Speaking of the problem of evil ...







Obama's alleged non-"natural-born citizen" status is not the big stink pile this election cycle: Al Franken and the DNC stealing an election in MN is the real stink bomb.

You meant it for evil (2)

You thought I forgot about this little series which I intended to complete in October 2008, didn't you? Yeah, well, you get a new job, move your house and family and close a lucrative bookstore during November and December some time, and then you can get to your complaint. Indeed: where were you when I liquidated the ESVSB? And how did you measure for me the span of the storage space?

Anyway, the last time we mentioned that if Joseph had never been sold into slavery, he would have never been in a position to become what he became.

And the wily atheist -- the one who admits, btw, that even he might be willing to suffer for the sake of something, like being part of the 60 million who had to die to bring to an end the suffering of 6 million others in a small minority group -- would probably say, "hey: that's an overstatement at best. Maybe Joseph could not have made his way from Potipher's house to the jail to the right hand of Pharaoh (granting, implausibly, that there is a shred of truth in this story), but to say there was no way for him to become Pharaoh's agent to make the storehouses of grain without him suffering is far-fetched at best. He didn't have to suffer to become king of the world: God could have just wedged him in there either by birth or by some other non-suffering method."

But the thing that the wily atheist overlooks here is that this objection is speculative at best, and disjointed from reality at worst. He has abandoned his existential reasoning for fantasy exactly when the existential truth betrays him.

Let's take Barack Obama for example -- who didn't get sold into slavery in order to become President-elect of the United States. Someone might have the audacity to say he certainly didn't suffer to become leader of the Free World -- but those people, frankly, have never tried to lead the life he lead to run for President.

Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not hardly shilling for Sen. Obama here. What I'm saying is that the reality check against the atheist claim that suffering is theoretically not necessary to achieve power is against the existential fact that he cannot produce one person in the history of the world who came to significant power without suffering. They had to pay some kind of price to get what they wanted, and it was not a small price.

See: the measuring stick here is existential fact. The "problem of evil" is measured by the atheist by the existential fact that there is pain in the world. Having pointed this out, and having set the groundwork for his complaint, if we allow his complaint to stand we cannot then walk away from its basis after he has finished complaining.

If the existential fact of pain is the problem, and it exists when we rule out God as a cause or a solution, we cannot then just toss out pain as a factor in the world.

As in, for example, Joseph's life. Existentially, the story of Joseph makes sense. That is, it fits the pattern of the world we know to say that Joseph had to suffer some kind of hardship to become a close advisor to the ruler of Egypt.

One may say, "well, fie upon the dreams and the miracles -- those condemn that story as complete nonsense," but that is a different complaint. The Bible uses the story of Joseph to make one singular point: in some way, men intend some actions for the sake of evil, but somehow those actions play out to redeem them in spite of themselves.

And the "somehow" here is critical to the point of the Bible as a whole -- and it is the thing which the atheist must deal with in the end.

These men intended what happened to Joseph for evil -- but because Joseph was sold into slavery, and made a prisoner under false pretenses something which saves many is made to happen.

Mull that over, and I'll be back again later to give you some more of the remedy to the problem of evil.

Gone at Christmas


You should check out Eartha Kitt's music via iTunes if you really love classic jazz vocals.

The way we wish we were

AP news is reporting this gem about Herman Rosenblat and his wife Roma. I'm not going to spoil it for you by giving ypou the summary, so go read it.

Now, I have two axes to grind here -- both of which have to do with the Gospel. The first is the important factoid reported in the UK that Oprah has called this "the single greatest love story we have ever told on the air". Oprah's track record in sniffing out liars and fabricators and people who shouldn't be trusted is pretty poor. So when people are then turning to her to listen to, for example, Eckhart Tolle in order to reinvent themselves and the whole Earth ... eh. Nobody would listen to Tolle except that Oprah has endorsed him -- yet Oprah herself is a monumental dupe for things that look like the way she wishes they were.

The other thing is this: this story strikes me as an interesting case study for comparison to The Shack. You know: the Shack is fiction, right? So what harm can it do? Well, it turns out that Herman Rosenblat's story is just fiction -- so what harm can it do? Why should we repudiate Rosenblat but embrace the Shack?

It's just fiction, people. Right?

You think about that as we prepare for a new year, and I'll come back later in the week to fix up what is bound to be quite the brawl in the meta.

UPDATED: Aha!

There ya go: happy new year

It's all over except the rioting, the shrill denials, and the moon-battery always associated with left-wing ideological implosion.

UPDATED: A real goldmine from Newsbusters.

What I want for Christmas

You could all pitch in. I'd even pick up the S&H if that helps out.

Everyone hates Rick Warren

Gays denounce Obama for choosing Rick Warren for the Inaugural Invocation.

The next step is to get the abortionists to denounce him for saving a baby's life. After that, the next 4 years will be cake.

Prayer for Ashley

Prayer request for Ashley, who was in a car accident last week.

seriously now ...

... but go here and listen to NPR's discussion between Al Mohler and Lisa Miller. Particularly, listen to what Ms. Miller says between 17:35 and 17:45.

Make no mistake: her vivid expression is the fact that the Christian view of divorce informs her hermeneutics and her use of that book as an authority.

HT: JT.

Worth Blogrolling

Turns out that Jay Adams has a blog. There is nobody who talks straighter in the American evangelical scene than Jay Adams.

You will be edified.

This Just in

via e-mail from Dr. Daniel B. Wallace:
Several have asked about getting a hold of Dr. Daniel B. Wallace’s plenary address, delivered at the Evangelical Theological Society’s annual meeting in November 2008; others have wanted to get his lecture at apologetics conferences and in churches on whether our Bible today essentially reflects the wording of the original text. Both of these lectures are now available as video DVDs. They would make great Christmas presents—and the price is nominal. The ordering information is available below.


“Is What We Have Now What They Wrote Then?”

A lecture at an apologetics conference in Providence, Rhode Island, 2008, about whether our printed New Testaments today accurately represent the original text.


“Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the 21st Century”

A plenary lecture at the annual Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Providence, Rhode Island, 2008, on current issues in NT textual criticism.


The price of each video DVD is $10 plus $3 S&H. The price of both video DVDs together is $15 plus $3 S&H. Texas residents also will pay 8.25% sales tax. Allow two to four weeks for delivery.


To order, go to NT Textual Criticism .com.
Thanks for the update, Dr. Wallace!

HT: Rhology

Mike Huckabee doesn't quite punt, and doesn't quite make the first down.


Mike Huckabee made "marriage" about rights and social stability, and in that argument, the "liberals" -- meaning, people who want this to be about so-called "human rights" -- win the rational argument. Valiant effort by Huckabee to win from a losing position. And kudos to Jon Stewart for really being civil while beating down on a position he doesn't agree with.

FWIW, this is what I think the political thinking for the relationship of government to marriage looks like:
  • There is no question: the Christian definition of marriage is a good thing. The idea that a man and a woman bond for life in a covenant before God for the benefit of the other person above one's self and to obey God's commands, and that union produces children is a good thing, especiually for any society.
  • Government benefits from the consequences of this kind of marriage. Stable, moral family units require less government and produce more economic benefits than bands of loosely-confederated clans in it for self-interest (among other social arrangements).
  • In that, Government has the opportunity to encourage that kind of social structure -- not the obligation to encourage such a thing.
  • Government also did not invent marriage, so it has some kind of philosophical obligation to define terms accordingly -- meaning, it doesn't create marriage but receives it or otherwise recognizes where it comes from and what it is for.
  • If there are other social arrangements that a government deems necessary for its social agenda, whatever -- but government should think deeply about why lesser forms of the arrangement "lifetime partnership of mated human beings in service to God" are beneficial. It seems to me that lesser forms are the problem which create all manner of social ills.
Comments?

