March 2011 Archives

John 5-8 sermons (2004)

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The introduction and preaching schedule for this sermon set is here.

John 7:53-8:11 isn't in the oldest manuscripts of the Gospel of John, and in some manuscripts it's in a different spot. It's even in one manuscript of the Gospel of Luke. The scholarly consensus holds that it was never originally part of the Gospel of John, but the elders of Trinity Fellowship took the view that God probably intended us to have it and concluded that it's entirely consistent with what we know about Jesus from writings that are unambiguously part of the New Testament scriptures, so they were willing to preach the text but took it separately at the end of this series rather than disrupting the flow of John's gospel, where it doesn't really belong.

1. John 5:1-18 "Making himself equal to God" Jeremy Jackson 1-4-04
2. John 5:19-29 "Honor the Son ... honor the Father" Stefan Matzal 1-11-04
3. John 5:30-47 "The Father has sent me" Jeremy Jackson 1-18-04
4. John 6:1-21 "Jesus withdrew ... Jesus ... drawing near" Jeremy Jackson 1-25-04
5. John 6:22-34 "Believe in him whom [God] has sent" Jeremy Jackson 2-1-04
6. John 6:35-48 "I am the living bread" Stefan Matzal 2-8-04
7. John 6:49-59 "Eat the flesh... drink the blood" Jeremy Jackson 2-15-04
8. John 6:60-71 "Many of his disciples drew back" Jeremy Jackson 2-22-04
9. John 7:1-18 "Learning when he has never studied" Doug Weeks 2-29-04
10. John 7:19-36 "Do not judge by appearances" Jeremy Jackson 3-7-04
11. John 7:37-52 "Come to me and drink" Jeremy Jackson 3-14-04
12. John 8:12-20 "I am the light of the world" Jeremy Jackson 3-21-04
13. John 8:21-32 "The truth will make you free" Bill Greenman 3-28-04
14 John 8:33-47 "I proceeded and came forth from God" Stefan Matzal 4-4-04
15. John 8:48-59 "My Father ... glorifies me" Jeremy Jackson 4-11-04 [Easter Sunday]
16. John 7:53-8:11 "Neither do I condemn you" Doug Weeks 4-18-04

The 1979 series on John's gospel contained one sermon on chapters 5-6.
The 1983 series on John's gospel contained three sermons on these chapters.
Jeremy Jackson preached on John 8:31-38 in 1986. See this topical series.
Chapters 5-6 were previously covered in 1988.
Chapters 7-8 were previously covered in 1989.

For more sermons, see here.

Joel S. has an informative and thoughtful review of Miroslav Volf's new book Allah: A Christian Response [ht: Justin Taylor]. This post is adapted from a comment I left on Joel's review, with significant expansions and modifications.

I like a lot of what Volf is saying, but I think Joel's concerns about the book are important things to be concerned about, especially the ones numbered 2 or higher. I disagree with his take on the substantive issues for concern 1, and I've been on record defending my view on the matter for quite some time.

The issue is whether I refer to the same being a Muslim refers to when we both talk about God. The Muslim uses the word 'Allah'. I use 'God'. Volf apparently argues that the Christian view of God and the Muslim view of God are sufficiently similar to ensure that they both will refer to the same being. I think that's a terrible argument. Any argument based on sufficient similarity is going to fail pretty quickly once we look to the essential Trinitarian nature of God. That's a pretty core element of the Christian view, if we're basing the reference of terms on actual metaphysics.

But of course language doesn't work that way. When people starting talking about water, they weren't doing so with full understanding of its chemical structure. If two groups with competing scientific theories about what water really is still referred to the same stuff and called it water, it would be nothing short of obtuse to claim that they referred to different stuff. Their historical and causal connection with that stuff is what grounds their reference to it with their terms, even though they had conflicting theories about what it is in its nature.

