Thursday, December 31, 2020

God, Justice and Mercy

What if God were just but not merciful? Would He still be good? No. [Scott David Allen, Why Social Justice is not Biblical Justice (Gradn Rapids, MI: Credo House Publishers, 2020), 28]

What shall we say then? wIs there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Rom. 9:14-6)

The relation between God, justice and mercy is a touchy topic, in that it affects each of us personally. Most people read Scripture in a way that favors their particular concepts of justice and mercy, in a way favorable to them. Yet, God is not mocked. We can ignore what He Himself has said, but His Word remains there, immutable and true.

Would God be just even if He was not merciful? For mercy to be mercy, it must be undeserved and not obligatory. An "obligatory mercy" implies that God owes it to the creation or creature to show mercy. Even if it is said that God owes himself, that makes "mercy" something that the creature can demand of God, just that the ground of demand is shifted to the being of God. But nobody can demand mercy of God, so therefore it can never be obligatory of God.

If mercy is not obligatory, then by definition it cannot be said that God must be merciful. Therefore, the goodness of God exist independently of whether God has mercy. That is the point of Romans 9:14-16. It is ultimately God's choice whom He will have mercy. God does not have to have mercy on anyone in order to be good, contrary to the assertion of Scott David Allen. In fact, God can choose to not have mercy on anyone and yet He would still be good and just. That is why sinners saved by grace owe gratitude to God, because God does not have to save us at all.

The grace of God is the basis of God's mercy. It is the grounding of Christian mercy, which likewise is not owed to anyone. That is why it is called "mercy" and not "entitlement." By definition, something that is of "mercy ministries" cannot be demanded. By definition, when something that cannot be demanded is withdrawn, that is not cruelty, because the recipient is not entitled to it. It does not matter how needy the person is; he still is not entitled to mercy.

That is precisely the problem here with many "mercy ministries" today, because they fail to understand what "mercy" is. Just because someone is in need does not imply that anyone, neither society nor any individual save for their family members, is entitled to any help whatsoever. The problem with many "mercy ministries" is that they should rename themselves to "entitlement ministries," because that is how they think as they go about working for "social justice." They are of course free to spend their money however they want, but they are not entitled to call themselves "mercy ministries" and so falsely advertize themselves.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Review of The Son who Learned Obedience, by D. Glen Butner Jr.

I have completed my review of the book The Son who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case against the Eternal Submission of the Son by D. Glen Butner Jr., and it can be read here. While I disagree with him, I respect the fact that he actually does not trade in strawmen and more or less accurately represents the opposing side, unlike people like Carl Trueman, Rachel Miller, and Aimee Byrd, ranked in decreasing amount of truth-telling. While disaagreeing with Butner's central thesis, I can say that I am enriched by the book, and it would be good for both proponents and critics of ESS (Eternal Submission of the Son) to read the book and engage with it. An excerpt:

2016 is a year of infamy for the American Evangelical and Reformed churches, as a controversy erupted over the doctrine of the eternal submission of the Son (ESS). The ensuring firestorm produced more heat than light, with the veil being removed from the squabbling of the theologians, seen to be no different from the frequently demonized “online discernment ministries” when it comes to insults, rancor, and sowing discord among the brethren ...

As someone who has seen many misrepresentations of ESS over the years, it is refreshing to read Butner’s book, a book which actually listens to what ESS proponents are actually saying and attempts to engage them. The shift in focus to the issue of the will of God is a welcome advance in what could be a more constructive dialogue on the issue.


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Glen Butner concerning EFS

I am currently working on a book review of Glen Butner's book on the topic of ESS. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the book which is well apprreciated by me:

Opponents of EFS have often accused those who support eternal submission of Arianism, and for this reason EFS theologians are accused of offering an inadequate theology. The accusation of Arianism is inaccurate. EFS theologians are quite clear that they are speaking of the divine persons when they speak of eternal submission, so it simply is not the case that they necessarily abandon the homoousios when speaking of the Son’s submission to the Father. This objection would only work if EFS advocates used categories like ousia, nature, person, and hypostatis with an identical meaning to pro-Nicene thought. They do not. Therefore, EFS should be seen as one of a number of modern efforts to explain the Trinity in a different manner than the pro-Nicene tradition. In this manner, EFS is more akin to social trinitarianism, for example, than Arianism. [D. Glenn Butner Jr., The Son who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case against the Eternal Submission of the Son (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publishing, 2018), 194]

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Some questions regarding Jason Lisle's ASC model of light-speed

In his book The Physics of Einstein, scientist Jason Lisle describes the theories and implications of Special and, to a lesser extent, General Relativity. Towards the end of his book, he wrote about the issue of measuring the one-way speed of light, stating correctly that all measurements of the speed of light so far has been the two-way speed of light. The model Lisle is promoting is the anisotropic synchrony convention (ASC) whereby the speed of light is different in one direction than it is in its return trip. Specifically, light could be infinite in speed in one direction, while having half c when it returns. Besides changing the reference plane, the choice between the conventional view and Lisle's ASC cannot be decided based upon current empirical evidence. So which one of them is correct?

While versions of ASC exists that might be plausible, I think that Lisle's version with an infinite one-way speed is problematic. Let us start with the first problem with such a view of light:

c = fλ

where c is speed of light, f is frequency, and λ is wavelength

Now, the different waves of the electromagnetic spectrum follow this equation, as they travel at the speed of light. The different types of waves are distinguished by their wavelengths, where radio waves have long wavelengths while X-rays have very short wavelengths. The question for an infinite speed of light is simple: If light has infinite speed, how can the different types of radiation function? For speed to be infinite implies an infinite frequency, but if both speed and frequency are infinite, then the wavelength does not make any sense, does it?

The second problem with Lisle's ASC comes from this:

E = hf

where E is energy, h is Planck's constant, and f is frequency

If light has infinite speed, then it must have infinite frequency. But if light has infinite frequency, then does it not have infinite energy? Given that in Lisle's model, the one-way speed of light from the stars to earth imply that everything we see in the night sky is actually happening now (since light speed is infinite one way), then shouldn't the light from these stars have infinite energy and destroy Earth by now? Now, Lisle could rescue his scenario by making Planck's constant variable (not a constant), or assert that the energy of a photon depends on the two-way speed despite its one-way speed, an assertion that makes no sense since the photon that reaches earth from the stars do not return to those stars but are absorbed (and maybe partially reflected) by the Earth.

Lastly, the question of direction is to be raised. What makes light move at innfinite speed in a certain direction? The reason why the speed of light is seen be to equal in both directons is that we have no reason to think otherise. Expansion of space does not help because that means that the one-way speed of light varies according to direction, whereas light coming to earth is from many different directions.

Due to these problems, I do not think Lisle's version of ASC is acceptable. Since the speed of light is fundamental to many different equations and the nature of reality, I think it takes more to postulate ASC than it is to hold to the conventional view. While ASC is not necesssarily wrong, the burden of proof is on those who hold to such theories to justify them as superior to the conventional view, not just as a possible alternate view.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Book Review: Cynical Theories, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay

What is "critical theory(ies)"? The most recent book by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, entitled Cynical Theories, is an attempt by the two academics to describe critical theories and their evolution from a secular liberal ("old left") perspective. I have read it and here is my review of the book. An excerpt:

Cynical Theories, a play on “critical theory,” is a book that addresses the issue of critical theories, from a critical, liberal perspective. The authors Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay identify as liberals, and support what they believe to be LGBT equality (p. 19), but are against critical theories and thus the addition of “Q” to the gender alphabet group acronym. In their view, critical theories have hijacked the liberal project and are destructive of both it and society. Of concern to them is the fact that critical theories are provoking the rise of an equally identitarian right (p. 259), and the attack of the two extremes on society will eviscerate liberal society as it currently stands.


Of their solution to Critical Theories with a return to secular liberalism, let me offer these two sentences from the review:

Secular liberalism therefore fails to be the proper solution to Critical Theory as it cannot justify itself against other systems. It cannot justify any of its preferences, and as such, is unable to stop the emergence and progression of Critical Theories, which all happened under the watch of the liberal intelligentsia.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Aimee Byrd, and on differences in interacting with men and women

In response to my review of Aimee Byrd's book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Tim Fall decided to fault me on one particular sentence in my introduction, whereby I clearly state that I am reviewing Byrd's book "as if she were a man." That phrase seems to be riling up some feathers, which was rather surprising since I do not buy into radical egalitarianism. But somehow I guess what used to be common sense and biblical good manners need to be defended in this current age. So here goes.

