Archive for February, 2010
XFiles: When Critics Ask Part 2

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 14.)

We’re going a little bit beyond the Geisler and Turek book right now to have a look at the 18 “errors” that Bible critics allegedly make, at least according to Dr. Geisler’s book When Critics Ask. We only made it through the first five last week, so let’s jump right in and get started, shall we?

6. Basing a teaching on an obscure passage

This one seems like Dr. Geisler is padding his list just a bit, since it’s really just a special case of #5, Failing To Let Easy Passages Explain Difficult Ones. Christians, for example, have no problem basing teachings on obscure passages (or even non-existent ones) without any qualms about the legitimacy of this approach. It’s only when they disagree with someone else’s interpretation that “based on an obscure passage” becomes an issue.

From an apologist’s perspective, though, it’s good to plant the suggestion that it’s wrong to base teachings on obscure passages, because then whenever you get in trouble with your Bible text you can just declare the passage to be “obscure” (rather than wrong or self-contradictory), and that allows you to simply dismiss your critics on the grounds that they’re committing Error #6. It’s a good technique for getting rid of hard problems without actually addressing them.

7. Forgetting that the Bible is a human book with human characteristics

Yes, you read that right. While arguing that the Bible is the supernaturally inspired, infallible and authoritative Word of God, Dr. Geisler accuses the Bible’s critics of forgetting that it’s a human book with human characteristics. Word.

8. Assuming that a partial report is a false report

This is actually a fairly clever, if sneaky, rhetorical maneuver. One of the problems with stories that improve with the telling is that, when you have written records of both the original version and the “improved” version, you can see the details that were added. Likewise, when one writer records one “improved” version and another records a slightly different “improved” version, you can see where the two variants have had different details added.

Usually, the embellishment of an urban legend takes place through the adding of details that were not previously in the story, as the re-teller unconsciously tries to fill in the gaps in the original. It’s less common for someone to deliberately contradict a detail that’s already in the story, though it does sometimes happen.

This situation allows Dr. Geisler to claim that, since the later details are, in many cases, not outright contradictions of the earlier versions of the story, Bible critics are committing Error #8 when they notice that later versions of the stories have added embellishments. That way he avoids needing to explain why there’s visible myth-building going on in the Bible accounts, and can dismiss the “difficulty” as being an error on the part of the critics, even if they’re not claiming an explicit contradiction.

The problem (for Dr. Geisler anyway) is that not all of these variations are so easily reconcilable. For example, in Matt. 28:1-10, we are told a version of the Resurrection story in which the women, arriving at the tomb, see an angel who descends from heaven, rolls away the stone, and tells them outright that Jesus has risen from the dead. They immediately run to go tell the disciples, and on the way they meet the risen Jesus himself, who confirms the angel’s message.

Mark’s version of this same story repeats the idea that an angel told them Jesus had risen from the dead, but adds that the women ran away and told no one. Luke, on the other hand, says no, the women did go and tell the disciples, and Peter ran to the tomb and found it empty, but did not believe the women’s stories, and oh by the way there were two angels telling the women about the resurrection.

John’s version agrees that there were two angels, but insists that when Mary Magdalene (and the other women?) came to the disciples, she/they reported nothing about a risen Jesus, but only that the tomb was empty and that she/they did not know where the body had been taken. Also, according to John, Mary Magdalene was the only one who saw the two angels, and she didn’t see them until after Peter and John ran to the tomb and found it empty (John seems to have added himself to the story at this point). And these angels were sitting inside the tomb instead of standing outside it. And so on.

Lots of conflicts and inconsistencies here as far as the participants involved, the order of the events, whether or not Jesus appeared, to whom, and when, and what the women (or woman) told the disciples to get one (or two) of them to check out the tomb. Dr. Geisler’s attempt to deal with all these variations is to point out that if one story says there were two angels and the other mentions only one, then that’s not a contradiction. Here’s the summary Geisler and Turek offer:

As we have seen, it’s not a contradiction if one Gospel writer says he saw one angel at the tomb and another says he saw two. Matthew doesn’t say there was only one. And if there were two, there certainly was (at least) one! So divergence doesn’t always mean contradiction. Instead it often suggest genuine eyewitness testimony.

Isn’t it cool the way you can make all the other inconsistencies just disappear by focusing exclusively on whether seeing two angels is roughly the same as seeing one angel? Matthew wasn’t even there, and yet somehow, by the magic of apologetics, he’s an eyewitness testifying about how many angels he saw. The Bible critics must be committing Error #8, you see, and therefore we don’t have to pay any attention to critics when they point out contradictions in the Bible. Ah well, moving on…

9. Demanding that NT citations of the OT always be exact quotations

Another popular apologetics ploy: blame the critic for being so darn critical. After all, how dare you demand that God’s inspired prophets be familiar enough with His word to quote it accurately? Hmm, well now that you mention it, that doesn’t sound all that unreasonable, so Dr. Geisler changes it to suggest that critics are demanding exact quotations. That sounds a little more nit-picky, doesn’t it?

The problem is that OT passages cited in the NT are sometimes misquoted in ways that change the meaning of the original text. For example, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14—part of a prediction of the destruction of the kingdoms of Aram and Samaria—as though it were a prediction of Messianic virgin birth. Thus, Matthew is guilty of Dr. Geisler’s Error #4 (Failure To Consider Context), but more than that, he changes a key pronoun.

Isaiah’s original prophecy was that a virgin (or maiden) would conceive and have a son, and would name him Immanuel. Mary, however, did not name her son Immanuel, she named him Jesus. The Facebook generation would call that a “Prophecy Fail,” so Matthew just changes the pronoun and makes it “they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ which means ‘God with us’.” One tiny, well-placed change that makes it sound like Isaiah was anticipating a child who would have the reputation of being God Incarnate, even though this is not at all the actual topic in Isaiah 7.

If we want to know whether Jesus is really fulfilling prophecy or if the Gospels merely twist the Scriptures to suit their own purposes, this is an important factor. It’s not that we insist on unreasonably precise quotations, we just want accurate quotes. If we find that OT passages have been distorted in ways that obscure the original meaning and introduce entirely new and foreign ideas, then that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. Simply accusing people of Error #9 doesn’t resolve the issue.

10. Assuming that divergent accounts are false ones

Déjà vu, eh? We covered this one under Error #8. Let’s move on.

