Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sound Scholarship Again Contradicts Debbie Maken

I have been doing a lot of research for my exegetical paper which is due on Tuesday, and, as part of my research, I was examining the methodological section of C. John Collins' Commentary on Genesis 1-4. It is a 300+ page commentary on the first four chapters of Genesis by a professor of Old Testament at Covenant Seminary [incedentially, the same seminary that Debbie Maken's church, the PCA, supports].

All of you who have read Debbie Maken's book at this point are aware of this quotation:

Adam was in the garden with Eve, had been given headship over her, watched the entire conversation (with a talking snake!), and yet did nothing. No intervention, no "Stop talking with that animal!" It's like he sat back, popped open a beer, and then when everything went to pot complained, "The woman you gave me..." [Getting Serious about Getting Married p. 67]

Contra Debbie Maken, C. John Collins, an Old Testament scholar, says that this is what is called a "gap." He writes:

A gap is something left unresolved; when it is intentional, it makes us wonder about it. Since the question here is an obvious one, it may well be the author's intent to say to us, "I know you are curious about this, but since the purpose of the account is elsewhere, I will not satisfy your curiosity." Other gaps in this account include: what is the origin of the evil that possesses the serpent; whence came the woman's willingness to entertain the temptation; and what was the man doing when he was "with her" (3:6)? [Collins, C. John. Genesis 1-4 A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing. Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 2006 p. 172 n. 60].

With regards to Genesis 3:6 he writes:

And what of the man's part? He enters in Gensis 3:6, where we read "she also gave some to her husband [who was] with her, and he ate." If he was "with her," what was he doing when Eve was being led astray? Why did he eat-did he put up no struggle? Again, I do not think our author has given us the wherewithal to answer these questions. Instead, the focus is on the other factors: namely, that the couple sinned freely, that is, without any compulsion or pressure from God or their created nature. [ibid, p.173 Emphasis mine].

Notice that, unlike Debbie Maken, C. John Collins is not so quick to rule out the idea that Adam might have put up a struggle. In fact, one of the interesting things about this is that John Calvin, who Maken quotes [and misuses over and over again] contradicts her here:

And gave also unto her husband with her From these words, some conjecture that Adam was present when his wife was tempted and persuaded by the serpent, which is by no means credible. Yet it might be that he soon joined her, and that, even before the woman tasted the fruit of the tree, she related the conversation held with the serpent, and entangled him with the same fallacies by which she herself had been deceived [from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom01.ix.i.html].

In other words, here is a possible reconstruction of these events:

1. The woman is tempted.
2. Adam sees that his wife is being tempted, tries to stop her, but she doesn't listen, and persists in speaking with the snake in spite of her husband's strong protests.
3. After she eats of the fruit, she is mad at her husband, and they quarrel. In the midst of that quarrel, she ensnares him in the very same errors of which the serpent had convinced her.
4. After she has deceived her husband, she gets some fruit, gives it to him, and he eats of it.

This senario definitely fits with everything that is said in the text. The point that Dr. Collins is making is that the Bible does not tell us what Adam was doing when he was with her. We can take it as a sinster, anti-male senario. Or, we can look at Adam as being deceived by the very same lies by which the woman was deceived. Of course, we know that the shaming that Debbie Maken does of single men is definitely indicative of which position she is going to take. However, if we are going to be honest exegetes, we are going to have to admit that we have no idea what Adam was doing when he was with her. The point is that the couple sinned freely, and we in turn have inhereted a sin nature because of it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Divine Delusion

Pastor Gene Cook has a webcast program [which is, basically, a radio program that is aired, not by radio waves, but by streaming over the internet] which I commend to everyone. Every Wendsday he has a program where he will either have an atheistic guest, or he will invite atheists to call in to the program.

