Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No Answer Here Either (Sigh)

Another issue raised by the gotquestions.org site asks, "What is amillennialism?" Preterism is generally regarded as amillemenial, though I think the term is a bit misleading, for it implies something entirely missing. Rather, preterism regards Christ as ruling now, and since 70 AD, so that the "millennium" is now taking place. Thankfully, gotquestions.org does at least acknowledge this.

So how do they answer this view? As before, it's not much to impress. We are told, "In order for God to keep His promises to Israel and His covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:8-16, 23:5; Psalm 89:3-4), there must be a literal, physical kingdom on this earth. " From there we are issued as series of dire warnings about doubting God, etc. but we're not given any sort of exegesis for those passages, which raises red flags right away.

Checking them out, the first passage is a promise to David that his own kingdom will be perpetual, but nothing in the passage says anything about the ruling throne having to be "on earth." It says the throne of David will be established forever, but if we take that as "on earth" then there's no way to see that throne established anywhere during the Babylonian exile, or in the first centuries BC-AD, or during the period after Jerusalem's destruction.


The second passage - er, verse -- speaks of an everlasting covenant with David, but there's no "on earth" in there either, and the same problems attend as above

Last -- well, it's bad enough to use the Psalms for literalist doctrine; but it's the same as above, nothing new, and no "literal, physical kingdom on earth." Maybe gotquestions.org has found another Dead Sea Scroll that says otherwise.


From there, though, we are given a series of passages said to prove a literal, earthly kingdom, but even if we grant the literality of each, none is mutually exclusive of the preterist/amillenial view. For example:

Christ's feet will actually touch the Mount of Olives prior to the establishment of His kingdom (Zechariah 14:4, 9) -- yes, and what? If we do take this literally -- and I have my doubts of that, but have not looked into it in depth yet -- why does this indicate a "literal, physical kingdom on earth"? What? Jesus can't get off the throne in heaven and split the Mount, then go back to the throne in heaven when he's done? Sorry -- there's nothing to this by gotquestions.org but assuming what needs to be proven.

During the kingdom, the Messiah will execute justice and judgment on the earth (Jeremiah 23:5-8). Er, no -- once again, there's no mention of "on the earth" in the sense that this is where the kingdom administration will be located, much less for a millennial period. Again, it assumes what it needs to prove.

The kingdom is described as being under heaven (Daniel 7:13-14, 27). Really? Not in the first passage, sorry -- "under" isn't there, though the Son of Man is enthroned in heaven. The second does say that sovereignty over all kingdoms under heaven is given to the saints, but that also does not say where the admin center is. (Here's a tip: as a preterist, I think Christ rules earth from heaven, even now.)

The prophets foretold of dramatic earthly changes during the kingdom (Acts 3:21; Isaiah 35:1-2, 11:6-9, 29:18, 65:20-22; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Amos 9:11-15). Yes, I'm sure. And (granting for the sake of argument that these all apply) Jesus is just as much able to effect those changes from a throne in heaven as one on earth -- regardless of what millennial view one holds.

The chronological order of events in Revelation indicates the existence of an earthly kingdom prior to the conclusion of world history (Revelation 20). It does? Well, sorry, but a vague reference to one whole chapter doesn't do the job. But I find nothing in that chapter to say that Jesus will have his royal seat on terra firma.

Quite frankly, gotquestions.org's treatment of these matters leaves much to be desired. They close with the same vague charges of inconsistent hermenuetics (but just as undemonstrated as last entry), forced reinterpretations, and warnings of too-subjective exegesis, all of which is said to be avoided in favor of a "normal" exegesis. But as I noted Monday, I think the real problem is that the dispensationalists aren't as educated as they need to be -- and honestly, this treatment does little to persuade me otherwise.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ain't Got Answers to This One

One thing I have become accustomed to as a preterist is having folks misunderstand what I believe as a preterist. I've been mistaken for being a heretical "full" preterist; I've been told I don't believe Jesus will return, and so on. There's a bit of that going on, too, in an article at the apologetics website gotquestions.org (which ordinarily I think is pretty sound, if not complete at times) in an article titled, "Question: Is partial preterism biblical? What do partial preterists believe?"