Similarly, the general Abrahamic tradition, confused as it is at some historical points, grounds the Islamic reference to God when they use the word 'Allah'. They refer to the being who interacted with human beings in the patriarchal period, through the human king they call the prophet David, and (and this is key) through that guy that they call the prophet Jesus. Surely they believe false things about Jesus, by any Christian standard. But it's the historic Jesus whom they claim to be a prophet, whom they claim to be returning someday, whom they claim did not die on the cross but was replaced by Jesus. They get Jesus' nature very wrong, but they refer to him when they do so, just as scientists got the nature of heat wrong when they thought it a substance but still referred to it (the kinetic energy) when they talked about it.

So if the question of whether Muslims worship the same God means whether the being they call Allah is the same being we call God, then the answer is obviously yes. But Volf is wrong to base it on similarity. He doesn't seem aware of causal theories of reference or any such thing.

On the other hand, if the question of whether Muslims worship the same God means whether their worship is correct worship, then that's another question entirely. It shouldn't be confused with the metaphysical question of whether the same being is referred to by Christians and Muslims. I've seen too many people start with their stance that Muslim worship of God involves actual reference to the same God Christians worship and then conclude that Muslim worship is equivalent to Christian worship. That inference seems to me to be utterly fallacious.

The reason this particular set of minor prophets was collected together as a unit is because they all deal with the relation between God's people and other nations. The introduction and preaching schedule for this sermon set is here.

1. Jonah 1:1-16 "Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish" Jeremy Jackson 10-26-08
2. Jonah 1:17-2:10 "You brought up my life from the pit" Jeremy Jackson 11-2-08
3. Jonah 3 "Jonah arose ... the king of Ninevah arose" Stefan Matzal 11-9-08
4. Jonah 4 "Do you do well to be angry?" Jeremy Jackson 11-16-08

5. Nahum 1 "No more ... never again" Jeremy Jackson 11-23-08
6. Nahum 2 "Behold, I am against you" Jeremy Jackson 11-30-08
7. Nahum 3 "Upon whom has not come your unceasing evil?" Stefan Matzal 12-7-08

8. Obadiah "Your deeds shall return on your own head" Jeremy Jackson 12-14-08

For more sermons, see here.

II Peter sermons

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The introduction and preaching schedule for these sermons is here.

1. II Peter 1:1-11 "Make your calling and election sure" Jeremy Jackson 8-12-07
2. II Peter 1:12-21 "Established in the truth you have" Stefan Matzal 8-19-07
3. II Peter 2:1-10a "There will be false teachers" Stefan Matzal 8-26-07
4. II Peter 2:10b-22 "They entice unsteady souls" Stefan Matzal 9-2-07
5. II Peter 3:1-10 "Scoffers will come in the last days" Jeremy Jackson 9-9-07
6. II Peter 3.11-18 "Hastening the coming of the Day" Jeremy Jackson 9-16-07

Doug Weeks preached a sermon on II Peter 1:3-11 in 1979. See the topical sermons here.
Richard Dickinson preached on II Peter 1:19 in 1995. See the topical sermons here.
Bill Greenman preached a series of three sermons on II Peter 1 in 2002. See the topical sermons here.
Stefan Matzal preached a sermon on II Peter 1:3-11 on 11-7-10. That sermon is here.
Doug Weeks preached a sermon on II Peter 1:1-11 on 8-28-11. That sermon is here.
Bernie Elliot preached a sermon on II Peter 1:16-21 on 10-28-12. See the topical sermons here.

For more sermons, see here.

Philosophy TV posted several reflections on issues related to Christmas during Christmas week last year. Jason Brennan's contribution presents the Christmas story (i.e. the gospel) as a bad story about an immoral divinity.

I chose not to post this actually near Christmas, but when I saw this I thought it would be a great exercise to identify exactly where Brennan gets the gospel message wrong (and Brennan's final question actually invites that).

In particular, there seem to be two general kinds of responses to a criticism like Brennan's. You might disagree with his portrayal of what the gospel message actually says, or you might think he gets the message right but applies a problematic moral framework. (And you might think he makes mistakes in both arenas). But if you're a Christian, you ought to think he does at least one of the two. The question is exactly which elements does he get wrong in what the gospel says or in the moral theory he applies to it, and I'm curious what people would say about that. What do you think?

