The Missing Word

Whats.Missing
I recently installed Word Cross on my iPhone and have found it to be somewhat addicting. This puzzle, however, was disappointing, as the first word I saw wasn't one of the words. The missing word is six letters, but the longest word in the puzzle has five letters.

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Ravi Zacharias on Objective Morality

In this short video (5 minutes), Ravi Zacharias is asked the question, "why are you so afraid of subjective moral reasoning?" To which Ravi replied, "do you lock your door at night?"

This is an flawed answer, simply because people don't always do what they know they should do. That is, if morals are objective, people won't always act morally
1, and if morals are subjective, then people won't always act morally2. Therefore, this answer has no bearing on the question!

Ravi further states:

If morality is purely subjective then you have absolutely nothing from stopping anybody from being a subjective moralist to choose to just zing one through your forehead and say 'that's my answer.'" How do you stop that? If you're willing to say to me that moral reasoning can be purely subjective, I just say to you, "look out, you ain't seen nothing yet."

This answer fails for (at least) four reasons.

First, it's the fallacy of the "
appeal to consequences." That is, the desirability of something generally has no bearing on whether or not a statement is true or false. The statement "it is true (or false) that morals are subjective" is not proved by "subjective morality isn't desirable."

Second, it requires an
appeal to authority. After all, who says that "subjective morality isn't desirable?" Ravi? The listener?3 God? For an appeal to authority to have some credibility, everyone has to agree on the authority. Atheists certainly don't agree that God carries any authority.

Third, Ravi knows that governments wield the sword against "evildoers".
4 "Wield the sword." "Zing one through the forehead". Same difference. When Paul wrote this, the citizens didn't get to choose the kind of government they had or what the government thought was good and evil. Paul was imprisoned and eventually executed by that government.5

Fourth, and most importantly, Ravi should know the answer to "how do you stop that?" By preaching the gospel, that's how. God pours His love into the hearts of those who believe and "love does no wrong to a neighbor."
6

That this particular response does not adequately address whether morals are objective, does not prove that they are subjective. After all, there could be a better answer. One would have hoped that a renowned apologist would have had a better response.



[1] The initial course, "Introduction: First Five Lessons" in the Open Yale course
Game Theory, shows where students are asked to play a game. Most of them don't know, and therefore don't use, the optimal strategy when they first play the game. But after the instructor analyzes the problem and shows them the objective answer -- the right thing to do -- some of them still don't make that choice!
[2] See
Another Short Conversation...
[3] I once had a conversation with an Indian coworker. He didn't understand why the US didn't nuke Pakistan in order to take out Bin Laden. When I replied that the fallout would take out tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of his countrymen he responded, "So what? They're just surplus people." What horrified me was a desirable outcome for him.
[4]
Romans 13:4.
[5]
Genesis 50:20
[6]
Romans 13:10.
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Presbyterianism's Visible Church

Our most recent Sunday School lesson was on the parable of the Sower. The teacher, who is fond of the Westminster Confession, tied Christ's teaching on the wheat and fake wheat with the Confession's notion of the "visible church", but he didn't go into any detail other than mentioning the division of the church into "invisible" and "visible". Naively, one would think that the "invisible" church is the "wheat" from all ages and the "visible" church is the current "wheat" crop.

This naive view is partly right. The Confession does consider the invisible church to be the wheat through all ages:

The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. -- WCF 25.1

But the Confession considers the visible church to be a community of believers and unbelievers!

The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law)1, consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion and of their children and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ the house and family of God out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. -- WCF 25.2

This clearly puts non-elect into the body of Christ, the Church, because not all who profess believe and not all children of believers are elect. That I'm reading this correctly is confirmed by this citation:

The visible church is the church on earth as Christians see it. ... The visible church will always include some unbelievers... -- Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, pg. 856-857

I can only wonder why Reform theology puts unbelievers in the church. I suspect it's because they view the church as a place where a particular program is carried out instead of a world-wide community on a mission. For example, according to Calvin, a "true" church is one where the word is preached, the sacraments are properly administered (for some definition of "sacraments" and "properly"), and discipline is administered
2.

