January 21, 2021

Random Thoughts: Past, Present, and Future


thought-bubble-mdFirst today, let’s take a look back.

It used to be thought that today’s date, March 20, marked the onset of the “Black Death” in medieval Europe. In 1348, King Philip VI of France commanded medical faculty at the University of Paris to determine the cause of the plague moving rapidly toward the city. This was their finding:

We say that the distant and first cause of this pestilence was and is the configuration of the heavens. In 1345, at one hour after noon on 20 March, there was a major conjunction of three planets in Aquarius. This conjunction, along with other earlier conjunctions and eclipses, by causing a deadly corruption of the air around us, signifies mortality and famine.

The Black Death
by Diane Zahler

Zahler goes on to describe how the doctors advised that the buboes (the swollen lymph nodes) on affected people should be treated by lancing and cauterizing them. This only succeeded in spreading the disease further. Other, equally futile remedies were tried over the course of the plague, but as Diane Zahler explains:

Nothing helped, of course. Paris lost as many as fifty thousand people. Many small French villages simply disappeared as their inhabitants ran away or died.

In all, it is believed that the plague killed between 75 and 200 million people in the 14th century.

The real source of the plague was not found until 1894, when the bacteria that causes it was discovered by Alexandre Yersin, one of a number of scientists studying the “Third Pandemic,” which had broken out in India and China.

The plague has never been eradicated. Today, scientists warn that a drug-resistant form of the bacteria could develop and become a major health threat.

But that will probably only happen if the planets align just right.

thought-bubble-mdSecond, let’s take a look at this day.

It’s the first day of Spring! Across the U.S., this has been the winter of the “polar vortex.” Here in central Indiana, we are within a couple inches of the snowiest winter ever recorded. Everyone is hoping that we’ve truly crossed over into a new season.

Unfortunately, the weather experts are telling us that the first days of spring will not be warming our hearts. The percentages on the map show the probability of below-average temperatures in the U.S. for the next ten days. If you live elsewhere, maybe you have better news.


All this talk about the weather brings to mind Heather Goodman’s brilliant post about how trusting in secular weather forecasters opens our children to the evil lies of Satan:

hands_godGenesis is not the only passage that godless scientists, liberals, and the education system disregard in reference to the point-blank truth which it states about the Creator. For the same God which inspired Genesis, is the One whose very speech is recorded in Job 38:

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
for the day of battle and war?  (ESV)

Now, in this we can clearly see that God creates snow and hail, and piles them up in storehouses, somewhere in the sky. When there is trouble, He simply empties out the storehouses and the snow and hail come tumbling down to Earth. But meteorologists do not acknowledge that God stores up snow in some hidden place. Instead, they speak as though snow and hail are some sort of natural phenomenon, and that the snow and hail are formed SPONTANEOUSLY, during a storm – not stored up for the day of trouble, as the Bible clearly says….

Now some might say that storehouses for snow and hail are just some sort of poetic device, or a metaphor or something. But seriously – who wants to go sledding down that slippery slope?   If you start considering the snow storehouses to be a metaphor, instead of God’s ordained method (not to mention accurate revelation) about where snowstorms come from, then how do we know if ANYTHING in the Bible should be taken literally? Today, it will be metaphorical snow storehouses, tomorrow it will be a metaphorical six days of Creation, and before you know it, we’ll be talking about a metaphorical Jesus. What justification would we then have to distinguish between what should be read symbolically or culturally, and what should be read as actual history? Anyway, it’s totally sloppy exegesis to even suggest anything is metaphorical in the Bible unless the Bible itself clearly says, “this is a parable” or “spiritually speaking…” or something, because God wouldn’t let anything as important as knowing how to read the Bible be anything but completely self-evident and spelled out like that.

So, beware. The biggest enemy to our children and our society is not evolution; because we all know about that threat and thankfully we now have lots of “Creation Science” books and seminars to explain how science has distorted the truth how God created our world which is clearly spelled out in scripture. No, the true enemy to our thinking is coming from unnoticed corners, not the least of which is the darkened corner of The Weatherman’s Studio.

thought-bubble-mdFinally, let’s look ahead to next year.

Next March, John MacArthur will apparently be calling another huge segment of the Christian Church heretics. He and the usual suspects will be getting down to brass tacks and taking on the topic of all topics for conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists:


In an interview, MacArthur says they will be following up the 2013 Strange Fire conference with a year-long emphasis on inerrancy, followed by next year’s conference, which will be a summit on the subject. According to Pastor John:

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, released in 1978, set the standard for inerrancy. Since that document was produced 36 years ago, a new generation has arrived that needs to be brought in line with the truth. Current publications demonstrate that the true doctrine of inerrancy is under attack. Some of these attacks are subtle while others are more blatant, but anything that undermines the absolute inerrancy of Scripture destroys the foundation of all Christian truth. Trusting the Bible is everything. Next year’s Summit will address this crucial issue, and give it the attention it deserves.

Here’s the promotional video.

You know the appeal already: The Church will rise or fall on this doctrine. Everything else depends on it. Those who deny this teaching will have hell to pay.

Cue the music.

2015 Shepherds’ Conference Summit from Grace Community Church on Vimeo.


  1. Random thought: “There are more things to admire in humanity than to despise.” Albert Camus, The Plague.

    • I sure hope God thinks so.

      • The humanity of Jesus Christ avers that God thinks so.

      • I doubt it. He sees all, he knows better.

        • Dana Ames says

          Ah Miguel,

          Why did God create us at all? What does it mean to be truly human? If being human is so very bad, why did the Second Person become incarnate? No need to answer here – not at all looking for a theological argument. Simply saying that these are some of the questions that were rolling around in my head +10 years ago. for which I could find no satisfactory answers in an organic, holistic theology anywhere I searched among all the western varieties.


