When Did Saul Meet David?

It is a commonplace in liberal biblical scholarship to claim a contradiction between 1 Samuel 16:14-23 and 1 Samuel 17:55-58. The nature of the alleged contradiction lies in what Saul knew and when. In 16:19, Saul sends a messenger to Jesse, after he has been told about Jesse’s son by the young man of verse 18. The messenger tells Jesse to send David (“your son”) to Saul for purposes of musical distraction. In chapter 16, therefore, Saul knows whose son David is. In the very next chapter, however, Saul seems not to know this information. In 17:55 and following, Saul asks Abner about David’s parentage (Abner doesn’t know). Saul then finds out from David himself that David is the son of Jesse. So, which is it? Did Saul not find out in 16 about David’s father? Or are there other possibilities?

The first thing that must be said is that the author (or, to go momentarily on the liberal turf, the redactor) most likely already knew about this issue. Ancient authors weren’t quite as stupid as some modern scholars tend to think they were! How do we know? In the text of verse 23 lies what I believe to be the hint that points to the solution. The first two words of the verse are well translated, “Now, whenever…” The verse then describes a state of affairs that appears to have lasted a relatively long while before the events of 17. This points to the answer: Saul simply forgot whose son David was. The length of time combined with the stress of the events of 17 could easily explain Saul’s forgetfulness on this point.

To my mind, this explanation works better than some of the alternatives. Some believe that chapter 16 is about David’s identity, whereas 17:55ff. is about Jesse’s. This explanation does not take 16:18-19 adequately into account, where twice it is stated that Saul knew Jesse to be the father of David.

Another unlikely interpretation is that 16:14-23 is out of chronological order, and belongs in between 18:9 and 18:10. This would make the Goliath story the very first time Saul met David. Now, this would solve the issue. The Bible does not always record things in chronological order. What makes this solution unlikely is not the supposedly “unbiblical” nature of the solution, but rather the unlikelihood of the passage getting put intentionally out of place. If 16:14-23 was originally between 18:9 and 18:10, why would anyone move it?

Gleason Archer, in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (175), argues that Saul’s concern in 17:55ff. was in building up his own personal bodyguard, and that Jesse’s identity was important because Saul viewed David as a “lead to obtaining more soldiers like him.” This is possible, and would be an additional element consistent with the idea of forgetfulness.

Robert Bergen adds two more aspectual possibilities in his commentary on Samuel (199). The issue of who gets the tax forgiveness could be another reason why Saul asks about David’s parentage. In addition, Bergen argues that the Spirit having left Saul means that Saul “was intellectually incompetent.” I might amend the latter to say that Saul was becoming incompetent, memory being not what it once was.

One last solution, possibly the least likely, is that of Robert Polzin. In his Samuel and the Deuteronomist: A Literary Study of the Deuteronomic History, Part Two: 1 Samuel (171-6), he argues that Saul’s question is 17:55 is actually a demand for David’s allegiance, not a question about identity. Again, this would solve the issue. However, it is difficult to see why we should interpret the text that way. Are there other instances in ancient literature where asking about the identity of a person’s father is equal to a demand for allegiance? This seems highly unlikely to me. The other solutions are better.

Recent UFO Phenomena, E.T. or…? A Look at Current Faster-Than-Light Travel Prospects

by David Gadbois

Startling footage of physics-defying UFO’s has surfaced since 2017, originating from U.S. Navy aircraft. The earliest video was recorded in 2004, while the latter two were from 2014-2015. The Pentagon itself eventually released official copies of these videos. To this can be added two videos of separate naval ship-based UFO sightings from 2019. What is more, at least the original 2004 incident has been corroborated by both ship-borne radar and the public testimony of pilots involved (David Fravor and Chad Underwood). Likely this is the tip of the iceberg. For example, former naval aviator Ryan Graves claims that UFO’s were witnessed regularly by his squadron.

In fact, the Pentagon will be releasing a report on UFO phenomena that it has documented, possibly quite soon.

