Saturday, July 29, 2017

Gregisms and Jesusisms

Way back in the mid to late 90's, I used to listen to the Bible Answer Man with Hank Hanegraaff.  After a while of listening to him, I noticed that he had certain catch phrases he would frequently use that were peculiar to him.  One of them was, "The resurrection is the capstone in the arch of Christianity."  And he would use the phrase "pale of orthodoxy" a lot.  It's been over 15 years since I regularly listened to him, and I still remember that. If I thought about it, I suppose I could remember more.

I also started listening to James White way back around the end of the 90's or the beginning of the 2000's.  I noticed that he, too, had certain catch phrases he would use frequently.  The one that sticks out most in my mind is, "in any way, shape, form, or fashion."

I haven't listened to Frank Turek as much, but one thing I noticed about him is that whenever he gives a talk, an interview, or anything, he never fails to say, "I'm from New Jersey."  That has always struck me as funny.  After I started noticing it, I would point it out to people.  Then the next time I'd hear something from Frank, he would again say, "I'm from New Jersey."  It still makes me laugh every time he says it because it's so predictable.

Greg Koukl has been my favourite Christian radio host for most of these years.  I've listened to him more anybody else.  I became so familiar with how he spoke that I started keeping a list of what I called "Gregisms."  Here are some of his catch phrases:

After a fashion
A sense in which
As it were
Such as it is

I've come to the conclusion that just about everybody has little peculiar ways of saying things or particular words they use regularly.  If you listen to them long enough, you start noticing them.  It's especially true of people who give public talks.

I don't give public talks, but I've noticed that I, too, form habits of using certain words and phrases in things I write.  It changes from time to time, though.  One friend pointed out to me a long time ago, that I said "presuppose" a lot.  I don't do that anymore.  Sometimes my speech habits get on my nerves, and I make a conscious effort to change them.  One thing that has gotten on my nerves more than anything and that I haven't been able to break out of is my habit of saying, "little."  Whenever I watch one of my own YouTube videos, and I catch myself saying, "little this," or "little that," it makes me cringe.  The most recent habit of mine that I've noticed is that I'll say something like, "Not only. . ., but also. . ." or, "It's not that. . ., but. . ." or "It's not because. . ., but because. . ." That one is starting to annoy me, so I'll probably try to change it.

Anyway, all of this got me to thinking about Jesus.  If Jesus is like most people, he probably has his own catch phrases, and I wondered if anybody had ever done a study on it or if there's enough in the gospels to pick up on patterns.  I have not gone through the gospels with a fine-toothed comb to look into this, but just off the top of my head, there are a couple of things I can think of.  One of them is that Jesus will often say, "Truly I say to you," or "Truly truly. . ."  But he will also say, "The kingdom of God is like. . ." because most of his parables are about the kingdom of God.

These must be Jesusisms because the authors of the gospels never use these phrases, and nobody else in the New Testament does. But Jesus is quoted as using them in all the gospels.  From an historical point of view, it seems like the best explanation is that Jesus really spoke that way.  His followers remembered it because they listened to him so much.  Anybody who wanted to write an account of things that Jesus said would probably include some of those phrases. They contain his voice.

I'm curious if there are any more Jesusisms one might notice if they went looking for them.  Maybe the next time I go through the gospels, I will.  If you know of any, leave a comment.

*I recently binged watched all nine seasons of Seinfeld and noticed that Elaine Benes also says, "Lookit."  I noticed that one because it's my favourite Gregism.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

To be is to be percieved

I have run into a few idealists over the years.  An idealist is somebody who thinks mind and the things that make up minds are all that exist.  There is no mind-independent material world.  Everything is perception.

This idea has always struck me as being kind of crazy.  Well, no, I take that back.  There was a time when I was very young that I entertained the idea that everything was perception, especially my own. I guess I should say that for the last 20 to 25 years, this idea has struck me as being crazy.  I mean it's one thing to allow for the mere possibility and to entertain the idea just for the fun of having and exchanging philosophical thoughts. But it's another thing altogether to take the idea seriously or to actually believe that it's true.