It is generally assumed in a civilized society that one treats women with more gentleness and kinder words, as compared to how one treats men. Call that treating women as a "weaker vessel" if you will, but a civilized society will want to protect women and children, and this (protect women and children) is NOT up for discussion. Part of such protection as it pertains to words is to not use strong words to a woman. One would rather play down the issue or verbally concede when interacting with women. Such actions may sometimes appear disingenous, and perhaps there are better ways society can mange such interactions. However, the notion that one should not speak strongly with women is a good general principle.

In the case of Aimee Byrd, what she has been doing in her rejection of biblical manhood and wommanhood, and the drama that comes along when she reacts to critics, is extremely off-putting. Her teachings are pernicious, but what makes it even worse is that she takes upon herself authority to publicly rebuke men and even pastors. Her aggression is like that of a man, and this is why I am treating her as if she were one. She is not teacheable, aggressive, uncharitable, and less than honest.

How does doing a review for a male author differ from for a female author? While I am not always consistent, here are some examples:

Typical reviewing of a male author

Typical reviewing of a female author

This reviewer suspects a greater fidelity to this hermeneutic due to Byrd’s unrepentant misrepresentation of her opponents.

This reviewer suggest a tendency towards this hermeneutic due to Byrd’s continual misrepresentation of her opponents.

After all, if the response to a critical review alleging misrepresentation is to double-down on those charges, then either Byrd is dishonest, or she embraces a reader-response hermeneutic wherein she gets to decide what a text really mean.

This suspicion comes about because Byrd fails to perceive her misrepresentations even after they had been pointed out to her. Since the charge of misrepresentation was clear, the only option possible is for her to embrace some version of reader-response hermeneutic where she decides the meaning of any text she reads.

One wonders just how bad is Byrd’s capability at comprehension, that she cannot even understand what Piper is plainly saying

Byrd is therefore misrepresenting Piper in what he is plainly saying.

For a book that claims to be a rejection of biblical manhood and womanhood, and a “recovery” from it, Byrd surprisingly misrepresents biblical manhood and womanhood throughout her entire book

While portraying itself as a biblical rejection and “recovery” away from biblical manhood and womanhood, Byrd sadly misrepresents it throughout her book.

Naselli in his review mentioned that Byrd has misinterpreted ESS, but she refuses to listen. Again, either she is a dishonest woman, or she embraces a reader-response hermeneutic. I leave it up to the readers to judge for themselves.

Naselli in his review mentioned that Byrd has misrepresented ESS, but she has not corrected her mistake. Supposing that she comprehends his word, the most charitable interpretation is that she is embracing a reader-response hermeneutic in her interpretation.

In conclusion, while Byrd does have a few legitimate grievances over some practices in the wider church, her book is soaked through with an unbiblical hermeneutic and unbiblical interpretations of the biblical texts.

In conclusion, while Byrd does have a few legitimate grievances over some practices in the wider church, her book is filled with an unbiblical hermeneutic and unbiblical interpretations of the biblical texts.

She is less than honest about her opponents, constantly misrepresenting them and doubling down on her misrepresentations when confronted about it.

She continues to misrepresent her opponents even after being corrected over it.

When I asked if one should be rough with women the same way one can be rough with men, Tim Fall decided that 2 Timothy 2:24-25 is appropriate here, to which I raised Galatians 5:12. But to flesh out my response, somehow "gentleness" as defined by the modern world is the gold standard. But the same apostle who wrote 2 Timothy 2:24-25 also wrote Galatians 5:12. The same gentle Jesus who would not break a bruised reed pronounced severe woes on the Pharisees. The fact is that biblical gentleness IS compatible with being rough if the occasion demands it. In the apostle Paul's case, it was against the false teachers in Galatia, the Judaizers. Thus, we see that when it comes to error, there is a place for strong words, in order to warn people and turn people away from falsehood. It is surely illuminating that all the "gentleness" in the American churches has allowed borderline heresy to thrive under the banner of Revoice, with very few being "man enough" to rebuke them and file charges against those involved.

When error is promoted by women, in line with the view that women should be generally protected from strong words, the tendency should be to suspect failure of understanding rather than failure of character, even when the evidence is clear it is the latter. Again, this may look disingenous, but this is the best practice so far. Generally, strong words should not be used on women, whereas men should be able to take it. Not being able to take and give strong words in a man is in my opinion a sign of effeminacy.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Book Review: Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Aimee Byrd

The book review that many may dread has arrived. I have finally managed to read and review the book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Aimee Byrd, and it can be found here. Byrd wants equality as a woman, and thus she is given fair treatment in my review, with no holds barred, as if she were a man. It should be obvious that I am not a fan of her conduct, and most definitely not of her social egalitarianism. But I am fair in my review. An excerpt:

2016 marked the year of the ESS (Eternal submission of the Son) controversy. For various reasons, ESS is somehow linked to CBMW. Certain people within the Reformed camp who were chafing at what they had decided were foreign to the Bible broke away from complementarianism altogether, including Rachel Green Miller and Aimee Byrd. Miller had written a book earlier entitled Beyond Authority and Submission, and Byrd now entitled hers Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. The not so subtle dig at CBMW notwithstanding, what the title intends to convey is that Byrd sees the teaching of biblical manhood and womanhood as a false teaching which she has once held and is now “recovering” from it.

In this light, Byrd’s book acts as an attack against the teaching of biblical manhood and womanhood, and the recovery of what she believes to the better approach to the topic of not just gender roles but also church relations. The use of the word “recovery” links her to the ressourcement movement in parts of Evangelicalism, with all the connotation that it has.


Saturday, September 05, 2020

Just thinking podcast on Black Lives Matter

Over at the Just Thinking podcast, hosts Virgil Walker and Darrel Harrison, both black men, have recently addressed the issue of Black Lives Matter here. Please do listen to their highly informative and biblically-minded discussion there.

Book Review: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

The book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo is one of the books that supposed is working towards "racial justice." I have reviewed the book, and the review can be found here. An excerpt:

In this book, DiAngelo sets about describing a phenomenon which she terms “white fragility,” a phenomenon that she claims to have observed in whites, which impedes her work in addressing racism in America. Accordingly, DiAngelo sees white fragility as a big problem, and thus this whole book is written to deal with it. ... [more]

While most books have something interesting to add to the discussion even where I reject what it says, I must say that there is nothing positive in DiAngelo's work. My convictions of the extreme dangers of critical race racism has not abated after reading DiAngelo's book, and I will continue to warn against the dangers of this movement.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Shelby Steele on race

To see humanity across racial lines one must see frankly how people of other races live as human beings, not as members of a race. [Shelby Steele, White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites together Destroyed the promise of the civil rights era (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2006), 129]

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Tim Keller's view of justice

Tim Keller has written an article that supposedly critiques secular views of justice and states that his view of justice is "none of those." This article seems to prove that Tim Keller is unaffected by critical theory and secular view of justice, and thus his "biblical justice" is indeed biblical. But is it?

Examining Keller's view of justice can be indeed helpful, and articles like this have done so. What irks me however is Keller's incessant desire to put forwards his view as transcending all other views ("mine is none of the above"). Whether it is saying that the Gospel is neither "religion" nor "irreligion," Keller's rhetoric is in my opinion unhelpful. The fact of the matter is that many Christians have thought about issues of the Gospel, or issues of justice (in this case) for centuries. Are those people trying to be unbiblical? Are they not proposing their views as what they believe (truly or falsely) to be biblical? Keller seems to think that he is the first one who is thinking about issues of justice with a desire to be only following Scripture and nothing else, as if no one before him has done so before.

In this light, I have prepared this chart. Keller's "spectrum of justice" is only a line, which strikes me as being simplistic. Thus, I have decided a coordinate system of two ideas about justice would do more justice (pun intended) to the spectrum of justice theories. When mapped this way, Keller's view can be placed onto the spectrum, instead of being "none of those."