11. Presuming that the Bible approves of all its records

This is the “out” that apologists use whenever anyone notices Biblical heroes behaving wickedly and/or immorally. “We’re not saying that it was right for David to have Uriah murdered so he could take Uriah’s wife, the Bible is merely recording the fact that he did.” There is some validity to this argument, and there have been some critics who have used the sins of the patriarchs as evidence that the Bible is not inspired. Such cases can indeed be addressed by pointing out that the Bible does not endorse everything it records.

What’s less amenable to this sort of exoneration, however, are the numerous instances where God is the Biblical hero Who is threatening to punish children for the sins of their parents, or Who is impregnating someone else’s fiancee, or Who is commanding His followers to commit genocide, or Who is condoning and directing slavery and instructing slave-owners in how to get around the rules that ostensibly liberate all slaves every 7 years. It’s one thing to say the Bible merely records man’s sins without approving of them, but God’s? That’s a tough one.

12. Forgetting that the Bible uses non-technical, everyday language

This one is kind of funny. I wish we had time to do the whole book of When Critics Ask, but I’m just guessing that he’s not going to use this one to explain things like the talking snake in Genesis 3!

Error #12 tries to account for the fact that the people who wrote the Bible didn’t know as much as we do now about the real world and how it works. Such ignorance can be embarrassingly obvious at times (like when God doesn’t get around to creating the sun until the 4th day). Dr. Geisler’s excuse is that the Bible is using non-technical, everyday language, so we shouldn’t expect it to meet the rigorous standards of peer-reviewed scientific literature. It’s a variation on the same ploy as in #9: trying to make critics sound unreasonably demanding.

But it’s one thing to use ordinary everyday language, and something else entirely to have a world view in which heaven is a physical place on the other side of a waterproof barrier in the sky above the Palestine. Yet that is an assumption that the Bible refers to routinely in both Old and New Testaments. When we talk about doors opening up in the waterproof barrier so that the rain can come down (or the prophet/Messiah can go up), that’s non-technical everyday language all right. But even describing it in technical terms would fail to address the fact that no such heaven is actually up there! Yet that’s the heaven Christians are waiting for Jesus to come back from, because that’s the heaven the Bible says he went to and is looking down on us from.

I could do a whole series of posts on the Biblical view of heaven as a literal place in the sky (and perhaps I should some day), but the bottom line is that the Bible isn’t just using layman’s terms, it’s expressing the ideas and assumptions of ignorant and superstitious men. Nor is heaven the only example, though it’s arguably the most pervasive. The Bible records the understanding of men who believed myth and reality were the same thing, and you can’t get around that fact by claiming they were “just using non-technical language.”

Twelve down and five to go, so let’s pick this up again next week.

XFiles: When critics ask

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 14.)

There’s an old quip that’s been reprinted on countless T-shirts, plaques, posters and such. It goes like this:

Rule 1: The boss never makes mistakes.

Rule 2: If the boss makes a mistake, see Rule #1.

Rule 3: Any mistakes not covered by Rule #2, see Rule #1.

It may not sound theological at first glance, but see if anything sounds familiar in Geisler and Turek’s discussion of Bible inerrancy:

So what happens when we think we’ve found an error in the Bible? Augustine had the answer. “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture,” he wisely noted, “it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken’; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood.”

This is rather a significant point, because the it shows that the modern Christian concept of Biblical inerrancy is based on centuries, not to say millennia, of Christian teachers in denial. It is simply “not allowable” to admit that there are contradictions in the Bible. By definition, if we find a mistake in the Bible, it only proves that we—not the Scriptures—are mistaken. See Rule #1.

Small wonder, than, that Christians are unable to find any errors in the Scripture when they’re working under Augustine’s rules.

Of course as Bible scholars have known since before Augustine, there are errors and contradictions in the Bible. If there weren’t, no one would need to make rules disallowing people from noticing them. That’s a problem for Bible-believing Christians, because it shows that the Bible is not the Truth they’re looking for. One man’s problem is another man’s opportunity, though, and for Dr. Geisler it’s a perfect chance to plug one of his other books.

In When Critics Ask, we identify seventeen errors typically made by critics. Here is a summary of just four of them.

And if you like the four you see, you’ll want to run right out and buy the other thirteen rationalizations excuses explanations for why Bible “difficulties” don’t count. But why stop at four? Let’s have a look at Geisler’s complete list of seventeen “errors” allegedly made by Bible critics.

  1. Assuming that the unexplained is not explainable
  2. Presuming the Bible guilty until proven innocent
  3. Confusing our fallible interpretations with God’s infallible revelation
  4. Failing to understand the context of the passage.
  5. Neglecting to interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones
  6. Basing a teaching on an obscure passage
  7. Forgetting that the Bible is a human book with human characteristics
  8. Assuming that a partial report is a false report
  9. Demanding that NT citations of the OT always be exact quotations
  10. Assuming that divergent accounts are false ones
  11. Presuming that the Bible approves of all its records
  12. Forgetting that the Bible uses non-technical, everyday language
  13. Assuming that round numbers are false
  14. Neglecting to note that the bible uses different literary devices
  15. Forgetting that only the original text, not every copy of scripture, is without error
  16. Confusing general statements with universal ones
  17. Forgetting that latter revelation supersedes previous revelation

Ironically, point number one pretty much sums up the whole first half of I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST. We can’t explain (or at least, Geisler and Turek can’t explain) how this or that feature ended up in the universe, and therefore it’s unexplainable, and therefore supernatural, and therefore there is a single personal intelligent God Who can only communicate with us through an infallible Book. When critics assume that the unexplained is unexplainable, it’s an error. When Geisler and Turek do it, it’s a full seven chapter’s worth of “evidence.”

The problem with presenting this argument as a critical “error” is that it overlooks the distinction between problems due to ignorance and problems due to contradiction. In the first half of their book, Geisler and Turek argue that the mysteries of nature are unexplainable just because science has not yet figured out all the answers. That’s a different problem than trying to explain why one passage of Scripture says that Tyre will cease to exist after Nebuchadnezzar, and other passages that say Paul found it a thriving city of trade centuries later. Problems that stem from our ignorance are not inexplicable; we just need to learn more. Problems that come from outright contradictions, however, are genuine problems. “Error” number one is just Geisler accusing critics of failing to consider the possibility of rationalization.

