Friday, December 30, 2011

Hubner's Recommended Reading

My friend Jamin Hubner has posted a list of books (from "both sides") regarding, in his terms, "Economics and Christian Zionism."  Feel free to check out the list.  He makes one remark that I'll address and let the rest pass: "they will at least pause when Tur and Hays’ [sic] essentially point a finger and say “propaganda” – especially as one reads all sides ... ."  Some of these authors (for example, Alan Dershowitz) would be a better choice as a source when accusing Israel of "atrocities" as Hubner manages to do twice in this post.  He's a more credible source on those issues than regular Sojourner's contributor, Burge, who Hubner lumps in with O. Palmer Robertson.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Response to Cursilista Regarding Church History

Cursilista wrote:
The one thing that bugs me is that the question I would ask is for a protestant explanation of how did Christianity move forward through time after Christ died. 

We have a pretty clear answer to that.  Read the book of Acts.  It says zero about a Roman-centered Christianity.  Rome is part of Paul's mission field, it's not the locus of a papacy.  We see churches being planted all over the world, wherever Paul and other missionaries go.

Cursilista continued:
Give an explanation of what form of organization did Christianity take that survived since the time of Christ to today. 
The form of the organization was initially elders in every city (Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:), accompanied by deacons (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:). The terms bishop and elder were originally synonymous.

Eventually, a monarchical episcopate emerged, in which one of the elders became designated as "the" bishop.  Later, certain bishops gained a preeminence over others, particularly in cities that were important in the Roman empire.  I could go on, and recite the tale of the development of a variety of different organizational forms that have existed from ancient times down to modern times, but suffice to say that there have been a significant number of different organizational forms that have existed, both in ancient times and - of course - in modern times.

Cursilista continued:
Christ said that his church would not be overcome by the gates of hell. Satan would not prevail over his church, therefore Christ's church had to have existed since his death to current time and will continue to exist forever. 

This is a non sequitur, premised on a misunderstanding of what Christ said. 

First of all, the organizational form of the apostolic era church (with a plurality of elders accompanied by deacons in every city) was quite not carefully maintained.  Even historians within the Roman communion (such as Robert Eno and Francis Sullivan) acknowledge this fact. 

Second, the apostasy of individual churches (even very many of them) does not entail victory of Satan over Christ's church.  Recall that during the time of the Old Testament, it seemed to God's prophet Elisha that he was the last follower of God on earth, but God replied that there were 7000 others.  Thus, even if for a few years - or even a few hundred years - there were only 7000 scattered followers of Christ, it would be Satan's error to think he had the victory over the church.

We need not, however, assume that apostasy was so complete that there were only 7000 believers.  Certainly there were many errors that crept into the churches, even from a very early time.  Nevertheless, salvation is not obtained by having perfect doctrines or perfect practices, but rather by trusting in Christ alone for salvation.

Third, the reference to the gates of hell is a reference to death, not Satan.  Recall that Wisdom 16:13 states: "For thou hast power of life and death: thou leadest to the gates of hell, and bringest up again."  The promise that Jesus is making in Matthew 16 is not some kind of victory in spiritual defense against Satan (after all, in warfare gates are themselves defensive not offensive) but rather victory over death: resurrection.  The "church" that Christ is talking about here is all believers.  As Christ explains: "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.  ... No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  ... Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:39, 40, 44, and 54)

Cursilista continued: 
So name that church, name the leaders of that church, show a succession of those leaders, there is a 2000 yr. span of time which has to be accounted for. 

This request proceeds from the faulty premises identified above.  Christ does not promise that every apostle would be faithful, much less that those who came after them would be faithful.  The head of Christ's church is one: Christ, as it is written: "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church," (Ephesians 1:22), "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body."  (Ephesians 5:23), "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18).

It is true that Christ died, but Christ was raised again on the third day and continues to live even until this day.  So, the two thousand year time span is fully accounted for.

Moreover, while Christ is bodily absent from us, he has provided us with both the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we can learn what we need to believe to be saved from them.  The churches are an aid to that, but they are (and must be) subordinate to both.