          • It is still hard for me to wrap my head around the Real Good News as expressed by Orthodoxy, that there is no Bad News. Everyone is perfectly acceptable to God just as they are; Mother Theresa, Gandhi, John Macarthur, Mark Driscoll, that weird Lutheran hipster girl with the tattoos, just as they are. God isn’t pissed. Our sin doesn’t bother him a bit. He ain’t skeered, outraged, or offended. He never demanded a payment.

            There is no debt that has to be paid. There never was. It was a phantasm of our guilty conscience begotten on Roman legalism. Christ by death trampled down death. The bug-eyed torturer-God disappeared like a bad dream.

            Shout it from the rooftops.

          • I don’t get it. Aren’t the answers simple and obvious to any with a cursory knowledge of Protestant theology? God made us to know, love, and serve him (Catholic,) to fear, love, and trust him (Lutheran), or to glorify him and enjoy him forever (Reformed). Take you pick. Jesus was the only one who was truly human, that is, everything God created mankind to be. Being human is not so bad. Being sinful is. Remember the fall of man? The Second person became incarnate to redeem fallen humanity.

            That doesn’t make a sinner admirable. The heart is deceitfully wicked, and from it flows our thoughts, words, and deeds. I can’t live in a theological system that fosters my living in denial of this.

            Jesus didn’t come and die for us because we were so admirable. He didn’t look down and think, “wow, those fallen creatures are totally worth saving! A bargain deal, only one of us has to incarnate and die!” He did it for because of His love for us, not admiration of us.

          • Mule, what was all that stuff about goats and lambs being slaughtered, the wages of sin being death, and all? Isn’t that payment for sin? Sure, Christ trampled death, but from whence cometh it? Orthodoxy has no original sin or fall of man?

          • Miguel –

            I’m still wrapping my Western head around it, but no, the Fall is not as radical in Orthodoxy as it is in Western Christianity. Adam also wasn’t perfect. We don’t speak of a polluted or corrupted nature, but of “death in the pot”. That doesn’t mean that we’re Pelagians. Contemplate the opposite of the Chalcedonian adverbs – confusion, mutation, division, separation – that is our lives, and we cannot remedy it with our own efforts.

            Our problem is not sin and a broken Law. It’s death. We turned away from God, the fount of light. Which ever way you turn from him is towards death. Eternal death working itself out in us. Sin is a symptom, not a cause.

            If you had put an Orthodox alternative amidst your choices, it would have been that of St. Athanasius – God became man so that man could become God. Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist are all cut from the same cloth as far as we’re concerned.

            We had no Reformation.

            BTW – The Levitical system is understood, as best as I can make out, as a picture lesson of the effects of death rather than a transaction.

            Of course, if you believed all this, you’d be Orthodox, wouldn’t you? I believe you already contemplated that and decided against it. So, I’m just ‘splainin’. I got a bumper crop of opinions, after all.

          • “Jesus was the only one who was truly human, that is, everything God created mankind to be. Being human is not so bad.” Yup, we definitely can agree on that.

            I said above, “in an organic, holistic theology.” I knew those Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed answers. There were just too many holes in the rest of their whole cloths. “The Gospel” wasn’t to be found in the Gospels, and so the Gospels were basically ignored, most notably in the churches that were the most insistent on “inerrancy” and “holding a high view of the bible,” except to provide examples and prescriptions for moral living. St Paul made very little coherent sense to me, except in very small pericopes; many of his interpreters clouded the issues. Clarity only came when I read N.T. Wright, accounting for St Paul’s Jewishness and his C1 context. Wright is very clear that St Paul’s questions and concerns were not those of the Reformation. And there is an amazing amount of overlap between what Wright presents in C1 Judaism and Orthodox interpretation of things. But even before I encountered the latter, I found I could breathe again!!!

            Here is an “introductory paper” re the Orthodox view of how humans got into our predicament:

            Fr Stephen Freeman writes (you really should make his blog a regular read…) that Christ did not die to make bad men good; he died to make dead men live. Sin comes from our slavery to the fear of death (physical and all the other types), Heb 2.14-15 and surrounding. BTW, in the Septuagint (NETS, OUP 2007) Jer 17.9-10 reads, “The heart is deep above all else, and so is a man; and who shall understand him? ”

            The Second Person became incarnate to unite humanity with the Godhead, for Love always seeks union with the beloved without use of force or obliteration of difference. The Incarnation was not “plan B” – God intended it all along, and dealt with death and sin and their mutual feeding of one another all at once, in the fullness of time.

            For me, all of that – and the rest that Wright laid out and Orthodoxy opened to fullness – was Truly Good News. As Mule wrote, “The … torturer-God disappeared like a bad dream.” For me, he wasn’t bug-eyed, but very, very distant, with his hands tied behind his back because of my sin supposedly infinitely offending his infinite holiness. But reality is that all the sin in the world couldn’t, and didn’t, stop his love.

            Glory to Thee, O boundless Christ, who fills all things!


        • Migueil,

          When I say that the humanity of Jesus Christ avers that God finds “more to admire in humanity than to despise,” I’m not saying the same thing our Orthodox brother and sister are saying above. I’m repeating what Karl Barth affirms in his theology of election: that the humanity of Jesus Christ is what causes God to find more to admire in humanity than to despise. Jesus Christ is both electing God and elected humanity, and human nature as given in Jesus Christ is infinitely admirable, far outweighing in divine estimation what may rightly be despised in human fallenness. If we are looking at human nature as given in Jesus Christ, then we have every reason to be optimistic about humanity, and God’s valuation of humanity.

  2. How do you get a whole 3-day weekend out of inerrancy? Would you really need all those speakers to cover it? (hoping for an answer – I don’t want to give up a weekend to find out..)

    I think the conference does give additional argument for a church calendar: it eases the need to figure out what to take a stand against next year when you already know what you are standing for.

    Random (ok, not) tangent – an interesting alternate history is Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt which explores what might happen if the Black Plague killed off 99% of Europe instead of (per wikipedia) 30-60%.