It is somewhere between difficult and impossible to dismiss these mounting threads of evidence for the veracity of objective encounters with vehicles that seemingly can perform physically-impossible maneuvers. While many UFO sightings can be plausibly categorized as hoaxes, natural phenomena (e.g. atmospheric phenomena such as ball lightning or, quite often, the planet Venus), camera artifacts, or experimental military aircraft, these incidents defy such explanations. While there are no doubt many secret aircraft in service with impressive and perhaps surprising performance and abilities, there are still reasonable limits to what we can expect of next-generation or even medium-term aerospace technology. It is simply is not realistic from a propulsion or structures perspective for a vehicle (manned or unmanned) to perform near-instantaneous maneuvers involving hundreds or thousands of G’s of acceleration. With no visible means of propulsion, and no sonic boom, to boot.

By process of elimination, this leaves us with either 1. an extraterrestrial hypothesis to explain such phenomena or 2. a supernatural hypothesis. Strictly speaking, an interdimensional hypothesis is also a logical possibility, but see Hugh Ross (in the work cited below) on the problems with this.

I believe that the prospects for practical faster-than-light (FTL) travel are exceedingly poor, given our current understanding of physics as of 2021 (more on this below). And as such this renders the extraterrestrial hypothesis highly unlikely. FTL travel is almost universally-acknowledged as the only realistic method of interstellar (to say nothing of intergalactic) travel, that an extraterrestrial life-form would need to employ to reach Earth.

So what should a Christian make of all of these recent, perplexing, provocative videos and news reports? I believe it furnishes compelling evidence of activities of the supernatural or spiritual realm, and spiritual beings. Physical explanations, we have seen, are not adequate. It is probably the case that Christians (to say nothing of our secular friends) have been too dismissive of UFO phenomena, filing them universally and without discrimination into the categories of the more conventional and mundane explanations mentioned above.

Without a doubt, the definitive work on this subject from a Christian perspective is Lights In the Sky & Little Green Men, written by Hugh Ross (astrophysicist and founder of Reasons to Believe ministry), Kenneth Samples, and Mark Clark, and was published in 2002. While slightly dated, the central thesis and the vast majority of the content holds up rather well. It promotes the supernatural hypothesis, and further that the supernatural beings are, in fact, demons on account of the deception that seems to be involved. (Note: with their nomenclature they label their view as an interdimensional hypothesis, although they differentiate their non-physical/spiritual view from views involving the 10 known physical dimensions).

In chapter 5 Ross provides an excellent overview of the problems with interstellar space travel, mainly touching on sub-light-speed travel and the nearly-insuperable barriers involved there. While he does cover the issue of wormholes (you need to fly into a black hole, in which case every particle of your body/vehicle is utterly destroyed), he otherwise doesn’t broach the issue of the plausibility of FTL travel.

With Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, physicists have known that the speed of light is the universe’s speed limit. This theory has been well-supported by experiments over the last century, and few doubt its veracity. Nonetheless, some have wondered if there is a way “around” this. Not by violating this speed limit, but by “warping” the fabric of space itself, bunching up or stretching space like a knit quilt. This, of course, is the “warp drive” of Star Trek and so much other science fiction.

There were essentially no serious proposals in the world of theoretical physics for such a means of FTL propulsion, until 1994 when Miguel Alcubierre proposed a method that comported with General Relativity. The problem was that it required negative energy. A lot of it. So an interesting theoretical exercise, but otherwise hopeless.

Just this year (2021), there has been two papers that have presented concepts for positive-energy warp travel. One is, in fact, still slower-than-light travel, but at least does not resort to a requirement for negative energy. The other, by Erik Lentz, provides FTL travel but:

“Currently, the amount of energy required for this new type of space propulsion drive is still immense. Lentz explains, “The energy required for this drive travelling at light speed encompassing a spacecraft of 100 meters in radius is on the order of hundreds of times of the mass of the planet Jupiter.”

I certainly don’t have a few hundred Jupiters lying around for such purposes, so this isn’t promising. To be fair, Lentz does go on to say “several energy-saving mechanisms have been proposed in earlier research that can potentially lower the energy required by nearly 60 orders of magnitude.” But at this juncture ALL of the above proposals are so theoretical, we really need something beyond these notional papers to get within the realm of credibility.