“Error” number 2 is just as insubstantial. “Presuming the Bible guilty until proven innocent” might just as easily be phrased as “failing to assume that the Bible is correct.” It’s an excuse for believers to retreat behind a presumption of innocence that demands an absurdly high standard of critical evidence to disprove—not just proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but proof beyond all possible conceivable potential for doubt. But that’s backwards. It’s not the critic’s job to explain the difficulties, it’s up to the apologists to show that the Biblical record is consistent with itself, with Christian teaching, and with reality. If they can. Accusing critics of evil assumptions is just an ad hominem red herring.

Number 3, “Confusing our fallible interpretations with God’s infallible revelation,” is the old scam that allows believers to claim infallible authority (because their teachings are based on God’s infallible revelation) while at the same time disclaiming any accountability for mistakes in their teachings (because it’s just “our fallible interpretations”). If you don’t have an infallible interpretation then you don’t have an infallible revelation. Even if the “revelation” were infallible as written, it’s worthless unless it can enter your understanding infallibly. If it can’t, then what you possess in your understanding is not infallible revelation, and thus not a basis for infallible authority.

Number 4 (“Failing to understand the context of the passage”) might actually be valid in some circumstances, so we’d have to consider that one on a case-by-case basis. Number 5, however, is the Golden Loophole, so let’s take a moment to zero in on that one.

According to Geisler and Turek, critics err by “[n]eglecting to interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.” This is a reference to the Protestant practice of using the clear and simple passages of the Bible illuminate one’s understanding of the obscure and difficult passages. Buying into this principle, however, guarantees that you will end up with a highly personalized and subjective understanding of the Bible, because different people are going to have a different perception of which passages are “clear” and “simple.”

For example, James 2, in discussing the relationship between faith, good works, and salvation, declares that “man is justified by works and not by faith alone” (v. 24). In Ephesians 2, by contrast, Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one may boast.”

The English translation of Eph. 2 doesn’t convey the full grammatical sense of the original, in which the word “that” (in the phrase “and that not of yourselves”) is singular neuter, whereas the word it appears to modify (“faith”) is singular feminine. The pronoun, thus, might be a bit ambiguous, as might the following “it.” Is Paul referring to salvation, or to grace, or to the fact that God graciously chose to save us through faith? What is it that is not “a result of works,” the grace, the salvation, the faith?

In terms of the complexity of the sentence, it would seem that Paul’s statement ought to be the difficult one, and James’ the more clear and easy one. Yet for millions of Protestants, it is the other way around: the “clear” passage is Ephesians 2:8-9, which they use as a guide to the “true” meaning of James 2. And James 2, despite its simple grammar and clear logic is “difficult” because it contradicts the Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone. That’s right, you can designate a Bible passage as “difficult” just because fails to teach what you think it should.

That’s why there are so many Protestant sects, divisions, movements, and so on. Each person starts with the passages that seem “clear and obvious” in his own eyes, which naturally will be the passages that appear most consistent with what he already sees as true. These passages then become the foundational concepts upon which he constructs his understanding of the more “difficult” passages—suitably interpreted by the “clear and easy” ones, of course. And the end result is that he builds up a unique, personal network of interpretations that reflect whatever seems right in his own eyes.

“Error” number 5, therefore, boils down to accusing critics of failing to make the mistake that leads believers into ascribing divine authority to their own personal opinions, via the mechanism of using “easy” Bible passages to construct a personal belief system.

By the way, there’s enough commonality in human nature that we can find groups of people with similar initial beliefs (e.g. the Fred Phelps gang, liberal Christians, legalistic Christians, charismatic Christians, and so on), so it’s easy to see why believers might be fooled into thinking they and their peers had really “found it.” You and I are enough alike that the same passages seem “clear” and “obvious,” so in sharing our Bible interpretations, we tend to validate each other. But the real basis of our faith is subjective, i.e. what is it that seems “clear and obvious” to each of us personally. We call it “Bible based,” but it’s actually our own subjective opinions dressed up in chapters and verses. Sounds like spirituality, but smells like ego. Go figure, eh?

This looks like a good stopping point for this week. Hmm, 5 down and 12 to go. This may take another post or two. Tune in again next time…

Colson’s latest snow job

Boy, Chuck Colson has really been on a roll lately, hasn’t he? This time he’s denying global warming.

The people most inconvenienced by the blizzards weren’t the residents of this region, or the senators-it was the proponents of man-made global warming. Scientists and activists insisted that people on this side of the Atlantic ignore the evidence in their driveways and, instead, trust their computer models.

According to Colson, you can disprove global warming just by pointing out that it’s still snowing.

10 years ago, they told us that, on account of the same global warming, “snow is starting to disappear from our lives.” We were told that, because of all that nasty CO2, British children “just aren’t going to know what snow is.”

Ten years later, they most certainly do. Not only British children, but children in every state except Hawaii. All of Britain, much of the rest of Europe, and the United States have experienced snowfalls this winter. The data suggests, in fact, that “snow is coming earlier and heavier than it used to.”

Ah yes, “they” told us. Nice to have an unimpeachable source, isn’t it?

Well, first things first: what is global warming? Are we talking about the average temperature going so high that in a mere 10 years snow would stop falling in England entirely? No. Climatologists are concerned about changes in average global temperatures of only a few degrees over many years, not the tens of degrees it would take to prevent frozen precipitation from occurring during England’s winters.

Granted, the original quote seems to have been made by a Dr. David Viner of the University of East Anglia. Colson chose not to cite the article he’s quoting from (perhaps to avoid having people find out that Dr. Viner also predicted occasional heavy snows that “will probably cause chaos” in the next decade or so?), but he is probably right to suggest that such dire predictions are unlikely in the short term. Maybe Dr. Viner was exaggerating or misquoted, but it seems a bit much to claim that global warming will make the snow stop falling any time soon.

But consider what happens if the average global temperature rises only a few degrees, say 3°F. Around where I live that might mean a winter where the temperature hovered around 24°F instead of 21°F (i.e. -4°C instead of -6°C for you metric folks). Too warm to snow? Of course not. But increased warmth can have other consequences…

What Colson is forgetting is that we don’t all have the same seasons at the same time. It’s winter in the northern hemisphere right now, but it’s summer for the other half of the planet. And in the warmer parts of the planet, weather is being driven by a number of factors, including one we call “evaporation.”