  3. ->Begin Heavy Sarcasm

    Yes, Yes, YESSSS!! We must raise the Banner of Biblical Inerrancy high, high, HIGH! You know, because that’s EXACTLY why Jesus went to the cross to die, for the Salvation of Biblical Inerrancy!

    ->End Heavy Sarcasm

  4. On inerrancy: The more I study the bible the less I am inclined to die on the hill of inerrancy. Although minor discrepancies may be found the basic facts of biblical narrative remain true. Why worry about punctuation while ignoring the Story?

    • +1

    • Why worry about punctuation while ignoring the Story?

      Bingo. This, in my experience, is exactly what JM and his groupies do. For them, it’s about getting it right, to the extent that loving God and your neighbor gets lost. In fact, in their system getting it right is pretty much a prerequisite to loving God and your neighbor. Trouble is that there’s so much obsession about meeting the prerequisite, and every issues is such a hill to die on, that they don’t really move beyond that.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        For them, it’s about getting it right, to the extent that loving God and your neighbor gets lost.

        Purity of Ideology. Getting It Right.
        Citizen Robespierre and Comrade Pol Pot would agree.

    • I guess because it is easier to fight about inerrancy than it is to love, forgive, serve, etc. and it feels better too. Loving, forgiving, and serving has a humbling effect while stomping someone over their wrong belief makes you feel all self-righteous and warm inside.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > it is easier to fight about inerrancy than it is to love, forgive, serve, etc

        Indeed. Easier and safer. Caring can spill over into ones own life in unpredictable, inconvenient, and messy ways.

  5. “In the beginning was the Bible. And the Bible was with God. And the Bible was God.”


    You no likey?

    • “In the beginning was the Bible. And the Bible was with God. And the Bible was God.”


      You no likey?

      Don’t laugh. I’ve seen worse. I once read an essay by a Reformed theologian who argued that the Greek word “logos” in those verses should be translated “Logic” instead of Word” – and then went on to argue that since God is Logic(al), anything that can be logically inferred from Scripture is just as inspired and inerrant as Scripture itself.

      • …since God is Logic(al), anything that can be logically inferred from Scripture is just as inspired and inerrant as Scripture itself.

        AKA, if I feel strongly about my interpretation, then I will call it infallible.

        Good Lord. It’s like they heard that papal infallibility means that everything that the Pope says is right (which, btw, NOT what papal infallibility is–it’s a very narrowly defined dogma which has been invoked twice in the history of the Catholic Church), and they thought they’d like a piece of that action.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I’ve seen worse. I once read an essay by a Reformed theologian who argued that the Greek word “logos” in those verses should be translated “Logic” instead of Word” – and then went on to argue that since God is Logic(al), anything that can be logically inferred from Scripture is just as inspired and inerrant as Scripture itself.

        This “Reformed theologian” look anything like Leonard Nimoy with pointed ears?

      • This is the major premise behind Reformed theology generally. And the strongest argument against logic, since they somehow manage to turn so many texts on their head to mean the exact opposite of what they clearly say.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Didn’t Pope Francis recently say something about if someone has his theology all perfectly organized with no room for doubt, that’s a sign that it’s wrong?

    • I understand what you are saying, and there probably are some who think that way, but for the majority of inerrentists, I think that criticism of them is a strawman. Most don’t worship the Bible. Instead, they see it as God’s instrument of revelation, and if God is pure and true, then Scripture must meet those standards too.

      • RDavid, I would be so happy if inerrantists would stick with a description like “pure and true.” Inerrancy goes far beyond that. True, trustworthy, reliable, infallible in fulfilling its purposes, etc. are much better ways to describe the Bible.

        • Well said. Those sound like terms the early church would have used.

          Inerrantists do seem to want to take it well beyond those, and that has implications.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Inerrantist. A Spiritual Engineering Manual of FACT, FACT, FACT, dictated word-for-word by God just like the Koran.

          • Or the Book of Mormon.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            “Hello! My name is Elder Young!”

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            Does anyone else remember Chilton manuals? Those books you could buy to fix your car, there was one for every make, model, and year. Everyone had one, at least where/when I grew up. The Bible and a Chilton’s guide – the two red-blooded American books. Sadly many of us fell into the error of using both those books in the same manner. Life is not a 1984 Ford Escort Station Wagon.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            A year or two ago, CM theorized that the Enlightement and Industrial Revolution led to a change in how Christians viewed the Bible — from the Old Old Stories of God and us to a Spiritual Engineering Manual (a Chilton’s as it were). And from there it became nothing more than a Checklist of FACT, FACT, FACT.

      • Just for the record, there are inerrantists who are also literalists, and there are inerrantists who are not literalists. I consider myself to be in the latter category.

        I’m good with “pure and true” as long as those words are meant to convey the idea that the human authors of Scripture wrote what the Divine Author of Scripture meant for them to write, and that they did so w/o error (hence the word “inerrant”). Sometimes it was word-for-word dictation (e.g., Seven Letters to Seven Churches in Revelation 2 & 3) and more often it was inspiration to write what the Spirit intended to convey through the mind, skill and personality of the writer. Yes, God can do all things.

        And please don’t compare inerrantists’ perspective on Scripture on equal footing to the Koran or the Book of Mormon. Such arguments are offensive in nature, purely inflammatory and contribute nothing to the discussion.

        • So what is wrong with the language used in the Westminster Confession concerning scripture? Is the WCF seriously lacking in it’s description of scriptural truthfulness and authority? I think not.

          But unfortunately, just because your concept of inerrancy (like mine) are not on equal footing with the Koran or BOM, it doesn’t follow that doesn’t ring true for large numbers of inerrantists.

        • Point taken about inflammatory statements, CalvinCuban. But sometimes comparisons are useful.

          John MacArthur has some inflammatory statements going on too (but I get your point about not perpetuating them). Namely, his statements call us heretics if we don’t follow his narrow, literal view on inerrancy. And, in the video above, the narrator says that “everything known about God comes from divine revelation… ” and that through nature, history, etc we can know of Him—but “only through His Word can we truly know Him.”