This week he had a regular atheistic listener to the program by the name of "Master Zap" who called in to talk about atheism with Gene, and it was ugly. Master Zap had absolutly no answer for the problems that Gene brought up. Then, he brought out his new "Divine Delusion" argument. The argument goes something like this:

1. It is possible that, in another world, there might be a God who thinks that he is omnicient, and is actually not omnicient.
2. Because of this, God would have no way of knowing that this is not his nature.
3. Therefore, God cannot know that he is omnicient.

The problem with this argument is that premise 2 is not necessarily true. We just simply need to add two premises:

1. It is possible that, in another world, there might be a God who thinks that he is omnicient, and is actually not omnicient.
2'. God would not be able to know that this is not his nature, unless he knew that he could not be deluded.
2''. God knows that he cannot be deluded.
3. Therefore, it is possible for God to know that he is omnicient.

Therefore, the only way that this argument works is if you have an impotent God who can be deluded. However, we do not serve such a God. We serve the king of kings and the Lord of Lords who is incapible of being deceived, and knows this, and all things.

However, a very appealing answer that I think is very insightful was given on the Narrow Mind Aftermath blog recently by someone named "Dominic Bnonn Tennant." I want to repost it here, because I think it also forces us to consider the difference between the nature of God's knowledge and the nature of our knowledge:

Master Zap, it is strange that other Christians here have not noticed this, but your argument is not directed toward the Christian God at all. It seems to treat God as some kind of passive entity who merely "comes by" knowledge in the same way we think of ourselves as coming by it. But since God is all in all, and knowledge is an intrinsic part of his being (that is to say, he is knowledge, in the same sense that he is love), there is no possibility of a God B being isomorphic with him. God's nature as uncontingent and necessary precludes anything being isomorphic with him. If your God B existed, in the Christian worldview, he would be a creation of God A. I think you would have to present a fairly good argument that a created, finite being which gains knowledge from God could think it was uncreated, infinite, and had knowledge intrinsic in itself, before anyone would really take you seriously. And such an argument would appear irrelevant anyway given that you have lost isomorphism.

On the other hand, if you claim that God B is also aseitic and has knowledge intrinsic in himself, then the set of knowledge represented in God A and the set of knowledge represented in God B would appear to have no overlap; there would be no unifying principle between them. If there were, they would both be God and there would be no difference between them. But what exactly do you achieve by postulating two independent Gods who both know everything there is to know within their own set of what constitutes knowledge? Assuming that such a view doesn't have profound philosophical problems which I don't immediately see (which is a big assumption), both Gods are genuinely omniscient, so omniscience does not appear to be falsified. Both also are genuinely independent of each other, such that neither God A, nor anything contingent upon God A, could know of God B or anything contingent upon God B; and vice versa. Ie, there are two separate knowledge domains, with no unifying principle between them. This doesn't appear to prove anything except that we can speculate. In terms of the Christian worldview it really means nothing.

Your argument is a cunning one, but ultimately it is a strawman because it ignores the qualitative difference between our knowledge and God's knowledge, in favor of focusing on the quantitative difference. You ignore metaphysics in the hope that you can show that epistemology cannot stand by itself. But obviously it can't, which is why atheists have such an impossible task trying to justify their own knowledge, in so many different ways. But you cannot shift your own epistemological shortcomings onto God—not, at least, without also implicitly shifting your metaphysical shortcomings onto him, which makes him not God at all.


I think Bnonn's response helps us to remember something that Greg Bahnsen always said, namely, that language about God is not exact, and not different. It is analogious. When we speak about God having knowledge, and us having knowledge, do we mean the exact same thing by that? I hope we don't. That means that God has been learning, and thus, changing in his nature. As he points out, God's knowledge is intrinsic to himself. By recognizing this distinction, we see that Master Zap has tried to hyjack Christian terminology and use it in a way that it was never meant to be used.