Name that writer

I may be an atheist, but I respect religion and certainly find it far more philosophically expansive and culturally sustaining than the me-me-me sense of foot-stamping entitlement projected by too many gay activists in the unlamented past. My position has always been (as in "No Law in the Arena" in my 1994 book, "Vamps & Tramps") that government should get out of the marriage business. Marriage is a religious concept that should be defined and administered only by churches. The government, a secular entity, must institute and guarantee civil unions, open to both straight and gay couples and conferring full legal rights and benefits. Liberal heterosexuals who profess support for gay rights should be urged to publicly shun marriage and join gays in the civil union movement.
It's not a contest, really -- you'll all Google it and find out who it is. She's brilliant in her honesty here, and if the church was half as honest as she was, this would be our mantra: choose you this day whom you will serve, but we will serve YHVH -- we will serve our Savior Jesus Christ.

When principled atheists can see it and we can't, we are off the apple cart.

Bring it.


Read the whole thing.

UPDATED: If you think that this story is not related to the other one, you don't understand the issues at all. When we live in a society that thinks that a machine can in any way replace a human being in a relationship sense, we are only providng that we categorically are willing to replace the image of God with the image of man.

Response to Newsweek

Rather than see it here, you can see it tomorrow at teampyro.blogspot.com.

Just a programming note for you hardcore fans.

Not much of an emergency

Without comment, the court refused to hear the first of two cases against Barack Obama claiming he is not a "natural born ciziten". This one was claiming pretty much nobody is a natural born citizen, so it's no surprise it has been dismissed.

The other one before the court is the one to watch -- it's the one about President-elect Obama's birth not being in Hawaii but in Africa, making him not a "natural born citizen". That one is especially rich as it is the hard-core conspiratorialist view against Obama, so watch the heads spin when SCOTUS throws that one out, too.

speaking of straight answers ...

Newsweek had the audacity to publish this essay on the definition of marriage, and the blogosphere is already a-rumble over it.

Because I had already started on this subject by posting the Porp 8 video, I'm going to make this the next order of business here at the blog.

For those who want to think about this in a non-reactionary way, let me ask you a question which you may ponder on your own: what would be the most odious way possible to read Lisa Miller's essay? That is, what tactic could we take in interpreting and then responding to Lisa Miller's thoughts on gay marriage which would really be inflammatory, insulting, and frankly miss the point by a longshot?

Have at it.

A Straight Answer

Now that the election is over, Obama faces the tough questions. And apparent he isn't giving "straight" answers.

If you ask me, he's playing to his base, who don't want straight. cf. Prop 8 video.

UPDATED: The seeds of a one-term presidency.

Here's the thing ...

This is the third year in a row where the average temp is down. And the differences we are talking about globally are inside 0.5 degrees.

Now, here'e what I'm thinking: if we consider that our methods of measuring are more accurate than they were, say, 100 years ago, and if 100 years a go we really didn't have the means to measure atmoshpheric temps to 0.1 degrees (Gilbert? any comment there?), then a downturn like we are experiencing right now is completely material -- especially when we are talking about 5 of the last 20 years.

And here's my last complaint: the real measuring stick we ought to be using, if we are hard-core materialists, is a geological timetable, and a geological timescale would take variations like the ones we are talking about here as a ridiculously-small sample -- too small to warrant doomsday prognostication.

I'm going to blog about that Prop 8 video more later.

Think about this

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

It's the Funny Or Die Prop 8 musical.

You need to watch it because this is the argument that is going to trot itself out against, well, what you probably believe about the whole picture. What are you going to say to this stuff?

I have a hint for you: a canned answer isn't going to cut it.

HT: Jan D (alert reader)

What kind of greeting card, do you suppose, would rightly be the way to give a Planned parenthood gift certificate?

"I know you have a lot of sex,
But we both know nothing protects
Your checkbook and your banking till
like right-to-choice and the morning after pill!

Happy Holidays and good luck with your abortion!"

For Christmas. Think about that today and try not to choke.

sidebar: problem of evil

I just wanted to point out that apparently we don't actually have enough courts and laws already: We need an court for the environment as well. Because our existing courts have actually alleviated a lot of pain and suffering through all the important and non-litigious law suits they process every year in the West.

Post your favorite lawyer joke here. Keep it clean, even though they cannot.

HT: PFD


This is how my faithful readers translate hours of puzzling over the problem of evil.

Why this is good for Obama

Sen. Clinton to be Secretary of State.

This is good for Obama because now she can't flank him in the Senate and cause him to be a legislative failure. I am working hard not to say, "and it will increase her likelihood of being caught is a sniper attack," but I don't think I'm going to succeed.

BTW, there is no Gospel value in this post. It's pure pop culture trolling.

"OH SNAP" UPDATE: Bill Clinton takes a demotion to senator? Good luck with that. Maybe governator of NY (cf. Elliot Spitzer), but "senator"? That's women's work.

You meant it for evil (1)

This is a continuation of the "problem of evil" posts, and I have changed the title because we are changing gears. So far we have reasoned through the atheist's complaint and found that in truth, the problem of evil (the wily atheist may say "problem of pain") doesn't actually disappear when we snap our fingers at God to say He should have invented a universe without any suffering. If the complaint dismisses God as a cause, we are left with what the problem them leaves for us to do about it.

And in asking that question, we come up with massive shortfalls, philosophically -- like why 60 million people should be willing to lose their lives in a world war to stop the deaths of 6 million people of a small ethnic group. We discover that even atheism will admit that it turns out that for us some things are worth suffering for -- and that somehow, one can self-determine to suffer for the benefit of something other than himself.

But if that's true existentially for man, why would it not be true for God as well? By that I mean if man can show that some suffering is justified, why can God Himself not thereby show that some suffering is justified?

And before I dive into God's case, let me strongly recommend John Piper's latest book, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ. I got my review copy from Crossway about 6 weeks ago and left it on an airplane, so may God be willing to use that book for somebody's good. But I bought a second copy, and re-read it, and while it is not necessarily a theodicy, it is a strong case from Scripture regarding the biblical understanding of God's purposes in suffering.

But in that book, of course one of Piper's key examples is the case of Joseph, son of Jacob. Joseph was the oldest son of Jacob's favorite wife, but sadly he was also the second-to-youngest os Jacob's 12 sons. And in that, Jospeh's older brothers were fiercely jealous of him and intended to kill him.

BTW, I'm telling you this story because this is one of the stories God tells us in His book about what kind of universe he's running here -- and the atheist needs to at least listen to the story even if he's not willing to buy the whole thing from start to finish.

So the 10 older brothers determine to kill Joseph -- but after throwing him in a hole, they have a small change of heart and determine to rather just tell their father he is dead and instead sell the boy into slavery. The man-traders just so happen to be walking by, and they fish the young man out and hand him other to them -- and that's it.

See: they intended evil to Joseph. In fact, they did evil to Joseph without any qualifications: they sold their own brother into slavery, and then told their father he was killed by a wild animal -- and in fact dipped his cloak in goat's blood to show that plainly, he was torn to bits.

