April 2006 Archives

The 120th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Daddypundit. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

In response to the claim that ID is just creationism (a slippery enough term as it is that can range from mere theism all the way to those who think Genesis 1 is a science textbook), I've been saying that ID is perfectly consistent with a closed universe of evolution, as long as the natural causes involved are not merely natural causes but are purposive, intelligent causes, and as long as those causes are detectable as intelligent causes. Most theistic evolutionists do not say that and therefore do not accept ID arguments. But someone who does should be welcome under the ID umbrella.

I looked at William Dembski's statements on this in my last post on the subject. I now turn to Phillip Johnson. Since this interview is one common place anti-ID folk have pointed to in order to argue that Johnson holds the opposite view, I've decided to use that as my source. Here is the first major quote relevant to this issue:

Theistic evolution is the same thing as atheistic evolution with a certain amount of God-talk. They don’t see any merit whatsoever in alleging that God left us some fingerprints on the evidence.

I think what's often going on is that ID opponents see him distancing himself from theistic evolution, and they then wrongly conclude that he's ruling out the sort of view with theistic evolution and signs of intelligent design together. But look closely about what he says about theistic evolution. He's not complaining about the view that everything was designed in such a way that evolution would happen but would reveal the signs of intelligent design. He's talking about the view that everything happened the way atheistic evolutionists say it did, i.e. God's fingerprints aren't on creation in order to have something to base an ID argument on. So he's not disagreeing with theistic evolution per se. He's disagreeing with theistic evolution as it's normally held. The usual theistic evolutionist does have a view that contradicts ID. The theistic evolutionist who insists that God left fingerprints that we can detect and then use as a basis for an ID argument is, of course, not inconsistent with ID, because it's the presence of those footprints that's all that the ID argument insists on.

Christian Carnival CXIX

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The 119th Christian Carnival is at Brain Cramps for God.

It's somewhat unusual to see a complementarian arguing for women deacons, but see Andreas Köstenberger's arguments here. I'm earnestly awaiting his commentary on the pastoral epistles. Two of the most important academic commentaries on those books are by complementarians (George W. Knight in the NIGTC and William Mounce in the WBC), but the best introductory level commentaries have largely been by egalitarians who seem to me to take positions at odds with the text (e.g. Gordon Fee's NIBC, Philip Towner's IVPNTC, the forthcoming Cornerstone by Linda Belleville; I must admit that what I read from Walter Liefeld's NIVAC does justice to the complementarian position and doesn't push egalitarianism very strongly). John Stott (BST) and Kent Hughes and Brian Chapell (PTW) are the exceptions, but they aren't primarily scholars but pastors, and these works are more sermonic/homiletic than commentary. Köstenberger is really on the forefront of the scholarly debate, and I think he's done some of the best work on the issue.

The Christian Carnival updates I post every week have a link to a mailing list that you can join if you want to get emailed announcements every week for where the next carnival will be hosted and the URL of the carnival when it's posted, along with occasionaly information about the carnival for potential hosts and potential authors who would submit entries. It's usually only two or three emails a week.

Anyway, the list hasn't been working lately, and Dory has set up a new one with Google Groups. The link is here. She's allowing anyone to join for now, but she's holding any messages sent to the list for her approval. At some point she will switch things so that she will need to approve of whoever joins and then allow messages to go through without her approval. So if you were on the other list and want to continue getting updates, or if you weren't but would like to anyway, then go ahead and join the Google group. My regular Christian Carnival notices at the beginning of each week will have the new URL. I've already updated the most recent one. For more information on the new list, see Dory's post on this matter.

Genealogy Puzzle

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My mom forwarded me this article about my dad's cousin selling his small utility company and retiring. His name is Tom Pierce. There's a funny account in there about how he had to run around a pole to get a dog tangled up so he could do his work, but that's not why I'm posting this. I had to do a double-take while reading the article. It mentions Tom's great-grandfather's name as Edward Pierce. That struck me as strange, because there's no Edward Pierce in my ancestry in the last ten generations. But Tom Pierce is my dad's cousin, and this is that same Tom Pierce and not someone else with the same name. Then I remembered something. What could I have remembered that would have made it all make sense? There are several possible answers consistent with the information I've given, but only one of them is the right answer in this case.