[cross-posted at Evangel and Prosblogion, whose commenters will likely have very different things to say in response to this]

This is the archive for sermons from Trinity Fellowship in Syracuse, New York. Most of the current sermons are preached by the elders of the congregation: Jeremy Jackson, Stefan Matzal, Doug Weeks, and Nathaniel Jackson (with Al Gurley preaching a lot of the earlier ones, as one of the three founding elders). Audio for other sermons by current members, former members, and guest preachers is included only if I have either permission from the preacher or an okay from one of the current elders to put it up without permission.

With some exceptions, Trinity Fellowship preaches from the gospels in the winter, historical books in the spring, epistles in the summer, and prophets in the fall. In earlier years, the schedule was slightly different, and topical series sometimes occur in place of one of the others (but only once in place of a gospel) during a break between books. Acts was done during the epistle segments, and wisdom books are being covered in prophet segments. Revelation's early chapters were done as if epistles, because of the prominence of the letters to the churches. The rest of the book was done as prophecy.

I have organized the list according to the four sections of preaching for individual quarters. For a chronological listing of all the sermon series, with topical sermons interspersed, seer the listings for 1978-2000 and 2001-present.

Historical Books
Joshua (June-September 1978) [recordings begin with Joshua 8:30]
Judges (July-September 1979)
Genesis 1-11 (September-December 1980)
Genesis 12-26 (September-December 1981)
Genesis 27-36 (September-December 1982)
Genesis 37-50 (September 1983-January 1984)
Exodus 1-14 (September-December 1984)
Exodus 15-24 (September-December 1985)
Exodus 25-40 (September-December 1986)
Leviticus 1-16 (September-December 1987)
Leviticus 17-27 (September-December 1988)
Numbers 1:1-10:10 (May-July 1990)
Numbers 10:11-22:1 (April-July 1991)
Numbers 22-36 (May-July 1992)
Deuteronomy 1-11 (April-July 1994)
Deuteronomy 12-26 (April-August 1995)
Deuteronomy 27-34 (April-June 1996)
Joshua 1-12 (May-Sept 1998)
Joshua 13-24 (Apr-June 1999)
Judges 1-9 (May-July 2000)
Judges 10-21 (April-July 2001)
Ruth (April-June 2002)
1 Samuel 1-12 (April-July 2004)
1 Samuel 13 to 2 Samuel 1 (April-July 2005)
2 Samuel 2-10,22 (April-July 2006)
2 Samuel 11-21,23-24 (May-July 2007)
1 Kings 1-16 (April-August 2009)
1 Kings 17-2 Kings 10 (April-August 2010)
2 Kings 11-25 (May-August 2011)
Ezra (April-June 2013)
Nehemiah (April-July 2014)
Esther (Spring 2015)

Wisdom and Prophets
Jeremiah topical sermons (October-December 1978)
Haggai and Zechariah (October-December 1979)
Amos (July-September 1980)
Hosea (July-September 1982)
Isaiah 1-12 (July-September 1983)
Isaiah 13-27 (July-September 1984)
Isaiah 28-39 (June-September 1985)
Isaiah 40-48 (June-September 1986)
Isaiah 49-57 (July-September 1987)
Isaiah 58-66 (July-September 1988)
Song of Solomon and Lamentations (September to December 1989)
Jeremiah 1-10 (September-December 1990)
Jeremiah 11-25 (September-December 1991)
Jeremiah 26-36 (September-December 1992)
Jeremiah 37-52 (September-December 1993)
Ezekiel 1-19 (September-December 1995)
Ezekiel 20-32 (September-December 1996)
Ezekiel 33-48 (September-December 1997)
Daniel 1-6 (September-November 1998)
Daniel 7-12 (October-December 1999)
Revelation 6-16 (September-December 2000) [for chs.1-5 see under epistles]
Revelation 17-22 (September-December 2001)
Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 (September-December 2002)
Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi (September-December 2003)
Hosea (September-December 2005)
Micah (November-December 2006)
Amos (September-November 2007)
Jonah, Nahum, Obadiah (October-December 2008)
Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Joel (September-December 2009)
Proverbs 1-9 (September-December 2011)
Ecclesiastes (September-December 2012)
Isaiah 1-12 (September-December 2013)
Isaiah 13-27 (September-December 2014)
Isaiah 28-39 (September-December 2015)

