Monday, August 31, 2009

Coolest intelligent design protest of the year

OK we have winner for 2009 (yes it is early and if someone else wins even better). The winner is.... The Raëlian movement(wikipedia article). The protest was for intelligent design. It was on Venice Beach in California, the women went topless the men wore bras. The religion teaches about the revelations received by a French journalist who covers the race car circuit over a period of 6 days by aliens who are the biblical Elohim.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baptize young, before leaving the house

Mike Dever made an interesting point about Baptism:

Oh, a lot of things. I mean, spiritually, people’s affluence, people wanting to be served, consumers moving to urban areas where churches are close enough to where they compete for members, pastors not being taught this. I’m sure any real abuses that happen, and, of course, there were, anytime sinners like you and me are involved, any time abuses happen in church discipline, I’m sure those were repeated endlessly. And so I’m sure those stories would have been used against practicing it at all, because to practice it at all would have been in some way to have been involved in some kind of abuse of it. Now, I’m sure it’s just a combination of things like that. Also I think the theology changed and churches became more and more man-centered. I think people more and more misunderstood what it really meant to be converted. I think our evangelistic practices watered down the gospel. I think we started taking responses very quickly. We started baptizing people at a much younger age.

You know, I’ve been reading a lot of Baptist biographies in the last couple of years and noting baptismal ages. And if you look at all the Baptist leaders in the nineteenth century, they were all baptized at 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21. It’s when they get out of the home, or they have their first job, that’s when they’re baptized. Baptists these days baptize children at 12, or at even 8, or younger. It’s very hard. I mean, I’ve got kids. It’s hard to look at the kids who are pretty obedient, love their parents, and want to have the approval of their parents, it’s hard to know whether or not they’re really born again. I mean, of course they’re being sincere when they tell you something, but people can be sincere and be wrong, and I think we’ve just lost a lot of that subtlety of judgment. It’s not been encouraged among the pastors in our churches.
So what is your feeling. Is it a good idea to baptize before kids leave the house or not?

Friday, August 21, 2009

UBS process, ecumenicalism at its best

The United Bible Society publishes the most heavily used Greek text the Novum Testamentum Graece. Now like everyone else who gets involved in translation discussion I disagree with their choices, their are times I would have made gone the other way. But what I think is fantastic is how they have created a successful ecumenicalism, providing a model that is truly able to cross the divide and get a major complex religious issue resolved in a way that everyone can stand behind the final product. Roman Catholics participate in the UBS process the same as Protestants. Jehovah’s witnesses and Adventist translations are pulling from the same UBS text. And not only across denominations: from the ESV (conservative) to the NRSV (NCC) to the very liberal scholars version to even atheist translations like Price the UBS/NA is the standard. Asian and African churches are pulling from the same source. The Jewish Publication Society is a member of the UBS and the NJPS (1985) is pulling from the UBS Hebrew which means that even the Jews are part of this ecumenical unity. This is one of the great ecumenical triumphs of this century that doesn't get appreciated nearly enough.

This didn't have to happen. Had the IBS/Zondervan stuck with the MT or the TR for the NIV we could have had a very situation today where Christians wouldn't even have agreement on what the original texts say.

But more than this I’ve argued that this process is a model for ecumenicalism that actually worked and continues to work. I’m not sure why people who are interested in ecumenicalism don’t pay more attention to an area where the goals were achieved, full Christian unity. Think about that for a second, at least in one example humanity was are able to publish unified collection of books on an important topic which is authoritative to all Christiandom! We don’t have this breadth of consensus on the creeds.

What makes it work is the focus on consensus. Essentially the system looks like
  1. A scholar makes a proposal about a verse based on manuscript evidence.
  2. If that proposal gains wide acceptance as a variant in the academic community it will become a textnote in the UBS. For a new one that probably be around the NA29, but this is one going back a long time.
  3. Some translators will start to incorporate it, generally as a possible variant which will draw larger debate and discussion.
  4. If that proposal continues to draw a consensus it will become the default reading in the Greek.
  5. At that point essentially all translations will attach a note similar to the one for 1John 5:7-8 that you see in Protestant bibles. This creates awareness of the issue and builds consensus among the whole community.
  6. Some translations will start to move the older variant to an appendix which will again widen the debate. If there are strong objections the process may stop here.
  7. Most translations will move the older variant to an appendix
  8. Some translations will start to drop the appendix.
  9. The older variant will be dropped entirely across the board.
Which is to say everyone is treating everyone respectfully and consensus emerges. At every step their is a check back. The system is very conservative but is open to discussion and reason inside the system.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yale University Press cowardice

Yale University Press is releasing a book on Danish cartoons that caused riots in muslim countries (pictured to the left) (individual links). The book is called The Cartoons That Shook the World by Jytte Klausen. Yale University press removed the 12 cartoons plus several others from the book due to fear of violence. That's caving into censorship and cowardice of the worst sort. Their claim (see official statement) is that their publication would result in a violent response in which case that's all the more reason to publish them. Not publishing for fear of the response is giving into terrorism.

