Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Philippians - a Problem for “the Church has Always been Catholic” Roman Catholicism

There are two problems, one major and one minor, for a certain stream of Roman Catholicism, in the first verse of Philippians.  There are different streams of Roman Catholicism.  One popular stream of Roman Catholicism tries to assert that "the Church has always been Roman Catholic."  Typically, they would just use "Catholic" but their meaning is that they think their church represents an unchanged version of Christianity.  That's not the only stream of Roman Catholic thought.  There are other Roman Catholic views that would recognize the papacy as a development, as something that didn't exist in the earliest days, but eventually developed.

The two problems are for the first stream.  First, here is the verses.

Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Notice that Paul is writing to the Christians at Philippi, an important Roman colony city.  This city has not just a single bishop in a monoepiscopate.  Instead, the city has plurality of bishops.  The monoepiscopacy was a very natural development (and we see it happening even in some Protestant churches), but it is a merely human tradition, not an apostolic tradition.

Likewise, notice that Timothy is the natural successor of Paul.  Timothy is not one of the apostles, but he appears in Philippians as Paul's co-author (Philippians 1:1) and messenger (Philippians 1:1), and Timothy also appears as Paul's co-worker in Romans (Romans 16:21) as Paul's messenger to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17 and 16:10), as a fellow preacher with Paul and Silvanus in Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:19), as Paul's messenger to Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2) and from Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:6), as the recipient of two personal epistles of Paul (1 & 2 Timothy), and as the companion of the author of Hebrews (Hebrews 13:23), which is often ascribed to Paul.  Moreover, Timothy is co-author of 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:1), Colossians (Colossians 1:1), 1 Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 1:1), 2 Thessalonians (2 Thessalonians 1:1), and Philemon (Philemon 1).  Who among the second generation of the church is more noted than Timothy? Certainly not the alleged successor of Peter at Rome, Linus or his alleged successor Anacletus/Cletus.

This is a less direct problem for Roman Catholicism, but it should give pause to folks who think that the Bible reflects an early "Roman Catholic" church. 

Monday, September 19, 2022

Molina's View of Middle Knowledge

Sometimes Calvinists are accused of "straw manning" Molinist positions regarding God's knowledge of conditional future contingents.  I recognize that there are many different Molinists, and that they may have many different views.  The following, however, are Molina's views, as summarized in the introduction to Part IV of Concordia, "On Divine Foreknowledge," by Prof. Alfred J. Freddoso, a go-to expert on this topic (and not someone likely to be accused of being a Calvinist) (pp. 23-24):

 On Molina's view, then, the source of God's foreknowledge of absolute future contingents is threefold: (i) His prevolitional natural knowledge of metaphysically necessary states of affairs, (ii) His prevolitional middle knowledge of conditional future contingents, and (iii) His free knowledge of the total causal contribution He himself wills to make to the created world. By (i) He knows which spatio-temporal arrangements of secondary causes are possible and which contingent effects might emanate from any such arrangement. By (ii) He knows which contingent effects would in fact emanate from any possible spatio-temporal arrangement of secondary causes. By (iii) He knows which secondary causes He wills to create and conserve and how He wills to cooperate with them via His intrinsically neutral general concurrence. So given His natural knowledge, His middle knowledge, and His free knowledge of His own causal contribution to the created world, He has free knowledge of all absolute future contingents. That is, He has within Himself the means required for knowing with certainty which contingent effects will in fact emanate from the actual arrangement of secondary causes.

In a paper on Molina (available here), Freddoso similarly summarizes Molina's views on God's knowledge this way:

According to Molina, then, the basis for God's providence and for his foreknowledge of absolute future contingents is threefold: (i) his pre-volitional natural knowledge of metaphysically necessary truths, (ii) his pre-volitional middle knowledge of futuribilia, and (iii) his post-volitional knowledge of the total causal contribution he himself wills to make to the created world. By (i) he knows which spatio-temporal arrangements of secondary causes are possible and which contingent effects might possibly emanate from any such arrangement. By (ii) he knows which contingent effects would in fact emanate from any such arrangement. By (iii) he knows which secondary causes he wills to create and precisely how he wills to cooperate with them via his intrinsically neutral cooperating grace and general concurrence. So given God's pre-volitional natural knowledge and middle knowledge, he is able to choose a comprehensive providential plan; and given further his post-volitional knowledge of what his own causal contribution to the created world will be, he has free knowledge of all absolute future contingents.

The "Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy" provides these insights (link) that claim to relate more broadly to Molinism and not specifically to Molina:

In the contemporary discussion of possible worlds, two concepts have proven particularly instructive: actualization and similarity. In popular piety, it is not unusual to refer to God creating the world. However, in possible worlds semantics, this is seen as semantically improper. Instead, God’s creative activity should be referred to as creating the heavens and the Earth, but actualizing a particular possible world (since possible states of affairs do not have a beginning, which the language of creation implies). According to the doctrine of Molinism, God can actualize a world where His will is brought about by the free decisions of creatures, but in order to make this claim, contemporary Molinists have had to distinguish between strong and weak actualization. Strong actualization refers to the efforts of a being when it causally determines the occurrence of an event (e.g., God causes something to happen), while weak actualization refers to the contribution of a being to the occurrence of an event by placement of a free creature in circumstances in which he will freely cause the event. Weak actualization has proven to be a powerful tool for understanding the relationship between God’s providence and human freedom. However, it must be noted that it implies that there may be some states of affairs that God cannot weakly actualize, which leads to the further conclusion that there may be some possible worlds that God cannot actualize.


 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Affirmative Constructive Speech for Hell Debate with Eddie Crume

The orthodox doctrine of Hell is not fully captured by the Apostles' Creed, which speaks of the the judgment of the living and the dead, but nevertheless makes the short list of important doctrines in Hebrews 6. 

Hebrew 6:1-3

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.

Hebrews delivers on this by mentioning the judgment at least twice:

Hebrews 9:27

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Hebrew 10:26-31

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

While the New Testament provides some of the clearest teachings on Hell, the judgment of Hell is not new to the New Testament:

Daniel 12:2

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

In the New Testament, we hear of Hell from Jesus' lips:

Matthew 25:46

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

We also hear of it from the lips of demons:

Matthew 8:29

And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?

We also hear it in parables:

Matthew 18:34

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

Luke 16:23

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

We see the torments of Hell depicted in the Apocalypse:

Revelation 14:11

And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Revelation 20:10

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

And we are told that the wicked will go to be punished with the devil:

Matthew 25:41

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

Even though the lake of fire is referred to as the "Second Death" the lake is the place where the wicked will have their place:

Revelation 21:8

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

In explaining the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus explicitly describes as eternal the habitations of those who serve unrighteous mammon. 

