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Dispatches from the 10th Crusade



Updated: 2017-11-17T14:38:28Z

 



Licona gospel examples IV: More over-reading

2017-11-17T14:38:28Z

In this post I'll discuss more examples from Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? in which Licona's approach creates unnecessary tensions between the gospel accounts by over-reading. Here, as elsewhere, Licona opts for the interpretation of the text that... In this post I'll discuss more examples from Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? in which Licona's approach creates unnecessary tensions between the gospel accounts by over-reading. Here, as elsewhere, Licona opts for the interpretation of the text that creates an alleged contradiction and then (in all cases but one) "explains" it by fictionalization on the part of one or the other author. In the remaining case I will discuss, Licona explains the discrepancy created by over-reading by an interesting reference to use of contradictory sources which, in turn, is tacitly at odds with the traditional authorship of two of the gospels in question. Moreover, he adds fictionalization theories on top of the contradictory source theories. --Do the Pharisees watching Jesus heal the man with the withered hand stay silent the whole time? Licona postulates a discrepancy between Matthew's account (chapter 12) of Jesus' healing the man with the withered hand and Mark's (chapter 3) and Luke's (chapter 6). The alleged contradiction concerns the question of whether the Pharisees spoke to Jesus or not. Matthew 12:9-13 records that they asked Jesus a question: Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. Mark 3:1-5 does not record any question from the Pharisees to Jesus. He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Luke 6:6-10, which may be dependent upon Mark at this point, gives the strongest impression (taken in isolation) that the leaders were silent throughout, since it emphasizes that Jesus knew their thoughts. On another Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching; and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him. But He knew what they were thinking, and He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And he got up and came forward. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” After looking around at them all, He said to him, “Stretch out your hand!” And he did so; and his hand was restored. But it's important to remember that Licona is certainly not saying that Matthew is dependent upon Luke for this story but on Mark. Licona combines Luke's and Mark's accounts and states a contradiction. Most interesting is that in Mark 3: 2– 5 and Luke 6: 7– the Pharisees are portrayed as being silent throughout the entire event while observing Jesus to see if he would heal the man, thereby breaking the Sabbath and providing them with grounds to accuse him. But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them whether it was lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to save a [...]



Death for the New Natural Lawyers

2017-11-20T14:18:48Z

Our friend and erstwhile contributor, Professor Edward Feser, has with a colleague Joe Bessette written a most important book about the death penalty and about Catholic doctrine, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment.... Our friend and erstwhile contributor, Professor Edward Feser, has with a colleague Joe Bessette written a most important book about the death penalty and about Catholic doctrine, By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment. The most important feature (from my point of view) is the extremely strong argument that the moral licitness of capital punishment enjoys the immemorial, perennial magisterial support of the Church, from the Apostles to Benedict, as well as explicit endorsement in the Bible. As frequent readers here would expect, I have defended their theses with my own arguments in numerous online places, including in about 5 different posts in Ed’s blog. I won’t give a repeat of that support, you can look them up just fine. Chris Tollefsen, a proponent of the New Natural Law (NNL), has often disagreed with Ed’s support of the moral licitness of DP. He did so again yesterday, at Public Discourse, which I aim to address here. Tollefsen's thesis rests on this theoretical claim from the New Natural Law: Here is the basic argument: (A) human life is a basic, and not merely an instrumental, good for human persons; (B) no instance of a basic good should ever be destroyed as an end or a means; Tollefsen, and NNL generally, are wrong here. They are wrong in a very fundamental sense. Human life is not “a basic good,” not in the sense that it is always wrong to destroy it. First, we have the direct and explicit testimony of the Scriptures, where God repeatedly takes the lives of humans as punishment (OT: Abihu and Nadab, the sons of Aaron, for sacrificing wrongly; the men from Reuben, i.e. Dathan, Abiram and On – God opened the ground and it swallowed them and killed them; NT: Ananias and Saphira, for lying to Peter about their gift-giving). And God repeatedly tells the Israelites in no uncertain terms to impose the death penalty on certain malefactors. It’s not a permissive rule (like divorce), but a mandatory one: “take him even from my altar…” But most critical of all is the point that is the center of the whole Bible: Christ’s death. Jesus tells us, “nobody takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord”. Jn 10:18. To be explicit here: Christ did not merely tolerate his death by letting the Romans kill him. He declares that they DO NOT kill him. Sure, they try to, but his mastery over life is such that nothing they can do can actually take his life. He is the one who gives it up – of His own accord. He does it for a specific reason: as the means to our salvation – He uses His death to pay the debt of death we owe, and restore us to the possibility of spiritual life. If it is intrinsically wrong to take a life because it is a “basic good” and “no basic good should ever be destroyed” and to do so “as a means” is wrong, then Jesus does an intrinsically wrong thing to lay down His life as a means for saving us. In the light of the Bible, it is crazy to say that God does not intend the deaths of people. Philosophically, Tollefsen is wrong again, in that he misunderstands the nature of evil and of “doing evil”, especially when he tries to say that St. Thomas says that God “intends no evil” and that therefore God must not intend any human’s death. The mistake is twofold. Tollefsen catches only half of Aquinas’s treatment of evil in recognizing that good causes evils either through accidental cause or deficient cause. The other half is that what WE call “evil” is really two equivocal uses, for there is what is evil absolutely speaking and there is what is evil only in a sense. Evil is evil when it is contrary to the nature of a thing, and thus against its form, against its ordination to its e[...]