The answer starts with an accurate description in the first paragraph, but then immediately goes downhill:

However, the partial preterist view does not have good biblical support. Those who hold this view do not interpret these Scripture passages/books in a normal sense, but rather interpret them allegorically. Scripture should be read in a normal sense, taking into account the historical setting, the grammar, and the context of the Scripture in order to determine the meaning that the Lord intended.

Um, hold on a second.

Actually, no: My preterist views do take into account historical setting, grammar, and context. What's actually happening here is a problem I have run into with many errant believers, and not just with preterism: The problem is that their set of "contexts" isn't as informed or as extensive as mine. In short, calling their interpretive views "normal" is like a 98 lb weakling calling himself "average" and then calling a 200 lb weightlifter a freak.

But in terms of showing preterist interpretation wrong, the site doesn't do what I'd call a bang-up job. Only two passages are discussed, from Daniel 9 and Matthew 24. It starts by saying that preterists "would say that Daniel 9:26-27 refers to Christ rather than to the antichrist/beast who will appear in Revelation," which poses a problem for me only inasmuch as I "would not" say that -- I'd say the Roman Empreror Vespasian filled that bill; Jesus would be my second choice, but only in the sense that he is using Rome's armies to judge Israel. I imagine some preterists may think Jesus is the guy in 9:26-7, but I don't, so there's not a whole lot I can say in reply.

However, the site offers the sort of contrivance that can only come from dispensational reckonings:

Verse 26 also says, "The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary." This speaks of the Roman Empire destroying Jerusalem and the temple, which occurred in A.D. 70. It should be noted that the prince was yet to come; only the people of the prince were the ones who destroyed Jerusalem. This also tells us that the antichrist/beast will come from a future revived Roman Empire.

Er -- it does? How? Since they have just said it was fulfilled in 70, why should we think it has anything to do with a "future revived Roman Empire"? This begs the question of double fulfillment -- and therefore admits that this verse by itself doesn't support the dispensational paradigm. Verse 27 is likewise plotted for future use, and again, preterists are dismissed for making the beast into Jesus. Sorry -- I don't follow that one. (For what I do follow, see link below.)

The example from Matthew 24 doesn't hit home any closer. It is said, "in order for the events of
Matthew 24:15-30 to have already occurred, Christ would have returned bodily in A.D. 70." Really? Why? Unfortunately, why this is the case is not explained, much less is any serious preterist exegesis (like mine -- see second link below) interacted with. This, actually, is a classic example of a dispensationlist missing a context that I don't. Particularly, the strong use of imagery in language, and the dramatic orientation, of Biblical peoples. The key textbook for this is Caird's Language and Imagery of the Bible -- but these guys haven't read it yet; what they prefer is what they call a "normal reading of the text."

No, sorry --inadequately informed does not equal "normal". The article also mentions that preterists take "this generation" to mean those living at the time of Jesus, but doesn't explain why that is not correct, rather only presenting the dispensational view.

The charge in close: "The partial preterist viewpoint is unbiblical due to its inconsistent hermeneutics, subjective interpretation, and allegorization of many biblical prophecies that are best understood literally." Well, sadly, of those three charges, they didn't bother to try to prove #1 above, and #2 and #3 are really two ways of saying the same thing -- and while an attempt was made to validate that charge, it was based on a lack of knowledge of an important context. So in the end, when it says, "partial preterism is an attempt to explain difficult prophecies in Scripture, it causes far more problem than it solves," I can believe it -- in the same way it can be said that when you have a flat tire, you'll always think removing the engine block "causes far more problems than it solves."


Daniel

Olivet



Friday, June 24, 2011

Agape in Action

The current crisis concerning government debt and programs like Medicare raises another "WWJD" question that has occurred to me of late. What indeed would Jesus do (or say) about government social programs like these?

The answer is pretty simple, and its reflects poorly on our job as the church, stretching back quite some time.

The model given in Acts is that of a church where property was held in common -- not in the sense of a commune, but in the sense that one's resources were always considered to be at the disposal of all other members, such that if a need arose, the property and resources one owned were readily surrendered to provide for that need.