Note: Family members are not allowed to answer (except by email). I want to see if anyone comes up with this on their own.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches From the Culture Wars has been claiming that intelligent design is incompatible with the following sort of view:

God created the universe, having designed it from the outset to produce the kind of particular results God wanted, and there are signs of that creation, but it didn't involve intervention at a later time. Instead, it resulted from the natural laws God set up at the beginning that directed the universe toward the sort of thing that ID arguments are now concluding to be signs of God's design.

This was in response to my claim that ID arguments are consistent with this sort of view. The main thrust of his argument has been to affirm my claim that design arguments can result in such a view but to deny that the people who came up with the term 'intelligent design' wouldn't tolerate this. He says they consistently and repeatedly disallow this sort of view, saying that it wouldn't allow the kind of intelligent design arguments that they are giving. He says Howard Van Till holds exactly the view I was sketching, and they don't count Van Till among the ID people because of his holding this view. I think their statements about him are easily explained in terms of other things they disagree with him about, and Macht has done a good job explaining why in the comments on the post. But I think a positive case can be made that they deliberately do include the sort of view that Ed says Van Till holds. I decided to get out Mere Creation to see what William Dembski, one of the founders of the ID movement, had to say in his introduction to intelligent design arguments. What follows is an adaptation of a comment in the aforementioned discussion.

In the Blac(k)ademic discussion on Tawana Brawley (see my post on that if you didn't read it already), one interesting question came up. The rest of the discussion reminded me eerily of several others I've had on other matters. What is it that many anti-ID people, the racists Kinists at Little Geneva, many radical leftists on race and gender, and some of the hyper-fundamentalists who comment at WorldMag have in common that leads to this same result?

Anyway, this post isn't about the unwillingness to treat your intellectual opposition respectfully and fairly. It's about an interesting question raised by one of the people on that thread. She wondered why it is that white men who marry black women get very upset when they're called racists and often mention that their wife is black in response to charges of racism. She says white women in interracial marriages never think to refer to their marriage as evidence that they're not racist. I have not idea if this generalization is true (though I do find it deeply ironic that I wasn't allowed to make any statements about any tendencies even about small groups of black people I've known -- see the exact statement below -- without being called racist, but she can make all sorts of generalizations about white men married to black women, not to mention all the references to white oppressors overall in that conversation). But suppose the generalization is true, and white men are more likely to say this sort of thing in response to the racism charge than white women would in similar circumstances. As I thought about it, I thought there might be an explanation for this fact if indeed she's correct (which I have no idea about) that it's a fact. At least I might have some explanation in my own case. What follows is a development of a part of a comment I left there.

One of the most common arguments against intelligent design seems to me to confuse motivation with theoretical basis. In defense of the charge that ID is religious creationism, many opponents of ID point out that most people who support ID believe in a creator God for religious reasons. This happens to be true. Actually, they usually say that all who support ID believe in a creator God for religious reasons, and that's false. Antony Flew supports cosmological ID, and he isn't religious at all. There's a whole blog of ID proponents who are not advocating theism (I believe it's Telic Thoughts, but I couldn't find their statement on this if so). But it is true that most ID supporters are religious theists of some sort.

Here is the important distinction that those who give this argument cannot, or in some cases simply refuse to, see. Members of the Discovery Institute offer arguments for the existence of God. These are classic philosophical arguments that go back at least as far as Plato, who had no contact with Christian (Christianity didn't exist) or Jewish (no Jews were anywhere near him) monotheism. These arguments conclude that it seems likely that there must have been some designer for whatever particular phenomenon the argument is concerned with, e.g. the origin of the cell, the origin of some particular organ, the cosmological constants of the universe, etc. The Discovery Institute also happens to believe the designer that the argument's conclusion speaks of is the Christian God. They even admit that they have religious motives for wanting people to accept the argument. But the fallacy anti-ID people regularly engage in is to take that motivation to be the basis of the argument. It's simply not, and that kind of confusion would lead an introductory philosophy student to fail a critical thinking assignment.

More Humorous Searches

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Condi Rice said she never experienced racism
Not likely. Why would someone who was a child in the South in a major period of racial unrest lie about something like that?

yes a christian nation should support hangings
Shouldn't faithful theonomists insist on executing only by means of stoning?