          OK, so it’s only through His Word we can truly know Him: What about prayer? What about those who knew God before the Bible was written (Moses, Abraham, for starters)? What about the Holy Spirit and the still, small voice?

          MacArthur’s doctrine of inerrancy doesn’t convince me of cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Cessation is not mentioned in the Bible, and if the Bible is the word of God…

        • Miguel, there is nothing wrong in the WCF language with regards the Scripture. I’m sorry but I’m not following your argument. As for Muslims they are not Christians, and as for Mormons, they have serious non-orthodox beliefs. Therefore, comparing inerrantists to Muslims and Mormons is at worst offensive to me as an orthodox Christian who happens to believe in inerrancy, and at best it is like comparing apples and oranges.

          Ted, there is much I like about MacArthur and much I do not like and will not defend. I am not a cessationist and I believe that God can speak to us from beyond the text of Scripture (results may vary). Therefore, being an inerrantist and being a cessationist are two different issues.

          • MacArthur doth protest too much. His adamant cessationism unhinges his doctrine of inerrancy of the Bible, which clearly affirms the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

            Is irony one of the gifts?

            I agree, results may vary. And the gifts are never to be abused.

    • Indeed.

      “Trusting the Bible is everything.”

      Oh, and here I thought God was the point.

    • I heard a radio preacher the other day who said that very thing. He had Jesus so confused with the Scriptures that he quoted John 1:1 using Word of God and word of God interchangeably.

  6. And you know where this will all end. Johnny Boy will end up condemning everybody and be the only one left in heaven. God Himself will be kicked out for not being orthodox enough. After all, we must also defend the fact from the Bible that the earth is supported on pillars.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And you know where this will all end. Johnny Boy will end up condemning everybody and be the only one left in heaven. God Himself will be kicked out for not being orthodox enough.

      The Universe cannot have two centers.

      “There can be only ONE Princess in Equestria — and that Princess WILL BE ME!”

  7. “…because God wouldn’t let anything as important as knowing how to read the Bible be anything but completely self-evident and spelled out like that.”
    Pretty shallow water. No assembly required, batteries included. Skewed to the dullard and the half interested. How American and modern.

    • The piece itself is satire, but there are definitely people who take the approach it portrays.

    • the peice is actually keen enough satire that there were more than a few that thought it was authentically shallow, and narrow minded;

      read the comments @ her thread, the meteorologists thought the peice hilarious

  8. Happy sarcasm day…filed under it hurts to think about that file. Yes. These could truly be our brothers and sisters in Christ. Glad I only have to love them. Agreement not required. That video really has some polish though.

  9. Oh, and BTW – drug resistant germs (and malaria too, look it up) are REALLY scary. Here’s an article to introduce you to the problem (and keep you up at night)…

    The Post-Antibiotics Future

  10. The weather;s been mercifully dry, in the UK, for the last week or so. Large parts of Somerset are still flooded, so we could do we with a dry, warm summer.

    And because warm, dry summer’s in the UK (with occasional thunderstorms) are a good reason to be alive

  11. “Since that document was produced 36 years ago, a new generation has arrived that needs to be brought in line with the truth.”

    In other words, they need to be “re-educated” and if it takes an enforced “vacation” to a “camp,” so be it. Seriously, if you start to sound like a Soviet leader, you should probably re-examine at least something about your theology.

    In other news, those of us whose maple syrup season is still going in the Northeast are glad it’s staying cold. The season got a late start but looks like it will be just as long.

    • Oh Wesley, there’s nothing like NE syrup. Have an extra plate of sugar on snow for me, OK?

        • Thanks for pointing me towards that article, EricW. Our operation is hardly high-tech, 12 taps in a backyard in southern NY, about as far south as you can get and still get good sap flows.

          The saying is that a man plants a sugarbush for his grandchildren (maple trees take about 5 years to gain an inch in diameter, meaning 45 years or so before they could be tapped, more before they became really good producers). Apparently it’s possible to get a producing sugarbush in 7 years now but it seems one more way that we have figured out to exploit the land for our own benefit. There would be no real forest left for other species and no real legacy left there for the people who come after us.

          I think some sugarmakers may adopt this practice but it’s been discovered at the wrong time, I hope. People now are rediscovering what it means, not just what it takes, to make your own food and to reconnect with the earth, with your ancestors and descendants, and with the God who made everything good for us.

          And for any of you who do live in the NE and have a few sugar or red maples in the yard, look into making your own syrup. It’s a lot of work but well worth it. A good year gets us a pint of syrup per tap with red maples. If you have sugar maples, it’s closer to a quart per tap.

    • Me too! I LOVE winter, snow, getting to be a perpetual kid playing outside in it , skiing, sledding and of course maple syrup! So glad those storehouses have been over full this year. It’s been a great winter and I’m glad it’s still hanging round a bit – thank you G-d!

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        I enjoyed it as well. Polar vortex and all. I even chose to jog to work one day when it was ~4 degrees… it actually wasn’t that bad, I never got cold. It did make me really appreciate being a mammal.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Seriously, if you start to sound like a Soviet leader, you should probably re-examine at least something about your theology.

      Purity of Ideology, Comrade.
      Purity of Ideology.

  12. “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, released in 1978, set the standard for inerrancy. ”

    No John, actually it set the standard for cognitive dissonance in evangelical Christendom. Article 10 sounds like it was written by ecclesiastical lawyers.

    I do wonder how long they think people will check their brains at the church door?

    • The Chicago Statement made me reject inerrancy. The Bible the writers and signers of that Statement describe and wish we had is not the Bible we have or have ever had.

      • I’m glad other people are saying this. I have commented here before that CSBI is philosophical suicide. I honestly can’t believe anyone who has maybe a college level education in philosophy, rhetoric, and logic would accept it. It is sad to me that we have Christians setting this man made document up as a hill to die on. It really exposes the foundationalist modernist epistemology which has become the prima facie Truth for some.