Evaporation is what puts water into the atmosphere so that it can return to the surface again as rain or snow. Warmer global temperatures mean increased evaporation, which means more moisture in the atmosphere, which means greater precipitation. If Colson had been watching his weather maps, he might have noticed that these unusually heavy snowfalls did not blow down on the east coast from the frigid reaches of northern Canada. They blew up from warmer regions around the Gulf of Mexico.

Thus, it’s not climatologists who are ignoring the evidence in their driveways, it’s Colson. He even admits it, albeit indirectly and with exaggerated incredulity.

Not only did they tell us that this winter’s weather didn’t disprove their global warming data, they told us that the record snows were caused by global warming. Really!

Um, yes, Chuck, really. As amazing as it may sound to you, people whose experience and expertise lie in areas of science that you don’t understand might just know more about what they’re saying than you on the topic of climatology. One snowstorm doesn’t prove global warming of course, but it’s hardly the refutation of science that Colson makes it out to be!

But Colson’s not stopping there, not by a long shot.

If all of the white stuff hasn’t left you doubting those computer models, maybe Phil Jones can help you. That would be ironic since, until recently, Jones was the director of the Climate Research Unit at Britain’s East Anglia University. He was the keeper of the data upon which the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) based its predictions-data that has been, to put it mildly, called into question.

In an interview with the BBC, Jones acknowledged that there has been no significant warming since 1995. Let me repeat that. One of the world’s leading global warming advocates says there has been no significant warming since 1995. Fifteen years.

That sounds like a pretty damning admission if true. But notice that Colson once again omitted the citation that would let us track down the source of his quote. Could it be that he doesn’t want his readers to find out what Jones really said?

B – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

Notice, the reason Dr. Jones is careful to say that there’s no “statistically significant” warming in the past 15 years is not because he failed to find a warming trend, but because in climatology a 15 year time span is too short. The temperature has been rising at a rate of about a tenth of a degree per decade, but in the interests of accuracy, he’s insisting that we ought to base our conclusions on trends measured over a longer period of time—trends which do show global warming.

That’s rather a different perspective than the spin Colson is trying to put on it, isn’t it? But he’s still not done yet. Here’s Colson’s next observation, based on Jones’ interview:

He also indicated that there is nothing exceptional about the warming the occurred between 1979 and 1995.

Compare this with what Jones actually said:

As for the two periods 1910-40 and 1975-1998 the warming rates are not statistically significantly different (see numbers below).I have also included the trend over the period 1975 to 2009, which has a very similar trend to the period 1975-1998.

So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.

Here are the trends and significances for each period:

Period Length Trend
(Degrees C per decade)
Significance
1860-1880 21 0.163 Yes
1910-1940 31 0.15 Yes
1975-1998 24 0.166 Yes
1975-2009 35 0.161 Yes

So what Jones originally said was that there are four sizable time periods during which significant warming can be documented and that these trends are not significantly different from each other. Colson tries to make it sound like Jones is saying that there wasn’t any unusual warming between 1979 and 1998, but that’s not what Jones is saying at all.

One caveat: I’m assuming that Colson was making his claim in connection with the above quote from the original interview, though the dates don’t quite match. But perhaps he was referring to this question instead:

D – Do you agree that natural influences could have contributed significantly to the global warming observed from 1975-1998, and, if so, please could you specify each natural influence and express its radiative forcing over the period in Watts per square metre.

This area is slightly outside my area of expertise. When considering changes over this period we need to consider all possible factors (so human and natural influences as well as natural internal variability of the climate system). Natural influences (from volcanoes and the Sun) over this period could have contributed to the change over this period. Volcanic influences from the two large eruptions (El Chichon in 1982 and Pinatubo in 1991) would exert a negative influence. Solar influence was about flat over this period. Combining only these two natural influences, therefore, we might have expected some cooling over this period.

This, however, isn’t even remotely like the what Colson claims Jones is saying. Jones is saying that, if manmade causes were not contributing to global warming, we ought to have expected a cooling trend between 1975 and 1998, due to the shading effect of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere from two major volcanic eruptions. That cooling did not happen. Instead we observed a net increase in average global temperature between 1975 and 2009, per the chart above. So what the hell is Colson talking about?

Colson does do something I’ve never heard a denialist do before. Or at least, he tries to. The one thing I’ve never understood about all this global warming denialism is why all these professional climatologists and researchers would allegedly lie about it. Outside of cartoon villains, people don’t just spontaneously do evil things that involve large amounts of time and effort for no tangible reward. So what’s supposed to be motivating the scientists? Here’s Colson’s slanderous guess:

Why? It’s a matter of worldview.

Activists and scientists have too much invested in human-caused global warming. For activists, it’s the threat by which they can create their version of a better world, and scientists have staked their careers and reputations on the accuracy of those computer models.

Um, right. Only the thing is, Chuck, that there are lots of eager young grad students (let alone all the know-it-all denialists) who would just love to kick-start their scientific careers by coming up with an even more accurate model. If the old scientists were, you know, lying about global warming, that would make it easier for someone to come up with a model that worked better. Almost any car will go faster than one that won’t even start.

Real scientists are always checking each other’s work, and engaging in vigorous, (mostly) friendly competition. Anybody who resorts to fudging his or her results in front of the experts is just setting themselves up for failure. If you’re staking your career and reputation on the accuracy of your computer model, the last thing you want to do is get yourself entrenched in defending an obsolete and inadequate model!

Colson isn’t going to understand this, of course. Defending obsolete and inadequate models is what Christian apologetics is all about, so naturally he assumes that scientists must be doing the same thing. He needs a “worldview” to insulate him from facts that might otherwise lead him to reassess his conclusions, so in his mind that’s what scientists must be doing too.

The result is that conservative Christians like Colson are among the foremost of those who boldly and ignorantly declare that the experts must be wrong and that we must not interfere in the profits of the wealthy merely to prevent environmental disaster. Like Bush ignoring repeated warnings about Saddam’s lack of WMD’s, they proudly and smugly turn their backs on the advice of those who know more about it than they do. Anything else would be a failure to walk by faith. Or something.

Sigh.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I still need to go do some more shoveling.