Cursilista wrote:
What churches did the Apostles start. They should still be around today. 
Why would one assume such a thing?  Look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation (sorry, Rome didn't make that list).  There is no promise to those churches, which were started in the apostolic era that they would endure forever, or that they would endure without apostasy.  Indeed, can you find those seven churches now?

Cursilista continued:
For 1500 years, my only knowledge of such a Christian church is the Catholic Church. 

There are other churches that claim an ancient lineage.  The Eastern Orthodox churches are the most visible alternative, but there are others as well - such as the Copts in Egypt and the Ethiopian Orthodox.  The fact that a church claims an ancient lineage does not demonstrate that the church teaches what the apostles taught.  We can know what the apostles taught from the Scriptures, and we can compare the teachings of churches like Rome to those teachings to see whether they have maintained or departed from the apostolic faith.

Moreover, Rome's claims to being ancient are easily challenged.  Events like the Council of Constance or the move from election by the people of Rome to election by the Cardinals suggest that the modern papacy is disconnected from the older Roman bishoprics.  The fact that men have obtained the papacy by simony similarly negate the idea that somehow the Roman bishopric has been maintained against Satan's attacks.  Do we even need to mention mention men like Julius III and Alexander VI who occupied the papacy but demonstrated by their way of life that they were not Christians?

Cursilista wrote:
The protestant reformation took place in the early 1500’s. 
That's a typical sociological date.  However, of course, at the time Luther was treated as being a continuation of what Huss (1369-1415) and Wycliffe (1328-1384) had started before him, in terms of opposing Rome.  And we could back even prior to Wycliffe to the Waldensians, who trace their roots to Peter Waldo (1140-1218).  Of course, this is only in the West.  An East-West division occurred in 1054.  So, while the Protestant Reformation was a very notable and important event, it's more of a continuation of lots of people disagreeing with the bishop of Rome, and the bishop of Rome (at least from the 11th century) acting as an autocrat (see the power struggle between Emperor Henry IV and the pope of his day, for example).

Cursilista continued:
The protestants need to fill in a 1500 yr. gap as to what was Christ's church, other than the catholic church, here on earth for those 1500 yrs. If they cannot, then, they have to admit that the Catholic church is the church that was established by Christ. If Christ said he church would endure forever then, either his church started at Pentecost and continues to today or Jesus waited 1500 yrs. to start his church during the protestant reformation. The later proposition is hard to believe.
Mostly, this is already addressed above.  The faulty presupposition behind this argument is that Christ came to establish a single denomination.  Instead, the rock upon which Christ's church is built is a confession of faith in Christ alone ("Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God").  That is to say, "the church" is whoever trusts in Christ alone for salvation.  It's not an organization with a headquarters in Rome, ruled by men in fancy clothes who sit on thrones.

Cursilista again:
Also in this debate, my two cents would be to ask the question and make this supposition . Is god a god of order or disorder. In order to organize men, there needs to be a committee and a head of that committee that controls the debate with authority. 

Cursilista assumes too much. In the Old Testament era, there was no pope, yet the same God ruled his people then.  Now, we have Christ as the head of our church, and we have his official word, the Scriptures, to guide and rule us.  That, however, is not enough for some, it seems.

Cursilista wrote:
When Jesus left this earth , he left his church in the hands of the apostles, humans, his committee, to organize and keep intact all of his teachings. 
Actually, when Jesus left, he sent the Holy Spirit who inspired the apostles and evangelists to write Holy Scripture. 

Cursilista continued:
Some of those teachings were not written down, so the bible says, because, all that Jesus taught his apostles couldn’t be written down, it would fill up the earth with books. 
Cursilista may have misunderstood the verse in question, but let us suppose that not all of Jesus' teachings were included in the Bible.  If so, how could we reliably know what those other teachings were?  We would have to examine the historical record to see what else the apostles were teaching, beside those things that were included in Scripture.  But when we examine the historical record, we don't see the distinctively Roman teachings (like papal infallibility, the bodily assumption of Mary, or the immaculate conception) being taught in the earliest period.

