Sunday, January 21, 2018

On Believing in God and His Miracles

If one belives in God, and him (as he is) the cause of all things, who, in his love toward created things and persons, upholds all things in being, and that he willed them into being ex nihilio - he should have no problem believing that God can work miracles. For these are not so great after all to God who works all things wonderously. If he can call all things into existence, then it is no trouble to him at all that he then water into blood or part the Red Sea or Jordan.

January 16th, 2018

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Epistemic Antinomies and Their Solution

Man is, on his own, doomed by either his stupidity - for if that be all he have, he could not grasp the arguments required for belief, or appreciate half of what he experienced - or his ingenuity - for if that be what he have, it is as much an agent of falsehood as it is of truth; and if he should style himself an independent thinker, he might be freed from the tyranny of those who would urge falsehood upon him, but he would also be without aid when confronted with other falsehoods that eyes more skillful than his would have warned him of.

Fortunately we are not on our own devices, and that which is needed for salvation is that which can be given to wise and foolish, intelligent and stupid - and all things wise are foolish to God, and all intelligence is but the grunts of animals to Him. For it is said by the Son: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) And he says elsewhere: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you; for everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking, it will be opened." (Matthew 7:7,8) That so many do not find is to be expected for men are intent on evil and do not seek. However, for those who do seek, assurance is given. But in seeking, let us do so humbly, and without pretense.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Can Science Explain Anything?

It can, but you can't prove that scientifically!

And this this is because science presupposes certain things, and thus can't explain them, and thus any ultimate explanation of reality is going to be something which science has little to say. Thus to suggest that science is competent to adjudicate the debate over God's existence is like saying that physics can tell us what Moby Dick is about.

What are some of the things science presupposes, and hence can't explain? That there is a physical world external to our minds, is one, mathematics and logic is another. Even laws of nature don't explain anything, for they are merely shorthand descriptions of what things do given the kinds of things they are. They presuppose the existence of things that operate according to them, and hence can't be used to explain why anything exists at all that adheres to them.

Obviously science can't explain morality. Not that it might not say something relevant to morality. But it certainly can't explain why morality has the objective and binding force that it does. (And surely right living is more important than most of what science does say.)

So what to do we have? Science is a valuable resource, a fruitful avenue for gaining knowledge about the physical world. But it cannot justify itself, and leaves much of reality - even physical reality -  out of its description of the world, and hence unexplained; for it is not suited to explaining these things. And it can't show that God does not exist. (Though, God's existence can be shown by examining some of the things that science presupposed. And so while God's existence might not scientific, it is hardly anti-scientific or irrational. 

And this concludes my meandering remarks on science, at least for now.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Interesting Quotes

All of the following are quotes from The Historical Reliability of the New Testament by Craig Bloomberg:

“George Houston has studied the evidence from ancient public libraries as well. Documents did circulate among the general populace but nowhere nearly as commonly as with modern libraries. Far more important was the library’s function as a place to preserve documents intact. When an important book was still in reasonably good condition, except that the ink of the letters was starting to fade, it was often reinked. Scribes carefully traced the letters with new ink on top of the original, rather than making a completely new book on costly new parchment or papyrus. Houston demonstrates that the average time of circulation for most handwritten or hand-copied library books in the ancient Mediterranean world was 150– 200 years! Sometimes manuscripts remained available to be copied for up to 500 years! The existing complete New Testament from the fourth century known as Codex Vaticanus was even reinked after 600 years so that it could continue to be used.

“All this means is that we should not envision the autograph of a biblical book being recopied by dozens of independent scribes and then discarded. Nor would those copies of the autographs have remained in use just for a few decades. When Ehrman (or anyone else) says that what we have in even our oldest New Testament manuscripts are not even “copies of the copies of the copies of the original,” he is going far beyond what the actual evidence allows anyone to demonstrate. Any second-century and most third-century manuscripts of books and collections of books could well have been copied directly from the autographs that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and the author of Hebrews themselves penned or dictated. Of course, perhaps none of them was. Their appearance at diverse locations throughout the ancient Roman Empire means it may not have been possible for their scribes to have accessed the originals at all. But somebody at some point had to have transported a copy of the originals to a different portion of the empire, so it is entirely reasonable to imagine any or all of those documents being copies of copies of the originals. In a context in which this literature was increasingly being viewed as sacred and where we can see for ourselves the care with which all the letters were formed, we should not imagine many errors creeping in after only two rounds of copying.”