To conclude, a few theological takeaways:

1. We have in the recent UFO videos and testimony, compelling evidence of non-physical beings and their remarkable intrusions and activities in our world. And that, at minimum, this demonstrates the reality of supernatural phenomena, and thus a refutation of materialism (i.e. the belief that physical reality is all there is).
2. A strong caution that we should not seek to communicate with or put ourselves into any position to be deceived by these beings. Fundamentally, this isn’t a new problem: many cults and false religions in the history of the world have involved deception from evil spirits.
3. The good news is that many of our secular friends also find the recent UFO evidences to be compelling. As well they should. And there we have an excellent opportunity to witness to them about Christianity. That our worldview can fully account for such supernatural phenomena, especially when contrasted with atheistic/materialist alternatives.

Along with Ross’ book, please spend a few minutes to view the very up-to-date “Goy for Jesus” video here. An excellent overview of the recent phenomena and analysis from a Protestant, Christian perspective.

Two Creation Accounts?

It is a commonplace in historical-critical scholarship to assert that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 offer us two distinct (and usually, therefore, dependent on two different sources, J and E) creation accounts that contradict each other. The order of created things in Genesis 1 is light, firmament, separation of land and sea, plants, lights, fish, birds, land animals, humanity. In chapter 2, it is said, the order is very different: humanity, plants, land animals. Although this supposed discrepancy has been answered in the past by conservative scholars such as Keil and Delitzsch, the historical-critical scholars continue to cite this supposed discrepancy as if there were no answer to their claims.

It is my claim that there cannot be a discrepancy in the text, if it is read carefully, and without an assumption of contradiction. The exegesis of the text in Genesis 2 will show that the plants supposedly created after humanity are not all plants, but only cultivated plants. It is a relatively simple point. There are two reasons given in 2:5b for why the plants of 2:5a are not yet in existence. There was no rain, and there was no man to plow the ground. Now, the lack of rain could be reasonably used as a reason for why all plants were not yet in existence. The lack of a plowman, however, cannot be used as a reason for why all plants were not yet in existence. Wild plants thrive without any help from humans whatsoever. The plants of 2:5a, therefore, cannot be all plants. There has to be a more limited reference. If there is no plowman yet, then the plants of 2:5a have to be cultivated plants, farm plants, plants that need the human touch in order to thrive. So much for the plant issue.

The other issue of order has to do with the relative creation of humanity and the land animals. 2:19 seems to suggest that Adam was already in existence when God formed the land animals and brought them to Adam to see what he would call each creature. There is no need to interpret the text this way. Even though the word “formed” is a vayyiqtol (normal on-line narrative, normally denoting sequential action), the statement of forming could just as easily be a summation of days five and six as a statement of sequential order. The emphasis in the context is far more on the bringing and naming than on the forming. Furthermore, the forming of the creatures from the earth is an implicit contrast with the forming of the woman from the rib of the man. The text is saying that all the animals have the wrong origin to be Adam’s helper. Only someone who comes from his flesh and bone (2:23) will be the right helper.

Remembering Steve Hays

Posted by David Gadbois

The prolific Christian apologist and blogger Steve Hays died earlier this month. While most people probably knew him from his usual beat at Triablogue, he had a presence in the combox of this blog in earlier years, and often took the fight against unbelief to the “streets” of Facebook.

I always assumed I would meet Steve Hays in person, at some point. And sadly, I was wrong. Though he had been generous with his time in corresponding with me, as was the case with many other saints he corresponded with, he remained a faceless, online friend until the end. I literally did not even know what he looked like, although I imagine he must have seen pictures of me and my family on my Facebook profile. In any case, it was easy to recognize the intellectual firepower he had on deck, all guns blazing in defense of the Gospel. Tirelessly, ceaselessly. And for many years I had tried to take advantage and pick his brain on the tough subjects I was wrestling with, although there was no shortage of chat about lighter issues that we mutually found compelling.