Becoming the Infinite Conscious Creative Force of Reality

When comparing the current overall level of consciousness, that we as the human race exhibit, to the unlimited potential that we have in every possible way, we are still infants. Going far beyond the shift from the self-centered to the unity-oriented modality of existence, this potential includes becoming the infinite conscious creative force of Reality itself. It is a seemingly-unfathomable matter to contemplate upon, given our current overall state of consciousness. However, the potential is definitely there; we simply have to go through a supramental transformation of consciousness to reach this destination. Focusing on higher mind-states such as peace, love, and happiness, merging biological and technological systems, and the experience of extropy all assist in manifesting such a reality in humanity’s future. The choice whether we become that infinite infinite creative force is ultimately up to us. Each moment of existence that we spend resisting the realities of interconnectedness, oneness, and the universal laws such as those pertaining to cause and effect as well as attraction is one more moment keeping us away from attaining such an existence.

The concept of infinity is impossible to describe since it has never been experienced by a single human being. However, the idea of consciousness is likewise difficult to describe but as far as consciousness goes, it can be perceived as being one in the same with infinity if the perception is that all is consciousness and so if infinity is, was, and will be the totality of the manifest and unmanifest, then consciousness is infinite. Sure, we can put an 8 on its side and say that it is a reasonable visual and mathematical depiction of infinity, but it does not help us much in experiencing infinity or becoming the infinite intelligent consciousness that encompasses all that is in Reality. In order for this idea to work, one must have the conviction that consciousness is expressed as energy and this energy manifests itself in a wide variety of ways; from solid manifestations such as rocks, to the intangible and unquantifiable expressions of consciousness such as love. This idea makes use of a multidimensional Reality, in which there are several more dimensions than the 4 that we interact with on a daily basis. Theories in physics such as M-Theory identify the existence of 11 dimensions within their models and are adequate at assisting in the understanding of this idea of epigenesis.

Given all of this, it can now be understood how this process of becoming the infinite conscious creative force of Reality can come about. The mystical philosophy that can be used to explain this concept says that a person should utilizes life’s opportunities to change an individual’s circumstances. The evolution of the process is as such:

A person seeks first to understand how previous actions have contributed to current situations. Armed with this knowledge, the person sets out to initiate new causes that will eventually result in the most beneficial effects for both his or herself and humanity, as a whole. The aspirant understands that by using this method, drastic change or elevation in the progression of one’s present and future evolution of consciousness can take place. Such a person is a co-creator in his or her own destiny. This is something known as “conscious evolution”. Instead of assuming the passive status of a passenger on life’s journey, it is preferred to determine the direction and nature of his or her own trip. Much attention is paid to the subtle dimensions of what is considered the human being. Both eastern and western mystic tradition recognize that the health and vitality of the physical body are direct manifestations of this “higher” etheric vehicle.

According to the evolution of consciousness, humans build upon that which has already been created, but add new elements because of the activity of one’s consciousness (in times past interpreted or labeled as spirit). Humans have the capacity, therefore, to become creative intelligences (creators) and ultimately, to become part of the Supermind that is the infinite creative intelligence of Reality. For a human being to fulfill this promise, his or her training should allow for the exercise of originality, which distinguishes creation from imitation. When the process of epigenesis becomes inactive, in the individual or even in a race of species, evolution ceases and degeneration commences. This concept is based on the view of the world as being a training school, which posits that while mistakes are made in life, humans often learn more from mistakes than successes. Suffering is considered as merely the result of error, and the impact of suffering on consciousness causes humans to be active along other lines which are found to be good, in harmony with nature. Humans are seen as localized fields of consciousness attending the school of life for the purpose of unfolding latent powers within their beings, developing themselves from impotence to omnipotence, reaching the stage of creative beings at the end of humanity’s present physical evolution.

Science fiction has played with the idea of humans eventually evolving to the point where they become pure energy and exist in a higher dimension of Reality. Although it may seem like fiction to us humans, it may have become a reality for a race somewhere else in the universe (assuming there is life beyond earth). There is little in the way of impossibility in Reality, which assists in assuring us that the evolution of humanity is far from over. Consciousness has growth potential that is not even contemplated by the most advanced thinkers of today. There must be an open mind when musing about the possible future metamorphosis of the transpersonal consciousness of humanity since without such an accepting position of awareness, the vision cannot be seen. If the vision cannot be seen, it cannot ever come to fruition or become manifest. The 21st century is teeming with advanced concepts, ideas, and theories concerning our current abilities and future possibilities. Let us not close doors that have never been walked through. To get to the top of the mountain, one must first have the courage to climb.

Colson plays the numbers

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, there’s been a new study done on different approaches to sex education.

The study followed 662 African American sixth and seventh graders for two years. Some were placed in the abstinence program, others in a comprehensive course that included discussion of abstinence and condom use. Another group participated in a program that dealt only with safer sex, and a final group of control subjects did a workshop on nutrition…

Of 95 students who said they were virgins at the start of the abstinence training, 33 percent reported that they had sex within the next two years.

By comparison, 41 percent of the virgins in the comprehensive course went on to have sex in the two-year window. For the control group, the figure was 47 percent.

In a sample this size, the difference between the comprehensive class and the abstinence class – 33 percent vs. 41 percent – was not statistically significant, said Jemmott, so it is accurate to say they performed comparably.

And here’s Chuck Colson reporting the same story:

A landmark study on sex education draws a surprising conclusion. Well, you and I aren’t surprised, but the media and the educational establishments are. The study found that abstinence-based sex education works better than any other form of sex ed.

He’s right. I’m not surprised at all.

All right, I admit, what fails to surprise me is the disconnect between the facts of the story and the smugly triumphant way Colson tries to spin the story. But Colson wants to make it sound surprising that a scientific study actually produced evidence supporting (or allegedly supporting) abstinence-only sex education. And in a way he’s right: there have been a number of studies done, and they’ve all consistently failed to support the idea that abstinence-only sex ed does much good, if any. So it would be surprising if this study showed a result that was inconsistent with all the others.

What’s “landmark” about this study, then, is the fact that it’s the first time Christians like Colson have found one they can actually twist to suit their own purposes. The sample size is small enough, the margin of error large enough, and the difference in scores has the appearance, at least, of making abstinence ed look better. These days Christians like Colson are desperate enough that they’ll take any excuse they can get, jumping to the conclusions they favor, and ignoring the caveats of the professionals.