 (Kindle Locations 8840-8862)

“We can see glimpses of this “canon consciousness,” not at all formally delimited, beginning to emerge even within the first century, within what would come to be called the New Testament documents themselves. Jesus, in John’s Gospel, promises that the Spirit would enable his disciples to remember his teaching (John 14: 26) and would testify about him (15: 26), and would lead them into all truth (16: 13). None of these passages clearly promises new Scripture; and none of them delimits what it would be, were it to appear; but the three texts are at least consistent with the later conviction that some had appeared. First Timothy 5: 18 cites Deuteronomy 25: 4 as Scripture and then goes on to add a quotation from Luke 10: 7. Of course, it is possible that Paul is referring only to the text of Deuteronomy as Scripture, but the more natural way of understanding the grammar is to take the two quotations as parallel references to Scripture. It is also possible that the Greek word graphÄ“ here simply means a “writing”; but because Paul, like almost all the New Testament authors, uses this term to mean the Hebrew Bible, it would appear that he intends to refer at the very least to some kind of uniquely authoritative document. For those who find it impossible to believe that Paul in the mid-60s could have viewed the works of his beloved physician and travel companion written just a few years earlier as inspired, this interpretation of 1 Timothy 5: 18 becomes a major reason for their dating this book much later and seeing it as pseudonymous (recall above). But if Paul could recognize that the Thessalonians’ maturity derived from recognizing the spoken gospel message as the word of God (1 Thess 2: 13), it seems hard to imagine him unable to recognize the God-breathed nature of a work of his close colleague almost at once.

“More unambiguously, 2 Peter 3: 16 refers to at least some of what appears in Paul’s letters as “other Scriptures.” For many this is a key reason for dating 2 Peter to the second century and not finding it Petrine (again, see above). But if one refuses to argue in a circle and countenances the possibility of Peter in the mid-60s recognizing even just the earliest of Paul’s letters from ten or more years previous as uniquely inspired, then we have even clearer early evidence for a kind of canon consciousness. Whether any of these passages are admitted as evidence, we have a plethora of quotations of and allusions to many of the New Testament documents in that largely early second-century body of literature known as the apostolic fathers. There is regularly a sense that they are cited as authoritative, sometimes uniquely so (e.g., Ign. Trall. 3: 3; 2 Clem. 2: 4), occasionally called Scripture, and once in a while put on a par with the Old Testament works.”

(Kindle Locations 9231-9255)

“Remarkably the Gnostics themselves did not, to our knowledge, put forward any of their literature as on a par with emerging New Testament Scripture, merely as worthy within their own communities to articulate their beliefs and practices.[ 1642] Their debates with orthodoxy were not over canon but over hermeneutics.”

(Kindle Locations 9264-9268)

“Even more importantly, there is no significant dispute from the early centuries of Christianity over the unique value and origin of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, over the book of Acts, over the thirteen letters attributed to Paul, or over the epistles of 1 Peter and 1 John. Yet these works are most often challenged by today’s revisionist historians. Radical scholars today wish to discredit or at least supplement the Gospels, the Acts, and the major epistles of the New Testament, as we saw with A New New Testament (chap. 12). In the ancient world the seven books that eventually were accepted in the New Testament, which at times received serious questioning, were Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. The issues then were issues that are still sometimes raised— the lack of any confidence of knowing who the author of Hebrews was, apparent theological tensions between Paul and James, the strikingly different style and contents of 2 Peter compared with 1 Peter, the brief and personal nature of 2– 3 John, the brevity along with the quotation of pseudepigraphical literature in Jude, and the puzzling genre and interpretation of Revelation as an apocalypse.”