They intended evil to Joseph, and they did what they intended to do. But something fascinating happens to Joseph over the course of the next 20-or-so years: Joseph becomes the second most powerful man in the whole world -- and he does so because his brothers sold him into slavery.

Let's not get confused here: Joseph doesn't scheme to get power in order to make revenge on his brothers. The slave-trading doesn't make him some kind of Count of Monte Christo who spends his life trying to forge justification for himself. Rather, if Joseph had never been sold into slavery, he would have never been in a position to become what he became.

And in order to do that, Joseph had to get framed for rape and go to prison.

We'll pick up our story about what men intended, and thereby what God intended, next time.

Separated at Birth?

"never mind" he says ...

AHA!

People may "believe" global warming, but they aren't biting on the solutions.

Either common sense or the sin nature is winning out. I'd be willing to take either.

Maybe if we called it "jolly pink friday" ...

... people wouldn't behave like atavistic cavemen foraging for their very lives.

You people are crazy (updated)

The reader who can e-mail me a screenshot of the 500,000 counter gets a free item under $30 from the Pawn Shop of their choice. Cheaters will be banned for life.

UPDATE: a "cheater" would have been a person who sent me a rigged screenshot -- someone who tried to fake a winning screen shot. However, wiley presbyterian [name changed to protect the innocent] stayed up until almost 2:30 his time and sent me this e-mail ...


and this is his screen shot, which cleans up the 500K prize ...


500,000 page views is not something to sneeze at, y'all. And the truth is that I didn't do it: you did it. Thanks to all seven of you for making this possible.

Thankful

Let's be clear that my primary motive here is to win my pastor 2 tickets to the DG 2009 Pastor's conference -- but let's also not think, then, that somehow this post is phony fictional flippancy.

My Pastor's name is Tad Thompson, and he's the pastor of Harvard Avenue Baptist Church (HABC) in Siloam Springs, AR. And I think that if I gave myself 5,000 words to tell you why I am thankful for him, I could use them all up. But I want to reflect the spirit of the blog which inspired this post, so I will keep it brief.

There are no perfect churches in the world -- none. Some are better than others, but there are no churches which are like the final assembly of all the believers in the final account in Revelation. HABC is not a perfect church.

But there are two things which are true about HABC today which are to its credit: it is a church where people love people, and it is a church where God is honored by the preaching of His word. This fact about our church, to the extent that it is the heart of our church, is due to the commitment and patience of our imperfect pastor who loves his Mighty and Merciful God, the wonderful Savior Jesus Christ.

I am grateful for Tad Thompson, and I am proud to call him my friend. May God pour out a double portion of His spirit on Tad in the years to come.

Traditional Turkey Recipe

You prolly could have googled this, but here's the bird recipe we make at my house when we make bird. For those of you who can't stand turkey, pheh upon you -- but you can make this recipe with two medium-sized chickens. You won't get by this week without it:

Well, they say that a Turkey recipe will get hits this close to the season, so I'm going to give you my recipe for roasting a Turkey in order to add content that everyone can use to the blog.

You do not have to be "truly reformed" to use this recipe. You just have to like Turkey and stuffing.

Roasting a turkey isn't as hard as it sounds. Here's a basic recipe to get you started. In this case, the turkey is stuffed. DO NOT stuff the turkey and put it in the fridge overnight: that's bacteriologically a bad idea, and we want you all to enjoy Thanksgiving on the sofa, not on a hospital gurney.

Ingredients:

12- to 14-lb. turkey, thawed if purchased frozen
1 bag, your favorite "Italian" croutons
2-4 bouillon cubes
2-3 stalks, celery, chopper or cubed
1 cup carrots, chopped
½ cup onions, finely chopped
1 tsp, dried parsley
1 cup, cashews
Pepper and Garlic Salt

STEPS:
  1. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the cooking racks, then place one rack into oven at the lowest position.

  2. Unwrap your THAWED Turkey in a clean sink, and remove the giblets – that bag of stuff that you never thought you would use for anything because it looks gross. It's not gross. You may have to unhook the metal clip which holds the legs together in order to get all the giblets out; you may have to run some warm water into the bird to get the giblets out. Don't be afraid.

  3. Start a medium-sized pot of water boiling – not more than 3 cups. Put your packet of giblets in the water (sans wrapping paper), along with your bouillon cubes and the onions, carrots, celery and parlsey. (FWIW, the leafy parts of the celery are great for this recipe, so don;t get squeemish) 2 boullion cubes will make a somewhat-mild flavored stuffing; 6 will make a very salty and spicy stuffing. You know what you like best, so add the cubes to the low end of your tolerance for spicy. For your reference, I usually use 4 cubes. Boil this mix for about 30 minutes – long enough to cook the giblets thoroughly.

  4. While the soup (yes: you very smart readers knew that we were making soup, didn't you?) is cooking, wash the Turkey thoroughly, inside and out. I wouldn't use soap as you might miss a spot in the rinse and ruin your hours of hard work here, but washing the bird is an important health safety tip. If we were deep frying the bird (that's the Christmas recipe), washing is pretty much unimportant because if some germ can survive the deep fryer, it will kill you before you eat any of the dinner. Anyway, clean the bird thoroughly and put it in a large roasting pan. For this recipe, the deeper the roasting pan, the better. I suggest a large disposable roasting pan from WAL*MART even though it might possibly ring up at the wrong price.

    If you get bored waiting for the soup to finish up, this would be a good time to rub salt and pepper into the skin of your bird. Visually, salt and pepper the skin so that it looks like very light TV static. Do the top (the breast side) and the bottom (where the shoulders are); do not worry if you put less on the breast side. Because of the way this bird is going to cook, pay special attention to salting and peppering the wings and drumsticks.

  5. You now have a clean, prepped bird and a very delicious-smelling pot of soup. You have to make stuffing now. Remove the soup from the heat and remove the giblets. If you are a complete carnivore (like me), take the fully-cooked giblets to your food chopper and chop them up and put them back into the soup (you can't chop up the neck, but if you have 20 minutes, de-bone the neck and put your neck meat into the soup).

    Those of you grossed out by chopping up the giblets can throw them away. The rest of us will weep for you.

    Now empty the bag of croutons into the soup. If you used about 2 cups of water, you will get a somewhat-damp bread-and-soup mixture; if you used about 3 cups of water, you will get a very wet bread-and-soup mixture. I like the latter better, but some people like their stuffing more dry than others. The extraordinary secret here is that a soupier stuffing makes for a more-moist bird in the final product. After the soup and the bread are well- mixed, add the cashews and mix again.

  6. When you have this mixing complete, use a tablespoon and start loading the stuffing into the bird. Pack the stuffing down into the bird to get the cavity of the body completely full of stuffing. Don't leave any air pockets. Once the Turkey is completely stuffed, position it in the roasting tray breast-side down (I learned that from watching Emeril) in the center of the pan, and load the pan with the rest of your stuffing mix.

  7. Cover the Turkey, and place it inside your oven. After 2 hours in the heat, remove the cover and roast for another hour. In this final hour, the skin of the exposed parts should turn golden brown. At the end of the third hour, test the bird with a meat thermometer; the center temperature should be 175-180 degrees F. It will be the most unbelievable bird you ever ate.