Mark (February-March 1978) [only two sermons recorded]
John (January-April 1979)
Luke (January-April 1980)
Matthew 1-7 + others (January-April 1981)
Mark topical sermons (January-April 1982)
John 1-12,18-21 (January-April 1983)
Luke: The Distinctives and Uniqueness of Christ (January-April 1984)
Matthew 19:13-28:20 (January-April 1985)
Questions in the Gospel of Luke (January-April 1987)
John 1-6 (January-April 1988)
John 7-12 (January-April 1989)
John 13-17 (January-April 1990)
John 18-21 (January-March 1991)
Mark 1-5 (January-April 1992)
Mark 6-10 (January-April 1993)
Mark 11-16 (January-April 1994)
Matthew 1-7 (December 1994-April 1995)
Matthew 8-13 (January-April 1996)
Matthew 14-20 (January-March 1997)
Matthew 21-28 (January-April 1998)
Luke 1-8 (November 1998-April 1999)
Luke 9-14 (January-April 2000)
Luke 15:1-20:44 (January-April 2001)
Luke 20:45-24:53 (January-April 2002)
John 1-4 (January-April 2003)
John 5-8 (January-April 2004)
John 9-12 (January-March 2005)
John 13-17 (January-April 2006)
John 18-21 (January-April 2007)
Matthew 1-7 (December 2007-April 2008)
Matthew 8-13 (January-April 2009)
Matthew 14:1-20:28 (January-April 2010)
Matthew 20:29-25:46 (January-April 2011)
Matthew 26-28 (January-April 2012)
Mark 1-4 (January-March 2013)
Mark 5:1-9:1 (January-April 2014)
Mark 9:2-12:27 (January-April 2015)
Mark 12:28-16:8 (January-March 2016)

Acts and Epistles

1 Thessalonians (April-May 1978) [not recorded]
Acts 13-14 (May-June 1978) [not recorded]
1 Timothy (May-June 1979)
Hebrews (April-July 1980)
Galatians (May-June 1981)
Romans 1-8 (April-June 1982)
Romans 9-16 (April-June 1983)
James (May-July 1984)
1 John (April-June 1985)
Acts 1:1-4:31 (April-June 1986)
Acts 4:32-12:25 (May-July 1987)
Acts 13:1-19:20 (April-June 1988)
Acts 19:21-28:31 (June-September 1989)
2 Timothy (July-September 1991)
1 Corinthians 1-4 (July-September 1992)
1 Corinthians 5-11 (April-August 1993)
1 Corinthians 12-16 (July-October 1994)
2 Corinthians 1:1-7:4 (June-September 1996)
2 Corinthians 7:5-13:14 (April-June 1997)
Revelation 1-5 (July-September 1999) [treated as epistle; rest of book treated as prophecy]
2 Thessalonians [with 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11] (July-September 2001)
Titus (July-August 2002)
Ephesians 1-3 (May-August 2003)
Ephesians 4-6 (July-October 2004)
1 Peter 
(July-October 2006)
2 Peter (August-September 2007)
Galatians (June-October 2008)
Philippians (August-October 2010)
Colossians (June-August 2012)
Philemon, Jude, 2 John, 3 John (July-August 2013)
1 Thessalonians (August-September 2014)
1 Timothy (June-Septmber 2015)