  13. FWIW… With regards the medieval picture of the ailing couples, I believe I’ve seen that one before in reference to syphilis, not the plague. Those who could afford it back then spent fortunes treating the primary and secondary symptoms (chancre sores) which tend to disappear on their own. The quacks who provided the “treatments” would then take credit for the “healing.” After about three years the disease would return with a vengeance and consume the patient with all sorts of irreversible damage.

    Other than that, I don’t get the full connection of plague in the past with weather in the present with inerrancy in the future, I get some of it, I guess, but I don’t walk away with any strong sense of conviction one way or another.

    And on the inerrancy thing, I find arguments against it to be unconvincing. In effect, the burden of proof is on those arguing against it, not supporting it. I’m not ready to throw out nearly 20 centuries of church teaching unless someone comes up with a better argument than what I’ve read. And I have read a fair share.

    • From what I gather, the very existence of medieval syphilis in Europe is still under debate. For a long time it’s been held, if I remember correctly, that syphilis was one of the few diseases that the New World gifted to the Old (the vectors usually went the other direction, as we all know.) Id est, syphilis was found in Europe only after about 1500.

      On the other hand, I’ve seen documentaries in which archaeologists have dug up English graveyards from, e.g., the 1200s, and have found skeletons with what appears to be evidence of the disease.

      If anyone knows more about where the debate stands today, I’d love to learn more.

    • They are RANDOM thoughts, though there is a bit of a stream of consciousness linking them.

    • That 20 centuries of Christian thought comment is key. That’s debatable. I’ve heard the same thing for dispensationalism, which we know is a relatively new doctrine, but apparently John and Peter held to it as well.

      • I agree with you that dispensationalism is the new kid in the eschatological neighborhood, dating back to the early part of the 19th century and John Darby as it’s developer. And FWIW, I am not a dispensatiolanist; used to be years ago, threw that one out the window and never looked back.

        Inerrancy is a different matter. We could debate about this particular nuance or that particular emphasis. But Church writings from Augustine through the Reformation make it evident that Scripture was considered to be God word and as error-free and God is error-free.

        What I would like to see as part of this ongoing argument is historical evidence to the contrary, not just general statements to the contrary without evidence to back them up. Until then I will go with the best facts I have.

        So, albeit 100+ years older than dispensationalism, inerrancy is likewise the new kid in town in this respect. This proves little or nothing with respect the veracity of either camp, just that the issue of errancy didn’t come up on a universal scale until the Enlightenment.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I figure Dispy to be another corollary of Bible as Engineering Manual/Checklist. With total Inerrancy and Verbal Plenary Inspiration (a la direct dictation), how can you resolve the apparent discrepancies in the Inerrant Checklist of FACT, FACT, FACT?

          Darby did it by splitting the discrepancies into different, totally internally-consistent time periods or “Dispensations”. And this became the Universal Default of American Fundagelicals, to the point of equal or greater weight than the source documents (Bible) themselves.

          And in resolving some discrepancies in the Apocalyptic books (Daniel & Revelation), Darby came up with The Rapture choreography/checklist (also the Universal Default/One True Way of American Fundagelicals); we’ve all experienced the fruit of that, especially when it goes with YEC and mixes in Worm Theology.

          • Good points. Darby, well meaning but ignoring much of Church history, in effect made this stuff up. It might have died with him except that it spread through the West and South during the Second Awakening revivals and through the Scofield Bible. These days it is the most widely accepted eschatology.

        • As far as I understand (and I’ll admit my readings are limited), many of the church fathers and reformers strongly affirmed scripture was without error, but in practice they were much more flexible on what that meant. I believe John Calvin, for example, said that the sermon on the mount was likely a literary device Matthew used to compile a wide range of Jesus’s teachings into one place. Martin Luther said some of the numbers given for armies in the OT were likely exaggerrations to make a point. This sort of thing would be anathema to a lot of modern-day inerrantists.

          • And that is precisely the difference between literalism and inerrancy. Literalism is difficult to defend on various grounds, including that it renders Scripture full of errors. But when taken from the perspectives you mentioned then inerrancy takes on a very different meaning from the way it is frequently misapplied today.

  14. That promo video was about the grimmest and most joyless thing I’ve seen in a long time. I’m completely baffled by the solid tableau of violent/martyrdom images it used as background. Is there some intended message there, or was it just an attempt at gravitas? Designed to frighten people into line?

    Someone seriously needs to remind these people that the BIble they’re so vigorously defending says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”

  15. David Cornwell says

    Amazing recordings of John Calvin and Martin Luther. Their English is very modern. I’d never heard their voices before this, not even in church history class. And now John MacArthur’s voice has has been joined up with them as a theologian for the ages.

    This is interesting because in my readings about the formulation of the canon, I’ve seen nothing about inerrancy. The debates of the fourth and fifth centuries were about christological and trinitarian issues. Also of prime concern was the reform of morals. All issues of interpretation had to be measured against the creed, or Rule of Faith.

    Without this, the bible can teach almost anything, even though it be considered “inerrant.”

    • +1 I would add that the “inerrancy” proposed by CSBI looks nothing like the truthfulness that the church has presumed about the Bible for 2000 years. It is a long conversation, but conflating CSBI with the historic church position just doesn’t work.

    • I believe that the reason that the inerrancy of Scripture was not a subject of debate in the early Church is because inerrancy was a widely accepted fact. Consider, for instance, Augustine’s “Reply to Faustus the Manichaean” (XI.5):

      “If we are perplexed by an apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken’; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood.”

      And that’s the way it was in the 5th century and for the next thousand years or so. Rather, the issue of inerrancy began to surface during the Enlightenment in the 18th century (e.g., Higher Criticism), gained momentum in the 19th century, and firmly established itself in mainline Protestant denominations in the 20th century. The rise of fundamentalism in America and the division of many mainline Protestant churches into liberal and conservative branches came out of this period.

