April 2008


A disgusting news story broke recently about a man in Austria who began raping his daughter at age 11, then locked her in the cellar beneath his house at the age of 18 (faking a letter from her saying she ran away to join a religious cult), holding her there for 24 years filled with more sexual abuse, fathering seven children with her in the process. He raised three of those children with his unsuspecting wife, one died, and the other three were raised in the cellar with their mother, never seeing the light of day.

This moral monster was finally caught. And what is he facing as punishment? 15 puny years in prison! That is the max he can get under Austrian law. Personally, I am outraged and sickened over this! How can a man who sexually abuses his own daughter for more than three decades, imprisons her and three of his incestuous children, only get 15 years for this crime? Is that the price of his crimes? What a cheapening of human value. At the very least he should have to spend as many years in jail as his daughter faced in the jail of his cellar. Unbelievable!

I guess this goes to show why divine justice is required. Human justice is imperfect. In this case, however, it is glaringly imperfect.

Ben Witherington III has a good video lesson on choosing a Bible translation. He gives some good, basic information on why there are so many translations, how they differ, what benefit each has, tips on how to choose the proper translation, and what to watch out for. Listening to the Australian paraphrase of Luke 1 is worth it alone!

“Ignorance may be bliss, but it is not a virtue.” –D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, p. 23

Who Was Adam? by Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross

Rana and Ross build a Biblical model of human origins, and then subject it to scientific testing. Point by point they show how a Biblical model of human origins fits the data much better than an evolutionary model. Anyone who doubts that creationist models can be tested scientifically or that human evolution is a shut case should read this book.

There is a good survey of major fossil finds, and how anthropaleontologists have gone about interpreting them. It’s interesting to discover how the experts are far from decided on the proper interpretation. There is not one evolutionary tree of human origins, but multiple trees. And the more data we gather, the more the trees appear to rot.

A lot of time is spent on research into the age and relationship of humans and other hominids. Good stuff.

Five Views On Apologetics edited by Steven Cowan

If you aren’t into (and I mean really into) apologetics, you probably won’t enjoy this book. But if you are, it’s a must read. It is one of Zondervan’s Point-Counterpoint books. Five apologists are featured, each making a case that his apologetic philosophy and methodology is the preferred strategy. There is a good discussion on the role of apologetics in evangelism, what we should expect our apologetic to do, whether faith is warranted without evidence, and the like.

The law of non-contradiction (LNC) states that A cannot be both A and not A at the same time and in the same way. For example, my car cannot be said to be both in the garage and not in the garage at the same time and in the same way. It could only be both in the garage and not in the garage at the same time if by being “in the garage” in the first instance means something different than it does in the second. For example, it would not be a contradiction if in the first instance I mean to refer to the body shop where my car is being repaired, and in the second instance I mean to refer to its normal storage space where it is currently absent.


 

Postmodern types disparage the LNC (as with all laws of logic) as a Western invention. No argument is made for such a claim. It is just asserted (any argument offered against the LNC would require them to presuppose its truth, because the premises and conclusion of the argument are not the same as their negation). I have a sneaking suspicion I know why they want to axe the LNC: their worldview is inherently self-contradictory.

 

Postmodernism claims there is no truth, or that truth cannot be known. And yet, this is a contradiction because the claim that there is no truth, or that truth cannot be known is itself a claim to know something that is true. If the LNC is true, then postmodernism is false. The LNC must be axed to save postmodernism as a worldview.


 

When you point out the self-referential and incoherent nature of postmodernism, the postmodernist will retort that such an analysis depends on the LNC. Since the LNC is a Western invention, it is inappropriate to subject postmodernism to its criterion. In fact, doing so is just a power play to subjugate others.


 

What can you say to those who deny the LNC? Greg Koukl has offered a good strategy. When someone claims the LNC is not true, but an invention of Western logic, respond, “So what you are saying, then, is that the LNC is true?” They will protest, “No, I am saying it is not true.” We might respond, “Oh, so you are saying the law of contradiction is true, then. Thank you for clarifying.” Frustratingly they will reply, “No, no. That is not what I am claiming. I am claiming the LNC is not true.” We might graciously answer, “Exactly. That is what I said you said: The LNC is true.”

