal experience with the miraculous. Even if their claim is secondhand for us, it is firsthand for them–assuming it really happened to them. They don't believe it because they heard someone else say it. 

4. Apropos (3), this isn't something all of us just encounter in literature. Some of us have friends or family members who recount miraculous incidents in their lives. 

5. By the same token, if there's credible evidence for miracles throughout church history, then there's nothing presumptively fictitious or suspect about Gospel miracles, NT miracles, or OT miracles. 

6. The canonical Gospels are quite restrained in the miracles they relate. Mark's Gospel, which is usually thought to be the first one written, has the highest proportion of miracles. By contrast, Matthew and Luke deemphasize miracles in relation to Mark by the amount of additional teaching material they include. And John has fewer miracles than the Synoptic Gospels. Moreover, it's not as if John's miracles are more spectacular. So there's no pattern of legendary embellishment. 

7. In addition, some Biblical miracles have inherent credibility. For instance, some Biblical miracles pass the criterion of embarrassment:  

i) Take the scene of Jesus walking on water, which turns into a scene of Peter walking on water (Mt 14:28-31). Only Peter humiliates himself. Why would Matthew invent that story?

ii) Likewise, a story recounting the failure of the disciples to exorcise a hard case (Mt 17:14-20; Mk 9:14-29; Lk 9:37-43). Why would the Synoptic narrators invent a story or preserve a fabulous tradition which makes the disciples look impotent? Why would Christian writers fabricate stories which portray leaders of the Christian movement in such an unflattering light? 

iii) Or take the unintentionally comical scene of Christians praying for Peter's deliverance. When, however, their prayers are answered, they are incredulous (Acts 12:12-16).

iv) Even more dramatic is the episode where Jesus is rejected by those who know him best. As a result, he "cannot" (or "will not") perform many miracles there, due to their unbelief (Mt 13:58; Mk 6:5). Why would the narrators fabricate a story which, at least superficially, makes Jesus seem limited in his power to work miracles? 

v) In addition, you have reported miracles which bring Jesus into physical contact with ritually impure patients–like lepers (Mt 8:1-4; Mk 1:40-45; Lk 5:12-16), or the women who suffered from menorrhagia (Mt 9:20-22; Mk 5:25-34; Lk 8:43-48). That would grate against Jewish sensibilities. Why invent stories in which Jesus is defiled by contact with those he heals?  

vi) On a related note is the use of spittle in some healings (Mk 7:33; 8:23; Jn 9:6). Why does Jesus use spittle in a few healings, but heal directly in most other cases? Why concoct that anomalous detail? 

Although there's evidence that spittle was sometimes used in Hellenistic folk medicine, that's the sort of invidious comparison we'd expect Jewish writers to studiously avoid–unless it really happened. They tell it that way because they are constrained by the facts on the ground.

Moreover, spittle has ambivalent connotations in Jewish usage, a la ritual defilement (Lev 15:8). Although Jesus wasn't in that condition, why write something that invites unwanted associations?–unless the narrator had no choice because that's how it happened.  

vii) You also have stories that just don't seem to be the kind of thing a narrator would make up, like healing the Canaanite's daughter (Mt 15:21-28; Mk 7:24-30). A desperate mother who seeks him out. Realistic dialogue. 

Likewise, transferring evil spirits from a demoniac to pigs, who proceed to drown themselves after they were maddened by possession (Mt 8:28-34; Mk 5:1-20; Lk 8:26-39). Why would anyone start from scratch with a fictional story like that? It's one of those angular encounters that happens in real life. Not something you make up if you're inventing inspirational literature. Real life is quirky. Unexpected. Incongruous. 

To be sure, I'm only discussing some Gospel miracles. But they lend independent credibility to the Gospels in which they occur, and to other miracles by association. 

viii) Then there are Biblical miracles which unbelievers love to mock, like the fate of Lot's wife (Gen 19:26), or Balaam's donkey (Num 22:28-30). But if these are so ridiculous, why would the narrator concoct anything that ridiculous? 

ix) Or take the exploits of Samson. A critic might dismiss this as something out of a comic book about superheroes. Yet it occurs in a book that's notorious for its grim, horrific realism. And Samson himself is a tragic figure. An abject moral failure. In an honor/shame culture, we wouldn't expect the narrator to invent a national hero who's an embarrassment to his own people. 

Reviews Of Christmas Books

I've written reviews of several books on Christmas issues. I'll begin with links to my Triablogue reviews, then link my reviews at Amazon, then the ones at Goodreads. Generally, the Triablogue reviews are the lengthiest, and the Goodreads ones are the shortest, with the Amazon reviews falling somewhere between those two.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Marian devotion in theory and practice

There's two kinds of Marian piety. There's the official, theoretical version. That's bad enough. But then there's what is actually practiced. What the faithful live by, day-to-day. Something that Rome alternately fosters or winks at:
Consider the practices of some Catholic Latina women in the United States, who fend off the evil eye (especially of infants) with eggs, bury statues of saints like Mary and Joseph in their front yard when the saints refuse to grant requests, and dig them up again once the request is granted. As Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado details, this sounds rather irreverent, but the practice just illustrates how intimate the relationship is between the Latino community and the saints they revere. Home altars with pictures of Mary and the Saints are the territory of Latina Catholic women. Do these practices contribute to religious epistemology? If so, how?

