Thursday, July 20, 2017

Consuming fire

And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them (Num 11:1-3).

The account doesn't say what kind of fire this was. The pillar of fire is an obvious candidate. I've often remarked that descriptions of the pillar of fire are reminiscent of a fire devil. A mobile column of fire. A flaming tornado.

Of course, a fire devil is a natural phenomenon. I'd classify the pillar of fire as a preternatural phenomenon. Although it resembles a fire devil, it has a degree of stability and directionality unlike a fire devil. 

Imagine how terrifying this would be to the grumbling Israelites. Normally, the pillar of fire guides them and protects them. But if they're faithless, it can turn on them. 

Picturing God's judgment on apostates, Heb 12:29 calls God a "consuming fire". Although that may be metaphorical, it's an allusion to God's literally fiery judgments on the faithless Israelites in the wildness, who are counterparts to new covenant apostates. 

How an Iranian front group infiltrated 41 US universities

Give us meat that we may eat!

31 Then a wind from the Lord sprang up, and it brought quail from the sea and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, around the camp, and about two cubits above the ground. 32 And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten homers. And they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague. 34 Therefore the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had the craving (Num 11:31-34).

Here's a striking example of a coincidence miracle. That's a type of event which is more than natural, but less than supernatural. Quail naturally migrate. God uses wind (a natural force) to drive the quail off-course and redirect them to the Israelite camp.

What makes it more than natural is how discriminating the outcome is in time and place. It happens at just the right time at just the right place. 

If the "plague" is food poisoning, that would be another coincidence miracle, fulfilling the threatened judgment in vv19-20. That, too, is very timely. So we seem to have two coordinated events. A combination of two coincidence miracles. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On Fairies and Gardeners

A Response to Cindee Martin Morgan From an Ex-CRI Employee

HT: Perry Robinson

In search of moderate Muslims

There are many, many Muslims, but the Muslims that you know must be very different from the Muslims where I lived in the Middle East and many here in the U.S. who deny the right of Muslims to reject Islam, who deny everyone to criticize Muhammad, who defend horrific verses in the Quran which they claim is inerrant and eternal.
I've only known two Muslims who reject the terrible passages of the Quran, who reject Islamic war, who reject the inequality of women, etc. The one I worked with in education, but she was a very liberal nominal Muslim. The other who invited me to her Muslim wedding, and I went, was a new convert to Islam. She married a Muslim from the Middle East, even though she was a feminist.
One Muslim scholar I dialogued with who has a PhD from an American university in Islamic studies seemed tolerant, that is until I told him about the prisoner of conscience I was writing for, a Pakistani mother who criticized Muhammad and now has been in prison for 5 years, sentenced to be executed!!
Then the Islamic scholar became very intolerant, said no one is allowed to criticize Muhammad.
And I do know of the very small Muslim Reform Movement which rejects Islamic war, supports freedom of religion, speech, etc.
Are the Muslims you know in Canada orthodox Muslims?
I keep being told that there are lots of tolerant peacemaking Muslims, but I've not read their works on the Internet, didn't meet them in the Middle East when I lived there, etc.
I've talked with kind, friendly Muslim leaders, BUT even a very warm-hearted Muslim doctor here refuses to condemn HAMAS:-(

Thanks for replying. I agree that Islam is "diverse." Read any history of the many different movements within Islam, and ones learns how many of them are very opposed to each other such as Shia versus Sunni and both of them against more recent sects such as Ahmadiyyas and Baha'is (the latter so different it is usually considered a different religion), etc.
But I've learned the hard way--that at least in the Muslim books I've read, and the Muslims I've encountered--that almost all of them DON'T subscribe to freedom of religion!
Nearly all of them don't reject Muhammad's beheading at least 500 Jewish men and selling their women and children into slavery, etc.
I thought Bahai was different until I attended a Bahai study here for months and discovered that these 'moderates' actually believe some of the same horrific views as orthodox Muslims.
And here at the local mosque where I attended lectures, I was appalled to find that the main speaker, a college professor, doesn't believe in freedom of religion!! I spoke with him afterward and went away very depressed.
This Muslim leader is a Canadian Muslim who moved down here to teach at a prestigious California university.
Maybe some where there are very diverse Muslims, but where are they?
Re-read the findings of Pew Research.

The Euthyphro dilemma ricochets

I. A favorite atheist objection to Christianity in general, and the moral argument for God in particular, is the Euthyphro dilemma. For a brief exposition:

i) Is an action right (merely) because God wills it? 


ii) Does God will an action because it is right?

As formulated, if the Christian (or theist) opts for the first horn of the dilemma, then that seems to make morality an arbitrary divine fiat. 

Conversely, if the Christian (or theist) opts for the second horn of the dilemma, then that seems to make morality independent of God by grounding morality in a higher standard, apart from and above God. In that case, God's will is superfluous to ground morality.