 

I would venture to say they would be exasperated with you by this point; aggravated that you would contradict But this exposes the very problem with their claim that the LNC is a Western convention, rather than a universal and necessary feature of human rationality. While they deny the LNC with their lips, they cannot help but to recognize that “is” and “is not” are contradictory, and thus your restatement of their view contradicts their stated view. That is inescapably self-refuting. They cannot deny the existence of contradictions on the one hand, and then correct your contradiction on the other.

 

 

For a person who truly believes the LNC is a fiction of Western logic, the only appropriate response to your restatement is a confirmatory, “Yes.” But no one would respond in this way. He would initially seek to correct your contradiction, assuming you have misunderstood him. Even if one dared to respond in this way, I would venture to say he does not believe that which he speaks. For if he believed it, he would have to acknowledge that there was a difference between his believing it, and not believing it. And if such a difference exists, the LNC must be true. The LNC is a first principle of thought that cannot be avoided (rational intuition). It is universal and necessary to all human reasoning—even for those who seek to deny it.


 

Of course, there are other more persuasive ways of illustrating this truth that guarantee your postmodern friend will come to acknowledge the truth of the LNC. The early 11th century Medieval Muslim philosopher, Avicenna, devised an infamous way for helping someone see the irrationality involved in denying the LNC. Avicenna wrote, “Anyone who denies the LNC should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned” (Metaphysics 1). By no means would I suggest using this tactic, but if this wouldn’t convince your postmodern friend of his error, nothing can!

I have blogged in the past on some of the strange ways the NT interprets the OT, and linked to an essay by Peter Enns that helps make sense of it. As helpful as it is, I am still baffled by some of the ways the NT interprets the OT. Here is another troubling example: Jesus’ and Peter’s interpretation of Psalm 110:1.

The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

It’s important to understand the structure of this verse. The person speaking in verse 1a is a prophetic voice in the royal court, delivering a message from YHWH (“LORD”) to the prophet’s “lord.” The prophet’s lord is the king, David. Verses 1b and 4 constitute YHWH’s message to David via the unnamed prophet. In verses 2-3 the prophet addresses David, and then speaks to God about David in verses 5-7.

In the original context, then, the “Lord” was David, and the person who spoke the words, “The LORD said to my Lord” was the unnamed prophet speaking to David. When we turn to the NT, however, the original context is turned on its head. According to Jesus and Peter, the “Lord” is a reference to the Messiah, and the person who spoke the words, “The LORD said to my Lord” was David (See Matthew 22:43-45; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:34-36).

It should be pointed out that Jesus did not invent this interpretation of Psalm 110:1. The Jews already had a long-standing interpretive tradition of identifying the “Lord” as the coming Messiah. They reasoned that if what was spoken applied to David, it also applied to all of His royal descendents, including (and especially so) the promised Messiah. As for attributing the words of verse 1a to David, presumably it was reasoned that since David was the author of the psalm, He could be cited as having said those words. A similar phenomenon appears elsewhere in the NT when the words of YHWH are attributed to the prophet who authored the book containing YHWH’s words, or when the words of prophets are attributed to YHWH.

Be that as it may, there is something else even more troubling than these semi-understandable changes to the original meaning. In the NT, Jesus and Peter appeal to Psalm 110:1 as an argument for the deity of Christ. It was common knowledge that the Messiah would be the son of David. So Jesus asked those present, “How is it that the experts in the law say that the Christ is David’s son? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, said, ‘The Lord said to my lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ If David himself calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” (Mark 12:35b-37a).

To understand Jesus’ argument one must understand ancient-near-eastern culture (ANE). According to ANE culture the father is superior to his offspring. Why, then, does David call the Messiah his Lord? To call him such implies that his son is superior to himself, which is unthinkable. This was a paradox that could only be solved if one granted that the Messiah was more than a mere man—He was divine as well.

What I find troubling about this argument for the deity of Christ is that it only works if one takes the OT passage out of context. One has to change the identity of the original subjects in order for it to work. And yet, as with other strange uses of the OT in the NT, the crowds found the argument powerful and persuasive.

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