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.