I was raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. However, I came to doubt my Witness beliefs, rejecting many of them, and the doctrinal autho...

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Platonic Form of Pizza

You have to have at least a MA in philosophy to work there. (Fortunately, many philosphy degrees are homeless and will work for nothing. Which is good since they will be paid only in questions.)

Also, you have to at least have minored in philosophy to eat there. Nominalist and utilitarians will be served, begrudgingly. In case of the former, we will give them cardboard triangles we call "pizza".

Sunday, December 23, 2018

When Shall We Be With the Lord? A Seventh-day Adventist Perspective

A friend of mine, David Waltz, brought the work of a certain F. D. Nichol to my attention in connection to my post I'm Naked! - NSFW, specifically his Answers to Objections: An Examination of the Major Objections Raised Against the Teachings of Seventh-day Adventists (1932). And, since his argument deserves to be heard by itself, apart from any commentary or response, I've typed up the relevant passage thereof, namely, pp. 100-107 here. We'll respond next week, but let's let our friend Mr. Nichol speak for himself[1]: 

Objection V
Did not Paul declare that when he died he would go immediately to be with Christ? (See Phil. 1:21-23.)

The passage reads thus: 'For to me to life is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.' Phil. 1:21-23

If there were no other text in the Bible that dealt with the question of the final reward of the righteous, the reader might be pardoned for concluding that Paul expected, immediately at death, to enter heaven. This much we freely grant. But we would add at once that if a lone phrase in some one text of Scripture is to be viewed by itself, the Bible would seem to teach salvation by works, prayers for the dead, and other doctrines that Protestants consider unscriptural.

We cannot agree with the interpretation of Paul's words as given in the objection before us. Why? Because it would make the apostle contradict himself. Paul wrote much on the subject of being with Christ. Let us examine at least a part of his writings before drawing a conclusion concerning this passage.

In another of his letters, Paul goes into details as to when the righteous will go to 'be with the Lord:' 'The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.' 1 Thess. 4:16-18

This states very plainly that the righteous dead and the righteous living will go 'to meet the Lord' at the same time, for they are to be 'caught up together.' The time is when 'the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven,' that is, at the second advent. 'And so [in this way, or by this means] shall we ever be with the Lord.' Why should Paul teach here most emphatically that it was to be by means of the second advent that all the righteous, including himself, would go to be with the Lord, if he really believed that he would go at death?

The apostle made this statement to the Thessalonians because, said he, 'I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not.' Verse 13. He assured them in the next verse that if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, then we may be confident that the God who 'brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus' (Heb. 13:20) will also bring from the dead those who sleep in Jesus.

It is impossible to think that Paul believed that the righteous go to be with the Lord at death, since he specifically told the Thessalonians that the righteous, both living and dead, go 'together' to 'be with the Lord' at the second advent. He declared that he was writing them so that they would not be 'ignorant.' It is incredible that he would leave them in ignorance as to begin with Christ at death, if he thus believed. In fact, he told them the very opposite, - that the righteous dead do not go to be with the Lord at death, but await the resurrection morn. If he believe that he we go to be with the Lord at death, why did he fail to mention this fact when he was writing specifically to 'comfort' them? He exhorted them to find their 'comfort' in a future event - the resurrection.

Those ministers today who believe in immortal souls, 'comfort' the bereaved with the assurance that the love done has already gone to be with the Lord, and they declare that we who hold a contrary view deprive a sorrowing one of the greatest comfort possible. Do they therefore indict Paul also?

Again, if Paul believe that the righteous go to God at death, why did he tell the Corinthian church that the change from mortality to immortality will not take place until the 'last trump'? (See 1 Cor. 15:51-54.)

Or why did he tell the Colossians that when Christ appears, 'then shall ye also appear with Him in glory'? Col. 3:4.

Or why should he have said, as the time of his own 'departure,' by the executioner's sword, was at hand, 'Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them that love His appearing'? 2 Tim. 4:8

Yes, and why should Christ Himself tell His disciples that they would once more be with Him when He fulfilled His promise: 'I will come again, and receive you unto Myself'?

Yes, why should Christ have focused the attention of the troubled disciples wholly on His second advent if it were really true all of them would go to be with their Lord immediately at death?