American Affairs

2017-11-14T17:22:48Z

A new quarterly called American Affairs earned some surprisingly good press when it first appeared. I would not have expected a magazine of scholarly Trumpism, unveiled a month after his nomination, to walk away with warm and whimsical write-ups in... A new quarterly called American Affairs earned some surprisingly good press when it first appeared. I would not have expected a magazine of scholarly Trumpism, unveiled a month after his nomination, to walk away with warm and whimsical write-ups in the The New York Times and the New Yorker; but then again a lot of things happen that I don’t expect. The bad press came a bit later, when, driven by an entirely foreseeable trajectory of events, the journal’s Editor publicly repudiated his vote of a year ago for the aforementioned Trump. (But even then, the Times gave him prominent space for the mea culpa.) However they voted, I’ll grant that the editors and writers of American Affairs have indeed produced some interesting and provocative copy. [edited for some embarrassing typos] Take, for instance, this essay by two men of plainly socialist disposition. “Make the Left Great Again,” an inspired headline, supplies in readable and mostly jargon-free prose, a kind of paleo-Leftist argument against (a) pigheaded identity politics, and for (b) the integrity of the nation-state. Eschewing a distorted overemphasis on American developments, the authors persuasively argue that international or globalized socialism is an illusion. The only possible route to socialism lies in an appeal to each nation with a political agenda that respects its integrity as a nation. Even if we limit our analysis to core capitalist countries, it is apparent that virtually all the major social, economic, and political advancements of the past centuries were achieved through the institutions of the democratic nation-state, not through international, multilateral, or supranational institutions. Rather, global institutions have in many ways been used to roll back those very achievements, as we have seen in the context of the euro crisis, where supranational (and largely unaccountable) institutions such as the European Commission, Eurogroup, and European Central Bank used their power and authority to impose crippling austerity on struggling countries. The problem, in short, is not national sovereignty as such, but the fact that the concept in recent years has been largely abandoned to those who seek to push through a xenophobic and identitarian agenda. There are strong Marxist strains in this essay: no doubt about it. Class-based analysis frames much of the argument, and hostility to free enterprise permeates its premises. But there is also some level-headed self-reflection: Following its historical defeat, the Left’s traditional anticapitalist focus on class slowly gave way to a liberal-individualist understanding of emancipation. Waylaid by postmodernist and poststructuralist theories, Left intellectuals slowly abandoned Marxian class categories to focus instead on elements of political power and the use of language and narratives as a way of establishing meaning. This shift also defined new arenas of political struggle that were diametrically opposed to those defined by Marx. Over the past three decades, the Left’s focus on “capitalism” has given way to a focus on issues such as racism, gender, homophobia, multiculturalism, etc. Marginality is no longer described in terms of class but rather in terms of identity. The struggle against the illegitimate hegemony of the capitalist class has given way to the struggles of a variety of (more or less) oppressed and marginalized groups and minorities: women, blacks, LGBTQs, etc. As a result, class struggle has ceased to be seen as the path to liberation. In this new postmodernist world, only categories that transcend class boundaries are considered meaningful. Moreover, the institutions that evolved to defend workers against capital—such as trade unions and social democratic p[...]