However, even Master Zap uses language in this way. Does he think that catching a cold, and catching a baseball are exactly the same thing? Does he think that hitting the road, and hitting a tennis ball are the same thing? Does he think that running the 5 miles is the same as running a computer? Yet, would he say that these things are entirely different? Is catching a cold totally different than catching a baseball? No. Is running 5 miles totally different from running a computer? No. So, while there are differences, there are also similarities as well. This is the case with all language. Language is analogious, and not precise. That is why Wittgenstein suggested that language is learned within different language games, and why it is that a person cannot just come along and try to critique any language game without first learning that language game.
More on Captain Sensible's Invincible Ignorance

Well, I knew it wouldn't happen. When Captain Sensible is answered, she very rarely replies to anyone. If you were expecting a response to what I wrote last night [i.e. what I have been saying ever since I have started addressing this issue] you were completely disappointed. Now, is it possible that she has not read my response to her? Yes, I suppose that is possible. However, that doesn't change the laughable nature of what she has done this morning.

Captain Sensible tries to talk about the "natural extension" of what I believe. Here is her post in its entirety:

"I've often thought that for a single person a monastery provides a community that would eliminate much of what singles struggle with regarding isolation, loneliness, sense of belonging, etc."(Fern Horst, "Purposeful Singleness")

Captain Sensible writes: Well, I guess it had to happen. It's the natural extension of the "be content", "singleness is a gift", "making an idol out of marriage", "Jesus is all you need" teaching that has infected the church. It was only a matter of time until someone thought a solution to the problem of singleness was joining a monastery or nunnery. It is appropriate that that person is Fern Horst, the most militantly aggressive pro-singleness person I have come across. (Carolyn McCulley seems to have not taken it quite that far. Although she does support single Christians living together in a kind of pseudo-family unit as some sort of substitute for a real husband or wife and a real family.)
I wonder if the next logical step is promoting a form of non-practising homosexuality? I know of one person in the UK that appears to be advocating just that. And she regularly speaks on the subject of singleness to thousands of Christians at a major annual festival.
God sent Debbie Maken at just the right time to stop this cancer in its tracks. Thank God that the final burden for putting all this right rests with the Lord. It would be unbearable for any one person to take it on.

Interestingly enough, I tried to track down that quotation using google all morning. I was having no luck, and then thought that, perhaps, Captain Sensible was quoting from a book, so, I checked Amazon. Nothing there either. Then, as I happened to be on Fern Horst's website, at the side bar, I caught site of a recent post on their forums. On their main page, they list the recent posts on their forums, and in this case, the title of one of the posts was "RE: Monk." I clicked on it, and eventually found the quotation. Here is the quotation in its entirety:

Re: Monk?
Posted by Fern on October 29, 2007 at 21:30:22:
In Reply to:
Monk? posted by MarsBike on October 25, 2007 at 20:36:20:
You mentioned having monastic uges lately. Can you describe that a bit? What appeals to you about being a monk, or what makes you think God may be calling you to be one?
I've often thought that for a single person a monastery provides a community that would eliminate much of what singles struggle with regarding isolation, loneliness, sense of belonging, etc.
Not that that alone would be a good reason to become a monk. :)

Utterly amazing. This was a quick reply to a man who had monastic urges, and Captain Sensible thinks that she can get the idea that Fern Horst is advocating Monasticism as a possible solution to many of the feelings that singles face. Didn't Captain Sensible notice the final sentence, "Not that that alone would be a good reason to become a monk."? Fern Horst is in no way saying that having these desires is the deciding factor in whether or not you should become a monk.

Now, I am as far away from this ecumenism as I can get. I believe monasticism and monastic vows are wrong because the gift of continence can be given and taken away by God whenever he pleases, and that it is mere presumption to assume that God will always give the gift of continence in the future like he has in the past. However, this use of Fern Horst by Captain Sensible is just laughable. Captain Sensible has again shown that her invincible ignorance only allows her to see on a page what she wants to see on a page.

Not only that, where does Captain Sensible ever prove that this is the logical outcome of what I, and Christians for 2000 years have been teaching? She doesn't offer any proof of this at all. There is no logical connection between these two, and Captain Sensible knows it. That is why she doesn't bother to prove it.