I think I said this already




Obama isn't picking progressives, but centrists and ex-Clinton aids for his "peeps".

Apparently the sky has not fallen. Please return to your bunkers peacefully and keep your radios tuned to this frequency for further developments. However, I will trade two cases of canned goods and a half-box of bullets for some top-notch venison jerky.

UPDATED: It's all white guys, except for the rumor of Senator Clinton as Sec of State. I guess the "big change" Obama was bringing was actually less diversity than Bush had in his cabinet. Oh, and Gates for SecDef? I can see big changes on the war front ...

Too Soon?

500K?

Wow. The hit counter is about to cross 500K. Based on history, prolly some time before the end of the month.

If you could have one prize from the pawn shop for being the 500K visitor, what would it be?

HT: Alert reader Will S

The Telegraph UK reports that NASA/GISS can't get its reporting straight and dumps tons of ammo into the discussion as to whether or not Global Warming is, in fact, a crisis.

The article also speaks to arctic ice recovery in passing, so you can sleep better for not worrying about the polar bears.

(BTW, I archived the essay in PDF form because I'm tired of reading my own archives and finding that stories I linked to no longer exist at their source. Bleh.)

Seven Degrees of Facebook

From time to time I take a gander at potential "friends" on Facebook -- people who know people I "know" -- and all kinds of faces show up. Once Phil Johnson is your friend, there is no telling who will be in your list.

But tonight as I checked Facebook, I found this one:


Now, the killer is that I actually met Chris at a Munce trade show about three years ago when he sat on a panel about the Emerg* church with Doug Pagitt. And the real irony is that I was one of three retailers in the room that didn't come there to lynch him.

But here's what I'd like to know: which of my facebook friends actually knows Chris Seay? How'd he wind up on that page?

No seriously --

You mean America is not "the church"?

What is Dr. David Jeremiah going to do?

HT: Richard @ BHT [shudder]

The only reason

There's only one reason to post this video here:



It is the weirdest thing in my whole life to hear Ligon Duncan say my name as a member of teamPyro. I mean, if he had said, "um, Frank Turk. Pheh." it would make sense to me -- but for him to list me with Dan and Phil as a blogger he missed while we were on hiatus in October ... weird.

JT already linked it

Carl Truman at his best.

BTW, if you want me to exposit on that essay, here's my take in 150 words or less:

The cultural and sociological issues at stake in both sides of the coin Truman examines here is exactly the reason Paul tells Timothy what the criteria for Elders and Overseers ought to be, and why those issues are the criteria he lists.

And if you need me to be a little more specific, this is why a 22-yr-old seminary graduate is not suited to be an elder or pastor. Pardon me for saying so, but we have an immature church because we let it be run by immature males who have been trapped into their roles as mostly-immature and faddishly young. If instead we looked to men who were first spiritually mature who are also successful fathers and husbands -- which it would be hard to do in our society before the age of 30 -- I think we'd find ourselves a church and not a fraternal order of, well, whatever.

Just to say it

Last night as I was installing iLife '08 on my Mac, I was watching CSPAN, and there was a panel of big thinkers there talking about the new New world order, and there was a fellow there who apparently was speaking for or otherwise representing the opinions of Al Gore.

I found it amusing that this young fellow spoke at length about the condition of the roads in America -- that somehow we needed to be able to effectively use our cars and trucks in order to keep America, well, however he thinks we should be keeping America.

I think I would have found him more credible if he had first explained how we are going to have both food and biofuels upon-which to run those cars and trucks. Just for the sake of giving us a fully-orbed picture of the world he and Al Gore are envisioning.

You have to ask yourself ...

... why a post-modern liberal feminist radical is the only one who really gets what just happened in the U.S. election.



Is it all really that complicated? Obama was more charismatic, and it turns our that's who he is in person when he's with his wife in private as well as when he stands before throngs. McCain was a mediocre, milquetoast, uninspiring, undistinctive non-conservative.



It wasn't a chapter from Jenkins & LaHaye: it was another election cycle, and the better politician won.Next.

Imaginary

I find it amusing that Al Gore has the audacity to call anything thought or said by any other mammal "imaginary".

Read the whole thing if you really want to see what world the inventor of the internet lives in looks like.

In case you ever need it

One of the resources I would recommend from my year of teaching the OT is this PDF of the timeline of the Bible from Saul to Malachi.

It is an imperfect resource as I think I got Esther mis-dated, and the timeline advances in 5-year increments, so dating is approximate and not exact. You may find other errors.

However, if you want to read your Bible to find the historical context of a book of the OT, this timeline can help you make sense of the historical context of that book.

Enjoy.

The Good Fight

He's one perspective on race in America.

Here's another:
Politics & Black Americans
Racial hoaxes & the NAACP
Liberal views, black victims

You think about that, because it's going to come up again.

If you're happy and you know it ...

Advice to make your weekend go better, if you don't read the Bible or anything.

#10 is the only one I can really endorse, but in terms of making you more happy, the rest of this list is pretty good for a laugh. And the puppy picture -- while I am not a puppies and bunnies kind of guy -- is also a pick-me-up. You should look that happy and care-free as you run to church.

absentee ballot

The election ended two days ago, right? and Sen. Obama is now President-elect Obama, yes?

Now listen: he promised "change", right? I am personally in for "change", but probably not the actual details of change he is going to advance, so let's set that aside for a minute.

read this and ask yourself, "it is really 'change' if the primary attribute of a potential SCOTUS judge is their sex or race? Is that the kind of change we're really after here?"

Maybe it is. Maybe I misunderstood why people hated George Bush. I thought his problem was that people saw him as a person who installed cronies to run the joint. Maybe his problem is that people didn't see themselves has the right kind of cronie ...

How to measure a landslide


This is a map, courtesy of someone at the University of Michigan, of the election results by county, graded on a scale of "Strongly Obama" (bright blue) to "Strongly McCain" (bright red), with variations measured by shades between blue and red.

(FWIW, since when did the politically-left party become the "blue" party? They used to love being the so-called "Reds" ...)

It's an interesting map.

Tony Jones on WOTM

Before we talk about this, go ahead and read this overview of abortion statistics from the Guttmacher Institute. And I use those stats because Guttmacher is a essentially a pro-abortion rights organization, so there are no dodges about who said what to whom.

Now, the Freakishly-tall Todd Friel had an interesting second half of his second hour on Monday as Tony Jones of Emergent Village fame and Scott Klusendorf of prolifetraining.com squared up on the question of abortion -- and it became a discussion about tactics.

See: Tony Jones said plainly, "I hate abortion". But his view is that the alleged pro-life movement has had an abysmal record on curbing the number of abortions in this country and that (now President-elect) Barack Obama is going to address the causes of abortion rather than the symptom which is abortion itself.

Jones' view is that if there are fewer women below the poverty line, there will be fewer abortions -- because in his view, poverty causes abortion. Fear of not having money, or not having enough money, causes abortion. And Klusendorf rightly pointed out that there are socialized countries in the world with heavy support for the poor which have exactly the same rate of abortion as the US, so that argument is a little lame.

But I think there's a bigger fish to fry here, and I'm sort of stunned that Klusendorf didn't go after it. This is from Guttmacher: single women account for two-thirds of all abortions, and half of the women getting abortions state that their lack of having a stable male counterpart is the reason they want an abortion.

