Archive for May, 2007

Quick Challenge on the Atonement

May 31, 2007
Quick Challenge on the Atonement

(I’m in the middle of responding to Godismyjudge’s last comment, that included a complex definition of LFW, this little challenge shouldn’t be a big diversion from that.)

Here’s the challenge, if you believe that this verse:

1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

means that the atonement is universal, i.e. that it was made for the sins of each and every person that ever was or ever will be (excluding, presumably, Christ himself since he was sinless).

If that is you:

1) What was the purpose in God’s doing so? What did He hope to accomplish by propitiating universally?

2) Does Scripture state that purpose? If so, where does it state that purpose?

3) Will God accomplish that purpose? If not, why not? Is the answer to “why not” a conflicting purpose?

4) And does the Gospel have the same purpose as the universal propitiation?

Please try to answer the three questions above before continuing to the last section.

Now, if your answers were:

1) To save everyone.

2) Yes.

2 Peter 3:9

3) No. God wants man to have free will. Yes.

4) Yes.

If those were your answers to the questions, then let me ask you this final question:

Given this:

Luke 11:17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.

Matthew 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

Mark 3:25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

And Given this:

Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

How can it be that God’s own will for humanity is divided against itself, and how can the Gospel fail to accomplish what God pleases?

-Turretinfan

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Torching of the Text?

May 29, 2007
Torching of the Text?
A dubious argument in favor of the received text commented upon, with several objections thereto readily discarded.

Mr. Kurschner recently wrote a follow-up article (link is here) to an early article he had written (my response to that article is linked here) against the King James Version Only crowd. This presnt article of Mr. Kurschner’s is stronger than the last, but still deserves some correction, and I still want to encourage Mr. Kurschner to address the easier topic of the alleged Scriptural basis for the KJVO movement.

In his article, Kurschner continues to perpetuate a fundamental misunderstanding of the textual scenario, writing: “In a recent article, I explained the historical facts that before the fourth century there were no distinct Byzantine readings in any Greek MSS of the papyri, majuscules, and other versions as well that would give for us a suggestion that the Byzantine textual family (or text-type) existed during that time.”

Notice that the way this is worded, two possible views of the alleged historical facts are possible: first, that there are early Byzantine readings, but just not enough to suggest an early Byzantine textual family, and second that there are no early Byzantine readings, and thus no reason to suppose an early Byzantine textual family.

Mr. Kurschner continues, however, thereby eliminating the ambiguity: “Further, the 800-pound gorilla is that there are no Byzantine texts or distinct readings used in the voluminous writings of any early church fathers for the first 300 years of church history!” And there Mr. Kurschner is plainly wrong. The facts are against him.

Kurchner claims that no distinctively Byzantine readings are found in early texts. Rather than just assert that he is incorrect, I will refer the reader to Barbara Aland’s “New Testament Textual Criticism, Exegesis and Early Church History: a discussion of methods,” pages 16-17, and to the references cited therein, including Kurt Aland and B.M. Metzger, whose fame in the modern textual community should silence any fan of modern textual criticism. The following website, without citation, identifies some particular papyri that are alleged to contain Byzantine readings, if one would rather forgo buying a book.

Nevertheless, the generally accepted fact is that are early distinctive Byzantine readings, unless one automatically denies that a reading is distinctively Byzantine if it is found in any manuscript outside the Byzantine text-type.

Accordingly, the 800 lb. gorilla turns on its creator. If the absence of such readings was supposed to disprove the early presence of the Byzantine text-form, so much more does the verified presence of them rebut that argument.

But Mr. Kurschner is not content to stop there. He continues: “The Ante-Nicene fathers cited all the text-types, except the Byzantine.” Considering that Mr. Kurschner got the issue of manuscript support wrong, I would like to see Mr. Kurschner’s evidence for this claim, before accepting it as fact. It is somewhat similar to Hort’s claim (although as I recall, Hort merely asserted that they failed to quote distinctive Byzantine readings). In any event, as we know, few of the writings of the Ante-Nicene fathers have been preserved, the authenticity of many of the Ante-Nicean fathers’ writings are in question, and (the autographs of the Ante-Nicean Fathers having perished, and in some case even the original language copies have perished as well) the Ante-Nicean Fathers are also beset by various textual critical issues in themselves. I wonder whether Mr. Kurschner believes that the extent copies of any of the Ante-Nicean Fathers date from before the 9th century, and – if so – which ones and how many?

Mr. Kurschner continues on even further, stating: “I have responded with asking if the Byzantine text was so “highly valuable that they wore out,” then why do we find all of the early church fathers for 300 years using other texts such as the Alexandrian text-type, mix-types, etc., but absolutely no Byzantine texts?”

There are two responses: first “distinct” Byzantine readings are much fewer than Byzantine readings in general. There is plenty of evidence of Byzantine readings in the early church fathers, just not evidence of the “distinct” Byzantine readings. Second, the number of early church father writings is relatively small, is not well preserved, and is not necessarily authentic or representative.

Furthermore, they were highly valuable to scribes who devoted themselves to copying, not to the “fathers” who devoted themselves to teaching. It’s not like the “fathers” could log on to Amazon.com (R) and download a copy of the Byzantine text-form to their Palm Pilots (R). They had to work with what they had, and – in some cases – may have had to work from memory.
Mr. Kurschner then concludes: “There is no evidence that anyone possessed or used this phantom “popular” and “highly valued” Byzantine text because it was a conflation after the turn of the fourth century.” One supposes that Mr. Kurschner concludes that there were autographs of the New Testament, without any of them surviving to the present, yet his argument could be used with equal force to assert their non-existence. None of the early church fathers quote from a pure original text, and none of the manuscripts show any evidence of belonging to a family of error-free copies of the originals. Are then the autographs phantoms? Are they non-existent because direct evidence of them is absent? Of course not. Mr. Kurschner’s argument is a logically fallacious appeal to the absence of evidence. It is an argument from silence.

Mr. Kurschner recognizes that there is explanation for the absence of early manuscripts (in the Byzantine textual family) besides the “worn-out” explanation, and that is the “intentional scribal destruction” theory.

Mr. Kurschner states: “another explanation for the silence of Byzantine readings have been offered: After a scribe made a copy of a manuscript, he “destroyed” the exemplar.” This is not a particularly strong alternative explanation, for various reasons, several of which Mr. Kurschner states. The explanation seems to be based itself on the absence of parent texts for any of the early texts. In other words, nowhere do we find both a parent and its child (at least as far as we know). Even if that fact is so, it is weak support for the intentional destruction hypothesis.
There is some further basis in the fact that sacred items that had become unusably worn were sometimes cremated when they could not be washed. Accordingly, it would be unsurprising that such a practice could have been applied to very old manuscripts, a sort of Korvokian death-with-dignity for the early manuscripts at the hands of their keepers.