Also, I find it funny that she has to go to a quick response to an inquiry about monasticism on a forum in order to prove her point. Fern Horst has written many articles, and to cite a quotation that appears to be a quick response to an inquiry about monasticism is simply reprehensible. I wonder if the person "advocating" non-practicing homosexuality is being as badly taken out of context, and I wonder if we will find another four or five sentence forum post from which Captain Sensible gets this information.

What is fascinating is that these folks have been so busy promoting Debbie Maken's work that they seem to have not been able to find the time to put out their marriage announcements. If this "getting serious about getting married" is supposed to produce results, then why is it that Captain Sensible, Gortexgirl, and everyone who so vehemintly opposes what I am saying are still unmarried? Interestingly enough, I mentioned one guy who thought Maken's views were silly who got married recently, I have finally found the girl I am going to marry, and I know of many other folks who oppose this stuff who are getting married. The reality is that this stuff does not help you get married at all. All it fosters is an attitude of selfishness, bitterness, and a hard hearted desire to remain ignorant so that it is perfectly acceptable to engage in the simple dishonesty that Captain Sensible and Debbie Maken have. This is exactly what I mean by "invincible ignorance," and that is exactly what I mean when I talk about these people making an idol out of marriage.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Captain Sensible's Invincible Ignorance

I have finally found a phrase to describe the marriage mandators with whom I have interacted, who, rather than address my arguments, just take Debbie Maken's word for it. Dr. Robert Morey mentioned it. It is called "invincible ignorance." He used this to describe people who have the arguments right in front of them, and yet they refuse to address the arguments, and just keep repeating what they have said before.

Recently, an open theist who reads my blog [i.e. Paul] has decided to try to get one of these people with invincible ignorance to address some of my arguments from my 20 theses. Of course, Captain Sensible does not ever address any of my arguments; she just keeps parroting Debbie Maken. For instance, she said:

Take God working everything for good. That doesn't mean that everything is good. For example, suppose a Christian man fell into temptation and looked up some pornography on the internet. Would that be "good"? Clearly not. Does it mean that being a glamour model serves God's purposes? Well, I think we can safely say God would prefer her to choose another job! Can God still use these things somehow, someway, for good? Well, the Bible seems to me to show that, yes, He can and He does. But that does not mean that either of these things are okay!

Of course, the point is not whether or not something is good, but whether or not something is purposeful. If your situation is purposeful, then it has a purpose in molding you into the person God wants you to be. That's the point. Thus, Captain Sensible does not believe that God can say "no" to her request for a spouse because he is working on her for his own purposes. It is either all the man's fault, or it is because there are not enough men in the church, etc. However, if everything, including her singleness has a purpose, then God will give her a spouse when he wants to give her a spouse, and not when she "gets serious about getting married."

The point of my theses 13-14 is to recognize that singleness is purposeful, and not an accident which just could not be avioded because we were not "getting serious about getting married." God ordains both whether or not you search, and if and whether or not that search will be successful. Captain Sensible dispises that because she believes that God has no purpose for her singleness.

Thankfully, Paul knows exactly what I was talking about, and corrected Captain Sensible. That, of course, didn't stop Captain Sensible:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" (Romans 6:1)That was what I was thinking of earlier. Is it a bit like saying, "Well, God can use your circumstantial singleness to work all things for the good, so even though it may have come about through sins (eg. lack of outreach to men by our church leaders? Wrong teaching on singleness that encourages men to passivity?) then don't worry about trying to fix those things. God's working them for good anyway, so there's really no point. Maybe God is glorified even more when working things that are not good, for good."?

I wouldn't say that God can use "circumstantial singleness" for good, but that God decrees "circumstantial singleness." Also, Captain Sensible did not deal with any of my refutations Debbie Maken's abuse of Genesis 1:28 and 2:18, and just assumed that she was correct. Thus, it is not "going on sinning that grace may abound" because protracted singleness isn't a sin! Certainly I think that, if a person wants to marry, they should pursue marriage. However, the reason why you search is because God has decreed it, and he has also decreed whether or not that church will be successful. He will make that search successful at the time he wants, not at the time Captain Sensible thinks he should make it successful.

