Saturday, January 26, 2013

Just a thought, and I've said it before

From a comment I posted elsewhere:

I don't actually know what faith is. It is not simple intellectual assent--i.e., belief. The bible speaks of some who believe but are lost. Nor is it "blind." Hebrews 11 has the faith hall of fame, and lists people who did not need blind faith for they saw and spoke to god. Abraham's faith was hardly blind, with the execption that he had faith that God's promise of redemption would be fulfilled in his future. If blind faith was the ultimate virtue, Gideon (who demanded physical proof) would stand condemned--instead he shows up in Hebrews 11 as a faith hero. Faith (πίστις), I think, is closer to trust than to believe. As Grudem puts it, which works for me, it's coming to God and saying: "I got nothing."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sorry, I've reverted back to atheism

I mean, gimme a break,  I came across this proof:
Premise 1: That which is imaginary is not real. 
Premise 2: If something is not real, it does not actually exist. 
Premise 3: If the god of Christianity is imaginary, then it is not real and therefore does not actually exist. 
Premise 4: The god of Christianity is imaginary. 
Conclusion: Therefore, the god of Christianity is not real and therefore does not actually exist.
Who can argue against such logic?

Seriously, though, I do share with the writer an utter disdain for the theonomy of Greg Bahnsen.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The rarefied air of A+

Some of the advancements in social justice promised by the Athiesm Plus (A+) paradigm-shifting age-of-enlightement are finally coming to fruition. Hooray!

As you might expect, great strides forward would come from the founder of the movement, Jen McCreight.1 Demonstrating her commitment to social justice, Jen has a post entitled I get email?!?!?! in which she reprints an email from a clearly non-native English speaker.

What do Jen's commentators, a group passionately dedicated to social justice and all things fair, unprivileged, and rational do? Why of course they make fun of the writer, adopting and mocking his/her nascent English mannerisms in their comments.

Why, it's already a better, sunshiney day! Thanks Jen! Thanks PZ! Thanks Richard Carrier! We owe it all to you!

1 And here is her Magna Carta of A+.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Shadow To Light has collected some quotes from the great internet atheists of our era. I think my favs are those from Richard Carrier:
At the very least, Wood cannot argue against the fact that I am no less a philosopher than Aristotle or Hume. My knowledge, education, and qualifications certainly match theirs in every relevant respect. – Richard Carrier
*barf*. And then,
I call everyone now to pick sides (not in comments here, but publicly, via Facebook or other social media): are you with us, or with them; are you now a part of the Atheism+ movement, or are you going to stick with Atheism Less? Then at least we’ll know who to work with. And who to avoid….. Atheism+ is our movement. We will not consider you a part of it, we will not work with you, we will not befriend you. We will heretofore denounce you as the irrational or immoral scum you are (if such you are). If you reject these values, then you are no longer one of us. And we will now say so, publicly and repeatedly. You are hereby disowned. – Richard Carrier
(Bolface added, dph.)

The latter quiote is all about Richard Carrier making a call to arms--evangelizing for the Atheism Plus (A+) paradigm-shifting, world-changing, dynamo of a movement that is as big in its own collective mind as Mr. Carrier is in his (see his first quote.) The A+ folks are really, really important. And they tackle big problems. Issues that are to complex for little people. I mean, just look at their forum!

One of the busier threads is Social-justice-aware eating (nutritively. low-budget?). There one poster writes,
I have the unpleasant suspicion that the higher dollar cost of eating healthier is--not quite deliberate, maybe, but certainly something that the powers that be are aware of and don't object to on the grounds that poor people don't deserve to eat healthy. I definitely recall that Romney's 47% remark criticized people for thinking they're entitled to eat at all.
I thought I recalled Romney's ill-fated 47% remark, I don't recall that he was criticizing people for thinking they were entitled to eat at all. But--this is Atheism Plus so I am sure they are accurate.

Here is another illuminating post. Projection: just is a 4 letter word. The thread is created by someone named rickymoosnton. Xe writes:
We cannot see through eyes of another. This is the root of much ignorance, what i call the problem of "qualia".
So, if i say, "I am depressed", an immediate response might be, you are "just" depressed. That is a problem they have experienced and know how to solve.
Thing is of course, as we all know, this fails tragically. Some people's depression is out of the normal range and has a myriad Of causes. People have different degrees of depression and what works for me may not work for you.
Assuming it is "just" depression could lead to the loss of a life.
So next time you hear the word "just", remember its a 4 letter word.
This particular A+ thread-starter (rickymoosnton) wants you to know that xe is not guilty of "ableism" but still has some sins to atone for. So xir tagline reads:
I am straight but was bullied for being "gay" in middle school. I have ADHD-PI. Mostly i am priviliged but sometimes adhd has been a struggle. i am in the closet about it because employers will discriminate if they can.
You combine this kind of critical thinking, with the Hume/Aristotle ain't-got-nothing-on-me intellect of Richard Carrier--well all I can say is buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Dear Physics, I miss you

I like teaching math, but I really, really love teaching physics. It will be good to get back to it. I am teaching a independent study in nuclear engineering, which, at least at the start, contains a great deal of elementary nuclear physics. I am enjoying it.

It is fascinating how a deeper scientific understanding of the beauty of the universe pushes some to God and pushes other away.

Jerry's Atheist Moral Precepts

Jerry Coyne, on something that would make him gleeful:
I must confess, though, that I too chafe at the thought that the religious people will never learn they’re wrong. And I sometimes wish that the faithful could be resurrected for a few brief minutes after death—just so I could tell them, “I told you so!”
Atheists often slander Christians by saying that we enjoy the prospect of their facing eternal torment. Of corse nothing could be further from the truth, but many of those dearies just love to play the persecuted victim. Here we have Coyne wishing, unapologetically, that he'd like the dead to awake, just for a moment, so he can crow victoriously.

What a jackass.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Worst. Atheism. Apologetic. Ever.

I can hardly believe that one of intellectual atheism's brightest stars could make an argument so mind-numbingly stupid.