And that’s not all they’re ignoring. The author of the study, Penn sociologist John Jemmott, reports that what made his abstinence-ed program unique was that he deliberately removed the sect-friendly elements found in the abstinence programs pushed by evangelicals. According to Jemmott, the abstinence program he followed

would not have qualified for federal funding during the Bush administration. Those programs required an emphasis on abstaining until marriage, whereas Jemmott’s involved no preaching and no denigrating the effectiveness of contraception…

The abstinence class included a number of interactive exercises, Jemmott said. For example, the students were asked to think about their hopes five and 10 years in the future. Then they had to consider the consequences of a pregnancy on their plans.”It’s designed to be fun,” Jemmott said. “There are games where they can win points, and role-playing and other upbeat activities. There’s no preaching, and it’s not moralistic.”

Wow, a reality-based abstinence program? I like it myself (as long as it’s not the only material offered). The program wisely avoids the common evangelical trap of trying to persuade kids that they have to wait for marriage, and focuses instead on the much more realistic goal of convincing kids to merely delay sexual involvement. Not because sex is “sinful” or because some spoilsport deity wants to hold it just out of reach, but because the kids know what the consequences are, and decide for themselves that waiting will make them happier.

Of course, you’ll never hear Colson report that the study found a significant improvement in abstinence classes that eliminate Christian moral preaching! That may be one of the “landmark” distinctives of this particular study, but that’s not anything Colson is going to want just anyone to notice.

The Christian agenda for abstinence-only sex education is part of a bigger agenda for sexual control. Conservative Christians are trying to produce a government-enforced monopoly on sex, with Christians in control of who is and is not allowed to participate. God has decreed that there will be no sex outside of marriage, and He’s the only one Who can bestow the blessing of marriage on those He favors (as determined by…guess who).

The result is that, in the hopes and dreams of conservative Christians, people who want sex will have to submit to Christianity in order to obtain it. Christians control the supply by eliminating the competition of extramarital sex and by maintaining a monopoly on marriage. After all, since their God does not show up in real life, they have to have some motivation for people to turn to their religion!

Chuck Colson’s deceitful promotion of abstinence-only education is in no way motivated by any kind of concern for kids. What he and his cohorts are after is to harness the power of sex, and to use it as a tool to convert people. It may not be a conscious conspiracy, and in fact it’s highly likely that simple greed and selfishness are what motivate believers to want to monopolize sexual power. But there’s no question that they are seeking this monopoly, or that they consider themselves legitimately entitled to decide how, when, and with whom, everybody else is allowed to have sex.

Luskin pwns Dembski

Via Good Math, Bad Math comes this delightful bit of news.

[O]ver at the Disco Institute, resident Legal Eagle Casey Luskin has started posting an eight-part series on how the Kitzmiller case (the legal case concerning the teaching of intelligent design in Dover PA) was decided wrong.

Dr. Chu-Carroll proceeds to disassemble Luskin’s rather pathetic argument (as does Dr. Wesley Elsberry), and I recommend following the links and reading their analyses. What caught my eye, however, was the way Luskin not only bungles his case, but inadvertently pulls the rug out from under one of William Dembski’s main arguments.

Here’s a quick overview of Luskin’s argument:

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, working with the NCSE, successfully convinced Judge Jones to parrot Miller by stating in the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling that Miller had “pointed to more than three dozen peer-reviewed scientific publications showing the origin of new genetic information by evolutionary processes.”

Virtually all of those “publications” mentioned by Judge Jones came from one single paper Miller discussed at trial, a review article, co-authored by Manyuan Long of the University of Chicago. The article does not even contain the word “information,” much less the phrase “new genetic information”…

But are Judge Jones’s, Ken Miller’s, and the NCSE’s bold proclamations supported? Does Long et al. actually reveal the origin of new biological information? Is Explore Evolution wrong? A closer look shows that the NCSE is equivocating over the meanings of the words “information” and “new,” and that the NCSE’s citations are largely bluffs, revealing little about how new genetic functional information could originate via unguided evolutionary mechanisms.

So Luskin’s chief complaint here is that the peer-reviewed publications surveyed and reported by the Long paper are all scientific publications that do not discuss whatever it is that creationists mean by “new genetic information.” Instead, as Dr. Chu-Carroll and Dr. Elsberry point out, they discuss the evolution of new genes.

In other words, Luskin isn’t objecting to the scientific conclusions reached by these peer-reviewed papers. Given his lack of scientific expertise, he wisely avoids challenging the research that allows us to understand how new genes evolve. Instead, he simply asserts that this research is not studying whatever he means by “new genetic information.” “New genetic information,” whatever that is, does not play any significant role in the evolution of new genes.

Wow.

Just think about that for a minute. One of the core arguments of intelligent design creationism is that new species require “complex specified information” and that evolutionary processes are incapable of producing whatever they mean by “information.” But now here’s Luskin objecting to the evidence used in Kitzmiller on the grounds that “genetic information” is some topic unrelated to the study of how new genes evolved. New genes, it seems, can evolve without “genetic information” (as defined by creationists) playing any significant role.

That whooshing sound you just heard is Luskin pulling the rug out from under William Dembski and all the fine folks at the Disco ‘Tute, because once you can evolve new genes, it’s trivial to evolve new species specified by those genes. And here is Casey Luskin, official spokesweenie of the premier ID publicity and marketing organization, blithely assuring us that the new genes documented by the research in the Long paper were new genes produced without being in any way hindered by the complete absence of the “new genetic information.”

Whatever he means by that.

XFiles: Proving that faith is irrelevant

(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, chapter 14.)

Geisler and Turek’s gimmick throughout the book has been to pretend that they’re building an iron-clad case, piece-by-piece, each well-documented conclusion building on the proofs that came before. It’s only a pretense, though, and the nearer we get to the end the less they even try to keep pretending. They’ve never intended to do any more than preach to the choir, and it shows.

For example, here’s their “proof” of why the Bible cannot contain any errors.

1. God cannot err.

2. The Bible is the Word of God.

3. Therefore the Bible cannot err.

Notice anything missing in their logic?

The problem is, nowhere in the book have they ever bothered to try and document the claim that God cannot err. They just assume it ought to be true because, well obviously God can’t ever make a mistake (like, for example, doing such a botched-up job of Heavenly-Fathering that He ends up having to wipe out virtually the whole human race and start over with a handful of survivors). Because, well, obviously He’s God and therefore He just can’t make mistakes. You know, uh, obviously.

And besides, the Bible tells us that God cannot err, and the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, doncha know.