This narrowing of interest
3 leads R. C. Sproul to write:

Since the days in which this was written in the seventeenth century, we have seen an explosion of parachurch ministries, such as the Billy Graham Association, Youth for Christ, Young Life, Campus Crusade, and teaching ministries like Ligonier Ministries. There are many ministries that are basically evangelistic, through which people become Christians outside the pale of the visible church. We hope they are quickly brought into the visible church. -- Truths We Confess, R. C. Sproul

This is completely incoherent since, on the one hand, Sproul says people can become Christians outside the ministry of the visible church, yet the Confession states that outside the visible church "there is no ordinary possibility of salvation."

The church builds buildings, but the buildings aren't the church. The church organizes itself to carry out her mission, but the organization isn't the church. The church develops programs and procedures, but these are not the church. The WCF ties itself into knots, in my opinion, by confusing these "accidents" with the "essence" of the visible church. Instead, the church can be viewed in three ways: invisible, visible, and local. The local church is a subset of the visible church which has a location where believers interact with each other and the world and provide various ministries. These local "franchises of the King" can then argue about which franchise has the purer "product", the most capable "employees", the most effective organization, the leading "customer satisfaction" indicators, the highest "health scores", and so on.



[1] This parenthetical aside is puzzling. I think they're trying to say that God only dealt with Israel prior to Christ, but this should obviously be seen to be false. In Romans chapter 4 Paul makes it very clear that the gospel isn't new -- it preceded the giving of the law. That God cared about Gentiles is evident just from reading Jonah (4:10-11), and the Ninevites "believed God" (Jonah 3:5), just as Abraham did.
[2] See also
Article 29 of the Belgic Confession.
[3] The
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is as true of creeds as it is of languages. Limiting the church to preaching, sacraments, and discipline hinders our ability to reflect on the fullness of kingdom work and to adapt to changes around us. Mike Baer, who wrote Business as Mission, has a wider vision for what the church can -- and should -- be.

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Presbyterianism and the Pope

[Originally published 1/5/2020; Updated 2/6/2020]

Unbeknownst to me, there is a newer version of the Westminster Confession, available
on-line in PDF. Chapter 25.6 now says:

There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof.

So the Presbyterians decided to agree with me on whether or not the Pope is the anti-Christ. However, given that Presbyterian ideas of what constitutes the invisible and visible churches is incoherent, if the Pope makes the claim that he is the head of the visible church, then all Presbyterians can do is say, "you're not the boss of me!" They certainly don't have a Biblical basis for -- or against -- their position.



Chapter XXV, section VI, of the Westminster Confession says:

There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ.[13] Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.[14]

This is, of course, utter nonsense. Certainly, a Pope may be an anti-Christ, just like a Presbyterian elder may be an anti-Christ. But the Pope is not an anti-Christ, much less
the Anti-Christ, simply by virtue of his office. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Christ’s Transfiguration aims at strengthening the apostles’ faith in anticipation of his Passion: the ascent onto the “high mountain” prepares for the ascent to Calvary. Christ, Head of the Church, manifests what his Body contains and radiates in the sacraments: “the hope of glory” (Col 1:27; cf. St. Leo the Great, Sermo 51, 3: PL 54, 310c).

Christ “is the head of the body, the Church.” He is the principle of creation and redemption. Raised to the Father’s glory, “in everything he [is] preeminent,” especially in the Church, through whom he extends his reign over all things.

Of the office of Pope, the Catechism says:

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”

A vicar is a representative so, in the Catholic scheme of things, the Pope is the visible "the buck stops here" representative of Christ. One might complain about the use of
unhindered power, but as the Catechism subsequently states, this refers to the relationship between the Pontiff and the College of Bishops; not between Christ and the Church.

Too, one might argue about what the structure of the visible church should be: a group of unallied independent congregations, independent congregations joined in a voluntary flat federation, congregations organized in a hierarchy, or whatever other scheme might come to mind. Scripture doesn't say how churches are to be organized. A hierarchical organization with a single head, who reports to Christ, is certainly one way to do things. The
Presbyterian church is hierarchical, although that doesn't prevent our presbytery from being about as useful as a camouflaged golfball.

Finally, it might be argued that the Pope is the Anti-Christ because of doctrinal differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Certainly, Protestants and Catholics differ on whether or not Peter was the first Pope, issues surrounding apostolic succession, and so on. But the Westminster Confession, in XXV.V, states:

The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error;[10] and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan.