Here is John Loftus arguing that the size of the universe points to atheism. This wunderkind of atheistic apologetics actually writes this concerning the size of the universe:
I think it's even more damaging when it comes to an omnipotent God who supposedly created the universe for the specific purpose of gaining the affections of people on this lone planet of ours. If this is what he desired (for some irrational egotistical reason) he could have simply created us on a flat disk in a much smaller universe like the one the ancients believed existed.
The worst argument for anything is "if I were God, this is what I'd do." It's dumb when Christians use it--and fundamentalists tend to use it a lot. And it's dumb when atheists use it.

There are at least two arguments for the vastness of the universe.

1) God just felt like doing it. (Not satisfying, but it can't be ruled out by saying but I'd do it differently if I were God!)

2) God turned the evolution of the universe over very early to secondary causes (physics) and there is plausibly a connection: habitability → galaxies → constraint on the initial baryon density of the universe → large universe.

Intellectual atheism in the 21st century:

• If God made everything, who made God? (Dawkins)

• Religion poisons everything! (Hitchens)

• Science and religion are not compatible! (Coyne)

• I'm a genius and can use Bayes's Theorem to show Jesus didn't exist! (Carrier)

• Menz suck! Theists is dumb! (Myers)

• If I were god, I'd make a small universe, ergo no god! (Loftus)

Jerry Coyne is 100% Correct on Free Will

When the man gets it right, well, he gets it right. And this time he did.

He is correct that there is no way to rescue the common view of free will in a purely natural universe. Quantum determinacy won't help you. Chaos theory won't help you. Coyne (like Bill Provine) is refreshingly forthright here.

Suppose by free will we mean that from the a given initial state at time t0 we can steer the universe to one of two very different states at time t1 by making, freely, choice A or choice B. If that is free will then there is really only one way to explain it: by invoking the supernatural. (Or by invoking the atheistic equivalent, philosophical woo.)

We are not puppets in Calvinism. No sir. But we are puppet-slaves to differential equations in a universe without God.

A Time for Studying Ecclesiastes

I am beginning a study of one of the more interesting books in the bible: Ecclesiastes.
All Is Vanity
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
3 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever. (Ecc. 1:1-4)
Among the wisdom books, Ecclesiastes is unique. It ends up at a place, namely that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, that other books use as a starting point. Its famous introduction and pessimism—all is vanity, nothing new under the sun, and in general a viewpoint that is pretty close to "all we are is dust in the wind" is meant to show you what life is like to a secularist. By suggesting that nothing matters, the books ends up demonstrating, given a sovereign and holy god, that everything matters.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Now don't you wish...

that you could take this course!

Prague to Leipzig to Paris to Cambridge. Sweet.

The theme is the age-old calculus war: who invented calculus, Newton or Leibniz?

We start, however, in Prague with Kepler and his laws of planetary motion. Kepler's second law is that a planet sweeps out the same area in the same amount of time which means that... well let one of our CNU physics grads, Randall Munroe, demonstrate with one of his xkcd comics:

I still despise the Christian Coalition

A repost, because there is nothing new under the sun:
19 Go therefore and make patsies disciples of all politicians nationslobbying baptizing them in the name of the Christian Coalition Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit20coercing teaching them to enact legislation requiring all citizens, Christians or not to observe all that I have commanded you, (And some that I didn’t command, but you know I would have if I had thought about it. Use your judgment.). And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the Republic. age. (Epistle of Pat and Ralph Matthew 28:19-20 [DRAFT])
I really hate seeing crap like this.

Here is a novel idea for a "Christian Coalition" (whatever the hell that is):

Spread. The. Gospel.
Live. The. Gospel.

Christianity is not politics. Politics is not Christianity. The Great Commission is not the Great Culture War. The bible is silent on the Bush tax cuts. It is silent on health care legislation. When it is not silent: you do what it tells you to do, and you refrain from doing what it tells you not to do.

North and South

The internecine warfare in the atheist community is just too much of a guilty pleasure. The big atheist blogs used to subsist on a shared diet of calling us "dummies with three rows of buck teeth and poopy pants." (Yeah, these nitwits aren't your daddy's atheists.) They now spend the majority of their energy on a singular introspective topic: the role of women in the secularist movement. No doubt a reasonable topic, and productive too, providing it is approached and discussed in the same adult manner in which they discussed theism! Hah!

Happily, from the entertainment perspective, they (still) ain't behaving like rational grownups. Words are gone over with a microscope to uncover any male privilege, overt or latent, emergent or vestigial. New pronouns are invented. 1 Secular movement icons cum apostates like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are toppled like statues of disgraced former heads of state. Weird, sublogic arguments are made asserting dissension from feminist dogma makes one likely to be a racist, too. Oh, and by the way, dissension from feminist dogma doesn't mean being an anti-feminist, but merely dissenting from wholehearted agreement that everything decreed to be a serious problem stemming from male privilege does, in fact, have ramifications for the continuation of the free world if not the human species.

Consider the sad case of Dr. Michael Shermer, atheist, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, and columnist for Scientific American. A superb pedigree for the secular camp. So you would imagine. Except he was labeled a fatheist, an accommodationist (and a theologian!) by Hiz Coyneness, the lidless eyed cardinal Richelieu of the gnu atheist movement.

But that only got Shermer to about the third circle of atheist hell. But now, well now he has descended into the ninth and final circle, a place reserved for those who exhibit male privilege and make no atonement. Shermer describes his crime:
Here's what happened: last summer I appeared on an online television show called The Point, hosted by Huffington Post chief science correspondent Cara Santa Maria, who invited me and two other men (Sean Carroll and Edward Falzon) to discuss atheism. In a Q&A following the main discussion, a male viewer asked: “Why isn’t the gender split closer to fifty-fifty as it should be?”
Santa Maria responded first: “In putting together this panel I had a hell of a time finding a woman who would be willing to sit on the panel with me to discuss her atheism. Why is that?”
She then turned to me. I said: “I think it probably really is fifty-fifty. It’s who wants to stand up and talk about it, go on shows about it, go to conferences and speak about it, who’s intellectually active about it; you know, it’s more of a guy thing.
Ruh roh.