Seriously. This is their argument.

Since this is a valid syllogism (form of reasoning), if the premises are true, then the conclusion is true. The Bible clearly declares itself to be the Word of God, and we’ve seen strong evidence that it is. The Bible also informs us several times that God cannot err, and we know this from general revelation as well. So the conclusion is inevitable.

Unfortunately, Geisler and Turek just toss off that reference to “we know this from general revelation,” without any attempt to explain what they mean by it. But don’t worry, it really boils down to just one word: superstition. “General revelation,” in conservative Christian jargon, means “what you can learn about the Creator by observing His Creation.” It’s what apologists appeal to when they don’t have actual Scripture to back up their claims.

Sadly, the Bible itself isn’t quite adequate to the task of providing us with rules for literally everything. Fortunately, however, there are verses that say things like “The heavens declare the glory of God,” and “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). In other words, you can look at the amazing world we live in, notice that the human mind fails to grasp all of its intricate details, and then use that ignorance as a justification for imagining all kinds of wonderful characteristics God must have.

Like I said, “general revelation” is really just an appeal to superstition. You see things in the real world you don’t understand, and you attribute them to an invisible, supernatural force. And then you have carte blanche to imagine whatever characteristics seem right in your own eyes, as far as what or Who this supernatural force might be and/or might want. The trick is that by calling it “general revelation” instead of superstition, you get to imply that your speculations about God have all the infallible authority of the written revelation. Which, ironically, they probably do.

So what have we got left then? Geisler and Turek claim that they have a valid syllogism, and that it’s based on “strong evidence” that the Bible is the Word of God and on “general revelation” that the Creator cannot make mistakes (despite a huge number of genetic defects and less-than-fortuitous designs in His Creation). If we look back through the book, though, we see that Geisler and Turek haven’t actually presented us with a documented case based on strong evidence. Instead, they’ve presented a carefully selected subset of the evidence, which they’ve interpreted one way in the case of, say, Darwin, and quite a different way in the case of, say, Luke. This is what Christians call “worldview.”

What’s behind that selection, though? How do they know they’re supposed to adopt very easily-satisfied standards of evidence in Luke’s case, and impossibly-demanding standards of evidence in Darwin’s? How do they know they need to invent false contradictions to discredit scientific explanations of cosmology, while simultaneously glossing over Biblical contradictions as mere “difficulties”?

The answer is that the Bible tells them so. Or rather, their interpretation of the Bible tells them so. That’s what guides their selection and interpretation of the evidence. Geisler and Turek’s “valid syllogism” is ultimately based on the assumption that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and is therefore the key to the correct selection and interpretation of the evidence that allegedly supports it. By the time they reach point 3, they haven’t produced a conclusion, they’ve merely re-iterated the assumptions they made in Step Zero.

And Dr. Norm Geisler and Dr. Frank Turek see nothing wrong with using their conclusion to prove the premises that they use to prove their conclusion. They claim that it’s a valid syllogism even though the fallacy of assuming your conclusion is one of the oldest and best-known fallacies in the study of logic. They try to disguise the problem by pretending that their premises are based on other things besides assuming their conclusion, but that’s mere misdirection, not actually solving the problem. And they see nothing wrong with that.

The fix for this particular fallacy is simple: remove it. Don’t use your conclusion to try and establish the truth of your premises. Leave out the claims that the Bible says your premises are valid. Very simple and easy to do, except that Geisler and Turek know, deep down, that the Bible is all they really have to back up their claims. If you take away what the Bible says about God, and about itself being the Word of God, and if you don’t insist on interpretations of the evidence that have been harmonized with what the Bible teaches, you can’t produce a substantive case for the claim that the Biblical God exists, let alone that He cannot err and that the Bible is His Word.

But that doesn’t matter to Geisler and Turek, because they know that the Bible must be the inerrant Word of God. Yes, ok, technically their reasoning is fallacious, but that doesn’t count because they know their conclusions are true anyway. If I say “All dogs have tails, my pet has a tail, therefore my pet is a dog,” that’s the Converse Fallacy, but it doesn’t matter because it so happens my pet is indeed a dog. So fallacious reasoning like Geisler and Turek’s still convinces Christians because they already “know” that the conclusion must be true, even though (unlike my dog) their God does not show up in real life.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that it successfully “proves” that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God whether or not such a god even exists. Christians may “know” that their God is real and has given them an inerrant Bible, but since they would “know” that whether it were true or not, their “knowledge” means nothing. Geisler and Turek, in their book I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, are actually documenting that Christian faith in Jesus means nothing, as far as actual truth is concerned. And that, being fairly opposed to the conclusion they would like to reach, ought to be conclusive.

A YEC Photo Album

In honor of Darwin’s birthday, I thought it might be fun to present some actual photographs of the history of the universe. These are not “artist’s conception” or faked in any way. These are actual photographs of the things that were going on around the cosmos about 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

6,000 years ago, the remnants of a supernova were swirling away into space.


7,000 years ago, other clouds of dust and gas were very slowly condensing and ultimately giving birth to new stars.


8,000 years ago, the Trumpler 14 star cluster, made up of very young stars only half a million years old, twinkled serenely in the night sky.


9,000 years ago, a huge cluster of stars was shining, barely visible from earth (except in infrared wavelengths), obscured by dust and other interstellar matter.


10,000 years ago, the aging stars in the NGC 2420 cluster were shining calmly, if a bit reddishly, due to their 1-billion-year age.


There’s lot’s more, of course. In fact, if you visit atlasoftheuniverse.com, there’s even a map of all the nebulae and star clusters within 10K light years of Earth—with a companion map out to 20K light years.

Remember, these are not illustrations or artistic renderings of any kind. Light takes time to get from there to here, so by the time we see it here, we’re seeing what was happening in the past. When we look at the parts of the universe pictured above, we’re seeing 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 thousand years into the past, first-hand, eye-witness stuff.

And these sights are visible to everybody. You don’t have to “believe in” Darwin or disbelieve in Genesis. You can even be an ordinary camera, with no beliefs or preferences at all. The same sights are visible and recordable to everybody.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that six days of creation were happening 6 to 10 thousand years ago, ask to see the pictures.

It’s not like we can’t see what’s really out there.

Six Myths About Christianity – Part 7

Continuing my review of the November Watchtower article “Exposed: Six Myths About Christianity,” I’d like to remind my readers that the full text of the Watchtower article is in blue with my comments in black.