Luke 16:9

And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

This is a grievous doctrine to many folks.  They think it's somehow inappropriate for God to punish sin so harshly.  Thus, some latch on to passages that metaphorically describe the lost in inanimate terms:

Isaiah 66:24

And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

Jesus alludes to this passage to describe Hell:

Mark 9:42-48

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.  And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

As can be gleaned from this usage, the picture of fire and worms is one of suffering that people will endure, not a literal description of the situation.  Moreover, while destruction metaphors are one set of the descriptions of the afterlife, they are not the only one.

Hell is also described in terms of darkness:

Matthew 8:12

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 22:13

Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 25:30

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The darkness is associated with both crying and with anger.   

Jude 12-13 describes some wicked people this way:

These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

The apostle Peter describes them similarly:

2 Peter 2:17

These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

Finally, there are some who try to go the other way, and have everyone saved.

Hebrews explains that the time of salvation is limited:

Hebrews 4:6-7

Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Moreover, the two-fold division of humanity is not only seen from the left-hand and right-hand or righteous and wicked distinctions but also from the Apostle's teaching:

Romans 9:22-24

What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Thus, while there is a general resurrection coming, it has two categories:

John 5:29

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

**** 

Endnotes:

Anathema 9 of the Emperor Justinian Against Origen at the Second Council of Constantinople (AD 553 - also known as the Fifth Ecumenical Council): If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration (ἀποκατάστασις) will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema.


Thursday, September 15, 2022

What are the Eternal Habitations of the Wicked?

Usually, I think of Matthew as the Gospel with the clearest presentation of Hell.  On the other hand, Luke contains at least one surprisingly explicit reference in addition to (and shortly before) the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:

Luke 16:9  And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

The phrase translated "that, when ye fail" is literally "that, when you've ceased" (ἵνα ὅταν ἐκλίπητε - hina otan eklipete).  The concept here is the death of the person. Hebrews 1:12 uses the word (negated, of course) to explain that God will never die.  

Standing alone, this phrase of the verse might seem to support annihilation.  If we are gone like the sun is gone from the sky during an eclipse, that sounds a bit like annihilation.   

What comes next, however, undermines annihilation.  These wicked people, when dead, have an everlasting habitation (τὰς αἰωνίους σκηνάς - tas aionious skinas).  These "tents" (σκηνάς) are eternal (αἰωνίους).

The unjust steward, accused of wasting his master's money, made his involuntary retirement plans by favoring the master's creditors with a debt reduction at his master's expense.  He wasn't going to be able to work as a steward ever again, but at least there would be people who were in his debt, who would take him into their homes and treat him as a friend.

In this he was at least consistent: he served money and he squandered money.  By contrast, we should serve God and take appropriate care of the good things He gives us.

Where will you be?  I would rather be a porter in God's house than dwelling in the tents of wickedness (Psalm 84:10). 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

My Objections to Dan's and Tim's Joint Defense of Mere Molinism

Dan Chapa and Tim Stratton (D&T) provided a video defense of Mere Molinism (link) in responding to material from Colton Carlson (CC).  This is just to highlight a few places where I took issue with their defense.  All time stamps are approximate.  I appreciate the generally cordial tone of their video, although I have a few bones to pick with them, as I elaborate below.

Luck Objection (9:00 to 22:00)

D&T acknowledged that CC raised the objection that on libertarian free will, the absence of sufficient causal conditions for an action implies that an agent lacks the control necessary for responsibility because there is no explanation for the actual choice over the alternative choice.  In short, the moral agent is, in essence, just lucky to take the action, and therefore deserves no obvious moral praise or blame for taking it.    

D&T oddly began their discussion by referring to a baby's first choice that allegedly involves reason.  I say, "allegedly," because on libertarian free will, reason is not a sufficient causal condition for any libertarian free choice.   I say, "oddly," because it is usually acknowledged that babies are not responsible for choices and that they lack a fully formed power of reason. 

D&T first argued that "contrastive explanations" can't have an infinite regress.  They then seemed to argue that even if God is is the first cause, and further that if God's nature determined God's action, they asserted that there is no "contrastive explanation" for why God's nature determined one action over another.  A first mistake here is that a "contrastive explanation" does not itself require a preceding contrastive explanation, unless that "contrastive explanation" comes to be, but God's nature does not come to be.  Furthermore, God's decree is eternal: it has no reference to any preceding causal state.

D&T then argued that you need a "buck-stopping, first cause principle to explain these things," and argued that you don't need a contrastive explanation, you just need a "first event" to ground responsibility.    This response isn't particularly persuasive for at least two reasons: (1) it's directly contradictory to the "first cause" argument for the existence of God; and (2) just asserting that you don't need a contrastive explanation doesn't seem to answer the luck objection in a meaningful way.  For example, if indeed moral agents just luckily do the things they do, the fact that they are allegedly luckily the "first cause" of this chain does not seem to address the luck objection.

D&T then further argued that God has libertarian free will, that many Calvinists will acknowledge this, and that consequently libertarian free will is not an incoherent concept.  The problem with this argument, of course, is the definition of "libertarian free will."  God's actions in time are already decided by God from eternity past.  There was never a time when they were not decided.  Yet they flow freely from God, in the sense that no one other than God himself places any limitation on them.  That's the kind of freedom that we hold dear.

D&T ask whether God is "just lucky" to have selected to do what God selected to do.  The answer to that is no, because the reasons for God's decree arise entirely from within God.  God's eternal decrees are not reasonless, they are grounded in God himself.

D&T present the example of Exodus 9:15 where God says he has the ability to strike the people with pestilence.  The weakness in D&T's appeal to this text is that God is not speaking about God's ability vis-à-vis God's eternal decree, but rather God's ability to impose punishments vis-à-vis man's ability to resist.  The point is not whether such an action would contradict some aspect of God's character, nature, wisdom, or the like, but rather the point is the helplessness of the people with respect to God.  In fact, Exodus 9:15-16 shows this, because at the same time God says He could do something other than what He did, and God explains that the alternative action contradicts his purpose.  This provides the contrastive explanation: a rare case where God explains why he chose one action over another.

Stratton makes a claim about what he thinks "the vast majority" of Calvinists believe.  This is one of those fake statistical claims that is problematic.  It's even more problematic when Stratton defines God's freedom that he thinks "the vast majority" of Calvinists hold to without any reference to libertarian freedom ("he could have done otherwise" or "he could have created differently" or the like).