What did Rosa Parks do that was an example of taking a stand?
Actually, I think it was more that she wouldn't stand.

interracial gene
Hey! That makes it so much easier. Now I can know if someone who looks black is really black or interracial. I just find out if they've got the interracial gene! Those who didn't get the gene, regardless of what percentage of their genes came from people of which racial group, are simply not interracial. They've got to belong fully to one category or the other. Those who have the gene, even if they're 99% white in terms of genetic heritage, are interracial. I guess this solves the problem of the vagueness of racial categories. So much for my dissertation. I suppose I need to go back to philosophy of time now.

don't marry a black man
OK, I won't.

Ephesians Study Notes

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John Glynn has posted his study notes for Ephesians, which will be appearing in the forthcoming HCSB Study Bible. For some reason the number of quality study Bibles is increasing. I've heard about several study Bibles that have just come out or are in process right now that look to be on the same scholarly level as the NIV Study Bible or the Reformation Study Bible. Given that most study Bibles are simply marketing ploys to get people to think they need something directed specifically to their particular demographi rather than simply to promote actual study of the Bible for its own sake, I think this is great.

Christian Carnival CXIX Plug

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The 119th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Brain Cramps for God. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Star Trek XI

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TrekToday announces that plans are underway for an 11th Star Trek film. They're saying it will include Kirk and Spock in their days at Starfleet Academy and their first mission together. I don't know what to think about it except that I'm glad that Rick Berman seems to be completely out of the loop [Update: Berman's noninvolvement has now been confirmed]. The producers of Lost are involved, and since I've never seen that show I have no idea if that's a good thing. This could be very teenybopperish, ala Roswell, so I hope they think carefully about how to make it something the fans will actually like. The premise doesn't sound all that thrilling so far, and they're going to need to work hard to avoid some of the criticism Enterprise gathered due to things they did that seemed to change the past rather than anticipate what we already knew (though the fourth season entirely made up and then some for anything they did along those lines in the first three seasons). I'll watch it, of course, because it's Star Trek, but I'm going to need to see a good deal more that sounds remotely interesting if I'm going to get really excited about it. I am glad that they haven't abandoned this franchise in the film venue, as CBS seems to be forcing them to do in the TV medium. I just hope they don't flub it. It is, after all, odd-numbered, and no odd-numbered movie in this franchise has been better than any even-numbered movie. If they stick with the trend, this will at best be middle of the pack, right between Insurrection (the best odd one) and Nemesis (the worst even one). It would be nice if they could actually break that trend sometime.

Update: Abrams says the report isn't entirely accurate, but he isn't confirming or denying anything in particular.

The 118th Christian Carnival is at Attention Span.

Invoking Tawana Brawley

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Nubian at blac(k)ademic is complaining about people invoking the name of Tawana Brawley with the Duke University Lacrosse rape case [hat tip: Mixed Media Watch ]. If you're not up to speed on Brawley or the Duke case, see this post by La Shawn Barber for the requisite background and this one for more details on the current case. My understanding is that she's the sort of person Nubia means. (Maybe she's the only one Nubia is referring to. I'm actually unaware of anyone else bringing up Brawley's name, and Sam is unaware of anyone else bringing her into the discussion either.)

Nubia's argument is that comparing these two cases promotes the sense that black women are lying when they say they've been raped, that black women's rape claims are always about sticking it to the white man. She also notes that these discussions tend to ignore various other racial phenomena, such as the often innocent black men who were lynched for having been framed for raping white women. These are cases of white women lying about black men raping them. I agree that there are serious worries with both issues, but I can't agree that bringing up Tawana Brawley is wrong for either reason. There's a moral purpose behind bringing her up, and it's one that ought to be furthered when the opportunity strikes. Recasting people's motives for bringing her up as if they are about something else does not change that moral purpose. What follows is an expansion of a comment I left on the post.

Some people have suggested (usually to avoid the conclusion of intelligent design arguments) that our universe is just one universe among many, and in fact there's a universe for every possible way things could have gone. Whole TV shows have been based on this claim. Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution discusses the ethical implications of the many-worlds thesis [hat tip: Philosophers' Carnival XXVIII] .

