Monday, October 30, 2006

Theological Worldview

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Reformed Evangelical








Roman Catholic


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


What's your theological worldview?
created with

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Pacifism of Some Liberals

I'm not going to take the time to go into the full subject of war and pacifism. Let's just leave it as that I think it's a complicated subject, and I see validity to both sides. Later I might go into it full-boar, but at the present time I just want to concentrate on one particular form of pacifism that I find particularly distasteful -- the pacifism of most of the outspoken modern liberals, especially liberal Christians.

There's two reasons why I find their brand of pacifism distasteful. The first one is the most obvious -- they are selective pacifists. They aren't like Quakers who are totally against war, but instead they pretend to be pacifists when it suits them. It's like they are using pacifism as a cover to make their own position seem more righteous than it really is. For every conflict they agree with, they want troops to be sent in, or at least a cruise missile launched. For every conflict they disagree with, it's a long speech about whether or not war is Christian and if Jesus would wage war. It's simply two-faced, and using "pacifism" not as a real position, but rather as a propoganda tool to be used or discarded as the situation merits. This simply prevents an actual discussion about the merits of the conflict, since you can simply paint yourself as being "for peace" and someone else "for war".

But that isn't really what I wanted to talk about. What really gets my goat, but almost no one mentions, is that the liberals who are wanting peace are the exact same people who think that any hint of Christianity within government is a violation of Church and state. This is a blatant contradiction to begin with -- they claim Christianity as the source of their anti-war position, but then do not tolerate anyone else to use Christianity as a basis for other policies. Even within pacifism, if you choose to be peaceful on behalf of Christ, then the government needs to be able to follow through with the rest what Christ calls us to do, and accomplish peace from even our enemies through Christ. This is fully untenable if our lawmaker's hands are tied in actively practicing the Christian faith.

I believe fully that pacifism can be what Christ calls a country to do. But, we aren't doing that if we stop there and do not use that instance to proclaim Christ to the nations. If pacifism is used without acknowledging Christ all the way through, it would be in vain and without effect. What gain for anyone would that lead? It would simply lead to being conquered by our enemies. If we push forward in Christ, we would be victorious even if we were conquered, and we could even be victorious in the flesh as well without conflict, if we relied on Christ to save us. But simply not going to war without proclaiming Christ through it is not the same thing.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Concerning the Poor

Oloryn's Wordshop has an excellent post concerning the gospel and the poor.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gospel as a Literary Genre

I think that the gospel is its own literary genre. After all, how could one even possibly experience Christ in the flesh, and then go and write a biography? Or even a tribute? No, to tackle Christ requires a whole genre unto itself.

The problem I often see is that this idea is taken to an almost grotesque extreme. In academia, it seems that often the idea of the gospel as a unique literary genre is used to explain away its fantastic elements, rather than stemming from them. It's like they say "oh, well this or that apocalyptic or prophetic element was not historical, but rather was added by the later Christian community to explain something or other.

It's amazing to me that people who study scripture for a lifetime can become so sucked into the world's way of looking at things that they start disbelieving the resurrection, and start believing that the unexplainable is merely a literary device, rather than an act of God among us.

When you remove the supernatural as an available category, I guess all that you have left is false reports of the supernatural, the supernatural as a literary device, and supernatural occurrences which are best explained non-supernaturally. Oh, well.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Epistemology, the Consensus of Scholars, and Historical Truth

One thing that people don't take time to think about -- but they really should -- is epistemology. How do we know what we know? How much can we know for sure? Well, I can answer that last question for you -- NOT MUC H. EVERYTHING we do in life takes a huge amount for granted, taking a whole host of assumptions and ideas more or less "by faith." This is not to mean we should be nihilistic about knowledge, but instead just recognize that our knowledge of the world is grossly limitted and bound because it just isn't possible to know with certainty the kind of stuff we would like to know with certainty.

This is why science doesn't "prove" anything. Instead, they show reasonable evidence. You only get to prove things in math and logic, because there it doesn't deal with the real world, only how your stated assumptions interact.

There are even more epistemological problems with history. First of all, we can't do rigorous, repeated experiments to test our knowledge Everyone we are interested in is dead, and we can't remake historical situations to test them out. Second of all, LIFE IS COMPLICATED! I sometimes have trouble telling people when they ask me a simple "why is X this way" in my job, because usually it takes about an hour to explain, and the history is so convoluted, someone would accuse me of making it up if I told them!

This is why, when reading history, I often take the side of the historians of the current time, even if they are in disagreement with other historians of their time. Life is complicated enough that just about any seemingly-contradictory happening might in fact be true -- we would need only to know the circumstances. Thus, historians seem to borrow the physicist's razor when talking about history, and that almost certainly leads to a false understanding.

For example, let's say that two biographers were studying my family. During the interview, let's say one asked me how many children my wife and I have had, and another biographer asked my wife. I would have told them 4, but my wife would have told them 2, and both numbers would be correct depending on how you look at it. In fact, 2, 3, and 4 would all have been correct answers to this seemingly simple question (I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out how all three numbers would have been valid -- and it has nothing to do with adoptions, twins, or other marriages).