It's dangerous to try to evaluate the underlying cause of such an obviously flawed appeal to Exodus 9:15 passage and the obviously flawed claim that because Calvinists say God is Free that this means libertarian freedom.  Both are straightforward examples of begging the question by assuming something that hasn't been established.

Dan and I had a debate titled, "The Bible Teaches Libertarian Free Will Debate," about 10 years ago (link to mp3), in which one of Dan's central arguments was to appeal to dictionary definitions of "choose" (see this transcript of his opening argument).  As I concluded then (link to transcript of my closing argument), Dan's argument similarly begged the question by assuming that choose (in Scripture and in the dictionaries) refers to a libertarian free choice, rather than by establishing his argument from Scripture.  

As you will notice from the transcript of Dan's opening, for example, he stated:

6 of the 20 dictionaries defined choose as - to select from a number of possibilities. That’s it.  That's libertarian free will right there.    The bible says we choose, choose means select from a number of possibilities, selecting from an number of possibilities is the essence of  libertarian free will, so the bible teaches  libertarian free will.

Notice, however, that there is nothing distinctively libertarian about "select from a number of possibilities."  What does libertarian free will actually entail as distinct from compatibilist free will?  Here's where the problem gets worse for folks like D&T: philosophical supporters of libertarian free will cannot themselves agree (see the numerous points raised here).  This isn't a problem for libertarian free will as a philosophical position, it's a problem for claims like "Calvinists believe God is free, therefore they say God has libertarian freedom," or the like.

I think it may be time for a follow-up debate to my and Dan's debate, in case Dan believes he now he stronger arguments or at least believes that his arguments presented then continue to hold up. 

D&T seem to argue that God's decree must be the result of deliberation.  On the contrary, however, Calvinists should insist that any discussion of God deliberating is language of accommodation, and that God does not and has never thought sequentially.

D&T argue, toward the end of their response, that LFW advocates have "the same foundation for control" as Calvinists.  This is just not true, and is kind of the main point of the luck objection.  So, it's not entirely clear whether the force of the luck objection was rightly understood.  

Conditional Ability to Do Otherwise (vs. Categorical Ability to do Otherwise) (22:00 to 42:00)

D&T seem to argue both that compatibilists are somehow borrowing libertarian ground by appealing to conditional abilities, and simultaneously they seem to try to make a regression argument about wants being voluntary.  My main objections here are that (1) it's self-evident that wants are not always voluntary (for example, hunger) and (2) on libertarian free will, wants are necessarily irrelevant as a causal explanation for the choice.  While libertarians may be able to affirm the statement, "I could choose [X] if I wanted to," that's only because wanting to is irrelevant to the ability to choose [X].  

D&T suggest that in certain cases "wanting to" may be a necessary condition (in both compatibility and libertarian accounts).  However, the chart provided by D&T (an excerpt is shown below) messes up this point:


Notice that under the "reversibility" row, for "Libertarian," D&T have "You can even if you don't want to."  That correctly treats wanting to as irrelevant to the choice.  However, if wanting to were a necessary condition, then "you cannot if you don't want to" is correct on both compatibilism (labelled by D&T as "Determinist") and libertarianism.

The chart's second row is simply an example of an attempted regression.  The whole point of a conditional analysis is to consider a given stage of decision making.  On libertarianism, as on compatibilism, the "wanting to" may or may not be voluntary or otherwise under the control of the person.  As mentioned above, the "wanting" may be hunger.  Assuming that wanting to is voluntary, saying "I can want to" is simply the same question about a different choice, and simply regresses the analysis a step.

Finally, the first row of the chart is potentially misleading.  Compatibilism doesn't require that any one cause be a sufficient condition.  Of course, if "wanting to" is treated as the proximate cause of the choice, then that would be different.  If that is so, though, then the chart equivocates, in that wanting to is not the proximate cause of a choice in libertarianism.

If it is acknowledged that wanting to is just one causal factor, then it may be more accurate to say, "You can and will if you want to" than to say "You can and must if you want to" in that column.  The more grammatically accepted way of saying it is this: "You can and would if you wanted to." 

D&T point out that you don't have the ability to do otherwise in the actual world, but instead in the counter-factual world.  Of course, you only do otherwise in the counter-factual world, so there does not seem to be any meaningful downside to this point.

Furthermore, the whole point of "conditional" ability is to posit and analyze counter-factual worlds.  You don't say, "If I wanted to, I could," unless you want to analyze a different world than the actual world, namely a world in which you wanted to.

Incidentally, even libertarian categorical freedom falls prey to this problem of objecting to reference to hypotheticals.  Under libertarian freedom, in the real world the agent only can bring about one of the multiple competitive outcomes.  In the case of simple binary decision, the agent cannot both choose [X] and not choose [X], he can only choose [X] or not choose [X].  The other path is not in the real world, it's in a hypothetical world where the agent chooses the opposite.

D&T have some back and forth banter regarding Jesus' and Peter's interactions in Mark 14:34-38.  They claim that if Peter was a determinist, he would have answered that he couldn't do otherwise.  The banter, however, overlooked Jesus' own statement: "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," which provides the causal explanation for the sleep of Peter and the others.  Of course, in fact, Jesus and Peter weren't discussing the relationship of Peter's actions to God's decrees and so the conversation was literally exactly what one would expect from two divine determinists.  On the other hand, if we were to interpret this as a discussion about the relationship of Peter's actions to God's decrees, the causal explanation ("the flesh is weak") is one that fits better with a compatibilist understanding.  That said, I wish that falling asleep were an example of a voluntary act of the will, but I think we know that for most people it is not.

The same thing relates to other comments during this portion, such as calling the condition an "impossible condition."  It's not "impossible," it's just not "actual," but of course that's the nature of hypothetical.   

Epistemic Possibilities vs. Freethinking Argument (42:00 to 54:00)

Dan seemed to argue that epistemic possibility is not an adequate explanation of deliberation, because we don't have the same kinds of epistemic uncertainties about the past as we do about the future.  This strikes me as odd, because we don't normally deliberate about the past.

This portion of the discussion also suffers from the same problem as the previous portion, in terms of characterizing "the theistic determinist" view in terms that would likely not be acceptable to Calvinists and others that are being lumped into this group, at least not without qualification.  For example, "and it could not have been otherwise," may be true vis-à-vis the decree, but would not necessarily be true under a hypothetical analysis.  