Now that Keller's view of justice is mapped, it can be examined. It is not "none of those" - a term of false advertising that give the false impression that Keller is indeed above the fray.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Book Review: Trinity without Hierarchy

In 2016, a big online controversy erupted when a bunch of Reformed notables decided to attack a doctrine held by some evangelicals to be heresy. The ensuing firestorm produced lots of heat and very little light. Fast forward to 2019 and a book was written aginst this doctrine (ESS - Eternal submission of the Son). As someone who holds to ESS, this piqued my interest. I have thus read the book, entitled Trinity without Hierarchy: Reclaiminig Nicene Orthodoxy in Evangelical Theology, and did a book review on it, here. An excerpt:

I will review this book along the lines of an enquiry, instead of a normal thematic book review. The first question is: What is ESS, and did the contributors rightly understand ESS? The subsequent question then is: What do I think of their evaluation of ESS? Note that for the subsequent question I will only address those that I consider to have some understanding of ESS, or who deal with the supposed implications of ESS


Since I hold to ESS, it is almost guaranteed that I reject the allegations of this book. But do read further for my reasoning which states clearly why I reject this supposed "retreival of orthodoxy" project.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

COVID-19 and the Necessity of the Church

In light of the issue facing churches around the world concerning the pandemic and the suspension or opening up of churches for worship, here is my small contribution in an attempt to bring light to the issue at hand, in my article COVID-19 and the Necessity of the Church. An excerpt:

In late 2019, what was initially thought to be a small viral outbreak began in the vicinity of Wuhan, China. By February 2020 however, this outbreak had metastasized into an epidemic in Wuhan and soon spread across the world. Initially called the Wuhan virus, what is now known as COVID-19 (the SARS-CoV2 virus) has caused a pandemic creating chaos and death across the world, stretching the capabilities of healthcare systems to the breaking point. South Korea, Northern Italy, and New York City in the United States became the next epicenters of this virulent disease. 6 months later, this plague continues to spread without a clear indication of subsiding. Governments around the world have implemented drastic and even draconian measures in an effort to manage or halt the spread of the disease, measures that have yielded varying degrees of success.


Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Truth, (Mis)representation, and John MacArthur's stance concerning the opening of churches

Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. (Prov. 23:23)

Recently, Pastor John MacArthur posted an article entitled "Christ, not Caesar, is Head of the Church." The article caused a firestorm from accusations that MacArthur is endangering people, that he is trivializing the pandemic, and that he is violating Christian liberty by forcing people to stake a stand on whether to disregard all safety measure and not wear masks or practice social distancing. With all the accusations, one really wonders whether anyone has actually READ the article instead of reading what they think is present in the article.

What does the GCC (Grace Community Church) article actually say?

The article by John MacArthur and the elders of Grace Community Church asserts the following major propositions:

  1. Christ is the only head of the church
  2. Christ therefore determines how Christians ought to worship.
  3. Physical corporate worship is essential and commanded by God ("A non-assembling assembly is a contradiction in terms")
  4. Civil authorities are to be obeyed in matters not pertaining to the worship of God
  5. Each of the three God-ordained human institutions (family, church, government) has its own distinct sphere of authority.
  6. Civil authorities have no right to dictate how God is to be worshiped, as "God has not granted civic rulers authority over the doctrine, practice, or polity of the church" (Italics original)
  7. When one institution has exceeded its authority, "it is the duty of the other institutions to curtial that overreach."
  8. Government intrusion into Christian worship is a form of persecution and should be rejected.

The minor propositions (in the addendum) state thus:

  1. GCC obeyed the initial lockdown due to love for neighbor
  2. The elders of GCC in their personal opinion believed that the pandemic is not so severe that it necessitates the continual closure of the church.

What the article does NOT say

Before we address a few misunderstandings, we can see from Phil Johnson's (an elder at GCC) tweets what the article does not say. First, it does not say that ALL Christians and all churches must reopen church in the exact same way as GCC.

Second, it does not say anything about masks or social distancing. These words are not found in the entire article. Third, it does not say that one must agree with GCC's assessment of the pandemic. That is why it was in the Addendum and not the main article. That it was in the Addendun under the beginning words "The elders of Grace Church considered..." indicate that this was the elders' particular application of the principle of Christ being the head of the church to the situation of GCC.

The article and its critics

From these, it can be see that many of the critiques of GCC have little to do with the article. Jonathan Leeman of 9Marks in his response totally misunderstood the purpose of the article's clause asking people to sign on the statement, a fact he later learned.

Sadly, misrepresentations continue. Taking offence at one of MacArthur's remarks, Gary Ortlund asserts that MacArthur is saying that churches that do not reopen like GCC are not really churches and thus in sin. But that is NOT what MacArthur has said. Mark Lauterbach repeated Leeman's misunderstanding and also Ortlund's misunderstanding. On top of that, Lauterbach has apparently read into the article that GCC is equating their situation to full-scaled persecution. But that is NOT what the article has said. It merely asserts that government intrusion into the worship of God is a form of persecution, NOT that it is persecution like that suffered by the persecuted church around the world! Lastly, Lauterbach fails to recognize the major statements from GCC's particular application of her beliefs to her situation, which is sittuational, as Mike Riccardi has publicly stated!

The problem in American Christianity today, as seen in the blatant misrepresentations by Leeman (initially), Ortlund, and Lauterbach, is a disregard for the truth. What MacArthur and GCC has actually stated does not matter. What matters alone is what they THINK MacArthur and GCC are saying. Except for Leeman, Ortlund and Lauterbach have not retracted their blog posts and corrected their errors, although I can surely hope they do so. The problem of truth is not limited to the Liberals but also the Conservatives, both "Big Eva" and "Big Reformed." Besides the Covid-19 virus, the aversion to truth is truly endemic throughout American Christianity. How else can we explain why misrepresentations are seldom retracted, lies about people or ideas or things refuse to die, and there are absolutely no consequences or at the very least penitance from those who have engaged in violations of the 9th Commandment, both American Evangelical and Reformed pastors and theologians alike? The Genevan Commons fiasco is one such example where the 9th Commandment is routinely violated by Reformed pastors, for example. The churches in America have become just like the world, believing her own lies when it suits her!

Apart from God, there is no hope for the churches of America. She has imbibed the culture's aversion to truth, and refuses to repent of her craven idolatry, pastors and parishioners alike. Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Book Review: Reforming Apologetics by J.V. Fesko

Dr. John Fesko was one of my professors when I was at WSCAL. He is a learned professor deep into historical sources and Reformed doctrine. He has however wrote a book on apologetics last year entitled Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith, which stirred up some controversy due to its attack specifically on Cornelius Van Til and Vantillian presuppositionalism. Due to the subject nature, I decided to check it out when I can. I have finally read it and wrote a review of it, here. An excerpt:

With the resurgence of interest in Aristotelianism within the Reformed community, it should not come as a surprise that the topic of apologetics would come under the spotlight for ressourcement. Presuppositionalism after all is a novel system that began in the 20th century with Cornelius Van Til and/or Gordon H. Clark, whereas classical apologetics was the system utilized in the Medieval, Reformation, and Post-Reformation era.

In this light, Dr. John Fesko has taken on the task of “reforming” apologetics. According to Fesko, the 20th century turn to presuppositionalism is flawed and contrary to the Reformed tradition. While not necessarily against all aspects of presuppositionalism, stating for example his position that the TAG (Transcendental Argument for God) “can be a useful argument” (p. 137), Fesko rejects presuppositionalism as a whole.


As a Clarkian presuppositionalist, I reject this approach to apologetics. And while I do respect Dr. Fesko's scholarship, on this issue I'm afraid he is way out of his depth.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

On the use of words circumscribing sin, and the perception of insults and derogation

Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see!
Where have you not been ravished?
By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers
like an Arab in the wilderness.
You have polluted the land
with your vile whoredom.
Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and the spring rain has not come;
yet you have the forehead of a whore;
you refuse to be ashamed. (Jer. 3:2-3 ESV)


In a Twitter exchange between Marianne (@The_Dark_Elf) and me, she astonishing paints herself in a corner in an attempt to make the word "whore" a reprehensible insult. My position was, and always is, that it is not right to demen, ridicule or mock women, but facts are facts. Calling a prostitute a whore is not an insult. Calling a loose woman a "slut" is not an insult either. Yes, IF one uses these terms to insult the person, then it becomes an insult. But just because a word can become an insult does not necessarily make it an insult. In the thread, I also pointed out how the postmodern Western culture is against terms like "sodomy," "immorality (except when applied to right-wing 'sins' especially 'Capitalism')," "adultery," "fornication" and other such words. Are these words to be blacklisted just because others see them as 'insults'? Who exactly determines what word is to be an insult and what not?