(Kindle Locations 9276-9286)

“The early church also made good choices in what it canonized. It might be better to speak of it as receiving or ratifying documents which from their composition were recognized as unique. Yes, there were some rough edges, including a minority of the texts, particularly some of the shortest, where debate continued for three centuries or so. Also a handful of texts supported by a multiplicity of sources for inclusion in the canon failed to make it. But a substantial gap remained in the amount of support that existed between the most poorly supported texts that made it into the canon and the most frequently supported ones that were rejected. As far as we can tell, the theologically most central texts of the New Testament were all acknowledged, virtually without question, from their inception. Meanwhile, the most intriguing documents propounding an alternate and heterodox form of Christianity were rarely if ever put forward for inclusion at all, even by their own adherents.”

(Kindle Locations 9371-9378)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Abijah - Wicked or Righteous?

“The righteous one has perished, but no one takes it to heart. Loyal men are taken away, with no one discerning that the righteous one has been taken away because of the calamity. He enters into peace. They rest on their beds [that is, the Grave], all who walk uprightly.” – Isaiah 57:1,2

“When your [the wife of Jeroboam’s] feet come into the city the child [Abijah] will certainly die. And all Israel will indeed bewail him and bury him, because this one alone of Jeroboam’s will come into a burial place; for the reason that something good toward Jehovah the God of Israel has been found in him in the house of Jeroboam.” – 1 Kings 14:12,13

I have long assumed that Abijah was a wicked person, though, one’s whose wickedness wasn’t great enough to warrant the dishonor of not being mourned for or buried. Now, though, I’m inclined to think that he was righteous, after having recently reading that passage in Isaiah.
A Watchtower comments: “Did this [that he was buried and mourned] mean that Abijah was a faithful worshiper of Jehovah? Not necessarily, since he died, as did the rest of his wicked household.” This observation is correct. However, it seems more likely than not that he was righteous. True, he died, but it was before the others in Jeroboam’s house on the apostate household, which happened in the second year of the reign of Jeroboam’s other son, Nadab. He wasn’t killed when Baasha brought the calamity on Jeroboam’s house, because he was already dead.  This fits Isaiah’s description of the righteous who are spared the calamity of the wicked by death.
It is also worth noting that his death, having occurred before the execution of Jeroboam’s house by Baasha, allowed him to be buried for with honor and mourned. If he died later (by Baasha’s hand), when Baasha revolted, it is not likely that Baasha would have let him been buried; the lack of a burial and mourning was part of the calamity Ahijah spoke against Jeroboam’s house.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Father

My father died today. He will be sorely missed. While in no joyous spirit (in fact, it seems surreal), this I recall: that he is entrusted to the same One as who was entrusted with the spirit of Christ. Now, Christ has been raised up to glory and will himself raise back the dead, since he has life in himself, given to him by the Father. God, do not delay, but 'yearn for the work of your hands.'

Friday, September 9, 2016

Letter: August 16th, 2016

August 15th, 2016

Dear ,
Recently, I was considering what the most important thing that can be known is, and I arrived at one of two options: (1) that God exists, or (2) God himself. That is, a fact about a person, or the person himself. One is a means to and end, the other is an end in itself. Given that, I asked a question that yields an obvious answer: Which is preferable in the sight of God, that we merely add another proposition about reality to our set of beliefs, or that we form a relationship with Him, as his graciously offers?

Of course, the latter. For, when the Scriptures speak of the restoration of all things, it does not merely say, 'And all will believe that God exists,' or, 'And God will dwell with men in order to make them know that he exists.' Rather it says that, 'God will be all things to everyone,' and, 'God will dwell with men, and he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, pain or mourning; the former things have passed away.'

Mere factual knowledge does not bring such joy. It is the fullness of joy that we await, being described as that which 'eye has not seen, nor ear heard,' and which 'God has prepare for those who love him.' The former knowledge is easily to imagine; even atheists know what that kind of propositional knowledge would look like. But we can only get a meager glimpse at the coming glorious age, toward which Scriptures have just directed our hope.

And what will it mean to know God, and to thus be known by him? Truly, it is the fulfillment of our lives and the greatest state of affairs. It is not merely going to be subjectively great (as even delusions can feel), but it is going to be objectively great, for we will live forever and enjoy many goods, and, above all else, a relationship with God, the greatest good forever. Our (very good and objective) purpose will satisfied as we perfectly mirror the One in whose image we are created, expressing wondrously creativity, goodness and rationality. Forever we will love Jehovah, the only true God who is love.