These, and other passages we could quote, are in hopeless contradiction to the interpretation placed on the words of Paul in the objection before us. Are we to conclude, therefore, that Scripture contradicts itself? No. Paul in his statement to the Philippians does not say when he expects to be with Christ. He states briefly his weariness of life's struggle, his desire to rest from the conflict, if that would Christ to be 'magnified.' But to this veteran apostle, who had so constantly preached the glorious return of Christ as the one great event beyond the grave, the falling asleep in death was immediately connected with what would occur at the awakening of the resurrection, - the being 'caught up' 'to meet the Lord.' 

It is not an unusual thing for a Bible writer to couple events that are separated by a long span of time. The Bible does not generally go into details, but concerns itself with the setting forth the really important points of God's dealing with man along the course of centuries. For example, Isaiah 61:1,2 contains a prophecy of the work that Christ would do at His first advent. In Luke 4:17-19 is the account of Christ's reading this prophecy to the people, informing them: 'This day is the scripture fulfilled in your ears.' Verse 21. But a close examination will reveal that Christ did not read all the prophecy from Isaiah, though apparently it is one connected statement. He ended with the phrase: 'To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.' But the very next phrase in the sentence is: 'And the day of vengeance of our God.' He did not read this, because it was not yet fulfilled. The whole span of Christian era was to pass before the day of God's vengeance was to come. This long period of time is not even suggested in the prophecy, but other Bible passages indicate this fact clearly, and it is by examining all these other passages that we learn how to understand a brief, compressed prophecy like that of Isaiah 61.

Or take the prophecy of the second advent as given in 2 Peter 3:3-13. If no other Bible passage was compared with this one, the conclusion might easily be reached that the second advent of Christ results immediately in the destruction of this earth by fire. Yet when we compare 2 Peter 3 with Revelation 20, we learn that a thousand years intervene between the second advent and the fiery destruction of this earth. Peter was giving only a brief summary of the outstanding events impending. He passed immediately from the great fact of the second advent over to the next great act in the drama of God's dealing with this earth, its destruction by fire. But with Peter's prophecy, as with that of Isaiah, there is no need for confusion if we follow the Bible plan of comparing scripture with scripture to fill in the details.

Now if Peter could place in one sentence (2 Peter 3:10) two great events separated by a thousand years, and Isaiah could couple in another sentence (Isa. 61:2) two mighty events separated by more than nineteen hundred years, why should it be thought strange if Paul followed this plan, and coupled together in one sentence (Phil. 1:23) the sad event of his dying with the glorious event of being 'with Christ' at the second advent? In the other passages we have quoted from Paul, the death of the Christian is directly connected with the resurrection at Christ's advent, events we know are separated by a long span of time. Therefore the mere fact of the coupling together of the event of dying with the event of being with the Lord, does not necessarily mean that these two events are immediately related. And when we follow the Bible rule of comparing scripture with scripture, we discover that the two events are widely separated. (pp. 100-104)

Objection VI
Paul said that he was "willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." 2 Cor. 5:8.

If the reader will open his Bible to this fifth chapter of Second Corinthians, he will discover that Paul is dealing with three possible states. Let us classify his statements regarding them:

1. 'Our earthly house.' 'At home in the body.' 'Absent from the Lord.' This house can be 'dissolved.' 'In this we groan.'

2. 'Unclothed.' 'Naked.'

3. 'A building of God.' 'House not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.' 'Our house which is from heaven.' 'Clothed upon.' 'Present with the Lord.' 'Absent from the body.'

If the 'earthly house' means our present, mortal body, as all agree, then unless there is clear proof to the contrary, it would logically follow that our heavenly house is the immortal body. And thus be a process of elimination the 'unclothed,' 'naked' state can mean none other than that state of dissolution known as death.

We are assured of the desired third state because we have 'the earnest [pledge] of the Spirit.' Verse 5. But how will God's Spirit finally insure our reaching this desired state? Paul answers: 'If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.' Rom. 8:11.

The learned Dr. H. C. G. Moule well says: 'The same Spirit, who, by uniting us to Christ, made actual our redemption, shall surely, in ways to us unknown, carry the process to its glorious crown, and be somehow the efficient cause of 'the redemption of our Body.' ' - The Expositor's Bible, comment on Romans 8:11

Now, if the fulfilling to us of that pledge of the Spirit is the change that takes place in our mortal bodies at the resurrection, then we must conclude that the change to the third state, that of being 'clohted upon' with the heavenly house, comes at the resurrection, and consists of the change in our bodies from mortal to immortal.