He was certainly a strange duck. While he had a rare intellect, he never parlayed this into either a flashy or lucrative career. He was never a keynote speaker at whatever Reformed conference du jour. No public, oral debates. No Youtube clips of him lecturing. Apparently he wasn’t interested in any academic credentials beyond his M.A. He was never a professor. He was never even an elder or deacon at a church, at least the last time I asked him about it. And very little of his work was ever published in academic journals or dead-tree books, although he self-published e-books for free distribution. Non-stop blogging on Triablogue was his primary outlet, with a healthy smattering of Facebook debates on the side. And this was all semi-anonymous, he never used a picture of himself in his avatars. His posts were just marked with “Posted by steve”. Lower case “s”!

I can’t remember exactly when I started following Steve at Triablogue. From 1997-2002 I was earning my engineering degree, and providence led me to the Reformed faith, by means of multiple and sometimes unexpected channels, during these college years. Besides Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, I’d have to credit John Frame’s “Doctrine of the Knowledge of God” as one of the pivotal books that set my course from that point forward. Whenever I found Steve’s writings, it must have been a few years later, I realized I had found a kindred spirit whose theological and apologetic orientation dovetailed with my trajectory. As Steve was something of a Frame protege, he served as a helpful bridge out of the surreal Toon Town of pop-presuppositionalism and introduced me to thinkers like Greg Welty, James Anderson, and Paul Manata. There are many other fellow-travelers that I could mention that Steve introduced me to (or, for some, re-introduced me to), from many different fields and orientations: the whole staff of T-Blog, Jonathan McLatchie, the McGrews, Vern Poythress, Michael Kruger, C. John Collins, Richard Hess, and on and on.

As an engineer I really connected with the way Steve thought and wrote. The way he organized his thoughts and broke things down in a bullet point-like format. Exhaustive, yet clear and orderly. And this certainly influenced and improved my own writing. Again, I think we have John Frame to thank for this feature in his writings. His manner, at least in the printed word, was often rather curt, or abrupt. Again, as an engineer I sort of appreciated this, although it no doubt rubbed many others the wrong way. Part of this is that he didn’t believe in wasting time with verbal kid gloves for those whom he saw as culpable proponents of destructive falsehoods. There would be no quarter for those targets, rhetorically speaking.

Steve was like a nuclear reactor, pumping out daily content that was amazing, both in its quality and quantity. In contrast I felt more like the Drinking Bird toy that Homer Simpson employed, that nearly melted down the nuclear power plant. Comparatively, I’m just a “weekend warrior” apologist, but his tireless effort encouraged me to always stay in the fray, in whatever capacity I could.

He was wildly eclectic, in practice, in defending the Christian faith. While he was at his core, still some species of presuppositionalist, one would almost never know it from the diversity of approaches and tactics he employed. He borrowed freely from thinkers of any and all backgrounds; if it was a good argument, he wanted it in his arsenal.

His areas of apologetic interest were also also immensely diverse (he once mentioned that this was why he didn’t care to advance into a more specialized, advanced degree). Of course he covered the usual topics one would expect: defending the reliability of the Bible, the historicity of the resurrection, the deity of Christ, Calvinist soteriology, predestination, dealt with both proofs and objections to the existence of God (including many valuable points on the Problem of Evil), evolution/Intelligent Design, along with no small amount of ink tackling Roman Catholicism and various cults. My guess would be that atheism and Roman Catholicism were his biggest targets, if one were to go by cumulative word-count over the years. But he also addressed topics that were off the well-beaten path: modern miracles, philosophy of time, and paranormal phenomena. He was also interested in current events and the culture wars. And he always stayed abreast of the latest biblical commentaries.

To my knowledge Steve never married. As his parents both died before him, I dearly hope he had some extended family and church brethren to give him comfort and company in his final days. Apparently his fire never dimmed until the very end, I see that his final post was June 3rd, 2020, only 3 days before his death (a critique of various Roman Catholic apologists, it happens). I suppose for selfish reasons, I sure wish he had sought treatment for his maladies. Of course I was not privy to the trade-offs and probable outcomes of such treatment, so one can’t judge about those hard decisions. While it is hard to say that anyone who lives to 60 has been robbed of a full life, in our modern era it is still on the young side to die at this age. Sad, especially since he retained all his faculties and mental acuity, as evidenced in his final writings.