Is this not the oneness with him, his Christ and all worshippers that which we hope for? (For what else could possibly be worthwhile if we miss out on it?) Or do we keep ignoring it and becoming distracted by trivial concerns which are of no benefit? I fear that in my own case the latter.

That is why it is good to realize that all else that are goods are inferior goods which cannot stand up on their own as places to lay our heart. Take for instance what is perhaps the second greatest relationship one can have apart from God, namely, marriage, a complete bodily, mental and emotional union. It cannot fill the void left by not having that which we can jointly have with the Most High. For no spouse can replace Jehovah and be a God surrogate. And in the end, marriage is a symbol of the union that Christ has with the Congregation; that is, a still higher union, which is what we yearn for, being as it is the unity between ourselves, all other believers, the Son and Jehovah the Father.

Is any token worth as much as that which it typifies or signifies? Or would you trade something of infinite worth for something of merely finite worth? The sensible answer is plain, yet in practice we might act contrary to it. (I know that I have.) In that case, we would be like a parched man, reading the word "water" written on a piece of paper and thinking that his thirst is now quenched; surely, however, he will perish without water. Likewise, anything other than God, who is revealed to us by Christ, in whom all are being built up as one, is not enough to quench our need for spiritual fellowship; only that which Christ, who said, 'I have true drink, and the one drinking will never get thirsty again,' and, 'Come take life's water free,' has can, for he reveals to us the Father, who blessed forever. Amen.

Beyond full comprehension, Jehovah sits enthroned in glory; above the highest heights and lofty angels, he reigns as the Creator Almighty, enduring forever. Yet from long ago he has said, 'I dwell with the lowly.' Yes, most amazingly, he is interested in us; he cares for us. We can know Jehovah. How awe-inspiring! Let this realization never become mundane or worn out. Instead it must be an exalted lodestar, more sure to us than the north star, more radiant than the sun, and more wondrous that the star-lit heavens. God says, 'Seek my face,' let us respond, 'Seek you face, I will' and praise his holy name, for we are assured that 'the pure in heart will see God's face.' And we can trust him, for there is no one else like him, 'not forsaking those trusting in him.'

Sean Killackey

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Letter: April 16th, 2016

Bellow is a letter I wrote back in April to some of my friends. I figured that I'd post it here for you all.