Captain Sensible continues with her invincible ignorance:

Is it possible to "make an idol" out of feeding the hungry?Is it possible to "make an idol" out of loving your neighbour?Is it possible to "make an idol" out of reading Scripture?Is it possible to "make an idol" out of worshipping God through songs of praise?I only ask these questions because I am not sure it is even possible to "make an idol" out of doing something that God wants us to do anyway. If someone becomes so committed to feeding the hungry, that they are in danger of burning out, then there are other cautions I think that are more appropriate, like reminding them that God knows it is good to rest, or that Jesus at times withdrew to be by Himself.And if someone becomes so keen on singing worship songs that they begin to annoy the people they live with, it may be advisable to remind them that they should prefer others' needs to their own, and maybe they should give them a bit of peace and quiet already!Do you see what I am getting at? In terms of doing something that is pleasing to God, I don't think we can "make an idol" of it.

The answer to all of this is "yes." Yes, you can make all of these things an idol. Perhaps Captain Sensible has never heard what Jesus said:

Matthew 6:1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6:5-6 "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Yes, even feeding the hungry, loving your neighbor, reading scripture, and worshipping God can be an idol if it is done in arrogance to point to yourself as better than everyone else. Once these things are done for self-glory, and not for God's glory, then, yes, they become an idol. Hence, we should not only watch our behavior, but the modivations for our behavior. Often, the modivations for our behavior will give away whether or not we are making something an idol. Desiring marriage is not making marriage an idol. However, pursuing marriage because you are loathing your singleness is making an idol out of marriage.

This is why the bladder example is irrelevant. I would ask what would happen if you went to the restroom, and you could not urinate? Would you say it is because you are not "getting serious about urinating?" What happens if you do everything you can, and you end up having to have go on kidney dialysis because you cannot urinate? Does your failure to urinate mean that you were not "getting serious about urinating?" No, obviously not. God can, by his sovereign decree, cause you to not be able to urinate, and to have to go on kidney dialysis. In the same way, God can, by his sovereign decree, cause your pursuit of marriage fail, and tell you that you need to trust in him since he did not decree that your pursuit of marriage would be successful. Apparently, Captain Sensible and Debbie Maken think that God does not have that right.

Also, what happens if a person is trusting in these actions to save them? Isn't that also making the good works Captain Sensible mentioned an idol? If we are going to be good protestants, then we would say, if we do not trust in God alone for our salvation and trust in our works, then, yes, those works have become an idol because we are trusting in them rather than trusting in God for our salvation.

However, Captain Sensible doesn't stop there. She gives an interesting look into the mind of these cultic marriage mandators. By what standard do they think morality should be defined? Well, I will let Captain Sensible tell you herself:

In the same way (although over a slightly more extended period!), I think the times in a woman's life when she is most likely to be accused of "making an idol" out of marriage, are just the times when her body is telling her that now would be a good time to reproduce and the body simply can't hold out for that much longer.To go back to your post, the examples you gave are again indicative, in my opinion, of another issue rather than "making an idol" out of marriage. If we are uncomfortable in our own skin, as I think the French describe it, then the root cause may be a self-esteem problem. Also I am not sure about how common it is for a woman to feel that a husband would be "the end to all their woes". I think most women have more sense than to think they will never again have any problems in their life, so long as they marry! However, having said that, being single is a major problem, and solving that one problem can make a tremendous difference to the quality of that person's life, and especially with regard to marriage and a family, it's the core of their human nature...

But one final plea is, please, let's give single Christian women a break! I despair at the way they are being treated by the church at the moment, it's absolutely shocking. I think I am going to start a new society: the RSPCSCW - The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Single Christian Women. ;-) (To those readers outside the UK this may not mean anything, but I should say we have the RSPCA to prevent cruelty to animals, the RSPCC to prevent cruelty to children etc. and I think we now need a new one for single Christian women. They are the King's daughters, and I really think a new Royal Society would be entirely appropriate!)We are being terribly cruel at the moment, and inflicting huge amounts of spiritual abuse. Ridding single women of the accusation of "making an idol out of marriage" is just one of many issues that need to be addressed.