Moreover, the distinctively Roman dogmas are not that hard to put into book form.  So, it is not the case that these were simply not included because the amount of dogma was too much for the New Testament to fit it all.  Indeed, certain Roman advocates attempt to allege that Rome's distinctive dogmas actually are found in Scripture.

On top of that, we see that the early Christians plainly did not hold to things like papal infallibility.  While many people say nice things about Rome, and many people even seek the wisdom or authority of the bishop of Rome at various times in the patristic era, where does anyone argue that the bishop of Rome is infallible?  It's absurd to think that such a doctrine is apostolic or from Christ himself, yet we see people try to argue that today.

Cursilista again:
Therefore, The apostles with someone as the , lets call it chairman of the board of the committee, was the governing authority of the faith. 

The book of Acts does not reflect this.  On the contrary, the seeming "chairman" of the council described in Acts 15 is James, not Peter (who was living in Antioch or Samaria at that time, not Rome), and certainly not Linus (who is not even mentioned).  Likewise, as noted above, Rome's own historians dispute the idea the Roman papacy is something that was from the beginning.

Cursilista concluded: 
How else would the faith survive intact if not for some form of human organizational body in place to keep the teachings intact and without error or human interpretation to twist the teachings to cultural changes as time went by.
The answer should be obvious: Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit preserve and persuade us of the apostolic faith.  There is no promise all believers will have beliefs totally free from error.  But our faith does not depend an organization of men or a particular denomination of believers.


A Christmas Message from the Head of the Church of England

I set aside my views of patriarchy and the appropriate relation of church and state to praise the evangelical tone of this message from one of the last outspoken Christian monarchs.

Long live her royal majesty, Queen Elizabeth II!


A Trivium of Responses to Jamin

Let's tackle Jamin's recent post in three parts, which we will style rhetoric, grammar, and logic.  Those familiar with classical education will catch the allusion.   The labels don't perfectly fit, but we'll shoe-horn the arguments into those labels.  We'll also take them out of the traditional order, addressing Jamin's rhetoric first (but immediately I will start abusing my outline by using rhetoric in a more conventional sense).


Jamin begins his post by what appears to be an appeal to pity (argumentum ad misericordiam fallacy).   He claims he will try to clarify the record "without repeating Tur’s condescending tone ... ." Of course, that doesn't stop him from using a form of "absurd" and "silly" twice each in his post as a substitute for an argument.  But leaving aside any hypocrisy of the tone complaint, the tone of my criticisms of Jamin is totally irrelevant to the truth of the criticisms.  Moreover, in this case, Jamin sounds like the parricide who seeks the court's mercy because he's now an orphan.  He's complaining about something he brought on himself.

As for the tone, what exactly does Jamin want the tone of my criticism to be?  He gets upset when Steve Hays lampoons him with sharp criticism and he gets upset when I criticize him "condescendingly".  Is there some tone of criticism that Jamin would accept?

I recognize that a few people who - like myself - appreciate and value Jamin and Jamin's effort may get upset that my criticism is now taking a more sharp turn.  And, they may rightly point out that Jamin's ability (or lack thereof) to take criticism is not relevant to the validity of arguments.

And that's mostly true.  Whether Jamin is dispassionate rock or a crybaby (he's not at either extreme) is irrelevant to whether his conclusions follow from his premises.  On the other hand, Jamin seems to want to make it an issue by bringing it up from the very outset of the post.  So, he made it an issue - we're just responding.


Except that these points seem rather fundamental, they do not really fit the "grammar" tag well, as they have little to do with the mechanics of language.  Perhaps you could say that they have to do with the mechanics of knowledge, but that might seem a stretch.

Jamin asks:
But seriously, can you imagine if our judgments on people’s character and the reliability of their work was based solely on the reading of other people‘s opinions of them? 
Yes, that is one reason why people write book reviews, because other people wish to form judgments solely based on reading other people's opinions of the work, without having to read the work themselves.  We have an expression, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but people quite often do.