To press home the fact that "whore" is not an insult, I had directed Marianne to Jeremiah 3:2-3, where God inspired the words (in Hebrew) where God accused Israel "you have the forehead of a whore." Marianne finally admitted that "some versions" use the word "whoredom," and then asserted that "whoredom" does not mean "whore," and that the two are as different as "cyclopes" and "cyclones." I do not know whether to laugh or to cry at this tweet. "Whoredom" is merely the substantival adjectival form of the verb "to whore," describing the state of a person whoring around. I am not brought up with Shakespearean English either, so this is not an archaic term at all. So why the weaseling around the fact that "whore" is a perfectly proper English term?

The problem here is that too many especially in the West have a different value system in place rather than the value system of the Bible, where certain terms are, subconsciously or consciously, termed "out of bounds" and thus not to be utilized. This is not necessarily speaking of Marianne, but it is fascinating to me how many people are offended when you used words as Scripture uses it. In a private FB post, I had stated the fact that Scripture treats LGBTQ as abominations, and it was fascinating how even a pastor can be offended by it. It is truly weird time indeed, when proper English words are taken to be "out of bounds" even though they are not archaic, just because these people have imbibed on the culture's value system instead of the biblical value system.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Aimee Byrd, Deepfakes, and the importance of integrity

Aimee Byrd has recently kicked up a storm with her assault upon Genevan Commons, a private Facebook group. In her post, she linked to a "discernment" website which doxxed members of the group as well as posted doctored and deepfaked images of screenshots from the group, insinuating that the people there are ungodly slanderers and misogynists. This came after her forced departure from the Alliances of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE). In light of those images, it seems that the pastors and elders and all commentors on Genevan Commons are to be sharply rebuked and censured for their conduct, for after all, there is no excuse for such sinful behavior despite the fact that Byrd is in error in her egalitarianism.

The case agaisnt Genevan Commons however starts to unravel when one begins to peer beneath the surface, and noticing the way the comments are rearranged in order to mislead, as Seven Wedgeworth (whom I have criticized over his view of justification and therefore cannot be said to be a friend or ally of mine) had pointed out. Another commentor has joined in to show how the images had misrepresented his commment which was not directed at Byrd at all. Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of using the term "whore," the fact remains that "whore" is a perfectly proper term in the English language to refer to a prostitute, and pornographer Stormy Daniel deserves that label. Now, in order for sin to be sin, it must be truly a sin. In other words, if the comments in their proper context are not sinful, then the images, having misrepresented the comments, are guilty of violating the ninth commandment. Thus, the creator of those images and those who share them, including Byrd, are guilty of violating the ninth commandment. But instead, we see Byrd doubling down and refusing to aknowledge her sin. The question is very simple: Were those images misrepresentations of the comments? Yes or no? If yes, then they violate the ninth commandment. If no, then the onus is on the one asserting that it is not a misrepresentation to prove that the images are indeed a prroper representation of the comments. Instead, what we see from Byrd is a hysterical vent about how "tired" she is, portraying herself as a victim, while totally ignoring the substance of Wedgeworth's post.

None of this exonerates the ungodly conduct of some commentors. Those who do so ought to repent. However, if we are to be people of truth, then we must stick to the truth. Slandering Byrd is sin, but so is slandering her critics. Just because Byrd was sinned against does not in any way give her the right to sin against others as well.

The key question therefore, for Byrd and her defenders, are these:

  1. Do you agree that the images misrepresented some of the comments, and specifically Steven Wedgeworth and Paul Barth? Yes or no?

  2. If yes, do you repent of bearing false witness against them?

  3. If no, please disprove Wedgeworth's and Barth's assertion. Saying you are "tired" and playing the victim card gets no brownie points from me. Answer the question, and show you are interested in actually engaging the issue, instead of playing the victim card.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

News: Aimee Byrd kicked out of ACE

In an interesting development, soocial egalitarian Aimee Byrd has been removed from contributing to the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which occasioned her current "update" about the event on Scott McKnight's blog on Christianity Today.

There are three things that I want to comment here. First, Byrd states that she does not know who the Board of Directors of ACE are, presumably except for the chair since she was contacted by him. She has also mentioned the unnamed people who have contributed to the questions posed to her by Jonathan Master. I will just add that I do not like this practice of seeming anonymity in the Reformed world. I do not understand the reason for anonymity especially for ordained ministers, so perhaps someone would want to enlighten me why this is the case. I do believe the best way to deal with disagreement is to be frank and honest about it. What is the point of anonymmity and getting someone to be the spokesman for a group of people in the church?

The second issue I want to comment is Byrd's conduct concerning the questions put forward by Jonathan Master. According to Byrd, in response to the question, she answered one of them, and decided "afer seeking counsel" to decline answering the rest of them. Now, I do not know which universe Byrd resides in, but I think that when someone has questions concerning your orthodoxy, you should try to assauge their concerns and answer their questions properly. Instead, Byrd's conduct in this mattter has been the same as to her conduct with CMBW, which is mere obfuscation of the issues. In the supposed response to one of the questions, her response is one of non-response. The questions was one of natural law, yet Byrd's reponse is to to talk about ontology, but the two are not the same thing. It is possible that Byrd does not understand the question, but if that is the case, then she has no business writing a book on the topic of biblical manhoood and womanhood, in the same way no one is interested in whether a five-year old agrees with Einstein's theory(ies) of relativity.

Lastly, I want to comment on Byrd's insistence that she and what she has written is "in line with the confessions in which my Orthodox Presbyterian Church subscribes." As someone who was in the OPC as a licentiate during the time I was in the US, merely stating that she is "in line with the confessions" is not sufficient. She may think she is in line with the Reformed confessions, but she may be wrong and self-deceived. It is not enough for her to assert that she is "in line with the confessions" of the OPC. Since she has written a book on the topic, anyone can test what she has written to what the Reformed Confessions, and what the Word of God, actually says about the topic.

This assertion by Byrd that she is in line with the OPC's Confessions is troubling. Most people do not assert that they are in line with their church's confession as an argument in favor of their position, but if they say so, they prove that their views are in fact in line with their church's confessions. From Byrd however, there is much talk about her being in line with the OPC's confessions and about her being in good standing in her church, and little proof about how what she says is actually biblical and Reformed. To be honest, this is my first time seeing someone make an argument about the validity of their position from their standing in the church, as if the latter has any bearing on the former at all!

What Byrd should have received from Reformed pastors is empathy, compassion, correction, and teaching. Instead, she has been propped up in her ignorance by men who should have known better: men like Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt, and R Scott Clark. The current situation with Byrd is a disaster, and this infection of egalitarianism will weaken the Reformed churches.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Reformed understanding of the Trinity circa 2008

The Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry (CARM) run by Matt Slick, it seems to me, reflected the mainstream Reformed view in the 1990s and early 2000s concerning where Reformed theology was in relation to apologetics. Just a decade ago or so, a period which seems like a long time already after the sea change that has occurred from then to 2020, Reformed apologetics was all about engaging the secular world with the truths of the Reformed faith, and the most prominent ministry then was Ligonier Ministries headed by the late R. C. Sproul.

It seems prudent then to enquire into what was taken to be the standard Reformed views at that time concerning certain subjects, especially those that are controversial in this time. At CARM, Matt Slick had in 2008 published an article concerning the Ontological and Economic Trinity, and some excerpts are noted below:

Since we see different roles within the Trinity, does this signify a subordination among the three persons? The clear answer seems to be yes. But remember, affirming this is not the same as advocating the heresy of subordinationism. We can say that there is a subordination of the Son to the Father in role (as a father-son relationship would naturally have), but we also say that subordinationism (difference in nature) is wrong.

But, as is said above, if there is no difference in roles among them, there can be no distinction between them. It is only by recognizing and accepting the difference of roles that we can acknowledge the Trinity at all.

By definition, each person of the Trinity must have his own will; otherwise, they are not persons.

Now, read this article in light of the 2016 ESS fiasco, and ask yourself: Who has changed their position, and why? The answer is not hard to figure out: It is the 2016-2020 Reformed pastors and theologians like Liam Gollligher who have changed their position, and the reason why they have shifted their position is due to an embrace of Thomas Aquinas and Thomistic/ Aristotelian philosophy of being. Without Thomas or Aristotle (or the mediation of people like Dolezal), none of this would have happened.

