I was raised as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. However, I came to doubt my Witness beliefs, rejecting many of them, and the doctrinal autho...

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Jim Versus the Pope - A Response to JimSpace (Part Six)

Jim Versus the Pope
October 27th, 2017

(Part Five / Part Six / Part Seven / Part Eight)

We've already examined most of Jim's arguments against Jesus' having been raised as a (glorified) human being and found them wanting, and what is more, overwhelmed by the positive arguments for that position. Still, it might be fun to address two (even weaker, in my opinion) arguments he gives (see here).

He quotes the Pope, who in part says:
Some ask, is Jesus a spirit? Jesus is not a spirit! Jesus is a person, a man, with flesh like ours, but full of glory.
What's the problem here? Jim say:
Thus he believes in the standard teaching that Jesus never sacrificed his body in that he got it back, and that he still has his original stigmata.
So Jim thinks that the view that Jesus' flesh did not see corruption implies that he didn't sacrifice his life? How? Because he got it back? That doesn't follow. One might as well say that the Christian walk is not a life of self-sacrifice because we get so much more back in the end, and even now. Indeed, Scripture makes it plain that death couldn't hold him, and so it follows that what he lost he took up again, yes, even his life as a human. But not merely mortal life, but, as a indication of things to come for those who love his appearing, he was glorified and raised up incorruptible and immortal.
Lastly, how in the world can Jesus now be a man “with flesh like ours” yet simultaneously have flesh that is ‘glorified’ which is not like ours? (Is it like a “force field” preventing his flesh from disintegrating in outer space?) Why is that obvious contradiction not addressed?
He is human, right? And we're humans, right? So he is like us. It's glorified in that it is supernaturally endowed to be incorruptible, as our bodies will be in the Resurrection. That our flesh is not as his is now in ever respects doesn't erase the fact that it is like his in that both are essentially human.

The question about force fields and the concern that on its own Jesus' body, if it's human, would decay in outer space are quite puzzling to me. Does he think that to say that Christ is in heaven is to say that he's floating in in the space around the earth, waving at the astronauts in the ISS? Who has ever suggested such a notion? And what part of incorruptible does Jim not get? Is it really so strange to think that God could raise up a human being incorruptible? I don't think so; and a mere assertion contrariwise doesn't change anything.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Not Close and Still No Cigar - A Response to JimSpace (Part Five)

Not Close and Still No Cigar
November 17th, 2017

(Part Five / Part Six / Part Seven / Part Eight)

Today I'll respond to Jim's post Jesus' Body Now: Flesh or Spirit?, wherein he summarizes his case, and perhaps adds a point or two he didn't previously make. (Note, this post, like the others, are more notes than systematic defense of the doctrine that Christ was raised human. If what I say is unclear, please let me know. I intend to present the case in more orderly fashion in the future.) Let's take a look:
Additionally, and not any less significant, Hebrews 10:10 reports that Jesus sacrificed his physical body—thus for him to take it back would be to cancel the salvific transaction to God. Another issue which cannot be stressed enough is the Atonement Day drama where the High Priest passed though the curtain from the Holy to the Most Holy on Atonement Day with only the blood and not the body of the sacrificed animal, thus, in fulfillment, Jesus presented the value of his sacrificed life and not his body when he passed though the greater spiritual curtain in the presence of the Almighty God Jehovah.—Hebrews 10:19, 20.
I've already noted that the analogy to OT sacrifices is wanting; to put it another way, Jim pushes it too far. I've already said what I wanted to say on that, so wont say anything further. However, I will say more about his claim that, if Jesus were raised up physically, the 'salvific transaction' he engaged in by his work on the cross would have been undone.[1] Let's start by seeing what Christ himself says on the matter:
John 10:17,18 - The reason the Father loves Me is that I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.
Compare what Jesus says about what he is laying down and what he is taking back up with what Jim says. He and I both agree that Jesus laid down his human life, and this Jesus surely meant, for he was a human when he said, 'My life'. But Jim claims that it was not this human life that Jesus would take up again. However, does this fit what Jesus says? I think not, for note that "it" in "I have authority to lay it down" refers to his life, which it is agreed is his human life. Thus Jesus indicates that he would be resurrected human. Indeed, how could he take up 'again' that which he surrenders unless it is the same thing, namely life as a human?