Shermer was attacked by Ophelia Benson, a leader of the gift-that-keeps-on-giving "atheism must be about feminism or it ain't really atheism" movement. She cited (Shermer would say quote-mined) his panel comments and wrote:
“The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do nontheism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because ‘that’s a guy thing.’”
and then the flying monkeys of Pharyngula were released to seek out and destroy the poor, hapless Michael Shermer.

It continues. Here is PZ criticizing what he calls Shermer's delicate ego. PZ educates Shermer on his (PZ's) street creds:
Similarly, he [Shermer] praises the great strides the movement has made in increasing diversity over the last decade, but doesn’t seem to be aware of how that happened. Let me tell you: it’s taken constant nagging from people like me, and Greta Christina, and Jen McCreight, and many others, to wake up the leaders of organizations and conferences from their complacency.
The Nobel Peace Prize must be just around the next bend. And perhaps PZ is upset because of something else Shermer wrote:
When these same self-described secular feminists went after Sam Harris for a commentary supporting racial profiling in the search for terrorists, again I didn’t speak out. When Harris wrote, “If my daughter one day reads in my obituary that her father ‘was persistently dogged by charges of racism and bigotry,’ unscrupulous people like P.Z. Myers will be to blame,” I thought to myself: “Don’t worry about it, Sam. Your work is for the ages. PZ Myers’s work is for the minutes—the half-life measure of blogs relative to books.”
My oh my, how can you not enjoy this?

1 Case in point: the forum dedicated to that rarefied form of gnostic atheism known as Atheism Plus (A+) has a thread with the unsurprising title "Is this 'scientific' article sexist?". In that thread, in banning yet another atheist apostate for daring to suggest that an outrage, any blessed outrage, is just possibly an overreaction, the nonscientist moderator writes concerning the heretic:
I'm not really interested in entertaining xir any longer. Dismissing the concerns other people have already pointed out with "I honestly see nothing to be upset about" is a giant asshole move (and, I should note, present within Arguments to Avoid as "I don't think X is a problem." "I don't see why you're so upset about X." "I don't think we should be talking about X because it isn't that big a deal." etc.), and in light of the fact that xe's already been on the receiving end of two other temp bans for asshattery, I'm not optimistic that xe's here to do anything but piss people off. Sooo, yeah. Xe's not here anymore and won't be coming back.
Well alllllrighty then.

Monday, January 14, 2013

For what it's worth

The rate of growth of religion: unaffiliated is decreasing.

I don't know what to make of that. In my opinion the church is healthier than ever. At the university and at my church I run into younger versions of myself all the time: committed Christians who did not grow up in Christian homes. (And they often are Calvinists!)

I have never been concerned about an overall drop in numbers. First of all I didn't see it. Even more importantly, nobody has (or perhaps even can) estimate what percentage of those leaving the church were merely cultural Christians who identified as Christian because of family, peer, or societal pressure. Now that the stigma of being an unbeliever is diminished, they are leaving the church--and that is a good thing. It's a win-win. In this model the atheist movement, such as it is, is not deconverting Christians, it's freeing people to be honest about their lack of belief.

How accurate or important is that mechanism? Nobody knows.

Friday, January 11, 2013

PZ Myers, dishonest twit

The (most recent) evidence, as if you needed more: Here PZ has published post entitled Algebra is political indoctrination. He writes, in his first two sentences:
Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up. But there’s actually a video clip of the Fox News dolts sitting around expressing dismay at 6th graders learning about algebra.
Followed by:
Wait. These clowns don’t understand the distributive property in elementary arithmetic, and they confuse it with some kind of Communist plot? I think we’re done here. Where’s the hook? Can someone just yank these idjits off the stage?
So in spite of writing "Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up" PZ, just, um, makes stuff up.

This from the same clown who embarrassed himself mathematically and scientifically (again) in a previous post by shouting "fraud". (He backed of a bit, after so many pointed out the stupidity of his analysis.)

In the algebra post PZ is clearly painting a picture that the bumpkins are warring against the mathematical distributive property. Of course they are doing no such thing. They are upset, rightly or wrongly but irrelevant to the fiction he is creating, about an example used to illustrate the property--an example of distributing wealth. Their complaint has nothing to do with the mathematics, but with the illustration chosen. A few commentators on his post point this out--and they are, naturally, ignored by the horde of jackasses who blindly accept whatever PZ has to say.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Two meanings for Justify

The Greek word dikaioō, translated into English, has two primary meanings:
  1. To be reckoned as righteous
  2. To demonstrate righteousness
These are very different. The first use is to be declared righteous. To be considered righteous. It is not dependent upon the the recipient of the reckoning actually being righteous. It has to do with the legal authority of the person making the declaration. It is a status change, not a character do-over.

The second has to do with someone's actions. It has to do with walking the walk. It is a demonstration of something within.

In the bible, the first is about God and man, and the second is mostly about man and man.

In the first case, God justifies man, declaring him to be righteous. Nothing changes about the man--God has simply agreed to treat the man as if he were righteous. The man receives a status update. God justifies the wicked (Rom. 4:5.) They are still wicked.

In the second case a man acts in what is perceived as a righteous manner, and justifies his righteousness (he may be a fraud) to his fellow man. He does not justify anything to God--God knows whether the man is righteous or not.

Abraham is the best example of the distinction between these two definitions. Abraham "crosses paths" with justification at two different times of his life and different passages in scripture. In Genesis 15, Abraham believes in God's promise of a multitude of descendants and his is justified in the first sense: God reckons him as righteous (Gen 15:6). Paul refers to this in Romans chapter 4. Years later, Abraham offers up his son Isaac. Of this event, James writes: Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? (James 2:21).

