Mailvox: two varying perspectives

PL has noticed the same sort of things that I have in his own encounters with omniderigistes:

Your post “Piper and the Schizo God” was of particular interest to me. I live in the Twin Cities and attend Greg Boyd church of Woodland Hills and have several friends who attend John Piper’s church of Bethlehem Baptist. There are three attacks Piper and his disciples routinely offer against open theism and they are:

1. It undermines the unity of the church
2. It goes against a 2,000 year old tradition
3. How are we supposed to trust a God who doesn’t know the future?

All of them silly and quite easily dismissed. 1. Unity is not the ultimate goal of the church, of course, unity is a good thing, but not if we must compromise scripture to get it. It is self-evidently not something we want to believe. 2. Really? It amazes me whenever protestants of any sort say this and fail to see the irony. I am a protestant also, so I can’t throw it in their faces like a roman catholic could. But I still politely ask them what their opinion was of a recalcitrant monk who nailed 95 theses to a church door, demanding reform from 1500 years of tradition, and suddenly, hey, they wish to change the topic. 3. It isn’t enough for there to be an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving being who deeply cares about you and died on the cross to save your sins. You need an omniderigent God who determines your future, robs you of your personhood, and your rights as a human being made in God’s image.

The evasiveness of the omniderigiste is typified in your analysis of John Piper’s changing the definition of the 1 Sam 15 text, from “regret” to “sorrow”. Just like a poker player who starts nervously darting his eyes back and forth, playing semantic games is a tell that you are on the losing side of the argument and must literally rewrite the dictionary in order to win. The exegetical gymnastics required to shift all of the relevant verses in the Bible to an omniderigent view would require you to bend your body to the breaking point many times over. That is why red herrings, ad hominem attacks, and appeals to emotion are often the attacking points of omniderigistes against open theists and not scripture. They know they can not answer the myriad of scriptural verses that open theists offer and must resort to other methods.

If you ever find a Calvinist who honestly engages others in honest dialogue and deals with the facts and issues at hand, I would very much like to know who it is and talk to him or at least read his stuff. Because so far, my hope to find an honest omniderigiste has been as about as well-placed as my hope that I will ever see a Super Bowl ring on the finger of a Minnesota Viking.

PL obviously has more personal contact with omniderigistes than I do, so I will defer to his statements about what the most commonly presented arguments are. I would also encourage him to read Markku’s PUOSU on the subject. My response to the three points he mentioned are:

1. Good. When half the nominal Christian denominations in the West are embracing female pastors and gay marriages, unity and ecumenicism should be avoided at all costs.
2. Irrelevant. Wrong is wrong. It doesn’t matter when the error is recognized.
3. Presumably the same way we trust people who don’t know the future. Is a Creator who doesn’t know the future any less worthy of worship than one who does? It’s still His Game, His Rules, regardless of whether He knows the outcome and/or every last twist and turn of the game or not.

Coming at it from the other side, Mudineri demonstrates that even those sympathetic to omniderigent theology can’t manage to keep track of all the twists, turns, and contortions required in defending it:

All that your posturing and bragging about you super duper intellect makes you, is well: a poser and a braggart. It would be interesting to see you call God a liar to His face. Don’t worry though, you will get a chance at some point to do just that. Being a potter myself, Romans 9:20 immediately springs to my mind when I read the all too familiar Arminian/Open Theist objections to God’s sovereignty.

“You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? “

Their logic is impeccable, and yet…. Do you not recognize yourself in the mirror?

Not in the slightest. First, as an advocate, and possibly even the coiner of the phrase “God’s Game, God’s Rules”, I am hardly one to deny the right of the potter to shape the clay however he pleases. And as one who is not shy about calling the intellectual dishonesty of others to account, I am not about to start engaging in false modesty of any kind. My intellectual superiority is neither a pose nor something worth bragging about, it is simply a statistical fact that should be taken into account in much the same way that it is wise to take Kevin Garnett’s height into account when deciding upon a drive to the basket. As soon as people stop attempting to make ridiculous claims that I do not understand perfectly obvious things that anyone with an IQ of 100 or more can understand, I will be delighted to stop reminding them that I am significantly more intelligent than they are.