Mr. Kurshner provides 8 attempted resposes to this argument.

Mr. Kurschner’s first argument states that the result would be only one copy per manuscript. However, Mr. Kurschner notes that sometimes there were scriptoriums with several copyists copying at once from a single manuscript. This argument is flawed, because if the alleged practice of burning the document was done after the copying was complete, since the multiple scribes were copying in parallel, the original would be destroyed when the scriptorium finished its parallel copies.

Mr. Kurschner’s second argument states that if this practice were followed, there would always only be one copy of the Bible. However, as noted above, multiple parallel copies alleviates this difficulty to the alleged practice.

Mr. Kurschner’s third argument is more persuasive, which is that there is no historical documentation for its practice, and no obvious reason to make such a practice standard. I agree with Mr. Kurschner and would add that one reason for doing so would be to conceal omissions and/or insertions (i.e. to intentionally corrupt the text). If such texts were in the Byzantine family, the family would fall under harsh scrutiny.

Mr. Kurschner’s fourth argument is that manuscripts were very expensive, and it would have been very costly to engage in such a practice. This is also a sound argument and weighs against intentional destruction. I would add that we see evidence of the reuse of old parchments, writing be removed by sponge (or other techniques) and new writing placed on top.

Mr. Kurschner’s fifth argument is not entirely cogent: it asks which scribes were destroying documents, and then states that it was not the orthodox fathers, a fact that is utterly aside from the question. No one supposes that any of the ante-Nicean fathers were copyists.

Mr. Kurchner’s sixth argument is that early Christian Scribes would not “dare think about destroying God’s Word” in view of the warning against adding or subtracting to God’s word in the book of Revelation. The idea that burning a copy (or even an autograph) would be within the scope of Revelation’s warning seems superstitious and unsupported by exegesis. That warning would encourage the scribes to copy accurately, but it would say nothing to them about the parchment being available as kindling or a spill. One wonders whether Mr. Kurschner personally believes that discarding a worn out Bible subjects one to being blotted out of the book of life. I would find that hard to believe. Why then attribute such superstitious nonsense to the early scribes?

Mr. Kurschner’s seventh argument is more of a question plus a hypothesis. He asks why there are so many copies of the Byzantine textual family after 350 a.d. and none before. He posits that the explanation may be that the practice of burning the original died out around then. A simpler explanation is that in a time of less persecution, preparing multiple copies in parallel became easier, and simple geometry took over.

Mr. Kurschner’s eighth argument is “Lastly, it is special pleading to argue that only scribes who copied Byzantine texts destroyed their texts, and the scribes who copied other non-Byzantine text-types did not, since they have early attestation.” This argument, however, is not quite correct. There is no need to further plead anything with regard to copies of the non-Byzantine text-type manuscripts. The answer is that those manuscripts are rejects that were not copied, consequently not burnt, and therefore their presence indicates their untrustworthiness in the eyes of the early church, or at best that they never fell into the hands of copyists. Nevertheless, the whole mechanism of copy and burn appears to be special pleading (at least to me), because of the absence of historical documentation of the procedure, and the lack of motive by reputable scribes sufficient to outweigh to the economic incentive to preserve the manuscripts as long as possible.

Mr. Kurschner concludes: “All of this brings us back to the 800-pound gorilla sitting on the KJVO’s desk: There are no distinct Byzantine readings in the writings of the Ante-Nicence fathers of the first 300 years of church history, not to mention any early versions testifying to it as well.” Of course, I’m not KJVO, so if this gorilla exists, it is not sitting on my desk. But if it were, I’d question its weight. It is an argument from silence – pure and simple. It weighs little, because it could easily be overturned if we were to find a single cache of a half dozen ancient Byzantine text-form manuscripts that were reliably dated to the second century.

Mr. Kurschner goes on to explain that the explanation for the absence of Byzantine text-form manuscripts is that there was conflation in the manuscript collection in the Byzantine region around 400 and that the rest of the world stopped using Greek around that same time, thereby permitting the errant manuscripts to preponderate. Mr. Kurschner concludes that the Alexandrian text-form is therefore the superior Greek text. Leaving aside the lack of historical documentation that conflation occurred in the Byzantine region at that time, Mr. Kurschner’s claim is puzzling for a few reasons. With a few exceptions, the ancient versions other than Greek did not follow the Alexandrian text-form. Thus, the explanation does not match the evidence, and should be discarded.

-Turretinfan

Comments by a Romanist, "Fred," Responded to

May 28, 2007
Response to Fred’s Comments

Fred, who holds himself out as though he were a Roman Catholic, has posted comments on an earlier post. Since they have relatively little to do with the main point of that post (that Prof. Beckwith’s religious views were revealed by Dr. White), and since Fred has chosen to present rather lengthy comments, I’ve provided a separate post to address them.

Hello again! Fred here.
You say: I’m surprised you would choose to continue this demonstration.

Why? I’m surprised that you would be surprised :-) You have said nothing by way of an actual demonstration up to now, and it remains to be seen whether you could win the debate or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could do so, though such a victory obviously would have no bearing on whether you are actually correct about some things (including especially our points of disagreement).

Unfortunately, it appears that we will not have the opportunity to find that out. My vacation ends tonight, and with it will end any serious likelihood of me having time for this stuff (I almost never enter get involved in Internet debates). :-( In retrospect, given the constraints on my time I shouldn’t have even replied in the first place, but that’s water under the bridge now.

You say:
Legalism => Salvation by works
Denial of Sola Fide => Salvation by works
ergo
Denial of Sola Fide => Legalism

I’ll grant you the first as a definitional statement. But the second is pure assertion. It is by no means the case that to deny sola fide is *necessarily* to affirm salvation by works. For the Pelagian, sure. Not for the Catholic, who says that by His grace God enables us to obey Him: “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” For the Catholic, saved by Christ’s work of atonement in sacrificing Himself on the cross, good works are something that he does in response to and as a consequence of the fact that he has been saved. In no way do they supplant Christ’s sacrifice. In point of fact, this is not so very different from the Reformed perspective on works.

In sum: it is simply not the case that the *only* alternative to sola fide is works salvation. This is pure tommyrot: it’s a Protestant article of faith, but it’s no less mistaken for all that.

But I must ask you: if you really believe in salvation by faith alone, may an unrepentant adulterer who trusts in Christ get to heaven or not? If you say yes, then you have contradicted Gal. 5:19-21. If you say no (as I hope and expect you do), then immediately it becomes obvious that what we Christians do matters. We cannot live as we wish. We are obliged to obey God.

Most likely you will insist that such a man hasn’t really trusted in Christ. To that I would respond: who are you to judge the condition of his faith? I certainly agree with you that he will not be saved unless he repents, but I would never presume to judge his faith. I do not know his heart.