MYTH 2: THE WICKED SUFFER IN HELL

A Positive Case for Hell

The Old Testament frequently speaks of “the day of the Lord” which anticipates a future judgment. The New Testament writers pick up this theme.
Everywhere the NT speaks of “the day.” There is “the day of Christ,” “the day of wrath,” “the day of redemption,” “the day of salvation,” and “the day of the Lord.” These are all the same day.

  • The day of the Lord is the coming of Jesus Christ. This same day is the day of resurrection when we are gathered to him.
    2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
  • When Jesus comes and the resurrection occurs it will be a resurrection of all people, just and unjust.
    John 5:28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
    Acts 24:15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.
  • At the coming of Christ, when everyone is resurrected, there will be a judgment of everyone.
    Romans 14:10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;
    2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
    Matthew 25:31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.
  • In this judgment, the righteous will experience the fullness of their redemption/salvation and will receive eternal life.
    1 Corinthians 1:8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Luke 14:14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.
    Matthew 25:34, 46 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. . .  into eternal life.”

Degrees of Punishment Contradict Annihilationism

We have seen that the judgement includes all people. There are only two categories into which the people will be separated: The just or the unjust, the sheep or the goats. The sheep, we have seen recieve redemption and eternal life. The goats, on the other hand, receive wrath. Since the judgement on the unjust is the point of this section, I will spell this portion out in greater detail.
Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24 speak of how it will be more tolerable on the day of wrath for some than others. But this makes no sense if all of the unjust are annihilated. If that were true then everyone would recieve the same punishment.
It is held that those who commit the unpardonable sin will be punished in hell as it is traditionally known, but that all the other unjust will be annihilated. If this is the case, one may argue, then the punishment will indeed be more tolerable for some than others. But this is not sustainable, for neither Matthew 10 nor 11 speak of the unforgivable sin (the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit). Rather the worse judgement will come to those cities who reject the message of the apostles and refuse to repent.

Punishment by Fire Contradicts Annihilationism

If one is annihilated upon death (or judgement) then it is not possible to also be punished by fire.

Matthew 7:19 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 13:41-42 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

2 Thessalonians 1:8 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Mark 9:43-45 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.

Revelation 14:10 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

This Punishment Will be Eternal

Revelation 20:10 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Revelation 20:15 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:8 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

This Punishment is Eternal

Hell is described as a place of torment that will continue “day and night forever and ever.” Some who endorse annihilationism suggest that people will be eventually consumed and therefore cease to exist. To the best of my knowledge this is not the official Watchtower interpretation so it doesn’t help them. But even if it were, hell is described as eternal, not temporal.

Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Matthew 18:8-9 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Matthew 25:41 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

2 Thessalonians 1:9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

Notice that both Daniel 12:2 and Matthew 25:41 the eternal fire or contempt is paralleled with eternal life. So if one were to say that the punishment was not eternal but only a long time, then it follows that the life is not eternal, but only a long time.

Correcting Colson’s Typos

Chuck Colson has a new column about women in the military. It’s a little odd, though, because the text is full of typographical errors that make it sound like he’s talking about gays. Fortunately, his arguments make it quite plain what he’s really saying, so I’ve taken the liberty of correcting all the typos, below. (Corrections indicated by boldface.)

Seventeen years ago, General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, helped formulate the policy that has come to be known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It allows women to serve in the armed forces, provided that they keep their gender to themselves.Today, Powell is in favor of repealing the policy he crafted and advocated. Well, he was right then, but wrong now.

According to Powell, “attitudes and circumstances have changed” since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was adopted.

Sure, attitudes toward women have changed in the culture at large. But what hasn’t changed is the need for “order and discipline in the ranks,” to use Powell’s own phrase, and the possible impact of allowing openly female people to serve in the armed forces.

That impact was the subject of a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Mackubin Thomas Owens, a “marine infantry veteran of Vietnam.” Owens begins by stating what should be obvious: “Military organizations exist to win wars.”

I say “should be,” because the arguments for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” are all about the status of women in American society and have nothing to do with military necessity.

A big part of winning wars, as Owens writes, is overcoming “the paralyzing effects of fear on the individual soldier.” Military organizations accomplish this through an “ethos that stresses discipline, morale, good order and unit cohesion.” He’s right. These are the things I learned firsthand as a Marine platoon commander myself.

The “cohesion” Owens refers to is strictly non-sexual. Owens says it is the product of what the New Testament calls philia, friendship. In the military, it is the bond “among disparate individuals who have nothing in common but facing death and misery together.”

I might go a step beyond Owens. The bond between men in a sound military unit is more like agape—the love that moves men to sacrifice their lives for their buddies.

When you read accounts of heroism and bravery, what motivated men wasn’t abstract ideals but their love for the man in the next foxhole. They didn’t want to let him down. This bond was beautifully captured in the book Joker One by Donovan Campbell. Campbell, a Christian and a Marine officer, served three tours in Iraq and captured the essential role of philia and agape on the battlefield. He wrote what I discovered when I was a platoon commander: What holds men together is love.

Allowing openly female women threatens this cohesion by raising the possibility of a different kind of love—eros—which is “individual and exclusive.” “All for one and one for all” could give way to “sexual competition, protectiveness and favoritism,” with disastrous military consequences.

Nothing has happened in the last 17 years that makes this less possible or the possible consequences less dire. All that has changed is that many Americans now see everything through the prism of “rights.” For them, sexual rights and personal autonomy trump everything else. Thus, any opposition to changing military policy must be the result of “bigotry” or “misogyny.”

I suspect I’m not alone when I say a military unit which openly celebrates the female lifestyle in the trenches is not a military unit I want to serve in.

Ultimately, the change in circumstances behind the proposed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” isn’t military necessity, but the weakening of our moral will.

That’s the real difference between then and now.

Well said, Chuck. Clearly, if we want a military that can win wars, we cannot allow openly female soldiers to serve, because once women are admitted into military service (at least, without disguising their gender), then that opens up the possibility that (gasp) eros might taint the pure love that exists between men in a foxhole. And that possibility, of course, will destroy military cohesion and render all soldiers helpless victims to the paralyzing effects of fear.

Of course. Why didn’t I see that before?

Or for that matter, why haven’t we seen it throughout all the decades in which “openly female” women have served in the armed forces?