      Now, none of this proves or disproves the inerrancy of Scripture. Therefore, stating that “my readings about the formulation of the canon, I’ve seen nothing about inerrancy” proves nothing one way or the other. About the only thing it shows is that arguments in support of autobiographical errors are a relatively modern movement in Christianity.

      • Dana Ames says


        In the quote you put up, Augustine doesn’t really speak of “inerrancy” of the Text, but rather of the Author. Augustine is a mixed bag, but I find this quote to be eminently reasonable, on its own legs as well as being “the view of the next thousand years or so.”

        The church didn’t need a “doctrine of inerrancy” because it understood itself (in both the west and the east, but with some differences between them) to contain the means by which scripture is correctly interpreted through time, and it had a different understanding of what scripture is *for*. The problems of the 18th c. on, to which you allude, came about because of how Protestants view scripture and concerns about Interpretation of scripture, since any person or group was now seen as capable (with varying kinds of caveats) of interpreting scripture correctly without the help/lens of Tradition (however one defines T.).

        It’s all about hermeneutics – even the arguments about hermeneutics 😉


        • Actually, the context of Augustine’s statement is Scripture and the accusations by Manicheans of errors therein. His mention of the Author of Scripture further strengthens his argument by emphasizing that if Scripture has errors, then God, at its Author, must also be in error. And since God cannot be in error, then Scripture, which God wrote, must also be free from errors.

          Again this proves nothing except that Augustine believed in the inerrancy of Scripture and, since he was a major figure in the Church at that time and, since there is no evident to the contrary, the consensus of the Church up until the Enlightenment was that Scripture was inerrant.

          Your statements with regards the Church of the time not needing a doctrine of inerrancy is accurate on te basis that they considered Scripture to be axiomatic.

          Protestants argued about the proper interpretation of Scripture from the start. But I don’t think that it was hermeneutics which brought about questions of inerrancy so much as the basic tenets of the Age of Reason which questioned the veracity of the miracles which in turn brought about the question of inerrancy. For example, five loaves and two fishes cannot feed 5K since matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Therefore, Scripture must be in error. Stuff like that.

          • Dana Ames says

            Thanks for the context for A.

            The Age of Reason has been quite the context, eh?


          • That sounds reasonable. Amen to that!

          • Good points. The age of reason also produced the ideas that bread and wine could NOT be the actual body and blood of Christ, since such finite means could not contain the infinite God (incarnation itself aside). Just saying, I’m glad you’re able to articulate the war that rationalism commits against the faith, but keep in mind that Calvinism generally is also a product of the age of reason, and shares in many of its shortcomings.

          • One doesn’t need to adopt Enlightenment or scientific principles to find the Scriptures to not be inerrant. All one has to do is read the Scriptures and come across instances where two or three accounts of the same event can’t both or all be right. By a straight definition of inerrancy (one without all the qualifications that the Chicago Statement has to make), one or more of them must be in error at some point or re: some point. Hence, the Scriptures – the Bible – the “Book” that contains these books that have contradictory statements or descriptions – are/is not inerrant.

            • I just think “inerrant” is of the wrong category to describe the kind of literature the Bible contains. What is an inerrant poem or prayer or liturgy or wisdom teaching or apocalyptic text or story that had a long history of oral transmission?

          • Miguel, there were many post Calvin Calvinists which were very much a product of the Enlightenment. Chief among these was Jonathan Edwards. His approach to theology was highly rational.

            And yet, he is also often referred to as the Calvinist with a heart for God based on some of his writings in which he expresses a “sweetness” for God

        • I believe that the reason that the inerrancy of Scripture was not a subject of debate in the early Church is because inerrancy was a widely accepted fact.
          I believe it is a categorical error to conflate the truth of Scripture – which is a historic catholic belief – with “inerrancy” as described in 1978, or any of the other formulations which rely on philosophy and epistemology not developed until after the enlightenment.

          • Dana Ames says


            that’s what I was trying to say. Thanks.


          • I don’t see much if any difference in essence and meaning between the perspective on inerrancy before the Enlightenment and the 1978 Chicago Statement, epistemology and philosophy aside. If there is I need to see it before I will accept it. Augustine’s, Calvin’s, et al’s statements on inerrancy all have pretty much the same meaning, namely that Scripture is free of errors, which is what inerrancy means in the first place. That’s all.

            • As I said to Eric, the problem is a difference of category. “Inerrancy” is simply the wrong term to apply to the kind of the literature the Bible contains. We can read a modern biography or newspaper report and there are modern standards of accuracy in reporting and recording history by which we can judge if those reports have factual errors. The doctrine of “inerrancy” tries to apply those modern standards to ancient literature, which clearly had different standards.

              So then, four different authors told the story of Jesus in four different ways, and by our standards of historiography, there are many instances in which those accounts cannot be harmonized, for example with regard to chronology. Does that mean that the Gospel writers are “in error”? I don’t think so — I don’t think that’s the right question. They are merely operating by a different set of standards that allow for an author to shape a story in order to bring out points of emphasis.

              So also the various genealogies in Scripture. By our standards, we use genealogies to trace the full lineage of a family and expect there to be a complete family tree with an accurate listing of names, dates, and so on. But the genealogies in Scripture use names and numbers differently and have been shaped to make certain theological points. To read them according our standards of genealogical “accuracy” is to read them incorrectly (see Dennis Lamoreaux’s excellent series over at Pete Enns’s blog).

              To vastly over-simplify: what makes a story “true” (i.e. communicating a certain important point) can differ from what makes a modern historical report “true” (i.e. reporting all the details with accuracy).

          • CalvinCuban,

            I’m suggesting that it is not wise to set philosophy and epistemology aside. It is a long conversation, one that doesn’t lend itself to blogs, let alone comments, but CSBI presumes an epistemology and philosophical structure that was foreign to the environment that Christianity was birthed in, that the creeds were created in, that Scripture was canonized in, and that Christianity came to maturity in.

          • Dr., I did not mean to disregard epistemology and philosophy, and you are right that the Enlightenment changed the way we look at things.