Truly it seems to me that in large measure the quarrel between the Reformed and Catholics comes down to a question of assurance: you must insist upon sola fide because without it, your insistence upon 100% assurance of salvation dries up and blows away.Unfortunately, I don’t see how this notion of 100% assurance can be maintained in the light of the following (among other things that might be said):

1) In Deut. 7, God says of Israel that he chose them and loved them: in other words, they were his elect. And yet many of the elect fell. Letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it seems unreasonable to insist being “elect” in the NT differs so dramatically from being “chosen” in the OT as to reduce the latter to … something of virtually no force.

2) The parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25:31-46), where the two are judged *not* on the basis of the quality of their faith, but on the basis of what they *did*.

3) The Last Judgment (Rev. 20), where men are judged “according to their works.”

4) St. Paul writes to the *faithful* believers at Philippi: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Php. 2:12; even more interesting is v. 13, which confirms the Catholic doctrine that God enables us to obey him by his grace, so that we have no grounds for boasting). Why, if someone is saved by “faith alone”, would he need to “work out” his salvation, and why, if his salvation is 100% assured, would he need to do this with “fear and trembling”???

5) Why would Hebrews sternly warn us, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, who have both tasted the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit, who have moreover tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and then have fallen away, to be renewed again to repentance; since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and make him a mockery” (Heb. 6:4-6)?? It is not credible even to suggest that this is merely hypothetical. It’s not credible, either, to pretend that genuine Christians are not the subject of the warning (what pseudo-Christian ever became a partaker of the Holy Spirit??).

You say: Salvation by cooperation with grace, is not the same thing as salvation by grace.

If the cooperation with grace is *itself* enabled by grace, it most certainly is the same thing. If I am unable to cooperate with God’s grace until and unless God’s grace enables me to do so, then the whole matter is entirely one of God’s grace from start to finish.

Truly, it’s remarkable that we Catholics can deny up and down that we believe in salvation by works, and we can insist until we’re blue in the face that we’re saved by grace, and yet you will still have the temerity to deny that we say that, and to insist that we’re legalists.

You say: Did I accuse him of dishonesty? Did I say he lied? I don’t recall saying that. He just concealed the truth.

Concealing a truth one is obligated to reveal is dishonest, as you know very well. So, of course, you did accuse him of this. And of course, as he has already made clear, he *considered* not making his reversion known: a course he did not ultimately pursue (even before it was made public), as he has written. I would only add that it’s not at all clear that honesty obliges one to instantaneous action under the circumstances, so I’m not prepared to condemn him for his hesitation. Most importantly, it is clear that the ETS Board appears (according to its statement) to have no issues with the way that Dr. Beckwith has conducted himself. So what you and I think about the matter is really unimportant.

You write: Your claim of “balderdash” is contradicted by the Holy Spirit at the pen of Paul in Romans, particularly the fourth chapter.

Your “rebuttal” is contradicted by the Holy Spirit at the pen of St. James, particularly the second chapter.

You say: Your laughter regarding God’s gracious restraint of the evil of men, including Roman Catholics, does not mean that the answer does not answer the question. Nevertheless, to be clear, only Christ was sinless, as Scripture says.

LOL again!! Let me refresh your memory as to the original question here, since it appears that you have forgotten: “Or maybe it’s just that he thinks Catholics are evil no matter what they believe or do?”Such a question requires a “yes” or “no”, not a theological discourse on whether God restrains the evil deeds of Reformed Presbyterians and all other men or not, and not a mention (important, but in the present context irrelevant) of the sinlessness of Christ.

Truly, I’m a bit surprised by your handling of this question. It was pretty obviously (for the most part, or so I thought) a rhetorical device, but you seem to be choking on it in your evasions of a simple yes or no. So now I’d really like to know the answer: Do you consider Catholics to be evil no matter what they do or believe? Yes or no?

I respond:

I’ll reply on a chunk-by-chunk basis.

Fred wrote:

You say: I’m surprised you would choose to continue this demonstration.

Why? I’m surprised that you would be surprised :-) You have said nothing by way of an actual demonstration up to now, and it remains to be seen whether you could win the debate or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could do so, though such a victory obviously would have no bearing on whether you are actually correct about some things (including especially our points of disagreement).

I reply:

I think a fair paraphrase of your comments are: “You could win the debate, but I’m still correct.” Suffice to say that few will be persuaded by your bare assertion.

Fred wrote:

Unfortunately, it appears that we will not have the opportunity to find that out. My vacation ends tonight, and with it will end any serious likelihood of me having time for this stuff (I almost never enter get involved in Internet debates). :-( In retrospect, given the constraints on my time I shouldn’t have even replied in the first place, but that’s water under the bridge now.

I reply:

At least that will bring the discussion to a conclusion. Debates without a thesis tend to go on indefinitely.

Fred wrote:

You say:
Legalism => Salvation by works
Denial of Sola Fide => Salvation by works
ergo
Denial of Sola Fide => Legalism

I’ll grant you the first as a definitional statement. But the second is pure assertion. It is by no means the case that to deny sola fide is *necessarily* to affirm salvation by works. For the Pelagian, sure. Not for the Catholic, who says that by His grace God enables us to obey Him: “for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” For the Catholic, saved by Christ’s work of atonement in sacrificing Himself on the cross, good works are something that he does in response to and as a consequence of the fact that he has been saved. In no way do they supplant Christ’s sacrifice. In point of fact, this is not so very different from the Reformed perspective on works.

In sum: it is simply not the case that the *only* alternative to sola fide is works salvation. This is pure tommyrot: it’s a Protestant article of faith, but it’s no less mistaken for all that.

I respond:

Contrary to your assertion, the Papist view of works is quite different from the Reformed perspective on works, hence the perceived need for Trent’s dogmatic definitions.

The crux of your argument above is your assertion that not every denial of Sola Fide entails salvation by works. This is an incorrect assertion on your part.

That it is incorrect can be summarily seen in Galatians, second chapeter. For example:

Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Faith alone is contrasted with human obedience. The “salvation” Rome offers is conditional on obedience. It is something that has to be earned, despite the protestations of some of its advocates.

And that’s only the “salvation” offered to the “faithful” from eternal damnation. Salvation from “temporal punishment,” is even more explicitly works-based in Roman Catholicism.

Fred wrote:

In sum: it is simply not the case that the *only* alternative to sola fide is works salvation. This is pure tommyrot: it’s a Protestant article of faith, but it’s no less mistaken for all that.

I reply:
Ah, but it is the only alternative, as per Paul’s epistles. Calling the position “pure tommyrot” only shows your dislike of the position.

Fred wrote:

But I must ask you: if you really believe in salvation by faith alone, may an unrepentant adulterer who trusts in Christ get to heaven or not? If you say yes, then you have contradicted Gal. 5:19-21. If you say no (as I hope and expect you do), then immediately it becomes obvious that what we Christians do matters. We cannot live as we wish. We are obliged to obey God.