Topical Series
Individual Topical Sermons (September 1978-July 1981)
End Times [Eschatology] (July-September 1981)
Individual Topical Sermons (September 1981-January 1986)
Basic Overview of the Christian Life (January-April 1986)
Individual Topical Sermons (October 1986-December 1988)
Lord's Prayer, Holy Spirit, Encouragement (April-June 1989)
Individual Topical Sermons (August 1989-April 1990)
A Selection of Our Convictions (July-September 1990)
Individual Topical Sermons (October 1990-October 1994)
Missions (November 1994)
Individual Topical Sermons (April 1995-May 1997)
Being Distinctively Christian (July-September 1997)
Individual Topical Sermons (October-December 1997)
Final Destinies (April-May 1998)
Individual Topical Sermons (August 1998-October 2004)
Some Things We Believe [Apostles' Creed] (November-December 2004)
Individual Topical Sermons (April 2005-October 2007)
The Ten Words of Life [Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:1-17] (April-June 2008)
Individual Topical Sermons (August 2008-April 2009)
The Church [Ecclesiology] (August 2009)
Individual Topical Sermons (November 2009-October 2010)
Spiritual Disciplines (November-December 2010)
Individual Topical Sermons (December 2010-January 2012)
Marriage, Singleness, and Parenting (April-May 2012)
Individual Topical Sermons (September 2012-present)
Topical sermon series TBA (Spring 2016)

Please let me know (leave a comment below or on any individual posts, or use the email link under Contact, near the top of the sidebar) if you find anything that doesn't work right.

It's organized by sermon series. The main gaps at this point are from sermons by guest preachers who haven't given permission to post their sermons and unrecorded sermons, primarily in the earliest months of Trinity Fellowship.

Tuesday Night Bible Studies

Trinity Fellowship has a Tuesday night Bible study group that's met since 1972, about six years before the church even formed. The vast majority of these Bible studies have not been recorded, but for certain periods of time an enterprising member has been willing to record a series or some individual studies.

I will not be posting all of the studies of biblical books that we have copies of, because most of them have been superseded by later sermons, and those are available above. I am recording them to digital audio files for preservation in our archives, but Jeremy Jackson has decided not to have them posted, with the exception of one series.

We have Micah and Philippians from 1985, but Micah was done more thoroughly in sermons in 2006 (see above under Prophets and Wisdom), and Philippians was done more thoroughly in sermons in 2010 (see above under Acts and Epistles). We also have Revelation from 1989-1991, but those were done in sermons from 1999-2001 (see above, both under Acts and Epistles and under Prophets and Wisdom Literature). I have been recording the current Acts studies, begun in the spring of 2012, but Jeremy prefers to have just the sermons from the 1986-1989 online to represent Acts. Update: I also have recordings of a study on Jonah from 2014, but the same is true of those. The sermons from 2008 cover that book.]

The Romans studies from 1987-1989 are much more in-depth than the sermons from 1982-1983. [There were some Romans studies in 2010-2011, and I have recordings of about half of those, but Jeremy Jackson prefers the 1987-1989 set, which contains more detail in addition to a few topically-oriented studies of the theology of Romans and foreknowledge in Romans 9-11. So the more recent, but incomplete and less-detailed, Romans studies will also remain in the archives. I can make any of these available to anyone by request, but Jeremy prefers to have sermons represent these books online, with the exception of the 1987-1989 Romans studies. The only other studies he would have been happy to have online were the Job studies of 1995-1996, but those were not recorded. I do have his summary notes on those studies below. Update: Since Trinity Fellowship has never preached on Esther, the recordings I have of the 2014 studies on Esther are now being added.]

So here are the Bible studies that are available online:

Topical Bible studies (mostly from 1985-1986, but there is one each from 1979, 1989, 1990, and 1995)

Romans Bible studies (from 1987-1989)

notes on Job (from 1995-1996 studies, notes finalized in this form in 2001)

Esther Bible studies (from 2014)

Studies on Selected Psalms (from 2015)

Amos sermons (2007)

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Griswold v. Connecticut

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The U.S. Supreme Court heard Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, probably one of the most important cases leading up to Roe v. Wade. The law at stake was a Connecticut ban of the sale of contraceptives.

The state's arguments for the contraceptive ban are interesting. There are two justifications. One is a consequentialist argument based on the assumption that it's bad for there to be population decline, which required looking at the 1960 census and seeing the population diminish from 1950 to 1960. (The population loss actually tells you nothing if you can't show that the population loss is based on birth and death rates, because it ignores the possibility that people moving from one state to another cause the biggest portion of the change, as the opposing lawyer pointed out.) In any case, the idea is that population decline is a bad thing, and it's therefore a good thing to pass laws preventing people from contributing to that by choosing to have sex without having children.