Who has changed their understanding of the Trinity? It is the new "classical theists" who have shifted in their doctrinal understanding of the Trinity, not the rest of us. We want no part in this so-called "Ressourcement" of classical sources if it brings us into bondage to Aristotelianism.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

New book: Faith Seeking Understanding - The Culmination of the CREDO500 saga

In 2009, Jonah Tang, at that time a pastor in Sibu, Malaysia, roped me in to help out with his ambitious plan to conduct the CREDO500 conference, an online conference where essays were submitted by various pastors and theologians from Chinese churches or related to the Chinese churches in the diaspora around the world. I did not realize at that time how big the conference would be and the amount of work required to make it work, having no prior experience in managing such an event. Thankfully, the essays were submitted and edited more or less on schedule, and the conference was largely successful. Subsequently, the essays were left online, and we went our separate ways.

It was always our desire to have these essays in print one day, and the original was to have two versions, an English version and a Chinese version. Unfortuantely, the reality is that, once the conference is over, nobody wants to be working on the hard and laborious work of translation and editing, with no compensation for the enormous task at hand. I myself have my own life to live, and so the process dragged on for years and years.

One of my virutues, you can say, is tenacity. I do not like to leave an unfinished project unfinished. It took time, but finally, 11 years later, all of the translation (from Chinese to English - the conference was bilingual so some of the essays were presented only in Chinese) is done, and so is the editing, reference checking, and formatting. From there, the process of publication was even more work, but finally the work is complete.

The work has been split into 2 volumes due to the sheer amount of material. Since there are no plans at the moment for a separate Chinese translation of the English essays and a separate Chinese publication, I have decided to add the original Chinese in the book as well.

Daniel H. Chew and Jonah Tang, eds., Faith Seeking Understanding - Volume 1: The Legacy of the Reformed Tradition - Proceedings from the 2009 CREDO500 conference (San Jacinta, CA: Daniel H Chew, 2020) - HERE

Daniel H. Chew and Jonah Tang, eds., Faith Seeking Understanding - Volume 2: The Reformation and John Calvin - Proceedings from the 2009 CREDO500 conference (San Jacinta, CA: Daniel H Chew, 2020) - HERE

Since this is a conference work, I have no desire to profit off it so I have priced it cheaply. On the other hand, something that is free is trivialized, so this Kindle book is not free.

Please do get a copy of the two volumes, for there are some very good essays within it. There is a breadth of views on some interesting topics within a broadly Reformed camp, so please do get your copies now.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Trump: Religious services are essential

US President Donald Trump is not a very righteous man. However, in this COVID-19 crisis, he has done a great thing in one of his most recent speeches, where he declared churches essential:

Churches are essential because God is essential. It is way past time for the secularist totalitarians to stop imposing their irreligion upon the rest of us who disagree with their privitization of religion. And shame on those so-called evangelicals who have no issue with and are happy to tolerate the secular privitization of religion.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

CBMW book review: Aimee Byrd's "Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood"

Over at the CBMW (Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) website, Andrew David Naselli has written a review of Aimee Byrd's new book Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. An excerpt:

John Piper and Wayne Grudem edited Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1991, and now Aimee Byrd has written Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood some thirty years later. Byrd, an influential author, speaker, blogger, and podcaster, claims to be recovering from so-called “biblical manhood and womanhood.” For the past several years on her podcast and blog, Byrd has been criticizing the version of complementarianism that leaders such as John Piper teach. (The term complementarianism summarizes the theological view of the Danvers Statement and conveys that men and women are both equal in value and dignity and beneficially different.) Byrd has developed and expanded those critiques in her latest book.

[more ...]

Whatever one thinks of the topic of complementarianism, the main thing to take note is that one should properly represent one's opponent(s). And that is one virtue of which Byrd shows a shocking lack. From the review, it seems that Byrd misrepresents her opponents regularly, which is not surprising seeing how impervious to correction she is online. Misrepresentation, especially willful misrepresentation, is a violation of God's law, specifically the ninth commandment.

As it pertains to the ESS controversy of 2016, this is what Naselli wrote, after saying that he disagrees with ESS:

1. Byrd misrepresents the eternal relations of authority and submission view when she writes, “This doctrine teaches that the Son, the second person of the Trinity, is subordinate to the Father, not only in the economy of salvation but in his essence” (101). Grudem and Ware and others who hold to eternal relations of authority and submission would not affirm that statement; they would explicitly reject it.

2. Byrd misrepresents the motives of those who teach this view when she asserts that they employ “an unorthodox teaching of the Trinity, the eternal subordination of the Son (ESS), in order to promote subordination of women to men” (100). But the motive for such a teaching is to elevate women and dignify the submission that God calls them to. The motive for such a teaching is to attempt to explain and apply passages about authority and submission such as 1 Corinthians 11:3: “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

3. Byrd implies that theologians such as Grudem and Ware are heretics and thus not genuine Christians. She argues that such theologians hold unorthodox teachings “on a first-order doctrine,” (121) and that they are “unorthodox teachers that are not in line with Nicene Trinitarian doctrine” (173). But the eternal relations of authority and submission position that Grudem and Ware defend is not heresy.

4. Byrd repeatedly writes (especially in ch. 4—pp. 99–132) as if the eternal relations of authority and submission position that Grudem and Ware defend is essential to complementarianism. I understand why some might assume it is essential since Grudem is a leading proponent of complementarianism. But some complementarians intensely criticized Grudem and Ware on this matter, and most complementarians realize that Grudem and Ware made some theological missteps—even Grudem and Ware acknowledge that! More importantly, complementarianism does not stand or fall regarding whether the eternal relations of authority and submission view is true. That view is not part of the Danvers Statement, which states what all complementarians affirm. Complementarianism is not intrinsically tied to that particular view of the Trinity.

While I myself do not agree with Grudem and Ware's formulation of ESS, it is truly astonishing to see all the misrepresentation on this issue. The fact is this: ESS (of any form) does not postulate submission or subordination of any person of the Godhead in the essence of the Godhead. Whoever says otherwise is lying and has to repent.

Now that Byrd's views are stated in black and white, there is a public record of what she has to say about the issue, and anyone is free to read it and see whether she has truly proven her case. For those on her side however, it is unlikely that they will actually interact with Naselli's review in a fair manner. After all, if they have continually misrepresented ESS for years, why would they suddenly swallow their egos and confess their sin and error in this matter?

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The nature of the bond in 1 Corinthians 7:15

Being “under bondage” is not the same as being bound. If it is, all married Christians are “under bondage”, for all are bound to their mate. This is not a happy view of marriage, to say nothing of the Christian view of marriage: “I am in bondage to my wife or husband”.

The deserted wife is not under bondage in the case of desertion. She is still bound to the deserter. The apostle will say so in verse 39 of 1 Corinthians 7: “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth, but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will…”

That “under bondage” refers to a guilty conscience is further proved by the apostle’s statement of its opposite: “but God hath called us to peace”. The opposite of being under bondage is peace. It is an important principle of the interpretation of the Bible that one can determine the meaning of a word or concept by its opposite in the passage. For example, in Romans 8:33, 34 the meaning of “justifieth” in verse 33 as a judicial act of God is established from its opposite in verse 34, “condemneth”. As “condemns” is a legal act of the judge, so is its opposite, “justifies”, in verse 33. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, the opposite of “under bondage” is “peace”. This proves that by “under bondage” the apostle is describing the state of one’s conscience, not a liberty to be remarried. (David Engelsma, "A Critique of Divorce and Remarriage in the Westminster Confession of Faith (2)," Salt Shakers 59 (Apr 2020): 8-9)


To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Cor. 7:12-16)

Does the passage of 1 Corinthians 7 allow for a true divorce in the event of a breakdown in a marriage? Within the hardline fringe Dutch Reformed wing, the answer is no. According to David Engelsma and the PRCA (Protestant Reformed Churches of America), once two people are married to one another, the marriage bond cannot be broken unless one of the spouses die. In the event of adultery or any manner of serious sin, a formal divorce can be filed, but the two parties are still considered married to one another, in the sense that the bond between the estranged husband and wife continue to exist. The two divorcees still possess a bond of marriage between them, despite the fact that they are legitimately and biblically divorced. Obviously, this means that there can never be a true divorce between the couple at all, for the bond was never broken.