I reply:

Let’s see whether Galatians 5:19-21 says a whisper about unrepentance:

Galatians 5:19-21
19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

No, it does not say anything about unrepentance, and it has nothing to do with repentance or lack thereof.

And the totally separate answer to your question is that, because salvation is not based on the thoroughness of one’s repentance, one may enter the kingdom of God without having repented of a specific particular sin, including an act of adultery. Anyone who has been regenerated will repent of his sins, but he may not catch every last sin, and he won’t go to hell just because his repentance was not as thorough as a Roman Catholic would like it to be.

Fred wrote:

Most likely you will insist that such a man hasn’t really trusted in Christ. To that I would respond: who are you to judge the condition of his faith? I certainly agree with you that he will not be saved unless he repents, but I would never presume to judge his faith. I do not know his heart.

I reply:

Perhaps then you are surprised at the real answer. But, in any event, judging the heart of a hypothetical person is hardly presumptuous.

Fred wrote:

Truly it seems to me that in large measure the quarrel between the Reformed and Catholics comes down to a question of assurance: you must insist upon sola fide because without it, your insistence upon 100% assurance of salvation dries up and blows away.Unfortunately, I don’t see how this notion of 100% assurance can be maintained in the light of the following (among other things that might be said):

I reply:

Before I get into the specific examples, a few general comments are in order. There are many quarrels between Reformed Christians and Roman Catholics. Personally, I think that the biggest quarrel is over the more recent Ecumenical Counsels of Rome, namely Vatican I and Vatican II. Most specifically, Muslims do not worship our God, and if Roman Catholics do (as Vatican II seems to pretty clearly state) then they both worship some other God than we do.

Sola Fide is an important difference between us and Rome, as is sola gratia and sola scriptura. The so-called five sola’s define many important points of distinction, and they are all Biblically driven.

Accordingly, your comment about 100% assurance is far off the mark. We leave open the possibility of self-deception, and we call believers to self-examination for that reason. Nevertheless, we have confidence and boldness because of our faith which is not alone. Indeed, because we believe what James and John wrote, we look to our works to provide us with assurance of salvation, and to serve as the basis for our consideration in self-examination.

Fred continued:

1) In Deut. 7, God says of Israel that he chose them and loved them: in other words, they were his elect. And yet many of the elect fell. Letting Scripture interpret Scripture, it seems unreasonable to insist being “elect” in the NT differs so dramatically from being “chosen” in the OT as to reduce the latter to … something of virtually no force.

I reply:

You’d have to be either utterly unfamiliar with history of the Old Testament to think that Israel did not receive a special degree of favor that was not accorded to the other nations. Furthermore, Old Testament Israel was chosen as a nation, which pictured the individual election to salvation, of all the sheep of our Shepherd.

Fred continued:

2) The parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt. 25:31-46), where the two are judged *not* on the basis of the quality of their faith, but on the basis of what they *did*.

I reply:

You cannot be Roman Catholic and deny that salvation is by faith in view of Trent. To imagine that everyone has faith (such that both the sheep and the goats have faith) is bizarre and unintelligible. There are infidels, and Muslims are among them, as Christians have always believed (the Muslim detail obviously only came to be believed once there were Muslims).

Fred continued:

3) The Last Judgment (Rev. 20), where men are judged “according to their works.”

I reply:

I fully agree that men will be judged according to their works, and if their works are anything short of perfect they will merit eternal punishment. The only escape is to be judged according to Christ’s works: to have Him as your substitute. It is by the Substitionary Atonement of Christ that we escape judgment for our works.

Fred continued:

4) St. Paul writes to the *faithful* believers at Philippi: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Php. 2:12; even more interesting is v. 13, which confirms the Catholic doctrine that God enables us to obey him by his grace, so that we have no grounds for boasting). Why, if someone is saved by “faith alone”, would he need to “work out” his salvation, and why, if his salvation is 100% assured, would he need to do this with “fear and trembling”???

I reply:

You to seem imagine that Paul means that they should work in order to be saved, rather than the more natural sense that they should work because they are saved. Verse 13 does not confirm Semi-Pelegianism, it confirms Reformed Theology. It states:

Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

And Jerome, in the Vulgate translation confirms this view:

Philippians 2:13 (VUL) Deus est enim qui operatur in vobis et velle et perficere pro bona voluntate

Notice this is “in vobis” not “cum vobis.”

God does not work WITH us but IN us to do His pleasure. Thus, when we do good works, that is by His grace, as Augustine taught.

But you ask, (I paraphrase) “Why do that?”

The answer is found in verses 14-16, namely that by our works we provide light to the world.

Fred continued:

5) Why would Hebrews sternly warn us, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, who have both tasted the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit, who have moreover tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, and then have fallen away, to be renewed again to repentance; since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God and make him a mockery” (Heb. 6:4-6)?? It is not credible even to suggest that this is merely hypothetical. It’s not credible, either, to pretend that genuine Christians are not the subject of the warning (what pseudo-Christian ever became a partaker of the Holy Spirit??).

I reply:

I have dealt with that passage on other occassions, and there is no need to do so again here. It is sufficient to point out that whatever this is, it is not the saved again-lost again-saved again doctrine of works salvation accompanied by auricular confession and penance. For it is written of such people “it is impossible … to be renewed again to repentance.”

Fred continued:

You say: Salvation by cooperation with grace, is not the same thing as salvation by grace.

If the cooperation with grace is *itself* enabled by grace, it most certainly is the same thing. If I am unable to cooperate with God’s grace until and unless God’s grace enables me to do so, then the whole matter is entirely one of God’s grace from start to finish.

I reply:

And does the cooperation-enabling grace require cooperation, or is it only the later grace that requires cooperation? It’s a rhetorical question, because the concept of two stages of grace is unscriptural balderdash. In any event, however, since that cooperation-enabling grace does not save, it ought not to be counted when we are speaking of being “saved by grace,” and consequently cannot be appealled to in order to bolster a claim to salvation by grace. No, salvation by cooperation with grace is no more salvation by grace than cooperating with the water (swimming) can be characterized as salvation from drowning by lake. The lake didn’t save such a man, he saved himself by his cooperation with the lake.

Fred continued:

Truly, it’s remarkable that we Catholics can deny up and down that we believe in salvation by works, and we can insist until we’re blue in the face that we’re saved by grace, and yet you will still have the temerity to deny that we say that, and to insist that we’re legalists.

I reply:

We say what we say because it is the truth. Rome denies salvation by grace alone, by faith alone, because it denies the supreme authority of Scripture alone. Thus, Rome can make whatever conflicting claims it likes. It still teaches a legalistic salvation of adherence to the law as the path to heaven. It still denies that grace saves us, instead asserting (like the Protestant Arminians) that grace merely makes salvation a possibility. And consequently, the accusations of legalism and salvation by works (though not by works alone) sticks.

