Saturday, October 01, 2011

Supporting the Arabs with Unsound Arguments

Suppose someone argues this:
The first is McMahon-Hussein Correspondence, which promised that the Arabs would have their own state in Palestine. This promise was given in hopes of gaining Arab support for the British war efforts against Turkey. The British High Commissioner Sir Henry McMahon promised the following to the Arabs (Oct 24, 1915) in a letter to Hussein Ibn Ali, Sherif of Mecca: (quotation) So the British promised the Arabs an independent stable state – presumably the land/or within the land of Palestine.
Notice that I've omitted the quotation that was in the original. We'll come to it in a second. If this use of sources is proper, what should the quotation show? It should show:
  • A promise.
  • To "the Arabs"
  • That they would have "their own state"
  • That it would be "in Palestine."
  • That it would be "independent"
  • That it would be "stable"
After all, that is how this evidence is being sold: "promised that the Arabs would have their own state in Palestine" and "promised the Arabs an independent stable state – presumably the land/or within the land of Palestine."

What does the quotation actually say?
(1) Subject to the above modifications, Great Britain is prepared to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs in all the regions within the limits demanded by the Sherif of Mecca.
(2) Great Britain will guarantee the Holy Places against all external aggression and will recognise their inviolability.
(3) When the situation admits, Great Britain will give to the Arabs her advice and will assist them to establish what may appear to be the most suitable forms of government in those various territories…
I am convinced that this declaration will assure you beyond all possible doubt of the sympathy of Great Britain towards the aspirations of her friends the Arabs and will result in a firm and lasting alliance, the immediate results of which will be the expulsion of the Turks from the Arab countries and the freeing of the Arab peoples from the Turkish yoke, which for so many years has pressed heavily upon them.
So, it actually promises the Arabs freedom from the Turks (one group of Muslims from another group of Muslims).  Does it promise to build any Arab states?  No.  What about anything Palestinian?  Palestine isn't even mentioned as such.

It seems that that author of the argument is blissfully unaware of the reality of the massively powerful and expansive Ottoman Empire (based in Turkey, but expanded all over) and the perceived English need to have the Arabs fight the Turks during World War I.  Whether the author of the argument is unaware or not is hard to be sure, but his argument does not seem to recognize the difference between declaring that the Ottoman empire has to let a region go (what the cited McMahon-Hussein Correspondence was all about) and some kind of Arab nation-building (which wasn't the topic of the correspondence).

The author of the article writes:
Of course, “Palestine” isn’t specifically mentioned. 22 years later the High Commissioner 22 would say he never technically promised a Palestinian Arab state with these words (see McMahon’s letter in London Times, 1937), even though that’s how the Arabs understood it.
But the letter he references actually states:
I feel it my duty to state, and I do so definitely and emphatically, that it was not intended by me in giving this pledge to King Hussein to include Palestine in the area in which Arab independence was promised. I also had every reason to believe at the time that the fact that Palestine was not included in my pledge was well understood by King Hussein.
So, the author of the letter didn't say X, later says he didn't mean X, and also claims that his correspondent understood that.

(original article to which this post responds)


Friday, September 30, 2011

Justification as Declaration of Righteousness

Here are some thoughts on Justification from the early church father John Chrysostom, courtesy of the great Reformer Thomas Cranmer and my friend (and fellow heir to the legacy of Chrysostom and Cranmer) David King:

Chrysostom (349-407): What does he mean when he says: “I have declared your justice?” He did not simply say: “I have given,” but “I have declared.” What does this mean? That he has justified our race not by right actions, not by toils, not by barter and exchange, but by grace alone. Paul, too, made this clear when he said: “But now the justice of God has been made manifest independently of the Law.” But the justice of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ and not through any labor and suffering.

Greek text: Τί ποτέ ἐστιν, Εὐηγγελισάμην δικαιοσύνην; Οὐκ εἶπεν ἁπλῶς, Ἔδωκα, ἀλλ', Εὐηγγελισάμην. Τί δήποτε; Ὅτι οὐκ ἀπὸ κατορθωμάτων, οὐδὲ πόνων, οὐδὲ ἀμοιβῆς, ἀλλʼ ἀπὸ χάριτος μόνης τὸ γένος ἐδικαίωσε τὸ ἡμέτερον. Ὅπερ οὖν καὶ ὁ Παῦλος δηλῶν ἔλεγε· Νυνὶ δὲ χωρὶς νόμου δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ πεφανέρωται· δικαιοσύνη δὲ Θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, οὐ διὰ καμάτου τινὸς καὶ πόνου.

Adversus Judaeos, VII, §3, PG 48:919; translation in Fathers of the Church, Vol. 68, Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, Disc. 7.3.2 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1979), pp. 186-187.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hans Küng and the Roman System

Hans Küng is not allowed to teach "Catholic theology," but he remains with the Roman communion, apparently teaches ecumenical theology at the University of Tübingen, and is still a priest (i.e. he has not been defrocked).  Unlike most priests, he has been invited to the pope's summer palace and corresponds occasionally with the pope.

However, Küng has a less Roman perspective than his former colleague Joseph Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI).  As reported by Spiegel, Küng stated:
Küng: In my view, the Catholic Church as a community of faith will be preserved, but only if it abandons the Roman system of rule. We managed to get by without this absolutist system for 1,000 years. The problems began in the 11th century, when the popes asserted their claim to absolute control over the Church, by applying a form of clericalism that deprived the laity of all power. The celibacy rule also stems from that era.

SPIEGEL: In an interview with the respected weekly German newspaper Die Zeit, you were sharply critical of Pope Benedict, saying that not even King Louis XIV was as autocratic as the leader of the Catholic Church, with his absolutist style of government. Could Benedict truly change the Roman system if he wanted to?

Küng: It's true that this absolutism is an essential element of the Roman system. But it was never an essential element of the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council did everything to move away from it, but unfortunately it wasn't thorough enough. No one dared to criticize the pope directly, but there was an emphasis on the pope's collegial relationship with the bishops, which was designed to integrate him into the community again.

SPIEGEL: Was it successful?

Küng: I wouldn't say that it was. The shamelessness with which the Vatican's policy has simply hushed up and neglected the concept of collegiality since then is beyond compare. An unparalleled personality cult prevails once again today, which contradicts everything written in the New Testament. In this sense, one can state this very clearly. Benedict has even accepted the gift of a tiara, a papal crown, the medieval symbol of absolute papal power, which an earlier pope, Paul VI, chose to surrender. I think this is outrageous. He could change all of this overnight, if he wanted to.
There's plenty more in the article, but it interesting to hear Küng speak for himself, particularly considering how "conservative" (the way he would describe them) members of the Roman communion seem to portray him as some sort of monster.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Debate Announcement - Conditionalism Debate

Lord willing, I will be debating Ronnie of Consuming Fire on the topic of what he calls "Conditionalism"  (Debate announcement and chance to submit "audience questions" here.), which evidently holds to the idea that those in hell will eventually be consumed by the fire there (leading others to describe it as "annihilationism").