(A brief tangent by way of example. The annoying thing about my appearance on Peter Schiff’s radio show was the way he kept repeating his basic Econ 101 argument. “They’re printing money, therefore inflation”. Yes, I understand the concept of supply and demand and how it should apply here. However there are some complicating factors as well as some observed anomalies that need to be taken into account-” “But they’re printing money, therefore inflation! Don’t you get it?”)

Now, why would I call God a liar to His face? I’m not the one claiming that God did not say in the Bible what is quite clearly written in the Bible. I’m not the one who holds to absolutely strict Biblical non-errancy or believes that any contradiction found within it therefore means that God is untrustworthy. It is apparent that Mudineri hasn’t been able to follow all the twists, turns, and contortions on offer from the resident “Calvinists”.

Anyhow, in keeping with PL’s observations, here is my completely unfair perspective how I see the way conversations with omniderigents tend to go:

Omniderigent: God knows everything, plans everything, controls everything, and does everything. You have no free will and evil as such does not exist.

Open Theist: I can see evil all around us in the world. You seriously believe it is God’s Will every time 10,000 civilians are massacred, a woman is gang-raped, or a pastor is axe-murdered in the pulpit?

Omniderigiste: Yes, it’s all good because it is in accordance with God’s Will, which is sovereign, and by sovereign, I mean micromanaging down to the atomic level. No matter how awful things might appear to be, from original sin to the Holocaust, it is all a part of God’s Perfect Plan.

Open Theist: How can you possibly say that when there are numerous incidents described in the Bible that were not planned by God, that were not desired by God, and that never even entered His mind?

Omniderigiste: Well, here’s a few verses about potters and clay and stuff that say otherwise.

Open Theist: All right, so one verse says X and this other one says Not-X. They can’t both be true, (or so we are informed by Logic Midget), so perhaps one of them is not being interpreted properly. And, if we look more closely at both of them, we can see that your interpretation is only one of several possible ones, in fact, it’s not even the most reasonable one.

Omniderigiste: Well, what if we do that to your verse instead?

Open Theist: There are a lot more of them. And they don’t lend themselves as readily to alternative interpretations. The verse you cited is the obvious outlier.

Omniderigiste: You’re calling God a liar and dishonoring Christ!

Open Theist: No, “outlier”, not liar. I’m merely pointing out that the Bible quite clearly says two contradictory things if we insist on interpreting the outlying verse your way.

Omniderigiste: You’re still calling Him a liar, because the Bible is His Word and it is completely without error. So, it can’t possibly contradict itself.

Open Theist: But, that’s not the relevant… okay, fine, let’s try it this way. Which of the many Bibles out there would you say is totally without error?

Omniderigiste: The only Bible. And by “Bible”, I mean “a complete figment of my imagination”.

Open Theist: Okay, so you’re quite clearly crazy. Is there anyone else on your side who might happen to have an answer that is within shouting distance of sanity?

Omniderigiste 2: There’s no contradiction at all. We simply read Not-X as X.

Open Theist: You read it that way?

Omniderigiste 2: Yes, of course, otherwise we couldn’t believe anything in the Bible at all.

Open Theist: Wait, what? One trivial mistake means you have to throw the whole thing out?

Omniderigiste 2: Naturally. God doesn’t make typos. How could He, when He dictated it all to Himself?

Open Theist: He dictated it to Himself? Why would you say that?

Omniderigiste 2: Because God has 37 different Wills. The Executive Will dictated everything to the Secretarial Will, which then transmitted it through the mechanism of the prophet-puppets. Every jot and tittle!

Open Theist: So… God is schizophrenic?

Omniderigiste 2: You’re anthropomorphizing. We prefer to say “multi=willed”. Or 37-willed, to be precise.

Omniderigiste 3: Also, God is a penguin.

Open Theist: A penguin?

Omniderigiste 3: Yes.

Open Theist: God is a schizophrenic micromanaging penguin with 37 personalities? That’s certifiable.

Omniderigiste 3: Ha! I’d like to see you deny God’s penguinhood when you face him beak-to-beak!

Okay, I admit I may have made up the bit about the penguin. But it’s about as rational and relevant as the other “arguments” presented.

Another denomination bites the dust

And the Presbyterian Church joins the growing collection of denominations dead by theological suicide:

With a vote in Minneapolis, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is expected to pass a measure on Tuesday afternoon allowing openly gay people in same-sex relationships to be ordained as ministers, elders and deacons.