Fred continued:

You say: Did I accuse him of dishonesty? Did I say he lied? I don’t recall saying that. He just concealed the truth.

Concealing a truth one is obligated to reveal is dishonest, as you know very well. So, of course, you did accuse him of this. And of course, as he has already made clear, he *considered* not making his reversion known: a course he did not ultimately pursue (even before it was made public), as he has written. I would only add that it’s not at all clear that honesty obliges one to instantaneous action under the circumstances, so I’m not prepared to condemn him for his hesitation. Most importantly, it is clear that the ETS Board appears (according to its statement) to have no issues with the way that Dr. Beckwith has conducted himself. So what you and I think about the matter is really unimportant.

I reply:

I think you have essentially acknowledged that I did not directly accuse him of dishonesty. Did I claim that this was a situation in which Dr. Beckwith was under a moral obligation to reveal the the truth? Of course, again, the answer is no.

I hardly think that the ETS Board’s judgment affects the situation. He also did not notify them until after the fact.

You wrote: “a course he did not ultimately pursue,” but of course he did not have the option of persuing it becasue he was asked to serve in a role that he could only serve in as an open Roman Catholic. Even then, it is not clear that he intended his changed views to become public any time soon.

Fred continued:

You write: Your claim of “balderdash” is contradicted by the Holy Spirit at the pen of Paul in Romans, particularly the fourth chapter.

Your “rebuttal” is contradicted by the Holy Spirit at the pen of St. James, particularly the second chapter.

I reply:

James does not contradict Paul. James speaks of how we are justified in the eyes of men, and Paul in the eyes of God.

Fred continued:

You say: Your laughter regarding God’s gracious restraint of the evil of men, including Roman Catholics, does not mean that the answer does not answer the question. Nevertheless, to be clear, only Christ was sinless, as Scripture says.

LOL again!! Let me refresh your memory as to the original question here, since it appears that you have forgotten: “Or maybe it’s just that he thinks Catholics are evil no matter what they believe or do?”Such a question requires a “yes” or “no”, not a theological discourse on whether God restrains the evil deeds of Reformed Presbyterians and all other men or not, and not a mention (important, but in the present context irrelevant) of the sinlessness of Christ.

I reply:

Actually, a grandstanding, rhetorical question like that, does not require any answer. Nevertheless, clarification has been provided, and if the answer is still obscure, it is not the fault of the present author.

Fred continued:

Truly, I’m a bit surprised by your handling of this question. It was pretty obviously (for the most part, or so I thought) a rhetorical device, but you seem to be choking on it in your evasions of a simple yes or no. So now I’d really like to know the answer: Do you consider Catholics to be evil no matter what they do or believe? Yes or no?

I reply:

See above, but if you feel it has not been answered, please explain what you mean by “evil.” Do you mean that they sin like everyone else? Or do you mean that they commit genocide like Hitler with the Gypsies and Jews?

Explain yourself, Fred.

-Turretinfan

Authorized Version – Why not?

May 26, 2007
Authorized Version – Why not?

This post is a challenge and a commentary.

Why not use the Authorized Version of the Bible, i.e. the King James Version?

Is the Language too hard?
The usual response that the language is too difficult is bogus. Thousands of children read and understand KJV Bibles, and virtually all Christian children in America for the first 200 years of its settlement by Chrstians. The entire 18th century of English-speaking children grew up on the King James Version, as did most of the 19th century. Only in the 20th and 21st centuries did alternative versions provide any serious encroachment on the Authorized Version.

Is the Greek source weak?
Another response is that the KJV relies on the Textus Receptus, and that the Textus Receptus is inferior to modern critical texts, because the Textus Receptus did not take into account a handful of earlier manuscripts that have been discovered subsequent to the finalization of the Textus Receptus.

Nevertheless, while there are differences between the Textus Receptus and earlier manuscripts, it is an open question about whether the earlier manuscripts are more reliable. Indeed, it is well known that they differ as much among themselves as between themselves and the Textus Receptus.

Is the translation quality suboptimal?
Perhaps the most interesting critique is the one that asserts that there are translation inaccuraces or suboptimalities in the KJV. The KJV was an improvement on earlier English translations, and the presently accepted version reflects about 250 years of Greek and Hebrew scholarship. Nevertheless, there may be room for improvement.

Here’s the challenge: Identify categories of translation inaccuracies in the KJV.

I’ll start: I think the biggest areas where the KJV may contain inaccuracies are:

  1. The use of the article. Article usage is very difficult to tranfer between languages: Greek does not use articles the same way English does. A number of critics, particularly Granville Sharp have asserted that they have identified either unnecessary ambiguity in the A.V., or inaccuracies in the A.V. when it comes to the translation of the article. This issue will be dealt with in a separate post or posts. Suffice to say that there are at least some reasons to disagree with Sharp in at least some instances, but there may be other instances where Sharp was as clever as his family name suggests.
  2. The use of prepositions. Like articles, prepositions can be difficult to translate between languages. One of the particularly difficult prepositions in Greek to translate into English may be the Greek preposition en, which is often rendered “in” in the KJV. In the 20th century, and perhaps earlier, questions have been raised about whether “by” would be a better translation of many of those instances.
  3. Italicization. In certain places, words are placed in italics. The choices of which words to italicize and the sense conveyed by italicization, in some cases could be improved.
  4. Specific examples. There are certain words for which the KJV translators seem to have made a mistake. These include, most notably, the translation of Pascha in Acts 12:4 as “Easter.” The translation appears to be based on showing deference to the Bishop’s Bible translation.

I challenge the readers of this blog to identify other errors and alleged errors in the A.V. Let’s review them and see what can be improved.

-Turretinfan

Sovereignty as applied to Land

May 25, 2007
Sovereignty as applied to Land

On another blog where I sometimes comment, one of the authors posted an entry regarding immigration that I found interesting.

The conclusion of the article was:

A law regarding illegal immigration has to be something that applies to us—what we can do, should not do, or ought to do. It can’t deal directly with this abstracted person that is not even subject to our law.
So, I suppose we have reached rock bottom finally. The question, “who is an illegal alien?” is answered by, “someone that does not have papers, whom we therefore have the right to put on a train.”

I respond:

This comment is obviously wrong. An illegal alien is a person who is in our country without permission. It’s much the same as tresspass on land. A trespasser is (generally speaking) anyone who is on one’s land without permission. Of course, even if the harm of illegally being on the land is remedied, the guilt remains.

Scenario

Let’s imagine we have farmer. We’ll call him Tim. He lives an a country, which we’ll call TS (Tim’s State).

Suppose, for the sake of the argument, that Tim lives on the border between TS and adjacent country, which we’ll call NTT (Next to Tim).