As someone who used to write software architecture documents for a living, XXV.V is useless, because it cannot be implemented. That is, there is no test for determining which error(s) result in which congregational classifications. Any Presbyterian could say, "you're a congregation of Satan because you don't measure up to my particular checklist." Vague requirements might make a committee feel like they've accomplished something, but this statement should never have passed critical review.
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A Physicist's Questions

Three weeks ago I read the review of Tom Holland's "Dominion" over at historyforatheists.com. According to the reviewer, the thesis of Dominion is that:

... most of the things that we consider to be intrinsic and instinctive human values are actually nothing of the sort; they are primarily and fundamentally the product of Christianity and would not exist without the last 2000 years of Christian dominance on our culture.

Today, in
Creation Myths, by Marie-Louise Von Franz, I read:

Always at bottom there is a divine revelation, a divine act, and man has only had the bright idea of copying it. That is how the crafts all came into existence and is why they all have a mystical background. In primitive civilizations one is still aware of it, and this accounts for the fact that generally they are better craftsmen than we who have lost this awareness.

This suggests the more general case of a connection with the divine producing better results.

And this triggered the memory of an article by Dr. Lubos Motl written in 2015, "
Can Christians be better at quantum mechanics than atheists"? Lubos makes some interesting statements. First, he answers his question generally affirmatively: "Apparently, yes." On the other hand, Lubos is an atheist and is an expert on quantum mechanics. Still, he notes:

In this sense, atheism is just another unscientific religion, at least in the long run.

"In this sense" being atheistic
eisegesis, where the atheist attempts to impose their own prejudices onto Nature, instead of the other way around. Note that the Christian has this problem in double measure: not only must Christians avoid molding Nature into their own image, they must avoid molding God into their own image. They must be conformed to the Word, not conform the Word to themselves. Idolatry is a sin in both science and theology.

Nevertheless, in his post, Lubos asks some questions about Christianity that I'm going to attempt to answer. First, he asks:

A church surely wants the individual sheep to be passive observers, doesn't it?

Of course not. The church is a group of people who have been given a mission: to love one another and to make disciples throughout the entire world. We are to be active participants in the kingdom life. We don't "create our own world", but we don't do this in quantum mechanics, either. In both cases, the world reveals itself to us. After all, Wigner will get the same result as his friend.

But underneath Lubos' question is the idea of control: control by the church upon individuals and Lubos don't like outside control. He becomes rightfully incensed about suggestions, for example, that some questions should be off-limits to scientific inquiry. Yet consider one of the over-arching themes of the Bible, namely, order from chaos, harmony from static. This theme begins in Genesis and continues through Revelation. Static is maximally free. It cannot be compressed, there are no redundancies. Harmony requires a giving up of freedom. Totalitarians, whether secular or misguided Christians, will try to impose this order from without. Christianity says that this order must come from within, by the indwelling Spirit of God, received through the Lord Jesus Christ. It cannot be imposed by force of arms, but only through the reception of the Gospel. Each believer must find their own place(s) in the heavenly music.

But don't all religions actually want the only objective truth about the state of Nature to exist?

What we may want, and what actually is, are two different things. Still, Christianity says that we live by faith. This means we are uncertain as to what may come our way, even though we are certain as to God's faithfulness. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "for we see as though a glass, darkly."

Classical physics was doing great with omniscient God while quantum mechanics with its observer-dependence (and therefore "relativism" of a sort) seems to be more heretical, doesn't it?

Christianity is, in a sense, observer dependent, too. It claims that there are those who do not experience God and those who can. There are blind who do not see and deaf who do not hear. Furthermore, it claims that those who do not experience God cannot, unless God first works in them to restore their "spiritual" senses. But Lubos' question about omniscience contains a fact not in evidence, namely, that what we cannot foreknow (the outcome of a measurement before the measurement), God cannot also foreknow. There are no "hidden variables" in the natural world, but Scripture claims that there is hidden knowledge known only to God (eg. Dt. 29:29, et. al.) So on this point, the Christian and Dr. Motl will just have to disagree.

Science is ultimately independent of the religions – but it is independent of other philosophies such as the philosophies defended by the atheist activists, too.

Maybe. Science sees one part of the elephant, philosophy another. Until we have one theory of everything, I think this should remain an open question. I think Escher's
Drawing Hands applies more to the relationship between science and philosophy than we might want to admit.



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