Paul compared this further to the way manna was distributed among the Israelites -- no one had too little, no one had too much. Jesus also referred to those to much would be given -- and from much was expected. The principle is clearly one of common sacrifice for the greater good of the ingroup -- the very essence and definition of agape love.

The answer to the WWJD question then is that if Jesus had had his way, we would never have needed any of those social programs in the first place. It it sometimes said that the government stepped in because the church failed to do its job. That's an accurate sentiment: Medicare, Social Security, food stamps, and all else are symbols of the failure of the ekklesia to do its job.

So, for example, if a church member was seriously ill, and unable to afford care, a collection would be taken to help this person with their medical bills. Now this sort of thing does indeed happen at times, and to that extent, we're following the intended model. But the process wasn't meant to apply only to single fellowships. Instead, the resource sharing would be coordinated at a higher level -- perhaps on what we would organize on a county of even statewide basis.

I'm not politically involved enough to speak to solutions to these problems as they now stand. I tend to assume that we'd be expected to have set up a rival system to such programs as Social Security; the rub is that the government certainly won't be canceling those programs, and most voters won't be inclined to either. Starting a rival system would mean "double dip" into resources to a certain extent, and may not be economically practicable, and it may be that our failure is so great that it is now too late to go back and accept our responsibilities, at least here in the West.

One thing I can say for sure: This is a hole we've been digging for ourselves quite a while -- and no easy solution will be had now that we're at the bottom of a pit, tossing shovels of dirt up and over the edge.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jogging on the Prayer Wheel?

There are many things I would change about public perceptions of Christianity, and this may initiate a series on the subject. For the moment what occurred to me is the damaging perception that is held concerning the use of prayer.

On the one hand, so many critics assume that it is a good argument to ask why prayer does not immediately heal all diseases, prevent all accidents, ensure all successes, and grant all requests. We have replied that such expectations are not at all warranted by a contextual understanding of texts on prayer. (Link below.)

On the other hand, we have teachers and leaders urging testimonials about fulfilled prayer; we have (or had – I haven’t been watching this stuff!) Pat Robertson praying on the air and claiming some healing is instantly occurring as he prays; we have prayer being offered as the immediate action-solution when nothing else can be done.

In light of that, in one sense, one can hardly blame the critics for making such a big deal about prayer not being fulfilled: So many of our leading representatives act as though it is, that it is not surprising outsiders ask why God won’t stop an earthquake, or heal a cancer patient.

Making matters worse, we have representatives who boast of prayer being answered over trivial matters – such as success in finding lost car keys. I am not denying that God is quite capable of locating lost car keys, but chances are, we found the keys on our own because we searched thoroughly. I say this because the saying of a prayer is not sufficient evidence to establish a chain of cause and effect. It’s like the prophecy of Joseph Smith that South Carolina would instigate the Civil War – politicians of his day already knew that, so why give Smith credit for prophetic insight? But it remains: How can we unwind the dissonance of a God of Car Keys who won’t cure cancer?

There are standard contrivances for this, such as “it wasn’t God’s will to cure that cancer” which don’t help much; they only remove the dissonance a level further. And I’ll add as well that we have leaders who play this game with Satan, too, blaming him for every misfortune. My pet example of this is Joyce Meyer suggesting that Satan likes to ruin the good time you have at family barbeques. I don’t know – if I were a dispensationalist, and I thought Satan was still loose, even if he had millions of demons at his disposal to help, I would think they’d have better things to do than ruin a barbeque – like causing the death of a productive Christian leader, for example. Or an apologist.

Hmm. Maybe God hid my car keys because he knew Satan was trying to kill me in an accident.

This sort of theology is all over; some might even think of that Frank Peretti set of novels. I recall one scene from that where a group of demons was sending a vagrant to harass a woman in a car, having already ensured that her engine would not start. The lone angel, who was being beaten up by the demons, whispered in the woman’s heart to release the parking brake, so that she’d roll downhill and escape. I don’t recall that Peretti took his stories all that seriously, but apparently, many do.

But again – who can blame critics for pointing out that this God finds car keys but won’t cure cancer? The “it’s God’s will” response wears far too thin; even as a fan of counterfactual histories, I find it hard to imagine a way that it would be a better world without so many uncured cancers and so fewer lost car keys.