The council of Trent wanted to eradicate these practices of saint reverence and fending off the evil eye, in which women prominently figured as practitioners and experts. However, it did not destroy these practices in Latina women. Neither did it destroy them entirely in European women, such as my grandmother. My grandmother was a devout Catholic woman who taught me the first things about religion such as the significance of the host, the meaning of infant baptism, how to pray. She had a wooden black statue of Mary (there is a tradition of revering Black Mary in Medieval Europe, and my grandmother's home town had a tradition that still kept this alive), to whom she talked and prayed. When Mary refused to grant her requests, she would be unceremoniously turned facing the wall until Mary changed her mind.

Young Earth Creationism Among the Magisterial Reformers

The problem of evil is trivial

The problem of evil is an abject failure. Don't take my word for it. Just ask militant atheist Richard Dawkins:
I have never found the problem of evil very persuasive as an argument against deities. There seems no obvious reason to presume that your God will be good. The question for me is why you think any God, good or evil or indifferent, exists at all. Most of the Greek pantheon sported very human vices, and the 'jealous God' of the Old Testament is surely one of the nastiest, most truly evil characters in all fiction. Tsunamis would be just up his street, and the more misery and mayhem the better. I have always thought the 'Problem of Evil' was a rather trivial problem for theists...

Are denominations a winnowing process?

for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized (1 Cor 11:19).
i) Ecumenists lament denominations. However, this verse raises the question of whether denominations are, in fact, necessary. 
ii) Some commentators think the verse must be ironic. Surely Paul can't say anything good about factions. Hasn't he been attacking factions within the church?
iii) Keep in mind that there's nothing in the wording of the verse itself to indicate that Paul is speaking ironically. Unless we think Paul can't be serious, there's no reason to reach for the ironic interpretation.
iv) To say that Paul thought factions are bad is simplistic. For instance, it depends on which side of the dividing line you're on, and how you got there. For one thing, you might have two (or more factions) because one group broke away from another. It's not that all parties concerned are divisive. If one group breaks ranks with another, that leaves two factions–but not because both were necessarily divisive. Rather, one group separates from another while the other group finds itself separated–as a result of the group which initiated the split. "We didn't leave you–you left us!"
You can also have factions because one group expels another group. That's different than one group splitting from another.  
Likewise, there are situations in which it may be necessary to break away. OT prophets often stood apart from the religious establishment. As did John the Baptist. As did Jesus. As did Paul himself. So it depends on whether one has just case. Even if factionalism is blameworthy, that doesn't entail that each party is blameworthy.
v) Division can be a winnowing process. Sifting the wheat from the chaff. The Bible often uses that type of metaphor. As one commentator observes:
Although this could possibly be irony…more likely it is a reflection of Paul's "already/not yet" eschatological perspective (see on 4:1-5). 
In keeping with the teaching of Jesus [Mt 10:34-37; 24:9-13], Paul expected "division" to accompany the End, divisions that would separate true believers from those who were false…Paul, therefore, probably sees their present divisions as part of the divine "testing/sifting" process already at work in their midst…God is working out the divine purposes; those who truly belong to God, the "tested/approved" (dokimoi=those who have passed the "examination"), are already being manifest in their midst, and presumably they will escape the final judgment that is coming upon the world (v32). G. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Eerdmans, rev. ed., 2014), 596-97. 

The clockwork universe

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Gen 8:22).
The scientific method treats the world as a closed system. A continuum of physical cause and effect. Nothing from the "outside" bypasses the chain of cause and effect. 
And that's the basis for induction. The present resembles the past, and vice versa. And that, in turn, forms the basis for sciences of origins (e.g. cosmology, geology, paleontology, paleoanthropology). 
And there's some truth to that. In the Biblical worldview, nature generally operates as if it's a closed system. Ceteris paribus, there's nothing wrong with presuming continuity. 
And yet, according to the Biblical worldview, nature is actually an open system. Open to agents (e.g. God, angels, demons, ghosts, sorcerers, miracle-workers) who can, and sometimes do, bypass the causal continuum. Open to the introduction of causes outside the ordinary chain of physical cause and effect. 
As Christians, we must make allowance for the possibility, and actuality, that induction breaks down at unpredictable points along the line. A miracle both interrupts and restarts the process. The natural order resumes after the miracle. But it resumes at a different point than if the miracle had not occurred. A miracle may not mere restart, but jumpstart or reset the process. Advance the outcome or change the outcome. Take miraculous healing. 
That's not some ad hoc consideration. It's fundamental to the Christian worldview. To Christian supernaturalism and dualism. 
And that's something which theistic or deistic evolutionists refuse to take into account. They don't take that seriously. They operate as though nature really is a closed system. Indeed, some of them think that's the case. They are really back to the clockwork universe.  
There are scientists with a very literal-minded view of reality. Victor Stenger is a case in point. They have a rule-bound mindset. They think nature always follows the rules. Indeed, they think nature ought to follow the rules. As though nature made them a promise. If a miracle happens, then nature broke its promise. A miracle is "cheating." They indulge in that childish personification of nature. 

Many “Transgender” People Regret Switch

... Sadly, the consequences of this ignorance can be irreparable. Just ask Paul Rowe, who now regrets his 1989 genital-mutilation surgery. Feeling stuck in limbo, he’d like to be his old self again but says it’s fruitless. “I can never become a complete man again,” he laments. “There's no turning back."

And no one knows this better than the original poster boy for ground-breaking “transgenderism,” tennis player Dr. Richard Raskind. Better known by the name he assumed after genital-mutilation surgery in 1975, “Renee Richards,” the physician is quoted as saying in “The Liaison Legacy,” Tennis Magazine, March 1999, “I get a lot of inquiries from would-be transsexuals, but I don’t want anyone to hold me out as an example to follow.… As far as being fulfilled as a woman, I’m not as fulfilled as I dreamed of being. I get a lot of letters from people who are considering having this operation … and I discourage them all.”