But I've met some really smart people who at least claim to believe it.  Some of them have even been Christians.  I'm not going to go into all of my reasons for rejecting idealism in this post.  I just want to respond to one challenge that is always put to me whenever I run into an idealist.  They always want me to describe mind-independent reality.  The reason they appear to see this as a legitimate challenge is because it will be nearly impossible for me to describe anything in the "external" world without appealing to what's going on in my head.  If I start talking about shape, size, colour, etc., these are all just perceptions in my mind. Since I cannot describe reality apart from my mind, they seem to think that means there's no mind-independent reality.

Let me parody this argument. If there are any idealists out there who think I'm misrepresenting their point when they bring up this challenge, leave me a comment and straighten me out.  In the meantime, here's the parody.

Suppose I challenged you to describe a dinosaur without using language.  Well, obviously you couldn't do that.  Aha!  Therefore, there are no language-independent dinosaurs!  Dinosaurs cannot exist independently of language.  So dinosaurs could not have existed prior to the advent of language.

Surely there's a fly in the ointment.  The fact that I can't describe a dinosaur without the use of language doesn't mean dinosaurs can't exist independently of language.  And just because I can't describe a dinosaur without appealing to perception doesn't mean a dinosaur can't exist without being perceived.  It no more follows that dinosaurs are perception than it follows that dinosaurs are language just because I use language and perception to describe them.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Calvinism and evangelism

I had a discussion on on Calvinism, and one person questioned me on why Calvinists evangelize since God determines who will come to Christ and who won't.  He was under the impression that if God decrees that some guy will come to Christ, then it will happen whether we evangelize or not.  That makes evangelism superfluous under Calvinism.

I made two attempts to explain why evangelism is not superfluous under Calvinism because he didn't understand my explanation the first time.  I was just reading over the conversation, and I thought my second attempt was about as clear as it could possibly be. So I thought I'd share it with you.

Let's suppose God wants X to happen. And lets suppose that divine determinism is true. With that being the case, there is a deterministic causal chain beginning with God and ending with X. Now, let's suppose that one of the links in that causal chain is Y. In that case, Y has everything to do with why X happened since it was part of the causal chain.

To be supfluous is to have no hand in bringing about a result. But if God uses means to accomplish his ends, then those means have everything to do with those ends happening.

Now when you raise hypotheticals like, "What if Y didn't happen," then however I answer that is going to depend on what we stipulate in the scenario. If we stipulate that Y is one of the means God intended to bring about X, then if you remove Y, then X won't happen.

But if we stipulate that X will definitely happen, and if you remove Y from the causal chain leading to X, then X will happen by some other means, it will not have been the case that Y was the means through which God intended X to happen.

So it really just depends on your stipulations. In my view, God successfully saves everybody he intends to save, and he uses the means of evangelism to do it. So evangelism has everything to do with why some people come to Christ. That means it's not superfluous. It would only be superfluous if it were not part of the causal chain leading to salvation.

You can read the whole conversation here:  I'm a crazy Calvinist, AMA

If you're interested, I did one other "Ask me Anything" thread on Calvinism here: Ask a Calvinist

I also addressed this same subject on my blog once here: Does Calvinism render apologetics superfluous?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

By hook or crook

I've noticed something when reading conversations on discussion forums between Christians and critics of Christianity. There are two arguments critics make that seems to be at odds with each other.

When talking, for example, about the historical Jesus, some critics will say that unless we have contemporary eye-witness accounts about Jesus, we can't know about him. Everything else is second hand or "hear say," which is unreliable. And since neither Paul nor the authors of the gospels were contemporary eye-witnesses of Jesus, we have no reliable way of knowing anything about the historical Jesus if he even existed.

But then I've seen other conversations where the Christian will try to make the case that the gospels contain information that comes from eye-witnesses to Jesus. The critics will then go on to explain that eye witness testimony is "notoriously unreliable." They'll cite court cases where eye-witnesses contradict each other, where they remember things incorrectly and get details wrong, etc.

I don't know if I've ever seen the same critic use both of these approaches, so I can't accusing any individual of inconsistency, but from the point of view of somebody defending historical information about Jesus, it does seem like they face inconsistent criticism.

One could avoid the inconsistency by throwing up their hands and saying history is unknowable. Since eye witness testimony is unreliable, and hear say or circumstantial evidence is also unreliable, then history just can't be known. I haven't met many people who are generally skeptical about history, though. I've run into lots of people who set the bar pretty high when it comes to evidence about Jesus, but not as high when it comes to other questions of historicity.