So what is happening in the real world (as opposed to what I guess Tony Jones has observed at Solomon's Porch in Minneapolis) is that single women are having sex with men they don't really respect -- men they would call (according to Guttmacher) "problem relationships" -- and they don't want a baby making their problem relationships more problematic.

Stew on that a while. It comes back to the problem of evil.

Prayer for the Chief



May God bless him with a love of justice and mercy, and a hunger for wisdom. Let him remember the fatherless and the orphan.

VOTE

Pray, and then vote, and then pray again. Notice that you can rightly prayer more than once today, but you can only vote once today. That should give you some idea as to which is more important in the scheme of things -- but don't neglect one for the other.

If you need a prayer to start you, here's one which is good. As I think about it, this one is even better.

Then resume your life as a disciple of Christ.


UPDATED: That's what I'm talkin' about.

for JT's blog

I dropped this in the meta at JT's blog and I liked it enough to store it here for future reference.

Aside from all the praise here, Justin, I think the point of Dr. Piper's video was exactly to waylay extremism in considering the election.

You know: people have a variety of hopes hanging in the balance in this election. I think it is hard for us white people to really get how publicly liberating it is for our black brothers and sisters to have a credible, eloquent, and in many ways admirable man from their cultural community this close to being president of the United States; I think the same holds true for Governor Palin's candidacy for a different demographic in spite of the backlash against her from some quarters.

But I think Dr. Piper's message was that our hope is not in this election. You know: our hope is not in Dinner tonight, but we will all have dinner. In the same way, our hope is not in this election and we should still have the election. We simply cannot veer into the mad rhetoric of what my wife calls "doggie brains" -- that is, we can't see what is happening right now as the only thing which has happened, or is happening, or will happen.

Let me suggest something here: I want you to imagine whatever it is you think is the worst scenarion for the outcome of tomorrow's election. To me, the worst outcome would be a blindside victory by Nader, but that's another story.

Now, on Wednesday, that's the world we have. You voted your conscience, as did everyone who voted, and now the electoral college has to confirm the voting and we have the worst possible president with the worst possible Legislative branch possible.

How does that change the scope of your life as a disciple of Christ?

Listen: even if FOCA becomes law on Nov 5th, how does that change the mission of the church?

Here's my thing: Freakishly-tall Friel was going over this on 29 October with his sidekick "Brainiac", and listening to him something struck me: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control; against such things there is no law.

That is to say this: in a country where abortion on-demand is simply the rule, should the church try to overcome the government, or should it seek to overcome sin by the work of the Cross? Should is save by the power of the ballot box, or by the power of the Gospel?

It seems to me that all of us here know abortion is wrong. It's not advanced moral calculus: killing babies is wrong. But how many of us who are frankly very worried about the law regarding abortion have given the Gospel in both word and deed to a woman who perceived her need was abortion and not Christ?

I am sure there is one or two out there. What if we sacrificed ourselves for the sake of ending this horror? What if we each took one woman who was going to have an abortion into our home and blessed her with grace at a high cost to ourselves, and sought to either reconcile her to the babiy's father or find her a godly husband to redeem her from her worldly, secular trap?

It will only take a million households, and there is no law against that kind of voting -- against such things there is no law.

What if we lived as if we believed in sacrifice rather than earthly authoritarianism? Would any candidate matter?

This is where we really get after the sovereignty of God: when we live the way He has said to live, not out of some stupid attempt to earn from Him the kind of country we want to live in, but because He has already done so much. This is where we fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, people [Col 1:24]. Not in the voting booth, but in the lives of those who are seeking salvation by killing their babies.

Now go vote. Thank you.

My last comment/link before the election

Consider the inplications of voting based on a crisis-aversion mentality, and encourage the guy next to you to do the same.

Is evil a problem? (6)

So we’re at the place where we can say a couple of things from the existential side of the problem of evil:

[1] from the perspective that pain exists, and we perceive it, we as human beings (you could say “people”) have an urge to do something about it when we see it.

[2] that urge even extends to the pain of others; we have the ability to empathize with the pain of others and therefore want to do something about it as well.

[3] Often – and I would make the case that almost always -- the problem of pain results in our having to choose to suffer a greater loss to end one kind of pain or suffering. For example, to end the holocaust and the death of 6 million Jews, people were willing to pay the price of over 60 million deaths.

[4] Atheism in general doesn’t give us the philosophical tools to sort out when a greater loss is worth the price of ending the suffering of others – and in fact it can create dilemmas like the problem of what to do with children who are being indoctrinated by their parents into ideas we do not agree with.

And the atheist, as we have noted, would say this: “yes, fine – by that doesn’t get your idea of God off the hook. God should be good enough and smart enough and strong enough to have made a universe in which we shouldn’t have to choose between bankrupting a prosperous nation and feeding all the yungry children in the world. Your ‘God’ should be clever enough to sort out how to have made all of us all happy all the time – and in the very least, He didn’t. So in the best case for you, He’s not all you have cracked Him up to be.”

Yes, well: let’s hold the horses here. Before we stampede all over God’s goodness or wisdom or power, I think the Atheist has frankly left his barn door open before he can get to this critique.

Let’s consider something: if in the atheist existential case we can admit that in order to achieve outcomes which we desire we often have to pay a steep price for the sake of achieving what we intend to achieve, why must this be ruled out in the case of God? That is: let’s imagine for a moment that there are outcomes in the purpose of the universe for which God requires that there be some suffering. In order to achieve some of the goals of the universe, God may require that people suffer.

See: the atheist can look at this, and even imagine it, but in his mind the only way to judge this is to say, “if that’s so, God must be evil. Any God which requires suffering to make His objectives into reality is a cruel God who somehow enjoys our pain.”

The problem is that the atheist, in saying this, credits God with less than the atheist would credit himself with. The atheist would admit that it is better to dig out a splinter than to let it fester and infect its victim – in fact, the atheist would call a doctor who refused to dig out splinters a cruel doctor for refusing to treat his patient. The atheist would demand that the law-breaker who committed a crime be incarcerated for his crime – even though the time of rehab or punishment would be far longer than the time it took to commit the crime, and the prime the criminal paid would in fact be far higher than the pain he inflicted. At the same time, the atheist would call the doctor who forbade the activity which caused the splinter cruel or inept; he would call the government which eliminated convenience stores for the sake of eliminating convenience store robbery oppressive.

Knowing this, it is a false accusation to posit that God is cruel if pain exists. The only way to know why pain exists in a theistic framework is if God tells us why pain exists, and at that point we have to assess only if God is telling the truth or if God is a liar.

And this is why we turn the corner from assessment of the atheist complaint and his own solution to the problem to actually advocating for God: theism – particularly, those who say, “know for certain that Jesus is both Lord and Christ” – have an obligation to speak to the problem of evil not merely from a philosophic standpoint, but from an existential standpoint. We have an obligation to tell people what God has actually said about this matter – because he has said something, and His view of things are authoritative because He’s the author.

More next time.

a what?


I want to know what that means. I thought that we already had police -- does this mean we need a different kind of police? Does it mean we need to give the police a different set of rules to do their job by?

What does that mean?

Election eve jitters

Read this, and then remember: for the record, if Obama wins, and things get worse, all of these people will have the problem of explaining why they got worse.

Your history lesson

This story talks about pottery from 3,000 years ago. For those of you who aren't up on your OT history, that's about right smack dab in the middle of the rule of David over Israel, according to the Bible.