Fake points don't make points

2017-11-09T15:13:08Z

We pause in our series of detailed discussions of Dr. Licona's examples for a broader theological reflection. It is all-too-common in New Testament circles, and certainly not unique to Dr. Licona's work, to hold that a Gospel author changed some... We pause in our series of detailed discussions of Dr. Licona's examples for a broader theological reflection. It is all-too-common in New Testament circles, and certainly not unique to Dr. Licona's work, to hold that a Gospel author changed some historical fact in order to make a theological point. If anything, Licona concentrates on literary motivations (such as making a story run smoothly, telling a story more briefly, and the like) more often than on theological motivations. But he does at times accept or hypothesize a theological motivation for an alleged change. Sometimes Licona borrows these theological hypotheses from other scholars. Examples of this sort include John's allegedly changing the year of the Temple cleansing in order (in some metaphoric sense) to include all of Jesus' ministry in Passion Week, overshadowed by his "hour" (Why Are There Differences in the Gospels, p. 195) and John's allegedly changing the day and time of Jesus' crucifixion in order to emphasize that he is the lamb of God (pp. 191, 195). Licona borrows both of these ideas from Craig Keener. Another example, which appears to be Licona's own idea, is the hypothesis (p. 165) that Mark knew of but deliberately suppressed the repentance of one of the thieves on the cross in order to emphasize the fact that Jesus was "rejected by all." Licona does not positively conclude this about Mark but makes it one of his frequent dichotomies, arguing that either Mark engaged in this deliberate suppression or that Luke (for some reason) moved the repentance of one thief back from the time when it really happened so as to narrate it as part of the "same incident" with the reviling from the other thief. In all of these cases the idea is that the Gospel authors thought they could make some thematic point by reporting things in a way that appears factual within their narrative but is not the way that events really occurred. Jesus really didn't die at the very day and hour when the Passover lambs were killed, but John reported as if he did in order to make a theological point that he was the Passover lamb, and so forth. It is particularly interesting that, in the context of describing the Temple cleansing, Keener refers more than once to the "story world" of John (Commentary on John, pp. 518, 530). The phrase "story world," used apparently to refer to a "world" that might or might not be the real world, occurs frequently in Keener's commentary. What all of this assumes is that the Gospel authors viewed God's working in the world in such a way that they could make powerful theological points by mingling history and fiction. We are not talking here about a parable or some other totally fictional story. We are talking, rather, about taking a real person--the most important person in the world, Jesus Christ--and making up fake "facts" about him that are nonetheless somehow supposed to support theological points. I submit that this is not how it works in history. Since the story about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree with his little ax is non-historical, it doesn't show us that George Washington was honest. At most, it might weakly support the conclusion that people who knew him knew that he was honest in some other way and that this motivated them to make up such stories about him. But this is weak sauce indeed. After all, for all that that tells us, they might have been wrong. Or maybe (very likely) the story was made up by someone who didn't really personally know Washington. Similarly, the legend that the young Arthur pulled a sword out of a stone tells us nothing about whether a real King Arthur was chosen by God to resist the heathen Anglo-Saxons in Britain. The evangelists themselves understand that Go[...]



Licona gospel examples III: Over-reading

2017-11-10T17:55:40Z

In this entry and one other (with a short theological digression post in between) I plan to discuss passages in which Licona engages in over-reading in Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? Here I will focus on over-readings connected... In this entry and one other (with a short theological digression post in between) I plan to discuss passages in which Licona engages in over-reading in Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? Here I will focus on over-readings connected with chronology. A note on chronology One of the oddest aspects of Licona's book is his repeated insistence or strong implication that the Gospel authors are creating a chronological order when they do not have to be taken as doing so. He needs to do this in order to attribute "displacement" to the authors as a compositional device, because he defines "displacement" thus: When an author knowingly uproots an event from its original context and transplants it in another, the author has displaced the event. (p. 20) If an author isn't implying that A occurred before B at alI, then even if B occurred before A, and the author knows it, and the author happens to narrate A before B, the author isn't engaging in displacement as defined, since the author isn't changing the context or ordering of the events. It is a great irony that Licona and his supporters will routinely accuse their critics of anachronism and will imply that Licona has brought great insight to his study from his knowledge of the way that people wrote in the ancient world, yet on the matter of chronology Licona is extremely rigid and, indeed, anachronistic. He implies repeatedly that an author was deliberately writing as if A occurred before B, and thus changing chronological order, when there is no reason to read the author that way in the first place. Even now, we can find examples of a person's narrating events in a somewhat different order from their occurrence and not intending his narrative order to be taken as chronological order. This (in my experience) more often happens in verbal exposition than in written exposition in contemporary times, and more often in children than in adults. If a child says, "We went to the museum, and we went to the park, and we talked to Jim," you don't get a very good idea of whether these three events happened in the order narrated or not. Further questioning will be required to elicit whether Jim was at the park or the museum (or somewhere else) and whether the visit to the park took place before the visit to the museum. At most, in this sort of "and...and" narration, there is an extremely weak and defeasible supposition that the events took place in the order narrated, but it should be held lightly and readily corrected in light of additional information. It appears that the ancients did more "and...and" narration than we do, including it even in written, historical documents. This is particularly so when it comes to events that occurred quite close together in time--all on the same day or as part of the same political kerfuffle, etc. I have already pointed out that Licona over-reads Plutarch in order to create a "literary device" of changing chronological order, when it is not at all necessary to read Plutarch as intending to give the impression that he's narrating the events in the precise order in which they occurred. This is truly anachronistic on Licona's part. Craig Blomberg has a good discussion of this issue apropos of the different orders of the temptations in the wilderness. As Blomberg points out (The Historical Reliability of the New Testament, p. 63), when Luke uses merely the Greek conjunctions kai or de, this need not at all be taken to imply a chronological order. Blomberg even argues that when a Gospel author such as Matthew (who seems pretty fond of tote--"then") uses tote, this word may be used for a logical rather than a chronological order, since this falls within the semantic range of the word, though th[...]