If a person (we’ll call him Mike) is standing in NTT and thinking about walking across Tim’s land, that person is an inchoate trespasser. Mike has not done Tim wrong yet, he’s just thinking about. Maybe Mike has even put on boots and a rucksack and is headed for Tim’s land. He is still an inchoate trespasser. Finally, when Mike’s boot first touches Tim’s dirt (or, more likely, enters the airspace above Tim’s land), he becomes a trespasser, because Tim has not given him permission. Likewise, if TS has not given Mike permission to enter TS, then Mike has simultaneously become an illegal alien.

Suppose instead, that Tim had invited Mike. Well, in that case at touchdown, Mike would not be trespasser, but only an illegal alien. Similarly, if Mike had been granted visa by TS, then Mike would be only a trespasser and not an illegal alien.

There is only parcel of land! How is this possible?

The answer is that there a bundle of rights associated with the land. There are the rights that belong to Tim as landowner and there are rights that belong to TS as sovereign of the state.

If Tim were an absolute monarch, all those rights would be bundled in the possession of a single person.

If Tim were a tenant, renting the land, his rights would be distinct from those of the landowner. If Tim were a joint tenant, renting the land with a partner, his rights would still be a lesser part of the bundle. Finally, if Tim were just a guest, visiting the property, his rights would be practically zero.

In America, no one has all the rights bundled like an absolute monarch would. The “every man’s home is his castle” maxim, is a pleasantry, not a reality. In a typical scenario, (leaving aside tenants and guests) a landowner has a big chunk of rights in the land, the local government (such as the city, township, county, or the like) has another set of rights in the land (think zoning rules, the right to tax the land, and so on), the state government has another set of rights in the land (think, for example, of the right to enter to enforce the laws of the state), and the federal government has another set of rights (think, for example, in this case – the right to decide who is present within the country).

The right of a state to determine who is within her borders is ancient. It was already firmly rooted in the Middle East in the time of Moses. Recall how Moses sent spies into the promised land, and how some countries refused to let the Israelites pass through their land, even along the public highway.

Given that background, I cannot see how the commenter described above can possibly presume that immigration laws cannot relate to a person being welcome or unwelcome but only with our right to remove the person.

Perhaps the commenter will explain … who knows.

-Turretinfan

A Quick Look at a Simple Definition of LFW

May 25, 2007

(This post may get deleted, in order to harmonize the discussion on free will.)

Godismyjudge has provided a new simple definition of LFW:

An agent has free will if and only if the agent is able to do otherwise than what he will do.

This definition is not harmonious.

Let’s break it down.

1) An agent has (present tense) free will This line is understandable. It is an assertion about a present state of the agent.

2) if and only if This line is also understandable. A definition is about to follow.

3) the agent is able (present tense) to do otherwise This line is mostly understandable. It is a statement about a present ability to do something, where the something is defined negatively, and we are waiting for that something. So we continue to the last line

4) than what he will do (future tense) This line by itself is understandable. What is being described is a future action of the agent.

The lack of harmony appears when we combine 3 and 4 in view of 1. That is to say, when we speak of a present quality that depends on a comparison between the present and the future.

This lack of harmony is evidenced several ways:

First: the lack of harmony is evidenced by the fact that in order for the statement to have meaning, there must be (present tense) something that the agent will do (future tense). That would suggest that the future already exists, in some sense. Such a suggestion unravels the entire sweater of LFW, as has previously been seen.

Second: the lack of harmony is evidenced by the fact that my being able to eat steak today, and my actually not eating steak tomorrow would fully qualify under the definition. In other words, if I eat steak on Friday, and not on Saturday, I have proven that I had free will on Friday, under this definition. This would suggest that a completely deterministic (even a mechanically deterministic) world would include agents with free will, because they had the ability to do otherwise than what they did do.

I call these a lack of harmony, not because the definition itself is incoherent, but because these results do not harmonize with a non-compatibilist mentality.

In other words, if the simple definition above defines LFW, then Calvinists all agree that man has LFW, because we all agree that we can do something different today than we will do tomorrow.

-Turretinfan

Murder Update – Progress with Caveat in Oklahoma

May 25, 2007

Apparently, in Oklahoma, now public money cannot be used to fund the murder of unborn children, although they can be executed for the sins of their fathers.

Here’s the link.

Specifically, unborn children can be executed if their fathers committed rape or incest (with their mothers and they were the result of the crime).

This may seem strange to Americans who live in states where neither rape nor incest is a capital offense for the principals, and where federal headship is not the basis of criminal guilt for any other crimes, or even for these crimes once the child is born.

Apparently, though, such children – in the view of Oklahoma – deserve to die for the sins of their fathers.

Truly it is written: “I the Lord thy God am a Jealous God, visiting the inquity of the fathers upon the children … of them that hate me.” Therefore let us instead seize the accompanying promise: “And showing mercy unto thousands [of generations] of them that love me and keep my commandments.”

-Turretinfan

A Final (hopefully) Example to Round Things Out

May 24, 2007
A Final (hopefully) Example to Round Things Out

Here’s a final example of the Presuppositional Blindness and its Impact on Epistemology, for the gentle reader (from the same thread of comments:

The commenter writes:

Yes, I misquoted. Nothing rides on this, though. Besides, Silverstein gives the impression that he was involved in the decision. “Maybe the smartest thing to do is pull it.”

What should the critical reader see? Accuracy is not that important to this commenter. If the commenter gets an impression – that’s enough.

The commenter continues:

This is the scenario you weave. Silverstein gets a call from the chief who wants to consult with him about the situation. (This implies that Silverstein was no on hand.) The chief and Silverstein presumably come the conclusion that the building is going to collapse. Silverstein then advises the chief to pull out all of the firemen from the general area. The building then falls down.

Note the unnecessary pejorative “weave.” Nevertheless, the general storyline rings true, and we can verify that Silverstein was not downtown at the time of the crisis.

The commenter continues:

Questions:
1) How did they know the building was going to collapse? Oh, yes. Everybody could just tell. But then why does the NIST report:
“The global collapse occurred with few external signs and is postulated to have occurred with the failure of core columns.”
Let me save you some time and reply for you. “The NIST said the global collapse occurred with few external signs. But they were not expecting a global collapse; they were expecting a local one.”

Note how the commenter is not willing to wait for a response. The question was not serious. It was not an inquiry to obtain information. It was a rhetorical device. Furthermore, the commenter does not understand the NIST report. The NIST report is stating that, as the global collapse occurred, there were not external signs of why it was occurring, therefore, it must have been the result of the failure of internal columns. This is a true report, and is true regardless of whether the failure was the result of explosives, thermite, thermate, or fire and impact.

2) Since there were all kinds of people in the (police, officials, reporters), why did Silverstein only make reference to the firemen? Why not say, “hey, lets move everybody back since this thing can go at any time.”