Descartes attempted to construct knowledge from first principles. He failed totally. The only thing he actually managed to prove was his own existence (he thought he proved more, but really he was incorrect). Many people in the modern world try to base their epistemology on science. But if the goal is to only commit to knowing what is proven, then this is fully irrational exercise. What you are doing is simply taking the assumptions of others as your own, but without knowing it.

What's even more interesting is the history of science. Many people have the false assumption that good ideas flow directly from experimental results. But in fact this is not the case. Ideas often predate good evidence for them, and scientists have to essentially take the ideas "on faith," even when they are contrary to known laws, ideas, and empirical results, until they have explored it enough that they can convince others. This may sound grossly unscientific, but in fact many of our fundamental moves in science are based on this. For example, let's take heliocentrism. Most people are unaware how shaky the evidence for heliocentrism was when it was proposed by Gallileo. The fact is, at that time, most of the evidence was against it. One of the key observations needed to establish it -- parallax motion of the stars, was missing (it turns out it was just because their telescopes weren't powerful enough -- but they didn't know that until centuries laters). And it also turns out that the argument which Gallileo thought was the clenching argument -- that the tides are produced from the sloshing around of the earth as it moves through space -- is also completely false. So, one of the most fundamental shifts in astronomy had to be held "on faith" in contradiction to the empirical evidence (and supported by bad arguments) for over a century. But yet it seems despite his lack of knowledge about why heliocentrism is true, Galileo was right! Not only that, but this sort of history of an idea is not unusual. Good ideas usually have to be held by proponents in contradiction of facts for quite some time, until they can work out (or others can work out) how the idea can be true.

All this to point out that there is no good way to establish what is true. In fact, it seems that the primary mode of reasoning in all of this is not facts, physics, or anything at all except plain choice. You have to choose what you believe. You have to choose what your starting assumptions are. There are no paths around this. Knowledge is a product of choice. Facts and other things can influence you, but choice is the more fundamental component.

This is why I think that constant appeals to "scholarly consensus" or any other such nonsense in textbooks is silly.

First of all, in most cases, there is no way for an author to make such a statement. Did they do a poll? Probably not. It is probably based on the number of articles in the journals read by the author making that statement about each position, and how much weight the author gives to other authors in his field. Also, it could also be that the scholarly consensus is against the view that has the majority of publications, but the adherents to that view simply think that their case is already adequately covered by other scholarship, and are merely snickering to themselves about all of the new papers. This is additionally compounded by the fact that many scholars don't qualify anyone of faith as academic scholars (I don't have the reference at the moment, but will post it in the comments if I find it). So does that mean when those people talk about a "scholarly consensus," that they aren't including anyone of faith?

But that isn't even the point. A consensus of scholars doesn't get us any closer to the truth, it only gets us closer to the truth about what the scholar's preferences are. Take for instance the many claims of pseudonymous writing in the New Testament. If scholars are to be believed, most of the New Testament was written under false names. But there is a huge epistemological problem here. For example, let's just say that it is true that Peter did not know Greek well enough to write either 1 Peter. So what? What if he used a translator? A scribe? What of it? What if he gave someone the idea to argue, and that person argued it in good Greek style. Is that any different than an architect giving directions to workmen? In fact, we claim that architects "built" a structure even if they didn't lay a single stone! Scholars often argue that such opinions are ad hoc. They are not. They are only ad hoc if we had invented the idea that Peter wrote Peter. But instead it is attested to historically and in the text itself. The fact that it cannot simply be rectified with the known data is irrelevant -- this is LIFE we are talking about. Life is always full of the unexpected, and complex twists are a part of nearly every day. So this insistence that the data must all support a single conclusion or else that conclusion is wrong simply doesn't stand up to what we know about how life works. And the insistence that facts must support a simple explanation simply reflects the preferences of the scholars, and in fact is contrary to what we know about how life works.

The choice to think that Peter (this is just an example -- we could be talking about just about any book in the Bible or antiquity) is written under a falsely attributed name is just that -- a choice. It isn't _based_ on the data. The data we have is that the early church fathers thought that at least one of Peter's epistles (if not both) were authentic. The fact that a lot of scholars choose to believe this is more of a product of their shared values and prejudices than it is a rerflection of the epistles themselves. This doesn't mean they are incorrect or that their reasoning should be ignored, but rather we are fooling ourselves if we think too much of the "scholarly consensus" as a foundation of knowledge, or if we don't acknowledge that whatever our position on the subject will be as much of a reflection on us and our thought as it is on the truth. And this isn't just for authorship, this is any fact or reconciling of facts in ancient works.

I wish I could give you a better outline to ascertaining truth, but the fact is that ultimately you just have to choose. People who say otherwise are usually deceived, and are unknowingly following the choices of others, and pretending them to be objective truth.

It's not that I don't think that such things shouldn't be debated, but instead I think the facts should be given both their best and worst spin, and ultimately we have to make a choice about what to believe.