Licona gospel examples, Part II: Fictions Only Need Apply

2017-11-03T15:51:55Z

In this post I'm going to continue discussing specific examples from Michael Licona's book Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? My goal is to continue showing that Licona fails to provide examples from the gospels where the best explanation... In this post I'm going to continue discussing specific examples from Michael Licona's book Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? My goal is to continue showing that Licona fails to provide examples from the gospels where the best explanation is a fictionalizing literary device. Another goal is to show how Licona's method unnecessarily (and, in the aggregate, quite seriously) undermines confidence in the reliability of the documents and makes it extremely difficult to know what actually happened. See here for other posts at this site on Licona's work and here for posts at my personal blog. In the previous post I discussed places where there is not even an apparent discrepancy between accounts but where Licona gratuitously suggests either a conflict between accounts or fictionalization on the part of the author. I called these utterly unforced errors. In this post I will be focusing on examples where there are at least supposed discrepancies but where Licona's bias towards fictional explanations causes him either to overlook entirely or to underestimate the worth of simpler, non-fictionalizing explanations. Licona's moves in these cases are errors of explanatory and logical judgement, sometimes taking the form of literally not even considering simpler explanations than the ones he presents us with. There is nothing about his method that flows from special expertise on his part or highly specialized knowledge. He is just engaging in poor literary redactive criticism, applied to the Gospels. Meet the new higher criticism, same as the old higher criticism. Licona does not invariably take the stance that fictions only need apply. His bias is strong but not quite that strong. In some places his overestimating the probability of fictional examples takes the form, instead, of placing them epistemically on a par with perfectly robust and adequate harmonizations and then saying or implying that we can't know which is the correct explanation (and hence what really happened). In other places he occasionally seems to lean toward an actual harmonization or non-fictionalizing explanation. Since he considers "spot-lighting" (which is just focusing on one thing rather than another) to be a "compositional device," even though it is not a fictionalizing literary device, he is also sometimes able to claim to have found an enlightening "compositional device" while just talking about normal harmonization. Some of the oddest places where Licona does not opt for fictionalization are those where he ponderously explains some trivial verbal difference in the narratives. So, for example (p. 157), if one account says that Peter was standing by the fire while another says that he was sitting by the fire, Licona pauses to tell us, with an unnecessary flurry of Greek, that "this may not be a discrepancy" since the Greek word for "stand" can mean "to remain in one place." This harmonization is so unnecessary as to be humorous. The learned New Testament scholar is apparently not supposed to mention that a man who is sitting by a fire may also stand up. In any event, the title of this post is not meant to say that Licona always interprets the Gospels by a principle of "Fictions only need apply." But he is strongly biased towards fictionalization explanations, and this bias very often affects his judgement and even his ability to generate possible explanations. By way of introduction, I also want to acquaint the reader with an important point. In his one and only response to me, Licona strongly emphasized that he is not permitted in his work as an historical scholar studying the Gospels to limit himself to hypotheses that are consistent with inerrancy. Lico[...]



Licona gospel examples, Part I: Utterly Unforced Errors

2017-10-31T14:01:59Z

Having discussed and answered Licona's claim in Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? to have found ample evidence of the use of fictionalizing literary devices in Plutarch, I'm starting on a series of posts analyzing a sample of his... Having discussed and answered Licona's claim in Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? to have found ample evidence of the use of fictionalizing literary devices in Plutarch, I'm starting on a series of posts analyzing a sample of his claims concerning the gospels. This is, of course, only going to be a sample, but it's going to be quite a large sample by the time I'm finished with the series. Some examples may come up more than once, as they illustrate more than one problem. Page numbers are taken from the Kindle version of the book. I've done a spot-check in multiple places, and the page numbers I'm using appear to be very similar to those in the paper version. My pagination references should enable the interested reader to find the relevant parts of Licona's book. The short version of what this whole series will inductively illustrate is this: There is not a single Gospel example in Licona's book that is best explained by the use of a fictionalizing literary device. Moreover, Licona's entire approach, which is in essence just old-fashioned destructive higher criticism, sometimes glossed using Licona's categories of fictionalizing devices supposedly drawn from Roman history, casts entirely unnecessary doubt upon what actually happened in Jesus' life and upon the accuracy (in the literal sense) of what the gospels report. The undermining of the gospels' literal reliability and the gospel authors' intention of literal truthfulness is real and cannot be brushed away by re-labeling. It is unnecessary because none of the examples require the redactive or other fictionalizing explanations Licona suggests. One of the most striking features of Licona's work is his monotonously repeated mistake in not considering all available hypotheses, making unforced errors, or dismissing perfectly good and simple hypotheses in favor of more complex ones. These are historical and epistemic errors which have serious results in biblical studies. That they are all-too-typical of biblical scholarship (as I'm sure Licona would be the first to remind us) does not make them logically justified. Utterly Unforced Errors I have so much material to discuss from Licona's book that I have been at somewhat of a loss as to where to begin. I've decided to make my first category utterly unforced errors. These are places where there is not even the appearance of a discrepancy but where Licona is so carried away by (I say this without hesitation) the low view he has developed of the Gospels' literal truthfulness that he creates a tension or conjectures fictionalization out of thin air. This is the phenomenon we see again and again in the book: Meet the new higher criticism, same as the old higher criticism. This is just redaction criticism for its own sake, similar to what one would find in many a known liberal biblical scholar, carried out just because a theory that an author "may have" made something up or a feeling that there is a tension (where there really isn't at all) happened to occur to a scholar's mind. I want to note something here: This kind of unforced error is not what one would find in the writing of someone who has a high view of the Gospel authors' reliability, where "reliability" is not being radically redefined. I have been saying ever since I first began writing about Licona's fictionalization theories, over a year and a half ago, that his methodology would mean that we could pick a passage more or less at random and consider that it might contain fictionalization for all we know, even if there were no apparent discrepancy to explain. This was considered uncharitable in some circles, but it was absolutely correct. If you b[...]



Did the Founders Build Better or Worse Than They Knew?

2017-10-29T23:12:19Z

An interesting little debate has flared up in the Claremont Review of Books and continued online between a group of academics who make the case that the Founding laid the seeds of liberal disorder and what might be considered America’s... An interesting little debate has flared up in the Claremont Review of Books and continued online between a group of academics who make the case that the Founding laid the seeds of liberal disorder and what might be considered America’s turn to libertinism (think the sexual revolution, abortion on demand, gay “rights” and so-called gay “marriage”, the push for transgender “rights”, etc.) The other group of academics, led by Robert Reilly, argue that the Founders built better than they knew and that the Constitution draws on natural law ideas perfectly compatible with traditional and conservative policies – the question for America was whether its leaders and citizens would be wise enough to implement such ideas. This blog post explores this debate. The first salvo in this interesting intellectual fight came from Reilly in the Claremont Review of Books, and he did a nice job of summarizing the battle lines: Do her principles doom America to moral and cultural decline? The question is hardly new. More than two decades ago, Professor John A. Guegan, participating in a conference reflecting on Jesuit priest John Courtney Murray’s book We Hold These Truths (1960), condemned the American Founding for “the philosophical errors that are embedded in the American civil religion.” The task for Christians, he said, should be to destroy the “erroneous philosophy of man and society which underlies the American Proposition and the currently reigning gnosis of pragmatism and positivism which grew out of that philosophy.” In other words, the American Founding was a poison pill with a time-release formula. We are its victims. This view has been gaining strength among Christians. Witness the recent New York Times bestseller The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation by Rod Dreher, who assumes that the American “purpose of government is to liberate the autonomous individual.” What this means, as he states elsewhere, is that “[t]he summum bonum of our American civil religion is maximizing the opportunities for individuals to express and satisfy their desires—a belief that orthodox Christianity by nature opposes.” A broad range of Christians has endorsed The Benedict Option, from the Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput, to such notable figures in the Southern Baptist Convention as Russell Moore. There is, in other words, a growing faith-based critique of the founding, based on premises accepted almost offhandedly by many of its followers, including Dreher. We would do well to examine these premises by looking at the critique’s leading theoreticians. Two thinkers frequently referred to by Dreher as authorities are Patrick Deneen, an associate professor of constitutional studies at the University of Notre Dame, who previously taught for many years at Georgetown, and Michael Hanby, a scholar at the Vatican’s Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Both are major contributors to First Things magazine and prominent members of the conservative Catholic cadre that holds to the poison-pill thesis. Deneen thinks the founding is based upon a lie about humanity, a false anthropology. Hanby believes that the founding is based on an error about the nature of reality, a false metaphysics. Their arguments, considered together, provide the central elements of the poison-pill case, which is why writers like Dreher invoke them sympathetically. O.K., so we have Deneen and Hamby on one side (and their intellectual heirs) and Reilly and his intellectual heirs. Interestingly, it should be noted that on b[...]



On Giving to God What is God’s

2017-10-27T15:31:45Z

Or: being stamped with an Image. Every now and then you come across someone whose clarity of insight and presentation is truly outstanding, positively gifted. Fr. Lankeit, on “gay marriage,’ is just that sort. You really need to see and... Or: being stamped with an Image. Every now and then you come across someone whose clarity of insight and presentation is truly outstanding, positively gifted. Fr. Lankeit, on “gay marriage,’ is just that sort. You really need to see and hear it. width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/xcxvbAqo9dk" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allowfullscreen> If you have ever struggled in discussing “gay marriage” with others, this 16 minute analysis will help you. If you have sometimes stumbled in saying what you meant, so that you made something confused that isn’t really confused, or opened yourself for attacks that you didn’t need to do, Fr. Lankeit’s presentation might help avoid that. He is crystal clear, in a simple and easy to follow analysis, which is also well formed and stated in terms of not saying more than what is necessary. I am in awe of the many layers of thought he put into this. Here’s just one example: “Perverted secular dogma”. With these 3 words, he rightly and boldly attaches to “gay marriage” the name “perversion”. Yet he does so indirectly, through the medium of the “secular dogma”, so that if you borrow this and use it in conversation you cannot be attacked as a “homophobe” for calling gays “perverts” – no, you called the secular dogma a perversion, which it is. But the REASON it is a perversion is that the whole notion of “gay” is a perversion, and the acts are perverted. And this truth shines out through the phrase he used. Brilliant! The whole sermon rocks with that kind of clear thinking: it’s thinking straight “all the way down” to the roots. Especially the central theme, which is that we are made beings, made in God’s image. We receive the stamp of what we are from God, we do not make ourselves. Hat Tip: Fr. Z's Blog.