D&T seemed to argue that people don't have "epistemic access" to an outcome if there is a causal explanation for their choice of the alternative outcome.  This doesn't make much sense, because there doesn't seem to be any reason that epistemic access to an object would require any freedom at all with respect to causing that object.  It makes even less sense, because Tim distinguishes between awareness and epistemic access, but it's unclear how (if at all) these differ.   

Also, again, they say that Peter should have said, "No," to the question, "Could you have stayed awake one hour," but in context the question does have an implied negative answer, as we can conclude from Jesus' own explanation that the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.  Jesus was pointing out Peter's failure, which demonstrated Peter's inability.

Can Calvinists be Molinists (54:00 to 1:11:00)

D&T argue that Calvinists can be Molinists and that some Calvinists are Molinists.  This, naturally, depends on how one defines Calvinism.  With folks like Norman Geisler claiming to be a "moderate Calvinist," I suppose one can find a very wide variety within self-labelled Calvinism.  There is no one official pope of Calvinism to say who is in and who is out.  One fairly big-tent way of describing Calvinism is in terms of the five points of Calvinism, which have been memorized using the acrostic TULIP for a while now.  Amyraldians would consider themselves Calvinists without adopting the L point.  As to both Calvinists and Amyraldians, the practical sticking point is combination of the "U" and "I" points.  Both Calvinists and Amyraldians (as per the four or five points) confess that God's election is not conditional on the sinner and that God's calling of sinners to repentance and faith in Christ is effectual.  

On Molinism, God is unable to decree what a person would do in any particular circumstance because humans have libertarian free will.  Thus, fitting Molinism with Calvinism would require either assuming that either God luckily elected people that God was able to place in situations where they libertarian-freely repent and believe, or that any person God could create would libertarian-freely believe and repent under the right set of circumstances.  The former of these options seems to be essentially blasphemous.  The latter of these options then would seem to be the only way to hold these points together.

The bigger problem for Molinism is that its affirmation of Libertarian Free Will runs smack into divine sovereignty, which is also a core Calvinistic doctrine. It's not one of the five points of Calvinism, but it is a point of doctrine that some Calvinists (for example, James White here) have suggested could be called the first of six points of Calvinism.  

Colton provided another option, which is some form of Molinism that applies to lots of things, but not to salvation as such. In other words, another way to try to reconcile Molinism and Calvinism is just to say that repentance and faith are involuntary (at least involuntary in a libertarian-free sense of voluntary).  D&T at first seem to agree with Colton that this option is not a reasonable way to reconcile Molinism with Calvinism, but then seem to say that think it might be a viable way to harmonize them.  

One problem with argument is that Calvinism not only teaches that God effectual calls, but also that men respond with their will: "but because he who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also." (Canons of Dordt, 3rd and 4th head, article 14)  the Westminster Confession is even more explicit: "yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace." (WCF, Ch. 10, Section 1)

Are Arminians Semi-Pelagians (1:11:00 to 1:25:00)

D&T assert that it's a disparaging term and tantamount to accusing Arminians of being heretics.  D&T argue that Colton's definition of Semi-Pelagianism is wrong.  D&T refer to Canon 7 of the Council of Orange.  D&T don't make application of their definition to Leighton Flowers, and I will leave that observation there.

D&T seem to argue that the Council of Orange doesn't fully embrace Augustine's views.  I may have to leave this question for another time.  For now, suffice to say that D&T's argument, as they explained it, defines Semi-Pelagianism so narrowly that even Roman Catholicism is not semi-Pelagian.

Folk Intuitions / Do People Think their Beliefs are Causally Determined (1:25:00 to 1:42:00)

D&T argue that no one thinks that their thought processes are determined.  I think the modifier "all" was used: "all their thoughts and beliefs," at some point.  It seems like that would be a necessary qualification.  Many people struggle with obsessive or intrusive thoughts, especially worries and anxieties that they seem to believe are outside of our beyond their control.  They feel as though their thoughts happen to them.  In some ways of considering thought, for example, people are encouraged to think of thoughts as distinct from awareness, such that thoughts may be involuntary, but awareness or attention is voluntary (at least with some training). 

The argument here is that "folk intuitions" are "libertarian" rather than "compatibilistic."  This section of the talk suffers from the same defects as some of the previous sections, in terms of assuming specific meanings and inaccurately characterizing the opposing viewpoint.  

D&T interact a bit with a study that evidently Colton had cited.  While I disagree with their analysis I found it interesting that Dan said that if God himself revealed that determinism is true, Dan would agree with compatibilism, whereas Tim indicated that he would deny responsibility.

D&T oddly seem to overlook that the first example, which they criticize, demonstrates a widespread refusal to accept the idea of advance knowledge of the future.  If that is indeed a folk intuition, it seems to undercut the reliability of folk intuitions.

The one interesting point that Dan raises in this section (around 1:39:00) is that if Scripture intends something other than folk intuitions, it should say so clearly.  While I agree with this, Scripture does clearly teach that God knows all things including the future.  That advance knowledge of the future undermines folk intuitions, and pushes us to look more deeply into Scripture.  

Likewise, the explicit Scriptural statements that God "predestines," need to be weighed in this same "folk intuition" scale.  As D&T seem to recognize, folk intuition regards predestination as incompatible with free will.  As with folk intuitions about the knowability of the future, folk intuitions about divine foreordination are wrong.  Moreover, since Scripture teaches both human freedom and divine foreordination, the result of a proper exegesis of Scripture is compatibilism, even if compatibilism is contrary to folk intuition.

Frankfurt cases (1:42:00 to end)

D&T argue that there is a "flicker of libertarian freedom" in each of the Frankfurt examples in which people would be willing to assign responsibility to the protagonist.  

D&T's analysis of what they labelled as "Stump's example" was not entirely clear to me.  They seemed to be conflating the Frankfurt example with a positive example of "exhaustive divine determinism."

Furthermore, the "flicker" or "flame" of libertarian freedom seems to be something that D&T grasp at.  D&T, however, do not seem to address the elephant in the room in terms of the fact that their flicker/flame is not at the time of choosing but merely at some previous time.


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Gone Astray like a Sheep

The longest psalm of all, Psalm 119, concludes with these words:

Psalm 119:176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.

The prophet wrote:

Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Peter the apostle likewise wrote:

1 Peter 2:25
For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Jesus said:

Matthew 18:10-14
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

And again, Jesus said:

Luke 15:1-6
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. And he spake this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Let's not think overly highly of ourselves.  Sheep are many things, but they are not wise.  Left to their own devices, they get themselves into trouble and need to be rescued.