I don't have anything particularly insightful to say, this is just a crime without justification. I don't know if I would have bought the book anyway but I certainly won't now. I agree 100% with Sherry Jones (who published a similar book) self censorship changes the world for the worse.

In 2006 we saw a lot of fake bravery by newspapers arguing they should have the freedom to publish these cartoons while refusing to do so for fear of violence (see list of newspapers that did publish them). Yale continues the tradition wanting to get credit for writing a "brave" book on the topic while not having the guts to even print images that are widely distributed (including wikipedia) for 3 years. Shame on them. Thankfully the American Association of University Professors agrees:
We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands.” That is effectively the new policy position at Yale University Press, which has eliminated all visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammad from Jytte Klausen’s new book The Cartoons That Shook the World.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Covenant Eyes and consent

Luke Gilkerson responded to my has been posting here to my porn addiction thread which got me interested in his Covenant Eyes product. This seems to be the best regarded "accountability" software on the market. The basic idea of Covenant Eyes is that "porn addiction" works based on 3 factors:
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability
  • Anonymity
While CE works on removing "Anonymity". The idea being that people who want to kick a porn habit pick an accountability partner and Covenant Eyes sends creates an easy to read report of the internet web sites (and other internet applications). Now while I happen to think that porn addiction is a non existent disease I'm all for applications that help people empower themselves to accomplish their goals. And that is how Covenant Eyes is being primarily marketed. And that is one of the reasons the internet security groups with one exception seem to be not telling people how to bypass Covenant Eyes.
  1. That this software is voluntary, both in installation and continuing use.
  2. They offer a simple uninstall process (it does notify the accountability partner)
  3. They offer tech support in case the system causes trouble
  4. The system doesn't capture information like passwords and bank accounts
Which is to say it doesn't seem to a noxious spyware but rather a self help program. And that's good their model does involve consent. I consider consent to be key in the morality of any of these products as in general I think it is with most things: consent is the difference between
  • an employee and a thief
  • boxing and assault
  • sex and rape
So I love the fact that Covenant Eyes is targeted using a consensual model. The idea of Covenant Eyes is to stop people from being tempted. This plays into Covenant Eyes' mechanics, Covenant Eyes claims "Covenant Eyes is designed to be extremely difficult to disable or bypass." I've heard other people claim impossible, which felt to me like a dare. I'm really tempted to post 4 lines of "do this" instructions but I do approve of creating a solution for people who want to control a behavior. So I'm going to keep this discussion on a high level, which doesn't translate into instructions while hopefully making it clear enough for purposes of discussion that it really is about 4 fairly obvious steps. For those of you computer knowledgeable, Covenant Eyes works on windows by inserting itself into the Winsock LSP . LSP was created by Microsoft to allow administrations / applications to alter networking behavior without having to write their own networking stack; which is to say this is a fairly obvious place to do what Covenant Eyes is doing. Covenant Eyes is one of hundreds of programs that interfaces at the LSP level (though most are adware). There is a lot of documentation out there about how to alter LSP behavior; there are hundreds of thousands of people on the planet who understand the LSP subsystem and tens of millions that can read about it, so I don't see what is particular "difficult" about that. On a Mac it is daemon (/usr/libexec/CvntDaemon) that works in a somewhat similar way.

I've architected systems designed to be extremely difficult to bypass. With:
  • No specialized hardware (example TPM chip)
  • No hard drive encryption and a standard boot sequence
  • An operating system that has to be able to run mainstream applications
nothing with an x86 processor is difficult to bypass. This thing runs purely in software (and in user not kernel space) it can't even tell whether it is running on a computer or a VM. So we have a software app running without a trusted environment on a completely vanilla box with an insecure and well documented OS. What this thing is at best is mildly annoying to bypass / uninstall / cripple. When I've written these sorts of systems I had all those hardware and operating system advantages, and I was just trying to stop people from doing things like rerouting checks or attacking telephone switches not stripping them of their sex lives. So at least on the surface I'd assume my targets were less motivated.

Luke might retort by saying my targets were 100% unwilling, they genuinely wanted to steal; while his customers were completely willing, in theory at least, to be porn free and just experiencing a moment of weakness, a craving. They will be ineffectual in their attack because deep down they don't want succeed. Having done things like quit smoking, I get that. You are never more than 10 minutes away from a pack of cigarettes but that ten minutes gives you time to change your mind that trying to quit with cigarettes in your pocket wouldn't. If someone genuinely wanted to smoke / didn't want to quit, a 3 hour drive wouldn't be enough to stop them.

