Saturday, August 29, 2009

Know Your Heretics - Nestorius

I have been accused of the heresy of Nestorianism, so this will be a quite appropriate entry in our series.

Nestorius (c. 386 - c. 451) struggled with the doctrine that Jesus is one man with two natures - divine and human. This is a hard problem - in what way could we say that "God is hungry" (Matt 4:2), or "God is tired" (John 4:6)? I'm not sure. God is spirit, a spirit does not feel these things. And God is omnipotent, these things seem contrary to that.

At the same time, Jesus is God, and:
"Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted." Hebrews 2:17-18
Jesus, being God, was made like us and felt all the things we feel. You would be right to say "God suffered".

Nestorianism is the teaching that Jesus was (is?) two people - one God, one man. According to Wikipedia, Nestorius himself denied this ("Nestorius responded that he believed that Christ was indeed one person").

The main problem is that Jesus has two natures. This is the finding of Chalcedon, there is agreement there.

If we apply all of His human nature to God, then we make no distinction between God and Man. That is, if there are two natures - the two natures must be different in some way. If one is a subset of the other, then He really only had one nature. (struggling here...) If God is in every way like Man (through Jesus), then Jesus only had one nature - that of God (Man being a subset, lacking things like eternal preexistence and omnipotence).

To restate, if God is in every way like Man (through Jesus), and Man is therefore like God - only lacking in certain things (omnipotence, omniscience, etc.) - then Jesus did not have Man's nature. He had God's nature (which includes all the ways that Jesus is like Man) - because Jesus is not lacking in omnipotence, omniscience, etc.

I will have to read more on Chalcedon and exactly what Nestorius taught, and what was attributed to him. Of course, the attack I am making has come up before, being monophysitism. I will have to look into that as well.. (the beauty of Church history being that every argument has occurred before, it is just a matter of looking it up :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Necessity of Controversy

I don't really link often enough to posts at Pyromaniacs. This is because you should have an RSS feed from them, and read everything in it before you read anything here...

Going through the archives, I found this gem.

It really powerfully says everything that needs to be said (like everything at Team Pyro).
"I never saw anything like you clergymen," said Eleanor; "You are always thinking of fighting each other."
"A pagan, too, with his multiplicity of gods, would think it equally odd that the Christian and the Mohammedan should disagree."
Two issues here:
  1. If we believe what we believe is true, let us fight with vigor for the truth.
  2. Those who complain about "theological squabbles" have no responsibility. They are bystanders with no stake. It matters not to them that our responsibilities are left undone.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wilson Fisks McLaren

(Doug Wilson recently reformatted his blog, which breaks any links I had. You can repair them by finding a new link [click any "Read more"] and replacing the "id=number" number with the number from the old "blogid=number")

Doug Wilson is always solid (for a covenanter), and usually humorous.

This post is no exception.

Brian McLaren observing Ramadan! Heheeh!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

ASC, ESC and Retina Cells

An interesting article from Science Daily. A study where both ASC and ESC were changed into retina cells. Again, makes you wonder why they even bother with ESCR.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hermeneutics Club

The first rule of Hermeneutics Club - don't talk about Hermeneutics Club!

No, wait.

First rule of hermeneutics is context, context, context. Who is the author? Who is the target audience? What do the verses before and after say? What is this paragraph (inferred from the text, our modern divisions are non-inspired) say? What does the chapter say? What is the book about?

An example in bad hermeneutics ("cherry picking"):
  • "And he [Judas] went and hanged himself." Matthew 27:5
  • "Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in your native-place. " Luke 4:23
  • "Then Jesus said to him [Judas], What you do, do quickly." John 13:27
Now, it shouldn't take much to convince people this is a bad way to read the Bible (although you occasionally hear horror stories).

Hermeneutics is serious business. If we do not interpret the Bible rightly, we are going to act wrongly, or worse, believe wrongly. We will hurt ourselves and others, suffer needlessly, and bring disgrace to the name of our Lord Jesus.

Returning to the verse from yesterday (John 19:27):
"Then He said to the disciple [John], Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her into his own home. "
The context is the crucifixion. These are some of the last words of Jesus, spoken to His mother and beloved friend. They are immediately for their benefit. They are also recorded in John's gospel, so they are for our benefit as well.