And yet it might be objected that what Jesus meant here is not 'life as a human', but something like 'life as abstracted from the kind of living thing he is, whether human or no'. And his taking up this again needn't mean that he became human again. (Even then, there are other reasons to say think that he did take up human life again.) But, then, Jim has a problem; specifically, his 'no-take-backs' principle: that should Jesus have taken back what he surrendered, then the 'salvific transaction' would be undone.

If Jesus sacrificed his life (in a human body) and took it up again (in a angel-like body), he took back that which he gave, right? And yet, Jim wants the atonement to go through. And this suggests that he should abandon the extra-biblical 'no-take-backs' principle. Doing this undermines his case against the physicality of Jesus' resurrection.

Nor does it make sense to think that the life he surrendered should be conceived of apart from the kind of being he was, namely human. Jesus surrenders his life - why? To save us. Hebrews notes that he surrendered his human body. So the human Jesus who said, 'I surrender my life and take it up again' gives his life, which is to say, his body, or his life as an embodied human. Since that is what he surrenders and that which is takes up again is the same as that which he surrendered, he follows that Jesus took up embodied human life again, his body was resurrected, his flesh did not see corruption.

I think Jim can find additional reason to reject this 'no-take-backs' in a Witness doctrine, namely, their claim that ordinary death is the sufficient and exhaustive punishment for a person's sins (prior to dying).[2] They claim that the wicked who die have paid for their sins, though, not that they thereby deserve a second chance at life. However, God will resurrect many of them again. Now, for those who are brought back to life, do the sins they've committed in this duration of life now cease to be paid for? Witnesses would maintain that they will not. So someone can pay for something with their human life, receive it again and still that which they paid for remains paid for - the the 'punitive transaction' is not undone. Well, why couldn't Jesus pay for the sins of the saved (and potentially anyone else who could have become saved) in this same way? Why must he not take up human life again?[3]

Not that this 'life-in-the-abstract' holds much water, since Scripture is quite clear that his flesh did not see corruption, and hence must remain to this day.

Jim also says:
An additional scripture popularly employed is Luke 24:39, where the resurrected Jesus said he is not a spirit but has “flesh and bones” after after miraculously appearing inside a locked room. Ones who conclude this means that Jesus was not a spirit also conclude that he also had no blood, and must therefore ignore this palpable and absurd contradiction of being alive as a man without any blood. However, when Jesus appeared in the locked room he indeed had blood as confirmed in Luke 24:39 and at 1 John 1:1 where his invited followers felt his flesh to confirm that he was not a vision. By feeling and examining his flesh they could doubtlessly confirm blue veins and that he had blood and was not bloodlessly blanched. This only makes sense if he was a spirit being materializing in the locked room. Jesus being understood as materializing into the locked room addresses his miraculous appearance, whereas the other interpretation does not and leaves it as an unresolved mystery of preposterous proportions.
"Flesh and bone" is just an idiom for saying 'I'm human.' And saying, "I'm not a spirit" means just that.  People who somehow think that Jesus intend to convey the message 'I have no blood' aren't worth listening to on this matter; at least, no one who defends the physicality of Jesus' resurrection needs to take such a strange view. 

Additionally, Jim can't say that Jesus had flesh, bones and blood - not strictly speaking. Why? Because if Jesus had all of that that would just be him as a human being after his resurrection. So if Jesus wasn't actually a human being, but a spirit being, it was only that he appeared as a human being. Specifically, he formed a faux-body, but which is a different, ontologically speaking, from an actual human body is from a pile of dust. Yet Jesus did have actual flesh, bones and blood and was a human, not a spirit.

Moreover, Jim shows himself to be lacking in imagination and prone to baseless incredulity. The only explanation as to how Jesus could appear behind locked doors without being in the room prior to the door was closed and locked is that he was an angelic-like spirit being that materialized a faux-body. Sure it is; more on that below.