The second argument given by Connecticut is aimed at preventing immorality, but the immorality in question is not the immorality of contraception (which would have been more controversial) but the immorality of adultery. How does banning contraception diminish the likelihood of adultery? People are less likely to have adulterous relations if they think it might give rise to children.

The second argument is pretty poor. The first might have some basis if the population decline is so much as to be truly harmful to some important good, but that surely was not the case with Connecticut in the early 1960s.

So I don't think there are very good reasons for the law. But I was completely unconvinced of any constitutional argument against the law. Interestingly, the lawyer opposing the law was adamant that he didn't think taking his side would mean prohibiting abortion bans, which the Supreme Court went on to do within a decade, using this case to justify the right to privacy that they found in the Constitution in this case (a basis Ruth Bader Ginsburg repudiated in her Supreme Court nomination hearings almost thirty years later, despite her support for abortion rights).

I wonder if we'll see the same exact phenomenon with Lawrence v. Texas and same-sex marriage. Lawrence declared bans on same-sex sexual acts to be unconstitutional by a 6-3 vote. In the opinion, Justice Kennedy took great care to insist that their decision did not require a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. If the Supreme Court does declare bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional, will they cite Lawrence v. Texas as precedent for the principles they use? There's certainly precedent for using cases that say they don't imply something to argue that they do imply it.

Micah Sermons

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Comment Problem

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Someone's been inundating the comments of the blogs hosted at the Ektopos server with spam comments for the last week or two, and the server hosting the blogs has shut down the comment script for the moment. I've been told the problem is under control and that rebuilding my blog should fix it, but it's not working still. So if you want to leave a comment, please save the text of the comment and try again later. I'm hoping this is resolved soon.

Update: Looks to be working again. Let me know if you experience any further problems.

Loving v. Virginia

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I recently listened to the Supreme Court oral arguments in Loving v Virginia, the 1967 case that overturned anti-miscegenation laws. I took a lot of notes and wrote up my thoughts afterward, and here are some of the observations and reflections that resulted.

1. The Lovings' lawyer began by presenting the law they wanted declared unconstitutional, the reason the law was passed, and a little bit about its precursor laws, feeling no need at that point to present any criticism of any it, It was simply clear from his tone that he thought the reasons behind the law were thoroughly immoral. No justice questioned him on this, and it sure seemed to me that they tacitly agreed. I wasn't around at the time, but this seemed to me to be a good sign that by 1967 we'd moved far enough along already that everyone on the Supreme Court saw this law as despicable, morally speaking (which in itself doesn't settle the legal question, and thus they let the oral argument continue past this point).

2. When the Virginia attorney general got his turn, it didn't take long for him to refer to the Lovings' union as a marital relation. He never disputed that it was a marriage, just whether Virginia had authority to declare their marriage illegal. That's one clear difference between Loving v. Virginia and the same-sex marriage cases in the courts right now that we don't often see people drawing attention to. Those who favor laws banning interracial marriage were happy to use the word 'marriage' for those relations. They didn't think such a union wasn't a genuine marriage. They just thought such marriages should or at least could be banned without it violating anyone's constitutional rights. The issue of whether it would be a marriage simply didn't occur to them. It obviously was. On the other hand, that's precisely one of the key issues for same-sex unions. Whether they should count as marriages to begin with has been a crucial issue of controversy, and whether these laws therefore revise a longstanding definition of marriage, and whether a state can resist that, is therefore not an issue that came up under Loving v. Virginia. Those who say that Loving v. Virginia automatically settles such questions by the same reasoning have not recognized this. There are several ways that the arguments aren't parallel in every respect, and that's a noteworthy difference. If the arguments based on the parallel are going to prevail, then this difference ought to be shown to be legally unimportant.