            Mike, I think you’re on to something when you state that inerrancy may be the wrong word to apply here as it confuses the issue. Often the things I say here are things which I need to say to my congregation, and in doing so I need to present them in a way they can understand. For this reason I try to keep the discussion to what inerrancy means to me and to them, and in order to do that I have to avoid words such as “epistemology.”

            So, to keep it simple my teaching is that Scripture is true AND free of errors in it’s autobiographical form (no longer available, I understand). My reasoning for this is that the Author of Scripture is the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit cannot be wrong. I also explain that the Holy Spirit spoke through flawed people and allowed them to write in accordance to their skills and personality and yet mysteriously kept the word true and accurate. Copying introduced errors, and translations can never convey the exact meaning of the original tongue, but God is able to speak to us when we read it regardless of these limitations. This is how I have to explain it in order for them to understand it.

    • Yes. This. Also, there was a considerable amount of allegorical interpretation of Scripture in the first several hundred years of church history. Hard to square that with the kind of inerrancy that’s being argued for today. Honestly, I think inerrancy as it’s been touted for about 100 years or so now is largely a product of Enlightenment thinking and the advance of the sciences, and as such is not particularly well suited to the interpretation of ANE documents.

      • Dana Ames says


        Some was Allegory; much more was Typology. We tend to confuse the two. Interpretation was different because there was a different understanding of what scripture is for, and also because to those early interpreters, the verses in scripture were not equal. Some “weighed” more than others. The Gospels were the “heaviest.”


      • Inerrancy and literalism are not the same things. Whereas it is true that literalists are virtually always inerranists (never met or read anyone who wasn’t), the same is not true the other way around. Case in point, me.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Honestly, I think inerrancy as it’s been touted for about 100 years or so now is largely a product of Enlightenment thinking and the advance of the sciences, and as such is not particularly well suited to the interpretation of ANE documents.

        A year or two ago, Chaplain Mike theorized that the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution caused a paradigm shift in what the Bible was viewed as — from the Old Old Stories of God’s dealings with us to a Spiritual Engineering Manual and checklist of Fact, Fact, Fact.

        Dispensationalism was a 19th Century attempt to resolve apparent discrepancies in this Checklist of Fact, Fact, Fact by splitting the discrepancies into separate historical periods or “Dispensations”. It became the default of American Evangelical Protestantism; look where it got us, from Ken Ham (Alpha) to Hal Lindsay (Omega).

    • David Cornwell says

      The core of the gospel is contained in the creeds or Rule of Faith. Thus even the barbarians or others who could not read could understand the gospel. Inerrancy is often used in order to prove literal understandings of creation, or whatever. These things were not mentioned in the early creeds. “It is the Rule of Faith that explains how Scripture must be arranged.” (Rowan A Greer in “Broken Lights and Mended Lives: Theology and Common Life n the Early Church.”) The question of inerrancy is a sidetrack that takes us away from the Rule.

      • I reiterate, in part, what I just wrote above. Namely that inerrancy and literalism are not the same things. I would also add that whereas there is a correlation here, belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is not the cause of a literal hermeneutical approach to Scripture. Once this premise is invalidated many related arguments fall apart.

        • Agreed – Most of those who are concerned about the ‘inerrancy’ of the Bible also view some variety of the grammatical-historical hermeneutical method as an ‘inerrant’ tool for extracting TRVTH from the ore of Scripture.

          The first subchapter of the first chapter of Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology is as Enlightenment a document as The Origin Of Species. No wonder the 19th century was so contentious. I believe we still have to get past that, though. I still have trouble combining my belief in the primate heritage of humanity with my Biblical interpretations. None of the alternatives fully satisfy me, but I have a limited time and I can live with the uncertainty.

          • And that you can struggle with such things, as an Orthodox Christian, gives me hope I as I seek to reconnect there myself. I, too, am not completely satisified with my own synthesis regarding origins, and I will probably go to my grave intellectually so disposed. (One can, however, surely set aside Teilhard de Chardin’s game attempt as a bridge too far — though an interesting bridge it is to stroll upon now and again. Polkinghorne is crunchier. As for Orthodox writers, my impression is that it’s a short bench, but maybe that’s just my ignorance showing. Again.)

          • I think Owen Barfield, once cleansed of his Anthroposophy, along with Goethe and the German school of naturphilosophie point a possible way forward. He reaches down inside Pere de Chardin and pulls him inside out like, supposedly, Marx does to Hegel. Put as baldly as possible, Barfield, Steiner, and the Romantic scientists believed that matter, nature, from the subatomic particles that act so queerly to the macroscopic galaxy clusters that also act queerly are manifestations of spiritual forces seeking to “incarnate”, so that spirit did not emerge from an increasing complexity of matter but vice versa, that the increasing complexity of matter proceeds from the desire of these spiritual entities to manifest. The first step forward would be to undertake an investigation of the subconscious, the first steps of which were undertaken by Freud and Jung, and to answer questions such as, “do we really share a common psychical life?”

            I didn’t quite get that right, and it sounds more dangerous and occultist than it is. I don’t have the access to material or the time to pursue this line of thinking any more assiduously. I’m glad there are nimbler minds and kinder hearts than my own dwelling on these matters.

          • I’m not afraid of dangerous occultism, but this just sounds wooly-headed. Kind of like the pot-fueled cosmological speculations of the characters in Animal House.

          • Mule Chewing Briars says

            Yeah, I’m aware of that. Wooly-headedness comes kind of naturally to me. But neither Barfield, nor Goethe, nor Coleridge seem particularly wooly-headed to me. Steiner does, though.

            There has to be a middle road between mysticism and positivism.

  16. David Cornwell says

    Here in the northern reaches of Indiana the sun is beginning to shine just a little. However the wind is very cold, and we will not experience significant warming for a few more days.