He never told me, nor most others, of his terminally failing health. I suspect there was, perhaps, an impish impulse on his part to just “ghost” all of us, in the urban dictionary sense. That is, to disappear without warning or salutation, so as to go unnoticed. I don’t think he wanted the sentimental attention, no matter how sincere and understandable. No, as long as he could still pound out a blog post on a keyboard, he was going to load up the big guns and send out a final volley or two. Like the gigantic, WW2-era battleships firing their 16″ cannons one last time on their way to mothball. It is quite clear that he wanted to make the most of the precious few, final days at his disposal. And my best guess is that he saw grief and pity from others, no matter how understandable and legitimate, as an inordinate tax on this quickly-diminishing share of time. That’s my best guess, anyway, knowing him in the limited capacity that I did.

I could say much more, especially concerning our e-mail correspondence. He provided personal encouragement and guidance at important junctures. Very recently, we talked about our mutual love of the use of boys choirs in sacred music. A few months back we had an interesting exchange on the recent UFO phenomena with Jason Engwer. His last direct e-mail to me was on April 19th, although he jumped into some Facebook conversations over the subsequent month. I’m actually not sure why he was so open and seemingly eager to correspond with me. I could only take, and had little to give in return to someone like him. I think he was more than a little curious about the aerospace biz…but other than that I can’t say.

Lord, this is a tough one. By your mercy, dress us all in the White Robes of Jesus Christ, that we will all be re-united one day in glory. Amen.

A Jeremiad

The America I knew and loved growing up is almost completely gone. The name, at least, remains. Some call it progress. I call it destruction. The people in charge are those who yell and scream, not those who debate with reason and analysis. The political world consists of those who have become so practiced in screaming that I wonder they have any vocal cords left. All political orthodoxy is assumed, not proven, not debated. It is shouted. The power of the shout, and the accompanying shatter of glass, is the only power that means anything today.

This same hatred has poured forth into the Christian world, the theological world, even the “academic” world. Freedom of opinion is not allowed any more. Only certain voices can be heard, because they shout the loudest.

For what then can we weep? Must we not weep for the wrath of God that is coming even through these glass-shattering shouts? Must we not weep for the silenced voices (which are not the voices the world thinks are silenced)? Must we not weep that we will shortly be joining our martyr brothers and sisters in other parts of the world as of a piece with the persecuted church? Must we not weep for the veil Satan has drawn over so many people’s eyes so they cannot see the spiritual warfare?

What hope have we? We have the hope God gives us. God gives us hope that silenced voices are only silent on earth. They are not silent to God. Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground, though his voice on earth was silent. We have the hope of resurrection. Like Abel, Jesus’ blood also cried out, but in a far higher key, to God for our forgiveness. It thunders in heaven. And because of that thundering, God raised Him from the dead. We have the hope that God’s shout of wrath is not the only loud voice He has, though even there, that voice is far louder than the world’s voice. His voice of many waters thunders forth judgment on the enemies of God, but also grace for God’s people.

It is right to weep for the loss of peace and tranquility for the Christian, though not right to cling to the idol of comfort. It is right to weep for the lost, who seem to be growing more and more blind. It is right to weep for the saved, who must now find a backbone where little was required before.

On the other hand, it is right to rejoice in trials of various kinds, counting them pure joy. The church will be a lot smaller five or ten years from now. All the fair-weather friends of Christianity will be gone. The fear of man will have scared them spineless (not that they ever had a spine!). The only people left will constitute a much more pure church. And a much more pure church can have a much more positive effect on the world. All of this is happening to purify the church. Remember that world history exists for the sake of church history, not the other way around. God is heading up all things in Christ the Head. His providence is still at work, even when around us all we seem to see is evil. Evil will not have the last word. God will.