To support his case, Engelsma argued that the term "under bondage" is not the same thing as "being bound." He further argued that "under bondage" cannot be said of the marriage bond because it is "not a happy view of marriage." However, since the original text is in Greek, to appeal to the "weirdness" of the English text is, to put it nicely, unacceptable. Regardless, the way to interpret the text is in context, and it is the passage of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 that is placed above in order for us to understand what the text is actually saying.

The first thing to take note here is the situation facing the couple is the threat of divorce in a marriage where one party is a believer and the other is an unbeliever. That divorce is in the air is seen in verse 12 whereby Paul counsels the believing spouse not to initiate divorce against the unbelieving spouse. Paul however knows that the unbelieving spouse might be adamant in wanting to divorce the believing spouse. Therefore, he counsels that "if the unbelieving spouse separates, let it be so" (verse 15). The flow of thought should immediately make it apparent that this "separation" is a divorce, since Paul was counseling against divorce just 4 verses back.

A good way to visualize what is going on is to replicate the situation mentally. Let's have a couple Adam and Susan. Susan has just recently came to faith and Adam is upset over that. Paul would counsel Susan not to initiate divorce against her husband. However, Adam insists on divorce and thus he wants to "separate." Now, if Susan was counseled not to divorce, then surely she wants to preserve the marriage, and would attempt to stop Adam from filing for divorce. Tensions would surely erupt if one party wants a divorce, and the other does not want divorce. The marital bond has become like slavery bonding Adam against his will. This then is the context in which Paul's further counsel to the believing spouses like Susan would apply. In such a scenario, the believing spouse is not bound or enslaved to the marriage relationship — to preserve it at all costs. Rather, let the unbelieving spouse go through with divorce, says Paul. Instead of tension and dissension in the household, God has called the believer to peace. In a sense, Paul's counsel to Susan would be: "I have told you not to divorce Adam. But if he is so adamant in wanting a divorce, let it be. Do not continue to fight him over this and put numerous obstacles in an attempt to forestall divorce. Rather, God has called you to peace instead of conflict with Adam who is insistent on getting a divorce."

Having exegeted the text in context, compare this with Engelsma's handling of the text of Scripture. Engelsma asserted that the "under bondage" here must be about the believer's conscience since the opposite of "peace" must be turmoil in the soul. The problem is that that is not the only thing that can be the opposite of peace. Interpersonal conflict and tensions within the home, if not open conflict between husband and wife, is also the opposite of peace. Upon what basis should we understand Paul to refer to the individual's conscience? Engelsma does not say why that is the case, but instead just asserted his position to be true. However, a plain reading of the passage of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 should make it evident that the context here is social and familial, not individual. As I have shown, when understood in the context of how Paul's advice interacts with an understanding of interpersonal dynamics, one comes away from the passage with an understanding that is far from Engelsma's interpretation of the text.

The key point of 1 Corinthians 7:15 for the purpose of the divorce and remarriage issue is not that 1 Corinthians 7:15 teaches remarriage after divorce, but rather that 1 Corinthians 7:15 teaches that the marital bond is indeed broken in a divorce. Being in a marriage is to be bonded to each other, and that bond can feel like slavery when it is preserved against the will of one of the spouses. Therefore, when a divorce happens, this bond is indeed broken. And if the bond is broken, then one cannot claim that the bond between husband and wife continues to exist after divorce, for that is a contradiction.

In conclusion, on this issue of divorce and remarriage, Engelsma is mistaken in his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:15, and the Westminster stance on this issue is exonerated. While divorce is a serious sin, we do live in a fallen world where human covenants are breakable. Let us not impose doctrine on biblical texts, but rather derive doctrine from biblical texts, and as we do so, have compassion over the brokenness of the world instead of imposing even more burdens on divorcees.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Book review: Aristotle's Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science

With the reflections done on various passages in the book, I have compiled and rewrote some of the reflections and joined them together in a review of the book. Here is my review of Edward Feser's book Aristotle's Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science. An excerpt:

How should we understand the world and how it works? What is the nature of reality itself? In the modern era, the natural sciences are taken to be the study of reality. The success of the natural sciences is due to the correspondence their theories have to how reality seems to function, and the ability to apply the knowledge gained from the natural sciences for the betterment of humanity. While the natural sciences are always developing, their explanatory power and technological advancement has gained our trust that they do in fact teach us what reality is and how reality functions.

The philosopher Edward Feser however demurs from this depiction of reality. Rather, he asserts that Aristotelian philosophy is properly basic and that the operation of science presupposes Aristotelian categories and terms. ... [more]

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

On color (again)

The starting point of the argument is the observation that the appearance of qualities like color varies from observer to observer. The same object will look bright red or dull red depending on the lighting; a color blind person might not be able to tell it apart from a green object; another person’s color experiences could in theory be inverted relative to my own; and so on. The best explanation of these facts, the argument concludes, is that color is not really there in the objects themselves but only in the mind of the observer.

But there are several problems with this argument, which Putnam (1999, pp. 38-41) has usefully summarized (where Putnam is reiterating points that go back to writers like J.L. Austin (1962) and P.F. Strawson (1979)). First, the argument rests on a simplistic characterization of the commonsense understanding of color. Common sense allows that the same color can look different under different circumstances, just as it allows that a round object can appear oval under certain circumstances. Hence the commonsense thesis that color is mind-independent is not undermined by the fact that an object will look bright red in some contexts and dull red in others. Furthermore, color blindness no more casts down on the supposition that color is mind-independent than hallucination casts doubt on the reality of physical objects. In both cases, the defender of common sense can note that a perceiver’s faculties are simply malfunctioning, and thus not presenting objective reality as it really is. Meanwhile the inverted spectrum scenario presupposes that the physical facts about both external objects and the brain could be exactly as they are while the way colors look is different. It presupposes, in other words, that color can float entirely free of the way things really are in the material world. But that is exactly what the commonsense view denies, so that to appeal in this context to the alleged possibility of color inversion is to beg the question. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, pp. 342-3)

The problem with Edward Feser here is privileging yellowish light from the Sun over all other lights. What happens if Earth orbits a blue giant start, or a red dwarf star?

Hence the reductionist would say that in a world without conscious observers, apples, oranges, and the like would not have color understood in the irreducibly qualitative commonsense way. This is so even though these objects would in that case still have the same surface reflectance properties they have in the actual world. But then, the reductionist himself is committed to the thesis that color, in the commonsense qualitative sense, is distinct from any physical property. Moreover, he is committed to the thesis that physical properties are neither necessary nor sufficient for color in that irreducibly qualitative sense – since, again, color in that sense would not exist in the absence of observers, even though the relevant physical properties would. (p. 346)

From a scientific viewpoint, color exists in the absence of observers.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Ontology: Things inside "virtually"

By contrast, the hydrogen and oxygen in water are virtual or potential rather than actual. … That it is in the water only virtually or potentially rather than actually is the reason you cannot burn the hydrogen in water, which you could do with actual hydrogen. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, p. 313)

In general, the particles of which any true physical substance is composed exist within it virtually or potentially rather than actually. For example, if a stone is a true substance, then while the innumerable atoms that make it up are real, they exist within it virtually or potentially rather than actually. What actually exists is just the one thing, the stone itself. (pp. 313-314)

This echoes the Aristotelian position that parts exist in a substance virtually or potentially rather than actually. (p. 317)

Indeed, there is a sense in which these ordinary objects are more fundamental than the particles that make them up, insofar as the particles exist in them only virtually, only relative to the wholes of which they are parts. (p. 330)

Using an electron microscope, we can see individual atoms. It should be evident therefore that the idea that atoms of molecules like water, or even the various atoms in stone, are only there "virtually" and not actually, is nonsense.

Time, time dilation, and the Aristotelian view of time

In particular, that spacetime appears curved could be interpreted as evidence that it really is curved, but it could also be interpreted instead as evidence that some force is affecting our measuring devices (Kosso 1998, pp. 102-3; Rickles 2016, pp. 83-90; Sklar 1992, pp. 53-69). (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, p. 305)

When one has an a priori system, it can be really astonishing where one can end up. In this particular instance, it is astonishing that Edward Feser thinks it is a plausible interpretation of the special theory of relativity that time dilation does not exist. Rather, in Feser's interpretation, the measurement of time is dilated, but time itself is perfectly fine. Given how everything in the material world including the human body runs on physical and chemical and biological processes that proceed in time, what Feser is advocating for here is a split between the clock and processes in time. But since the clock keeps time through mechanical or other processes (e.g. computer chip), how is that supposed to work out?