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

1 John 5:7 - Francis Turretin and the Textual Evidence

Some "TR friendly" questions/comments, I recently received.  I'm posting them without attribution for now, but I'll update with attribution if my interlocutor would like.  After all, these issues are less about him (or me) and more about the truth of the matters we are discussing.  His comments are bold in quotation marks, whereas my responses are in plain font. 

"You seem, like most, to judge Turretin's statement based upon extant (in 2022) evidence rather than what he had in his time. This is wrong headed."

For the reader's background, Turretin made the statement regarding the Johannine Comma, at 1 John 5:7, "although some formerly called it into question and heretics now do, yet all the Greek copies have it."  I had pointed out that Turretin's statement was wrong.

My interlocutor is raising an important nuanced point.  The evidence available to Turretin in the 1600s was different from the evidence that we have today.  My interlocutor is mistaken in thinking that my judgment about Turretin is based only on the evidence we have today as distinct from what was available in Turretin's time.

For example, we know the seven manuscripts that Erasmus used in creating his first printed edition of the New Testament: minuscules 1eap, 1rk, 2e, 2ap, 4ap, 7p, and 817 (the "modern" numbering of these is respectively 1, 2814, 2, 2815, 2816, 2817, and 817- we could add to these, 2105, a commentary by Theophylact on Paul's epistles).  Only 2815 and perhaps 1 are witnesses to 1 John 5:7. There are a few other manuscripts that some have suggested Erasmus may have had for the first edition, none of those include 1 John.

Minuscules 1 and 2815 do not have the Johannine Comma. 2815 was apparently the Greek manuscript sent by Erasmus to the printer to serve as the primary basis for his printed text. We still have manuscript 2815 in the University of Basel library. I haven't checked Basel's records, but I'm confident that 2815 was there throughout Francis Turretin's life.  1 has been in the University of Basel library since the late 1500s.

Likewise, we know of other manuscripts that were known during Francis Turretin's life, and which don't have the Johannine Comma.

It would be wrong to judge FT's statement based on manuscripts we only discovered after his death, but that's not what we're doing when we say he was wrong to claim, "all the Greek copies have it."  It's ok.  People make mistakes.

"We do not judge people in the past based upon modern extant evidence." 

We can and do judge them that way.  For example, as I mentioned above, we have located most (if not all) of the manuscripts that Erasmus' first edition relied on.  We can judge the quality of his collation based on that "modern extant" evidence.  We can do the same for Turretin's claims.  Had Turretin been more vague and said, "I've seen it in a manuscript in Basel," then it might be harder to judge his statement.  We could, however, still judge it.  We would just have to be more tenuous in our conclusions.  In this case, it's very straightforward that the great Turretin was just wrong.

"That is the problem with your method, you use modern evidence with no regard to manuscript destruction."

Manuscript destruction can happen.  I was just lamenting the other day the loss of a Georgian translation of the Didache.  It was last seen, that I could find, in the 1930s in Germany. Sometimes things like that happen.

However, sometimes we can still know something about those lost or destroyed manuscripts.  For example, we have a collation of the Georgian translation of the Didache against the single Greek example of the Didache.  It's of very little scholarly value, but at least it's something.

"How many early manuscripts do you think we have with 1 John 5 (the whole chapter)?"

The ECM project currently lists 265 witnesses to 1 John 5:7, though some of the witnesses may have a gap in the text at that point.  It seems fair to say that there are at least 150 witnesses to the short reading (i.e. the text without the Johanine Comma), with the manuscript copies having the Johaninne Comma coming from the 1500s or as later insertions into the margins of the pre-1500 manuscripts.  In short, there is no reasonable basis for the great Francis Turretin to claim that "all the Greek copies have it." They didn't all have it in his day.  There were some made in the 1500s and still around in the 1600s that had it, and there were some older ones where it had been added into the margins.  

"The 'which TR?' is just a false 'gotcha' that makes me roll my eyes." 

It's false for folks who accept revisions to the TR, but true for those who don't.  The "which KJV" question was a legitimate question for me to ask Will Kinney in my debate with him, and he had his answer.  The "correct" answer for folks who are open to revisions to the TR is that they use such-and-such as their base text, but that they are open to corrections to it. 

Will Kinney asked me a similar question about which Greek text, and I was able to hold up the printed NA27 and tell him that NA27 with its critical apparatus has the original text.  It may not always be the main text of the NA27, but it's all there.  Nothing has been lost.  

"Turretin answers it, the TBS introduction to the Greek NT answers it (first sentence of the last paragraph), and it has been answered many times, but yet people try the gotcha." 

Turretin was open to revisions, as I assume you know.  I'm glad the TBS folks have their answer, though I don't think their continued inclusion of the Johanine Comma is reasonable.

"Once again, for those in the back, the TR is the family of printed editions, based upon manuscripts, and these include but are not limited to the editions of Beza, Stephanus, Elzivirs, and others, and there are minor variants between them."

Usually, the TR also includes Scriveners' "final" addition to that family in 1894.  In fact, many TR folks simply mean that one.  

And there are minor differences between that family of printed texts and the NA28.  There are only two differences that are more than two verses (the end of Mark and the story of the woman caught in adultery), as I'm sure you are aware.  I think it would be accurate to say that there are fewer differences between the NA27 and any TR of the TR family and an early Byzantine uncial (like codex Washingtonianus) and any TR of the TR family.  

That said, there are a few differences that typically matter to "TR preferred" folks, such as the long ending of Mark, the story of the woman caught in adultery, the doxology of the Lord's Prayer, the Johannine Comma, and maybe a dozen or so others.  That said, we're still talking about a small number of potentially significant differences.

Many TR advocates like to play up the rhetoric as though the Nestle-Aland editions represent an overthrow of the text or some kind of revolutionary different Bible.  They don't.  They are just a more accurate reflection of the original text than the older work, not a radical departure.

"I am still interested in whether you believe Mark 16, John 8, and the 16 other disputed/absent verses are inspired or not. I don't need any argument for or against, I want to know if you believe they are the word of man or the word of God."

My opinion doesn't matter absent the arguments.  At least, my opinion shouldn't matter unless I can support it by arguments.  Moreover, it is fascinating that this particular interlocutor is so transparently uninterested in hearing the arguments.  I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt that he thinks he's already heard the arguments.  If so, then he just seems to be looking for some kind of tribal affiliation.  I'm happy to weigh in on each one, one by one, I guess, but the bottom line is that I'm more confident about my own conclusions on some texts than others.  It would be mind boggling if the Johannine Comma or the story of the woman caught in adultery turned out to be original.  It's very hard to imagine that the doxology of the Lord's prayer or "Father forgive them for they known not what they do," were original.  It would be easier to understand how the long ending of Mark might be original.