If I had my druthers, these teachers would change their tune to reflect a more contextualized understanding of prayer, and would also frame unanswered prayer within the paradigm of patronage and grace: As in Mark 6:5-6 (second link), the appeals of the ingrate are seldom if ever answered. Each of us who sins (am I missing anyone?) is an ingrate towards God on that account, and if anything, answered prayers should be reckoned an above and beyond grace we didn’t deserve. Finally, though it afflicts some for whom emotion is so strong that no rational appeal can penetrate it, I would point out that it is an ingratitude to ask God to come in and fix problems we caused ourselves – especially when we have already been given the intelligence, the tools, and the resources to prevent or fix them.

It won’t make for a high-sales of prayer, but it certainly will eliminate the dissonance.

I have some outpatient surgery Monday, with an indeterminate recovery time, so the Ticker will return sometime next week, perhaps Wednesday but more likely Friday.

On prayer

Mark 6

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WWJD with 4 Wheels?

A few years ago someone composed an exercise in conscience-pricking with the question, "What would Jesus drive?" Some mocked the question as foolish to ask; others commended the query as worthy of consideration, thinking it reflected a proper priority of a disciple to be a good steward.

In some ways it's probably both. The question comes to me now and then as the owner of a Prius hybrid who finds less distress in recent price hikes for fuel than most. A part of me is somewhat pleased to suppose that those who purchased sports utility vehicles for the sake of pretense are paying the price of doing so. If the law of supply and demand holds, after all, SUV drivers are part of why gasoline has price spikes. (Of course, there are many other factors as well.)

Would Jesus drive a hybrid? A Cadillac? An SUV? The answer is not as simple as many from either side of the question supposed. To begin, Jesus (or anyone in his time) would have conceived of oil and gasoline as a "limited good". It might not hurt for us to do so too; the perception that gasoline is always there for the taking no doubt makes some use far more than they reasonably should. After hurricanes a few years back, we in Florida got a taste of gasoline as a "limited good" -- and it certainly made me more cautious. (And that says something, since I was pretty cautious already.)

So some might be tempted to assume at once, based on limited good, that Jesus would drive a Prius, or something far more fuel efficient. Maybe -- if he was alone, or only had 2 people with him. On the other hand, if he took the Twelve with him, he might just drive that SUV -- assuming the math works out with the number of people it carries working out to a savings over having a smaller vehicle and more trips. I'll let the automotive engineers out there argue over that one.

I think the answer is more complex than that, though. I think Jesus wouldn't have even supported dependency on a resource like oil. I think he would have gone for use of cleaner, renewable fuel options like solar. Why? Well, there's another agonistic social factor behind that: Reciprocity. The idea of being in debt to some other nation for such an essential resource, he would have seen as giving them undue control over us. (You thought I was going to say it was because of the environmental impact? That may have been a factor, too -- but the inherent reciprocity of our current system would have been viewed as far more insidious.)


In sum -- "what would Jesus drive" isn't a question you can answer based on a preconceived modern political preference, nor rooted in any sort of modern social agenda. I think if you asked Jesus what he'd drive, he'd have done a little time travel and done his best to convince Henry Ford to redesign that combustion engine.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 2011 E-Block

I put this one out late last week…

The Musicians' Gambit, Part 1 -- A look at Christian music and the theology it presents. Quite honestly, I don’t like much music that has words in it, but when it comes to Christian music, I’m appalled by the lack of substance in most of it. This first article looks at one of the more popular groups, Mercy Me, and you could fit the amount of quality theology I found there into a thimble.

Ghosts of End Times Future, Part 2 – More on the heresy of full preterism. This time I look at a mixed bag of claims, concerning the nature of “death” at the Fall, the nature of the resurrection body, and other issues related to resurrection.

The Slave Chains, Part 4 -- The fourth and last (for now) of a series on pro- and anti-slavery literature of America. This one’s on a fellow named Thornton Stringfellow who was alleged to have been “THE” premier advocate of slavery being justifiable according to the Bible. However, his whole spiel amounts to hundreds of pages of, “it was done in the Bible, so why can’t we do it”?