Changing One’s Mind

Bart Ehrman wrote a thoughtful piece recently on how and why some people change their minds and others do not. I would like to interact with this and hopefully show some alternatives that he appears not to have considered. Firstly, I will trace the flow of his argument, and then afterwards interact with it.

Ehrman starts out by relating his own story. He was a fresh-faced evangelical at age 20. Looking back on his then career path from a vastly more wise and mature vantage point, he now describes his previous mindset as “extremely weird.” Don’t miss the statement, “and to outsiders looks more than a little bizarre.” The desire for respect from the world plays a large part in his post. More on that later.

Ehrman describes two events in recent history that made him think of his earlier history. First, his conversation/debate with Peter Williams (an inerrantist), and a FB post from a former friend lambasting him for being an enemy of the truth. One presumes that Ehrman is trying to be funny with the crack about basketball. One would also presume that Ehrman does not seriously believe that his former friend is lambasting him because of basketball.

These two events prompted Ehrman to think about the question: why is it that some people change their minds about what they were taught when they were young, whereas other people hold on to their beliefs tenaciously? He puts himself firmly in the former category, and regrets the animosity he feels from his former friends. Again, the issue of respect from people comes into play.

The next few paragraphs are where the judgment starts to show. He finds it incredible that scholars should hold on to the views they held before (presumably meaning conservative views). If they do hold on to those views, the only reason they do is that they never did deepen their understanding of the issues and nuance their opinions.

On being accused of being an enemy of the truth, Ehrman believes his entire career has been one of seeking the truth, while those whose views remain what they were have not been seeking after the truth. The “nutshell” paragraph then follows:

I’ll try to put it in the most direct terms here: how is it at all plausible, or humanly possible, that someone can question, explore, look into, consider the beliefs they were taught as a young child (in the home, in church, in … whatever context) and after 40 years of thinking about it decide that everything they were taught is absolutely right? The views *they* were taught, out of the sixty trillion possible views out there, are absolutely right? The problem with these particular views (of evangelical Christianity) is that if they are indeed right, everyone else in the known universe is wrong and going to be tormented forever because of it.

Then follows a qualification: “I know most Christians don’t think this: I’m just talking about this particular type of Christian. And they don’t seem to see how strange it is that they are right because they agree with what they were taught as young children.”

He ends his reflections with what he believes is a sort of reductio ad absurdam: “I realize these are very old questions. When we were evangelicals we puzzled over the question of how God could punish people for eternity for not “accepting Christ” when they had never even heard of him. Unfortunately, we concluded that we weren’t sure how he would do that, but we were pretty sure he would. Most of the human race, of course, thinks the very idea is ludicrous.” Again the respect of people, for the third time.

Thus the flow of the post. Now for the interaction. The first thing I would say in response is that Ehrman seems to me to be committing one large fallacy of the poisoned well argument: “Your views are wrong because of where they came from (namely, parents).” If one’s main worldview issues arose out of what they were taught as youngsters, then they can’t possibly be correct, if Ehrman is right. But if Ehrman is right, then our parents were also wrong when they told us, “Don’t cross the street without looking both ways;” “Don’t go with strangers;” “Be polite and say ‘thank you’ and ‘please'”; and many other things we learned when we were young. Were many of those things simplistic in order to line up with our need for simple and sometimes simplistic understandings? Of course. However, the point I wish to make here is simple: just because our parents said it doesn’t make it wrong, any more than interaction with scholarship makes a particular viewpoint correct. After all, aren’t older, seasoned scholars our “intellectual” parents of sorts? Why should we reject or believe anything simply on the basis of what some scholar says? Ehrman doesn’t do this. He rejects lots of viewpoints that scholars propound.