Obviously, surgery or not, sexually confused individuals have a cross to bear. But they very well might be happier if they consider the counsel of former psychiatrist-in-chief for Johns Hopkins Hospital Dr. Paul McHugh. “‘Sex change’ is biologically impossible,” he says. “People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women.” And that’s why he concluded long ago, “We psychiatrists … would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.”

Selective multiculturalism

Critics of Japan’s whaling practices are guilty of “eco-imperialism” for trying to impose their beliefs on countries that hunt and eat whales, Japan’s pointman on the issue said Wednesday. 
Critics of whaling needed to drop their “zero tolerance” stance and recognize that different countries have “different codes,” said Joji Morishita, Japan’s commissioner to the International Whaling Commission. 
Take people in India who don’t eat beef, Morishita told reporters in Tokyo.
“What if they start promoting their habit on the rest of the world, and are promoting an anti-McDonald’s, anti-beef steak movement throughout the world with economic sanctions,” he said. “People can see the stupidity of this if you talk about beef, but what’s the difference between a cow and whales?” 
Ordinary people in Japan viewed countries who criticized whaling as cultural imperialists, Morishita said.
“[They] say, ‘I don’t eat whale meat, however I don’t like the idea of beef-eating people or pork-eating people saying to Japanese people to stop eating whales,’ ” he said. “We do recognize that, from country to country, we have different codes and different conditions. But maybe we shouldn’t impose our code on others,” he said.

I guess Randi's not so amazing after all

The New and Improved Balance of Power in the Middle East

George Friedman of Stratfor has written an insightful article describing the new balance of power among the regional powers in the Middle East. With the rise of the “Islamic State”, in parts of territorial Syria and Iraq, the new reality of having the “Islamic State” in their backyards has caused a new dynamic among virtually all the nations in the region.

The Islamic State Reshapes the Middle East:

Christmas Resources 2014

For several years, I've been posting a collection of resources for each Christmas season:

Children of the Corn

Many ancient, primitive societies practiced human sacrifice. And I've read that pagan cults still practice human sacrifice in pockets of African and Latin America. 

Due to Christianity, human sacrifice has been outlawed in the Western world. Yet the impulse still exists. It simply expresses itself in a somewhat muted form. 

I notice that every so often, the Establishment has an urge to destroy someone. As if it needs to get that out of its system. Periodically, the Establishment picks on somebody or some group, which it hounds mercilessly. 

To take a few examples, a generation ago you had the recovered memories fad. It was a classic witch hunt, only this time it was a secular witch hunt. The lives of innocent men, women, and children were forever destroyed by charges of imaginary sexual or ritual Satanic abuse. It was eventually discredited. Burned itself out. But not before leaving devastation in its wake. 

Right now there's the "campus rape culture" frenzy. This is hysterically overblown. The accused are denied elementary due process. 

Eventually, lawsuits will bring this to an end. Some innocent students have rich parents who can afford to fight back. College administrators will reverse course. But not before ruining the reputation of many male students on trumped up charges.

The Establishment also likes to elevate certain people, then tear them down. At one time Britney Spears was a huge pop star. But when she faltered, the Establishment took delight in covering her downfall. Same thing with Michael Jackson. Same thing with Bill Cosby.

My point is not whether these were ever admirable people in the first place. But the Establishment has this quixotic quality. It loved them until it turned on them. Every so often, the Establishment sets out to destroy one of its own. "We made you and we can break you!"

It's like Shirley Jackson's The Lottery, or The Wicker Man, or Children of the Corn. As if the Establishment the needs a sacrificial victim to appease the gods. This goes in cycles. After satiating its vindictive impulse, it moves one. Things return to normal for a while. Deceptively calm. But that's followed by another collective psychopathic outbreak. No one is safe. You never know who will be next. 

Swimming with sharks

Unbelievers take offense when Christians say atheism is dangerous. They respond that you don't need God to be moral. Just look at all the virtuous atheists!

Christians reply that this misses the point. The issue is, in the first place, whether atheism has a basis for morality. Moreover, there's naturally a disconnect between how Christians view atheists and how atheists view themselves. For instance, we don't think abortion, after-birth abortion, and euthanasia are virtuous. 

There is, however, another point to be made. There are two forms of moral restraint: internal and external. Conscience or a personal honor-code exerts self-restraint. 

In addition, law and social approval or stigmatization restrain behavior. So the real test of atheism is twofold: what happens to atheists when there's nothing on the outside to shore up what's missing on the inside? 

Take the assassination of Trotsky. Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky were atheists. But unlike your next-door atheists, they were the law. There was no law to tell them what they could or could not do. They made the rules. A law unto themselves.

There was nothing between the atheists and each other. No moral buffers, internal or external. In that morally denuded setting, their philosophy reduces to "Do unto others before they do unto you."

It becomes a game of chicken. Should you try to kill your fellow atheist before he tries to kill you? There's a risk either way. If you try and fail, you're a marked man. But if you wait for him to make the first move, it may be too late. Even if they didn't plan to kill you, why take the chance? 

Any vulnerability is an invitation to be murdered by your comrades. Once Trotsky began to slip, he was doomed. Out of power, it was safe to kill him. Indeed, it was prudent to kill him. Kill or be killed.  

Lenin was weakened by stroke, but there was some value in keeping him alive as an inspirational figurehead, while Stalin consolidated power behind-the-scenes. 

The French Reign of Terror is another case in point. Close your eyes and imagine a world where there's nobody you can trust. A friendless world. 

Now open your eyes. This isn't just a hypothetical exercise. It happens. It happens when a moral void on the inside meets a moral void on the outside. Only power fills the void. The will to power. 