Wow, I mean what can you say! What is necessary, and what is right needs to be defined on the basis of "a woman's biological clock," and "her desire to reproduce????????" In other words, if a woman has a desire to reproduce, it is the man's duty to fulfill that desire, and God cannot say "no" if both parties just "get serious about getting married." Then, she goes on to say that if you dare say that God has any sovereign power over whether or not you satisfy your "biological clock," then you are being abusive to women. I know I have avoided saying this for a long time, but this is the same kind of thinking that the feminists use. They say, "My feelings are going to be the ultimate standard of what is 'abuse,' and thus, what is right and wrong." I am going to say this very calmly and carefully. While I respect a woman's desire to wed and have children, God does not care about a woman's desire to marry and have children in his sovereign decree, or in his commandments. God is the one who gets to decree what happens in this world, and God is the one who gets to define what is abuse and what is not abuse. As I said in thesis #11, feelings are irrelevant in determining what is right and what is wrong in relationships. God is free to do whatever he wants, and a woman's "biological clock" has nothing to do with it.

Thus, we see the selfish, and self-centered nature of the cultic version of this movement come full swing. This is the reason that they get to abuse the scriptures, alter quotations from the reformers, and avoid having to defend it is simply because of their desires to reproduce. This is one of the things that drives "invincible ignorance." You want to believe something because of your own desires, and these desires prevent you from seeing the truth. This is what I mean when I talk about marriage, and the desire for marriage becoming an idol. When God's sovereign decree, his right to define right and wrong, and all honest argumentation are thrown out the window because of your desire to marry and have children, you have just made marriage an idol. Yes, Captain Sensible can keep beating down her strawman of fatalism all day and ignoring this argument, but this fact still remains.

I believe that Captain Sensible and Debbie Maken are under the judgment of God, and their invincible ignorance is evidence of that very thing. Captain Sensible does not realize how insignificant Debbie Maken's argumentation is in the academic world. In fact, I presented Debbie Maken's views to a group made up of one of the Hebrew professors and several students here at Trinity, and all I got was laughter, and people poking fun at it. Of course, that doesn't matter to Captain Sensible. The validity of these arguments is not of any relevance to her. All that matters is whether or not she gets to have a husband and reproduce, and God's sovereign plan, and his ability to define right and wrong have absolutely no meaning to her.

It would be bad enough if the damage were limited to Captain Sensible alone, but it is not. She has before stated that women should go outside the church to find men, and bring them into the church to marry them. I wonder if these men would come into the church if they knew that they only reason this person was witnessing to them is, not because they cared about their souls, but because they wanted a husband. Something tells me that either the person would convert simply because they wanted a wife [in which case, we would have to ask if this is a true conversion], or they would be repulsed that someone only cares about their marital status, and not their eternal soul. I don't know what is going to happen, but I know it would be bad on both counts: the former instance because marriage to an unbeliever is, not only forbidden in the scriptures, but also very difficult, and the latter because of the fact that these men will *never* be saved in those circumstances.

How did we get into this mess? We got into it by "invincible ignorance." Captain Sensible needs to rethink what her standard of ethics is, whether or not she values truth, and whether or not she believes God is the sovereign king over all. God is not a Santa Claus who gives you whatever you desire. He is a God who knows what is best for you, even better than you yourself know. Should we pursue something if we want it? Absolutely, and most definitely! However, that does not mean that God is obligated to give it to you right then and there. In that case, we have to wait on him to cause our pursuits to be successful in his time.

I would like to close with the lyrics to a song by Steven Curtis Chapman. This was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid, and it is funny that you have to get into discussions such as these before you can see the wisdom in the lyrics to some of these songs. I only hope that single people will hear the message in this song, namely, that God does care about you, and he knows better than you what you need and what is best for you.