Paul declares further: 'We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaleth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.' Rom. 8:22,23. The he is here dealing with the same problem as in 2 Corinthians 5, is evident:

Romans 8;22,23     2 Corinthians 5:1-8
'Groan within ourselves.'     'We groan.'
'First fruits of the Spirit.'     'Earnest of the Spirit.'
'Waiting for.'     'Earnestly desiring.'
'Redemption of our body.'     'Clothed upon' with heavenly house.

Thus we conclude again that the change from the 'earthly house' to the 'house which is from heaven' is an event that involves the 'redemption of our body,' which 'redemption,' all agree, occurs at the resurrection day. (See also Phil. 3:20,21.)

The apostle states that he longs to be 'clothed upon' with the heavenly house, 'that mortality might be swallowed up of life,' or, as the American Revised Version states, 'that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life.' Verse 4. In other words, 'what is mortal' loses its mortality by this change.

According to the immortal-soul doctrine, 'what is mortal' is the body only, which at death dissolves in the grave; while the soul simply continues on in its immortal state, freed from the mortal body. But Paul longs to be 'clothed' with the heavenly house, 'that what is mortal bay be swallowed up of life.' Thus by their own tenets, the immortal-soul advocates must agree that Paul in this passage is not dealing with an experience that takes place at death. We might therefore close the discussion.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul declared: 'We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.' When? 'At the last trump.' And what will take place? 'The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.' And what will result from this? 'When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.' 1 Cor. 15:51-54. This last phrase parallels the language in 2 Corinthians 5: 'What is mortal [or subject to death] may be swallowed up of life.' The swallowing up of death, or mortality, is still a future event.

That Paul expected to be 'clothed upon' with the heavenly house at the resurrection day, is the certain conclusion from all his statements. Being 'present with the Lord' is contingent upon being 'clothed' with the heavenly house. Therefore the being 'present with the Lord' awaits the resurrection day. How beautifully this agrees with the apostle's statement to the Thessalonians, that at the resurrection we are caught up 'to meet the Lord,' and 'so shall we ever be with the Lord.' 1 Thess. 4:16,17

If it seems strange to some that Paul should speak of putting off one 'house' and putting on another when he meant simply the change in our bodies from mortal to immortal, we would remind them that he uses a similar figure of speech when describing the change that takes place in the heart at conversion. He declares that we should 'put off . . . the old man,' and 'put on the new man.' Eph. 4:22-24.

The fact that Paul coupled together the being freedom from the earthly house and the being clothed upon with the heavenly, does not prove that he expected an immediate transfer from one to the other. He makes specific reference to an 'unclothed,' a 'naked' state. On the question of immediate transfer, the reader is referred to the discussion of Philippians 1:21-23 in the preceding chapter.

With propriety might Paul 'groan' for the day when he could put off this mortal body, with all the evils suggests by it, and could put on, be 'clothed upon,' with the promised immortal body, in which body he would be ready 'to meet' and to 'ever be with the Lord.'

[1] As it happens, this book can be found here, as can a revision (1952, evidently): here. Also, I expect to revisit his work, and those like it from time to time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Word Choice

Word Choice
August 28th, 2018

For one of my classes, Exploring Vocations and Callings, I received a syllabus. Most of it was run of the mill stuff - really common sense, which you would hope need not be said - or an outline of work for the class, as well as when it will be due. However, someone, perhaps the professor, decided to add the follow:
Probably the most difficult for respectful, accurate language in English is gender. Use words that refer to both men and women unless men or women are specifically meant. Often the best way to use gender accurate language is to use generic plural subjects. For example: "Wesley had strong beliefs about people in general, and about the individual person specifically. He believed that everyone is created in the image of God, and that all can be renewed in that image."
Despite the claim of the poorly worded first sentence, it is not, in fact, difficult to be respectful or accurate in one's choice of generic expression for mixed-company groups, or the average member of such groups. More specifically, use of "Man" or "mankind" in reference to humankind, or "he" or "him" for an average member of a mixed-group is not inaccurate, nor disrespectful. Concerning the first point, it is hard to see what the inaccuracy would be, unless one misunderstood these terms to be taken as masculine terms or pronouns; such a mistake overlooks their generic and gender-neutral usage, and this is hardly the fault of he who uses such language (particularly since such usage is ancient, and yet not uncommon today). Concerning the second point, such language is no more disrespectful than the generic use of "she", though it does have the advantage of being less political than this the generic use of "she"; nor is it connotative of social and religious liberalism, which is (at least) decidedly more bad than good, as the generic use of "she" is: witness the remains of the semi-apostate, Episcopal church, among others, and the sexual revolution. If someone takes offense at generic "he" terms, he must aggrieve himself, since offense is not given merely by their use. Let the innovator innovate if he must, but it's not his concern to tell me what words I can use.