Secondly, what if he teaches his views to his children in the future. What is to prevent them from saying the same thing about what they were taught by Ehrman later in life? Thus, Ehrman lops off the branch on which he himself is sitting. One suspects that the real problem here is that Ehrman found out that the people of the world do not approve of what he learned in childhood. Therefore he is seeking to distance himself as much as possible from it in order to be respectable. Yet, what about the reverse possibility? I know of many scholars who grew up in households completely antithetical to Christianity, atheistic households, in fact. Yet God’s grace changed them, and they became Christians and became devoted to furthering the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ehrman doesn’t address this possibility, probably because there isn’t any way he can account for it on his paradigm. The distinct impression given by Ehrman’s post is that the only way anyone could possibly believe those benighted conservative viewpoints is if they have their head in the sand, with regard to scholarship. Since he has admitted to not wanting to run in those conservative circles anymore, he can be forgiven for getting the wrong end of the stick entirely on this one. Since he doesn’t run in those circles, he doesn’t know or acknowledge the many conservative biblical scholars that go out of their way to read viewpoints that differ from their own (and not just for the purposes of debate!). The seminary professors I know and love, and have learned so much from, ALWAYS assign liberal scholars to read alongside the conservative ones. In actuality, it is the liberal scholars who move in confined circles. They almost never quote or read conservatives. No doubt they will respond that this is because there are so few conservative scholars. This would be a good example of the fallacy of ad populum. Truth is not achieved by counting noses, something Ehrman doesn’t seem to have learned yet. Let God be true, though every man be a liar.

Thirdly, he seems to leave out or discount the possibility that a conservative scholar could have grown up believing what his parents told him, grown up to achieve greater nuance and clarity regarding those views, deliberately test them by comparing them to as many worldviews out there as possible, and still believe that the basic points of worldview he grew up with are correct. In fact, I know many such scholars. If you read any of his commenters, they tend to be even less generous than Ehrman on this point. They commit the poisoned well argument with a vengeance!

Lastly, I will argue that the real reason conservative evangelical scholars hold on their viewpoints is that they believe it is what the Bible teaches. Ehrman disagrees, and thinks he has pre-empted this argument by stating that it was really just what we were taught when we were young. I answered this in the “secondly” paragraph above. Ehrman clearly buys into the postmodern viewpoint that the multiplicity of viewpoints negates the truth of any conservative viewpoint. He says, “The views *they* were taught, out of the sixty trillion possible views out there, are absolutely right?” In ascribing arrogance to conservatives for holding on to viewpoints they were taught, he is engaging in arrogance himself, since he clearly believes that his pluralistic viewpoint is THE correct approach to the multiplicity of views. What gives him the right to say that? And what gives him the right to say that the only viewpoint that is automatically wrong, out of the 60 trillion viewpoints out there, is the conservative one, simply because he doesn’t like where he learned it from, and thinks that people are naive for believing what their parents tell them? Does he not know that most Muslims learn their Islam from their parents? Would he dare to say the same about Muslim beliefs, simply because the vast majority of Muslims believe what they were told by their parents? Muslims (especially those in the Middle East!) are every bit as exclusivistic as conservative Christians when it comes to believing in only one worldview. Somehow, I don’t think he would say that Muslims are wrong simply because it is what they grew up with, probably because he fears what other people in the world think about him, and he wouldn’t want to offend Muslims. I think Muslims are wrong in what they think, but not because it is what they grew up with and were taught. It is because the life they attempt to build on top of their beliefs does not match their beliefs. But to prove that would go far afield from this post.

As to his last point, very few people I know believe that God will punish people for rejecting Christ if they have not heard of Jesus Christ. However, not having heard of Jesus Christ is hardly an excuse that gets one out of condemnation. No one has an excuse, according to Paul in Romans 1. The invisible attributes of God have been clearly seen in creation. If people do not give glory to God, then it is for that they will be judged. Ehrman might possibly object and say, “But you can’t believe in a God who would send anyone to Hell just because they were unlucky enough not to have heard about Jesus Christ.” This objection presumes that God owes everyone a chance at salvation. God owes nothing to anyone on earth. This fact should not, of course, make us complacent about sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected for the salvation of sinners. Our love of neighbors should impel us to tell them about Jesus precisely so that they won’t be condemned, but be saved. Nevertheless, God owes nothing to any created being.

New Book on Paul’s Speech at Mars Hill

My friend Flavien Pardigon’s book is now finally in print! I helped edit the thesis form of this book (which was done for a WTS Ph.D.: Flavien and I overlapped at WTS). A more careful study of Paul’s speech at Mars Hill you will not find. Highly recommended!