We use metaphors like "back-stabbing" and "watching your back." But when atheism is in the ascendent, these are realities rather than metaphors. 


If this is how ANE peoples (e.g. the Israelites) conceived of cosmology...

...then not only would the sun have cast a shadow on the Earth, but couldn't the sun have likewise cast a shadow backwards against the firmament? If so, then couldn't this shadow be discernible at least at certain locales and/or at certain times of the day or year?

Thursday, November 27, 2014


I've been reading Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin, Hand Madueme and Michael Reeves, eds. It's an uneven collection of essays. For now I'd like to focus on the scientific question. Mdueme puts his finger on one difficulty with theistic evolution and/or old-earth creationism:

One weakness, however, is the potential of an Adam-of-the-gaps fallacy. Paleontology, paleoanthropology, and associated disciplines are judged basically reliable as sources of truth and they provide the main story; the task of the theologian is then to find a way to identify the historical Adam within that story (237).

That certainly looks like an ad hoc amalgam of two divergent paradigms. Young-earth creationism doesn't have that problem. But it trades that problem for a different problem: challenging the science that drives old-earth creationism and theistic evolution. 

1) Let's some general observations about the scientific method. All things being equal, an operating assumption of scientists is that the past produces the future. Antecedent conditions effect subsequent conditions. 

The same physical causes produce the same physical effects. In that respect, past and future resemble the present.  Therefore, taking our knowledge of the present as a frame of reference, we can extrapolate forward and backward. 

For instance, dating techniques presume constancy in the rate of natural processes. Likewise, evidence for human evolution based on population genetics (e.g. the "bottleneck") presumes constancy in the rate natural processes. 

Physical causes operate with mechanical regularity. They do whatever they were programmed to do–no more and no less. 

2) Up to a point, that's a reasonable assumption. And it has some theological warrant. We call this ordinary providence.

So, for instance, a Christian goes to the doctor, under the assumption that diseases typically have physical causes which are physically treatable. 

3) However, that's qualified. If nature takes its course, a terminal cancer patient will die. 

Sometimes, however, a terminal cancer patient undergoes remission in answer to prayer. In that situation, past conditions don't produce or predict for future conditions. In that case, the outcome doesn't belong to the chain of events (i.e. physical causation). 

That's because physical causes are not the only causes. Not even the only causes of physical effects.

That, however, interjects a degree of unpredictability into the presumption of continuity between past, present, and future. 

The history of the world contains singularities. Outcomes discontinuous with prior states. Indeed, the world began with a singularity: fiat creation.

In addition to that macrocosmic singularity, the history of the world is punctuated by microcosmic singularities. Miracles which bypass the causal continuum. 

All things being equal, linear extrapolations from the present into the past are reasonable. But that means bracketing kinds of mental agency which produce immediate physical effects. By "immediate," I mean apart from an intervening physical medium. Candidates include God, angels, demons, ghosts, and human psi. 

Because God usually operates behind the scenes, working via physical means, it's easy to ignore God when we do science. God is like a necessary background condition. Unobtrusive. We don't expect God to intervene at any particular time and place, so our default policy treats the course of nature as the norm. 

But it's precisely because divine intervention is unpredictable that scientific prediction or retrodiction is unreliable to some imponderable degree. We can't quantify when or where God (or other agents) will interrupt the course of nature. That interjects an unstable element into historical reconstructions. The scientific method is arbitrary in that respect. It's true–except when it's false. 

That's why pious Christians have a two-track policy. We presume ordinary providence, but we also pray.

Nature is like a machine. It has a default setting. But it also has a manual override. God can break the cycle in answer to prayer. 

4) Moreover, this isn't just hypothetical. There's more to human history than ordinary providence. There's special providence. And miracles. And answered prayer. And the occult. 

Let's consider some of the putative evidence for human evolution:

i) Comparative anatomy. There are fossil remains of creatures that have a humanoid appearance. Hands. Skulls. Bipedalism. 

There are, however, problems with that line of evidence:

a) Ostriches and kangaroos are bipedal. But that doesn't relate them to man. Some bats, marsupials, and chameleons have opposable digits. But that doesn't relate them to man. 

b) Moreover, bipedalism is unrelated to cognitive ability. 

c) Modern humans coexist with apes and monkeys. We share morphological similarities, yet there are drastic cognitive differences. Why think fossil "hominids" must be anything other than extinct apes and monkeys? 

ii) Apropos (i), some "hominids" use tools, yet that, by itself, isn't probative. There are animals that use tools, viz. crows, sea otters, green jays, trapdoor spiders, and woodpecker finches. 

Or take beehives and spiderwebs. If apes and monkeys did that sort of thing on a larger scale, Darwinians would chalk it up to simian brainpower.  

Most fossil artifacts aren't uniquely human in that regard. Cave paintings and musical instruments are unmistakably human. But much of the other "evidence" is quite ambiguous. 

iii) Another line of putative evidence is the alleged correlation between cultural evolution and encephalization. That, however, is tricky to parse. 

a) To begin with, the relationship between minds and brains is somewhat baffling. For instance:

b) Knowledge is cumulative. Knowledge builds on knowledge. And the rate of progress can accelerate. We see that in the rapidity of technological advances. It takes a long time to get to the tipping point. After that, the rate of progress picks up pace. Crossing that threshold is the hard part. 

Gen. Curtis LeMay reputedly said we should bomb the Viet Cong back to the Stone age. Suppose something like that happened to human civilization.

As long as modern know-how survived, we could probably get back to where we were in a few decades. If, however, the knowledge was lost or forgotten, then it would take centuries or probably millennia to start from scratch. 