Although Presbyterians have been debating the issue since 1978, the news will most likely come as a surprise to many church members. Only two years ago, a majority of the church’s regions, known as presbyterys, voted against ordaining openly gay candidates.

This time, 19 of the church’s 173 presbyterys so far have switched their votes from no to yes. The Twin Cities presbytery, which covers the Minneapolis and St. Paul region, is expected to cast the deciding vote at its meeting on Tuesday.

The Rev. Heidi Vardeman, senior minister of Macalester Plymouth United Church, in St. Paul, said in an interview, “Finally, the denomination has seen the error of its ways and it will repent, which means, literally, to turn around.”

The “Reverend” Heidi clearly has her directions confused. What the Presbyterian Church has to repent from, and from which it must literally turn around, is its present course, which is headed for extinction. The report mentions that 100 congregations have already left, and more will likely leave soon. It is a dying denomination that is already down to only 2 million members; this action means that they’ll likely fall below one million within a decade.

As I have often stated, female pastors are the first sign of a church dancing with the theological death spiral. It is safe to conclude that gay pastors are the final one, an indication that the spiral will soon be complete. And yes, I am aware of my old church’s position on the matter: “We affirm that ministerial authority is based upon a person’s character, calling and giftedness, not his or her gender.”

The Wall Street Journal scrubs the True Finns

Karl Denninger catches the WSJ doing a little ex post facto editing of the letter written by True Finn leader Timo Soini on the corrupt nature of the European banking bailouts:

Why I Won’t Support More Bailouts

When I had the honor of leading the True Finn Party to electoral victory in April, we made a solemn promise to oppose the so-called bailouts of euro-zone member states. These bailouts are patently bad for Europe, bad for Finland and bad for the countries that have been forced to accept them. Europe is suffering from the economic gangrene of insolvency—both public and private. And unless we amputate that which cannot be saved, we risk poisoning the whole body.

The official wisdom is that Greece, Ireland and Portugal have been hit by a liquidity crisis, so they needed a momentary infusion of capital, after which everything would return to normal. But this official version is a lie, one that takes the ordinary people of Europe for idiots. They deserve better from politics and their leaders.

To understand the real nature and purpose of the bailouts, we first have to understand who really benefits from them. Let’s follow the money.

At the risk of being accused of populism, we’ll begin with the obvious: It is not the little guy that benefits. He is being milked and lied to in order to keep the insolvent system running. He is paid less and taxed more to provide the money needed to keep this Ponzi scheme going. Meanwhile, a kind of deadly symbiosis has developed between politicians and banks: Our political leaders borrow ever more money to pay off the banks, which return the favor by lending ever-more money back to our governments, keeping the scheme afloat.

In a true market economy, bad choices get penalized. Not here. When the inevitable failure of overindebted euro-zone countries came to light, a secret pact was made. Instead of accepting losses on unsound investments—which would have led to the probable collapse and national bailout of some banks—it was decided to transfer the losses to taxpayers via loans, guarantees and opaque constructs such as the European Financial Stability Fund, Ireland’s NAMA and a lineup of special-purpose vehicles that make Enron look simple. Some politicians understood this; others just panicked and did as they were told.

The money did not go to help indebted economies. It flowed through the European Central Bank and recipient states to the coffers of big banks and investment funds.

The text that the Journal removed is marked in bold. Read the whole thing at the Market Ticker. And a thought occurs to me. Since the election of Mr. Soetoro has demonstrated that absolutely no documentation is required of an American presidential candidate, why not nominate Mr. Soini for the presidency? He’s a damn sight better than anyone else the Republicans are likely to choose, he isn’t too old, and as the leader of a popular, electorally successful party, he can’t possibly be called unelectable.

Anyhow, it’s a good example of how the Whore Street Journal should not be trusted any more than the New York Times or the National Enquirer.

Mailvox: When x is merely x

One of the things that often amuses me about genuinely knowledgeable experts is the way they walk around dragging their well-credentialed hammers behind them, desperately searching for an opportunity to show off their ability to hit nails, regardless of whether the nail needs hitting, or, as happens to be the case here, even exists in the first place.

The Staggering Height of the Logic Midget wrote:

Let X be a logical statement; that is, X is a statement considered to be either true or false, but not both.