Jim continues
Thus, ones who believe that Jesus has a physical body now in heaven must clarify if it is the one he received during his earthly sojourn or another physical body received at his resurrection. They must also specify how Jesus is able to exist with a physical body outside of earth’s protective atmosphere. Additionally, ones who insist that Jesus is able to retain his physical body that he received in Mary’s womb due to being “glorified” in some undefined sense are unable to specify any supporting scriptures showing how his physical body is glorified and thus preserved.
It was the body that he had on earth, he didn't have multiple bodies. If Jim can't imagine how God who conserves everything in being could preserve Jesus' body in heaven (which he merely asserts is naturally inimical to human - let alone immortal and incorruptible human - life), that says more about his lack of imagination than any defect in the traditional view.

Now, why does Jim think that I should have to give a description of how Jesus' human body was glorified and what he, as a glorified human, could do from the Scriptures? It suffices to show that (1) he was raised up a human being, (2) that the resurrection body is glorious, incorruptible, immortal and so so, (3) point out the various things the gospel writers describe Jesus as doing after his resurrection (and offer possible explanations as to how he did what they say he did).

Now, even given this, I admit, we don't know that much about what the Resurrection body will be like, but that isn't an argument against maintaining that it will be physical. (Additionally, we could ask the same question of him: what is an angel-like body like? How does a human body get transformed into one?[4])

Moving on, Jim says:
Lastly, one scripture that must be showcased is John 6:63, where Jesus answers his question in verse 62: “Then what if you see the Son of Man ascending where he was before?” The “before” is defined for us previously in John 6:38 as being heaven. He then answered that the spirit is life-giving but that “human nature is of no help!” (NET Bible) If that’s Jesus’ view of human nature in heaven, then why would he have one?
The fundamental problem is that Jim misunderstands what Jesus is saying here. Jim takes him to be describing the kind of body that he will have in his resurrection. But that is not what he is doing here. This can be seen when he says, "My words are spirit and life." Well, we aren't going to be made out of Jesus' words, are we? So he is not talking about the kind or composition of bodies the faithful will have. Rather he is describing how one attains to life, namely through his words which, following the rendering in the New International Version, are 'full of the Spirit' and hence give us (everlasting) life. This is true apart from the nature of the bodies with which we shall enjoy this life.

Jim concludes.
It appears to me that ones insisting otherwise, that Jesus retained his sacrificed Nazarene body are clinging to Jesus’ body when he said “Stop clinging to me,”[1] and are contradicting Jesus when he said that “the flesh is of no use at all” (NWT) “the flesh doesn’t help at all” (HCSB) “the flesh counts for nothing” (NIV) in heaven (per John 6:38). (John 20:17; 6:38, 62-63) He sacrificed his flesh (blood and the rest of his body) during the crucifixion, and by his own admission it is not currently needed in heaven. Thus, in order to obey Jesus’ direct command, we should not cling to it.
Now, perhaps Jim is only trying to add a nice rhetorical flourish to his post, and so doesn't actually think that those who maintain that Jesus was raised up as a human being are actually disobeying Christ's command to Mary to stop literally clinging to him. If so, whatever. If not, he's obviously misapplied the verse. 

Of note here is that Jim implicitly affirms what I have to say about Jesus' present Jewishness as our High Priest. I said that since Jesus is presently a Judean, he must be humans, since Judeans are humans (and it doesn't make sense to talk about spirit beings being Judean). Why does he affirm this? Notice that he denies that Jesus has his Nazarene body. This body was also Judean. So he denies that Jesus is still a Judean, even as he denies that Jesus is still a Nazarene. But if that is so, he denies Paul's claim that 'we have a high priest from Judah'.

[1] See Jim's view on the cross here, where he differs from Witness teaching on the matter.

[2] Obviously, I don't think this is how retribution for sin works, but Jim does, and hence we can furnish an objection against his argument from other beliefs he is committed to, even if we don't believe it ourselves. In any event, this shows that the 'no-take-backs' argument isn't obvious, or held on independent reasons (that is, from Jim's aim to show that Jesus was not raised up as a human being).

[3] Indeed, if Jesus sacrificed his life, shouldn't Jim say that it would be impossible for the salvific transaction to go through if Jesus ever came back to life as anything?