And that brings us back to consent. Covenant Eye's system works on the assumption that people are low motivation attackers, for example they are unwilling to get help to bypass the system as I mentioned above. To give another example, which is on Covenant Eyes' website (so I figure harmless to mention), Covenant Eye's wouldn't catch a tunnel processing misidentifying itself, that is to say another of the sort of thing a person who is genuinely not consenting to Covenant Eye's being on their system who needs to generates reports full of innocuous websites would setup. And that's assuming you work within the OS and don't just reboot to a different OS and reconfigure externally. The web is full of the "boot with a Linux CD" suggestion which would work.

However, as I researched this product there seemed to be a lot of places where it wasn't really consensual.
  • Parents installing it on college age children's computers
  • Wives installing it on their husband's computers
  • Employers installing it on employee's computers
Which bring us to controversy at Moore College (see note at bottom). In 2007 there was an announcement that Covenant Eyes was going to become a community standard and certain people felt that they were going to be compelled to use the product (newspaper article). This led to an interesting debate between Covenant Eyes and a Professor at Moore. The Covenant Eyes blog had 3 articles on this topic part1 part2 part3. The professor part1 part2 part3 through out some zingers I agreed with like:
I’ve also had pretty much all I can take of people reducing Christian morality to sexual abstinence, meanwhile ignoring the things that Jesus mentioned quite explicitly (sorry if that word causes anyone to stumble ;-) - judgementalism, bigotry, religious hypocrisy, materialism… why isn’t there the same market for some kind of software that can filter these out of our churches?
or another comment where he attacks accountability to spouses in general:
The problem is finding a way forward. Any pattern of thinking learned over time is not easily reshaped, particularly if deeply ingrained and etched with connotations of guilt and damnation – and even more so if it involves something as primal as sex. For those of us who want to define ourselves as “Christian” this poses a special challenge – what of our thinking about the subject is ours, as opposed to merely the manipulative accretions of both our churches, and those parts of society in opposition to the churches. Clearly much of the current dogma produces only hypocrisy, guilt and depression (among other problems) – the struggle is to find new and more empowering understandings.

I also have grave concerns about any relationship based upon one partner receiving a daily report of the other’s online activities. If it works for them….. ok (I guess), but to me it seems a less than optimal basis for and enduring and trusting relationship. As for having her watch it with him – I’m quite sure many men wished their partner shared their interest (and if she did I suspect the husband’s obsession would quite often fade as it ceased to be a captivating “secret” relationship) – but many women raised within conservative Christianity (and elsewhere) find the concept of porn as abhorrent as their partners find it fascinating. Forcing her to participate would be tantamount to abuse, and observing her partner’s interest in something she finds so distasteful would be extremely distressing. It’s this broader lack of communication that makes developing a response from within the religious context that many of us come from so difficult. As I think I said to you before – a lot of us from a religious background have very poor listening skills
Other than those objections, the professor's main concern was that it wouldn't be meaningfully consensual, people would be pressured into doing this. Certainly the professor writing these articles felt that he was essentially going to be forced to submit to this monitoring, I'd like to emphasize this never happened. Others in the thread expressed concerns that Covenant Eyes would be used to Moore primarily to catch seminary students looking at liberal theologians, that is not being used to track porn but rather for political control, and again there is no evidence this occurred. However it is the case that the software supports would support this usage . Jay Aguda mentioned he was evidentially fired from his church because of Covenant Eyes ( 28 July 2008 5:31 PM ).

There are hints of non consensual usage within families. here are discussions all over the internet of wives who put this on their husband's computers. In this thread Roark Janis talked about how he installed Covenant Eyes to send reports back from his college aid children's computers every three days, "However, as my children got older and went off to college and needed a little more independence and ability to make their own decisions, I found that is the perfect solution as it doesn’t block anything but logs all activity and sends me reports to review with them every three days."

So at least some of the usage is non consensual. And for me, if this were to expand that would changes things morally. If Covenant Eyes were primarily being used this non-consensual way, a social virus, I wouldn't be dancing so much in this thread, I'd have no problem typing those few lines of instructions -- do ABC to get this app to send out false reports, the same way you would for someone in China (they use a similar idea, but much harder to defeat and their accountability partner is a government official). But those non-consensual situations are not the primary usage, and this is one of the few situations where knowledge isn't power, but likely the opposite. But it does raise the issue for the people who are subjected to non consensual use, is it ethical for them to trick the system? For example lets say a missionary where a condition of funding is using this with the reports going back to the funding church? Or the college kid? What is the ethics in these situations?