Jamin again:
Take for example Dr. James White and his work. Could you imagine the kind of picture of his work and character that would emerge if all I were to read were what other people online wrote?
Yes, I can imagine that. Dr. White has both critics and fans on-line.  The critics criticize, the fans praise.  In point of fact, some of Dr. White's books have reviews/endorsements printed on the outside cover for the very purpose of leading people to form a (positive) conclusion about what Dr. White wrote, so that they will be inclined to purchase and/or read the book.

Jamin himself has three posts under his "book review" tag on his blog, in which he has reviewed five books (three in one post).  So, you might think he'd understand the concept of people forming judgments about books based solely on reviews.  It's not as though reading any of those reviews intellectually commits the reader to subsequently buying and reading the work.  And if one does not have such an intellectual commitment, then it follows that people can and do (in many cases) form conclusions based solely on reviews.


One might think "logic" would better fit my identification of Jamin's fallacy above.  However, I have selected the following points for the "logic" tag, because they deal with how Jamin actually addresses the substance of the argument regarding his use of sources.

As for the problem with Jamin's sources (something that Steve Hays has dogged him about for a while), Jamin gets the closest yet to actually dealing with what Steve has presented.  Don't get your hopes too high, though, for Jamin admits: "I haven’t addressed any of the reviews Steve proffered ... ." 

Jamin, however, offers several reasons, justifications, or excuses for why he hasn't addressed any of the reviews Steve proffered.

1) Steve's Thesis "is absurd"

Jamin begins his argument by asserting that Steve's contention (he often seems to attribute that contention to me, but we'll leave that problem aside for now) that Jamin's source is essentially propaganda for Hamas is "absurd."

He claims that it is absurd because "The book is little more than a good Bible study on “Israel” (!), with some middle-eastern history on the side ... " (emphasis and exclamation point in the original)  How that's supposed to render a propaganda thesis "absurd" is not explained.  Such a book falls within the genre of books that a Hamas' propagandist (even a knowing, intentional one, though that wasn't Steve's claim) would produce.

Jamin further supports his claim by vouching for the history in the book: "the vast majority of which is accurate by other historians’ (Israeli!) accounts ... ."  Jamin seems here to be grasping the concept of source bias.  Had he cited to the Israeli accounts, Steve wouldn't be able to allege source bias.  As for Jamin's vouch, that rests on his credibility.

As for whether the book is a "good" study, we simply are given Jamin's own vouching for the matter.

2) "Anyone who has read the book knows that."

Then one would expect that all the on-line reviews would reflect that, no?  I mean, assuming those reviewers read the book.  Otherwise, this just seems like Jamin vouching more dogmatically.

3) "But that’s just the problem: Tur and Hays haven’t read it, don’t intend to, and remain at the mercy of online reviewers"

Of course, it is totally irrelevant to the criticism that Jamin is receiving whether or not Steve or I read the book.  Neither Steve's arguments nor my criticism require such a premise.  Jamin is fallaciously reasoning when he insists that "the problem" is that his critics haven't read the book he cites.

Even Jamin's own review of the book suggests that middle eastern history is just a side topic of the book, and that some unspecified portion of that history is not accurate according to other historians (perhaps the portion cited by Jamin, perhaps some other portion, we're not told).

Most importantly, though, whether or not Jamin's source is biased is true whether or not Steve or I ever read the book, much less whether we intend to read the book.  Do I have to read "the Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to know that it is an anti-Semitic propaganda piece?  Do I have to intend to do so?  Certainly not.

Jamin knows that, he's just not reasoning logically.

4) "online reviewers – certainly many who are as biased as Burge or anyone else"

Huh?  So, is Burge biased or not?  Are his critics biased or not?  Is no one biased?  This seems to be an attempted "your mother is too" argument without the actual support for the assertion about your mother.  In other words, Jamin does not identify any particular bias of any particular online (or offline) reviewer, but simply waves his hands.