In the first event, God justified Abraham. In the second Abraham was justified in our eyes--not in God's. God had already justified Abraham. But Abraham demonstrates righteous behavior to us. We recognize him by his fruit. This form of justification is fallible--but it is what it is.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Here Eyeball This! (Kindle Edition)

My, publisher has finally made my um, not so best selling novel Here Eyeball This! available ($2.99) for the Kindle (and other readers.) The book description is:
Aaron begins grad school, fearful that he can’t compete. He’s about to form powerful friendships and learn how physics and spirituality intersect. Meet his new officemate Hiroshi, who enjoys beer and trying new words, often with hilarious consequences. Laugh at his battle of wits with comedian Dennis Miller. Timil has trouble with physics and a harder subject… baseball. Yen likes bathroom graffiti and the racier parts of the Bible. Dr. Jacob teaches Aaron about the true origin of the universe, while Roche and Grace impact his life in fantastic ways. Together they face the dreaded qualifier, a comprehensive exam standing in the way of the prize of a Ph.D. When Aaron detects signals from Leila, an undergrad beauty, uncertainty rules his life. She’s his student, which makes misreading the signals costly. Then a trashcan provides a golden opportunity for Aaron. But is it one that he can accept?
Here Eyeball This! will disabuse you of any notion that Ph.D. science programs are populated by dull people engaged in boring activities. This is a story of colorful, eccentric characters from around the world that are thrust together in the stressful and competitive environment of physics graduate school. Cultures clash in unexpected ways and language barriers result in sidesplitting miscommunications.

The dead-tree version is still available, for as little as $0.99 used. I am tempted to buy a used version to see if it is my wife selling the author's complimentary copies I have at the house!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A+ brilliance du jour

Those erudite A+ males and women on Planet A+ continue to enlighten the world  (The word male is OK,  but female is a no-no in A+ la la land. It is best to assume any word is bad on the bizarro Planet A+.)

Here, in discussing one of the lower denominations of atheism, PZ's "dictionary atheists", who depending on whom you ask, may or may not be True Atheists™, this guru gives the A+ view on dictionaries:
I don't think dictionaries describe the meaning of words. They summarise the primary usages of words in a way that is traditionally limited by the amount of space available in a printed dictionary. Even then they cannot do justice to what a word means. The meaning of all words is flexible and subjective. If I agree any meaning, it is purely for the sake of argument.
These special people will surely change the world. I can feel it changing. Watch out!

Faith? (Some muddled, stream of consciousness thinking)

I am starting a new Sunday School entitled Justification. Its unofficial title is "the contrast between the Protestant doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone and the Roman Catholic doctrine of Justification by Faith (but not alone.)"

This post is not in the "well though out" category. (Yeah, I know, maybe none of my posts are well thought out.) This is more like a journal post. I'm recording my my nascent thinking on a subtopic (faith). In a future post I will add, if I can, scriptural support. The problem I face is:
  1. It is easy to define and describe justification.

  2. It is easy to contrast the historic Protestant view and the Roman Catholic view. After all, that's why we have Protestants--because of radically different views on justification between the reformers and Rome.
It is much harder for me to deal with the question: what is faith? Justification is a infinitely simpler concept than faith.

There is a certain amount of irony here, because many Christians might admit to a poor understanding of justification, but all would say that they have a good grasp on what is meant by faith.

Well I don't have a satisfying grasp of what is faith, and I never have.

Here is what I think I know, or believe, or am close to believing, or want to believe:
  1. Faith is not intellectual assent. The demons believe, and yet they tremble. In the normative sense it (faith) will accompany intellectual assent that God exists and Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins, etc. However the two cannot be inevitably and irrevocably tied together for at least two reasons:
    1. Scripture describes the horrible condition of some who believed but were not saved. ("I never knew you!")

    2. Scripture gives us hope that some who can never give intellectual assent--dead babies and the cognitively impaired--are nevertheless saved.

  2. Faith, in and of itself, has no merit. Again there are two reasons for this, or maybe one reason expressed in two ways:
    1. It would undermine the gospel in that we would be saved by something within us (our personal faith) rather than by something external (Jesus' righteousness and a free gift.)

    2. It is described as a gift from grace. But nothing from grace, by the very definition of grace or gift, can be meritorious in its own right.

  3. My best model for faith comes from Grudem who writes:
    "But we may ask why God chose faith to be the attitude of heart by which we would obtain justification. Why could God not have decided to give justification to all those who sincerely show love? Or who show joy? Or contentment? Or humility? Or wisdom? Why did God choose faith as the means by which we receive justification?
    "It is apparently because faith is the one attitude of the heart that is the exact opposite of depending on ourselves. When we come to Christ in faith, we essentially say, 'I give up!'" 1 (bold emphasis added)
I really love this idea: that faith is, in some sense, nothing. It is saying. I got nothing. Nothing to offer. I give up. I need someone to save me. I need a savior.

I worry, at times, about my faith. But I shouldn't. That is treating faith as something that I bring to the table. Something worthy to place before God. Here God, here is my faith. Instead I should remember it is the (peaceful) recognition that I come empty handed--and that is perfectly fine.

1 Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, p. 730, (1994).

Friday, January 04, 2013

Justification (Post 4) Martin Luther (cont.)

Indulgences Revisited

Indulgences grew out of the system of penance developed by the Catholic Church. In an indulgence, the Catholic Church allowed the penitent to substitute a cash payment for other forms of satisfaction. The Church would even issue an official statement saying that one had been released from other penalties. It was this official document that was called an indulgence. Additionally, one could purchase indulgences for those who were dead, to reduce their time in purgatory. This was based on the Catholic doctrine of supererogatory merit which we'll discuss later. Luther was not predisposed against indulgences, in fact at one time, lamenting over the spiritual health of his parents, he offered that, if they died, then at least through his purchase of indulgences there would be a way in which he could help them. The problem was not indulgences per se, but that the sale of indulgences had reached scandalous proportions.

The most notorious of the indulgence salesmen was a Dominican friar by the name of Johan Tetzel. Tetzel's territory included the area of Wittenberg. His sales pitch included the infamous: "The moment you hear your money drop in the box, your mother will jump out of purgatory."

The Ninety-five Theses 

With his newfound peace—many would say as a result of his recent conversion while reading Romans 1:17—Luther could no longer tolerate the crass abuses of the church, personified by Tetzel. He went to his cell and put down his views in the form of ninety-five theses. Around noon on October 31, 1517, he nailed the theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. It should be noted that this was a common practice among academics of the time. Scholars would post theses (propositions) on any number of topics and challenge one another to public debates. This was not the Reformation: Luther did not advocate a schism. But it was the first shot across the bow.

Here are a few examples:

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.