You wonder when the Lord will renew the strength within you;
You wonder how, how can He use you as you are.
Seems like you’re wasting precious time,
But then a voice comes to remind you (to wait).
Wait, wait, wait on the Lord;
You will understand in time.
Why you must wait,
Wait, wait, wait on the Lord;
Yes He hears you,
But for now you must wait on the Lord.
Answers come slowly to your cries of desperation,
But time is His tool, teaching the greatest lessons learned;
So let Him do His work in you,
And watch the miracles come true as you (wait).
And He wants you to know that
They that wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They will rise up with wings as eagles,
They will run, not get weary.
They will walk and not faint;
That’s a promise to us when we (wait).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

20 Theses for a Reformation in Christian Relationships

1. Christian authors are not infallible. Just because someone writes a book that becomes popular does not mean that it is Biblical.

2. Christian leaders need to train children, when they are young, to do basic, sound Biblical exegesis of the text so that people will be able to test how relationship authors use the Bible to make sure the exegesis is sound.

3. Christian authors need to, not only quote a text to support their position, but also show how it is that they arrived at that interpretation from the text itself.

4. Historical sources need to be cited with care. The issues that shaped a particular author's view of marriage and relationships must be discussed, and a complete examination of their position of their teachings expounded from a writing that is entirely about relationships and marriage.

5. People need to check the quotations of relationship authors to make sure that all of the historical and Biblical quotations are given in context.

6. Those commands not found in the scriptures are not binding upon the Christian. If it is a good work to teach that something is wrong, then 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the scriptures are sufficient for the proclaimation of that teaching. Thus, it should be able to be found in the Bible.

7. What works is not necessarily what is Biblical. You cannot bind something to the contience of a Christian just because it works. The only things that should be bound to the contiences of believers are those things which can be found in the Bible.

8. Only people who are qualified should write books on relationships from a Biblical perspective. This means that they are trained in how to handle the text of scriptures in a responsible fashion, being able to engage in detailed discussions about the meanings of texts.

9. The Hebrew Bible is just as much inspired scripture as the New Testament, is must be interpreted with just as much are as the New Testament. Those who write books on this topic must take the same care to discuss the meanings of each Old Testament passage in their historical, grammatical, and linguistic context.

10. The simple quotation of an author does not guarantee that the author in question is being quoted in context. Care must be taken by relationship authors to make sure that the necessary background work is done so that an author is not being taken out of context.

11. While feelings are important to the discussion in relationships, they are not the ultimate authority. Nothing should be determined to be right or wrong simply on the basis of your feelings.

12. Likewise, because of the stain of original sin, desires cannot be the ultimate authority. Nothing should be determined as right or wrong simply on the basis of someone desires.

13. God works all things after the council of his will [Ephesians 1:11], and thus, in whatever situation we are in, God is using it for our own good [Romans 8:28]. Thus, even "circumstantial singleness" has a purpose in God's plan to mold us into the children he wants us to be.

14. Because God is sovereign, he ordains both the ends and the means. That includes both whether or not we search for a spouse, and whether or not that search will be successful. No matter what God ordains, it will always be for our good [Romans 8:28].

15. Marriage has nothing whatsoever to do with your salvation, including our sanctification. Only God can save. Marriage is neither sufficient nor necessary for God to redeem anyone.

16. Relationships should be intentional. There should be no relationships with people you do not intend to marry.

17. Parents should take a more active role in the relationships so that there is accountability. Parents should give direction to their children in the areas of purity, and give them a roadmap as to how to get to marriage.

18. Priorities must remain in any relationship. God must always be number one in importance. Obedience to him should never be sacrificed. Next, related to this, we should always seek to honor our father and our mother in all that we do in our relationships.

19. Just as we never presume upon the grace of our dating partner, we should never presume upon the grace of God. Willful disobedience to insult God and disobey his law is only made worse by statements such as "God will forgive me."