Knowledge of God Impossible to Eradicate

Stephen Charnock says it well:

The fears and anxieties in the consciences of men have given men sufficient occasion to root it (the knowledge of God, LK) out, had it been possible for them to do it. If the notion of the existence of God had been possible to have been dashed out of the minds of men, they would have done it rather than have suffered so many troubles in their souls upon the commission of sin; since they did not want wickedness and wit in so many corrupt ages to have attempted it and prospered in it, had it been possible…It seems to be so perpetually fixed, that the devil did not think fit to tempt man to the denial of the existence of a deity, but persuaded him to believe, he might ascend to that dignity, and become a god himself…He (Satan, LK) wanted not malice to raze out all the notions of God, but power; he knew it was impossible to effect it, and therefore in vain to attempt it…The impressions of a deity were so strong as not to be struck out by the malice and power of hell. (Works of Stephen Charnock, volume 1, pp. 136-7).

Well, That’s Your Interpretation…

Used to crush any attempt at the utmost hubris of audacity that someone might actually understand a text from the Bible, the real intent of this excuse is usually to evade the plain meaning of the text. I am reminded of a story that my father used to tell of Francis Schaeffer. He was having tea with a young man who kept on saying, “I do not think we are communicating.” Finally, Schaeffer, in some irritation, blasted out, “POUR ME SOME TEA!!” The young man, somewhat shell-shocked, said, “Okay, okay.” Thereupon Schaeffer said, “I think we are communicating.”

There is another, deeper problem with this excuse, however. In implying that the text of Scripture never has only one interpretation, the postmodern is actually imposing his own monolithic multi-valency on the text. To put it another way, is not the postmodern imposing just as much of a uniformity of interpretation on the text (by saying that every text is a wax nose) as the person who claims that there is only one correct interpretation? Furthermore, is not the postmodern claiming that there is only one correct interpretation of any biblical text (“the only correct interpretation of the biblical text is that there are always an almost infinite number of equally valid interpretations”) just as much as the person who does not claim multi-valency?

Fortunately, even most postmoderns have a bit more common sense than this, and do not try to argue for an infinite range of possible interpretations for every text. Even the postmodern does not usually try to interpret “You shall not murder” to mean “You shall murder.”

I have no wish to deny that there are difficult texts in Scripture that admit of more than one possible interpretation that fits the analogy of faith. The “spirits in prison” passage in 1 Peter 3 comes to mind. However, that is still a far cry from saying that all interpretations of the biblical text are equally valid. While there may be more than one possibility for interpreting 1 Peter 3, there is still only one correct interpretation, even if we may not be as certain as we would like which interpretation is the correct one.

Male and Female Souls?

Posted by Paige (Yes, I’m still around sometimes!)

Here is a set of crowdsourcing theological research questions for my scholarly minded brethren:

Are you familiar with the teaching that men and women have gendered souls? That is, the idea that the differences between us (and perhaps the roles we are to play) are so essential that they are located originally in our souls as well as in our biology?

Can anyone give me the historical pedigree of this idea? What religions or sects have emphasized this teaching since ancient times? (Googling it brought up kabbalist and New Age spiritism, but I’d like to go deeper than blog posts if anyone knows of a decent resource.)

How have Christians historically interacted with this teaching? How does it comport with generally orthodox Christian teaching on the imago Dei, gender, and gender roles? What Christian thinkers, if any, have engaged or taught this idea?

Finally, how do you personally react to the idea that men and women have distinctly gendered souls as well as bodies? Do you think this is compatible with an orthodox anthropology? Would you teach this to your congregation? What would be your biblical supports?

I have encountered this idea in Christian teaching only recently, so I am not familiar with how it fits into the historical context of biblical and Reformed thought. I’m presently doubtful that it does, and I wanted to see if I could locate the idea in the history of theology and other religions in order to understand it better. 

Thanks abundantly in advance for your thoughts and any resources you can point me toward.

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