He argues that ethical questions would be irrelevant if this view is correct. No matter what you do, someone else just like you is doing each alternative possibility among the choices that were available to you. So if you can do the good thing or the bad thing, it doesn't matter which you pick, because your picking the bad one ensures that the good one will be done, and your picking the good one ensures that the bad one will be done. Either way the resulting multiverse is no different. Your action is simply irrelevant to what the multiverse will be like after your done. So ethics would be irrelevant. I disagree. This view doesn't have that consequence, and Tyler is just assuming something that I wouldn't grant.

This is a list of the current and forthcoming commentaries in the Tyndale Old and New Testament Commentaries. For more series, see my post on commentary series.

The Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (TOTC) and Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (TNTC) are some of the best basic level commentaries out there. The perspective is fairly conservative and clearly evangelical, and the intent is to package careful research into a popular-level commentary that can be read cover to cover fairly easily by someone with no background in academic work in biblical studies. It's not as basic as the NIVAC or BST series, but that just means it's more helpful to someone seeking a little more reasoning behind the exegesis and interpretation taken in the commentary. Many of the authors are top scholars who have also written detailed commentaries, usually on other books.

A few volumes stand out as particularly excellent. All of the ones by Joyce Baldwin are great (Samuel, Esther, Daniel, Haggai-Zechariah-Malachi). Selman's two volumes on Chronicles and Hubbard's lengthy volume on Hosea were allowed far more space than normally happens in this series. Colin Kruse's new one on John is the best basic level commentary on John, and John Stott's volume on I-III John is probably the same for that book. I've seen some refer to I. Howard Marshall on Acts as the best commentary in the series, though I think I'd reserve that for Stott's. Derek Kidner did some fine work for this series too (Genesis, Ezra-Nehemiah, Psalms, Proverbs), though his are probably among the most dated in the series.

The following list is in canonical order. If you prefer to see the volumes in their chronological release order (as best as I can reconstruct), see here.

Searches

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My searches list has gotten quite long, so here are a few more than usual:

why do christians have pleasure
Could it be because Christians are human beings just like anyone else?

nationality of the Londo name
Centauri. If you know enough about the show to know about Londo, shouldn't you know what planet he's from?

biologically who determines your race
That would be your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate.

how much money should Christians spend on vacations?
Do you want an exact number? And do you want that number to include the total number spent by all Christians across all time? I think it will take awhile to calculate that based on the detailed equations in Paul's second letter to the Mathematicians.

what is my midichlorian count
Zero, the same as everyone else's. Midichlorians are fictional entities.

Here's one for furthering Wink's discussion of whether Jesus committed suicide:
did God murder jesus
It doesn't go quite as far as claiming that God committed cosmic child abuse, but it raises similar questions.

what obstacles did Colin Powell overcome being a black man trying to become Secretary of State
None that I know of. He was overwhelmingly confirmed. His race-related obstacles were earlier in life, unless you count the racist views that don't tolerate black Republicans. But none of that affected his confirmation hearings.

One common but bad argument against interracial marriage stems from the fear that it destroys cultures. Mixed Media Watch has a good response to this argument. I would add that racial interaction of any sort, especially intermarriage, should create culture as much as destroying it. Once you stop assuming that culture is the same thing as race, it becomes pretty clear that kids of mixed race can have a culture, and this is so even if both parents avoid continuing cultural traditions of their families. We all have a culture, and every culture is changing. In the U.S., there used to be a black culture and a white culture. Now there's still something to black culture, but there really isn't much of a white culture anymore, just a mainstream culture that includes many historically white elements but has many elements from non-white ethnic groups. If black people were to give up the remaining distinctives (which isn't what I'm recommending; I would recommend giving up only bad elements of any culture), it still wouldn't mean black culture is lost. It would mean some (but only some) of those distinctives would be lost. Many of them would remain on in the continuing culture that contains those and some of the original mainstream features.