36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope's pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

86. Again: -- "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?"

At this time, Luther was thirty-four years old. The most striking thing about the theses is that they were far from central. They were concerned with relatively minor issues—questions of related to the sacraments, purgatory, and to indulgences and some criticisms of the pope. Nowhere in the 95 theses did Luther defend the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

The theses included a  general challenge to a debate. The challenge was not accepted for two years. The news of the theses spread throughout Germany. Here we see God's providence at work. The ruler of Saxony (the area that includes Wittenberg) was one Frederick the Wise. Frederick was a very pious Catholic. He had collected thousands of relics from all over Christendom. The Castle Church, whose door Luther utilized, had been built by Frederick to house the relics. He would put them on display for the public on All Saint's Day, November 1st. Thus when Luther posted on All Saint's Eve, the area was crowded with pilgrims who copied the theses and returned home to cities throughout Germany, spreading the word. Furthermore, printing had been invented, and soon the theses were translated from Latin into a number of languages, printed, and sent to cities throughout Europe. The effect was tremendous, and almost stopped the sale of indulgences.

The archbishop of Mainz, who was to receive a cut of all the proceeds from indulgences sold by Tetzel, was not thrilled. He sent a copy of the theses to Pope Leo X in Rome. At first, Leo did not regard it as a serious matter. He simply advised Luther's superiors to tell Luther to keep quiet. A theology professor by the name of John Eck rebutted Luther in a pamphlet. Luther countered with a pamphlet of his own. In April, 1518, the monasteries of the Augustinian Order held their annual meeting in Heidelberg. Luther encountered strong but mostly congenial opposition.

Upon return, Luther wrote a book entitled Resolutions, addressed to the pope, in which he carefully defended his theses, point by point. It has been said that from this time on, Luther lived in a glass house. Every word he spoke, and every word he wrote was carefully analyzed.

Luther Summoned to Rome 

The popularization of Luther and his theses hit the pope in two places: it challenged his power and it cost him funds. When the pope was told that the meeting of the Augustinians had not silenced Luther, he summoned Luther to Rome, in July 1518. If Luther had responded to this summons, it probably would have meant death. Fortunately Luther had a friend in the Elector Frederick (the Wise). He also had some history on his side: for years the German people had grievances against the Italian popes. A bit of German nationalism was Luther's friend.

Frederick had actually forbidden Tetzel to sell indulgences in Saxony—he did not want his country's money ending up in Rome. Furthermore, the university in Wittenberg was Frederick's pride and joy, and Luther was now its most famous professor. Frederick used all his influence to have the summons to Rome revoked. The reason the pope listened to Frederick was likely political. The emperor at the time, Maximilian, was dying. Frederick was one of three likely successors, and the one favored by the pope—who believed that Frederick would be easy to control. The pope granted Frederick's request, both to signal favor toward him and a false signal that he had great respect for Frederick's authority.

Cardinal Cajetan

At this time, the pope's legate, Cardinal Cajetan, was in Germany to attend a diet in Augsburg. The pope sent Cajetan a letter empowering him to summon Luther for an appearance. Cajetan was to speak to Luther in Augsburg and persuade him to recant. If Luther did not recant, Cajetan was to have him bound and sent to Rome. Having previously declared that Luther was "suspected" of heresy, the pope now dropped all pretenses and openly described Luther as a notorious heretic. Luther was once again in grave danger. And once again, his patron Frederick came to his assistance. This time Frederick used his influence to obtain from the sickly Maximilian a promise of safe passage for Luther. In October, 1518, Luther had three meetings with Cajetan, who by all accounts was imperious and arrogant. The discussions were hot and furious. In the end, Luther refused to recant. He stole away from Augsburg secretly in the night. Cajetan, having failed, appealed to the pope to make an official pronouncement. The pope took an interesting approach. Without mentioning Luther by name, he issued a bull in which he declared that certain statements made by certain monks regarding indulgences were heretical. From then on, Luther could no longer make his claims while contending that the Church had not officially ruled on the matter.

In January 1519, the emperor Maximilian died. The pope busied himself in his effort to get Frederick the Wise selected.

The Debate with Eck 

One of Luther's university colleagues, Andreas Carlstadt, came out with a set of theses against Eck, professor of theology at the university in Ingolstadt. Eck was that man who had written a pamphlet attacking Luther's 95 theses. Eck responded to Carlstadt with his own theses in which he expounded an extreme view of papal supremacy. Luther responded with counter theses of his own. In the twelfth of Luther's theses, he argued that the claim of Roman supremacy over all other churches rested on only weak papal bulls of the previous four hundred years, and for the eleven hundred years before that, no such supremacy had existed. The indulgences battle had a call for "internal reform." The challenge to Roman authority had the earmarks of schism.  An attack such as this on the papacy, from a man of Luther's stature, was unprecedented. Eck (who may have been out to trap Luther) challenged Luther to a debate on papal supremacy. This debate was schedule for nine months later! During that time, Luther studied intensely, looking for arguments useful for refuting a doctrine that he had cherished most of his life. He engaged himself in a study of church history and canon law, and was dismayed to discover that many decretals of the church were forgeries.

The debate (disputation) took place in the city of Leipzig. In the debate, Luther held the strategic advantage, in that he based his arguments on fact, using the historical process. Luther pointed out that the Eastern Greek Church had never acknowledged the supremacy of the bishops of Rome. Yet, it was admitted by all, that the Eastern Church was Christian. In addition, Luther noted that the great ecumenical councils of the early centuries did not teach the supremacy of the papacy.

Following the Leipzig debate, the supporters of Luther grew. Among those who joined in Luther's cause was Martin Bucer (1491-1551). In time, Bucer would become a leading Reformer in Strassburg and a colleague of John Calvin. Besides gaining more converts, a second result of the debate at Leipzig was that Luther's own thinking was solidified. His motive all along was to reform the Catholic Church, not to leave it. But now Luther had publicly rejected the supremacy of the pope and the infallibility of the Church councils. The Leipzig debate main it painfully clear that irreconcilable differences existed between Luther and Rome. At this point, everything was in place. Luther was in a position where reconciliation was impossible. He also had a large following. Schism was just ahead. Soon after the debate, Eck went to Rome to recommend Luther's excommunication. The pope complied. 