I saw another syllabus from a religion class, Introduction to Biblical Studies, perhaps, which contained a section similar to the above, though, a bit more forceful in wording: I believe it said that such "he or she" sort of language is required. Moreover, it suggested focusing on motherly imagery for God. Denied, denied, denied. I will update this post when I found out, or if I do (perhaps only some classes make that inane suggestion / prescription.). 

And, from someone else, I know the Greek professor quasi-requires (urges, is perhaps the better term) students to not use "He" of God. Fortunately, I don't have Greek this semester. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018


I think that I'll take this blog down and move my posts over to Wordpress; I'll decide by Friday.

Is Political Neutrality Required of Christians?

Is Political Neutrality Required of Christians?
July 28th, 2018

This is what some groups, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, teach, and it is at least superficially compelling and heeding it to some degree is not without some practical advantage; but that doesn’t suffice for us to suppose it a requirement for Christians pure and simple. Scripture doesn’t command us to be politically neutral, and there is good reason to think that it permits at least some involvement in the political sphere, contingent on the particular circumstances one finds himself in.

In defense of the supposed prohibition on political involvement it might be pointed out that Christ told his followers to be “no part of the world, even as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:16) Political involvement would seem to be off limits as something paradigmatically worldly, or so it will be argued. However, what must be recognized is that nowhere in Scripture is this made explicit. Further, the suggestion that politics is essentially worldly, which seems to be the motivating belief behind the view of groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses, is not justified by merely pointing out the corruptness that infests much of politics; if that were not so, then nearly every human endeavor would have to be counted worldly and so off limits for Christians. Nothing would remain but for us all to be hermits.

More importantly, the Scriptural evidence slants the other way. I'm not referring to the Old Testament at all, which can be considered as much a slip of permission for political involvement as it is a warning against God's people being so involved (of necessity, in case of the OT) in politics. Rather, I have in mind the words of John the Baptist to the soldiers who came to him for instruction, and the similar cases of the what Philip said to the Ethiopian eunuch and what Peter said to Cornelius the Centurion. Rather, I should say, what these men did not say, and what the biblical account does not record any of them doing or having to do. Moreover, the words of Paul show that political power is not per se suspect, since it derives from God, ultimately; this suggests that it is something best exercised by Christians.

John the Baptist
Luke 3:14: "And persons engaged in military service also asked him saying, And we, what should we do? And he said to them, Oppress no one, nor accuse falsely, and be satisfied with your pay."
John the Baptist's was permissive of serving as a solider (and in the previous verse, of being a tax collector, which was not exactly a politically neutral office in those days, provided one discharge that service faithfully), so we see no reason to object to various kinds of political service in his teaching. 

Some suggest that he did, in fact, forbid work as a solider on the basis that he told the soldiers who came to him (likely Jewish auxiliaries) that they should not διασείσητε anyone, where διασείσητε  we are told means "violence." The upshot being that he was indirectly telling them to get another line of work: after all, part of being a soldier is the capacity to do violence. If true, it might incline us to think that other politically involved offices would also be suspect, but that conclusion wouldn't be forced on us. In any event, even that much can't be justified, for that objection blurs the percise meaning of the word in question. It doesn't mean or connote all actions that can be called violent, but specifically oppressive or intimidating actions against those that (the context suggests) are innocent.

A better objection is that John was still under the Mosaic dispensation and that his warfare tolerant position might, as far as we've shown, be inconsistent with the Gospel. So stated, this doesn't so much prove the neutral-cum-pacifist position as it only slightly weakens the position that political involvement and warfare are not per se objectionable from a Christian perspective. And it is not clear that the transition from Moses to Christ does away with John's teaching to the soldiers anymore than it does to his words to the tax collectors, which is surely just if anything is: "Collect no more than you are authorized." (v. 13) Furthermore, it should be conceded that John's words (at least once διασείσητε is properly understood) would be a natural place for Christians to justify involvement in warfare and politics, even if such isn't their actual force. If Luke wished to avoid this implication, he could have not included this story in his gospel. That he did, suggests (but, by itself, isn't conclusive) that he believes the same principle holds for Christians as well.