Does that mean this command is directed to us as well?

What about the second part of the command, "take her into our house"? Does this mean we should have a statue of Mary? Kneel before it, and light candles, say prayers? These are things pagans do. When a pagan asks us about this, in light of Exodus 20:4-5, what do we say?

"It's not worship, it's veneration."

Uh-huh. And when modern man goes into Washington D.C. to "honor" all the statues and paintings, that's not worship either.

Monday, August 24, 2009


(theology as it relates to Mary, the mother of Jesus)
I would like to categorize this as tension, or even simple theology. Mariology should be a minor issue which Christians can disagree on peaceably.

For me, one of the criteria for distinguishing "heterodox" (strange teaching) and "heresy" (dangerous teaching) is the net effect on our faith and behavior.

It is with this in mind that I must say that the most common forms of Mariology are dangerous, based on the outcomes it has had in people's lives.

This is all driven by an article linked on Insight Scoop (which is apparently from 2006, I have to be careful, they sometimes rerun articles - I got all in a huff about an article, until I realized I had already done that one!).

Also relevant is that I am trying to finish the Orthodox Study Bible (yes, from last year, the thing is enormous).
  1. "our spiritual mother" - I don't think there is any Biblical basis for this (no, John 19:27 does not count, I think I'll have to do another post on hermeneutics). Our spirits are born through the Holy Spirit - it's hard to imagine how Mary is involved at all
  2. "a type of the Ark of the Covenant" - The Ark held the Law, and was fatal to the touch. Not sure if you want that image, and I have no idea how to justify it.
  3. Confusion between Mary and the Church. Perhaps the most dangerous, it confuses an individual with a group. Placing Mary as Bride of Christ, Queen, and ruler - elevating her to be an equal with Christ.
  4. "Theotokos" (especially popular with the Orthodox) can mean "Christ bearer", which is certainly fit. It can also mean "Mother of God", which is certainly wrong. Mary is the mother of Jesus, and Jesus is God. That does not mean Mary is the mother of God. God is eternal, and has no mother.
Maybe we need to review some code. We had:
class Jesus : public God, public Man {};

Let's add
class Man : public Person
Woman *mother_;

Jesus only has a mother through Man::mother_, on the God:: side there is nothing there...

Ok, so where is the danger? Don't women need someone to look up to and identify with?

I've touched some on the danger of elevating Mary to being equal with God. This is also at work when Mary is called "co-redemptrix" (an idea which can range from a little odd to a lot disturbing - "Mary, though conceived and born without the taint of sin, participated in a marvelous way in the suffering of her divine Son, in order to be Co-Redemptrix of humanity" JPII - a lot disturbing).

There can develop a feeling that God and Jesus are unreachable, distant - or even, disinterested. That we must appeal to Mary as an authority in motherhood, to convince her son to help us.

Also, we have Marian apparitions. This is actually a large thrust of my argument, and I am running long. It will have to wait until tomorrow...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

ASC and Brains

Fascinating news from Science Daily. Results from an animal model showing bone marrow stem cells, reprogrammed into nerve cells, migrating into damaged portions of the brain.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Previously, I said government is "dedicated to being against Christian values". Is that really a fair statement?

I am looking at the history of government run schools, and extrapolating into the area of healthcare (an area the government does not have a good record on already, what with abortion and ESC).

Now there is a case from Florida, which shows my point exactly.
"School brass facing prison time for luncheon prayer"
"Two Florida school administrators face contempt charges and possible prison time for saying a prayer at a school luncheon... accused of violating a consent decree... carries a maximum penalty of up to six months in prison"
Is it really hard to imagine doctors and pharmacists (who will become government employees under government healthcare) being charged with violating people's rights and "establishing religion" when attempting to invoke conscience clauses to avoid having to perform abortions or dispense morning-after or abortion pills?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The driving force behind the feminist movement is sin.

The sin of men who have domineered and abused women, and the sin of women who seek to rule over men (Gen 3:16).

The irony of the movement, is that is largely about the destruction of women's roles - and the promotion of men's roles.