On June 15, 1520 1, Pope Leo ratified and signed the bull that officially excommunicated Luther. The papal bull had this preamble:
Arise, O Lord, plead Thine own cause; remember how the foolish man reproacheth Thee daily; the foxes are wasting Thy vineyard which Thou hast given to Thy Vicar Peter; the boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. 
The bull went on to condemn forty-one propositions attributed to Luther. It was not his evangelical principles which were attacked but only his oppositions to the practices of the Roman Church. Finally, the bull ordered that all of Luther's writings be burned. One of the propositions of Luther which it condemned was Luther’s position that “certain articles of John Huss condemned at the Council of Constance are most Christian, true, and evangelical, which the universal Church cannot condemn.” Luther snarkily replied: I was wrong. I retract the statement that certain articles of John Huss are evangelical. I say now, “Not some but all the articles of John Huss were condemned by Antichrist and his apostles in the synagogue of Satan.” And to your face, most holy Vicar of God, I say freely that all the condemned articles of John Huss are evangelical and Christian, and yours are downright impious and diabolical.

Luther also decided to respond in kind to Rome’s order to burn his books. On December 10, 1520, a large crowd gathered outside the walls of Wittenberg. Under Luther’s direction they burned the books of canon law as well as the papal bull.

The Diet of Worms 

Pope Leo had done all he could do. After excommunication, the Church had officially played its best ecclesiastical hand. The only thing left is to turn to the secular arm, which meant to seek Luther’s execution. Recall that the pope had hoped and lobbied for the election of Luther’s protector, Frederick the Wise, as Emperor but Frederick did not seek the office. Instead Frederick threw his support behind the Charles, King of Spain, who was elected and became known as Charles V. The pope requested, and Charles agreed, to summon Luther to the Diet of Worms. Protected by an offer of safe-conduct, Luther left for Worms on April 2, 1521 2, convinced that he would never return. His journey was like a victory parade with crowds lining the street, waving and cheering as he passed by. At four o’clock in the after noon on April 17, Luther appeared before the diet. Before the Emperor, noblemen, and the papal prosecutor stood a poor and powerless priest, the son of peasants. Charles V was twenty-one and dressed in splendor. Luther was thirty-seven, and wore the robes of an Augustinian monk. An official asked Luther, pointing to a stack of books and pamphlets, “Are these your writings, and do you wish to retract them?” Luther spoke, first repeating the two questions. He answered yes to the first question, and asked to be given 24 hours to consider his answer to the second. Luther’s request for 24 hours was not a sign of wavering but a sly political move. The papal delegation wanted an immediate decision and tried to persuade Charles V to deny the request. Charles, on the other hand, did not want to appear as a papal puppet, so he granted Luther’s request. Luther, in effect, helped Charles to assert imperial authority over papal wishes. The following day, April 18, Luther returned. He spoke at length, after which the Emperor demanded a plain, straightforward answer to whether Luther would recant. To this Luther gave his famous response:
If the Emperor desires a plain answer, I will give it to him. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. God help me. I cannot do otherwise.
The Emperor gave a sign that the meeting was over. Luther turned and left the tribunal. A few days later, Luther was ordered to leave Worms and return to Wittenberg. The plan was, after the promise of safe conduct was nominally provided, that Luther would be seized and put to death as a heretic. There is a small gate in the wall of Worms. By that gate, Luther left Worms on the night of April 26. The gate is now known as Luther’s gate. Luther traveled toward home, at times stopping to preach (which he had been forbidden to do.) On May 4, after preaching and enjoying dinner, he set out on the road. In the forest, five masked riders kidnapped him from his carriage and took him to Eisenach. This was done on the order of Frederick the Wise, who knew Luther would be seized when his safe conduct expired. Luther stayed in Frederick’s protection for ten months, before returning to Wittenberg to deal with excesses in reformational behavior. Luther had transformed the world by holding fast to a doctrine known as Justification by Faith Alone, or sola fide. This is the topic of interest.

1 1520 is cool because it is the smaller number in a Ruth-Aaron pair. A Ruth-Aaron pair is a pair of consecutive numbers such that the sums of the prime factors of and are equal. They are so named because they were inspired by the pair (714, 715) corresponding to Hank Aaron's record-breaking 715th home run on April 8, 1974, breaking Babe Ruth's earlier record of 714. These have the factorizations 

(1) 714 = 2 x 3 x 7 x 17

(2) 715 = 5 x 11 x 13 

and 2+3+7+17 = 5+11+13 = 29. 


(1) 1520 = 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 5 x 19 

(2) 1521 = 3 x 3 x 13 x 13 

 and 2+2+2+2+5+19 = 3+3+13+13 = 32

 2 1521 is also cool because it is the smallest number that can be written as the sum of 4 distinct cubes in 3 ways: 

1521 = 13 + 23 + 83 + 103 

1521 = 13 + 43 + 53 + 113 

1521 = 43 + 63 + 83 + 93

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Ψ+ (For you, Jerry!)

Jerry Coyne cannot win the argument on the incompatibility of science and faith. He admits he loses 1 on the only real data: that there exists religious scientists--and therefore it is manifestly true that their religion does not prevent them from doing good science. To explain this, ah, inconvenience, cue woo phase one: it is because they compartmentalize (which is psychobabble and, even if it weren't, it is irrelevant.) Or woo phase two: religious scientists live with cognitive dissonance, a "diagnosis" that explains nothing and everything.

Jerry has never addressed two possible tests to his, um, theory:

1) Present Jerry with a set of papers from peer-reviewed journals, half from believers and half from unbelievers. His Coyneness would then use the postulated incompatibility to separate the papers accurately.

2) Jerry might suggest an experiment that religious scientists could never perform because of the Coyne Incompatibility. If he can come up with just one--that would be irrefutable proof of his claim.

But Jerry Coyne is a thoroughly dishonest piece of work.