Is Evil a Problem? (5)

Alright -- so not having internet access in my temp housing set back my blogging harder than I expected, but I'm still on about the problem of evil and why it is far more philosophically-challenging to atheism than the average (book-writing) atheist will admit or even examine.

Last time we pointed out that you have to be able to solve the problem of pain if you want to bring it into the discussion in order to make is a disadvantage for (in this case) God -- but we find out quickly that atheism can't solve the problem of pain: it in fact has a problem of pain that looks remarkably familiar. See: if something painful happens, and the person it happens to can't fix it except by causing more pain -- in fact, more pain than they are experiencing in the first place -- they don't have a way to choose their actions. Their philosophy doesn't create any resolutions which are less painful than the problems they have represented. So if the problem of pain causes an issue of inconsistency for the theist, it equally causes a problem of inexplicability for the atheist.

But I think it's worse for the atheist still -- because there are no atheists stuck in a panic of indecision. They themselves will choose some action when they experience or perceive pain. That is, they will choose to do something even if one of the options is more painful than the one they are experiencing. Think about this: to combat theism, and religion in general, some atheists have actually proposed that children be removed from homes where parents will bring them up with religious beliefs. That's not a scare argument: that's merely to point out that given the choice between the pain of affording religious beliefs free expression and the pain of separating children from their parents, plainly the atheist is willing to take the harder choice in order to achieve what he sees as the more-beneficial end.

You know: as if somehow some suffering ultimately has a therapeutic or, if we dare say it, redemptive purpose.

"This has all been very nice, I am sure," intones the patient atheist who has been reading with us this month, "but my view -- and John Loftus' view -- is that God ought to be good enough and powerful enough and intelligent enough to create a world where these crappy choices ought not to have to be made. We would agree with you that real people have to make hard choices all the time -- we would say rather than God should have found a way to make things in order that we didn't have to make those hard choices."

It's an interesting redirection of the question, but it is where we turn the bend from exposing the atheist short-comings to actually advancing the Christian faith -- and I'll get you back with that another day.

Flavor of the day

Wow. I'm taking a stats beating these days. Two years ago I was frequently on the verge of having 200 inbound links; I went on Hiatus last year (I think) and dropped below 100 inbound, and this weekend I went from 85 to 79.

I guess I'm just a has-been. It was a wild ride.

And my internet comes on-line tomorrow at my new digs. At least the handful of you who really care still care ...

Your Next Church




It might be the one you're in right now. There's a book in my stack "to be reviewed" for which I am ridiculously exicted, Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community.

Some of you have been ruined by this blog into having an attention span of about 37 seconds, and you'll be unable to read a 200-page book. Sorry 'bout that. So you might want to instead listen to the audio from the "Total Church" conference from ChurchBootCamp. The definition of the Gospel in this first session, btw, is worth your time all by itself.

Ah - Veritas!




Gore @ Harvard




Temperature @ Harvard




Utica Club

The end of an era

It's the end of global warming as we know it, and I feel fine.

For the record, eventually someone is going to have to tell Al Gore he is still a flatulent gas-bag and urge him to give his Nobel Peace Prize back.

Is evil a problem? (4)

Last time I proffered the idea that pain is a problem for the atheist because he has to figure out what to do about said pain - and some of you took that at face value, but I think some of you are rightfully scratching your heads.

"Cent - big thinkin' and everything," you ought to be saying, "but why is having to do something about pain a problem for the atheist? If I have a hand on a hot stove, I pull it off and the problem is solved. If my hand still hurts, I get a doctor to give me medicine, and again, problem solved. Why is taking action toward pain a problem for the atheist?"

That's a great question - and it goes back to our example of the $700 billion bail-out of the banking industry. I mean: $700 billion. Unless the government is essentially printing money (and I'd be willing to listen to someone who says that they are ...), $700 billion has to come from someplace. And in real terms, $700 billion equals about $2400 for every person who is a citizen of the USA today. That means, for example, my house just paid $9600 to the banking industry - and I don't know about you, but $9600 isn't chump change for me. That hurts.

But when we look at the banking industry problem, that hurts, too. See: if the banking industry tanks and $700 billion in bad debt gets foreclosed and turns out to be worth about $450 billion is real value, we're talking about $250 billion in cash assets disappearing from the US economy. To scale that for you, that's like all of WAL*MART suddenly being vaporized; that's like all pro sports plus all college sports revenues times one hundred suddenly burned up in a fire.

And it's the money that really does drive, for example, your company's ability to buy a new capitalized machine, or build a new building, or in some cases manage to pay payroll while your customers enjoy 45 or 60 or 90 day terms on the stuff you just "sold" them.

So on the one had, we can do nothing and allow something like $250 billion in investment capital to evaporate from the US economy - causing a significant impairment to any kind of industrial growth - or on the other hand, we can strap every man, woman and child with $2400 in long-term debt which they may or may not ever pay off. In other words, we can choose between one kind of pain and another kind of pain - but either way, we are going to hurt.

To be sure, speaking existentially - that is, not drawing some larger moral or ethical conclusion here, but measuring the situation and the events strictly from what we have experienced, are experiencing, or are about to experience -- this is what the problem of pain usually looks like. That is, we are choosing between one kind of pain and another kind of pain. We are choosing between "having the appendix taken out" or "suffering through the pain until we either die or we get better". We are choosing between "letting the dentist drill the tooth or extracting it" and "letting it rot out under its own power". We are choosing between one kind of pain and another kind of pain.

And this is specifically where atheism become incoherent and completely unhelpful - this is the place where, as I have said, all flavors of atheism leave man philosophically unequipped to resolve the problem of evil. If the atheist is confronted with the problem that all conceivable choices cause pain, and pain is to be avoided, the atheist has to confess something: in order to act, he's going to have to ignore the matter of pain as a consequence in order to choose a course of action.

It is in that way which we arrive at all kinds of mad conclusions – like the conclusion that it is better to kill someone rather than let them suffer, because "no pain but no life" is allegedly more desirable to them than "significant pain but life".

Atheism doesn’t deal with the problem of pain, the problem of evil: it ignores the problem of pain/evil after it allegedly uses it to reproach God. It does not consider that the problem has to be resolved and not merely pointed out.

Stew on that a while, and I'll continue the series later this week.

Is evil a problem? (3)

Sorry for the long silence here. I love my new job, and it has kept me busy; I also do not have internet access in my temp housing (which is a bizarre turn of events), which means I am pretty much composing off-line and without my normal aids of internet resources. It’s very taxing, I can tell you.

Anyway, this is where we left off last time: All flavors of atheism leave man philosophically unequipped to resolve the problem of evil. Now, that’s strong stuff – and it’s a presuppositional complaint to be sure – but most Bahnsenian presups would reproach this from the place where the atheist can’t really define what is good or what is evil because there’s not objective standard.

But here’s the thing: as we said last time, the really wily atheist will respond, “hey: ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are your problem, not mine. Don’t try to fit me in your theistic box. I’m moving beyond good and evil.” And to that we should say “fair enough.”

What we can’t do, however, is let the atheist walk away as if he has pushed God into the gully of unintelligibility – because the atheist now has an existential problem of his own making. See: he (in this case, Loftus) has brought up the point that people are suffering. Existentially, people are in pain right now – starving babies, AIDS victims, people getting raped and murdered, readers of John Loftus’ blog – and this brute fact doesn’t change because we extract the idea of God from the picture of the universe.