    I live on a rural road with a long lane back to the house. Some of the snows had us locked in for as many as seven days. However my son-in-law lives just a mile away and gets our driveway opened as quickly as possible. Plus he has part of his dairy herd on our portion of the farm, and must keep the cattle fed. So if we get low on food or have another emergency, he helps.

    The weather teaches us that much is beyond our control. However long winter days in a warm house can be a good thing. It slows us down and gives us time for something we have not planned.

  17. Tom Parker says

    Wow–The only way I can know God is through his word!! What about the Holy Spirit?

    • The Holy Spirit is there, but apparently doesn’t get to do much. Whole series of hard-line cessationist arguments recently on JM’s blog. Basically doubling down on the themes of the Strange Fire conference. Kinda depressing to watch.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Holy Spirit got thrown under the bus and replaced with SCRIPTURE SCRIPTURE SCRIPTURE?

        • David Cornwelld says

          After dictating the Scripture word for word, comas, periods, and paragraphs to those human machines who had to write it all down.

          • Don’t you know? The Trinity has been redefined to be: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            After dictating the Scripture word for word, comas, periods, and paragraphs to those human machines who had to write it all down.

            Isn’t that usually called Automatic Writing/Trance Channeling, as in OAHSPE and Seth Speaks?

    • Wow–The only way I can know God is through his word!! What about the Holy Spirit?

      John MacArthur already disallowed and disabused you of that notion at last year’s conference.

    • How exactly does the Holy Spirit enlighten you to the things of God? Through the Word. The only problem is, JM understands “Word” to refer exclusively to “Bible.”

  18. Randy Thompson says

    Spring arrived in New Hampshire today with five inches of fresh snow–wet, heavy snow.

    Spring, in northern New England, is an act of faith–the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. . .

  19. Dana Ames says

    As to weather, please pray for us out in California. We are in critical need of rain and snow. Winter isn’t over for us yet – normal years see some T-storms into June where I live – but our reservoirs are seriously depleted and there’s only minimal snow pack so far. It’s not just that the people in cities will be facing water restrictions, it’s that everyone’s food prices will be going up, and already have started to do so. If you live where there’s plenty of rain, consider growing your own lettuce & spinach this year…

    And speaking of “greens,” marijuana mega-growers have been caught stealing water from places like the storage tanks of rural elementary schools – this in addition to cutting off what little stream flow there is to larger rivers, to the point of severe damage to the fishery.


    • Randy Thompson says

      The drought in California is huge. I grew up in (Southern) California, and get water shortages. However, this one seems to be quite serious indeed. As an ex-Californian, I will pray.

      I wish I could give you all the snow we got today; you could use it way more than we can.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Even with those storms we had a couple weeks ago, we’re under 30% of the average rainfall for this rainy season (not “Winter”). Santa Barbara is pulling the desalinization plant they build in the last drought out of mothballs, and other than that we’re expecting SERIOUS water rationing and wildfires. (Fire season never ended this year.)

      We’ve already got one side’s Righteous wagging their fingers and lecturing us about Global Warming; I expect the other side’s Righteous to start reminding us about God sending droughts as Punishment any day now.

      And speaking of “greens,” marijuana mega-growers have been caught stealing water from places like the storage tanks of rural elementary schools – this in addition to cutting off what little stream flow there is to larger rivers, to the point of severe damage to the fishery.

      Let me guess — the “Emerald Triangle” up in Northern California between Eureka and Redding?

      • “one side’s Righteous wagging their fingers and lecturing us about Global Warming…”

        You mean, mainstream climatologists?

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Wexel – We agree on something! You just made my day. I hope you have a great one.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          You mean, mainstream climatologists?

          More like their fanboys and Thin Grey Ponytails looking for a New Cause.

      • Dana Ames says


        I’m in Mendocino County. We’re the southern edge, so draw the line from us to Redding and then through Trinity & Del Norte Counties to the Oregon state line, with the Pacific Ocean as the hypotenuse. There’s your triangle. Most of it is rural, much of it quite rugged terrain – lots of places to hide, invisible except from the air. If you simply want to go for a hike in the woods, you’re taking your life in your hands.

        Legalization for small-time or medical growers, which I actually favor, will not stop this wretched cartel business. Anyone who thinks that will happen has imbibed too much of something… It may depress the prices a little, but the climate is too perfect, and the profit is still too great to counterbalance the cartels’ risks.


        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I know a couple guys who came from Redding. They’ve told me stories of the Emerald Triangle including Vietcong-style booby-traps, “Apocalypse Now” Huey raids, and “Pot Mercs” raiding and ripping off the growers every harvest season.

          P.S. Mendocino County. I took the 1 through Ft Bragg & Mendocino several years ago coming back from a road trip to Redwood Country. Stayed overnight in Ft Bragg. Great place, so unlike the semi-desert we’ve got in SoCal.

          • I grew up in Fort Bragg. Went to Humboldt State. Lived in the Redding/Trinity Co. area for 4 years, then Woodland Hills for 7 years; all my kids were born at St Joseph’s in Burbank. In Ukiah for the past 25 years. Husband grew up in Simi Valley.


  20. “They claim fault now and then,
    In speeches on humility,
    But do they step down from the stage?
    Go forward, confess to the crime,
    Weep with the victim?”
    – Terry Taylor, from “Do Big Boys Cry” by Daniel Amos

    Whether it’s Phelps or Driscoll or MacArthur, I’m done with leaders drunk with power abusing people and then expecting their victims to take the high road and accept their abusers as the true victims. I’m done with the vast funda-gelical complex which keeps churning out these monsters, which calls accountability persecution. I’m done with these predators turning the means into the end, then using it to justify the means in a twisted circular reasoning. Ugh!

  21. Preston Garrison says

    I remember when my father and my brother left to go one of those Inerrancy meetings in Chicago. I told my dad, try to keep this from becoming a witch hunt. I think I knew even then, at age 27, that there was no way to avoid that happening.

  22. Rather monumental straw man for your desired implication.It seems, while doggedly trailing your targets you picked up their methods.

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