5) "The burden of proof is to demonstrate that so-called pro-Hamas’ propaganda actually is pro-Hamas propaganda – if that’s what all of this is really about."

Steve already offered evidence in support of that contention.  That shifts the burden back to Jamin to revitalize his source by addressing the evidence (something Jamin admits he has refused to do).  While Steve cannot just claim that Jamin's source is biased, Steve didn't just claim - he also provided supporting evidence.

6) "For me, it’s obviously more than that, esp. since I know that Burge’s assertions can/could have been substantiated by a number of other sources, as Burge says nothing profoundly new in the larger scheme of things."

a) That's a demonstration of why it was not particularly wise to cite Burge for this particular point.  Jamin didn't have to cite him for that point, and Burge isn't really "the authority" on that point.  As Jamin seems to concede above, middle east history wasn't even the focal point of Burge's book.

b) Jamin's attempt to get past this issue would proceed a lot more smoothly if he would just say to to Steve, "You're right - that was a bad source for that point.  However, here is a good source for that point."  Then Steve would have nothing left except to drag up a mistake that Jamin has already acknowledged.  I can understand Jamin's desire to deal with other topics, but he keeps posting about this one, leading to reply posts.

7) "It’s about the truth of what I was discussing in that original article the first place: the atrocities behind and consequences of the establishment of Israel and that the Israel of today is the Israel of the OT"

No doubt that is the subject Jamin would prefer to discuss, rather than whether his source was bad a source, but see above.

8) "Tur says “people are capable of knowing what an author’s intention was without having read the original book.” Then perhaps Tur should inform us about what Burge’s intention really is in Whose Land?"

Of course, this is a non sequitur.  Just because it is true that in general one can know an author's intention without having read the original book does not mean that I personally know it in every case or in any particular case.  Also, see below.

9) "if not simply to briefly portray middle-eastern conflict from the eyes of Palestinians (that’s primarily a geographical group, not ethnic group) and examine what Scripture has to say about “Israel.”"

I'm not sure if Jamin knows this, but we now have Jamin's thesis conveyed to us about the author's intention (without us having to read the book).  That supports my contention that people are capable of knowing what an author's intention was without having read the original.

10) "If there is some hidden pro-terrorist agenda behind this Wheaton NT professor’s work that we should know about, then perhaps that should be demonstrated before going any further."

a) "Hidden pro-terrorist agenda" puts too intentional a turn on the matter.
b) But Steve has already provided the demonstration that Jamin has refused to address.
c) Given that Steve has already proffered evidence and Jamin refuses to address it, it's disingenuous for Jamin to continue to demand demonstration.

11) "I haven’t addressed any of the reviews Steve proffered because it’s entirely unnecessary: I’ve read the book!"

Jamin's confused.  Reading the reviews might be unnecessary if one has already read the book.  However, if the reviews are presented as the evidence that the book is biased, and if Jamin wants to maintain that the book is not biased, based on more than just his personal vouching, he needs to address the evidence.

Obviously, Jamin is free to vouch for the book himself (as he seems to be doing over and over again), but simply vouching for the book himself isn't really addressing the opposing reviews.

12) "I know what’s in it. I don’t have to consult secondary sources on the work since I’m one to produce them."

This is just a continuation of the same confusion already addressed at (11).

13) "Nevertheless, it is certainly possible that other people see things that slip my attention and expertise."

Expertise?  In any event, this is just a concession that reading of the reviews might be helpful even to a person who read the book.  However, this line of thought is confused, as explained at (11).

14) "But do any of these “reviews” (which I have looked at) really establish through adequate facts and documentation that this college professor is intentionally helping terrorists ... through his work or otherwise?"

a) Jamin adds in a layer of intentionality and specific intentionality that's not really necessary (As Steve explained: "Obviously Burge doesn't see it that way. That's the nature of dupery. If you knew you were being duped, you wouldn't be a dupe.").  And Steve further suggests just looking at Burge's recent blog posts (link) with topics like "Five Frustrations When You Debate Israel and the Palestinians" and "When Will 3.5 Million Palestinians Get Their Chance For Freedom?" Burge (or whoever titles his blog posts) does not seem to try to present himself as an unbiased source on the matter.

b) More importantly, until Jamin actually addresses the reviews, we won't have a counter-argument as to why they fall short of meeting the standard that is necessary (whether the standard is that Burge is an unwitting or intentional propagandist for Hamas).