3. Three lawyers argued on the Lovings' behalf. The third, William Marutani, on behalf of the Japanese American Citizens League, made an interesting vagueness point. He was arguing that it's impossible to determine whether someone is white by definition of Virginia law, according to which someone has to be purely white in having no non-white ancestors. The people we call white are of such mixed ethnic background in the melting pot of the United States (and in the European history among prior ancestors) that it's impossible to be sure with most people (at least the ones without good genealogical records) whether they are white according to the Virginia law. It's a good practical reason not to have such laws, even apart from the moral question. The opposing lawyer rightly pointed out that the Virginia statutes about those matters weren't being challenged, so by the rules of our legal system it's not really legally relevant unless someone challenged those statutes in the lower courts first. But I thought it was nice to see someone making that point as early as 1967. It's worth pointing out that he didn't make any mention of the even-more-mixed status of blacks, even at the time (but it's much stronger now, I'd wager), but that wouldn't have helped him except to challenge the definitions of terms used in the law according to how they're used in science or something like that, which is irrelevant to the law's constitutionality, since the law itself didn't make any difference for blacks according to how much black ancestry they had. All it took was a smidgeon.

4. The precise equal protection point is worth reflecting on. There was also a due process argument, but I don't pretend to understand how due process is supposed to work. I've never heard a due process argument that I've understood, for whatever reason. It's not that I understand what's being argued and disagree. I simply have no clue what's being argued with due process claims, and I've never gotten any clarity on that despite hearing lots of oral arguments, reading lots of opinions, and trying to wade through discussions in popular-level presentations. Due process rights, according to some (e.g. Justices Scalia and Thomas), is merely ensuring that the laws are followed and that no improper procedures are followed. I once agreed with this, but that makes it a vacuous claim to say that you can't pass laws that deprive someone of rights without due process of the law. You can't pass laws without ensuring that the law is really passed? Then I discovered that at the time the 14th Amendment was passed, there was much discussion of what's called substantive due process, which reads more into due process than the vacuous sort of view I've lost interest in defending. So when that part of the Constitution was framed, it may well have involved this notion of due process. Nonetheless, I can't make heads or tails of what due process is supposed to be on the substantive due process view or how one would argue that due process rights include some claimed right, other than reading one's own policy preferences into the notion, which I don't consider legitimate judicial practice.

But the equal protection claim is one I fully understand. Every person within a state's jurisdiction is guaranteed equal protection of its laws. If a law treats one person differently from another without a strong enough justification for doing so, then equal protection is violated. The Virginia attorney general conceded that there is no justification for his state's anti-miscegenation laws if all you had to go on were genetic and scientific issues. The only moral justification his state could have to pass such a law, in his view, is the harmful effects of interracial marriages on the children of such marriages and on the participants, and he concedes that these effects are because of the attitudes of the people of Virginia toward such unions and toward children of such unions. So it's a highly contingent claim, one that presumably (as far as he's argued) would not be present in a state without such attitudes.

That's another difference from the arguments of those who oppose same-sex marriage. Their arguments are not based on contingent factors about people's attitudes toward same-sex unions and people's attitudes toward children raised by those in same-sex unions (who are not possibly the product of those unions, to begin with, at least in the biological sense, although some might not exist but for those unions). Some of the arguments of those who oppose same-sex unions are based on statistical claims about marriage as traditionally conceived compared with same-sex unions when called marriages, and some of those (for all we know) might be contingent matters due to social circumstances. If no one opposed same-sex relations, these things might be different.

But not all the arguments are like that. Some have to do with the sociological conclusions of numerous studies showing that not only are two parents more valuable for the sake of the child than one but that having parents of both sexes tends to be better (other things being equal) for the children and having the child with biological parents (other things being equal) tends to be better for the child. So marriages as traditionally conceived will, apart from contingent matters like social attitudes, be better for the children, and thus there's a reason to encourage such unions by calling them marriages and not unions that don't have those features. Whatever the merits or demerits of such an argument are, it's a difference in the justifications used for preventing same-sex unions being called marriage and the justifications used for preventing marriages between those of different races, and that's rarely acknowledged in the arugments of those who think Loving v. Virginia's arguments apply exactly to the same-sex marriage cases. Those differences need to be dealt with for such arguments to go through.