Feser's proposed interpretation is therefore unscientific. It fails to notice how the human body itself depends on the flow of time to function. The moving of muscles, the transmission of nerve signals — all of these depend on physiological processes that are similar to how clocks keep time. It is simply inconceivable that something that affects "our measuring devices" will not affect us also. If something affects "our measuring devices," then it will affect our perception and engagement with time as well. Electrical impulses will travel slower if time is slowed and so on, and one does not have to be a materialist to hold that to be true.

It is hoped that philosophers actually understand science if they want to propose interpretations of that science. Otherwise, they will appear foolish, as Feser does in this statement of his.

On the "spatialization" of time - Definition of time, as spatial dimension?

This suggest a further argument against any attempt to spatialize time, which is that it can never be completely carried through. Again, time is the measure of change within space. If we think if space as three-dimensional, then time is the measure of change within three-dimensional space, but if instead we say that what common sense conceive of as time is “really” just a fourth spatial dimension, then what this implies – again, for all the defender of the spatialization of time has shown – is that time ought really to be thought of as the measure of change within four-dimensional space. If the defender of the spatialization of time now claims that time so understood is really just a fifth spatial dimension, then the response will be that in that case time turns out to be the measure of change in five-dimensional space. And so on ad-infinitum. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, p. 290)

According to Aristotelianism it seems, time is defined as the "measure of change within space." Using this definition, Edward Feser argued that time cannot be taken as another dimension like space. However, is that truly an acceptable definition of time?

This definition of time implies that change must happen when time progresses. In other words, if there is an instance in which change does not occur, then time cannot be said to have occurred. This is problematic on many levels. First of all, there are many examples in which change does not occur even though it cannot be said that time has not passed. Hydrogen atoms in the inter-galatic medium are perhaps the best example of something that will not be undergoing any changes for the next few hundred years (unless Christ comes again, but that is a different thing altogether). Most atoms will not undergo any form of nuclear reaction so they would be considered "timeless" as well according to this definition. Bacteria locked in ice are also "timeless" during their "time" frozen in ice, as they do not change. All such examples should be sufficient to show that time can pass without any change happening. Therefore, the Aristotelian definition of time is falsified.

Feser is also in error in understanding what "spatialization" of time in the context of modern science actually mean. It does not mean time becomes another spatial dimension (although some may give that impression). It just means that time is analogous to space in the sense of its quantifiability and ability to be manipulated (time dilation and gravitational dilation). It does not mean that time is a spatial dimension in an eternalist 4-dimensional block that we (3-dimensional beings) perceive as time. Rather, time is qualitatively different from space. It is theoretically possible that we might discover infinite dimensions of space, yet time is still the (א +1 ) dimension, a separate dimension from all other spatial dimensions.

As such, it seems that there is no reason why time cannot be seen to be analogous to space. While we currently know of only one temporal dimension, there is theoretically no reason why there cannot be more than one temporal dimension either. Feser's and the Neo-Aristotelian argument on the nature of time is flawed and based upon an errant understanding of the world, and thus should be rejected, whether it is seen in philosophy, or in theology (Classical theism).

Saturday, April 04, 2020

On the "spatialization" of time - Abstraction and mathematization

All these puzzles disappear when we realize that the mathematics just is an abstraction rather than anything concrete. In particular, it is abstracted from a concrete physical reality whose nature outruns anything captured by the mathematics, rather than being exhaustively constitutive of concrete physical reality. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, p. 279)

The idea of space as a kind of receptable or container can be elucidated by noting what it rules out, such as the views of Descartes and Leibniz (Cf. Bittle 1941, p. 152). If space is what contains extended physical substance, then (contra Descartes) it cannot be identified with extended physical substance itself. Space qua container can either be filled or empty in a way a physical substance itself cannot be. (p. 199)

Is space and time merely mathematics? It would seem rather reductionistic to reduce things to mathematical formulae. But the problem is that this question is not actually important for whether time can be considered space-like with coordinates in space-time. For some reason, Edward Feser seems to think that the opposing view reduces everything to mathematics. Generally for most people with some version of a scientific worldview, that reductionistic approach is not taken. Rather, if the mathematics are true, then what we are saying is that the nature of space-time must reflect the mathematics we have found that describe reality.

It is this view of reality, rather than Feser's reductive picture, that informs scientific worldviews of reality. We do not spatialize time just because the math demands it, but rather because the math reflects the nature of reality. If reality does not spatialize time, then the math will not reflect it.

This is not to say that we must necessarily take 'time' to be just another spatial dimension, but rather that arguments against seeing 'time' as being different from 'space' cannot be argued from the fact that 'time' is 'space-like.' Whatever time is, it is space-like. It may have many dissimilarities to 'space,' but that is another argument altogether.

The reason why Feser thinks current understanding of space is insufficient is because he defines "space" in an Aristotelian manner. This is not however how "space" is defined scientifically, which is why there is nothing wrong with the spatialization of time.

On the "spatialization" of time - Geometry and the Cartesian plane

A second problem is that there are serious questions about how coherent is the description of space and its occupants that results when we conflate physical space with geometry, and geometry in turn with a system of numbers. Neither points (since they lack any extension at all), nor lines (since they lack width and depth), nor planes (since they lack depth), can be said to occupy space. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, p. 278)

No, they do not occupy space. They constitute space.


On the "spatialization" of time - Events in space and in time

Events always also stay the same distance apart in space. An object located at a certain region of space exclusively occupies that region. Two physical objects cannot be in the same place at once. By contrast, an event located at a certain point in time is not the exclusive occupant of that point in time. Many events are occurring at any particular moment. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, p. 275)

Are events in space analogous to events in time? Edward Feser does not think so. For him, while two physical objects cannot be in the same place at once, many events are occurring at any particular moment. However, here again Feser does not adequately represent the issue, as I will show.

When we mention that two physical objects cannot occupy the same place at the same time, it is evidently clear that there are two factors in play - "not same place," and "not same time." Two objects can occupy the same place at different times, or they can occupy two different places at the same time. Likewise, if we move forward with the analogy, two events cannot be occurring at the same time at the same place. Two events can occur at the same time but different places, or they can occur at two different times at the same place. Notice that I have just swapped the "place" and "time" in the sentences to show that events in time are analogous to events in space, contra Feser's assertion to the contrary.

When Feser said that "many events are occurring at any particular moment," that is true but it is not the whole picture. If two objects cannot be in the same place at once, then we must add the same qualifier analogously and then we will note that it is false that "many events are occurring at any particular moment" at the same place. Feser's objection only works if the analogy is not played out in full, for once it is played out, the analogy between space and time does work.

Self-referentiality, time and tenseless sentences

A second problem is that the theory cannot account for sentences of which there are no tokens or instances. Consider a sentence like “There are now no tokens or instance of any sentences,” which could be true at a time when no one happens to be uttering any sentences. The new tenseless theory entails that the truth condition for this sentence would be that it is uttered at a time when there are no tokens or instance of any sentences. But of course, it never could be uttered when there are no tokens or instances of any sentences (since for someone to utter it would just be to produce a token or instance of a sentence). The new tenseless theory thus implies that the sentence could never be true. Thus, since the sentence could in fact be true, the theory is false. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, pp. 241-242)

The rendering of tensed sentences into tenseless sentences is not necessarily easy. This is especially the case when the sentence can be rendered into a self-contradiction. The sentence offered by Edward Feser is one such example, for the sentences "there are now no tokens or instances of any sentences" when uttered contradicts itself. Since that is the case, the question must first be asked whether and in what situations such a sentence could be true. This particular sentence is true when no one is uttering any sentences, including this sentence. In other words, the only time this sentence could be said to be true is when it is not uttered. Therefore, if the sentences is to be translated into a tenseless statement, the scenario itself must be translated for it to make sense.

It is rather surprising that Feser did not seem to attempt a translation of the sentence unlike his previous example, so let me offer a translation here for this sentence. The offered translation is this:

"There is at time t (e.g. 8am, December 1st 1999) no tokens or instances of any sentences, with this sentence at time u."

This translation after all is the sense of the sentence in tensed form, and therefore the tenseless form would be thus.

Whether tenseless sentences are basic for one's philosophy of time, it seems rather apparent that the language of tenses should not be an issue. If there are problems with one's view of time, the realities of tenses (of which some languages do not have any) do not seem to be helpful in resolving the discussion.

