Damned if he do, damned if he don’t.

Over at Evangelical Realism, I’m having an interesting conversation with one Kevin Harris, who gives his web site as William Lane Craig’s reasonablefaith.org, on the topic of “The 7th Criterion.” If you’ve read the post, you may recall that I proposed a 7th criterion for historical authenticity, in addition to the 6 Craig provides: to be historically authentic, a report must be consistent with real-world truth. Kevin originally criticized the 7th criterion for having an anti-supernatural bias, but I pointed out that it’s really a bias against falsehood, and that if a bias against falsehood is an anti-supernatural bias, that in itself tells you something about the supernatural. Kevin agreed that we want to avoid falsehood, but told me not to equivocate “falsehood” with “the supernatural,” which was ironic. My reply led to Kevin’s latest response to me, which is, shall we say, interesting.

The problem, I think, is that I’m holding up a perfectly fair and reasonable and even fundamental criterion. A true report, by definition, is one that is consistent with the real-world truth. Before we accept an ancient story as historically authentic, therefore, we should first examine whether or not it is consistent with real-world truth. If it isn’t, then by definition it’s a false story, and it wouldn’t do to designate false stories as historically authentic!

For some reason, Kevin appears reluctant to commit himself to agreeing to measure the Gospel according to that standard. I’ll give you a sample below the fold.

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Gospel Disproof #34: Progressive sanctification

Today’s Gospel Disproof comes (again) from our friend Eric, who writes:

Salvation is ALL of grace and none of human merit so there is no grounds for boasting and certainly one is given no reason to think that the unsaved are “ even worse than you”.

Eric is partly correct. No matter what you may hear people say when giving their testimony, no matter what the Bible says about how the blood of Jesus “cleanses us from all sin,” and no matter how earnestly the Apostle Paul argues that believers have been freed from sin, “sinners” without God are no worse than believers with God. Or to phrase it in less negative terms, accepting Jesus doesn’t really make you a better person.

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Any shoe that fits.

There’s a new post up at Evangelical Realism covering more of Chapter 8 of On Guard by William Lane Craig. Last week, we saw Craig use his 6 criteria of authentic history to try claim that Jesus really did call himself Messiah. As evidence, Craig cited a number of passages in which Jesus did not, in fact, call himself Messiah. Craig cites stories about other people calling Jesus Messiah, and about Jesus allegedly working miracles allegedly associated with Messiah, but having announced that he was going to show that Jesus claimed to be Messiah, he “met” his burden of proof by providing merely what he calls “good evidence that Jesus did…think he was the Messiah.”

That pretty much sums up Craig’s approach to “authentic” history. He “proves” that Jesus claimed to be Messiah by making guesses about what Jesus might have been thinking. Not surprisingly, his guess is that Jesus must have been thinking exactly what modern-day Christians wish he were thinking. And in Craig’s book, that means it’s a historic fact that Jesus claimed to be Messiah. (You see now why I was a tad skeptical when he introduced the criterion about a claim being coherent with “facts” already established about Jesus.)

In today’s installment, Craig takes his mindreading act a step further: he’s going to tell us what Jesus meant by the the things he (Jesus) might have been thinking.

Read more at Evangelical Realism.

Baptist seminary student recalls history

Zachary Bailes, a seminary student at Wake Forest, has this interesting perspective on the public outcry against Jessica Ahlquist in Cranston, RI.

An irony not lost on students of history is that Roger Williams, the prodigious 17th century rabble-rouser, founded America’s First Baptist Church in nearby Providence in the name of “soul freedom” after banishment from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Now the eventual state founded by the man who championed religious liberty long before it was popular (and some might contend that it still isn’t) appears antagonistic toward the idea.

Published by the Associated Baptist Press web site (of all places!), Bailes reminds Cranston’s largely Roman Catholic population that it wasn’t all that long ago they themselves were on Jessica’s side of the line.