Is God the Ultimate Warrior? -- a critique of Susan Niditch's claims about the “war ban” as "human sacrifice". I’ve always thought this claim was an odd one, little more than a bigoted effort to connect OT accounts with stuff like Aztec sacrifices. Here, I argue that the “ban” is better understood in terms of honor.

Is Thom a Moral Misfit? Part 2 -- Second in series on Thom Stark's critique of Paul Copan. The subjects this time are “crude laws” and the human sacrifice; while for “misogyny” I just link to Glenn Miller’s stuff...it's not like Stark does any sort of detailed work on any of these subjects.

Subscribe.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Unity of Philippians

This post supplements a video released today on TektonTV addressing ReligionFreeDeist’s own video arguing that the letter to the Philippians is a composite product. We should note that while I was in the process of making my response, RFD placed his channel on “private” mode, so that his material is no longer accessible at large, including his original video.

Summary of Arguments for Division

RFD’s video argued two major reasons for a split in the letter: Paul’s abrupt change in tone at Phil. 3:2, and the perception that the dealings with Epaphroditus (2:25-30, 4:18) were out of chronological order. Not surprisingly, this thesis is not a new one; Hawthorne [xxix] finds suggestions for partitioning Philippians as early as the 17th century, and both of these arguments have been suggested as reasons for the partitioning. Some have even suggested that the letter should be divided into three parts, the third being the latter part of our Ch. 4. These days the scholarly tendency is to recognize it as a single letter. [Reed, 130]

Other arguments not made by RFD include an appeal to Polycarp, who says Paul wrote “letters” (plural) to the Philippians, though of course this may refer to otherwise unknown letters not saved and later canonized. (Why this happened is beyond our scope here; suffice to say that I follow Trobisch in thinking Paul himself initially selected from his own letters for a collection to survive as an anthology.)

Other lesser arguments have been made which are based on perceptions of compositional oddity, but none has the stark power of the appeal to 3:2.


Secondary Arguments Against Division

Even without the answer we give below, there are several reasons to doubt that Philippians is a composite product [W27f].

Textual evidence is lacking. All copies of Philippians represent it as a unity. Of course, this does not mean a thesis of partition is impossible, but as William Walker observes in his work on Pauline interpolations, one must provide sufficiently strong argumentation for any sort of conjectural emendation, and RFD’s two points alone are not sufficient. Additionally, sudden shifts like the one in 3:2 can be detected in other Pauline letters,

Links between the two sections. 3:20-1 “recalls, develops, and applies” the material in 2:6-11, while 4:10-20 alludes to 1:4-5 and 2:25. There is also “special vocabulary” linking the two sections, and certain themes like “being of one mind.”

Motive: There is frankly little sensible motive for two letters to have been spliced together in such a way. Reed and Hawthrone both point out that if a redactor thought these seams looked good together, then it is just as sensible to think Paul would as well.

The Place of Rhetoric

The key to answering RFD’s claims is understanding that Philippians, like all of Paul’s letters, uses certain conventions of Greco-Roman rhetoric. There are number of excellent sources on this subject, but a good starting point is a chapter on Paul as a rhetor in Ben Witherington’s The Paul Quest.

Generally, the elements of Philippians in terms of rhetorical format are as follows, according to Witherington [18]:

Prescript 1:1-2

Exordium 1:3-11

Narratio 1:12-26

Propositio: 1:27-30

Probatio: 2:1-4:3 –the “meat” of the rhetoric, where arguments are presented. As noted in the video, Paul provides both positive examples for the Philippians to emulate, and negative examples for them to avoid emulating (or, just plain avoid!). Some authorities class the “negative” parts of the probatio as being a subsection which is called a reprehensio. This, again, is why the first mention of Epaphroditus is where it is. While this may confuse modern readers like RFD, it is appropriate within the conventions of Greco-Roman rhetoric.

Peroratio 4:4-20 – a sort of recap in which emotional and heartfelt appeals are made to inspire the audience. The appeals can be positive or negative, though typically, as here, the rhetor closes with a positive example, and that is why the second mention of Epaphroditus is here: Paul’s thankfulness at receiving the gift from the Philippians Is the sort of thing that would ideally end the letter on a positive, heartfelt note.