5. I've long thought that the equal protection point itself isn't parallel, for reasons I explained here and here. I don't think I've changed my mind on that question since writing those posts, although I've realized that I need to look into some Supreme Court rulings in the 70s on equal protection and women to see if the sex-discrimination argument should work with the federal Constitution given current Supreme Court precedent. But I'm not going to get into the details of any of that here. This post is long enough already that I don't need to rehash what prior posts already covered or to predict what I might come to after listening to the arguments in those 1970s cases.

Hosea Sermons (2005)

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I've had occasion to complain before about a problematic discussion of Calvinism in a book review by William Klein (in that case in discussing David Peterson's commentary on Acts). His more recent review of David Allen and Steve Lemke's Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism critiques D.A. Carson in a way that I also think is a bit unfair, and he doesn't represent the terms of debate accurately, even apart from the fairness issue.

Here's what he says:

In various places the authors expose misunderstandings that Calvinists sometimes exhibit about those who oppose them, or how they confuse categories in their uses of terms. As one example, S. Lemke exposes D.A. Carson's misuse of the category of "compatibilism" (pp. 150-152). It does not mean that human freedom and divine sovereignty are compatible (this is the way that Carson uses it). Everyone--whether Calvinist, Arminian, or open theist--affirms that. Rather, as correctly understood, compatibilists assert that true human freedom is compatible with hard determinism. Those are more difficult to reconcile.

This is at once both right and wrong. He's right in saying that Carson uses the term 'compatibilism' differently from how philosophers typically use it. But I think he's wrong in offering this as a criticism, and he's certainly wrong in how he says the word is generally used. His misuse of the term is, to my mind, much worse than Carson's.

Compatibilism, as philosophers use the term, is the view that freedom is compatible with one's choices being predetermined. Carson doesn't seem to me to use it that way. His actual definition is in terms of divine sovereignty, not in terms of predetermination. If God is entirely sovereign over anything that occurs in a way that whatever happens is exactly as God intended, then it need not be predetermined by God but just anticipated by God in a way that, had God wanted something else to happen, God could have intervened. Carson's definition of compatibilism leaves that open.

To be fair, though, Carson's discussions of this all include expressions along the lines of "absolute freedom to the contrary" to describe the kind of view of sovereignty that he's denying. If someone has the absolute freedom to do something that even God can't intervene with (without removing the person's freedom), then it's not the kind of divine sovereignty he has in mind. Carson, then, is indeed denying libertarian freedom of the sort that provides the only way besides predetermination. So his definition itself does allow for this, but what he goes on to say shows that he doesn't really intend that result.

Klein's mistake is much worse than that, though. That's just being unfair to Carson's whole approach by focusing on the terms of his definition, ones that the rest of his discussion does clarify. But in trying to correct Carson, Klein makes a much worse blunder. He gets the definition of compatibilism entirely wrong and defines it as to be totally contradictory. He says compatibilism claims the compatibility of free will and hard determinism (as opposed to the correct definition, which is that it's the compatibility of free will and determinism).

Hard determinism is the view that determinism is true and incompatible with freedom. Soft determinism is compatibilism, i.e. the view that determinism is true but compatible with freedom. Both hard and soft determinism accept the same metaphysical view of determinism. What makes hard determinism hard determinism is that it adds the separate claim that determinism and freedom are incompatible. What makes soft determinism soft determinism is that it's compatibilist. So to claim that compatibilism (i.e. soft determinism) is the view that freedom is compatible with hard determinism is to charge compatibilism not just with holding two views that conflict (which incompatibilists do think of compatibilism) but asserting of it that it holds such an explicit contradiction as to leave no room for argument. Of course anyone claiming hard determinism is compatible with freedom is holding contradictory views, because hard determinism simply is the view that determinism is true and not compatible with freedom. But that doesn't make compatibilism contradictory, because compatibilists specifically deny hard determinism.


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