Assume X is true. By basic rules of logic, not-X is false. Is a truth table needed?

It could be that you are not requiring X to be a logical statement. But no, because you use standard logic notation such as X and Not-X, X must be a logical statement as I described above.

It could be that you are thinking of a more complicated scenario in which logic quantifiers are involved. For example, if there exists a divine statement that’s true, that doesn’t prove that every divine statement is true.

But regardless, no matter how complicated the statement X is, if X is true, then not-X is false. If X is false, then not-X is true.

It could be that you’re thinking of the common mistake of a person claiming that (A implies B) proves (not-A implies not-B).

But regardless, no matter the form of statement X, if X is true, then not-X is false.

What Logic Midget failed to recognize is that not all discussions of logical conclusions involve formal philosophical logic notation. His increasingly deranged argument with Markku was more than a little amusing; it’s as if an economist overheard a woman say that a certain individual was a GDP, then leaped in and started telling her that she obviously didn’t know anything about trade balances and deflators, little realizing that the acronym simply stood for a divinely doomed bastard. This isn’t merely a failure of an assumption, it’s a failure of basic contextual comprehension.

Logic Midget was referring to a statement that I made in summarizing the example of divine promises cited earlier in the comment thread.

“My position is one of volipotence, which means that God can lie or not lie as it suits Him… But I’ve noticed that very few people who discuss theology are capable of grasping implications… It’s as if they can’t see the negative space that always surrounds the positive assertion. X does not absolutely require Not-X, but it does tend to suggest its existence.”

What I was referring to here was the existence of divine promises in the context of the question of God’s perfect truthfulness. The point I made was that the fact God has explicitly assured that specific statements he has made are true tends to imply that other statements he has made will are not. If we like, we can put it this way: X = divine statement guaranteed to be true and Not X = divine statement not guaranteed to be true. Insofar as the formal logic applies in that way, Logic Midget is correct. But only trivially so, because we’re obviously not talking about a single divine statement here, we’re talking about a comparison between different divine statements, in fact, we’re actually talking about the set of all divine statements and two distinct subsets within it.

(I should note that I was not using X in any formal sense here. X simply served as a variable representing any word with a specific meaning that is limited in a manner that carries intrinsic implications. For example, “afternoon” implies the existence of both “noon” and “before noon” just as saying “what I tell you now is true” implies “what I told you then may not be true”. In this case, when X = afternoon and Not-X = before noon, then obviously X and Not-X both simultaneously exist, the rules of formal logical notation notwithstanding, given that afternoon is not before noon.)

In his myopic focus on the tree of formal logic, Logic Midget has completely failed to notice the forest of the actual subject at hand. Because it is not the logical distinction between the truth or falsehood of a single divine statement that is relevant here, but rather the semantic implication of statements that are promises and statements that are not promises. The two points I was making were as follows:

1. There are implications behind the use of certain specific terms. If God’s promises are guaranteed to be true, then His non-promises are not necessarily guaranteed to be true. Insofar as God makes statements that are not promises, there is an implication that those statements are not guaranteed to be true, as well as a further implication that God makes statements that are not true.

2. On the other hand, the implication that these statements are not guaranteed to be true does not make them untrue, it merely allows for the possibility that they may not be true.

Logic Midget really should have known better, but he was too eager to strike an educated pose. And since I am his logical superior despite knowing far less about formal notation, it’s not hard for me to find his two logical errors, both at the beginning and right here: “It could be that you are not requiring X to be a logical statement. But no, because you use standard logic notation such as X and Not-X, X must be a logical statement as I described above.”

His first error was his assumption that X “is a statement considered to be either true or false, but not both”. He compounded this with his second error in which he stated that “Not-X” is standard logic notation. It is not, as he should have noted that I did not use (¬P), (~P), or even (-P). In fact, if I had been making use of formal logic notation, I wouldn’t have used any of them anyhow, but rather (P –> Q). Sometimes X is just a variable. Note that Logic Midget didn’t bother to ask what X represented, nor did he even comprehend which part of the statement was the logically relevant one here.

So, once more, we see the wisdom inherent in asking a few preliminary questions rather than making assumptions and thereby leaping to incorrect conclusions. But there are few people so predictably prone to making asses of themselves as well-educated individuals eager to exhibit their hard-won educations.