15) "That’s why I ignored this tangent on sources and sought to address the underlying presuppositions behind Hays’ violent reaction by asking him 3 simple questions, all three of which Hays (to my knowledge) has not to this day answered himself."

a) Why on earth should Hays answer three admittedly irrelevant questions?  This is a gigantic red herring.

b) What Jamin has actually done is to impugn Steve's motive.  But, of course, Steve's motives are not relevant to the truth of Steve's arguments.  Whether Steve is an evil "Zionist" or not does not make his criticism of Jamin's sources true or false.

16) "I wanted to get past the silly (and I mean silly) assertions about Hamas shills, Britney Spears, man-crushes and Lord knows what else (recount some of it here) and hopefully have a meaningful discussion on something substantive."

a) Hays' raised an objection to a use of a source.  It seems like Jamin has three options: (1) to address the criticism by rebutting the source; (2) to withdraw the source; or (3) to ignore the criticism.  But to respond to the criticism by trying to force the critic to talk about something else is just irrational.

b) Calling the criticism he receives "silly" isn't really a substitute for an argument as to why it is silly.  Steve's lampoon regarding the overly sympathetic fan of Britney Spears may well have been over the top, but that is the nature of lampoons.

17) "But it has been clear that anything but that will happen – whether Tur’s mockery or Hays’ absurd comparison of Dr. White to Norman Geisler."

Hubner would rather discuss "anything but" Hubner's mistakes.  We get that.  That's totally natural.  However, that doesn't justify styling criticism "mockery" and "absurd."  The comparison of Dr. White to Dr. Geisler was just that neither seems to hold their protege accountable.  As Steve's post put it: "Geisler syndrome is when a mentor automatically covers for his protégé"  As Steve's latest comment states: "Jamin continues to suffer from lack of responsible mentoring."  That comparison could be made absurd by suggesting that Jamin's use of sources is the moral equivalent of Caner's behavior, but Steve did not make that suggestion.  Perhaps Dr. White took it that way, which would be unfortunate, but if you carefully read Steve's post (as Dr. White himself suggested) it becomes clear what Steve's very narrow criticism was.  Namely: "Because Caner isn’t White’s own protégé, White can clearly see the problem with Geisler. But because Hubner is White’s protégé, he lacks the same objectivity in that case."  Incidentally, you'll find me disagreeing with some of Steve's points in the comment box of that post.  Moreover, whether or not Steve's comparison is correct is different from whether or not it is absurd.

18) "How unfortunate, indeed, that any of this has to be written."

You might think that Hays had a gun to Hubner's head, forcing him to double down on his mistakes instead of retracting them.  Or even forcing Hubner to respond to the criticism of his position.  That's not the case.  Ultimately, "this" gets written because Hubner doesn't want to just say, "Sorry, it was a bad source.  However, the same points can be documented from Israeli sources X, Y, and Z."  "This" gets written because (apparently) Hubner wants to write about it.

19) "Oh, and I did just notice that this ‘Hamas Shill’ and Hamas ‘propagandist’ just wrote a new book endorsed by Craig Blomberg, Marshall, Longenecker and others"

Ironically, those are the concluding words of Jamin's post.  I'm not sure whether the tone police will be asking for his badge and gun.

More significantly, of course, he's referring us to the endorsement/review of the book by three men, so we can form a judgment about the author without having to have read the book, conceding the very point he disputes above.


Where can we go from here?  It's up to Jamin.  He can continue to complain that he's getting criticized, he can retract, he can address the evidence Steve has presented, or he can just let it go.  I don't really see what point there would be in my continued involvement in the discussion, unless - of course - Jamin drags me back into the discussion of Jamin.