Albert Mohler has struck the nail on the head.
"[legalized abortion] was supposed to grant enormous freedom to women, but it has had the perverse result of freeing men and trapping women"
"The availability of abortion means, in the thinking of many men, that the entire responsibility for pregnancy and parenthood now falls to women. If a woman refuses to have an abortion, having the baby is simply her 'choice.'"
"Prior to the legalization of abortion in the United States, it was commonly understood that a man should offer a woman marriage in case of pregnancy, and many did so."
Of course feminists are interested in the roles of leader and provider (freeing women from needing men). But, I never see arguments that nearly all garbage collectors are men, or that men need to raise children and keep the home...

The roles for men and women were created by God, before the Fall. The Fall has twisted and perverted those roles, our attitudes towards them, and our execution of these roles. But to reject the roles is to reject God.

Which brings me to women as pastors. A great analogy I have come up with since writing that: "Pastor is comparable to garbage collector". It is not the apex of achievement, but rather a dirty and thankless (although vital) job.

Similarly, the man's role as leader and provider. This is not an excuse for laziness and domineering. It is rather a duty to serve, just as Jesus did.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


The impact of the Bible on the English language cannot be denied. The word "antediluvian" means "really old". Literally, it means "before the Flood".

Most studies indicate that Christians are well represented among scientists and doctors (notable exceptions being psychologists, biologists, and geologists - probably self-selection).

But, in the field of science fiction, it seems there are no Christians whatsoever.

In fact, the loudest voices are definitely atheist and anti-Christian.

One of such authors I read is Ken Macleod. He often rants about Creationists, and has provided an article by a Christian orthodox geologist - that's Christian (orthodox geologist), not (Christian orthodox) geologist.

Reading the article does little to educate or convince me. The whole piece rests on a single pivot:
"Much has been written by Christians against 'uniformitarianism' while actually we must believe in it."
No, no we mustn't.
"We believe God created the universe according to a blueprint and that it operates according to predetermined laws. While it is true that God may supersede any of these laws at any time, it is certainly not the normal course of events, nor is it perpetuated for any great length of time. Therefore in geology the present operation of erosion, transportation sedimentation and compaction is the key to those actions in the past." (Emphasis in original)
And there we have it. I'm not sure anyone would consider the forty days of rain preceding the Flood "normal" or a "great length of time" - the upheavals during this time (the breaking up of the fountains of the deep) and after (which led to the ice age [singular]) and the division of the earth under Peleg. These followed naturally, but are certainly not typical of today's processes.

We must accept, there is no key to the past.

The past is unknowable, except by eye witness testimony. And the faith we place in that testimony.
"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" - 2 Peter 3:3-6
This is a very specific prediction that there would be people disbelieving the Bible based on uniformitarianism and the Flood. This is an overwhelming charge against any attempt to "reconcile" orthodox science with a Christian view of science.

Do "aging mechanisms" all agree? That is because creation is orderly. It does not mean they give the right answer. There are assumptions that go into the interpretation of data (how do these crystals form, what processes have they been subjected to, what environment have they been kept in). You cannot say, "Well, this is how we find them today, this is how things operate today." You have no idea where they came from, and what they have been through.

The argument that "God would not deceive us by creating the illusion of age" is a straw man. God never told us to use crystal formation to date the earth. We came up with that system. God never promised that the original creation was anything like what we find today. In fact, we have the exact opposite. The world today is totally unlike the original creation is most every way. Methuselah lived almost a thousand years! Unless you reject that statement as part of your presuppositions, you must realize things were different.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Stellar Distance Revisted

An interesting take on Type 1a supernova, which I have previously mentioned (not cepheid).