For the consensual users a decrease in pornography consumption will lead to a decrease in masturbatory orgasm and this appears to be their objectives; Covenant Eyes is likely to help them achieve that. This IMHO will lead to an increase in lust, the same way that if you hold your breath you will start thinking about oxygen a lot more then if you don't. Which is to say, I think the objective in most cases will induce the opposite of the intended effect in a broader sense making the approach both stupid and sinful. To quote the old "the best way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it speech" (which while perhaps a bit over the top does address the problem with the addictions model):
I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream--I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of mediaevalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal--to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.

Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. (Lord Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray)
People are entitled to disagree with me and do what they want, I don't want to restrict anyone's freedom. In my mind compulsory usage of this sort of software is engaging in a form of sexual harassment. A secular workplace has no right to control its employee's sexual behaviors. It is no more the right of a boss to sleep with his secretary then to demand she remain chaste outside the workplace. A religious employer may be given more latitude in terms of profession. But the use of Covenant Eyes (or similar software) in this way seems to be directed at forced religious compliance, that is holding persons to standards they themselves never accepted; and moreover specifically aiming to force sexual behaviors on threat of punishment. The same morality seems case with the wives and also the case with the controlling parents of adult children.

So I'm honestly torn. This LSP model seems hard enough that the average person is not going to be able to bypass it unassisted. Teaching people to lie to employers sexually harassing them would be disempowering for the vast majority that want this crutch, and would also be inducing people into sins of hypocrisy. Covenant Eye's itself doesn't seem to be trying to be unethical, they don't seem to desire that their product be used to force sexual behaviors and unlike the filter companies don't seem to be targeting control freaks with their advertising or User's Guides, except for parents where they fully embrace inappropriate levels of control. But Covenant Eyes doesn't have firm policies against this sort of usage.

What are people's thoughts?
  • Do you think institutions forcing people to use monitoring software is acceptable? What about churches towards employees?
  • What about the father towards children or wives towards husbands?
  • Is there some suggestion about a workaround?
Note on Moore:
The original version of this article used Moore college as an example. My notification policy paid off this time. John Woodhouse (principle) of Moore college wrote me back informing me the administration is not tracking usage and that the uptake rate is moderate. Lots of people aren't using Covenant Eyes. The actually accountability partners seem genuinely freely chosen. The original controversy seems to have come from a not so charitable reading of some statements where buoyant expectations were being intermixed with policy.

What this appears to have been was an internet discussion about fears that didn't pan out which were never corrected once the policies went into effect. This is simply a service Moore provides to its students, consequently I've refocused the article and dropped the references to Moore. The other examples of compulsory usage I could find were workplace computers where the legal status of circumvention becomes more questionable.

The usage is described here: short proposal, full proposal,newspaper article. There was a bit of a debate between Covenant Eyes and a Professor at Moore when it wasn't clear if this would be consensual. The Covenant Eyes blog had 3 articles on this topic part1 part2 part3. The professor's articles are: part1 part2 part3.

See Also:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Americans vs. Latins on why they changes churches

Very interesting results. For Americans here are the reasons that they dropped out of church (long term):




I found other interests and activities that led me to spend less and less time on church-related activities.



I moved to a different community and never got involved in a new church.



I had specific problems with or objections to the church, its teachings, or its members.



My work schedule.



When I grew up and I started making decision on my own, I stopped going to church.



The church was no longer a help to me in finding the meaning and purpose of my life.



I felt my life-style was no longer compatible with participation in a church.



Because of poor health.



Another reason.



I don�t know or no answer.



I became divorced or separated.



TOTAL (multiple responses)



*Table ranked by Protestant Responses

On the other hand among Latin Americans (in Latin America, not in America but ethnically hispanic) the reasons were complete different:

Deception (43%)

Try something new (11.7%)

To follow the Truth (11.2%)

Because they experienced the Holy Spirit in their lives (8.9%)

Learned to study the Bible (3.3%)

Their previous religion was corrupt (3.3%)

Attracted to a new form of worship (2.8%)

For convenience (1.9%)

The old religion was too strict (1.9%)

The old religion was too materialistic (0.9%).