But what's really silly about this argument is the idea that mixed race children are being robbed of their own culture if they are not raised in ways that the culture of one side of their ancestry had. Whatever you're going to say about what they're being denied, they're not being denied their culture. It's not their culture unless they once had it. Those who were taken from Africa and made slaves were robbed of their culture. If Sam and I adopt a Korean girl, we're not robbing her of her culture just because her parents would be of two very different ethnic groups that are not her own. That Korean culture was never hers, so no one could claim that she would be robbed of her culture. At best she would be robbed of a culture that might otherwise have been hers, but that's not the same thing. We might say there's some kind of ancestral heritage that she has, but it's not her culture. Her culture is what she's raised with.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine dealt with this issue nicely in the second season episode "Cardassians". A Cardassian child was raised by Bajorans. I've used that episode with good results in my classes when I've talked about race. A Cardassian child was raised by Bajoran parents. The Cardassians had been the oppressors of the Bajorans, until the Bajorans freed themselves. Some Cardassian children were left behind, and this kid was one of them. The Bajorans took them in. His culture was clearly Bajoran, but his father wanted him raised as a proper Cardassian to appreciate Cardassian things. Sometimes thinking about these things with a no-stakes context like science fiction really helps put things into perspective when you return to the real-life cases.

The 118th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Attention Span. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

Mainstream theological scholarship has in recent years been moving away from orthodoxy on the atonement, in particular away from forensic or legal views of the atonement. The idea that God is wrathful and holds out a just punishment over all those whose sins aren't atoned for has become the whipping boy of many a theologian. The preference now is to emphasize peace with God, new life in Christ, or the example of humility and service of Jesus on the cross, as long as there's none of this sense of legal guilt and responsibility for sin that Jesus somehow takes care of on the cross.

Evangelicals have tended to react to this by ignoring some of the other aspects of the atonement. Peace with God and new life in Christ are generally thought of as results of being a Christian, but it's not the first thing emphasized by many evangelicals regarding the purpose of the cross. Jesus taking the penalty for our sins is usually the primary message, and the polemic against those who deny this usually leaves out the real variety in the scriptures' language of the atonement. What did Jesus die for? I wouldn't deny that it's to satisfy God's justice. I wouldn't deny that it's to bear a penalty that I owe. It's also buying me back as a ransom, which isn't the same image as paying someone's debt, and that in turn isn't the same image as taking someone's death penalty. But not one of these images fully captures the sense in the scriptures that the cross was to give us new life, overflowing life, of a quality not found outside Christ. Not one of them fully captures the shalom or peace that comes from my being in Christ and from Christ being in me. This isn't just gettinng along, as 'peace' in English suggests. It's wholeness and health. I'm whole and healthy in Christ. It's already true in one sense and is being worked out over time in another sense, and the New Testament authors speak in both ways. But there's one element of all this that I think deserves special attention.

This is a list of the current and forthcoming commentaries in the NIV Application Commentary. For more series, see my post on commentary series.

The NIV Application Commentaries (NIVAC) are truly of their own category. After what's usually a fairly brief exposition of what the text says in its original context, there's a section raising considerations on how we should bridge from that context to our own, and then a third section presents some ways to apply the text in our own context. This is an admirable aim, since it gives a model for how each person should be reading the Bible with an aim to applying it in our own contexts. The downside is that the author isn't in exactly our context, and we have to do that kind of work ourselves and not allow a commentary to do it for us, or else we won't have truly bridged the contextual gap from the text to our own context. But the model presented in these volumes is often very helpful to begin that work.

There's much of value in these commentaries, even if the exposition itself is fairly brief, since it's not really much briefer than most basic level commentaries, but the additional portions are extra help in matters that commentaries don't often deal with. With caution, they can be quite helpful. The NT is finished, with the OT coming along pretty quickly.

Volumes released:

Ben Witherington now has two more Judas posts. He discusses yesterday's NPR discussion of the Gospel of Judas, which I missed and now will have to try to listen to from their website when I get the chance. Several issues come up in the post. I think the two most notable points are his further discussion of whether this Coptic text had a Greek antecedent and his claim about the moral content of this work. He particularly frowns on its portrayal of Jews. I left a comment wondering what he meant. Is the Gospel of Judas is anti-semitic in a way that the canonical gospels are not? I doubt he accepts the claims of many scholars that the internal criticism of Jesus and his followers of their fellow Jews counts as anti-semitism. Is just a further development in the direction that isn't really anti-semitism but that scholars have pretended is anti-semitism, or is it really anti-semitic in a way that the canonical gospels aren't? I'd be reluctant to consider it anti-semitic simply because it says some things that Jews didn't agree with, but that's all he mentions. If it can be established that the motivation was hatred of Jews, then I could see it, but simply having a different cosmology from the Hebrew one doesn't seem to me in itself to be anti-semitic. I'm still awaiting his response on this.