II. Now, I've addressed the Euthyphro dilemma on many occasions, so I won't repeat myself here. Instead, I'd like to flip the objection. For it's easy to generate Euthyphro dilemmas for secular ethics. For instance:

1. Evolutionary ethics

Is an action right because we're hardwired to deem it right, or does the rightness of the action determine the rightness of our hardwiring? 

Same conundrum for Neo-Aristotelian naturalism. 

2. Contractarianism

Is an action right because the social contract makes it right, or does the rightness of the action determine the rightness of the social contract?

3. Consequentialism

Is an action right because the consequences make it right, or does the rightness of the action determine the rightness of the consequences? 

III. Finally, atheists object that grounding morality is God is an arbitrary stopping point. But isn't the objection reversible? Why isn't grounding morality in evolutionary psychology, consequences, or the social contract an arbitrary stopping-point? 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Seven lights

In three respects, Gen 1 foreshadows the menorah:

i) The word for "light(s)" on the Fourth Day is repeated in reference to the menorah, viz.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so (Gen 1:14-15).

the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light (Exod 35:14)

the lampstand of pure gold and its lamps with the lamps set and all its utensils, and the oil for the light (Exod 39:37).

ii) The seven days of creation parallel the sevenfold lampstand. Just as the seven days of creation represent seven units of light, the menorah represents seven units of light:

32 And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it…37 You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it (Exod 25:32,37).

iii) Gen 1 has alternating periods of day and night. Likewise, the menorah was lit at twilight (Exod 30:8), which seems to mean the menorah only burned at night. That makes sense. It provides a nocturnal light source for the tabernacle in the absence of sunlight. In that respect, the menorah mirrors the diurnal cycle.

Just as sunlight periodically illuminates the earth, lamplight periodically illuminates the tabernacle. There's a sense in which the menorah is sacred light. 

Ironic providence

Finally Pharaoh now decides to take action more directly. The Hebrew midwives had not killed Israelite babies at birth, so Pharaoh ordered his own people to kill newborn Israelite males (1:22). (Aaron was three years older than Moses, and would not be among the children affected by the king’s decree; see 7:7.)

Ironically and unknown to Pharaoh, however, his own daughter would undermine his decree out of compassion for a Hebrew baby (2:6-10)—Israel’s future deliverer. God does not always prevent tragedy—but he does ensure his plan for the future of his people and for ultimate justice.

A good example of how divine providence is hard to interpret in the short-term. A human observer couldn't anticipate how Pharaoh's murderous decree will lead to his own daughter unwittingly torpedoing the cult of Pharaoh. A human observer couldn't anticipate how her adoption of Moses will raise up a prophet to humiliate the cult of Pharaoh. One event unexpectedly leads to another. 

It's actually a bit "fatalistic" in the classic sense that an action intended to forestall an undesirable consequence is the unintended means by which the undesirable consequence is eventually realized. We seen the same ironic quality of divine providence in the Joseph Cycle (Gen 37-50).  
  1. God moves in a mysterious way
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants His footsteps in the sea
    And rides upon the storm.
  2. Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill
    He treasures up His bright designs
    And works His sov’reign will.
  3. Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
    The clouds ye so much dread
    Are big with mercy and shall break
    In blessings on your head.
  4. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
    But trust Him for His grace;
    Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
  5. His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flow’r.
  6. Blind unbelief is sure to err
    And scan His work in vain;
    God is His own interpreter,
    And He will make it plain.

"Colluding" with Russia

My basic objection to the Trump investigation is that gov't should never embark on a criminal investigation unless there's already prima facie evidence that a law was broken. 

Gov't can abuse a criminal investigation as a pretext to crush investigative reporters and political opponents. Seizing your computers. Reading your emails and text messages. Which, in turn, gives them a chance to read the emails and text messages people sent you. Other stuff is caught in the dragnet. Your medical records, tax records.

You and your friends have to hire lawyers. A ruinous expense. (Not to mention the civil forfeiture racket.) 

Then they have you testify under oath. Even if you didn't commit the crime for which you are questioned, if they can get a grand jury to indict you for perjury, then that becomes the crime. 

There's massive potential for rogue prosecutors to destroy lives and snuff out opposition from political opponents and investigative reporters.


I've discussed this before, but I'd like to provide a couple of examples to illustrate the principle. Unbelievers allege that Christians succumb to sample-selection bias. When we appeal to miracles or answered prayer or fulfilled prophecy or archeological corroboration, we only count the hits and discount the misses. We conveniently forget the latter.

Now, in fairness, some Christians can be guilty of this. Take Christians who are straining to find God's will. Straining to detect divine signs. Likewise, many answered prayers are ambiguous in the sense that they could be naturally explicable. 

However, hits and misses are evidentially asymmetrical. For instance, consistently losing at the race track requires no special explanation, whereas consistently winning at the race track does require a special explanation. Consistently losing at the casino requires no special explanation whereas consistently winning does. 

So hits can be evidentially significant in a way that misses are not. It's to be expected that gamblers normally lose. There's an element of uncontrollable chance, and the odds are against you. If you consistently beat the odds, if you consistently outperform, that's suspicious. That implies cheating. 