This data is from Prolades (acronym is in Spanish translated it is "he Latin American Socio-Religious Studies Program"). Original data.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So I'm a Quaker

Took a new denomination quiz:

(100%) 1: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.)
(86%) 2: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist
(81%) 3: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God
(66%) 4: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene
(60%) 5: Seventh-Day Adventist
(56%) 6: Church of Christ/Campbellite
(45%) 7: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic)
(40%) 8: Lutheran
(33%) 9: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England
(33%) 10: Congregational/United Church of Christ
(31%) 11: Eastern Orthodox
(20%) 12: Roman Catholic
(12%) 13: Presbyterian/Reformed

So tell me how you all scored:

See also:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pet Shop Boys, Its a Sin

I heard this on the radio it has been over 20 years. Now we have youtube. There are two videos out, The original (for those of you like me old enough to remember):

and the new version by famish:

Here are the lyrics:
"It's A Sin"

(Twenty seconds and counting...
T minus fifteen seconds, guidance is okay)
When I look back upon my life
It's always with a sense of shame
I've always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
It's a sin
Everything I've ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I've ever been
Everywhere I'm going to
It's a sin

At school they taught me how to be
So pure in thought and word and deed
They didn't quite succeed
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
It's a sin
Everything I've ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I've ever been
Everywhere I'm going to
It's a sin

Father, forgive me, I tried not to do it
Turned over a new leaf, then tore right through it
Whatever you taught me, I didn't believe it
Father, you fought me, 'cause I didn't care
And I still don't understand

So I look back upon my life
Forever with a sense of shame
I've always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do
No matter when or where or who
Has one thing in common, too

It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
It's a sin
Everything I've ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I've ever been
Everywhere I'm going to - it's a sin
It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin
It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin

(Confiteor Deo omnipotenti vobis fratres, quia peccavi nimis cogitatione,
verbo, opere et omissione, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa)
[trans. "I confess to almighty god,
and to you my brothers,
that I have sinned exceedingly
in thought, word, act and omission,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault"]

It is fascinating the particular choices of imagery. The original goes with a monastic theme with very obvious almost kitschy sorts of representation of sin. The new version simply presents a modern dance (most of the moves are yoga based) with a stark image of Catholicism. The lyrics themselves are about the impossibility of internal righteousness outwardly. In reality the lyrics are about the issue of homosexuality and how it pervades ones life and causes everything to become "sinful", the lyrics exaggerate to make a point about internal guilt.

But then the 80s video is quite conventional in its notion of sin. Totally divorced from the message. The modern video is in sync with the message about pervasive sin but here the sins themselves are abstract.

I'm not the best art critic. But I feel like there is something meaningful here I just can put into words. Any thoughts?

Friday, August 7, 2009

10 questions on the hypostatic union

For basic information on this doctrine see the Catholic Encyclopedia article. So I was over at Bridget's blog and she had an article asking about Jesus's chromosomes and how many came from Mary. Which brings up the big topic, of the hypostatic union in general. So I figured I'd open some discussion questions. I'd love it if you post your answers, pick the closest.

All questions prior to the resurrection if you believe his body changed when it was risen:

1) As a point of information (oversimplifying) humans get drunk because our insulin system cannot divert alcohols, in particular ethanol, away from our nerve cells (see blood sugar regulation if you want details). That is to say we have an imperfect endrocrine system. Jesus starts drinking wine. Can he start feeling the effects of intoxication?
a) No, he has no imperfections his endocrine system is perfect. Ethanol has no more effect on him than any other sugar.
b) Yes, he is human. He shares all human imperfections including not regulating that sugar properly.

2) An allegoric reaction is "hypersensitivity" a situation where the body over reacts to a toxin. Can Jesus have one?
a) No, he has an inerrant body it never makes a mistake.
b) Yes, he is human and shares all human imperfections. But his body was effectively perfect during his life so he never did have one.
c) Yes he can have one and like all humans had them during the course of his life.

3) Jesus eats bad eggs with lots of salmonella, everyone around him gets sick for a week and some people die from diarrhetic dehydration. He absorbed a level of toxins which would make him sick even without the diarreia weakening him further. What happens to Jesus?
a) He is fine he cannot be affected by toxins at all unless he wills it.
b) He is gets mildly ill but has a perfect immune system which handles the toxins from the bacteria perfectly, never over or under reacting.
c) He gets very sick: fever, vomiting and even diarrhea but his body makes no big mistakes so he is no danger of the diarrhea being lethal.
d) He is fully human and his body can over react to toxins like anyone else's and it could kill him.

4) Jesus is doing some carpentry. He has to figure out how much wood to use and has to multiply in his head. Can he get the problem wrong?
a) No, he is inerrant.
b) Yes, he could err in theory but not in practice since he is perfectly careful.
c) Yes, he could err both in theory and in practice but he never does during the course of his life.
d) He has missed some problems before and arrived at errant multiplications. That is not a matter of essentials and is part of being human.