It reads like something off the Onion:
"A lack of knowledge about the explosion process didn’t stop Kirshner and his colleagues, along with another team, from using type 1a supernovas to discover in 1998 that a mysterious entity, later dubbed dark energy, is accelerating the expansion of the universe"
We have no idea what's going on, but let's use variances in the measurements to make up more unbelievable stuff!
"Since all 1a’s appear to have the same starting point — blowing up the same amount of mass —they all should have roughly the same luminosity. After adjusting for variations by applying the Phillips relation, which holds that intrinsically brighter supernovas take more time to fade than dimmer ones"
They should have the same luminosity, except when they don't - so we apply some more fudge factors... I found a nifty formula:
Luminosity = 4 pi * distance^2 * apparent_brightness
So, you've got two unknowns, and one equation. I'm really curious how they solve that one.
"When astronomers applied this prescription, they found that light from distant supernovas appeared dimmer than it ought to be based on what had been the accepted model of the universe’s evolution"
In other words, they didn't get the answer they were expecting. Normal people would say, "Hmm, I probably did something wrong at some step in here." But no...
"That unexpected result led in 1998 to an astonishing conclusion: Rather than slowing down, the cosmos has recently sped up its rate of expansion"
Of course! That would be my answer too!

I'm trying to take this stuff seriously, but I guess I am too old and cynical. This response almost writes itself.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Interesting take on the Gardasil controversy over at CNN.

First, some choice quotes:
"I would hate to think that normal sexual experimentation -- the kind that my sister and I and many of our friends and peers 'tried on' in college -- could result in a life-threatening illness 30 years later."

I've looked into the safety of Gardasil, it does seem to actually be safe. The seven deaths reported are likely not related (when you have 24 million people involved, a handful are going to just die from bizarre circumstances - although it may be one-in-a-million/DNA specific reactions to the drug).

But, let's look at it from a rationalist's point of view.

You could not have sex.

(At least until marriage, and only marry someone who hasn't had sex before)
Then you don't have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases. You wouldn't need millions of doses of this drug. And all the time and effort to test its safety, and the effects on people.

Are we rational? Or driven by emotions and physical desires?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

ASC, ESC, and Blood

You really have to wonder what is the point of ESC...
"The technique works equally well with stem cells grown from an embryo and with adult pluripotent stem cells"
"Compatibility problems should disappear if the blood-forming stem cells are based on the patient's own cells"
Of course, embryonic cells are never compatible with any patient's cells (since the original "patient" was the embryo who was killed). Adult stem cells are always compatible.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Government and Healthcare

An intriguing survey on Science Daily.
(The plans are described as "public", "Medicare", and "single payer")
"Support for the public option was strongest among Democrats with 63/64/69"
"far less support among Republicans with only 29/30/12"
This is a remarkable split. I am really at a loss to describe it.

But, I am actually interested in a completely different aspect of the health care debate, one driven by what has happened to public education.

When the first public schools were established, they taught what the parents desired (often using the Bible as a school book). At some point that changed. Then, the curricula became outright hostile to the Bible and to Christianity (where teaching creationism is now widely believed to be against the law). Although Christians (albeit largely "cultural Christians") remain the majority.

With abortion, destruction of embryos, and euthanasia becoming such hot topics - do we really want to turn over our health care system to agents dedicated to being against Christian values?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

ASC and Vision

I previously covered a trial on humans to repair the cornea using eye stem cells.

Now there is a case of repairing retinas in mice, using bone marrow stem cells.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Against Pietism

I previously wrote on the tension between Legalism and Antimonialism.

There is a similar tension between extreme Pietism and Antimonialism.

The legalist forms a codified set of rules which must be obeyed to demonstrate one's salvation.

The pietist has no such set of rules. Rather, they look for trends of outward behavior (usually framed as "separation from the world" or "sanctification").

Of course, this is much worse.

At least you know where you stand with a legalist (you have violated Section 21.36.14b through g, and Sections 131 through 135).

The pietist can simply say, "You haven't improved enough" or "You're of the world".

Everything you enjoy, is "of the world", and must be done away with, "for your spiritual well-being". Any enjoyment of things from before conversion, is "reversion" or, worse, "sin".

The disproof of this stand is easy enough. It focuses on judging our brothers, rather than helping them. Also, it allows for the identification of tares - which is explicitly forbidden by Matthew 13:25-30.

The real irony is that the pietist is no better than his brother. It's a classic case of Matthew 7. Of course, if you try to point this out - or worse, to point out your brother's sin, the pietist has a long list of your "sins" to hold against you - while ignoring his own.