Not too long ago it wasn’t a good idea to announce in public that you were Catholic. John F. Kennedy had to make a case to Southern Baptist ministers in 1960 that if he were elected president papal rule would not seep into the Oval Office. http://usinfo.org/docs/democracy/66.htm

Where I grew up Protestants did not date or associate with Catholics. Catholics were seen as the “other” and for some the sentiment still exists. If anything, the Catholic community in Cranston should protect Ahlquist and others because they share a similar story.

You tell ‘em, Zachary!

A temple for atheists

As you’ve probably heard, Alain de Botton has announced plans to build a “Temple to Atheism” somewhere in London. Seems a rather silly idea to me. What’s next, a museum for non-stamp-collectors? Given that atheism is the absence of belief in God, the most suitable “temple” ought to be—no temple at all. And we’ve already got that.

Some very large subset of atheism might also be served by a “temple” that consisted of reality itself, since reality is the true “supreme power” to which we all must submit. But again, we’ve already got that “temple,” and always have. de Botton’s plans are a waste of money that would be better spent somewhere else.

A first for Maine?

According to a Washington Post report, Maine may achieve a historic first:

Gay rights activists in Maine, the only New England state that doesn’t allow gay marriage or civil unions, moved Thursday toward forcing a second statewide vote on the marriage question, and their opponents say they’ll be ready for a fight.

Polling data indicates that the tide may have shifted against the forces of discrimination.

One of those eager to vote again is the Rev. Michael Gray, a Methodist pastor in Old Orchard Beach.

Gray said he was a longtime conservative who changed his mind “after study, prayer and patience.”

If the referendum succeeds in overturning the anti-gay measures, they will be the first state to approve gay marriage by popular vote.

Go Maine!

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Low-cost space exploration

Recent budget cuts at NASA make it clear that the glory days are over, as far as funding is concerned. A report at the Discovery Channel website suggests the possibility of a lower-cost alternative to all those big, expensive rockets and stuff.

Over the past 50 years, billions of dollars have been spent visiting our nearest neighbor in space, the moon. It’s the only extraterrestrial body humans have ever walked on. Besides the United States and Russia, Japan, China, India and the European Space Agency have all sent robotic spacecraft moonward…

But why bother? says a group of parapsychology sleuths who accuse NASA of hiding evidence of aliens on the lunar surface.

Yep, a group of psychics has used “remote viewing” to discover that the Apollo 16 astronauts actually discovered wreckage of an alien spacecraft that crashed on the moon. The wreckage can even be seen in published photos—cleverly disguised as ordinary rocks and dirt. Damn those government censors for covering this all up!
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Gospel Disproof #33: The Word of God

I mentioned in Gospel Disproof #32 that your salvation depends on believing what fallible men say about God. A Christian commenter named Eric replied:

Not at all. God has given us His supernaturally preserved Word which has proved to be a trustworthy guide for life and practice through the ages.

He is referring to the books of Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and the evangelists, collectively known as “the Bible” or “the Word of God.” For almost 2,000 years, the writings of these men have led and guided the Church in their role as God’s Word—even though none of the authors is God. If you grew up Christian like I did, it seems perfectly plausible and natural, but if you stop and think about it, it’s really a very peculiar situation. Why would you need to be led by a humanly-authored book about God if you had a real God to guide you?

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Dialogs with Eric, Part 2: Does God believe what men say?

In my post on salvation by faith, I mentioned the fact that God does not behave as though He believed all the things men say about Him, particularly as concerns His alleged love for us and His alleged desire to be part of a personal, loving and real relationship with each of us. Eric takes issue with this observation, and offers a number of standard Christian responses, but also expresses the wish that I would say more about what I mean. And I’m glad to do so.

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The power to define is the power to destroy

I was skimming through the news headlines and saw an article that got me thinking. I’ve since lost the link, so I can’t really quote it here, but it’s a sadly all-too-common tale: Christians complaining about liberals and how gay rights activists are trying to “change the definition” of marriage.

So here’s the thing: Christians want the right to define what marriage is, and that in itself is not a bad thing. Christians should have the right to decide for themselves what the true definition of marriage is. The problem is that they not only want to define marriage for themselves, they want to define it for everyone else as well. They want to deny to others the right of definition that they claim exclusively for themselves.

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