5) While he is doing the carpentry it is a hot day and normal carpenter would be getting tired. His buddy working next to him is getting sloppy from exhaustion and heat. What's happening to Jesus?
a) He is a unaffected by heat or exhaustion.
b) He feels tired but he does perfect work.
c) He is fully human and gets tired too, creating some off center boards.

6) A piece of skin falls off his hand and hits the ground. In terms of DNA
a) 0 of the chromosomes are Mary's, he is fully human but not biologically descended from her.
b) 23 of the chromosomes are Mary's she is fully his mother. The other 23 don't correspond to any existing human.
c) All 46 are from Mary. God did not have sex with Mary and thus couldn't provide genetic material, she provided all of it.

7) Human DNA has thousands of replications errors. Jesus'
a) Is perfect, no bad strings all.
b) Has 23 perfect chromosomes and is a perfect copy of Mary's for the other 23 she has no genetic defects and thus he doesn't.
c) Has 23 perfect chromosomes and is at best a perfect copy of Mary's for the other 23; she has genetic defects and thus he does too.
d) Jesus is fully human and has genetic defects on all 46.

8) Jesus sits down to a game of Latrunculi (sort of like chess 2000 years ago in the Roman Empire). He is playing the best Latrunculi player in the Galilee. What happens?
a) Jesus instantly see the perfect move and makes it. He doesn't even think in error. (A perfect move would be the move that a supercomputer cluster might arrive at after several weeks of computation).
b) Jesus has to think to arrive at the perfect moves, though he makes no imperfect moves.
c) Jesus plays within human boundaries, but within those boundaries perfectly. So he plays as well as the best player ever and wins after a hard struggle.
d) Jesus plays OK, and OK is not nearly good enough against this guy and he loses badly.

9) Jesus sees a really hot girl. Can he experience lust?
a) No, the sexiest human is no more tempting than the sexiest termite.
b) No, his mind is perfectly holy. By training, grace and discipline his body has the same level of reaction as a dead body would.
c) Yes, but it only lasts for a fraction of a second. He can be tempted but he doesn't give into the temptation and instantly moves his mind on to another thought.
d) Yes, he had to fully experience temptation. He experiences his mind going back over and over again but he never gives in.

10) Short answer question. Would any of these answers be different before the baptism by John and if so which ones?

See also:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Keith Drury on Abortion

Do Evangelicals really believe a fetus is life?

Just about every evangelical I’ve ever met tells me they are absolutely opposed to abortion. Almost every one of them believes that life begins at conception (a few say in 2-3 days at that cell division). My evangelical friends seem absolutely sure that abortion is murdering a person. And I agree with them on these points.

The trouble with the evangelical church however we teach our people the opposite. We teach by our actions and rituals that the fetus may be “sacred” but is not a “real” life. This contradiction between what we say and what we do will eventually erode our commitment to being anti-abortion. When a church pronounces one thing with their mouths but practices something else in ritual and actions the kids see it and know they aren’t serious about their stated beliefs—“What we do speaks louder than what we say.”

So, how does the church communicate in ritual and actions that the fetus is less-than-full-life? I could list a dozen but I’ll only give three and let you finish the list.

1. When a baby is born we place a rose up front and announce the birth from the pulpit. We do not put the rose there when the baby is conceived or when the mother knows she is pregnant. What does this ritual say every time we do it? The message is clear—it is at birth that something happens. Whatever the woman had inside her before birth was sacred—but it is not worth the rose celebration. Our roses-at-birth/breath quietly says “they were pregnant with a fetus but now they have a child.”

2. When a one-week old child dies we do not have a funeral, people take off work and few send sympathy cards. A miscarriage in the church is seldom treated like the death of a ‘real” child. Often even the cells are disposed of just about like the cells of an aborted fetus. Since as many as 1/3 of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage, the church teaches regularly and systematically that these “miscarriages” (often not called “unborn children” in this case) aren’t as important as “real” children. (Please don’t argue it is too expensive for fetuses but we can afford it for [real?] children.)

3. We dedicate a child only when they are breathing and out of the womb. The child does not need to be a witness to the ritual of dedication but we wait until they are breathing to do it. Why? What does this say to our people? It announces that a breathing life is worth dedicating to God, “potential life” in the womb must wait. Why don’t we dedicate the life to God which we believe begins before the life breathes.

Evangelicals (and Catholics) are right on the issue of abortion. We’ve been busy fighting for the cause in the world and I applaud that. However while we’ve been out fighting the anti-abortion battle we’ve forgotten that we practice pro-choice behaviors in the church. We’ve been acting like a breathing life is more valuable in some way than fetus life—and this is exactly the position of the pro-choice folk. We talk pro-life and behave pro-choice. Which will our children adopt—our talk or our walk?