Note how bizarre this question/comment is. Why only the firemen? Because he was talking to the fire chief. Besides, I think any normal person would recognize that if the firemen are pulling back away from a building, they’re not going to leave other people behind on purpose.

The commenter continued:

3) Silverstein’s quote gives the impression that these things happened in a short sequence. Phone call, “pull it,” the building falls. On your scenario it should be, phone call, “pull it,” Larry gets a cup of coffee, he calls his insurance agent and asks him how much loot he will collect if Bldg 7 falls, he leisurely goes over the figures in his head and imagines the new Silverstein Tower that he will build on the site one day, he strolls over to the chief and they chew the fat while they wait for the building to come down.

Notice how the pretense of the question format has been abandoned. Also, notice how again the commenter’s impression is more important than what is actually said. The commenter is not altogether to blame. The video clip shows Mr. Silverstein making the comment and *boom* down falls the building. More imporantly, what is the underlying theory here? The fire chief “pulled” the building with some kind of special issue detonation tools?

The commenter continues:

As to your claim that the collapse was not symmetrical, watch the many videos of. But I guess on TurretinFan’s worldview gov’t reports trump empirical experience.

And there, at the end, we start to see rationality itself fraying. If you watch the videos more closely you will notice two things. The left side core (all of the videos are from the north or northwest side of the building), i.e. the part of the building under the east side mechanical penthouse, collapses first, but the building is still standing. About five seconds go by. Then the remainder of the building collapses, apparently from the bottom (the location that the collapse is initiated is below the 20th floor or so, but the lower floors cannot be seen in the currently available videos, because of the buildings in between). That staggered collapse alone is a remarkable asymmetry. Furthermore, as already noticed, and as thoroughly documented, the collapse footprint is asymmetrical, somewhat favoring the north east side of the building. Finally, at the initiation of the collapse, a noticable fault line or kink appears asymmetrically in the building. Yet, inexplicably, the commenter’s impression upon watching the video trump a more detailed analysis of the data.

Of course, there was a great deal of symmetry, and the reason why is that the building was built symmetrically with respect to the exterior of the building. On what earthly principle would one expect the building to collapse differently? On the other hand, the reason the eastern penthouse collapsed first, is that in the interior structure, there was a significant asymmetry, with greater reinforcement over the Con-Ed substation beneath the building.

I say above that the commenter’s personal impressions trump a more detailed analysis “inexplicably.” As I pointed out in the last two posts, that’s not quite true. The explanation is presuppositions. If you presuppose a conspiracy, you will find a way to give weight to the intangible impressions you get over the facts.

I am quite sure that the commenter, in preparing a lecture or sermon would never try to determine the meaning of a text simply based on the impression he got. I seriously doubt that he would give the time of day to someone who based their Constitutional argument on the impression that they felt from reading the Second Amendment.

No, in most areas, the commenter is a completely reasonable person, but because of presuppositions, this particular commenter has headed down a path that is difficult to remedy. Next thing you know, like Dr. Steven Jones, this commenter may begin to invent non-existent substances (“super-thermate” comes to mind) when it turns out that there is no explanation that relies on actually existent substances to fit the presupposition.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this issue is essentially trivial. If there was a government conspiracy, they did an awesome job covering it up. The vast bulk of the evidence strongly favors the official story, and while there are some loose ends to be tied, it is only someone who presupposes government complicity that would grab that loose end in the hope that it would cause the rest of the tapestry to unravel.

-Turretinfan

Epistemelogical Impacts of Presuppositions

May 24, 2007
Epistemelogical Impacts of Presuppositions

In the previous post (link here), I explored how people can be blind to their own presuppositions and blinded by their presuppositions.

Nevertheless, there is an additional effect that presuppositions can have. This effect is illustrated by some recent comments I received in the course of the same dialogue I mention above.

Here’s the windup:

Let me repeat my statement … in the form of a challenge. For, if nothing short of a full and public confession by govt insiders would make TF sceptical about the govt’s conspiracy theory, then there is no point in trading little factoids.

As a preliminary note, what the author of the quotation means by “govt’s conspiract theory” is the view that radical Muslims smashed hijacked planes into both the twin towers, and that the towers fell down and took out the neighborhood.

The author of the comments seems to believe that I presuppose that the Muslim hijacking story is true. I do not. I have considered the evidence, and it is the posistion that is better supported by the evidence. I was initially skeptical regarding some things. I made the mistake of watching all the conspiracy theorist materials first. I wasted a lot of time thinking that the criticisms presented had some kind of merit.

Now, I’m persuaded that the vast bulk of the evidence supports the “official story” as most skeptics seem to prefer to phrase it. I’m not a big fan of using the term “conspiracy theory” in a non-standard way, because it muddies the waters.

In any event, the point to notice is that the commenter is right about one thing: if one holds a presupposition so tightly that no facts could shake it, then there is no point in presenting the evidence.

The challenge presented was:

So, TurretinFan, please outline an example of the kind of evidence that would change you into being a sceptic of the govt story.

At this point it is not so much the kind of evidence that is important, but the amount of good evidence. There is such an enormous weight of evidence supporting the official story that it would be hard to contradict it with only a little data. As to kinds, I find scientific and engineering data to be more persuasive than testimony by random individuals.

The trick would be finding evidence that cannot reasonably be explained consistent with the official story. This is what many of the conspiracy theorists have attempted to do. Among the most interesting of the allegedly inconsistent evidence is a newspaper report that claims that a passport of one of the hijackers was recovered from the street.

One major problem with that datum and at least most of the others that have been set forth is that they do not fit as part of a consistent whole.

The Quid Pro Quo was:

In return, I will do the same in reverse– I will give a brief outline of the kind of evidence that would remove my scepticism. Why don’t we stay with Bldg 7 on this.

Notice that this is not really “the reverse.” It takes far less to create skepticism than to remove it, particularly when the skepticism is based on a presupposition. To put it another way, removing skepticism takes a lot more than removing confidence. One can raise a doubt easily, but placing things beyond a reasonable doubt is more difficult.

When one has adopted a presupposition, one has a foundation for knowledge. That foundation can be built upon, and the house of knowledge on top can be torn down or modified as necessary. Going after a foundation is much more difficult than going after the house. That’s one reason why, in the American legal system there is supposed to be a presupposition of innocence.

In this case, there is enough evidence to convict the fanatical Muslims involved, but not enough evidence to convict the government. For me, it is really that simple.

If you start with an unbiased mind and analyze the official story critically, you will find that (at least on most points) it stands up to the various criticisms presented. If you consider any of the alternative hypotheses, you will immediately find an enormous number of inconsistences that do not stand up to the criticisms presented.

WTC7 may be an exception, but not all of the evidence has been released to the public yet. Although there is reason to confirm the official story, and though there are many gaping holes in the conspiracy theories, it would be nice to see the bulk of the evidence presnted before coming to a final conclusion.