"It would be better to believe the explicit statements of Turretin rather than a Platonic form of Turretin. I believe in the 'Turretin of history,' you believe in the 'Turretin of faith.'"

This sounds very lovely, but what my interlocutor is focused on is Turretin's conclusions about the originality of certain texts, rather than on Turretin's arguments leading him to that conclusion.  Turretin's arguments on textual matters appear to be poorly informed as to the facts, and consequently it is unwise to follow him down the garden path on those points.  Turretin's arguments themselves are not always well founded (consider his arguments, such as they are, about the Perpetual Virginity of Mary - a point that made it into a Reformed confession!).  

Friday, September 02, 2022

Genesis 3:15, Sam Shamoun and the Crushing of the Serpent's Head

Sam Shamoun provided a two-hour video response to the question of what Genesis 3:15 says.  He phrases it this way: does the woman or her seed crush the head of the serpent? (link to the portion of his video where his response starts)

Sam was commenting on my debate with Robert Sungenis (link to video) regarding the truth of Sola Scriptura. I appreciated Sam's comparison of my speaking style with that of David Wood.

The issue is significant for a number of reasons.  One reason is that the Papal Encyclical, Ineffabilus Deus, which defined the dogma of the immaculate conception repeatedly interprets the text of Genesis 3:15 as though it said that hell crushing the head of the serpent was that of a woman.  The reason for this error is that the Latin text is not an accurate translation of the Hebrew original. 

The Vulgate had "Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem, ... ipsa conteret caput tuum ... ."  Ipsa is a feminine pronoun.  The New Vulgate corrects this error in the following: "Inimicitias ponam inter te et mulierem ... ipsum conteret caput tuum ...."  Ipsum is a neuter pronoun.  The difference is between "her" crushing the serpent's head, and "it" (i.e. the seed of the woman) crushing the serpent's head.

Sam compares the Douay-Rheims wording (which translated the Latin Vulgate of that day) with the King James Version, which translated the Masoretic text.

Sam's first interaction with the debate (around 28:30 into the video) is to provide about a five-minute quotation of one of Sungenis' arguments that Scripture needs an external interpreter.  Sam seizes hold of a remark about those at the early councils being willing to die for their faith.  

At 41:45, Sam goes to another clip, where Dr. Sungenis and I are discussing his proposed alternative to Sola Scriptura, and Dr. Sungenis acknowledges that he would not trust the current pope with any theological question.

With that, at 45:20 or so, Sam comes back to the particular verse in question.  For this, he turns to 59:30 in the debate (link to Sam's replaying).  

Sam spends some time building up Sungenis' high intelligence, because he's going to argue that Sungenis made a mistake.

Sungenis argued that the Hebrew is ambiguous.  Sam acknowledged, however, that the Hebrew itself is clear, and not supportive of the papal interpretation.  

Sungenis further argued that Jerome put her (i.e. "ipsa") in the Latin Vulgate. Sam says that Jerome did not, citing Jimmy Akin for support.

Finally, at 1:02:30 so into the clip, we get to what appears to be Sam's argument, which is that "seed" does not refer to Christ, but to all believers, and Mary is one of those believers.

Around 1:50:30 or so, Sam argues that the DRB must have been translated from "defective copies." 

(I would point out that the Clementine Vulgate has the same error.)

Next, Sam provides an audio version of a Catholic Answers article, claiming that because Mary also participated in what Jesus did, the "she" understanding is "also true."

Sam then provides a "Catholic Commentary," that confirms that the "she" reading is wrong, and which speculates that this reading entered through a copyist error early on.

Around 1:24:00, Sam argues that the pope interprets the pronoun as "he." Sam bases this on the fact that pope says, "These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind — words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent ... ."  Sam is just wrong that this is an interpretation of Genesis 3:15 that correctly identifies that the seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent (Sam made the same mistake on his blog). The phrase "by which he crushed," refers to the act of God's sentence immediately preceding the comment about crushing the head of the serpent.  Specifically, here is the full paragraph from Ineffabilis Deus:

The Fathers and writers of the Church, well versed in the heavenly Scriptures, had nothing more at heart than to vie with one another in preaching and teaching in many wonderful ways the Virgin’s supreme sanctity, dignity, and immunity from all stain of sin, and her renowned victory over the most foul enemy of the human race. This they did in the books they wrote to explain the Scriptures, to vindicate the dogmas, and to instruct the faithful. These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind — words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, “I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed” — taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold: That his most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the evil one was significantly expressed. Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.

The reason that the pope got it wrong is because the Clementine Vulgate got it wrong.

Next (around 1:25:30), Sam turns to Luke 10:17-20.  There, Jesus tells his disciples that they have the power to tread on serpents and scorpions.  Sam interprets these as demons or devils.  

At 1:28:30 or so, Sam turned to Romans 16:20 ("And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen."). 

Then Sam argued that Mary is a believer, and consequently that these statements to believers also apply to Mary.

For the sake of the argument, we can grant this aspect of Sam's video.  When we do that, though, notice the result: Luke 10 and Romans 16 are not about Mary particularly, but about believers (if Sam is right, all believers).  Thus, if the fulfilment of Genesis 3:15 is to be found in those passages, it is wrong for the pope to interpret the passage as referring specifically or uniquely to Mary, so as to say that she was immaculately conceived.

At 1:32:00 or so, Sam argues that the word "seed" can be a collective singular, rather than an individual singular.  On this particular argument, Sam should be careful.  While sometimes it is used collectively (perhaps Romans 4:18 is an example), it is also used singularly and uniquely of Christ (Galatians 3:16 is an example).

As well, remember that in the Roman Catholic and papal view of Genesis 3, the woman represents Mary and the seed represents Christ.  So, to make the woman represent Mary and the seed also represent Mary is self-evidently problematic enough, that we can see that Sam is grasping at straws on this point, having lost track of the argument.

Moreover, Sam reads from what I believe is Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, which interprets the "seed" as "sons."  Mary is definitely not a son, and - as I mentioned above - even if "sons" could apply to all believers, it undermines the Mary-Eve comparison used and undermines the use of the passage as having special reference or applicability to Mary.  Indeed, the interpretation of Pseudo-Jonathan wrongly interprets the "seed" to be distinct from the Messiah! 