So what should a church do? I have an answer but I already know hardly any evangelical church will do it. Here it is: A church who believes a fetus is really the equivalent life as a breathing child should:

1. Have a meeting. It will only take an hour. But most of the regular church folk need to be there.

2. Make a list. Simply present the issue then brainstorm a list what we’d do differently if we acted like a fetus was of equivalent value to a breathing child. What would we stop doing? Start doing? What rituals would we relocate to another time slot? Ignore my list and make your own.

3. Vote on the ideas one by one. Decide what ones we’ll do as a church

4. Pick a starting date. Once you’ve decided on the actions that will communicate what we really believe then pick a date when we’ll implement the new actions and rituals “from that day forward.”

I already know few (if any) evangelicals will do this.

How do I know this? Because I wrote most all of the above ten years ago—in 1994—and that column has been read by more then 5000 people since—and, to my knowledge I do not know of any church that seriously changed these practices (and others too numerous to mention). I say this: our practice is the only true indicator of what we really believe. The truth is we do not believe “life begins at conception” and we do not believe “a fetus is an unborn child of equivalent worth as a born child.” If we believed it we‘d behave it. So once again I play the prophet’s role. And once again I’ll be ignored and dismissed. For the most part few or no evangelical church will change its practices to reflect its stated beliefs.

This is the real issue for us evangelicals to discuss. Why we are so unwilling to act in line with our stated beliefs. Why is this? Where will it eventually lead? You tell me. (Again, ten years later.)

Keith Drury 1994, (and now again in 2004)

(I’ll keep nagging the church even though ignored.)


Of course we know the real answer to Keith Drury's question is no. I asked these questions earlier to make the same point.
  1. Should women who miscarry be charged with involuntary manslaughter? What if they did something like trip because they weren't be careful, negligent homicide?
  2. If life starts at fertilization then what should we do about all these couples carelessly having sex 9 or days after ovulation. According to NHS these are the implementation failure rates for the average women in days after ovulation:
    • 3% by day 9
    • 26% on day 10
    • 52% on day 11
    • 86% on day 12 or more
    Death rates this high certainly mean that late sex constitutes negligence in the extreme

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

King James Onlyism Interview (Concluding points, part 4)

I've completed taking the stuff from Will Kinney's argument. You can read Part1 Part2 Part3 at these links. I will say that I did learn something important from the debate. It is essentially impossible to debate in favor of the "modern versions" vs. the KJVonly (MT/NA27 based) and maintain a belief in word for word inerrancy. 1 Samuel 13:1 is a perfect example from our conversation in the first part:
Even in the most conservative version around the ESV you drop the notion of word for word preservation:
Saul was . . .[a] years old when he began to reign, and he reigned . . . and two[b] years over Israel.
a. 1 Samuel 13:1 The number is lacking in Hebrew and Septuagint
b. 1 Samuel 13:1 Two may not be the entire number; something may have dropped out

Will gave another similar list:
The following short list is just a sampling of the divergent and confusing readings found among the contradictory modern bible versions. There are numerous other examples. Among these “details” are whether Jeremiah 27:1 reads Jehoiakim (Hebrew texts, RV,ASV, NKJV, KJB) or Zedekiah (NIV, NASB); whether 2 Samuel 21:8 reads Michal (Hebrew texts, KJB,NKJV, RV,ASV) or Merab (NIV,NASB), or 70 (NASB, NKJV, RV, ASV,KJB) being sent out by the Lord Jesus in Luke 10:1 or 72 (NIV), or the 7th day in Judges 14:15 (KJB, NKJV, RV, ASV) or the 4th day (NASB, NIV), or God smiting 50,070 men in 1 Samuel 6:19 (KJB, RV,ASV,NASB) or 70 men slain (NIV, RSV), or there being 30,000 chariots in 1 Samuel 13:5 (KJB, NKJV, RV, ASV, NASB, ESV) or only 3000 (NIV, & Holman), or 1 Samuel 13:1 reading - ONE/TWO years (NKJV, KJB, Geneva,Judaica Press Tanach), or 40/32 (NASB 1972-77) or 30/42 (NASB 1995, NIV), or _____years and.______and two years (RSV, ESV), or even “32 years old...reigned for 22 years” in the 1989 Revised English Bible!; 2 Samuel 15:7 “forty years” (Hebrew, Geneva, NKJV, NASB, RV) OR “four years” (NIV,RSV, ESV,NET), or whether both 2 Samuel 23:18 and 1 Chronicles 11:20 read THREE (Hebrew texts, RV, ASV, NKJV, NIV, NET, Holman or THIRTY from the Syriac NASB, RSV, ESV), or 2 Samuel 24:13 reading SEVEN years (Hebrew, ASV, NASB, NKJV) or THREE years (LXX, NIV, RSV, ESV) or the fine linen being the “righteousness” of saints or the fine linen being the “righteous acts” of the saints in Revelation 19:8, or where 2 Chronicles 36:9 reads that Jehoiachin was 8 years old when he began to reign (Hebrew texts, NASB, NKJV, RV,ASV,KJB, ESV) or he was 18 years old (NIV), or that when God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead it is stated in Acts 13:33 “this day have I begotten thee” (KJB, NASB, NKJV,RV, ESV) or “today I have become your Father” (NIV).
So then if you assume the scriptures were originally word for word inerrant and complete, I can't think of any way to argue for modern versions while maintaining a belief in word for word preservation, Will is correct here. You must have a more liberal definition of inerrancy, if you want your modern version to be inerrant. Thus if word for word preservation is true then some version must be authoritative. It is reasonable to suppose that if a preserved version exists it would be one of the more important versions in Christian history: Targum, Syriac, LXX, Vulgate, Old Church Slavonic, Geneva (German), King James, the Waldensians/Paterines/Cathar translations, Reina-Valera, Wulfila...