Josh Ritter at Variety PLayhouse

2017-10-25T18:13:24Z

Last night Josh Ritter and his excellent band came out at Variety Playhouse in east Atlanta and played a hell of a show. My brother and I had a great time. As a performer, Ritter possesses contagious warmth; from... (image) Last night Josh Ritter and his excellent band came out at Variety Playhouse in east Atlanta and played a hell of a show. My brother and I had a great time. As a performer, Ritter possesses contagious warmth; from the moment he brought his beaming smile on stage and gave us a few chords, he had us. Stand-up bass and slide guitar, somebody’s kids off stage, plus several songs in barbershop quartet style — one mic and everyone surrounding — overall the concert surpassed in quality and variety. Very well done, Josh. (All I missed was “Monster Ballads.” But in the end you can’t have everything) Lyrically, Ritter is about as good as anyone not named Dylan or Cohen or Cash. His latest album, Gathering, with its fine Southern feel, includes a classic in the GFY tradition: “Cry Softly,” a rockabilly number “Oh Lord, Pt. 3” and the magnificent braggadocio tune “Showboat.” He played all three in Atlanta, to vigorous effect. Highlighting the show, “Homecoming” and “Getting Ready to Get Down,” rocked the place. The latter song features a charming blend of infidelity and joy: seems like what we might call a brilliant PG-13 tune. Showing proper disdain for the character of our national politics, Ritter declined to make any statement along those lines, though he introduced one song this way, “This is a song about a — [long pause] This is a song.” Hearty laughter. But what suffuses Ritter’s great musical art is a great love of our great country, despite her greatly embarrassing aspects. It’s become hard to really make money from quality of recorded musical arrangement. Digital businesses have destroyed the ability to ask a small fee on every song purchased and listened to. Creative destruction, I guess. But I’d say it’s worth buying a ticket and seeing your favorite bands live, since it’s from that purchase whence their income arises. Josh Ritter is one of my favs. The dude puts on a show. My 40 bucks were more than well spent. If he’s coming to your town, I can pretty well guarantee that he and his band will play you a memorable concert. Your money will be well spent.



He who pays the piper, next chapter

2017-10-18T03:19:33Z

Back in 2013 I wrote a post called "He Who Pays the Piper," about the dangers of accepting public money in Christian schools and "virtual charter" home schooling. It might have been around that time (my timeline here is fuzzy)... Back in 2013 I wrote a post called "He Who Pays the Piper," about the dangers of accepting public money in Christian schools and "virtual charter" home schooling. It might have been around that time (my timeline here is fuzzy) that something new came to my local area: The homeschool/public school partnerships. First I'll tell you what I thought these were. Then I'll tell you what they really were. I thought that these partnership classes were avowedly, openly public school classes, mostly (at least) taught on public school property, but simply taught at unusual times and "geared" toward home schoolers. I thought that perhaps they removed content that home schoolers would find objectionable and/or chose teachers who were sympathetic to home schooling. But it never occurred to me that they were anything other than openly secular, public school classes. The coming of "the partnership" to my local area was viewed with suspicion and alarm by many of my home schooling friends. They viewed it as the camel's nose in the tent to get home schoolers to secularize their programs and give up control of their own children's education. I thought of myself as the voice of moderation, despite my usual rampaging conservatism. Asked, "What do you think of the Partnership?" I would usually say this: "Well, they're public school classes, and the most important thing is that the parents make sure that they are still legally considered to be home schooling their children. This means that they need to be sure that these are enrichment courses rather than core classes. The kids need to be getting more than half of their core education work from their parents. Other than that, parents should just monitor the classes each year to make sure they consider them worthwhile, that the content is appropriate, and that the kids aren't making friends they have a problem with or being influenced by values they disapprove of. If they want to send their kids to take an art class or something at a public school part time, it's their business, but they should keep an eye on it." Sounds reasonable, right? Well, I was wrong. Unbeknownst to me, from the very outset, the Partnership was something far different from what I believed. To explain how it really worked, I need to explain what home school co-ops are. I'm going to use the word "co-op" though some might quibble with the term when applied to organizations where the parents themselves don't do the teaching. But I'll use the term for convenience and explain what it means. Broadly speaking, a home schooling co-op of the kind I'm talking about here comes about when parents band together, secure a venue (often a church), and start an organization in which their children can receive classes and tutoring in areas that are best taught in groups (such as choirs or bands) or in areas that the parents may feel less qualified to teach (such as higher mathematics or chemistry). The organization can also offer classes that parents buy for their kids on an a la carte basis so that the children make more friends, feel part of a community, and so forth. These co-ops usually meet just once a week, offering their classes all day at the venue on that day of the week. The fee structure varies. Some organizations take all the fees and hire teachers and pay them. Others take only the administrative portion of the fees, set a standardized per-student, per-class fee, and that fee is paid directly by the parent to the teacher. Teachers still have to be, in a looser sense, hired (i.e. approved) by the organization. Admi[...]