In Loftus’ view, pain demands some action. You know: when you put your hand on a hot stove, there’s pain, and the action is to draw your hand back and (at least in Presbyterian households) cuss. Your pain causes you to do something – and this isn’t an ethical dilemma. Pain is a state which nobody but the most twisted person likes, and everyone will take action to cause pain (his own pain) to end.

Pain exists, and one has to do something about it – and this is where Loftus’ existential problem shows up. Any person can tell you, “it’s normal to want pain to stop,” and most people (in the 99%+ range) will tell you, ”It’s normal to want the pain of other people to stop.” Right? Any human being will feel empathy toward those who are suffering – so much so that we will even feel empathy for people who are being punished for wrong-doing, and even those who suffer because they brought a painful consequence on themselves.

And I for one would agree: it’s normal for a person to have empathy, and it is normal to seek to end the pain of another person when they are suffering. The problem of “evil” – which we have translated into the “problem of suffering” by Loftus’ definition – exists for the atheist because he has empathy for those who suffer. See: he has to figure out what to do with his existential motive of “end the other person’s pain” – given that it seems apparent that doing nothing about it is not a reasonable choice.

In a universe without God, pain is still the urgent question. Nobody can ignore pain.

Or can they?

We’ll talk about that the next time.

Awright awready: stop asking

Many of you have asked what's up with me, and since I have started my new job I think I can come clean. I will not post on this subject again because it's a "this is where I am right now", and, of course, we all know what to think about posts like that.

Back in July I had a conversation with my then-employer about the goings-on there, and while they were extremely nice about it they made it clear that the job I had would probably not be in the org chart in 2009. So about that time, I started looking.

Around the first week of September, I got an offer from LM Glasfiber, and I accepted -- in spite of the fact that it's a 4-hour commute one-way and it means we have to sell the bookstore.

I've worked there 2 weeks, and frankly I love it. I'm a little homesick when I'm not at work, but I'm 43. I suspect I will get over it.

If you're looking for a confessional piece about how hard it is to move or to be away from my family, forget it. My friends know what we're going through, and the rest is voyuerism.

So I'm moving to Little Rock because there's a job there and there's not one in Siloam Springs.

Yeah, OK: bring it on

We're moving to Little Rock, and while everyone who reads this blog has a moral responsibility to visit Lance Quinn's church if you're there, we're prolly not going to live in West LR, so it's not very feasable to join there in spite of, well, the family resemblance.

So all you Little Rock people -- here's your chance. Where do you live and what church are you attending? I'm church shopping for me and my family, and we want to land in a church which is getting the job done.

In the meta, list your town, your church, how long you have been there, and how long your pastor has been there.

pays off at 2:22

Is Evil a Problem? (2)

Last time I left you off with something like this -- The problem is what to do about pain. See: the common argument here -- which Loftus plainly uses to dismiss God -- is that all pain ought to be stopped whenever possible. A universe with suffering in it precludes the Christian God (he says), so the onus is now on John or anyone else who sees pain to stop pain. If that's what we ought to expect from God to the place where we are ready to dismiss God from our philosophy, we have to at least hold ourselves up to that standard. We want an omnipotent God to preclude our suffering, so we should at least think we can use our own limited means to stop the suffering of those we meet.

Well, Loftus couldn't resist commenting on these posts because we're talking about him, and he made one decent clarification before I banned him. Loftus doesn't think all suffering ought to make us disbelieve God: he thinks that only radical suffering out to make us disbelieve God.

BTW, I banned him not because he violated the comics code: I banned him because he had received an invitation to talk about these matters one-on-one at D-Blog, and he declined. Coming here to talk about them now is, frankly, capricious -- and this is a serious subject.

He said it like this:
No, what I am focusing on is the intensive physical and mental pain that breaks people down to the point where some of them cannot take living in this world anymore.
Which is an interesting yardstick, is it not? For Loftus, if life just had bruises and bumps (he says), we couldn't put God on the hook for that. (someday it'd be interesting to find out why) But because some people have pain which causes them to want to die, or ought to cause them to want to die, we have evidence that there is no God -- because a sufficiently "good" and "powerful" and "aware" God would never let such a thing happen.

Well, I have two thoughts on that view, one of which came up in 2006 talking about for example, that girl, as compared to Brian Flemming. My second thought is this: I think it is remarkable that Loftus wants to use a threshold for pain in order to talk about divine compassion.

Here's what I mean: this last week, our government passed a law -- for good or ill, so no wandering off-topic in the meta -- which is going to pay out $700 billion to the banking industry in order to buy off bad debts and restabilize their capital base so the rest of our economy can do things like borrow money to buy raw materials to build things. In theory, (and I saw Warren Buffet tell Charlie Rose this this week, so let's not get too weird here) $700 billion in defaulted mortgages is a very bad thing as suddenly banks will have overvalued properties instead of revenue streams and their ability to trade in money will be severely impaired.

Now, nobody jumped out of windows on Wall Street in the last two weeks, did they? So maybe $700 billion in economic distress spread out over 300 million people and arbitrated by the federal government isn't really that much pain. But it seems to me that $700 billion should show up on the radar. $700 billion is 5% of the GDP for the US, and 25% of the Federal Budget. It seems big, and as a things go, it's a problem, so I think it's a "big problem".

But by Loftus' definition, if the banking industry needs a $700 billion bail-out check, but nobody feels suicidal over it, it's not really part of the problem of evil: it's just a bump in the road. It's just a business decision -- even if it's a business-of-government decision.

So let me say it here plainly as this was my first thesis I wanted to D-Blog with Loftus: All flavors of atheism leave man philosophically unequipped to resolve the problem of evil.

I will explain that further on another day. Until then, be with the Lord's people on the Lord's day in the Lord's house, even if you are in a different town than you are usually found. Find somebody to love.

chowder


You must watch him on the Cartoon Network. I don't care if your brain rots. That's more like composting for the good of the planet.

Yes, yes: that's idolatry. Fine. No fun any more.

Beat the mad rush

Join the Mark Driscoll fan club today.

Is evil a problem? (1)

Since we're talking about Loftus here, let's go to his book and listen to him for a minute:
I'll be arguing here against the theistic conception of God, who is believed to be all-powerful, or omnipotent, perfectly good, or omnibenevolent and all-knowing, or omniscient. The problem of evil (or suffering) is an internal one to these three theistic beliefs, which is expressed in both deductive and evidentialist arguments concerning both moral and natural evil. [228]
So let's think about something here: Loftus is of course reproaching the problem that if someone suffers and God does nothing about it -- if God walks by it, like me stepping over a hobo to whom I could have given help to -- God cannot be God because He is either not good, not aware, or can't do anything about it.

Fair enough -- we will get back to that eventually.

I want to look at Loftus' definition for a minute, however, because it is clever enough that most people will probably not really grasp what he is doing. First, He is making the problem of evil one which only God has to deal with. That is, it's only a problem "internal to theistic beliefs", and not a problem for anyone else. It's a problem about consistency for the theist, not an existential problem.

Unfortunately for Loftus, when he frames the problem, he uses existential examples. He leads the chapter with Eli Wiesel describing what brought him to a loss of faith -- which is wholly an existential problem of what Wiesel calls "silence" in the face of great evil. Wiesel saw evil being done, and it didn't stop when he wanted it to stop, so Wiesel took what he experienced to be true over any other option and concluded what he concluded.