A-theory and B-theory of time: An error in reasoning

In any event, the new tenseless theory concedes that the old theory fails, but denies that this gives any support to the A-theory. According to the new theory, though the meaning of a tensed sentence is not captured by a tenseless sentence, its truth conditions are nevertheless captured by the latter. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, p. 241)

However, this approach too faces grave problems (Craig 200a, Chapter 3; Craig 2001, pp. 119-29). One such problem is logical. Supposed that Bob and Fred each utter a token or instance of the sentence “Socrates drank hemlock.” Let’s label Bob’s utterance of the sentence B, and Fred’s utterance of the sentence F. According to the new tenseless theory, B is logically equivalent to the sentence “Socrates is drinking hemlock earlier than B,” which gives B’s truth conditions. Similarly, F is logically equivalent to the sentence “Socrates is drinking hemlock earlier than F,” which gives G’s truth conditions. Now, B and F are also logically equivalent to each other. In other words, what Bob says when he says “Socrates drank hemlock” is true if and only if what Fred says when he says “Socrates drank hemlock” is also true. So, the sentences “Socrates is drinking hemlock earlier than B” and “Socrates is drinking hemlock earlier than F,” since they are logically equivalent to B and F respectively, should be logically equivalent to each other as well. However, they are not logically equivalent, because it could have turned out that Bob uttered his sentence while Fred did not, or vice versa. So, the new tenseless theory’s analysis fails. (p. 241)

The "new tenseless theory" propped up by B-theorists in the philosophy of time asserts that the truth conditions of a converted tenseless sentence if equivalent to the truth conditions of a "normal" tensed sentence. Feser, as an advocate for a traditional understanding of time (A--theory presentism), rejects that tensed sentences can be so converted into tenseless sentences. At this moment, I am not taking a stand on A- or B-theories of time, but just to note whether Feser has proven his case.

With regards to the "new tenseless theory," Feser asserts that if the same sentence ("Socrates drank hemlock") is said separately by Bod and Fred, their two utterances if converted into tenseless sentences would not have the same truth conditions and therefore are not equivalent to each other, thus the new tenseless theory is false. However, did Feser adequately present that theory? It does not seem to me to be the case. Feser converted Bob's utterance to "Socrates is drinking hemlock earlier than B," where "B" is the act of utterance. However, is that the correct way to render Bob's utterance into a tenseless sentence? I would suggest not.

When Bob utter "Socrates drank hemlock," he was stating that, from his vantage point at his time and space, Socrates' act of drinking hemlock was in the past. The sentence "Socrates is drinking hemlock earlier than B" however suggests something different, in that Bob was being self-reflective in his thought and uttered something like "Socrates drank hemlock earlier than this utterance of mine." In other words, the problem with Feser's argument against the "new tenseless theory" is that he did not properly render the utterance tenseless. Rather, the proper tenseless rendering of Bob's utterance is "Socrates is drinking Hemlock earlier than December 1st, 1999," assuming Bob had uttered that sentence in the date of December 1st, 1999.

Such a way of rendering propositions tenseless would render Feser's argument moot. Whether it is adequate to render tensed sentences into tenseless sentences is a separate question which I am still mulling over, but at least on this point, Feser's argument against tenseless sentences is singularly unconvincing.

Friday, April 03, 2020

On the issue of relative motion

For another thing, McGinn argues, there are difficulties with the thesis itself, never mind the argument for it First of all, on analysis it appears to be incoherent. Consider a universe with just two objects, A and B. Suppose that from A’s frame of reference, A is stationary and B is moving toward A, whereas from B’s frame of reference, B is stationary and A is moving toward B. According to the relationalist, there is no fact of the matter about which is really moving. Relative to A, B is moving and A is not, and relative to B, A is moving and B is not, and that is all that can be said. But remember that local motion is change with respect to place or location. For B to move, then, is for it to be at location L1 at one moment and at a different location L2 at the next. Now, since B is indeed moving from A’s frame of reference, the locations L1 and L2 that B is at at each movement must be different locations. But since B is not moving from B’s frame of reference, the locations L1 and L2 that B is at at each moment must not be different locations. So L1 and L2 are both identical and not identical. But that is absurd. (Edward Feser, Aristotle's Revenge, p. 213)

Second, McGinn argues that the relativity of motion becomes implausible once we factor in considerations other than motion. If we are only considering only their motion, we could say either that the sun is at rest and that the earth is moving relative to the earth, or that the earth is at rest and the sun is moving relative to the earth. However, when we factor in the different masses of the sun and the earth, this is no longer the case. … The motions considered in the abstract may be symmetrical, but the causal factors are not, so that there is a fact of the matter about which is really moving relative to which. (p. 214)

A major paradigmatic shift in science has been the shift from an absolute frame of reference to a relative frame of reference. This is especially evident when one considers the theories of relativity. Depending on the frame of reference, an object can be considered to be in motion, or be stationary. Superficially, we take the Earth to be stationary when calculating motion on Earth, although we understand the Earth to be in motion around the Sun. But relative frames of reference mean more than considering something to be a stationary point of reference. It means that the frame of reference can be swapped such that if one object X is seen as stationary, the other, Y, is seen as in motion. But if Y is seen as stationary, then X is seen to be in motion. Therefore, the very concept of "motion" is relative. It is this concept that Edward Feser, citing McGinn's argument, disputes.

McGinn's argument seems valid enough. If B is seen as moving, which is true from A's perspective, it moves from point L1 to point L2. However, if B is seen as stationary (B's perspective) and A is moving, then surely B is at point L1 and remains at point L1, never moving to point L2. Such an argument however misunderstands how relative frames of reference works. In relative frames of reference, there is no such thing as absolute points of space, and it is this error that McGinn commits.

To perceive the nature of the error, let us place a marker at point L1 and a marker at point L2, and name them M1 and M2 respectively. In A's frame of reference, B is moving towards A and it moves from L1 to L2. Thus, B would have moved past M1 and M2, as M1 and M2 are both stationary in A's frame of reference. Consider however what would be the case in B's frame of reference. If B is considered stationary, then A is moving towards B. The markers M1 and M2 would also move towards B, since they are in the same situation as A. Since M1 and M2 supposedly mark L1 and L2 respectively, then it could be said that L1 and L2 move towards B. In other words, in B's point of reference, to the extent that points L1 and L2 are supposed to be points in space, they "move" towards B if B is taken to be the frame of reference. This is seen in the diagram below:

McGinn's error therefore is in assuming that L1 and L2 mean anything at all in relative frames of motion. The entire concept of frames of reference is precisely to assert that just as there is no such thing as a fixed frame to consider motion, so there is no fixed frame to consider location. L1 and L2 only make sense in A's frame of reference, not in B's.

Feser's next paragraph deals with gravitational rotation, which is the realm of the general theory of relativity. Unfortunately, I have not really learned the General Theory of Relativity, but from my limited understanding, it is false to assert that rotation of the earth around the sun disproves relative frames of motion. First of all, the earth does not technically revolves around the sun. Rather, it revolves around the center of gravity of the entire solar system. The sun "wobbles" so to speak since it makes up most but not all of the mass of the solar system. This shows that it is not the sun as an object that is considered stationary, but rather motion under the force of gravity follows the curvature of space-time. Since space-time curvature is asymmetrical in the case of the solar system, so we do say that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around.

Relative frames of motion are apparent however when the space-time curvature is symmetrical, as in the case of a binary star system with stars of equal masses. In this case, it is true that star C revolves around star D, and star D revolves around star C, and also that both stars revolve around their common center of gravity, as seen in the figure below:

As it can be seen, where space-time curvature is symmetrical, relative frames of motion are present. The fact that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the sun revolves around the earth, is due to the asymmetrical nature of the space-time curvature caused by the sun, and therefore this example is not a valid one in disproving relative frames of motion.

Having examined the arguments put forward by McGinn and repeated by Feser, it is evident that their arguments against relative frames of reference betrays an ignorance of the science involved. While one can legitimately ask whether an absolute point of reference with regards to space, motion, or even time is or should be present, it is fallacious to claim that relative frames of references make no sense and are self-contradictory. They are certainly counter-intuitive, but self-contradictory nonsense they are not. Feser would certainly benefit from some science education, as the arguments he has put forward here betray an ignorance of science as a subject.