By the same token, lack of evidence isn't equivalent to counterevidence unless there's a reasonable expectation that if something's the case, there should be corroborative evidence. Consider how many things you and I do in the course of an ordinary day for which there were never any records. 

Scientific Experiments On Janet Hodgson's Paranormality

Guy Playfair and Maurice Grosse wrote:

Carrying out fully controlled experiments in somebody else's home is not easy, especially when the home is suffering from poltergeist activity. However, at least one fully instrumented experimental PK [psychokinesis] session was held under the supervision of David Robertson with Grosse as witness. Janet was asked to deform a piece of 'unbendable' eutectic alloy without contact. On separate occasions, a pulse counter and a three-channel chart recorder produced readings that could not be accounted for. The metal sample broke while under observation. (Playfair 1980, ch. 9).

With the cooperation of Professor J. B. Hasted, it was possible to carry out a fully controlled experiment in a laboratory. Janet was taken to Birkbeck College for an experiment in which she was seated on a specially constructed weighing platform and asked to alter her weight. She was one of three subjects out of more than 20 tested who managed to produce anomalous chart readings. (Journal Of The Society For Psychical Research, vol. 55, 1988-9, "Enfield Revisited: The Evaporation Of Positive Evidence", p. 213)

I've already discussed the experiments on Janet's ability to bend metal. Watch here until 19:13. But what about the "fully controlled experiment in a laboratory"?

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Ordo Salutis

Shilling Islamist propaganda

Today I listened to Janet Mefferd's interview with James White:

This is the first and only time I've heard Mefferd's show. The first time I ever heard about her was in connection with her famous takedown interview of Mark Driscoll. 

1. Why do I care? I care because Islam is far and away the world's most dangerous religion. Atheism and Islam are the two most dangerous ideologies in the world today. It is therefore imperative that we have moral clarity on this issue. 

Rape jihad

We see no signs!

Remarking on Ps 74:9, one commentator has noted that:

The lament now says, "We do not see signs for us" Kraus suggests that this is a reference to omens or oracles in view of the parallelism. The absence of the signs is clearly related to the dilemma of no longer having a prophet. They were looking for some sign of fulfillment for the prophetic word that had promised them a future and given them hope for deliverance. But there was none; and there was no longer a prophet among them (especially true at the time Jeremiah and Ezekiel had been taken from them) They had no idea how long this silence will continue. A. Ross, A Commentary on The Psalms (Kregel, 2013), 2:590.

What's bitterly ironic about this complaint is that when the (preexilic) Jews had prophets, they scorned their warnings. Now that the predicted calamity has overtaken them, they no longer have prophets to consult in their distress. Having hated God's prophets when they had them, they now lament the absence of God's prophetic word. 

Skeptical Giggles

People often use humor to cover up a weakness. Laugh it off. Make the issue seem less significant than it actually is. Make yourself look more confident than you actually are. Shame your opponents with ridicule. We often see this kind of thing with critics of Christianity who refer to a "talking snake" in Genesis 3, "zombies" in Matthew 27, God as a "sky daddy", etc. You can use humor to make your position look stronger and your opponent's position look weaker than they actually are.

One of the most effective ways to abuse humor is to use it to poison the well, to prevent people from making much of an effort to look into something in the first place. Make a political, scientific, or theological view seem so disreputable from the outset that people won't give it much consideration.

In our trivial culture, humor sways a lot of people a lot more than it should. I doubt there have been many cultures in the history of the world that have overdone humor as much as we have.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Afghan "refugees"

From gay to God

Ratzinger: “Barque of Peter is leaking, on the verge of capsizing”

Barque of Peter is leaking, on the verge of capsizing
In a funeral message yesterday, former pope Joseph Ratzinger suggested that the Roman Catholic Church “has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing”. The message was related at the funeral of Cardinal Meisner, who was one of the dubia cardinals, (asking “Pope Francis” if his statement Amoris Laetitia had actually contradicted “church teaching”).

July 15, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Benedict XVI sent a sobering message at the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner today, saying he was moved at the dubia cardinal's ability to "live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing."

The Church "stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the faith with determination," Pope Benedict said in a message read by Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his personal secretary and head of the papal household. Because of this "pressing need," Meisner "found it difficult to leave his post."

"What moved me all the more was that, in this last period of his life, he learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing," the pope emeritus concluded.

Meisner, who was 83, was one of the four cardinals who sent Pope Francis a dubia asking if Amoris Laetitia is aligned with Catholic morality. He died still awaiting the pope's response. Although Pope Francis hasn't answered the dubia, he has given his approval to interpretations of the controversial exhortation that say those living in adulterous unions may receive Holy Communion.

Canon lawyer Kurt Martens said Pope Benedict's message was an "amazing yet diplomatic form of support for [the] dubia Cardinals."

Understanding and winning the current culture wars

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson needs to get the widest possible audience.

"Postmodernism needs to be starved at its sources"