Witherington also has a discussion of what the canonical gospels say about Judas. I'm a little more confident that Judas never repented than he is (I think the suicide is a pretty good sign that he didn't), but he doesn't think we have any reason to think Judas did repent. What he does think is clear is that Judas did wrong in betraying Jesus and that this was really just a continuation of his character all along.


Andreas Kostenberger also posts on this
. I don't think he's saying much that wasn't in any of the other various things I've linked to except one point that I partially disagree with. The Gospel of Judas is bad for several reasons, one of which is that viewpoint it expresses. Gnosticism treats the body as unimportant and thus devalues one aspect of how God created us. It's not really a gospel, because it's message isn't good news but in fact bad news. I agree. But he adds one further thing that makes me hesitate. He says the Gospel of Judas is morally dangerous because it promotes betrayal as good. I don't think it's exactly fair to say that the Gospel of Judas portrays betrayal as virtuous. What it does is say that Judas didn't betray Jesus but was carrying out his instructions. In effect, it exonerates someone who in reality was a traitor by saying something false about what he did. But it doesn't take the moral stance that betrayal is virtuous. I think the author would have agreed that Judas would have been doing wrong if he had betrayed Jesus. But the book doesn't portray Judas as having done that.

I've been watching National Geographic's special on the Gospel of Judas (see here for my first post with links to all sorts of information on this work). I'm trying to catalogue all the unscholarly things they've been saying. I think I missed at least one, but there's plenty here to criticize.

First of all, they selected mostly scholars known for Gnostic sympathies or more radical reconstructions of the history of the development of Christianity. Many of these were not mainstream scholars but fringe elements like Bart Ehrman (see the links here for evaluation of his latest popular work) or Elaine Pagels (best known for minority views about Gnosticism that most scholars reject). Craig Evans was the one voice of reason in the whole production, and it felt to me as if they were excerpting him most of the time to fit with what they wanted to get across, putting his rejection of any historical value in this work regarding the actual Judas immediately before a fallacious argument of Elaine Pagels that ignores much historical information about the differences between what we know about the gospels and what we know about this work (see 6 below). My conclusion is that the people who put this together absolutely failed in terms of their journalistic integrity. But what else is new? That usually happens in these specials. There was much that I found enjoyable and interesting in this special, but I'm disgusted enough with the negatives that I'll have to refer you to Mark Goodacre for the positive elements.

On to the specific criticisms:

The 117th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at Cadmusings. The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

The Gospel of Judas

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I wish I had the time to comment on the media failure about the Gospel of Judas, but enough people have already done so that I can just link to them.

David Kopel at The Volokh Conspiracy has The Judas Gospel, which mainly refutes the ridiculous sorts of claims being made by most of the major media outlets who have been suggesting that anything in the Gospel of Judas has some bearing on scholarship on the historical Judas and will force everyone to reevaluate this man.

Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping has Judas Gospel a Yawner at Winds of Change (he also has it at his personal blog, but he's got comments and trackbacks at Winds of Change), which fills in more details on the apostolic origins of the NT canon and the rejection of non-apostolic works like the Gospel of Judas.

Ben Witherington has The Gospel of Judas et. al. -- Part One, which has some inside information about the process that has led to the publication of this new English translation of the Coptic translation that scholars we have had for years but has been unreadable by most NT scholars who know no Coptic (and the original Greek, if there ever was one, has not been found). He says he intends to follow up on this more.

Mark Roberts focuses more on the actual content of the Gospel of Judas in Excursus: The Gospel of Judas -- A Special Report, in an extended aside in the midst of a series evaluating the claims made by characters in The Da Vinci Code. It's not wholly off-topic, since both works raise issues related to Gnosticism, but this post is a stand-alone treatment of the Judas "gospel".

Captain's Quarters says it's not even a story that the president used the authority he legitimately has to authorize Lewis Libby to reveal classified information to the press. He also notes that this is information the media had been pressuring Bush to reveal, and only the president could authorize that it be revealed.