Instead he offers this definition of what he means by incompatibility, which is his woo pièce de résistance:
My one comment: it’s crucial in these arguments to define “compatibility”, and it makes a big difference whether you conceive of science/faith compatibility as “the ability to do both or accept both at the same time” (the common argument), or—as I do—”the comparative ability of science and religion, using their respective philosophies and methodologies, to discern (as they claim to be able) the truth about the universe.”
What the hell does that mean? He offers no observable (scientific) effect of the Coyne Incompatibility, just some subjective woo.

What an airhead.

The truth is simple. Some things can be incompatible with religion. Atheism, for example, is trivially incompatible with religion. But nothing, nothing at all is incompatible with science. Science is a method. A set of rules on how you take data and how you report results. That's it. It's a method, not a philosophy or a religion; its practitioners are skilled technicians, not priests.  The method does not care if you are:

  • Atheist
  • Christian
  • Muslim
  • Stoic
  • Transgendered
  • A mass murderer
  • Libertarian
  • Communist
  • etc.
Science does dot even care if you "believe in science." It is agnostic about everything. It is incompatible with nothing.

I have a solution!

I think, following the lead of Atheism Plus, Jerry should start the cult of Science Plus. With its own iconography:  Ψ+. He could define it as science plus secularism. Then he would finally have something that is incompatible with faith.

You don't have to thank me Jerry.

1 Not admits as in what an honest person would do, but effectively admits by pooh-poohing the relevance of religious scientists to the discussion of the compatibility of science and faith. Just think about that. And, in an attempt to have his cake and eat it too, this hypocrite of a man will: a) Out of the one side of his mouth argue the the existence of religious scientists is irrelevant. b) Out of the other side argue that the fact that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Scientists are atheists is supremely relevant. Just think about that, too.

It would take a miracle to explain that miracle

In discussions between theists and atheists, miracles pose a rhetorical difficulty. I can imagine that it is frustrating to the atheist to hear the explanation: it was a miracle. I sympathize. But it is unavoidable.

There are miracles described in scripture--and some of us believe they happened. That's just the way it is.

Now some atheists use miracles for argument avoidance. They will say: there is no point arguing about anything, because you'll just say it was a miracle. No, not true. The miracles in the bible are well defined, localized, and not willy-nilly. They are instrumental in God's redemptive plan, not just vulgar displays of power. We note also that God's redemptive plan is finished. As such we have no reason to expect that "holy crap!!!" style miracles will happen again. At least not until the only remaining event,  the end of history, which may be hundreds of thousands of years away (or may be tomorrow.)

There is also a misunderstanding that miracles are not amenable to scientific study. That is not true. The definition of a miracle means it is not ever going to succumb to a scientific explanation. It does not include in its definition that it is invisible to scientific observation.

A miracle will/would register in detectors and recording devices. The problem is you have to be ready when the event occurs--and they are exceedingly rare and perhaps finished. You can keep building accelerators until you have a chance to see a Higgs, and you can be ready for it, but how to watch for a miracle? But if you are fortunate enough encounter one, you could take all data you wanted. You just couldn't explain it. If video technology existed during Joshua's battle, you could watch on YouTube as the clock ticked off the hours showing that it remained daylight for an impossibly long time.

If I were an atheist arguing with theists, I would ignore miracles. (The smart ones do.) There is no argument to be found there. Apart from ignoring them as unfruitful, the only reasonable argument from an atheist is: If you believe in miracles you must be a complete moron. That is, at least, honest and self-consistent.

It is when atheists start arguing more deeply about miracles that they look incredible stupid. Take this argument from someone named thunderf00t. (I believe those are zeroes, not 'o's.)  (S)he writes:

Well considering God was only doing this such that Joshua could have light to continue his butchery of a fleeing people (man woman and child), this has to be the most inefficient use of military force ever. The Earth rotates once a day (ish, it actually depends on how you define days, when the Sun is in the same place again (solar time) , or the stars (siderial time)). Just to give that some perspective, the people at the Earth surface on the equator are travelling about 1000 miles per hour (1.4x the speed of sound in the frame of reference of the Earths center of mass), those at temperate latitudes are doing about half of that, and those at the poles are doing zero! This means if God merely stops the Earth, the people on the surface will be doing about half the speed of sound relative to the surface. Given that it generally hurt to fall over, hitting objects at the best part of the speed of sound is probably going to sting! 
Thunderf00t then goes on to argue how inefficient god is when it comes to mass murder. The atheist has a good (and difficult to respond to in a satisfying way) moral argument to make about Joshua's bloody conquest. But instead of that, Thunderf00t is content to look like an idiot. Because this is really stupid analysis.

Atheists, If "miracles contradict science" do not illicit a simple "duh" then you are missing the boat, big time. Because that's a feature, not a bug. Miracle is not a synonym for "parlor trick." Thunderf00t's argument is, essentially:
  1. Let's grant, for the sake of discussion, daylight was extended
  2. Ha ha, my junior high physics calculation shows that people would be sent flying a half the speed of sound! Ergo, bullshit, Aren't I clever!
Thunderf00t, you are probably are not smart enough to see the logical flaw. Your point, which relies on the setup of “accepting” for the moment that god extended daylight, then relies on the absurd (in that context) and unstated assumption that a god who can do that would, inexplicably, not have anticipated the consequences (oh, shit, I didn’t think about what would happen to everything when I stopped the earth’s rotation! My bad!)1 Your logic, as it were, is not self-consistent. You change from one playing field to another half-way through. And let me help you out some more. Theists believe that god created the universe. You can simply say: that contradicts science –and be done with it. The ultimate argument stopper. Why concentrate on “in the noise” miracles (like extending daylight) and ignore the mother of all miracles?

This argument perfectly fits the template: That miracle (extended daylight)  could happen because it would take a miracle (preventing angular momentum consequences) to explain it.


1 As an aside, I am not accepting the argument that God stopped the earth's rotation. Miracles tend to be local. When Jesus walked on water, the ship in the story did not rest on top of the sea. When he changed water into wine, the Sea of Galilee did not change into Pinot Noir.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Busy *whine* Busy


The semester begins in one week.

I still need to hire another adjunct. I have a MATH 260 (Linear Algebra) course to staff. Tick-tock.