You can't have a Newton without a Kepler. You can't have an Einstein without a Riemann or Mach. If Einstein was born before Riemann or Mach, he wouldn't develop Relativity. 

And it's a matter of space as well as time. If Linus Pauling, Paul Dirac, or Claude Shannon were born in the Amazon jungle, and never made contact with the outside world, their genius would go to waste. 

In addition, some scientists, like Newton or von Neumann have a unique skill set. If we had to start all over again, you wouldn't have a Newton, Einstein, or von Neumann. You'd have other geniuses with different skill sets. 

Although we might make the same scientific breakthroughs, we wouldn't make them in the same order. It might be sooner or later. You might have scientific theories which overlap with the theories we have, but the pieces would be rearranged. The pieces would come together in different ways at different times.     

Thanksgiving and Puritan Geopolitics in the Americas


The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation's small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England's successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England's place in it unsure. Moreover, England was going through a period of internal instability that would culminate in the unthinkable — civil war in 1642 and regicide in 1649. England's colonies were born from this situation, and the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and the little-known colony of Providence Island in the Caribbean were part of a broader Puritan geopolitical strategy to solve England's problems.

More Early Opponents Of Mary's Perpetual Virginity

Tertullian and Helvidius are often named as early opponents of Mary's perpetual virginity, but other opponents of the concept seem to be mentioned less often. I've discussed some of them in recent posts, namely Hegesippus, Irenaeus, and Victorinus. What I want to do in this post is cite some other examples.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Video Of A Recent Shroud Of Turin Conference

I just saw Dan Porter link a collection of videos of the recent Shroud conference in St. Louis.

Is the United States a “Christian Nation”?

From Stephen Wolfe:
In the next few weeks or months, I plan to review the book The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution, chapter-by-chapter. It is written by Gregg Frazer, a Master’s College professor of history and political science. The book has caused a stir among those who have an interest in the United States being a “Christian nation” and those on the other side who claim that it is a “secular nation.” His central thesis is that most of the Founders were religious yet unorthodox. The dominant view among the Founders was what he calls “theistic rationalism.” …

* * *

In my own study, I’ve noticed that the shift from Calvin’s more conservative understanding of social and political inequality, gave way in England to an emphasis on equality and social contract, leading ultimately to John Locke and Algernon Sidney. The shift, to my mind, concerns reason and revelation. Calvin, in his Institutes, argues that revelation, far from being opposed to reason, is a further accommodation to man’s fallenness. In other words, revelation is, in a sense, right reason. Revelation serves as spectacles to show what ought to have been in the world through reason alone. In this sense, revelation is not to be privatized in a secularized state. It is not to be relegated to personal, individual opinion. Revelation gives us principles for a pubic (or political) theology.

Part 1 is here.

What’s “Bergoglio’s Gig”? Even the Experts Throw Their Hands Up

In the Church, at all levels, criticisms of the pope are no longer being silenced. They are voiced openly:

ROME, November 24, 2014 - The tempestuous October synod on the family, the appointment of the new archbishop of Chicago, and the demotion of Cardinal Raymond L. Burke have marked a turning point in the pontificate of Pope Francis.

The disquiet, the doubts, the critical judgments are coming out more and more into the light of day and are becoming ever more explicit and substantiated….

The following are three testimonies of the new climate.

Whereas Cardinal Burke was visibly and symbolically demoted, the conservative Cardinal Francis George retired – and was replaced by someone at the opposite end of the conservative/liberal spectrum. George writes:

"He didn't deserve to die"

Over at Pyromanics, Frank Turk has an oddly reasoned post on the Ferguson affair:

You can't have it both ways: either the system is working, or it is not working. 

Actually, I can have it both ways. Sometimes the system works, and sometimes it doesn't. It would be simplistic and inaccurate to stake out a uniform position on whether or not the system works. I can point to instances where it works as well as instances where it doesn't. 

What if we start here: it doesn't matter what Trayvon Martin  Michael Brown was doing in that neighborhood.  He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger; he didn't deserve to die.  Until and unless you are willing to say that out loud -- and I don't care which side of the argument you are on here -- if you can't say that Trayvon Martin Michael Brown did not deserve to die, you frankly have no place in this discussion. Your moral compass and your real empathy for other people are both broken.  You can't do anything to make this or the future better until you deal with that.

Whether or not he "deserved" to die is a red herring in this situation. The question of just deserts is only germane to punishment. 

But according to the defense, Wilson's action wasn't punitive. Wilson didn't shoot Brown to mete out justice. 

Rather, according to the defense, Brown was trying to seize Wilson's gun. Assuming that's true, Wilson acted in self-defense. 

In that situation, the moral justification for potential use of lethal force isn't predicated on whether the assailant deserved it. Maybe he did and maybe he didn't. That has no bearing on the moral justification.

Rather, when an assailant puts someone else's life in jeopardy, he puts his own life in jeopardy. By his action he forfeits the prima facie right not to be harmed by another. If he commits a life-threatening action without due cause, the would-be victim has a right to repel the attack by any means at his disposal. The assailant has forced his hand.

Keep in mind, too, that he has forced the would-be victim to make a snap decision. You can't put someone in that situation, then blame them for making a split-second judgment call. It's your fault for putting them in that predicament in the first place. 

So Frank's argument is morally confused. 

If you're going to challenge Wilson's action, the proper way to do so is to challenge the facts of the case. Did he have good reason to fear for his life and safety? 