April 16th, 2016

Dear Friends,
            I was considering the significance of the death and resurrection of Christ recently, and this moved me to write this letter. I hope that you are doing well and enjoy it. There is nothing I want more than this, that your joy might be full on account of the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, and that your confidence in God might keep growing. If I could impart anything toward this end, then I shall be satisfied.
This good news of Christ, his coming, dying and being raised up to the right hand of Majesty, comforts me greatly. It is well attested, as I will go on to relate soon, and it alone is worthwhile. In it my heart rejoices, for I am compelled by the love of God, who, through Christ, reconciles me to himself, though, I was his enemy. Of what virtue shall I speak that Christ lacked? Or of what authority that Jesus did not have as God’s own Son? As a son of Korah said, “O you are the most beautiful of the sons of men and graciousness is upon your lips, and in your splendor and dignity abound!” Yes! he who was so rich became poor so that we who are poor might call on God in spirit and truth.
This good news is vivid in my mind, and its meaning deepens upon reflection; it excels me so much so at this time that I just have to write you, my friends. I must say, as did that son of Korah, “My heart is astir by a goodly matter, my words are about the King, so let my tongue be a skillful scribes stylus.”
Yes, he whose fondness was for the sons of men, he who always rejoices before Jehovah since before the world was, this is he who came for us. God sent his glorious Son to die a death of exceeding shame so that, by that death, we who were clothed in shame and apart from God, might come before the God and see his favor. Who can know this, yet remain silent; who dwells upon it, yet remains unmoved? Truly none, for ‘into all the earth the word has gone out,’ and my heart burns because of this, as did the hearts of those who talked to Christ on the road to Emmaus. Upon that road, Christ explained what the Scriptures said about him, which, if possible, I will try to note in passing in this letter.
Yes, put up with me a little while longer while I go on to express that which exhilarates me so much more than anything else. If only I could move your heart just as mine has been moved then I should be content. And if you find all the more pleasure in Jehovah, what more do I need? Now, let me go on to relate in brief some of the chief facts of the matter that give me the confidence in which I rejoice.
The Scriptures are right to speak of God’s great loyal love, which endures forever. For, in all things God reveals his love, but especially does Jah recommend his love to us in that he sent his Son to die. Even the righteous patriarchs had their errors, as did all of the righteous kings: David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah. So how should we fare any better than them who were not saved by their works were it not for the death and resurrection of Christ? Paul informs us that if Christ had not been raised up, then we are still in our sins and have no hope, but if he was raised up, we are saved. How, then, can we know that Christ was raised up?
Because the tomb was empty, even as the Jews conceded when they said, ‘they came and stole his body.’ And we know that the Apostles were not deceivers; even if they were inclined to be, they wouldn’t risk death and great shame by proclaiming that “for a fact the Lord has been raised up.” However, this very end befell many of them. Additionally, the disciples had appearances of the risen Christ. These were too numerous, occurred to too many people (including non-believers and opposers) at such different times for them to be mere hallucinations; they must have been actual appearances of the resurrected Christ.
However, some try to explain the empty tomb by saying that the body was stolen, not by the disciples, but by thieves. However, this is unlikely on its face, since there were guards there, just as the Jews admitted. Additionally, if the body was stolen, the Jewish leaders would have found this out in order to discredit the followers of Jesus; this they did not do. Others suppose that tomb’s location was lost and the empty tomb was not really Jesus’, but this is not likely, since the women followed to see where Joseph of Arimathea buried him (in one of his own tombs). Further, if the Jews did not know the location of the tomb, they would have said, ‘The empty tomb is not Jesus’ real tomb.’ However, what they said was that ‘his disciples came and stole the body while the guards were sleeping.’ Similarly, while some have supposed that the tomb was not empty, if this was so, the Jews would have said, ‘His tomb is not empty,’ and the Christian response would have been, ‘That is another body.’ But this is not what happened. By these things (and more) we know that that the God of Israel did just as he foretold he would do.
He kept foretelling these things from Eden to Simeon of Jerusalem, who, was told that he would see the Christ of Jehovah before he died. Yes, he spoke in Eden and to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob about a promised offspring. Jacob foretold that Shiloh (he whose right it is) would come through Judah; and Nathan foretold that he’d come through David. Ezekiel and Amos affirmed that, despite the destruction of David’s dynasty, God would fulfill this promise and give the throne to ‘he whose legal right it is.’
As it turned out this is David’s Lord, to whom Jehovah promised great things: that he’d be king-priest like Melchizedek forever, and that all things would be made subject to him. Moses similarly prophecies that a prophet like himself would arise. Daniel also speaks of this great King, who is the “Son of man,” who comes before God to receive a kingdom. This is the one, Gabriel says, who was born to Mary; in Bethlehem, Micah says.
Isaiah, David, Daniel and Jehovah all show that the Messiah would suffer and be crushed for the sins of other, just as Jeremiah affirms when he mentions a new covenant in connection with the doing away of sin, and then he would be raised up to glory. Which is what Jehovah showed would happen to his own Son, when he told Abraham, ‘please offer up Isaac your only son, whom you love so much,’ and Abraham reckoned that God could raise up from the dead.
Yes, this matter is attested to by many witnesses, so that we might be led to Christ. Therefore, we can hold with all confidence to that which was proclaimed since the beginning of the good news, that which Paul believed and which was spoken by the Apostles: “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised up on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelves, then to James, and then to all of the apostles, then he appeared to upwards of five hundred brothers at one time.”
Additionally, though we see only a hazy reflection upon a metal mirror, we know that, whatever the meaning of God’s promises which have yet to take place, they are yes by means of Christ. This all was done by God, “so that those who live might live no more for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” And how readily we want to do this!

Sean Killackey