Closing 4:21-3

Authorities may differ slightly on the beginnings and ends of these sections. Reed [165] offers a chart of various views in which the probatio is seen to vary from 2:1-3:21, 1:18b-4:7, 2:1-4:3, and 1:27-3:21, for example. However, all of the analyses cited agree that the critical verses in 2:25-30 and 3:2 are part of the probatio, and most place 4:18 in the peroration, though one places it in what is called a narratio – which would still serve our purpose sufficiently.

Due caution is also noted inasmuch as no one argues that Paul had before him a book on rhetoric and made a “checklist” of each part, being sure to include it. Rather, rhetoric would have been something he learned and incorporated into his practice; thus the likeliest reason for scholars’ inability to reach unanimous consent on the “edges” of each section is that it reflects Paul’s comfort and proficiency with the practice; or else, these conventions were part of what Reed calls a “culturally-shared means of argumentation” which was formalized by rhetors [444]. Rhetoric should be used primarily descriptively, as something that illuminates Paul’s compositional procedure, and Philippians might be best described as a personal letter in which Paul makes informal use of certain conventions of rhetoric.

An additional point closely related to the change in tone in 3:2 is the seeming “conclusive” nature of 3:1, though RFD does not make much of this apart from a somewhat sarcastic comment directed towards Paul. In this regard, Reed [229f] provides a helpful analysis of 3:1 as an example of a “hesitation formula,” a type of epistolary transitional tool. We need say no more of that since it was not raised as an issue; suffice to say that perceptions by modern critics of a problem are anachronistic.

Conclusion

The bottom line: RFD’s arguments for division in Philippians – which are not “news” in any sense – are rooted in an evaluation of the text in terms of modern perceptions and conventions.


Sources

Ben Witherington, Friendship and Finances in Philippi

Gerald Hawthorne, Philippians

Jeffrey Reed, A Discourse Analysis of Philippians. It should be noted that Reed has some dispute with identification of Philippians in rhetorical terms on a macro level. However, he does not offer any dispute of it on a “micro” level, on the level with which we are here concerned, and offers his own thesis based on discourse analysis in which he concludes that the weight of the evidence points to Philippians as a single letter.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lance Lambert, the Lame Prophet

This may seem like shooting an ant with a bazooka, but that’s the sort of thing I do all the time. A reader asked us to have a look at the predictions of a self-proclaimed “prophet” named Lance Lambert, and it’s fairly tragic. Lambert’s site describes him as “one of the most distinguished Bible scholars and speakers in Israel today” and I suppose that may be right, if Israel has only one Bible scholar in it. Lambert claims to have been through the “school of African and Oriental studies at London University” but it was apparently for missions work; there’s no sign his education has prepared him to be a capable exegete, much less a “distinguished Bible scholar.”

In any event, it is not for exegesis that we address Lambert today; it is for a set of six reputed prophecies he has issued over the past two decades. Naturally the point is to ask if he’s anything that could be called a prophet and whether he passes the Deuteronomic test. Let’s look at those messages one at a time.

April 1986: This one’s the longest of the set and also the most specific – which doesn’t say much. There’s a prediction of “unparalleled upheaval and turmoil” as well as of “signs in sun and moon and stars,” “monetary collapses,” “natural disasters,” “old and new plague diseases,” and so on. All of this is too vague to be of much use; what does one mean by “unparalleled”? Of new types? Larger scope? It’s also not clear whether Lambert thinks any of this has been fulfilled or not.

However, when he does get specific enough, that’s where the problems start. After a few lines of exhortation, we get to this:

Do not fear the power of the Kremlin, nor the power of the Islamic Revolution, for I plan to break both of them through Israel. I will bring down their pride and their arrogance, and shatter them because they have blasphemed My Name.

Hmm, well – that’s one for two down, anyway, but I guess someone hasn’t heard – Israel didn’t break the Kremlin. I suppose Lambert had a standard dispensational twist on Ezekiel 38-9 in mind there, but that scenario was pretty much DOA some time ago. Unless of course, he means the current “Kremlin” under Putin now. Which we’re sure he meant back in 1986, too.