[4] Since there are good reasons to suppose that humans are essentially 'rational animals', that is to say, essentially corporeal, physical beings, then it follows that a human being cannot become an immaterial being, that would just be for the human person to be annihilated and another (similar in some respects) spirit being to come into existence.
Written in San Dimas, California, published while I was in Spokane Valley, Washington.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sorry, Linkin Park

Sorry, Linkin Park
September 28th, 2016

In their homily New Divide (videolyrics), the theological society commonly known as Linkin Park ponders whether a person who is damned will thus be forever separated from God or not. Their meditation is evidently inspired by Luke 16:19-31. Of particular significant is v. 26:
Luke 19:26 - And besides all these things, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those who want to go over from here to you cannot, neither may people cross over from there to us.
Absent any contrary considerations, I think we should take this at face value; if you're damned, you're damned forever. Maybe it's logically possible that no one will be damned when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead - we can hope that this is so - but, if some will be, they can't be saved.

Why is the chasm intransitable? It seems to be because of the refusal of the damned to repent, which in turn is merely a continuation of their refusal to repent prior to Judgment Day. Verses 30 and 31 seem relevant:
Luke 19:30-31 - Then he said, ‘No, indeed, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’
And I think that the continued obstinacy of the damned motivates the conclusion that wicked will suffer forever in Hell. They are like drug addicts, willing what they want even if it hurts them. Hell will be preferable to repenting, as they see it, inasmuch as they love the object of their sinful longing more than anything else.

What do you think? 
  • Does the "great chasm" indicate that there is no way out of Hell for the damned, or only no way to salvation? (The former is inconsistent with annihilationism, the latter is consistent with annihilationism.)
  • If those in Hell deserve punishment for their obstinacy in Hell, does this mean that their punishment will be perpetual, or would a finite time in Hell be sufficient?
  • Assuming a distinction between Hades and Gehenna (where Hell, as a place of final punishment for the wicked, is understood only to be the second one), and that this parable takes place in Hades, does this change anything? (I don't think so.)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Parallel Parking

Parallel Parking
October 7th, 2017

Common to both conditionalists and eternalists[1] (those who think that the wicked will be consciously tormented forever) is the assumption that one can get insight into the length and/or nature of the punishment due the wicked by contrasting it with what the righteous will enjoy. One reasonably assumes that the wicked will receive the opposite of what the righteous receive, and notes what exactly the reward of the righteous is, and from that deduct the nature of the punished due the wicked.

For conditionalists this means that the wicked will eventually pass out of existence, since only the righteous will have everlasting life, even if their punishment is eternal. (However, as I see it, this argument rests on a misunderstanding of what "everlasting life" means.)

Keeping in mind that everlasting life is primarily described as union with God, where the righteous enjoy honor, joy and glory, eternalists claim that, since the conscious enjoyment of the righteous is perpetual, the wicked's torment will also be perpetual; and they're torment will consist in suffering shame, distress and humiliation at being perpetually separated from God, which is the opposite of the reward due the righteous.

I think this latter 'opposite argument' is stronger, since it seems to describe what spiritual death is, and I think that spiritual death, which is the wages sin pays (see Romans 6:23) implies perpetual, conscious existence. (More on this later.)

Additionally, it counters the notion that the 'eternal shame and contempt' due the wicked (see Daniel 12:2) isn't eternally experienced by the wicked. You might as well be suggesting that the honor due the righteous is primarily just God's viewing them a certain way. (Which is basically what annihilationists say about the shame due the wicked; they'll experience it for a while, but then will pass out of existence, however, their memory will always be held in contempt. More on Daniel 12:2 later.)

By these two examples, I'm sure you can see how such reasoning works, even if you can (and I eventually will) take things further by developing more complicated arguments. I think it is a plausible way of thinking, and, all things considered, favors the eternalist position. What do you think?

[1] I think this kind of argument is pretty damning (pun intended) for the universalist. It seems that they can't say that the wicked will not be punished eternally - because the Hebrew and Greek words we renders as 'eternal' or 'everlasting' don't necessarily mean what we mean by those English terms - without saying that the reward due the righteous isn't going to be eternal either.

Who am I?

About Me
February 24th, 2018

What I actually look like; thanks
Microsoft Paint!
Time to get rid of my pen name. I'm Sean Killackey, not Jensen Carlyle. I was raised and baptized (May 1, 2011) as one of Jehovah's Witnesses - fourth generation. However, I am now no longer one, something that became official recently.