Now, in response to comments, Frank amplifies or amends his original claim:

Michael Brown, whilst walking down the street, was not putting anyone's life in danger.
That is where this incident started. Officer Wilson did not come upon a fight or a robbery: he came upon two men walking in the street. That's where this started, and to see it otherwise is not excessively clever.
i) I agree with Frank that police shouldn't accost citizens engaged in lawful conduct. 
ii) However, that's a euphemistic description in this case. Hadn't Brown just committed strong-armed robbery? Wasn't that caught on the security camera? 
iii) He wasn't shot because he was walking in the street. According to the defense, he was shot because the situation rapidly escalated to the point where the officer's life was in danger. That's why he died. 
You can try to challenge Wilson's version of the events. But that's a different issue. 

Cops shoot white folks too

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christian Mathematicians

Mary Isn't The Only New Eve

"To how small a degree Mary as a holy person forms the centre of interest can be realized from the fact that the comparison with Eve must by no means be concentrated on her alone. 'Generally speaking, every woman who plays a part in the salvation of God's people can be understood exegetically as a type of the new Eve'. Even in Hippolytus, for example, the women who go to the grave on Easter morning are similarly contrasted with Eve - a kind of view that lasts into the fifth century - and Origen compares the two 'holy women', Elizabeth and Mary, with Eve. Ambrose parallelizes Eve and Sarah, and emphasizes that there were many Marys before the one Mary brought the great fulfilment....Again and again it is a question here of the 'woman' or 'the women' as such, who thus receive their due. Nothing like that would have been possible if the Eve-Mary typology had had only a 'Mariological' meaning from the outset." (Hans von Campenhausen, The Virgin Birth In The Theology Of The Ancient Church [Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2011], 45-6)

The media lynch mob

A quick observation about the liberal establishment. On the one hand, the liberal establishment gives blacks like Rodney King, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown every benefit of the doubt. On the other hand, the liberal establishment presumes the guilt of blacks like Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, and Bill Cosby.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Victorinus And The Perpetual Virginity Of Mary

Not much of what Victorinus of Pettau wrote is extant. But he apparently made some comments relevant to the perpetual virginity of Mary in his writings that didn't survive. In response to Helvidius, who argued against Mary's perpetual virginity, Jerome commented:

Drawing the lines

On the one hand, Abolish Human Abortion refuses to cooperate with Catholic prolifers on theological grounds.

On the other hand, AHA views itself as heir to the anti-slavery theorists and activists. Yet abolitionists like Louisa May Alcott, Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Angelina Grimké, Thomas Paine, Theodore Parker, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry David Thoreau, and Theodore Weld were by no means theologically orthodox. 

By the same token, the men who effectively abolished slavery in America (e.g. Lincoln, Sherman, Grant) were by no means theologically orthodox. 

Ironically, AHA's position is the mirror image of the Confederate theologians who opposed the abolitionists because they were heterodox. 

Fahrenheit 451

This is a sequel to my earlier post, from comments I left at Beggars All:

steve said...
Notice Guy's faithless response to Luke and John. He openly scorns the assurance they give the reader. He refuses to credit what they say on their own terms.

He's a rank infidel with a bit of borrowed religiosity.
steve said...
"I don't deny the assurances of Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James,Jude, Matthew or Mark. I know the books associated with them are God breathed because I have it on the authority of the Church established by Christ."

The passages I quoted don't condition their assurance on your extraneous putative authority. Rather, the assurance they proffer is predicated on their own writings, as is. It's self-contained.

You refuse to accept the claims of Luke and John on their own grounds.

They say that by reading and believing what they wrote, a reader will have certainty about the life of Christ and saving knowledge of his person and work.

You directly contradict what they say. You look them square in the eye and say: "No, I don't believe you!"

You don't believe Luke and John. You only believe Pope Francis.

"Steve, without an infallible Church, you don't even know what the Bible is."

Suppose I'm stranded on a deserted island. Suppose I never heard of "the Bible" or "the church."

Suppose a copy of Luke's gospel or John's gospel or 1 John washes ashore.

If I read it and believe it, do I have the certainty, the saving knowledge, that they promise the reader?

If you deny that, then you're an infidel.
steve said...
i) You disbelieve what Luke or John say on their own merits. You deny that what they claim is obligatory or authoritative in its own right.

This despite how them themselves frame the issue. Luke grounds the assurance he gives a reader, not in Pope Francis signing off on what he wrote, but on the quality of his own sources. His personal research is the stated basis for the assurance he gives.

John grounds the assurance he gives a reader, not on the approval of Pope Francis, but on John's firsthand knowledge of Jesus, and inspired recollection.

What if Pope Francis told you not to believe Luke's Gospel or John's Gospel, or 1 John? Evidently, you take his word over theirs.

ii) If Luke is true or John is true, then its truth does not depend on my ability to prove it. If it's true, then even if I fail to prove it, it is still true.

Suppose John's Gospel washes up on the beach of my deserted island. I have no idea where it comes from. Do I have life in Christ's name by believing what John recorded (Jn 20:31)?

Suppose I'm walking along the beach of my deserted island and I find a copy of Luke's Gospel on the shoreline. I'm not familiar with the author. By reading and believing it, do I true and certain knowledge of what Luke recorded (Lk 1:1-4)?
steve said...
"Steve, without an infallible Church, you don't even know what the Bible is."

That's an empty-headed trope you mechanically repeat–like pulling a string on a doll.

It disregards internal evidence. It ensnares you to a vicious infinite regress. And it reflects your double standard.

steve said...
If a book contains false divine promises (i.e. promises falsely attributed to God), then believing them doesn't make them true. If, however, a book contains true divine promises, then God will do for the reader what he promised in the book independent of any corroborative evidence.