Correctio Ad Infinitum

2017-10-26T14:01:09Z

A few weeks ago, 62 scholars released a letter titled “Correctio Filialis”, a filial correction of errors relating to Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia (AL). (The initial signatories were 62, it is now over 200). It was a bit of a... A few weeks ago, 62 scholars released a letter titled “Correctio Filialis”, a filial correction of errors relating to Pope Francis’s Amoris Laetitia (AL). (The initial signatories were 62, it is now over 200). It was a bit of a bombshell in Catholic circles. Let’s do a quick run-down that led to this: IN 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis held the Synod on the Family, in 2 parts. He didn’t like the way the first half went, so he revised the approach for the second half a little. He was not satisfied with the approved text statements for Part 2, so he changed the rules on the texts that get published – he included the ones that did not get the required 2/3 vote, but did get a majority. I predicted that any document issued to cap the Synod would be filled with ambiguity. I was right: In March 2016 Francis published the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, with its controversial Chapter 8. Much of its controversy has to do with its ambiguity. Although the Pope characterized the point of it as “not changing the rules” on receiving communion, he has approved of follow-up implementations that do, in fact, change the practice of priests and dioceses on how / whether those who are not married with the Church’s blessing (but living like they are married) can receive communion. In April 2016, Bishop Athanasius Schneider commented on how its ambiguities were already sowing disunity, with some clerics saying that it “opened the doors” to divorced and “remarried” Catholics receiving communion, others denying it. In July 2016, 45 theologians sent a letter of appeal about the severe deficiencies in Chapter 8 as compared to traditional, magisterial teaching on morality and the reception of sacraments, to all 218 Cardinals and Patriarchs. They asked the Pope for clarification. In September 2016, 4 cardinals sent a letter to the pope asking 5 questions, i.e. “dubia”, on the interaction between Chapter 8 and prior doctrinal teaching, especially as stated in its most definitive and most recent magisterial form, in Pope St. John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor (VS). Bishops submitting dubia to the Vatican for clarification of specific narrow points of teaching is a time-honored practice. The pope did not respond to them. In November, the Vatican dropped a public comment that he did not appreciate being treated with such pointed questioning as smacks of obstinacy, and implied they would get no answer. Seemingly in response, the dubia were made public, and Cardinal Raymond Burke (one of the 4 cardinals) issued a statement that if the dubia did not get a clarifying answer, there would be a follow-up, which would include a “correction” to the Pope’s document, inasmuch as it contains such severe ambiguities as to lead people to make errors. He referenced (obscurely) ancient precedent for correcting a pope. In January 2017, three eastern European bishops called for a prayer storm for Francis to urge him to issue corrections to the false implementations of AL that allow people in mortal sin to receive communion. Cardinal Muller, the prefect for the CDF, tried to support the Pope and defend AL, while also defending the traditional stance on morality and the reception of the sacraments, for example by decrying the response of the German bishops (which amounted to, roughly, saying “we will do what we have been doing all along, which is to ignore the Canons on administering the sacraments anyway”). For his pains, Card. Muller was let go f[...]