I will be teaching Mathematical Programming (using Mathematica.) I'm ready for that, but because physics is also not completely staffed I may end up teaching Quantum Mechanics too--and I haven't even started preparing. That's not a big thing--I've taught it before (though with a different text)--and I can do QM with my eyes closed 1 --but the uncertainty is a royal pain.

Also, we are hiring another tenure track faculty in math. (And in physics, but I am not the chair of that committee.) That will consume many hours when we return. That also is stressful--although also very rewarding when you land someone who is just spectacular, as we did last year. Do you know the first rule in a successful hiring? Get someone better than yourself. If you hire someone who would not have beaten you out had you applied together--then you have failed.

Being chair has taught me one thing: I don't want any more administrative positions. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

1 I can do it, as in the formulas and the problems and the methods. I don't actually understand it. Knowing and using wave-particle duality ain't the same thing as grasping wave-particle duality.

Oh Noes, god can not be!

Atheism Plus (A+) is the new standard-bearer for intellectual atheism. They are indeed formidable. Consider this tour de force atheistic apologetic:
I have heard claims from the theist side that god is omnipresent. Is that a popular concept? If god is everywhere he must be in every atom of the devil, every component that makes up the devil including his thoughts. Does that mean god is the devil? Would it be safe to assume that disproving an omnipresent claim would prove the non-existance of a god? If by definition, god is everywhere and you show he is not somewhere, then the claim at least is no longer valid.
Clearly a graduate summa cum laude of the Coyne Theological Seminary.

This argument (which is then taken seriously by the commentators) represents the state-of-the-art in modern atheism.

The A+ crowd starts by following Dawkins' cue of championing a deficit of knowledge.  (From the good ole Dawkins, of course, before he became a "Dear Muslima" sexist, misogynist, rape-apologist MRA --right up there with Michael Shermer.) That is, A+ continues the gnu atheist policy whereby it is preferred  that you not know, even at a rudimentary level, the topic you are criticizing. They continue the tradition of making ignorance a virtue. They are like the repulsive humanities professor who literally brags about not knowing any math or science.

But A+ has one-upped gnu atheism by introducing internecine warfare and giving a hearty approval to purging, shaming and shunning their fellow slightly-deviating-from-the-party-line atheists. All while reducing, if you can imagine that it is possible, intellectual rigor.

The goals of A+ are understandable from the perspective of atheists who want to create an atheist-inspired movement that includes social activism. But, thanks to the poor leadership of people like PZ and Ophelia Benson--they could not have crafted a more divisive, amateurish, self-destructive, dogmatic, John-Birch-like implementation.

It sure is fun to watch.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A Catholic misunderstanding of Imputation

A reader pointed me to this well-written critique of the Reformed doctrine of Imputed Righteousness by Catholic writer Devon Rose. As you know, Reformed Protestantism speaks of an imputed righteousness. That is, we are reckoned as righteous. The Roman Catholic view is of infused righteousness--that is we draw upon the merits of Christ and the saints to actually become inherently righteous.

Rose goes off track at the beginning and runs with his mistake. He quotes the Westminster Confession and highlights two uses of imputed:
Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
On this passage from the WCF Rose writes:
Here the authors of the Confession distinguish between “infused righteousness” and “imputed righteousness”. The Confession makes a secondary distinction on top of that, stating that faith itself is not what is imputed as righteousness, but rather the righteousness of Christ is. Note that there is an equivocation in the Confession on this point, since the term “imputing” is used twice in the Confession, but not in the same sense. While the latter instance of “imputing” is used to mean “transferring” an (extrinsic) righteousness, the former instance of “imputing” cannot mean this, since “imputing faith itself” cannot mean “transferring faith”. This problem of equivocation will come to greater light later in this essay.
But their is no equivocation here. He wrongly states that the second use of imputation, when applied to righteousness, is used by the Westminster divines to mean “transferring” an (extrinsic) righteousness. But it does not mean that. Nothing is transferred like a substance. There is no phlogiston of righteousness. This is the critical point: In terms of Justification, the Reformers never, ever taught that God's righteousness is transferred to the believer. They taught that God reckons us as righteous through Christ. It is a purely legal transaction.

In sanctification, which Reformed theology views as a distinct process, righteousness is acquired by impartation. Because of the original legal reckoning or imputation (justification) we are now in the position to partake of righteousness through works of merit (sanctification.) Jesus is our mediator in this process: He declares us his heirs before the court (justification) and through this rebirth we can do good works. It is parallel to Adam who as our mediator (representative) sinned and with him we, as his descendants were condemned. But there was also a change--we are corrupted. That is:

Christ's Righteousness:Justification:Sanctification :: Adam's sin:Condemnation:Corruption.

Paul, in Philemon, paints the perfect human analogy. In requesting clemency for the slave Onesimus he writes:
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. (Philemon 1:17-19)
Paul does not say that Oneisimus will pay--but to reckon with his account--and although the slave is not repaying what he took, he should be welcomed as if there was no debt. This is as good of a model of biblical justification and imputed righteousness as you could ask for.

Vintage Coyne

Coyne, after almost certainly lying about having finished the Old Testament, is now, he claims,  giving the New Testament a thorough reading.

His exegesis is laughable. It is no an exaggeration to say that I know of quite a few twelve-year-old Christians who would clean his clock on points in a debate.

Why, exactly, should I love my enemy? the Jerry-child asks, ergo Jesus is stupid and a jerk.

Can Christianity withstand such an assault such as this?

In a new post,  entitled Apparently I don't Understand Jesus,  (nothing "apparent" about it) Jerry writes:
I knew this would happen: amateur theologians come along after I give my reactions to the Bible and instruct me that I am interpreting it [w]rong.
The first miracle of 2013 is that he can make a snide comment about "amateur theologians" without his own head exploding.  Then again...

We are then treated to vintage Jerry. Referring to the antagonist of the post, a Christian commenter named Steve, Jerry writes:
He’s [Steve] somewhat of a troll, so I am not allowing him to comment further, but feel free to say what you want to him
That is vintage Coyne.  First, prevent someone from commenting. Then, without shame, he encourages his idiotic followers to pile-on the crap.

What a repulsive, bullying, cowardly slug.