Sam seems (1:38:30) to adopt the targum view and apply it to Revelation 12, to say that the children of the woman in that chapter are the seed from Genesis 3:15.  While this is a creative tying together, it is wrong.  Sam then goes to another Targum with a similar interpretation.  In one of these Jewish documents, the seed is interpreted as all the sons of the woman, not just the Messiah.  Of course, Mary isn't a son of the woman, so that would not help any more than any of the preceding arguments. 

Ultimately, Sam's arguments can't prop up  Ineffabilis Deus.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Jude 7, Sodom, and Eternal Fire

Some annihilationists see Jude 7's comment about Sodom and eternal fire as lending support to their view that the fire of the final judgment may be eternal, without the punishment lasting forever.

Jude 5-7 (KJV/NA28)

(5) I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. (6) And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (7) Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

(5)Ὑπομνῆσαι δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, εἰδότας ὑμᾶς ἅπαξ πάντα ὅτι Ἰησοῦς λαὸν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου σώσας τὸ δεύτερον τοὺς μὴ πιστεύσαντας ἀπώλεσεν, (6)ἀγγέλους τε τοὺς μὴ τηρήσαντας τὴν ἑαυτῶν ἀρχὴν ἀλλ’ ἀπολιπόντας τὸ ἴδιον οἰκητήριον εἰς κρίσιν μεγάλης ἡμέρας δεσμοῖς ἀϊδίοις ὑπὸ ζόφον τετήρηκεν, 7ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, πρόκεινται δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου δίκην ὑπέχουσαι.

The typical annihilationist argument is that the Sodom was completely consumed by the fire, and its punishment quickly ended, therefore "eternal fire" can just mean "fire from God, the Eternal."  Here a few rejoinders:

1) Even assuming that "eternal fire" just means "fire from God, the Eternal" in this passage would not imply a general rule that it always means that.

2) The same concept can be applied to fire, both that it is from God, the Eternal, and that duration of the fire will be long.  We see an example of that in Baruch 4:35 ("For fire shall come upon her from the Everlasting, long to endure; and she shall be inhabited of devils for a great time.") 

3) In context, the more natural understanding of "eternal" (αἰωνίου) is as conceptually parallel to "everlasting" (ἀϊδίοις).  In other words, just as the chains are everlasting so the fire is also eternal.

4) Jude's comments regarding "eternal fire" and "everlasting chains" as well as the reference to Sodom need to be understood within their historical context, namely the way that they would have been meant by Jude and understood by his initial audience.  

We know that Jude was familiar with intertestamental literature.  For example, Jude 14 quotes from 1 Enoch 1:9.  Furthermore, Jude 7 is quite similar to 3 Maccabees 2:5 ("You consumed with fire and sulphur the men of Sodom who acted arrogantly, who were notorious for their vices; and you made them an example to those who should come afterward.")

In those intertestamental works, there is a clear link between chains and fire.  For example, 1 Enoch 10:11-15:

And the Lord said unto Michael: 'Go, bind Semjaza and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness. And when their sons have slain one another, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgement and of their consummation, till the judgement that is for ever and ever is consummated. In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire: and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever. And whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed will from thenceforth be bound together with them to the end of all generations. 

Notice the idea that of being chained down in the abyss of fire, being tormented in prison for ever.  One may be tempted to look at "to the end of all generations" as suggesting a final terminus of the destruction, but "to all generations" is essentially a Hebraism that means forever.  

Similarly, 1 Enoch 54:1-5:

And I looked and turned to another part of the earth, and saw there a deep valley with burning fire. And they brought the kings and the mighty, and began to cast them into this deep valley. And there mine eyes saw how they made these their instruments, iron chains of immeasurable weight. And I asked the angel of peace who went with me, saying: ' For whom are these chains being prepared ' And he said unto me: ' These are being prepared for the hosts of Azazel, so that they may take them and cast them into the abyss of complete condemnation, and they shall cover their jaws with rough stones as the Lord of Spirits commanded.

This is a picture of hell.

The author of 1 Enoch is not alone in picturing eternal conscious torment in the intertestamental period:

Judith 16:17 Woe to the nations that rise up against my kindred! the Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh; and they shall feel them, and weep for ever.

(Compare Ecclesiasticus 7:17 Humble thyself greatly: for the vengeance of the ungodly is fire and worms.) All this is great, but what about the connection to Sodom?  As we mentioned above, the author of 3 Maccabees uses Sodom in a similar way as an example, namely a learning example.

The author of 2 Esdras has a similar use for Sodom, 2 Esdras 2:8-9

Woe be unto thee, Assur, thou that hidest the unrighteous in thee! O thou wicked people, remember what I did unto Sodom and Gomorrha; Whose land lieth in clods of pitch and heaps of ashes: even so also will I do unto them that hear me not, saith the Almighty Lord. 

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon, has a similar testimonial take, Wisdom 10:6-7

When the ungodly perished, she delivered the righteous man, who fled from the fire which fell down upon the five cities. Of whose wickedness even to this day the waste land that smoketh is a testimony, and plants bearing fruit that never come to ripeness: and a standing pillar of salt is a monument of an unbelieving soul.

The "she" there is Wisdom.  

Notice, however, that the author of Wisdom understands the fire at Sodom to still be burning.  It is not the land that "smoked" but the land that smokes.  The NETS version has: "a smoking waste still remains," which conveys the same point.  

It is not clear whether Jude had the concept of Sodom from the non-canonical book of Wisdom in mind or not.  What is clear, though, is that Jude likewise speaks of Sodom's burning as though it is ongoing: "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," not merely "were set forth as an example," nor "are set forth ... having suffered ...." 