When I began this blog, I was in the process of leaving: for example, talking to friends about my doubts and disagreements, to see if I could find a way to stay in good conscience, since I really did want to say. (This is true despite the fact that I pursued two contradictory strategies. More on that later, say, next week.) However, I could not, so I did not. (As I said, more on this story in future post; for the reasons for I left, just read the blog.)

Speaking of blogs, if you were bored, you can check out my other, now basically dormant blog - The Harmony of the Bible Blog. That blog focuses on answering alleged self-contradictions in the Bible. I originally set out to answer about 1000 of them, but they were just of such low quality and, aside from about a dozen or so, so easy to refute, that the project tapered off. I did answer between one and two hundred, though, and I have some other posts on different topics as well.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Argument From Salvation

The Argument From Salvation
November 22nd, 2017 

Today, I'm going to present an argument for conditionalism. I'll call it the argument from salvation.
(P1) Whatever Christ saves the righteous from is something he doesn't spare the wicked from. 
(P2) Christ saves the righteous from the privation of lives (death in the ordinary sense of the term). 
(C1) Therefore, he does not spare the wicked from the privation of their lives. 
(P3) If the wicked suffer the deprivation of their lives, they cannot be eternally tormented (with pain, shame, whatever). 
(C2) Therefore, the wicked cannot be eternally tormented.
What reason is there to think that this is a good argument? Let's examine some key verses given as the scriptural support.
Genesis 3:22 - And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." 
Luke 20:35,36 - But those who are considered worthy to share in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In fact, they can no longer die, because they are like the angels. And since they are sons of the resurrection, they are sons of God. 
John 6:54 - Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 
John 6:58 - This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. 
John 11:25,26 - Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." 
John 12:25 - Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 
Romans 2:7 - To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
This, it is argued, provides pretty good support for (P2), for it shows that only the righteous will, when all is said and done, escape death (that is, the privation of human life).

What of (P1)? The premise is reasonable. The righteous are spared God's anger, because they are saved in Christ. The wicked must face it in is unmitigated fullness, because they are not in Christ. The same is true of honor, joy and glory. So, wouldn't it follow in the case of immortality as well? (P2) seems right as well, as does (P3), and the conclusions follows from (P1) - (P3).[1]

I'll have more to say both for and against this argument later, but I'll leave it at this for now.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Links are Fun (One)

Nick Peters gives a review of Walking Through Darkness by Doug Groothuis. An excerpt:
Groothuis’s book is an honest look at what happens when a Christian philosopher who is an apologist has a wife who has been a companion in every way throughout his marriage start to go through dementia. What happens when she can’t read anymore or use a phone anymore or do basic things? What happens when you know the person is going to get worse and worse until they eventually die from the disease? What happens when you go from being a husband to being a caregiver? 
The book is entirely honest, which is what makes it so hard. Groothuis says some of the things that many of us going through suffering think but hesitate to say. Consider his talk about Misotheism. This is the idea that one knows that God exists and holds many orthodox beliefs about Him, but hates Him. . . . 
It’s hard to imagine that in all of this, he still goes out there wanting to defend Christianity. This is what it means to truly trust in Christ. It means that even when everything seems against you, you are still obeying. Lewis talked about a Christian who looked at the world that seemed to have no God there, who looks up to Heaven in response and asks why God is silent, and yet obeys anyway. These are the most dangerous Christians in the world to those on the side of evil because their Christianity is not controlled by momentary circumstances. . . .  
Get this book and read it and then be prepared to enter into suffering. Do what you can to help your fellow man out.
I haven't read Grootuis' book yet, but have added it to my reading list. Given Nick's review, I suggest you do so as well.

Undeniable proof.
Apparently, The Message is the only true version of the Bible. Not the King James Version, as is sometimes supposed. The question for you is: are you going to use God's Message or Satan's?

The sad thing is that their parody has significantly better arguments behind it than actual KJV-onlyists have behind their position.

Their "group holds to the full, plenary, inerrant inspiration of the Message. All other errant “translations” including the “original” Greek and Hebrew should be compared with the authoritative Message." Which seems about right to me.