I want to say one thing that I haven't seen anyone else say. I've been getting lots and lots of searches with keywords related to Bush's statement that the leaker will be dealt with and that anyone who did anything illegal will be fired. Both statements have to do with the context of the specific information that had to do with Valerie Plame's identity. Nothing in Libby's testimony indicated that he had authorization to reveal her identity, just to share that they had good reason to doubt Joseph Wilson's claims about Niger and uranium. I'm imagining that people are trying to find this quote in order to say that Bush should fire himself, but any conclusion like that requires a very impressive incapacity to engage in careful thought. He never said anything about anyone revealing information that he had legally authorized to be released. He specifically spoke of firing anyone who had committed a crime in leaking information, and he said that the person who leaked the name would be fired. Neither one has anything to do with Bush's legal authorization of releasing the information Libby said Bush authorized him to release, which was just the same information that was released to the media shortly thereafter.

There is one thing people might say. They might wonder not at the legality but at the morality of releasing information like this to the press if the reason is simply for his administration to save face. Several commenters at CQ seem to have this problem. Though I can't say much for the level of commenting on that post, I think it's worth saying something about that point. There are two issues in just war theory when it comes to right intention. One is what the actual person making the decision actually intended. The other is whether a right intention is available. We can never know for sure what any other person was fully motivated by. What we can do is explore whether there was a good reason for doing what the person did. In this case, I think there's a fairly obvious explanation for how someone could authorize the release of this information with the right intentions and not just to save political face. Joseph Wilson was lying about the facts that were part of the basis of the justification for an ongoing military conflict. Those lies could have a negative impact on the entire war on terrorism and not just a negative impact on the president's approval ratings. So getting the facts out in the open about the intelligence justifying the invasion of Iraq could be good in terms of things completely independent of political maneuvering. While it's true that no one can prove that this was the motivation, it's also true that no one can prove that it isn't, and I think it's pretty low to condemn someone's motives as if you know what they are when an alternative explanation is available.

God of the Gaps

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Joe Carter delineates several interpretations of "God of the gaps" and sorts through which one are legitimate interpretations of ID claims, which ones are theologically tolerable for Christian theists, and which ones are scientifically acceptable. It turns out to be more complicated than people usually take it to be. I have nothing to add. This is the kind of post I like to write myself.

Lying Under Duress

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I've been thinking through the ethics of deceit with respect to April Fools jokes and other kinds of false statements that may or may not be considered lying. The Jill Carroll case has raised an important further sort of case that I hadn't been thinking about. What about when someone says something they don't believe to be true under duress? For background on the details of her case and her deliberate statements (under threat) of things she didn't agree with, see the Moderate Voice's excellent roundup. There seem to me to be at least three issues that may have a moral bearing on how we should evaluate such false statements, and I think the end result is much more messy than we would generally like moral issues to be.


Over a week after Steve Walsh announced the departure of Robby Steinhardt from Kansas, the news section of the official Kansas website has now announced officially that he is gone and David Ragsdale has returned. Here is the announcement:

The band KANSAS would like to bring finality to our recent member change. After a mutual decision to separate, KANSAS wishes Robby Steinhardt only the best for his career and life.

KANSAS takes this opportunity to welcome David Ragsdale to the band and we look forward to an exciting and creative future.

And as always, we thank our fans for their continued support.

They continue to have my support. I will miss Robby. He was especially nice to me on one occasion, and I very much enjoyed talking to him both times I got to meet him. I wish him the best and will miss the special sensitivity he approaches his violin playing with and his soulful voice. I do really like David Ragsdale's contributions to the band, however, and I expect we'll see an excellent CD of Walsh-Ragsdale compositions perhaps even as early as next year. If it's anything like Freaks of Nature or David & Goliath, it will be good and very much like classic Kansas. I suspect it might be even better if the reason for this reunion with Ragsdale was so they could use the sort of material this time around that they didn't use before (the reason he left in 1997). Besides, you've got to love a guy whose fashion sense allows him to wear sport coats or vests with nothing on underneath except the ever-present fanny pack around his waist.

Unfortunately, they don't have any dates scheduled this summer anywhere near me except when I'm going to be teaching an intensive summer course and will just be unable to drive to NYC on a Monday afternoon, see them at night, and spend all night driving back so I can teach at 8:30 am with no sleep. And that's the best of the possibilities. Oh, well.