Several more paragraphs of exhortation follow, and there’s nothing in it that could be called a prediction save a pledge that Israel would be converted to Christianity. Still waiting, I guess.

November 1992: Long, but not quite as long as the last one. There’s vague warnings of “political, economic, religious and physical upheavals,” of the coming antichrist (sorry – no points for copying the Bible there, even if you’re a dispensationalist), of whom it is said, “his hour has come.” The most specific portion: “One super power I have cast down, and another I am about to judge.” And that’s only half prediction. But for some reason, no correction to the prior prophecy saying that “superpower” would be taken down by Israel.

Other than that – more exhortation, and more, and more warnings. It’s maybe one sentence of testable prediction mixed with several paragraphs of exhortation. Sure doesn’t give us much to judge with.

November 1998: God’s mad now: There’s yet more vague predictions of natural and economic disaster and then piles more exhortation. You have to ask: What would constitute fulfillment of these vague predictions? Even a mild recession could be grasped as an economic judgment, as vague as these prophecies are.

August 2006: The vague predictions continue; there’s a profession that converts will be culled from the old Marxist and current Islamic nations, with the latter’s power being broke. We can be fair -- that one may not be done yet.

April 2010: God’s mad again, and there’s more vague troubles ahead, the same ones as before, plus now even climate problems – kind of a late start on that one, though, since climate trouble has been in the news for decades. Also a prediction that “old and powerful nations will become as if they are third world countries, super powers will no longer be super powers but countries such as India and China will arise to take their place.” It seems to me that’s been predicted by economic forecasters for a while now. Maybe God read their books.

April 2011: Big message: Israel will convert, lots of them. More than last time this was predicted, I hope. Current unrest in the Arab world is said to be “an enormous gain for militant Islam,” though we are assured Israel will still be the winner. And watch out, once again, the last superpower is about to be judged. And God means it this time.

So what’s it all boil down to? Lambert’s prophecies are 93% exhortation/warning, 2% reuse of dispensational themes, 3% too vague to be of much use, and 2% “fresh” – with about half of that having already failed. If it seems silly to belabor such an insignificant mite as Lambert, consider that Harold Camping has done much the same thing, and all the damage he’s caused. Perhaps the only difference between the two in practical terms is that Lambert didn’t come up with as good of a publicity machine. That that is the major difference between the two is fairly disturbing.

I have some USDA work this week, so the Ticker will return Friday.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Book Snap: David Lamb's "God Behaving Badly"

I don’t give praise to too many books, but this one decidedly deserved it. It reads like essays written by Glenn Miller or myself on those (yawn) OT atrocity stories, except simpler: More in that sense like one of my YouTube videos, trying to bring the complex issues down to a level the average person will understand.

Lamb is a professor of OT, but he writes with a flair and familiarity consistent with an apologist who is also a good communicator. Popular culture references – you got ‘em. (Who would expect a book on OT issues like these to allude to sitcoms like The Simpsons? I would –it’s the sort of thing I’ve been saying we need to do!) A good number of the favorite objections are covered, though some are not (for example, the story of Jephthah’s daughter isn’t covered).

The only reservations I have may or may not have to do with that aspect of the book. Though Lamb frequently cites cultural norms of the OT period as relevant, I would have liked to have seen more background on things like ritual purity, and honor and shame, and how they related to these issues. And perhaps it would have been nice to have seen some treatment of some of the more absurd arguments made by certain atheist quarters (e.g., one opponent of mine asked why God didn’t just turn Amalekite weapons into bananas – as if that would have stopped anything!). But I may be too demanding there; Lamb takes on the New Atheists, and even the Infidel Guy at one point. And when it gets down to it, there’s no answer necessary when the only argument the atheists offer amounts to complaining (but not explaining) how unfair God is.

I’ll be adding this one with Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster as an excellent starter book for readers interested in these issues.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fitzgerald Nailed

I don't indeed have time for a substantial post today, but do have time to note another review of David Fitzgerald's horrible Christ-myth manifesto, Nailed. This one is by Tim O'Neill, a Skeptic with little patience for bad scholarship (especially Christ mythers). Enjoy.