And Wiesel is an interesting example to lead with, because the irony here is that Wiesel recognizes that the problem of evil is not resolved by eliminating God from your metaphysical puzzle. Wiesel, in spite of the rampant atheist citations of Night, is a theist who does not reject the existence of God on account of evil.

Now, many people I respect -- like Doug Wilson for example -- would point out that there's actually no problem of evil if there is no God because anything goes. But Loftus' definition of the problem really avoids that criticism well -- because he doesn't put a moral value on evil. He resorts to the empirical definition instead, because frankly everyone knows when they suffer. Pain is a stake in the ground for him, and I say good for him for recognizing it.

The problem is what to do about pain. See: the common argument here -- which Loftus plainly uses to dismiss God -- is that all pain ought to be stopped whenever possible. A universe with suffering in it precludes the Christian God (he says), so the onus is now on John or anyone else who sees pain to stop pain.

Right? If that's what we ought to expect from God to the place where we are ready to dismiss God from our philosophy, we have to at least hold ourselves up to that standard. We want an omnipotent God to preclude our suffering, so we should at least think we can use our own limited means to stop the suffering of those we meet.

So we should do something about pain and suffering. I think I agree with John Loftus. And to think more about it, I want to think about the $700 billion bail-out the government just gave the banking industry.

Next time.

The problem of evil

Not for nothin', but I'm trying to write this post from a hotel room with cable, and you known what the actual problem of evil is? TV. I'm watching Michael Eisner talking to John Favreau about absolutely nothing, and I can feel my brain rotting into compost. If you ever do that, you can attribute that to why your blog stinks. TV is ruining your brain. That's the problem of evil: watching TV sucks time away from your life in a giant straw with a slurpee spoon at the bottom to get the dregs of your brain matter out for good measure.

Lots of stuff on the blog these days -- so my apologies if this post starts yet another thread I might not finish up this decade.

Now, guys like William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler approach the Christian faith as if it was a philosophical system. That is, in my opinion, they take it beyond systematics to something that is, in fact, epistemologically modern and really strip it of a necessary, epistemological connection to the Bible.

Let me make sure I say this as precisely as possible. Geisler and Craig are Christians, they have Christian beliefs, and I am not calling them unbiblical heretics. What I am saying is that they have, with good intentions, over time, left the ground of what the Bible teaches to develop Christian-derivative reasoning for the sake of evidentialist apologetics. I strongly disagree with this approach to apologetics because it doesn't start with the Bible, but only occasionally refers to the Bible.

And I bring that up because John W. Loftus showed up at TeamPyro before we locked it up for the month of October, and I offered him ... well, this is what I said to him:
Loftus:

I am sure you and your, um, associates have seen my blog DebateBlog in which I have had encounters with a wide variety of people with ideas about Christianity, including one pop-culture movie-making atheist.

Here's a thesis:

All flavors of atheism leave man philosophically unequipped to resolve the problem of evil.

Here's a second thesis:

The message of the Christian Scripture is the only philosophically-credible resolution of the problem of evil.

I am about to start a new job this week, but I will have almost all of my evenings free. I will be willing to defend both theses in separate exchanges with you taking the contrary position.

The blog has a normal set of rules for engagement, but for you I'd be willing to consider the following:
• 1500-word opening statements from both sides
• 150-word limit for questions
• 500-word limit for answers
• 10 Q's and 10 A's from each side
• 1000-word closer from both sides.
• a 500-word summary or analysis from you to close each exchange.

Because you're a a rational guy that Norman Geisler thinks is the cream of the crop for atheists, and because we are closing TeamPyro for a month, it's an open invite for which I happen to have a lot of time. You e-mail me to start the exchange. My only non-negotiable condition is that we must do both theses if we are to do any exchanges at all.
And Loftus declined, he says, because I also said this:
John:

You may know me better as "centuri0n".

I am reading your book.

If the only thesis statement you are willing to defend is the one from your link, I think that's a pretty narrow-band thesis -- because all it proves is that people who believe in God are not modern, uncivilized, and scientifically illiterate. It doesn't say anything about whether God exists but only what you think of those who believe it.

I think you should consider at least three things about my two theses:

[1] Neither of them hang on the actual existence of God. They are about the philosophical consistency of the two positions presented.

[2] Neither of them cause an ad-hom to be hurled at the other side. So you don't turn out to be "uncivilized" if you hold your position after we're done: your position is either credible or not credible, as would be mine based on the outcome of each exchange.

[3] These theses reposition your claim to a place where it can actually affirm something rather than merely deny my position. That is, rather than put you in the impossible place of proving the non-existence of something, it gives you the opportunity to show a genuine strength of your position -- by facing the foundational existential issue of suffering.

The reason why I would like to debate you personally is that I think that if you live up to your press -- or the endorsements you have presented -- you have a chance of representing yourself better than most atheists on the internet can. However, I have encountered you at Triablogue, and I have a suspicion that you cannot sustain 10 questions about your beliefs before you present something which will be a double standard against Christian beliefs in favor of atheist belief. In 20 questions, I think you will become completely incoherent.

So the offer is open. Please e-mail me if you are interested. I'm offering to defend the theses rather than ask you to defend anything, so you should have a very distinct advantage.
See: I read Loftus' book, and of course he goes after everything under the sun in 400 pages, but most interesting is his two chapters (dude: not one but two chapters) on the problem of evil.

I think his approach to that particular issue relies almost completely on accepting the Geisler/Craig modernist evidentialist apologetic as the best representation of theistic theonomy, and frankly ignores the Bible in favor of the rationalizations of Christians.

So what I am going to do is take some time this October and think about the problem of evil -- first from the place where it demonstrates a significant problem for agnosticism and atheism (not what you think, btw), and then from the place where the Bible actually speaks about this problem -- and why we should care.

Stay tuned. And keep the TV off because you need that 20 hours a week back to have a decent quality of life.

He missed methods and research

Famous Blogger Adrian Warnock has apparently found the elusive historical proof that the gifts didn't cease after the apostolic age. Now, since Dr. Warnock has disabled comments on his blog, let me comment on his citation and his link here.

20 years ago, I took a class in college called "Methods and Research" (501), and I am certain that Dr. Warnock took a similar class after he completed his undergrad equivalent. In that class, you learn really two things: [1] How to find facts, or substantiate them, and [2] how to cite your sources so that others can track them down and you can legitimize your findings.

I say that to draw attention to Dr. Warnock's citation:
(Quoted in Eusebius pages 209-210)
Now, technically, Dr. Link Troll Warnock linked his source for that quote, so technically Dr. Warnock has not mis-cited his source. But his source has completely botched the citation.

Eusebius, I am sure you know, was a 3rd century Bishop who didn't write any books -- at least, not as we count them as books. So Eusebius didn't publish anything with page numbers. And there is no extant work named "Eusebius" which yields us the quote Dr. Warnock has posted.

The correct citation of this quote, FWIW, is The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, which is actually written by Eusebius, and the on-line edition is found at Google Books, edited by G.A. Williamson, pg 153, and it is Eusebius citing Irenaeus on the continuation of the gifts in a work we know as Against Heresies. And sadly, for Eusebius, Dr. Warnock's source, and Dr. Warnock, this passage does not appear in Irenaeus at all.

I'd be glad for Dr. Warnock or his source to prove for us otherwise.

Carry on.