Thank You, Sam

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I want to thank my wife publicly for the hard beginning of every week that she has to put up with. Monday is my long day. I teach in the morning and then again in the evening, and I'm often still on campus well into the afternoon working on class prep, grading, writing exams, and so on. I often have to reorient myself at the beginning of the week and prepare for three hours of Monday night class followed by another hour and a half on Tuesday morning for a different class, with no time in between, so I need to get it all together before I leave (which is 5pm, exactly the busy time at our house because of dinner). Then I have office hours Tuesday afternoon, and by the time I get home on Tuesday Sam is getting ready to go to dance class for a couple hours break from everything that happens at home. When she comes home, I go off to Bible study.

We see each other for however much time I manage to be home between my time on campus during the day on Monday and when I leave for my class and then however much time I manage to be home Tuesday afternoon before she leaves, plus an hour or two after I get home both nights. I know that some couples see each other less than that, but it's difficult for her especially because Ethan and Isaiah have such high needs and high energy. Today was such a day. The kids were out of hand, running all over the place, causing trouble, and getting in her way when she was preparing dinner. Eventually she locked the boys in Isaiah's room, and they had fun bouncing on the bed until Ethan bit his lip pretty badly. That's just an example. Stuff like this goes on all day except when they're at school, which is only a few hours.

So I wanted to thank her for her efforts. She works hard and constantly looks exhausted. I'm exhausted too, but she's constantly dealing with the same thing in the same place for long enough periods of time without much break, and she needs some appreciation. So thank you, Sam. I appreciate all you do.

Sheila Jackson Lee's attempt to get hurricanes named things like Jamal or Chamiqua isn't new to me, but it was surprising to see it turn up on snopes.com. I'm not surprised that someone might be offended at the particular email that they're confirming the basic facts behind, given the nature of the speech used in the email's last paragraph. (I'm not going to quote it here. Go read it for yourself.) I'm a little surprised that what's offensive is supposed to be that it's racist. It seems to be quoting a general tendency within a certain subset of African-Americans (and not exclusively among African-Americans either). Can it be racist to put words together that accurately reflect how the mainstream of the hip-hop community actually speaks? How is accurate representation of real people supposed to be racism? Unless it insinuates that all black people are like this, which it doesn't, I can't see how it's racist. It's certainly an offensive way of speaking, but the offensiveness is not something the email author came up with. It's something the email author is simply representing accurately. The most famous hip-hop artists speak in such an offensive way, and they are represented as major moral leaders by many African-Americans.

This is uncharacteristically uncareful for Barbara Mikkelson, who usually does an excellent job with the snopes.com site in sorting through what is accurate and what is not. She just seems to have a strange sense of what counts as racist.

The 116th Christian Carnival will be this week, hosted at ... in the outer .... The Christian Carnival is a weekly collection of some of the best posts of the Christian blogosphere. It's open to Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic convictions. One of the goals of this carnival is to offer our readers to a broad range of Christian thought. This is a great way to make your writing more well known and perhaps pick up some regular readers. For examples of past carnivals, see Matt Jones's list of previous Christian Carnivals.

To enter is simple. First, your post should be of a Christian nature, but this does not exclude posts that are about home life, politics, or current events from a Christian point of view. Second, please submit only one post dated since the last Christian Carnival (i.e. from last Wednesday through this coming Tuesday).

Then do the following:

So is it lying to pull an April Fools joke? It's clearly deception. If deception is always wrong, then April Fools jokes are wrong. But I don't think deception is always wrong. I don't even think outright lies are always wrong. I'm not sure if deception always counts as a lie either, because deception can be unintentional (though that won't distinguish between April Fools jokes and lies, because April Fools jokes are intentional). It may be that April Fools jokes are deception but not lies. It may be that they're lies but morally ok lies.

So I'm curious what people think about the ethical status of April Fools jokes. If they're not wrong, why? What distinguishes them from lying that is wrong? If you take lying to be generally wrong and accept these as ok, it's good to have some account of why April Fools jokes are ok. If April Fools jokes are wrong, why? If there's a good distinction between April Fools jokes that are ok and ones that are wrong, what is the moral difference?

I have my own thoughts on this, though I wouldn't say that I've got a fully fleshed-out view, but I'm curious what others think, and perhaps I'll have more to say in interaction with comments.

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