Is it a fact that by reading the Gospel of Luke, a reader can acquire sure knowledge about the life of Christ? Is it a fact that by reading the Gospel of John, a reader can acquire saving knowledge?

steve said...
"I don't deny the assurances of Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James,Jude, Matthew or Mark. I know the books associated with them are God breathed because I have it on the authority of the Church established by Christ."

You invoke a secondary (alleged) authority while disowning the direct authority of the writers themselves.

Luke doesn't predicate his Gospel on the authority of "the Church," but the evidence his own investigations.

Likewise, when John says "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life" (1 Jn 1:1-2), he's not appealing to the authority of "the Church," but his personal authority as an intimate eyewitness to the public ministry of Christ.

When you only accept what Bible writers say on the authority of your sect, you disrespect their stated truth-conditions and substitute an alien rationale.

"Why didn't Christ just leave us a book like the Koran or something?"

Given your ecclesiolatry, we could turn the question around. Why did God give us a Bible at all? Who needs a book when you have the living oracle of Mother Church to answer all your questions?

steve said...
"I know the books associated with them are God breathed because I have it on the authority of the Church established by Christ."

You don't have an authoritative church–although you do have an authoritarian church. All you really have is the authority of your own individual opinion. Your fallible personal opinion that your particular denomination is infallible. Your "infallible external authority" is your private judgment in disguise. You postulate an infallible external authority.

John says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands…"

Pope Francis is in no position to say that.

The author of Hebrews says the message "was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard" (Heb 2:3).

Pope Francis is in no position to say that.

Luke says, "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you" (Lk 1:1-3).

Pope Francis is in no position to say that.

"I also can say the same for the OT including those 7 books you don't have."

And the Ethiopian Orthodox church can say the same for the books you don't have. And the LDS church can say the same for the books you don't have.

"There were Church councils, presided over by Catholic bishops, ratified by popes, that decided which books stayed and which books didn't."

Because, for you, the word of God has no inherent authority. If the Pope gives thumbs up to the Gospel of Thomas, then it's in. If the Pope gives thumbs down to the Gospel of Matthew, then it's out.
steve said...

By your own admission, you don't begin with an infallible church–because you can't. Rather, you posit an infallible church. You begin with your fallible postulate of an infallible church.

It is viciously circular for you to retroactively validate your fallible option by reference to an infallible church, when that's nothing more than your fallible postulate in the first place. Your endpoint can't rise higher than your starting-point.

"Reasonable" and "infallible" are not synonymous. Not even close.

steve said...
i) Guy's demand for an "infallible external authority" generates an infinite regress. If we can't be certain of anything without reference to an external criterion, then by what additional criterion do we test our external criterion? 

This approach fails to distinguish between first-order knowledge (knowing that) and second-order knowledge (knowing how we know, or proving what we know).

To halt the vicious regress, some knowledge must be immediate.

ii) In addition, Guy shows contempt for Biblical assurances based on the witness of the Spirit.

iii) Let's take a comparison. Suppose Calvinism is true. Suppose God intends someone to be a Christian. One way God can do that is to predestine that person to be raised in a Christian church. Perhaps that's all he's every known.

Now, considered in isolation, believing something just because you were raised that way is not a good reason to believe it.

If, however, Christianity is true, then what this man believes is true. Moreover, it isn't just a historical accident that he believes it. Rather, God put him in that belief-forming environment to foster faith in Scripture.

So he's right to believe it. It's the right thing to believe, and he was conditioned to believe it by a reliable belief-forming mechanism–God's special providence. God prearranged the events in this man's life so that he'd be exposed to the truth. God regenerated him to make him receptive to the truth. He isn't mistaken, and under those circumstances, he cannot be mistaken.

However, because Guy despises Calvinism, he's cut himself off from that providential source of justified true belief.

steve said...
Keep in mind that there was never a church of Rome. Rather, there were churches of Rome. A variety of house-churches, under different leaders. That's on display in Rom 16. There was no church of Rome in the 1C. Just a number of neighborhood fellowships scattered across the far-flung city. No one church of Rome. No singular church.
steve said...
"Do you mean the burning in the bosom experienced by every schwarmer?"

Even though the word of God appeals to the witness of the Spirit, Guy considers that equivalent to Mormonism. Further evidence that Guy is a hardened infidel.

For Guy, the Bible has no more authority or credibility than the book of Mormon.

"Boys and Girls, Let's put our thinking caps on."

That would be a radical change in Guy's modus operandi:

"Before around 1450, when Gutenberg invented the printing press and printed a Catholic Bible, your foundational belief of 'Bible Only' was a physical impossibility."

Evidently, Guy thinking cap is out of order. Before the invention of the printing press, there were no mass copies of papal encyclicals, conciliar proceedings, Scholastic theologians, or church fathers.

Guy's alternative is no more or less dependent on the printing press than the Protestant rule of faith. The church of Rome also disseminates its dogmas in writing.

"Really? Have you ever been to Rome?"

As a matter of fact, I have–several times.

More to the point, I'm discussing 1C Rome, not 21C Rome

Notice, though, how Guy blows right past Rom 16. He doesn't even know what it means. Try reading Fitzmyer's commentary on Rom 16. A Jesuit commentator. Notice what he says about the house-churches referenced in the text, with different leaders.

"Kephas, the wicked high priest, uttered infallible prophecy in virtue of the office he was holding.:

That's Guy's bare assertion. To the contrary:

"( Pssst! Kaiphas/Cephas )."

Guy robotically reiterates the same refuted claims. I already corrected him on that. He offers no counterargument.

"Suppose black was white and up was down."

Notice that Guy has no counterargument.