On some examples in Plutarch

2017-10-09T13:36:18Z

In this post I'd like to discuss some examples from Michael Licona's book Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? concerning Plutarch. These examples are supposed to be part of a cumulative case for the widespread existence in ancient... In this post I'd like to discuss some examples from Michael Licona's book Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? concerning Plutarch. These examples are supposed to be part of a cumulative case for the widespread existence in ancient putatively historical literature of "compositional devices" that permitted the author invisibly to change various factual matters for literary reasons such as to increase smoothness of presentation or to make a point of some kind. Licona begins with Plutarch and then repeatedly argues that these devices were accepted in the culture of the day and that the identification of the gospels as in a meaningful sense the same genre as Plutarch's Lives permits us to infer that the gospel authors are using these same devices when there are differences among gospel accounts. This argument has many different levels to it, including the inference that the gospel authors would have been as inclined as Plutarch might have been to alter the truth, which is questionable in itself. But I question the inference at every point, and in this post I want to show how dubious the complex hypothesis about socially accepted fictionalizing literary devices is even in Plutarch. Other possibilities are repeatedly being left out, and wooden reading is far too common. I have included one example from Tacitus as well. I apologize to the reader in advance for what will probably seem like the dullness of the subject matter. Roman politics is not going to seem very interesting, I suspect. Since this post will be long enough, I'm going to attempt not to make it still longer by explaining all the background for each of the examples. Plutarch's Lives are all available in translation on-line, so if you want to understand more about what is going on or even just help your head to stop spinning about who is making alliance with whom or what happened in a battle, please look up the texts for yourself. In fact, I strongly encourage you to do so if you are curious about the strength of the case for these "compositional devices" in ancient authors or if you want to check on whether I have summarized accurately. I'll start with a case where Licona alleges that Plutarch "compresses and conflates" events. These are fictionalizing devices: Compression: When an author knowingly portrays events over a shorter period of time than the actual time it took for those events to occur... Conflation: When an author combines elements from two or more events or people and narrates them as one...Why Are There Differences in the Gospels, p. 20 In case one had any doubt as to whether "conflation" means "getting confused and narrating the two events as one in good faith," Licona expressly says that there is always some degree of "displacement" and/or "transferal" when "conflation" is taking place, and these are defined in explicitly deliberate terms. So "conflation" as Licona defines it is deliberately making it sound like what you know or believe to be different events were just one event. The section of Plutarch in question here, discussed by Licona on pp. 51-52, concerns a time period when Cicero had been exiled from Rome and Pompey was deciding that he needed to change his political focus and support having Cicero's banishment reversed. (In this discussion, when one puts a name or abbreviation of a name in italics, that usage refers to the name of one of Plutarch's Lives. The un-italicized name refers to the person.) Licona says that Plutarch, in Pompey, compresses and co[...]



Response to Dr. Licona

2017-10-04T03:26:10Z

Readers who follow my personal blog will have learned that there has been quite a back-and-forth between me and Dr. Michael Licona after I reported that Dr. Licona appeared to be speaking up in defense of Dr. Craig A. Evans's... Readers who follow my personal blog will have learned that there has been quite a back-and-forth between me and Dr. Michael Licona after I reported that Dr. Licona appeared to be speaking up in defense of Dr. Craig A. Evans's comments. Evans agreed with notorious skeptical scholar Bart Ehrman that Jesus never uttered the statements given in John in which Jesus clearly claims to be God. Evans's further idea is that these incidents are "'he is' confessions of the Johannine community" expounding and elaborating on some other teaching by Jesus of the doctrine. Evans also agreed with Ehrman that the historical facts in the gospel of John are "just nuggets," a status Evans contrasted with his own view of the (presumably more historical) synoptics. Dr. Licona has since distanced himself somewhat from Evans's position, while continuing to boost and even expand upon arguments for it and while insisting quite emphatically that "by no means" would it mean that John is historically unreliable even if it were true. I decided to go ahead and put a lot of material into my most recent response to Licona, now up here, including some specific responses to Licona's theories about specific passages in the New Testament. At first I was going to keep my reply as short as possible, but I gradually changed my mind as I realized that more people may read this reply than other posts I have written on the subject. I plan tonight, if possible, to go ahead and create a "Licona" tag both here at W4 and at Extra Thoughts, and that will make my posts on this debate easier to find. Meanwhile, if interested, settle in and enjoy the current post.



Standing at attention for the National Anthem

2017-10-03T19:56:45Z

One reason I stand for the National Anthem consists in this: that in our country, peaceful protest against and symbolic defiance of the Executive is not punishable at law. The Chief Executive may make an ass of himself, unburdening on... One reason I stand for the National Anthem consists in this: that in our country, peaceful protest against and symbolic defiance of the Executive is not punishable at law. The Chief Executive may make an ass of himself, unburdening on us all his idiot musings on patriotism, the flag, and the honor due to the nation; he may even recommend vulgarly that such defiance be treated punitively by those private employers paying these defiers: and yet his views, substantively, mean little. The Chief Executive’s views cannot even effect a private penalty for defiance. Over the course of most of human history, even symbolic defiance of the authorities, and a fortiori the Chief Executive’s authority, would have been met with 2am arrest and confinement without trial to a rotten dungeon. Or, if you were a great noble, knight, seignior, or grandee, it would have been met with war. So a reason I stand at attention for our National Anthem, is that Our Lord has blessed me, and so shown kindness to his wayward son, as to permit me to live in such a country. That liberty was not won easily, nor is it preserved easily. President Washington spoke in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of the “signal favors of Almighty God” to America; and among them is the liberty of protest peaceful. For there is much, all too much, deserving of strenuous protest in our land. Whether ostentatiously declining to stand at attention for the National Anthem at a football game, amounts to a wise use of that liberty, or a fitting response to that signal favor, is a question I leave aside for the moment. What I do not leave aside is what I feel is my duty to emphasize as a profound fact, for which most of us, when we think hard on it, have gratitude: In our country the ill-mannered bluster of the Chief Executive has no real force. The President stated that peaceful protestors during the National Anthem should be fired: and almost no one for even a moment imagined that it would be so. The Rooney family is going to fire Mike Tomlin and Antonio Brown? Arthur Blank is going to fire Julio Jones? Laughable. [Cleaned up for typos]