The Ethiopian Eunuch
Acts 8:27: "And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure."
The entire account of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch can be found in Acts 8:26-40. What is most interesting is that he is clearly a government official of some importance, and is converted as such. We are not given any indication that Philip instructed the eunuch to step aside from his position as treasurer, nor any indication that he did so of his own accord (and certainly not because being a high-ranking government official was intrinsically at odds with being a Christian). As the account appears, it is good evidence that a Christian can be a government official or politically involved.

Cornelius the Centurion
Acts 10:1: "At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment."
The entire account of the conversation of Cornelius can be found at Acts 10:1-11:18. What is relevant here is that he converted as an officer of some power in the Roman army; he was not, as far as the account reveals, instructed to step down. Nor do any of those who were already Christian object that a solider was converted, but that a gentile was, in any even those who objected, after being reassured by Peter praised God over the conversion of our Italian friend and what it signified. Cornelius is not mentioned as resigning from his position as a condition of his conversion; perhaps he did later - perhaps Catholic tradition is correct that he accompanied Peter as Peter preached, and that Cornelius eventually became bishop of Skepsis - but even if so, that does not indicate that it was strict necessity for him to do so that he might live faithfully as a Christian.

Paul on the Power of the Sword
Romans 13:1-6: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God. 2 Consequently, the one who resists authority is opposing what God has set in place, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the one in authority? Then do what is right, and you will have his approval. 4 For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not carry the sword in vain. He is God’s servant, an agent of retribution to the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to authority, not only to avoid punishment, but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes. For the authorities are God’s servants, who devote themselves to their work."
The import of this passage is that the political authorities derive their power from God. Of course, they can go beyond (or fall short) of their obligations, rights, and authority, but as such their power is constituted by God. How can it as such be bad? Further, we notice that the authority granted by God extends to the power to kill, such as in executions or dare I say, in a just war. This is a good indication that involvement in the political order is not intrinsically impermissible for Christians. (Indeed, why would we want only unbelievers, who are not bound by the righteousness of Christ, to have exclusive control in government and warfare?)

Common Sense and Conclusion
Beyond the scriptural evidence, we can apply common sense to the issue at hand. Concerning warfare, we can legitimately see it as an extension of self-defense; and very few would consider self-defense as immoral; hence it follows that just warfare (warfare that is relevantly like self-defense extended to a national level) is likewise permissible. Further, even groups like Jehovah's Witnesses believe that it is permissible to use the courts to defend themselves; but the courts can't be neatly partitioned off from the rest of the political order. If Christians can involve themselves in the courts, why not other aspects of the political order, seeing as these other aspects are intrinsically permissible? At worst, New Testament Scripture is silent; I suggest it gives permission, even if it is not particularly focused with informing us of these matters.

So we can be involved in politics, and even go to war, without doing violence to our separateness from the world. But this isn't to say that there aren't dangers involved in this, or cases where a Christian would have to abstain from politics or going to war. Like all things that are permissible as such, we have to ascertain whether they are permissible to engage in given the particular circumstances we are in. Further, just as it is wrong to dogmatically proscribe political involvement, it is foolish to have our hopes and energies too tied to the going-ons of the political scene. We must remain focused on preaching the gospel, and as in all things, be as cautious as serpents and innocent as doves.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

You've Got No Clue!

You've Got No Clue!
October 1st, 2017
1 John 3:2 - Beloved ones, we are now children of God, but it has not yet been made manifest what we will be. We do know that when he is made manifest we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. 
It is suggested by some that this shows that Jesus couldn't have been raised up as a man. We know what it is like to be a human being, but we don't know what we shall be like, and we will be like Jesus. Therefore he, and the resurrection body generally, must not be human.

However, this argument - proclaimed by some as 'near irrefutable' - fails to attend to the distinction between the human body we presently have and that which we will receive. What we have now is merely a manifestation of fallen, mortal, weak and corruptible human nature; however, what we shall receive shall be glorified, immortal, power and incorruptible human nature.

While we have some indication as to what this will be like, partly because of what is recorded about what Jesus did after his resurrection, this hardly constitutes our knowing what a glorified human body is like. Thus it still makes sense for us to say 'but it has not yet been made manifest what we will be like.'

Monday, July 16, 2018

New Blog Address, and Only One Blogger Account

The blog address is now witnessseekingorthodoxy.blogspot.com. However, the links between posts still point to the old address; to ensure that the links aren't broken, I mirrored my blog with the old address. I'll get rid of this blog once all the links are updated.

Also, I've switched to the blogger account associated with my new personal / blogging email, not the one associated with my earlier pen name, or my other, work email.

Update: It actually looks like the links still don't work. So I'll be updating them over the next few days.