"I won't bore you again with my 'amateurish' description of Richard Whately's method of argumentation which says we can trust our powers of observation and the testimony of history when it comes to Christ"

Guy has yet to demonstrate how that method of argumentation yields infallible conclusions.

Let's try one more time:

"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 Jn 5:13).

Does Guy agree or disagree with that promise? If a reader believes what John wrote, does he thereby know that he has eternal life?

Is that a true or false promise? The promise isn't conditioned on believing in Pope Francis or an infallible church, but on believing what John wrote.
steve said...
"You reject the Church that predates your Bible, the Church you are totally dependent on for that Bible."

Catholic apologists imagine that church history is on their side, yet they make utterly unhistorical claims about how the church of Rome gave Christians the Bible. That's because Catholic apologetics is really based, not on church history, but an a priori methodology.

They begin with their conclusion: the alleged necessity of an infallible church. Then they stipulate whatever is necessary to yield their foregone conclusion.

There are many excellent treatments of the canon. For instance:

OT Canon:

Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church.

Andrew Steinmann, The Oracles of God: The Old Testament Canon.


David deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance.

NT Canon:

E. E. Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents.

C. E. Hill, Who Chose the Gospels?

Michael Kruger, Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books.

–––––, The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate.

Bruce Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance.

Stanley Porter, How We Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, Translation.
steve said...
"Tell me more about the trustworthiness of that 'Inner Witness of the Spirit' you said you rely upon to know if you are reading inspired scripture or not."

I didn't make a personal claim. And I didn't propose the witness of the Spirit is a canonical criterion. Rather, I made an observation about how Scripture appeals to the witness of the Spirit as a source of Christian assurance.

"Do you get all misty eyed and choked…"

Your comments on the Biblical witness of the Spirit are sacrilegious. What possesses you to mock what Scripture says about a source of spiritual assurance? What is it about Catholic piety that makes you blaspheme the work of the Spirit?

"I know I am a Christian.
I have the Baptismal certificate to prove it although I have no recollection of the event.
I know my sins are forgiven when I hear the priest say, 'Absolvo te'.
I know I have the Holy Ghost because I was Confirmed."

Yes, I understand your faith in priestcraft. And if you were Sikh, you'd have faith in its Gurus. Your faith begins and ends with externals. Pure ritualism.

"On your trips to Rome, did you ever consider investigating any ancient places of worship? Evidently not."

Do you always make ignorant assumptions about your opponents? I've visited such ancient Roman churches as Santa Sabina and Santa Costanza–among other sites.

"Steve, since day one, the Church has had a highly organized structure for transmitting the Faith to the laity called the "hierarchy". For centuries, only the Catholic clergy could read."

Why did they need to read unless the Catholic religion depends on writings to disseminate the faith?

"Before Gutenberg, the principle of SS did not/could not exist."

Which undercuts your appeal to the church fathers, church councils, &c. Can't have it both ways.

"Anticipating your oft repeated question about how do I know the priest who absolved, Confirmed or Baptized me had the right intention,all I need to know is whether or not proper form was used. The intent is presumed if the form is used."

What about Simony? What about idle European noblemen who sought ordination for the sole purpose of collecting ecclesiastical preferments? Absentee bishops who had no intention of performing religious duties? Just gaming the system for money.

"If you doubt me, ask EA…He wouldn't be so brash as to be on this blog shooting his mouth off on things beyond his area of expertise."

What's your area of expertise, Guy? Do you have a degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University?

steve said...
"Ea, You need to repent. I don't know how much of a Catholic you were, but if you were raised and Confirmed in the Faith, your problem is probably not intellectual but emotional and spiritual. Soaking up a bunch of anti-Catholic propaganda is the last thing you need. Go get the healing you need. Talk to a priest."

Let's see. Hans Küng is still a priest. So I guess EA should talk to Küng about papal infallibility. Thanks for the recommendation, Guy!
steve said...
"You are in the hot seat on this point."

I have asbestos padding.

"Before Gutenberg, the principle of SS did not/could not exist."

You don't know what the principle is. Take a Fahrenheit 451 scenario. Suppose ownership of Bibles was punishable by death. Not only you, but every family member–as a deterrent.

Suppose a Protestant community evades the ban by memorizing the Bible. Different members commit different books of Scripture to memory–before they destroy their copies to avoid detection. That community is still governed by sola Scriptura, even though it has no physical copies of Scripture.

The content of a book can be orally transmitted. Many people can memorize the same copy. A one-to-many relation.

Indeed, that's more than hypothetical. You have people like Alec McCowen and Max McLean who do that sort of thing.

That's different from oral history or oral tradition, where it's word-of-mouth all the way. By contrast, this is controlled tradition, because it has a written frame of reference. One can double-check memory against the exemplar. The standard exists.
steve said...
According to Trent: 
"Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle."

Notice that this is based on certain authorial attributions. Moreover, that view was maintained at least through the pontificate of Leo XIII.

However, the modern magisterium no longer demands assent to those authorial attributions. But in that case, the Tridentine list is obsolete. The modern Magisterium has relaxed the presuppositions on which the list was originally and logically based.
steve said...
Once again, Guy advertises his chronic incapacity for rational discourse. He doesn't grasp the nature of hypothetical arguments. My hypothetical was a limiting case (another concept which eludes Guy) concerning what is or is not consistent with sola scripture in *principle*. That, of course, sailed right over Guy's head.

Every Christian doesn't need direct access to the Bible to be governed by sola Scriptura. That confuses content with the mode of dissemination.

If, say, the Bible was read aloud in public worship to a congregation of illiterate Christians, that would be consistent with sola Scriptura.