20. While we will all make mistakes in discussing this issue, all books on dating and relationships need to be written to the glory of God. Thus, the only reason someone should pick up the pen to write on this topic is to glorify God in the proclaimation of his truth.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Egyptian Heiroglyphics, Joseph Smith, Book of Abraham, Oh My!

One of the interesting facets of Mormonism is the fact that Joseph Smith can be directly tested as a translator. Joseph Smith purchased two Egyptian papyrus scrolls from a traveling antiquities dealer named Michael Chandler. When he began translating some of the scrolls, he told his followers that he had discovered a scroll with a lost book of Abraham. Then, he said that the other scroll was a lost book of Joseph written by Joseph when he was in Pharoah's court in Egypt. Joseph Smith published his book of Abraham in Nauvoo, along with three facsimilies that he copied from the Egyptian papyri. However, he was murdered before he published more of the Book of Abraham, and the book of Joseph. The papyri were eventually lost, and forgotten.

However, in the 1960's they were rediscovered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They were bound to a kind of backing material, and this backing had maps of 1830's Kirtland, Ohio written on it. One of the sheets looked almost identical to Facsimile one from the set of facsimilies published by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith had written some notes on the Papyri, and he had copied some of the characters in the exact order on which they were found in the papyri. That pretty much sealed the deal that these were the same papyri that Joseph Smith used in translating the Book of Abraham.

However, the disappointment came when Egyptologists went to translate the text. They were nothing more than scrolls from the Book of Breathings, a spell book which enabled an Egyptian man to make it into the afterlife after death.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints makes all of their scriptures available online including The Book of Abraham. I am not yet good enough in Heiroglyphics to translate the Book of Breathings. It is poetry, and poetry is the most difficult writing in any language to translate. However, I have been translating several Egyptian narratives, such as The Shipwrecked Sailor, and The Eloquent Phesant. Thus, I can say with certainty that the style of the Book of Abraham is not something that corresponds to the way Egyptian narratives are written. It sounds much more like a translation from Hebrew, which would make sense, since Joseph Smith was studying Hebrew at the time he "translated" the Book of Abraham. Dr Robert Ritner, a professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago who was commissioned to do an entire translation of Joseph Smith's scroll, makes the same observation when he says that "The narrative style of the Book of Abraham does not correspond to Egyptian verbiage" [From the Institute for Religious Research's video documentary The Lost Book of Abraham]. Also, my professor, who is both an Egyptologist and a Hebrew Scholar, has told me that scrolls of the Book of Breathings that were put in the coffins of deceased Egyptians was a practice that did not exist until around the time of Christ, thousands of years after Abraham.

It is an interesting, and very fruitful discussion to have with Mormon missionaries when they come to your door. Also, an excellent video documentary put out by the Institute for Religious Research called The Lost Book of Abraham is currently available online. Though it is around an hour long, it is very educational, and well worth the time to sit and watch it:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Authority and Dispensationalism
[two topics that have absolutely nothing to do with one another]

Ted Slater has pointed me to a topic I really commend Boundless for addressing, namely, that of the authority of the local church. Michael Lawrence does an excellent job of pointing out that the church does have authority, but that this authority is connected back to the word of God. It is something we need today when people have this false dichotomy that it is either us and the Bible out in the woods somewhere, or the infallible authority of the Roman or Eastern church. We need to remember that, while the church does have authority, that authority is, indeed, fallible, and is correctable by the word of God.

Secondly, I have some very uncomfortable news to bring up. I know many of my friends are fans of John Hagee, the famous preacher from Texas. I am sad to report that he now believes that, when Jesus came, he did not claim to be the messiah. As far as I am concerned, that puts him well out of the pale of orthodoxy. Here is the video evidence:

What can you say. I mean, here is a man that is willing to stand on national television and tell people that Jesus never claimed to be the messiah. I can only hope that there will be other dispensationalists that will come out decrying this nonsense, and call this man to repent of such statements. I will try to review his arguments if I get the time, but I think this video says it all.