So, answering the commenters challenge, I’m open to any kind of evidence, and it is not some much the kind but the quality, quantity, and consistency of the evidence that will persuade me that the facts are different than the official report.

Hopefully, everyone who is unbiased on the issue can say the same. If, however, one’s epistemology is based on a presupposition of governmental guilt, one’s skeptiicsm will not be easily removed.

May God give us (including the present author) wisdom both to refrain from presupposing what we ought not, and also to presuppose what we should.

-Turretinfan

Presuppositional Blindness

May 24, 2007
Presuppositional Blindness

I was recently interacting with a person who stated: “I do not know what the real story of 9-11 is, but I am confident that the official story is bogus. I would be happy to debate the issue, but I am confident that nobody will take up my offer since it would only dignify a “nut-ball” position.”

As an aside, I immediately took up his offer. It’s an easily winnable debate. How do I know?

I was, like many, initially skeptical that the official reports were generally correct. I watched the “squibs” of dust on the Loose Change video, and reviewed the many analyses of the various data. I read many skeptical reports, and saw the far left and the Libertarian and Anarchist right responses to the official report.

Then, I dug deeper. I spoke with a civil engineer who had the same initial reaction of “How on earth could a building fall down like that,” but who was persuaded by the explanation provided. I spoke with a person who actually saw the plane fly into the side of the Pentagon. I reviewed the detractors’ articles, and then reviewed the source materials.

You know what I found? Most of the detractors (not all, certainly) were willing to distort the evidence, truncate quotations, change quotations, assert scientific falsehood, and maintain not just unproven but disproven hypotheses.

In speaking with the person whom I’ve quoted above, one favorite tactic was to take a quotation from Mr. Silverstein (a leaseholder of the WTC complex), alter the quotation and then take it out of context! I was absolutely flabbergasted, because this man is someone who is ordinarily not just rational and cogent, but intelligent and respectable. I’ve enjoyed, over the years, listening to what this man has explained and reading the articles he has written. I have immense respect for this man.

I could not figure out why he would treat the evidence with such open disregard. After all, his distortions were easily identifiable. The quotation was taken from a documentary that aired on PBS in September 2002, and at least one person legally recorded the quotation and its immediate context and posted it to the Net. All I had to do was provide a link, and Mr. Silverstein could be heard, and – for part of the quotation – seen saying what he actually said.

Then, later in the discussion, a third party asked one of the frequently asked questions that one sees, because of the many deceptive web sites that claim that there are unanswered questions. The person’s question related to the mechanics of the collapse, an issue that was dealt with in great depth by the NIST report on the topic, and dealt with in summary form on various web sites.

I had commented that the only way to discard the scientific arguments is essentially to have a severe prejudice against the government.

One part of the commenter’s response was striking: “‘Severe prejudice’ might better read ‘prudent presupposition,’ given the history of our government and most others.”

Leaving aside the prudence of the presupposition, I think the commenter hit the nail on the head.

The denial of 9/11 is, for many people, presuppositional. No amount of evidence will dissuade them from their tenacious denial of the facts that a group of Muslim terrorists killed thousands of people and damaged or destroyed several large buildings. There are confessions of the terrorists. There is both documentary and image evidence of the terrorists preparing for the attack and boarding the planes. There are a myriad of witnesses who actually saw the planes hit their targets. And so on, and so forth.

One of the other commenters on this same thread wrote (regarding me): “TF — I get the feeling that nothing short of a full and public confession by the responsible parties would convince you.” I was amazed. In fact, we do have a fairly full and reasonably public confession by the responsible party (Al Qaeda). Yet, even THAT is not enough to convince the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

That’s when I realized why the conspiracy theorists rarely agree to debate the topic, normally avoid structured debates when they do debate the topic, and inevitably lose the debates when they do debate the topic in any structured way: their position is based on presupposition.

Presuppositions are important and useful, as long as they are correct. I am a presuppositionalist, and my presuppositions are correct. I presuppose that God exists, that He revealed Himself in His Word, and that He is True to His Word. From those presuppositions I derive my doctrine and worldview. If someone wants to debate the existence of God, I can demolish their arguments against God’s existence, but I cannot positively prove my presuppositions. I can explain the usual arguments for the existence of God, including the intuitive “first cause” and “source of meaning” arguments. Nevertheless, these will only be persuasive if the person already shares my presuppositions, or if God opens their eyes to the truth.

The same is somewhat the case here as well. While the presuppositions against the U.S. government may not be as fundamental as religious presuppositions, these men have real presuppositions that should be identified and stated. The masking of these presuppositions is a great evil.

Dr. James White, a Reformed Baptist elder, likes to say that the person who denies that he has traditions is the greatest slave to them. It’s a bit glib, but it is generally accurate. People who do not recognize what their presuppitions are, are to a large extent blind. The result is that they can deceive themselves, and deceive those around them. They can leave gaping holes in their arguments without even recognize that the hole exists.

This is why you see comments like this one: “I do not know what the real story of 9-11 is, but I am confident that the official story is bogus.” Someone does not recognize, or is unwilling to state, his own presupposition that if something really bad happens, wickedness on the part of the government (or a puppeteer behind the government) is behind it. Even though this person recognizes that there is no coherent alternative to the official story, and even though this person cannot disprove the official story, this person is absolutely convinced that the official story cannot be true.

As such, to a limited extent, this otherwise cogent, intelligent, rational, God-fearing man is blind. He cannot see the evidence because he has already decided the issue as a matter or presupposition. He himself made the comparison between his failure to accept the evidence presented in the extensive and detailed government reports and the failure of unbelieving Jews to accept the evidence of the New Testament. I think it may be too harsh a comparison against him, because I – presuppositionally – have some hope that a regenerate man (like himself) could be fully reasonable on such matters.

But I’ll tell you what doesn’t help: posts like this one that call 9/11 conspiracy theorists “nut-balls,” and that ridicule them. I know many intelligent, reasonable people who spin out conspiracy theories. Mocking them is not a serious response, and saying that the ridiculous deserves ridicule is not a kind and merciful remark. It does not show love.

I am happy to discuss the evidence with 9/11 conspiracy theorists, but I think the bigger point that they need to recognize is that they believe what they believe not because of the evidence, but because of their presuppositions.

And its not just a lesson for 9/11 conspiracy theorists but for others as well. If you presuppose that Joseph Smith or Mohammed was a prophet of God, or that Vatican II was a council of the godly you will reach certain conclusions regarding doctrine that are not driven by the Word, but by presupposition. If presuppose that man’s destiny is not fixed in stone, you will arrive at a different conclusion from reading Scripture than if you discard that presupposition.

If you cannot identify your own presuppositions, you are – at least to some degree – blind, no matter how wise you are in general. May God enable all of us, this author included, to more clearly see our presuppositions, and to more clearly identify those presuppositions to those with whom we interact.

-Turretinfan


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