5) Of course, we must not overlook the parallel context in 2 Peter 2:4-9 (KJV / NA28)

(4) For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; (5) And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; (6) And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; (7) And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (8) (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (9) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

 (4)Εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀλλὰ σειραῖς ζόφου ταρταρώσας παρέδωκεν εἰς κρίσιν τηρουμένους (5)καὶ ἀρχαίου κόσμου οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀλλ’ ὄγδοον Νῶε δικαιοσύνης κήρυκα ἐφύλαξεν κατακλυσμὸν κόσμῳ ἀσεβῶν ἐπάξας (6)καὶ πόλεις Σοδόμων καὶ Γομόρρας τεφρώσας καταστροφῇ κατέκρινεν ὑπόδειγμα μελλόντων ἀσεβεῖν τεθεικὼς (7)καὶ δίκαιον Λὼτ καταπονούμενον ὑπὸ τῆς τῶν ἀθέσμων ἐν ἀσελγείᾳ ἀναστροφῆς ἐρρύσατο· (8)βλέμματι γὰρ καὶ ἀκοῇ ὁ δίκαιος ἐγκατοικῶν ἐν αὐτοῖς ἡμέραν ἐξ ἡμέρας ψυχὴν δικαίαν ἀνόμοις ἔργοις ἐβασάνιζεν· (9)οἶδεν κύριος εὐσεβεῖς ἐκ πειρασμοῦ ῥύεσθαι, ἀδίκους δὲ εἰς ἡμέραν κρίσεως κολαζομένους τηρεῖν,

The phrase "turning into ashes" is a single verb in Greek, apparently deriving from the noun "ash."  We might approximate it in English by "ash-ify" or or incinerate.  This is the only time the word is used in Scripture (even including the LXX), and there does not seem to be an abundance of Greek usage.  Cassius Dio (c. A.D. 155-235) uses it in Roman History 66:21 to describe the interior of the still-active crater of Mt. Vesuvius.  Obviously, 2 Peter was written well before that work.  I mention it merely as an example of ancient usage.

Whether it means that Sodom was burned down, covered in ash, etc. the interesting thing for our purposes is that Peter does not explicitly refer to fire, yet nevertheless similarly sees Sodom and Gomorrha as an example for those who come after (like Jude and the author of 3 Maccabees). 

In Peter's usage, the participle is an aorist participle, rather than a present participle. I think the translators used an English present participle because the time is understood from "condemned" in the main verb of the phrase.  So, Peter is focused on the past action, as distinct from Jude who mentions an ongoing situation.

There are other contrasts between Peter and Jude.  Peter mentions the fallen angels, the world in Noah's day, and the destruction of Sodom, whereas Jude mentions the Exodus, the fallen angels, and the destruction of Sodom.  Peter brings out the difference between the Lord's salvation of the righteous and Lord's destruction of the wicked.  Jude is more focused on the destruction of those once favored by God.  Thus, Jude does not mention Lot, while Peter spends several verses on him.

6) Internal parallel considerations are perhaps the final point to consider.  As noted above, there is a parallel between the chained angels and the men of Sodom.  In this context, the "eternal fire" may refer to the fire presently tormenting the men of Sodom in hell.  

Matthew, quoting Jesus, uses everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8 and 25:41) in a way that unambiguously refers to punishments received after death.  Moreover, these are the only other two scriptural uses of the phrase in the New Testament.  Given the parallel to the bound fallen angels, the "eternal fire" reference may be to the present day suffering of Sodom.

In favor of this interpretation is the fact that although Peter does not specifically mention it in 2 Peter, Peter had previously pointed out that those who died in the flood were presently in Tartarus (1 Peter 3:19).  Thus, Peter's mention of the ash-ify-ing of Sodom may be understood as the way that its residents were moved on to the afterlife, just as bringing in the flood did for those of Noah's day, and the casting down of the fallen angels did to them.  By contrast, Jude does not mention the angels being cast down, just that they left their habitation, with the focus being on their current state.  Likewise, Jude focuses on the fact that the Israelites were destroyed, without dwelling on the various means by which God accomplished that.

7) In conclusion, the easiest harmony that combines the above is that Sodom was (at least literarily, if not literally) smoking in Jude's day, but that Jude probably had in mind more than just the literal ongoing fires in the tar pits in the valley of Siddim (assuming there were such fires), but their ongoing eternal punishment in hell.


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Jeremiah 18 and the Potter/Clay

Instead of appealing to the obvious biblical antecedent of the potter analogy in Romans 9 (namely Isaiah 29:16 and 45:9) or the most logical intertestamental literature (namely Wisdom 15:7), many non-Calvinists will turn to Jeremiah 18.  

Jeremiah 18:1-10

(1) The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, (2) Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. (3) Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. (4) And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

(5) Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, (6) O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. (7) At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; (8) If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. (9) And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; (10) If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

What non-Calvinists seem to overlook is the phrase "seemed good" in verse 4.  The point in that passage is not "even if the clay pot turned out badly, the potter could still find something to use it for," rather it is that "the clay is malleable and God can make from the clay what it pleases God to make."

The translation "seemed good" is a valid translation but when we read it, we may overlook that this same phrase is used consistently to describe strong preferences:

Numbers 23:27

And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence.

Judges 14:3

Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well

Judges 14:7

And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.

1 Samuel 18:20

And Michal Saul's daughter loved David: and they told Saul, and the thing pleased him.

1 Samuel 18:26

And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king's son in law: and the days were not expired.

2 Samuel 17:4

And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel.

1 Kings 9:12

And Hiram came out from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him; and they pleased him not.

1 Chronicles 13:4

And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.

2 Chronicles 30:4

And the thing pleased the king and all the congregation.

Jeremiah 18:4

And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

Jeremiah 27:5

I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.

The phrase combines yāšar (יָשַׁר) (straight or good) and ʿayin (עַיִן) (eye) (hence the translation at 1 Chronicles 13:4).  While arguments from etymology should always come with an asterisk, the idea is that something pleasing is what your eyes settle or focus on.  It's what you like to look at, as opposed to the things from which you turn away your face. We have the saying, "I can't take my eyes off of you," as an expression of desire, and it may convey some of the connotation of this particular expression.  Another possible explanation for the expression could derive from the human love of symmetry and order, particularly to the eye.  While some people revel in messiness, almost everyone has to concede that having things lined up properly is more pleasant to look at.  

In short, the final stage of the pot per Jeremiah 18:4 is not up to the pot, nor is it a backup plan in case in the pot messes up the potter's first plan, rather it is what God in a very real sense wants to see.

While non-Calvinists will tend to emphasize the role assigned to nations (either to turn from evil or to turn to evil) and treat God as merely responsive to the nations, the outcome is nevertheless all in the hands of God.  The point of the metaphor is not that clay gets to decide its own construction, but rather that God is free to do what God wants to do.

As a very minor side note, I found it interesting to see that the lexical form of the word for potter, yāṣar (יָצַר), differs from the lexical form of the word for straight/good, yāšar (יָשַׁר), primarily in that the former has a tzadie instead of a shin (yod-tsadeh-resh vs. yod-shin-resh).  Thus, as reflected in the transliterations, the words sound a bit alike.  I will leave it to others more versed in the pronunciation of Biblical Hebrew to say whether there is wordplay here, but I just found it interesting.