The LXX introduces the same multiplicity of versions as the MT/NA27 (for those readers interested in translation based on the LXX: NETS is considered best, and the apostolic interlinear seems quite useful). The Cathar bibles are lost. But some of the others do work, like the Vulgagte.

But at core the issue is really this for the English language speaking baptist they are confronted with a terrible dilemma. If the authoritative text are in another language then a class of experts is created undermining the meaningful priesthood of the believer in a sola scriptura environment. So instead a plausible but readable translation needs to be "God's word". In some sense the Protestant community faces a desire for:
  • sola scriptura
  • priesthood of the believer / perspicuity of scripture
  • historical accuracy
with the rules they may only pick 2. Throwing historical accuracy overboard may seem like the least harmful option, the most spiritually enlightened option.

What clarified this to me was by coincidence I was debating conservative Catholics at the same time I was editing these articles. For them the issue is did Christ found a historical church, if so does it still exist today, "the gates of hell will not prevail”.
  • There was a historic church founded by Jesus
  • This church has existed through the centuries as the primary Christian church
  • This church has remained perfectly faithful to the gospel, i.e. taught perfect faith and morals
Therefore the catholic church is the true church even today.

Again you run into the same problem. On almost any issue where you examine the churchs position over time you see substantial changes in its teachings with respect to faith and morals. If there was a historical church founded by Jesus it was James' church that was destroyed during the First Jewish Roman War (66-73); perhaps in keeping the John 4:20-4 Jesus did not want a distinguished church but wanted coequal congregations. But regardless. Christianity was far more diverse than just this one church in the first century and there was no single church of importance. The second through fifth centuries was where Christianity was pulled together from a broad based philosophical and spiritual movement into a single religion with a single governing body. Jesus did not found a historic church that survived, but Irenaeus, Ambrose, Tertullian, Constantine.... most certainly did. The Catholic church as we know it today was not the battle ground of the debates of the second through fifth century but rather the product of those battles. In the same way as the KJV is not the bible handed to the first century church by God but rather the outcome of a 16 century long process or redaction and modification.

But similar to the KJVonly case what are the alternatives?
  • Be unfaithful to history and support the Catholic myth?
  • Believe that some other church is the faithful remnant, the traditional Baptist position or the Mormon position.?
  • Or believe that god did not in fact provide a perfect church and man has to decide?
While Catholics have no fondness for the KJV, and KJV supporters no fondness for Catholics it was interesting coincidence that I ran into exactly the same dilemma back to back like that. I had originally gotten interested in KJVonlyism because of the connection to ESVonlyism. ESVonlyism is a brand identity "the Yankees are better than the Mets" sort of movement, it has no intellectual content just a bunch of fallacious advertising pap put out by Ryken and Grudem. KJVonlyism though clearly dying is a much more interesting idea.

As an aside my own opinion of the KJV is that it is a historical landmark. It works wonderfully as a liturgical bible for high church (formal) type activities. Nothing "sounds like the bible" as much as the KJV. In terms of poetic excellence it is hard to find a translation that is remotely close, Robert Alter frequently talks about how strong a job the KJV did on capturing the poetry of the OT. As a translation it is rather formal (a 4 on my scale) and so picks up the advantages and disadvantages of formal. The KJV translation is based on old lexicons so much less accurate even when translating from the textus receptus than something modern and formal like the NRSV. Finally of course, I consider the textus receptus a large drop in accuracy to the originals from the Nestle-Aland.

See also: